5-at-10: Shiny Pearl, bracket tips, Tiger's back and Rushmores

5-at-10: Shiny Pearl, bracket tips, Tiger's back and Rushmores

March 19th, 2014 by Jay Greeson in Sports - Columns

And with one eye-popping line across the ticker, Auburn basketball was reborn.

Coach Bruce Pearl

Auburn hired Bruce Pearl, and with that, Auburn AD Jay Jacobs has re-constructed his legacy - a legacy that 18 months ago looked to be doomed and forever to marred by the Gene Chizik and Tony Barbee debacles.

Now, Jacobs has assembled Gus Malzahn and Pearl, a duo in their respective positions that ranks no worse than third in the country behind the pair at Michigan State and THE Ohio State, and right there with the Duke tandem.

Pearl got a six-year deal that will pay him almost $15 million. In his typical showman style, Pearl sprung for almost $2,100 in pizza for the hundreds of students who were waiting for him when he arrived in Auburn. It was reported that former assistant Tony Jones and his son Stephen Pearl will join his staff at Auburn.

The ripples of this hire for the league - and Pearl's perplexing decision to take on arguably the biggest reclamation project in the South since that war criminal Sherman left - are wide-reaching, and as ace TFP columnist Mark Wiedmer tells us here, almost completely good.

It's nearly impossible to see a bad angle on this hire because even if Pearl dives right back into the NCAA hot water, what has Auburn lost? If they are put on a two-year tournament ban, oh well. They've been on a self-imposed stinky decade-long tournament ban.

Also, to go from perspective to Civil War to metaphysical, there are a few lifelong lessons that we can collect here:

1) Patience. It would have been easy to run Jacobs after the meltdown that was the 3-9 2012 season and the all the filth muck that was the athletics department. This applies to a slew of levels of athletics - be it coaching or administrators.

2) Everyone deserves a second-chance.

3) Whether it's a job, a date to the prom with the cheerleader or whatever, just ask. Ask. The worst they can say is no, and in a million years, we had zero belief that Pearl would take on the Auburn project. So Jacobs asked and Pearl listened and the next thing you know, it's Tuesday of the first round of the NCAA tournament - we're 36 hours before the ball is tipped for crying out loud - and we're talking about Auburn basketball. We're not talking about practice, we're talking about the Plains. Heck, Auburn was trending on Twitter around lunchtime Tuesday. For basketball.

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Tournament

Let's take a look at the draw and how we pick our bracket.

We work backward. We decide on our Final Four - the teams we believe to be the best that are playing well right now - and draw from the four back to round one. This means we have penciled in the four - Florida, Arizona, Michigan State and Louisville - we picked Monday. Yes, it means we have the same Final Four as the President, and that means we are definitely going to have to enter a second bracket now.

Basketball tile

When we first put that quartet down, we felt good about having a mix of 1 seeds and other seeds. When we saw the released Vegas odds - those four are the four favorites to win the whole thing according to the guys in Sin City who so this for a living - we felt simultaneously good and bad. You never want to walk straight favorites, but these are the Vegas favorites not the selection committee favorites.

So we're sticking there - although we boldly pronounced Syracuse as our team in lat January, and the Orange's implosion in the final furlong has made us reverse course, which naturally means they are going to win it all - and now the scoring tricks come in.

It's great to be the guy that picks Florida Gulf Coast winning a couple of games, but in most of those cases, those are only a few points. Yes, upsets happen, and even in a year when we do not have a clear-cut double-digit seed that seems to be peaking, upsets will happen this week too. But picking a winning sheet is about calculated risk and hedging point loss.

If you had FGC last year, you likely picked a slew of early upsets, and while you got to brag about being the one that nailed the 15 over the 2, you likely lost ground overall because you picked several other upsets that may not have hit.

So calculate, and hedge, and by hedging, if you are riding a No. 4 seed - like Michigan State and Louisville - do not be shy about picking the 12 over the 5 in that bracket. This proves wise in two directions: 1) We know a 12 will beat a 5 this weekend since it has happened in 23 of the last 25 tournaments; 2) If those 5 seeds - St. Louis or Cincinnati - make a run beyond the first weekend, that means they have knocked out No. 4 seeds we are riding into the Final Four, so our sheet is dead anyway.

