published Monday, March 11th, 2013

5-at-10: Bubbling Vols, Shulman's end, Butch's fast start and Tiger

Daylight Savings time is great. The day we switch back to daylight savings time stinks.

Anyone else dragging? Other than Brandon Knight of course. Knight was dunked on so hard by DeAndre Jordan that the interweb almost melted.

Egads.

While Jordan's Jordanesque moment may have been one of the weekend's highlights, it was dwarfed in the landscape. Grab a cushion and pull up a chair. We're going to be here a while.

From the Bubble Watch Room in the "Talks too much" let's go DeAndre on this...

Vols punch ticket — most likely

Here's what we wrote Feb. 18:

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.

Cuonzo "The Conz" Martin and Co. have filled that exact bill. The Vols are 19-11 and appear to be on the inside looking out. Saturday's dramatic, passionate win over Missouri capped a streaking finish of eight wins in their final nine games. Yes, the selection committee has said they have moved away from "record in the last 10" theatrics during the picking process, but this UT bunch passes the NCAA tournament eye test with flying colors even if their resume is still less than a certainty.

The Vols are the local tie to the dance, but they are just one of the puzzles that is a piece of the riddle that is in the enigma that is this NCAA tournament.

On the cusp of the power conference tournaments here are five quick things we know (or at least we think we know):

• We know that Duke, despite not winning its conference title, has the look of a No. 1 seed with Ryan Kelly on the floor.

• We know that Indiana's resume and its impressive comeback Sunday at Michigan should be enough for a No. 1 seed.

• We know Liberty, at 15-20 with a conference tournament title, will be dancing in Dayton in a play-in game.

• We know Auburn is terrible. Or as Chuck Barkley would say, "Tuuurrrr-ble."

• We know the SEC tournament is going to be very intense. The SEC bubble teams — Tennessee, Kentucky, Alabama and Ole Miss — had a clutch Saturday with wins to close out the regular season. We know what the Vols did. Bama hit a half-court buzzer beater to beat Georgia. Kentucky played with guts and energy and passion — something that has been lacking too often — and beat Florida, which has limited to the finish and likely is a 3- or a 4-seed now. Ole Miss went to LSU and won. Each needs at least one SEC tournament win.

————

  • photo
    Chattanooga head coach John Shulman talks from the sideline.
    Photo by Contributed Photo

Shulman's time is up

We also know this morning that the most lackluster UTC basketball season in our 11 years in Chattanooga is over. Attendance and interest seemed to be at all-time lows.

As our UTC hoops ace David Uchiyama reported Sunday and ace columnist Mark Wiedmer wrote in today's TFP, the status of coach John Shulman is very much up in the air.

We can appreciate John, who is entering the final year of his contract, not wanting to be a lame duck. But no one expects him to get an extension do they?

To be fair, John may have done some of his best coaching this season, taking a rebuilding team that was predicted to finish three spots behind last to a middle of the road finish in the Southern Conference. This team played hard nightly and that's more than can be said about some of Shulman's previous teams.

But, also to be fair, Shulman should have been canned after the 2011-12 debacle, and almost certainly would have been except for the lack of funds on hand to buy out the remainder of his contract.

The financial hurdles that were present 12 months ago are still there, but UTC's on the hook for only one more season. Now the absence of an AD has the future of Shulman and the program in continued limbo.

John does not want to be a lame-duck coach and most of the fan base does not want him to be the coach at all. Seems to me like this may be the first time in a long while that John and the Mocs supporters are on the same page.

Shulman may have gotten an extra year because of finances, but money is a fickle foundation. Now, with sagging attendance and dwindling interest, we don't see any way UTC can afford to have John back. The most damaging emotion in sports is not anger, it's apathy. And it has landed in full force for the men Mocs at McKenzie Arena.

————

Butch's big start

We've embraced the wait-and-see approach with Butch Jones.

