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Path: /college-basketball/ranking-top-15-players-final-four

The cast of characters in this year’s Final Four covers a wide range of careers and personalities, and pretty much all are at the top of their games.

Michigan’s Trey Burke is the only Associated Press All-American still left competing for a title, but there are plenty of standout players in the mix. Peyton Siva and Michael Carter-Williams were All-America caliber players at midseason, and Russ Smith was a potential national player of the year contender. All have returned to that form in the last two weeks.

Meanwhile, players like Michigan’s Mitch McGary and Louisville’s Gorgui Dieng have hit their stride in the postseason. And the well-traveled veterans at Wichita State now stand alongside McDonald’s All-Americans.

Ranking the top players remaining in the NCAA Tournament is no easy task. We ranked our top 15 players in the Final Four based on talent, value to his team and overall production, weighted to the last few weeks.

Related: How the Final Four teams were built


1. Trey Burke, Michigan
Particulars: 6-0/190, So.
Last school: Columbus (Ohio) Northland
Burke never led Michigan in scoring in any of the Wolverines’ four tournament wins, but he’s never been more valuable. And it’s not just his deep three-pointer to tie Kansas at the end of regulation in the Sweet 16. He’s had at least seven assists in each tournament game, including 10 against Kansas.

2. Michael Carter-Williams, Syracuse
Particulars: 6-6/185, So.
Last school: Barrington (R.I.) St. Andrew’s School
The point guard had a slump earlier this season, but he’s back to form in the tournament. Stop him from scoring and he’ll pick you apart with his passing. Shut down his passing lanes, and he can drop 20 as he did against Indiana.

3. Russ Smith, Louisville
Particulars: 6-0/165, Jr.
Last school: South Kent (Conn.)
Smith had his scoring woes at midseason, but he’s been even better than his early-season form. The enigmatic shooting guard is averaging 26 points per game in the tournament on an average of 15.3 shots from the field per game.

4. Gorgui Dieng, Louisville
Particulars: 6-11/245, Jr.
Last school: Huntington (W. Va.) Prep
The top big man in the Final Four, Dieng has needed three years to develop his all-around game, and it’s been worth the wait. In the regional against Duke and Oregon, Dieng averaged 12 points, 10 rebounds and four blocks. As recently as the Big East championship, he had eight assists out of the post.

5. James Southerland, Syracuse
Particulars: 6-8/215, Sr.
Last school: Fitchburg (Mass.) Notre Dame Prep
Southerland hasn’t had the breakout in the NCAA Tournament he’s capable of producing, at least from the offensive end. The senior was one of Syracuse’s most productive players on a per-minute basis with 18.3 points per 40 minutes

6. Peyton Siva, Louisville
Particulars: 6-0/184, Sr.
Last school: Seattle (Wash.) Franklin
One of Rick Pitino’s all-time favorite players may lead the Cardinals to a national championship. The point guard leads the Cardinals at both ends of the floor as Louisville is playing as well as it has all season on both offense and defense.

7. C.J. Fair, Syracuse
Particulars: 6-8/215, Jr.
Last school: Wolfeboro (N.H.) Brewster Academy
With his length and ability to create his own shot, Fair is tough to guard. Fair and Georgetown’s Otto Porter were the only two players in the Big East to rank in the top 10 in the league in scoring and rebounding.

8. Mitch McGary, Michigan
Particulars: 6-10/250, Fr.
Last school: Wolfeboro (N.H.) Brewster Academy
The Wolverines’ freshman big man has been one of the true breakout players in this year’s NCAA Tournament. He started only six games this season, but he’s averaging 17.5 points and 11.5 rebounds in the tourney. McGary has given Michigan a sorely needed inside presence, and he’s been tabbed as a possible first-round draft pick if he leaves school early.

9. Carl Hall, Wichita State
Particulars: 6-8/238, Sr.
Last school: Northwest Florida State
Wichita State used its edge in rebounding to carry it to the Final Four, and one of its best on the glass is Hall. The junior college transfer who needed to treat a heart condition before playing college basketball also has 12 blocks in his last three games.

10. Tim Hardaway Jr., Michigan
Particulars: 6-6/205, Jr.
Last school: Miami Palmetto Senior
Hardaway has done in the tournament what he did all season, giving Michigan a secondary scorer and a veteran presence. The junior is averaging 13.5 points per game in the tournament on 41.7 percent shooting.

11. Cleanthony Early, Wichita State
Particulars: 6-8/215, Jr.
Last school: Sullivan Junior College
Sometimes Early needs to jarred into maintaining his focus, but that’s been the case in the tournament so far. When Early finds his scoring touch, watch out. He also had seven rebounds in every game so far and launched four three-pointers against Gonzaga.

12. Nik Stauskas, Michigan
Particulars: 6-6/190, Fr.
Last school: Southborough (Mass.) St. Mark’s School
Another one of Michigan’s freshmen who took advantage of all the focus going to Burke, Stauskas proved what can happen when he gets hot from three-point range. Stauskas broke out for 22 points with a 6-for-6 mark from beyond the arc against Florida.

13. Glenn Robinson III, Michigan
Particulars: 6-6/210, Fr.
Last school: St. John (Ind.) Lake Central
Robinson didn’t match the 21 points he had against South Dakota State in the round of 64, but he grabbed a combined 17 rebounds and blocked give shots against VCU and Kansas. With Burke’s playmaking ability, McGary’s play inside, Stauskas’ play from the perimeter, Robinson adds a dimension to the offense by slashing to the basket and running the floor.

14. Malcolm Armstead, Wichita State
Particulars: 6-0/205, Sr.
Last school: Oregon
The well-traveled point guard started at Chipola Junior College in Florida, transferred to Oregon and then paid his own way to Wichita State. The lefty is unflappable, averaging 15.5 points per game in the tournament.

15. Brandon Triche, Syracuse
Particulars: 6-4/210, Sr.
Last school: Jamesville (N.Y.) Jamesville-DeWitt
Syracuse needs Triche to make shots to be at its best in the Final Four. That was clear during Syracuse’s struggles in early March. The senior bounced back late in the year and hit 6 of 12 shots for 14 points against Indiana in the Sweet 16.

<p> Louisville has the top team, but Michigan's Trey Burke takes the top spot</p>
Post date: Wednesday, April 3, 2013 - 10:00
Path: /college-football/ranking-big-tens-college-football-coaches-2013

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

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

Ranking the Big Ten Head Coaches for 2013

1. Urban Meyer, Ohio State
Record at Ohio State: 12-0 (2012-present)
Record at Florida: 65-15 (2005-2010)
Record at Utah: 22-2 (2003-04)
Record at Bowling Green: 17-6 (2001-02)
Overall Record: 116-23 (11 years)

Really the only thing left on Meyer’s resume is to defeat an SEC school in the national championship. In his first year at Ohio State, he took a 6-7 Buckeyes team and turned them into a perfect 12-0 program, proving his past successes were no fluke. He already claims two BCS National Championships, four conference titles (would have been five had OSU been eligible last year), three conference Coach of the Year awards, one Heisman winner and one national Coach of the Year honor. In each stop along the way, Meyer has proven to have an immediate impact on the program be it at Bowling Green, Utah, Florida or Ohio State. He is an elite recruiter and an elite talent developer. No, he isn’t the nicest or most honest guy in the business, but his teams are extremely well coached and they win big.

2. Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern
Overall Record at Northwestern: 50-39 (2006-present, 7 years)

Fitzgerald is the perfect fit at Northwestern, and he continues to take the program to new heights. The Illinois native starred at linebacker for the Wildcats from 1993-96 and was a two-time Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year. Fitzgerald had no coordinator experience when he was promoted to the top spot at Northwestern and took over the program in a difficult time, replacing Randy Walker after his unexpected death in 2006. Despite his inexperience on the sidelines, Fitzgerald has been a home-run hire for Northwestern. The Wildcats are 50-39 under his watch and have played in five consecutive bowl games. Northwestern earned its first bowl victory since the 1949 Rose Bowl by beating Mississippi State 34-20 in last season's Gator Bowl. Fitzgerald is never going to reel in top-25 recruiting classes, but he has done a good job of finding and developing plenty of talent during his tenure. As long as Fitzgerald stays on the sidelines in Evanston, expect the Wildcats to remain a consistent contender in the Big Ten Legends Division, and they could start 2013 in the preseason top 25.

3. Brady Hoke, Michigan
Record at Michigan: 19-7 (2011-present)
Record at San Diego State: 13-12 (2009-10)
Record at Ball State: 34-38 (2003-08)
Overall Record: 66-57 (10 years)

After turning around Ball State and San Diego State, Hoke was Michigan’s pick to lead the program back to national prominence. So far, so good. The Wolverines are 19-7 under Hoke’s watch and have back-to-back 6-2 records in conference play. Michigan also won the Sugar Bowl against Virginia Tech to cap its first season under Hoke’s watch and has finished each of the past two seasons ranked in the Associated Press top 25. Although Hoke posted an overall losing mark at Ball State (34-38), the program didn’t have a winning record in the six seasons prior to his arrival. He was able to guide the Cardinals to back-to-back bowl games for the first time in school history, including a 12-1 regular season record in 2008. San Diego State was considered an annual underachiever prior to Hoke, but he led the Aztecs to the 2010 Poinsettia Bowl – their first postseason appearance since 1998. As a Michigan man, Hoke is a perfect fit in Ann Arbor. And after two seasons, Hoke has the Wolverines poised once again to be a threat to win the Big Ten title every year.

4. Mark Dantonio, Michigan State
Record at Michigan State: 51-28 (2007-present)
Record at Cincinnati: 18-17 (2004-06)
Overall Record: 51-28 (9 years)

The Spartans underachieved in 2012, but Dantonio’s overall record in six years in East Lansing is a rock-solid 51-28. The Texas native has guided Michigan State to six consecutive bowl berths and recorded back-to-back 11-win campaigns in 2010-11. Dantonio’s 2011 team played for the Big Ten Championship, and the 2012 squad tied for the conference title. Prior to his tenure with Michigan State, Dantonio recorded an 18-17 record in three years with Cincinnati, which included two bowl appearances. Michigan State has the resources to be a consistent top-25 program but was considered an underachiever before Dantonio’s arrival. Despite slipping to 7-6 in 2012, Dantonio will have Michigan State back in the mix for the Big Ten Legends Division. 

5. Bill O’Brien, Penn State
Overall Record at Penn State: 8-4 (Penn State, 2012-present)

Bill Belichick assistants haven’t exactly gone on to do big things as head coaches, but in one short year, O’Brien might be on his way to being the best of the Patriots' coach’s offspring. There is little viable evidence in favor of or against O’Brien as a head coach other than the job he did in his first year in Happy Valley. In the face of the worst NCAA scandal in history, he won eight games with an offense that was more creative and innovative than fans at Penn State had seen in nearly a decade. He also recruited extremely well considering the circumstances. The sample size is extraordinarily small and the situation is still difficult to quantify. That said, it's pretty clear that O’Brien has won most of Nittany Nation over in one quick season. And if his growing interest from NFL executives is any indication, Penn State has found a good one in the Brown University graduate.

6. Gary Andersen, Wisconsin
Record at Wisconsin: 0-0 (First Season)
Record at Utah State: 26-24 (2009-2012)
Record at Southern Utah: 4-7 (2003)
Overall Record: 30-31 (5 years)

Don’t be fooled by Andersen’s 30-31 career record. The Utah native is an excellent coach who should win big in Madison. Prior to his first head coaching job at Southern Utah in 2003, Andersen worked as an assistant at Northern Arizona and Utah. And after a one-year stint as the Thunderbirds head coach, he rejoined the Utes’ coaching staff and stayed in Salt Lake City until 2009, when he was picked to lead Utah State. Andersen turned the Aggies from WAC bottom feeder to a title contender, leading Utah State to an 11-2 record in 2012 with a top-20 finish in the Associated Press' poll. Andersen doesn’t have experience coaching in the Big Ten, but he is familiar with Urban Meyer since he served as his defensive line coach with the Utes in 2004. Despite his lack of familiarity with the Big Ten, Andersen has been successful at each of his coaching stops, and Utah State showed big improvement in each of his four seasons. With Meyer leading Ohio State, the Badgers may not match its recent run of three straight Big Ten titles in the near future. However, Wisconsin should be a consistent top-25 team under Andersen’s watch.

7. Bo Pelini, Nebraska
Overall Record at Nebraska: 49-20 (Nebraska, 2003, 2008-present)

Pelini is one of the most intriguing coaches to evaluate among all the BCS conferences, if not the entire FBS pool. He leads one of the most powerful and historic programs in the nation and has resources at his disposal that most schools only dream of. He has led the Cornhuskers to three conference championship games in six seasons in two different leagues and has never won fewer than nine games. He also posted his best conference record with a 7-1 mark a year ago. However, he has also had many uncomfortable (and possibly inappropriate) moments with his players on national television and has never lost fewer than four games in any season. Nebraska is back competing for league championships for the first time since the '90s, but is Pelini treading water at 9-4 each season or was 2012 a glimpse of more to come?

8. Kirk Ferentz, Iowa
Record at Iowa: 100-74 (1999-present)
Record at Maine: 12-21 (1990-92)
Overall Record: 112-95 (17 years)

A few seasons ago, Ferentz would have ranked much higher on this list. However, Iowa has been going in the wrong direction over the last three years. After going 11-22 including an Orange Bowl victory over Georgia Tech in 2009, the Hawkeyes have watched their win total decrease in each of the last three years. This steady decline resulted in a 4-8 mark in 2012, which was Ferentz’s fewest wins since 2000 (3-9). While Ferentz has led Iowa to 10 bowl games and two BCS bowls, the program seems to have gone stale in recent years, and he certainly didn’t make anyone in Iowa City happy when he hired Greg Davis as his offensive coordinator in 2012. Are the Hawkeyes capable of getting back on track under Ferentz? Absolutely. However, with Ohio State and Michigan coming back to national prominence, along with a challenging division (at least for now), Iowa has a tough road to contend in the Big Ten. Ferentz has done a lot of good things for the program, but if the Hawkeyes have a few losing seasons in a row, it might be time for a fresh start for both parties.

9. Jerry Kill, Minnesota
Record at Minnesota: 9-16 (2011-present)
Record at Northern Illinois: 23-16 (2008-10)
Record at Southern Illinois: 55-32 (2001-07)
Record at Emporia State: 11-11 (1999-2000)
Record at Saginaw Valley State: 38-14 (1994-98)
Overall Record: 136-89 (19 years)

Kill isn’t flashy or exciting, but he enters 2013 with the most wins during his head coaching career among his Big Ten peers. The Kansas native started his career with Saginaw Valley State in 1994 and recorded a winning record in each of his five seasons. Kill took over at Emporia State in 1999 and left for Southern Illinois in 2001. He went 55-32 with the Salukis, which included five consecutive playoff appearances from 2003-07. After that, Kill led Northern Illinois to three straight bowl trips from 2008-10 and recruited many of the players who played in the Huskies’ Orange Bowl appearance last season. Minnesota went 3-9 in Kill’s first season but improved to 6-7 and earned a bowl berth in 2012. Kill knows how to develop talent and can uncover hidden gems on the recruiting trail. Minnesota isn’t an easy job, but Kill’s track record shows he can consistently produce a winner. Expect the Golden Gophers to only get better with Kill on the sidelines the next few seasons.

10. Darrell Hazell, Purdue
Record at Purdue: 0-0 (First Season)
Record at Kent State: 16-10 (2011-2012)
Overall Record: 16-10 (2 years)

No one can accuse Hazell of not paying his dues. Born in Cinnaminson, N.J., and playing his college ball at Muskingum University (New Concord, Ohio), Hazell spent 25 years as an assistant before getting his first head coaching gig at Kent State. Doug Martin posted nary a winning season with the Flashes in seven seasons prior to Hazell’s arrival. In just two years, Hazell built KSU into a division champion and set a school record with 11 wins. With heavy coaching ties to the Midwest and Northeast, Hazell should be able to recruit the Big Ten footprint well and clearly has the coaching chops to be successful at Purdue.

11. Kevin Wilson, Indiana
Overall Record at Indiana: 5-19 (Indiana, 2011-present)

Offense has long been the name of the game for Wilson, both at Oklahoma as a coordinator and now at Indiana. After grooming nearly a decade’s worth of elite passers in Norman, Wilson has quickly turned Indiana’s passing game into one of the Big Ten’s best. His team ranked fifth in the league in passing offense, but managed just one win in his first year in Bloomington. Last season, his team led the league in passing offense and improved to four wins with all signs pointing to even more success — and a possible bowl game — in 2013. There is still much to be accomplished for Wilson to be considered one of the league’s better coaches but more progress in Year 3 at Indiana would go a long way to proving that the Hoosiers made the right choice.

12. Tim Beckman, Illinois
Record at Illinois: 2-10 (2012-present)
Record at Toledo: 21-16 (2009-2011)
Overall Record: 23-26 (4 years)

All signs were positive for Beckman when he took over for Ron Zook at Illinois last season. He learned under two respected names in Jim Tressel and Mike Gundy before building Toledo into a MAC contender in his three years leading the Rockets. Everyone knew it was going to take time to rebuild the Illini following the Zooker, however, no one expected a 2-10 debut season in Urbana-Champaign. He has his work cut out for him in a tough division loaded with solid coaches and powerful programs to prove he was the right choice for the job.

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

Related College Football Content

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Big Ten 2013 Schedule Analysis

College Football's Top 25 Pre-Spring Heisman Contenders

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College Football's Top 10 Defensive Players on the Rise for 2013

<p> Ranking the Big Ten's College Football Coaches for 2013</p>
Post date: Wednesday, April 3, 2013 - 07:45
Path: /nascar/7-amazing-nascar-stats-martinsville-speedway

In the 12 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races that took place at Martinsville Speedway during the Car of Tomorrow era, two drivers won nine races: Jimmie Johnson and Denny Hamlin. It is a track that rewards its best competitors more reliably than other tracks do with top-performing drivers, making the event somewhat of a cinch to prognosticate. Granted each race, especially in the current ultra-competitive Cup Series landscape, is subject to a heavy dose of randomness, past performance at Martinsville does, more often than not, indicate future success.

So a hint at who Sunday’s key players will be shines through past statistics. Here is a glimmer of what we all will be seeing — and in one notable case, missing — in this weekend’s rough-and-tumble race at Martinsville.

