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Path: /nfl/new-england-patriots-who-must-step-2015

Roster turnover in the NFL is inevitable and no one knows this better than the New England Patriots, who have put together the best record in the league over the last decade-plus with an ever-changing group of players surrounding Tom Brady.


This offseason has been no different, with the departure of starting cornerbacks Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner, key receiving back Shane Vereen and long-time stalwart Vince Wilfork. With Wilfork's departure, Brady remains the only player still connecting the Patriots' Super Bowl title in 2004 to their most recent this past season.


Here are three players who are under  the radar and will need to step to the forefront this season.


Sealver Siliga

Siliga was a revelation replacing the injured Wilfork in 2013, and now with Wilfork's departure, Siliga could be the key space-eating defensive tackle on the Patriots' defense. Siliga looked primed to build on his success this season, but injuries held him to just seven games and just a quarter of the snaps. Wilfork accounted for nearly 74 percent of the snaps this past season, so that's significant amount of playing time that will need to be filled. 


Still, Siliga played almost just as many snaps as Wilfork in the Super Bowl, a sign that he could be a big part of the Patriots' plans going forward. Replacing Wilfork is no small task, literally and figuratively, but Siliga looks like a big piece of the equation.



Travaris Cadet

Shane Vereen had 11 catches in the Super Bowl and that performance put him out of the Patriots' price range this offseason. He signed a lucrative free-agent deal with the New York Giants, leaving a hole in the Pats' backfield.


The pass-catching running back has always been a significant role in the Patriots' offense. Kevin Faulk held it down for most of the last decade, before Danny Woodhead took it over in 2010. While Brandon Bolden can fill in and second-year player James White should compete for the role this season, it's new free agent acquisition Cadet who is the favorite.


Cadet caught 38 passes for 345 yards and two touchdowns for the New Orleans Saints in 2014. Sean Payton had high praise for his football smarts and "exceptional" hands. It should be fascinating to see how the Patriots involve his skill set in their attack.



Malcolm Butler

Butler made one of the greatest plays in Super Bowl history, but that was of little reassurance to Patriots fans after the departures of Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner. Butler was a standout making plays on the ball from the start of training camp. It wasn't an accident or luck that he had three passes defensed to go with the interception in relief duty in the Super Bowl.


But just what is Butler's ceiling? He played just 16.6 percent of the regular season snaps. The potential seems to be there, as evidenced by a matchup with Emmanuel Sanders where Butler held his own.


The Patriots have brought in three veteran cornerbacks in free agency - Chimdi Chekwa, Bradley Fletcher and Robert McClain, and could still add more through the draft. But with both starting corner spots open, Butler has a chance to build on the success he had on the biggest stage of all.


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

After some key departures, these three Patriots must step to the forefront.
Post date: Thursday, March 26, 2015 - 12:00
Path: /nba/cavaliers-have-been-spanking-western-conference

All the talk about the Cleveland Cavaliers, these days, has been about the drama between their personalities.


Perhaps you heard that Kevin Love, on a recent promotional jaunt, said that he and LeBron James are “not best friends” and went on to proclaim that Russell Westbrook — not the King — is the NBA’s lead MVP candidate. Words like these, in combination with some very adolescent passive aggression on social media amongst the team, has led skeptics to believe that there’s a fire in the Cavaliers’ locker room, beneath all this smoke.


And maybe there is. But, whatever is or isn’t happening between these men in their changing quarters, on team planes and elsewhere, it doesn’t seem to carry over onto the court. Since mid-January, they’re 14-1 against the vaunted Western Conference. A rejuvenated James, who took time off after the holidays, has been the spearhead for an augmented roster that picked up J.R. Smith, Timofey Mozgov and Iman Shumpert as reinforcements via trade.


Love may be displeased with his life in the Midwest, as he’s taken a backseat when he could be the centerpiece on any number of other teams. He’ll have the opportunity to pursue that end this summer, when he can enter free agency. But for now, he’s bought into what the Cavs are doing — at least in his actions, he is. He’s a luxury for his team, who stretches defenses more than he gets to attack them, but he’s an important luxury. 


The Cavs’ critical mass of contingency plans on any given possession makes them almost impossible to guard when they’re clicking; there are just too many ballers out there. Love, LeBron, Kyrie Irving, and Smith are all capable of scoring in bushels on their own. That they’ve started to look like something greater than the sum of their talents is what should scare the rest of the league.


— John Wilmes


Post date: Thursday, March 26, 2015 - 11:58
All taxonomy terms: Overtime, News
Path: /overtime/jets-players-help-girl-promposal

Michael Pagano asked Sarah Kardonsky to prom, but she already had a date. Pagano has autism and is a big Jets fan. Kardonsky explained the situation to her previous date, and she decided she wanted to ask Pagano in a special way.


