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Path: /nba/nba-eastern-conference-playoffs-preview-and-predictions
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NBA Eastern Conference Playoffs: Preview and Predictions

 

First Round

(1) Atlanta Hawks vs. (8) Brooklyn Nets

At 60-22, the Hawks earned the East’s best record. Their reward? A first-round opponent who’s the least inspired of the bunch. Ex-Net Paul Pierce rently ripped into the Brooklyn roster, citing a lack of passion on the team and especially calling out Deron Williams. For an efficient, driven team like Atlanta — who have been playing with a Georgia-sized chip on their shoulder all year — this should make for some fast work.

Verdict: Hawks in 5

 

(2) Cleveland Cavaliers vs. (7) Boston Celtics

The East’s down-to-the-wire race for its two final playoff spots netted us the feistiest of the pack in the form of the Celtics. Brad Stevens’ young team is one of the conference’s surprise stories this year, consistently finding ways to win in the second half of the season, despite a lot of game-changing action at the trade deadline. But they’re no true rival for LeBron James and the Cavaliers, who have improved in every facet as their first year together has gone along. The Cavs are the favorites to break out of the conference, and Boston isn’t the team to break those odds.

Verdict: Cavaliers in 4

 

(3) Chicago Bulls vs. (6) Milwaukee Bucks

It’s been a disjointed year for Chicago, who came into the year with title expectations and closed it with uncertainty about whether head coach Tom Thibodeau would still have a job this summer. Make no mistake, though: this is still one of the league’s most talented, potent teams. Their first-round foe from Milwaukee has finished the season with a surprising amount of fight in them, but their unseasoned ways and lack of outside shooting will inevitably do them in against the Bulls, and probably in short order.

Verdict: Bulls in 5

 

(4) Toronto Raptors vs. (5) Washington Wizards

Now with the Wizards, Pierce has already made his imprint on this series, too. The veteran has said that the Raptors don’t scare him and his squad, and so this bout kicks off with built-in intrigue. And the Raptors shouldn’t scare Washington, who in John Wall has by far the most transcendent figure of either team. What should scare Wizards fans, though, is their coach Randy Wittman, who has hamstrung their efforts with short-sighted strategy for months now. On talent alone, Washington is the clear favorite — but they lose some chips in their stack by often not knowing what they’re doing out there.

Verdict: Wizards in 7

 

Second Round

(1) Atlanta Hawks vs. (5) Washington Wizards

Atlanta’s easy times will end abruptly in the second round. Without Thabo Sefolosha (who’s out for the year with a busted leg) and with a potentially compromised Paul Millsap (who’s nursing a shoulder injury), they should have about all they can handle in the Wizards. Washington faltered against the Indiana Pacers in last year’s second round; they had Indiana beat in most games, but coughed up leads in a state of seeming nervousness. Expect them to execute with more confidence in their trip back to this stage of the postseason dance, and make things very interesting. Atlanta, though, should ultimately have just enough to eke by them.

Verdict: Hawks in 7

 

(2) Cleveland Cavaliers vs. (3) Chicago Bulls

And so begins the Bulls’ fight for their coach’s job, and for the right to continue with their core. Several years with their current nucleus seem to have snowballed into a critical mass of organizational pressure to make something happen this year. The Bulls will be playing for this version of their basketball lives, and in their fear they might make this duel with Cleveland into the most watchable series of the playoffs. Kyrie Irving and Co. will have their way in the end, however, and Chicago will be left with some very strained decisions to make.

Verdict: Cavaliers in 7

 

Eastern Conference Finals

(1) Atlanta Hawks vs. (2) Cleveland Cavaliers

LeBron will once again flex his biggest — though often unnoticed — muscle in this series: his health. The Hawks have had an impressive run to the top of the conference, but they’ve been beset by injuries minor and major over the season’s closing weeks, and it seems like too much to ask for them to continue their insane winning pace. They’ll still make life difficult for Cleveland, as they’re just about the smartest team in the game. But without the extra body of Sefolosha to put on James and slow him down, the Hawks aren’t in a fair fight anymore.

Verdict: Cavaliers in 6

 

— John Wilmes

@johnwilmesNBA

Teaser:
Post date: Friday, April 17, 2015 - 10:23
Path: /college-football/alabama-crimson-tide-2015-schedule-and-analysis
Body:

The last two seasons haven't ended the way Nick Saban would like. Two poor showings in the Superdome in New Orleans have left a bad taste in the Crimson Tide's mouth.

 

So as if Alabama needed any extra motivation, this group should be extra focused this fall. The Tide will have one of the best collections of players in the nation and Saban is still the best coach in the land. 

 

That doesn't mean Bama's work isn't cut out for it this fall. With a schedule loaded with ranked opponents, rivalry games and playoff contenders, Saban's bunch will have to earn their way into the postseason.

 

Related: Ranking the SEC's Best Football Jobs in 2015 (Expert Poll)

 

2015 Alabama Crimson Tide Schedule

 

Bye: Week 9

 

WkOpp.DateLocation
1.Sept. 5Arlington, TX*
Non-con Showdown These two powerhouse programs have met just once in history — a 15-0 Badgers victory in Madison way back in 1928. This isn't a vintage UW roster but will still present unique challenges. Look for the epic Big Ten-SEC showdown to go the way of the heavily favored Tide.
2.Sept. 12Tuscaloosa, AL
The home opener will be the third meeting all-time between Middle Tennessee and Alabama. Bama won easily in 2005 in Tuscaloosa and snuck past the Blue Raiders 39-34 back in 2002.
3.Sept. 19Tuscaloosa, AL
Revenge Game Ole Miss heads to Tuscaloosa fully aware of the revenge the Tide will have in mind. The Rebels have lost 12 straight in T-Town dating back to 1988 and had lost 10 straight overall until the 23-17 thriller in Oxford last fall. That said, both teams will be highly ranked (and likely unbeaten) in this early-season clash that will send shockwaves through the West Division by Week 3.
4.Sept. 26Tuscaloosa, AL
Quick, want to win a bar bet? Who owns the edge in the all-time series between Alabama and UL-Monroe? Technically, it's tied at 1-1 but Bama fans will never forget Saban's bizarre loss to the Warhawks at home in 2007 (21-14). The 2006 meeting has been vacated but was a 41-7 Tide victory. Think Saban has forgotten what happened? (My heart goes out to ULM in this one.)
5.Oct. 3Athens, GA
Atlanta Preview? For the first time since 2008, the Crimson Tide will visit Sanford Stadium. Mark Richt is 3-2 against Alabama, but the Tide has won two straight in the series, including one of the most unforgettable SEC title games in recent memory. This could be a preview of the SEC title game that could once again lead to a Playoff berth.
6.Oct. 10Tuscaloosa, AL
Alabama has won eight straight in this series but last year's 14-13 win in Fayetteville is one neither side will ever forget. In fact, before the streak started, Arkansas owned an 8-7 series edge in SEC games. The last time these two met in Tuscaloosa, however, was a 52-0 beatdown. The Hogs should be able to keep it much closer this time around.
7.Oct. 17College Station, TX
Must-See TV This was an obliteration last season when Alabama stepped on Texas A&M's neck 59-0 in an eye-opening win for the Tide. The two previous SEC meetings between Kevin Sumlin and Saban, however, were fantastic battles totaling 144 combined points. Have the Aggies closed the gap enough to compete at home against the mighty Tide?
8.Oct. 24Tuscaloosa, AL
This Saturday in October The historic SEC rivalry has been a series of streaks for decades. Alabama is currently on an eight-game winning streak over Tennessee, including five consecutive blowouts. Bama has won those five by an average of 28.4 points per game. However, this will be the best Vols team the Tide has faced since '09. 
10.Nov. 7Tuscaloosa, AL
Saban-Miles X One of the best rivalry games in college football every year could once again be an instant classic. Bama has won four straight over LSU and Saban is 6-3 in his career against Miles. Of those nine meetings, six were decided by one score or less. This could be an early November elimination game.
11.Nov. 14Starkville, MS
Last fall, No. 1 Mississippi State entered Tuscaloosa and narrowly lost 25-20, eventually launching the Tide into the Playoffs. The roles could easily be reversed this season should the Tide get to this point unbeaten. Saban has won the last three trips to Starkville by a combined score of 75-17 but has experienced defeat in Davis Wade Stadium. The last loss for the Tide in the series came in 2007 on Scott Field in Starkville. 
12.Nov. 21Tuscaloosa, AL
It's about time programs like Alabama (and the rest of the SEC) stop scheduling lower-tier teams in November. Cupcakes in September are perfectly acceptable but this is November 21. It will be ugly and actually could hurt Bama's standing with the selection committee. It's the first meeting between the two programs, if that means anything to anyone.
13.Nov. 28Auburn, AL
Iron Bowl The rivalry of all rivalries usually puts more than just state bragging rights on the line. No one will ever forget what took place on The Plains the last time these two met in Auburn. Bama leads the all-time series 43-35-1. The Tide has won two of the last three at Auburn, but the Tigers are 8-4 all-time against Bama in Jordan-Hare. There is a good chance the SEC West, SEC and a Playoff spot could hang in the balance in this one.

 

Listen to the Cover 2 Podcast: Early 2015 SEC Preview



Subscribe: iTunes | Stitcher

Teaser:
Alabama Crimson Tide 2015 Schedule and Analysis
Post date: Friday, April 17, 2015 - 10:00
Path: /college-football/can-gene-chizik-save-north-carolina-defense
Body:

For now, public shaming will need to be part of the rebuilding process of the North Carolina defense.

 

Even in spring, there’s plenty of it to go around.

 

Gene Chizik is in Chapel Hill to fix one of the worst defenses in school history, a unit that has kept Carolina hovering around .500 the last two seasons. Many coaches will spend spring practice preaching physicality. The new defensive coordinator for the Tar Heels is making it part of his central platform.

 

“We point guys out in meetings that aren’t physical,” Chizik told Athlon Sports. “We’ll point them out and call them out. They know that if they’re not physical and taking the mentality of the physical defense, it’s going to be hard for them to play in it.”

 

At the same time, hiring Chizik, the former national championship coach at Auburn, to repair the North Carolina defense is as clear a signal as anything in that meeting room.

 

Cleaning house on the entire defensive coaching staff was a bold move for North Carolina, and one coach Larry Fedora had to make.

 

Just as players are going to have trouble staying on the field if they’re not playing with the edge Chizik desires, Fedora may have trouble staying at Carolina if Chizik’s defense doesn’t deliver.

