Things will not be official for another month. But the relief in Fayetteville is overwhelming already.

Things will not be official for another month. But the relief in Fayetteville is overwhelming already.


Arkansas’ last-ditch 71-70 win over Ole Miss on Saturday placed down markers certain to be cashed in on Selection Sunday. For the first time in seven years, the Razorbacks will go dancing.


Probably.


Every logical next step Arkansas wanted, and needed, to take in coach Mike Anderson’s fourth year at the helm has come to fruition. At no time have those steps been as evident as they were in Oxford, Miss., on Saturday.


The Razorbacks were outrebounded and outshot from the free throw line by a wide margin. They didn’t cause as many turnovers as they’d been accustomed. Star player Bobby Portis’ offensive influence was as light as it’s been in weeks.


Yet the victory came.


"Our guys didn’t panic," Anderson said. "They weren’t fazed by that because we’ve been through that."


That’s life on the road in the Southeastern Conference. The last possession of the game determined the result for the time for the Razorbacks in SEC play.


They’ve won three of those.


Trailing by a point with 27 seconds left and with the ball in possession, Arkansas called a timeout to determine the best course of action. Senior guard Ky Madden drove the lane hard down the right side, drew the defense and flicked a pass around the oncoming Rebels defenders to Manny Watkins on the opposite block. Watkins scored the floater with six seconds left and the Razorbacks forced Jarvis Summers to throw up an off-balance jumper at the other end as time expired.


Arkansas moved to 4-2 on the road in conference play this year. It’s the most wins the team has had away from Bud Walton Arena in the SEC’s regular-season since 1994-95. The Razorbacks went to the national championship that season.


The win is also Arkansas’ seventh in its last eight games. The team had a similar stretch last year toward the end, winning eight of nine, but by its end the Razorbacks were only three games above .500 in-conference. They lost their next two in the regular-season then the first game of the SEC Tournament and fell of the proverbial bubble when the NCAA Tournament draw was announced.


Now, instead, Arkansas has already built its resume to a level befitting of Big Dance contender. Six regular-season games remain and unless the Razorbacks lose five of six, the ticket is likely punched. While that’s possible, it isn’t likely.


Not with games played like Saturday.


"I told our team, I didn’t think we lost the game. I thought Arkansas won it," Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy said. "We dominated them on the glass, up 14. We had eight turnovers at the half, we finished with 10. We shoot 38 percent in our building, they shoot 48 percent. They earned the win."


Portis started his usual self. The SEC’s second-leading scorer, at 17.7 points per game, had 10 in the first half. Over the final 20 minutes, though, he took just three field goals and had two more points. Arkansas’ second-leading scorer on the season, Michael Qualls, fell less than a point short of his average, but was still shy.


Instead, it was non-scholarship Watkins and freshman Anton Beard who provided the punch.


The two combined to go a perfect 9 of 9 from the field. Beard’s 14 points were a career high. Watkins’ eight tied his career mark. Beard made a pair of tie-breaking 3-pointers in the second half and Watkins, after taking three shots and scoring six points in the first, had to wait until the end for the capper.


"I probably kind of celebrated too much," Watkins said. "I was excited."


Wait until March 15.