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Path: /nba/russell-westbrook-surging-mvp-conversation

Not since the 1950’s has the NBA seen a team have consecutive MVP campaigns from two different players. Bob Cousy won it for the Boston Celtics in 1957, followed by Bill Russell in 1958.


The Oklahoma City Thunder currently look as close to matching that feat as anyone has since. With reigning MVP Kevin Durant sidelined about half of the year with foot issues, point guard Russell Westbrook has all but put the team on his back with his terrific play.


Westbrook has missed a number of games himself — 14, to be exact — or else he’d be mentioned as frequently as Steph Curry and ex-teammate James Harden in the MVP conversation. Russell’s been one of the very best players around this year — scoring at will, distributing with as much poise as ever, and affecting offenses from all angles with his relentless defensive athleticism.


Only Anthony Davis has a higher player efficiency rating than Westbrook’s 29.25 mark, as No. 0 is also second in the NBA in scoring — behind only Harden — fifth in assists, second in steals and first among fellow point guards in rebounding.


And, as has long been the case, Westbrook’s signature emotional style has keyed his team. The Thunder rally around his ceaseless energy and swagger, and perhaps no superstar can say they do a better job of leading by example in the intensity department.


The missing games and the Thunder’s relatively low .554 winning percentage are the best arguments against Westbrook’s candidacy. But if Durant continues to miss time and OKC keeps up their current pace (they’ve won eight of their last ten) with Westbrook’s excellence at the lead, more heads will start turning.


Whether or not Russell grabs the coveted trophy, though, he’s certainly playing at a level that has the rest of the league on edge as we approach the postseason.


— John Wilmes


Post date: Wednesday, February 25, 2015 - 14:04
All taxonomy terms: ACC, College Basketball, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac 12, SEC, News
Path: /college-basketball/court-storming-issue-resolved-college-basketball-rules-follow

If you hate court storming, you are labeled as a grumpy old person who wants to rip the joy from the youth of America.


If you love court storming, you have a blatant disregard for human safety and probably don’t understand that actions have consequences.


As it does every spring, storming the court has once again become a topic of debate. Kansas State fans mobbed the floor of the Octagon of Doom after beating archrival Kansas. Maryland students stormed the court after knocking off Wisconsin on Tuesday night. And more are sure to follow as conference tournaments begin.


A student’s shoulder made contact with a Jayhawk player but nothing really of note happened in either case and KSU has apologized. It hasn’t stopped sports talk radio, columnists and the Twittersphere from spewing venom from one side of the isle to the other concerning the issue.


Can’t we all just get along? In our seats and on the court?


There are plenty of incidents that indicate mixing fans with the people they adore (or hate) isn’t a good idea. It’s why fans are treated so abruptly when they decide to run onto the gridiron, diamond or pitch. This is especially true for drunken young people.


However, 99.9 percent of the time in college basketball, these court stormings are totally harmless.


So in an effort to meld the old man on the porch with the young whippersnapper in the stands, I’ve created strict guidelines for storming one’s court. From here, it’s on the teams and arenas to maintain order. Penalties should be harsh.


Court Storming Rules and Restrictions

The following rules and restrictions indicate when court storming is not allowed.


1. College hoops bluebloods

Rule No. 1 is pretty straightforward. College basketball’s bluebloods are NEVER allowed to storm a court in any circumstance, so act like you’ve been there before Duke, North Carolina, Kentucky, Kansas, UCLA, Indiana and Syracuse. This list can change from over time but these programs are basically never allowed to rush the hardwood. Ever.


2. Teams ranked in the top 15

If your favorite team is ranked in the top 15, they have no business storming the court. In general, Top 15 teams are No. 4 seeds or better in the NCAA Tournament and those fans have no business streaming out onto the floor after a win.


3. Teams ranked higher than the opponent

If your favorite team is ranked higher in the polls or standings than the opponent, invading the court isn’t allowed or appropriate.


4. Teams that are favored

If your favorite team is favored in the game in question, why would you have any business running out onto the hardwood after a win? You were supposed to win the game in the first place. C'mon.


5. Recent national champions

If your favorite team has won a national title in the last 10-15 years, then storming the court shall not be permitted. National championships indicate the best of the best, so while your team may not be a “blueblood,” it’s still one of the best programs in the nation currently. Therefore, nix the court-storm. Looking at you Louisville, UConn, Michigan State, Maryland and Florida (whose fans can't really storm the court anyway).


6. During the NIT

This goes for any tournament game of any kind really — preseason or post — but is only possible in the NIT since games are played on home courts. This is the Clemson Rule after the silly Tigers rushed the floor after an NIT win a few years ago. 


Court storming is a generally a fun and harmless expression of joy. So let’s not dilute the fun by rushing the floor every time we want. We are better than that, aren't we?


If your favorite teams ends a long — like more than a decade long — losing streak against an archrival or pulls a monumental upset over a top 10 opponent or clinches a championship of some kind, then rushing the floor to celebrate is perfectly acceptable.


Otherwise, act like you’ve been there before.

Court Storming Issue Resolved: College Basketball Rules to Follow
Post date: Wednesday, February 25, 2015 - 13:37
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/maryland-students-execute-another-perfect-flash-mob

Flash mobs are still a thing, especially at Maryland.


For the third consecutive year, the Terrapins student section executed a flash mob during a big game, this time near halftime of last night’s upset against Wisconsin.


Pull off one of these when it’s the hot trend? That’s one thing. Pull off this kind of choreography three years in a row? We commend you, Maryland students.


Things start getting good around the 1:10 mark.



Here’s another angle from Tuesday night:



Here’s Flash Mob Part II during a game against Syracuse on Feb. 24, 2014



And the inaugural flash mob and Harlem Shake in 2013 (bonus points: see if you can spot ESPN’s Scott Van Pelt).


Maryland Students Execute Another Perfect Flash Mob
Post date: Wednesday, February 25, 2015 - 12:32
All taxonomy terms: Essential 11, Overtime
Path: /overtime/athlons-essential-11-links-day-february-25-2014-0

This is your daily links roundup of our favorite sports and entertainment posts on the web for Feb. 25:


Today's Future Erin Andrews: Fox Sports West's Brittany Held.


Not sure how I feel about skinny Jason Dufner.


Larry Sanders offered a pretty candid explanation of why he's walking away from basketball.


Rajon Rondo and Rick Carlisle exchanged pleasantries and whispered sweet nothings during a timeout last night.


There are rumors that there's a video of Dez Bryant doing something horrible.


Not even A-Rod himself knows if he can play baseball without artificial assistance.


Steph Curry is more than just a shooter.


• Very cool: A couple of Panthers are donating their flowing locks to a kids cancer charity.


The Parks and Rec gang bid farewell last night.


Jack Nicklaus has gotten into the ice cream business.


Bo Ryan to Mark Turgeon: Imma let you finish, but I have a plane to catch.


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

Post date: Wednesday, February 25, 2015 - 11:38
Path: /college-football/ranking-pac-12s-football-rosters-2015

Recruiting rankings matter.


They are not a guarantee of future success but they are the foundation every national championship has been built upon. It takes great coaching, development and luck to win a title, but having better players is the only way to start.


In fact, the data backing up the value of recruiting rankings is impenetrable. For example, look at last year’s rosters. According to the rankings, three of the four best rosters in America belonged to Alabama, Florida State and Ohio State.


These rankings do not take into account attrition but that should be a constant for all teams and conferences equally. So strictly based on recruiting evaluations from 247Sports, here is how the rosters in the Pac-12 rank.




USC surging

Steve Sarkisian landed the No. 2 class in the nation in his first full recruiting cycle at USC, and, enters 2015 with the No. 5-ranked roster in the nation. With scholarship numbers higher than they’ve been since NCAA sanctions, USC will enter Sark’s second season on the field with the best collection of players in the Pac-12. For all of Lane Kiffin’s weaknesses, luring talent to Los Angeles wasn’t one of them. Look for Cody Kessler and Coach Sark to make a strong run at a South Division crown.


Tier two talent

Oregon, UCLA, Stanford and Washington form the second tier of talent behind USC and ahead of everyone else. Those four teams rank between 15th and 23rd nationally in terms of talent heading into 2015 and have been four of the best teams in the league over the last four seasons. The Ducks have a slight edge here as the most talented team in the North and the most successful on the field, but the Bruins, Cardinal and Huskies aren’t too far behind. Pop in a tape of January's national championship game to see the difference between "tier one" and "tier two" talent.


Tight Wad turnaround

Sonny Dykes showed marked improvement in his second season in Berkeley, taking Cal from one win to five. With a roster ranked in the top half of the league (sixth), the Golden Bears could continue to improve under Dykes. Granted, the Bears aren’t on the same tier as Oregon, UCLA, Stanford or Washington, but California heads up the third tier of talent in the Pac-12.


The Grand Canyon State

Much like the state of Mississippi in the SEC, both Arizona schools will enter the season in the bottom half of the league in terms of talent but with high expectations. Both Todd Graham and Rich Rodriguez have proven to be miracle workers on the field. Arizona State has won 23 Pac-12 games in the last four years but is 19-8 since Graham took over three years ago. In fact, ASU is one of only three teams in the league have won at least 10 games in each of the last two seasons (Oregon, UCLA). RichRod is coming off of a division crown with a young roster and a proven system for success despite the perceived lack of talent.


Stay the course

Kyle Whittingham has done as good a job as should be expected from a coach elevating a program from the Mountain West to the Pac-12. His 14-22 mark in Pac-12 play isn’t near the 73 percent clip he won at in the Mountain West (35-13). But the Utes went from one of the top two rosters in their conference to ninth-best entering 2015 and still managed to win nine games last year. Kudos are well-deserved.


Careful what you wish for

Gary Andersen left a top-tier job for a job with major obstacles when he departed Wisconsin for Oregon State. It might fit his personality better, he might like the region better and his family may be happier. But it’s much tougher to win in Corvallis than in Madison. The North Division is stacked with talent (and coaching) and Andersen enters his first season at OSU with a new quarterback, a team that has won just six of its last 18 Pac-12 games and the 10th-best roster in the 12-team league.


Ranking the Pac-12's Football Rosters for 2015
Post date: Wednesday, February 25, 2015 - 10:30
All taxonomy terms: Chicago Bulls, Derrick Rose, NBA
Path: /nba/derrick-rose-has-torn-his-meniscus-again

The NBA has experienced a lot of bad injury news lately — Kevin Durant, Anthony Davis, Chris Bosh, Kobe Bryant and Blake Griffin are all out of action at the moment.


But the latest development might be the hardest to swallow. Perennially injured 2011 MVP Derrick Rose has a torn meniscus in his right knee; the same one he tore in November of 2013, causing him to miss all but ten games of the season a year after missing every game due to a torn ACL in his left knee, suffered in the first game of a promising Chicago Bulls postseason run.


There’s no denying it at this point: Rose is a tragic figure. Like Penny Hardaway, Grant Hill and Brandon Roy before him, the 26-year-old Chicago native is chock full of the kind of talent that truly gets fans’ butts moving, but he simply can’t stay healthy for long enough to wield that skill in important moments. The promise of Rose’s scintillating early career has been broken by the cruel hand of fate, and the NBA and its fans are all worse off for it.


Social media experienced an outpouring of sympathy and upset feelings that reached levels of nausea, when the news hit last night. Competitors, allies, and neutral bystanders alike all hate to see this happen, again and again.


The Bulls, in the meantime, haven’t announced a ton about Rose’s status. His surgery will be scheduled, and a timetable for a return will be determined when it is complete. Rose and his team opted for a full repair to the meniscus when he tore it last time, which made a longer career more likely. But, depending on how things look when the doctors dig in, a quicker “clean-up” procedure may be the better option, and may allow Rose to return in time for the playoffs. Stay tuned as this story progresses.


— John Wilmes


Post date: Wednesday, February 25, 2015 - 10:18
All taxonomy terms: Madison Bumgarner, MLB, News
Path: /mlb/october-ace-madison-bumgarner-makes-postseason-history

A little more than two weeks before Madison Bumgarner strong-armed the Kansas City Royals in Game 7 of the World Series, before he took the ball on two days of rest and refused to give it back till long past sundown, before he carved himself into an October legend and before he beckoned the San Francisco Giants to their third victory parade in five seasons, he stood on a mound on the opposite side of the state of Missouri.


And a disturbing thought crossed his mind.


“This is their inning,” said Bumgarner, as he faced the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 1 of the NLCS. “Regardless of whether I gave them anything to hit or any momentum, I kind of figured they’d feel they had some.”


