FAYETTEVILLE - How the Arkansas Razorbacks finish the SEC regular season in their three-game SEC West series at Texas A&M tonight, Friday and Saturday in College Station, Texas, could determine where they start their NCAA Regional postseason.
Coach Dave Van Horn’s Razorbacks (37-14) overall and (16-10) in the SEC, appear in contention but not assured of hosting one of the 16 four-team regionals beginning June 2.
This series at A&M (35-17) overall and (15-12) in the SEC, and next week’s SEC Tournament in Hoover, Alabama, remain.
Arkansas and the Aggies play at 6:30 p.m. today and Friday on the Internet’s SECN-Plus. They play at 11 a.m. Saturday on the SEC Network.
The Razorbacks, with one SEC game rained out at Tennessee, start the weekend third in the West a game-and-a half-behind first-place LSU.
Coach Rob Childress’ Aggies are slightly more of a long shot but are still contending to be a regional host at (35-18) overall and (15-12) fourth in the SEC West.
“Probably, if we won a couple of games (at College Station) that would really help us,” Van Horn replied to a question about his Hogs hosting. “If we don’t, we'll have to do real well in the (SEC) tournament.”
There is conjecture that the SEC’s final regional hosting spot could pare to Arkansas or Mississippi State.
“If we finish ahead of Mississippi State or a half game behind them, we beat them three times,” Van Horn said. “So it would probably come down to some other things, like how we do in the tournament or RPI (ratings power index)? The only thing we control is winning and losing.”
Van Horn has addressed the reality that, of course the Razorbacks want to host, but also the folly of looking beyond their next game.
“I hope it’s not our last game here,” Van Horn said Sunday after the Razorbacks finished beating Vanderbilt two out of three at Baum. “It’s a great place to play. Our fans showed up again this year. Looks like 240,000 of them (officially 239,382 attended Arkansas’ home games). It would be awfully nice if we could host a regional here. Obviously I don’t want the players to get all worried about it. We’re just going to keep trying to win every inning we play and win games. We hope we’ll go down and take care of business at A&M and then in the tournament.”
Childress, the 12-year A&M head coach, was previously the pitching coach for Van Horn when UA grad Van Horn coached Texarkana College, Northwestern State and Nebraska.
“We'll be friends as long as we're alive I feel like,” Van Horn said. “But when the ( Arkansas vs. Texas A&M) weekend comes, we don't talk to each other a whole lot. He hasn't called me, I haven't called him, so we'll probably see him on Thursday.”
The friends also are constant recruiting adversaries on prospects in Texas. Van Horn said that recruiting in Texas the Arkansas and A&M staffs butt heads “probably just about every one they get and we don't and vice versa.”