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All taxonomy terms: San Francisco 49ers, NFL, News
Path: /nfl/chris-borland-retires-doesnt-spell-doom-nfl
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San Francisco 49ers linebacker Chris Borland shocked the NFL world by retiring after a stellar rookie season at age 24.

 

It’s an important, courageous decision not made lightly by a player who is thinking well beyond his playing years.

 

He isn’t the first player to step away from the game early and he won’t be the last. Jim Brown, Barry Sanders and Robert Smith were superstar running backs, made plenty of money and decided to walk away in the prime of their careers.

 

Borland's not even the first to do so this offseason, as Patrick Willis (30), Maurice Jones-Drew (29), Jake Locker (26) and Jason Worilds (27) have each retired with plenty of gas left in the tank.

 

You can think it’s stupid for a rising star who hasn’t made his big paycheck yet — Borland made just under $600,000 in 2014 — to retire from a dream career basked in the glory of the NFL spotlight.

 

The game is more violent than ever. The players are bigger and faster than ever. But no one has the right to tell anyone else what to do in this situation. The key is informed decision-making.

 

It’s no different than smoking cigarettes or eating Big Macs everyday. They will both kill you eventually, but this is America and if you want to live off special sauce and nicotine, you are allowed to.

 

Just as long as you know what’s happening.

 

If an athlete wants to make millions of dollars playing a sport knowing full well what the risks are who are we to tell them what to do?

 

"I think when you sign up for this job, you know what you're getting into,” said Lions offensive lineman Dominic Raiola during the NFL’s concussion lawsuit two years ago.

 

Raiola is making an informed decision and it’s his to make. Just like Borland, Locker, Willis or any parent who is faced with the choice to allow their child to play football.

 

Is this a concerning trend for the sport? Not according to the bank accounts. The TV ratings are through the roof, the Super Bowl is more popular than ever and the league is printing money with the biggest partnership contracts any sport has ever seen.

 

The game isn’t going anywhere, and as long as we are all informed, we should be allowed to make whatever decisions we want. Whether we are an All-Pro linebacker who decides to retire at 24 or a concerned parent.

Teaser:
Chris Borland Retires at 24, Doesn't Spell Doom for NFL
Post date: Tuesday, March 17, 2015 - 10:36
All taxonomy terms: MLB, News
Path: /mlb/25-best-baseball-players-25-and-under-2015
Body:

Is MLB becoming a young man’s game? There’s certainly no lack of young, impact talent on major-league rosters. Look no further than the fact that the reigning AL MVP, last season’s World Series MVP, the majors’ top home run hitter and batting champion all fall into the 25 years old or younger crowd.

 

So who is the best of the best of baseball’s youngest superstars? Here is one fan’s list of the 25 best baseball players who are 25 years or younger as of Opening Day (April 6).

 

1. Mike Trout, OF, Los Angeles Angels

Not only is Trout the best player 25 years or younger, he’s the best player period. The 2012 AL Rookie of the Year and reigning AL MVP, Trout has slashed a ridiculous .311/.403/.963 in his first three full seasons, while averaging 31 home runs, 97 RBIs, 118 runs scored and 33 stolen bases. If that’s not enough, consider this: even though Trout was the MVP last season, he posted better overall numbers in each of his first two campaigns.

 

2. Madison Bumgarner, P, San Francisco Giants

The 25-year-old lefty won’t be on this list next season, but that matters little after his postseason performance for the ages. Bumgarner put the Giants on his back and carried them to their third World Series title in five years by simply dominating the Pirates, Cardinals and Royals. The NLCS and World Series MVP, Bumgarner went 4-1 in the postseason with a mind-blowing 0.99 ERA in six starts (52 2/3 IP). He’s been pretty good in the regular season too, going 67-49 with a 3.06 ERA in 148 career starts.

 

3. Giancarlo Stanton, OF, Miami Marlins

The Marlins’ $325 million man led the NL with 37 home runs last season, proof of the damage Stanton can do when he’s able to stay in the lineup. Now signed through 2027 (can opt out after 2020), Miami has its cornerstone to build around, a 25-year-old slugger who isn’t afraid to take a walk and is averaging one home run every 14.9 at-bats in his career.

 

4. Freddie Freeman, 1B, Atlanta Braves

The Braves have made wholesale changes in their lineup, but Freeman isn’t going anywhere. Freeman played in all 162 games last season, making his second straight All-Star team while posting respectable numbers (.288-18-78) at the plate and playing his usual solid defense at first. Atlanta has plenty of question marks entering this season, but Freeman is the least of the Braves’ worries.

 

5. Jose Altuve, 2B, Houston Astros

The diminutive (5-6), Altuve swung a big bat in 2014, leading the majors in batting average (.341) and hits (225), while pacing the AL in stolen bases (56). The All-Star second baseman racked up 47 doubles and struck out just 53 times in 660 at-bats. Don’t let his stature fool you – Altuve is a big-time player and one of the reasons to be excited about the Astros’ future.

 

6. Anthony Rendon, 2B/3B, Washington Nationals

The sixth pick of the 2011 draft broke out in a big way last season, as Rendon led the NL with 111 runs scored and pounded out 66 extra-base hits on his way to finishing fifth in the MVP voting. Rendon’s emergence forced All-Star third baseman Ryan Zimmerman across the diamond to first, which is what happens when you flash 20/20 potential at the plate and a sufficient enough glove at the hot corner on the big-league level.

 

7. Anthony Rizzo, 1B, Chicago Cubs

After scuffling somewhat in 2013, Rizzo put it all together last season, finishing second in the NL in home runs to Giancarlo Stanton with 32. A left-handed hitter with a pretty good eye at the plate (73 BB, 116 SO), Rizzo made the leap thanks to much more success against southpaws (.300 vs. LHP in 2014, .189 in ’13). With a better supporting cast around him, can Rizzo take the next step and become a MVP contender in 2015? He finished 10th last season.

 

8. Yasiel Puig, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers

Puig may give his manager a headache, rub his teammates the wrong way at times and seemingly have no clue what’s going on around him, but you can’t deny his five-tool potential. An All-Star in 2014 who got some MVP votes, Puig has batted .305 in his first two full MLB seasons while showing flashes of both his power (35 HR) and speed (22), not to mention some pretty nifty glove work and a rifle for an arm out in right field. If he’s able to put it all together and stay focused for an entire season, watch out.

 

9. Bryce Harper, OF, Washington Nationals

Other than Mike Trout, it’s entirely possible that Harper ends up eclipsing everyone ahead of him on this list. That’s how much talent and upside Harper, who is still only 22 years old, possesses. Already a two-time All-Star, Harper just needs to find a way to harness his all-out motor so that he can stay on the field for a full season. Once he does that, the numbers should start to pile up.

 

10. Jason Heyward, OF, St. Louis Cardinals

Believe it or not, but Heyward just turned 25 this past August. Entering his sixth season in the majors, Heyward is making his St. Louis debut following his trade from Atlanta. A two-time Gold Glove recipient, Heyward provides plenty of value with his defense alone, but he’s also swatted 27 home runs in a season (2012), while stealing 20 or more bases twice (2012, ’14). A more than capable leadoff hitter (.351 OBP in 2014), it will be interesting to see if Heyward blossoms as a complementary piece in a much-deeper and more dangerous Cardinals lineup.

 

11. Starlin Castro, SS, Chicago Cubs

After a disappointing, some would even say discouraging, 2013, Castro bounced back in a big way, hitting .292 with 14 home runs and making his third All-Star team. With more lineup support and manager Joe Maddon now in charge, Castro could put together the best statistical season in his young career. Don’t forget he already has 846 career hits even though he turns 25 two weeks before the season starts.

 

12. Jose Fernandez, P, Miami Marlins

If not for last season’s Tommy John surgery, Fernandez would be higher on this list. The 2013 NL Rookie of the Year, Fernandez may not make his season debut until the summer, but it shouldn’t be too long before he’s dominating opposing hitters once again.

 

13. Nolan Arenado, 3B, Colorado Rockies

A two-time Gold Glove recipient, Arenado hit .287 with 18 home runs in 111 games last season. With half of his games at hitter-friendly Coors Field, health appears to be the only obstacle in Arenado’s way of establishing himself as one of the NL’s top third basemen.

 

14. Matt Harvey, P, New York Mets

Another Tommy John patient, Harvey has the advantage over Jose Fernandez in that he will be back on the mound sooner. That’s good news for the Mets, considering the last time Harvey did toe the rubber he was making opposing hitters look downright silly (135 H, 191 K in 178 1/3 IP in 2013).

 

15. Andrelton Simmons, SS, Atlanta Braves

One of, if not the best, defensive players in baseball regardless of position, Simmons’ glove at shortstop is irreplaceable. Anything he provides at the plate is a bonus; although the Braves do hope Simmons can rediscover his 2013 form (.248-15-59) after hitting just .244 with only seven home runs last season.

 

16. Manny Machado, 3B/SS, Baltimore Orioles

After bursting on the scene in 2013, Machado has been slowed by injuries. Limited to just 82 games last season, the Orioles hope Machado’s health issues are behind him. Because when he’s in the lineup, Machado is a Gold Glove defender at third and a potent (.283-14-71 in 2013) threat at the plate.

 

17. Salvador Perez, C, Kansas City Royals

A workhorse backstop (146 G caught in 2014), Perez is a two-time All-Star because he’s just as productive with the bat. A .275 hitter over the past two seasons, Perez was a big part of the Royals’ World Series run in 2014.

 

18. Julio Teheran, P, Atlanta Braves

After a solid rookie season in 2013, Teheran took the next step and established himself as the Braves’ ace in ’14. While the record (14-13) wasn’t overly impressive, Teheran posted a 2.89 ERA and 1.08 WHIP in 33 starts and was named to his first All-Star team.

 

19. Sonny Gray, P, Oakland A’s

The A’s traded away or bid farewell to several members of last season’s rotation, but Gray remains. The unquestioned ace of the rebuilt staff, Gray won 14 games in 2014 while posting a 3.08 ERA and recording two complete game shutouts in 33 starts.

 

20. Yordano Ventura, P, Kansas City Royals

The 23-year-old flamethrower went 1-0 with a 1.46 ERA in two World Series starts against the Giants. The Royals hope 2015 is the year Ventura establishes himself not only as one of the top strikeout arms in the AL, but also as a legitimate front-of-the-rotation starter.

 

21. George Springer, OF, Houston Astros

From a power-speed standpoint the only ones on the same level as Springer are Mike Trout and Bryce Harper, and Harper may even be a stretch. In just 78 games in his MLB debut, Springer cranked out 20 home runs before injuries got in the way. He stole only five bases, but the 30/30 potential is clearly there and take the over on the home runs if he cuts down on the strikeouts (114 in 295 AB).

 

22. Christian Yelich, Miami Marlins

Nowhere near the power hitter like his teammate Giancarlo Stanton, Yelich still has a knack for getting on base (.362 OBP), scoring runs (94) and can steal his share of bags (21 SB). A Gold Glove left fielder, Yelich, Stanton and Marcell Ozuna form one of the youngest and most talented outfield trios in the majors.

 

23. Gerrit Cole, P, Pittsburgh Pirates

The potential is clearly there for the No. 1 overall pick of the 2011 draft, but Cole just hasn’t put it all together for a full season. Injuries and other issues have limited him to just 41 starts in two seasons, in which he’s gone 21-12 with a 3.45 ERA and 238 strikeouts in 255 1/3 innings.

 

24. Billy Hamilton, OF, Cincinnati Reds

A menace on the base paths (56 SB), Hamilton got off to a blistering start last season before struggling through a second-half slump. His speed atop the Reds’ lineup cannot be underestimated, especially if he works on his plate discipline (34 BB, 117 SO), gets on base more (.292 OBP) and picks his spots to run a little more carefully (23 CS).

 

25. Corey Dickerson, OF, Colorado Rockies

Seemingly a man without a position entering last season, injuries presented Dickerson with an opportunity to play everyday. And the 25-year-old took full advantage, batting .312 with 24 home runs, 27 doubles, 76 RBIs and 74 runs scored. Even bigger numbers are not out of the question if Dickerson can improve against lefties (.253-3-14) and away from hitter-friendly Coors Field (.252-9-23).

 

Next 10

(alphabetical order)

Mookie Betts, 2B/OF, Boston Red Sox

Xander Bogaerts, SS/3B, Boston Red Sox

Shelby Miller, P, Atlanta Braves

Jake Odorizzi, P, Tampa Bay Rays

Marcell Ozuna, Miami Marlins

Wily Peralta, P, Milwaukee Brewers

Gregory Polanco, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates

Trevor Rosenthal, P, St. Louis Cardinals

Kolten Wong, 2B, St. Louis Cardinals

Alex Wood, P, Atlanta Braves

 

Others to Watch in 2015 

(alphabetical order)

Arismendy Alcantara, 2B/SS/OF, Chicago Cubs

Oswaldo Arcia, OF, Minnesota Twins

Javier Baez, 2B/SS, Chicago Cubs

Trevor Bauer, P, Cleveland Indians

Archie Bradley, P, Arizona Diamondbacks

Kris Bryant, 3B, Chicago Cubs

Dylan Bundy, P, Baltimore Orioles

Nick Castellanos, 3B, Detroit Tigers

Avisail Garcia, OF, Chicago White Sox

Kevin Gausman, P, Baltimore Orioles

Scooter Gennett, 2B, Milwaukee Brewers

Ken Giles, P, Philadelphia Phillies

Eric Hosmer, 1B, Kansas City Royals

Brett Lawrie, 2B/3B, Oakland A’s

Francisco Lindor, SS, Cleveland Indians

Matt Moore, P, Tampa Bay Rays

Wil Myers, OF, San Diego Padres

Joc Pederson, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers

Jose Peraza, 2B, Atlanta Braves

Carlos Rodon, P, Chicago White Sox

Addison Russell, SS, Chicago Cubs

Danny Salazar, P, Cleveland Indians

Danny Santana, SS/OF, Minnesota Twins

Aaron Sanchez, P, Toronto Blue Jays

Corey Seager, 3B/SS, Los Angeles Dodgers

Marcus Semien, 2B/3B/SS, Oakland A’s

Noah Syndergaard, P, New York Mets

Yasmany Tomas, 3B/OF, Arizona Diamondbacks

Taijuan Walker, P, Seattle Mariners

Zack Wheeler, P, New York Mets

Mike Zunino, C, Seattle Mariners

 

NOTE: Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Marcus Stroman would have been on this list, but he tore his ACL in spring training and is out for the season.