It was the seventh inning, and although the Cardinals trailed 3–0, they were threatening. The red-clad crowd filled Busch Stadium with noise after Yadier Molina singled on a first-pitch fastball and Jon Jay poked a blooper on a two-strike slider. The Giants had one out, and swollen eardrums, and one very unsettling bit of knowledge: This was when the Cardinals wrecked Clayton Kershaw. Twice.


“I had to tell myself, ‘OK, I’ve got to make a pitch and keep this thing from unraveling,’” Bumgarner said.


He did more than that. He lowered his shoulder while covering first base on Kolten Wong’s grounder, veering in front of the baseline like a stock car driving an opponent into the wall. Wong bounced off him like a spring. Then Bumgarner overpowered Tony Cruz with a high fastball to strand two runners in scoring position.


And he walked off the mound. Something that Kershaw, the greatest pitcher on the planet, couldn’t do. Either time.


“We don’t necessarily put a star by the seventh inning or anything,” Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. “We just know that we stay the course, and we needed someone to come up there and get a big hit for us. And Madison Bumgarner was good today. He kept us from having that big inning.”


That was just one unyielding moment from a postseason of pure brawn and bravado that the modern game had never witnessed before. Bumgarner reached all the way back with that slinging delivery of his and snuffed out one opponent after another.


No matter how far you reached back, you couldn’t find a more dominant October pitching performance in baseball history. Bumgarner threw 52.2 innings over four playoff rounds, the heaviest load ever, and posted a 1.03 ERA.


Athlon Sports' 2015 MLB Preview magazine covers the diamond and circles the bases with enough in-depth preseason analysis, predictions and other information to satisfy fans of the national pastime from the Bronx to the Bay and everywhere in between. Order your copy today!

When the Giants faced elimination in the wild card showdown at Pittsburgh, Bumgarner walked into the black-shirted din of PNC Park and played a funeral dirge. He threw a four-hit shutout and struck out 10.


When the Giants needed an ace to step up against the Cardinals, the team that had just taken a car crusher to Kershaw, Bumgarner zipped through with a pair of victories. Then he dominated the Royals in both his World Series starts, throwing a four-hit shutout in Game 5.


And when the Giants found themselves in dire straits amid baseball’s ultimate winner-take-all game, Bumgarner trotted from the bullpen on two days of rest, commandeered the ball and protected a one-run lead over five shutout innings.


The Giants did something that hadn’t been accomplished in the World Series since 1979: They won a Game 7 on the road.


What Bumgarner did was unmatched, period.


He became the first pitcher in history to record two wins and a save in a single World Series, striking out 17 and walking one while yielding just one run to the Royals over 21 innings. And a five-inning save in the Fall Classic? That was flat-out ridiculous. No pitcher had ever come close to such a feat. Heck, it hadn’t been done in a regular-season game in 12 years.


“At one point I looked at the pitch count and thought to myself, ‘Why are you even worried about it?’” Giants GM Brian Sabean said. “With each inning, he was getting stronger. He was getting more and more into their heads.”


And why wouldn’t he? Just 72 hours earlier, Bumgarner had thrown a four-hit, 117-pitch shutout against them in Game 5 — the first World Series shutout since Josh Beckett in 2003, and the first no-walk Series shutout since Kansas City’s own Bret Saberhagen in 1985.


There was no doubt in manager Bruce Bochy’s mind that Bumgarner would be a factor out of the bullpen in Game 7. He envisioned two innings, maybe three. When Tim Hudson lasted just five outs, though, the plan changed. Jeremy Affeldt, whose 22 consecutive scoreless postseason appearances rank one behind Mariano Rivera for the all-time record, stabilized matters over his 2.1 innings. The Giants scratched out a one-run lead.


Bumgarner was next, and Bochy let him go. On 68 pitches, 50 for strikes, he took them further than anyone thought possible.


“I was thinking maybe if he could get through the eighth, that would be amazing,” Giants catcher Buster Posey said. “But he got stronger. He got locked in. I asked him during that first inning — he wasn’t too crisp — so it’s, ‘Hey, are you OK?’ And he goes ‘(grunt) Yeah, man, I just gotta get loose.’”


Earlier in the series, Royals manager Ned Yost joked that his three-closer bullpen of Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis and Greg Holland allowed him to turn off his brain in the late innings. With Bumgarner, Bochy could spend the game in a hammock.


That’s what made Bumgarner’s performance so remarkable. In an era of accelerating bullpen specialization, and in a series between two teams that were masterful at shortening a game, Bumgarner kicked it old school. There was no need to play matchups. Bochy had the best percentage play in the ballpark.


“I mean, you have to say, ‘Is there anybody I have to put in this game better than what I’ve got out there?’” Hudson said. “And there ain’t. He’s the best player on the field any time he’s on the mound.”


Said Bumgarner: “You want to finish the game. That is the ultimate goal, to go out and give them innings. I feel like if you throw a lot of innings, all the other stuff will take care of itself.”


It didn’t work out so well for most every other ace in the postseason — especially Kershaw, who let those two leads slip away against the Cardinals and ended up getting hit for 11 runs in 12.2 innings. It was a stunning pair of outcomes for a pitcher who was 21–3 with a 1.77 ERA and would go on to win a unanimous Cy Young Award as well as become the first NL starting pitcher to take home league MVP honors since Bob Gibson in 1968. Bumgarner couldn’t lay claim to being the best left-handed pitcher in his own division, and because the Giants couldn’t catch the Dodgers, they had to sneak into the playoffs.


It didn’t matter. If Bochy’s teams have proved anything over the last five years, it’s that anyone with an October entry stamp can win the prize.


Bumgarner already owned World Series victories over the Texas Rangers (as a 21-year-old rookie) in 2010 and the Detroit Tigers in 2012, when he combined to allow those teams just five hits over 15 shutout innings.


After he accepted his World Series MVP trophy in Kansas City, his career 0.25 ERA in the Fall Classic ranked as the lowest in World Series history for pitchers with a minimum of 25 innings. Bumgarner became the first pitcher to win his first four World Series starts since Lew Burdette in 1957-58.


“In the history of the game there have been some great efforts, guys that have (thrown) three games and things like that,” Bochy said. “But I haven’t seen a better pitcher over the course of this postseason, and it’s been a pretty long one. To do what he’s done is pretty historic, I think.”


And to think — it all could’ve been lost had Bumgarner slipped up once to the last batter he faced. The Giants made an error with two outs in the ninth that allowed Alex Gordon to race all the way to third base representing the tying run. Salvador Perez, who hit a solo home run off Bumgarner in Game 1, stepped to the plate with a chance to win it.


Bumgarner didn’t want to risk bouncing a curveball. He wasn’t going to give in with anything over the plate. He threw high fastballs, one after the other, and the sixth heater resulted in a foul pop for the final out.


You’d never know, as Bumgarner overpowered the final hitter of the 2014 baseball season, that he had thrown a grand total of 270 innings — the most by a Giant in 41 years.


“He just … he did what he wanted with the baseball,” Posey said. “That’s the simplest way I can describe it.”


— Written by Andy Baggarly for Athlon Sports

October Ace: Madison Bumgarner Makes Postseason History
Post date: Wednesday, February 25, 2015 - 09:30
All taxonomy terms: Rory McIlroy, Tiger Woods, Golf
Path: /golf/athlon-exclusive-rory-mcilroy-qa

Rory McIlroy may have history on his mind when he drives up Magnolia Lane in early April, but good luck getting him to verbalize it. Golf’s No. 1 player remains steadfastly in the moment, and while he may indulge in a little private goal-setting, he’s not about to broadcast his specific plans for this year’s majors to the world. Writer Bernie McGuire sat down with Rory in Dubai earlier this year, at the dawn of what could be a historic 2015. This interview appears in the 2015 edition of Athlon Sports Golf Annual; order your copy here.


What are your goals for 2015?

There’s always little goals and it’s always the process goals that are most important. But then it should be obvious what any golfer’s goals are at the start of a New Year: winning tournaments, winning majors.


It’s the little things that you can do in practice and just in everyday life that can maybe help you get to that and be a little bit more consistent and do a couple more things. 


Every year, I’m flying here to Dubai, and I do a week of prep or ten days of preparation in Dubai before this tournament, so I will write my goals down on the back of my boarding pass, and I put it in my wallet and I memorize them. But I don’t look at them until the end of the year. 


So in my back pocket in my wallet is a boarding pass with my goals for this year. I don’t really want to share them with anyone else. They are just my little goals, and I’ll try and achieve those, and I’ll take that boarding pass out at the end of the year and see how well I’ve done.


With The Masters not that far away, do you feel the excitement building, and are there things you’re working on now thinking ahead to Augusta

Even with The Masters just a matter of months away now I am trying not even to think too hard given I seem to be asked about it every week.

But then I’m working on everything that will ensure I am prepared for Augusta. I’m just trying to make everything as good as it possibly can be. But I guess maybe there’s a few things that I’m happy with in my game that, say, if Augusta was to roll around next week, I would be happy going there knowing that I’m hitting the ball the way I want to.


So it’s important just to put in some good performances before that and get into contention and feel what it’s like in the heat of the moment, because that’s when you really know how your game is and how it holds up under some pressure. 


I will have a few tournaments before heading to Augusta to do that and hopefully I can, and that will really let me know where my game is heading into the first major of the year.


In strokes gained, putting on the PGA Tour you went from 117th in 2013 to 41st last year. What did you do to improve?

I figured something out by myself on the sixth green at Augusta on the Sunday of The Masters. My alignment was a little bit off and I just started doing a couple of things in my routine. 


I putt a lot with a mirror that people have probably seen me with on the putting green. I am just trying to put a little more structure around it I guess, and it’s really helped. 


I got to the point at The Masters last year where I really was — I just wasn’t comfortable with it and I needed to go in a new direction and started to work a bit on my own again. I actually consulted my good friend, Harry Diamond, and we worked a little bit on it, when I went home for a couple of weeks after The Masters and I’ve just kept with it ever since.


What area of your game are you looking to improve this year then?

Everything I guess.  One area of my game that I could probably get better at is my wedge play from 80 to 130 yards because I do leave myself a lot of shots from that distance. And if I’m driving the ball well, I feel like for the most part, I do take advantage, but even if it saves me one or two strokes a tournament where I can just get my wedge play a little sharper, it could make a big difference. 


It’s something I’ve been trying to work on a little bit the last few weeks, and you know, as I say, I’m very comfortable with how I’m driving the ball so I’m giving myself plenty of chances. 


So it is from that particular distance and it’s being as efficient as I possibly can converting those chances and not being wasteful. 


"In my back pocket in my wallet is a boarding pass with my goals for this year written on it. I’ll take that boarding pass out at the end of the year and see how well I’ve done."


Does the thought of a single-season Grand Slam ever cross your mind?

I have not thought of winning the four majors in a single season, so I will have to pass on that one.


Who would you pay to go and watch play golf?

Bubba Watson. You will get a whole golf bag full of excitement and amazement watching Bubba play.


Who would say are your best friends on Tour?

Justin Thomas and Rickie Fowler, and I get on really well with Keegan Bradley.


Who would be in your dream foursome?

My dad, Harry Diamond (Rory’s childhood friend) and probably Sean (O’Flaherty), my manager.


Who is the best non-pro you have played alongside? 

I’ve played with a lot of celebrities, some great sports people and some great amateurs, but probably the President at Seminole Golf Club in Juno Beach, Jimmy Dunne. He’s a great guy, and I was playing there with Tiger in November and we had a great time.


Who would you choose to hole a 10-foot putt for all the cash?

Other than myself?  Then Luke Donald.


What is your favorite club in the bag?

My driver. Just simply because of the distance I can drive the ball off the tee and how that club is then so pivotal to every other shot I play at a particular hole when using the driver.


This driver in my bag (the Nike Vapor) is the best driver I’ve had for a long while and I couldn’t be happier with it.


What is a normal workout routine for you?

Sixty minutes in the morning, and with 30 minutes of that working on quads. Though I am watching the clock after 10 minutes, I have to say (smiles). Then around 90 minutes in the gym in the afternoon or early evening.


What is your normal practice routine?

I usually get to the course spending about an hour or so on the range and then it’s the usual procedure like the majority of pros. I might hit a few bunker shots before spending about 20 minutes or so on the practice putting green, so from there I’m ready to go to the first tee.


What impact has Michael Bannon (Rory’s lifelong swing coach) had on your game?

Michael is a pretty good player in his own right, and it’s nice to have chats with him about course management, and if he watches me play a tournament, I’ll talk about, well, I was thinking about playing this shot into this pin but really I should have been playing this shot.


