Arkansas fails to receive invitation from NIT


FAYETTEVILLE — The Arkansas basketball team hoped for one more chance to keep its season alive after the 75-72 loss to Vanderbilt in the Southeastern Conference Tournament last Thursday night.

But the Razorbacks didn’t get their wish Sunday.

Arkansas was not among the 32 teams selected to participate in the 2013 National Invitational Tournament on Sunday night. Arkansas was left out of the field, while three other SEC teams left out of the NCAA Tournament field earlier Sunday received invitations (Kentucky, Alabama and Tennessee) to play in the NIT.

It ends Arkansas’ season at 19-13 and without a postseason trip for the fifth straight year.

The last time the Razorbacks played in a postseason tournament was 2008, when Arkansas reached the NCAA Tournament under former coach John Pelphrey.

C.M. Newton, who is the NIT’s selection committee chairman, said on ESPN’s selection show broadcast the Razorbacks were close to making the field. But the Razorbacks were ultimately left out and can blame its disappointing road record.

The Razorbacks went 18-1 in games played inside the state, but 1-12 elsewhere this season. The only win came at Auburn, which finished last in the SEC.

“Everybody has to give the same team effort,” Arkansas freshman Michael Qualls said in trying to explain the road woes after the Vanderbilt loss last Thursday. “We’ve got to be brothers on the court. I felt like a lot of games that we lost, we kind of dispersed. At home we didn’t have that problem because we had the crowd behind us and it kind of kept us together. But away, it’s a different story.”

Arkansas coach Mike Anderson was not available Sunday. But the five-year postseason absence is the program’s longest since an 18-year drought from 1958-76. The stretch included four different Arkansas head coaches in Glen Rose, Duddy Waller, Lanny Van Eman and Eddie Sutton.

The 2012-13 season’s end also means Anderson and Arkansas now face some offseason questions as they try to regroup and build toward 2013-14.

The biggest, arguably, is the status of leading scorers Marshawn Powell and BJ Young for next season. The duo will consider leaving the program to begin professional basketball careers. Both were asked about the future before the SEC Tournament and said they wouldn’t make decisions until after the season.

“I’ll probably wait until the end of the season, try to finish out the season strong,” Young said last Tuesday before the SEC Tournament. “Take in stride and take everything in that I can and be thankful for every opportunity that I get.”