Monday, March 16, 2009

The Day After: Back on the Plains


Leading Off (The Cuff):
I’ve heard the arguments all day about Auburn deserving a spot in the NCAA Tournament. I get where they’re coming from. The fact of the matter is the NCAA Tournament selection committee didn’t think the SEC was any stronger than the Mountain West. In fact, the committee probably thought more of the MWC.
Yes, the SEC’s three teams were more than the Mountain West’s two. But Mississippi State earned an automatic spot by winning the SEC Tournament or else the league would have been limited to the two spots.
LSU, the league’s regular season champ, got just an 8-seed; Tennessee, the other at-large candidate, a 9. As a 13-seed, MSU drew a nearly impossible matchup against Washington in Portland, Ore.
The Mountain West, on the other hand, could have had five teams. UNLV, New Mexico and San Diego State all had legitimate claims to make the NCAA Tournament as at-large teams as well. Instead, Utah and BYU were the only two teams invited to the dance.
There might have been just two invitations extended to MWC teams, but they received better seeds than the SEC’s top two teams. Utah drew a 5-seed and BYU an 8-seed. Sadly, LSU and BYU won’t play in the first round.
All five teams have tough matchups. It will be interesting to see which league wins more games.

Today’s Starting Lineup:
Today is more of a housekeeping list.
The men are headed to the NIT, where they received a 1-seed and will play UT Martin in a first-round game Wednesday night at Beard-Eaves-Memorial Coliseum.
The women, meanwhile, missed out on a 1-seed in the NCAA Tournament but still get to dance. They will face Lehigh in the first round in Piscataway, N.J. That game is Saturday at 11 a.m.
It’s bears mentioning that Auburn baseball won two of three at Tennessee to open conference play. This is still shaping up as a difficult year for the Tigers, but at least they got off to a good start. Grant Dayton is starting to prove last year’s campaign wasn’t a fluke. More impressively, Auburn is winning games despite first baseman Hunter Morris’ early struggles.
And for those football fans, don’t think I forgot about you. Spring football is set to open next Tuesday. It sounds like access will be limited significantly more than it was during the Tommy Tuberville days. I don’t know exactly what access will be, but we should find out as early as tomorrow. Regardless, you can find plenty of football updates here over the coming weeks.

Double-down on National Sports:
The Jay Cutler-Josh McDaniels showdown in Denver has gone from bad to worse. Cutler officially asked for his release or to be traded. I can see both sides of this argument, but here’s something to consider: McDaniels, a Bill Belichick protégée, has come in making a statement. That statement says he will look to improve the Broncos at every position, regardless of feelings and regardless of history with the franchise. The players will look at this in one of two ways – either they will look at Cutler and immediately rally against McDaniels or they will realize McDaniels carries only about winning and they will decide they want to play for a coach that wants to win this badly. Problem is, winning will likely prove difficult if Cutler is traded/released.

The New England Patriots have too many draft picks. Why not trade one to acquire someone who was formerly considered one of the league’s most dominant defensive players? According to reports, the Pats could be close to acquiring DE Julius Peppers, though the Panthers deny those reports.

The Houston Astros needed stability at catcher. Ivan Rodriguez needed a place to play. So this deal, obviously, makes sense. The downside here, obviously, is that J.R. Towles and Humberto Quintero likely won’t have opportunities to prove they can play every day. Still, the Astros probably made their team much stronger for the 2009 season with this signing.

Think basketball is important in the ACC? Virginia coach Dave Leitao resigned (but will receive his buyout) after just his third season. Leitao was named ACC Coach of the Year in 2007, but the Cavaliers finished 11th in the ACC this year.

Around the League:
RB Bryce Brown, considered by many to be the nation’s top recruit, chose Tennessee. The Knoxville News Sentinel
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution examines what to watch during Georgia’s spring practice. The AJC
Kentucky basketball coach (for now) Billy Gillispie spoke with reporters on Monday. Brett Dawson
Mississippi State is excited to start dancing against Washington. Kyle Veazey
G.A. Mangus will try to turn South Carolina's Stephen Garcia into the quarterback he was supposed to become. The State
The Tennesseean profiles players to watch during Vanderbilt's spring practice. The Tennesseean

Fantasyland:
One of the biggest problems with having a fantasy baseball draft a month before the season: Injuries. On that front, my team got great news today. Cole Hamels, aka my ace, has elbow trouble. Yes, I should have seen it coming. He had elbow problems throughout his minor league career and has been on the Disabled List every year before last year. I didn’t see it, possibly took him too early and now might be in trouble. Then again, before I go all Chicken Little and declare the sky is falling, he’s only going for tests. Keep your fingers crossed for me… I mean Hamels.

TV Update:
Yup, just when I speak highly of 24, it has a down week. Gotta say, I really enjoyed Kurtwood Smith on the show – thought he did a great job. The whole is torture good or is it bad debate was, as always, laughable – especially coming from Fox. The whole spy vs. spy aspect was cool, but aside from that, this was a rough episode. By the way, where was Tony hanging out? Pretty confusing.

Today’s News
The Good:
Again, bad economy means cheaper travel. That's a win for the consumers -- especially consumers seeking Hawaiian vacations. CNN

The Bad:
Not a surprise to anyone following the newspaper industry -- The Seattle Post-Intelligencer is no longer printing, going online-only. CNN

The Absurd:
The key to protection from the sun? Hippo sweat? MSNBC

Ending on a High Note:
It's St. Patrick's Day! Enjoy -- preferably responsibly.

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