(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
The Crimson Tide visits the Plains with a 15-7 overall record and a 4-4 record in SEC play after a thrilling, 69-67, double-overtime win against Mississippi on Saturday. Auburn returns home, where it is 12-1 this season, after playing three of its last four games on the road to amass a 13-10 overall mark and a 3-6 record in the SEC. "They're doing a really good job defensively and mixing up their defenses," UA head coach Anthony Grant said of Auburn. "Their defense has been able to create offense for them and they have a variety of guys that can really score the basketball. They've only lost one game at home so, it will be a challenge to go in there and come out with a win."
This was the first suspension Grant handed down this season after sitting several starters in his first two seasons at Alabama. Senior JaMychal Green was one who missed action last year for disciplinary reasons. Green spoke with Mitchell after the suspension and urged him not to do "anything dumb and stupid." Mitchell’s 13.1-point scoring average trails only Green’s 13.8 a game. "That was the main point of going to talk to him because I’ve been through it," Green said. "I told him you can’t come back with a bad attitude. You have to come back with a new state of mind and just get better from it."
Alabama has won two games in a row, home victories against Arkansas and Ole Miss, to pull back to .500 in SEC play, but Grant was continuing to look at various lineups even before the Mitchell suspension. UA used 11 different players in the overtime win against Ole Miss, getting solid bench production from Mitchell and Charles Hankerson in particular. "Right now, for our team, I think it's a positive," Grant said. "The thing that we've got to get is consistency from our guys on the floor. If it means that we've got to look at different combinations on the floor, we have to be able to do that. I was proud of the effort the other day. We had guys that really stepped up when the opportunity presented itself. That's what we preach all the time. With this (Auburn) game, I don't have any preconceived notions of whether we are playing eight, 10 or whatever we're playing. I think our guys all have to be ready, if the opportunity presents itself to make contributions to our team, in order to be successful."
John Calipari appears to have a new obsession related to his No. 1 Kentucky basketball team: Recreating Alabama's dominant football victory over LSU at the BCS Championship Game. Speaking Monday at The Birmingham Tip-Off Club via video conference, Calipari said he mentions Alabama's performance in timeouts to his team. He also called Nick Saban the day after the Crimson Tide won the national title. "I was blown away by their flawless play -- blown away," Calipari said. "And I said to him, 'You may be the best at what we do in any sport. In that environment, all the talking, all the jabbering, all the tickets, all that's going on, you got your team to focus like that and play flawless. And then with two minutes to go there's a penalty and you throw off your headgear!'"
On the strength of the highest team score in the nation last week, the Alabama gymnastics team jumped four spots to No. 2 in the latest national rankings. The Crimson Tide is led by senior Ashley Priess, who holds down the nation's No. 1 spot in the all-around, and its vault squad, which is once again ranked No. 1. Utah is No. 1 again this week while Arkansas dropped from second to third. Florida also dropped a spot after last week's loss to the Crimson Tide, settling in at No. 4 while Oklahoma rounds out the top five. Georgia checks in at No. 6, followed by No. 7 UCLA, No. 8 Nebraska, No. 9 Oregon State and No. 10 Penn State. Alabama's next opponent, the Kentucky Wildcats, is just outside the top 25 at No. 26 this week.
2. Alabama Crimson Tide
Previous rank: 3
With so many defensive stars leaving for the NFL draft, the Crimson Tide of 2012 might look a lot like the last Alabama squad that tried to defend a BCS national championship. Quarterback AJ McCarron should be better in his second season as a starter, and Eddie Lacy is going to be a more than capable replacement for tailback Trent Richardson. But the defense is going to be exceptionally young, after linebackers Courtney Upshaw and Dont'a Hightower and cornerbacks Dre Kirkpatrick and DeQuan Menzie departed. Help is on the way after Alabama coach Nick Saban signed the country's No. 1 recruiting class. The Tide signed 13 prospects from the ESPNU 150, including top safety Landon Collins and receivers Eddie Williams and Chris Black.
