This is an excerpt of a column I wrote for Sporting Life Arkansas. Click here for the full breakdown.
If the goal is win as many games as possible to get on the bubble, finishing #5 or #6 is a pretty good setup. Those two teams get to face one of the bottom four teams in the conference, and would likely play Georgia or the #4 team on Friday instead of Florida or Kentucky. For a program like Arkansas, who did not play a single true road game in non-conference, picking up an extra neutral court victory may prove to be important, and the opportunity to add a quality win over Georgia, Tennessee, or Missouri on Friday followed by a nothing-to-lose strength-of-schedule booster against Florida or Kentucky on Saturday may be the easiest path to the NCAA Tournament.
So who’s most likely to end up where? Here’s the remaining schedule for the seven 7-7 teams. All have four games left and all have two at home and two on the road.
- Arkansas: @Kentucky, Georgia, Ole Miss, @Alabama
- Tennessee: @Mississippi State, Vanderbilt, @Auburn, Missouri
- Missouri: @Georgia, Mississippi State, Texas A&M, @Tennessee
- LSU: Texas A&M, @Florida, @Vanderbilt, Georgia
- Ole Miss: Alabama, @Texas A&M, @Arkansas, Vanderbilt
- Vanderbilt: Florida, @Tennessee, LSU, @Ole Miss
- Texas A&M: @LSU, Ole Miss, @Missouri, Auburn
Tennessee has the easiest schedule of the group, with both road games against the bottom of the conference in Mississippi State and Auburn, and they don’t face Kentucky or Florida. They do end the season at home against Missouri, in what could be a huge game for both teams’ NCAA Tournament hopes. The hardest schedule probably belongs to Vanderbilt, followed by LSU and Texas A&M.
Arkansas’ schedule is somewhere in the middle. They’re obviously the underdogs in Lexington this week, but the two home games against Georgia and Ole Miss are really big games for the Hogs. Really, as long as Arkansas continues winning, every game after the Kentucky game is a huge game.
One thing the Razorbacks have going for them more than the other teams is momentum. Arkansas has won five of their last six, but most of the other teams are coming off losses. Ole Miss has lost four in a row. Vanderbilt won this weekend but has lost three of their last five. LSU lost three of their last four. Texas A&M is has won most of their games recently, but not at the rate Arkansas has been winning.
It’s absolutely certain that Arkansas must end it’s SEC Tournament losing streak. The Hogs haven’t won a game in the Tournament since 2008. They’ve lost six in a row. Most of those most recent seasons have ended so badly that it seemed like the team had checked out by the time the Tournament started, and it would be a tremendous disappointment if that continues. Hopefully, the team understands what’s still on the table and goes into the tournament with the kind of motivation necessary to win there.
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