FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas men’s basketball coach Mike Anderson doesn’t want his team to get caught up in preseason prognostications.

FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas men’s basketball coach Mike Anderson doesn’t want his team to get caught up in preseason prognostications.


The fourth-year coach did gain something from the fact the Razorbacks were picked to finish third in the Southeastern Conference during last week’s media day in Charlotte, North Carolina, though. It was confirmation of what he has long believed.


"One of the things that’s very evident is they’re noticing us a little bit more," Anderson said. "So that means we’re on the right track."


Arkansas moved a little closer to tipping off the 2014-15 season Monday, holding the program’s annual on-campus media day. It’s no surprise optimism and confidence is abundant. But it’s much more realistic after returning six of its top seven scorers from a team that ended its six-year postseason drought last season.


Of course, the National Invitation Tournament wasn’t the preferred destination. But Arkansas guard Michael Qualls said the Razorbacks realize they’re capable of so much more as they prepare to match the growing expectations.


"It’s great to get respect," Qualls said. "When I first got here, it felt like everybody is sleeping on you probably because they should. We’ve overcome a lot of adversity, from saying they can’t win an away game, to winning a couple away games to winning, now, a good amount of away games, to trying to win every one.


"You see the progress and where you’re trying to go."


Qualls and forward Bobby Portis, who finished second on the team in scoring (12.3 points) and first in rebounding (6.8) as a freshman, will lead the way as Arkansas chases its first NCAA Tournament berth since 2007-08. Both players expect to build from an offseason in which they were participants at elite summer camps.


But they’re not alone. Anderson promises Alandise Harris, Ky Madden, Anthlon Bell and Moses Kingsley will return much improved after playing key roles in Arkansas’ 22-12 finish last season. Arkansas has even added help in the frontcourt with transfer Keaton Miles, who sat out last season, and freshman Trey Thompson.


Perhaps more important, the Razorbacks built depth at their greatest position of need. Junior college Jabril Durham and freshman Anton Beard have made an impact at point guard through preseason drills with assertiveness and toughness.


"Last year they needed somebody just to calm everything down," Durham said.


Qualls believes Arkansas has all the makings of a loaded roster capable of giving opponents fits in Anderson’s system.


"I’ve never been around so many talented guys who can play at the next level," Arkansas guard Michael Qualls said. "On this team, I’d say everybody can play on the next level. So we’ve got a lot of talent around us. All we’ve got to do is harness it and make it more team-oriented and we’re going to take off."


The Razorbacks will get an opportunity to prove it soon.


Arkansas is working through its third week of preseason practices and will hold the annual Red-White scrimmage in Bud Walton Arena on Wednesday night. Arkansas also has received a waiver from the NCAA, which will allow them to hold a benefit scrimmage in Vilonia on Sunday to aid residents affected by last spring’s tornado.


Arkansas will then step into its two-game exhibition schedule against Central Oklahoma (Nov. 7) and Pittsburg State (Nov. 13). It leads into the season opener against Alabama State in Bud Walton Arena on Nov. 16.


Anderson likes the competitiveness that has taken place in Arkansas’ practices so far. He’s much more comfortable because players "fit" his vision for the program.


He said the lofty preseason expectations, while nice, don’t mean much now.


But he’s confident the Razorbacks are capable of meeting them this season.


"We’ve got a whole team of guys that are putting in the time," Anderson said. "To me, hopefully, it’s going to be a thing of beauty when we get a chance top put it all together and showcase it out on the floor."