Friday, January 30, 2009

Morning newsbits

Surprising number of developments in Auburn World yesterday evening, starting with ...


Yeah, nevermind that whole "we're No. 2" thing. I'd rather they have a horrible shooting night and suffer a surprising loss now than in March, but the Auburn women most certainly had a horrible shooting night and suffered a surprising loss last night in Athens. Regression to the mean, you are harsh, harsh mistress.

The good news is that Auburn didn't really have some giant letdown, at least not in most phases of the game: they outrebounded the Dawgs, committed fewer turnovers, got to the line 13 more times in Georgia's gym. But they let the home team shoot 52 percent--if you want a letdown, there it is--while shooting 33 percent themselves. It was just a bad night. It happens, and unlike the men's version on Tuesday, the women had the misfortune for it to come against a good team playing some very good basketball. So it goes.

The question is what it does to Auburn's hopes of a No. 1 seed. It probably slims the margin-for-error a little bit, but my extremely uneducated guess would be that UConn and the top Big 12 team will definitely wind up on the top line, with the top SEC team, the top Pac-10 team, the top ACC team, and the No. 2 Big 12 team all squabbling for the other two spots. With Duke's loss to Florida St. the ACC has some ground to make up, and if the SEC and Pac-10 champs are kind of even the edge would go to the SEC. So for the moment I'm guessing Auburn and Baylor are the last No. 1's, but another loss would knock the Tigers down a peg an require both an SEC title and a berth in the SEC tournament finals to get back up again.

Salaries ho! The contract terms for the new staff leaked last night, and thanks to Alabama's and Tennessee's recent offseason splurge-o-ramas the Chiznick and this crew look like out-and-out bargains by comparison. Unlike Woodberry the most notable number for me isn't that Roof makes a tiny percentage more than Malzahn--as much success as he'd had, Malzahn's still only been coaching at the college level for three years--but that Luper is making less than Grimes or Rocker. Remember when the rumor was that Luper had signed on for $400K? That figure was just a bit on the high side, as it turns out.

Chizik back on the record. The head man himself got cornered after a speaking engagement in Montgomery and shared a few carefully chosen words with the press. He declined to comment on Willis (with the well-worn "I'm only going to talk about guys that are here" dodge, a line so classic they ought to put it up on those old cowboy-hat shaped Arby's signs) or the contract situation, and while the confirmation we're not getting the last two coaches on board before Signing Day is technically new, I think we'd also figured that already. The highlight, actually, was this:
On shooting for the moon with the recruits: "We're at Auburn. I think that says it all."
And the congregation said Amen!

Hey, whaddya know, a commit. Not surprisingly, former Arkansas St. commit and two-star Mississippi safety Daren Bates grabbed his Auburn offer with both hands last night. Despite the, ahem, ambivalent evaluation of his SEC potential, both Rivals and Scout claimed that he also carried an Alabama offer. As you might well imagine, the discussion surrounding Bates's commitment and his alleged choice between the two schools undertaken in the comment threads was levelheaded, thought-provoking, and rigorously rational at all times. Also, in a totally unrelated matter, Bates is a high school teammate of Aubrey Phillips, the last o-lineman on Auburn's board.

No sense in worrying too much before all the signatures are in on Wednesday, and you can't really call Bates Auburn's 24th commitment when Tyler Knight is expected by virtually everyone (that I can see) to go the JUCO route ... but as things stand now that is 23 commitments with nary a confirmed grayshirt among them and a whole boatload of high-profile visitors coming this weekend. I'll say this: Chizik is, at the very least, not in any danger of leaving the scholarship he didn't want to spend on Durst unused.

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