Teaser:
25 Best Baseball Players 25 and Under
Post date: Tuesday, March 17, 2015 - 10:00
All taxonomy terms: Patrick Reed, Golf
Path: /golf/top-30-golfers-2015-majors-no-17-patrick-reed
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. 17: Patrick Reed

 

Born: Aug. 5, 1990, San Antonio, Texas | Career PGA Tour Wins: 4 | 2014 Wins (Worldwide): 2 | 2014 Earnings (PGA Tour): $4,026,076 (14th) World Ranking: 15

 

Brandel Chamblee's Take

Reed is someone his peers should pay attention to — not for any particular skill, but for the audacity with which he plays the game. In an era of over-coached talent, he wins because too many of those who would otherwise outshine him have had their genius coached out of them, and their timidity or confusion is no match for his belief in himself. It is this belief that we should admire above technical skill, but such is the aesthetic desire in all of us that we look for and seek the beautiful swings and overlook the sloppy ones like Patrick’s. He reminds me of a Lanny Wadkins or Hale Irwin or Hubert Green, all of whom had whirlybird easy-to-find-fault-with moves that were propped up by an inner arrogance that took them all to the Hall of Fame. Reed will keep winning, and too many of his peers will keep looking in the mirror.

Major Championship Résumé
Starts: 4
Wins: 0

2014 Performance:
Masters - Cut
U.S. Open - T35
British Open - Cut
PGA Championship - T58

Best Career Finishes: 
Masters - Cut (2014)
U.S. Open - T35 (2014)
British Open - Cut (2014)
PGA Championship - T58 (2014)
Top-10 Finishes: 0
Top-25 Finishes: 0
Missed Cuts: 2

 

—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: Tuesday, March 17, 2015 - 09:57
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/who-are-best-coaches-2015-ncaa-tournament
Body:

Just as a sprint is different from a marathon, winning in the NCAA Tournament is different from winning during the regular season.

 

Seeding, luck, clock management and style of play all seem to be magnified during March Madness. And all of it could be undone because of another team's 3-point shooter.

 

Granted, many of the best coaches in the game tend to win big in March just like they do in January and February. Some, though, have a knack for upsets or being upset.

 

As your filling out your brackets, perhaps this will be a useful tool in breaking down the coaches you might trust the most in this year’s field.

 

We’ve ranked all 68 coaches in the 2015 field based solely on their performance through the years in the NCAA Tournament. We looked at at wins, Final Fours and championships but also how often they performed against higher or lower seeds.

 

Mid-major coaches who tend to give higher seeds trouble in the Tournament were given credit. Power conference coaches who lost repeatedly in upsets were docked.

 

1. Mike Krzyzewski, Duke (82-26, 11 Final Fours, four national championships)

These are strange times for Duke. Two of the last three NCAA Tournament trips have ended in first-round losses to Mercer and Lehigh. Duke haters understand this: We can hold that against him and still think Coach K is the best Tournament coach out there. Krzyzewski has four more Final Four appearances than any other active coach (Rick Pitino and Roy Williams) and 19 more Tournament wins than any other active coach (Roy Williams). 

 

2. John Calipari, Kentucky (43-14, five Final Fours, one championship)

When was the last time time Calipari suffered a major upset in the NCAA Tournament? He had a seventh-seeded Memphis team that lost to a No. 10 seed Arizona State in 2003 and a No. 2-seeded UMass team that lost in the second round to No. 10 seed Maryland in 1994. That’s about it.

 

3. Tom Izzo, Michigan State (42-16, six Final Fours, one championship)

Izzo has taken Michigan State to the NCAA Tournament in 17 consecutive seasons entering this year, and he’s reached at least the Sweet 16 a dozen times in that span. The times that his teams have lost early, they’ve lost as a No. 10 seed twice, as a No. 9 and as a No. 7. The only time he’s been a part of a bona fide first-round upset was to the No. 11 seed George Mason team that reached the Final Four in 2006.

 

4. Rick Pitino, Louisville (50-17, seven Final Fours, two championships)

Last year’s loss to Kentucky was the first time Pitino had lost in the Sweet 16 in his career. He’s won national titles at two different schools and taken Providence to the Final Four. His second national title in 2013 is bookended by losses to Kentucky and Calipari in 2012 and 2014. 

 

5. Roy Williams, North Carolina (63-22, seven Final Fours, two championships)

Roy’s last two trips stalled in the round of 32, but those teams were seeded sixth and eighth. At Carolina, Williams is 3-0 in the Sweet 16 and 2-0 in the national title game. The last major upset for Williams was to 11th-seeded George Mason in 2006. 

 

6. Bill Self, Kansas (36-15, two Final Fours, one championship)

Since losing to Bucknell in 2005 and Bradley in 2006, Self is 23-7 in the Tournament, including the 2008 national title.

 

7. Steve Fisher, San Diego State (25-13, three Final Fours, one national championship)

Fisher started his career with a 6-0 run to the 1989 national title when he replaced Bill Frieder at Michigan. Fisher the coached the Fab Five in two Final Fours in 1993-94. More recently, Fisher has taken San Diego State to the Sweet 16 — as would be expected for teams seeded fourth (2014) and second (2011). Fisher was also on the losing end of the first No. 15 seed reaching the Sweet 16 when Florida Gulf Coast upset his seventh-seeded Aztecs in the second round in 2013.

 

8. Larry Brown, SMU (19-6, three Final Fours, one national title)

Brown is riding a six-game winning streak into this year’s NCAA Tournament. Unfortunately, that streak started in 1988. 

 

9. Thad Matta, Ohio State (23-12, two Final Fours)

Outside of those two Final Fours, Matta has had a No. 1 seed stall in the Sweet 16 against Kentucky and a No. 2 seed stall in the Sweet 16 to Tennessee.

 

10. Sean Miller, Arizona (14-7)

Miller is 8-3 in the Tournament since arriving at Arizona. He’s reached the Sweet 16 or Elite Eight in each of his last five trips to the to the NCAA Tournament at Zona and Xavier. One oddity: He’s 0-2 against Thad Matta, coach of his potential second round opponent this season.

 

11. Shaka Smart, VCU (7-4, one Final Four)

Smart took VCU from the First Four to the Final Four in 2011, but the Rams are 2-3 in the Tourney since. VCU lost to 12th-seeded Stephen F. Austin last season.

 

12. Bob Huggins, West Virginia (27-20, two Final Fours)

Huggins took West Virginia to the 2010 Final Four, upsetting No. 1 seed Kentucky along the way. From 1997-2002, Cincinnati was a top-three seed six teams and failed to reach the Sweet 16 five times during that span. Only one of those teams had an injured Kenyon Martin.

 

13. Bo Ryan, Wisconsin (20-13, one Final Four)

Wisconsin went to the Final Four last season, but before that Ryan-coached teams were eliminated by lower-seeded teams in three of their previous four Tournament appearances including by Ole Miss in 2013, Butler in 2011 and Cornell in 2010.

 

14. Gregg Marshall, Wichita State (6-10, one Final Four)

Losing to a No. 8 seed and a No. 12 seed in two of the last three trips, but those losses were to Kentucky and VCU. In between, Marshall took a ninth-seeded Wichita team to the Final Four before losing by 4 to eventual national champ Louisville.

 

15. Jay Wright, Villanova (13-11, one Final Four)

Wright’s first five trips to the Tourney with Villanova ended in the Final Four, an Elite Eight and two Sweet 16s. Nova hasn’t made it out of the first weekend since. The Wildcats twice lost as No. 2 seeds to No. 10s in the second round to 2014 UConn and 2010 Saint Mary’s.

 

16. Tony Bennett, Virginia (5-4)

Just watch: If Virginia doesn’t make it out of the first weekend, this will be the year detractors start to say he can’t win in the Tournament. It happened to Bo Ryan, and it will happen to Bennett. Taking Washington State and Virginia to the Sweet 16 is still awfully impressive.

 

17. Scott Drew, Baylor (8-4)

The last three NCAA trips, Baylor has gone to the Elite Eight twice and the Sweet 16 once. Of Baylor’s all-time NCAA Tournament wins only three of them don’t belong to Drew.

 

18. Mike Anderson, Arkansas (7-6)

Getting to the Tournament has been an issue for Anderson. Once there, his style works well. He led UAB to a Sweet 16 and Missouri to an Elite Eight.

 

19. Archie Miller, Dayton (3-1)

His first two NCAA Tournament games were upsets of No. 6 Ohio State, No. 3 Syracuse and No. 10 Stanford. His team was seeded 11th.

 

20. Bob McKillop, Davidson (3-7)

His three NCAA wins were during a Stephen Curry-led run to the Elite Eight in 2008, but ask Marquette, Louisville or Ohio State if they want to see a No. 13 or 14 seed Davidson in the first round.

 

21. Ben Jacobson, Northern Iowa (2-2)

His four NCAA Tournament games have been decided by an average of 4.25 points per game. Both of Jacobson’s wins were in a trip to the 2010 Sweet 16, including an upset of No. 1 seed Kansas.

 

22. Rick Barnes, Texas (21-21, one Final Four)

Barnes hasn’t been to the Sweet 16 since 2008, but it’s not because his team is losing in egregious upsets. The problem has been Texas teams being seeded 11th (2015), seventh (2014), 11th (2012), eighth (2010) and seventh (2009).

 

23. Tom Crean, Indiana (9-7, one Final Four)

Crean’s non-Dwyane Wade teams are 5-6 in the Tourney, including a No. 1 seeded Indiana that lost in the Sweet 16.

 

24. Steve Lavin, St. John’s (11-7)

Lavin reached the Elite Eight once and Sweet 16 four times at UCLA. In the middle of all that the Bruins also lost to Detroit in a 12-5 upset. In Lavin’s only NCAA appearance since 2002, St. John’s lost to No. 11 seed Gonzaga in the first round.

 

25. Dana Altman, Oregon (5-10)

The ledger has five first-round exits, but one trip to the Sweet 16 with Oregon and a 12-5 upset of Florida while at Creighton.

 

26. Matt Painter, Purdue (8-7)

Painter has never really had a full deck in the NCAA Tournament at Purdue, leading to two Sweet 16 appearances in six trips. Purdue has been eliminated by a No. 1 seed three times under Painter.

 

27. Lon Kruger, Oklahoma (14-15, one Final Four)

Kruger is a standout coach during the regular season, but the Tournament is a different story. He’s riding a four-game NCAA losing streak, including last year’s exit against No. 10 seed North Dakota State. He’s been to the Sweet 16 just once since taking Florida to the Final Four in 1994.

 

28. Mark Gottfried, NC State (8-10)

Gottfried’s best Tournament runs haven’t been cheap. His 2012 NC State team upset No. 6 seed San Diego State and No. 3 seed Georgetown on the way to the Sweet 16. His 2005 Alabama team upset No. 1 Stanford and No. 5 Syracuse on the way to the Elite Eight. He also had a second-seeded Alabama team lose to No. 10 seed Kent State in 2002.

 

29. Chris Mack, Xavier (4-4)

He’s not Sean Miller or Thad Matta, his predecessors at Xavier, but Mack took a No. 10 seed to the Sweet 16 in 2012 (with an assist from No. 15 Lehigh upsetting Duke) and upset a No. 3 seed Pittsburgh in 2010.

 

30. Tommy Amaker, Harvard (4-4)

Amaker took 10th-seeded Seton Hall to the Sweet 16 and scored an out-of-nowhere upset of third-seeded New Mexico in 2013.

 

31. Mark Turgeon, Maryland (5-5)

Turgeon took Wichita State to the 2011 Sweet 16 where the Shockers were bounced by George Mason. He went 3-4 in the Tourney at Texas A&M.

 

32. Fran McCaffery, Iowa (2-6)

McCaffery’s two Tournament wins are first-round upsets over No. 8 Ohio State in 2009 and No. 4 Vanderbilt in 2008 while he was the coach at Siena.

 

33. Fred Hoiberg, Iowa State (4-3)

Hoiberg’s biggest NCAA win was as a No. 7 seed over a No. 10 Notre Dame in 2013. Otherwise, Iowa State has lost to two eventual national champions (2014 UConn and 2012 Kentucky).

 

34. Mike Brey, Notre Dame (6-11)

Brey hasn’t been to the Sweet 16 since 2003. His teams have been bounced by double-digit seeds in five of his last six trips, including 2010 Old Dominion and 2007 Winthrop, the latter coached by Gregg Marshall.

 

35. Cliff Ellis, Coastal Carolina (8-9)

Ellis has taken South Alabama, Clemson, Auburn and Coastal Carolina to the Tourney and reached the Sweet 16 three times. One of those teams was a No. 1 seed upset by Ohio State in the regional semifinal.

 

36. John Thompson III, Georgetown (8-9, one final Four)

Thompson went to the Sweet 16 and the Final Four in his first two NCAA appearances at Georgetown. Since then, he’s gone 2-5 with all five losses coming to double-digit teams. That record is egregious, but in context, there’s a bit of bad luck at play. Those losses have included Florida Gulf Coast, which also beat San Diego State that year, a Final Four-bound VCU, and a Stephen Curry-led Davidson. 

 

37. Mark Few, Gonzaga (15-16)

Detractors will get on Few for never reaching the Final Four, but six of his last eight teams have been seeded seventh or lower. It’s not his fault you’re picking a bad bracket. That said, he had a No. 1 seed that failed to get out of the first weekend against Wichita State in 2013, a No. 3 seed that lost to a sixth-seeded Texas Tech team in 2005 and a No. 2 seed that lost to a 10th-seeded Nevada in 2004.

 

38. Mike Davis, Texas Southern (7-6, one Final Four)

Davis has a career in reverse. He took Indiana to the national title game in 2002 and then lost a play-in game at UAB for a No. 12 seed and a second play-in game with Texas Southern for a No. 16 seed.

 

39. Steve Alford, UCLA (7-8)

Last year’s trip to the Sweet 16 was Alford’s first since 1999 at Missouri State. The Bruins defeated two double-digit seeds to get there, which is only important because three of Alford’s previous four NCAA losses were to double-digit seeds.

 

40. Dave Rose, BYU (4-7)

Rose took BYU to the Sweet 16 in 2011, but he’s also 0-3 as a No. 8 seed and 0-1 in Dayton for the First Four.

 

41. Larry Krystkowiak, Utah (1-2)

In two appearances at Montana, he led a 12-5 upset of Nevada in 2006 and lost by 11 to No. 1 seed Wisconsin by 11 in 2005.

 

42. Brad Underwood, Stephen F. Austin (2-1)

In one NCAA appearance, Underwood led 12th-seeded SFA to a 77-75 upset of VCU before a loss to UCLA in the second round.

 

43. Mark Fox, Georgia (2-4)

Both of Fox’s NCAA wins were in his first three seasons at Nevada in 2005 and 2007. The best team of his career — No. 5 seed Nevada in 2006 — lost to 12th-seeded Montana, a team led by current Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak.

 

44. Andy Kennedy, Ole Miss (1-1)

In his lone NCAA appearance, the Rebels and Marshall Henderson upset No. 5 Wisconsin and lost to No. 13 La Salle.

