published Monday, February 27th, 2012

5 at 10: NASCAR, Elite 8 and the NFL Combine

Ricky Bobby Memorial Challenge (more on that below) and we still have a spot open for Friday's mailbag.

From the "Talk Too Much studios," let's go.



NASCAR

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    Crew members push cars into the garage after NASCAR postponed the Daytona 500 auto race in Daytona Beach, Fla., Sunday, Feb. 26, 2012, due to rain. The race has been rescheduled for Monday afternoon.
    Photo by (AP Photo by David Graham)

There are two qualities that everyone believes they have. Everyone believes they have a sense of humor and everyone thinks they hate to lose worse than anyone. (Side note: Until you can cite full-blown tantrums or not-speaking to your future-wife for almost an hour after losing a game of darts, don't mention the 'hate to lose' level to the 5-at-10. Hey, we're not proud about it, we're just sharing some background.)

OK, where were we. Ah yes, everyone thinks they're funny and super-competitive. And we're right there with everybody — we think we're funny and we hate to lose.

Now, after watching million-dollared cars parked on pit row at Daytona for hours on Sunday, we remember a feeling as passionate as the hatred of losing. Think back to your little league days. You're dressed in your 'Chico Bail Bonds' Bears uni. You've been looking forward to Saturday all week. You're ready and get to the ball park at 8:30 a.m. even though your team plays a 2 p.m. It's game day.

And then it starts raining. And there under the cover of the concession stand it starts to become apparent that the day is done. Stupid rain outs. (That's when we started telling jokes, but that's a snother story for another time.)

So NASCAR's Super Bowl was hit with a wave of water that washed away the entire day. Plus, there is a 95-percent chance of rain today for rescheduled start at noon. So it's likely that the first rain-out in Daytona 500 history will be followed with another postponement. And if NASCAR starts the season on Tuesday, with the next race in Phoenix on Sunday, well, there figures to be more than a few blood-shot eyes from the drivers and crew.

If there's a silver lining to these storm clouds, it's that you have until the start of the race to get in the Ricky Bobby (If you ain't first, you're last) Challenge. Send us who you think will finish first and 43rd in the Daytona 500 — whenever they run they dang thing.

Stupid rain outs.



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    Auburn defensive lineman Nick Fairley runs a drill during the NFL football scouting combine in Indianapolis, Monday, Feb. 28, 2011. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

Combine

The 5-at-10 loves the draft. You know this.

So, by association, you should know that the 5-at-10 is overly fond of the NFL combine, too.

And other than the unfortunate news of B.J. Coleman's injured pinky that forced him to skip a majority of the workouts, the first couple of days did not disappoint.

Everyone is talking about the physical merits of RG III, and Robert Griffin III's dazzling 4.41-second time in the 40-yard dash is stunning. That's flat-out moving — think of it this way, RG III is faster than Florida running back Chris Rainey, who was one of the fastest players in the SEC last year. And RG III is a quarterback. (RG III broke 4.4 in an unofficial timing, and Mike Vick is the only other quarterback to break the 4.4 barrier. Gang, that's world-class fast.)

Griffin's impressive display — he was also measured at a smidge under 6-foot-3, putting to rest questions about his height — made the Heisman winner a slam dunk at No. 2, and that greatly pleases the St. Louis Rams, who have the second pick. The Rams have Sam Bradford and a slew of needs, so RGIII showing out means they are going to demand a King's ransom for the second pick and Washington or Cleveland figure to be duking it out to pay it.

But, there's no way RGIII hops Andrew Luck, who ran a somewhat shocking 4.67 in the 40 and had a longer broad jump than Cam Newton.

A few other combine views:

— Georgia Tech receiver Stephen Hill made himself some serious money with a 4.36 40 on Sunday. Hill is a shade taller than 6-4- and weighs 208 pounds, and this draft is flush with teams looking for wide receivers. There's no way Hill makes it past the second round and he could be a late first-round pick after that eye-popping 40 time.

— Miami running back Lamar Miller more than likely moved into the back end of the first round with a 4.4 40 time, the fastest among the running backs.

— Highly regarded receivers Justin Blackmon and Alshon Jeffery did not run the 40, choosing to wait until their pro days at their schools in the coming weeks. Blackmon is recovering from a hamstring injury; Jeffery is recovering from swallowing a lot of aggression, along with a lot of pizzas.

— Despite being slowed by injuries, former Red Bank High Tim Benford and Coleman appeared to be pleased with their limited showings at the combine. As our UTC football ace John Frierson writes here, (Chattanooga duo upbeat on NFL combine experience).



