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WEST
Los Angeles

COMPLETE REGION PREVIEWS
East
| Midwest | South

Top Two

(1) Gonzaga Bulldogs (31–2, 16–0 WCC)
The Zags locked up the West Coast Conference Tournament title with a 65–51 win over Saint Mary’s, capping a perfect season in-conference — albeit a league without much competition to speak of. Coach Mark Few’s team lost only twice this season, handily to Illinois (85–74) in early December and on a crazy floater as the buzzer sounded at Butler (64–63) in late January.

Cinderella’s no more, Gonzaga earned its first-ever No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. The Bulldogs are hopeful that this will finally be the Final Four breakthrough season they’ve been waiting for. Five trips to the Sweet 16 — all since 1999 — have resulted in just one Elite Eight (the inaugural 1999 Cinderella run) and zero Final Four appearances. Long-locked big man Kelly Olynyk, versatile wing Elias Harris and a stable of guards, led by Kevin Pangos, Gary Bell and John’s son David Stockton, will look to change that.

(2) Ohio State Buckeyes (26–7, 13–5 Big Ten)
One of the most impressive teams in the country coming down the stretch, Ohio State enters the NCAA Tournament on an eight-game winning streak that includes an upset at Indiana, two wins over Michigan State and a Big Ten Tournament title-clinching victory over Wisconsin. And while the Buckeyes may not jump off the page, they are a steady veteran team with no embarrassing losses — having suffered defeats at Duke, Kansas, Indiana, at Michigan State, at Michigan in overtime, at Wisconsin and at Illinois.

Coach Thad Matta’s team is top heavy, however. Wingman Deshaun Thomas scored 28 percent (627-of-2,237) of the Bucks’ points this season, while point guard Aaron Craft is leaned on for a disproportionate amount of OSU’s ball-handling. Injury or foul trouble for either Thomas or Craft would make it nearly impossible for Ohio State to advance to its 12th Final Four or sixth title game appearance — the most recent coming at the site of this year’s Final Four, with Greg Oden leading a runner-up effort in Atlanta in 2007.

Related: Our best advice for your bracket pool

Sweet 16 Sleeper

(7) Notre Dame Fighting Irish
It’s hard not to notice the Irish when they’re wearing those Digger Phelps’ highlighter jerseys they wore in the Big East Tournament. Wins over Louisville (in 5OT), Marquette, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati (twice), Villanova and Kentucky (with Nerlens Noel) are just as hard to overlook. Unlike Manti Te’o’s girlfriend, those wins are real, as are the Irish’s impressive shooting percentages as a team (46.3 FG, 70.7 FT, 37.3 3PT). Also, Jerian Grant — much like his bespectacled father and uncle Harvey and Horace — is unafraid of the big stage.

Upset Watch

(11) Belmont Bruins vs. (6) Arizona Wildcats
Coach Rick Byrd won an NAIA national championship with Belmont in 1989 and is leading the Bruins to their sixth NCAA Tournament berth since 2006. But Belmont has yet to pull off a first-round upset, coming painfully close in a 71–70 loss to Duke in 2008. Could this finally be the year? Senior guards Ian Clark and Kerron Johnson give the Bruins valuable leadership and surprising athleticism. Arizona can not afford to overlook the team on the other side wearing red, white and blue.

Related: March Madness by the numbers

Cinderella Superstar

Kendall Williams, Jr., New Mexico Lobos (3)
The lead Lobo dropped 46 points, on 12-of-16 shooting (including 10-of-13 from downtown), in a statement win at Colorado State in late February. But it is Williams’ all-around game that drives coach Steve Alford’s club. The junior from Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., averages 13.5 points, 5.0 assists, 3.6 rebounds and 1.1 steals per game. Originally a UCLA commit, Williams brings size (6’4”, 185), speed and a point guard’s mentality to a dangerous New Mexico team.

Related: All Athlon Sports 2013 NCAA Tournament content

Teaser:
<p> 2013 NCAA Tournament: West Region Preview, including the Gonzaga Bulldogs, Ohio State Buckeyes, Notre Dame Fighting Irish and New Mexico's Kendall Williams.</p>
Post date: Monday, March 18, 2013 - 11:19
Path: /college-basketball/2013-ncaa-tournament-east-region-preview
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EAST
Washington, D.C.

COMPLETE REGION PREVIEWS
Midwest
| South | West

Top Two
(1) Indiana Hoosiers (27–6, 14–4 Big Ten)
The preseason No. 1 team in the nation desperately wanted to be the top overall seed in this year’s Big Dance. That distinction would have meant playing in front of a home crowd in Indianapolis. But when the Big Ten regular season champs lost to Wisconsin, 68–56, in the Big Ten Tournament, IU lost its grip on its potential tickets to Indy.

Tom Crean boasts arguably the most talented team in the country, with high-flying wing Victor Oladipo, steady big man Cody Zeller, big shot taker Christian Watford and freshman point guard Yogi Ferrell highlighting a deep roster. This particular group of Hoosiers represents the renaissance of Indiana basketball. Anything less than the school’s ninth trip to the Final Four — and first since 2002 — will be considered a failure. And really, IU’s sixth NCAA title — its first since 1987 — is the unspoken expectation.

(2) Miami Hurricanes (27–6, 15–3 ACC)
The 2012-13 Canes are the undisputed greatest team in Miami basketball history after clinching both the ACC’s regular season and conference tournament titles — the latter coming with an 87–77 victory over traditional powerhouse North Carolina. These are uncharted waters for the Hurricanes, however, who are making just their sixth trip to the NCAA Tournament since rejoining the D-I ranks in 1985 and have just one Sweet 16 appearance (2000) to their credit.

While no one on the Miami roster has any NCAA Tourney experience, coach Jim Larranaga has five prior trips to the Big Dance under his belt — famously leading CAA Cinderella story George Mason to the Final Four in 2006. Larranaga has even more talent to work with this time around, with a balanced backcourt of Barry’s son Shane Larkin and New York City product Durand Scott, and a stacked frontcourt of 300-pounder Reggie Johnson and former Florida transfer Kenny Kadji.

Related: Our best advice for your bracket pool

Sweet 16 Sleeper

(6) Butler Bulldogs
Coach Brad Stevens is making his fifth trip to the NCAA Tournament in six seasons at Butler. The 36-year-old has two runner-up finishes — coming a front-rimmed halfcourt shot away from beating Duke in 2010 — and an 11–4 record in the Big Dance. Not bad. Along with a brilliant coach, Butler also has the resume (wins over Indiana, Gonzaga and North Carolina) and big-time players (led by Arkansas transfer Rotnei Clarke) to advance to the second weekend of the Tourney.

Upset Watch

(12) California Golden Bears vs. (5) UNLV Runnin’ Rebels
While the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee always tries to avoid rematches, it was unable to break up the bracket with this first-round matchup. Berkeley lost to Vegas, 76–75, in early December this season. Now Cal gets its chance at revenge, playing in front of a presumably Bear-friendly crowd in San Jose. UNLV will have to overcome its own youth as well as a rematch in a hostile environment.

Related: March Madness by the numbers

Cinderella Superstar

Mike Muscala, Sr., Bucknell Bison (11)
The 6’11”, 240-pound senior anchors the Bison on both ends of the floor, averaging a team-high 19.0 points per game, while cleaning up the glass to the tune of 11.2 rebounds, dishing out an underrated 2.3 assists and protecting the rim defensively with 2.4 blocks and countless altered shots in the paint. If Bucknell hopes to pull off a “Butler” against Butler, Muscala will be counted on to do the heavy lifting.

Related: All Athlon Sports 2013 NCAA Tournament content

Teaser:
<p> 2013 NCAA Tournament: East Region Preview, including the Indiana Hoosiers, Miami Hurricanes, Butler Bulldogs, California Golden Bears, UNLV Runnin' Rebels and Bucknell's Mike Muscala.</p>
Post date: Monday, March 18, 2013 - 11:18
Path: /college-basketball/2013-ncaa-tournament-south-region-preview
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SOUTH
North Texas

COMPLETE REGION PREVIEWS
East
| Midwest | West

Top Two

(1) Kansas Jayhawks (29–5, 14–4 Big 12)
After losing three straight games to start February, the Jayhawks won 10 of their next 11 contests to cap their regular season with a share of the Big 12 title and a statement victory over conference co-champion Kansas State, 70–54, in the Big 12 Tournament title game. The Kansas faithful are aiming to make their 15th trip to the Final Four and shooting for the fourth national championship for the alma mater of the game’s inventor and KU’s first coach, Dr. James Naismith.

Coach Bill Self has made two trips to the NCAA championship game — beating John Calipari and Memphis in overtime in 2008 and losing to Coach Cal’s Kentucky team last season. But Self has also failed to advance to the Sweet 16 three times while at KU, including back-to-back losses in the first round in 2005 and 2006. This year’s squad has the firepower to go the distance, led by potential No. 1 overall NBA Draft pick shooter Ben McLemore, senior shot-blocker Jeff Withey and senior point guard Elijah Johnson.

(2) Georgetown Hoyas (25–6, 14–4 Big East)
The Hoyas had hoped to “kiss Syracuse goodbye” after sweeping the Orange during the regular season, but instead lost to their longtime rivals, 58–55 in overtime, in the final conference meeting between the teams in the Big East Tournament. The loss was Georgetown’s second in four games after reeling off an 11-game winning streak from late January to early March.

John Thompson III has the luxury of coaching one of the top all-around players in the country in Otto Porter Jr., a 6’8” sophomore wing who has shown the ability to rise to the occasion when the pressure is on and the spotlight is brightest. Porter is talented enough to carry the Hoyas to their sixth Final Four. But he will need the help of veteran lead guard Markel Starks, forward Nate Lubick and freshman D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera if JT3 hopes to match his father (1984) by winning the school’s second national title.

Related: Our best advice for your bracket pool

Sweet 16 Sleeper

(5) VCU Rams
Giant slayer Virginia Commonwealth knocked off Duke under coach Anthony Grant in 2007 before going coast-to-coast from the First Four to the Final Four under current coach Shaka Smart in 2011. The Rams’ havoc is keyed by wings Treveon Graham and Troy Daniels, big man Juvonte Reddic and senior point guard Darius Theus. No team wants to play the perennial Cinderellas from Richmond, a team that changed coaches but not its NCAA Tournament results.

Upset Watch

(11) Minnesota Golden Gophers vs. (6) UCLA Bruins
Unfortunately for the crazier-than-ever Bill Walton, these Bruins’ disappointing season may end in the same one-and-done fashion that coach Ben Howland controversially speculated of star freshman Shabazz Muhammad. The Golden Gophers have a championship winning coach (Tubby Smith), brothers in the backcourt (Andre and Austin Hollins) and enough athletic wing defenders (Rodney Williams and Trevor Mbakwe) to end Shabazz’s college career earlier than even Howland expects.

Related: March Madness by the numbers

Cinderella Superstar

Nate Wolters, Sr., South Dakota State Jackrabbits (13)
The Summit League Player of the Year has been compared to none other than Steve Nash — who led Santa Clara to an upset over No. 2 seed Arizona in the 1993 NCAA Tourney. Wolters fills the stat sheet, averaging 22.7 points, 5.8 assists, 5.6 rebounds and 1.8 steals per game. Wolters will have a chance to show off his all-around game against Michigan’s National Player of the Year candidate Trey Burke, in a battle of two of the best point guards in the college game.

Related: All Athlon Sports 2013 NCAA Tournament content

Teaser:
<p> 2013 NCAA Tournament: South Region Preview, including the Kansas Jayhawks, Georgetown Hoyas, VCU Rams, Minnesota Golden Gophers, UCLA Bruins and South Dakota State's Nate Wolters.</p>
Post date: Monday, March 18, 2013 - 11:16
Path: /college-basketball/2013-ncaa-tournament-midwest-region-preview
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MIDWEST
Indianapolis

COMPLETE REGION PREVIEWS
East
| South | West

Top Two

(1) Louisville Cardinals (29–5, 14–4 Big East)
The top overall seed in this year’s NCAA Tournament, Louisville earned the Big East Tournament championship with a 78–61 win over Syracuse. The victory was the U of L’s 10th straight and 13th in its last 14 games — with the only loss being an epic five-overtime defeat at Notre Dame in early February.

Clearly, coach Rick Pitino knows how to get the job done in March, having made six Final Fours with three different schools (Providence, Kentucky and Louisville) and cutting down the nets after winning it all with Kentucky in 1996. With veteran guards Peyton Siva and Russ Smith leading the way and defensive enforcer Gorgui Dieng down low, Louisville’s 10th trip to the Final Four — and maybe even its third NCAA title (1980, 1986) — could be in the Cards.

(2) Duke Blue Devils (27–5, 14–4 ACC)
Coach K’s team failed to win the ACC Tournament for only the fifth time since 1999, losing to mediocre Maryland, 83–74, for the second time in eight games. Duke’s up-and-down season has been highlighted by a No. 1 ranking in the AP top 25 and given a black eye by a 27-point loss at Miami in late January.

On the bright side, the Blue Devils are still coached by the greatest NCAA Tournament coach since John Wooden. Coach Mike Krzyzewski has four NCAA championships (1991, 1992, 2001, 2010) and 11 Final Four appearances. This year’s squad has an inside-out game built around big man Mason Plumlee and a plethora of spot-up shooters, including Seth Curry, Ryan Kelly and Quinn Cook — all of whom shoot over 40 percent from 3-point range and better than 80 percent from the free-throw line.

Related: Our best advice for your bracket pool

Sweet 16 Sleeper

(5) Oklahoma State Cowboys
Cowboy combo guard Marcus Smart joined Kevin Durant (2007) and Michael Beasley (2008) — both of whom went on to be the No. 2 overall pick in their respective NBA Draft classes — as only the third player ever to be named Big 12 Player of the Year and National Freshman of the Year in the same season. “Smart-acus” is joined by fellow blue chip recruit Le’Bryan Nash and guards Markel Brown and Phil Forte, giving coach Travis Ford a perimeter lineup that will be tough to match up with.

Upset Watch

(11) First Four winner (Saint Mary’s Gaels vs. Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders) vs. (6) Memphis Tigers
Coach Josh Pastner has not been the wunderkind he was proclaimed as John Calipari’s replacement at Memphis. This season, the Tigers were 1–3 against teams that made the field of 68, with their only win coming against Ivy League champion Harvard, in a 60–50 contest that was much closer than the final score indicates. The winner of the Saint Mary’s and Middle Tennessee No. 11-seed play-in game will have an excellent shot at an obviously talented, athletic and underachieving Memphis squad.

Related: March Madness by the numbers

Cinderella Superstar

Doug McDermott, Jr., Creighton Bluejays (7)
The son of coach Greg McDermott is a legitimate National Player of the Year candidate after a dominant junior season. The 6’8” Ames, Iowa, native — who was a high school teammate of former North Carolina star Harrison Barnes — averages 23.1 points per game on 56.1 percent shooting from the field, 86.0 percent from the free-throw line and an amazing 49.7 percent from 3-point range.

Related: All Athlon Sports 2013 NCAA Tournament content

Teaser:
<p> 2013 NCAA Tournament: Midwest Region Preview, including the Louisville Cardinals, Duke Blue Devils, Oklahoma State's Marcus Smart and Creighton's Doug McDermott.</p>
Post date: Monday, March 18, 2013 - 11:12
All taxonomy terms: Ernie Els, Golf
Path: /golf/top-20-golfers-2013-majors-no-18-ernie-els
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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. 18: Ernie Els

Born: Oct. 17, 1969, Johannesburg, South Africa | Career PGA Tour Wins: 19 (27 on the European Tour) | 2012 Wins (Worldwide): 1 | 2012 Earnings (PGA Tour): $3,453,118 (16th)  World Ranking: 24

 

Brandel Chamblee's Take

Els was inducted into the Hall of Fame in May of last year, and in July, he once again proved he was worthy of the induction, as he won his fourth career major when he prevailed at The Open Championship. He's still a threat from tee to green every week, but his putter has betrayed him on too many occasions in the last few years and was the reason for him falling out of the top 50 in the world and missing The Masters in 2012.

Major Championship Résumé
Starts: 80
Wins: 4

2012 Performance:
Masters - DNP
U.S. Open - 9
British Open - Won
PGA Championship - T48

Best Career Finishes: 
Masters - 2 (2000, 2004)
U.S. Open - 1 (1994, 1997)
British Open - 1 (2002, 2012)
PGA Championship - 3/T3 (1995, 2007)
Top-10 Finishes: 33
Top-25 Finishes: 49
Missed Cuts: 15

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


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

Teaser:
<p> Athlon Counts Down the 20 Golfers to Watch for Majors Season</p>
Post date: Monday, March 18, 2013 - 11:03
All taxonomy terms: 2013 March Madness, College Basketball
Path: /college-basketball/need-bracket-advice-our-best-tips-your-ncaa-tournament-pool
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March Madness Bracket HelpThe day after Selection Sunday is not a great time to get caught up on the college basketball season.

As you start to fill out NCAA Tournament brackets for your pools, Athlon Sports did some of the homework for your basketball cram session. March Madness is unpredictable, and we expect it to be again this year after a season in which top teams lost on a nightly basis.

But there are some tried and true trends in the Tournament, and we’ll break them down here.

These are our favorite rules for picking our brackets, along with some of the examples from this year’s field.

COMPLETE REGION PREVIEWS
East
| Midwest | South | West

Advance all the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds
The turnover at the No. 1 spot all season prompted us to consider if this would be the year a No. 16 seed beats a No. 1. Sure, it might happen, but the 16 seeds this season aren’t going to do it -- a 20-loss team (Liberty), the No. 7 seed in the MEAC (North Carolina A&T), a team that started 5-10 (LIU Brooklyn), the third-place team in a watered-down CAA (James Madison), a .500 team from the Sun Belt (Western Kentucky) and the SWAC champion (Southern). The pair of No. 15 seeds winning last season may convince you to pick against a No. 2. Don’t. Before last season we went 11 years between 15 seeds winning in the first round. However...

Consider dropping a No. 1 or a No. 2 in the round of 32
The top seeds were unclear going into the conference tournaments, meaning few teams had iron-clad cases to be on the top line. The eight teams at the top have lost to teams in the No. 8-9-seed range sometime during the season, and may do so again in the Tourney. Consider: Only one No. 1 seed since 2004 failed to reach the Sweet 16 (2011 Pittsburgh, who lost to Final Four-bound Butler). During that same span, 12 of 28 No. 2 seeds failed to reach the the second weekend.
Our picks for vulnerable top-two seeds: Miami (cooled at the end of the rgular season, could face Illinois in round two), Georgetown (has not reached the Sweet 16 since 2007), Kansas (potential North Carolina or Villanova matchup is worrisome).