But even the most reserved Johnny Vols Fans among you must be encouraged by the events of the opening weekend of spring practice. As out UT ace Downtown Patrick Brown as reported all weekend, the drills were different by design and dotted with former famous Vols on the sideline.

Butch's opening news conference had a real Les Miles-feel to it, and that's OK. UT does not need someone to dominate the news conference. You know who owned news conferences? Derek Dooley was unbeaten in the media room. You know who stinks at news conferences? Nick Saban, and that's working out for Alabama pretty well right now.

And after the rosy start to spring drills, more good news came down the ticker Sunday, as four-star defensive back Todd Kelly Jr. committed to the Vols. Yes, his father played for UT, but Kelly said Jones was a big reason why he's coming to Knoxville. (And hey, with as much talent as Fulmer recruited, if UT can bat 80-90 percent on its legacies, that would be a nice start; heck Travis Henry'sgot a stable of future four-stars.)

Plus, the value of getting a big-time player — Kelly's the No. 59-ranked player in the country according to Rivals.com — this early is the ripple effect and the ability for this kid to recruit other kids in his class.

Who knows where this will end — Jones and the Vols still have a rocky and tall climb in the SEC in front of them — but Jones had an excellent start to his first spring.

————

Tiger roars

  • photo
    Tiger Woods holds the Gene Sarazen Cup for winning the Cadillac Championship golf tournament Sunday in Doral, Fla.
    Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Every time Tiger lifts a trophy, there will be "Is he back?" quandaries and questions. (He's not back, and that's not about the state of his game this morning; it's about the state of his game in 2007 when he was the story in sports and was in the midst of a the most dominating run in golf history.)

Tiger rolled the field at Doral, literally, winning $1.5 million in his 76th career PGA victory. After a putting tip from Steve Stricker — Sure that went over like a toot in church in the locker room; "Thanks a lot there Steve, way to fix the winning machine," — Woods missed just three putts inside 10 feet during the tournament.

And that's the kicker. There's been a ton of talk and a dozen barrels of ink spilled about Tiger's off-the-course drama and his multitude of swing changes. The reason Tiger dominated golf then has been merely a good player now is his putting.

When he was rolling toward records it was because he was rolling the ball with a record-setting stare. Tiger not only made every important putt, he expected to make them. And more importantly, everyone else expected him to make them. So every other golfer entered every tournament looking knowing Tiger was going to be there and in contention. That pressure worked to his advantage and started to snowball. Tiger went on making 6-footers; everyone else would fall back because they were trying to make something happen because they knew Tiger was making 6-footers. It was a cycle of domination, and maybe Stricker's tip will jumpstart its renewal.

Or maybe it was four good rounds of golf.

We'll know in a month — yes a month from this morning is the start of the Masters. And if Tiger is draining 6-footers, he'll be the storyline and the favorite. You know this. He knows this. And most importantly, the rest of the field knows this.

This and that, with bonus questions

Since we had so much to cover today, and we want your views on any and all of them (and we know Stuck and Chas will have more bubble insight to share), we have combined today's question and the This and That. Enjoy, and remember, it's an open mic Monday.

— Speaking of golf, we have two more items of interest: First, Phil Mickelson hit a cart-path-aided 450-yard drive during the tournament. Yes, 450-yards; well more than a quarter of a mile (and almost as far as Andy Dufresne crawled in the sewer to freedom in Shawshank). Second, are Rory McIlroy's struggles (that's before Sunday's 65 mind you) the product of being the world No. 1? And with those struggles, does it not make the years of Woods' reign even more impressive? We say yes and yes.

