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Path: /college-basketball/picking-12-winners-2013-ncaa-tournament
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Only one true winner will be happy at the end of the NCAA Tournament, so the cliche goes.

That much may be true. All but one locker room at the end of the tournament will have its share of sad faces and tears.

We disagree that only one winner will be left standing after the championship game, though. Coaches, players, schools and entire conferences are among the winners in the NCAA Tournament, whether it’s reaching an important milestone, scoring a major victory, improving NBA draft stock or building momentum into next season.

Here are our picks of who -- besides the national champion -- had reason to smile at the end of the NCAA tournament.

Related: 2013 NCAA Tournament losers

2013 NCAA TOURNAMENT WINNERS

Rick Pitino, Louisville
To recap The Week of Pitino:
• On Monday night, he won his second national title.
• On Monday morning, he was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame.
• On Saturday morning, a horse he owns, Goldencents, won the Santa Anita Derby to qualify for the Kentucky Derby.
• On Wednesday, his son Richard Pitino was hired at Minnesota.
This week of professional and personal achievement would have been tough to fathom in 2009 during the depths of the Karen Sypher scandal. Not that Pitino need media validation, but columnists are noting that he’s basically a nicer guy than he was several years ago, too.
 

 

Mitch McGary, Michigan
Three weeks ago, would anyone have picked McGary as the transformative player for Michigan, much less the entire NCAA Tournament? In Michigan’s pre-game notes before the Tournament, one of the first mentions of McGary notes that he was twice the Big Ten’s freshman of the week. Three weeks later, we wondered if McGary could have a triple-double in a Final Four game (he finished with 10 points, 12 rebounds and six assists against Syracuse).

Wichita State
Just as the Missouri Valley’s top program, Creighton, leaves for the Big East, the league has a new frontrunner. Wichita State has been consistent for several seasons, but the Final Four appearance should change perception. The biggest victory, though, may be the Shockers keeping Gregg Marshall, though he was not a serious candidate for major-conference openings this season. Wichita State lost five seniors from a team that won the MVC last season and still reached the Final Four with an identity based on physical defense and rebounding.

Florida Gulf Coast
Two wins will be the greatest advertisement in school history for the little-known school in Fort Myers. Few basketball fans even knew of the existence of FGCU, but after a week everyone knew of its coach, his wife, his prior career, the nickname Dunk City, the personalities of Sherwood Brown and Brett Comer, the Eagles’ style of play and the school’s location on the beach. Florida Gulf Coast may never reach the Sweet 16 again, but administrators have to be thrilled about the wave of applications they’re about to receive.

Andy Enfield, USC
The Florida Gulf Coast coach gets his own note here for taking advantage of his week in the spotlight to take the USC job. It may be a stretch for the Trojans to hire a coach from the Atlantic Sun with no West Coast recruiting connections, but for Enfield to multiply his salary by 10, it’s a no-brainer.

Buzz Williams, Marquette
Williams has progressed from quirky personality to underrated coach to simply a one of the best coaches in the country. With Jae Crowder and Darius Johnson-Odom gone, this was not one of his better teams, but Marquette reached the Elite Eight for the first time since Dwyane Wade led the way to the Final Four. Marquette was fortunate when Davidson collapsed in the round of 64, but from there the Eagles defeated Brad Stevens-led Butler and a 29-7 Miami team.

Josh Pastner, Memphis
The Tigers’ coach finally has a big win under his belt at Memphis. Saint Mary’s was a No. 11 seed that had played in the First Four two days earlier, but Pastner finally got his first tourney win in four seasons as the Tigers’ head coach. If Matthew Dellavedova hits that three-pointer to win the game, it would have been an awfully long offseason for the Memphis coach.

Ole Miss
Marshall Henderson can be a handful, but Andy Kennedy and the Rebels owe him a free lunch (once his eligibility expires, of course). The nation’s most divisive player led Ole Miss to an SEC Tournament title for its first NCAA appearance since 2002 and an upset of fifth-seeded Wisconsin for its first NCAA win since 2001. The run likely saved the job of Kennedy, who had taken Ole Miss to the NIT in five of his first six seasons in Oxford.

La Salle
The Explorers won two national titles in the ‘50s with Tom Gola and won 80 games from 1987-90 with Lionel Simmons, but other than that, La Salle hasn’t been very relevant. John Giannini’s long rebuilding project at La Salle, though, culminated with a trip to the Sweet 16 before a loss to Wichita State.

Iowa State
This was not a shining tournament for the Big 12, but Iowa State has reason to celebrate. Iowa State won a tournament game for the second consecutive season and gave a top team fits in the round of 32. Iowa State lost 87-71 to eventual national champion Kentucky in 2012, but kept it close early in the second half. This year, Ohio State needed Aaron Craft’s late three-pointer to put away the seventh-seeded Cyclones. And better yet, Fred Hoiberg agreed to a 10-year, $20 million contract to remain The Mayor.

Harvard
With only one season in the rotation in 2012-13, next season was supposed to be the year for Harvard to make a move. Instead, the Crimson upset third-seeded New Mexico 68-62 in the round of 64. Next season, Harvard will be the “it” team in the Ivy League, same as Cornell was before its run to the Sweet 16 in 2010.

Steve Alford, UCLA
How can a coach of a team that lost to a No. 14 seed still be a winner? Landing at UCLA, for starters.

Teaser:
<p> The Week of Pitino, the rising stock of McGary and more highlighted this year's March Madness</p>
Post date: Tuesday, April 9, 2013 - 08:20
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-top-10-quarterbacks-hot-seat-2013
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Most college football fans associate the word “hot seat” with coaching changes. While that term mostly applies to the men on the sideline, it can also factor into the discussion of quarterbacks. Every coach preaches competition under center in the spring, but the reality is only a handful of quarterback battles are really open.

Quarterback play isn’t solely to blame for the struggles of some teams last season, but there’s no question it can play a significant role in why a team fails to meet preseason expectations.

With spring drills underway, now is the time for struggling quarterbacks to either reclaim their starting job or open the year on the hot seat. Here are 10 quarterbacks that need a big preseason after failing to meet expectations last year.

10 Quarterbacks on the Hot Seat for 2013

David Ash, Texas
With 18 starters returning, everything is in place for Texas to win the Big 12 title in 2013. Of course, there’s one glaring question mark that could decide whether or not the Longhorns improve on last season’s nine wins: Quarterback play. Since Colt McCoy left Austin, Texas has struggled to find a quarterback. Ash has shown flashes of potential, including back-to-back 300-yard performances in September against Ole Miss and Oklahoma State. However, he didn’t play well against TCU (104 passing yards) and started slow in the bowl game but finished with 241 yards and two passing scores. Major Applewhite will call the plays this year for Texas, and if he can get Ash on track, the Longhorns should easily surpass last year’s nine victories.
 

James Franklin, Missouri
Much like some of the other quarterbacks on this list, Franklin’s 2012 season isn’t entirely to blame for Missouri’s struggles. Transitioning to the SEC was the toughest challenge for the Tigers, but the offensive line never found any consistency, and Franklin was never 100 percent after undergoing offseason shoulder surgery. After recording 3,846 yards of total offense and 36 touchdowns in 2011, Franklin managed just 1,562 passing yards and 10 passing scores in 2012. The Tigers should be better in their second tour through the SEC, but Franklin’s health and the return of running back Henry Josey should help this offense find a much-needed spark. The Missouri coaching staff planned on getting an extended look at redshirt freshman Maty Mauk this spring, but Franklin shouldn’t have any trouble holding onto the starting nod. Missouri probably won’t ask the senior to run as much as he did in 2011, but his dual-threat ability should be featured more in 2013.
 

Connor Halliday, Washington State
Mike Leach’s first season in Pullman brought high expectations, but the Cougars were one of the nation’s biggest disappointments. Leach’s high-powered passing attack never got on track, and Washington State won just three games and averaged a paltry 20.4 points a game. Quarterback play was a huge issue for the Cougars last season, as Jeff Tuel and Halliday shared time under center. Tuel expired his eligibility, leaving Halliday as Washington State’s No. 1 passer for spring practice. The Washington native finished 2012 with 1,878 yards and 15 touchdowns, but he also threw 13 picks. Halliday isn’t guaranteed the starting job, as redshirt freshman Austin Apodaca and true freshman Tyler Bruggman will have an opportunity to push for time this preseason. Halliday showed some flashes of promise last year, including four performances of at least 300 passing yards. If the Cougars want to contend for a bowl game, Halliday needs to take command of the offense and show he’s the No. 1 quarterback this spring.
 

Jake Heaps, Kansas
Heaps ranked as the No. 1 quarterback recruit in the 2010 recruiting class and started 10 games as a true freshman at BYU, throwing for 2,316 yards and 15 touchdowns. Despite his experience as a freshman, Heaps failed to build on his performance in 2011 and was benched after a slow start. The Washington native transferred to Kansas after the 2011 season and has two years of eligibility remaining. Heaps is clearly the most talented quarterback on the Jayhawks’ roster, but his performance at BYU certainly wasn’t up to his recruiting hype. Kansas has a good stable of running backs, but the offensive line and receiving corps is still a work in progress. After spending last year on the sidelines, is Heaps ready to take the next step in his development?
 

Andrew Maxwell, Michigan State
The first year in the post-Kirk Cousins era did not go well for Michigan State. The Spartans needed a win in their regular season finale against Minnesota just to get bowl eligible and finished 108th nationally in scoring offense. Maxwell completed only 52.6 percent of his throws, while passing for 2,606 yards and 13 touchdowns. Despite his struggles, Maxwell remained the starter for the full season but lost playing time in the bowl game to Connor Cook. Coach Mark Dantonio and co-coordinators Dave Warner and Jim Bollman are giving Maxwell the first chance to win the starting quarterback job this spring. The senior won’t have All-Big Ten running back Le’Veon Bell to lean on in 2013, but the receiving corps and offensive line should be solid. If Maxwell struggles early in the year, Dantonio shouldn’t hesitate to give Cook a chance to spark the offense.
 

Zach Mettenberger, LSU
As expected with any first-year starter, Mettenberger experienced his share of ups and downs. The Georgia native finished 2012 with 2,609 passing yards and 12 touchdowns and threw for 298 yards in the 21-17 loss to Alabama. While Mettenberger’s performance against Alabama was one of his best of last season, he also threw for only 97 yards against Texas A&M and struggled in a 12-10 victory against Auburn. With another spring practice under his belt, along with the arrival of former NFL coordinator Cam Cameron, the pressure is on Mettenberger to take the next step in his development. LSU has one of the SEC’s best rushing attacks, and the receiving corps is among the best in the conference. The Tigers suffered some significant losses on defense, which makes improvement on the passing attack a priority if they want to contend in the SEC West.
 

Gary Nova, Rutgers
The Scarlet Knights were on the doorstep of an outright conference title last season but losses at Pittsburgh and against Louisville prevented a berth in a BCS bowl. With a defense that ranked fourth nationally in fewest points allowed per game, the Scarlet Knights didn’t need their offense to average 40 points a contest. However, Rutgers never seemed to show improvement on offense last year, as it didn’t score more than 17 points in each of its final four games. Nova had a few solid performances (397 yards against Arkansas, 232 yards and four touchdowns against Temple), but he did not play well against Pittsburgh or in the bowl against Virginia Tech. With running back Jawan Jamison moving onto the NFL, the Scarlet Knights need Nova to carry more of the offensive workload in 2013. Rutgers will have a new coordinator (Ron Prince), but wholesale changes aren’t expected. If Nova can regain his early 2012 form – 17 touchdowns, three interceptions in six games – Rutgers should push for a finish in the top three of the Big East.
 

Keith Price, Washington
With an offensive line that struggled to provide consistent protection, it’s unfair to blame Price for all of Washington’s offensive struggles last year. After averaging 33.4 points a game in 2011, the Huskies posted only 24 points per contest in 2012. Price simply wasn’t the same player that was touted as a darkhorse Heisman candidate in the preseason, as he threw for 2,728 yards and 19 touchdowns. With the line expected to be better in 2013, and the return of tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins and receiver Kasen Williams, Price should be in for a bounce-back campaign. However, if the line struggles, once again, Washington’s offense could finish near the bottom of the Pac-12 in scoring and total yards for the second year in a row.
 

Nathan Scheelhaase, Illinois
Make no mistake: 2012 was simply a disaster for Illinois. The Fighting Illini went backwards in Tim Beckman’s first season, with the offense hitting rock bottom by averaging just 16.7 points a game. It’s unfair to blame Scheelhaase for everything that went wrong last year, especially since Illinois had very little production from the running backs or any protection from the offensive line. Entering his senior year, Scheelhaase has thrown for 5,296 yards and 34 touchdowns and has rushed for 1,795 yards and 15 scores. New coordinator Bill Cubit should improve Illinois’ offense, but the surrounding cast has to step up and help Scheelhaase more than it did in 2012.
 

Logan Thomas, Virginia Tech
2013 certainly didn’t go according to plan for Virginia Tech. The Hokies had ACC title aspirations but needed victories over Boston College and Virginia in late November just to get bowl eligible. Thomas was a second-team All-ACC selection in his first year as a starter, so expectations were high going into 2013. Instead of taking a step forward in his development, the Virginia native regressed. Thomas watched his completion percentage dip from 59.8 percent in 2011 to 51.3 percent in 2012. His interceptions also increased from 10 in 2011 to 16 in 2012. After Virginia Tech’s offensive struggles last year, coach Frank Beamer decided to shake up the offensive staff, hiring Scot Loeffler as the new coordinator. Loeffler’s stint at Auburn did not go well, and he’s stepping into a situation where Virginia Tech has a questionable offensive line and lacks proven playmakers at receiver and no No. 1 running back. Thomas recorded more yards of total offense in 2012 than he did in 2011, but the Hokies need their senior signal-caller to play more mistake-free ball in 2013.
 

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Teaser:
<p> College Football's Top 10 Quarterbacks Under Pressure for 2013</p>
Post date: Tuesday, April 9, 2013 - 07:50
Path: /college-basketball/national-championship-instant-analysis-louisville-claims-title
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That was ... fun.
Louisville’s 82-76 win over Michigan was simply one of the best national title games in several years. Stars Trey Burke and Peyton Siva played at a high level with Burke hitting deep three-pointers and Siva stuffing the stat sheet. Spike Albrecht and Luke Hancock were unexpected heroes. A lack of offense has been an ongoing theme this season, but the title game was the highest scoring championship game since 2009. Hard to believe this was the same game Connecticut and Butler played two years ago.

MVP: Luke Hancock
Hancock matched Michigan big shot for big shot in the first half on the way to 22 points. If you’re keeping track, that’s two 20-point games for Hancock in the Final Four. Off the bench. From a George Mason transfer.

Could also be an MVP: Peyton Siva
Siva turned in a relentless all-around performance, especially in the second half. The senior point guard finished with 18 points, six rebounds, five assists and four steals.

Unsung hero: Chane Behanan
Behanan wasn’t one of Louisville’s top players for most of this run, but he could have been the best player on the floor in the title game as he dominated the glass with 13 rebounds, including five on the offensive end. Behanan added 15 points.

Turning point: The block that wasn’t a block
Michigan was still in striking distance at the 5:01 mark when the Cardinals led 67-64. Peyton Siva bolted down the court on a fast break when Trey Burke went for the block on the layup. Replays appeared to indicate Burke got only the ball, but officials called a personal foul. Siva hit both free throws, Gorgui Dieng hit a pair of shots for a 6-1 Louisville run.

Where’d that come from? Albrecht’s treys
With Trey Burke on the bench with two fouls, Michigan freshman Spike Albrecht was the best player in the first half, quite a feat considering he averaged 1.8 points per game entering Monday night. Albrecht, whose only other scholarship offer came from Appalachian State, scored 17 points on 6 of 7 shooting in the first half. It wasn’t to last, though, as his matchup with Peyton Siva in the second half did not go so well.

Where’d he go? Russ Smith
Russ Smith’s run of 20-point games in the Tournament came to an abrupt end with an awful championship game in the offensive end. After five games as Dr. Jekyll, Smith’s Mr. Hyde game showed up Monday. Smith finished 3 of 16 from the field and 1 of 6 from three-point range.

What was that? Michigan late to foul
Michigan narrowed the lead from 10 points to four in the final minute but inexplicably waited eight seconds to foul into the 30 second mark. Trey Burke was playing with four fouls, but Michigan wasted valuable time to attempt a comeback down the stretch.

History: Pitino’s second title
Louisville coach Rick Pitino became the first coach to win a national title at two schools with his Louisville title joining the 1996 championship at Kentucky.

Teaser:
<p> The Cardinals defeat Wolverines in thrilling title game for first championship since '86</p>
Post date: Tuesday, April 9, 2013 - 07:29
All taxonomy terms: Masters, Golf, Overtime, News
Path: /golf/worst-and-weirdest-food-masters-champions-dinner-2013
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It's one of the great traditions of Masters week: the Tuesday night Champions Dinner, where the defending champ gets to pick the menu for everyone. Defending champion Bubba Watson apparently served Caesar salad, grilled chicken, mac & cheese, green beans, cornbread and cake — a bit more down-to-earth than what's listed here. Giving golfers this much latitude can apparently result in some stomach-churning choices. Here's the proof.


Menu: Haggis, mashed potatoes, mashed turnips
Sandy Lyle, 1989

You know what they say about haggis — it looks the same coming out as it does going in. For the uninitiated, this Scottish dish is basically stuff fished out of the trash at the butcher shop: sheep's heart, liver and lungs cooked in the stomach, with a few bits of actual food (onions, oatmeal, spices) thrown in to confuse you. 
 


Menu: Elk, wild boar, Arctic char, Canadian beer
Mike Weir, 2004

Apparently they were fresh out of grizzly bear, so this had to do. Well, at least there was a little liquid bread to wash down all the animal flesh. Hey Mike, how about a salad?

 


Menu: Cheeseburgers, chicken sandwiches, french fries, milkshakes
Tiger Woods, 1998

At first glance, this sounds fine. But when you have access to great chefs and an unlimited budget, do you really want to reproduce the drive-thru of the Augusta McDonald's?

