Before even playing a single regular season game, head coach Eric Musselman and the Arkansas Razorbacks have sold out Bud Walton Arena for a preseason charity exhibition against No. 3 Purdue on Saturday.
Entering his fifth season in Fayetteville, Musselman has led the Hoop Hogs to three straight Sweet Sixteens, plus a pair of Elite Eight appearances. That postseason success has brought the Arkansas program back to the forefront of college basketball, and it’s allowed for opportunities such as the one the team will have when it hosts Purdue.
“I think this game is really good for Coach (Matt) Painter and Purdue, too, because we’re going to have a great crowd,” Musselman said Tuesday. “They’re going to draw crowds wherever Purdue goes. They’re going to be sold out probably every game that they go on the road because they’re ranked so high and because of the returning group that he has, and because they have a national Player of the Year candidate that just doesn’t come into opposing buildings often.
“So I think this game is going to be great for them, too, to play an exhibition game in front of a crowd that I think right now we’re at 14,000 seats sold. That’s not counting the 3,000 seats that’ll be held for the student body. That’s going to be really, really good for their team, too, to play in front of a good crowd as well.”
Bud Walton Arena has a capacity of 19,200, so there were about 2,200 seats remaining when Musselman said that Tuesday. Since then, he was able to raise plenty of awareness for ticket sales via social media and he announced Friday that the game is officially sold out of tickets.
“To be able to play a team that has a chance to win a national championship certainly makes this game way more meaningful and way more special than just a normal exhibition game when you look at lessons that can be learned once this game is over,” Musselman said.
Purdue is a squad that was a 1-seed in the NCAA Tournament last year and they return the reigning National Player of the Year in 7-foot-4 center Zach Edey. The Boilermakers are likely ahead of the Razorbacks as far as team chemistry goes, so this will be a good measuring stick to see where the Hogs are at, just like last seasons’ 30-point loss at Texas in a preseason exhibition.
“We understand internally that Purdue is, just based on their returners and roles and understanding expectations, they’re probably way ahead of where we are not only today, but where we’ll be even two weeks from today,” Musselman said.
Arkansas basketball season tickets sold out all the way back in July, thanks in part to a home slate that includes opponents such as Duke, Kentucky, Auburn, Tennessee and more.
The brand Musselman has built is continuing to spread nationwide, especially with rookies Nick Smith Jr., Anthony Black and Jordan Walsh now in the NBA as three of the four one-and-done Hogs in program history.
Not only will the Razorbacks be hosting some of the nation’s best on the hardwood named after legendary head coach Nolan Richardson, but they will also take part in the Battle 4 Atlantis down in the Bahamas in late November. The tournament field features Michigan, Memphis, North Carolina, Villanova, Texas Teach, Northern Iowa and Stanford.
The Hogs will also face Oklahoma once again at the BOK Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on Dec. 9. Some of the more intriguing conference road games include matchups at Kentucky, Alabama, Texas A&M and Florida.
Tipoff between Arkansas and Purdue this Saturday at Bud Walton Arena is set for 3 p.m. CT and the contest will be streamed live on the SEC Network+. Proceeds from the game will go to the United Way to assist with relief efforts from the tornados that affected Arkansas this past spring.