5-at-10: Alabama, Oats face deserved heat, UT stumbles, pay to play, win Lady Vols tickets

FILE - Alabama forward Brandon Miller brings the ball up during the first half of the team's NCAA college basketball game against Auburn on Feb. 11, 2023, in Auburn, Ala. Police say Miller brought a teammate the gun that was used in a fatal shooting near campus. Tuscaloosa Police investigator Brandon Culpepper testified during a preliminary hearing Tuesday, Feb. 21, that Miller brought Darius Miles’ gun to him on the night of the shooting after Miles texted him and asked him to do so. (AP Photo/Butch Dill, File)

A real basketball controversy

We'll start in Tuscaloosa this morning, where basketball has been a bright spot this season.

The Tide are good. The Tide have the nation's best college NBA prospect. The Tide are dashing toward a 1 seed.

And Tuesday, we learned all of those things come with the tainted knowledge -- a knowledge that the program has long had -- that the aforementioned future NBA star Brandon Miller allegedly brought the gun to former teammate Darius Miles, who gave it to a person who killed a women with the gun earlier this year.

The details from a hearing involving Miles and Michael Lynn Davis -- each of whom is charged with murder in the killing of Jamea Harris -- made it clear, in my opinion, that Miller brought Miles' gun to Miles that night, setting in motion the events that forever changed the lives of many and ended the life of Harris.

The questions of guilt and innocence will be left to the courts. According to an assistant district attorney involved in the case, when asked about Miller's role, "there's nothing we could charge him with" was the legal answer.

The matter of justice will be measured by God in the end.

But the questions for Nate Oats, the Alabama coach should not be silenced or stifled.

The gun was handed to the trigger puller in Miller's car, according to testimony. Miller's Dodge Charger -- does every elite athlete in the history of Crimson Tide sports drive a Dodge Charger? Asking for a few millions college sports fans -- was struck twice by bullets in return fire from Harris' boyfriend after the original shooting spree.

But what about the practical answer for Oats and the Alabama athletic leadership, who knew about Miller's involvement from the start.

Yes, Alabama was quick to boot Miles from the program and scrub his image from the halls and website, but even the less-cynical among us would note that Miles was a bench-warmer.

Miller is the key to a Final Four run and possibly the best Alabama player ever.

And while the cannons of legalese in Tuscaloosa may not offer an avenue to charge the first-team All-American with a crime, it assuredly does not mean his role in the murder of a young woman should go unexcused.

He brought the murder weapon to the scene. By reports, he parked his car behind the victim's Jeep, preventing any type of escape before the attack.

There are easily a half dozen -- or more -- options that Miller could have picked.

Did he pull the trigger? No. Was it his gun? Again, no. So legally, he appears to be in the clear.

Morally and ethically and even practically, well, those questions abound.

And Oats should be front and center to answer them, considering the Tide coach did the following:

-- Knew of Miller's involvement from Day 1.

-- Said nothing of Miller's involvement;.

-- Played the mini-violin, "We're so sorry for the victim and her family" card almost from the moment news broke while keeping the extra secrets mum.

-- Did not discipline Miller in any public fashion.

And Tuesday, as news broke, had the gall to say his high-scoring, high-flying, high-producing freshman:

"We've known the situation since (it happened)," the Alabama coach said Tuesday, according to transcripts of his initial meeting with the media. "We've been fully cooperating with law enforcement ... I mean, can't control everything anybody does outside of practice. Nobody knew that was going to happen. College kids are out. Brandon hasn't been in any type of trouble nor is he in any type of trouble in this case.

"You know, wrong spot at the wrong time."

Read that last one again -- wrong spot at the wrong time -- and remember that Miller got into his car, brought a loaded gun to the Strip, blocked the victim's car in, and that's 100% choosing the wrong choices that lead you to the wrong spot every time.

Yes, Oats released follow-up statements trying to clarify his above remarks after the initial statement showed him to be a bigger jackwagon than Pitino, more tone-deaf than any person ever, or desperate to be on the Dave Bliss All-Stars in terms of college basketball murder cover-ups.

As for what happens next, well, that's anyone's guess.

But regardless of whether Miller keeps playing or the Tide keeps winning, the questions should keep coming for Oats and Co.

February swoon

February frustrations for the Tennessee Vols basketball team continued Tuesday, just in an SEC outpost.

Since the 5-at-10 jinx proclaimed them to be as good as anyone in the land after looking as good as anyone in the land when they walked Texas to the shed, UT is 2-5 this month.

Last night's road setback at Texas A&M clearly has the Vols at a boiling point. It also is a criss-cross of trajectories for two teams.

