ST. LOUIS — Anton Beard and Daryl Macon had each been asked a non-basketball question: What time did they get to sleep the night before, when their Arkansas basketball team had a Saturday afternoon tip-off at the SEC Tournament?
Beard took the first stab at it.
“I got to bed about 12,” he said, pausing. “No, I’m just playing, about 1.”
When it was Macon’s turn, he demurred.
“I’m not gonna tell you what time I went to sleep,” he said, with a deadpan look.
Coach Mike Anderson leaned over and looked at his player.
“What time did you go to sleep?” Anderson said, smiling.
Macon paused for a second, then smiled and went on, not answering the question. Anderson and media members laughed.
Arkansas had just lost by 18 points and was eliminated in the SEC Tournament semifinals. But the coach and players were still loose. They realized this wasn’t the end of the world, that they had already done more than expected in St. Louis, and that a day later they would hear their name called for the NCAA Tournament.
“I told the younger guys, just keep your heads up and stay focused. We’ve got a big day [Sunday],” Beard said after his team’s 84-66 loss to Tennessee. “That’s real big for those guys that never had the chance to get the feel of the NCAA. So it’s going to be a big day [Sunday].”
Arkansas is set to get in the NCAAs for the third time in four years. The Razorbacks are projected as a No. 6 seed in the latest CBSSports.com bracket. And other than Saturday, they enter the tournament playing very well.
The Razorbacks (23-11) have won eight of their past 11 games. They beat South Carolina on Thursday to advance to the quarterfinals, then upset Florida on Friday.
A third game in three days, particularly with the fast tempo set by Arkansas, took its toll. Especially when the win over Florida didn’t end until after 11 p.m. CT. That’s why players were asked about what time they went to sleep.
“We didn’t have any energy [Saturday]. I think it’s what cost us,” Macon said. “We usually play with a lot of energy out there. Like he said, Tennessee just came with it on their mind that they just wanted it more.”
The good news for Arkansas: It will have at least four days off before its first-round game in the NCAA Tournament.
“I don’t think it’s hit me yet that we’re going to the tournament because I wanted this one so much,” Macon said. “I wanted this tournament. Maybe when I see our name called [Sunday], I might be a little excited. It’s not hitting me yet.”