 

Related:

North Carolina 2015 schedule analysis

North Carolina spring football preview

Expert Poll: Ranking the jobs in the ACC

 

There’s no way around it: North Carolina’s defense was historically bad last season. The Tar Heels couldn’t hide it.

 

• Three times North Carolina scored 35 points or more and lost because the Tar Heels gave up 70 (East Carolina) and 50 (Clemson and Notre Dame) in those games.

 

• The Tar Heels’ 497.8 yards allowed per game was the fourth-worst in ACC history and second-worst in UNC history.

 

• North Carolina was last in the ACC pass defense, rush defense, pass efficiency defense and yards allowed per carry. The Heels gave up 67 touchdowns last season, 22 more than the next worst team in the ACC.

 

• Opponents converted on 49 percent of third downs and scored touchdowns on 72.2 percent of red zone trips, both were among the five worst rates in the nation.

 

That is the situation Chizik is charged with repairing in his first coaching job since he was fired at Auburn after the 2012 season. With numbers like that, the problems are many — personnel, scheme, leadership, attitude, technique. Chizik keeps going back to square one this spring.

 

“The biggest thing we have to do is we got to change the mental picture and mindset of these guys,” Chizik said. “You can’t play a style of football without physicality being the No. 1 goal. I don’t feel like we’re there yet at all. They’ve got to learn how to play physical football and bring it every day.”

 

That much may be true, but Chizik is also changing the scheme at North Carolina, moving from Vic Koenning’s 4-2-5 defense to a more traditional 4-3. That leaves Chizik trying to figure out how last season’s personnel fit in the new look.

 

“It was recruited as a different defense,” Chizik said. “We’re trying to take some of the spots that are in-between guys. When you have a 4-2-5 you have some guys that are ‘tweener players, so we’ve got to find spots for those guys.”

 

Middle linebacker Jeff Schoettmer is already one of the top players on the defense, and as a former walk-on safety, he should be plenty comfortable in coverage when North Carolina goes to the Tampa 2 look.

 

The defensive line has some promise, but the player with the highest ceiling is a true freshman in end Jalen Dalton, a top-100 prospect from Clemmons, N.C. The defensive backs return almost entirely intact, but this was a group torched for an ACC-record 31 touchdown passes. 

 

This is the area where Chizik may need to thrive the most. His secondaries were the foundation of a national championship team at Texas in 2005 and an undefeated team at Auburn in 2004. Chizik coached three consecutive Thorpe Award winners from 2004-06 — Carlos Rogers at Auburn and Michael Huff and Aaron Ross at Texas.

 

Listen to the Cover 2 Podcast: Early 2015 ACC Preview



Subscribe: iTunes | Stitcher

 

Beyond the personnel, there’s the problem of his defenses getting off the field.

 

No ACC defense has been on the field in the last two seasons than North Carolina. The Tar Heels defense played 76.2 snaps per game in 2014 and 76.4 per game in 2013, both the highest rates in the conference in each of the last two seasons.

 

Opposing offenses aren’t going to change, and neither will Fedora’s up-tempo spread. So the defense has to change to stay off the field for 80 snaps in a game, as happened in four consecutive games at one point last season.

 

Chizik says the problem isn’t with conditioning, but if the Tar Heels get into a potential shootout, they’re going to need to be more mindful with substitutions.

 

“If it does become an 85-play game on defense, we’re going to have a great rotation plan with depth particularly early in the season,” Chizik said. “We can’t be afraid to substitute early in the game.”

 

Given his track record as a defensive coordinator, Chizik is pretty close to a sure-bet to fix North Carolina. He hasn’t been a coordinator since 2006, but he had a top-25 defense in each of his last four seasons as a DC at Texas and Auburn.

 

In six seasons as a head coach at Auburn and Iowa State, however, Chizik had as many winning seasons as seasons that finished 3-9 or worse.

 

There was also a consistent cloud of NCAA issues at Auburn from over-the-top recruiting practices that were eventually banned to pulling assistants off the recruiting trail to the Cam Newton saga that hounded Auburn throughout the the 2010 national championship season.

 

North Carolina has its own issues with an ongoing academic scandal that may or may not bring NCAA sanctions.

 

An independent report detailing academic fraud at UNC predates Fedora’s tenure and wasn’t limited to football, but that doesn’t mean the head football coach won’t spend time dealing with the fallout — among other issues.

 

Part of Chizik’s job, as he puts it, is to take the defense so Fedora doesn’t have to worry about the day-to-day issues on that side of the ball.

 

“Mack Brown used to tell me all the time: You have no idea the things that are behind the scenes that never get to you because it’s my job to put them out before they do,” Chizik said. “And I know that’s what Larry does. That’s why I want to take all the defensive issues off is plate to the best of my ability so that he can do his duties.”

 

That means a ton of long days from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m., the kinds of days Chizik left behind when he was out of coaching for two seasons. During that time, he worked with the SEC Network and SiriusXM Radio and spent time with his family — his family still lives in Auburn while his daughter finishes school there.

 

“I hadn’t had many 17-hour days in the last two years,” Chizik said. “I haven’t had any. But I’ve had several in the last couple of months.”

 

And Chizik hopes eventually some of them will start to involve more praising his defense rather than calling out players.

Teaser:
Can Gene Chizik Save the North Carolina Defense?
Post date: Friday, April 17, 2015 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, NBA, News
Path: /college-basketball/5-college-coaches-who-would-make-interesting-nba-candidates
Body:

The NBA Playoffs begin Friday, meaning the NBA coaching carousel is about to get started.

 

In most years, this is of secondary concern to the college ranks. The checkered track record of college coaches in the NBA, not to mention the wildly different job descriptions, have kept GMs and ADs in their own playgrounds.

 

The NBA and college coaching ranks have been a little more interchangeable than usual in recent years. Two new college hires for 2015-16 have been NBA head coaches (Alabama’s Avery Johnson and Nevada’s Eric Musselman). The success of former Butler coach Brad Stevens with the Celtics may earn some college coaches another look.

 

Then there are the usual college coaches with NBA ties who might see the allure in returning to the league, if not this season then perhaps in coming seasons.

 

With a recent report pegging Florida’s Billy Donovan as a potential candidate for the Oklahoma City Thunder (should they part ways with Scott Brooks), here are five coaches who might earn a look from the NBA in the coming years.

 

Billy Donovan, Florida

The rumors of Donovan taking a renewed look at the NBA have kicked up in recent months, and Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski names a potential destination of Oklahoma City. Donovan’s contract, extended by one year to 2020, contains a mere $500,000 buyout if he leaves for the NBA. There’s little more for him to accomplish at Florida with two national titles and four Final Fours and an almost certain induction into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame. Following the 2007 national title, Donovan was hired as the head coach for the Orlando Magic for a matter of days before having second thoughts and returning to the Gators.

 

John Calipari, Kentucky

Calipari’s 72-112 stint with the New Jersey Nets from 1996-99 was the least successful period of his career. For a coach as stubborn as Calipari, the opportunity to atone for that failed stint in the pros might be tough to resist. In coach years, that NBA stint was an eternity ago. He’s gone to four Final Fours, won a national title and sent dozens of players to the NBA since then. He could, presumably, land with a team that contains multiple players he coached in college. Calipari had already been offered a sweet deal by the Cleveland Cavaliers before this year’s 38-1 season.

 

Kevin Ollie, UConn

Ollie was already well-respected in NBA circles before leading the Huskies to the 2014 national championship. He’s a rising star in the profession and would have immediate credibility in an NBA locker room after 12 seasons in the league. The NBA would have to pry him away from his alma mater where he was the handpicked successor to Jim Calhoun.

 

Fred Hoiberg, Iowa State

Hoiberg has returned his alma mater to national prominence, taking the Cyclones to four consecutive NCAA Tournaments for the first time in school history. He’s considered one of the sharpest offensive minds in college basketball in part because of his knack for analytics. His exposure to that was honed in the NBA when he worked in the front office for the Minnesota Timberwolves. Like Ollie, he’d have credibility as a former NBA player. Hoiberg is undergoing open heart surgery during the offseason to replace his aortic valve, a procedure related to the surgery that ended his playing career 10 years ago.

 

Larry Krystkowiak, Utah

Like Ollie and Hoiberg, Krystkowiak comes from NBA stock, playing in the league for more than a decade. Unlike the other two, he’s been an NBA head coach before, going 31-69 in two seasons with the Milwaukee Bucks. Also unlike Ollie and Hoiberg, Krystkowiak isn’t an alum of his employer. His work at Utah can’t be denied as he’s led the Utes to progressive improvement during the last four seasons, culminating with their first Sweet 16 since 2004.

Teaser:
5 College Coaches Who Would Make Interesting NBA Candidates
Post date: Thursday, April 16, 2015 - 15:38
All taxonomy terms: College Football, News
Path: /college-football/urban-meyer-will-pick-ohio-states-quarterback-middle-training-camp
Body:

When Ohio State plays its spring game Saturday, the Buckeyes will be a long way from deciding their biggest offseason question as they head into 2015.

 

National championship quarterback Cardale Jones will start for one squad. Sophomore Stephen Collier will start for the other.

 

The spring game won’t include 2013 starter Braxton Miller and 2014 starter J.T. Barrett, who are sitting out this spring due to shoulders.

 

Naturally, coach Urban Meyer doesn’t expect to make his decision on a starting quarterback until closer to the season.

 

“I think the middle of training camp because I think every one of them deserve that opportunity and right now two of them aren’t getting it,” Meyer said. “I think by training camp you have to have a handle on that thing.”

 

Related:

Big Ten Schedule Analysis

Ranking the Big Ten Coaching Jobs (Expert Poll)

Podcast: Early Big Ten Preview

 

Miller was lost for the 2014 season in August to a right shoulder injury. Barrett stepped in and set school records for touchdown passes and total offense before sustaining a shoulder injury of his own against Michigan. Jones then started the Big Ten championship game, the Sugar Bowl semifinal and the national championship game.

 

All three stayed at Ohio State when Miller could have transferred and been eligible immediately as a graduate transfer. Jones was eligible for the NFL Draft.

 

“The quarterbacks have continued to amaze me,” Meyer said. “The power of the unit is incredible in that room. Cardale has had a great spring. J.T. has had a very good spring. Braxton is right in the middle of it. You never knew how that dynamic would work out.”

 

Teaser:
Urban Meyer Will Pick Ohio State's Quarterback in "Middle of Training Camp"
Post date: Thursday, April 16, 2015 - 15:24
Path: /college-football/big-ten-2015-football-schedule-analysis
Body:

Never before has scheduling been a bigger issue than the 2014 College Football Playoff.