 


Menu: Seafood tom kah, chicken panang curry, baked sea scallops with garlic sauce, rack of lamb with yellow kari sauce, baked filet Chilean sea bass with three flavor chili sauce, lychee sorbet
Vijay Singh, 2001

Surely this overly pretentious selection was part of some elaborate practical joke perpetrated by Vijay. We’re pretty sure Tiger and Phil hit the Augusta McDonald's drive-thru afterwards.


 
Menu: An Argentine asado, a multicourse barbecue featuring chorizo, blood sausage, short ribs, beef filets and mollejas (sweetbreads)
Angel Cabrera, 2010

Sampling another culture's cuisine can be a mixed bag. This menu is evidence. Short ribs and beef filets sound good, but anything with blood in the title doesn't. And sweetbreads? That's just a tasty-sounding name for the thymus gland of some animal. No. Just, no.
 


Menu: Bobotie (a spiced minced meat pie with an egg topping), sosaties (type of chicken skewer), spinach salad, milk tart and South African wines
Trevor Immelman, 2009

Rule of thumb: If I can't pronounce it, I ain't eating it. The wine sounds good, though.  

Teaser:
<p> Winning golfers select haggis, wild boar and 10 foods we can't pronounce.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, April 9, 2013 - 07:20
All taxonomy terms: 2013 March Madness, College Basketball
Path: /college-basketball/video-michigan-freshman-spike-albrecht-lights-louisville
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Shortly before CBS cut to Trey Burke receiving the Naismith Award as the top player in the country, the Michigan point guard wasn’t even the best point guard on his own team in first half of the title game.

With Burke on the bench with two fouls, seldom-used freshman Spike Albrecht stole the show in one of the most thrilling halves in a title game in recent years.

Albrecht, whose only other scholarship offer came from Appalachian State, scored 17 points in the first half for the Wolverines as Michigan took a 38-37 lead.

After averaging 1.8 points per game this season, Albrecht was suddenly the most dangerous player on the floor in the title game, hitting six of his seven shots from the field.

 

Teaser:
<p> Video: Michigan freshman Spike Albrecht lights up Louisville</p>
Post date: Monday, April 8, 2013 - 22:41
Path: /nascar/what-happened-all-nascar-rivalries
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Joey Logano. Tony Stewart. Denny Hamlin. Clint Bowyer. Jeff Gordon. The list of NASCAR drivers ticked off, for one reason or another, entering Martinsville could even knock the former Jersey Shore castmates down a peg. Add in a half-mile paperclip oval — one of the sport’s best — two weeks to ponder what’s gone wrong and Sunday was supposed to be an all-out explosion of revenge.

Instead? I’ve seen senior center bingo arguments come off with more energy than how it all panned out. (I guess maybe that’s what you get when a 54-year-old steps into Hamlin’s seat?) For all those expecting fireworks of historic proportions, somebody forgot to tell the watchman responsible for lighting that fuse.

Part of the problem was that some of these drivers never even got close to one another. Logano and Stewart, for example, had just a handful of opportunities where they were racing bumper-to-bumper. But in a sport where the championship — or more accurately, the playoff — is front and center, drivers are thinking about consequences even early in the season. Just like Brad Keselowski and Jimmie Johnson won’t show their cards now when the results matter less, there’s no reason for a struggling Stewart to risk wiping himself out, digging a deeper hole to climb up when it comes to what really matters for paying sponsors: the Chase.

Such is the nature of the NASCAR beast these days. Bottom lines mean every race can’t turn out like your wildest dreams — matching the sanctioning body’s hype — as drivers sometimes choose to use their head over their heart. It’s a shame, though. Most times, this race at Martinsville, with plenty of action throughout the pack, would get itself a “B” grade or better without hesitation. But we’re in 2013, which is quickly becoming a year of high expectations. A race at one of the best tracks on the schedule should be an automatic A-plus under the circumstances.

Anything less? Feels like a missed opportunity … even though the “temper, temper” moments could well come back into play this fall.

Let’s go through the gears…


ONE: Jimmie Johnson owns Martinsville.
For exceptional athletes, there’s always one venue that fits their style better than any other. Tiger Woods has Augusta, Roger Federer has a set of tennis courts in Queens and Michael Jordan once thrived in Madison Square Garden.

For Jimmie Johnson, that magical place is Martinsville, Va. With eight victories in 23 career starts, third to only Richard Petty and Darrell Waltrip, the half-mile oval launch his performances into another stratosphere. Sixteen times he’s finished top 5 or better, and a 34.7 percent winning clip basically guarantees a victory once every year and a half there. Considering 43 Cup competitors start each race and those types of odds happen oh, about next to never.

“His car is so much better than everybody else,” explained sixth-place finisher Brad Keselowski, “That he just plays with everybody the whole race just to make it look good.”

No one encapsulated this day any better. Even when Johnson was being challenged by Martinsville 0-fers Kyle Busch and Matt Kenseth, the vibe still leaned his way. Not once for a single lap did the No. 48 put itself in position to run outside the top 5, simple history dictating the track would eventually come to him.

“It’s probably the most calm, relaxed thought-out weekend that we've had as the 48,” said the winner. “We really fell back on our experience and stayed committed to that.”

The end result now sees Johnson with 14,000 laps led overall in the Cup Series, a career best 2,327 of them at Martinsville. In comparison, peer Jamie McMurray, a six-time Cup winner in his own right, has led just 1,416 laps during his whole career. It seems between pit road, crew chief strategy and driver ability, this short track brings out the best in the five-time champ – the sport’s new points leader, to boot.


SECOND: See Hendrick go. See Gibbs go. See everyone else watch and get jealous.
The new Gen-6 car, while promoting parity, is bound to be figured out by a few organizations quicker than most. A look at Sunday’s laps-led totals reaffirm the answer: 2013 is developing into Hendrick, Gibbs and then every man for himself.

Only Marcos Ambrose, who led lap 1 and Travis Kvapil, who paced the field a single lap under yellow, broke the 498-lap spell up front rotated by HMS’ Jimmie Johnson, JGR veteran Kyle Busch and newcomer Matt Kenseth. But their performances are far from one-hit wonders. This trio, along with JGR’s Denny Hamlin and HMS’ Kasey Kahne, make up the top 5 in laps led on the circuit, six races into a young season.

Yes, Roush Fenway Racing’s Carl Edwards has a win at Phoenix. And Brad Keselowski over at Penske Racing has kept up that championship consistency. But by and large, the teams showing the most strength these days are coming squarely out of two race shops. Of the seven drivers, Kenseth, has been the most surprising, leading more laps at Martinsville Sunday – one of his worst tracks – then in his 13-year career at the track up to that point. If they can make him into a contender here, that bodes well for the 1.5-mile ovals right in his wheelhouse coming up next.
 

Teaser:
<p> Reaction from a NASCAR short-track weekend at Martinsville Speedway.</p>
Post date: Monday, April 8, 2013 - 15:42
Path: /mlb/10-young-mlb-players-who-will-be-hall-famers
Body:

To suggest that any player in any sport after just a few seasons is a lock to make the Hall of Fame is ridiculous. But it is always fun to look at athletes who have had instant success and try to extrapolate long-term potential. Limiting the scope to the last three rookie classes, here are the most likely future MLB Hall of Famers:

Class of 2012:

Mike Trout, OF, LA Angels
What else is there to be said of Trout's rookie season in the majors? He was an All-Star, he won the AL Rookie of the Year award, led the league in runs (129) and stolen bases (49), earned a Silver Slugger honor and finished second in MVP voting behind the first Triple Crown winner in more than 50 years. He finished with a .326 average, .963 OPS, hit 30 home runs and drove in 83. With a 10.0 WAR, it was the greatest rookie season in the history of the sport — right ahead of Joe Jackson's 9.7 WAR in 1911. And, oh by the way, he did all of this at age 20? Yeah, his ticket might already be punched for Cooperstown.

Bryce Harper, OF, Washington
The only reason Harper's own rookie season gets marginalized is Mr. Trout's performance in the American League. Harper, who played all of the season at the age of 19, posted one of the best inaugural seasons in recent memory as well. He was an All-Star and earned NL Rookie of Year honors. He finished with 22 home runs, 18 stolen bases, 98 runs scored, 59 RBIs and a .270/.817 split at the plate. And to start his second season, Harper went deep twice on Opening Day. It's Hall of Fame or bust for a player who made his Sports Illustrated cover debut at 16 and made his second appearance before turning 21.

Class of 2011:

Aroldis Chapman, P, Cincinnati
The Cuban defector debuted in 2010 but pitched only 13 1/3 innings, so his 50.0-inning, 71-strikeout middle relief effort of '11 was his rookie season. The Reds have toyed with moving him to the rotation the last two springs, but his other-worldly strikeout rate last season kept him in the closer's role. He tossed 71 2/3 innings with a 1.51 ERA and 122 strikeouts (15.3 per nine) while saving 38 games for the Reds last season. He was eighth in the Cy Young voting and 12th in the MVP balloting. Look for the (supposedly) 25-year-old's effortless 100-mph fastball to dominate hitters for the next decade — be it from the rotation or the bullpen.

Freddie Freeman, 1B, Atlanta
There is a large group of 2011 rookie first baseman that could make the case for being on this list, namely Eric Hosmer and Anthony Rizzo. Freeman, however, at 6-foot-5 and 230 pounds is a monster from the left side of the plate. He finished second in the NL Rookie of the Year voting to only his teammate (more on him in a second) and has hit 44 bombs and driven in 170 in two full seasons. He plays a terrific first base on defense and should develop even more power as he gets more comfortable at the plate. He enters his third full season as just a 23-year-old with loads of big-time potential — and will likely never leave the Braves right side of the infield.

Craig Kimbrel, RP, Atlanta
The only player to finish ahead of Freeman in the NL ROY voting in 2011 was the flame-throwing closer from the Braves. He turns 25 in May and is arguably the most dominant relief pitcher on the planet. He is the only player in the majors to post at least 40 saves in each of the last two seasons, as he finished tied for second in 2011 (46) and tied for third last season (42). He has allowed just 26 career earned runs in 161.1 career innings and has struck out 284 batters (for a sick 15.8 per nine rate). He is a two-time All-Star who finished ninth and fifth respectively in the Cy Young voting the last two seasons and was eighth in the MVP race a year ago.

Class of 2010:

Stephen Strasburg, SP, Washington
Ever since Bob Costas called his memorable, nationally hyped debut with 14 strikeouts over seven innings against Pittsburgh, Strasburg has been a star. Despite missing all but five starts of his second season due to Tommy John surgery, Strasburg has been virtually perfect. He has a career 2.86 ERA and 316 strikeouts over 258 1/3 innings. He finished 15-6 in 28 starts last year in what was his first full season (159 1/3 IP) and even earned a Silver Slugger award in the process. The flame-thrower has done nothing but live up to his extremely lofty expectations as the No. 1 overall pick out of San Diego State in 2009.

Buster Posey, C, San Francisco
There are few players who have ever had a better start to a career than Mr. Posey. He claimed NL Rookie of Year honors in 2010 and led the Giants to their first World Series championship since 1954. Then, after missing all but 162 at-bats of his second year with an injury, he led the Giants to a second World Series title and claimed the NL MVP trophy in 2012. He is a career .313 hitter with an .880 OPS and just 187 career strikeouts in 1,122 at-bats. He is the consummate professional and the face of a franchise that is positioned to make another run at the World Series and he was recently rewarded with a 9-year, $164 million contract.

Starlin Castro, SS, Chicago Cubs
The Dominican shortstop debuted as just a 20-year-old on the North Side and sustained a .300 average over 125 games. He was fifth in the NL Rookie of the Year voting. He has made back-to-back All-Star teams at age 21 and 22 and has a career .297 average. He led the NL in at-bats in each of the last two years and led the league in hits (207) in 2011. He was one of just five players to play in all 162 games last season. He has improved his defense and power in each of the last two seasons and is a integral part of the rebuilding project with the Cubs.

Giancarlo Stanton, OF, Miami
Few players have as much raw power as the slugger formerly known as Mike Stanton. After 91 homers in 328 career minor league games, Stanton already has 93 career homers in just three seasons, improving his power numbers in each of his professional seasons. The 6-foot-5, 240-pound outfielder hit .290 last season and made his first All-Star game appearance. Stanton has a sterling career OPS of .902. There is no doubt he will be among the league leaders in home runs each season, so the only question is how long will he be doing it for the Marlins?

Jason Heyward, OF, Atlanta
The 2007 first-round pick finished second only to Posey in the NL Rookie of the Year voting in 2010. He played 142 games in his first season and slugged 18 home runs. After a disappointing 2011 campaign, Heyward bounced back impressively last season by posting the following: 158 G, 93 R, 27 HR, 82 RBI, 21 SB, .269/.814. The 6-foot-5, 230-pounder is still just 23 years old and has all the physical talent to be an elite player for years to come.

The Top Prospects to Watch:

Oscar Taveras, OF, St. Louis
Vlad Guerrero-type of hitter has uncanny plate approach and natural hitting ability.

Jurickson Profar, 2B/SS, Texas
Smooth middle infielder could stick at either second or short. An elite all-around prospect.

Gerrit Cole, SP, Pittsburgh
No. 1 overall pick with a huge power arm who excelled at UCLA.

Mike Zunino, C, Seattle
Former Florida Gators slugger crushed the ball (.360) in his first season in the minors.

Teaser:
<p> 10 Young MLB Players Who Will Be Hall of Famers</p>
Post date: Monday, April 8, 2013 - 10:45
All taxonomy terms: Brandt Snedeker, Golf
Path: /golf/top-20-golfers-2013-majors-no-3-brandt-snedeker
Body:

They’re the cream of the major championship crop, circa 2013 — the Athlon Major Championship Dream Team. Leading up to The Masters, we'll be unveiling Athlon Sports’ 20 players to watch for majors season, with commentary on each from the Golf Channel’s Brandel Chamblee.

No. 3: Brandt Snedeker

Born: Dec. 8, 1980, Nashville, Tenn. | Career PGA Tour Wins: | 2012 Wins (Worldwide): 2 | 2012 Earnings (PGA Tour): $4,989,739 (3rd) World Ranking: 5

 

Brandel Chamblee's Take

Snedeker was the best putter on the PGA tour in 2012 and as a result won twice, most notably at the Tour Championship, which resulted in him winning the FedExCup. The 2007 Rookie of the Year has improved his spot on the money list every year since 2008 — vaulting from 59th that season to 3rd in 2012. That trend showed no signs of slowing during the 2013 West Coast Swing, where Snedeker posted a win, two seconds and a third. Snedeker has added yardage and improved his ball-striking; in 2012, the Tour Championship was the only event he finished in the top 10 in both fairways and greens in regulation. If that ball-striking carries forward throughout 2013, he could challenge for Player of the Year and be the first FedExCup champion to defend his title successfully. More importantly, he could win his first major. Clearly, he will be one of the biggest newsmakers of the year in golf.

Major Championship Résumé
Starts: 21
Wins: 0

2012 Performance:
Masters - T19
U.S. Open - DNP
British Open - T3
PGA Championship - Cut

Best Career Finishes: 
Masters - T3 (2008)
U.S. Open - T8 (2010)
British Open - T3 (2012)
PGA Championship - T18 (2007)
Top-10 Finishes: 4
Top-25 Finishes: 10
Missed Cuts: 9

—Brandel Chamblee is lead analyst for the Golf Channel. Be sure to follow him @ChambleeBrandel on Twitter.


Athlon's 2013 Golf annual provides in-depth previews of this year's four majors, including the top 20 players to watch this season. One of these elite players, reigning FedExCup champion Brandt Snedeker, also takes you tee to green with full-swing instruction and short game essentials. BUY IT NOW.

Teaser:
<p> Athlon Counts Down the 20 Golfers to Watch for Majors Season</p>
Post date: Monday, April 8, 2013 - 10:43
Path: /college-basketball/college-basketball-national-championship-preview-louisville-vs-michigan
Body:

Despite the wild ride of the Final Four, the national championship game feels like a heavyweight bout.

On Saturday, Louisville walk-on Tim Henderson and Michigan’s little-used freshman Caris LeVert combined for 14 points. In a national semifinal.

Call it a hunch, but we expect the national title to be decided by more familiar names.

The title game may have those kinds of surprises, but the championship game will be a fitting time for the best to be at their best. Louisville and Michigan bring us powerhouse programs, All-America-caliber guards, a breakout freshman and a pair of the most accomplished coaches in the game.

On one bench, Rick Pitino is looking to become the first coach to win a basketball title at two schools. On the other, John Beilein is seeking to reach the top of a mountain he’s been climbing for nearly four decades. While Pitino coached at Providence and Kentucky and then the NBA, Beilein has taken a rare path where he’s never been an assistant coach, progressing from high school to junior college to NAIA to Division II and now to the brink of a national championship.

On the court, Russ Smith and Trey Burke have been two of the most prolific guards in the country, though stealing the show has been freshman Mitch McGary, who has turned a pedestrian regular season into a postseason run that could make him an NBA lottery pick.

And yet for all the success for both programs, they’re looking to add to their basketball trophy case for the first time since the 1980s. Louisville is seeking its first title since 1986 while Michigan is seeking its first title since 1989.

Related: Amazing Stats from the semifinals

No. 1 Louisville vs. No. 4 Michigan
Time: 9:23 p.m. Eastern
TV: CBS
Announcers: Jim Nantz,
Clark Kellogg, Steve Kerr
Line: Louisville by 4

Louisville projected starters
G Peyton Siva (6-0/185, Sr.)
G Russ Smith (6-1/165, Jr.)
G/F Wayne Blackshear (6-5/230, So.)
F Chane Behanan (6-6/250, So.)
C Gorgui Dieng (6-11/245, Jr.)
Michigan projected starters
G Trey Burke (6-0/190, So.)
G Nik Stauskas (6-6/190, Fr.)
G Tim Hardaway Jr. (6-6/205, Jr.)
F Glenn Robinson III (6-6/210, Fr.)
F Mitch McGary (6-10/250, Fr.)

