published Monday, March 31st, 2014

5-at-10:

College hoops bliss

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.

And now the Final Four has been delivered to us. We gave 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 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 the Kentucky's win over Michigan.

While the drama of March Madness always delivers, the basketball was better this year. At least it seems that way.

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

— UT played its guts out in a close lose to Michigan on Friday. It was sad the game turned 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 certain examples, but they are very rare and since we have 747 and GD as regulars here we will not mention the most recent example. 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 any way.

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

— Our "Last Shot Shootout" tiebreaker for the "First-Out, Last-In" challenge came down to the last shot. Scole023 edged Billy in Brainerd when Shabazz Napier hit a 3 in the final minute of UConn's win. SCole023's duo of Napier and Louisville Luke Hancock scored 63 points in three games while BiB's duo of Arizona's Nick Johnson and Michigan State's Adreian Payne scored 60. Congrats scole023, email us your Final Four swag preference and we'll make it happen. We've had a request for a Final Four contest, but we're not sure what would work. (Side note: We will continue our Mastering the Masterful Masters event next week. Same rules as always, submit five golfers, we'll count the low four finishers and low score wins.)

— For our money, Florida's Billy Donovan is the best coach in college hoops. Sure, Cal may recruit better — although, while Cal is a great recruiter and underrated as an Xs and Os 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 Bill D straight-up right now? Florida fans would say "No thanks" as quickly as you got the "Would your trade coaches..." out of your mouth.

— Many thanks and congrats to TFP aces Downtown Patrick Brown and Mark Wiedmer for their great efforts through the NCAA tournament. Weeds was spot on about the NCAA selection committee doing the SEC no favors in seeding since UK got an 8 and UT was in the play-in game. (Side note: Conspiracy theories collide — we had a caller on Press Row earlier this month ask if the selection committee could have flipped Dayton and Tennessee — two 11 seeds — at the 11th hour to keep Dayton from playing a play-in game in Dayton, which would have been criticized by everyone. Knoxville radio guy Jimmy Hyams said he had heard something similar, too.) That said, 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 does not make a good conference. Heck, FSU 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.

———

The Conz

And now this has happened. Not unlike being mean to your girlfriend for three months and accepting the fact that you want to breakup 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 better-looking-than-ever Cuonzo Martin.

Martin has been contacted by Marquette, according to reports. 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 only extending 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 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.

So what do you think The Conz will do? Discuss.

————

Baseball opens

Major League Baseball opened in the state Sunday night with the mullet (Padres starter Andrew Cashner) over the Beard (Dodgers nut basket Brian Wilson).

This means the Dodgers will not go 162-0, which would seem likely even though they have a payroll that could offer lofty expectations. And the expectations are lofty. Here, according to RJ Bell and pregame.com, are the odds to win the World Series:

Los Angeles Dodgers

6/1

St. Louis Cardinals

8/1

Detroit Tigers

9/1

Washington Nationals

10/1

  • photo
    Atlanta Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez, left, congratulates Dan Uggla, center, after Uggla hit a two-run homer off Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Mario Hollands in a spring exhibition baseball game in Clearwater, Fla.
    Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Boston Red Sox

13/1

New York Yankees

14/1

Tampa Bay Rays

14/1

Texas Rangers

18/1

Los Angeles Angels

20/1

Oakland Athletics

21/1

Atlanta Braves

22/1

Here are some other interesting stats according to Vegas:

Playoffs Projected by Vegas

(based on Season Win Totals)

NL West: Dodgers

NL Central: Cardinals

AL Central: Tigers

NL East: Nationals

AL West: Oakland

AL East: Rays

NL Wildcard: Braves

NL Wildcard: Giants

AL Wildcard: Red Sox

AL Wildcard: Angles

Best teams to miss playoffs:

Rangers, Yankees, Reds, Pirates

Most Regular Season

(by ANY player)

Home Runs: over/under 45.5

RBIs: over/under 130.5

Hits: over/under 208.5

Wins: over/under 20.5

Losses: over/under 17

Complete Games: over/under 6

Saves: over/under 49.5

Strikeouts: over/under 248.5

This and that

Kurt Busch won at Martinsville. Watching a touch of that race made me think racing there is not unlike driving really fast around the parking lot where you work. Wow.

  • photo
    Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel throws during NCAA college football practice in College Station, Texas.
    Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

— Yet another rave review for Johnny Manziel. After jamming with Jon Gruden last week and leaving the QB whispering former coach who looks like Chucky wowed with the opinion that Manziel could be Steve Young-esque, now Jerry Rice is giving Manziel the Young tag as well. High praise indeed.