 

45. Rick Byrd, Belmont (0-6)

The closest Byrd came to his first NCAA Tournament win was as a No. 15 seed in a 71-70 loss to Duke in 2008.

 

46. Mike Young, Wofford (0-3)

All three appearances have been at Wofford, including a mere four-point loss to a fourth-seeded Wisconsin team in 2010. With Wofford’s slow pace, he’ll get an upset one of these days.

 

47. Ed Cooley, Providence (0-1)

His lone Tourney appearance was a two-point loss to No. 6 seed North Carolina last season.

 

48. Steve Masiello, Manhattan (0-1)

The Jaspers gave Louisville all it could handle last season. Was that a case of knowing the Rick Pitino system inside and out?

 

49. Travis Ford, Oklahoma State (1-5)

Ford’s lone Tourney win was in an 8-9 game against Tennessee. Ford has lost twice to double-digit seeds.

 

50. Marvin Menzies, New Mexico State (0-4)

Menzies has been to the NCAA Tournament five times and has won the WAC regular season only twice. That math has to count for something.

 

51. Will Brown, Albany (1-4)

The lone win was in last season's play-in game for a No. 16 seed over Mount St. Mary’s

 

52. Leon Rice, Boise State (0-1)

Rice is making his second appearance in a play-in game after losing to Sweet 16-bound La Salle in 2013.

 

53. Johnny Jones, LSU (0-2)

 

54. Bryce Drew, Valparaiso (0-1)

 

55. Ron Hunter, Georgia State (0-1)

 

56. Edward Joyner, Hampton (0-1)

 

57. Fran O’Hanlon, Lafayette (0-2)

 

58. Larry Shyatt, Wyoming (first appearance)

 

59. Bobby Hurley, Buffalo (first appearance)

 

60. Chris Holtmann, Butler (first appearance)

 

61. Andy Toole, Robert Morris (first appearance)

 

62. Jim Hayford, Eastern Washington (first appearance)

 

63. Ross Turner, UC Irvine (first appearance)

 

64. Larry Davis, Cincinnati (first appearance)

 

65. David Richman, North Dakota State (first appearance)

 

66. Bill Coen, Northeastern (first appearance)

 

67. Matthew Driscoll, North Florida (first appearance)

 

68. Jerod Haase, UAB (first appearance)

Teaser:
Who are the Best Coaches in the 2015 NCAA Tournament?
Post date: Tuesday, March 17, 2015 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/must-follow-twitter-accounts-each-68-ncaa-tournament-teams-2015
Body:

First, our sincere condolences for anyone who isn’t able to sneak away from work on Thursday or Friday to take in one of the greatest days in the sports calendar.

With 16 games, 32 teams to follow in one day is tough enough with multiple screens but perhaps impossible with the boss looking over your shoulder.

Athlon Sports will do what it can to help you follow each team in the field with these Twitter accounts for every team in the NCAA Tournament.

For a bird’s-eye view, we’ve also included 16 must-follow national accounts to aid your viewing experience.

And of course, even if you did call in sick, we’d urge you follow these accounts for insight on every team.

 

The Sweet 16

 

@MarchMadnessTV: CBS’ official account with video of every key play
@SethDavisHoops: CBS, “Sharpie” czar
@GoodmanESPN: Jeff Goodman, ESPN
@GaryParrishCBS: Gary Parrish, CBSSports.com
@RobDauster: Rob Dauster, NBCSports.com
@MattNorlander: Matt Norlander, CBSSports.com
@NicoleAuerbach: Nicole Auerbach, USA Today
@KenPomeroy: Ken Pomeroy, kenpom.com
@JayBilas: Jay Bilas, ESPN
@ClarkKelloggCBS Clark Kellogg, CBS
@bubbaprog: Tim Burke, Deadspin, GIFs and screen grabs
@BrianHamiltonSI: Brian Hamilton, SI.com
@FranFraschilla: Fran Fraschilla, ESPN
@JasonKingBR: Jason King, Bleacher Report
@ESPNDanaOneil: Dana O’Neil, ESPN.com
@CBSSportsCBBCBSSports.com, memes and such

 

MidwestEast

1. Kentucky: @KyleTucker_CJ, Kyle Tucker, Louisville (Ky.) Courier-Journal

16. Hampton: @Hampton_MBB

16. Manhattan: @nybuckets, John Templon, nycbuckets.com

1. Villanova: @Brian_Ewart, VUHoops.com

16. Lafayette: @LafayetteHoops

8. Cincinnati: @bkoch, Bill Koch, GoBEARCATS.com

9. Purdue: @jppalmCBS, Jerry Palm, CBSSports.com

8. NC State: @RyanTice, Ryan Tice, The Wolfpacker

9. LSU: @RandyRosetta, NOLA.com

5. West Virginia: @Blue_GoldSports, BlueGoldSports.com

12. Buffalo: @BobbyHurley11, Bobby Hurley, coach

5. Northern Iowa: @CarsonTigges, Waterloo-Cedar Falls (Iowa) Courier

12. Wyoming: @rpgagliardi, Robert Gagliardi, Wyoming Tribune-Eagle

4. Maryland: @TerrapinNation, Scott Greene, TerrapinSports.com

13. Valparaiso: @NWIOren, Paul Oren, Northwest Indiana Times

4. Louisville: @MarkEnnis, Mark Ennis, cardchronicle.com

13. UC Irvine: @mamadoundiaye14, Mamadou Ndiaye, college basketball's tallest player

6. Butler: @ButlerBlue3, Butler's canine mascot

11. Texas: @kbohls, Kirk Bohls, Austin American-Statesman

6. Providence: @friarblog, FriarBlog.com

11. Boise State: @IDS_Southorn, Dave Southorn, Idaho Statesman

11. Dayton: @KevinKuwik, Dayton assistant

3. Notre Dame: @PeteSampson_, Pete Sampson, Irish Illustrated

14. Northeastern: @GoNUathletics

3. Oklahoma: @ryaber, Ryan Aber, The Oklahoman

14. Albany: @PeterHooley12, Albany guard

7. Wichita State: @GoShockers

10. Indiana: @insidethehall, Alex Bozich, Inside the Hall co-founder and editor

7. Michigan State: @joerexrode, Joe Rexrode, Lansing (Mich.) State Journal

10. Georgia: @ChipTowersAJC, Chip Towers, Atlanta Journal-Constitution

2. Kansas: @mellinger, Sam Mellinger, Kansas City Star

15. New Mexico State: @mrudi19, Las Cruces (N.M.) Sun News

2. Virginia: @WhiteysWorld365, Whitelaw Reid, Charlottesville (Va.) Daily Progress

15. Belmont: @BelmontMBB

WestSouth

1. Wisconsin: @FSKPart3, Frank Kaminsky, Wisconsin center

16. Coastal Carolina: @GoCCUSports

1. Duke: @LauraKeeley, Laura Keeley, Raleigh (N.C.) News & Observer

16. North Florida: @OspreyMBB

16. Robert Morris: @BCT_AChiapazzi, Beaver (Pa.) County Times

8. Oregon: @TheOregonDuck, mascot

9. Oklahoma State: @jjhelsley, John Helsley, The Oklahoman

8. San Diego State: @sdutzeigler, Mark Zeigler, San Diego Union Tribune

9. St. John's: @SJUCoachLavin, Steve Lavin, coach

5. Arkansas: @BobHoltADG, Bob Holt, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

12. Wofford: @WoffordMBB

5. Utah: @tribkurt, Kurt Kragthorpe, Salt Lake Tribune

12. Stephen F. Austin: @CoachBradSFA, Brad Underwood, head coach

4. North Carolina: @_andrewcarter, Andrew Carter, Raleigh (N.C.) News & Observer

13. Harvard: @THCSports, The Harvard Crimson

4. Georgetown: @CasualHoya, SB Nation

13. Eastern Washington: @EWUAthletics

6. Xavier: @CoachChrisMack, Chris Mack, coach

11. BYU: @drewjay, Jay Drew, Salt Lake Tribune

11. Ole Miss: @NativeFlash22, Marshall Henderson, former player

6. SMU: @BillNicholsDMN, Bill Nichols, Dallas Morning News

11. UCLA: @DufresneLATimes, Chris Dufresne, Los Angeles Times

3. Baylor: @OurDailyBears, SB Nation

14. Georgia State: @GaStCoachPardue, Claude Purdue, assistant coach

3. Iowa State: @TravisHines21, Travis Hines, Ames (Iowa) Daily Tribune

14. UAB: @UAB_MBB

7. VCU: @timpearrelltd, Tim Pearrell, Richmond (Va.) Times Dispatch

10. Ohio State: @clubtrillion, Mark Titus, former Ohio State walk on

7. Iowa: @PatHarty, Pat Harty, Iowa Press Citizen

10. Davidson: @StephenCurry30, Stephen Curry, former player

2. Arizona: @ghansen711, Greg Hansen, Arizona Daily Star

15. Texas Southern: @TSUMBB

2. Gonzaga: @SRJimm, Jim Meehan, Spokane (Wash.) Spokesman Review

15. North Dakota State: @NDSUmbb


 

Teaser:
Must-Follow Twitter Accounts for Each of the 68 NCAA Tournament Teams in 2015
Post date: Tuesday, March 17, 2015 - 08:30
All taxonomy terms: NASCAR, News
Path: /nascar/kevin-harvick-makes-it-two-wins-row-continuing-dominance-phoenix
Body:

Kevin Harvick dominated the race at Phoenix, leading 224 of 312 laps while dealing with perhaps one minor challenge (Jamie McMurray) en route to the checkered flag. That, in itself was expected as Harvick has now won four races in a row out in the desert, a record for the one-mile facility. It’s hard to be a groundbreaking story when everyone expects you to win.

 

Instead, we leave Phoenix focused on a bit of closure to one of the sport’s big stories to start the year: Kurt Busch. Busch, who was fifth in his return to the sport Sunday, was reinstated one week after he was cleared of criminal charges in a domestic violence case. While a Delaware County Commissioner has still issued a protective order against Busch, keeping him away from ex-girlfriend Patricia Driscoll, prosecutors felt there was not enough evidence “beyond a reasonable doubt” to press forward with the more serious charges.

 

Immediately, the reinstatement put Busch on the offensive, looking to put his final stamp on the conflict through an interview with FOX Sports. “Domestic abuse is a serious issue,” he said. “The worst problem with that is when you’re falsely accused of it.”

 

Busch, who remains Chase eligible after NASCAR granted a waiver forgiving his suspension that kept him out of the first three races, was then asked if he’s made any mistakes along the way.

 

“Not changing the code on my motorhome door,” he said, referencing that September night in which Driscoll claimed he banged her head against the wall multiple times. “And frankly, choosing the wrong woman to date. It’s been... not just a tough five months but a tough three-and-a-half years.”

 

With the issues surrounding the case national news, it kept Harvick’s win off the front pages. Much was made of that distraction, as those within the sport seem to be breathing a sigh of relief that now we can focus on the racing at hand. But honestly? I take a different approach. The Busch case kept eyes on the sport during a three-week stretch where there hasn’t been much competition. Harvick, and Jimmie Johnson have combined to dominate Atlanta, Vegas, and Phoenix.

 

The new rules package, still a work in progress has been enough of a disappointment NASCAR is rushing their 2016 changes to be tested under race settings as soon as Charlotte’s All-Star Weekend in May. The lone rookie candidate, Jeb Burton, has yet to finish within striking distance of the lead lap and the current Chase field is littered with familiar faces.

 

Other years, that would have left half the fan base falling asleep. Instead, the Busch brothers’ saga (Kyle Busch was injured at Daytona) has kept some interest aflame and extra eyes on the sport regardless of the actual racing. Now, we head to Fontana this weekend, a place that’s produced plenty of passing in recent years and one of the circuit’s best intermediates. It’s the right time for the cameras to turn back to on-track action, leaving the Busch case behind at perhaps the best possible time.

 

Time to close the book and go Through The Gears...

 

FIRST GEAR: Harvick Heads Toward Record Territory

 

In this case, the numbers alone really do tell the story. Harvick has four top-2 finishes to start the season, a record last matched by Richard Petty in 1974. Dating back to 2014, Phoenix was his seventh straight top-2 result, a victory that locks in a Chase bid and keeps him on top of the point standings by 22 over his nearest challenger. The rest of Stewart-Haas Racing may be a step behind, but so is the field.

 

“I think at this point, everybody just expects you to keep winning,” Harvick’s crew chief, Rodney Childers said Sunday. “That's what makes it hard on all of us.  Yeah, I feel like we've got a team that can do that.  We have a driver that can do that.  We have the resources to do that.”

 

They also have the next 22 races to do that with minimal repercussions. Staying inside the top 30 in points, as long as Harvick attempts to qualify every week is a certainty; it would take a catastrophic series of DNFs to strip momentum from the program. From this point on, Harvick can take on a more aggressive attitude each week, a “wreckers or checkers” attitude that could lead to a large number of race wins. After all, who cares if you’re leading the points in September with the new Chase format? All that matters is that you’re prepared to go through it.

 

SECOND GEAR: Newman Makes His Move

 

While the Richard Childress Racing satellite teams have been solid, placing two cars within the top 5 in points (Martin Truex, Jr. and AJ Allmendinger) the main ones have been a step behind. However, Phoenix is one of the best tracks for Ryan Newman, last year’s championship runner-up, and he led the way Sunday for this group. Posting a third-place finish while getting better throughout the entire race, he’s now got two straight top-5 finishes to jump up to eighth in the standings.

 

“We’re knocking on the door,” he said after the race. “That’s two Top 3s in a row. But it was a good points day. We’re four races in and we’ve got two Top 5s. It took us until June last year to get our first one. We’ll keep digging.”

 

Newman now has a 7.0 average finish at this track since joining RCR in 2014. Just as pertinent were the performance of his teammates, Paul Menard and Austin Dillon who ran inside the top 15 after rollercoaster starts to the season. After relying on consistency to make the Chase last year, could this organization collect some wins this season instead?

 

THIRD GEAR: Wrecks, Wrecks and More Wrecks

 

A variety of right-rear tire failures combined with some weird situations on Sunday led to seven wrecks, a season high. One of the more bizarre incidents included a hard crash on Lap 1 by Brian Vickers, whose spotter appeared to misjudge Johnson behind him. He wound up behind the wall, later joined by Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Tony Stewart as the outside wall of PIR got an uncharacteristic amount of work.

 

“You can’t wear out the tire,” said Earnhardt, who refused to blame Goodyear for the blown right rear that caused his problems. “You have to get your car handling better.”

 

Vickers and Stewart were the big losers on the day, both of whom are sitting a whopping 69 points behind Greg Biffle for the last spot in the Chase. It’s becoming clear quickly either one will have to win a race in order to stand a chance of making the postseason field.

 

FOURTH GEAR: New Asphalt, Old Problem?