So, we pointed out that the SEC had signed 55 five-star prospects in the past five recruiting cycles. Here is the breakdown for the other leagues. Second is the Pac-12 with 26, followed by the ACC with 23, the Big 12 with 18, the Big Ten with 13, independents with seven and Conference USA with one. (Yes, that means Notre Dame by itself has a bit more than half of the Big Ten’s total.) When it comes to ranking for teams, the top recruiting school over that five-year stretch far and away is Alabama. The Tide have had four No. 1 classes and a No. 5 class in that span. That means the Tide have what we call a "recruiting quotient" of nine (add up the rankings of the recruiting classes, the lower the total the better). The rest of the recruiting top 10 in terms of cumulative classes over the past five years: USC (24) is second, followed by Texas (27), Florida (31), Florida State (34), LSU (42), Georgia (44), Ohio State (47), Oklahoma (50) and Auburn (62).
When a coach stands up on National Signing Day and says he doesn't care where Rivals.com or Scout.com ranked his recruiting class, he's probably lying. Coaches across the country are obsessed with these rankings. Heck, some assistants -- Maryland's Mike Locksley, for example -- even have monetary bonuses tied to how well their teams perform in rankings most head coaches will publicly decry as meaningless. Recruiting rankings mean something, and at the top, they're fairly accurate. They tend to become less accurate near the bottom because of the business model that drives the industry. Teams with large, passionate fan bases sell more subscriptions, and sites that cover popular teams employ more recruiting writers. Whether intentionally or unintentionally, players who sign with popular schools tend to get ranked higher. But even that may be changing. Stanford finished No. 5 in the 2012 Rivals.com team rankings. A few years ago, the Cardinal wouldn't have cracked the top 15, but a team that beats out USC, Michigan and Notre Dame for players will earn a high ranking.
Booth asked sportswriters and ex-players about the worst injury they had ever seen. The stories he heard were almost too gruesome to read. He wrote about Alex Webster, a former great for the New York Giants who had "developed a radical mastoid problem from repeated thumps to the head." Eventually, Webster required surgery that "involved cutting off his ears and then sewing them back on." He then developed middle ear problems. "Why maim yourself?" said Irv Cross, the former player-turned-sportscaster. "I don’t know. You just do it." Jean Fugett, a tight end for the Cowboys who made $21,000 that year, said, "Injuries are just like death to a lot of players ... death of a career ... death of all that a lot of them want in life. So you say, ‘I’m not gonna worry about dying. I’m gonna go ahead and live!’ "
NCAA president Mark Emmert has reached out to Division I presidents urging them to support what is becoming the controversial implementation of four-year scholarships. In a document obtained by CBSSports.com, Emmert asks the presidents to defeat the override proposal on legislation that is allowing four-year scholarships for athletes. Previously, scholarships had been renewed annually, sometimes at the whim of a coach. The four-year measure was approved in October, but 82 schools subsequently signed an override petition.
That said, there's no reason to blindly accept a team with a .563 winning percentage as a rightful "champion" unless you're a Chan Gailey enthusiast. Rejecting that premise does not mean, however, that you reject the concept of a playoff. It just means that the NFL's playoffs are too large. On that level, 12 of the 32 teams make the postseason every year. That comes out to 37.5% of all the league's teams. If college football did a bracket of an equivalent size, it would have 45 teams in it. Cut the field down to just the current 67 in BCS conferences plus Notre Dame and you still get a field of 25. Not even the status quo-hating Dan Wetzel and friends who wrote Death to the BCS are promoting a playoff that large.
[Knowshown] Moreno was pulled over by Denver Police on February 1 for driving 70 miles an hour in a construction zone where the limit was 45 miles an hour. The officer smelled alcohol and Moreno failed a roadside sobriety test, according to the report. Moreno was driving a Bentley convertible with license plates reading "SAUCED.