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Path: /college-football/ranking-big-12-football-rosters-2015
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Recruiting rankings matter.

 

They are not a guarantee of future success but they are the foundation every national championship has been built upon. It takes great coaching, development and luck to win a title, but having better players is the only way to start.

 

In fact, the data backing up the value of recruiting rankings is impenetrable. For example, look at last year’s rosters. According to the rankings, three of the four best rosters in America belonged to Alabama, Florida State and Ohio State.

 

These rankings do not take into account attrition but that should be a constant for all teams and conferences equally. So strictly based on recruiting evaluations from 247Sports, here is how the rosters in the Big 12 rank.

 

Ranking College Football's Rosters in 2015:

 

 Team'15'14'13'12'11RankW/LConf.
1.1017172410.031-2121-15
2.151416121314.039-1326-10
3.402832322531.435-1722-14
4.372627274632.640-1226-10
5.334146251832.626-2413-23
6.414235293035.434-1722-14
7.363631364937.628-2316-18
8.544961745157.838-1427-9
9.755548814260.210-382-34
10.715660675962.616-348-28

 

Optimism in Austin

Texas regained its toughness under Charlie Strong in year one. On the recruiting trail, it got its mojo back by winning some key battles against the SEC, namely Texas A&M, and the rest of the Big 12. The Horns had the best class in the Big 12 in 2015 and boast the best roster in the league heading into the summer. The Horns are ninth nationally in terms of talent after sneaking back into the top 10 for the first time since the 2012 cycle. Oklahoma is second in the conference and ranks 13th nationally.

 

Big 12 concerns

The stats cannot be mistaken. The Big 12 has a recruiting issue. Texas and Oklahoma are 1-2 in talent in the Big 12 but would be sixth and eighth in the SEC. No other Big 12 team is ranked inside the top 30, the league isn’t sending players to the NFL and isn’t landing as many five-star or top-100 recruits as it’s accustomed to. Oklahoma used to land top-five classes and now they enter the season without a top-10 class on its roster. The Sooners' average rank is 14.0 nationally — which is good enough to compete for national titles (Oregon ranks 15th) but the margin for error is now razor thin for Stoops and company.

 

Power in the middle

The good news for fans in the Big 12 is the middle of the league. It’s extremely competitive and entertaining, and the talent levels indicate nothing will change. Oklahoma State (30th), Baylor (32nd), Texas Tech (33rd), TCU (35th) and West Virginia (38th) have virtually identical levels of talent nationally and their games have been extremely fun to watch on the field. With the fourth-ranked roster in the league, however, questions about Baylor’s staying power after two championships are warranted. Can the sixth-ranked roster (TCU) break through and win a league title? Either way, it’s going to be fun to watch once again.

 

More with less

The Big 12’s “more with less” award goes to Bill Snyder every year and 2015 won’t be any different. Kansas State ranked 56th nationally in terms of talent with an average class ranking of 57.8. According to the rankings, Indiana, Oregon State, Illinois, Northwestern and South Florida have better rosters than the Wildcats. And Snyder couldn’t care less. Like Gary Pinkel in the SEC or Jerry Kill in the Big Ten, Snyder continues to work minor miracles with his personnel.

Teaser:
Ranking the Big 12 Football Rosters for 2015
Post date: Thursday, February 26, 2015 - 10:00
Path: /college-football/ranking-big-tens-football-rosters-2015
Body:

Recruiting rankings matter.

 

They are not a guarantee of future success but they are the foundation every national championship has been built upon. It takes great coaching, development and luck to win a title, but having better players is the only way to start.

 

In fact, the data backing up the value of recruiting rankings is impenetrable. For example, look at last year’s rosters. According to the rankings, three of the four best rosters in America belonged to Alabama, Florida State and Ohio State.

 

These rankings do not take into account attrition but that should be a constant for all teams and conferences equally. So strictly based on recruiting evaluations from 247Sports, here is how the rosters in the Big Ten rank.

 

Ranking College Football's Rosters in 2015:

 

  '15'14'13'12'11RankW/LConf.
1.732564.644-1027-5
2.3820462618.831-2018-14
3.313522301727.037-1622-10
4.142430483129.430-2018-14
5.222537333229.842-1225-7
6.343338653941.839-1623-9
7.556050242743.232-2015-15
8.484341385244.420-3010-22
9.585358402847.427-2415-17
10.515142565551.014-346-26
11.457049643853.219-316-26
12.534652556253.626-2412-20
13.615766595459.425-2613-19
14.657262497564.617-338-24

 

Simply the best

There is a reason the Buckeyes are entering 2015 as the defending national champions. Urban Meyer promised an SEC blueprint and delivered ahead of schedule by out-recruiting the Big Ten by leaps and bounds. Ohio State is 24-0 over the last three years in league play because it has the best players. (Yes, we know coaching and development counts too.) This is the third-best roster in the nation entering ’15.

 

Harbaugh has work to do

Michigan is accustomed to competing for top-10 classes, Big Ten championships, Rose Bowls and even national titles. But that won’t happen with the 17th-ranked class nationally. Jim Harbaugh needs to get the Wolverines back into the top 10 when it comes to recruiting if the Maize and Blue want to knock off “Ohio” and get back into the national conversation. That said, this is still clearly the No. 2 roster in the league so the turnaround shouldn’t take long at all.

 

Mike Riley’s resources

Nebraska has as much support and tradition as any football program in the nation. Certainly, Mike Riley will have more resources at his disposal than he knows what do with after coaching at Oregon State for more than a decade. That said, Nebraska has seen its stock on the recruiting trail drop over the last 15 years and Riley is charged with reenergizing the brand. With the third-best roster in the league and the best in the West, winning a division title is the minimum expectation every single season in Lincoln.

 

Sparty starting to build

It has taken Mark Dantonio time to build a champion in East Lansing but after four or five years of elite football, the Spartans are starting to see their efforts pay off on the recruiting trail. This is a top 30 roster nationally and has closed the gap on Penn State, Nebraska and Michigan in terms of star power. The ’15 class was the best of the Dantonio era and his classes have improved three years running. The issue is the balance of power in the league, as four of the top five rosters in the league are in the East Division.

 

Eastern expansion

The reasons the Big Ten added Maryland and Rutgers have been covered ad nauseam. But one that should have fans excited is that both should be able to compete from a talent standpoint. The middle tier of talent in the B1G is Wisconsin, Rutgers, Maryland and Iowa. Adding the Terps and Knights has bolstered the middle of the league and both appear to have postseason staying power — as long as they get coaching. As a side effect, Kirk Ferentz finds his roster slipping further and further down the league’s hierarchy, now ranked ninth in the conference.

 

More with less

Jerry Kill wins the “more with less” award in the Big Ten as he clearly gets more out of his talent than anyone else in the league. With the 13th-best roster in the league, Kill had the Gophers a couple of touchdowns away from a division title and playing in the Big Ten Championship Game. Like Bill Snyder in the Big 12 or Gary Pinkel in the SEC, Kill works minor miracles in the Big Ten.

 

Teaser:
Ranking the Big Ten's Football Rosters for 2015
Post date: Thursday, February 26, 2015 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: Charl Schwartzel, Golf
Path: /golf/top-30-golfers-2015-majors-no-30-charl-schwartzel
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. 30: Charl Schwartzel

Born: Aug. 31, 1984, Johannesburg, South Africa | Career PGA Tour Wins: 1 (9 on European Tour)  | 2014 Wins (Worldwide): 1 | 2014 Earnings (PGA Tour): $1,997,482 (44th) World Ranking: 29

Brandel Chamblee's Take

Schwartzel has been ranked as high as sixth in the world and has won events overseas by 12, 11 and six shots, and in 2011 he won The Masters by birdieing the final four holes, which was an unprecedented accomplishment in the 75-year history of that tournament. With one of the most beautiful swings in the game, it is a wonder that he doesn’t win more often, The Masters being his lone PGA Tour victory, especially given that his Sunday scoring average was the lowest on tour for 2014. Looking closer though, it is clear that he plays his best golf, more often than not, when all chance of winning is gone; only one time on the PGA Tour in the last two years has he bettered his position on the final day of an event when he was in the top ten after 54 holes. His fourth-round 78 at the 2013 US Open, when he was just one off the pace starting the day, is a prime example. At 30 years old he has plenty of time to add to his already enviable record, but to do so he needs play like the man who stole The Masters from so many potential winners four years ago.

Major Championship Résumé
Starts: 32
Wins: 1

2014 Performance:
Masters - Cut
U.S. Open - Cut
British Open - T7
PGA Championship - T15

Best Career Finishes: 
Masters - 1 (2011)
U.S. Open - T9 (2011)
British Open - T7 (2014)
PGA Championship - T12 (2011)
Top-10 Finishes: 3
Top-25 Finishes: 13
Missed Cuts: 11

—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: Wednesday, February 25, 2015 - 16:14
All taxonomy terms: National League, MLB, News
Path: /mlb/five-national-league-players-new-teams-watch-2015
Body:

Fear not baseball fans — Sunshine and warmer weather are on their way, and spring training is knocking on Old Man Winter’s door. Thankfully, it is almost time for baseball, as camps are in full gear in Arizona and Florida.

 

Many players are getting acclimated to new spring training surroundings, as these past few months proved to be busy for general managers, agents and players alike. Between blockbuster trades and free agents signing robust contracts with new teams, there has been no lack of player movement this offseason.

 

Lucky for you, Athlon Sports has kept a close watch on the MLB Hot Stove while you’ve been shoveling snow. So get your pencils and scorebooks ready as we list the Five National League Players on New Teams to Watch in 2015.

 

Max Scherzer, SP, Washington Nationals

It seemed like a foregone conclusion that the 2013 AL Cy Young Award winner was going to test the free agent market this offseason after Scherzer turned down a six-year, $144 million contract offer from Detroit last March. Instead of re-signing with the Tigers and fighting for a fifth straight AL Central division title, Scherzer headed to the National League and Capitol Hill, as he penned a seven-year deal worth approximately $210 million with Washington.

 

Last season the Nationals were the poplar pick to win the NL pennant, and rest assured they will be even more favored in 2015 with the addition of Scherzer. The Nats’ 2014 rotation was special, but this season has the opportunity to be historic. Manager Matt Williams’ starting five will feature (in some order) Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmerman, Gio Gonzalez and Doug Fister, a teammate of Scherzer’s on the Tigers in 2011-13. While some in-season tinkering cannot be ruled out, if this quintet lives up to lofty expectations, it could be a historic season on the mound for the Nationals. And hopefully, it also will produce winning results in October.

 

With the Braves in full-on rebuilding mode and the Mets and Marlins considered fringe postseason contenders, the NL East is the Nationals’ to lose, and all eyes will be fully fixed on their new $210 million dollar ace.

 

Matt Kemp, OF, San Diego Padres

Four years ago Matt Kemp was the darling of MLB after he fell one home run short of the elusive 40/40 club and posted a slash line of .324/.399/.586 along with 126 RBIs, 115 runs, 195 hits, 353 total bases, an OPS of .986 and an OPS+ of 172. Sadly, Kemp fell short in the MVP voting to Ryan Braun, who was suspended 65 games in 2013 for his part in the Biogenesis scandal.

 

What’s even more despairing is that Kemp has never been the same since that 2011 season. Kemp, who is easily one of the most genuine and likable guys in sports today, was robbed of his prime due to constant, nagging injuries. Kemp has yet to top 30 homers, 100 RBIs, or 10 stolen bases since his near-MVP campaign, and baseball has been lesser for it.

 

In 2014, Kemp had a resurgence. He appeared in 150 games for the Dodgers, hitting .287/.346/.506 with 25 homers, 89 RBIs and 38 doubles. The bat was back for Kemp, but the range and defensive prowess in the outfield and speed on the base paths weren’t the same. The recipient of two Gold Gloves as a center fielder, Kemp spent most of his time manning the corner outfield spots last season, which led to noticeable frustration with manager Don Mattingly. 

