From the "Talks too much" studios - and with an eye on the proposed Dukes of Hazzard reunion, let's put the pedal to the metal.
With less than two weeks until selection Sunday, here's what we know:
• Chas9 and Stuck have been telling us this for a while, but the Big Ten is flat nasty when it comes to hoops. THE Ohio State went to Indiana and won last night and looked great on each end doing it. Not unlike the SEC in football, in this year's Big Ten, the basketball - actual playing and passing and execution of the game - is several steps ahead of the rest of the country. Depending on the draw, we're picking three Big Ten teams to get to the Final Four because Indiana, THE Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State, Wisconsin and even Minnesota have the weapons to get there. (Side note about THE Ohio State: Aaron Craft is a bulldog defender and rock solid point guard. We can see why Bruce Pearl had the Bar-B-Q for Craft. And how good would this Vols bunch be with Craft running the point? Wow.)
• Tennessee goes to Auburn tonight in a game that is an absolute must-win for UT. If Auburn, which is dreadful and has a BPI of 186 - four spots ahead of Elon and five spots back of UNC-Asheville - wins the only way the Vols get to the NCAAs is by winning the SEC tournament.
• As the craziness mounts, and we're expecting another Bubble Bible from Stuck tomorrow, one of our favorite things about the race to the bubble is the ripple effects. Know this: Johnny Vols Fans have to have a win tonight. We've covered that. They also have vested interest in other games involving teams floating on the bubble's periphery.
• The trudge in the mud sludge while eating fudge (Hey, it's Cat in the Hat week at preschool, role with it) that is the end to the SEC season had a couple of teams fall to the way side Tuesday. Alabama lost at Ole Miss and Arkansas got blown out at Missouri. If the SEC is lucky enough to get four bids, well, we know Florida will be a top-3 seed. Missouri looks to be the second choice. Then there's Kentucky, Ole Miss and Tennessee in some order playing for at most two spots.
• Duke looks the part with Ryan Kelly back on the floor.
• Our ace columnist Mark Wiedmer, who is a college basketball junkie for what that's worth, hits an NCAA tournament homer with today's column.
Mocs spring primer
We have been committed to tossing around three questions about the spring football drills of the Bulldogs, Mocs and Vols this week with our ace beat aces. Yesterday, David Paschall hit us with the 4-1-1 about the spring drills in Athens.
Today, our man Johnny Frierson/Ned Ryerson answers some of your questions about the Mocs. Side note: We had a few more than three, so maybe we'll revisit this when they get close to starting. Also, we're going to do UT tomorrow, so if you have a question for Downtown Patrick Brown, pass it along. And we're going to do the rest of the SEC next week with Paschall and the TFP Sports Editor (Goofball). Let's share some knowledge:
From the ever-estimable Johnny Frierson esquire:
Who is the frontrunner right now to become the other starting LB alongside Wes Dothard and Gunner Miller?
There's no sure-fire player with experience to plug into the lineup, like UTC had last season with Shane Heatherly. A name to watch out for, one that's rather hard to spell, is Nakevion Leslie.
He redshirted last season as a freshman and is now bigger than the 5-foot-11, 205 pounds he's listed at in the media guide. A defensive back in high school (Hillgrove HS, near Atlanta), Leslie could be the weakside guy to beat.
Who's going to run the ball? Strike that, who's going to get the most time at running back?
Quarterback Jacob Huesman led the Mocs with 904 rushing yards on 195 carries last season. Fellow redshirt freshman Kenny Huitt was second on the team with 288 yards on 57 carries. Huitt's stock got higher and higher as the 2012 season progressed and he may be the frontrunner at tailback heading into spring practice. Another back to watch is Tolerance Shepherd, who redshirted last season.
With that many starters back, what's the biggest concern on a defense that should be the SoCon's best?
I don't know that there's an area of concern, though UTC needs to give up fewer first downs and touchdowns in the fourth quarter. UTC returns loads of talent but lost coordinator Adam Fuller, promoting safeties coach Adam Braithwaite to DC and hiring former Moc Rusty Wright to coach the linebackers. Change can be a concern when things have been going well, but I doubt UTC will miss a step defensively. A team with Davis Tull, D.J. Key, Kadeem Wise, Derrick Lott, Dothard, Miller and others will have to get in their own way to not be successful.
