published Monday, March 28th, 2011

5 at 10: VCU, Jose Canseco and the Vols new basketball Coach

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    New Tennessee basketball coach Cuonzo Martin speaks with the media following a news conference today.
    Staff Photo by Patrick Smith/Chattanooga Times Free Press

For the love of Jim Nantz, it's a busy time of the sports year. Everything is going on, and in the next month, we'll have the NCAA Final Fours, the start of the NBA playoffs, SEC spring football games, the start of MLB, the NFL draft (the 5-at-10 loves the draft; you know this), the Masters and, well that's more than enough.

Here we go, and buckle up.

Our favorite Martin

The University of Tennessee has a new men's basketball coach. The Vols hired former Missouri State coach Cuonzo Martin on Sunday. He is the 18th men's basketball coach in program history.

Yes, the timing seems somewhat strange (and this is the second major hoops move that has happened right as the Lady Vols were about to play an NCAA tournament game, which at it's best is bad timing and at the least is awfully poor judgment) as our ace TFP columnist Mark Wiedmer points out HERE.

Yes, hiring Martin, who was so far below the radar he was underground, has the feel of a panic hire.

Yes, Martin has never been to the NCAA tournament as a head coach.

Yes, the five names (of which Martin was not among) leaked to the media early last week were either a big smokescreen or the Vols' search committee had a few conversations that went like this:

Vols search committee: Hi, coach --------.

Coach: Hi.

Vols search committee: We know we have some NCAA sanctions coming, but would you be interested in talking about the job opening at Tennessee in the coming days....

(Dial tone)

Vols search committee: Hello. Coach, hello. Crud, it happened again.

Now, take a deep breath Johnny Vols Fan. It's impossible to make an accurate assessment of this hire this morning. It will be impossible to know if this was a good or bad hire for a few years.

One thing that bodes well for Martin was the quick turnaround he engineered at Missouri State. The Vols roster will seem flush compared to the team Martin inherited at Missouri State, which had five scholarship players. He went 11-20 that year before winning at least 24 games the last two seasons.

Now Martin has a chance to win some early battles. Get super-recruit Chris Jones to stay in the fold. Convince Tobias Harris that another year in Knoxville will help his draft stock. Convince Scottie Hopson to stay in the draft (sorry, the 5-at-10 thinks High-Top needs to move along).

Plus, Martin is in the ultimate win-win spot here: Either he wins and everybody's happy; or he doesn't and that would almost certainly be the final straw for UT athletic director Mike Hamilton and everybody's happy.

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    In this photo provided by Virginia Commonwealth, VCU head coach Shaka Smart celebrates with his team after winning the Southwest regional final game against Kansas in the NCAA college basketball tournament Sunday, March 27, 2011, in San Antonio. VCU won 71-61. (AP Photo/Virginia Commonwealth, Scott K. Brown)

Stupid VCU, everyone outside of Richmond sings, "Rams stink!"

Consider the 5-at-10 less-than-thrilled about the awe-inspiring run by No. 11 seed VCU to the Final Four.

It's not that we're against underdogs or Cinderella-like runs or mid-majors crashing the party or any of that.

No, whether we realize it or not this morning, for all of us that love participating in bracket pools (for entertainment purposes only, of course) this changes everything. Greatly.

We'll now have to pay attention to the play-in rounds, since VCU came from the First Four to reach the Final Four. That means brackets will have to be in by Tuesday rather than Thursday, ergo fewer people playing tournament sheets, ergo less interest. Whether Johnny College Hoops Fan wants to admit it or not, a big part of the avalanche of interest in March Madness is due to the brackets, and to think otherwise is foolish.

Stupid VCU.

Plus, with all the pre-tournament talk that VCU did not belong in the tournament, this Rams' run means the brackets will expand to 96 teams sooner rather than later. A big argument against expansion is that it will water-down the tournament and the last dozen-or-so teams that receive at-large bids can't win it all. Well, VCU was one of the last four at-large bids in and now its one of the last four playing.