Kardonsky reached out the Jets with the story, and this is what she got.


Watch what happened when Pagano sees the video:

Since the promposal, Pagano and Kardonsky have appeared on NFL Network.

Perhaps we will see a green and white color scheme from the friends at prom?

The New York Jets helped Sarah Kardonsky ask Michael Pagano to prom.
Post date: Thursday, March 26, 2015 - 11:33
All taxonomy terms: College Football, USC Trojans, Pac 12, News
Path: /college-football/usc-trojans-2015-spring-football-preview

There is a lot to like about the 2015 USC Trojans.


Steve Sarkisian has a year under his belt as the head man at Heritage Hall and this roster is loaded with elite-level talent. The quarterback position is locked down by a potential Heisman candidate and the offensive line is filthy good.


However, that doesn’t mean the Men of Troy don’t have plenty of work to do this spring.


5 Storylines to Watch in USC’s Spring Practice:


1. Rebuild the front seven

The Trojans lose three All-Pac-12 players from their front seven in Leonard Williams, Hayes Pullard and J.R. Tavai. Like always with USC, the returning depth chart is impressively talented but is lacking in developed star power. Can Anthony Sarao or Delvon Simmons develop into All-Americans this offseason? Sarkisian should consider this part of his roster a top priority — which is especially difficult for a team still lacking in front seven depth due to a rehab-heavy spring roster.


2. Develop offensive playmakers

The talent in the receiving corps is painfully obvious but will still be young. And the backfield is now missing Buck Allen. Coach Sark needs to continue to develop JuJu Smith, Darreus Rogers, Steven Mitchell and even Adoree Jackson (regardless of which side of the ball he plays on) on the outside while Justin Davis, Tre Madden and James Toland IV battle for carries. USC also is replacing All-Pac-12 tight end Randall Telfer and has no obvious replacement on the roster at that position. 


3. See what the young guns can do

The sanction-free Trojans welcomed a full 24-man class on National Signing Day, five of which enrolled early. This includes five-star blocker Chuma Edoga and four-star prospects Cameron Smith (LB) and Ricky Town (QB), as well junior college wideout Isaac Whitney. This group, teamed with a very talented but still very young 2014 freshman class, should give USC’s staff plenty of young bodies to work with this spring. Getting these players acclimated and developed as quickly as possible should be a focus. 


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

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4. Experiment along the O-line

There are some proven commodities along the O-line for the Trojans — namely Max Tuerk at center. But keep an eye on where players land this spring as new O-line coach Bob Connelly looks to find his best five blockers and develop key reserves. Toa Lobendahn is currently the starting left tackle while Chad Wheeler rehabs. Sophomore Nico Falah could also be in the mix at tackle as well while Damien Mama and Viane Talamaivao may have the inside track on the guard positions. Khaliel Rodgers being sent home midway through practice also has shook up the two-deep.


5. Stay healthy

With scholarship numbers not quite back to full strength, one key spring (and summer) storyline for USC will be keeping as many bodies healthy as possible. Most notably, star quarterback Cody Kessler. He needs to be kept upright at all costs. This has been a major concern over the last half decade but is beginning to even out as Coach Sark inches closer to a full 85-scholarship roster.


Pre-Spring Outlook on USC:


This roster is the best in the Pac-12 and could easily make the Trojans a playoff-caliber team in ’15. Staying healthy and overall depth have been issues for this program since NCAA sanctions went into effect, but those are now over and done with and this roster is deeper than it’s been in six years. With Kessler and his O-line leading the way, expectations are rightly soaring in Southern California this spring.

USC Trojans 2015 Spring Football Preview
Post date: Thursday, March 26, 2015 - 11:30
Path: /college-football/vanderbilt-commodores-2015-spring-overview

Derek Mason’s first season at Vanderbilt wasn’t easy. The Commodores did not win a game in SEC play and two of their three non-conference wins came by three points or less. However, as the 2015 season approaches, there’s reason to expect improvement out of Vanderbilt in Mason’s second year. The losses in the senior class were minimal, and the Commodores return 17 starters. Mason is taking over the play-calling duties on defense, while Andy Ludwig takes over the offensive controls.


Vanderbilt concluded spring drills with its annual scrimmage on Saturday. What transpired this offseason so far with the Commodores? I asked Adam Sparks (@AdamSparks) of The Tennessean to help us preview Vanderbilt’s offseason and answer some of the key questions and storylines to watch:


1. Derek Mason made a lot of changes after the 2014 season. Which of the coaching hires or other offseason moves do you think will have the biggest impact on this team next season?


