Kind souls and 5-at-10 regulars, remember the mailbag and what could be a fun Friday.
From the "Talks too much" studios, be the ball Danny — it's kind of hard with you talking like that.
Vols steamroll Auburn
As All-things-Orange ace Downtown Patrick Brown relayed to our Times Free Press readers here, the Tennessee Vols mashed Auburn. In fact mash is not strong enough.
Crushed. Stomped. Destroyed. Humiliated. It was a mixture of those.
The Vols have now won three in a row for the first time in SEC play this year. They are within the walls of Joey Brackets' guesstimates of being included in the Big Dance. There is still work to do, but the Vols have put their best effort of 2014 in back-to-back offerings against overmatched foes.
What does this mean? It means they are still alive and still fighting.
Auburn has been less than average all season and it was worse than that Wednesday night. Still, Tennessee started quickly and never looked back. That speaks to focus, which is paramount now. That speaks to embracing the moment. That — and the team's unusually high 17 assists and eye-poppingly effective 18-of-20 effort from the foul line — also speaks to a commitment to finish this thing and that has not always been the case for this bunch.
We all know the UT has talented pieces — it had all five starters scoring in double figures against Auburn — it's the consistency and focus that have been the Vols' variables of invalidity this winter.
At least in the last two games, those variables have been rock solid.
Does it mean they are fixed? Goodness no. But it means they are invested. In truth, the biggest compliment we can pay Cuonzo Martin the coach is that his team competes for him every night.
And that has been especially true in blowout wins over Vandy and Auburn, when victory was expected and defeat would have been crushing.
There is still work to do, but whether you believe Martin to be the problem or the solution, that these Vols are willing to continue the drill and keep punching the time clock speaks to their ethic.
UT starts spring practice
Busy time for Mr. Downtown. As we type he is speeding up I-75 to get to Butch Jones' news conference as the Vols football team prepares to start spring practice.
Let's play a little by the numbers, shall we, and let's see which of these is the most perplexing:
0 — number of offensive line starters back for UT
1 — number of starters in the defensive front seven back for UT
2 — number of points Utah State is projected to be favored by in the season opener in August in Knoxville (read that one again — yes, Utah State)
3 — number of seasons UT has gone without a bowl trip; the 5-7 train has become quite tired
33-41 — Tennessee's overall record since the 2008 season; 14-34 in SEC play in that time frame
Like a bankrupt man looking at his checking account, those numbers do not paint a pretty picture. It's a view that UT fans know all-too well and one with which Jones is saddled.
This is the numerical reminder, nothing more. Jones has talked about the "Brick-by-Brick" plan, and it's going to take a complete and total overhaul.
That continues today as the Vols get ready for spring drills in Year 2 of Jones.
Here are the five questions Downtown laid out as the Vols get ready to go. And yes, No. 1 has to do with the quarterbacks.
Something tells me this topic will come up on Press Row today.
Another Thursday, another NCAA lawsuit. Yay. Boo.
So here we sit, the NCAA — just a day removed from the football rules committee tabling a divisive idea about slowing down the pace of college football because of concern for the players — faces another class-action lawsuit against college sports governing body.
This one filed by a former West Virginia running back claims damages and asks for money because of collusion and alleging violation of antitrust laws because large schools, who have said they were open to paying a full cost of tutition, and smaller schools, who could never afford it, worked together to keep money from the students.
OK, let's review the NCAA legal docket:
Ed O'Bannon's lawsuit against the NCAA and video game giant EA Sports has made it through the NCAA's appeals to have it dismissed. The case will go to trial in the near future, and considering that EA Sports reportedly wants to settle now, this one seems the most dangerous — and expensive — to the NCAA.
The recent appeal to the National Labor Relations Board filed by some Northwestern football players to form a union is ongoing, but this one feels like a reach in a lot of ways.
The one filed recently asking for damages from collusion seems silly on its face, especially since the outcome of the union appeal — the football players are saying they are student-workers rather than student-athletes — could greatly shape the status of this suit. If the Northwestern petitioners are viewed as athletes rather than workers it seems far-fetched that anti-trust laws would apply. We need to double-check that.
This much is clear, though: College sports is in a dangerous place of transition and it looks more and more likely that the change on the horizon will be shaped by lawyers more than administrators and delivered with court orders rather than proposals and ideas.
Change is coming, and she's bringing her attorney with her.
This and that
— Dominique Wilkins claims he could get 40 against the Charlotte defense that allowed LeBron to go for 61 on Monday. Wilkins made the statement that he could get 40 today, at the age of 54. C'mon 'Nique, we enjoy hyperbole and all, and back in the day Wilkins could flat score. That said, wonder if he noticed James also had five assists. It would have taken Dominique about two weeks to get that total back in the day.
Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski , center, talks to his team during a practice session.
— Duke falls and Coach K gets dizzy after Wake Forest goes on a 17-0 run for an 82-72 win. With Syracuse floundering and Duke stumbling, does anyone want that final No. 1 seed? Bigger bracket puzzler right now: Syracuse or Duke? Discuss.
— Major props to Jim Foster and his XX Mocs, who finished the season unbeaten in conference play. Foster stopped by Press Row on Wednesday and was excellent. Dude knows the game and it surely seems he loves what he's doing here in Chattanooga. Good stuff.
— Here's one team fighting for its NCAA survival. Oakland extended its season with tricky in-bound play you can see here. Down two with less than a second left, Oakland set a pick on the guy guarding the in-bound pass and drew a foul. Hey, maybe that's why Pitino did not guard the Grant Hill back in 1992? (Sorry Chas9.)
UTC hoops ace David Uchiyama had a nice story here on the Mocs coming together in Will Wade's first year.
We believe this young Wade chap to be an up-and-comer. This got us thinking, which we admit is a dangerous thing:
Best men's college hoops coaches in the country? Go.
We'll stop by for a potential Rushmore later — and nice job yesterday with the banter.
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 ...