It’s a question that has been asked many times over the last month, and it’s a question that will continue to be asked until Selection Sunday: who from the SEC, besides Florida and Kentucky, deserve a bid to the NCAA tournament? On Thursday night two teams in need of wins, Arkansas and Missouri, met in Columbia with the winner picking up a result that it sorely needed.
Jabari Brown would be the difference-maker as his driving basket with 10.2 seconds remaining gave the Tigers the 86-85 win, moving their record to 5-6 in SEC play. Brown didn’t have a particularly good night from the field, making just five of his 15 shot attempts, but he took full advantage of the foul line and the same can be said for his teammates.
Brown shot 14-for-15 from the charity stripe and as a team Missouri made 34 of its 38 attempts, outscoring Arkansas by five points in that area. Jordan Clarkson scored a game-high 27 points and Earnest Ross added 15 to go along with 11 rebounds, and Missouri’s three best players once again led the way.
The combination of points from the foul line and a 15-8 edge in fast break points proved to be pivotal for Missouri, which shot 4-for-17 from beyond the arc. Arkansas wasn’t much better from deep, making four of its 16 attempts, and they nearly left Columbia with a valuable road victory.
Ultimately the Razorbacks would once again fall short, leaving Mike Anderson’s team with just one conference road victory (Vanderbilt) to its credit. If they’re to have any chance of making the NCAA tournament Arkansas has to string together some wins. The problem for them, and for Missouri as well even with the Tigers being better-positioned for a tournament bid, is the lack of available quality wins in the SEC.
Of the remaining seven games on their schedule Arkansas has just one game against a team that will make the NCAA tournament, and that’s their game at Kentucky on February 27. As for Missouri, the Tigers won’t play either Florida or Kentucky again (unless they meet in the SEC tournament). Frank Haith’s team gets two shots at Tennessee, but the best that both the Tigers and Razorbacks can do schedule-wise is win their match-ups with other bubble teams.
And with this being the case, games like the one played in Columbia on Thursday night become even more important for the SEC teams looking to fight their way into the Field of 68. Thanks to Jabari Brown, Missouri was able to pick up a win that they needed to get.