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Reese Dismukes: ground zero for the next serious wave of Iron Bowl trash talk.

The krootin’ itch. It’s two months since Signing Day and almost as long since the great (and delightfully satisfying) Spencer Region hullabaloo, so it feels like it’s about time for the krootin’ mill to fire up again. I was going to devote a whole post to scratching that particular itch, when I realized it was just going to be nothing but links to recent visitors saying nice things to the Auburn Sports Blog.

Seriously, take your pick: Georgia tackle Watts Dantzler, Mississippi athlete Jermaine Whitehead, Sweet Water LB Chris Landrum (who declared Auburn his leader), Georgia QB C.J. Uzomah, or North Carolina athlete Kris Frost.

But the most intriguing recent visitor is Reese Dismukes, the Spanish Fort center who’s slated to announce his decision between Auburn and Alabama April 21. But we might get a sneak preview on the 17th. Back to Matthews:

Friday was Dismukes second visit to Auburn in a week. He was at Alabama Monday and may return to each school at least once more before making a decision.

“I will probably visit Alabama again and maybe come back up here for A-Day or over there for A-Day. I’m not sure,” he said.

Both Auburn and Alabama are holding their A-Days on Apr. 17.

By that point Dismukes will have seen both campuses plenty of times; it seems likely that wherever he’s visiting for A-Day will be the school he picks a few days later.

And which school will that be? Surprisingly, there really doesn’t seem to be any solid read on Dismukes’ plans at this point. Auburn may have a slight edge–some Auburn people seem to think so, anyway–and that Dismukes canceled his February commitment announcement to the Tide seems like an indication that he’s got at least a few second thoughts about going to Tuscaloosa. But it’s too close to call right now.

If Auburn does pull in their second in-state top-flight offensive line recruit who’d already set a date for their commitment to ‘Bama, however … well, that’s going to be just peachy keen.

Elsewhere on the QB front, national recruit Christian Lemay is visiting–check out the offer list–and just so you know, Kiehl Frazier’s real, real good.

March Madness, distilled to a photo. Behold:

That’s the crosstown crowd at Butler’s Hinkle Fieldhouse, during the Bulldogs’ semifinal victory and not–unfortunately–last night’s heart-rending defeat*. So maybe it’s from the previous news cycle rather than this one, but there’s three dozen different things I’m going to remember about Butler’s run–you’re lucky this isn’t a post listing all of them–and the two girls hugging in the front row and the woman on the left who can’t even believe it are two of them. (Via @judasdac.)

Another thing I’m going to remember: that the single best defensive player in this entire tournament was BU’s Ronald Nored, a sophomore from Homewood. Nored shut down, in succession, Syracuse’s Andy Rautins, Kansas St.’s Jacob Pullen, and Mich. St.’s Durrell Summers–pro prospects one and all. Gee, you think Auburn could have used him? You think they could have used Tony Easley, the best post player and double-digit scorer for the Murray St. team that beat Vandy and took Butler to the wire? He’s from Auburn. What about Louis Dale, the Altamont product who wound up playing lead guard for the Cornell team that shredded Temple and Wisconsin?

For Auburn’s basketball team, I don’t think “in-state recruiting” is about pulling in one-and-done prospects like Demarcus Cousins. It’s about finding overlooked, worthwhile gems that the Kentuckys and Floridas don’t, and this tournament has proven that Jeff Lebo did a right lousy job of it. I know Tony Barbee’s going to aim high in his recruiting search (and he should), but he’ll do himself a world of good if he can find the next Ronald Nored, too.

Speaking of the Tournament. Phillip Marshall is gung ho about the 96-team expansion. I love me some P-Marsh, you know I do, but this is like being gung ho about scabies. He writes:

The idea that adding 32 teams will water down the field just isn’t accurate. The truth is that adding 32 teams will strengthen the field. What waters down the field now is those No. 16 and No. 15 seeds that couldn’t win if their opponents played with three players instead of five.

