published Tuesday, April 3rd, 2012

5 at 10: The Final Four, April's glory and an a hazy shade of UT spring practice

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    The Kentucky bench cheers during the second half of the NCAA Final Four tournament college basketball championship game against Kansas, Monday, April 2, 2012, in New Orleans.
    Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

From the "Talks Too Much Studios" here we go.

Young Kentucky heroes

The Kentucky Wildcats were the best college basketball team all season, so it's fitting that this morning they are the champs.

It's not fitting however, how this season ended.

By the time Kentucky's 67-59 title game victory over Kansas got interesting most of America had either closed their eye or turned the channel. We were genuinely excited for this game, but a hodgepodge collection of turnovers, stellar defense and questionable calls made this one tough watch unless you're the most ardent Jayhawks or Wildcats backer.

In fact let's breakdown the title game, spaghetti western-style. That's right, the new and improved "The Good, The Bad and The Ugly" — NCAA-title version.

The Good: Defensively, Kentucky may be the single best team we can remember. Seriously, there is no easy shot when Terrence Jones and Anthony Davis are on the floor at the same time. And allegedly there's this thing called second-chance points, but if you watched Kentucky play defense all year, you would say offensive rebounds are the basketball version of the Loch Ness monster and Big Foot. (Side note: UK's starters consist of three freshmen and two sophomores, and the fact that they play extraordinary defense with supreme effort is easily the highlight of an underrated coaching job by John Calipari this season. And now, Cal can breath a little easier as our ace columnist Mark Wiedmer tells us here http://www.timesfreepress.com/news/2012/apr/03/john-calipari-gets-no-1-ncaa-title-finally/. In fact, Cal can pass the "Best coach in the country not to win it all" title to Thad Matta.)

The Bad: When did the officiating become the college hoops version of Upward Basketball, where everyone gets a turn. Those three yahoos last night were the best in the college game this year? Seriously? And if that's not how the officials are picked for the title game, then that's just silly. (Side note: If there's not a merit-based way of picking officials, then we can make a serious argument that that is every bit as big an injustice as the BCS popularity contest.)

First during the semifinals, it was a charge-fest as Weeds shares with us here http://www.timesfreepress.com/news/2012/apr/03/officials-still-adjusting-to-block-charge/. Then in Monday night's title game, it was brutal in the paint. Hey, if you're going to let them play, then let them play. But don't go four minutes swallowing you whistle then call three nickel-and-dimers. Be consistent, Stripes, that's all we ask.

The Ugly: It could have been easy to go with the UK celebrator who was shot during the unruly partying in Lexington, but let's stay on the court. Wow, Kansas just didn't look ready for prime time, you know? Sure, Kentucky's defense had a lot to do with that, but even when Kansas found ways to get good shots, the Jayhawks bungled them. In fact, Kansas missed two dunks during critical moments earlier in the second half when it was trying to make a run. And one of those — Jeff Withey's missed one-handed slam attempt off an alley-oop — could have came at a time that Kansas was really make a run.

It was a great year with the best team winning the title. But the subpar title game in our view was like reading a good book by your favorite author, who had to throw together the conclusion because of late changes. In the grand scheme of things, it's still a good book that you enjoyed, it just ended poorly.

———

Football never rests

Our man Da'Rick Rogers and the Vols have made up. Yay. Read more about it from our UT ace Downtown Patrick Brown here.

Our man B.J. Coleman looked sharp in his pro day workout before NFL scouts — and a couple of position coaches — at UTC on Monday. Hooray. Read more about it from our UTC football ace John Frierson here.

Here's our brief (we're trying, really) recap of each scenario:

As for Da'Rick, we feel that this may be the final hiccup with the former Calhoun (Ga.) star and the top returning wideout in the SEC. Seriously. We had a conversation recently with someone who knows Da'Rick and we were told that Da'Rick has always been one to "stir things up." Simply put, he loves the drama. But, we get the feeling that some folks inside and outside the UT program have explained to him that if he wants to be a first-round pick in April 2013 — and don't kid yourself, the kid has that kind of talent — he needs to cut back on the playin' and get to playing.

