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Path: /college-basketball/national-championship-game-preview-and-picks-uconn-huskies-vs-kentucky-wildcats
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Prepare to see history.

Whatever happens in Monday night’s national title game, either Kentucky or Connecticut will become one of the most rare champions in the NCAA Tournament.

With 11 titles between the two, the Wildcats and Huskies aren’t in a spot they’ve never been, even in the last five years. But both have taken a path to the title game that, while not unprecedented, puts each school in exclusive company.

Consider the following:

• UConn is a No. 7 seed and Kentucky is a No. 8. Either would be the lowest-seeded team to win a national championship since No. 8 Villanova upset Georgetown for the title in 1985, the first season the field expanded to 64 teams. A No. 7 seed has never reached the national title game.

• Neither team played in the NCAA Tournament a year ago. UConn was banned from the postseason due to poor academic progress. Kentucky missed the Tourney and lost to Robert Morris in the first game of the NIT.

• If UConn wins, the Huskies will have the most lopsided loss on their schedule of any national champion in NCAA history. No eventual champion lost by 30 points during the course of the season. UConn lost its regular season finale 81-48 to Louisville.

• If Kentucky wins, the Wildcats will have one of the worst losses by any eventual national champion. Kentucky lost 72-67 to South Carolina, a team ranked No. 113 in Ken Pomeroy’s ratings. The only other national champion in the last 10 years to lose to a lower-rated opponent was 2005 North Carolina, which lost its opener to No. 124 Santa Clara. This year’s Kentucky team has four losses to teams outside of the KenPom top 50. Four of the last 11 national champions never lost to a team outside of the top 50.

• Kentucky and UConn both went 0-3 against teams that won their respective conference tournaments. Kentucky went 0-3 against Florida while UConn went 0-3 against Louisville. Ironically, Kentucky knocked out UConn’s nemesis, Louisville, in the Sweet 16 while UConn knocked out Florida in the Final Four.

This pair in the title game, though, counts its low points as the moments that turned the season around.

Of the loss to South Carolina, coach John Calipari — who was ejected in that game, by the way — said the embarrassment and criticism that followed brought his team back together.

Since then, Kentucky lost twice, both times to No. 1 Florida.

“I just knew that we had the talent and it was just a couple of things missing,” guard Aaron Harrison said. “We trusted coach and he just put it all together for us. We just went out there and just started fighting and playing harder and playing for each other.”

UConn coach Kevin Ollie also called his team’s most embarrassing defeat as the wake-up call.

“I'm glad that happened because we went back and I had to evaluate myself as a coach,” Ollie said. “I hope every player went to their dorms and looked themselves in the mirror and had to evaluate their effort.”

Connecticut vs. Kentucky
Time: 9:10 p.m. Eastern
TV: CBS
Announcers: Jim Nantz, Greg Anthony and Steve Kerr

Athlon Editor Picks
David Fox: UConn 68-65
Braden Gall: Kentucky 74-69
Mitch Light: Kentucky 68-62
Nathan Rush: Kentucky 73-72
How UConn got here:
The Huskies have been a defensive menace. Florida and Michigan State both have sure-handed offenses, but UConn made them look out of sorts in the Final Four and the Elite Eight. The Huskies backcourt of Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright have been sharp on both ends of the court.

How Kentucky got here:
None of the concentration or emotional lapses that plagued Kentucky through the regular season have taken place in this Tournament. John Calipari hasn’t had to worry about his team staying cool under pressure for weeks. It also helps that Aaron Harrison has become the most clutch performer in the Tournament.

Key matchup: Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright vs. the Harrisons
Kentucky and UConn continue to be proof that great guard play is the key to advancing in the Tournament. Before Selection Sunday, Napier already was one of the top players in the field, and he’s delivered. Just as important as his play in the offensive end, Napier caused Florida point guard Scottie Wilbekin fits in the semifinal. Napier and Boatright held Florida’s point guards to 4-of-15 from the field, one assist and seven turnovers. On the other side, Aaron and Andrew Harrison have been spectacular. The semifinal game against Wisconsin wasn’t Aaron’s best, but he took a well-guarded NBA 3-pointer for the second game in a row to win the game. Will Napier and Boatright be able to disrupt Kentucky’s physical guard duo?

Player to watch: Julius Randle, Kentucky
The guards have been key for Kentucky, and the dramatics have made it all too easy to forget that Randle is the Wildcats’ most dominant player. He’s averaging  15.8 points and 10.6 rebounds in the Tournament, though Wisconsin is the only Tournament foe to keep Randle from getting a double-double. On Saturday, Florida’s Patric Young sparked the Gators in the second half against UConn’s front line. Randle is a tougher matchup.

X-Factor: DeAndre Daniels, UConn
Daniels has a versatile offensive game and is UConn’s only real threat on that end of the court. He was arguably the Huskies’ MVP in wins over Iowa State (27 points, 10 rebounds) and Florida (20 points, 10 rebounds). Daniels can drive to the basket or take the 3. He’s also a solid free-throw shooter (78.7 percent).

UConn will win the national title if...
The Huskies get to the free throw line. Saturday was the first time in the Tournament UConn didn’t get to the free throw line 20 times. The Huskies still went 10-of-13 from the line in the win over the Gators. Altogether, UConn is shooting 77.1 percent from the free throw line in the Tournament.

Kentucky will win the national title if...
The game is close. UConn can play in pressure situations. The Huskies wouldn’t be here if they couldn’t. But Kentucky thrives in close games. In this Tournament, there’s no reason for Kentucky to doubt itself in crunch time. The Wildcats were 2-8 in games decided by five points or less during the season, but they’ve won four in a row that way.

Teaser:
National Championship Game Preview and Picks: UConn Huskies vs. Kentucky Wildcats
Post date: Monday, April 7, 2014 - 07:00
Path: /15-best-teams-did-not-win-ncaa-tournament
Body:

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


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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

Teaser:
These teams were dominant, but none were able to win it all in the NCAA Tournament.
Post date: Sunday, April 6, 2014 - 14:05
Path: /college-basketball/final-four-recap-kentucky-continues-dramatics-title-game
Body:

Let’s take a moment and be thankful this season didn’t turn out for Kentucky the way many predicted.

How boring would all this be if Kentucky were a top seed, a team whose trip to the national championship game felt like a formality?

Instead, Kentucky has given the NCAA Tournament one of the most thrilling runs in NCAA Tournament history. Five games decided by seven points or fewer, the last three on late 3-pointers by Aaron Harrison.

The Wildcats will go to the national championship game as a No. 8 seed to face seventh-seeded UConn. Either way, the national champion will be the lowest-seeded team to win the title since No. 8 Villanova won it in 1985, the first season since the field expanded to 64 teams.

And, no, it’s not enough that Kentucky has defeated three teams from last year’s Final Four, one of which was undefeated and another the Wildcats’ chief rival. It’s not enough that Kentucky defeated a Wisconsin team that missed one free throw all night.

The story had to be better. Aaron Harrison bailed out his twin, Andrew, who had fouled Wisconsin guard Traevon Jackson on a 3-point shot. Jackson made two free throws to give the Badgers a two-point lead.

Aaron, though, made sure his brother wouldn’t live in Kentucky lore as the player who cost the Wildcats a shot at the title. With the game on the line, Andrew passed to Aaron, who hit an NBA-range 3 to beat Wisconsin with 5.7 seconds remaining.

Game MVP: Aaron Harrison, Kentucky
He scored only eight points, fewest among Kentucky starters, but it’s tough to pick anyone else for this spot. Harrison has hit three consecutive game winners, each one as impressive as the last. Against Michigan, it was a contested 3. Against Wisconsin, it was an NBA-range 3 with a hand in his face. A 4-for-14 night is rarely this satisfying.

Telling stat: 8, points by Frank Kaminsky
Wisconsin got offense from unexpected sources — 11 from Bronson Koenig, 8 from Duje Dukan — but the key matchup in the game went into the favor of Kentucky. Kaminsky was held in check for most of the game. While he was 4-of-7 from the floor with four offensive rebounds, Kaminsky didn’t attempt a shot from 3-point range and finished with eight points.

How Kentucky won:
The Harrison shot will be remembered, but a Kentucky timeout set the Wildcats on a run that ultimately won the game. Wisconsin’s Sam Dekker hit a 3-pointer in the first minute of the second half to give the Badgers a seven-point lead. After a timeout, Kentucky scored the next 15 points over a little more than 3 minutes. Wisconsin answered, but the run set Kentucky in motion to win the game.

How Wisconsin lost:
It’s far too lazy to blame the free throw Traevon Jackson missed in the final minute. Jackson was at the free throw line thanks to a mistake by Andrew Harrison, who fouled the Badgers point guard during a 3-point attempt. It also was Wisconsin’s only miss of the night. Not many teams go 19-of-20 from the free throw line and lose, especially while their opponents go 14-of-21. Instead, Wisconsin lost because it struggled in the paint, even against a team missing its best offensive rebounder. Kentucky grabbed 11 offensive boards and outscored Wisconsin 46-24 in the paint. The results aren’t shocking, but they did determine the game.

Key for Kentucky in the national championship game:
Injured or not, Florida guard Scottie Wilbekin struggled against UConn’s guards. Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright can disrupt opposing guards as well as anyone. The Harrisons were a combined 7-of-22 against Wisconsin. Even if Aaron was the hero again, he’ll be put to the test against the Huskies.
 

Teaser:
Final Four Recap: Kentucky Continues Dramatics into Title Game
Post date: Sunday, April 6, 2014 - 00:46
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/aaron-harrison-hits-game-winner-kentucky-again-video
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For the second consecutive game in the NCAA Tournament, Kentucky guard Aaron Harrison hit a game-winning 3-point shot. This time, Harrison's shot against Wisconsin will send the Wildcats to the national championship game following a 74-73 win.

Harrison also converted a game-winning 3-pointer against Michigan in the regional final to send the Wildcats to the Final Four.

Again, the still is almost as impressive as the highlight:

 

Teaser:
Post date: Saturday, April 5, 2014 - 23:44
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/final-four-recap-uconn-shocks-florida-trip-title-game
Body:

If all hope looks lost for UConn in the national championship game, don’t believe it.

Don’t say UConn is finished. Don’t change the channel. Don’t leave the arena.

Against Florida, the Huskies clawed through an opponent and dire expectations again and not for the first time in this Tournament. UConn trailed by 16-4 Saturday to a team that had won 30 in a row, but the Huskies continued their improbable run to the national championship game with a 63-53 win over Florida.

A dozen points with nearly 30 minutes to play is nothing. Remember, UConn trailed by 3 with 50 seconds to go in the round of 64 against Saint Joseph’s before winning in overtime. This is a team that lost by 33 to Louisville in the final game of the regular season, a team that was swept by SMU.

But this is a team that seems to thrive on doubts, led by a coach who was on a one-year contract until Dec. 2012.

UConn responded by holding Florida to a season-low 53 points and becoming the first team to top a point per possession against the Gators since Feb. 22.

Game MVP: DeAndre Daniels, UConn
The Huskies aren’t a one-man team despite all the praise that goes to UConn. For the second time in this Tournament, Daniels was the focal point of the Huskies’ offense. The junior scored 20 points and added 10 rebounds while shooting 9-of-14 from the field. Napier scored 13 points, but caused problems for Florida on penetration while bottling up Scottie Wilbekin.

Telling stat: 3 assists for Florida
Florida had its lowest-scoring game of the season in part because of bad shots and ineffective point guard play. The most embarrassing number there was three assists for the Gators, four fewer than Florida’s lowest total of the season.

How UConn won:
UConn fell behind 16-4 early but switched to a small lineup three ball-handling guards — Napier, Ryan Boatright and Terrence Samuel. The change sparked a first-half run and helped shut down Florida’s guards. The Huskies had six steals, including four from Napier.

How Florida lost:
The Gators’ point guards were ineffective. Wilbekin had his worst game of the season, and freshman backup Kasey Hill couldn’t fill in. TBS reports indicated Wilbekin struggled with cramps and had his knees iced in the bench. In any event, Wilbekin, who carried the Gators through the first two weeks, was a mere 2-of-9 from the field with three turnovers and couldn’t get past Napier all night.

Key for UConn in the national championship game:
Is there anything UConn can’t do? The Huskies just shot 55.8 percent against the best defensive team in the country and needed only three baskets from Napier to win by 10. The Huskies played lights out defensively and shot 10 of 13 from the field. UConn probably doesn’t want to try its luck by falling behind by 12 again, but who is going to pick against the Huskies anymore?