For PEER and other metrics with which you may be unfamiliar, I refer you to myglossary of terms on

6.208, 1,111 and 4  What are we going to miss from Sunday’s race? A driver who ranks second at Martinsville in Production in Equal Equipment Rating (PEER) with a 6.208 rating, has led 1,111 laps and won four races.

Denny Hamlin’s absence impacts this race in a major way. Not only is he a race win contender, Martinsville is arguably one of his two best racetracks (Richmond is the other), in terms of production. With him sidelined due to injury, it opens the door for other good Martinsville drivers that have been on the cusp of winning in recent events there. One of them is a household name.

9 and 0  Jeff Gordon earned nine top-5 finishes in 12 CoT races. Zero of those finishes were victories.

Gordon ranks third in PEER with a 4.958 rating — PEER being a measure of a driver’s on-track production in an “all equipment even” scenario. That mark is crazy high considering he was unable to seal the deal in all those races. For the better part of the last six years, Hamlin and Jimmie Johnson were bestowed the crowns as kings of Martinsville; however, Gordon, despite the lack of wins, is also befitting of the throne.

1,309  Gordon has led 1,309 laps across the last 12 races at Martinsville.

That is absolutely absurd. It means he has led just over 21 percent of all laps there the last six seasons. That kind of dominance isn’t for the feint of heart; in eight of those races he led at least 90 laps. Yes, when the lap counts are high — Martinsville is a 500-lap race — the laps-led totals are inflated, but his 1,309 total laps led is the second most in the series over that span and noteworthy because, again, he won nary a race in all those dominant outings. He may be overdue.

3.93 and 3.62  Clint Bowyer averaged running positions of 3.93-place and 3.62-place in last year’s races at Martinsville.

Disappointingly, Bowyer finished 10th and fifth, respectively, in those races. His attempted pass for the lead in the waning laps of last year’s spring race took out Johnson and Gordon, but outside of that, he has been a pleasant (and quiet) producer at Martinsville throughout his career. His 2.708 track-specific PEER ranks seventh out of 54 drivers and he is one of five drivers with at least eight top-10 finishes in the last 12 races there.

12.67  Mark Martin, replacing Hamlin in the No. 11 for Joe Gibbs Racing, has averaged just under a 13th-place (12.67, to be exact) finish in his six CoT-era finishes at Martinsville.

Hamlin he ain’t, but Martin is not half bad at a track that, in a perfect world (for him, that is a partial schedule), he would elect to skip each year. He finished as high as second during that time frame while driving for Hendrick Motorsports and also secured three other top-10 results. He’ll need to redeem himself from his most recent outing there, which was a 28th-place finish that saw him earn a poor 44.7 percent passing efficiency along with a 21st-place average running position.

<p> Seven amazing NASCAR stats for Sunday's STP Gas Booster 500 at Martinsville Speedway.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, April 2, 2013 - 13:55
All taxonomy terms: Justin Rose, Golf
Path: /golf/top-20-golfers-2013-majors-no-7-justin-rose

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

No. 7: Justin Rose

Born: July 30, 1980, Johannesburg, South Africa | Career PGA Tour Wins: 4 (5 on European Tour)   | 2012 Wins (Worldwide): 2 | 2012 Earnings (PGA Tour): $4,290,930 (7th) World Ranking: 3


Brandel Chamblee's Take

Rose led both the European and PGA tours in greens in regulation in 2012 and finished the year with his highest-ever world ranking at No. 4. He had his biggest win at the WGC Cadillac, his best finish in a major with a 3rd at the PGA Championship, beat Phil Mickelson in Ryder Cup singles with clutch putts on the last three holes and beat both Tiger Woods and Lee Westwood en route to winning in Turkey at the end of the year. His confidence appears to have caught up with his abilities, which means Justin has a chance to be the best in the world.

Major Championship Résumé
Starts: 35
Wins: 0

2012 Performance:
Masters - T8
U.S. Open - T21
British Open - Cut
PGA Championship - T3

Best Career Finishes: 
Masters - T5 (2007)
U.S. Open - T5 (2003)
British Open - T4 (1998)
PGA Championship - T3 (2012)
Top-10 Finishes: 7
Top-25 Finishes: 16
Missed Cuts: 13

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

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

<p> Athlon Counts Down the 20 Golfers to Watch for Majors Season</p>
Post date: Tuesday, April 2, 2013 - 10:50
Path: /college-basketball/how-final-four-teams-were-built

Being a Missouri Valley team and a No. 9 seed isn't the only way Wichita State is an outlier in the Final Four. Gregg Marshall’s roster is an anomaly in this year's national semifinals.

Unlike the the other three Final Four teams, Wichita State leaned on transfers -- from junior college and Division I -- and grizzled veterans to reach the final weekend of the basketball season.

The volume of Division I transfers in recent years has been an issue around college basketball, but it won’t be at the Final Four. The majority of key players at Louisville, Michigan and Syracuse signed with their schools out of high school and stayed.

That’s one of a handful of interesting nuggets we found when we looked at the composition of the Final Four rosters. For the purposes of the piece, we counted only players who played at least two games and 15 total minutes in the first two weeks of the tourney.

Here’s how the Final Four teams were built:

Homegrown talent

• Louisville, Michigan and Syracuse built their teams from high school talent. Of those three teams, the Cardinals’ Luke Hancock, who transferred from George Mason, is the only Division I or junior college transfer.

• Wichita State has four transfers earning regular minutes, including starters Cleanthony Early, Carl Hall, Malcolm Armstead and Ehimen Orukpe. All came directly from junior college except for Armstead, who transferred from Oregon after transferring from junior college.

That’s not to say the other schools didn’t benefit from roster turnover at other programs. Louisville’s Montrezl Harrell decommitted from Virginia Tech, and Kevin Ware decommmitted from UCF and at one point signed with Tennessee.

• Although Louisville, Michigan and Syracuse didn’t add transfers, they contributed to the pool of players in the transfer market. Evan Smotrycz (Maryland), Dayeesha Hollins (Cincinnati) and Carlton Brundidge (Detroit) transferred from Michigan. Rakeem Buckles (FIU), Angel Nunez (Gonzaga) and Elisha Justice (NAIA) transferred from Louisville. Terry Rozier went to Hargrave Military Academy and Justin Coleman did not qualify academically rather than enrolling at Louisville. Da’Shonte Riley signed with Syracuse but transferred to Eastern Michigan.

A recruiting mixed bag

• Three of the four teams had at least one top-20 signing class since 2010, according to The exception, not surprisingly, is Wichita State. The Shockers did not appear in Rivals’ class rankings since 2009.

• Michigan’s 2012 class of Mitch McGary, Glenn Robinson III, Spike Albrecht and Nik Stauskas was ranked seventh.

• Louisville’s 2011 class of Chane Behanan, Wayne Blackshear, Zach Price, Kevin Ware and Angel Nunez was ranked ninth.

• Syracuse’s 2012 class of Fab Melo, Dion Waiters, Baye Keita and C.J. Fair was ranked seventh, though Melo and Waiters declared early for the NBA draft. Syracuse’s 2011 class of Rakeem Christmas, Michael Carter-Williams and Trevor Cooney was ranked 16h.

• The Final Four will feature six McDonald’s All-Americans, though they’re on only two teams -- Carter-Williams, Christmas and DaJuan Coleman for Syracuse and Behanan, Blackshear and Peyton Siva for Louisville.

• No individual state dominated the Final Four rosters, though four players finished their high school careers in New York (Syracuse’s Brandon Triche  and DaJuan Coleman, Louisville’s Russ Smith and Wichita State’s Cleanthony Early).

• Only two finished their high school careers in the Mountain or Pacific time zones -- Louisville’s Siva (Washington) and Wichita State’s Demetric Williams (Nevada).

• Two players in the Final Four were born in Africa -- Louisville’s Gorgui Dieng from Senegal and Wichita State’s Ehimen Orukpe from Nigeria.

Young vs. old

• Michigan is the youngest team in the Final Four whereas Wichita State is the oldest. The Wolverines have five regulars who graduated high school in the class of 2012. That’s two more than the other three teams combined -- Syracuse has two, Louisville has one, Wichita State has none.

• The Shockers, however, have four players who graduated in the class of 2011. At the same time, they have some of more seasoned players in the Final Four. Carl Hall is one of two players here to graduate high school in the class of 2007. He enrolled at Middle Georgia College in 2007-08 before a heart condition forced him to temporarily give up basketball until he returned to the game at Northwest Florida State in 2010-11. He transferred to Wichita State the following year. Shockers guard Malcolm Armstead started his college career at Chipola (Fla.) Junior College in 2007, transferred to Oregon in 2009, and transferred to Wichita State in 2011.

Where they’re going

• Seven players in the Final Four were ranked among DraftExpress’ top 100 prospects for the 2013 draft, led by four from Michigan. Wichita State continued to be an outlier here with none on that list. Those players were:

10. Trey Burke, Michigan
15. Michael Carter-Williams, Syracuse
20. Glenn Robinson III, Michigan
24. Gorgui Dieng, Louisville
46. Mitch McGary, Michigan
51. Russ Smith, Louisville
83. Tim Hardaway Jr., Michigan

<p> Louisville, Michigan, Syracuse and Wichita State took different paths to building winners</p>
Post date: Tuesday, April 2, 2013 - 09:46
Path: /college-football/oregon-ducks-2013-spring-football-preview

Oregon just finished a historic run in Pac-12 play, going 33-3 in conference games over the last four years, including a trip to the BCS National Championship game. Those four years are better known as the Chip Kelly era in Eugene. However, Kelly is coaching in the NFL and former assistant Mark Helfrich is now leading the program and has elite expectations swirling around his first season as the head coach.

Oregon Ducks 2013 Spring Preview

2012 Record: 12-1 (8-1)

Spring practice dates: April 2-April 27

Returning Starters: Offense – 9, Defense – 7

Returning Leaders:

Passing: Marcus Mariota, 230-of-336, 2,677 yards, 32 TDs, 6 INTs
Rushing: Marcus Mariota, 106 att., 752 yards, 5 TDs
Receiving: De'Anthony Thomas, 45 rec., 445 yards, 5 TD
Tackles: Brian Jackson, 69
Sacks: Taylor Hart, 8.0
Interceptions: Erick Dargan, 5

Redshirts to watch: DB Reggie Daniels, LB Brett Bafaro, WR Chance Allen, QB Jake Rodrigues, TE Evan Baylis

Early Enrollees to watch: LB Joe Walker

2013 Schedule

Aug. 31 Nicholls State
Sept. 7 at Virginia
Sept. 14 Tennessee
Sept. 21 Open Date
Sept. 28 Cal
Oct. 5 at Colorado
Oct. 12 at Washington
Oct. 19 Washington State
Oct. 26 UCLA
Nov. 2 Bye Week
Nov. 7 at Stanford (Thur.)
Nov. 16 Utah
Nov. 23 at Arizona
Nov. 29 Oregon (Fri.)

Related: Pac-12 Football 2013 Spring Preview and Storylines

Offensive Strength: Backfield. With Marcus Mariota returning at quarterback and both De'Anthony Thomas and Byron Marshall back to carry the ball, Oregon is loaded once again with ball-carriers.

Offensive Weakness: Offensive line. There really is no weakness on this offense but replacing Kyle Long, Ryan Clanton and Nick Cody up front will be an area of focus.

Defensive Strength: Depth. This team is known for playing a lot of players in its rotation and despite some key losses there is a wealth of talent and experience at every position. Defensive tackle and the secondary are especially strong.

Defensive Weakness: Veteran leadership. The heart and soul of the defense is gone with veteran leaders Michael Clay, John Boyett, Dion Jordan and Kiko Alonso departed.

Spring Storylines Facing the Ducks

1. Replace linebackers Clay and Alonso. Michael Clay was a fixture inside on the Ducks defense, and despite some career speed bumps, Kiko Alonso developed into a star as well. Not only did they make plays (182 tackles, 24.0 TFL) a year ago, but they were the leaders of the defense. Derrick Malone, Tyson Coleman, Boseko Lokombo, Rahim Cassell and Rodney Hardrick have all seen plenty of reps but organizing this depth chart and developing leaders in this group will be key for defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti this spring.

2. Sort out the defensive line. Dion Jordan and Issac Remington earned all-conference recognition and both are gone. Much like the linebackers, however, the rotation of bodies has given this depth chart plenty of experience. Taylor Hart will star at one end while Wade Keliikipi returns after an honorable mention All-Pac-12 season. This means former elite recruits like DeForest Buckner, Arik Armstead, Christian French and Ricky Heimuli need to step into bigger roles and develop into the players scouts believed they were coming out of high school.

3. Fill the gaps along the O-line. Having All-Pac-12 center Hroniss Grasu and tackles Jake Fisher and Tyler Johnstone back is an excellent place to start along the offensive line. But both guards and overall depth needs to be developed. This offensive system runs at light speed and uses a lot of bodies to stay fresh up front so look for other names like Everett Benyard and Mana Greig to figure heavily in the mix.

4. Establish the process. Mike Belotti gets credit for building Oregon as both a head coach and athletic director. Chip Kelly gets credit for taking this program to the next level. And Helfrich is charged with not only maintaining elite-level success but taking the final step that has eluded the previous two regimes, a national title. He is familiar with the program and that will help the transition, but Kelly was so instrumental in elevating this offense to unprecedented levels, that many wonder if Helfrich can keep up. This spring will be his first chance to prove his detractors wrong by installing his game plan and setting the benchmark for expectations.

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<p> Oregon Ducks 2013 Spring Football Preview</p>
Post date: Tuesday, April 2, 2013 - 09:45
Path: /college-football/ranking-accs-college-football-coaches-2013

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

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

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

Ranking the ACC Head Coaches for 2013

1. Frank Beamer, Virginia Tech
Record at Virginia Tech: 216-104-2 (1987-present)
Record at Murray State: 42-23-2 (1981-1986)
Overall Record: 258-127-4 (31 years)

First as a player and now as the head coach, Beamer has been a part of Virginia Tech football for four decades, and his success has made “Beamerball” a recognized commodity both within and outside of the state. After a slow start to his coaching career at Tech, Beamer has led the Hokies to 20 straight bowl games dating back to 1993. During this time he won three Big East championships — including one memorable run at the national title with Michael Vick in 1999 — four ACC titles and five conference Coach of the Year Awards. In eight years of playing in the Coastal, Beamer has won the division five times. His seven-win 2012 campaign ended an eight-year run with at least 10 wins and it forced him to make some coaching changes. That said, he is still the longest tenured and winningest active coach in college football.

2. Al Golden, Miami
Record at Miami: 13-11 (2011-present)
Record at Temple: 27-34 (2006-2010)
Overall Record: 40-45 (6 years)

Golden earned the Miami job after building bottom feeder Temple into a MAC contender. He didn’t have a losing league record in his final four seasons in Philly and earned MAC Coach of the Year honors in 2009. A massive NCAA scandal involving super booster Nevin Shapiro didn’t slow Golden’s recruiting efforts and his team showed improvement last fall by winning the ACC's Coastal Division. Yet, for a second straight year, Miami missed a bowl game due to self-imposed postseason sanctions. His tribute to Howard Schnellenberger — a dress shirt, tie, slacks and jacket gameday attire — has once again become an iconic symbol on the Hurricanes’ sideline. After more than 10 freshmen saw starting time in ’12, Miami could be the front-runner in the Coastal this fall. Golden still has much to prove in Coral Gables, but his resurrection job at Temple shows he's capable of elevating Miami back into ACC title contention - provided the program can dodge major NCAA sanctions from the ongoing investigation. 

3. Paul Johnson, Georgia Tech
Record at Georgia Tech: 41-26 (2008-present)
Record at Navy: 45-29 (2002-07)
Record at Georgia Southern: 62-10 (1997-2001)
Overall Record: 148-65 (15 years)

After two I-AA National Championships at Georgia Southern, Johnson completely reinvented the Naval Academy before bringing his patented triple-option attack to the big leagues. Since showing up at Georgia Tech, Johnson has never posted a losing ACC record, has played in three ACC championship games and never missed the postseason. The Sun Bowl win over USC a year ago was his first at Tech and the school’s first bowl win since 2004. Needless to say, the long-time head coach has proven his option system is fully capable of winning at a high level.


4. Jimbo Fisher, Florida State
Overall Record at Florida State: 31-10 (2010-present, 3 years)

Under Fisher’s direction, Florida State has once again emerged as a top-10 program. The Seminoles slipped in the final years under Bobby Bowden but have won at least nine games in each of Fisher’s three seasons. Florida State also has three bowl wins under Fisher and is 1-1 in the ACC Championship game under his watch. Despite Fisher’s success, the Seminoles have yet to climb back into the national title discussion and have finished just once in the Associated Press' poll final top 10. So while Florida State has made strides under Fisher, it’s not back among the nation’s elite – at least right now. The Seminoles continue to recruit well, and there’s plenty of young talent to fill the voids by the departing players. Fisher has a revamped coaching staff and a new indoor facility is on the way. All of the pieces are in place for Florida State to win big once again. If Fisher can elevate the Seminoles into a consistent top-five team once again, he will move into the top three of the ACC coaching ranks. However, Florida State also has a few head-scratching losses under Fisher, including a 17-16 road loss to NC State in 2012 and a 14-13 home defeat to Virginia in '11. If Fisher wants to be considered elite, it’s time for the puzzling losses to end.

5. Larry Fedora, North Carolina
Record at North Carolina: 8-4 (2012-present)
Record at Southern Miss: 34-19 (2008-11)
Overall Record: 42-23 (5 years)

Fedora cut his coaching chops at Baylor, Air Force, Middle Tennessee, Florida and Oklahoma State. After a four-year run at Southern Miss that culminated with a C-USA Championship in 2011, Fedora landed at a North Carolina program still reeling from the aftermath of the Butch Davis era. He led the Heels to a co-Coastal Division title last season, but bowl sanctions didn’t allow North Carolina to play in the postseason. His offensive scheme is a proven commodity, but can he rebuild a roster hurt heavily by NFL defections and scholarship limitations?

