SEC: Hoops conference play to start earlier in 2020-21
basketball Edit

SEC: Hoops conference play to start earlier in 2020-21

Eric Musselman is entering his second season as Arkansas' head coach.
Eric Musselman is entering his second season as Arkansas' head coach. (Arkansas Athletics)

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FAYETTEVILLE — For just the third time in school history, Arkansas’ men’s basketball program will open conference play before the new year.

The SEC announced Friday that its men’s basketball teams will open their 2020-21 conference slates on Dec. 29 or 30. That will begin a window of 20 possible play dates for an 18-game schedule with two open dates.

For 10 schools, one of those open dates will be filled with the Big 12/SEC Challenge, which is reportedly being targeted for Jan. 30. Arkansas is expected to participate in the challenge.

The other open date will allow for some wiggle room should games need to be postponed because of COVID-19.

Arkansas previously began conference play in December in back-to-back seasons in 2016-17 and 2017-18 before the SEC switched back to a January start date.

In the 2016-17 season, the Razorbacks lost to No. 25 Florida 81-72 on Dec. 29. The next year, they upset No. 19 Tennessee 95-93 in overtime on Dec. 30. Both games were played at Bud Walton Arena.

Conference play for women’s basketball will remain Dec. 31, the SEC announced as well.

With the NCAA deciding on Nov. 25 as the start date for the 2020-21 season earlier this month, Arkansas’ men’s and women’s basketball teams will have about a month to play their non-conference schedules.

Eric Musselman’s squad was scheduled to play in the MGM Main Event in Las Vegas on Nov. 20 and 22. It was set to be a four-team event, but reports have circulated that it might turn into a “bubble” with even more teams to allow for non-conference games to be played this season.

Before the pandemic forced the schedule to be modified, the Razorbacks were set to play Oral Roberts, Tulsa (on the road), Northern Illinois, UT-Arlington, Lipscomb, Oklahoma (in Tulsa), Old Dominion (in North Little Rock) and Abilene Christian.

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