 

The committee clearly took a stance on Baylor’s weak non-conference matchups and it cost the Bears a chance at the national championship. A perceived lack of quality wins also has long been an issue for Big Ten champions. It hurt Michigan State two years ago and nearly cost Ohio State last fall. With a glut of intriguing non-conference games against top-level Power 5 teams, that shouldn't be an issue this fall — at least, not in the deep East Division.

 

Scheduling is a huge part of Athlon Sports’ process of making predictions as well. Here is what you need to know about the Big Ten’s football schedules in 2015.

 

East’s best game: Michigan State at Ohio State (Nov. 21)

Ohio State snapped Michigan State’s 14-game Big Ten winning streak with a 49-37 victory by hanging 568 yards on Mark Dantonio’s defense. It was revenge for the B1G title game defeat the year prior. An East Division and Big Ten title as well as Rose Bowl or Playoff berths could be hanging in the balance once again when these two meet late in November. This could easily be replaced by Ohio State's visit to Ann Arbor the following week.

 

West’s best game: Wisconsin at Nebraska (Oct. 10)

The dairy-fed Big Red from Madison have put up 129 points on the corn-fed Big Red from Lincoln in their last two meetings. The Badgers have won three of four Big Ten meetings, but the Huskers' lone win came in Lincoln. The Big Ten West will likely be determined in this Big Red battle.

 

Best crossover: Michigan State at Nebraska (Nov. 7)

Wisconsin avoids each of the top four from the East and Nebraska plays just one. Michigan State-Nebraska has been an intense battle in all four conference meetings since the Huskers joined the league, including a wild Taylor Martinez-led rally in East Lansing three years ago. These two are separated by 21 total points over the last three meetings.

 

Other crossovers to watch:

With the balance of power titled heavily towards the East and Ohio State avoiding both Wisconsin and Nebraska, there aren’t a lot of intriguing crossover games. Minnesota at Ohio State could be fun. Maryland at Iowa isn’t terrible. Wisconsin at Maryland is probably the second-most intriguing crossover in a league devoid of quality crossover matchups.

 

East's toughest schedule: Rutgers

Rutgers must face five (possibly six) potential bowl teams from the East Division and gets the top two teams from the West (Nebraska, Wisconsin). It also faces two Power 5 teams in non-conference play (albeit Washington State and Kansas). It seems highly unlikely the Knights will return to the postseason.

 

East’s easiest schedule: Penn State

Penn State has four easy, winnable, non-conference games and gets really lucky in crossover play with Northwestern and Illinois. Yes, PSU must face Michigan State and Ohio State on the road. But, otherwise, the rest of the schedule is manageable in a very difficult division.   

 

West’s toughest schedule: Minnesota

Minnesota could face two potential playoff teams with TCU in the non-conference and Ohio State in crossover. The Gophers also must face Michigan from the East. Add to that slate divisional dates with Wisconsin, Nebraska and Iowa and Jerry Kill is looking at an uphill battle in the West.

 

West’s easiest schedule: Iowa

Wisconsin and Nebraska have tougher non-conference and crossover schedules. This gives the nod to Iowa as the easiest slate in the division despite having to face both Big Red foes on the road. The Hawkeyes could be favorites to win all four of their non-conference games and all four home Big Ten games.

 

Listen to the Cover 2 Podcast: Early 2015 Big Ten Preview



Subscribe: iTunes | Stitcher

 

Top 10 Non-conference games:

 

 AwayHomeDate
1.Sept. 12
2.Sept. 5*
3.Sept. 7
4.Sept. 3
5.Sept. 19
6.Sept. 7
7.Nov. 28
8.Sept. 19
9.Sept. 3*
10.Nov. 7

* - neutral site

Teaser:
2015 Big Ten Football Schedule Analysis
Post date: Thursday, April 16, 2015 - 11:30
Path: /college-football/ranking-big-12s-football-coaching-jobs-2015-expert-poll
Body:

Is it easier to win at Texas or Oklahoma? How about Big 12 newcomers West Virginia and TCU?

 

Which program provides the most support? Which program has access to the best players? Which program has proven it can succeed at a high level over time? Which program has the most pressure to win?

 

These are all the questions head coaches must ask themselves when deciding to accept a job or not.

 

So Athlon Sports asked some respected Big 12 minds one question: Where would you want to coach if the slates (rosters, sanctions, etc.) were wiped clean and all 10 jobs were available?

 

The Voting Panel:

David Ubben, Fox Sports

Ralph Russo, AP

Jon Solomon, CBSSports

Chip Brown, HornsDigest.com

Pat Forde, Yahoo!

Dennis Dodd, CBSSports

Stewart Mandel, Fox Sports

Blair Kerkhoff, KC Star

George Schroeder, USA Today

Chris Level, RedRaiderSports.com

Bryan Fischer, NFL.com

Allen Kenney, BlatantHomerism.com

Tim Fitzgerald, GoPowerCat.com

Steven Lassan, Athlon Sports

Braden Gall, Athlon Sports/SiriusXM

 

The Results:

 

Voting: A first-place vote was worth one point and a last-place vote was worth 10 points. The points are a great indicator of what tier your program is within the conference.

 

RkJobVotes (1st)
1.15 (15)
Texas might be the best job in America as all 15 panelists voted UT as the best job in the Big 12. The resources are second to none in college football as is the in-state talent. Certainly, there is pressure to win but nowhere in the country are there more advantages to national success than Austin — which is also one of the best cities in the country as well.
2.30
Oklahoma got all 15 second-place votes and is largely considered on the same plane as the Longhorns. Being outside of the Lone Star State and in a less vibrant town are the only things that keep OU from the top spot. Facilities and fan support are among the nation's best and history suggests the Sooners rarely fail to compete at a high level. This program has no weaknesses.
3.56
The Pokes were voted the top second-tier program in the Big 12 behind Texas and Oklahoma. Oklahoma State has massive financial resources (one, at least) and recruits north Texas as if it's an in-state territory. The Cowboys got nine of the possible 15 third-place votes and was voted no lower than sixth. There is much to like about this program but it's clearly not on the same operating level as the two big boys in this league.
4.62
By going from the Mountain West to the Big 12 by way of the Big East, few programs in the nation have elevated their stock as much as TCU. There are countless reasons why being in the Big 12 is better (namely, money and clout) and being in the Big 12 has allowed for natural advantages — like in-state recruiting talent, for example — to flourish on a bigger stage. The stadium won't ever be elite or seat 100,000, but there is a lot of upward mobility for the Horned Frogs. TCU got four third-place votes.
5.68
Much like TCU, Baylor has elevated its stock by building a fantastic new stadium and state-of-the-art facilities. These are tangible ways to improve a coaching job long-term and few in the country have seen a bigger boost in the last half-decade than the Bears. And also like TCU, it's allowed Baylor to take advantage of a rich in-state recruiting base better than ever before. Baylor got two third-place votes and five fourth-place nods.
6.92
If Morgantown was located closer to the Big 12 fray, it would probably be the fourth-best job in the league. It has a much longer history of success and much better fan support historically than both Baylor and TCU. However, it's an extreme outpost even within a league full of outposts. The facilities also are in desperate need of upgrading, but the stadium is impossible to play in due in large part to great fans. This is an underrated job — if you can get there. 
7.106
Both Spike Dykes and Mike Leach proved that you can win consistently in Lubbock. But it takes a special breed to be successful out on the West Texas plains. Texas is loaded with athletes but it's tougher to get players to Lubbock than other Lone Star State Big 12 locales. The stadium and fan support continue to grow and have been solidly consistent over the last two decades. Yet, there's a reason Tech has won just two conference titles since 1955 — and one was a 6-6 campaign that featured a five-way tie.
8.114
The last of the "quality" jobs in the Big 12 can be very deceiving. Kansas State is an extremely difficult place to win but Bill Snyder has covered up a lot of warts. In-state recruiting is highly questionable unless you are targeting JUCOs. The campus isn't bad and the stadium isn't small but it hardly compares to the bigger venues in college football. The facilities are solid as well but not elite. No coach since Pappy Waldorf has posted a winning record at KSU — except Snyder. And many of those tenures were extremely ugly.
9t.141
Of course Iowa State and Kansas tied for the worst job in the Big 12. Iowa State has better fan support and a better home atmosphere and comparable facilities. However, Lawrence is easier to recruit to and might be slightly easier to win at — both Glen Mason and Mark Mangino were competitive. The Cyclones got six 10th-place votes while the Jayhawks got nine. However, Kansas got a seventh- and eighth-place vote (the best for either school), which made up the difference and led to a dead heat in voting.
9t.141
SEE: Iowa State.

Listen to the Cover 2 Podcast: Early 2015 Big 12 Preview



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Teaser:
Ranking the Big 12's Football Coaching Jobs in 2015 (Expert Poll)
Post date: Thursday, April 16, 2015 - 10:30
Path: /nba/thunder-reportedly-considering-firing-scott-brooks-hiring-billy-donovan
Body:

On the heels of one of the most momentous closing nights of an NBA regular season within memory, a rather large rumor bomb dropped on the internet’s doorstep.

 

The Oklahoma City Thunder missed the postseason for the first time in six years after losing a tiebreaker to Anthony Davis and the New Orleans Pelicans, and are now considering excusing head coach Scott Brooks — this according to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports.

 

Wojnarowski also mentions a quite titillating replacement possibility: “If a change comes, University of Florida coach Billy Donovan could emerge as a serious candidate to coach Oklahoma City, league sources said. (General manager Sam) Presti has a longstanding friendship with Donovan, a two-time national championship coach who has been open about his interest in moving to the NBA.”

 

The Thunder’s season was impressive on a lot of levels. Losing defending MVP Kevin Durant for the season (after he played just 27 games) is a blow most teams couldn’t survive, and it doesn’t even scratch the surface of the Thunder’s injury woes this year. Serge Ibaka missed the home stretch, and their campaign started out with such a decimated roster that they crawled to a 3-12 record.

 

Behind Russell Westbrook’s eye-popping Waterloo of the past few months, though, they finished 45-37. Missing the playoffs by just a fingernail would be an accomplishment in itself for most franchises. But the stakes have raised to title-or-bust in OKC, where they might need to make changes to convince Durant to stick around as he considers his options heading into free agency in 2016.

