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All taxonomy terms: NBA
Path: /nba/nba-western-conference-playoffs-preview-and-predictions

NBA Western Conference Playoffs: Preview and Predictions


First Round

(1) Golden State Warriors vs. (8) New Orleans Pelicans

The Pelicans can’t beat the Warriors in a seven-game series. The truer debate lies in deciding whether they can win one game against Golden State. An emboldened, postseason version of Anthony Davis will be a sight to see regardless, though. Davis is the best 21-year-old the league has ever seen, and his late-April debut against Steph Curry’s squad makes for a potentially unforgettable moment of introduction. While this may be the least competitive series in the West’s first round, it could also very well be its most watchable.

Verdict: Warriors in 4


(2) Houston Rockets vs. (7) Dallas Mavericks

With full health, the Rockets would be runaway favorites against discombobulated Dallas. But without Patrick Beverley to help cause Maverick headaches with with his perimeter defense, and without the extra punch Donatas Motiejunas gives them down low, this could be a drawn-out affair for Houston. James Harden and Dwight Howard — along with the armada of relentless Rockets wing defenders—should still be able to lead the way into the second round, but they might tire themselves out quite a bit getting there.

Verdict: Rockets in 7


(3) Los Angeles Clippers vs. (6) San Antonio Spurs

Pour one out for Chris Paul. The Clippers point guard has had a fabulous season, and deserves every bit of MVP consideration he gets. But Los Angeles is undeniably overmatched against the surging defending champion Spurs, and their likely first-round exit is only going to give more fuel to the band of CP3 haters who criticize him for his lack of postseason success. The Spurs look poised to take the NBA throne back again, and it seems like a bit of Greek poetry that Paul has to stand in their way so early along the defense path.

Verdict: Spurs in 6


(4) Portland Trail Blazers vs. (5) Memphis Grizzlies

Both of these teams are somewhat fortunate to have found each other. The Blazers and Grizzlies both limp into the first round, collectors of broken bodies and holders of lowered hopes. Mike Conley Jr. has been far less than his best self for months, playing on a bum foot, Marc Gasol recently sprained his ankle, and Tony Allen and Courtney Lee have been on and off the floor for a long while. At least their injuries aren’t keeping their men out of action, though: the Blazers will do battle without Wesley Matthews, arguably their most important defender. Expect Memphis to come out alive in this war of attrition.

Verdict: Grizzlies in 6


Second Round

(1) Golden State Warriors vs. (5) Memphis Grizzlies

Barring Memphis finding a miracle curative elixir, the Warriors’ path of relatively little resistance should continue into the second round. If Memphis can walk into the bout with good health, they can cause Golden State trouble—Zach Randolph is a post-player who can most definitely make the Warriors second-guess their decision to start the undersized Draymond Green at power forward. But the Warriors are likely to waltz through their series with the Pelicans, while the Grizzlies face a more punishing climb in their matchup against Portland. Stamina is always key in the playoffs, and the Warriors look set to have far more of the stuff.

Verdict: Warriors in 5


(2) Houston Rockets vs. (6) San Antonio Spurs

The Rockets, again, should find themselves cursing the injury Gods against San Antonio. Every bit of depth is needed against the Spurs, and the Rockets will more than notice their two missing, crucial pieces of it when Gregg Popovich is running them ragged with relentless ten-man rotations. Putting Kawhi Leonard on James Harden, too, should give San Antonio an edge that no other team in the conference could have over the Rockets. Like Paul before him, Harden might start to see a thin playoff resume diminish his reputation in the eyes of casual fans, after another premature playoff exit.

Verdict: Spurs in 6


Western Conference Finals

(1) Golden State Warriors vs. (6) San Antonio Spurs

This series could very well be the NBA Finals — whoever comes out of the East might be ill-suited to contend with either winner. For the Warriors, the sight of San Antonio is certainly scarier than any that could come from the other coast. A late-season Golden State thrashing at the hands of the Spurs put the league on notice, as San Antonio showed it has what it takes to mess up the Warriors’ brilliance on the perimeter. You can’t stop Steph Curry, but if you’ve got Leonard and Danny Green to throw at him, you can come as close as you need to.

Verdict: Spurs in 6


— John Wilmes


Post date: Friday, April 17, 2015 - 12:54
All taxonomy terms: NASCAR
Path: /nascar/dale-earnhardt-jr-bristol-motor-speedway-dewshine-and-old-crow-medicine-show

Dale Earnhardt Jr. has been named the Sprint Cup Series Most Popular Driver for 12 straight years (2003-14). The 40-year-old son of racing royalty and member of the Hendrick Motorsports juggernaut is a fan favorite, for obvious reasons. But what does Dale Jr. like? Start with Bristol Motor Speedway, where he will race Sunday.


Athlon Sports caught up with Dale Jr. to talk about the iconic track, childhood memories at the bullring, the new paint scheme on his No. 88 Chevrolet and one of Dale Jr.’s favorite bands — Old Crow Medicine Show, who will play the Bristol prerace concert this weekend.


Where does Bristol rank among tracks on the Cup schedule?

Bristol fights for that top spot. I always loved going there as a kid. It’s one of the more exciting racetracks to be at as a fan. When I used to go watch my father race, being able to run around the pits and garage area all weekend long, when they were preparing to race and then sit down and watch the race, there’s not a bad seat in the house at Bristol. And it’s as much fun to race there as it was to see. It’s very special to me and my heart. It’s a tough race to win, but it’s a great feeling when you do.


What is your favorite Bristol memory?

When we swept in ’04. That was a great, great weekend. To be able to win the Nationwide race and the Cup race. We lapped all the way up to sixth place in the Cup race. We had this long, uncharacteristic green-flag run where we had to pit under green. We ended up lapping a lot of cars. Our car was just the class of the field that night.


Does a win mean more at a historic track like Bristol?

Yeah, it does. I like the history of the sport. I grew up in a house full of trophies, right? With my dad winning all the races he won, there was trophies on every shelf. Some of those trophies are different, more unique than others. The trophy for Bristol is a very, very tall trophy. I remember one of the races he won at Bristol, I got a picture of me standing next to the trophy and I’m shorter than the trophy.


When you’re a kid and you see something that big that you can win at that event, No. 1 you hoped it would never change, so when you got your opportunity to race there you could win the same trophy. And you hoped you’d have that opportunity, No. 2. And we were able to do that.



You don’t seem to drive quite as aggressive as your father, “The Intimidator” Dale Earnhardt. Why is that?

Well, it’s easy to be aggressive when your cars are good. I’ve been aggressive when the time comes — when it seems to be necessary and when the car can do it. You can’t go running with guys when you’re not handling well or the car doesn’t have a lot of speed because they’ll get you back pretty easy.


Who’s most likely to cause a problem at Bristol?

Anybody, really. Anybody. Whoever’s up there. … Anyone in that position is gonna do whatever it takes to win. Because Bristol’s a track where guys want that trophy on their mantle.


Any pranks planned for teammate Jeff Gordon’s last season?

I’m sure Jimmie (Johnson) has some ideas on some things he’s got brewing. I don’t know if he’ll clue in me and Kasey (Kahne).


Old Crow Medicine Show is playing the prerace show at Bristol. You’re a big fan of those guys aren’t you?

Yeah I been listening to them guys. I actually come across them about four or five years ago and love a lot of their songs. They kind of turned me on to a new genre of music that I’d really not heard before. And being a fan I was really excited when I heard they were gonna come play at the pre-race, so all the other drivers and mechanics and guys can actually get a chance to see them and hear them. So it’ll be great.


What do you think about the new Mountain Dew DEWshine paint scheme on the No. 88 car, which will debut at Bristol?

I guess what matters is what everybody else thinks. I’m just anxious to see what the fans think. I had a little involvement myself. I think it turned out great. The gold numbers are back for Bristol. We’re gonna put some tire marks on that thing and hopefully put it in Victory Lane on top of that building over there at Turn 3.



Ketch Secor, lead singer of Old Crow Medicine Show, on Bristol:

That’s where motor racing really calls home — the place where Tennessee and North Carolina and Virginia and Kentucky all come together. That’s sort of the epicenter, in my mind, of racing. Racing fans, they really come from that part of the country.


Anyhow, we’ve always loved playing music in Bristol, Tennessee. It’s the birthplace of country music. It’s a place where the Bristol Sessions found the discovery of some of the seminal figures in early country music history. So, we’ll be really proud to be part of the show this April 19.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. talks about everything going on at the Bristol bullring this weekend.
Post date: Friday, April 17, 2015 - 11:46
Path: /college-football/georgia-tech-declares-itself-state-champion-orange-bowl-rings

Georgia Tech is making sure it commemorates its first win over rival Georgia in six years.


The Yellow Jackets also went on to win the Orange Bowl, defeating Mississippi State 49-34 and earning a bowl championship ring.


One side of the Orange Bowl championship ring commemorates the Yellow Jackets' ACC Coastal title. The other salutes the Georgia “State Champs.” Georgia Tech also defeated Sun Belt champion Georgia Southern 42-38.


Georgia Tech quarterback Tim Byerly shared an image of the ring during his stint as a guest Tweeter for @GTStudents on Thursday.


(h/t @KevinOnCFB)



Georgia Tech Declares itself State Champion on Orange Bowl Rings
Post date: Friday, April 17, 2015 - 11:24
Path: /college-football/ranking-pac-12s-football-coaching-jobs-2015-expert-poll

Is it easier to win at USC or UCLA? How about Oregon, Stanford or Washington?


Which program provides the most support? Which program has access to the best players? Which program has proven it can succeed at a high level over time? Which program has the most pressure to win?


These are all the questions head coaches must ask themselves when deciding to accept a job or not.


So Athlon Sports asked some respected Pac-12 minds one question: Where would you want to coach if the slates (rosters, sanctions, etc.) were wiped clean and all 12 jobs were available?


The Voting Panel:

Anthony Herron, ESPN/Pac-12 Network

Jon Solomon, CBSSports

Pat Forde, Yahoo!

