Bubble Watch: 5 Reasons Why Arkansas Will Make the Tournament
5 Reasons the Razorbacks will Make the Tournament
The college basketball bubble picture has gotten more and more crowded in recent weeks, and there is little time left for teams to make a case for an NCAA tournament bid. One good win alone will not get you in the Big Dance making some teams early season mishaps irrecoverable. Only a miraculous run through a conference tournament will save some programs, but for several, solid performances down the stretch will suffice.
In the past decade, the SEC has unquestionably been the standard in the world of college athletics, but the decorated conference faces a rigorous climb as it tries to regain its respect as a basketball conference while trying to once again be dominate on the hardwood. Many SEC teams are on the brink of missing the NCAA tournament this year after the conference has cannibalized itself this season, but which team will come out on the other side of this mayhem and play on the biggest stage in the sport. There will be several SEC teams left on the outside looking, so which team's bubble is about to burst?
One of the teams at the heart of bubble conversation in the SEC is the Arkansas Razorbacks who boast a record of 19-9 heading into the final week of the college basketball regular season. The Razorbacks landed another landmark win Thursday in conference play which moves the team to 8-7 in SEC play, good for fourth in the SEC at the moment. If the Razorbacks want to go dancing, the team will need their key players to continue to step up down the stretch.
Arkansas is led by a trio of playmakers who each average over 12 points a game and are all pivotal to the team's success going forward. Bobby Portis leads the team in scoring at 12.9 PPG and rebounding with 6.6 boards per game while being one of the most underrated freshman in the country. Rashad Madden is averaging 12.6 PPG while leading the team in assists and being the veteran presence of the team. Michael Qualls is the Razorbacks' money player, who has become known for coming through in crunch time.
Arkansas has amassed some impressive wins this season and delivered several memorable performances making the Razorbacks tournament relevant, so let's take a look at the five reasons Arkansas will be dancing come tournament time.
Greg Douglas is a College Basketball writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on twitter @thegpd93 or add him to your Google Network.
Swept Season Series against Kentucky
The SEC only has two teams firmly in the tournament field at the moment, and the Razorbacks swept the season series against one of them. Arkansas defeated the Kentucky Wildcats twice this season, both times in overtime, and those wins will prove crucial to the Razorbacks' tournament stock going forward. At the time of the victories, the Wildcats were ranked No. 13 and No. 17 in the nation making the wins even more impressive. The two Kentucky victories are the only top-25 wins the Razorbacks can hang their hat on, but many teams have gotten tournament bids for doing far less.
Strength of Schedule
Arkansas' strength of schedule ranking sits at 78th in the nation and the Razorbacks have an RPI of 59. While a strength of schedule of 78 does not seem that impressive, the Razorbacks sit well above teams that are firmly in the tournament field including the Louisville Cardinals and the Wichita State Shockers who have a strength of schedule of 102 and 104 respectively.
Wins vs. Top 50
The Razorbacks have four wins against the top-50 and do not have any losses to teams ranked lower than 125. Arkansas has as many top-50 wins as Louisville while having more than Wichita State and the Virginia Cavaliers. Arkansas' one bad loss came on the road in conference play where the team's top three scorers combined for just 21 points.
When it comes down to comparing one team to another, the selection committee has an eye toward potential in the tournament which favors Arkansas. Arkansas is one of the deepest teams in the nation with 10 players averaging double-digit minutes a game. With four players averaging more than nine points a game, the Razorbacks sport one of the best starting lineups in the country.
Coach Mike Anderson
Arkansas head coach Mike Anderson is no stranger to NCAA tournament success leading both of his previous teams on tournament runs. Anderson led the UAB Blazers to a Sweet Sixteen appearance in 2004 and the Missouri Tigers to an Elite Eight in 2009. Anderson is the architect of the fastest 40 minutes in basketball where tempo and pressure lead to success. With a lifetime winning percentage of .656, Anderson has these Razorbacks poised to make some noise in the big dance.