 

Brooks has long been the preferred Thunder effigy for NBA analysts everywhere, seen as having an invaluable human touch with his men but lacking in the next-level court strategies his team may need to win their first Larry O’Brien trophy. Stay tuned as this story develops.

 

— John Wilmes

@johnwilmesNBA

Teaser:
Post date: Thursday, April 16, 2015 - 10:08
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/grading-13-key-college-basketball-coaching-hires-2015-16
Body:

The college basketball coaching carousel has slowed down with all but a handful of mid-major and low-major jobs filled.

 

Unless a college coach makes a leap to the NBA in the coming weeks and months, every major job is filled. All in all, this was a quiet year in the carousel, though three head coaches with Final Four experience took new jobs.

 

Only five jobs in the Power 5 conferences — Alabama, Arizona State, Mississippi State, Tennessee and Texas — opened this season. That, of course, doesn’t include notable openings at VCU, St. John’s and DePaul.

 

How did the most important hires grade out in 2015-16? Here’s a look at 13 of the key hires in college basketball this offseason.

 

Related:

Expert Poll: Who are the coaches on the rise?

Expert Poll: Who are the top coaches today?

 

Shaka Smart, Texas

Hired from: VCU

Replaced: Rick Barnes, hired at Tennessee

Texas needed to make a bold move to replace Barnes, a coach who ultimately fell victim to the expectations he raised in Austin. Smart certainly qualifies a bold hire. Smart resisted overtures from major programs since leading VCU to the Final Four in 2011, and now he'll be expected to challenge Kansas in the Big 12. The 38-year-old Smart brings energy, buzz, a defined style and a track record of success. VCU reached the NCAA Tournament in five of six years under Smart and three times finished second in conference play (once in the Colonial and twice in the more competitive Atlantic 10).

Grade: A

 

Ben Howland, Mississippi State

Hired from: N/A

Replaced: Rick Ray, hired at Southeast Missouri State

Howland’s track record is impeccable, including three consecutive Final Fours and four Pac-10/12 regular season titles at UCLA. Howland’s program tailed off after 2008 thanks to a few recruiting classes that didn’t pan out, but he still won a regular season title in his final year. Perhaps just as relevant to Mississippi State fans is Howland’s track record at Pitt, a moribund program that reached back-to-back Sweet 16s under his watch. Howland might not have produced enough for UCLA, but this is a home run hire for Mississippi State.

Grade: A

 

Avery Johnson, Alabama

Hired from: N/A

Replaced: Anthony Grant, hired as Florida assistant

A handful of former NBA coaches have tried their hand at college coaching in recent years. Few bring as successful a pro track record as Johnson, who went 194-70 in four seasons with the Dallas Mavericks. Johnson has been an NBA coach of the year and reached the NBA Finals. Alabama ultimately failed in wooing Gregg Marshall from Wichita State, but the Crimson Tide still landed a coach who can hold his own against other recent SEC hires Bruce Pearl and Ben Howland.

Grade: B

 

Rick Barnes, Tennessee

Hired from: Texas

Replaced: Donnie Tyndall, fired

Barnes was out of work for all of two days before Tennessee hired the former Texas coach. His tenure, though, can be a bit divisive. He has missed the NCAA Tournament only once since 1996 and has 604 career wins. Yet he also left TExas fans wanting more. Since the 2003 Final Four, Barnes had three preseason top 10 teams fail to reach the Sweet 16 and at least seven Big 12 losses in each of the last four seasons. At Tennessee, he’ll recruit and he’ll lend a stabilizing hand to a program in desperate need of one.

Grade: B

 

Bill Carmody, Holy Cross

Hired from: N/A

Replaced: Milan Brown, fired

Carmody ultimately couldn’t get Northwestern over the hump and into the NCAA Tournament. He did make Northwestern more competitive with four consecutive NIT bids, which was an accomplishment itself. before Northwestern, Carmody was wildly successful at Princeton, going 27-2 and earning a No. 5 seed in the NCAA Tournament in 1997-98. There’s little reason to believe he won’t be successful in the Patriot League.

Grade: B

 

Steve Donahue, Penn

Hired from: N/A

Replaced: Jerome Allen, fired

Donahue lasted only four seasons at Boston College, but he’s returning to the stage were he had success. Donahue rebuilt a dormant Cornell program into a three-time Ivy League champion and a team that reached the Sweet 16 in 2010. Penn, an NCAA regular under Fran Dunphy from 1993-2006, believes it is getting a sure thing.

Grade: B

 

Will Wade, VCU

Hired from: Chattanooga

Replaced: Shaka Smart, hired at Texas

This was a natural move for VCU as Wade was an assistant for four seasons under Smart before taking the head coaching position for two seasons at Chattanooga. The Mocs improved from 8-10 in Southern Conference the year before he arrived to 12-4 in his first year to 15-3 in his second. He arrives in a pressure-packed situation in following the most successful coach in a run of three consecutive successful coaches. The 32-year-old Wade is the only one of the last four Rams coaches — Anthony Grant and Jeff Capel were the other two — to arrive at VCU with head coaching experience. 

Grade: B-minus

 

Eric Musselman, Nevada

Hired from: LSU (associate head coach)

Replaced: David Carter, fired 

Nevada hopes the well-traveled Musselman will give a jolt to program that slipped from one of the best mid-majors to 9-22 last season. Musselman, a former NBA, Continental Basketball Association and international head coach, has been working to rebuild his career after a DUI arrest during the preseason of his final year with the Sacramento Kings. When he was the coach of the Golden State Warriors for two seasons in 2002-04, he was considered an up-and-comer in the coaching ranks. He’s spent the last three seasons as an assistant at Arizona State and LSU.

Grade: B-minus

 

Chris Mullin, St. John’s

Hired from: Sacramento Kings front office

Replaced: Steve Lavin, fired

Mullin’s place in St. John’s history is secure. He’s one of the best players in school history, the program’s all-time leading scorer and a three-time Big East Player of the Year. He’s a Naismith Basketball Hall of Famer and Olympic gold medalist. Now, St. John’s hopes he’s the guy who can return the program to glory. He’s never been a coach, spending his post-playing career in NBA front offices. Does the Mullin name connect with recruits? Perhaps not, but few will be better able to articulate the potential of the program like Mullin. Hiring assistants from Kentucky (Barry Rohrssen) and Iowa State (Matt Abdelmassih) is a good sign for recruiting.

Grade:

 

Bobby Hurley, Arizona State

Hired from: Buffalo

Replaced: Herb Sendek, fired

One could argue the most impressive Hurley brother in the mid-major ranks between Dan at Wagner and Rhode Island and Bobby at Buffalo. Bobby, though, has the NCAA Tournament appearance with Buffalo last season. He’s also spent his entire coaching career in the Northeast, so his assistant hires at Arizona State will be key. 

Grade: C

 

Brian Wardle, Bradley

Hired from: Green Bay

Replaced: Geno Ford, fired

Wardle was never able to get Green Bay to the NCAA Tournament, but his tenure was nonetheless impressive. The Phoenix were one of the nation’s top mid-majors the recent years, winning 24 games in each of the last two seasons for their best two-year total total since Dick Bennett was the coach in the early 90s. The 35-year-old Wardle played and coached under Tom Crean at Marquette and went to high school in the Chicago area. That should serve him well in Peoria. One concern: Wardle was accused in 2013 of player mistreatment but ultimately retained his post at Green Bay.

Grade: C

 

Dave Paulsen, George Mason

Hired from: Bucknell

Replaced: Paul Hewitt, fired

After a short-lived tenure by a former high-major coach, George Mason returned to the approach it had when it hired Jim Larranaga in 1997 by hiring a consistent coach coach from the lower levels. Paulsen coached seven seasons at Bucknell, winning a Patriot League title in four of the last five seasons. Paulsen also won a Division III national title at Williams College in 2003.

Grade: C

 

Dave Leitao, DePaul

Hired from: Missouri (assistant coach)

Replaced: Oliver Purnell, fired

DePaul can at least it hired a coach it knows can win at DePaul. That description doesn’t apply to many active coaches. Leitao is the last coach to take DePaul to the NCAA Tournament — back in 2004. Leitao went 63-60 in his last head coaching gig at Virginia from 2005-09. For a program in desperate need of energy, this hire did not check that box.

Grade: D

Teaser:
Grading 13 Key College Basketball Coaching Hires for 2015-16
Post date: Thursday, April 16, 2015 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football, News
Path: /college-football/iowa-teammate-thought-new-michigan-qb-rudock-would-have-more-fight
Body:

New Michigan quarterback Jake Rudock didn’t receive a ringing endorsement from one of his former teammates at Iowa.

 

“I thought he had a little more fight in him,” defensive end Drew Ott said on Wednesday’s Big Ten spring teleconference. “But maybe an opportunity (arose) over there at Michigan.”

 

Rudock started 25 games in two seasons at Iowa last season, but was slated to back up C.J. Beathard in 2015. As a graduate student, Rudock was permitted to transfer and play at his new destination without sitting out a year.

 

Listen: Early 2015 Big Ten preview

 

In a departure from what most program have done in the past, Iowa allowed Rudock to transfer anywhere, including within the Big Ten.

 

Rudock is expected to compete for the Michigan starting quarterback job with junior Shane Morris, redshirt freshman Wilton Speight and freshman Alex Malzone when in the fall. Michigan formally announced Rudock’s arrival Thursday. 

 

Ott is a defensive player, so his insight on Rudock wouldn’t be quite as revealing as a wide receiver, for example, but he was asked his opinion anyway.

 

What kind of player is Michigan getting?

 

“A smart football player,” Ott said. “He’s going to run an offense and know what to do.”

 

Is he a leader?

 

“I don’t know. You’d have to ask someone else.”

 

Rudock completed 61.7 percent of his passes for 2,436 yards with 16 touchdowns and five interceptions. 

 

Iowa will not play Michigan during the regular season in 2015.

Teaser:
Iowa Teammate Thought New Michigan QB Rudock Would Have More Fight
Post date: Wednesday, April 15, 2015 - 15:17
All taxonomy terms: AFC, AFC East, New England Patriots, NFL
Path: /nfl/can-patriots-protect-tom-brady
Body:

If there's one tried and true way to beat Tom Brady and the New England Patriots, it's to attack the middle of his offensive line, prevent him from stepping up in the pocket and disrupt plays as early as possible. Both Super Bowl losses to the Giants and the 2010 AFC Divisional round loss to the Jets were perfect examples of this tactic and we saw it again in early 2014 in losses to the Miami Dolphins and Kansas City Chiefs.

