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OPINION | WALLY HALL: Kudos to NCAA for an amazing tournament

by Wally Hall | April 6, 2021 at 2:14 a.m.

It has been an extraordinary NCAA Tournament.

No, not because of the 13 upsets or even Monday night's championship game between the two best teams in the country, Baylor and Gonzaga.

Out of 67 games, only one was canceled because of covid-19, and that was during the first weekend.

The Washington Nationals had to postpone their first four games, and several college baseball teams have had to find replacement opponents. Yet the NCAA Tournament was pulled off with just one hiccup.

Of course, the NCAA sent a strong message three days before the first game when it sent six referees home after they went to an unauthorized dinner at a local steakhouse. After they returned, one referee's positive test results came in.

Four of those six officials are rated among the top 12 in college basketball.

After having to cancel last season's tournament, the NCAA went above and beyond to make sure the games were played this season.

By moving all of the men's games to the Indianapolis area (and the women's to the San Antonio area), it created a bubble. The teams were assigned to one floor of one hotel.

A bubble within a bubble within a bubble.

The NCAA deals with thousands of schools, coaches, administrators, athletes, and radio and TV executives.

It makes mistakes, and when it does it is shouted down by pundits all over the world.

Well, it got this one right.

It was a job well done that should be appreciated by every college basketball fan.

Your trusty scribe has had both virus shots and the virus.

My doctor said if not for my meds, my plasma would be in demand.

For the record -- and yes it is mandated in Little Rock (thank you, Mayor Scott) -- yours truly still would be wearing a mask, social distancing and washing my dry, cracked hands.

Loosening up attendance requirements at social and sports events seems like a good idea if masks are still required.

Yes, a year ago there was confusion about whether a mask would help. Within a couple of weeks it was a nearly unified voice that masks help, even though the former president never seemed to embrace it.

There is no doubt the virus numbers have been declining -- everywhere in the world but Arkansas, where there has been a slight increase recently -- and the worst may be over, but the fight is not finished.

The NCAA set an example of what smart thinking accomplishes.

It probably had as much to do with his relationship with his family, especially his sister, but Jordan Spieth became a golf favorite when he burst on the scene with 11 wins, including the 2015 Masters and U.S. Open, and the British Open in 2017.

Then his game faded faster than cheap jeans in hot water.

That was until last weekend when he won the Valero Texas Open by two strokes in San Antonio.

As a native Texan who played at the University of Texas, the Oaks Course most likely was familiar to him.

Still, after 1,351 days and 82 events without winning, this was a lot better as he shot rounds of 67, 70, 67 and 66.

Picking up a check for more than $1.3 million probably didn't hurt his confidence either.

Like the NCAA Tournament when it comes to basketball, nothing compares to the Masters when it comes to golf.

Golfers either have delighted in playing Augusta National Golf Course, or they have it on their bucket list.

Spieth will now be one of the favorites, but there's a lot of great golfers whose dream is to win one Masters. They are standing between him and a second green jacket.


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