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.
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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 ...