 

The Patriots' entire offensive line struggled to start the 2014 season and it wasn't much of a surprise after long-time coach Dante Scarnecchia retired and Logan Mankins was traded in August. That left the Pats scrambling to replace Mankins, using a rotating combination of tackles at the guard spot, including Jordan Devey and Marcus Cannon.

 

The changes also affected left tackle Nate Solder, previously one of the most promising young players in the league, as he appeared to regress. There wasn't much to like about the Pats' front five early last year.

 

However, the offensive line settled in once rookie Bryan Stork returned from injury and Ryan Wendell shifted to right guard. Wendell's positional change was one of the most underrated storylines of the season, as not even the Patriots' coaching staff believed Wendell to be anything more than a guard before last season.

 

Dan Connolly, who had started for the Patriots at both center and right guard, shifted to left guard, and the line gelled into one that would finish ranked fifth overall by Football Outsiders.

 

But there is cause for concern this offseason, as Connolly remains unsigned, leaving a major hole at the starting left guard spot and the overachiever Wendell without much competition for the starting right guard spot. Depth with actual guards is non-existent, giving many Pats fans nightmares imagining Devey or Cannon back inside.

 

Connolly still could return, and veteran Stefan Wisniewski did visit the team recently, so there should still be some moves to be made, but the Pats should make upgrading the guard position a priority in the draft.

 

Tom Brady's quick reads and throws certainly make life easier for an offensive line, but he cannot continue to take the kind of punishment he took last September, as the team tries to find the right combination up front. And despite their solid overall ranking from Football Outsiders, they ranked just 28th in power runs and 27th in stuffed runs. This means the offensive line struggled with the "gotta have 'em" yards.

 

Prospects like A.J. Cann of South Carolina and Cameron Erving and his Florida State linemates have been all over many Patriots mock drafts and rightly so. Many of the top guards should still be available in the Patriots' second-round sweet spot, and it would make sense to take two of them early.

 

They have a solid building block at center in Stork and Solder should bounce back. Their depth at tackle is strong with Sebastian Vollmer, Cannon and Cameron Fleming all capable players.

 

But if the Pats are to extend Brady's career and revitalize their power running game, they need an infusion of youth and talent at guard, a critical spot to playing the game the way Bill Belichick wants to play it.

 

— Written by Mike Dussault, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and writer/editor of PatsPropaganda.com (@PatsPropaganda), a comprehensive blog covering the New England Patriots.

Teaser:
The Pats' offensive line struggles were well-documented in 2014 and the questions have only multiplied this offseason.
Post date: Wednesday, April 15, 2015 - 14:30
All taxonomy terms: NFL
Path: /nfl/former-patriots-te-aaron-hernandez-found-guilty-first-degree-murder
Body:

Former New England Patriots star tight end Aaron Hernandez, 25, was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison without parole today in the deadly shooting of Odin Lloyd, which took place June 17, 2013. 

 

 

For more on the case, visit ESPN

Teaser:
Post date: Wednesday, April 15, 2015 - 12:44
All taxonomy terms: Boston Red Sox, College Football, Overtime
Path: /overtime/red-sox-fan-wreaks-havok-fellow-fans
Body:

The next time you're at a Boston Red Sox game, keep an eye out for the guy in the blue and red shirt. While his intensions may be pure, his exuberant reactions resulted in havoc for his fellow fans.

 

We're guessing this was his checklist:

1. Do not actually help player.
2. Knock phone from girl's hand.
3. Knock beer onto girl's face. 
Mission accomplished!

 

Teaser:
Post date: Wednesday, April 15, 2015 - 12:20
Path: /college-football/wvu-ad-discusses-return-backyard-brawl
Body:

One of the most anticipated matchups and biggest rivalries in college sports could be on the verge of being resumed in the not-so distant future. West Virginia vs. Pitt, better known as the "Backyard Brawl," is the historic rivalry between these two schools, which are separated by 75 miles.

 

Related: 10 College Rivalries Killed by Conference Realignment

 

One of the oldest in the nation, the rivarly had played out on the gridiron every year since 1942 until it came to an end following the 2011 matchup, a 21-20 Mountaineers victory in Morgantown. However, WVU's new athletic director told MetroNews Sportsline recently that he plans to reach out to Pitt once the Panthers appoint a new AD of their own.

 

According to new WVU AD Shane Lyons, the Backyard Brawl is on his list of things to work on in the near future. He hopes to resume the series by 2023, but nothing has been set yet by the athletic departments. One of the complications on resuming the series is due to the Mountaineers already having a full out-of-conference slate for the next few seasons, but Lyons wants the teams to renew the rivalry. Lyons is hoping to quickly develop a relationship with Pitt's new Pitt AD once that person is hired.

 

The Backyard Brawl has featured some of the best moments in each program's history. In 2007, the Panthers upset the then-No. 2-ranked Mountaineers 13-9 to knock WVU out of the consideration for a spot in the BCS National Championship Game.

 

One of the greatest moments in this rivalry came in 1994 when WVU quarterback Chad Johnston threw a game-winning, 60-yard touchdown pass to Zach Abraham with just 15 seconds remaining to propel the Mountaineers to a 47-41 victory.

 

Pat White (above) was the thorn in Pittsburgh's side while he was quarterbacking the Mountaineers. During the 2006 meeting, White became only the ninth player in college football history to run and pass for over 200 yards in the same game. The 45-27 West Virginia win was only noteworthy in that White and running back Steve Slaton each ran for 200 yards against the Panthers, becoming just the third tandem in NCAA history to do so.

 

The history is there for this series to resume without any love lost from either program, and given the recruiting battles the schools have been in the past few seasons, it would add to the rivalry's context.

 

Pitt leads the all-time series with a 61-40-3 record against their border-state rivals.

 

— Written by Jeremy Simon, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and editor-in-chief of BlueGoldSports.com, a must visit for any and all West Virginia Mountaineer fans. Follow BlueGoldSports.com on Twitter @Blue_GoldSports.

Teaser:
West Virginia Athletic Director Discusses Return of Backyard Brawl
Post date: Wednesday, April 15, 2015 - 11:00
All taxonomy terms: Paul Pierce, NBA
Path: /nba/paul-pierce-gets-candid-calls-out-deron-williams-brooklyn-nets
Body:

The 37-year-old veteran known as The Truth did perhaps more than he ever has to earn his nickname, in a recent interview.

 

Paul Pierce got very candid with ESPN’s Jackie MacMullan, spilling secret feelings about his time with the Brooklyn Nets. "It was a tough situation last year. Horrible, really,” he said.

 

"It was just the guys' attitudes there. It wasn't like we were surrounded by a bunch of young guys. They were vets who didn't want to play and didn't want to practice. I was looking around saying, 'What's this?' Kevin [Garnett] and I had to pick them up every day in practice… If me and Kevin weren't there, that team would have folded up. That team would have packed it in. We kept them going each and every day.''

 

Pierce was especially disparaging of Nets point guard Deron Williams. "Before I got there,” he said, “I looked at Deron as an MVP candidate. But I felt once we got there, that's not what he wanted to be. He just didn't want that… I think a lot of the pressure got to him sometimes. This was his first time in the national spotlight. The media in Utah is not the same as the media in New York, so that can wear on some people. I think it really affected him.’'

 

Pierce also said that he’s happy to be playing for the Washington Wizards, now — a team that is playoff-bound, potentially unlike the Nets, who are still fighting for a spot on the final day of the season. With the Wizards, he has what he was yearning for in Brooklyn: a young, motivated nucleus to transfer his wealth of knowledge over to. John Wall and Bradley Beal have been eager students in the way Williams wasn’t, and are a fitting duo for him to finish his career with.

 

— John Wilmes

@johnwilmesNBA

Teaser:
Post date: Wednesday, April 15, 2015 - 10:41
Path: /college-football/ranking-accs-football-coaching-jobs-2015-expert-poll
Body:

Is it easier to win at Florida State or Clemson? How about North Carolina or Miami?

 

Which program provides the most support? Which program has access to the best players? Which program has proven it can succeed at a high level over time? Which program has the most pressure to win?

 

These are all the questions head coaches must ask themselves when deciding to accept a job or not.

 

So Athlon Sports asked some respected ACC minds one question: Where would you want to coach if the slates (rosters, sanctions, etc.) were wiped clean and all 14 jobs were available?

 

The Voting Panel:

 

Wes Durham, FOX Sports/ACC Network

Mark Packer, SiriusXM College Sports Nation

Tony Barnhart, AJC/SEC Network

Chris Low, ESPN.com

Bob Ferrante, TheOsceola.com

Ralph Russo, AP

Bud Elliott, TomahawkNation.com

Joe Lanza, TheKeyPlay.com

Paul Myerberg, USA Today

Mark Ennis, ESPN 680-Louisville

David Glenn, The David Glenn Show

David Hood, Tigernet.com

Jerry DiPaola, Pitt Trib Review

Nate Mink, Syracuse.com

Steven Lassan, Athlon Sports

Braden Gall, Athlon Sports/SiriusXM

The Results:

 

Voting: A first-place vote was worth one point and a last-place vote was worth 14 points. The points are a great indicator of what tier your program is in within the conference.