— Speaking of Gruden, have we gotten to the point where we're not sure if Frank Caliendo is impersonating Gruden or Gruden is impersonating Caliendo's impersonation of Gruden.

— Kansas Andrew Wiggins is headed to the league. No shock there. He may have the highest ceiling, but as Chas9 has been telling us all year, Julius Randle has been the better player this year.

————

Today's question

This one is really simple:

Who won the weekend? Who lost the weekend?

Go and we'll carry this talk through the afternoon on Press Row, too.

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.
jomo11 said...

WOW is right what a great NCAA tourney ! great games, buzzer beaters, story lines, etc. . . . If the Conz can get another job he WILL leave, and who can blame him ? The UTK Vol fans have treated him like @#$%, Dave Hart never came out during petition-gate and offered even a word of support and then Dave Hart made an @#$ of himself by hugging Cuonzo only when the TV cameras were on him after the Mercer game. . .again its amazing that Vol fans hate a coach who has WON 60% of games and love a coach, Butchy who LOST 60% of his games !.... .also Jay, do you think Holly Warlick is just Derek Dooley in a pants suit ?

March 31, 2014 at 10:16 a.m.
chas9 said...

My picks of Zona's Johnson and Russdiculous totaled 53 points, though Russ only got in one game this weekend. If only UofL had beaten UK, I'd of been a weiner.

March 31, 2014 at 10:18 a.m.
chas9 said...

The proper response to each of Aaron Harrison's four threes in the closing minutes against Michigan would have been Bert B intoning "Money."

It's amazing to me how successful NCAA tourney teams get better each game. It's impressive to me that UK finds different ways to win (e.g., Benchsitter Marcus Lee going wild to fill the void left by WC-S). It's encouraging to me that these diaper dandies (™) (or Coach Cal) figure out the needed adjustments during the game to catch and surpass teams that start out blistering them. That's a mark of a championship team.

Jeff Borzello, cbssports basketball guru, ranks the remaining four in this order: 1 Florida, 2 Kentucky, 3 Wisconsin, 4 Connecticut. I agree, though I expect The Gators fear The Wildcats' momentum.

And I'm glad UK won't play UConn with Shabazz. They play too much like the UConn with Kemba who de-railed UK in 2011's final four.

In fact, this Cats team is a lot like the 2011 version, catching fire after a sluggish regular season. Jorts, like Dakari, developing just in time. Kanter, like Cauley-Stein, unavailable at crunch time. Knight and Lamb to Andrew and Aaron. Jones and Miller to Young and Randle. Liggins to Poythress.

OK, Double Trouble Randle's better than any of the 2011 bunch. So, I'm picking Cal's cagers to cut down the nets.

They seem to be improving faster than anybody else. They now have the poise they lacked earlier. And they've proved themselves against a 1 seed, a 2 seed and a 4 seed. Nobody else has come through as deadly a mine field (though The Huskies are close).

And the much-maligned SEC has two of the last four standing. Why did I pick two Michigan teams to be there?

Jay's correct that no other SEC team was worthy, though. And UK's 8 seed was about right.

Do I remember reading that The Conz' paycheck is 11th in the SEC?

March 31, 2014 at 10:24 a.m.
JonathanMCook said...

Nothing related locally in the 423. But here in the 972 ALL local media was covering today being the first home game down yonder on I-30 against the Phillies.

Sadly, it's an afternoon game so I'll be here helping No Speaka Da English find her order. I really need a better job.

Anyway, Rangers ball is back. God bless us, everyone.

March 31, 2014 at 10:29 a.m.
BWill8 said...

Jomo -- you didn't ask me but I'll address the Holly question. I venture to guess she knows more about coaching football than Dooley. (Who doesn't?) But watching what she's doing to the Lady Vols is frustrating. They lack discipline and anything regarding a decent offensive structure. Her gameplan is: run up the court really fast and hope for an open lay-up; if not then just throw it to a big girl. She was down by double digits with the her players getting out-rebounded (which doesn't happen very often) and she never called a timeout. Not the entire first half. Call one just out of spite! You lose the timeout anyway...it's not like it carries over to the second half. She did stomp her foot several times so there's that. Effective.

On to the men's tourney...

My bracket's busted so I'm pulling for Wisconsin. Donovan's an OK guy but the thought of seeing Wilbekin crying (sad tears) makes me kinda happy. I'd never pull for a Calipari-led Kentucky. And UConn is guilty by association from their women's program, so I'm left with Wisconsin. Onward, you frozen tundra Badgers!

