published Tuesday, January 22nd, 2013

5-at-10: Senior Bowl update, college hoops and recruiting news

Now that we have 1.5 meaningful football games left — the Super Bowl of course, and this weekend's Senior Bowl counts as half (the Pro Bowl is dead to us) — we're faced with the divergent sports road. Do we:

a) Catch up on basketball

b) Pour ourselves into recruiting news and draft prep

c) Re-introduce ourselves to the family... "How's your mama and 'em?"

d) Lay in the corner, sadly moaning about when spring practice starts and late July report dates

e) All of the above

From the "Talks too much" studios, let's embrace all of the above.

College hoops catch up

We have passed the halfway point of college hoops, both in a numbers sense and in an unofficial capacity, with MLK day in the rearview.

Friend of the show StuckinKent, who is a numbers-crunching hoops hound, sent along his view on the hoop season to date. Here's the jist:

I pick six teams every year on MLK Day and predict that the national champion will come from one of those six teams. I've nailed it every year I've done (last seven years now), and normally nail at least three of the Final Four teams.

So here are my six teams for this year: Florida, Louisville, Indiana, Duke, Gonzaga, and Michigan State. Michigan, Syracuse, Minnesota, Kansas, VCU, and Butler all nearly stole Michigan State's spot, but the fact is that the Spartans have impressed me some and they almost always get better as the year goes on rather than worse.

His six have merit of course. Let's give a quick-six recap of the teams we have a vested interest in (either by choice, by job or by seasonal preference because we like the cut of their jib; we're not saying these are the teams we think will make the tournament or win the tournament, these are the teams we're keeping an eye on from now until the conference tournaments):

1) UT (9-7): As Charlotte's Webb pointed out last week, the massive struggles of Trae Golden have limited the Vols as much as Jeronne Maymon's season-ending injury. A season of much promise stands at a crossroad heading into Thursday's trip to No. 23-ranked Ole Miss, which put a beatdown on the Vols in Knoxville two weeks ago. With a manageable schedule on the horizon, UT needs a win Thursday and to go no worse than 7-1 in its next eight before Kentucky comes calling on Feb. 16.

2) UTC (8-11): If last year's team underwhelmed, it's fair to say this team has simply whelmed. It has struggled with consistency and execution — hallmarks of a young team — but it has not struggled with effort (something that plagued last year's dysfunctional bunch of talented, shoot-first, defend-last individuals). And while the results may not be up to the expected levels of the experienced and proud fan base, the energy and attention and attitude of these Mocs make them as fun as any UTC team in recent years.

3) Auburn (8-9): Hey, the crowd at the Kentucky game looked impressive and energetic, and like most Auburn fans, we believe if that show of spirit and excitement helped sway a football recruit or three, then the season was a success.

4) Michigan (17-1): The first of our three wildcard picks to make a March march. We love the experience of this team. We love the fact that the old-school claim of "Our dad can whip your dad" is pretty stout considering the Wolverines' pops 3-on-3 team features Tim Hardaway and Glenn "Big Dog" Robinson. We love point guard Trey Burke, who is playing at an All-American level with 18 points and 7.2 assists per game, and we all know the value of a point guard in the postseason. We love how efficient this bunch is, shooting 51 percent from the field. We love their balance, with four guys averaging more than 12 points per game. Seems solid right? We loathe their depth, considering only six Wolverines average 15 minutes per game, so an injury could be doubly painful or ill-timed foul trouble in March could be the death blow.

5) Louisville (16-2): An experienced bunch that went to the Final Four last year, here's why we're pick-sixing the Cardinals: If you think about Rick Pitino's approach, it's very Nick Saban-like in this regard — assemble a truckload of talent and send it in waves at the opponent. Louisville's offensive hiccups (it shoots 45 percent as a team and can become stagnant on the half-court) are reason to pause, but this team is still as deep and athletic as any in the country.

