FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas had a chance to sprint into the Southeastern Conference Tournament with momentum and, perhaps, an NCAA Tournament berth secured with a win in its regular season finale at Alabama.
But the Razorbacks’ worst outing of the season, which came at an inopportune time, has put pressure on them to perform in Atlanta this week.
Arkansas (21-10, 10-8 in SEC) locked up the fifth-seed in the 14-team SEC Tournament and will open the postseason against the Auburn/South Carolina winner on Thursday at approximately 3:30 p.m. Auburn (14-15, 6-12) is the 12th seed, while South Carolina (12-19, 5-13) is the 13th seed.
The Razorbacks had a chance to secure one of the conference’s four double byes heading into the regular season finale, but shot 31.3 percent from the field and struggled thought its worst loss of the season at Alabama (13-18, 7-11 in SEC).
Florida, Kentucky, Tennessee and Georgia are the top four spots in the conference standings and would only need to win three games in three days to grab the SEC Tournament championship and an automatic spot in the NCAA Tournament.
Arkansas would have to win four games in four days to win the tournament and an automatic bid. That probably wouldn’t be required for the Razorbacks to get into the NCAA Tournament as an at-large team, but Arkansas needs to make an impression in Atlanta even after going 8-2 over the final 10 games of the regular season.
The winner of Thursday’s game will advance to play the fourth seed Friday.