The Arkansas Razorbacks entered Saturday's road match up with Alabama as one of the hottest teams in the nation. Riding the great play and leadership of guard Courtney Fortson, the winners of five straight SEC games looked to keep the streak, and their NCAA Tournament hopes alive.
However, a dismal offensive performance in the second half allowed the Crimson Tide to overcome the Hogs' nine point halftime lead, and ultimately beat Arkansas by five points.
The post-season scenario for Arkansas is an interesting one. A team that started out 7-8 in non-conference play—with losses to South Alabama, Morgan St, and East Tennessee St—was all but counted out of any kind of post season play, as the schedule entering SEC play would obviously only get tougher.
However, after Kentucky handed Arkansas its worse conference loss in team history, John Pelfrey managed to gather his Razorbacks right when most thought the wheels were coming lose.
Prior to Saturday's loss, Arkansas managed to win five straight conference games to propel them in front of pre-season favorite Mississippi State for the SEC West lead, and the tournament talk has begun.
Would the Selection Committee take into consideration that Arkansas was without guard Courtney Fortson up until a game before conference play began, or would they dismiss the fact because it was a suspension rather than an injury? Both cases have been argued heatedly.
A road victory, and a sixth straight conference win, could have opened the eyes of many around the nation, and the Razorbacks could have triggered a discussion of whether or not they had made their way to the bubble of March Madness. But, with a loss, the team that once had their backs against the wall, well...has their backs against the wall.
Now, the only sure way Arkansas can get into the big dance is by winning the SEC Tournament, which they haven't done since 2000.
Many around the state believe that the only other way the Hogs get in is by winning their final six games heading into the SEC Tournament, and winning a couple of games there as well. No easy task considering Tennessee (road) and Vanderbilt (home) are still on the schedule.
Though this team has turned a complete 180 degrees since conference play began, it looks like the early struggles will come back to haunt Arkansas, and they may just miss out on Selection Sunday.
The NIT is still a major possibility, and with where the program has been recently, could be a major step forward in the quest to get back on the national level in college basketball.
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