By the time the Hogs finish competing against Mississippi State, Florida and Ole Miss, Arkansas should have a better idea of how many letters its postseason tournament will contain. Struggle against the Bulldogs, Gators and Rebels, and the three-letter tourney (NIT) comes into play.
Win two or three of the contests, and the Razorbacks (14-5, 3-2) can start thinking about four-letter (NCAA) seeding.
"These three games right here are going to make our season," Arkansas senior point guard Gary Ervin said. "We've got the best team in the (SEC) West coming to the house on Wednesday, and that's a real big game for us.
"We just need to take it one game at a time."
Let's break the Bud Walton Arena schedule down one game at a time, as well:
• Mississippi State, the Razorbacks' opponent at 7:05 p.m. Wednesday, is the only SEC team still undefeated in conference play. The Bulldogs blasted in-state rival Ole Miss by 20 points on Saturday.
• Florida, which takes on Arkansas at 2:05 p.m. Saturday, has thrived despite its glaring youth. The Gators, 4-1 in the SEC, easily dispensed of Vanderbilt by 22 points on Sunday.
• Ole Miss, a 4:05 p.m. foe of Arkansas' next Saturday, stacks up evenly with the Razorbacks as far as frontcourt depth.
At 2-3 in the SEC, the Rebels are by far the weakest opponent in Arkansas' grueling, upcoming five-game stretch. The Hogs travel to Tennessee and Mississippi State after their three games in Fayetteville.
Adding up records, Arkansas' next five opponents are 20-5 in the SEC. But first-year coach John Pelphrey said he wouldn't let his Razorbacks look beyond their next game.
"We're not going to get too carried away with thinking about (the future)," Pelphrey said.
Not a bad idea. Any thoughts about the future would likely remind the Hogs of their squandered opportunities on Jan. 16 and Jan. 19. Arkansas' players knew they had a chance to start with five victories to open conference play.
The combined SEC records of Arkansas' first five opponents is 6-18. But the Razorbacks, as they know and have tried to forget, faltered at home against South Carolina and at Georgia.
Arkansas isn't totally fretting over the two defeats.
"We understand it's a long season," sophomore guard Patrick Beverley said.
But the Razorbacks do understand that maturing must take place throughout such a long period of time.
"All good teams have bumps in the road," Ervin said. "As you see, there's only two undefeated teams left. They're going to have a bump in the road also. The best thing is, when adversity hits, let's see who can turn around and throw punches back."
MISSISSIPPI STATE AT ARKANSAS
WHEN: 7:05 p.m. TV: Raycom
WHERE: Bud Walton Arena
RADIO: KXIO-FM 106.9; KEZA-FM 107.9; KKEG-FM 92.1; KFPW-AM 1230; KQBK-FM 104.7; KHGG-AM 1580; KHGG-FM 103.1; KDYN-AM 1540; KDYN-FM 96.7; KTTG-FM 96.3
RECORDS: Mississippi State 14-5, 5-0 Southeastern Conference; Arkansas 14-5, 3-2
SERIES: Arkansas leads 25-18
First Five Opponents
School SEC Record
South Carolina 1-4
Next Five Opponents
School SEC Record
Mississippi State 5-0
Ole Miss 2-3
Mississippi State 5-0
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