Gang, remember the Friday mailbag. Bring it, and the snow will not be an excuse this week.
From the "Talks too much" studios, it's time to deliver Mr. Martin. You know it. We know it. Everyone knows it.
Well here we are.
A Tennessee basketball season of much promise and even greater stakes comes to a crossroad. In fact, tonight's 9 p.m. tip against Georgia, is the first of series of turns the Vols and coach Cuonzo Martin must make.
These are not overly difficult turns mind you — Georgia, Texas A&M, Vandy, Auburn and Miss. State before a season-ending date with Missouri — but they are of the utmost import. That's especially true for Martin, who is in his third season with an experienced roster and is still looking for an NCAA tournament trip.
The Vols would be helped greatly tonight by getting the ball into Jarnell Stokes early and often, as TFP UT beat ace Downtown Patrick Brown conveys here
The Vols also would be helped by a few easy baskets. The offense has to work too hard to get points, and that drain and extended demands of precision for a team with limited point guard play is difficult to overcome.
Case in stats: As Downtown mentioned on his Twitter feed, "Tennessee is 0-4 this season in games decided by five points or less and 2-9 in games decided by 10 or fewer points." Now if the Vols could must 3-5 easy baskets a game, something that is not out of bounds, especially for this bunch, which has Jordan McRae as its assists leader, UT would be a ranked team preparing for the Dance.
Now the questions loom whether UT deserves to be inside a bubble so bad it's more of a trapezoid and whether Martin will be back.
So hard it's easy, and a need for easy that makes it hard. Alas.
We have been less than patriotic in our view about the Winter Olympics. And this hit its apex Monday. On President's Day no less.
We're sorry and we love our country, but the words snowboardcross leave us cold and the fact that the following two paragraphs from ESPN.com depicted accurately the biggest news of Monday — the U.S.'s gold medal win in ice dancing — well, you tell us what we should think:
Ice dance, more than other skating disciplines, remains an appealing but often murky stew of objective ingredients and aesthetic taste. A minor tempest erupted over the scoring in the short dance when Virtue and Moir were docked on a mandatory pattern called the Finnstep, after the nationality of its creator, Petri Kokko.
That algebra didn't account for the entire difference between the Canadians and their rivals. But coming on the heels of an unsourced, unconfirmed report of score-fixing in the French daily sports newspaper L'Equipe, speculation ballooned in some quarters.
So it goes and we're hoping for some old-school "U-S-A! U-S-A!" moments down the stretch. Still, a murky stew of bewildering concepts bounded together to create an Olympic sport has been tough to completely embrace.
Sure we rejoice with the American success — and it's cool to say "We" about the team you're cheering for and know it's not creepy in the least — but it's tough sledding to follow along.
One time with feeling: "U-S-A! U-S-A!... Where's the remote since we're pretty sure that a triplesowcow is simply the ice version of the Triple Lindy dive preformed by Thornton Melon in Back to School.
NFL silly seasons
The guys that build NFL rosters are hitting their go-time.
This week, teams will start cutting players to create cap space. There will be a slew of big names who will be released and a slew more that will have their deals reworked so they can stay with their current teams.
This also is the week that teams start handing out "tags," either designating players with a franchise or transitional tag. (Explanation: Each team gets one franchise tag and one transitional tag each year. The franchise tag means a player will be guaranteed to be paid the average yearly salary of the top five at his position or 120 percent of the player's previous year's salary, whichever is greater. Transition tags mean the player gets the average of the top 10 salaries at his position or 120 percent of the previous paycheck, which is higher. Each can still negotiate with other teams but the tagging club gets the right to match any offer. If the franchise player still signs elsewhere the tagging team gets two first-round picks; while a transitional tag player signing elsewhere offers no compensation. Are we clear? Crystal.)
Oh yea, the combine starts this weekend. Yes, that combine. (Also of note, the Lil' 5-at-10's tee-ball scouting combine is Saturday. Needless to say we are overprepared and have recalibrated our stop watch and working on relay throws.)
Here are some things to note:
• The stories about 'mental states' of two of the combine's most intriguing prospects — Jadeveon Clowney and Johnny Football — will be fun to follow.
• The Titans will likely not cut Chris Johnson until later this summer to save the maximum under the cap.
• Some of the biggest names on the block this week: Dallas defensive end Demarcus Ware
• Couple of non-quarterbacks we're excited to see at the combine: Clowney, who could run a 4.4 at 6-foot-6, 260-plus, Texas A&M receiver Mike Evans, who will post a fast 40 time and start to move into the top 10, and of course Michael Sam, who announcements and orientation aside best be ready to deliver the numbers on the field for an undersized defensive end/slow outside linebacker. Sam's biggest hurdle in the next week is not about who he dates off the field, it's if he can prove he has a position on it.
This and that
— If your favorite college football team is in the news this time of year, it's usually a bad thing. At Alabama, Dee Hart was arrested and news was released that he had not been with the program for almost six weeks. Hmmmmmm. Ole Miss had some kids arrested. Hey it happens.
— Oklahoma City point guard Russell Westbrook is expected back for Thursday's dance with the Heat. This is good times. That said, Westbrook best be ready to assume a clear supporting role to Kevin Durant's alpha dog as the Thunder head to the homestretch.
Philadelphia Eagles' Michael Vick walks onto the field before an NFL football game against the Arizona Cardinals, Sunday, Nov. 13, 2011, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
— Richie Incognito deleted his Twitter account on Friday but returned to the social media wavelengths on Monday afternoon. He even apologized to Jonathan Martin on Tuesday morning, saying "I would like to send Jonathan my apologies as well. Until someone tells me different you are still my brother. No hard feelings :)" Well, if that's how brothers act, being an only child certainly seems appealing.
— Mike Vick has partnered up with Bow Wow for a new line of hair products. Read that again, and know we are trying to stay on topic. Yep, Vick and Bow Wow... (biting lip)... Bow Wow and Vick... (pinching leg)... Is it safe to say Bow Wow is the man's best friend? And how will those hair products work on fleas and ticks. (Sorry.)
Gang, feel free to freestyle as your style will allow.
MCA, get on the mic my man.
If you need a talking point, let's start with these TV-related queries:
Will you watch any of the Daytona 500?
How much OIympics have you watched, and how much non-hockey of these Olympics have you watched?
And to move to this one: What are you expecting from these Vols tonight? Or this one: Would you buy a Mercedes from Nick Saban Mercedes?
Go, and be on the look out for BowWow-Vick hair gel and let your Soul Glo.
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 ...