— The Miami Heat are in full Weird Science mode in that, like Gary and Wyatt, things are moving, it's working, it's working by itself. LeBron James scored but 13 points Sunday, and still the Heat dumped the Indiana Pacers — the team many think is the lone chance in the Eastern Conference to stop Miami — for their 18th consecutive win. The NBA has a slew of potential storylines: James and the Heatles; Kevin Durant becoming the most effective and dominant offensive player the league has seen since Bernard King was healthy; the Clippers filling highlight tapes every where. Want to know one storyline that's exhausted: The Lakers' drive to the postseason. Sweet buckets we're tired of hearing how Kobe and Dwight and Steve are playing well with others. Where's Mr. Furley, because the "Three's Company" act is tired. They're an eighth-place bunch that would have been unstoppable five years ago. You know who else was unstoppable five years ago — Tiger Woods, who won the U.S. Open on one leg at Torrey Pines. A lot happens in five years, huh?

— Joe Flacco is supporting teammate Anquan Boldin's stand against not taking a paycut from the Baltimore Ravens. Hmmmmm. Well, at least Joe, who parlayed a hot month into the most lucrative contract for a quarterback in NFL history, is not a hypocrite. Someone explain the salary cap to Joe. That said, Boldin' future — along with that of All-Pro safety teammate Ed Reed — will be one of the storylines as the NFL free agency starts Tuesday. The biggest name to most recently land on the free agent list is Steelers linebacker James Harrison, who was released this weekend.

— Speaking of NFL moves, the Falcons seem quietly confident that Tony Gonzalez will play one more year. Although his reported demands include skipping training camp, which could very well be the future of getting veterans to return. Hey, at least Tony G is saying it on the front end as opposed to the song and dance Brett Favre went through at the end of his career.

— Well, tonight the folks on Dallas will bury J.R. Ewing. We're in. Great TV villains? J.R. has to be on the Rushmore with Marlo from the Wire, Who'sHis Pants from Lost (didn't watch it but know it was embraced as great TV by most) and Tony Soprano.

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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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...

The happy daze for UT and UK are similar, but if anything, the Kentucky win was bigger. The Vols had more confidence and energy than The Cats. And beating even a limping Gator is big time. UF is tougher on the road than Mizzou.

Reason the RPI is great: It has Kentucky five spots ahead of UT, about right.

Reason the RPI still sucks: It has Ole Miss only one spot behind Tennessee. There's a bigger gap than that.

And Kyle Wiltjer still can't play.

There's a huge difference between a 2 seed vs. a 5 seed in the SEC tourney. To get to the championship game The Vols have to beat a chump, then Bama and Florida. To get to the championship game The Cats only have to beat a chump and The Rebel Bears.

March 11, 2013 at 10:18 a.m.
sportsfan said...

Jay - Sportsfan Jr is home for Spring Break (rather than at the beach which makes Mrs. Sportsfan happy). We watched the MTSU game last night and it sure looked like the Blue Raiders were going to have a tough time overcoming FIU and the refs (I'm not complaining, I'm just saying). I was more than disappointed in the officiating last night. I can't tell you what Jr was saying. How come refs don't call traveling any more? Can MTSU make the dance?

March 11, 2013 at 10:37 a.m.
JonathanMCook said...

Jay-

I'll try to hit all the highlights with the bullet points.

Dallas- For everyone curious, it has not been that big a deal when compared to the drama with Nolen Ryan playing out in Arlington. More people are watching Duck "Fear the Beard" Dynasty and the Holy Bible (and Vikings for garnish). So while I will watch, not exactly the topic de jour.

Lady Mocs- I keep forgetting the 12 noon start time was for EST and not here so I wound up missing the first half but was able to pull up "The Trey" for part 2. "Nail biter" was an understatement! I forgot how much The Lady Mocs struggled against our soon-to-be ex-rivals. Thankfully, they were able to foul out their star players towards the end. Sadly, I will still be here at "da cubicle" when they take on Davision this afternoon. D:

Now we turn our attention to the empty house that Mac built.

