published Tuesday, April 8th, 2014

5-at-10: You go UConn, Masters picks, Hammerin' Hank, Rushmores

Gang, remember the mailbag for Friday.

From the "Talks too much" studios, with a name like Shabazz, it has to be good.

Final one

UConn cuts down the nets. Kentucky limped to the finish line (and the foul line — more on that in a moment). We enjoyed the Dance. We forgot the regular season.

  • photo
    Connecticut head coach Kevin Ollie celebrates while cutting down the net after beating Kentucky 60-54, at the NCAA Final Four tournament college basketball championship game Monday, April 7, 2014, in Arlington, Texas.
    Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Another college hoops season is in the rear view and as we speed toward Washington Road, spring games, the May draft and a summer of baseball spent waiting for football, let's ponder what we thought and what we know.

We thought this was the season of the freshmen. It belonged in the end to senior Shabazz Napier and his UConn classmates who won titles as freshmen and again last night to cap their college careers. Sure, the baby-faced UK Cats got to the title game but it was underwhelming for the other ballyhooed members of the class of 2018 (2019 if they redshirt, and possibly 2022 if they leave early and get their degree online).

We thought this was going to be a crazy and wild tournament, and it was with close games and nail-biting finishes throughout the tournament. Was it enough to make up for three months of blah? Maybe, but it's a trade-off that has been crafted by the miracles of March.

We thought UK's size and depth would be too much in the title game, but it was UConn's skill and perimeter athleticism that proved to be the difference. The defensive firm of Napier, Boatwright and Associates hounded the UK guards and changed the game. Every time UK was within a basket — and that was almost every other possession in the second half — the UConn guards either forced a turnover or created a negative shot-clock scenario that forced UK into bad shot after bad shot.

The tournament was good times, but this is the high point of every season. The afterglow of One Shining Moment ringing in our heads and the images of sports and emotion and drama wrapped in highlight reel of reality.

But is one glorious month enough to mask the ills of the game? The bellyaching about the ones-and-dones. The real possibility that the big boys breakaway. Declining attendance and a regular season that is part preseason, part practice with the occasional rivalry showdown mixed in.

Now add the known maladies of the game that once was great theater to the perception of the two teams that played for the title last night and the two teams that are among the modern-day powers of the sport.

Kentucky is a way station for 6-foot-8 studs, a fly-over state for freshmen and fresh talent in a one-year side route to the NBA. It's the system in place and UK is better at it than everyone else. That's not UK's fault, being good under the situation is a compliment — heck the best tax attorneys in the world are those that know how to work the system to achieve the best results — it's the game's fault.

UConn now has two titles in four years, with the an APR-issued timeout in between. Napier and Co.'s first title four years ago happened when UConn was on probation. Early Tuesday morning, Napier started taking shots at the NCAA.

The duality and the hypocrisy of a system that now wonders aloud if one-and-dones are good and an APR sham that lends itself to academic fraud more than academic progress for the big boys is picture perfect NCAA in general and college hoops in particular.

So it goes, and so it went. UConn won the title because they played better and Napier did Napier things. Despite everything else, this morning that One Shabazz Moment is good enough.

————

The Masters

Gang, the Masterfully Mastering the Masters Challenge is in full swing.

Send in four golfers in this week's Masters. Your best three will count and the lowest cumulative score will win some Masters stuff. And best yet, it don't cost nothin' to play.

Here's our list and why:

Jason Day. Dude powers his way around a golf course and can control the par 5s. Plus, he's already won this year and he's consistently good here and sneaky consistent in majors.

Keegan Bradley. Intensity. Bravado. Crazy enough to be standing at the end with a green jacket. Check, check and check.

Jason Dufner. Well, you know why. War Dufner.

Rory McIlroy. Feeling.

Here's the other ones we have so far, and there are a slew in the email we'll post around lunch.

tcase08 — Mickelson -Scott -Cabrera -Donald

StuckinKent — Adam Scott, Jason Day, Matt Kuchar and Lee Westwood

McPell — Put me down for Mickelson, Dufner, Harris English & Justin Rose.

