At one point early in the season, Tennessee lost six nonconference games in a seven-game stretch. The Vols looked as if they were going nowhere. But they defeated No. 11 Connecticut 60-57 on Jan. 21, beginning a turnaround. With six victories in their past eight games, they will show up for a 12:30 p.m. game today at Coleman Coliseum (SEC Network) as one of the hottest teams in the Southeastern Conference. What do they have now that they didn't have early in the season? A 6-foot-8, 250-pound freshman forward. Jarnell Stokes is a blue-chip player who graduated early from Southwind High School in Memphis. The Vols are 6-4 since he joined the team. He has started six of the nine games he has played in and is averaging 23 minutes, 8.4 points and 6.8 rebounds per game.
Tennessee is on a roll: four straight wins, three blowouts and a W in Gainesville. Alabama is a mystery, with the status of JaMychal Green and Tony Mitchell - their two leading scorers - still up in the air. Playing at home against Florida with Trevor Releford and Andrew Steele back, the Tide were even at halftime but fell apart in the second half when they discovered one of Tennessee's old problems: a flat-line at the worst possible time, nine minutes without a made shot as the Gators pulled away for a nine point win. That leaves Alabama at 16-9 but just 5-6 in the SEC, now behind the Vols in the standings. And since Vanderbilt just tattooed Ole Miss 102-76 - in Oxford, no less, almost certainly crushing their NCAA hopes - Tennessee now finds themselves sharing fourth place in the league with only Mississippi State.
Is there a better example of teams headed in opposite directions than the Crimson Tide and Volunteers? Picked in the preseason by the media to finish 11th in the SEC, the Volunteers have reeled off four straight league wins to move into a tie for fourth in the conference standings. Meanwhile, Alabama has dropped two straight league contests, marking its second conference losing streak of the season. While the Vols added a capable player in true freshman power forward Jarnell Stokes (10 points and four boards in UT's midweek thrashing of Arkansas) at midseason, the Crimson Tide has endured suspensions and injuries while fielding a piecemeal squad for much of conference play. And yet it's Alabama who enters Saturday's game with a far better RPI (UA 32, UT 110) and in control (on paper, at least) of its at-large bid fate. At this point, though, UA's RPI resembles a lifeboat on the Titanic.
The Alabama softball team slugged its way to a 12-9 victory over No. 20 ranked Georgia Tech to open the SEC/ACC/Big XII Challenge, Friday night at Jane B. Moore Field. After the win the Crimson Tide move to 5-0 on the young season. The two teams went back-and-forth all game long as each team collected 13 hits in a game that lasted nearly three and half hours. Seniors Jennifer Fenton and Cassie Reilly-Boccia paced the Crimson Tide attack with four hits each. Fenton scored three runs and drove in three with a stolen base while Reilly-Boccia drove in three runs and drew a walk. The four hits tied a career high for Fenton and set one for Reilly-Boccia.
The No. 6 Alabama gymnastics team (8-0 overall, 5-0 SEC) beat No. 5 Arkansas 197.650-196.125 in front of a sold-out crowd of 15,075 during the Crimson Tide's eighth annual Power of Pink meet. Friday marked the ninth time Alabama has sold out Coleman Coliseum and the eighth time in the past seven years. With the win, Alabama is now a perfect 17-0 in its pink leotards. In the midst of all things pink, for the third year in a row, prior to the meet, each Alabama gymnasts was introduced in tandem with a breast cancer survivor. "Seeing all of the pink just kind of set the stage for tonight," senior Geralen Stack-Eaton said. "As we walked out with our survivors on our arm, it was just so inspiring to see them and what they've endured and how much they've fought through. That to me, I just think it set the bar for tonight."
The Alabama baseball team opened its 2012 season with a 5-2 loss to the Florida Atlantic Owls on Friday night at Sewell-Thomas Stadium. The Crimson Tide is 0-1, while Florida Atlantic improves to 1-0. Alabama left-hander Taylor Guilbeau (0-1), who became the first true freshman to start a season-opener for the Tide since freshman were allowed to play Division-I baseball, allowed just one run on three hits, striking out four while walking two over five innings in his Crimson Tide debut. "I was very pleased with the start we got from Taylor Guilbeau in his five innings," UA head coach Mitch Gaspard said. "I was pleased with the way our guys threw the ball tonight. The sixth inning kind of got away from us. We made a big error there when we had a chance to get out of the inning. That led to what I believe were four unearned runs, and that was really the difference in the ballgame."
Auburn said it voted against the override and supports multiyear scholarships. Alabama and UAB didn't respond with their votes. Samford voted for the override. "It's a PR thing, that's all this is," Samford Athletics Director Martin Newton said. "It's a way for the NCAA to make themselves look like they have the student-athlete's best interest at heart."
South Carolina agreed in its response to the NCAA in December that major rules violations did take place. Spurrier bluntly summed up how he feels about the hearing when he said earlier this month: "Sometimes crap happens. You just have to deal with it."
Four days after being named the Defensive MVP of the BCS Championship Game (his second national title in three years), Upshaw was on the brink of hiring an agent when he told Doug Hendrickson, who he'd eventually choose as his representation, that he had a very deliberate desire to improve his pass-rush ability. Hendrickson called Giants defensive end Justin Tuck, who jumped on the phone with Upshaw and told him all about Caldwell, the pass-rush specialist who has assisted Tuck for years. "I want him," Upshaw said. "Get him to Pensacola by Sunday." Yes, less than one week after dominating LSU, Upshaw's celebration was over. He had bigger aspirations. Namely, being great. "I just wanted to get into it," Upshaw said Wednesday in Phoenix. "The Senior Bowl was coming up, and I wanted to play in that game. I wanted to get back to work. I didn't want to slack. That was my whole mindset going into it. "It's what I've always wanted to do: Leave a mark. I want to be remembered."