6) Butler (16-2): We almost went Creighton because of its Alpha Dog. We almost went Florida because it is so talented (but let's be honest, we have a hard time pulling for the Gators in almost anything, especially after that Sugar Bowl nap they tossed out this year). We almost went Duke because our Pop loves the Devils so much. We almost went Oregon because we believe it is a program on the rise and will be in the Final Four in three years. But Butler had us at hello Saturday, live from Hinkle. And to beat a top-10 foe without their best player? More please. (Side note: Bill Simmons, also known as the Sports Guy on ESPN.com, is a true original in online sports writing. One of his many schticks was the Reggie Cleveland All-Stars, named for a former big league baseball player who was white despite the preconceptions his name may generate. This is pertinent because Butler's best player is Rotnie Clark, who is a definite starter on the Reggie Cleveland All-Stars.

————

Recruiting update

We've had a slew of good high school football players come through the Tri-State area in our decade-plus tenure in the 423.

We have not had a lot of "great" players in the eyes of the recruiting services, however.

Ridgeland's Vonn Bell certainly quailifies. As our prep ace Stephen Hargis tells us here, Bell attracted a slew of Tennessee coaches — head coach Butch Jones and the entire Vols defensive staff —to the Bell home on Monday's recruiting visit.

It was a late-round haymaker, swung from the floor as Jones and the Vols try to make up ground for Bell, the newly minted five-star prospect who grew up a UT fan but felt disconnected to the previous UT staff.

As Hargis tells us in the story above, Bell is one of three five-star prospects from our area in Rivals' history, joining Gerald Riggs and Da'Rick Rogers. (Side note: Hopeful UT fans will surely notice where Riggs and Rogers signed.)

Bell is as talented a football prospect as we can remember and is the best high school defensive back prospect we've watched since Paul Oliver at Harrison High School in Cobb County a previous newspaper life.

We think Bell could be a linchpin and a huge recruiting victory — HUGE — if Jones can rebuild Bell's original passion for UT and swing the tide from the Crimson Tide and THE Ohio State.

That said, we believe the massive hole left by Saban's success and Dooley's recruiting plan of indifference mean Bell is almost assuredly headed to Alabama — likely every other blue-chipper on the face of the free world.

(And as Clay Travis noted Monday at his entertaining site outkickthecoverage.com, Alabama's star-loaded class is just the tip of the SEC recruiting iceberg. According to Rivals.com, Auburn has the 19th ranked recruiting class in the country, which is pretty impressive considering the turmoil and turnover on the Plains in the last four months. Well, 19th in the country is only could enough for ninth in the SEC. Yes, of Rivals' top 21 recruiting classes in the nation, there are 10 SEC teams — Florida's 1, Alabama's 3, LSU's 5, Texas A&M's 8, Georgia's 9, Ole Miss's 10, Vandy is 17, Auburn's 19 and Miss. State's 21 — 10 teams from every other conference on God's green Earth and one independent.)

————

Senior Bowl update

We love the draft. You know this.

So when some of the better college football players converge in Mobile hoping to impress NFL scouts, well, we're in.

Here's some of the things that caught our eye out of Mobile as the teams prepare for Saturday's game between North and South.

— Tennessee tight end Mychal Rivera is impressing scouts. Which means there's a real chance that five UT offensive players will be drafted from a team that could not qualify for a bowl game.

— Georgia will have a slew of folks drafted, and several of them are not even risking hurting their stock at the Senior Bowl. Two guys that are taking advantage of the time there are receiver Tavarres King and defensive end Cornelius Washington.

— The three quarterbacks on the South team — Landry Jones, E.J. Manuel and Tyler Wilson — really could help their standing, especially considering the vacuum atop this quarterback draft class.

