4 storylines for IU’s game at Arkansas

1. Embracing the challenge
Indiana handled a potent Marquette team on Wednesday at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall, passing its first test of the season. This afternoon, the script will be flipped. The Hoosiers’ first true road game of the season puts a target on their backs. Going on the road for a November game against an SEC opponent will be as much of a mental challenge as it will be a physical one for Indiana. Playing in a tough road environment now will also serve as a good primer for what’s to come on the schedule, namely IU’s trip to Duke at the end of the month.

2. Homecourt advantage
No one will mistake Bud Walton Arena for Assembly Hall. But the Razorbacks’ 19,000-seat home venue has provided a distinct homecourt advantage for Arkansas. Across the seven years of the Mike Anderson era, Arkansas has 110 home wins, which ties for sixth-most in the NCAA during that span. The Razorbacks have been particularly good in weekend contests against Southeastern Conference competition. With the Hoosiers visiting Fayetteville for an early-season, non-conference showdown, a strong home crowd is expected. Today will be the fourth time in history that Arkansas will host a Big Ten team. The Razorbacks are 3-0 in those matchups.

3. Young Razorbacks
Arkansas made its second straight NCAA Tournament appearance last season, losing to Butler in the opening round. Unfortunately for the Razorbacks, there’s not much left from that group. Arkansas lost 10 lettermen, including three of its top four scorers from last season. Outside of All-SEC forward Daniel Gafford, senior frontcourt partner Adrio Bailey is the only other returning player with significant experience. Bailey started 16 of the 31 games he appeared in last season. Arkansas, which has only three returning scholarship players, is one of eight teams in the country with zero seniors on its roster. The Razorbacks have a total of 11 freshmen and sophomores on scholarship — the second-most in the nation.

4. Game-planning for Gafford
After a standout freshman season last winter, Gafford considered a jump to the NBA Draft. Instead, he decided to return to Fayetteville as one of the SEC’s top young players for the upcoming campaign. The 6-foot-11 big man posted 20 points and tied his career high with 12 rebounds in the season opener against Texas. To avoid foul trouble, IU’s Juwan Morgan could use some help in the post. On the flip side, Indiana’s natural ability to drive and potentially challenge Gafford down low could lead to some early fouls on Arkansas’ go-to guy. Such a development would certainly change the game in IU’s favor.