6. Dabo Swinney, Clemson
Overall Record at Clemson: 40-21 (2008-present, 5 years)

Swinney is one of the toughest coaches to rank in the ACC. He may not be the best X’s and O’s coach, but Clemson is 40-21 with two appearances in the ACC Championship under his watch. The Tigers seem to have turned a corner under Swinney’s direction and are the favorite to win the ACC in 2013. While Swinney deserves credit for the Tigers’ rise in recent years, having two of college football’s highest-paid coordinators hurts his case to be ranked higher on this list. Since Chad Morris arrived at Clemson, the Tigers are 21-6. Prior to his arrival, Swinney was just 19-15. Credit Clemson for giving Swinney the money to spend on quality assistants, which has clearly paid dividends for the program in recent years. Is Swinney an elite coach? Probably not. However, as long as he continues to recruit at a high level and hire good coordinators when Morris and Brent Venables leave for head coaching jobs, Clemson should remain one of the top programs in the ACC.

7. Jim Grobe, Wake Forest
Record at Wake Forest: 73-74 (2001-present)
Record at Ohio: 33-33-1 (1995-2000, 6 years)
Overall Record: 106-107-1 (18 years)

Grobe has done a lot of good things at Wake Forest, which includes leading the Demon Deacons to the ACC Championship and a BCS bowl in 2006. The West Virginia native isn’t the flashiest coach, but he turned around Ohio during his six-year stint from 1995-2000 and has a 73-74 mark during his Wake Forest tenure. While a 73-74 record isn’t overly impressive, winning in Winston-Salem is no easy task, and Grobe needs just five victories to become the school’s all-time winningest coach. Despite making Wake Forest into a more competitive team within the ACC, there’s some concern Grobe may have slipped in recent years. The Demon Deacons have four consecutive losing seasons and won only one conference game in 2010. It's not easy to sustain success at Wake Forest. But considering Grobe's track record and the youth on this team last season, he should have the Demon Deacons back in the mix for a bowl game in 2013.

8. David Cutcliffe, Duke
Record at Duke: 21-40 (2008-present)
Record at Ole Miss: 44-29 (1998-2004)
Overall Record: 65-69 (11 years)

Cutcliffe has been an incredibly effective offensive coach — when he has a Manning under center. After coaching Peyton in Knoxville, he posted five winning seasons in six years at Ole Miss (three of which Eli quarterbacked) but was fired before his seventh season. After four years of coordinating at Notre Dame and Tennessee, he returned as a head coach at Duke. The Blue Devils haven’t posted a winning record in his five years and are 9-31 in ACC play under Cutcliffe. That said, his offenses have always been excellent, the team is much more competitive than it was prior to his arrival, and Duke finally returned to the postseason in 2012 for the first time since 1994.

9. Randy Edsall, Maryland
Record at Maryland: 6-18 (2011-present)
Record at Connecticut: 74-70 (1999-2010)
Overall Record: 80-88 (14 years)

After a disastrous debut with Maryland in 2011, Edsall appears to have the Terrapins headed back in the right direction. Maryland went 2-10 in Edsall’s first season and navigated four season-ending injuries to quarterbacks in 2012 to finish with a 4-8 mark. Prior to taking the job at Maryland, Edsall spent 12 years as the head coach at Connecticut. Under his watch, the Huskies recorded a 74-70 mark and played in the 2010 Fiesta Bowl. Before Edsall was picked as Connecticut’s head coach in 1999, he worked at Syracuse (1980-90), spent three seasons with Boston College (1991-93), served four years in the NFL with the Jaguars (1994-97) and one season as Georgia Tech’s defensive coordinator ('98). Edsall is just under .500 for his head coaching career, but he had to bring Connecticut from the FCS level to the Big East, which was no easy task. And Edsall’s job is only going to get tougher in the coming years, especially after Maryland joins the Big Ten in 2014.

10. Paul Chryst, Pittsburgh
Record at Pittsburgh: 6-7 (2012-present)
Overall Record: 6-7 (1 year)

The former Wisconsin quarterback has coached all over North America in the NFL (San Diego), CFL (Ottawa, Saskatchewan) and at numerous college programs. However, he blossomed as an elite offensive mind at his alma mater in Madison. For seven seasons, Chryst led arguably the greatest era of offensive football in Badgers history, culminating in a near national title berth in 2011. This led to his first head coaching job at Pitt in 2012. His first season leading the Panthers — a team faced with its fourth different head coach in as many years — began slowly but his team showed marked improvement over the course of the season and all signs point to being competitive in their new league.

11. Dave Doeren, NC State
Record at NC State: 0-0 (First Season)
Record at Northern Illinois: 23-4 (2011-12)
Overall Record: 23-4 (2 years)

NC State made one of the offseason’s top coaching moves by hiring Dave Doeren away from Northern Illinois. Although Tom O’Brien led the Wolfpack to four bowl games in five seasons, a 22-26 record in conference play wasn’t good enough. It’s tough to envision NC State consistently beating Clemson and Florida State, but the program can win more than it has the last few years. Doeren looks like the right coach to take NC State to the next level, as he comes to Raleigh after a 23-4 mark in two seasons with Northern Illinois. Although he inherited a good team from Jerry Kill, Doeren took the Huskies to new heights, including a berth in last season's Orange Bowl against Florida State. Prior to his two-year stint as Northern Illinois’ head coach, he served as a defensive coordinator at Wisconsin and Kansas and also spent time as a graduate assistant at USC. Doeren doesn’t have any experience in the ACC, so it may take some time to build connections on the recruiting trail. However, all signs point to Doeren’s hire being a home run for NC State.

12. Mike London, Virginia
Record at Virginia: 16-21 (2010-present)
Record at Richmond: 24-5 (2008-2009)
Overall Record: 40-26 (5 years)

London is somewhat of a mystery at Virginia. He was one year removed from an FCS National Championship at Richmond when the Cavaliers hired him in 2010. He took an underachiever and turned them into an eight-win team in just one season on the job and has totally reinvigorated the Virginia brand on the in-state recruiting trail. However, his Wahoos took a major step back in 2012, finishing 2-6 in the ACC and 4-8 overall. Needless to say, London’s 2013 campaign will be carefully scrutinized.

13. Steve Addazio, Boston College
Record at Boston College: 0-0 (First Season)
Record at Temple: 13-11 (2011-12)
Overall Record: 13-11 (2 years)

After two years at Temple, Addazio takes over a Boston College program that has fallen on hard times after 12 consecutive winning seasons from 1999-2010. Addazio had a solid two-year stint at Temple, which produced the program’s first bowl victory since 1979 and a 9-4 mark in 2011. With the departure of a handful of key players on both sides of the ball, along with the transition to the Big East, Temple took a step back in the win column in 2012. Before his two-year stint with the Owls, Addazio was an assistant at Florida from 2005-10. He also served as an assistant with Syracuse, Notre Dame and Indiana before coming to Gainesville, and was highly regarded for his work on the high school level in Connecticut from 1988-94. Addazio is a good recruiter and as a native of Connecticut, is a good fit in the Northeast. Boston College doesn’t have to be an ACC title contender in every season for Addazio to be successful. But the Eagles need to get back to contending for bowl games in the near future. Addazio looks like a good hire for Boston College, but the lack of head coaching experience and building a program keeps him from being ranked higher in the ACC coach rankings.

14. Scott Shafer, Syracuse
Record at Syracuse: 0-0 (First Season)

Doug Marrone left Syracuse’s football program in much better shape than what he inherited in 2009. When Marrone was hired as the head coach for the Buffalo Bills in early January, Syracuse decided to stay in house and promote Shafer to the top spot. Shafer has never been a head coach before, so there’s plenty of uncertainty surrounding his ability to lead a program. Combine the coaching change, the loss of some key personnel and the shift to the ACC from the Big East, and Syracuse is clearly a program in transition. However, promoting Shafer to replace Marrone makes a lot of sense for the Orange, especially since the timing of Marrone’s departure wasn’t ideal for hiring a new head coach. Shafer has served as an assistant in the college ranks since 1991, making stops at Indiana, Northern Illinois, Ilinois, Western Michigan, Stanford and Michigan. He has been a defensive coordinator for five different programs, including the last four years at Syracuse. Shafer was nominated for the 2006 Broyles Award for the nation’s top assistant coach and his '10 defense at Syracuse ranked seventh nationally in yards allowed. Shafer was a popular hire among the players, but he still has much to prove as a head coach in 2013.

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

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<p> Ranking the ACC's College Football Coaches for 2013</p>
Post date: Tuesday, April 2, 2013 - 07:19
All taxonomy terms: MLB, Overtime, News
Path: /mlb/50-greatest-nicknames-baseball-history

Nicknames and baseball players just seem to go together like bat and ball. For as long as young boys and men have been batting baseballs around, they have given each other descriptive nicknames for facial features, deformed body parts, the way they played the game, hair color and, the most popular, shortening their surnames. In fact, some players with nicknames were given nicknames for their nicknames. 

Here are the 50 best—and often very politically incorrect—nicknames in baseball history.

50. Don Mossi
also The Sphinx)
Perhaps you had to see Mossi to really appreciate the name. In Ball Four, Jim Bouton said Mossi “looked like a cab going down the street with its doors open.”

49. Ernie Lombardi

Not to allow Mossi and his ears steal all the thunder, the catcher who was also known as the world’s slowest human had a beak of monumental proportions. But the catcher hit his way into the Hall of Fame.

48. Nick Cullop
Tomato Face

Cullop spent 23 years in the minors, hit 420 home runs and had 2,670 hits, both minor league records when he retired.

47. Mordecai Peter Centennial Brown
Three Finger

Known more commonly as Three Finger Brown than by Mordecai, Brown capitalized on losing most of his index finger in a childhood farming accident. Apparently that helped him throw a devastating curveball described by Ty Cobb as the toughest in baseball.

46. Don Zimmer
The Gerbil

Despite the success for the Red Sox in the late 1970s, Zim is blamed for the team’s collapse in 1978, ultimately losing a playoff game at Fenway Park (commonly known as the Bucky Dent game). Because of this, lefthander Bill Lee, with whom Zimmer often sparred, gave him the name Gerbil.

45. Bill Lee

And speaking of Lee, it wasn’t as though he was a mental giant himself. The lefthander’s outrageous, often irreverent personality and his fearless rhetoric earned him the name Spaceman, allegedly, from John Kennedy (the Red Sox utility infielder, not the former President). Just being left-handed in Boston was probably enough.

44. Jim Grant

Grant, who became one of the most successful African-American pitchers in the 1960s, was the roommate of his boyhood idol Larry Doby when he first came to Cleveland. It was the veteran Doby who dubbed him “Mudcat”, saying that he was “ugly as a Mississippi mudcat.”

43. Jim Hunter

Oakland A’s owner Charlie Finely often seemed more interested in flashy P.R. than winning baseball games. Evidently, this nickname was a product of the PR-conscious Finley more than any angling the Hall of Fame pitcher might have done in his home state of North Carolina.

42. Randy Johnson
Big Unit

Okay, get your mind out of the gutter. Former Expos teammate — yes, Johnson was originally a member of the Expos — Tim Raines once collided with him during batting practice, looked up at the 6’10” hurler and proclaimed, “You’re a big unit.”

41. Mark Fidrych
The Bird

The affable righthander enjoyed talking to the baseball while on the mound and manicuring the mound on his hands and knees between innings. But it was because of his resemblance to Big Bird of Sesame Street fame that Fidrych was given his name.

40. Marc Rzepczynski

Some surnames scream for nicknames, like Yastrzemski with Yaz, and Mazeroski with Maz. But there are few names that could earn more points in the famous word game than this lefthander’s.

39. Doug Gwosdz

Ancestors of the former catcher of the San Diego Padres must have misspelled this name somewhere down the line. But as astute teammates surmised, his jersey resembled those charts hanging on walls in optometrists’ offices.

38. Johnny Dickshot

First of all, that is his real name. And secondly, he referred to himself as the “ugliest man in baseball.” So, we have no qualms about Dickshot making the list.

37. Luke Appling
Old Aches and Pains

Dubbed by teammates, it’s unclear whether the name was given in jest. But it is clear that Appling didn’t mind complaining about the physical demands of the job all the way to the Hall of Fame.

36. Roger Bresnahan
The Duke of Tralee

Nothing really unusual about this name; after all many players were named in honor of their hometowns. Earl Averill was the Duke of Snohomish after his hometown in Washington. But, Bresnahan was from Toledo. For some reason he enjoyed telling folks he was born in Tralee, Ireland.

35. Bob Feller
Rapid Robert

Taking the American League by storm as a teenager led to this nickname as well as The Heater from Van Meter (Iowa).

34. Edward Charles Ford
The Chairman of the Board

Well known as Whitey because of hair color, the lefty dominated the American League for 16 seasons as a member of the Yankees. As a tribute to his calm, cool demeanor in tough situations, he became known as the Chairman of the Board.

33. Leon Allen Goslin

Several sources agree on how Goslin acquired his name. Evidently, he waved his arms as he chased fly balls, had a long neck, and was not the most graceful player.

32. Willie Mays
Say Hey Kid

There is no definitive agreement on how Mays acquired this classic name.

31. Mickey Mantle
The Commerce Comet

Mantle, a star athlete from Commerce, Oklahoma, was offered a football scholarship by the University of Oklahoma, but wisely chose baseball.

30. Joe Medwick
(also Muscles)
According to, fans called Medwick Ducky-Wucky more than merely Ducky, presumably because of his gait, or perhaps the way he swam. Teammates, seemingly out of self-preservation, never called him Ducky-Wucky, but chose instead the name, Muscles.

29. Brooks Robinson
Vacuum Cleaner

If you ever saw Brooksie do his work around the hot corner, you would quickly understand the moniker. Teammate Lee May once quipped, “Very nice (play)...where do they plug Mr. Hoover in?”

28. Aloysius Harry Simmons
Bucketfoot Al

With an exaggerated stride toward third base. Bucketfoot Al bashed major league pitching at a .334 clip on his way to the Hall of Fame.

27. Lynn Nolan Ryan
Ryan Express

No one readily admits giving him the name, but any hitter who stood in the box against Ryan is keenly aware of what the name means.

26. Darrell Evans
Howdy Doody

One look at the famous puppet and a glance at the power-hitting lefty, and you’ll know why.

25. Dennis Boyd
Oil Can

Born in Mississippi (where beer may be referred to as oil), the colorful righthander carried the nickname on to the major leagues.

24. Johnny Lee Odom
Blue Moon

Reportedly, a classmate in grade school thought Odom’s face looked like the moon. Really?

23. Frank Thomas
Big Hurt

Given to Thomas by White Sox broadcaster Ken Harrelson. Thomas put the big hurt on American League pitching for 19 years.

22. Garry Maddox
Minister of Defense

If you watched Maddox patrol center field for the Phillies in the 1970s, you immediately get the name.

21. Mike Hargrove
Human Rain Delay

And you think Nomar Garciaparra invented the step-out-of-the-box-and-adjust-your-batting-gloves routine. Nope. Seasons changed between pitches when he was at bat.

20. Daniel Joseph Staub
Le Grand Orange

Known as Rusty by the Texans while with the Colt .45s, he became Le Grand Orange in Montreal as a member of the original Expos.

19. Jimmy Wynn
Toy Cannon

His small stature and powerful bat led to this moniker.

18. Steve Balboni

Presumably, Balboni was given the name because of his propensity to hit home runs. It may also be noted that a double meaning could be bye-bye, as in “He gone” back to the dugout because of his propensity to strike out.

17. Joakim Soria
The Mexicutioner

When the Royals’ closer took the mound, it was usually lights out for the opponent’s offense. He has since requested another, less violent name.

16. Frank Howard
The Capital Punisher

While playing in the nation’s capital, Howard punished AL pitching for 237 home runs in seven seasons, twice leading the league with 44, and finishing second in 1969 with 48.

15. Carl Pavano
American Idle

After signing a four-year, $38 million deal with the Yankees prior to the 2005 season, Pavano made just nine starts in four seasons, going 3-3 with a 5.00 ERA.

14. Lawrence Peter Berra

Evidently when Berra sat with arms and legs crossed a friend suggested he looked like a Hindu yogi. Now the term Yogi is associated with malaprops more than Hindu.

13. Mariano Rivera
The Sandman

Good night batters.

12. Rickey Henderson
Man of Steal

One look at his stats and you understand this one: 1,406 career steals and a record 130 in 1982.

11. Shane Victorino
The Flyin’ Hawaiian

Victorino plays the game with endless energy and spunk, but his heritage rules the day.

10. Vince Coleman
Vincent Van Go

A true artist of the stolen base.

9. Ken Reitz

Cardinals broadcaster Mike Shannon marveled at how the St. Louis third baseman could pick up everything.

8. Pablo Sandoval
Kung Fu Panda

The loveable Giant Panda.

7. Fred McGriff
Crime Dog

One of ESPN sportscaster Chris Berman’s nicknames that actually stuck. Thanks McGruff, the cartoon Crime Dog.

6. Kenny Rogers
The Gambler

“Every hand’s a winner, and every hand’s a loser. The best that you can hope for is to die in your sleep.”

5. Jose Bautista
Joey Bats

Bautista was terrific as Joey Bats in “The Hitman” on YouTube. He’s been even better as himself for the Blue Jays.

4. Harry Davis

Poor Davis lost his job as Detroit first baseman to some kid name Hank Greenberg in 1933.

3. Ron Cey
The Penguin

Playing for Tommy Lasorda in the minor leagues must have had its pros and cons. Having your manager dub you Penguin because of your awkward running style would probably fall on the con side.

2. William Ellsworth Hoy
Dummy Hoy

As if anyone needed reminding, here’s a clear indicator of just how far political correctness has come in 100 years. William Ellsworth Hoy lost his hearing and ability to speak as a result of childhood meningitis. At only 5’4”, he was difficult to strike out and was the first player to hit a grand slam in the American League. He died in 1961, just five months shy of his 100th birthday.

1. George Herman Ruth
(also the Bambino, Sultan of Swat, The King of Sting, The Colossus of Clout)

Babe was the only major leaguer large enough for five larger than life nicknames.

<p> From Ears to Babe, here are our 50 favorite</p>
Post date: Tuesday, April 2, 2013 - 07:00
Path: /college-basketball/kevin-wares-leg-injury-becomes-sundays-top-story-reaction-around-country

Louisville romped in the second half against Duke to defeat the Blue Devils 85-63 for a trip to its second Final Four, but the news of the day was the devastating injury to Cardinals guard Kevin Ware.

