published Monday, February 18th, 2013

5-at-10: We're back, and just in time for NASCAR and college hoops

We're back. Not a Jack Nicholson back in "The Shining" or even a Michael Corleone back in "Godfather III" but more of a Cousin Eddie back in Christmas Vacation. "That there is what you call an RV... Now don't go falling in love with it Clark, we're taking it with us when we leave next month."

And among the magics of Disney — seriously, the place is a deluxe dichotomy of adjectives and adverbs — is that it is its own world and you have a hard time keeping up with the real world around you. It's a lot like Vegas in a lot of ways. It's crazy and perfect and it's its own planet and a place that doesn't seem real. We didn't even see the meteor video until Sunday — Wow, by the way — and did not see a single moment from the Vols historic beatdown of Kentucky (which we're guessing is only slightly less than what chas9 was able to watch considering the way his Cats played).

With that said, and with the magic and memories of Disney in the rearview, let's get to a real 5-at-10 with five sports-related things we're thinking about at 10 a.m. (five things at 10 a.m., 5-at-10, catchy, huh?).

From the home offices of the "Talks too much" studios, let's drop some logic.

  • photo
    Danica Patrick, left, displays the flag with Tony Stewart after winning the pole Sunday during qualifying for the NASCAR Daytona 500 Sprint Cup Series auto race at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Fla. Patrick became the first woman to secure the top spot for any Sprint Cup race.
    Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Patrick gets us talking about NASCAR

The headline on today's TFP sports section is "Leading Lady." We almost went with "Lady's First" and we did not give any serious thought to "Pole Dancer."

But the fact that with college hoops hitting the final month, the NFL draft combine — we love the draft, you know this — this week, pitchers and catchers trickling into spring training and we are picking NASCAR and Danica Patrick as the lead item of the first non-top-five list 5-at-10 in nine days speaks volumes.

Here's what we know: Danica will start up front for next Sunday's Daytona 500. She obviously has the equipment to contend, setting the pace in qualifying Sunday. She has enough experience to compete. Does she have the lugnuts to make a win happen? Hard to know, but she'll be the story of the week, and it has nothing to do with her pitrow romance with Ricky Whoshishelmet, which is good. (Side question: When they make the Danica movie, and if she wins this week, it will be greenlighted before the end of February, Natalie Portman needs to play the lead; well unless they go straight to a post-midnight spot on Cinemax, then Lindsey Lohan can use it as a comeback vehicle. Either way Dale Jr. will play himself — he's been acting like a driver for years now — and George Michael is a dead-ringer for Jimmie Johnson.)

Here's something else we know: NASCAR needs this press and pub. The sport had started to stall and the discussion today is about the possibilities of this weekend rather than the problems of the sport. And know this — the NASCAR powers that be (i.e. the France family) can massage the rules as they see fit. NASCAR does not have a commissioner; it has an owner. Here's saying NASCAR's all-knowing eye will be keenly focused on those racing around Ms. Patrick to make sure she is treated with the respect a "Leading Lady" deserves.

———

College hoops

We are less than a month from selection Sunday, and we really do not know all that much about this year's list of college basketball contenders.

In fact, what we do not know far exceeds what we do.

We do not know if this will be the first NCAA tournament since 1974 without UNC and Kentucky. It could very well happen. Since Nerlens Noel tore his ACL, Kentucky has been humbled and its resume does not look good. The committee does not look fondly on teams that lose superstars to injury. Not good times in The Commonwealth.

We do not know the future of this UT basketball team, but it seems a tough picture to see them in the NCAA tournament barring a supreme sprint to the finish that can include no more than two more losses. Let's say UT wins five of its final six games to finish the regular season at 19-11 overall and 11-7 in a less-than-impressive SEC. If UT goes at least 2-1 in the SEC tournament, that's 21-12 and could put UT in the bubble conversation. A win against Florida a week from tomorrow would be huge.