Scott Wolf, LA Daily News

Dennis Dodd, CBSSports

Dan Rubenstein, SB Nation

Stewart Mandel, Fox Sports

George Schroeder, USA Today

Ryan Abraham,

Bryan Fischer,

Ralph Russo, AP

Steven Lassan, Athlon Sports

Braden Gall, Athlon Sports/SiriusXM


The Results:


Voting: A first-place vote was worth one point and a last-place vote was worth 12 points. The points are a great indicator of what tier your program is in within the conference.


RkJobVotes (1st)
1.13 (13)
Like Ohio State in the Big Ten and Texas in the Big 12, USC dominated the voting by landing all 13 first-place votes. The money is huge, the location is nearly perfect, the rich recruiting base is unmatched, and the history of success is second to none in the league. With the exception of cost of living and the distracted nature of the L.A. market, this job has no weaknesses.
Two decades ago, the Ducks would have been ranked behind UCLA and Washington among others. Yet, the big business of sports and the flash of NIKE money have tangibly increased the Ducks' status not only in the Pac-12 but nationally. Eugene boasts the best stadium/fans in the conference and the facilities are some of the most impressive in the nation. In-state recruiting isn't all that fertile but few brands carry as much clout nationally as Oregon. The Ducks scored all but one second-place vote.
Like Texas A&M or Clemson, there are few excuses for UCLA not to be great. All of the same positives USC enjoys help the Bruins as well. The difference is lack of support and commitment from the administration over time (which is getting better). This has long been a basketball school first. Yet, UCLA has been a sleeping giant for years and Jim Mora may finally be waking the beast. UCLA got six third-place votes and one second-place vote.
The only home atmosphere out West that rivals Autzen Stadium is Husky Stadium. Some of the league's best fans and one of the nation's most picturesque venues/campuses makes UW an extremely desirable gig. Financial support doesn't seem to be a problem and in-state recruiting is adequate (although, not elite). This program has won a national title in the last 30 years and has all of the needed advantages to return to those heights. The Huskies got four third-place votes.
Arizona is a quality state for talent and dipping into California is par for the course at ASU. The stadium keeps getting better, the facilities are improving annually and the fans are, uh, gorgeously supportive. Does this program have the same national appeal and clout of those above it? No. But can Arizona State win at a high level consistently in the Pac-12? You bet.
There are major positives about working in Palo Alto but there are major hurdles as well. The prestige of the job is world renowned and the campus is an easy sell not only to the glut of in-state recruits but also nationally. The facilities are strong as well. However, the fan support won't ever match the bigger programs in the sport and sports aren't always a top priority among the powers that be at Stanford.
Arizona won't ever be confused as a Pac-12 power but it has done an excellent job of competing over time. The recruiting base is excellent but being able to lure outside prospects to the desert is important for any head coach in Tucson. There isn't any big-time tradition of gridiron success, but the stadium is slowly but surely becoming competitive with the bigger boys in the league. Zona isn't an easy job to peg, which is why it was voted as high as sixth and as low as 10th.
Cal is the premier public institution in America and is located in a great area to live and recruit. The facilities used to be an issue but have been renovated lately. There is a lot to like about this job but it has struggled to reach the upper tier of the league for the better part of a century. This program has just two Pac-12 titles since 1958 for a reason.
Going from the Mountain West to the Pac-12 is a tangible move that greatly impacts the national standing of the Utes' program in a positive way. Utah and the surrounding states are underrated for producing talent and the stadium is slowly but surely getting to a point where it can be mentioned as one of the better venues in the league. However, all of these aspects were tops in the Mountain West and are middle of the pack in the Pac-12. It's an uphill battle to get Utah on par with the elite jobs in the Pac-12 South.
The fall from national championship to 10th in the Pac-12 took less than 30 years for Colorado. Most of that stems from lack of support from the administration. The facilities are in desperate need of upgrading and support for the head coach has been questionable in recent years. That said, if new rounds of upgrades to all of the above were to happen, it could help the Buffs return to relevance. When good, the fans are excellent but tend to be a fickle bunch in a town with loads of other things to do. 
The stadium has been upgraded but still lags behind the Pac-12's best in terms of intimidation factor and size, while the facilities pale in comparison to their in-state big brother from Eugene. Getting recruits to Corvallis is extremely difficult as well. This job is better since Mike Riley rebuilt it but there is a reason OSU has won one conference title since 1954.
Everything that applies to Oregon State also applies to Washington State. Except, the Cougars have upgraded facilities but the fan support (when good) isn't as good. Pullman is an extremely difficult place to acquire talent despite some pockets of success over the years.


Listen to the Cover 2 Podcast: Early 2015 Pac-12 Preview

Subscribe: iTunes | Stitcher

Ranking the Pac-12's Football Coaching Jobs in 2015 (Expert Poll)
Post date: Friday, April 17, 2015 - 11:00
All taxonomy terms: NBA
Path: /nba/nba-eastern-conference-playoffs-preview-and-predictions

NBA Eastern Conference Playoffs: Preview and Predictions


First Round

(1) Atlanta Hawks vs. (8) Brooklyn Nets

At 60-22, the Hawks earned the East’s best record. Their reward? A first-round opponent who’s the least inspired of the bunch. Ex-Net Paul Pierce rently ripped into the Brooklyn roster, citing a lack of passion on the team and especially calling out Deron Williams. For an efficient, driven team like Atlanta — who have been playing with a Georgia-sized chip on their shoulder all year — this should make for some fast work.

Verdict: Hawks in 5


(2) Cleveland Cavaliers vs. (7) Boston Celtics

The East’s down-to-the-wire race for its two final playoff spots netted us the feistiest of the pack in the form of the Celtics. Brad Stevens’ young team is one of the conference’s surprise stories this year, consistently finding ways to win in the second half of the season, despite a lot of game-changing action at the trade deadline. But they’re no true rival for LeBron James and the Cavaliers, who have improved in every facet as their first year together has gone along. The Cavs are the favorites to break out of the conference, and Boston isn’t the team to break those odds.

Verdict: Cavaliers in 4


(3) Chicago Bulls vs. (6) Milwaukee Bucks

It’s been a disjointed year for Chicago, who came into the year with title expectations and closed it with uncertainty about whether head coach Tom Thibodeau would still have a job this summer. Make no mistake, though: this is still one of the league’s most talented, potent teams. Their first-round foe from Milwaukee has finished the season with a surprising amount of fight in them, but their unseasoned ways and lack of outside shooting will inevitably do them in against the Bulls, and probably in short order.

Verdict: Bulls in 5


(4) Toronto Raptors vs. (5) Washington Wizards

Now with the Wizards, Pierce has already made his imprint on this series, too. The veteran has said that the Raptors don’t scare him and his squad, and so this bout kicks off with built-in intrigue. And the Raptors shouldn’t scare Washington, who in John Wall has by far the most transcendent figure of either team. What should scare Wizards fans, though, is their coach Randy Wittman, who has hamstrung their efforts with short-sighted strategy for months now. On talent alone, Washington is the clear favorite — but they lose some chips in their stack by often not knowing what they’re doing out there.

Verdict: Wizards in 7


Second Round

(1) Atlanta Hawks vs. (5) Washington Wizards

Atlanta’s easy times will end abruptly in the second round. Without Thabo Sefolosha (who’s out for the year with a busted leg) and with a potentially compromised Paul Millsap (who’s nursing a shoulder injury), they should have about all they can handle in the Wizards. Washington faltered against the Indiana Pacers in last year’s second round; they had Indiana beat in most games, but coughed up leads in a state of seeming nervousness. Expect them to execute with more confidence in their trip back to this stage of the postseason dance, and make things very interesting. Atlanta, though, should ultimately have just enough to eke by them.

Verdict: Hawks in 7


(2) Cleveland Cavaliers vs. (3) Chicago Bulls

And so begins the Bulls’ fight for their coach’s job, and for the right to continue with their core. Several years with their current nucleus seem to have snowballed into a critical mass of organizational pressure to make something happen this year. The Bulls will be playing for this version of their basketball lives, and in their fear they might make this duel with Cleveland into the most watchable series of the playoffs. Kyrie Irving and Co. will have their way in the end, however, and Chicago will be left with some very strained decisions to make.

Verdict: Cavaliers in 7


Eastern Conference Finals

(1) Atlanta Hawks vs. (2) Cleveland Cavaliers

LeBron will once again flex his biggest — though often unnoticed — muscle in this series: his health. The Hawks have had an impressive run to the top of the conference, but they’ve been beset by injuries minor and major over the season’s closing weeks, and it seems like too much to ask for them to continue their insane winning pace. They’ll still make life difficult for Cleveland, as they’re just about the smartest team in the game. But without the extra body of Sefolosha to put on James and slow him down, the Hawks aren’t in a fair fight anymore.

Verdict: Cavaliers in 6


— John Wilmes


Post date: Friday, April 17, 2015 - 10:23
Path: /college-football/alabama-crimson-tide-2015-schedule-and-analysis

The last two seasons haven't ended the way Nick Saban would like. Two poor showings in the Superdome in New Orleans have left a bad taste in the Crimson Tide's mouth.


So as if Alabama needed any extra motivation, this group should be extra focused this fall. The Tide will have one of the best collections of players in the nation and Saban is still the best coach in the land. 


That doesn't mean Bama's work isn't cut out for it this fall. With a schedule loaded with ranked opponents, rivalry games and playoff contenders, Saban's bunch will have to earn their way into the postseason.


