published Monday, April 8th, 2013

5-at-10: March Sadness, Masters contest, college football

Gang, buckle up. It's here; it's all happening.

The NCAA title game tonight. The Masters. Baseball highlights. The NBA playoffs in sight. Heck, the 5-year-old Bulls T-Ball team coached by a certain family-oriented, interweb-based sports columnist opens their season tonight, and we got to say that expectations are sky-rocketing.

So with that, grab an extra biscuit, muffin or breakfast bar and pull up a chair. Don't cost nothing.

From the "Talks too much" studios

Final Two

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    Louisville guard Russ Smith (2) lays in a shot over Wichita State forward Carl Hall (22) in their semi-final matchup in the NCAA Men's Basketball Championship at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta onSaturday. Louisville plays Michigan in the NCAA Men's Basketball Championship game tonight.
    Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

The stakes are awesome for the men's and women's title games. Louisville has a team in each championship. That's cool. (Side note: UConn doubled the title a few years ago with Kemba Walker and Maya Moore.)

As our all-around hoops ace Mark Wiedmer shares here, Cards coach Rick Pitino is on the verge of history.

The NCAA tournament, especially Saturday's semifinal wins for Louisville and Michigan, has been long on excitement, drama and enthusiasm. It has been short on quality basketball. Whether it's the cumulative affects of players leaving early, the diminished skill combined with improved physicality, the dominance of coaching and defensive play or something else, the game is ugly.

That doesn't mean it hasn't been entertaining, per se, but that's mainly because of the madness and the brackets. (Side note: If Louisville wins tonight the 5-at-10 wins the TFP office pool — which was operated primarily for entertainment purposes only. If your bracket is busted and you're looking for a rooting interest tonight, support your neighborhood 5-at-10. And since we're supplying the snacks and the drinks for the Bulls, tonight, we'd like to think that Ricky P. and Co. could do it for the kids. C'mon, think of the children.)

Where were we? Oh yes, the quality of college basketball.

Here's a side question for you: In some way has the greatness of the tournament sabotaged the overarching style of college basketball? Follow along.

Think about it this way: The overall goal is to win six games in three weeks and cut down the nets, right? Those games are played in huge arenas and converted domes — Heck the title game tonight is in the Georgia Dome; next year's is at Jerry's 100,000-seat palace outside of Dallas — which makes shooting much more difficult and a complete outlier that depends on scheduling. Matchups and shooting slumps are part of basketball at all levels, but they are magnified in the one-done nature of college hoops in the tournament.

So how would a good coach who wants to stay NCAA tournament competitive over the long haul approach those unknowns and try to limit those variables on the success of his program? By focusing on defense and depth and rebounding. They are at the core of any successful basketball team, and they are magnified when facing mediocre offensive opponents, something with which current college basketball is flush.

Just a theory that popped in our melon as we were counting the kitty. Is it in the Cards? Again, do it for the kids.

————

Masters

It's hard to remember a time we were more excited about the Masters.

Think of the storylines:

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    UTC senior golfer and reigning U.S. Amateur champion Steven Fox will play in the Masters this week in Augusta, Ga.
    Photo by Dan Henry /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

• As golf ace David Uchiyama shares here, UTC senior Steven Fox is going to put a wooden peg in the ground on the hallowed dirt that has hosted the game's all-time greats. Forget butterflies, playing the Masters would feel like bats in our belly. (Side note: When we got to play Augusta National in 2003, we were shaking nervous on the first tee. Mercifully, some guy from London was playing in our group and the first tee is right off the main entrance and that huge white scoreboard as you come in. Anywho, Mr. Bean hits a slicing scud into the concourse that rattles around and sounds like a machine-gun being fired as people start screaming. We're next, and we're thinking, "OK, no way we do worse than that." Piped right down the middle.)

• It's Tiger vs. the field. Dude is an 11-to-5 pick this morning; Rory is the next favorite at 10-to-1. Woods is No. 1 in the world, and according to ESPN this morning, Tiger has spent roughly a third of his entire life ranked as the No. 1 golfer in the world.

