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Path: /nascar/top-10-nascar-super-subs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They didn't even make it through Turn 1.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No. 4: Luke Donald

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


Brandel Chamblee's Take

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

Major Championship Résumé
Starts: 38
Wins: 0

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Final Four Preview: Michigan vs. Syracuse

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

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

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

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

Related: Ranking the top 15 players in the Final Four

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

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

Related: How the Final Four teams were built


Who is the key player for the game?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Final Four Preview: Louisville vs. Wichita State

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

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

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

Related: Ranking the top 15 players in the Final Four

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

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

Related: How the Final Four teams were built


Who is the key player for the game?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pitching Matchups*

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*Probable starters, subject to change.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

April 4

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Three SEC quarterback battles that will extend into the fall.

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

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

One CarGo robbed another of a home run last night.

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

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

April 3

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

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

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

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

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

• Bob Costas quoting Ludacris? Bob Costas quoting Ludacris.

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

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

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

Evan Longoria threw a guy out from his butt yesterday.

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

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

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

April 2

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

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

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

How this year's Final Four teams were built.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

April 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Related College Football Content

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

Ranking the Big Ten Head Coaches for 2013

Ranking the Pac-12 Head Coaches for 2013

College Football's Top 50 Quarterbacks of the BCS Era

College Football's Pre-Spring Top 25 Heisman Contenders

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

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

No. 5: Louis Oosthuizen

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


Brandel Chamblee's Take

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

Major Championship Résumé
Starts: 18
Wins: 1

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

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

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

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

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

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.

<p> 15 Best Teams That Never Won the NCAA Tournament, including the 1991 UNLV Runnin' Rebels, 1975 Indiana Hoosiers, 1983 Houston Cougars, 1985 Georgetown Hoyas, 1984 North Carolina Tar Heels, 1993 Michigan Wolverines, 1997 Kansas Jayhawks, 1973 NC State Wolfpack, 1974 UCLA Bruins, 1954 Kentucky Wildcats, 1999 Duke Blue Devils, 1962 Ohio State Buckeyes, 1957 Kansas Jayhawks, 1963 Cincinnati Bearcats and 1979 Indiana State Sycamores.</p>
Post date: Thursday, April 4, 2013 - 08:00
Path: /college-football/ranking-pac-12s-college-football-coaches-2013

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

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

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

Ranking the Pac-12 Head Coaches for 2013

1. David Shaw, Stanford
Overall Record at Stanford: 23-4 (2011-present)

Even after two years of winning at an 85-percent clip, there is still somewhat of an unknown factor with Shaw. He has finished tied for first in the Pac-12 North Division both seasons on the Farm, claimed a conference championship and won the school’s first Rose Bowl since 1972. Jim Harbaugh and Andrew Luck built the Cardinal program back to respectability, and, now that expectations have been elevated significantly, it will be no small feat to maintain this level of success. Shaw is steeped in Stanford tradition as a player and is one of the most well-liked men in the business. If he keeps recruiting at a high level, the Cardinal will remain a factor in the Pac-12 North for years to come. However, the bar has been set high after the last few years, and it’s easy to see just how valuable of a coach Harbaugh was after taking the 49ers to the Super Bowl in his second year in the NFL.

2. Mike Riley, Oregon State
Overall Record at Oregon State: 81-67 (1997-98, 2003-present)

Riley has one of the most unique career paths in all of football. He won big in the CFL before his first stint in Corvallis (8-14) led to an NFL job in San Diego. He returned to Oregon State in 2003 and posted six winning campaigns in his next seven seasons, including the school’s first 10-win season (2006) and a Pac-10 Coach of the Year award (2008). Yet, after two losing seasons in 2010-11, Riley started to feel some pressure to win entering 2012, and he delivered in a big way. Riley turned the league’s worst rushing defense into one of the Pac-12’s best in one offseason and returned the Beavers to a bowl game. There are few people more liked in the industry than Riley and he consistently gets more out of less than most of his coaching peers. There is a reason he is the winningest coach in Oregon State history. It can be tough to sustain success at a program like Oregon State, but Riley is the right man to keep the Beavers in contention for a winning record every year.

3. Rich Rodriguez, Arizona
Record at Arizona: 8-5 (2012-present)
Record at Michigan: 15-22 (2008-10)
Record at West Virginia: 60-26 (2001-07)
Record at Glenville State: 43-28-2 (1990-96)
Record at Salem: 2-8 (1988)
Overall Record: 134-93-2 (19 years)

Although his lack of success at Michigan is an eyesore on an otherwise stellar resume, Rodriguez is still one of the Pac-12’s top coaches. And if there was any doubt about his coaching prowess, he answered those questions with an 8-5 debut at Arizona in 2012. The Wildcats’ eight victories were a four-game improvement from 2011 and three of their losses were by seven points or less, including an overtime defeat to Stanford. Rodriguez should win big at Arizona, as he is a much better fit in the desert than in the Big Ten with Michigan. In seven years with West Virginia from 2001-07, Rodriguez led the Mountaineers to 60 wins, including a Sugar Bowl victory over Georgia in 2005. West Virginia also claimed at least a share of the conference title in four years under Rodriguez’s watch. Arizona must replace quarterback Matt Scott in 2013, but the Wildcats could be pushing for a spot every year in the top 25 as long as Rodriguez is on the sideline.

