Sorting Out Arkansas’ Most Likely SEC Tournament Seed and First Opponent

Eric Musselman, Arkansas basketball, SEC basketball, SEC Tournament
photo credit: Arkansas Athletics

What once seemed destined to essentially serve as a regular-season SEC Championship Game now looms large for Arkansas basketball only from an SEC Tournament seeding and resume building standpoint.

Injuries and heartbreakingly close losses have marred the Razorbacks season, leading to them falling well short of their predicted second-place finish in the conference.

Nothing can be done about the past, though, so Arkansas must look toward what can be done to salvage the season — by making another deep run in the NCAA Tournament.

However, before worrying about the big dance, the Razorbacks have one remaining regular-season game — the highly anticipated Arkansas vs Kentucky showdown in Bud Walton Arena — and the SEC Tournament.

Depending on its opponent in Nashville, Tenn., next week, Arkansas could get a few more cracks at padding its resume with Quadrant 1 wins, starting with Saturday’s game against the Wildcats.

As far as the current SEC basketball standings are concerned, the Razorbacks are in a three-way tie for eighth with Mississippi State and Florida at 8-9 in conference play.

Here’s a breakdown of where they could end up being seeded in the SEC Tournament, complete with probabilities calculated with projections from ESPN’s Basketball Power Index:

Arkansas Basketball’s Seeding in SEC Tournament

Despite being just one game back, there is no scenario in which any of the three teams tied for eighth can surpass Auburn because it owns the head-to-head tiebreaker against each school. They also have a two-game lead over 11th-place Georgia, so the trio is locked into the 8-10 seeds.

The order in which Arkansas, Mississippi State and Florida end up depends on the results of Saturday’s games.

If all three schools win or all three lose to remain in a three-way tie, the conference would have to resort to its second tiebreaker because each of them has beaten and lost to the other two involved in the tie: Arkansas beat Florida, which beat Mississippi State, which beat Arkansas.

That means the tie would have to be broken based on winning percentage against the No. 1 seed, proceeding through the remaining seeds, as needed. None of the three teams beat Alabama, so it’s decided based on the No. 2 seed, Texas A&M.

Mississippi State won its lone game against the Aggies, while Arkansas split a pair of games and Florida was swept. That would give the Bulldogs the No. 8 seed, followed by the Razorbacks at No. 9 and the Gators at No. 10.

That is also how the seeding would play out if Mississippi State beats Vanderbilt and Florida loses to LSU, regardless of the Arkansas vs Kentucky result. Even if the Razorbacks won, they wouldn’t own the head-to-head tiebreaker against the Bulldogs. They do, however, have the head-to-head advantage over the Gators.

Those scenarios are the most likely, according to ESPN’s BPI, as there’s a 41.5% chance of one of them happening.

Arkansas could jump up to the 8 seed, but it’d need some help. On top of beating Kentucky, Mississippi State would have to lose to Vanderbilt. Florida’s result wouldn’t matter because, again, Arkansas owns the head-to-head. The BPI gives that scenario a 30.9% chance of happening.

The 8 and 9 seeds play each other at noon CT Thursday, so it seems likely — 72.4%, per the BPI — that Arkansas will be playing at that time.

The only way the Razorbacks drop down to the 10 seed — which plays at 6 p.m. CT Thursday — is if they lose to Kentucky and Florida beats LSU. That scenario accounts for the other 27.6%, according to the BPI.

To recap, here are the BPI’s probabilities for Arkansas’ potential seeds:

  • 8 seed: 30.9%
  • 9 seed: 41.5%
  • 10 seed: 27.6%

Potential Opponents for Arkansas at SEC Tournament

It is relatively easy to determine Arkansas’ first opponent in the SEC Tournament if it ends up as the 8 or 9 seed.

In the most likely scenario, which is finishing ninth, the Razorbacks would get a rematch with Mississippi State. The Bulldogs stunned Arkansas inside Bud Walton Arena back on Feb. 11, winning 70-64 in Nick Smith Jr’s first game back.

If it finishes eighth, Arkansas will get a rematch with Florida, which it blew out in Fayetteville on Feb. 18. It was the Gators’ first game without star big man Colin Castleton and the Razorbacks cruised to an 84-65 win.

As things currently stand in the NET rankings, a rematch with Mississippi State would give Arkansas another Quadrant 1 opportunity because the Bulldogs are at No. 43, while Florida would be a Quadrant 2 chance because it is No. 59. For a neutral-site game to get Q1 status, it must be against a top-50 opponent.

From that perspective, it might benefit the Razorbacks to finish ninth — assuming that’s done while still beating Kentucky to end the regular season.

It’s a little trickier to determine who Arkansas may play if it slips to the 10 seed because there are potential tiebreakers involved with the 7 seed. However, the three teams still alive for that spot are Missouri, Vanderbilt and Auburn. Auburn is currently alone in seventh place, but within a game of the other two.

Arkansas has lost to each of those teams on the road, but did also beat Missouri at home. Auburn would definitely be a Q1 game for the Razorbacks and Missouri would be as of now, but it is sitting at No. 49 — just inside that range. Vanderbilt would definitely be a Q2.

SEC Basketball in the NET Rankings

2. Alabama
3. Tennessee
16. Arkansas
21. Kentucky
26. Texas A&M
36. Auburn
43. Mississippi State
49. Missouri
59. Florida
84. Vanderbilt
132. Ole Miss
147. Georgia
154. LSU
235. South Carolina

Saturday’s SEC Basketball Schedule

The ESPN Basketball Power Index projection for each game is listed in parentheses.

11 a.m. CTAlabama (62.1%) at Texas A&MCBS
Noon CTGeorgia (59.6%) at South CarolinaSECN
1 p.m. CTTennessee (72.9%) at AuburnESPN
1 p.m. CTKentucky at Arkansas (69.0%)CBS
2:30 p.m. CTOle Miss at Missouri (80.5%)SECN
5 p.m. CTLSU at Florida (88.9%)SECN
7:30 p.m. CTMississippi State (55.2%) at VanderbiltSECN

2023 SEC Basketball Standings

TeamSEC RecordLast Game
1. Alabama16-1at A&M
2. Texas A&M14-3vs. ALA
t-3. Tennessee11-6at AUB
t-3. Kentucky11-6at ARK
t-5. Missouri10-7vs. MISS
t-5. Vanderbilt10-7vs. MSU
7. Auburn9-8vs. TENN
t-8. Mississippi State8-9at VAN
t-8. Arkansas8-9vs. KENT
t-8. Florida8-9vs. LSU
11. Georgia6-11at SC
t-12. Ole Miss3-14at MIZZ
t-12. South Carolina3-14vs. UGA
14. LSU2-15at FLA


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