5-at-10: Mocs hoops in good hands, QB moves being made, triple-double take

Staff file photo by Olivia Ross / UTC men's basketball coach Dan Earl, left.

Mocs hopes

UTC fell short last night in the SoCon final, losing to a Furman crew that was the class of the league for most of the season.

It happens, and in most cases, that's how it's supposed to happen.

But if you are a Mocs fan this morning, it's impossible not to be overwhelmingly encouraged about the direction of everything about the men's and women's basketball programs downtown.

Consider the following:

-- UTC's men played most of its conference season without the league's most dominant player, future-professional-post Jake Stephens, who missed most of the winter with a hurt hand.

-- If Stephens had been healthy, it's impossible to believe the Mocs would have been as low as a 7 seed. Would it have meant a first-round bye -- that four-games-in-four-days thing has proven to be as historically difficult as ripping a phone book or doing a Rubik's Cube with one hand -- for this tournament? Maybe. Would it have played out any other way big picture? Maybe not.

-- The UTC women stormed through its draw in Asheville and punched its ticket. For a lot of us who measure our time around UTC athletics in decades more than days, UTC being in the NCAA women's tournament is as familiar as your favorite pair of tennis shoes. It just fits right, you know?

And the impressive and inspiring runs in Asheville are not even the truly smile-worthy facts for UTC hoops backers this morning.

Granted, every UTC basketball team and coach will be judged -- fairly or not -- on an early-March week in west North Carolina. Cut down the Asheville nets, and it's a success. Don't climb the ladder, and it's another run.

That's the importance of making the NCAA tournament, and until the powers-that-be expand the field of 68, players and coaches in one-bid leagues will be hailed or heckled by getting to the Dance.

That's the big picture, and UTC men's coach Dan Earl and UTC women's coach Shawn Poppie are well aware of it.

But, beyond that "yes or no" Madness pass question, when you shake up Chattanooga's little realm in the college basketball snow globe, the devilish details must be considered, too.

This is not a case of moral victories. "Moral victories" far too often is a convenient or casual cover-up term that hides the reality that moral victories are almost always actual defeats.

This is about the true scenarios in which Earl and Poppie ran their programs and the success and progress made.

Each coach, in his first year, stepped and redirected everything.

Think back to the mess former UTC coach Lamont Paris inherited and how that first year -- a 10-23 showing in 2017-18 -- was such a disaster the Nakatomi Plaza felt bad for McKenzie Arena.

Earl overhauled the roster -- bringing Stephens with him from VMI certainly helped -- and was light years better in Year 1 than his predecessor was five years ago.

Paris eventually turned UTC back into SoCon champs, but anyone want to be against Ear doing the samel, and does anyone believe it will take a full five years before the Mocs are climbing that ladder in Asheville, scissors at the ready?

Poppie has already accomplished that, and did so less than year removed from the worst season in UTC women's extremely shiny modern history.

After a 7-23 finish last season, Poppie and Company get the joys of practicing this week awaiting news of the next opponent.

In the sports realm in which every coach wants as much information as possible, this wait-to-see-but-know-you-get-to-play-again time may be the best unknown in sports.

So Monday night did not deliver a complete Asheville two-step, the music's loud and the Dances will be commonplace -- for both programs -- moving forward.

QB domino

Speaking of dancing, the QB shuffle started over the weekend.

The QB performances at the combine -- from Anthony Richardson's freak show to CJ Stroud's deft throwing precision to Will Levis' high-powered right arm to even Stetson Bennett's well-targeted deep throws -- got teams stoked and GMs salivating.

At least four QBs -- the first three listed above and former Alabama QB Bryce Young -- will be off the board before the midway part of Round 1.

But where and which teams will still be searching for a QB1 come draft day is still part of the mystery.

We can take the New Orleans Saints off the board since they agreed to terms with former Raiders QB Derek Carr, who reunited with his former coach in the Big Easy on a four-year, $150 million deal. (Carr's deal is a little more team friendly than most since the cap-strapped Saints gave him $70 million guaranteed -- more and more QB contracts are fully guaranteed these days -- and includes a team option after two years.)