 

Kemp is now 30, suffering from arthritis in both hips, and is just one of three brand-new outfielders San Diego acquired in the offseason, along with Wil Myers and Justin Upton. Kemp swears his hips won’t be a nuisance, that he’s happy in his new home, and ready for a full slate in 2015. Kemp and the Padres might be the biggest question marks coming into spring training. Most pundits don't know what to make of new Padres GM A.J. Preller’s extensive roster makeover, but here’s hoping that we witness the next chapter of the Matt Kemp Comeback that began in 2014. Baseball is better when Kemp is at his best.

 

Wil Myers, OF, San Diego Padres

Speaking of the Padres’ outfield…It’s funny how baseball works itself out. In December 2012 Myers, a third-round draft pick by Kansas City, was shipped to Tampa Bay for pitchers Wade Davis and James Shields. Last season, Shields and Davis helped the Royals reach their first World Series since 1985, while Myers was named the AL Rookie of the Year in 2013 when he hit .293/.354/.478 with 13 homers, 23 doubles and an OPS of .831 in just 88 games for the Rays.

 

After a disastrous 2014 in which Myers hit just .222 in 87 games due to a broken wrist, the Rays shipped him to San Diego in December in a three-team trade that also involved the Nationals. The funny thing is, Shields also wound up in a Padres uniform after signing a four-year, $75 million free-agent contract a few weeks ago. See, baseball is a funny game.

 

Myers, like fellow new teammate Matt Kemp, is looking for somewhat of a resurrection on the West Coast. Myers has already been named the starting center fielder by skipper Bud Black, and will find a spot somewhere in the heart of the lineup. Perhaps the opportunity of a fresh start in San Diego will be welcomed by Myers, who was tabbed as a “can’t miss” prospect.  However, the increased expectations of the new-look Padres could be a bit cumbersome for a player who just turned 24 in December and has yet to play a full season in the majors.

 

Jon Lester, SP, Chicago Cubs

As if breaking a 107-year old curse wasn’t stressful enough, tack on the pressure of $155 million over six seasons for a 31-year old pitcher. No big deal, right? Oh, don’t forget the eyes of the entire baseball world are upon Wrigley Field, as some publications are picking the Cubs as a World Series contender. Not to mention Chicago is home to one of the most loyal, obsessed, and passionate fan bases in all of sports. No pressure, Mr. Lester — no pressure at all.

 

Theo Epstein and the Cubs’ brass, and their rabid fans, are ready to start winning, and start winning now. The signing of one of the most reliable pitchers in baseball over the past decade is proof of this win-now mindset. After three seasons of sub-.500 baseball, prospect collecting, sign-and-trades, and big contract expulsion, the Cubs finally made their power play to sign Lester, the ace they so desperately needed. But there are still too many questions for this team before we anoint them as World Series-bound.

 

The Cubs know what they’ve got in Lester, a pure professional who has improved with age, who commands the strike zone as well as any pitcher, and delivers 200-plus innings of work.

 

Lester isn’t the issue. This issue is most of this Cubs lineup is still wildly unproven. Javier Baez, Jorge Soler, Arismendy Alcantara, Addison Russell, and Kris Bryant are all fantastic prospects but none of them have a full season of big-league ball on their resumes. Heck, Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro are considered cornerstones, but are just 25 and 24 years old, respectively. That is a lot of pressure to put on a team built with kids in their early 20s.

 

The only way this contract proves to be a winner is if the Cubs win —Duh, right? But if Lester lights up the NL only to see the offense falter, the deal is a wash. If the Cubs’ young lineup lives up to the hype, but it’s Lester who doesn’t deliver over time, the deal will be regarded as too pricey for the results.

 

The only way this deal works is by winning an NL pennant, which seems plausible. But who are we kidding — it’s the Cubs we’re talking about. No matter the outcome of the 2015 season, the signing of Lester will be the signature of the Epstein regime in Chicago, for better or worse.

 

Jason Heyward, OF, St. Louis Cardinals

Remember when Heyward homered in his first big league at-bat off of Carlos Zambrano in 2010? Remember how quickly Heyward was anointed as the next big thing? That seems so long ago…

 

Since 2010, when Heyward finished second in NL Rookie of the Year voting, his inaugural batting average of .277 hasn't gotten higher than .271. Heyward’s power numbers are also a thing of the past, not hitting more than 15 homers or driving in 70 runs or more in three of the past four seasons. In his career, Heyward has never slugged over .500.

 

Maybe it’s time to simply accept that Heyward isn’t the big bat we all thought he might turn into. He did show flashes of what could be in 2012 when he hit 27 homers and drove in 82 runs, but has totaled just 25 homers and 96 RBIs the last two seasons.

 

The falling numbers and the Braves’ rebuild made Heyward expendable to the new Atlanta brass. After the death of elite prospect Oscar Taveras, the Cardinals needed outfield help, and Hayward became a perfect trade target — great glove with possible offensive upside.

 

Heyward, a first-round pick in 2007 and two-time Gold Glove winner, will only strengthen what already is one of the NL’s better defensive teams. If Heyward can tap into what worked at the plate in 2010 and ‘12, that would be a much-needed bonus for a Cardinals offense that lacked consistent run-producers a season ago.

 

Heyward’s glove has never been a question, which begs another question — where does Heyward’s bat fit in this lineup? Lead off? Second? Fifth? Seventh?

 

Heyward is just 25 years young, yet this will be his sixth season in The Show, so he’s no longer a kid in baseball time. The Cardinals, ripe with experienced veterans, are looking for Heyward to be the player that he was projected to be just a few seasons ago. How will Heyward respond in the baseball-crazed city of St. Louis?


- By Jake Rose

Teaser:
Five National League Players on New Teams to Watch in 2015
Post date: Wednesday, February 25, 2015 - 16:00
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/why-nc-state-will-be-ncaa-tournament-spoiler
Body:

Selection Sunday may yet be a dramatic day for NC State. Yet if and when the Wolfpack get into the field, NC State may be one of the most dangerous teams in the bottom half of the bracket.

 

A team that lacked back-to-back wins for more than two months is suddenly riding a three-game win streak. The latest was NC State’s biggest statement of the season as the Wolfpack defeated North Carolina 58-46 for the Pack’s first win in Chapel Hill since 2003.

 

The uneven resume — including losses to Wofford, Clemson and Wake Forest — means NC State will be in the bottom half of the bracket. But wins over teams like Duke, Louisville and now North Carolina signal a team solid enough on a good day to beat some of the nation’s best.

 

If you’re a fan of a top-five or -six seed, here’s why you don’t want your team to have any part of NC State.

 

Cat Barber is the Cat Daddy

 

No one has been more instrumental to NC State’s turnaround than Anthony “Cat” Barber, Mark Gottfried’s top recruit from the 2013 class.

 

During the last six games, he’s averaged 18 points per game. He’s taking more shots. He’s getting to the free throw line (10-of-13 against Louisville alone) and he’s become a more efficient distributor.

 

Compare his last six games to his first 21 this season:

 

Cat BarberPPGFGMFGAFG%A/TO
Last six games186.513.847.03.1
First 21 games103.27.444.21.72

And about that nickname? Does Gottfried call him Anthony or his childhood nickname Cat?

 

“I call him the Cat Daddy, and I want him to play like the Cat Daddy,” Gottfried said during the ACC conference call last week. “I think there's been times where he's tried so hard to run a team and get our team into the offense that he hasn't utilized that great speed and quickness that he has. Lately my message to him has been to turn it loose, cut it loose, let's go.”

 

BeeJay Anya is a rim protector

 

Barber’s 2013 classmate has been a fan favorite through his two seasons, but like Barber, he’s just now heating up. The 6-9 forward has 17 blocked shots in his last four games.

 

His six blocked shots contributed to an overwhelming defensive effort against North Carolina, which averaged just 0.77 points per possession against the Wolfpack. The Tar Heels make their living in the lane, but scored just 22 points in the paint — six in the first half — against NC State.

 

Trevor Lacey is a rock

 

The Alabama transfer has scored precisely 14 points in each of his last four games and 19 points in each of the two before that. That’s pretty remarkable when you think about it.

 

The larger point, though, is that Gottfried has a veteran forward on whom he can rely to score about 15 points in every game. Only two teams since December have held Lacey to fewer than 10 points, and they’re both low-possession, defensive-minded teams — Virginia and Cincinnati.

 

History may be on Gottfried’s side

 

While NC State and Gottfried have been part of some epic flameouts — a team ranked sixth in the preseason in 2012-13 lost as a No. 8 seed, for starters — the Wolfpack are four years removed from a surprise Sweet 16 run.

 

NC State went to the NCAA Tournament as a No. 11 seed in 2012 and upset No. 6 San Diego State and No. 3 Georgetown before giving No. 2 Kansas all it could handle in a 60-58 Sweet 16 loss.

 

At Alabama, Gottfried was just as erratic in the tournament. In 2003, he led a team that was ranked No. 1 in December but ended up losing as a No. 10 seed to Indiana in the first round. A year later, he presided over a team that went 8-8 in the SEC yet upset No. 1 seed Stanford and No. 5 Syracuse on the way to the Elite Eight.

Teaser:
Why NC State Will be an NCAA Tournament Spoiler
Post date: Wednesday, February 25, 2015 - 14:26
Path: /nba/russell-westbrook-surging-mvp-conversation
Body:

Not since the 1950’s has the NBA seen a team have consecutive MVP campaigns from two different players. Bob Cousy won it for the Boston Celtics in 1957, followed by Bill Russell in 1958.

 

The Oklahoma City Thunder currently look as close to matching that feat as anyone has since. With reigning MVP Kevin Durant sidelined about half of the year with foot issues, point guard Russell Westbrook has all but put the team on his back with his terrific play.

 

Westbrook has missed a number of games himself — 14, to be exact — or else he’d be mentioned as frequently as Steph Curry and ex-teammate James Harden in the MVP conversation. Russell’s been one of the very best players around this year — scoring at will, distributing with as much poise as ever, and affecting offenses from all angles with his relentless defensive athleticism.

 

Only Anthony Davis has a higher player efficiency rating than Westbrook’s 29.25 mark, as No. 0 is also second in the NBA in scoring — behind only Harden — fifth in assists, second in steals and first among fellow point guards in rebounding.

 

And, as has long been the case, Westbrook’s signature emotional style has keyed his team. The Thunder rally around his ceaseless energy and swagger, and perhaps no superstar can say they do a better job of leading by example in the intensity department.

 

The missing games and the Thunder’s relatively low .554 winning percentage are the best arguments against Westbrook’s candidacy. But if Durant continues to miss time and OKC keeps up their current pace (they’ve won eight of their last ten) with Westbrook’s excellence at the lead, more heads will start turning.

 

Whether or not Russell grabs the coveted trophy, though, he’s certainly playing at a level that has the rest of the league on edge as we approach the postseason.

 

— John Wilmes

@johnwilmesNBA

Teaser:
Post date: Wednesday, February 25, 2015 - 14:04
All taxonomy terms: ACC, College Basketball, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac 12, SEC, News
Path: /college-basketball/court-storming-issue-resolved-college-basketball-rules-follow
Body:

If you hate court storming, you are labeled as a grumpy old person who wants to rip the joy from the youth of America.

 

If you love court storming, you have a blatant disregard for human safety and probably don’t understand that actions have consequences.

 

As it does every spring, storming the court has once again become a topic of debate. Kansas State fans mobbed the floor of the Octagon of Doom after beating archrival Kansas. Maryland students stormed the court after knocking off Wisconsin on Tuesday night. And more are sure to follow as conference tournaments begin.

 

A student’s shoulder made contact with a Jayhawk player but nothing really of note happened in either case and KSU has apologized. It hasn’t stopped sports talk radio, columnists and the Twittersphere from spewing venom from one side of the isle to the other concerning the issue.

 

Can’t we all just get along? In our seats and on the court?

 

There are plenty of incidents that indicate mixing fans with the people they adore (or hate) isn’t a good idea. It’s why fans are treated so abruptly when they decide to run onto the gridiron, diamond or pitch. This is especially true for drunken young people.

