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A Cliche About Kentucky’s Hoops Team That Needs To Be Retired

tina-fey-eye-rollI’m not sure how many times I’ve heard this one since Kentucky bounced Wisconsin from the NCAA Tournament on Saturday.  Ten times?  Twenty?  Thirty?

“Well, they’re not freshmen anymore,” says Fan X, Guest Analyst Y, or Show Host Z.  Yeah, OK.  I get the point.  Kentucky’s kids have played 39 games to date so they’re no longer completely green.

But here’s why that stock phrase needs to be retired — The sophomores of the world are not sophomores, either.

Yes, John Calipari’s freshmen have gained experience, but they still have less experience than the sophomores, juniors and seniors they face on a nightly basis.  That fact, in effect, does mean they should be designated as having less experience and the word “freshman” covers that ground quite nicely.

Kentucky’s run to tonight’s championship game with Connecticut has required late-game heroics and last-second shots time and again.  It just might be that their youthful outlook — their lack of experience — has helped them advance.  They seem unfazed by pressure… perhaps because they’re too green to worry.

So let’s all please nix the “they’re no longer freshmen” cliche.  Even 39 games into the season, UK’s freshmen still have less experience than several key UConn players they’ll face tonight — senior Shabazz Napier, juniors Ryan Boatright and DeAndre Daniels, etc.  That’s no knock.  It’s just a fact.

A fact that makes Calibari’s work with his latest bunch of youngsters pretty damn impressive.

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SEC Headlines 3/4/2014

headlines-tueSEC Football

1. Missouri coach Gary Pinkel reportedly has a new deal that will push his pay to or above $3 million.

2. Ole Miss begins spring practice today. Rebels need to find out who will backup quarterback Bo Wallace.

3. Texas A&M practices in full pads for two hours and 15 minutes.  Coach Kevin Sumlin: “All-in-all, I liked the energy.”

4. Gus Malzhahn doesn’t sound too worried about an upcoming vote that could impact tempo:  ”We’re going to put the ball down, we’re going to play fast and we’re going to flat get after it. You all OK if we play fast?”

5. “History hasn’t been terribly kind to the coaches that lost the national championship game in the BCS era.”

6. “The Saban Rule is not about protecting players. That is never the primary motive of the NCAA, no matter how its leaders spin it.”

7. Winning is contagious.  South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier: “I think it’s somewhat contagious when one sport does well, then another one does well, and it just keeps going through.” Connor Shaw will be honored at halftime of tonight’s South Carolina basketball game.

8. Here are six players crucial to Missouri’s defense this fall.

9. Here are five Alabama players who need to step up their game in 2014.

10. The blame Lane Kiffin era begins at Alabama?

11. It’s good to be a public official in Alabama – free tickets to football games.

12. Position battles this spring at LSU.

13. Did you know? LSU got its purple and gold colors from Mardi Gras.  (Will Rust Cohle start an investigation?)

SEC Basketball

14. South Carolina gets a $25,000 fine from the SEC after fans stormed the court after the win against Kentucky Saturday.

15 .Clearing up misconception about the one-and-done rule.  College basketball is at the mercy of the NBA.

16. Texas A&M guard Fabyon Harris checks out of a hospital two days after fainting in a pregame shootaround. Guard Shawn Smith still dealing with “personal issues.”

17. Ole Miss guard Jarvis Summers recognized as the best men’s college basketball player in the state of Mississippi.

18. Red-hot Razorbacks have won seven of their last eight games. Mike Anderson: “We’re playing some of our better basketball at the right time…”

19. Alabama at Kentucky.  Kentucky has lost two in a row for the first time this season but Alabama hasn’t won on the road since last year. Rare events at Kentucky these days - honoring four-year players at Senior Night.

20. Florida at South Carolina.  Gators developing potential nine-man rotation heading down the stretch. Florida two wins away from perfect SEC regular season.

21. Pat Dooley: . “I see so much me-first basketball in this league.”

22. Three of the 12 teams mentioned as bubble teams here are from the SEC.

Extras

23. Something big coming at Arkansas?

24. Ready for a possible 43-yard extra-point attempt from the NFL?

25. Peyton Manning passes $34 million neck exam.

26. Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez has a little fun with the proposed 10-second rule in college football.

