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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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
Voting: A first-place vote was worth one point and a last-place vote was worth 14 points.
|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.|
|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.|
|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.|
|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.|
|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.|
|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.|
|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.|
|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.|
|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.|
|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.|
|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.|
|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.|
|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.|
|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
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:
College baseball can be a strange sport. Aluminum bats, suspect pitching and liberal scheduling of double headers all lead to some strange scores and comebacks.
This one, though, stands apart: Minnesota State 41, Bemidji State 20.
Just another day in Division II baseball between two in-state foes in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference. This game remarkably didn’t set a record. Division Robert Morris (Ill.) defeated St. Francis (Ill.) 71-1 in a game in 1996 for the highest scoring NCAA baseball game.
This game was the second of a double header and the second of four games between the two schools on Saturday and Sunday. Minnesota State won the series 10-9, 41-20, 14-4 and 23-1. The double headers, it seems, are a norm for Minnesota State, which has had nine of them since March 20.
The box score is a work of art. Here are some of the best highlights:
• The listed attendance was 125. That’s about two runs per fan.
• Minnesota State needed only 35 hits for those 41 runs thanks to six errors, eight walks and three hit batsmen.
• The first plate appearance in the top of the first inning? A hit by pitch.
• The first plate appearance in the top of the second? A throwing error by the third baseman.
• Minnesota State led 22-18 to start the seventh inning and 27-20 to start the eighth before a 14-run final inning. The game ended due to the mercy rule.
• Pitchers combined for five bases loaded walks, two by the team that won.
• Bemidji State’s WHIP was 5.375.
• Bemidji State pitcher Derek Masberg faced 10 batters in the eighth without recording an out.
• Bemidji State Collin Eckman came into the game as a pinch hitter in the second and still finished 4-of-4 with seven RBI and five runs.
• Minnesota State batted around in the second and third and twice in the eighth
• Bemidji State batted around in the second and sixth. Bemidji State went 1-2-3 in the bottom of the eighth to end the game.
Here are the Minnesota State’s live tweets from the game:
Celebrating before the goal line is something we’ve seen all too often in college football.
Apparently, this happens in track, too. Oregon senior Tanguy Pepiot was close to wrapping up the 3,000-meter steeplechase at the Pepsi Invitational on Saturday when he motioned for the home crowd in Eugene to cheer.
Washington junior Meron Simon made up ground on his showboating rival to win the race by a tenth of a second. Oregon, though, still won the meet.
Remember, kids, don’t showboat until after you’ve crossed the finish line or goal line or what have you.
ESPN’s Saturday College Football Final will have a new look during the 2015 season.
Analyst Lou Holtz and ESPN have parted ways by a “mutual agreement,” SI.com’s Richard Deitsch reported Sunday night. Holtz, the 78-year-old former Notre Dame coach, appeared on much of ESPN’s college football programming, including the Saturday College Football Final and the network’s Thursday night game.
In May, Holtz told 247Sports.com that he intended to retire after the 2014 season.
Holtz’s departure is the second from the Saturday night recap show. Host Rece Davis will host College GameDay, replacing Chris Fowler. Mark May is the only remaining member of the three-man team on College Football Final.
Presumably the Dr. Lou segment, the halftime pep talk and Final Courtroom courtroom arguments are gone from ESPN for good.
As a example of what we'll all miss, here’s Holtz going crazy with a cowbell for some reason:
Is it easier to win at Ohio State or Michigan? Wisconsin or Nebraska?
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 Ten 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:
Gerry DiNardo, Big Ten Network
Teddy Greenstein, Chicago Tribune
Adam Rittenberg, ESPN
Dave Revsine, Big Ten Network
Kevin McGuire, College Football Talk
Sean Callahan, HuskerOnline.com
Tom Dienhart, Big Ten Network
Herb Gould, Chicago Sun-Times
Brent Yarina, Big Ten Network
Kevin Noon, BuckeyeGrove.com
Braden Gall, Athlon Sports/SiriusXM
Voting: A first place vote was worth one point and a last place vote was worth 14 points.
|Ohio State landed all 11 first place votes. Huge money, huge fan support and a huge track record of winning. There is only one B1G team that's played in the national title game since 1997.|
|Michigan got nine of the 11 second-place votes as clearly the No. 2 job in the Big Ten. The stadium has been updated and history has proven you can win big. The Wolverines are the only other B1G team to win a national title since the 60s.|
|Despite the recent scandal, Penn State still offers huge upside and a chance to win a national championship and arguably the best stadium/fan support in the league. A drop in talent in the state has hurt the program slightly, but with two second-place votes, PSU is clearly a top tier job in the league.|
|The second tier in the Big Ten is Wisconsin, Nebraska and Michigan State. The Badgers have some issues with admissions and facilities but those things are being addressed. A gorgeous campus, stadium and elite fan support has elevated this job into national prominence. However, coaches have left for a reason and the instate talent isn't overwhelming.|
|The Huskers stock has dropped nationally but Lincoln is still a great place to coach. Unbelievable facilities and fan support make winning here easier than most places. However, the pressure to win no longer matches the current difficulties this program faces in recruiting.|
|This program has elevated it's stock in the last ten years by proving it can sustain high-level success. Nothing about this program is elite but there are no weaknesses — other than being located in an area that is producing less talent than ever before.|
|The Terps tied with Iowa as the clear middle-tier jobs in the Big Ten. Maryland has a rich recruiting base and the support of an apparel company backing them up every step of the way. The stadium, fan support and history isn't as rich as Iowa's but is solid nevertheless.|
|The fan support is there. The stadium is electric. And there is some history of success in Iowa City. However, there isn't a lot of talent in-state or in the region and expansion has dropped Iowa a few spots down the B1G hierarchy.|
|The Fighing Illini have seen better days. There is rich pockets of success and the state has some talent, however, the support from fans and administration is lacking compared to the Big Ten big boys. There is a reason Illinois has two outright league titles since the early 1960s.|
|The Gophers have a brand new stadium and a beautiful downtown setting. However, it's hard to get recruits to The Twin Cities and the program won't ever be confused with the bigger, more powerful jobs in the B1G. It's a tough sell.|
|The recruiting base is solid and it's the top progam in one of the country's biggest cities. However, the academic school won't ever provide the Saturday atmosphere like a Penn State or Ohio State. It takes a special coach with special ties to stick it out longterm in Evanston.|
|Possibly the most underrated program on this list, many have believed for a long time that Rutgers has plenty of upward mobility. Greg Schiano proved that by building through the rich instate recruiting base. There is zero tradition and the athletic department has seen better days.|
|Few programs in the nation appear to have as few advantages as Purdue. The facilities aren't special, the talent base is lacking, West Fafayette isn't exactly a destination and there are only one real pocket of success (Joe Tiller).|
|The Hoosiers have started to invest more in football of late but this will always be a basketball-first program. There isn't a large pool of talent to cull and Indiana is the third-best football program in the state. There is a reason winning here is so hard.|
Listen to the Cover 2 Podcast: Early 2015 Big Ten Preview
Russell Westbrook’s wildly entertaining marathon of MVP-level madness might have both peaked and ended last night.