Dawg747 — Adam Scott, Matt Kuchar, Harris English, Angel Cabrera

Spy — My four ... Rory. Dufner. Jason Day (if he's healthy). Big time wild card - Victor Dubuisson.

Billy in Brainerd — Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano, Francesco Molinari, Matteo Manassero + Thongchai Jaidee

Sportsfan — Scott, Cabrera, Westwood, and Kuchar

————

Braves home opener

Forty years ago today, a young 5-at-10 was in Atlanta Fulton County Stadium when Hank Aaron hit homer No. 715.

We were 3 and we were sound asleep when it happened.

So it goes.

The Braves are celebrating that milestone tonight, which begs the question is Hank Aaron the most underrated player of all time, considering his stats and the fact that he rarely is mentioned among the best players ever?

If asked for your all-time outfield, most toss out names like Ruth and Mays and Williams and Cobb, and the current crop — PED-stained as it may be — of Bonds and Co.

Aaron's were better than almost all of them

This and that

  • photo
    Coach Russ Huesman watches practice at Scrappy Moore Field.
    Photo by Jake Daniels /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

— We have to admit that we are intrigued by the bad blood between Notre Dame's Muffet McGraw and UConn's Geno Auriemma in tonight's women's title game. Side question: If Geno wins tonight, he's the best women's coach ever, right?

— We have UTC football coach Russ Huesman on Press Row today. Anyone have any questions as the Mocs get ready for Friday's spring game?

— Joey Logano won the NASCAR race. He went fast and turned left. Atta boy Joey.

— Caddyshack prevailed in the Press Row sports movie madness bracket. So it goes.

———

Today's question(s)

If you need a talking point, here are but three:

— In honor of their home opener, who is on your Rushmore of Atlanta Braves?

— Will you watch the women's title game, and if Geno wins, does that move him past Pat?

— Happy belated 25th birthday to Major League, which debuted April 7, 1989. Good times.

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...

Cats fans feared Shabazz would pull a Kemba, and he did. Napier's a supreme go-to sparkplug. We knew the UConn guards were pesky, but the overall team quickness surprised us.

Still, we'd played quick teams before, and adjusted enough to beat them. We beat UofL who decimated The Huskies just three weeks ago.

Bottom line, it looked like Ollie's boys played harder. In the end, experience was better than young, raw talent.

But if UK had hit a reasonable 75% of its FT's, we'd have won. But we were on borrowed time in that category.

And maybe the fashion-forward Cauley-Stein would have helped.

What's up with King Rex tweeting that Cal's going to la-la land? No way. He's gotta come back to coach this bunch, who are all staying another year. He said.

On yesterday evening's telecast, channel 3's Paul Shahen reported that The Vols will sign Tennessee's best prep football player, according to the two-four-seven recruiting service. I thought it was twenty four/ seven, but I'm not as hip as Paul.

Yes, Hammerin' Hank's underrated. I'll take Aaron, Bream, Pendleton and Dirtball Lemke.

April 8, 2014 at 10:24 a.m.
MocTastic said...

Ask Coach Russ which of the backup QBs more clearly resemble Jacob in the way they play the game and if that will play into deciding who the back up will be. Thanks.

April 8, 2014 at 10:30 a.m.
WilliamRscott said...

C-Niner: Respectfully sir, you are, as usual, spot-on. Free throws: 2 words that Cats fans now know as well as Memphis Tiger fans.

Yesterday on Press Row, Blue-blood [+ HS classmate] Weeds picked UConn. I guess he did not want to jinx his Cats. So I call Buddy the Bookie in Brainerd and played UConn +2.5. Thank you, thank you very much.

And what happened to 'BookieTurnersGhost'? A pay-wall casualty?

Billy-In-Brainerd

April 8, 2014 at 10:41 a.m.
JonathanMCook said...

Jay, Heffie was playing auto clips of said milestone. However, I was still less then -1 at the time. Heck, I wouldn't even be a zygote until four months later from the event in reference.

