UA position improves with A&M mistake


LITTLE ROCK — Recent happenings in Austin, Texas, changed the complexion of the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field championship that begins today in Eugene, Ore.

All of Arkansas’ potential scorers advanced through the West Prelims 10 days ago and Texas A&M took a big hit. John Auka, who keeps up with everything about outdoor track for Track & Field News, provided a heads-up about the Aggies’ 4x100 relay team being disqualified in Austin.

The news was easy to miss. In the 17th paragraph of the A&M-produced wrap-up of the qualifying, there is a note that the relay team had difficulties in the final exchange “due to obstruction from another team.” A&M filed a protest and after a video review, the disqualification was upheld.

The Aggies were favored to win the relay in Eugene and 10 points for first can determine the outcome of a meet where 60 to 70 points will secure the trophy.

Prior to the prelims in Austin and Greensboro, N.C., Auka’s calculations projected A&M as the winner with Arkansas, Florida, and Oregon in a virtual dead heat for second. Revised, his projection is for Indoor champion Arkansas to repeat outdoors, a difficult double considering the increased participation by the West Coast schools and the events that are not part of the Indoor competition.

Auka has Arkansas with 65 points, five more than A&M. His projection includes a first by A&M and a third by Arkansas in the 4x400 relay, the final event of the meeting. If he is accurate on all other events, the relay will be great theater. For example, an A&M victory and a blank for Arkansas would result in A&M 60, Arkansas 59.

Similar to the Arkansas team that won John McDonnell’s first outdoor championship team in 1992, this group must get 20 points or more in the jumps. That year, Brian Wellman and Gary Johnson finished one-two in the triple jump for 18 of Arkansas’ 60 points and Erik Walder won the long jump for 10 more. This year, Arkansas needs a first or second from redshirt senior Tarik Batchelor in the triple jump and a total of 12 points from Batchelor and Ray Higgs in the long jump. In addition, Andrew Irvin must finish no worse than second in the pole vault.

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Barely more than a week from the start of the U.S. Open golf tournament, it is time for the NBA finals.

After months of matador defense during the too-long regular season and weeks of pushing and shoving and hacking in the playoffs, we are down to Miami vs. San Antonio. If it goes seven games, I probably won’t watch 48 minutes total, but I will check scores and highlights with a twofold hope.

First, that the best player in the world performs as expected. In this scenario, he averages 28 points, 10 rebounds, and six assists per game. Anything less and the same people who questioned his courage only two years ago will be on the attack again.

Second, that the Spurs win. This endorsement is a throwback to the days when the St. Louis Cardinals’ lineup was filled in before the broadcast began, doable because Stan Musial and others were career Cardinals.

Tony Parker, Manu Ginobli, and Tim Duncan have been together at San Antonio since 2002, almost unheard of in today’s world of team sports.

Looking in on the seventh game of the Eastern Division finals just before halftime, I learned that Miami had a 13-point lead despite shooting barely 40 percent from the field. The explanation was that the Heat had taken 14 more shots because of a plethora of Indiana turnovers. Looking at the box score, Miami stayed comfortably in front by making 33-of-38 free throws.

Imagine that, the winning team had far fewer turnovers and a superb free throw percentage.

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Harry King is sports columnist for Stephens Media’s Arkansas News Bureau. His e-mail address is hking@arkansasnews.com.