As for B.J., we have been under the impression that he was going to be an NFL quarterback since his sophomore year at McCallie. He just has 'it' — that rare quality pro athlete have that you can't define, per se, but you know it when you're around it. Whether that means he'll be a starter or even have a multi-year career is hard to know because there is so much talent and competition. (Steve Bartkowski said last week when he was in Chattanooga that "Pro sports are the only business that as soon as they sign you they start looking for a cheaper replacement.") The biggest thing for B.J. is getting with a team that fits — meaning a team with some open spots throughout the depth chart. All of the teams — The Steelers, Falcons, Bears, Seahawks, Dolphins and Vikings — that sent QB coaches to Finley on Monday seem like good fits.

Have we mentioned we love the draft? Do you know this? (We missed the Jon Gruden QB Camp with RGIII last night. Did anyone catch it?)

————

Tiger's world

OK, let's get this out there right now: Tiger Woods is the favorite at Augusta this week. You know it, we know it, the golf world knows it.

Now that's not to say the rest of the field is going to pout in the corner of the IHoP on Washington Avenue and let him cruise to his fifth straight jacket. Not even close, bud.

Woods may be the favorite like he was every year before his Thanksgiving 2009 car wreck/personal life implosion, but he's not the intimidating presence, the course-stalking monster that he was then. He knows and the rest of the field knows it.

That said, he's going to be in your picks (well, most everyone's, but not Spy's because he's not a fan and would rather lose with his guys than win with Tiger). And we feel he's going to be in the hunt, too — he's always going to be a threat to win at Augusta because the course is perfectly set up for him. Who knew that Tiger-proofing a course actually helped the guys that hit it a ton?

We'll trot out our five sometime tomorrow — deadline is 7 a.m. Thursday, and we'll give you the three guys who

———

This and that

— Matt Cain and Joey Votto each agreed to nine-figure contract extensions Monday. Wow. Just flippin' wow. Remember this day the next time baseball's collective bargaining agreement comes up and the owners are complaining about out of control salaries. Well, they wouldn't be out of control if we were giving Matt Cain the biggest contract ever afforded a right-handed pitcher. (Somewhere John Smoltz, Pedro Martinez and Greg Maddux just spit up in their mouths.) And if Matt Cain is worth $120-plus million, what is Justin Verlander worth?

— Brittney Griner and Baylor likely will cap a 40-0 season tonight. Are we going to watch? Well no, but 40-0 is still something pretty special. (Side note: How great would the storylines have been if Pat and the Lady Vols were there tonight? Sigh.)

— Raise your hand if you think Sean Payton's appeal has the same chance as the 5-at-10 posting up Anthony Davis. Yep, it's going to get swatted.

— Sad news about the foliage at Augusta. Apparently, the unusually warm winter has caused the azaleas and the dogwoods to already bloom.

— Some interesting odds on UK's win (from friend of the show RJ Bell of pregame.com): Kentucky was a 6-to-1 pick to win it all before the season and 3-to-1 before the tournament; in the last 28 years, 18 champs have been No. 1 seeds; Vegas projects that UK would be a 30-point underdog against the Washington Wizards on a neutral court; Odds to win it all next year — Kentucky is 6-to-1, Baylor is 8-to-1, Louisville is 9-to-1 and Indiana, Ohio State and UNC are 10-to-1.

— The Braves lost another spring training game Monday, falling 8-2 to the Mets. The very good news was Tim Hudson extremely sharp in his first two innings of the spring. Hudson allowed an infield single and fanned two without a walk. The bad news Monday was that Brandon Beachy continues to get hit hard. Beachy allowed seven hits and four earned runs in six innings and has a spring ERA in the mid-5.00.

