BASKETBALL: Hogs Waiting For Next Opponent

FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas doesn't know who it is playing in the quarterfinals of the Southeastern Conference Tournament on Friday.

In fact, the Razorbacks won't know until late Thursday afternoon.

But coach John Pelphrey said the uncertainty isn't a concern as Arkansas (20-10, 9-7 in SEC) prepares to face the winner of Thursday's first-round game between Vanderbilt (25-6, 10-6) and Auburn (14-15, 4-12) in the Georgia Dome on Friday at 2:15 p.m.

"I'm OK with it," Pelphrey said. "I'm pretty comfortable with what's going on right now. We're going to have an opportunity here over the next couple days to really try to cover a lot of ground and make sure that we're familiar and understand a lot of different situations that may take place or may not take place in postseason play. If they do, then we'll be ready for it."

Arkansas is in an unfamiliar position. It hadn't finished as one of the top two teams in the SEC Western Division and earned a first-round bye since 2001. The Razorbacks have played on the tournament's first day — and known their opponent in advance — seven of the past eight seasons.

But Pelphrey said he knows Auburn and Vandy will present unique problems, even if the Hogs are a combined 3-0 against the teams. He called the Tigers the most difficult matchup in the SEC because of their small lineup. He said Vandy is loaded with talent starting with SEC Player of the Year Shan Foster.

The good news, Pelphrey said, is that his team is familiar with both after playing each in the past two weeks.

Arkansas beat Vanderbilt 78-73 in Bud Walton Arena on March 1. The Hogs beat Auburn 76-70 to open SEC play on Jan. 10, then closed the regular season with a 77-64 home win against the Tigers last Saturday.

"I think we still have a pretty good mind's eye of what was going on there," Pelphrey said. "That's probably better than playing some opponents that we've only played one time or a long time ago."

Hill Honored Too

Arkansas forward Sonny Weems wasn't the only Razorback honored by SEC coaches Tuesday.

Center Steven Hill was selected to the SEC's six-player all-defensive team, adding to the career honors the 7-footer has received because of his shot-blocking ability. Last year Hill was the SEC Defensive Player of the Year, but the honor went to Mississippi State's Jarvis Varnado on Tuesday.

Hill earned defensive team honors despite a slow start this season. The senior is fourth in the SEC in blocks (2.2 a game) and is part of a defense that ranks third in the SEC in points allowed a game (66).

"I think some more blocks have come," Hill said. "I think I kind of settled down. Starting off the season every year it's kind of hard to stay out of foul trouble, but this may have been slower than other years.

"But I feel pretty good about where I'm at defensively at this time."

Step Up Washington

Pelphrey said the Razorbacks will need contributions from everyone if they hope to make a run in the SEC Tournament. That includes one player who has struggled lately: power forward Michael Washington.

The sophomore has scored two points in four games since being bumped out of the starting lineup on Feb. 27. Washington, who is averaging 4.8 points and 4.2 rebounds, is also losing playing time because of his struggles. He is averaging seven minutes in the past four games, while Vincent Hunter and Charles Thomas have handled the position.

But Pelphrey said the Razorbacks need Washington's contributions.

"Mike has played better for us this season than he has of late, no question about that," Pelphrey said. "We need him to kind of get through his valley, so to speak, and head back up the mountain. We need everybody."

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