With only nine scholarship players remaining this season, Arkansas coach Mike Anderson is leaning heavily on his freshmen in his first year at the school.
Four newcomers - guards BJ Young and Rashad Madden, and forwards Hunter Mickelson and Devonta Abron - make up nearly half of the roster. The team was already going to be low on players, and the freshmen were expected to play a significant role.
Their loads became a lot heavier when leading scorer and rebounder Marshawn Powell was lost for the season with a knee injury after just two games.
''Coach Anderson came to me personally and kind of talked about the role I'm going to have,'' Mickelson said. ''All the freshmen are just supporting the older guys right now and just trying to get by, trying to win these games.''
The freshmen have played a significant part in two wins since Powell's injury, including combining for 53 points, 21 rebounds and 14 assists off the bench in a 42-point win over Grambling State on Saturday.
''It's getting real competitive,'' Anderson said Monday. ''The more games we play, the more I get a chance to see. The guys that are starting out, it's not etched in stone they're going to be the starters, and I may end up having seven to eight starters before it's all said and done. The most important thing is when you get the playing time you make it quality playing time.''
The Razorbacks will host another SWAC team, Mississippi Valley State, on Wednesday night. Grambling had only two scholarship players for its game at Arkansas, while the Delta Devils have five senior starters.
Anderson said the game should provide a good challenge ahead of a trip to No. 8 Connecticut on Saturday.
''A lot of teams are going to out-talent us, but it's about the way you perform,'' Anderson said.
''I thought (the freshmen) took the tempo up another level and kept the crowd into it. That's what I'm looking for - deflections, diving on the floor, taking charges, dunks, great passing. It was good to see that and it's exciting basketball. When you talk about the confidence of our guys, it can't help but build some confidence as we go into this part of our schedule.''