published Monday, March 5th, 2012

5 at 10: Elite 8, Bountygate and Golf's next chapter

Sweet buckets of sports info overflow, we went from digging for stuff to discuss to having a record-setting "This and That." The French call that "c'est la vie." (The 5-at-10 prefers to quote Rollin from "Hoosiers" — "Alright, say what you got to say.")

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



  • photo
    Kentucky's Anthony Davis, left, and Tennessee's Jarnell Stokes go after a loose ball during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Lexington, Ky., Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2012. Kentucky won 69-44. (AP Photo/James Crisp)
    Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Elite Eight (With projected seeds)

Before we get to the top eight teams in college basketball, let's first discuss one of the top eight 'stories' in college basketball. The Tennessee Vols have defied the odds with a steady dose of defense, enthusiasm, effort, energy and good-old-fashioned guts.

There is no doubt Kentucky is the best team in the SEC and the most talented team in the SEC. But to truly appreciate the efforts of first-year UT coach Cuonzo "The Conz" Martin, look at the Vols, who wrapped up the No. 2 seed for this week's SEC tourney by topping Vandy on Saturday, and ask yourself how many teams in the SEC would trade rosters with UT.

There are five quick 'No ways' — UK, Florida, Vandy, Mississippi State and Alabama

There are three quick, 'Gladlys' — South Carolina, Auburn, Georgia

There are three 'Hmmmms, maybe' — Arkansas, LSU Ole Miss

So 'The Conz' has delivered top-flight SEC results with a middle-of-the-road SEC roster. Well-played indeed.

On to the 5-at-10's best eight bets to win the whole thing:

1) Kentucky (No. 1 South) — The class of college basketball by far. And when mercurial forward Terrence Jones comes to play, this team looks better than any team in quite a while.

2) Syracuse (No. 1 East) — The Orange can beat anyone because they're elite defensively. If they start to rebound better — and get a draw that features a lot of tough-to-shoot venues like domes and stadiums, they're going to be an extremely tough out.

3) Kansas (No. 1 Midwest) — We're higher on Kansas than most. So be it. Unless they play UK, Thomas Robinson is the best player on the floor, and that counts for a lot in the tournament. Plus, this side of UT and Counzo Martin show, who has improved more since November than the Jayhawks?

4) UNC (No. 1 West) — Now that was impressive. UNC thumped Duke — in Cameron — and proved a point that they can be as good as anyone when they want to be. Sadly, we really don't know how bad the Tar Heels want it.

5) Michigan State (No. 2 Midwest) — Nice combination of the best player theory — Draymond Green is a player of the year candidate — and experience. Maybe they can get paired with UNC in a regional final for the stark contrast in perception: It's tough to image a way a team as talented as UNC could lose games, but it's tough to image a team as work-manlike as MSU being elite.

6) Missouri (No. 2 West) — Scariest No. 2 draw in the field because they can score against anyone, including most of the NBA's Eastern Conference.

7) Ohio State (No. 2 East) — Another elite/enigma dichotomy. At times they are right behind UK as the best offensive/defensive combo team in the country. At other times you wonder, Jared Sullinger came back for this?

8) Duke (No. 2 South) — The 5-at-10 feels a little like Michael Corleone in Godfather III in that once we started believing in Duke they lay a stinker like Saturday night. "Just when I thought we were out, they pull us back in."



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    New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees smiles on the sideline during an NFL football game against the Atlanta Falcons in New Orleans, Monday, Dec. 26, 2011. (AP Photo/Rusty Costanza)
    Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

An unwelcomed bounty

As stories continued to leak about the New Orleans Saints and their bounty system — and as the stories start to spread around football — there were a series of reactions.

Originally, there was a kind of muted puzzlement as people — fans, players, administrators, et al. — tried to comprehend the ramifications for a gladiator-style system that financially rewarded players for game-ending hits and potential injuries. Some players even took to the offensive this weekend talking about the violence of the game and how this was not that big of a deal.

Well, it is a violent game and it may not be that big of a deal to those on the field — although almost all of the folks who were downplaying the bounty system were defensive guys, who were the hunters rather than the huntees. But to dismiss this as part of the NFL culture is ridiculous. This can't be part of the culture of an $8 billion industry, especially when that industry is spending a sizable amount of time trying to find ways to make the game safer for its players, whether the players want it or not or realize they need it or not.

Certainly it's a fine line between living the defensive adage of taking the other team's best player out of the game and trying to knock the other team's best player out of the game. But that fine line is beyond blurred when there are financial rewards for potential injuries. Hey, want to pay a guy for knocking a ball out, great. But don't pay him a bonus for knocking teeth out.

