Archive for February, 2011

Jadeveon Clowney to South Carolina: Is SEC East theirs?

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Was South Carolina a one trick pony last season? Maybe not.

The Gamecocks, who won their first SEC East Division title and played in their first conference championship game last season, just landed the No. 1 recruit in the country: Jadeveon Clowney.

Even in the uncertain world of recruiting, Clowney is viewed as a difference-maker. He’s a 6-5 defensive end — I’ve seen his weight listed at anywhere from 235 to 252 pounds — who joins a program that generally has had solid defenses. He had 57 sacks in his last two seasons. His arrival follows last year’s addition of running back Marcus Lattimore, who was the biggest key to Steve Spurrier’s offense.

It’s noteworthy that Clowney picked South Carolina over several schools, including Alabama and Clemson.

Granted, it was a down season in the SEC East. South Carolina was the only school with a winning conference record at 5-3. But Clowney’s arrival seemingly affirms the Gamecocks aren’t going anywhere.

Do you agree? Will Georgia …

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Georgia wins but looks like far from NCAA tournament team

Jeremy Price reaches for a loose ball -- and his team had to reach at the end to hold on for a win. (Tracy Glantz/The State)

Jeremy Price reaches for ball, and his team had to reach at end but held on for win. (The State)

COLUMBIA, S.C. – Georgia just won a late-season conference basketball game on the road, which given the program’s general lack of success over the past several seasons hardly is something to brush away, like crumbs off a table.

But there’s reason to be concerned here.

South Carolina scored nine points in the first half Saturday. It made two of its first 21 shots. That’s difficult to do when there aren’t hurricane-force winds. It was comic relief surpassed only by the halftime highlight show on the video screen, when the Gamecocks’ scoreboard operator showed all four field goals (out of 28 attempts) the team made in the half.

The Bulldogs led 15-3. And 24-5. And 28-9 (halftime). And then, well, almost everybody stopped paying attention. Including Georgia.

The Bulldogs won, but only barely, 60-56. They could have lost. I have this theory that those words should never follow …

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LIVE BLOG: Georgia tries to strengthen NCAA tourney bid

An early shot from Columbia Life Arena. I'm assuming a few fans show up.

An early shot from Colonial Life Arena. I'm assuming a few fans will show up.

COLUMBIA, S.C.  — Georgia is back in Columbia for its second important SEC game in five months. Fortunately, this time the Bulldogs won’t have to worry about Marcus Lattimore.

The Bulldogs, hoping to strengthen their standing in the conference and the NCAA tournament picture, face struggling South Carolina today. The challenge for the basketball team seems less daunting than it was for the football team, which lost to the Gamecocks almost five months ago to the day (Sept. 11), the first of four straight defeats. (Lattimore rushed for 182 yards and two touchdowns in a 17-6 South Carolina win.)

Mark Fox’s team needs this game. The Dogs (16-7, 5-4) already have lost four SEC games, and in their next three after South Carolina face Vanderbilt (home), Tennessee (road) and Florida (road) — all teams they’ve lost to this season.  With seven games remaining before the conference tournament, Georgia …

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NCAA tournament again will be thin on Georgia schools

Looking ahead to the NCAA tournament? Georgia (and coach Mark Fox) likely will be only participant.

Looking ahead to NCAA tournament? UGA (and coach Mark Fox) likely will be only state team.

For the first time in the 73-year history of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, every game will be televised on four different networks: CBS, TBS, TNT and truTV. (It’s believed truTV also will carry a three-part mini-series: “Whatever happened to Paul Hewitt?”)

And once again, Georgia will rank with Hawaii, Alaska and South Dakota among the states least populating the tournament field.

Despite a couple of hiccups, UGA should still get in. According to ESPN’s “bracketologist” Joe Lunardi, the Bulldogs would be an 11th seed in the Southeast Regional if the tournament started today. (He has them facing Missouri in the Tampa sub-regional.)

Obviously, if Georgia loses at South Carolina Saturday, things become a little more desperate. (FYI: I’ll be at the game in Columbia and live blogging, which is scheduled for a 4 p.m. tipoff. So don’t touch that dial!)

But college hoops in the …

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Time is running out for Thrashers (and their Cup winners)

Dustin Byfuglien is still hoping the Thrashers have enough to rebound and make the playoffs.

Dustin Byfuglien still believes the Thrashers can rebound and make the playoffs but it has been a struggle lately. (AP photo)

First they amazed us, then they settled, then they sank.

It’s not the way any team wants a season to unfold, let alone one encumbered by knucklehead ownership, economic realities and 37 rumors a week about being picked up in Atlanta one day and dropped in Quebec, Winnipeg or maybe some lovely prairie just outside of Swift Current the next.

The Thrashers have 26 games left to try to secure a playoff berth. That begins with the Friday night game against, ironically, the New York Rangers, their only postseason opponent in history (which didn’t turn out so well).

Since the early wonder of a 10-2 stretch and a 19-11-5 start, they’ve descended. Two wins in the last 13 (2-7-4). Five wins in the last 21 (5-11-5). They currently sit out of a playoff position for the first time since Nov. 20.

