Hogs Can't Assume They're In

FAYETTEVILLE — Was it enough? Was Arkansas' expected, non-résumé-boosting victory over Auburn on Saturday enough to land the Razorbacks a solid place in the NCAA Tournament field?

Most of them went politically correct Saturday night. After the Hogs won to finish 15-1 this season in Bud Walton Arena, senior point guard Gary Ervin said, "It's on the (NCAA Tournament) committee." Sophomore guard Patrick Beverley said, "I don't know. Our focus is on the next game, not on the NCAAs."

Arkansas coach John Pelphrey said his team's postseason status is "somebody else's debate." Well, Jerry Palm, the owner and operator of CollegeRPI.com, is very much a part of that debate.

And his message Sunday to the Razorbacks was simple: Don't assume Saturday was enough. Asked by phone if the Razorbacks had sealed up a bid, Palm immediately and emphatically answered, "No." A couple of seconds later, he said, "Well, maybe."

He apparently had just remembered the "weak field of teams," as he called it, that is fighting for the tournament's final at-large spots. If other bubble teams don't go on deep conference tournament runs, the Hogs likely could stomach a first-round defeat to Vanderbilt or Auburn in the Southeastern Conference Tournament.

"They could lose their first game and get in, absolutely," Palm said. "But at this point, they really need another quality win off their home floor. They need to give the committee more reasons to ignore their bad losses."

Palm talked about Arkansas' topsy-turvy season in analyzing how the committee will view the Razorbacks. He has Arkansas as a No. 11 seed in his most recent projected bracket. And he acknowledged that it'd be hard to find a serious projected bracket that didn't presently include the Hogs.

But he noted that so much can change between now and Sunday, especially if Arkansas loses on Friday. Under that scenario, Palm said, the committee would look at a Razorback résumé that would contain as much bad as good.

Positives include:

• Nonconference wins over Ratings Percentage Index top-50 foes Baylor and Virginia Commonwealth.

• A 5-5 record against the RPI top 50, 8-6 against the RPI top 100.

• An RPI of 41 and a strength-of-schedule rank of 39, both higher than many other bubble teams.

Negatives include:

• A 2-7 mark in true road games.

• Five losses in Arkansas' last eight contests.

• Four key defeats — to Appalachian State (RPI 156), South Carolina (140), at Georgia (152) and at Alabama (117).

The quality wins are helpful, Palm said, but don't guarantee an invite. Auburn, Clemson, Michigan, Florida State, North Carolina State and Oklahoma State all got left out with five RPI top-50 wins last season, Palm said.

"The four bad losses are a bigger negative than the five good wins are a positive," he said.

Of course, this all means nothing if the Razorbacks win Friday.

With a loss, though, the Hogs will be left to bite their nails Saturday and Sunday as they wait for the selection show.

On the Sunday night broadcast of ESPN's College GameNight, "bracketologist" Joe Lunardi had Arkansas ranked No. 3 out of 25 teams battling for 11 at-large spots. Lunardi said the Hogs should make the tournament if they could "avoid a bad loss" in their first-round game in Atlanta.

So Arkansas' position could be far more dire, like it was last season at this time. And a look at other bubble teams — such as Arizona State, Maryland and Syracuse — reveals that Arkansas could lose Friday and perhaps garner a bid by default.

"The field is so bad, I wouldn't be surprised if a couple of teams got in with four or more (top-100) losses," Palm said.



2008 Southeastern Conference Tournament

WHEN: Thursday-Sunday.

WHERE: Georgia Dome, Atlanta.

TV: Raycom Sports, Thursday-Saturday; Sunday, CBS.

2007 CHAMPION: Florida defeated Arkansas 77-56.

FIRST ROUND — THURSDAY

GAME 1: (E5) South Carolina vs. (W4) LSU, Noon.

GAME 2: (W6) Auburn vs. (E3) Vanderbilt, 2:15 p.m.

GAME 3: (W5) Alabama vs. (E4) Florida, 6:30 p.m.

GAME 4: (E6) Georgia vs. (W3) Ole Miss, 8:45 p.m.

SECOND ROUND — FRIDAY

GAME 5: Game 1 Winner vs. (E1) Tennessee, Noon.

GAME 6: Game 2 Winner vs. (W2) Arkansas, 2:15 p.m.

GAME 7: Game 3 Winner vs. (W1) Mississippi State, 6:30 p.m.

GAME 8: Game 4 Winner vs. (E2) Kentucky, 8:45 p.m.

SEMIFINALS — SATURDAY

GAME 9: Game 5 Winner vs. Game 6 Winner, Noon.

GAME 10: Game 7 Winner vs. Game 8 Winner, 2:15 p.m.

CHAMPIONSHIP — SUNDAY

GAME 11: Game 9 Winner vs. Game 10 Winner, Noon.



WORTH QUOTING

John Pelphrey

On the outlook for the SEC Tournament:

"It's going to be competitive. ... It's going to be a fun tournament for the fans. You probably have to say Tennessee is the favorite because of (its) depth. But after that, shoot, everyone's shown they can compete. I think there's a lot of teams that are motivated."

Charles Thomas

On scoring in double figures for the first time since January:

"It's not about the individual. It's about the program. (Saturday) was very emotional. Nobody wanted to be remembered for losing on Senior Day."

Jeff Lebo

Auburn coach on the challenge of playing in Fayetteville:

"We know that when Arkansas plays in Bud Walton Arena, they are going to go on runs. We just wanted to try and limit the runs and try to stop the bleeding."

Hawgs Daily Top Stories