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SEC Headlines 3/16/2013

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1. Running back Marcus Lattimore’s  injuries a blessing in disguise at South Carolina?  “We were able to move on when Marcus got hurt. You can’t just sit there and sulk. You have to move on and find ways to get better.”

2. Spring practice starts at Alabama.  Five questions and five players to watch.

3. Second-day spring practice impressions at Florida.  ”Jeff Driskel looked much more comfortable than he did last spring…”

4. Situational scrimmage at Tennessee today. Offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian:  ”I want to identify who the playmakers are, put guys in situations to make plays and see who steps up when the lights go on.”

5. LSU center Elliott Porter has a “medical issue” that will cause him to miss at least a few days of spring practice. La’El Collins is moving from left guard to left tackle this spring.

6. LSU linebacker Lamin Barrow had 104 tackles last year. Defensive coordinator John Chavis:  ”He’s a really talented player and we’ll need him to show it.”

7. Auburn has running back Tre Mason but what’s in the backfield beyond him?

8. Former Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson impressive at the Razorbacks pro day on Friday.

9. Coach Bret Bielema is focused on who will replace Wilson.  ”I think there’s no doubt that on offense, the key is who is going to be our trigger puller.”

SEC Basketball

10. Kentucky’s Archie Goodwin on what the loss to Vanderbilt meant for the Wildcats’ NCAA Tournament chances: “This didn’t help us at all. I know for a fact this really hurt us.” Jerry Palm’s latest outlook.

11. Did Alabama’s zone defense throw off Tennessee’s offense Friday? And did Tennessee coach Cuonzo Martin speak too soon?

12. Crimson Tide players glad to get another opportunity to face Florida. Trevor Releford: “Everybody in the locker room is excited about it. We’ve wanted them since we lost to them two weeks ago. It’s going to be a good game.”

13. Alabama has lost six straight to Florida. Will Yeguete will play two games in two days for the first time in college career.

14. If you’re keeping score, Missouri has now lost six of their last seven games decided in the final seconds. Tigers 5-7 in games away from home in which they’ve had a lead in last 30 seconds.

15. Is Georgia a top-25 team if Kentavious Caldwell-Pope returns next year?

16. Auburn coach Tony Barbee gets a vote of confidence from A.D. Jay Jacobs. “My expectation is for our program to show significant improvement under coach Barbee’s leadership.”

College News

17. Have bowl, will host.  In addition to Rose, Orange and Sugar, 31 bowls get invited to participate in college football’s new playoffs. “In reality, if anybody other than the Cotton, Tostitos Fiesta and Chick-fil-A bowls are chosen, it will qualify as a major surprise.”

18. When Maryland moves to the Big Ten, the school will receive an estimated $20-30 million in travel expense subsidies.


19. Charles Barkley wants to work a basketball game with Dick Vitale: ”I would love to do a game with Dick Vitale because I think he has been great for college basketball. It’d be good for the game.”



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Ex-UT Coach Pearl Hired By ESPN; Bizarre, Bizarre, Bizarre

Former Tennessee basketball coach Bruce Pearl has been hired by ESPN as a studio analyst and in-game color analyst for the upcoming basketball season.

We’ll pause to let that one sink in for a bit.

Not because Pearl doesn’t deserve a second chance.  He absolutely does.  The man shouldn’t wear a scarlet A because he tried to cover-up a barbecue.

Not because Pearl won’t be good in this new role, either.  Pearl is a natural.  Like Vanderbilt’s James Franklin, UT’s ex-hoops coach is a salesman first, second, and third.  I suspect he might just be so good in the broadcast booth that he decides not to return to coaching.  Dick Vitale can’t work forever, after all.  And can’t you imagine a man who once painted his chest for a women’s basketball game someday becoming ESPN next over-the-top, carnival barker for college basketball?

No, we pause because this hire is simply bizarre on a number of levels:


1.  Tennessee fans can now stop saying ESPN hates their Vols and Pearl.  During the 2009-10 season, UT fans were treated in every Tennessee game airing on ESPN to a “timeline” graphic showing just how Pearl’s situation had unraveled.  Apparently — as we at said at the time — that was being done to inform non-UT fans who might be tuning into the game of the odd circumstances surrounding one of the teams on the floor… and not just to hammer Tennessee or Pearl.  Vol fans were just stuck seeing it week after week, game after game.  But there was no hate for Pearl or UT from ESPN after all.

2.  Or vice versa.  While suspended for eight SEC games, Pearl watched those ESPN broadcasts, saw the timeline graphic, and heard ESPN analysts weigh in on whether or not he should survive after lying to the NCAA.  Now, after a year working for a grocery supply company, Pearl is headed to work for the same network that so thoroughly covered his transgressions and downfall.

3.  Pearl must hold no grudges toward the individuals he’s likely to bump into either on set or off in Bristol, Connecticut, either.  From Jay Bilas — who called for his head on a plate — to Dick Vitale — who bizarrely said UT should fire Pearl and then immediately stated Pearl should get a second chance at another school (strange logic) — Pearl doesn’t seem to harbor any ill will toward those folks.  As far as we know, he’ll be in the same building and maybe on the same set with them.

4.  No one was going to touch Pearl with a 10-foot goal in the year immediately following his departure from Tennessee.  He was damaged goods.  A year away out of the spotlight — except for a part-time radio gig on Sirius/XM — has apparently washed away Pearl’s sins, though.  Clearly ESPN is no longer concerned with the events they chronicled on that famous timeline graphic.  In fact, they’re not worried that they now have a college basketball analyst who currently has two more years to go on an NCAA show-cause sentence.

