5-at-10: SEC hoops review, high times for UT athletics, who wins Reed-Rory rumble?

Mississippi State forward D.J. Jeffries (0) chases down a loose ball with Alabama guard Mark Sears (1) on his heels during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2023, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. (AP Photo/Vasha Hunt)

SEC-ond attempt

We started reviewing all the SEC hoops squads last Thursday. We'll do it through the rest of the regular season.

Deal? Deal.

Before we get there, we also got a nice differential equation last night. And no, relax, Vader and my other engineer-minded folks, I will not use my Auburn math and try to explain X(squared) + 2X + 8 = 32.

This is the word equation about basketball differences, as in the difference between 1 seeds and mid-seeds who will be lucky to see the second weekend in the five-letter months that was on display last night.

When a 1-seed does not play well, it finds a way to win. Hence, Alabama.

When a mid-seed that fits the above description does not play well, it gets worked -- at home -- by a bubble team that had more hunger and more hustle. Hence Auburn.

See the difference?

And, to make Chas even more smiley this morning, the Texas A&M road win at Auburn that ended the nation's longest home-court run makes UK's weekend win over the Aggies more attractive on the ledger.

With that, I think the league will fight to get more than four teams in with the following tiers:

Fighting for 1 seeds -- Alabama (18-2 overall, 8-0 SEC; No. 3 nationally in the NET rankings) and Tennessee (17-3, 7-1, No. 2 NET).

In, but far from confident about a second weekend -- Auburn (16-4, 6-2, 33 NET) and truth be told, the next three weeks are a heck of a lot tougher than the previous three weeks, and Auburn could certainly play itself right back toward the bubble with a few more efforts like last night.

Bubblicious (in no particular order) -- A&M (14-6, 6-1, 43 NET) but a haunting pre-Christmas slump means no margin for error; Arkansas (14-6, 3-5, 24 NET) has margin for error if some of its first-round talent can get healthy because the committee puts injuries in perspective; Kentucky (14-6, 5-3, 32 NET) still has very little margin for error right now because of the South Carolina loss, but the Cats look better than they have all year thanks to Cason Wallace being more assertive and Frederick kid knocking down perimeter shots. Plus the star power of the name on the front of the shirts as well as the star power of Oscar means UK will win almost every tie with almost every other bubble sitter (and even Doug would have to admit that), Missouri (15-5, 4-4, 48 NET) and this could be a team as dangerous as anyone not named Alabama in the tournament because these Tigers can really score.

Better but need more dudes -- Georgia, Vandy, even LSU in a lot of ways. I think Georgia's going to be a great deal better sooner rather than later, even in arguably the worst building in the league. And know this: If/when Mike White can start winning the recruiting wars in the ATL, which is a top three-to-five area in terms of high school talent nationally, the Bulldogs will bite some folks. (And if/when White starts making in-roads inside 285, it will truly cost Bruce Pearl, who has built the Auburn program on guys like Jabari Smith, Isaac Okoro, Bryce Brown and Chuma Okeke to name but four.)

Work to be done -- South Carolina, Ole Miss and Mississippi State (which found the AP top 25 with an 11-0 start but it was hollow and it shows; still last night's effort in a raucous environment in Tuscaloosa was a step)

And yes, that brings us to Florida, which likely is in the "work to be done" category currently but has a two-week stretch that could make it a bubble team by almost any measure.

Florida (12-8, 5-3 but a pretty stout 44 in the NET) handled its home business against South Carolina on Wednesday, which was expected.

But now the Gators got to No. 5 Kansas State on Saturday, get No. 4 UT at home next Tuesday, go to Rupp on Feb. 4 and go to No. 2 Alabama on Feb. 8.

Wowser. But with great challenges come great opportunities and despite eight losses before the calendar gets to February, if the Gators can pull a 3-1 out of the next 15 days, it would be tough to keep them from dancing, no?

(And yes, Spy -- and Vader -- X = 4 in the above equation.)

What's it worth?

So we discussed Josh Heupel getting paid on Wednesday.

As we have discussed multiple times, there is no better investment in sports than paying to an elite college football coach.

He is coach. He is the face of every major program. He is the GM of your most valuable asset not only of the athletic department or the university, but in a lot of measures the entire state.

And if you think I'm kidding, far and away most stories -- around 80% according to the most recent report in 2020 -- list athletic coaches as the highest-paid state employees. Of that group only two are basketball coaches -- John Calipari and Dan Hurley at UConn, and with Mark Stoops' recent raise, who knows in the Bluegrass.

Moreover, if you are wondering about the investment, well how about this: Kirby Smart made $260.42 per actual second of football game time last season, and yes, there is way more that goes into being a football coach than football game time, but still.