(Hey if a girl wants to be easy, fine. If she wants to be easy and charge for it, she's a prostitute, and that's the difference.)

So as the NFL prepares to meet with New Orleans defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, who has admitted to his role in the bounty system, they'd be wise to read our ace columnist Mark Wiedmer's view here http://www.timesfreepress.com/news/2012/mar/05/for-the-good-of-the-nfl-goodell-needs-hit-the/#comments.

We'd bet that Williams will be out of the NFL for a while and that the Saints will be hit with some significant penalties. And repeat offenders of this — players and coaches — will face serious repercussions in the future. And if you think the NFL — which has erred on the other extreme including changing rules to the point that quarterbacks have to be tackled with kid gloves — is going to look the other way on something that could a) be negatively received; b) make the league look hypocritical or c) is going to put its star quarterbacks — the faces of franchises and of the league — in peril, you're nuts.



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    Rory McIlroy, of Northern Ireland, hits a shot on the range before a practice round for the PGA Championship golf tournament Wednesday at the Atlanta Athletic Club in Johns Creek, Ga.
    Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Golf's next chapter

That was an interesting final round to an normally forgettable PGA Tour event.

Now, we're not going as far to say it was golf's past against its present, but there was an extra vibe Sunday at the Honda Classic that made it more meaningful than a normal March event.

Here are the highlights:

— Amid all the noise and confusion, Rory McIlroy grabbed the top spot in the world by winning the event. In truth, McIlroy being the world's No. 1 is fitting. He feels like the best player in the world, right? Last year, as Lee Westwood and Luke Donald were sharing the title, it never felt that either was the best player as much as being ranked as the best player, and there's a difference. Rory has the look and the feel of the best golfer in the world.

— Tiger closes birdie-eagle to shoot 62 — his best final round in his PGA career, and he's had kind of a good PGA career. He moved into contention and posted a number and there was even some buzz around the course that could be felt. (And for there to be Tiger-generated buzz rather than falsely-generated buzz was fun to watch.)

— Our local connection — former Baylor School golfer Harris English — had a rough day. English, who was in the final group with McIlroy and just two shots off the lead after three rounds, carded a 77 Sunday. It was an obvious learning experience for a young player with a world of potential. It was the kind of growing pains that fulfill the pledge that you have to lose big before you can win big. And English will almost certainly win big. Dude has mad skills and handled himself well in disappointment. (And before you feel too badly for English, he made $79,800 for finishing tied for 18th, and has made a shade more than $225,000 so far this season. Read that again.)

— That said, there are a slew of names out there that are quite forgettable to even the hard-core golf nut. Even those folks who know the feel of a forged wedge would have a tough time picking Tom Gillis (tied for second this week), Dicky Pride (tied for seventh), Chris Stroud (tied for ninth) and Brian Harman (tied for 12th) out of the group picture.



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    Drivers who made NASCAR's Chase for the Sprint Cup championship pose for photos early Sunday, Sept. 11, 2011, in Richmond, Va. From left in front are Kevin Harvick, Carl Edwards, Ryan Newman, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Matt Kenseth and Denny Hamlin. From left at top are Tony Stewart, Brad Keselowski, Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch, Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon. (AP Photo/Clem Britt)

This and that

— In what could likely have been the most anti-climatic regular-season NASCAR race in recent memory, Denny Hamlin won at Phoenix on Sunday. Hey, this is not against Denny or the fine folks at Phoenix International Raceway, but after the season-opening craziness that was the Daytona 500, there was no way to match that unless somebody rammed the pit car (didn't happen), Dale Jr. won (he finished 14th) or Danica took the checkered (she didn't race, which means she also did not crash, which is a nice change of pace — here at the 5-at-10, we're all about being optimistic).

— There was a lot of excellence in the NBA on Sunday. Even if you didn't watch it, there was a lot of greatness. Check the numbers: Rajon Rondo responded to the trade rumors with his second triple-double in a week with 18 points, 20 assists and 17 rebounds in a win over New York. Read that again. Kobe dropped 33 on the Heat, and if you're wondering if the Lakers are a title contender, the answer is yes. Darren Williams scored 57 points for the Nets on Sunday. Yes, it was for the Nets, and scoring big numbers for the Nets is not unlike leading the Royals in homers, but 57 points is 57 points.

— Two quick points about the UT Lady Vols. First, if you did not read our ace columnist Mark Wiedmer's excellent story on Pat Summitt, you have our permission to click here http://www.timesfreepress.com/news/2012/mar/04/legendary-ut-basketball-coach-pat-summitt/ and check it out. Secondly, nice win for Summitt and Co. on Sunday in the SEC title game. The talent is there to win the whole thing, whether they can withstand the emotions and the energy and the stakes is anyone's guess, though.