We do not know any sure-fire No. 1 seeds beyond Indiana, and for that reason, this could be the year a 16 beats a 1. (It almost assuredly won't happen, but what happens if an over-achieving champ of a one-bid league meets a pressure-striken, cold-shooting Miami team on the neutral floor with the crowd rallying for the 16?)

The two guys on the CBS halftime show on Sunday said some guy named Marcus Smart should be in the running for NCAA player of the year. No, the other Marcus Smart, no relation to Maxwell Smartt or Kirby Smart.

———

Potential questions

We have a lot to discuss this week, and we'll start our NFL combine preview stuff on Tuesday. We love the draft, you know this. And before we get to the This and That and the day's questions, we had two rhetorical questions that generated a lot of inner thought during the nine-plus-hour drive back from Orlando as the family caught some Z's.

First, if you are Jadeveon Clowney and you watched Nerlens Noel shred his knee, do you not wonder about this coming football season. Should Clowney consider sitting out, since every draft expert has said plainly that he would be the No. 1 overall pick if he entered this draft, which he can't enter because he's a sophomore?

Second, which storyline is more irksome: Kobe Bryant's happiness with Dwight Howard with an under-achieving Lakers team or last fall's never-ending report on Tim Tebow's role with the under-achieving New York Jets?

It's amazing the things that pop through your head when the only sounds are the thump-thump of the interstate.

As for the draft entrance, well, there's no simple answer and there is no uniform answer. Baseball's draft rules seem to be the most equitable since all high school players are eligible to be drafted, any player that goes to a two-year school out of high school can be drafted after any season, and players that go to four-year schools are eligible three years after their high school graduation. A big reason baseball can offer so many tiers is it has its own farm system; basketball and football do not have minor league systems to groom and grow future stars other than college sports, which has a myriad of goals and aims.

Well, here's saying Mr. Noel will still be a lottery pick — and maybe No. 1 overall — despite tearing his ACL. This is a weak draft class and Noel is a defensive difference-maker. That said, if Clowney — God forbid — hurts a hip or worse and it drastically affects his skills, here's saying his suit against the NFL will be large and newsworthy. Think if the music industry had some rule that Justin Timberlake could not make a professional album until he was 20. Or the kids from Kriss Kross — "Mac Daddy make you wanna jump, jump." Please.

The NFL better hope Clowney doesn't get hurt.

———

This and that

— There was some trouble last week on Alabama's campus and it was instigated by four Tide football players. Every team at every level has kids that find trouble. That's how it is. We believe the four — including former multi-star recruits Eddie Williams and Brent Calloway — will never see the field again for Alabama, and we are somewhat surprised that has not already happened for each of the four considering three were arrested on aggravated assault charges and this is the second run-in with the law for Calloway. For a guy like Nick Saban, who we have called perfection's guardian on more than one occasion, we thought the action would be more quick and more decisive than a press release.

— There are a few things we enjoy about watching golf. For the most part, the announcing is better across the board than any other sport. Not sure why that is or that we ever have discussed that before, but we believe that to be true. We like to watch the best in the game compete for majors and how they handle the pressure. We also like to watch guys have life-changing moments, like John Merrick did when he won at Riveria on Sunday on the second playoff hole. Good times. (FE to the C, Merrick pocketed $1.188 million with the victory.)

— Watching bits and pieces of the NBA All-Star game last night, we were constantly reminded that the Hawks taking Marvin Williams No. 2 overall ahead of Chris Paul and Deron Williams in the 2005 draft is right there with Bowie over Jordan and Darko Milicic over Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade as the worst NBA draft picks ever. Ever. (That said, the Raiders picking JaMarcus Russell is the single worst pick ever. EVER.)

———

Today's question

We're happy to play quick toss today. Ask us something, and we'll get to it and vice versa. Or tell us something we missed in our isolated week of Disney-tastic-ness.