The Oklahoma City Thunder’s star point guard went berserk, scoring 54 points on 21-for-43 shooting, to go with nine rebounds and eight assists in a crucial loss to the Indiana Pacers, 116-104. The Thunder remain out of the playoff picture after falling behind Anthony Davis and the New Orleans Pelicans, with just two games to go in the season.
And if they want to beat the Portland Trail Blazers and stay close on New Orleans’ tail Monday night, they’ll likely have to do it without Russ. In addition to his monstrous stat line on the evening, he also gained his sixteenth technical foul of the season, earning him a suspension for the following game. Thunder coach Scott Brooks sounded confident that the penalty would be rescinded, but he may be doing a bit of wishful thinking.
When asked whether he took too many shots in the game, Westbrook said: “Every night I go out and compete harder than anybody else in this league. As long as my teammates don't have a problem with it, I'm good with it.”
With Kevin Durant and Serge Ibaka out of the lineup, it’s hard to argue much with Westbrook’s usage rate. He’s the Thunder’s best option on most possessions, and his coach and teammate know their remaining superstar is the unicorn they have to ride or die with.
But in the end, the final result of Westbrook’s indelible streak (which has included eleven triple-doubles) may be a sort of TKO; a Thunder death caused by the no-fun police, enforcing a rule that favors decorum over competitive intrigue.
While Westbrook’s demeanor on the court can be overzealous and downright rude at times…. who really cares? And who wins when one of the year’s most compelling players is pulled out of one of the league’s few remaining playoff races, in the season’s final days?
— John Wilmes
TCU just missed out on playing in college football’s playoff in 2014, and the Horned Frogs will resume their quest for the national championship with a new uniform combination in 2015.
After Friday night’s spring game, TCU released its new jerseys and helmets for the upcoming year, which featured a few differences from last year’s variation.
TCU’s new uniforms feature a purple, gray and frog skin design. Here’s a look at the new uniforms for 2015:
Here you go. pic.twitter.com/nhzeKJCZ8g— Carlos A. Mendez (@calexmendez) April 11, 2015
For millions of Americans, lower back pain is a common occurrence. We asked Los Angeles Dodgers strength and conditioning coach Brandon McDaniel for his best advice on keeping the aches and pains at bay.
“The stronger you make your glutes (butt), the better you’ll be at bending over to pick things up without hurting your back,” McDaniel says. “I’ll start a rookie with goblet squats or kettlebell deadlifts.” Once mastered, move up to barbells with heavier weight.
Your core works as a support structure for your lower back. “Planks, side planks and glute bridges are all good for strengthening your core.” Warm up for your workouts with three rounds of one minute each of those exercises to get your core ready to work.
No Heavy Machinery
If your back is sore, don’t attempt to “strengthen” it by using the back extension machine at your gym. “That machine will likely just break it down more.”
If you’re sore from yesterday’s workout, go through a thorough warm-up. “Go through a dynamic movement, hit the foam roller, stretch and warm up thoroughly,” McDaniel says.
“Medicine ball chest passes and med ball slams” both force your core to tighten and adjust to the weight as you catch and throw it.
—By Billy Brown
Kentucky’s NBA Draft prospects left little room for drama. Seven Wildcats announced — simultaneously — that they’d head for the NBA Draft on Thursday, less than a week after their what would be their final game for Kentucky.
At this rate, it’s easier to note who will be back at Kentucky for 2015-16. Let's start with point guard Tyler Ulis, junior forward Marcus Lee and injured senior Alex Poythress.
Those three, plus an incomplete recruiting class that already ranks No. 1 in the country, is enough for a competitive team next season. Athlon Sports ranked the Wildcats No. 2 in its early top 25 for 2015-16.
The draft announcements were just one domino as John Calipari assembles his roster for 2015-16. Kentucky has three commitments for the 2015 and should add a few more blue chip prospects as recruiting continues into the summer.
So how might this shake out for Kentucky next season. First, let’s take a look at the roster how it stands:
PG Tyler Ulis, 5-9/155, Soph.
SG Isaiah Briscoe, 6-3/200, Fr.
SF Alex Poythress, 6-8/238, Sr.
PF Marcus Lee, 6-9/220, Jr.
C Skal Labissiere 6-10/200, Fr.
G Charles Matthews, 6-6/172, Fr.
G Dominique Hawkins, 6-0/195, Jr.
F Derek Willis, 6-9/220, Jr.
That’s already a solid group that may be the favorite in the SEC. The 5-9 Ulis is not the typical Calipari point guard, both in stature and experience. He’s also mighty efficient. Despite coming off the bench, Ulis ranked 71st nationally in offensive rating on KenPom.com, better than anyone else on Kentucky besides Karl-Anthony Towns. Ulis led Kentucky in assist rate and assist-to-turnover ratio.
Poythress played only eight games last season due to a torn ACL. He’s standout defender on the wing who averaged 11.2 points per game as a freshman in 2012-13. Lee hasn’t been able to get regular minutes on Kentucky’s last two teams. He’s a springy forward whose claim to fame is seven offensive rebounds against Michigan in last year’s Elite Eight while Willie Cauley-Stein was injured.
