5-at-10: Leap day with Dalton power rankings, SEC hoops thoughts, CFP expansion, silent NFL grades

Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James, left, dunks as Los Angeles Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard, center, and guard Terance Mann defend during the first half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2024, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James, left, dunks as Los Angeles Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard, center, and guard Terance Mann defend during the first half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2024, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

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Bad man

Wow, lots to get to this morning. I mean lots. But what did we expect on this rarest day on the calendar.

Happy Feb. 29 everyone. Know anyone born on this day? Because I'd be curious a) which day do they mostly celebrate, Feb. 28 or March 1, and b) if they are 40 today, do they actually try to say they are 10 when it suits?

Heck, just since we convened last, LeBron James did something he's never done — and something that is making the last chapter of his career every bit as Father Time defying as TB12 — the combine is still raging and it appears the Falcons are now the frontrunner to trade for Justin Fields and the Lookouts got closer to a new home with a unanimous vote from the city and the county.

Side notes: James score 19 fourth-quarter points at the age of 38 and shut down Kawhi Leonard as the Lakers rallied from a 21-point fourth-quarter hole to be a Clippers team that may be the favorites in the West. If the Falcons get Fields and a bona fide edge Rushmore at 9 later this spring, I'm good with that. The going rate to go from 9 to 1 seems to be three 1s and multiple 2s. That's steep for Caleb Williams. Finally, I hope David Sharpe and Jeff Eversole do not have family emergencies and if they do, they are in my prayers, but JTC so nailed it with his Wednesday questions about do you miss this vote. It clearly would not have made a difference because Eversole is the biggest supporter of this project not named Rich Mozingo, but this will be the biggest project any of those cats decide on since VW. Put your name on it one way or the other.

All of that happened in the last 20 or so hours, and it was dizzying.

But the only place to start this morning is in Knoxville.

You know my power ranking of true awesome sauce from a Dalton always started with the cooler at the Double Duece, name is Dalton. And yes, we thought he'd be bigger.

It then moved to Darren Daulton, the catcher on those super fun early 1990s Phillies teams that were part beer-league softball, part 1980s Sugar metal cover band.

Then Timothy Dalton, because if you get to be James Bond, you are dripping awesome sauce.

Fred Dalton Thompson was there — more as actor than gub'mint type — because if you have "Hunt for Red October," "Days of Thunder," and a multi-year stint as DA Arthur Branch on "Law&Order," well you're good in my book.

Vader's going to ask, "What about Dalton Hilliard" and it's a fair question. Dude was a dude at LSU, and still ranks in the top 10 all-time in rushing yards and rushing TDs and top-five in carries, plays from scrimmage, and TDs from scrimmage. Seriously. I looked those up to be sure.

(Side note: Yep, I had the "Road House" stuff off memory; Paschall would have had the Dalton Hilliard stuff off memory. We each have our strengths I suppose. In fact, let's jump Dalton Hilliard up at least a few places. I mean c'mon Timothy Dalton was no better than a top-four bond at best, and Fred's got some stinkers in there, too.)

Anywell, this is all headed back to the highly entertaining Tennessee win over Auburn in college hoops last night. And how Dalton Knecht stamped and certified SEC player of the year.

Heck, Reed Sheppard was close to a minus-1000 favorite to be SEC player of the week this week, and after Knecht went for 39 to almost single-handedly carry UT over visiting Auburn, Sheppard is no better than plus-300.

Knecht's stroke is as pure from super deep as Steph's, and maybe even more so at this comparable age. He's a bona fide NBA athlete — I called him a stronger, faster JJ Reddick last night and it appears to fit. Here's more from Paschall.

His shooting line was staggering — 39 points on 21 shots and 12 FT attempts — despite playing in and out of foul trouble.

It also jumps us to this very real possibility that two of the first five college players taken in the NBA draft next summer will be SEC white dudes.

SEC ruminations

Let's cover several big-picture SEC hoops items as we are wont to do on Thursdays as we a) wrap the mid-week slate and b) head to the weekend.

— Magnolia malaise. What a painful couple of days for Ole Miss and Mississippi State. Each took crippling home losses to ranked foes and blew double-digit leads in the process. Ole Miss, at 6-9 in the league, will need to do a lot of work to get back on the bubble. MSU lost Sheppard's dagger Tuesday. At 19-9 but 8-7 in the league and with wins over Tennessee and Auburn, the Bulldogs are still in line for a ticket, but beating UK on Tuesday would have all but sealed.

— Florida is cooking. With gas. And know this: The Gators may be the second-toughest out behind UK with a tournament-ready backcourt.