 

Phoenix, the shortest track NASCAR’s raced on to date has spent the last three-plus years trying to wear down new pavement. While Harvick likes it, taking the track by storm, side-by-side battles have yet to improve. We’ve seen a lot of single-file, parade-style spreading of the field after restarts and no more than 25 lead changes in any race since the repave. (Sunday’s race had just eight). Compare that to the Feb. 2011 race before the new pavement, won by Jeff Gordon with 28 switches up front.

 

Most of the comments after the race focused on track position. It’s becoming one of the most negative words you can hear in this sport; if you need it, then you know you can’t pass and that’s a problem.

 

OVERDRIVE

 

Kasey Kahne scored a fourth-place finish in his 400th career start in the sport. “I’m hoping to get 400 more,” he said afterwards and is well on his way… the driver sits a solid fourth in the points… Martin Truex Jr. now has four straight top-10 finishes to start the season for the first time in three years. It’s the best start to a season for the one-car team he drives for, Furniture Row Racing since 2005… Kurt Busch, fifth in his return already has more points in one race than owner/teammate Stewart has in four. Time to sound the alarm with the No. 14 team… Ricky Stenhouse Jr. ran 12th for Roush Fenway Racing, his best finish of the season but his organization as a whole continues to struggle. No RFR driver sits inside the top 15 in points.

 

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

 

Photos by Action Sports, Inc.

Teaser:
Kevin Harvick Wins Second Sprint Cup Race in a Row by Continuing his Domination at Phoenix
Post date: Monday, March 16, 2015 - 17:21
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/who-are-potential-candidates-replace-anthony-grant-alabama
Body:

Moments after Florida dispatched of Alabama in the SEC tournament, Gators coach Billy Donovan launched into a full-fledged defense of Anthony Grant’s job status at Alabama.

 

Grant is a former Donovan assistant, but the Gators coach claimed he wasn’t biased in his blunt assessment that Alabama letting go of Grant would be the “biggest mistake.”

 

“Let’s put it this way: Alabama better hope he comes back,” Donovan said.

 

Alabama disagreed and parted ways with Grant on Sunday. Grant arrived at Alabama with high expectations after his tenure at VCU that saw the Rams upset Duke in the NCAA Tournament in 2007, but those results at the mid-major level didn't carry over to the SEC.

 

Grant went 117-85 in six seasons at Alabama, reaching the NCAA Tournament once in 2012. The Crimson Tide brought in highly touted prospects during Grant’s tenure but struggled to translate recruiting successes into wins due to off-court issues, transfers or injuries.

 

Alabama has won one NCAA Tournament game since reaching the Elite Eight under Mark Gottfried in 2004. While Alabama basketball is hardly the draw of Alabama football, the Crimson Tide are in a position where they must play catch up with a rising Auburn program under Bruce Pearl.

 

Here’s a quick look at potential candidates for the vacancy in Tuscaloosa.

 

Gregg Marshall, Wichita State

Updated, March 24, 2015

Gary Parrish of CBSSports.com reported Alabama is prepared to offer more than $3 million a year to Marshall to be the head coach once his NCAA Tournament run is complete. Marshall would be a home-run hire, and one Alabama may need to keep up with heavy hitters like Bruce Pearl and Ben Howland entering the league in the last two seasons. Marshall has turned Wichita State into one of the nation's premier programs, leading the Shockers to 30 wins in each of the last three seasons, including a Final Four in 2013 and a 35-1 season in 2013-14. Marshall also led Winthrop to seven NCAA Tournaments in nine seasons. He can be abrasive, but he's a proven winner who coaches with an edge. Just the sort of thing Alabama would need to catch up to the powers in the SEC.

 

Steve Prohm, Murray State

In four seasons at Murray State, Prohm has coached a team that went 31-2 in 2011-12 and another that won 25 in a row en route to a 27-5 record in 2014-15. He unearthed point guard Cam Payne out of Memphis two years ago and watched him develop into a pro prospect. He’s an Alabama graduate and former student manager. Hard to find a more logical fit.

 

Michael White, Louisiana Tech

White turned down Tennessee last season to return to Louisiana Tech, where he’s 81-23 the last four years. White has won three regular season conference titles with the Bulldogs but had never made the NCAA Tournament. With the core of his team leaving, now is the time for the 38-year-old White to make a move. He’s a former Ole Miss guard who spent seven years on the staff in Oxford.

 

Richard Pitino, Minnesota

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

 

Rick Stansbury, Texas A&M assistant

Stansbury can win in the SEC. That much is certain. Stansbury reached the NCAA Tournament six times in an eight-year period at Mississippi State. (Slight problem: Stansbury, 55, coached 14 total years in Starkville). When Billy Kennedy added him to the staff at Texas A&M, the Aggies started assembling a top-10 recruiting class.

 

Philip Pearson, Georgia assistant

It’s not unheard of for an SEC school to hire an assistant coach. Pearson has Alabama ties. He graduated from Alabama in 1993, played under Wimp Sanderson and David Hobbs, and went to high school in Montgomery. The 44-year-old as a longtime assistant under former Alabama coach Mark Gottfried at Murray State and with the Crimson Tide.

 

Archie Miller, Dayton

The younger Miller may be the hottest name in the coaching carousel this season after taking the Flyers to the Elite Eight last year and an undermanned team to the Tournament this year. We include him here because he’ll certainly be on the wish list for Alabama fans, but unless the Tide show a major commitment to the basketball program, Miller could find a better situation at dozens of other major conference programs. Miller is also at a program where he doesn’t have to leap at the first power conference program that comes calling.

Teaser:
Who are the Potential Candidates to Replace Anthony Grant at Alabama?
Post date: Monday, March 16, 2015 - 15:26
Path: /nba/ranking-nba%E2%80%99s-strangest-team-names
Body:

6. Oklahoma City Thunder

The Thunder have two of the game’s biggest faces in Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, and they’ve been one of the most fun watches for as long as they’ve been in Oklahoma. But NBA purists have long bemoaned their uninspired uniforms and team insignia, which seems focused on creating a sense of association so generic and non-regional that it couldn’t possibly offend anyone. They might as well be called the “Force,” the “Ballers,” or the “Sensations.” We like our squad names to be some sort of reflection of where the team resides, and the Thunder’s moniker falls well short of that mark.

 

5. Washington Wizards

Previously the Bullets, the nation’s capitol city team switched to something more politically correct nearly two decades ago, in 1997. While we’re all about non-violence and safe practices at Athlon, the “Wizards” tag is just as vague and lackluster as the Thunder. The franchise seems to have recognized its misstep with a gradual return to the color scheme and uniform design of the blue-and-red Bullets years, but they’re still walking around calling themselves something impotent and silly. Maybe D.C. native Kevin Durant can negotiate a return to the preferred title during his 2016 free agency…

 

4. Brooklyn Nets

What’s a net? It’s that piece of woven fabric — you know, the one that hangs from the rim. That makes enough sense. Why would anyone want to make this inert object their spirit metaphor, though? A lifeless assortment of string never struck fear into anyone’s heart, and it also certainly doesn’t give one a sense of home. The Nets’ mascot is the Brooklyn Knight — a seemingly randomly chosen character who provides further reminder that NYC’s second team is titled in a way so vague that it badly strains the imagination. The Nets have relocated and rebranded — perhaps now they need to rename themselves.

 

3. Toronto Raptors

Like many expansion teams before them, Toronto grasped at many a straw before landing on a franchise label. The most important factor in their choosing a kind of dinosaur? It was the popularity of everyone’s favorite 1990s Steven Spielberg thriller, Jurassic Park. “Raptors” isn’t exactly a bad name — just a fairly arbitrary one. Hardcore NBA followers have recently taken to calling them “The Drakes,” in reference to their collaboration with the famous Canadian rapper. I, for one, welcome the more culturally relevant shift.

 

2. Los Angeles Lakers

Strange doesn’t have to mean bad. We couldn’t possibly call Kobe, Magic, or James Worthy anything but Lakers — L.A.’s purple-and-gold-laden nickname has become more than indelible over the years. But a bit of context has some scratching their heads; there aren’t, as you may have noticed, a whole lot of lakes in Los Angeles. “The Oceaners” might make sense for them, geography-wise. But this team originally hails from the land of ten-thousand lakes — Minnesota — and has made a very permanent mark on an otherwise senseless handle.

 

1. Utah Jazz

Like the Lakers, Salt Lake City’s team has a name that essentially describes what its surrounding area isn’t. Not only is the largely Mormon state of Utah a pretty jazzless place, but the history of their basketball identity is almost the opposite of flashy. When they were a New Orleans squad featuring the entrancing Pete Maravich, the Jazz were the veritable saxophone of the league. But Karl Malone and John Stockton’s heyday were more about rote, blue-collar execution than style. There’s no changing this one, though — the paradox that is the Utah Jazz title has become far too endearing over the decades.

 

— John Wilmes

@johnwilmesNBA

 

— John Wilmes

@johnwilmesNBA

Teaser:
Post date: Monday, March 16, 2015 - 14:27
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/big-march-madness-question-who-will-beat-kentucky
Body:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — If Willie Cauley-Stein were not a Kentucky basketball player, he’d try to find a way to the arena where Kentucky is playing its next game.

 

“If I was people in the world, I’d want to see it,” Cauley-Stein said. “Be in the presence of history.”

 

After Kentucky’s 78-63 win over Arkansas in the SEC tournament championship game, every game is history. At least in a way Kentucky is comfortable acknowledging.

 

Every other step of the way earlier this season was a piece of the puzzle. Now that Kentucky, the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament, has its SEC regular season and tournament titles, it can start talking championship. Or the six games that separate the Wildcats from a title and 40-0. 

 

Cauley-Stein is right on two fronts: If Kentucky loses, it is history. If Kentucky wins, it’s a piece of legendary run.

 

The question now is if anyone is people in Kentucky’s world, as Cauley-Stein might put it.

 

Kentucky rolled over Arkansas in an SEC championship game like it was just another November or December opponent. This wasn’t a conference championship game. It was a formality.

 

For brief stretches Sunday, Kentucky looked vulnerable to a run. Arkansas played solid defense, and Kentucky’s offense looked out of sorts for a few possessions. At those points Arkansas was merely starting to chip away at double-digit Kentucky leads. The Razorbacks never had anything less than a nine-point deficit in the second half.

 

Kentucky stymied the SEC Player of the Year Bobby Portis for 13 points on 3-of-7 shooting. Before the title game, there was a faint hope that maybe this would be an interesting matchup, if for no other reason than entertainment purposes.

 

An entertaining matchup it was not. It was another Kentucky rout, so routine that Kentucky elected not to cut down nets as is custom after a conference tournament championship.

 

“We’re not done yet with the nets,” forward Karl-Anthony Towns said.

 

Seven Division I teams have gone undefeated in NCAA history and none since Indiana in 1976. A shorter season meant the Hoosiers “merely” had to go 32-0. Kentucky is 34-0, the third team to go to the NCAA Tournament with 30 or more wins.

 

One was 1991 UNLV, a team that lost in the Final Four to Duke, the other was 2014 Wichita State in the round of 32 to Kentucky. The UNLV team caught a Duke program on the front end of two national titles. Wichita State lost to some of the key players on this Kentucky team.

 

This question of Kentucky has been asked hundreds of times this season. What will it take to beat this Wildcats team?

 

To this question, Towns sighed, shrugged and said: “I don’t know. I definitely won’t tell any secrets.”

 

Andrew Harrison has heard about 40-0 for two seasons. Last year’s Kentucky squad was talked about as a 40-0 contender. The 2014 Wildcats lost 10 games before the NCAA Tournament.

 

The 2014 team was plenty flawed. What would it take to beat this team?

 

“I don’t know to be honest,” Harrison said. “We have to not play with energy. They’d have to make some 3s, make some tough shots.”

 

The bracket is here, so Kentucky knows the teams it might have to face on the way to perfect:

 

• Kentucky’s Sweet 16 opponent may be a pressing West Virginia team, seeded fifth. The Wildcats handled a pressing Arkansas team twice, defeating the Hogs by a combined margin of 32 points. Arkansas doesn’t press as much as  West Virginia, but it didn’t matter against Kentucky. The Wildcats turned the ball over nine times in each game against the Hogs.

 

• As has been established since November, taking the ball inside on Kentucky’s length is foolhardy. A team may need to hit a ton of 3s to compete. That’s how Ole Miss did it, going 9-of-17 in an overtime loss on Jan. 6. Potential Sweet 16 opponent Maryland is in the top 60 in 3-point shooting and the top 70 in the rate of its field goals coming via the 3-point line (38.2 percent). The real test will be potential Elite Eight opponent Notre Dame, the No. 2 team in offensive efficiency on KenPom. The Irish lead the nation in effective field goal rate and make 39.2 percent of their 3s.

 

• Florida and Georgia have been able to disrupt Kentucky’s passing in matchups this season. The Gators gave Kentucky a scare by grabbing 15 turnovers to 12 assists. Georgia held Kentucky to eight assists on 25 field goals in a scare in Athens. Kentucky leads the nation in defensive assist rate, but at No. 3 in that category is Wisconsin, the No. 1 seed in the South region and a potential Final Four opponent.

 

• We should also dismiss the old trope that Kentucky can’t hit free throws under Calipari. This team may be Cal’s best free throw shooting team. Even the big men are shooting around 70 percent from the line. Fouling won’t help.

 

Meanwhile, Kentucky claims that it’s not playing the best game it possibly could. The pieces for the Wildcats, they say, haven’t all come together.

 

“It’s going to be amazing when it happens,” Towns said. “I don’t think we’ll reach where we can be as a team at all (until then). It’s going to be amazing when it comes together.”

Teaser:
The Big March Madness Question: Who Will Beat Kentucky?
Post date: Monday, March 16, 2015 - 12:31
Path: /college-football/washington-and-chris-petersens-offseason-uncertainty-grows-cyler-miles-absence
Body:

Washington coach Chris Petersen was already planning on a quarterback battle this spring, but the outlook for the Huskies’ starting job was slightly altered with the announcement Cyler Miles would not participate in spring practice. According to a release from the school, Miles is taking a voluntary leave of absence. And a report from the Seattle Times indicated Miles does not plan on suiting up for the Huskies in 2015.

 

With Miles not expected to play for Washington next season, the starting quarterback position for Petersen’s second team in Seattle is down to three candidates: Jeff Lindquist, K.J. Carta-Samuels and Jake Browning.

 

Lindquist started the 2014 opener and finished the season with 162 passing yards and one score. While the edge in experience has to go to Lindquist, Carta-Samuels and Browning have to be considered the early favorites to take the first snap of 2015.

 

Carta-Samuels and Browning were touted prospects coming out of high school, as Carta-Samuels ranked as the No. 223 overall recruit in the 2014 247Sports Composite, while Browning – the No. 71 prospect in the 2015 rankings – enrolled in time to compete for spring ball.