Center Skal Labissiere of Memphis is the highlight of the recruiting class, and he’ll fit right into Calipari’s tradition of highly drafted big men. He’ll open the season in the discussion for the No. 1 overall draft pick, but looming NCAA issues could cost him a few games.
Kentucky, of course, is in on a few major recruits. Here’s quick run down:
• Combo guard Malik Newman, a McDonald’s All-American, could play in the off guard role similar to Devin Booker, but he could produce at greater volume without a platoon system at Kentucky next season. He’s also considering Mississippi State, LSU and Kansas. Newman’s father, Horatio Webster, played basketball at Mississippi State.
• Forward Jaylen Brown has as many as eight schools on his final list, which he announced Tuesday. He’s the No. 2 prospect in the class behind LSU’s Ben Simmons, according to 247Sports.com.
• Power forward Thon Maker is a seven-footer from Toronto looking to reclassify to the 2015 class. His recruitment has been a bit bizarre.
• Center Stephen Zimmerman is another McDonald’s All-American big man who is considering Kentucky, UCLA, Arizona, Kansas and UNLV (Zimmerman goes to Las Vegas Bishop Gorman).
There is some serious excitement in Oxford entering 2015. And for good reason.
Hugh Freeze has built this Rebels roster to a point where it can compete against the best in the country. It’s in better shape than it’s been in decades.
There are still question marks at key positions but the schedule in the SEC West might be the biggest obstacle for Freeze and Ole Miss’ first-ever SEC Championship Game appearance.
2015 Ole Miss Schedule
Bye: Week 11
|1.||Sept. 5||Oxford, MS|
|This will be a prototypical, season-opening warm-up. Ole Miss has never faced UT-Martin and the Skyhawks should present little opposition.|
|2.||Sept. 12||Oxford, MS|
|These two will meet on the field for the third time in their respective histories, and all of these matchups occurring since 2010. Ole Miss won both previous meetings. The teams combined for 159 points in two games.|
|3.||Sept. 19||Tuscaloosa, AL|
|Revenge Game Ole Miss heads to Tuscaloosa fully aware of the revenge the Tide will have on mind. Ole Miss has 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.|
|4.||Sept. 26||Oxford, MS|
|After losing three straight to the Dores from 2010-12, Ole Miss has won two in a row. This included a 41-3 drubbing last fall in Nashville. Strangely enough, Vanderbilt has won three straight in Vaught-Hemmingway Stadium.|
|5.||Oct. 3||Gainesville, FL|
|Prove-It Swing Game Crossover play is always huge in SEC play and heading into The Swamp on Oct. 3 is a huge prove-it moment for Ole Miss. The Rebels own a 12-10-1 all-time record against Florida and fans will never forget the win over Tim Tebow and company in Gainesville in 2008 — which also was the last meeting between the two programs. In fact, Ole Miss has won two straight at Florida and three of the last four overall|
|6.||Oct. 10||Oxford, MS|
|This marks the first-ever meeting between the Aggies of New Mexico State and Ole Miss. That's all. Nothing else to see here, move on.|
|7.||Oct. 17||Memphis, TN|
|Until a late push in the fourth quarter, Memphis went toe-to-toe with Ole Miss in Oxford last season. This is a quality AAC program that sits just 85 miles from Ole Miss' campus. These two have met 60 times with the Rebels holding a 48-10-2 edge.|
|8.||Oct. 24||Oxford, MS|
|Must-Win Situation Ole Miss was extremely impressive in College Station last year in the 35-20 win. It was the Rebels' first victory over the Aggies in seven all-time meetings. Texas A&M has won both SEC matchups in Oxford. This game starts a streak of five huge SEC West games.|
|9.||Oct. 31||Auburn, AL|
|Elimination Game One of the most painful losses in the history of the program a year ago could be one of the most important games in the nation this season. Auburn leads the series all-time 29-10, and has won nine of the last 11. The last win for Ole Miss on The Plains came in 2003.|
|10.||Nov. 7||Oxford, MS|
|Houston Nutt Bowl This time the revenge factor plays in Ole Miss' favor after getting crushed by Arkansas a year ago. This has been an extremely even series over the years despite the 30-0 score from last fall. The Hogs lead the series 32-28-1 and the two have split the last six meetings in Oxford.|
|12.||Nov. 21||Oxford, MS|
|Rivalry Game The bye week comes at a huge time for Ole Miss, as the Rebels head into back-to-back rivalry games to end the year. The Rebels should have beaten LSU in Baton Rouge a year ago and will be looking for revenge this time around in Oxford. These two have split the last six meetings.|
|13.||Nov. 28||Starkville, MS|
|Egg Bowl Dan Mullen has been solid against Ole Miss but the Rebels have won two of the last three. The last four have gone the way of the home team so Ole Miss is looking to buck that trend in '15. The fate of the SEC West could be hanging in the balance in Dak Prescott's final regular season game.|
Listen to the Cover 2 Podcast: Early 2015 SEC Preview
This year’s NBA MVP race has been as close as they come. Between Russell Westbrook, Anthony Davis, Chris Paul, LeBron James, James Harden and Steph Curry, there are six candidates truly worthy of the award. Curry and Harden, however, have been more deserving than the rest, and the hardest part of calling the competition has been deciding between these two.
For most voters, that choice got a lot easier last night. In a 116-105 win over the Portland Trail Blazers, Curry led his Golden State Warriors with 45 points and 10 assists, shooting an obscene 17-of-23 from the field (74 percent), including 8-of-13 from beyond arc. This, on the same night that he broke the previous record (his own) for most three-pointers by one player in a season.
Those numbers are baffling, but the sight of how Steph got to them was even more so; the ease of his virtuoso was especially startling last night. Against Portland, he was completing sequences that even other elite NBA players can only dream about executing on an empty floor, with nobody guarding them. Steph dribbled through defensive obstacles like they were tissue paper all night — and especially in the fourth quarter — pulling up to drop smooth mortar into the net from any spot on the court of his choosing.