Don’t fall in love with upsets
We remember Final Four teams like Butler, VCU and George Mason. Don’t get too caught up trying to look smart by advancing a No. 11 seed to the FInal Four. Of the last 48 Final Four teams, 41 were top-four seeds, and four of the seven who were top-four seeds were No. 5 seeds. Butler, VCU and George Mason are memorable because they're outliers.

Related: NCAA Tournament Bracket Cheat Sheets

Pay attention to game sites as much as seeds
Coaches would prefer to drop a seed if it means playing closer to home and in front of a more friendly crowd. Trust the coaches on this. Also, make sure your upset pick isn’t playing too far from home. You may love an East Coast mid-major, but you may want to back off as it gets sent to San Jose. We don't need to tell you to favor Louisville, the No. 1 overall seed playing in Lexington, Ky., and potentially Indianapolis. Here are a few other team locations to consider in the rounds of 64 and 32:
Teams playing close to home in the early rounds: Cal (in San Jose against UNLV), Oregon (in San Jose, its own time zone against Oklahoma State), Kansas State (in Kansas City)
Teams playing far from home you may want to avoid: Colorado State (in Lexington, Ky., against Missouri), South Dakota State (vs. Michigan in Auburn Hills, Mich.), San Diego State (in Philadelphia, albeit against Oklahoma), Syracuse (in San Jose against Montana, then potentially Cal/UNLV), Florida and Miami (in Austin, Texas)

Related: March Madness by the numbers 

Pay attention to extreme free throw numbers
Expect closer games in the NCAA Tournament. That means free throws will play a critical role. If you’re on the fence about a team, give free throw numbers a look. Avoid falling in love with teams that can’t hit free throws.
Key teams with high free throw percentages: Davidson, Oklahoma, Creighton, Oklahoma State, Arizona, Missouri
Key teams with low free throw percentages: Wisconsin, Cincinnati, North Carolina, Pittsburgh

All that talk about bubble teams, forget it
We spent the last six weeks talking about bubble teams. Time to stop paying them any mind, especially bubble teams from major conferences. Teams had trouble clinching a Tourney bid because they couldn’t win consistently. Teams from major conferences had chances all year to prove they were Tourney teams and didn’t do it until the last week of the season. Knock them out early. The exception: Bubble teams from mid-major conferences. The inclusion of VCU and George Mason in recent years were criticized ... until they reached the Final Four.
Bubble teams to avoid beyond round of 64: Ole Miss, Iowa State, Cincinnati, Villanova

Give credit to coaches who win in the Tournament
Some coaches have a knack for winning the tournament. Some don’t. Does a coach always seem to win one more game than you expect? Does another continually let you down? For further reading, Peter Tiernen at Bracket Science explains overachievers and underachievers.
Coaches who overachieve compared to seed: Michigan State’s Tom Izzo, Louisville’s Rick Pitino, Marquette’s Buzz Williams, Arizona’s Sean Miller, VCU’s Shaka Smart
Coaches who underachieve compared to seed: Gonzaga’s Mark Few, Temple’s Fran Dunphy, New Mexico’s Steve Alford, Georgetown’s John Thompson III, PIttsburgh’s Jamie Dixon, Cal’s Mike Montgomery

When picking a mid-major to advance, do your homework
Look beyond the record. We like mid- and low-major teams that tested themselves against major competition, whether or not they won games. Make sure to look at a mid-majors conference record. Did a team play well during its conference season, or did it wait until the conference tournament to get hot?
Teams that challenged themselves in the non-conference: Belmont, Davidson, Florida Gulf Coast, Temple, Wichita State
Teams that didn’t: James Madison, LIU Brooklyn, Middle Tennessee State, New Mexico State, Valparaiso, Saint Mary’s

Use caution with teams that faded since February and early March
Are teams tired? Was there a major personnel change? Was there an injury? Did opponents catch up? In any case, we don’t like teams limping into the Tournament, no matter what they did from November through January. On the flip side, give credit to teams that got better as the season went along. Did a team get a player back from injury or make a key lineup change?
Teams that faded: Florida, Michigan, Minnesota, Oklahoma
Teams that faded prior to the conference tourneys: Creighton, Miami, Syracuse
Teams that improved through the season: Duke (with Ryan Kelly), North Carolina, Ohio State
Absences to consider: Akron (Alex Abreu, suspended) UCLA (Jordan Adams, injured)

When picking a champ or Final Four team, consider the point guard
An NBA-bound point guard isn’t necessary to reach the Final Four or win a title, but it’s tough to advance that far without consistent point guard play. Who has a steady point guard, who has a liability?
Good teams with questionable point guard situations: Arizona, Kansas, Michigan State

Balance on offense and defense
Defense wins championship is a football saying. Don't let it take over your bracket. The key to winning in March is balance on both sides of the court, especially for teams that can play multiple tempos and styles. The last 10 national champions ranked in the top 20 in both of Ken Pomeroy’s adjusted offensive and defensive rankings.
The teams in the top 20 in both this season are: Florida, Gonzaga, Indiana, Louisville, Ohio State and Pittsburgh

Related: All Athlon Sports 2013 NCAA Tournament content

Teaser:
<p> March Madness is here. Athlon Sports will give you the best tips for a winning bracket</p>
Post date: Monday, March 18, 2013 - 10:30
Path: /college-basketball/march-madness-numbers-kansas-philadelphia-sec-among-notables
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Every NCAA Tournament field is unique, yet the same.

Even with 68 teams, the teams selected for the field -- and those who arrive via automatic bid -- assemble a mix of national powers, regulars on the March Madness scene and newcomers.

We’re used to seeing Kansas in the field, as well as some familiar surnames. But some of the absences are notable, too. The SEC and the state of Texas rule the the college football scene, but not the NCAA Tournament. Philadelphia is one of the greatest cities for basketball talent, but rarely is it as well-represented in March as it is right now.
 

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Here’s a look at key numbers in the 2013 field of 68:

4. Tournaments in the last six with a Zeller, a Curry and a Plumlee
Three families have racked up frequent flyer miles to watch the Zeller, Curry and Plumlee brothers play in the NCAA Tournament. This is the fourth in the last six seasons to have all three, with Cody Zeller at Indiana, Seth Curry at Duke and Mason and Marshall Plumlee also at Duke. The other years with all three:
2012: Cody Zeller and Tyler Zeller (North Carolina), Seth Curry and Mason and Miles Plumlee (Duke).
2011: Tyler Zeller, Seth Curry, Mason and Miles Plumlee
2008: Luke Zeller (Notre Dame), Stephen Curry (Davidson) and Miles Plumlee

Related: Our best advice for your bracket pool

24. Consecutive Tournament appearances by Kansas
With 24 Tournament appearances in a row, the Jayhawks are closing on the record of 27 consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances held by North Carolina (1975-2001). If Kansas reaches the field next season, it will tie Arizona (1985-2009) for No. 2 at 25 consecutive appearances. Other consecutive NCAA streaks: Duke (18), Michigan State (16), Gonzaga and Wisconsin (15)

5. Teams Lon Kruger has taken to the Tournament, most for any coach
Lon Kruger is one of the nation's best coaches when it comes to turning around programs. He did that once against with Oklahoma, leading the Sooners to their first Dance since Blake Griffin took OU to the Elite Eight in 2009. Kruger is the first coach to take five teams to the NCAA Tournament with Oklahoma joining Kansas State, Florida, Illinois and UNLV.

1. Team in ACC history to win the league’s regular season and tournament titles and not be a No. 1 seed
Much of Miami’s accomplishments this season have started with the phrase “the first ACC team other than Duke or North Carolina to...” This time, it doesn’t need a qualifier. The No. 2 seed Hurricanes were the first ACC team to win the league’s regular season and tournament titles in the same season to not be a No. 1 seed since seeding began. Miami is also the first ACC team other than Duke or North Carolina to win the outright regular season and tournament titles since a David Thompson-led NC State team in 1974.

1. Big East team to make the NCAA Tournament every season since 2006
Marquette has been securely in the field for some time, but it’s notable that the Golden Eagles are the only program from the Big East to reach the NCAA Tournament every season from the time the league expanded in 2005 to the time it splits after this season.

3. SEC teams in the field
Not only did the SEC tie its fewest number of NCAA bids since the field expanded to 64, it did so with a low batting average. The 14-league team sent three bids to the Tournament, with two being seeded ninth or lower (Ole Miss and Missouri). The Big East had the most bids with seven teams (of 15), but the Mountain West (five of nine teams) and Big Ten (seven of 12) sent more than half their membership to the Tournament.

8. Future ACC teams in the field
The Big East Tournament marked the dissolution of a legendary basketball conference, which for now is the ACC’s gain. Eight teams of the ACC’s future lineup are in the field (Duke, Louisville, Miami, NC State, North Carolina, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh and Syracuse). Compare that to five presumptive members of the new Big East/Catholic 7 (Butler, Creighton, Georgetown, Marquette, Villanova) and two for the Conference To Be Named Later (Cincinnati, Memphis, Temple). In fact, five automatic bids were won by teams headed to new conferences in the next few years: Creighton (Missouri Valley to the Big East), Louisville (Big East to ACC), Pacific (Big West to West Coast) and Memphis (Conference USA to Big East). Only one team won an automatic bid as a member of a new league -- Belmont in the Ohio Valley.

3. Members of Philadelphia’s Big 5 in the field
The bubble was kind to Philadelphia. Villanova, Temple and La Salle were all on on the bubble through February and into March. All three reached the field, giving Philadelphia’s Big 5 schools (the others are Penn and St. Joseph’s) three teams in the Tourney for the first time since 2008 and only the second time since 1997.

1989. The last time Middle Tennessee made the Tournament
One of the last teams in the field, Middle Tennessee, is the (proud) owner of the the longest NCAA Tournament drought ended in this field. The Blue Raiders last appeared in March Madness in 1989 when the Blue Raiders upset Florida State in the first round. Other notable droughts that ended were La Salle (first since 1992), James Madison (first since 1994) and North Carolina A&T (first since 1995). This doesn’t include Division I newcomer Florida Gulf Coast’s first Tournament.

20. Losses by Liberty, most for a Tournament team since 2008
When Liberty won the Big South Tournament on March 10, the Flames tied (15-20) a dubious record by becoming the second 20-loss team to reach the NCAA field. Coppin State won the MEAC Tournament with 20 losses in 2008.

3. Of the last six national title winners to miss the NCAA Tournament the next year
Rupp Arena will host the early rounds of the NCAA Tournament, but Lexington won’t even have Kentucky to watch in the postseason. With its facility in use, Kentucky will face Northeast Conference regular season champion Robert Morris on its home court in the NIT. Kentucky is the third defending national champion in the last six years to play in the NIT the following year, joining 2010 North Carolina and 2008 Florida.

1995. The last time Rick Barnes didn’t coach in the NCAA Tournament
The NCAA Tournament fate for Texas and Rick Barnes has been sealed since about the the time the Longhorns lost to Chaminade in Maui. But it’s still remarkable that this is the first Tournament without Texas since 1998 and the first without Barnes since 1995, who coached three consecutive Clemson teams to the Tournament. Other notable absences: Xavier (first miss since 2005), Purdue and BYU (first misses since 2006) and West Virginia (first miss since 2007).

0. Teams from the state of Texas in the field, first time since 1977
Stephen F. Austin, Prairie View A&M and UT Arlington, which all lost conference tournament finals, were the last hopes for a team from Texas making the field. Texas, Texas A&M, Houston, Texas Tech and others needed to win automatic bids to reach the field. Baylor was clinging to the bubble before losing to Oklahoma State in the Big 12 Tournament. That leaves this year’s field without a representative from the Lone Star State for the first time since 1977.

Related: All Athlon Sports 2013 NCAA Tournament content

Teaser:
<p> March Madness by the numbers: Kansas, Philadelphia, SEC among notables</p>
Post date: Monday, March 18, 2013 - 08:05
Path: /college-football/alabama-crimson-tide-2013-spring-football-preview
Body:

Alabama opens spring practice as a heavy favorite to win the 2013 national championship. And with 14 starters back, there’s not much for the Crimson Tide to be concerned about heading into spring workouts. However, Nick Saban is always looking for ways for his team to get better, so Alabama isn’t going to cruise through spring workouts. With three starters departing, the offensive line should receive the most attention in preseason practice. The defense brings back eight starters, but cornerback Dee Milliner must be replaced. Make no mistake: There’s no shortage of talent in Tuscaloosa. The task for Saban and his staff is to get the new faces blended with the veterans to keep the Crimson Tide on top in 2013.

Alabama Crimson Tide 2013 Spring Preview

2012 Record: 13-1 (7-1)

Spring practice dates: March 16-April 20

Returning Starters: Offense – 6, Defense – 8

Returning Leaders:

Passing: AJ McCarron, 211 of 314, 2,933 yards, 30 TDs, 3 INTs
Rushing: T.J. Yeldon, 175 car., 1,108 yards, 12 TDs
Receiving: Amari Cooper, 59 rec., 1,000 yards, 11 TDs
Tackles: C.J. Mosley, 107
Sacks: Adrian Hubbard, 7
Interceptions: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, 5

Redshirts to watch: WR Chris Black, OL Alphonse Taylor, OL Brandon Greene, LB Ryan Anderson, DL Korren Kirven, DL Dalvin Tomlinson

Early Enrollees to Watch: QB Cooper Bateman, OL Leon Brown (JC), WR Raheem Falkins, RB Derrick Henry, TE O.J. Howard, QB Parker McLeod

JUCO Transfers to Watch: OL Leon Brown

2013 Schedule

Aug. 31 Virginia Tech (Atlanta)
Sept. 7 Bye Week
Sept. 14 at Texas A&M
Sept. 21 Colorado State
Sept. 28 Ole Miss
Oct. 5 Georgia State
Oct. 12 at Kentucky
Oct. 19 Arkansas
Oct. 26 Tennessee
Nov. 9 LSU
Nov. 16 at Mississippi State
Nov. 23 Chattanooga
Nov. 30 at Auburn

Offensive Strength: Even with the departure of three of the nation’s best linemen, Alabama’s offense could be even better in 2013. Quarterback AJ McCarron is one of the best in the nation, the backfield is loaded with talent, and the receiving corps should rank near the top of the SEC.

Offensive Weakness: There’s no question the offensive line is the biggest issue for Alabama to address this spring. Two starters are back, but the Crimson Tide must replace three standouts in guard Chance Warmack, center Barrett Jones and tackle D.J. Fluker.

Defensive Strength: With six starters back, Alabama should once again have one of the best defenses in college football. The linebacking corps could be the best in the nation, and even though the secondary must replace Dee Milliner, there is no shortage of talent ready to step in.

Defensive Weakness: If there are any weaknesses on Alabama’s defense, the secondary and defensive line might be the place to look. The secondary loses standout cornerback Dee Milliner and safety Robert Lester. The defensive line must replace Damion Square, Jesse Williams and Quinton Dial. Neither unit is a huge weakness, but there are new faces stepping into the starting lineup.

Spring Storylines Facing the Crimson Tide

1. Replacing three starters on the offensive line. If Alabama wants to repeat as national champs, restocking the offensive line is the team’s top offseason priority. Replacing the production of Chance Warmack, Barrett Jones and D.J. Fluker will be nearly impossible, but the Crimson Tide should still have one of the top lines in the SEC. Left tackle Cyrus Kouandjio is ready for a breakout season, while guard Anthony Steen has 25 career starts. Ryan Kelly is expected to replace Jones at center, and he was impressive in limited action last season. The other two spots on the line are up for grabs, and new line coach Mario Cristobal would like to get an extended look at junior college recruit Leon Brown and incoming freshman Brandon Hill this spring. In addition to the spring newcomers, Arie Kouandjio, redshirt freshman Brandon Greene, juniors Austin Shepherd and Chad Lindsay and senior Kellen Williams will have an opportunity to fight for the two open spots. There’s no shortage of talent ready to step into the starting lineup for Alabama. However, can this unit quickly find its starting five and jell before a key early-season matchup against Texas A&M?

2. T.J. Yeldon’s backup. With Eddie Lacy moving onto the NFL, T.J. Yeldon is primed for a monster sophomore season. He rushed for 1,108 yards and 12 touchdowns last year and caught 11 passes for 131 yards and one score. While Yeldon is one of the nation’s top backs, Alabama heads into spring practice looking for a No. 2 option. Dee Hart has suffered season-ending knee injuries in back-to-back years and is working at cornerback this spring. Kenyan Drake is expected to see an increase in carries after rushing for 281 yards last season, but the Crimson Tide is bringing in an impressive collection of running backs from their 2013 recruiting class. Derrick Henry, Tyren Jones, Alvin Kamara and Altee Tenpenny are expected to push for playing time this preseason and could give Alabama the deepest running back corps in the nation. Talent isn't an issue, but the Crimson Tide just need to settle on a pecking order to keep Yeldon fresh in 2013.

3. Who replaces Dee Milliner at cornerback? Alabama has ranked in the top 10 nationally in pass defense in back-to-back seasons, and even with the departure of Milliner, it should have the No. 1 secondary in the SEC in 2013. Milliner and safety Robert Lester will be missed, but talent isn’t an issue in Tuscaloosa. Junior college transfer Deion Belue had his share of ups and downs in his first season on campus but finished the year with 40 tackles and two interceptions. He should start at one of the corner spots, while sophomore Geno Smith and senior John Fulton will likely compete for the other job. Incoming freshman Maurice Smith, along with converted running back Dee Hart and receivers Cyrus Jones and Christion Jones are names to watch this preseason. The secondary should get a boost from the return of Jarrick Williams, who missed all of last season due to injury. Alabama doesn’t have a shutdown corner like Milliner on the roster, but the emergence of Smith and Fulton should help ease the loss of an All-American performer.

4. Who steps up on the defensive line? In a 3-4 scheme, defensive linemen aren’t going to post huge numbers. However, the Crimson Tide has three players to replace up front, including second-team All-SEC performer in nose guard Jesse Williams. Just as with every unit, Alabama may have losses, but there is talent waiting in the wings. Ed Stinson is an underrated player and recorded three sacks last year. Jeoffrey Pagan and Brandon Ivory are two players to watch in spring practice, as both could be breakout performers in 2013. Even if Stinson, Pagan and Ivory easily replace Williams, Damion Square and Quinton Dial, Alabama needs a couple of other bodies to emerge for depth.
 

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Teaser:
<p> Alabama Crimson Tide 2013 Spring Football Preview</p>
Post date: Monday, March 18, 2013 - 08:00
Path: /college-football/ole-miss-rebels-2013-spring-football-preview
Body:

Coming off a seven-win season and a top-five recruiting class, Ole Miss heads into spring practice with momentum on its side. The Rebels return 15 starters, including quarterback Bo Wallace, linebacker Denzel Nkemdiche and receiver Donte Moncrief. Wallace is out for spring practice due to shoulder surgery, but the Rebels are working with an experienced backup in Barry Brunetti. Coach Hugh Freeze clearly has Ole Miss pointed in the right direction, and with the combination of returning talent and the incoming recruiting class, the Rebels could push for a top-25 spot in some preseason polls.

