Gang, now that was a world-class busy Wednesday. Wow. Just wow. Before we get going, remember Friday's mailbag, there are a couple of slots open and a couple thousands topics du jour (hmmmm, topics of the day, that sounds good, we think we'll have that).
The ball is tipped
The first two days of the NCAA tournament are among the best in sports. It's wall-to-wall. It's gripping. It's without Billy Packer.
In truth, it's the living, breathing version of what New Year's Day bowl games used to be. But these are real. And they're spectacular.
Here's our Elite Eight, just to get it out there: Louisville over Michigan State; Ohio State over Wisconsin; Syracuse over Miami; Kansas over Georgetown. We have Louisville over Ohio State and Kansas over Syracuse, with Louisville beating Kansas. Lots of chalk, we know. Lots of luck needed, too. So it goes.
Either way, the events of today are gold, one of the pure and true and final pieces of sports bliss still around that has magically been improved by TV. Every game is on now, so we're not at the mercy of timing or switching or one mediocre TV producer having a bad day.
What's your Rushmore of sports' days? We'd put this one right there with Sunday at Augusta, baseball's opening day and Labor Day weekend for the start of college football. (A close fifth is the first cool Friday night when the weather breaks and you pull into the parking lot of a high school football game knowing the season is here. Since that day fluctuates, it loses points, but it's still a good day, a full day.)
OK gang, this is your final couple of hours to get in your "First 1 out, last 'dog in" contest. It's simple: Give us your first No. 1 seed to exit and the last double-digit seed to be left in the tournament.
5-at-10 — Gonzaga/Oregon
Mrs. 5-at-10 — Indiana/Davidson
Lil' 5-at-10 — Kansas/Oklahoma
OrdinaryGuy — Gonzaga/Ole Miss
OrangeGuy — Indiana/Ole Miss
Dawg247 — Kansas/Belmont
McPell — Indiana/Ole Miss
StuckinKent — Kansas/Oklahoma
BillyinBrainerd — Gonzaga/South Dakota State
OTWatcher — Louisville/New Mexico State
Fred — Kansas/Cincy
ThatIDoKnow — Gonzaga/Minnesota
Tiger — Kansas/Belmont
Weena — Gonzaga/Oklahoma
TomT — Indiana/St. Mary's
TrueFan — Kansas/Minnesota
There are a slew more in the e-mail, but if you don't see yours, send it along. Good luck.
As our UTC basketball ace David Uchiyama reported first on Wednesday, the Mocs basketball program and coach John Shulman split. The decision was for the most part mutual as the differences became irreconcilable.
We wrote last week that we have always liked John but thought the time had come for a change. We still believe each of those sentiments. All the rest is background noise. Those that wanted him gone got what they wanted. What's next is tough to predict and what to believe is dependent on what's important.
Here are a couple of other things we believe about the situation after more than a reflection or two:
• If UTC interim AD Laura Herron is interested in the permanent AD job, she would be very high on our list. After speaking with her yesterday, she was professional, direct and top shelf. In fact, she has handled this entire ordeal as well as possible considering her interim tag and the difficulty of the circumstances. If she is not interested in the permanent job, then the first order of BID-ness for the next AD should be to find out what it would take to make sure she stays on board.
• The up-and-down results of the basketball program under Shulman reached big highs and record lows. That said, the final dot on this decision was the lagging interest in the program. Attendance is down everywhere, but the Mocs' drop was sizable. Last season (2011-12) the Mocs sold a shade under 1,000 season tickets; this season, the Mocs sold 841 season tickets.
• As our ace columnist Mark Wiedmer wrote today, there's no reason to think there won't be big interest in this job. And yes, we all know about the Mocs' financial restraints — again, almost every program has financial concerns, even UT — but this will be coveted job.
• The timing should not be an issue. Yes, the new AD will ultimately make the hire, and that can only happen after the new AD is hired. (Side note: The search committee for the new AD will meet again Monday and they hope to trim the list to six then.) Still, while everyone is playing in various tournaments and what not, there is no rush. Heck, there are going to be some bigger shoes open up before the real hiring silly season starts.
