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Path: /college-basketball/texas-freshman-myles-turner-declares-nba-draft-0
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Heralded University of Texas freshman Myles Turner announced on Monday via Youtube that he will enter the upcoming NBA Draft which takes place in June. Turner’s decision comes the day after head coach Rick Barnes and Texas officially parted ways after 18 years.

 

Turner, a 5-star recruit and McDonald’s All-American from Trinity High School in Euless, Texas, averaged 10.1 points and 6.5 rebounds per game with the Longhorns. His 89 blocks this season led the Longhorns.

 

Turner chose to play college basketball at Texas over schools like Duke, Kansas, Oklahoma State and many others. Now he will have an opportunity to showcase his talent at the next level.

 

While it can be argued that Turner wasn’t as polished in games as Texas fans expected to see, his upside in the NBA is undeniable. Turner is projected to be a top-15 draft pick with a strong potential to be selected as a lottery pick.

 

Turner left Longhorn fans with this message via Twitter:
 


 

— Written by Aaron Carrara, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and co-publisher of HornSports.com (and @HornSports), your source for Texas sports and recruiting news.

Teaser:
Texas Freshman Myles Turner Declares for the NBA Draft
Post date: Monday, March 30, 2015 - 13:15
All taxonomy terms: Essential 11, Overtime
Path: /overtime/athlons-essential-11-links-day-march-30-2015
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This is your daily links roundup of our favorite sports and entertainment posts on the web for March 30:

 

Matt Harvey's taste runs towards supermodels. Not that he's unique in that; he's just in position to do something about it. 

 

Ponytailed bro Adam Morrison is tears-free these days, but he's still hated by Duke fans.

 

• How good is this Final Four? Coaches aside, there could be eight lottery picks on the floor Saturday.

 

Tiger Woods is outside the top 100 in the World Golf Ranking for the first time since 1996. The No. 1 song at the time? The Macarena. 

 

Aaron Rodgers and Dennis Dodd got into a Twitter slapfight the other night.

 

Chris Mullin to St. John's would seem to make a lot of sense, but I guess we'll see.

 

• Hoops insider Jon Rothstein's Twitter shtick has become a source of comedy.

 

WrestleMania 31 was the other night, in case you're into that sort of thing.

 

Chris Mullin to St. John's seems to make a lot of sense.

 

A team lost a state championship on a seldom-called rim-hanging technical.

 

Matt Stafford's fiancee has his back.

 

• Michael Jordan, Tom Brady and golfer Keegan Bradley got together for some star-studded pickup hoops.

 

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

Teaser:
Post date: Monday, March 30, 2015 - 12:01
Path: /college-football/washington-huskies-2015-spring-football-preview
Body:

Washington opens its second spring under coach Chris Petersen with just 10 returning starters and major concerns on both sides of the ball. The quarterback position is up for grabs, and the battle includes true freshman Jake Browning after he enrolled in time to compete this spring. Defensive standouts Shaq Thompson, Hau’oli Kikaha and Danny Shelton must be replaced, and the secondary needs to take a step forward after ranking near the bottom of the Pac-12 last season.

 

5 Storylines to Watch in Washington’s Spring Practice

 

1. The Quarterback Battle

Petersen planned to open the quarterback battle to all candidates after the Huskies ranked near the bottom of the Pac-12 in passing offense in 2014. However, this battle became even more of a question mark after it was announced Cyler Miles was taking a leave of absence from the team. Miles is not expected to play in 2015, which leaves three candidates vying for the starting job: Jeff Lindquist, redshirt freshman K.J. Carta-Samuels and freshman Jake Browning. Will a leader emerge this spring?

 

2. Improvement at Receiver

While improved play from the quarterback position is needed, Washington has to develop more playmakers at receiver. This unit loses DiAndre Campbell (24 catches in 2014) and Kasen Williams (20 receptions) but returns Jaydon Mickens (60), Kendyl Taylor, Dante Pettis and two-way talent John Ross. This is a big spring for players like Ross, Pettis and Brayden Lenius to take the next step in their development.

 

3. Restocking the Offensive Line

The Huskies must replace three starters from a line that allowed 28 sacks in 2014. There’s a foundation to build around with the return of guard Dexter Charles, center/guard Siosifa Tufunga and tackle Coleman Shelton. How quickly can Washington find a consistent starting five this spring? Will freshmen like Matt James, Henry Roberts (arrives in the summer) or Kaleb McGary make a push for playing time?

 

4. Rebuild the Front Seven

Washington finished third in the Pac-12 by holding opponents to 24.8 points per game last season. The Huskies have some major issues to address if they want to match that number in 2015. The front seven must be revamped with Shaq Thompson (LB) leaving for the NFL, along with Danny Shelton (NT), rush end Hau’oli Kikaha (rush end), John Timu (LB) and Andrew Hudson (DE) expiring their eligibility. Elijah Qualls is a potential breakout candidate up front, but can coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski find a few answers at end? Joe Mathis is a name to watch after recording two sacks in a backup role last year.

 

5. Improvement in the Secondary

The Huskies struggled to prevent big plays in the secondary last season, giving up 55 plays of 20 yards or more. Youth was largely to blame, as the depth chart from the Cactus Bowl against Oklahoma State showed mostly freshmen and sophomores in the rotation. With another spring to work under Kwiatkowski, it’s safe to assume the secondary will show improvement in 2015. But how will the starting spots look by the opener? Sidney Jones (cornerback) and Budda Baker (safety) are two rising stars in the Pac-12, while fellow sophomore Naijiel Hale could claim the other spot at cornerback. How healthy is Jermaine Kelly after playing in only two games last season? Petersen also recruited a junior college safety (Ezekiel Turner) to add to the mix this spring. Could Ross slide back to cornerback after playing here last season? Or will Petersen keep Ross on the offensive side?

 

Pre-Spring Outlook on Washington in the Pac-12:

 

Petersen was considered one of the top coaching hires in the 2014 cycle, but Washington didn’t show major improvement in the win column and capped the year with a bowl loss to Oklahoma State. Surpassing last year’s win total would be a surprise with the new faces and question marks on both sides of the ball, but the future looks bright with several talented freshmen and sophomores receiving significant snaps. If the Huskies find a quarterback, finishing third in the North is a realistic goal. 

Teaser:
Washington Huskies 2015 Spring Football Preview
Post date: Monday, March 30, 2015 - 11:00
Path: /nba/ranking-nba-playoffs%E2%80%99-biggest-x-factor-players
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6. DeMarre Carroll, Atlanta Hawks

If the Cleveland Cavaliers can be stopped from reaching the NBA Finals, Carroll might have more to do with it than anyone. He’s been the closest thing to a LeBron James antidote this season, holding James relatively in check through three Hawks victories over the Cavs since November. Carroll’s peripheral role in the Hawks’ offense — in which he usually takes the fewest shots among fellow starters — means he’s one of the less noticeable players to the casual eye. But his defense on the wing could very well prove to be the fulcrum that decides whether LeBron can make it five straight trips to the championship round.

 

5. Nikola Mirotic, Chicago Bulls

It’s not often that you see a rookie like Nikola Mirotic. The 24-year-old has already been the MVP in one of the better non-NBA pro leagues, in Spain, and now he’s a serious difference maker for an American contender. In March, Mirotic has been the Bulls’ saving grace through injury issues, averaging 20.8 points per game off the bench, often acting as the team’s deadly closer as he lights it up in the fourth quarter. Tom Thibodeau and Co. have found especially compelling use of the Montengro native by occasionally slotting his 6’10” frame into the small forward spot — a role made possible by Mirotic’s unusual mobility for his size.

 

4. Timofey Mozgov, Cleveland Cavaliers

If there was an annual award for “best role player,” Mozgov would be in contention for this season’s trophy. The Russian center has filled huge dividends since coming over from the Denver Nuggets in a winter trade. Cleveland needed someone who’d be happy to do dirty work down low on defense, and act as a screen-setting pylon on offense — and to be okay without the ball in his hands very often. Mozgov has more than risen to that task, as the Cavs have thrived with him in the lineup as their thunderous, selfless tree.

 

3. Andrew Bogut, Golden State Warriors

The Warriors have been basketball’s best team this year, and the competition hasn’t been especially close behind them. Golden State’s +10.9 point differential is the stuff of legends, and nothing like it has been seen since the Boston Celtics’ magical first year with Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen — an outfit that finished the season with a +10.2 difference. Bogut is the least recognized piece of the Warriors’ equation, but he’ll likely be their second-most important player behind MVP candidate Steph Curry in their race to an NBA title. His robust rim protection and uncanny wingman skills as a seven-footer are what can take the Warriors to the extra level they’ll need to squeak by the defending champion Spurs.

 

2. Jeff Green, Memphis Grizzlies

The Grizzlies’ midseason trade for Jeff Green makes total sense, in a vacuum. The former Celtics’ wing is an able scorer, and Memphis was able to get him for relatively little. But the strength of the Grizzlies lies in their cohesive, steely core, and Green hasn’t been an entirely natural fit in their typically bone-crunching defense. Green has remained a minus defender as he’s switched from green jersey to blue. And while’s certainly helped their spacing on offense, the playoffs will truly tell us whether the Grizzlies’ identity barter was a worthwhile endeavor.

 

1. Boris Diaw, San Antonio Spurs

Don’t look now, but the Spurs are beautiful again. The defending champions appeared to be struck by an unusually large dose of malaise for much of the season, but in March they’ve gone 11-3 as they’ve manhandled more than one fellow playoff team. The Spurs are undeniably back in the title mix with their suddenly revitalized chemistry, and everyone knows that Diaw will be the extra-difficult piece of the puzzle to account for. At an agile, hyper-intelligent 250 pounds, Boris creates headaches for wingmen all over the league, and no team is better suited to capitalize on his very rare skill set like San Antonio is.

 

— John Wilmes

@johnwilmesNBA

Teaser:
Post date: Monday, March 30, 2015 - 10:41
All taxonomy terms: Rickie Fowler, Golf
Path: /golf/top-30-golfers-2015-majors-no-8-rickie-fowler
Body:

They’re the cream of the major championship crop, circa 2015 — the Athlon Major Championship Dream Team. Leading up to The Masters, we'll be unveiling Athlon Sports’ 30 players to watch for majors season, with commentary on each from the Golf Channel’s Brandel Chamblee.