Ole Miss Rebels 2013 Spring Preview

2012 Record: 7-6 (3-5)

Spring practice dates: March 17-April 13

Returning Starters: Offense – 8, Defense – 7

Returning Leaders:

Passing: Bo Wallace, 235 of 368, 2,994 yards, 22 TDs, 17 INTs
Rushing: Jeff Scott, 197 car., 846 yards, 6 TDs
Receiving: Donte Moncrief, 66 rec., 979 yards, 10 TDs
Tackles: Denzel Nkemdiche, 82
Sacks: C.J. Johnson, 6.5
Interceptions: Three players tied with 3

Redshirts to Watch: OL Robert Conyers, DL Temario Strong, OL Darone Bailey

JUCO Transfers to Watch: ATH Nick Brassell, DT Lavon Hooks, ATH Quadarias Mireles

2013 Schedule

Aug. 29 at Vanderbilt
Sept. 7 SEMO
Sept. 14 at Texas
Sept. 28 at Alabama
Oct. 5 at Auburn
Oct. 12 Texas A&M
Oct. 19 LSU
Oct. 26 Idaho
Nov. 9 Arkansas
Nov. 16 Troy
Nov. 23 Missouri
Nov. 30 at Mississippi State

Offensive Strength: With eight starters back, the Rebels are in good shape on each level of the offense. Quarterback Bo Wallace threw for 2,994 yards last season, while the receiving corps should be one of the best in the SEC. The offensive line returns four starters.

Offensive Weakness: It’s hard to find a glaring weakness for Ole Miss, but guard A.J. Hawkins and two tight ends (Jamal Mosley and Ferbia Allen) must be replaced. The line has room to improve after allowing 2.6 sacks a game last season.

Defensive Strength: The linebacking corps should be the strength of the Rebels’ defense in 2013, as Denzel Nkemdiche is back after a standout freshman season, and Mike Marry returns after recording 78 stops in 2012.

Defensive Weakness: Ole Miss fielded an improved defense in Hugh Freeze’s first season, but the Rebels still have a long ways to go on this side of the ball. The secondary has to get better after allowing 246.5 passing yards a game last season. Ole Miss ranked seventh in yards allowed in conference play in 2012.

Spring Storylines Facing the Rebels

1. The health of quarterback Bo Wallace. After a solid debut season in Oxford, there’s a lot of concern surrounding Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace this spring. Wallace threw for 2,994 yards and 22 touchdowns, while adding 390 yards and eight scores on the ground in 2012. Wallace had offseason shoulder surgery and will miss all of spring practice. With Wallace sidelined, Barry Brunetti and Maikhail Miller are expected to take a majority of the snaps under center, and the development of both players is crucial for Ole Miss. While Wallace is expected to return to 100 percent, the slow shoulder surgery recovery of Missouri’s James Franklin last year and Texas A&M’s Jerrod Johnson in 2010 has to give Rebels’ head coach Hugh Freeze some nervous thoughts this spring. Having an experienced backup like Brunetti has to ease some of the concern, but Wallace is clearly Ole Miss’ best quarterback. And the Rebels can’t move up the SEC West pecking order if Wallace isn’t 100 percent this year.

2. Replacing A.J. Hawkins on the offensive line. With running back Jeff Scott and receiver Donte Moncrief returning, the Rebels have plenty of talented at the skill positions to keep the offense performing at a high level. And the offensive line is in relatively good shape with four starters back from last season. However, this unit has room to grow after allowing 2.6 sacks a game last year, and guard A.J. Hawkins departs after starting all 13 games. Emmanuel McCray and Pierce Burton are back to anchor the tackle spots, but both players will be pushed by incoming freshmen Laremy Tunsil and Austin Golson. There’s no clear replacement for Hawkins on the roster, although tackle Patrick Junen is expected to slide to guard this spring. If Junen doesn’t secure the job, the Rebels may turn to Justin Bell or could look at sliding another tackle to guard. For the Rebels to take the next step on offense, the line has to play with more consistency in 2013.

3. Reloading the defensive line. The Rebels finished 2012 ranked 25th nationally against the run and recorded 2.9 sacks a game last year. The line loses four contributors from last season, but help is on the way from one of the nation’s top recruiting classes. End Robert Nkemdiche ranked as the No. 1 prospect in the 2013 Athlon Consensus 100 and has the size and talent to make an immediate impact. In addition to Nkemdiche, junior college recruit Lavon Hooks is expected to play a lot of snaps in the interior this year. Ends C.J. Johnson and Channing Ward are a good foundation to build around, while nose tackle Issac Gross needs a little more help on the interior with the departure of Gilbert Pena and Uriah Grant.

4. Settling on a starting group in the secondary. The weakness of Ole Miss’ defense last season was the secondary. The Rebels ranked 80th nationally against the pass, and quarterbacks completed 61.6 percent of their throws against this secondary. The cupboard isn’t bare, but the Rebels need to find the right mix for 2013 this spring. Charles Sawyer shifted from safety to cornerback last season and should be better in his second year at the position. Nick Brassell is back on campus after a year at junior college, and he could start on the other side. If Brassell isn’t the answer, Senquez Golson, Dehendret Collins or Quintavius Burdette and Anthony Standifer will all get a chance to win the job. The starting spots at safety will likely go to Trae Elston and Cody Prewitt, but true freshman Antonio Conner will be difficult to keep off the field.

 

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Teaser:
<p> Ole Miss Rebels 2013 Spring Football Preview</p>
Post date: Monday, March 18, 2013 - 07:50
Path: /college-football/5-players-watch-acc-spring-practice
Body:

With spring practice underway across college football, most of interest will focus on quarterback battles or incoming freshmen that enrolled early to get a jumpstart on making an impact for 2013.

However, there’s always a handful of players – outside of the quarterback position – that fly under the radar that need to have a big spring practice for their team. Whether it’s a running back replacing a 1,000-yard rusher or a lineman stepping into a starting role for an all-conference player, there’s plenty of names that will be under the spotlight this spring.

Athlon continues its spring practice previews with a look at five under-the-radar players to watch in each conference during spring practice. 

5 Players to Watch in ACC Spring Practice

J.C. Coleman, RB, Virginia Tech
Each unit in Virginia Tech’s offense is in need of major repair, but the rushing attack may be the aspect most under the microscope this spring. The Hokies managed just 145.9 yards rushing per game last season, with quarterback Logan Thomas leading the team with 524 yards on the ground. This marked the first year since 1992 that Virginia Tech’s top rusher had less than 600 yards. Coleman averaged 4.5 yards per carry last season but finished with just 492 yards rushing and two touchdowns on 109 attempts. Although quarterback Logan Thomas needs to play better, the Hokies have to generate more on the ground in 2013. Coleman was a four-star recruit by Rivals.com coming out of high school, and the pressure is on the sophomore to win the top backfield spot, while giving Virginia Tech a much-needed boost on the ground.
 

Roderick McDowell, RB, Clemson
Andre Ellington was one of the nation’s most underrated players during his career, rushing for 3,436 yards and 33 touchdowns and catching 59 passes for 505 yards and two scores. Ellington expired his eligibility after the bowl game, leaving Clemson with a trio of options battling for the top spot this spring. McDowell is the likely frontrunner to replace Ellington, as he rushed for 450 yards and five touchdowns last season. McDowell posted two performances of 83 yards rushing last year and averaged 5.4 yards per carry on 83 attempts. The South Carolina native has patiently waited for his opportunity behind Ellington, and 2013 should be a breakout year for the senior if he holds off sophomore Zac Brooks and junior D.J. Howard.

Related: 2013 Clemson Tigers Spring Preview
 

Andre Monroe, DE, Maryland
With the departure of six key starters from last season’s defense, the Terrapins are banking on the return of Monroe to keep this unit near the top of the ACC. As a freshman in 2011, he recorded 18 tackles, 7.5 tackles for a loss and five sacks. However, Monroe suffered a knee injury in fall practice last year and was forced to sit out the 2012 season. The junior has been limited in spring practice, and considering how important he will be in replacing standout lineman Joe Vellano, the Maryland coaching staff doesn’t want to rush Monroe’s recovery. Even if he doesn’t participate much this spring, just having Monroe back on the field is a good sign for the Terrapins’ defense in 2013.
 

Curtis Porter, DT, Miami
Injuries have hindered Porter’s career at Miami, as he has yet to play a full season. In 2012, Porter played in only four games and finished the year with four tackles. Considering he has only 24 career tackles and 15 games of experience, why is Porter so important to Miami’s defense? Consider this: The Hurricanes allowed 217.9 rushing yards and 30.5 points per game last season. Fixing the defense starts in the trenches this year, which is why Porter needs to be on the field all year. Assuming the senior can stay in the lineup, his presence should help ends Anthony Chickillo and Shayon Green see fewer double teams, while providing some help against the run. Porter may not be an all-conference performer, but he can provide some needed support for Miami’s struggling defense.

Related: 2013 Miami Hurricanes Spring Preview
 

Landon Turner, OG, North Carolina
With the departure of three offensive line starters, North Carolina has a huge rebuilding project ahead this spring. Guard Jonathan Cooper was one of the best linemen in the nation last year, so replacing his presence in the trenches isn’t going to be easy. The Tar Heels have a good foundation to start their rebuilding task, as center Russell Bodine made all 12 starts last season, while tackle James Hurst received second-team All-ACC honors. Turner is expected to earn one of the starting spots at guard after starting the final four games in 2012. The Virginia native ranked as one of the top 150 prospects in the 2011 signing class by Rivals.com and has big shoes to fill with the departure of Cooper.

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Teaser:
<p> 5 Players to Watch in ACC Spring Practice</p>
Post date: Monday, March 18, 2013 - 07:40
Path: /college-football/penn-state-nittany-lions-2013-spring-football-preview
Body:

Year One After Paterno was a tough one to handle off of the field, but was a pleasant surprise on it. Bill O'Brien took over in the face of the worst NCAA scandal in history and Penn State was rewarded with an offense that was more creative and innovative than anything Happy Valley had seen since (at least) Michael Robinson's Orange Bowl run in 2005. The sanctions continue to hold this program down, but the returning talent has PSU poised for yet another winning season.

Penn State 2013 Spring Preview

2012 Record: 8-4 (6-2)

Spring practice dates: March 18-April 20

Returning Starters: Offense – 6, Defense – 6

Returning Leaders:

Passing: Steven Bench, 2-of-8, 12 yards, 0 TD, 0 INT
Rushing: Zach Zwinak, 203 car., 1,000 yards, 6 TDs
Receiving: Allen Robinson, 77 rec., 1,018 yards, 11 TDs
Tackles: Glenn Carson, 85
Sacks: Deion Barnes, 6.0
Interceptions: Adrian Amos, 2

Redshirts to Watch: RB Akeel Lynch, TE Brent Wilkerson, WR Malik Golden, WR Eugene Lewis, OL Wendy Laurent, DL Austin Johnson, DB Jake Kiley, OG Anthony Stanko, DT Derek Dowrey, DT Brian Gaia

JUCO Transfers to Watch: QB Tyler Ferguson

2013 Schedule

Aug. 31 Syracuse
Sept. 7 Eastern Michigan
Sept. 14 UCF
Sept. 21 Kent State
Sept. 28 Bye Week
Oct. 5 at Indiana
Oct. 12 Michigan
Oct. 19 Bye Week
Oct. 26 at Ohio State
Nov. 1 Illinois
Nov. 9 at Minnesota
Nov. 16 Purdue
Nov. 23 Nebraska
Nov. 30 at Wisconsin

Offensive Strength: Offensive line. This group returns three starters as well as the top four tight ends on the roster. The running game should be just fine with three of the top four rushers returning as well.

Offensive Weakness: Quarterback, quarterback, quarterback. There aren't many weaknesses on this offense with the glaring exception under center.

Defensive Strength: Depth. There are major holes to fill on all three layers of the defense, but there are tons of bodies in the secondary and young stars ready to emerge along the defensive line. The redshirt freshmen class is large and will be on full display this spring.

Defensive Weakness: Linebackers and leadership. Michael Mauti and Gerald Hodges depart, leaving a gaping void in the linebacking corps and in the leadership department. It is time for new faces to continue the LB-U trend in Happy Valley.

Spring Storylines Facing Penn State:

1. Develop a quarterback. Bill O'Brien transformed Matt McGloin into a very capable quarterback and now he will have to do it again with players far less experienced. Sophomore Steven Bench and junior college transfer Tyler Ferguson are the only two scholarship quarterbacks on the roster this spring. Both are simply keeping the seat warm for incoming uber-recruit Christian Hackenberg, who will show up in Happy Valley this summer. This spring gives both Bench and Ferguson the chance to prove that Hackenberg doesn't need to be ready to start right away. The incoming freshman has the talent to steal the job by the end of the fall but does O'Brien want to go into the season opener counting on a true freshman?

2. Replace leadership at linebacker. It's safe to say that the Nittany Lions wouldn't have been close to eight wins without the leadership of Michael Mauti and Gerald Hodges at linebacker last fall. Not only will their 204 tackles be missed so too will their uncanny ability to elevate the play of those around them. Glenn Carson and Mike Hull return with experience and were solid as a supporting cast. Yet, both will need to step into lead roles now and continue the tradition of Linebacker-U. Others like Nyeem Wartman and Ben Kline will need to take over as supporting actors.

3. 

Rebuild the defensive line. Two All-Big Ten performers, first-team tackle Jordan Hill and honorable mention end Sean Stanley, need to be replaced. Depth also is a concern, as tackle James Terry and end Pete Massaro have departed. It is time for big-name recruits to blossom into all-conference performers. Names like Deion Barnes and C.J. Olaniyan have bright futures while DaQuan Jones, Kyle Baublitz and Anthony Zettel all have major upside. This unit isn't hurting for talent, and by the year's end, it could be one of the Big Ten's best. But that path begins this spring. 



4. Find a center and left tackle. Center Matt Stankiewitch was one of the nation's top pivots a year ago and left tackle Mike Farrell earned honorable mention All-Big Ten honors. The left tackle and center are the two most important offensive line positions and both must be replaced this spring. Donovan Smith has the inside track on the left tackle spot while a host of young, talented players will battle for reps with the first team this spring. John Urshcel and Miles Dieffenbach return to the guard positions and will be leaned on for leadership all year long. This offense has loads of talent at tight end, wide receiver and even in the backfield, so filling holes along the offensive line is one of the few concerns on offense (along with quarterback, obviously).

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Teaser:
<p> Penn State Nittany Lions 2013 Spring Football Preview</p>
Post date: Monday, March 18, 2013 - 07:40
Path: /nascar/kahne-survives-wins-bristol-motor-speedway
Body:

After leading the most laps last weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway only to run second to Matt Kenseth, Kasey Kahne felt he had something to prove on Sunday. And with Bristol Motor Speedway being the next stop on the NASCAR Sprint Cup schedule, all the better, as Kahne had yet to win on the tough half-mile racetrack in East Tennessee.

And prove it he did. Kahne got the jump on Brad Keselowski and Denny Hamlin during the final restart of the Food City 500 and cruised, leading the final 40 laps to notch his first Cup victory on Bristol’s high banks.

“This is a big race (win) for me,” Kahne said. “I just feel like when you’re racing in the Sprint Cup Series, Bristol’s one of those tracks that as a driver you really feel like you need to win at, you want to win at. There's so many things that are thrown at you when you come to this place.

“We've been trying (to win at Bristol for) a long time. So to pull it off, I felt like it was a big accomplishment for our guys and myself. Just feel really good about it.”

Kahne, who led 109 laps, dueled with Hamlin at the front of the field throughout the afternoon. Keselowski joined the fray with less than 100 laps remaining and the trio swapped the point until Jimmie Johnson blew a tire to bring out the caution with 46 laps to go.

The nine cars at the front of the pack — led by Keselowski and Kahne — elected not to pit. When the green flag waved, Keselowski was bumped from behind by Hamlin, causing his No. 2 Ford to bobble. That momentary loss of traction was all Kahne’s Hendrick Motorsports Chevy needed.

Kahne held off the aggressive trio of Kyle Busch, Keselowski and Clint Bowyer for five laps, then pulled away to a 1.7-second victory. Busch, Keselowski, Kurt Busch and Bowyer rounded out the top 5.

“I just know my rear tires were off the ground before I got to the restart zone,” Keselowski said of the deciding restart. “Eventually I got hit so hard it pushed my foot in the gas pedal. That was the deal. Never had another chance.”

The win was Kahne’s first of 2013 after stumbling out of the gate to 36th- and 19th-place finishes. Keselowski’s third-place run was his fourth top 5 in four races this year. He leads in the point standings by nine over Dale Earnhardt Jr., who logged a sixth at Bristol.

As is typical in Bristol’s tight confines, it was a physical 500-mile affair. The race was slowed 10 times for cautions. The most notable came on lap 391, when Jeff Gordon blew a right front tire while leading. He collected second-place Kenseth in the process, ending each driver’s day.

Post-race fireworks erupted when Joey Logano had to be restrained from Hamlin’s parked No. 11 Toyota. Logano had been spun by his former Joe Gibbs Racing teammate while the former ran second on lap 349.

“That’s a freaking genius behind the wheel of the 11 car — probably the worst teammate I ever had, so I learned that now,” Logano said. “He decided to run into the back of me … I have a scorecard and I’m not putting up with that. What goes around comes around.”

“He said he was comin’ for me,” Hamlin stated, when asked what Logano said upon confronting him. “I usually don’t see him (on the track), so it’s usually not a factor.

“It’s Bristol racing and everyone is fighting for the top. He knew he had to get to the top (groove) as soon as he could, but I was up there. I did mean to (hit him), but I didn’t mean to wreck him. That was a mistake.”

Logano wasn’t buying it.

“Oh, OK, sure,” Logano said. “If he didn’t mean to wreck me he would have said he was sorry, but he didn’t say that. It’s just frustrating.”

The two drivers engaged in a war of words on Twitter following the Daytona 500, when Hamlin tweeted to Logano's Penske Racing teammate, Keselowski, that he was “sorry I couldn’t get close to you (to draft) cuz your genius teammate was too busy messing up the inside lane 1 move at a time.”

The events at Bristol spilled over to the popular social media site once again.

Logano started the string of tweets, saying about their confrontation: “Hey @dennyhamlin great job of protecting that genius brain of yours by keeping your helmet on.”

“Why’s that … what would you do?” replied Hamlin.

“Show you some love and appreciation.”

“Last time I checked he had my cell and direct message button to choose from if he’s got a problem,” Hamlin concluded. “Otherwise, hush little child.”
 

