Photographs by Charlie Kaijo
Arkansas Razorbacks head coach Mike Anderson fields questions during a media conference after the NCAA selection show, Sunday, March 11, 2018 at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville. The Razorbacks will play Butler in Detroit on Friday.
Tuesday, March 13, 2018
FAYETTEVILLE -- This week in Detroit won't be the first time this season that Arkansas Razorbacks Coach Mike Anderson and Butler Bulldogs Coach LaVall Jordan have been together at a tournament, but the circumstances are decidedly different and the stakes much higher.
During Thanksgiving weekend, the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville and Butler were among 16 teams playing in the Phil Knight Invitational in Portland, Ore.
The Razorbacks and Bulldogs were in separate eight-team brackets, so the coaches knew their teams wouldn't play each other.
During a social function before the tournament started, Anderson and Jordan struck up a conversation.
"He and I had the chance to sit down for about 20 minutes," Anderson said. "He was picking my brain about what we do and how we do it."
Anderson and Jordan had no way of knowing then that four months later their teams would be together at another tournament and this time in the same bracket.
The Razorbacks (23-11) play the Bulldogs (20-13) in an NCAA Tournament first-round East Regional matchup at approximately 2:10 p.m. Friday in Little Caesar's Arena.
Anderson said he's not concerned he might have provided Jordan with a scouting report on Arkansas when they talked in Portland.
"There are no secrets," Anderson said. "The game is played on the floor and it's played by the players."
Jordan already knows what it's like to play Anderson's Razorbacks.
Arkansas is playing Butler for the first time since Jan. 2, 1932, when the Bulldogs won 37-21 in Indianapolis, but Jordan has faced the Razorbacks twice previously during Anderson's seven seasons.
Jordan was a Michigan assistant for six seasons from 2011-2016. He on the bench when the Razorbacks beat the No. 20 Wolverines 66-64 in Walton Arena on Jan. 21, 2012, and when the No. 3 Wolverines won the rematch 80-67 on Dec. 8, 2012, in Crisler Arena.
"So I'm a little bit familiar with Coach Anderson and his style," Jordan told reporters in Indianapolis on Sunday night after the NCAA Tournament selection show. "But I don't [know] their roster and personnel just yet."
A reporter asked if the Razorbacks play the way they did in those Arkansas-Michigan games.
"Yeah, I think that's still the case," Jordan said with a laugh. "I don't think they've changed that -- from way back when I was in college."
Jordan was a starting guard at Butler from 1998-2001 -- when Anderson was an Arkansas assistant under Nolan Richardson -- and helped the Bulldogs win 91 games and make three NCAA Tournament appearances.
After playing professional basketball for a year in Europe and in the NBA Developmental League, Jordan became an assistant coach at Butler from 2003-07 and moved on to the Big Ten with Iowa and Michigan.
Two years ago Jordan became the head coach at Wisconsin-Milwaukee. In his lone season with the Panthers, they were 11-24, but reached the Horizon League Tournament championship game before losing to Northern Kentucky.
In June, Jordan unexpectedly returned to Butler as head coach to replace Chris Holtmann, who was hired by Ohio State when Thad Matta stepped down.
Butler fans upset about losing their coach -- especially in June -- rejoiced when the Bulldogs beat Ohio State 67-66 in overtime at the Phil Knight Invitational. The Buckeyes were unranked at the time, but they're now 24-7 and No. 17 in The Associated Press poll.
Beating Ohio State was one of Butler's two most notable victories this season along with defeating No. 2 Villanova 101-93 in the Big East opener on Dec. 30. Villanova was ranked No. 1 at the time.
Jordan has led Butler to a 20-13 record this season.
"To be back at his alma mater is a great honor for him, and he's done a tremendous job there," Anderson said. "He'll have his team ready to play."
Sports on 03/13/2018
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