FAYETTEVILLE – With Coach Eric Musselman’s Arkansas Razorbacks men playing their NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament first-round game Thursday night against the Vermont Catamounts in Buffalo, N.Y. and Coach Mike Neighbors’ Razorbacks women playing the Utah Utes Friday in their first round NCAA Women’s Tournament game in Austin, Texas, Monday was to be the hardest practice for both teams in Fayetteville.
“That’s really when we’ll dive in to who Vermont truly is and trying to start coming up with some themes as well,” Musselman said.
Tip-off times and TV assignments have been set for both games.
Musselman’s fourth-seeded men and 13th-seeded Vermont tip off at 8:20 p.m. (CDT) Thursday on TNT.
Neighbors’ 10th-seeded women and seventh-seeded Utah tip off at 4:30 p.m. Friday on ESPNEWS.
Vermont, champion of the America East Conference regular season and the America East Conference Tournament, brings a 28-5 record into Thursday’s game against the 25-8 Razorbacks of the SEC.
Still, there is a tendency around the Power Five basketball circles to overlook teams from less publicized leagues like the America East.
Not if you brushed with Colgate there isn’t says, Arkansas sophomore center Jaylin Williams.
Last year’s Razorbacks soared all the way to the NCAA Elite Eight but not before trailing Colgate of the Patriot League by double digits during the first half before reeling off a 17-0 run and winning, 85-68.
“We’ve got to respect every opponent,” Williams said. “We had Colgate our first game last year and they came out really good in the first half. We’ve just got to respect everybody, we’ve got to start early and play all 40 minutes of basketball that night.”
Regardless how far Musselman’s and Neighbors’ Razorbacks progress, they’ll enjoy aspects of this year’s NCAA Tournament more than last year’s.
Because of covid restrictions, last year’s men’s tournament in Indianapolis and the women’s tournament in San Antonio, Texas were conducted in a social bubble. Players and staff generally were restricted to their hotels when not playing or practicing.
“The last thing I’d ever want to do is be in the bubble again,” Musselman said. “I can promise you that. That was not fun. Even when you’re advancing it’s not fun. The food will be better, the experience will be better.”
Arkansas senior guard JD Notae remarked, “Last year, we were in the bubble and couldn’t really do nothing, for real. This year, we want to see how it goes.”
The Razorbacks’ and the Catamounts road to Buffalo intersects in Northern Iowa.
The University of Northern Iowa is the only common opponent for Musselman’s men and Coach John Becker’s Catamounts.
Arkansas defeated UNI, 93-80 on Nov. 17 at Walton Arena.
Vermont beat UNI, 71-57 on Nov. 11 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
Utah of the Pac 12 and Neighbors’ SEC Razorbacks each have played California of the Pac 12.
Utah beat Cal’s Bears, 80-75 in overtime at the Bears’ domain in Berkeley, Cal. and 65-60 during the Pac 12 Tournament in Las Vegas.
Arkansas conked Cal, 84-67 in a Dec. 5 nonconference game at Walton Arena.
While hoops reaches its zenith, Razorbacks spring practices have begun prepping for the 2022 football season this fall.
Sam Pittman’s Razorbacks commenced with a noncontact practice Sunday and have practices scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday before the UA’s spring break commences at week’s end.
Upon returning from the week’s break, the Razorbacks will have 12 practices remaining of the 15 allotted by the NCAA.
Razorbacks baseball wages a big week at Baum-Walker Stadium.
The 11-3 Hogs host Grambling State Tuesday night and Wednesday afternoon, 6:30 and 4 p.m., and commence their SEC season Friday through Sunday vs. Kentucky.
Game times are 6:30 p.m. Friday, 6:30 p.m. Saturday and noon Sunday.