Monday, March 14, 2011

14 MAR 11: Out With the Tide

When it comes to Southeastern Conference football, every game matters and the conference final in Atlanta is crucial. When it comes to Southeastern Conference basketball.... well, apparently it's very different. It looked Sunday night like the conference tournament at the Georgia Dome was as meaningful a sports event as Wrestlemania in three weeks.

Georgia was selected to the NCAA men's basketball tournament Sunday night, while Alabama was not. The Bulldogs were chosen even though the Crimson Tide beat them twice in the last nine days. You almost want to conclude the selection committee spent the last two weekends watching Charlie Sheen videos.

Alabama and Georgia had identical 21-11 records as of Sunday night. Alabama won the S.E.C. Western Division title, while Georgia finished tied for third in the East. Is this some sort of strange payback for the divisional imbalance of football season?

(On top of that, Alabama beat Southeastern Conference tournament champion Kentucky in mid-January. Injustices like this show why college basketball needs a tournament to determine the real.... oh wait....)

Alabama outlasted Georgia 65-59 in overtime, at the Southeastern Conference quarterfinals. A winning basket by Georgia at the end of regulation time was denied, because Bulldogs coach Mark Fox called a time out moments before the shot. So maybe the selection committee concluded the referees blew it.

Some so-called college basketball experts concluded Alabama's win over Georgia clinched the Crimson Tide's place in the national tournament. But they were wrong, as Georgia's #10 seed indicates the Bulldogs rated better than five other at-large teams. The "bracketologists" ought to go back to their old jobs, trying to fix the U.S. economy.

It may sting even more that Alabama-Birmingham and Alabama State are in the NCAA men's tournament, while the Crimson Tide are left out. They both face preliminary games Tuesday and Wednesday, in what's now being called "the First Four." In NASCAR that title would be a compliment - but this seems like exactly the opposite.

Georgia earns (at least in the selection committee's eyes) a trip to Charlotte for the NCAA tournament. Its first game will be Friday against Washington, with the winner likely to face North Carolina in the next round. Take the floor against Heels of Tar, and your playoff run may not go far.

People are complaining about the NCAA basketball selections all over the place -- even (giggle) on a special "hotline" for such things. This year instead of "My Bracket is Money," Alabama fans can say the overall bracket is meaningless.

At least Alabama was selected Sunday night as a top seed in the National Invitational Tournament. It will host Coastal Carolina Tuesday night -- and at this point, the Crimson Tide is in no position to be NIT-picky.

Meanwhile, the last coach to take an area team to the NCAA men's basketball finals was fired over the weekend. Paul Hewitt coached Georgia Tech for 11 years. Now the team will need a new coach to go with the new pavilion it plans to build - and we all know how well that worked this past season at Auburn.

And thank you, Charles Barkley - for predicting my beloved Kansas Jayhawks will win its second men's national title in four years! Does this mean I can be added to your "Fave Five" list?

Lest we forget: Columbus hosted its first-ever NCAA national championship event over the weekend. Kentucky won the team rifle title by holding off West Virginia - continuing a rivalry which I think goes back to the Hatfields and McCoys.

Columbus State had a national champion in individual air rifle last year, but there was no repeat in 2011. And even more shockingly, Army finished eighth out of eight rifle teams - behind Navy. Did the midshipmen bring bigger guns or something?

(Both Army and Navy lagged behind third-place Texas Christian. Yes, a "Christian" university finished high in team rifle - proving the story of young David hurling rocks hasn't been completely forgotten.)

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E-MAIL UPDATE: Our goal was to have an easy weekend of blogging, to make the transition to Daylight Time. But that disappointed one reader....

Aww Come On Richard

Are you going to avoid the four Auburn football players being arrested? I was waiting to see all of your famous puns pertaining to this situation. That Hurtsboro mess has more than mold and a rotten smell to it. Seriously, I enjoy your humorous remarks about the "goings on" in our area. Keep up the great work! Larry

This is why today's main topic involves college basketball. If I didn't bring it up, a lot of local sports fans would forget it exists.

But anyway: four Auburn University football players indeed were arrested on robbery charges. Police say three of them broke into a home, and one was armed with a handgun. Don't these football players realize you're supposed to "take it TO the house" - not from it?

Coach Gene Chizik dismissed all four suspects from the football team, after learning of their arrest. Even though they played on the BCS championship team, their names were off the online 2010 Auburn roster Sunday night. Being part of an off-season burglary ring probably won't get you a championship ring.

We're left to wonder why these Auburn football players might break into a home to rob it. Maybe we should send the blame to New York - because the stress of a pro football lockout may have been more than they could bear.

Speaking of colleges, here's a comment about the trimming of the HOPE scholarship program in Georgia:

Remember in college when we shelled out money for textbooks? Today books are so expensive..Last year I bought a small work book with detachable pages to be turned in..It cost me $80..I asked where the text was that went with it and I was assured what I had in my hand was $80..Now,the big thing is to rent text and turn them back in after the semester..Where were these people when we were in college?..Our $30 book could have been rented for $10..Now with inflation a $30 book is over $100..Oh,I forgot now it has colored pictures for those on HOPE who are taking remedial classes.The only comment I have heard about 9.7 GPA and over 1200 on SAT getting you the full HOPE is some schools will pad grades even more than they do now..

Wow - if schools are "padding" so much that students have grade point averages more than double a 4.0, Georgia's in serious trouble....

I made it through college with several "used books" sold at the campus bookstore. In fact, my bookshelf still has one with the "used" stamp on it - a media history book called "The Press and America" which cost me $12.75. The demise of the newspaper makes even that title seem quaint, more than 30 years later.

But I wonder if the rise of e-books and iPads will change the idea of textbooks completely. Skeptics of student ethics think it's happened already - with "Cliff Notes" being succeeded by Droid Doodles.

And speaking of books, one other e-mail invites us....

here's an upcoming book signing.

The Phenix City-Russell County Library will have several local authors on hand next Sunday afternoon. One woman has a children's book called "The Day the Ghost Turned Orange." Some Auburn fans simply can't keep their loyalties private, can they?

Let's quickly check the spectrum of other weekend news....

+ The Muscogee County Republican Party selected Seth Harp as its new chair. One of the new vice presidents is Jerry Luquire of the Georgia Christian Coalition - so don't expect this group to have any Sunday meetings for a while.

(Talk about strange bedfellows! Seth Harp led the fight in the Georgia legislature for local-option Sunday liquor sales in stores, while Jerry Luquire currently is leading the fight against it. At least Luquire isn't likely to attempt a coup by spiking Harp's coffee.)

+ Port Columbus held its annual "Riverblast" festival, complete with the firing of the Civil War cannon. Wow, did this fool me! I heard an explosion at Benning Park and thought the final standing section of the old Baker High School was crumbling to the ground.

+ A luncheon marked the 104th birthday of Phenix City's Wilma Whiddon. She actually was born in Girard, which is now part of Phenix City - and she's lived long enough to see some people wish Phenix City would become part of Columbus.

+ The Columbus Lions played a pre-season indoor football game, knocking off North Georgia 63-20. The defending champions may get an extra look from N.F.L. scouts this spring. It doesn't take much to turn an RB into an R.P. - from running back to replacement player.

+ Instant Message to Mister T's Tax Service and Thrift Store on 12th Avenue: I'm tempted to stop right there and declare the jokes concluded for the day. But I saw your sign outside, and admit that's a different approach - to "e-file now" on "metal bunk beds."

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