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OPINION | WALLY HALL: Games offer early March Madness preview

by Wally Hall | January 28, 2022 at 2:22 a.m.

On the last college basketball Saturday before entering February Frenzy -- the intro to March Madness -- the SEC and the Big 12 get a chance to show off against each other on a national level.

While the Arkansas Razorbacks have slipped into a tie for third after five consecutive wins they can't afford to not take West Virginia serious tomorrow in Walton Arena.

The Hogs need and deserve a rowdy crowd.

West Virginia Coach Bob Huggins is not on a pedestal like Mike Krzyzewski, Bill Self or Jay Wright, but the man can flat out coach.

No one wins 912 games without knowing the sport.

He is outspoken and brassy.

He brought Cincinnati to Bud Walton in 1995 when Bill Clinton was president and the Razorbacks' No. 1 fan. Clinton came to that game and security was as tight as expected.

Everyone was screened thoroughly, and as Huggins waiting impatiently for his luggage to be checked, he groused at the security guards that they didn't need to go through his underwear.

No one thought it was funny and no one enjoyed the screening, but no one else complained.

Anyway, the Mountaineers are currently in a four-game losing slump, but they will be prepared for this game.

The 10 SEC/Big 12 challenge games are mostly pretty interesting, and two former UALR coaches, Porter Moser and Chris Beard, will be present and accounted for.

The Razorbacks have moved up to No. 48 in the NCAA NET rankings and can't afford a loss to No. 57 West Virginia.

The SEC has five teams ranked in the NCAA NET top 25 and the Big 12 has four.

Here's a look at the other games:

Baylor at Alabama

The Bears are ranked No. 4 in the NET, and for the most part have looked like a Final Four team and maybe a repeat national champion. The Crimson Tide have been a classic underachiever so far, but despite being 13-7 and 4-4 in SEC play, they somehow have a NET ranking of No. 24.

Kentucky at Kansas

A classic showdown between two legendary programs. The Wildcats are ranked No. 9 and the Jayhawks No. 7. Obviously the edge goes to the Jayhawks who are hard to guard at home. This one could be huge on Selection Sunday.

Oklahoma at Auburn

The Sooners have been a little surprising under Moser with a 13-7 record, but the Tigers who opened the season ranked No. 22 in The Associated Press poll are now No. 1 there and No. 6 in the NET. The Tigers are 19-1 and riding a 16-game win streak.

Tennessee at Texas

The Volunteers are 14-5 overall and 5-3 in SEC play but somehow are ranked No. 11 in the NET. Rick Barnes returns to Tennessee where he coached 16 seasons and had a 402-180 record but was fired in 2015 after going 20-14. Beard is working his magic with the Longhorns with a 15-5 record and NET ranking of No. 16.

Oklahoma State at Florida

This one looks like a yawner. The big question is what has happened to the Gators who are 12-8 and 3-5. If they put it together they could still be a NCAA Tournament team because they have a NET ranking of 45.


The Tigers are more talented but have really struggled in SEC play.

Mississippi State at Texas Tech

The Bulldogs and Red Raiders are two blue-collar teams who are going to hound and pound on both ends of the court. Tech is a surprise with a 15-5 and 5-3 record that has earned it a NET ranking of No. 15. The Red Raiders are coming off a 94-91 two overtime loss at Kansas.

Missouri at Iowa State

You have to be a Tiger or a Cyclone to care about this one.

Kansas State at Ole Miss

Potentially a preview of a second-round NIT game.

Print Headline: Games offer early March Madness preview


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