It’s a question that we’ve all pondered while keeping up with the "bubble watch." With Tennessee refusing to break away from the pack and Missouri "Haithing" its way out of the tournament, why is Arkansas not getting any love from the bracketologists?
I know Jerry Palm of CBSsports.com recently put Arkansas in one of the play-in games, but this is the first sign of respect the Razorbacks have received in a while. At some points in the season the lack of respect was deserved, but doesn’t the "Fastest 40" finally deserve some respect? Well, it depends on how you look at it.
Let’s do a résumé test. I know you guys are smart and can easily figure out each team. However, I’m going to remove the team names to eliminate any initial feelings the name school may bring.
Record 19-9 (7-8)
Record vs. RPI top 50: 1-2
RPI 200+ wins: 4
RPI 300+ wins: 2
Non-conference SOS: 124
Best wins: UCLA (RPI 16)
Bad losses: @ Alabama (RPI 124)
Record 16-11 (8-7)
Record vs. RPI top 50: 2-6
RPI 200+ wins: 4
RPI 300+ wins: 2
Non-conference SOS: 38
Best wins: Virginia (RPI 15), Xavier (48)
Bad losses: Texas A&M twice (123)
Record 18-9 (7-7)
Record vs. RPI top 50: 3-5
RPI 200+ wins: 7
RPI 300+ wins: 4
Non-conference SOS: 174
Best wins: Kentucky (RPI 10), SMU (38), Minnesota (44)
Bad losses: @ Texas A&M (123)
Now you see the dilemma there is when trying to select one of these teams. Team 1 has the highest RPI, but only has one top 50 win and has a poor non-conference SOS. Team 2 challenged themselves the most in the non-conference, but only has one win quality win from the non-conference to show for it. Team 3 has the most RPI top 50 wins, but has the worst non-conference strength of schedule and the same amount of RPI 300+ wins of the other two teams combined.
I don’t think any of these teams deserve to be in the NCAA Tournament right now, but with 68 spots to fill, they must select someone. I’m sure you have figured it out the teams by now. For clarification sake: team 1 is the Missouri Tigers, team 2 is the Tennessee Volunteers, and team 3 is the Arkansas Razorbacks.
The fact that Tennessee has received so much love is a testament to how much people value the non-conference strength of schedule. Bracketologists are more likely to forgive a loss against a quality team in the non-conference than reward a win against a bad team.
Missouri is a testament to how much the bracketologists value the RPI. Most power conference teams that are in the RPI top 45 make the tournament field. The best RPI team to not receive an at-large bid was Cincinnati (RPI 40) in 2006. That was before the most recent tournament expansion.
That leaves the curious case of the Razorbacks. I know this is what I’m about to do to the subject of Arkansas' non-conference schedule:
But it is truly their non-conference opponents holding them back. The bad loss at A&M doesn’t help, but that can’t be the sole reason Arkansas isn’t getting any love during tournament talk. The Hogs must pray that all the bad teams they beat win some games at the end of the year to make those wins not look as worthless.
Lucky for all three of these teams, they all have plenty of opportunities left to improve their tournament case.
- Arkansas vs Kentucky II: The Preview
- Talking Arkansas Basketball, NCAA Tournament Chances, & Last Thoughts on Bielema and Death Certificates
- Why Coty Clarke is Arkansas' Best All-Around Player
- SEC Basketball Set For Wild Finish; NCAA Tournament Berths At Stake - Can Arkansas Get In?
- SEC Basketball Power Rankings: February 23