Related: Ranking the SEC's Best Football Jobs in 2015 (Expert Poll)


2015 Alabama Crimson Tide Schedule


Bye: Week 9


1.Sept. 5Arlington, TX*
Non-con Showdown These two powerhouse programs have met just once in history — a 15-0 Badgers victory in Madison way back in 1928. This isn't a vintage UW roster but will still present unique challenges. Look for the epic Big Ten-SEC showdown to go the way of the heavily favored Tide.
2.Sept. 12Tuscaloosa, AL
The home opener will be the third meeting all-time between Middle Tennessee and Alabama. Bama won easily in 2005 in Tuscaloosa and snuck past the Blue Raiders 39-34 back in 2002.
3.Sept. 19Tuscaloosa, AL
Revenge Game Ole Miss heads to Tuscaloosa fully aware of the revenge the Tide will have in mind. The Rebels have lost 12 straight in T-Town dating back to 1988 and had lost 10 straight overall until the 23-17 thriller in Oxford last fall. That said, both teams will be highly ranked (and likely unbeaten) in this early-season clash that will send shockwaves through the West Division by Week 3.
4.Sept. 26Tuscaloosa, AL
Quick, want to win a bar bet? Who owns the edge in the all-time series between Alabama and UL-Monroe? Technically, it's tied at 1-1 but Bama fans will never forget Saban's bizarre loss to the Warhawks at home in 2007 (21-14). The 2006 meeting has been vacated but was a 41-7 Tide victory. Think Saban has forgotten what happened? (My heart goes out to ULM in this one.)
5.Oct. 3Athens, GA
Atlanta Preview? For the first time since 2008, the Crimson Tide will visit Sanford Stadium. Mark Richt is 3-2 against Alabama, but the Tide has won two straight in the series, including one of the most unforgettable SEC title games in recent memory. This could be a preview of the SEC title game that could once again lead to a Playoff berth.
6.Oct. 10Tuscaloosa, AL
Alabama has won eight straight in this series but last year's 14-13 win in Fayetteville is one neither side will ever forget. In fact, before the streak started, Arkansas owned an 8-7 series edge in SEC games. The last time these two met in Tuscaloosa, however, was a 52-0 beatdown. The Hogs should be able to keep it much closer this time around.
7.Oct. 17College Station, TX
Must-See TV This was an obliteration last season when Alabama stepped on Texas A&M's neck 59-0 in an eye-opening win for the Tide. The two previous SEC meetings between Kevin Sumlin and Saban, however, were fantastic battles totaling 144 combined points. Have the Aggies closed the gap enough to compete at home against the mighty Tide?
8.Oct. 24Tuscaloosa, AL
This Saturday in October The historic SEC rivalry has been a series of streaks for decades. Alabama is currently on an eight-game winning streak over Tennessee, including five consecutive blowouts. Bama has won those five by an average of 28.4 points per game. However, this will be the best Vols team the Tide has faced since '09. 
10.Nov. 7Tuscaloosa, AL
Saban-Miles X One of the best rivalry games in college football every year could once again be an instant classic. Bama has won four straight over LSU and Saban is 6-3 in his career against Miles. Of those nine meetings, six were decided by one score or less. This could be an early November elimination game.
11.Nov. 14Starkville, MS
Last fall, No. 1 Mississippi State entered Tuscaloosa and narrowly lost 25-20, eventually launching the Tide into the Playoffs. The roles could easily be reversed this season should the Tide get to this point unbeaten. Saban has won the last three trips to Starkville by a combined score of 75-17 but has experienced defeat in Davis Wade Stadium. The last loss for the Tide in the series came in 2007 on Scott Field in Starkville. 
12.Nov. 21Tuscaloosa, AL
It's about time programs like Alabama (and the rest of the SEC) stop scheduling lower-tier teams in November. Cupcakes in September are perfectly acceptable but this is November 21. It will be ugly and actually could hurt Bama's standing with the selection committee. It's the first meeting between the two programs, if that means anything to anyone.
13.Nov. 28Auburn, AL
Iron Bowl The rivalry of all rivalries usually puts more than just state bragging rights on the line. No one will ever forget what took place on The Plains the last time these two met in Auburn. Bama leads the all-time series 43-35-1. The Tide has won two of the last three at Auburn, but the Tigers are 8-4 all-time against Bama in Jordan-Hare. There is a good chance the SEC West, SEC and a Playoff spot could hang in the balance in this one.


Listen to the Cover 2 Podcast: Early 2015 SEC Preview

Subscribe: iTunes | Stitcher

Alabama Crimson Tide 2015 Schedule and Analysis
Post date: Friday, April 17, 2015 - 10:00
Path: /college-football/can-gene-chizik-save-north-carolina-defense

For now, public shaming will need to be part of the rebuilding process of the North Carolina defense.


Even in spring, there’s plenty of it to go around.


Gene Chizik is in Chapel Hill to fix one of the worst defenses in school history, a unit that has kept Carolina hovering around .500 the last two seasons. Many coaches will spend spring practice preaching physicality. The new defensive coordinator for the Tar Heels is making it part of his central platform.


“We point guys out in meetings that aren’t physical,” Chizik told Athlon Sports. “We’ll point them out and call them out. They know that if they’re not physical and taking the mentality of the physical defense, it’s going to be hard for them to play in it.”


At the same time, hiring Chizik, the former national championship coach at Auburn, to repair the North Carolina defense is as clear a signal as anything in that meeting room.


Cleaning house on the entire defensive coaching staff was a bold move for North Carolina, and one coach Larry Fedora had to make.


Just as players are going to have trouble staying on the field if they’re not playing with the edge Chizik desires, Fedora may have trouble staying at Carolina if Chizik’s defense doesn’t deliver.



North Carolina 2015 schedule analysis

North Carolina spring football preview

Expert Poll: Ranking the jobs in the ACC


There’s no way around it: North Carolina’s defense was historically bad last season. The Tar Heels couldn’t hide it.


• Three times North Carolina scored 35 points or more and lost because the Tar Heels gave up 70 (East Carolina) and 50 (Clemson and Notre Dame) in those games.


• The Tar Heels’ 497.8 yards allowed per game was the fourth-worst in ACC history and second-worst in UNC history.


• North Carolina was last in the ACC pass defense, rush defense, pass efficiency defense and yards allowed per carry. The Heels gave up 67 touchdowns last season, 22 more than the next worst team in the ACC.


• Opponents converted on 49 percent of third downs and scored touchdowns on 72.2 percent of red zone trips, both were among the five worst rates in the nation.


That is the situation Chizik is charged with repairing in his first coaching job since he was fired at Auburn after the 2012 season. With numbers like that, the problems are many — personnel, scheme, leadership, attitude, technique. Chizik keeps going back to square one this spring.


“The biggest thing we have to do is we got to change the mental picture and mindset of these guys,” Chizik said. “You can’t play a style of football without physicality being the No. 1 goal. I don’t feel like we’re there yet at all. They’ve got to learn how to play physical football and bring it every day.”


That much may be true, but Chizik is also changing the scheme at North Carolina, moving from Vic Koenning’s 4-2-5 defense to a more traditional 4-3. That leaves Chizik trying to figure out how last season’s personnel fit in the new look.


“It was recruited as a different defense,” Chizik said. “We’re trying to take some of the spots that are in-between guys. When you have a 4-2-5 you have some guys that are ‘tweener players, so we’ve got to find spots for those guys.”


Middle linebacker Jeff Schoettmer is already one of the top players on the defense, and as a former walk-on safety, he should be plenty comfortable in coverage when North Carolina goes to the Tampa 2 look.


The defensive line has some promise, but the player with the highest ceiling is a true freshman in end Jalen Dalton, a top-100 prospect from Clemmons, N.C. The defensive backs return almost entirely intact, but this was a group torched for an ACC-record 31 touchdown passes. 


This is the area where Chizik may need to thrive the most. His secondaries were the foundation of a national championship team at Texas in 2005 and an undefeated team at Auburn in 2004. Chizik coached three consecutive Thorpe Award winners from 2004-06 — Carlos Rogers at Auburn and Michael Huff and Aaron Ross at Texas.


Listen to the Cover 2 Podcast: Early 2015 ACC Preview

Subscribe: iTunes | Stitcher


Beyond the personnel, there’s the problem of his defenses getting off the field.


No ACC defense has been on the field in the last two seasons than North Carolina. The Tar Heels defense played 76.2 snaps per game in 2014 and 76.4 per game in 2013, both the highest rates in the conference in each of the last two seasons.


Opposing offenses aren’t going to change, and neither will Fedora’s up-tempo spread. So the defense has to change to stay off the field for 80 snaps in a game, as happened in four consecutive games at one point last season.


Chizik says the problem isn’t with conditioning, but if the Tar Heels get into a potential shootout, they’re going to need to be more mindful with substitutions.


“If it does become an 85-play game on defense, we’re going to have a great rotation plan with depth particularly early in the season,” Chizik said. “We can’t be afraid to substitute early in the game.”


Given his track record as a defensive coordinator, Chizik is pretty close to a sure-bet to fix North Carolina. He hasn’t been a coordinator since 2006, but he had a top-25 defense in each of his last four seasons as a DC at Texas and Auburn.


In six seasons as a head coach at Auburn and Iowa State, however, Chizik had as many winning seasons as seasons that finished 3-9 or worse.


There was also a consistent cloud of NCAA issues at Auburn from over-the-top recruiting practices that were eventually banned to pulling assistants off the recruiting trail to the Cam Newton saga that hounded Auburn throughout the the 2010 national championship season.


North Carolina has its own issues with an ongoing academic scandal that may or may not bring NCAA sanctions.


An independent report detailing academic fraud at UNC predates Fedora’s tenure and wasn’t limited to football, but that doesn’t mean the head football coach won’t spend time dealing with the fallout — among other issues.


Part of Chizik’s job, as he puts it, is to take the defense so Fedora doesn’t have to worry about the day-to-day issues on that side of the ball.


“Mack Brown used to tell me all the time: You have no idea the things that are behind the scenes that never get to you because it’s my job to put them out before they do,” Chizik said. “And I know that’s what Larry does. That’s why I want to take all the defensive issues off is plate to the best of my ability so that he can do his duties.”


That means a ton of long days from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m., the kinds of days Chizik left behind when he was out of coaching for two seasons. During that time, he worked with the SEC Network and SiriusXM Radio and spent time with his family — his family still lives in Auburn while his daughter finishes school there.


“I hadn’t had many 17-hour days in the last two years,” Chizik said. “I haven’t had any. But I’ve had several in the last couple of months.”


And Chizik hopes eventually some of them will start to involve more praising his defense rather than calling out players.

Can Gene Chizik Save the North Carolina Defense?
Post date: Friday, April 17, 2015 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, NBA, News
Path: /college-basketball/5-college-coaches-who-would-make-interesting-nba-candidates

The NBA Playoffs begin Friday, meaning the NBA coaching carousel is about to get started.


