FAYETTEVILLE - It has become a thing for the Arkansas baseball team. Get out of Fayetteville for a while in the early season, go south or west, take on a few tough teams and see where you stand.

FAYETTEVILLE - It has become a thing for the Arkansas baseball team. Get out of Fayetteville for a while in the early season, go south or west, take on a few tough teams and see where you stand.

Experiences the last two years have been up-and-down. The team was swept in four games in Arizona in 2013, made the finals of a tournament in 2014 and won two of three last year in Alabama. The 2016 get-out-of-town trip is to Texas, where the Razorbacks will play three NCAA Tournament-type - Rice on Friday, Houston on Saturday and Texas Tech on Sunday.

Rice is No. 24, Houston is No. 18 and Texas Tech is receiving votes in the USA Today poll. Arkansas is ranked 22nd.

"Excited to get to Houston to play in that tournament and face some really good pitching and some really good teams and play on the road," Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said. "I’m sure it’ll be a little bit of a learning experience for the guys on the team but there’s also enough guys back that have been there. Hopefully they’ll lead us through this next few ball games."

Arkansas did not have to face much of a challenge earlier this week, handling Mississippi Valley State by a combined score of 41-4 in two games. Between the pair and opening weekend against Central Michigan, Arkansas has played everyone listed on its roster, save two freshman pitchers - whom Van Horn suggested would not throw this season.

If nothing else, the trip to Texas and Minute Maid Park, home of the Houston Astros, will provide an early-season measuring stick for an Arkansas team coming off a College World Series trip last year. No one is quite sure what to make of Van Horn’s 2016 team yet. Central Michigan is expected near the top of the Mid-American Conference, whatever that’s worth, and Mississippi Valley State could barely field a complete team.

The trio of Texas teams is a greater barometer.

"I know we’re ready to get out of town," Van Horn said. "Are we ready for this type of competition yet? Mentally we’re ready. Are we going to match up with them and be able to hand lit? That’s why we’re going, so we can figure it out. We’ll know Sunday, probably by mid-afternoon, where we stand.

What is clear, so far, is how the rotation stacks. Dominic Taccolini, Blaine Knight and Keaton McKinney did nothing to suggest they won’t hold the top three spots for the foreseeable future. McKinney lost his command a bit in the finale against Central Michigan, yet still didn’t allow a run. The three are slated for the weekend in Houston, too.

And the lineup is likely to be similar to what has shaken so far, as well. The only difference will be the possible insertion of Chad Spanberger into it. Spanberger, a sophomore outfielder and first baseman, has yet to play because of a rib injury. He was exactly to be, at worst, a platoon player and Van Horn will give him every opportunity. Spanberger has to be healthy first, though.

There is something personal in the trip for Van Horn. He and Rice coach Wayne Graham have a lengthy history. Graham, 79, was at San Jacinto College the same time Van Horn was at Texarkana. They faced each other in the College World Series when Van Horn was at Nebraska and most recently, Arkansas beat rice, 1-0, in the 2012 Houston Regional. The Owls were the No. 1-seed and Arkansas eventually won there, in the Super Regional and went to back to the College World Series.

"To me, I’m looking forward to seeing Wayne Graham," Van Horn said. "He’s got a storied career. I don’t know how much longer he’s going to coach. We’ve had some great games. I’ve been involved in some great series and games with Wayne Graham teams over the year. I’m looking forward to seeing him."

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