That’s close to a tie between Derek Mason naming himself defensive play-caller or the hiring of Andy Ludwig as the new offensive coordinator. I’ll give Ludwig the tiebreaker because the offense struggled so mightily last season. Ludwig has not tipped his hand too much, but it’s apparent that he sees Vanderbilt’s potential strength in the ground game like the one he directed at Wisconsin. The personnel sets up that way, as well. Ralph Webb, who broke Vanderbilt’s freshman rushing record last season, is back. The offensive line could be improved. And the Commodores have more proven talent at tight end than wide receiver.


Ludwig’s chief job is creating an offensive identity. Last season under Karl Dorrell, the offense never developed a clear-cut strength – run or pass. If the quarterback position stabilizes, it should be a little easier for Ludwig to turn the wheel in some direction.


2. Four different quarterbacks started games for Vanderbilt in 2014 and there’s plenty of uncertainty here this spring. Is there a skill-set new coordinator Andy Ludwig wants out of his quarterbacks? And has there been any separation among the options this spring?


Ludwig wants an accurate passer and some mobility in his QB. Neither Mason nor Ludwig confirmed that Patton Robinette would be the starter, but it was apparent by spring’s end that he was the No. 1 guy. Ludwig likes Robinette’s football IQ, his quick understanding of the offense, his accuracy on short to intermediate passes and his running ability. Robinette has struggled throwing the deep ball, which Ludwig highlighted as a flaw that needs to be fixed before the regular season.


Robinette could be overtaken in fall camp by Johnny McCrary, but Ludwig would rather settle on the starter sooner than later and secure the depth chart. That stability would certainly be a welcomed sight for the Commodores, who traded out signal callers routinely last season.


3. In addition to the quarterback concerns, the receiving corps is also under the spotlight this offseason. Are there any players ready to take a step forward in their development to help C.J. Duncan and Latevius Rayford in the passing game?


Duncan and Rayford are both solid receivers, but they need help. Rayford is a tough kid who doesn’t mind catching the ball in traffic. Duncan can catch and run or occasionally go deep. But for the most part, Vanderbilt’s receivers struggled to get separation off the line of scrimmage and stretch the field last season. Duncan may develop into that guy, but he also saw some time at running back in spring. Coaches, including Ludwig, are intrigued by the potential of Trent Sherfield. The 6-foot-1 speedster had only one catch last season, but he put together a strong spring and appears to have a bigger role in the revamped offense.

4. With nine starters back and few personnel departures, the defense has a chance to improve with Mason calling the plays in 2015. Who are a few players to watch this season that could have a breakout year?


The linebackers are legit high-caliber SEC players. Sophomores Nigel Bowden and Zach Cunningham and junior Stephen Weatherly are among Vanderbilt’s best performers are any position. Defensive end Caleb Azubike needs to settle in as a pass rusher after a year of uncertainty playing at both defensive end and outside linebacker. The secondary should be improved, as well.


Mason’s defense will be more aggressive than the 2014 version. Expect more sacks, more tackles-for-loss and more turnovers. All those were lacking last season, but Mason will take more chances as the play-caller. The aforementioned three linebackers give Vanderbilt a lot of speed and length, which should suit Mason’s brand of defense well.


5. If Vanderbilt wants to be a running team, will Ralph Webb be a one-man show?


Webb will get the bulk of the carries, but Ludwig wants depth at running back. Webb rushed for 912 yards as a freshman despite getting no help from the passing game. Dallas Rivers also showed promise as a freshman, and he will be used as a 227-pound power back. CJ Duncan could see a little time at running back, but the better bet is that he’ll mostly stay at wide receiver.


The wild card will be Darrius Sims. He broke two kick returns for TDs against South Carolina last season, and he also scored on an interception as a defensive back. Sims can play in all three phases, but he is supposed to focus on running back and kick returner in 2015. The hope is that Sims can add a dynamic quality that last year’s offense lacked. Ludwig said some incoming freshmen could also jump into the mix at running back.


- Follow Adam Sparks (@AdamSparks) on Twitter and check out for the latest news and analysis on Vanderbilt for 2015.


Athlon Sports' Spring Outlook on Vanderbilt:

Vanderbilt should show improvement in Derek Mason’s second season. With 17 starters back, along with promising players on both sides of the ball, the Commodores will be more competitive in SEC play. If a quarterback emerges this offseason, and Mason finds the right mix on defense, this team should exceed last year’s win total. Of course, winning a game in the rugged SEC won’t be easy, and Vanderbilt plays tricky non-conference games against Houston and Western Kentucky. Improvement should be noticeable for Mason in 2015. But bowl eligibility is probably a year away. 

Vanderbilt Commodores 2015 Spring Overview
Post date: Thursday, March 26, 2015 - 10:30
All taxonomy terms: Overtime, News
Path: /overtime/3rd-grader-banks-no-look-backward-3-pointer

We've all seen some crazy buzzer beaters. But you don't see a buzzer beater like this everyday from a third-grader.