4. Todd Graham, Arizona State
Record at Arizona State: 8-5 (2012-present)
Record at Pittsburgh: 6-6 (2011)
Record at Tulsa: 36-17 (2007-10)
Record at Rice: 7-6 (2006)
Overall Record: 57-34 (7 years)

With four head coaching jobs in seven years, it’s fair to poke fun at Graham’s job-hopping skills. However, what’s lost in his movement is the Texas native is a very good coach. In his only season at Rice, Graham improved the Owls’ win total by six games from the previous year. At Tulsa, the Golden Hurricane won at least 10 games in three of his four seasons. And at Pittsburgh, Graham led the Panthers to a 6-6 regular-season record and an invite to the BBVA Compass Bowl. Arizona State finished with an 8-5 record last season, the program's first winning mark since 2007. The Sun Devils were close to winning the Pac-12 South Division, as they lost to UCLA by just two points in late October. Under Graham, Arizona State also cut out the boneheaded mistakes and penalties that seemed to plague this program in recent years. The Sun Devils have the personnel to win the division in 2013, and Graham could have this team in the mix for a spot in most preseason top-25 polls. 

5. Mike Leach, Washington State
Record at Washington State: 3-9 (2012-present)
Record at Texas Tech: 84-43 (2000-09)
Overall Record: 87-52 (11 years)

Leach is an evaluation anomaly. He has more than a decade of elite-level coaching prowess loaded with some of the most prolific passing statistics in the history of college football. His quarterbacks litter the NCAA passing record books, but his off-the-field headlines have dominated his resume in recent years. A strange and bizarre ousting from Texas Tech led to a brief hiatus from coaching and a short radio career with SiriusXM. Leach took the Washington State job and immediately dealt with locker room upheaval as well as on-the-field deficiencies. His team lost its best player (Marquess Wilson) late in the season, and the rushing offense was the worst in FBS football. Yet somehow, he was still able to finish his first year with a monumental comeback against arch-rival Washington in the Apple Cup. However, more than three wins is needed to keep Leach in the good graces of the Cougars brass this fall.

6. Mike MacIntyre, Colorado
Record at Colorado: 0-0 (First Season)
Record at San Jose State: 16-21 (2010-12)
Overall Record: 16-21 (3 years)

MacIntyre has a tough job ahead of him at Colorado, but his previous stint at San Jose State shows he is up for the task. In three years with the Spartans, MacIntyre recorded a 16-21 overall mark and led the program to a top-25 finish in the Associated Press poll at the conclusion of 2012. San Jose State was not in great shape when MacIntyre arrived in 2010, as the program went 8-16 in Dick Tomey’s last two years and had just one winning season from 2001-09. After a 1-12 record in 2010, MacIntyre’s team showed steady improvement by winning five games in '11 and 11 last fall. The Spartans' only losses in 2012 came to Pac-12 and Rose Bowl champion Stanford and a very good Utah State team in mid-October. The Buffaloes are in need of major repair after seven consecutive losing seasons. It may take some time for MacIntyre to get Colorado in contention for a bowl game, but expect the Buffaloes to show marked improvement in 2013. 

7. Steve Sarkisian, Washington
Overall Record: 26-25 (2009-present, 4 years)

Coach Sark has proven that he is adaptable during his four years in Seattle. Prior to his arrival in 2009, Washington hadn’t had a winning record since 2002. Sarkisian changed that with a 7-6 campaign in 2010, which included an unexpected win over Nebraska in the Holiday Bowl. However, three straight 7-6/5-4 records have a stagnant feel to them. That said, he has shown the ability to make adjustments when one of the worst defenses in the nation became one of the best overnight when he hired Justin Wilcox, Peter Sirmon and Tosh Lupoi last season. Washington is moving back into a brand new Husky Stadium and the U of W brand is hotter than ever on the recruiting trail, so Sarkisian gets credit for rebuilding the program. However, he needs to take the next step and show that his team can compete for Pac-12 North Division titles.

8. Jim Mora, UCLA
Overall Record at UCLA: 9-5 (2012-present)

Mora wasn’t the most popular hire when he was picked to replace Rick Neuheisel at UCLA. After all, a 31-33 career record in the NFL isn’t anything special. However, the Bruins improved their win total by three games in Mora’s first season and lost to Stanford in the Pac-12 Championship game by just three points. Mora still has much to prove in the next few seasons, as he inherited a lot of talent from the previous coaching staff, and despite winning the division, UCLA lost its final three games of 2012. Mora has surrounded himself with a good staff, and the Bruins have recruited well in each of the last two years. If UCLA wins the South Division once again in 2013, Mora will more than likely rise in these coach rankings next season. 