— Congrats to the GPS Bruisers on their second consecutive TSSAA Division II girls' basketball state title. Well-done all around, and here's wishing McMinn Central similar good results as they take aim at their second consecutive Division I Class AA title this week in Murfreesboro.

— SEC scheduling ace David Paschall has the next chapter in the SEC scheduling saga here http://www.timesfreepress.com/news/2012/mar/05/rivalry-games-saved-sec-could-maintain-bama-ut/. If SEC football were high school, Paschall would be the leading candidate for hall monitor because no one knows more about the schedule than he does.



Today's question

Let's return to college basketball for today's question.

Let's take team A, and we'll call them the "Wols" just for fun. The Wols were picked in the preseason to finish next to last in their league, lost five of their top six scorers and entered the season with a first-year coach.

Now, let's take team B, and we'll call them the "Docs" for kicks. The Docs returned five senior starters and were picked to win their division. They experienced head coach had said for the better part of the last 12 months that this was the team he had been waiting for.

After four months of the ups and downs of college hoops — and for the record the Wols and the Docs played each other and the game was pretty tight throughout — the results could not have been more polarizing. The Wols sprinted to the finish line, winning eight of their last nine to finish second in their conference. The Docs imploded, losing 12 of their final 14 and bowing out in their conference tournament opener.

Now, we're not comparing the programs — the Wols have more resources than the Docs — or even the teams, since these teams could very well be fictional for all you know.

Our question is which is the bigger surprise, the Wols or the Docs? 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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BIspy4 said...

I think a little Spy may have told the 5 about four years ago that this curly-headed little Irish kid was about to be the next big thing in golf, no?

March 5, 2012 at 10:28 a.m.
jgreeson said...

Spy —

Maybe, but we thought you were talking about Colin Farrell.

— 5-at-10

March 5, 2012 at 11:42 a.m.
chas9 said...

Top Tenn Rankings, week 17:

Big Kentucky now has a gazillion straight wins, but little Belmont is now third nationally, with a win streak of 14 games. The Vols have won four straight, and Johnny Volsfan is giddy. In the Top Tenn rankings Belmont moves past MTSU (two straight losses) into #4. Red hot Tennessee and the rest stay pat.

Any orange-glasses-wearing fan who complains "Yeah, but The Vols just beat Vandy," consider these points: 1) Vandy's body of work is better; 2) The pretty smart folks at the NCAA selection committee will seed The 'Dores higher than The Vols; 3) Take away free throws and Tennessee would've lost; 4) On a neutral court Vanderbilt wins two-thirds of the time. And next time Stallings' stalwarts will play harder. You know this.

1) Vandy

2) The Vols

3) Memphis

4) Belmont

5) MTSU

6) TN State

7) TN Tech

8) ETSU

9) Lipscomb

10) Peay

March 5, 2012 at 11:54 a.m.
BIspy4 said...

Colin Farrell's already my age.

March 5, 2012 at 12:10 p.m.
chas9 said...

Is Teheran in a war zone? Or did it just feel like it Sunday?

March 5, 2012 at 12:50 p.m.
Stewwie said...

At first glance, the answer to your question looks like a push. However, I am going to go with the "Docs" as the bigger surprise.

The preseason pick for the Vols was more about uncertainty than it was perception of talent. This was virtually a fresh new team because of how many left from the year before. And a new coach comes in who may or may not need a lot of time to get his new team to succeed. Plus, nobody in the preseason knew Stokes would have ended up at UT. Would the Vols have still made these great strides to end the season if Stokes had gone elsewhere? I'm thinking no.

The Mocs finished the season last year in disappointing fashion. However, they were picked to end up first this year in their division simply because most of the main personnel was returning this year.

This was supposed to be a breakout year for Wattad...didn't happen. Taylor should have been able to pick up the slack when Wattad had a bad shooting night...usually didn't happen. Bell and Burroughs did ok although Bell's shot selection was questionable at times. Would Chris Early have made a difference if he had not tweeted his way out of the program? Probably not. He would have added a little bit more offense but it would have been offset by his sometimes lacksadaisical effort on the boards and on D.

The Socon appeared to be more balanced/competitive than last year so the games didn't get any easier. However, with senior leadership, and the plethora of close games there were this year, these Mocs should have been able to find a way to get the job done, especially at home. Shulman had these boys ready...they just needed to make one extra play or two in each game and things would have turned out differently.

March 5, 2012 at 12:57 p.m.
biff_loman said...

A play here or there and the "docs" would've had a 20 win season... /sarcasm

March 5, 2012 at 1:13 p.m.
jgreeson said...