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South Carolina’s Spurrier Says Clowney’s Work Ethic Was “OK”

gfx-they-said-it4In an interview this morning, South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier gave former defensive end Jadeveon Clowney plenty of credit for his talent.  As for his work ethic?  Well, not so much:

 

“Even though his production this year wasn’t near what it was last year, he had two or three guys waiting on him just about every play.  His run defense was very good, though, and he chased down a bunch of guys and made tackles.  His sacks — he had to run around two or three guys just about every game.  I don’t think teams will quite do that in the NFL, but we’ll have to wait and see…

(His work ethic) was OK.  It wasn’t like Marcus Lattimore, you know, every player is a little difference.  His work habits are pretty good, they’re not quite like Lattimore, maybe Stephon Gilmore, Melvin Ingram, some of those guys, but when the ball is snapped he’s got something no one else has.”

 

Clowney has the talent to be a dominant pass rusher in the NFL (where he most certainly will not see anything close to a triple-team).  However, you can bet any GM thinking about using a top three pick on him will consider long and hard the work ethic questions that have dogged Clowney for the past year.  If his work ethic was just “OK” in college, what will it be once he signs his first contract and cashes his first big-money check?  There will more than one NFL executive who’ll worry that Clowney might check out just as soon as he cashes in.

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Carolina’s Spurrier Shows No Signs Of Slowing Down

gfx - they said itSteve Spurrier is currently 68-years-old.  He’ll be 69 in a just a matter of weeks.  And he’ll be 73 when his most recent contract runs out.

His teams have also gone 33-6 over the last three years and he’s showing no signs whatsoever of slowing down.  He recently told The Spartanburg Herald-Journal that he feels just fine as he heads toward his eighth decade on Planet Earth:

 

“I think my memory’s OK.  People tell me my memory’s OK and I can still call the plays so why stop?  I’m not going to brag about being a workout guy but that’s what I do.  I’ve got to believe everything I read in the health magaine, that those people who work out regularly, routinely, have a chance to live healthier lives.  That’s just sort of what I do.  I encourage everybody else to do it.”

 

Spurrier also refused to rule out the possibility of coaching into his 80s.  “I don’t plan on it.  I don’t plang on doing any more than three or four years in a row, and all of a sudden three or four pass by and I feel like I did five or 10 years ago.”

As we’ve noted previously, one wonders if Spurrier’s success will change the way presidents, ADs and fans look at older job candidates.  Carolina could have past on hiring a then-60-year-old coach… as many programs would have.  But the Gamecocks took a shot and the image of their football program has been turned on its head as a result.

Americans are living longer than ever before.  As a result, more attention should be paid to a coach’s resume than to his birth certificate.  (Hey, wait a second.  Has anyone ever seen Spurrier’s long-form birth certificate?)

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Auburn Fans Goes Griswold With Christmas Lights

Even Alabama fans should appreciate this one.

OK.  Maybe not.

But an Auburn fan living near Fayetteville, Georgia has taken the ending to this year’s Iron Bowl — meaning the radio call — and combined it with the Tigers’ fight song to create a Christmas spectacle more impressive than anything Clark W. Griswold ever attempted.  It’s lavish.  It’s ridiculous.  And it’s impossible not to stare at.

Merry Christmas, Auburn-style.

 

 

Where’s the Tylenol?

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SEC To Ask NCAA Rules Committee To Revisit Targeting Rule

college-football-officials-talkingThat new targeting rule that has perplexed and provoked college football fans, coaches and administrators this season?  Yeah.  The SEC is going to ask the NCAA to look into it.

As you know by now, there were a pair of questionable targeting calls in last Saturday’s Georgia/Vanderbilt game.  Georgia officials spoke to SEC coordinator of officials Steve Shaw.  And Steve Shaw said yesterday that Mike Slive’s league will ask the NCAA — after the season – to take another look at the rule and its implementation:

 

“Even our commissioner has serious reservations about the penalty philosophy around targeting fouls when they’re overturned.  He and I have talked.  He’s challenged me, and together we’re going to work with the rules committee to revisit the penalty if a disqualification is overturned for targeting.”

 

According to The Athens Banner-Herald, six of the 14 targeting penalties handed down in the SEC this year have had the player ejection overturned.  Still, those teams lost 15 yards in penalty yardage even though a booth official didn’t think the player in question actually targeted a foe.  (Targeted, of course, implies intent, but the rule can be interpreted a half-dozen different ways… which is part of the problem.)

