Arkansas was given an opportunity to go ahead and punch that NCAA Tournament ticket for sure Wednesday night, but they couldn’t pull off the upset over #12 Florida in Gainesville.
The Razorbacks have shown the ability to compete with their top opponents, but not for the full 40 minutes. Such was the case against the Gators. Arkansas found themselves in one of their trademark 1st half holes, this time down 27-11 a little over midway through the 1st half.
Arkansas played even with the Gators for the last 30 minutes of the game. The Hogs have been able to dig themselves out of several holes this year, but Florida is too good. Arkansas did make some runs a few times and got as close as 6 points in the second half, but each time the game got closer, Florida answered.
I was only able to hear this play on the radio, but one play that seemed to stand out to fans was an offensive foul called against Moses Kingsley. What appeared to be an And-1 was called an offensive foul because his elbow made contact with the Florida player while he went to shoot. Chuck Barrett was very upset about this, and I assume most fans were as well. The game turned out to be a 13-point loss, so it’s hard to say how much of an impact that might have made, but it didn’t help.
But the real reason Arkansas was never terribly close in this game is because the team didn’t shoot as well as they have in recent road games. Florida’s defense was definitely a part of that, but the Hogs only made 35.6% of their shots. Only Kingsley, Jaylen Barford, and Dusty Hannahs were in double figures. Daryl Macon scored 8 points but no one else scored more than three. Anton Beard and Trey Thompson, both of whom had been pretty good during Arkansas’ 5-game win streak, combined for 2 points, 4 fouls, zero rebounds and zero assists. Manny Watkins, Arlando Cook, and Dustin Thomas struggled to provide anything as well.
It’s important to understand, this was strictly an opportunity game. There was no risk. Arkansas won’t fall in the NCAA Tournament seeding for losing this game. It was a road game against a top 10 RPI team. It would have cemented Arkansas’ NCAA Tournament bid had Arkansas won, but they’re still ok.
Arkansas may be in the NCAA Tournament even without winning again, but that’s not the risk they want to take. Most projections have them around the 8/9 seed right now. Losing at home to Georgia would hurt pretty badly. I’m not saying it’s a must-win game in that the Razorbacks will be NIT bound with a loss, but they should approach it as a must-win game. The selection committee hasn’t been terribly favorable to the SEC in recent years. Let’s not leave things to chance.
Even with the loss, Arkansas clinched a top-4 seed and bye to Friday in the SEC Tournament due to Vanderbilt’s loss on Tuesday night. The Hogs can earn the 3-seed with a win over Georgia and a South Carolina loss at Ole Miss. Otherwise, Arkansas will be the 4-seed.