published Thursday, March 28th, 2013

5-at-10: Heat cooled, Brave arms, Bracket noise and draft cheers

Remember the Friday mailbag and it's an ordinary story about the way things go, round and round nobody knows, but the highway rolls on forever.

From the "Talks too much studios," are you guys playing cards?

Streak is struck

LeBron and the Heatles stumbled in Chicago last night, losing for the first time since the Friday before the Super Bowl. Yes, the last time Miami lost, we were still wondering how Tennessee's football recruiting class would finish and if the 11-8 Tennessee basketball Vols were going to do anything down the stretch.

The Bulls beat Miami 101-97 in the most intense and enjoyable regular-season NBA game since the Michael Jordan returned to the NBA and dropped a double-nickle on the Knicks in the Garden.

It was physical — at times too much so, but more on that in a minute — and well-played. It had the look of a must-win playoff game for the Bulls and eventually for the Heat as well.

Here's our assessment:

The Good: Whether they know it or not, the loss betters the Heatles' chance to win it all. They can rest some tired legs and get healthy for the playoffs. Those are not luxuries when chasing history.

The Bad: Dwyane Wade was invisible for most of the fourth quarter and the Heat got worked (minus-12) on the boards.

The Ugly: Maybe it was one night. Hopefully it was just one night. But in pro sports success is quickly emulated and duplicated, so it would not be surprising to see teams try to become supremely physical with LeBron and the Heatles like the Bulls were last night. James got a little frustrated at a couple of calls in particular — the first was an open-floor tackle by Kirk Hinrich; the other a DDT-looking move by Taj Gibson. Hey, teams need to do whatever they can to give themselves the best chance to win, and LeBron and Co. are better than everyone else. But as a fan, that overly physical play is not the NBA we enjoy. In fact, if the league starts embracing it — not unlike how the Pistons and the Knicks did against Jordan and Co. in the mid-1990s when the league became borderline unwatchable — it greatly will hurt the NBA's momentum.

Funny how Pat Riley's Knicks were the forefathers of the basketball brutality approach and now Pat Riley's Heatles are the target. Et tu Patty?

————

College hoops

What Sweet 16 game are you most excited about this weekend? Here's the schedule:

Tonight on CBS: Marquette-Miami, 7:15; Indiana-Syracuse, 9:45

Tonight on TBS: Arizona-Ohio State, 7:47; Wichita State-La Salle, 10:17

Friday on CBS: Oregon-Louisville, 7:15; Duke-Michigan State, 9:45

Friday on TBS: Michigan-Kansas, 7:37; Florida-Florida Gulf Coast, 10:07

We're really stoked for Michigan-Kansas and Indiana-Syracuse. A sneaky contender is Louisville-Oregon and who wins the uniform slugfest.

Good times. While this round is not as crazy or Madness-filled as last weekend, the basketball is usually pretty top-notch. Side note: Typing the schedule out made us wonder what it would have been like if when the Mocs had made the Sweet 16 16 years ago if they had the chance to swing against the university system's mothership like FGCU has? Wow.

Remember everyone is eligible to enter the "Four who were Oh so close to the Final Four" contest:

Just pick the teams that you think will lose in the Elite Eight round: We have Michigan State, Wichita State, Miami, Florida.

Everybody understand? Let us know if you have any questions, and again this is open to everyone.

————

Pro Days and draft ripples

  • photo
    South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore (21) runs for a touchdown. (AP Photo/John Amis)

Marcus Lattimore worked out. Matt Barkley did too.

The ripples were reflected in the draft rankings. We're roughly a month from the NFL draft, and here's the shifts and movements and the trends of late:

• This draft is loaded with offensive linemen, especially good-to-great tackles. Tackles Eric Fisher, Luke Joeckel, Lane Johnson and D.J. Fluker likely will be top 20 guys, as will guards Jonathan Cooper and Chance Warmack.

• The physical movement skills of some of the defensive front seven guys is scary. Barkevious Mingo runs a 40 in the 4.5s — the same as most receivers — at 6-foot-3, 242 pounds. Oregon's Dion Jordan went in the low 4.6s at 6-6, 250. BYU's Ezekiel Ansah ran a 4.63 at 6-3, 271. Yes, there's more to football than speed, but moving massive weights quickly is a fundamental skill that is coveted in the league.

