Stanford and 20th-ranked Arkansas leave home for the first time this season, landing in Nassau, Bahamas for their Wednesday night matchup in the opening round of the annual Battle 4 Atlantis tournament.
The eight-team event runs through Friday and features No. 14 North Carolina, Villanova, Michigan and Memphis.
The Stanford-Arkansas winner will meet the Michigan-Memphis winner in a Thanksgiving Day semifinal. The losers of those two opening-round contests also will square off Thursday.
The Cardinal and Razorbacks haven’t met since November 2015, when Stanford prevailed 69-66 in another neutral-site affair in Brooklyn. Stanford’s Jerod Haase was head coach at UAB at the time, while Arkansas’ Eric Musselman was in the first month of a successful stint at Nevada.
After opening with home wins over Alcorn State, Gardner-Webb and Old Dominion, Arkansas (3-1) sustained its first defeat of the season with a 78-72 setback to UNC Greensboro on Friday.
The Spartans made nine 3-pointers and 14 layups or dunks in the win, leaving Musselman puzzled afterward over what was his club’s biggest defensive issue.
“We’ve basically had the same defensive concepts for eight years and might have to look at changing some things based on our lack of ability — especially the guard play — to keep the ball in front of us and also contest the 3,” he said. “That seems to be problematic to do both.”
In a bit of a rarity in college basketball these days, each team has three seniors among its top five scorers.
Senior transfer Khalif Battle scored 21 points in each of Arkansas’ first two wins, before senior El Ellis, in his first year with the Hogs after starring at Louisville, had 17 and 19 in the club’s last two outings.
In Stanford (3-1), the Razorbacks will see a team that already has put up at least 88 points on three occasions this season. The lone time the Cardinal failed to hit that mark, they lost 89-77 to Santa Clara.
Like Arkansas, all four games to date have been at home.
Stanford was able to bounce back from the Santa Clara defeat in a 95-70 romp over Eastern Washington in its most recent contest last Friday. The Cardinal shot 12-for-25 on 3-pointers in the win.
Highly regarded freshman Andrej Stojakovic paced Stanford with a season-best 18 points.
With three seniors and a junior among their top five scorers, Brandon Angel says it’s not surprising the Cardinal are off to a high-scoring start.
“Being old is a positive and something we haven’t had my first couple of years I was here,” Angel said. “Especially the type of offense we run, knowing where people are, building the rapport with other people on the court is huge. As you become more cohesive, we operate more efficiently on both ends of the floor. So hopefully we can use that to our advantage.”
Junior Maxime Raynaud leads Stanford in scoring through four contests at 19.3 points per game.
–Field Level Media
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