FAYETTEVILLE Il Porcellino, meet Big Red.
Arkansas coach Mike Anderson said Thursday he hopes to take his team to Italy in August for a series of exhibition games against professional and club teams there. College basketball teams are allowed 10 practices during preseason international trips every four years.
Anderson said the trip would be beneficial for a team that will have several newcomers in his second season as head coach.
“This is going to be year two and these guys have an idea of what is required and what is being demanded, and what this program is going to be about,” Anderson said. “As we get into the summer months we’ve got to get better.
“This would allow our guys to practice 10 days before we go out and play. That’s going to be big for a young basketball team, so they can get an idea what it’s like to play college basketball.”
Arkansas is expected to sign five players prior to next season. The Razorbacks finished the recently completed season with only nine available scholarship players because of three off-season transfers and an injury to preseason all-SEC selection Marshawn Powell.
Each of Arkansas' last two coaches - Stan Heath and John Pelphrey - used the international exemption to take their teams to Cancun, Mexico in 2003-04 and 2007-08.
While head coach at Missouri, Anderson used the exemption to play in Canada during the 2008-09 preseason, and the Tigers made the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament later that season.
“I thought it was the best experience for those guys,” Anderson said. “We had five or six new freshmen and some seniors, and we needed some seasoning. I thought it was very beneficial. The bonding that took place was unbelievable and it really parlayed into the season.”
In his first year at Arkansas, the Razorbacks finished 18-14 and lost eight of their final 10 games and missed the postseason for the fourth consecutive year.
“We were 16-6 at one time and as we continued the season, I think we kind of hit the wall," Anderson said. "With a young basketball team, that’s to be expected, especially with the number of bodies we had.
“I’m used to being in postseason play this time of year. Hopefully this won't be the case next year."
Anderson didn’t offer much information in terms of Arkansas’ nonconference schedule next season, but said the Razorbacks will play at Michigan, at home against Oklahoma and will compete in the second annual SEC/Big East Challenge.
Anderson said Arkansas is also in the process of acquiring an exemption into an early season tournament. The Razorbacks are already scheduled to play in the Maui Invitational during the 2013-14 season.