5-at-10: Vols win, Madness, NFL smokeshow, Rushmore and what would you ask Dale Murphy

Gang, remember the Friday mailbag

Before we get going today, we must tip the Tam O'Shanter to Grateful Dog, who at the horn whipped in two one liners Wednesday. The first one was about someone's finger roll and tippy-toed the edge of the in-bounds line, but the second - "If I was a fan of mixed signals and mood swings, I'd still be married" - was well-played indeed. Nice job sir.

From the "Talks too much" studios, let the Madness begin.

Vols deliver

It was an effort that started slow and finished with an overpowering surge. It was a microcosm of their season. It was a statement for their coach. It was a sign that this team will be a tough out.

photo Tennessee guard Jordan McRae (52) drives against Iowa in the first half of a first-round game of the NCAA college basketball tournament on Wednesday, March 19, 2014, in Dayton, Ohio.

The Tennessee Vols have delivered again, playing their best with their backs against the wall. We should not be surprised by this.

When given leeway and room for error, these Vols err. They never were able to extend a conference winning streak beyond two games until they were pushed into the corner of win-or-NIT, and since that late February do-or-be-doomed ultimatum game against Mississippi State, UT has fought and battled and played with a toughness that has been lacking for most of Cuonzo Martin's previous two-plus seasons.

After surviving an passionate start from Iowa, which started quickly in part because of the emotional family situation of coach Fran McCaffery, Tennessee worked. They grinded. They started inside out and got another 20-point game from senior Jordan McRae and a river of big shots and big stops from Josh Richardson, who played his best game of the season.

It was a do-or-pack-the-gear moment - something these Vols are imminently familiar with - and UT did. Again.

We'll admit it - The Conz and Co. have answered the bell. They finally have adjusted to not having a point guard and are working around it rather than forcing it to get better. They have become one of the best defensive teams still playing (Iowa scored 65 points in 45 minutes, which is the most UT has allowed in almost a month, and almost 15 less than what the Hawkeyes average per 40 minutes).

And it's all happening at the right time, and in this Dancing moment.

Who's next?


Contest stuff

We have an expanded bracket-picking column on the website.

photo Basketball tile

Here's what we have so far on the First-Out; Last-In Challenge in which you pick the first No. 1 seed to leave the dance and the last double-digit seed to stay. If we missed your entry, let us know:

5-at-10 - Wichita State; Stephen F. Austin

Mrs. 5-at-10: Arizona; Harvard

TFP ace Uch - Arizona; Nebraska

TFP ace/Press Row cohort David Paschall - To be announced

Press Row cohort Wells Guthrie - To be announced

Dawg747 -Virginia; North Dakota State

scole023 - Wichita State; Tennessee

JJ - Arizona; Tennessee

Billy in Brainerd - Wichita State; Tennessee

Chas9 - Wichita State; St. Joe's

Jomo - Virginia; St. Joe's

McPell - Virginia; Nebraska

Spy - Arizona; NC State

Fred - Virginia; Tennessee

OTwatcher - Wichita State; Arizona State

StuckinKent - Virginia; Providence

Trigger - Florida; Tennessee

Believer - Virginia; Tennessee

ThatIDoKnow - Virginia; NC State

JordanRules - Wichita State; Stanford

There's still time to enter.


NFL rule changes

The NFL competition committee is looking at several potential rule changes.

The league is all-but assured of making using the N-word a 15-yard penalty, according to those covering the event. Some are even saying this is a done deal. Whatever. We're not sure the guys in the zebra shirts are good enough at all the things they are already charged with to be the morality police too, but whatever.

Here, according to Yahoo.com, is the list of the other rule tweaks/changes on the committee's list:

photo NFL logo

1) Move kickoffs to the 40-yard line, from the 35, where it is now.

2) Making all personal fouls reviewable.

3) Eliminating overtime in preseason games.

4) Extending the goalposts vertically by 5 feet on each side.

5) Moving extra-point attempts to the 25-yard line, making it a 43-yard try. (This was proposed by the Patriots.) The competition committee separately is proposing one preseason game this season where extra-point snaps will take place from the 20.

6) Adding six cameras to all boundary lines on the field to supplement TV camera angles.

7) Allowing any officials' decisions to be challenged by coaches, not just specific kinds of plays.

8) Protecting players from getting their legs rolled up on from the side - and not just from the back - as a penalty.