 

While the quarterback battle is going to receive plenty of attention this offseason, this uncertainty at this position only underscores why Washington could be in for a rebuilding year in Petersen’s second season.

 

The defense returns only four starters, and there’s heavy losses to replace in the front seven with the departure of linebacker Shaq Thompson, tackle Danny Shelton and rush end Hau’oli Kikaha. On offense, Washington returns just two starters on the line and needs more playmakers to develop at receiver.

 

The schedule also features few breaks, as Washington catches USC, Arizona and Arizona State in crossover play from the South Division. The Huskies also have road dates at Stanford and Boise State.

 

Petersen’s first year wasn’t necessarily the big debut most expected. And as he heads into 2015, the Huskies are dealing with significant roster question marks on both sides of the ball.

 

There’s no doubt the spotlight is clearly on Browning and Carta-Samuels this spring. Both quarterbacks are talented, but it’s hard to see Washington taking a step forward in the win column in 2015 if some of the other holes aren’t addressed or replacements are found this offseason.

 

With a solid recruiting class inked for the 2015 haul, talented young quarterbacks and a good coach in Petersen, better days should be ahead for this program. However, with a freshman likely to start under center, combined with losses in the line of scrimmage, the Huskies appear to be a team in transition - with an eye to the future. 

Teaser:
Washington and Chris Petersen's Offseason Uncertainty Grows With Cyler Miles' Absence
Post date: Monday, March 16, 2015 - 12:30
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/12-upsets-watch-first-round-ncaa-tournament
Body:

The endgame of the NCAA Tournament is to crown a champion, but let’s face it: The first four days are all about the upsets.

 

The Valpos, Florida Gulf Coasts, Mercers, Lehighs and Bucknells are as much a part of the March Madness fabric as title-winning greatness.

 

If you’re picking a bracket or just trying to figure out the powers that will topple on Thursday and Friday, here’s our guide to the best potential upsets.

 

No. 12 Buffalo over No. 5 West Virginia

Buffalo has never made the NCAA Tournament, but could the Bulls go 1-0 in their first trip? Buffalo didn’t seem intimidated when it led Kentucky 38-33 at halftime early this season or when it played at Wisconsin in Madison. The Bulls have won eight in a row while West Virginia has dealt with injury issues to its best player, point guard Juwan Staten.

 

No. 10 Indiana over No. 7 Wichita State

Indiana was one of the last teams into the field, but that doesn’t mean the Hoosiers aren’t capable of the upset. Indiana lives by the 3, and Wichita State isn’t the same team that went to the Tournament with a 34-0 record last season.

 

No. 11 Texas over No. 6 Butler

Texas is a power conference team that underachieved this season but is hoping to hit the reset button in the NCAA Tournament. We wouldn't promise a run like Kentucky had last season, but the Longhorns have talent. Texas has plenty of bigs while the Bulldogs are perimeter-oriented. If Texas can summon something in the postseason, this would be a good opportunity to do it.

 

No. 13 UC Irvine over No. 4 Louisville

Louisville may have been overseeded at a No. 4 since the Cardinals haven’t been quite the same without point guard Chris Jones. In this matchup, they’ll try to drive at the basket against the tallest player in college basketball in 7-foot-6 center Mamadou Ndiaye. The Cardinals already can’t make 3s, so this game against the biggest big man may be problematic.

 

No. 15 Belmont over No. 2 Virginia

Picking a 15 over a 2 is a risky proposition, so proceed with caution. If Virginia isn’t vulnerable to Belmont, the Cavaliers are vulnerable to somebody. The Cavs are averaging 15 turnovers in the last four games, an average magnified by their tempo. Justin Anderson is 0-of-6 from the field in two games since his return from injury. Meanwhile, Belmont is a 3-point shooting machine, raking fourth nationally with 48 percent of its shots coming from 3.

 

No. 12 Stephen F. Austin over No. 5 Utah

Stephen F. Austin is dangerous again after upsetting VCU last year. SFA has lost one game since Nov. 25, and the Lumberjacks rank fifth in the nation in turnover rate on defense. On offense, they move the ball efficiently with assist on 65 percent of their field goals this season. Utah has faded since its hot start, going 3-4 in its last seven. The Utes haven’t defeated an NCAA team since Jan. 4 against UCLA. 

 

No. 13 Eastern Washington over No. 4 Georgetown

Georgetown might not escape the upset bug again. The Hoyas have faced VCU's havoc, Dunk City and Steph Curry in their three upsets and now will face the nation’s leading scorer in Tyler Harvey. The Eagles can’t defend worth a lick, so they’ll try to push the tempo and hit 3s.

 

No. 10 Davidson over No. 7 Iowa

Can Iowa keep up with Davidson on offense? The Wildcats are a top-10 offensive team and can launch 3s prodigiously. Iowa is generally a pretty good offensive team under Fran McCaffery, but the Hawkeyes rank outside of the top 200 in 3-point and 2-point percentage this season.

 

No. 12 Wofford over No. 5 Arkansas

This will be a battle of tempo. Wofford’s best hope is to slow the pace — the Terriers rank No. 316 in that category. If Arkansas can push the tempo, all bets are off. That said, Hogs’ star Bobby Portis is 4-of-21 with six turnovers in his last two games.

 

No. 14 Georgia State over No. 3 Baylor

Georgia State lost five games in the Sun Belt, which isn’t a great sign for a team with plenty of major conference talent in R.J. Hunter, Kevin Ware and Ryan Harrow. Baylor can be unpredictable, but history says trust Baylor as No. 3 seed. The Bears have reached the Elite Eight in their last two trips to the NCAA Tournament as a No. 3 seed.

 

No. 11 BYU over No. 6 Xavier

BYU has to defeat Ole Miss in the First Four before it reaches the field to face Xavier, but the Cougars seem like the better pick to beat Xavier. BYU is a high-scoring team led by Tyler Haws, a top-10 scorer nationally. Xavier is a pretty nondescript Big East team that struggles in the half court. If BYU can limit turnovers, this is an even matchup.

 

No. 10 Ohio State over No. 7 VCU

If Briante Weber were healthy, this would be a nightmare matchup for Ohio State. Then again, if Weber were healthy, VCU wouldn’t be a No. 7 seed in the first place. Ohio State has one of the nation’s top freshmen in D’Angelo Russell but no KenPom top 30 wins.

Teaser:
12 Upsets to Watch in the First Round of the NCAA Tournament
Post date: Monday, March 16, 2015 - 11:20
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Baseball, MLB, Fantasy, News
Path: /fantasy/2015-fantasy-baseball-closer-grid
Body:

Whether you are preparing for your fantasy baseball draft or just have an interest in the makeup of MLB bullpens, Athlon Sports has you covered. Below is a chart that identifies the closer and setup man for all 30 teams based on available information. This will be sure to change between now and Opening Day (April 6), as injuries and competition will continue to have an impact. Speaking of injuries, the Dodgers already know they will be without closer Kenley Jansen for at least the first month, as he continues his recovery from foot surgery. While nothing has been decided, look for either Joel Peralta, J.P. Howell or Brandon League to get the save chances while Jansen is sidelined.

 

TeamCloserSetupWatch List
ArizonaAddison ReedBrad ZeiglerEvan Marshall, Oliver Perez
AtlantaCraig KimbrelJim JohnsonJason Grilli, Luis Avilan
BaltimoreZach BrittonDarren O'DayTommy Hunter, Brian Matusz
BostonKoji UeharaEdward MujicaJunichi Tazawa, Craig Breslow
Chicago (AL)David RobertsonZach DukeJake Petricka, Zach Putnam
Chicago (NL)Hector RondonPedro StropJason Motte, Neil Ramirez, Justin Grimm
CincinnatiAroldis ChapmanJumbo DiazSam LeCure, J.J. Hoover
ClevelandCody AllenBryan ShawScott Atchison, Nick Hagadone
ColoradoLaTroy HawkinsAdam OttavinoRex Brothers, John Axford
DetroitJoe NathanJoakim SoriaAl Albuquerque, Bruce Rondon, Joba Chamberlain
Houston*Luke GregersonPat NeshekChad Qualls, Josh Fields
Kansas CityGreg HollandWade DavisKelvin Herrera
Los Angeles (AL)Huston StreetJoe SmithFernando Salas, Cam Bedrosian
Los Angeles (NL)Joel PeraltaBrandon LeagueJ.P. Howell, Kenley Jansen (Inj.)
MiamiSteve CishekA.J. RamosMike Dunn, Aaron Crow
MilwaukeeFrancisco RodriguezJonathan BroxtonWill Smith, Jim Henderson
MinnesotaGlen PerkinsCasey FienBrian Duensing, Caleb Thielbar
New York (AL)*Dellin BetancesAndrew MillerDavid Carpenter, Adam Warren
New York (NL)Jenrry MejiaJeurys FamiliaVic Black, Bobby Parnell (Inj.)
OaklandTyler ClippardRyan CookEric O'Flaherty, Sean Doolittle (Inj.)
PhiladelphiaJonathan PapelbonKen GilesJacob Diekman, Justin De Fratus
PittsburghMark MelanconTony WatsonJared Hughes
St. LouisTrevor RosenthalJordan WaldenMatt Belisle, Seth Maness
San DiegoJoaquin BenoitKevin QuackenbushDale Thayer
San FranciscoSantiago CasillaSergio RomoJeremy Affeldt, Jean Machi
SeattleFernando RodneyDanny FarquharTom Wilhelmsen, Yoervis Medina
Tampa BayBrad BoxbergerKevin JepsenGrant Balfour, Jake McGee (Inj.)
TexasNeftali FelizKyuji FujikawaShawn Tolleson, Roman Mendez
Toronto*Brett CecilAaron SanchezSteve Delabar, Marco Estrada
WashingtonDrew StorenCasey JanssenCraig Stammen

*Houston, New York (AL) and Toronto are using spring training to determine roles.

Teaser:
2015 Fantasy Baseball: Closer Grid
Post date: Monday, March 16, 2015 - 11:00
All taxonomy terms: Essential 11, Overtime
Path: /overtime/athlons-essential-11-links-day-march-16-2015
Body:

This is your daily links roundup of our favorite sports and entertainment posts on the web for March 16: 

 

Dick Vitale and Ashely Judd creeped out the entire world on Selection Sunday.

 

• Scenes of March Madness: Georgia State coach Ron Hunter tore his Achilles celebrating, while Frank Kaminsky gave the Big Ten trophy a sensual massage.

 

• In case you're still working on your bracket, here are five double-digit Cinderella candidates.

 

• And, if you're lazy or haven't watched any hoops this year, here's a handy automated blind bracket maker.

 

John Calipari isn't taking anything for granted.

 

My Athlon colleagues have made their picks. I notice that they didn't ask me.

 

This article contends that UCLA's inclusion in the field was a mistake, but not a conspiracy.

 

Manu Ginobili took a ball to the face from a careless ref. So he teed up the ref.

 

Mississippi State football is having a rough offseason. Can't handle prosperity, I guess.

 

Christian Laettner took the occasion of the "I Hate Christian Laettner" 30 for 30 to apologize for stomping on Aminu Timberlake.

 

Shooter McGavin is making a quasi-return to the big screen.

 

• After kissing Ashley Judd, Dick Vitale went on an epic rant about Murray State's exclusion from the tourney.

 

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

Teaser:
Post date: Monday, March 16, 2015 - 10:51
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Baseball, MLB, Fantasy
Path: /fantasy/2015-fantasy-baseball-rankings-relief-pitchers
Body:

Opening Day of the 2015 MLB season is less than a month away, which means fantasy baseball is just around the corner. For some leagues, drafts have already begun or will soon begin and Athlon Sports is here to help.

 

Besides providing our comprehensive Fantasy Baseball Big Board, we also have our positional rankings, courtesy of Bruce Herman. These are pulled straight from this year’s 2015 MLB Preview magazine, which is available at newsstands everywhere and for purchase online.

 

Rankings Key

A: FRANCHISE PLAYER — You need one to compete, two to win, three to dominate.

B: CAREER YEAR — Veteran with a strong possibility of delivering his best season.

C: SLEEPER — Could be a great acquisition at a price or draft slot below his true value.

D: ROADBLOCKED — Rank has been lowered because there is no current opportunity to play regularly.

E: DECLINER — Expect moderately to significantly worse stats than in 2014.

F: INJURY RISK — Has had a recent injury that could affect performance.

G: INVESTOR’S SPECIAL — Top prospect whose immediate impact may be minimal.

 

Pitching stats are expressed W-ERA-SO-WHIP.

 

2015 Fantasy Baseball Rankings: Relief Pitchers

 

TIER 1

1. Craig Kimbrel, Braves (A)

Kimbrel meets the rare standard of dominance + durability + consistency better than any other closer. He’s the first pitcher to begin his career with four 40-save seasons, and he set an all-time record by fanning 42.4% of the batters he’s faced.

2. Greg Holland, Royals (A)

Holland’s stats are a virtual mirror image of Kimbrel’s the past two years, right down to the identical WHIP (0.89) and number of strikeouts (193). In AL-only leagues, there’s a vast gap between him and the next reliever, so open the wallet.

3. Aroldis Chapman, Reds (A)

Chapman has yet to log a 40-save season and he’ll have the occasional implosion, but he’s the most unhittable pitcher in the game. Last year he K’d 5.17 batters for every hit allowed; no one else (min. 50 IP) had a higher ratio than 3.17.

 

TIER 2

4. Dellin Betances, Yankees

Tier 2 begins the faith-based segment of the relievers’ list — headed by Betances, who’s saved one game in his career. Last year, though, he gave up 43% fewer hits than anyone else at his innings level and — get this — fanned more men than 54 pitchers who started at least 20 games.

5. Kenley Jansen, Dodgers

Jansen measures up to those above him in saves and strikeouts, but there are times when his one pitch (a Mariano-like cutter) catches too much of the plate, making him susceptible to the barrel (so-so 2.76 ERA, 7.6 hits per nine in 2014). Jansen also will miss the first month or so after underdoing foot surgery in February.

6. Jonathan Papelbon, Phillies

Pap’s velo is not what it once was, but he returned to his fastball as his bread-and-butter last year to chart his lowest WHIP since 2007. Whereas no other pitcher’s current streak is longer than four, he’s saved at least 29 games in nine straight campaigns.

7. David Robertson, White Sox

Robertson surrendered an ER in only 11 of 63 outings, but home runs trashed his ERA (3.08). Only pitcher in history with at least 10 Ks/9 IP in each of his first seven seasons.

8. Trevor Rosenthal, Cardinals

Forty-five saves are 45 saves, but Rosenthal’s SOs/9 sank by nearly two and his BBs/9 rose by three to an unsightly 5.4. One theory is that he was overworked. His stuff is too electric not to be successful.

