New Tennessee basketball coach Cuonzo Martin speaks with the media following a news conference today.Staff Photo by Patrick Smith/Chattanooga Times Free Press
For the love of Jim Nantz, it's a busy time of the sports year. Everything is going on, and in the next month, we'll have the NCAA Final Fours, the start of the NBA playoffs, SEC spring football games, the start of MLB, the NFL draft (the 5-at-10 loves the draft; you know this), the Masters and, well that's more than enough.
Here we go, and buckle up.
Our favorite Martin
The University of Tennessee has a new men's basketball coach. The Vols hired former Missouri State coach Cuonzo Martin on Sunday. He is the 18th men's basketball coach in program history.
Yes, the timing seems somewhat strange (and this is the second major hoops move that has happened right as the Lady Vols were about to play an NCAA tournament game, which at it's best is bad timing and at the least is awfully poor judgment) as our ace TFP columnist Mark Wiedmer points out HERE.
Yes, hiring Martin, who was so far below the radar he was underground, has the feel of a panic hire.
Yes, Martin has never been to the NCAA tournament as a head coach.
Yes, the five names (of which Martin was not among) leaked to the media early last week were either a big smokescreen or the Vols' search committee had a few conversations that went like this:
Vols search committee: Hi, coach --------.
Vols search committee: We know we have some NCAA sanctions coming, but would you be interested in talking about the job opening at Tennessee in the coming days....
Vols search committee: Hello. Coach, hello. Crud, it happened again.
Now, take a deep breath Johnny Vols Fan. It's impossible to make an accurate assessment of this hire this morning. It will be impossible to know if this was a good or bad hire for a few years.
One thing that bodes well for Martin was the quick turnaround he engineered at Missouri State. The Vols roster will seem flush compared to the team Martin inherited at Missouri State, which had five scholarship players. He went 11-20 that year before winning at least 24 games the last two seasons.
Now Martin has a chance to win some early battles. Get super-recruit Chris Jones to stay in the fold. Convince Tobias Harris that another year in Knoxville will help his draft stock. Convince Scottie Hopson to stay in the draft (sorry, the 5-at-10 thinks High-Top needs to move along).
Plus, Martin is in the ultimate win-win spot here: Either he wins and everybody's happy; or he doesn't and that would almost certainly be the final straw for UT athletic director Mike Hamilton and everybody's happy.
In this photo provided by Virginia Commonwealth, VCU head coach Shaka Smart celebrates with his team after winning the Southwest regional final game against Kansas in the NCAA college basketball tournament Sunday, March 27, 2011, in San Antonio. VCU won 71-61. (AP Photo/Virginia Commonwealth, Scott K. Brown)
Stupid VCU, everyone outside of Richmond sings, "Rams stink!"
Consider the 5-at-10 less-than-thrilled about the awe-inspiring run by No. 11 seed VCU to the Final Four.
It's not that we're against underdogs or Cinderella-like runs or mid-majors crashing the party or any of that.
No, whether we realize it or not this morning, for all of us that love participating in bracket pools (for entertainment purposes only, of course) this changes everything. Greatly.
We'll now have to pay attention to the play-in rounds, since VCU came from the First Four to reach the Final Four. That means brackets will have to be in by Tuesday rather than Thursday, ergo fewer people playing tournament sheets, ergo less interest. Whether Johnny College Hoops Fan wants to admit it or not, a big part of the avalanche of interest in March Madness is due to the brackets, and to think otherwise is foolish.
Plus, with all the pre-tournament talk that VCU did not belong in the tournament, this Rams' run means the brackets will expand to 96 teams sooner rather than later. A big argument against expansion is that it will water-down the tournament and the last dozen-or-so teams that receive at-large bids can't win it all. Well, VCU was one of the last four at-large bids in and now its one of the last four playing.
That said, this has been the Maddest March ever.
Remember when the 5-at-10 tossed out that the odds to pick a perfect bracket were something like 922,000,000,000,000,000,000-to-1, well raise your hand if you had a Final Four of VCU, Butler, Kentucky and UConn.
Heck raise your hand if you had a Final Four without a No. 1 seed in it. Let's just move along.
Atlanta Braves' Nate McLouth, right, follows through with a game-tying three-run home run in the seventh inning of a baseball game against the Arizona Diamondbacks, Friday, May 14, 2010, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
Braves finishing up in Florida
The Atlanta Braves open the season this week, and the 5-at-10 thinks this club is poised for a big season.
Here's what you need to know about a productive spring (and some of these things were highlighted in our Sunday column in the TFP HERE):
— Chipper Jones was a machine this spring. Forget overcoming last season's knee injury, Jones looks 10 years younger. He hit .407 this spring with team-bests in HRs (4) and RBIs (15). Buckets, that's strong.