— How much has the college football pendulum swung to the South? The North team features players from Florida International, Texas and North Carolina in an effort to balance the roster. Never mind the North locale of Los Angeles with USC and UCLA players on the North. And that's without several of the SEC guys underclassmen such as Jarvis Jones, Luke Joeckel, Damontre Moore, Dee Milliner and the LSU defensive linemen who figure to be in the top 12-to-15 picks.

————

This and that

— We're committed to sharing odd propositional bets that are part of the Super Bowl's appeal in the eyes of Vegas. We know the 49ers are a 4.5-point favorite and the total of 49. Here are the early odds for MVP (and the number in parenthesis is the payout on a $100 bet): Ravens — Joe Flacco (+200), Ray Lewis (+1000), Ray Rice (+1000), Anquan Boldin (+1500), Torrey Smith (+1500); 49ers — Colin Kaepernick (+140), Frank Gore (+600), Michael Crabtree (+1000), NaVorro Bowman (+2500), Vernon Davis (+2500). Understandably the quarterbacks are the heavy favorites, but wow, those are likable odds on Ray Lewis because of the sentimental appeal and Vernon Davis because of his athletic mismatch against most defenses.

— For the most part, we try to leave politics to the kid's table of discontent that is Clay Bennett's realm. That said, this is funny. Bill Clinton offering a fairly impressed review of Kelly Clarkson's "performance" at the Inauguration. And if Bill was that impressed with Clarkson's "talents" here's saying he likely had to have his heart restarted when Beyonce took the stage. How you doin'?

—Apparently a New Jersey woman was arrested for a DUI after crashing her car into a wall. She was wearing only an unzipped jacket. Somewhere, Randy Travis is shaking his head and saying, "Rookies."

— Part of our childhood went chapter 11 when news that Atari filed bankruptcy. Sad news indeed considering the Atari folks were the forefathers of the gaming world.

————

Today's question

As always feel free to discuss an array of topics above. If you need a starting point, we're kicking around a new contest. Interested? We knew you might be.

We're less than two months from March 17 — selection Sunday for this year's NCAA tournament.

Without accounting for brackets or barn-storming or brain-bending over analysis, who you got in your Final Four as of this morning?

Share, who knows, there may be a contest in this in the end. Let's have all submissions by the end of the week. Deal? Deal.

Who you got in the impossibly too early x two months = Final Four contest?

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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chas9 said...

Hinkle is quite a scene, but I can't put any chips on the likes of Butler or Gonzaga, if it's for real. So I'd suggest that Stuckey swap The Orangemen for The Zags.

Yesterday's conversation was so outstanding, I can't let it go.

Addendum to yesterday's sibling query: a couple of the Bowden boys trio have from time to time coached on the same staff as have a couple of the Stoops quad brothers.

Addendum to Spy--Your point about Havlicek's hustle winning hearts is valid. Much as I like my boy Rondo, I'd have to take Hondo over him. They're brothers, aren't they?

Addendum to Jay--I don't think Vick had won enough hearts even before the dogs got out to be Mr. Falcon. Gotta be Nobis, the first Falcon ever. He had 294 tackles his first year. You read that right.

Addendum to JMC--Surely Mr. Landry is Mr. Boy. Unless you're too young to remember him. What about Roger?

January 22, 2013 at 10:32 a.m.
ordinaryguy said...

While we anxiously await the Bell decision (strike up Metallica "For Whom The Bell Tolls"...lets pause and reflect just what is going on at Ridgeland...They have put more players in BIG TIME BCS schools than any other in the area, from Mason Harris at South Carolina, Devan Bowman at Georgia, and let us not forget the first Nigel Nicholas at Oklahoma State, who just played in the Raycom Stars and Stripes Game (formerly the Blue/Gray)and has been invited to the NFL Combine...he was the first in the line of Ridgeland recruits..

January 22, 2013 at 10:43 a.m.
chas9 said...

Good idea for Mr. Butch to ring up Mr. Bell. I second OG's notion that The Panthers have developed into a powerhouse program. And the one player on that list whom I had a little contact with seemed like a really solid person. Don't expect any fantasy girlfriends.

