5 Things Arkansas Basketball Must Do To Make 2014 NCAA Tournament
5 Things Arkansas Basketball Must Do
The Arkansas Razorbacks have been up and down all season. After starting 11-2, the month of January brought five conference losses and the Razorbacks quickly became an afterthought. The only bright spot was the upset win over the Kentucky Wildcats. Despite the adversity, Arkansas rebounded in February and find themselves on the NCAA Tournament bubble.
Mike Anderson's team has a decent resume to present to the Selection Committee. First and foremost, the season sweep over Kentucky shines the brightest. Very few SEC teams can claim this honor, as the Wildcats have been the mainstay of basketball prowess in the conference for many years. Arkansas gutted out two overtime thrillers over John Calipari's lineup of former high school All-Americans, including a 71-67 victory in Rupp Arena last week.
Arkansas caught on fire at the right time as well. The latest victory over Kentucky is in the midst of a five-game win streak where the Razorbacks have taken care of business at home and on the road. The play of the backcourt and Michael Qualls has been superb. With two games left against the struggling Ole Miss Rebels and Alabama Crimson Tide, Anderson and company could finish the regular season with 11 conference wins and 22 wins overall.
As with any SEC bubble team, strength of schedule will hurt Arkansas though. The conference as a whole is down and this is something that the Selection Committee will not ignore. Arkansas's hot streak and 20-win season may not be enough.
Here are five things that must happen for Arkansas to dance in March.
5. Michael Qualls Must Continue His Stellar Play
Michael Qualls has averaged 16.4 points per game over the last five games, scoring 20 twice in that span. If he keeps attacking the basket and creating openings in the defense, Arkansas has a chance to make noise against anyone. He is also playing tough defense, averaging 2.4 steals per game during the winning streak.
4. Hope Kentucky Stops the Bleeding and Stays Strong
The victories over Kentucky are the signature on the Razorbacks' NCAA resume. The Wildcats lost to a weak South Carolina Gamecocks team this week and face the Florida Gators on March 8. Another loss may drop Kentucky out of the top 25 and this is something the Razorbacks do not need when the Selection Committee begins the process of weeding out bubble teams.
3. The Selection Committee Must Take Note of Victories Over Other Bubble Teams
The Razorbacks beat the Minnesota Golden Gophers in the Maui Invitational early in the season; they can also claim wins over the Clemson Tigers and the SMU Mustangs. The Tigers were on the bubble until recently, Minnesota is still hanging on by a thread, and SMU appears to be tournament bound.
2. Finish Strong at the SEC Tournament
Arkansas cannot afford an early exit from the SEC Tournament. With the perceived weakness of the conference, a first-day loss would certainly seal the Razorbacks' fate. A showing of third or better would really help, and an upset of Florida would be almost tantamount to an NCAA bid.
1. Do Not Lose Another Regular Season Game
If the Razorbacks lose to Ole Miss or Alabama, that would likely be the end of their NCAA hopes; Alabama has had a terrible season. Ole Miss was on the bubble, but has lost seven of the last 10 games. Arkansas must take care of business now or they will have to resign their hopes to winning the SEC Tournament to make it.