How a Big Road Win Impacts Arkansas’ NCAA Tournament Hopes
What did the win at No. 21 South Carolina do for Arkansas’ chances of making the NCAA Tournament?
By Bart Pohlman
Last night was the win Arkansas fans had been waiting for all season long. The win over South Carolina was what the Razorbacks so desperately needed—the one that offsets that ugly loss to Missouri in Columbia, Mo., and the one that could punch Arkansas’ ticket to the Big Dance.
“We’ve got five games left in the season, and they keep getting bigger and bigger,” Arkansas coach Mike Anderson said after the game, per WholeHogSports. “But we beat a ranked team on the road, and I’m sure that adds a lot of value to what we’re doing with our season. If we do what we’re supposed to do, we’ll be where we’re supposed to be. I really believe that.”
The Hogs moved up to No. 36 in the NCAA RPI, and finally have a Top-50 win worth getting excited about.
Arkansas wasn’t the only bubble team to really help its cause Wednesday, however. Seton Hall upset No. 20 Creighton to give the Pirates a signature win.
But it was the Hogs who stood out last night, and CBS Sports bracketologist Jerry Palm says the win will draw attention from the NCAA Tournament selection committee:
Nobody picked up a bigger victory on Wednesday night than the Arkansas Razorbacks. The Hogs had been trending the wrong way with recent losses at moribund Missouri and a blowout home defeat to Vanderbilt Commodores. Arkansas’ only win of any significance was at home against UT-Arlington.
That changed Wednesday when Arkansas went into South Carolina Gamecocks and came away with a 83-76 victory. Now the Razorbacks have a win that will draw some attention from the NCAA Tournament selection committee. The Gamecocks are not quite at the level of Florida Gators or Kentucky Wildcats but they are a likely tournament team, and this is a road win. That’s huge for Arkansas.
Don’t get me wrong: Arkansas is still squarely on the bubble, although I have never seen a square-shaped bubble. But, I digress. Arkansas cannot revert to being the team that lost to Vandy and Mizzou.
And that’s the key for the Hogs down the stretch. Just because Arkansas picked up a win at South Carolina, doesn’t mean they can come back to Bud Walton Arena on Saturday and lose to Ole Miss—a team that’s won five of its last six trips to Fayetteville.
There’s still not a lot of room for error for the Razorbacks. CBSSports.com national college basketball writer Gary Parrish joined Sports Talk on Thursday and said Arkansas has to take care of business down the stretch, and win the games they’re supposed to win.
“I think anything less than 4-1 in the last five games would be a disappointment,” Parrish said.
But could winning just the three home games be enough for the Hogs to go dancing? ESPN’s Joe Lunardi thinks so.
“I believe they can, provided that their exit from the SEC Tournament … is not to a team below them,” Lunardi said Thursday on Sports Talk.
What’s clear is this: Arkansas has made its intention of fighting for an NCAA Tournament spot known, and now it’s up to the Hogs to keep the momentum going.
“I think Arkansas can be really good when they play well,” Parrish said. “The problem is that they don’t always play well.”
The Razorbacks will certainly have to play well down the stretch to finish this off and punch their tickets to the Big Dance.