January 22, 2013 at 11:10 a.m.
najones75 said...

Please, for the love of God, fire Coach (?) Shulman, UTC. How many more years are you going to allow this once proud program to fester in mediocrity...and that's being quite generous.

January 22, 2013 at 11:26 a.m.
JonathanMCook said...

Quoting from the Book of Greeson. And thou said "If last year's team underwhelmed, it's fair to say this team has simply whelmed...while the results may not be up to the expected levels of the experienced and proud fan base, the energy and attention and attitude of these Mocs make them as fun as any UTC team in recent years."

I wish to offer the devil's counterpoint on this. Is UTC's team better than last year's? Yes. Do they have an experienced and proud fan base? Nope. Other than the women's program, you will be hard pressed to find any reason for anyone to watch Mocs basketball nowadays. And I'm being polite (when compared to my "discussion" with Quake on-air on SportTalk back in December of 2011 which was slightly heated).

It's not just the team performance as much as it is the other "distractions" we have nowadays that are too many to list. I'm loyal to UTC, but UTC is not Syracuse, Indiana, Purdue, or Louisville. Whoever takes over in the post-Shulman era more than has his work cut out for him.

January 22, 2013 at 11:26 a.m.
mcpell3 said...

My way too early Final 4 - NCSU, Florida, Butler, and Syracuse.

Chas/JMC - I think Mr Cowboy is a Roger Staubach/Tom Landry combo. If Emmett Smith had not gone to the Cards, he would be in there too.

January 22, 2013 at 11:42 a.m.
chas9 said...

Playing Stuckey's game, I got Duke, Louisville, Syracuse, Florida, Indiana, Kansas. I had to swallow hard taking KU over UK, but because The Cats can't hit free throws and have a short bench, they'll only make the elite eight. Izzo's teams always scrap, but they don't score enough points.The Wolfpack may get there, but their defense is suspect. I'll pick my final four by the Friday deadline.

At this juncture, the polls over-rate Wichita State and under-rate Pitt and Kentucky. MTSU got more votes in the polls than UK. That's nutso.

January 22, 2013 at 11:52 a.m.
JonathanMCook said...

Chase-

Tom Landry would definitely qualify as Mr. Cowboy. I had the privilage of attending the Tom Landry exhibit during the 2011 Texas State Fair. I was alive at the tail end of his active coaching career but still in the single digits. I didn't really start following pro-football until jr high/high school. And even then I was not a fan of the Cowboys (or Buffelo) because it seemed they played the Super Bowl every year.

Moving on. I learned how after being an assistant coach with the New York Giants, he literally build the program from the ground up a-la Georgia Southern circa 1982. First four seasons were worse than the modern team today. By season four, fans literally wanted Laudry's head on a spit. After season four was a "draw", that's when the momentum began to switch.

I've met older fans (one of them a co-worker) who grew up on the 'Boys and dispise Jerry Jones more than they do the devil and refuse to watch, root, etc. until Jones goes the way of JR Ewing or sales the team.

Even if you are not a Cowboys fan, the exhibit was very interesting to say the least.

January 22, 2013 at 11:57 a.m.
fechancellor said...

1O Ring, if Clarkson had sung the Clinton theme song "Don't Stop Dreaming About Tomorrow," the former president would for sure have left the Inaugural on a gurney.

January 22, 2013 at 12:39 p.m.
jgreeson said...

Good debate gang. And we can call agree that Landry is the head that wears the Cowboys hat.

OG —

No doubt Ridgeland is doing work right now. Flat work.

And the string of prospects rolling out of Happy Valley right now is straight gangster mac, sometimes it gets ridiculous. (Sorry, the fact that Humpty is following us on the twitter is making some spit lyrics.)

