Photo: Walt Beazley / ArkansasRazorbacks.com
The Arkansas Razorbacks basketball squad will spend Thanksgiving in the Big Apple, but Mike Anderson’s Hogs won’t be watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, skating at Rockefeller Center or getting a jump on their Christmas shopping.
The Razorbacks (2-1) open play at 1 p.m. Thursday in the 2015 NIT Season Tip Off Tournament against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (3-1) at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. The game will be televised on ESPNU.
“We’re really looking forward to having the opportunity to play in the preseason NIT,” Anderson said. “It’s one of the prestigious tournaments. It’s another test for this team. We leave the friendly confines of Bud Walton Arena and get to test ourselves against a very good basketball team in Georgia Tech, an ACC basketball team.”
The tournament also features Villanova and Stanford, which face each other following the conclusion of Arkansas’ game on ESPN2. The losers of Thursday’s games will face each other at 11:30 a.m. Friday on ESPNU, while the winners will meet in the championship game at 2:30 p.m. on ESPN2
It will be a major test for the Razorbacks (2-1), who are still feeling each other out after the departure of four of their five starters from last year’s team. The fifth starter Anton Beard is suspended from play until the end of the fall semester after his summer arrest for suspicion of passing counterfeit money. His first game back is expected to be Dec. 19 against Mercer in North Little Rock.
The Yellow Jackets (3-1) have impressed Anderson, despite falling to East Tennessee State, 69-68, last Sunday.
“They are averaging more than 90 points a game,” Anderson said. “When I look at them one paper, they are an older team. Their strength is their depth. They got a lot of quality coming off the bench and they rebound the basketball.
“They have two graduate kids in [James] White and [Adam] Smith, who is their second-leading scorer. And White is getting around 9 rebounds a game coming off the bench. They can really rebound the basketball. The have size. The [Charles] Mitchell kid is averaging a double-double. He transferred in from Maryland. Their leading scorer is [Marcus] Georges-Hunt. He’s a senior and a big guard who is really strong. It’s a team with good size and which plays strong inside. They are experienced, and we are learning as we go.”
Georges-Hunt averages 16.8 ppg., while Nick Jacobs adds 15 ppg., and 6.5 rpg. Mitchell averages 14.5 ppg and 11.5 rpg. Smith adds 11.5 ppg. to round out the Yellow Jackets’ double-figure scorers.
Anderson said the Hogs are out to win the tournament, but added the games will be a fact-finding mission for him and the Razorbacks.
“What we want to do is find out who we can count on,” Anderson said. “With [center] Moses [Kingsley], we want to see if he can be consistent with what he brings to the table. Anthlon Bell, can he come out and give us that pop from an offensive standpoint? Tempo, we want to create tempo. We want to see if we can do that against a team like Georgia Tech, who has good depth and is experienced.”
Anderson said Georgia Tech can exploit a weakness the Hogs have shown in their first three games.
“We need to be consistent in what we do,” Anderson said. “We’ve given up too many offensive rebounds. We have to be better than that, and it really feeds in to what Georgia Tech is good at.”
Anderson said the Razorbacks should to play with high energy, something they lacked in an 88-80 loss to Akron last week.
“We can’t be out there playing tired,” Anderson said. “When some guys got tired, they took plays off. We can’t do that. This team has to do a lot of things right. We have to be on the same page. If we’re tired, it really hurts the team. That’s what I hope our guys are beginning to understand.”
Despite having a short bench for his style of play, Anderson said he will not attempt the slow the tempo because of the tournament format.
“The first game is the most important game,” Anderson said. “You can’t play in the championship game unless you win the first game. We are going in planning to do whatever it takes to win the first game. From there, hopefully we’ll have enough depth to go out and win the second one.”