published Monday, March 4th, 2013

5-at-10: Vols hoops disappointment, No. 1 puzzles, spring refresher and the Flacco mistake

Hope you enjoyed the weekend and were able to stay warm.

From the "Talks too much" studios, let's pay special homage to Run DMC, who will play a concert after the Braves-Nationals game on June 1 at Turner Field, and say, "My Adidas, walking on the hardwood floors..."

Vols tournament chances

Wow, Jordan McRae looks more Michael Jordan than even the best McRae — Hal, Brian or Gerald — and the Vols still can't find a win against a Georgia team that apparently is only motivated against the Vols.

It was a disappointing loss to be sure. A 78-68 defeat that leaves the Vols at the mercy of the NCAA tournament selection committee — unless they roll into the SEC tournament finals — and makes the recent six-game win streak feel like it was six weeks ago.

Trae Golden was invisible. Jarnell Stokes never got going. Skylar McBee was ineffective on offense and exploited on the defensive end of the floor. It was a cavalcade of misery for The Conz and Co.

It was so crazy in fact that the events of Saturday, allowed UT to move up in the eyes of NCAA tournament expert Joe Lunardi. Crazy as it seems, when Saturday started, the Vols were the first team out. After the head-scratching, jaw-dropping events of Saturday, the Vols were the last team in. Go figure.

Still, the Vols are skating on thin ice — ice that would assuredly crack if they stumble at Auburn this week or lose at home against Missouri.

We talked about this on The Twitter (@jgreesontfp) over the weekend, but other than Florida, which SEC team can feel comfortably in?

UT? The Vols have two losses against a bad Georgia team since Feb. 1. That hardly screams tournament lock.

Kentucky? Saturday's loss at Arkansas hurt a resume that is already fragile.

Alabama? The record seems to be tournament-worthy but the black hole in the "Big Win" category is glaring, and the Tide let Florida off the hook Saturday.

Ole Miss? Ah, the Rebels, who started 17-2 and are 21-8 this morning. And the last one of those 8 — Saturday's loss to a Mississippi State team that is comparable to Samford by the computer measures — was especially painful. Tuesday when Alabama goes to Ole Miss, it assuredly is a NCAA tournament Mad Max Thunderdome: Two teams enter, one team leaves with four-letter tournament hopes.

Of course in the SEC, other than Florida, all any one really has is a hope. Or a prayer.

———

No. 1 puzzles

Two weeks from today we'll be looking at our NCAA tournament list and be checking it twice.

And as muddled and confused and crowded as the collection of this year's laborers huddled outside the Waffle House hoping someone picks them up appears, the blue-blooded traffic vying to be a No. 1 seed is just as congested.

The resumes are nice but each is flawed. The talent is better than you may think but not as good as we normally expect. In fact, we've said for a month now that this could be the year that a 16 beats a 1 and considering several teams that are trying to box out for a pole position — Miami, Michigan, Kansas to name but three — have some recent brutal losses, that seems distinctly possible.

The drama of who gets VIP seating does not have the drama of course of who gets standing room only entrance into the NCAA tournament. Still, the top dogs offer insight into who is pegged to make a run to Atlanta.

Here's who we have as 1 seeds as of this morning:

Gonzaga: The little engine that has is about to make more history with their first No. 1 seed in program history. Knock their schedule if you want, but the program construction that Mark Few has engineered — taking a small school in a nothing conference and turning it into a legit national power — may be the best in the history of college hoops.

Indiana: The Hoosiers are the best team in the country in the best league in the country. Take your RPIs and BPIs and BMIs and whatever computer-generated scale you want. Now watch Indiana play and know that the Hoosiers pass the most important test — the eye test — with flying colors. These cats look like a No. 1 seed.

Georgetown: At 23-4 the Hoyas have arguably the best resume in the country and are winners of 11 straight and four of those were against ranked foes.

Duke: The meaning of Ryan Kelly's return will be monumental in the eyes of the committee, especially after he went off for 36 against Miami in his first game back. Do we think the Devils look like a 1-seed? Nope. But so it goes.

In fact, this will be the tournament where a lot of 2s and 3s will be asked to dress up like 1s. Think of it this way: If the bracket falls in some order close to that, here are the teams battling for the 2- and 3-seeds in no particular order: Florida, Miami, Michigan, Michigan State, Louisville, Kansas, Syracuse and Arizona. Seems like picking two of the Final Four will be better than expected this year, huh?

———

Spring practice starting

Ah, spring practice. The chance to get re-acquianted with the familiar names, see some new faces you have been counting on and pose the awesome post-spring questions like, "Wow, Devrin Young is really coming on" or "This Georgia offense would be the third-best... in the NFC."