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    Tennessee head coach Pat Summitt, center, confers with her staff in the first half of an NCAA basketball game against Vanderbilt on Thursday, Feb. 9, 2012, in Nashville, Tenn. From left are associate head coach Holly Warlick, Summitt, and assistant coach Dean Lockwood.
    Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Elite Eight

Before we move on to our weekly view at the eight teams that can win the whole thing, we'd be remiss if we didn't praise TFP ace columnist Mark Wiedmer's take on Pat Summitt here (Wiedmer: If only Pat Summitt could coach forever). Awesome in its awesomeness.

Anyhoo, we have been pleased with this college basketball season in large part because there appeared to be several teams that could make legit runs, and almost all of those teams were the usual suspects from power programs.

Now, after 25-plus games, some of the power programs are showing flaws, and heading into the final week of the regular season for most teams and the conference tournament for others, there seems to be fewer favorites and more questions.

1) Kentucky — We'll have them here until their season is over — and we'll either be right or be shocked. Sweet buckets of NBA potential, Anthony Davis went for 28 points in Saturday's win over Vandy, and is the front-runner for player of the year honors. (Side note: A-Davis leads the country in blocks with 4.8 per game, and he has impressively kept more than 100 of those blocked shots in bounds. Dude is awesome — and he's a freshman.)

2) Syracuse — The Orange's record is impressive, but here's where the cracks start. Syracuse is being our-rebounded by more than four boards per game. Read that again.

3) Michigan State — Draymond Green has had a great season and personifies a "point forward." Is there a more underrated coach than Tom Izzo, who may be the best in the country but seems to get overlooked every year.

4) Kansas — We've been high on them all year — maybe too high — but coming back from 19 down to beat Missouri on Saturday was awesome in its awesomeness. If A-Davis is not the player of the year, KU hoss Thomas Robinson is.

5) UNC — Dynamite in the post and on the break, the Heels can score. Can they defend well enough to win it all? We'll learn a lot about UNC and its mettle this week when they go to Duke.

6) Duke — We have been down on the Devils, saying that they did not have enough athletes to win tight games and were too reliant on 3-point shooting. Well, freshman point guard Austin Rivers has really developed into a playmaker and is creating shots for himself and his teammates. As he continues to get better, the Devils will get more dangerous.

7) Missouri — Marcus Denmon is the best player you don't know, and if the 5-at-10 has another "Kemba Walker Memorial — who scores the most points in the tournament challenge," remember Denmon's name. Please.

8) Ohio State — The Buckeyes are tough as nails defensively, but multiple close losses at home has to be cause for concern for what likely will be the nastiest No. 2 seed in the draw.



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    Los Angeles Lakers' Kobe Bryant celebrates after making a three-point basket against the San Antonio Spurs during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Los Angeles, Tuesday, April 12, 2011. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

This and that

— Lofty level of all-star game defense, there was a flagrant-looking foul that resulted in Kobe Bryant's broken nose in Sunday's NBA All-Star game. That left two thoughts: 1) There was more physical contact in the NBA all-star affair than the NFL all-star game; 2) We are about to embark on a glorious stretch of NBA basketball because there is a heightened level of competitiveness. Sure the AAU-nature of players moving and positioning themselves to have the best chance to win will leave only eight-to-10 teams with a legit chance to win the whole thing, but that inner circle of title-worthy teams is going to flat-out fight for it.

— On the All-Star game: The dunk contest is broken. We had a great question in Friday's mailbag about it, and we we can fondly remember looking forward to the dunk contest. This morning, we're not even sure who won the thing. And we're absolutely sure that there were more impressive dunks in the actual All-Star game than the dunk contest. Until the big names get in the dunk contest again — hey, MJ was a regular contestant, and no one is bigger than MJ — the dunk contest will be a waste of time.

— In fact, if Charles Barkley had not been involved, the majority of the NBA All-Star weekend would have had the excitement of an insurance seminar.

— One of the ESPN baseball gurus tweeted over the weekend that this past Saturday was the last baseball-free Saturday until November. Wow.

— New Boston Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine banned beer from the clubhouse after last year's debacle in which pitchers were sneaking into clubhouse and kicking back a couple of cold ones. (There were even claims that the players — starting pitchers that were not playing those days — were bringing it in the dugout.) Our first thought was "Hey, have you been to a ball game lately? Those things move pretty slow, and a cold Bud Light can make any event seem a little smoother." We're kidding of course. The beer ban may seem a little harsh, but in truth it was the only move for the new regime in Boston. It may be a little extreme, but those players abused the privileges and their teammates didn't stop it.

— Hey, hey, hey... spring football is starting. UTC gets going today, and our Mocs football ace John Frierson lays down the five pressing issues for Russ Huesman and Co. here (UTC Mocs facing change in spring practice).



