Hog Sooie! How the Arkansas Razorbacks Can End NCAA Tournament Drought

Beth Hall-USA TODAY Sports

Players, coaches and fans have been waiting more than three years in Fayetteville for the Arkansas Razorbacks to get back to the NCAA Tournament.

Arkansas’ most recent win was a 73-71 win over resurgent Missouria team that just took down No. 5 Florida last night. The Hogs next game is at home, against Georgia, at the Bud Walton Arena Thursday night.

At 16-9 (7-5 SEC), the Hogs have plenty of work to do before they’re considered more than a long-shot to make the NCAA Tournament.

For starters, the Hogs need to take care of business against teams they should beat, starting with Georgia. A game at LSU a week from today is another game they should win, but a 1-6 road record says otherwise. They’ll also get another crack at Texas A&M, who beat down the Razorbacks by 18 in their first meeting (in College Station), 69-51. It’ll be the last game of the regular season and this time it’s in Fayetteville, where the Hogs are 15-1.

Three very winnable games for the Razorbacks to bolster their record as long as they don’t look ahead. They’ll head to Gainesville for a big one against the Gators following Thursday’s game with Georgia. Depending on who you ask, Arkansas-Florida is a bigger game. Every game is a big game for the Razorbacks.

Secondly, they need at least one more win over No. 5 Florida and/or Missouri. They’ve played–and beaten–both already this season, in Fayetteville. Florida is on tap this Saturday, while a trip to Columbia awaits them March 5. Both teams are ahead of the Hogs in the SEC standings (Florida is 11-2 while is Missouri 8-5) and although it’s unlikely anyone will unseat the Gators, another win over either opponent will help their seeding in the SEC Tournament.

Lastly, they have to win the wild-card game against Kentucky, a team just got blown out by Tennessee in their first game following a season-ending injury to superstar Nerlens Noel. It’ll be the first and only meeting with the defending National Champions, and another home win would certainly improve their chances.

Some lopsided losses in conference play–at Vanderbilt, at South Carolina–might come back to hurt their chances to dance. They were on the road, if that’s any consolation (which it isn’t). The bad losses might be overshadowed by quality wins over Florida, Missouri and a solid Oklahoma team, but their 1-8 road/neutral record doesn’t bode well. Picking up two road wins down the stretch would help immensely.

Head coach Mike Anderson needs his Hogs to play well and win some games down the stretch. If they could keep the momentum they’ve built over the past two games, 4-2 is certainly a reasonable expectation heading into the conference tournament, where a win or two will also increase their odds of making the field of 68.

A six-game season starts Thursday.

It’s time to end the drought in Fayetteville. Hog Sooie!

 

Follow Ryan Darcy on Twitter: @Ryan_D_Rants

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