In most years, this is of secondary concern to the college ranks. The checkered track record of college coaches in the NBA, not to mention the wildly different job descriptions, have kept GMs and ADs in their own playgrounds.


The NBA and college coaching ranks have been a little more interchangeable than usual in recent years. Two new college hires for 2015-16 have been NBA head coaches (Alabama’s Avery Johnson and Nevada’s Eric Musselman). The success of former Butler coach Brad Stevens with the Celtics may earn some college coaches another look.


Then there are the usual college coaches with NBA ties who might see the allure in returning to the league, if not this season then perhaps in coming seasons.


With a recent report pegging Florida’s Billy Donovan as a potential candidate for the Oklahoma City Thunder (should they part ways with Scott Brooks), here are five coaches who might earn a look from the NBA in the coming years.


Billy Donovan, Florida

The rumors of Donovan taking a renewed look at the NBA have kicked up in recent months, and Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski names a potential destination of Oklahoma City. Donovan’s contract, extended by one year to 2020, contains a mere $500,000 buyout if he leaves for the NBA. There’s little more for him to accomplish at Florida with two national titles and four Final Fours and an almost certain induction into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame. Following the 2007 national title, Donovan was hired as the head coach for the Orlando Magic for a matter of days before having second thoughts and returning to the Gators.


John Calipari, Kentucky

Calipari’s 72-112 stint with the New Jersey Nets from 1996-99 was the least successful period of his career. For a coach as stubborn as Calipari, the opportunity to atone for that failed stint in the pros might be tough to resist. In coach years, that NBA stint was an eternity ago. He’s gone to four Final Fours, won a national title and sent dozens of players to the NBA since then. He could, presumably, land with a team that contains multiple players he coached in college. Calipari had already been offered a sweet deal by the Cleveland Cavaliers before this year’s 38-1 season.


Kevin Ollie, UConn

Ollie was already well-respected in NBA circles before leading the Huskies to the 2014 national championship. He’s a rising star in the profession and would have immediate credibility in an NBA locker room after 12 seasons in the league. The NBA would have to pry him away from his alma mater where he was the handpicked successor to Jim Calhoun.


Fred Hoiberg, Iowa State

Hoiberg has returned his alma mater to national prominence, taking the Cyclones to four consecutive NCAA Tournaments for the first time in school history. He’s considered one of the sharpest offensive minds in college basketball in part because of his knack for analytics. His exposure to that was honed in the NBA when he worked in the front office for the Minnesota Timberwolves. Like Ollie, he’d have credibility as a former NBA player. Hoiberg is undergoing open heart surgery during the offseason to replace his aortic valve, a procedure related to the surgery that ended his playing career 10 years ago.


Larry Krystkowiak, Utah

Like Ollie and Hoiberg, Krystkowiak comes from NBA stock, playing in the league for more than a decade. Unlike the other two, he’s been an NBA head coach before, going 31-69 in two seasons with the Milwaukee Bucks. Also unlike Ollie and Hoiberg, Krystkowiak isn’t an alum of his employer. His work at Utah can’t be denied as he’s led the Utes to progressive improvement during the last four seasons, culminating with their first Sweet 16 since 2004.

5 College Coaches Who Would Make Interesting NBA Candidates
Post date: Thursday, April 16, 2015 - 15:38
All taxonomy terms: College Football, News
Path: /college-football/urban-meyer-will-pick-ohio-states-quarterback-middle-training-camp

When Ohio State plays its spring game Saturday, the Buckeyes will be a long way from deciding their biggest offseason question as they head into 2015.


National championship quarterback Cardale Jones will start for one squad. Sophomore Stephen Collier will start for the other.


The spring game won’t include 2013 starter Braxton Miller and 2014 starter J.T. Barrett, who are sitting out this spring due to shoulders.


Naturally, coach Urban Meyer doesn’t expect to make his decision on a starting quarterback until closer to the season.


“I think the middle of training camp because I think every one of them deserve that opportunity and right now two of them aren’t getting it,” Meyer said. “I think by training camp you have to have a handle on that thing.”



Big Ten Schedule Analysis

Ranking the Big Ten Coaching Jobs (Expert Poll)

Podcast: Early Big Ten Preview


Miller was lost for the 2014 season in August to a right shoulder injury. Barrett stepped in and set school records for touchdown passes and total offense before sustaining a shoulder injury of his own against Michigan. Jones then started the Big Ten championship game, the Sugar Bowl semifinal and the national championship game.


All three stayed at Ohio State when Miller could have transferred and been eligible immediately as a graduate transfer. Jones was eligible for the NFL Draft.


“The quarterbacks have continued to amaze me,” Meyer said. “The power of the unit is incredible in that room. Cardale has had a great spring. J.T. has had a very good spring. Braxton is right in the middle of it. You never knew how that dynamic would work out.”


Urban Meyer Will Pick Ohio State's Quarterback in "Middle of Training Camp"
Post date: Thursday, April 16, 2015 - 15:24
Path: /college-football/big-ten-2015-football-schedule-analysis

Never before has scheduling been a bigger issue than the 2014 College Football Playoff.


The committee clearly took a stance on Baylor’s weak non-conference matchups and it cost the Bears a chance at the national championship. A perceived lack of quality wins also has long been an issue for Big Ten champions. It hurt Michigan State two years ago and nearly cost Ohio State last fall. With a glut of intriguing non-conference games against top-level Power 5 teams, that shouldn't be an issue this fall — at least, not in the deep East Division.


Scheduling is a huge part of Athlon Sports’ process of making predictions as well. Here is what you need to know about the Big Ten’s football schedules in 2015.


East’s best game: Michigan State at Ohio State (Nov. 21)

Ohio State snapped Michigan State’s 14-game Big Ten winning streak with a 49-37 victory by hanging 568 yards on Mark Dantonio’s defense. It was revenge for the B1G title game defeat the year prior. An East Division and Big Ten title as well as Rose Bowl or Playoff berths could be hanging in the balance once again when these two meet late in November. This could easily be replaced by Ohio State's visit to Ann Arbor the following week.


West’s best game: Wisconsin at Nebraska (Oct. 10)

The dairy-fed Big Red from Madison have put up 129 points on the corn-fed Big Red from Lincoln in their last two meetings. The Badgers have won three of four Big Ten meetings, but the Huskers' lone win came in Lincoln. The Big Ten West will likely be determined in this Big Red battle.


Best crossover: Michigan State at Nebraska (Nov. 7)

Wisconsin avoids each of the top four from the East and Nebraska plays just one. Michigan State-Nebraska has been an intense battle in all four conference meetings since the Huskers joined the league, including a wild Taylor Martinez-led rally in East Lansing three years ago. These two are separated by 21 total points over the last three meetings.


Other crossovers to watch:

With the balance of power titled heavily towards the East and Ohio State avoiding both Wisconsin and Nebraska, there aren’t a lot of intriguing crossover games. Minnesota at Ohio State could be fun. Maryland at Iowa isn’t terrible. Wisconsin at Maryland is probably the second-most intriguing crossover in a league devoid of quality crossover matchups.


East's toughest schedule: Rutgers

Rutgers must face five (possibly six) potential bowl teams from the East Division and gets the top two teams from the West (Nebraska, Wisconsin). It also faces two Power 5 teams in non-conference play (albeit Washington State and Kansas). It seems highly unlikely the Knights will return to the postseason.


East’s easiest schedule: Penn State

Penn State has four easy, winnable, non-conference games and gets really lucky in crossover play with Northwestern and Illinois. Yes, PSU must face Michigan State and Ohio State on the road. But, otherwise, the rest of the schedule is manageable in a very difficult division.   


West’s toughest schedule: Minnesota

Minnesota could face two potential playoff teams with TCU in the non-conference and Ohio State in crossover. The Gophers also must face Michigan from the East. Add to that slate divisional dates with Wisconsin, Nebraska and Iowa and Jerry Kill is looking at an uphill battle in the West.


West’s easiest schedule: Iowa

Wisconsin and Nebraska have tougher non-conference and crossover schedules. This gives the nod to Iowa as the easiest slate in the division despite having to face both Big Red foes on the road. The Hawkeyes could be favorites to win all four of their non-conference games and all four home Big Ten games.


Listen to the Cover 2 Podcast: Early 2015 Big Ten Preview

Subscribe: iTunes | Stitcher


Top 10 Non-conference games:


1.Sept. 12
2.Sept. 5*
3.Sept. 7
4.Sept. 3
5.Sept. 19
6.Sept. 7
7.Nov. 28
8.Sept. 19
9.Sept. 3*
10.Nov. 7

* - neutral site

2015 Big Ten Football Schedule Analysis
Post date: Thursday, April 16, 2015 - 11:30
Path: /college-football/ranking-big-12s-football-coaching-jobs-2015-expert-poll

Is it easier to win at Texas or Oklahoma? How about Big 12 newcomers West Virginia and TCU?


Which program provides the most support? Which program has access to the best players? Which program has proven it can succeed at a high level over time? Which program has the most pressure to win?


These are all the questions head coaches must ask themselves when deciding to accept a job or not.


So Athlon Sports asked some respected Big 12 minds one question: Where would you want to coach if the slates (rosters, sanctions, etc.) were wiped clean and all 10 jobs were available?


The Voting Panel:

David Ubben, Fox Sports

Ralph Russo, AP

Jon Solomon, CBSSports

Chip Brown,

Pat Forde, Yahoo!

Dennis Dodd, CBSSports

Stewart Mandel, Fox Sports

Blair Kerkhoff, KC Star

George Schroeder, USA Today

Chris Level,

Bryan Fischer,

Allen Kenney,

Tim Fitzgerald,

Steven Lassan, Athlon Sports

Braden Gall, Athlon Sports/SiriusXM


The Results:


Voting: A first-place vote was worth one point and a last-place vote was worth 10 points. The points are a great indicator of what tier your program is within the conference.