Teaser:
Post date: Saturday, April 5, 2014 - 20:20
All taxonomy terms: ACC, College Football, Miami Hurricanes, News
Path: /college-football/miami-qb-ryan-williams-suffers-torn-acl-spring-practice
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Miami quarterback Ryan Williams suffered a torn ACL in a recent scrimmage and is out indefinitely. Williams was slated to open the year as the starting quarterback, but it’s uncertain if he will be able to return in time for the season opener. The senior will have surgery to repair the ACL injury.

Assuming Williams is unable to return in time for the opener, Miami will likely turn to redshirt freshman Kevin Olsen. 

Miami will also have touted freshman Brad Kaaya join the team this summer, but it’s unlikely he unseats Olsen or even Williams (if he’s back in time for the opener).

Williams’ injury is a huge blow for a Miami team that opens at Louisville in 2014.

Even though an injury to Williams is a setback, the Hurricanes still have a solid offensive line, a standout running back in Duke Johnson, and a rising star at receiver in Stacy Coley.

Teaser:
Miami QB Ryan Williams Suffers Torn ACL in Spring Practice
Post date: Saturday, April 5, 2014 - 20:00
Path: /college-basketball/final-four-preview-and-picks-wisconsin-badgers-vs-kentucky-wildcats
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Kentucky may be the best-positioned No. 8 seed to play for a national title, but 1985 Villanova Big Blue Nation is not.

Rollie Massimino’s 1985 Villanova team is the lowest-seeded program to win the national title, a feat Kentucky can match if the Wildcats can beat Wisconsin and then win Monday night.

But unlike that Villanova team that spent most of the season lurking in the shadows, this year’s Kentucky started at No. 1. With the future pro talent John Calipari added to the roster this season, a trip to the Final Four seemed to be inevitable ... at least until reality set in before December.

The Wildcats lost six games in an underwhelming SEC (and yes, the SEC can have two Final Four teams and be underwhelming at the same time). That makes Kentucky an underdog by seed and record but certainly not by talent and reputation.

The underdog story may be Wisconsin, a No. 2 seed that started the season 16-0. Bo Ryan, 66, is making his first trip to the Final Four as Wisconsin seeks its first national championship since 1941. While Kentucky is awash in McDonald’s All-Americans, Wisconsin has none.

“Frank Sinatra, wasn't that the song? We did it our way?” Ryan said. “Everybody's doing it their way. If you're a coach and here's the landscape, you do it the best way you can. I was always told you can only coach one team.”

Wisconsin vs. Kentucky
Time:
Approx. 8:50 p.m. Eastern
TV: TBS
Announcers: Jim Nantz, Greg Anthony and Steve Kerr

Wisconsin Teamcast
TV:
TNT
Announcers: Rob Bromley, Rex Chapman

Kentucky Teamcast
TV:
truTV
Announcers: Wayne Larrivee, Mike Kelley

Athlon Editor Picks
David Fox:
Wisconsin 75-71
Braden Gall: Kentucky 78-74
Mitch Light: Wisconsin 68-66
Nathan Rush: Kentucky 75-74
How Wisconsin got here:
Junior Frank Kaminsky was an All-Big Ten performer during the course of the season, but he may be playing himself into NBA Draft consideration this year or next. Kaminsky is the rare 7-footer who can take an outside shot, drive to the basket and score in the post. He’s averaging 16.8 points per game in the Tournament.

Related:

How Kentucky got here:
Kentucky is making shots, pure and simple. Guard Aaron Harrison is averaging 16 points per game in the Tournament after averaging 14.1 during the regular season. Kentucky is shooting nearly 40 percent from 3-point range during the Tournament after averaging 33.2 percent during the season as a whole.

Related:

Key matchup: Kentucky’s frontcourt vs. Kaminsky
Kaminsky already outdueled Arizona’s Aaron Gordon and Kaleb Tarczewski, so it’s clear he can handle top talent. Kentucky, though, will be another test with the 6-9 Julius Randle and 7-foot Dakari Johnson in the frontcourt. Can Kaminsky’s versatile game continue to thrive against some of the top forwards in the country?

Related:

Player to watch: Dakari Johnson, Kentucky
Kentucky center Willie Cauley-Stein doesn’t want to be declared out for the Final Four, but it doesn’t seem likely he’ll play. Cauley-Stein averages nearly three blocks per game and is Kentucky’s top offensive rebounder. Losing that kind of cog will hurt. Johnson will try to step into Cauley-Stein’s shoes on a team that led the nation in offensive rebound rate.

Related:

Wisconsin will win the national title if…
The Badgers keep playing Bo Ryan basketball — limiting mistakes, playing strong defense and making big shots in key moments. This is not the typical Badgers team, however. Traevon Jackson controls the tempo at point guard,Kaminsky proves unguardable at times and shooters space the floor to allow Wisconsin to match up with nearly any style of play.

Wisconsin will lose to Kentucky if…
The Badgers are overwhelmed by the bright lights of AT&T Stadium and the Big Blue Nation. Kentucky is making its third trip to the Final Four in four years, while Wisconsin is making its first trip since 2000 and only its third Final Four ever. The Badgers must remain focused, no matter how crazy the circumstances get.

Kentucky will win the national title if…
The Wildcats keep playing like future NBA first-round picks rather than college freshmen. The preseason No. 1 team in the country boasts what some have called the best freshman class since Michigan’s famed “Fab Five.” John Calipari’s team has been maddeningly inconsistent this year, but if Julius Randle continues to own the paint and the Harrison twins, Andrew and Aaron, keep playing with poise, UK could raise its ninth title banner.

Kentucky will lose to Wisconsin if…
The Wildcats get into early foul trouble. Without injured center Willie Cauley-Stein — who is doubtful with an ankle injury — the Wildcats are relatively thin down low. Freshman Marcus Lee came out of nowhere for 10 points, eight rebounds and two blocks in the Elite Eight. But Kentucky needs Randle (and his 24 double-doubles) to stay on the floor.

Athlon editors Mitch Light and Nathan Rush contributed to this report.

Teaser:
Final Four Preview and Picks: Wisconsin Badgers vs. Kentucky Wildcats
Post date: Saturday, April 5, 2014 - 07:00
Path: /college-basketball/final-four-preview-and-picks-florida-gators-vs-uconn-huskies
Body:

Not many teams can say they’ve defeated every team on their schedule.

If Florida make it to Monday night (and so does Wisconsin), the Gators can say they’ve answered all comers even if they've lost twice this season.

In an odd turn of events, the only two teams that defeated Florida during the course of the season, Wisconsin and Connecticut, are in the Final Four. The third team, Kentucky, is one Florida has faced three times the year. Beat UConn and Wisconsin, and Florida can say it defeated everyone on its schedule at least once.

Before the Gators can try to avenge a loss to Wisconsin or defeat Kentucky for a fourth time, they’ll need to make up for a 65-64 loss to UConn from Dec. 2. In that game, Shabazz Napier hit the buzzer beater in a game in which Florida lacked point guard Scottie Wilbekin for the final minutes and backup point Kasey Hill for the duration of the game.

So if you’re keeping track: Florida, playing without two point guards, lost a road game on a last-second shot to UConn. Everything seems to point to Florida if the outcome is going to change the second time around.

But UConn is in the middle of an improbable run for a No. 7 seed to the Final Four.

“It's a different game; That was four months ago,” UConn coach Kevin Ollie said. “We're a different team. I'm a different coach. Billy Donovan's definitely got better understanding his team and what it takes for his team to win. So it's going to be a whole different game.”

Florida vs. Connecticut
Time: 6 p.m. Eastern
TV: TBS
Announcers: Jim Nantz, Greg Anthony and Steve Kerr

Florida Teamcast
TV: TNT
Announcers: David Steele, Mark Wise

Connecticut Teamcast
TV: truTV
Announcers: Eric Frede, Donny Marshall

Athlon Editor Picks
David Fox:
Florida 73-61
Braden Gall: Florida 69-59
Mitch Light: Florida 71-63
Nathan Rush: Florida 85-80
How Florida got here:
Scottie Wilbekin is playing his best basketball of the season, averaging 16.7 points per game in the Tournament. The Gators, though, are anchored by a stifling defense. In the SEC and NCAA tournaments, only one team has scored more than 60 points against Florida.

Related:

How UConn got here:
All-American Shabazz Napier has put the Huskies on his back, averaging 23.3 points per game in the NCAA Tournament. That’s up from his season average of 18.1 points per game.

Related:

Key matchup: Wilbekin vs. Napier
When the two point guards first met in December, Wilbekin didn’t play the final minutes due to an ankle injury. Napier went on to score . The two shot-making guards have been their teams’ focal points all season, and now they’re facing off in a national semifinal. This could be one of the best individual matchups of the entire Tournament.

Related:

Player to watch: Florida’s Patric Young
UConn’s frontcourt doesn’t offer a ton offensively outside of DeAndre Daniels, but Phillip Nolan and Amida Brimah are two solid defenders. The Huskies allow opponents to shoot only 42.1 percent from 2-point range. Florida’s center Young won’t be outworked or outmuscled. While the backcourt battle will be key, Young will need to contribute.

Related:

Florida will win the national title if…
The Gators maintain their current level of play. Florida entered the NCAA Tournament as the No. 1 overall seed and has looked the part so far. In this one-and-done era, the Gators have a dominant senior class led by Wilbekin, Prather and Young.

Florida will lose to UConn if…
They allow the Huskies to get open looks from beyond the 3-point line like the Gators did during a 65–64 loss in Storrs on Dec. 2. Florida has won 30 consecutive games since losing to UConn on a day Kevin Ollie’s team shot 11 of 24 (45.8 percent) from downtown but only 12 of 29 (41.4 percent) from inside the arc.

UConn will win the national title if…
The Huskies continue to get championship-caliber play from Napier, who has been doing his best Kemba Walker impression during the NCAA Tournament — averaging 23.3 points, 6.0 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 2.0 steals, while shooting 25 of 27 (92.6 percent) from the free throw line, over four games to lead No. 7-seed UConn to the Final Four.

UConn will lose to Florida if…
The Huskies don’t get an outstanding performance from Napier, who scored 26 points on 9-of-15 shooting (including 5 of 8 from 3-point range) and hit the game-winning shot as time expired in the Huskies’ win over the Gators earlier this season. Much like UConn’s 2011 national title team led by Walker, this year’s Huskies rely on Napier to carry them.

Athlon editors Mitch Light and Nathan Rush contributed to this report.

Teaser:
Final Four Preview and Picks: Florida Gators vs. UConn Huskies
Post date: Saturday, April 5, 2014 - 07:00
Path: /nascar/nascar-ncaa-final-four-share-weekend-texas
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1. NASCAR shifts schedule for Final Four
Since Texas Motor Speedway added on a second NASCAR Sprint Cup Series date in 2005, a majority of its spring races have been run in the daytime. But the schedule shifted in 2011 to move the April date from Sunday afternoon to Saturday night.

For this year — and this year only, presumably — the race returns to its traditional Sunday afternoon time slot. The change was made to accommodate another event in the Dallas/Fort Worth area you may have heard about: the NCAA Final Four.

With Connecticut, Florida, Kentucky and Wisconsin all shipping teams to nearby AT&T Stadium (on a good traffic day, it’s about 30 minutes from the speedway) for the semi-final rounds on Saturday night, it made sense for NASCAR to not rival the popular event locally and nationally. A year ago, the initial games earned a TV audience estimated at 15.7 million viewers and more than 80,000 people are expected to watch them in person.

The result of the shift has produced some schedule departures from normal. The Nationwide Series race will still run Friday night at TMS, but Sprint Cup qualifying — typically a Friday event for the Saturday night race — will move to Saturday afternoon at 3:10 p.m. ET.


2. Tire durability expected to play central role
The tire package used by Goodyear didn’t produce any concern during the season’s first race on a fast 1.5-mile track at Las Vegas Motor Speedway when teams and drivers were able to push cars to the end of a fuel run before swapping rubber. That all changed two weeks ago at the 2-mile Auto Club Speedway.

A rash of tire issues caught up with the field and led to a race that had cautions so frequently that teams up front never made intentional decisions to pit during green flag conditions. The longest green flag run — 28 laps — ended just as many others did at the California track when a driver blew a tire and either crashed or deposited debris.

After the race, a small controversy erupted as teams blamed Goodyear for not appropriately preparing for the event — the tire supplier never tested NASCAR’s offseason handling changes at ACS — while Goodyear blamed aggressive setups for the woes.

Two weeks later, bygones aren’t quite bygones and concern from the garage area remains for Sunday’s race at Texas because the track’s age and condition are similar to ACS. The worn pavement grinds tires more than a newly-paved track.