• Defending champ Bubba Watson comes back, and what could he do for an encore? He could win; he could miss the cut. Either way, he'll entertain like few others, but that should be expected from a guy who hit a 150-yard sand wedge uphill and turned it 50 yards left to right for the shot of a lifetime on the biggest shot of his lifetime.

• Don't sleep on Phil Mickelson. In fact, he's definitely going to be on our entry sheet.

• Speaking of entries, the Third annual "Mastering the Masterful Masters master list" is on and ready to roll. Send us five golfers, we'll take your top four finishers and award points for each place (1st = 1 point; 11th = 11 points, etc.) and the lowest score wins some Masters gear. There is one add on, if you pick Tiger Woods, you only get four names and no margin of error. Questions? Great, and we're going to try to get some local sports media participation too.

————

Spring football

Other than the supreme drama at Auburn the last five days, football has been the discussion of the SEC programs during the last few weeks.

For Alabama, it's about staying healthy. When you have that much talent, you do not need to be perfect in the spring. You just need to survive it.

For Georgia, the recently completed spring drills revealed that there's still some talent on the defense depsite losing a slew of guys who will be drafted next month.

For Tennessee, the need for playmakers is becoming apparent. So is the enthusiasm and spirit of Butch Jones and staff, a trend that is working on players and fans. (Seriously, how many Vols fans are energized for the first time in years? We're going to write more on this before the spring game.)

For the best story of the spring, it was the 7-year-old kid that ran for a TD in Nebraska's spring game. Here's the story on ESPN.com, and if that does not make it a little dusty and make your eyes water a little bit, well, we've got nothing for you. If Jack, a 7-year-old brain cancer patient on a two-week break from a 60-week chemo treatment and s huge Nebraska fan, running for a 69-yard TD does not make you smile, well, then someone has a case of the Mondays.

As for the Auburn stuff, well, a lot of Auburn folks we know think it's nothing. A lot of anti-Auburn folks we know think it's the first step to the "death" penalty. Whatever. Here's what the 5-at-10 knows: No team that you've heard of will ever get the death penalty ever again — there's too much on the line for conferences and the sport. Here's what the 5-at-10 believes: The river of stories coming from the Auburn 2010 team appear never-ending. There is too much and the reports are too frequent to believe every thing was on the up-and-up. That said, the NCAA investigated from tip to tail and found nothing. So let's just assume that the 2010 Auburn football season was not unlike OJ Simpson's case — we're all pretty sure something happened and there are some guilty folks who more than likely got away with some stuff but the courts/NCAA ruled and nothing happened.

————

This and that

With all the other stuff going on, this may be the most stacked This and That ever.

— Jimmie Johnson wins for the eighth time at Martinsville. That's impressive. Best we can tell, Joey Logano did not make any new enemies. That's a miracle.

— You know how we feel about the draft. We love it. You know this. We also love the predraft Jon Gruden quarterback sit downs. Good times. This weekend the show welcomed former West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith. We missed it because of a full weekend slate of activities. We're going to reserve judgement on Smith until we see the Gruden show. That said, we'd have a really hard time spending a top-five pick on Smith, if for no other reason that we believe there will be similar value later in the draft.

— Your Atlanta Braves are smoking hot. And missing by a mile. Wins are wins are wins, of course, but how about these numbers? The Braves are 5-1 overall this year after a 5-1 win Sunday that completed a three-game sweep of the Cubs. Atlanta hitters struck out 16 times Sunday, including four by Justin Upton. It was the second time in a week the Braves fanned 16 times. They won both of those games. Side note: Atlanta hitters had that many strikeouts in a game only once in the previous three seasons.

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    Atlanta Braves' Freddie Freeman makes the turn at third base on his way home to score against the Seattle Mariners in the fourth inning in this file photo.
    Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

— That said, not all the news is good from Turner Field. Freddie Freeman was ticked about being put on the 15-day DL with a strained oblique. OK, if you're old enough to go on the DL and to be irked about it, you're officially old enough to drop the "ie" off Freddie. We're good with Fredd (with the double-d) or even Frederick. Heck, plain ole' Fred works, too. All we can think of with "Freddie" is lil' Freddie Patek, the old K.C. Royals shortstop back when the Royals were a big-league team with a big-league roster (oh, wait), and Freddie Prinze Jr., bad teen actor of the late1990s-2000s teen romantic comedies. (Side note: How bad was Freddie Prinze Jr. you ask? Well, we almost wrote, "he is a poor-man's Keanu Reeves." Or how about "a less-charismatic Ashton Kutchar." Wow. OUCH-standing indeed.)

