The Hogs finished the 1996 regular season with an 18-12 record, which included a 9-7 mark in SEC play. It was the first time a Richardson team had failed to win at least 10 SEC games in a season. The Hogs received an at-large bid to the tournament and were seeded No. 12. In the first round, Arkansas upset No. 5 seed Penn State — in Providence, R.I., no less — before rolling fourth-seeded Marquette.