published Thursday, March 6th, 2014

5-at-10: UT hoops and football, NCAA court drama, best college basketball coaches

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.

More courting

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.

  • photo
    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.)

————

Today's question

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.

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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Comments do not represent the opinions of the Chattanooga Times Free Press, nor does it review every comment. Profanities, slurs and libelous remarks are prohibited. For more information you can view our Terms & Conditions and/or Ethics policy.
WilliamRscott said...

C-Niner: Your XX Cats play either Florida or Miss State Friday at 2:30...your thoughts please on your WBB team heading into both SEC + NCAA tourney play...hey, I am just tryin' to get your mind off Cal + his young-uns...

Jay-G: for tomorrow's mailbag...who will win the SEC WBB tourney?

Billy-In-Brained

March 6, 2014 at 10:16 a.m.
jomo11 said...

That was a cool story Uch did on the "Wades Bunch" / Brady Bunch

again, funny that UTK Vol fans hate their Basketball coach who has won over 60% of his games and love their football coach who has LOST 60% of his games ? . . .it is East Tennessee and hopefully its not because one is called Butch and the other Cuonzo . . .

Best BBall coaches : Coach K, Izzo, Bill Self, Donavan, Shaka Smart, Will Wade

March 6, 2014 at 10:26 a.m.
chas9 said...

Word is that the Eagles don't care to have Vick back. Don't think the ATL would want him either. It'd be easier for Pearl to come back to K-town.

Palm's brackets today have four SEC teams, none of which is Tennessee. Lunardi likes UT, but his brackets haven't been updated. The Vols have been smokin' the last two times out, love 17 assists, but their bid comes down to beating Mizzou Saturday.

Little chance UK will win in Gainesville, so The Gators will end up 18-0. Last non-Kentucky team to finish the SEC undefeated was Bama in 1956.

There are no bigger bracket puzzles because everybody's a puzzle.

No offense taken on the Hill to Laettner reference. Duke got a fluke, that's all.

Jim Foster is a good interview, but he's trippin' in thinking the sports-TV complex will give up conference tourneys to qualify for the NCAA's.

Is the 2-point spread Utah State game real? Or did you make that up? Because of UT's massive losses off last year's team, I rate The Vols and The Cats even going into the fall. Heard your take on Press Row that Kentucky is one of the two teams at the SEC bottom (and that Tennessee isn't much ahead of them).

March 6, 2014 at 10:35 a.m.
jomo11 said...

Question for Friday : How boring would March Madness be if the football powers screwed it up and broke away from NCAA and formed 4 "power" conferences of 16 teams and all 64 made the tourney ?

March 6, 2014 at 10:36 a.m.
chas9 said...

Mr. Bill--My mind's already off the XY Cats. They will not arise from zombieland. Good news is lots of players come back next year and try to develop into a team.

The UK XX team is a lot like Tennessee's men. Can beat anybody, but not consistent. Their matchup in the SEC tourney is good. They should face SC in the championship game, and will be underdogs but could pull off the upset.

The all-SEC team had 47 players on the first squad, but no Cats. That was wrong, but such teams are not to be taken too seriously. UK's two best are Jennifer O'Neill, who's like Shabazz Napier, a scrappy guard you can go to when it's all on the line, and Danesha Stallworth, a big body who missed some of the season to injury, but is back in full form now.

March 6, 2014 at 11:11 a.m.
chas9 said...

Can we now say Saban has lost three in a row?

March 6, 2014 at 11:12 a.m.
MocTastic said...

JoMo11, I will be on the road to Asheville so I will comment now. I have speculated on that very scenario in the past. If the football powers do break off from the NCAA they have said they would stay in all other sports. I believe that, for a short period. Then they would realize they could have their own March Madness and the tv networks would follow. Afterall, if you had the ACC/SEC/Big10/BIG12/PAC12/etc having a tournament vs the SoCon/OVC/MountainWest/MAC/etc, which one do you think the networks would pay the big bucks for? Afterall, its about ratings and the former would get them, not the latter.

Then what would happen? The loss of the March Madness money would really slam the NCAA, that is their major moneymaker. It helps subsidize all the "minor" sports championships, such as helping pay for teams to spend a week in Omaha for the College World Series and to pay for the NCAA bowling championships, yes they do exist, look it up.

Then you would have a huge chasm between the haves and havenots. But the money would keep rolling in at the big schools......

I really think we are headed down that road with the SEC commissioner driving the bus. Oh wait, SEC teams don't use buses. The SoCon does, but the SEC would be headed down that road in a chartered jet.

March 6, 2014 at 11:32 a.m.
mcpell3 said...

Chas9 - yes Saban is 0 fer 3 & Bret is still 0fer in SEC play.

March 6, 2014 at 11:36 a.m.
BIspy4 said...

Two weeks for Nique to get five assists? Try two months. Still believe the Hawks chances for anything ever ended the day they signed Reggie Theus. Theus, Nique and Moses on the same team? Unless they went and got Bob Cousy, who was ever gonna pass the basketball?

March 6, 2014 at 11:47 a.m.
fechancellor said...

10 Ring, my goodness the Vols are on fire. The last three games have shown super motivated players, who now have look like bracket busters. Thanks Coach Pearl.

Tis the season for retirees to eschew their walkers and return to the sports that made them greats. "King Richard Petty" (said fast and breathlessly by the NASCAR faithful), recently got petty with Danica. Now, Dominique, "The Human Highlight Film" was a horse of a force in his day. He now says he could have torched the lame Charlotte Bobcats defense for 40 at the advanced age of 56. If Dominique had a roster spot in Miami or OKC, maybe so. Does anyone miss Spud Webb?