Stupid VCU.

That said, this has been the Maddest March ever.

Remember when the 5-at-10 tossed out that the odds to pick a perfect bracket were something like 922,000,000,000,000,000,000-to-1, well raise your hand if you had a Final Four of VCU, Butler, Kentucky and UConn.

Heck raise your hand if you had a Final Four without a No. 1 seed in it. Let's just move along.

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    Atlanta Braves' Nate McLouth, right, follows through with a game-tying three-run home run in the seventh inning of a baseball game against the Arizona Diamondbacks, Friday, May 14, 2010, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Braves finishing up in Florida

The Atlanta Braves open the season this week, and the 5-at-10 thinks this club is poised for a big season.

Here's what you need to know about a productive spring (and some of these things were highlighted in our Sunday column in the TFP HERE):

— Chipper Jones was a machine this spring. Forget overcoming last season's knee injury, Jones looks 10 years younger. He hit .407 this spring with team-bests in HRs (4) and RBIs (15). Buckets, that's strong.

— Nate McLouth looks reliable, and after last season's DEEEEEEE-bacle, that's better than expected.

— If it's healthy, this lineup could have eight guys hit 15-or-more homers. Read that again. Programming note: The 5-at-10 will break down the Braves as follows: Tuesday — offense; Wednesday — pitching; Thursday — predictions, and as always, your thoughts are welcomed.

— The final roster moves have been made and Braves starter Kenshin Kawakami (All the Braves fans say, "YAY!") was among those left off the final 25-man roster. Here is the opening day roster according to braves.com:

Infielders (6): Brooks Conrad, Brandon Hicks, Freddie Freeman, Alex Gonzalez, Chipper Jones, Dan Uggla

Outfielders (5): Jason Heyward, Eric Hinske, Nate McLouth, Martin Prado, Matt Young

Catchers (2): Brian McCann, David Ross

Pitchers (12): Derek Lowe, Tim Hudson, Tommy Hanson, Brandon Beachy, Jair Jurrjens, Craig Kimbrel, Jonny Venters, Peter Moylan, Eric O'Flaherty, George Sherrill, Scott Linebrink, Cristhian Martinez

O' Brother, where art thou

With so much going on — be it NASCAR, another UT football update (next one will be Tuesday) or anything else, the 5-at-10 of course offers up a Jose Canseco controversy.

Jose Canseco is in hot water because boxing promoter Damon Feldman says Jose owes him $5,000 for defrauding on a fight. Hey, boxing's a tough guy's gig and maybe Jose got cold feet, right?

Nope. Apparently Jose sent twin brother Ozzie to the fight instead.

"The guy I thought was Jose kept asking me to pay him in cash before [the fight]," Feldman told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. "I told him I had to pay him by check for business reasons. He said he needed cash. We went back and forth. A bait-and-switch — I'm disgusted."

Fans were able to point out Ozzie as an imposter because of the differences in tattoos. OK, we'll bite, who is really that well-informed on the tattoo habits of either of the Canseco brothers? Alas.

On a good note, we may have another 5-at-10 team brewing here — the All-Chuck Cunningham team (named for Richie Cunningham's older brother who was on the first season of "Happy Days" and then was just gone — like gone and no one mentioned him gone. Nothing. Maybe he was abducted by Mork from Ork? Maybe he became a hippie and moved West from Milwaukee? Anyhoo...) for siblings that dabble in the family business just enough that we know they're there, but seriously they need to just go away and cash the checks.

We'll start with Ozzie Canseco, we'll see your Frank Stallone and raise you Jim Hanks for $200 more. Thoughts?

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    Kevin Harvick smiles after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif., Sunday, March 27, 2011. (AP Photo/Walt Weis)

This and that

— NASCAR keeps getting better and better by the week. Kevin Harvick's late pass edged Jimmie Johnson on Sunday in California. At this pace, the 5-at-10 may actually watch a race this year. Sorry, we used to be pretty big NASCAR fans before they started changing everything to please the masses. Did we get our feelings hurt? Well, maybe a little. That said, this looks to be more like the NASCAR that was so much fun five-plus years ago.