Just little things like that, little tiny, minute details not a lot of people would talk about but that he would pick up on.  He knows my game pretty well; he’s been coaching me for 20 years. 


So I clearly owe a lot of my success to him, and we work really well together. I’m looking forward to catching up with him in Florida in a couple weeks’ time to prepare for the start of the tournaments over there.


Can you talk about your relationship with Tiger Woods?

We had played alongside each other a few times but I never got the chance to really have an in-depth discussion with Tiger until we were grouped together in the 2012 Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and it has evolved since then.


I think we have a lot of things in common. We are huge sports fans and that’s a strong common thread in our friendship.


Since that Abu Dhabi grouping it’s been great for me to get to know Tiger better, and I’ve been fortunate playing alongside him many times since then to pick up a few things and learn a few things.


Tiger was a huge hero of mine when I was growing up, so getting to know him and getting to compete against him has always been a huge dream of mine. So now to spend time hanging around with him, and getting to know him so much better, is something I find pretty cool.

He transformed the image of golf. He made it a younger sport and single-handedly attracted more young people to take up the game of golf.


What is your favourite golf course?

Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland.  It is one of the truly great links golf courses.  I sort of grew up playing the course.


I was 16 when I contested the North of Ireland Amateur Open, and I shot a course-record 61. I can still virtually remember every shot I played that day. I missed a 6-footer on the first for birdie, so it could have been even better.


That was nearly 10 years ago and while it’s a different course now, as there’s a few new tee boxes, it’s still a fabulous golf course and such a fantastic setting. I just love so much the chance to play the course.


They’ve made the decision the Open Championship is returning to Royal Portrush, and given the reception the 2013 Irish Open received in being staged at the course, it is just going to be amazing to play an Open Championship on one of the greatest links courses in the world.

Post date: Tuesday, February 24, 2015 - 14:47
Path: /nba/ranking-nba%E2%80%99s-most-stalled-franchises

6. Sacramento Kings

The Kings have done a lot of dumb things. When they fired head coach Mike Malone, replaced him with Ty Corbin, and then excused Corbin in favor of George Karl, it made for five coaches over five years. That’s no way to build momentum around their premier center DeMarcus Cousins, especially when you consider that the team has paired him with an even larger number of starting point guards over that period. Having Cousins — a top-ten talent — on the roster is a great start to something good in northern California, and so was the hire of Karl. But the Kings have a lot to prove before we recognize them as moving in any one direction.


5. Orlando Magic

The Magic have a lot of young, exciting talent in Elfrid Payton, Nikola Vucevic, Victor Oladipo, Tobias Harris and more. But when they fired coach Jacque Vaughn, it raised questions. Not so much about why Vaughn was fired, but about why the move took so long. The Magic have consistently been one of basketball’s worst teams since Dwight Howard left town in 2012, and there’s been a lack of progress despite the collection of some good, if unseasoned, pieces through the draft. That the exhausting Scott Skiles has been named as a potential replacement for Vaughn in the fall isn’t exactly encouraging, and Magic fans are left wondering if their front office knows how to make anything work.


4. Los Angeles Lakers

The Lakers have one thing on their side: history. They’re one of the most dominant sport organizations in world history, and there’s no shortage of talented young men who grew up with stars in their eyes for Kobe, Shaq, Magic, Kareem and the rest. But with mastermind owner Jerry Buss gone and his kids running the show, many are starting to wonder whether there’s any plan in place for the Lakers that goes beyond “hey, free agents will want to come here.” At some point, general manager Mitch Kupchak has to prove he isn’t merely a pawn of the directionless Jim Buss, and make some moves that point to a brighter future.


3. Denver Nuggets

The Nuggets showed some self-awareness at the trade deadline, dealing away JaVale McGee and Arron Afflalo for some more future-oriented goods. They’ve also got one of the best young big men in the game: Jusuf Nurkic. But they’re still a mishmash of okay talent that lacks cohesion, with a head coach who can’t communicate with them in Brian Shaw. Denver has a chance to restart this summer and go all-in on a fire sale — but until they do, what we’re looking at is a team stuck in the mud.


2. New York Knicks

Phil Jackson hasn’t exactly proved his skeptics wrong as the Knicks’ top executive yet. He’s looked out-of-touch in the modern NBA, lacking an understanding of the commodity exchange game that general managers must play to stay competitive. Most of the core he inherited is gone via trade already, and hardly anyone can see what value the zen master got back for his departed roster. Clearing the deck may be of some currently invisible value, as the Knicks’ culture has long been broken, but there’s still no indication that Jackson can build a happy house over the earth he’s scorching, and do it around a possibly declining — and probably overpaid — Carmelo Anthony.


1. Brooklyn Nets

The Nets balked at the trade deadline, failing to unload any of the onerous contracts that have sent them into the NBA’s financial cellar with a team that’s struggling to compete for a low-end playoff spot, in a historically bad Eastern Conference. Brook Lopez, Deron Williams and Joe Johnson are all still useful players, but each has been beset with injuries and undue expectations, and none of them seem to be exactly blossoming under old-school head coach Lionel Hollins. Owner Mikhail Prokhorov has shifted his focus from winning, to trying to turn his team back into a profiting one after sinking them into the cellar by giving general manager Billy King too much money and freedom to work with. The Nets are without quality draft picks, elite talent, or optimism.


— John Wilmes


Post date: Tuesday, February 24, 2015 - 13:26
All taxonomy terms: NFL, News
Path: /nfl/see-if-you-can-spot-difference-new-cleveland-browns-logo

If you have a sharp eye, you may notice a new look for the Cleveland Browns in 2015.


Granted, the record might not be totally different, but the Browns will be playing in a bolder, brighter shade of orange for the 30th anniversary of the Dawg Pound.


The Browns revealed Tuesday what they’re calling a “logo evolution.” The changes are subtle compared to other recent redesigns. The updated design gives the helmet a brown, rather than gray, facemask. The shade of orange is “brighter and richer,” say the Browns. 


The Dawg Pound logo features the most dramatic new change, replacing the old dog face with a more cartoonish look.





Here are the main changes from the Browns' web site:


See if You Can Spot the Difference in the New Cleveland Browns Logo
Post date: Tuesday, February 24, 2015 - 11:20
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-top-20-running-backs-rise-2015

Spring practice is officially underway for a handful of college football teams, and the offseason workouts are the first step to building a depth chart and getting an idea of what all 128 squads will have in 2015.


Quarterback battles will receive most of the attention in spring practice, but there are a handful of key playoff contenders losing a starter at running back or have a player poised for a breakthrough season. While pinpointing breakout players is easier after spring practice, it’s never too early to examine some of the top rising stars at running backs.


Players like Georgia’s Nick Chubb, California's Daniel Lasco and Oregon’s Royce Freeman could certainly fit into this column, but we tried to identify and focus more on players who may have went under-the-radar last season or running backs that are poised for a significant jump in production in 2015.


Let’s take a look at 20 running backs on the rise for 2015, followed by a few other names to watch:


College Football's Top 20 RBs on the Rise for 2015


Corey Clement, Wisconsin

Melvin Gordon leaves big shoes to fill at running back for Wisconsin, but new coach Paul Chryst is inheriting a rising star in Clement. The New Jersey native was Gordon’s top backup in 2014 and rushed for 949 yards and nine scores on 147 attempts. Clement never recorded more than 17 rushing attempts in a game last year, so there’s plenty of room for his overall production to grow with more carries in 2015. He also rushed for 547 yards as Wisconsin’s No. 3 running back in 2013. Clement may not match Gordon’s 2,587 rushing yards from last season, but he should be one of the Big Ten’s top running backs in 2015.


Dalvin Cook, Florida State

With quarterback Jameis Winston off to the NFL, the focus for Florida State’s offense shifts to the ground attack and talented sophomore Dalvin Cook. As a true freshman last season, Cook rushed for 1,008 yards and eight scores and caught 22 passes for 203 yards. The Miami native averaged 141.3 rushing yards over his final three games, including 6.9 yards per carry in the Rose Bowl against Oregon. Cook was a five-star recruit coming out of high school and is poised to push for All-American honors in 2015.


Imani Cross, Nebraska

New coach Mike Riley and coordinator Danny Langsdorf has some work to do this spring. The Cornhuskers must replace three offensive linemen, receiver Kenny Bell and standout running back Ameer Abdullah. While the losses are heavy, Riley and Langsdorf have options at running back. Cross, Terrell Newby and Adam Taylor all appear capable of keeping the ground attack performing at a high level. Cross is the early guess as frontrunner to handle the bulk of carries for Riley, as the Georgia native finished third on the team with 384 yards and five scores last year. Over the last three seasons, Cross has rushed for 1,155 yards and 22 scores. 


Tarean Folston, Notre Dame

Folston quietly led the way for Notre Dame’s rushing attack in 2014, recording 889 yards and six scores on 175 attempts. Through the first six games, Folston eclipsed more than 50 yards only twice and did not score a touchdown through his first five appearances. However, the Florida native was more effective in the second half of the season, recording four 100-yard efforts over the final seven games. With a solid offensive line returning in 2015, the arrow on Folston and teammate Greg Bryant’s production is clearly pointing up.


Leonard Fournette, LSU

Fournette was regarded as the No. 1 player in the 2014 247Sports Composite and certainly didn’t disappoint in his Baton Rouge debut. In 13 appearances, Fournette rushed for 1,034 yards and 10 scores. He also made an impact on special teams, averaging 26 yards per kickoff returns and one touchdown. With LSU struggling to find consistent production from its passing game, the ground attack will have to carry the offense in 2015. With Terrence Magee and Kenny Hilliard out of eligibility, Fournette should see an uptick in carries and production next year and should be considered a lock for first-team All-SEC honors this offseason.


Wayne Gallman, Clemson

The Clemson depth chart is loaded with young talent, headlined by quarterback Deshaun Watson and receiver Artavis Scott. But the rushing attack shouldn’t be overlooked, especially with Gallman expected to capitalize off a strong freshman campaign in 2015. In 13 games last season, Gallman led all Clemson players with 769 yards and a solid 4.8 yards per carry mark. After recording only two efforts of 55 yards or more through the first seven games, Gallman rushed for at least 55 yards in five out of the last six games. He also contributed 24 receptions for 108 yards in 2014.


Aaron Green, TCU

TCU’s offense showed significant improvement under new co-coordinators Sonny Cumbie and Doug Meacham in 2014. The Horned Frogs return most of their core for 2015, including standout quarterback Trevone Boykin and one of the Big 12's top offensive lines. Green became the starter after B.J. Catalon was sidelined due to injury and averaged 108.8 rushing yards over the final five contests. He rushed for 171 yards in a 41-20 win over Kansas State and recorded 68 on 18 attempts against a tough Ole Miss defense in the bowl game. Green also scored five touchdowns in his final four games and produced 10 rushing plays of 20 yards or more. The Nebraska transfer is a rising star in the Big 12.


Josh Hicks/Robert Martin, Rutgers

Rutgers has a few tweaks coming to its offense in 2015, as coordinator Ralph Friedgen stepped down, the offensive line lost three starters, and quarterback Gary Nova expired his eligibility. New coordinator Ben McDaniels inherits some talent to work with, including a solid stable of running backs and standout receiver Leonte Carroo. Josh Hicks and Robert Martin showed promise as true freshmen last year, combining for 874 yards and nine scores. Hicks closed out 2014 on a high note, gashing North Carolina’s defense for 202 yards on 19 attempts in the Quick Lane Bowl. Paul James and Desmon Peoples also return for 2015, giving McDaniels plenty of options in the backfield next year. Hicks and Martin may not have huge numbers, but both players are rising stars to watch in the Big Ten.


Jon Hilliman, Boston College

Boston College has ranked inside of the top 20 nationally in rushing offense in back-to-back years under coach Steve Addazio. While Andre Williams did most of the heavy lifting in 2013, Addazio used more of an all-around effort to attack opponents on the ground last year. Quarterback Tyler Murphy led the team with 1,179 yards, while Hilliman finished second with 860 yards on 211 attempts. Myles Willis and Marcus Outlow also chipped in as key contributors at running back. With uncertainty at quarterback heading into 2015, Addazio can lean on Hilliman and the rest of the Boston College backs to carry the offense (at least early in the year). The offensive line must be revamped, but Hilliman could easily eclipse 1,000 yards with 50-75 more touches in 2015.