 

RkJobVotes (1st)
1.17 (15)
Ever since joining the ACC, Florida State has been the league's most dominant program. The Noles have a great recruiting base, rich history of elite success, a powerful national brand and one of the better gameday atmospheres in the league. The facilities are getting better and the only drawback is slight financial instability in the athletic department. There are very few cons in Tallahassee and it's why FSU got 15 of the possible 16 first-place votes.
2.37
The more you study Clemson the more you wonder how it went 20 years without a conference crown. Death Valley is the best place to play (or live) in the ACC and the support from both administration and fans is second-to-none in the league. It's also centrally located between the fertile recruiting grounds of Florida, Georgia, Virginia and North Carolina. The Tigers got 14 of the possible 16 second-place votes.
3.66
Frank Beamer has slowly but surely elevated this program from regional afterthought to ACC powerhouse by way of the Big East. The facilities are great and Lane Stadium is a sight to behold on Saturdays. The campus is gorgeous but isolated and Virginia is stocked with talent but is over-recruited by both the ACC and SEC. The Hokies were ranked third, fourth or fifth by all but one voter. It's not an elite job but it's stable and safe.
4.70 (1)
Miami is an interesting case study in pros and cons. On the positive side, the Hurricanes offer as much upside as any program in the nation, winning national titles in three different decades and have the easiest access to elite prospects of any program in the nation. But fan and administrative support is inferior to any nationally elite programs and the home-field advantage is non-existent. This is why The U was the only other team to get a first-place vote — and was voted ninth twice.
5.78
One of the quicker risers in college football (due in large part to the accomplishments of Tom Jurich) checks in as a top-five ACC job after just one season. Facilities continue to surge upwards towards big-time college football but are not on an elite level quite yet. The same could be said about the recruiting base — it's solid, but Louisville must look outside the region to build a roster. There is a lot to like about the Cardinals' post but it still has some work to do to be a nationally revered gig.
6.94
Now that Clemson has reestablished itself as an ACC power, the mantle of underachiever falls to Chapel Hill. As far as location, recruiting base, stadium, facilities and brand power, UNC is on par with most conference foes. However, the fans can be fickle (and obsessed with the round ball) and there is little track record of high-level success. This is a program that should be winning 8-9 games every season with the many advantages it boasts. Yet, it hasn't won an ACC crown since 1980. This job has more to offer than, say, Louisville, but hasn't been able to prove it on the field.
7.115
There are certain obstacles one must clear to win at Tech. First, the city of Atlanta is a poor sports town and produces less talent than one might assume in a market dominated by its SEC brethren from Athens. Academic standards can also hinder success. But this program has consistently been competitive despite some more interesting hires. 
8.129
Boasting the most underrated gameday atmosphere in the ACC, NC State is one of the better second-tier programs in the league. The recruiting base is rich and the facilities are among the league's best. But this program seems mired in the middle of the league, last winning a title in 1979 and posting just six winning seasons in ACC play since 1990. The Wolfpack were voted as high as sixth (three times) and as low as 11th.
9.139
Since Florida State joined, no program has watched its stock slip more than Virginia. The once-proud program has a fertile recruiting base to cull, a gorgeous campus and stadium with passionate fans. But this program has struggled to deliver, as it's won just two ACC titles in its 57-year league history. The strict academic standards likely have kept this program from vaulting into regionally elite status.
10.153
The last of the quality jobs in the ACC, Pitt offers some unique points to this discussion. The Panthers play in a posh building in a football-crazy town but will always be second fiddle to the Black and Gold. The Keystone State was once extremely productive when it comes to football talent but has seen population trends shift South, West and East. It is the lone rust-belt program geographically, so while there are unique advantages there are also unique disadvantages as well. Moving up to the ACC is a big positive but the glory days of Dan Marino, Hugh Green and Tony Dorsett are long gone.
11.178
Don't let the job David Cutcliffe has done fool you, winning at Duke is nearly impossible. At best, it's the third-best job in the state in an area that is focused on hoops and has academic restraints. The fan support and overall interest just isn't there — from fans or boosters. How else could a team win a division title and only average 26,000 fans?
12.184
There are many hurdles to clear to win at BC. There isn't enough talent in the Northeast to keep BC competitive with the Florida State's of the world and luring players North from down South is easier said than done. Facilities and fan support aren't among the league's best either. However, there is something to be said about the consistency this program has experienced in the past — which is why three voters had the Eagles at ninth.
13.198
Just 15 years ago, this ranking would be absurd. This once-proud program was a national power with elite facilities, fan support and brand recognition. Yet, as population trends continue to move away from the Northeast and Cuse's once state-of-the-art stadium becomes more outdated, winning has gotten more difficult. And the fans aren't coming out like they used too. It's impossible to recruit to upstate New York and the move to the ACC hasn't opened up a Southern pipeline like anticipated. Finally, Syracuse administration clearly are more committed to basketball.
14.220
There just is nothing that sets Wake Forest apart from anyone else in the ACC. It's not the top program in the state — it's third at best. It's not the best academic school in the ACC. The facilities are solid but uninspiring. Fan support is extremely questionable on most Saturdays. Winston-Salem is a nice play to live, but otherwise there is little upside here. The Demon Deacons have posted three winning seasons in a row only once (2006-08) since the early 1950s and have won just one ACC title since 1970.

 

Listen to the Cover 2 Podcast: Early 2015 ACC Preview



Subscribe: iTunes | Stitcher

Teaser:
Ranking the ACC's Football Coaching Jobs in 2015 (Expert Poll)
Post date: Wednesday, April 15, 2015 - 10:00
All taxonomy terms: NASCAR, News
Path: /nascar/jimmie-johnson-cruises-victory-lane-under-lights-texas
Body:

When you think of tracks that fit Jimmie Johnson’s driving style, Texas doesn’t cross your mind first. There’s Dover, the Monster Mile where he’s led more laps and earned more trophies than anyone else. Charlotte, now Lowe’s Motor Speedway was a track that was once nicknamed “Jimmie’s House” for his dominance. And Martinsville, although Johnson struggled there this year, has long been a place where the No. 48 team has emerged victorious, a short track he used as a catapult toward many of his six Cup championships.

 

 

Perhaps, though it’s time to take a serious look at how Texas has emerged as a playground for Johnson and crew chief Chad Knaus. Their victory in the spring race Saturday night was their fourth in the last six Cup races held down in Fort Worth, leading a total of 742 laps along the way. That’s a higher win total for him over the same stretch compared to any other track on the circuit, even Dover (where he’s won a career-high nine times). During the race Saturday night, Johnson seemed to glide all over the track with ease, mastering both the short and long-run setups crucial to NASCAR’s 1.5-mile ovals. It was the No. 48 team at their best, never out of touch with the track and seemingly in cruise control over a victory which, without the presence of Kevin Harvick and teammate Dale Earnhardt, Jr. would have turned into a cakewalk.

 

“Texas has just kind of grown for us,” Johnson said after the race. “I think the tracks with high wear, bumps, all those types of things, have just always been a good surface for the 48.”

 

The emergence of this race is important on Johnson’s resume because of the way the new Chase unfolds. With the three-round elimination format, the only way you protect yourself from bad luck during the playoffs is by scoring victories. Now, the No. 48 team has not one but two tracks in the final round where they’re considered heavy favorites: Martinsville and Texas. It helps protect them and potentially adds an extra week for the team to focus on one of the few places they haven’t run well consistently – Homestead – the track that now holds the key to a record-tying seventh title.

 

Johnson’s Texas triumph is just one of the stories we’re following. Through the Gears we go…

 

FIRST GEAR: Chevys Back In Control

 

Johnson’s victory, his second of the season continued a running theme of Chevy dominance at intermediate tracks. Other than the Team Penske Fords of Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano, no one else was in serious contention, as the Bowtie Brigade led 288 of 334 laps. It’s developed into a running theme where Hendrick engines, chassis and setups on the 1.5-mile ovals dominate over all other competitors.

 

Consider this fact: six of the top 8 at Texas had Hendrick power under the hood. With the 2015 rules package staying intact, at least for the foreseeable future it’s clear who everyone else has to catch.

 

“Stats don’t lie and the stats say that those guys or really anyone with a Hendrick engine or chassis is going to be capable of winning right now,” said Toyota’s Denny Hamlin. “To be realistic, we need stuff to go our way. We need cautions and track position. We just can’t drive through the field like that – what those guys are capable of – and we’re a work in progress.”

 

SECOND GEAR: Kahne’s Quiet Consistency

 

Much of the focus at Hendrick has centered on Johnson’s surge to the top, Jeff Gordon’s final season or Earnhardt, Jr.’s interaction with new crew chief Greg Ives. Lost in it all has been the way Kasey Kahne has shown consistency this season, his first with new head wrench Keith Rodden. It seems like the No. 5 car has been revitalized, finishing each race inside the top 20 while battling through bad luck that seems to hound Kahne’s tenure with HMS.

 

“There were times when I felt really competitive with the leaders and other times more like a fifth-place car,” Kahne said. “Keith (Rodden, crew chief) did a great job; we prepared a nice car. We just left too many wheels loose throughout the race. I think three; you can’t run well when you do that.”

 

Yet Kahne battled back to finish in eighth, fighting adversity that in previous years would have left him well outside the top 20. The chemistry is clicking here and that’s important considering how well the 10 Chase tracks play out in Kahne’s favor. Each of the rounds offers him an opportunity to win easily (Chicagoland, Charlotte, and Texas, respectively). A solid fifth in the standings, NASCAR’s one-time king of the 1.5-milers should have no problem making the Chase this season and can spend the summer testing combinations for the races that really count.

 

THIRD GEAR: Where Art Thou?

 

While the rest of Stewart-Haas Racing keeps humming along, its co-owner is mired back in 32nd in the Sprint Cup standings. Tony Stewart still sits without a top-10 finish, 24th at Texas and has struggled mightily despite running in the same organization as defending champion Kevin Harvick. At this point, even if Stewart won a race his current point position would make him ineligible to compete inside the Chase.

 

It’s also been a disastrous season for Sam Hornish, Jr. in his return to Cup competition. Hornish sits 29th in the Cup Series standings and does not have a top-20 finish outside of the Daytona 500. His teammate, Aric Almirola sits in Chase position by comparison which makes Hornish’s lack of performance stand out.

 

FOURTH GEAR: Small Team Struggles

 

It’s clear that the intermediates give the underdogs a decided disadvantage. But Texas was especially notable, with no “David” ever giving “Goliath” a run for their money. Among the smaller programs, David Gilliland did the best of the bunch, just 28th for Front Row Motorsports as none of them finished on the lead lap. Others, like Justin Allgaier and Michael Annett crashed while several suffered from mechanical failures.

 

Speed and handling, the two keys for an aging Texas track tend to make contending impossible here for these teams. The hope is Bristol this weekend will bring relief but with the way this year’s rule package has worked out, that’s no guarantee – even at one of the series’ most competitive arenas.

 

OVERDRIVE

 

The emergence of young Erik Jones, who won Friday night’s XFINITY Series race down in Texas has Joe Gibbs Racing thinking about putting him in a Cup ride as soon as May. Does that mean David Ragan could be on the way out? Ragan, subbing for the injured Kyle Busch has finally started to seem comfortable driving the No. 18 Toyota, posting runs of fifth and 13th the last two weeks. But he’s contracted to a Ford team, Front Row Motorsports, and has failed to lead a lap all season long. Jones is a Toyota driver and potentially a future star within the JGR camp… The Texas race earned a paltry 2.9 overnight rating, the worst for the race since FOX started covering the sport in 2001. The last four Cup races have now seen declines in the Nielsens after a series of increases to start the year.

 

— Written by Tom Bowles, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and the Majority Owner of NASCAR Web site Frontstretch.com. He can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @NASCARBowles.

 

Photos by Action Sports, Inc.

