FAYETTEVILLE — One particular line of questioning doesn’t come as often for Mike Anderson as it once did.

FAYETTEVILLE — One particular line of questioning doesn’t come as often for Mike Anderson as it once did.


No more "Why do you think you’re struggling on the road?"


No "What do you think it is about playing away from Bud Walton that’s so bothersome?’


The Razorbacks coach instead has to answer what it’s like to be back in the Top 25.


Arkansas is ranked in both the USA Today Coaches and The Associated Press polls this week, at No.’s 23 and 24, respectively, as the team heads to Alabama for tonight’s game against Auburn (8:05 p.m. tip).


Of course Anderson doesn’t care for that question, either. It’s irrelevant to him. A stumble against the Tigers or Saturday at Ole Miss and the old queries will rear their heads.


"Last year we were one of those teams … just kind of ‘receive votes,’ people talk about you a little bit. Now it just seems like we’re in and out of it. But that ain’t important to me," Anderson said. "What’s important is we get better as a program, get better as a team. And we want to be there when it’s all said and done. That’s the bottom line."


Winning on the road has delivered Anderson from fielding the same style interrogation before and after each game. Traveling hasn’t been perfect — the Razorbacks are 3-4 away from Bud Walton Arena and 2-2 in the Southeastern Conference — but it’s been better. Arkansas didn’t pick up its third, and last, SEC road win until Feb. 22 last year. And with five of the team’s eight remaining regular-season games away from home, continued victories will bring Anderson his wish of being there in the end.


The last time the Hogs failed to beat Auburn was in 2009. But first-year Tigers coach Bruce Pearl isn’t Tony Barbee or Jeff Lebo, the two previous coaches at the Auburn helm. Pearl led Tennessee to the NCAA Tournament during all six of his years there, from 2005-11. Auburn hasn’t danced since 2003.


"I’ve never had a losing season in coaching, and there’s a chance this team doesn’t finish above .500," Pearl said. "But I can tell you it’s still a team that I enjoy coaching. These guys are still listening to game plans, they’re still competing and from the standpoint of being a teacher and a coach, we’re still in it."


Pearl was out of coaching after the 2010-11 season until this one. The NCAA had penalized him with a three-year show-cause collar after it was found he lied during an NCAA investigation while at Tennessee. On Aug. 24, 2014, that penalty concluded.


He’s still been trying to turn the Tigers around since.


"They’re playing much better than they were earlier in the year," Anderson said. "So, that means the timing of guys really starting to figure out, you know, what it is he’s wanting them to do. It’s starting to take place with their team. They’ve had some guys that have been injured, but they’re playing good basketball right now."


So are the Razorbacks. Arkansas has won five of its last six games and remains in a tie for second in the SEC and is predicted, by USA Today, to be a No. 6-seed in the NCAA Tournament come March. They’re 10th in the SEC in scoring defense at 68.3 points per game allowed, but have held each of their last four opponents to 60 or less and kept the last three from shooting even 35 percent from the floor.


Arkansas forward Bobby Portis is one of three players in the conference who averages a double-double (19.0 points, 10.2 rebounds per game) in conference play. One of the other is Auburn forward Cinmeon Bowers. His 13.2 points and 10.8 rebounds provide a foil to Portis’ inside play.


Auburn guards KT Harrell and Antoine Mason, too, are in the top six in conference scoring since SEC play began. The Tigers are far more skilled, if only at the top of their roster, than South Carolina and Mississippi State, Arkansas’ last two victims.


Anderson didn’t mind that question, though. He’s proud to answer.


"The bottom line is stopping the opponent, and whatever that ties, that’s what you do."