Teaser:
<p> Kasey Kahne held off Kyle Busch and Brad Keselowski to win the NASCAR Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway.</p>
Post date: Sunday, March 17, 2013 - 20:48
All taxonomy terms: 2013 March Madness, College Basketball
Path: /college-basketball/selection-sunday-analysis-ole-miss-erases-doubt-middle-tennessee-brings-questions
Body:

The NCAA Tournament begins in about 48 hours with the First Four. For now, though, we’ll have plenty of hand-wringing about Selection Sunday.

Most of the teams in the field weren’t a shock -- Ole Miss erased any doubt by winning the SEC Tournament. Kentucky played its way out by losing to Vanderbilt days earlier.

But the bracket brought its share of surprises anyway: What are Middle Tennessee and La Salle doing here? Where is Tennessee? What does an ACC regular season and tournament title get you these days? And who the heck seeded the Pac-12?

When the Tournament starts, everyone will forget the frustrations of the selection process, but for now, here’s what struck us as the bracket was revealed:

Miami left out of a No. 1 seed
The Hurricanes became the first team to win the ACC regular season and tournament titles and not be a No. 1 seed. Louisville and Kansas moved onto the first line by winning conference tournaments, and the final two No. 1 seeds instead went to Indiana and Gonzaga. The Hoosiers lost to Wisconsin in the Big Ten semifinals, but they were a possible No. 1 overall seed heading into the conference tournaments. With two losses, Gonzaga had the fewest losses in the country. The selection committee may have put weight on Miami’s finish late in the regular season, which included three losses in the final five games (at Wake Forest, at Duke, Georgia Tech). Miami was ranked fifth in the official seed list.

The South is the most interesting region, because:
Wolters vs. Burke? In a round of 64 game, Michigan will face South Dakota State, setting up a meeting between potential national player of the year Trey Burke against one of the most fun players to watch in the mid- to low-major ranks in Nate Wolters. The winner may draw VCU’s havoc defense, which will face an Akron team that just suspended its point guard.

Roy vs. Kansas: North Carolina’s hot streak earned the Tar Heels a No. 8 seed, where they may end up facing Kansas in the round of 32. Roy Williams coached at Kansas from 1988-2003, taking the Jayhawks to four Final Fours. Williams' old team also knocked North Carolina out of the Tournament in the Elite Eight last season. Of course, North Carolina won’t face Kansas if the Heels can’t defeat ninth-seeded Villanova, which reached the Tournament by knocking off big-name teams in the Big East.

Tubby vs. Howland: The most important coaching matchup for career trajectory may be between UCLA and Minnesota. Despite winning the Pac-12 regular season this year and reaching three Final Fours, Howland is under a microscope at UCLA. The same may be true for Tubby Smith, whose Minnesota team enters the Tournament on a three-game losing streak. One of these coaches will have an early exit.

Florida vs. Georgetown, part 2: Florida and Georgetown were scheduled to open the season on an aircraft carrier before the game was called at halftime due to moisture on the court. If the Gators and Hoyas can navigate the first weekend, they’ll meet in the Sweet 16, this time indoors.

Bucknell is the most over-seeded team
The official seeding list suggest Bucknell should be a No. 12 seed, but the Bison ended up with a No. 11 seed facing Butler in Lexington, Ky. With three top-100 wins (La Salle, New Mexico State, Loyola-Maryland), the Bison are a stretch here. Bucknell is also the Patriot League’s highest seed since 2006 when the Bison defeated Arkansas as a No. 9 seed.

The committee made a statement with non-power conference teams
Middle Tennessee and La Salle are in, Tennessee and Kentucky are out. Middle Tennessee won the Sun Belt regular season championship and 28 games before FIU knocked it out of the conference tournament. La Salle had a top-50 RPI and defeated Butler and VCU in January. The selection committee handed 11 at-large bids to teams outside of the six major conferences, matching last year’s total. Those at-large bids went to the Atlantic 10, Mountain West (four each), Missouri Valley, Sun Belt and  West Coast (one each).

The committee recognized the SEC struggled this year
The SEC landed only three teams in the field, fewest since 2009, and one of those teams (Ole Miss) was seeded at No. 12. The Rebels were the third-lowest seeded at-large team, according to the official seed list at No. 47. That’s one spot behind Saint Mary’s, two ahead of La Salle and three ahead of Middle Tennessee. The SEC ranked eighth in conference RPI, and it showed in the field. Two of the SEC’s three teams were sent to the lower half of the bracket with Missouri earning a No. 9 seed and Ole Miss at 12. Regular-season champion Florida, though, earned a No. 3 seed.

The committee devalued the Pac-12, too
It’s been five seasons since the NCAA Tournament had this many teams from the Pac-12, so maybe the committee was out of practice. Oregon and Cal landed as No. 12 seeds, despite both teams sharing second place at 12-6 in the league. Neither team was considered to be on the bubble for several weeks, but received seedings more likely to go to some of the last teams in the field. Oregon won the Pac-12 Tournament, finished one game behind UCLA in the standings and defeated the Bruins twice, yet the Ducks were six seeds behind UCLA. Colorado was seeded 10th while Arizona was seeded sixth. Which brings us to...

The strangest round of 64 game is No. 5 UNLV vs. No. 12 Cal
Not only is Cal’s No. 12 seed low, the Bears will play in a rematch of a regular-season game in the round of 64, a possibility the committee attempts to avoid. And what does UNLV get for its 76-75 win over Cal and a No. 5 seed? Playing Cal in its backyard in San Jose.

Teaser:
<p> Selection Sunday analysis: Ole Miss erases doubt, Middle Tennessee brings questions</p>
Post date: Sunday, March 17, 2013 - 20:13
All taxonomy terms: Bristol Motor Speedway, NASCAR
Path: /nascar/nascar-hamlin-wont-appeal-bristol-returns-it-old-ways
Body:

1. How's the arm feeling, Smoke?

It's been nearly seven months since Tony Stewart took to the NASCAR pitching mound. The three-time champion removed the frown from track magnate Bruton Smith's face by hurling his helmet at Matt Kenseth's car after they crashed battling for the lead last August at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Stewart hit his target—Kenseth's windshield—perfectly. He gestured angrily to the crowd. The fans roared.

The "night race" was back.

Bristol had been a huge source of complaints among fans since its soul was resurfaced in 2007. Between the March and August races that season, Smith and his staff approved the first major change to NASCAR's most famous high-banks since it went concrete in 1992. The deteriorating surface would be replaced and the track's iconic banks changed to progressive banking in a bid to foster more side-by-side passing.

What a dud.

From 2003 to the spring 2007 race, Bristol was sold-out and rocking for every NASCAR visit. Fans got what they wanted: an average of 13 cautions a race due to crashes. The new concrete surface dropped that number significantly, as multiple lanes of racing opened up and the move-or-get-moved mentality of making up ground at the east Tennessee bullring disappeared."

Crashing, of course, isn't the point of racing. But at Bristol, it's what people on the waiting list of a track that seated more than 160,000 wanted to see. By 2010, the waiting list had disappeared and Bristol Motor Speedway was facing a crisis. There were empty seats and the fans weren't happy—even if the drivers loved the racing better than ever.

So Smith, after another un-Bristol race in the spring of last season, set out to make things right. He ground the track and made the groove tighter. He promised a better show.

Stewart, and 11 of 13 cautions for crashes, gave the fans what they wanted. Even Danica Patrick, irritated after being wrecked herself, made a gesture to a passing driver in anger. By the end, Denny Hamlin had held off charges by Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon all while completing a Bristol race that felt Bristol of old.

Will that hold up Sunday? For the sake of Bruton Smith, the engineers he hired to "fix" Bristol and the fans still longing for a tell-my-coworker-about-Monday sort of race in 2013, let's hope it does.

2. Hamlin doesn't plead guilty, but gives up NASCAR fight

The biggest news heading into a NASCAR weekend again is Denny Hamlin and his dispute with NASCAR. It was a week ago Thursday that NASCAR rocked the media center with news that Hamlin was docked $25,000 for completely unmemorable comments he made at Phoenix about his initial reaction to NASCAR's new car.

Hamlin swiftly built a following of grassroots support as he vowed to fight to not pay the penalty.

That all changed Thursday when Hamlin and NASCAR released near simultaneous statements saying that Hamlin was dropping the appeal, yet still not paying the fine. He actually will, though, as NASCAR will simply remove $25,000 from the next check Joe Gibbs Racing receives for competing.

Hamlin decided against the appeal in fear of negative attention it would bring to his team and sponsors. It's a disappointing move because it seems many fans had galvanized alongside Hamlin in rebellion of one NASCAR's poorer decisions as a sanctioning body in a long while. Now, NASCAR has won.

Of course, they probably would have anyway.

3. Upsets not exclusive to college basketball in March

Bristol, thanks to its lesser dependance on aerodynamics and overall car design, presents an opportunity not normally found for drivers and teams who wouldn't typically be seen as contenders. No, it's not easy to beat the top-flight Sprint Cup teams and drivers at any track. But Bristol's close quarters and all-day track position struggle presents opportunities for smaller teams or drivers racing limited schedules.

This weekend, keep your eye on two drivers: Brian Vickers and A.J. Allmendinger.

The former Red Bull teammates are both trying to work their way back to full-time Sprint Cup level competition and will be in part-time rides Sunday. Vickers posted a pair of top-5 finishes for Michael Waltrip Racing in the No. 55 last season at Bristol, and Allmendinger drove the No. 51 Phoenix Racing Chevrolet to an 11th-place finish on the Phoenix "shorter" track two weeks ago.

4. Point standings aren't a concern…yet

Any team that struggles in the first three races of the season undoubtedly feels some angst to get a strong finish and improve their standing in the point rankings. Until that good run comes, the creeping doubt can only do more damage to a team's morale.

For teams still struggling this season, there's comfort in knowing that last year's champion Brad Keselowski didn't get off to the most impressive start himself. Heading to Bristol for the fourth race of 2012, Keselowski was 22nd in points, 60 out of first.

It's been a much better start for the defending champion this year, but others with Chase hopes like Ryan Newman (31st, -79 points) and Martin Truex Jr. (22nd, -65) are mired deep in the standings. Another some unexpected struggle this season has been for Kurt Busch in his ride with Furniture Row Racing. That team, essentially a satellite operation of Richard Childress Racing, is 29th and 72 points out of first.

Each driver still has 33 events to sort things out, of course.

5. Figuring out "Go Time" during Bristol's 500 laps

Five hundred laps at Bristol can almost become an out of body experience for drivers. The laps—nearly four per minute—leave them pressed against the right side of the seat. Roughly one-eighth of a lap is spent not turning the wheel. It's all about hitting turning and braking points, keeping a consistent line. Lap after lap, after lap, after lap.

And that's just before the first pit stop.

A race at Bristol, despite it's 500-circuit distance, is the second-shortest scheduled oval race of the season. Figuring when to be ready to fight for the lead can sometimes take drivers by surprise. Inevitably, most races at Bristol feature at least one long green flag run in which a car that isn't handling nearly perfectly could get lapped quickly.

Kurt Busch has five career wins at Bristol. With 75 miles to go, Busch wants to be in ready to fight for another win.

“To contend for the win you want to be in position by Lap 350,” said Busch. “That is definitely the ‘Go Time’ at Bristol."

Advanced statistics from NASCAR back him up. In the 18 races in Bristol since August 2004, the eventual race winner has been no worse than fourth on lap 350.

See if that streak continues on Sunday.

THE BRISTOL ETC.: Among active drivers, three have a series-leading five wins at Bristol. Jeff Gordon has five, joined by brothers Kurt and Kyle Busch. The last win by any of those three was Kyle's spring win in 2011. Jeff Gordon, meanwhile, hasn't won at Bristol in over 10 years… Mark Martin leads active drivers with nine poles at Bristol… Ryan Newman's 14.908-second lap at Bristol in 2003 set the Sprint Cup Series track record, but it's much slower than a 12.742-second lap turned by Brian Gerster at the half-mile in a winged sprint car in 2011… 14 drivers have finished each the last 10 Bristol races, but only Dale Earnhardt Jr. has finished on the lead lap of at least nine of those events… 80 percent of Bristol Sprint Cup races have been won by a driver starting in the top-10.

by Geoffrey Miller
Follow Geoffrey on Twitter:
 @GeoffreyMiller 

Teaser:
<p> NASCAR: Hamlin Won't Appeal, Bristol Returns to it Old Ways</p>
Post date: Saturday, March 16, 2013 - 09:15
Path: /college-basketball/50-funny-college-basketball-march-madness-bracket-team-names
Body:

With the 2013 NCAA Tournament kicking off next week, it's time for college basketball fans to start filling out their March Madness brackets. For those playing online, it also means coming up with a humorous or ridiculously over-the-top name to go along with their ill-fated picks. With that in mind, we pulled together some of our favorites. 

 
Grand Theft Otto Porter Jr. (Georgetown)
 
Full Metal Bracket
 
Naters Gonna Nate (South Dakota State’s Nate Wolters)
 
Dunk You Very Much
 
Don’t Haith the Player, Haith the Game
 
I saw Gun-Zaga, You Say Gone-Zaga, let’s call the whole thing off
 
I Got the Vander Blues
 
My Russdiculous Picks
 
The Dana Altman Brothers Band
 
Pros and Cuonzo
 
March Sadness
 
Happily Raftery After
 
Did you get your spring game ticket yet? (SEC fans only)
 
Rick Byrd’s Sweatervest
 
John Groce Pointe Blank

Final Fourgasm
 
A Cinderella Story
 
Russ-elmania 2013
 
Siva Seat for Me
 
Knock Down the Trey (Trey Burke, Michigan)
 
Boom Skaka Shaka
 
What Cav you done for me lately?
 
I’d rather be golfing with Jim Boeheim
 
What channel is TruTV again?
 
Church of Bracketology
 
Don't Tell Anyone, but I kinda like Notre Dame's Uniforms
 
March Mad Men
 
James Michael McAdoo the Right Thing
 
Calipari's Recruiting Budget
 
Lobos know Brackets
 
Wake me up when Duke loses
 
Shabazz-er Beaters

When I Think About You I Touch Bill Self

Thad Matta World Peace
 
Cinderella's Left Slipper
 
All Zeller, No Filler
 
Wait, this isn't the NIT?
 
Winning by Accident
 
One and Done
 
Buzzer Beaters Anonymous
 
My Other Bracket Joined the ACC
 
Buzz Williams' Barber
 
One Man Wolfpack
 
iPick Pretty Jerseys
 
No X-'Cuse-s 
 
Villa No Fun 
 
Shoeless Joe Jackson (Memphis)
 
The Butler Did it ... Again

Could it be ... CREIGHTON?

Larranaga, Moe and Curly
Teaser:
<p> Need help choosing a name for your bracket picks? Here you go.</p>
Post date: Friday, March 15, 2013 - 13:31
Path: /college-basketball/ncaa-basketball-john-caliparis-top-20-all-time-freshmen
Body:

Even since his first season as a college head coach at UMass, John Calipari has thrived with freshmen. That season in 1988-89, Calipari had a rookie Jim McCoy, who averaged 19.8 points per game.

That freshman and that team didn’t resemble the recruiting empire Calipari built at Memphis and Kentucky where a glut of talented freshmen sign with Cal, win a ton of college games in one year and then go on to be NBA Draft picks.

No, McCoy put up big numbers but went 10-18 at UMass as a freshman. He’s certainly one of Calipari’s best freshmen, but he’ll have trouble landing in the top 10 from recent years.

Sorting through Anthony Davis, Derrick Rose, John Wall and more is a tall task, but we tried to tackle it here with Calipari’s top 20 freshmen.

We included three freshmen from this season’s team, but this early in the season, their grade is incomplete. We anticipate one or all three to make a move up this list, but for now, this elite group of rookies is tough one to crack.

JOHN CALIPARI’S TOP 20 FRESHMEN

Anthony Davis

1. Anthony Davis, Kentucky
Season: 2011-12
Davis didn’t simply have one of the best freshman seasons in college basketball history -- he had one of the best seasons of any player. If there was an award to be won or honor to receive, Davis earned it. He was the consensus national player of the year, a unanimous All-American, the national defensive player of the year and the Final Four Most Outstanding Player. After leading Kentucky to its eighth national title and first championship since 1998, Davis was the No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft. The only other players to win the Naismith Award, the Final Four MOP and then be selected first overall in the draft all the in the same season were Kansas’ Danny Manning and. UCLA’s Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. With a 7-foot-four wingspan, Davis was a defensive force, setting an NCAA freshman record and Kentucky record with 186 blocks.

2. Derrick Rose, Memphis
Season: 2007-08
Hard to believe as it is, Rose wasn’t the most decorated player on his own team as a freshman. That distinction went to All-American and Conference USA player of the year Chris Douglas-Roberts. Rose belongs on this list, though, as the point guard of a team that played for a national title before falling 75-68 in overtime to Kansas. Rose averaged 20.8 points, 6.5 rebounds and 6 assists per game in the NCAA tournament, but his missed free throws late in regulation of the title game sealed Memphis’ fate. Months later, Rose was the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft.

3. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Kentucky
Season: 2011-12
It’s never bad when the team’s most competitive player and glue guy happens to also be the No. 2 player in the NBA Draft (behind only teammate Anthony Davis, the No. 1 overall pick). Kidd-Gilchrist’s intangibles were second-to-none, a trait that was absent on some of Calipari’s most talented teams. Kidd-Gilchrist averaged 11.9 points and 7.4 rebounds, earning Most Outstanding Player honors for the East regional as the Wildcats reached the Final Four and eventually won the national title.

John Wall

4. John Wall, Kentucky
Season:
2009-10
Calipari started at Kentucky the same way he finished his time at Memphis – with an elite one-and-done point guard. Wall followed in the footsteps of Rose and Tyreke Evans at Memphis and preceded Brandon Knight and Marquis Teague at Kentucky. In leading Kentucky to a 35-3 season, Wall was the National Freshman of the Year and the Associated Press and coaches’ pick for SEC Player of the Year (Oddly enough, teammate DeMarcus Cousins was the coaches’ pick for SEC freshman of the year). Wall was blocked for most national player of the year awards by Ohio State’s Evan Turner, but Wall did earn the Adolph Rupp Trophy. Go figure.

5. Brandon Knight, Kentucky
Season:
2010-11
Knight was a McDonald’s All-American, but his arrival wasn’t as heralded as John Wall’s to Kentucky or Derrick Rose’s to Memphis. Still, he brought similar results. Knight wasn’t a collegiate All-American like Wall, but he took Kentucky deeper into the NCAA Tournament for the Wildcats first Final Four appearance since 1998.