Murrey Arnold hadn't been dead six months and already I can hear him turning in his grave 800 miles away out here. Shulman's buyout according to Weeds would be about $138,000. I know that's a lot of coin by UTC's standard and only 1/8th of a drop on the bucket when compared to the massive buyouts 90 miles up the road on I-75, but when compared to the attendance and I imagine lack of booster/alumni support, a $138,000 buyout is not that bad a loss. Unfortunately, as Weeds very well pointed out, trying to find the next Murrey or Mac is not even possible until a new AD is hired. And not knowing much of how the new Chancellor will conduct such a search when the UT president himself had to remind him that should be job 1 upon taking office, makes me a tad nervous.

March 11, 2013 at 10:51 a.m.
JonathanMCook said...

SF wrote-

"I was more than disappointed in the officiating last night. I can't tell you what Jr was saying. How come refs don't call traveling any more?"

I asked myself that same question when watching Lady Mocs/Appy State. Towards the end, there were a couple of traveling violations that "appeared" to have been overlooked which lead to a couple of critical ASU baskets. Needless to say, the cameras show Wes Moore not being a happy camper.

March 11, 2013 at 11:02 a.m.
jgreeson said...

From friend of the show StuckinKent

More Bubble Watch later, but let's start by talking at the top.

--If Duke hasn't clinched a number one seed with Ryan Kelly back, I'm not sure what they have to do. Not losing in the ACC Quarters is probably all that's required. --Indiana has likely clinched a number one seed, too. Not losing in the Big Ten Quarters is likely all that is required. --I tend to think Gonzaga clinches one with a win tonight over Saint Mary's. --The fourth number one? If Louisville or Georgetown win the Big East tournament, I think it goes to them. If Ohio State wins the Big Ten Tournament, I wouldn't be surprised to see them get it. Michigan State, and Michigan could sneak in and get it with a Big Ten Tournament championship. Kansas, I think, is on the outside looking in right now. They are almost a lock for a two seed, but I have a hard time envisioning them getting a one. If Miami wins the ACC Tournament, they have some claim.

That's ten teams still fighting for a number one seed potentially. Could get interesting.

Look for New Mexico to be seeded higher than you expect if they win the Mountain West tournament. The MWC has the #1 or #2 RPI as a conference, and New Mexico is highly rated in the RPI. I think the Lobos were in the running for the #1 seed until losing to Air Force. I think a #2 seed would happen if they win the MWC.

That's eleven highly seeded teams. Three will drop to three seeds. We didn't even get into Florida. Unless something crazy happens, (Oklahoma State, Marquette, Wisconsin, and Kansas State all could make something crazy happen) I'd expect those twelve teams to be your top three seeds. Fun week coming up.....

March 11, 2013 at 11:02 a.m.
fechancellor said...

If Gonzalez cannot come to agreement with Atlanta on his strange terms, it's a natch that any team signing the old but still all world tight end, will require Gonzalez to learn their system in their camp.

Maybe Gonzalez, with his silly terms, wants out of Atlanta to a team with better a better chance to win the Superbowl in his last year.

Gonzalez's pitch could be a more money thing or a ticket out. If Atlanta eschews his bluff to ride the stationary bike, run and lift weights on his own schedule, to whatever team he falls will REQUIRE THE ALL WORLD TIGHT END to attend camp to learn what for Gonzalez is a new system.

March 11, 2013 at 11:39 a.m.
jgreeson said...

From friend of the show StuckinKent (part I)

Bubble Watch

As we head into the final week, things are simpler than they normally are. Things are probably simpler than I am making them. Still- here you go.

