Like It Is

OPINION | WALLY HALL: The West can be won, but it won’t come easy

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Yes, the Arkansas Razorbacks drew the toughest region in the NCAA Men's Tournament.

To get to the Final Four, they would most likely have to beat Gonzaga, who has been the No. 1 ranked team most of the season and is the overall No. 1 seed.

The No. 2 seed in the West Regional is Duke, which would have been a No. 1 seed if the Blue Devils had won the ACC Tournament. Duke lost in the tournament final to Virginia Tech, who the Blue Devils beat in the regular season.

Before the Razorbacks can even start to worry about those teams, they have to get by Vermont, who is being picked as this year's Cinderella by some of the so-called experts.

The Catamounts have a nine-man rotation and they shoot the devil out of the three. They have attempted 793 three-pointers this season, or 24 per game, and they make an average of 8.75 per game (36.4%).

Every player on the roster except two has made a three-pointer and the two who haven't aren't in the rotation and one has attempted only four and the other, who averages 2.9 minutes per game for the season, has shot none.

All five starters are seniors, and experience matters in the NCAA Tournament and is one of the biggest concerns the Razorbacks have.

If they win -- and they should because this isn't hockey or maple syrup making -- they probably would face UConn, which finished third in the Big East with an overall record of 23-9 and 13-6 in conference play.

The Huskies split games with No. 2 seed Villanova with each winning at home.

There are no easy regions and it is not like the NCAA or its tournament selection committee have a vendetta against the Razorbacks. They obviously considered them the fourth No. 4 seed.

The Hogs didn't catch a break having to go to Buffalo, N.Y. If they win two games, they go across the country to San Francisco and even on a chartered plane -- the NCAA charters planes for all the teams -- it is a long haul and a big time change difference.

One thing is certain, the Razorbacks won't have to worry about anything if the team that showed up Saturday is in uniform Thursday night.

That was the Arkansas of the first half of the season not the last half.

The uniform was the only thing similar to the team that beat Kentucky, Tennessee and Auburn.

Yes, Texas A&M played its best defensive game of the season. The Aggies had to. They were trying to get into the NCAA Tournament and probably thought a win against the Hogs would be enough. It wasn't.

Overall, the selection committee was pretty good to the SEC. They let LSU and Alabama in.

And they made one of the more questioned seedings with Kentucky.

The Wildcats are good, but they were 1-2 against Tennessee after losing to the Volunteers in the SEC Tournament semifinals Saturday.

Kentucky is the No. 2 seed in the East and Tennessee is a No. 3 seed in the South.

Auburn, which lost in two overtimes to UConn back in November, is the No. 2 seed in the Midwest. The Tigers were once ranked No. 1 with a 22-1 record. They finished the season on a 5-4 crawl.

Auburn could face LSU in the Sweet 16, but teams with interim coaches seldom do well in the NCAA Tournament (yes, Steve Fisher at Michigan was an interim and won it all in 1989, but that was an exceptional team).

Alabama, which underachieved most of the season, is a No. 6 seed in the West Regional. The only way the Tide face the Razorbacks is if they both make the Elite Eight, which probably would mean the Hogs beat Gonzaga and Bama beat Duke.

Every year there is one region that is the toughest, and this year it is the West.

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