OPINION — Like It Is

OPINION | WALLY HALL: Plenty of mystery surrounding these Hogs

There is definitely mystery surrounding the Arkansas Razorbacks' men's basketball team.

Davonte Davis' sudden departure from the team seemed to come out of nowhere. But apparently the day before the Razorbacks played Kentucky, he was at an outreach program at a local school.

Davis also left the team last year but returned.

The short statement about this departure is a strong indication the senior from Jacksonville won't be back.

The entirety of the press release was: "Arkansas senior guard Davonte Davis has stepped away from the program."

After the loss to Kentucky, Coach Eric Musselman's comment was he was sticking with the release.

That's just part of the mystery.

The Razorbacks are 10-10 overall and 1-6 in SEC play with road games to Missouri tonight and LSU on Saturday. Mizzou is 8-12 and 0-7, while the other Tigers are 3-4 and 11-9.

Are they winnable games? Sure, if the same team shows up -- less Davis, of course -- that beat No. 7 Duke and No. 2 Purdue in an exhibition game that doesn't count in the NCAA Net ranking, where the Hogs are currently up one spot to 129.

Since the 80-75 win over Duke, the Razorbacks are 5-7.

They are 1-3 against Associated Press top 25 teams.

There are four SEC teams in the top 25 led by Tennessee at No. 5 and the Volunteers have established themselves as the team to beat to win the conference.

They entered Tuesday night as one of three teams in the league who had not lost a home game along with Auburn and Ole Miss. The Vols were upset by South Carolina 63-59 on Tuesday night in Knoxville.

Kentucky was part of the big shakeup in the last poll when only the first five teams stayed unchanged. After losing to South Carolina, a surprise team so far, the Wildcats fell from No. 6 to No. 10 despite winning at Arkansas.

Auburn, another surprise team, lost at Alabama and Mississippi State to nosedive from No. 8 to No. 16.

Alabama, the highest-scoring team in the country, moved into the poll at No. 24.

With about five weeks left in the regular season, it looks like the SEC will get six, maybe seven teams in the NCAA Tournament.

Tennessee, Alabama, Auburn and Kentucky look like locks with South Carolina, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Georgia and Florida on the bubble and all needing to get more Quad 1 wins.

If the season ended today, Arkansas would be a No. 12 seed in the SEC Tournament and would have a play-in game on Wednesday against Missouri.

A win tonight could help the seeding a little but not the Razorbacks' NCAA NET ranking much as the Tigers are ranked 123rd.

Missouri is also riding a seven-game losing string since SEC play started and are just 6-5 on their home court.

This would be the perfect time for Musselman to start pulling off some magic like he has ever since he arrived at Arkansas.

February and March have been his months.

If this team is going to make a move it can't wait because they still have more road games at Mississippi State, Texas A&M, Kentucky and Alabama with home games against Georgia, Tennessee, Missouri, Vanderbilt and LSU.

To make a significant jump in the NET, Arkansas needs wins against Tennessee, Alabama, Kentucky, who are all Quad 1 and likely to stay that way. Mississippi State and Texas A&M are Quad 2 opponents.

If -- and that might be a big if -- the Razorbacks can build off the hard-fought loss to Kentucky when they played some of their best defense of the year, holding the Wildcats to 63 points, there is a chance of heading in the right direction. Defense is the difference maker.

Will they miss Davis? Probably. But the Muss bus seems at its best when going uphill.

Upcoming Events