RkJobVotes (1st)
1.15 (15)
Texas might be the best job in America as all 15 panelists voted UT as the best job in the Big 12. The resources are second to none in college football as is the in-state talent. Certainly, there is pressure to win but nowhere in the country are there more advantages to national success than Austin — which is also one of the best cities in the country as well.
Oklahoma got all 15 second-place votes and is largely considered on the same plane as the Longhorns. Being outside of the Lone Star State and in a less vibrant town are the only things that keep OU from the top spot. Facilities and fan support are among the nation's best and history suggests the Sooners rarely fail to compete at a high level. This program has no weaknesses.
The Pokes were voted the top second-tier program in the Big 12 behind Texas and Oklahoma. Oklahoma State has massive financial resources (one, at least) and recruits north Texas as if it's an in-state territory. The Cowboys got nine of the possible 15 third-place votes and was voted no lower than sixth. There is much to like about this program but it's clearly not on the same operating level as the two big boys in this league.
By going from the Mountain West to the Big 12 by way of the Big East, few programs in the nation have elevated their stock as much as TCU. There are countless reasons why being in the Big 12 is better (namely, money and clout) and being in the Big 12 has allowed for natural advantages — like in-state recruiting talent, for example — to flourish on a bigger stage. The stadium won't ever be elite or seat 100,000, but there is a lot of upward mobility for the Horned Frogs. TCU got four third-place votes.
Much like TCU, Baylor has elevated its stock by building a fantastic new stadium and state-of-the-art facilities. These are tangible ways to improve a coaching job long-term and few in the country have seen a bigger boost in the last half-decade than the Bears. And also like TCU, it's allowed Baylor to take advantage of a rich in-state recruiting base better than ever before. Baylor got two third-place votes and five fourth-place nods.
If Morgantown was located closer to the Big 12 fray, it would probably be the fourth-best job in the league. It has a much longer history of success and much better fan support historically than both Baylor and TCU. However, it's an extreme outpost even within a league full of outposts. The facilities also are in desperate need of upgrading, but the stadium is impossible to play in due in large part to great fans. This is an underrated job — if you can get there. 
Both Spike Dykes and Mike Leach proved that you can win consistently in Lubbock. But it takes a special breed to be successful out on the West Texas plains. Texas is loaded with athletes but it's tougher to get players to Lubbock than other Lone Star State Big 12 locales. The stadium and fan support continue to grow and have been solidly consistent over the last two decades. Yet, there's a reason Tech has won just two conference titles since 1955 — and one was a 6-6 campaign that featured a five-way tie.
The last of the "quality" jobs in the Big 12 can be very deceiving. Kansas State is an extremely difficult place to win but Bill Snyder has covered up a lot of warts. In-state recruiting is highly questionable unless you are targeting JUCOs. The campus isn't bad and the stadium isn't small but it hardly compares to the bigger venues in college football. The facilities are solid as well but not elite. No coach since Pappy Waldorf has posted a winning record at KSU — except Snyder. And many of those tenures were extremely ugly.
Of course Iowa State and Kansas tied for the worst job in the Big 12. Iowa State has better fan support and a better home atmosphere and comparable facilities. However, Lawrence is easier to recruit to and might be slightly easier to win at — both Glen Mason and Mark Mangino were competitive. The Cyclones got six 10th-place votes while the Jayhawks got nine. However, Kansas got a seventh- and eighth-place vote (the best for either school), which made up the difference and led to a dead heat in voting.
SEE: Iowa State.

Listen to the Cover 2 Podcast: Early 2015 Big 12 Preview

Subscribe: iTunes | Stitcher

Ranking the Big 12's Football Coaching Jobs in 2015 (Expert Poll)
Post date: Thursday, April 16, 2015 - 10:30
Path: /nba/thunder-reportedly-considering-firing-scott-brooks-hiring-billy-donovan

On the heels of one of the most momentous closing nights of an NBA regular season within memory, a rather large rumor bomb dropped on the internet’s doorstep.


The Oklahoma City Thunder missed the postseason for the first time in six years after losing a tiebreaker to Anthony Davis and the New Orleans Pelicans, and are now considering excusing head coach Scott Brooks — this according to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports.


Wojnarowski also mentions a quite titillating replacement possibility: “If a change comes, University of Florida coach Billy Donovan could emerge as a serious candidate to coach Oklahoma City, league sources said. (General manager Sam) Presti has a longstanding friendship with Donovan, a two-time national championship coach who has been open about his interest in moving to the NBA.”


The Thunder’s season was impressive on a lot of levels. Losing defending MVP Kevin Durant for the season (after he played just 27 games) is a blow most teams couldn’t survive, and it doesn’t even scratch the surface of the Thunder’s injury woes this year. Serge Ibaka missed the home stretch, and their campaign started out with such a decimated roster that they crawled to a 3-12 record.


Behind Russell Westbrook’s eye-popping Waterloo of the past few months, though, they finished 45-37. Missing the playoffs by just a fingernail would be an accomplishment in itself for most franchises. But the stakes have raised to title-or-bust in OKC, where they might need to make changes to convince Durant to stick around as he considers his options heading into free agency in 2016.


Brooks has long been the preferred Thunder effigy for NBA analysts everywhere, seen as having an invaluable human touch with his men but lacking in the next-level court strategies his team may need to win their first Larry O’Brien trophy. Stay tuned as this story develops.


— John Wilmes


Post date: Thursday, April 16, 2015 - 10:08
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/grading-13-key-college-basketball-coaching-hires-2015-16

The college basketball coaching carousel has slowed down with all but a handful of mid-major and low-major jobs filled.


Unless a college coach makes a leap to the NBA in the coming weeks and months, every major job is filled. All in all, this was a quiet year in the carousel, though three head coaches with Final Four experience took new jobs.


Only five jobs in the Power 5 conferences — Alabama, Arizona State, Mississippi State, Tennessee and Texas — opened this season. That, of course, doesn’t include notable openings at VCU, St. John’s and DePaul.


How did the most important hires grade out in 2015-16? Here’s a look at 13 of the key hires in college basketball this offseason.



Expert Poll: Who are the coaches on the rise?

Expert Poll: Who are the top coaches today?


Shaka Smart, Texas

Hired from: VCU

Replaced: Rick Barnes, hired at Tennessee

Texas needed to make a bold move to replace Barnes, a coach who ultimately fell victim to the expectations he raised in Austin. Smart certainly qualifies a bold hire. Smart resisted overtures from major programs since leading VCU to the Final Four in 2011, and now he'll be expected to challenge Kansas in the Big 12. The 38-year-old Smart brings energy, buzz, a defined style and a track record of success. VCU reached the NCAA Tournament in five of six years under Smart and three times finished second in conference play (once in the Colonial and twice in the more competitive Atlantic 10).

Grade: A


Ben Howland, Mississippi State

Hired from: N/A

Replaced: Rick Ray, hired at Southeast Missouri State

Howland’s track record is impeccable, including three consecutive Final Fours and four Pac-10/12 regular season titles at UCLA. Howland’s program tailed off after 2008 thanks to a few recruiting classes that didn’t pan out, but he still won a regular season title in his final year. Perhaps just as relevant to Mississippi State fans is Howland’s track record at Pitt, a moribund program that reached back-to-back Sweet 16s under his watch. Howland might not have produced enough for UCLA, but this is a home run hire for Mississippi State.

Grade: A


Avery Johnson, Alabama

Hired from: N/A

Replaced: Anthony Grant, hired as Florida assistant

A handful of former NBA coaches have tried their hand at college coaching in recent years. Few bring as successful a pro track record as Johnson, who went 194-70 in four seasons with the Dallas Mavericks. Johnson has been an NBA coach of the year and reached the NBA Finals. Alabama ultimately failed in wooing Gregg Marshall from Wichita State, but the Crimson Tide still landed a coach who can hold his own against other recent SEC hires Bruce Pearl and Ben Howland.

Grade: B


Rick Barnes, Tennessee

Hired from: Texas

Replaced: Donnie Tyndall, fired

Barnes was out of work for all of two days before Tennessee hired the former Texas coach. His tenure, though, can be a bit divisive. He has missed the NCAA Tournament only once since 1996 and has 604 career wins. Yet he also left TExas fans wanting more. Since the 2003 Final Four, Barnes had three preseason top 10 teams fail to reach the Sweet 16 and at least seven Big 12 losses in each of the last four seasons. At Tennessee, he’ll recruit and he’ll lend a stabilizing hand to a program in desperate need of one.

Grade: B


Bill Carmody, Holy Cross

Hired from: N/A

Replaced: Milan Brown, fired

Carmody ultimately couldn’t get Northwestern over the hump and into the NCAA Tournament. He did make Northwestern more competitive with four consecutive NIT bids, which was an accomplishment itself. before Northwestern, Carmody was wildly successful at Princeton, going 27-2 and earning a No. 5 seed in the NCAA Tournament in 1997-98. There’s little reason to believe he won’t be successful in the Patriot League.

Grade: B


Steve Donahue, Penn

Hired from: N/A

Replaced: Jerome Allen, fired

Donahue lasted only four seasons at Boston College, but he’s returning to the stage were he had success. Donahue rebuilt a dormant Cornell program into a three-time Ivy League champion and a team that reached the Sweet 16 in 2010. Penn, an NCAA regular under Fran Dunphy from 1993-2006, believes it is getting a sure thing.

Grade: B


Will Wade, VCU

Hired from: Chattanooga

Replaced: Shaka Smart, hired at Texas

This was a natural move for VCU as Wade was an assistant for four seasons under Smart before taking the head coaching position for two seasons at Chattanooga. The Mocs improved from 8-10 in Southern Conference the year before he arrived to 12-4 in his first year to 15-3 in his second. He arrives in a pressure-packed situation in following the most successful coach in a run of three consecutive successful coaches. The 32-year-old Wade is the only one of the last four Rams coaches — Anthony Grant and Jeff Capel were the other two — to arrive at VCU with head coaching experience. 

Grade: B-minus


Eric Musselman, Nevada

Hired from: LSU (associate head coach)

Replaced: David Carter, fired 

Nevada hopes the well-traveled Musselman will give a jolt to program that slipped from one of the best mid-majors to 9-22 last season. Musselman, a former NBA, Continental Basketball Association and international head coach, has been working to rebuild his career after a DUI arrest during the preseason of his final year with the Sacramento Kings. When he was the coach of the Golden State Warriors for two seasons in 2002-04, he was considered an up-and-comer in the coaching ranks. He’s spent the last three seasons as an assistant at Arizona State and LSU.