It was the perfect cornerstone game to display what Curry’s done all year, and show why he’s even more impressive than the amazing Harden. Steph is not only an offense unto himself, but he’s one that you have to account for like it’s an atomic bomb, the second he crosses the half-court line. His immaculate handles mean he can quickly get to any spot, and his shooting range (perhaps better than anyone’s, ever) makes him a threat to score from virtually any of those locations.
Nothing like Curry — the indomitable engine to basketball’s best team — has ever been seen before.
— John Wilmes
Georgia and Mark Richt will once again be the front-runner to win the SEC East.
He’s got an elite roster that fits his offensive style and a defense that finally appears poised to be one of the nation’s best.
However, part of why Georgia hasn’t won an SEC title since 2005 is because of how difficult the schedules are in the best league in America. For the Dawgs, with both Auburn and Alabama on the slate, 2015 won't be any different.
Related: 2015 Georgia Spring Football Preview
2015 Georgia Bulldogs Schedule
Bye: Week 8
|1.||Sept. 5||Athens, GA|
|For the first time in a while, the Bulldogs will open with a traditionally easy opponent. Georgia has played ULM three times and all three were blowouts in Athens. The combined score? 156-16.|
|2.||Sept. 12||Nashville, TN|
|Georgia has won 18 of the last 20 meetings between these East Division foes, including a 44-17 blowout last fall. However, Richt will be looking for revenge after what took place in the UGA's last trip to Nashville — which ended painfully in a 31-27 loss to the Dores.|
|3.||Sept. 19||Athens, GA|
|Pure Entertainment From an entertainment factor, few SEC east rivals put on a show better than these two. With the exception of one-sided wins in 2012 and '03, this has been a close game every season since Richt took over. South Carolina has won four of the last five overall and is 2-2 in its last four trips to Athens.|
|4.||Sept. 26||Gainesville, FL|
|No, this isn't Georgia Southern, Southern Miss, Southern California or Southern Methodist. It's just Southern. The Jaguars have never faced Georgia and likely won't appreciate the final score.|
|5.||Oct. 3||Athens, GA|
|SEC Title Preview? For the first time since 2008, the Crimson Tide will visit Sanford Stadium. Richt is 3-2 against Alabama but Bama has won two straight in the series, including one of the most unforgettable SEC title games in recent memory (2012). This could be a preview of the SEC title game that could once again lead to a Playoff berth.|
|6.||Oct. 10||Knoxville, TN|
|East Rivalry As should be the case with a historic rivalry that dates back to the 1899, the Vols and Dawgs are tied all-time 21-21-2. This game has featured some serious dramatics, as both sides remember what happened at the end of the epic overtime thriller in Knoxville two years ago.|
|7.||Oct. 17||Athens, GA|
|What is quickly developing into a quality SEC East rivalry, Mizzou and Georgia have watched the road team win all three conference meetings. The Tigers won 41-26 en route to an SEC East title the last time they visited Athens, but Georgia repaid the favor in style 34-0 last season in Columbia.|
|9.||Oct. 31||Jacksonville, FL|
|Cocktail Party In what could be considered Will Muschamp's last stand, the Gators inexplicably dominated the Dawgs 38-20 last fall. These two rivals are 4-4 in their last eight, as UGA owns the all-time series record 49-41-2 — which, of course, is debated by both sides. This could be a de facto SEC East title game.|
|10.||Nov. 7||Athens, GA|
|Georgia has won 16 of the last 18 and has won five straight in the series. Kentucky is improving but hasn't been able to stop Georgia's offense in any capacity of late, allowing 42.8 points per contest during the five-game losing streak.|
|11.||Nov. 14||Auburn, AL|
|Deep South's Oldest Rivalry An epic and often entertaining rivalry that started way back in 1892 is tied at 55-55-8 all-time. Both teams are eyeing an SEC title and possible Playoff berth so this game should carry even more importance than usual — which is normally a lot.|
|12.||Nov. 21||Athens, GA|
|Georgia Southern isn't your average November cupcake. The Eagles proved they belonged in the FBS ranks by winning the Sun Belt in their first season last year, they run a brutal option offense to stop and feature a roster full of kids who likely grew up wanting to play for Georgia. This is trickier than fans imagine.|
|13.||Nov. 28||Atlanta, GA|
|Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate The only good thing about facing Georgia Southern's triple option is that it will help prepare the Dawgs for the Yellow Jackets. Tech snapped a five-game losing streak by topping Georgia 30-24 in Athens last year. Richt will be out for revenge in a game that could possibly hold Playoff implications for both teams. UGA leads the series 64-40-5.|
Listen to the Cover 2 Podcast: Early 2015 SEC Preview
It appears that a rule forcing a college football conference to have at least 12 teams and two divisions to hold a championship game will be nullified by 2016.
Fans across the Big 12 are ecstatic.
But the Big 12 didn’t get left out of the College Football Playoff because it didn’t play a conference championship game.
Baylor got left out because the Playoff Committee thought — rightly so, as it turns out — that Ohio State was the better team. (A horrendous non-conference schedule didn’t help the Bears’ case.)
Fans want to believe that all it would’ve taken to get Baylor into the Playoff was a Big 12 title game.
But what if Baylor had lost?
Then a Big 12 Championship Game would have actually hurt the Big 12.
There is some preconceived notion that adding a championship game would automatically help the Big 12. History shows us that this couldn’t be further from the truth.
Related: 2015 Big 12 Schedule Analysis
In fact, SEC commissioner Roy Kramer came under heavy scrutiny in 1992 when he implemented college football’s first conference title game in the SEC. Had Alabama’s Antonio Langham not intercepted a Shane Matthews pass and returned it 27 yards for a game-winning touchdown, Kramer would have been destroyed by fans and media for costing his conference and the No. 1-ranked Crimson Tide a chance at the national championship.
Big 12 fans should know all about this heartbreak.
Listen to the Cover 2 Podcast: Early 2015 Big 12 Preview
In 1996, Nebraska was poised to play for a national championship after an unbeaten Big 12 season. But a historic fourth-down conversion from Texas in the Big 12’s first-ever title game dropped the Huskers from national championship contention.
Again in 1998, Kansas State was going to play in the first-ever BCS Championship Game after No. 2 UCLA lost to Miami. Yet, the unbeaten Wildcats lost in double overtime to Texas A&M, relegating Bill Snyder’s bunch to the Alamo Bowl.
