Gang, we're still looking for a mailbag question or three. Thanks for the great back and forth Wedneday — good times and way to stay above the family-oriented, interweb-based column threshold. (Or avoiding what JMC calls Clay's playground.)
From the "Talks too much" studios, let the good times roll and let the rolls be good. Good times.
Tennessee topped Mississippi State in a must-win endeavor in Starkville.
Does that change what we know? Not really. The Vols are flawed because of point guard deficiencies and offensive stagnation. They have to have Jordan McRae doing Jordan things or a surprise night from one of the misfit perimeter toys. Last night it was McRae, who went for 29 and made the plays to deliver the goods.
Does it change what we believe about these Vols? Maybe. Consider this: UT had to win. They knew. Cuonzo knew it. Heck, even Spy knew it and he was watching the History Channel and eating catfish. And with that knowledge can come pressure.
With pressure can come increased anxiety and with that can come decreased production that can be especially painful against a weaker foe that starts to hang around.
The Vols ignored that and went to work. Good for them and whether you believe Martin should be canned or extended, it's a plus in his ledger that his kids play hard for him every night.
But effort should be the baseline of our expectations for a bunch like these Vols that swing the pendulum of performance ranging from top-shelf (hello Virginia) to pedestrian.
Does last night matter? It does in that UT stayed alive, and after speaking with ESPN college hoops analyst Andy Katz on Press Row on ESPN 105.1 FM Wednesdsay, those last breathes are paramount for The Conz in particular and the league in general. Katz said the SEC could be a two-bid league, and the muddling records of a majority of the conference speak to that.
The SEC is bad. Period. And for those arguing the balance of the league is why ther is a logjam of mediocrity. Please. This is more parody than parity.
And the Vols are slap dab in the middle of it for another day.
We are (more than double — thanks Chas9) 20 hours from March. We're good with March. We like March. It's mad.
So where do we stand? Great question and here's a four-part scan around college hoops (we'd encourage you play along):
• If Wichita State runs the table, college basketball has to have the Shockers be a No. 1 seed. Guys like StuckinKent and his computer-crunching ilk can poke a slew of holes in Wichita State's resume since it has played exactly one team assured of a tournament spot. Still, if college basketball is ever to take its regular season seriously ever again, an unbeaten team ranked in the top five has to be a No. 1 seed.
• UNC is a bracket killer. The Heels have won 10 in a row, and point guard Marcus Paige has marbles. And skills.
• We still believe in Syracuse above all others, even if Jimmy Blow-up is in our doghouse. But the gap between the Orange and the Gators and the Me-Hawks is not as great as it was and that's because of the Orange coming back to the pack.
• Creighton has a chance against just about anyone because of 30-point-a-night guy Doug McDermott. Side note: How great is the nickname Dougie McBuckets? Good stuff.
Ron Jaworski watches a lot of film. A lot of film.
He talks about watching every throw this QB makes in a season or every route this WR runs.
Apparently, that much film study has fried Jaws' brain. Or clarified his thinking. Jaworski, the former Eagles QB and the man that was a one-time third-wheel in the Monday Nigh Football announcing booth said that he would not take Johnny Manziel until the third round. Let's explore:
Yes, that Johnny Manziel, who will be a top-10 pick in the May draft. And it's understandable why QB-starved teams reach for questionable QBs. We all know — even Jaws — that someone will take Johnny inside the top-10 picks. This was not a prediction from Jaws, rather a personal preference.
We do not believe any of the three top-ranked QBs — Manziel, Teddy Bridgewater or Blake Bortles — is going to be an elite passer. And if you are going to spend a lofty draft choice on a QB, you would hope it would be an elite guy.
That guy is not here. And to support Jaws' preference, the only thing worse for an organization than not having a top-tier QB is missing on a QB with a top-10 pick. Ask the Titans, who have been spinning their wheels for three seasons wondering if Jake Locker is the guy.
Question: Would you rather have a journeyman or a head-scratching top-10 guys that is possibly the guy but far from solid and a complete unknown?
Maybe Manziel is a third-round talent as the film-critic Jaws suggests, and if he delivers like a third-rounder like Russell Wilson, OK. If he delivers like third-rounder Colt McCoy, well that hurts.
Especially if that third-rounder goes in the top 10.
This and that
Atlanta Braves first baseman Fred McGriff heads home after hitting his 300th career homer against the Cincinnati Reds Sunday, May 19, 1996 in Atlanta. McGriff missed the record on a previous at-bat Sunday that would have been a grand slam. That ball flew two feet outside the left-field foul pole. (AP Photo/Tannen Maury)
— There's a surefire Hall of Famer calling it quits after the 2014 baseball season and we'll miss Derek Jeter. There's another all-star veteran leaving the game after the season on the horizon, and Paul Konerko is going out with way less fanfare. Konerko is going to leave the White Sox after this year and he'll likely leave baseball with more than 450 homers. Wow, 450. At one time that was a money number that was Hall of Fame bona fide.
— Speaking of Hall of Fame, how is Fred McGriff not in. Dude hit 493 homers and ranks tied for 26th all-time on that list. He's tied with some guy name Lou Gehrig, maybe you've heard of him. In fact the only players with more than 450 homers and not in the Hall of Fame are either PED-tainted or not eligible.
— Mocs have a big test on the road tonight. Winning at Western is rarely easy — mind that purgatory they call a gym, no drive 12-feet in, that'll do — and Will Wade's crew seems a little fatigued.
— LeBron is hoping to play with a protective mask tonight to help his broken nose. He promises it will be something cool. What are some suggestions for a cool mask? He could go with the Jim Carrey Mask or a Skeletor-type deal. Or an old-school Mike Meyers from Halloween mask. Thoughts
We have two for you today if nothing above floats your canoe.
Yahoo.com did an interview with Gene Hackman. It's quite interesting and here's the link. Apparently dude is done, and he's also 84 — wow.
Who is the best living actor? Go.
Second, we are a day from March and the season is winding down. Who is in your Final Four — and we offer this as a tip since good is good in basketball and this will serve as a baseline for your brackets. We can remember this in a couple of weeks when conference tournaments start to cloud our judgement.
And remember the mailbag. Go.
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 ...