9. Zach Britton, Orioles

Subbing out ground balls for missed bats makes Britton just as effective as the top-shelf closers, sans strikeouts. He saved 37 games with a 1.65 ERA, although his 62 whiffs ranked just 63rd among relievers.

10. Cody Allen, Indians

Devoured the closer’s job when it fell to him in late May. Still a novice, he doesn’t yet have the command of some of his fellow flamethrowers, but if and when he develops it, he could look a lot like Holland.

11. Huston Street, Angels

He’s oft-downgraded for his sub-90s velocity, but Street’s bottom line is that he was the third-youngest closer to save 250 games. He simply has “it” — as well as the longest active streak (10) of 15-save seasons.

12. Steve Cishek, Marlins

Rocketed to 11.6 SOs/9 IP despite charting career-low velocities while throwing 94% sinkers and sliders. Kimbrel and Holland are the only other active closers (min. 50 chances) to convert nine of 10 career opportunities.

13. Mark Melancon, Pirates

He’s not a lights-out guy, but Melancon has allowed only three homers and 19 walks in 142 innings as a Pirate. The flip side: He was the lone full-time closer to serve up three walk-off hits in 2014.

14. Sean Doolittle, Athletics

Doolittle was the sole reliever to put fewer than one-of-five batters faced on base. He allowed 13 of his 19 ERs in three outings, plumping his ERA from 0.87 to 2.73. Looked bad in the playoffs, so he’s not yet totally battle-hardened, and he could miss some time at the beginning of the season because of a shoulder issue.

15. Koji Uehara, Red Sox

Uehara returned to the realm of mere mortals last season, allowing eight homers in 29.2 innings during a two-and-a-half-month stretch. He turns 40 soon after Opening Day, so his leash might be deceptively short.

 

16. Drew Storen, Nationals

17. Addison Reed, Diamondbacks

18. Fernando Rodney, Mariners (E)

19. Glen Perkins, Twins (F)

20. Brett Cecil, Blue Jays (B,C)

21. Joe Nathan, Tigers

22. Santiago Casilla, Giants

23. Jenrry Mejia, Mets

24. Neftali Feliz, Rangers

 

TIER 3

25. Joaquin Benoit, Padres (F)

26. Francisco Rodriguez, Brewers

27. LaTroy Hawkins, Rockies

28. Luke Gregerson, Astros (B)

29. Hector Rondon, Cubs

30. Brad Boxberger, Rays (C)

 

TIER 4

31. Wade Davis, Royals (D)

32. Ken Giles, Phillies (C,D,G)

33. Andrew Miller, Yankees

34. Jeurys Familia, Mets (C)

35. Jake McGee, Rays (E,F)

36. Chad Qualls, Astros (E)

37. Sergio Romo, Giants (E)

38. Bruce Rondon, Tigers (C,F,G)

39. Joel Peralta, Dodgers

40. Jonathan Broxton, Brewers

Teaser:
2015 Fantasy Baseball Rankings: Relief Pitchers
Post date: Monday, March 16, 2015 - 10:30
All taxonomy terms: NBA
Path: /nba/charles-oakley-thinks-current-nba-heartless-hard-watch
Body:

The Toronto Raptors recently invited one-time power forward Charles Oakley — more famous for his stints with the Chicago Bulls and New York Knicks — to a game, to honor him.

 

Oak used the occasion as an opportunity to speak his mind about the state of the NBA. And he doesn’t love it.

 

"Who do I like watching? It's hard to watch," he said. "I don't know, it's just, it's a different game. It's some good games and a lot of bad games. More bad games than good games these days. Everybody says the game has changed, instead of talking about the guys I got a chance to see them first hand. It was kind of bad. The mind is not — you don't have to be strong to play this game no more. I don't know what it is. 

 

“They just roll you out there like a basketball. That's why ... you see the same teams in the finals or winning 55 games. Strong teams, strong-minded coach. Just the players, they don't think it, they don't know how to play together. So that's one of things I see the weakness is: Communication, the guys don't love the game. They play the game, but they don't play with their heart.”

 

There’s some merit to what Oakley says, even if he comes from the same self-serving place that Charles Barkley and Shaq do when they hurl criticisms at contemporary big men. Like the NBA on TNT crew, Oakley is only human, and watching his narrative of fame fade over time has to be a melancholy experience. Sometimes, that means making a straw man out of today’s players, to take your frustrations out on them.

 

On the other hand, Oakley’s words get at the biggest problem of the NBA’s regular season: it’s too long. Gregg Popovich and the San Antonio Spurs changed the model of game-to-game approach by implementing aggressive rest throughout year, a habit now practiced by most contenders. And at the core of this is a heightened awareness of how meaningless much of the 82-game grind is.

 

NBA teams are smart to recognize this. Does it mean a less watchable product, at times? Definitely. But a lack of heart? Maybe not so much.

 

— John Wilmes

@johnwilmesNBA

Teaser:
Post date: Monday, March 16, 2015 - 10:18
All taxonomy terms: Phil Mickelson, Golf
Path: /golf/top-30-golfers-2015-majors-no-18-phil-mickelson
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. 18: Phil Mickelson

 

Born: June 16, 1970, San Diego, Calif. | Career PGA Tour Wins: 42 | 2014 Wins (Worldwide): 0 | 2014 Earnings (PGA Tour): $2,158,019 (38th) World Ranking: 21

 

Brandel Chamblee's Take

Mickelson will go down in history as one of the greatest players of all time and may yet be considered one of the top ten, but that seemingly impenetrable list includes the likes of Nicklaus, Woods, Jones, Hogan, Hagen, Snead, Palmer, Sarazen, Player and Nelson. Maybe Tom Watson or Harry Vardon or Seve Ballesteros rounds out your list, but the question remains: If Phil is a top-10 all-time player, whom do you kick out?  With Phil’s victory at the Open Championship in 2013, giving him 42 wins and three legs of the career grand slam, he certainly put himself in a different light, and perhaps that was enough to put him in the top-10 discussion, but personally I think he has a ways to go, perhaps two more majors or one more at the right major. When Phil gets to the U.S. Open for the rest of his career or until he wins it, he will have to answer questions about what a career grand slam would mean to him. Of course it would make him just the sixth man to have achieved this, putting him in the rarest of company. Mickelson is sneaking up into his mid 40s and his length off the tee is no longer a huge asset, but his long swing will serve him well for a few more years, time enough for him to add to his already incredible career.

Major Championship Résumé
Starts: 85
Wins: 5

2014 Performance:
Masters - Cut
U.S. Open - T28
British Open - T23
PGA Championship - 2

Best Career Finishes: 
Masters - 1 (2004, '06, '10)
U.S. Open - 2/T2 (1999, 2002, '04, '06, '09, '13)
British Open - 1 (2013)
PGA Championship - 1 (2005)
Top-10 Finishes: 36
Top-25 Finishes: 49
Missed Cuts: 9

 

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

 

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

Teaser:
Post date: Monday, March 16, 2015 - 10:07
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Baseball, MLB, Fantasy
Path: /fantasy/2015-fantasy-baseball-rankings-starting-pitchers
Body:

Opening Day of the 2015 MLB season is less than a month away, which means fantasy baseball is just around the corner. For some leagues, drafts have already begun or will soon begin and Athlon Sports is here to help.

 

Besides providing our comprehensive Fantasy Baseball Big Board, we also have our positional rankings, courtesy of Bruce Herman. These are pulled straight from this year’s 2015 MLB Preview magazine, which is available at newsstands everywhere and for purchase online.

 

Rankings Key

A: FRANCHISE PLAYER — You need one to compete, two to win, three to dominate.

B: CAREER YEAR — Veteran with a strong possibility of delivering his best season.

C: SLEEPER — Could be a great acquisition at a price or draft slot below his true value.

D: ROADBLOCKED — Rank has been lowered because there is no current opportunity to play regularly.

E: DECLINER — Expect moderately to significantly worse stats than in 2014.

F: INJURY RISK — Has had a recent injury that could affect performance.

G: INVESTOR’S SPECIAL — Top prospect whose immediate impact may be minimal.

 

Pitching stats are expressed W-ERA-SO-WHIP.

 

2015 Fantasy Baseball Rankings: Starting Pitchers

 

TIER 1

1. Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers (A)

Kershaw is No. 1. Water is wet. Yes, his four-year ERA of 2.11 is the ninth-best of the live-ball era, but consider this: He allowed 18% of his ERs last season in one inning, without which his ERA would have been 1.46 instead of 1.77. SOs/WHIP/wins since 2010: first/first/second.

2. Chris Sale, White Sox (A)

Sale lines up right behind Kershaw in three categories — wins excluded — but now the White Sox are better positioned to supply some runs. In 2014, he made only 26 starts and won just seven of the 15 times he surrendered 0-1 ERs, so he could easily jump from 12 victories to 18.

3. Felix Hernandez, Mariners (A)

Hernandez has shed 3-to-4 mph off his fastball over the years, but he’s made the compulsory transition to the point where his 2014 campaign was his best in ERA, SOs and WHIP. Over his decade of excellence, he tops the majors in whiffs and the AL in ERA.

 

TIER 2

4. Stephen Strasburg, Nationals (A,B)

Strasburg’s 242 SOs move him close to the top tier, but he still has adversarial relationships with the gopher ball and the big inning. It’s easy to imagine him taking the next step, especially if the Nats — who scored three or fewer runs in 15 of his starts — lend a hand.

5. Max Scherzer, Nationals

Scherzer — not Kershaw — has won more games (39, tied with Wainwright) with a higher WIN% (.830) and more SOs (492) than any other pitcher in the game the past two years. He was not as dominant in 2014, though.

6. Johnny Cueto, Reds (A)

Only Kershaw’s ERA is lower than Johnny Beisbol’s 2.48 the last four years. Cueto’s 2014 SO rate of 8.9 per 9 far exceeded anything he’d done before, and he’s won 39 games in his last two full seasons. Durability had been an issue, but he led the NL in batters faced.

7. Madison Bumgarner, Giants (A)

Kershaw, Hernandez and CC Sabathia are the only active pitchers who’ve come close to Bumgarner’s numbers by an age-24 season. As indestructible as he looked in the postseason, how much longer can he throw 1,000-plus high-80s sliders per year out of that slinging, low-slot delivery?

8. Jordan Zimmermann, Nationals (A)

He’s actually more effective than teammate Strasburg, but in roto, the 25% fewer strikeouts are a big deal. A massive bound in SO/BB ratio from 4.0 in 2013 to 6.3 confirmed Zimmermann as having entered the peak phase of his underrated career.

9. David Price, Tigers (A)

Price led the majors with 271 SOs (and in pitches thrown) while walking only 38 batters — not easy to do. He lives in the strike zone so much these days, however, that he’s more hittable than most in the upper echelon of aces. Career ERA away from Tropicana Field is only 3.53.

10. Zack Greinke, Dodgers

Consistency has separated Greinke from the true alpha dogs much of his career, but for the first time, he has put two exceptional across-the-board seasons back-to-back. That includes his MLB-record groove of 22 consecutive starts with two or fewer ERs.

11. Cole Hamels, Phillies

Hamels, whose fate has reached Greek-tragedy depths, desperately needs a trade. Things have gotten so bad in Philly that his nine wins in 2014 were the fewest ever by a pitcher who made at least 30 starts with a sub-2.50 ERA. Since 2008, he’s lost 32 quality starts — most in baseball.

12. Adam Wainwright, Cardinals (E,F)

Wainwright pitched through discomfort the last three months to complete a tremendous season, but October elbow cartilage surgery throws up a yellow flag for a pitcher who’s already had Tommy John. Expect a tempered workload for Waino.

13. Jon Lester, Cubs

After never having posted an ERA below 3.21, Lester hit the free agent jackpot with a 2.46 last year. His 1.102 WHIP also was his best by far. Tossing out 2014 and the 2012 debacle as outliers, his full-season average has been 16-3.42-192-1.252.

14. Corey Kluber, Indians (E)

Never a top prospect, dumped by the Padres in an innocuous 2010 trade and not listed among our top 100 pitchers of 2014, Kluber mustered a miracle: 18-2.44-269-1.095. The only pitchers to match that line in the last quarter-century are Big Unit, Schilling, Clemens and Smoltz.

15. Yu Darvish, Rangers (F)

Darvish’s value is more strikeout-centric than anything else — the pitcher most likely to punch out 300 in a season. His 182 last year were the most ever in a campaign of fewer than 150 IP. He joined the long litany of elbow patients in August, but opted for rehab over surgery. Unfortunately, he could be facing season-ending surgery because of his elbow issues.

 

TIER 3

16. Alex Cobb, Rays

This is a lofty rating for someone who’s never won more than 11 games nor struck out 150 batters, but Cobb needs just to stay healthy (24-start average since 2012) and match his two-year ERA of 2.82 to validate it.

17. Julio Teheran, Braves

This fast-ascending 24-year-old’s 3.03 ERA of 2013-14 was seventh among hurlers with at least 28 wins and 350 SOs — better than such luminaries as Justin Verlander and Lester.

18. Andrew Cashner, Padres (B,C,F)

Something always happens to knock Cashner off the precipice of stardom, from role inconsistency to a lack of run support to physical setbacks. Last year, he went into his final start with the game’s fourth-lowest ERA (2.21) among 100-inning hurlers.

19. Jeff Samardzija, White Sox (B)

One of nine pitchers with an ERA below 3.00 and more than 200 SOs, yet his ledger was a heart-rending 7–13. He’s gone at least seven ER-free innings nine times the last two years — six of which his team lost anyway.

20. Sonny Gray, Athletics

His staying power has been questioned because of his size, but Gray capped 2014 with a 12-SO game, a shutout and a 2.08 ERA in two ALDS starts. He’s not the dominating type, but he is ideal as your No. 2 or 3 starter.

21. Jake Arrieta, Cubs

Among our 2014 “C” sleepers were breakout pitchers Gray, Alex Wood, Garrett Richards, Chris Archer, Wily Peralta, Michael Pineda and — the sleepingest beauty of all — Arrieta. His 2.53 ERA included a 1.46 at Wrigley, and he fanned 9.6 per nine.

22. Alex Wood, Braves

Wood, another hard-luck case, joined Hamels as the only pitchers with a sub-2.80 ERA and 150 or more SOs who lacked a winning record. He presents a bargain opportunity (especially in keeper leagues) before he blows up.

23. Michael Pineda, Yankees

Having taken the ball only 13 times in the last three years, and with his mph nowhere close to where it was as a rookie All-Star in 2011, Pineda isn’t all the way back. Nobody could hit him last year, though — a 1.89 ERA that was lower than anyone’s except Kershaw at his start level.

24. Anibal Sanchez, Tigers

2013 AL ERA champ who was off his game a little last season, then missed 10 starts with a pec injury. At one point he had a two-year streak in which he allowed three or fewer earnies 32 times in a row.

