By Kevin McPherson

LITTLE ROCK — For the first time since Eric Musselman took over at Arkansas, the Razorbacks will face at least four high-major opponents in the non-conference portion of their regular season.

That was cemented as fact for the Hoop Hogs’ upcoming 2022-23 campaign on Monday when the 2022 Maui Invitational field was officially announced, slotting Arkansas against Louisville in a first round game to be played at 4 p.m. CT on Nov. 21 at the Lahaina (HI) Civic Center on the island of Maui in a matchup that will be televised by ESPN2.

The winner will face the first-round winner between Texas Tech and Creighton at 7 p.m. CT on Nov. 22 (ESPN) in the event’s championship bracket semifinals, while the losing teams from those two first-round games will play each other at 1:30 p.m. CT on Nov. 22 (ESPN2) in the event’s consolation bracket.

The four other teams in the 2022 Maui Invitational field — Ohio State vs. San Diego State and Arizona vs
Cincinnati in first-round action — also begin play on Nov. 21. All 8 teams are guaranteed to play three games in three days at the event that runs through Nov. 23.

With the Louisville matchup certain as well as a tilt against either Texas Tech or Creighton on the following day, that brings to total at least four non-conference games for the Hoop Hogs against high-major opponents, a list that includes a neutral-site game against Oklahoma in Tulsa on Dec. 10 and a road game against Baylor in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge on Jan. 28.

The last time Arkansas played at least four non-conference games against high-major opponents in the regular season was in ’18-19 against Texas, Indiana, Georgia Tech, and Texas Tech.

The Hogs and Cardinals — each making their fourth all-time appearance in a Maui Invitational field — will finally square off after missing a chance to play two years ago (’20-21) as part of the four-team MGM Grand Resorts Main Event tournament in Las Vegas, an event that was eventually cancelled due to the covid-19 pandemic.

Arkansas is 3-4 all-time against Louisville, including 2-2 when both teams are ranked. One or both teams were nationally ranked in each of those 7 matchups.

The most well-known meeting between the two storied programs was played on national television (NBC) on March 14, 1981, in the second round of the ’80-81 NCAA tournament in Austin, Texas, when Arkansas guard U.S. Reed famously drained a halfcourt shot at the buzzer as the No. 20 Razorbacks upset No. 12 Louisville, 74-73, to advance to the Sweet 16.

Arkansas is all knotted up against both Texas Tech (40-40) and Creighton (1-1) in all-time matchups.

Many Division 1 teams began releasing their full slate of non-conference games in recent weeks, and as the releases snowball into greater daily numbers it stands to reason that the entire Razorbacks’ ’22-23 non-conference schedule could be released soon.

What else we know regarding Arkansas’ ’22-23 schedule as of now …

– Three home games at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville that are set for Arkansas’ ’22-23 regular-season non-conference schedule are North Dakota State in the season opener on Nov. 7, San Jose State on Dec. 3, and North Carolina-Asheville on Dec. 21, a source confirmed with Hogville.net. The Hoop Hogs are 1-0 all-time against North Dakota State (counting a 71-55 win at BWA during the ’16-17 season), but they have never played San Jose State or UNC-Asheville.

–  Arkansas will NOT play Little Rock (according to a source) after hosting the Trojans twice in the past three seasons (regular-season game in ’21-22 and an exhibition game in ’19-20)

–  Arkansas will NOT play Central Arkansas (according to UCA schedule release) after hosting the Bears in back-to-back seasons (’20-21 and ’21-22) at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville

–  Arkansas will have to schedule Arkansas State and/or Arkansas-Pine Bluff IF the Hoop Hogs plan to continue playing an in-state D1 program in ’22-23

–  Arkansas’ 18-game SEC matchups (playing dates have yet to be released) include home-and-away series against Kentucky, Alabama, LSU, Texas A&M, and Missouri with home games against Florida, Georgia, Ole Miss, and Mississippi State and road games against Tennessee, Auburn, South Carolina, and Vanderbilt

–  Arkansas can schedule up to 31 regular-season games total, which means after the 24 specific matchups detailed above there remain up to 7 games to be determined (2 more specific matchups in Maui plus 5 more non-conference games).

–  Arkansas can schedule as many as two preseason exhibition games and/or secret practices against other schools as long as the total amount of preseason exhibition events does not exceed two.

– Arkansas’ four-game summer European exhibition tour does not officially count as part of its ’22-23 exhibition-game allotment, and the men’s program on Monday released game details (game times subject to change): livestream available for all games via FloHoops.com … Aug. 9 vs. Valencia Seleccion, 7:30 p.m. local time / 12:30 p.m. CT, La Alqueria del Basket venue in Valencia, Spain … Aug. 11 vs. Barcelona Todo-Estrella, 8:30 p.m. local time / 1:30 p.m. CT, Pavello Poliesportu Municipal de Tiana venue in Barcelona, Spain … Aug. 13 vs. Orange1 Basket Bassano, 7:30 p.m. local time / 12:30 p.m. CT, PalaSampietro – Casnate con Bernate venue in Lake Como, Italy … Aug. 15 vs. Bakken Bears, 7 p.m. local time / noon CT, PalaSampietro – Casnate con Bernate venue in Lake Como, Italy

“The schedule’s going to end up being pretty hard,” Arkansas head coach Eric Musselman said during his most-recent press conference in mid-June. “It’s random, but I’m sure when the SEC schedule comes out they’ll be some really challenging games. I think when you’re able to make two Elite Eights, you’re going to end up with some non-conference games like we have. If you look at Maui and the field of Arizona, Cincinnati Creighton, Louisville, Ohio State, San Diego State, Texas Tech, you’ve got the game in Tulsa against Oklahoma. And we know how they kicked out butts last year in Tulsa. And then a Baylor road game, knowing that in that Challenge we’ve played really well at home over the last four years or whatever, maybe longer than that I guess, and struggled a little bit on the road. So that’s a challenging game.

“The three in Maui, the Oklahoma game and Baylor, that’s five really challenging non-conference games. But it’ll be good for us as well.”