6. Nerlens Noel, Kentucky
Season: 2012-13
Before his devastating knee injury against Florida, Noel was having an award-worthy season even if his team paled in comparison to recent Calipari squads. When he did play, Noel was offensively limited but few were better on the defensive end of the floor. He could have challenged Davis’ blocked shots numbers and was a leading candidate for national defensive player and freshman of the year honors. The flat-topped center finished his season averaging 10.5 points, 9.5 rebounds, 4.4 blocks and 2.1 steals per game.


7. Tyreke Evans, Memphis
Season: 2008-09
After Calipari moved him to point guard, Evans had the unenviable task of stepping in for Rose, who had just led Memphis to the national championship game. Evans was a stat-sheet stuffer from the start with 17.1 points per game, 5.4 rebounds and 3.9 assists in his single season at Memphis.

8. Dajuan Wagner, Memphis
Season:
2001-02
Before the deluge of one-and-dones followed Calipari to Memphis and Kentucky, he had Wagner with the Tigers. He averaged 42 points per game in high school before landing in Memphis, where he averaged 21.2 points for the Tigers. Calipari revoked Wagner’s sophomore scholarship to persuade him to enter the NBA Draft, where he became the No. 6 pick. However, health and injury issues derailed his promising career.

9. DeMarcus Cousins, Kentucky
Season:
2009-10
What could Cousins’ ceiling be if he were able to tackle his maturity issues? Kentucky fans may ask the same thing. He was dominant in his single season alongside Wall in 2009-10, averaging 15.1 points and 9.8 rebounds. His talent was undeniable, but so was his tendency to sulk on the sideline. Cousins and Wall went 35-3 in during the regular season before falling in the Elite Eight to West Virginia.

10. Marcus Camby, UMass
Season: 1993-94
Camby would go on to bigger things as a junior when UMass reached the Final Four and earning National Player of the Year honors, but his rookie season in Amherst wasn’t too shabby. Despite starting only 12 games, Camby was the Atlantic 10 Freshman of the Year after averaging 10.2 points, 6.4 rebounds and 3.6 blocks per game.

Terrence Jones

Others of note:
11. Terrence Jones, Kentucky (2010-11)
12. Eric Bledsoe, Kentucky (2009-10)
13. Sean Banks, Memphis (2003-04)
14. Jim McCoy, UMass (1988-89)
15. Marquis Teague, Kentucky (2011-12)
16. Darius Washington Jr., Memphis (2004-05)
17. Will Herndon, UMass (1989-90)
18. Doron Lamb, Kentucky (2010-11)
19. Alex Poythress, Kentucky (2012-13)
20. Archie Goodwin, Kentucky (2012-13)

Teaser:
<p> College basketball: John Calipari's top 20 freshmen</p>
Post date: Friday, March 15, 2013 - 12:20
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Baseball, MLB, Fantasy, News
Path: /mlb/2013-fantasy-baseball-rankings-relief-pitcher
Body:

Opening Day is less than three weeks away, meaning the fantasy baseball season is quickly approaching. Drafts are going across the country, and probably the globe, and Athlon Sports' annual Baseball Preview magazine is available on newsstands everywhere.

Besides providing our comprehensive Fantasy Baseball Big Board, we also have our positional rankings, courtesy of Bruce Herman, straight from our magazine for you to peruse, utilize and scrutinize as we get ever so closer to hear those beloved words, "Play ball!"

Rankings Key
A: FRANCHISE PLAYER — You need one to compete, two to win, three to dominate.
B: CAREER YEAR — Veteran with a strong possibility of delivering his best season.
C: SLEEPER — Could be a great acquisition at a price or draft slot below his true value.
D: ROADBLOCKED — Rank has been lowered because there is no current opportunity to play regularly.
E: DECLINER — Expect moderately to significantly worse stats than in 2012.
F: INJURY RISK — Has had a recent injury that could affect performance.
G: INVESTOR’S SPECIAL — Top prospect whose immediate impact may be minimal.

Pitching stats are expressed W-ERA-SO-WHIP

Fantasy Baseball Positional Rankings: Big Board | C | 1B | 2B | 3B | SS | OF | DH | SP | RP

Athlon Sports' 2013 Fantasy Baseball Rankings: Relief Pitchers

TIER 1
1. Craig Kimbrel, Braves (A)
First you get all the saves, of which there were an MLB-high 88 the past two years. But Kimbrel is also like having a half-season of a league strikeout leader, plus two months of a starter who’s on a record pace for ERA and WHIP. Plan B closer: Jordan Walden

2. Jonathan Papelbon, Phillies (A)
The pure-closer pool is thinning so markedly that no pitcher has saved 30 games each of the past three years except Pap, who’ll be working on his eighth in a row. As such, he’s the closest thing left to a guarantee in this increasingly quirky corner of rotodom. Plan B closer: Mike Adams

TIER 2
3. Jason Motte, Cardinals
The longball was Motte’s sole snag in his first season as a closer, costing him six of his 12 blown saves-plus-losses. We call fluke, and think he’ll be even better this time around. First Cardinal ever to account for every one of his team’s saves (42). Plan B closer: Trevor Rosenthal

4. Mariano Rivera, Yankees (F)
When last seen as a youngster of 41, Mo was hanging up his 11th sub-2.00 ERA, fourth-highest save total and a WHIP and strikeout rate superior to his career average. Unless the torn ACL was a sign that his parts are wearing out, the presumptive position is that he’s just what he’s always been. Plan B closer: David Robertson

5. Fernando Rodney, Rays (E)
“I remember the time I was kidnapped and they sent a piece of my finger to my father,” another Rodney once recounted. “He said he wanted more proof.” Well, we want more proof. Fernando’s 48 saves and MLB-record 0.60 ERA buttressed a relief season like no other, but previously there were years’ worth of reasons he didn’t get no respect. Plan B closer: Jake McGee

6. Rafael Soriano, Nationals
The former Yankee setup man took over for Rivera following his ACL injury last May, saving a career-high 42 in 46 opportunities. He parlayed that performance into a two-year, $28 million free agent contract with Washington in January, which could be worth another $14 million in 2015 if finishes 120 total games in 2013-14. A big reason for Soriano's success last season was he struck out more batters (69) than innings pitched (67 2/3), which is key considering he has some bouts with wildness (24 BB). Plan B closer: Drew Storen

7. Jim Johnson, Orioles (E)
Fifty-save seasons are the residue of opportunity, as well as aptitude. Not to say that Johnson won’t have another good year, but the 2012 Orioles were far-off-the-charts outliers in the number of close games they played and won. His 5.4 SOs/9 was the fifth-lowest rate ever by a pitcher with 40-plus saves. Plan B closer: Pedro Strop

8. Joel Hanrahan, Red Sox
ERA escalation from 1.83 to 2.72 was a byproduct of walks and homers, both of which ranked among the “top” five of 20-save men. Hanrahan can really hunker down, though; his 24 strikeouts while protecting a ninth-inning lead with men in scoring position were nine more than anyone else. Plan B closer: Andrew Bailey

9. Addison Reed, White Sox (B)
While others may be spooked by the 4.75 ERA, you shouldn’t be. Reed was the youngest of the full-time closers, and his ERA in save situations (of which he blew but four) was just about half as in lower-leverage scenarios. Plan B closer: Matt Thornton

10. Joe Nathan, Rangers (E)
Validated the second-year-back-from-Tommy-John hypothesis with a superb 2012. Successfully protected 15-of-16 one-run leads, and is now a perfect 24-for-24 in his career when entering a game in extra innings. Too bad he’s at a time-bomb age of 38. Plan B closer: Joakim Soria

11. Sergio Romo, Giants (B)
Despite Bruce Bochy’s rumblings about closing with a committee, we think Romo will be the chairman. Though new to the job late last year, he didn’t flinch — 18-for-19 in saves (including playoffs) and just one run allowed in those opportunities. Plan B closer: Santiago Casilla

12. Huston Street, Padres
Opponents batting average of .130 was second to Kimbrel’s .126 among relievers (min. 40 games). His curse is that there are training rooms in three cities with his name on a memorial plaque above the door. Plan B closer: Luke Gregerson

13. Chris Perez, Indians
Perez can let things get away from him on occasion; he allowed 15 of his 23 earned runs in just five outings. He did, however, indicate maturity by more than doubling his SO/BB ratio. Would rank a little higher if not for trade rumors. Plan B closer: Vinnie Pestano

14. John Axford, Brewers
“Good Ax” reeled off a string of 49 straight saves over two seasons. “Bad Ax” was just 29-for-38 with 10 homers allowed in 59.2 innings on the back end of it. In his favor, the Brewers have zero viable options as a replacement. Plan B closer: Mike Gonzalez

15. Greg Holland, Royals (B)
Fourth in AL with 16 saves after he was passed the closer baton on Aug. 1. Big strikeout bonus (91 in 67 IP). Has a shorter leash than most because of K.C.’s stable of alternatives. Plan B closer: Kelvin Herrera

16. Tom Wilhelmsen, Mariners
17. J.J. Putz, Diamondbacks (E)

TIER 3
18. Grant Balfour, Athletics
19. Ryan Madson, Angels
20. Casey Janssen, Blue Jays (F)
21. Glen Perkins, Twins
22. Kyuji Fujikawa, Cubs (C)
23. Jonathan Broxton, Reds
24. Jason Grilli, Pirates (B)
25. Rafael Betancourt, Rockies (E)
26. Steve Cishek, Marlins (B)
27. Drew Storen, Nationals (F)
28. Frank Francisco, Mets (F)
29. Brandon League, Dodgers

TIER 4
30. Bruce Rondon, Tigers (C,G)
31. Sergio Santos, Blue Jays (F)
32. Phil Coke, Tigers (B)
33. Carlos Marmol, Cubs (E)
34. Vinnie Pestano, Indians (C,D)

TIER 5
35. Andrew Bailey, Red Sox (D,F)
36. Jose Veras, Astros (B,C)
37. Sean Doolittle, Athletics (C,D,G)
38. Kenley Jansen, Dodgers (D,E,F)
39. Jarred Cosart, Astros (C,G)
40. Joaquin Benoit, Tigers

Related Content:
2013 Fantasy Baseball Rankings: Big Board
2013 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers and Busts: Infield
2013 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers and Busts: Outfield
2013 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers and Busts: Starting Pitcher
2013 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers and Busts: Relief Pitcher
2013 Fantasy Baseball: Closer Grid
2013 Fantasy Baseball Deep Sleepers
Fantasy Baseball Studs to Avoid in 2013

Teaser:
<p> 2013 Fantasy Baseball Rankings: Relief Pitcher</p>
Post date: Friday, March 15, 2013 - 12:00
Path: /college-basketball/daily-march-madness-tracker-statements-illinois-and-syracuse
Body:

Caution employers: Work productivity may be down Thursday and Friday this week and next.

The wild ride continues as college basketball conference tournaments enter their most dramatic phase. Four games in one day in major conferences, championships in the one-bid leagues.

Athlon Sports will keep you up to date on the major news for the NCAA Tournament from the day’s games and what to watch in the day ahead.

MARCH 15 DAILY MARCH MADNESS TRACKER

And, this is why we liked Illinois in tournament play.
Against Minnesota, Brandon Paul had his highest-scoring game (25 points) and most field goals (10) since Dec. 8. That date is not insignificant. Paul had 35 points in the win that day over Gonzaga, now the No. 1 team in the country. True, Illinois needed Paul’s buzzer-beater to defeat Minnesota, but if the Illini can get D.J. Richardson going (2 of 12 against the Gophers), no one will want to face Illinois in the Tourney.

Should Cal be nervous?
Cal has looked like an NCAA Tournament lock for a few weeks, but the Bears now have reason to be nervous. Cal lost 79-69 in overtime to Utah, the 10th seed in the Pac-12 Tournament. Why was Cal a lock in the first place? Defeating Arizona on the road, beating UCLA and Colorado at home, and sweeping Oregon plus no bad losses assembled a strong case. The wins over the Ducks aren’t as impressive, and now Cal has its worst loss of the season on the heels of losing to Stanford in the regular-season finale. Cal may still be in the field, but its seeding has taken a hit.

Syracuse surging?
After shaking off a tough first half against Seton Hall, Syracuse pulled off its most impressive win since Feb. 4 over Notre Dame, if not since Jan. 19 at Louisville, by defeating Pittsburgh 62-59. James Southerland has been on fire for the Orange, scoring 20 in both Big East Tournament games. Should we buy into Syracuse again? Let’s wait to see if the ‘Cuse can crack 50 against Georgetown today.

Iowa State climbing, Oklahoma slipping
The Cyclones entered the Big 12 on the right side of the bubble, but they can probably rest easy after defeating Oklahoma 73-66 in the first round of the conference tournament. Iowa State picked up its second top-100 win away from Ames and its first over a prospective tournament team. Against upcoming opponent Kansas, Iowa State has been a matchup problem against the Jayhawks with its ability to shoot threes. Iowa State made 17 and 14 threes in the two losses to the Jayhawks. As for Oklahoma, the Sooners have damaged their seeding in recent weeks with losses to Texas, TCU and now in the first game in the Big 12 Tournament.

Baylor, see you in the NIT.
Baylor entered the Big 12 Tournament fighting for its postseason life. No one told Baylor. Despite a late surge, the Bears fell behind big early on the way to a 74-72 loss to Oklahoma State. Baylor fans may want to gripe about a disputable foul call that sent Phil Forte, a 91-percent free throw shooter, to the line for the game-winning shots, but the Bears' 18-point halftime deficit didn't help, either. The Bears’ slim NCAA Tournament hopes are gone. A popular preseason pick to win the Big 12, Baylor wraps up one of the most disappointing seasons in the country.

Louisiana Tech’s fade
At one point this season, the Bulldogs won 18 games in a row, including a 16-0 start in the WAC as of March 2. Louisiana Tech’s at-large credentials at the time were debatable -- a top-50 RPI, one top-50 win (Southern Miss), one sub-200 loss (McNeese State). That’s gone after a three-game losing streak to end the season. Tech lost on the road to New Mexico State and Denver to end the regular season and then to No. 9 seed UTSA in the WAC quarterfinals. Louisiana Tech is heading to the NIT.

March Controversy
Charlotte’s 68-63 win over Richmond in the Atlantic 10 first round may be more notable for officiating miscues than its impact on the bracket. Charlotte hit eight straight free throws to turn a three-point deficit into a five-point win in the final five seconds. First, Richmond fouled a Charlotte shooter before a shot. Charlotte made the front end of the one-and-one but as the ball went through the hoop, Richmond’s Derrick Williams became entangled with a Charlotte player and was called for a deadball technical foul, resulting in three more free throws (two for the technical, one for the second half of the one-and-one). Charlotte made all three to take the lead, and took a commanding lead when making four of seven (three attempts on a shot from halfcourt and four more on two technicals on Mooney).

Related: Twitter accounts every March Madness fan should follow

KEY FRIDAY GAMES
All times Eastern

ACC quarterfinals
Virginia vs. NC State (2 p.m., ESPN2)

Atlantic 10 quarterfinals
Butler vs. La Salle (6:30 p.m.)
UMass vs. Temple (9 p.m.)

Big 12 semifinals
Iowa State vs. Kansas (6:30 p.m., ESPNU)
Kansas State vs. Oklahoma State (8:30, ESPNU)

Big East semifinals
Georgetown vs. Syracuse (7 p.m., ESPN)
Louisville vs. Notre Dame (9 p.m., ESPN)

Big Ten semifinals
Indiana vs. Illinois (noon, ESPN)
Wisconsin vs. Michigan (2:30 p.m., ESPN)

Mountain West semifinals
New Mexico vs. San Diego State (9 p.m., CBS Sports Network)
UNLV vs. Colorado State (11:30 p.m. CBS Sports Network)

Pac-12 semifinals
UCLA vs. Arizona (8 p.m., Pac-12 Networks)

SEC quarterfinals
Tennessee vs. Alabama (3:30 p.m., ESPNU)
Vanderbilt vs. Kentucky (7:30 p.m. ESPNU)
Missouri vs. Ole Miss (10 p.m., ESPNU)

BY THE NUMBERS
NCAA TOURNAMENT PROJECTED LOCKS (50)
ACC (4): Duke, Miami, NC State, North Carolina
Atlantic 10 (4): Butler, Saint Louis, Temple, VCU
Atlantic Sun (1): Florida Gulf Coast*
Big 12 (4): Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State
Big East (8): Cincinnati, Georgetown, Louisville, Marquette, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Villanova
Big South (1): Liberty*
Big Ten (6): Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Wisconsin
Colonial (1): James Madison*
Horizon (1): Valparaiso*
Ivy (1): Harvard*
Missouri Valley (1): Creighton*
Mountain West (4): Colorado State, New Mexico, San Diego State, UNLV
Northeast (1): LIU Brooklyn*
Ohio Valley (1): Belmont*
Patriot (1): Bucknell*
Pac-12 (5): Arizona, Cal, Colorado, Oregon, UCLA
SEC (2): Florida, Missouri
Southern (1): Davidson*
Summit (1): South Dakota State*
Sun Belt (1): Western Kentucky*
West Coast (1): Gonzaga
*clinched NCAA Tournament bid

ONE-BID LEAGUES (9)
America East, Big Sky, Big West, MAAC, MAC, MEAC, Southland, SWAC, WAC
Note: Conference USA likely will be a one-bid league if Memphis wins its conference tournament.

THE BUBBLE: 15 teams for nine spots
Alabama
Arizona State
Boise State
Iowa
Iowa State
Kentucky
La Salle
Memphis
Middle Tennessee
Minnesota
Ole Miss
Tennessee
Saint Mary’s
Wichita State
Virginia

Teaser:
<p> Daily March Madness Tracker: Statements for Illinois and Syracuse</p>
Post date: Friday, March 15, 2013 - 11:26
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Baseball, MLB, Fantasy, News
Path: /mlb/2013-fantasy-baseball-rankings-starting-pitcher
Body:

Opening Day is less than three weeks away, meaning the fantasy baseball season is quickly approaching. Drafts are going across the country, and probably the globe, and Athlon Sports' annual Baseball Preview magazine is available on newsstands everywhere.

Besides providing our comprehensive Fantasy Baseball Big Board, we also have our positional rankings, courtesy of Bruce Herman, straight from our magazine for you to peruse, utilize and scrutinize as we get ever so closer to hear those beloved words, "Play ball!"

Rankings Key
A: FRANCHISE PLAYER — You need one to compete, two to win, three to dominate.
B: CAREER YEAR — Veteran with a strong possibility of delivering his best season.
C: SLEEPER — Could be a great acquisition at a price or draft slot below his true value.
D: ROADBLOCKED — Rank has been lowered because there is no current opportunity to play regularly.
E: DECLINER — Expect moderately to significantly worse stats than in 2012.
F: INJURY RISK — Has had a recent injury that could affect performance.
G: INVESTOR’S SPECIAL — Top prospect whose immediate impact may be minimal.

