Remember we’re taking all of your questions for Friday’s mailbag, and we’re also looking for your suggestions on possible punishments (non-violent, of course) for the JackWagon Alabama fan that poisoned the 130-year-old oak trees on Toomer’s Corner in Auburn. Read about the idea here.
Here we go...
Huge Vols test
Georgia's Dustin Ware, right, and Tennessee's Melvin Goins (2) battle for the ball during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Feb. 19, 2011 in Knoxville, Tenn. Georgia won 69-63. (AP Photo/Wade Payne)
The Tennessee Vols head to Nashville tonight, and it’s difficult to overstate what a win over No. 18 Vanderbilt would mean.
It would be the type of eye-catching win that the Vols have lacked since beating Villanova and Pitt early in the season.
It would be the type of win that would reassure the selection committee, the fan base, the roster and everyone that expects this group to be Dancing next month.
It would be the type of win that settles the ship within the locker room, and right now that seems to be the most rocky place of Rocky Top basketball.
It would be the type of win that all of Bruce Pearl’s previous teams seemed to deliver, and the type of win that currently seems beyond the grasp of this Bruce Pearl team.
We’ll see tonight, but as our UT beat ace Patrick Brown pointed out here http://www.timesfreepress.com/news/2011/feb/22/hopson-needs-help/, the Vols have no chance if Scotty Hopson has to do it all by himself.
College basketball update, Volume 5, Chapter 2
— Nice win for UTC. Read our UTC hoops ace David Uchiyama’s account of it here http://www.timesfreepress.com/news/2011/feb/22/mocs-rip-furman/. So nice in fact that the 5-at-10 is advising you, Johnny Mocs Fan, to go ahead and buy your Southern Conference championship game tickets now. These Mocs are a completely different team (in a good way) at home, and the SoCon tournament will be at McKenzie Arena. And who knows, maybe they’ll break out those nifty black unis again.
— As of this morning, the 5-at-10 thinks Kansas, Duke, Texas and Ohio State are the No. 1 seeds.
— Coming off an impressive 69-64 win at No. 14 Villanova, it’s official: Syracuse is legit. Period. When the Orange are this year’s No. 4 seed in the Final Four, you can thank the 5-at-10 for the head’s up. Why the Orange love? Well, two reasons that pay huge dividends come NCAA tournament time: First, their match-up zone defense is tough for Big East teams that are somewhat familiar with it. That means it’s suffocating for an SEC team or a Big 12 team that has only seen it on film. Second, Syracuse is athletic with several guys that can score. You have been warned.
Speaking of the Orange: Carmelo’s been dealt
Former Syracuse one-and-done All-American Carmelo Anthony reportedly was traded to the Knicks late Monday night. The deal, which was first reported by the Denver Post, has the Knicks sending Raymond Felton, Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler, Timofey Mozgov and a 2014 first-round draft pick to Denver, which would get additional picks and cash, according to sources. New York would get Carmelo, Chauncey Billups, the basketball player formerly known as Shelden Williams, Anthony Carter and Renaldo Balkman. New York also will send Anthony Randolph and Eddy Curry to Minnesota as part of the deal in exchange for Corey Brewer.
Want to know the winner in this deal: Us. All of us. Now the daily speculation and over-hyped drama about where Carmelo was going to go (and lose in the second round of the playoffs) is done. SportsCenter can move on and the rest of the sports world can take a deep breath.
And before you bash Carmelo for forcing the Nuggets to trade him, which franchise is in a better spot: Denver, which dealt its superstar and is well on the way in the rebuilding process, or Cleveland, which is well on its way to record-setting futility after LeBron broke-up with the Cavs on national TV?
NBA trend or sporting future
LeBron James took his talents to South Beach. Anthony strong-armed his way out of Denver to get to New York, which is looking to add another piece with Carmelo and A’mare Stoudemire to get its own power trio.
In Philadelphia, Cliff Lee signed on with the Phillies to form arguably the best starting rotation since Maddux, Glavine and Smoltz were in their prime.
If you think small-market franchises are in trouble because they can’t spend with the Yankees, the Cowboys or the Lakers of the world, well, you’re right. But if superstars are willing to take marginally-to-significantly less money to play with fellow superstars, well, the competitive balance of professional sports instantly becomes issue No. 1.
Look at the NBA. How many teams can win the NBA championship? There’s the Celtics, who have four Hall of Famers and one of the league’s three best young point guards on their roster. There’s the Heat, who have James, Chris Bosh and Dwayne Wade — the trio that James dubbed "The Heatles," which sadly did not take off. There’s the Lakers, who have the game’s best player (Kobe Bryant) and arguably the best post-up scorer in Pau Gasol. There’s the Spurs, who have arguably the best power forward of all time in Tim Duncan and the game’s best roster No. 1 through 10.
Who else? Maybe Chicago or a Dallas, and that’s it.
That makes it tough to pitch that Milwaukee Bucks season-ticket package, huh?
This and that
— The AJC is reporting that Chipper Jones is progressing to the point that he expects to be in the lineup opening day. That’s a big piece for a lineup that goes from OK to pretty doggone good with Jones at third base.
— Friend of the show and fellow TFPer Andy Johns brought the Baseball America “Prospect Handbook” by the 5-at-10 global watch center this morning. The Dodgers’ top prospect is again shortstop Dee Gordon, who may or may not be back for a second stint with your Chattanooga Lookouts.
— Cam Newton announced Monday night that he’s going to participate in all of the NFL combine later this week. Say whatever you want about his recruitment, his time at Florida or his time at Auburn, but know this: The dude will be absolutely jaw-dropping at the combine. Does that mean he’s a mixture of Peyton Manning and Mike Vick? Of course not. It does mean that he’s going to put up sick, Sick, SICK numbers this weekend. Stuff like throwing the ball 80 yards and running a 4.58 in the 40. As for the Wonderlic score, well, who knows? The over-under is set at 4.6 — for both the 40 and the Wonderlic test. Kidding, kidding.
— It’s no secret that the 5-at-10 loves, Loves, LOVES the NFL Draft. In turn, we also enjoy the NFL combine. Here are some other guys that will turn heads (and make themselves some coin) this weekend in Indy: speed rusher/outside linebacker Von Miller, defensive end Robert Quinn, who missed his final year at UNC because of NCAA violations, and Justin Houston, the UGA speed rusher. If you notice a trend, here, well, you’re right. Each of those guys were successful pressuring the quarterback in college, but how fast and how quick they are will determine if they are high first-rounders, middle first-rounders or second-rounders.
— UTC’s Buster Skrine will also be in Indy, and our UTC football ace John Frierson says he will post an impressive 40 time. As a defensive back, an impressive 40 time will get considerable notice and could be enough to land Buster a job.
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 ...