Regarding the one and dones, I know you've covered this repeatedly but I still sent you some DMN love your way which should hit your mailbox tomorrow at the earliest.

Question(s) for Russ: With repeated reports that the linebacker corps is paper thin, what plans are being put into play to have this link strengthened by the time the season starts.

Follow-up: I also read the fact the offensive line is working at a much higher tempo then in seasons past which becoming more commonplace in the game. Will this new up tempo help the offense against the more stronger opponents this year or is there potential for an error-laden offense?

April 8, 2014 at 10:42 a.m.
jomo11 said...

Geno at UCONN is already considered the greatest women's basketball coach ever. With all-due respect to Pat Summit, her refusal to schedule UCONN on a regular basis was a huge mistake. By not plying UCONN , the Lady UTK Vols are not as relevant on the national scene. . . Jay, do you see hypocrisy with the Paul Finebaums the Dick Viatles and the Jay Bilas of the world who continue to preach that the NCAA and colleges are taking advantage of athletes by not giving athletes money and yet these kind of guys wouldnt be making the millions they make if not for college athletics, Would a Jay Bilas be willing to share in his personal revenue with college athletes, not they he should, but he should quit pointing fingers and throwing stones while living in an expensive glass house. Your thoughts ?

April 8, 2014 at 10:49 a.m.
chas9 said...

Mr. Bill--BookieTurnersGhost is the best online moniker yet. Do you remember Chickamauga Charlie asking how Chattanooga would ever get straight with a Turner and a Bender? (Both were commissioners at the time.)

From yesterday, regarding the XX Foster connection--I'll take credit for all puns, even Occidental ones. And doesn't he already have a tall Australian brew named for him?

The whiz Shabazz proves the importance of guard play in The Dance, especially point guard.

That's why I was down on The Vols. Yes, they made a nice run, but with better play at the one, they coulda been a contender. Just as the 2013 Cats were dragged down by a millstone named Harrow.

Mickey Rooney (5'3") made up for his stature deficit with abundant talent. Next year's Kentucky point guard will be the 5'9" Tyler Ulis, abundantly talented. The Wildcats have long employed tall guards. How will a Spud Webb type change their game?

April 8, 2014 at 11:34 a.m.
fechancellor said...

Masters List: Jason Dufner, Rory, Phil, Rose

Yeah, Hank should get more respect. He's a 25 time All Star and hit more 40 homer seasons than anyone. He was 97% plus 1st Ballot at the Hall. Only Ty Cobb had a higher percentage at 98%. I could be wrong 10 Ring, but maybe today, many could have the perception that Aaron was a old man hanging around only for the record.

So you were there, wonderful dreams about that I'm sure. Did you ever go to Atlanta's other big ticket? NWA wrestling down at the Superstation studios? That's one of my all time missed opportunities.

All Time Braves: Hank Aaron, Dale Murphy, Chipper Jones, Tom Glavine

April 8, 2014 at 12:02 p.m.
chas9 said...

What's the funniest Rushmore of Braves? Freeway Perez, Bob Horner, John Rocker, and who?

April 8, 2014 at 12:45 p.m.
MocTastic said...

21 years ago today one of the best baseball movies of all time, and a great movie on it's own, was released.

https://twitter.com/SportBlogNYC/status/453572209232318464/photo/1/large

April 8, 2014 at 12:48 p.m.
BWill8 said...

I enjoyed the Post Probation vs. Future Probation championship game much more than I thought I would. Entertaining, if a bit low-scoring for my taste. But UK missing free throws was a killer. Maybe when these guys get another year or so in the system. Oh wait...

Napier was starve-mazing!

Side Note: Cauley-Stein's shirt should've been good for 4-6 points.

Masters: sticking with Adam Scott

It should be no secret in my short time as a poster (rather than long-time lurker) that I like women's bball. A lot of it blows but when it's played well by the top teams it's pure and below-the-rim good times.