— OK, the Braves's opening day roster is taking shape. Tyler Pastornicky has won the shortstop tete-a-tete. The Braves traded for Livian Hernandez (yes, he's still alive) and infielder Juan Francisco last week to fill in some spots. Hernandez is pegged long relief (some might say long-in-the-tooth relief, but alas) and Francisco gives the Braves options at third base while Chipper Jones' mends. We'll have way more on the Braves on Wednesday and Thursday, but looking at the roster, we FLOORED by the fact that Livian Hernandez is less than five months older than Tim Hudson. That can't be right, can it?

———

Today's question (and contest updates)

Here are the final standings for the Kemba Walker Memorial Shootout, Final Four edition:

Jones — 69 — Doron Lamb (32) and T-Robinson (37)

Mrs. 5-at-10 — 69 —Doron Lamb (32) and Thomas Robinson (37)

BlueOval — 61 — Thomas Robinson (37) and Anthony Davis (24)

scole023 — 61— Thomas Robinson (37) and Anthony Davis (24)

Player A — 61 — Lamb (32) and Taylor (29)

Weena — 61 — Anthony Davis (24) and Thomas Robinson (37)

5-at-10 — 57 — Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (20) and Thomas Robinson (37)

McPell — 53 —Tyshawn Taylor (29) and Anthony Davis (24)

JordanRules — 53 — T. Taylor (29) and A. Davis (24)

Fred — 49 — Tyshawn Taylor (29) and MKG (20)

Here are the winners to date so far this year:

Kemba Walker Memorial Shootout, Final Four edition — Jones (Jones got the tie-breaker over Mrs. 5-at-10 because, well, 1) we're not very smart, and 2) if one of the 5-at-10's immediate clan ties for the win, the tie goes outside the compound.)

Underrated/Overrated challenge — ThatIDoKnow

Kemba Walker Memorial Shootout — scole023

Ricky Bobby "If you ain't first you're last" Challenge — VolBacker

Now seems like the perfect time to trot out the "5-at-10 Masterfully Masters Mastered pick'em challenge."

Here's a rule recap: Submit your top five players (order on the entry is not important) points will be awarded as 10 for first, 7 for second, 5 for third, 4 for fourth and 3 for fifth and one point for each of your golfers that made the cut but did not crack the top 5; perfect score is 29. Whoever has the most points will get a Masters trinket or something (we won't bring you back a pimento cheese sandwich, but don't expect the moon either — the 5-at-10's on a tight budget).

Whatcha' got? (And we're sure SportTalk's Cowboy Joe and the gang at 102.3 will be in, especially since Joe — he's a cowboy after all — has to defend his title.)

about Jay Greeson...

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 ...

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Comments do not represent the opinions of the Chattanooga Times Free Press, nor does it review every comment. Profanities, slurs and libelous remarks are prohibited. For more information you can view our Terms & Conditions and/or Ethics policy.
Livn4life said...

Jive AT Ten...well 10:19 here on East Brainerd Road. Hats off to a fantastic year for UK bb and I am no Kat or Cat fan. But I did help a UK fan passing through yesterday, carry his tray at Zaxby's, no lie. He was very appreciative. The Rogers scenario, hope he helps it be "A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood"(Rocky Top). Because all high talent will be needed come fall. So man up Mr. Rogers. Consider a hand up for Payton's noway appeal. But then, a peal is just appeal but it is something. Tiger will be growling. We will know how far back he really is on Sunday. Hey our azeleas are just now blooming in Catoosa County. What's the big deal in Augusta? B.J., I want a lot for the man. I had hoped he'd be the dude up Knoxville way but that's all history. I am really not sure how this plays out for him but wish him the best. If experts believe he's got "it" then maybe he has. It's hard for me to see him ever starting at qb in an NFL game. What do I know? I said the same about the guy who Bows after the games.(pronounced bo with him). Finally, what was the favorite sport of the 1st Century, in the Roman empire? What with Holy Week reminding many of those days. Got any ideas?(no Lions versus Tigers in the arena jokes)

April 3, 2012 at 10:28 a.m.
Blueoval said...