Texas was headed to the 2001 national championship game because No. 2 Tennessee lost to LSU in the SEC title game. But the Horns couldn’t finish the deal, losing 39-37 to Colorado in the Big 12 title game. The Longhorns lost a shot at the national title because of the Big 12 title game.
And the most painful example, the 2007 Missouri Tigers. Gary Pinkel’s bunch entered the Big 12 title game ranked No. 1 in the nation with a clear path to the BCS title game. But the Sooners smoked the Tigers 38-17 and the Big 12 watched a two-loss LSU team win the BCS title.
It isn’t just the Big 12 that has been hurt either. Had Ohio State beat Michigan State in the 2013 Big Ten title game, the undefeated Buckeyes would have played Florida State in the final BCS title game. But alas, Connor Cook happened.
Just like the Longhorns in 2001, the Tennessee Vols were a victim of the same crime that same year. As was Georgia in ‘12, Florida in ‘09 and Alabama in ’08 — all teams poised to play in the BCS title game had they not lost in a conference title game.
Does a championship game make boatloads of revenue? Does it create a fanatical season-finale atmosphere? Is it must-see TV? Can a title game give a team one extra huge win for its resume? Check, check, check and check.
Does a championship game give your favorite conference a better chance at making the College Football Playoff?
The answer is pretty clearly no... not every year.
Pittsburgh Steelers’ running back Le’Veon Bell has been suspended for the first three games of the 2015 season for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy. He is appealing the penalty (also includes the loss of an additional game check), which stems from his arrest last August on marijuana possession and DUI charges.
Bell was a first-team All-Pro last season after finishing second to DeMarco Murray in both rushing (1,361) and yards from scrimmage (2,215). Bell was second to none, however, when it came to fantasy production, putting up the most fantasy points of any non-quarterback and finishing 12th overall with 329 points (Athlon scoring).
Besides serving as the Steelers’ workhorse ball carrier, Bell caught 83 passes (tied for 19th in the NFL) for 854 yards. He also scored a total of 11 touchdowns and didn’t lose a single fumble among his 373 total touches.
Only 23 years old, Bell entered the offseason as the leading contender for being the No. 1 overall pick in fantasy drafts this fall, and despite the suspension, I don’t see think his value changes much, if at all.
For one, Bell is appealing the suspension, and I don’t think it would surprise many if it ends up getting reduced. Whether it has no bearing on Bell’s case or not, it should be pointed out that LeGarrette Blount, who was Bell’s teammate in Pittsburgh for the first 11 games of the 2014 season, also was arrested and charged in the same August incident.
Blount, however, has been suspended just one game, the 2015 season opener. Considering the circumstances, it at least appears there’s a chance that Bell’s penalties will be revisited and possibly reduced upon appeal.
The legalities aside, the primary reason the suspension doesn’t impact Bell’s perceived value at this point is because of the lack of an alternative for the top spot. When it comes to whom to take with the No. 1 overall pick in a fantasy draft, the most logical candidates would be running backs similar to Bell, unless you’re infatuated with Andrew Luck or Aaron Rodgers or some other quarterback.
Along these lines, the backs that most likely come to mind are (in no particular order): DeMarco Murray, Jamaal Charles, Adrian Peterson, LeSean McCoy, Arian Foster, Eddie Lacy and Matt Forté. While the likelihood that Bell will now miss at least two games does matter, each of the other candidates have their own concerns/question marks.
DeMarco Murray – likely to see less carries going from Dallas (and one of the best offensive lines in the NFL) to Philadelphia. Much of Murray’s value in 2014 was tied to his workload. His 392 carries were 80 more than any other running back. He joins a more crowded backfield with Ryan Matthews and Darren Sproles also in line for touches.
Related: DeMarco Murray, Ryan Mathews, Darren Sproles: Philadelphia’s Crowded Backfield Clouds Fantasy Outlook
Jamaal Charles – His workload decreased last season despite playing in same number of games (15) and posting same yard per carry average (5.0) as he did in 2013. Also recorded 30 fewer catches in 2014 compared to ‘13.
Adrian Peterson – Played just one game before being suspended for the rest of the 2014 season. Hasn’t been officially reinstated yet and has expressed publicly a desire to be traded to another team. Barring Minnesota honoring his request, Peterson’s future is chock full of uncertainty.
LeSean McCoy – Must make transition from Chip Kelly’s up-tempo offensive system in Philadelphia to Rex Ryan’s ground-and-pound approach in Buffalo. Touches shouldn’t be an issue, but McCoy is known more for his shiftiness and big-play potential than being an in-between-the-tackles option. Also remains to be seen how McCoy will be used as pass-catcher in offensive coordinator Greg Roman’s center and who will be under center.
Arian Foster – When healthy, Foster is on the same level in terms of dual-threat ability as Bell, Charles, McCoy or Forté. But injuries have been an issue, as Foster missed three games last season after playing in just eight in 2013.
Eddie Lacy – Lacy will turn 25 in June, so he’s similar to Bell in that both don’t have as much wear and tear on their tires as the others mentioned here. Lacy is clearly the Packers’ No. 1 ball carrier, but he wasn’t a workhorse (15.4 carries per game) last season, as Green Bay’s offense continues to revolve around Aaron Rodgers and the passing game.
Matt Forté – Arguably the most productive pass-catching back in the league, Forté reeled in 102 receptions last season while rushing for 1,038 yards. However, with John Fox now in charge in Chicago, the Bears’ offense will look much different than it did under Marc Trestman. Not only does that mean Forté’s role could be changing, there’s also the fact that in late December, Forté will turn 30, a number that has become a bit of a red flag as it relates to running backs.
There’s no denying that the possibility of Bell missing as many as three games impacts his fantasy value. However, given the uncertainty and question marks surrounding his peers at this point, I think Bell’s fresh legs, his versatility, his stability in Pittsburgh’s offense and big-play potential are more than enough reasons to keep him near the top of any fantasy rankings., if not at No. 1.
