The good news is that college basketball is not college football, and the bracketologists aren't having a dramatic overreaction to Arkansas' ugly loss at Alabama on Saturday. All the projections still have Arkansas in, but the bad news is that it's just by a thread.
Most all the bracketologists now have Arkansas among their Last Four In and playing in Dayton in the First Round.
- Jerry Palm at CBS has Arkansas first in his Last Four In, facing Nebraska in Dayton for the right to play Texas an an 11-seed in San Antonio.
- USA Today's Shelby Mast, who had been one of the biggest proponents of Arkansas the last couple of weeks, has the Razorbacks as the next-to-last team in. Mast also has Arkansas playing Nebraska in Dayton but has the winner facing North Carolina in Orlando.
- Our own Chris Dobbertean, of SB Nation's Blogging The Brackets, also has the Hogs in Dayton but as the first of his Last Four In, and playing Xavier for the right to go to Buffalo and face UCLA.
- Joe Lunardi's bracket probably won't be updated until Monday, but he said on ESPNU after Saturday's games he had the Razorbacks as the last team in. Here's a screenshot of how he sees the bubble at this point:
So the question now becomes, how many games do the Razorbacks have to win in the SEC Tournament to at least stay among the Dayton group? I think it's clear the only thing we know for sure is that Arkansas absolutely must win on Thursday against the South Carolina/Auburn winner. Both of those teams have RPIs outside the top 150, so losing to either on a neutral court would be lethal. Arkansas must end it's SEC Tournament losing streak (now at six games!) on Thursday.
But does Arkansas have to beat Tennessee? It's uncertain. If losing by 25 to Alabama didn't crush Arkansas, I don't know that losing to RPI-top 50 Tennessee will hurt them that much. Of course, any time you're teetering this closely on the fence, the gentlest of winds can push you on either side. I think beating the Vols puts Arkansas comfortably in the Tournament, even if they have to go to Dayton (that would be 23 wins, possibly five top 50 wins, nine top 100 wins). Lose to the Vols, and it's a nervous 48 hours until the selection show.
Possibly the only way to ensure Arkansas avoiding Dayton would be to beat Florida in the SEC Tournament. The Hogs may get a chance on Saturday if Arkansas beats Tennessee. That would be a win on par (possibly even better, actually) with the 2008 upset of Tennessee in the SEC Tournament semi-finals.
The most important thing for Arkansas right now, other than obviously winning games, is for other bubble teams to lose. So while Hog fans may have spent much of the year cheering for teams like Cal and Minnesota, whose success/failure had an impact on Arkansas' RPI all year, now the Razorbacks need them to lose so as to not jump up from the other side of the bubble and take the Hogs' spot. Other bubble teams who'd love to take Arkansas' spot include Florida State, St. John's, Georgetown, and Southern Miss.
Arkansas also doesn't need any also-rans to upset at-large quality teams from their conference tournaments. The Hogs dodged a bullet when Gonzaga held on against Santa Clara yesterday. That would have meant one less at-large spot for Arkansas to grab.