Jalen Hurd/Alvin Kamara, Tennessee

In addition to the emergence of quarterback Joshua Dobbs, one of the biggest reasons for optimism in Knoxville in 2015 is the tandem of Hurd and Kamara at running back. The Volunteers averaged only 3.6 yards per carry last season and finished near the bottom of the SEC in rushing yards per game. But with Hurd having another offseason under his belt, combined with Kamara’s arrival, Tennessee’s rushing attack is expected to take a significant step forward. Hurd rushed for 899 yards and five scores last season as a true freshman, while Kamara arrives in Knoxville after spending 2014 at Hutchinson Community College (1,469 yards of total offense in 2014). The former Alabama running back is an instant-impact recruit for the Volunteers.


Justin Jackson, Northwestern

Jackson might have been the quietest 1,000-rusher in the nation last season. In 12 games, Jackson recorded 1,187 yards and 10 scores and caught 22 passes for 201 yards and one touchdown. Jackson’s emergence on the ground was critical after expected starter Venric Mark left the team prior to the season. After an under-the-radar performance in 2013, Jackson will be among the Big Ten’s top running backs for 2015. And the Illinois native will be under even more pressure to perform next season as Northwestern enters the offseason with uncertainty under center. While his performance in 2014 might have been lost in the shuffle with the talent in the conference at running back, Jackson certainly won't go unnoticed in 2015.


Akeel Lynch, Penn State

Improving the offensive line and rushing attack are two areas of focus this offseason for second-year coach James Franklin. And if Franklin can get more production from his offensive line, it should help to spark a rushing attack that averaged only 2.9 yards per carry in 2014. Lynch led the Penn State offense with 678 rushing yards last season and finished second to Bill Belton with four rushing scores. With Belton and Zach Zwinak out of eligibility, Lynch is slated to receive more of the workload in 2015. The Canada native gave the offense a spark over the final four games, which included 100-yard performances against Temple and Illinois. Lynch should push for All-Big Ten honors next year.


Marlon Mack, South Florida

Mack is a key cog in coach Willie Taggart’s rebuilding efforts at South Florida. As a true freshman in 2014, the Florida native led the Bulls with 1,041 yards and nine scores. Mack averaged a healthy 5.2 yards per carry and also grabbed 21 receptions for 160 yards. South Florida is making a few tweaks to its offense in 2015, but Taggart isn’t going to go away from giving Mack around 15-20 carries per game and a shot at back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons.


Taquan Mizzell, Virginia

Mizzell has spent the last two years as a backup to Kevin Parks, but the former four-star recruit is slated to become the go-to back for the Cavaliers in 2015. The Virginia Beach native has 464 rushing yards and three scores through his first two years on campus, while also catching 68 passes for 435 yards and one touchdown. Mizzell has only one game of 10 or more carries in his career with the Cavaliers. Expect that to change in 2015, as Mizzell should live up to his recruiting hype with a standout campaign this fall.


Christian McCaffrey, Stanford

For the first time since the 2007 season, the Cardinal did not have a rusher reach the 1,000-yard mark in 2014. That one-year 1,000-yard rusher drought could be short-lived, as McCaffrey is primed for a breakout season in 2015. As a true freshman in 2014, he recorded 300 rushing yards (seven yards per carry) and caught 17 passes for 251 yards and two scores. McCaffrey recorded at least 57 rushing yards in three out of the final four games, including 77 against Utah on Nov. 15. 


Demario Richard, Arizona State

The future of the Arizona State backfield appears to be in good hands with Richard leading the way in 2015. The Sun Devils also return D.J. Foster (1,081 rush yards in 2014), but the senior is expected to shift to more of a running back/receiver role in 2015. Richard was solid in limited action last year, rushing for 478 yards and four scores on 84 attempts. He eclipsed the 100-yard mark against a tough Utah defense on Nov. 1 and contributed 41 yards on seven attempts in the bowl win over Duke. Richard should have no trouble exceeding last year’s numbers in 2015.


Jovon Robinson, Auburn

Auburn’s top three rushers from last season – Cameron Artis-Payne, Corey Grant and Nick Marshall – have expired their eligibility. Robinson originally committed to Auburn in 2012 but was forced to make a two-year detour at Georgia Military College. He was selected as the NJCAA 2013 national player of the year after rushing for 2,387 yards and 34 scores that season. The Tigers aren’t hurting for talent at running back with Peyton Barber and Roc Thomas also in the mix, but Robinson is expected to receive the bulk of the carries. 


L.J. Scott/Delton Williams, Michigan State

The battle to replace Jeremy Langford begins this spring in East Lansing, and the Spartans aren’t hurting for talent in the backfield with Scott, Williams, Madre London and Gerald Holmes competing for time. Perhaps a true starter doesn’t emerge from this group, and co-offensive coordinator Dave Warner can use all four throughout the 2015 season. While split carries among a couple of players is certainly possible, Scott has the edge in talent and could eventually claim the No. 1 job. The Ohio native ranked as the No. 59 recruit in the 2015 247Sports Composite and will be tough for coach Mark Dantonio to keep on the sidelines. Williams – 316 yards and five scores last year – is the team’s most experienced running back headed into 2015.


David Williams, South Carolina

Even though Mike Davis left early for the NFL, the cupboard is far from bare for coach Steve Spurrier. Williams and Brandon Wilds are expected to handle the bulk of the carries next season, and both players have been effective in limited action. Williams is a back with significant upside, rushing for 256 yards (5.7 ypc) and two scores on 45 attempts last year. It’s only a matter of time before the former four-star recruit is in the mix for All-SEC honors.


Joseph Yearby, Miami

The Hurricanes already have one of the nation’s top rising stars at quarterback in sophomore Brad Kaaya, and Yearby is due for a breakout year as the new starter at running back in Coral Gables. Duke Johnson left for the NFL after rushing for 1,652 yards and 10 scores last season, leaving Yearby and Gus Edwards as the backs in contention for the majority of snaps. Yearby impressed as a true freshman last year, recording 509 yards and one touchdown on 86 attempts. The Miami native was a teammate to Florida State’s Dalvin Cook at Miami Central High School, and both players are near the top of the ACC in rushing yardage in 2015.


Other Running Backs to Watch in 2015


Corey Avery, Kansas

The Kansas offense is short on proven playmakers next season. While the receiving corps needs to be revamped, and uncertainty surrounds the quarterback position, the rushing attack should be in good hands with Avery after he rushed for 631 yards and five scores last year.


Joel Bouagnon, Northern Illinois

Bouagnon is poised to become the new go-to back in Northern Illinois’ high-powered offense with Cameron Stingily out of eligibility. The 6-foot-2 rusher finished third on the team with 655 yards in 14 appearances last season.


Chris Carson, Oklahoma State

Carson was mentioned as one of Athlon’s instant-impact junior college recruits for 2015. The Butler Community College product could start this year for Oklahoma State.


D’Onta Foreman/Donald Catalon, Texas

Johnathan Gray is slated to open spring ball as the No. 1 back at Texas, but there’s room for a No. 2 option to emerge. Foreman recorded 74 yards on 16 attempts as a true freshman, while Catalon spent 2014 as a redshirt.


Alex Gardner, FIU

Gardner was a bright spot for a FIU offense that averaged only 23 points per game last season. The true freshman rushed for 582 yards and one score before missing the final four games due to injury.


Brian Hill, Wyoming

Hill stepped up as Wyoming’s go-to back after Shaun Wick was lost for the year due to injury. He rushed for 796 yards and seven scores in 2014 as a true freshman, including 281 yards in a 45-17 win over Fresno State.


LaJuan Hunt, Utah State

Hunt only recorded one game of more than 11 carries (Hawaii), but he finished with a team-high 545 yards and one touchdown as a true freshman in 2014. The Florida native is poised to take on a bigger role in the backfield next season.

Ty Isaac, Michigan

It’s no secret new Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh likes to win the battle in the trenches and pound the rock between the tackles. Isaac – a USC transfer – sat out last year due to NCAA rules, but the former four-star recruit could add some punch to an offense that averaged only 138.8 rushing yards in Big Ten games in 2014.


Treyous Jarrells, Colorado State

New Colorado State coach Mike Bobo’s offenses at Georgia recorded at least 500 rushing attempts in three out of the last four years. The Rams will miss Alabama transfer Dee Hart, but Jarrells (5.2 ypc, 450 yards) showed potential in his first year with the Rams.


Jeff Jones, Minnesota

Jones ranked as a four-star prospect in the 2014 247Sports Composite and redshirted in his first year in Minneapolis due to academic issues. He should compete with Berkley Edwards and Rodrick Williams in spring practice to replace David Cobb (1,626 yards in 2014).


Ronald Jones II, USC

Buck Allen is off to the NFL after rushing for 1,489 yards and 11 scores last season. Jones II ranked as the No. 39 overall recruit in the 2015 signing class by 247Sports. He could play a major role in the USC backfield next season.


Ray Lawry, Old Dominion

Prolific quarterback Taylor Heinicke has expired his eligibility, and the Monarchs may need a little more from their ground attack until a quarterback emerges. As a true freshman last season, Lawry rushed for 947 yards and 16 scores (7.1 ypc) and caught 17 balls for 155 yards. Lawry should take the next step in his development in 2015 and emerge as one of C-USA’s top running backs.


C.J. Leggett, Georgia Tech

Leggett is a three-star recruit from the 2014 signing class that redshirted in his first year on campus. With the Yellow Jackets losing four out of their top five rushers from last year, the Georgia native could make an impact next season.


Sony Michel, Georgia

Nick Chubb is the unquestioned starter in Athens. However, the Bulldogs frequently use a second back, and Michel is expected to fill that role in 2015. As a true freshman last season, he rushed for 410 yards and five scores in eight games.


Joe Mixon, Oklahoma

Mixon was suspended in 2014 due to an off-the-field incident. He ranked as the No. 1 all-purpose back by 247Sports in the 2014 signing class, and even with Samaje Perine returning, Mixon is too talented to keep on the bench.


Devon Spalding, Central Michigan

Thomas Rawls expired his eligibility at the end of 2014, but the Chippewas have two intriguing options at running back. Spalding showed flashes of promise as a freshman (5.1 ypc) last season, and Saylor Lavallii has over 1,000 yards the last two years. Spalding rushed for 147 yards and two scores against Miami, Ohio in 2014.


D.J. Vinson, South Alabama

Vinson rushed for 670 yards and nine scores as a backup to Jordan Howard at UAB last year. He transferred to South Alabama after UAB’s team was eliminated at the end of 2014 and should thrive under coordinator Bryant Vincent in 2015.


Dalvin Warmack, Kansas State

Kansas State’s rushing attack averaged only 134.2 yards per game in 2014, and two of the team’s top three leaders in yardage – running back Demarcus Robinson and quarterback Jake Waters – have expired their eligibility. The Wildcats need more production from their supporting cast with Waters and receiver Tyler Lockett off to the NFL, and Warmack will be a name to watch this spring. The Missouri native was a three-star recruit in 2014 and redshirted in his first season in Manhattan.


Dwayne Washington, Washington

Big things were expected of Washington in 2014 in replacing standout Bishop Sankey. He led the team with 697 yards and nine rushing scores, but the California native could be poised for even bigger things in 2015 after rushing for 100 or more yards in three out of the final four games.  


Ralph Webb, Vanderbilt

Vanderbilt’s offense struggled last season, but Webb was a bright spot and a player for new coordinator Andy Ludwig to build around in 2015. The Florida native rushed for 907 yards and four scores as a redshirt freshman last year.


Aeris Williams, Mississippi State

With the departure of Josh Robinson, the Bulldogs are looking for a new go-to back in 2015. Williams ranked as a four-star recruit by 247Sports in 2014 and redshirted in his first year on campus. This talented Mississippi native is one to watch in 2015.

College Football's Top 20 Running Backs on the Rise for 2015
Post date: Tuesday, February 24, 2015 - 11:00
All taxonomy terms: Essential 11, Overtime
Path: /overtime/athlons-essential-11-links-day-february-24-2015

This is your daily links roundup of our favorite sports and entertainment posts on the web for Feb. 24:


• Charlotte McKinney will be on Dancing with the Stars, providing an excuse to link to this slideshow.


Michael Sam and gymnast Nastia Liukin are among the other "stars" on this season's Dancing with the Stars.


The Cleveland Browns are doing a little re-branding. Yeah, that's what was missing - a slightly different-colored helmet.


Kobe went on Kimmel last night and got sad as he watched his teammates living life without him.


James Harden dislocated both of Ricky Rubio's ankles on one sick play.


Interesting interview with Bill Walton, who was contemplating suicide a few years ago due to chronic pain.


Parks and Rec characters ranked. I could not agree more strongly with No. 1.


• Trickle-down tanking: Two Tennessee high school girls teams got kicked out of the playoffs for trying to lose to each other to gain more favorable bracket position.