 

No. 8: Rickie Fowler

 

Born: Dec. 13, 1988, Murrieta, Calif. | Career PGA Tour Wins: 1 | 2014 Wins (Worldwide): 0 | 2014 Earnings (PGA Tour): $4,532,537 (10th) World Ranking: 12

2014 Key Stats:

      Bounce Back: 24.07% (9th)

      Putting from 5-15’: 50.36% (7th)

      Scrambling from the Rough: 61.27% (15th)

 

Brandel Chamblee's Take

Fowler works under the tutelage of Butch Harmon, who is as much a sport psychologist as he is teacher. With Harmon, Fowler has retooled his very idiosyncratic golf swing to become more consistent, and in a very short period of time, he laid the groundwork for one of the most memorable years in the majors that the game has ever seen. Only Jack Nicklaus in 1971 and 1975 and Tiger Woods in 2000 and 2005 were able to do what Rickie Fowler did in 2014 — finish in the top five in all four of the game’s biggest events. Of course, both Nicklaus and Woods won majors in those years, and the best finish Rickie could muster was a runner-up in both the U.S. Open and Open Championship, but the conclusion to draw from those finishes is a big 2015 for the 26-year-old. Increased clubhead speed, improved putting and an uptempo freedom to his play give Fowler the aura of a superstar that belies his lone PGA Tour victory, but that win total will increase this year and be more commensurate with his stature in the game.

Major Championship Résumé
Starts: 20
Wins: 0

2014 Performance:
Masters - T5
U.S. Open - T2
British Open - T2
PGA Championship - T3

Best Career Finishes: 
Masters - T5 (2014)
U.S. Open - T2 (2014)
British Open - T2 (2014)
PGA Championship - T3 (2014)
Top-10 Finishes: 6
Top-25 Finishes: 8
Missed Cuts: 4

 

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

 

Athlon's 2015 Golf annual provides in-depth previews of this year's four majors, including the top 30 players to watch this season. One of these elite players, Billy Horschel, also takes you tee to green with full-swing instruction and short game essentials. BUY IT NOW.

Teaser:
Post date: Monday, March 30, 2015 - 10:31
All taxonomy terms: College Football, LSU Tigers, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/lsu-tigers-2015-schedule-and-analysis
Body:

LSU has trended backwards in the SEC West standings for four consecutive seasons, going from first (2011) to second (2012) to third (2013) to fifth (2014).

 

One major reason for that type of trend is the SEC West schedule. It’s the toughest division in all of college football and is loaded with the best coaches and rosters in the country.

 

LSU fits the bill perfectly and Les Miles will have to traverse another nasty slate if he wants to get his Tigers back into SEC title contention.

 

Related: 2015 LSU Spring Football Preview

 

2015 LSU Tigers Schedule

 

Bye: Week 9

 

WkOpp.DateLocation
1.Sept. 5Baton Rouge, LA
In-state season opener against McNeese State will offer a great warm up for early SEC opener in Week 2. LSU defeated the Cowboys 32-10 in 2010 in the only previous meeting.
2.Sept. 12Starkville, MS
This was an embarrassment in Death Valley last year, as Dak Prescott physically abused the Tigers. It was the first loss in the series for LSU since 1999 and the Bayou Bengals have won seven straight in Starkville.
3.Sept. 19Baton Rouge, LA
Elimination Game The winner will could come out as the top challenger to Alabama. Auburn embarrassed LSU 41-7 at home last year, but Miles' bunch has won seven straight over War Eagle in Death Valley with Auburn's last win coming in 1999.
4.Sept. 26Syracuse, NY
Miles is one of the few big name SEC coaches who will take his team out of the region for true road games. The Orange will be a huge underdog and this will be just the third meeting all-time. The two have split a pair of bowl meetings — 1965 (Sugar, LSU) and 1989 (Hall of Fame, Syracuse).
5.Oct. 3Baton Rouge, LA
The first-ever meeting between LSU and Eastern Michigan could be seriously ugly. But it's a great time to tune up for two SEC East crossover games.
6.Oct. 10Columbia, SC
Press Conference Gold Miles vs. Steve Spurrier is about as good as it gets from a personality standpoint. There is no way to know if this is a meeting of two elite division contenders or two middle-of-the-pack SEC foes. LSU is 17-2-1 all-time against the Gamecocks.
7.Oct. 17Baton Rouge, LA
Crossover Must-Win If LSU wants to compete in the West it has to beat Florida at home. This normally hard-hitting showdown has gone the Tigers' way in four of the last five meetings. Miles is 6-4 against the Gators. 
8.Oct. 24Baton Rouge, LA
A late-season, non-conference tune up comes at a perfect time considering the nasty final four games. LSU beat WKU 42-9 in 2011 in the only meeting between the two. 
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 Miles is 3-6 against Nick Saban at LSU. Of those nine meetings, six were decided by one score or less.
11.Nov. 14Baton Rouge, LA
The Golden Boot One of the more underrated and always heated rivalries in the SEC West could be a big revenge spot for LSU. The Hogs thrashed the Tigers 17-0 in Fayetteville last season. LSU leads the series 37-21-2 all-time.
12.Nov. 21Oxford, MS
The heated, long-term (103 meetings) southern rivalry was a thriller last year, as Ole Miss let one slip away in Death Valley. The winner here could win the division while the loser could finish fourth or fifth. LSU has won 10 of the last 13 and Miles is 7-3 against the Rebels.
13.Nov. 28Baton Rouge, LA
Chavis Bowl There has been one name in the SEC who has managed to shut down Kevin Sumlin's offense and it's John Chavis. Now, Chavis will return to Tiger Stadium with an Aggies logo on his chest. This budding SEC rivalry has featured four straight wins by LSU (2011-14), who leads the all-time series 30-20-3.
Teaser:
LSU Tigers 2015 Schedule and Analysis
Post date: Monday, March 30, 2015 - 09:30
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/2015-final-four-preview-how-can-every-team-win
Body:

If college basketball is taking a backseat in the sports world, no one told this year’s Final Four participants.

 

The final weekend of college basketball promises to be one of the most important Final Fours in terms of history for the sport.

 

In one bracket, there’s a 38-0 Kentucky team vying to become the first 40-0 team in college basketball history. The Wildcats will face a veteran Wisconsin team that it defeated in last year’s Final Four. On the other side, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, who already crossed the 1,000-win threshold this season, is making his 12th Final Four appearance to tie him with John Wooden.

 

And you know the Final Four is special when the lone underdog — the only team that was not a No. 1 seed — is Michigan State, a team making its seventh Final Four appearance under Tom Izzo.

 

Kentucky Wildcats (38-0, 18-0 SEC)

 

Coach: John Calipari (fifth Final Four)

 

Projected Starters: G Andrew Harrison, G Aaron Harrison, F Trey Lyles, F Karl-Anthony Towns, C Willie Cauley-Stein

 

Best Player: Karl-Anthony Towns, Kentucky

This is the kind of team Kentucky has: The guy who had one point against West Virginia — a game UK won by nearly 40 points — was unstoppable in the next game. Towns finished 10-of-13 for 25 points with five rebounds and four assists against Notre Dame in the regional final, and Kentucky needed every bit of it in a 68-66 win.

 

Will win the national title if... Kentucky keeps being Kentucky. 

The Wildcats have are the first 38-0 team in Final Four history, so what more could be said about what makes Kentucky great? The next two games will probably be more like the win over Notre Dame (a two-point nailbiter) than the rout of West Virginia (a 39-point win). Kentucky responded to the pressure by playing flawless basketball in the final 12 minutes against the Irish.

 

Will lose to Wisconsin on Saturday if... Notre Dame gave teams a blueprint to beat the Wildcats. 

The threat of Notre Dame’s outside shooters were able to open up the lane for Zach Auguste to score 20 points. Wisconsin had the long-range shooters, and, instead of Auguste, the Badgers have the All-American Frank Kaminsky.

 

Wisconsin Badgers (35-3, 16-2 Big Ten)

 

Head Coach: Bo Ryan (second Final Four)

 

Projected Starters: G Bronson Koenig, G Josh Gasser, F Nigel Hayes, F Sam Dekker,  C Frank Kaminsky

 

Best Player: Sam Dekker, Wisconsin. Dekker had hardly been an overwhelming player for the Badgers even if he was a pro prospect. That changed in this Tournament. Dekker had six career 20-point games in his entire career two weeks ago. He had three in four Tournament games, including 20 in the second half against Arizona alone.

 

Will win the national title if... Dekker continues to play out of his mind. Wisconsin’s offense was already the most efficient in the country, and junior Sam Dekker was already a mighty talented player. He’s taken his play to a new level in the NCAA Tournament. He’s averaging 21.8 points per game and shooting 60.4 percent from the field in the last four games.

 

Will lose to Kentucky on Saturday if... the Wildcats’ defense stymies Wisconsin. This will be the nation’s most efficient offense against the nation’s most efficient defense. Moreover, Kentucky’s bigs have the versatility defensively to guard Frank Kaminsky and Sam Dekker. Wisconsin’s duo hasn’t faced a big defender all year who can guard the perimeter like Willie Cauley-Stein.

 

Michigan State Spartans (27-11, 12-6 Big Ten)

 

Head Coach: Tom Izzo (seventh Final Four)

 

Projected Starters: G Travis Trice, G Lourawls Nairn Jr., G — Denzel Valentine, F Branden Dawson, F Matt Costello 

 

Best Player: Travis Trice, Michigan State

Just about everyone from Michigan State is peaking at this point of the season, but especially Trice. In the Big Ten title game against Wisconsin, Trice had six points and went 0-for-4 from 3-point range. In the Tournament, he’s averaging 19.8 points and four assists per game. He’s also been a clutch free throw shooter (16-of-18) on a team that sorely needs it.

 

Will win the national title if... Michigan State continues to have the magic touch. 

The Spartans won’t be the most talented team in Indianapolis, far from it. Trice has made huge shots throughout the Tournament, and the free throw woes that plagued the Spartans during the regular season haven’t hurt Michigan State yet.

 

Will lose to Duke on Saturday if... Duke overwhelms Michigan State.

Feel free to argue that the Spartans were under-seeded as a No. 7, but Michigan State was 19-10 a month ago. This is a team that plays well as a group but matching up with any of Duke’s top three will be a challenge.

