5-at-10: SEC hoops teams fighting to Dance, Jalen Carter thoughts, PGA changes for 2024

FILE - Georgia defensive lineman Jalen Carter (88) waves to the crowd before the national championship NCAA College Football Playoff game between Georgia and TCU, Monday, Jan. 9, 2023, in Inglewood, Calif. Georgia defensive tackle Jalen Carter, projected as one of the top players in next month's NFL draft, has been charged with reckless driving and racing in conjunction with the crash that killed offensive lineman Devin Willock and a recruiting staff member.(AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

SEC matters

So this is the last Thursday SEC hoops ranking before the SEC tournament.

Man, it was a fast season.

And a fun one. And a wild one.

How wild?

Well, the best team in the conference may be the best team in the country and their best player was involved (at least tangentially) in a shooting that killed a woman.

"Yeah, that escalated in a hurry. Brick killed a guy."

How crazy? Auburn was knocking on the top-10 a couple of months ago. Now, Vandy has a hard argument for the SEC's last NCAA at-large spot over Bruce Pearl's Tigers.

Yes, Vandy, which won at Rupp on Wednesday and has won seven of its last eight to get to 17-13.

I think the SEC has five locks for the dance. Alabama is looking like a one seed. Tennessee could potentially be a two but likely will be closer to a four, depending on the Vols finish and what they look like without point guard Zakai Zeigler. A&M has been the biggest conference surprise. Arkansas is going to be a bracket buster since the Hogs are athletic enough to play with almost anyone and erratic enough to get blown out by almost anyone,too. Despite last night, I think Kentucky has punched its dance card too.

That leaves Auburn, Missouri, Mississippi State and now the red-hot Commodores, who assuredly are a long shot for an at-large but have been playing great over the last three-plus weeks, in some form of limbo.

I think Auburn is out if they go 0-2 in Saturday's regular-season finale against UT and the SEC tournament opener.

This is the most recent version of Jerry Palm's bracket, which was crafted yesterday before Auburn's overtime loss at Alabama. Palm has Missouri as a six seed, which seems kind of high to me, Auburn as a 10 and Mississippi State playing in Dayton as one of the final four at-large teams to get an invite.

That would be eight bids for the SEC, but who knows.

Carter country

So the news of Jalen Carter being involved in the car racing that led to a fatal wreck that killed a Georgia teammate and a football program staffer in the hours after the celebration of the Bulldogs recent national title was surprising.

First, it's also a harsh reminder that life is precious and can be snatched in an instant. That two young people died is heartbreaking and life-changing for everyone who loved them.

It also brings about some questions, and in big-picture ways, has some similarities to the Brandon Miller situation at Alabama.

No, racing cars is not the same thing as bringing a gun to an altercation. I'm pretty sure all of us have done the former in some shape or form when we were younger (and dumber), and I doubt any of us have done the latter at any point.

But you are talking about two of the best in their craft for two of the best teams in their sport being involved in situations that turned fatal.

You also have two power athletic programs -- and law enforcement folks in two towns where the No. 1 industry happens to be those athletic programs -- who should face some tough questions about the handling of these scenarios.

Carter's role was revealed when a warrant was issued for his arrest. That it happened while he was preparing to meet with NFL teams at the combine was strangely ironic.

The news -- Carter released a statement expecting to be "fully exonerated" of any criminal wrongdoing -- made conversation about the Georgia star's draft stock a hot topic Wednesday.

Hey I love the draft, you know this.

But I can't help but be sad about this. I don't know Carter, who seems like a good dude and is a great player.

I didn't know the young people that died. But I know plenty of young people, and this kind of loss of life when it's completely avoidable is truly tragic.

Who's fore change?

So the PGA Tour continues to throw double middle fingers at the LIV Tour.

Shots continually are fired by its players and the Tour leaders as well as Golf Channel talking head Brandel Chamblee, and that's fine that's where those folks get their bread buttered.

But it seems with each new decision, the PGA Tour changes to be a) more like LIV and b) to fulfill Phil Mickelson's prophecy that this would force the PGA Tour to become more player-friendly.

On Tuesday, the PGA approved tweaks to its revamped schedule that will include more "designated events," which will have smaller fields and bigger prize purses and will not have the traditional 36-hole cut.

From GolfWeek: "Fields in designated events will be reduced to between 70 and 78 players with no halfway cut. The changes will not apply to all of the elevated events -- the majors, the Players Championship and the FedEx Cup playoff tournaments will be unaffected."

The goal would be to have two designated events -- with total prize money in that $20 million neighborhood, which is a really nice neighborhood -- followed by three non-designated events.

The designated events will assuredly draw star-studded fields, and the hope is for the rank-and-file PGA pro to earn his way into the designated events in the remaining tournaments.

But you have to wonder how some of the mid-level PGA players -- guys like Luke List and Stephan Jaeger -- feel about this.

The designated events would be reserved for the top 50 players from the previous year's FedEx playoffs as well as the top-10 ranked players not among that group and any tournament winners from the previous season.

You also have to wonder how the tournaments in the non-designated category feel considering its already tough enough to get sponsors, and if the stars are only coming out for designated tournaments, well, that comes with a different set of issues, too.


This and that

-- You know the rules. Here's Hargis on the TSSAA agreeing to keep the state football championship games in Chattanooga for the next two years. Yay us.

-- Jayson Stark is one of the many great reporters at The Athletic, and his story here puts into context the true history the Braves trio of Ronald Acuña, Ozzie Albies and Michael Harris II could achieve in terms of 30-30 or even 40-40 clubs with the new rules encouraging more stolen base attempts. There have been a total of four men in MLB's almost 150-year history to achieve 40-40, and Albies thinks all three of the Braves could get there this year.

-- Kevin Durant scored an effortless 23 points last night in his debut with the Suns. Man, Phoenix is going to be a handful in the postseason with KD, Devin Booker, Chris Paul and DeAndre Ayton. Suns-Celtics final would be a wee bit of fun, no?

-- The latest coaching career reclamation project for Nick Saban at Alabama is none other than Charlie Strong. The former Texas head coach is now an analyst for Lord Saban's staff in T-Town.

-- Feels like each passing month or six weeks, another less-than-flattering story about Ja Morant hits the airwaves. Here's one about a lawsuit the family of a teenage boy filed claiming the high-flying Memphis Grizzlies star punched the teen at a Memphis mall.

-- The NFL players association sends out an anonymous employee survey grading the 32 organizations on how they treat players. In a mild surprise, the Vikings were among the best finishers among the players who responded. In no surprise whatsoever, Daniel Snyder's Commanders got a failing grade.

-- We may have witnessed the biggest "Wheel of Fortune" gag job potentially ever. The category was "Food and Drink" and the letters on the board were "FRE_H TROPICAL FRUIT," and this lady asked for a G. Egad.

Today's questions

It's an anything-goes Thursday, so fire away.

Also remember the mailbag.

As for today, March 2, let's review.

The first "King Kong" was released on this day in 1933. "The Sound of Music" was released on this day in 1965.

Wilt scored 100 on this day in 1962.

Ben Roethlisberger is 41 today. Ron Gant is 58. That dude had some biceps on him.

Mel Ott would have been 114.

Rushmore of Mel, and have some fun.