Doubt creeps into Arkansas’ NCAA Match hopes after regarding loss at Vanderbilt


On Friday’s episode of Eye on Faculty Basketball I identified that, regardless of Arkansas‘ popularity, for those who actually dug into the truth of the Fifteenth-ranked Razorbacks, it was conceivable they might wind up messing round lacking the NCAA Match.

I put the prospect of Arkansas’ ill-desired plot twist at 15% — however that was earlier than the Hogs bought stamped 97-84 at Vanderbilt on Saturday.

Now? I would double the possibilities the Razorbacks are not noted of the Massive Dance. 

Credit score to Jerry Stackhouse’s Commodores for placing up one of the vital spectacular second halves of the season: 69.2% capturing, together with 66.7% from 3-point vary and 63 second-half factors to Arkansas’ 42 — turning an eight-point deficit halfway by means of the sport right into a 13-point win. Vandy averaged a lava-hot 1.4 factors per possession, by far the most effective exhibiting in opposition to Arkansas’ (beforehand stout) protection this season. Vanderbilt’s dismissal of the Hogs was so statistically spectacular, it dropped Eric Musselman’s crew from 14th to twenty second in general defensive effectivity at

I nonetheless suppose it is comfortably extra doubtless than not that Arkansas sees its identify pop up on CBS on Choice Sunday when the large bracket is revealed, however this program is in hassle and must discover a method to security quickly. After an 11-1 begin, Arkansas has misplaced 4 of its final 5, and at 1-4 within the SEC, is barely forward of Mississippi within the league ledger. 

No one thought this was doable three weeks in the past, not to mention within the preseason.

There’s quite a bit to be frightened about. First, as a result of the offense is hamstrung attributable to accidents, Arkansas has to win with its defensive depth and aptitude. If that goes, this crew is 100% toast. I do not anticipate many extra groups dropping higher than 1.2 factors per possession on the Hogs shifting ahead, so there’s that, a minimum of. 

And what about that offense? As Musselman advised me just lately, the workers constructed its O round two guys who aren’t taking part in: Nick Smith Jr. and Trevon Brazile. The latter is finished for the season with a torn ACL. The previous is engaged on a knee harm, with the hope he’ll have the ability to come again by February. Skepticism abounds over whether or not the projected top-10 NBA Draft decide will play once more for the Hogs. I believe he’ll. I additionally suppose he must with a purpose to guarantee an NCAA Match bid for Arkansas. Since Dec. 27, in accordance with, Arkansas has performed just like the One hundred and twentieth-best crew within the sport. 

Drawback is, Arkansas cannot shoot from deep. It ranks 336th nationally in 3-point accuracy (29.1%) and would not even take that many triples — simply 27.6% of its shot makes an attempt are from past the arc. Having long-distance threats is sort of necessary for being a Last 4-caliber crew nowadays. Arkansas? Nobody within the rotation is capturing higher than Anthony Black‘s pedestrian 32%. 

Unhealthy 3-point capturing groups traditionally virtually by no means course-correct and morph into good 3-point capturing groups greater than midway right into a season. There is a ceiling right here, regardless. 

Subsequent up for the Hogs is a tilt at 13-4 Missouri on Wednesday in opposition to a Tigers crew that is likely to be simply as flawed and anguished as Arkansas after shedding three of its previous 4, together with to Florida on Saturday. No. 20 (quickly unranked) Mizzou will get the good thing about waking up in its hometown earlier than dealing with the Razorbacks on Wednesday. Arkansas might want to show it could possibly do one thing it hasn’t executed but: win on the street. 

At 12-5, the Razorbacks solely have two high quality wins: San Diego State and Oklahoma on impartial courts. Highway video games in opposition to Baylor, Kentucky, No. 4 Alabama and No. 5 Tennessee nonetheless await. Can this crew win even two of these video games with out Smith on the ground? I doubt it. 

The silver lining for Arkansas followers, they usually realize it, is how Musselman’s overcome mid-season hiccups the previous two seasons and rallied these campaigns to Elite Eight runs, the varsity’s first for the reason that mid-90s. In 2020-21, Arkansas was a 13-5 crew on the finish of January and projected close to the bubble. It misplaced one sport between then and the NCAA Match. Final season, Arkansas performed a weak nonconference schedule, bought turned sideways early in league play and located itself at 10-5 and with an 0-3 SEC document in early January. 

The Razorbacks received 13 of their subsequent 14 and earned a No. 4 seed en path to a regional last. 

Musselman’s top-of-the-line coaches in school basketball — it is why his identify is being floated for the vacant Texas job, yet one more subplot to the unease at present with Arkansas’ state of affairs — so I will not be stunned if this crew finds a method to proper itself. However up to now, there’s not plenty of proof to counsel it’ll. 

The Razorbacks had been thought-about SEC contenders simply two weeks in the past. That hypothesis is over; Arkansas won’t be successful this convention. As a substitute, circumstances now dictate we wait and see on this crew. Can Arkansas repair itself and minimally do what’s been anticipated for the previous 9 months in Fayetteville? Particularly, merely: make a 3rd straight NCAA Match below the identical coach for the primary time in additional than 20 years—since Nolan Richardson.



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