 

Duke Blue Devils (33-4, 15-3 ACC)

 

Head Coach: Mike Krzyzewski (12th Final Four)

 

Projected Starters: G Tyus Jones, G Quinn Cook, G Matt Jones, F Justise Winslow, C Jahlil Okafor

 

Best Player: Justise Winslow, Duke

Okafor and Jones entered the Tournament with more fanfare, and the leadership of senior Cook has been a feel-good story. No one in the Tournament, though, was more valuable than Winslow. In four Tournament games, Winslow has averaged 14 points, 9.5 rebounds, 3.3 assists and better than one block and one steal per game.

 

Will win the national title if... The Blue Devils turn out to be the best offensive team in the Final Four. That’s a big ask, considering that Kentucky and Wisconsin — potential matchups in the championship game — are in the top five in offensive efficiency on KenPom. Duke, though, is the most up-tempo of the 3. If Okafor, Jones, Cook and Winslow can go head to head with the best Kentucky and Wisconsin have to offer, the Blue Devils could give Krzyzewski his fifth title in an already momentous year.

 

Will lose to Michigan State on Saturday if... Michigan State’s guards rule the day. The Spartans rank seventh in the country in assists per field goal made, and Travis Trice and Denzel Valentine can get hot from 3-point range.

Teaser:
2015 Final Four Preview: How Can Every Team Win?
Post date: Monday, March 30, 2015 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/potential-coaching-candidates-replace-rick-barnes-texas
Body:

When fans think of the best coaching destinations in college basketball, few may name Texas as one of the top names.

 

True, the Longhorns are not Kentucky, Duke, North Carolina, Kansas, Indiana or UCLA. This is a school and a state where football rules. Basketball is a distant No. 2.

 

Yet that is part of the reason why Texas is so attractive. The Longhorns have all the resources of a blue blood program in terms of finances and facilities, plus a fertile recruiting base. Because of football, though, the Texas basketball job also brings less pressure.

 

Perhaps that’s an odd thing to say about a program that just let go of a coach who had made 16 of 17 NCAA Tournaments and a Final Four, but for several seasons Rick Barnes did not bring top-10 results to a top-10 job.

 

The next coach will be asked to do that, and there’s no reason why it can’t be done in Austin.

 

Texas is the latest big job to open in the carousel, including Alabama, Tennessee, St. John's and Mississippi State (filled by Ben Howland).

 

The Favorites

 

Gregg Marshall, Wichita State

Alabama is prepared to offer more than $3 million a year to Marshall, according to Gary Parrish of CBSSports.com, but Texas may end up being the more desirable spot. Marshall would be a home-run hire for either school. Marshall has turned Wichita State into one of the nation's premier programs, leading the Shockers to 30 wins in each of the last three seasons, including a Final Four in 2013 and a 35-1 season in 2013-14. Marshall also led Winthrop to seven NCAA Tournaments in nine seasons. He can be abrasive, but he's a proven winner who coaches with an edge. And after this year’s NCAA Tournament, he’s proven he can beat Kansas. That's no small factor for a contender for the Texas job.

 

Shaka Smart, VCU

Smart has turned down big-time jobs before, but Texas might be the powerhouse job to pull him away from a good situation at VCU. Smart became one of the hottest names in coaching when he took the Rams to the Final Four in 2011 with his havoc defense. The Rams are 2-4 in the Tournament since then, and they haven’t won a conference regular season title under Smart.

 

The Realistic Contenders

 

Archie Miller, Dayton

He’s one of the hottest coaching candidates out there after taking Dayton to the Elite Eight and NCAA round of 32 in the last two seasons. The 2014-15 season was especially impressive as the shorthanded and undersized Flyers finished 13-5 in the Atlantic 10 and defeated Boise State and Providence in the NCAA Tournament. Miller, however, just agreed a contract extension through 2022 at Dayton.

 

Buzz Williams, Virginia Tech

Williams might have been the ideal candidate had Texas made the move two seasons ago. Williams then would have been coming off two Sweet16s and an Elite Eight at Marquette. Since then, he missed the NCAA Tournament his final year at Marquette and then left abruptly for Virginia Tech where he went 11-22. Williams is a Texas native who spent time as an assistant at UT Arlington, Texas A&M-Kingsville and Texas A&M.

 

Larry Krystkowiak, Utah

Krystkowiak led a major rebuilding project at Utah, taking over a shell of a roster and going 6-25 in his first season. The Utes improved their Pac-12 record each season and reached the Sweet 16 in 2015. Krystkowiak also took Montana to the NCAA Tournament twice, leading an upset over fifth-seeded Nevada in 2006. He also has significant experience in the NBA, including more than a year as a head coach of the Milwaukee Bucks.

 

The Wild Cards

 

Kevin Ollie, UConn

If Barnes underachieved, then Texas should look at one of the nation’s best overachievers. Ollie led seventh-seeded UConn to the national title in his second season. He’s a UConn alum and the hand-picked successor to Jim Calhoun, so this may be a tough sell. If Texas athletic director Steve Patterson, a former NBA general manager, wants to look at a guy with pro credentials, Ollie would be near the top of the list.

 

Jamie Dixon, Pittsburgh

The star has dimmed at bit for Dixon during the last four seasons. His program was once one of the biggest overachievers in the Big East, reaching the NCAA Tournament in each of his first seven years. Pitt has missed the Tournament in two of the last four seasons and has won only three Tournament games since the heartbreaking loss to Villanova in the 2009 Elite Eight.

 

Chris Mack, Xavier

The last three Xavier coaches went to Wake Forest, Ohio State and Arizona with all enjoying success at the major conference level. Mack is just as capable with three Sweet 16 appearances in six seasons.

 

Jay Wright, Villanova

Two early exits from the NCAA Tournament probably won’t endear Wright to Texas, but Wright has built and rebuilt the Villanova program in 14 seasons.

 

Matt Painter, Purdue

Painter led Purdue to the NCAA Tournament six times in his first seven years at Purdue, a run that included the 2010 Big Ten title and two Sweet 16 appearances. After back-to-back losing seasons, Purdue was one of the surprises of the season with a 21-13 campaign last year.

 

Leon Rice, Boise State

The former Gonzaga assistant led Boise State to two NCAA Tournament bids in the last three seasons, notable for being the first at-large bids in school history.

 

Ben Jacobson, Northern Iowa

Jacobson has been at Northern Iowa since 2001 and as head coach since 2006. The entire run includes six NCAA appearances. Jacobson led the Panthers to the Sweet 16 with an upset of No. 1 seed Kansas in 2010, but this year’s squad (31-4) may have been his best team in Cedar Falls.

Teaser:
Potential Coaching Candidates to Replace Rick Barnes at Texas
Post date: Saturday, March 28, 2015 - 17:51
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/elite-eight-game-preview-and-predictions-gonzaga-vs-duke
Body:

Name an achievement at Gonzaga and Mark Few has done it: win conference titles, go to the NCAA Tournament, win postseason games, produced All-Americans and a player of the year, send players to the NBA Draft.

 

There is one notable exception: Reaching the Final Four. Few has won 438 career games at Gonzaga, and until Friday, none of those came in the Sweet 16.

 

Now, to reach the first Final Four in school history, Gonzaga and Few will have to through a coach who has achieved pretty much everything one can in the sport — four national titles, 11 Final Fours, two Olympic gold medals and 1,015 career wins.

 

Sunday’s South regional final in some ways returns Gonzaga to its roots as a small-school underdog. The Bulldogs will face Duke, and although the two teams are the top two seeds in the region, the Blue Devils are one of the few teams perceived to be a threat to Kentucky’s dominance this season.

 

Little Gonzaga? Few has built this program into a powerhouse, but for the biggest game in school history, the Zags are an underdog again.

 

Related: Michigan State vs. Louisville Preview and Picks

 

No. 2 Gonzaga vs. No. 1 Duke

Region: South (Houston)

Time: Sunday, 5:05 p.m. ET

TV: CBS

Announcers: Jim Nantz, Bill Raftery and Grant Hill

Line: Duke by 2 1/2

 

Matchup to Watch: Gonzaga’s Kyle Wiltjer vs. Duke’s Justise Winslow

Winslow has become Duke’s most valuable player in the NCAA Tournament, setting up a marquee matchup with the Zags’ best scorer. Winslow had five blocks and five steals in the last two games, and he was the only player on either team to hit shots from long range in the Sweet 16 against Utah. This will be a fascinating matchup on both ends of the court.

 

Tournament Surprise: Gonzaga’s Przemek Karnowski

Karnowski has proven capable of going off for 20 points at times this season, but he’s rarely the first name anyone mentions with this Gonzaga team. Karnowski rectified that with 18 points (and one highlight reel assist) against UCLA. If shots aren’t falling for Gonzaga in Houston, the Bulldogs will need his production down low again.

 

Gonzaga will win if...

The Bulldogs can do what Utah did to Jahlil Okafor. Duke’s standout center scored only six points on six shots against Utah. The Utes double teamed Okafor like every other team but made sure Okafor couldn’t find a shot. Gonzaga will be hard-pressed to follow that blueprint, but the Zags aren’t quite the defensive team Utah is.

 

Duke will win if...

The Blue Devils can guard Gonzaga. Duke’s NCAA Tournament draw has been Robert Morris, San Diego State and Utah. The Utes were the only top-100 KenPom offensive team among those three, ranking 21st in the country in offensive efficiency. None of them are as dangerous or balanced as Gonzaga, the No. 4 team in offensive efficiency. For a Duke team whose last two losses came to another high-scoring team, Notre Dame, the pressure is on to guard Gonzaga’s prolific scorers.

 

Athlon Staff Predictions

David Fox: Duke 79-70

Braden Gall: Duke 70-68

Mitch Light: Duke 77-73

Jake Rose:  Duke 77-74

Teaser:
Elite Eight Game Preview and Predictions: Gonzaga vs. Duke
Post date: Saturday, March 28, 2015 - 12:55
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/elite-eight-game-preview-predictions-michigan-state-vs-louisville
Body:

For most of the season, Rick Pitino and Tom Izzo said they didn’t have teams capable of doing what their previous teams had done in the postseason.

 

They both have their share of Final Fours in their careers, so who could blame anyone for taking Pitino and Izzo at their word?

 

Three games later, they’re both on the precipice of another trip to the Final Four in Sunday’s East regional final. This could be No. 7 for Izzo and No. 8 for Pitino, just another reminder no one should doubt these two coaches in the NCAA Tournament. Perhaps not even Izzo and Pitino should doubt themselves.