Attempting to defend a three-point shot, the sophomore guard landed awkwardly on his right leg, causing it to break in two places and the bone to protrude the skin. The injury occurred in front of the Cardinals’ bench, causing teammates in to recoil in horror. On the floor, Chane Behanan collapsed to the ground. Russ Smith sobbed. Rick Pitino wiped a tear form his eye.

“It was really hard for me to pull myself together because I didn't ever think in a million years I would see something like that,” Smith told reporters after the game. “And that happened, especially, to a guy like Kevin Ware, I was completely devastated.”

On the court, Louisville must replace Ware’s production. He has become increasingly more valuable off the bench for the Cardinals in recent weeks, but Louisville is one of the deepest teams in the Final Four. Guard Tim Henderson played seven minutes against Duke, as many as he played in the rout over round of 64 opponent North Carolina A&T.

Here’s a roundup of the reaction to Ware’s injury:

► Peyton Siva posted to Instagram a photo of Ware, fresh out of surgery, with the Midwest region trophy.

► The Louisville Courier-Journal’s C.L. Brown explains how the Cardinals found the motivation to win after Ware’s injury.

► Eric Crawford of Louisville’s WDRB takes us moment by moment from the injury to the postgame comments.

► Sports Illustrated’s Luke Winn spoke to Ware’s mother, Lisa Junior, who watched the game from home in Conyers, Ga. “You still cannot comprehend the horror of a mother watching it on TV, when CBS opted to show the play again. 'When I saw the replay,' Lisa said, 'I lost it.'"

► Sports on Earth’s Will Leitch delves into the decision to show the injury, to post a GIF of the injury or not (The Big Lead, Buzzfeed, Deadspin and Yahoo posted GIFs; ESPN, SB Nation, SI and USA Today did not, Leitch notes).

“We can moralize all we want and tell ourselves we're taking the high road,” Leitch wrote. “But we are human beings. If someone turns on the stove and tells us it's hot, we can't blame them when we go ahead and put our hand on it. We can only blame ourselves.”

► Through the evening Sunday and into Monday morning, media organizations debated whether or not to air replays of Ware’s injury. The video can be found easily on YouTube. WARNING: The video of Ware’s injury is extremely graphic. Do not click on the video if you do not want to see a graphic leg injury.

► Clay Travis noted the morality play brought about on Twitter for those who opted to post video of the injury, noting that Oscar-nominated film The Blind Side opens with a scene of a horrific sports injury.

► Forbes contributor Dan Diamond looked into the morality of college athletics and where does Ware go from here from an NCAA and institution perspective.

► Many reacted on Twitter, but the most resonant comments came from athletes who sustained similar injuries, including former Washington Redskins quarterback Joe Theismann and former Louisville running back Michael Bush.



<p> From Louisville's emotional comeback to debates on showing the injury, Ware's broken leg became the focus</p>
Post date: Monday, April 1, 2013 - 11:40
Path: /mlb/setting-roster-major-league-baseballs-all-steroid-team

Steroids are now just as synonymous with baseball as hot dogs or cold beer. It is an unfortunate era of the game that fans of all ages must accept. Are the use of performance-enhancing drugs terrible for the body and a form of cheating? Yes, and this country should work diligently to combat their growth. But steroids are a part of why the game of baseball returned to the nation’s heart after a work stoppage and no World Series in 1994.

The 1998 home run chase between Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire, for example, revived a lifeless sport and, like it or not, everyone from the owners and the players to the managers and the fans benefited.

Should steroid users be in the Hall of Fame — alongside plenty of other great players who bent the rules? Who benefited more from PEDs: Hitters or pitchers? Will there ever be confirmation of who used what when? Since there will likely never be a definitive answer to these questions maybe baseball should build a “Steroid Wing” in Cooperstown and just lump everyone from 1990 to 2006 — when Bud Selig finally created the Joint Drug Prevention and Blunt Treatment Program.

How would that roster look? Here is the all-time steroid team made up of names who have been connected in one way or another to some sort of PED at some point. The starting lineup is a murderer’s row and the rotation has one of the all-time greats fronting it.

C: Pudge Rodriguez (1991-2011)
Key Stats: .296/.798, 2,844 H, 311 HR, 1,332 RBI
Awards: All-Star (14), Gold Glove (13), Silver Slugger (7), MVP

He is one of baseball’s all-time greatest catchers. He has more putouts (14,864) than any other catcher in history by a wide margin as his 21-season career would indicate. He hit over 20 home runs, however, just five times. They all came in consecutive seasons with the Rangers after playing three years with Jose Canseco. His 35-homer, 113-RBI MVP season is a clear outlier as Canseco claimed to have personally educated Rodriguez about steroid use. He never topped 30 home runs or 100 RBIs in any other season. Following the release of Canseco's inflammatory book, Juiced, the 215-pound catcher showed up at Tigers camp at 187 pounds and never hit more than 14 homers the rest of his career. Honorable Mention: Mike Piazza, Javy Lopez

1B: Mark McGwire (1986-2001)
Key Stats: .263/.982, 583 HR, 1,414 RBI
Awards: All-Star (12), Silver Slugger (3), Gold Glove (1), Rookie of the Year

McGwire is one of the few who has openly admitted that he used PEDs during his playing career. In fact, he dates his use of steroids back to as early as 1989 when he and Canseco won the World Series in Oakland — the modern birthplace for steroids. The Big Mac would have been a big bopper no matter what drugs he took, but breaking Roger Maris’ single-season home run record two years in a row seems highly unlikely. Especially considering he did it at age 34 (70 HR) and 35 (65). Honorable Mention: Rafael Palmeiro, Jeff Bagwell

2B: Bret Boone (1992-2005)
Key Stats: .266/.767, 252 HR, 1,021 RBI
Awards: All-Star (3), Gold Glove (4), Silver Slugger (2)

Boone’s career stat sheet is one that steroid haters point to on a regular basis. How could a 5-foot-10, 180-pound second baseman who hit a total of 62 home runs in his first six seasons somehow blast 37 dingers and lead the league in RBIs (141) with a .331 average at age 32? His .950 OPS that year dwarfed his career .767 mark. In eight of 14 seasons, Boone hit 15 round trippers or less. But from 2001 to 2003, he hit 96 of his career 252 homers. Once again, it was Canseco’s book that fingered Boone as a potential steroid user. Honorable Mention: Brian Roberts, Chuck Knoblauch

3B: Alex Rodriguez (1994-present)
Key Stats: .300/.945, 647 HR, 1,950 RBI, 318 SB
Awards: All-Star (14), Silver Slugger (10), MVP (3), Gold Glove (2)

Playing in Seattle and Texas, two steroid hotbeds, A-ROD tested positive for PEDs in 2003 and eventually confessed to his use of banned substances from 2001-03. He has also seen his name mentioned prominently with more recent accusations hailing from Biogenesis in South Florida. He was an elite player with elite skills but his 40-40 season, multiple MVPs and historic numbers have all been called into question by his decision to cheat. His legacy will be an interesting one to track over the next, say, five seasons? Honorable Mention: Ken Caminiti, Mike Lowell, Gary Sheffield

Fantasy: Athlon Sports 2013 Fantasy Baseball Big Board

SS: Miguel Tejada (1997-2011)
Key Stats: .285/.793, 304 HR, 1,282 RBI
Awards: All-Star (6), Silver Slugger (2), MVP (1)

Tejada was arguably the top shortstop in the game during a five-year stretch from 2000-04. He hit over 30 home runs in four out of five seasons, led the majors with 150 RBIs in 2004 and won the 2002 MVP as a key cog in the emergence of the "Moneyball" era in Oakland. But like many Bay Area players, the Latin star was fingered for steroid use by a variety of people. Rafael Palmeiro accused him of giving him tainted B-12 shots. Canseco accused him in his book. And then his name was featured prominently in the Mitchell Report. It all eventually led to a somber confession in 2009, as he was facing federal perjury charges, leaving little doubt that his career is tainted.

OF: Barry Bonds (1986-2007)
Key Stats: .298/1.051, 762 HR, 1,996 RBI, 514 SB
Awards: All-Star (14), Silver Slugger (12), Gold Glove (8), MVP (7)

The most high-profile steroid user in the history of baseball also just happens to be its all-time home run champ. Everyone knows the number 755 but few know Bonds’ 762. This is all, of course, due to his miraculous late-career power surge. He never hit over 50 home runs in a season until he blasted 73 in 2002 at age 36. He hit over 40 dingers only three times in his career before topping 45 in five straight seasons from 2000 to 2004 — his 15th, 16th, 17th, 18th and 19th seasons. He was at the center of the BALCO scandal playing in a roided-up city during the peak of the steroid era. This one is a no brainer and it’s a shame, because he might have been one of the greatest hitters of all-time if he hadn't cheated. Honorable Mention: Ryan Braun, Gary Sheffield

OF: Sammy Sosa (1989-2007)
Key Stats: .273/.878, 609 HR, 1,667 RBI, 234 SB
Awards: All-Star (7), Silver Slugger (6), MVP (1)

This should be the only stat you need to know about Sosa and the steroid era: The Cubs' slugger broke Maris’ single-season home run record three times (1998, 1999, 2001) and never once led his league in homers. Think about that? He was a power hitter despite his 6-foot, 165-pound frame before 1998, but his numbers spiked dramatically during his historic home run chase with McGwire. He hit 207 HR in his first nine seasons and 292 long balls from 1998 to 2002. His 2005 Congressional hearing performance was one for the ages and he was fingered by The New York Times in an article stating Sosa tested positive for PEDs in 2003. Seriously, Baseball-Reference has him listed at 6-foot and 165 pounds… and he has 609 home runs? Honorable Mention: Jose Canseco, Juan Gonzalez

OF: Manny Ramirez (1993-2011)
Key Stats: .312/.996, 555 HR, 1,831 RBI
Awards: All-Star (12), Silver Slugger (9)

There weren’t many better right-handed hitters in all of baseball than Man-Ram in his prime. But that all came crashing down when he tested positive in 2009 for testosterone levels and was suspended 50 games. He then tested positive again in 2011 for a banned substance. All of this after he was fingered as a user back in the infamous 2003 drug test that reportedly also implicated Sosa, A-Rod and others. He was an elite hitter who delivered in the clutch and led his team to four different World Series. But he also quit on his team and earned the "Manny Being Manny" moniker after bizarre and often inexplicable on-field behavior. Honorable Mention: Brady Anderson, Melky Cabrera

DH: David Ortiz (1997-present)
Key Stats: .285/.928, 401 HR, 1,326 RBI
Awards: All-Star (8), Silver Slugger (5)

Big Papi has a strange career boxscore. In six seasons with the Twins, Ortiz slugged just 58 home runs — or less than 10 per season. But paired up with Man-Ram in Beantown for an organization that is willing to do anything to win and he became the greatest hitting DH of all-time. He has averaged 34 home runs per season in his 10-year Red Sox career and topped out at a league-leading 54 in 2006. Ortiz, like so many others on this team, reportedly tested positive for steroids in 2003, information that finally came to light in 2009, and his power numbers have dropped ever since that disclosure. Honorable Mention: Jason Giambi, Hideki Matsui

SP: Roger Clemens (1984-2007)
Key Stats: 354 W, 4,916.2 IP, 4,672 K, 3.12 ERA
Awards: All-Star (11), Cy Young (7), MVP (1)

The Bonds of the mound, Clemens used PEDs to match the slugger's MVPs with seven Cy Young awards. He led the league in ERA seven different times, including a sterling 1.87 mark — his career best — at age 42 while pitching in a notorious steroid town (Houston) in 2005. The change in his career dates back to his move north of the border. After four middling years in Boston from 1993-96, he signed with Toronto and went 41-13 in 498.2 innings with a 2.33 ERA and 563 strikeouts — at age 34 and 35. He was then traded to New York and made more than $97.8 million from age 37 to 44. His name came up 82 times in the Mitchell Report and he has been fingered by former trainers and even teammates as a possible rule-breaker. Honorable Mention: Andy Pettitte, Kevin Brown, Jason Schmidt,

RP: Eric Gagne (1997-2008)
Key Stats: 187 SV, 643.2 IP, 718 K, 3.47 ERA
Awards: All-Star (3), Cy Young (1)

Gagne was magical when he was at his best. He converted an MLB-record 84 straight saves and closed 152 games with 365 strikeouts and a 1.79 ERA in just 247.0 innings from 2002 to 2004. In his other seven seasons combined, he closed 35 games total. However, pitching on the West Coast during those years will raise major question marks and he was named prominently in the Mitchell Report complete with extremely incriminating evidence. He was never the same pitcher following his Tommy John surgery in 2005. Honorable Mention: John Rocker, Guillermo Mota


Note: This is simply for fun and not intended to cast official judgment of anyone named above nor is it investigative journalism.

<p> Major League Baseball's All-Steroid Team</p>
Post date: Monday, April 1, 2013 - 11:20
All taxonomy terms: Overtime
Path: /college-football/video-most-gruesome-injuries-sports

No one ever wants to see anyone suffer an injury in anyway. But when superior athletes are moving at unrealistic speeds and in bizarre ways, unnatural things are bound to happen to the body. Sunday evening, Louisville hoopster Kevin Ware suffered one of the worst possible leg injuries many have ever seen in sports. Fans, coaches and players of all teams are thinking about him, his family and the Cardinals basketball squad. Needless to say, we all wish him a speedy and healthy recovery.

Below are some videos of some of sports most horrific injuries that we can remember. Some you will know about — Lawrence Taylor breaking Joe Theismann's leg, for example — and some you may have never seen. It's not for the squimmish and proceed at your own risk.

Kevin Ware, Louisville


Shaun Livingston, LA Clippers
The Clippers guard completely destroyed his knee in February of 2007 against the Charlotte Bobcats. After rumors of a potential amputated, Livingston eventually rehabbed his way back into the NBA. He has played for six teams since and is averaging 7.3 points per game this year.



Sid Vicious, Wrestling
After nearly a two-decade career in the WWF, including a championship, Vicious jumped off the top rope in 2001 and snapped his left leg. He did return to wrestling but only as a supporting cast and has sued WCW for the incident.


Joe Thiesmann, Washington
The famous compound fracture suffered by the Redskins quarterback in November of 1985 ended his career. The injury forced his retirement as Theismann would never throw a pass again.


Marcus Lattimore, South Carolina
Lattimore missed much of the 2011 season with a torn ACL in his left knee. After a furious rehab, he returned to the field as, once again, one of the nation's top backs in 2012. However, against Tennessee he suffered a horrific injury to his other knee. He is currently working to get his NFL career on track and all signs point to him being ready to play this fall.


Moises Alou, Montreal
Long-time MLB vet shattered his ankle in 1993 rounding first base and trying to stop. After rehab, Alou lost his speed but played for 15 more seasons in the majors.


Starting Pitchers throwing out arms
Pitching is one of the most unnatural movements the human body can endure and shoulders, arms and elbows seem to pay the price. Here are a few that come to mind.

Willis McGahee, Miami
The 2002 National Championship was on the line when Miami and Ohio State played in the title game. McGahee's knee was destroyed on this tackle, yet, the Hurricanes runner was still drafted in the first round and went on to have an excellent NFL career.


Matt Henry, Manitoba
Manitoba Bison running back Matt Henry breaks off a long run and then suffers a sevier leg injury in the Vanier Cup.


Tyrone Prothro, Alabama
Alabama's do-everything play-maker catches a long touchdown pass against Florida in 2005. The injury ended his breakout junior season and it unfortunately ended the young star's career. 


DeAndre Brown, Southern Miss
One of the nation's top recruits in 2008, Brown broke onto the scene with a huge freshman season. However, that season ended with a broken right leg in the bowl game and his career went down hill afterwards.


Patrick Edwards, Houston
As a freshman in 2008 for Houston, Edwards already had 634 yards and four touchdowns before playing Marshall. He ran through the endzone at full speed to make a big catch before hitting some endzone equipment and suffering a compound fracture in his leg. He returned to play three full successful seasons for the Cougars.

Tim Krumrie, San Francisco
Bengals star defensive lineman Tim Krumrie suffers a lower leg injury in what might be the worst Super Bowl injury of all time.

<p> A look back at some of the worst injuries in sports.</p>
Post date: Monday, April 1, 2013 - 11:06
Path: /nfl/2013-nfl-free-agency-winners

When it comes to winners in free agency, hopeful Super Bowl contenders Atlanta, Denver, Houston and Seattle each made big moves to improve their respective rosters. The new coaching staffs in Chicago, Kansas City and Philadelphia also didn’t waste any time putting their stamps on their teams, while Miami, Minnesota and Tennessee made aggressive moves to address areas of need.

Related: 2013 NFL Free Agency Losers

2013 NFL Free Agency Winners (in alphabetical order)

Atlanta Falcons
The NFC South champions finally got that much-needed playoff win and held a halftime lead at home against San Francisco in the NFC Championship game. Not content to rest on these laurels, the team took drastic measures to create some cap space to work with, resulting in the release of running back Michael Turner, defensive end John Abraham and cornerback Dunta Robinson.

While none of those three will be back in a Falcons uniform, the team filled these voids by signing running back Steven Jackson and defensive end Osi Umenyiora and agreeing to a new contract with free agent safety William Moore, as well as starting left tackle Sam Baker. The most important free agent acquisition, however, was when tight end Tony Gonzalez decided to come back for a 17th season. With Gonzalez, Moore and Baker back in the fold along with the “new” guys, the Falcons could very well find themselves in the NFC title game again this season.

Chicago Bears
While it’s unfortunate that long-time Bear and future Hall of Fame linebacker Brian Urlacher most likely won’t be back, it’s not like the front office completely ignored the position either. Free agents D.J. Williams and James Anderson should fill their roles nicely and it’s possible the Bears’ linebacking corps will be better as an overall unit this season compared to last.

Outside of linebacker, the Bears also signed offensive linemen Jermon Bushrod and Matt Slauson, as well as tight end Martellus Bennett to address two glaring areas of need. Now new head coach Marc Trestman can turn his focus to the draft as he continues to mold the roster and this team to his liking.

Denver Broncos
Denver made arguably the loudest noise of any team in free agency when the Broncos signed wide receiver Wes Welker away from New England. Peyton Manning now has Welker, Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker to throw to, making the Broncos’ offense even more dangerous than it was last season. The Broncos also added to its offensive line with the addition of former San Diego Charger guard Louis Vasquez.

