Here we go...
Coastal Carolina's Brandon Crawford (1) loses control of the ball as he goes up for a shot against UNC-Asheville during an NCAA college basketball game at the Big South Men's Basketball Championship in Conway, S.C.(AP Photo/Willis Glassgow)
Tournament is true Madness
College basketball's regular season has an image problem. There are too many games on TV. The season's watered down. The talent base has been eroded by one-and-done players leaving early for the pros. Roster turnover strips fans of familiarity and teams of potential greatness.
The SportTalk trio — friends of the show all — had a nice debate on this earlier this week, and in truth, all of it plays a role. The 5-at-10 and Chris Goforth have discussed this on his show all season.
This is arguably the worst tournament field ever coming on the heels of the most forgettable college hoops season in recent memory.
That said, the NCAA tournament is gold, Jerry, GOLD. And it's easy to see why. Watching UNC-Asheville and Arkansas-Little Rock — two teams that have never been in my kitchen, by the way — playing the first game of the tournament last night all of the hullabaloo was washed away and the complaints were silenced.
It wasn't about half-empty gyms on a Wednesday night conference game that started an hour late so it could be on CBS-College for the West Coast feed. It wasn't about two kids who had left after one semester of college to be lottery picks after averaging all of 5.8 points in their one NCAA season.
No, UNC-Asheville and Arkansas-Little Rock was about the drama of the tournament.
It's about Sun Belt player of the year Solomon Bozeman being locked arm-arm with his UALR teammates after fouling out late in regulation hoping to have one more game this season.
It's about the UNC-Ashville trailing by as many as 10 in the second half — and by four in the final minute — before winning 81-77 in overtime.
It's about the magic of one-and-done meaning you win or you go home. Plain and simple. And while all the other problems will not go away without some serious solutions, the NCAA tournament is flush with magic because we may not know the players or the teams or how some of these teams got in, but we do know there will be drama and emotion and passion.
And that's enough.
Will No. 1 seed Pittsburgh punish UNCA on Thursday? Of course, but this was an NCAA tournament moment that made us all remember why this event is March Madness.
Duke's Nolan Smith (2) goes to the basket against North Carolina in the first half of Duke's 75-58 win in an NCAA college basketball game for the championship of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament in Greensboro, N.C., Sunday, March 13, 2011. (AP Photo/Bob Leverone)
Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski says Kyrie Irving may play in the tournament. That means trouble for the rest of the field — especially your Tennessee Vols, who could face the top-seeded Blue Devils in the second round. With Irving and Nolan Smith — who our ace TFP columnist Mark Wiedmer accurately stated here http://www.timesfreepress.com/news/2011/mar/16/wiedmer-duke-guard-smith-tops-five-fear-tourney/ is among the players that can change the entire tournament — Duke has arguably two of the top 10 point guards in the field.
And as simple rules go, "You can't win in the NCAA tournament without good point guard play," ranks in the top 10 and just outside the top five. Here's the 5-at-10's simple rules of sports/life in general:
— If you're a male over the age of 12, no shorts in church.
— A bad day of golf is better than a good day at work.
— It's always better to be rich and healthy than poor and sick — it doesn't always have to be rocket surgery, after all.
— Treat every sporting event like it's the World Series, because it's that important to someone (well, with the exception of Vandy football).
— Try not to make fun of Vandy football, they are smarter than you and at some point you'll end up needing a transplant or an audit or some litigation from someone who ends up being a Vandy grad, and they'll have that look like, "Things don't seem so funny after all do they Mr. Funny Jokes Man."
—Just about every other lesson in life can be adapted by quoting one of the seven faces on the Mount Rushmore of movie wisdom:
Vito Corleone, Crash Davis, Mr. Miyagi, Irwin Fletcher (and/or Ty Webb since it's the same face), Eric "Otter" Straton, Hi McDunnough and Norman Dale
Anyhoo, let's update the first annual 5-at-10 Overrated/Underrated Bracket poll (and remember, it's not too late to send in your overrated (the No. 1 seed you think will lose first) and underrated (a team seeded 9-16 that will advance the farthest):
scole023 — Pitt/Tennessee
EC — Pitt/Georgia
Bigbearzzz — Pitt/Georgia
PDavi — Ohio State/Tennessee
BIspy4 — Pitt/Utah State
BeachBum — Duke/Utah State
OTWatcher — Pitt/Old Dominion
Pretend Al Davis — Pitt/Oakland
Charlie S. — Pitt/Princeton
ThatIdoKnow — Pitt/Missouri
snakemb134 — Ohio State/Utah State
Weena — Ohio State/Michigan State
EtsuBuc20 — Duke/Belmont
Chris Goforth from "The Show" on Fox 1310AM — Pitt/Belmont
Quake from SportTalk on 102.3 FM — Pitt/Belmont
Cowboy Joe from SportTalk on 102.3 FM — Kansas/Memphis
Dr. B (He's a doctor after all) from SportTalk on 102.3 FM — Pitt/Utah State
Nick Bonsanto, host of the "Nick Bonsanto Show" on 105.1 FM — Ohio State/Belmont
Keith Cawley, WRCB Channel 3 sports anchor — Kansas/Missouri
Darrell Patterson, Channel 9 sports anchor — Pitt/Utah State
Grab a pick, don't cost nothing. Who you got?