5.  For Pearl and ESPN, business is business.  Pearl will make a great addition to ESPN’s team regardless of how things ended at his last job and all the national pub that went with it.  ESPN provides Pearl with a nice check and a way to stay close to the game.  And don’t underestimate the number of administrators these in-game broadcasters meet and shake-and-howdy with over the course of a season.  Mark Gottfried was fired by Alabama, went to ESPN, was then hired by NC State, and just finished a darn-good first year back on the bench.  Business is business and Pearl could either become a broadcast star or work his way back into the game.  ESPN will get a likeable new on-air personality.

6.  It will be interesting to see how Pearl is asked to handle and how he does handle any scandal that pops up during the season.  He’s been through the proverbial wringer and the answers I’ve heard him give regarding other folks’ scandals on Sirius/XM have been very good.  He’s certainly not called for anyone else’s scalp and — from what I’ve heard — he’s always been quick to point out he himself dropped the ball on the barbecue/cover-up affair.  Still, when a scandal pops up — and a few will — it will be interesting to see if ESPN asks for his take and what kind of take Pearl might give.  On the four-letter network, will he suddenly call for a coach’s dismissal the way Bilas called for his?

Pearl will do well at ESPN.  Here’s hoping he calls a few SEC games just so I can catch his work (’cause I don’t watch a lot of action from other leagues and I sure don’t watch many of ESPN’s five million studio shows).

But there’s no dodging the fact that his hiring dispels the myths that he hates ESPN and ESPN hates him and Tennessee.  Hey, maybe that’s the new conspiracy theory — ESPN tried to drive Pearl out of Tennessee so they could hurt the Volunteers and land him in Bristol.

“I’m really excited about it,” Pearl told The Knoxville News Sentinel.  “I think I can bring some passion and knowledge to the broadcasts.”  No doubt.

Today, Pearl must feel a bit like Delmar O’Donnell.  A year away from the game and all his sins have been warshed away.  Good.  This world needs a little more forgiveness and redemption.


O Brother Where Art Thou: Down in the River to Pray

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Five SEC Squads Make Vitale’s 2012-13 Top 40

Ready for a pre-preseason poll?  Dick Vitale is.  ESPN’s longtime basketball analyst released his Top 40 basketball teams for next season yesterday afternoon.  Five Southeastern Conference teams make an appearance:


2.  Kentucky:  ”John Calipari simply reloads as Big Blue Nation welcomes Nerlens Noel and the top class in America.”  (Cat fans probably won’t like the fact that Vitale has UK #2 behind Rick Pitino’s Louisville Cardinals.)

19.  Florida:  ”The Gators would be higher if Bradley Beal returned to school.”

24.  Missouri:  ”Frank Haith has a ton of talented transfers coming in. The addition of Alex Oriakhi is a big plus.”

28.  Alabama:  ”Last season’s issues will turn into a surprising plus. A number of youngsters got better with more playing time.”

33.  Tennessee:  ”The Vols really bought into Cuonzo Martin’s system and it paid off late last season.”

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SEC Headlines – 4/6/11 Part Three

1.  Brandon Knight’s last three-point bucket in the Final Four allowed his Kentucky team to eclipse the previous school record for three-point accuracy.

2.  Dick Vitale tabs UK as the #2 team in the country behind North Carolina next year.

3.  South Carolina has tweaked its remaining spring practice schedule.

4.  Jeep Hunter is getting used to coaching safeties after two years of coaching the Cocks’ tight ends.

5.  Cuonzo Martin is making Tennessee interim coach Houston Fancher his director of basketball operations.

6.  Martin inherits a brutal schedule next year which could become even tougher if Scotty Hopson and Tobias Harris leave for the pros.

7.  Despite some scrimmage stats, Tauren Poole is still UT’s top tailback.

8.  Vanderbilt was missing a number of players at practice yesterday.

9.  James Franklin will use celebrity coaches at this year’s spring game.

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Pearl “Thought About” Not Coaching UT Against UConn

Tennessee’s Bruce Pearl has hit the halfway mark of his SEC suspension.  His Vols are 2-2 in the league and coming off back-to-back wins over Vanderbilt and Georgia (on the road).  This weekend his team will head to Hartford to match up against #8 UConn.  Pearl will be back on the bench, though he briefly considered sitting this one out.

“I thought about it… and wasn’t sure what purpose it would serve.  We’ve put some unprecedented penalties on our program — there’s no question that the visibility of it all — and (the penalties) have played a part in some of our struggles as it should.  That’s what happens when you get suspended, that’s what happens when… you’ve got self-imposed penalties.”

Pearl was also asked about the many national pundits — Jay Bilas, Dick Vitale, Digger Phelps — who have said he should have been fired or should be suspended for at least a year.

“They have a job to do.  These decisions (about the punishments) are made by people with all the information.  So sometimes it’s puzzling when people make strong statements when they don’t have all the facts.”

If Pearl can lead Tennessee to victory against UConn — and how many NCAA references do you think will be made in a game featuring Pearl and Jim Calhoun? — it will be the Volunteers’ third win of the season against a highly-ranked Big East foe on a neutral court.  UT has already beaten Villanova in New York City and Pittsburgh in the Steel City (though away from their home gym).

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Vitale: UK can’t win title with freshman-oriented team

Content provided by Jerry Tipton on UK basketball.

ESPN college basketball analyst Dick Vitale said Tuesday that he does not believe a freshman-oriented team like Kentucky’s can win a national championship.

“I debated this with John Calipari,” Vitale said on a ESPN teleconference. “I don’t think you can win a national championship with a re-loading of the roster. You can win a lot of games.”

Of course, Kentucky re-loaded its roster after five players were taken in the first round of this year’s NBA Draft.

Calipari’s response to Vitale’s contention?

“Obviously, he’s going to disagree with me,” Vitale said. “John Calipari is thinking of one thing: win, win, win.”


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