Related: The top 15 teams that never won the title

Louisville will win the national title if…
Someone other than Russ Smith is scoring big. Smith is averaging 25 points per game in the tournament, but how Michigan defends the Louisville guard and his supporting cast will be intriguing. The Wolverines have been able to frustrate Syracuse’s Michael Carter-Williams, Florida’s Erik Murphy and South Dakota State’s Nate Wolters. If Michigan is able to contain Smith -- something no one else in this tournament has been able to do -- the Cardinals need secondary scoring from Peyton Siva, Luke Hancock or Gorgui Dieng.

Michigan will win the national title if…
The Wolverines withstand Louisville’s big run. The Cardinals seem to do it in every game. They find a time when everything is clicking on both ends of the floor -- they’re forcing turnovers, Russ Smith is hitting shots, the rest of the team his hitting three-pointers. Louisville can go on a 10-0 run in a hurry. It’s going to happen against Michigan, the question is if a team starting three freshmen can respond.

Related: Ranking the top 15 players in the Final Four

FIVE BIG STORYLINES

Strength vs. strength
A major topic for this game is going to be the offense vs. defense showdown with Michigan leading Ken Pomeroy’s adjusted offensive rankings and Louisville leading the adjusted defensive rankings. Let’s pause for a minute to remember Louisville can score enough to keep up with Michigan (thanks, in part, to defense creating scoring opportunities). The Cardinals are shooting 53 percent in the tournament and have averaged 79 points per game. The strength vs. strength matchup could just as well be in the offensive end of the court for both teams.

Who blinks in the turnover battle?
The Michigan offense vs. Louisville defense storyline really comes down to the turnover margin. The Wolverines turn the ball over on 14.2 percent of their possessions, the best rate in the country this season. The Cardinals force turnovers on 26.7 percent of possessions, the second-best rate in the country. And who is first in that category? VCU, a team Michigan defeated 78-53 in the round of 32. It’s worth noting that Louisville has forced fewer turnovers in each round of the tournament from North Carolina A&T (27), Colorado State (20), Oregon and Duke (12 each) and Wichita State (11).

Mitch McGary’s emergence
If Michigan wins the championship, McGary would be the leading candidate to be the NCAA Tournament’s Most Outstanding Player. Who wins the tourney’s MVP award? Guys like Anthony Davis, Kemba Walker, Emeka Okafor and Carmelo Anthony in the last 10 years. Seriously, look at the list, and keep in mind McGary wasn’t even on the Big Ten’s All-Freshman team.

The Louisville bench
With 34 combined points, Luke Hancock, Montrezl Harrell and Tim Henderson surged in the second half to help the Cardinals pull away from Wichita State on Saturday. Do they have another game like that in them? Recent games say yes. The Louisville bench has contributed at least 20 point sin six consecutive games going back to 41 points from reserves against Syracuse in the Big East final.

Will Trey Burke bounce back?
Trey Burke scored 23 points in the second half and overtime against Kansas in the Sweet 16, but he’s scored only 46 points in the other four and a half tournament games. His four assists against Syracuse was his fewest since March 14. Michigan has proven to be more than its National Player of the Year candidate, but it’s tough to see the Wolverines winning a title without Burke playing a bigger role.

Related: How the Final Four teams were built

ATHLON SPORTS STAFF ROUNDTABLE

Who is the key player for the game?

David Fox: Gorgui Dieng
Michigan is vulnerable in the paint, though less so with the breakout play of Mitch McGary. In any event, Louisville needs more out of its center than what it got Saturday against Wichita State. Dieng attempted one shot from the floor and had one rebound against the Shockers. Granted, Wichita State had a physical front line, and Rick Pitino said Dieng was tentative in blocking shots due to the shortened bench. Dieng should have a more beneficial matchup against Michigan.
Prediction: Louisville 74-71

Braden Gall: Gorgui Dieng
The best defensive team in the nation faces the best offensive team in the nation and the most important player might be the best post defender in the game. Gorgui Dieng was limited by foul issues against Wichita State and Wolverines freshman post man Mitch McGary continues to be downright obnoxious for opposing defenses. McGary has been unreal in all phases of the game this tournament and will be a tough match-up for Dieng in terms of foot speed and quickness. If Dieng can play under control, stay out of foul trouble and neutralize the paint, the veteran Cardinals team and coaching staff will win the day.
Prediction: Louisville 78-72

Mitch Light: Tim Hardaway Jr.
The Wolverines will obviously need to shoot the ball well to beat Louisville. After hitting a combined 8 of 12 from three-point range in Michigan’s first two NCAA games, Hardaway is only 5 of 18 from the arc in the last three. He will have to be more productive on Monday night. And he will need to help Trey Burke and the rest of the guards handle Louisville’s pressure. He won’t be a primary ball-handler, but he must contribute.
Prediction: Michigan 77-73

Mark Ross: Luke Hancock
A co-captain alongside senior guard Peyton Siva, Hancock has been one of the leaders of this Louisville team all season. And while Siva and junior Russ Smith get the majority of the minutes and attention out of the Cardinals' backcourt, don't overlook or downplay Hancock's presence and contributions. The junior swingman was instrumental in Saturday's win over Wichita State, scoring 20 points off of the benc. He hit three of his five attempts from beyond the arc and, more importantly, was five of seven from the free-throw line. Hancock also chipped in 10 points against Duke in the Midwest Regional final and his scoring off of the bench could be a huge factor on Monday night against Michigan. Also, at 6-6, Hancock has enough size to be able to help out on the perimeter against the likes of Tim Hardaway, Jr. and Nik Stauskas or on the wing if he gets matched up against Glenn Robinson III.
Prediction: Louisville 77-66

Teaser:
<p> Both the Cardinals and Wolverines are seeking their first national titles since the 1980s</p>
Post date: Monday, April 8, 2013 - 08:30
Path: /college-football/ranking-secs-college-football-coaches-2013
Body:

Coaching is one of the driving forces in building a national championship team or program. No matter how much talent a program has, it can’t win a national title if the coaching is questionable.

Considering how important coaches are to teams or even making preseason predictions, Athlon is taking a look at how each conference stacks up with its head coach rankings for 2013.

Ranking the coaches in any college football conference is a difficult task. Many factors play into just how successful a coach is at any school. How well are the assistants paid? Are the facilities up to par with the rest of the conference? Can the coach recruit or is he more of an X's and O's manager? Are there off-the-field or age issues to take into consideration? Has a coach built a program or continued the success from a previous coach? How is the resume outside of their current position? These questions and more were posed to the editors at Athlon Sports, as they were asked to rank the coaches of each of the six BCS conferences. One thing to keep in mind - the record is not always indicative of where a coach should rank in a conference.

Ranking the SEC Head Coaches for 2013

1. Nick Saban, Alabama
Record at Alabama: 68-13 (2007-present)
Record at LSU: 48-16 (2000-04)
Record at Michigan State: 34-24-1 (1995-99)
Record at Toledo: 9-2 (1990)
Overall Record: 159-55-1 (17 years)

Saban is without question the best coach in college football. He started his career as a head coach in 1990 with Toledo, then spent the next four seasons as the defensive coordinator with the Cleveland Browns. In 1995, Saban was hired as Michigan State’s head coach and guided the Spartans to a 34-24-1 record under his watch. Saban left East Lansing for Baton Rouge and LSU in 2000 and led the Tigers to a 48-16 record in five years, including a national championship in 2003. Saban had a two-year stint with the Dolphins but jumped at the opportunity to lead Alabama in 2007. After a 7-6 record in his first season, Saban is 61-7 in his last five years with the Crimson Tide, which includes three national championships. At 61 years old, Saban is still at the top of his game and should have Alabama in the mix for a SEC and national title every year he is on the sidelines.
 

2. Steve Spurrier, South Carolina
Record at South Carolina: 66-37 (2005-present)
Record at Florida: 122-27-1 (1990-2001)
Record at Duke: 20-13-1 1987-89)
Overall Record: 208-77-2 (22 years)

After six consecutive seasons with at least five losses, Spurrier has delivered two (if not three) of the best seasons in South Carolina football history. It clearly took some time to build the Gamecocks into a consistent winner for the first time in program history. But there is no doubt the Gamecocks have become one of the league's top contenders. Not only is Spurrier extremely relevant in the league heading into the 2013 season at age 68 (April 20), but he has achieved at a high level over time as well. in a conference known for its ability to devour quality coaches, few have proven to be as adaptable and as consistent as Spurrier. He has an incredible 122-41 record in SEC play over his 20-year career in the league for an average of more than six conference wins per season (6.1). With one national championship under his belt from his time at Florida, should he bring a conference crown to Columbia, his name would belong with those two guys from Alabama as the SEC's greatest of all-time. The only problem is Carolina has gone from first to second to third in the East the last three seasons despite appearing to get better on the field.
 

3. Mark Richt, Georgia
Overall Record at Georgia: 118-40 (2001-present, 12 years)

Yes, Spurrier has been around longer than the Georgia coach, but along with Gary Pinkel of Missouri, Richt is your longest tenured coach in the nation's toughest league. And he added his sixth SEC East title and fifth SEC title game appearance to his resume in 2012. A model of consistency, Richt has won at least eight games in all but one of his 12 SEC campaigns and has never finished a regular season under .500 and never missed a postseason. Fans were restless following the low point of the tenure — a loss to UCF in the Liberty Bowl following the 2010 season, but he made quality staff adjustments and has rebounded with back-to-back SEC championship game appearances. Richt returned the Dawgs to prominence with two SEC titles in 2002 and 2005, but after two straight losses in Atlanta, Georgia faithful are eagerly waiting to cap a season a with a win in the Georgia Dome rather than a loss. A win would likely earn Richt his third SEC Coach of the Year award.
 

RELATED CONTENT: Ranking All 125 College Football Head Coaches for 2013

4. Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M
Record at Texas A&M: 11-2 (2012-present)
Record at Houston: 35-17 (2008-2011)
Overall Record: 46-19 (5 years)

Sumlin’s debut at Texas A&M was a rousing success. In the Aggies’ first season in the SEC, Sumlin guided Texas A&M to an 11-2 record, helped to propel quarterback Johnny Manziel to the Heisman, and had the Aggies on the doorstep of playing in a BCS bowl. Sumlin came to Texas A&M after a 35-17 record in four seasons at Houston, which included a 12-1 mark in 2011. The Alabama native built a strong resume as an assistant, making stops at Wyoming, Minnesota, Purdue, Texas A&M and at Oklahoma under Bob Stoops. One of the underrated aspects of Sumlin’s hire was a top-notch coaching staff, which included Kliff Kingsbury and Brian Polian, who both departed for head coaching jobs in the offseason. However, Sumlin restocked his staff, and with Texas A&M reeling in a top-10 recruiting class, the future looks bright in College Station. Sumlin’s next priority? Cut into Texas’ hold on the state and elevate Texas A&M into a consistent contender in the SEC.
 

5. James Franklin, Vanderbilt
Overall Record at Vanderbilt:
15-11 (2011-present, 2 years)

Vanderbilt had never been to back-to-back bowl games in program history, but in just two short years, that is exactly what Franklin has done for the Commodores. It really is the only statistic that matters as Vandy has achieved at a higher level than ever before in the 117-year history of the program. With the only exception of attendance — which is still very strong compared to pre-Franklin standards — everything about this program screams S-E-C. Franklin has the Dores recruiting at an all-time rate, the offense is scoring at unprecedented levels and the program as a whole has a swagger never before seen on West End. Franklin is meticulous in his holistic and forward-thinking approach to selling a program and its exactly what a program like Vanderbilt has to have if it wants to continue to grow and contend with much more powerful SEC programs.
 

6. Dan Mullen, Mississippi State
Overall Record at Mississippi State: 29-22 (2009-present, 5 years)

Each BCS conference seems to have one coach that cannot be judged strictly on his record. Mullen fits that profile for the SEC, as he is coming off his fifth year in Starkville and has a 29-22 overall record. Although Mullen’s overall record isn’t overly impressive, Mississippi State is arguably one of the toughest jobs in the SEC. The Bulldogs have played in three consecutive bowl games under Mullen and are coming off a 4-4 conference record in the always loaded SEC. Mullen is 3-1 against rival Ole Miss and has won seven or more games in each of the last three seasons. Prior to taking the top spot at Mississippi State, Mullen worked as an assistant under Urban Meyer at Bowling Green, Utah and Florida. There’s no question Mullen needs to consistently beat some of the top teams in the SEC West to climb higher in the coach rankings. However, it’s not easy to win the division right now, especially as Alabama, LSU and Texas A&M could all be top-15 teams in 2013. If Mullen was at one of the top jobs in the conference – Florida, Alabama, LSU or Georgia – he would easily win at a higher level.
 

7. Les Miles, LSU
Record at LSU: 84-21 (2005-present)
Record at Oklahoma State: 28-21 (2001-04)
Overall Record: 113-42 (12 years)

Needless to say, Miles’ interesting personality sometimes distracts from his coaching ability. The Ohio native got his chance to be a head coach in 2001, as he was hired to lead Oklahoma State. The Cowboys went 4-7 in his first year but recorded at least seven victories in each of the next three seasons. Miles parlayed his success with Oklahoma State into the top spot at LSU, which he has held since 2005. Under Miles, the Tigers have had plenty of success – 84 victories and seven finishes in the Associated Press top 25 poll. LSU is 34-6 over the last three years and played for the national championship after the 2011 season. Although the Tigers have experienced plenty of success under Miles, there’s also a sense of disappointment. LSU went 10-3 with a team that was picked among the top two by most preseason polls last season. The Tigers also had a disappointing 8-5 2008 campaign and are 1-3 in their last four bowl games. There’s no question Miles is a solid coach, but he has plenty of talent at his disposal, and the Tigers have slightly underachieved.
 

 

8. Bret Bielema, Arkansas
Record at Arkansas: 0-0 (First Season)
Record at Wisconsin: 68-24 (2006-2012)
Overall Record: 68-24 (7 years)

Bielema’s decision to leave Wisconsin for Arkansas came as a surprise, but the lure of coaching in the SEC was tough to turn down. In seven years with the Badgers, Bielema had a 68-24 record, and led Wisconsin to three consecutive Rose Bowl appearances. Bielema led the Badgers to five finishes in the Associated Press' top 25 and had four seasons of 10 or more victories. Although Bielema was a good coach in the Big Ten, the road is much tougher in the SEC. Arkansas is in for a transition year in 2013, and the team will have to contend with improving programs at Texas A&M and Ole Miss in the West. While Bielema isn’t likely to lead the Razorbacks to a 10-win season in 2013 or '14, he is a good pick for a program that should be a consistent bowl team. Bielema will need some time to adjust to the SEC, but he should be a good fit at Arkansas.
 

9. Hugh Freeze, Ole Miss
Record at Ole Miss: 7-6 (2012-present)
Record at Arkansas State: 10-2 (2011)
Record at Lambuth: 20-5 (2008-09)
Overall Record: 37-13 (4 years)

After a successful debut in Oxford, a case could be made Freeze should be ranked higher on this list. The Mississippi native inherited an Ole Miss team that went 2-10 in the year prior to his arrival and guided the Rebels to a 7-6 finish with a victory over Pittsburgh in the BBVA Compass Bowl. After finishing 2011 as the SEC’s worst team, Ole Miss was one of college football’s top 40 teams last year. Success and improvement hasn’t just been limited to one stop for Freeze, as Lambuth was 20-5 from 2008-09 under his watch, and Arkansas State went 4-8 prior to his arrival, only to win 10 games in Freeze’s only season in Jonesboro. Freeze is bringing in a top-five recruiting class to Oxford, and the program is clearly headed in the right direction. The Mississippi native has never been a head coach at one stop long enough to show he can sustain success for five or more seasons. However, considering his recruiting haul and track record so far, there’s little to doubt Freeze will continue to climb on this list in the coming years.
 

10. Will Muschamp, Florida
Overall Record at Florida: 18-8 (2011-present, 2 years)

The fiery Florida coach proved a lot in his crucial second season at the helm in Gainesville. His team was one lost fumble at the goal line away from playing for a national championship in the SEC title game. His teams play with fierce physicality and his side of the ball, the defense, has been a major strength. His track record of big-time success — two national championship game appearances as a defensive coordinator — under Nick Saban, Mack Brown and Tommy Tuberville points to his ability to grind it out in a brutal conference. Yet, at times, his teams tend to play out of control — much like his coaching style — and its the only thing keeping him from being one of the league's elite field generals. So with a reworked defense and third(-ish) year starter under center, Gators fans are anxiously awaiting Muschamp's third season. Finishing a game against Georgia would go a long way to proving Muschamp is the long-term answer.
 

11. Butch Jones, Tennessee
Record at Tennessee: First Season
Record at Cincinnati: 23-14 (2010-2012)
Record at Central Michigan: 27-13 (2007-2009)
Overall Record: 50-27 (6 years)

The book on Jones is fairly straight forward. His teams have won at least a share of a league championship in four of his six seasons as a head coach. Two of them were outright while at Central Michigan and two of them were co-championships in the always murky Big East with the Bearcats. He has an excellent win-loss record and has taken a forward-thinking approach in his short tenure at Tennessee and it has made for big waves on the recruiting trail. However, he took over programs built up by Brian Kelly at his previous two stops and it remains to be seen if he can compete with the likes of Spurrier, Richt and Saban every single season. There is some renewed energy in Knoxville but fans can't be in anything but wait and see mode with Jones, the Vols' fourth head coach since 2008. 
 

12. Gary Pinkel, Missouri
Record at Missouri: 90-61 (2001-present)
Record at Toledo: 73-37-3 (1991-2000)
Overall Record: 163-98-3 (21 years)

Pinkel has a long and storied career on the sidelines at both Toledo and Mizzou with at least 70 wins at both. He built the Tigers football program to never before seen levels of success, both in the win column and in the box score. He is essentially responsible for Missouri being an attractive option for the SEC and needs to be given a lion's share of credit for the three-letter patch currently on their shoulder pads. He is No. 3 all-time in wins and is just 11 wins from becoming Missouri's winningest coach in history. That said, he never broke through in the Big 12 with a conference championship and, last year, watched his team post its worst finish since Pinkel's second season (2002). He has been around a long time and gets a lot of credit for building Mizzou football into what it is today, but now he is facing the biggest and best the game has to offer.
 