 

“I don't really know what I would do without (March Madness),” Pitino said. “I really don't. I see so many coaches tell me, ‘Don't leave. Don't think about leaving. Especially you. You'll miss it so much.’ And I keep listening to people when they say that.”

 

What Pitino would miss would be moments like this: An unlikely group doing unexpected teams. Pitino dismissed his point guard Chris Jones back in February in a season that already seemed to show the Cardinals’ ceiling against top teams. That ceiling is at least an Elite Eight.

 

The same could be said of Izzo. His team has been in rebuilding mode without Adreian Payne, Keith Appling and Gary Harris. The Spartans have been battling their own limitations, both in talent and in free throw shooting all season. Yet free throw shooting clinched a bid to the next round.

 

“One more victory would be one of the sweeter moments in my career because I think it would teach you that you can do it a lot of different ways,” Izzo said.

 

No. 7 Michigan State vs. No. 4 Louisville

Region: East (Syracuse, N.Y.)

Time: Sunday, 2:20 p.m. ET

TV: TBS

Announcers: Verne Lundquist and Jim Spanarkel

Line: Michigan State by 2

 

Matchup to Watch: Louisville’s Montrezl Harrell vs. Michigan State’s frontcourt

The guards on both sides could go back and forth all game long. That leaves the question of how Michigan State will contain Louisville’s Harrell. Matt Costello and Gavin Schilling don’t offer a ton in the offensive end, but they’ll be they key to the game plan to keep Harrell from taking over.

 

Tournament Surprise: Louisville’s Anton Gill

Where did this come from? Gill played two minutes — total — against UC Irvine and Northern Iowa. Against NC State, the lefty was a key player off the bench with seven points and a quick 3-for-3 from the field when Wayne Blackshear was on the bench with four fouls.

 

Michigan State will win if...

The Spartans continue their free throw shooting trend. Michigan State has not been a good free throw shooting team this year, converting only 66.7 percent of their shots from the line this season. The Spartans started 3-of-10 from the line against Oklahoma, but when they needed to put the Sooners away, Michigan State converted 6-of-6 free throws to clinch the win. That’s a trend that needs to continue into the Elite Eight.

 

Louisville will win if...

Terry Rozier is the best guard in the game. Michigan State’s Travis Trice is averaging 20.7 points per game in the tournament, and Denzel Valentine scored 16 against Georgia and 18 against Oklahoma. If Rozier can top each of them, Louisville will have a good shot at the Final Four. Rozier is averaging 18 points and 5.3 assists in the Tournament.

 

Athlon Staff Predictions

David Fox: Louisville 68-65

Braden Gall: Michigan State 66-63

Mitch Light: Michigan State 67-64

Jake Rose: Michigan State 66-60

Teaser:
Elite Eight Game Preview: Michigan State vs. Louisville
Post date: Saturday, March 28, 2015 - 12:43
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/elite-eight-preview-and-predictions-notre-dame-vs-kentucky
Body:

Notre Dame may be the best team Kentucky has played all season.

 

That’s worth saying right here right now since Notre Dame probably won’t touch that kind of talk, not after Kentucky answered West Virginia’s pre-game bravado with a 39-point beat down in the Sweet 16. Speak softly and hit some big shots, that’s probably the most advisable strategy at this point.

 

But that initial statement is true: With the possible exception of Kansas and Louisville early in the season, Kentucky hasn’t played a team as good as Notre Dame in at least four months. Certainly, Kentucky hasn’t faced a team with an offensive attack as good as Notre Dame.

 

The Irish rank third in the country in offensive efficiency on KenPom.com. The only other top-20 offensive teams Notre Dame has faced are North Carolina and Vanderbilt.

 

The Irish are in their first Elite Eight since 1979, a game Notre Dame lost to Michigan State as the Spartans continued to face Indiana State in the classic Magic Johnson vs. Larry Bird championship game.

 

And Notre Dame’s prize for getting this far is a date with another potentially historic team.

 

"We are America's team," Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said. "There's no question about it. ... We've got a monumental challenge on our hands, but we play in the best conference in America. Going through the teams we had to go through in ACC play, I think has us very prepared to play against a great team like Kentucky.

 

Related: Arizona vs. Wisconsin Preview and Predictions

 

No. 3 Notre Dame vs. No. 1 Kentucky

Region: Midwest (Cleveland)

Time: Saturday, 8:49 p.m., ET

TV: CBS

Announcers: Marv Albert, Chris Webber and Len Elmore

Line: Kentucky by 11

 

Matchup to Watch: Notre Dame’s perimeter game vs. Kentucky’s defense

One of the only teams to give Kentucky a scare this season was Ole Miss as the Rebels hit 9-of-17 3-point shots in an 89-86 loss in overtime on Jan. 6. Scoring around the basket and getting to the rim is near-impossible at times against Willie Cauley-Stein, Karl-Anthony Towns and the rest of Kentucky’s bigs. Notre Dame will try to beat Kentucky from long range. The Irish have five players who have hit at least 40 3-pointers this season, and they’ll need all of them to contribute.

 

Tournament Surprise: Notre Dame’s Demetrius Jackson

The sophomore guard has been a valuable contributor for most of the season, but he’s been huge in the Tournament. Jackson scored 20 points against Wichita State and has hit six 3-pointers in the last two games, one fewer than he had the previous six.

 

Notre Dame will win if...

Grant approaches 20 points and 10 assists. That would seem to be a magic number, and one Grant hit in Notre Dame’s signature win over Duke on Jan. 28. Grant was a mere 3-of-8 from the field for nine points against Wichita State, but he also had 11 assists and two turnovers. Notre Dame will need a hero effort from its best player to pull the upset.

 

Kentucky will win if...

The Wildcats overwhelm Notre Dame with their size. The Irish have some big guards with Grant, Pat Connaughton and Steve Vasturia all standing 6-5 or taller. Demetrius Jackson (6-1) is the only regular shorter than 6-5. Kentucky counters with four regulars 6-10 or taller and three 6-6 guards.

 

Athlon Sports Staff Predictions

David Fox: Kentucky 80-67

Braden Gall: Kentucky 78-65

Mitch Light: Kentucky 77-65

Jake Rose: Notre Dame 78-72

Teaser:
Elite Eight Preview and Predictions: Notre Dame vs. Kentucky
Post date: Friday, March 27, 2015 - 17:34
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/elite-eight-preview-and-predictions-arizona-vs-wisconsin
Body:

Opportunities like the one Arizona is facing don’t come around all that often.

 

And this doesn’t just refer to an Elite Eight appearance. Instead, the Wildcats can clinch their first Final Four for the program since 2001 by avenging one of last year’s great disappointments.

 

In one of the most thrilling games of last year’s NCAA Tournament, Wisconsin defeated Arizona 64-63 in overtime. Not only is this a rematch, the game features many of the same key figures. Wisconsin returned nearly its entire roster since last season. Arizona returns T.J. McConnell, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Kaleb Tarczewski and Gabe York.

 

The loss has given Arizona reason to simmer for a year.

 

“It gave us a long time to think about it, and we watched them go to a Final Four and lose at the buzzer to Kentucky,” McConnell said. “We thought that should have been us. But that's driven all of us to work as hard as we did in the summer and as hard as we did this season to be as good as we are.”

 

The coaches are also back. Last year’s meeting gave Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan his first Final Four appearance. Now, Arizona’s Sean Miller is atop the list of best coaches without a trip to the final weekend of the NCAA Tournament.

 

Arizona hopes to change that trend while Wisconsin would like nothing more than to have history repeat itself.

 

No. 2 Arizona vs. No. 1 Wisconsin

Region: West (Los Angeles)

Time: Saturday, 6:09 p.m., ET

TV: TBS

Announcers: Kevin Harlan, Reggie Miller and Dan Bonner

Line: Arizona by 1 1/2

 

Matchup to Watch: Wisconsin’s Frank Kaminsky vs. Arizona’s Kaleb Tarczewski

The Badgers’ big man was the key figure in last year’s meeting, scoring 28 points. He’ll be matched up again against the seven-footer Tarczewski. He was instrumental in disrupting Matt Stainbrook in the last round against Xavier. Stainbrook had 17 points and 10 rebounds, but Arizona wanted to shut down his passing (two assists, three turnovers) and offensive rebounding (one). Besides approaching 30 points last season, Kaminsky had seven offensive boards against the Wildcats.

 

Tournament Surprise: Wisconsin’s Zak Showalter

The Badgers rely heavily on their starting five, even though Traevon Jackson returned to play nine minutes in the Sweet 16 against North Carolina. Showalter, though, came off the bench to give Wisconsin three quick buckets in eight minutes against the Tar Heels.

 

Arizona will win if... 

The Wildcats can muster some 3-point shooting. Wisconsin allows opponents to covert 37.4 percent of their 3-point shots, ranking 302nd in the country. That would be a more troubling number for the Badgers if they didn’t give up the ninth-fewest 3-pointers. Arizona is 19-of-52 from 3 in this Tournament.

 

Wisconsin will win if...

Sam Dekker is a beast again. Dekker was the best player on the court against North Carolina, scoring 23 points and grabbing 10 rebounds against the Tar Heels. He was especially dangerous around the basket, going 9-of-10 from 2-point range. If Dekker can crack a team that ranks third in defensive efficiency, Wisconsin could go to its second consecutive Final Four.

 

Athlon Staff Predictions

David Fox: Arizona 60-57

Braden Gall: Arizona 67-64

Mitch Light: Arizona 56-50

Jake Rose: Wisconsin 74-69

 

Teaser:
Elite Eight Preview and Predictions: Arizona vs. Wisconsin
Post date: Friday, March 27, 2015 - 17:06
Path: /college-football/ohio-state-shows-national-championship-rings
Body:

Ohio State claimed college football’s first playoff trophy with a 42-20 win over Oregon on Jan. 12. And thanks to a few tweets from the staff and players, we are getting our first glimpse of the championship rings.

 

Check out Ohio State’s championship rings from the 2014 championship season:

 

Teaser:
Ohio State Shows off National Championship Rings
Post date: Friday, March 27, 2015 - 13:11
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/potential-coaching-candidates-replace-donnie-tyndall-tennessee
Body:

Tennessee needs a coach ... again.