The Aggies were among the worst in the SEC before Christmas; they have been among the league's best since the conference slate started. Tennessee was one of America's best teams until the calendar flipped to February, and since it's been confounding.

Tuesday's Aggies win was a classic defensive rock fight -- the style of game UT covets -- and yet Tennessee got outworked late and never found a consistent offensive answer.

The first one of those -- a Rick Barnes team getting outworked -- rarely happens. The second one has happened far too often to buy stock right now in the Vols getting beyond the first weekend in the NCAA tournament.

Afterward, the UT fans were, like Linda Richman discussing Barbra Streissand, verklempt.

It's a frustration that has permeated the program.

There are some wondering how deep the statistically best defensive team in America can advance next month.

Some are wondering if there's a crunch-time scoring option on the roster.

Some are wondering why Josiah-Jordan James and Julian Phillips are looking great in warm ups but not playing when the ball is tipped.

It's a perplexing proposition for sure, and it's one that clearly has everyone involved flummoxed.

Perspective please

So, while basketball issues abound -- and are certainly bigger than this picking of nits -- this caught my eye over the last 24 hours in terms of perspective.

First, quality perspective is like left-handed layouts in that it is a practiced skill that only continues to grow when it is exercised. It also is like a five-star reputation in that it is acquired through extended periods of exposure and existence.

So expecting any young basketball player to have the perspective of a sage may be expecting too much on one hand, but the juxtaposition was worth discussion in my mind.

Let's check in on former Chattanooga-area prep star Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who answered an earnest question about ways to improve the hard-to-watch product that was Sunday's NBA All-Star Game.

SGA's answer, for the most part, was to pay the players more. Incentives get more effort, he said, even in an All-Star Game, which almost always come with an appearance bonus that is more than most Americans make a year. He also said this wearing a fur coat. Indoors.

I love SGA's game, and by all accounts he is a trouble-free young man who has less baggage than a day-trip flier to Atlanta from Chattanooga for an afternoon meeting.

But in his first NBA All-Star appearance -- yes, his first All-Star trip, which used to be an honor in and of itself -- he openly admits that he needs more coin to play hard in a game that used to be looked upon with excitement?

And all of this happening as one of the main talking points of the weekend was the commissioner coming out to defend the process of "load management" and regularly sitting/resting stars?

Again, by every measure, SGA is a good dude who can seriously play. Still, something tells me he's going to want that one over again.

This and that

-- So there's a consensus top-ranked women's basketball team playing in Knoxville on Thursday night. UT also will be in uniform. Man, Pat must be rolling over in her grave seeing No. 1 South Carolina at unranked Tennessee. Here's betting the Lady Vols give USC all its can handle Thursday. And here's a place for you to register to potentially win the chance to see what would be a fun upset-in-the-making.

-- Back in the saddle. After a very unsettling 1-3 on Monday that was not really close on any of the losses, Jay's Plays cruised to a relatively easy 2-1 showing Tuesday. Miami was an underdog at Virginia Tech and won outright going away, and Kansas State continued to be one of the nation's top teams in its own building. We missed on Xavier, but that was a coin-flip type of-deal. More to come this afternoon, and if you are still having trouble receiving the weekday email, here's the main page to register. Go down to "Plays of the Day" and check that box. Heck, check all the boxes that interest you for that matter. As Uncle Buck famously said, "Let's win some dough."

-- The Hawks fired Nate McMillian. I have no comment really, other than Trae Young will likely have his fourth head coach next year in what will be his sixth season in the NBA. Hmmmmmmm. Have we mentioned lately that the Hawks traded Young for Luka Doncic.

-- All the stupid college hoops action meant we had to shelve our full USFL draft breakdown. Alas. Notable picks: Birmingham landed former Louisville QB Malik Cunningham; Memphis picked Tennessee offensive lineman Jerome Carvin; Michigan picked Minnesota QB Tanner Morgan; and New Jersey got Kansas State QB Adrian Martinez. I did not see any UTC players among the picks.

Today's questions

Which way Wednesday starts this way: Which is most likely to happen for the Vols, right the ship and make a run, Sweet 16 at best, don't overpack for the NCAA tournament?

Which suggestion would you have for making the NBA All-Star Game better?

Which was your reaction to the Alabama news that Brandon Miller was a part of the January murder?

Which was your word to describe Nate Oats' comments Tuesday?

Ask some, leave some on a Which Way Wednesday.

As for today, well, 43 years ago, a group of college hockey players pulled off the biggest team upset in sports history.

And yes, I believe in miracles.

The first Iron Bowl was played on this day in 1893. Auburn won 32-22.

Drew Barrymore is 48 today.

Doctor J is 73 today.

Rushmore of "doctors" in sports. Go.