13. Gus Malzahn, Auburn
Record at Auburn: 0-0 (First Season)
Record at Arkansas State: 9-3 (2012)
Overall Record: 9-3 (1 year)

Although Gene Chizik was the head coach for Auburn’s national title team in 2010, it’s pretty evident much of the credit for the team’s success was due to quarterback Cam Newton and Malzahn. And after spending one year at Arkansas State, Malzahn is back at Auburn as the head coach. In his one season with the Red Wolves, Malzahn led the team to a 9-3 record. There’s no question Malzahn is one of college football’s top offensive minds, and his one year of experience at Arkansas State should have him better prepared for coaching in the SEC. However, Malzahn still needs to prove he can be a successful head coach at the SEC level. With more head coaching experience, Malzahn should rank higher on this list. And with his familiarity with the team in 2013, Auburn could be the most-improved team in the SEC.


14. Mark Stoops, Kentucky
Overall Record at Kentucky: First Season

The newest kid on the SEC block, Stoops' future as a head coach is anyone's guess. What we do know is this: He hails from Youngstown, Ohio and played defensive back for Iowa before he worked his way up through the ranks. Stoops was a defensive coordinator for Houston then Miami then Arizona (with his brother, Mike) and ultimately Florida State in 2010. He took the 108th-ranked defense and turned it into the 42nd-rated unit in one season before finishing fourth and second nationally in total defense in 2011 and '12 respectively. He did a great job finishing the recruiting cycle for the Wildcats, but at one of the toughest power conference jobs in the nation, it takes more than a few recruiting wins to be successful in Lexington.

by Braden Gall (@BradenGall) and Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)

Want to know more (stats, history, records, etc) about SEC coaches? Check out CoachingRoots.com

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Ranking the Pac-12 Head Coaches for 2013

Ranking the Top 50 Quarterbacks of the BCS Era

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College Football's Pre-Spring Top 25 Heisman Contenders for 2013

College Football's Top Transfers to Watch for 2013

Teaser:
<p> Ranking the SEC's College Football Coaches for 2013</p>
Post date: Monday, April 8, 2013 - 07:33
Path: /college-basketball/amazing-stats-final-four
Body:

For two athletic programs that are among the most successful in the country, the 2013 national title game will end droughts for both.

Louisville is playing in the national championship game for the first time since winning the title in 1986, a span that has included three Final Four appearances that came up empty. Meanwhile, Michigan is playing in its first title game since the end of the Fab Five era in 1993.

The Cardinals and Wolverines were among the top teams in the country for most of the regular season, but the route to Monday night has been full of surprises. Take a look at all-conference teams. Sure, Russ Smith and Trey Burke are there, but Mitch McGary? Luke Hancock? Tim Henderson?

The regionals were uneventful last week, but the national semifinal games delivered in drama thanks to the names listed above.

Here’s a look at the key numbers from the Final Four going into Monday’s championship game.

13.5. Points per game for Luke Hancock, Montrezl Harrell and Tim Henderson as of Friday
Though he was named a team captain before the season began, Hancock started the season in a shooting funk, making 4 of 29 three-pointers in the first four games and 9 of 41 in the first eight. Before a 20-point breakout against Syracuse in the Big East final, Harrell was an afterthought. The walk-on Henderson had made four three-pointers in 63 minutes all season. And then this happened...

34. Bench points for Louisville against Wichita State
Led by Hancock, the Cardinals’ bench may never pay for a meal in Louisville again. Louisville’s starting five went 10 of 33, and minus Russ Smith, the other four went 4 of 16. Enter the Louisville bench. Hancock’s 20 points and 3-of-5 performance from three-point range made him the hero of Louisville’s 72-68 win over Wichita State. And keep in mind, this isn’t the first time or first program where Hancock has been the tournament star. For George Mason in 2011, Hancock scored 18 points and a game-winning three with 21 seconds left to defeat ninth-seeded Villanova in the first round of the NCAA Tournament that year. Beyond Hancock on Saturday, the walk-on Henderson hit back-to-back threes in the second half, and Harrell went 4-for-4 from the field for eight points. And this doesn’t count Stephan Van Treese, who played key minutes and set screens when Gorgui Dieng sat with foul trouble. Not a bad performance for a bench that was down a man due to the Kevin Ware injury.

2. Double-doubles for Mitch McGary during the regular season
How much of a breakout has Mitch McGary been in the NCAA Tournament? Consider that he had two double-doubles during the regular season against Eastern Michigan and Penn State. He wasn’t even on the Big Ten’s All-Freshman team. And now...

3. Double-doubles for McGary during the NCAA Tournament
McGary has a legitimate chance to be the Tournament’s Most Outstanding Player. His performance against Syracuse may have been his best of the tournament. He scored 10 points and added 12 rebounds and four blocked shots.

10 of 21. Field goals McGary was responsible for against Syracuse
Perhaps belaboring the point in McGary, the most impressive aspect of his game was his passing out of the high post. McGary finished with six assists -- after having 18 all season before Saturday. Between four baskets and six assists, McGary contributed to 10 of Michigan’s 21 field goals. In comparison, point guard Trey Burke contributed to five.

71.7. Collective winning percentage of coaches John Beilein faced on the way to the title game
Beilein hasn’t taken the easiest path to his first Final Four and now his first title game, especially in terms of the coaches he’s faced to get to Monday night. The coaches he’s faced to get here have won a combined 71.7 percent of the games in their career. This includes: South Dakota State’s Scott Nagy (121-131), VCU’s Shaka Smart (111-37), Kansas’ Bill Self (507-164), Florida’s Billy Donovan (450-186) and Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim (920-314). Altogether, that’s 10 Final Fours and four national championships. And now Beilein will face Rick Pitino (661-235, 73.8 career win percentage), who is about to be selected for the Basketball Hall of Fame. By comparison, Pitino’s coaching opponents on the way to the title game have won a combined 66 percent of their games.

26:21. Time without a turnover for Wichita State against Louisville
Louisville’s opponents had 47 turnovers in the first weekend of the tournament, then 24 in the second weekend. Wichita State, though, had the most sure-handed offense against Louisville in the tournament -- at least for a stretch. The Shockers went 26 minutes and 21 seconds of game time without a turnover against Louisville, during which Wichita State built a 12-point lead. That lead eroded to a two-point deficit by the 6:43 mark when the turnover-free streak ended, but things got worse...

7. Turnovers in the following 6:43 for Wichita State
Wichita State made up for lost time in the turnover department in the final seven minutes. After not committing a turnover for more than 26 minutes, the Shockers coughed up the ball three times in a minute and seven in the final six minutes and 43 seconds. Louisville ended up with a 17-10 edge in points off turnovers.

1.13. Michigan’s points per possession
The numbers are deflated a bit in the NCAA Tournament, but Michigan remains one of the most efficient teams in the offensive end. The Wolverines average 1.13 points per possession, good for No. 3 in the country after Gonzaga and Indiana.

0.847. Louisville’s points allowed per possession
Louisville will match Michigan’s offensive prowess with one of the best defensive teams this season. The Cardinals allow 0.847 points per possession, ranking third in the country after Stephen F. Austin and Florida.

33.6. Combined shooting percentage for Trey Burke and Peyton Siva in the NCAA Tournament
Outside of his second-half explosion and game-tying three-pointer against Kansas, Michigan point guard Trey Burke has been quiet in the Tournament, at least in terms of efficiency. He bottomed out with one field goal on nine attempts against Syracuse. He’s shooting 32.4 percent from the field in the Tournament so far (23 of 71). And Burke isn't alone. Though Russ Smith is Louisville’s best offensive threat, Cardinals point guard Peyton Siva hasn’t had the smoothest ride in the tourney. He shot 1 of 9 against Wichita State. He’s shooting 35.6 percent from the field in the tournament (16 of 45). These are two point guards who shot better than 40 percent from the field for the season, making just better than a third of their shots (33.6) in the NCAA Tournament.

Teaser:
<p> Breakout performances from Mitch McGary and Luke Hancock carry Michigan and Louisville to title game</p>
Post date: Monday, April 8, 2013 - 07:25
Path: /college-football/ohio-state-mascot-gets-destroyed-during-spring-game
Body:

Nobody said being a mascot was easy. You have to walk around in a hot, furry costume that smells like feet and cheese, wear an oversized head that could topple you at any second, and (worse yet) pantomime your every emotion. But on the bright side, you don't have to get the crap knocked out of you on the gridiron. Well, unless you're the Ohio State Mascot "Brutus," who made the bad mistake of jumping into practice during OSU's Student Appreciation Day. Enjoy.

Teaser:
<p> Brutus gets his bell rung by linebacker David Perkins.</p>
Post date: Monday, April 8, 2013 - 07:00
Path: /nascar/jimmie-johnsons-martinsville-mastery-continues
Body:

Jimmie Johnson capped off a dominant weekend at Martinsville Speedway in a familiar way: by celebrating in Victory Lane. The Hendrick Motorsports driver won his eighth career NASCAR Sprint Cup race at the half-mile Virginia short track on Sunday in the STP Gas Booster 500.

Johnson’s weekend started in fine form on Friday, when he won the pole for the event. His No. 48 was near the top of each practice session’s speed chart, and when the green flag flew for 500 miles of racing, there was little doubt as to who the field would be chasing.

Johnson led 346 laps — the highest single-race total of his career — and drove away from Clint Bowyer and teammate Jeff Gordon after a restart with eight laps to go to seal the victory in convincing fashion.

“We had a great weekend and I know the stats clearly show that, but (it was) the most calm, relaxed, thought-out weekend that we’ve had as the 48 (team) — and the most mature,” Johnson said. “We really fell back on our experience and stayed committed to that.”

Bowyer, Gordon, Kasey Kahne and Kyle Busch rounded out the top 5.

“Jimmie has just really figured this place out,” Gordon said. “You get a driver like Jimmie and a team like the 48 — or ours, or the 15 (Bowyer) — you put them on the pole (and) in that No. 1 pit stall … it’s going to be really, really hard to beat them.”

Johnson’s mastery of Martinsville is reaching historic levels. His eight wins on the paperclip-shaped oval leads all active drivers and ranks behind only Richard Petty’s 15 and Darrell Waltrip’s 11 all-time. He’s won seven of the last 14 races at the only track that has hosted NASCAR premier series races since the sport’s inception.

Johnson also reclaimed the lead in the Sprint Cup Series point standings, holding a six-point advantage over Brad Keselowski.

After two weeks of hype, neither Joey Logano nor Tony Stewart engaged in any sort of on-track retaliation following their post-race skirmish in Fontana, Calif. Denny Hamlin, who was injured in his last-lap battle with Logano in the same race, was in attendance at Martinsville atop the pit box of his No. 11 team. Mark Martin, who filled in for Hamlin, finished 10th.

Sprint Cup rookie Danica Patrick impressed in her first visit to the physical short track, placing 12th after a hard-fought duel with Brian Vickers and Kevin Harvick on the final lap. Patrick was forced to start at the rear of the field when her No. 10 team changed an engine on Saturday.

“I didn’t know what to expect (at Martinsville), but I feel like finding the limit on a short track where you’re going a little slower … there’s less risk as opposed to finding the limit on a really big track where you’re doing 200 mph,” said Patrick said.

Johnson is the first driver to collect multiple wins in 2013, having scored his second Daytona 500 crown in February.

The circuit heads to Texas Motor Speedway for a Saturday night affair this weekend.
 

Teaser:
<p> Jimmie Johnson won NASCAR's STP Gas Booster 500 at Martinsville Speedway.</p>
Post date: Sunday, April 7, 2013 - 20:03
Path: /college-basketball/questionable-call-aids-louisville-win-over-wichita-state
Body:

Louisville had overcome a 12-point deficit against Wichita State, but a questionable call in the final 10 seconds helped seal the Cardinals' win in the Final Four and a trip to the national title game.

Luke Hancock, who was one of Louisville's heroes with 20 points, missed a free throw with 8.8 seconds left. Wichita State's Ron Baker grabbed the rebound, and Hancock clutched for the ball. After the two players wrestled for the ball, Baker passed to teammate Malcolm Armstead.

Before Armstead took possession, officials called for a held ball, which kept the ball in Louisville's possession. The call denied Wichita State a chance to take a potential game-tying three-point shot.

Here is the call on video, judge for yourself:

Teaser:
<p> Officials called a held ball for one of the defining moments in the Final Four</p>
Post date: Saturday, April 6, 2013 - 23:34
Path: /golf/pga-tour-player-survey
Body:

Ever wonder what the members of the world’s golfing elite really think about some of the game’s hot-button issues? Sick of the clichéd answers they sometimes trot out in the effort to not make any waves? You’re in luck.

We took the occasion of the 2012 Tour Championship to pose an anonymous survey to 10 of the PGA Tour’s elite players, making sure to get a mixture from around the world, to find the unvarnished truth. Do guys prefer the company of Tiger or Phil? Is it truly time to ban the anchored putter? What, if anything, intimidates the best in the world?

Below are the answers we received. You’re welcome to try to guess who said what, but be aware that this material is presented in no particular order.


Question: Have you ever been intimidated on a golf course?

Eight of the 10 players we talked to admitted to feeling intimidated at times in their careers, although not all wanted to mention the specific moments. Others were ready to admit that there have been times when their insides were churning.

• “There are times you are out of your comfort zone for sure. The first time you play with Tiger Woods, I’m sure everyone felt intimidated then. I played as an amateur at The Masters and that was also intimidating.”

• “My first time playing with Greg Norman when I was younger was very intimidating. He had an aura around him and having watched him growing up as a golfing hero and then all of a sudden having to show you belonged on the same course as him … That was very intimidating.”

• “Many times. As a kid you build up the stars so much and you can’t help but feel a little intimidated around them in the beginning. I remember as a junior I was pulled out of a clinic by a star player, my grandpa pushed me forward, and having to hit in front of him and a crowd is still one of the most nerve-wracking things I’ve ever done.”

• “The first time I teed it up on the PGA Tour I had plenty of nerves and felt totally intimidated. Thankfully, though, once you get a shot or two away, you calm down.”


Question: If the line is set at eight majors, do you think Rory McIlroy will finish over or under the mark and why?

Rory’s competitors are feeling the love. Six out of 10 guys think the current world No. 2 can become only the sixth player in the history of the game to win more than eight major championships along with Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, Walter Hagen, Gary Player and Ben Hogan.

• “He’s got a lot of talent, and he’s such a young guy so he has a lot of majors to play in.”

• “I was talking about this with my caddie recently actually. It’s something many out here talk about. I’ll say over, based on the fact he already has two and he won them both by eight shots.”

• “He’s got two already, and he’s off to a flying start. And seriously, look at him; he’s got boundless talent.”

• “He hits it really long and consistent. He has the short game. He’s the world No. 1, and I think the odds are he could do much more than eight.”

• “It just has to be over. He’s just 23 and has two already and he got them easily.”

• “He has two really quick, and I see him going to 10 or more.”

• Another thinks he’ll finish on the number, right along with Tom Watson: “Eight seems right on. I think eight is a good number and that’s where he’ll finish. Not a bad career … Can I have that?”

But some say he won’t get to the mark.

• “It’s really hard to win majors, and the competition is getting tougher and tougher. He is young and has two already but so many factors could change — friends, family, babies. … They’re not easy to win.”

• “Under. People forget there are only five guys, and only three in recent times, who have done that in golf. It’s not like it’s easy.”

Question: If you had the choice of a practice round with Tiger or Phil, who do you take and why?

Nothing quite polarizes the players on Tour like a Tiger/Phil question. Most guys are either in one camp or the other, although some are lucky and get on well with both. Our answers here, similarly, are split. Some want to get out with the mostly intense 14-time major champion, while others would like to get out with Lefty and play in his notoriously big-money but good-natured games.

• “Give me Phil, because he likes to gamble, and it gives me a chance to win some money off him and get some good practice under pressure.”

• “It’s got to be Tiger. He’s the guy I watched growing up. I want to watch the greatest player who I’ve ever seen up close and personal as much as possible.”

• “I’d take Tiger. I think I could learn more from him as he has as much creativity as Phil but you could really pick his brain on ball flight and swing and even the mental game.”

• “Phil for sure. Why? Isn’t it obvious? Because I might win some money!”

• “Tiger. He’s fun to watch and because I actually like hanging out with (instructor) Sean Foley.”

• “You really have to ask? Phil, for sure … He’s a lot more fun.”

• “Give me Tiger. I like spending time with both of them, but I’d take Tiger because I’ve had a little bit more time with Phil already. So just to even it out maybe.”

And then there was this answer…
• “Can I have a threesome with both of them? I’ll take that,” one said with a grin.

Question: What if it was a dinner invitation? Would this make things different?

Changing the venue away from the course tipped the ledger squarely in Mickelson’s favor. Only one player chose Tiger outright when it came to the notion of a night out with one or the other.

• “Phil — there would be a higher entertainment value.”

• “Phil. He is more of a people person, and it would no doubt be a more enjoyable night.”

• “Phil. I hear he buys the wine, and that might make for a better night out.”

• “Phil. I know Phil is a more entertaining guy so I’d have to say him.”

• “Phil. More fun night for sure.”

• “Phil. I think he’d pay and Tiger most surely wouldn’t.”

• “Tiger. It would be a toss-up, but I like both of them and like getting to know both of them. I probably know Tiger a little less so I’d take the chance to be with him.”

One refreshingly honest answer:
• “Whoever is buying.”

And then one guy wanted to throw the cat amongst the pigeons.
• “Can I bring both? I think that would be an interesting night. No reporters, though…”

Question: What would you change if you were commissioner for a day?

We certainly got some variety here. Some of the guys are happy to leave well enough alone, while others have multiple ideas they’d like to implement. Here are a select few.

• “I think the commissioner does a good job, but I’d like to see a lot more access for younger guys. Guys coming from Q-School or the Web.com tour need more access to events and more opportunities to keep their cards.”

But then the complete opposite by another:

• “It’s a long list, but I’d change field size. I’d bring them down which also means I’d reduce the number of cards given out each year.”

• “Request changes to the World Ranking system. Young players straight out of college who get 10 invites and play well in their first few events grab a whole lot of points and make early strides up the rankings. I think there needs to be a longer period of time before the numbers count and the ranking kicks in.”