We're going to spend some time this week with UGA, UT and UTC with special 5-at-10 guest stars this week — it's a new feature, and if you have a question for one of those three, e-mail us.

Before we dive too deep in the rabbit hole that is spring practice, here are some unequivocal truths, a check list of things to remember as they break out the pads:

• There will be a no-name guy show up at a skill position like running back or wide receiver who will turn heads and draw rave reviews. Chances are if you had not heard of him before practice, you will not hear from him come August. There are exceptions of course, but what the praise for Johnny No-Name really means is "Hey, we're down to one healthy scholarship tailback and there's no way he's going against the first-team defense." Someone has to run the ball in the scrimmages.

• Remember the two-sided coin theory. Yes, the offense may be littered with future NFL guys or all-conference picks, but if they are shredding the defense, well, that's the same defense that will be on the same sideline come fall.

• Goal No. 1: Stay healthy.

• Goal No. 2: Read goal No. 1.

———

This and that

— George O'Leary is about to receive a contract extension from Central Florida after recording two 10-win seasons in three years. Wow, what would Notre Dame have been if the Resume-Gate of 2001 (when O'Leary took the Irish job but was dismissed because of some long-lingering lies on his resume) had not happened? And in retro-spect, considering the things that were reportedly happening at Miami at the time and the evil that was being ignored at Penn State at that time, has anyone ever paid a bigger price for a resume malfunction?

— Wow. Just wow. Watch this — it's the video of Khalil Edney hitting a 60-footer at the buzzer to win the New York state title.

— Carl Edwards got back to Victory Lane in Phoenix. It was the first time in 70 starts that his fans got to see his trademark flip. Jimmie Johnson finished second, Dale Jr. finished fifth and Danica finished 39th after losing a tire and crashing into the wall with about 100 laps left.

— It was 20 years ago this morning that Jimmy Valvano gave his memorable speech at the ESPYs. Of course that was the last meaningful moment at the ESPYs, but that's another story. Remembering Jimmy V is to remember what is possible with the smallest of dreams.

— We're going to spend the afternoon with the SportTalk gang starting a little after 4. Swing by and give a listen, don't cost nothing.

———

Today's question(s)

As with all Mondays feel free to free flow... MCA get on the mic my man.

If you need a talking point beyond NCAA tournament talk, here are three:

1) Dwight Gooden was found to have made "terroristic threats" against estranged wife Monique. We say Dwight Gooden is the biggest, non-injury professional sports disappoint of our generation. What do you say? Dude should have been a five-time Cy Young winner.

2) The Ravens made Joe Flacco the highest-paid quarterback ever. Wow, this is a failure on so many levels. Flacco was pedestrian during the regular season and was liquid hot during a four-game playoff run that featured an 11-0 TD-to-interception ratio and resulted in a Super Bowl title. It was a great month. Now know this, if the goofy Broncos safety doesn't misjudge a Hail Mary, Flacco and the Ravens are gone in the divisional round. Now he's got the salary of the best quarterback in the history of the (cue Ron Jaworski) NATIONAL Football League. This should have been its own item.

3) We going to say it and we know we're going to get some flak for it, but here goes: LeBron James is having a better year than any single season since Michael Jordan in 1988-89. That was before MJ had won a title — he went for 32.5 points per game, 8.0 assists and 8.0 rebounds while shooting 54 percent from the floor — and he was supremely hungry. James is operating at a historic level right now and he is must-see TV.

Discuss.

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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chas9 said...

Jay--I'm not making a terroristic threat, but I wish you hadn't talked me out of Duke in my picks. Did you forget Mizzou? They're in, though not impressively. For what it's worth, I don't think Ole Missy has a shot, win or lose.

None of the SEC bubble teams wants to dance enough to win tough road games. Jerry Palm still has UT and UK among the last four in, but they're birds on a wire.

Also hurting UT's chances was a loss by one of The Vols' best wins, Wichita State.

Georgia's playing much better than their RPI, but the Tennessee loss hurts The Vols' chances worse than Kentucky's loss hurts them. Except for Joe Lunardi, everybody else figured The Cats to be a bit closer to a bid than The Vols before Saturday, and Arkansas is a tougher opponent than Gawga.

The Hogs are incredible in Fayetteville, having lost this season only to Super Syracuse there. Their 40 minutes of harassment impresses you with their mental toughness and physical fitness.

UK outshot Arkansas 47% to 35%, but lost because of turnovers that gave Arkansas a 30-2 points off turnovers advantage. The Cats had an unacceptable five inbounds turnovers.

