FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas’ run at the Southeastern Conference Tournament ended with a loss to LSU in Saturday’s semifinals.
Now the Razorbacks (37-20) will find out if their work was enough to secure an NCAA Regional at Baum Stadium this week.
The NCAA announces its 16 regional hosts Sunday night, laying the foundation for the 64-team field. Arkansas is hoping its 2-1 performance in Hoover, Ala. — which included wins against Ole Miss and LSU — was enough to secure home games.
Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn made his case after Saturday’s loss.
“I think they deserve one in Fayetteville,” Van Horn said about his team. “We have 20 wins against SEC teams, won seven out of 10 series, won four out of five on the road. They had a lot of wins and I think they deserve one.
“We’ve been on the road for 11 days, it would be nice to be home and play.”
Arkansas does have plenty of positives on its resume. The Hogs finished third in the SEC with an 18-11 record. Arkansas backed up its finish with two wins in the SEC Tournament. It also is 17-16 against top 50 RPI teams.
But the Razorbacks’ RPI remains the issue. Arkansas entered the week No. 48 in the NCAA’s official RPI, but has climbed to No. 31 according to WarrenNolan.com.
Hosting a regional with a No. 30 RPI isn’t common, but is possible. UCLA was selected as an NCAA Regional host with a No. 34 RPI in 2011. The Bruins secured a spot over Arkansas (No. 14 RPI) that season.
National pundits projected Arkansas, South Carolina, Clemson and Virginia Tech among teams battling for the final regional host spot this week. Aaron Fitt of Baseball America believes Arkansas will be a regional host now. He’s not alone.
“I’m not saying they’re a lock, I’m just saying for my money Arkansas should host,” ESPN college baseball analyst Kyle Peterson said during Saturday’s broadcast.
Arkansas has not hosted an NCAA Regional since 2010, when it advanced to a Super Regional in Tempe, Ariz. The Razorbacks had success on the road last postseason, winning a regional and super regional to advance to the College World Series.
So players said their goal won’t change no matter what happens Sunday night.
“It’s always nice to be home and host a regional, but if we don’t, we don’t,” Arkansas catcher Jake Wise said. “We have a bunch of guys that have the experience. Some of us also like to be on the road because we stay in a hotel and are together all the time, so for us doesn’t really matter if we’re at home or on the road.”