— Nate McLouth looks reliable, and after last season's DEEEEEEE-bacle, that's better than expected.
— If it's healthy, this lineup could have eight guys hit 15-or-more homers. Read that again. Programming note: The 5-at-10 will break down the Braves as follows: Tuesday — offense; Wednesday — pitching; Thursday — predictions, and as always, your thoughts are welcomed.
— The final roster moves have been made and Braves starter Kenshin Kawakami (All the Braves fans say, "YAY!") was among those left off the final 25-man roster. Here is the opening day roster according to braves.com:
Infielders (6): Brooks Conrad, Brandon Hicks, Freddie Freeman, Alex Gonzalez, Chipper Jones, Dan Uggla
Outfielders (5): Jason Heyward, Eric Hinske, Nate McLouth, Martin Prado, Matt Young
Catchers (2): Brian McCann, David Ross
Pitchers (12): Derek Lowe, Tim Hudson, Tommy Hanson, Brandon Beachy, Jair Jurrjens, Craig Kimbrel, Jonny Venters, Peter Moylan, Eric O'Flaherty, George Sherrill, Scott Linebrink, Cristhian Martinez
O' Brother, where art thou
With so much going on — be it NASCAR, another UT football update (next one will be Tuesday) or anything else, the 5-at-10 of course offers up a Jose Canseco controversy.
Jose Canseco is in hot water because boxing promoter Damon Feldman says Jose owes him $5,000 for defrauding on a fight. Hey, boxing's a tough guy's gig and maybe Jose got cold feet, right?
Nope. Apparently Jose sent twin brother Ozzie to the fight instead.
"The guy I thought was Jose kept asking me to pay him in cash before [the fight]," Feldman told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. "I told him I had to pay him by check for business reasons. He said he needed cash. We went back and forth. A bait-and-switch — I'm disgusted."
Fans were able to point out Ozzie as an imposter because of the differences in tattoos. OK, we'll bite, who is really that well-informed on the tattoo habits of either of the Canseco brothers? Alas.
On a good note, we may have another 5-at-10 team brewing here — the All-Chuck Cunningham team (named for Richie Cunningham's older brother who was on the first season of "Happy Days" and then was just gone — like gone and no one mentioned him gone. Nothing. Maybe he was abducted by Mork from Ork? Maybe he became a hippie and moved West from Milwaukee? Anyhoo...) for siblings that dabble in the family business just enough that we know they're there, but seriously they need to just go away and cash the checks.
We'll start with Ozzie Canseco, we'll see your Frank Stallone and raise you Jim Hanks for $200 more. Thoughts?
Kevin Harvick smiles after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif., Sunday, March 27, 2011. (AP Photo/Walt Weis)
This and that
— NASCAR keeps getting better and better by the week. Kevin Harvick's late pass edged Jimmie Johnson on Sunday in California. At this pace, the 5-at-10 may actually watch a race this year. Sorry, we used to be pretty big NASCAR fans before they started changing everything to please the masses. Did we get our feelings hurt? Well, maybe a little. That said, this looks to be more like the NASCAR that was so much fun five-plus years ago.
— The 5-at-10 blames the golfer formerly known as Eldrick Words for the state of golf today. Some guy named Martin Laird won at Bay Hill by shooting 75 on Sunday. Huh? A 75 on Sunday should be winning the morning game at Brown Acres, not on the PGA Tour. Thanks, Eldrick. Thanks a lot.
— The 5-at-10's newspaper alter-ego has been getting some pretty strong feedback from Saturday's column on Jim Tressel. We know what you're thinking, "That's great, so what?" Well we had to share the following, which ranks among the better opening paragraphs of a heckling email, "Congratulations on your admission to the School of Journalistic Groupthink, Sports Division." That is all.
— Holy Power of Three, did you see what the Miami Heat did Sunday. LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwayne Wade each had at least 30 points and at least 10 rebounds. Read that again, and know that it has not been done by a trio of teammates in a non-overtime game in 50 years (in 1997, Portland's Isaiah Rider, Brian Grant and Arvydas Sabonis went 30-10 n a quadruple-overtime win over Phoenix; but it's been since 1961 when Oscar Robertson, Jack Twyman and Wayne Embry did it for the Cincinnati Royals). The reaction for us non-Heat fans is obvious — we were crying after the game. Thank you, thank you, and remember to tip your server.
— Around lunch, we'll tabulate the final points and award this year's 5-at-10 Overrated/Underrated with a scoring twist Bracket Challenge. Good luck.
— Apparently, there were two entries that had the entire Final Four. That's two out of the 5.9 million on the ESPN tournament challenge, and that seems like about two more than the 5-at-10 expected.
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 ...