Goodyear plans to bring the same left side tires as 2013 for Sunday’s race and has shifted the right side package to something similar to that raced at Atlanta last year. While Goodyear didn’t test the combination at Texas, you have to wonder if the concerns for Sunday’s race are a bit overblown if only for how Goodyear categorizes racetrack types.

Texas’ surface is the supplier uses to compare racetrack types. Group 2 includes tracks like Las Vegas, Charlotte and Chicago while California — and the tire issues — fell into a Group 3 track.

The concern? Those right-side tires Goodyear plans to use come from experience at Atlanta last fall — another Group 3 track.


3. Seven races, seven different winners?
Movie director John Sturges’ The Magnificent Seven from 1960 featured a group of American gunfighters being hired to protect the interests of a small Mexican village. It has no real bearing on Sunday’s race or how NASCAR has operated so far in 2014, but this is Texas — and this is NASCAR. Should a seventh different driver find victory lane you can bet someone will make the clichéd reference to the movie featuring Steve McQueen in a supporting role.

Magnificent or not, NASCAR is on a peculiar ride with six different winners to start the season. Should a seventh break through Sunday — and there are plenty of worthy contenders in a sport that has seen just one driver from Hendrick Motorsports and one driver from Joe Gibbs Racing win so far — it would mark the first time since 2003 that the first seven races in a season featured seven different winners.

It’s exactly the start that NASCAR could only hope for in a season that has placed more value on winning a regular season race thanks to changes in the championship process. 2003, as it turns out, was the last season to produce 16 different winners in the first 26 races — the same number of Chase spots available to regular season race winners this year.

The multiple-winner talk does have a funny element, too. Remember Las Vegas? The third race of the season nearly went to Daytona 500 winner Dale Earnhardt Jr. until he ran out fuel halfway through the final lap.

Oh the difference a few tablespoons of race fuel makes.

 

Voice of Vito:


4. When will Jimmie Johnson break the spell?
Speaking of multiple winners, answer this: If someone would have told you that NASCAR’s first six races of 2014 would go to six different drivers, would you have guessed Jimmie Johnson was one of them?

Of course you would. It’s Johnson, after all, a six-time Sprint Cup champ and general sport dominator.

Now that he’s not actually won one of the first six it’s all about figuring when he’ll break the “drought.” If Sunday’s race does figure to share conditions with those from California two weeks ago, Johnson should be in good shape. Crew chief Chad Knaus had Johnson out front in the waning stages of that race and destined for a win until he also suffered a tire issue.

Johnson, a three winner at Texas (two of the last three), enters Sunday’s race as the second-best driver in the series at Texas by average running position. He’s the best, however, late in the race. In the final 10 percent (about 34 laps) of the last 18 races at Texas, Johnson has gained an average of 2.1 spots.

If Johnson is in the top 5 past the halfway point, he’ll be a factor at the checkered flag.

 

Frontstretch Foto Funnies:


5. Texas an oval track where Marcos Ambrose can succeed
Richard Petty Motorsports driver Marco Ambrose seems like a likely addition to this year’s Chase for the Sprint Cup thanks largely to his road course racing acumen. All he needs to do is win at either Sonoma or Watkins Glen and then maintain a spot inside the top 30 of the point standings to join the Chase field.

Recent success and an infusion of resources to his RPM team, however, may make his No. 9 an unexpected winner on an oval track first.

Ambrose, now 14th in the point standings, has collected two top-5 finishes in the past three weeks at the short tracks of Martinsville and Bristol. After six races it counts as the best start of his NASCAR career.

He’ll bring a new chassis to Texas – one built as the program has received more funding than ever – and will look to rekindle some of the success in 2011 and 2012 at the track. While finishes of 11th, 20th and 32nd in three consecutive races during the period don’t illustrate much, consider that Ambrose raced nearly 96 percent of those races inside the top 15.


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Teaser:
Geoffrey Miller’s “Five Things to Watch” will help you catch up on the biggest stories of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series’ upcoming race weekend. This week, NASCAR sharing a weekend in Texas with the Final Four,’Goodyear tire questions and a possible seventh race winner highlight the major topics leading us into Sunday’s Duck Commander 500 at Texas Motor Speedway.
Post date: Friday, April 4, 2014 - 13:13
All taxonomy terms: Sergio Garcia, Golf
Path: /golf/top-30-golfers-2014-majors-no-8-sergio-garcia
Body:

They’re the cream of the major championship crop, circa 2014 — the Athlon Major Championship Dream Team. Leading up to The Masters, we'll be unveiling Athlon Sports’ 30 players to watch for majors season, with commentary on each from the ’s Brandel Chamblee.

No. 8:

Born: Jan. 9, 1980, Borriol, Castellon, Spain | Career PGA Tour Wins: 8 (10 on the European Tour) | 2013 Wins (Worldwide): 0 | 2013 Earnings (PGA Tour): $2,251,139 (26th) World Ranking: 8

Brandel Chamblee's Take

Sergio Garcia's presence on leaderboards has been as unpredictable as the bounce of a football, but in recent years, the source of most of his anguish — poor putting — has been eradicated, and he is now one of the best in the world on the greens. Subsequently, as evidenced by his bounce back stat of 4th in 2013, he is more resilient, and a more resilient Sergio is a threat to win anywhere. He has come agonizingly close in the game’s biggest events, with 18 career top tens in the majors, and this year’s venues — most notably at Pinehurst for the U.S. Open and Hoylake at The Open Championship, where he finished third in 2005 and played in the final group with Tiger in 2006 — set up well for him. A major win, finally, for Sergio in 2014 would not surprise me.

Major Championship Résumé
Starts: 61
Wins: 0

2013 Performance:
Masters - T8
U.S. Open - T45
British Open - T21
PGA Championship - T61

Best Career Finishes: 
Masters - T4 (2004)
U.S. Open - T3 (2005)
British Open - 2 (2007)
PGA Championship - 2/T2 (1999, 2008)
Top-10 Finishes: 18
Top-25 Finishes: 27
Missed Cuts: 17

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

 

Athlon's 2014 Golf annual provides in-depth previews of this year's four majors, including the top 30 players to watch this season. One of these elite players, Dustin Johnson, also takes you tee to green with full-swing instruction and short game essentials. .

Teaser:
Post date: Friday, April 4, 2014 - 12:09
All taxonomy terms: College Football
Path: /college-football/pick-athlons-2014-alabama-college-football-preview-magazine-cover
Body:
For the first time ever, Athlon Sports is letting fans choose the Alabama cover of our 2014 SEC College Football Preview magazine.
 
Fans can vote once a day through April 22, with the winning cover hitting newsstands at the end of May.
 
Teaser:
Pick Athlon's 2014 Alabama College Football Preview magazine cover.
Post date: Friday, April 4, 2014 - 11:21
All taxonomy terms: Essential 11, Overtime
Path: /overtime/athlons-essential-11-links-day-april-4-2014
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This is your daily link roundup of our favorite sports and entertainment posts on the web for April 4.

• So "Game of Thrones" is starting back up. I don't watch it, but after seeing , I'm considering it.

. They gathered for a postgame meal in the party room at the local Denny's.

• Cardinal Mike Adams battled a Reds fan for a foul ball, and lost. .

. Jeets was having none of it. Good on ya, Captain.

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• Russell Westbrook threw down a filthy reverse slam.

 

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

Teaser:
Post date: Friday, April 4, 2014 - 11:20
Path: /college-football/kansas-state-wildcats-2014-spring-football-preview
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No one really knows how Bill Snyder does it but he continues to churn out bowl appearances and 1,000-yard rushers the way (some) other teams in the Big 12 only dream about.

After a slow start to the 2013 season that included four losses in the first six weeks, Snyder’s bunch turned the year around and won six of their last seven. The surge was capped by a convincing bowl win over Michigan and it gave Snyder a third straight season with at least eight wins.

And no other team can replace six defensive starters like Kansas State. The Wildcats have to replace Ty Zimmerman, Blake Slaughter, both cornerbacks and two defensive linemen on defense. Meanwhile, the offense returns six starters but the offensive line and backfield need to be reworked this spring.

But fans in Manhattan aren’t likely worried, as Snyder will have a plan in place to overachieve once again in ’14. Settling his backfield, filling holes along the O-line and replacing leadership on defense this spring would go a long way to setting the table for another excellent season of pigskin in The Little Apple.

2014 Schedule
DateOpponent
Aug. 30Stephen F. Austin
Sept. 6at 
Sept. 13Bye Week
Sept. 18
Sept. 27
Oct. 4
Oct. 11Bye Week
Oct. 18at 
Oct. 25
Nov. 1
Nov. 8at 
Nov. 15Bye Week
Nov. 20at 
Nov. 29
Dec. 6at 

Kansas State Wildcats 2014 Spring Preview

2013 Record: 8-5 (5-4 Big 12)

Spring Practice Opens: April 2

Spring Game: April 26

Returning Starters

Offense: 6

Defense: 5

Three Things to Watch in Kansas State's 2014 Spring Practice

Organize the backfield
Daniel Sams played in all 13 games a year ago at quarterback, rushing for over 800 yards and completing 71.7 percent of his passes. Yet, he saw his snaps decrease as the season went along — nine carries and one pass attempt in the final three games — and Snyder is toying with playing Sams at either running back or wide receiver. The main reason behind the move is the emergence of Jake Waters at quarterback. Additionally, John Hubert (1,048 yards, 10 TDs) has to be replaced as the primary ball carrier as well. This may open the gate for Sams to get snaps all over the offense. As far as true running backs go, Demarcus Robinson is the first name who will get a chance to replace the three-year starter at tailback with guys like Jarvis Leverett stepping into bigger roles. It is important for Snyder to organize his backfield this spring.

Rebuild the O-Line
Left tackle Cornelius Lucas and right tackle Tavon Brooks both earned Honorable Mention All-Big 12 recognition a year ago. Both also have moved on from the KSU program. Right guard Keenan Taylor started nine games and is gone too. Plugging these three holes will be imperative if the Wildcats want to compete for a Big 12 championship this fall. B.J. Finney returns to the pivot as one of the best centers in the nation while Cody Whitehair, an All-Big 12 pick himself, is back at guard. Snyder will need to develop some bodies after those two in a hurry this spring. Boston Stiverson, Aderius Epps, Drew Liddle and Kason Hostrup should all scrap and claw for starting snaps over the next few months.

Fill holes in the back seven on defense
Even though Alauna Finau and Chaquil Reed departed the defensive line, the Cats could boast one of the top D-lines in the Big 12 in ’14, thanks to Ryan Mueller and Travis Britz. But plugging the gaps left by both starting cornerbacks (Kip Daily, Dorrian Roberts), a defensive stalwart in Zimmerman at safety and All-Big 12 pick in linebacker Blake Slaughter will be critical this spring. Randall Evans got loads of starting experience at nickel back a year ago and should slide nicely into a starting spot on the outside. Safety Dante Barnett and linebacker Jonathan Truman, who combined for 164 tackles a year ago, will be asked to take over leadership roles as well. After those three, the rest of the back seven needs to be developed and organized. Dylan Schellenberg, Weston Hiebert, Morgan Burns and Travis Green will compete for time in the secondary while Colborn Couchman, Dakorey Johnson, Mike Moore, Will Davis and Charmeachealle Moore will attempt to earn a starting spot at linebacker. Snyder always figures out a way to replace key departures on the defensive side of the ball but he has his work cut out for himself this spring.

2014 Early Projected Win Range: 8-10

The Wildcats are always impossible to pinpoint in the offseason as well as the preseason. It’s a team that constantly figures out a way to replace key starters seamlessly and deftly. The 2014 season won’t be any different either, as KSU has big holes to fill on both sides of the ball but is still viewed as a Big 12 title contender. The schedule isn’t easy — with visits from Auburn, Texas Tech, Texas and Oklahoma State before Nov. 2 — and road trips to TCU, West Virginia and Baylor in the final four games. But KSU gets three off weekends and each is perfectly spaced out, giving the Cats only one stretch of four straight games in ’14. This team is fully capable of competing for another Big 12 title but will need to iron out some kinks this spring before it can be considered the frontrunner.

Teaser:
Kansas State Wildcats 2014 Spring Football Preview
Post date: Friday, April 4, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/all-big-12-team-bcs-era
Body:

All-conference teams are a great indicator as to who is the best in each league. Earning first-team honors more than once is a pretty good sign that you were one of the best at your position during your career. The rare three-time (or even four-time) all-league selection makes you one of the best college football players of all-time.

