It's the Big East vs. the SEC in a 9 vs. 8 first round pairing in Greenville, S.C.
Every game matching a No. 8 seed and a No. 9 seed always feels like a coin flip. The story is no different with Arkansas and Seton Hall. This promises to be one of the better first round games with a matchup of two teams that closed out their respective regular seasons with a bang.
The Razorbacks (25-9) have won eight of their last 10 games, losing to only Florida and Kentucky in that stretch. They averaged 80 points per game in those eight wins and managed to reach the SEC Tournament championship game where they lost 82-65 to the Wildcats.
The Pirates (21-11) overcame a sluggish start in Big East play to rip off eight wins over their final 10 regular season games. They took Villanova to the wire in the Big East Tournament before falling 55-53 to the defending national champions.
This is the second meeting between the two schools. Arkansas and Seton Hall met previously in a neutral site game in the 2010-11 season. The Razorbacks won that contest 71-62.
South Region: No. 9 Seton Hall (21-11) vs. No. 8 Arkansas (25-9)
When: 1:30 p.m. ET (Friday)
Where: Bon Secours Wellness Arena (Greenville, SC)
Line: Arkansas -1
Keys for Seton Hall
The Pirates must attack the glass early and often. Arkansas is a team not known for its rebounding prowess. The opposite is true with Seton Hall. Coming into the NCAA Tournament, the Pirates are collecting 6.5 more rebounds per game than their opponents.
One factor that can help Seton Hall control the glass is the presence of Angel Delgado and Desi Rodriguez around the basket. Delgado is a double-double machine. The junior forward averaged 15.3 points and 13.1 rebounds during the regular season. Rodriguez is a talented scorer who can pull defenses out to the wing. He is second on the team in scoring (15.9 ppg).
If Khadeen Carrington gets hot, the Razorbacks will be in major trouble. Carrington is a streaky shooter, but also leads the team in scoring (16.9 ppg). When the junior guard finds his shot, the Pirates' offense sizzles. If that happens, they will be able to force Arkansas to slow down.
Keys for Arkansas
The Razorbacks need to get out and run. Arkansas is at its best when going at a frenetic pace up-and-down the court. This is a team that has eight players who average 10-plus minutes and uses that depth to try and run opponents into the ground.
Arkansas is strongest in the backcourt. Fifth-year senior guard Dusty Hannahs leads the team with 14.6 points per game. Junior guard Daryl Macon is a valuable sixth man. Macon provides instant offense off the bench with 13.4 points per game. Both players shoot 38 percent from 3-point range.
Getting a big game from senior forward Moses Kingsley will be critical to counteract Seton Hall's dynamic forwards. Kingsley leads the team with 7.8 rebounds and 87 blocks. He is fourth in scoring with 11.8 points per contest.
Arkansas and Seton Hall mirrored one another in how they closed out the regular season on a hot streak to get off the bubble. Both teams are more than capable of winning. The outcome will really come down to which team can dictate tempo. Seton Hall has a slight edge in this area with its ability to crash the boards. The Pirates will be able to set a speed limit on Arkansas' efforts to initiate a track meet.
Prediction: Seton Hall 73, Arkansas 70
— Written by John Coon, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Coon has more than a decade of experience covering sports for different publications and outlets, including The Associated Press, Salt Lake Tribune, ESPN, Deseret News, MaxPreps, Yahoo! Sports and many others. Follow him on Twitter @johncoonsports.