November 11, 2014

While a loss could possibly affect its seeding in the NCAA tournament, Arkansas doesn't have a whole lot riding on its regular-season finale.

At least not as much as LSU, which could use a signature win to strengthen its NCAA tournament resume.

Having already locked up the No. 2 seed for the SEC tournament, the 18th-ranked Razorbacks look to reach 25 wins for the first time in 20 years Saturday against the visiting Tigers.

Winners in eight of nine, Arkansas (24-6, 13-4) is heading to its first NCAA tournament since 2008. The Razorbacks have their most wins since 1997-98, and no Arkansas team has more victories since 1994-95, when Nolan Richardson's club went 32-7 and lost to UCLA in the national title game.

The Razorbacks clinched second place in the SEC with Thursday's 78-74 win at South Carolina, which means they'll avoid playing top-ranked Kentucky - the only team that's defeated them in the last month - until the conference championship game.

"We want to play for championships," coach Mike Anderson said. "I just see a lot of improvement each and every year."

Arkansas, 17-1 at home this season, hasn't won the SEC tournament title since 2000.

LSU (21-9, 10-7) will enter the conference tournament anywhere from the fourth seed to the sixth depending how things shake out Saturday. Finishing in the top four gets a double-bye into the quarterfinals.

While a win improves their chances at an easier road in the SEC tournament, it also may help the Tigers receive their first invite to the NCAA tourney since 2009.

LSU's tournament hopes have been hurt by a number of glaring losses, falling to the three teams pulling up the rear in the SEC - Mississippi State, Auburn and Missouri. Despite those blemishes, the Tigers have played up to their competition in their only two games against ranked teams, winning at No. 20 West Virginia 74-73 back in December and losing 71-69 at home to Kentucky.

LSU didn't help its chances with Wednesday's 78-63 home loss to a Tennessee team that came in riding a five-game losing streak. The Tigers had held opponents to 37.0 percent shooting over a three-game winning streak before allowing the Volunteers to shoot an opponent season-high 52.4 percent.

"We were going to have pressure had we won here," coach Johnny Jones said after losing to Tennessee. "Not necessarily pressure, but you still want to go into Arkansas and play well. ... We've got to go to Arkansas, put this game behind us, learn from what transpired here tonight and make sure we go up there and play well."

Jordan Mickey has suddenly hit a wall after previously being a force down low for the Tigers. The sophomore forward is averaging 10.8 points on 43.4 percent shooting along with 5.2 rebounds and 2.8 blocks in his last five games after he averaged 21.0 points on 58.8 percent shooting with 11.3 boards with 4.0 blocks in his previous seven.

He and fellow big man Jarell Martin, averaging 21.8 points and 10.5 rebounds in his last four contests, have the difficult task of trying to slow down Bobby Portis, the SEC's No. 2 scorer at 17.7 per game.

Portis scored 24 on Thursday, including six in the final 1:47, and the Razorbacks closed on an 18-3 run after trailing by 11 with 5:54 to play.

"That shows our toughness and our togetherness," Portis said.

These teams haven't met since Arkansas' 81-70 home win last February to snap a four-game skid in the series.

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