FAYETTEVILLE - Arkansas isn't going to slough its way through the nonconference portion of the basketball schedule in 2016-17, apparently. The Razorbacks didn't mess around when it came to building a solidly-framed slate outside the Southeastern Conference.
They're not playing Duke, Connecticut, UCLA and Kansas. But no one does play them all. Arkansas has a blend of teams from power five conferences, mid-majors, and yes, a couple cupcakes. In all, it's a schedule good enough to earn consideration for a bubble if it comes to it or one good enough to maybe notch a one-place higher seed, if that's the case, too.
Arkansas will play 13 nonconference games this year, including nine at Bud Walton Arena. The most major names are Texas, Oklahoma State and Minnesota.
But the truth is, there are lesser-knowns probably superior some of those power five schools.
Texas-Arlington is likely to be picked in the top three of the Sun Belt after finishing third last year. And while the Sun Belt doesn't sound like something with which to be intimidated, remember Little Rock put up a 30-win season and beat Purdue in the first round of last year's NCAA Tournament coming out of the Sun Belt. UTA isn't far behind them, if at all, this season.
Southern Illinois and Houston each won 22 games in the usually-solid Missouri Valley and American Athletic conferences last year. The Salukis lost their best player, but are destined for an upper-league finish while Houston returns three starters and its leading scorer off a team that was on the NCAA bubble for a good chunk of the last month.
Stephen F. Austin, as a No. 14 seed beat West Virginia in the Tournamentt last year, but lost a lot, including coach Brad Underwood, who went to Oklahoma State.
Those Cowboys are rebuilding things in Stillwater. Winners of just three games in the Big 12 last year, Arkansas will travel across the state line to play as part of the SEC/Big 12 Challenge. Oklahoma State does return a bulk of its roster, at least its best players, but it's unclear whether that's good or bad.
The same is true in Minneapolis/St. Paul. Minnesota was not good last year, winning eight games total and finishing second-to-last in the Big Ten. Neither the Golden Gophers or Oklahoma are expected to be postseason teams in 2016.
Texas, however, is a different story.
Perhaps the most looked-forward-to opponent from a fan perspective, the two old Southwest Conference competitors haven't played in basketball since 2011. Arkansas leads the all-time series (86-67), but Texas has won three of the last four games.
Arkansas will also play a few schools for the first time in program history. North Dakota State, Fort Wayne and Mount St. Mary's all make their first trip to Fayetteville. Other previous opponents also on this year's schedule include Austin Peay, North Florida and Sam Houston State.
Arkansas is a projected NCAA Tournament team in Mike Anderson's sixth year as head coach. The team's regular season begins November 11 against Fort Wayne.
Follow Eric on Twitter: @ericwbolin