For several seasons, Arkansas has been close to the NCAA Tournament but not quite in the field.
The culprit primarily has been any game away from Fayetteville. The Razorbacks are near-unbeatable at home. During the last three seasons, Arkansas is 50-6 at home and 5-30 in road and neutral games.
That trend will need to change immediately if Arkansas is going to stay in NCAA Tournament contention when the Razorbacks face Kentucky. Arkansas hasn’t reached the filed since 2008, John Pelphrey’s first season as head coach. This matchup could be the critical game for the Razorbacks to be an at-large team.
By the numbers
Feb. 27: at Kentucky
Record: 18-9, 7-7 SEC
How Arkansas could be in the Tournament
The Hogs could finish the season on a hot streak that would potentially include wins over LSU, Kentucky, Georgia and Ole Miss. The onus will be on the 6-10, 242-pound Bobby Portis to give Kentucky the same trouble LSU big man Johnny O’Bryant III did twice this season.
How Arkansas could be left out
Without a win over Kentucky or a few wins in the SEC Tournament, Arkansas’ resume isn’t overwhelming. The Razorabcks played seven teams ranked 200 or worse, including two sub-300 teams in the RPI. The Hogs allowed a Feb. 13 road game against Missouri slip away for an 86-85 loss, a defeat that could have given Arkansas breathing room on the bubble.
Arkansas needs to: Sweep Kentucky
The Razorbacks defeated Kentucky 87-85 in overtime on Jan. 14 in a game marked by an unlikely game-winning put-back by Michael Qualls and curious officiating that led to a combined 81 free throw attempts. A win at Rupp, especially if it’s a little cleaner, could make Arkansas the No. 3 team in the SEC.
Arkansas can’t afford to: Lose in Tuscaloosa
Missouri slipped in the NCAA Tournament projections after a loss to Alabama on Saturday. That’s not something Arkansas can afford to do, either. The Razorbacks can’t afford home losses to Georgia or Ole Miss either, but Alabama would be the most damaging.