March 31, 2014 at 12:10 p.m.
chas9 said...

BW--My bracket's busted, too. Whose isn't? I had four of the elite eight, but zero of the final four, so my position can only go down in the ESPN The Zone contest. How you doing, Jay?

Agree Cal's under-rated with X's and O's.

When brackets came out, Pomeroy and Silver said Louisville was either #1 or #2 overall. And Kentucky beat 'em. Look out, Billy D. Badgers better find a hole.

March 31, 2014 at 12:16 p.m.
fechancellor said...

A Marquette offer isn't enough fire power for Conz to jimmy open the lock box at the Athletic Department. From what I could glean, Conz only gets motivated when he feels the heat. Are there back loaded incentive contracts at the college level?

Who won the week end? Why FEC did. We caught fish in spite of veering winds. At this undisclosed location, my hosts say "Pat Dye was here, and he's a particular type of hole."

The of wreath of garlic worked must have worked.. No "War Eagle Zombie Brain Eaters" came close, although I can understand their frustrations as Alabama fans have no brains. If my AU, reformed zombie, host would have allowed me to see The Vols Friday evening, it would have been a perfect weekend.

March 31, 2014 at 12:25 p.m.
Stewwie said...

I skipped all games this weekend, but I did catch the highlight of the controversial call against Stokes. At live speed, it initially appeared that the ref made the right call since it appeared that Stokes simply plowed into the defender. But watching it on slo-mo (which the ref doesn't have the luxury of doing), it was clear that the Michigan player flopped. So I would say the ref made the best call that he could have, but the Michigan player deserves an Oscar for selling it well. Looks like the NCAA needs to work on an anti-flopping policy like NBA has done. Maybe threaten to take away illegal booster money from players if they flop. Lol.

March 31, 2014 at 1:17 p.m.
jomo11 said...

Where are you Jay ? running a newspaer sports department ? to much stuff, we need your feedback !

March 31, 2014 at 1:35 p.m.
BIspy4 said...

I better hurry before the Subscribe-Log in window slams down on my fingers.

For all the dumb things and errant ways of the NCAA, boy, it sure knows how to put together its bread and butter of a basketball tourney.

Should Vols fans have an inferiority complex or identity crisis when Marquette comes after its coach and not the other way around?

What struck me about most about the Martinsville race was the plenty of good seats still available. Maybe everybody went to the concession stand in the highlights I saw.

It's opening day. And it's glorious. Back to back duck boat parades for my Sox.

March 31, 2014 at 1:36 p.m.
jgreeson said...

Gang —

Excellent stuff all around.

A strong debut for BWill8, and yes, Dooley is the baseline for all coaching insults, lest we forget that while he is not Sal Sunseri — SAAAALLLLL!!! — he did hire the man. And BWill, we are all in on Florida. If the Gators win the semifinal we finish in the entertainment of the office pool. If the Gators win the whole thing we win first-place entermainment in the office pool.

FE to the C —

Hey, we know people who feel the same about Pat Dye. We also know people ho would lay on the tracks for the man. So it goes.

That said, happy you caught your fill.

9er —

Yes, The Conz's check is outside the top 10 in the SEC. But it will be in the top four in the Big East.

Spy —

It is Opening Day and all is right with the world.

Stewwie —

Fair assessment. But even if the no-call was right, it was about to be a turnover.

Jomo —

We prefer to think of Holly as Derek without the cane.

Chopping bamboo indeed.

March 31, 2014 at 2:03 p.m.
ChattanoogaVol said...

Martin is getting out of Dodge before the team he recruited only wins 10 to 12 games in the 2014/2015 season. Martin is a fine man. We all know this. However, I'm not going to lose sleep over losing a guy who FINALLY, at the end of his 3rd season as coach, did something with an upperclass laden team that included players like McRae and Maymon whom he didn't even recruit. If Stokes goes pro, who is going to score besides Josh Richardson? Martin has recruited a bunch of role players.

I'm convinced that Tennessee can get a better coach than Martin, a better recruiter than Martin, a coach who can assemble a better group of assistants than Martin, a coach who actually knows how to coach offense, a coach who has at least one iota of knowledge when it comes to drawing up an inbounds play, and a coach who actually has some personality and charisma.

Do you think for one second Martin wouldn't get his pink slip after the 2014/2015 debacle that anyone with any basketball knowledge and the talent it takes to win knows is coming? Why put off the inevitable? Let Martin move to Millwaukee and get $1.3 million of buyout money in the coffers to hire a new coach. This is a no brainer.

March 31, 2014 at 3:30 p.m.
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