• “I’d allow players to wear shorts and see if the fans had a problem with us wearing them. There might be a few guys who will still want to hide their legs, though!”

• “Everything is pretty good in my eyes. But perhaps I would have kept the chance for people to get on Tour directly from Q-School.”

• “I’d bring in shorts and carts.”

• “Pro-Ams need to have less amateurs. It would benefit them and the golfers as they’d get more time and the practice round would go more smoothly. Two amateurs would be perfect.”

• “It’s got to be the slow play policy. It’s time to penalize players and penalize with strokes.”

Question: If you have to hand off to someone else a 10-foot putt to save your life, who gets the call?

Most of our guys are calling on Tiger Woods to save their lives. The train of thought is that he’d welcome the challenge and has proven to be so clutch time and time again.

• “I’d give it to Tiger Woods. He’s proven to be the best in the crunch.”

• “Tiger. He’s been a proven performer under the gun and has made the most putts that mean something.”

• “Tiger. He’s been there and done it so many times.”

• “Tiger Woods. I think he has proven to be a clutch golfer.”

• “Tiger. He’s made so many for so long and you have to feel odds are in your favor.”

But then a few others turned up, including FedExCup champion Brandt Snedeker — and the question was posed before the Brandt putted lights-out to win the Tour Championship. Someone in this group was a bit prophetic.

• “Sneds. Brandt Snedeker. From 10 feet, he’s the guy. Actually from any feet — he makes them from everywhere.”

Others to get a jersey…

• “Steve Stricker. I think he gives a lot of putts a great chance to go in and hopefully he likes me.”

• “I’d have to say Jack Nicklaus. He’s the greatest golfer the game has seen, so he seems a simple choice.”

• “Rickie Fowler. I believe he’s a good putter, and I’ve watched the pure roll he can put on the ball. And I think he’d live for a moment like that.”

One guy gave the answer you’d expect from a confident, competitive player:
• “I just wouldn’t give it to anyone else. I want to control my own destiny.”


Question: Should anything be done to rein in the golf ball?

Most of the pros are happy with how things are right now, although a few are concerned. Almost all suggest it can’t go any farther — otherwise, the game and its traditional courses could be lost for good.

• “I think its pretty fair for everybody the way it is right now. I think everybody is used to the same technology, and while it’s different from the past, it has advanced the game for many and that’s a good thing.”

• “No, not really. I think it would hurt the game to do so, particularly from a marketing and financial point of view. The game is easier because of the ball, no doubt, but that’s not a bad thing.”

• “No. I don’t think you should shackle technology too much. I certainly don’t want them to go back to an old-style ball.”

• “No. I think they should rein the clubs and not the ball. They certainly shouldn’t do both.”

• “No. I think they’ve capped it, and that’s good. There is no reason to take it backwards. We shouldn’t be afraid of good athletes playing golf.”

• “No. It’s a scenario that can be explored, but I don’t think something needs to be done at the moment. However, in the next 10 years it could become an issue, so it has to be monitored.”

• “Yes. Although I would say right now it’s very playable. The good combination between the greens being firmer and faster and how far the ball is going is playable. But if we get another leap forward because of equipment, we are going to not be able to play courses like Merion (the 2013 U.S. Open venue), and that would be an absolute shame.”

• “Yes, it is at that point. They need to do something with the driver also, because every year it’s going two or three more yards, and it is becoming an issue on courses.”

• “If they ban the long putter, which it seems they will, they should also make further changes to equipment, which could include the ball.”

Question: So what about the long putter? Ban it?

This is a polarizing issue in golf. Some guys are adamant it should be banned. Others are adamant it should be allowed. And some are just happy to sit on the fence. Note: We asked the question prior to the announcement from the USGA and the R&A that they would entertain banning the anchored putter as early as 2016.

• “I think it’s fine. I don’t think they have proven that there is a huge advantage statistically for guys who use it, so I have no problem with it. It’s just a different way for guys to do things.”

• “Let them use it. I’m fine with it. If a player needed to use it to stay on Tour, I think most would.”

• “I’m yet to find a good reason for them to ban it. The arguments so far aren’t really valid.”

But then….

• “I don’t like it. I don’t think it’s true to the original ideals of golf. I’ve used one before but just don’t think it’s right. I’d be glad to see it gone.”

• “I’m against it just because I’ve always worked so hard on my own short game without going there, and I think that’s how golf is supposed to be. I’d like to see everyone else struggle and work harder like I’ve always had to.”

• “I think it’s cheating and should be banned. It goes against the spirit and rules of golf.”

• “Anchoring has to go. Just because stats don’t say long putter users are better doesn’t make it right.”

• “I think it should be outlawed. I want guys to have to hold a putter in their hands when they have a five-footer to win, to feel those nerves, not to anchor it to their body to take that away.”

And the fence-sitters…

• “I’ve tried it, it still is something you still have to learn so I don’t really care one way or the other. I don’t need to use it so it doesn’t really affect me.”

• “I don’t really care. But I know there are more out there that don’t want it. I think if it is banned there will be guys who will be gone from the Tour, some really good guys. But banning anchoring is probably fair.”

Question: How important is the FedExCup to you, and is it good for golf?

To a man, everyone loves the concept of the FedExCup. It has modernized the sport of golf and given fans something to keep track of at the end of the season, just like football, baseball, hockey, basketball or any other major sport.

• “It’s great and a huge bonus for us as golfers. The playoffs especially are four events with great fields and great purses, and if you are lucky enough to win it all it’s a huge payoff.”

• “It’s really given the Tour a lot of credibility. It’s given the players more to play for all season and towards the end of the year and the fans something to be excited about and talk about.”

• “It’s such a good concept. TV Ratings is the big measure in the sport, and if you look at this Tour compared to the others around the world, this Tour is by and away the only really successful one. Others are struggling to get good sponsorship, but FedEx has been incredible in that perspective. The fans have really bought into the concept, and you just have to look at the leaderboards in the playoffs to see how great the golf has been. People are watching in primetime all over the world. Internationally it’s huge.”

• “It’s great for the game. It makes it easy for the average fan to follow, and non-golf fans can follow it also. It creates excitement for them. Obviously, as a golfer, FedEx has given us a crack at some great bonuses, so it’s hard to fault it.”

• “I think it really helps in forcing players to be more consistent.”

• “I love the concept. It makes the season interesting and it gives everyone a chance to have a big year.”

• “It’s a great thing to drive ratings and separate the best golfers of the year.”

• “It makes the year more interesting, there is no question about that. It pulls in the big names at the end as well. Before this, the back end of the year wasn’t the drawing card it is now.”

Question: Is the FedExCup format the way you want it? If not, what changes would you like to see?

Most guys feel the balance of the current concept is pretty good and are happy. But there have been some minor suggestions.

• “I would like to see a break between the first two and the last two playoff events ideally.”

• “I think they have it right. I think there is just enough movement in the playoffs to give guys a chance and still be rewarded for a good year.”

• “It could never be a perfect system, but it’s pretty good. If you’ve had a really good year you are still pretty protected when it comes to making the Tour Championship, and I think that’s important. But guys have a chance to salvage a season if they play well in the playoffs. That’s a pretty good balance. Everyone has an opportunity.”

• “I’d maybe just change the amount of movement in the first playoff event. There seems to be a lot at the Barclays. It’s not a perfect system, but it’s getting close to it.”

• “I think the scenarios it throws up are great. It promotes discussion. No system will be perfect, but this one is pretty good.”

Only one player was more forthright for change…

• “It’s not reflective enough of the whole season. I don’t think a second place in the first playoff when you’re 125th should get you through to the Tour Championship. You should be asked to do more. But otherwise I like it. I think it’s great all 30 are mathematically able to win in the Tour Championship.”

Question: What is the hardest major to win? Why?

This question came with a variety of answers, all valid in their own right.

There were votes for the Open Championship:
• “I think for Americans the hardest to win is no doubt the Open Championship. We’re not used to the style of golf and conditions get pretty severe over there.”

• “The Open Championship. It is different conditions and the draw is critical. You can be out of it because of the weather.”

• “Probably the Open Championship. I think of all four it’s the most open to all competitors, so that makes it harder to win. Tom Watson almost won it at 60 years old, so it shows plenty of guys in the field have a chance. It goes deep.”

For some it was The Masters…

• “I’ll say The Masters because no one from my country has ever won it. The weight of that history makes it tough.”

• “The Masters. It’s the type of tournament where there is such a fine line. At the U.S. Open you just hang around, the Open Championship the draw plays a big part, and the PGA is kind of like a regular event, But The Masters always has the cream rise to the top, so you’re battling big names.”

The U.S. Open has its fans…

• “By far the hardest test is the U.S. Open. It’s the toughest week.”

• “The U.S. Open. There are mistakes to be made everywhere and very few opportunities to get shots back.”

One guy gives a shout-out to the PGA.

• “US PGA Championship. I think 100 guys turn up there that can win it, and it’s not really like that at The Masters, or the Opens. It is the widest-open of all the majors and therefore the hardest.”

And then there were two pretty clever answers….

• “Your first one.”

• “They are all very hard to win, but the simple answer would be the one you want the most.”


Question: You’ve told us what you think is hardest, but what major do you value the most? If we could hand you one right now, what do you take?

The tradition of The Masters and the Green Jacket wins out here. Both Opens have their fans, but the dream of returning to Magnolia Lane in a green jacket is one many golfers want.

• “The Masters. The tradition. The prestige. The mystique. It would just be brilliant to win.”

• “I’d take a Green Jacket. Everyone dreams about wearing one in this sport.”

• “The Masters. The tradition and to be part of that club would be nice.”

• “The Masters. Where I grew up The Masters is king. It is golf Mecca.”

• “The Masters. If I won it I’d be the first from my country to do so and that would be great.”

Others value national championships.

• “It would be the U.S. Open. It’s the national championship, and a lot of my early memories of golf revolve around great U.S. Open moments.

• “The U.S. Open. A national title and a real hard test of golf. You have to play amazing to get it.”

• “The Open Championship. It is the Holy Grail of golf in my eyes. I enjoy playing The Masters the most, but to win the Open Championship would be the ultimate.”

And then…

• “I don’t rank things, just give me any of them. A major is a major.”

• “I’ll take all four thanks. What? Is that too greedy?”


Question: What is your typical pre-tournament round practice routine?

You can get a real sense of a personality here. Some guys are very particular; others, more laid-back. But they all know the importance of a good warm-up.

• “I get in the gym two hours ahead and do 30 minutes of work. Then I eat really quickly before heading to the range to hit wedges, 9-iron, 7-iron, 5-iron and then hybrid through driver. I just try to get the body loose.”

• “I have 45 minutes of warm-up time where I always hit 36 balls and then I always putt before heading to the tee.”

• “I start with putting, then the range and go from wedges to the driver, and then back to the putting green before heading to the first tee.”

• “I try to make it similar each time. Nothing special. But I always have a cup of tea on the way to the golf course, though.”

• “I hit balls for about 30 minutes, chip for 20 minutes, putt for about 10 minutes and then hit the first tee.”

• “I do the same things each time, but not necessarily the same order. It depends on the facility.”

• “Hit a few balls, 45 minutes to an hour of warm-up. We have some routines, some might think they’re quirky, but it’s just keeping things normal. Everyone out here could be considered quirky.”

• “It’s very regimented and typical. I need an hour to warm up. Light stretching, putt for 10 minutes, hit balls for 30 minutes and then back to putting before I head out.”

• “It varies for me. Depends how good you are playing. I seem to be doing much less time hitting balls and more time putting these days. There was probably a time where I had more superstitious stuff, but I’ve tried to take that away so I’m not a basket case.”

Question: What’s your favorite golf movie, and why?

Did you really think it would be anything other than “Caddyshack”? A few others get a vote, but Bill Murray and the boys continue to be the benchmark. Remember — a donut with no hole is a Danish.

• “‘Caddyshack.’ There is a lot that relates to us as golfers in it. Bill Murray and Rodney Dangerfield are brilliant, and it has some great one-liners that a lot of guys are always quoting on Tour.”

• “‘Caddyshack.’ There are so many one-liners that people are still quoting this many years later so that’s the sign of a great movie.”

• “‘Caddyshack’ for sure. It’s a classic, and it has the great one-liners I love to rattle off.”

But then…

• “I’m not a ‘Caddyshack’ guy like most out here. I like ‘Happy Gilmore.’ That was pretty funny. I am also waiting for the day a pretty girl asks me to sign her chest!”

• “‘Happy Gilmore.’ It’s just a fun twist on golf and I like that.”

• “‘Tin Cup.’ It’s more of an actual movie then the others.”

Compiled by Ben Everill

Teaser:
<p> PGA Tour Golfers Talk Anonymously About Tiger, Phil and More</p>
Post date: Friday, April 5, 2013 - 15:09
Path: /nascar/top-10-nascar-super-subs
Body:

With the flurry of press releases that were flying about last Friday, with the announcements and retractions regarding Mark Martin substituting for the injured Denny Hamlin, it brought to light one issue we haven’t had to tackle in a while: NASCAR Super Subs. They can be much more than a wheel holder, and often end up becoming a larger part of the team. It can be an audition for a future ride, or a once-in-a-lifetime shot at greatness. This week we present the Top 10 Super Subs in NASCAR:

1. Tiny Lund for Marvin Panch — 1963 Daytona 500
Before Chrysler’s Hemis were running roughshod around Daytona, it was Ford that ruled the roost at Daytona. Marvin Panch was the Wood Brothers driver in the No. 21 that year, and was competing in a sports car race not unlike today’s Rolex 24 at Daytona. He was involved in an accident that saw his Ford-powered Maseratti flipped over and engulfed in flames. Fellow driver and friend Tiny Lund (who stood 6’5 and 270 lbs) saw this happen and ran to the scene, wrestling Panch from the wreckage. Panch, burned and hospitalized, insisted that Lund, who was shopping around for a ride, be his replacement driver in the 500. Tiny did not disappoint, leading 17 laps and the first of five Fords across the finish line to win the Daytona 500. Lund was also awarded the Carnagie medal for heroisim, for risking his life to save Panch.


2. David Pearson for Dale Earnhardt – 1979 Southern 500
David Pearson will perhaps be best known as the driver of the No. 21 Purolator sponsored Wood Brothers Mercury and Fords of the 1970s (even though he won his three championships and over half of his wins driving for Cotton Owens and Holman-Moody). But following a botched pit stop at the 1979 Rebel 500 at Darlington, Pearson split from the Wood Brothers and hooked up with newcomer Rod Osterlund, piloting his No. 2 – gulp – Chevrolet, subbing for his injured rookie driver, Dale Earnhardt. With Jake Elder turning the wrenches, the team was instantly a contender. In their four races together with Pearson they posted a second at Talladega, fourth at Michigan, seventh at Bristol and capped it off with a win at Pearson’s best and home state track — and the site where everything went wrong a few months earlier — the Southern 500 in Darlington, SC.


3. Jamie McMurray for Sterling Marlin — 2002 GM-UAW 500 at Charlotte

2002 was the year that Jamie McMurray became a race car driver for real. While running a full-schedule as a Busch Series regular with the No. 27 Brewco Motorsports team, he was eighth in points, yet over 600 markers out of the lead. On the Cup side, Sterling Marlin was enjoying a career year, leading the points through race No. 29 of 36 at Kansas, when he sustained a “broke neck” (as Sterling would say) in an accident. McMurray was tabbed to fill the No. 40 Coors Light Dodge in the interim and after an unremarkable 26th-place finish at Talladega, the youngster broke through to win the very next week at Charlotte in only his second Cup Series start.


4. Dale Jarrett, Robert Yates Racing — 1995
While Ernie Irvan was battling to keep alive and recover following the injuries he sustained in a crash at Michigan in 1994, Robert Yates Racing was tasked with keeping the operation afloat. It had been almost exactly the year before when they lost Davey Allison following a helicopter accident in Talladega. RYR had tried a host of substitute drivers during the ’93 and ’94 seasons (Robby Gordon, Lake Speed, Kenny Wallace). In 1995, they opted for a full-time fill-in with some credentials — among them a Daytona 500 win in 1992. Dale Jarrett’s audition was a steady one; in a year that saw Chevrolet’s new Monte Carlo beating up on the competition, Jarrett posted a win at Pocono, nine top 5s and 14 top 10s. Irvan returned to the Texaco car in ’96, but Jarrett had earned his rightful place in RYR’s No. 88 — and another Daytona 500 win started the season. Thus began one of the most successful driver and team tandems of the last 20 years.


5. Tommy Kendall for Kyle Petty – Sonoma, 1991
Back before he was the master of unfiltered honesty and analysis, Kyle Petty was a pretty fair race car driver who was coming into his own in the early 1990s. Driving for Felix Sebates, Petty was off to a career year in ’91, when he broke his leg in a nasty crash at Talladega in May. This was during a time when “road course ringers” were all the rage at Cup races for teams needing a good finish or owners looking to cash in on left-turn-only guys’ inexperience. Tommy Kendall was one of the premier road racers in the world at the time, and was tabbed to sub for the injured Petty. Kendall was trying to hold off Mark Martin with two laps to go, but took him out and succumbed to a cut tire from his action. The events ended up handing the win to Davey Allison, after Ricky Rudd took out Ernie Irvan coming to take the white flag. Kendall would suffer his own injuries just a few weeks later at Watkins Glen in an IMSA GTU race, nearly cost him both of his legs. Although Kendall would later win three straight TransAm titles for Jack Roush, it was this incident with Martin that prevented him from ever getting a NASCAR ride in one of Jack’s Fords.


6. Darrell Waltrip for Steve Park – 1998 Pocono 500
In the late 1990s, Darrell Waltrip was at a bit of a crossroads. His Western Auto-sponsored team went belly up, he sold the operation to an owner who would eventually turn out to be a tax felon and he was reduced to substitute roles for the likes of Todd Bodine and a rookie named Steve Park. Park was severely injured during a practice crash at Atlanta in 1998, and team owner Dale Earnhardt Sr. needed a veteran driver to keep his fledgling DEI operation going to satisfy sponsor Pennzoil. Enter proto-enemy Waltrip. DW subbed for 13 races — needing to use a Champion’s Provisional to make it into four of them – but once the races started, it became clear that placing a proven champion in decent equipment with a young team could pay dividends. Included in the partnership was this near-win at Pocono. “Boogity, Boogity, Boogity” might get a little old, but this clip never fails to tug at the heart strings.


