Flash back to November. You remember what Will Muschamp had to say: "They've got a deep and talented roster, so don't let that new guy tell you he ain't got any players. I can tell you that right now. There are some good football players in that locker room."
Muschamp was correct to an extent. There is depth in the secondary and on the defensive line. There is talent, particularly in the secondary and the defensive line. And, if you check the rest of the roster you’ll find some other very talented players. There isn’t a better corner in the country than Vernon Hargreaves III, for example, and over on the other corner Jalen Tabor is a real stud, too. Down on the defensive line, Alex McCalister is going to be a terror off the edge and the Gators will have more quality depth at DT than they’ve had in awhile. Everybody expects Demarcus Robinson to finally fulfill all that untapped potential and Kelvin Taylor could thrive in this offense.
There are others. Just not enough of them. With the exception of the secondary and the defensive line there are far too many holes in the roster. For example, there are only eight scholarship linemen on the spring roster and only six are practicing. There are only four scholarship linebackers working out. It goes on and on.
To his credit, Jim McElwain hasn’t complained. The closest he’s come to a complaint was Friday when he was asked about the depth issues. While admitting there are holes in the roster, McElwain didn’t point fingers or blame Muschamp. He just admitted he doesn’t have enough players.
“You’ve got to play the hand you’re dealt and right now, quite honestly, the hand we were dealt is really insufficient at some of the areas,” McElwain said.
That was not the politically correct answer. It was simply the right answer. McElwain gains nothing by calling names or pointing fingers of blame. Muschamp was wildly popular among his players so anything that is construed as putting him down isn’t going to help the situation. But the players aren’t blind and they know as well as McElwain that there are holes in the roster. They’ll play harder for the new coach because he passed on an opportunity to trash Muschamp.
The Kentucky Wildcats are 38-0 and just two games away from the first unbeaten season since 1976 and the greatest single season record in college basketball history. If you go by what you saw Thursday night when they doubled up West Virginia, 78-39, and looked like an NBA team scrimmaging the local high school JV, then Kentucky steamrolls Wisconsin in Saturday’s first NCAA semifinal and then a week from today destroys the winner of Duke and Michigan State.
If you go by what we saw Saturday night when Notre Dame was a couple of bad possessions away from ending the Wildcats dream season, then you are very well aware that Wisconsin has what it takes to win it all and you know that both Duke and Michigan State are coached well enough to come up with a game plan that could result in an upset if they get to the final game against UK.
Kentucky is still the tallest and most talented team in the country, which means they have the widest margin for error of the remaining four teams. If the Wildcats can’t hit shots, they can still beat opponents to a pulp on the offensive boards and keep the ball alive until someone knocks it in. They are so physical and so deep that you can almost pencil it in that they’ll be the least affected by foul trouble and they will shoot more free throws. Defensively, they block shot after shot and they have enough mobile big guys to disrupt the other team’s perimeter shooting.
Yet, with all those things going for them against Notre Dame, the Irish had the last shot with a chance to win. Kentucky didn’t miss a shot from the field in the last 12 minutes of the game and still only won by two points against a team with only one starter taller than 6-5.
Wisconsin is taller, better defensively and more disciplined that that Notre Dame team. The Badgers aren’t going to be the least bit intimidated. Coach K has four national championships at Duke and this is Tom Izzo’s seventh Final Four (he has one national title), so their guys won’t be intimidated either.
The oddsmakers and the so-called experts will favor Kentucky to cut down the nets next Monday night in Indianapolis, but based on what we saw against Notre Dame, that doesn’t have near the certainty that it seemed to have just three days ago.
Wouldn’t you like to hear Nick Saban try to explain his “zero tolerance policy” to the girl Jonathan Taylor allegedly beat up Saturday night? Taylor is the guy that Saban gave a scholarship to back in January, claiming the 6-4, 340-pound nose tackle was the “kind of guy that deserved a second chance.”
Just in case you aren’t familiar with Taylor’s body of work over the past year, here’s a refresher:
Last March he was arrested in Athens for allegedly double-cashing his meal reimbursement checks from the University of Georgia. That’s a felony, but it didn’t get him dismissed from the team. Taking a page from his mentor, St. Bob, the patron saint of wayward boys and convicted felons down in Tallahassee, Mark Richt gave Taylor a second chance. Taylor repaid him by getting arrested and charged with a double felony for allegedly attempting to strangle and beating up his girlfriend.
That did get him dismissed at Georgia. Taylor promptly transferred to Copiah-Lincoln Community College in Mississippi where he played well enough that Alabama gave him a scholarship even though those three felony charges in Georgia continue to hang over his head. The “second chance” Saban talked about turned out to be bad judgment on the part of Saban, who, like Mark Richt, blamed Taylor for failing to live up to his end of a bargain to clean up his act.