As the College Football Playoff Era begins in 2014, Athlon Sports is looking back on the last 16 years of action — aka, The BCS Era. Here is the All-BCS Era All-Big-12 team. The only stipulation (unlike other folks who have done this exercise) is that you must have played at least one season from 1998-13 in the Big 12.

First-Team Offense:

QB: Vince Young, Texas (2003-05)
Young earned Rose Bowl MVP honors following his ridiculous performance against Michigan to finish his sophomore season. It was a sign of things to come as he was named Big 12 Player of the Year in 2005. He was a consensus All-American, led the Big 12 in passing efficiency, won the Davey O'Brien, Manning and Maxwell Awards while finishing second on the Heisman ballot. His smooth running skills led to an all-time Big 12 career record 6.8 yards per carry. And no one will ever forget his second Rose Bowl MVP performance against USC in the greatest game of the BCS Era, returning the national championship to Austin. Second-Team: Robert Griffin III, Baylor

RB: Adrian Peterson, Oklahoma (2004-06)
The BCS version of Herschel Walker or Bo Jackson was the three-year star from Palestine (Texas) High. A three-time, first-team All-Big 12 runner, Peterson finished No. 2 in the Heisman Trophy voting as a true freshman in 2004. His 1,925 yards were an NCAA record for a true freshman and it earned him unanimous All-American honors. Despite missing chunks of time with injuries in each of his next two seasons, “All Day” Peterson still topped 1,000 yards and 12 touchdowns. His natural blend of power, speed, size and balance has never been duplicated during the BCS Era. He is the Sooners' No. 3 all-time leading rusher. Second-Team: Darren Sproles, Kansas State

RB: Ricky Williams, Texas (1995-98)
The power back from San Diego had a two-year run as an upperclassman that may never be matched, as he posted back-to-back seasons with at least 1,800 yards and 25 rushing touchdowns. Williams was a two-time consensus All-American, a two-time Doak Walker Award winner, a two-time Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year and claimed the Maxwell Award, Walter Camp Award and Heisman Trophy as a senior. He left school as the NCAA’s all-time leading rusher (since broken) and he is one of four players to ever score at least 70 rushing touchdowns. Second-Team: Cedric Benson, Texas

WR: Michael Crabtree, Texas Tech (2007-08)
No player has been as productive in just two seasons as the Dallas native. As a redshirt freshman, Crabtree set NCAA records for receptions (134), yards (1,962) and touchdowns (22) and won the Biletnikoff Award as the nation’s top wideout. He also won Big 12 Newcomer and Offensive Player of the Year honors and still owns the single-season league record for receptions and yards, which he set as just a freshman. He became the first player in NCAA history to win a second Biletnikoff Award when he caught 97 passes for 1,165 yards and 19 touchdowns for the 11-2 Red Raiders the next year. He finished fifth in the Heisman balloting in ’08 — one of just four wide receivers to finish in the top five during the BCS Era. Second-Team: Ryan Broyles, Oklahoma

WR: Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State (2009-11)
He posted back-to-back seasons with at least 1,500 yards and 18 touchdowns, earning consensus All-American honors twice. The Ardmore (Okla.) Plainview product also became just the second player in NCAA history to claim two Biletnikoff Awards. Blackmon won Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year honors in 2010 and capped his illustrious career with a Big 12 championship and Fiesta Bowl MVP performance against Stanford. He is one of just four wide receivers to finish in the top five for the Heisman Trophy (5th, 2010) during the BCS Era. Second-Team: Tavon Austin, West Virginia

TE: Chase Coffman, Missouri (2005-08)
It didn’t take long for Tigers fans to see what they had in Coffman as he earned first-team Freshman All-American honors in 2005. He then broke Mizzou tight end receiving records with 58 receptions, 638 yards and nine touchdowns as just a sophomore. After two straight All-Big 12 seasons, Coffman claimed the John Mackey Award as a senior as the nation’s top tight end after posting 90 receptions, 987 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2008. Missouri went 22-6 over his final two seasons in what many believe to be the best two-year run in program history. Second-Team: Jermaine Gresham, Oklahoma

T: Jammal Brown, Oklahoma (2001-04)
Starting his career as a defensive tackle, Brown exploded onto the national scene as a blocker as a sophomore. He helped lead the Sooners to the BCS National Championship Game twice and was recognized as the nation’s top offensive lineman in 2004 when he was awarded the Outland Trophy. The consensus All-American paved the way for Adrian Peterson’s NCAA record-setting freshman season. Brown was the 13th overall pick by the Saints in the 2005 NFL Draft and also was awarded the Jim Parker Trophy as the nation’s top offensive lineman before he left college. Second-Team: Russell Okung, Oklahoma State

T: Justin Blalock, Texas (2003-06)
The star blocker for the Horns helped return Texas to the promised land by paving the way for Vince Young on the 2005 BCS title team. He was an absurd four-time, first-team All-Big 12 selection and earned Big 12 Lineman of the Year honors in 2006 as a senior. He was a consensus All-American that year and was a second-round pick of the Falcons in 2007. He led the way for some of the greatest offenses in Texas and Big 12 history. Second-Team: Trent Williams, Oklahoma

G: Cyril Richardson, Baylor (2010-13)
Few players have meant as much to their school’s success as Richardson has to Baylor. He led the charge on the first Big 12 championship team in school history as well as the program’s first BCS bowl appearance. He was named a two-time (2012, '13) recipient of the Big 12 Offensive Lineman of the Year award and also was a consensus All-American and given the Jim Parker Trophy as the nation’s top offensive lineman his senior season. Baylor went 36-16 during his four-year career and he never experienced a losing record while in Waco. Second-Team: Toniu Fonoti, Nebraska

G: Duke Robinson, Oklahoma (2005-08)
The guard from Atlanta was one of Bob Stoops' greatest players. He was a two-time consensus All-American in 2007 and '08 and helped lead Oklahoma to the BCS title game against Florida as a senior. Robinson was an Outland Trophy finalist that year and was a fifth-round draft pick in the 2009 NFL Draft. Oklahoma went 34-8 during Robinson’s final three seasons, including three straight Big 12 championships. Second-Team: Louis Vasquez, Texas Tech

C: Dominic Raiola, Nebraska (1998-2000)
At a school known for its big uglies, Raiola is the Huskers’ best of the BCS Era. He was the first freshman O-lineman to start since 1991 when he took the field in '98. The following two seasons he set school records for knockdowns. As a junior, Raiola was the Rimington Trophy winner as the nation’s top center, was an Outland Finalist and earned consensus All-American honors before leaving school early for the NFL. The Huskers were 31-7 during his three seasons and won their last conference championship with Raiola leading the way in ‘99. Second-Team: Gabe Ikard, Oklahoma

First-Team Defense:

DE: Brian Orakpo, Texas (2005-08)
The trophy case for the former Longhorn defensive end is packed with a Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year one, as well as a Nagurski, Lombardi, and Hendricks. He was an All-American who played in 47 career games in Austin, posting 132 tackles, 38.0 tackles for a loss, 22.0 sacks and six forced fumbles in his tenure. He was a contributing member in all 13 games of the 2005 BCS national championship run and was taken 13th overall in the 2009 NFL Draft. Second-Team: Jeremy Beal, Oklahoma

DE: Justin Smith, Missouri (1998-2000)
The Mizzou standout has developed into one of the NFL’s most consistent and productive players for two teams. He left Columbia after a huge junior season that featured 97 total tackles, 24 tackles for a loss — good for eighth all-time in Big 12 history — and 11 sacks. He was an All-American that year and also was a two-time All-Big 12 selection. His 53 career tackles for a loss in just three seasons ranks seventh all-time in league history as well. He was the fourth overall pick in the 2001 NFL Draft by the Bengals. Second-Team: Dan Cody, Oklahoma

DT: Ndamukong Suh, Nebraska (2005-09)
The star defensive tackle from Portland, Ore., won the 2009 Outland and Nagurski Trophies as well as the Lombardi, Bednarik and Willis Awards. He was the first defensive player to win AP Player of the Year honors since its inception in 1998 and finished fourth in the Heisman Trophy voting in ’09. That year Suh claimed the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year award and he came just seconds shy of leading the Huskers to their first conference championship since 1999. He finished his career with 215 tackles, 57.0 for a loss, 24.0 sacks and six blocked kicks. Second-Team: Casey Hampton, Texas

DT: Tommie Harris, Oklahoma (2001-03)
Harris was a dominant interior lineman for three of the better Sooners teams of the BCS Era. He helped lead his team to the BCS championship game in 2003 while claiming the Lombardi and Willis Trophies. He was a two-time consensus All-American selection as the Sooners went 35-6 during his three-year tenure. Oklahoma won the Cotton and Rose Bowls before losing in the Sugar Bowl in his final season. Harris was downright unblockable in Norman and was the 14th overall pick in the 2004 NFL Draft. Second-Team: Gerald McCoy, Oklahoma

LB: Derrick Johnson, Texas (2002-04)
He finished his career with 458 tackles, 65.0 tackles for a loss, 10.5 sacks, nine interceptions and 11 forced fumbles. Johnson was a three-time All-Big 12 selection and a two-time All-American. He capped his career with the Butkus, Lambert and Nagurski national awards as well as Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year honors before being taken 15th overall by the Chiefs in the 2005 NFL Draft. He helped build a team that went on to win the national title the year after he departed and was a part of a Cotton and Rose Bowl championship teams. Second-Team: Teddy Lehman, Oklahoma

LB: Rocky Calmus, Oklahoma (1998-2001)
A three-time, first-team All-Big 12 selection and a two-time All-American, Calmus is one of the most important Sooners of all-time. As a senior in 2001 he won the Butkus and Lambert Awards for the nation's top linebacker, but his play in '00 will go down in Oklahoma history. He led the vaunted Sooners defense to a perfect record and spearheaded arguably the greatest defensive performance of the BCS Era by holding Florida State to zero offensive points in the BCS National Championship Game. Calmus was a third-round pick in the 2002 NFL Draft. Second-Team: Von Miller, Texas A&M

LB: Dat Nguyen, Texas A&M (1995-98)
Arguably the most decorated Texas A&M defender, Nguyen was a three-time, first-team All-Big 12 selection and his 517 career tackles are an Aggies record. His career in College Station culminated in 1998 with a historic and adorned senior season. Nguyen was named the Bednarik, Lombardi and Lambert trophy winner and earned Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year honors as well. He led Texas A&M to the only Big 12 championship it would ever win that year as well — its last conference crown of any kind. Second-Team: Mark Simoneau, Kansas State

CB: Terence Newman, Kansas State (1999-2002)
Newman did a little bit of everything for Bill Snyder and Kansas State. He returned kicks and punts and even played some wide receiver. The lockdown cornerback was a two-time All-Big 12 pick, a unanimous All-American, the Jim Thorpe Award winner as the nation’s top DB and a first-round pick by the Cowboys in 2003. The 2002 Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year also was a two-time Big 12 outdoor track champion in the 100 meters and the league champ in the indoor 60 meters. Second-Team: Aaron Ross, Texas

CB: Derrick Strait, Oklahoma (2000-03)
As the Big 12 Defensive Newcomer of the Year, Strait helped lead an undefeated (13-0) Sooners team to the BCS National Championship as a freshman. By his senior season, Strait had led Oklahoma back to the BCS national title game and was recognized nationally with the Thorpe and Nagurski Trophies. Strait also was the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year in 2003 and finished his career with 14 interceptions returned for a Big 12-record 417 yards and three touchdowns. Strait was selected in the third round of the 2004 NFL Draft. Second-Team: Aqib Talib, Kansas

S: Roy Williams, Oklahoma (1999-2001)
He helped lead the Sooners to an unbeaten BCS National Championship in 2000 while setting the school record for tackles for a loss by a defensive back (12.0). The following year, he claimed the Thorpe Award as the nation’s top defensive back as well as the Nagurski and Jack Tatum Trophies and Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year honors. He was a unanimous All-American, first-round pick of the Cowboys in 2002 and will go down in Red River Shootout lore for . Second-Team: Earl Thomas, Texas

S: Michael Huff, Texas (2002-05)
The superstar safety from Texas was a Freshman All-American in 2002 before earning back-to-back first-team All-Big 12 honors as a junior and senior. Huff was a unanimous All-American on the 2005 BCS national championship team and was named the Jim Thorpe Award winner as the nation’s top defensive back. He posted 87 tackles, 9.0 for a loss, two sacks, two interceptions and three forced fumbles on the historic ’05 squad. Second-Team: Mike Brown, Nebraska

Teaser:
The All-Big-12 Team of the BCS Era
Post date: Friday, April 4, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /college-basketball/scouting-final-four-opposing-coaches-break-down-championship-weekend
Body:

Coaches in the Final Four by now have completed the scouting process and are starting to implement the game plans they hope will lead to a national championship. If you’re wondering what the coaches are seeing, Athlon Sports hopes to offer some insight. We spoke to coaches who compiled scouting reports for teams that faced the Final Four teams either during the NCAA Tournament or during the season. In exchange for more candor, we quoted the coaches anonymously.

| | |
 

On Florida

"They’re good defensively at every position. They can get you sped up with their press. They can make it difficult in the halfcourt. And they can throw a zone out there every now and then. They’re a team that can keep you off balance. They just don’t have a weak link. They don’t have rim protection like a (Willie) Cauley-Stein at Kentucky, but they’re a good position defense with multiple looks. If you get a beat on something, they’re going to switch to a couple of different presses and speed up the game or slow down the game depending how they want to do it.

