FAYETTEVILLE — The Arkansas men’s basketball team hoped for one more chance to keep its season alive after the 75-72 loss to Vanderbilt in the Southeastern Conference Tournament on Thursday night.
But the Razorbacks didn’t get their wish.
Arkansas was not among the 32 teams selected to participate in the 2013 National Invitational Tournament on Sunday night. Three SEC teams left out of the NCAA Tournament field did receive invitations (Kentucky, Alabama and Tennessee) and will play first-round games Tuesday or Wednesday.
Arkansas’ season ended at 19-13 and without a postseason trip for the fifth straight year. The last time the Razorbacks played in a postseason tournament was 2008, when Arkansas reached the NCAA Tournament under former coach John Pelphrey.
C.M. Newton, who is the NIT’s selection committee chairman, said on ESPN’s selection show the Razorbacks were close to making the field. But they were ultimately left out and can point to their disappointing road record as the reason.
The Razorbacks went 18-1 this season in games played inside the state, but 1-12 elsewhere. The only win on the road or neutral court came at Auburn, which finished last in the conference standings.
“Everybody has to give the same team effort,” Arkansas freshman Michael Qualls said in trying to explain the road woes after the Vanderbilt loss on Thursday. “We’ve got to be brothers on the court. I felt like a lot of games that we lost, we kind of dispersed. At home we didn’t have that problem because we had the crowd behind us and it kind of kept us together. But away, it’s a different story.”
Arkansas coach Mike Anderson was not available for comment Sunday, but said last Thursday he hoped his team would get in because “more practice time will only benefit our basketball team.” It is the fourth time in Anderson’s 11-year coaching career his team was not selected to play in a postseason tournament.
The five-year postseason absence is the program’s longest since an 18-year drought from 1959-76. The lengthy stretch fell under four different Arkansas coaches in Glen Rose, Duddy Waller, Lanny Van Eman and Eddie Sutton.
The 2012-13 season’s unexpected end also means Anderson and Arkansas now face some offseason questions as they try to regroup and build toward 2013-14.
The biggest, arguably, is the status of leading scorers Marshawn Powell and BJ Young for next season. The duo will consider leaving the program to begin professional basketball careers. Both were asked about the future before the SEC Tournament and said they wouldn’t make decisions until after the season.
“I’ll probably wait until the end of the season, try to finish out the season strong,” Young said before the SEC Tournament. “Take in stride and take everything in that I can and be thankful for every opportunity that I get.”