 

However, 99.9 percent of the time in college basketball, these court stormings are totally harmless.

 

So in an effort to meld the old man on the porch with the young whippersnapper in the stands, I’ve created strict guidelines for storming one’s court. From here, it’s on the teams and arenas to maintain order. Penalties should be harsh.

 

Court Storming Rules and Restrictions

The following rules and restrictions indicate when court storming is not allowed.

 

1. College hoops bluebloods

Rule No. 1 is pretty straightforward. College basketball’s bluebloods are NEVER allowed to storm a court in any circumstance, so act like you’ve been there before Duke, North Carolina, Kentucky, Kansas, UCLA, Indiana and Syracuse. This list can change from over time but these programs are basically never allowed to rush the hardwood. Ever.

 

2. Teams ranked in the top 15

If your favorite team is ranked in the top 15, they have no business storming the court. In general, Top 15 teams are No. 4 seeds or better in the NCAA Tournament and those fans have no business streaming out onto the floor after a win.

 

3. Teams ranked higher than the opponent

If your favorite team is ranked higher in the polls or standings than the opponent, invading the court isn’t allowed or appropriate.

 

4. Teams that are favored

If your favorite team is favored in the game in question, why would you have any business running out onto the hardwood after a win? You were supposed to win the game in the first place. C'mon.

 

5. Recent national champions

If your favorite team has won a national title in the last 10-15 years, then storming the court shall not be permitted. National championships indicate the best of the best, so while your team may not be a “blueblood,” it’s still one of the best programs in the nation currently. Therefore, nix the court-storm. Looking at you Louisville, UConn, Michigan State, Maryland and Florida (whose fans can't really storm the court anyway).

 

6. During the NIT

This goes for any tournament game of any kind really — preseason or post — but is only possible in the NIT since games are played on home courts. This is the Clemson Rule after the silly Tigers rushed the floor after an NIT win a few years ago. 

 

Court storming is a generally a fun and harmless expression of joy. So let’s not dilute the fun by rushing the floor every time we want. We are better than that, aren't we?

 

If your favorite teams ends a long — like more than a decade long — losing streak against an archrival or pulls a monumental upset over a top 10 opponent or clinches a championship of some kind, then rushing the floor to celebrate is perfectly acceptable.

 

Otherwise, act like you’ve been there before.

Teaser:
Court Storming Issue Resolved: College Basketball Rules to Follow
Post date: Wednesday, February 25, 2015 - 13:37
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/maryland-students-execute-another-perfect-flash-mob
Body:

Flash mobs are still a thing, especially at Maryland.

 

For the third consecutive year, the Terrapins student section executed a flash mob during a big game, this time near halftime of last night’s upset against Wisconsin.

 

Pull off one of these when it’s the hot trend? That’s one thing. Pull off this kind of choreography three years in a row? We commend you, Maryland students.

 

Things start getting good around the 1:10 mark.

 

 

Here’s another angle from Tuesday night:

 

 

Here’s Flash Mob Part II during a game against Syracuse on Feb. 24, 2014

 

 

And the inaugural flash mob and Harlem Shake in 2013 (bonus points: see if you can spot ESPN’s Scott Van Pelt).

 

Teaser:
Maryland Students Execute Another Perfect Flash Mob
Post date: Wednesday, February 25, 2015 - 12:32
Path: /college-football/ranking-pac-12s-football-rosters-2015
Body:

Recruiting rankings matter.

 

They are not a guarantee of future success but they are the foundation every national championship has been built upon. It takes great coaching, development and luck to win a title, but having better players is the only way to start.

 

In fact, the data backing up the value of recruiting rankings is impenetrable. For example, look at last year’s rosters. According to the rankings, three of the four best rosters in America belonged to Alabama, Florida State and Ohio State.

 

These rankings do not take into account attrition but that should be a constant for all teams and conferences equally. So strictly based on recruiting evaluations from 247Sports, here is how the rosters in the Pac-12 rank.

 

  '15'14'13'12'11RankW/LConf.
1.21112937.436-1624-12
2.162119131216.248-731-5
3.12197194520.435-1923-13
4.24135172223.442-1228-8
5.263718232425.631-2219-17
6.354839341534.216-339-27
7.202340356536.634-1923-13
8.423144414841.230-2217-19
9.446347374046.227-2314-22
10.636145444351.224-2615-21
11.466554586758.016-339-27
12.687668396463.010-394-32

 

USC surging

Steve Sarkisian landed the No. 2 class in the nation in his first full recruiting cycle at USC, and, enters 2015 with the No. 5-ranked roster in the nation. With scholarship numbers higher than they’ve been since NCAA sanctions, USC will enter Sark’s second season on the field with the best collection of players in the Pac-12. For all of Lane Kiffin’s weaknesses, luring talent to Los Angeles wasn’t one of them. Look for Cody Kessler and Coach Sark to make a strong run at a South Division crown.

 

Tier two talent

Oregon, UCLA, Stanford and Washington form the second tier of talent behind USC and ahead of everyone else. Those four teams rank between 15th and 23rd nationally in terms of talent heading into 2015 and have been four of the best teams in the league over the last four seasons. The Ducks have a slight edge here as the most talented team in the North and the most successful on the field, but the Bruins, Cardinal and Huskies aren’t too far behind. Pop in a tape of January's national championship game to see the difference between "tier one" and "tier two" talent.

 

Tight Wad turnaround

Sonny Dykes showed marked improvement in his second season in Berkeley, taking Cal from one win to five. With a roster ranked in the top half of the league (sixth), the Golden Bears could continue to improve under Dykes. Granted, the Bears aren’t on the same tier as Oregon, UCLA, Stanford or Washington, but California heads up the third tier of talent in the Pac-12.

 

The Grand Canyon State

Much like the state of Mississippi in the SEC, both Arizona schools will enter the season in the bottom half of the league in terms of talent but with high expectations. Both Todd Graham and Rich Rodriguez have proven to be miracle workers on the field. Arizona State has won 23 Pac-12 games in the last four years but is 19-8 since Graham took over three years ago. In fact, ASU is one of only three teams in the league have won at least 10 games in each of the last two seasons (Oregon, UCLA). RichRod is coming off of a division crown with a young roster and a proven system for success despite the perceived lack of talent.

 

Stay the course

Kyle Whittingham has done as good a job as should be expected from a coach elevating a program from the Mountain West to the Pac-12. His 14-22 mark in Pac-12 play isn’t near the 73 percent clip he won at in the Mountain West (35-13). But the Utes went from one of the top two rosters in their conference to ninth-best entering 2015 and still managed to win nine games last year. Kudos are well-deserved.

 

Careful what you wish for

Gary Andersen left a top-tier job for a job with major obstacles when he departed Wisconsin for Oregon State. It might fit his personality better, he might like the region better and his family may be happier. But it’s much tougher to win in Corvallis than in Madison. The North Division is stacked with talent (and coaching) and Andersen enters his first season at OSU with a new quarterback, a team that has won just six of its last 18 Pac-12 games and the 10th-best roster in the 12-team league.

 

Teaser:
Ranking the Pac-12's Football Rosters for 2015
Post date: Wednesday, February 25, 2015 - 10:30
All taxonomy terms: Chicago Bulls, Derrick Rose, NBA
Path: /nba/derrick-rose-has-torn-his-meniscus-again
Body:

The NBA has experienced a lot of bad injury news lately — Kevin Durant, Anthony Davis, Chris Bosh, Kobe Bryant and Blake Griffin are all out of action at the moment.

 

But the latest development might be the hardest to swallow. Perennially injured 2011 MVP Derrick Rose has a torn meniscus in his right knee; the same one he tore in November of 2013, causing him to miss all but ten games of the season a year after missing every game due to a torn ACL in his left knee, suffered in the first game of a promising Chicago Bulls postseason run.

 

There’s no denying it at this point: Rose is a tragic figure. Like Penny Hardaway, Grant Hill and Brandon Roy before him, the 26-year-old Chicago native is chock full of the kind of talent that truly gets fans’ butts moving, but he simply can’t stay healthy for long enough to wield that skill in important moments. The promise of Rose’s scintillating early career has been broken by the cruel hand of fate, and the NBA and its fans are all worse off for it.

 

Social media experienced an outpouring of sympathy and upset feelings that reached levels of nausea, when the news hit last night. Competitors, allies, and neutral bystanders alike all hate to see this happen, again and again.

 

The Bulls, in the meantime, haven’t announced a ton about Rose’s status. His surgery will be scheduled, and a timetable for a return will be determined when it is complete. Rose and his team opted for a full repair to the meniscus when he tore it last time, which made a longer career more likely. But, depending on how things look when the doctors dig in, a quicker “clean-up” procedure may be the better option, and may allow Rose to return in time for the playoffs. Stay tuned as this story progresses.

 

— John Wilmes

@johnwilmesNBA

Teaser:
Post date: Wednesday, February 25, 2015 - 10:18
All taxonomy terms: Madison Bumgarner, MLB, News
Path: /mlb/october-ace-madison-bumgarner-makes-postseason-history
Body:

A little more than two weeks before Madison Bumgarner strong-armed the Kansas City Royals in Game 7 of the World Series, before he took the ball on two days of rest and refused to give it back till long past sundown, before he carved himself into an October legend and before he beckoned the San Francisco Giants to their third victory parade in five seasons, he stood on a mound on the opposite side of the state of Missouri.

 

And a disturbing thought crossed his mind.

 

“This is their inning,” said Bumgarner, as he faced the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 1 of the NLCS. “Regardless of whether I gave them anything to hit or any momentum, I kind of figured they’d feel they had some.”

 

It was the seventh inning, and although the Cardinals trailed 3–0, they were threatening. The red-clad crowd filled Busch Stadium with noise after Yadier Molina singled on a first-pitch fastball and Jon Jay poked a blooper on a two-strike slider. The Giants had one out, and swollen eardrums, and one very unsettling bit of knowledge: This was when the Cardinals wrecked Clayton Kershaw. Twice.

 

“I had to tell myself, ‘OK, I’ve got to make a pitch and keep this thing from unraveling,’” Bumgarner said.

 

He did more than that. He lowered his shoulder while covering first base on Kolten Wong’s grounder, veering in front of the baseline like a stock car driving an opponent into the wall. Wong bounced off him like a spring. Then Bumgarner overpowered Tony Cruz with a high fastball to strand two runners in scoring position.

 

And he walked off the mound. Something that Kershaw, the greatest pitcher on the planet, couldn’t do. Either time.

 

“We don’t necessarily put a star by the seventh inning or anything,” Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. “We just know that we stay the course, and we needed someone to come up there and get a big hit for us. And Madison Bumgarner was good today. He kept us from having that big inning.”

 

That was just one unyielding moment from a postseason of pure brawn and bravado that the modern game had never witnessed before. Bumgarner reached all the way back with that slinging delivery of his and snuffed out one opponent after another.

 

No matter how far you reached back, you couldn’t find a more dominant October pitching performance in baseball history. Bumgarner threw 52.2 innings over four playoff rounds, the heaviest load ever, and posted a 1.03 ERA.

 

Athlon Sports' 2015 MLB Preview magazine covers the diamond and circles the bases with enough in-depth preseason analysis, predictions and other information to satisfy fans of the national pastime from the Bronx to the Bay and everywhere in between. Order your copy today!

When the Giants faced elimination in the wild card showdown at Pittsburgh, Bumgarner walked into the black-shirted din of PNC Park and played a funeral dirge. He threw a four-hit shutout and struck out 10.

 

When the Giants needed an ace to step up against the Cardinals, the team that had just taken a car crusher to Kershaw, Bumgarner zipped through with a pair of victories. Then he dominated the Royals in both his World Series starts, throwing a four-hit shutout in Game 5.

 

And when the Giants found themselves in dire straits amid baseball’s ultimate winner-take-all game, Bumgarner trotted from the bullpen on two days of rest, commandeered the ball and protected a one-run lead over five shutout innings.