9er — Like the Kansas inclusion, and gave them serious attention this morning. Alas, went without Rock, Chalk, Jayhawk because we needed them to win the title game last year (our 5-year-old's sheet would have claimed the TFP office pool — entertainment purposes only — if Kansas had won).

And we like Duke, but believe they will struggle against a — wait for it — more athletic back court in Round 2 or 3.

JMC —

Attendance may be down and apathy may be high, but that does not mean the UTC fan base is not knowledgeable and with great expectations.

najones75 —

How are things? Hope all is well.

There's no way we can see an interim AD would drop the hammer on Shulman. It will be interesting to see how this plays out if/when the new AD is named.

And after last year, mediocrity is more than generous.

McPell —

You're in. We like this contest. Bring it, and the winner will get some Masters gear. Deal? Deal.

FE to the C —

If she had delivered the Clinton theme song, his ears would have popped like his eyes and his... wait a second, this is a family-oriented, interweb-based sports column.

January 22, 2013 at 1:10 p.m.
JonathanMCook said...

"Attendance may be down and apathy may be high, but that does not mean the UTC fan base is not knowledgeable and with great expectations."

If they are, they are by far THE #1 silent majority in the country. More silent than the pro-est of pro-choice folks in the Chattanooga. More silent than Silent Bob himself in a Kevin Smith movie. Probably not a fair choice of words but given some of the more "vocal" online letters to the editor on this and other Chattanooga-based online publications, it is really hard to imagine. But I'll take your word for it and leave it at that ;)

January 22, 2013 at 1:36 p.m.
JonathanMCook said...

Forgot about Atari (first at-home model was the well-played 5200 at our house). So I guess along with the conclusion of the company it will take with it to the business grave any knowledge surrounding a certain "mass burial" in the New Mexico desert.*

*You will get this or you won't people. No gray.

January 22, 2013 at 1:50 p.m.
Stewwie said...

If Slick Willie Clinton had said that he wasn't checking her out, we'd all believe him, right? Anybody else think that Kelly Clarkson looks a little bit like Monica?

JMC, I am a fan of yours, but I have to disagree with your statement about Mocs b-ball. I agree with the last sentence Jay wrote about the Mocs in today's post. There will be some growing pains with this young team, but the attitude and effort with this squad is noticeably much more improved over last year.

I don't think it's far-fetched to say that this team could get a bye in the conference tourney this year. That's not the end-goal, obviously, but it would be a huge step up over last year's performance and it would certainly exceed my expectations for this team this year. All with a starter out and a 6th man who may or may not be able to play the rest of the season.

As for Shulman's future, I agree with Jay that the hammer won't fall (if at all) until at least a new AD is named. And that could be a while since the university tends to drag its feet on a lot of things. My understanding is that the chancellor position will be filled first, then the AD.

January 22, 2013 at 2:27 p.m.
WilliamRscott said...

For the record, I want Shulman to coach the 2013-14 season [the last year of his contract]. At that point, Bruce Pearl will be out of "show-cause" jail. Once a chancellor is hired, he/she will have to hire vice-chancellors for [in order] academics, development, and athletics. A new men's basketball coach is not a priority for a while. Thanks + Go Mocs ! - Billy in Brainerd

January 22, 2013 at 2:41 p.m.
jgreeson said...

JMC —

Brought your zingers today. Well-played indeed.

If we're drafting gray, who's your top five:

Jennifer Grey, Jerry Gray, Gray Poupon, Grey Goose, and gray-V?

Discuss.

Stewwie —

There certainly does not feel to be any urgency about filling those gigs, which may be a testament to the job Laura's doing as the interim or the fact that there simply is no urgency on the hill. Either way is a bonus for the current staff.

Here's saying if Slick Willie had 5 minutes to drop his world-class game on Ms. Clarkson, well, there may be a new verse to "Catch My Breath."

Side note:

Uch's Too x Two = Final Four picks are Indiana, Kansas, Syracuse and Michigan.