Also, as you are trying to collect early-round scraps from Long Rebound's table, know that No. 9s have won over 8s almost 55 percent of the time. So pick two 9s - we like Pittsburgh and Oklahoma State, but you can mix and match them.

Next, remember that more times than not there is one bracket that works almost exactly according to the seeds and then there is one bracket that becomes bedlam. Those are completely up in the air.

Also, we will post our early list of entries in our "First-out, last-in challenge" and some of the prizes will include some TFP gear and something from the Final Four - be it a T-shirt or hat or whatever. Also remember to play in the Press Row bracket through espn.com. Here are the details: Contestants must have an account on www.ESPN.com to enter. If they don't have one, they must create one. Click on "Tournament Challenge" under the "Fantasy & Games" tab. Search for the group name "ESPN 105.1 The Zone." Use the password "chattanooga." One bracket per player and prizes are still to be determined.

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Tiger's back

The ups and downs of Tiger Woods since his car accident Thanksgiving 2008 and the subsequent fall-out that revealed his private life turmoil have been well-documented.

Once considered a lock to break Jack Nicklaus' all-time majors record of 18, Woods has not won a major title since the U.S. Open of '08 and the future looks limited.

Sure, Woods won multiple times last year and led the PGA Tour in victories and money, but he was a factor in only half the majors. For most every other golfer on the planet, that's a career year. For Tiger, that's a "What happened and can he recover" year.

Sure, that's a testament to the standard he set in a magical decade from 1997-2008 when the question before every major was, "Tiger or the field?" and more times than not you took Tiger.

But it's also something he readily admits. He has repeatedly said he will be judged by the major championships and he's winless going on five-plus seasons.

And we can debate whether his game was cooked mentally or whether he had lost his intimidation factor or what have you, but his biggest hurdle now appears his health. Even more troubling for Tiger fans, is that those health-related questions center on a balky back that could portend struggles for the rest of his career.

Woods pulled out of the Arnold Palmer Invitational because of back issues and his presence at the Masters next month is at least in question.

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This and that

Lance Armstrong shown in a file photo.

Photo by Associated Press/Times Free Press.

- Not since Lance Armstrong has a story moved me less than this entire Phil Jackson to the Knicks stuff. Whatever. That said, it dawns on us that Jackson now faces the cross road of tarnishing the best reputation in team sports since Red Auerbach put out his cigar. A disaster in the Big Apple will push the Zen Master a step closer to Bill Parcels, who built a monster with the Giants and then limited out of sight with mercenary stints in Dallas and Miami. That said, if Jackson turns the dumpster fire that is the Knicks into a winner, he moves to the far left on the Rushmore of all-time professional coaches/executives.

- Cam Newton will have ankle surgery and will be sidelined for four months. That's less than desirable for a Panthers team that was a win from the NFC title game last year and will need Newton to connect with a new receiving corps sooner rather than later.

- UT faces Iowa tonight in the NCAA play-in game. We expect this experienced Vols bunch to play very well. We also hate the fact that this is called the "first round" that's so confusing. Also, they better be real careful with these play-in games butting up against the start of the tournament. Sure the brackets are far from the minds of the NCAA folks that run the Dance. But even as popular as the tournament is, if they limit participation in brackets because legit teams that can win a game or two are in the play-in game - like Tennessee or Iowa against a mediocre UMass team - then the Dance will certainly feel the effects. Yes, everyone loves the drama, but unless you have a vested interest, you are not as connected and the bracket gives an estimated 100 million people a vested interest.

- We are planning on having former Signal Mountain High and current Kentucky Wildcats quarterback Reese Phillips on Press Row today around 4:30. Give it a listen - don't cost nothing.

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Today's question

Feel free to flow freely.

If you need talking points:

Final grade for Will Wade and the Mocs after year one is officially complete?

As we detailed on Press Row, Vince Vaughn bought the L.A. house owned most recently by Lane Kiffin. Wells asked us on the air, the three potential things Kiffin may have left behind by accident. Thoughts? Or what is your Rushmore of Vince Vaughn movies?

Also, we've had pro day for Teddy Bridgewater and Blake Bortles goes today, so two of the top three quarterbacks on almost every draft board will have complete once overs. Bridgewater was erratic in the throwing drills; Bortles appears to be getting knocked for being "too cool." Can there be a thing as being too cool or is that like being too rich?

Discuss.