 

The Giants did something that hadn’t been accomplished in the World Series since 1979: They won a Game 7 on the road.

 

What Bumgarner did was unmatched, period.

 

He became the first pitcher in history to record two wins and a save in a single World Series, striking out 17 and walking one while yielding just one run to the Royals over 21 innings. And a five-inning save in the Fall Classic? That was flat-out ridiculous. No pitcher had ever come close to such a feat. Heck, it hadn’t been done in a regular-season game in 12 years.

 

“At one point I looked at the pitch count and thought to myself, ‘Why are you even worried about it?’” Giants GM Brian Sabean said. “With each inning, he was getting stronger. He was getting more and more into their heads.”

 

And why wouldn’t he? Just 72 hours earlier, Bumgarner had thrown a four-hit, 117-pitch shutout against them in Game 5 — the first World Series shutout since Josh Beckett in 2003, and the first no-walk Series shutout since Kansas City’s own Bret Saberhagen in 1985.

 

There was no doubt in manager Bruce Bochy’s mind that Bumgarner would be a factor out of the bullpen in Game 7. He envisioned two innings, maybe three. When Tim Hudson lasted just five outs, though, the plan changed. Jeremy Affeldt, whose 22 consecutive scoreless postseason appearances rank one behind Mariano Rivera for the all-time record, stabilized matters over his 2.1 innings. The Giants scratched out a one-run lead.

 

Bumgarner was next, and Bochy let him go. On 68 pitches, 50 for strikes, he took them further than anyone thought possible.

 

“I was thinking maybe if he could get through the eighth, that would be amazing,” Giants catcher Buster Posey said. “But he got stronger. He got locked in. I asked him during that first inning — he wasn’t too crisp — so it’s, ‘Hey, are you OK?’ And he goes ‘(grunt) Yeah, man, I just gotta get loose.’”

 

Earlier in the series, Royals manager Ned Yost joked that his three-closer bullpen of Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis and Greg Holland allowed him to turn off his brain in the late innings. With Bumgarner, Bochy could spend the game in a hammock.

 

That’s what made Bumgarner’s performance so remarkable. In an era of accelerating bullpen specialization, and in a series between two teams that were masterful at shortening a game, Bumgarner kicked it old school. There was no need to play matchups. Bochy had the best percentage play in the ballpark.

 

“I mean, you have to say, ‘Is there anybody I have to put in this game better than what I’ve got out there?’” Hudson said. “And there ain’t. He’s the best player on the field any time he’s on the mound.”

 

Said Bumgarner: “You want to finish the game. That is the ultimate goal, to go out and give them innings. I feel like if you throw a lot of innings, all the other stuff will take care of itself.”

 

It didn’t work out so well for most every other ace in the postseason — especially Kershaw, who let those two leads slip away against the Cardinals and ended up getting hit for 11 runs in 12.2 innings. It was a stunning pair of outcomes for a pitcher who was 21–3 with a 1.77 ERA and would go on to win a unanimous Cy Young Award as well as become the first NL starting pitcher to take home league MVP honors since Bob Gibson in 1968. Bumgarner couldn’t lay claim to being the best left-handed pitcher in his own division, and because the Giants couldn’t catch the Dodgers, they had to sneak into the playoffs.

 

It didn’t matter. If Bochy’s teams have proved anything over the last five years, it’s that anyone with an October entry stamp can win the prize.

 

Bumgarner already owned World Series victories over the Texas Rangers (as a 21-year-old rookie) in 2010 and the Detroit Tigers in 2012, when he combined to allow those teams just five hits over 15 shutout innings.

 

After he accepted his World Series MVP trophy in Kansas City, his career 0.25 ERA in the Fall Classic ranked as the lowest in World Series history for pitchers with a minimum of 25 innings. Bumgarner became the first pitcher to win his first four World Series starts since Lew Burdette in 1957-58.

 

“In the history of the game there have been some great efforts, guys that have (thrown) three games and things like that,” Bochy said. “But I haven’t seen a better pitcher over the course of this postseason, and it’s been a pretty long one. To do what he’s done is pretty historic, I think.”

 

And to think — it all could’ve been lost had Bumgarner slipped up once to the last batter he faced. The Giants made an error with two outs in the ninth that allowed Alex Gordon to race all the way to third base representing the tying run. Salvador Perez, who hit a solo home run off Bumgarner in Game 1, stepped to the plate with a chance to win it.

 

Bumgarner didn’t want to risk bouncing a curveball. He wasn’t going to give in with anything over the plate. He threw high fastballs, one after the other, and the sixth heater resulted in a foul pop for the final out.

 

You’d never know, as Bumgarner overpowered the final hitter of the 2014 baseball season, that he had thrown a grand total of 270 innings — the most by a Giant in 41 years.

 

“He just … he did what he wanted with the baseball,” Posey said. “That’s the simplest way I can describe it.”

 

— Written by Andy Baggarly for Athlon Sports

Teaser:
October Ace: Madison Bumgarner Makes Postseason History
Post date: Wednesday, February 25, 2015 - 09:30
All taxonomy terms: Rory McIlroy, Tiger Woods, Golf
Path: /golf/athlon-exclusive-rory-mcilroy-qa
Body:

Rory McIlroy may have history on his mind when he drives up Magnolia Lane in early April, but good luck getting him to verbalize it. Golf’s No. 1 player remains steadfastly in the moment, and while he may indulge in a little private goal-setting, he’s not about to broadcast his specific plans for this year’s majors to the world. Writer Bernie McGuire sat down with Rory in Dubai earlier this year, at the dawn of what could be a historic 2015. This interview appears in the 2015 edition of Athlon Sports Golf Annual; order your copy here.

 

What are your goals for 2015?

There’s always little goals and it’s always the process goals that are most important. But then it should be obvious what any golfer’s goals are at the start of a New Year: winning tournaments, winning majors.

 

It’s the little things that you can do in practice and just in everyday life that can maybe help you get to that and be a little bit more consistent and do a couple more things. 

 

Every year, I’m flying here to Dubai, and I do a week of prep or ten days of preparation in Dubai before this tournament, so I will write my goals down on the back of my boarding pass, and I put it in my wallet and I memorize them. But I don’t look at them until the end of the year. 

 

So in my back pocket in my wallet is a boarding pass with my goals for this year. I don’t really want to share them with anyone else. They are just my little goals, and I’ll try and achieve those, and I’ll take that boarding pass out at the end of the year and see how well I’ve done.

 

With The Masters not that far away, do you feel the excitement building, and are there things you’re working on now thinking ahead to Augusta

Even with The Masters just a matter of months away now I am trying not even to think too hard given I seem to be asked about it every week.

But then I’m working on everything that will ensure I am prepared for Augusta. I’m just trying to make everything as good as it possibly can be. But I guess maybe there’s a few things that I’m happy with in my game that, say, if Augusta was to roll around next week, I would be happy going there knowing that I’m hitting the ball the way I want to.

 

So it’s important just to put in some good performances before that and get into contention and feel what it’s like in the heat of the moment, because that’s when you really know how your game is and how it holds up under some pressure. 

 

I will have a few tournaments before heading to Augusta to do that and hopefully I can, and that will really let me know where my game is heading into the first major of the year.

 

In strokes gained, putting on the PGA Tour you went from 117th in 2013 to 41st last year. What did you do to improve?

I figured something out by myself on the sixth green at Augusta on the Sunday of The Masters. My alignment was a little bit off and I just started doing a couple of things in my routine. 

 

I putt a lot with a mirror that people have probably seen me with on the putting green. I am just trying to put a little more structure around it I guess, and it’s really helped. 

 

I got to the point at The Masters last year where I really was — I just wasn’t comfortable with it and I needed to go in a new direction and started to work a bit on my own again. I actually consulted my good friend, Harry Diamond, and we worked a little bit on it, when I went home for a couple of weeks after The Masters and I’ve just kept with it ever since.

 

What area of your game are you looking to improve this year then?

Everything I guess.  One area of my game that I could probably get better at is my wedge play from 80 to 130 yards because I do leave myself a lot of shots from that distance. And if I’m driving the ball well, I feel like for the most part, I do take advantage, but even if it saves me one or two strokes a tournament where I can just get my wedge play a little sharper, it could make a big difference. 

 

It’s something I’ve been trying to work on a little bit the last few weeks, and you know, as I say, I’m very comfortable with how I’m driving the ball so I’m giving myself plenty of chances. 

 

So it is from that particular distance and it’s being as efficient as I possibly can converting those chances and not being wasteful. 

 

"In my back pocket in my wallet is a boarding pass with my goals for this year written on it. I’ll take that boarding pass out at the end of the year and see how well I’ve done."

 

Does the thought of a single-season Grand Slam ever cross your mind?

I have not thought of winning the four majors in a single season, so I will have to pass on that one.

 

Who would you pay to go and watch play golf?

Bubba Watson. You will get a whole golf bag full of excitement and amazement watching Bubba play.

 

Who would say are your best friends on Tour?

Justin Thomas and Rickie Fowler, and I get on really well with Keegan Bradley.

 

Who would be in your dream foursome?

My dad, Harry Diamond (Rory’s childhood friend) and probably Sean (O’Flaherty), my manager.

 

Who is the best non-pro you have played alongside? 

I’ve played with a lot of celebrities, some great sports people and some great amateurs, but probably the President at Seminole Golf Club in Juno Beach, Jimmy Dunne. He’s a great guy, and I was playing there with Tiger in November and we had a great time.

 

Who would you choose to hole a 10-foot putt for all the cash?

Other than myself?  Then Luke Donald.

 

What is your favorite club in the bag?

My driver. Just simply because of the distance I can drive the ball off the tee and how that club is then so pivotal to every other shot I play at a particular hole when using the driver.

 

This driver in my bag (the Nike Vapor) is the best driver I’ve had for a long while and I couldn’t be happier with it.

 

What is a normal workout routine for you?

Sixty minutes in the morning, and with 30 minutes of that working on quads. Though I am watching the clock after 10 minutes, I have to say (smiles). Then around 90 minutes in the gym in the afternoon or early evening.

 

What is your normal practice routine?

I usually get to the course spending about an hour or so on the range and then it’s the usual procedure like the majority of pros. I might hit a few bunker shots before spending about 20 minutes or so on the practice putting green, so from there I’m ready to go to the first tee.

 

What impact has Michael Bannon (Rory’s lifelong swing coach) had on your game?

Michael is a pretty good player in his own right, and it’s nice to have chats with him about course management, and if he watches me play a tournament, I’ll talk about, well, I was thinking about playing this shot into this pin but really I should have been playing this shot.

 

Just little things like that, little tiny, minute details not a lot of people would talk about but that he would pick up on.  He knows my game pretty well; he’s been coaching me for 20 years. 

 

So I clearly owe a lot of my success to him, and we work really well together. I’m looking forward to catching up with him in Florida in a couple weeks’ time to prepare for the start of the tournaments over there.

 

Can you talk about your relationship with Tiger Woods?

We had played alongside each other a few times but I never got the chance to really have an in-depth discussion with Tiger until we were grouped together in the 2012 Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and it has evolved since then.

 

I think we have a lot of things in common. We are huge sports fans and that’s a strong common thread in our friendship.

 

Since that Abu Dhabi grouping it’s been great for me to get to know Tiger better, and I’ve been fortunate playing alongside him many times since then to pick up a few things and learn a few things.

 

Tiger was a huge hero of mine when I was growing up, so getting to know him and getting to compete against him has always been a huge dream of mine. So now to spend time hanging around with him, and getting to know him so much better, is something I find pretty cool.

He transformed the image of golf. He made it a younger sport and single-handedly attracted more young people to take up the game of golf.

 

What is your favourite golf course?

Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland.  It is one of the truly great links golf courses.  I sort of grew up playing the course.

 

I was 16 when I contested the North of Ireland Amateur Open, and I shot a course-record 61. I can still virtually remember every shot I played that day. I missed a 6-footer on the first for birdie, so it could have been even better.

