FAYETTEVILLE — Mike Anderson’s wardrobe reflects both the long term and immediate SEC Tournament goalsfor his Arkansas Razorbacks starting Thursday night at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis.
To win the SEC Tournament, the Razorbacks 21-10, must win four games in four days.
“I’ve got four suits and hopefully I’ll get to use all four suits,” Anderson said. “The way you do that is you take it one game at a time. And the beauty of that is that’s been our narrative all year long.”
As the sixth seed in the league’s 14-team tournament, Arkansas earned a first-round bye before the tournament started Wednesday night with 12th-seed Georgia vs. 13-seed Vanderbilt and 11th-seed South Carolina vs. 14th- seed Ole Miss.
Arkansas tonight will play Wednesday’s South Carolina vs. Ole Miss winner 30 minutes after the 6 p.m. LSU vs. Mississippi State game.
Coach Frank Martin’s South Carolina Gamecocks were 16-15 and the Rebels of interim coach Tony Madlock, temporarily promoted upon the recent resignation of longtime Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy, 12-19, before their game Wednesday.
Texas A&M vs. Alabama starts at noon Thursday then Missouri vs. the Wednesday winner of Georgia vs. Vanderbilt.
The winner iof the Arkansas game is bracketed to play third-seeded Florida in Friday’s late night game.
SEC co-champions Tennessee and Auburn, Florida and fourth-seeded Kentucky all earned byes into Friday’s quarterfinals.
“At this time of the season our league is so balanced that on any given night anybody can beat anybody,” Anderson said. “Since we played South Carolina they’ve had some big, big wins. And obviously with Frank (Martin) and the experience that team had playing in the Final Four last year … those guys get after it. They are a very physical basketball team.’
Among others, South Carolina has beaten SEC co-champ Auburn and also beat those Kentucky Wildcats that thumped Arkansas, 87-72 at Walton.
Ole Miss also can surprise. Those same Missouri Tigers that beat Arkansas by 10 last Saturday in Columbia, Mo. were upset by Ole Miss, last month in Columbia.
“Ole Miss is one of those teams that went into Missouri and did something we didn’t do; they went in there and beat them,” Anderson said “Tony Madlock has those kids where they are playing free.”
While being more rested obviously should be in Arkansas’ favor tonight, there is something to be said for establishing tournament momentum before your opponent.
“The one thing they are getting is the chance to play a game in this tournament before we do,” Anderson said. “You talk about any tournament, the first game is the most important game.”
“I think every coach in the league is saying the same thing to his guys — it's a new season,” Madlock said. “All the things that happened against this team all year, we can kind of right it by going out and having a good showing and playing tough basketball.”