9) Allowing the referee to confer with members of the NFL officiating department in New York at the league office during replay reviews.

10) Changing review rules on the recovery of a loose ball - aka, the "NaVorro Bowman rule" from the controversial NFC championship game non-call - in the field of play. This would including reorganizing the replay section of the NFL rulebook. (Which, frankly, needs it.)

11) Keeping the clock running on quarterback sacks at all times of the game.

12) Changing pass interference so that it can be called within a yard of the line of scrimmage.

13) Enforcing defensive penalties behind the line of scrimmage from the previous spot, instead of from the end of the play or from the spot of the foul.

Man, some these changes are extreme and seem certainly more major than players using the N-word or extra points.

Let's review from the top down:

1 - This ends kick returns and limits job opportunities for some of the game's specialists.

2 - Do not have a problem with this one, but it certainly could add to the length of the game.

3 - Whatever. (Here's an idea, why not eliminate two preseason games while your at it. Oh wait, that would cut the chance owners get and gouging fans and season-ticket holders.)

4 - Fine.

5 - Another whatever, but the endless talk of the extra point becomes exactly what we said it was - a giant, Roger Goodell smokescreen, a Rope-a-Dope, or better yet a Roge-a-Dope - when you look at some of the other things on this list.

6 - Should have been done a long time ago.

7 - Should have been done a long time ago. The fact that some game-changing plays can not be corrected simply because they "are not reviewable" is like a murderer getting away because the prosecution stupidly decided to make the defendant try on a glove that was too small. (Hi, Grateful Dawg.)

8 - We really need more penalties open to interpretation from refs that asked to do 100 things and now, instead of watching for holding or real penalties, they are going to have to look at knees and listen for slurs? No thanks.

9 - We'll call this the Mike Pereira rule. Mike Pereira is the former rules chief that sits in the Fox studios and rules on the rules of officiating, and more times than not he sounds way more proper and correct than the refs. This is another safe guard, which is OK. It also is another slow down for the flow of the game.

10 - Absolutely. After the NCAA rule book, the guidelines to the NFL replay system are on the shortlist of things that need a rewrite. STAT.

11 - OK. And we're going to need several other "keep-the-game-moving" rules with all the extra reviews and replay stuff planned. Of course, only in the modern NFL are we making rules to increase the time spent policing and decrease the time spent playing. Roge-a-Dope indeed.

photo Peyton Manning

12 - Game-changer. As it's written, this could be a huge change. You think Peyton Manning won't target press cornerbacks who put their hands on receivers in the first 5 yards or third-and-8 with a one-step drop and throw? This would all but eliminate press coverage - it would become standard operating procedure for team to throw a quick hitch and to incite penalties. Playing defense is already hard enough and they have a river of rules trying to increase scoring. Do we really need one more hinderance on the modern NFL defenses?

13 - Need some clarification on this. What if a runner is breaking through and a less-than-reliable-tackling DB is the only thing between the ball carrier and the goalline. If we're reading this right, it would behoove the DB to horse collar or facemask the runner after 15 yards, because the penalty would be assessed from the line of scrimmage rather than enforcing the penalty on the end of the run. And if you're creating a rule that, by design it benefits a team to break intentionally, well, that's a bad idea.

Should be an interesting discourse. Of course, if the debate gets too heated, our boy Roge will either decide that NFL cleats are too long or that all players who do not use the proper fork on their pregame salad will have to miss the first possession.


This and that

- We will have former Braves slugger Dale Murphy on Press Row around 3:15 today. What would you like us to ask him?

- Florida State's national title rings are in and they are every bit as flashy as you'd expect. Bling.

- We continued our Rushmore of sports movie bracket Wednesday on Press Row. We have done the Rushmore of baseball movies (The Natural, Bull Durham, Major League and Field of Dreams) and just finished our Rushmore of football movies (Brian's Song, Longest Yard, Rudy and Friday Night Lights). We need help with the seeding. Who do you seed Nos. 1-4 in the Hobbs Bracket and the Crew Bracket?


Today's question(s)

Last chance for brackets or contests at the various entries options. You could win stuff.

Is this the best day in sports? It's right there. It's certainly the first of the best two-day combo in sports.

What's your Rushmore of sports days?

We'll start with today (and Friday) and Sunday at Augusta. What else you got?