5-at-10: Bubbling Vols, Shulman's end, Butch's fast start and Tiger

5-at-10: Bubbling Vols, Shulman's end, Butch's fast start and Tiger

March 11th, 2013 by Jay Greeson in Sports - Columns

Daylight Savings time is great. The day we switch back to daylight savings time stinks.

Anyone else dragging? Other than Brandon Knight of course. Knight was dunked on so hard by DeAndre Jordan that the interweb almost melted.

Egads.

While Jordan's Jordanesque moment may have been one of the weekend's highlights, it was dwarfed in the landscape. Grab a cushion and pull up a chair. We're going to be here a while.

From the Bubble Watch Room in the "Talks too much" let's go DeAndre on this...

Vols punch ticket - most likely

Here's what we wrote Feb. 18:

We do not know the future of this UT basketball team, but it seems a tough picture to see them in the NCAA tournament barring a supreme sprint to the finish that can include no more than two more losses. Let's say UT wins five of its final six games to finish the regular season at 19-11 overall and 11-7 in a less-than-impressive SEC. If UT goes at least 2-1 in the SEC tournament, that's 21-12 and could put UT in the bubble conversation. A win against Florida a week from tomorrow would be huge.

Cuonzo "The Conz" Martin and Co. have filled that exact bill. The Vols are 19-11 and appear to be on the inside looking out. Saturday's dramatic, passionate win over Missouri capped a streaking finish of eight wins in their final nine games. Yes, the selection committee has said they have moved away from "record in the last 10" theatrics during the picking process, but this UT bunch passes the NCAA tournament eye test with flying colors even if their resume is still less than a certainty.

The Vols are the local tie to the dance, but they are just one of the puzzles that is a piece of the riddle that is in the enigma that is this NCAA tournament.

On the cusp of the power conference tournaments here are five quick things we know (or at least we think we know):

• We know that Duke, despite not winning its conference title, has the look of a No. 1 seed with Ryan Kelly on the floor.

• We know that Indiana's resume and its impressive comeback Sunday at Michigan should be enough for a No. 1 seed.

• We know Liberty, at 15-20 with a conference tournament title, will be dancing in Dayton in a play-in game.

• We know Auburn is terrible. Or as Chuck Barkley would say, "Tuuurrrr-ble."

• We know the SEC tournament is going to be very intense. The SEC bubble teams - Tennessee, Kentucky, Alabama and Ole Miss - had a clutch Saturday with wins to close out the regular season. We know what the Vols did. Bama hit a half-court buzzer beater to beat Georgia. Kentucky played with guts and energy and passion - something that has been lacking too often - and beat Florida, which has limited to the finish and likely is a 3- or a 4-seed now. Ole Miss went to LSU and won. Each needs at least one SEC tournament win.

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Chattanooga head coach John Shulman talks from the sideline.

Photo by Contributed Photo

Shulman's time is up

We also know this morning that the most lackluster UTC basketball season in our 11 years in Chattanooga is over. Attendance and interest seemed to be at all-time lows.

As our UTC hoops ace David Uchiyama reported Sunday and ace columnist Mark Wiedmer wrote in today's TFP, the status of coach John Shulman is very much up in the air.

We can appreciate John, who is entering the final year of his contract, not wanting to be a lame duck. But no one expects him to get an extension do they?

To be fair, John may have done some of his best coaching this season, taking a rebuilding team that was predicted to finish three spots behind last to a middle of the road finish in the Southern Conference. This team played hard nightly and that's more than can be said about some of Shulman's previous teams.

But, also to be fair, Shulman should have been canned after the 2011-12 debacle, and almost certainly would have been except for the lack of funds on hand to buy out the remainder of his contract.

The financial hurdles that were present 12 months ago are still there, but UTC's on the hook for only one more season. Now the absence of an AD has the future of Shulman and the program in continued limbo.

John does not want to be a lame-duck coach and most of the fan base does not want him to be the coach at all. Seems to me like this may be the first time in a long while that John and the Mocs supporters are on the same page.

Shulman may have gotten an extra year because of finances, but money is a fickle foundation. Now, with sagging attendance and dwindling interest, we don't see any way UTC can afford to have John back. The most damaging emotion in sports is not anger, it's apathy. And it has landed in full force for the men Mocs at McKenzie Arena.

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University of Tennessee football coach Butch Jones talks about spring practice plans during a news conference.

Photo by The Knoxville News Sentinel /Times Free Press.

Butch's big start

We've embraced the wait-and-see approach with Butch Jones.

But even the most reserved Johnny Vols Fans among you must be encouraged by the events of the opening weekend of spring practice. As out UT ace Downtown Patrick Brown as reported all weekend, the drills were different by design and dotted with former famous Vols on the sideline.

Butch's opening news conference had a real Les Miles-feel to it, and that's OK. UT does not need someone to dominate the news conference. You know who owned news conferences? Derek Dooley was unbeaten in the media room. You know who stinks at news conferences? Nick Saban, and that's working out for Alabama pretty well right now.