— 5-at-10

January 22, 2013 at 2:47 p.m.
jgreeson said...

BillyinBrainerd —

We can make a hard argument about how Bruce Pearl could be a shrewd hire for any mid-major, even if he's in NCAA timeout. Look at what Western Kentucky did with Petrino, signing him to a multiple year deal at a cut-rate price with a big buyout for the first couple of years.

Bring in a hot shot like Pearl for a few years, build up the momentum and the talent base and the exposure, and get a couple of years of fun while hitting the reset button.

Who you got in the early Final Four?

January 22, 2013 at 2:50 p.m.
LaughingBoy said...

The Exodus of talent to Ridgeland from other schools takes away from the football team's achievements, IMO. Von Bell would have been every bit the prospect at his former school. East Hamilton, Red Bank, Tyner, college coaches are aware of those schools and Bell would have been out there each Friday competing against them. He was Ridgeland's biggest name last fall but a huge percentage of their yardage was by newcomers, along with some new bulldozers up front leading the way.

The Mocs are much more entertaining in person this year. If last year's team had as much gumption Shulman's seat wouldn't be nearly as warm.

The Pro Bowl needs to be discontinued or some kind of major retooling is needed. College all stars vs NFL all pros, now I'd watch that even if the pros weren't going full speed.

January 22, 2013 at 2:51 p.m.
JonathanMCook said...

stewwie-

Don't worry about it. I appreciate the fact you have a lot more of a sunny outlook on this than I do. I more or less and reflecting what I imagine to be the current "vibe" regarding Mocs B-Ball. Mostly based on again third-party sources I've been reading as of late (including this morning). You and Jay are probably the only two people I've seen try to provide a positive vibe for the current status. I seriously commend you for it. ;)

January 22, 2013 at 2:58 p.m.
BIspy4 said...

Is Pearl touchable by a hoops program now? Or is he still third-rail stuff, even after his time in timeout ends?

My way too early Finale 4: Arizona, Butler (especially if Rotnei Clarke is healthy), Ohio State, Oklahoma, where Lon Kruger has surfaced.

And in the words of Paul Oliver: I broke all they ankles!

January 22, 2013 at 3:24 p.m.
WilliamRscott said...

I could not pick the pocket of a dead man, but I will pick 6 I would like to see in the Final 4: Florida, U of L, KU, IU, Creighton, and...Ole Missy. They all have somewhat unique nicknames; well, except the Black Bears. Back to UTC M-BB...I have been to most of the home games this season. Actual attendance is about half of the reported attendance in the box scores. Season tickets sold are at an all-time low. The numbers do not lie, supporting JMCs point.

January 22, 2013 at 3:31 p.m.
jgreeson said...

Laughter —

The Pro Bowl is Fredo-level dead to us. And you're spot on that if last year's talent matched this year's effort, we're not having this conversation.

This may be splitting hairs, but Bell's decision to go to Ridgeland had nothing to do with anything on the field.

JMC/BillyinBrainerd —

Please don't think we think the state of the Mocs hoops is acceptable; it is not. No, what we believe is this team is far more likable and giving effort. And as long as he doesn't develop some bad habits and can stay healthy, we believe Farad Cobb could be a star.

And Billy is spot on, UTC's attendance numbers must be tabulated by a Madoff — they are way overinflated.

Spy —

If Petrino is touchable... wait, let us start over. If Petrino is hirable, then of course Pearl is. Each lied through their teeth, but Pearl lied to the NCAA which is a far bigger group than lying directly into the face of your AD.

And our man Oliver broke more than his fair share, tis no doubt.

Getting some good entries into the Too x Two = Final Four contest.

Bring it.

January 22, 2013 at 3:54 p.m.
JonathanMCook said...

"And Billy is spot on, UTC's attendance numbers must be tabulated by a Madoff — they are way overinflated"

Best LOL of the day!!! XD

January 22, 2013 at 4:24 p.m.
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