 

The coaching turmoil with Tennessee’s football and men’s basketball continued Friday with the firing if basketball coach Donnie Tyndall after one season. Only months after his arrival at Tennessee, Tyndall faced an NCAA investigation stemming from allegations at his previous stop at Southern Miss.

 

Tyndall is likely to face NCAA sanctions related to academic misconduct and impermissible financial aid to players at Southern Miss.

 

The Volunteers have had three basketball coaches since 2011, including Bruce Pearl and Cuonzo Martin. Tennessee is the third SEC program to replace its coach this season. Alabama is still seeking a replacement for Anthony Grant while Mississippi State hired Ben Howland to replace Rick Ray.

 

Here are few names to watch as the coaching carousel is fired up. A few of these names were on our list of coaches on the rise in our college basketball expert poll earlier this season.

 

Chris Holtmann, Butler

Perhaps no coach has enjoyed a greater rise this season than Holtmann. He started the season as an interim coach while Butler’s Brandon Miller took a leave of absence. By December, the interim tag was lifted, and Holtmann was on his way to a 23-11 season and a second-place finish in the Big East. Tennessee has been in discussions with the former Gardner-Webb coach, according to a Friday report from the Tennessean.

 

Mike White, Louisiana Tech

White turned down the job before the Volunteers hired Tyndall last season. The question is if this is a road either party will go down again. The 38-year-old is primed for a move, but no NCAA Tournament appearances despite three Conference USA regular season titles is a bit concerning. The Bulldogs are 44-8 in C-USA the last three seasons, stalling in the league tournament each year.

 

Shaka Smart, VCU

Smart has turned down big-time jobs before, so it’s curious what would make the Tennessee job different. Smart became one of the hottest names in coaching when he took the Rams to the Final Four in 2011 with his havoc defense. The Rams are 2-4 in the Tournament since then, and they haven’t won a conference regular season title under Smart.

 

Rick Barnes, Texas

Barnes may be out at Texas, according to a report from 247Sports.com. The latter end of his tenure with the Longhorns had become frustrating, particularly last season when a preseason top 10 team bowed out of the NCAA Tournament as a No. 11 seed. Still, he’s reached the NCAA Tournament in 19 of 20 seasons dating back to his time at Clemson. Barnes’ wife is a Tennessee alum.

 

Rick Byrd, Belmont

Byrd is another guy who was a serious coaching candidate for Tennessee in a past season. Byrd interviewed for the job in 2011 after Pearl was fired. Byrd is one of the most respected coaches in the country for his work in nearly 30 years at Belmont, a former NAIA program that has reached the NCAA Tournament seven times in 10 years. He’s a Knoxville native who is also about to turn 62 years old.

 

Archie Miller, Dayton

He’s one of the hottest coaching candidates out there after taking Dayton to the Elite Eight and NCAA round of 32 in the last two seasons. The 2014-15 season was especially impressive as the shorthanded and undersized Flyers finished 13-5 in the Atlantic 10 and defeated Boise State and Providence in the NCAA Tournament. Miller, however, just agreed a contract extension through 2022 at Dayton.

 

Ben Jacobson, Northern Iowa

Jacobson has been at Northern Iowa since 2001 and as head coach since 2006. The entire run includes six NCAA appearances. Jacobson led the Panthers to the Sweet 16 with an upset of No. 1 seed Kansas in 2010, but this year’s squad (31-4) may have been his best team in Cedar Falls.

 

Steve Prohm, Murray State

In four seasons at Murray State, Prohm has coached a team that went 31-2 in 2011-12 and another that won 25 in a row en route to a 27-5 record in 2014-15. He unearthed point guard Cam Payne out of Memphis two years ago and watched him develop into a pro prospect. The Alabama graduate would be a likely candidate for the opening in Tuscaloosa if the bid for Wichita State’s Gregg Marshall falls through.

 

Bryce Drew, Valparaiso

Famous for his game-winning shot to beat No. 4 seed Ole Miss in the 1998 NCAA Tournament, Drew has become a solid coach in his own right. He’s led Valpo to two NCAA Tournaments and three Horizon League titles.

 

Brad Underwood, Stephen F. Austin

The former Frank Martin assistant has been a head coach for only two seasons, but it’s been quite the run. The Lumberjacks are 61-8 in two seasons with two Tournament appearances and two conference titles. His pressure defense has finished in the top 10 in defensive turnover rate in teach of the last two seasons.

 

Richard Pitino, Minnesota

The Gophers won 25 games and the NIT last season before slipping to 6-12 in the Big Ten in Pitino’s second season. The 32-year-old is three years into his head coaching career, but he’s served as an assistant for Billy Donovan (as Anthony Grant did before going to VCU) and his father.

 

Bobby Hurley, Buffalo

The former Duke guard led Buffalo to the first NCAA Tournament in school history in 2015. In two seasons with the Bulls, Hurley is 42-20 overall and 25-11 in the MAC.

Teaser:
Potential Coaching Candidates to Replace Donnie Tyndall at Tennessee
Post date: Friday, March 27, 2015 - 12:10
All taxonomy terms: Auburn Tigers, College Football, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/auburn-tigers-2015-schedule-and-analysis
Body:

Auburn’s offense will be virtually unstoppable as long as Gus Malzahn is in charge on The Plains.

 

But with the addition of Will Muschamp as defensive coordinator, the Tigers possibly boast the best offense-defense sideline combination in all of college football.

 

But the reason this Tigers squad wasn’t an SEC contender last year was due to the brutal road schedule: At Kansas State, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Georgia and Alabama.

 

While many of those games are now scheduled for Jordan-Hare Stadium, the Tigers’ schedule is still remarkably difficult.

 

2015 Auburn Tigers Schedule

 

Bye: Week 6, * - Thurs.

 

WkOpp.DateLocation
1.Sept. 5Atlanta, GA
Bobby-P Bowl The Bobby Petrino Bowl in the Kickoff Classic in Atlanta could be lopsided but will be fascinating. The Jeremy Johnson Era begins against a foe Auburn has faced only once in history (1974).
2.Sept. 12Auburn, AL
This season's home-opening sacrificial lamb is Jacksonville State. The in-state Ohio Valley Conference team has never played the Tigers. Best of luck, Gamecocks.
3.Sept. 19Baton Rouge, LA
Elimination Game The winner will come out as the top challenger to Alabama. Auburn embarrassed LSU 41-7 at home last year, but the Bayou Bengals have won seven straight over War Eagle in Death Valley with the Tigers' last win coming in 1999.
4.Sept. 26Auburn, AL
The Tigers have won 11 of the last 14 meetings in a series traditionally dominated by Auburn. However, Dan Mullen has won two out of three by an average margin of 16.5 points. Dak Prescott vs. Jeremy Johnson? Yes, please.
5.Oct. 3Auburn, AL
For the second straight year, the Spartans will take a massive paycheck to give Auburn an easy win. The Tigers are 1-0 all-time against SJSU after the 59-13 win last fall.
7.Oct. 15*Lexington, KY
Thursday Night If Malzahn is smart (which he is) then he'll understand that a weeknight primetime game on the road only adds motivation for the opponent. So the Wildcats will be jacked up to face a team they haven't beaten in Lexington since 1966. Auburn will get 12 days to prepare, for what it's worth. 
8.Oct. 24Fayetteville, AR
Upset Alert Regardless of how the coaches diffuse the rivalry, Malzahn-Bret Bielema is a great coaching dynamic. And travelling to Fayetteville is always hard — especially, when it will be easy to look ahead to the Ole Miss game.
9.Oct. 31Auburn, AL
No one on either side will forget the crushing way this game ended for Ole Miss last year. Auburn has won 12 of 15 in the series and hasn't lost at home to the Rebels since 2003, but fans can bet Ole Miss will be out for revenge. 
10.Nov. 7College Station, TX
This has been an instant classic ever since the Aggies joined the SEC. The combined score in the last two games is 83-82 and the road team is 3-0 in three SEC meetings. Expect nothing but the same in this late-season divisional showdown. Texas A&M is 4-1 all-time vs. Auburn with the two pre-SEC meetings coming in 1911 and '86 in Dallas.
11.Nov. 14Auburn, AL
Rivalry Game I The Deep South's Oldest Rivalry will be played for the 119th time with the all-time series dead even at 55-55-8. The Dawgs have won seven of the last nine and Mark Richt is 4-3 all-time in Jordan-Hare Stadium.
12.Nov. 21Auburn, AL
Classic late-season, SEC tune-up game. Auburn won the only meeting between these two in 1999.
13.Nov. 28Auburn, AL
Rivalry Game II The rivalry of all rivalries usually carries 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. Bama leads the all-time series 43-35-1. The Tide have won two of the last three at Auburn but the Tigers are 8-4 all-time against Bama in Jordan-Hare.
Teaser:
Auburn Tigers 2015 Schedule and Analysis
Post date: Friday, March 27, 2015 - 10:30
All taxonomy terms: NBA
Path: /nba/ranking-nba%E2%80%99s-hottest-coaching-seats
Body:

6. Melvin Hunt, Denver Nuggets / James Borrego, Orlando Magic

While Hunt has done well as the Nuggets’ interim man, and holds onto a chance to keep his job come 2015-16, it’s believed that both of these coaches are merely temporary patches. The Magic and Nuggets both seek a big-name leader. For Orlando, that means finding the man to lead a promising young nucleus including Elfrid Payton and Victor Oladipo — Scott Skiles, a dubious choice for that task, has been linked to the job. The Nuggets, meanwhile, have a strange roster that’s likely to stay that way regardless of who they hire, but the prospect of Mike D’Antoni aiding Ty Lawson’s pick-and-roll calls in the thin Rockies altitude is certainly an alluring one.

 

5. David Blatt, Cleveland Cavaliers

The Cavaliers have been destroying the opposition, so it’s hard to believe they’d want to change much this summer. But rumors persist that Blatt is not long for his current job. He was hired before the organization realized LeBron James was due for a return, and James hasn’t exactly seemed in love with the man he didn’t choose. Assistant Tyron Lue often appears to be the head coach in scrums, with James and the other players seeming to react more favorably to him. Recent reports that the University of Kentucky’s John Calipari is eyeing a return to the NBA have naturally led to him being connected to a possible opening in Cavsland.