And after the rosy start to spring drills, more good news came down the ticker Sunday, as four-star defensive back Todd Kelly Jr. committed to the Vols. Yes, his father played for UT, but Kelly said Jones was a big reason why he's coming to Knoxville. (And hey, with as much talent as Fulmer recruited, if UT can bat 80-90 percent on its legacies, that would be a nice start; heck Travis Henry'sgot a stable of future four-stars.)

Plus, the value of getting a big-time player - Kelly's the No. 59-ranked player in the country according to Rivals.com - this early is the ripple effect and the ability for this kid to recruit other kids in his class.

Who knows where this will end - Jones and the Vols still have a rocky and tall climb in the SEC in front of them - but Jones had an excellent start to his first spring.

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Tiger roars

Tiger Woods holds the Gene Sarazen Cup for winning the Cadillac Championship golf tournament Sunday in Doral, Fla.

Photo by Associated Press/Times Free Press.

Every time Tiger lifts a trophy, there will be "Is he back?" quandaries and questions. (He's not back, and that's not about the state of his game this morning; it's about the state of his game in 2007 when he was the story in sports and was in the midst of a the most dominating run in golf history.)

Tiger rolled the field at Doral, literally, winning $1.5 million in his 76th career PGA victory. After a putting tip from Steve Stricker - Sure that went over like a toot in church in the locker room; "Thanks a lot there Steve, way to fix the winning machine," - Woods missed just three putts inside 10 feet during the tournament.

And that's the kicker. There's been a ton of talk and a dozen barrels of ink spilled about Tiger's off-the-course drama and his multitude of swing changes. The reason Tiger dominated golf then has been merely a good player now is his putting.

When he was rolling toward records it was because he was rolling the ball with a record-setting stare. Tiger not only made every important putt, he expected to make them. And more importantly, everyone else expected him to make them. So every other golfer entered every tournament looking knowing Tiger was going to be there and in contention. That pressure worked to his advantage and started to snowball. Tiger went on making 6-footers; everyone else would fall back because they were trying to make something happen because they knew Tiger was making 6-footers. It was a cycle of domination, and maybe Stricker's tip will jumpstart its renewal.

Or maybe it was four good rounds of golf.

We'll know in a month - yes a month from this morning is the start of the Masters. And if Tiger is draining 6-footers, he'll be the storyline and the favorite. You know this. He knows this. And most importantly, the rest of the field knows this.

This and that, with bonus questions

Since we had so much to cover today, and we want your views on any and all of them (and we know Stuck and Chas will have more bubble insight to share), we have combined today's question and the This and That. Enjoy, and remember, it's an open mic Monday.

- Speaking of golf, we have two more items of interest: First, Phil Mickelson hit a cart-path-aided 450-yard drive during the tournament. Yes, 450-yards; well more than a quarter of a mile (and almost as far as Andy Dufresne crawled in the sewer to freedom in Shawshank). Second, are Rory McIlroy's struggles (that's before Sunday's 65 mind you) the product of being the world No. 1? And with those struggles, does it not make the years of Woods' reign even more impressive? We say yes and yes.

- The Miami Heat are in full Weird Science mode in that, like Gary and Wyatt, things are moving, it's working, it's working by itself. LeBron James scored but 13 points Sunday, and still the Heat dumped the Indiana Pacers - the team many think is the lone chance in the Eastern Conference to stop Miami - for their 18th consecutive win. The NBA has a slew of potential storylines: James and the Heatles; Kevin Durant becoming the most effective and dominant offensive player the league has seen since Bernard King was healthy; the Clippers filling highlight tapes every where. Want to know one storyline that's exhausted: The Lakers' drive to the postseason. Sweet buckets we're tired of hearing how Kobe and Dwight and Steve are playing well with others. Where's Mr. Furley, because the "Three's Company" act is tired. They're an eighth-place bunch that would have been unstoppable five years ago. You know who else was unstoppable five years ago - Tiger Woods, who won the U.S. Open on one leg at Torrey Pines. A lot happens in five years, huh?

- Joe Flacco is supporting teammate Anquan Boldin's stand against not taking a paycut from the Baltimore Ravens. Hmmmmm. Well, at least Joe, who parlayed a hot month into the most lucrative contract for a quarterback in NFL history, is not a hypocrite. Someone explain the salary cap to Joe. That said, Boldin' future - along with that of All-Pro safety teammate Ed Reed - will be one of the storylines as the NFL free agency starts Tuesday. The biggest name to most recently land on the free agent list is Steelers linebacker James Harrison, who was released this weekend.

- Speaking of NFL moves, the Falcons seem quietly confident that Tony Gonzalez will play one more year. Although his reported demands include skipping training camp, which could very well be the future of getting veterans to return. Hey, at least Tony G is saying it on the front end as opposed to the song and dance Brett Favre went through at the end of his career.

- Well, tonight the folks on Dallas will bury J.R. Ewing. We're in. Great TV villains? J.R. has to be on the Rushmore with Marlo from the Wire, Who'sHis Pants from Lost (didn't watch it but know it was embraced as great TV by most) and Tony Soprano.

Discuss.