— The 5-at-10 blames the golfer formerly known as Eldrick Words for the state of golf today. Some guy named Martin Laird won at Bay Hill by shooting 75 on Sunday. Huh? A 75 on Sunday should be winning the morning game at Brown Acres, not on the PGA Tour. Thanks, Eldrick. Thanks a lot.

— The 5-at-10's newspaper alter-ego has been getting some pretty strong feedback from Saturday's column on Jim Tressel. We know what you're thinking, "That's great, so what?" Well we had to share the following, which ranks among the better opening paragraphs of a heckling email, "Congratulations on your admission to the School of Journalistic Groupthink, Sports Division." That is all.

— Holy Power of Three, did you see what the Miami Heat did Sunday. LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwayne Wade each had at least 30 points and at least 10 rebounds. Read that again, and know that it has not been done by a trio of teammates in a non-overtime game in 50 years (in 1997, Portland's Isaiah Rider, Brian Grant and Arvydas Sabonis went 30-10 n a quadruple-overtime win over Phoenix; but it's been since 1961 when Oscar Robertson, Jack Twyman and Wayne Embry did it for the Cincinnati Royals). The reaction for us non-Heat fans is obvious — we were crying after the game. Thank you, thank you, and remember to tip your server.

— Around lunch, we'll tabulate the final points and award this year's 5-at-10 Overrated/Underrated with a scoring twist Bracket Challenge. Good luck.

— Apparently, there were two entries that had the entire Final Four. That's two out of the 5.9 million on the ESPN tournament challenge, and that seems like about two more than the 5-at-10 expected.

Until tomorrow.

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.
jayrock2004 said...

Im not so sure about Cuonzo Martin. I think he may be a good coach, but UT really needed to make a splash, i.e a big name coach. More accurately, Mike Hamilton needed to make a big splash. This makes the writing on the wall for Hamilton pretty clear. Here is my question though for the 5@10. Can this guy RECRUIT??? Thats all that really matters. Say what u want about Bruce, the guy brought in some talent. Can Cuonzo do the same or better?

March 28, 2011 at 10:54 a.m.
Eustice_Chase said...

Did Pearl bring in Talent? I look at who was on the Team this year and aside from Harris(who was a freshman) and Scotty Hi Top... the rest of the guys would be warming the bench at Virgina Common Wealth.... and whoever pointed out the Tattoo difference...for love of cheese in a can I hope it was a female!!!.... This incident reminds me of a scene in Fred Claus..Starring Vince Vaughn playing the Brother of Santa...if you havent seen it...its worth the $1.09 at your Local Red Box!

March 28, 2011 at 11:22 a.m.
BIspy4 said...

Holy Dave Twardzik ... an Isaiah Rider, Brian Grant and Arvydas Sabonis reference in one fell swoop. That's a flameout, a great 'do and the best passing Lithuanian big man since ... since ... wait, I'll think of someone. Was Rasputin Lithuanian? And I think Georgia Tech just hired the guy who coached me in the 9-10 league when I was growing up on Fort Stewart. I quit because I wasn't getting the ball enough. Dude, I was our leading scorer. My agent told me to holdout. With the No. 1 seeds in trouble, I'll take the golfing equivalent of VCU and Butler at the Masters. Who would that be? Martin Laird? Steve Stricker? Is Bob Goalby still playing?

March 28, 2011 at 11:38 a.m.
BIspy4 said...

I'll see your Jim Hanks and raise you a Clint Howard and re-raise you a Bobby Bonds Jr. and a Stephen Larkin (that's Barry Larkin's brother, to keep the Barry theme going).

March 28, 2011 at 11:46 a.m.
jayrock2004 said...

Yeah i agree the "talen" is suspect. Thats because all of college hoops is watered down. Most of the guys Pearl recruited tho, were at least 4 star recruits. Tatum, Golden, Mcrae were 4 stars and Harris and Hopson were 5 stars. I just don't want UT to start recruiting 2 and 3 star players and try to develop them over 4 years.

