UA rises in RPI while on Macon's back

Posted: January 30, 2018 at 2:05 a.m.

Arkansas Razorbacks guard Daryl Macon (4) reaches for a layup during a basketball game, Saturday, January 27, 2018 at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville. Arkansas Razorbacks beat the Oklahoma State Cowboys 66-65.

Daryl Macon was named co-SEC Player of the Week but easily could have been named Mr. Razorback Basketball for January. If not for him, the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville might not even be in the NCAA Tournament conversation.

Or definitely not a top 25 RPI rated team.

In the overtime win at Georgia, Macon scored 25 of the Hogs' last 41 points -- including 16 of 17 in the two overtimes.

He scored 22 against Oklahoma State on Saturday when the rest of the Hogs couldn't find the range from inside or out.

The Hogs are 4-4 in SEC play and 15-6 overall with 10 games to play, half at home and half on Tuesday (and no games on Wednesdays).

According to the Ratings Percentage Index, the Hogs are No. 21 in the nation. That's in the range to be a No. 6 seed in March Madness, but let's face it, there's a lot of work to do for the cardiac kids.

The exact number of games the Razorbacks need to win between now and the SEC Tournament in St. Louis is all of them.

No, a loss wouldn't knock them out of the Big Dance, but seedings are precious and the Hogs have a chance to go into the SEC Tournament with a good seed and ideal location in hand.

Admittedly, Missouri State was left out of the 2006 tournament field with an RPI of 22, and Hofstra was left out that same year with a 30, but those schools are not in major conferences.

The Razorbacks need to forget the heroics and the close games and focus on this week, which consists of road games at Texas A&M and LSU.

The Aggies opened the season like their hair was on fire and at 7-0 was No. 7 in The Associated Press poll, but they have won only two games since conference season started -- vs. Missouri and Ole Miss -- and are tied for last with Vanderbilt in the SEC with a 2-6 record.

This is a better team than that, and the Aggies still have an RPI of 37, although they are a long-shot to make the field of 68 unless they turn it around. They will try to tonight against the Razorbacks.

On Saturday, the Hogs are at LSU. Since they managed to lose to the Tigers 75-54 at home, there should be plenty of motivation. And no one is confusing the Maravich Center with a hostile environment.

Another loss to LSU, who has an RPI of 81, could take a bite out of the Hogs' rating.

The remainder of the road schedule for the Razorbacks is at Ole Miss, RPI of 83; at Alabama, RPI of 29; and at Missouri, RPI 46.

Arkansas' next two home dates are against a dangerous South Carolina, RPI of 53; and cellar dweller Vanderbilt, RPI 122. The Hogs absolutely cannot play down to the level of the competition in any of those games.

The final three home games are huge. A rematch with the Aggies before hosting Kentucky, who has an RPI of 12, and a payback game against Auburn, who beat the Hogs 88-77 on Jan. 6. The Tigers have the best RPI of any SEC team with a rating of 6.

The Razorback crowds have been incredible lately, mostly on Saturdays, but Kentucky and Auburn come in on a Tuesday so the Razorback Nation needs to plan accordingly.

What the Razorbacks need to guard against is expecting Macon, or any other individual, to bail them out offensively.

Offense is where they have struggled in the past two games. The defense was really good until the final two seconds when the Cowboys got two point-blank shots -- one an easy tip to win the game, but Lady Luck said no; maybe she was impressed with Macon's play, too.

With 10 games to go, the defense is the best it has been since conference play, and the offense needs to respond.

Sports on 01/30/2018