We spent a lot of quality time discussing the Tennessee Vols on Press Row on Monday. A lot of time.
The Vols have earned it, too. They looked as good as any team in the first two rounds of the tournament, pasting UMass and Mercer. It was impressively impressive and has flipped the script on the narrative that is The Conz.
Cuonzo Martin was in the crosshairs of the fan base, a collection of folks that had tasted extreme and overnight success in six glorious years of Bruce Pearl. In the middle of February, the Vols were teetering on the edge of the Dance, and if they were left out for the third straight time in The Conz's three years, well, who knows what the future would have been. The famous petition that drew more than 30,000 signatures to bring Bruce back to Knoxville became the storm cloud of contention within and surrounding the program.
No one needs to concern themselves with that setting now - unless of course The Conz wins two more games, gets to the Final Four and becomes the hottest name on the coaching carousel, which would be the most ironic thing since Alanis Morissette put her mic down.
(And before Jomo bashes the Vol Nation for their angst about the shuffling performance in the season's first 25 games, well, the poetry of the last 10 games proves that they sorely underachieved through the first two-thirds of the season.)
So here we are, admiring the run the Vols have made. How far can it go? Several folks on the show say they believe the Vols have a 'good' shot to win the whole thing. Being in the Sweet 16 certainly means UT has a better shot than a majority of the college basketball realm because they are still alive.
But a 'good' shot to cut down the nets in Dallas? That seems like a stretch to us.
What are your thoughts? How far will UT go?
Side note 1: Here are the Vegas odds for the final 16 to win the title. Just passing it along.
Side note 2: Chat-Vol brought a fair question Monday about the lack of Josh Richardson praise. Well, here you go:
Richardson has become the single biggest individual difference between the shuffling Vols and the surging. Dude has always been a lock-down defender, but he's made 20-of-his-last-28 shots and doing it in a variety of ways. The third option that was supposed to be Jeronne Maymon has become Richardson. That's not a knock on Maymon - dude is battling on creaky knees and there is obviously very little depth behind him.
Richardson also has benefitted from the inside-out approach the team has adopted in the last 10 games. Good times indeed.
Richie Incognito tweeted to Jonathan Martin that he's ready to move on and put this behind him, sending his former teammate and harassment target: "No hard feelings. Let's just move on :)"
This is wrong on a slew of levels.
Not that we should expect social graces from Mr. (anything but) Incognito, but Twitter is hardly the place to extend the olive branch - unless you want to make sure everyone knows, and in that case you are more worried about the appearance of putting this behind you than putting it behind you.
Also, since, you know, Martin was the victim and Incognito the predator according to the Wells' report, Martin tweeting that he's ready to move on is as hollow as his head. Not that may seem a bit rough to say Incognito's head is hollow, but he kind of eliminated all doubt when he admitted to police that he used a baseball bat to smash up his own Ferrari.
Plus, how big are the mood swings of Mr. Incognito? Consider this range: he has become the face of locker room bullying, something that has been around since the pregame hijinks as Daniel was getting ready to go into the Lions' Den; he has attacked an innocent $300,000 automobile with a baseball bat; he sought professional help; and yet he tweets with symbols like the ":)" like a middle schooler.
We are a little more than two weeks from the Masters. Good times. The best of times.
The Masters does not need star power because it brings the star power. That's part of the charm and the allure and the magic.
So if Tiger Woods' balky back forces him to miss the first major of the year at the shrine known as Augusta National, that's no big deal. The course and the tradition and the memories can carry the stage like any star the game has known. It was like that before Tiger and it will be that way long after he limps into the sunset.
But the rest of the PGA Tour needs to buckle up and start looking for the lightning rod/show-stopping talent that could fill Tiger's void. The short term hurdles about his health are a glimpse into the potential Tiger-less future, and if Bay Hill is any indication, that future is filled with yawns and naps and "Who's that guy making bogey on 18 to win?"
There is no replacing Tiger. Like Dale Sr. in NASCAR or Tyson or even the post-Jordan NBA swoon, the truly transcendental figures can not be constructed nor manufactured. They arrive, dazzle and lift everything - their team, their sport, their fans and even their detractors - to a better place.
Woods did that. Whether you wore red shirts on Sunday to support Tiger or cursed every time he was shown on TV despite being 5 shots back, he was part of the storyline.
If he succeeded, he was the story. If he struggled, he was the second story behind the winner. And that type of connection with and investment from the rooting public on each side is the golden ticket for sports leagues.
The PGA Tour rocketed up during Tiger's dominance of the public scope. Now that Tiger may or may not be a regular fixture - and assuredly when he hangs up his Nikes - the PGA Tour needs some semblance of a replacement.
Because if they are going to count on Adam Scott imploding so some Every man golfer can win at Bay Hill or Colonial or wherever and let the drama try to be Tiger's replacement, well, good luck with that.
- Chipper Jones lost more than $1.5 million on the sale of his Roswell, Ga., mansion last week. Here's the story, and that's a sweet pad, Larry.
- Warren Buffett told the Dan Patrick Show that there will be another big-time contest next year and Buffett wants to make it easier to win. Warren Buffett is a pretty cool dude.
- At the NFL owners meeting, the head coaches from around the league posed for a group shot. Here's a link. There was one coach that did not pose for the picture, and here's saying you already know who it was. (It was Bill Belichick, and some where Nick Saban smiles.)
Feel free to chime in on how far you think the Vols can go? We'd like to hear from you. And do you think it would help determine a better champion if the NCAA tournament was re-seeded after the first weekend?
Also, did you see where Shaq O'Neal is being investigated for a claim of assault? Someone that worked with Shaq at TNT says Shaq hit him and fell on him and resulted in surgery for the dude.
Shaq's attorney said it was 'horseplay' and that it was in good fun. He said, he said, maybe, but other than some NFL lineman is there another athlete around that could do more damage horse playing?