As curious and puzzling the whole Elvis Dumervil saga was, Denver didn’t let it get in the way of improving its defense. Terrance Knighton should provide immediate dividends on the defensive line, while Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie will help shore up a secondary that got exposed in the AFC Divisional loss to Baltimore. The Broncos also may not be done just yet as they have been linked to Dwight Freeney as a possible Dumervil replacement.

Houston Texans
The AFC South champions haven’t made a bunch of moves, but the ones they have speak volumes. Future Hall of Famer Ed Reed is a huge get for this team as he will not only improve the secondary on the field, but he can serve as a mentor to his position mates and a veteran leader in the locker room. All-Pro punter Shane Lechler should only make the Texans’ special teams better, while fullback Greg Jones leading the way for Arian Foster could make Houston’s running game even more lethal, if that’s possible.

Kansas City Chiefs
New head coach Andy Reid and general manager John Dorsey have wasted little time putting their stamp on the Chiefs. Before free agency even started, the team traded for San Francisco quarterback Alex Smith, applied the franchise tag to left tackle Branden Albert and re-signed wide receiver Dwayne Bowe and punter Dustin Colquitt.

Through free agency the team has since added cornerbacks Dunta Robinson and Sean Smith, tight end Anthony Fasano, wide receiver Donnie Avery, offensive lineman Geoff Schwartz, defensive lineman Mike DeVito and quarterback Chase Daniel. They have done all of this while only losing three key contributors from last season’s roster – defensive lineman Glenn Dorsey, offensive lineman Eric Winston and quarterback Matt Cassel, who was out of a job already once the Chiefs acquired Smith.

Miami Dolphins
If anything, you have to give Miami credit for not standing idly by with all of the cap space it had accumulated. The Dolphins knew they needed to make a splash, pardon the pun, and they did just that by landing wide receiver Mike Wallace. The team didn’t stop there, however, as it signed linebacker Dannell Ellerbe away from the Super Bowl champion Ravens and also added tight end Dustin Keller and wide receiver Brandon Gibson to the offense. This past weekend, Miami added to its offseason haul by agreeing to a one-year deal with former Atlanta cornerback Brent Grimes. A Pro Bowler in 2010, Grimes has been limited to just 13 games over the last two seasons because of a knee injury in 2011 and a torn Achilles tendon in Week 1 last season. If healthy, Grimes should be able to fill the void left by the departed Sean Smith.

Along with Smith, Miami did say good-bye to left tackle Jake Long, running back Reggie Bush, linebackers Kevin Burnett and Karlos Dansby and tight end Anthony Fasano, but the fan base can’t say this team didn’t just sit and do nothing. The front office got Ryan Tannehill some much-needed weapons, now it’s up to the second-year signal caller to do something with them.

Minnesota Vikings
Yes, Minnesota traded wide receiver Percy Harvin to Seattle and the offense won’t be the same without him, but did the Vikings have any other choice? Harvin made it clear he didn’t want to be there and the Vikings got the Seahawks’ first- and seventh-round picks this year and a third-round selection in ’14 in return for someone who had become nothing more than a headache.

That said, the trade of Harvin left a glaring hole in the offense, one that was filled with the signing of former Green Bay wide receiver Greg Jennings. Jennings is nowhere near the same player as Harvin, but when healthy, the wideout has been a productive and reliable target, just what quarterback Christian Ponder and the passing attack needs. The team also made sure several other key offensive pieces stayed put, namely tackle Phil Loadholt and fullback Jerome Felton, and brought in veteran Matt Cassel to back up Ponder.

Philadelphia Eagles
First-year NFL head coach Chip Kelly is doing everything he can to shape this roster the way he wants. Gone are high-priced, All-Pro defensive backs Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, as the Eagles have completely overhauled their secondary. Taking their places will be Patrick Chung, Bradley Fletcher, Kenny Phillips and Cary Williams, along with additional new defensive pieces Connor Barwin and Isaac Sopoaga.

It remains to be seen if the quantity over quality approach will pay off on the field, but if anything, the Eagles’ defense will look a lot different this season and figures to be a lot deeper. Signing fullback/tight end hybrid James Casey away from Houston was another nice addition, as Kelly likes versatile weapons on offense.

Seattle Seahawks
Even if you don’t factor in the Percy Harvin acquisition, the Seahawks have to be viewed a winner in free agency. Already one of the best defenses in the NFL last season, and one that should only get better with so many young core players, Seattle added Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett, two of the top defensive players on the market.

Besides making the Seahawks defense even younger than it was last season, these team-friendly contracts (Avril’s is two years, Bennett’s only one) made it easier for the team to sign Harvin to a new deal and still should leave the Seahakws with enough cap flexibility to build for the future. The battle in the NFC West between defending champion San Francisco and Seattle should be extremely entertaining to watch this season.

Tennessee Titans
The Titans made their first big move before free agency even started, signing veteran safety George Wilson after he was cut by Buffalo. Once the market officially opened, the team aggressively pursued its top two targets, efforts that paid off when Tennessee signed guard Andy LeVitre and tight end Delanie Walker.

The Titans didn’t stop there, however, adding running back Shonn Greene, defensive tackle Sammie Lee Hill, linebacker Moise Fokou and offensive lineman Robert Turner, while also re-signing reliable veteran kicker Rob Bironas. Even when the team parted ways with valuable backup quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, the Titans had a plan in place, agreeing to terms with Ryan Fitzpatrick shortly after the Bills released him. Tennessee also has since added veteran defensive back Bernard Pollard to the fold, the latest in a series of wise moves made to address areas of need and improve the overall depth of the Titans’ roster.

<p> 2013 NFL Free Agency Winners</p>
Post date: Monday, April 1, 2013 - 11:00
Path: /nfl/2013-nfl-free-agency-losers

No one team has been affected more in free agency than the Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens. The Ravens will look vastly different when they take the field this fall, especially on defense. Other teams that have seen a lot of roster turnover and have struggled to find suitable replacements through free agency include New England, the New York Jets, Oakland and Pittsburgh. Buffalo and Cleveland both have new coaching staffs and front offices running things, so change is inevitable and part of the process. However, based on what has taken place in free agency, it’s clear these two teams have a long ways to go as they seek to contend in their respective divisions.

Related: 2013 NFL Free Agency Winners

2013 NFL Free Agency Losers (in alphabetical order)

Baltimore Ravens
After leading Baltimore to a world championship, the Ravens had little choice but to give Super Bowl XLVII MVP Joe Flacco the largest contract in NFL history. A deal that had to get done, it’s also one that didn’t come without costs, and I’m not just referring to the $120 million the team committed to him over the next six years.

Besides trading reliable wide receiver Anquan Boldin away to San Francisco, the team Baltimore beat to win the Super Bowl in February, the Ravens have already watched four defensive starters from that game sign elsewhere, and this number will likely only go up. Linebacker Dannell Ellerbe and defensive backs Bernard Pollard, Ed Reed and Cary Williams will not be back and neither will linebacker and emotional leader Ray Lewis, who has retired. This number doesn’t include linebacker Paul Kruger, who signed with Cleveland, or defensive linemen Arthur Jones and Ma’ake Kemoeatu, who are still free agents.

The Ravens have worked hard to replace some of these players, adding defensive end Elvis Dumervil, safety Michael Huff and defensive linemen Chris Canty and Marcus Spears, but that doesn’t change the fact that as of now, only three starters remain from the defense that beat Indianapolis, Denver, New England and San Francisco to win the Super Bowl. And that’s without bringing up how hard it will be to replace Boldin in the Ravens’ passing attack and his impact on the offense as a whole and in the locker room.

If there was ever any doubt about how difficult it is to try and repeat as Super Bowl champions, look no further than what the Ravens have gone through in less than two months since winning the Lombardi Trophy in New Orleans.

Buffalo Bills
First-year NFL head coach Doug Marrone already had a tough job ahead of him in trying to get the Bills back to being competitive in the AFC East. That task is even tougher now with the losses of quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, wide receiver Donald Jones, offensive linemen Andy Levitre and Chad Rinehart and safety George Wilson. Fitzpatrick, Levitre and Wilson all signed with Tennessee, while Jones signed with the rival Patriots and Rinehart joined San Diego. Besides these players, wide receiver David Nelson probably won’t be back with the Bills nor will linebacker Nick Barnett or defensive back Terrence McGee.

While it was clear that Fitzpatrick wasn’t going to play out his contract in Buffalo, the Bills had to pay just to release him, taking on some dead money associated with the six-year, $62 million deal he signed back in October 2011. Add that to the two-year deal that could be worth up to $13 million the Bills agreed to over the weekend with former Arizona quarterback Kevin Kolb and you have to wonder if the total cost is worth it. Especially considering the jury is still very much out on if Kolb can be an effective starting quarterback in the NFL (9-12 career mark as the starter, 78.9 career passer rating). In fact, it’s fair to ask are the Bills really any better off at quarterback now than they if they just kept Fitzpatrick, bloated contract and all?

At this point the Bills’ free agent haul has consisted of Kolb, former Cincinnati linebacker Manny Lawson, safety Jairus Byrd (franchised) and cornerback Leodis McKelvin (re-signed). Marrone still has plenty of holes to address, which were only added to with the defections on the offensive line, at wide receiver, and there’s still the matter of the future of the quarterback position. Unlike fellow first-year head coaches Marc Trestman in Chicago and Chip Kelly in Philadelphia, free agency really didn’t do Marrone any favors.

Cleveland Browns
Cleveland appeared to be sitting pretty headed into free agency, as the Browns had an estimated $50 million in cap space to work with. What better way to allow first-year head coach Mark Chudzinksi the opportunity to bring in his guys, especially some much-needed weapons on offense.

Instead the Browns’ free agent haul has consisted of former Baltimore backup linebacker Paul Kruger, troubled Oakland defensive lineman Desmond Bryant, Cardinal linebacker Quentin Groves and a pair of former Bears in unproductive tight end Kellen Davis and backup quarterback Jason Campbell. Not exactly the kind of splash Browns fans were hoping for and the offense, particularly second-year quarterback Brandon Weeden, needed.

Now Chudzinksi and company will turn their attention to the draft, through which the Cleveland will have to address its glaring areas of need, starting with wide receiver. To make matters worse, the Browns also will be in the market for a new kicker as Phil Dawson left to join San Francisco, and potentially a punter too since Reggie Hodges is still unsigned.

New England Patriots
Tom Brady agreed to a team-friendly, three-year extension just prior to the start of free agency. At the time, part of the reason behind the new deal was to help the Patriots’ cap situation as they tried to keep last season’s roster intact. Instead, Brady has had to sit and watch, as his wide receiving corps has been completely overhauled leaving with him a group of unfamiliar targets.

The exodus started when 100-catch machine Wes Welker decided to leave New England to join Peyton Manning in Denver. Welker’s two-year, $12 million deal with the Broncos hardly broke the bank, making his exit even more curious. On top of Welker’s departure, New England had to cut several other players just to put itself in a position to do anything in free agency, including retaining its own.

Among those released were wide receiver Brandon Lloyd while fellow wideouts Deion Branch, Julian Edelman and Donte Stallworth became, and still remain, free agents. The Patriots did work quickly following Welker’s departure, signing former Ram wide receiver Danny Amendola to a five-year contract, while also adding Donald Jones and Michael Jenkins.

To New England’s credit, the team also re-signed starting right tackle Sebastian Vollmer, cornerbacks Kyle Arrington and Aqib Talib, while also bringing veteran safety Adrian Wilson and running back/kicker returner Leon Washington on board. However, the turnover at wide receiver, highlighted by Welker’s decision to sign with Denver, will be the focus moving forward and has already cast somewhat of a cloud over the Patriots’ offseason.

New York Jets
It may not be getting near as much attention as to what’s taken place in Baltimore, but the Jets have gone through a fair amount of attrition of their own this offseason. Even after last season’s disappointing 6-10 showing, the Jets were faced with some tough decisions and had to let a lot of key players and contributors go.

Running back Shonn Greene, starting guard Matt Slauson and tight end Dustin Keller have already signed with new teams, as have starting safeties Yeremiah Bell and LaRon Landry, defensive end Mike DeVito and linebacker Aaron Maybin. But that’s not all, as the team also cut starting linebackers Calvin Pace and Bart Scott, defensive tackle Sione Pouha and several others before free agency started, as it had to work hard to even get under the cap in the first place. None of these players are likely to return to the Jets.

The Jets have added veterans like former Pittsburgh guard Willie Colon, San Diego defensive lineman Antonio Garay, quarterback David Garrard and running back Mike Goodson, but there are still several key pieces of last year’s roster out on the market. Included in that group is starting linebacker Bryan Thomas and the starting right side of its offensive line in guard Brandon Moore and tackle Austin Howard. The Jets aren’t in a position right now to add many more pieces, so it looks like head coach Rex Ryan, who is already on the hot seat before the season even starts, will be going to battle this fall with a lot of unfamiliar faces.

Oakland Raiders
Things didn’t go very well for first-year head coach Dennis Allen last season and based on what has already happened this offseason, he may be hard-pressed to even match the four wins he had in 2012. The Raiders have already lost safety Michael Huff (Baltimore), defensive end Matt Shaughnessy (Arizona), linebacker Philip Wheeler (Miami), defensive tackle Desmond Bryant (Cleveland), tight end Brandon Myers (New York Giants), running back Mike Goodson (New York Jets) and punter Shane Lechler (Houston) in free agency and haven’t exactly restocked the cupboard.

The Raiders have added linebackers Kevin Burnett (Miami) and Nick Roach (Chicago), defensive tackles Pat Sims (Cincinnati) and Vance Walker (Atlanta), along with some others to the fold, but at least on paper, the additions don’t measure up to the subtractions. That’s especially the case if you factor in that defensive tackles Tommy Kelly and Richard Seymour, wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey and cornerbacks Shawntae Spencer and Joselio Hanson are still out there as free agents.

And then there’s the Carson Palmer dilemma, as it appears the veteran quarterback the Raiders traded for in October 2011 is on his way out the door. Even if the Raiders are able to trade Palmer, to say Arizona, the return for him will likely be one late-round pick, which pales in comparison to what they gave Cincinnati (2012 first-round pick, second-rounder in ’13) for him less than two years ago.

With the hits Oakland has already taken in free agency and the likelihood that there are more losses to come, the Raiders need all the draft picks they can accumulate to assist with the rebuilding effort. Besides coming out on the losing end of the Palmer deal when all is said and done, the Raiders may need to use another draft pick or picks to acquire its next quarterback (Seattle’s Matt Flynn?), putting them even further in the hole, if you will, when it comes to restocking the roster. There’s no question this team needs some new blood, but at this rate Allen and company are basically starting over completely from scratch. Not exactly the best-case scenario for a team that went 4-12 last season, no?

Pittsburgh Steelers
Age and salary cap issues may finally be catching up to Pittsburgh, who more than likely will need younger players to step into bigger roles this season and also hit in April’s draft on more than one pick if the Steelers hope to return to the postseason. Injuries and an unproductive running game were two of the biggest culprits behind 2012’s disappointing 8-8 showing, but Pittsburgh has already been hit hard by losses through free agency.

Even though it was pretty clear the Steelers weren’t going to be able to retain the services of wide receiver Mike Wallace, he will not be an easy weapon to replace. The situation at wide receiver could get even worse if the team is unable to keep restricted free agent Emmanuel Sanders in the fold. The Steelers also will be without running back Rashard Mendenhall and starting guard Willie Colon on offense this season. Two other offensive linemen – Doug Legursky and Max Starks – are still free agents and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger will have a new backup in 2013 with the addition of Bruce Gradkowski.

On defense, reliable cornerback Keenan Lewis signed with New Orleans and the Steelers decided to cut linebacker James Harrison, who was named the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year in 2008. Another potential big loss, both literally and figuratively, on defense could be veteran nose tackle Casey Hampton, who has yet to sign with any team.The Steelers are a veteran team and its ability to keep its core together is one of the main reasons why they have posted nine straight seasons of .500 or better. Unfortunately, age and the cost of doing business in the NFL may finally be catching up to this team. Based on what has already taken place in free agency, this is a team that could desperately use an infusion of young, impact talent in the draft, especially if the Steelers want to keep its streak of .500 or better finishes in the regular season intact in 2013.

<p> 2013 NFL Free Agency Losers</p>
Post date: Monday, April 1, 2013 - 11:00
All taxonomy terms: Phil Mickelson, Golf
Path: /golf/top-20-golfers-2013-majors-no-8-phil-mickelson

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

No. 8: Phil Mickelson

Born: June 16, 1970, San Diego, Calif. | Career PGA Tour Wins: 41  | 2012 Wins (Worldwide): 1 | 2012 Earnings (PGA Tour): $4,203,821 (8th) World Ranking: 10


Brandel Chamblee's Take

Lefty has won in every year but two since 1993, and even though he doesn’t have the length that he used to, he still has more ability to produce magic than all but a few players in the world. His best bet to win is at Augusta National, where he has three wins and nine top 5s since 1999, including a third-place finish there last year. At 42, he doesn’t have many great years left, but it wouldn’t surprise me a bit if he won another major before he was done.

Major Championship Résumé
Starts: 81
Wins: 4

2012 Performance:
Masters - T3
U.S. Open - T65
British Open - Cut
PGA Championship - T36

Best Career Finishes: 
Masters - 1 (2004, 2006, 2010)
U.S. Open - 2/T2 (1999, 2002, 2004, 2006, 2009)
British Open - T2 (2011)
PGA Championship - 1 (2005)
Top-10 Finishes: 33
Top-25 Finishes: 45
Missed Cuts: 8

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

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

<p> Athlon Counts Down the 20 Golfers to Watch for Majors Season</p>
Post date: Monday, April 1, 2013 - 10:36
Path: /college-football/ranking-big-12s-college-football-coaches-2013

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

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

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

Ranking the Big 12's College Football Coaches for 2013

1. Bill Snyder, Kansas State
Overall Record at Kansas State:
170-85-1 (1989-2005, 2009-present, 21 years)

Snyder doesn’t get the national credit like Nick Saban or Urban Meyer, but there’s no denying he is one of the best coaches in college football. Prior to his arrival at Kansas State, the Wildcats had just one bowl appearance and recorded only one winning season from 1971-88. After Snyder’s arrival, Kansas State immediately went from a laughingstock to a consistent winner. The Wildcats won six games in Snyder’s first two seasons but recorded 10 years of nine victories or more from 1993-2003. Snyder retired after the 2005 season, but a failed three-year stint under Ron Prince brought him back to the sidelines. And just as Kansas State did in Snyder’s first stint, the program quickly emerged as a conference title contender and was in the mix to play for the national title last season. Snyder isn’t flashy, but his teams are always well-coached and prepared. As long as Snyder roams the sidelines in Manhattan, regardless of how many starters Kansas State loses, never count out the Wildcats from the Big 12 title discussion.