There are too many nights when they look lost, overmatched and …

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Georgia’s dream recruiting class? Sites credit Mike Bobo

Mike Bobo helped develop Aaron Murray and is being credited for Georgia's recruiting class.

Mike Bobo helped Aaron Murray and is being credited for Georgia's recruiting class.

You know that recruiting class that Georgia has been lauded for nationally and stirred Bulldog fans into a collective frenzy (or at least as much as that’s possible in February)? The individual getting the most credit is also the Dogs’ most maligned assistant coach:  offensive coordinator Mike Bobo.

First, a few thoughts about Bobo: I’ve long believed some of the criticism directed at him has been unjustified. He deserves some credit for Aaron Murray’s rapid development last season. Georgia’s offense has been inconsistent at times. But that may stem less from design than it does having average running backs (no amplification needed), a weak line and the lack of a physical and emotional presence. Remember, too, that  Bobo is running the offense that coach Mark Richt wants.

OK, back to the recruiting honors. ESPN and Rivals both have named Bobo one of the top 25 recruiters for 2011. If you’re …

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Petrino tries to solicit recruits with billboard — in Yuma, Ariz.

Arkansas football billboard (blurry image via ArkansasSports360.com).

Arkansas billboard is 1,406 miles from campus (image via ArkansasSports360).

Last week we learned to what extent Georgia coach Mark Richt went to land Isaiah Crowell in recruiting (lining up other players in a formation, leaving vacant the running back position for Crowell’s on-campus visit). Now we know how far Bobby Petrino will go.

No. He didn’t offer $10,000 for their soul.

But here’s an interesting item via SportsByBrooks and ArkansasSports360. Arkansas athletics/football/Petrino/Beelzebub leased a 10-foot-by-36-foot billboard in Yuma, Ariz., which according to Mapquest is 1,406 miles from Fayetteville, Ark.

The billboard on Interstate 8 reads: “Arkansas Football. Visit ThisIsArkansasFootball.com.”

The cost:  $1,704.

Petrino’s objective was to land prospect Aaron Douglas, an offensive tackle from Arizona Western Junior College. He failed. Douglas decided to go to Alabama instead. Score one for Nick Saban.  (Not sure if the $1,704 therefore qualifies as a business loss …

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Al Horford an All-Star at center but he’s taking a beating

Al Horford, here with Joe Johnson, has taken charge and is an unexpected two-time All-Star at center.

Al Horford (with Joe Johnson) has taken charge and surprisingly is a two-time All-Star at center.

Have you ever seen or heard a 7-foot-1, 270-pound man beg? Stand near Tito Horford the next time he picks up the telephone to call the Hawks’ front office.

“I’ve been begging [general manager] Rick Sund and the Hawks for the last three years – please get a center so my son can pay his normal position,” the elder Horford said Tuesday from his home in the Dominican Republic. “He can’t push guys out of the box like I could. If he moved to forward, he would have a longer career.”

We suspected Al Horford would be a great NBA player. We watched him play on two national championship teams at Florida. It follows that when the Hawks drafted him third overall in 2007, we were overcome with the rarest of Hawks draft-day sensations: comfort.

But what has been stunning is that Horford has turned into an impact player at the wrong position. He just made the NBA’s Eastern …

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Hawks lay an egg and Drew threatens lineup changes

Josh Smith and the Hawks found no easy road to the basket. (AP photo)

Josh Smith and the Hawks found no easy path to the basket. (AP photo)

I normally don’t re-top a live blog. But the Hawks’ 117-83 loss to Philadelphia at Philips Arena Tuesday night was so humiliating on so many levels that I figured it was worth some sort of recap.

So here goes . . .

They trailed the Sixers — who entered the night with a 7-19 road record — by 20 points in the first quarter (33-13), when they committed seven turnovers and slept on defense (Philly shooting 14 of 23).

They trailed by 32 points at halftime (65-32), which set new standards for the most points allowed and the fewest points scored in the first half this season.

They never trailed by less than 28 points in the second half. (So much for the effect of wall-shaking halftime speeches.)

They played without starting center Al Horford (update below). Zaza Pachulia started in his place. Not that this was all Pachulia’s fault, but it’s worth noting he had as many rebounds at halftime (zero) as Horford, …

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Crowell’s recruitment aside, Washaun Ealey did this to himself (Update III)

Washaun Ealey is in a deep hole with coach Mark Richt.

Washaun Ealey is in a deep hole with coach Mark Richt.

(UPDATED AT 7 p.m. with Mark Richt statement.)

For the past two months at least — or since about the time most believed Georgia would land running back Isaiah Crowell in recruiting — there have been rumors that Washaun Ealey might transfer to Georgia Southern.

But what happened Tuesday when Ealey was suspended indefinitely isn’t about Crowell. It’s about Ealey –and maybe a little about coach Mark Richt.

Ealey has been inconsistent as a player,which is why the Bulldogs so desperately needed to land Crowell on national letter of intent day. But the more significant issues with the sophomore relating to his future in Athens have been off the field. Ealey’s arrest for a hit-and-run incident last summer — after multiple warnings about driving with a suspended license — infuriated Richt.

Rumors have been flying for the past 24 hours that Ealey last week missed a “punishment run,” which are handed out for things like missing …

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