A Pearl to the Swine, A Byrd in the Hand

From Belmont to Knoxville? The Byrd may be the word.

Friend of the blog Henry Nichols has a great article on the steamy situation going down in Knoxville. In it Nichols recaps Pearl’s transgressions, adds a little vitriol, and suggests an able replacement for the Sweaty One.

Here are a few quotes of note:

When Pearl cried like a bitch on national TV for his foibles (or rather, for getting caught), Big Orange Nation would have liked to believe the man had to have been humbled at rock bottom.

Not so. The straw that will likely break his program’s back was his improper contact with a recruit just a few days later.

He continues:

By August, Pearl will likely have fallen on his sword or the NCAA, with Emmert, playing the  Robespierre role in the  Terror of the collegiate rule-breaking elite, not only issuing Pearl with at least a two-year show-cause penalty, but also likely punishing the Vols program further for every day, week, month that Hamilton doesn’t drag Pearl out to the guillotine himself.

Finally, his suggestion of a White Knight to restore the order in Knoxville:

Rick Byrd has punched Belmont’s Big Dance ticket four of the past six seasons and currently has the Bruins rolling at a program-best 30-4 clip, with half of his team’s losses this season coming by single digits to his alma mater.

But while Pearl seems to eschew off-court discipline lately in favor of on-court success at all costs, Byrd has consistently run a tight ship over the years with far less-desired recruits and made it work to his advantage.

There’s plenty of good stuff in there for the lovers and the haters, so I suggest you check it out on a lazy Saturday morning.

Luke Warm Linkage

You better coach like your greasy orange painted chest depends on it. Because it does.

Luke Warm Linkage

When "Fantasy" becomes "Nightmare."

Luke Warm Linkage

PeTA's gonna LoVE this one

EJSIC @ the SEC tournament

That’s right. Yours truly has been dispatched to provide up-to-the-minute updates live from the site of the 2010 SEC tournament at the “whatever-they’re-calling-it-now-that-the -Sommet-Group-failed-to-make-payment Center” in Nashville, TN. EJSIC will be your first stop for the sights, sounds, and even smells (if I can find a way to capture them on my phone) of the 2010 installment of the UK Invitational.

To get things started, here are the 3 biggest story lines heading into the tournament, and the 3 things I’m looking forward to the most:

Tournament Story Lines:

1. Will the runaway-train that has been the 2009-10 version of the Kentucky Wildcats continue their resurgence with a tournament title? The obvious favorites going in to the event, it will be interesting to see if the C-A-T-S CATS CATS CATS will be able to continue to build on their 29-2 (14-2) record by capturing the tournament championship. THE most talented team in the country (IMO), the Cats have been dominant at home, but have proven to be shaky away from Rupp Arena, including losses at Tennessee and against the fightin’ Devon Downey’s, as well as close games against Vanderbilt, Mississippi State, and Auburn. It will be interesting to see how this freshman dominated team will perform in what will be the first college tournament situation for most.

Can anyone derail DeCuz and the UK crazy train?

All that said, make no mistake about it; Nashville will become Lexington south this weekend, just as it is whenever UK comes to town.

2. Bubbles bursting. It is my opinion that none of Florida, Ole Miss, and Mississippi State will make the Big Dance without a win in this tournament, and it is shaping up to be elimination Friday, with potential Tennessee/Ole Miss and Florida/Miss St matchups.

3. Who is SEC POY? The case for Devon Downey over either of John Wall or DeMarcus Cousins was a strong one after ‘lil Carolina’s upset of then #1 UK, but it has become increasingly difficult to ignore the team’s late season slide. However, Downey may have thrust himself back into consideration, after a 26 point performance last week at the dump that is Memorial Gym. With a deep tourney run, and perhaps another upset of Kentucky should they beat ‘Bama on Thursday, things could get interesting.

Things I’m Looking Forward To:

Bruce Pearl is a show unto himself.

1. Vandy fans. I was at the SEC/Sun Belt Classic in mid-December, which showcased MTSU vs. Tennessee and Vandy vs. Western Kentucky at the same venue as the SEC tournament. Vandy fans showed why they were the joke of the SEC by managing to attract **maybe** 200 fans to a game in their hometown. Meanwhile, WKU had 6-8 thousand, and were a raucous bunch. No one would have guessed they were the team 4-3 heading in and Vandy was the team nationally ranked. Well Vandy fans (or as I like to call them, “Alabama football fans“), here’s your chance to redeem yourselves. I don’t expect any more than 400 of you, so don’t disappoint me.

2. A live view of “Dermal Soul Glo I’ve heard stories, but I want to see for myself if Bruce really does glow.

3. Demarcus Cousins. I’ve been eagerly awaiting this ticking-time-bomb’s explosion all year. If this kid played in the ACC, he already would have been involved in brawls with Chas McFarland and Ryan Reid, and having the opposing fans get a hold of your phone number would be a weekly ordeal. But even in a league as physically flaccid as the SEC, Cousins has been driven to temper tantrums and dirty plays numerous times. If he’s gonna flip out, and he will eventually, I just want to be there to see it.

I’m also looking forward to some “pity” beers to be bought for me by those feeling sorry for me, in my North Carolina t-shirt, although I don’t expect Kentucky fans to be overly willing to support my cause…………..dafunk…………….out.

Got a question, an angle you’d like me to cover at the tourney, or some hate-filled garbage to spew???? Shoot me an email at dafunk.EJSIC@yahoo.com, and I’ll get back to ya ASAP.