Geno has short man syndrome with some bully tendencies (consult WebMD). He may turn out to be the greatest women's coach ever but that doesn't make him any less of a jerk. I'm not a big fan of Notre Dame and their coach (who really didn't find her, uh, voice until winning 7 of the last 9 meetings), but I'm all Irish tonight.

All Time Brave: Bruce Benedict. Did the dirty work and proud of it.

April 8, 2014 at 12:52 p.m.
jgreeson said...

MT — Sandlot was a fine flick to be sure.

9er — Funny Braves Rushmore, I-285 Perez for sure. Maybe Terry Forster, who was with the Braves when Letterman called him a fat tub of goo. Brian Asselstine. Bruce Benedict, who called a T on the 5-at-10 in high school basketball at the Cobb County Civic Center in 1988. Good times.

FE to the C — We went down to the North Georgia Championship Wrestling, the precursor to NWA.

Jomo — Geno and Pat are even right now at 8 and Pat has like 300 more wins. She's either a step ahead or dead even, but that could change tonight.

MT and JMC's questions are in.

BiB — Well-played indeed.

April 8, 2014 at 12:56 p.m.
jgreeson said...

BWill8 —

Pick four golfers (Adam plus 3 more).

And considering the women's title game is in Nashville (pro-Pat land), Notre Dame's massive fan base and Geno's jerkness, what's the percentage of ND fans in the house tonight? Like 80-20 maybe?

April 8, 2014 at 12:59 p.m.
BWill8 said...

Jay--

Masters Update: Scott, Mickelson, Day, Stenson

Nashville crowd prediction: I'm going 60/40 Irish.

April 8, 2014 at 1:17 p.m.
MocTastic said...

Terry Forster is the answer to an interesting trivia question.

What player who has at least 500 games played in has the highest career batting average?

Terry Forster who hit .397 on 31 of 78 at the plate. His OPS was far from bad, being .887

April 8, 2014 at 1:33 p.m.
jgreeson said...

David Paschall — Dufner, Jason Day, Henrik Stenson, Matt Kuchar

David Uchiyama — Zach Johnson, Phil Mickelson, Matt Kuchar and Brandt Snedeker

Scott Simmons — Masters picks: Scott, Mickelson, Rory, Bubba.

Jeffe — Mickelson, Scott, Dufner, Choi

And MT, did you say Forster hit 397 or weighed 397?

Weena — Couples, Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, Kuchar

April 8, 2014 at 2:17 p.m.
WilliamRscott said...

So the Vols' 2014 FB opener vs. Utah State will be shown on the new SEC Network at 7pm on Sun Aug 31. Last time I checked, the SECN will not be in the Comcast + Epb line-ups. I plan to attend the game, but if I don't, I guess I will listen to Blob Kessling + Tim Least while I fish.

C-Niner: I remember Chick-e-poo well. The son of former commish + mayor AL 'Chunk' Bender is a great friend of mine; he is also a Brainerd boy [BHS, '74].

Billy-In-Brainerd

April 8, 2014 at 2:36 p.m.
MocTastic said...

JG, probably both :)

April 8, 2014 at 2:37 p.m.
BIspy4 said...

What struck me from last night was how fast UConn's guards were. And if you don't have good backcourt play, you're not going to win.

But our new national champ got smoked by 30-something points in its conference championship game. Oy.

5, I thought you fell asleep during the Niekro no-no. Anywho, speaking of 715, I ran home from school and watched Hank hit 714 off Jack Billingham at Riverfront Stadium, back when the Braves did about 20 telecasts a year in syndication, and called my dad, by the way.

Does Weeds need to be talked down from the ledge today?

Rushmore of Atlanta Braves - Hank. Murph. Claudell Washington. Maddux. (leaving out Chipper because I hear from a few people that he's really a jerk).

April 8, 2014 at 5:06 p.m.
sportsfan said...

MT - Terry Forster is also the answer to the following trivia question "Who made burritos on Late Night with David Letterman while he was still on NBC?" I know, because I saw it while drinking co colas in a dorm room one evening in the mid 80's. I'm older than I look.

April 8, 2014 at 9:05 p.m.
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