5-at-10: Friday mailbag with NBA, first-year SEC coaches' grades and the 5-at-10's third birthday

5-at-10: Friday mailbag with NBA, first-year SEC coaches' grades and the 5-at-10's third birthday

October 25th, 2013 by Jay Greeson in Sports - Columns

Gang, great week - as expected. Tomorrow is the 5-at-10's third birthday - more below - and we're trying to think of all the regulars who have come and gone and you brave souls who keep coming back everyday to waste 20 minutes on our ramblings. There have been a bunch, and we may try to list some of the more prominent ones later today and hope to see the currents swing by as normal.

From the "Talks too much" studios - which used to be the "7-Up stinks" studios - somewhere Les Miles smiles, Jon Gruden extols and Pretend Al Davis snarls. Good times indeed. (And we still love the draft - you know this.)

From Stewwie

Toto's "Africa" and Europe's "The Final Countdown" fall into the "weird, yet cool" category for me. However, if played too much, they can easily get annoying. But hearing them every once in a while makes me want to time warp back to the 80s for a minute. But only for a minute.

For the mailbag (or Tuesday), what are your NBA predictions for the upcoming season? At the least, pick who you think will win the conference finals and Finals. The West looks like it will be a little more unpredictable than the East.

Stewwie -

First, you just capsulized the entire 80s music scene. Can be fun in measures. Can get from cool to "Egad turn that off" quickly. Also, we saw your question late Thursday, and if you did not see them in the paper, our final Fab 4-plus-1 picks are BYU minus-7 and buy the half tonight and Buffalo plus-2 over Kent State.

As for the NBA, we're going to touch on what we expect, and we're going to search for outlier predictions from everyone next week as the NBA season tips off. Deal? Deal.

The West does look slap crazy. The East looks amazingly top-heavy, and that fact will magnify getting the No. 1 overall seed more than ever.

To answer your specific question, we'll put this down on the record:

Heat over Nets in the East; Thunder over Rockets in the West. Heat over Thunder in the Finals.

Here are five predictions for the upcoming season:

LeBron James

Photo by Associated Press/Times Free Press.

1) Durant wins the MVP over LeBron even though LeBron deserves it. This screams of those years in the early 1990s when the league looked to give it to anyone other than MJ.

2) The race for the worst record will be every bit as exciting as the race for the best record this spring. With a stocked draft class led by future stars Andrew Wiggins and Julius Randle, draft position matters. And while the Suns will finish with the worst record - we've played in church leagues that had better rosters - in one final tribute to David Stern, here's saying that somehow Boston 'magically' gets the No. 1 pick.

3) The Cleveland Cavaliers will make the playoffs as the No. 8 seed and face the Heatles in round one. And we are already tired of the "Will LeBron return to Cleveland" storyline that would ensue.

4) The Eastern Conference playoffs are going to be so stacked the NBA will own May and June - well other than the NFL draft which has been moved to May. We love the draft. You know this. How deep is the East? Scary deep. So deep in fact that positioning is huge because if you finish as the No. 4 seed you may have three super-tough foes to get to the Finals. Look at this: if it finishes something like: Heat, Nets, Bulls, Pacers, Knicks, Moe, Larry and Curly. (Side question: How much better was Curly over Shep? This is like the debate between the black-and-white Andy Griffith and the color version in that there is no debate.) Anyhoo, in that scenario, the winner of the 4-5 matchup of Pacers-Knicks then gets No. 1 Miami and then still has Nets-Bulls winner on tap. Wow.

5) Kobe will return. He'll lead the league in shots and could lead in scoring. He is 'that' guy in pick up games that you pray is not on your team because he's never met a shot he did not like or could not make. And in truth he's right, Kobe taking bad shots is a better option than most team have but still.

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From Daily Reader -

You reference Hump Day -- which is hilarious commercial -- the other day.

What's your best commercials Rushmore?

Thanks and thanks for the 5@10?

Daily Reader -

Thanks for being you and for being a daily reader. See what we did there 9er?

Since we know we're going to approach the 3,000-word threshold, let's move quickly.

We're going to have one spot for 'ESPN SportsCenter' commercials and there are a slew of them that are great, but the one that always come to our mind is the "Stiener come get your whoppin' boy" with Evander Holyfield. If you have another ESPN commerical, fire away.

Let's go with these, in no specific order:

ESPN SportsCenter

The Uecker Miller Lite commercials, which really changed the game

Nothing but Net

Where's the Beef lady

That list was quick and off the top of our head. Who you got, and yes it was amazingly tough to leave Mean Joe Greene and the jersey off. Man this is tough, because think of all the Budweiser ads too. No Office linebacker Terry. We may need a few extra Rushmores. No Geico or even the Allstate 'Mayhem' guy who was on Oz. (Did anyone else watch Oz, the HBO series about life in Prison. It was so haunting and so powerful that anyone who appeared on that show is "Hey he was so-and-so on Oz" no matter what other role they played. Gripping stuff.)

