The understood goal for this Arkansas basketball team is to make the NCAA Tournament, and according to Lunardi's latest projections, the Hogs are on pace to make it in. They're currently the second team in the "Last Four Byes" after LSU and ahead of Minnesota and Florida State. Apparently, "Last Four Byes" is a new feature this year because the "Last Four In" is reserved for the four teams who would have to play in the official First Round play-in games in Dayton.
Here's the latest bracket. It's Lunardi's first update since the season began, and the Razorbacks are benefitting from what is currently a very favorable RPI rating after a solid run of five consecutive top-70 opponents from Louisiana-Lafayette through Gonzaga.
Unfortunately, only one of Arkansas' last four non conference opponents are currently in the top-200, and that's South Alabama, who's sitting at 181. As a result, Arkansas' RPI could go lower even if the Hogs win all four games, just because the competition is weak. The question will be how much will it go down?
A big help for the Hogs will be if their non-conference opponents play well, particularly the best ones they've beaten. Both Minnesota and Louisiana-Lafayette are included in the bracket, and Clemson and SMU are both on the "Next Four Out" list. The better those four teams play, the better Arkansas' schedule will look.
There are currently six SEC teams in the bracket: Kentucky, Florida, LSU, Missouri, and Tennessee (the Vols are in one of the play-in games), and those schools make up eight of the 18 SEC games on Arkansas' schedule. So as of now, the Hogs should have plenty of opportunities to prove themselves from January through early March.
We'll keep our eyes on the bracket projections throughout the season. But isn't it great to see the Razorbacks back in the bracket? It feels like that's where the program always belongs.
(h/t to Scottie Bordelon for noticing this and saying so in the SEC Basketball Power Rankings comments)