Seton Hall-Arkansas Preview

Arkansas and Seton Hall ought to be well tuned up and ready for the NCAA Tournament.

Both teams excelled during the last month of the season, doing enough to be safely in the tournament field.

As part of the South Region, eighth-seeded Arkansas (25-9) meets ninth-seeded Seton Hall (21-11) on Friday afternoon to open play at Bon Secours Wellness Arena in Greenville, S.C.

“Our biggest goal was, No. 1, to be dancing,” Arkansas coach Mike Anderson said. “If you watched our team, it has been a team of streaks. We won a lot of games in a row. … Now we want another streak of six. How about that?”

Arkansas has won eight of its last 10 games. The Razorbacks lost 82-65 to Kentucky in Sunday’s Southeastern Conference Tournament final. The other setback during that stretch came on the road last month to nationally ranked Florida.

Seton Hall won five consecutive games before suffering a two-point loss to Villanova, which is the NCAA Tournament’s overall No. 1 seed, in last Friday’s Big East Conference Tournament semifinals.

“We got hot at the right time.” said Seton Hall junior guard Khadeen Carrington, who averages a team-best 16.9 points per game.

Seventh-year coach Kevin Willard of Seton Hall said the Pirates were tested in recent weeks and that they passed enough of those exams.

Still, he said there was relief when the Pirates showed up on the NCAA bracket.

“You just never know,” Willard said. “We’ve really battled. Really playing our best basketball this time of the year. I wanted them to know how much I’ve enjoyed watching them play and watching them grow.”

Seton Hall is in back-to-back NCAA Tournaments for the first time since a four-year run from 1991-94.

As for Arkansas, Anderson said the Razorbacks should be able to bounce back from their disappointment in the SEC title game to concentrate on their next challenge.

“Now it’s on to the next goal,” Anderson said. “They call it the dance. We don’t want to just be in the tournament. Now we move on to the big goal.”

Senior forward Moses Kingsley is considered a key player for Arkansas, though his 11.8 points per game rank fourth on the team. He leads the team with 7.8 rebounds per game and 87 blocked shots.

Guard Dusty Hannahs, a fifth-year senior who played his first two seasons for Texas Tech, leads Arkansas with 14.6 points per game.

“A great opponent, but you’re going to get a great opponent in the NCAA Tournament,” Willard said.

Arkansas has been a No. 8 seed only once before, losing to Bucknell in 2006.

The Razorbacks won their opening game in the 2015 tournament, but they didn’t qualify for the tournament a year ago.

Seton Hall went one-and-done in its last two NCAA appearances, falling to Wichita State in 2006 and losing to Gonzaga last year. The Pirates haven’t won an NCAA Tournament game since defeating Arizona in their first game in 2004.

The Arkansas-Seton Hall winner takes on the winner of Friday’s second game between top-seeded North Carolina and 16th-seeded Texas Southern in Sunday’s second round.