Tyrik Petway banked a no-look, backward three-pointer at the buzzer during the AAA County Championship Game in Maryland. Watch the incredibly lucky shot below:



The video is pure gold with smack talk from the parents then Petway's toss at the end. Petway is 8-years-old. This shot may be just the beginning of his highlight reel considering he is ranked the No. 2 prospect in the nation for the class of 2024.

Third-grader Tyrik Petway banks a no-look backward 3-pointer at the buzzer.
Post date: Thursday, March 26, 2015 - 10:21
All taxonomy terms: Tiger Woods, Golf
Path: /golf/top-30-golfers-2015-majors-no-10-tiger-woods

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. 10: Tiger Woods


Born: Dec. 30, 1975, Cypress, Calif. | Career PGA Tour Wins: 79 | 2014 Wins (Worldwide): 0 | 2014 Earnings (PGA Tour): $108,275 (201st) World Ranking: 96


Brandel Chamblee's Take

Woods could be placed anywhere on this list with the exception of first, depending on whether one looks at his abilities or, given his age, his unprecedented physical ailments. He has averaged only twelve events per season over the last seven years with injuries of almost every nature plaguing his numerous comebacks and swing changes. Never over that time, though, has he looked worse than he did last year, when it was hard to know whether his swing was causing injury to his body or if his body was keeping him from swinging the way he did in 2013, when he won five times. Which is to say nothing of his issues around the greens that surfaced at the Hero World Challenge late in 2014. At 39, Tiger needs four more majors to equal Jack Nicklaus’ total of 18 and three more PGA Tour wins to equal Sam Snead’s record of 82. While the likelihood of catching Jack is slim, Tiger has won three or more times during a season in 13 of his 19 years on Tour, so it seems inevitable that Snead’s record will fall — if not this year, then at some point in what’s left of his career, if he stays healthy. That is a big “if,” because  with each swing he seems to do further damage to his body, and with each chip, he seem to do further damage to his mind. For the first time in Tiger’s career, though — whether it’s his age, injuries, swing changes or short game issues that flared up at the end of 2014 — the questions overshadow his obvious abilities.

Major Championship Résumé
Starts: 72
Wins: 14

2014 Performance:
Masters - DNP
U.S. Open - DNP
British Open - 69
PGA Championship - Cut

Best Career Finishes: 
Masters - 1 (1997, 2001, '02, '05)
U.S. Open - 1 (2000, '02, '08)
British Open - 1 (2000, '05, '06)
PGA Championship - 1 (1999, '00, '06, '07)
Top-10 Finishes: 38
Top-25 Finishes: 54
Missed Cuts: 6


—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.

Post date: Thursday, March 26, 2015 - 10:18
Path: /college-football/early-2015-heisman-betting-odds-top-picks-sleepers-and-busts

The Heisman Trophy is the most prestigious award in sports and gambling is a huge part of the game of football.


Put them together and you get preseason odds for the coveted stiff-armed trophy.


Bovada recently released an updated list of Heisman Trophy front-runners for 2015 and, for entertainment purposes only, we’ve offered up our unsolicited gambling advice.

Remember, last year Marcus Mariota was the first wire-to-wire preseason front-runner to win the award in more than a decade.


The Betting Favorites:


1. Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State (6/1)

The Buckeyes running back gets the nod because Ohio State is the surest bet to win its conference title and make the playoff. He plays a stat-friendly position in a stat-friendly offense.


2. Dak Prescott, QB, Mississippi State (7/1)

The best quarterback in the best league is returning to an offense that is perfectly suited for his skills. However, his supporting cast won’t be as good this year and his schedule is downright nasty.


3. Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU (15/2)

Possibly the most physically gifted runner in the nation should be the focal point of LSU’s offense. Like Prescott, however, he plays a brutal schedule and will get no support from the passing game.


4. Trevone Boykin, QB, TCU (15/2)

Running the new-look spread offense in Fort Worth reaped huge numbers and a near playoff berth last year. There are holes to plug on the offense but Boykin should post huge numbers and a bunch of wins once again — if he stays healthy.


5. Nick Chubb, RB, Georgia (9/1)

The “Beast Mode” of college football hails from Athens. The rocked-up tailback plays in a runner-friendly offense and proved in one year that he is capable of carrying the load.


The Ohio State Conundrum:


According to the Vegas odds, Ohio State has three quarterbacks ranked in the top 12. Common sense tells us that three signal-callers can’t possibly be smart bets. Cardale Jones (10/1) is sixth, J.T. Barrett (16/1) is 11th, and Braxton Miller (20/1) is 12th. If I was dropping cash on a name? I’d take Barrett at 16/1.