7. Kenny Wallace for Steve Park –Rockingham, 2001 
2001 was supposed to be NASCAR’s greatest season with a new network television contract that, after 50 years, proved NASCAR was finally on par with the NFL, MLB and NBA on the national stage. On the final lap of its greatest race, however, it lost its greatest driver in Dale Earnhardt Sr. The team he owned, Dale Earnhardt, Inc., suffered further disaster early in the year when Steve Park was critically injured in a freak accident under caution in a Busch Grand National race at Darlington. Kenny Wallace, known to most as the animated analyst on SPEED, was tabbed to substitute for Park in the No. 1 Pennzoil Chevrolets for 12 races. It nearly came together for the outfit at Rockingham in October — the site of Park’s last win in February — when Wallace put it on the pole and led for 101 laps only to be passed by Joe Nemechek late in the going, coming home second.


8. Robby Gordon for Mike Skinner – 2001 New Hampshire 300
Before Jimmie Johnson was wheeling the Lowe’s Chevrolet to five straight championships, it was Mike Skinner who carried the colors for the home improvement giant for Richard Childress Racing. After suffering a concussion at Chicagoland in 2001, he was injured again later in the year and missed the last seven races. Robby Gordon filled in for Skinner starting at Watkins Glen and had the race well in hand until NBC’s in-car camera battery blew up and smoked him out of the cockpit, forcing Gordon to pull over and bail. In the final race of the year, a rescheduled Loudon event stemming from 9/11, Gordon earned the first Cup win of his career. And he did so in grand fashion, nerfing Jeff Gordon out of the way with 15 laps to go, similar to the bump ‘n’ run that Gordon used on Rusty Wallace a couple of times at Bristol. Robby Gordon would go on to drive RCR’s No. 31 Chevy from 2002-04.


9. Mark Martin for Ernie Irvan — 1994 Food City 250 
Mark Martin is not new to this substitute-driving thing. In 1994, following Ernie Irvan’s aforementioned Michigan crash, Martin helped his friend out by running his Busch Grand National car in the August event at Bristol. Martin qualified 17th and brought it home in 10th position. Upon Irvan’s return that saw him wearing a patch over one eye, Martin paid Irvan perhaps the ultimate compliment: “Ernie driving with one eye is still better than most of these guys with two.”


10. Jimmy Hensely for Alan Kulwicki – 1992 
Monday marked the 20th anniversary of the passing of Alan Kulwicki. The 1992 Winston Cup champion, along with three others, was killed in a plane crash in ’93 following a sponsor event in East Tennessee. While his team transporter circled Bristol and took the checkered flag before exiting, it returned a week later at North Wilkesboro, with assistance from Felix Sabates. Jimmy Hensley would take over driving duties on ovals, while Tommy Kendall filled in on road courses. Hensley performed admirably, posting a pair of top 10s under what were near-impossible circumstances. Kulwicki had identified Hensely as the amn he wanted to take over for him should anything ever happen. It was an odd choice, as Hensely did not know Kulwicki personally. He would tell legendary journalist Tom Higgins, “Every time I saw Alan, especially at racetracks, he appeared to be concentrating so hard and was so deep in thought that I didn't want to bother him — I didn't want to interrupt.”


by Vito Pugliese
Follow Vito on Twitter:
@VitoPugliese
 

Teaser:
<p> As Mark Martin and Brian Vickers prepare to sub for an injured Denny Hamlin on the Sprint Cup circuit, Athlon Sports contributor Vito Pugliese looks back at the greatest super sub drivers in NASCAR history.</p>
Post date: Friday, April 5, 2013 - 14:25
Path: /nascar/nascar-returns-rough-n-tumble-short-track
Body:

1. Back to the scene of the (original) crime
With the he-said, he-said war of words and fenders that Joey Logano and Denny Hamlin have participated in during the last three weeks, it's been easy to forget that the final laps of Martinsville's spring race one year ago was the ultimate catalyst for last season's most-talked about rivalry.

After Jeff Gordon (329 laps) and Jimmie Johnson (111) combined to lead well over four-fifths of last year's event, the inevitable happened when a caution flag waved with just two laps remaining. The race now headed for a green-white-checkered overtime finish, Johnson and Gordon both hoped to scoot away on the restart and battle for the win amongst themselves.

They didn't even make it through Turn 1.

Clint Bowyer and Ryan Newman charged low on the restart with Bowyer trying to block Newman. The move shot Bowyer over the Turn 1 curbing and directly in the side of Gordon. The contact forced Gordon into Johnson, sending both spinning into a mess of wrecked race cars piling in from behind.

Newman eventually found his way to improbable victory while Gordon, especially, steamed at Bowyer's late race antics. Those emotions, of course, boiled over in Phoenix many months later when Gordon took exception to another round of contact from Bowyer and intentionally wrecked the No. 15 to instigate a garage-area fracas. Logano was also collected.

Martinsville could serve as the next best place for Bowyer to return Gordon's favor — if he's still thinking retribution — or a great place for Logano to ruffle even more feathers with a payback to the No. 24. Whatever happens, perennial Martinsville favorite Johnson is concerned that the rough 'em up style Martinsville is known for could cause more problems than normal.

"With the new race cars, I think contact is going to be a question mark for me," Johnson says. "We have fiberglass panels and stuff, now, where it used to all be steel. I’ve seen some crash damage after just a small impact where they had to cut the nose completely off the car. So that could be the issue come race time there. Some minor contact could cause major cosmetic damage."

We'll have to wait to see if his concerns ring true.
 

Teaser:
<p> Five storylines to follow as the NASCAR Sprint Cup circuit heads to Martinsville Speedway for the STP Gas Booster 500.</p>
Post date: Friday, April 5, 2013 - 13:16
All taxonomy terms: Luke Donald, Golf
Path: /golf/top-20-golfers-2013-majors-no-4-luke-donald
Body:

They’re the cream of the major championship crop, circa 2013 — the Athlon Major Championship Dream Team. Leading up to The Masters, we'll be unveiling Athlon Sports’ 20 players to watch for majors season, with commentary on each from the Golf Channel’s Brandel Chamblee.

No. 4: Luke Donald

Born: Dec. 7, 1977, Hemel Hempstead, England | Career PGA Tour Wins: 5 (7 on European Tour)  | 2012 Wins (Worldwide): 2 | 2012 Earnings (PGA Tour): $3,512,024 (14th) World Ranking: 4

 

Brandel Chamblee's Take

Donald is a paradox. In 2010 he led the world money list. In the last two years, he has won six times, and in 2011 he took the top spot in the Official World Golf Ranking and became the first person to lead both the European and PGA tour money lists in the same year. For most of 2012, he battled Rory McIlroy for the top spot in the world. And yet, no player ever to ascend to the number 1 spot on the globe has ever had less success in the majors. Through 2012 he has played in 38 of the game’s biggest events, and only twice has he gotten closer than five shots to the winning score, and never closer than two shots. Buoyed by a shockingly consistent wedge and putter, he is hampered somewhat by an inconsistent tee to green game and is at a disadvantage when it comes to the power-oriented setups of most Tour courses. At 35, though, he still has plenty of time and game for a big one to fall his way.

Major Championship Résumé
Starts: 38
Wins: 0

2012 Performance:
Masters - T32
U.S. Open - Cut
British Open - T5
PGA Championship - T32

Best Career Finishes: 
Masters - T3 (2005)
U.S. Open - T12 (2006)
British Open - T5 (2009, 2012)
PGA Championship - T3 (2006)
Top-10 Finishes: 7
Top-25 Finishes: 13
Missed Cuts: 12

—Brandel Chamblee is lead analyst for the Golf Channel. Be sure to follow him @ChambleeBrandel on Twitter.


Athlon's 2013 Golf annual provides in-depth previews of this year's four majors, including the top 20 players to watch this season. One of these elite players, reigning FedExCup champion Brandt Snedeker, also takes you tee to green with full-swing instruction and short game essentials. BUY IT NOW.

Teaser:
<p> Athlon Counts Down the 20 Golfers to Watch for Majors Season</p>
Post date: Friday, April 5, 2013 - 10:38
Path: /college-basketball/final-four-preview-louisville-vs-wichita-state
Body:

Louisville and Wichita State endured gut-checks in the form of three-game losing streaks earlier this season. Until the Final Four, that’s one of the few things the Cardinals and Shockers have had in common.

Louisville lost to Syracuse, Villanova and Georgetown from Jan. 19-26, putting the Cardinals’ national championship bona fides in doubt. Wichita State lost to Indiana State, Northern Iowa and Southern Illinois from jan. 29-Feb. 5, putting the Shockers’ tournament hopes in question at the time.

To give his team a boost, Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall name-dropped to Louisville for inspiration.

“When we didn't win 'em, it's interesting now that we're facing Louisville, because I pointed to Louisville,” Marshall said. “I pointed to Kansas. Great teams with great coaches that also suffered that type of blip, if you will, in their run to a marvelous season.”

Louisville lost only once since then -- to Notre Dame on the road in five overtimes -- and appears to be the national championship favorite. Wichita State recovered, too, but really hit its stride when it defeated Pittsburgh, Gonzaga, La Salle and Ohio State to reach the Final Four.

So here’s Marshall at his first Final Four after being a head coach continuously since 1998. He has the lowest-seeded team standing. His roster is littered with transfers, mutli-year projects and unearthed recruits. He faces Louisville, which is led by a national championship coach who is making his seventh Final Four appearance with his third school.

“There's a lot of great coaches out there a lot better than me who have never been there,” Pitino said. “It's very difficult to get to a Final Four because along the way, you may need a little luck, along the way you may need a shot at the buzzer or a free throw.”

Final Four Preview: Michigan vs. Syracuse

No. 1 Louisville vs. No. 9 Wichita State
Time: 6:09 p.m. Eastern
TV: CBS
Announcers: Jim Nantz,
Clark Kellogg, Steve Kerr
Line: Louisville by 10 1/2

Louisville projected starters
G Peyton Siva (6-0/185, Sr.)
G Russ Smith (6-1/165, Jr.)
G/F Wayne Blackshear (6-5/230, So.)
F Chane Behanan (6-6/250, So.)
C Gorgui Dieng (6-11/245, Jr.)
Wichita State projected starters
G Malcolm Armstead (6-0/205, Sr.)
G Ron Baker (6-3/218, RFr.)
G Tekele Cotton (6-2/202, So.)
F Cleanthony Early (6-8/215, Jr.)
F Carl Hall (6-8/238, Sr.)

Louisville will win the national title if…
The Cardinals can maintain their current level of play. Louisville entered the NCAA Tournament as the No. 1 overall seed and has looked the part so far. The Cards were dominant in all four wins, controlling the game with their pressure defense and speed in transition. Rick Pitino’s club enters the Final Four as the overwhelming favorite to win it all.

Louisville will lose to Wichita State on Saturday if…
The Cardinals have trouble shooting the ball from the perimeter and their big men are hit with foul trouble. About the only thing Louisville does not do well is shoot the ball with consistency from the 3-point line. The nightmare scenario for the Cards is a 1-for-14 performance from the arc combined with two early fouls on Gorgui Dieng and Chane Behanan.

Related: Ranking the top 15 players in the Final Four

Wichita State will win the national title if…
They can continue to play outstanding defense while also staying hot from the 3-point line. In their four NCAA Tournament wins, the Shockers are holding their opponents to a combined 34.3 percent shooting. And since making only 2-of-20 from 3-point range in a Round of 64 win over Pittsburgh, Wichita State is connecting on 45 percent from three.

Wichita State will lose to Louisville on Saturday if…
They don’t play their finest game of the season. Wichita State has been terrific in the NCAA Tournament — knocking off a No. 1 seed and a No. 2 seed — but Louisville will be the best team the Shockers will play all season. They must protect the ball, something they didn’t do very well during the regular season (144th nationally in turnover percentage).

Related: How the Final Four teams were built

ATHLON SPORTS STAFF ROUNDTABLE

Who is the key player for the game?

David Fox: Malcolm Armstead
Wichita State is going to need just about everyone to play out of their minds to beat Louisville. Even if I take it as a given that Carl Hall is going to win his matchup on the boards, and Ron Baker and Cleanthony Early are going to hit outside shots, the Shockers still need a standout game from lefty point guard Malcolm Armstead against the Cardinals’ backcourt. He’ll need to be sure-handed against a team that was second nationally in steals per possession. There’s evidence he can rise to the occasion -- Armstead scored 14 points (albeit on 21 shots) with three steals and three assists against Aaron Craft in the Elite Eight. He’ll need to top that if Wichita State is going to beat Louisville
Prediction: Louisville 77-66

Braden Gall: Gorgui Dieng
Rick Pitino's Cardinals are on the warpath right now and the Shockers won't be able to keep Louisville from the championship game. The Cards play the best team defense in the nation and the roster is loaded with star players who were in this exact situation a year ago in New Orleans. Russ Smith and Peyton Siva have the experience and talent to score at will and the backcourt duo won't be denied this time around. That said, Gorgui Dieng is the most important player on the court as he completely controls the paint and demoralizes opposing scorers. Look for the Cards defense to suffocate the Shockers out of the Final Four on Saturday night.
Prediction: Louisville 78-65

Mitch Light: Malcolm Armstead
In order to have a chance to beat Louisville, you have to keep your turnovers to a minimum. There will be pressure on Armstead to take care of the ball, something he has done well so far in the NCAA Tournament. The Shockers don’t need Armstead to score — they just need him to run the team and do his best to prevent Louisville from scoring easy baskets in transition.
Prediction: Louisville 89-73

Mark Ross: Gorgui Dieng
At 6-11, Dieng will have the height advantage inside against Wichita State. The Shockers' two leading rebounders, Carl Hall and Cleanthony Early, each stand just 6-8. Ehimen Orukpe is a seven-footer, but he is averaging around 15 minutes per game. Dieng has been a force inside for Louisville all season, averaging 9.5 rebounds per game along with 10.2 points and 2.5 blocks. In the Cardinals' march to the Final Four Dieng has been even more effective, totaling 44 points, 30 rebounds, 10 blocks and seven steals in four Tournament games while shooting 83.3 percent (20-of-24) from the floor. Outside of its Sweet 16 win over LaSalle (plus-21 rebound margin), Wichita State has been out-rebounded (minus-seven margin) in its victories over Pitt, Gonzaga and Ohio State. As long as Dieng can stay out of foul trouble (he fouled out against Duke in the Regional Final win), he should be able to have an impact on both ends of the floor Saturday night.
Prediction: Louisville 76-66

Nathan Rush: Carl Hall
Wichita State big man Carl Hall will have to defend the paint like he did against Ohio State — when he swatted six shots in a 70–66 upset win — if the Shockers hope to continue their Cinderella run against Louisville. The Cardinals, led by Russ Smith and Peyton Siva, were given too many uncontested layups against Duke. Hall must make Smith and Siva think twice about challenging the Shockers inside.
Prediction: Louisville 80-64
 

Teaser:
<p> How each team can win and key players for the Cardinals and Shockers</p>
Post date: Friday, April 5, 2013 - 10:00
Path: /college-basketball/final-four-preview-michigan-vs-syracuse
Body:

Michigan and Syracuse arrive at the Final Four both as No. 4 seeds, both as teams that rebounded from late-season struggles.

The path has been similar since about February, but not necessarily in the long term. Despite no Final Fours since the 2003 national title, Syracuse is the well-established basketball program here. The Orange lost four of the top six scorers from last year’s team and still had players like Michael Carter-Williams, C.J. Fair and James Southerland ready to take their place. Michigan has had its share of players take key roles, but they’re fresh faces -- Mitch McGary, Glenn Robinson III and Nik Stauskas.

Where Syracuse has three McDonald’s All-Americans, Michigan’s best player -- and perhaps the best player in the country -- was a three-star recruit in Trey Burke. And where Syracuse is a player on the national stage each season, Michigan has needed decades to overcome NCAA sanctions from the Fab Five era. Syracuse has waited a decade to be back at the Final Four, but Michigan has waited twice as long.

On Saturday, they’ll fight for the same prize to reach the national title game.

Final Four Preview: Louisville vs. Wichita State

No. 4 Michigan vs. No. 4 Syracuse
Time: 8:49 p.m. Eastern
TV: CBS
Announcers: Jim Nantz,
Clark Kellogg, Steve Kerr
Line: Michigan by 2
Michigan projected starters
G Trey Burke (6-0/190, So.)
G Nik Stauskas (6-6/190, Fr.)
G Tim Hardaway Jr. (6-6/205, Jr.)
F Glenn Robinson III (6-6/210, Fr.)
F Mitch McGary (6-10/250, Fr.)
Syracuse projected starters
G Michael Carter-Williams (6-6/185, So.)
G Brandon Triche (6-4/210, Sr.)
F C.J. Fair (6-8/215, Jr.)
F James Southerland (6-8/215, Sr.)
F Rakeem Christmas (6-9/242, So.)

Michigan will win the national title if…
The Wolverines shoot the ball well from the perimeter. This Michigan team doesn’t rely on the 3-point shot as much as previous John Beilein-coached teams — only 29.8 percent of its points come from beyond the arc — but Michigan’s guards will need to hit open shots against Syracuse’s zone defense on Saturday and against Louisville (assuming the Cards beat Wichita State) on Monday.

Michigan will lose to Syracuse on Saturday if…
Trey Burke gets off to another slow start and Mitch McGary doesn’t play well. The Wolverines have survived some subpar performances from Burke, but they will need him to be strong throughout against surging Syracuse. McGary, the freshman big man, could be a key part of the offense as it looks for gaps in the Orange zone.

Related: Ranking the top 15 players in the Final Four

Syracuse will win the national title if…
Its zone defense continues to baffle. Through four NCAA Tournament games, Syracuse’s four opponents have combined to shoot 29 percent from the field and 15 percent from 3-point range. The Orange are also averaging 6.3 blocks and 11 steals per game. This team can get away with playing just average on offense if it continues to defend the way it has the past two weekends.

