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College Basketball Should Have Far More Exhibitions, Musselman Says

The NBA has 7-9 exhibition games before the season starts and it's something college basketball needs.

It's hard to figure out the biggest news out of Eric Musselman's press conference Friday afternoon.

Was it Arkansas' basketball season sold out before the first exhibition game, which is Sunday at 3 p.m. against East Central Oklahoma or Musselman was "salesman of the month" two of his three months selling tickets for the Los Angeles Clippers in 1987-88?

"That is not an easy sell in Los Angeles at that particular time," Musselman said. "The year I sold tickets for them they were not very good."

They were 17-65 that year. In those days the Clippers would have had to improve to reach "not very good" level.

Musselman has improved expectations for the Razorbacks to the point where he announced before an exhibition game that should be a blowout there were some student tickets available.

"Our job as a coach is to win games, graduate players, prepare them for life," he said. "Our job is to help fill buildings. Marketing a program is something that I grew up watching my dad (legendary coach Bill Musselman) sell out Williams Arena in Minnesota. They had to close-circuit TV basketball games in the hockey arena."

He's filled seats in the CBA and everywhere he's been. Marketing is almost second-nature to him.

And it can't be done without winning.

"You want to create a demand for your ticket," he said. "Obviously with a 20,000-seat building it's a tough thing to do. It's not easy for NBA teams to sell out in a building that big.

"That's why you see a lot of NBA buildings, newer ones, that may be a little bit smaller, at least in markets that aren't huge."

Musselman is not a practice coach. He's made that abundantly clear about preferring to play games over just doing drills against themselves.

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East Central can't get here fast enough for him.

And it's part of a problem that needs to be fixed with college basketball, Musselman said.

"Playing against somebody new is really, really needed," he said. "If someone would grant a wish to a college staff, my wish would be that we had more exhibition games, more secret scrimmages.

"Two is not enough."

Musselman really doesn't care if they are part of the "secret" games that are played with no fans or media present or anything ... he just wants to play other people.

"If you go eight of your 10 weeks in summer, and then you practice in September and October, and then you tell us we get two between all that time and Nov. 6 or 7 or whenever the first night is for college basketball ... it's too long," he said.

The NBA saw that a long time ago. It's something college basketball needs to see ... sooner rather than later.

"There's a reason the NBA used to have seven exhibition games and now they have five or more," Musselman said. "It's because in order to develop your players, you've got to be in game-like situations with real refs and not behind closed doors playing against yourself every day."

For the Hogs, that starts Sunday.


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