Forget the analytics, Hogs need to win 3

By: Wally Hall
Published: Wednesday, March 5, 2014
Arkansas head coach Mike Anderson signals to the offense against Missouri in the second half Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2014 at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville.
Photo by Anthony Reyes
Arkansas head coach Mike Anderson signals to the offense against Missouri in the second half Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2014 at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville.

Predicting the NCAA Tournament field of 68 is about as easy right now as giving an accurate weather forecast.

Not criticizing those folks in charge of reading those ever-changing weather models - was it more accurate when all we heard was Doppler Radar? - because getting the bracket right for March Madness is crazy.

Of course, everyone wants to know what Arkansas has to do to make the field, what seed it will be and where will it play.

The answer to the first part is easy - win. Three more victories, including one in the SEC Tournament, should do it because it looks like the great football conference is going to get at least four invites to the Big Dance, depending on upsets in the other conference tournaments.

Before going any further, Georgia is the program getting less national respect than any in the country, mainly because the Bulldogs went 6-6 in nonconference play. But of those six losses, four of those teams have winning records, three look like locks for the NCAA Tournament and Nebraska is definitely a bubble team.

Georgia could end up tied with Kentucky for second place, and the Wildcats are apparently assured a spot in the tournament despite the fact they will most likely finish the regular season 6-4, including consecutive losses to Arkansas and 13th-place South Carolina.

Georgia’s RPI is 84 and its BPI is 93, so it appears the only way it makes the NCAA Tournament is to win the SEC Tournament, as it did in 2008. That might happen if another tornado hits Atlanta, the games are moved to Georgia Tech and the fans aren’t allowed to watch.

Some of the experts are predicting the Hogs as a No. 12 seed going against another No. 12 seed to advance to the main body of the tournament.

NCAA officials can keep calling those games in Dayton, Ohio, the first four of the tournament until Miami gets an ice storm, but they are still play-in games.

A play-in game is not a good thing. USA Today has the Hogs as a 10 seed playing Virginia Commonwealth in Buffalo, N.Y., a garden spot this time of year if you are into ice sculptures and potholes. It should be pointed out that same news outlet only has three SEC teams in the tournament.

No one asked, but a No. 11 seed in San Antonio against a No. 6 Ohio State or Iowa seems fair, or maybe good fare, as Mi Tierra’s, the world’s greatest 24-hour Mexican cafe, is there (the avocado nachos are to kill for).

Anyway, and this is just a guess, it appears the leagues that are going to get the most invites are the ACC, Big 12, Big Ten and Pacific-12 with six each.

The American Athletic Conference will get five; the Big East and Atlantic 10 four; and Conference USA, Mountain West and West Coast two each.

On a side note, the Conference USA tournament, with four teams tied for first at 12-3, could be about as much fun as any in the country. Anything can, and usually does, happen in the Sun Belt.

The SEC will be represented by Florida, which will be a No. 1 NCAA Tournament seed most likely in Orlando, Fla., and Kentucky, which looks like a No. 6. Arkansas and Tennessee will be somewhere in the mix, unless Missouri wins at Tennessee on Saturday.

The Razorbacks have neither won a game in the SEC Tournament nor played in the NCAA Tournament during the past five seasons.

They ended a four-year stretch of losing records in SEC play when they went 10-8 last season. Arkansas (9-7) can make it two consecutive winning SEC seasons with one victory this week, either against Ole Miss in Fayetteville tonight or Saturday at Alabama.

All of which points to one fact: Anderson is putting the razor back in Razorbacks. The Hogs are improving, the home crowds are returning, and the University of Arkansas is being used in sentences concerning the NCAA Tournament on a consistent basis.

Sports, Pages 19 on 03/05/2014