GREENVILLE, S.C. — The wait is over, Arkansas fans. The Razorbacks and Seton Hall play in the first round of NCAA Tournament at Bon Secours Wellness Arena in upstate South Carolina on Friday.
Take a late lunch if you’re working. Tip time between the No. 8 seed Razorbacks and No. 9 seed Pirates is 1:37 p.m. ET. The winner likely gets top-seeded North Carolina in the second round.
It’s not a cakewalk to get there, either.
Arkansas and Seton Hall come in with eerily similar backgrounds and season stories. They each rolled through the nonconference season with a minor hiccup. A less-than-great start to conference play — Arkansas in the SEC, Seton Hall in the Big East — followed. Slight turnaround came after; then fears of a collapse before a strong finish.
The Razorbacks enter Friday’s game winners of 8 of their past 10 games. Seton Hall has 8 wins in its past 11. Two of the Pirates’ three losses came to No. 1 overall seed Villanova.
Arkansas and Seton Hall are far more alike than they are different. Not unusual considering their given seeds.
Where the difference lies largest, though, is with depth.
Arkansas coach Mike Anderson prefers to roll 10 or 11 guys. His hope is depth and a faster-than-most style will wear down opponents. It worked to the tune of 25 wins this season, with several comebacks because it’s such a helpful way to play in the final minutes of games.
Seton Hall doesn’t care for that. The Pirates aren’t a terribly slow team, per se, but they’re methodical. Kevin Willard really only uses about seven players. An eighth or ninth can play in a pinch, but if those two are getting more than a handful of minutes in a game, something is wrong.
The most talked-about individual matchup involves the big men. Seton Hall’s Angel Delgado leads the nation in rebounding and is an All-Big East selection. Arkansas’ Moses Kingsley doesn’t have the same raw numbers — Delgado’s 15.3 points to 11.8 points for Kingsley; Delgado’s 13.1 rebounds to Kingsley’s 7.9 rebounds. Kingsley was the SEC’s Preseason Player of the Year and finished as a second-team all-conference selection.
That’s the easy matchup to focus on. But if you want to be “in the know,” look elsewhere.
Take a gander at how Arkansas handles Seton Hall’s Desi Rodriguez. Rodriguez, a 6-foot-6 swingman, is the exact type of player the Razorbacks could use most on their roster. He is a big enough body to bang inside on occasion and grab rebounds. And he can step out and shoot the 3-pointer with some acumen.
The best bet is that when Arkansas is in man-to-man is Manny Watkins — a 6-foot-3 forward — handles him. Watkins is the team’s best perimeter and mix-up defender, even if he is often smaller. Rodriguez can play of double-teams against Delgado or create his own shot. As NJ.com Seton Hall beat writer Jeremy Schneider said, as Rodriguez goes, Seton Hall often goes.
Las Vegas sees Seton Hall-Arkansas as a 1-point game either way. Seton Hall opened as the favorite. As of late Thursday, Arkansas was.
Good thing you have fingernails to chew off. This one should be fun.
What time is tip-off?
1:37 p.m. ET
What TV channel is showing the game?
TNT. You also can catch a live stream of the game here.
Who is calling the Arkansas-Seton Hall game?
Brian Anderson handles the play-by-play role and Chris Webber is the analyst. Sideline reporter is Lewis Johnson.