2. Bob Stoops, Oklahoma
Overall Record: 149-37 (1999-present, 14 years)

Stoops has been the picture of consistency and success during his Oklahoma tenure. The Sooners have won at least 10 games in 11 of Stoops’ 14 seasons in Norman and claimed the national title after the 2000 season. Under his guidance, Oklahoma has emerged as a national powerhouse once again. The Sooners have claimed at least a share of the Big 12 title nine times under Stoops and have eight BCS bowl appearances. And after a 10-3 record in 2012, which would be considered a successful year for most programs, Stoops didn’t sit idle. Oklahoma will have three new assistant coaches for 2013, which should inject some fresh energy into the program. Even though some may criticize Stoops for his 1-5 record in the last six BCS bowls, the Ohio native is still one of the nation’s premier coaches.

3. Gary Patterson, TCU
Overall Record at TCU: 116-36 (2000-present, 13 years)

Since 2000, TCU has played in the WAC, Conference USA, Mountain West and Big 12. The one constant and driving force behind the conference changes and rise of TCU as one of college football’s top-25 programs of the BCS era: Gary Patterson. The Kansas native had no FBS head coaching experience when he was promoted at TCU in 2000 but has eight seasons of 10 or more wins, including a 13-0 mark in 2010. The Horned Frogs dominated the Mountain West from 2005-2011, losing only seven conference games during that stretch. Moving to the Big 12 is a step up in competition for TCU. But the program has a lucrative recruiting base, and Patterson is clearly one of the top-15 coaches in the nation. As long as the Horned Frogs continue to recruit well, competing in the Big 12 won’t be a problem.

4. Art Briles, Baylor 
Record at Baylor: 33-30 (2008-present)
Record at Houston: 34-28 (2003-07)
Overall Record: 67-58 (10 years) 

From 1997-2007, Baylor was one of the Big 12’s worst programs. The Bears compiled a 31-94 mark and did not record a bowl appearance during that stretch. Enter Art Briles. Since Briles’ arrival, the Bears have been much more competitive in the Big 12. Baylor has 25 victories over the last three seasons and has played in three consecutive bowl games for the first time in program history. Briles’ success isn’t contained just to Baylor, as he took over Houston and went 34-28 in five years with the Cougars. Two different programs, two challenging and different reclamation efforts. Considering what Briles has done on the high school level, at Houston and now at Baylor, he’s easily one of college football’s top-20 coaches going into the 2013 season.   

5. Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State
Overall Record at Oklahoma State: 67-35 (2005-present, 8 years)

Even though Gundy ranks No. 5 in Athlon’s Big 12 coach rankings for 2013, there’s not much separating the former Oklahoma State quarterback from the rest of the coaches in the conference. And it’s also hard to find a coach in the nation that’s a better fit at their current program. Considering Gundy played at Oklahoma State and served as an assistant prior to being elevated to head coach, he’s the perfect leader for a program that has made significant gains over the last 10 years. After going 18-19 in his first three seasons, Gundy has led the Cowboys to five consecutive seasons of at least eight victories. Oklahoma State recorded a 23-3 mark from 2010-11, which included an outright Big 12 title in 2011 and a Fiesta Bowl victory over Stanford. Having a booster like T. Boone Pickens certainly doesn’t hurt Oklahoma State, especially when it comes to building new facilities. However, Gundy has elevated the Cowboys from battling just for bowl berths to conference titles in just a few seasons.   

6. Mack Brown, Texas
Record at Texas: 150-43 (1998-present)
Record at North Carolina: 69-46-1 (1988-97)
Record at Tulane: 11-23 (1985-87)
Record at Appalachian State: 6-5 (1983)
Overall Record: 236-117-1 (29 years)

Is 2013 a make-or-break year for Brown at Texas? It’s certainly a possibility. The Longhorns 11-15 mark in conference play over the last three years is unacceptable for one of college football’s premier programs. Brown transformed Texas into a national title contender, but it’s clear his best days as a head coach are probably behind him. Prior to coming to Austin, Brown worked as a head coach for one season at Appalachian State, three years at Tulane and for 10 years at North Carolina. In some regard, Brown is a victim of his own success at Texas. In his first 12 seasons in Austin, the Longhorns won at least nine games in every year and beat USC to win the 2005 national championship. However, since losing to Alabama in the 2009 BCS title, Texas hasn’t been the same program. The Longhorns have the talent to win the Big 12 title in 2013. If Texas fails to surpass its 2012 win total (nine), there will be plenty of calls for a coaching change in Austin.

7. Paul Rhoads, Iowa State
Overall Record at Iowa State: 24-27 (2009-present, 4 years)

Rhoads is the textbook example of why coaches shouldn’t always be judged just by the wins and losses on their resume. Iowa State is arguably the most difficult job in the Big 12 and one of the toughest from a BCS conference. So while Rhoads 24-27 record isn’t going to wow anyone, it’s impressive what he’s been able to do during his time in Ames. The Cyclones have played in three bowl games under Rhoads, with a victory in the 2009 Insight Bowl against Minnesota. Iowa State has won two in a row over rival Iowa and under Rhoads’ watch, the Cyclones have scored upset victories against Texas and Oklahoma State. As a native of Iowa, it would take a lot of Rhoads to leave Iowa State for another program. However, as long as the Cyclones in contention for a bowl every year, Rhoads’ name will keep coming up in coaching searches for top BCS programs. 

8. Dana Holgorsen, West Virginia 
Overall Record at West Virginia: 17-9 (2011-present, 2 years)

Holgorsen is regarded as one of the top offensive minds in college football, but his two-year stint as West Virginia’s coach has been a mixed bag of results. In his first season, the Mountaineers went 10-3 and claimed the Big East title. West Virginia capped off the 2011 season in style, gashing Clemson for 70 points in a 70-33 Orange Bowl rout. And the Mountaineers managed to ride that momentum early in 2013, starting 5-0 with exciting shootout victories against Baylor and Texas. However, the season took a nosedive with a road trip to Lubbock. West Virginia lost five consecutive games, before rallying to win the final two regular season contests of 2012. The Mountaineers played in the Pinstripe Bowl but were dominated 38-14 by former Big East rival Syracuse. So after two seasons, it’s hard to judge just how effective Holgorsen is as a head coach. He proved his mettle as an offensive coordinator at Texas Tech, Houston and Oklahoma State and helped to guide West Virginia to an average of 502 yards per game last year. However, the Mountaineers’ defense was a disaster, and the talent level on both sides of the ball needs to be upgraded to win in the Big 12. Holgorsen still has much to prove, but the 2011 season showed he is capable of elevating the program. With the transition to a tougher conference, some patience will be required in Morgantown. 

9. Kliff Kingsbury, Texas Tech
Overall Record at Texas Tech: 0-0 (First Season)

Kingsbury has been on a meteoric rise through the coaching ranks and lands his first head coaching job at his alma mater. The San Antonio native had a prolific career as a starting quarterback under Mike Leach from 2000-02, finishing his career with just under 12,000 passing yards. Following his collegiate career in Lubbock, Kingsbury had a short professional stint, playing for five different teams in five seasons. Kingsbury joined Kevin Sumlin’s staff at Houston in 2008 and worked his way through the ranks, before becoming the Cougars’ offensive coordinator and guiding quarterback Case Keenum to nearly 20,000 career passing yards. Kingsbury followed Kevin Sumlin to Texas A&M and produced a successful one-year stint as the offensive coordinator, which resulted in a Heisman Trophy winner (Johnny Manziel). Kingsbury is young and unproven as a head coach, but he is the perfect fit at Texas Tech. For a program that never really embraced Tommy Tuberville, the Red Raiders are in good hands with one of college football’s rising stars at head coach.

10. Charlie Weis, Kansas
Record at Kansas: 1-11 (2012-present)
Record at Notre Dame: 35-27 (2005-09)
Overall Record: 36-38 (6 years)

Weis was considered by most to be a bad hire at Kansas. So far, he’s done nothing to dispel those thoughts. Weis didn’t inherit the best roster, but the Jayhawks recorded only one victory last year and ranked near the bottom nationally in scoring offense and defense. If there was any bright spot, it was the fact Kansas was more competitive at times last year, and Weis is bringing in a handful of transfers and junior college prospects that should help this team. Prior to coming to Kansas, Weis had an extensive resume as an assistant coach, making stops in the NFL with the Patriots, Chiefs and Jets and one season as Florida’s offensive coordinator in 2011. While Weis was regarded for his work as an assistant, his five-year stint as Notre Dame’s head coach was a failure. He went 19-6 with two BCS bowls from 2005-06 but recorded a 16-21 mark in the final three seasons. Kansas could be more competitive in 2013, but Weis is not the answer to elevate the program into the Big 12 title contention.

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

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<p> Ranking the Big 12's College Football Coaches for 2013</p>
Post date: Monday, April 1, 2013 - 07:45
Path: /college-basketball/amazing-stats-leading-final-four

The field is set for the 2013 Final Four, and three quarters of it managed to surprise us.

Michigan and Syracuse struggled near the end of the regular season, but the Wolverines’ freshmen and the Orange’s defense carried the way to the national semifinals. And Wichita State couldn’t overtake Missouri Valley champion Creighton during the regular season, but took over its region.

And then there’s Louisville. In a year that seemed to lack a frontrunner for most of the season, the Cardinals captured that role. Louisville won 17 of its last 18 games, culminating Sunday with an 85-63 win over No. 2 seed Duke.

From prohibitive title favorite in Louisville to one of the true surprises in Wichita State, here are the key numbers from the weekend and the four teams left standing in the NCAA Tournament:

18. Combined seed ranking for the Final Four
With No. 1 Louisville, No. 4 Michigan, No. 4 Syracuse and No. 9 Wichita State reaching the Final Four, the combined seeding of 18 is the fifth-highest since the NCAA began seeding teams in 1979. The Final Fours with higher combined seed rankings:
1980 (21): No. 2 Louisville*, No. 5 Iowa, No. 7 Purdue, No. 8 UCLA
2000 (20): No. 1 Michigan State*, No. 5 Florida, No. 8 North Carolina, No. 8 Wisconsin
2006 (20): No. 2 UCLA, No. 3 Florida*, No. 4 LSU, No. 11 George Mason
2011 (26): No. 3 Connecticut*, No. 4 Kentucky, No. 8 Butler, No. 11 VCU
*Won national title

21-18. Record in February and March for Michigan, Syracuse and Wichita State
How important is it to be the hot hand before the NCAA Tournament? Not very, at least in 2013. Michigan (6-6), Syracuse (8-7) and Wichita State (7-5) went a combined 21-18 in February and March heading into the NCAA Tournament. And what’s more, Michigan and Wichita State both lost to the last-place teams in their respective conferences during that span. In addition, Wichita State and Syracuse lost their final games in January. The outlier here is Louisville, which went 12-1 in February and March, its only loss in five overtimes to Notre Dame. The Cardinals are also the only Final Four team that won either its regular season conference title or conference tournament. The Cardinals shared the Big East regular season title and won the conference tournament as a No. 2 seed.

64-43. Amount Louisville outscored Duke after the Kevin Ware injury
Kevin Ware’s gruesome injury -- which caused the Louisville guard’s bone to pop out of the skin of his right leg -- prompted an emotional reaction from the Cardinals. Guard Russ Smith sobbed, and coach Rick Pitino wiped a tear from his eye. Several players for both teams fell to their knees. Louisville, though, regrouped by outscoring Duke 64-43 after the injury. The Cardinals led 21-20 at the 6:33 mark when the injury occurred.

4. Coaches to lead a team to the Final Four in four different decades
An eventful season for Jim Boeheim included his 900th win and now a Final Four, making him one of four coaches to lead a team to the national semifinals in four decades. He joins Dean Smith of North Carolina, Mike Krzyzewski of Duke and Rick Pitino of Providence, Kentucky and Louisville in that rare company. Boeheim previously led Syracuse to the Final Four in 1987, 1996 and 2003.

43.3. Points per game by Michigan’s top three freshmen in the tournament
Hard to believe as it is, Michigan advanced to the Final Four without Trey Burke leading the team in scoring in any game in the NCAA Tournament. Of course, Burke’s heroics and his game-tying three pointer against Kansas moved Michigan into the Elite Eight, but the Wolverines wouldn’t have come this far without contributions from their top three freshmen. Mitch McGary, Nik Stauskas and Glenn Robinson III averaged a combined 43.3 points per game in the NCAA Tournament after combining to average 26 points per game during the regular season. McGary had 21 points and 14 rebounds against VCU and then 25 points and 14 rebounds against Kansas. In the Elite Eight against Florida, Nik Stauskas was the beneficiary of the Gators’ attention on Burke. The guard hit all six of his shots from three-point range on the way to 22 points.

Plus-10. Wichita State’s edge in offensive rebounds in the second weekend
Wichita State entered the tournament as one of the best rebounding teams in the country. The Shockers ranked seventh nationally in rebound rate, grabbing 55.6 percent of possible rebounds. The Shockers dominated the glass in wins over La Salle and Ohio State, grabbing 30 offensive rebounds compared to 20 for their opponents.

1. Missouri Valley team to reach the Final Four since 1979
Wichita State not only became the fourth team seeded ninth or lower to reach the Final Four in the 64-team era, the Shockers also ended a long drought of Missouri Valley teams in the Final Four. The Shockers are the first MVC team to reach the Final Four since Larry Bird led Indiana State to the national title game in 1979. The Missouri Valley produced national champions in Cincinnati (1961 and 1962) and Oklahoma A&M, now Oklahoma State (1945 and 1946).

61-to-67. Field goal-to-turnover ratio for Syracuse’s tournament opponents
How tough has it been to score on Syracuse in the NCAA Tournament? Put it this way: Teams were more likely to cough up the ball than score a basket against the Orange during their run to the Final Four. Syracuse’s opponents had 61 field goals and 67 turnovers. Round of 32 foe Cal was the only team to have more field goals (22) than turnovers (17).

40. Years since a final 16 team failed to score 40 points
Marquette’s 39 points against Syracuse in the Elite Eight were the fewest for a team in the regional semifinals or later in 40 years. UCLA defeated San Francisco 54-39 in the regional final in 1973.

3. Consecutive Elite Eight losses for Florida
Florida is the first team to lose in the Elite Eight in three consecutive tournaments, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Before losing to Michigan, the Gators lost to Louisville in 2012 and Butler in 2011. Before 2011, Florida won its first four trips in the regional final in 1994, 2000, 2006 and 2007.

<p> Key numbers for Louisville, Michigan, Syracuse and Wichita State as they head to the Final Four</p>
Post date: Monday, April 1, 2013 - 07:35
Path: /college-football/oregon-state-2013-spring-football-preview

Mike Riley finished the 2011 season with a nasty taste in his mouth after losing nine of 12 games. It was his worst season as the head coach in Corvallis and his defense was the issue. Last season, Riley reinvented the defense and it led to nine wins. Now that Oregon State is back in contention, Riley is faced with battling Stanford and Oregon for Pac-12 North Division supremacy. And it all begins this month with spring practice for the Beavers.

Oregon State Beavers 2013 Spring Preview

2012 Record: 9-4 (6-3)

Spring practice dates: April 1-April 26

Returning Starters: Offense – 8, Defense – 7

Returning Leaders:

Passing: Sean Mannion, 200-of-309, 2,446 yards, 15 TDs, 13 INTs
Rushing: Storm Woods, 192 att., 940 yards, 13 TDs
Receiving: Brandin Cooks, 67 rec., 1,151 yards, 5 TD
Tackles: Michael Doctor, 83
Sacks: Scott Crichton, 9.0
Interceptions: Rashaad Reynolds, 3

Redshirts to watch: RB Chris Brown, WR Malik Gilmore, DB Tyler Hasty, CB Zack Robinson, OL Garrett Weinreich

Early Enrollees to watch: CB Steven Nelson, DT Kyle Peko, DT Edwin Delva, DT Siale Hautau, DE Charlie Tuaau, DE Lyndon Tulimasealii

2013 Schedule

Aug. 31 Eastern Washington
Sept. 7 Hawaii
Sept. 14 at Utah
Sept. 21 at San Diego State
Sept. 26 Colorado
Oct. 5 Bye Week
Oct. 12 at Washington State
Oct. 19 at Cal
Oct. 26 Stanford
Nov. 1 USC (Fri.)
Nov. 9 Bye Week
Nov. 16 at Arizona State
Nov. 23 Washington
Nov. 30 at Oregon

Related: Pac-12 Football 2013 Spring Preview and Storylines

Offensive Strength: Running game and backfield. There is plenty of talent and depth in the backfield at both quarterback and running back. Four starters return to the offensive line as well.

Offensive Weakness: Passing game. Talent needs to develop around wide receiver Brandin Cooks for the passing game to be a strength and settling on one quarterback would help.

Defensive Strength: The back seven. This part of the defense returns fairly intact other than the loss of Jordan Poyer. Safety, in particular, is in good shape where both starters are back to quarterback this side of the ball.

Defensive Weakness: Defensive line. Replacing three out of four starters won't be easy so expect plenty of new faces in the rotation up front.

Spring Storylines Facing the Beavers

1. Replace the defense line. Riley worked minor miracles defensively to turn around his team in 2012, but he will have to provide an encore as three of four defensive line starters are gone. End Scott Crichton, who won't be able to practice due to a shoulder injury, was the best of the group and he returns, so finding a dependable player opposite him is what Riley needs to accomplish this spring. The tackle position is a more pressing matter, however, as both starters Andrew Aeumalo and Castro Masaniai moved on from Corvallis. Finding not only production but leadership from this group will be imperative after the losses up front this offseason. This is why Riley signed four junior college defensive linemen, including potential starters inside in tackles Edwin Delva and Siale Hautau. If the Beavers are going to compete with Oregon and Stanford in the North, they must play defense like the 2012 team, not the '11 edition.

