To listen to Utah coach Rick Majerus talk, you figure his Utes have little chance of keeping up with Arkansas' speed and athleticism.
To listen to Arkansas' Nolan Richardson talk, you're convinced his Razorbacks have little chance to cope with Utah's immense size.One coach will be wrong when the Utes and Razorbacks meet today at 2:45 p.m. (CBS-TV) in the second round of the NCAA tournament at the Boise Pavilion.
Just after Majerus got through speaking in a Friday press conference about how Arkansas was "much more athletic, much quicker and much deeper" than his young team, it was Richardson's turn.
"My man (Majerus) is the best in the country at sandbagging," said Richardson. "He gets it from coach (Don) Haskins."
Then Richardson did some sandbagging of his own.
"They're the biggest team in America," he said of Utah. "You're talking David and Goliath. We're going to need more than a slingshot. (Michael) Doleac looks like he could beat a bear with a switch. I wish I knew what to do. I'm just going to pray - that's all I can do."
The Razorbacks come into the game with a 24-8 record, after coming from behind to defeat Nebraska 74-65 Thursday night. But they struggled much of the game and committed 22 turnovers with only seven assists.
Like in their first game against San Francisco, the Utes will be facing a quick team that likes to press at every chance and get its baskets in bunches. Only in Arkansas, the Utes will see a taller and more talented version of the team they defeated with ease Thursday night.
Richardson has used a variety of starting lineups all year with 11 different players starting at least one game. He said he wasn't sure of his starters for Utah, whether he'd go big or small, but said it doesn't matter who starts.
You can be sure 6-foot-2 guard Pat Bradley, the team's leading scorer at 15.1 points per game, will see a lot of minutes, along with point guard Kareem Reid, who scores 11.8 per game.
"One of our coaches said Bradley might be the best player we've seen all year," said Ute guard Drew Hansen. "He can really shoot it and has great range, so we're going to have be near him at all times."
Six-foot-9 senior Nick Davis, an all-SEC selection this year, led his league in rebounding with 10 per game, while scoring 10.7 points. Also expected to see a lot of time are 6-8 Chris Hood (8.2 ppg), 6-2 guard Tarik Wallace (10.5 ppg) and 6-5 Ali Thompson, who has come on strong after missing 12 early games because of injury.
Both Majerus and his players believe the experience of the San Francisco press will help them today against a similar Arkansas team.
"Obviously they're a lot taller, bigger and quicker (than San Francisco)," said Doleac. "But if we keep to the same principles, we'll be OK. We need to make sure we keep our heads."
"Arkansas has really good players and are talented," said Hansen. "Our main goal is to just play as hard as we can."
Two phases of the game where Utah has an edge are shooting and rebounding. The Razorbacks shoot just 44.3 percent from the field and 66.3 percent from the line (compared to Utah's 48.0 and 73.8). On the boards, Arkansas is outrebounded by 4.3 per game, compared to Utah, which leads the nation with a 10.5 rebound margin.