published Tuesday, February 18th, 2014

5-at-10: Martin's big moment, Olympic flashes, NFL decisions

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.

Cuonzo's moment

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

http://www.timesfreepress.com/news/2014/feb/18/martin-vols-must-make-sure-to-use-stokes/.

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.

———

Olympic flashes

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.

  • photo
    United States' Bode Miller and his wife, Morgan wipe away tears after after finishing third in the men's super-G at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, Sunday, Feb. 16, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)
    Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

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.)

  • photo
    Texas A&M's Mike Evans, left, catches a 75-yard touchdown pass against Louisiana Tech in Shreveport, La.
    Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

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.

  • photo
    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.)

————

Today's question(s)

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.

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...

Trying to get a basketball team on track without solid point guard play is like trying to keep your car on the pavement with broken tie rods.

I enjoyed what I could catch of Press Row yesterday between my errands. My favorite part was the descriptions offered of Tennessee's offense under The Cuonz. "Predictable' and "McRae-oriented" are certainly accurate, but the best was "dysfunctionally stagnant." And these aren't anti-Knoxville sentiments. Vols fans see it, too.

Probably that's why, as I noted yesterday, 3,000 of Thompson-Boling's seats were empty against UK. The Kentucky game is (normally) when SEC schools sell out and balance the budget.

Losing games is bad enough, but the one thing AD's cannot abide is losing money. And I was surprised by the bitterness of the Big Orange fan who called in reviling Mike Hamilton. Is this a common view in Vol-land?

Also argued on the show was whether a 5-1 finish for UT gets them in. Jay and I say no. And to the observation that the winner of the Tennessee-Mizzou finale will be the SEC's third invite, I say 'taint necessarily so. Could be Ole Miss.

And how come Mizzou is ranked so much higher in the RPI than Tennessee? Stupid RPI.

UT may get in, but they are now a the point I got to last year with Kentucky. It didn't matter much, because if the team's no better than that, they won't survive the first weekend anyway.

February 18, 2014 at 10:13 a.m.
jomo11 said...

Jay- Surely ( And dont call me Shirley ) Conz and UTK can beat Georgia ! Heck DAVIDSON beat Georgia by double-digits, for crying out loud !

Can you imagine how many trailer park Bammers are going to go bankrupt buying a Benz from Saban ?

February 18, 2014 at 10:15 a.m.
jgreeson said...

9er —

We're on the same page. A 5-1 finish means there's work to do in the SEC tourney, and you're spot on about the feeling that if they are not better than this, then they are going to go to the play-in game, get thumped by Richmond and then you have the mess of deciding The Conz's fate after 'making the Dance' but knowing it's going to be tough sledding next year.

Jomo —

That last line is HIGH-larious.

We understand liking the Mercedes brand — high-quality merchandize — but if Saban wanted to get the most bucks for his bang, he would have linked up with the Ford F150 folks.

Saban selling Crimson Pick-Up trucks = ATM machine money.

February 18, 2014 at 10:55 a.m.
JonathanMCook said...

"Some of the biggest names on the block this week: Dallas defensive end Demarcus Ware"

I rarely pick up a DMN nowadays but if they start reporting some "inside local stuff", I'll be sure to clip and mail them. Right now the Mavs are taking up the most ink although with spring training (game-wise) beginning March 3rd, it won't be long until the all of North Texas will be getting the rust off of our claws and antlers (YUUUUUUUUUUUUU!!!!!!!!!!)

Regarding the Olympics, I would say this is probably the most I've watched since the Calgery games in 6th grade. I would imagine 6-7 hours combined (mostly sking and speed skating events; did come across US/Canada women's Curling via channel surfing but only watched 5-6 minutes of it).

My favorite team is in the news, but mainly in regards to the schedule for this year (which I'm sure we'll cover on Friday).

February 18, 2014 at 11:08 a.m.
MocTastic said...

JG, Saban and Malzahn both do Ford F-150 commercials down here in Alabama, they are on tv all the time. Chizik did them prior to Gus. I am wondering now if Ford will severe ties with Saban since he has decided to go with MB.

Only Olympics I have seen was Saturday morning, the third period and shootout for the men's hockey team. May watch some more ice hockey, if I can catch it live, but I will pass definitely on events that have judging, glitter, makeup, and music figuring into the scoring. Sports is about who is the fastest, the strongest, the most accurate, not who has the prettiest costume and choregraphed best to some music.

UTK still has men's basketball? I haven't noticed them in the Big Dance the last year or two, thought they dropped it after Brucie's BBQ.

Recently noticed that Chattanooga is playing Knoxville in football this year, also thought they had dropped football, hadn't noticed them in a bowl game recently. With them not getting into the post season, maybe they should move from the SEC to the Sunbelt and compete with Appy St and Ga Southern, maybe they can get in the postseason there.

February 18, 2014 at 11:22 a.m.
chas9 said...

If The Vols can't beat A&M in Knoxville, how are they going to manage it on the road?

Regarding Patrick's Get-the-ball-to-Stokes story, has there ever been a greater master of the fine art of stating the obvious than Cuonzo Martin? We know what needs to be done. The trick is knowing how to do it and executing it.