"Scottie Wilbekin has become such a threat offensively to get his own shot. He’s hit some daggers at the end of halves and end of games. In this Tournament, it’s about shot-making. It’s not about plays. It’s not about the offense. Guys are making shots. He’s been making shots for them all season long down the stretch. He can get his own shot and he can do two things: He can get his own shot and get to the rim or he can get his own shot and make a 3. That’s pretty hard to guard. If you back off and try to get take away a drive he’ll hit you with a dagger 3, if you get too close, he’s going to drive right by you. And generally he’s making the right decisions. He’s athletic and strong enough where he can take a hit. That’s what makes him so dangerous. Michael Frazier II depends on offensive rebounding and a kick out, a Wilbekin drive and pitch. He’s more dependent. He’s a terrific shooter, but that’s how he gets his.

"Patric Young is an oak tree. He’s gotten so much better offensively. He can jump hook to both shoulders. He used to be a guy who could only score on penetration and dropoffs or an offensive rebound. Now he has some back to the basket game. You’ve got to decide: is he worth the double team? He gives them an inside threat. He can get you baskets inside, which he couldn’t do all the time last year. He’s always been strong and physical, but he was almost an afterthought last year.

"Prather is a 15-foot-and-in guy and a driver. He can make some close in jump shots. He has an active, live body. But we just backed off him and put a long guy on him. The only thing he was going to do was drive. He’s a terrific layup-maker and he's athletic. The way to play him is to force him into jump shooting. You’ve got to get him in transition. If you give him some space, you’ll be in better shape. I think that’s what happened late in the year. He’s a guardable guy.

"I don’t know if they have a weakness. They’re great on the bench. They have enough bodies. Maybe they don’t score enough, but I don’t know if that’s a weakness. They don’t beat themselves. All the teams that are there don’t beat themselves. They’re not spectacular. They’re just solid."

 

On UConn

"Shabazz Napier is a rare guy who has three parts to his game. A lot of kids can shoot the 3 and they can get it to the basket, but they don’t have a pull-up (jumper). Some kids have a pull-up but can’t get to the basket. He can do all three. He has unlimited range from 3. He has a great pull-up game when he can get by you and he can finish around the rim. Really, he has a fourth part because if he can get to the rim and get everyone to collapse on him, he can find the open guy. He’s a nightmare to guard. He doesn’t have to have a screen. He can get himself a shot. He’s a nightmare because unless you have quick bigs and can switch on him, he’s going to get some space off he ball screen.

"He’s a better outside shooter than Kemba Walker. If Napier took all open shots from 3, he’d be in the 40 percent-plus range (ed. note: he’s at 39.9 percent now). They’re similar in quickness, similar in leadership. I think he’s a better player than Kemba. He’s a more talented guy, but he’s not as disciplined as Kemba was in his senior year. Kemba didn’t take a lot of bad shots. At times, Shabazz’s downfall is that he’ll give into taking some guarded shots. He hasn’t done that in the Tournament as much, but during the year, he’d do that. You could bait him into take some bad shots. Kemba was a little more disciplined from that standpoint. As a pure talent, Shabazz is a little more talented.

"Ryan Boatright and DeAndre Daniels are probably neck and neck (as the next-most dangerous after Napier). They have three legit guys who can score on you. None of them need a screen necessarily, they just need some space. Daniels can shoot it so well from 3, that allows him to be an effective driver. If you’re in help defense and you’re recovering to him, he has an advantage on you. And he’s tall. Guards have to crowd him or he’ll shoot it over top of you and make it. Even a guard who crowds him, he has enough quickness to make a play. Boatright is maybe quicker than Shabazz. He’s not as good a player, but he’s just as quick if not quicker than Shabazz. He’s not always the most disciplined, but when he and Shabazz are disciplined about their shot selection, boy, they’re hard to guard.

"Kevin Ollie made a switch midseason on defense. Early in the year, they were a steal the ball from you and get you spread out kind of defense. They’ve become a help-side oriented defense. They’re more of a pack-line defense than they were earlier in the year. They’ll shoot a passing lane to get the ball. Shabazz and Boatright are dangerous when you have the ball. You’d better pay attention or they’ll take it from you. But they’re much better on the pick and roll now. They were much more spread out before. They have enough big guys they can throw at you even if they aren’t great offensive players. The unsung guy is the German guy (Niels Giffey). He’s a sound, fundamental defender, and he’s going to make every open shot."

 

On Wisconsin

"They’re always incredibly well-coached and play terrific defense. This team does, too. They go eight deep with guys who can score. They push the ball and they have guys that run to the 3-point line to make shots in transition.

"What makes them so dangerous is that they’re tough to guard at all five positions. If you can help off anybody, it would be Traevon Jackson, but even then you’re taking a chance.

"They’re all good. They’re all smart. And they all know what they can and can’t do, and they don’t do anything outside of that. Ben Brust is a big-time shooter, but he can also put the ball on the floor and get to the paint. Same with Josh Gasser. Sam Dekker is probably the most dynamic in that he’s tall and athletic and can stretch you out. They were all individually scary matchups.

"Frank Kaminksy is the most different from what we faced all year. In our league there are centers who can shoot the ball very well, but if you stop them from shooting, they can’t create off the bounce. That was the most difficult thing about Kaminsky. He can look at a shot, and if you guard him he’s able to put the ball on the deck and take three or four dribbles and even to get to the rim. We everything we could to stop him from getting 3-pointers, but once you’re on him, you have to dig in and keep your body in front of him. For centers defending him, that’s not something they’re used to doing where he can shoot and then take three or four dribbles. A lot of times he’s turning drives into post moves or he’ll take a dribble or two and put his back to the basket and turn it into post moves. He’s very versatile, and it’s not just that he can pop and shoot. He can pop and drive. He can make plays from everywhere on the court.

"They have an understanding of who they are and they’re all fine with it. They put five really good players on the court who can do a lot of things well. They’re in that swing offense, which is a motion offense where they’re just making reads, and they’re good enough to know how to see the court and where to take advantage. They have the ability to take advantage of each opportunity when it arises."

 

On Kentucky

"They’re a different team from early in the year for two reasons. They’ve grown up and they trust each other more. In the middle of the year, they could go 15 minutes and just look horrible, look like an AAU team. Individual play, lazy passes, poor decisions, lobs that made no sense, they didn’t guard. For 15 minutes or more, they’d look horrible. Now, that has evaporated. They don’t have those stretches where they lose because of a four- or five-minute stretch where they’re poor.

"I felt sometimes Kentucky had some of their guys had one eye on the bench. I think John Calipari has settled down and let them play through their mistakes a little bit, not all of them, but some of them. They can play through their mistakes without getting yanked or screamed at.

"Calipari has settled down. ... They can play through their mistakes without getting yanked or screamed at."
"The biggest thing is how unbelievable they are on the offensive backboards. The time we played them, they were getting 40 percent of their misses. Michigan struggled to keep them off the boards. Our No. 1 focus as a team was to box out and keep them off the boards. And then No. 2 for us was defending without fouling. I’ve never seen anybody draw more fouls by just bowling into people than Andrew Harrison. He’s got unbelievable ability. He just puts his head down and runs into you and gets to the line. It’s almost like he seeks the contact more than he tries to finish the play.

"For us, Julius Randle in the post was a major concern. We did a really good job against him. We tried to crowd him as much as he could. At the time, they weren’t a great 3-point shooting team. I’m guess they’re a little better in the NCAA Tournament. We weren’t really afraid to come off anybody other than James Young to crowd Julius Randle, so we tried to do that every time he caught it.

"Past that, they’re not a great transition team, but still pretty solid. We talked a lot to our guys about getting back in transition and just being physical. They’re young, but they have a lot of physical guys. At the time we played them, they weren’t doing a great job of getting back on defense. We tried to push the pace against them.

"We talked about Willie Cauley-Stein inside and how good a shot blocker he is. He had a pretty good game against us. They overcame his absence against Michigan. If he doesn’t play, that’s a loss for them defensively.

"Against us, they switched a lot of screens, a lot of ball screens. The thing with Kentucky and they way they play, you just pack the lane and make them beat you with 3s."

Teaser:
Scouting the Final Four: Opposing Coaches Break Down the Championship Weekend
Post date: Friday, April 4, 2014 - 07:00
All taxonomy terms: Dustin Johnson, Golf
Path: /golf/top-30-golfers-2014-majors-no-9-dustin-johnson
Body:

They’re the cream of the major championship crop, circa 2014 — the Athlon Major Championship Dream Team. Leading up to The Masters, we'll be unveiling Athlon Sports’ 30 players to watch for majors season, with commentary on each from the ’s Brandel Chamblee.

No. 9:

Born: June 22, 1984, Columbia, S.C. | Career PGA Tour Wins: 8 | 2013 Wins (Worldwide): 1 | 2013 Earnings (PGA Tour): $2,963,214 (19th) World Ranking: 10

Brandel Chamblee's Take

Dustin Johnson has won eight times on the PGA tour before the age of 30 and in addition could've easily won two or three major championships. So obscene is his talent, he could easily end up in the Hall of Fame, but he is not higher on this list because he has historically underperformed his talent level, for a variety of reasons. Now that the game seems to have his full attention, he has ours.

Major Championship Résumé
Starts: 20
Wins: 0

2013 Performance:
Masters - T13
U.S. Open - 55
British Open - T32
PGA Championship - T8

Best Career Finishes: 
Masters - T13 (2013)
U.S. Open - T8 (2010)
British Open - T2 (2011)
PGA Championship - T5 (2010)
Top-10 Finishes: 6
Top-25 Finishes: 9
Missed Cuts: 3

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

 

Athlon's 2014 Golf annual provides in-depth previews of this year's four majors, including the top 30 players to watch this season. One of these elite players, Dustin Johnson, also takes you tee to green with full-swing instruction and short game essentials. .

Teaser:
Post date: Thursday, April 3, 2014 - 11:46
All taxonomy terms: College Football
Path: /college-football/pick-athlons-2014-lsu-college-football-preview-magazine-cover
Body:
For the first time ever, Athlon Sports is letting fans choose the LSU Tigers cover of our 2014 SEC College Football Preview magazine.
 
Fans can vote once a day through April 22, with the winning cover hitting newsstands at the end of May.
 
 
Teaser:
Pick Athlon's 2014 LSU College Football Preview magazine cover.
Post date: Thursday, April 3, 2014 - 11:30
All taxonomy terms: Essential 11, Overtime
Path: /overtime/athlons-essential-11-links-day-april-3-2014
Body:

This is your daily link roundup of our favorite sports and entertainment posts on the web for April 3.

. Purists will no doubt be outraged, but I say, why not?

• He hasn't been on the Auburn campus much more than a week, and .

• To assess players, .

.

I think it was a compliment. If you click, you'll notice in the photo that Deion now looks like a lovable sitcom grandpa.

, even if his mom is Pat Summitt.

• If you have a strong stomach, and you've already digested your breakfast, .

• Bartolo Colon's ill-fated trips to the plate have paid off in other ways. .

.

. And the Celtics didn't seem to notice.

.

• Nolan Ryan's ceremonial first pitch was a flashback to the days when he never quite knew where the ball was going. Just without the velocity.

 

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

Teaser:
Post date: Thursday, April 3, 2014 - 10:58
Path: /college-football/all-big-ten-team-bcs-era
Body:

All-conference teams are a great indicator as to who is the best in each league. Earning first-team honors more than once is a pretty good sign that you were one of the best at your position during your career. The rare three-time (or even four-time) all-league selection makes you one of the best college football players of all-time.

As the College Football Playoff Era begins in 2014, Athlon Sports is looking back on the last 16 years of action — aka, The BCS Era. Here is the All-BCS Era All-Big Ten team. The only stipulation (unlike other folks who have done this exercise) is that you must have played at least one season from 1998-13 in the Big Ten.