Grade: B-minus


Chris Mullin, St. John’s

Hired from: Sacramento Kings front office

Replaced: Steve Lavin, fired

Mullin’s place in St. John’s history is secure. He’s one of the best players in school history, the program’s all-time leading scorer and a three-time Big East Player of the Year. He’s a Naismith Basketball Hall of Famer and Olympic gold medalist. Now, St. John’s hopes he’s the guy who can return the program to glory. He’s never been a coach, spending his post-playing career in NBA front offices. Does the Mullin name connect with recruits? Perhaps not, but few will be better able to articulate the potential of the program like Mullin. Hiring assistants from Kentucky (Barry Rohrssen) and Iowa State (Matt Abdelmassih) is a good sign for recruiting.



Bobby Hurley, Arizona State

Hired from: Buffalo

Replaced: Herb Sendek, fired

One could argue the most impressive Hurley brother in the mid-major ranks between Dan at Wagner and Rhode Island and Bobby at Buffalo. Bobby, though, has the NCAA Tournament appearance with Buffalo last season. He’s also spent his entire coaching career in the Northeast, so his assistant hires at Arizona State will be key. 

Grade: C


Brian Wardle, Bradley

Hired from: Green Bay

Replaced: Geno Ford, fired

Wardle was never able to get Green Bay to the NCAA Tournament, but his tenure was nonetheless impressive. The Phoenix were one of the nation’s top mid-majors the recent years, winning 24 games in each of the last two seasons for their best two-year total total since Dick Bennett was the coach in the early 90s. The 35-year-old Wardle played and coached under Tom Crean at Marquette and went to high school in the Chicago area. That should serve him well in Peoria. One concern: Wardle was accused in 2013 of player mistreatment but ultimately retained his post at Green Bay.

Grade: C


Dave Paulsen, George Mason

Hired from: Bucknell

Replaced: Paul Hewitt, fired

After a short-lived tenure by a former high-major coach, George Mason returned to the approach it had when it hired Jim Larranaga in 1997 by hiring a consistent coach coach from the lower levels. Paulsen coached seven seasons at Bucknell, winning a Patriot League title in four of the last five seasons. Paulsen also won a Division III national title at Williams College in 2003.

Grade: C


Dave Leitao, DePaul

Hired from: Missouri (assistant coach)

Replaced: Oliver Purnell, fired

DePaul can at least it hired a coach it knows can win at DePaul. That description doesn’t apply to many active coaches. Leitao is the last coach to take DePaul to the NCAA Tournament — back in 2004. Leitao went 63-60 in his last head coaching gig at Virginia from 2005-09. For a program in desperate need of energy, this hire did not check that box.

Grade: D

Grading 13 Key College Basketball Coaching Hires for 2015-16
Post date: Thursday, April 16, 2015 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football, News
Path: /college-football/iowa-teammate-thought-new-michigan-qb-rudock-would-have-more-fight

New Michigan quarterback Jake Rudock didn’t receive a ringing endorsement from one of his former teammates at Iowa.


“I thought he had a little more fight in him,” defensive end Drew Ott said on Wednesday’s Big Ten spring teleconference. “But maybe an opportunity (arose) over there at Michigan.”


Rudock started 25 games in two seasons at Iowa last season, but was slated to back up C.J. Beathard in 2015. As a graduate student, Rudock was permitted to transfer and play at his new destination without sitting out a year.


Listen: Early 2015 Big Ten preview


In a departure from what most program have done in the past, Iowa allowed Rudock to transfer anywhere, including within the Big Ten.


Rudock is expected to compete for the Michigan starting quarterback job with junior Shane Morris, redshirt freshman Wilton Speight and freshman Alex Malzone when in the fall. Michigan formally announced Rudock’s arrival Thursday. 


Ott is a defensive player, so his insight on Rudock wouldn’t be quite as revealing as a wide receiver, for example, but he was asked his opinion anyway.


What kind of player is Michigan getting?


“A smart football player,” Ott said. “He’s going to run an offense and know what to do.”


Is he a leader?


“I don’t know. You’d have to ask someone else.”


Rudock completed 61.7 percent of his passes for 2,436 yards with 16 touchdowns and five interceptions. 


Iowa will not play Michigan during the regular season in 2015.

Iowa Teammate Thought New Michigan QB Rudock Would Have More Fight
Post date: Wednesday, April 15, 2015 - 15:17
All taxonomy terms: AFC, AFC East, New England Patriots, NFL
Path: /nfl/can-patriots-protect-tom-brady

If there's one tried and true way to beat Tom Brady and the New England Patriots, it's to attack the middle of his offensive line, prevent him from stepping up in the pocket and disrupt plays as early as possible. Both Super Bowl losses to the Giants and the 2010 AFC Divisional round loss to the Jets were perfect examples of this tactic and we saw it again in early 2014 in losses to the Miami Dolphins and Kansas City Chiefs.


The Patriots' entire offensive line struggled to start the 2014 season and it wasn't much of a surprise after long-time coach Dante Scarnecchia retired and Logan Mankins was traded in August. That left the Pats scrambling to replace Mankins, using a rotating combination of tackles at the guard spot, including Jordan Devey and Marcus Cannon.


The changes also affected left tackle Nate Solder, previously one of the most promising young players in the league, as he appeared to regress. There wasn't much to like about the Pats' front five early last year.


However, the offensive line settled in once rookie Bryan Stork returned from injury and Ryan Wendell shifted to right guard. Wendell's positional change was one of the most underrated storylines of the season, as not even the Patriots' coaching staff believed Wendell to be anything more than a guard before last season.


Dan Connolly, who had started for the Patriots at both center and right guard, shifted to left guard, and the line gelled into one that would finish ranked fifth overall by Football Outsiders.


But there is cause for concern this offseason, as Connolly remains unsigned, leaving a major hole at the starting left guard spot and the overachiever Wendell without much competition for the starting right guard spot. Depth with actual guards is non-existent, giving many Pats fans nightmares imagining Devey or Cannon back inside.


Connolly still could return, and veteran Stefan Wisniewski did visit the team recently, so there should still be some moves to be made, but the Pats should make upgrading the guard position a priority in the draft.


Tom Brady's quick reads and throws certainly make life easier for an offensive line, but he cannot continue to take the kind of punishment he took last September, as the team tries to find the right combination up front. And despite their solid overall ranking from Football Outsiders, they ranked just 28th in power runs and 27th in stuffed runs. This means the offensive line struggled with the "gotta have 'em" yards.


Prospects like A.J. Cann of South Carolina and Cameron Erving and his Florida State linemates have been all over many Patriots mock drafts and rightly so. Many of the top guards should still be available in the Patriots' second-round sweet spot, and it would make sense to take two of them early.


They have a solid building block at center in Stork and Solder should bounce back. Their depth at tackle is strong with Sebastian Vollmer, Cannon and Cameron Fleming all capable players.


But if the Pats are to extend Brady's career and revitalize their power running game, they need an infusion of youth and talent at guard, a critical spot to playing the game the way Bill Belichick wants to play it.


— Written by Mike Dussault, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and writer/editor of (@PatsPropaganda), a comprehensive blog covering the New England Patriots.

The Pats' offensive line struggles were well-documented in 2014 and the questions have only multiplied this offseason.
Post date: Wednesday, April 15, 2015 - 14:30
All taxonomy terms: NFL
Path: /nfl/former-patriots-te-aaron-hernandez-found-guilty-first-degree-murder

Former New England Patriots star tight end Aaron Hernandez, 25, was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison without parole today in the deadly shooting of Odin Lloyd, which took place June 17, 2013. 



For more on the case, visit ESPN

Post date: Wednesday, April 15, 2015 - 12:44
All taxonomy terms: Boston Red Sox, College Football, Overtime
Path: /overtime/red-sox-fan-wreaks-havok-fellow-fans

The next time you're at a Boston Red Sox game, keep an eye out for the guy in the blue and red shirt. While his intensions may be pure, his exuberant reactions resulted in havoc for his fellow fans.


We're guessing this was his checklist:

1. Do not actually help player.
2. Knock phone from girl's hand.
3. Knock beer onto girl's face. 
Mission accomplished!


Post date: Wednesday, April 15, 2015 - 12:20
Path: /college-football/wvu-ad-discusses-return-backyard-brawl

One of the most anticipated matchups and biggest rivalries in college sports could be on the verge of being resumed in the not-so distant future. West Virginia vs. Pitt, better known as the "Backyard Brawl," is the historic rivalry between these two schools, which are separated by 75 miles.


Related: 10 College Rivalries Killed by Conference Realignment


One of the oldest in the nation, the rivarly had played out on the gridiron every year since 1942 until it came to an end following the 2011 matchup, a 21-20 Mountaineers victory in Morgantown. However, WVU's new athletic director told MetroNews Sportsline recently that he plans to reach out to Pitt once the Panthers appoint a new AD of their own.


According to new WVU AD Shane Lyons, the Backyard Brawl is on his list of things to work on in the near future. He hopes to resume the series by 2023, but nothing has been set yet by the athletic departments. One of the complications on resuming the series is due to the Mountaineers already having a full out-of-conference slate for the next few seasons, but Lyons wants the teams to renew the rivalry. Lyons is hoping to quickly develop a relationship with Pitt's new Pitt AD once that person is hired.


The Backyard Brawl has featured some of the best moments in each program's history. In 2007, the Panthers upset the then-No. 2-ranked Mountaineers 13-9 to knock WVU out of the consideration for a spot in the BCS National Championship Game.


One of the greatest moments in this rivalry came in 1994 when WVU quarterback Chad Johnston threw a game-winning, 60-yard touchdown pass to Zach Abraham with just 15 seconds remaining to propel the Mountaineers to a 47-41 victory.


Pat White (above) was the thorn in Pittsburgh's side while he was quarterbacking the Mountaineers. During the 2006 meeting, White became only the ninth player in college football history to run and pass for over 200 yards in the same game. The 45-27 West Virginia win was only noteworthy in that White and running back Steve Slaton each ran for 200 yards against the Panthers, becoming just the third tandem in NCAA history to do so.


