Mike Anderson very nearly ended one of the more embarrassing streaks for any coach in the country.
Since he’s been at Arkansas, Anderson is winless in SEC road games against teams other than Auburn. His overall record in SEC games away from Bud Walton Arena is 2-21, which looks even worse when you consider that he went 1-7 on the road in Big 12 games in his last season at Missouri.
But that very nearly changed on Wednesday night, when Anderson’s Arkansas team was up 63-55 at Tennessee late in the second half. The Vols had a run in them, however, and it was spurred on by a flagrant foul that was called on Kiko Haydar.
With 2:52 left, Haydar wrapped up Jeronne Maymon from behind, holding his arms preventing Maymon from getting off a shot at the rim. The flagrant was called, giving Maymon two free throws and Tennessee the ball back. Maymon hit both, Jordan McRae hit a three on the ensuing possession, and after Arkansas badly missed a contested three, McRae knocked down two free throws at the other end.
That flagrant foul changed the game. Anderson acknowledged as much afterwards, while pleading his case that the call was wrong.
The 6-foot-3 guard averaged 10.3 points per game, while shooting 42 percent from three, as a freshman. He, along with Malcolm Hill and Michael Thorne Jr., is one of three returning players who averaged double figures last season.
This could prove to be a make-or-break year for John Groce, who enters his fifth season at the helm. He guided the Illini to an NCAA Tournament in his first season, but hasn’t been back since.
The key for the Illini is health. Abrams gives them experience and leadership, but it won’t be a surprise if there’s some rust in his game after spending the past two seasons on the sideline. Having a healthy Coleman-Lands will help stabilize the backcourt, while Hill, an all-conference caliber forward, and Thorne anchor the frontcourt.
Like Alkins, Jones was a sought-after scorer. The 6-foot-4 two-guard was rated No. 69 overall in the Class of 2016 by Rivals. He picked Indiana over offers from Cal, Cincinnati, Georgetown and more than a dozen other high-major programs.
Jeter, the 6-foot-10, played in a reserve role as a freshman, averaging 1.9 points and 1.9 rebounds per game last season. He will be part of a loaded frontline that includes heralded freshmen Harry Giles and Marques Bolden, as well as redshirt senior Amile Jefferson, who returns to the lineup following a foot injury.