Here's three to start:

Is there a single sports-related event that has fallen more than the slam dunk contest? It used to be a sure-fire, must-see event that had Jordan and Dominique and Vince Carter and everyone else. Now some rookie from Toronto wins and we're not sure if he's even in the league. Hey, at least home-court advantage in the NBA Finals was not on the line.

Is there less defense played in the Pro Bowl or the NBA All-Star game?

Where does Danica finish? This screams mini-contest, right? We're leaning that way... thoughts?

Discuss, and as our 5-year-old asked Sunday night after we read stories, "Can we go back to Disney... next week?"

about Jay Greeson...

Jay was named the Sports Editor of the Times Free Press in 2003 and started with the newspaper in May 2002 as the Deputy Sports Editor. He was born and raised in Smyrna, Ga., and graduated from Auburn University before starting his newspaper career in 1997 with the Newnan (Ga.) Times Herald. Stops in Clayton and Henry counties in Georgia and two years as the Sports Editor of the Marietta (Ga.) Daily Journal preceded Jay’s ...

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Comments do not represent the opinions of the Chattanooga Times Free Press, nor does it review every comment. Profanities, slurs and libelous remarks are prohibited. For more information you can view our Terms & Conditions and/or Ethics policy.
ordinaryguy said...

Welcome back Eddie...hopefully you weren't attacked by asteroids during you trip to Central Florida (former residence)...you could have done everyone a favor by dropping in at the ESPN complex and telling them to shut their pie hole with all the MJ birthday hoopla...Both the NFL and the NBA (Neverending Basketball Association) all star extravaganzas pale in the light of the MLB game which is the gold standard and nothing will ever change that fact...will be interesting to see how low the ratings are for the all star game which had to go up against the juggernaut of cable on Sunday night "Walking Dead" I suspect the ratings will resemble what is similar to what takes place on WD when they are confronted with zombies...Speaking of ratings, obviously folks are excited that NASCAR is here, the meaningless race Saturday night topped the overnight ratings, and now that Danica is on point for the 500 even casual fans and non-fans alike will tune in for the 500, like it or not this is the biggest thing to hit the sport in many many years...Great piece by Weeds on Crooked Cal, but am I the only want that could care less what Jalen Rose has to say...Finally it was sad to see that WWE and a majority of their fans are happy the Dwayne Johnson is given a free ride for doing nothing you know what i am talking about brotha...

February 18, 2013 at 10:23 a.m.
orangeguy said...

Glad the Greeson clan had such a good time at Disney. Been planning to take our boys for some time but we keep having more kids which delays the plans for at least a couple years. One day maybe.

I'd bet Danica falls back in the pack rather quickly Sunday. There is no other race that is appointment TV for this very casual NASCAR watcher than Daytona. Wish they'd shorten that schedule by a month or so.

Never a bad day to watch Cal & 'Cats ripped apart, especially by the Vols.

Jordan's birthday was way overplayed. Liked MJ a lot. Greatest player in arguably the greatest era for the NBA. A retrospective would've been fine, but a week's worth of retrospectives was a bit much. That said, a Jordan-centric ESPN 30 for 30 would have been must see TV.

Slam Dunk contest is unwatchable, but the HR Derby is quickly going that way as well. There are still plenty of stars competing, but that thing just lasts way too long these days. There's only so much Berman I can take before having to fight the desire to stab myself in the eardrum.

February 18, 2013 at 10:46 a.m.
chas9 said...

That Patrick girl is fast, they say.

Did you hear that 50-year-old MJ beat 20-year-old MKG one-on-one?

Actually, I watched almost all the historic beatdown. It's like how you can't take your eyes off a train wreck. It's in my UK fan contract that I have to hate The Vols, but I have to admit they were playing a sick game, too pretty not to watch. And I had to look for some shard in the UK wreckage to try to build on to finish the season.

I watched to the end but never saw that hopeful shard. Thanks to Weeds for his take on the UK nightmare, elsewhere in today's fishwrapper.

