I swear, when Jay Jacobs and the Powers That Be release their third album, we're naming it "You Go Strong to Your Mouth or You Don't Go at All."
You know, this could go better for us. In a truly stunning development, basketball developments have slowed the coverage of the Tide's spring practice thanks to the will-he-or-won't-he question mark now hanging over Anthony Grant's head.
As someone who has a ton of respect for what Grant's accomplished at VCU and has probably even more respect for what Mike Anderson has pulled off at UAB and Mizzou, I feel like Auburn's in a bit of a no-win situation here. I don't want the Tide to hire Grant or Anderson, and the latter's definitely a possibility if Grant wants to hold out and hope the Florida job comes open (as it may if Kentucky fires Gillespie and Donovan bolts for the bluegrass). But the best-case scenario is still for Grant to say no. I think there's definitely a chance Anderson would choose to stick with the rising juggernaut he's creating in Columbia, at a campus where hoops is every bit as big a deal as the football team, rather than rebuild in the shadow of the Coachbot. I know Anderson's an Alabama native, but the only school in the state he has any ties to is Jeff State. The guess here is that the odds are better than 50/50 in 'Bama's favor if they have to go hard after Anderson, but it's not exactly Momma calling.
Now, if they somehow manage to land neither? I don't know who's next in line. This, as an Auburn fan, is what I'm hoping for.
I'm trying to think of the appropriate metaphor here. Via Fields of Donahue, footage of Trooper Taylor leading a wide receiving drill in which his charges break off the line with "No drops":
So what is this most like? A line of chihuahuas saying "No yipping!"? A line of Washington politicians saying "No partisanship!"? A line of fast-food employees saying "No mistakes!"? So many possibilities.
Incidentally, the video is courtesy of the OA-News's AuburnVersus channel and is one of six in a series from Tuesday. The others are at that link.
Baseball. PPL has a typically kick-ass season review with the first third of the year now in the rearview. He notes that despite having some of the best bats in the SEC, Auburn is pretty much right in line with the (decidedly modest) expectations set out for them by the preseason polls, thanks to some awful relief pitching and defense the new coaching staff hasn't been able to correct yet. But there are signs of improvement:
As much as Auburn has struggled pitching, Scott Foxhall (the pitching coach) has a proven track record and Auburn does actually have some good things going for it. Auburn is in the middle of the SEC for staff strikeouts (192) and last year had 394 as a staff. It took Auburn all of March and February combined to reach 196 last year.I strongly suggest you read the rest.
Back to hoops. Phillip Marshall notices that even worse than the SEC's down year on the hardcourt is that not many people realized how down a year it was:
It’s not the end of the world that the league only got three teams in the field. A few years back, only three ACC teams made it. But what is troubling for the SEC, or should be, is the fact that it didn’t seem to make a ripple nationally. Outside of the southeast, nobody seemed to notice.It's a pretty shrewd observation here by Marshall, but the SEC's hoops problem isn't just that Florida fell back off the wagon or that Kentucky's having issues. It's that aside from Kentucky, no one in the entire league has built a consistent, year-in-year-out hoops program. The longest current streak of NCAA Tournament appearances currently belongs to Tennessee, at a whopping "four," and before those four the Vols had made the tournament just five times in 23 years. Arkansas of course was supposed to join the 'Cats as the league's second premier program when they joined up, but it hasn't worked out like that for quite some time. Every other team in the league has had "their" year or two over the past 20 where they jumped into the nation's elite, but no one in the SEC's second tier has had the staying power of a Maryland, an Illinois, a Washington, or any of those other perennial NCAA teams that make up the second tier of the nation's primary hoops leagues.
When talking heads have brought up power conferences this season, the SEC has not even been mentioned. It’s like it has become irrelevant ...
When Florida won back-to-back national basketball championships, it should have helped the league’s national image. But when the Gators followed that up by missing out on the tournament two straight seasons, it only reinforced old stereotypes. When Kentucky isn’t a national force, the league goes even further off the radar.
The SEC is such a football power, known so much for football, that everything else is overshadowed. Even when the SEC has been strong in basketball, it has not been mentioned in the same breath as the Big East or the ACC or even the Big Ten.
If the SEC wants to become a national player on the hoops scene, it's not about taking football less seriously or even getting Kentucky back on its horse--it's about finding more coaches like Bruce Pearl who have the know-how to get their programs not just into the tournament discussion for a year or two but keep them there for good.