Today's question

We've spent a little time making fun of announcers. And in truth, in most cases they deserve it.

Either they are pandering or pompous, simple or silly, basically bad or badly basic. So it goes, and in truth we have more sympathy for them than most, since sports announcing is one of those jobs that when it's done right, everyone thinks they can do it and it does not appear like more than "watching games and talking about it." We can empathize with that notion.

So let's look for the positive.

Who's your favorite sports announcer/analyst/play-by-play guy working today?

Here's our Rushmore of sports announcers out there: Charles Barkley, Al Michaels, Vin Scully and Bill Raferty.

Discuss.

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.
Blueoval said...

Edwards 1st Tony Raines 43rd

February 27, 2012 at 10:21 a.m.
chas9 said...

5 ball--It's crunch time, so time for a serious discussion of your elite eight. You and I and most everyone agrees that the top three to fear are KY, The 'Cuse, and Michigan State. After that it's tricky. I'll put Duke next. A while now I've been telling The Show to raise them, and I see you're coming around. K can coach players up, and they always play team ball.

I'll put NC and The Buckeye ballers next, though I think their chances are much less than the first four. My seven and eight are Missouri and Kansas, in that order.

You are correct that Kansas showed us something in coming back strong. That's the only reason they make my top eight. When a visiting team takes The Jayhawks to overtime in Jayhawk Arena, that team is better than the 'hawks. And Missouri passes the eye test. I probably should put Wichita State in there, because they could Shock some teams.

February 27, 2012 at 11:28 a.m.
chas9 said...

Wow! Weeds has written a prize-deserving column. Great line about Aretha's R-E-S-P-E-C-T, and a moving observation about the eyes.

Also an important point about what Pat and Tennessee ball has meant to the women's game.

And for only the second time ever, the men's and women's regular SEC season crown belong to the same school.

February 27, 2012 at 11:58 a.m.
BIspy4 said...

Didn't see either the All Star Game or the Oscars. I don't feel as if I missed a darn thing.

Stephen Hill has great speed, great leaping ability (triple jumper in high school) and size. But he can't catch a simple out route. If he has to outjump two defenders and make an over the shoulder grab, that one he comes down with. It's when he's wide open that he can't hang on to the ball. Go figure.

Ryan Braun's testosterone apparently came back from that mishandled drug test with exorbitant amounts. Simple explanation. He had Floyd Landis over for drinks one night and they got into Floyd's special bottle of Mr. Jack.

February 27, 2012 at 12:15 p.m.
fechancellor said...

Fine job by your David Paschall digging into the scheduling options of the new 14 team SEC. Who can imagine an SEC where Georgia and Auburn do not meet every year? Same goes for the yearly Tennessee/Alabama grudge match.

There's no Mount Rushmore or even a Mount Aetna rankings here, but I do believe the work of Jim Nance and Sir Nick Faldo is of particular merit.

February 27, 2012 at 12:26 p.m.
jgreeson said...

Oval —

You're in and we'll post an updated sheet before we leave the TFP compound.

9er —

It is crunch time, and you and the 5-at-10 have opposite views of Duke and Kansas (although we're starting to come around on Duke a little but — Doc's kid can play).

And we see what you did there with Wichita State — well-played indeed.

And we agree with every word you wrote about Weeds and his story about Pat.

Spy —

You're more than likely right, but the lady that won the Supporting Actress Oscar went to Auburn and apparently she entered the Press Room after the ceremony and delivered a "War Eagle." And if you think the 5-at-10 has a new favorite actress, you;d be right.

And Stephen Hill, the wide receiver with 4.36 speed at 6-foot-4, is about to pass Stephen Hill, actor of Adam Schiff from "Law&Order" fame, as the most famous Stephen Hill.

Ryan Braun's simple explanation could be...

a) Landis and his special "Gentleman Jack"

b) Went to Chili's with Lance Armstrong and well, you know

c) Call his team's owner, who happens to be blood kin to the baseball commissioner

d) Got the one doctor who was absent the day they taught medicine at medical school. Yes, he may have been tested by Dr. Nick from "The Simpsons." — "Hi everybody."

FE to the C —

Paschall's story was money, which is not surprising since Paschall is money.

Like Faldo. Less than enthused about Nantz, but so it goes.

— 5-at-10

February 27, 2012 at 1:03 p.m.
Stewwie said...

[The dunk contest is broken.]

The dunks themselves have gotten more creative over the years and some are still just as jaw-dropping. This year's winner caught two balls on the hop and dunked one after another. Pretty cool stuff. You are right though, there would be more hype to the contest if LeBron (or any other superstar) actually entered the event instead of simply talking about it.