• The draft positioning movement of some of the defensive front seven guys is also scary. According to some of the experts, at least three defensive guys who were ranked in the top five at one point have fallen at least 10 spots. On Mel Kiper's big board, former No. 1 overall prospects Jarvis Jones and Star Lotulelei have droped to outside the top 10. Manti Te'o, a former top-five prospect fell outside the top 20 because of a slow 40 time, and Texas A&M defensive end Damontre Moore went from top 3 to off Kiper's big board of the top 25 prospects because of a terrible showing at the combine.

• Speaking of Kiper's rankings, for the SEC it's easy to grin when your ship's come in and you think you have the stock market beat. When talking about college football's elite, which number is more telling about the talent level: the seven consecutive BCS titles or the fact that roughly half of Kiper's top 25 are SEC guys (and four are from Alabama)? If it plays out that the first round is roughly 50 percent SEC, we say that's just as impressive since the seven titles took some luck that has nothing to do with how good the SEC is.

• Of the recent pro days, the fact that Marcus Lattimore is starting to work out is great news. And we're certain that we'd spend a late-second-rounder on that kid. Also, the results from Matt Barkley's throwing session at his pro day were good, showing he's recovered from his late-season shoulder injuries. Lattimore's return from the leg injuries he suffered against Tennessee drew applause from even the NFL folks in attendance, which is cool.

————

Braves are closer

We discussed the lineup on Wednesday, a group that will generate a lot of long shots and long draughts with long swings.

Let's look at the pitching today before we look around the rest of the NL, but before we do, we'd be remiss not to mention the story of Evan Gattis making the opening-day roster. Gattis, a 26-year-old minor-league journeyman with a thunderous bat and a big time nickname but no real position, was out of baseball for four years after skipping out of a college scholarship after high school, and two years ago could not even make the Class A Rome Braves. Now, repositioned as a catcher and outfielder, the man they call El Oso Blanco ("The White Bear" a nickname he picked up playing in Venezuela) cried when the Braves coaches told him he would start the season in Atlanta. Good for him.

As for the pitchers Oso Blanco will help handle, well, it's a group that is not quite as good as it was this time last year.

Dealing Tommy Hanson was a wash because his herky-jerky delivery will always yield arm problems and the Braves were flush with guys who's named ended in 'y' or 'ie.'

A rotation of Tim Hudson, Kris Medlen, Mike Minor, Paul Maholm and most likely Julio Teheran is better than average. It's actually good. It's not great because it does not have a front-line, top-of-the-rotation ace. Sure, Medlen looked the part of a front-line guy last year, but the sample size is pretty small and without elite stuff, we're reserving judgement. In fact Medlen's pitches are a perfect comparison to the Braves' rotation — several good pitches that could be real out pitches, but there is no top-of-the-line, A-to-A-plus option that is assured of high end results.

If you're looking for high end result, well, the back end of the bullpen is just that. The stats prove out a theory shared by several and espoused in this space by StuckinKent last year that most closers are just the product of their position. The relative success of a bullpen does not vary great because of the closer. We can see the basis of that theory, but it does not apply to the elite at the position. Guys like Rivera in his prime. Or Trevor Hoffman. Or Atlanta's Craig Kimbrel. Dude is that good.

While we're happy Fredi Gonzalez managed the Braves bullpen better in year two, it's a little scary that everyday Jonny Venters is having some arm issues.

Around the NL (in 5-in-10 by the 5-at-10 style):

1) Dodgers spend big, win close to big: When Hanley Ramirez returns, L.A.'s high-dollar roster is impressive.

2) Giants still in the mix: S.F.'s sum may be better than Dodgers' parts.

3) Paint Central Reds: Cincy will roll in NL Central

4) Senator, Senator: Washington is the class of the NL

5) Award winners: Kershaw for Cy Young; Votto for MVP

————

This and that with questions

— Speaking of the draft — we love the draft; you know this — let's say you had to take a QB in round 1, and some teams will whether it's in the top 10 or trading back into the back half of the first round. Would you take Geno Smith or Matt Barkley? Or would you wait until round three and take Tyler Bray? Discuss.