Jarnell's six-game double-double streak ended, but there's a positive spin to that. UT's a better team when it's not all Stokes. His scariness opens up the court for the rest of the Vols, and Cuonzo's teams have to be TEAMS to reach their best potential.

I thought even before the game UT was gellin' and Saturday they could've beaten UK with a healthy Noel. Hitting 25 free throws, 58% from the field, and 5 for 5 beyond the arc, they might've beaten anybody in the country short of The Hot Hairy Hurricanes.

Jay's correct that The Orangeclad have to go 5-1 and 2-1 to make The Dance. I'd add that one of the wins has to be over Florida, a tall order. If KY slides badly, UT will otherwise have only one top-50 win, over over-rated Wichita State. That's not enough. (BTW, Kentucky now has nada top-50 wins, as Ole Miss slipped to RPI #51.)

Before you fans in the Knoxville-centric universe buy your tickets to Atlanta, note that The Vols' February hot streak comes against weak teams. Outside of badly bloodied Cats, the best teams UT faced were #79 Arkansas and #120 Gawga, both games they lost.

But I have to tip my hat big time to #11 in orange, the keystone of the UT edifice. I've ragged on Golden, but he had a terrific game, 24 points, eight assists, zip turnovers, 11 of 12 from the charity stripe.

And the terrific Vols blew away the Wildcats in a perfect storm. A day that will live in infamy.

February 18, 2013 at 10:49 a.m.
JonathanMCook said...

Jay, bulletpoints + new comedy

Kirpatrick: You beat me to the punch. I was going to do a Facebook one-liner saying Donnie's pole position has nothing to do with amateur night at Spearmint Rhino in Dallas. Regardless, it will definitely be her put-up or shut-up moment a-la Days of Thunder.

FCS: Kudos to Frierson's column regarding the Rodney Dangerfield of college football. I personally admit its BEYOND frustrating when everything thinks ALL college football is SEC, ACC, Pac-10, Big 12, and nothing else. There are other D-I schools with very passionate followings as I bore witness to this past January. Will the branding offered up by the SoCon commish help make the UTCs and other schools stand out? I doubt it. Wisconsin is just ignorant as well as the rest of the country. You can't fix it. You can only replace it with knowledge.

I personally would love for the AD at Wisconsin to tell that in the face of the AD at North Dakota State and see what happens.

The new comedy in a moment.

February 18, 2013 at 10:51 a.m.
BIspy4 said...

The home run derby is now as passe' as the dunk contest. I guess. Haven't watched either in quite some time.

Didn't watch the Pro Bowel or the NBA All-Star Game (for what it's worth, those guys are more fried in the locker room than Paula Deen's menu. And by fried, I mean ... well, you know what I mean).

Danica finishes 35th after her Garmin malfunctions and she screams at her pit crew for not telling her when to turn left again.

And as a smart man once said to me (no, not Keith Smart, either), trying buying a NASCAR rule book, too.

February 18, 2013 at 11:15 a.m.
BIspy4 said...

5, your comment on golf commentary got me thinking about something David Feherty said Sunday. They had a golf tip from Sir Nick Faldo and they threw it back live where Feherty offered this gem: "You have quite a future behind you."

February 18, 2013 at 11:20 a.m.
jgreeson said...

From friend of the show StuckinKent —

Getting into bubble season in college basketball. I'm so excited. Made my list last night of the bubble (little late to the party this year), and even if I include every team I can even conceive of making the tourney right now, I have 83 for 52 spots (16 reserved for leagues I can not even conceive of being anything but one bid leagues). I've got Tennessee on that list. They probably need to win out. I said after Alabama they could afford two more losses, and they lost to Arkansas and Georgia right away. One more loss if it is to Florida does not work- they must beat Florida. That Georgia home loss could be the one that killed any of their chances in the end. They are improving, but they have to win this week and not get caught looking ahead. Kentucky also needs to start winning. They must beat Vandy and Mizzou this week. I think they do, but I'm far from sure. I think they lose at Arkansas and to Florida at home, and that will be enough to knock them out of the tournament. Can you believe that UK has no wins versus a Top 50 RPI team right now thanks to Ole Miss falling out of the Top 50? With or without Noel, that's something else. That's why their tournament status (while everyone was saying they were a lock last week) was iffy to begin with. They have no really good wins.....