The Best Bets:


Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State (33/1)

The speedster is poised for a huge season in the ACC. Cook will likely be the focal point of the best team in the league against a schedule that is very manageable. At 33-1, the odds are too juicy to pass up.


Seth Russell, QB, Baylor (33/1)

Russell established himself this spring as THE guy in Waco. This is a unit that has proven to be capable of producing Heisman candidates. With a great offensive line, elite-level wideouts and one of the best coaches in the nation, give me Russell please.


Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson (20/1)

The odds aren’t as good on Watson but his talent is too good to ignore. Should he stay healthy, he’s capable of leading Clemson to an unexpected ACC title. His dual-threat numbers and highlight-reel plays could be extremely impressive.


Names to Avoid:


Derrick Henry, RB, Alabama (14/1)

Part of this is a function of the odds. Henry is a beast but he plays in an offense that has shifted slightly since Lane Kiffin took over and for a head coach who likes to use lots of ball carriers.


Jeremy Johnson, QB, Auburn (20/1)

Like Henry, I love Johnson the player and the Auburn offense. But he’s not a runner and won’t post Nick Marshall-like dual-threat stats. He could chuck it around for a bunch of yards but this is still his first season as a starter and 20-1 isn’t enough for my blood.


Paul Perkins, RB, UCLA (14/1)

No Brett Hundley, brutal schedule in the Pac-12 South and questions along the offensive line. Perkins is a nice player but isn’t overly special and the odds are way too short.


Deep Sleepers:


Anu Solomon, QB, Arizona (N/A)

As just a freshman, Solomon led his team to a Pac-12 South title and compiled 4,084 yards of total offense. His O-line is rebuilt but he has plenty of talent around him and a great offensive system.


Shock Linwood, RB, Baylor (N/A)

The Baylor offense is going to be nearly unstoppable. The offensive line is great, there is little defense in the Big 12, and Art Briles likes to post big numbers.


DeVontae Booker, RB, Utah (N/A)

Utah's offensive line is in good shape and it showed with Booker’s big numbers last year. He is the focal point of the offense and should once again carry the load for a quality team.

Early 2015 Heisman Betting Odds: Top Picks, Sleepers and Busts
Post date: Thursday, March 26, 2015 - 10:00
All taxonomy terms: MLB, News
Path: /mlb/5-mlb-teams-could-disappoint-2015

In the last five seasons, 21 of the 30 teams in MLB have appeared in the postseason. While this parity has been good for the game as a whole, the other side of the coin is that teams have had trouble maintaining success on a year-to-year basis. With that in mind, here are five teams that fared pretty well in 2014 that could take a step or two back this season.


Related: 5 MLB Teams on the Rise in 2015


Kansas City Royals

(89-73, 2nd in AL Central and Wild Card team in 2014)


The Royals were one of the feel-good stories of last season, ending their 29-year playoff drought and coming up just one game short of winning the World Series. Kansas City is still relatively young, so shouldn’t this team be considered a strong candidate to potentially repeat as AL champions?


Well, a lot went right for the Royals during both the regular season and their magical postseason run that saw them open the playoffs with eight straight wins. For one, Kansas City posted a run differential of plus-27 during the regular season, which was the second lowest (St. Louis, +16) of any team in the playoffs. Secondly, staff ace James Shields and long-time DH Billy Butler are both gone, with Edinson Volquez and Kendrys Morales expected to fill their spots.


Kansas City’s bullpen was lights out last season and while pretty much everyone is back, it’s too much to expect an encore performance in 2015. Kansas City also is still waiting for former top prospects Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas to live up to their billing, which puts even more pressure on veterans like Morales and new right fielder Alex Rios to produce at the plate.


The Royals have gotten worse, at least on paper, while the White Sox have clearly improved and the Indians and Tigers should remain competitive in the AL Central. It may be too harsh to call Kansas City a one-year wonder, but the Royals will be hard-pressed to follow up their memorable and magical 2014 ride.


Oakland A’s

(88-74, 2nd in AL West and Wild Card team)


After winning the AL West in 2012 and ’13, the A’s took a slight step back last season but still claimed one of the wild card spots. However, the 2015 A’s look nothing like the team that won 88 games in ‘14 following a flurry of moves orchestrated by general manager Billy Beane.


So much has changed on this roster that of Oakland’s eight All-Stars (including Jeff Samardzija who arrived via trade before the All-Star break and Jon Lester, who was acquired on July 31) only two of them remain. The pitching staff still has Sonny Gray at the front, but a bunch of question marks after that, while the projected starting infield is made up entirely of newcomers. The bullpen is basically intact, although incumbent closer Sean Doolittle is likely to miss the first few weeks of the season due to a shoulder injury.