Dang you Daily Reader. Now we'll be thinking about this all day.

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From 9er -

Frank Deford says studies show conclusively that there's no such thing as a clutch hitter. (Take that, Mr. October.) Question for Friday: Is there such a thing as a clutch hitter? Is hitting a baseball different from hitting a last-seconds free throw? Or kicking a game winning field goal?

9er -

I read the SI article spinning numbers and asking questions about this topic, and even the godfather of baseball stats, Bill James, has questioned the definition of clutch hitters.

Well, not to question James, who is the Obi Wan of OPS and the dangling tree of numbers and metrics that have resulted, but... (you knew there was a but, right?)

We view clutch in the sports term as the famous Supreme Court definition of pornography. We may not know exactly how to define it, but we know it when we see it.

The numbers-crunching of modern baseball can almost make an argument on any statement and support it. You then could almost support the other side too. Case in point: Stat hounds swear that Mike Trout should have been the MVP in 2012, the year that Miguel Cabrera won the first triple crown in 45 years. Discuss.

As for clutch, yes, we believe in clutch in all sports. And we believe hitting a baseball in big situations is just like making free throws with the game on the line or a field goal with 3 seconds left down by two.

The numbers for a hitter can be misleading in this case because there are so many situations for a baseball player to come to the plate with two outs and a guy on second. OK. Yes, those situations are big, but the moments happen enough that the averages are weighed. We're not looking for math in terms of clutch as we are looking for moments.

And if you don't believe in clutch, well, what did you expect when Big Papi came to the plate with the bases loaded in the eighth of Game 1 of the ALCS with the Sox down 5-1? Yep, we all expected him to deliver. And he did. That's clutch, regardless of what the numbers say or even if the numbers can define it.

Embracing that moment can define a career - and wreck it. Joe Montana became Joe Cool because he walked into the Super Bowl huddle, his 49ers down a score with less than two minutes left and the first words out of his mouth were, "Hey is that John Candy?" The Niners cracked up and, relaxed, walked down the field to score the game winner. That's clutch.

Nick Anderson's career was never the same after he missed two big free throws in Game 1 of the NBA Finals in 1994. Scott Norwood? Einhorn is Finkel; Finkel is Einhorn.

The difference between Norwood and Adam Vinatieri? Clutch.

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From Fred -

Man, the 5@10 is excellent.

In talking with my buddy who reads you everyday, we decided that you could settle this -- who of the first year SEC coaches has been the best so far.

I'll hang up and listen, and anything new on Press Row -- you guys were excellent.

Fred -

Thanks for the question and for the kind words.

Let's take the second part first. David Paschall and the TFP Sports Editor had a blast doing Press Row on 105.1. It was fun. We have had some talks about trying to restart Press Row. We're hopeful that happens at some point, so we'll see.

As for the SEC coaches, well, it would be way easier to grade the worst one, right? Wow, the dumpster fire filled with bad Indian food and dirty diapers that is the Arkansas Razorbacks has become hard to watch and impossible to turn away from.

Plus, as Bret Bielema looks around at that roster and the scenes in the SEC West, where attempts at rebuilding make the guy who built his house on the sand look at you with puzzled eyes and a smirk on his face, this is a tall order. Heck, the Hogs may finish worse under Bielema than they did under John L. Smith. Yes, that John L. Smith, who entered a news conference last year with his primary talking point being that the members of the media needed to smile more.

OK, coach.

Western Kentucky head coach Bobby Petrino watches from the sideline during an NCAA college game in Nashville against Kentucky in this Aug. 31, 2013, file photo.

Photo by Associated Press/Times Free Press.

Here's one other thing: How sure are we that Bielema is committed to this? Would it stun you completely if in this offseason of much change that will start with monolith jobs such as USC making hires and the trickle down from there will create waves more than ripples, if Bielema picks up after one year and heads somewhere else? And, while that may not happen, how long before the vocal minority of Hogs fans start longing to have the salad days of Bobby Petrino back? Tough times in Fayetteville for sure.

That said, the other three first year guys in the SEC are riding waves of positive vibes. Mark Stoops and Co. at Kentucky have put together a top-flight recruiting class by making the SEC pitch in talent-rich Ohio and spending shoe leather chasing prospects. Kentucky's current class is ranked No. 8 in the country by Rivals.com and is currently ahead of such recruiting juggernauts as Texas, LSU and Florida. And yes, we double-checked to make sure it was the football rankings.