Last night, Kansas State fans made a compelling case against court-storming by doing it wrong.


Marshawn Lynch is trademarking his most famous quote. Or, basically his only quote.


• Another sign that the end is nigh: Some soccer fans actually showed class and humanity.


• Watch a very good doggie contribute the cowbell to Don't Fear the Reaper.


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

Post date: Tuesday, February 24, 2015 - 10:59
All taxonomy terms: Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder, NBA
Path: /nba/kevin-durant-going-miss-more-time-foot-injury
Just as the Oklahoma City Thunder’s season seemed to be taking off, after some fortuitous trade deadline activity — netting them Enes Kanter, Kyle Singler and D.J. Augustin — they’ve hit another setback.


Reigning MVP Kevin Durant is sidelined indefinitely after a minor surgery, done to repair a screw in his foot, which was put there earlier in the season due to a Jones fracture. Durant has missed 29 of the Thunder’s 56 games this season, with his protracted absences being a major reason why they’ve had to claw at the bottom of the Western Conference playoff picture, after many forecasted them to win conference — or even a championship — in October.


Durant will be re-evaluated in another week, according to ESPN’s Royce Young, but the expectation is that No. 35 will be back to the floor before the regular season is over.


More alarming than the Thunder’s prospects for this season, though, is the state of Durant’s body. The Jones fracture has undone men before K.D., and many believed OKC was rushing their star back to action when Durant returned on December 2. It may seem like a win-now moment for the Thunder after two straight postseason runs spoiled by bad injury luck, but no single-season goal could possibly be as important as the long-term health of one the game’s most gifted scorers ever.


Regardless of how OKC handles Durant’s continued foot issues, though, there’s this to lean on: Teammate Russell Westbrook is having an MVP-like season, leading his team to victories with a 29.24 player efficiency rating that currently ranks second in the league. 


And with the new weapons they have in Kanter, Singler and Augustin, K.D. should take his sweet, sweet time as the Thunder look prepared to hold strong to the West’s eighth playoff spot. Their competition for the seed has taken a hit, as the recently reshuffled Phoenix Suns attempt a recalibration at the worst possible time and the New Orleans Pelicans sink without the injured Anthony Davis.


— John Wilmes


Post date: Tuesday, February 24, 2015 - 10:13
Path: /mlb/ranking-best-and-worst-mlb-logos-2015

Brand equity. Brand awareness. Brand image. These are all economic terms that overlap, exist in a nebulous world and don’t directly impact the bean counters. 


As the media world has grown over the last half century, so has the understanding of concepts like advertising, marketing and, of course, branding. So things like tag lines — “I’m loving it” or “We pick you up” — and brand logos are born. A company’s logo is still the most recognizable, most direct way to separate itself from its competitors. 


Major League Baseball is no different. Since Athlon Sports has been producing the best-looking magazine on newsstands for the better part of five decades, we feel qualified to offer our opinions on all 30 MLB team logos for 2015.


To do so, we let our graphic design guru and magazine designer Daly Cantrell do the honors and here is what she thinks of the current roster of MLB logos:


1.The Tigers logo stands on its own, which makes it easy to see on a page, uniform, etc. It doesn’t need any words or extra colors to communicate what it represents. It's simple, yet creative and has an old-school feel, which is great to see. 
2.This is definitely a favorite. I am a huge fan of the script type and love the lines that show movement in the ball. I also, like that the lines do not interfere with the text. It’s a feminine approach on a masculine logo that works well without emasculating it
3.Classic, yet unique. The repetition in the curvature of both the Cubs C and the circle surrounding it make for a visually pleasing logo. This is an example of an effective circle logo. 
4.I am a sucker for simplicity explored in a creative, unique way. The Angels logo is just that. The A stands alone and represents the Angels without any extra words. It’s both classic and compelling. 
5.I enjoy the use of a script typeface in this Orioles logo. The lowlights of the black are done correctly making the orange pop.  However, the cartoon bird logo that they wear on their hats needs to go. Now. 
6.This is a great example of a circle logo that includes a good amount of text. Circle logos seem to be an easy fix, but doing them correctly is the challenge. The text is readable, the blue jay is well seen and the white background allows the colors to pop. It's a memorable look.

It's timeless and it works. The only thing I might change is make the stroke a little less on the words, that way the blue doesn’t overpower the red. 

8.I am a fan of the balance in the Cardinals logo. Originally, I thought having two birds was a little much, but it makes the logo stand out more and keeps a great balance.

Another well-designed logo that stands on its own. What makes it different is the placement of the letters. By angling them it creates a unique feel to a simple logo.

10.I really like the shape of the Reds logo. This shape makes it stand out and not seem like a regular circle logo. 
11.This logo is pretty interesting because of the use of the team's colors, but bravo - I think they were used correctly, which makes the logo stand out. Personally, I would take the words Miami out.
12.I am a huge fan of the shape of this logo. Inside the base-like shape, it gets a little cluttered when made smaller. I would probably make the bell a light grey so the letters stood out more. 
13.I’m personally not a huge fan of this logo but it's a classic. You can’t just change a classic and I'm giving points for the amazing "N-Y" emblem as well.
14.This is a very visually compelling logo, but if my young eyes can’t read it then that’s a problem. 
15.This logo isn’t bad, it just needs to be simplified (of course). The lettering can stay the same, but the pirate is too detailed. 
16.This isn’t horrible — but it would be much better if it wasn’t in a circle logo. Simplifying this logo to only the A would make the A, which is the brand, stick out more than the circle logo as a whole. 
17.Just like the A's, this logo should be simplified. I would keep the circle, but take out the baseball and just make it a white circle. This way the T would be more distinguishable and your eyes would not get lost in the threads of the baseball. 
18.Could be better. The KC part of the logo could stand by itself and so could the Royals part of the logo. To me, these seem like two logos combined, which complicate things. Pick one, or the other please.
19.This is another case of a logo that could easily be simplified. The text of the logo says “Minnesota Baseball Club” — that is 21 letters too long. Stick with just “Twins” in the center and make it stand out. 
20.Does anyone else look at the Nationals W and see the Walgreens W? Be more creative than this, because all I think of when I see this is a pharmacy. Other than that the logo is very well done. 
21.Simplify, Simplify, Simplify. This logo is too dark — there is too much blue. This is a prime example where taking the SD out of the circle would make it a much better marketing tool. 
22.I’m not really a fan of this logo at all. I like the idea of the single “A”, but cluttering with the diamonds on the side makes it look cheesy.
23.This is a well done logo, when it’s printed largely, but looking at it smaller it makes it very hard to read. There are 3 different colors on the text and I think that is what makes it harder to read. 
24.What is going on with how busy this logo is? Is it necessary to have a cityscape, a bridge, and the baseball stitching all crammed into one little logo? When enlarged the logo doesn’t look as cluttered, but when the logo is smaller its hard to make out what all the different pieces of the logo are.
25.I really like the treatment and detail of the text in this logo, but I feel like there is too much going on. I would either keep the red socks and have that stand alone as a logo, or play with the text and have that stand alone.
26.At first, I thought this logo is a little boring, but once seeing it enlarged the detail on the text is more noticeable. I wish there wasn’t a baseball behind it, or if they wanted to keep the baseball then just using the G would also suffice.  

This is a controversial logo that looks cheesy.  The Indians should just take the feather and use that with their C or their uniform logo. It would make more people happy, and look better at the same time. 

28.Nothing stands out about this logo at all. 
29.I feel like this was done with clip art. Also, using a serif font and having two colors on the text makes it harder to read. 
30.There are a bunch of things about this logo that I am not a fan of, but the biggest is the diamond in the background. It takes away from the text too much and makes it harder to read. I would take it off completely. 


Ranking the Best and Worst MLB Logos in 2015
Post date: Tuesday, February 24, 2015 - 10:00
Path: /college-football/ranking-secs-football-rosters-2015

Recruiting rankings matter.


They are not a guarantee of future success but they are the foundation every national championship has been built upon. It takes great coaching, development and luck to win a title, but having better players is the only way to start.


In fact, the data backing up the value of recruiting rankings is impenetrable. For example, look at last year’s rosters. According to the rankings, three of the four best rosters in America belonged to Alabama, Florida State and Ohio State.


These rankings do not take into account attrition but that should be a constant for all teams and conferences equally. So strictly based on recruiting evaluations from 247Sports, here is how the rosters in the SEC rank.


Ranking College Football's Rosters in 2015:


7.Texas A&M1159163515.235-1717-16
8.South Carolina191620171617.640-1221-11
9.Ole Miss17158462021.226-2511-21
11.Mississippi St183825223427.432-2015-17


SEC dominates recruiting trail

Part of the reason the SEC is the best league in college football is the players. When looking at recruiting rankings from 2011-15, five of the top eight rosters in the nation are from the SEC along with Florida State (No. 2), Ohio State (No. 3) and USC (No. 5). The SEC also features eight of the top 16 and 11 of the top 26 units in the nation. Finally, Vanderbilt ranks last in the SEC in terms of talent but would be eighth in the ACC, Big 12 or Big Ten. Eight different SEC teams have landed a top-10 class in the last five cycles.


Gary Pinkel and Co.

There may not be any coaching staff in the nation that gets more out of less than the Mizzou Tigers. The Tigers rank 40th in the nation and 13th in the SEC in terms of talent with an average national ranking of 39.0 over the last four seasons. Yet, the Tigers' conference record over that span (21-12) is better than nine other SEC teams and their 14-2 SEC record since entering the league ties Alabama for tops in the league.


Les Miles and Mark Richt

Over the last four years, Miles (23-9) and Richt (25-7) are second to only Nick Saban in SEC wins (28-4). Yet, Georgia has no SEC titles to show for it and LSU has just one (2011) and has dropped in the standings every year since. These are two of the top six rosters in the nation and the pressure should be on both staffs to produce in a big way in ’15.


What to make of South Carolina

Steve Spurrier has been given the benefit of the doubt for most of his career. And rightly so. But with no star power returning on either side of the ball and a roster ranked eighth in the league (albeit 16th nationally), it's fair to question whether or not the Gamecocks have reached their peak. This team isn’t that far removed from three unprecedented 11-win seasons in a row. But none of those teams played in Atlanta and everyone around them in the East appears to be improving rapidly. This is a huge prove-it season for the Head Ball Coach.


Magnolia State

There are plenty of reasons for optimism for both Ole Miss and Mississippi State in 2015. But even after two breakthrough seasons, the Rebels (11-21) and Bulldogs (15-17) are a combined 26-38 in SEC play over the last four years. Both programs have surged in the recruiting rankings over the last three years and expectations have followed suit. That said, Ole Miss still ranks just ninth in the SEC in terms of talent and HailState is way back in 11th — or last in the SEC West.


Big Orange rising

This one isn't rocket science. Expectations in Knoxville are beginning to soar. This roster is 12th in the nation in terms of talent and third in the SEC East after back-to-back elite classes. This is still a team that hasn’t won more than three SEC games since Lane Kiffin was in charge in 2009 and is extremely young. The 7-25 SEC record is better than only Kentucky over the last four years but that should soon change under Jones’ leadership.


Watch out for them Aggies

Kevin Sumlin has lit the recruiting trail on fire since Texas A&M moved to the SEC, landing three straight classes in the top 11. Expectations were unreasonably high entering last season but should be warranted this fall. The Aggies are one year ahead of Tennessee in terms of building a championship roster and should be more of a breakout candidate than the Vols. 

Ranking the SEC's Football Rosters for 2015
Post date: Tuesday, February 24, 2015 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/every-nights-best-college-basketball-now-until-end-season

The first conference tournament game begins a week from Tuesday.


Crazy, right?


The college basketball season is entering its final stretch with teams trying to seal NCAA bids, clinch top seeds or find something resembling momentum entering the postseason.


If you’re just getting started as a viewer in college hoops or if you’ve been watching every game on the edge of your seat, there’s something for you every day from here until the end of the year.


Here are the best games you need to watch every night from now until the end of the regular season.


All times Eastern


DayDate  TimeTV
Tue.Feb. 247 p.m.ESPN

The Badgers play three of their final four regular season games on the road with a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament on the line.

Wed.Feb. 259 p.m.ESPNU

After that team in Lawrence, Baylor and Iowa State may be the Big 12’s best hope to advance deep into the NCAA Tournament.

Thu.Feb. 2611 p.m.Pac-12 Networks

Stanford has slipped to 8-6 in the Pac-12. The Cardinal could play its way into the NIT with a loss to overachieving Oregon State.