9. Kyle Whittingham, Utah
Overall Record at Utah: 71-32 (8 years)

As expected, the move from the Mountain West to the Pac-12 has made life a little more difficult for Utah. Whittingham has been a solid coach in his tenure, but can he elevate the program into Pac-12 title contention? It’s clear it’s going to take some time for the Utes to be an annual factor in the South Division, especially with UCLA, Arizona and Arizona State all showing progress last year. Whittingham led Utah to a 58-20 mark in six years (plus one Fiesta Bowl win in 2004) in the Mountain West. But the Utes are just 13-12 in two seasons in the Pac-12 and missed out on a bowl appearance in 2012 for the first time since 2002. There’s no question Whittingham was a key reason why Utah was successful in the Mountain West and is guiding the program through a tough conference transition. However, Utah took a step back in 2012, and Whittingham is just 7-11 in two years in Pac-12 games.

10. Sonny Dykes, California
Record at California: 0-0 (First Season)
Record at Louisiana Tech: 22-15 (2010-2012)
Overall Record: 22-15 (3 years)

Dykes has a legacy synonymous with coaching as the son of Texas Tech’s legendary head coach Spike Dykes. He worked his way from up the high school and small college ranks before jobs at Kentucky, Texas Tech and Arizona, which led to his first head coaching gig at Louisiana Tech. Learning from his father and fellow Pac-12 North offensive guru Mike Leach, Dykes’ powerful offenses have been his signature. He won the WAC Championship and conference Coach of the Year honors in 2011 and then finished with the nation’s No. 1-rated total and scoring offense in ’12. He walks into a much better situation at Cal than when predecessor Jeff Tedford arrived, as facilities and stadium upgrades make the Bears job much more competitive.

11. Lane Kiffin, USC
Record at USC: 25-13 (2010-present)
Record at Tennessee: 7-6 (2009)
Overall Record: 32-19 (4 years)

There’s no question Kiffin is the toughest coach in the Pac-12 to rank. Kiffin has shown flashes of promise at each of his collegiate coaching stops, starting with a 7-6 record at Tennessee in 2009. The Volunteers were one of the SEC’s worst offensive teams in 2008, yet Kiffin turned Jonathan Crompton into a solid quarterback, and the offense averaged 29.3 points a game. Despite NCAA sanctions hanging over the program, Kiffin guided USC to an 18-7 record during his first two years, including a 2011 Pac-12 South Division title. However, the Trojans were banned from postseason play, so USC could not participate in the conference championship game. While those are the positives, the negatives for Kiffin largely center on the 2012 season. The Trojans were widely picked as a national title favorite but finished with a disappointing 7-6 record and were defeated by a 6-7 Georgia Tech team in the Sun Bowl. Kiffin has had his share of drama at each stop, including recruiting violations at Tennessee, and the deflated football scandal and jersey switch controversy in 2012. Can Kiffin succeed at USC? Absolutely. However, the Minnesota native should worry less about the media, injuries and off-the-field nonsense and concentrate more on the X’s and O’s. The Trojans have the talent to win the Pac-12 South Division. But if this team stumbles once again, Kiffin will likely be out of a job at the end of the year.

12. Mark Helfrich, Oregon
Overall Record at Oregon: 0-0 (First Season)

After playing and coaching at small Southern Oregon, Helfrich landed with the Ducks in 1997 under Dirk Koetter. He then followed Koetter to both Boise State and Arizona State, returning to Eugene in 2009 as offensive coordinator under Chip Kelly. After two National Quarterbacks Coach of the Year Awards (2010, '12), Helfrich got his chance when Kelly departed for the NFL. He is the third consecutive offensive coordinator to be elevated to head coach at Oregon as the previous two — Mike Bellotti and Kelly — have proven the method for hiring is extremely effective. With a stacked roster returning on offense, all signs point to immediate success for the new headman in Oregon. However, Helfrich is largely an unknown and has never been a head coach prior to 2013. Even if Helfrich can keep Oregon performing at a high level this year, is he capable of keeping the Ducks in national championship contention in 2014 and '15? Oregon's method of promoting from within has worked well with its last two hires. However, Helfrich still has a lot to prove entering his first season as the head Duck.


