Nonconference schedule hasn’t helped UA

By: Wally Hall
Published: Thursday, March 6, 2014
Arkansas guard Fred Gulley III (12) pressures High Point guard Dejuan McGaughy during the second half of play Saturday, Dec. 28, 2013, in Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville.
Photo by Andy Shupe
Arkansas guard Fred Gulley III (12) pressures High Point guard Dejuan McGaughy during the second half of play Saturday, Dec. 28, 2013, in Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville.

This space is not going to become NCAA Tournament bracketology, but when the RPI was updated Wednesday, the Arkansas Razorbacks dropped nine places from 49 to 58 after beating Kentucky in Lexington and Georgia at home.

What hurt the Hogs was that Kentucky turned around and lost to South Carolina.

What also has hurt the Hogs - besides losses to California, Texas A&M, Georgia and Tennessee - is their nonconference schedule.

Dave Worlock, who heads up the NCAA’s championships and alliances media services, was on The Zone (KABZ-FM, 103.7) on Wednesday with hosts Justin Acri and Pat Bradley, and he explained some of the thought process that goes on when the tournament selection committee locks itself down in Indianapolis to pick the 36 at-large teams.

Worlock, who was sports information director at Henderson State University before joining the NCAA, is a great guy and even at this busy time of the year took more than 20 minutes to visit.

He didn’t point fingers at Arkansas, which he said was on the bubble in his opinion, but he did say it never helps a team to have a lot of teams on its schedule that are highlighted in turquoise.

That color means you are ranked above No. 200 in the RPI.

Arkansas played five nonconference opponents - plus league opponent Mississippi State, but that couldn’t be helped - ranked higher than 200, including SIU-Edwardsville (316) and Southeastern Louisiana (317). The other three were Savannah State (276), South Alabama (288) and Texas-San Antonio (300).

Worlock also cleared up the matter of conference RPI - it doesn’t matter - and that the committee does not look at the last 10 games of the season. Apparently SEC Commissioner Mike Slive convinced the committee that it should look at the body of work and not how a team finished.

Worlock also said conference tournament games are not viewed any differently than regular-season games unless they are the championship game.

He emphasized that winning is the most important ingredient, and that meant winning on the road as well as at home, because that’s how you build a good RPI and strength of schedule. But, he said, there are other computer matrices that are considered.

The RPI is updated twice a week for CBS, which is still the primary network for the NCAA Tournament, and then shared with others.

What helps the Hogs, and probably why they are on the bubble, are victories over SMU, Kentucky (twice) and Minnesota.

Worlock also made it very clear that much discussion has taken place already, but there will be tons more starting next Wednesday when the selection committee begins to meet.

Sports, as it is known in the SEC, is going to change in a major way Aug. 14.

That’s the day the SEC Network is launched by ESPN. It is the day your cable or satellite bill goes up a few dollars each month (or will eventually), and it is the day when there will be stories on the 14 members of the SEC airing 24/7 on ESPN.

What this means for the SEC and its members is money.

Maybe lots of money. OK, more than likely tons of money.

When you hear the term “SEC footprint,” that is about television sets and people who will be interested in subscribing to the SEC Network.

For instance, with all their history and tradition there were reportedly millions of reasons to want the Texas A&M Aggies and Missouri Tigers when the SEC expanded. Television sets.

How much more people are willing to pay for television has kept some of the major carriers from jumping onboard, but right now AT&T U-verse and the Dish Network will carry the SEC Network.

Sports, Pages 17 on 03/06/2014