First-Team Offense:

QB: Drew Brees, Purdue (1997-2000)
The two-time Big Ten Player of the Year led Purdue back to the Rose Bowl and finished among the top four in Heisman voting twice (1999, 2000). He is the Big Ten's all-time leader in completions, passing yards, passing touchdowns, total offense (12,692) and total touchdowns (104). Second Team: Russell Wilson, Wisconsin

RB: Ron Dayne, Wisconsin (1996-99)
Dayne is the only player in history with 7,000 yards rushing and is one of four players to score at least 70 rushing touchdowns. He carried the ball more than any player in NCAA history (1,220) and he owns multiple BCS bowl rushing records with his two Rose Bowl MVP performances. He capped his illustrious career with a magical 2,000-yard Heisman Trophy and Big Ten championship season. Second Team: Larry Johnson, Penn State

RB: Montee Ball, Wisconsin (2009-12)
Few have been as successful and productive as Ball. No player in the history of the sport has scored as many touchdowns (77 rushing, 83 total) as the Missouri native. He also finished fourth in the Heisman balloting as a junior and won the Doak Walker Award as a senior while leading the Badgers to three straight Big Ten championships. The two-time consensus All-American’s 39 touchdowns in 2011 tied Barry Sanders for the all-time single-season record. Second Team: Anthony Thomas, Michigan

WR: Braylon Edwards, Michigan (2001-04)
Not many players have three consecutive seasons with at least 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns but that is what the Detroit native did at Michigan. He was uncoverable during his time at Ann Arbor, setting school records in every major receiving category. His 39 career touchdowns remain a Big Ten record. Edwards claimed Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year honors and the Biletnikoff Award as a senior in 2004. Second Team: Lee Evans, Wisconsin

WR: Charles Rogers, Michigan State (2001-02)
The in-state product from Saginaw played just two seasons for the Spartans but was an All-Big Ten performer both years. He posted back-to-back seasons with at least 1,200 yards and 12 touchdowns, earning consensus All-American and Biletnikoff honors in 2002. He set an NCAA record with 13 straight games with a TD catch (since broken) and owns just about every Michigan State receiving record. Second Team: David Boston, Ohio State

TE: Dallas Clark, Iowa (2000-02)
The walk-on began his career as a linebacker but quickly developed into a star at tight end. He earned All-Big Ten recognition as a sophomore and then became the nation’s top tight end as a junior in 2002. The John Mackey Award winner caught 43 passes for 742 yards and four touchdowns while helping Iowa (11-2) to a Big Ten co-championship and Orange Bowl berth. Second Team: Travis Beckum, Wisconsin

T: Joe Thomas, Wisconsin (2004-06)
One of the few big-time recruits from the state of Wisconsin, Thomas was a two-time All-American and Outland Trophy winner for a team that went 31-7 during his three seasons as the starting left tackle. He has rare foot speed, agility and overall athletic ability — and it’s why he has been to the Pro Bowl in all seven of his NFL seasons. Second Team: Gabe Carimi, Wisconsin

T: Jake Long, Michigan (2004-07)
The No. 1 overall pick in the 2007 NFL Draft by the Miami Dolphins was a two-time All-American and Outland Trophy finalist. He was a Freshman All-American in his first year and was named Big Ten Lineman of the Year twice (junior and senior seasons) — one of just two players to accomplish this feat during the BCS Era. Second Team: Chris McIntosh, Wisconsin

G: Steve Hutchinson, Michigan (1997-2000)
Starting for four seasons for the Wolverines, Hutchinson helped the Maize and Blue win the 1997 national championship. He capped his career with consensus All-American honors, was an Outland Trophy finalist and didn’t allow a sack in his final two seasons at Michigan. Second Team: David Baas, Michigan

G: Eric Steinbach, Iowa (1999-2002)
In a league dominated by tackles, Steinbach was one of the top interior blockers. He was a two-time All-Big Ten pick, a consensus All-American and the Big Ten Offensive Lineman of the Year in 2002 — the same year he led Iowa to its first BCS Bowl bid. He was a second-round pick in the 2003 NFL Draft. Second Team: John Moffit, Wisconsin

C: Greg Eslinger, Minnesota (2002-05)
Not many centers have an Outland Trophy on their mantle at home but Eslinger does. He was a freshman All-American in 2002, a third-team All-American as a sophomore, a first-teamer in '04 and earned consensus All-American honors as a senior. He won the Rimington Trophy as the nation’s top center and earned Big Ten Lineman of the Year honors in ’05. Minnesota never had a losing record during his four-year career. Second Team: LeCharles Bentley, Ohio State

First-Team Defense:

DE: LaMarr Woodley, Michigan (2003-06)
The Wolverines' terror off of the edge posted 12 sacks as a senior en route to the Lombardi and Hendricks Awards as the nation’s best lineman and defensive end respectively. He was a unanimous All-American and his 10 career forced fumbles are seventh all-time in Big Ten history and he earned Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year honors in '06. Second Team: J.J. Watt, Wisconsin

DE: Tamba Hali, Penn State (2002-05)
A unanimous All-American and Big Ten Defensive Lineman of the Year, Hali pushed Penn State to its last Big Ten championship as well as a win in the Orange Bowl following the 2005 season. He led the Big Ten with 17.0 tackles for a loss and 11 sacks and added 65 total tackles for a team that lost just once (in the final second) all season. Second Team: Ryan Kerrigan, Purdue

DT: Devon Still, Penn State (2009-11)
Still became one of just two defensive tackles to ever win Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year honors when he dominated the league in 2011. He posted 55 tackles, 17.0 for a loss and 4.5 sacks during his junior season, earning consensus All-American honors in the process. Still was a finalist for the Outland and Bednarik awards and became a second-round pick of the Cincinnati Bengals in the 2012 NFL Draft. Second Team: Jared Odrick, Penn State

DT: Michael Haynes, Penn State (1999-2002)
Haynes was named the 2002 Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year after posting 15 sacks and seven forced fumbles as a senior. Those numbers were good for ninth and third all-time in league history. He was an All-American and taken in the first round by the Chicago Bears. Second Team: Jerel Worthy, Michigan State

LB: LaVar Arrington, Penn State (1997-99)
Arrington was an elite leader who helped Penn State to a 28-9 record during his three-year tenure in Happy Valley. He was the Butkus and Lambert Award winner as the nation’s top linebacker and was the recipient of the Chuck Bednarik Award as the nation’s top defensive player after 72 tackles, 20 for a loss, nine sacks and two blocked kicks in 1999. He was a consensus All-American who wound up as the No. 2 overall pick in the 2000 NFL Draft. Second Team: Andy Katzenmoyer, Ohio State

LB: James Laurinaitis, Ohio State (2005-08)
Few players in the nation were as decorated, productive, talented and successful as the Minneapolis native. Laurinaitis won the Butkus, Nagurski, two Lambert Awards and two Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year awards while being a three-time All-American. He posted three straight seasons of at least 115 tackles and helped Ohio State win a share of four Big Ten titles, including two trips to the BCS National Championship Game. Second Team: A.J. Hawk, Ohio State

LB: Paul Posluszny, Penn State (2003-06)
As a junior, the Nittany Lions tackler was recognized as the nation’s top LB when he posted 116 tackles (11.0 TFL) en route to a Big Ten championship, consensus All-American honors and both the Butkus and Bednarik Awards. He followed that up as a senior with a second Bednarik Award and second consensus All-American nod. The in-state Aliquippa (Pa.) Hopewell product left school as Penn State's all-time leading tackler with 372 total stops. Second Team: Greg Jones, Michigan State

CB: Antoine Winfield, Ohio State (1995-98)
The consensus All-American helped Ohio State win 43 games in four years and nearly (or should have) played in the first BCS National Championship Game in 1998. He was given the Thorpe and Tatum honors as a senior as the nation’s top defensive back before being selected 23rd overall in the 1999 NFL Draft. Second Team: Malcolm Jenkins, Ohio State

CB: Jamar Fletcher, Wisconsin (1998-2000)
He was a two-time, first-team All-American and three-time, first-team All-Big Ten selection. He helped Wisconsin to back-to-back Big Ten and Rose Bowl championships and was the only Big Ten defensive back of the BCS Era to be named the outright Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year. He holds UW’s all-time record with 21 interceptions and was named the nation’s top defensive back with the Thorpe and Tatum Trophies as a senior in 2000. Second Team: Darqueze Dennard, Michigan State

S: Mike Doss, Ohio State (1999-2002)
The Buckeyes safety was a rare three-time All-American, three-time, first-team All-Big Ten pick and was named co-Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year in 2002 for the BCS national champions. Doss started 40 of 50 possible career games and was named the 2002 Fiesta Bowl MVP. He finished his career with 331 career tackles, eight interceptions, eight fumbles recovered and 6.0 sacks. Second Team: Tyrone Carter, Minnesota

S: Bob Sanders, Iowa (2000-03)
One of the hardest hitting players to ever suit up, Sanders made big plays all over the field during his time in Iowa City. He helped lead Iowa to the Orange Bowl in 2002 and was an All-American as a senior in '03. He finished his career with 348 tackles, 16.0 for a loss, four sacks, seven interceptions and 13 forced fumbles (he led the nation in FF with six as a senior). Second Team: Jim Leonhard, Wisconsin

Teaser:
The All-Big Ten Team of the BCS Era
Post date: Thursday, April 3, 2014 - 07:15
All taxonomy terms: College Football, UCLA Bruins, Pac 12, News
Path: /college-football/ucla-bruins-2014-spring-football-preview
Body:

There is a lot of mojo in Westwood right now.

And it has nothing to do with the basketball team’s recent run into the Sweet 16. No, it’s UCLA football that is turning heads in Los Angeles and it could be poised to steal headlines this fall.

After a few offseason flirtations, quarterback Brett Hundley and head coach Jim Mora return for their third season together at UCLA. Hundley is among the nation’s best and has led his team to a 19-8 record in his two seasons under center. Now, he is an upperclassman with three full Mora recruiting classes at his disposal.

It means expectations are sky high entering spring camp. A division title, Pac-12 championship and Rose Bowl berth might be the starting point for UCLA fans this summer as the Playoff Era begins. It also means Mora has his work cut out for him this spring.

UCLA must replace a star in Xavier Su’a-Filo but the O-line is in great shape. As is the secondary and quarterback position. The front seven and offensive skill players might be the area of focus but, really, this spring is about fine-tuning for Mora and company out West.

2014 Schedule
DateOpponent
Aug. 30at
Sept. 6
Sept. 13 (Arlington)
Sept. 20Bye Week
Sept. 25at 
Oct. 4
Oct. 11
Oct. 18at 
Oct. 25at 
Nov. 1
Nov. 8at 
Nov. 15Bye Week
Nov. 22
Nov. 28

UCLA Bruins 2014 Spring Preview

2013 Record: 10-3 (6-3 Pac-12)

Spring Practice Opens: April 1

Spring Game: April 26

Returning Starters

Offense: 7

Defense: 8

Three Things to Watch in UCLA's 2014 Spring Practice

Fill some holes at linebacker
Anthony Barr and Jordan Zumwalt have moved on to the NFL after a combined 158 tackles and countless big plays a year ago. Eric Kendricks is back but had surgery to fix his ankle in late December. Myles Jack is a star in the making but finding depth and developing a replacement for Barr will be key this spring. Kenny Orjioke, Aaron Wallace and Deon Hollins figure to compete for time on the outside where Barr was such a force the last two seasons, while Isaac Savaiinaea is poised to step into Zumwalt’s shoes on the inside. Cameron Judge, Taylor Lagace and early enrollee Zach Whitley should all be competing for snaps this spring as well. This group has loads of potential but leadership, maturity and production all must develop for a team that plays in arguably the best offensive league in the nation.

Find a best supporting actor
Brett Hundley is as good as it gets under center, but even the best of the best need a great supporting character to win a championship — be it at running back or wide receiver. Jim Mora has an entire cast of weapons returning to the offense despite the loss of leading receiver Shaq Evans. Devin Fuller, Jordan Payton and Devin Lucien all return among the receiving corps bringing unique abilities and loads of upside with them while Jordon James and Paul Perkins return to the backfield. Ideally, Mora and offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone will find a go-to target in the passing game and a go-to ball carrier in the running game this spring. James, if he stay healthy, and Fuller, should he continue to develop, appear to have all the necessary tools to become elite playmakers in this offense.  But be sure to keep an eye on Lucien as well. If he can stay focused and iron out some inconsistencies, he may develop into a special athlete in Westwood.