March 28, 2011 at 11:46 a.m.
Eustice_Chase said...

going Forward I would trade consecutive NCAA tournament appearences for a National Championship every 4 years or even a Final Four Birth!....so I am not against developing players...if they win but thats the key...Martin HAS TO WIN...

How About Mike Maddux...he is proving to be a great coach...but wasnt exactly a Cy Young contender like brother Greg...must have something to do with that Stache...

March 28, 2011 at 11:58 a.m.
jgreeson said...

The Martin hire is out there, that's for sure. It will be interesting how this plays out, and that said, if you're Mike Hamilton would you be willing to push all your chips in on Cuonzo Martin.

Jayrock — Strong points — especially about needing to make a splash hire — and the name of the game is recruiting in today's college sports world. It's tough to know whether he can recruit because getting guys that can help you in Knoxville and the SEC is not the same as getting guys that can help you at Missouri State.

EC — Mike Maddux is a nice addition to our All-Chuck Cunningham team. Consider us in the same camp in regard to the tournament —being there every year is nice, but I'd take five or six trips in eight years with, say, one Final Four and one title game appearance over eight straight trips, one Elite Eight and/or one Sweet 16 and the rest not getting by the first weekend. And there's no doubt Martin has to win — he gets one year, maybe two depending on who returns and who doesn't. We have nothing else to add about the tattoo ID-ing, except the fact that we're disappointed we didn't use "For the Love of Cheese in a Can," before you did. Alas.

BIspy4 — That must have been a very mediocre 9-10 league. Kidding, kidding. Nice additions to the All-Chuck Cunningham team — and Clint Howard always is popping up in Ron's movies, and Howard's old-man Rance, too. That's the way to keep it in the family. As for Augusta, we'll break this down even more next week, but a VCU-type of shocker (think Immelman or Zach Johnson) is completely possible. Maybe even likely. My early pick is Matt Kuchar, but I would love to see Ricky Fowler win it in all that orange, put on the Green jacket and have Hi-Def and 3-D color explosions across the country. We could even have Jim Nantz hit an all-time cheese-meter high with something along the lines of, "ORANGE you glad you watched."

Gang, here's the final tie-breakers for the 5-at-10 Over/Under Point Scoring Bracket Challenge:

scole023 — Derrick Williams (52), Harrison Barnes (38), Jimmer Fredette (32) — 122

Bigbearzzz — Tyler Zeller (48), Nolan Smith (8), Kemba Walker (56) — 112

ThatIdoKnow — Jared Sullinger (21), Nolan Smith (8), Kemba Walker (56) — 85

Charlie S. — Jimmer Fredette (32), Brandon Knight (31), Jared "Tiger Blood" Sullinger (21) — 84

5-at-10 — Jimmer Fredette (32), Nolan Smith (8), Harrison Barnes (38) —78

OTWatcher — Jared Sullinger (21), Kyle Singler (18), Jimmer Fredette (32) — 71

BIspy4 — Jimmer Fredette (32), Chandler Parsons (21), Nolan Smith (8) — 61

EC — The Morris Bros. (26 and 25), Nolan Smith (8) — 59

Pretend Al Davis — Kenny Stabler (0), Lew Alcinder (0), DITKA (0) — 0

If there are any discrepancies, please let us know, and scole023, please see your nearest 5-at-10 rep for more information.

— 5-at-10

March 28, 2011 at 12:54 p.m.
Eustice_Chase said...

The Fact that Pretend Al Davis is the only person I out picked is humiliating...Just call me "Pretend Miami Heat Team Member"...

March 28, 2011 at 1:39 p.m.
bigbearzzz said...

Hey 5@10, is that the final on the tie breaker? Like it's over? It cant be over?! My guy is still in it....one of em at least...and stupid underdogs...messin up everybody's bracket...

March 28, 2011 at 5:50 p.m.
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