What a difference a week makes. Big wins at Kentucky and against third-place Georgia, have breathed new life into the Hogs NCAA Tournament possibilities. Once on the outside looking in, the Razorbacks (20-9, 9-7) have changed the narrative and appear to be ‘in’ and now must do whatever it takes to stay there.
We can’t tell you how impressed we were with Georgia. They have to be one of the most improved teams in the country from January till now. You always look better when you shoot well – and they did in the first half Saturday – but their defense, board play, and overall composure playing in a hostile environment were all impressive.
With the wins, bracketologists Joe Lunardi of ESPN and Jerry Palm of CBS Sports both now have Arkansas as an 11-seed. Lunardi has been reluctant to put the Hogs in until the Kentucky win and still has the Hogs as one of the last four at-large teams in. Palm has the Hogs playing 6-seed Memphis in his latest projection.
The second win against Kentucky looked better though until the Wildcats went on the road Saturday and laid a 72-67 egg at lowly South Carolina. John Calipari seemed exasperated to the point he got tossed midway through in the second half. Big Blue’s inability to shoot from the perimeter was staggering.
The faltering Wildcats, coupled with the fact that Minnesota – a quality win for the Hogs in Maui – all of a sudden can’t win a game has not helped the Razorbacks RPI (54) and SOS (79). The Gophers have lost seven out of their last 10 games, and are in Lunardi’s last four in.
All that said, if the Hogs keep their mind right and don’t suffer a let down in the last two regular season games vs. Ole Miss and at Alabama, a top four seed in the SEC tourney – which yields a double-bye – seems likely. Georgia still has to go to LSU, while Tennessee hosts Missouri Saturday.
If the Hogs split the two games this week, they are likely a 5 or 6-seed in the SEC, which would put them playing one of Wednesday’s play-in game winners. Playing one of those four teams – Auburn, Alabama, Mississippi State or South Carolina – at this point can do nothing to help the Hogs RPI or SOS.
At any rate, it is good to be on the right side of the ‘bubble’ for a change. Now let’s hope Mike Anderson and the Hogs can stay there.