Despite the success Oakland has enjoyed the past three seasons, the A’s never were able to break through in the playoffs. As a result, Beane decided to maximize the return on his most valuable assets, turning over a large a portion of his roster in the process. Beane’s hope is that the roster churn will result in another stretch of extended success, but don’t be surprised if this team takes its lumps this season.


San Diego Padres

(77-85, 3rd in NL West)


The Padres have made plenty of headlines this offseason, as first-year general manager A.J. Preller wasted no time in making over the roster. A series of moves brought in a new outfield in the form of Matt Kemp, Justin Upton and Wil Myers, along with an All-Star battery in catcher Derek Norris and workhorse starter James Shields.


San Diego has generated a fair amount of buzz leading into Opening Day, but there are still several reasons to be leery of the Padres breaking through and emerging as legitimate challengers to the defending World Series champion Giants and big-spending Dodgers in the NL West. For one, while the offense should certainly be improved compared to last season, it also wouldn’t take much considering San Diego was last in the majors in both batting average and runs scored in 2014.


Plus, each of the Padres’ new big bats has their own warts — Matt Kemp’s inability to stay healthy, Justin Upton’s swing-and-miss tendencies, Wil Myers’ lack of development — and team defense could be a season-long issue. Also, outside of Shields, who has a lot of mileage on his arm, the starting rotation is full of equal amounts of potential and question marks, many of them health-related. Put it all together and it seems like there are a lot of “ifs” when it comes Preller’s new-look Padres.


Atlanta Braves

(79-83, tied for 2nd in NL East)


The Braves went from NL East champions and 96 wins in 2013 to a 79-83 afterthought last season. Unfortunately, things will probably get worse this season, as Atlanta hired former Indians and Rangers general manager John Hart as its new president of baseball operations to oversee the club’s makeover in preparation for christening its new stadium in 2017.


The first thing Hart set out to do was change the Braves’ offensive image, trading Justin Upton, Jason Heyward and Evan Gattis away, leaving Freddie Freeman to anchor a makeshift lineup. The pitching should be solid with several talented starters to call on and Craig Kimbrel closing things out, but scoring runs figures to be even more of an issue for a team that struggled in that department in 2014.


The Nationals are clearly the class of the NL East, but the changes the Marlins made and the Mets’ emerging rotation could end up pushing the Braves farther down the division standings. Atlanta should have enough pitching to finish ahead of Philadelphia, but considering the Braves’ success over the past five seasons that also should tell you plenty as it relates to the not-so-sunny outlook for 2015.


New York Yankees

(84-78, 2nd in AL East)


Derek Jeter is no longer wearing pinstripes, but there will be no lack of “veteran” leadership for the Yankees this season. In fact, only one projected starter is less than 30 years old, 25-year-old Didi Gregorius, Jeter’s replacement at shortstop. One of the older teams in the majors last season, the Yankees actually got even longer in the tooth with the re-signing of second baseman Stephen Drew (32) and the return from suspension of Alex Rodriguez (turns 40 in July).


And while age is just a number for some older players, the unfortunate reality is that several of the Yankees’ elder statesmen simply aren’t aging well. Carlos Beltran (.233-15-49 in 2014), Mark Teixeira (.216-22-62) and Brian McCann (.232-23-75) all struggled last season to produce in accordance with their large contracts. There’s no reason to expect a big turnaround this season and there isn’t a wealth of young, promising prospects waiting in the wings to take over either.


The starting rotation may be a bit younger, but young or old there are plenty of health-related concerns surrounding Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda and CC Sabathia. The back end of the bullpen should be in fine shape with Dellin Betances and free-agent acquisition Andrew Miller finishing games off, but how many opportunities will they get?


To put it simply, the Yankees are getting older, they’re not very deep and both the Red Sox and the Blue Jays have made significant upgrades. Yankees fans aren’t used to their team not winning the World Series, let alone competing in the AL East, but the 2015 edition has the look of a pretender not a contender.

5 MLB Teams That Could Disappoint in 2015
Post date: Thursday, March 26, 2015 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/sweet-16-game-preview-and-predictions-xavier-vs-arizona

Xavier coach Chris Mack didn’t spent time thinking of a diplomatic or clever way to respond to the awkward situation of facing his predecessor and former boss in the NCAA tournament.


“Honestly, it stinks,” the Musketeers coach told the Turner crew.


This Tournament has had a funny way of setting up matchups that are just as notable for their backstory as the action on the court.


The semifinal in Los Angeles is no exception as Mack and Xavier take on Sean Miller and Arizona. Miller coached at Xavier from 2004-09, taking the Musketeers to the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight in his final two years. 