Organize the defensive line
Much like the wide receivers, running backs and linebackers, the Bruins' defensive line has plenty of talented upside. But this group is somewhat in a state of disarray currently due to graduation (Cassius Marsh, Keenan Graham), injuries (Owamagbe Odighizuwa, Eddie Vanderdoes) and youth (Ellis McCarthy, Kyle Fitts). Tackle Kenny Clark is really the only guarantee this spring up front on defense. Odighizuwa has long been thought of as a potential All-American but needs to prove it after missing all of last year. Vanderdoes is out for the spring after his freshman All-American season a year ago. This means gifted youngsters McCarthy and Fitts should see plenty of snaps this spring. With the loss of Barr at linebacker and both Marsh and Graham up front — who combined for 21.0 sacks a year ago — Mora is having to replace his top three sack masters. He and new defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich need to find some edge pass-rushers who can get after the QB this offseason.

2014 Early Projected Win Range: 9-11
UCLA has massive expectations heading into the College Football Playoff Era with a superstar quarterback returning and stability on the sidelines for what feels like the first time in more than a decade. The talent is obvious as every position on the roster appears to be stacked with upside prospects and breakout candidates. That said, Mora is breaking in a new defensive coordinator (Ulbrich) and will have to fill voids among his front seven on defense. The schedule isn’t easy either, as UCLA has to face Oregon, Stanford and Washington in crossover play once again. The good news is the Ducks and Cardinal, as well as Arizona, USC and Utah, will have to come to Pasadena to face the Bruins. Should things fall right, Mora and company could be smelling Roses at season’s end.

Teaser:
UCLA Bruins 2014 Spring Football Preview
Post date: Thursday, April 3, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/ranking-pac-12s-college-football-coaches-2014
Body:

Ranking college football coaches is no easy task. Similar to any position on the field, statistics may not tell the full story when judging a coaching tenure.

While it’s difficult to rank coaches, this aspect of college football is arguably the most important to winning a national or conference title. No matter how much talent a program has, winning a national title is difficult if the coaching is questionable.

Wins are a telling and important statistic, but they don’t provide a complete picture of how successful coaches are. Winning 10 games at Alabama is different than winning 10 games at Kentucky. Also, every program has a different amount of resources available. Hierarchy in college football also plays a vital role in how successful programs are. A good coach can elevate a program. However, it’s easier for programs like Alabama, Florida, Ohio State and Texas with more built-in advantages to contend for a national title on a more consistent basis.

A couple of other factors to consider when ranking assistant coaches: How well are the assistants paid? A good program is willing to spend big to keep its assistants. And a staff with two of the nation’s top coordinators could be a sign the head coach is better as a CEO and may not be as strong in terms of developing gameplans. How is the coach in the X’s and O’s? Can the coach recruit? Are the program’s facilities on par with the rest of the conference? Much like assistants, a program needs good facilities to win big. If a team is winning at a high level with poor facilities and a small budget, it’s reflects positively on the head coach. Is the coach successful at only one stop? Or has that coach built a solid resume from different jobs?

Again, wins are important. But our rankings also take into account a blank slate. If you start a program from scratch, which coach would you hire?

Considering how important coaches are to teams or even making preseason predictions, Athlon is taking a look at how all 128 college football coaches rank nationally and by conference.

Ranking the Pac-12's College Football Coaches for 2014

1. David Shaw, Stanford
Record at Stanford: 34-7 (3 years)
Career Record: 34-7 (3 years)
Stanford’s Program Rank:

Life without Jim Harbaugh on the sidelines and Andrew Luck at quarterback was supposed to be tough at Stanford. But that hasn’t been the case for the Cardinal, as Shaw as kept Stanford among the best in the nation. The Cardinal is 34-7 over the last three years and has lost only four conference games during that span. Shaw has guided the program to three consecutive BCS bowls and two top-10 finishes in the final Associated Press poll. Stanford signed a small recruiting class in 2013, which finished No. 51 nationally by 247Sports Composite. However, in 2012 and 2014, Shaw inked classes that ranked among the top 15 in the nation. Stanford has claimed at least a share of the North Division title in each of the last three years, but that run could be tested in 2014 with the departure of a talented senior class and defensive coordinator Derek Mason. Despite the personnel losses, expect Shaw to have Stanford back in the Pac-12 title hunt once again.

2. Chris Petersen, Washington
Record at Washington: First Year
Career Record: 92-12 (8 years)
Washington’s Program Rank:

Petersen is a tough coach to rank among his Pac-12 peers. Winning big outside of a BCS conference is a good sign, but the week-to-week grind in the Pac-12 or any of the other BCS leagues is another matter. In eight years at Boise State, Petersen elevated the program to new heights. The Broncos went 92-12 and recorded four top-10 finishes in the final Associated Press poll. Also, Boise State claimed two BCS bowl victories and claimed at least a share of five conference titles. Another notch in Petersen’s resume was the Broncos’ track record against BCS teams. Boise State defeated Oklahoma, Oregon, Virginia Tech and Georgia in non-conference or bowl games during Petersen’s tenure. The California native is a good fit at Washington and inherits a solid core of talent to work with in 2014. If there’s any concern about Petersen, it has to be the track record of former Boise State coaches leaving to take BCS jobs. Dirk Koetter and Dan Hawkins struggled at their next stop after leaving Boise State. Despite the lack of success by Hawkins and Koetter, all signs point to Petersen being a home-run hire for Washington.

3. Todd Graham, Arizona State
Record at Arizona State: 18-9 (2 years)
Career Record: 67-38 (8 years)
Arizona State’s Program Rank:

Graham gets a bad rap from his job-hopping in recent years, but there’s no question he’s one of the Pac-12’s top coaches. At Rice, Graham inherited a team that went 1-10 in the season prior to his arrival, and the Owls improved by six games in his first season and finished 7-6 overall. Graham was hired at Tulsa after one season at Rice and went 36-17 in four seasons. The Golden Hurricane had three years of at least 10 wins and a No. 24 finish in the final Associated Press poll in 2010. Graham took over at Pittsburgh in 2011 and went 6-6, but his stay in the Steel City lasted only one year. Arizona State picked Graham to replace Dennis Erickson, and the program has been on the upswing over the last two years. The Sun Devils are 18-9 under Graham’s watch and claimed the Pac-12 South title last season. Arizona State has started facility renovations to Sun Devil Stadium and inked extensions with Graham and offensive coordinator Mike Norvell. With Graham at the helm, combined with a commitment to keeping good assistants and improved facilities, Arizona State is poised to become a consistent challenger for the South Division title.

4. Mike Riley, Oregon State
Record at Oregon State: 88-73 (13 years)
Career Record: 88-73 (13 years)
Oregon State’s Program Rank:

Riley is in his second stint at Oregon State, and the Beavers have been one of the Pac-12’s most consistent programs under his watch. From 1971-98, Oregon State failed to earn a winning record. But since 2003, the Beavers have eight winning seasons out of the last 11 years. Riley has guided Oregon State to six years of at least eight wins during that span. The Beavers also have 15 bowl appearances in school history – eight of them are under Riley’s watch. So while Oregon State is still looking for a Pac-12 title under Riley, he has clearly elevated a program that struggled mightily prior to his arrival. And if you needed any additional data on Riley’s impact, take a look at recruiting rankings. The Beavers own the No. 10 roster in the Pac-12, yet rank sixth in the conference in conference wins over the last four years.

5. Mike Leach, Washington State
Record at Washington State: 9-16 (2 years)
Career Record: 93-59 (12 years)
Washington State’s Program Rank:

Washington State is the toughest job in the Pac-12. But the Cougars have the right coach to keep this program competitive on a consistent basis. Leach was forced out at Texas Tech after 10 successful years in Lubbock. The Red Raiders never missed a bowl game under Leach and finished five times in the final Associated Press poll. Leach is only 9-16 in two years at Washington State. However, the Cougars improved their win total by three games from 2012 to 2013. Additionally, Washington State went to a bowl game for the first time since 2003 last year. Leach is one of the top offensive minds in college football and will help Washington State move a little closer to contending with the Pac-12 North’s top teams over the next few years.

6. Rich Rodriguez, Arizona
Record at Arizona: 16-10 (2 years)
Career Record: 136-94-2 (20 years)
Arizona’s Program Rank:

A three-year stint at Michigan is really the only blemish on Rodriguez’s 20 years on the sidelines. The West Virginia native started his coaching career at Salem in 1988 and had his second opportunity as a head coach at Glenville State in 1990. In seven years with the Pioneers, he went 43-28-2 and was hired at Tulane to coordinate the offense after the 1996 season. After two years with the Green Wave, Rodriguez was hired as Clemson’s offensive coordinator (1999-00) and then took over the top spot at West Virginia in 2001. The Mountaineers were 60-26 under Rodriguez and were one win away from playing for the national title in 2007. Rodriguez left his home state for the opportunity to coach at Michigan, but his three years with the Wolverines resulted in a disappointing 15-22 record. And after sitting out a year, Rodriguez jumped back into the coaching game at Arizona. So far, so good in Tucson. The Wildcats have recorded back-to-back 8-5 seasons and two bowl victories under his watch.

7. Jim Mora, UCLA
Record at UCLA: 19-8 (2 years)
Career Record: 19-8 (2 years)
UCLA’s Program Rank:

Mora has only been at UCLA for two seasons, but the former NFL head coach is making a difference. The Bruins are 19-8 under Mora, including a 12-6 mark during the regular season in Pac-12 play. UCLA finished No. 16 in the final Associated Press poll in 2013, which was the program’s first appearance in the last ranking since a No. 16 mark in 2005. Recruiting under Mora is also stable, as the Bruins have signed three consecutive top-20 classes. UCLA also made a big commitment to Mora by signing him to a six-year extension at the end of the 2013 season. With Brett Hundley returning for his junior year, the Bruins will have a chance to take the next step under Mora in 2014. 

8. Steve Sarkisian, USC
Record at USC: First Year
Career Record: 34-29 (5 years)
USC’s Program Rank:

Taking over at USC is essentially a homecoming for Sarkisian. The California native was a successful quarterback at BYU and had a short stint in the CFL. Sarkisian’s first college coaching job was at El Camino in 2000, and he landed at USC in 2001-03 and again from 2005-08 under Pete Carroll. In 2009, Sarkisian was hired at Washington, where he inherited a team that finished 0-12 in the season prior to his arrival. Sarkisian brought immediate improvement to Seattle, guiding the Huskies to a 5-7 mark in 2009 and a 34-29 mark in his tenure. Washington played in four consecutive bowl games under Sarkisian, but never finished higher than third in the Pac-12 North. Elevating the Huskies back to Pac-12 respectability was a good sign. However, Sarkisian needs to win at a higher level at USC. With a solid coaching staff and the No. 11 signing class from 2014, it seems Sarkisian is on the right path. And it certainly won’t hurt Sarkisian’s prospects when the sanctions end and USC has a full allotment of scholarships.

9. Mike MacIntyre, Colorado
Record at Colorado: 4-8 (1 year)
Career Record: 20-29 (4 years)
Colorado’s Program Rank:

The arrow is clearly pointing up on MacIntyre’s tenure at Colorado. The Buffaloes were only 4-8 overall and won just one contest in Pac-12 play, but the program took a step forward last year after struggling under Jon Embree. Prior to taking over in Boulder, MacIntyre spent three years at San Jose State, transforming the Spartans from a 1-11 team in 2010 to a 10-2 squad in 2012. According to the recruiting ranks, , and standout receiver Paul Richardson must be replaced in 2014. MacIntyre needs time to successfully rebuild Colorado, but with a few breaks this season, the Buffaloes could make a bowl. After all, that isn't impossible considering MacIntyre’s second team at San Jose State made a four-game jump in the win column.

10. Kyle Whittingham, Utah
Record at Utah: 76-39 (9 years)
Career Record: 76-39 (9 years)
Utah’s Program Rank:

It’s pretty easy to see how deep the Pac-12 is with good coaches when Whittingham ranks No. 10. The former BYU linebacker is 76-39 in nine years in Salt Lake City, which includes a 13-0 record with a Sugar Bowl victory over Alabama in the 2008 season. In their final three years in the Mountain West (2008-10), Utah went 33-6 and lost only three conference games. However, as expected, the transition to the Pac-12 has been a challenge. The Utes went 8-5 in their Pac-12 debut but have posted back-to-back 5-7 records. Additionally, Utah is just 5-13 in conference play from 2012-13. Considering Whittingham’s wins in the Pac-12 have declined in back-to-back years, 2014 will be an important season to show the Utes are back on track. The addition of Dave Christensen as Utah’s offensive coordinator, combined with a little luck on health at quarterback could be enough for the Utes to get back to a bowl.

