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story.lead_photo.caption Arkansas players celebrate their NCAA Tournament selection Sunday in Nashville, Tenn. - Photo by Michael Woods

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- It didn't take the Arkansas Razorbacks long to put Sunday's 78-63 loss to No. 1 Kentucky in the SEC Tournament final behind them.

Getting invited to the Big Dance for the first time in seven years has that effect.

The Razorbacks celebrated their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2008 as they watched the televised selection show at an airport hotel before flying home to Fayetteville.

Arkansas (26-8) will play Wofford (28-6) in an NCAA West Regional opener Thursday in Jacksonville, Fla.

Tipoff time is 8:50 p.m. on TNT.

"I'm really, really excited for our players," Arkansas Coach Mike Anderson said. "As you could see, they got over that Kentucky loss pretty quick."

Anderson usually has a rule about the players waiting until midnight to stop celebrating a victory or dwelling on a loss.

"But here it is two hours after the game and Coach is happy, we're happy and everyone else is happy," Arkansas sophomore forward Bobby Portis said. "It's a cool feeling."

Razorbacks junior guard Michael Qualls said the Razorbacks knew they couldn't get down about the Kentucky game.

"There is a life after that loss, and we're looking forward to it," Qualls said. "We couldn't win the SEC Tournament, but now we're playing in an even bigger tournament."

Arkansas senior forward Alandise Harris said before the season he was consumed with playing in the NCAA Tournament for the first time.

"This is what college basketball is all about," Harris said. "If you're not making the NCAA Tournament, you basically haven't done nothing.

"It's a great feeling to finally make it, but now we're trying to go as far as possible and make this a great memory for all of Arkansas as well as for the team."

The Razorbacks looked to be closing in on an NCAA Tournament bid last season, but a loss at Alabama in the regular-seasons finale and loss to South Carolina in the SEC Tournament dropped them to the NIT.

"This is major for us to make the NCAA Tournament," Qualls said. "It's almost like a relief.

"Last year was more of a heartbreak. We watched the selection show, and our name never showed up."

The Razorbacks' name came up Sunday as a No. 5 seed. Wofford, a No. 12 seed, earned an automatic NCAA Tournament bid by beating Furman 67-64 to win the Southern Conference Tournament. The Terriers also won the conference's regular-season title at 16-2.

"I've never heard of them or seen them play before, but we're going to find out a tremendous amount about them," Portis said. "Coach is going to hop on that immediately."

Arkansas has played Wofford once, beating the Terriers 67-45 at Walton in the 2007-2008 season opener.

Wofford, playing in the NCAA Tournament for the fourth time in six years, won 55-54 at North Carolina State this season and lost at Duke, 84-55, at West Virginia 77-44 and at Stanford 74-59.

"We'll be tested big-time," Anderson said. "Wofford's a very good basketball team.

"Every team in this tournament is very good, so we've got our work cut out for us, and it's a quick turnaround as we play on Thursday."

The Arkansas-Wofford winner will play the North Carolina-Harvard winner on Saturday. Tipoff for the North Carolina-Wofford matchup is set for 6:20 on Thursday.

Wisconsin is the West Regional's No. 1 seed with Arizona No. 2 and Baylor No. 3.

"It's amazing how all the prognosticators had us going to Jacksonville," Anderson said. "I guess somebody's got some inside information."

Anderson said he was pleased by the No. 5 seed for the Razorbacks, who are ranked No. 21 in The Associated Press poll and finished second in the SEC behind Kentucky with a 13-5 record. Arkansas was ranked 18th in the Selection Committee's 1-68 final seeding list.

"I think it's a statement about what this team accomplished in conference play," Anderson said of the seeding. "You look at the resume, as people put it, and I thought it was pretty impressive.

"But when you get to this tournament, everybody's record is 0-0."

Sports on 03/16/2015

Print Headline: Bid pumps up players after loss

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