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

Related College Football Content

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Ranking the Big 12 Head Coaches for 2013

Ranking the Big Ten Head Coaches for 2013

College Football's Top 50 Quarterbacks of the BCS Era

Pac-12 2013 Schedule Analysis

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

Ranking the Pac-12 Coaching Jobs for 2013

College Football's Top Assistant Coach Hires for 2013

<p> Ranking the Pac-12's College Football Coaches for 2013</p>
Post date: Thursday, April 4, 2013 - 07:27
Path: /nascar/fantasy-nascar-picks-stp-gas-booster-500-martinsville-speedway

The 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup circuit treks back east to quaint little Martinsville for the STP Gas Booster 500. To help guide you through the 2013 Fantasy NASCAR season, Athlon Sports contributor Dustin Long will be offering his best predictions for each race. And because Yahoo's Fantasy Auto Racing game is arguably the most popular, he’ll break down the picks according to its NASCAR driver classes — A-List, B-List, C-List.

So, without further ado, Dustin's fantasy predictions for Martinsville ranked according to each driver's likelihood of taking the checkered flag — or at least finishing toward the front:

1. Jimmie Johnson
Won at Martinsville last fall from the pole and has seven career victories there. Scored 12 top-5 finishes in his last 15 starts there. Johnson has led 430 laps in his last four Martinsville starts. He has the best average running position (7.2) in the first five races of the season. He also has the best driver rating (110.2) at this point in the season.

2. Jeff Gordon
Has seven career wins at Martinsville. Appeared headed for No. 8 last spring when wrecked after contact by Clint Bowyer on a late restart and finished 14th. Gordon has 15 top-5 finishes in his last 20 Martinsville starts. Has led 534 laps in the last three races there. Has led an average of 113.4 laps in his last 13 starts at that track.

3. Brad Keselowski
Has scored seven consecutive finishes of sixth or better at ovals 1.1 miles or less, dating back to last season (that includes a sixth at Martinsville last fall, a career-best finish at the track). His 23rd-place finish at Auto Club Speedway ended his streak of four consecutive top-5s to open the season. That also was the first race this year he had not led. Dating back to last year’s Chase, he’s led laps in 11 of the last 15 races. Has an average finish of 12.1 in six starts at Martinsville.

4. Clint Bowyer
Finished fifth last fall at Martinsville and 10th in the spring. He led 154 laps last fall and had an average running position of 3.6 in that race, second only to race winner Jimmie Johnson’s average running position (3.2). Bowyer has four top 10s in his last six Martinsville starts.

5. Kasey Kahne
Placed third at Martinsville last fall. That ended an 11-race streak of finishing outside the top 10 there. Has recorded the fastest lap (149) more times than any other driver in the first five races of the season. He’s tied with Matt Kenseth with most laps led this year at 223 but has led only 31 laps in 18 career starts at Martinsville.

6. Matt Kenseth
Has placed in the top 10 in the past two spring races at Martinsville with a fourth last year and a sixth in April 2011. Those are his only two top-10 finishes in his last eight overall starts at the track. Tied with Kasey Kahne for most laps led this season at 223, which is 15 percent of all laps run.

7. Kevin Harvick
Won at Martinsville in April 2011 but since has finished fourth, 19th and 32nd there. Since being in a crash and finishing 42nd in the Daytona 500, Harvick has placed between ninth and 14th in each Cup race this season.

8. Tony Stewart
Has placed outside the top 20 in four of his last six Martinsville starts. In the other two races there, he won and finished seventh. Stewart has led only 15 laps in his last 11 starts at that track.

<p> Dustin Long ranks each driver on the NASCAR Sprint Cup circuit for this weekend's STP Gas Booster 500 at Martinsville Speedway.</p>
Post date: Wednesday, April 3, 2013 - 18:28
Path: /college-basketball/mike-rice-fired-rutgers-who-are-candidates-replace-him-coach

A day after a video compilation of player mistreatment aired on ESPN, Rutgers fired coach Mike Rice on March 3.

After the program recovers from a public relations nightmare which cost the job of the basketball coach, the work will begin to hire a replacement for a struggling program in transition.

Rutgers will be an intriguing job to fill. The Scarlet Knights are lacking in tradition an recent success. The Scarlet Knights have not had a winning season since 2006, have not reached the NCAA Tournament since 1991 as an Atlantic 10 team and have not won a tournament game since 1983. Yet Rutgers will move into the Big Ten in 2014, leaving a more logical fit geographically for what will be one of the top basketball conferences.


Bill Carmody, former Northwestern coach
Carmody brought Northwestern to the brink of its first NCAA Tournament on several occasions but failed to get over the hump (injuries to key players at times didn’t help). To put that in perspective, Northwestern’s four consecutive NIT appearances were a big deal given the Wildcats’ history. Before Northwestern, Carmody went 28-0 in the Ivy League in his first two seasons at Princeton.

Tim Cluess, Iona
A New York native, Cluess has risen through the coaching ranks from high school to community college to Division II to Iona, where the Gaels have reached the NCAA Tournament the last two years. A former player at St. John’s, Cluess has never had a losing season as a college coach.

Fran Fraschilla, former New Mexico coach
His name has popped up for open jobs before, but he’s 11 seasons removed from his last coaching gig at New Mexico. Prior to that, the ESPN analyst reached the NCAA Tournament at Manhattan and St. John’s.