Since Kentucky plays at Georgia Thursday, we'll know whether UT or UK is better at this juncture. But Kentucky won a big one on the distaff side. The Lady Cats pressure defense hounded The Lady Vols just as hard as The Hogs dogged the UK men. The Lady Cats lead the nation in turnover margin and the win assures that they'll be ranked over their archrivals in both national polls this week.

But Holly's team won the SEC regular season so will be seeded first and KY second in the tournaments' strange brackets. It starts Wednesday, but UT and UK won't play until Friday. Here's hoping they meet in Sunday's finals.

It was senior day for the UK women. The seniors only lost three games at home in their entire careers. We won't see the likes of A'dia Mathies again soon. And The Lady Vols are relieved at that.

The Lady Vols may have lost, but they looked good with the touch of baby blue on their unis.

March 4, 2013 at 10:34 a.m.
BIspy4 said...

Spent a little time at Kennesaw State on Saturday watching the Georgia Class AAAAA state semifinals. Saw the quarterback from Gainesville play hoops and he's pretty good. Also saw the kid who might be the No. 1 junior in the state and he ... is ... lee- ... git. Vols fans, you may want to keep mentioning the name Jakeenan Gant to the Conz.

Then I spent time with my second favorite Auburn grad (you're still tops, 5, but she is ... well, quite frankly, she is better looking than you. In fact, she's better looking than 99.9999 percent of the population. But I digress.

Does Notre Dame even list O'Leary as a head coach? Can he claim that on his resume? (O'Liary! Ah good times.... Still think Falcons get Blank check when Awthuh Blank bought the Falcons would have been a tremendous headline)

March 4, 2013 at 12:16 p.m.
chas9 said...

Lipscomb welcomes Charlie Daniels. Jack, not so much.

March 4, 2013 at 12:41 p.m.
jgreeson said...

From friend of the show StuckinKent (part I)

OK- So I decided to go out on a limb and do a Bubble Watch on Monday and Thursday this week for you. Next week (assuming no problems) I'll do Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

So here's my Bubble Watch after the weekend.

THE MATH Automatic Bids: 31 Locks: 21 Claimed Bids: 42 Available Bids: 26 On the Bubble: 46

LOCKS Atlantic 10- Saint Louis ACC- Miami, Duke Big 12- Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma State Big East- Syracuse, Georgetown, Louisville, Marquette, Pittsburgh Big Ten- Indiana, Michigan State, Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio State Missouri Valley- Creighton Mountain West- New Mexico Pac 12- Arizona SEC- Florida WCC- Gonzaga

BUBBLE Atlantic 10- VCU, Butler, LaSalle, Xavier, Temple, Massachusetts ACC- Virginia, North Carolina State, North Carolina, Maryland Big 12- Iowa State, Oklahoma, Baylor Big East- Notre Dame, Cincinnati, Villanova, St. John's, Providence Big Ten- Illinois, Minnesota, Iowa Conference USA- Memphis, Southern Miss MAC- Akron Missouri Valley- Wichita State Mountain West- Colorado State, UNLV, San Diego State, Air Force, Boise State OVC- Belmont Pac 12- Oregon, UCLA, Arizona State, California, Colorado SEC- Alabama, Ole Miss, Kentucky, Missouri, Arkansas, Tennessee Southland- Stephen F. Austin Sun Belt- Middle Tennessee WAC- Louisiana Tech WCC- Saint Mary's

I'll break it down a little further:

IN REALLY GOOD SHAPE: VCU, Butler, North Carolina, Notre Dame, Illinois, Minnesota, Wichita State, UNLV, Colorado State, San Diego State, Oregon, UCLA IN REALLY BAD SHAPE: Baylor, Maryland, Providence, St. John's, Southern Miss, Akron, Stephen F. Austin, Arkansas

Still plenty of time for movement.

March 4, 2013 at 1:16 p.m.
jgreeson said...

From friend of the show StuckinKent (part II) —

SCHEDULE FOR BUBBLE TEAMS MONDAY-WEDNESDAY Monday Cincinnati at Louisville Baylor at Texas

Tuesday Memphis at UTEP St. John's at Notre Dame Arkansas at Missouri Southern Miss at Marshall Miami (OH) at Akron Illinois at Iowa Alabama at Ole Miss Seton Hall at Providence Boise State at UNLV

Wednesday Georgetown at Villanova Oklahoma State at Iowa State Saint Louis at Xavier Tennessee at Auburn North Carolina at Maryland Temple at Fordham George Washington at LaSalle Richmond at VCU Wake Forest at North Carolina State Minnesota at Nebraska West Virginia at Oklahoma UCLA at Washington State Colorado State at Wyoming Stanford at California Air Force at San Diego State

March 4, 2013 at 1:17 p.m.
jgreeson said...

