Arkansas will open the SEC Tournament on Thursday night at 6:30 against Vanderbilt in Nashville, Tenn.
Arkansas guard B.J. Young was honored by the SEC on Tuesday and now hopes to lead the Razorbacks to a tournament title.
Arkansas and Vandy have already played twice this season with each taking a decisive win on their own court. The Razorbacks dropped the Commodores 56-33 in the SEC home opener on Jan. 12. However, on Feb. 9, Vandy bounced back to hand Arkansas a 67-49 loss in Nashville. Arkansas Coach Mike Anderson hopes his team is ready to play in this tournament.
“It's that time of year,” Anderson said. “When you talk about working from the beginning...the Italy trip, non-conference, conference and now we're at tournament play. I think it's an exciting time of the year. Our teams generally trend out this time of year and hopefully this will give us an opportunity to go out and showcase in a tournament setting. Four games for us if we have a chance to win it. The NCAA qualifier comes from this tournament.”
Anderson feels Arkansas (19-12) can thrive in this type setting if they play like they are capable of doing. It all starts with Vanderbilt (14-16).
“It's one and done,” Anderson said. “Everyone's record is 0-0. We get a chance to play against a Vandy team that we played early in the year. I think they're playing well in the second half of the conference schedule. Just to show you how much they have improved they went 6-3 the second half of the conference season.
Vandy finished 8-10 in the SEC. They defeated South Carolina 74-64 to end the season on a winning note. Likewise, Arkansas won its final game of the season 73-62 over Texas A&M. Only Florida, Kentucky and Missouri beat Vandy in the final nine games.
“It's not the same team we played earlier,” Anderson said. “We beat them pretty good then we went to their place and they beat us pretty good. Now you've got the rubber match. The rubber match takes place there in a tournament setting. We're looking forward to the challenge.”
Anderson has played 12-13 players most of the season and feels that can be an advantage for his team if certain things happen.
“Our teams usually are playing pretty good this time of year and depth is a big part of that,” Anderson said. “The only way you're going to be able to create and use that depth is you get past that first game. That's the most important, critical game. You've got to go in and survive and advance. Our focus is on Vandy.”
On Tuesday, it was announced that junior forward Marshawn Powell and sophomore guard B.J. Young were named to the All-SEC second-team by the SEC coaches.
“I think that says a lot about those guys,” Anderson said. “Those guys were part of trying to make the team better. As you try to bring the team up, so does the individual accolades. I'm happy for those guys, but I don't think those guys are finished. They are impact players. Hopefully they will be impact players in this tournament. We need them to play well.”
Anderson had a simple answer when asked what it would take to beat Vanderbilt.
“Make shots,” Anderson said. “We had a lot of fastbreaks we didn't finish up there. Not only that, we allowed them to really attack the glass on us. We took care of it here and then over there we didn't do a very good job. They got to the free-throw line quite a bit. We've got to do a better job defensively, but mostly we've got to finish fastbreaks and make shots.”
Anderson also talked about Vandy will be playing in the city they are located though it will be a different arena.
“I guess they are one of the cities that bid for it,” Anderson said of the SEC Tournament. “Everyone has got the same record. It's a different mindset when you talk about tournament play. You're going to have people from all different teams. They get a chance to sleep in their own bed and we get a chance to sleep at one of the hotels. But, let's go play the game.”
The winner of the Arkansas-Vandy game will advance to play Kentucky on Friday at 6:30. The tournament is being played at the Bridgestone Arena.