Friday, March 06, 2009
--We can finally put the Fantastical Mr. Oku watch to bed this morning as Tennessee's Rivals site reported late last night that he'd signed with--whaddya know--the Vols. Obviously, with as many quality running backs (and total players ... remember, someone's got to fail to qualify to trim the class to 25) as Auburn already signed in this class, the biggest negative of Oku's decision isn't that he's not coming to the Plains, it's that he might hurt us down the road as a Vol. So it goes.
The JCCW genuinely wishes Mr. Oku the best of luck, Auburn games excepted, in the hopes the next eccentric weirdo flaky kid isn't summarily dismissed as "crazy"/"a vag"/"not worth the trouble" before he's even set foot on campus. The world ought to be big enough for weirdo flakes, right? (If Oku turns out to be a high-maintenance prima donna who goes Owens on the Vols, please forget I ever wrote this paragraph.)
--More on textbookgate: Will updates his previous post with the important detail that the violations appear to have fallen inside Alabama's "repeat offender" window, which hadn't even closed the last time the Tide were ensnared in one of the NCAA's nets. Uh-oh.
The consensus seems to be growing that some scholarship loss is imminent, particularly when we're talking about thousands of dollars' worth of books. That the Tide have such a long rap sheet with the NCAA (and that the NCAA rejected their request for summary disposition) makes it much, much more likely in my view that some serious sanctions may be coming ... though Jay takes the opportunity to speculate about a much darker--and, frankly, kind of hilarious from our perspective--future for 'Bama.
The coldly rational part of my brain that I don't particularly like actually feels a little bit of sympathy for the Tide--if Auburn's football team was about to land in the NCAA's jail cell because a handful of athletes tried to do their friends a solid and a handful of bookstore employees weren't on the ball enough to notice, I'd be livid.
Then again: Auburn hasn't had a Textbookgate. Georgia hasn't had a Textbookgate. Florida, Ole Miss, South Carolina ... no one else in the SEC has had this problem. (When I read that Alabama defended themselves by saying the athletes didn't know it was an infraction ... well, isn't it someone's job to teach them what's an infraction and what isn't?) And it wouldn't be so big a deal anyway, one suspects, if not for 'Bama's preexisiting history ... at which point we have to point out that the SEC's other schools haven't had an Albert Means-level scandal this decade, either.
This is the bed Alabama--unfortunately for their fans--has made for themselves. Now we wait, and see how the NCAA makes them lie in it.
--South Carolina's ugly home loss to Tennessee last night sealed the Vols' spot on top of the SEC East, meaning Auburn and Tennessee are now locked in to a potential matchup in the SEC Tournament semifinals should they survive the quarters. Who Auburn's quarterfinal opponent will be is still very much up in the air--it'll be the winner of a first-round meeting between Arkansas and the third-place East team, so probably the third-place East team. That should be the winner of Saturday's bubble elimination game between Florida and Kentucky, but if Carolina slips up on the road at Georgia--after their no-show at Vandy and Georgia's resurgence in Lexington, it's hardly out of the question--the 'Cocks could slip to third in their division via tiebreaker.
So, yeah, I kinda wish Carolina had taken care of business last night and stuck the Vols--quite obviously the hottest team in the league at the moment, with back-to-back road wins over two of their fellow SEC bubblers--in the other half of the tourney bracket, forcing them to tangle with LSU instead. That would have left Auburn with the more manageable prospect of a 1. Kentucky/Florida 2. Carolina path to the finals. Then again, from my mid-major perspective, Carolina's loss was just what the doctor ordered: thanks to Florida falling out of the RPI top 50, the 'Cocks now have zero RPI top 50 wins. They're 0-4 at that level despite getting two different shots at home. The 7-3 mark against teams 50-100 isn't bad (by contrast, Kentucky is 4-4), but that's not NCAA-worthy. The current NCAA pecking order amongst the East bubblers looks to me like 1. Florida 2. Kentucky 3. Carolina, but it's hard to make a case for any of the three of them entering today. Would you like a stat to blow your mind? Here's one: Northwestern (who has never been to the NCAA Tournament and wasn't even considered a bubble team until they upset Purdue on the road Wednesday) has more RPI top 50 wins than Kentucky, Florida, and South Carolina combined. Right now, Florida getting hot or a surprise automatic-bid winner are the only things standing between the SEC and a disastrous two-bid season.