LOCKS: 29 AUTOMATIC BIDS: 5 CLAIMED SPOTS: 51 ON THE BUBBLE: 30 BIDS AVAILABLE: 17

Automatic Bids: Florida Gulf Coast, Belmont, Harvard, Liberty, Creighton

Locks (outside of Automatic Bids) Atlantic Ten- Saint Louis, VCU, Butler ACC- Miami, Duke, North Carolina Big 12- Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma State Big East- Syracuse, Georgetown, Louisville, Marquette, Pittsburgh, Notre Dame Big Ten- Indiana, Michigan State, Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio State Missouri Valley- Wichita State Mountain West- New Mexico, Colorado State, UNLV, San Diego State Pac 12- Arizona, UCLA SEC- Florida WCC- Gonzaga

Bubble Atlantic Ten- LaSalle, Temple, Massachusetts ACC- Virginia, North Carolina State, Maryland Big 12- Iowa State, Oklahoma Big East- Cincinnati, Villanova, Providence Big Ten- Illinois, Minnesota, Iowa Conference USA- Memphis Mountain West- Air Force, Boise State Pac 12- Oregon, Arizona State, California, Colorado SEC- Alabama, Ole Miss, Kentucky, Missouri, Arkansas, Tennessee Southland- Stephen F. Austin Sun Belt- Middle Tennessee WCC- Saint Mary's

San Diego State may be closer to the bubble than I think. Baylor may deserve another look. Temple, NC State, the Iowa State/Oklahoma winner, the Illinois/Minnesota winner, Memphis, Cincinnati, Oregon, Boise State- these are just a few of the teams that look to be in really good shape. Stephen F. Austin, Arkansas, Providence, Maryland, Air Force, Arizona State- these are some of the teams in really bad shape. I'll re-evaluate after Wednesday and Thursdays games for those two teams and see where we are by then.

No bubble update until Thursday, since there is just one game between now and then. If Saint Mary's beats Gonzaga, then the Bubble shrinks to 29 teams for 16 spots. If Gonzaga wins, it stays at 30 teams for 17 spots.

March 11, 2013 at 1:34 p.m.
jgreeson said...

From friend of the show StuckinKent (part II)

BUBBLE TEAMS NEXT GAME SCHEDULE BY DAY

Monday Saint Mary's vs. Gonzaga

Wednesday Providence vs. Cincinnati Air Force vs. UNLV Villanova vs. St. John's Arizona state vs. Stanford Colorado vs. Oregon State

Thursday Boise State vs. San Diego State Illinois vs. Minnesota Oklahoma vs. Iowa State Tennessee vs. South Carolina/Mississippi State Maryland vs. Wake Forest Arkansas vs. Vanderbilt North Carolina State vs. Virginia Tech Massachusetts vs. George Washington Iowa vs. Northwestern California vs. USC/Utah Memphis vs. Tulane/Marshall Missouri vs. Texas A&M/Auburn Oregon vs. Washington/Washington State

Friday Virginis vs. North Carolina State/Virginia Tech LaSalle vs. Butler/Dayton Alabama vs. Tennessee/South Carolina/Mississippi State Stephen F. Austin vs. SE Louisiana/Nicholls State/McNeese State Kentucky vs. Arkansas/Vanderbilt Temple vs. Massacusetts/George Washington Ole Miss vs. Missouri/Texas A&M

Middle Tennessee- Regular season over

March 11, 2013 at 1:35 p.m.
biff_loman said...

don't let the door hit you on the way out, John!

too bad you don't have Jeff Lebo's coattails to ride again this time

March 11, 2013 at 1:39 p.m.
jgreeson said...

Gang,

Just looked at the latest bubble projections from Joey (Brackets) Lunardi.

How mad is the Madness? Well after losing at Georgia, Tennessee moved into Joey Brackets' "last four in" the tournament category. With Saturday's win over Missouri, Tennessee moved into Joey Brackets' "last four out" of the tournament category.

Of course, Joey Brackets does not have the length nor the versatility of StuckinKent.

9er —

If the selection committee wants to make Dayton mater, put the Wildcats in the play-in game.

JMC —

We'll be watching tonight. May even have to pour a bourbon and branch as a shout-out.

March 11, 2013 at 2:37 p.m.
bigguy said...