On the field, UK is taking a squirt gun to a shootout, but the Cats are fighting in every game. Stoops gets a solid B and if he keeps that recruiting class together and finds another win or two down the stretch, it could be a B-plus.

In Knoxville, Butch Jones has flipped the script. He has laid a foundation of buzz words and catch phrases - and whomever came up with the Farm Bureau commercial that emphasized "Brick-by-Brick," well that person deserves a raise - that took off. It took off with recruits and UT fans. It has galvanized a locker room that had become an eight-figure building of misfit toys that barely worked together and lacked direction.

The spirit and energy were super and exciting and the fundamentals and discipline were fine and dandy. But they do not last without results. Butch and Co. took their swings against Georgia. They won against South Carolina. They have delivered above the tapered expectations and in some ways have already made the first step in renewing the rivalry with Alabama because we are at least interested to watch today's game. That's something this time last year was hardly true, considering that trying to put intrigue in Derek Dooley vs. Nick Saban was like trying to figure ways that the baby seals could beat the clubbers.

Derek Dooley

Photo by The Knoxville News Sentinel /Times Free Press.

Add in the recruiting class - Butch's bunch is No. 2 in the nation according to Rivals - and it is tough to find much to criticize with Butch's first 10 months on the job. We'll give him an A-minus that will be bumped higher if/when the Vols qualify for a bowl game.

Which brings us to Gus Malzahn, the first-year Auburn coach who inherited a dysfunctional but talented program, put on his wizard hat, added a sprinkle of junior-college quarterback Nick Marshall and BOOM, the Auburn Tigers are in control of their own destiny in the SEC as we approach the final Saturday of October. Yes, imagining the Tigers topping Alabama is to stretch the limits of even the most diehard Tigers fan, but it still is undeniable that there are only three SEC teams in complete control of their fate in the conference and Auburn is one one of them.

That fact is made even more eye-popping since this was about the point last year that the Tigers phoned in the end of last season. Now, they are already bowl eligible and have ratcheted their expectations from hoping to make the postseason to playing in no worse than a New Year's Day bowl.

According to a recent story on ESPN.com, several Tigers including star running back Tre Mason have said Malzahn has preached from Day One that Auburn would have the biggest turnaround in the country. After going 3-9 overall and bagel-and-8 in the SEC last year, the 6-1 Tigers are ranked No. 11 in the AP poll and well on the way to making Gus the Wizard look like Gus the Prophet.

Let's recap: Bielema gets an incomplete that looks a lot like an F; Stoops gets a B that could swing up; Butch Jones gets an A-minus and Malzahn gets an A-plus.

What do you think?

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From Jay -

I have been reading this FOIB sports column for a while, and I have had the same question a lot so I decided to go ahead and ask.

How did you get started on this? Seriously? Where did you come up with a lot of this? Your blog is funny dude but as you say you can talk too much.

Thanks and thanks for 5@10

Jay -

Great name, by the way.

Wow, it's been a busy and crazy ride with the 5-at-10, which started out Oct. 26, 2010 as a brief - yes Spy, brief - highlight of the sports from the day before that was updated by the now-defunct 2:00 Drill, which was an update at 2 p.m. everday.

We went about six weeks before we got any comments so the 2:00 Drill was where we updated things. Once the comment tap was tapped, the 2:00 Drill became redundant.

That was three years ago tomorrow. It's hard to image really.

52 weeks x 3 years = 156 weeks

156 weeks x 5 = roughly 780 consecutive Monday-through-Fridays that we have done some sort of 5-at-10.

As for where is started, well, we have a slew of administrative duties at the TFP but we got into this business to write about sports. This was a way to make sure we write about sports every day. For that we are tickled. We also are tickled to have the chance to interact with the regulars and the newcomers.

There's rarely a day that goes by in which we don't see some one that mentions something about the 5-at-10 and that's a good thing. And for that we are thankful.

In truth, we likely would have stopped this a long while ago if it had not been for the regular comment-givers and those that pitch in. We have roamed the gambit, and had several folks step in or out depending on busy seasons, pay walls, jobs or what-have-you.

For those of you that have been around these parts for a while, thanks. For those of you reading for the first time, pull up a chair and stay a while. (We used to say, "don't cost nuthin'" but that's not entirely true any more.)

The subject matter and topics either come quickly or are vetted through some early morning research. Like most things, some days it's really easy to have stuff to write about and some days it's a chore.

In the end though, this has become one of the funnest parts of our gig, and certainly one of the most rewarding.

And for that - and for three day-in, day-out years - we say thanks.

And yes, we still "Talk too much."