9er —

UK is cooked if they lose in Athens this week. Cooked. The Cats were so sloppy vs. Arkansas it was at times tough to watch. And how do you explain a team that can defend like that slumping so badly on the road. Defense should not slump that badly — that's lapses in motivation.

And Auburn welcomes Charlie AND Jack Daniels. In fact, we saw each of them in the same setting during our time there.

EDGE: Auburn.

Spy —

Hoops in the A-T-L is money. Well accept for the Hawks. And the Jackets. Strike that. Prep hoops in the A-T-L is money.

By the way, how is MAY-retta?

Stuck —

You know your bubble. That's an interest that is based in knowledge and flamed by passion.

What seed do the Mocs get when they run things in Asheville?

March 4, 2013 at 1:29 p.m.
Stewwie said...

[The Ravens made Joe Flacco the highest-paid quarterback ever. Wow, this is a failure on so many levels.]

Flacco has been underrated for a while and he picked a good time to win a Super Bowl. But does that mean he should get the most money? I guess only if the Ravens were willing to pay it. But is Flacco even a top-5 QB in the league right now? Possibly. Along with the Mannings, Rodgers, and Brees. (Sorry, Brady. You've been FlaccOwned 2 years in a row.) Jay, who is your top-5 QBs in the league right now?

[LeBron James is having a better year than any single season since Michael Jordan in 1988-89.]

Hard to argue this one. He keeps getting better and better. He's the most complete raw talent in the NBA of all time. His biggest weakness, however, is his lack of a natural killer instinct. He simply doesn't compete with the same fire as MJ or Kobe. He showed up in the Finals last season, but will he do it again in this year's playoffs? Or will he try to just coast (mentally) to victory? What's scary is that he's good enough to be a great player while just coasting. But coasting won't win him any additional titles.

March 4, 2013 at 1:39 p.m.
BIspy4 said...

Oy vey was Barrett Parkway and Chastain Road one big cluster. Didn't go visit any of the old haunts. Didn't even drive past the Big Chicken.

March 4, 2013 at 1:49 p.m.
Livn4life said...

It'll end up becoming known as the Joe Fia(s)cco deal before all is said and done with the Ravens but heck what's a little more Jack when you are talking a Super Bowl winning MVP? Let's see how it plays out. Spring Practice should show us a lot in Volahland with the JonesGang in place and some new players HAVING to step up. It'll be a tall climb back up Rocky Top, heck it's gotta start somewhere(that could be the beginning of new country song). Vols Men BB...man what a disappointment in Athens. I will be shocked absolutely shocked even more than when I ran into our neighbor's electric fence as a child, if Kentucky does not make the NCAA tourney. Either they will botch one or both of these last two and win the SEC tourney or will win over GA and FLA which would speak for itself. But we wait, we see and...ask ourselves what will be the next cliff our nation is about to run the bus over in days ahead? Heck, I'm just glad we survived that dadgum Mayan Calendar runout. Happy Trails to all.

March 4, 2013 at 2:24 p.m.
jgreeson said...

Spy —

Wonder how Mike is getting along at Docs. Other than a few folks — and the 5-at-10 Sr. and Ma 5-at-10 are moving to Chatta-Vegas in the coming weeks — there is very little to miss about the A-T-L. And Atlanta traffic is between "The rack" and "waterboarding" on outlawed forms of torture.

Stuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu —

We believe Flacco is closer to 10th than 5th. And if the Denver DB just tackles the Ravens receiver, not only are we not having this conversation, Flacco is headed to Arizona for half of the record-setting deal he signed.

LBJ is scary right now, and his perceived indifference of years past was one of the two biggest knocks against him — the other was his ability from the perimeter.

As for his lackadaisical-ness (or is it lackadaisical-ity Spy?), well winning a title has kind of freed James of the pressure and expectation he had before. Sky's the limit now. His perimeter weakness? Dude's hitting better than 40 percent of his 3s. Any questions?

— 5-at-10

March 4, 2013 at 2:25 p.m.
jgreeson said...

Livn(Large)

You ran into an electric fence? What a revolting development. Bet it left you pretty wired for days.

In NCAA tourney parlance, UK gets a huge edge because of the name on the front as opposed to the disappointing names on the back this year.

What's your question for your Vols this spring?

March 4, 2013 at 2:29 p.m.
BIspy4 said...

5,

The 5-at-10s parental units moving to Chattvegas is awesome in its awesomeness. Long time in coming.

March 4, 2013 at 3:08 p.m.
BIspy4 said...

Stewwie,

I can't begin to describe how not including Brady in the top 5 QBs of right now and possibly even ever is anything but laughable.

5, I vote for lackadaiscality.

March 4, 2013 at 4:52 p.m.
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