Pearl to aid Knoxville Police

Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl has agreed to help Knoxville police in any investigations stemming from the January 1st arrest of four members of Pearl’s squad. Pearl has a well-documented past of luring unsuspecting people into revealing information via recording device.

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Knoxville police chief Sterling Owen announced the decision a few hours after the arrests: “Bruce’s abilities of persuasion are second only to his high judge of character. We believe he’ll be able to talk to his players and determine which one claims ownership of the altered handgun. He’s a professional and he’ll keep the conversation casual which should help convince a jury that this information wasn’t obtained by force.”

At this time, we’ve been unable to extract the necessary information. Our plan is to have Bruce wired and allow him to visit with each player as if he was acting as a legal representative. Of course, we’ll be listening the whole time and hopefully one admits to ownership or three of them rat.”

Pearl was unavailable for contact, but his agent spent a few minutes with EJSIC: “Bruce has always loved the adrenaline rush of going undercover. He’s done it before and Knoxville police were really comfortable using a guy who already knows the basics and doesn’t need to be trained. He won’t chicken out. There’s no boundary Bruce isn’t willing to cross in a situation like this. Ethics? This is bigger than ethics. This is real life.”

Neither KPD nor Pearl’s representative were willing to discuss the future of the basketball players. An indefinite suspension seems likely until more details are revealed. Stay tuned to EJSIC for any new information.

Vols win ugly game against rival Tigers

The last time the Tennessee Volunteers traveled across state to play in Memphis, the game buzzed with excitement for a week prior: both teams were ranked #1 and #2 respectively, Memphis was undefeated, and Tennessee was looking for a season-signifying win. Two years later, they returned to the battlegrounds with much less fanfare. The Tigers are unranked with a depleted roster thanks to the well-documented departure of former coach John Calipari. Tennessee is ranked 14th in both major polls, but still has plenty of question marks.

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I decided to take the game in first hand for EJSIC as it represents one of the hottest in-state rivalries in college basketball outside of Kentucky-Louisville and North Carolina-Duke. Some questioned how heated the game would be with the absence of Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl’s archrival on the opposite sideline. All questions were answered when Volunteer guard J.P. Prince thuggishly danced in the face of Elliot Williams before the opening tip. The animosity continued with Tiger Will Coleman landing an unnecessary shoulder into the chest of Wayne Chism which resulted in double technical fouls.

Other than the antics, the only thing worse than the actual basketball played on the court was, according to my amigos at home watching the game, Jimmy Dykes’ less than insightful and sometimes outlandish commentary on the game. (I recorded the game on DVR and I’ll give him a listen later to see how bad it was. I wonder if he used his spice formula to determine if either team is a Final Four contender?)

Memphis Tigers

nullThe Good: Doneal Mack. Throughout his time at Memphis, Mack has been labeled as a player who did not stand out in the big games. Today, he was easily the best player the Tigers had on the floor. He was unafraid to take shots and led the team with 15 points. He fouled out of the game with just less than 4 minutes left which left a gaping hole in the Memphis offense.

The Bad: Memphis’ other guards. All Tiger guards not named Mack went a combined 4 for 23. Willie Kemp, Elliot Williams, and Roburt Sallie can not play that bad for this particular Memphis team. The depth is not there for the starters to have an off-night.

The Ugly: The inside game. Rebounding, the forwards, etc were all ugly for Memphis today. They were outrebounded 42-26 and thoroughly outplayed down low. Tennessee went after the ball in the air, Memphis did not. Starting forward Pierre Henderson-Niles managed 2 rebounds in just 15 minutes of play. Rebounding was a key in the Tigers recent loss to UMass and it was again today.

Tennessee Volunteers

nullThe Good: Wayne Chism. The starting center has made his fair share of boneheaded plays in the past, but today, he was remarkably efficient. Chism finished with 15 points and 9 rebounds including a perfect 5 for 5 at the free throw line as well as 5 of 7 from the field. Maybe the most surprising stat of the game: he didn’t attempt a single three pointer. Chism has often been a player who wandered behind the arc and even demonstrated poor decision making with late game three point attempts. Today, he played very well.

The Bad: Point guard play. It has been the thorn in Bruce Pearl’s side during his tenure in Knoxville. It usually rears its head in March when the games get tighter, but it was pretty evident today. Starting PG Bobby Maze played 21 minutes, amassed 3 measly points, 0 assists, and fouled out of the game. Backup Melvin Goins managed to score 8 points, but committed 2 turnovers against only 1 assist. They even let PF Tyler Smith run the position a few times during the game. If they want to win when it matters, Pearl has to find someone who can provide quality play for an entire game against elite competition.

The Ugly: Tennessee’s ability to put the game away. The Vols led by 13 points with 13:14 to go in the 2nd half before allowing the Tigers to claw back into the game. The Vols held a significant edge on the boards, contained Elliot Williams to one of his worst games of the season, and held the Tigers to a low 31% shooting for the game. Yet, they only won by 7 points. The Vols suffered a heavy drought in the latter stages of the game when Memphis switched to a 2-3 zone which it cannot do against better competition.

nullOverall: The Memphis fans before the game on Beale Street and throughout the two hours at FedEx Forum made for a great atmosphere. The Bar-B-Que nachos were delicious and I enjoyed the time. However, I don’t see much success for either of these teams in the month that matters given their current states. Of course, there’s plenty of time left for both to make improvements. Next year’s game should provide some more fireworks in the rivalry with quite a few future phenoms signed to play for both teams.