— Are we ready for the current world in which the Clippers swept the Lakers to win the NBA's Pacific Division? Forget Global Warming and the North Korean nukes. Clippers > Lakers means the Mayans may have been about eight months early.

— As we're finishing up the 5-at-10 this morning, the top headline on the TFP breaking news ticker is "Man Shot with Arrow at Gentleman's Club." Oh, Cupid, those long hours you work looking for love... in all the wrong places.

— Former Texas Rangers star and current L.A. Angels big-money slugger Josh Hamilton returned to Arlington this weekend much to the angst of the Rangers fans. The boos were endless — and the chants of "Crack Head" were heard Friday night. Tough crowd. The Rangers took two of three.

————

Today's question

There was some high-quality looks back at the life and times of the Final Four this weekend. Hey, the Grand Ole Dame known as March Madness completes her 75th year tonight (Go Cards — do it for the kids) and everyone had some kind of look back.

Our personal fav was Kenny Sailors, the former stud duck Wyoming Cowboys star in the 1940s and arguably the first dude that used a jump shot, reading an ESPN script about the dance and its top hits.

For you, when we say March Madness, what's the first image that comes up? Here's our Rushmore of tournament moments:

Laettner's shot, Jimmy V looking for someone to hug, Danny Manning and the Miracles, and Freddie Brown throwing the ball to James Worthy after MJ's jumper in 1982 (Two side notes there: There were four NBA All-Stars — MJ, Worthy, Sam Perkins and Patrick Ewing — on the floor for that game 31 years ago; how many NBA all-stars will be on the court tonight. Secondly, if Freddie Brown went by Fred Brown, we're pretty sure he would not have thrown the ball to the wrong guy. Think about that.)

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.
chas9 said...

Yes, the game has gotten ugly. And I can say from personal experience, it's not worth watching ant-sized players from the top rows of the GA Dome.

My brackets are the pits, but I did pick UL to be in the final game (and win it all).

The 7-year-old's TD video is among the best.

Did they have to give Laettner that trophy? Isn't seeing the video replayed every 30 minutes enough for the sadists?

April 8, 2013 at 10:22 a.m.
Todd962 said...

I'll take Schwartzel, Luke Donald, Jason Dufner, and Tiger for the win. Jay, with you being a fellow Auburn grad with Dufner, what are your thoughts on the new trend of "Dufnering"? Has the photo op phenomenon swept into the TFP offices yet? If he were to win the Masters this weekend it could catapult it up there with the likes of Tebowing, planking, and various other things people regret doing in public.

April 8, 2013 at 11:11 a.m.
LaughingBoy said...

I hate each semifinal had a late call that, at the least, affected a chance for a final shot to tie or win. I really hope there's nothing like that tonight.

Freddy Prinze got a little better in the last season of "24", playing an agent and one of the top 3 or 4 characters in terms of screen time.

April 8, 2013 at 11:23 a.m.
jgreeson said...

9er —

Is there any truth to the rumor that the state of Kentucky has tried to officially change Laettner's middle name to "Freakin'" as in Christian "Freakin'" Laettner?

We watched the 1996 Gold Medal game from the cheap seats at the Georgia Dome. We were so far back, it was tough to tell Stockton from Shaq... Seriously.

962 —

You are in.

We have not been consumed by the Dufnering craze. Alas. Did we read that Dufner was going to be fined by the PGA Tour for that? Silly.

Laughter —

Great point. The worst thing we can say about referees/umps is when they believe they are part of the show. No one buys a ticket to watch the officials. Period. And the worst umps/refs that think people do are the worst.

Never watched 24; heard good things, though. The fact that FP Jr. was Fred on the Scooby Doo and was the star of Summer Catch, which was awful in its awfulness is plenty.

Side note: Summer Catch could be in the discussion with Ed and the Air Up There for worst sports movies ever.

April 8, 2013 at 11:41 a.m.
JonathanMCook said...