— With all the movement and machinations in and around the SoCon that we have discussed this week, what is your best answer to this: In five years, UTC will be playing in (fill-in-the-black) conference. Interesting breaking news from our ace Johnny Frierson that the Mocs were approached by the Sun Belt and said thanks but no thanks.

— We had this story in the TFP earlier in the week, but did you see the article about the minor league ball park that will have a video game in their urinals and the urine stream is what controls the action on the video game? Seriously, and if it's not named Peed Racer, well that was an opportunity missed. Of course this has limitless posibilities, not the least of which is how much easier it's going to be to potty train lil' Johnny or Jimmy with a pee-pee-powered race car in the pot.

— Hey, the next time some tattoo-ed up kid holds out looking for more money, and the bellyaching starts about how they should do it for the love and for the game... BLAH. Here's one, the stars of Duck Dynasty are talking about holding out for more money. Folks you have to strike will the cash register is open. Period. Quack, Quack.

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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ordinaryguy said...

The streak of the Heat is a double-edged sword for yours truly. The NBA needed the atttention, die hard fans have trouble grasping the reality that the ratings are not as strong as you would believe. This week was a rarity when it cracked the Top 25, more often than not NBA doesn't. However for all his talent, the overboard lovefest for Lebron does grow very old in a short time.

The Sun Belt news was indeed a coup for Johnnie F, and he deserves kudos. As for five years from now it would be very conceivable to see the Mocs in an FBS setting. The stadium size requirement is no longer applicable, and the idea of meeting the required 15,000 per game would be possible there. Granted the is hugely dependent on a winning team. Ask yourself would you rather see the Mocs play a MTSU at home, or Elon. Just food for thought.

The urinal video game is further proof of the reality show society in which we live, sad statement indeed. Duck Dynasty is the perfect example, funny the first time you watch but by the third time you are thinking to yourself why the heck am I watching this stuff. However, when your show is in the Top 10 of cable tv you can demand and it will be paid. Could we get the Walking Dead to make a quest appearance with the unshaven hoard? Or do we need to get the best in the biz C.M. Punk to end their streak?

March 28, 2013 at 10:42 a.m.
JonathanMCook said...

Jay,

I'm at work and just now getting caught up on the reads of the day as it were. I don't have direct email access but I want this to be in Friday's Mailbag, Deal? Deal.

I cannot speak for other JohnnyMocs fans (though Stewwie's take on anything 615 McCallie Ave. related is always welcome), but I about (Number 2) a brick upon reading quote

"Interim athletic director Laura Herron said UTC was contacted by the Sun Belt two months ago and was asked about UTC's interest in moving from the Football Championship Subdivision up to the Football Bowl Subdivision, as Georgia Southern and Appalachian State did Wednesday."

As you can imagine, this is news to me and everyone else as I did not think any FBS conference would even consider us a contender for possible membership.

From a "pure fantasy" standpoint, it would be nice to see a Chattanooga/Arlington rivalry on the roundball court. However, given the reasons for declining the offer as Ms. Herron pointed out, I understand the decision to pass.

So here's my question. The key factors pointed out for why the Sun Belt has interest in us is sound but one contributing factor is the fact that unlike GSU and ASU, UTC has a lot of boosters both past and present (i.e. Lookout Mountain and Cleveland) with very, deep pockets. Not to bird dog both institutions, but as Spy addressed (and App's history is the same), both schools are technically teacher academies and not known for churning out Fortune 500 CEOs.

I know that in the past, (OG leading the charge), the belief of the new AD is to generate $$$ as the prime directive. Is UTC qualified to make such a move the Sun Belt in the here and now? The answer is no given what Ms. Herron said. But I do feel that once a new AD is established with plans to be here a while, there should be some sort of an "X" plan to the side to sell the idea of investing "seed money" from the Mountain and Cleveland folk for potential move to FBS. Your thoughts? (Again, this is for the mailbag).

March 28, 2013 at 10:57 a.m.
JonathanMCook said...

