THE Sports & Swag Report

Weekly Rewind 2/11/14 – Featuring: SEC dominates National Signing Day, Larry Brown and SMU, Marcus Smart….

SEC dominates National Signing Day…..

College football fans of leagues other than the SEC were so happy to not only see the end of the SEC’s string of BCS national championships, but they were also happy to see the team so many deemed unbeatable go down twice to end the season. Alabama and the SEC in general, have become the team and conference everyone loves to hate for many reasons. The championships are the biggest reason, but the reason for the championships is recruiting. Well, it doesn’t look like the hate will simmer down any for a while. The Crimson Tide earned the honors of having the nation’s top recruiting class. Again. Nick Saban and his staff did it again. Should we be at all surprised? Bama had a rough end to the 2013 season, but the talent keeps coming in. So many labeled the Sugar Bowl loss to Oklahoma as the demise of Bama’s dynasty. Instead, it may have just been break or a pause. Only time will tell.

The SEC as a whole made out like bandits in this year’s signing process. The consensus from the top recruiting services is that the SEC finished with 7 teams in the top 10. That’s incredible. Teams like LSU (2), Texas A&M(4), Florida (6), Georgia (7), defending SEC champ Auburn (8) all had great classes. Think about Auburn, who just came away from losing a heartbreaker in the BCS title game to Florida State. The Tigers number eight ranking was only good enough for 4th best in their own division, the SEC West.

Perhaps, the biggest story in the league was Tennessee, however. The Vols have been mediocre to say the least over the last several years, but that seems to be changing, as head coach Butch Jones and his staff snagged the 5th best recruiting class in the nation. That was good enough to be tops in the SEC East above Georgia, Florida, and South Carolina. There were already glimpses on the field, that the Vols could be on their way to brighter days, this recruiting class reaffirms those feelings. They’re still a long way from competing with the big boys on a regular basis, but Tennessee fans have a reason to be optimistic. So, does just about every other SEC school. Could the SEC go on another long run of championships? It looks quite likely to me.

Larry Brown has the SMU Mustangs ranked and soaring toward NCAA Tournament……

Another thing that seems likely, is the SMU Mustangs playing in the NCAA Tournament this season. Larry Brown, who is an obviously very young 73 year of age, is working his magic again. Of all the great accomplishments Brown has enjoyed as a head coach, this may not be the greatest, but it is incredible.

The Mustangs haven’t made an NCAA Tournament appearance since 1993. Taking a team to the tourney, that hasn’t been there in 20 years doesn’t outweigh winning an NCAA Title with the ‘Danny (Manning) and the Miracles’ Kansas team of 1988, nor does it outweigh winning the 2004 NBA Title with the Detroit Pistons, but it would be very special. Maybe, almost as special as taking the 2001 Philadelphia 76ers to the NBA Finals. That may have been one of the best coaching jobs by any coach, in any sport, ever. Amazingly, Brown is doing it again, at a place that many have forgotten even had a team.

SMU, comes into this week of play 19-5 overall, and 8-3 in the American Athletic Conference. They’re win over then No. 7 Cincinnati didn’t go unnoticed, as the Ponies appeared in the AP poll for the first time since 1985. SMU, sits 23rd. The American Athletic Conference has 5 teams ranked in this weeks poll. Brown, has always put an emphasis on strong defense, fundamentals, and team play. This team is all those things. There are no real superstars. In fact, Sophomore guard, Nic Moore leads the team at 13.9 points per game. There is only one other player that averages double figures. However, the Mustangs only give up 61 points per game, and average around 13 turnovers per game. Pretty solid.

The schedule won’t be easy down the stretch. Five of the eight games remaining are on the road, including trips to UCONN, Louisville, and Memphis. So if the Mustangs are to go dancing, they will earn it. With Larry Brown leading the way, nothing seems impossible. SMU hoops will be interesting to watch all the way to Selection Sunday.

Frustration gets the best Marcus Smart, but the last name still fits…

Another team that looked like a lock to hear they’re name called on Selection Sunday is Oklahoma State, but all of a sudden the Cowboys aren’t looking so locked in now. And things got worse over the weekend. Much worse. Sophomore guard, Marcus Smart has been suspended for shoving Jerry Orr, a Texas Tech fan during the Cowboys loss to the Red Raiders. The incident has been quite the story over the last couple of days, resulting in apologies from parties involved. In no way do I condone the actions of Smart. It’s obvious his emotions got the best of him. His struggles in the second half of the season have been well documented, but that’s no excuse for him to react the way he did. However, there is also no excuse for Orr, an adult in his 50’s, to behave the way he did. Not only in this incident, but in several incidents over the years. I think the 3 game suspension for Smart is about right, but where is Orr’s punishment? It’s obvious he said something. According to Orr, it wasn’t a racial slur like Smart contested, but in the video it’s clear something was said to Smart. Orr, came up with a self-punishment so to speak, as he won’t attend anymore Texas Tech games this season, but it seems like he’s gotten a pass on the national scene.

Smart, acknowledged that he was wrong for shoving Orr, and hasn’t run away from the situation at all. He became quite popular for his decision to stay in school and work on his game before entering the NBA Draft. Smart, could have easily been a lottery pick in the 2013 NBA Draft, but he decided he wasn’t ready. Which is quite refreshing and very rare. You have to think Smart’s struggles, which has resulted in the Cowboys struggling the last few games, finally got to him. However, I don’t think this incident is who Marcus Smart really is, and he deserves a chance to prove that.

As for his team, the Cowboys (16-8, 4-7 in Big 12) have now lost 5 in a row and 6 out of their last 7. They’re unranked now, and are now without they’re best player and leader of the team. There is still time to make the NCAA’s but this 3 game stretch without Smart makes a trip to the NIT more likely now. There is still time to turn the season around, and there is definitely time for Marcus Smart to turn his life around. Let’s hope Jerry Orr does the same.

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