SIU Edwardsville (0-0) at Arkansas (0-0)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Friday, November 8, 8 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Bud Walton Arena (19,368) -- Fayetteville, Arkansas. Television: None. Home Record: SIUE 0-0, Arkansas 0-0. Away Record: SIUE 0-0, Arkansas 0-0. Neutral Record: SIUE 0-0, Arkansas 0-0. Conference Record: SIUE 0-0, Arkansas 0-0. Series Record: First-ever meeting.
GAME NOTES: The SIU Edwardsville Cougars have a tough matchup to begin the 2013-14 season as they visit Bud Walton Arena for a non-conference tilt against the Arkansas Razorbacks.
The Cougars made the jump from Division II to the OVC prior to the 2011-12 campaign and they have struggled during their infancy in the NCAA's most competitive division. Coach Lennox Forrester's team took a minor step in the wrong direction last season with a 9-18 overall record and 5-11 mark in OVC games. To make matters worse, two of the wins came over non-Division I foes Eureka and Robert Morris-Illinois. SIUE won 10 games, with six coming in league play in its inaugural year as a Division I program. Forrester has not been able to instantly build SIU into a formidable unit which was clearly evident on both ends of the floor a year ago. The Cougars ended last season ranked second to last among OVC schools in scoring offense (62.9 ppg) and also had the worst field goal percentage defense (.462).
The Razorbacks exceeded expectations in Mike Anderson's second season as head coach in 2012-13, going 19-13 overall, while finishing above .500 in the SEC (10-8) for the first time since 2007-08. Still, an uphill climb appears to be in store after the loss of two of the league's most reliable players in BJ Young (15.2 ppg, 3.4 apg) and Marshawn Powell (14.5 ppg, 5.4 rpg). Anderson's pressure defense adopted from his days as an assistant under Nolan Richardson in Fayetteville gives the opposition 40 minutes of misery and causes plenty of turnovers that are converted into easy points for Arkansas.
This will be the first time the Cougars take on the Razorbacks in history.
Junior guard Kris Davis is the pace-setter for the Cougars due to his scoring prowess that has yielded a double-digit scoring average in both of his seasons at the collegiate level. Former Colorado State guard Maurice Wiltz (8.3 ppg) and Michael Messer (8.9 ppg, 4.4 rpg) will join Davis in the SIUE backcourt, while Forrester's frontcourt will be filled with newcomers, one of which likely being junior college transfer Keaton Jackson (6-10, 205).
Arkansas will look for leadership out of its top two returners, Coty Clarke (7.6 ppg, 5.2 rpg) and Mardracus Wade (6.5 ppg), who are the only two players back from last season's unit that can be relied upon for any sort of consistent offensive production. There's plenty of opportunity for newcomers to make a impact on this roster, and luckily Arkansas made a big recruiting splash by bringing in a pair of 6-foot-10 freshmen in Bobby Portis and Moses Kingsley. Portis was one of the treasured recruits of his class which led to a spot on the McDonald's All-American team. Alandise Harris is a capable forward that Anderson utilizes as a spark off the bench.
SIUE will need a lot more time before it will be ready to pull off an upset of a major conference school. The Razorbacks' tenacious style of defense makes them a very difficult team to upset unless the opposing guard play is top notch. In this case, the Cougars are not experienced or talented enough to overcome what lays in store for them at Bud Walton Arena.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Arkansas 80, SIU Edwardsville 61
11/08 10:42:44 ET