The history is there for this series to resume without any love lost from either program, and given the recruiting battles the schools have been in the past few seasons, it would add to the rivalry's context.


Pitt leads the all-time series with a 61-40-3 record against their border-state rivals.


— Written by Jeremy Simon, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and editor-in-chief of, a must visit for any and all West Virginia Mountaineer fans. Follow on Twitter @Blue_GoldSports.

West Virginia Athletic Director Discusses Return of Backyard Brawl
Post date: Wednesday, April 15, 2015 - 11:00
All taxonomy terms: Paul Pierce, NBA
Path: /nba/paul-pierce-gets-candid-calls-out-deron-williams-brooklyn-nets

The 37-year-old veteran known as The Truth did perhaps more than he ever has to earn his nickname, in a recent interview.


Paul Pierce got very candid with ESPN’s Jackie MacMullan, spilling secret feelings about his time with the Brooklyn Nets. "It was a tough situation last year. Horrible, really,” he said.


"It was just the guys' attitudes there. It wasn't like we were surrounded by a bunch of young guys. They were vets who didn't want to play and didn't want to practice. I was looking around saying, 'What's this?' Kevin [Garnett] and I had to pick them up every day in practice… If me and Kevin weren't there, that team would have folded up. That team would have packed it in. We kept them going each and every day.''


Pierce was especially disparaging of Nets point guard Deron Williams. "Before I got there,” he said, “I looked at Deron as an MVP candidate. But I felt once we got there, that's not what he wanted to be. He just didn't want that… I think a lot of the pressure got to him sometimes. This was his first time in the national spotlight. The media in Utah is not the same as the media in New York, so that can wear on some people. I think it really affected him.’'


Pierce also said that he’s happy to be playing for the Washington Wizards, now — a team that is playoff-bound, potentially unlike the Nets, who are still fighting for a spot on the final day of the season. With the Wizards, he has what he was yearning for in Brooklyn: a young, motivated nucleus to transfer his wealth of knowledge over to. John Wall and Bradley Beal have been eager students in the way Williams wasn’t, and are a fitting duo for him to finish his career with.


— John Wilmes


Post date: Wednesday, April 15, 2015 - 10:41
Path: /college-football/ranking-accs-football-coaching-jobs-2015-expert-poll

Is it easier to win at Florida State or Clemson? How about North Carolina or Miami?


Which program provides the most support? Which program has access to the best players? Which program has proven it can succeed at a high level over time? Which program has the most pressure to win?


These are all the questions head coaches must ask themselves when deciding to accept a job or not.


So Athlon Sports asked some respected ACC minds one question: Where would you want to coach if the slates (rosters, sanctions, etc.) were wiped clean and all 14 jobs were available?


The Voting Panel:


Wes Durham, FOX Sports/ACC Network

Mark Packer, SiriusXM College Sports Nation

Tony Barnhart, AJC/SEC Network

Chris Low,

Bob Ferrante,

Ralph Russo, AP

Bud Elliott,

Joe Lanza,

Paul Myerberg, USA Today

Mark Ennis, ESPN 680-Louisville

David Glenn, The David Glenn Show

David Hood,

Jerry DiPaola, Pitt Trib Review

Nate Mink,

Steven Lassan, Athlon Sports

Braden Gall, Athlon Sports/SiriusXM

The Results:


Voting: A first-place vote was worth one point and a last-place vote was worth 14 points. The points are a great indicator of what tier your program is in within the conference.


RkJobVotes (1st)
1.17 (15)
Ever since joining the ACC, Florida State has been the league's most dominant program. The Noles have a great recruiting base, rich history of elite success, a powerful national brand and one of the better gameday atmospheres in the league. The facilities are getting better and the only drawback is slight financial instability in the athletic department. There are very few cons in Tallahassee and it's why FSU got 15 of the possible 16 first-place votes.
The more you study Clemson the more you wonder how it went 20 years without a conference crown. Death Valley is the best place to play (or live) in the ACC and the support from both administration and fans is second-to-none in the league. It's also centrally located between the fertile recruiting grounds of Florida, Georgia, Virginia and North Carolina. The Tigers got 14 of the possible 16 second-place votes.
Frank Beamer has slowly but surely elevated this program from regional afterthought to ACC powerhouse by way of the Big East. The facilities are great and Lane Stadium is a sight to behold on Saturdays. The campus is gorgeous but isolated and Virginia is stocked with talent but is over-recruited by both the ACC and SEC. The Hokies were ranked third, fourth or fifth by all but one voter. It's not an elite job but it's stable and safe.
4.70 (1)
Miami is an interesting case study in pros and cons. On the positive side, the Hurricanes offer as much upside as any program in the nation, winning national titles in three different decades and have the easiest access to elite prospects of any program in the nation. But fan and administrative support is inferior to any nationally elite programs and the home-field advantage is non-existent. This is why The U was the only other team to get a first-place vote — and was voted ninth twice.
One of the quicker risers in college football (due in large part to the accomplishments of Tom Jurich) checks in as a top-five ACC job after just one season. Facilities continue to surge upwards towards big-time college football but are not on an elite level quite yet. The same could be said about the recruiting base — it's solid, but Louisville must look outside the region to build a roster. There is a lot to like about the Cardinals' post but it still has some work to do to be a nationally revered gig.
Now that Clemson has reestablished itself as an ACC power, the mantle of underachiever falls to Chapel Hill. As far as location, recruiting base, stadium, facilities and brand power, UNC is on par with most conference foes. However, the fans can be fickle (and obsessed with the round ball) and there is little track record of high-level success. This is a program that should be winning 8-9 games every season with the many advantages it boasts. Yet, it hasn't won an ACC crown since 1980. This job has more to offer than, say, Louisville, but hasn't been able to prove it on the field.
There are certain obstacles one must clear to win at Tech. First, the city of Atlanta is a poor sports town and produces less talent than one might assume in a market dominated by its SEC brethren from Athens. Academic standards can also hinder success. But this program has consistently been competitive despite some more interesting hires. 
Boasting the most underrated gameday atmosphere in the ACC, NC State is one of the better second-tier programs in the league. The recruiting base is rich and the facilities are among the league's best. But this program seems mired in the middle of the league, last winning a title in 1979 and posting just six winning seasons in ACC play since 1990. The Wolfpack were voted as high as sixth (three times) and as low as 11th.
Since Florida State joined, no program has watched its stock slip more than Virginia. The once-proud program has a fertile recruiting base to cull, a gorgeous campus and stadium with passionate fans. But this program has struggled to deliver, as it's won just two ACC titles in its 57-year league history. The strict academic standards likely have kept this program from vaulting into regionally elite status.
The last of the quality jobs in the ACC, Pitt offers some unique points to this discussion. The Panthers play in a posh building in a football-crazy town but will always be second fiddle to the Black and Gold. The Keystone State was once extremely productive when it comes to football talent but has seen population trends shift South, West and East. It is the lone rust-belt program geographically, so while there are unique advantages there are also unique disadvantages as well. Moving up to the ACC is a big positive but the glory days of Dan Marino, Hugh Green and Tony Dorsett are long gone.
Don't let the job David Cutcliffe has done fool you, winning at Duke is nearly impossible. At best, it's the third-best job in the state in an area that is focused on hoops and has academic restraints. The fan support and overall interest just isn't there — from fans or boosters. How else could a team win a division title and only average 26,000 fans?
There are many hurdles to clear to win at BC. There isn't enough talent in the Northeast to keep BC competitive with the Florida State's of the world and luring players North from down South is easier said than done. Facilities and fan support aren't among the league's best either. However, there is something to be said about the consistency this program has experienced in the past — which is why three voters had the Eagles at ninth.
Just 15 years ago, this ranking would be absurd. This once-proud program was a national power with elite facilities, fan support and brand recognition. Yet, as population trends continue to move away from the Northeast and Cuse's once state-of-the-art stadium becomes more outdated, winning has gotten more difficult. And the fans aren't coming out like they used too. It's impossible to recruit to upstate New York and the move to the ACC hasn't opened up a Southern pipeline like anticipated. Finally, Syracuse administration clearly are more committed to basketball.
There just is nothing that sets Wake Forest apart from anyone else in the ACC. It's not the top program in the state — it's third at best. It's not the best academic school in the ACC. The facilities are solid but uninspiring. Fan support is extremely questionable on most Saturdays. Winston-Salem is a nice play to live, but otherwise there is little upside here. The Demon Deacons have posted three winning seasons in a row only once (2006-08) since the early 1950s and have won just one ACC title since 1970.


Listen to the Cover 2 Podcast: Early 2015 ACC Preview

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Ranking the ACC's Football Coaching Jobs in 2015 (Expert Poll)
Post date: Wednesday, April 15, 2015 - 10:00
All taxonomy terms: NASCAR, News
Path: /nascar/jimmie-johnson-cruises-victory-lane-under-lights-texas

When you think of tracks that fit Jimmie Johnson’s driving style, Texas doesn’t cross your mind first. There’s Dover, the Monster Mile where he’s led more laps and earned more trophies than anyone else. Charlotte, now Lowe’s Motor Speedway was a track that was once nicknamed “Jimmie’s House” for his dominance. And Martinsville, although Johnson struggled there this year, has long been a place where the No. 48 team has emerged victorious, a short track he used as a catapult toward many of his six Cup championships.



Perhaps, though it’s time to take a serious look at how Texas has emerged as a playground for Johnson and crew chief Chad Knaus. Their victory in the spring race Saturday night was their fourth in the last six Cup races held down in Fort Worth, leading a total of 742 laps along the way. That’s a higher win total for him over the same stretch compared to any other track on the circuit, even Dover (where he’s won a career-high nine times). During the race Saturday night, Johnson seemed to glide all over the track with ease, mastering both the short and long-run setups crucial to NASCAR’s 1.5-mile ovals. It was the No. 48 team at their best, never out of touch with the track and seemingly in cruise control over a victory which, without the presence of Kevin Harvick and teammate Dale Earnhardt, Jr. would have turned into a cakewalk.


“Texas has just kind of grown for us,” Johnson said after the race. “I think the tracks with high wear, bumps, all those types of things, have just always been a good surface for the 48.”


