By Kevin McPherson
LITTLE ROCK — The Arkansas Razorbacks will play Stanford of the Pac-12 at 6:30 p.m. CT on Nov. 22 (ESPNU) to open up first-round play in the 2023 Battle 4 Atlantis tournament in Imperial Arena at Paradise Island in The Bahamas.
The Hoop Hogs are 0-2 all-time against the Cardinal with both defeats coming in tournament play: a 69-66 loss on Nov. 27, 2015, in the 2015-26 preseason NIT, and a 60-53 loss on Jan. 3, 1948, in the ’47-48 San Francisco Tournament.
The winner of that Arkansas-Stanford matchup will play the winner of the Michigan-Memphis first-round winner in the tourney semifinals at 1:30 p.m. CT on Nov. 23 on ESPN, while the two losing teams from those two first-round games slip to the consolation bracket to play each other at 6:30 p.m. CT on Nov. 23 on ESPNU.
The Razorbacks are 3-4 all-time against Michigan and 11-10 all-time against Memphis.
The Hoop Hogs’ third and final game at the event will played be on Nov. 24 against one of these four teams that make up the other side of the bracket in the event: North Carolina, Villanova, Texas, and Northern Iowa.
The Tar Heels open against UNI while the Red Raiders and Wildcats match up in the first round.
Under Head Hog Eric Musselman, Arkansas is a combined 4-1 in regular-season tournament play as the program went 2-0 to win the Hall of Fame Classic in ’21-22 and 2-1 to finish third in the Maui Invitational in ’22-23.
“Matchups in the @badboymowers @B4AOfficial announced! Looking forward to seeing @RazorbackMBB fans in the Bahamas in November #OneRazorback,” Musselman tweeted on Wednesday afternoon following the bracket announcement.
With only one more exhibition game and one more non-conference game left to be announced as well as the dates, times, and televisison designations for the team’s 18 SEC contests, here’s everything else regarding the Razorbacks’ ’23-24 schedule that has been confirmed or reported so far …
Seven non-conference home games at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville …
– Alcorn State on Nov. 6
– Gardner-Webb on Nov. 10
– Old Dominion on Nov. 13
– North Carolina-Greensboro on Nov. 17
– Duke on Nov. 29 in first-ever ACC/SEC Challenge
– Abilene Christian on Dec. 21
– North Carolina-Wilmington on Dec. 30
Five non-conference neutral-site games
– Three in the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament (November 22-24) in The Bahamas … specific opponents and tourney brackets were released on Wednesday, Aug. 2, with the Hogs opening up against Stanford with a second-round matchup against either Michigan or Memphis. Arkansas’s third and final game in the event will be played against one of these four teams who open on the other side of the tourney bracket: North Carolina, Northern Iowa, Texas Tech, and Villanova.
– Oklahoma at a neutral site (Tulsa) on Dec. 9
– Lipscomb at a neutral site (North Little Rock) on Dec. 16
Eighteen SEC games
– The Razorbacks will play five teams both home and away against Kentucky, Georgia, LSU, Missouri, and Texas A&M. The latter three teams are part of the Hogs’ permanent annual home-and-away series play. The Hogs and ‘Cats will be playing home-and-away for a second consecutive season, but only for the third time since Arkansas joined the SEC for the 1991-92 season.
– Arkansas will additionally host Auburn, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Vanderbilt once each while traveling to Alabama, Florida, Ole Miss, and Mississippi State for single games. The Hogs will host the Vols without playing a road game in Knoxville for the first time since the ’17-18 season. Arkansas also faces a fifth consecutive season playing at Alabama — going back to the ’19-20 campaign — with only two home games in the same span that were part of home-and-away series play.
– Times, dates, and television information for league games will be announced at a later date.
Regarding the SEC’s lopsided Arkansas scheduling against Tennessee and Alabama in terms of the Hogs playing mostly on the road against those teams spanning the last five seasons, Musselman on Tuesday discussed the lack of balance in league scheduling and how that impacts competing for league titles.
“Every coach, every program has their own philosophy on things,” Musselman said. “In the NBA, it’s an 82-game schedule and you play everybody equally. You play your conference a certain amount of games, you play the other conference home and away. At Nevada, we had a balanced schedule [in conference]. Winning the league carried a lot of weight.
“When you have an imbalanced schedule, strength of schedule matters, and who you play and where you play them and what time of the year you play them matters. We had a much higher goal at Nevada to win the conference based on how the schedule was set up. Here, I don’t know how to determine…it’s really hard to determine who the best team is, because not everybody’s schedule is equal. Our goal is how do we get better in March? How do we advance in the tournament? That’s always going to be our goal, because of what you said. I can tell you a lot of restaurants in certain cities and then there’s other cities in our league that I have no idea of one restaurant based on how often or how little we’ve visited them.”
Musselman also shared his thoughts on the Purdue and Duke home tilts.
“I think, one, Purdue, that game in particular, they had a choice probably of doing that game with a lot of people,” Musselman said. “I think that Coach Painter and his staff understand that Bud Walton is a unique place to play, and I’m really hopeful that our fans across the state understand the significance of getting a team like this for an exhibition. There’s not a lot of exhibition games that are being played against Division I teams, so we’re doing something unique. We’re doing something … you’re putting it all out there really quickly. You’re auditioning in front of a lot of people. There’s a little bit more opinions that are going to be formed during that game, after that game, than if you play a Division II team. Credit to Purdue for being willing to play a road game. Credit to them to be willing to play a quality opponent, and same thing from us. They’ve proven a lot more than we have with who they have coming back.
“And then the Duke game, look, Bud Walton was going to be sold out regardless of what our schedule looked like across the board. But, the fours years I’ve been here, I would anticipate that the Duke game is going to be like when we played Kentucky and Auburn and they’ve been ranked very high. I know the requests that I’ve gotten from friends … I was talking to Phil Nevin last night, the Angels manager. He’s coming to that game. There’s a lot of people that want to come to that particular game, too. If you look at our schedule with the three Bahamas games at the Battle 4 Atlantis, then look at Oklahoma, then look at Duke, that’s going to be five as challenging games as this program has ever played [in] non-conference. We’ll figure out ways to get better after playing those five games, too, because we’re going to find some holes in our team, for sure, with a lot of new guys playing that quality of an opponent. We know Duke will come in here 1, 2 or 3 as well. Between the Purdue game and the Duke game, we’ll probably play two of the top three teams in the country in a four-week span.”