February 18, 2013 at 11:28 a.m.
JonathanMCook said...

I'm going to try this out at the usual Monday open mic (based on actual social interaction this past week).

I met a girl who describes herself as being half fashionista and half tomboy. This means she loves to hunt, fish, shoot, and were cameo designed by Marc Jacobs.

My fantasy is (edited for content)

Hers is having Macys and Bass Pro Shop in the same building.

She likes to hunt deer with 12 point racks and deep discounts at Nordstrom Rack.

February 18, 2013 at 11:29 a.m.
JonathanMCook said...

Correction: Donnie = Danica. Wrong Kirpatrick ^^()

February 18, 2013 at 11:40 a.m.
jgreeson said...

OG —

All is well, and the asteroids missed us. Thankfully.

The baseball all-star game is the best, there is no debating that. But it's also the silliest since it determines who hosts the World Series.

Orange —

It's magical. Period. But we recommend the Fred D. Thompson advice from "Hunt for Red October" — "Russians don't take a dump without a plan." Attack Disney; make a plan and go. We did not the first day and we were the victim.

And great call on the HR Derby, but that could be cured with two quick strokes. One, dump Berman. He can go back, back, back, back to Bristol. Two, shorten the dang thing by A) no more than five pitches taken per round (these pitchers are hand picked, come prepared) and B) Five swings in round 1, Five in round two and 10 in the finals. Chicks dig the long ball, not pitch selection and marathons.

9er —

If Golden had been that Golden in the month of January, the Vols are no worse than a 6 seed. Alas, no such luck.

JMC —

We see your point about being slighted, but the power conferences make the rules and we can see a real chance that those rules in coming years will force them to break off into their own football league, at which point every other football league likely will be D-III (non-scholarship).

Spy —

Ah, the great Furman Bisher story. For everyone else, we were in a news conference at Atlanta Motorspeedway 15-or-so years ago and the topic of rules came up. Furman asked to see a copy of a NASCAR rule book, and no one had a copy or an answer for him. Eventually, a France representative said the rule books are only for those looking to become car owners. So Furmans asked what the fee was to apply to be a car owner. The answer: $1 million. That's an expensive rule book.

Was watching when Feherty said that, and because of the commotion, the rest of the broadcast team missed it. A great line no doubt, from one of the few originals in today's TV sports announcing.

Stuck —

You're spot on that the Georgia loss may be the tipping point for these Vols. Losing at Arkansas is not a great blemish; losing at home to Georgia is the opposite to tournament-worthy.

— 5-at-10

February 18, 2013 at 11:52 a.m.
BIspy4 said...

5,

For some reason, driving home from work this morning, you know what line from the movies ran through my head?

Fred Dalton Thompson's line about the Rooskies aboard the carrier.

February 18, 2013 at 12:15 p.m.
orangeguy said...

Went to Disney about 20 years ago. This was before Al Gore invented the interwebs, and apparently my parents just wanted to drive to Florida without at least calling to check admission prices. So we didn't get to go in once dad realized we'd have to mortgage the house to afford it. So the make up for that disaster was my first Braves game in the way back.

Even though they were routed that day thanks to a Gregg Jeffries 3-Run bomb that plunked the top of the foul pole, I got to see Ozzie Smith make an error in the first MLB game I ever attended. That memory greatly overshadowed not meeting Mickey & Minnie.

February 18, 2013 at 12:18 p.m.
chas9 said...

All basketball fans have seen games where for Team A, everything they throw up goes in, but for Team B it seems there's a lid on the basket. Even when the mechanics of the shooter are identical, and the ball catches the same part of the rim, the bounces are unequal.