Getting together with your buddies (or strangers) for a night of poker can be a lot of fun. But it’s considerably more enjoyable when you’re staring down at a huge stack of chips at the end of the night. To elevate your game, we asked World Series of Poker (WSOP) Hall of Famer Phil Hellmuth — winner of 13 WSOP bracelets — to teach us how to dominate at his favorite parlor game, Texas Hold ’em.
Follow the Cardinal Rule
“Texas Hold ’em is patience, patience, patience. If you have to play every hand, don’t play Hold ’em, because you won’t win. The extreme example is to only play my top ten hands, which I introduce in my book Play Poker Like the Pros: sevens, eights, nines, tens, Jacks, Queens, Kings, Aces, Ace/King and Ace/Queen. It’s not the optimal strategy, but you can get into the swing of the game, and that’s great for beginners.”
Big Hands Don’t Guarantee Large Payouts
“I’ve seen a lot of money lost with a hand like a King/Queen because, once the big money starts going in, the opponent usually has a hand that dominates it. When I say, ‘dominate,’ I mean that someone might have an Ace/King or Ace/Queen; therefore, they have one of your cards and a card over your other one.”
Get the Right Value From Your Hand
“There is no specific hand to go ‘all in’ on because, even if you have the most powerful hand possible, you may be more concerned about getting paid off. If you bet too much, you’ll make your opponents fold.”
Review Game Tape
“Reading other people at the table is not easy, but every person out there can improve their reading abilities. I would advise someone to watch videos of players without the sound and try to guess what they have based on the way they are acting. To practice, pull up a YouTube video and do this for 10 minutes at your house.”
Employ Smoke and Mirrors
“If you bet 10 times over five hours of play and nobody calls you, then you have to start adding some bluffs. If you get called, they will see you bluffing, which will get you future action. And, if you can get away with a bluff, you’re winning money.”
Ditch the Hats, Shades and Headphones
“I don’t think that all that stuff helps. People want to go and have a nice social experience. But if people know when you are weak and when you are strong, then go ahead and put sunglasses on.”
Know When to Fold ’em
“Going for broke on every hand is a horrible strategy. A lot of times you’ll have the second- or third-best hand and you’re going to get called by the best hand.”
Skill Trumps Luck
“A bad player will never beat a good player if they play 10 hours, no matter how much luck is involved. In 1986, the Supreme Court ruled that poker players can pay taxes as a business because the game is a game of skill.”
Practice, Practice, Practice
“The more experience you have, the better. Some of the online poker players have played more hands in six months than I have in my lifetime. … You can pick up a lot of experience quickly if you’re playing online poker.”
—By Matt McCue
Prince Fielder has a history of belly flops on the baseball field. Remember the 2013 Tigers vs. Red Sox ALCS game?
And Fielder had another interesting moment this week, as he attempted to make a foul territory catch for the Rangers in the fifth inning against the Athletics. The result was another belly flop:
To make things worse, the Rangers lost 10-0. But let's remember Fielder is still a top-notch athlete that just misjudged the ball.
Also, check out this video of Fielder squatting teammate Rougned Odor.
NCAA’s March Madness is wildly popular — but apparently it’s a dance that’s not for everyone.
You can count Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban among the curmudgeons of the annual tournament. "It's uglier than ugly,” he said Wednesday night, in reference to many low point totals in recent games. “…it’s evidenced by the scoring going down. When the NBA went through that, we changed things.
“If they want to keep kids in school and keep them from being pro players, they're doing it the exact right way by having the 35-second shot clock and having the game look and officiated the way it is.
"You've got three kids passing on the perimeter. With 10 seconds on the shot clock, they try to make something happen and two other kids stand around. They don't look for anything and then run back on defense, so there's no transition game because two out of five or three out of five or in some cases four out of five kids aren't involved in the play.
"It's horrible. It's ridiculous, it's worse than high school. You've got 20 to 25 seconds of passing on the perimeter and then somebody goes and tries to make a play and do something stupid, and scoring's gone down.”
While Cuban certainly has a point, he seems to be missing the larger one. NCAA hoops are not about the pursuit of an aesthetic basketball purity; they appeal to many, instead, for their raw, emotional qualities. Single-elimination games make for a frequently more exciting product, as does a game played by men too young to all have their feelings in order.
College ball is not as advanced of a product as what the NBA offers. But to many, it is a more fun one.
— John Wilmes
Each season always brings a new cast of college football stars. Whether it’s touted true freshmen living up to the hype in their first season on campus, a sophomore ready to emerge in their second year, or an upper classmen taking on a bigger role, there’s no shortage of breakout player options in the preseason.
Which players might emerge with a breakout year in 2015? Here’s a list of 25 players on the rise for this season, headlined by Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson and Auburn signal-caller Jeremy Johnson.
College Football's Top 25 Players on the Rise for 2015
1. Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson
Clemson has won at least 10 games in each of the last four seasons and has a good shot at extending that streak to five in 2015. Watson is the biggest reason for optimism and potential at contending for the ACC Championship, as the sophomore is expected to be at full strength in his recovery from a torn ACL by the season opener. The Georgia native ranked as the No. 41 recruit in the 2014 signing class and completed 93 of 137 passes for 1,466 yards and 14 scores in his debut. Watson also rushed for 200 yards and five scores last season. The departure of coordinator Chad Morris was a big loss for Clemson, but with Watson’s return and a talented group of skill players, the Tigers will be among the ACC’s best on offense in 2015.
2. Jeremy Johnson, QB, Auburn
Johnson varies slightly in style to former starter Nick Marshall, but Auburn’s offense shouldn’t miss a beat in 2015. The Alabama native ranked as the No. 11 pro-style quarterback in the 2013 signing class and has played well in limited action over the last two years. Johnson completed 29 of 41 passes for 422 yards and six scores in 2013 and threw for 436 yards and three touchdowns in 2014. He also has two starts under his belt, including one against Arkansas (2014). Johnson may not have the dynamic mobility of Marshall, but the junior is going to have a huge season directing the offense for coach Gus Malzahn.
3. Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU
Fournette was regarded as the No. 1 player in the 2014 247Sports Composite and certainly didn’t disappoint in his Baton Rouge debut. In 13 appearances, Fournette rushed for 1,034 yards and 10 scores. He also made an impact on special teams, averaging 26 yards per kickoff returns and one touchdown. With LSU struggling to find consistent production from its passing game, the ground attack will have to carry the offense in 2015. With Terrence Magee and Kenny Hilliard out of eligibility, Fournette should see an uptick in carries and production next year and should be considered a lock for All-SEC honors this offseason.
4. Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State
With quarterback Jameis Winston off to the NFL, the focus for Florida State’s offense shifts to the ground attack and talented sophomore Dalvin Cook. As a true freshman last season, Cook rushed for 1,008 yards and eight scores and caught 22 passes for 203 yards. The Miami native averaged 141.3 rushing yards over his final three games, including 6.9 yards per carry in the Rose Bowl against Oregon. Cook was a five-star recruit coming out of high school and is poised to push for All-American honors in 2015.
5. Adoree' Jackson, CB/WR, USC
Jackson is one of the Pac-12’s most explosive players and one of the nation’s top all-around playmakers. The Illinois native caught 10 passes for 138 yards and three touchdowns last season and scored four times on special teams. Jackson also recorded 49 tackles (four for a loss) and broke up 10 passes in 2014.
6. Shaq Lawson, DE, Clemson
Clemson ranked first nationally by holding opponents to just four yards per play in 2014. But coordinator Brent Venables will have his hands full this spring, as the Tigers return only two starters and lose several standouts from the front seven. Lawson is expected to be one of the defense’s top linemen after recording 34 tackles and 3.5 sacks in a backup role last season.
7. Jabrill Peppers, DB, Michigan
Peppers was expected to play a meaningful role in Michigan’s secondary last season, but the New Jersey native was sidelined after three games due to a leg injury. With a full offseason to recover, Peppers is ready to become a key contributor for the Wolverines. New coordinator D.J. Durkin plans to use Peppers as a safety in 2015, which should allow the No. 3 prospect in the 2014 247Sports Composite to emerge as a impact defender for Michigan this year.
8. JuJu Smith, WR, USC
The biggest void on USC’s offense heading into 2015 is at receiver with the departure of Nelson Agholor. Last season, Agholor led the Trojans with 104 catches for 1,313 yards and 12 scores. Coach Steve Sarkisian isn’t hurting for options at receiver with the emergence of Smith, along with the addition of a talented recruiting class for 2015. Smith ranked second on the team with 54 catches for 724 yards and five scores last season and is expected to emerge as quarterback Cody Kessler’s go-to target in 2015.
9. Mason Rudolph, QB, Oklahoma State
It’s no coincidence Oklahoma State’s improvement on offense late in the year came with Rudolph at the helm. The Cowboys scored at least 30 points in five games against Power 5 opponents. Rudolph was the quarterback for two of those efforts, including an impressive 38-35 win over Oklahoma and a 30-22 bowl win over Washington. The South Carolina native finished 2014 with 853 passing yards and six scores in three appearances. Rudolph needs more help from his supporting cast in 2015, but the potential is certainly there for the sophomore to earn All-Big 12 honors.
10. Rod Johnson, OT, Florida State
Florida State’s offensive line struggled to find consistency through the first half of 2014 but performed better late in the season. The line’s improvement was largely due to Johnson taking over at left tackle and shifting All-American Cameron Erving to center. Johnson started the final five games of 2014 and will be one of the ACC’s top offensive linemen in 2015.
11. Malik Zaire, QB, Notre Dame
Zaire isn’t guaranteed the starting job for 2015, as Everett Golson remains in the mix after throwing for 3,445 yards last season and enters next season with 23 starts under his belt. However, all signs point to Zaire emerging as Notre Dame’s No. 1 option under center. In seven appearances last season, Zaire completed 21 of 35 passes for 266 yards and one touchdown, while rushing for 187 yards and two scores. The Ohio native’s most-impressive outing took place against LSU in the Music City Bowl, throwing for 96 yards and a touchdown, while adding 96 yards and a score on the ground in the upset win over the Tigers. With a strong supporting cast in place, Zaire has all of the necessary pieces for a breakout year.
12. Mackensie Alexander, CB, Clemson
Alexander is one of two Clemson players to make this list. The Florida native was forced to redshirt in 2013 due to injury but quickly emerged as the team’s top defensive back last season. Alexander started all 13 games, recorded 21 tackles and six pass breakups, while also playing the most snaps by a freshman in school history. Alexander should be one of the ACC’s top cornerbacks in 2015.
13. Raekwon McMillan, LB, Ohio State
Ohio State’s defense doesn’t have many question marks entering spring ball, but the linebacker corps is looking for a new starter after the departure of Curtis Grant. There should be a flawless transition from Grant to McMillan, as the Georgia native was regarded as the top recruit in the Big Ten for the 2014 signing class. McMillan played in 14 games last season and recorded 54 tackles, one interception and 2.5 sacks.
14. Corey Clement, RB, Wisconsin
Melvin Gordon leaves big shoes to fill at running back for Wisconsin, but new coach Paul Chryst is inheriting a rising star in Clement. The New Jersey native was Gordon’s top backup in 2014 and rushed for 949 yards and nine scores on 147 attempts. Clement never recorded more than 17 rushing attempts in a game last year, so there’s plenty of room for his overall production to grow with more carries in 2015. He also rushed for 547 yards as Wisconsin’s No. 3 running back in 2013. Clement may not match Gordon’s 2,587 rushing yards from last season, but he should be one of the Big Ten’s top running backs in 2015.
15. Malik Jefferson, LB, Texas
Jefferson ranked as the No. 10 prospect in the 2015 247Sports Composite and big things are expected from the Texas native in 2015. With the Longhorns replacing Jordan Hicks and Steve Edmond, Jefferson has a clear path to major snaps or a starting role. Expect Jefferson to be one of college football’s top freshmen performers.
