Left out of the Southeastern Conference Tournament for the first time since 2001 — and for the first time in the Dave Van Horn era — Arkansas returns home for one final regular season game today. The Razorbacks host Western Illinois at 6:35 p.m. in Baum Stadium, in a game Van Horn hoped would help Arkansas's final win total and RPI as it prepared for another NCAA Regional.
But with such an NCAA Regional still very much in doubt after missing out on the SEC Tournament, the Diamond Hogs now can't afford to mess around today against the Leathernecks (20-30). Because with one more loss, it could be just what the NCAA committee is looking for to keep Arkansas out of regional play for the first time since 2001.
No doubt, though, the Razorbacks (33-22) know today's game holds a little more significance now that they're staying home this weekend instead of playing in the conference tournament. But what Arkansas doesn't know is if its resume is already strong enough to earn a spot in the coveted field of 64.
"You look back on it, we let a lot of games slip away," Van Horn said. "And I made the comment two months ago and many times since that it would probably come down to the last game. But honestly about four weeks ago, for us it wasn't even going to come down to the last day. So we battled and we did everything we could.
"We end up 14 and 15 (in conference) and that was the disappointing thing because when that game slipped away (Friday), so did that chance of being over .500 in league play after we started out so bad. Because in the second half, we were one of the better teams in our division and overall. So I just hope we get a chance to play."
After pulling out a 15-10 win against Mississippi State on Saturday to avoid a three-game sweep against the Bulldogs, the feeling among players and coaches was that of cautious optimism. But even with a few possible wins that had slipped away, it was clear the Diamond Hogs were somewhat confident they had done enough.
"I'm hoping. That's about all we can do right now," junior Logan Forsythe said. "I mean we've played some great teams, we've got a great RPI and we've played a tough schedule. But it really isn't up to us. It's up the committee and what they want to do.
"We're just hoping for the best and if Monday is our last game, it's our last game. But we're really not trying to think about that right now."
Western Illinois Leathernecks at Arkansas Razorbacks
WHEN: 6:35 p.m., today
WHERE: Baum Stadium, Fayetteville
RECORDS: Western Illinois 20-30; Arkansas 33-22
ON THE AIR: KFAY 1030 AM; KURM 790 AM, 100.3 FM; KHGG 1580 AM, 103.1 FM; KXIO 106.9 FM
SERIES: Arkansas leads, 2-0
LAST MEETING: Razorbacks won, 7-2 on Mar. 18, 1986 in Fayetteville
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