OK, first, seeing as how a couple weeks back  Villanova needed the friendliest possible whistles to survive 15th-seeded Robert Morris with five players on the court, somehow I don’t think they’d have managed it with three. Second, even when 15 and 16 seeds aren’t very good, that’s a good thing–it means earning a 1 or a 2 seed has actually given the higher seed a competitive advantage and rewarded them for their excellent season. Given that the No. 1 complaint about the current tourney is that it nullifies the regular season in favor of a series of coin flips, isn’t this a good thing? Marshall continues:

Every year, teams with the potential to make a serious run in the tournament are left at home. Mississippi State was one of those teams this year. Auburn was one of those teams last year. Every year, champions of good mid-major conferences are left at home because, though they proved over the season they were the best teams in their leagues, they lost in their conference tournaments.

The second point is one I (quite obviously) sympathize with, and it’s the one wretched positive I can take out of this disaster. But the NCAA Tournament shouldn’t be in any fashion or form about giving teams a chance to make “a serious run.” It should be about 1. rewarding conference champions with the chance to play for a title 2. rewarding excellent teams that aren’t conference champions with their chance to play for a title. 2009 Auburn was a good team, but championship-caliber? No. Those Tigers and this year’s Bulldogs had every chance to establish themselves as that kind of team and they failed. In no way does Auburn’s exclusion or this year’s MSU team necessitate gutting the heart of the best single sporting event this country has ever produced.

BlAUgosphere. Hey, look, Phillip Lolley has his own cooking blog. He really wants to teach you how to bake Oreo Creme Pie.  It’s definitely not the boys at the Auburner arriving late with this year’s April Fool’s gag. Mmmm …. Oreos. And cussedness.

Elsewhere, PPL has a bushel of random Auburn baseball notes, Will conjures a theme song for Cam Newton, JRS responds to the McNabb trade (and Jason Campbell demotion) with the appropriate, uh, zeal, and Jay finds spring practice a “snoozer” with the media practice blackout and information at such a premium. (Me? Yeah, I wish practice was open, no, I don’t think the blackout is necessary, but what Gene Chizik has believed has been best for his football team has looked like what has been best for them in nearly every instance so far. If he thinks it’s that important, we’re not really in position to argue, are we?)

That’s crazy talk. Unless it isn’t. Tony Barnhart says the Big Televen might expand to 16 teams by snatching away half the Big East. My gut response is that this will happen when cows build a supercomputer that runs on cud, but that was also my response when first told that the NCAA might go to 96 teams, and look where we are now. Which is why you have to at least take Barnhart semi-seriously when he says the SEC might also look to go to 16 teams in response.

So just for fun, my quickie take on what four schools I add:

1. Georgia Tech. Duh.

2. Clemson. Also duh.

3. Louisville. Wishy-washy academically, outstanding athletically. They should have joined up long ago. (The major metro area is a plus.)

4. Florida St. I’m tempted to say screw ’em, they should have joined when they had the chance before, but that football team could add a lot of zest to things.

Etc. As if I wasn’t already afraid enough of that Thursday night trip to Starkville, their defensive line finally looks repaired. At least Arkansas’s defense is the same-ol’ same-ol’ … Auburn gymnast Krissy Voss has won one of just two community service awards given out by the SEC  … I love the Internet.

*I couldn’t sleep last night. I kept seeing the Willie Veasley open looks that didn’t go down … the bricked free throws … the wide-open Shelvin Mack transition 3 that would have tied it at 60 … the Hayward fadeaway, which as it rose I would have bet my television would have gone in … the buzzer-beating heave, which was so teeth-gnashingly close to becoming the most famous basketball shot ever taken. It hurt so much. But was it worth seeing Butler–BUTLER!–inbound with 15 seconds remaining, down a point to Duke in the national freaking championship game?

Oh yeah. A thousand times, yeah.

Photo via al.com.

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