[Sure the AAU-nature of players moving and positioning themselves to have the best chance to win will leave only eight-to-10 teams with a legit chance to win the whole thing, but that inner circle of title-worthy teams is going to flat-out fight for it.]

8 to 10 teams?? If this were true, that'd be amazing. However, the reality is, there are closer to only 4 or 5 teams each year that have a realistic shot at the title at this point in the season. For this season, I see either the Bulls, Heat, Thunder, or Spurs going all the way. Maybe put the Mavs and Clippers on the bubble.

For announcers, I believe the most underrated guy is Kevin Harlan. He does a great play-by-play for both football and basketball.

In regard to Pasqualli's article yesterday about the SEC football divisions, I believe there is a relatively simple fix to protecting the old rivalry games. Put all of the "old rivalry" teams in one division and the others in the other division. If so, the divisions could look like this...

"Old Rivals" Division: Georgia, Florida, Bama, Auburn, Tennessee, South Carolina, Vanderbilt

"Others" Division: Ole Miss, Miss. St., Missouri, TX A&M, LSU, Arkansas, Kentucky

What do you think, Jay? Surely an option like this is being considered. However, it was not mentioned in the article.

February 27, 2012 at 1:08 p.m.
jgreeson said...

Stewwie and the Blowfish —

The other point about no names in the dunk contest is it feels as much "Globetrotter" circus stuff than actual dunk contest. And to be fair, the 5-at-10 has romanticized the dunk contest to the point of those childhood memories that can't possibly live up to the "Good Ole Days."

OK 10 is high. But we think the six you listed and add the Magic (as long as they don't trade D-Howard) and the Lakers, too.

Kevin Harlan is good. Kevin Nealon is not. Eli Gold is good. Tracy Gold is not.

There some rational to your SEC split, but it's tough. That makes the Old Division a gauntlet and the Others Division a question of who can be LSU.

— 5-at-10

February 27, 2012 at 1:24 p.m.
chas9 said...

Top Tenn Rankings, week 16:

The Top Tenn rankings business has been pretty blah all season, and as the Big Dance excitement builds elsewhere, Tennessee roundball seems particularly worthless.

Belmont continues to roll with ten straight wins now, but it's hard to see them making much of a splash in the NCAA's. Memphis looks like a one and out. Maybe two.

1) Vandy

2) The Vols

3) Memphis

4) MTSU

5) Belmont

6) TN State

7) TN Tech

8) ETSU

9) Lipscomb

10) Peay

February 27, 2012 at 2:08 p.m.
chas9 said...

Stewie and the Blowfish (well played, Jay)-- Swap KY and SC. Surely the Kentucky-Tennessee rivalry is stronger than SC and whoever. Or whomever.

February 27, 2012 at 2:12 p.m.
Stewwie said...

[That makes the Old Division a gauntlet...]

Long-term, I think it would all eventually balance out. However, good point, Chas. Moving SC to the other division would keep the TN-KY matchup intact and also help a little with the competitive balance early on. However, when Spurrier quits, SC will slip back into mediocrity. Either way, TN-FL-GA-AUB-ALA should be put in the same division.

--Darius Rucker

February 27, 2012 at 2:40 p.m.
BIspy4 said...

Kevin Harlan on the radio is godawful. I mean but godawful. Like a ballpeen hammer to the eardrum awful. And he ain't real good on TV either. Absolutely one of my most hated broadcasters (right down there with everybody's hero Gus and I ain't talking about no kicking mule).

February 27, 2012 at 4:43 p.m.
jgreeson said...

Stew you believe in love —

There are some merits to the idea (although South Carolina's travel budget would be through the roof).

Spy —

Who spilled V8 in your cornflakes?

And why does it have to be so negative? We asked for your favorites, and you just keep bagging on folks. You should like a journalist.

— 5-at-10

February 27, 2012 at 4:46 p.m.
BIspy4 said...

Because there's so much more bad than there is good. It's hard to put anyone else on the established Rushmore because, frankly, ain't no one else really all that swuft.

I won't watch/listen to a game just because a certain announcer is working it. But I dang sure will turn it off if the announcer gets on my nerves.

There are some understated pros out there - Dan Shulman and Dave O'Brien come to mind. Mike Patrick used to be pretty good. But since the Britney episode in overtime, he's been ... exposed?

I do like Faldo and Feherty on golf. Faldo may be a train wreck as a person but he's solid on the air. Jimmy Dykes is pretty good at college hoops, as is Jay Bilas, and Rece Davis and Chris Fowler might be as good as anyone the MotherShip has at anchoring.

February 27, 2012 at 6:02 p.m.
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