Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

It’s been a year of surviving in sports world

- WALLY HALL

A year ago, we were still almost two weeks away from the cancellati­on of all spring sports, including conference basketball tournament­s and the NCAA Tournament.

Only a handful of people were aware of covid-19, but that would change in a hurry.

Here we are now, the virus is still among us, it is still dangerous and it is still contagious.

Yet, for the most part, life is pretty close to normal again.

The SEC basketball tournament will be played next weekend.

The NBA had a shortened and well-protected season.

The NFL was played, and Tampa Bay won the Super Bowl with 43-year-old Tom Brady at quarterbac­k.

What’s more normal than Brady winning a Super Bowl, or Nick Saban and Alabama a national championsh­ip?

The fight with the virus isn’t over, just ask anyone associated with Texas A&M basketball which played its first game Wednesday night since Jan. 30.

The Aggies had eight practices in that time and as few as four players at practice. They lost to Mississipp­i State 63-57 in their own gym.

The Aggies owe a bunch of teams games, they’ve only played 16 total and nine conference games (2-7), but since they owe the Arkansas Razorbacks two they will be in Bud Walton on Saturday for a 4 p.m. game that will end the regular season.

Then they will go to the SEC Tournament because it is supposed to be played in its entirety next week in Nashville, Tenn.

The NCAA Tournament will be played in and around Indianapol­is, and the NIT, with 16 teams, will be played at North Texas State which has a huge gym and a great Mexican restaurant near downtown.

A lot of smart people have played it smart, and that’s why the world of perspiring arts has survived.

Now with vaccines, the light at the end of the tunnel isn’t a train, but a life learned to live with an awful virus.

The virus lives, but so do we.

There will be 13 teams, many hoping for a new season, next week when the SEC Tournament starts.

Auburn is sitting out as a self-imposed penalty. LSU is not.

We all know Arkansas is the No. 2 seed and won’t have to play until Friday in the quarterfin­als.

Which has lent to a lot of talk about what seed would the Razorbacks be if they win the conference tournament.

Currently, most experts have the Hogs as a No. 3 seed which is almost unbelievab­le when you think back to January when they were 2-4 in SEC play and not looking very good in some lopsided losses.

They are now 12-4 in the SEC, most of those wins were meaningles­s as far as the NCAA Tournament went.

They were coming off losses to Alabama and LSU by a combined 47 points when they defeated Auburn, which improved as the season progressed.

Arkansas won 75-73, and then the Razorbacks beat Vanderbilt and Ole Miss, another team that could surprise people next week, and some hope was coming back. They then beat themselves in the Big 12/SEC Challenge and fell to Oklahoma State 81-77.

Eric Musselman did some things to get his team’s attention. Things that helped them understand that it was a team game and only teams win.

They bounced back with a win over Mississipp­i State and then came the confidence builder, an 81-80 win over Kentucky.

That set the tone. The Wildcats may be struggling, but they are still Kentucky and it was in famed Rupp Arena.

They then avenged three earlier losses and took a grip on second place.

The NCAA and Associated Press have them ranked as the 12th best team in the country, and if they beat the Aggies and win three next week, they should move up, but to be a No. 3 from where they were six weeks ago is pretty amazing.

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