John Giannini, La Salle
La Salle was one of the last teams in the NCAA Tournament this season, but took advantage by going from the First Four to the Sweet 16. This season was the culmination of a long rebuild at La Salle. Giannini, who took over in 2004, led La Salle to its first back-to-back 20-win season since the Lionel Simmons era in the late 80s. Giannini previously won a Division III national title at Rowan in Glassboro, N.J.

Ben Howland, former UCLA coach
Rutgers would have a rare chance to hire a three-time Final Four coach, but then again, it’s also rare that a three-time Final Four coach gets fired. He’s spent most of his coaching career out West, but don’t forget that he become a national name by reviving Pittsburgh’s program a decade ago.

Danny Hurley, Rhode Island
Athlon ranked Hurley’s hire at Rhode Island the best coaching move in 2012-13. He’d be an even better fit at Rutgers. The ties to New Jersey run deep. His father, Bob Hurley, is the legendary coach at St. Anthony’s in Jersey City. Danny himself coached at St. Benedict’s in Jersey City before going to Wagner of the Northeast Conference. A former Rutgers assistant, Danny Hurley led Wagner to a school-record 25 wins after the program won only five games the year before he arrived.

Eddie Jordan, Los Angeles Lakers assistant
A Rutgers alum, Jordan would bring clout to a program lacking any. Jordan has had three stints as a head coach in the NBA, including four playoff appearances with the Washington Wizards.

Steve Masiello, Manhattan
A former assistant at Louisville under Rick Pitino, Masiello is 35-31 at Manhattan and 21-15 in the MAAC. Masiello is a former walk-on at Kentucky under Pitino and Tubby Smith.

Steve Pikiell, Stony Brook
Stony Brook has not had a postseason breakthrough under Pikiell, but the Seawolves have been one of the most consistent programs in the America East over the last four seasons. Stony Brook has won three of the last four regular season titles before losing in the conference tournament.

Al Skinner, former Boston College coach
Skinner hasn’t been a head coach since 2010, but he had more than two decades of experience at Rhode Island and Boston College. He rebuilt a struggling program at Rhode Island and thrived in the Big East at BC before the program tailed off after a handful assistants left and the Eagles moved to the ACC.

<p> Rice was fired amid a player mistreatment scandal. Plenty of good candidates could be available for the Scarlet Knights.</p>
Post date: Wednesday, April 3, 2013 - 15:16
All taxonomy terms: Golf
Path: /golf/10-amazing-masters-records

Consider this the appetizer before next week's 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 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 37 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.

<br />
Post date: Wednesday, April 3, 2013 - 15:14
Path: /mlb/predicting-baseball%E2%80%99s-2016-all-star-teams

Now that baseball is back in full swing, we started thinking about the future. And there’s nothing more fun than projecting where today’s baseball stars will be playing three years from now, and predicting who the best players in each league will be. So here goes. The 2016 All-Star teams.

American League

CF—Mike Trout—Los Angeles
The game’s brightest superstar is the leading vote-getter.

SS—Jose Reyes—Toronto
The newest wave of young shortstops hasn’t overtaken Reyes just yet.

RF—Adam Jones—Baltimore
With Baltimore the likely host of the 2016 game, Jones will receive the loudest ovation.

DH—Miguel Cabrera—Detroit
The old vet is still punishing pitchers.

3B—Evan Longoria—Tampa Bay
Longoria wins the closest vote in years, edging Robinson Cano who has just made the switch to third base.

1B—Prince Fielder—Detroit
Prince edges King Albert who is showing serious signs of decline.

C—Sal Perez—Kansas City
Defensively and offensively, the best catcher in the AL.

LF—Austin Jackson—Detroit
It's taken a while, but Jackson makes his first All-Star start.

2B—Jurickson Profar—Texas
Yes, Profar really is that good.

SP—David Price—Tampa Bay
The leap here is that Price is still pitching for the Rays in 2016. The assumption is that he and Longoria help usher in a new stadium that year.


C—Joe Mauer—Minnesota
Managers always seem to pick an old vet as a lifetime achievement award.

C—Mike Zunino—Seattle
The rising star will soon be a perennial All-Star.

1B—Albert Pujols—Los Angeles
Still a machine, just not quite as efficient.

2B—Jose Altuve—Houston
The Astros must have a representative and Altuve cost Elvis Andrus a spot.

2B—Dustin Pedroia—Boston
The lone Red Sox is deserving in his own right.

3B—Robinson Cano—New York
He’s still getting used to third defensively, but his bat never takes a day off.

SS—Asdrubal Cabrera—Cleveland
Although Cleveland has toyed with moving him to second, he can still pick it at short and is surprisingly the lone Indian.

SS—Addison Russell—Oakland
Manny Machado and Alcides Escobar were shunned in favor of the second-year player.