16. Kyle Allen, QB, Texas A&M
Since joining the SEC in 2012, the Aggies have averaged 41.3 points per game. Life after Johnny Manziel presented a few challenges in 2014, but the arrow on Texas A&M’s offense is pointing up headed into 2015. Allen started the final five games for coach Kevin Sumlin, including a four-touchdown performance against Auburn and a 294-yard effort against West Virginia in the Liberty Bowl. The Arizona native finished 2014 with 1,322 passing yards and 16 touchdowns. Allen will be pushed by talented freshman Kyler Murray this offseason, but the edge in experience should help the sophomore hold onto the starting job. With a talented receiving corps returning, Texas A&M’s passing offense should be among the SEC’s best once again in 2015.
17. Joshua Dobbs, QB, Tennessee
The insertion of Dobbs into the starting lineup in late October sparked Tennessee to a 4-2 finish over its last six games. The Georgia native threw for 192 yards against Alabama after replacing Nathan Peterman in the first half and guided the Volunteers to a 45-42 upset win over South Carolina by accumulating 467 total yards and five scores. Dobbs also played well in the bowl win over Iowa by accounting for 205 yards and three scores. The junior should have more help from his supporting cast in 2015, as Tennessee should be healthier at receiver, and a young offensive line has a full offseason to grow. Dobbs should push for All-SEC honors in 2015.
18. Seth Russell, QB, Baylor
Over the last five seasons, Baylor’s starting quarterback has averaged 4,031 yards and 30 touchdowns. With Bryce Petty off to the NFL, the keys to a high-powered offense are in Russell’s hands. Of course, he has to hold off a challenge this offseason from sophomore Chris Johnson and talented true freshman Jarrett Stidham. However, there’s a clear edge in experience for Russell, as he has one start under his belt and completed 48 of 85 passes in 2014. The Texas native torched Northwestern State for five scores and 438 yards last year and completed 8 of 17 passes for 82 yards in relief of Petty against Texas Tech. With one of the nation’s top receiving corps in place, Russell – if he wins the job – will be next standout quarterback for coach Art Briles.
19. Nate Gerry, S, Nebraska
Gerry surprisingly earned only honorable mention by the coaches All-Big Ten team last season. The South Dakota native started all 13 games in 2014 and recorded 88 tackles and five interceptions. New defensive backs coach Brian Stewart should help Gerry develop into one of the Big Ten’s top performers at safety in 2015.
20. Budda Baker, S, Washington
Washington’s secondary experienced its share of ups and downs last season. However, after playing freshmen and sophomores in major roles in 2014, the Huskies should see improvement from a secondary that gave up 55 passing plays of 20 yards or more. Baker was regarded as the No. 55 recruit in the 2014 247Sports Composite and played significant snaps as a true freshman. In 13 games, Baker recorded 80 tackles, one sack, one interception and six pass breakups.
21. Christian McCaffery, RB, Stanford
For the first time since the 2007 season, the Cardinal did not have a rusher reach the 1,000-yard mark in 2014. That one-year 1,000-yard rusher drought could be short-lived, as McCaffrey is primed for a breakout season in 2015. As a true freshman in 2014, he recorded 300 rushing yards (seven yards per carry) and caught 17 passes for 251 yards and two scores. McCaffrey recorded at least 57 rushing yards in three out of the final four games, including 77 against Utah on Nov. 15.
22. Demario Richard, RB, Arizona State
The future of the Arizona State backfield appears to be in good hands with Richard leading the way in 2015. The Sun Devils also return D.J. Foster (1,081 rush yards in 2014), but the senior is expected to shift to more of a running back/receiver role in 2015. Richard was solid in limited action last year, rushing for 478 yards and four scores on 84 attempts. He eclipsed the 100-yard mark against a tough Utah defense on Nov. 1 and contributed 41 yards on seven attempts in the bowl win over Duke. Richard should have no trouble exceeding last year’s numbers in 2015.
23. Harold Brantley, DT, Missouri
Missouri has been a factory for All-SEC talent at defensive end over the last two seasons, but don’t overlook Brantley’s contributions to the defense in 2014. The Pennsylvania native made six starts as a freshman in 2013 and emerged as the team’s top interior player last year. In 14 games, Brantley recorded 30 tackles (five for a loss) and three pass breakups. With two seasons under his belt, Brantley should be poised for his best year in a Missouri uniform.
24. Malik McDowell, DT, Michigan State
McDowell was a huge catch on the recruiting trail for coach Mark Dantonio, and the Michigan native didn’t disappoint in his true freshman campaign. McDowell played in all 13 games and recorded 15 tackles and 1.5 sacks. With Lawrence Thomas expected to move to defensive end this spring, McDowell is expected to take on a bigger role with the line for 2015. Expect to see McDowell wreaking havoc against opposing Big Ten offensive lines this year.
25. Wyatt Teller, OG, Virginia Tech
Teller redshirted in his first season at Virginia Tech and made the transition from defensive end to the offensive line. And despite not starting a full season, Teller emerged as the Hokies’ top lineman. Teller started 13 games, including the final six as a starter. The Virginia native should be an All-ACC performer in 2015.
Golf's greatest tournament is finally here. Picking a winner in golf is tricky business, but we wanted to know who the experts thought would be donning the Green Jacket come Sunday evening.
Jay Coffin, Editorial Director, Golf Channel, @JayCoffinGC
Jason Deegan, Senior Staff Writer and Golf Advisor with The Golf Channel online, @WorldGolfer
Steve DiMeglio, USA Today, @Steve_DiMeglio
Bob Harig, ESPN, @BobHarig
Dan Jenkins, Author, Golf Digest Contributor, @danjenkinsgd
Garrett Johnston, Golf journalist, @JohnstonGarrett
Dave Kindred, Golf Digest, Sports on Earth Contributor, @DaveKindred
Alex Miceli, Senior Writer, Golfweek, @alexmiceli
Dan O’Neill, St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Dave Shedloski, Golf World, @DaveShedloski
Art Spander, Global Golf Post, @artspander
Who will win the 2015 Masters?
Comments from our panel"
• "Jason Day is due."
• "I always pick Rory these days."
• "Bubba Watson. It's his course."
• "This isn't Patriots vs. Seahawks. This is 90 people against each other and a course, but I'll give you several possibilities: Jordan Spieth, Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy, Patrick Reed."
• "Jason Day. He's been close a bunch of times, he's won this year, and he appears healthy going in."