 

4. Randy Wittman, Washington Wizards

Wittman should be higher on this list, but his front office favors him. The Wizards’ man has shot his team in the foot all season, espousing a sort of ground-and-pound approach with a dearth of 3-pointers despite having one of the best young backcourts we’ve seen in ages. John Wall and Bradley Beal should be made to go nuts in the open court, but instead they’ve been appropriated into agents of Wittman’s nostalgic half-court vision, and Washington’s been sagging for months. Wall’s college coach, Calipari, is an intriguing possibility here too, as is D’Antoni. But don’t keep your fingers crossed, Wizards fans.

 

3. Byron Scott, Los Angeles Lakers

The Lakers support Scott publicly, but behind closed doors they must see his glaring shortcomings. Scott is grumpy to a fault, clearly grating on his young roster, and preaches an anti-3-pointer ethic that is downright comical. The possible availability of Tom Thibodeau (who seems to be on his way out of his Chicago Bulls job) would make L.A. pull the trigger on Scott’s tenure almost immediately. So would the availability of anyone who they thought would do better to help them lure free agents like Kevin Love, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook down the line. Scott is an interim coach in all but title.

 

2. Monty Williams, New Orleans Pelicans

Like Scott, Williams may be a sitting duck in the event that Thibodeau hits the market. Anthony Davis is the best talent of his generation, and many analysts feel that the Pelicans are in danger of squandering him if they don’t make some substantial changes to their program soon. More importantly, though, his franchise has displayed a certain impatience, and desire to get their car fast-tracked toward title contention soon. Williams isn’t perfect, but he definitely hasn’t shown he’s the man for that task.

 

1. Tom Thibodeau, Chicago Bulls

This one doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense. Thibodeau is one of the best coaches in the NBA, his players like him, and the Bulls have been in a renaissance era ever since he took residence on their sidelines. They’ve regularly led the NBA in defensive performance, and trumped expectations despite disappointing injuries to Derrick Rose in multiple seasons. But virtually every NBA media member reports a terrible tension between Thibodeau and his front office, and anything short of a championship seems like it will be reason enough to send him packing this offseason.

 

— John Wilmes

@johnwilmesNBA

Teaser:
Post date: Friday, March 27, 2015 - 10:09
All taxonomy terms: Matt Kuchar, Golf
Path: /golf/top-30-golfers-2015-majors-no-9-matt-kuchar
Body:

They’re the cream of the major championship crop, circa 2015 — the Athlon Major Championship Dream Team. Leading up to The Masters, we'll be unveiling Athlon Sports’ 30 players to watch for majors season, with commentary on each from the Golf Channel’s Brandel Chamblee.

 

No. 9: Matt Kuchar

 

Born: June 21, 1978, Winter Park, Fla. | Career PGA Tour Wins: 7 | 2014 Wins (Worldwide): 1 | 2014 Earnings (PGA Tour): $4,695,515 (9th) World Ranking: 14

2013-14 Key Stats

      Strokes Gained, Total: 1.573 (5th)

      Par 4 Performance: -29 (2nd)

      Top 10 Finishes: 11 (2nd)

 

Brandel Chamblee's Take

Kuchar is an impressive player when one looks at how many wins he has over the last five years (five), but when one considers what he could’ve done and what he is imminently capable of doing this year, you’ve got a truly elite player whose overall game and guile make him a major threat. Since 2010 no other player in the world — not even Rory or Tiger or Adam — has come close to being in the hunt on the PGA Tour as often as Kuchar. His 48 top tens are 12 more than Rory, 27 more than Tiger and 16 more than Scott over the same time period. Of course, he is criticized for not winning more, but given his lack of length off of the tee, he is succeeding in the most power-prejudiced era in the history of golf. His improved accuracy in driving will make him more of a threat in the majors in 2015 and in particular at The Masters, where he has finished third, eighth and fifth the last three years. If you're looking for the best player to have never won a major with the best chance to rid himself of that moniker, look no further than Kooch.

Major Championship Résumé
Starts: 36
Wins: 0

2014 Performance:
Masters - T5
U.S. Open - T12
British Open - T54
PGA Championship - DNP

Best Career Finishes: 
Masters - T3 (2012)
U.S. Open - T6 (2010)
British Open - T9 (2012)
PGA Championship - T10 (2010)
Top-10 Finishes: 6
Top-25 Finishes: 14
Missed Cuts: 15

 

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

 

Athlon's 2015 Golf annual provides in-depth previews of this year's four majors, including the top 30 players to watch this season. One of these elite players, Billy Horschel, also takes you tee to green with full-swing instruction and short game essentials. BUY IT NOW.

Teaser:
Post date: Friday, March 27, 2015 - 10:01
Path: /college-football/mississippi-state-bulldogs-2015-spring-football-preview
Body:

Dan Mullen led Mississippi State to unprecedented heights in 2014.

 

The Bulldogs had a record-setting, Heisman-caliber quarterback and a veteran-led defense that had MSU in the playoff picture until the final weeks of the season. And the school's first AP No. 1 ranking ever.

 

Obviously, getting Dak Prescott back is huge news for Mullen and a great place to start. But he has his work cut out for him this spring in other areas for Mississippi State to win 10 games and compete for a SEC West Division crown.

 

5 Storylines to Watch in Mississippi State’s Spring Practice:

 

1. New faces on the OL

The Bulldogs return only four starters on offense in 2015. Prescott’s return is huge for Mississippi State but the focus of spring should be revamping the line to protect their senior quarterback. Three key linemen departed, including standout center Dillon Day and guard Ben Beckwith. Junior college recruit Martinas Rankin should help replace left tackle Blaine Clausell.

 

2. Replace Josh Robinson

Robinson left Starkville for the NFL after a successful 2014 season. He rushed for 1,203 yards and 11 scores last year and came through with huge performances in critical games. The battle to replace Robinson begins this spring, as Brandon Holloway, Ashton Shumpert and Aeris Williams will compete for carries.

 

3. New face leading the defense

Geoff Collins left to become the co-defensive coordinator at Florida this offseason, and Mullen turned to a familiar face to lead Mississippi State’s defense. Manny Diaz is back after leaving for Texas in 2011. The new DC’s resume is an interesting one, with solid stints in Starkville and at Louisiana Tech. However, he also was a part of some of the worst defenses in Texas history. Which Diaz is Mullen getting and how quickly can he address some major issues on his defense?

 

4. Build D-line depth

Three of the top four tacklers along the defensive line have moved on. Chris Jones is a special talent but failed to live up to his freshman hype last season. He will be counted on to become a bigger factor this fall. Ryan Brown and A.J. Jefferson need to become stars as well. Mullen has a great track record of developing defensive linemen, but this is a big area of concern this spring for a team in a division that demands quality D-line play.

 

5. Replace Benardrick McKinney

Two of the top three tacklers on the team and three of the top five linebackers are gone from last year’s unit. Most notably, new defensive coordinator Diaz must fill McKinney’s shoes. The superstar linebacker was the heart and soul of the defense and Diaz must find playmakers at this position this spring. Look for Beniquez Brown to develop into a leader and for guys like Richie Brown, Zack Jackson, Gerri Green, J.T. Gray and Dezmond Harris to take on bigger roles.

 

Pre-Spring Outlook on Mississippi State:

 

State has one of the best coaches in the SEC and the best quarterback in the league. But this team plays in the nastiest division in football with major question marks along both lines of scrimmage. Mississippi State should be a preseason top 25 team and one of the nation’s better squads. But it may be a tall order for Mullen's team to finish in the upper half of the SEC West for the second straight season following major losses in the offseason.

Teaser:
Mississippi State Bulldogs 2015 Spring Football Preview
Post date: Friday, March 27, 2015 - 10:00
All taxonomy terms: MLB, NBA, NFL, Overtime, NFL, NBA, MLB, Overtime
Path: /overtime/pro-sports-20-worst-teammates-all-time
Body:

There are many different ways for a locker room to implode, splinter and almost assuredly fail to accomplish much of anything. Many times, these locker rooms are infested with teammates who clearly aren't committed to winning championships.

 

Here are our worst teammates of all-time:

 

Ryan Leaf, NFL

The torrid and tawdry tale of the San Diego Chargers' first-round pick in the 1998 NFL Draft is well documented. His off-the-field drug issues as a coach alone make him one of the most tragic members of any locker room in all of sports. As a player, he was in yelling matches that nearly developed into physical altercations with teammates, general managers, fans during practice and one famous reporter who really, really needs to "knock it off." There is a reason he won only four of his 21 career starts.

 

Tonya Harding, Figure Skater

It doesn’t gets any worse than physically assaulting your teammate with the direct intent of ending their career. On Jan. 6, 1994, Harding conspired with ex-husband, Jeff Gillooly, and her bodyguard, Shawn Eckhardt, to break teammate and competitor Nancy Kerrigan's right leg. They hired a man named Shane Stant to assault Kerrigan at Cobo Arena in Detroit, causing Kerrigan to withdraw from the 1994 US Championships. The attack didn't keep Kerrigan from competing in the 1994 Winter Games in Lillehammer where she won the silver medal. Harding would end up pleading guilty to conspiracy.

 

Barry Bonds, MLB

Possibly the most talented and most high profile player on this list, it seems awfully appropriate that Bonds never won a World Series title. The stories from teammates, fans and reporters stretch out longer than one of his bombs into the Bay. Not showing up for team photos, blaming teammates for failed drug tests, berating journalists, distracting the team and constantly distancing himself from his team. There also is Rob Dibble's assertion that Bonds' own Pirates teammates would offer steak dinners and cash to opposing pitchers if they would hit the slugger during his days with Pittsburgh.

 

Latrell Sprewell, NBA

Few players have wasted more talent on nonsense than Sprewell. Not many players can say they have literally choked their head coach. His excuse? "It's not like he was losing air or anything." Spree's laundry list of locker room dust-ups is too long to comb through. But choking your coach and publicly wondering how he was going to feed his family on a $21 million contract is enough to make this list.

 

John Terry, EPL

One of the most decorated English soccer plays of all-time, Terry won "Dad of the Year" in 2009. The voters must not have known about his bar fights, airport altercations, handicap parking tendencies and general sleaziness. He has been investigated for racial abuse and was busted for having an extramarital affair with a teammate’s significant other. Well done, sire.

 

Jeff Kent, MLB

Few players have ever been as abrasive as Mr. Kent. Stories of Bonds — yes, Barry Bonds — having to play the role of peacekeeper in the Giants clubhouse should tell you all you need to know about Kent. Teammates, media, coaches and fans couldn't stand to be around him. Neither could the people on "Survivor" apparently.

