Arkansas Draws Indiana In First Round

ATLANTA — Most of the 65 teams invited to the NCAA Tournament took part in some type of watch-party Sunday.

Even the Georgia Bulldogs, which defeated Arkansas in Sunday's SEC Tournament Championship Game, held an impromptu gathering on the Alexander Memorial Coliseum court. Not Arkansas, though.

The Razorbacks were in their locker room, still dejected, still getting dressed, when CBS revealed they'd play Indiana on Friday in the East Regional in Raleigh, N.C. Some players found out by text messages that they'd compete in the RBC Center, home to North Carolina State. Some were told by friends who called them. A few others found out from reporters.

Whereas most NCAA Tournament participants greeted the news with excitement, the Hogs, a No. 9 seed in the East, were in no such mood.

"This is a little bit unique," Arkansas coach John Pelphrey said. "It's so soon after the disappointment we had here (Sunday). I haven't even changed clothes yet. If I can get through the emotion of what just happened, we should feel very fortunate to be a part of the NCAA Tournament.

"Basically, tomorrow will come. The sun will come up, and we'll be excited about being one of the 65 teams that still gets to play basketball."

To say the Razorbacks were a tad disappointed with their draw would be accurate. Arkansas' players went into the day hoping to leave Atlanta with an SEC Tournament championship and a No. 6, No. 7 or No. 8 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Instead, the Hogs had to stomach a painful loss and learn about a matchup with an Indiana squad that was ranked in the top 10 at one point this season.

"How did they drop to a No. 8 seed?" Arkansas sophomore guard Stefan Welsh asked about Indiana.

Plus, the Hogs are left with the prospect of facing top-seed North Carolina if they can get past the Hoosiers. Senior point guard didn't even want to think about that scenario — "no way we look past Indiana," he said. Pelphrey agreed, saying "we'll welcome that Friday night" if Arkansas happens to win.

Indiana seemed destined for a much higher seed earlier in the season, but the storied program has gone through a tumultuous last month. Former coach Kelvin Sampson resigned under pressure after serious NCAA violations were discovered.

The Hoosiers defeated ranked foes Michigan State and Purdue in Sampson's final two games as coach. But Indiana has gone 3-3 since assistant Dan Dakich took over, including a first-round defeat to Minnesota on Friday in the Big Ten Tournament.

Pelphrey is familiar with Dakich, a former Indiana standout as a player, as his teams at South Alabama played Bowling Green when Dakich coached the Falcons.

And Arkansas' coach didn't believe the coaching change makes Indiana any less dangerous. He called Indiana "one of the hottest teams in the country this year," and lauded talented freshman guard Eric Gordon and strong senior forward D.J. White.

Despite the initial feelings, Arkansas senior Sonny Weems turned positive. He vowed this postseason would be different than the last two.

"We're hungrier this year," Weems said. "We know it could all be over soon."



NCAA EAST REGIONAL TICKET

NO. 8 INDIANA VS. NO. 9 ARKANSAS

WHEN: Friday TV: CBS (Cox Ch. 5)

WHERE: RBC Center, Raleigh, N.C.

RECORDS: Indiana 25-7, Arkansas 22-11

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