Ten-Ring:

Didn't get a chance to take in a live game this weekend but caught two of the three on television. Yeah, lots of boo-ing to say the least. My favorite was the Facebook cartoon with fans reading newspapers and the caption saying "Josh Who?"

Hadn't read the article yet but part of me imagines what a typical Chattanoogan might think of said article involving the arrow: "What's a Gentleman's Club?" *

*That "thing" behind the old Herb Adcox lot does NOT count. :P

I would be excited for the Masters but unfortunately, after Steven has gone 0-2 on the pro-invite tour, I'm not exactly holding my breath.

NCAA B-Ball: Let's get this over with PLEASE!

Did not win Hottest Comic in Dallas but did land my first "Joker's Wild" Showcase at the House of Blues-Dallas on April 26th. It's not the AT&T Center but at least it's something.

Speaking of comics, caught Fluffy's new special on Comedy Central last night. Jay, if 5 at 10 2.0 starts getting uppity with you at 15, he's got a way to issue get back involving an alarm clock..I'm just saying.

You left out UTC in the Spring Football report. But that's okay because from what all I read I can sum it up in one sentence: Coach Huesman was not happy (major shock everyone!) Film at 11.

April 8, 2013 at 11:42 a.m.
BIspy4 said...

5,

While I ponder my Masterful Masters picks, who will be manning TFP East at Augusta National this week? And how glad are you and Weeds that the Final Four is less than two hours down the road?

April 8, 2013 at 11:52 a.m.
LaughingBoy said...

I've had to watch the Scooby Doo live action movies more than once, not by choice. They were a disgrace to the old cartoons from the 60s and 70s.

24 is one of my favorite shows ever. Some of the plots are a little far fetched but they're worth watching. The best way would be to watch several episodes in a row, either on a rainy weekend or some other time when you have a few hours to spare. The action of the show is in real time, minute by minute, over 24 hours.

Win or lose in the finals (men and women), does Louisville continue to dominate in the ACC with football and basketball? And does Connecticut men and women's basketball fall off with the likes of Tulane and Houston about to start play in the American Athletic whatchamacallit League?

April 8, 2013 at 11:56 a.m.
jgreeson said...

JMC —

Fair point about the Mocs football. We'll get an update from Johnny Frierson later this week. Deal? Deal.

Spy —

If the Final Four had not been in Atlanta this year, we likely would not have had the budget room to follow the Lady Mocs to College Station, Texas. So it goes some times, you know?

Uch and the 5-at-10 make the break toward Washington Rd. Wednesday morning.

Laughter —

Fair question.

As for Louisville — Cards will be a factor atop football and hoops standings in the ACC as long as the current coaches are still on staff. Hoops will be a top-three entity for the long haul; football will be a player as long as Strong is there.

As long as Geno's around, the UConn women will be fine. Great call on the UConn men, though. They have already started to slip, and that could continue and even escalate.

April 8, 2013 at 12:31 p.m.
chas9 said...

LB raises a good point about the level of competition in the AA league. And can't we 5@10 regulars come up with a better league name, help 'em out?

April 8, 2013 at 12:33 p.m.
jgreeson said...

9er —

That's a good summer time topic — which teams were most helped and hurt by the reshuffle.

As for the league name, it definitely needs to be better. That said, most of the 5-at-10 regulars probably have some loose association with AA to begin with.

April 8, 2013 at 12:55 p.m.
BIspy4 said...

5, I'll throw out this name for college football fans to keep in mind in the near future - Georgia Tech's Justin Thomas. Alabama 100 meter dash champ and now the No. 2 QB on The Flats.

April 8, 2013 at 1:26 p.m.
dawg747 said...

10 Cup: Would love to see a Louisville split so someone other than Conneticut would have that claim to fame.

Went to the great city of Athens this past Saturday to the G-Day game. The weather was perfect and the football was slow but entertaining at times. Cannot figure out how Arthur Lynch is still the number one tight end over Jay Rome. Typical Lynch, on the first play Murray fakes a reverse and Lynch is wide open down field behind the defenders and of course he drops the ball. Good thing it was spring. Jonathan Rumph was impressive at wide receiver even though he was going against the second team defense. Looks like he will definitly help the receiving corp. I believe the defense is going to be better with all the new starters. Tray Matthews looks to be the real deal.