2. Support Brandin Cooks in the passing game. Markus Wheaton was an all-time great for Oregon State and will be missed. That said, Brandin Cooks is one of the single most underrated wide receivers in the nation and will be just fine serving as the team's No. 1 pass catcher. The problem for the Beavers' passing game, however, is depth outside of Cooks and at tight end. Riley is expecting big things from an incoming freshman class heavy on pass catchers but they don't arrive until the summer. Tight end Connor Hamlett and rising junior receiver Obum Gwacham have great size and should step into much bigger roles this spring.

3. Find a way to replace Jordan Poyer. He was one of the top defensive backs in the nation — and school history — and won't be easy to replace, not only on defense but as a leader and special teams performer. Safety Ty Zimmerman is out for spring and Anthony Watkins is gone as well, leaving just safety Ryan Murphy and corner Rashaad Reynolds as the only ones with starting experience who will participate in spring practice. Reynolds has big-time potential and will be counted on to fill Poyer's shoes, but in an explosive conference like the Pac-12, providing him with support on the other side of the field will be key. Keep an eye on junior college transfer Steven Nelson and key veteran reserve Sean Martin as well.

4. Pick a quarterback. Sean Mannion is the starter and will be listed atop the depth chart, however, Cody Vaz is nipping at his heels and will get half of the reps with the starting offense this spring. This is the time for Mannion to show Riley that his excellent freshman season was no fluke and that he is the clear-cut choice to lead this offense. He has the talent to be a playmaker in the Pac-12 and, if asked off the record, the bet would be the coaching staff would like to see the rising junior separate himself from Vaz this spring. Although Riley has admitted that he likely won't make a decision until the fall, Mannion could make it easy on him and his staff with a great month of practice.

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<p> Oregon State 2013 Spring Football Preview</p>
Post date: Monday, April 1, 2013 - 07:30
Path: /college-basketball/elite-eight-sunday-schedule-times-tv-announcers-and-more

The second day of the Elite Eight may feel more like a Final Four or national championship weekend.

The South and Midwest regional finals feature four teams that were ranked No. 1 for stretches this season (Louisville, Duke and Michigan) plus a team that spent time ranked No. 2 (Florida).

Duke, Michigan and Louisville were ranked Nos. 1-3 in that order as recently as Jan. 7. Florida, Michigan and Duke were ranked Nos. 2-4 on Feb. 4.

The star power will be in full force, particularly on the bench where Michigan’s John Beilein is the only coach without a national championship.

But only two will stand at the end of the day when two teams will join Syracuse and Ohio State in the Final Four.

Here’s a quick look at Sunday’s games, including times, television networks and broadcast pairings.

All times p.m. Eastern

No. 4 Michigan vs. No. 3 Florida
Time and TV: 2:20, CBS
Region: South, Arlington, Texas
Announcers: Marv Albert, Steve Kerr
Last Final Four appearances: Michigan (1993), Florida (2007)
From the Sweet 16: Trey Burke scored 23 of Michigan’s 53 points in the second half and overtime against Kansas, but Mitch McGary (19.7 points, 12.3 rebounds in the tourney) continued to be the breakout star of the Wolverines’ tournament run. After a shaky start, Florida ended Florida Gulf Coast’s miracle run through the tournament with a defensive pressure that had 11 steals and contributed to 20 FGCU turnovers.
What to watch: The Gators defeated a No. 14 (Northwestern State), a No. 11 (Minnesota) and a No. 15 (Florida Gulf Coast) on the way to the Elite Eight. The Wolverines defeated a No. 13 (South Dakota State), a No. 5 (VCU) and a No. 1 (Kansas). The Gators’ defense eventually shut down Florida Gulf Coast, but they did so with a lineup favoring Casey Prather and Will Yeguete over leading scorer Erik Murphy. Expect the Gators’ Scottie Wilbekin to draw Burke, but Murphy or Patric Young will be on the spot against McGary and an interior defense that struggled to stop Kansas’ forwards.
Game in a Tweet: On Friday, Trey Burke joined Billy Donovan as one of five players with 20 points and 10 assists in a Sweet 16 game.

No. 2 Duke vs. No. 1 Louisville
Time and TV: 5:05, CBS
Region: Midwest, Indianapolis
Announcers: Jim Nantz, Clark Kellogg
Last Final Four appearances: Duke (2010), Louisville (2012)
From the Sweet 16: Louisville overcame Oregon’s tenacity and a case of the sniffles running through the Cards' roster to defeat the Ducks. The Cardinals’ defensive pressure and Russ Smith continued to work at a high level. Michigan State kept it close with Duke, but Seth Curry was virtually unstoppable from the perimeter. He went 6 of 9 from three-point range while his teammates were 1 of 9.
What to watch: Curry and Smith are on fire in this tournament. The Duke guard is averaging 24 points and 50 percent shooting in the tournament while his counterpart at Louisville has been even better at 27 points per game and 53.3 percent from the field. They’ll be watched, but one of the most important matchups could be down low between Mason Plumlee and Gorgui Dieng, who has been undervalued as an all-around player.
Game in a Tweet: Pitino and Krzyzewski have coached a combined 2,147 games. Their only meeting was the Laettner shot.

<p> Elite Eight Sunday Schedule: Times, TV, announcers and more</p>
Post date: Sunday, March 31, 2013 - 10:00
Path: /college-basketball/wichita-state-beats-ohio-state-unlikely-run-final-four

Wichita State will be the party crasher.

The Shockers defeated Ohio State 70-66 to advance to the Final Four and ensure the teams competing for the national title will have an outsider among them yet again.

Syracuse clinched a spot in the Final Four earlier Saturday, and the other two teams will come down to former champions (Duke or Louisville and Florida or Michigan).

But Wichita State, the second-place team in the Missouri Valley this year, joined the ranks of VCU, Butler and George Mason in recent years to upend the college basketball power structure.

At first Saturday, Gregg Marshall’s team looked like it would cruise to a win Saturday. Wichita State led by 20 with 11:01 remaining, but Ohio State clawed its way back to a four-point deficit in the final minutes.

What carried Wichita State all season, though, sealed the Final Four trip. The Shockers were one of the best rebounding teams in the country all year and continued to own the glass during this year’s run.

An offensive rebound ended Ohio State’s surge when Tekele Cotton grabbed a teammate's missed three-pointer, which translated to a basket by Fred VanVleet to open an insurmountable six-point lead with a minute to go.

Wichita State will be a fitting addition to the narrative of mid-majors reaching the Final Four. Its roster is littered with success stories: Carl Hall, a force in the paint, has uses medication to cope with a heart condition that has caused him to pass during games in high school and junior college. Small-town guard Ron Baker missed 21 games with a foot injury to become the Shockers’ most well-rounded player. The roster is led by a junior college transfer (Cleanthony Early) and a Division I transfer (Malcolm Armstead from Oregon).

And the Shockers' coach, Gregg Marshall, is a big-time personality who hasn't grabbed a big-time job despite eight NCAA tournament apperances in 15 seasons as a head coach at Winthrop and Wichita State.

Of historical note:
► Wichita State is making its first Final Four since 1965, when the Shockers lost 108-89 to UCLA for John Wooden’s second national title. Wichita State then lost a national third place game 118-82 to a Princeton team led by Bill Bradley.

► Wichita State is the first Missouri Valley team to reach the Final Four since Larry Bird led Indiana State to the 1979 title game against a Magic Johnson-led Michigan State team.

► The Shockers are the fourth team seeded in the bottom half of the bracket (ninth or lower) to reach the Final Four since the field expanded in 1985. Wichita State joins 2011 VCU, 2006 George Mason and 1986 LSU. Besides Wichita State, all three were No. 11 seeds.

► Wichita State and 1986 LSU were the only two teams in that group of four to reach the national semifinals to defeat the Nos. 1 and 2 seeds in their region. Wichita State defeated No. 1 Gonzaga and No. 2 Ohio State. LSU in 1986 defeated No. 2 Georgia Tech in the Sweet 16 and No. 1 Kentucky in the Elite Eight.

► Among notable teams to reach the national semifinal as a Missouri Valley team: Oklahoma A&M/Oklahoma State (won titles in 1945-46) Cincinnati (won titles in 1961-62), Louisville and Memphis.

<p> Shockers will disrupt a blue-bood laden national semifinal</p>
Post date: Saturday, March 30, 2013 - 22:11
Path: /college-basketball/elite-eight-saturday-schedule-times-tv-announcers-and-more

We’re one step closer to the Final Four, and the final days before the national championship could wind up as unexpected as the entire season.

For the four teams playing for the national semifinals Saturday, defense has led the way. Syracuse shut down Cody Zeller and the Indiana offensive attack, while Miami couldn’t make a shot against Marquette.

Ohio State has won two of its three tournament games on late three-pointers, but the Buckeyes’ defensive effort is led by Aaron Craft. The true surprise here is Wichita State, which has used its interior defense to bring it to the brink of its first Final Four since 1965.

Here’s a quick look at Saturday’s games, including times, television networks and broadcast pairings.

Sweet 16/Elite Eight Previews
| South | East | West

Athlon staff picks the Sweet 16
Re-ranking the Sweet 16 teams

All times p.m. Eastern

No. 4 Marquette vs. No. 3 Syracuse
Time and TV: 4:30, CBS
Region: East, Washington, D.C.
Announcers: Verne Lundquist, Bill Raftery
Last Final Four appearances: Marquette (2003), Syracuse (2003, won championship)
From the Sweet 16: Great defensive efforts from both. Syracuse held Indiana’s Jordan Hulls and Yogi Ferrell to a combined 0 for 8 from the floor while blocking 10 IU shots from the field. Against Marquette, Miami struggled to make shots, making 34.9 percent of their attempts from the field.
What to watch: Syracuse took advantage of Indiana’s unfamiliarity with the zone to stifle one of the best offensive attacks in the country. The Orange won’t have the same luxury against a conference foe in Marquette. Vander Blue was a non-factor in the only game these two teams have played this season, but he’s been Marquette’s best player in the tourney so far.
Game in a Tweet: Buzz Williams is 3-3 against Syracuse with all three wins coming in the last four meetings.

No. 9 Wichita State vs. No. 2 Ohio State
Time and TV: 7:05, CBS
Region: West, Los Angeles
Announcers: Kevin Harlan, Len Elmore, Reggie Miller
Last Final Four appearances: Wichita State (1965), Ohio State (2012)
From the Sweet 16: LaQuinton Ross’ game-winning shot deserves most of the attention, but Ohio State showed resilience by battling back from down 11 in the first half and then withstanding a second-half surge led by Mark Lyons. Meanwhile, Wichita State forward Carl Hall made easy work of La Salle’s four-guard lineup by fueling the Shockers’ 14-2 start.
What to watch: Despite the three-point outburst against Gonzaga, Wichita State’s interior is carrying the Shockers through the tournament. The Shockers are shooting 50 percent from two-point range in the Tournament while holding opponents to 39.6 percent shooting inside the arc. One of the top teams in rebound rate, Wichita State is grabbing 53.3 percent of missed shots. Meanwhile, Ohio State is getting more dangerous as the Buckeyes can now depend on Aaron Craft and LaQuinton Ross to take the final shots in close games.
Game in a Tweet: The Buckeyes seek to become third Big Ten team to reach consecutive Final Fours since '85.

<p> Elite Eight Saturday Schedule: Times, TV, announcers and more</p>
Post date: Saturday, March 30, 2013 - 10:00
Path: /college-basketball/trey-burke-hits-deep-three-keep-michigan-alive-against-kansas

Michigan shouldn’t have even been in this position.

The Wolverines were beat -- several times -- against Kansas. But Trey Burke kept Michigan alive.

With a deep three-pointer over the 6-8 Kevin Young, Burke tied a game it hadn’t led since the early minutes against Kansas. A day after LaQuinton Ross hit a game-winning three-pointer for Ohio State, Burke may have upstaged his rival for the shot of the NCAA Tournament.

Kansas had its way with Michigan in the first half, punishing the Wolverines in the paint. Michigan was lucky to be down merely 40-34. Kansas led by as much as 14 with 6:51 to go, but Burke wouldn’t let Michigan go down easily by scoring eight of the Wolverines’ final 10 points in regulation.

<p> Michigan's star point guard ties game with miracle shot to keep UM alive</p>
Post date: Friday, March 29, 2013 - 22:00
All taxonomy terms: MLB, News
Path: /mlb/baseball-numbers-2013-opening-day-edition

The 2013 Major League Baseball season kicks off on Sunday night with the Astros taking on the Rangers. Before the first pitch, here are 101 stats to know for the 2013 season.

101 Stats to Kick Off the 2013 Major League Baseball Season

Players elected by the BBWAA for Hall of Fame induction in 1950, as was the case in 2013. There were 48 players on the ballot in 1950 that would eventually gain election to the Hall.

Number of times a team has overcome a 3-games-to-0 deficit to win a postseason series. The Boston Red Sox mounted the historical comeback over the New York Yankees in the 2004 ALCS.

Hits by Joel Youngblood off two Hall of Fame pitchers (Fergie Jenkins and Steve Carlton) for two teams (Montreal Expos and New York Mets) in two cities (Chicago and Philadelphia) in the same day. On August 4, 1982, Youngblood started in center field and batting third for the Mets at Chicago in an afternoon game and singled in two runs in the third inning off Jenkins. He was replaced by Mookie Wilson in center in the middle of the fourth inning when it was learned he had been traded to the Montreal Expos. He hopped a flight to Philadelphia and arrived during the game. He was inserted in right field for Jerry White in the sixth inning and caught a fly ball to end the inning. In the top of the seventh, he singled off Carlton. The well-traveled Youngblood was on deck when the game ended with the Phillies ahead 5-4.

The number worn on the back of Babe Ruth’s uniform. The Yankees introduced uniform numbers in 1929.

Consecutive MVP awards won by Barry Bonds from 2001-04, becoming the only player to win more than two in a row.

Members of the original Hall of Fame class in 1936. Ty Cobb received the most votes (222), followed by a tie between Honus Wagner and Babe Ruth (215). Christy Mathewson (205) and Walter Johnson (189) were the two pitchers elected. Cy Young was named on just 49.1 percent of the ballots, Lou Gehrig 22.6 percent and Jimmie Foxx 9.3 percent.

Stan the Man Musial made this number famous in St. Louis. Among his many gaudy stats, are 1,815 hits on the road and 1,815 hits at home.

Modern record for hits in a nine-inning game. Rennie Stennett of the Pirates pasted Cubs pitching for seven safeties on Sept. 16, 1975 at Wrigley Field. The Pirates’ leadoff hitter had four singles, two doubles and a triple in the Pirates’ 22-0 thrashing in Chicago. After Stennett’s eighth-inning triple, future New York Yankees All-Star Willie Randolph pinch-ran for him. Stennett led off the game with a double off of Rick Reuschel and ended his day with a triple off of Paul Reuschel.

Different pitchers to lead the Rays in saves over the past eight seasons. With Fernando Rodney back this season, the string is likely to be broken.

Players sent to the plate in the 1976 World Series by Reds manager Sparky Anderson. With the DH used for every game that year, Anderson used the same lineup for all four games and used no pinch-hitters in the Reds’ sweep of the Yankees.

John Tudor in 1985 was the last pitcher to throw 10 shutouts in one season.

Home runs for Babe Ruth for the world champion Red Sox in 1918, which led the American League. That was the first of 12 home run titles for the Babe.

Batting titles for Ty Cobb.

Times Lou Gehrig posted 100-plus runs and 100-plus RBIs in the same season, the most all-time.

Walk-off losses in the postseason by the New York Yankees.

Full seasons in which Joe McCarthy managed the New York Yankees. During his tenure, the Yanks won eight pennants, winning seven World Series, and finished second four times.

Retired numbers by the New York Yankees, the most of any franchise. This number includes the No. 42, retired across all of baseball in honor of Jackie Robinson. It counts the No. 8 just once, although it is retired in honor of both Bill Dickey and Yogi Berra.

Age of Bob Feller when he made his first major league start in 1936. He tossed a complete game against the St. Louis Browns giving up six hits, four walks, one earned run with 15 strikeouts for the win.

World Series home runs for Mickey Mantle, the most all-time.

Wins by rookie Mark “The Bird” Fidrych for the Detroit Tigers in 1976, a season in which he captured the hearts of baseball fans everywhere.

Consecutive losing seasons for the Pittsburgh Pirates, setting the all-time record for any North American major team sport.

Consecutive losses by the Baltimore Orioles to begin the season in 1988.

Games started in the World Series by Whitey Ford, most all-time.

Grand slams hit by Lou Gehrig and Alex Rodriguez, the most all-time.

Appearances by Mariano Rivera in the World Series.

Hits by Lou Brock in the 1967-68 World Series. The total is the most ever in back-to-back World Series.

Consecutive games won by the New York Giants in 1916, the longest winning streak in history. From Sept. 7-Sept. 30, the Giants didn’t lose a game, but gained just 8.5 games in the standings before finishing the season in fourth place. Lefty Tyler of the Boston Braves pitched a complete game to end the streak.

Wins for Steve Carlton of the Philadelphia Phillies in 1972. The team won just 59 games that season giving Lefty more than 45 percent of his team’s wins.

Times Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera grounded into a double play in 2012, which led the majors.

Wins for the Baltimore Orioles in one-run games in 2012. Their 29-9 record (.763) is the best all-time.

Home runs hit by Albert Pujols after May 5 last season. The slugger began the season by hitting just .217 with no homers and four RBIs in April. After taking a day of on May 5, he homered the next day and proceeded to put together a Pujols-esque season.

Wins for Lefty Grove of the Philadelphia A’s in 1931 and Detroit’s Denny McLain in 1968, the highest win total in the live ball era (since 1920).

Postseason doubles for Derek Jeter, most all-time.

Miles between the high schools where reigning Cy Young winners R.A. Dickey (Montgomery Bell Academy, Nashville, Tenn.) and David Price (Blackman High School, Murfreesboro, Tenn.) attended. It is the closest of any two Cy Young winners from the same season.

Hitting streak by Dom DiMaggio of the Boston Red Sox in 1949.

Strikeouts by Bob Gibson (27 IP) in the 1968 World Series.

At-bats by Jimmy Collins in the 1903 World Series. It’s the most ever in a Fall Classic and was established in the first World Series ever played.

Number retired in honor of Hall of Fame manager Casey Stengel by both the Yankees and the Mets.