 

That was nearly 10 years ago and while it’s a different course now, as there’s a few new tee boxes, it’s still a fabulous golf course and such a fantastic setting. I just love so much the chance to play the course.

 

They’ve made the decision the Open Championship is returning to Royal Portrush, and given the reception the 2013 Irish Open received in being staged at the course, it is just going to be amazing to play an Open Championship on one of the greatest links courses in the world.

Teaser:
Post date: Tuesday, February 24, 2015 - 14:47
Path: /nba/ranking-nba%E2%80%99s-most-stalled-franchises
Body:

6. Sacramento Kings

The Kings have done a lot of dumb things. When they fired head coach Mike Malone, replaced him with Ty Corbin, and then excused Corbin in favor of George Karl, it made for five coaches over five years. That’s no way to build momentum around their premier center DeMarcus Cousins, especially when you consider that the team has paired him with an even larger number of starting point guards over that period. Having Cousins — a top-ten talent — on the roster is a great start to something good in northern California, and so was the hire of Karl. But the Kings have a lot to prove before we recognize them as moving in any one direction.

 

5. Orlando Magic

The Magic have a lot of young, exciting talent in Elfrid Payton, Nikola Vucevic, Victor Oladipo, Tobias Harris and more. But when they fired coach Jacque Vaughn, it raised questions. Not so much about why Vaughn was fired, but about why the move took so long. The Magic have consistently been one of basketball’s worst teams since Dwight Howard left town in 2012, and there’s been a lack of progress despite the collection of some good, if unseasoned, pieces through the draft. That the exhausting Scott Skiles has been named as a potential replacement for Vaughn in the fall isn’t exactly encouraging, and Magic fans are left wondering if their front office knows how to make anything work.

 

4. Los Angeles Lakers

The Lakers have one thing on their side: history. They’re one of the most dominant sport organizations in world history, and there’s no shortage of talented young men who grew up with stars in their eyes for Kobe, Shaq, Magic, Kareem and the rest. But with mastermind owner Jerry Buss gone and his kids running the show, many are starting to wonder whether there’s any plan in place for the Lakers that goes beyond “hey, free agents will want to come here.” At some point, general manager Mitch Kupchak has to prove he isn’t merely a pawn of the directionless Jim Buss, and make some moves that point to a brighter future.

 

3. Denver Nuggets

The Nuggets showed some self-awareness at the trade deadline, dealing away JaVale McGee and Arron Afflalo for some more future-oriented goods. They’ve also got one of the best young big men in the game: Jusuf Nurkic. But they’re still a mishmash of okay talent that lacks cohesion, with a head coach who can’t communicate with them in Brian Shaw. Denver has a chance to restart this summer and go all-in on a fire sale — but until they do, what we’re looking at is a team stuck in the mud.

 

2. New York Knicks

Phil Jackson hasn’t exactly proved his skeptics wrong as the Knicks’ top executive yet. He’s looked out-of-touch in the modern NBA, lacking an understanding of the commodity exchange game that general managers must play to stay competitive. Most of the core he inherited is gone via trade already, and hardly anyone can see what value the zen master got back for his departed roster. Clearing the deck may be of some currently invisible value, as the Knicks’ culture has long been broken, but there’s still no indication that Jackson can build a happy house over the earth he’s scorching, and do it around a possibly declining — and probably overpaid — Carmelo Anthony.

 

1. Brooklyn Nets

The Nets balked at the trade deadline, failing to unload any of the onerous contracts that have sent them into the NBA’s financial cellar with a team that’s struggling to compete for a low-end playoff spot, in a historically bad Eastern Conference. Brook Lopez, Deron Williams and Joe Johnson are all still useful players, but each has been beset with injuries and undue expectations, and none of them seem to be exactly blossoming under old-school head coach Lionel Hollins. Owner Mikhail Prokhorov has shifted his focus from winning, to trying to turn his team back into a profiting one after sinking them into the cellar by giving general manager Billy King too much money and freedom to work with. The Nets are without quality draft picks, elite talent, or optimism.

 

— John Wilmes

@johnwilmesNBA

Teaser:
Post date: Tuesday, February 24, 2015 - 13:26
All taxonomy terms: NFL, News
Path: /nfl/see-if-you-can-spot-difference-new-cleveland-browns-logo
Body:

If you have a sharp eye, you may notice a new look for the Cleveland Browns in 2015.

 

Granted, the record might not be totally different, but the Browns will be playing in a bolder, brighter shade of orange for the 30th anniversary of the Dawg Pound.

 

The Browns revealed Tuesday what they’re calling a “logo evolution.” The changes are subtle compared to other recent redesigns. The updated design gives the helmet a brown, rather than gray, facemask. The shade of orange is “brighter and richer,” say the Browns. 

 

The Dawg Pound logo features the most dramatic new change, replacing the old dog face with a more cartoonish look.

 

 

 

 

Here are the main changes from the Browns' web site:

 

Teaser:
See if You Can Spot the Difference in the New Cleveland Browns Logo
Post date: Tuesday, February 24, 2015 - 11:20
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-top-20-running-backs-rise-2015
Body:

Spring practice is officially underway for a handful of college football teams, and the offseason workouts are the first step to building a depth chart and getting an idea of what all 128 squads will have in 2015.

 

Quarterback battles will receive most of the attention in spring practice, but there are a handful of key playoff contenders losing a starter at running back or have a player poised for a breakthrough season. While pinpointing breakout players is easier after spring practice, it’s never too early to examine some of the top rising stars at running backs.

 

Players like Georgia’s Nick Chubb, California's Daniel Lasco and Oregon’s Royce Freeman could certainly fit into this column, but we tried to identify and focus more on players who may have went under-the-radar last season or running backs that are poised for a significant jump in production in 2015.

 

Let’s take a look at 20 running backs on the rise for 2015, followed by a few other names to watch:

 

College Football's Top 20 RBs on the Rise for 2015

 

Corey Clement, Wisconsin

Melvin Gordon leaves big shoes to fill at running back for Wisconsin, but new coach Paul Chryst is inheriting a rising star in Clement. The New Jersey native was Gordon’s top backup in 2014 and rushed for 949 yards and nine scores on 147 attempts. Clement never recorded more than 17 rushing attempts in a game last year, so there’s plenty of room for his overall production to grow with more carries in 2015. He also rushed for 547 yards as Wisconsin’s No. 3 running back in 2013. Clement may not match Gordon’s 2,587 rushing yards from last season, but he should be one of the Big Ten’s top running backs in 2015.

 

Dalvin Cook, Florida State

With quarterback Jameis Winston off to the NFL, the focus for Florida State’s offense shifts to the ground attack and talented sophomore Dalvin Cook. As a true freshman last season, Cook rushed for 1,008 yards and eight scores and caught 22 passes for 203 yards. The Miami native averaged 141.3 rushing yards over his final three games, including 6.9 yards per carry in the Rose Bowl against Oregon. Cook was a five-star recruit coming out of high school and is poised to push for All-American honors in 2015.

 

Imani Cross, Nebraska

New coach Mike Riley and coordinator Danny Langsdorf has some work to do this spring. The Cornhuskers must replace three offensive linemen, receiver Kenny Bell and standout running back Ameer Abdullah. While the losses are heavy, Riley and Langsdorf have options at running back. Cross, Terrell Newby and Adam Taylor all appear capable of keeping the ground attack performing at a high level. Cross is the early guess as frontrunner to handle the bulk of carries for Riley, as the Georgia native finished third on the team with 384 yards and five scores last year. Over the last three seasons, Cross has rushed for 1,155 yards and 22 scores. 

 

Tarean Folston, Notre Dame

Folston quietly led the way for Notre Dame’s rushing attack in 2014, recording 889 yards and six scores on 175 attempts. Through the first six games, Folston eclipsed more than 50 yards only twice and did not score a touchdown through his first five appearances. However, the Florida native was more effective in the second half of the season, recording four 100-yard efforts over the final seven games. With a solid offensive line returning in 2015, the arrow on Folston and teammate Greg Bryant’s production is clearly pointing up.

 

Leonard Fournette, LSU

Fournette was regarded as the No. 1 player in the 2014 247Sports Composite and certainly didn’t disappoint in his Baton Rouge debut. In 13 appearances, Fournette rushed for 1,034 yards and 10 scores. He also made an impact on special teams, averaging 26 yards per kickoff returns and one touchdown. With LSU struggling to find consistent production from its passing game, the ground attack will have to carry the offense in 2015. With Terrence Magee and Kenny Hilliard out of eligibility, Fournette should see an uptick in carries and production next year and should be considered a lock for first-team All-SEC honors this offseason.

 

Wayne Gallman, Clemson

The Clemson depth chart is loaded with young talent, headlined by quarterback Deshaun Watson and receiver Artavis Scott. But the rushing attack shouldn’t be overlooked, especially with Gallman expected to capitalize off a strong freshman campaign in 2015. In 13 games last season, Gallman led all Clemson players with 769 yards and a solid 4.8 yards per carry mark. After recording only two efforts of 55 yards or more through the first seven games, Gallman rushed for at least 55 yards in five out of the last six games. He also contributed 24 receptions for 108 yards in 2014.

 

Aaron Green, TCU

TCU’s offense showed significant improvement under new co-coordinators Sonny Cumbie and Doug Meacham in 2014. The Horned Frogs return most of their core for 2015, including standout quarterback Trevone Boykin and one of the Big 12's top offensive lines. Green became the starter after B.J. Catalon was sidelined due to injury and averaged 108.8 rushing yards over the final five contests. He rushed for 171 yards in a 41-20 win over Kansas State and recorded 68 on 18 attempts against a tough Ole Miss defense in the bowl game. Green also scored five touchdowns in his final four games and produced 10 rushing plays of 20 yards or more. The Nebraska transfer is a rising star in the Big 12.

 

Josh Hicks/Robert Martin, Rutgers

Rutgers has a few tweaks coming to its offense in 2015, as coordinator Ralph Friedgen stepped down, the offensive line lost three starters, and quarterback Gary Nova expired his eligibility. New coordinator Ben McDaniels inherits some talent to work with, including a solid stable of running backs and standout receiver Leonte Carroo. Josh Hicks and Robert Martin showed promise as true freshmen last year, combining for 874 yards and nine scores. Hicks closed out 2014 on a high note, gashing North Carolina’s defense for 202 yards on 19 attempts in the Quick Lane Bowl. Paul James and Desmon Peoples also return for 2015, giving McDaniels plenty of options in the backfield next year. Hicks and Martin may not have huge numbers, but both players are rising stars to watch in the Big Ten.

 

Jon Hilliman, Boston College

Boston College has ranked inside of the top 20 nationally in rushing offense in back-to-back years under coach Steve Addazio. While Andre Williams did most of the heavy lifting in 2013, Addazio used more of an all-around effort to attack opponents on the ground last year. Quarterback Tyler Murphy led the team with 1,179 yards, while Hilliman finished second with 860 yards on 211 attempts. Myles Willis and Marcus Outlow also chipped in as key contributors at running back. With uncertainty at quarterback heading into 2015, Addazio can lean on Hilliman and the rest of the Boston College backs to carry the offense (at least early in the year). The offensive line must be revamped, but Hilliman could easily eclipse 1,000 yards with 50-75 more touches in 2015.

 

Jalen Hurd/Alvin Kamara, Tennessee

In addition to the emergence of quarterback Joshua Dobbs, one of the biggest reasons for optimism in Knoxville in 2015 is the tandem of Hurd and Kamara at running back. The Volunteers averaged only 3.6 yards per carry last season and finished near the bottom of the SEC in rushing yards per game. But with Hurd having another offseason under his belt, combined with Kamara’s arrival, Tennessee’s rushing attack is expected to take a significant step forward. Hurd rushed for 899 yards and five scores last season as a true freshman, while Kamara arrives in Knoxville after spending 2014 at Hutchinson Community College (1,469 yards of total offense in 2014). The former Alabama running back is an instant-impact recruit for the Volunteers.

