Fayetteville, Ark. – If the first meeting of boarder rivals University of Arkansas and University of Missouri is preview of coming attractions the new SEC rivalry could be one for the ages. On Saturday, spurred by a sold-out Bud Walton Arena crowd, Arkansas downed Missouri 73-71 to take game one of two meetings during the 2012-2013 SEC men’s college basketball regular season campaign.
Arkansas got 24 points from junior forward Marshawn Powell but got late free throws from B.J. Young to seal the deal. Young scored six consecutive points to give the Hogs another “must win” victory to stay alive for a possible NCAA Tournament berth.
The game was the first matchup of Arkansas head coach Mike Anderson’s old team versus his new team. Emotions ran high for many Missouri Tigers players throughout the game as some of the contact came close to hardwood dustups.
The Tigers got a game-high 25 points from Keion Bell and 16 from Earnest Ross. Alex Oriakhi pulled down a game-high 11 rebounds in the loss.
The oddity of style of play from Anderson’s team just two seasons ago to Anderson’s team today, Arkansas was able to force 17 turnovers while only committing 11. Missouri did own the glass taking down 47 to Arkansas’ 31 rebounds.
Arkansas continued to reap the benefits of shooting at home from behind the arc hitting 7 of 23 attempts sometimes relying too much on the outside shot. The Tigers did not find the Bud Walton Arena rims so kind only hitting 2 of 14 attempts.
The win for Arkansas moves their win-loss record to 16-9, 7-5, and gives the Hogs another quality win on the season over Missouri 18-7, 7-5.
The SEC is in position to receive at least four outright NCAA Tournament bids depending on how teams like Kentucky (17-7), Mississippi (18-6), and Alabama (16-8) finish their seasons. Florida (20-3) should receive a No. 1 or No. 2 seed depending on how well they play in the SEC Tournament.
When Missouri and Arkansas square off again March 5, in Columbia a spot in the NCAA Tourney could be on the line as both teams, more Arkansas than Missouri, are on the proverbial bubble.
The Razorbacks have six games left, three on the road and three at home. The Hogs unfortunately draw Florida, Missouri, and LSU away while getting Georgia, Kentucky, and Texas A&M at home.
The magical win total for BCS schools usually means at least 20 wins. In theory the Hogs need to finish 4-2 with at least two wins in the SEC Tournament to gain an at-large bid. Arkansas played tough non-conference away games against Arizona State (18-7), Wisconsin (17-8), and Michigan (17-4) and lost their only home game of the season to then No. 6 Syracuse (20-4).
The Hogs only have two truly bad-bad losses coming to Vanderbilt (10-14) and South Carolina (12-13), both on the road.
The NCAA Tournament Selection Committee typically looks at a team’s last 10 games as one of the barometers for an at-large selection. Should Arkansas finish strong with an away win against Florida or Missouri added with their 4-2 finish the Hogs would have finished their final 10 games 7-3 with a road win over a top SEC team.
The Razorbacks RPI broke into the top 100 before the win against Missouri. A strong finish over their last six games could push them into the top 50 making them a tough exclusion for the selection committee.
Will that be enough? Time will tell. If Arkansas breaks even over their last six and is one-and-done in the SEC Tournament a NIT bid maybe hard to come by as well.