OG-

Why weren't you at ConNooga then this year? They had three of the key zombies from Walking Dead. I'm just saying. :P

Duck Dynasty-

Boy, have I got a bit for you.

UTC-

If Jay recalls, I believe I emailed him a scenerio as to what the Sun Belt might look like as a super conference with current and incoming members along with the SoCon's top four programs (UTC, App, GSU, Wofford). Taking that out, if UTC football can continue to the upward progression + the basketball team returning to its winning ways, I do forsee it being a member of the Sun Belt in five years as long as fans are realistic.

UTC vs. MTSU or North Texas at Finley? Yes

UTC vs Tennessee or Georgia at Finley? O_o (that's some strong Kool-Aid).

March 28, 2013 at 11:19 a.m.
BIspy4 said...

Yeah, 5, but what about the guy in the NFL workout whose shorts are too tight in the seat? Will Pookie do the honors then?

March 28, 2013 at 11:25 a.m.
LaughingBoy said...

I will have to drag out the VCR to record Friday night's basketball games. The Beach Boys have a real shot at the Gators and the Ducks were my runner up for highest seed remaining. Darn Rebel Black Bears.

Chattanooga seems content to remain in the Southern Conference even with Sun Belt teams making some waves with upsets over some of the big boys. Why it's not even on table, just blows my mind. Think what an upset over Arkansas or Georgia Tech, which both happened last year, woud mean to the Moc football program. It can be a positive for the entire athletic department.

The Heat get away with more than any team since Jordan's Bulls, or at least since the King-Laker debacle in the the western finals in 2002. Some of their games, look as if Tim Donaghy weaseled his way back out onto the court. That's not the view of an angry fan, as most of the time I could care less what happens in an NBA game.

March 28, 2013 at 11:35 a.m.
ordinaryguy said...

JMC...not much for ConNooga although I do here there are some freaky things going on there LOL...My question would be, we now play the "money" game each year, would that continue if there were a move made to for instance the Sun Belt? Would any BCS team continue to pay 400K plus to guarantee a win against an FBS member school?

March 28, 2013 at 11:48 a.m.
chas9 said...

When I first confronted the Bravos' likely rotation about a week ago, I was crestfallen. Where are Smoltz, Glavine, Maddox, Avery? I recognize some of these guys, but they don't inspire confidence (or fear). I know we got spoiled in the golden era and now have to hope the offense blisters the cover off the ball while the defense holds serve.

As usual, this is the best weekend of the tournament. All of Friday's games plus IU-Syracuse are must-see TV. I'm past the SEC recouping any basketball respect this year, so I'm gonna predict a FGCU upset and pull for the dogs to maul the gators.

But how are we old guys gonna stay up that late?

March 28, 2013 at 11:53 a.m.
JonathanMCook said...

OG-

Probably not.

March 28, 2013 at 11:54 a.m.
jgreeson said...

OG —

The price tag on the money games for FBS teams rather than FCS teams doubles.

Auburn paid UTC $450K in 2010 if memory serves. La-Monore — a Sun Belt school — got $900K last year and another $1 million to beat Arkansas in overtime.

JMC —

You're in.

And yes, Johnny Frierson gets props for the scoop about UTC being approached.

And to be honest, while we can see the reason to take that risk, there's no way that interim AD could really make that call with the state of flux around the school in general. Another check-mark in the positive category for Ms. Herron in our book.

Spy —

Where'd you come from, a scotch ad?

9er —

Friday is so money.

You old guys can take a nap. And we'll turn our music down and stay off your lawn if that helps.

— 5-at-10

March 28, 2013 at 11:58 a.m.
BIspy4 said...

5, I want a hot dog. No, I want a hamburger ....

March 28, 2013 at 12:25 p.m.
ordinaryguy said...

JG thanks for the info...was having a serious old man's moment and could not remember...you are ok, I do not care what Doogie said about you

March 28, 2013 at 12:31 p.m.
JonathanMCook said...

Ten Ring-

Forgot La-Monroe is also a Sun Belt school. That would be an interesting conflict of interest as I do own a really cool SkyHawks T-shirt in wardrobe. Also, contrary to possible belief based on my last trip to Monroe, the city is not cashing in on the "DD" craze. No billboards, no stores (other than one sporting goods store inside Pelican Land Mall) carrying DD merchandise, you'd think as extremely hard luck as that city appears (West Monroe looks like the Southside circa 1986), this would be a major tourist draw.