And even as the meter ran from $260.42 to $520.84 to $781.26 to $1,041.68 in those four fateful seconds Smart ran out to call timeout before the fake punt in the national semifinal against THE Ohio State, is there one Georgia fan drawing breath thinking Kirby is anything other than a bargain considering what he's built in Athens?

And that's at $15,625 per MINUTE of game time last season.

So pay Heupel because if he routinely delivers 11-2 and NYE Bowls and contending in the East, $9 million is a fraction of what it's worth in image, exposure and future student and alumni interest.

Which brings me to the second question for the wallet wavers in Knox-Vegas: What is Danny White worth? Because folks UT is KER-rushing things in the athletic department currently.

Football finished sixth in the country. Hoops is guarding its way toward a 1 seed and real visions of the first Final Four in program history. Baseball is branding itself not only as an elite program but arguably the most visible and potentially powerful with one of the sport's most strongest NIL operations. Women's hoops, while a step back from expected heights, is no worse than the second- or third-best brand across all of women's team sports (with UConn hoops and maybe USWNT soccer ahead of it).

Not all of that is because of Danny White of course, but not unlike the president and the economy, sometimes the man sitting in the big chair gets the credit or the blame whether its fitting or not.

Yes, White just got a pay bump up to $2.2 million, and that's far from having to ask the Mrs. to get a job at the neighborhood market to make the ends meet by any measure.

Cover your eyes, Doug, because on an anything goes Thursday, here's your starting question:

Is this the high water mark for the entire UT athletic department?


Tee him up

So Patrick Reed and Rory McIlroy are in a twist.

Cool. Individual sports can always use dust-ups.

But as to be expected the golf feuds are a little more upper crust than some of the beefs I've been in during my time.

We know both Reed and McIlroy have had words about the LIV/PGA split, and that's fine. We also know that Reed has gotten so many attorneys involved in this mess, his new walk-up music is "A Boy Named Sue."

Now Reed apparently threw a tee at Rory, which is akin to stealing his glue before nap time in second grade.

It also begs this on a AGT: If those two threw down, who you got? Not who you would cheer for, who are you putting your money on because here's betting Reed is a minus-190 favorite?

And if we're going to do the next Match and TNT or some promoter is not working devilishly to get Phil and Patrick Reed vs. Tiger and Rory, then there is not a true visionary entrepreneur left in the sports entertainment realm.

This and that

-- Let's say a silent word of encouragement for Doug this morning, because not only are the Vols rolling, but his Colts are owned by a mad man. So Jim Irsay now wants to keep Jeff Saturday as head coach, which is kind of mind-boggling, really.

-- Well the Plays of the Day roller coaster continued. Bagel-and-2 Monday; perfect 3-0 Tuesday; Bagel-and-3 last night. (Stupid Auburn.) So it goes. Tonight we get some fun NBA promotions, including a DraftKings offer of a free bet if your NBA wager loses, so buckle up. See you at 5 p.m.

-- Been a while since I shared a recipe, but made some homemade shrimp scampi last night on squash and zucchini "linguini," and it was pretty excellent. The non-noodles option was for me -- quitting carbs through at least January -- and gave the family the option. Thinly sliced the squash and zucchini in long strips and sizzled them in a hot sauce pan with olive oil, garlic salt and red pepper flakes. (You can use regular pepper if the red pepper flakes are a bit too warm for you, but the red pepper flakes -- a staple when cooking for myself -- on my noodles allowed the sauce and the shrimp to be less spicy for the rest of the 5-at-10 clan.) If you want scampi recipe, let me know. No big whoop.

-- Linda Richman's "Coffee Talk" on SNL with Mike Meyers back in the day -- yes he was dressed as a woman -- poses an interesting question: Will we get to a place that guys dressing as ladies for comedy will be as frowned on as the old-school Al Jolson black-face routine? Hey, anything goes Thursday, am I right?

-- Did you see the food delivery guy come on to the floor during a Loyola-Chicago college basketball game last night? So there's that.

Today's questions

Anything goes Thursday gas some options up there, so fire away.

Also, if Irsay is allowed to hire Jeff Saturday -- with a barren résumé -- would this not reveal that the Rooney Rule is a complete farce at this point?

As for today, Jan. 26, let's review.

On this day 25 years ago Bill Clinton offered up one of the most famous lies of my lifetime with "I want to say one thing to the American people: I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky."

So there's that.

Paul Newman would have been 98. Have we done his Rushmore before? I think we have. It's pretty strong, too.

Frank Costello would have been 122 today. Rushmore of all-time comedy teams. Go, and "Who's on First?"

And remember the mailbag.