Fri.Feb. 2710 p.m.ESPNU

This game could be for the top seed in the Horizon tournament, provided Valpo doesn’t clinch Wednesday against Detroit.

Sat.Feb. 284 p.m.CBS

True story: Kentucky hasn’t played a ranked team since Dec. 27 against Louisville. That changes against No. 18 Arkansas.

Sun.March 17:30 p.m.Big Ten Network

What will Purdue need to do in the Big Ten tournament to clinch an NCAA bid? Perhaps not much if the Boilers can pick up this key road win.

Mon.March 29 p.m.ESPN

Two red-hot teams in the Big 12 will try to make a last-ditch effort to deprive Kansas of its 11th consecutive conference title.

Tue.March 39 p.m.ESPN

Georgia gave Kentucky trouble in Lexington without Marcus Thornton. Could the win streak end against the full-strength Bulldogs in Athens?

Wed.March 47 p.m.ESPN2

Louisville wraps up the regular season against the Irish and Virginia at home ... and without point guard Chris Jones.

Thu.March 59 p.m.ESPNU

Davidson pulled itself out of a slump, and VCU can still win without Briante Weber. The Atlantic 10 is crowded at the top.

Fri.March 68 p.m.American Sports Network

These are the only two teams in contention for the Ivy’s NCAA bid. Harvard could clinch outright or Yale, which lost to the Crimson on Feb. 7, could force a playoff.

Sat.March 79 p.m.ESPN

North Carolina missed a golden opportunity to redefine its season in the first meeting against Duke. What does the matchup have in store?

Sun.March 84:30 p.m.CBS

One of the last games of the regular season features Frank Kaminsky and D’Angelo Russell on the same court.


Every Night's Best College Basketball from Now until the End of the Season
Post date: Tuesday, February 24, 2015 - 08:30
All taxonomy terms: College Football, News
Path: /college-football/these-redesigned-college-football-helmets-are-awesome

A couple of weeks ago, Deeyung Entertainment, a graphic design firm based in Oklahoma, presented its take on alternate helmet designs for all 32 NFL teams.


In recent weeks, Dylan Young has presented his ideas on alternate college football helmets, in many cases using the secondary logos as primary logos.


We think they’re pretty cool and maybe some of these athletic departments should take him under advisement. All of them can be found on Twitter at @FFHelmets and on Instagram at FreshFootballHelmets.


What do you think?



These Redesigned College Football Helmets Are Awesome
Post date: Monday, February 23, 2015 - 17:00
All taxonomy terms: Essential 11, Overtime
Path: /overtime/athlons-essential-11-links-day-february-23-2015

This is your daily links roundup of our favorite sports and entertainment posts on the web for Feb. 23:


People are actually getting tired of Kate Upton's Game of War Twitter promotions. That's how relentless they are.


Richard Jefferson dunked on Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, leading everyone to say, "Richard Jefferson's still in the league?"


Roy Williams and his Tar Heels paid the perfect tribute to Dean Smith on Saturday.


Clay Travis asks the important questions about last night's Oscars, like who's hotter, Bradley Cooper or Adam Levine. And here are some so-so memes from a so-so Oscars. The tweet of the night actually came from Athlon buddy @MarkEnnis.


The Sixers' new mascot hates the Sixers. That's somehow perfect.


This story has the best headline you'll read today.


Actor Justin Bartha (the dude from Hangover and National Treasure) saw his opportunity to creep out MSG's Jill Martin during an interview, and he took it.


Watch a chubby white Kentucky fan portray Louisville's Montrezl Harrell in a homemade video. It's weirder than it sounds.


The old injured-while-celebrating genre never gets old.


• Watch Oregon's Dillon Brooks dunk on a passel of Utes.


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

Post date: Monday, February 23, 2015 - 11:16
All taxonomy terms: MLB, News
Path: /mlb/45-things-never-happened-baseball-until-2014

One of the unique things about baseball is that history can be made on any given day or night at the ballpark, especially if you are paying close enough attention. The 2014 season was no exception, as players and teams alike added their names to the record books. Here is a rundown of some of those baseball "firsts" that may have initially gone unnoticed.


In 2014, for the first time in baseball history a batter...

» Hit three doubles, two singles and a home run in a game (Charlie Blackmon).

» Doubled six times in the first seven games of his career (Yangervis Solarte).

» Had a grand slam, two other hits and a pair of intentional walks in the same game (Giancarlo Stanton).

» Hit a grand slam for two different teams in April (Ike Davis, Mets and Pirates).

» Went 5-for-5 with three homers and nine RBIs in a game (Lonnie Chisenhall).

» Recorded multiple hits and multiple stolen bases in four consecutive games (Jose Altuve).

» Homered 20 or more times in seven consecutive seasons while playing for five different teams in that span (Mark Reynolds).

» Went 4,000 days between the first and second RBI of his career (Jerome Williams).

» Stole three bases in a game for a team that was the victim of a no-hitter (Jason Heyward).

» Drove in a run in eight straight games while playing for more than one team during the streak (Adam Dunn).

» Hit a solo, two-run, three-run and grand slam homer sequentially in successive games (Devin Mesoraco).

» Made at least 225 plate appearances in a season yet scored fewer than five runs (Jose Molina).

» Struck out more than 90 times in a season of fewer than 250 plate appearances (Javier Baez).

» Who was playing shortstop hit a grand slam in a postseason game (Brandon Crawford).

» Homered and doubled in three straight postseason games (Matt Carpenter).

» Had multiple hits in six consecutive playoff games (Nelson Cruz).

» Ended an NLCS with a home run (Travis Ishikawa).


A pitcher...

» Struck out 10 batters in an outing of less than four innings (Danny Salazar).

» Fanned 10 hitters and walked five in a start that was no longer than four innings (Michael Wacha).

» Made the first 178 starts of a career without completing one (Max Scherzer).

» Struck out the side on nine pitches with the bases loaded (Brad Boxberger).

» Made it through the first nine starts of a campaign without allowing either more than two runs or five hits (Johnny Cueto).

» Fanned 40 batters in a season before walking his second (Sean Doolittle).

Athlon Sports' 2015 MLB Preview magazine covers the diamond and circles the bases with enough in-depth preseason analysis, predictions and other information to satisfy fans of the national pastime from the Bronx to the Bay and everywhere in between. Order your copy today!

» Struck out as many as 15 batters in a walk-free no-hitter (Clayton Kershaw).

» Worked seven or more scoreless innings in nine of his first 18 starts of a season (Adam Wainwright).

» Won eight consecutive starts in a single season during which he struck out at least 80 batters with an ERA below 1.00 (Kershaw).

» Who previously had won a Cy Young Award lost 12 decisions in a row (Jake Peavy).

» Made 16 consecutive starts of at least seven innings in which he allowed two or fewer runs (Felix Hernandez).

» Struck out 14 batters in a scoreless start of exactly six innings (Mike Fiers).

» Lost a one-hit complete game in which he fanned at least nine batters in fewer than nine innings (David Price).

» Saved 30 games in a season for two different teams by the age of 25 (Addison Reed).

» Fanned 10 or more batters in a game for a fifth different team (A.J. Burnett).

» Who previously had won a Cy Young Award allowed nine straight hits in a game (Price).

» Opened a season with three starts of at least seven innings, fewer than two runs and no walks (Derek Holland).

» Allowed as many as eight earned runs and 10 hits while getting fewer than three outs in an appearance (Carlos Frias).

» Beat one team (Oakland) three times while pitching for three different teams in the same season (Jerome Williams).

» Retired at least six batters while striking out every one he faced in two different games of a season (Antonio Bastardo).

» Struck out more than 11 batters for each one he walked (Phil Hughes).

» Won fewer than 10 games despite making 30 starts and posting an ERA below 2.50 (Cole Hamels).

» Fanned as many as 182 batters in a season of less than 150 innings (Yu Darvish).

» Whiffed at least one batter in 49 straight relief appearances (Aroldis Chapman).

» Fanned 52 percent of the batters (min. 50 IP) he faced in a season (Chapman).

» Averaged 10-plus strikeouts per nine innings in each of his first seven seasons (David Robertson).

» Allowed at least seven earned runs in back-to-back postseason starts (Kershaw).

» Allowed no more than one run in any of the first five postseason starts of his career (Ryan Vogelsong).


— Compiled by Bruce Herman for Athlon Sports

45 Things That Never Happened in Baseball Until 2014
Post date: Monday, February 23, 2015 - 11:00
All taxonomy terms: Larry Sanders, Milwaukee Bucks, NBA
Path: /nba/larry-sanders-has-been-bought-out-milwaukee-bucks
Larry Sanders is in a bad way these days. The 26-year-old big man has been bought out by the Milwaukee Bucks after an extended absence due to injury, suspension, and a malaise so deep that it made him question whether he even wants to play the game professionally anymore.


"We believe this decision is in the best interest of our team," Bucks general manager John Hammond said in an official team statement. "We wish Larry well and remain excited about the future of the Bucks organization.”


Bucks coach Jason Kidd said that "it's business. That's just the nature of this. It happens. We wish Larry the best with moving forward and hopefully everything works out.”


This circumstance isn’t exactly common — players don’t just walk away from contracts like the one Sanders earned by playing lights-out ball in the 2012-13 season, in which he was second in the league with 2.83 blocks per game. His four-year, $44 million deal and rising dominance had him projected to be a perennial Defensive Player of the Year candidate.


There are a lot of mysteries to Sanders’ fall from grace, and most likely it should remain that way — league insiders have suggested that he’s dealing with some heavy psycho-emotional trouble, and should seek rest and help above all. Basketball can wait.


Sanders will make about half of the money that was left on his deal, and it will be spread out in smaller doses over many more years.

He’s also eligible to sign with any team he chooses this season or next. Reports are that he’s taking an indefinite break from the sport, though, so don’t get your hopes up if the team you’re rooting for is short on big men.


Here’s to hoping that Sanders is on the up.


— John Wilmes


Post date: Monday, February 23, 2015 - 10:30
All taxonomy terms: Joey Logano, NASCAR, News
Path: /nascar/joey-logano-comes-his-own-daytona-500-victory

After all the drama leading up to it, the 57th edition of NASCAR’s Daytona 500 clearly lived up to the hype. While the last lap was a bit anticlimactic, the three-abreast racing leading up to it contained more than enough excitement to hold any race fan, old or new on the verge of a heart attack. While it ended under caution, a feel-good storyline was green-lighted with a first-time winner of the Great American Race, Joey Logano, hustling to the finish as the only Ford in contention, somehow keeping afloat despite long lines of Chevys and Toyotas behind him. Most importantly, there was a minimal amount of equipment torn up, just a small handful of wrecked cars after a Speedweeks that created enough shredded sheet metal to build your own car dealership.


That’s important following a weekend in which Kyle Busch’s injury, calling NASCAR’s safety record into question threatened to derail Daytona momentum. Instead, 2015 got off to a strong start for stock car racing because every quarter of this race, not just the fourth one was worth watching. While Jeff Gordon dominated Daytona’s first half, leading 77 of 100 laps you rarely felt like the cars were strung out single-file. Racing, not debris or some pit road controversy became the central focus.


To bring fans back, carrying the momentum over from NASCAR’s 2014 Chase that’s how it’s going to have to be. Catchy gimmicks, driver personalities and new rules designed to increase parity can only go so far. It’s the racing, the ability to pass, bump, make contact and push these cars to the edge that will keep someone watching television through 500 miles. No matter how much Danica Patrick yells, no matter how much Tony Stewart stomps his feet a boring race will make them flip the channel. It’s the same with college basketball or any other sport; competition, above all is what captivates people in sports.


So that’s the best thing to take away from this 500: NASCAR started off the year highly competitive. Let’s hope it stays that way.


Through The Gears we go as this NASCAR column gets revved up for another go-round in 2015...


FIRST GEAR: Joey Logano Comes Into His Own


Down the stretch of this Daytona 500, Logano appeared to have the cards stacked against him. Teammates Brad Keselowski and Ryan Blaney had blown engines. No other Fords, automatic helpers for his fast No. 22 Ford were in contention. It seemed the young driver was stuck in a corner, ready to be freight trained by the Hendrick Motorsports group that clearly had the fastest cars left in the race.


The “old” Joey Logano, the one that started his career with his confidence chipped away at Joe Gibbs Racing wouldn’t be able to handle that. He’d have mentally withered under the stress, slipped backwards and made the wrong move with a plate package where one bad decision left you 20th. But this new guy? The one living up to his potential at Team Penske? He didn’t so much as blink.


“He managed the race,” said owner Roger Penske. “He was able to play fair yet knew what he had to do.”