I'm having a hard time with my 5th pick....are you sure we can't pick 7? I'll take:

Mickelson, Tiger, Donald, Mcllroy and Mahan

April 3, 2012 at 12:08 p.m.
jgreeson said...

Livn(Large) —

No clue on the most popular sport in the first century, but maybe we could ask Beano Cook — he was around then. We'll look into it and share our answers — real and fictional — in Friday's mailbag.

Don't know if B.J. will every be an every day starter per se as much as a competent career back-up who makes six-figures wearing a ball cap and holding a clipboard. (There are way worse jobs by the way.)

Blue Oval —

You're in. Nice five, by the way.

— 5-at-10

April 3, 2012 at 12:16 p.m.
jgreeson said...

From friend of the show StuckinKent —

In the Final Four game against Louisville, the Cardinals collected 16 offensive rebounds. In fact, the only reason the Cardinals were in the game at all was because of offensive rebounds. Kentucky only had five offensive boards. In the title game, both teams had ten offensive rebounds. For the year, opponents collected 34% of the possible offensive rebounds against them. That's below average (I think- I don't have the full stats in front of me right now), and the Cats got 45.4% of possible offensive rebounds, which is a huge number.

My five for the Masters:

Phil Mickelson Tiger Woods (hey- I'm rooting against him, but dude ALWAYS is hovering around the leaderboard at Augusta) Rory McIlroy (I'm nervous about this one- he's the best, but those demons could easily bite him again) Lee Westwood Adam Scott

April 3, 2012 at 12:30 p.m.
chas9 said...

Sorry to check in so late today. I just got in from burning sofas and shooting up the streets.

It's hard to explain the officiating, and it's a shame, because so much can ride on a key player in foul trouble.

The UK-KU clash demonstrates that you've gotta watch to know what goes on in a game. Would anybody who missed the game but read the box score believe that a player who scored six points on one of ten shooting deserved to be named player of the game, and in fact dominated the game? Especially when his nemesis had an 18 point, 17 rebound game?

If you have a man crush on T-Rob, you might argue it, but most would agree on this night who was the better player. And maybe the guy with the super deltoids would like to reconsider his pronouncement: "I mean, Anthony Davis is a great player, but he's not Superman."

April 3, 2012 at 12:33 p.m.
chas9 said...

Hernandez is way younger than Jamie Moyer. And was that Elton John song about Hernandez?

Levon, Levon likes his money. He makes a lot they say.

And he shall be Levon. And he shall be a good man.

How could "Vegas" set a line for KY vs. The Wizards, and why would they? Maybe it was "Vargas."

April 3, 2012 at 12:46 p.m.
Stewwie said...

Good day for B.J. yesterday. It'd be neat to see him get drafted by the Broncos and get to sit and learn behind Mr. Manning at first.

How about Joel Bradford's 4.4 40? I didn't think he was going to be that fast...I was thinking maybe 4.6, which is not slow by any means. Great run by him.

[Vegas projects that UK would be a 30-point underdog against the Washington Wizards on a neutral court.]

That sounds about right. Doesn't matter if it's with a college court and rules or NBA court and rules. It's like Stan Van Gundy said the other day..."Kentucky may have 6 NBA players on their team but the Wizards have 13." Who would you take with this spread, Jay?

April 3, 2012 at 1:09 p.m.
BIspy4 said...

I'll give my Tiger-free five raht ni-ow.

Rory. Most consistent in the game today. Mickelson. Stumbled last week but looked great at Pebble. Also not a bad track. Jason Day. Been silent much of the year but really, really could have won the Masters a year ago. Too much talent not to win big. Keegan Bradley. Sneaky good. Thought about Hunter Mahan. Thought about Luke Donald and Lee Westwood. But no. No. Also thought about Webb Simpson. I really think an Aussie finally breaks through this year. So I'll take Geoff Ogilvy to block, Peter.

