Gang, hope you enjoyed the penultimate weekend of the football season. Sigh.
Let's get to it and let's be there for each other. Tear... football is almost done. Alas.
From the "Talks too much (and in sad tones because football is almost done)" studios, let's do this.
Want to know a sure sign we're getting close to February? One, the Pro Bowl gets way more attention than it deserves. (Hey, the over - the total was 79 -hit for the third straight year, and yes, the fact that we know that may mean we are way to attune to the interests of those looking to wager a little entertainment here and there.) Two, you have a lot of folks clicking and re-clicking on the Rivals.com or the 247sports.com sites for recruiting news.
As for the local name that controlled the weekend, Vonn Bell told our Downtown Patrick Brown that he enjoyed his trip to Knoxville http://www.timesfreepress.com/news/2013/jan/28/vonn-bell-enjoys-his-visit-ut/, which included a tightly contested basketball game that featured the football-savvy Vols student section starting the "We want Vonn," chants. Well-played indeed.
Here's our two free pieces of advice to watch for in recruiting ebbs and flows:
1) Best way to tell if a guy can play has nothing to do with the stars next to his name. Vonn Bell is picking between Tennessee, Alabama and Ohio State - his childhood favorite, the wrecking ball of college football and the only BCS school to go undefeated last year. Those are big-boy choices. If Lil' Joey Quarterback picks your SEC school over offers from Central Michigan and Florida International, then you know your school is getting a little desperate. (For UTC, similar rule applies, just re-gauge the opposing schools. And this is something that Russ Huesman has had huge success with - going to get players that have mid- to solid-FBS level interest.)
2) The teams that are getting a slew of late commitments are simply starting to fill slots and are not expecting good news on signing day. Think of it as the musical chairs approach - at some point you have to get a seat, not the best seat, and the music stops in 10 days. This does not apply to teams that have coaching staffs who have loads of work to make up.
Here's an idea, we'll have a guest sit in on Friday's mailbag and discuss recruiting. We'll do five recruiting questions and five normal questions. Thoughts? If you like this idea, send along your recruiting question.
Super Pro Bowl shuffle
OK, we all can admit the Pro Bowl is a joke. But, it's a little more tolerable now that it has embraced the novelty of the circus that it has become.
Case in point No. 1: Defensive lineman J.J. Watt flanked wide covered by defensive lineman Jason Pierre Paul (JPP got the pick; side question - How has Naughty by Nature not approached him about a "You down with J.P.P." video yet?).
Case in point No. 2: NFC center Jeff Saturday flipping sides and snapping the ball to AFC quarterback Peyton Manning one more time. The duo had worked hand-and-hand (or would that be hand-to-hiney?) for 13 years in Indy and got one more exchange. (Not that there's anything wrong with that.)
Seriously, it was about as cool a moment as we can remember in Pro Bowl history, which means it's the only moment we can remember in Pro Bowl history. Well, that and the time someone actually tackled someone in 1995. That was fun too.
What this means in theory and in real terms though is we are down to the Super Bowl and then the long winter of signing day, draft prep and spring roster analysis.
The Pro Bowl is the ugly woman still sitting at the bar at 2:45 a.m., knowing that someone is going to be swing by, even if its just for a minute, because the options are running out.
Now we have the Super Bowl, and we've been keeping a close eye on the great pop bets available. There were even more crazy prop bets released this morning, courtesy of friend of the show R.J. Bell and the good folks at Pregame.com. Enjoy:
Length of postgame handshake/hug between Harbaugh brothers: o/u 7.5 seconds
Times Jack Harbaugh shown during game: o/u 2.5 times
Times "Harbaugh" will be said during game: o/u 21.5 times
How long will it take Alicia Keys to sing National Anthem: o/u 2 minutes and 15 seconds
Will Alicia Keys be booed? If yes, $100 wins $500
32% chance Alicia Keys will mess up the lyrics ($100 wins $170)
43% chance Jay Z will join Beyonce on stage during halftime show ($100 wins $110)
43% chance Beyonce's hair will be straight, not curly ($100 wins $110)
64% chance President Obama will pick Ravens to win game.
$100 pays $500 if any player on either team is arrested before the game.
How many times will Ray Lewis mention "God/Lord" in post-game interview: o/u 3 times
Color of Gatorade dumped on winning coach ($100 wins . . . )
Total yards for both teams combined: o/u 745.5 yards
Kobe Bryant points favored by 4 over 49ers points
Super Bowl's total points favored by 5.5 over LeBron James points + rebounds + assists
Colin Kaepernick's rushing yards: Even money versus Steve Young's 49 rushing yards (Super Bowl XXIX)
We simply are going to have to do a contest on this right?