What Logano did was simple: pick another drafting partner, head to the front, and block out thoughts of possible retribution by rivals Denny Hamlin or Kevin Harvick -- the latter of which got into a shouting match with him after Thursday’s Duels.


“Obviously, you think about it,” he said of past conflict. “I want to say it’s long enough that we can move on and race with each other, and we did.


“[So] I chose the 15 (Clint Bowyer) as a teammate, as someone to work with because for some reason sometimes you get two cars that match up really well. He matched up with me today. For some reason, he started pushing, and I wanted this guy behind me the rest of the race.”


The Bowyer-Logano tandem got the No. 22 to the front, and there he stayed during a green-white-checkered finish where his line was able to dart right into the lead. It was using his head, in the middle of NASCAR’s Super Bowl and one of many signs showing Logano has matured. How appropriate really, that when last generation’s driver ran his last Daytona 500 (Jeff Gordon) it was Logano, the driver potentially tagged with that label now who came out on top with his first.


SECOND GEAR: Busch Brothers Go Bye-Bye… For Now


Sunday was weird for a certain Las Vegas family, as it was the first time since 2000 the Daytona 500 didn’t include a Busch brother. For Kyle, it was watched from his hospital bed after this serious XFINITY Series wreck in Daytona resulted in a compound fracture of his right leg (similar to what Tony Stewart suffered in a sprint car race a few years back) combined with a smaller fracture midway down his left foot.


Busch wound up watching from his hospital bed, Matt Crafton subbing in and recording a respectable top-20 finish. It was more than anyone could have asked for with the Truck Series champ making his first ever Cup start, in NASCAR’s biggest race, no less.


Who knows how long the younger Busch will be out. At least his crash appears to have one silver lining, accelerating NASCAR momentum toward getting SAFER barriers installed on every inch of every racetrack. Daytona Speedway President Joie Chitwood III already pledged his track would have it, no matter the cost so no incident like that ever happens again without proper protection.


Related: NASCAR, Daytona Know How Close They Came (


As for Kurt Busch, his career prospects look bleak after NASCAR indefinitely suspended him for a protection order entered against him. Ex-girlfriend Patricia Driscoll lauded the decision, one the sanctioning body held up over a series of appeals by the driver. Chevrolet has also suspended their relationship, meaning Busch could be in position to get released by Stewart-Haas Racing sometime this week. His contract gives them an out for this type of scenario; it’s simply whether he’ll choose to exercise it.


Regan Smith did an admirable job subbing for Busch on short notice. However, he wound up an uneventful 16th and was working on a one-race deal. You have to wonder if owner Gene Haas, if he does part ways with Busch will believe in Smith enough to keep the team operational. The whole No. 41 car was tailor-made for Busch, funded out of the owner’s own pocket. With no Chase bid and potentially no Busch… is he willing to keep it afloat?


THIRD GEAR: Tough Streak For Tony Stewart Continues


Tony Stewart had high hopes to break a Daytona 500 streak approaching Dale Earnhardt, Sr. status. 0-for-16 entering the race, he snuck inside the top 5 early and appeared to have a car capable of contending. But it was Stewart that also shot himself in the foot, losing control off turn 4 in a wreck that ended his chances along with fellow 500 favorite Matt Kenseth.


“When it got three-wide that particular lap it got away from me, and I got out of the gas and couldn't even get the front end caught up when I got out of the gas,” he said. “If Ryan (Blaney) wasn't there [to make contact], I still was going to hit the fence.”


Stewart now has three straight 500 finishes of 35th or worse. That doesn’t hurt in the standings as much as it used to considering NASCAR’s “Win And You’re In” Chase format but it clearly wasn’t the start Smoke expected. As every year passes, the more it seems the Earnhardt curse was passed on.


FOURTH GEAR: Hendrick’s Missed Opportunity


Most of the on-track action up front, throughout Daytona Speedweeks centered around Joe Gibbs Racing and Hendrick Motorsports. JGR, with the Kyle Busch injury lost crucial momentum but HMS rolled through the field during much of the Daytona 500. Jeff Gordon led the most laps (87) and for much of the race, all four cars found themselves inside the top 5. Late in the going, when Gordon tripped up on a restart Jimmie Johnson fought back from a pit road penalty to take control. Between those two and Dale Earnhardt, Jr., victory for HMS seemed assured.


So what happened? Each driver made crucial bad decisions on restarts. The one for Earnhardt stung the most; with 19 laps left, he made a move toward the middle that got him shuffled back to 19th. No way the No. 88 team could recover, although they clawed back to third. Jeff Gordon had a similar problem and wound up in the day’s big wreck, stopping action midway through the final lap. In the end, only Earnhardt wound up on the podium, with Johnson fifth, Kasey Kahne ninth and Gordon 33rd on a day these cars clearly ran better.


“You don’t get cars that good too often,” said Earnhardt. “You like to try to capitalize.”


HMS couldn’t do it.




*A lot of fans will disagree with NASCAR’s decision to throw the caution, freezing the field after a semi-big wreck blocked the backstretch midway through the final lap. I think the answer here is simple: NASCAR was forced to err on the side of caution. With Kyle Busch’s injury 24 hours old, how bad would it have looked if the race finished up while someone was badly hurt in that wreck? With the sport under the microscope in terms of safety, it’s just put in a position where they can’t take any chances -- especially with how outspoken the drivers themselves were about the risks at Daytona. Notice you didn’t hear any of them say, “I wish we could have finished the race under green” Sunday night.


*The best thing about Danica Patrick’s Daytona? She came home in one piece. But that’s about all you can say after she spent much of the day out of view at one of her best racetracks. Speedweeks equaled stress this year for Patrick, the 2013 Daytona 500 pole sitter who had more wrecks courtesy Denny Hamlin’s rear bumper (two) than laps led in THREE Daytona races (none). With her contact up at Stewart-Haas, questions about her future loom large and the boom of that drum will only get louder every week. A top-10 finish here, as “random as they seem” sometimes would have quieted the doubters; not to have one was a big miss.


*NASCAR’s decision to throw a red flag shortly after the Justin Allgaier wreck saved a whole lot of big teams from running out of gas; it’s easy to understand why. One just hopes it’s just a precedent they stick to going forward instead of changing their minds race by race.


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


Photos by Action Sports, Inc.

Joey Logano Comes Into His Own With Daytona 500 Victory
Post date: Monday, February 23, 2015 - 10:00
Path: /college-football/ranking-accs-football-rosters-2015

Recruiting rankings matter.


They are not a guarantee of future success but they are the foundation every national championship has been built upon. It takes great coaching, development and luck to win a title, but having better players is the only way to start.


In fact, the data backing up the value of recruiting rankings is impenetrable. For example, look at last year’s rosters. According to the rankings, three of the four best rosters in America belonged to Alabama, Florida State and Ohio State.


These rankings do not take into account attrition but that should be a constant for all teams and conferences equally. So strictly based on recruiting evaluations from 247Sports, here is how the rosters in the ACC rank.


Ranking College Football's Rosters in 2015:




What did we learn?


Noles aren't going anywhere

Florida State is one of only two teams in major college football to have lost four or fewer conference games over the last four seasons. The other is Alabama. Heading into 2015, things don’t appear to be changing much as the Noles enter with far and away the best roster in the ACC and one of the top two units in college football. The 4.4 average rank for FSU is second only to Alabama's 1.0 average.


It's on you, Clemson

Clemson has long been No. 2 in the ACC in terms of talent, outrecruiting everyone in the league not named Florida State. The Tigers have landed two top-10 classes in the last five years, and other than FSU, no other team in the ACC even has one. If someone is going to end the Noles 24-game ACC winning streak, it might have to be Clemson. Only one other team has even averaged a top 25 class over the last five years.


Urgency in South Florida

And that team is Miami. Al Golden could watch as many as six players get drafted in the early rounds of the NFL Draft this spring. It’s no secret this program has underachieved, not all of which is Golden’s fault. But with a top-20 roster nationally — clearly the most gifted in the Coastal Division — Miami needs to start winning more games. A 16-16 record in league play over the last four years isn’t acceptable.


Time to win

Miami isn’t the only team that needs to take strides in 2015. Virginia Tech, North Carolina and Virginia have three of the better rosters in the league and have underachieved significantly over the last few seasons. The Hokies, Tar Heels and Cavaliers are fourth, fifth and sixth in the league in terms of talent and have lost 51 times in ACC play the last four years combined. This is also unacceptable.


More with less

Paul Johnson continues to work minor miracles in Atlanta. He doesn’t have one of the best 50 rosters in the nation but has won more ACC games (21) over the last four years than anyone else in the league expect Florida State (28) and Clemson (26). He enters 2015 trying to defend his Coastal Division crown with the 54th best roster in the nation — which is sixth in the division.


First full cycle

Bobby-P and the Cardinals are in that transitional phase after elevating from the AAC to the ACC. But that one letter is a big one. Ranked as the 39th best roster entering 2015 after landing the No. 32-ranked class, Louisville is smack in the middle of the league in terms of talent (7th) on their own tier. Should they continue to improve recruiting, the Cards should be the next recruiting challenger in the ACC.


Bottom of the barrel

The bottom of the league needs some help on the recruiting trail. The ACC has more teams ranked outside of the top 60 in terms of talent than any other league. In fact, the ACC has as many teams ranked 60th or worse than the Big Ten (1), Big 12 (2) and Pac-12 (1) combined. That said, Duke moved from 13th or 11th in the ACC after two of the better classes in school history.

Ranking the ACC's Football Rosters for 2015
Post date: Monday, February 23, 2015 - 10:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football, College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/ranking-nations-top-football-basketball-coaching-tandems

Building a consistent winner in one college sport is tough enough. Building two in the most high-profile sports? That’s something special.


Only so many programs can contend for both college football and college basketball championships in the same calendar year. Only a handful can keep their fans cheering in bowl games and the NCAA Tournament every year.


This list celebrates the rare schools that have found the coaching pairs who can deliver such feats.


The goal of our coach tandem rankings is to look at each football and basketball duo as a pair. In general, we’re looking at the duos most likely to keep each school’s fans happy and entertained from the start of football season through the end of basketball season.



1. Ohio State

Football: Urban Meyer | Basketball: Thad Matta

Meyer and Alabama’s Nick Saban are the Nos. 1A and 1B of college football coaching with good reason. After Ohio State’s improbable run to the 2014 national championship, Meyer and Saban are the only coaches to win national titles at two different schools. Meyer is 38-3 with the Buckeyes and has six AP top five finishes at Utah, Florida and Ohio State. Matta has one of the most underrated careers in college basketball, partly because he’s never won a national title and partly because of his low-key personality. Remember, when Matta took over at Ohio State, the Buckeyes were emerging from NCAA sanctions. Since then, Ohio State has won 30 games three times and reached the Final Four twice. In 15 seasons as a head coach, he’s won at least a share of eight regular season conference titles.


2. Duke

Football: David Cutcliffe | Basketball: Mike Krzyzewski

Krzyzewski’s resume is self-explanatory: More than 1,000 career wins, 11 Final Fours and four national titles. Early NCAA Tournament exits (Mercer in 2014, Lehigh in '12) have vexed the Blue Devils, but that appears to be unlikely with the group Coach K has assembled this season. Cutcliffe has done the unthinkable with the football program by turning the perennial ACC bottom-feeder into a factor in the league race. Duke has won 19 games the last two seasons, reached three consecutive bowl games and won the ACC Coastal Division in 2013.


3. Arizona

Football: Rich Rodriguez | Basketball: Sean Miller

Less than a decade ago, Arizona’s basketball and football programs were searching for an identity. The end of the Lute Olson era was a protracted experience with two interim coaches, and football found only limited success with Mike Stoops. Miller and Rodriguez have transformed all that. Miller has led Arizona to two Elite Eights and two regular season conference titles. The football program isn’t going to be USC, but Rodriguez is the right fit for an underdog program. His 10 wins last season was the most for Arizona since the Desert Swarm days, and 26 wins in three seasons in the most for the Wildcats in a three-year period since the 1970s.


4. Auburn

Football: Gus Malzahn | Basketball: Bruce Pearl

During the course of two seasons, Auburn made two hires that changed the trajectory of its football and basketball program. Football had been relatively consistent back to the Pat Dye era, but it was clear Malzahn and his up-tempo, run-oriented offense brought something special to the Tigers. He was the offensive coordinator of the 2010 championship team and took Auburn back to the title game in the first season after his return in 2013. The ascent won’t be as rapid for the basketball program under Pearl, who has reached the Sweet 16 or better in four of his last seven seasons as head coach. Still, he’s brought in elite recruits and already has Auburn basketball fans following his cult of personality.