9er —

We concur with your rankings — and your reasoning on having Vandy a spot over the Vols. Although if UT goes through the 'Dores to get to the SEC final, then we'd rank UT over them, NCAA slots be danged.

And not even William Shatner and Priceline give up more round-trippers than Teheran. Wow.

Spy —

Farrell's your age? No way, you're old.

Carolina Stew —

We feel the same about the fictional "Docs" being more of a surprise in that scenario. And you make a strong point that the preseason doubts about the "Wols" had as much to do about the unknown than anything.

And while there is more than enough blame to be shared by the entire "Docs" team, we don't believe for a New York second this entire "one or two plays argument" and things would have been different. And yes, UTC lost five-plus games by three points or fewer, but if the same thing happens once or twice (UTC losing close games, especially to inferior clubs) it could be a bad bounce or a play or two; if it happens several times, maybe it's a bad trend; when it happens as much as it did this year to UTC it becomes a trait. And that's not good.

Biff —

Yes, the sarcasm comes through quite clearly.

— 5-a-10

It sounds a lot like what Rodney Allison was preaching his final 18 months at UTC.

March 5, 2012 at 1:36 p.m.
fechancellor said...

"Dude has mad skills and handled himself well in disappointment. (And before you feel too badly for English, he made $79,800 for finishing tied for 18th, and has made a shade more than $225,000 so far this season. Read that again.)"

Kinda flattered you thought of the ol'chancellor as you know my interest in all things money on the PGA Tour.

$225,000 looks nice, however, take 10% off for the caddy, then living expenses on the road and money held in the state (depending on where you live) and federal tax accounts for quarterlies, and Ten Spot, you just surviving on tour. There will be some work deductions to help defray the tax bite.

Here's hoping Mr. English can step it up and shake off that Sunday 77. Is he in the field at Doral or going to Puerto Rico this week?

March 5, 2012 at 1:37 p.m.
BIspy4 said...

This whole bounty thing evokes Capt. Renault, who was shocked - shocked - to hear there was gambling at Rick's American Cafe. (Your winnings, captain).

March 5, 2012 at 1:40 p.m.
jgreeson said...

FE to the C —

Happy to oblige, and the numbers on today's Tour are staggering. (Do you know that Brian Gay has won more money playing golf than Tom Watson? Read that again.)

That said, and knowing the chunk of change it takes to survive on the Tour is substantial, let's not go all 1-percent on folks — $225,000 is still a nice chunk of coin, and if a 23-year-old single dude is just surviving on Tour with almost a quarter-mil in his first six tournaments, well, as they say in "Raising Arizona" — "Gub-ment do take a bite, don't she?"

Spy —

Well put, but the fact that Gregg Williams has made it part of his coaching culture at almost every stop does not bode well.

Is this that shocking? No it's not.

Is this going to be stopped and the violators punished to the extreme? We say yes because it's hard to tighten down on safety — and avoid lawsuits from former players — if there's a real-life bounty-for-injury system on record.

— 5-at-10

March 5, 2012 at 1:53 p.m.
chas9 said...

5 ball--I can't argue with your elite eight. Seems truer than ever that it's slimmest of odds the champ will be anybody outside this bunch. I even like your order, except I'd put Carolina above Kansas. I've been higher on Duke and lower on Kansas than you, but this weekend's games change that.

The Spartans-Buckeyes game was a little short of impressive. Early on I was prepared to declare Michigan State the hot new one seed, but they faded. Both teams are elite eight caliber, but foul trouble clouded my eight ball predictor. As I watched I couldn't help but think neither team's impressively talented big guys could do what Davis can do. But it'll be fun to see the match-ups, if they happen.

Don't tell my fellow Blueblood Club members I said so, but The Cuonz deserves to be co-coach of the year. COY would be his alone (maybe even nationally), but you can't ignore a #1 team, especially one as fun to watch as KY.

Yes, Draymond's strong. So's Creighton's big guy. It'll be fun to see what he can do against the top-major teams.

March 5, 2012 at 2:17 p.m.
tigerdawg said...

Although I agree that the bounty ordeal is a huge issue and creates loads of bad press for the league and the Saints, I don't think the reality of the situation is as bad as it is forced to be perceived. If the players really had this malicious intent as their main stake in the last few seasons of games, you would be seeing more obvious attempts at injuring players. You think about these things when you watch players like Suh and Fairley with completely unfair hits, but the Saints haven't had anything like that happen. The bounty program obviously has its reasons for looking terrible, but in reality it just motivated the players to go make plays. Whether there is money on it or not they are going to go out and get their licks on the quarterback. Hearing from the players makes it more and more obvious how many teams really have these programs and it obviously looks terrible but it is how it is.

March 5, 2012 at 10:37 p.m.
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