 

Justin Jackson, Northwestern

Jackson might have been the quietest 1,000-rusher in the nation last season. In 12 games, Jackson recorded 1,187 yards and 10 scores and caught 22 passes for 201 yards and one touchdown. Jackson’s emergence on the ground was critical after expected starter Venric Mark left the team prior to the season. After an under-the-radar performance in 2013, Jackson will be among the Big Ten’s top running backs for 2015. And the Illinois native will be under even more pressure to perform next season as Northwestern enters the offseason with uncertainty under center. While his performance in 2014 might have been lost in the shuffle with the talent in the conference at running back, Jackson certainly won't go unnoticed in 2015.

 

Akeel Lynch, Penn State

Improving the offensive line and rushing attack are two areas of focus this offseason for second-year coach James Franklin. And if Franklin can get more production from his offensive line, it should help to spark a rushing attack that averaged only 2.9 yards per carry in 2014. Lynch led the Penn State offense with 678 rushing yards last season and finished second to Bill Belton with four rushing scores. With Belton and Zach Zwinak out of eligibility, Lynch is slated to receive more of the workload in 2015. The Canada native gave the offense a spark over the final four games, which included 100-yard performances against Temple and Illinois. Lynch should push for All-Big Ten honors next year.

 

Marlon Mack, South Florida

Mack is a key cog in coach Willie Taggart’s rebuilding efforts at South Florida. As a true freshman in 2014, the Florida native led the Bulls with 1,041 yards and nine scores. Mack averaged a healthy 5.2 yards per carry and also grabbed 21 receptions for 160 yards. South Florida is making a few tweaks to its offense in 2015, but Taggart isn’t going to go away from giving Mack around 15-20 carries per game and a shot at back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons.

 

Taquan Mizzell, Virginia

Mizzell has spent the last two years as a backup to Kevin Parks, but the former four-star recruit is slated to become the go-to back for the Cavaliers in 2015. The Virginia Beach native has 464 rushing yards and three scores through his first two years on campus, while also catching 68 passes for 435 yards and one touchdown. Mizzell has only one game of 10 or more carries in his career with the Cavaliers. Expect that to change in 2015, as Mizzell should live up to his recruiting hype with a standout campaign this fall.

 

Christian McCaffrey, Stanford

For the first time since the 2007 season, the Cardinal did not have a rusher reach the 1,000-yard mark in 2014. That one-year 1,000-yard rusher drought could be short-lived, as McCaffrey is primed for a breakout season in 2015. As a true freshman in 2014, he recorded 300 rushing yards (seven yards per carry) and caught 17 passes for 251 yards and two scores. McCaffrey recorded at least 57 rushing yards in three out of the final four games, including 77 against Utah on Nov. 15. 

 

Demario Richard, Arizona State

The future of the Arizona State backfield appears to be in good hands with Richard leading the way in 2015. The Sun Devils also return D.J. Foster (1,081 rush yards in 2014), but the senior is expected to shift to more of a running back/receiver role in 2015. Richard was solid in limited action last year, rushing for 478 yards and four scores on 84 attempts. He eclipsed the 100-yard mark against a tough Utah defense on Nov. 1 and contributed 41 yards on seven attempts in the bowl win over Duke. Richard should have no trouble exceeding last year’s numbers in 2015.

 

Jovon Robinson, Auburn

Auburn’s top three rushers from last season – Cameron Artis-Payne, Corey Grant and Nick Marshall – have expired their eligibility. Robinson originally committed to Auburn in 2012 but was forced to make a two-year detour at Georgia Military College. He was selected as the NJCAA 2013 national player of the year after rushing for 2,387 yards and 34 scores that season. The Tigers aren’t hurting for talent at running back with Peyton Barber and Roc Thomas also in the mix, but Robinson is expected to receive the bulk of the carries. 

 

L.J. Scott/Delton Williams, Michigan State

The battle to replace Jeremy Langford begins this spring in East Lansing, and the Spartans aren’t hurting for talent in the backfield with Scott, Williams, Madre London and Gerald Holmes competing for time. Perhaps a true starter doesn’t emerge from this group, and co-offensive coordinator Dave Warner can use all four throughout the 2015 season. While split carries among a couple of players is certainly possible, Scott has the edge in talent and could eventually claim the No. 1 job. The Ohio native ranked as the No. 59 recruit in the 2015 247Sports Composite and will be tough for coach Mark Dantonio to keep on the sidelines. Williams – 316 yards and five scores last year – is the team’s most experienced running back headed into 2015.

 

David Williams, South Carolina

Even though Mike Davis left early for the NFL, the cupboard is far from bare for coach Steve Spurrier. Williams and Brandon Wilds are expected to handle the bulk of the carries next season, and both players have been effective in limited action. Williams is a back with significant upside, rushing for 256 yards (5.7 ypc) and two scores on 45 attempts last year. It’s only a matter of time before the former four-star recruit is in the mix for All-SEC honors.

 

Joseph Yearby, Miami

The Hurricanes already have one of the nation’s top rising stars at quarterback in sophomore Brad Kaaya, and Yearby is due for a breakout year as the new starter at running back in Coral Gables. Duke Johnson left for the NFL after rushing for 1,652 yards and 10 scores last season, leaving Yearby and Gus Edwards as the backs in contention for the majority of snaps. Yearby impressed as a true freshman last year, recording 509 yards and one touchdown on 86 attempts. The Miami native was a teammate to Florida State’s Dalvin Cook at Miami Central High School, and both players are near the top of the ACC in rushing yardage in 2015.

 

Other Running Backs to Watch in 2015

 

Corey Avery, Kansas

The Kansas offense is short on proven playmakers next season. While the receiving corps needs to be revamped, and uncertainty surrounds the quarterback position, the rushing attack should be in good hands with Avery after he rushed for 631 yards and five scores last year.

 

Joel Bouagnon, Northern Illinois

Bouagnon is poised to become the new go-to back in Northern Illinois’ high-powered offense with Cameron Stingily out of eligibility. The 6-foot-2 rusher finished third on the team with 655 yards in 14 appearances last season.

 

Chris Carson, Oklahoma State

Carson was mentioned as one of Athlon’s instant-impact junior college recruits for 2015. The Butler Community College product could start this year for Oklahoma State.

 

D’Onta Foreman/Donald Catalon, Texas

Johnathan Gray is slated to open spring ball as the No. 1 back at Texas, but there’s room for a No. 2 option to emerge. Foreman recorded 74 yards on 16 attempts as a true freshman, while Catalon spent 2014 as a redshirt.

 

Alex Gardner, FIU

Gardner was a bright spot for a FIU offense that averaged only 23 points per game last season. The true freshman rushed for 582 yards and one score before missing the final four games due to injury.

 

Brian Hill, Wyoming

Hill stepped up as Wyoming’s go-to back after Shaun Wick was lost for the year due to injury. He rushed for 796 yards and seven scores in 2014 as a true freshman, including 281 yards in a 45-17 win over Fresno State.

 

LaJuan Hunt, Utah State

Hunt only recorded one game of more than 11 carries (Hawaii), but he finished with a team-high 545 yards and one touchdown as a true freshman in 2014. The Florida native is poised to take on a bigger role in the backfield next season.
 

Ty Isaac, Michigan

It’s no secret new Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh likes to win the battle in the trenches and pound the rock between the tackles. Isaac – a USC transfer – sat out last year due to NCAA rules, but the former four-star recruit could add some punch to an offense that averaged only 138.8 rushing yards in Big Ten games in 2014.

 

Treyous Jarrells, Colorado State

New Colorado State coach Mike Bobo’s offenses at Georgia recorded at least 500 rushing attempts in three out of the last four years. The Rams will miss Alabama transfer Dee Hart, but Jarrells (5.2 ypc, 450 yards) showed potential in his first year with the Rams.

 

Jeff Jones, Minnesota

Jones ranked as a four-star prospect in the 2014 247Sports Composite and redshirted in his first year in Minneapolis due to academic issues. He should compete with Berkley Edwards and Rodrick Williams in spring practice to replace David Cobb (1,626 yards in 2014).

 

Ronald Jones II, USC

Buck Allen is off to the NFL after rushing for 1,489 yards and 11 scores last season. Jones II ranked as the No. 39 overall recruit in the 2015 signing class by 247Sports. He could play a major role in the USC backfield next season.

 

Ray Lawry, Old Dominion

Prolific quarterback Taylor Heinicke has expired his eligibility, and the Monarchs may need a little more from their ground attack until a quarterback emerges. As a true freshman last season, Lawry rushed for 947 yards and 16 scores (7.1 ypc) and caught 17 balls for 155 yards. Lawry should take the next step in his development in 2015 and emerge as one of C-USA’s top running backs.

 

C.J. Leggett, Georgia Tech

Leggett is a three-star recruit from the 2014 signing class that redshirted in his first year on campus. With the Yellow Jackets losing four out of their top five rushers from last year, the Georgia native could make an impact next season.

 

Sony Michel, Georgia

Nick Chubb is the unquestioned starter in Athens. However, the Bulldogs frequently use a second back, and Michel is expected to fill that role in 2015. As a true freshman last season, he rushed for 410 yards and five scores in eight games.

 

Joe Mixon, Oklahoma

Mixon was suspended in 2014 due to an off-the-field incident. He ranked as the No. 1 all-purpose back by 247Sports in the 2014 signing class, and even with Samaje Perine returning, Mixon is too talented to keep on the bench.

 

Devon Spalding, Central Michigan

Thomas Rawls expired his eligibility at the end of 2014, but the Chippewas have two intriguing options at running back. Spalding showed flashes of promise as a freshman (5.1 ypc) last season, and Saylor Lavallii has over 1,000 yards the last two years. Spalding rushed for 147 yards and two scores against Miami, Ohio in 2014.

 

D.J. Vinson, South Alabama

Vinson rushed for 670 yards and nine scores as a backup to Jordan Howard at UAB last year. He transferred to South Alabama after UAB’s team was eliminated at the end of 2014 and should thrive under coordinator Bryant Vincent in 2015.

 

Dalvin Warmack, Kansas State

Kansas State’s rushing attack averaged only 134.2 yards per game in 2014, and two of the team’s top three leaders in yardage – running back Demarcus Robinson and quarterback Jake Waters – have expired their eligibility. The Wildcats need more production from their supporting cast with Waters and receiver Tyler Lockett off to the NFL, and Warmack will be a name to watch this spring. The Missouri native was a three-star recruit in 2014 and redshirted in his first season in Manhattan.

 

Dwayne Washington, Washington

Big things were expected of Washington in 2014 in replacing standout Bishop Sankey. He led the team with 697 yards and nine rushing scores, but the California native could be poised for even bigger things in 2015 after rushing for 100 or more yards in three out of the final four games.  

 

Ralph Webb, Vanderbilt

Vanderbilt’s offense struggled last season, but Webb was a bright spot and a player for new coordinator Andy Ludwig to build around in 2015. The Florida native rushed for 907 yards and four scores as a redshirt freshman last year.

 

Aeris Williams, Mississippi State

With the departure of Josh Robinson, the Bulldogs are looking for a new go-to back in 2015. Williams ranked as a four-star recruit by 247Sports in 2014 and redshirted in his first year on campus. This talented Mississippi native is one to watch in 2015.

Teaser:
College Football's Top 20 Running Backs on the Rise for 2015
Post date: Tuesday, February 24, 2015 - 11:00
All taxonomy terms: Essential 11, Overtime
Path: /overtime/athlons-essential-11-links-day-february-24-2015
Body:

This is your daily links roundup of our favorite sports and entertainment posts on the web for Feb. 24:

 

• Charlotte McKinney will be on Dancing with the Stars, providing an excuse to link to this slideshow.

 

Michael Sam and gymnast Nastia Liukin are among the other "stars" on this season's Dancing with the Stars.

 

The Cleveland Browns are doing a little re-branding. Yeah, that's what was missing - a slightly different-colored helmet.

 

Kobe went on Kimmel last night and got sad as he watched his teammates living life without him.

 

James Harden dislocated both of Ricky Rubio's ankles on one sick play.