OF—Wil Myers—Tampa Bay
Myers has given Tampa Bay fans — all 23,000 of them — a reason to cheer for three and half years now.

OF—Bubba Starling—Kansas City
Even after a stellar rookie season, Starling occasionally appears overmatched.

OF—Aaron Hicks—Minnesota
Twins fans most favorite player since Kirby Puckett.

OF—Yoenis Cespedes—Oakland
No longer sees much time in the outfield, but one of the most feared hitters in the league.

OF—Alex Gordon—Kansas City
Fans in K.C. believe teammate Billy Butler was a better choice.

OF—Mason Williams—New York
The youngster has taken New York by storm.

P—Yu Darvish—Texas
The Rangers’ ace led the AL in wins in 2015.

P—Felix Hernandez—Seattle
King Felix cruising toward 200 career wins.

P—Brett Anderson—Oakland
Anderson is one of the few players who missed the old stadium in Oakland. The new park is not nearly as pitcher-friendly.

P—Justin Verlander—Detroit
He doesn’t hit triple digits in the ninth inning any longer, but hitters still ask for a day off when he pitches.

P—Chris Sale—Chicago
After two years of struggling with injuries, Sale is back in ace form.

P—Dylan Bundy—Baltimore
Baltimore fans would love to see Bundy start the game.

P—Andre Rienzo—Chicago
The Brazilian is quickly becoming an ace in Chicago.

P—Addison Reed—Chicago
Best closer in the AL.

P—Taylor Guerrieri—Tampa Bay
Devastating curveball keeps hitters off balance.

P—David Robertson—New York
He’s very good, but he’s also following the legendary Mo Rivera. Not an enviable situation.

National League

RF—Bryce Harper—Washington
Introducing the leading vote getter in the NL, second only to Mike Trout of the Angels.

CF—Andrew McCutchen—Pittsburgh
The anchor of the Pirates lineup will have finally led the club to a winning record by 2016.

1B—Joey Votto—Cincinnati
Another batting title and MVP trophy would be good guesses for the face of the Reds.

LF—Ryan Braun—Milwaukee
Still one of the premier hitters in the NL.

C—Buster Posey—San Francisco
The only question will be how many MVPs Posey will have by the 2016 game.

DH—Giancarlo Stanton—Miami
Okay, so the chances of Stanton still residing in Miami in 2016 are slim, but he’ll be a good option for the manager’s choice for DH anyway.

3B—David Wright—New York
Anthony Rendon’s numbers will overshadow Wright’s, but the fans will vote for the New York veteran one more season to give him the start.

2B—Brandon Phillips—Cincinnati
With few choices at the position, the veteran wins the fans vote.

SS—Juan Segura—Milwaukee
With no real stars at the position, fans have begun to fall in love with Segura in Milwaukee.

SP—Stephen Strasburg—Washington
No manager can resist calling on Strasburg to start the game now that there are no innings limit for the kid.


C—Yadier Molina—St. Louis
The Cardinals backstop makes his final appearance in an All-Star Game.

C—Miguel Montero—Arizona
Without Posey in the league, Montero may have an All-Star start or two by then.

1B—Nolan Arenado—Colorado
The rising star in Colorado moves from third to first for 2016.

1B—Paul Goldschmidt—Arizona
His power and average will steadily rise every season for the next several years.

1B—Allen Craig—St. Louis
The hitting machine can’t seem to stay healthy enough to become the premier first baseman in the NL.

2B—Starlin Castro—Chicago
Moved off of short by Javier Baez, Castro will struggle at third before finding a home at second.

3B—Anthony Rendon—Washington
Ryan Zimmerman was moved to first base to accommodate Rendon who quickly becomes the best third baseman in the league.

SS—Zack Cozart—Cincinnati
Controversy: The NL manager shuns Andrelton Simmons of the Braves in favor of Cozart. (Obviously Tony La Russa has not returned.)

OF—Jedd Gyorko—San Diego
Youngster Christian Yelich of Miami may have a better argument, but the Padres must be represented.

OF—Justin Upton—Atlanta
Justin upstages his brother in Atlanta.

OF—Carlos Gonzalez—Colorado
The veteran Rockie is still putting up big numbers at Coors Field.

OF—Jason Heyward—Atlanta
Two-thirds of the Braves outfield will be represented.

OF—Oscar Tavares—St. Louis
The brightest rising star in the NL makes the team, but doesn’t get in the game.

P—Matt Cain—San Francisco
Cain is the unquestioned leader of the best staff in the NL.

P—Madison Bumgarner—San Francisco
The lefty is part of one of the best 1-2 punches in baseball.

P—Clayton Kershaw—Los Angeles
Now completely over a hip injury, Kershaw remains a Cy Young candidate.

P—Tyler Skaggs—Arizona
Many fans would argue that Skaggs has better numbers than Strasburg and deserved to start. But his time will come.

