As part of its preview of the 2015 NCAA men’s basketball tournament, SI.com is taking a look at all 68 teams in the field. RPI and SOS data from realtimerpi.com. Adjusted offense and defense are from kenpom.com and measure the number of points scored and allowed per 100 possessions, and the team’s national rank. All stats are through Monday, March 16.
Record: 26-8 (13-5 SEC)
Adjusted offensive/defensive efficiency: 113.0 (21st)/97.7 (81st)
Seed: West No. 5
Impact player: Bobby Portis, sophomore, forward. 17.5 ppg, 8.6 rpg, 120.1 offensive rating
The Case For: When Arkansas gets rolling, its offense can do some damage. The Razorbacks averaged 79 points per game during the regular season—best in the SEC—and ranked 21st in the country in adjusted offensive efficiency, per kenpom.com. Portis and Michael Qualls (15.3 points per game) form one of the league’s best scoring duos. Portis, the SEC Player of the Year, has a real ability to catch fire. He’s scored at least 20 points on 12 occasions, including a season-high 32 points and 11 boards in a win over Vanderbilt on Jan. 10.
As a team, Arkansas rarely turns the ball over and is effective on the offensive glass, and its scoring margin (+8.5) is the best of any SEC team not named Kentucky. The Hogs have proven themselves against tournament teams like Georgia, Ole Miss and Texas A&M in conference play. They also boast wins over SMU and Dayton out of conference. Arkansas could surprise in the NCAA tournament if it doesn’t run into a worthy defense.
The Case Against: Arkansas’ offensive talent notwithstanding, the program has its share of head-scratching losses. It turned the ball over 14 times in an overtime loss at Clemson on Dec. 7. A month later, the Hogs fell 74-69 to a Tennessee team that finished 10th in the SEC. The key to many of Arkansas’ woes is rebounding. Coach Mike Anderson’s team ranks 12th in the SEC in defensive rebounding percentage (.666). Not surprisingly, it allows an opponents’ offensive rebound percentage of 33.4, which ranks 279th nationally by kenpom.com. Arkansas won’t last long in March if it can’t make foes pay for missed shots.
The Razorbacks also haven’t shined on their biggest stages this season. Iowa State—now a top-15 team—thumped Arkansas in Ames, 95-77, on Dec. 4. The Hogs were expected to give No. 1 Kentucky a run for its money in February before the Wildcats turned a 16-point halftime lead into an 84-67 win. There’s no doubt Arkansas has talent, but can it stand up against top tournament competition?
SI prediction: Beat Wofford in the Round of 64, lose to UNC in the Round of 32.