Syracuse will lose to Michigan on Saturday if…
They allow the Wolverines’ shooters to get comfortable. Michigan, unlike many teams Syracuse has faced recently, has decent size on the perimeter. Trey Burke is only 6-foot, but Tim Hardaway Jr. and Nick Stauskas are both 6-6 — and that should help them get quality shots against the length of the Syracuse defenders.

Related: How the Final Four teams were built

ATHLON SPORTS STAFF ROUNDTABLE

Who is the key player for the game?

David Fox: Nik Stauskas
Zone teams are susceptible to the 3-point shot, but Syracuse is allowing opponents to convert only 28.2 percent of their shots from long range. That hasn’t stopped teams from trying as Syracuse allows 21.6 treys per game. Stauskas can get hot from 3-point range, as he did with a 6-for-6 performance against Florida. If shots open up for him on the big stage, will the freshman be ready?
Prediction: Michigan 66-62

Braden Gall: Michael Carter-Williams
The breakdown of this game is fairly simple. If the Wolverines hit outside shots against the Cuse zone, Michigan will win. If not, the Orange will set-up a fourth meeting with the Redbirds on Monday night. Tim Hardaway and Trey Burke lead what is the nation's top offensive team but the Orange's zone defense is polished, long and impossible to penetrate. Look for the developing superstar point guard Michael Carter-Williams to be the difference maker by continuing his efficient play. Jim Boeheim's career record against John Beilein will move to 10-0 in Atlanta.
Prediction: Syracuse 65-60

Mitch Light: Mitch McGary
McGary has been one of the best players in the NCAA Tournament. If he continues to play well, Michigan has a legitimate chance to win it all. He will be especially key against Syracuse because he gives Michigan a big and active body around the basket. McGary has averaged 17.5 points and 11.5 rebounds in four NCAA Tournament games. The Wolverines will need to shoot well to beat Syracuse, but they will also have to get some production in the pain. McGary can give them that production.
Prediction: Michigan 73-67

Mark Ross: Mitch McGary
The freshman has saved his best basketball for the end, as he's come just two rebounds shy of posting four straight double-doubles in the NCAA Tournament. His best two games of the season came against VCU (21 pts, 14 rbs) and Kansas (25,14) and he's shooting better than 73 percent from the field in the Tournament. At 6-10, he's taller than anyone on Syracuse's roster other than Baye Keita, who is a reserve and plays limited minutes. As good as Syracuse has been defensively, the Orange have been out-rebounded over their last three games. If McGary can continue his stellar play, his size and ability to score inside could help guards Trey Burke, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Nik Stauskas find more open spots in Syracuse's vaunted 2-3 zone.
Prediction: Michigan 68-63

Nathan Rush: Glenn Robinson III
Big Dog's boy, Glenn Robinson III, will have to bring his A-game (or, better yet, his NBA-game) in order for Michigan to outlast Syracuse's suffocating 2-3 zone. GR3's point production has gone down in each round of the Tourney, from 21 to 14 to 13 to 6. That trend has to reverse in order for the Maize-and-Blue to advance to the final Monday of March Madness (er, April Madness).
Prediction: Michigan 75-73
 

Teaser:
<p> How each team can win and key players for the Wolverines and Orange</p>
Post date: Friday, April 5, 2013 - 10:00
Path: /mlb/mlb-series-preview-washington-nationals-cincinnati-reds
Body:

Cincinnati and Washington each won their respective divisions last season and both came up short in their playoff series. This season, the Reds and Nationals are once again the projected frontrunners in their divisions and expected to contend for the National League pennant, making this weekend’s series in Cincinnati a must-watch affair, even if it is opening week.

Series Preview: Washington Nationals (3-0) at Cincinnati Reds (2-1)

Washington took care of business in its opening series against projected NL East cellar-dweller Miami, sweeping the Marlins down in Miami. Bryce Harper, last season’s NL Rookie of the Year who’s just 20 years old, set the tone early by homering in each of his first two at-bats of the season and he’s batting a robust .500 (6-for-12) in his first three games. On the mound, the Nationals’ pitching staff allowed just one run to the Marlins in the entire series. Starters Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmerman combined for 19 innings, 12 hits allowed, one run (solo home run by Justin Ruggiano vs. Zimmerman on Thursday), four walks and nine strikeouts against the Marlins.

Cincinnati faced a little tougher opponent in its opening series, hosting the Los Angeles Angels in the first interleague matchup of the season. The Reds fell to the Angels 3-1 in 13 innings on Opening Day, as both teams struggled to produce any sort of offense (combined 9-87, only three extra-base hits). Cincinnati bounced back to win on Wednesday thanks to a walk-off hit in the bottom of the ninth by Joey Votto and used three home runs to take the rubber game on Thursday afternoon.

Pitching Matchups*

Friday, April 5 – Dan Haren (12-13, 4.33 ERA in 2012 with LAA) vs. Homer Bailey (13-10, 3.68)

Haren will make his first start for Washington after spending his last two-plus seasons with the Los Angeles Angels. Haren, 32, was bothered by a back injury for the duration of his 2012 campaign, which partly explains his mediocre (12-13, 4.33 ERA) numbers. He needs to get off to a good start since his spring training performance (6.39 ERA, seven HR allowed in 25 1/3 innings) was shaky to say the least.

Bailey will take the mound for the first time this season, looking to build off his strong finish to his 2012 campaign. Bailey went 3-1 with a 1.85 ERA in his final seven starts of the regular season and also threw seven innings of one-hit ball (10 SO, 1 BB) against the Giants in Game 3 of the NLDS. A strong start at home against Washington could be huge for Bailey’s confidence moving forward, as he was just 4-8 with a 5.16 ERA in 17 starts last season at Great American Ballpark.

Saturday, April 6 – Ross Detwiler (10-8, 3.40 in ’12) vs. Mike Leake (8-9, 4.58)

Detwiler was a pleasant surprise and productive starter for Washington last season. The 27-year-old lefty doesn’t strike out a ton (105 in 164 1/3 innings), but he does a good job of limiting the damage done when batters make contact (149 hits, 15 of them home runs). As a southpaw, he could be key in keeping the Reds’ three left-handed hitters – Joey Votto, Jay Bruce and Shin-Soo Choo – in check. Detwiler held left-handed batters to a .170 average and .259 slugging percentage (four doubles, three home runs among 25 hits) last season.

When Cincinnati announced late in spring training that Aroldis Chapman would move back to the bullpen as the Reds’ closer that opened up a spot for Leake as the No. 5 starter. Leake was inconsistent in 2012, as he gave up more hits (201) than innings pitched (179) and surrendered 26 home runs. Leake also has struggled when facing Washington, a team that tagged him for 11 earned runs and 12 hits in two starts (10.61 ERA in 9 1/3 innings) last season.

Sunday, April 7 – Stephen Strasburg (1-0, 0.00 ERA in 2013) vs. Johnny Cueto (0-0, 1.29)

After throwing just 80 pitches in his first start against Miami, Strasburg should have plenty in the tank for the Reds. The 24-year-old’s only previous start against the Reds was back on July 21, 2010. In just the ninth start of his major-league career, Strasburg beat the Reds, as he gave up three runs on seven hits over 5 2/3 innings with a walk and seven strikeouts. Only five current Reds have faced Strasburg, including Votto, who is 1-for-3 with a strikeout.

Cueto gave up just one run on three hits in seven innings (2 BB, 9 SO) against the Angels on Opening Day. Unfortunately, the Reds managed just one run in 16 innings, which is why he had to settle for a no-decision. Cueto won’t get a break going from the Angels to the Nationals, but at least he’s facing them at home. He is 30-17 in 68 career starts at Great American Ballpark with a respectable 3.47 ERA. He also has fared well against Washington, going 2-1 in three career starts with only five earned runs allowed in 21 innings (2.14 ERA).

Washington Hitter to Watch – Adam LaRoche, 1B
LaRoche was huge for the Nationals’ offense last season, leading the team in home runs (33) and RBIs (100) while batting .271. It was a big bounce back season after hitting just .172 in 2011 with only three home runs in 43 games because of a shoulder injury. The veteran is a solid glove at first and the team is hoping he will be able to replicate his success at the plate for a second straight season.

LaRoche’s 2013 campaign, however, has gotten off to a slow start. It began in spring training when he hit just .200, albeit with four home runs, over 55 at-bats, and it has continued into the start of the season. LaRoche went hitless in 10 at-bats against the Marlins, walking once and striking out twice. Although LaRoche is not the only National struggling to start things (Danny Espinosa is also hitless), his lack of success at the plate is one of the reasons why the Nationals scored a total of 11 runs against the Marlins.

Now the scene shifts to Great American Ballpark where LaRoche has produced a .280 average in 36 career games, including seven home runs and eight doubles in 132 at-bats. He’s 2-for-4 with three RBIs in his career against Saturday’s probable starter, Mike Leake, although he hasn’t fared near as well against Johnny Cueto (2-for-13, 6 SO), who will close things out on Sunday.

Cincinnati Hitter to Watch – Chris Heisey, OF
The Reds suffered a big blow on Opening Day when outfielder Ryan Ludwick sustained a shoulder injury sliding into third base. Ludwick, who was batting cleanup for Dusty Baker, tore cartilage in his right shoulder and is expected to miss up to three months after undergoing surgery on Wednesday.

Ludwick’s absence immediately shakes up the Reds’ lineup, as Baker has moved second baseman Brandon Phillips from the No. 2 spot to cleanup behind Joey Votto. Ludwick was second only to Jay Bruce in both home runs (26) and RBIs (80) last season, so his bat will be missed. Heisey should get most of the playing time while Ludwick is out, and it’s up to him to produce both at the plate and in the field, as he will take over center with Shin-Soo Choo moving over to left field.

Heisey has some pop in his bat, as he hit 18 home runs in 279 at-bats in 2011, but he managed just seven in 347 at-bats last season. After starting the season 0-for-3, Heisey has collected a hit in each of the past two games, including a key two-run home run in the bottom of the fifth on Thursday that put the Reds ahead of the Angels for good.

*Probable starters, subject to change.

Teaser:
<p> MLB Series Preview: Washington Nationals at Cincinnati Reds</p>
Post date: Friday, April 5, 2013 - 10:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football, College Basketball, NBA
Path: /college-basketball/athlons-essential-11-links-day-april-1
Body:

This is your daily link roundup of our favorite sports posts on the web for April 5.

• The "Evil Dead" remake opens today. Those who weren't planning to see it might want to check out this slideshow of one of the stars, Jessica Lucas. It might change your mind. That's her in the photo, by the way.

• Final Four weekend is finally here. Check out Athlon's previews of the semifinal matchups here and here.

• Note to this weekend's Final Four teams: They can't take away what you've accomplished. Well, then again, maybe they can. Here are the most infamous vacated wins teams in NCAA history.

• Looking to lose some money this weekend? A quick and dirty guide to casino games.

• God in a Goldfish cracker? You be the judge.

• Legendary film critic Roger Ebert died yesterday. Here's a collection of his reviews of some legendary sports films. He loved "Raging Bull"; hated "Kazaam." Okay, so some are no-brainers.

• Slam dunk contests have gotten kinda tired, but Doug Anderson's winning dunk in the College Slam Dunk contest was pretty sweet.

The Auburn synthetic pot report is only a day old, but there are already holes.

• After Brittney Griner Instagramed this photoshopped photo of her dunking on Brandon Knight, I want Cubes to draft her just so they can both be humiliated.

This Lithuanian under-18 hockey player does not like to lose. He may not get another opportunity after this display.

• Just when you thought you couldn't root for Kevin Ware any harder, he goes on Letterman and kills. Ware for President.

--- Email us with any compelling sports-related links at [email protected]


April 4

• Anybody watching Splash, the celebrity diving show? Reminder: It features Katherine Webb, as you can see in the photo.

• According to somebody who tracks these things, there were only 21 pitches in MLB last year that failed to even reach 60 mph. Last night, Paul Maholm uncorked one of these speed-limit-observing eephus balls to strike out Chase Utley.

If you click on this link and giggle, it's time to grow up. (Full disclosure: I giggled.)

• Tired of adults grabbing baseballs away from kids in the stands? Click and enjoy. Sometimes justice does prevail.

• Need a little help getting pumped for the Final Four? Bookmark this GIF.

• Long-form piece of the day: The twilight of Don King.

• If you grew up in the '80s, you probably loved WWE. If so, you'll love this classic pro wrestling slideshow.

Three SEC quarterback battles that will extend into the fall.

• Another day, another scandal: Auburn allegedly did all kinds of bad stuff while winning the national title.

Tiger Woods is on the cover of SI for the 21st time. But he's still not talking.

One CarGo robbed another of a home run last night.

• Falling down, back to the basket: Danilo Gallinari had the Jazz right where he wanted them.

--- Email us with any compelling sports-related links at [email protected]


April 3

• The Golf Channel's Holly Sonders wants you to get fit and will appear on the cover of Golf Digest's upcoming fitness issue. Holly, you have our attention.

• News Yu can use: Rangers ace Yu Darvish came up one out short of a perfect game, leaving headline writers and Twitter comedians to try to outdo each other with puns. USA Today gathered some of them up

• After that explosive video showing him abusing his players, Rutgers coach Mike Rice is out the door. Moral of the story: If you're going to be a bullying jackass, at least be a successful one.

Meanwhile, on the other coast, there's a ref scandal. Good times for college sports.

Jay-Z decided he didn't have enough to do, so he started a sports rep agency. First client: Robinson Cano.

• Bob Costas quoting Ludacris? Bob Costas quoting Ludacris.

• I doubt this will make David Stern's Christmas letter: A former NBA player was indicted yesterday for murder and gang activity.

• In happier NBA news, Nate the Great scoffs at your silly double-teams.

• An SEC market report entering this year's NFL Draft: the risers and fallers.

Evan Longoria threw a guy out from his butt yesterday.

• Bubba Watson is living the life. He has a green jacket, and now he has a hovercart.

• Chivalry is dead, and this guy might be, too, after ducking out of the way of a home run ball and allowing his girlfriend to take it in the face.

--- Email us with any compelling sports-related links at [email protected]


April 2

• Yes, it's April 2, but it's not too late to note that March was a good month for fans of the ladies. Here are the women who wowed in March, including MLS' Houston Dynamos girls.

• For a day, anyway, the Mets rule the Big Apple. Of course, I wouldn't bet the house on either New York team.

• Bryce Harper hit two home runs, but to me, A.J. Burnett's rosin bag explosion was the highlight of Opening Day.

How this year's Final Four teams were built.

• What's next for Kevin Ware? Time Magazine has details.

• April Fools Day joke, or real Mississippi State recruiting letter? You decide.

POTUS follows the Marshall Henderson example: If you miss, just keep jacking.

This announcer attempts to say 'get your peanuts' but instead blurts out a well-known part of the male anatomy. No thanks - I'll stick with the popcorn and Cracker Jack.

This is good news - I hope it's me they're talking about.

Five SEC players who will go from no-names to household names during 2013.

• When rookie hazing and April Fools Day collide, you get Dion Waiters' car consumed with popcorn.

• This insane alley-oop had its origins when both players were still outside the arc.

--- Email us with any compelling sports-related links at [email protected]


April 1

• The SEC was shut out of the Final Four, along with their comely cheerleading squads. SEC fans will have to settle for this hoops cheerleader slideshow.

• The Final Four is set, much like Kevin Ware's horribly mangled leg. I won't inflict the horrific video of his injury on my readers; instead, here's Ware holding the Regional Championship plaque post-surgery. And here's SI's Luke Winn on Ware and the injury aftermath.

Observations from a regional final weekend that was at times thrilling, at times stomach-turning and at times dreadfully boring.

• Despite today's date, everything you read here is true. But if you're jonesing for some April Fools Day humor, here are some epic April 1 pranks over the years. And here's a clever prank that the Canadiens played on a overly excited rookie.

• Yes, baseball was played last night, but today is the real Opening Day, meaning that Mets pitcher Jon Niese's wife will be observing an unusual tradition.

• Athlon offers up the 10 greatest baseball-themed ad campaigns in history.

The New Yorker sticks a dagger in the hearts of Yankees fans with their latest cover.

• These guys should be glad they don't work in the real world: 20 athletes who would be fired if they had regular jobs.

• Boy, California cops are cracking down on those helmet laws. Even if you have an oversized head that no helmet could fit.

• In this year of the airballed free throw, Andre Drummond of the Pistons outdid himself. Watch and enjoy.

--- Email us with any compelling sports-related links at [email protected]

Teaser:
<p> The best sports links from the NFL, college football and basketball, MLB, the NBA, NASCAR and the world of entertainment.</p>
Post date: Friday, April 5, 2013 - 09:27
Path: /college-football/ranking-big-easts-college-football-coaches-2013
Body:

Coaching is one of the driving forces in building a national championship team or program. No matter how much talent a program has, it can’t win a national title if the coaching is questionable.

Considering how important coaches are to teams or even making preseason predictions, Athlon is taking a look at how each conference stacks up with its head coach rankings for 2013.

Ranking the coaches in any college football conference is a difficult task. Many factors play into just how successful a coach is at any school. How well are the assistants paid? Are the facilities up to par with the rest of the conference? Can the coach recruit or is he more of an X's and O's manager? Are there off-the-field or age issues to take into consideration? Has a coach built a program or continued the success from a previous coach? How is the resume outside of their current position? These questions and more were posed to the editors at Athlon Sports, as they were asked to rank the coaches of each of the six BCS conferences. One thing to keep in mind - the record is not always indicative of where a coach should rank in a conference.

Ranking the Big East (American Athletic Conference) Head Coaches for 2013

1. Charlie Strong, Louisville
Record at Louisville: 25-14 (2010-present)
Record at Florida: 0-1 (2004 Peach Bowl)
Overall Record: 25-15 (3 full years)

Strong had to wait a while for his first head coaching gig, but the Arkansas native has shown in just three full seasons he is one of the top 25 coaches in the nation. After stops as an assistant at Florida, Ole Miss, Notre Dame and South Carolina, Strong was hired as Louisville’s head coach in 2010. He didn’t inherit a full cupboard from the previous coaching staff, so it was no surprise Strong went 7-6 in each of his first two years in Louisville. However, the Cardinals took flight in 2012, winning 11 games (including an impressive Sugar Bowl victory over Florida). Strong turned down overtures from other BCS programs and will be tough to pry away from Louisville. If the Cardinals finish in the top 10 as most expect in 2013, expect to see Strong’s name move even higher on the list of the nation’s best coaches.


