Hogs on a roll going into tournament

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 16, 2000

Arkansas edged LSU in the Southeastern Conference basketball finale, and I said then the Razorbacks might be on a run. I said right for a change, because the Hogs raced to the conference tournament championship with a solid 75-67 victory over Auburn in the title game.

LSU and Arkansas are in the NCAA Men’s tourney being staged this week around the country, along with SEC members Kentucky, Auburn, Florida and Tennessee.

This fan has been impressed with LSU’s resilience this season, plus a rugged quality that stands out. Even so the steady Hogs of Arkansas prevailed 69-67 in their game with LSU’s Tigers in the SEC semifinals last Saturday at Atlanta.

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The Razorbacks seem to be getting their second wind. They had to win four games in four starts, and they pulled it off, improbable or not. Their reward: the huge NCAA bid. The 19-14 Razorbacks were hoping for at least an NIT bid, but upped it a notch by taking the SEC title. Four-game sweep equals bigger NCAA bid.

Arkansas must dispose of Miami in the NCAA South tourney to keep on keeping on. LSU faces the same task tonight in the NCAA West where the Bengals take on 24-6 SE Missouri. As you would imagine, the field is imposing most of the way through. Really interesting competition is certain to follow.

Then there’s the 17-13 Ole Miss Rebels, who played North Carolina-Charlotte last night in Tad Smith Coliseum in Oxford. This is the first time in 10-12 years Ole Miss has made it to the NIT, so the Rebels haven’t been all bad this season. The Rebs were 13-3 at home, whatever that means. No. 10 Florida thumped Ole Miss 89-67 in the opening round of the SEC Tournament.

D.D. Lewis of Mississippi State football fame, Jim Taylor, an LSU great, Terry Hoage of Georgia, and Alabama’s Johnny Musso and Billy Neighbors are 1-A player-candidates for the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame’s 2000 college class.

D.D. Lewis was first-team All-America in 1967 for the rugged Bulldogs at linebacker. Twice Lewis was All-SEC and a member of the Blue-Gray as well as MSU Halls of Fame.

Jimmy Taylor was a first-team LSU All-American fullback in 1957, and was the school’s ninth leading all-time scorer with 142 career points. He was also All-SEC in ’57 and 1958 Senior Bowl MVP. Big Jim’s also a member of the LSU Athletic Sports HOF.

Terry Hoage roamed the Georgia defensive backfield four solid years (1980-83) and he still ranks as perhaps the finest Roverback in Bulldogs history. He was twice consensus All-America for the Dogs and he led the nation in interceptions with 12 in ’82. Georgia won a national title, three SEC titles and played in four major bowl games with Hoage, SEC Male Athlete of the Year in 1983-84.

Alabama’s Billy Neighbors was one of the SEC’s finest tackles ever. That was 1961 and earlier. A unanimous All-American, Billy won the 1961 SEC Jacob’s Blocking Trophy and was All-Conference. The big tackle was named to the league’s 25-year All-SEC team (1961-85). Billy was named to the Alabama team of the Decade and capped his career with the Senior Bowl MVP award.

Johnny Musso, also of Alabama football fame, was an All-American halfback in 1970 for the Crimson Tide, then consensus All-America as a senior. The two-time SEC rushing leader was also twice Academic All-America. The Alabama Sports Hall of Fame member was one of the SEC’s most durable runners, if memory serves correctly. I know one thing: Johnny Musso could for a fact pick ’em and put ’em down.