 

Gilbert Arenas, NBA

He was known for his propensity to berate and verbally abuse teammates. He also was connected with some of the more vicious rookie hazings. However, being suspended for nearly an entire season because you brought a handgun into the locker room takes the cake.

 

Delonte West, NBA

This one isn't too hard. Over a three-year period of time West was traded three times and eventually waived by the Minnesota Timberwolves. His career began unceremoniously when officers found a concealed handgun in his pocket and, you can't make this up, a shotgun in a guitar case on his back during a speeding stop — while on a motorcycle. In 2010, he got into a locker room fight with Von Wafer, one that witnesses say West instigated. In 2012, he wasn't allowed to attend the Mavericks' trip to the White House.

 

Bill Romanowski, NFL

The burly and physical tackler was a menace on the field as one of the nastiest hitters in the game. Off the field, he was one of the worst teammates. During his playing days, he was long-linked to potential steroid use that likely led somewhat to his insane practice habits. No less than six major violent incidents with teammates dot Romanowski's resume. He shattered Marcus Williams' eye socket, ending his career, broke Kerry Collins' jaw and attacked Tony Gonzalez. He kicked another teammate in the head, spit in another's face and was known to aim for an extra-sensitive area of the body with the football from time to time. He’s since toned down his antics dramatically and has been slowly working to rebuild his image off of the field.

 

Manny Ramirez, MLB

No one makes you shake your head quite like Man-Ram. He had physical altercations with teammates and even apparently knocked over an elderly secretary. He was one of the most bizarre outfielders in the history of the game. Cutting off throws, disappearing into the Green Monster and landing on the baseball only scratch the surface. He also was suspended for using steroids late in his career. But Manny also is guilty of the worst crime in all of sports: intentionally not playing hard. Manny Being Manny was great for a laugh — if you didn't play with him. To his credit, Ramirez is trying to rehabilitate image by working with young players as a hitting consultant for the Cubs.

 

Terrell Owens, NFL

Constantly throwing teammates under the bus, Owens' selfish attitude on and off the field cost his locker room any cohesion and, at times, cost his team yards on the field. Effort was never his issue like some other prima donna wideouts in the NFL, but to blame quarterbacks and coaches for his own failures is absurd. And to infer certain things about Jeff Garcia in a negative way is unacceptable, distasteful and classless. Especially, coming from a guy as vain as T.O.

 

Steve Smith, NFL

Multiple fights with multiple teammates made Smith a constant headline in Panthers' training camp during his 13-year tenure with the team. He has been sued, fined, suspended and sent to anger management training stemming from a lengthy list of indiscretions. He also has long been one of the yappiest players in all of the NFL.

 

Carlos Zambrano, MLB

He was suspended for arguing with teammate Derrek Lee. He got in a fight between innings with catcher Michael Barrett. His temper and childish behaviors were caught on film numerous times on the North Side of Chicago. Why did you think the Cubs' new regime was willing to pay millions for him NOT to be in their clubhouse when he was traded away in January 2012?

 

"Worst" of the Rest:

 

Albert Haynesworth, NFL

A paycheck player who refused to play certain positions and never stayed in shape following his monstrous payday.

 

Keyshawn Johnson, NFL

Was always wondering why the Jets were throwing the ball "to that little white guy." Hmmm... TMZ also is pretty sure that he cheated on his wife.

 

Stephon Marbury, NBA

Constantly battling with teammates and even his GM, he single-handedly derailed the Knicks from 2004-09 before taking his act overseas to China.

 

Allen Iverson, NBA

Game effort was never the issue. His diva persona and attitude towards practice was.

 

Joe Horn, NFL

On the field antics and sleeping with a teammate's wife qualifies Horn for this list.

 

JaMarcus Russell, NFL

Lazy, out of shape and unfocused on anything that had to do with winning games.

 

Milton Bradley, MLB

Eight teams in 12 years for the short-tempered maniac. Bradley also has dealt with multiple domestic abuse-related incidents.

Teaser:
Pro Sports 20 Worst Teammates of All-Time
Post date: Friday, March 27, 2015 - 09:30
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Texas Longhorns, Big 12, News
Path: /college-football/texas-longhorns-2015-spring-football-preview
Body:

Charlie Strong probably feels like he cleared one hurdle in his first season at Texas.

 

He reestablished a physicality and toughness in the Longhorns that had been long missing under the previous regime.

 

But entering his second season, there are still many questions about key positions — like quarterback — and now he has to fill massive holes left in the defensive front seven and at wide receiver.

 

Texas still has the best roster in the Big 12 and has the right man leading the program, but there is tons of work to be done on the 40 Acres this spring.

 

5 Storylines to Watch in Texas’ Spring Practice:

 

1. Develop Tyrone Swoopes

Charlie Strong likely won’t have a better option under center than Swoopes unless Jerrod Heard takes major strides forward. The talented athlete had his moments last year (Oklahoma, Oklahoma State or Iowa State) but didn’t do much to prove he could be the long-term solution in Austin. But Texas may be stuck with him, so getting him as many reps as possible this spring is critical.

 

2. Rebuild defensive line

Malcom Brown was arguably the most dominant defensive player in the league last year. Cedric Reed is as physically imposing as any defensive end in the land. Both were All-Big 12 selections last year and both need to be replaced. This is Strong’s wheelhouse so he should be able to find star power here. Look for names like Hassan Ridgeway, Caleb Bluiett, Shiro Davis and even Desmond Jackson to take steps forward.

 

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



Subscribe: iTunes | Stitcher

 

3. Plug voids at linebacker

Steve Edmond and Jordan Hicks posted 278 total tackles last fall. Both were All-Big 12 picks and both are gone. Peter Jinkens and Dalton Santos are the only two linebackers who return with any experience, which could open the door for true freshman prodigy Malik Jefferson to start. Jefferson is already enrolled and could be starting from day one. Finding experienced leaders at linebacker is huge this spring for the Horns. 

 

4. Find playmakers on the outside

John Harris and Jaxon Shipley were both All-Big 12 picks last year and both need to be replaced at wide receiver. There is no better way to help a struggling quarterback than with star power on the outside in space. This roster has plenty of talented names filling the depth chart and someone needs to step into the No. 1 (and No. 2) role this spring. Keep an eye on Daje Johnson, Marcus Johnson, Armanti Foreman and Jacorey Warrick to compete for reps.

 

5. See what the early enrollees can do

Clearly, there are big voids to fill along the defensive line, at linebacker, at wide receiver and behind Johnathan Gray at tailback. Six early enrollees are already practicing for the Burnt Orange and many may be asked to contribute right away. Jefferson could be a starter while junior college end Quincy Vasser may be asked to play early as well. The O-line also gets a big boost with four early enrollees.

 

Pre-Spring Outlook on Texas:

 

Texas is very talented and will be extremely well coached. However, there are major concerns at two critical areas of importance: quarterback and defensive front. Strong can work miracles with a defensive front, but offensive issues stemming from inconsistent QB play keeps this team from being a preseason Big 12 contender. Swoopes could prove all doubters wrong but his development could be the difference between six or 10 wins.

Teaser:
Texas Longhorns 2015 Spring Football Preview
Post date: Friday, March 27, 2015 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/sweet-16-game-preview-and-predictions-michigan-state-vs-oklahoma
Body:

It wouldn’t be fair to Tom Izzo to call Michigan State’s run to the Sweet 16 unlikely. Really, it is business as usual for the Spartans’ head coach. 

 

But for this Michigan State team — a team that started January with five losses and entered the Big Ten tournament with 10 — unlikely seems like a fair word. This Spartans team wasn’t supposed to be a Sweet 16 team, yet here they are, two wins away from Izzo’s seventh career Final Four. 

 

The Spartans made it this far thanks to a balanced offensive attack that features a new star every night and the typical pressure Spartan defense we’ve grown accustomed to under Izzo. 

 

Sooners coach, Lon Kruger, is no stranger to Izzo as the two coached against one another in the Big Ten when Kruger was leading Illinois from 1996-2000.  Kruger went just 3-6 against Izzo then. 

 

Each team that Kruger has lead has had one glaring trait, defense. The Sooners play lock down defense and rank sixth nationally in defensive efficiency. Oklahoma may lack quality depth, but that doesn’t stop the Sooners from getting out and running, grabbing defensive rebounds, and scoring in bunches in transition.

 

Other Sweet 16 Previews

NC State vs. Louisville

Utah vs. Duke

UCLA vs. Gonzaga

 

No. 7 Michigan State vs. No. 3 Oklahoma

Region: East (Syracuse, N.Y.)

Time: Friday, approx. 10:07 p.m. ET

TV: TBS

Announcers: Verne Lundquist and Jim Spanarkel

Line: Michigan State by 2

 

Matchup to Watch: Michigan State’s Denzel Valentine vs. Oklahoma’s Buddy Hield

Junior Spartan swingman Denzel Valentine is one of the Big Ten’s most versatile players. Valentine is second on his team in points, assists and rebounds and is the best perimeter defender Tom Izzo has. Valentine will not only have to score, dish and rebound if Sparty wants to keep dancing but also shut down the Big 12’s leading scorer in sharpshooter Buddy Hield. The Sooners go as Hield goes, and Hield goes fast — unafraid to pull the trigger from anywhere inside of half court. 

 

Tournament Surprise: Oklahoma’s Frank Booker

Teams can never have enough 3-point shooters in the NCAA Tournament, and Oklahoma found one in Frank Booker. He had two 3s in his last four games of the regular season, but he has gone 6-of-12 from 3 in two Tournament games. He scored 8 points against Albany and 12 against Dayton.

 

Michigan State will win if...

Valentine has to find his offensive flow against a stout Sooners’ defense. In the past four games, Denzel Valentine has scored four or less points twice as the Spartans have failed to top 70 points in all four games. In order for Sparty to win, Valentine won’t have to go for 25, but he will need to score close to his season average of 14 points per game against the Sooners’ sixth-ranked defense. Valentine is fantastic in transition and should be able to drive to the bucket and shoot well from the perimeter within the flow of the fast-paced game. 

 

Oklahoma will win if...

