published Tuesday, April 1st, 2014

Greeson: March maintains drama with better basketball

Poll
Should the Vols give Cuonzo Martin a raise to keep him?
2014 NCAA Men's Bracket
2014 NCAA Men's Bracket
  • photo
    Tennessee head coach Cuonzo Martin may get a job offer from Marquette University.
    Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Wow, that was fun. College basketball dealt us a weekend of nip-and-tuck, down-to-the-wire moments that reminded some of us why we loved college basketball back in the old days of teams starting four upperclassmen. You know, like 1994. Dinosaurs and everything.

While the drama of March Madness always delivers, the March basketball was better this year. At least it seems that way. And now the Final Four has been delivered to us.

We have the expected: No. 1 overall seed Florida is there.

We have the new kids who have found their roles, potential and promise: Preseason No. 1 Kentucky looked every bit that this past weekend, downing Louisville and Michigan in two great games.

We have the personification of a tried and tested tournament rule that the hottest player in the country can lift his mates to the Final Four regardless of seed: Playing the role of Kemba Walker is Shabazz Napier for UConn.

We have the most complete team from the most complete league -- No. 2 seed Wisconsin carrying the banner for a Big Ten that looked like it could have three Final Four teams until the final minute of UConn's win over Michigan State and the final two seconds of Kentucky's win over Michigan.

And amid the hubbub and the noise, Cuonzo Martin has gone from hot seat to hot shot. Not unlike being mean to your girlfriend for three months and accepting the notion that you want to break up with her, then watching her get in good shape and learn how to cook and start getting noticed by other guys, Johnny Vols Fans everywhere are wondering what the future holds with their relationship with their better-looking-than-ever coach.

Martin has been contacted by Marquette. So there are other suitors, which makes The Conz even prettier to Vols fans. And after the NCAA tournament run from play-in game to a basket from the Elite Eight, UT fans who put more than 30,000 signatures on an online petition to bring back Bruce Pearl and UT AD Dave Hart, who has been very stoic in terms of extension for The Conz, the tension should be high.

In truth, it's hard to blame Hart for extending only financial increases after last season since The Conz had not been dancing before this spring -- and even that was in doubt before the Vols won eight of their last 10 games to punch their invite card.

As for the fans, well, the irony here is rich. And if Martin strolls north, leaving the third-best job in the SEC for no better than the fourth-best job in a Big East that is a shell of its former glory days, well, that will be a tough pill for some. For others, it will be the pill they wanted from the start.

Whether that pill is an aid or arsenic will be the question.


Here's a view on five topics from the weekend with the knowledge that we'll break down the Final Four later this week.

• UT played its guts out in a close lose to Michigan on Friday. It was sad the game ultimately was decided on a bad charging call on Jarnell Stokes, but two quick thoughts: One, we believe one play almost never loses a game, since there were tons of plays leading to that final play that could have turned the course of the game. Maybe that's too big-picture, and, yes, we can think of a few certain examples in the other direction. As for the Vols, it was a bad call at a very bad time. Second, if the ref had made the proper call in our view, it should have been a no-call, and in that instance, Michigan was going to recover a loose ball and the result was the same.

• Where does Jordan McRae rank on the Vols' all-time list? Not sure he'd crack a backcourt of the all-time UT list, but it's hard to remember a kid who has improved as much as he did in four years.

• For our money, Florida's Billy Donovan is the best coach in college hoops. Sure, John Calipari may recruit better -- although, while Cal is a great recruiter and underrated as an X's and O's guy, recruiting at Kentucky for hoops is an easier task than at most other places -- and every one loves Tom Izzo and the rest of the candidates, but is there a fan base put there that would not think long and hard about trading their guy for Billy D straight up right now? Florida fans would say "No thanks" as quickly as you got the "Would you trade coaches ..." out of your mouth.

• We do not believe the fact that the SEC has two teams in the Final Four -- and is favored to have the two teams in the title game -- makes it a great basketball league. No other team but the three that got invited deserved to be invited. And two elite teams do not make a good conference. Heck, Florida State won the BCS football title and Clemson beat THE Ohio State in the Orange Bowl. Does that make the ACC a good football league? Nope.

Contact Jay Greeson at jgreeson@timesfreepress.com.

AP Interactive: 2014 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament
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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jomo11 said...

Wow, Counzo decides to stay and /or Marquette turned HIM down. . . Now he goes back to a fan base who doesnt want him back and to a school He obviously doesnt want to be. . . .Not a warm and fuzzy story and Im sure it will give future recruits a reason to be very hesitant . . .

April 1, 2014 at 9:56 a.m.
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