 

Interesting interview with Bill Walton, who was contemplating suicide a few years ago due to chronic pain.

 

Parks and Rec characters ranked. I could not agree more strongly with No. 1.

 

• Trickle-down tanking: Two Tennessee high school girls teams got kicked out of the playoffs for trying to lose to each other to gain more favorable bracket position.

 

Last night, Kansas State fans made a compelling case against court-storming by doing it wrong.

 

Marshawn Lynch is trademarking his most famous quote. Or, basically his only quote.

 

• Another sign that the end is nigh: Some soccer fans actually showed class and humanity.

 

• Watch a very good doggie contribute the cowbell to Don't Fear the Reaper.

 

-- Email us with any compelling sports-related links at links@athlonsports.com.

Teaser:
Post date: Tuesday, February 24, 2015 - 10:59
All taxonomy terms: Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder, NBA
Path: /nba/kevin-durant-going-miss-more-time-foot-injury
Body:
Just as the Oklahoma City Thunder’s season seemed to be taking off, after some fortuitous trade deadline activity — netting them Enes Kanter, Kyle Singler and D.J. Augustin — they’ve hit another setback.

 

Reigning MVP Kevin Durant is sidelined indefinitely after a minor surgery, done to repair a screw in his foot, which was put there earlier in the season due to a Jones fracture. Durant has missed 29 of the Thunder’s 56 games this season, with his protracted absences being a major reason why they’ve had to claw at the bottom of the Western Conference playoff picture, after many forecasted them to win conference — or even a championship — in October.

 

Durant will be re-evaluated in another week, according to ESPN’s Royce Young, but the expectation is that No. 35 will be back to the floor before the regular season is over.

 

More alarming than the Thunder’s prospects for this season, though, is the state of Durant’s body. The Jones fracture has undone men before K.D., and many believed OKC was rushing their star back to action when Durant returned on December 2. It may seem like a win-now moment for the Thunder after two straight postseason runs spoiled by bad injury luck, but no single-season goal could possibly be as important as the long-term health of one the game’s most gifted scorers ever.

 

Regardless of how OKC handles Durant’s continued foot issues, though, there’s this to lean on: Teammate Russell Westbrook is having an MVP-like season, leading his team to victories with a 29.24 player efficiency rating that currently ranks second in the league. 

 

And with the new weapons they have in Kanter, Singler and Augustin, K.D. should take his sweet, sweet time as the Thunder look prepared to hold strong to the West’s eighth playoff spot. Their competition for the seed has taken a hit, as the recently reshuffled Phoenix Suns attempt a recalibration at the worst possible time and the New Orleans Pelicans sink without the injured Anthony Davis.

 

— John Wilmes

@johnwilmesNBA

Teaser:
Post date: Tuesday, February 24, 2015 - 10:13
Path: /mlb/ranking-best-and-worst-mlb-logos-2015
Body:

Brand equity. Brand awareness. Brand image. These are all economic terms that overlap, exist in a nebulous world and don’t directly impact the bean counters. 

 

As the media world has grown over the last half century, so has the understanding of concepts like advertising, marketing and, of course, branding. So things like tag lines — “I’m loving it” or “We pick you up” — and brand logos are born. A company’s logo is still the most recognizable, most direct way to separate itself from its competitors. 

 

Major League Baseball is no different. Since Athlon Sports has been producing the best-looking magazine on newsstands for the better part of five decades, we feel qualified to offer our opinions on all 30 MLB team logos for 2015.

 

To do so, we let our graphic design guru and magazine designer Daly Cantrell do the honors and here is what she thinks of the current roster of MLB logos:

 

 LogoAnalysis
1.The Tigers logo stands on its own, which makes it easy to see on a page, uniform, etc. It doesn’t need any words or extra colors to communicate what it represents. It's simple, yet creative and has an old-school feel, which is great to see. 
2.This is definitely a favorite. I am a huge fan of the script type and love the lines that show movement in the ball. I also, like that the lines do not interfere with the text. It’s a feminine approach on a masculine logo that works well without emasculating it
3.Classic, yet unique. The repetition in the curvature of both the Cubs C and the circle surrounding it make for a visually pleasing logo. This is an example of an effective circle logo. 
4.I am a sucker for simplicity explored in a creative, unique way. The Angels logo is just that. The A stands alone and represents the Angels without any extra words. It’s both classic and compelling. 
5.I enjoy the use of a script typeface in this Orioles logo. The lowlights of the black are done correctly making the orange pop.  However, the cartoon bird logo that they wear on their hats needs to go. Now. 
6.This is a great example of a circle logo that includes a good amount of text. Circle logos seem to be an easy fix, but doing them correctly is the challenge. The text is readable, the blue jay is well seen and the white background allows the colors to pop. It's a memorable look.
7.

It's timeless and it works. The only thing I might change is make the stroke a little less on the words, that way the blue doesn’t overpower the red. 

8.I am a fan of the balance in the Cardinals logo. Originally, I thought having two birds was a little much, but it makes the logo stand out more and keeps a great balance.
9.

Another well-designed logo that stands on its own. What makes it different is the placement of the letters. By angling them it creates a unique feel to a simple logo.

10.I really like the shape of the Reds logo. This shape makes it stand out and not seem like a regular circle logo. 
11.This logo is pretty interesting because of the use of the team's colors, but bravo - I think they were used correctly, which makes the logo stand out. Personally, I would take the words Miami out.
12.I am a huge fan of the shape of this logo. Inside the base-like shape, it gets a little cluttered when made smaller. I would probably make the bell a light grey so the letters stood out more. 
13.I’m personally not a huge fan of this logo but it's a classic. You can’t just change a classic and I'm giving points for the amazing "N-Y" emblem as well.
14.This is a very visually compelling logo, but if my young eyes can’t read it then that’s a problem. 
15.This logo isn’t bad, it just needs to be simplified (of course). The lettering can stay the same, but the pirate is too detailed. 
16.This isn’t horrible — but it would be much better if it wasn’t in a circle logo. Simplifying this logo to only the A would make the A, which is the brand, stick out more than the circle logo as a whole. 
17.Just like the A's, this logo should be simplified. I would keep the circle, but take out the baseball and just make it a white circle. This way the T would be more distinguishable and your eyes would not get lost in the threads of the baseball. 
18.Could be better. The KC part of the logo could stand by itself and so could the Royals part of the logo. To me, these seem like two logos combined, which complicate things. Pick one, or the other please.
19.This is another case of a logo that could easily be simplified. The text of the logo says “Minnesota Baseball Club” — that is 21 letters too long. Stick with just “Twins” in the center and make it stand out. 
20.Does anyone else look at the Nationals W and see the Walgreens W? Be more creative than this, because all I think of when I see this is a pharmacy. Other than that the logo is very well done. 
21.Simplify, Simplify, Simplify. This logo is too dark — there is too much blue. This is a prime example where taking the SD out of the circle would make it a much better marketing tool. 
22.I’m not really a fan of this logo at all. I like the idea of the single “A”, but cluttering with the diamonds on the side makes it look cheesy.
23.This is a well done logo, when it’s printed largely, but looking at it smaller it makes it very hard to read. There are 3 different colors on the text and I think that is what makes it harder to read. 
24.What is going on with how busy this logo is? Is it necessary to have a cityscape, a bridge, and the baseball stitching all crammed into one little logo? When enlarged the logo doesn’t look as cluttered, but when the logo is smaller its hard to make out what all the different pieces of the logo are.
25.I really like the treatment and detail of the text in this logo, but I feel like there is too much going on. I would either keep the red socks and have that stand alone as a logo, or play with the text and have that stand alone.
26.At first, I thought this logo is a little boring, but once seeing it enlarged the detail on the text is more noticeable. I wish there wasn’t a baseball behind it, or if they wanted to keep the baseball then just using the G would also suffice.  
27.

This is a controversial logo that looks cheesy.  The Indians should just take the feather and use that with their C or their uniform logo. It would make more people happy, and look better at the same time. 

28.Nothing stands out about this logo at all. 
29.I feel like this was done with clip art. Also, using a serif font and having two colors on the text makes it harder to read. 
30.There are a bunch of things about this logo that I am not a fan of, but the biggest is the diamond in the background. It takes away from the text too much and makes it harder to read. I would take it off completely. 

 

Teaser:
Ranking the Best and Worst MLB Logos in 2015
Post date: Tuesday, February 24, 2015 - 10:00
Path: /college-football/ranking-secs-football-rosters-2015
Body:

Recruiting rankings matter.

 

They are not a guarantee of future success but they are the foundation every national championship has been built upon. It takes great coaching, development and luck to win a title, but having better players is the only way to start.

 

In fact, the data backing up the value of recruiting rankings is impenetrable. For example, look at last year’s rosters. According to the rankings, three of the four best rosters in America belonged to Alabama, Florida State and Ohio State.

 

These rankings do not take into account attrition but that should be a constant for all teams and conferences equally. So strictly based on recruiting evaluations from 247Sports, here is how the rosters in the SEC rank.

 

Ranking College Football's Rosters in 2015:

 

  Team'15'14'13'12'11RankW/LConf.
1.Alabama111111.048-628-4
2.LSU5261476.841-1223-9
3.Georgia6811857.640-1425-7
4.Auburn96131189.431-2115-17
5.Florida21934119.629-2117-15
6.Tennessee4724201413.822-277-25
7.Texas A&M1159163515.235-1717-16
8.South Carolina191620171617.640-1221-11
9.Ole Miss17158462021.226-2511-21
10.Arkansas233023282125.025-2510-22
11.Mississippi St183825223427.432-2015-17
12.Kentucky392234503736.414-344-28
13.Missouri253943315739.036-1721-12
14.Vanderbilt474526475644.227-2411-21

 

SEC dominates recruiting trail

Part of the reason the SEC is the best league in college football is the players. When looking at recruiting rankings from 2011-15, five of the top eight rosters in the nation are from the SEC along with Florida State (No. 2), Ohio State (No. 3) and USC (No. 5). The SEC also features eight of the top 16 and 11 of the top 26 units in the nation. Finally, Vanderbilt ranks last in the SEC in terms of talent but would be eighth in the ACC, Big 12 or Big Ten. Eight different SEC teams have landed a top-10 class in the last five cycles.

 

Gary Pinkel and Co.

There may not be any coaching staff in the nation that gets more out of less than the Mizzou Tigers. The Tigers rank 40th in the nation and 13th in the SEC in terms of talent with an average national ranking of 39.0 over the last four seasons. Yet, the Tigers' conference record over that span (21-12) is better than nine other SEC teams and their 14-2 SEC record since entering the league ties Alabama for tops in the league.

 

Les Miles and Mark Richt

Over the last four years, Miles (23-9) and Richt (25-7) are second to only Nick Saban in SEC wins (28-4). Yet, Georgia has no SEC titles to show for it and LSU has just one (2011) and has dropped in the standings every year since. These are two of the top six rosters in the nation and the pressure should be on both staffs to produce in a big way in ’15.

 

What to make of South Carolina

Steve Spurrier has been given the benefit of the doubt for most of his career. And rightly so. But with no star power returning on either side of the ball and a roster ranked eighth in the league (albeit 16th nationally), it's fair to question whether or not the Gamecocks have reached their peak. This team isn’t that far removed from three unprecedented 11-win seasons in a row. But none of those teams played in Atlanta and everyone around them in the East appears to be improving rapidly. This is a huge prove-it season for the Head Ball Coach.

 

Magnolia State

There are plenty of reasons for optimism for both Ole Miss and Mississippi State in 2015. But even after two breakthrough seasons, the Rebels (11-21) and Bulldogs (15-17) are a combined 26-38 in SEC play over the last four years. Both programs have surged in the recruiting rankings over the last three years and expectations have followed suit. That said, Ole Miss still ranks just ninth in the SEC in terms of talent and HailState is way back in 11th — or last in the SEC West.