South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier celebrates a first quarter touchdown against Auburn with quarterback Stephen Garcia during an NCAA college football game against Auburn, Saturday, Sept. 25, 2010 Auburn, Ala. (AP Photo/The State, C. Alug Berry)
Spring football is in the air
That said, Holy Todd Ellis, what is going on with Stephen Garcia? Dude has a chance to be a legend in the eyes of the title-starved fans in Columbia if he can lead a talented South Carolina team to an SEC title in what looks to be a wide-open SEC East. He also has the chance to be arguably the worst four-year starting quarterback in SEC history. Now that friends is quite the career high/low hypothetical, no?
The 5-at-10 believes that with the pieces South Carolina has in place — who has a running back/receiver combo that's better than Marcus Lattimore/Alshon Jeffery? — to make history if Garcia plays better than average. If back-up Connor Shaw can prove he can provide "better than average" quarterback play, then Garcia will be a distant memory sooner rather than a lasting memory later.
Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Roy Halladay, left, sits in the dugout next to Cliff Lee after finishing three innings of work during a spring training baseball game against the Pittsburgh Pirates in Clearwater, Fla., Saturday, March 5, 2011. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
Atlanta Braves report, Volume 1, Chapter 3
The 5-at-10 is starting to get Phillies' rotation recall. We're tired of hearing about how the starting pitchers in Philadelphia are the be-all, end-all and that everyone else in the National League is playing for a chance to lose in the NLCS.
Nope, not buying it.
First, starting pitching matters most in the regular season, when the season is long but the games are relatively small by comparison. Starting pitching goes from paramount to simply an asset in the playoffs when the season is short but the games are long. That's why some of the best rotations in baseball history — Braves in the 1990s, Mets in the '80s, Orioles in the '70s and Dodgers in the '60s — had relatively few World Series titles
Backlash or no, the Phillies' collection of Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels and Roy Oswalt is strong. Really strong.
But the rotation the Atlanta Braves have assembled is not exactly chopped liver. Tim Hudson, Tommy Hansen, Jair Jurrjens and Derek Lowe can range anywhere from effective to unhittable, and No. 5 possibility Mike Minor could be a future star.
Is the Braves' rotation better than the Phillies' starting pitchers? No. But it's not as big a divide as some seem to believe.
L-Dub update: As we discussed previously, the return of Larry Wayne "Chipper" Jones — or L-Dub, as we like to call him — is the biggest issue for these Braves. The 5-at-10 has been lax in keeping you up to date on this. Well here you go: Apparently, L-Dub has reverted back to his 1999 form in the last week, going from a mid-.260 average to a .351 mark. Jones' numbers are eye-popping — and all of them in a good way: He has 37 at-bats (appears to be staying healthy), he has 13 hits (making good swings), has seven extra-base hits, including two homers (that's good-to-great power numbers, carried over to 500 at-bats, that's 27 homers and more than 60 doubles) and only four strikeouts (making contact). L-Dub looks ready to roll, folks.
In this Aug. 13, 2010 file photo, Basketball Hall of Fame inductee Charles Barkley, representing the 1992 USA Olympic "Dream" Team, pats his heart as he speaks during the enshrinement news conference at the Hall of Fame Museum in Springfield, Mass. One result of the NCAA's new deal with CBS and Turner Sports to televise the men's basketball tournament is that TNT NBA announcers such as Charles Barkley will be now analyzing college games. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola, File)
This and that on March Madness/college hoops
— The 5-at-10 loved Charles Barkley and Kenny "the Jet" Smith on the NCAA tournament studio show last night. And the powers that be at CBS did a nice job of mixing the TNT host (Ernie Johnson) with the CBS analysts and letting the CBS host (Greg Gumble) work with Barkley and Smith. If this is what we have to look forward to for the rest of the tournament, color the 5-at-10 excited. Here's betting that the CBS producers/NCAA officials told Barkley to cut back the references to his bookie, however. The unintended humor that follows Chuck Barkley is the 100-percent opposite of turrrr-buullll.
— While we're here, the 5-at-10 thought it was a classy touch for CBS to have its A-team of Jim Nantz, Clark Kellogg and Steve Kerr doing the play-in games. That said, until these games get a weekend date on the schedule, they will always be the "play-in" games. This was not the first round or the First Four or whatever you want to call it — these are the play-in games. This is not open for discussion.
— President Obama picked all of the No. 1 seeds to advance to the Final Four. Insert your own political front-running joke here.
— Let's cover the last couple like friend of the show Larry King might back in the glory days:
Houston, hello. You're hosting the Final Four. What are your thoughts? Agreed, for my money there's no better college basketball coach with a nine-letter surname with a Polish background than Coach K. Fantastic. Have you seen "Limitless" — great feature film and that Bradley Cooper, he's a star in the making... Not going to say he's the next DeNiro, but wow, what a talent. Several good jobs are open in college basketball, including the Georgia Tech and Arkansas gigs. For my money Georgia Tech should be in the tournament every year, and if I'm looking for a coach I'm going to make Richmond's Chris Mooney an offer he can't refuse. And if that doesn't work, well, then I'll go watch "Limitless" again.
Jay was named the Sports Editor of the Times Free Press in 2003 and started with the newspaper in May 2002 as the Deputy Sports Editor. He was born and raised in Smyrna, Ga., and graduated from Auburn University before starting his newspaper career in 1997 with the Newnan (Ga.) Times Herald. Stops in Clayton and Henry counties in Georgia and two years as the Sports Editor of the Marietta (Ga.) Daily Journal preceded Jay’s ...