The Seahawks also are no longer in the QB market, drastically overpaying Geno Smith to the tune of three years and $105 million.

Gang, if you would have told me 18 months ago that Geno Smith would be in the nine-figure-contract club, I would have recommended that you stopped drinking before lunch or that I start.

The next big domino to fall will be today in Baltimore, where the Ravens and Lamar Jackson can't concur on a long-term contract, which means the team will almost assuredly put a franchise tag on the former MVP.

What transpires in Green Bay is also worth following today, since the Packers and Aaron Rodgers likely will generate some sort of headline in the next handful of hours. Same could be said for Daniel Jones and the Giants today, too.

So that leaves Houston (picking No. 2), Indy (4), Las Vegas (7), Carolina (9), the New York Jets (13) and potentially Atlanta (8) in the QB market.

There is a lot of scuttlebutt about the Colts moving up -- jumping ahead of Houston to get 1 overall -- but the really interesting thing here if Chicago really wants, say Will Anderson, the Texans are in a very interesting spot with picks 2 and 12, acquired in the DeShaun Watson trade.

Because, barring a slew of deals, one of the four QBs above likely will still be available at 12, too.

Ruling questions

So the triple-double is making some news of late.

And yes, like Ice Cube told us many moons ago, messing around and getting a triple-double is always a way to make it a dang good day.

First, Denver center Nikola Jokic is averaging a triple-double this season (24.4-11.8-10.0). Yes, that's pretty amazing.

Second, Giannis Antetokounmpo recently served himself a purposefully missed shot for an easy rebound to get a triple-double.

The NBA called foul and overturned the stat ruling.

OK, whatever. Normally I'd just see the headline and move along muttering, "Hmmm, regular-season NBA, it's FOOORRRRR-gettable."

But in today's sports betting culture -- where you can wager on or against players like Giannis getting a triple double -- I wonder how a stat reversal like this could affect the gambling markets.

This and that

-- So the California governor is taking shots at Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee about the new drag show law. Personally, as a less government is better government, I think the Tennessee bill is mostly a pandering waste of time. If you don't want your kids to see a drag show, then frequent other establishments. It's not really that difficult to navigate and feels like our state could/should have bigger priorities to handle. That said, if any state leader needs to shut his pie hole in terms of focusing on the issues/problems within his borders, it's California Gov. Gavin Newsom, no? I mean dude, c'mon.

-- OK, what just happened. The Knicks are playing as good as anyone in the NBA. I mean we've always been used to the big-market media covering the Knicks like they were an NBA power, but now they actually are among the NBA elite? Get outta here with that.

-- Speaking of tags, the Cowboys tagged Tony Pollard and the Raiders tagged Josh Jacobs, who was a workhorse last year and led the NFL rushing and total scrimmage yards.

-- Speaking of UTC hoops, several years ago, the Mocs and then-coach John Shulman made the NCAA tournament and made the rounds as America's favorite underdog heading into the brackets. Shulman even got air time with one of the late-night dudes who used to be on SNL, whose name I forget. Well, here's betting that the national narrative will embrace the Kennesaw State Owls, who have a glorious story, bounced back from a 1-28 mark just two years ago, and are coached by Amir Abdur-Rahim, who played at nearby Wheeler High School and is the younger brother of Shareef Abdur-Rahim.

Today's questions

True or false, it's Tuesday. Hi, Ernie.

True or false, we should have our annual "First-Out, Last-In" March Madness contest.

True or false, UTC's men will be in the NCAA tournament in the next three years.

True or false, the Saints made a wise move signing Derek Carr.

True or false, the NBA top-three finishers in the MVP voting will be foreign-born players.

True or false, the Falcons will take a QB at 8.

True or false, Anthony Richardson passed Will Levis with that combine showing.

You know the drill; answer some T or Fs, leave some T or Fs.

As for today, March 7, let's review.

Constantine declared that dies Solis Invicti (Sunday) was officially the day of rest on this day in 321.

On this day in Selma, Alabama, "Bloody Sunday" happened when 600 civil rights protesters were attacked, John Lewis among them.

Rushmore of "Sunday" and be creative.