Mom Was A Big Help To Injured Longhorn

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Payson High School senior basketball player Robert Walker made a faux pas he continues to anguish over when he forgot to tell his mom, Pat, about parents night activities at the end of last season.

The mistake is understandable for a teenager who at the time was focused on helping his team win a state championship.

Nonetheless, Robert is regretful, especially because it was his mother who helped him through a difficult period in his life.

Last season, after beginning his junior year on a tear, Robert went down with a broken ankle that sidelined him for the entire campaign.

During the down period, he continued to practice his shooting skills despite wearing a foot cast.

"My mom spent countless hours rebounding basketballs for me," Robert said. "She supported me when I had injury problems."

Robert says he wants to thank his mother "for not only being my biggest fan, but for being a great mom as well."

Picking the field

With the selection of teams for the NCAA men's basketball tournament less than a week away, amateur handicappers from around the country will soon be filling out their brackets.

At the Roundup, we have a lot of fun trying to pick tournament teams and the final NCAA champ.

Among the intangible rewards for winning our contest is a year's worth of bragging rights.

In the field of 64 teams, 31 will receive automatic bids for winning conference or tournament championships. The other 34 teams receive at-large berths based on their win-loss records, strength of schedule and a real brain-numbing criteria called "RPI" or Ratings Percentage Index.

NCAA officials say the basic RPI formula is Winning Percentage + ? Opponents' Average Winning Percentage + Opponents' Opponents' Winning Percentage.

Wow, and there are those who think the new power points system used by the Arizona Interscholastic Association is too complicated.

Picking the top 25 to 30 teams in the tournament won't be too difficult or controversial, whether your picking for our Payson Roundup contest or are on the NCAA selection committee.

The teams will include powerhouses Memphis, North Carolina, UCLA, Tennessee, Texas, Duke, Kansas, Stanford and Louisville.

All will be favorites to win the championship.

Then there will be those less acclaimed teams from the small conferences that could receive automatic or at-large bids. They include Rider, Belmont, Austin Peay, American, Morgan State and Robert Morris.

Some teams on the bubble, meaning they could get into the tournament or might also be left out, include Temple, Oregon, Texas Tech, Southern Illinois, Syracuse and Florida.

Several teams appeared in the early part of the season to be on the dance card but could now be left out. They are Florida, Texas Tech, Boise State and CSU-Northridge.

Of course in our state, all eyes are on University of Arizona and Arizona State University.

With an 18-12 record, UA should get into the tournament partly because the team played one of the roughest schedules in the country.

ASU, at 19-11, was once believed a bubble team, but a win over Oregon State last week and a 9-9 Pac-10 record should send the Devils dancing.

Other Pac-10 teams that could receive a berth other than Sanford, UA, ASU and UCLA are Washington State and USC.

Around Payson, it's a sure bet that former PHS boys basketball coach Jim Quinlan is penciling his alma mater, Gonzaga, into his tournament bracket. The Zags are 24-6 and have traditionally done well in the postseason.

The fun of picking the field has begun, but the chance to see who's on target with their selections must wait until March 16. That's when the NCAA dance card will be officially unveiled.

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