11. Mark Helfrich, Oregon
Record at Oregon: 11-2 (1 year)
Career Record: 11-2 (1 year)
Oregon’s Program Rank:

Helfrich had a tough assignment replacing offensive mastermind Chip Kelly in 2013. The Ducks were picked by many as a threat to win the national title, but a late-season injury to quarterback Marcus Mariota hindered the offense in November. Oregon finished 11-2 in Helfrich’s debut and No. 9 in the final Associated Press poll. Despite not getting to the national championship, 2014 was a solid debut for Helfrich in his first season on the sidelines in Eugene. Helfrich needs a little time to put his stamp on the program, and with Mariota returning in 2014, Oregon should in the hunt to win college football’s playoff.

12. Sonny Dykes, California
Record at California: 1-11 (1 year)
Career Record: 23-26 (4 years)
California’s Program Rank:

It seems unfair to rank Dykes at the bottom of the Pac-12, but there’s not a bad coach in the conference. Dykes’ debut at California did not go well, as the Golden Bears finished 1-11 and winless in conference play for the first time since 2001. While the final record was not pretty, California had a handful of injuries to key players on defense, and Jared Goff was a true freshman getting his first snaps at quarterback. Dykes took steps this offseason to ensure last year’s 1-11 won’t be repeated. The defensive staff got a major overhaul and a solid recruiting class will help with the overall depth. Prior to his one season at California, Dykes went 22-15 at Louisiana Tech, including a 17-8 mark over the final two years.  

Teaser:
Ranking the Pac-12's College Football Coaches for 2014
Post date: Thursday, April 3, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /college-basketball/how-2014-final-four-teams-were-built
Body:

The freshman class will be present and accounted for in the Final Four, even if it’s not in the way anyone would have predicted.

The high school graduating class of 2013 will have more players in Dallas than any other class, but their roles will vary wildly.

Of the 13 freshmen in the Final Four, seven are from Kentucky. Five of those are playing major minutes. The other freshmen, whether three-star rookies for Wisconsin or McDonald’s All-Americans for Florida, are playing supporting roles.

The Final Four again includes teams with varying approaches and results in recruiting. Kentucky’s bench, for example, includes more five-star prospects than Wisconsin has signed in the last four years.

Whether it’s Florida’s veterans, Kentucky’s star power or UConn and Wisconsin’s talent development, each team in the Final Four started its roster in different spots only to end up in the same place Saturday.

As we get closer to tipoff at AT&T Stadium, we examined how the four programs in Dallas assembled their teams for a trip to the Final Four. For the purposes of this piece, we counted only players who played at least two games and 15 total minutes in the first two weeks of the Tourney.

Here’s how the Final Four teams were built:

Star Power

Final Four players by high school class*
2009: 1
2010: 9
2011: 5
2012: 6
2013: 13

Final Four players by Rivals.com star ranking*
Not ranked: 2
Two stars: 1
Three stars: 12
Four stars: 7
Five stars: 12
*includes only players who have logged 15 minutes or more in the NCAA Tournament.
• Of the 33 players Athlon Sports tracked, 12 were five-star prospects according to Rivals.com. Seven of them play for Kentucky. Kentucky’s entire starting five is made up of five-star prospects. The rest of the Final Four has only three starters who were five-star prospects (Florida’s Patric Young, UConn’s DeAndre Daniels and Wisconsin’s Sam Dekker).

• Two five-star prospects and McDonald’s All-Americans have played fewer than 40 combined minutes — Florida’s Chris Walker and Kentucky’s Marcus Lee.

• Kentucky and Florida are the only schools in the Final Four with McDonald’s All-Americans getting regular minutes.

• With the exception of Dekker, Wisconsin built its foundation on 3-star prospects. Frank Kaminsky, Josh Gasser, Ben Brust and Traevon Jackson — all starters — were three-star prospects.

• Florida point guard Scottie Wilbekin is the biggest steal in the NCAA Tournament. He is the only two-star prospect getting regular minutes in the Final Four — and he’s Florida’s top player.

Veterans Rule

• Throw out Kentucky, and the most prolific high school class for the other three teams in the Final Four was the 2010 graduating class.

• How much of an impact is 2010 having on this Final Four? That class included UConn’s Shabazz Napier, Wisconsin’s Josh Gasser and Ben Brust and the nucleus for Florida’s team (Patric Young, Scottie Wilbekin, Will Yeguete and Casey Prather).

Homegrown Talent

• For another year, transfers were a major topic in college basketball, but not in the Final Four. The teams in Dallas feature only two transfers in the regular lineup: Florida’s Dorian Finney-Smith (from Virginia Tech) and UConn’s Lasan Kromah (from George Washington). Both earn significant minutes, but neither are starters.

Sunshine State Stars

• The Final Four teams culled players from Florida high schools and prep schools more than any other state with 11 players who graduated from Sunshine State schools. Granted, the amount of high school transfers means that number shouldn’t resonate quite the same way as in college football recruiting.

• The number of Florida-based players does not focus solely on the Gators, though Billy Donovan culled the core of his roster from in-state schools. UConn (Amida Brimah and DeAndre Daniels) and Kentucky (Dakari Johnson and Marcus Lee) also mined the state of Florida.

• Three players in the Final Four ended their high school careers at Montverde (Fla.) Academy — Florida’s Kasey Hill and Michael Frazier II and Kentucky’s Dakari Johnson. All transferred to the Central Florida powerhouse. Hill transferred from Mount Dora (Fla.) Bible School, and Frazier transferred from Tampa (Fla.) Plant. Johnson reclassified from the class of 2014 to the class of 2013 when he transferred to Montverde to follow St. Patrick’s (N.J.) coach Kevin Boyle to Florida.

Who’s Not Here

• Wisconsin has had the least attrition of any of the Final Four teams. The Badgers have lost only three players who signed during the 2010-13 recruiting cycles, according to Rivals.com. Two transferred and one, Evan Anderson, left the team in February.

• Kentucky has lost eight players since 2010 who left as underclassmen for the NBA Draft, more than double the other three teams combined. UConn lost two (Andre Drummond and Jeremy Lamb), Florida lost one (Bradley Beal) and Wisconsin lost none.

• As none of the Final Four teams are relying on transfers, none have lost major players due to transfers. The Final Four teams have lost a combined eight players from the last four recruiting cycles to transfers.

• Coincidentally, South Dakota State has a loose connection to the Final Four. Cody Larson, who was dismissed from Florida, transferred to play for the Jackrabbits; he averaged 13.1 points this season for SDSU. In January, George Marshall announced intentions to transfer from Wisconsin to South Dakota State.

Teaser:
How the 2014 Final Four Teams were Built
Post date: Thursday, April 3, 2014 - 07:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football
Path: /college-football/pick-athlons-2014-ohio-state-college-football-preview-magazine-cover
Body:
For the second year, Athlon Sports is letting fans choose the Ohio State cover of our 2014 Big Ten College Football Preview magazine.
 
Fans can vote once a day through April 22, with the winning cover hitting newsstands at the end of May.
 
Teaser:
Pick Athlon's 2014 Ohio State College Football Preview magazine cover
Post date: Thursday, April 3, 2014 - 06:20
Path: /7-greatest-shots-masters-history
Body:

We don’t have footage of Gene Sarazen’s famous double eagle from 1935, but on Masters Sunday 2012, we saw something just as good and just as rare — Louis Oosthuizen's double eagle, the first at the par-5 second hole in Masters history. Later, Bubba Watson joined our countdown with his stunning recovery shot from the pine straw in the playoff. Here are our choices for the seven greatest shots in Masters history.

7. Louis Oosthuizen, 2012
Before Sunday 2012, there had been 19,809 rounds at The Masters, but this was a first: a double eagle at No. 2. Had Oostie gone on to win, his shot would rank No. 1; as it is, he'll have to settle for second in The 2012 Masters and seventh on our list.

 

6. Sandy Lyle, 1988
Lyle had a front-row seat for Jack Nicklaus' charge to the 1986 Masters title. Two years later, he made history of his own with an incredible bunker shot on the 72nd hole, using the slope of the green to set up a clinching birdie. This is great execution for a Tuesday practice round; under Masters pressure, it's one of history's greatest shots.

5. Bubba Watson, 2012
After a day that included a double eagle and two holes in one, Bubba's shot at 10 will be the one they'll still be talking about at the 2050 Champions Dinner.

4. Jack Nicklaus, 1986
Jack’s near hole-in-one on 16 during his final-round 65 was only one of many magic moments that day — but it was pretty epic.


3. Phil Mickelson, 2010
Mickelson’s 6-iron second shot to four feet on the par-5 13th was the kind of hero shot that only he and Tiger Woods would even attempt.



2. Larry Mize, 1987
Playing a few miles from his home, the quiet, unassuming Mize hit the shot of his life, or anyone else’s for that matter, holing an impossible 140-foot pitch shot on the second playoff hole to deny Greg Norman a green jacket.



1. Tiger Woods, 2005
It's a scenario apparently drawn up in the Nike marketing offices — the ball hanging tantalizingly on the edge of the cup, the Nike logo momentarily freeze-framed on our television screens before the ball tumbles into the cup, unleashing an awkward golfer high-five between Tiger and caddie Steve Williams that detracts only slightly from the moment. To answer your question, Verne Lundquist — no, in our lives, we’ve never seen anything like it.

Teaser:
<p> 7 Epic Moments from Golf's Greatest Tournament</p>
Post date: Wednesday, April 2, 2014 - 17:35
All taxonomy terms: Golf
Path: /10-amazing-masters-records-may-never-be-broken
Body:

Consider this the appetizer before the main course. We scoured The Masters record book and found these amazing numbers:

 

10 The record for consecutive under-par rounds at The Masters belongs to Tiger Woods, who shot 10 consecutive rounds under par from the third round in 2000 through the final round in 2002. Not surprisingly, he won the green jacket in 2001 and 2002, after finishing fifth in 2000. Tiger's scoring average for those 10 rounds was 68.5.

 

25 Phil Mickelson holds the record for most birdies in a single Masters, with 25 in 2001. Lefty finished 13-under that year, three shots behind winner Tiger Woods, who was able to muster only 23 birdies for the week.

 

37 Among many Masters records held by Jack Nicklaus is his astounding 37 cuts made at Augusta. That's especially remarkable when you consider that Tiger Woods has only been alive 38 years. Between 1960 and 2000, Jack played in 40 Masters, missing the cut twice (in 1967 and 1994) and withdrawing in 1983. Among Nicklaus' other Masters records: He won a record six Masters, was runner-up a record four times, and he finished in the top 5 a record 15 times, in the top 10 22 times, and in the top 25 29 times.

 

23 Gary Player and Fred Couples share the record with 23 consecutive made cuts at The Masters. Player didn't miss a cut between 1959 and 1982 (he didn't compete in 1973 due to illness). During that span, he won three times and finished in the top 10 15 times. Couples' streak ran from 1983 to 2008, although he didn't play in 1987 or 1994.

 

50 Arnold Palmer holds a record that will likely never be equaled, playing in 50 consecutive Masters from 1955 to 2004. Thankfully, the King is still a fixture in April at Augusta, hitting a ceremonial tee shot along with fellow legends Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player.

 

66 That's the record score for a "Senior" player (age 50 or above). Fred Couples shot a 66 at age 50 in 2010's first round; and Ben Hogan, long past his prime at age 54, shot a 66 in the third round in 1967, going on to finish tied for 10th in his final Masters appearace.

 

66 The lowest score by an amateur was a 66 by Ken Venturi, in 1956's first round. Venturi actually held a four-shot lead entering the final round and was in prime position to become the only amateur winner in the event's history, until a windswept final-round 80 left him one shot behind Jack Burke.

 

-12 The lowest total by a first-time Masters competitor was a 12-under 276 in 2011 by Jason Day, who finished tied for second, two shots behind Charl Schwartzel.

 

6 The largest lead lost after three rounds is Greg Norman's 1996 collapse from a six-stroke lead to a five-stroke loss to Nick Faldo following a final-round 78. Coming off the eighth green on that Masters Sunday, Norman was only 1-over par for the day and still held a three-shot lead over Faldo. But three bogeys and two double-bogeys down the stretch doomed Norman to the most painful failure of his star-crossed career.

 

0 Fred Couples won the 1992 Masters, but here's an interesting distinction for Boom-Boom: He's the only player to have never missed a Masters cut in the 20th Century. Couples first played in the tournament in 1983 and didn't miss a Masters weekend until 2008.

Teaser:
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Post date: Wednesday, April 2, 2014 - 17:32

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