P—Adam Wainwright—St. Louis
There are maybe four or five pitchers that deserve this spot, but the manager’s choice is the veteran from St. Louis.

P—Shelby Miller—St. Louis
The new ace of the Cardinals.

P—Cole Hamels—Philadelphia
The Phillies have turned into an old, mediocre team, but Hamels is still nasty.

P—Zack Wheeler—New York
Fruits of the Mets rebuilding project are fully mature.

P—Craig Kimbrel—Atlanta
Still the best closer in the league. His career may rival Mariano Rivera’s without the postseason glory, of course.

P—Aroldis Chapman—Cincinnati
We see him as an All-Star whether starting or finishing.

P—Drew Storen—Washington
He piles up saves and his resume looks good at All-Star time.


<p> Look into our MLB crystal ball.</p>
Post date: Wednesday, April 3, 2013 - 13:40
All taxonomy terms: Keegan Bradley, Golf
Path: /golf/top-20-golfers-2013-majors-no-6-keegan-bradley

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

No. 6: Keegan Bradley

Born: June 7, 1986, Woodstock, Vt. | Career PGA Tour Wins: | 2012 Wins (Worldwide): 1 | 2012 Earnings (PGA Tour): $3,910,658 (10th) World Ranking: 11


Brandel Chamblee's Take

Bradley was statistically the best player on the tour in 2012, leading the All Around category. In the process, he added a WGC win to the PGA Championship he won in his rookie year. At 26 years old he has shown a tendency to elevate his performance in the game’s biggest events, whether it’s a major, a WGC event or last year’s Ryder Cup, where he looked like a teacher without colleagues on the US team.

Major Championship Résumé
Starts: 5
Wins: 1

2012 Performance:
Masters - T27
U.S. Open - T68
British Open - T34
PGA Championship - T3

Best Career Finishes: 
Masters - T27 (2012)
U.S. Open - T68 (2012)
British Open - T34 (2012)
PGA Championship - 1 (2011)
Top-10 Finishes: 2
Top-25 Finishes: 2
Missed Cuts: 0

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

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

<p> Athlon Counts Down the 20 Golfers to Watch for Majors Season</p>
Post date: Wednesday, April 3, 2013 - 10:55
Path: /nascar/confident-earnhardt-leads-sprint-cup-series-martinsville

It’s said that Dale Earnhardt Jr. is off to the best start of his 14-year NASCAR Sprint Cup career.

The 38-year-old has recorded top-10 finishes in each of the first five events, averaging a 4.4-place finish, and leads the point standings heading to the circuit’s sixth stop, in Martinsville, Va., on Sunday.

“When I hear people talking about the fast start, I feel like you’ve got to take a lot of different factors into the equation,” Earnhardt says. “We’ve had good fortune. (Certain) scenarios have been working in our favor ... and they don’t always work in your favor. You’re not always gonna come out on the better end of those deals, but we have.”

It’s not like this is unexplored territory for the 10-time most popular driver. Last season’s full slate of top 15s through the first five races found him third in the standings. And in 2004 with Dale Earnhardt, Inc., he enjoyed his finest season to date, when he notched two wins in the first five events, though a 35th-place run in Las Vegas dropped the average finishing position to 10.4.

Earnhardt also scored the sole Daytona 500 victory of his career that season, and runs of fifth, first and 10th surrounded the Vegas dud. So technically, the start of that six-win season was his finest to date.

But you’ll excuse his legion of fans if they choose to ride the momentum 2013 has brought. And the fact that Earnhardt is the only driver in the series that has yet to see 11th-place (or worse) at the end of a long Sunday afternoon finds his No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports team feeling upbeat as the circuit embarks on a trek of 15 straight race weekends through mid-July.

“We’re feeling confident — the mood’s good,” Earnhardt says of his team. “We see where we need to improve. We feel like we’ve got pretty decent speed in the car in race trim.”

For a driver and team that once struggled to make the car better over the course of a race, the in-race improvement has been striking. In fact, that 4.4-place average finish is a full 15 positions better than where they’ve managed to qualify on average — a testament to the communication between driver and crew chief Steve Letarte.

“We’ve gotten pretty good at closing races, something I never really was good at for years, and now we’re doing it as good as anybody,” Earnhardt says. “(We’re) just riding the wave — just real happy with how things are going for our team.”

Still, qualifying further up the pylon may change those second- to seventh-place finishes into wins.

“We’d love to qualify better, to feel more dependable when we put the car in qualifying trim,” says Earnhardt.

It’s a sentiment Letarte echos, though he realizes that the team has put itself in position to win numerous times. And if they do it often enough, those wins will come.

“You can’t win from 15th; you can’t win from 10th, the sport’s too difficult,” Letarte says. “You have to run in the top 5 or top 7 to win races — and we’ve done that all season. And we think that’s the formula for success that will get us to Victory Lane throughout the year.”