Pitching stats are expressed W-ERA-SO-WHIP

Fantasy Baseball Positional Rankings: Big Board | C | 1B | 2B | 3B | SS | OF | DH | SP | RP

Athlon Sports' 2013 Fantasy Baseball Rankings: Starting Pitchers

TIER 1
1. Justin Verlander, Tigers (A)
Verlander can be a budget buster, but fortunately he’s not yet too far down the physical cliff. The newly minted 30-year-old offers a confluence of past performance and consistency unrivaled in the pitching fraternity. He’s the No. 1 winner and No. 2 strikeout man since 2006, and with an MLB-high 16 September victories the past four years, durability seems to be a non-issue.

2. Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers (A)
The first to lead both leagues in ERA back-to-back since Pedro Martinez in 2002-03. The only “Claw” flaw has been the modest 12 win-a-year average. And maybe the September hip scare. The Dodgers’ offensive upgrade will help the former, and the R&R should have addressed the latter. Three-year WHIP and strikeout totals are the NL’s best.

TIER 2
3. Stephen Strasburg, Nationals (A,B)
Unshackled by an innings limit, there is no limit to Strasburg’s possibilities. To wit: At his career strikeout rate, he’d fan 274 batters in 220 innings this year. Three of the four worst starts of his career came in his last eight outings — hopefully just a meaningless blip.

4. David Price, Rays (A)
Price has officially rounded off the rough edges into true-ace status. Sub-3.00 ERAs and 200-punchout totals should be more rule than exception. He gets the grind-it-out Rays deep into a lot of close games, so he’ll need the back end of the pen to be as airtight as it was in 2012 to approach 20 wins again.

5. Matt Cain, Giants (A)
Cain’s been pretty much the same guy for four years now, but in 2012, he put all the fantasy factors in place by finally getting passable run support. He went 15–0 when he received three or more runs to work with. Since 2009, his 2.93 ERA is fourth in the majors.

6. Gio Gonzalez, Nationals (A)
Ryan Zimmerman says Gio is the friendliest player he’s ever met. He’s your BFF, as well — a peaking 27-year-old on a good team who’s lowered his ERA while increasing his wins and strikeout sums each season.

7. Felix Hernandez, Mariners (A)
Of the 11 500-inning pitchers with an ERA below 3.00 the past three years, Hernandez’s .533 winning percentage is at the bottom — and it’s not close. Outside of his flimsy support system, and the X-factor of the fence adjustments in Seattle, he’s Tier 1 material.

8. Cole Hamels, Phillies (A)
Hamels has found a groove of roto-reliability that has seen him constrain his ERA below 3.10 in four of the last five campaigns. His 17 wins of 2012 were, and probably will remain, a career high, since Phillies scoring seems destined to decline for a fourth straight season.

9. Jered Weaver, Angels (A)
Weaver is a big silver lining with a little cloud. He’s a 20-game winner with a refurbished offense, and his 2010-12 WHIP of 1.034 topped MLB. Reservations stem from September shoulder issues and an 87.8-mph average fastball that was the third-pokiest among AL starters. (On the other hand, he allowed the lowest OPS — .549 — on fastballs.) Since he’s 13–0 with a 1.85 ERA in his last 18 pre-May starts, if there are any portents, the evidence will present early.

10. Cliff Lee, Phillies
Lee’s 3.16 ERA, 1.11 WHIP and 207 SOs were SOP for him. But there’s this: His six wins were the fewest ever by a pitcher with a sub-3.20 ERA and 200 whiffs. Barring another historical prank, he’ll continue to track just below the elite.

11. Madison Bumgarner, Giants (B)
Hit his strikeout number of 2011 (191) precisely, and offset a nearly doubled gopher ball total with one fewer hit per nine innings. Still a bit of a moving target, but his bull’s-eye is a Cy Young Award.

12. Chris Sale, White Sox
Sale had the most wins (17) and lowest ERA (3.05) of any 23-or-younger pitcher. That earnie stood at 2.11 one start past the All-Star break, but bloated to 4.32 after that — excusable for someone who’d pitched barely 100 professional innings prior to 2012. We’re not all-in on him because he has the only delivery in the game that actually forces anyone who sees it to have Tommy John surgery.

13. Johnny Cueto, Reds
Five years in the making, Cueto took the requisite step to ace-dom in 2012 with his first 200-inning effort and a huge spike in his SO/BB ratio to 3.47. The consequence was 19 wins and a 2.78 ERA. The final step is doing it again.

14. Yu Darvish, Rangers
The hot start was unsurprising for an Asian import with more unfamiliar pitches than Hideo Nomo has vowels, but even more impressive was how Darvish adjusted. On the heels of a 5.82 ERA over 13 starts, he finished 2.35 in his last eight. That bodes well for an even better 2013.

15. CC Sabathia, Yankees
Sabes, the only 100-game starter since 2007 who’s won 70 percent of his decisions, boasts an impeccable résumé. But between his pitch (and calorie) count, two trips to the DL and surgical elbow clean-up, he’s past-peak and a tad chancy.

16. Kris Medlen, Braves
Medlen was to pitching in 2012 what Jose Bautista was to home runs in 2010. He came out of the bullpen — and abject obscurity — in late July to allow nine (!) earned runs in 12 starts and extend his career record as a starter to 16–2. Pay what you will for a half-season of absolute domination and near-zero precedent.

17. Aroldis Chapman, Reds
Impervious for short bursts, Chapman’s .141 opponents average and 15.3 strikeouts per nine as a closer are untranslatable to starting. Owns a ceiling as high as Strasburg’s, and even the worst-case scenario isn’t awful: The Reds might return him to the pen.

18. Jordan Zimmermann, Nationals (B)
Matt Cain and Zimmermann were the highest-rated starters for whom we predicted a “career year” in 2012. That worked out so well, we’re re-B’ing him in 2013. Time for his wins (12) to tag along with his 2.94 ERA and 1.17 WHIP.

19. R.A. Dickey, Blue Jays (E)
Had the ninth-worst ERA (5.43) in baseball from 2001-09, but 11th-best (2.95) from 2010-12. More relevant than his advanced age is the extreme ballpark impact from sociable Citi to hostile Rogers. Since his reinvention as a knuckleballer, he’s made seven starts in the quiet air of domes, where his ERA is 1.72.

20. Mat Latos, Reds
A move from Petco to GAB helped inflate Latos’ longball yield by 60 percent, but he’s been the same pitcher for three years now — mid-teens wins, mid-3.00s ERA, mid-1.10s WHIP, mid-180s whiffs. Ideal for your mid-rotation.

21. Yovani Gallardo, Brewers
He’s Latos with higher WHIPs. Seemed to cross a threshold in 2011 by dropping his BBs/9 from 3.6 to 2.6, then he went right back to 3.6 last year. If Gallardo could pair the 2.6 with his measly 12 home runs allowed three years ago, he’d be Tier 1.

22. Adam Wainwright, Cardinals
Wainwright’s comeback from Tommy John went as well as could have been expected, though the bottom line was nothing like his prime years. He should take another stride forward, so if he splits the difference between 2012 and 2010, he’s looking at 17-3.13-198-1.14.

23. Roy Halladay, Phillies (F)
Shoulder problems sent him reeling from a top-three fantasy pitcher to below the league average in almost everything. If anyone can adapt, Doc Halladay can, but at 35 years old, there can be no clear presumption that this was more stumble than plunge.

24. Zack Greinke, Dodgers
Both in the scouting and fantasy communities, the assessment of Greinke ranges from perplexing to divisive. His 2009 “Cy” ERA of 2.16 is 1.67 lower than in his three years since. At worst, he’s a 15-win/200-strikeout horse. Prone to midseason swoons (40–50 career ledger May through July).

25. James Shields, Royals
Speaking of the equine, Shields is more War Horse than Secretariat — a grinder and a finisher who’s made exactly 33 starts each of the last five seasons. ERA oscillations (5.18 to 2.82 to 3.52) and splits (4.54 away from Tropicana Field, including 6.38 at Kauffman) are discomforting.

26. Max Scherzer, Tigers (B)
Due to extended bouts of mechanical discombobulations, Scherzer’s Slinky of a season saw his ERA tumble in every month, from 7.77 in the first to 1.91 in the last, before settling at 3.74 with the AL’s No. 2 strikeout number (231). If he ever combobulates wire-to-wire, watch out.

TIER 3
27. Brett Anderson, Athletics (B)
Should his career gain some traction after missing almost 60 starts the past six years, Anderson might emerge as a top-10 pitcher. Extreme ground-baller, great control and still only 25.

28. Jake Peavy, White Sox
Fully healthy for the first time since 2008, his season (11-3.37-194-1.10) was reminiscent of his salad days in San Diego. Physical breakdowns — some minor, some major — tend to be a question of when, not if.

29. Brandon Morrow, Blue Jays
Threw shutouts of three or fewer hits in three of his first dozen starts of 2012. His ERA in the other 205 outings of his career is 4.28. Cy Young stuff, Chris Young dependability — and no longer young enough (28) to draft on potential alone.

29. Homer Bailey, Reds (B)
After five years of making mediocrity (4.89 ERA) look like his projected ceiling, the 13 wins, no-hitter and dazzling NLDS start were a revelation for this one-time megaprospect. They could well have been a false positive, but we think not, and assess him as a legit No. 2 or 3 in a good rotation.

30. Matt Harvey, Mets
Big promise, big ballpark … small run support, small sample. Led NL with 10.6 SOs/9, and ranked eighth with a 2.73 ERA, after his late-July debut.

31. Mike Minor, Braves (B,C)
4–0 record, 0.87 ERA and .129 opponents average in five September starts erased the dis-ease of his bumpy career start and revived the talk of his substantial potential.

32. Jon Niese, Mets
He’s not an impact pitcher, but Niese is nice in the midpoint of a fantasy rotation. Trimmed his ERA a full run to 3.40 and posted a top-20 WHIP.

33. Jeff Samardzija, Cubs
An otherwise breakout year was deflated by poor support (three or fewer runs in 18 of his 28 starts) and two June beatdowns that inflated his ERA from 3.13 to 3.81. Has submitted his application to the 200-K club.

35. Anibal Sanchez, Tigers
A recurrent underperformer whose strong peripherals and intermittent overpowering outings don’t jive with his 48–51 career record. Amazing what $80 million will buy you these days.

36. Matt Moore, Rays
Wasn’t the instant smash many predicted, but he kept getting better. Will be a major strikeout force as soon as this year and — as he pares those 4.1 BBs per 9 and learns to avoid the heart of the plate (AL-high 47.1 percent of pitches in the zone) — a Kershaw-type lefty.

37. C.J. Wilson, Angels (F)
The so-called “most interesting man in baseball” always keeps things interesting with unacceptable walk totals. Will his results ever play up to his stuff? Stay thirsty, my friends.

38. Alexi Ogando, Rangers (C)
This 2012 reliever was a 13-game winning All-Star with a 1.14 WHIP in 2011 as a starter, the task to which he now returns.

39. Matt Garza, Cubs (F)
Barring insurgence from his sore, but non-surgical elbow, Garza’s only drawback as a mid-staff roto starter is that he’s a Cub. Crafted a lifetime-low 1.18 WHIP before he shut it down last July.

40. Doug Fister, Tigers
Saddled with historically meager run provisions in Seattle, Fister’s gone 18–11 with soaring strikeout rates since becoming a Tiger at the 2011 trade deadline. Usually has one atrocious start a month, however.

41. Josh Johnson, Blue Jays
Average fastball velo fell below 93 mph for the first time last year. Gives you an honest day’s labor though; he owns by far the game’s longest streak of starts (117) of not allowing more than six runs.

42. Ross Detwiler, Nationals (B,C)
The best No. 5 starter in the game, bar none. As such, he should present a grand bargain on draft day and return something on the order of 14 wins, a 3.30 ERA and an escalating strikeout haul.

43. Jon Lester, Red Sox
Lester’s SO rate was 27 percent below what it was three years earlier and his 4.82 ERA the third-highest of qualifying lefties. Perhaps it was just a mid-life crisis; even a halfway comeback makes him usable.

44. Hiroki Kuroda, Yankees (E)
Not sexy — but smart, professional, impervious to age, terminally underrated, numbingly consistent and (against all odds) lights out at Yankee Stadium.

45. Jarrod Parker, Athletics
Parker did not get enough acclaim for his 13-3.47-140-1.26 debut. The 24-year-old’s upside is a sliver beyond those numbers.

46. Jeremy Hellickson, Rays
Overachieves in ERA by stranding runners (an astonishing 82 percent in his career), but underachieves in wins because he can’t get past the sixth inning (failing to do so in 22 of 31 starts last year).

47. Ryan Vogelsong, Giants (E)
He was the NL ERA leader at 2.27 as late as Aug. 12, but a 6.75 in his last 10 games raised it a full run. Even Lazarus rose from the dead only once, so we’re thinking his rags-to-riches thing has run its course.

48. A.J. Griffin, Athletics (C)
Second pitcher of the past century to go undefeated in his first 11 MLB appearances (6–0, 1.94), all of which were starts. Hitters caught up to him after that, but he’s a big ol’ bulldog who can locate four pitches.

49. Dan Haren, Nationals (F)
Has thrown more pitches than anyone — 27,659, of which a significant percentage were arm-taxing cutters — since 2005. He’s paying the price in core pain and an average heater mph that’s gradually eroded from 92 to 89 the past six years.

50. Trevor Cahill, Diamondbacks
He’s more the workmanlike innings eater of the past two seasons (3.97 ERA) than the 18–8, 2.97 upstart of 2010. Beware of high-risk mechanics.

51. Wade Miley, Diamondbacks (E)
First rookie since 1983 with 14 wins and an ERA under 3.00 in his first 25 games of a season.

TIER 4
52. Derek Holland, Rangers
53. Johan Santana, Mets (F)
54. Tim Hudson, Braves (E)
55. Chris Tillman, Orioles (B,C)
56. Kyle Lohse, Free Agent (E)
57. Alex Cobb, Rays
58. Wei-Yin Chen, Orioles
59. Phil Hughes, Yankees
60. Brandon McCarthy, Diamondbacks (F)
61. Josh Beckett, Dodgers
62. Paul Maholm, Braves
63. Wade Davis, Royals (C)
64. Jason Vargas, Angels
65. Lance Lynn, Cardinals (E)
66. Tim Lincecum, Giants

TIER 5
67. Shaun Marcum, Mets (F)
68. Joe Kelly, Cardinals (C)
69. Hisashi Iwakuma, Mariners
70. Wandy Rodriguez, Pirates
71. Chad Billingsley, Dodgers (F)
72. Shelby Miller, Cardinals (C)
73. Ryan Dempster, Red Sox (E)
74. Ryu Hyun-Jin, Dodgers
75. Matt Harrison, Rangers (E)
76. Chris Carpenter, Cardinals (F)
77. Ted Lilly, Dodgers (F)
78. Miguel Gonzalez, Orioles
79. Clay Buchholz, Red Sox
80. Edwin Jackson, Cubs
81. Ervin Santana, Royals (C)
82. Jaime Garcia, Cardinals (F)
83. Jason Hammel, Orioles
84. Jeff Niemann, Rays (F)
85. Bud Norris, Astros
86. Trevor Rosenthal, Cardinals (C)
87. A.J. Burnett, Pirates (E)
88. Tommy Milone, Athletics (E)
89. Mark Buehrle, Blue Jays (E)
90. Hector Santiago, White Sox (C)
91. Drew Smyly, Tigers
92. Marco Estrada, Brewers (C)
93. Lucas Harrell, Astros
94. Zack Wheeler, Mets (G)
95. Chris Capuano, Dodgers (E)
96. Jhoulys Chacin, Rockies
97. John Lackey, Red Sox (F)
98. Nathan Eovaldi, Marlins
99. Ricky Romero, Blue Jays (F)
100. Jose Fernandez, Marlins (G)

Related Content:
2013 Fantasy Baseball Rankings: Big Board
2013 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers and Busts: Infield
2013 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers and Busts: Outfield
2013 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers and Busts: Starting Pitcher
2013 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers and Busts: Relief Pitcher
2013 Fantasy Baseball: Closer Grid
2013 Fantasy Baseball Deep Sleepers
Fantasy Baseball Studs to Avoid in 2013

Teaser:
<p> Fantasy Baseball Rankings: Starting Pitchers</p>
Post date: Friday, March 15, 2013 - 11:00
All taxonomy terms: Golf
Path: /golf/top-20-golfers-2013-majors-no-19-charl-schwartzel
Body:

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

No. 19: Charl Schwartzel

Born: Aug. 31, 1984, Johannesburg, South Africa | Career PGA Tour Wins: 1 (8 on European Tour | 2012 Wins (Worldwide): 2 | 2012 Earnings (PGA Tour): $1,138,844 (90th) World Ranking: 16

 

Brandel Chamblee's Take

Schwartzel wouldn’t have made this list except for something he did in back to back weeks late in 2012: He won in Thailand by 11 shots, and then the very next week in South Africa, he won by 12 at the Alfred Dunhill in his home country, which is the third-widest margin of victory in the history of that tour. Perhaps the 2011 Masters winner discovered the reason for a lackluster year. If so, the promise of his youthful major win and his gorgeous swing will make the golf world agog in 2013. He already has two top-10 finishes in four U.S. appearances thus far this season.

Major Championship Résumé
Starts: 24
Wins: 1

2012 Performance:
Masters - T50
U.S. Open - T38
British Open - Cut
PGA Championship - T59

Best Career Finishes: 
Masters - 1 (2011)
U.S. Open - T9 (2011)
British Open - T14 (2010)
PGA Championship - T12 (2011)
Top-10 Finishes: 2
Top-25 Finishes: 8
Missed Cuts: 8

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

To order your copy of Athlon Sports' 2013 Golf Annual, click here

Teaser:
<br />
Post date: Friday, March 15, 2013 - 10:44
All taxonomy terms: College Football, College Basketball, NBA, MLB
Path: /college-football/athlons-essential-11-links-day-march-11
Body:

This is your daily link roundup of our favorite sports posts on the web for March 15.

Safe to say that Elin Nordegren has bounced back nicely. After her nine-figure settlement from Tiger Woods, she's now dating a billionaire (that's her on at the beach). But don't shed any tears for Tiger; he's dating skier Lindsey Vonn and is close to retaking golf's No. 1 spot.

• The SEC's latest money grab: It's launching its own network. We can assume that the focus will be on football, because aside from Kentucky, hoops is a mere placeholder before spring drills. Along those lines, here are the SEC's NFL factories, ranked. Over the last five years, Bama is a surprising third. Apparently, Saban's not coaching up those top-ranked recruiting hauls.

SEC schools as Simpsons characters. I think it's a bit of a reach, but you be the judge.

• Yesterday, we showed you Jim Boeheim mining for gold in his outsized beak. Today, a guy picks his nose on camera, realizes he's on camera, and plays it off like a pimp.