Braves spring report
Your Atlanta Braves are toiling away at Walt Disney World, working to find their midseason form as soon as possible in spring training.
Considering the MONDO disappointment Dan Uggla has been since joining the Braves, he has found his midseason slump just 12 games into the exhibition season.
We have said for years to never get too emotional about spring stats.
The good numbers - like Joey Terdoslavich hitting .579 in 12 games - are most often a mirage. Normally those lofty stats are the product of guys pounding pitchers who will be bagging groceries in a couple of months. Remember two things: Joey Terdoslavich is the baseball-name version of Barkevious Mingo; and Joey T. wears No. 73, and there are not many everyday players wearing No. 73. That's not a coincidence.
The bad numbers - like Jason Heyward's .217 average - can also be explained away. Guys are working on different things, and for Heyward it may trying to drive the ball more, considering he has three home runs in his five hits.
The two stats to give pause are strike outs for hitters and walks for pitchers. Sure it's early and guys find their stride at different times. But sweet and sour chicken, Dan Uggla has fanned 12 times in 23 at-bats. We're going to keep an eye on this for the next few days.
We're not encouraged by a strikeout-rate of better than 50 percent.
This and that
- On the Yahoo! scroll this morning there was "Steven Tyler Act passes" and that's it. Unless you familiar with the in-state legislation in Hawaii, you may not be familiar with the Steven Tyler Act. We weren't. Anyhoo, there would be so many ways to define the "Steven Tyler Act." It could make it against Hawaii law for 70-plus-year-old men to dress like a high school girl. It could set a state limit how much collagen a person could have injected into their lips. (Although to be fair that would be the Meg Ryan Act.) It could cap the amount of make-up and eye-liner a grandfather can wear. It actually is designed to protect celebrities from overzealous paparazzi, which was kind of disappointing in the end. So it goes.
- Couple of smaller-school names to watch in the days leading up to the draft: Peter Lalich, the former UVa, Oregon State and Indiana University of Pennsylvania quarterback who is profiled here, and Terrell Sinkfield, the former Northern Iowa receiver who clocked a Smokey-and-the-Bandit fast 4.19 time in the 40-yard dash. (Yes, the details are sketchy, but 4.19 unofficial is at worst 4.3, and while not Bandit fast, that's still picking them up and putting them down. East-bound and down, in fact, loaded up and truckin'.)
- Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner was granted a fifth year of eligibility by the NCAA. That's good news for Johnny Wolverines Fans.
- We're planning on swinging by SportTalk on 102.3 FM with Quake and Cowboy this afternoon around 4:30ish. We've had some fun sitting in with the gang while Dr. B - he's a doctor after all - has been on vacation.
Remember the Friday mailbag. Remember that if you want to ask Downtown Patrick Brown a question about the Vols spring drills, get it in today.
As always, feel free to toss out a topic du jour (topic of the day... sounds good).
If you need a talking point, here are a few:
Watched the 1982 Iron Bowl last night - Bo over the top - and was stunned by two things. First, that 23-22 Auburn win was the only time Bear Bryant lost three consecutive games at Alabama. Second, the advances in graphics and coverage in the TV viewing experience are mind-blowing, but the announcing is actually worse today. Keith Jackson and Frank Broyles did that game for ABC in 1982 and slayed it. So it goes.
With 11 days until the selection, who are your 1 seeds?
The Duke of Hazzard, the iconic TV show that gave us Bo and Luke, Dasiy Dukes, the General Lee and all the rest, is planning a reunion in Georgia. The organizers said they have sold tickets to people in all 50 states and nine countries. They want it to be a country Woodstock. How about a Redneckapalooza? Now that Dallas is back on the air and The Duke may get the gang back together, what TV show needs to be revived? We'll start with Cheers 2.0. Whatcha' got?
SI ranked the 50 most powerful people in sports. Goodell was No. 1. SEC commissioner Mike Slive was the top college administrator. There were a ton of TV people too.
Discuss. And enjoy.