Arkansas’ NCAA Tournament Outlook: Jan. 30
After a blowout loss in Stillwater, what’s the impact on Arkansas’ chances of making the Big Dance?
By Bart Pohlman
It was a brutal loss for Arkansas over the weekend in Stillwater, falling by 28 points to Oklahoma State. The Hogs were out of it from the start, and were never really competitive in the 99-71 loss—the Razorbacks’ largest defeat of the season.
But did the blowout loss to the Cowboys really impact Arkansas’ NCAA Tournament chances? And if so, by how much?
Well, those are complicated questions, and so it only makes sense that the answers are equally complicated, but here goes: No, as of today, that loss doesn’t really hurt the Hogs’ hopes of making the Big Dance. It doesn’t help, but it doesn’t hurt. The key phrase in that answer, though, is “as of today,” because as the season progresses, there’s a chance that loss can come back to haunt the Hogs.
If Arkansas continues to take care of business for the rest of the season—meaning, beating the teams they’re supposed to beat—it’s not likely this loss to OSU will have an impact on the Hogs making the NCAA Tournament. Could it impact seeding? Sure. But it shouldn’t impact whether or not Arkansas is in the field.
Where that changes is if Arkansas doesn’t take care of business down the stretch. If the Razorbacks were to drop a couple of games against teams they should beat, they could find themselves on the bubble, and that’s where things get tricky.
Remember that there is an NCAA Tournament selection committee, and the members of the committee are ultimately responsible for which teams get at-large bids, and which teams are on the wrong side of the bubble.
So, say Arkansas loses a couple of games they shouldn’t down the stretch, and ends up squarely on the bubble. And say the Hogs only have that one Top 50 RPI win over Tennessee. If you’re a member of the selection committee, you’ve got a team that’s been blown out on the road three times and only has one win over a Top 50 RPI opponent. Assuming there’s a bubble team with a better resume than that, the Hogs could be on the outside looking in.
It’s far from certain that Arkansas could even end up in that position or that there would be a bubble team with a better resume—after all, they have to take 68 teams to fill the bracket. But that’s an example of how the loss to Oklahoma State could hurt Arkansas, even though it would take the Hogs doing some more damage to themselves down the stretch.
So where does Arkansas stand as of right now?
The Hogs are No. 28 in the NCAA’s RPI, with a 16-5 record (5-3 SEC). Additionally, Arkansas is 3-3 in true road games and 2-0 in neutral-site matchups.
The Razorbacks are 1-4 vs. the RPI Top 50 and 6-4 vs. the RPI Top 100. Arkansas has a schedule strength ranking of 61st, and a nonconference SOS that ranks 69th nationally.
There are chances out there for Arkansas to add better wins to its resume, with games remaining vs. Vanderbilt (No. 59), at South Carolina (No. 19), at Florida (No. 9) and vs. Georgia (No. 53).
According to former NCAA Tournament director Greg Shaheen, who joined Sports Talk last week, the main key for Arkansas down the stretch is to protect its current position—meaning winning games the Hogs are supposed to win and avoiding a big losing streak.
“I don’t think Arkansas has to win at South Carolina or at Florida (to make the NCAA Tournament),” Shaheen said on Sports Talk. “They just have to show well in their other games.”
In Arkansas’ case, that means winning your home games and avoiding bad losses on the road (i.e. Missouri and LSU).
That’s the roadmap. For Arkansas, it’s just a matter of whether or not the Hogs can stay on course.