Bill Walton, please report to the principal's office. For those who are interested, here are some photos of the Big Red-Head in his full-on hippie phase.

• On a serious note, this long-form piece of sportswriting about the triumph and tragedy of former Maryland Terp Earl Badu is worth a read.

• Forget Manti Te'o. The real Notre Dame scandal is those godawful highliter-green unis.

Possibly the worst strike call in baseball history. Juuust a bit outside.

• Today's video features some major March heartbreak. You're not going to get a much better look at a game-winner than this.

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


March 14

• Ladies and gentlemen (well, gentlemen anyway) — your Sports Ilustrated Swimsuit Rookie of the Year, Kate Bock. Mazel tov.

Carmelo Anthony pulled a Rory McIlroy and bailed on an ugly loss in Denver.

• Kobe Bryant accused Dahntay Jones of Jalen Rose-ing him. To find out what all that means, click here.

• Fifty years ago, Loyola and Mississippi State changed hoops culture for the better.

• Some people really want Jeff Bzdelik fired from Wake Forest, and they're putting their money where their mouth is.

• Free agent departures sometimes come with bitterness, but Joshua Cribbs is departing Cleveland with class.

• Sorry, Jim, there's no way to call this a scratch. Jim Boeheim was caught going mid-knuckle up the right nostril.

• These are always fun to relive: The 10 greatest coach meltdowns.

• Signs that Tennessee football is back: The Vols just landed a 5-star home-state stud.

Wes Welker's walking, and Brady's bummed.

• Records are made to be broken. Here are 10 MLB standards that could fall this year.

• LeBron sort of got dunked on last night. At least it's close enough for the James haters to enjoy.

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


March 13

• Golfer Natalie Gulbis caught malaria on the LPGA Tour's Asian swing. We wish her well on her recovery. To make us feel better while she recuperates, here's a slideshow from her outstanding work for Sports Illustrated.

Ricky Rubio scoffs at your weak attempts to impede his progress toward the goal. Last night, he went behind the back twice on one play.

• Amazing, but true: Bill Belichick held a Q&A on Twitter. On his girlfriend's account.

Last night saw a Grant Hill to Christian Laettner redux in Michigan high school hoops.

• Scandalous if true: Does Johnny Manziel have a Texas Longhorn tattoo?

• It's official: Ray Lewis is now employed by the Worldwide Leader. Will his motivational rants work on Steve Young and Trent Dilfer?

• Now that's how you nail a job interview: Interim St. Louis coach Jim Crews is Sporting News Coach of the Year.

• Hey, Warren Sapp: That thing on your lapel? It's a microphone. Make sure it's off before you start dropping f-bombs on the air.

SEC coaches against the spread. One takeaway: Les Miles pulls games out of his nether regions, but he doesn't always cover.

College basketball's all-name team. My favorite: Radford's Ya Ya Anderson.

• Grantland has reached the Sweet 16 of its most hated college basketball players of the last 30 years.

• These videos never get old: A returning soldier surprises his family at a hockey game.

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


March 12

• Erik Spoelstra is living the life. He gets to roll the ball out to LeBron and Dwyane during practice, and afterwards, he gets to go out with the young lady in the picture. Yep, he's apparently dating this 24-year-old former Miami Heat dancer.

I'm sure Russell Westbrook had good intentions in hoisting this halfcourt shot with more than two minutes left in the quarter, like trying to draw a foul, but he ended up looking kinda stupid.

• Speaking of unnecessary moves, did Stephen Jackson really need to do a 360 after whipping this pass to Boris Diaw?

Hey mop guy — look alert.

• Note to all future celebrators: Save the Gatorade baths for football. In hoops, they can be hazardous.

This POV video makes falling and sliding down the side of a mountain look sort of fun. Terrifying and life-threatening, but fun.

• A handy guide to the nation's best football conference: The best players in the SEC, broken down by team.

• This is why you can usually find me on the couch: 25 sports, 25 faceplants.

Florida Man, the world's worst superhero, has his own comic. You know Florida Man from escapades like, "Florida Man Kills Roommate Over Missing Corn Dog."

One last look at DeAndre Jordan's murder-dunk, featuring a voice-over from legendary wrestling announcer Jim Ross.

• The NFC West just got a lot more interesting: Percy Harvin's going to Seattle. Adrian Peterson did not take the news well.

• This pee-wee hockey player shows enviable skating and puck-handling skills. But we don't know if he can pass.

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


March 11

• Wanna feel worse about yourself? Bleacher Report counts down 25 female athletes who would absolutely destroy you, including softball player Cheyenne Cordes (pictured).

Tom Crean kinda ruined a great moment for his program by acting like a jackass. Of course, this could play well in Bloomington, where there's a history of this sort of thing.

• Speaking of jerkweed Indiana basketball coaches, this ancient video of outtakes from Bobby Knight's '80s golf show is priceless, although it comes with a serious content warning. As you can imagine.

• No single moment captures the thrill of victory and agony of defeat like the buzzer-beater. Athlon has compiled the best buzzer-beaters of this college basketball season.

• Speaking of ecstasy turning to agony, this guy thought he'd won 50 grand. Too bad he was wrong.

• The SEC brags about its speed, but up front is where games down south are won and lost. The best of the league's big uglies.

• You're only as old as you feel. Today, 48-year-old Bernard Hopkins feels like a world champion.

• Sometimes you try to be nice, and it backfires. Just ask this Hooters girl, who tossed a live ball into the stands. But the best part might be this quote from Rays skipper Joe Maddon: "I thought she presented her hands to the ball very well."

• Today in embarrassing injuries: A member of the A's sliced his finger while trying to throw his gum away.

Joe Flacco celebrated his new contract with Chicken McNuggets. Hey Joe, don't spend it all in one place.

• You've probably seen this by now, but DeAndre Jordan murder-dunked on Brandon Knight yesterday. For an assortment of GIFs and memes resulting from this epic posterization, click here. For the dunk itself, click on the video below.

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

Teaser:
<p> The best sports links from the NFL, college football and basketball, MLB, the NBA, NASCAR and the world of entertainment.</p>
Post date: Friday, March 15, 2013 - 10:30
Path: /college-football/michigan-wolverines-2013-spring-football-preview
Body:

It didn't take Brady Hoke long to get Michigan back into contention for conference titles and BCS bowls. He also ended the long losing streak against Ohio State. Yet, the Big Ten championship and trip to the Rose Bowl has eluded this coaching staff as it enters its third season in Ann Arbor. And now, for the first time in four years, the Wolverines will enter a season without Denard Robinson under center.

Michigan Wolverines 2013 Spring Preview

2012 Record: 8-5 (6-2)

Spring practice dates: March 16-April 13

Returning Starters: Offense – 5, Defense – 6

Returning Leaders:

Passing: Devin Gardner, 75-of-126, 1,219 yards, 11 TDs, 5 INTs
Rushing: Fitzgerald Toussaint, 130 car., 514 yards, 5 TDs
Receiving: Jeremy Gallon, 49 rec., 829 yards, 4 TDs
Tackles: Jake Ryan, 88
Sacks: Jake Ryan, 4.5
Interceptions: Raymon Taylor and Thomas Gordon, 2

Redshirts to Watch: OG Kyle Kalis, OG Blake Bars, OL Erik Magnuson, WR Jehu Chesson, DE Chris Wormley, DE Matthew Godin

Early Enrollees: DB Dymonte Thomas, OL Logan Tuley‐Tillman, DE Taco Charlton, OL Kyle Bosch, TE Jake Butt, DB Ross Douglas

2013 Schedule

Aug. 31 Central Michigan
Sept. 7 Notre Dame
Sept. 14 Akron
Sept. 21 at UConn
Sept. 28 Bye Week
Oct. 5 Minnesota
Oct. 12 at Penn State
Oct. 19 Indiana
Oct. 26 Bye Week
Nov. 1 at Michigan State
Nov. 9 Nebraska
Nov. 16 at Northwestern
Nov. 23 at Iowa
Nov. 30 Ohio State

Offensive Strength: Potential. There is a lot to like about what Michigan returns on offense but senior leadership and experience isn't a part of that. However, there is a ton of upside and potential in this group with players like Gardner set to take on bigger roles.

Offensive Weakness: Skill playmakers. Finding a workhorse tailback and a No. 1 wide receiver will be key for this offense. Can an injured Fitzgerald Toussaint or smallish Jeremy Gallon be those players?

Defensive Strength: Linebackers. This is as deep a position as Hoke has on his roster. There are veterans, rising stars and young depth to pick from.

Defensive Weakness: Star power. There is a lot of depth and a lot of young talent returning to the defense, however, four All-Big Ten performers depart this offseason. Talented rising stars need to take the next step and develop into household names — and team leaders.

Spring Storylines Facing Michigan:

1. Replace three starters on the O-line. Patrick Omameh was an All-Big Ten player and Ricky Barnum and Elliot Mealer combined for 26 starts last year. Filling these three voids are made much easier by the return of tackles Taylor Lewan and Michael Schofield, but this is still a major concern for Michigan. The interior of the line will be an area of focus this spring as Hoke looks to rebuild the heart of his O-line. Jack Miller and Graham Glasgow will battle it out for the pivot position while talented youngsters Kyle Bosch and Kyle Kalis will duel for the right guard position. Ben Braden, Blake Bars and Joey Burzynski are the top candidates at left guard.

2. Fill gaps along the defensive line. Craig Roh wasn't a flashy player but was dependable and consistent. Will Campbell earned honorable mention All-Big Ten honors last year as well. Both are gone and Michigan needs to replace them. There is little in the way of experience up front on defense and Hoke needs to find bodies who can play. Frank Clark, Mario Ojemudia, Brennen Beyer and Keith Heitzman all got playing time a year ago and all four will vie for time at end. Jibreel Black and Quinton Washington return to the middle while the coaching staff is still waiting for Ondre Pipkins to break out. This area of the team must be stabilized to make a run at the Big Ten title in 2013.

3. Develop Devin Gardner. Gardner took over in difficult circumstances a year ago and made the most of it. In five games under center, he threw for 11 touchdowns while rushing for seven. He won his first three starts before the competition level took a big jump (Ohio State and South Carolina) and Michigan lost those games. He has all the tools needed to be a superstar but needs to develop as a passer and leader for Hoke. This team needs a definitive voice pacing the huddle and it needs to be Gardner's. Look for him to take command of the team this spring.

4. Find a workhorse tailback. The best way to help Gardner will be if Hoke can find a power running game. Prized recruit Derrick Green won't show up until fall camp and Fitzgerald Toussaint will be out until then as well. This spring is the time for the Wolverines tailbacks to shine if they want carries. The path is clear for Thomas Rawls to take a huge step forward while Justice Hayes figures to be the mix as well. Hoke craves a workhorse back, and he may have to wait until the fall to find him, but fans can bet the runners on the roster will get a heavy workout this spring.

5. Reaplce two All-Big Ten defensive backs. Jordan Kovacs was the leader of the defense as he patrolled the back end of this unit for years. J.T. Floyd was the top cover corner. Both All-Big Ten players must be replaced this spring. Hoke is hoping that Blake Countess, who missed all but one game a year ago with a torn ACL, will be back to man one corner spot while Raymon Taylor, Courtney Avery and Delonte Hollowell will compete for the other. Thomas Gordon returns to his free safety spot while a host of new faces will battle for the starting strong safety spot.

6. Make some big-plays down the field in the passing game. Jeremy Gallon is a solid player but is he a superstar wide receiver that makes a difference on the outside? That remains to be seen, so Hoke and Gardner need to find some big-play weapons they can trust on the outside to go with Gallon. Jerald Robinson has loads of ability while Drew Dileo and Jeremy Jackson also return. The continued development of Devin Funchess and early enrollee Jake Butt at tight end will help in the passing game as well.

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Teaser:
<p> Michigan Wolverines 2013 Spring Football Preview</p>
Post date: Friday, March 15, 2013 - 08:20
Path: /college-football/top-15-alabama-football-teams-all-time
Body:

Alabama has arguably the most storied tradition in college football. It recently won its 15th national championship, and there is no fan base in the nation more rabid about its program than the Crimson Tide. Decades of winning, hundreds of NFL players and two of the greatest coaches to ever patrol the sidelines are just a few of the bullet points on the resume.

But how would John Hannah match up against the vaunted front seven of 2011 led by Dont'a Hightower and Courtney Upshaw? Could Johnny Musso spin and twist his way to victory against Mount Cody and the 2009 championship squad? The fact of the matter is that no one will ever know for sure, so trying to rank the best teams in Alabama history is virtually impossible. But we're going to try.

1. 2009 (14-0, 8-0)
Head Coach: Nick Saban
The 14-0 record is the best record in Alabama history, and the '09 depth chart is probably the most talented collection of players ever assembled in the history of the Capstone. This team already features 13 first- or second-round draft picks (10 in the first) and could add to that total this spring with names like Barrett Jones and Chance Warmack. The backfield featured a Heisman winner and a Heisman finalist in Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson, while Julio Jones is quickly showing the NFL that he is one of the most physically gifted wideouts in all of football. A Butkus winner in Rolando McClain and star nose guard Terrence Cody led a defense that also included a young Mark Barron, Hightower and Upshaw. This team rolled through the SEC, upset Tim Tebow in Atlanta behind heady play from boy genius Greg McElroy at quarterback and then crushed Texas in the national title game. To top it all off, Javier Arenas, who starred at cornerback, gave Bama a huge weapon on special teams as well, earning SEC Special Teamer of the Year honors. Few teams ever assembled on any campus have ever been as complete as the 2009 BCS National and SEC champions.

2. 1979 (12-0, 6-0)
Head Coach: Bear Bryant
The 1979 National and SEC champs were never ranked lower than No. 2 in the polls and finished the season unbeaten under legendary head coach Bear Bryant. This defense pitched an amazing five shutouts on the season, holding Baylor, Wichita State, Florida, LSU and Miami to a total of zero points. After a dominating Sugar Bowl performance against future SEC rival Arkansas (then of the SWC), Bryant claimed his sixth and final national title for Bama. All-America blockers Dwight Stephenson and Jim Bunch led a vaunted rushing attack spearheaded by Major Ogilvie, while fellow All-American Don McNeal led the stingy defense. The coaching staff included Sylvester Croom, Mal Moore, Ken Donahue and Bill Oliver.

3. 2011 (12-1, 7-1)
Head Coach: Nick Saban
From a statistical perspective, few teams in the history of college football have ever been as stingy as the 2011 Alabama defense. Saban's defense led the nation in scoring, total, rushing and passing defense, setting a modern college football record — the BCS era — with just 8.2 points allowed per game. It then avenged its only loss on the season to LSU by simply crushing the Tigers in their backyard in the BCS title game. LSU totaled 92 yards of offense, five first downs and are the only team in BCS history to be shut out in the championship game. Doak Walker winner Trent Richardson and Outland Trophy winner Barrett Jones steamrolled opposing defenses while a young AJ McCarron blossomed in the season finale. With four first-round picks and counting off this roster, Saban's '11 squad sits behind his '09 team simply because of the 9-6 overtime loss to LSU at home late in the season. This is the only BCS champion not to win its conference.

4. 1961 (11-0, 7-0)
Head Coach: Bear Bryant
In just his fourth season at Alabama, Bryant gave fans a glimpse of what life would be like with the Bear on the sidelines. Led by quarterback Pat Trammell and two-way stars Lee Roy Jordan and Billy Neighbors, Alabama rolled through the '61 campaign with relative ease. It shut out six opponents on the season, including five straight to end the regular season. After a 10-3 bowl win over Arkansas, Bryant claimed the consensus national championship and the first of his six titles. This team outscored opponents 297-25 on the season and never allowed more than seven points in any game (NC State scored 7).

5. 1992 (13-0, 8-0)
Head Coach: Gene Stallings
In his third season as the head man, Gene Stallings constructed one of the best Alabama teams of all-time. His team won all 13 games and held 10 of those opponents to 11 points or less. His tenacious defense was led by star defensive backs George Teague and Antonio Langham — both of whom intercepted six passes that season. After a thrilling win in the first-ever SEC championship game against Florida that featured a game-winning interception returned for a touchdown by Langham, the Tide earned the right to face No. 1-ranked Miami and their Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Geno Torretta. Alabama was a heavy underdog but rolled to an impressive 34-13 win. Quarterback Jay Barker and special teams dynamo David Palmer starred on offense, while All-Americans John Copeland and Eric Curry formed one of the nastiest defensive end duos in Crimson Tide history.

6. 2012 (13-1, 7-1)
Head Coach: Nick Saban
An extension of Saban's previous two national title winners, Alabama's third title-winning team in four years posted a dominating performance against Notre Dame in the BCS National Championship game. An all-world offensive line stocked with NFL talent and yet another stellar defense led the Tide to its 15th championship with elite defense, a power running game and incredibly efficient play from quarterback A.J. McCarron. Like the 2011 team, this squad led the nation in total and scoring defense, while McCarron was second nationally in passing efficiency (30 TD, 3 INT). It was technically McCarron's third national title ring as he was a redshirt on the '09 team. This team wasn't as dominant as Saban's previous two title-winners, losing to Texas A&M and beating LSU and Georgia in nail-biters en route to the SEC title. And, of course, this team gave us Katherine Webb.

7. 1966 (11-0, 6-0)
Head Coach: Bear Bryant
Led by four first-team All-Americans in defensive tackle Richard Cole, defensive back Bobby Johns, offensive tackle Cecil Dowdy and split end Ray Perkins, Alabama came up just shy of winning the national title. Had there been a playoff, Bama would have earned the right to play either No. 1 Notre Dame or No. 2 Michigan State — who tied 10-10 in their legendary regular-season matchup. Starting quarterback Ken Stabler and Bama outscored their opponents 144-7 over the final five games. In fact, this team allowed 37 points on the season and was one of the most dominant defenses in Alabama history. The '66 squad is arguably the best team not to win a national championship at Alabama.

8. 1978 (11-1, 6-0)
Head Coach: Bear Bryant
The Tide began the season as the No. 1 team in the nation until USC's Charles White rushed for 199 yards and the Trojans forced six turnovers to defeat Alabama 24-14 in Week 3 at Legion Field. The famous performance by White would be the last loss before Bryant and the Tide claimed 28 straight wins over the next two-plus seasons. Following the USC loss, All-Americans Marty Lyons and Barry Krauss led the defensive effort that fueled eight consecutive wins and a right to face Joe Paterno's No. 1-ranked Penn State Nittany Lions in the Sugar Bowl. Running back Major Ogilvie led the Tide rushing attack to 208 yards (compared to PSU's 19) and a hard-fought 14-7 win that featured a legendary goal-line stand. The former Tide tailback claims that "it was, by far, the hardest hitting game I've participated in [and] there's not even a close second." It would be the first of back-to-back national titles for Bama.

