Wally Hall is the managing sports editor for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Arkansas-Little Rock after an honorable discharge from the U.S. Air Force, he is a member and past president of the Football Writers Association of America, member of the U.S. Basketball Writers Association, past president and current executive committee and board member of the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame, and voter for the Heisman Trophy. He has been awarded Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year 10 times and has been inducted into the Arkansas Sportswriters and Sportscasters Hall of Fame.
Like It Is:
Time for Razorbacks to have dance card filled
Arkansas coach Eric Musselman is shown during an SEC Tournament game against Texas A&M on Friday, March 10, 2023, in Nashville, Tenn.
A disappointed Eric Musselman was making his way off the Bridgestone Arena court.
Arkansas had just dropped its seventh game of the season by six points or less when the Razorbacks had a held a lead in the second half, and the 67-61 loss Friday night had to be especially frustrating for the team’s head coach.
Texas A&M had just played 20 second-half minutes exactly the way Musselman wants his teams to play: Defensively.
The Aggies took away the Razorbacks’ driving lanes that had been so open in the first half and A&M attacked the rim on offense.
Musselman wasn’t as agitated as Riley Hall, the team’s director of internal operations, who was out of character and out of line when he pushed a phone away that was recording Musselman’s departure.
Why the student newspaper reporter from Kentucky thought it was pertinent is a bit puzzling. It wasn’t the first time Musselman has been tight-lipped and disappointed, and it won’t the be the last.
Hall, no relation to yours truly, owes the young man an apology and then it should go away. If that’s the worst thing he ever does, the UA graduate and native of Bryant will be fine.
Besides, as we will all be told too many times, it is time for a new and final season.
At 5 p.m. today on CBS, the NCAA Tournament field of 68 will be announced.
In fact, by the time this is being read about 98% of the heavy lifting has been done, and the 12 committee members are ready to get out of Indianapolis where they have been holed up in a nice hotel for almost a week.
They are mostly sequestered like jurors at a high-profile murder trial, only treated much much better.
They take ice cream breaks and enjoy catered meals, but it is a tough job.
If this committee is on top of its game, Vanderbilt will be one of the teams chosen to dance to the March Madness music.
Granted, the Commodores have a NCAA NET ranking of 79, but that’s because they had losses in November and December. They’ve been mostly without Liam Robbins, who is their leading scorer and rebounder and despite missing 11 games was a first-team All-SEC selection.
Counting the SEC Tournament, the Commodores are 13-7 against league opponents, and six of the losses were against teams who will be invited today to the NCAA Tournament.
They beat Kentucky twice.
If Mississippi State is in, then Vanderbilt should be, too. The ‘Dores beat the Bulldogs in their only game.
As of Saturday morning, none of the experts had Vandy in but part of the first four out.
At the same time, CBSsports.com’s Jerry Palm had the Razorbacks a No. 8 seed facing No. 9 Boise State in Birmingham, Ala., and Joe Lunardi of ESPN had them as a No. 8 playing Illinois in Des Moines, Iowa.
Boise State finished third in the Mountain West with a 13-5 conference record and 24-9 overall.
Illinois tied for fourth in the Big 10 with a 11-9 league record and 20-12 overall.
Historically, Big Ten teams are more physical than Mountain West teams, but when every game could be a team’s last one you prepare for everything.
That’s what bit the Hogs in the behind against A&M on Friday night. They weren’t as prepared for the second half mentally as the Aggies.
After Arkansas blocked nine shots in the first half, the Aggies went to the rim much stronger, and they protected the ball like it was a Christmas present from Mom and Dad.
Plus, they made 16 of 22 second-half free throws, but getting to the line is part of their game plan. They lead the nation in free-throw attempts and makes.
As of today, Friday is ancient history. Arkansas is dancing, and this afternoon everyone will know who the Hogs are dancing with and where.
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