Michigan State and its balanced scoring attack will be able to run with Oklahoma in the Sooners’ fast-paced attack. The Sooners are poor at limiting opposing offenses to just one shot, so curbing extra Spartan possessions will be crucial for Oklahoma’s success. In order to shut down Michigan State, Lon Kruger will have to throw multiple defensive looks to slow Spartan point guard Travis Trice. Trice, who lit up Virginia’s second-ranked defense for 23 points in the Round of 32 last weekend, is the engine that propels this steady and dangerous Spartan offense.

 

Athlon Staff Predictions

David Fox: Michigan State 65-60

Braden Gall: Oklahoma 70-65

Mitch Light: Oklahoma 66-64

Jake Rose: Michigan State 68-61

 

-By Jake Rose

Teaser:
Sweet 16 Game Preview and Predictions: Michigan State vs. Oklahoma
Post date: Thursday, March 26, 2015 - 17:10
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/sweet-16-game-preview-and-predictions-utah-vs-duke
Body:

Recent years have been a renaissance of basketball in the West. Arizona is a Final Four contender again. UCLA is back in the Sweet 16 in consecutive seasons for the first time since reaching three consecutive Final Fours from 2006-08. And Gonzaga may have its best team of the Mark Few era.

 

One program that has lagged behind, though, is Utah.

 

The Utes sunk to their deepest depths in the first season under Larry Krystkowiak, going 6-25 overall. Entering this season, Utah has reached the Sweet 16 only once since the height of the Rick Majerus era 1997-98.

 

To keep advancing, Utah will have perhaps its toughest test of the season.

 

The Utes are one of the country’s best defensive teams, but handling Duke’s multi-faceted attack. Utah has defeated Wichita State and BYU this season and lost hard-fought games to Arizona and Kansas.

 

With Jahlil Okafor, Tyus Jones, Quinn Cook and Justise Winslow, Duke may be the toughest hill to climb on a stage where Utah hasn’t been in a decade.

 

Other Sweet 16 Previews

NC State vs. Louisville

Michigan State vs. Oklahoma

UCLA vs. Gonzaga

 

No. 5 Utah vs. No. 1 Duke

Region: South (Houston)

Time: Friday, approx. 9:45 p.m. ET

TV: CBS

Announcers: Jim Nantz, Bill Raftery and Grant Hill

Line: Duke by 5

 

Matchup to Watch: Duke’s Jahlil Okafor vs. Utah’s Jakob Poeltl

Jahlil Okafor is one of the most prominent names in college basketball. His post game has few equals. Could one of them be Utah’s Jakob Poeltl? He’s an under-the-radar draft prospect and not one of the top names on his own team. But he’s also a seven-footer who is quickly becoming an intriguing prospect. Utah ranks fourth nationally in 2-point defense with opponents shooting 41.2 percent.

 

Tournament Surprise: Justise Winslow’s stock

Justise Winslow been solid to outstanding for most of the season, but the headlines at Duke have more often been Okafor or the Tyus Jones/Quinn Cook backcourt duo. Winslow, though, has been the highlight-reel guy in the tournament with his all-around play. He’s scored 19 points in two tournament games, but he’s had 12 total assists and 23 total rebounds in two games. He threw in four steals and three blocks against San Diego State.

 

Utah will win if...

Delon Wright can make life difficult for Duke’s defense. The Blue Devils have had trouble at times this season shutting down attacking guards. If Wright, one of the most well-rounded and unselfish guards in the country, can run the show against Duke, the Utes will have a chance to pull the upset.

 

Duke will win if...

The Blue Devils’ stars are stars. This is the time for Okafor, Winslow, Jones and Cook to shine — and they need to because Duke doesn’t have a ton of depth.

 

Athlon Staff Predictions

David Fox: Duke 71-64

Braden Gall: Duke 67-64

Mitch Light: Duke 80-70

Jake Rose: Duke 74-70

Teaser:
Sweet 16 Game Preview and Predictions: Utah vs. Duke
Post date: Thursday, March 26, 2015 - 16:34
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/sweet-16-game-preview-and-predictions-nc-state-vs-louisville
Body:

Before this season, Louisville and NC State hadn’t faced each other in a game since 1988. The coaches at that time were Denny Crum and Jim Valvano.

 

Thanks to ACC expansion, the two met during the regular season this year, and thanks to the glut of teams in the ACC and other power conferences, league games in the NCAA Tournament may becoming a regular occurrence.

 

Five ACC teams remain in the field, but that number is guaranteed to shrink by one on Friday when Louisville faces NC State at the Carrier Dome.

 

After upsets of No. 1 Villanova and No. 2 Virginia, the East Region is wide open as the first region in 11 years to lose both its No. 1 and No. 2 seed. Despite roster limitations (Louisville) and inconsistent play (NC State) this season, both teams are realistic contenders for a Final Four.

 

Other Sweet 16 Previews

Michigan State vs. Oklahoma

Utah vs. Duke

UCLA vs. Gonzaga

 

No. 8 NC State vs. No. 4 Louisville

Region: East (Syracuse, N.Y.)

Time: Friday, 7:37 p.m. ET

TV: TBS

Announcers: Verne Lundquist and Jim Spanarkel

Line: NC State by 2

 

Matchup to Watch: Louisville’s Terry Rozier vs. NC State’s Cat Barber

Louisville and NC State need these two guards to flourish for both of them to advance in the Tournament. In the only meeting between these two teams this season, Barber had 21 points, in part because of a 10-of-13 performance from free throw line, on Feb. 14. With eight field goals and seven assists, Rozier was responsible for 15 of Louisville’s 22 buckets against Northern Iowa.

 

Tournament Surprise: Louisville holding it together without Chris Jones

Rick Pitino admitted that this team would be much better if the Cardinals did not have to dismiss point guard Chris Jones from the team. That’s true, but credit Louisville for not folding, especially in a tight game against UC Irvine and against a dangerous Northern Iowa team. Wayne Blackshear has scored in double figures in seven of the last eight games, and Quentin Snider has scored 26 total points in two games in the Tourney.

 

NC State will win if...

The Wolfpack’s bigs can turn this into a perimeter game. BeeJay Anya is a standout shotblocker, but he isn’t the only big body who will try to counter Montrezl Harrell. Anya, Abdul-Malik Abu, Kyle Washington and Lennard Freeman all stand 6-8 or taller. Louisville ranks 308th in 3-point shooting (30.8 percent), so NC State will try to make this a perimeter game.

 

Louisville will win if...

The Cardinals can shut down the NC State guards. Trevor Lacey, Ralston Turner and Barber all average more than 12 points per game. No forward averages more than 6.7. NC State might not be able to survive an off night by one or two of their standout guards.

 

Athlon Staff Predictions

David Fox: Louisville 77-74

Braden Gall: NC State 68-64

Mitch Light: Louisville 66-60

Jake Rose: NC State 64-62

Teaser:
Sweet 16 Game Preview and Predictions: NC State vs. Louisville
Post date: Thursday, March 26, 2015 - 16:12
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/dean-smith-leaves-200-dinner-out-each-his-players
Body:

Legendary North Carolina coach Dean Smith was renowned for his relationship with everyone who played for him during his 36 years with the Tar Heels. 

 

That extended to his will.

 

After his passing on Feb. 7, Smith left $200 to each letterman who played for him at North Carolina. The checks carried the note for “Dinner Out.”

 

Here is the letter addressed to Dante Calabria, who played guard for North Carolina’s 1993 championship team.

 

 

Teaser:
Dean Smith Leaves $200 for "Dinner Out" for Each of his Players
Post date: Thursday, March 26, 2015 - 14:24
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/sweet-16-game-preview-and-predictions-ucla-vs-gonzaga
Body:

Gonzaga is one of the nation’s most consistent basketball programs and, really, one of the great success stories in the sport.

 

Who would believe that a West Coast Conference school in Spokane, Wash., would be an NCAA Tournament regular with a coach who has stayed for more than a decade?

 

Yet coach Mark Few has one major hole on his résumé — a trip to the Final Four. The Zags haven’t even been to the Elite Eight since his tenure began. The postseason exits have included five losses in the Sweet 16 or round of 32 as a top-four seed.

 

That may change this season, but the Bulldogs have have to conquer the demons of 2006 to keep moving. Gonzaga lost to UCLA 73-71 in the 2006 Sweet 16, a game that reduced star forward Adam Morrison to tears. Gonzaga has had two top-two seeds since that loss, this one and the team that lost to Wichita State in the round of 32 two years ago.

 

For times to change, Gonzaga on one hand faces a No. 11 seed but also a team with some historical baggage and an offense that can match the Bulldogs’ prolific scoring ability.

 

Other Sweet 16 Previews

NC State vs. Louisville

Michigan State vs. Oklahoma

Utah vs. Duke

 

No. 11 UCLA vs. No. 2 Gonzaga

Region: South (Houston)

Time: Friday, 7:15 p.m. ET

TV: CBS

Announcers: Jim Nantz, Bill Raftery and Grant Hill

Line: Gonzaga by 8 1/2

 

Matchup to Watch: UCLA’s Tony Parker vs. the Gonzaga frontcourt

UCLA’s big jokester has become a serious impact player on the court. The Bruins are at their best when they can get to Parker off the dribble drive. UCLA is 7-2 when Parker gets 10 shots from the field, including four of the last six games. Gonzaga counters with 7-foot-1 center Przemek Karnowski.

 

Tournament Surprise: Bryce Alford’s scoring

Alford scored 27 points in the upset of SMU and 22 in the win over UAB, marking the first time all year he’s topped 20 points in back-to-back games. Alford averaged 15.1 points per game entering the NCAA Tournament.

 

UCLA will win if...

The starting five can continue to hold up. Benches shorten during the NCAA Tournament, but UCLA is taking this to the extreme. The Bruins aren’t a particularly deep team, but they’ve received only 6 points from their bench in the first weekend of the Tournament. 

 

Gonzaga will win if...

The Bulldogs run their offense with minimal interruption. Gonzaga is one of the nation’s best all-around offensive teams from the field, ranking second in 2-point shooting and third in 3-point shooting. This game has all the ingredients for a track meet, and Gonzaga should be able to match up better in those conditions with UCLA than SMU or UAB did.

 

Athlon Staff Predictions

David Fox: Gonzaga 85-71

Braden Gall: Gonzaga 80-59

Mitch Light: Gonzaga 88-77

Jake Rose: Gonzaga 82-68

Teaser:
Sweet 16 Game Preview and Predictions: UCLA vs. Gonzaga
Post date: Thursday, March 26, 2015 - 14:00

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