Like It Is

OPINION | WALLY HALL: Rickety ride lands Hogs in San Francisco

In the NCAA Tournament, a pretty loss gets you eliminated.

An ugly win means survive and advance.

The University of Arkansas survived and advanced against New Mexico State, which was a dogfight from the tipoff to the final buzzer.

It was ugly for both teams.

The Aggies' only chance of beating the Razorbacks was to make it a down and dirty game. To upset the flow of the game, change shots, challenge every shot and put a body on a Hog and hope the refs didn't catch them all.

The refs did not catch every foul, or even any walking calls, but they caught enough to send Arkansas to the line, where the Razorbacks made 22 of 25 free throws, including 9 of 10 in the last 5:24 when they couldn't have bought a bucket at Home Depot.

That was the Aggies game plan: Make the Razorbacks beat them at the line, and that's what they did.

New Mexico State was a good basketball team. So was Vermont.

Some of the teams that used to be Cinderellas are now good basketball teams thanks to the transfer portal allowing good players to leave and have immediate eligibility.

New Mexico State had players from 13 states and three from other countries.

The Aggies were totally prepared for the Hogs and even admitted it at their Friday press conference when one of the players said the Razorbacks run a lot of iso basketball and almost everything goes through JD Notae.

Iso basketball is what most NBA teams run. It is where you try to isolate a player one-on-one.

New Mexico State tried to run some of it with Teddy Allen, its best player. His nickname was "Teddy Buckets," but now it is "Teddy Toney."

Arkansas' Au'Diese Toney ate Allen's lunch.

He held him to 12 points on 5-of-16 shooting.

Toney was so good that he never even fouled Allen.

All of the Hogs were in the faces of the Aggies all night, and vice versa.

Arkansas was 14 of 51 from the floor, and a lot of that was the Aggies' fault.

They forced Notae to shoot too quickly, not taking the time to square up, and he went 5 of 18 from the field.

Only one Razorback shot better than .500 from the field and that was Mr. D, Toney (3 of 5), who was probably too tired to miss.

It was a great effort by the Aggies. A lot of their fans are no doubt upset that less than 24 hours after the game was over, it was announced their head coach Chris Jans was the new basketball coach at Mississippi State.

What they don't need to do is think he wasn't giving the game with the Razorbacks his full attention. He was.

It was announced more than a week ago that Ben Howland was going to be fired but would coach in the NIT first.

That was because Jans wasn't about to leave his team until they were out of the tournament.

If his mind was already in Starkville, New Mexico State would not have beaten No. 5 seed UConn 70-63 on Thursday night.

Jans and the Aggies were just not a great match-up for the Razorbacks, but when the buzzer sounded, it was the Hogs who were advancing, and everyone but Jans was going back to Las Cruces N.M., which according to emails received, is a foodie's delight.

Arkansas was beat on but never broke.

They scratched and clawed and fought. If their confidence was shaken, they wouldn't have made all those free throws.

After close, tough games like Arkansas-New Mexico State -- and every coach has them -- Nolan Richardson would say, "A rickety ride is better than a smooth walk."

It was rickety and it was ugly, but it was a ride that landed the Razorbacks in San Francisco to play No. 1 seed Gonzaga.

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