2. Tommy Tuberville, Cincinnati
Record at Cincinnati: 0-0 (First Season)
Record at Texas Tech: 20-17 (2010-2012)
Record at Auburn: 85-40 (1999-2008)
Record at Ole Miss: 25-20 (1995-98)
Overall Record: 130-77 (17 years)

First, Tuberville has coached at three power conference jobs and has a winning record at all three. Second, he has an undefeated season in the SEC to his credit and is 50 games over .500 in the country’s toughest league. Third, he has a bizarre off-the-field resume that includes traffic accidents, ponzi schemes and questionable recruiting tactics as well as two strange departures from quality jobs. He was never a clean fit at Texas Tech and the program’s first losing season since 1992 led to an unsettling relationship with the fans. He improved the Red Raiders' atrocious 2011 defense enough to return to a bowl game last fall but could see the handwriting on the wall and bolted for the Bearcats. If the Cincy fans can handle the good with the bad, Tuberville should be able to keep the Bearcats competing for league championships.


3. Willie Taggart, South Florida
Record at South Florida: 0-0 (First Season)
Record at Western Kentucky: 16-20 (2010-12)
Overall Record: 16-20 (3 years)

After a three-year stint as Western Kentucky’s head coach, Taggart essentially returns home to take over the top spot at South Florida. Taggart went 16-20 during his three years with the Hilltoppers, including back-to-back seven-win seasons in 2011-12. The 14 victories during that stretch was the best two-year stint for Western Kentucky since 2004-05. Taggart played his high school ball at Manatee in Bradenton, Fla., which is just an hour outside of USF. The 36-year-old coach is clearly one of college football’s rising stars in the coaching ranks and should help the Bulls be one of the most-improved teams in the conference in 2013.
 

4. June Jones, SMU
Record at SMU: 31-34 (2008-present)
Record at Hawaii: 76-41 (1999-2007
Overall Record: 107-75 (14 years)

Jones inherited two programs that were in need of major repair prior to his arrival. And despite his losing record at SMU, it’s clear the Oregon native has made the Mustangs a better team. Jones began his coaching career in 1983 as an assistant at Hawaii, before spending the next 14 seasons at the professional level, which included a 22-36 record as an NFL head coach. In Jones’ first season at Hawaii in 1999, the Warriors made a nine-game improvement in the win column. Hawaii played in a BCS bowl in the 2007 season and recorded three seasons of 10 or more victories during Jones’ tenure. He took over SMU in 2008, and the Mustangs went 1-11 in his first year. However, SMU has at least seven victories in each of the last four years, which is the best stretch in school history since the Mustangs won 10 games every season from 1981-84. Considering Jones has elevated two struggling programs to new heights, SMU has to be encouraged about competing in its new conference home in 2013 and beyond.


5. George O'Leary, UCF
Record at UCF: 60-55 (2004-present)
Record at Georgia Tech: 52-33 (1994-2001)
Overall Record: 112-88 (17 years)

Like Tuberville, O’Leary has a similarly bizarre resume. He has been a consistent winner at both coaching stops in his career, including three conference championships and four division titles in eight years in C-USA. His teams play well against upper tier competition and he took an 0-11 team and turned them into a division champ in one season. Yet, he also is infamously known for lying on his resume which got him fired from Notre Dame before coaching a game, as well as the death of Ereck Plancher — a player who passed away after being over-worked on the practice field. His teams have lacked consistency from year to year, going from 10 wins to four and back since 2007, but that doesn't change his overall winning percentage (.560) over his 17 years as a head coach.
 

6. Kyle Flood, Rutgers
Overall Record at Rutgers: 9-4 (2012-present, 1 year)

When Kyle Flood was given the head coaching job at Rutgers, it was his first leadership position since 1994 at St. Francis Prep. The offensive line coach has heavy ties to the Northeast and has proven to be an excellent recruiter for the Scarlet Knights. And all he did in his first season was win a share of the Big East title after being picked fourth in the conference in the preseason. Having said that, Flood’s bunch could have clinched an outright crown had they defeated either Pitt on the road or Louisville at home. Needless to say, the jury is still out on Flood’s long-term future at The Garden State’s state school.
 

7. Justin Fuente, Memphis
Overall Record at Memphis: 4-8 (2012-present, 1 year)

Fuente inherited a mess when he arrived at Memphis. The Tigers were coming off a disastrous two-year stint under Larry Porter, which resulted in a 3-21 record. And under Fuente’s watch, the Tigers showed big improvement in 2012. Memphis went 4-8 last season, which included a three-game winning streak to finish the campaign. The Tigers lost three games by 10 points or less and got better as the season progressed. Before taking over at Memphis, Fuente spent five years as an assistant at TCU, including the last three as the co-offensive coordinator. With the move to the American Athletic Conference (new name of the former Big East), Fuente’s job will get a little tougher in 2013. Memphis doesn’t quite have the talent to push for a bowl game this year, but the Tigers will continue to take another step forward under Fuente’s watch in 2013.
 

8. Paul Pasqualoni, UConn
Record at UConn: 10-14 (2011-present)
Record at Syracuse: 107-59-1 (1991-2004)
Record at Western Connecticut: 34-17 (1982-1986)
Overall Record: 151-90-1 (21 years)

Like Temple's Matt Rhule (see below), Pasqualoni entered the coaching ranks after starring at linebacker for Penn State. He has deep ties to the Northeast and is on his third coaching stop in the region. After 11 consecutive winning seasons to start his Syracuse tenure, the program began to erode and the Orange made a move following the 2004 season. Pasqualoni went to work in the NFL as a defensive coordinator for both Dallas and Miami before returning to the college ranks two years ago at UConn. Clearly, he has been around the game for a long time and is in the twilight of his career — as his last winning season as a head coach was in 2001 — but the resume also clearly indicates that the man can coach (see UConn’s No. 1-rated Big East defense). He likely needs to adapt to a new era of college football if he wants to succeed and must do so quickly in order to prove he is still capable of winning in the current NCAA landscape.


9. Tony Levine, Houston
Overall Record at Houston: 6-7 (2011-present)

Levine received a curious promotion to the top spot after Kevin Sumlin departed for Texas A&M. The Minnesota native had no head coaching experience prior to taking over at Houston, as his resume consisted of stops as an assistant at Texas State, Louisiana Tech, Louisville and the Cougars. Levine also was an assistant strength and conditioning coach for two years with the NFL's Carolina Panthers from 2006-07. He was a popular pick to be head coach among Houston’s players, but the move didn’t work out well for the Cougars in 2012. Levine led Houston to a bowl victory over Penn State after Sumlin departed, but the Cougars were 5-7 last year. Losing quarterback Case Keenum was a tough blow for an offense that was one of the best in the nation in 2011, but Houston had too much talent returning to miss on a bowl game. Levine made good adjustments to the coaching staff in the offseason, and the Cougars return the bulk of their personnel. Levine still has a lot to prove, especially as Houston makes the move to the conference formally known as the Big East.
 

10. Matt Rhule, Temple
Overall Record at Temple: 0-0 (First Season)

There is plenty to like about the former Penn State linebacker’s resume. He is from the Northeast, has rich ties to the Temple program and was hired to work for respected coaching names like Tom Coughlin and Al Golden. Yet, he has never been a head coach at any level and is a complete unknown when it comes to leading a program. Temple is a brutally tough place to win, but the Owls posted three seasons in a row with at least eight wins from 2009-11 under both Golden and Steve Addazio. Rhule is in for a uphill battle if he expects to return Temple to the postseason after a 4-7 debut in the Owls' return to the Big East last fall.


by Braden Gall (@BradenGall) and Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)


Related College Football Content

Ranking the ACC Head Coaches for 2013
Ranking the Big 12 Head Coaches for 2013

Ranking the Big Ten Head Coaches for 2013

Ranking the Pac-12 Head Coaches for 2013

College Football's Top 50 Quarterbacks of the BCS Era

College Football's Pre-Spring Top 25 Heisman Contenders

Teaser:
<p> Ranking the Big East's College Football Coaches for 2013</p>
Post date: Friday, April 5, 2013 - 07:30
All taxonomy terms: Louis Oosthuizen, Golf
Path: /golf/top-20-golfers-2013-majors-no-5-louis-oosthuizen
Body:

They’re the cream of the major championship crop, circa 2013 — the Athlon Major Championship Dream Team. Leading up to The Masters, we'll be unveiling Athlon Sports’ 20 players to watch for majors season, with commentary on each from the Golf Channel’s Brandel Chamblee.

No. 5: Louis Oosthuizen

Born: Oct. 19, 1982, Mossel Bay, South Africa | Career PGA Tour Wins: 1 (6 on European Tour)  | 2012 Wins (Worldwide): 2 | 2012 Earnings (PGA Tour): $3,460,995 (15th) World Ranking: 6

 

Brandel Chamblee's Take

Oosthuizen could be the surprise of 2013; he has all the talent to win multiple times and become a multiple major champion, something he very nearly did in 2012 before losing a playoff to Bubba Watson at the Masters. Possessing what many call the best swing in golf, he (like Rory McIlroy) has effortless power and has shown an ability to win by wide margins, most notably in the Open Championship where he won in 2010 by seven shots, and also at an event in Africa where he won by 14. If he stays motivated, this will be Louis’ year.

Major Championship Résumé
Starts: 18
Wins: 1

2012 Performance:
Masters - 2
U.S. Open - Cut
British Open - T19
PGA Championship - T21

Best Career Finishes: 
Masters - 2 (2012)
U.S. Open - T9 (2011)
British Open - 1 (2010)
PGA Championship - T21 (2012)
Top-10 Finishes: 3
Top-25 Finishes: 5
Missed Cuts: 11

—Brandel Chamblee is lead analyst for the Golf Channel. Be sure to follow him @ChambleeBrandel on Twitter.


Athlon's 2013 Golf annual provides in-depth previews of this year's four majors, including the top 20 players to watch this season. One of these elite players, reigning FedExCup champion Brandt Snedeker, also takes you tee to green with full-swing instruction and short game essentials. BUY IT NOW.

Teaser:
<p> Athlon Counts Down the 20 Golfers to Watch for Majors Season</p>
Post date: Thursday, April 4, 2013 - 10:40
Path: /college-basketball/15-best-teams-never-won-ncaa-tournament
Body:

The best team doesn’t always win the NCAA Tournament. Many of greatest rosters ever assembled failed to cut down the nets in the one-and-done, single-elimination Madness of March. These are the 15 best teams that never won the NCAA Tournament.



1. 1991 UNLV Runnin’ Rebels
(34–1, 18–0 Big West)
Coach Jerry Tarkanian
Lost to Duke, 79–77, in Final Four


Vegas was the undisputed, undefeated heavyweight champion of the world in college basketball before falling to Duke in a rematch of the 1990 title game, in which the Runnin’ Rebels humiliated the Blue Devils, 103–73. With three 1991 NBA Lottery picks — national player of the year forward Larry Johnson (No. 1 overall), wingman Stacey Augmon (No. 9) and point guard Greg Anthony (No. 12) — and the reigning Final Four MOP in Anderson Hunt, UNLV was as intimidating as it was dominant.

2. 1975 Indiana Hoosiers
(31–1, 18–0 Big Ten)
Coach Bob Knight
Lost to Kentucky, 92–90, in Elite Eight


Bob Knight and Joe B. Hall nearly went to blows during a 98–74 IU win over UK in December 1974. The Hoosiers were riding a 34-game winning streak heading into their rematch with the Wildcats in the NCAA Tournament. But without a full strength Scott May — who scored two points due to a broken arm, after scoring 25 in the first meeting — undefeated Indiana fell to Kentucky, a team that went on to lose the national title to UCLA in John Wooden’s final game.

3. 1983 Houston Cougars
(31–3, 16–0 Southwest)
Coach Guy Lewis
Lost to NC State, 54–52, in NCAA title game


Texas’ tallest fraternity, “Phi Slama Jama” was led by a pair of future Hall of Famers in shot-swatting big man Akeem Olajuwon and high-flying Clyde “the Glide” Drexler. The middle of three straight Final Four appearances and first of two national title game runner-up finishes was the most painful, as NC State pulled off one of the greatest Cinderella upsets in Big Dance history.

4. 1985 Georgetown Hoyas
(35–3, 14–2 Big East)
Coach John Thompson
Lost to Villanova, 66–64, in NCAA title game


The Patrick Ewing-led Hoyas were runner-up to North Carolina in 1982, national champs in 1984 and heavily favored to repeat as champs in 1985. But the overwhelming edge in talent for Ewing, Reggie Williams, David Wingate and Co. was no match for the magical shooting night of Rollie Massimino’s Wildcats, who shot 22-of-28 from the field to beat “Hoya Paranoia” on April Fools’ Day.

5. 1984 North Carolina Tar Heels
(28–3, 14–0 ACC)
Coach Dean Smith
Lost to Indiana, 72–68, in Sweet 16


On paper, this was Dean Smith’s most talented team, on the court and on the bench. National player of the year Michael Jordan, Sam Perkins, Brad Daugherty and freshman Kenny Smith headlined a loaded roster, while Roy Williams, Bill Guthridge and Eddie Fogler served as assistants coaches for a group of Tar Heels that couldn’t even make it to the Final Four.

6. 1993 Michigan Wolverines
(31–5, 15–3 Big Ten)
Coach Steve Fisher
Lost to North Carolina, 77–71, in NCAA title game


The sophomore season of the Fab Five — Chris Webber, Juwan Howard, Jalen Rose, Jimmy King and Ray Jackson — produced the same (since vacated) results as their freshman campaign. Michigan marched all the way to the national title game with their signature baggy shorts, black socks and swagger, only to lose to ACC power UNC, after losing to Duke in the championship game the season before.

7. 1997 Kansas Jayhawks
(34–2, 15–1 Big 12)
Coach Roy Williams
Lost to Arizona, 85–82, in Sweet 16


KU had it all, with NBA size down low in Raef LaFrentz and Scot Pollard, clutch shooters in Paul Pierce, Jerod Haase and Billy Thomas, and steady point guard play from Jacque Vaughn and Ryan Robertson. But Roy Williams’ Jayhawks could not close the deal against Miles Simon, Mike Bibby and eventual champion Arizona.

8. 1973 NC State Wolfpack
(27–0, 12–0 ACC)
Coach Norm Sloan
Banned from postseason play


David Thompson and Tommy Burleson led NC State to an undefeated regular season but were unable to go dancing after being banned from postseason play due to NCAA sanctions. When the ban was lifted, the 1973-74 Wolfpack went 30–1 cut down the nets following a national championship.

9. 1974 UCLA Bruins
(26–4, 12–2 Pac-8)
Coach John Wooden
Lost to NC State, 80–77 in 2OT, in Final Four


The next-to-last team coach by the Wizard of Westwood ended UCLA’s streak of seven consecutive NCAA titles. Despite being led by Bill Walton and Jamaal Wilkes, the Bruins were unable to outlast NC State in double-overtime in the Final Four.

10. 1954 Kentucky Wildcats
(25–0, 14–0 SEC)
Coach Adolph Rupp
Elected not to participate


Coach Adolph Rupp chose to take a stand against the NCAA by keeping the unbeaten Wildcats out of the Tournament after Frank Ramsey, Cliff Hagan and Lou Tsioropoulos were ruled ineligible due to a graduation rule that is no longer in place.

11. 1999 Duke Blue Devils
(37–2, 16–0 ACC)
Coach Mike Krzyzewski
Lost to Connecticut, 77–74, in NCAA title game


One of Coach K’s most talented teams was anchored by No. 1 overall pick Elton Brand, sharpshooting senior Trajan Langdon, point guard William Avery and athletic freak frosh Corey Maggette — all of whom went in the top 14 of the 1999 NBA Draft.

12. 1962 Ohio State Buckeyes
(26–2, 13–1 Big Ten)
Coach Fred Taylor
Lost to Cincinnati, 71–59, in NCAA title game


Jerry Lucas and John Havlicek are two of the greatest players in Ohio State history, playing in three consecutive NCAA title games — losing the last two trips as a heavy favorite against in-state rival Cincinnati.

13. 1957 Kansas Jayhawks
(24–3, 11–1 Big Seven)
Coach Dick Harp
Lost to North Carolina, 54–53 in 3OT, in NCAA title game


Kansas’ Wilt Chamberlain was unable to follow in the championship footsteps of San Francisco’s Bill Russell — who led the Dons to titles in 1955 and 1956. The Stilt lost in triple-overtime in what old timers have called the greatest game ever played.

14. 1963 Cincinnati Bearcats
(26–2, 11–1 Missouri Valley)
Coach Ed Jucker
Lost to Loyola-Chicago, 60–58, in NCAA title game


In their fifth straight Final Four appearance, the Bearcats were aiming for a three-peat before the term existed. But back-to-back champion Cincinnati was shocked by underdog Loyola-Chicago in the final.

15. 1979 Indiana State Sycamores
(33–1, 16–0 Missouri Valley)
Coach Bill Hodges
Lost to Michigan State, 75–64, in NCAA title game


The Legend of Larry Bird sprouted from the Sycamores undefeated 33–0 run to the NCAA title game, where Bird vs. Magic made the contest the highest rated college basketball game in history.
 

Teaser:
<p> 15 Best Teams That Never Won the NCAA Tournament, including the 1991 UNLV Runnin' Rebels, 1975 Indiana Hoosiers, 1983 Houston Cougars, 1985 Georgetown Hoyas, 1984 North Carolina Tar Heels, 1993 Michigan Wolverines, 1997 Kansas Jayhawks, 1973 NC State Wolfpack, 1974 UCLA Bruins, 1954 Kentucky Wildcats, 1999 Duke Blue Devils, 1962 Ohio State Buckeyes, 1957 Kansas Jayhawks, 1963 Cincinnati Bearcats and 1979 Indiana State Sycamores.</p>
Post date: Thursday, April 4, 2013 - 08:00

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