It’s easy to point the finger at Taylor, who is going to do time in the big house if he’s convicted on any of the felony counts he has to answer for. The real question is why isn’t anyone pointing a finger at either Mark Richt or Nick Saban? Richt, at least, can say he gave Taylor a chance after a non-violent incident but a felony is a felony and Taylor should have been run long before the domestic violence.
For Saban, there is no excuse. He put winning above character and now he’s been exposed.
Bill Battle must feel like the really rich guy who can’t get the hottest chick in the bar to give him the time of day about now. He’s got millions to offer the right basketball coach and even more millions to pour into the Alabama basketball program in an attempt to bring it up to the level of Kentucky and Florida, but all that money can’t buy him any love at a time he needs a big name hire to counter what Bruce Pearl is doing down at Auburn.
Battle let it leak out earlier in the week that he was willing to start the bidding at $3 million and there was more where that came from if necessary to land Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall, the hottest non-iconic coach available. That sounded like a good idea at the moment, but as of Sunday, several well-heeled sources reported that Marshall told Battle thankee but no thankee once it became official that Texas was ousting Rick Barnes. Whatever Marshall wants, Texas will give him and he would be foolish to turn that job down given the amount of prep talent coming out of that state every year not to mention outstanding facilities and a booster machine that seemingly prints money.
The botched attempt to land Marshall probably cost Bama whatever slim chance it had to land Shaka Smart of VCU. It’s doubtful he would have listened anyway. Anthony Grant is one of his good friends and besides that, Shaka has already turned down better jobs although he’s never said no to $4 million a year.
There is always the chance that Battle could make an offer that would be hard to refuse by some established coach but odds are that at best, Bama is down to Plan C or Plan D. Even landing one of those up and comers is turning out problematic. Former Bama manager Steve Prohm, who has won big at Murray State, and rising star Archie Miller of Dayton probably could have been had a week ago for a million or so, but they’ve opted for the security of staying where they are rather than take a chance. Prohm doubled his salary to sign a contract extension at Murray State through 2020 and Miller got a hefty raise and an extension to stay at Dayton through 2022.
The way it’s shaping up right now, Louisiana Tech coach Mike White, a former Ole Miss point guard and son of the Duke athletic director, might be Alabama’s best bet. He’s a fine coach with a nice future, but is he capable of generating the same kind of excitement in Tuscaloosa that Bruce Pearl has brought to Auburn?
1. Murry Bartow, East Tennessee State
2. Howard Moore, Illinois-Chicago
? 3. Jerome Allen, Penn
? 4. Dale Layer, Liberty?
5. Steve Aggers, Loyola Marymount?
6. David Carter, Nevada?
7. Chuck Driesell, The Citadel?
8. Lenox Forrester, Southern Illinois-Edwardsville
9. Oliver Purnell, DePaul?
10. Milan Brown, Holy Cross?
11. Anthony Grant, Alabama?
12. Paul Hewitt, George Mason
? 13. Bill Grier, San Diego
14. Alan Major, Charlotte
15. Tom Pecora, Fordham
16. Rick Ray, Mississippi State
17. Steve Shields, Arkansas-Little Rock
18. Dave Bezold, Northern Kentucky
19. Geno Ford, Bradley
20. Jimmy Lallathin, Kennesaw State
21. Dickey Nutt, Southeast Missouri State
22. Luther Riley, Alcorn State
23. Herb Sendek, Arizona State
24. Donnie Tyndall, Tennessee
25. Steve Lavin, St. John’s
26. Rick Barnes, Texas
Rumblings: Once you get past the pie in the sky names at Tennessee, the two names that are at the head of the class are Butler coach Chris Holtman and Chattanooga coach Will Wade, although there are some reports that the Vols might target Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy … Now that Rhode Island’s Danny Hurley just signed a six-year contract extension, St. John’s apparently is trying to wrap up Chris Mullin … George Mason has interviewed Albany coach Will Brown. Would the folks at George Mason consider bringing back Rick Barnes for a second go-round? That was Barnes’ first head coaching job (20-10 record) back in 1987-88. After one year, Barnes succeeded Rick Pitino at Providence … The Arizona State job belongs to Duke assistant Jeff Capel if he wants it … The Citadel hired VMI head coach Duggar Baucom … Dave Leitao, the last coach to deliver three consecutive winning seasons at DePaul, is back for a second time. Leitao was 58-34 from 2002-05 before leaving for the Virginia job.
After watching Kentucky-Notre Dame, do you think the Wildcats are vulnerable against Wisconsin Saturday?
Bobby Hatfield and Bill Medley struggled along in doo wop but when producer Phil Spector discovered them and made them a duo named The Righteous Brothers their blue-eyed soul career took off. Spector introduced them to better better song writers who arranged the music to fit their talents perfectly and turned them into one of the top duos of the 1960s. Today’s music is “Soul and Inspiration,” a 1966 song by Carole King that hit #1 on the Billboard charts.