Doubt creeps into Arkansas’ NCAA Tournament hopes after concerning loss at Vanderbilt

On Friday’s episode of Eye on College Basketball I identified that, regardless of Arkansas’ fame, for those who actually dug into the fact of the Fifteenth-ranked Razorbacks, it was conceivable they may wind up messing round lacking the NCAA Tournament.

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’d double the possibilities the Razorbacks are not noted of the Big Dance.

Credit to Jerry Stackhouse’s Commodores for placing up one of the crucial 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 way of the sport into a 13-point win. Vandy averaged a lava-hot 1.4 factors per possession, by far the very best displaying in opposition to Arkansas’ (beforehand stout) protection this season. Vanderbilt’s dismissal of the Hogs was so statistically spectacular, it dropped Eric Musselman’s staff from 14th to twenty second in total defensive effectivity at KenPom.com.

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

Nobody thought this was attainable three weeks in the past, not to mention within the preseason.

There’s lots to be anxious about. First, as a result of the offense is hamstrung as a consequence of accidents, Arkansas has to win with its defensive depth and aptitude. If that goes, this staff 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, at least.

And what about that offense? Ass Musselman informed me not too long ago, the workers constructed its O round two guys who aren’t enjoying: Nick Smith Jr. and Trevon Brazile. The latter is finished for the season with a torn ACL. The former is engaged on a knee damage, with the hope that he’ll have the ability to come again by February. Skepticism abounds over whether or not the projected top-10 NBA Draft choose will play once more for the Hogs. I believe he’ll. I additionally assume he must with the intention to guarantee an NCAA Tournament bid for Arkansas. Since Dec. 27, based on BartTorvik.com, Arkansas has performed just like the A hundred and twentieth-best staff within the sport.

Problem is, Arkansas cannot shoot from deep. It ranks 336th nationally in 3-point accuracy (29.1%) and does 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 obligatory for being a Final Four-caliber staff as of late. Arkansas? No one within the rotation is capturing higher than Anthony Black’s pedestrian 32%.

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

Next up for the Hogs is a tilt at 13-4 Missouri on Wednesday in opposition to a Tigers staff 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 advantage of waking up in its hometown earlier than going through the Razorbacks on Wednesday. Arkansas might want to show it might do one thing it hasn’t performed but: win on the street.

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

The silver lining for Arkansas followers, they usually comprehend it, is how Musselman’s overcame mid-season hiccups the previous two seasons and rallied these campaigns to Elite Eight runs, the varsity’s first because the mid-90s. In 2020-21, Arkansas was a 13-5 staff at the tip of January and projected close to the bubble. It misplaced one recreation between then and the NCAA Tournament. Last 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 file 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 among the best coaches in faculty basketball — it is why his identify is being floated for the vacant Texas job, yet one more subplot to the unease at the moment with Arkansas’ state of affairs — so I will not be shocked if this staff finds a strategy to proper itself. But so far, there’s not plenty of proof to counsel it can.

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

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