Tennessee and Kentucky have the same number of "signature" wins: one. It's not a good sign for our guys that both (Virginia and Louisville, respectively) came at home and back in December.

If figure skating gets your cold shoulder because of the judging involved, what about boxing? It's taken a while for me to realize it, but what those winter athletes do requires amazing strength, coordination and execution. Still, I haven't watched a lot of it.

February 18, 2014 at 11:25 a.m.
MocTastic said...

Chas9, I agree that those competitions that have judging do take an extreme amount of athleticism and hard work. They are just not sports. When you have music and choregraphing it moves to the "art" world for me. If it is all about the athleticism of it, then the ice skaters should emphasize that part, having a one color uniform with no sparkles, feathers or whatever on it. But by having them all made up including makeup, it has become show and not sports.

Honestly, with regards to boxing, I grew up watching the boxers of the 60s and 70s such as Ali, Frazier, and Foreman. The older I get though the further I have moved away from it. I hope society some day gets rid of "sports" where the goal is to punch your opponent until they are unable to stand and pass out. Sports should be about glorifying athleticism, not physically beating your opponent into submission. If you think about it, boxing and MMA are today's Roman gladiators. Put two human beings in a ring and watch them beat themselves senseless. I personally have moved forward from that and I wish those sports would just go away forever.

February 18, 2014 at 11:37 a.m.
chas9 said...

No sparkles? God forfend!

Seriously, MT, good points about both.

February 18, 2014 at 11:42 a.m.
fechancellor said...

10 Ring, I did not see the Vol-Mizzo game, but my I spoke with someone if not close to the program is close to the TV. My pal from our salad days on frat row explains it, "three of Mizzo's big men rung up four fouls with about 10 minutes left." Stokes did not once get the rock where he could challenge those guys." I did not see that subplot in Mr. Brown's article. So is my pal correct or does the prize is Mr. Brown?

Whoever is correct, it's agreed that 4-90 from the three line with one second half touch for Stokes is embarrassing as in the Wade Houston roll out the balls era. Couch preformed admirably his first year, but he's slipped each year since.

The Vols have 20,000 plus seats to fill from November to March.

"You have sat too long for any good you have been doing. Depart, I say, and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go!--Oliver Cromwell

February 18, 2014 at 1:17 p.m.
Buschleague said...

Jay- I recently saw where Kevin Durant wants to drop the 'Slim Reaper' moniker and the more docile 'KD' and now be know as 'The Servant'.

Is it ok to come up with your own nickname and what's a Rushmore of sporting tags look like?

I always liked 'Donny Baseball' and 'The Shark', 'Tiger' surely (don't all me Shirley) belongs. What say you?

February 18, 2014 at 1:28 p.m.
BIspy4 said...

I even watched a period and a half of Slovakia-Czech Republic hockey today. Other than that, it's been a little bit of skiing, a little bit of bobsled and even a taste of curling, where the US currently stinks like curling backside.

The 500 on Sunday? Hmm ... tough call. Golf nap vs. NASCAR nap. Both equally good sleeping.

5, you went all algebra before even talking about the triple Salchow. And there's a Finnstep in there. Sounds like somebody's better half wanted to watch ice dancing last night and won the battle of the remote.

February 18, 2014 at 2:45 p.m.
WilliamRscott said...

C-Niner: Granted, it does not take much, but I am confused. UK has not played MBB in K-town this year. [I guess Mike Hamilton gets the blame for that also.] 18,009 were in the Tommy Bowl for the 9-point loss to the Gaytors, on a Tuesday with snow looming and a week after the loss at Vandy. 15,664 were there to see your Cats beat the Lady Vols by 4. On Saturday, February 16, 2013, 21,677 and I watched the Mighty Cun-zo's beat UK by 30, 88-58.

Stupid Bruce Pearl. But gosh, I miss him.

Billy-In-Brainerd

February 18, 2014 at 2:49 p.m.
GratefulDawg said...

MocTastic, I understand how you feel about boxing. My love of boxing is something I have questioned many times and I will not even attempt to put forth any argument that states that boxing is not a dangerous sport. Since the beginning of time some men have felt a primal need to engage in activities that take them to the edge and place them in peril. The only answer to the question of why seems to be why not. I hung up the gloves for good years ago. However, I still partake in whitewater kayaking frequently. Placing myself in a small boat and navigating rapids littered with dangerous obstacles. I understand the risk involved, but I will continue to put myself in that situation as I love everything about it including the danger. And that is the assessment boxers have made for themselves, the glory of success and victory are worth the inherent risks.

As for the sport of boxing not glorifying athleticism, I have to disagree with you there. Joe Sixpack that only watches the big fights and has no real understanding of the sport probably does just want to see a couple of guys beat the bejeezus out of one another. George Foreman compared boxing to jazz in that the better it is done, the less it is appreciated. For real boxing fans, the more subtle nuances of the sport are appreciated and the athletic qualities demanded to perform at a high level in the ring are held in high regard.

Danger in life is always present and to those hearty souls that boldly venture headlong into it for some fleeting moment of glory...Godspeed and try to come back in one piece.

February 18, 2014 at 3:07 p.m.
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