When Miller was promoted to replace Thad Matta, Miller hired the former Xavier player and assistant Mack. When Miller left for Arizona, Mack took his place. Between Matta and Mack, Miller his facing his predecessor and his successor in back-to-back games.


If it doesn’t stink for Miller, he’s certainly conflicted.


For both of these programs, a Final Four appearance would be monumental. Between Miller and Mack, they’ve been to the Sweet 16 nine times. Miller has been to the Elite Eight three times.


For either of them to continue this run, they’ll have to go through one of their closest allies in coaching.


Other Sweet 16 Previews

North Carolina vs. Wisconsin

Wichita State vs. Notre Dame

West Virginia vs. Kentucky



No. 6 Xavier vs. No. 2 Arizona

Region: West (Los Angeles)

Time: Thursday, approx. 10:17 p.m., ET


Announcers: Kevin Harlan, Reggie Miller and Dan Bonner

Line: Arizona by 11


Matchup to Watch: Xavier’s Matt Stainbrook vs. Arizona’s Kaleb Tarczewski

The 6-foot-10, 270-pound Stainbrook hasn’t encountered too many players who can match up with him. The defensive-minded seven-footer Tarczewski is one of them. Stanbrook leads Xavier at 12.1 points per game, but the Musketeers have four guys averaging 9.9 or more. Stainbrook is an effective passer (2.4 assists per game), and the Musketeers have other scorers up front. Jalen Reynolds scored 21 against Georgia State, and wing Trevone Bluiett is capable of going of for 15 or more.


Tournament Surprise: 3-point shooters off the bench

Gabe York has been giving Arizona a lift of the bench for two years now, so it’s not a huge surprise to see him hit five 3s against Ohio State. For Xavier, Myles Davis is 7-of-13 from 3 in two tournament games. Davis hit eight 3s in the final six games of the regular season.


Xavier will win if...

Dee Davis can keep the offense moving. With a team effort, the Wildcats were able to shut down D’Angelo Russell from the field. Russell finished 3-of-19, but he also had six assists and one turnover. In Dee Davis, Xavier has a pass-first point guard (six assists per game, 2.4 assists per turnover) who can get the ball to the weapons around him.


Arizona will win if...

T.J. McConnell runs the show. Arizona is a great defensive team and has a few future pros, starting with freshman Stanley Johnson. But this is McConnell’s team to run. There’s no reason why McConnell shouldn’t be able to pick apart a team that ranks 216th in effective field goal defense.


Athlon Staff Predictions:

David Fox: Arizona 73-69

Braden Gall: Arizona 68-58

Mitch Light: Arizona 63-56

Jake Rose: Arizona 74-64

Sweet 16 Game Preview and Predictions: Xavier vs. Arizona
Post date: Wednesday, March 25, 2015 - 16:30
All taxonomy terms: NBA
Path: /nba/nba-award-season-predictions

Most Improved Player

The Most Improved Player award has always been the NBA’s strangest, since its birth in 1986. It commends the growth of a baller, but also delivers something like a slight to his previous résumé. And, often, it goes to someone based on inexplicably increased attention to their game — not an actual rise in talent. But fans of the game (like fans of everything) love narratives of change, and none has tickled them more than the rise of Chicago Bulls shooting guard Jimmy Butler this season. Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert comes in as a close second, but his explosion  began a little too late in the year.

Prediction: Jimmy Butler, Chicago Bulls


Sixth Man of the Year

No clear-cut candidate has emerged from the Sixth Man pack this season. Consummate microwave scoring man Jamal Crawford (who won these honors last season) has been injured for the Los Angeles Clippers, and 2014’s runner-up, Taj Gibson, has also missed significant time. Andre Iguodala is the league’s most talented player not starting, so you’d think the award is his to lose — but big man Marreese Speights has, actually, been an arguably more important reserve for the Golden State Warriors. Rodney Stuckey has come on as a late-season force for the Indiana Pacers, but his body of work coming off the bench is markedly less consistent in 2014-15 than our likely winner.

Prediction: Lou Williams, Toronto Raptors


Defensive Player of the Year

There are a lot of guys who deserve this award for their work on defense. But few people in the game, or outside it, know how to accurately appraise the less highlight-laden side of the ball, and the winner of this trophy is often decided as a matter of publicity. Andrew Bogut and Draymond Green have both been spectacular for the Warriors, but they’ll steal votes from each other. The same goes for Tim Duncan and Kawhi Leonard, with the San Antonio Spurs. Gobert has been a monster — but, again, his run started too late. So while the probable victor of this category may not be the most deserving, he does have a pretty momentous campaign already in motion.

