Conference: Sun Belt
Record: 29-4 (17-3)
Conference Tournament Seed:1
NCAA Tournament Seed: 12 (Midwest)
How they got to the Big Dance
Arkansas-Little Rock started the season off right, winning their first 10 games. They had a solid non-conference schedule, winning tilts on the road against San Diego State and Tulsa. The Trojans beat San Diego State 49-43 and toughed out a four-point victory against Tulsa, 64-60. Their first losing effort of the season was a 12-point loss on the road to Texas Tech, who is ranked 36th in ESPN’s RPI. Little Rock is ranked 46th. The Trojans closed out the regular season with wins in eight of their last 10 games. They began Sun Belt tournament play in the semifinals against No. 4 seed Louisiana-Lafayette, winning 72-65. They followed that up with a balanced scoring attack against No. 2 seed UL-Monroe, with four players scoring in double digits. This is their first NCAA tournament appearance since their 2011 loss in the First Four to UNC-Asheville.
Why they will be a Cinderella team
Little Rock has a stifling defense. They allow only 60.4 points per game, which is good for third in the NCAA. The Trojans also do a great job in forcing their opponents to take difficult shots. On average, their opponents shoot a dismal 39 percent from the floor and 30.3 percent from the three, ranking ninth and 10th in the country. Their slow tempo is similar to Virginia’s, as they rank second in the country with 20.1 field goal attempts allowed per game. The Trojans also shoot the 3 fairly well, converting 38.9 percent of their attempts from downtown. Their defensive prowess, combined with their ability to shoot from behind the arc, could spell trouble for a lot of teams in the NCAA tournament.
Why they won’t be a Cinderella team
While the Trojans have a great defense, their offense is average at best. They score only 70 points per game, which ranks 237th in the NCAA. They barely get to the free-throw line, ranking 325th with only 17.2 free throws attempted per game. Despite Little Rock’s ability to shoot from downtown, they only make 45.6 percent of their field goals. The Trojans are also a way below average team when it comes rebounding. They pull in only 22.8 defensive rebounds per game, ranking 227th in the NCAA, while grabbing 7.7 offensive rebounds per game, which ranks 287th. If Little Rock wants to cause some trouble this March, they will need rebound better and score a lot more.
Player to watch – G Josh Hagins
The Trojans have relied on the 6-foot-1 senior’s scoring ability a lot the past three years. This year, he averages 13.1 points per game while shooting 45.5 percent from the field. Hagins is a decent 3-point shooter, as he shoots a 38.1 percent mark from downtown. He was shut down in the conference tournament title game, scoring only five points, but Hagins has been big scoring-wise for Little Rock recently, reaching double digits in eight of the Trojans’ ten previous games. He can also pass and rebound, as he averages 4.1 rebounds per game and 4.7 assists per game. Look for Arkansas-Little Rock to lean on him during the NCAA Tournament if they need some scoring.
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