Road Hogs, they ain't

Recent history suggests fans can expect two things from today's Tennessee-Arkansas basketball game at Thompson-Boling Arena:

1. The game will be decided by a key play in the final minute.

2. Arkansas won't be the team that makes it.

The Razorbacks (18-8 overall, 7-6 SEC) are the SEC's ultimate close-but-no-cigar team. They play everybody tough on the road but have just one win in six tries to show for it. Their five SEC road losses have come by a combined total of 11 points. Three of the setbacks were especially gut-wrenching.

- They outplayed Alabama in Tuscaloosa on Jan. 18 only to lose 78-75 in overtime.

- They had a great chance to beat Kentucky Jan. 29 in Lexington but bowed 78-76.

- They had SEC West leader LSU beat in Baton Rouge on Feb. 8 only to implode in the final minute and fall 78-77.

Arkansas also lost SEC road games at Mississippi State 69-67 and at Ole Miss 73-70.

The Hogs' only other conference loss was a 63-58 setback to LSU in Fayetteville on Jan. 11, meaning Arkansas has dropped six league games by a combined total of 16 points. Stan Heath's Razorbacks are just a few points from being 24-2 overall and 13-0 in SEC play.

This is a dangerous opponent, and its most dangerous player is Ronnie Brewer. The 6-7, 217-pound junior guard leads the SEC in scoring (18.5 points per game) and in steals (2.54 per game). He also ranks among the league leaders in field goal and free throw percentage.

The Hogs' second-best player is Jonathon  Modica, a 6-5 208-pound guard who averages 15.5 points per game. He also ranks among the SEC's top 10 in field goal and free throw percentage. Dontell Jefferson ranks second among SEC players in assists per game (4.92) and 7-footer Steven Hill ranks second in blocked shots (2.96 per game). The other likely starter is 6-8, 245-pound Charles Thomas (9.2 points, 4.6 rebounds per game).

Although Tennessee (20-4, 11-2) has a much better record than Arkansas, the Razorbacks have outscored their opponents by an average of 9.5 points per game, whereas the Vols' victory margin is 9.1. The Hogs get the nod defensively, too, allowing opponents to shoot just 41.5 percent from the floor. UT foes shoot 47.0.

The heat is on Heath to get Arkansas to the NCAA Tournament this year. Interestingly enough, if he splits his next four games (counting the SEC Tournament opener), he'll have a four-year record of 59-57 with zero NCAA bids. UT's Buzz Peterson was fired last year after compiling a four-year record of 61-59 with zero NCAA bids.

Today's tip-off is set for 1 p.m. with television coverage by JP Sports.

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