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Sunday Quickies: Matt Elam Edition

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Matt Elam's mettle to be tested, Nerlens is nasty on defense, a memorable week for fan sports signs, Vandy to be UK's biggest SEC basketball challenge?, The Knick returns, and more.

Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

*Tweet of the Fortnight

Not exactly timely at this point but it's made me laugh every time I look at it.  Hat tip to Future Texan Nick.

Your Quickies

Alex Forkner at 247Sports reflects on Matt Elam's replacement of Melvin Lewis after Lewis' devastating leg injury. Elam is still extremely young and unpolished, but I'm eager to watch him work in the middle.  Coordinators usually speak with brazen and unbridled confidence in their players, especially those who are untested, so this makes me slightly nervous:

Stoops thinks Elam "will step up and play well." Does Eliot feel like Elam is ready?

"He better be," said UK's defensive coordinator.

New SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey is impressed with the upgrades to Commonwealth Stadium.

Who should be the two hottest up-and-coming head coaching candidates this offseason? I'm betting on Memphis' Justin Fuente and Houston's Tom Herman.

Fuente has turned the previously abysmal Memphis program around (10-3 last season and undefeated so far in 2015) and led his Tigers to a victory of #13 Ole Miss yesterday.

Herman, the former Ohio State offensive coordinator, is my personal favorite.  His #24 Houston Cougars are currently 6-0 and he secured a commitment from a local 5* DT (Ed Oliver) within months of arriving on campus.  Further, the OSU offense, which is really more talented than it was last year, has been vastly underwhelming without his guidance.

Deadspin's College GameDay Sign Roundup. Great work by the crowd in Ann Arbor.

*NCAAB

It's not unusual for a projected first-round NBA draft pick to return to school; however, we almost never see a guaranteed top ten pick spurn NBA money for another year of books and exams. Providence PG Kris Dunn did just that last spring, and here's some compelling background on both Dunn and his (scrutinized) decision. Those fans who long for the "good ol' days," when the best players stuck around campus for more than a season, should definitely give this piece a look and toss a little bit of respect Dunn's way.

For those who don't check the reputable NBA mocks obsessively throughout the year like I do, Dunn was widely considered to be tied with Emmanuel Mudiay as the second best PG prospect in the 2015 Draft, behind D'Angelo Russell.  Russell was selected second by LAL and Mudiay was taken seventh by Denver.  Dunn was ahead of Mudiay in several mocks and big boards and would not have fallen past ten.

Dick Vitale's All-Solid Gold Preseason Teams for '15-'16. No freshmen!  Though he's not as sharp as he once was, Vitale is still a personal favorite of mine.  Only one 'Cat makes the cut.

Rob Dauster's SEC Preview from CBT. Vandy is a trendy SEC runner-up pick, but Dauster is especially high on the 'Dores.  I can't wait to watch Wade Baldwin this year.

Current SMU players released a statement through CBS Sports expressing their disappointment with the NCAA's ruling against the school that includes a postseason ban for '15-'16. There's nothing groundbreaking here, but I admire their courage in raging against the machine.  Of note:

We believe the NCAA exercised questionable judgment in punishing innocent people, and we strongly disagree that a dedicated group of blameless, amateur athletes should bear the overwhelming weight of the consequences in this case.

I'm behind them wholly and completely.  I don't detest the NCAA as much as most people, but punishing current players for sins that they were not a party to is draconian.

*Other UK Sports

UK and South Carolina (both ranked) contend for the men's soccer "SEC Championship" this afternoon at 1:00 EST at The Bell. Catch it on the SEC+ Network.

In case you missed it, sophomore Ashley Dusek broke a UK volleyball record in a victory over Auburn last Friday night.

*NBA

Fantasy NBA owners should draft Anthony Davis first overall this season. As if you wouldn't have already if you owned the first pick in your league's draft.  Even if you don't play fantasy NBA, this is worth the read because of its statistical focus and intriguing comparisons between eras.  It's really just another way for you to be reminded that Davis is a colossally amazing basketball player.

FiveThirtyEight's esoteric NBA Team Previews continue, with a bleak forecast for my Philadelphia 76ers. A Nerlens Noel-provided bright spot, though:

In his first full season, [NN] was a defensive force, ranking among the top 5 percent of all players in steal rate, block rate and overall defensive plus minus.

Admittedly, the 6ers are dreadful, but watching Nerlens mop the floor on the defensive end is exhilarating if you have a thing for defense.  It's not unfathomable or unreasonable to project a UK MVP (Anthony Davis) and Defensive Player of the Year (Noel) in the same season of the very near NBA future.

*NFL

Check your team's progress and where FiveThirtyEight's Elo-based model projects it to be at playoff time. This is updated after every game and is an absolute bookmark for any NFL fan, especially those who adore data.

Due to Jordy Nelson's preseason season-ending injury, Randall Cobb is now "the man" when it comes to Green Bay's receiving corp. With that status comes double coverage, and Cobb commented this past week on handling that challenge.

*Miscellany

Charles P. Pierce resuscitates (reasonably) the sports gambling debate in the midst of the daily fantasy football scandal. I'd never bore you with a topic as exhausting as this unless the views came from a writer of Pierce's stature.  Also of note on the subject, the U.S. Justice Department and FBI are apparently investigating the mechanics and infrastructure of the business to determine whether it's legal.

My favorite (and the best, which are two distinct things) season of television last year was Steven Soderbergh's challenging, dark-as-city-midnight early 20th century medical drama, The Knick, starring Clive Owen on Cinemax. If you're tuning in for the second season, which commenced on Friday, here is a decent primer from Wired with a season one refresh.  I concur with Grantland's TV guru Andy Greenwald's assessment of the show:

The Knick is invasive. It cuts deeply through muscles, bones, and bile. It works briskly and efficiently, without the benefit of politesse or anesthesia. It doesn't ligate. It cares nothing about scarring. It leaves a mark with every choice it makes.