I have watched Coach Shulman from a distance for a few years now, and I don't you could ask for a coach more interested in kids. You can try to find a better one, but you'll be rowing this same boat in a few years. Can't make chicken salad outa chicken %&$/. Good luck coach!

March 11, 2013 at 6:03 p.m.
JCM47 said...

John is an excellent coach. So is Wes Moore. What if each had coached the other man's team this year? Does anyone really think Wes would have had the male Mocs at the top of the heap in the SouCon? No. He wouldn't.

The Mocs roster is not in the class of the likes of CofC, Davidson, or Elon. The roster has no point guard, a center who, though a really nice guy, has one move which rarely works (jump hook), limited perimeter shooting, etc..(the roster of the Sweet 16 team that beat UGA and ILLINOIS included 4 STARTERS WHO WERE JUCO PLAYERS!)

Now let's ask the other question. If John were coaching the Lady Mocs, would he have taken them to the Big Dance today like Wes did? Most likely, the answer is yes. The Lady Mocs' roster is far superior to every other team in the conference and that is the main reason why they are so consistently good.

Of course, the real question is: WHY DOES ANYONE OTHER THAN THE CHANCELLOR OR THE AD AT UTC THINK THAT THEY HAVE THE RIGHT TO DECLARE THAT SOMEONE ELSE SHOULD BE FIRED FROM THEIR JOB? I recognize that this type of behavior has become the norm. But....it's wrong.

March 11, 2013 at 9:30 p.m.
JCM47 said...

Also, the polls from last year and this year about Coach Shulman show that the fans aren't lined up with the local sportswriters. Last year's poll was 58% in John's favor and this year's poll is remarkably close considering that the team just suffered a heartbreaking loss to end the season. Even in this tough time for the Mocs, your poll just doesn't support your claim that the support for Coach isn't there.

Why is this paper so against him? When the Mocs pull off a good win, it's usually buried on page 8. If they suffer a tough loss.....you can bet it's on page 1.

Maybe when our own paper starts supporting our own city's university instead of bowing down to an orange city the very same size as our own things will get better?

March 11, 2013 at 9:43 p.m.
jomo11 said...

Hey JCM 47 the sweet 16 team only had 3 Juco starters not 4 Mims, Young and Taylor were Jucos. Moore and Conner were actually walk ons, who later got a scholarship

March 12, 2013 at 12:55 a.m.
jomo11 said...

Shulman's 2005 tourney champion team started 3 Jucos and one transfer. Shulman's 2009 tourney champion team started 2 Jucos and one transfer. Just to set the record straight

March 12, 2013 at 1:03 a.m.
jgreeson said...

Wow, just catching up on some of the feedback here, and welcome to the newcomers.

As for the claims of JCM47, well, we'll treat those as a Friday mailbag and respond in kind. Deal? Deal. (Side prediction: We're not going to agree on a lot, JCM47.)

Thanks and thanks for setting the record straight on the details Jomo11.

March 12, 2013 at 10:24 a.m.
biff_loman said...

How well did that senior laden team finish last year, JCM47?

How well attended were the games this year?

March 12, 2013 at 10:55 a.m.
JCM47 said...

Jay: Looking forward to your comments on Friday.

Biff: Would you rather rent another coach like Lebo? How well did that work out for us? We've got a man in place that cares more about kids and the program than anyone we've ever had.

And, in the worst possible time for a poll to have positive results for John concerning a coaching change (right after a huge season-ending first-round tourney loss) the numbers are still close to 50/50 in favor of status quo. How do you explain that?

March 12, 2013 at 1:58 p.m.
biff_loman said...

where is this poll you keep bringing up?

i'd say the attendance is a truer way to judge the state of the program

how did lebo work out? fine, there was actually excitement surrounding the program and when he left, shulman used his players to have his best season...it's been downhill from there

no one is questioning John being a good, decent man...but Henry Dickerson was the same thing and didn't get nearly the leash that John has

March 12, 2013 at 9:52 p.m.
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