Saves by John Hiller of the Tigers in 1973, just two years after suffering a career-threatening heart attack at age 28. The total led the majors and was the record for saves in a season until 1983.

Number retired by the Los Angeles Dodgers in honor of Hall of Fame catcher Roy Campanella, whose career was cut short due to an auto accident, which left him paralyzed.

Appearances in the World Series by the New York Yankees, by far the most of any franchise.

Wins by Jack Chesbro of the Yankees in 1904, the highest total since 1900.

Number universally retired by MLB in honor of Jackie Robinson.

Age of Nolan Ryan when he won his 11th strikeout title. In 1990, he struck out 232, the most in the American league a year after whiffing 301.

Consecutive game hitting streak for Pete Rose in 1978 to tie Wee Willie Keeler for the National League record. Rose hit .385 during the streak and raised his average from .267 to .316.

Over the 104 years since the Chicago Cubs last won the World Series, the team has had 45 winning records, finished .500 twice and posted 57 losing seasons.

Earned runs allowed by the San Francisco Giants in 16 postseason games in 2012.

Hank Aaron’s career-best home run season, which came in 1971. The total has been eclipsed 72 times, 28 of those before Aaron retired in 1976.

Road wins for the Washington Nationals in 2012, most in the majors.

Home runs hit in the regular season by Babe Ruth in ballparks still in use today. Ruth hit 48 home runs at Fenway Park and one at Wrigley Field.

World Series games played by Frankie Frisch, eighth all-time, but the most by anyone who never played with the Yankees.

Seldom-used uniform number may possibly be retired by five franchises some day. It is already retired by San Diego in honor of closer Trevor Hoffman. It is highly likely to be retired in Seattle (Ichiro Suzuki) and likely by Arizona (Randy Johnson). The Cardinals (Willie McGee) and Yankees (Bernie Williams) have yet to issue the number since those players retired.

Last season, the San Diego Padres, according to Elias, became the only team since at least 1900 to have three catchers start as many as 52 games. Nick Hundley started 56 times, John Baker and Yasmani Grandal 52 each.

Hits by Cincinnati pitchers last season, most in the majors.

Home runs by Babe Ruth in 1920, smashing the record of 29 that Ruth had set the year before. The total of 54 was eclipsed by just one team in all of baseball that season (other than the Yankees), the Philadelphia Phillies.

Wins for the Houston Astros in 2012, a franchise low including the strike-shortened seasons of 1981 and 1994.

Consecutive games in which Joe DiMaggio of the Yankees hit safely in 1941. Interestingly, during that same stretch from May 15 to July 16, Ted Williams of the Red Sox outhit Joe D .412 to .408 with a better on-base percentage (.540 to .463) and OPS (1.224 to 1.181).

Road home runs hit by the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2012, the lowest total in baseball.

Home runs needed by Oakland A’s hitters to reach 12,000 in franchise history. Getting their start in 1901 as the Philadelphia Athletics, the franchise also played in Kansas City from 1955-67 before relocating to Oakland in 1968. Entering this season, only eight other franchises (New York Yankees, San Francisco Giants, Chicago Cubs, Atlanta Braves, Detroit Tigers, Boston Red Sox, Cincinnati Reds and Philadelphia Phillies) have hit 12,000 or more home runs. The Baltimore Orioles will also reach this milestone this season and should do so before the A's, as the O's need just eight round-trippers to reach 12,000.

Consecutive scoreless innings pitched by Orel Hershiser to end the 1988 season. The streak including five complete games in September and 10 shutout innings in his last start, which the Dodgers eventually lost 2-1 in 16 innings.

Extra innings played by Baltimore last season.

Number of games last season that Tampa Bay pitchers struck out 10 or more batters breaking the record of 57 set by the Cubs in 2003.

Number of players drafted by the Arizona Diamondbacks in 1996, two years before the club fielded its first major league team.

Fewest regular-season wins ever for a World Series winner. The Los Angeles Dodgers won just 63 games in 1981, a season shortened by almost 40 percent to a players strike.

Years since the Cleveland Indians last won the World Series. It is the second-longest drought in baseball behind the 104 years that Cubs fans have been waiting.

Average number of wins for the Kansas City Athletics during their last seven years in the Midwest before moving to Oakland in 1968.

Wins for the Cincinnati Reds in 1981, the most in the National League. However, the Reds were not one of the four teams in the playoffs that season. The St. Louis Cardinals also had the best winning percentage in the National League East, but didn’t qualify for the playoffs that season due to the split-season format forced by the players strike.

All-time record number of doubles in a season set by Earl Webb in 1931.

Wins needed by Josh Beckett, Carlos Zambrano and Randy Wolf to reach 200 for their careers.

Runs scored by the San Francisco Giants in 16 postseason games in 2012.

Home runs hit by Mark McGwire in 1998 to break the 37-year-old record of 61 held by Roger Maris.

Hits in World Series play by Yogi Berra, most all-time.

Highest uniform number retired for a player. The Chicago White Sox retired No. 72 in honor of Hall of Fame catcher Carlton Fisk.

Home runs for Barry Bonds in 2001, setting a new record for home runs in a season.

Wins for the Orioles last season against no losses when leading after seven innings.

World Series games played by Yogi Berra, the most all-time.

2013 will be the 76th season since a player in the National League won a triple crown. In 1937, Joe Medwick for St. Louis was the last National Leaguer to accomplish this. Joey Votto, Matt Kemp and Ryan Braun seem to be the likeliest candidates to break the string with Carlos Gonzalez, Giancarlo Stanton, Justin Upton and perhaps Bryce Harper having outside shots.

Points Alex Rios’ batting average increased from 2011 to 2012 (.227 to .304)

Stolen bases by Jose Reyes in 2007, the most of any player in the 1990s and 2000s.

Percent of the seasons that the New York Yankees have finished above .500. In 112 seasons, the Yanks have posted 89 winning seasons and finished at an even .500 once.

Hits Colorado first baseman Todd Helton needs to reach the 2,500 mark in his career. That would make Helton just the 7th player in major league history to have 2,500 hits, 1,300 runs, 500 doubles, 350 home runs, 1,300 RBIs, a batting average of .300 or better and more walks than strikeouts in their career. The others are Hank Aaron, Lou Gehrig, Chipper Jones, Stan Musial, Babe Ruth and Ted Williams.

Wins by Mike Cuellar, Dave McNally, Pat Dobson and Jim Palmer in 1971 for the Baltimore Orioles. That was the last time a team had four 20-game winners.

Players with 250 home runs for one club. There are 10 Yankees who have hit as many as 250 homers in pinstripes. Arizona, Washington, Tampa Bay, San Diego and Miami have none.

Fewest regular-season wins ever for a world champion in a season not cut short due to a labor dispute or war. The St. Louis Cardinals squeaked into the playoffs in 2006 with an 83-78 record.

Home runs for Curtis Granderson over the past two seasons. No other player has more than 74.

Runs scored by Albert Pujols of the Los Angeles Angels last season. It was the first time in his 12-year career than the All-Star first baseman had scored fewer than 99 in a season.

Years between World Series wins for the Red Sox. Boston won in 1918 then suffered through 86 years before winning again in 2004.

Wins needed by the Los Angeles Angels this season to end the season above .500 for the history of the franchise. The last time the team was above .500 was after their first game in history on April 11, 1961.

Years between World Series wins for the White Sox. Chicago won in 1917 then suffered through 88 years before winning again in 2005.

Years since Washington, D.C. celebrated a World Series win. The old Washington Senators (now the Minnesota Twins) defeated the New York Giants in seven games in 1924. It was Tom Zachary, not the great Walter Johnson, who won two games. Goose Goslin and Bucky Harris combined to drive in more than half of the Senators’ runs.

The number of shutouts that Roy Halladay needs to tie Walter Johnson for the most all-time. Halladay is the active leader with 20.

Tim Raines received 91 more votes (297 to 206) than Barry Bonds in the most recent Hall of Fame balloting.

Runs Derek Jeter needs this season to pass Babe Ruth as the all-time leader in New York Yankees' franchise history.

Plate appearances at the Triple-A level for Los Angeles Angels outfielder Mike Trout before his call-up last April. He was batting .403 with a .467 OBP and had four doubles, five triples, a homer and scored 21 runs in 20 games with Salt Lake.

Wins for Babe Ruth as a pitcher.

Average number of wins for the Oakland A’s from 1971-75 during which they won five AL West titles and three straight World Series.

Doubles for Alex Gordon of Kansas City over the past two seasons, the most in the majors.

Average number of wins for the New York Yankees over the last 17 years. (1996-2012)

Wins by the Washington Nationals last season establishing a new high-water mark for the franchise surpassing the 95 wins by the 1979 Expos.

Hits needed by Alex Rodriguez to become the 29th member of the 3,000-hit club.

Wins for the Amazin’ New York Mets in 1969 after finishing in ninth or 10th place the previous seven years.

<p> 101 statistics, facts and other tidbits to get you ready for the upcoming season</p>
Post date: Friday, March 29, 2013 - 12:10
Path: /mlb/2013-mlb-predictions-national-league

The 2013 MLB season kicks off with Houston hosting Texas on Sunday night. It's an appropriate season opener considering the Astros are now members of the American League. Another change this season is that interleague play will take place year-round starting wtih Cincinnati, Athlon Sports' pick to win the NL Central again, opening its season by hosting against the Los Angeles Angels.

Just as is the case in the AL, the NL will feature plenty of new faces in new places. For starters, brothers B.J. and Justin Upton have been reunited in Atlanta, while Zack Greinke signed a six-year, $147 million contract to join the Dodgers. Other players in new NL uniforms this season include Shin-Soo Choo, Kyle Lohse, Martin Prado, Ben Revere, Rafael Soriano and Denard Span. All eyes also will be on this season's batch of up-and-coming players to see if anyone will have an impact on their team similar to what Mike Trout or Bryce Harper accomplished last season.

Related: 2013 AL Predictions

2013 National League Predictions

NL East
1. Washington
2. Atlanta (Wild Card)
3. Philadelphia
4. New York
5. Miami

Last season marked the end of a five-year run atop the NL East for the Phillies. The young Nationals won the division a year before even they expected. And they won it with their ace, Stephen Strasburg, finishing the season on the sidelines. Washington’s star is still rising and the brightest young star is Bryce Harper. The Nats’ rotation is among the best in baseball, and their bullpen features three legitimate closers. The Braves’ bullpen can match the Nationals, but that’s where the comparisons end. Atlanta fans can’t wait to see how well the Upton brothers jell alongside Jason Heyward. The Phillies’ run of titles may have ended, but the aging team isn’t ready to concede anything. Philadelphia’s bullpen, its Achilles heel in 2012, should be better with the addition of Mike Adams. The Mets and Marlins will be among the worst teams in the league.

NL Central
1. Cincinnati
2. St. Louis
3. Milwaukee
4. Pittsburgh
5. Chicago

The St. Louis Cardinals managed to come within a game of the World Series in 2012 after losing Albert Pujols to free agency and manager Tony La Russa to retirement. But they were nine games behind the Cincinnati Reds, who have improved their lineup this season. The Reds were without MVP candidate Joey Votto for more than a month last season and survived. The Reds should maintain a slight edge over their rivals from St. Louis. The Brewers made a last-minute deal with starter Kyle Lohse to bolster their rotation. The offense was among the best in the NL last season and should follow that with another strong season. The bullpen must be much better in order for the Brew Crew to contend. For the last two seasons, the conventional thinking was that the Pirates would end their much-publicized streak of losing seasons. They’ll make another run at .500 this season, and it will be close. The Cubs will not make a run at breakeven.

NL West
1. San Francisco
2. Los Angeles (Wild Card)
3. Arizona
4. San Diego
5. Colorado

Last summer at the trade deadline, the Dodgers added Hanley Ramirez, Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford. The Giants added Hunter Pence and Marco Scutaro. Advantage San Francisco. The Giants stretched out a lead and rode MVP Buster Posey to their second World Series title in three years. The Giants still have the advantage over their rivals to the south. Arizona traded their best hitter in Justin Upton, but strengthened their bullpen and rotation. The Diamondbacks should be improved over 2012, but not enough to contend. San Diego has moved the fences in at Petco Park, but that won’t boost the offense enough to hang with the division leaders. The Colorado Rockies will have a decent lineup, but the pitching will struggle.

Washington over San Francisco

World Series
Detroit over Washington

1. Joey Votto, Reds
2. Buster Posey, Giants
3. Matt Kemp, Dodgers
4. Andrew McCutchen, Pirates
5. Ryan Braun, Brewers
6. Yadier Molina, Cardinals
7. David Wright, Mets
8. Ryan Zimmerman, Nationals
9. Justin Upton, Braves
10. Matt Holliday, Cardinals

NL Cy Young
1. Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers
2. Stephen Strasburg, Nationals
3. Cole Hamels, Phillies
4. Matt Cain, Giants
5. Craig Kimbrel, Braves

NL Rookie of the Year
1. Hyun-Jin Ryu, Dodgers
2. Travis d'Arnaud, Mets
3. Kyuji Fujikawa, Cubs

<p> Athlon Sports picks this season's National League division and award winners</p>
Post date: Friday, March 29, 2013 - 12:06
All taxonomy terms: Webb Simpson, Golf
Path: /golf/top-20-golfers-2013-majors-no-9-webb-simpson

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

No. 9: Webb Simpson

Born: Aug. 8, 1985, Raleigh, N.C. | Career PGA Tour Wins: 3  | 2012 Wins (Worldwide): 1 | 2012 Earnings (PGA Tour): $3,436,758 (17th) World Ranking: 19


Brandel Chamblee's Take

Simpson hits so many great iron shots from 50-175 yards that he consistently puts himself in scoring position, and at 27 years old he has many great years ahead of him. Look for 2013 to be a continuation of his last two years on Tour, when he finished 2nd and 17th on the money list, respectively, and in 2012 won the U.S. Open in just his fifth major championship start.

Major Championship Résumé
Starts: 6
Wins: 1

2012 Performance:
Masters - T44
U.S. Open - 1
British Open - DNP
PGA Championship - Cut

Best Career Finishes: 
Masters - T44 (2012)
U.S. Open - 1 (2012)
British Open - T16 (2011)
PGA Championship - Cut (2011, 2012)
Top-10 Finishes: 1
Top-25 Finishes: 3
Missed Cuts: 2

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

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

<p> Athlon Counts Down the 20 Golfers to Watch for Majors Season</p>
Post date: Friday, March 29, 2013 - 11:03
Path: /college-basketball/sweet-16-friday-schedule-time-tv-announcers-and-more

The Sweet 16, as always, finds a way to capture the imagination.

The NCAA Tournament moves into the second weekend with its share of storylines, even if the biggest one from Dunk City seems to overshadow all.

Few people saw Wichita State, the runner up in the Missouri Valley, advancing this far. And even fewer could have tabbed La Salle to go on a run out of the First Four.

Beyond those out-of-nowhere stories, the Sweet 16 will feature games that have the look of Final Four matchups: Indiana-Syracuse, Duke-Michigan State, Ohio State-Arizona.

Here’s a quick look at Friday’s games, including times, television networks and broadcast pairings.

Sweet 16/Elite Eight Previews
| South | East | West

Athlon staff picks the Sweet 16
Re-ranking the Sweet 16 teams

All times p.m. Eastern

No. 12 Oregon vs. No. 1 Louisville
Time and TV: 7:15, CBS
Region: Midwest, Indianapolis
Announcers: Jim Nantz, Clark Kellogg
What to watch: Johnathan Loyd helped neutralize Oklahoma State’s Marcus Smart in the round of 64, and then he stepped up for a struggling Dominic Artis in the easy win over Saint Louis. Will the Ducks’ point guards be able to answer the call against Louisville on both ends of the court? That’s going to be tough. The Cards’ press has been effective as it’s been all season, and Russ Smith returned to his early season form in the offensive end. Dana Altman pushed the right buttons at point guard last week, but his backcourt will be put to the test against the Cardinals.
Game in a Tweet: Louisville forces a turnover on 27.4 percent of possessions. Oregon commits one on 21.2 percent.

No. 4 Michigan vs. No. 1 Kansas
Time and TV: 7:37, TBS
Region: South, Arlington, Texas
Announcers: Marv Albert, Steve Kerr
What to watch: What will we see from Ben McLemore? An All-America candidate during the regular season, he’s struggled in the NCAA Tournament -- to a point that Bill Self played him only 24 minutes against North Carolina. McLemore went 2 of 14 from the field last week. Can Kansas advance if he’s not back to form? And for Michigan: How will the guard-oriented Wolverines counter Jeff Withey down low?
Game in a Tweet: Michigan is seeking first Elite Eight since ’94. Kansas has been to eight since then.

No. 3 Michigan State vs. No. 2 Duke
Time and TV: 9:45, CBS
Region: Midwest, Indianapolis
Announcers: Jim Nantz, Clark Kellogg
What to watch: Duke clamped down on Creighton’s Doug McDermott in the round of 32, but the Blue Devils may be guessing as to who will be the offensive focus for Michigan State. Forward Adreian Payne is a matchup problem who can be the best player on the floor, and freshman Gary Harris can get hot from the perimeter. Duke is thankful for Seth Curry being steady all season and for meaningful contributions off the bench, but it’s time for Mason Plumlee and Ryan Kelly to take charge.
Game in a Tweet: Tom Izzo is 1-7 all-time against Mike Krzyzewski, but the only win was in the 2005 Sweet 16.

No. 15 Florida Gulf Coast vs. No. 3 Florida
Time and TV: 10:07, TBS
Region: South, Arlington, Texas
Announcers: Marv Albert, Steve Kerr
What to watch: Seriously, how many people even heard of Florida Gulf Coast a week ago? Now we know their coach, their nickname, their style of play and their care-free set of overlooked players. This is the best story in the Tournament in quite a while, and now they face the state’s best basketball program. The Gators are one of the best defensive teams in the country (third in Ken Pomeroy’s adjusted defensive efficiency, fifth in effective field goal percentage and second in fewest points per game). Billy Donovan will be under pressure to close the borders on Dunk City.
Game in a Tweet: FGCU shot 56.9 percent from the field in the second half last week, outscoring opponents 101-82.

<p> A quick look at Friday evening's Sweet 16 games</p>
Post date: Friday, March 29, 2013 - 11:00