9. 1934 (10-0, 7-0)
Head Coach: Frank Thomas
Thomas, in his third season as the head coach, led Alabama to a national championship in just its second season of SEC play. Thomas claimed it was his best team during his tenure at the Capstone, and in an era when points were tough to come by, his '34 squad averaged 31.4 per game. Hall of Fame wideout Don Hutson was one of three All-Americans, joining tailback Dixie Howell and tackle Bill Lee. The 29-13 performance against Stanford in the Rose Bowl solidified this team as one of the greatest in Crimson Tide history.

10. 1973 (11-1, 8-0)
Head Coach: Bear Bryant
Bryant and the Tide rolled through the regular season with an unblemished 11-0 record. Three first-team All-Americans — offensive tackle Buddy Brown, split end Wayne Wheeler and linebacker Woodrow Lowe — led a star-studded lineup into the Sugar Bowl against Notre Dame. It was the first ever meeting between the two most powerful brands in college football, and it went the way of the Irish. In an epic showdown in New Orleans, Notre Dame outlasted Alabama 24-23 in a game that actually lived up to the pre-game hype. Despite losing "The Game" and Notre Dame finishing No. 1 in the AP poll, Alabama still claimed a national championship.

11. 1971 (11-1, 7-0)
This John Hannah-led squad came up just shy of a national title after debuting the wishbone and losing to No. 1 Nebraska in the Orange Bowl.

12. 1964 (10-1, 8-0)
An undefeated regular season ended with a national title, but a loss to Texas in the Orange Bowl.

13. 1965 (9-1-1, 6-1-1)
Ended the season No. 4 in the polls before beating Nebraska and jumping both Arkansas and Michigan State. A truly back-door national title.

14. 1977 (11-1, 7-0)
A seven-point road loss to Nebraska is the only thing that kept this team from winning three straight National Championships ('78, '79).

15. 2008 (12-2, 8-0)
This team rolled through the regular season unbeaten before losing to Tim Tebow and Florida in the SEC title game.

The best of the rest:

1974: 11-1
1994: 12-1
1991: 11-1
1989: 10-2
1963: 10-1

 

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Teaser:
<p> Top 15 Alabama Football Teams of All-Time</p>
Post date: Friday, March 15, 2013 - 08:00
Path: /college-football/vanderbilt-commodores-2013-spring-football-preview
Body:

James Franklin has taken Vanderbilt where few thought it was possible for the program to go — to the middle of the pack in the SEC. After showing significant improvement in Franklin’s first season — the Dores won six games in 2011, two more than the previous two years combined — the program took an even bigger step forward in 2012. The Commodores went 9–4 overall and 5–3 in the SEC. The nine wins were the most since 1915, and the winning record in the league was the school’s first since 1982. Vanderbilt ended the season on a seven-game winning streak, with five of the seven victories coming by 14 points or more. There was nothing fluky about Vanderbilt’s breakthrough season — the Commodores ranked fifth in the league in total defense and a respectable eighth in total offense.  And while there are a few key personnel losses on both sides of the ball, there is more than enough returning talent to keep the Commodores relevant in the nation’s most difficult conference.

Vanderbilt Commodores 2013 Spring Preview

2012 Record: 9-4 (5-3)

Spring practice dates: March 15-April 13

Returning Starters: Offense – 7, Defense – 6

Returning Leaders:

Passing: Austyn Carta-Samuels, 14 of 25, 208 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT
Rushing: Brian Kimbrow, 66 car., 413 yards, 3 TDs
Receiving: Jordan Matthews, 94 rec., 1,323 yards, 8 TDs
Tackles: Kenny Ladler, 90
Sacks: Kyle Woestmann, 6
Interceptions: Kenny Ladler and Andre Hal, 2

Redshirts to Watch: CB Brandon Banks, DT Ladarius Banks, P Colby Cooke, OL Barrett Gouger, OL Andrew Jelks, CB Torren McGaster, DE Stephen Weatherly, QB Patton Robinette

Early Enrollees to Watch: OL Sean Dowling, QB Johnny McCrary

JUCO Transfers to watch: TE Brandon Vandenburg

2013 Schedule

Aug. 29 Ole Miss
Sept. 7 Austin Peay
Sept. 14 at South Carolina
Sept. 21 at UMass
Sept. 28 UAB
Oct. 5 Missouri
Oct. 19 Georgia
Oct. 26 at Texas A&M
Nov. 2 Bye Week
Nov. 9 at Florida
Nov. 16 Kentucky
Nov. 23 at Tennessee
Nov. 30 Wake Forest

Offensive Strength: Vanderbilt boasts the SEC’s best pair of starting wide receivers in Jordan Matthews and Chris Boyd. Matthews earned first-team all-conference honors as a junior after catching a league-best 94 passes for 1,323 yards and eight touchdowns. Boyd’s numbers weren’t as gaudy (50 catches for 774 yards), but he has tremendous hands and is considered a legitimate NFL prospect.

Offensive Weakness: Vanderbilt is unproven at the quarterback position after losing Jordan Rodgers to graduation. Austyn Carta-Samuels, who started for two seasons at Wyoming, is the favorite, though redshirt freshman Patton Robinette will get a long look.

Defensive Strength: The Commodores feature three defensive ends who could play for any team in the league — a statement that can’t often be made with conviction. Senior Walker May is a bit undersized (6-5, 250) but has been a consistent playmaker for the past two seasons. Junior Kyle Woestmann was perhaps the best player on the defense in the latter half of the season, with six sacks and 9.5 tackles for a loss in the final seven games. And sophomore Caleb Azubuike recorded 4.5 sacks as a true freshman.

Defensive Weakness: Vanderbilt lacks depth at defensive tackle, with only three players returning who logged meaningful snaps at the position in 2012. To build some depth, the staff moved highly touted offensive lineman Adam Butler, a redshirt freshman, to defensive tackle in the spring, and also is looking at moving Azubuike inside on passing downs.

Spring Storylines Facing the Commodores

1. Replacing Jordan Rodgers. After a slow start, Jordan Rodgers enjoyed an outstanding senior season running the Vanderbilt offense. The biggest issue in the offseason is identifying Rodgers’ successor. Austyn Carta-Samuels, a two year-starter at Wyoming and the 2009 Mountain West Freshman of the Year, is the favorite. Carta-Samuels is a dual-threat who threw for 3,655 yards and rushed for 578 in his two seasons at Wyoming. He started one game last year for Vanderbilt, throwing for 195 yards in an easy win over Presbyterian. Carta-Samuels will be challenged by Patton Robinette, a redshirt freshman from East Tennessee who was once committed to North Carolina. Josh Grady, who was moved from quarterback to wide receiver last spring, is back at quarterback (for now). True freshmen Johnny McCrary and Chad Kanoff are long shots to play right away.

2. Sorting out the running back situation. Zac Stacy finished his career as the school’s all-time leading rusher. The Commodores will replace his production with a three-man committee — senior Wesley Tate and sophomores Jerron Seymour and Brian Kimbrow. Tate emerged as a consistent No. 2 back last year after spending the 2011 season at wide receiver. He had 10 carries or more five times in the last eight games and scored one touchdown in six of the last seven games. He has decent size and good speed but did not have a run longer than 25 yards in 2012. Kimbrow, a highly touted recruit, was the Commodores’ second-leading rusher as true freshman, though more than half of his 413 yards came against Presbyterian and UMass. He has tremendous speed but lacks the size to be an every-down back. Seymour sat out last season as a redshirt while recovering from an injury. He was Stacy’s primary backup as a true freshman in 2011. Don’t be surprised if Seymour leads Vanderbilt in rushing next fall.

3. Finding a No. 2 cornerback. The Commodores have received strong play from the cornerback position in Bob Shoop’s two seasons as the defensive coordinator. Andre Hal, a second-team All-SEC pick in 2012, is back for his second season as the starter, but Vanderbilt must find a replacement for Trey Wilson. Steven Clarke, the primary nickel back last fall, and redshirt freshmen Torren McGaster and Brandon Banks are the top candidates. Shoop loves to bring pressure, so it’s important that he is comfortable leaving his cornerbacks in man coverage.

4. Colby Cooke’s leg. One of the underrated aspects of Vanderbilt’s breakthrough season was the play of the kicking specialists. Placekicker Carey Spear rebounded from a disappointing sophomore season to convert 20-of-24 as a junior, and punter Richard Kent was consistently strong all season long. Spear is back for one more season, but Kent, a three-year starter, must be replaced. Colby Cooke, the successor, has a big leg but has yet to prove himself in a game. The Commodores need him to be solid in 2012. 


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Teaser:
<p> Vanderbilt Commodores 2013 Spring Football Preview</p>
Post date: Friday, March 15, 2013 - 07:45
All taxonomy terms: NFL, NBA, MLB, NASCAR
Path: /nfl/20-athletes-who-retired-then-unretired
Body:

Turns out, Tony Gonzalez is not retiring after all. Arguably the greatest tight end in history is returning to the Atlanta Falcons for the 2013 season, his 17th year in the NFL — despite previously being “95 percent” sure that 2012 would be his last season.

“I’m happy to say that after speaking with my family, I’m coming back,” Gonzalez said in a series of tweets on Tuesday.

“The lure of being on such a great team and organization, along with unbelievable fan support was too good to pass up.

“We have a great shot to get to the Super Bowl, RISE UP ATLANTA!”

Gonzo is the latest — but not the only and surely not the last — high-profile athlete to have one foot out the door before pivoting back to the pros for another run. These are the top 10 athletes to “unretire,” in order of the success they had upon their respective returns.

1. Michael Jordan
Retired: 1993, 1998, 2003
Unretired: 1995, 2001


“I’m back.”

His Airness uttered the most famous comeback line ever in 1995, when Jordan returned to the NBA following the first of three retirements. After playing minor league baseball in the Chicago White Sox organization, MJ jumped back onto the court to lead the Chicago Bulls to three more NBA championships and the greatest single-season record (72–10) in history.

Jordan walked away from the game again after hitting the championship-clinching final shot in the 1998 NBA Finals. But MJ couldn’t stay away, so he unretired again in 2001, playing two seasons with the Washington Wizards before finally retiring — for the final time? — as a 40-year-old.

“One day you may look up and see me playing a game at 50,” Jordan said during his infamous Hall of Fame induction speech in 2009. “Don’t laugh.”

2. George Foreman
Retired: 1977, 1997
Unretired: 1987


Following a life-altering, near-death experience in a loss to Jimmy Young in Puerto Rico, Foreman took a decade off before making an historic comeback at 38 years old. The former champ more than held his own, going a full 12 rounds with Evander Holyfield as a 42-year-old in 1991 and becoming the oldest heavyweight champion in history after knocking out Michael Moorer as a 45-year, 299-day-old 250-plus-pounder in 1994.

3. Brett Favre
Retired: 2006 (kind of), 2008 (sort of), 2009 (maybe), 2011 (definitely)
Unretired: 2007, 2008, 2009


The undisputed king of the fake retirement, Favre became synonymous with indecisiveness to the point where Super Bowl commercials mocked his inability to make up his mind. Favre’s emotional final press conference as a Packer in 2008 was followed by a change of heart and a trade to the Jets. A sex scandal and retirement later, Favre was off to play for the Vikings, where he had one of his best seasons ever as a 40-year-old before being knocked out of the game for good.


4. Floyd Mayweather
Retired: 2006, 2008
Unretired: 2007, 2009


“Money” Mayweather returned to the ring in 2007 for a cool $25 million to fight Oscar De La Hoya — in a fight that set a new record for most pay-per-view purchases in boxing history, as 2.4 million households paid the price. Then, in 2008, Mayweather canceled a lucrative rematch with De La Hoya and “decided to permanently retire from boxing.” Floyd’s fought four times since, making an estimated $100-million-plus over that stretch. Imagine how much cash Mayweather could bag if he fought Manny Pacquiao?

5. Randall Cunningham
Retired: 1995, 2001
Unretired: 1997


One of the most exciting dual-threat quarterbacks of all-time, Cunningham retired as the scrambling Tecmo Bowl legend “QB Eagles,” then returned to post arguably his finest season in the NFL — throwing for 3,704 yards, 34 TDs and a 106.0 passer rating for the 15–1 Vikings in 1998.

6. Roger Clemens
Retired: 2003, 2006, 2007
Unretired: 2004, 2007, 2012


Just last season, a 50-year-old Rocket was pitching in the Independent League for the Sugar Land Skeeters, sparking speculation that the seven-time Cy Young Award winner would pitch again for MLB’s Houston Astros. Clemens was the ace of the short season, arriving in midseason form — at midseason — in his early-to-mid-40s for both the Astros and New York Yankees.

7. Mario Lemieux
Retired: 1997, 2006
Unretired: 2000


Super Mario retired due to back problems and a Hodgkin’s lymphoma diagnosis before throwing his hat back on the ice in December 2000. Following a 44-month retirement, Lemieux joined Gordie Howe and Guy Lafeur as the third Hall of Famer to play after being inducted. Lemieux won a gold medal as the captain of Team Canada at both the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City and 2004 World Cup of Hockey.

8. Mark Martin
Retired: 2006
Unretired: 2009


True, the ageless wonder never left the NASCAR track. But Martin did take a last lap in 2006, his supposed final season running a full-time schedule. Three years later, Martin was a five-time winner and Cup runner-up while racing full 36-race slate for the top team in the business, Hendrick Motorsports. Martin only ran 24 races last season and there is speculation that this will be the 54-year-old’s final race to the finish. But after a third-place finish at this year’s Daytona 500, it’s hard to believe Martin is going to park his car.

9. Pele
Retired: 1972, 1977
Unretired: 1975


A living legend, Pele stopped playing full-time for his Brazilian club Santos in 1972. The three-time World Cup champion came out of his quasi-retirement to play for the New York Cosmos in 1975, however, instantly becoming the face of the upstart NASL. Fittingly, Pele went out in style in an exhibition match between Santos and Cosmos on ABC’s Wide World of Sports in 1977.

10. Sugar Ray Leonard
Retired: 1982, 1987, 1991, 1997
Unretired: 1984, 1988, 1991, 1996


A detached retina started a string of retirement-comebacks for Sugar Ray, who won the WBC middleweight title belt from Marvin Hagler in 1987 to highlight his many moves in and out of the ring. His last few bouts had mixed results, as he defeated Roberto Duran to take a 2–1 career lead over the Panamanian in 1989, then lost to Terry Norris in 1991 and suffered a TKO to Hector Camacho as a 40-year-old in 1997.

11. Deion Sanders
Retired: 2000, 2005
Unretired: 2004


At 37 years old, Prime Time returned to the gridiron to team up with good buddies Ray Lewis and Ed Reed as a member of the Baltimore Ravens. Once the fastest man in the NFL, Deion wore No. 37 to remind opponents just how old he was. In two seasons, Sanders hauled in five INTs for 144 yards and his ninth career pick-six.

12. Ricky Williams
Retired: 2004, 2011
Unretired: 2005


After leading the NFL in carries in back-to-back seasons and failing a few drug tests, Ricky went up in smoke — retiring from football after earning both an NFL rushing title and Heisman Trophy. Williams served a suspension, studied yoga and played a little ball in Canada before returning to the league, where he posted an 1,100-yard, 11-TD season in 2009 but never regained his All-Pro pre-retirement form.

13. Ryne Sandberg
Retired: 1994, 1997
Unretired: 1996


After struggling to stay healthy and hitting a combined 14 home runs during the 1993 and 1994 seasons, Sandberg hung up his spikes and sat out the 1995 season. The 1984 NL MVP returned in 1996, however, hitting 25 HRs and 92 RBIs as a 36-year-old in 1996 and taking one last trot around the bases in 1997 before retiring — for good this time.

14. Magic Johnson
Retired: 1991, 1996
Unretired: 1996


After retiring from the NBA due to HIV in 1991, Magic was named MVP of the 1992 NBA All-Star Game and won a gold medal as a member of the Dream Team at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona. But he didn’t officially return to the NBA until 1996, when Johnson played 32 games, primarily as a power forward, averaging career lows in points (14.6 ppg), rebounds (5.7 rpg) and assists (6.9 apg).

15. Justine Henin
Retired: 2008, 2011
Unretired: 2010


A seven-time Grand Slam champion, Henin retired while ranked No. 1 in the world and set to return to the French Open, where she was the three-time defending champion heading into the 2008 event. She returned to the courts in 2010, but a brutal elbow injury suffered at Wimbledon derailed the comeback attempt and ended a brilliant career.

16. Lance Armstrong
Retired: 2005, 2011
Unretired: 2009


The seven-time Tour de France winner — results that have since been voided due to a steroid scandal that finally caught up with the yellow-bellied yellow jersey-wearing cyclist and cancer survivor — probably wishes he hadn’t come back in 2009. After finishing third and 23rd in the 2009 and 2010 Tours de France, Armstrong peddled away from the sport in 2011 but ultimately couldn’t outrace his past.

17. Reggie White
Retired: 1999, 2001
Unretired: 2000


The Minister of Defense played 13 consecutive Pro Bowl seasons with the Eagles and Packers before retiring following the 1998 season. The 2000’s were not as kind to the gentle giant, as White managed a career-low 5.5 sacks — just the third single-digit sack total of his NFL career — during his solo season with the Panthers.

18. Bjorn Borg
Retired: 1983, 1993
Unretired: 1991


The 11-time Grand Slam winner grew his hair out long like the old days and grabbed a wooden racket nearly a full decade after leaving the courts. But the Swede was ill-prepared for the comeback, failing to win a single set in his first nine matches back.

19. Bob Cousy
Retired: 1963, 1970
Unretired: 1970


The Houdini of the Hardwood spiked ticket sales in Cincinnati as a 41-year-old player-coach, suiting up for seven games at the end of the 1970 season — averaging an un-Cousy-like 0.7 points and 1.4 assists while sharing the court with legends such as Oscar Robertson and Jerry Lucas.

20. Muhammad Ali
Retired: 1979, 1981
Unretired: 1980


Two of Ali’s five career losses came during a comeback effort that, in hindsight, may have contributed to the current physical state of the boxing icon who famously could “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee” during his prime. Back-to-back losses to Larry Holmes and Trevor Berbick proved disastrous in both the short and long term for Ali.

Teaser:
<p> 20 Athletes Who Retired Then Unretired, including Michael Jordan, Brett Favre, George Foreman, Roger Clemens, Muhammad Ali, Floyd Mayweather, Mark Martin, Sugar Ray Leonard, Deion Sanders, Reggie White, Ryne Sandberg, Randall Cunningham, Mario Lemieux, Lance Armstrong, Bob Cousy, Bjorn Borg, Pele, Ricky Williams, Magic Johnson and Justine Hennin.</p>
Post date: Thursday, March 14, 2013 - 17:45

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