• Who would we target? Well, we'd make Bruce Pearl say no, but that may not jive with the folks in Knox County. We'd talk to the local guys that would be interested — Lee's Tommy Brown and Chat State's Jay Price — to see what they thought, too. But we'd shoot high. We'd avoid the Duke assistants. Sure, Collins, Wojo and the rest of Coach K's clipboard brigade are fine basketball minds, but the first answer for former assistants at big-budget programs is to throw money at a problem. That's not applicable here. One guy we'd approach is Mike Rhoades, Shaka Smart's top assistant at VCU.
So UTC hoops is turning the page. What's next is an unknown, what's behind but a memory. Whether that memory is good or bad depends on the perspective.
Crazy times in the NFL
Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh is correct, you can't hold on to a team for sentiment. In fact, we have said many times that you have to err on the side of cutting an NFL player a year too early as opposed to a year too late. That's the nature of the salary cap.
Still the changes on the rosters — Brian Urlacher leaving Chicago, Ed Reed leaving Baltimore, Wes Welker leaving New England — have been eye-popping.
And that's not the only thing changing. Much to FE to the C's delight, the controversial tuck rule is being wiped off the books. And the NFL approved the proposal to make a ball-carrier lowering his head 3-yards beyond the line a 15-yard penalty.
We can discuss the roster moves until we're blue in the face — in the end players leave and coaches get fired. That's the nature of the beast.
But the rule changes seem to be coming on a regular rotation and the game is changing. No one is going to argue against having a safer game or protecting players, but a safer game that is nowhere near as interesting is already out there. It's called soccer.
This and that
— Good luck to UTC golfer Steven Fox, who as Uch tells us here is playing at the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill this week.
— Because of the mass hoopla going on all around us in the sports blur that is the here and now, we must spend a little time talking about the stinking orange egg the Vols basketball team laid against the Mighty Bears of Mercer ("enrollment 2,800" — Hoosiers). Wow. Yes, the disappointment of not making the dance was evident. But, there are three big questions after watching some of the Vols' 75-67 loss to Mercer, an Atlantic Sun school that was more enthused, more focused and simply more better than UT. This was not an emotional, road upset like Kentucky was handed at Bobby Morris. This was Mercer coming to UT and taking names. As for the three questions: Was that the last time we'll see Jordan McRae or Jarnell Stokes in a UT uniform? Yes, both should come back, but it's a really bad draft and who's to say if their stock will be any higher this time next year (especially McRae's). Is there a bigger pendulum player in the country than Trae Golden, who can look like a future NBA point guard one night and like a church-league reserve the next? Somehow he was parts of each last night, but when your point guard has zero assists in 35 minutes, well, that's not good. Finally, is there an announcer any where that is more grouchy and does more belly-aching than Bobby Knight? Wow, dude was so negative and critical, those two guys from the old Muppets show — Statler and Waldorf — would have watched last night's game and said, "Boy, that Knight guy is never happy."
— One more question from the Vols-Mercer beatdown? Should UTC reach out to Mercer's hoops coach?
— The Vols receivers wowed the scouts at UT's pro day, as UT beat ace Downtown Patrick Brown tells us here. Wonder if Jim Chaney still wakes up in a cold sweat wondering what kind of numbers the Vols could have posted if Da'Rick Rogers had stayed in school? (If Da'Rick had stayed in school and it had meant a couple more wins, 7-5 likely would have been enough to save Derek Dooley's job. Some would argue that would not have been a good thing, and if you believe that, then wow, Dooley was spot-on when he said telling Da'Rick good-bye was "for the good of the program.")
— LeBron and the Heatles keep rolling, rallying from a 27-point deficit at Cleveland for their 24th consecutive win.
If you need a talking point today, well, we're not buying it.
There's a ton of stuff to discuss and we do not want to distract anyone with an off-the-wall, "What's the most underrated SNL character?"
Bring it. (And we were always fond on Mike Myers' Middle-Aged Man and his sidekick Drinking Buddy.)