As we told you earlier this week, if the NCAA does decide to allow a booth official to overrule a field official’s opinion with his own, it will be a major change in NCAA policy.  So says Shaw as well:

 

“Do we want replay to kind of cross over that line to say, OK, we’re going to overturn the disqualification but we still think it was roughing the passer?  That would be a huge leap within our replay…

We can’t guess.  We can’t think it might have been.  We’ve got to see it, know it’s a foul before we put the marker on the ground, but these things happen in a split second and so when in question, the book says put the marker on the ground.”

 

And if you begin to overturn those with replay, one of two things will happen.  Referees will feel protected and start throwing more targeting flags knowing that the eye in the sky can reverse them.  Or officials will get a bit more gunshy, not wanting to have call after call corrected by a booth official.

Reversing a judgement call is not the best answer because it’s really just trading one man’s opinion for another’s.  It won’t be long until someone suggests interference and holding calls be reviewed.  If you ever get to that point, get ready for a 5-hour football game.

When it comes to the targeting rule, it’s proven to be just as vague, just as open to interpretation, and therefore just as controversial as most suspected when it was introduced this summer.

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Kentucky Coach Mark Stoops: “With That Attitude, We’re Going To Get Rolled”

Mark StoopsMark Stoops is not a happy man.  The Kentucky football coach “had steam coming out of his ears” when addressing the team Wednesday, according to running back Raymond Sanders.  After addressing the team, Stoops let loose with media members present.

 

“Very unacceptable practice today. Preparation wasn’t good enough, effort wasn’t good enough, attitude wasn’t good enough. Not good enough. Very frustrated. Some guys are looking for a rock to hide under. It’s going to be a very difficult and tough game, and I don’t know if we’re ready for it.

“With that attitude, we’re going to get rolled. And I believe that happened the last time we went down there, right? When guys are looking for a rock, it means that it’s always ‘I just missed it.’ … It’s whatever. Finger pointing. Losing attitude. Looking to hide.

“They don’t know what it takes. We’re going to get it out of them. When, I don’t know. But it’s not OK. It’s not all right.”

 

Kentucky plays South Carolina Saturday.  UK lost 54-3 two years ago in Columbia.

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Alabama Suspends S Clinton-Dix For Violating Team Rules

Clinton-DixWell, I guess you could say violating a team rule at Alabama is no laughing matter.  That’s because starting safety HaHa Clinton-Dix has been suspended indefinitely due to just such an infraction.

Nick Saban broke the news yesterday afternoon, though he refused to go into specifics:

 

“I’m going to be consistent.  When guys get suspended, I never ever say what it’s for.  All right?  So I’m not going there, so don’t ask me.  It’s the way it always happens.  Every guy.

If they do right, they wouldn’t be getting suspended.  I don’t know for how long this will be, so don’t ask me that either.  That’s the only new news we have right now.”

 

OK, got it.

Clinton-Dix is a key member of an Alabama defense that’s had its ups and downs in 2013.  He’s expected to be a first-round NFL draft pick should the junior leave after the season.  He led Alabama with five INTs last year.

A cynical man might point out that Alabama faces lowly Georgia State this week with a visit to bottom-of-the-East-Division Kentucky to follow.  Either way, the loss of Clinton-Dix leaves a large hole in Bama’s secondary.  Saban said that sophomores Landon Collins and Geno Smith will attempt to fill that hole until Clinton-Dix returns.

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Ex-Tennessee Assistant Cutcliffe Weighs In On Foster Claims

Navy Midshipmen v Duke Blue DevilsLast week it was learned that former Tennessee running back Arian Foster had told a documentary crew that he had made money “on the side” during his senior season at Tennessee.  In the interview he claimed that he didn’t have enough money for food.  He said an unnamed Vol coach “brought like 50 tacos for four or five of us.”  That would technically be an NCAA violation.

Duke head coach David Cutcliffe — who served as UT’s offensive coordinator during Foster’s sophomore and junior seasons — isn’t buying Foster’s comments (or the new APU movement, for that matter):

 

“That may have been as weak of interview as I’ve heard.  Arian never looked hungry…

Yes, (his scholarship) pays for food and rent.  On gameday, when you go back to your dorm, you usually $15 in meal money and you could buy, I don’t know, 10 tacos maybe.