That brings Earnhardt and crew to Martinsville, a quaint .526-mile, paperclip-shaped oval that’s as much of a throwback venue as one will find on a schedule saturated with 1.5-mile intermediate clones. It’s a racetrack that has treated Earnhardt well in the past — he has showings of seventh or better in four of his last five starts — though he has yet to earn the coveted Grandfather Clock trophy awarded to the winner.

At this rate, though, Earnhardt is happy to have gotten out of the gates quickly, knowing the points earned early are insurance for the potholes that speckle an arduous season, wrought with trial.

“It’s a long year,” he says. “You’re going to have some bad luck — nobody runs the whole season perfectly — but we’re just trying to get as many points as early as we can so when that bad luck comes it doesn’t hit us as hard.”

<p> Dale Earnhardt Jr. leads the NASCAR Sprint Cup point standings and is a favorite to win this weekend at Martinsville Speedway.</p>
Post date: Wednesday, April 3, 2013 - 10:39
Path: /nascar/nascar-horsepower-rankings

Dale Earnhardt Jr. has assumed the top spot in the NASCAR Sprint Cup point standings, but it's defending champion Brad Keselowski who finds himself atop the Athlon Sports Horsepower Rankings.

1. Brad Keselowski
If not for an overheating issue late in Fontana (while running fifth), Keselowski would most likely be five-for-five in the top-5 finishes category. The defending champ has come out swinging.

2. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Junior has a quintet of top-10 runs thus far in 2013. He will not ascend to the top of this list until the No. 88 team proves it can win on a consistent basis.

3. Jimmie Johnson
You just know ace crew chief Chad Knaus has used the off-weekend to widen the chasm between teams that have and have not figured out the nuances of the Gen-6 car.

4. Matt Kenseth
Not surprisingly, the veteran Kenseth has comfortably made the transition to Joe Gibbs Racing in a seemless manner. In fact, he may be ranked a bit low on this list.

5. Kyle Busch
Busch is riding a three-race streak that has witnessed finishes of fourth or better, punctuated by a dramatic win at Auto Club Speedway. This bunch is going to be hard to handle this season.

6. Kasey Kahne
Kahne and crew chief Kenny Francis have a full season under their belts at Hendrick Motorsports. The duo has led the No. 5 team to consecutive showings of second, first and ninth.

7. Carl Edwards
Somewhat of a feast or famine team, the No. 99 bunch has a win (Phoenix) and two additional top-5 runs in 2013. Those showings are offset by 18th- and 33rd-place stinkers.

8. Greg Biffle
Going about things the way only Biffle can. Through five races, he has zero top 5s and two top 10s, yet finds himself fourth in the point standings. He’s nothing if not consistent.

9. Paul Menard
Menard’s No. 27 Richard Childress Racing team are off to their annual semi-hot start, with three top 10s and an average run of 13.6. The question this year, as it is every year, is can they sustain it?

10. Ryan Newman
Yes, he’s an uninspiring 20th in the point standings, but Newman is actually carrying the Stewart-Haas Racing banner with three top 10s. Like Edwards, this is a feast or famine group, albeit without a “W.”

11. Clint Bowyer
Can this team avoid the dreaded championship runner-up hangover? The thinking here is they can.

<p> Dale Earnhardt Jr. has assumed the top spot in the NASCAR Sprint Cup point standings, but it's defending champion Brad Keselowski who finds himself atop the Athlon Sports Horsepower Rankings.</p>
Post date: Wednesday, April 3, 2013 - 10:04
Path: /college-basketball/ranking-top-15-players-final-four

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

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

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

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

Related: How the Final Four teams were built


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ranking the Big Ten Head Coaches for 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No. 7: Justin Rose

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


Brandel Chamblee's Take

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

Major Championship Résumé
Starts: 35
Wins: 0

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s how the Final Four teams were built:

Homegrown talent

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

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

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

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

A recruiting mixed bag

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Young vs. old

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

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

Where they’re going

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

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

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

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

Oregon Ducks 2013 Spring Preview

2012 Record: 12-1 (8-1)

Spring practice dates: April 2-April 27

Returning Starters: Offense – 9, Defense – 7

Returning Leaders:

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

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

Early Enrollees to watch: LB Joe Walker

2013 Schedule

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

Related: Pac-12 Football 2013 Spring Preview and Storylines

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

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

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

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

Spring Storylines Facing the Ducks

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

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

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

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

Related College Football Content

Pac-12 Football 2013 Spring Preview and Storylines
5 Players to Watch in Pac-12 Spring Practice
Pac-12 Football Schedule Analysis for 2013
College Football's Top 10 Spring Storylines for 2013

Ranking the Pac-12 Coaching Jobs for 2013

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

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

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

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

Ranking the ACC Head Coaches for 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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<p> Ranking the ACC's College Football Coaches for 2013</p>
Post date: Tuesday, April 2, 2013 - 07:19