Arkansas hoping to end five-year NCAA drought

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Mike Anderson had a recent reminder of Arkansas’ history when floor damage inside Bud Walton Arena forced the Razorbacks to conduct conditioning drills at their former home, Barnhill Arena.

Anderson, now in his third year as coach, hopes the touch of the past helps Arkansas rekindle previous glory this season.

The Razorbacks – part of this year’s EA Sports Maui Invitational field – are scheduled to begin preseason practice Saturday, hoping to take their first steps toward the school’s first NCAA tournament appearance since 2008. Rather than practicing in Bud Walton Arena, however, Arkansas will spend the first two days in the school’s student activity building.

Heavy rain two weeks ago led to limited flooding inside the 20-year-old Walton Arena. Repairs are expected to be completed by Monday.

The Razorbacks last played in Barnhill during the preseason leading up to the 1993-94 season – Arkansas went on to win its only national championship that season, with Anderson as an assistant coach under Nolan Richardson.

“It brought back a lot of memories, the buzzing of the lights and the closeness in there, the proximity,” Anderson said. “It brought back a lot of memories, kind of nostalgic a little bit.”

Practice will start with the team adjusting to the departure of its top two scorers from last season – B.J. Young, who averaged 15.2 points per game, and Marshawn Powell, who averaged 14.5, both left for the professional ranks. Also, Hun-ter Mickelson – who averaged a team-high 1.2 blocks in just 16.6 minutes per game – has transferred to Kansas.

Despite the losses, Anderson is excited about the returning Razorbacks as well as a talented group of newcomers, including highly recruited freshman Bobby Portis and Houston transfer Alandise Harris.

Arkansas will begin its season on Nov. 8 at home against Southern Illinois-Edwardsville. The Razorbacks will play in the Maui Invitational opener on Nov. 25, facing California at the Lahaina Civic Center.

“Every year we get into it, we’re trying to win a national championship,” Anderson said. “That’s going to always be my mindset.”

Anderson promises a more balanced approach than last season, when Young and Powell were the only two players to average in double figures.

“I think it’s going to be by committee,” Anderson said.

Harris averaged 13.3 points and 6.4 rebounds as a sophomore at Houston two years ago before sitting out last season after transferring.

The Razorbacks went 19-13 last season, with an 18-1 record at home. The lone home loss was to then-No. 6 Syracuse, and Arkansas went undefeated at home in Southeastern Conference play for the first time since the 1997-98 season.

“I think we established last year that obviously when people come into Bud Walton Arena, it’s going to be awful difficult for them to come out of here,” Anderson said. “Let’s build on that for this year.”