— To answer DD's inevitable question about last night's outcome in the Food City Center, yes, I still think Auburn is more contender than pretender, even after the loss last night. That said, there may not be a bigger-bracket wrecker in the entire draw than Pearl's posse, because the point guard play has truly regressed, which is bad news come Dancing time. Auburn has a Final Four ceiling. Auburn could be the 4 seed shocked by a hot-shooting 13 that no one knows their nickname. Everything is in play.

— I think Alabama is more pretender than contender, and that's not about the sheepskin on my wall. If you can't guard, you are extremely susceptible to an early excuse from the Dance. Alabama has allowed 75 or more points in 19 of its 28 games this season. The teams that did not go north of that include Morehead State, South Alabama, Mercer, East Kentucky and Liberty.

— UT should have Final Four dreams, but if the Mighty Mighty Dalton rolls an ankle lookout.

— UK, as Chas rightly noted earlier this week, has four NBA guards. (A fact that will make a lot of the rounds as Dalton surges past Antonio Reeves for SEC POV.) If Tre Mitchell returns healthy, I will have the Wildcats in the Final Four on my sheets, which is a scary proposition because it will mean I am going to need John Calipari to actually be ready to make an in-game adjustment or a critical decision.

Football eye-poppers

See, told you we had a slew to cover this morning, because Caitlin Clark's latest round of records is only a line item as she passed Lynnette Woodward, who was the AIW record-holder at Kansas before the NCAA adopted women's hoops. She is within striking distance of Pistol Pete to become the all-time major college scoring leader.

But two football matters we must discuss, and amazingly neither is draft-related. I love the draft. You know this.

First, there is now "momentum" for a 14-team CFP after 2025. What the bleep. That's like saying I have "momentum" for the TFP to pay me by the word.

Heck yes, that would have my "momentum" because it would mean more cash.

And c'mon people, as has been floated around these parts, if the next expansion is not from 12 to 16, then what the bleep are we doing here.

Next, I was today years old when I learned that the NFLPA had an annual "report card" filled out by member players and tabulated. Here's the full list of categories and grades for NFL teams.

I saw this on The Athletic, and they rightly mentioned that amazingly, the Kansas City Chiefs got rotten grades — three Fs, two Ds, two Cs (fat drunk and stupid is no way to go through life son) — which shocked me.

The other thing that shocked me (or maybe it shouldn't have) was that this story was nowhere to be found on the ESPN.com main page at 8:33 a.m.

Yes, you get "32 players that need to switch teams" and a free agency primer — which starts March 13 by the way — as well as Mecole Hardman getting released in prime spots, but nothing on the league's report cards and failures.

Hmmmmmmmmm. Coincidence maybe.

This and that

— UTC grabbed win No. 20 on the season. Here's more from Gene Henley. How long will they be able to keep Dan Earl, because that dude is coaching his whistle off? UTCMocs, DD, biggest SoCon tournament hurdle is who, Samford or UNCG? And the way the bracket shakes out it looks like they will have to beat them both to Dance.

— As TFP sports editor and prep guru Stephen Hargis tells us here, European soccer's former league relegation has come to Div-II private school football (or should it now be futbol?) starting in 2025.

— So much to cover we failed to get to the remarkable medical miracle that has allowed Kyle Filipowski to come back from the horrors of last week's court storming. God's speed son.

Today's questions

Yikes, that was, well, a lot.

So AGT — anything goes Thursday — is off and running, and it being the weirdest day on our calendar, what is the weirdest thing you have done? (Keep it clean, folks.)

For example, I bungee jumped off a sky crane in Heflin, Alabama, despite being asked how much I weighed. I responded 225ish and asked, "Why?" I was told 230 was the cutoff to the higher band, so I quickly said, "Hey dude, I'm not snapping that thing because I had two chicken biscuits on the way over here. Give me the fat man strap."

I rode a bull at the annual Auburn rodeo. It went about as you would expect, and that snot-blower put his front hooves in the dirt, bucked and sent me flying.

I entered a Tough Man contest in Columbus, Georgia, in college. Won the first one, got paired with a former high school state champion wrestler who put me in a pretzel in like 14 seconds.

Yep, and I also voted for Trump in 2016, and we all know which of these Chas will think is the weirdest.

Your turn.

As for Feb. 29, this is our fourth leap year —2012, 2016, 2020 and today — and our third leap day 5-at-10 entry since 2020 was on a Saturday.

Hattie McDaniel became the first Black woman to win an Oscar on this day 1940.

In 1968, The Beatles won a Grammy for "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band."

Davy Jones died on this day in 2012. So let's reach and put on your thinking caps.

Marcia Brady loved her some Davy Jones.

Rushmore of real-life celebrity crushes from TV characters.

Go and remember the mailbag.

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