If Cain is worth that much, what about Halladay, too? Verlander's agent is probably calling Dave Dombrowski right now, I imagine.

And as good as Anthony Davis was last night, I was even more impressed with Terrance Jones (he's NBA ready) and Doron Lamb. Lamb's two huge back-to-back gut-kick 3s after the Jayhawks whittled the lead to 10, and then blew a chance to cut it to 8, sealed that game tight. UK's interior D was impressive, and Davis got a lot of blocks and rebounds on either weakside or help defense after Jones gave the man he was guarding nowhere to go.

April 3, 2012 at 1:57 p.m.
jgreeson said...

9er —

The Uni-Blocker was impressive — he dominated the paint in a title game in a way unseen since Ewing maybe?

And T-Rob was good, but he was not A-Davis, who has become the basketball version of Troy Polamalu — a defensive freelancer who has enough athletic ability to make a play even when he's out of position and someone who has to be accounted for on every play.

Guess we'll need to ask Livian if he has a son named Jesus to see if Elton really was singing about him.

BrunswickStew —

Nice call on Bradford. Who saw 4.4 coming? Certainly not us. It would not shock us if Peyton was pushing for Denver to draft B.J. (Cutcliffe was always super high on Coleman and we know Cutcliffe has Manning's trust.)

Call us crazy, but we'd take Kentucky and the 30. Call it a hunch.

Spy —

Like you five, especially Bradley. Kid is tough as a $2 steak.

And Halladay is somewhere pulling his James T. Kirk... "CAAAIIIIINNNNNNN!!!!"

T-Jones was strong. Dude was physical and tough and Lamb was the offensive difference, but the Uniblocker was still the best player on the floor.

— 5-at-10

April 3, 2012 at 2:11 p.m.
chas9 said...

I've enjoyed the Sport Talk guys for years, even Dr. B (he's a brain surgeon, after all). But it was very strange that on a day when every other sports show in the known world was excited about The Championship game, in the show's first hour the boys managed all of five uninspired minutes about UK-KU. Most of the rest of the hour was about NAS freakin' CAR. I don't think the boys are big college basketball fans.

As for oddsmakers setting the chances for teams to win it all next year, why no mention of The Vols? Some of the orange clan had them on such a trajectory this year, I'd have thought they'd be a shoo-in.

April 3, 2012 at 2:27 p.m.
chas9 said...

Polamalu and AD both have impressive hair follicles, just differently distributed.

April 3, 2012 at 2:30 p.m.
mcpell3 said...

For the Masters - Verplank, Mickleson, Choi, O'Meara, & Donald.

Congrats to KU, and I think I read that the SEC now has national championships in all 3 major men's sports.

April 3, 2012 at 3:42 p.m.
jgreeson said...

9er —

Each is gifted in hair — AD in the caterpillar on steroids above his eyes and Troy P with his flowing mane (kudos to the ad rep that hooked up Troy P and Head and Shoulders, by the way).

And to be fair, I was surprised the Vols didn't have odds listed compared to some of the others if for no other reason than these Vols are as known a quantity as college hoops can allow. Because if UK's six first-rounders leave and Shabazz Mama-Jama picks Duke, UK is going to be less stacked than normal. (And how UNC is that highly regarded is nuts, unless they have an obscene recruiting class coming in.)

McPell —

Great point and we were amiss to notice this earlier that the SEC now owns the men's title in...

Football — Alabama

Hoops — UK

Baseball — South Carolina

And Florida is currently No. 1 in track.

Giddy-up.

— 5-at-10

April 3, 2012 at 5:08 p.m.
dawg747 said...

5@ 10 put me down for: Mickelson, Stricker, Day, Mcllroy and Mahan

April 3, 2012 at 6:37 p.m.
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