 

Big Orange rising

This one isn't rocket science. Expectations in Knoxville are beginning to soar. This roster is 12th in the nation in terms of talent and third in the SEC East after back-to-back elite classes. This is still a team that hasn’t won more than three SEC games since Lane Kiffin was in charge in 2009 and is extremely young. The 7-25 SEC record is better than only Kentucky over the last four years but that should soon change under Jones’ leadership.

 

Watch out for them Aggies

Kevin Sumlin has lit the recruiting trail on fire since Texas A&M moved to the SEC, landing three straight classes in the top 11. Expectations were unreasonably high entering last season but should be warranted this fall. The Aggies are one year ahead of Tennessee in terms of building a championship roster and should be more of a breakout candidate than the Vols. 

Teaser:
Ranking the SEC's Football Rosters for 2015
Post date: Tuesday, February 24, 2015 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/every-nights-best-college-basketball-now-until-end-season
Body:

The first conference tournament game begins a week from Tuesday.

 

Crazy, right?

 

The college basketball season is entering its final stretch with teams trying to seal NCAA bids, clinch top seeds or find something resembling momentum entering the postseason.

 

If you’re just getting started as a viewer in college hoops or if you’ve been watching every game on the edge of your seat, there’s something for you every day from here until the end of the year.

 

Here are the best games you need to watch every night from now until the end of the regular season.

 

All times Eastern

 

DayDate  TimeTV
Tue.Feb. 247 p.m.ESPN

The Badgers play three of their final four regular season games on the road with a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament on the line.

Wed.Feb. 259 p.m.ESPNU

After that team in Lawrence, Baylor and Iowa State may be the Big 12’s best hope to advance deep into the NCAA Tournament.

Thu.Feb. 2611 p.m.Pac-12 Networks

Stanford has slipped to 8-6 in the Pac-12. The Cardinal could play its way into the NIT with a loss to overachieving Oregon State.

Fri.Feb. 2710 p.m.ESPNU

This game could be for the top seed in the Horizon tournament, provided Valpo doesn’t clinch Wednesday against Detroit.

Sat.Feb. 284 p.m.CBS

True story: Kentucky hasn’t played a ranked team since Dec. 27 against Louisville. That changes against No. 18 Arkansas.

Sun.March 17:30 p.m.Big Ten Network

What will Purdue need to do in the Big Ten tournament to clinch an NCAA bid? Perhaps not much if the Boilers can pick up this key road win.

Mon.March 29 p.m.ESPN

Two red-hot teams in the Big 12 will try to make a last-ditch effort to deprive Kansas of its 11th consecutive conference title.

Tue.March 39 p.m.ESPN

Georgia gave Kentucky trouble in Lexington without Marcus Thornton. Could the win streak end against the full-strength Bulldogs in Athens?

Wed.March 47 p.m.ESPN2

Louisville wraps up the regular season against the Irish and Virginia at home ... and without point guard Chris Jones.

Thu.March 59 p.m.ESPNU

Davidson pulled itself out of a slump, and VCU can still win without Briante Weber. The Atlantic 10 is crowded at the top.

Fri.March 68 p.m.American Sports Network

These are the only two teams in contention for the Ivy’s NCAA bid. Harvard could clinch outright or Yale, which lost to the Crimson on Feb. 7, could force a playoff.

Sat.March 79 p.m.ESPN

North Carolina missed a golden opportunity to redefine its season in the first meeting against Duke. What does the matchup have in store?

Sun.March 84:30 p.m.CBS

One of the last games of the regular season features Frank Kaminsky and D’Angelo Russell on the same court.

 

Teaser:
Every Night's Best College Basketball from Now until the End of the Season
Post date: Tuesday, February 24, 2015 - 08:30
All taxonomy terms: College Football, News
Path: /college-football/these-redesigned-college-football-helmets-are-awesome
Body:

A couple of weeks ago, Deeyung Entertainment, a graphic design firm based in Oklahoma, presented its take on alternate helmet designs for all 32 NFL teams.

 

In recent weeks, Dylan Young has presented his ideas on alternate college football helmets, in many cases using the secondary logos as primary logos.

 

We think they’re pretty cool and maybe some of these athletic departments should take him under advisement. All of them can be found on Twitter at @FFHelmets and on Instagram at FreshFootballHelmets.

 

What do you think?

 

 

Teaser:
These Redesigned College Football Helmets Are Awesome
Post date: Monday, February 23, 2015 - 17:00
All taxonomy terms: Essential 11, Overtime
Path: /overtime/athlons-essential-11-links-day-february-23-2015
Body:

This is your daily links roundup of our favorite sports and entertainment posts on the web for Feb. 23:

 

People are actually getting tired of Kate Upton's Game of War Twitter promotions. That's how relentless they are.

 

Richard Jefferson dunked on Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, leading everyone to say, "Richard Jefferson's still in the league?"

 

Roy Williams and his Tar Heels paid the perfect tribute to Dean Smith on Saturday.

 

Clay Travis asks the important questions about last night's Oscars, like who's hotter, Bradley Cooper or Adam Levine. And here are some so-so memes from a so-so Oscars. The tweet of the night actually came from Athlon buddy @MarkEnnis.

 

The Sixers' new mascot hates the Sixers. That's somehow perfect.

 

This story has the best headline you'll read today.

 

Actor Justin Bartha (the dude from Hangover and National Treasure) saw his opportunity to creep out MSG's Jill Martin during an interview, and he took it.

 

Watch a chubby white Kentucky fan portray Louisville's Montrezl Harrell in a homemade video. It's weirder than it sounds.

 

The old injured-while-celebrating genre never gets old.

 

• Watch Oregon's Dillon Brooks dunk on a passel of Utes.

 

-- Email us with any compelling sports-related links at links@athlonsports.com.

Teaser:
Post date: Monday, February 23, 2015 - 11:16
All taxonomy terms: MLB, News
Path: /mlb/45-things-never-happened-baseball-until-2014
Body:

One of the unique things about baseball is that history can be made on any given day or night at the ballpark, especially if you are paying close enough attention. The 2014 season was no exception, as players and teams alike added their names to the record books. Here is a rundown of some of those baseball "firsts" that may have initially gone unnoticed.

 

In 2014, for the first time in baseball history a batter...

» Hit three doubles, two singles and a home run in a game (Charlie Blackmon).

» Doubled six times in the first seven games of his career (Yangervis Solarte).

» Had a grand slam, two other hits and a pair of intentional walks in the same game (Giancarlo Stanton).

» Hit a grand slam for two different teams in April (Ike Davis, Mets and Pirates).

» Went 5-for-5 with three homers and nine RBIs in a game (Lonnie Chisenhall).

» Recorded multiple hits and multiple stolen bases in four consecutive games (Jose Altuve).

» Homered 20 or more times in seven consecutive seasons while playing for five different teams in that span (Mark Reynolds).

» Went 4,000 days between the first and second RBI of his career (Jerome Williams).

» Stole three bases in a game for a team that was the victim of a no-hitter (Jason Heyward).

» Drove in a run in eight straight games while playing for more than one team during the streak (Adam Dunn).

» Hit a solo, two-run, three-run and grand slam homer sequentially in successive games (Devin Mesoraco).

» Made at least 225 plate appearances in a season yet scored fewer than five runs (Jose Molina).

» Struck out more than 90 times in a season of fewer than 250 plate appearances (Javier Baez).

» Who was playing shortstop hit a grand slam in a postseason game (Brandon Crawford).

» Homered and doubled in three straight postseason games (Matt Carpenter).

» Had multiple hits in six consecutive playoff games (Nelson Cruz).

» Ended an NLCS with a home run (Travis Ishikawa).

 

A pitcher...

» Struck out 10 batters in an outing of less than four innings (Danny Salazar).

» Fanned 10 hitters and walked five in a start that was no longer than four innings (Michael Wacha).

» Made the first 178 starts of a career without completing one (Max Scherzer).

» Struck out the side on nine pitches with the bases loaded (Brad Boxberger).

» Made it through the first nine starts of a campaign without allowing either more than two runs or five hits (Johnny Cueto).

» Fanned 40 batters in a season before walking his second (Sean Doolittle).

Athlon Sports' 2015 MLB Preview magazine covers the diamond and circles the bases with enough in-depth preseason analysis, predictions and other information to satisfy fans of the national pastime from the Bronx to the Bay and everywhere in between. Order your copy today!

» Struck out as many as 15 batters in a walk-free no-hitter (Clayton Kershaw).

» Worked seven or more scoreless innings in nine of his first 18 starts of a season (Adam Wainwright).

» Won eight consecutive starts in a single season during which he struck out at least 80 batters with an ERA below 1.00 (Kershaw).

» Who previously had won a Cy Young Award lost 12 decisions in a row (Jake Peavy).

» Made 16 consecutive starts of at least seven innings in which he allowed two or fewer runs (Felix Hernandez).

» Struck out 14 batters in a scoreless start of exactly six innings (Mike Fiers).

» Lost a one-hit complete game in which he fanned at least nine batters in fewer than nine innings (David Price).

» Saved 30 games in a season for two different teams by the age of 25 (Addison Reed).

» Fanned 10 or more batters in a game for a fifth different team (A.J. Burnett).

» Who previously had won a Cy Young Award allowed nine straight hits in a game (Price).

» Opened a season with three starts of at least seven innings, fewer than two runs and no walks (Derek Holland).

» Allowed as many as eight earned runs and 10 hits while getting fewer than three outs in an appearance (Carlos Frias).

» Beat one team (Oakland) three times while pitching for three different teams in the same season (Jerome Williams).

» Retired at least six batters while striking out every one he faced in two different games of a season (Antonio Bastardo).

» Struck out more than 11 batters for each one he walked (Phil Hughes).

» Won fewer than 10 games despite making 30 starts and posting an ERA below 2.50 (Cole Hamels).

» Fanned as many as 182 batters in a season of less than 150 innings (Yu Darvish).

» Whiffed at least one batter in 49 straight relief appearances (Aroldis Chapman).

» Fanned 52 percent of the batters (min. 50 IP) he faced in a season (Chapman).

» Averaged 10-plus strikeouts per nine innings in each of his first seven seasons (David Robertson).

» Allowed at least seven earned runs in back-to-back postseason starts (Kershaw).

» Allowed no more than one run in any of the first five postseason starts of his career (Ryan Vogelsong).

 

— Compiled by Bruce Herman for Athlon Sports

Teaser:
45 Things That Never Happened in Baseball Until 2014
Post date: Monday, February 23, 2015 - 11:00
All taxonomy terms: Larry Sanders, Milwaukee Bucks, NBA
Path: /nba/larry-sanders-has-been-bought-out-milwaukee-bucks
Body:
Larry Sanders is in a bad way these days. The 26-year-old big man has been bought out by the Milwaukee Bucks after an extended absence due to injury, suspension, and a malaise so deep that it made him question whether he even wants to play the game professionally anymore.

 

"We believe this decision is in the best interest of our team," Bucks general manager John Hammond said in an official team statement. "We wish Larry well and remain excited about the future of the Bucks organization.”

 

Bucks coach Jason Kidd said that "it's business. That's just the nature of this. It happens. We wish Larry the best with moving forward and hopefully everything works out.”

 

This circumstance isn’t exactly common — players don’t just walk away from contracts like the one Sanders earned by playing lights-out ball in the 2012-13 season, in which he was second in the league with 2.83 blocks per game. His four-year, $44 million deal and rising dominance had him projected to be a perennial Defensive Player of the Year candidate.

 

There are a lot of mysteries to Sanders’ fall from grace, and most likely it should remain that way — league insiders have suggested that he’s dealing with some heavy psycho-emotional trouble, and should seek rest and help above all. Basketball can wait.

 

Sanders will make about half of the money that was left on his deal, and it will be spread out in smaller doses over many more years.

He’s also eligible to sign with any team he chooses this season or next. Reports are that he’s taking an indefinite break from the sport, though, so don’t get your hopes up if the team you’re rooting for is short on big men.

 

Here’s to hoping that Sanders is on the up.

 

— John Wilmes

@johnwilmesNBA

Teaser:
Post date: Monday, February 23, 2015 - 10:30

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