The only common thread I can see in these outbursts of sports legends is a pitch for some sort of reality TV show.

March 6, 2014 at 11:59 a.m.
Stewwie said...

MT,

After watching your Wilt clips from yesterday, one of Youtube's related videos was a clip of Wilt and Ali on Wide World of Sports talking about a possible boxing matchup. Ali talked trashed throughout the entire clip (no surprise), but as it turned out, the fight never happened. It was going to happen in 1968 at the Astrodome, but contracts never got finalized and signed. There's a debate as to who would have won. Ali would be the presumed favorite for obvious reasons, but Wilt was a great athlete and had a long reach. Should have been interesting; Wilt regretted later that it never came to be.

Jay, (mailbag?), I wish the Southern Conference would do away with the neutral site conference tourney. Let the higher seed host all games and spread the tourney out over the course of the week (how about a Tues/Thurs/Sat/Mon?). No teams play back-to-back conference games during the season, but they're expected to suddenly play at least 3, possibly 4, days in a row to win the conference title. I think it's a bad setup and should be changed. What do you think?

Wade's Bunch, huh? So who gets to play Alice? Johnny Taylor?

March 6, 2014 at 12:02 p.m.
MocTastic said...

Stewwie, I couldn't agree less with you on the SoCon tournament. When the Mocs first joined the SoCon they did play the first round games in the higher seeded cities. The Mocs traveled to Greenville to play, and lose to, Furman, then the remaining teams all went to the same city. I could possibly live with that concept. However, the way you detailed it makes no sense. It would basically be flipping the finger to the fans. Let suppose WCU had the best record. That puts the tournament in Cullowhee NC. I doubt they have enough hotel rooms for the fans in a 10 mile radius.For a listing of what hotels the fans could use click on http://hotelguides.com/colleges/north-carolina/western-carolina-university.html Of course, attendance would plummet because how many people can take off a whole work week for a tournament? Plus, why would they want to go besides basketball? Many of the fans use the tournament as a vacation. Lots of things to see in Cullowhee, pine trees, oak trees, some other trees I don't know what they are. Then in the evening, lets go to dinner! They have 12 restaurants, of which Starbucks, Chick FilA, and Subway make up 3 of the 12. http://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurants-g49070-Cullowhee_Jackson_County_North_Carolina.html

Wow, I can't wait to spend a week there! When do we go????

March 6, 2014 at 12:28 p.m.
chas9 said...

Cousy and Spud. Them wuz the days.

March 6, 2014 at 1:34 p.m.
jgreeson said...

Another day, another solid round of banter around these parts. From the top:

Jomo —

Uch did a nice job with the story and we were pleased with how the artistic folks made it come together. Good times.

Winning games in college hoops is a small part of the equation. You have to Dance.

Great mailbag.

McPell —

You think Saban called Slive up to T-Town and hit him with the Michael Corleone speech:

"Mike, you're my older commissioner and I love you but don't ever take sides with anyone against the family again."

FE to the C —

We both know Jordan still thinks he could average 20 a game. Heck he likely could.

Spy —

Don't know how old he was, but he got his tailed whipped.

Stewwie —

Wilt was a freak. And a really good basketball player. There you go.

Royster as Alice, maybe? Thoughts?

MT —

You're correct, the TV contracts would never allow the conference tournaments to be stripped of meaning.

March 6, 2014 at 1:35 p.m.
Stewwie said...

MT,

Makes me want to go to Cullowhee right now! Lol.

Sorry, I should have been more clear. I meant the higher seed in each game should host. Not the best team host the entire tourney. That would be potentially dreadful as you hilariously noted.

The main issue for me is 3 or 4 games in a row. But if you spread out the games over a week, then staying at one site for all games becomes a little harder. Lots of school time missed in that scenario (not that the NCAA really cares about missed school time...unless we're talking about football, but that's a different discussion for another day).

A semi-related issue is the fact that all the tourney games can be viewed online or on TV now. Now you don't have to make a 3.5 hour trip to an artsy/freaky city to watch the Mocs try to play their way into the Dance. If attendance at the neutral site tourney starts dropping off, the organizers will have 2 options: Cut off web/TV access to see the games (won't happen) or start letting teams host their own games. Maybe the latter scenario can work its way into reality sooner than later.

March 6, 2014 at 1:46 p.m.
MocTastic said...

Royster would be Sam, the butcher.

Alice is obviously Anna Stokes, the admin assistant for Wade and the coaches.

But Will Wade has a better alter ego than Mike Brady, rather Sheldon Cooper of The Big Bang Theory.

March 6, 2014 at 1:49 p.m.
Stewwie said...

Now we need someone to play Oliver. Andrew Houts?

Wade is Sherwood Schwartz, creator/writer/producer of the show.

And if the Mocs win the SoCon tourney, should we make Wade's Bunch dress up in '70s costumes and sing, "We're gonna keep on, keep on, keep on, keep on Dancin'..."?

March 6, 2014 at 2:35 p.m.
sportsfan said...

Jay - for Friday...Chatanooga has somewhat of a sports town reputation. Softball tournies at Summitt and Warmer parks, the Head of the Hooch regatta, Ironman competitions, US Cycling championships, high school wrestling, soccer, baseball, basketball, football, minor league baseball, the Mocs, as well as outdoor climbing and whitewater sports. If you were king of Chattanooga and could add new sports venues or events (non-major league) in the Noog what would they be?

March 6, 2014 at 7:32 p.m.
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