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NCAAB Notebook: Should Auburn be concerned following loss to Arkansas?

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Jason Ence

February 9th, 2022

Auburn fell on Tuesday night to Arkansas, but was it an anomaly or a sign of problems on the plains? Who will win the Big 12? Could a preseason top-10 team miss the tournament altogether?

We dive into these topics and more in this week’s edition of our NCAAB Notebook!

Close games catch up to Auburn

Auburn’s last five road games have been single-digit affairs, but the Tigers squeaked by with wins in their last four. That ended last night, as Arkansas pulled off its first win over a top-ranked team in 38 years, with an 80-76 overtime win.

The Tigers shot just 25% from downtown and had just eight assists, compared to 19 turnovers.

Auburn won by two at Georgia over the weekend, defeated Missouri by just one, beat Ole Miss by nine, and survived Alabama by four in the Tigers' previous road tilts. In those games, they shot worse than 32% from beyond the arc, and three of them saw them make no more than one-fourth of their attempts.

Auburn has just three more road games, but they are against three top-50 KenPom opponents in Florida, Tennessee, and Mississippi State. Should the Tigers' road struggles continue, it could cost them a potential No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Big 12 title race heats up

As of Wednesday morning, the race for the Big 12 title has turned into a four-team sprint to the finish. Texas defeated Kansas, 79-76, on Monday night to hand the Jayhawks just their second conference defeat, while Baylor’s 83-59 embarrassment last weekend at Kansas saw the Bears slip to second in the standings.

After playing Kansas State on Wednesday night, Baylor will host Texas over the weekend before heading to Texas Tech next Wednesday in a pair of ranked matchups. The Bears also host Kansas on February 26 before traveling to Texas two days later.

In addition to that road trip to Baylor, Kansas will also face Texas in the final regular-season game, and the Jayhawks lead the conference by one game over Baylor and Texas Tech. The Red Raiders have a solid chance to decide who wins the conference regular-season crown and may have the easiest path to do so.

On a three-game winning streak, Chris Beard’s team has a pair of very winnable games this week, before hosting Baylor and traveling to Texas next week. If Texas Tech gets some help from other teams in knocking off Kansas, the Red Raiders could very well claim the title if they win out.

Their final four games of the regular season are all very easy affairs, with three of the four coming against foes with losing conference records.

Will Michigan miss the tournament?

Ranked sixth in the preseason AP Top 25 poll, the Wolverines are 12-9 on the season, and just 6-5 in Big Ten play. After losing 82-76 in a respectable showing at Purdue over the weekend, the Wolverines went to Penn State and eked out a one-point win in a performance that saw them shoot less than 32% from the floor and trail by as many as 10 in the first half.

If the season ended today, the Wolverines would be on the outside looking in of the NCAA Tournament. Joe Lunardi does not even have the team in the first four or next four out, in large part due to some very bad losses.

Now the Wolverines host Purdue and Ohio State over the next four days, and they still have to play four more ranked teams after that. Michigan has plenty of chances to add to their résumé, but if it is unable to get a win over either ranked foe in its building this week, the window to salvage the season could be slamming shut.

Who will be the No. 1 seeds in March?

The race for the No. 1 seeds in the 2022 NCAA Tournament is heating up, and the SEC could play a key role in deciding how things shake out. Auburn still is in line for a No. 1 seed, but Kentucky is nipping at the Tigers' heels with the Wildcats' recent showing.

A spate of strong road victories is boosting their claim, and given the two teams do not face off again in the regular season, a possible SEC Tournament showdown could decide who takes a No. 1 seed, if not both teams.

Meanwhile, Gonzaga is almost assured a No. 1 seed, barring a stunning collapse. The Bulldogs' dominance over BYU was staggering, and a meeting this week with a ranked St. Mary’s team could give us a glimpse of how far ahead of the conference they truly are.

Purdue is locked in a three-way tie atop the Big Ten, but the Boilermakers' 84-68 win over Illinois on Tuesday night sent a clear message that they are the top dog in the conference.

Purdue, Arizona, and Kansas are also staking claims for the remaining top spot. Kansas helped negate its demolition at the hands of Kentucky by doing the same to Baylor, while Arizona’s win over UCLA gave the Wildcats a much-needed résumé builder. Both will have huge chances over the next two weeks to help their cases for a No. 1 seed.