College hoops potpourri
Monster weekend of college hoops. Here are five things we know:
- Amid the rocky times and hurt feelings that have hallmarked UTC basketball for the last 18 months, it's tough to feel anything but sympathy for senior guard Dontay Hampton. Hampton, the former walk-on from Arts & Sciences here in town, was supposed to be a key piece as a senior and enjoy the fruits of his labor. His senior season has included one shining moment - the comeback win over App State in which Hampton scored 22 - and three significant injuries. It appears to close the book on his time with the Mocs for a solid player who deserved a better end because he is a great kid.
- Great win for UT on Saturday against an Alabama team that tested the last-second shot theory. (The Tide proved that the "shot" is the most important part of the last-second shot, and without the shot, you just have nothing.)
- Miami and N.C. State appear set to challenge the ACC's blue bloods. This is a good thing. And are we prepared for a Selection Sunday with UNC and Kentucky potentially on the bubble? Wow, somewhere Joe Lunardi's head just popped off.
- We have the list of all the Final Four entries. There are 34 in all, and there's understandably a lot of chalk. We meant to post them Friday; we'll do it sometime today. Maybe.
- Here's our Final Four contest entry: Michigan, Indiana, Syracuse, Florida. Yes, there's a lot of chalk, huh.
Monster Monday This and that
- A Braves contingent will be in Dalton today for the annual caravan. Among the players there will be Craig Kimbrel, who we believe to be the best closer in baseball. Frank Wren will be there too, and after his busy offseason of signing, wheeling and dealing, dude deserves a nice hand.
- Is it possible to care less about a sporting event than caring about the Winter X Games? Maybe, considering the Summer X Games don't even have snow. On the reverse Mount Rushmore of worthless sports, Winter X Games and Summer X Games are no-brainers, right? From there we'll go NASCAR events at tracks that include right-hand turns and any tennis event that is ranked Captain or a below (If it's not a major, we're not interested).
- Our columnist Mark Wiedmer nailed the Derek Dooley-to-Dallas report here http://www.timesfreepress.com/news/2013/jan/28/Wiedmer-dooley-perfect-fit-for-dallas/. And while Dooley may or may not be inclined to draft former Vols star Da"Rick Rogers, well, here's saying we'd rather than Rogers. And our cousin went to UT and is a monster Cowboys and Yankees fan. The only thing worse today would be news that Mike Hamilton has been named the GM of the Yankees. We need to call him and talk him off the ledge. Here's saying our cousin will forever say "Dooley" the way Seinfeld sayd "Newman."
- And as Weeds alluded to, Dooley has reportedly landed in the newest spot for Jon Gruden-mania. The more things change, the more they stay the same.
- O.J. Simpson has been hit with another $17K-plus tax lien by the IRS. This brings the total to more than $515,000 he owes in back taxes to the state of California and the IRS. Now if this was during the high times of the Juice's popularity, we'd get that. But these are from the years 2007-2011, a good chunk of that time O.J. spent in the joint yet still managed to ring up half a mil in tax debts. How? Second question, yes, it's very Bevis and Butthead, but doesn't the word arrears make you snicker just a touch? He said Uranus.
It's a free-for-all Monday so feel free, for all.
If you need a talking point, here you go.
We started reconnecting with the NBA this weekend, and enjoyed two quality basketball games Sunday.
The Celtics beat the Heat in double overtime. (Instant analysis: LeBron is a beast; When Dwyane Wade start whining like that; The C's are in big, Big, BIG trouble without Rajon Rondo, who tore his ACL last week.)
The Lakers topped the Thunder in L.A. in a game that had a playoff feel. (Instant analysis: Kobe and the Lakers have struggled but they are not dead yet; Kobe has more assists that shots in the last two games - read that again and know that the last two games have been the Lakers' best this season; Russell Westbrook is one of the 10 best players in the NBA and unless he accepts being the very best second banana in the NBA, the Thunder will not win it all.)
The biggest thing we noticed about the Thunder is Kevin Durant is so awesome, he's officially in the Pete Maravich Zone of being on the short list of professional athletes we'd pay to see play just so we can say "We saw him play;" Just some eye-popping stats for you... Durant is in the rarified shooting stratosphere of 50-40-90, meaning he's hitting better than 50 percent of his FG attempts, better than 40 percent of his 3s and better than 90 percent of his free throws - that's old-school, Larry Bird-type of efficiency right there.
Who is your Pete Maravich Rushmore of professional athletes you'd pay to see just so you could say you did?