The emergence of this race is important on Johnson’s resume because of the way the new Chase unfolds. With the three-round elimination format, the only way you protect yourself from bad luck during the playoffs is by scoring victories. Now, the No. 48 team has not one but two tracks in the final round where they’re considered heavy favorites: Martinsville and Texas. It helps protect them and potentially adds an extra week for the team to focus on one of the few places they haven’t run well consistently – Homestead – the track that now holds the key to a record-tying seventh title.


Johnson’s Texas triumph is just one of the stories we’re following. Through the Gears we go…


FIRST GEAR: Chevys Back In Control


Johnson’s victory, his second of the season continued a running theme of Chevy dominance at intermediate tracks. Other than the Team Penske Fords of Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano, no one else was in serious contention, as the Bowtie Brigade led 288 of 334 laps. It’s developed into a running theme where Hendrick engines, chassis and setups on the 1.5-mile ovals dominate over all other competitors.


Consider this fact: six of the top 8 at Texas had Hendrick power under the hood. With the 2015 rules package staying intact, at least for the foreseeable future it’s clear who everyone else has to catch.


“Stats don’t lie and the stats say that those guys or really anyone with a Hendrick engine or chassis is going to be capable of winning right now,” said Toyota’s Denny Hamlin. “To be realistic, we need stuff to go our way. We need cautions and track position. We just can’t drive through the field like that – what those guys are capable of – and we’re a work in progress.”


SECOND GEAR: Kahne’s Quiet Consistency


Much of the focus at Hendrick has centered on Johnson’s surge to the top, Jeff Gordon’s final season or Earnhardt, Jr.’s interaction with new crew chief Greg Ives. Lost in it all has been the way Kasey Kahne has shown consistency this season, his first with new head wrench Keith Rodden. It seems like the No. 5 car has been revitalized, finishing each race inside the top 20 while battling through bad luck that seems to hound Kahne’s tenure with HMS.


“There were times when I felt really competitive with the leaders and other times more like a fifth-place car,” Kahne said. “Keith (Rodden, crew chief) did a great job; we prepared a nice car. We just left too many wheels loose throughout the race. I think three; you can’t run well when you do that.”


Yet Kahne battled back to finish in eighth, fighting adversity that in previous years would have left him well outside the top 20. The chemistry is clicking here and that’s important considering how well the 10 Chase tracks play out in Kahne’s favor. Each of the rounds offers him an opportunity to win easily (Chicagoland, Charlotte, and Texas, respectively). A solid fifth in the standings, NASCAR’s one-time king of the 1.5-milers should have no problem making the Chase this season and can spend the summer testing combinations for the races that really count.


THIRD GEAR: Where Art Thou?


While the rest of Stewart-Haas Racing keeps humming along, its co-owner is mired back in 32nd in the Sprint Cup standings. Tony Stewart still sits without a top-10 finish, 24th at Texas and has struggled mightily despite running in the same organization as defending champion Kevin Harvick. At this point, even if Stewart won a race his current point position would make him ineligible to compete inside the Chase.


It’s also been a disastrous season for Sam Hornish, Jr. in his return to Cup competition. Hornish sits 29th in the Cup Series standings and does not have a top-20 finish outside of the Daytona 500. His teammate, Aric Almirola sits in Chase position by comparison which makes Hornish’s lack of performance stand out.


FOURTH GEAR: Small Team Struggles


It’s clear that the intermediates give the underdogs a decided disadvantage. But Texas was especially notable, with no “David” ever giving “Goliath” a run for their money. Among the smaller programs, David Gilliland did the best of the bunch, just 28th for Front Row Motorsports as none of them finished on the lead lap. Others, like Justin Allgaier and Michael Annett crashed while several suffered from mechanical failures.


Speed and handling, the two keys for an aging Texas track tend to make contending impossible here for these teams. The hope is Bristol this weekend will bring relief but with the way this year’s rule package has worked out, that’s no guarantee – even at one of the series’ most competitive arenas.




The emergence of young Erik Jones, who won Friday night’s XFINITY Series race down in Texas has Joe Gibbs Racing thinking about putting him in a Cup ride as soon as May. Does that mean David Ragan could be on the way out? Ragan, subbing for the injured Kyle Busch has finally started to seem comfortable driving the No. 18 Toyota, posting runs of fifth and 13th the last two weeks. But he’s contracted to a Ford team, Front Row Motorsports, and has failed to lead a lap all season long. Jones is a Toyota driver and potentially a future star within the JGR camp… The Texas race earned a paltry 2.9 overnight rating, the worst for the race since FOX started covering the sport in 2001. The last four Cup races have now seen declines in the Nielsens after a series of increases to start the year.


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


Photos by Action Sports, Inc.

Jimmie Johnson Cruises to Victory Lane Under the Lights in Texas
Post date: Tuesday, April 14, 2015 - 22:30
All taxonomy terms: NFL, News
Path: /nfl/cleveland-browns-unveil-new-uniforms-2015-season

The 2015 season is still a few months away, but Cleveland is getting an early start by releasing its updated jerseys for the upcoming year.


The Browns didn’t drastically alter their uniforms in this update, but it's also hard to call this change an improvement. One of the biggest changes is the addition of the word "Cleveland" on the front of the jersey.


Here’s a few photos from Tuesday night’s release in Cleveland:



Cleveland Browns Unveil New Uniforms for 2015 Season
Post date: Tuesday, April 14, 2015 - 20:12
Path: /college-basketball/williams-transfer-west-virginia-university
Body: has learned that junior forward BillyDee Williams is leaving the West Virginia basketball program. BGS first learned of Williams' decision on Monday evening, which was later confirmed by other sources.


Williams was a JUCO transfer, who averaged 7.3 minutes per game for WVU this past season after playing for Iowa Western Community College in 2013, where he averaged 13.9 ppg. Williams was expected to receive major playing time for the Mountaineers this fall due to his size and athletic ability. He sustained a broken optical socket before the 2014-15 season even started and after that had trouble adapting to WVU head coach Bob Huggins' system. Huggins often criticized Williams' inability to learn the Mountaineers' defensive scheme, but praised his basketball athletic ability. Huggins was quoted on multiple occasions to say that Williams was the best athlete on the WVU basketball team.


With Williams no longer in the picture, look for Huggins and staff to move quickly to fill his spot. The first name to watch is JUCO guard Buay Tuach, who will visit the WVU campus this weekend. Tuach has the body build and athletic ability that WVU loses in Williams, but is a much better shooter than Williams was. Another name to watch is Robert Morris transfer Elijah Minnie. Minnie was recruited by the WVU coaching staff last year before committing to play close to home at Robert Morris. Minnie has been granted his release from the school and is looking at the Mountaineers as a possibility.


Either way it’s looking like there will be a new face in the Coliseum this fall.


Before publication of this article WVU released an official statement on Williams:


MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (April 13, 2015) – West Virginia University men’s basketball junior BillyDee Williams plans to transfer to another school, coach Bob Huggins announced this evening.


“BillyDee and I met, and we mutually agreed that he should transfer to another school for his senior season,” said Huggins. “We thank BillyDee for his contributions to Mountaineer basketball, and we wish him success in his future endeavors.”


Williams, from Orlando, Florida, played in 18 games this past season, averaging 1.2 points and 1.5 rebounds per game.



— Written by Jeremy Simon, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and editor-in-chief of, a must visit for any and all West Virginia Mountaineer fans. Follow on Twitter @Blue_GoldSports.


(BillyDee Williams photo by All-Pro Photography/Dale Sparks photo, courtesy of

Junior Forward BillyDee Williams to Transfer from West Virginia University
Post date: Tuesday, April 14, 2015 - 12:15
All taxonomy terms: Overtime, News
Path: /overtime/cubs-jon-lester-pickoff-attempt-goes-wrong-0

Cubs' left-hander Jon Lester had not thrown a pickoff to first base since April 30, 2013. And after last night's attempt, we may know why. Check out this video to see Lester's second attempt sail into the outfield:


Lester attempted his first and second pickoff throws to first since 2013 against the Reds on Monday night. The one that went into the outfield was the second throw over. However, the mistake was not a costly one with the help of teammate Jorge Soler, who nailed Zack Cozart at third. Lester's first attempt did not go unnoticed either. The Cubs crowd went crazy at Lester's first attempt...which by the way was off line too.


Lester gave up six runs on 10 hits over six innings in his second start with the Cubs. He has been known to have the case of the "yips" when it comes to fielding his positions and throwing to bases. After Monday night, we might not see another attempt from Lester until 2017.

Cubs' Jon Lester sends his second pickoff attempt in two years into the outfield.
Post date: Tuesday, April 14, 2015 - 11:48
All taxonomy terms: College Football, News
Path: /college-football/coaches-texas-texas-am-favor-resuming-rivalry

Texas coach Charlie Strong and Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin would like to coach against each other. Presumably as the coaches of Texas A&M.


Strong and Sumlin both told’s Chris Low they’d like to see one of the best rivalries in college football resume. The series was among several great rivalries ended due to conference realignment.


"That game is so much a part of this state," Strong told "Over 100 years, we've played that game. Why stop it now because we're in different conferences? At some point, when it's right for everybody with the different schedules, I would love to play Texas A&M again."


The rivalry, which was played nearly every year between 1915 and 2011, ended when Texas A&M departed the Big 12. The move of the Aggies and Missouri to the SEC and Nebraska to the Big Ten and Colorado to the Pac-12 put the existence of the Big 12 in jeopardy.


The Big 12 stabilized its 10-team membership with the addition of West Virginia and TCU in 2012. The league’s status may be further solidified as the NCAA appears to have softened its stance on the rule prohibiting 10-team leagues holding a conference championship game.


"Now, moving into Year 4 (of SEC membership) and listening to our former students and our alumni base and knowing a lot of Texas alums, it's important that we play again," Sumlin told "I think it will happen somewhere down the road.”


The question is scheduling. The next time both teams have a vacancy on their schedules is 2019. The relationship between the two schools has been frigid since conference realignment, but both schools have new athletic directors — Steve Patterson at Texas and Eric Hyman at Texas A&M — since 2012.

Coaches at Texas, Texas A&M Favor Resuming Rivalry
Post date: Tuesday, April 14, 2015 - 11:47