Hogs have grip, not lock, on NCAA bid

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - SPORTS -

Rid­ing a five-game win­ning streak, their long­est in SEC play, the Univer­sity of Arkansas at Fayet­teville Ra­zor­backs have ob­vi­ously re­ceived heroics from sev­eral sources.

Dusty Han­nahs is a con­stant sword in the side of op­po­nents who fo­cus on the UA’s se­nior guard. He sparks runs with his dead-eye shoot­ing.

Jaylen Bar­ford lit up South Carolina for 23 points. Daryl Macon burned Ole Miss for 30. Manny Watkins con­sis­tently gets a big steal or re­bound, and he’s one of the team’s most un­selfish play­ers, al­ways look­ing for the guy with a higher per­cent­age shot.

Moses Kings­ley blocks so many shots, he al­ters about half

the oth­ers in the paint.

Bench help has come from many, but in the past four games, must-win games for the Hogs, no one has stepped up big­ger than ju­nior for­ward Trey Thomp­son, the 6-9 ju­nior from tiny Madi­son.

Thomp­son was av­er­ag­ing 12 min­utes, 2.2 points, 1.8 re­bounds and 1.3 as­sists per game be­fore the past four games.

He’s more than dou­bled those num­bers since, av­er­ag­ing 22 min­utes, 5.5 points, 6.3 re­bounds and an amaz­ing 3.5 as­sists per game.

Thomp­son, who has led the team in as­sists in three of the past four games, sees the whole court as well as any­one, and that’s one of the main rea­sons the Hogs are av­er­ag­ing 86.5 points per game the past four out­ings.

Coach Mike An­der­son has got­ten very com­fort­able play­ing Kings­ley and Thomp­son at the same time, and that’s given op­po­nents fits at times.

Thomp­son has made Arkansas, now tied for third in the SEC stand­ings with South Carolina at 11-5, a bet­ter team. The Ra­zor­backs are 22-7 over­all, and spring fever is spelled m-a-r-c-h m-a-d-n-e-s-s.

Right now, the Ra­zor­backs ap­pear to be in the NCAA Tour­na­ment, but they are a bub­ble team, mostly be­cause of the road loss to Mis­souri, which still weighs heavy on their re­sume.

The Hogs close out the reg­u­lar sea­son this week at Florida on Wed­nes­day and at home Satur­day against Ge­or­gia for Ra­zor­back Se­nior Day, and this group of se­niors, Han­nahs, Watkins and Kings­ley, de­serves to go out to a stand­ing ova­tion. The game tips at 1 p.m.

Arkansas is not a lock for the NCAA Tour­na­ment.

The Big Dance breaks down like this: There are 32 au­to­matic bids to con­fer­ence tour­na­ment win­ners (that in­cludes the Ivy League, which doesn’t have a league tour­na­ment) and 36 at-large berths.

Us­ing Ken Pomeroy’s rat­ings, Arkansas is No. 41, mak­ing it the 27th team on the at­large team list. That’s a lit­tle wig­gle room, but not a ton.

Jerry Palm of CBSs­ports. com has the Hogs as a No. 10 seed and Joe Lu­nardi of ESPN has them a No. 9.

He also has Van­der­bilt in a play-in game at a No. 12 seed. Van­der­bilt’s fi­nal two reg­u­lar-sea­son games are against Ken­tucky and Florida.

The se­lec­tion com­mit­tee looks at head-to-head com­pe­ti­tion, and Arkansas won at South Carolina, the team it is tied with in the stand­ings.

In fact, un­til the Game­cocks (21-8) beat Ten­nessee last Satur­day, they ap­peared to be on a dire slide. They had lost 3 in a row, 4 of 5, and looked like they were go­ing to re­peat last sea­son’s flop when they lost five of their last eight and fell off the NCAA Tour­na­ment bub­ble.

South Carolina might still have a lit­tle work to do, and most likely so do the Ra­zor­backs, who are on the bub­ble to­day but have a dif­fi­cult week ahead of them.


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