Teaser:
Jimmie Johnson Cruises to Victory Lane Under the Lights in Texas
Post date: Tuesday, April 14, 2015 - 22:30
All taxonomy terms: NFL, News
Path: /nfl/cleveland-browns-unveil-new-uniforms-2015-season
Body:

The 2015 season is still a few months away, but Cleveland is getting an early start by releasing its updated jerseys for the upcoming year.

 

The Browns didn’t drastically alter their uniforms in this update, but it's also hard to call this change an improvement. One of the biggest changes is the addition of the word "Cleveland" on the front of the jersey.

 

Here’s a few photos from Tuesday night’s release in Cleveland:

 

 

Teaser:
Cleveland Browns Unveil New Uniforms for 2015 Season
Post date: Tuesday, April 14, 2015 - 20:12
Path: /college-basketball/williams-transfer-west-virginia-university
Body:

BlueGoldSports.com has learned that junior forward BillyDee Williams is leaving the West Virginia basketball program. BGS first learned of Williams' decision on Monday evening, which was later confirmed by other sources.

 

Williams was a JUCO transfer, who averaged 7.3 minutes per game for WVU this past season after playing for Iowa Western Community College in 2013, where he averaged 13.9 ppg. Williams was expected to receive major playing time for the Mountaineers this fall due to his size and athletic ability. He sustained a broken optical socket before the 2014-15 season even started and after that had trouble adapting to WVU head coach Bob Huggins' system. Huggins often criticized Williams' inability to learn the Mountaineers' defensive scheme, but praised his basketball athletic ability. Huggins was quoted on multiple occasions to say that Williams was the best athlete on the WVU basketball team.

 

With Williams no longer in the picture, look for Huggins and staff to move quickly to fill his spot. The first name to watch is JUCO guard Buay Tuach, who will visit the WVU campus this weekend. Tuach has the body build and athletic ability that WVU loses in Williams, but is a much better shooter than Williams was. Another name to watch is Robert Morris transfer Elijah Minnie. Minnie was recruited by the WVU coaching staff last year before committing to play close to home at Robert Morris. Minnie has been granted his release from the school and is looking at the Mountaineers as a possibility.

 

Either way it’s looking like there will be a new face in the Coliseum this fall.

 

Before publication of this article WVU released an official statement on Williams:

 

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (April 13, 2015) – West Virginia University men’s basketball junior BillyDee Williams plans to transfer to another school, coach Bob Huggins announced this evening.

 

“BillyDee and I met, and we mutually agreed that he should transfer to another school for his senior season,” said Huggins. “We thank BillyDee for his contributions to Mountaineer basketball, and we wish him success in his future endeavors.”

 

Williams, from Orlando, Florida, played in 18 games this past season, averaging 1.2 points and 1.5 rebounds per game.

 

 

— Written by Jeremy Simon, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and editor-in-chief of BlueGoldSports.com, a must visit for any and all West Virginia Mountaineer fans. Follow BlueGoldSports.com on Twitter @Blue_GoldSports.

 

(BillyDee Williams photo by All-Pro Photography/Dale Sparks photo, courtesy of wvusports.com)

Teaser:
Junior Forward BillyDee Williams to Transfer from West Virginia University
Post date: Tuesday, April 14, 2015 - 12:15
All taxonomy terms: Overtime, News
Path: /overtime/cubs-jon-lester-pickoff-attempt-goes-wrong-0
Body:

Cubs' left-hander Jon Lester had not thrown a pickoff to first base since April 30, 2013. And after last night's attempt, we may know why. Check out this video to see Lester's second attempt sail into the outfield:

 

Lester attempted his first and second pickoff throws to first since 2013 against the Reds on Monday night. The one that went into the outfield was the second throw over. However, the mistake was not a costly one with the help of teammate Jorge Soler, who nailed Zack Cozart at third. Lester's first attempt did not go unnoticed either. The Cubs crowd went crazy at Lester's first attempt...which by the way was off line too.

 

Lester gave up six runs on 10 hits over six innings in his second start with the Cubs. He has been known to have the case of the "yips" when it comes to fielding his positions and throwing to bases. After Monday night, we might not see another attempt from Lester until 2017.

Teaser:
Cubs' Jon Lester sends his second pickoff attempt in two years into the outfield.
Post date: Tuesday, April 14, 2015 - 11:48
All taxonomy terms: College Football, News
Path: /college-football/coaches-texas-texas-am-favor-resuming-rivalry
Body:

Texas coach Charlie Strong and Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin would like to coach against each other. Presumably as the coaches of Texas A&M.

 

Strong and Sumlin both told ESPN.com’s Chris Low they’d like to see one of the best rivalries in college football resume. The series was among several great rivalries ended due to conference realignment.

 

"That game is so much a part of this state," Strong told ESPN.com. "Over 100 years, we've played that game. Why stop it now because we're in different conferences? At some point, when it's right for everybody with the different schedules, I would love to play Texas A&M again."

 

The rivalry, which was played nearly every year between 1915 and 2011, ended when Texas A&M departed the Big 12. The move of the Aggies and Missouri to the SEC and Nebraska to the Big Ten and Colorado to the Pac-12 put the existence of the Big 12 in jeopardy.

 

The Big 12 stabilized its 10-team membership with the addition of West Virginia and TCU in 2012. The league’s status may be further solidified as the NCAA appears to have softened its stance on the rule prohibiting 10-team leagues holding a conference championship game.

 

"Now, moving into Year 4 (of SEC membership) and listening to our former students and our alumni base and knowing a lot of Texas alums, it's important that we play again," Sumlin told ESPN.com. "I think it will happen somewhere down the road.”

 

The question is scheduling. The next time both teams have a vacancy on their schedules is 2019. The relationship between the two schools has been frigid since conference realignment, but both schools have new athletic directors — Steve Patterson at Texas and Eric Hyman at Texas A&M — since 2012.

Teaser:
Coaches at Texas, Texas A&M Favor Resuming Rivalry
Post date: Tuesday, April 14, 2015 - 11:47
Path: /10-college-rivalries-killed-conference-realignment-2015
Body:

Thanksgiving hasn’t been the same since the Texas A&M and Missouri started hanging out with the SEC. Or since West Virginia and Pitt started rolling with the Big 12 and ACC, respectively.

 

Conference realignment ended a handful of traditional rivalries, either because of scheduling conflicts or acrimonious relationships.

 

In other words, no more Texas-Texas A&M. No more Backyard Brawl. No more Border War.

 

Rivalry week isn’t what it used to be, and, frankly, we’d wish everyone would just get along. Here’s a look at what conference changes have cost the sport in terms of history and tradition.


Texas-Texas A&M

Last played: 2011
Played on Thanksgiving in most years, this heated rivalry ended when the Aggies left the Big 12 for the SEC. The 2012 season maked the first time since 1915 that A&M and Texas haven’t been in the same league — both were charter members of the Southwest Conference and then the Big 12. Few rivalries run as deep in the traditions of each school. Both fight songs mention the other (“Goodbye to Texas University. So long to the Orange and White” in the Aggie War Hymn, “And it’s goodbye to Texas A&M” in Texas Fight). Bevo has been kidnapped through the course of the rivalry, so has Reveille. Long in the shadow of the Longhorns, Texas A&M broke with Texas to join the SEC this season. For now, the best chance of a game between the two may be the Cotton Bowl in Dallas.


Pittsburgh-West Virginia

Last played: 2011
Separated by 80 miles, the Backyard Brawl was turned up a notch when Pittsburgh stopped playing its other top rival, Penn State. With both teams in the Big East and the game taking place in the final week of November in all but one year since 1997, the rivalry took a new look. The most significant game in the rivalry, though, was in 2007 when a then-No. 2 West Virginia team lost its bid to the national championship thanks to a monumental 13-9 upset to a 4-7 Pittsburgh team.
 

Kansas-Missouri

Last played: 2011
Just because the Border War (now the Border Showdown) doesn’t rise to the same level of national attention as Michigan-Ohio State or the Iron Bowl, that doesn’t make it any less nasty across all sports. Before Missouri left for the SEC, Kansas-Missouri was the oldest rivalry West of the Mississippi. The series has included brawls, conniving and upsets over the years. But now it’s just a Cold War. While he won’t be the final say, Kansas basketball coach Bill Self has indicated he wouldn’t mind of the Jayhawks never played Missouri again.


Nebraska-Oklahoma

Last played: 2010
Consider this: there’s a whole generation out there that never watched Nebraska and Oklahoma face off on Thanksgiving.  As the Big Eight’s preeminent powers during the 1960s, 70s and 80s, one program in the rivalry was a consistent foil for the other. At one point, the winner of this game won the Big Eight in 31 of 36 seasons, including the 1971 Game of the Century between the No. 1 Cornhuskers and No. 2 Sooners. The formation of the Big 12 ended this game as an annual event, and Nebraska’s departure for the Big Ten ended regular meetings altogether. A sliver of good news, though: The series has been scheduled for a non-conference home-and-home in 2021-22.


Michigan-Notre Dame

Last played: 2014

The Michigan-Notre Dame series has been marked by lulls from 1944-77 and 1910-41, but the two teams have met nearly every year since 1978. The series was an apparent casualty from Notre Dame’s agreement to face four or five ACC schools every season. It remains to be seen how the arrangement will affect Notre Dame’s other traditional games against Michigan State and Purdue. Notre Dame has indicated its top rivalries to preserve would be those with USC, Navy and Stanford.


Penn State-Pittsburgh

Last played: 2000
This used to be the biggest rivalry game for both schools, but it was at its best in the late 1970s and 80s when Pitt was a national title contender under Jackie Sherrill and Johnny Majors. Penn State coach Joe Paterno was not the biggest fan of Sherrill, and Pittsburgh was not the biggest fan of the Eastern football league Paterno hoped to establish. Pitt joined the Big East instead. When Penn State joined the Big Ten, it all but ended the series.


Florida-Miami

Last played: 2008
Once the longest running series in the Sunshine State ended when the SEC moved to an eight-game schedule. The Gators kept their annual series with Florida State, set in motion by the state legislature (Miami also continued to play FSU every year well before both were in the ACC). Florida and Miami played every year from 1938-87, ending just as both programs achieved national prominence. The two teams met intermittently since, but they’ve played only five times since the series ended.