Some of this is luck, some of it's home court friendliness, but mostly it's the psyche of the players. Saturday, The Vols believed and The Cats didn't.

UT is better than UK sans Nerlens, but only slightly, so it should have been a lot closer. You could see that none of the Cats played with determination to own their space. You know it's bad if the coach calls out his players publicly.

It was as if he had said "I'm not going to name names, but their initials are Ryan Harrow and Archie Goodwin." (He's been saying this for several games.) Harrow bottomed out at five fouls, zip points, nada boards, zilch assists.

Stud Patrick Patterson went down late in the 2008 season just before playing No. 1 Tennessee, but The Cats rallied and one one for the Gipper. The uncoachable 2013 team doesn't seem to have that character.

Because the UT game was the perfect storm of factors, it's not a good measuring stick for whether UK can salvage the season. They can beat Vandy and Mizzou at home this week and figure out their new identity. Ask me in a week.

UK's formula to make The Dance is about like UT's. The Bluebloods have the talent to rally, but nothing in this season suggests they will.

February 18, 2013 at 12:41 p.m.
jgreeson said...

Spy —

Fred D.'s acting Rushmore: Playing Fred D. in Days of Thunder, playing Fred D. in Hunt for Red October, playing Fred D. in Die Hard 2 and playing Arthur Branch in Law & Order.

Orange —

Never went to Disney as a kid. Always had some sort of tournament or something going on. So it goes.

Attended many a Braves game, though, including about 40 the summer of '88 before our senior year in high school. Wow that was some bad baseball. Bruce Benedict just grounded into another double play, Blauser just booter another grounder and Rick Mahler just gave up another homer.

9er —

Agreed. Across the board in fact.

UK has a week to state their case, or it may have a real chance to pull off the rare NCAA-NIT back to back.

— 5-at-10

February 18, 2013 at 12:58 p.m.
BIspy4 said...

5,

No spot for playing Fred D. in "Barbarians at the Gate", alongside Jim Garner and Jonathan Pryce?

February 18, 2013 at 1:58 p.m.
chas9 said...

Jay--If you mean a championship NCAA followed by a championship NIT, it's so rare as to be never done yet. If you mean NCAA champs playing in the NIT next year, it's only happened four times. But it's happening more lately, maybe because fewer elite players stay four years. NCAA champs Florida and UNC played in the NIT in 2008 and 2010. The Heels almost won the little-coveted NIT rings in 2010.

February 18, 2013 at 3:07 p.m.
Todd962 said...

I would say the only sporting event that has fallen more than the slam dunk contest is the entire sport of boxing. What was the last boxing match you heard of and thought, "that would be worth my time to watch.( Not to mention paying $60 to watch)" My first thought was when Shaq boxed Oscar de la Hoya and then before that something Tyson. Poor boxing. When you are pitting people against each other for the fifth time and Paq and Mayweather lost its relevance without ever happening, you are in trouble.

I forget which Nascar star it was that ESPN was showing this morning, possibly a Waltrip, but they were asked what they thought about Danica's accomplishment. His response revealed my maturity as I burst into giggles after he responded that all the guys in the pits were glad to have Danica sitting on the pole. I bet they were, big boy... His restraint not to wink at the camera was impressive however.

February 18, 2013 at 4 p.m.
jgreeson said...

Spy —

Nope. Although we enjoyed Barbarians at the Gate — in fact knew a kid at Auburn who's father was one of the main players in the entire ordeal. Caught a few beers one evening and heard his side of the story. Interesting stuff. Needless to say, said kid did not have to worry about finding gainful employment for the next 100 years.

9er —

We were talking about going back to back titles. And here's a question for you: If they had UNC and UK in the NIT and they met in Round 1, how much better would the viewership be for that than the Super Tuesday matchups in Toledo?

962 —

What's this boxing of which you speak?

— 5-at-10

February 18, 2013 at 5:04 p.m.
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