25. Masahiro Tanaka, Yankees (F)

With more emphatic health assurances, Tanaka (scary elbow) would slot high in Tier 2. Had he cloned his first three months over his last three, his season would have been a Cy Young Award-contending 22-2.10-254-0.951.

26. James Shields, Padres

“Small-to-Medium Game James” (career postseason ERA = 5.46) is a dinosaur in his ability to do the heavy lifting without the slightest hint of a physical toll. As such, his nine-year average of 33 starts at 14-3.64-190-1.205 is a secure baseline.

27. Danny Duffy, Royals (B,C)

Duffy was still a nonentity when his ERA peaked at 3.57 at the end of May. It was a stunning 1.93 over his next 18 starts. He’ll perch about halfway in between, but his counting stats won’t be anything great until he stretches out past 5.9 innings per start.

28. Matt Harvey, Mets (F)

The capricious nature of Tommy John “survivors” relegates Harvey to a ranking about 20 spots lower than would have been projected off his career to date: 2.39 ERA, 9.9 SOs/9 IP, 0.985 WHIP. True believers will draft him much higher.

29. Gerrit Cole, Pirates

Tough to get a bead on this presumptive phenom without a full season on his résumé. He tends to pitch consistently well, rarely either dominant or dominated. A 31-start extrapolation on his stats to date is 16-3.45-180-1.191.

30. Gio Gonzalez, Nationals

Seems to be on the downward slope of what has been a bell curve of a career, but he’s only 29 and has a couple of powerhouse seasons behind him. Helps, too, that he’s pitching for a potential championship team.

31. Shelby Miller, Braves

The Rubber Band Man. Partitioning Miller’s career into thirds: 1.98 ERA in his first 20 outings, 4.18 in his next 36, 2.92 in his most recent 13. More hills and valleys ahead, but in the long run, he’s a No. 2.

32. Justin Verlander, Tigers

The easy explanation for Verlander’s ERA inflation (2.40-2.64-3.46-4.54) is that he’s chucked nearly 2,000 more pitches than anyone else since 2007. It may also be the correct one, but it’s too soon to bury a 32-year-old who’s spent much of his career as the best there is.

33. Carlos Carrasco, Indians

Like Duffy, Carrasco went from zero to sexy before anyone noticed. On June 22, he was a middle reliever with a career ERA of 5.12. Suddenly, he was finishing the year on a roll of 10 starts with a 1.30 ERA. We see him more as a “light went on” type than a flash-in-the-pan.

34. Mat Latos, Marlins (F)

Of the 78 pitchers with at least 150 starts who were active in 2014, Latos was among nine with 60 wins, a 3.34 ERA and 850 SOs. Having undergone two elbow procedures in close proximity, his “horse” status has been withdrawn.

35. Doug Fister, Nationals (E)

Fister has improved his victory sum three years in a row, and his 2.41 ERA in 2014 was a yawning departure from his 3.67 of 2013. He’s not your man for punchouts, though — 84th among 88 qualifiers at 5.38 per nine.

36. Garrett Richards, Angels (E,F)

Transited from thrower to pitcher, standing at 13-2.61-164-1.038 prior to wrecking his knee in August. Those numbers are authentic, but he might not be back on the bump until May.

37. Hisashi Iwakuma, Mariners (E)

Kuma peaked in mid-August, when his ERA stood at 2.31 over a two-year span of 29 starts. He faltered after that and may not have the durability to remain at the top of his game at age 34. Still a WHIP stud, though.

38. Henderson Alvarez, Marlins

He has a no-hitter and a four-win stretch in which all were shutouts; he’s gone 34 starts while allowing six homers; and last year he threw the fewest pitches per batter (3.38) among qualifiers. Conversely, he posted the highest differential between his actual (2.65) and Component ERAs (3.59), which often portends regression.

39. Michael Wacha, Cardinals (F)

2013 rookie hero who since has endured shoulder woes and a postseason demotion to the bullpen. Assuming the wing holds up, he still has a chance to be fringe-special.

 

40. Yordano Ventura, Royals

41. Drew Smyly, Rays (B,C)

42. Tyson Ross, Padres

43. Chris Archer, Rays

44. Jacob deGrom, Mets

45. Homer Bailey, Reds (F)

46. Zack Wheeler, Mets

47. Lance Lynn, Cardinals (E)

48. Wily Peralta, Brewers

49. Kevin Gausman, Orioles (C)

50. Matt Cain, Giants (F)

51. Marcus Stroman, Blue Jays

52. Jered Weaver, Angels

53. Derek Holland, Rangers

54. Matt Shoemaker, Angels (E)

55. Francisco Liriano, Pirates

56. Jose Quintana, White Sox

57. Chris Tillman, Orioles

58. Kyle Hendricks, Cubs (E)

59. Mike Fiers, Brewers (E)

60. Drew Hutchison, Blue Jays (C)

 

TIER 4

61. Jose Fernandez, Marlins (F)

62. Hyun-Jin Ryu, Dodgers (E)

63. Phil Hughes, Twins (E)

64. Collin McHugh, Astros (E)

65. Josh Collmenter, Diamondbacks (C)

66. Wade Miley, Red Sox

67. Mike Minor, Braves (F)

68. Dan Haren, Marlins

69. John Lackey, Cardinals

70. James Paxton, Mariners (C)

71. Dallas Keuchel, Astros (E)

72. Matt Garza, Brewers

73. Ian Kennedy, Padres

74. Rick Porcello, Red Sox

75. Jake Odorizzi, Rays

76. Nathan Eovaldi, Yankees (B,C)

77. Mike Leake, Reds

78. Brandon McCarthy, Dodgers

79. Edinson Volquez, Royals (E)

80. Jorge De La Rosa, Rockies

81. Bud Norris, Orioles

82. Kyle Lohse, Brewers (E)

83. Scott Kazmir, Athletics (E)

84. Jason Hammel, Cubs

85. Ervin Santana, Twins

86. Yovani Gallardo, Rangers

87. Cliff Lee, Phillies (F)

88. Alfredo Simon, Tigers (E)

89. Wei-Yin Chen, Orioles

90. Carlos Martinez, Cardinals (C)

91. Danny Salazar, Indians (C)

92. Jarred Cosart, Marlins

93. Shane Greene, Tigers

94. R.A. Dickey, Blue Jays

95. Trevor Bauer, Indians

96. Drew Pomeranz, Athletics (C)

97. Jonathon Niese, Mets (F)

98. C.J. Wilson, Angels

99. CC Sabathia, Yankees

100. Bartolo Colon, Mets

Teaser:
2015 Fantasy Baseball Rankings: Starting Pitchers
Post date: Monday, March 16, 2015 - 10:00
Path: /college-football/tulane-unveils-new-black-jerseys-and-helmets-2015
Body:

Tulane is adding a new jersey and helmet to its uniform rotation for 2015. While the new gear hasn’t been officially announced by the school, images are already circulating of the Green Wave’s new jerseys and helmets.

 

The black jerseys aren’t new for coach Curtis Johnson’s team, but the uniform now features blue numbers. And the helmet appears to feature a new matte look for the team.

 

Here’s a look at Tulane’s new black jerseys and helmets for 2015: 

 

 

Teaser:
Tulane Unveils New Black Jerseys and Helmets for 2015
Post date: Monday, March 16, 2015 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/our-best-advice-picking-your-2015-ncaa-tournament-brackets
Body:

The day after Selection Sunday is not a great time to get caught up on the college basketball season.

 

As you start to fill out NCAA Tournament brackets for your pools, Athlon Sports did some of the homework for your basketball cram session. March Madness is unpredictable, and we expect it to be again.

 

But there are some tried and true trends in the Tournament, and we’ll break them down here.

 

These are our favorite rules for picking our brackets, along with some of the examples from this year’s field.

 

Advance all the No. 1 seeds (and maybe all of the No. 2 seeds)

 

A No. 1 seed has never lost in the round of 64. We have little doubt it will happen one day, but you’re more likely to wreck your bracket by advancing a No. 16 seed. The No. 2 seeds have been more vulnerable in the last two seasons than ever before. Two No. 2 seeds lost in 2012 and No. 15 seed Florida Gulf Coast advanced all the way to the Sweet 16. If you must drop a No. 2 before the Sweet 16, do your homework.

 

This year? It’s still foolish to touch the No. 1 seeds in the first round. Two of the matchups for No. 2 seeds will at least make us think. Virginia struggled with turnovers late in the year, and its best player is still battling back from injury. Belmont launches 3s as well as anyone in the country, but the Bruins were the No. 3 team in their own league. In the West, Arizona faces a Texas Southern team that defeated Michigan State and Kansas Stat earlier in the year.

 

Drop at least one No. 1 or a No. 2 in the round of 32

 

In the last five Tournaments, 11 of the 40 No. 1 or No. 2 seeds lost before the Sweet 16. Only once in the last five years have all the No. 1 seeds advanced to the Sweet 16. As for the No. 2 seeds, their matchups with 7-10 seeds are against are talented but streaky teams, capable of knocking off a top seed on a quick turnaround. The 7-10 seeds in particular are interesting: Wichita State, Indiana, Michigan State, Davidson, VCU and Ohio State. All of these teams have the goods to knock off a No. 2 on a good day.

Our picks for vulnerable top-two seeds: Gonzaga, Kansas, Virginia

 

Don’t fall in love with upsets

 

Wichita State, Butler, VCU and George Mason in the Final Four are all memorable. So is Florida Gulf Coast’s run to the Sweet 16 two years. Still, don’t get too caught up trying to look smart by advancing a double-digit seed to the Final Four. Of the last 56 Final Four teams, 46 were top-four seeds, and four of the seven who were not top-four seeds were No. 5 seeds. 

 

Butler, VCU and George Mason and last year’s ninth-seeded Wichita State are memorable because they're outliers. After No. 7 UConn and No. 8 Kentucky reached the national final last season, there might be a temptation to advance more lower-seeded teams to the Final Four. UConn caught fire with an other-worldly performance from Shabazz Napier, and Kentucky was a talented team that underachieved all year. Proceed with caution.

 

Don’t go chalk all way the Final Four

 

Statistically, advancing every higher seed every round might not be a bad idea, but what’s the fun in that? Only once have all four No. 1 seed advanced to the Final Four. Want to know if your Final Four is risky or too safe? Add up the seeds of your Final Four. The median for the last 20 Final Fours is 14. If the seeds for your Final Four add up to 10 or fewer, you’ve picked a safe Final Four. If the Final Four seeds add up to 20 or more, you’re picking the kind of Final Four that has happened only three times in 20 years.

 

The real upset potential starts at the No. 5 seeds

 

Advance some double-digit seeds to the Sweet 16, but keep track of how many. The 2011 tournament was the only time in the last 11 years four double-digit seeds have reached the Sweet 16. Three double-digit seeds in the second weekend is probably a good rule of thumb.

 

Since the field expanded in 1985, the No. 4 seed wins 79 percent of the time. That drops to 63.3 percent for the No. 5 seed, 65.8 percent for the No. 6 and 60.8 percent for the No. 7.

12-5 Upsets We Like: Buffalo over West Virginia, Eastern Washington over Georgetown, Wofford over Arkansas

11-6 Upsets We Like: Dayton/Boise State over Providence, BYU over Xavier

10-7 Upset We Like: Davidson over Iowa, Ohio State over VCU

 

Pay attention to extreme free throw numbers

 

Expect closer games in the NCAA Tournament. That means free throws will play a critical role. If you’re on the fence about a team, give free throw numbers a look. Avoid falling in love with teams that can’t hit free throws.

Key teams with high free throw percentages: BYU, Oregon, Notre Dame, Wisconsin

Key teams with low free throw percentages: Louisville, Michigan State, VCU, West Virginia

 

All that talk about bubble teams? Forget it

 

We spent the last six weeks talking about bubble teams. Time to stop paying them any mind, especially bubble teams from major conferences. Teams had trouble clinching a Tourney bid because they couldn’t win consistently. Teams from major conferences had chances all year to prove they were Tourney teams and didn’t do it until the last week of the season. Knock them out early. The exception: Bubble teams from mid-major conferences. The inclusion of VCU and George Mason in recent years were criticized ... until they reached the Final Four.

Bubble teams to avoid beyond round of 32: Georgia, Indiana, Ole Miss, St. John’s, UCLA

 

Use caution with teams that faded since February and early March

 

Are teams tired? Was there a major personnel change? Was there an injury? Did opponents catch up? In any case, we don’t like teams limping into the Tournament, no matter what they did from November through January. On the flip side, give credit to teams that got better as the season went along.

Teams that faded: Iowa, Oklahoma State, Utah, VCU

Teams that improved through the season: Baylor, Boise State, BYU, Davidson, Oregon

 

Find balance on offense and defense

 

Defense wins championship is a football saying. Don't let it take over your bracket. The key to winning in March is balance on both sides of the court, especially for teams that can play multiple tempos and styles. The last 10 national champions ranked in the top 20 in both of Ken Pomeroy’s adjusted offensive and defensive rankings. Steer clear from advancing teams to the Elite Eight or Final Four if they have a great offense and questionable defense or vice versa.

The teams around the top 20 in both this season are: Arizona, Gonzaga, Kentucky, Northern Iowa, Utah, Villanova, Wichita State

Good offense, bad defense: BYU, Davidson, Indiana, Iowa State, Notre Dame, Oregon

Good defense, bad offense: Louisville, San Diego State

Teaser:
Our Best Advice to Picking your 2015 NCAA Tournament Brackets
Post date: Monday, March 16, 2015 - 08:30
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/ncaa-tournament-2015-march-madness-bracket-cheat-sheets
Body:

Now that Selection Sunday is over, it's time for March Madness to kick into high gear. It's that time of year when everyone —even your IT guy and Midge in accounting — starts caring about college basketball. Most of the excitement comes from NCAA Tournament bracket games, where anyone can fill out a March Madness bracket in hopes winning cash and bragging rights among friends and co-workers. Of course, the majority of people have no clue which teams to pick.

 

Athlon Sports is here to help you. We put together these handy cheat sheets of bracket picks from three of our college basketball experts. Each editor has their own bracket picks, so you can choose one or use the cumulative knowledge of each to create your own unique picks. Either way, it will likely save you the office humiliation of picking North Florida to win it all.

 

David Fox's Tournament Picks

 

 

Braden Gall's Tournament Picks

 

 

Mitch Light's Tournament Picks

 

Teaser:
NCAA Tournament 2015: March Madness Bracket Cheat Sheets
Post date: Monday, March 16, 2015 - 08:00
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/kentucky-wildcats-skip-cutting-down-nets-after-sec-tournament-championship
Body:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Kentucky skipped the tradition of cutting down nets after it won the SEC tournament championship Sunday.

 

Instead, team managers cut down nets after Kentucky’s 78-63 win over Arkansas and brought it to the locker room — in one piece.