As long as there’s the amount of media we have and the opportunity, you’re going to I guess see protests or whatever.  As long as I’ve been around it, and it’s a long time, longer than sometimes I even think, athletes have been treated pretty well.  I don’t see anybody getting abused.  I don’t drive a brand new Lexus, I drive a nice car because I choose to.  I heard that, I don’t know what that had to do with the price of tea anywhere…

(Full-cost-of-tuition scholarships would) make it so expensive to come to a college athletics event that nobody is going to want to come.  Again, we’re not abusing kids.  There’s a lot of uninformed people that haven’t seen the day-to-day.

I’m pretty qualified to be informed.  We’re not going to let a youngster starve.  Before they starve, I’m going to break and NCAA rule to make sure they eat.  I’m going to take them home if they can’t pay their rent.  If we get to that point, I’m going to house them.  It’s not the case.  It’s not the case.”

 

Cutcliffe — who also served as Ole Miss’ head coach at the turn of the century — was asked if he’s ever come across “a destitute kid” at the college level:

 

“Really never because at the level I’ve been, you understand that if they are need-based — Pell Grant.  Every big of that money goes to them, OK?  You’re looking at one that was need-based.  I thought I had it pretty darn good.  You understand what I’m saying?  There’s already stuff in place that we can spend money-wise.  We have a needy student assistance fund.  We’ve been able to clothe them.  You can fly their parents in if they get hurt.  We can fly them home if there’s a tragic death in their family.  There’s a lot of education that needs to be done by somebody if none of you have any idea what we can do.  That’s all in place, we have a lot of people there, whether it’s compliance.  You’ve got to understand, compliance is not put there to say what you can’t do, compliance is there for what you can do to make a better environment for a student-athlete and a safer environment for a student-athlete.”

 

Cutcliffe will no doubt come across as cold-hearted to those calling for players to be paid.  But cold or not, he made one point — in a slightly different manner — that we’ve made here a million times.  “I love democracy and am a big believer in it,” the coach said.  “It’s never going to be perfect.  As long as we’re alive, it’s never going to be perfect.  I just think it’s kind of an overreaction.”

Cutcliffe’s analogy is correct.  The governance of college sports — like democracy — is never going to be perfect.  That doesn’t mean attempts shouldn’t be made to improve it, but whatever system is put in place… it won’t take long for the masses to poke holes in it and complain about it.

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South Carolina Plays The “Family Feud” As Spurrier Throws Another Assistant Under The Bus

Members of the South Carolina football program are going to get plenty of unwanted questions this week.  In case you missed it, the weekend wasn’t a great one for the Gamecocks.  And the lost ballgame at Georgia seems to be the least of Carolina’s worries.

After the Bulldogs had registered a 41-30 victory over the Cocks, the screeching in the postgame press conferences began.  The first comments were in regards to a on-field shoving match between linebackers coach Kirk Botkin and defensive line coach Deke Adams.  It was an argument caught on camera:

 

South Carolina Coaches FIGHT!!!

 

Told about the incident after the game, Steve Spurrier responded by saying, “Well, at least they care.”  Yesterday, he followed up: “Out of character.  Obviously, that need not happen anymore.  They’re OK now, and hopefully that will not happen again.”

Carolina’s assistants might be OK with one another, but one has to wonder how defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward feels about Spurrier tossing him under the proverbial bus following Saturday’s poor showing.  Reminiscent of previous incidents, the Ol’ Ball Coach let everyone know that the screwups on defense need to be corrected… by an underling:

 

“We’ve got to be a little more creative.  We can’t just sit there and never disguise and say, ‘Com on.’  I look out there and I see all those either redshirt freshmen or second-year guys and I’m starting to wonder if we were expecting a little bit much out of all those guys.  But it is a freshman-laden defense out there, and they’re going to take their lumps, I guess, but we’ve got to be creative.  We’re going to change our defense a little bit.  We’re not going to just stand there like we did today.  I’ll give Coach Ward some suggestions.”

 

While there was plenty of coach-on-coach crime to go around, the Gamecocks’ star player did a little griping his own self.  Defensive end Jadeveon Clowney — who Georgia steered clear of for the vast majority of the game — wasn’t happy with his lack of playmaking opportunities on Saturday.

“Very frustrating,” Clowney said.  “I told the coaches you got to put me somewhere else.  In the middle if you want to.  Somewhere I can make some plays, help my team get in position to win.”

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