Did you get my picks by email?

April 8, 2013 at 1:53 p.m.
BIspy4 said...

I can't say I've found love in a quote/unquote gentleman's club. I have found a great deal of like, however.

April 8, 2013 at 1:59 p.m.
dawg747 said...

10 Cup: Meant to say would love to see Louisville win twin titles.

April 8, 2013 at 2:14 p.m.
jgreeson said...

Spy —

Thomas could a special player in PJ's system.

Great line about what you can find in a Gentleman's Club. Well-played indeed.

That made us think of the "Money can't buy happiness." And that's true of course, but it can put a pretty good down payment on happiness and we're dang sure poor don't buy nothing.

Dawg747 —

Got your picks and you are in.

We're with you on the U of L sweep. The men's game is for personal reasons; the women's game is for anti-Geno reasons.

Side note: Congrats to Bernard King... more on this tomorrow.

April 8, 2013 at 2:38 p.m.
BIspy4 said...

Well, 5, I've been a puppet, a pauper, a pirate, a poet, a pawn and a king. And poor don't buy much. Yea that I have verily burned through some small piles of cash in my life. But a good time was had by all.

April 8, 2013 at 3:01 p.m.
GratefulDawg said...

Random thoughts: Any joint where the patrons bring their bow hunting equipment with them likely does not qualify as a "gentleman's club". Sounds more like one of those right-off-the-interstate joints down around the Georgia-Florida line. The sign out front probably reads "LIVE NUDE GIRLS!!! TRUCK PARKING."

That story about the kid at Nebraska's spring game was nice, but C'mon Jay..."someone has a case of the Mondays." Did you not get the warning from Lawrence in Office Space about the use of that phrase?

If I'm not mistaken there is a McKee outlet store over in Collegedale where a $20 bill will buy you a stack of Little Debbie snack cakes that a racehorse could not jump over. Just something to keep in mind as you find yourself on snack duty in this t-ball season.

April 8, 2013 at 3:17 p.m.
JonathanMCook said...

GD-

Nice one. I was going to add a "nod" to the infamous WE BARE ALL! outside of Macon, Georgia which I have been inside of (Long, long story) but you beat me to the punch.

Well played.

April 8, 2013 at 3:28 p.m.
jgreeson said...

Spy —

Yes, a good time was had by all. And it was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

GD —

Yes, we're well aware of Lawrence's warning, but if you don't like the Nebraska kid running for a TD, well you got bigger problems.

That said, if the kid had done the same thing at Tuscaloosa, here's saying that Saban would have made the defense run laps for missing that many tackles.

April 8, 2013 at 3:43 p.m.
mcpell3 said...

JMC - I'm not sure you should admit to that visit, unless its followed by "and I burned my clothes and took a bath in rubbing alcohol"

5/10 - Master contest - put me down for Mickelson (last time I swear), Dufner, Choi, Snedeker & Kuchar.

April 8, 2013 at 3:53 p.m.
GratefulDawg said...

JMC, I remember those "WE BARE ALL!" joints, they must have made some money as their billboard budget was huge. The WE BARE ALL/Café Risqué over off of I-95 was involved in a court case against Camden County that made it all the way to the Supreme Court of Georgia. The outfit that ran the establishment was called "Exit 10 Inc." Let us all raise a glass to hazy memories of what we are pretty sure was a good time...Maybe?

April 8, 2013 at 4:01 p.m.
sportsfan said...

Jay - I know nothing of this gentleman's club establishment that the entire 5 at 10 crew refers to. As W.C. Fields stated once, "I wouldn't join a club that would have me as a member." That being said, it's my opinion that the ugly state of basketball has something to do with the officiating. Allowing muggings on the court and then getting all ticky tacky drives me away from watching on the flat screen more often than anything else. Put me down for Lee Westwood, Adam Scott, Bo Van Pelt, Justin Rose, and Fred Couples in the Masters contest. Freddie is ranked 503 in the World Golf Rankings, but he's finished in the top 20 the last 3 tournaments. Watch our for Sergio though...

April 8, 2013 at 7:32 p.m.
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