 

 

 

“Those aren’t the nets we’re really looking to cut down,” center Willie Cauley-Stein said. “It’s part of the process for us winning and everything, but we’re looking for something bigger. We’re looking to cut down a couple more nets in the (NCAA) Tournament).

 

The team claimed the SEC tournament championship trophy and thanked the fans on the podium but rushed to the locker room with ladders still set up around the nets.

 

The gesture may be especially interesting for Cauley-Stein, a junior on Kentucky’s team who has never cut down nets as a member of the program. Kentucky missed the NCAA Tournament when he was a freshman. Florida won the SEC tournament when he was a sophomore. And last year, when Kentucky went to the Final Four, Cauley-Stein was unable to climb the ladder to during the ceremony due to an ankle injury.

 

A pre-meditated act, a statement or an act of forgetfulness, who knows?

 

“I didn’t even know we were supposed to do it,” freshman point guard Tyler Ulis said.

 

Karl-Anthony Towns wore the net around his neck in the postgame and echoed his fellow big man Cauley-Stein.

 

“We’re just not done,” Towns said. “We’ve got more to do. We’re not done yet.”

Teaser:
Kentucky Wildcats Skip Net Cutting After SEC Tournament
Post date: Sunday, March 15, 2015 - 17:56
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/surprise-surprise-kentucky-wildcats-can-shoot-free-throws
Body:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Ever since Memphis missed critical free throws in the 2008 national championship game against Kansas to send the game to overtime — a game and title the Jayhawks eventually won — free throw shooting has been under the microscope for every John Calipari team.

 

All that talent and the great equalizer often has been the free throw line.

 

On this year’s team, the line may be Kentucky’s secret weapon.

 

Kentucky is 49-of-58 from the free throw line in two SEC tournament games, boosting an already respectable rate of 72 percent from the line.

 

It’s no coincidence that Calipari’s national championship team of 2012 is also his best free throw shooting team of his time at Memphis and Kentucky. That team shot 72.3 percent from the line. This year’s team is two-tenths of a percent behind.

 

If free throw shooting at some point becomes the determining factor in Kentucky’s bid for a 40-season, Calipari can thank peer pressure and family pressure around his top two big men.

 

Kentucky isn’t a top-100 free throw shooting team just because its guards are shooting around an 80 percent clip — that’s where Aaron and Andrew Harrison are — it’s because Karl-Anthony Towns and Willie Cauley-Stein are factors at the line.

 

Towns doesn’t just shoot well for a big man. He shoots free throws well for anyone. The 6-11 freshman shoots 81.1 percent from the line, better than either of the Harrisons and second only to prodigious jump shooter Devin Booker (82.8 percent).

 

For Towns, this was ingrained since the third grade. Towns was always tall for his age, and his father wanted to make sure the free throw shooting wouldn’t be the liability it is for so many other big men.

 

“My dad seeing how tall I was always wanted to make sure I was good at shooting free throws,” said Towns, who is 11-of-11 from the line in the SEC tournament. “I just constantly practiced shooting free throws. I always knew at my height I would be fouled. Every day I work on my free throws.”

 

Cauley-Stein maybe needed some extra prodding.

 

He was a 37 percent free throw shooter as a freshman, then improved to 48.2 percent as a sophomore. He’s now shooting nearly 60 percent as a junior.

 

“We work on it. And we talk a lot of trash,” Aaron Harrison said. “He took it to heart. Willie’s improved a lot and for Karl, it’s just easier.”

 

Kentucky’s four big men, Towns, Cauley-Stein, Trey Lyles and Dakari Johnson, are shooting a combined 68.6 percent from the line. That’s not great, but it’s better than at least a dozen NCAA Tournament at-large teams shoot as a team.

 

If Kentucky’s size wasn’t imposing enough, now not even the free throw line can put a dent in the Wildcats’ armor.

 

Calipari's Best FT Shooting Teams Since 2002
TeamRatePostseason
2012 Kentucky72.3National champion
2015 Kentucky72.1?
2011 Kentucky71.0Final Four
2009 Memphis69.0Sweet 16

 

Calipari's Worst FT Shooting Teams Since 2002
TeamRatePostseason
2008 Memphis61.4National runner-up
2007 Memphis62.1Elite Eight
2003 Memphis63.5NIT
2013 Kentucky64.2NIT

 

Teaser:
Surprise, surprise: The Kentucky Wildcats Can Shoot Free Throws
Post date: Sunday, March 15, 2015 - 07:00
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/watch-albany-stuns-stony-brook-late-3-clinch-ncaa-bid
Body:

Poor, poor Stony Brook.

 

The Seawolves latest attempt to reach their first NCAA Tournament ended in the most cruel way.

 

Albany’s Peter Hooley hit a 3-pointer with 1.6 seconds left to give the Great Danes a 51-50 win in the America East championship game to clinch and NCAA bid.

 

The shot may be the wildest of March Madness regardless of what happens in the NCAA tournament. A jumper from Ray Sanders hit the top of the backboard, and Albany tipped the ball out to the perimeter where Hooley could make the game-winning shot.

 

Take a look:

 

 

 

For Stony Brook, this the latest miss in the program’s hunt for its first NCAA bid. Since 2010, Stony Brook has won the America East regular season title three times and reached the America East championship four times. The Seawolves have come up empty each time.

 

Here is the complete sequence that broke Stony Brook’s heart:

 

Teaser:
Watch: Albany Stuns Stony Brook with Late 3 to Clinch NCAA Bid
Post date: Saturday, March 14, 2015 - 14:48
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/watch-out-sec-bruce-pearl-shaking-your-league-again
Body:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Auburn may be staring down the most lopsided final score in the SEC tournament. If that’s the way Saturday’s semifinal plays out, it will be the most one of the meaningful blowouts in the history of Auburn basketball.

 

Kentucky and Auburn might be one of the biggest conference tournament semifinal mismatches in the country, but Auburn has already made its statement.

 

With an epic LSU collapse Friday, the Tigers left the door open for Auburn in the SEC quarterfinals. Coach Bruce Pearl and the Tigers busted through, defeating LSU 73-70 for Auburn’s second win over an NCAA contender in two days. Auburn upset Texas A&M 66-59 a night earlier, potentially sending the Aggies to the NIT. 

 

After winning four conference games all season, Auburn has won three SEC tournament games in three days.

 

Certainly, LSU gave Auburn a gift with a spectacular meltdown in the final minutes. LSU led by eight with 2:45 to go before Auburn went on an 11-3 run to tie the game with regulation.

 

It was also easy to see Pearl’s team rocketing ahead of SEC foes making incremental progress.

 

LSU may be the most talented team in the league not named Kentucky. Auburn is has a better roster than ... Missouri and Mississippi State? Yet all of LSU’s pro prospects couldn’t help the Tigers hit shots at the end, decide the proper time to foul or not to foul or prevent yet another series of end-of-game gaffes.

 

When a perfect play needed to be run, Auburn ran it.

 

Down 3 in the final seconds of regulation, Cinmeon Bowers set the screen for KT Harrell, the leading scorer in the SEC, to hit an uncontested 3 to tie the game at 64.

 

 

“I make KT look real good,” Bowers said. “I told him I’m going to get this screen for you to get a good shot. ... It’s going to be cash every time.”

 

Now, Auburn’s future as a factor in the SEC is just as certain as Harrell’s game-tying shot.

 

Just look around at the trajectory of teams around the SEC. Kentucky will be on top as long as John Calipari is there. Florida went 16-17, but that’s probably an aberration. 

 

The next tier of the SEC is wide open. Vanderbilt and Alabama are treading water. Missouri, Mississippi State and South Carolina are perpetually rebuilding.

 

Texas A&M will add a top-five recruiting class next season. LSU will add two five-star prospects. But Auburn just beat those last two teams, and the Tigers beat both of them with a vastly inferior roster. Auburn has only one regular taller than 6-7. The Tigers are playing guys who were at New Mexico State and Niagara last season.

 

In the last two games of the SEC tournament, Auburn has played greater than the sum of its parts. That’s not something many SEC teams can say.

 

If Pearl has found a way to lead this team to wins over A&M and LSU in two days, what is he going to do when he has players?

 

That’s coming. Auburn already has a top-15 recruiting class when its head coach couldn’t recruit until late August due to NCAA sanctions stemming from his time at Tennessee.

 

In the short term, Pearl’s not talking about potential miracles against Kentucky. He’s called them the biggest, most physical team he’s seen in his career. His team is woefully undersized in comparison, even moreso with the absence of 6-8 forward Jordon Granger, who will miss the game after he was ejected for throwing a punch in a scrum against LSU.

 

In the only meeting between Auburn and Kentucky this season, the Wildcats won 115-75, a game decided when Kentucky took a 30-4 lead to start the game.

 

A competitive game on its own would be a major victory for Auburn, but it won’t be the last.

 

“(We’re) just trying to get Auburn relevant, for us to be a factor,” Pearl said. “The way our kids play hard, the way they don't quit, and the way they believe in each other, they're making some history.”

Teaser:
Watch Out, SEC, Bruce Pearl is Shaking Up Your League Again
Post date: Saturday, March 14, 2015 - 07:00
All taxonomy terms: NBA
Path: /nba/ranking-nba%E2%80%99s-best-upcoming-free-agents
Body:

25. Lou Williams, Toronto Raptors (Unrestricted)

Lou Williams can be one of the best sixth men in the league for stretches, but there’s a surplus of his type, and he has injury history.

 

24. Rodney Stuckey, Indiana Pacers (Unrestricted)

Stuckey’s a quiet contender for Sixth Man of the Year candidacy with the surging Pacers, and could jump up this list soon. But what he’s doing now isn’t representative of the rest of his career.

 

23. Brandon Knight, Phoenix Suns (Restricted)

Knight’s on the third team of his young career. He was a near All-Star with Milwaukee before being traded, and he has obvious talent. But teams don’t seem to be clamoring for him.

 

22. Reggie Jackson, Detroit Pistons (Restricted)

The Pistons seem ready to lock Jackson up this summer… but why? He’s been a black hole for both Detroit and the Oklahoma City Thunder this year.

 

21. Kostas Koufos, Memphis Grizzlies (Unrestricted)

Koufos is one of the most reliable backup big men in the game, and could likely start elsewhere. Will he flee Memphis — which is loaded down low, with or without him — for more money?

 

20. Manu Ginobili, San Antonio Spurs (Unrestricted)

Bat-grabbing Manu is a Hall of Famer, but he’s at the end of his road and is worth far more to the Spurs than he is to anyone else.

 

19. Patrick Beverley, Houston Rockets (Restricted)

In a point-guard-driven league, having a defender like Beverley (who can agitate any of them) is of underrated value.

 

18. Rajon Rondo, Dallas Mavericks (Unrestricted)

Rondo’s sad decline seems to be about both his sinking health and circumstances beyond his control. The NBA is a pace-and-space league with little room left for plodding, ball-dominant, half-court eccentrics like Rajon anymore.

 

17. Danny Green, San Antonio Spurs (Unrestricted)

Green is one of the best “three-and-D” guards around. But how much of his career does he owe to Gregg Popovich’s system?

 

16. Amir Johnson, Toronto Raptors (Unrestricted)

A power forward who’s elite at all the invisible big man tasks imaginable, Johnson could fetch a surprisingly high price tag in July.

 

15. Tyson Chandler, Dallas Mavericks (Unrestricted)

Tyson’s still one of the best defensive centers around. But how much does he have left?

 

14. Omer Asik, New Orleans Pelicans (Unrestricted)

Omer got what he wanted with a starting gig in New Orleans. Will he stick around to keep building chemistry with Anthony Davis?

 

13. Wesley Matthews, Portland Trail Blazers (Unrestricted)

The outstanding Matthews would be much higher on this list, if not for his recent tragic injury, and he could sink down it depending on how well he recovers.

 

12. Draymond Green, Golden State Warriors (Restricted)

Green is a polarizing, swaggering utility man who could fit anywhere. But Golden State is likely to match any offer he receives.

 

11. DeMarre Carroll, Atlanta Hawks (Unrestricted)

Aside from Kawhi Leonard, there may be no one better at guarding LeBron James than Carroll, whom the Hawks will probably retain.

 

10. DeAndre Jordan, Los Angeles Clippers (Unrestricted)

Jordan’s dominant second half has him climbing up this rankology very rapidly. He’s making All-Stars look bad these days.

 

9. Khris Middleton, Milwaukee Bucks (Restricted)

Middleton is young, versatile, efficient, and has an invisible personality. Any rebuilding team should be after him, but Milwaukee will probably lock him down and not let them get too close.

 

8. Paul Millsap, Atlanta Hawks (Unrestricted)

The Hawks’ success has a lot to do with having two great modern big men. Both Al Horford and Millsap can play like wings or post you up all night long. Like Carroll, Millsap is unlikely to leave Georgia.

 

7. Jimmy Butler, Chicago Bulls (Restricted)

The Bulls’ breakout star has one concerning section on his resume — Tom Thibodeau’s crazy minute totals. Aside from that, he’s one of the best shooting guards around, and Chicago should recognize that with a healthy offer.

 

6. Goran Dragic, Miami Heat (Unrestricted)

Dragic is happy to be in Miami, but still plans to test the waters this summer. He’ll get more than one maximum offer sheet.

 

5. Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio Spurs (Restricted)

Leonard is part of the Spurs’ quiet, dominant compound, through and through. Or is he? The young torch-carrier of the San Antonio dynasty will reveal his fate soon enough.

 

4. LaMarcus Aldridge, Portland Trail Blazers (Unrestricted)

The Blazers have done a lot to keep Aldridge happy, and he seems content to keep fighting for titles alongside Damian Lillard. But don’t be surprised if he has a flattering dinner or two, with other teams interested in his amazing game.

 

3. Tim Duncan, San Antonio Spurs (Unrestricted)

Duncan is high on this list as a mere honorary formality. He’ll be a free agent this summer, sure, but he’s either retiring or re-signing with the Spurs.

 

2. Kevin Love, Cleveland Cavaliers (Unrestricted)

Kevin Love can’t like being a third wheel in Ohio. He’s good enough to have offenses built around him, and he may go somewhere else this offseason, to experience just that.

 

1. Marc Gasol, Memphis Grizzlies (Unrestricted)

Perhaps the best center in the game, Gasol is good enough to be the No. 1 piece for a championship squad. He loves Memphis and probably won’t leave, but the league will surely try to reverse that inevitability.

 

Notes:

Restricted Free Agency means the player’s team can match any salary pitched to him by another team, and retain him.

Unrestricted Free Agency means the player can go wherever he chooses.

 

There is only one free agent player on this list who has a player option for next season — Kevin Love — because players rarely turn down their options.

 

— John Wilmes

@johnwilmesNBA

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Post date: Friday, March 13, 2015 - 15:01

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