Arkansas-Texas

Last played: 2014
The two programs have played only three times in the regular season since Arkansas left the Southwest Conference in 1992. The most recent meeting was a 31-7 Arkansas win in the Texas Bowl last season. The rivalry was at its best when the top two coaches for each school — Darrell Royal at Texas and Frank Broyles at Arkansas — overlapped from 1958-78. In 1969, No. 1 Texas defeated No. 2 Arkansas 15-14 on Dec. 2 of that season. In that famous game, President Richard Nixon attended and declared the Longhorns national champions.


Georgetown-Syracuse

Last played: 2013
Perhaps the biggest basketball casualty due to realignment is the end of Georgetown-Syracuse with the Orange joining the ACC in 2013-14. By the time Syracuse and Georgetown helped launch Big East basketball in 1979-80, Jim Boeheim had already begun to build his program. The advent of the league also coincided with the rise of John Thompson with the Hoyas. One of the first meeting of the two as Big East members — a Georgetown victory at Syracuse’s Manley Field House to end the Orange’s 57-game home winning streak — set the tone for the rest of the rivalry.

 

Duke-Maryland

Last played: 2014
Back before Florida State, Miami and Virginia Tech joined, ACC basketball was iconic. Maryland was on a virtual island, isolated from the heart of ACC country on Tobacco Road. The Terrapins still tabbed Duke as their top rivalry, though the Blue Devils spent more time agonizing over what was going on in Chapel Hill instead. When both programs were at the top of their games, however, when Gary Williams faced off against Mike Krzyzewski, this series was tough to beat.

Teaser:
10 college rivalries ended by conference realignment
Post date: Tuesday, April 14, 2015 - 11:26
All taxonomy terms: NBA
Path: /nba/key-injuries-have-dampened-western-conference-playoffs
Body:

The Western Conference could’ve been the most impressive pack of title contenders this side of James Naismith, had it not had been for the cruel interjection of fate.

 

Between the Memphis Grizzlies, Houston Rockets, Portland Trail Blazers and Oklahoma City Thunder, the conference now has four championship-worthy squads almost certainly due for premature exits, because of missing or compromised players.

 

Memphis is the only team in this bunch with all of its players technically active for the postseason, but in Tony Allen, Marc Gasol, Courtney Lee and Mike Conley they have four of five starters who haven’t been themselves for a while. The Grizzlies have stumbled as they approach the postseason, losing six of their last 10 at time of publication and no longer resembling the scary dark horse they were as recently as February.

 

Just as soon as Houston saw Dwight Howard return to the lineup to anchor their defense’s back line, they lost two crucial pieces of depth for the season: Donatas Motiejunas and Patrick Beverley. Neither are go-to players, to be sure, but without the services of either, Houston has to rely all the more on the creaky Howard and James Harden, and it’s all but inevitable that they’ll end up losing a battle of inches in a seven-game series because they lack that extra boost.

 

Wesley Matthews had already suffered a season-ending injury for the Blazers when his replacement, Arron Afflalo, came into a shoulder injury last week that could see him miss action in the first round, and will keep him from playing his best ball in any event.

 

And the Thunder, of course, continue their course as the most talented team that never was. With Kevin Durant and Serge Ibaka out for the playoffs, they run into debilitating springtime injury issues for the third consecutive time since their promising surge into the NBA Finals in 2012.

 

— John Wilmes

@johnwilmesNBA

Teaser:
Post date: Tuesday, April 14, 2015 - 11:17
Path: /college-football/expert-poll-ranking-secs-football-jobs-2015
Body:

Is it easier to win at Alabama or LSU? Georgia or Florida?

 

Which program provides the most support? Which program has access to the best players? Which program has proven it can succeed at a high level over time? Which program has the most pressure to win?

 

These are all the questions head coaches must ask themselves when deciding to accept a job or not.

 

So Athlon Sports asked some respected SEC minds one question: Where would you want to coach if the slates (rosters, sanctions, etc.) were wiped clean and all 14 jobs were available?

 

The Voting Panel:

 

Tim Brando, FOX Sports

Dari Nowkhah, SEC Network

Tony Barnhart, AJC/SEC Net

Greg McElroy, SiriusXM/SEC Net

Zac Ellis, Sports Illustrated

Chris Low, ESPN

Steven Godfrey, SB Nation

Wes Rucker, 247Sports

Dan Wolken, USA Today

Laura Rutledge, SEC Network

Chad Withrow, 104.5 The Zone-Nashville

Kayce Smith, ESPN/SEC Net

Seth Emerson, Macon Telegraph

Barrett Sallee, Bleacher Report

Josh Ward, WNML-Knoxville

Braden Gall, Athlon Sports/SiriusXM

 

The Results:

 

Voting: A first-place vote was worth one point and a last-place vote was worth 14 points.

 

RkJobVotes (First-place)Avg.
1.48 (6)3.0
It's hard to argue with the success, support, stability and upside of Alabama. The Tide boasts arguably the most rabid fanbase in the nation (which also might be the only negative), massive financial advantages and sits in the heart of fertile recruiting territory. There is a reason Bama has won 24 SEC titles. With six first-place votes, Bama was voted the best job in the SEC. 
2.52 (6)3.25
Located in the richest recruiting lands in the nation, Florida has more built-in advantages than almost every other program in college football. The facilities might need some work but this program has a rich history of success, one of the best home venues in the land and a fanbase that is as intense as any in the country. There are no excuses not to be good at Florida and it's why the Gators tied Bama with six first-place votes in our poll. 
3.53 (1)3.31
The Peach State is clearly the No. 4 state in the nation for producing talent while Florida, Virginia, Alabama and the Carolinas aren't long trips from campus. Sanford Stadium is an elite home building, the facilities are fantastic and the fans are crazy about their Dawgs. Living in one of the best college towns in the nation doesn't hurt either. Georgia was voted no lower than sixth by anyone. 
4.54 (1)3.38
There is very little difference between Georgia and LSU and the voting proved that out. LSU is located in a rich recruiting landscape with Texas next door and Tiger Stadium provides what many believe is the best home atmosphere in the nation (in big games). If food is your thing, there are few better places in the US to live than Baton Rouge. Like UGA, LSU was voted no lower than sixth by anyone and both tied for the lead with four second-place votes. 
5.76 (1)4.8
The recruiting base is second to none. The facilities and stadium are among the nation's best because the Aggies' athletic department is as powerful (and rich) as any program in college football. This program has largely underachieved for long stretches as it hasn't competed for national titles like the other programs high on this list but that could all be changing now that it's in the SEC. College Station isn't exactly a destination location either. 
6.996.2
Despite being No. 2 in the state, Auburn has proven it can win at an elite level over a long period of time. The town is sleepy and extremely small but the fans are rabid and the support is enviable. The facilities have been upgraded and are on par with most of the nation's best while Jordan-Hare is downright intimidating on Saturdays. 
7.1036.4
The Vols have long battled an issue with in-state recruiting but that is beginning to improve slowly but surely. The facilities, stadium and fan support are as good as Florida's or Alabama's and the history of winning dates back for decades. Knoxville is a blossoming town just outside some of this country's most beautiful outdoor locations as well. You can win a national title at Tennessee. 
8.134 (1)8.4
South Carolina has little to no history of success but has shown it has the makings of a powerful program. The fan support has always been excellent despite traditionally bad football teams. The stadium is one of the best in the nation, the athletic department has proven it wants to provide the necessary support financially and the recruiting base is fertile. However, the complete lack of high-level winning keeps this job from being elite. The Gamecocks were the most polarizing program in this poll, getting one first-place vote, a third-place vote and five votes of 10th or worse. 
9.1428.88
Maybe underrated nationally, Arkansas has all the pieces of an elite program. It's got fantastic fan support (albeit divided geographically, at times) and an extremely underrated home stadium. It's got a history of national success — before arriving in the SEC. It's the biggest sports brand in the state. Arkansas lacks elite-level, in-state talent, but dipping into Texas has long been a tradition for Hogs coaches. However, ranking fifth in the division makes winning on a national scale a major challenge. 
10.1438.94
There are plenty of challenges to winning big at Ole Miss. The stadium, while solid, lacks the size and stature of the big dogs in the SEC. The state of Mississippi produces some elite-level recruits but still has a very small population base to pull from. Facilities have been upgraded of late but there is a reason Ole Miss hasn't been a real factor in the SEC since the 1960s. Hugh Freeze might be changing all of that, however. 
11.17010.6
Mizzou is a tough place to win big, which makes the job Gary Pinkel has done even more amazing. There is some solid in-state talent but not as good as most in the SEC. The stadium and fans are solid but not as good as most in the SEC. The history of success and winning is solid but not nearly as good as most in the SEC. There is a lot to like about this job but there is nothing elite about it — although, Columbia is a very underrated place to be. 
12.18611.6
It is the hardest job in the hardest division in football. Starkville isn't exactly a destination locale either. But the facilities have been upgraded and the stadium keeps getting bigger. The state produces its share of talent but is constantly being picked over by bigger programs (Bama, LSU, etc.). There is a reason no head coach has left Starkville with a winning SEC record since 1953. 
13.20012.5
Obviously, it is hard to win at Kentucky but there is a lot to appreciate about this gig. First, the pressure to win is lower here than almost everywhere else in the league. Second, Commonwealth Stadium can be a great place to coach when things are going well. Lastly, it can recruit homegrown prospects and the state of Ohio better than any other SEC program. If you don't mind battling up hill in the East and playing second fiddle to whoever is the basketball coach, Lexington can be a solid place to coach. 
14.22013.8
The only program of its kind in the SEC. Vanderbilt is the only academic-focused institution in the conference and it has the worst fan support because of it. There is no track record of success for a reason. That said, Vandy has proven it can pay coaches well and Nashville is one of the best cities in the country. And let's face it, the pressure to win isn't on par with any of the other SEC jobs. All but three of the 16 votes placed the Dores 14th. 

 

Listen to the Cover 2 Podcast: Early 2015 SEC Preview



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Teaser:
Expert Poll: Ranking the SEC's Football Jobs in 2015
Post date: Tuesday, April 14, 2015 - 10:00
Path: /college-football/army-shows-awesome-new-uniforms-and-logo-athletic-rebrand
Body:

Army’s entire athletic program will have a new look and logos following an announcement about an athletic rebrand.

 

Army’s athletic programs will now be known as Army West Point. Additionally, sharp new uniforms and logos are coming in 2015.

 

Check out this link for more information on why Army is rebranding its programs as Army West Point.

 

Here’s some photos from Monday’s announcement: 

Teaser:
Army Shows Off Awesome New Uniforms and Logo in Athletic Rebrand
Post date: Monday, April 13, 2015 - 21:28

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