Also, if the Mocs were in the Sun Belt, that's a four hour drive to go see them play football. Out of conference options include North Texas (35 minute drive depending on the traffic - or by rail train) or SMU (DART Green Line from Carrolten Station and then junction point to the Orange Line straight to Mockingbird Station).

I'm beginning to like this idea more and more.

March 28, 2013 at 12:46 p.m.
LaughingBoy said...

North Texas is leaving to join Conference USA but among their replacements is Texas State, unless things have changed again recently.

Texas State, New Mexico State, Idaho, Arkansas State, Western Kentucky, Louisiana Monroe and Lafayette, Troy, Appalachian State, Georgia Southern as football opponents > Wofford, Western Carolina, Elon, Citadel, Samford, Furman, eventually Kennesaw and possible ETSU or Coastal Carolina as football opponents. Idaho and NMS might be in a western division and if so wouldn't be every-year opponents.

March 28, 2013 at 12:49 p.m.
JonathanMCook said...

LB,

This is what I wrote ----> "Out of conference options" include North Texas (35 minute drive depending on the traffic - or by rail train) or SMU (DART Green Line from Carrolten Station and then junction point to the Orange Line straight to Mockingbird Station).

I am aware of North Texas going to C-USA and SMU going to the Big East (Dallas Morning News was all over that like a rash). Just letting you know I already knew. My apologizes for any misunderstanding.

March 28, 2013 at 1:07 p.m.
jgreeson said...

Spy —

You'll get nothing and like it.

OG —

App State and GSU will have to play at least 2 money games a year for the foreseeable future to help keep the books balanced.

The Sun Belt schedule would be better. The travel would be nightmarish. And expensive.

— 5-at-10

March 28, 2013 at 2:19 p.m.
chas9 said...

Florida now leads all SEC teams in NCAA tourney wins over the last decade with 20. Kentucky has 19 and Tennessee is a very distant third. Question for The Bag: Over the next ten years, will The Vols continue as a distant third in the SEC? Hint: Mizzou and A&M are in the mix now.

March 28, 2013 at 2:24 p.m.
BIspy4 said...

So ... if Georgia Southern winds up with the best record in the SoCon for football for 2013, will Vince McMahon have Earl Hebner ring the bell and give the belt to Wofford?

March 28, 2013 at 2:57 p.m.
LaughingBoy said...

Would the travel be that bad in a division that had Western Kentucky, Georgia Southern, Troy, Appalachian State, James Madison, with a non division trip to NMS or Idaho only every few years? Plus the potential for FBS playoff money trickling down to each program in the division helping offset the travel expense. In the years NMS or Idaho on the road came up, try to play the non conference road games against teams within bus distance.

March 28, 2013 at 3:19 p.m.
chas9 said...

155 shots in 5 minutes. Not even Pistol Pete ever did that.

The losers on Saturday and Sunday will be Dook, Wichita State, Miami and FGCU, says here.

March 28, 2013 at 3:42 p.m.
BIspy4 said...

Laughing Boy,

I just don't see that much trickle down coming to the Sun Belt in a playoff format. If there is in fact a playoff system in FBS, I get the feeling the lesser conferences will be relegated to a new I-AA, with FCS forming a I-AAA. Think too about what the travel may be for non-revenue sports having to go to Monroe, Louisiana (and as a stewardess I once knew said about it ... ugh ... I also have a friend whose sister lives in Monroe and she hates going to visit her sister there) or Lafayette. And it's more expensive to take 120-140 football players, coaches, personnel, etc than 90-100 when you're in FCS to Idaho, New Mexico or Fiji State, whenever their invitation is extended.

March 28, 2013 at 3:43 p.m.
JonathanMCook said...

Spy-

Your friend with the sister is correct. It's a good place to stop and stetch your legs and get something to eat but you could not PAY me enough to live there. In the "hard luck" catagory, it makes Johnson City looks like Palm Springs.

March 28, 2013 at 5:44 p.m.
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