5. Michigan State

Football: Mark Dantonio | Basketball: Tom Izzo

This duo rarely makes a big splash with major recruits, but Dantonio and Izzo both excel at developing upperclassmen capable of winning in the Big Ten and the postseason. Dantonio has elevated Michigan State football to one of the powers in the Big Ten. He’s led Michigan State to four seasons of 11 wins or more in the last five and back-to-back top-five finishes, something that hasn’t happened in East Lansing since 1965-66. Izzo is in interesting territory. He is enduring his longest Final Four drought (five seasons, boo hoo) and his team is in danger of missing the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1997. The track record, though, is elite: Izzo has six career Final Fours and a national title.


6. Michigan

Football: Jim Harbaugh | Basketball: John Beilein

Give credit to both of these coaches for not taking the easy route: Harbaugh’s first head coaching job was at San Diego of the non-scholarship Pioneer League; Beilein’s was at Erie Community College. All Michigan is asking of its new hire Harbaugh is to do what Beilein has done — return a program to national contention. In basketball, the Wolverines reached the Final Four in 2013 and the Elite Eight in 2014. Harbaugh would seem to be up to the task at his alma mater. He built Stanford into a Pac-12 contender and took the San Francisco 49ers to the Super Bowl.


7. Louisville

Football: Bobby Petrino | Basketball: Rick Pitino

The Petrino/Pitino duo is back at Louisville for the first time since 2006. Having both coaches is still a boon for the Cardinals. Petrino went 9-4 and finished in the top 25 in his first season back with the Cardinals, a notable feat considering the revolving door at quarterback and that it was the football program’s indoctrination into the ACC. Petrino has finished in the top 25 in six of 10 seasons as a head coach, including four times in five total seasons at Louisville. Pitino has seven Final Fours and two national championships, including the 2013 title. 


8. Oklahoma

Football: Bob Stoops | Basketball: Lon Kruger

Even though Stoops is coming off an 8-5 campaign, the most disappointing since he’s been a head coach, Oklahoma has the most solid coaching duo in the league. Stoops has won at least 10 games in four of the last five seasons and made more BCS games than any other coach under the old system. Kruger, whose forte is rebuilding programs, has completed his reclamation of OU basketball with his best team this season. No program is more likely to be in a major bowl game and the NCAA Tournament in the same season as Oklahoma.


9. Notre Dame

Football: Brian Kelly | Basketball: Mike Brey

Is Notre Dame a year-in and year-out powerhouse in either sport? Not yet. Still, both coaches deserve credit for putting the Irish back into the mix. The Irish are two years removed from an undefeated regular season in football, and Kelly is the first Notre Dame coach to post five consecutive winning seasons since Lou Holtz. Mike Brey’s consistency — six NCAA appearances in eight years — gets overlooked because his team hasn’t made it to the Sweet 16 since 2003. Now if only both of them could go a season without losing a player to an academic-related suspension...


10. Baylor

Football: Art Briles | Basketball: Scott Drew

The year before Briles was hired, Baylor football was riding 12 consecutive losing seasons. When Drew was hired, Baylor was emerging from one of the biggest scandals in college basketball history. It’s tough to find a duo who improved their school’s situation more from the day they were hired until 2015. Briles had Baylor on the verge of the College Football Playoff and won the last two Big 12 titles. And Drew has twice taken Baylor basketball to the Elite Eight and once to the Sweet 16.


11. Florida State

Football: Jimbo Fisher | Basketball: Leonard Hamilton

Florida State’s football program is the healthiest it has been since Bobby Bowden was in his prime. In the last three seasons, Fisher has led the Seminoles to a national title, 29 consecutive wins, a College Football Playoff appearance and three ACC titles. The basketball program was on a nice hot streak from 2009-12 under Hamilton with four consecutive NCAA appearances, an ACC tournament title and a trip to the Sweet 16. In three seasons since, FSU has yet to post a winning ACC record.


12. Oregon State

Football: Gary Andersen | Basketball: Wayne Tinkle

Oregon State pulled off one of the biggest coups of the college football coaching carousel this season when it pulled Andersen from Wisconsin. The former Badgers coach was 19-7 overall and 13-3 in the Big Ten after winning 11 games and a WAC title at Utah State. Just as important, though, was the arrival of Tinkle with the basketball program. He took Montana to the NCAA Tournament and won two Big Sky regular season titles in his final three seasons. His first team at Oregon State is already competitive in the Pac-12. Both of the Oregon State coaching jobs are among the toughest in the Pac-12, but both coaches can win here. 


13. North Carolina

Football: Larry Fedora | Basketball: Roy Williams

North Carolina fans don’t like to hear this, but both coaches leave us wanting more these days. Williams is a Hall of Fame coach with seven career Final Fours and two national championships. Yet his team will have five or more ACC losses for the third consecutive season. If Carolina doesn’t reach the Sweet 16 this season, Williams will face his longest Sweet 16 drought since 1998-2000 at Kansas. Fedora’s win total has decreased every season at Carolina, and he’s never finished better than 5-3 in the league.


14. Virginia Tech

Football: Frank Beamer | Basketball: Buzz Williams

On career achievements, this duo should rank higher. Virginia Tech is a factor in football because of Beamer, who has been the coach since 1987. And despite 22 consecutive winning seasons, the Hokies are having a bit of identity crisis. The 10- and 11-win seasons have become seven- and eight-win seasons during the last three years. Williams’ credentials at Marquette were impeccable — two Sweet 16s, an Elite Eight and five consecutive NCAAs through 2013 — but he’s working through a major rebuilding project in his first season in Blacksburg.


15. Stanford

Football: David Shaw | Basketball: Johnny Dawkins

Stanford has a pair of coaches that — at least for now — appear to be trending in opposite directions. Shaw picked up where Jim Harbaugh left off and led Stanford to 34 wins, three major bowl games and two Pac-12 titles in his first three seasons. The 2014 season, though, ended with five losses and a trip to the Foster Farms Bowl. Dawkins seemed to be in trouble entering last season before taking Stanford to the Sweet 16. The Cardinal should head to a second consecutive NCAA Tournament this season.


16. Utah

Football: Kyle Whittingham | Basketball: Larry Krystkowiak

Times were better for Whittingham and Utah football in the Mountain West, when the Utes went 33-6, including an undefeated season in 2008, in their last three seasons in the league. Wittingham delivered Utah’s best season in the Pac-12 last year — 9-4 overall and 5-4 in the league — but coaching staff tumult has put the future in question. Basketball, on the other hand, is surging forward. Krystkowiak went 6-25 with a broken program in his first year, reached 21 wins in his third and has a top-10 team in his fourth. The Utes have arguably their best team since Rick Majerus was the coach.


17. Oregon

Football: Mark Helfrich | Basketball: Dana Altman

Helfrich picked up where Chip Kelly left off, reaching the national title game in his second season as head coach and winning 11 games and finishing in the top 10 in his first season. He’s laid-back demeanor is a change for the program, but the most pressing issue is winning without Marcus Mariota. Altman has survived an offseason of controversy to have Oregon in contention for its third consecutive NCAA Tournament bid. In his last 17 seasons at Creighton and Oregon, Altman has 16 20-win seasons.


18. UCLA

Football: Jim L. Mora | Basketball: Steve Alford

Mora has pulled UCLA out of its funk, leading the Bruins to back-to-back 10 win seasons and top-25 finishes for the first time since 1997-98. With the way he has recruited, more should be on the way. Alford got over his NCAA Tournament bugaboo by reaching the Sweet 16 in his first season at UCLA. If the Bruins even get into the field this season, it will be something of a victory. Alford has been around longer than you might think — he’s taken four teams to the Tournament and should get to 450 career wins next season. 


19. Wisconsin

Football: Paul Chryst | Basketball: Bo Ryan

Ryan was already one of the best coaches in the country when he led Wisconsin to top-four finishes in the Big Ten every year since 2002. Now, he’s looking to take the Badgers to back-to-back Final Fours. And he’s done all of that without a ton of major recruits on his roster. Wisconsin football has had an unbroken record of success under Barry Alvarez, Bret Bielema and Gary Andersen. Chryst, a former Badgers player and offensive coordinator, knows the territory. His record at Pittsburgh — 19-19 overall, 10-13 in the ACC — was nothing special, but he took over program with a tumultuous coaching situation.


20. Cincinnati

Football: Tommy Tuberville | Basketball: Mick Cronin

The well-traveled Tuberville has kept the momentum going at Cincinnati, going 9-4 in each of his first two seasons and winning a share of the American title last year. Cronin has missed most of this season while he deals with a health issue, but he’s returned the Bearcats to contender status after a difficult rebuild. Cincinnati has reached the NCAA Tournament in the last four seasons and reached the 2012 Sweet 16.


21. SMU

Football: Chad Morris | Basketball: Larry Brown

The Mustangs have spent recent years clawing for renewed relevance in both sports. The Hall of Famer Brown, despite NCAA troubles this season, has delivered. His team is on the way to its first NCAA bid since 1993 a year after winning 27 games and going to the NIT. Morris was one of the hottest names in the coaching carousel after taking his high-flying offense to Clemson. His Texas high school connections should serve him well as he tries to rebuild in Dallas.


22. Miami

Football: Al Golden | Basketball: Jim Larranaga

Golden left Temple with the reputation of a miracle worker and walked into the Nevin Shapiro mess at Miami. After a self-imposed bowl ban in his first two seasons, Miami went 9-4 in his third year before falling to 6-7 last season. With quarterback Brad Kaaya starting his second season, Golden is entering a critical fifth year. Larranaga has taken George Mason to a Final Four and won the ACC at Miami. That’s a pretty darn good career right there, never mind that he has 547 career wins otherwise.


23. San Diego State

Football: Rocky Long | Basketball: Steve Fisher

What Fisher has done at San Diego State was once unthinkable. A program that hadn’t won an NCAA Tournament game before Fisher arrived is a perennial postseason team. The Aztecs have twice won 30 games and twice reached the Sweet 16 during the last five years. Football isn’t the same contender as the basketball program, but the longtime underachiever has reached a bowl game all four seasons under Long.


24. BYU

Football: Bronco Mendenhall | Basketball: Dave Rose

Five or six years ago, the stock for the BYU duo would have been higher than it is now. Back then, Jimmer Fredette was on the court for BYU, and the Cougars had won at least 10 games in four of five seasons. BYU is still trying to find its way as an independent and West Coast Conference member, but both are still regulars in the postseason.


25. Kansas State

Football: Bill Snyder | Basketball: Bruce Weber

Kansas State failed to sign a top 50 recruiting class in 2015, but that doesn’t matter. We’ll end up talking about the Wildcats as a top 10 team at some point anyway. That’s the deal for Snyder, whose teams have been the biggest overachievers in college football. Weber’s team has fallen below expectations this season, but he’s still two years removed from a 27-win season and a share of the Big 12 title.

Ranking the Nation's Top Football-Basketball Coaching Tandems
Post date: Monday, February 23, 2015 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/nebraska-basketball-wear-1950s-throwbacks-sunday-vs-iowa

Nebraska basketball will wear throwbacks to the 1954-55 team for Sunday’s game against Iowa.


The replicas are designed to commemorate the 60th anniversary of coach Jerry Bush’s first Cornhuskers team during Legends Weekend. Stan Matzke, a captain in 1954-55, will speak to more than 50 former Nebraska players spanning eight decades.


The uniforms will look great, but the memories? Not so much. The 1954-55 team went 9-12 in the original unis.




Nebraska Basketball to Wear 1950s Throwbacks Sunday vs. Iowa
Post date: Sunday, February 22, 2015 - 11:09
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/north-carolina-runs-four-corners-honor-dean-smith

In North Carolina’s first home game since the passing of legendary coach Dean Smith, the Tar Heels ran a fitting tribute to the man whose name graces the arena.


The Tar Heels ran Smith’s famous Four Corners offense on their first offensive possession. Roy Williams, a Smith protege, signaled in the play, and Marcus Paige passed to a cutting Brice Johnson for North Carolina’s first points in an 89-60 win over Georgia Tech.


Here’s the play:



"That was one of the most nerve-racking moments of my life just because I feel like if I would've turned it over, if I would've messed it up or something that I was letting down the way we were going to pay homage to Coach Smith," Paige told reporters after the game. "I'm just glad Brice caught it and laid it up. He made me look good."


Here's what it looked like from above:


North Carolina Runs Four Corners to Honor Dean Smith
Post date: Saturday, February 21, 2015 - 18:36