Prediction: DeAndre Jordan, Los Angeles Clippers


Rookie of the Year

Jabari Parker was in the lead for this award, until the Milwaukee Bucks’ forward of the future tore his ACL. Since then, Andrew Wiggins has been in the driver’s seat, and has had only a little resistance from a couple of guys in the backseat, reaching for the wheel: Elfrid Payton of the Orlando Magic, and the Bulls’ Nikola Mirotic. Both have come on strong at the end of the season, but neither has shown the sort of flashes of superstar brilliance on the level of Wiggins. His often sensational play has made some Cleveland Cavaliers fans regret their trade for Kevin Love, which just about says it all.

Prediction: Andrew Wiggins, Minnesota Timberwolves


Coach of the Year

You couldn’t fault voters for going in any of two directions with this decision — only for taking any third option. Steve Kerr and his staff have transformed the Warriors from Western Conference playoff fodder into obvious favorites for the championship. Golden State has been historically impressive, outscoring the opposition by more then ten points per game on average. But Kerr’s competition, Mike Budenholzer, has pulled off an even more startling metamorphosis with the Atlanta Hawks. The world saw them as a fringe playoff team, but in 2014-15, they’ve been the only squad consistently on the Warriors’ elite, dominant level.

Prediction: Mike Budenholzer, Atlanta Hawks


Most Valuable Player

There’s a silver lining for Warriors fans if Steph Curry doesn’t win this award, and the rest of his team loses their races, too: extra motivation for a title run. Curry has been the NBA’s best player this season, but voters will favor the Houston Rockets’ bearded dynamo for appearing to do more with less. Dwight Howard has been out for much of the season, and the Rockets’ place high up in a toothy conference without him has been a surprise to many. James Harden has been incredible, but he’s also secretly benefitted from a ton of extra help on the wings, defensively — Josh Smith, Corey Brewer and Trevor Ariza have all made life much easier for him. That’s not the popular story, however.

Prediction: James Harden, Houston Rockets


— John Wilmes


Post date: Wednesday, March 25, 2015 - 16:03
Path: /college-basketball/sweet-16-preview-and-prediction-wisconsin-vs-north-carolina

Wisconsin and North Carolina have met only one time in the NCAA Tournament, and if this weekend’s Sweet 16 meeting is anything like their first clash, the fans are for a treat.


In 2005, Bo Ryan’s sixth-seeded Badgers gave the consensus No. 1 and Tar Heels all they could handle in the Elite Eight, losing to the eventual national champions 88-82.


It was Williams’ first national championship, and now that the roles are reversed, Ryan is looking to return the favor in search of his first Division I national title.


Wisconsin enters the Sweet 16 after a record-setting season in Madison. Ryan’s bunch earned the legendary coach his first career Final Four last year and has only built on that success by earning a No. 1 seed for the first time in school history.


All but one player (Ben Brust) returned from last year’s Final Four team. The Badgers have size, feature the potential National Player of the Year, deploy great shooters and play Ryan’s vintage, unselfish brand of basketball. Rarely in the Sweet 16 is North Carolina considered the underdog, but the Tar Heels will have to play their best to knock off the Badgers.


Other Sweet 16 Previews

Xavier vs. Arizona

West Virginia vs. Kentucky

Wichita State vs. Notre Dame


No. 4 North Carolina vs. No. 1 Wisconsin

Region: West (Los Angeles)

Time: Thursday, 7:47 p.m. ET


Announcers: Kevin Harlan, Reggie Miller and Dan Bonner

Line: Wisconsin by 5 1/2


Matchup to Watch: Wisconsin's Frank Kaminsky vs. North Carolina's Brice Johnson/Joel James

North Carolina center Kennedy Meeks is doubtful to play, putting even more pressure on the Tar Heels' low post. Meeks is the top post scoring threat and leading shot blocker, so his absence would be felt. The svelte Johnson (6-9, 210) and underwhelming James (2.5 ppg, 1.9 rpg) would be charged with stopping what many consider to be the best player in the nation in Kaminsky. Watching Josh Gasser and Marcus Paige go head-to-head will be fun to watch as well.


Tournament Surprise: Nigel Hayes, Wisconsin

The second Hayes stepped onto the court as a freshman last year, his offensive talent has been obvious. But in postseason play for Wisconsin, he’s taken his game to another level. Hayes has added the 3-point shot to his repertoire after making just 15 shots from three during Big Ten play. In five postseason games, Hayes has made 9-of-20 from behind the arc. He’s topped his regular season scoring average (12.6) in both NCAA Tournament games and dropped a career-high 25 in the Big Ten title win over Michigan State. His inside-outside presence makes this offense virtually impossible to stop.


Wisconsin will win if…

The game isn’t one-dimensional against North Carolina on offense. Frank Kaminsky wasn’t at his best against Oregon and the Ducks nearly pulled off a shocker. However, he was picked up by the play of Hayes and Sam Dekker. Ryan’s multiple attack has dissected defenses all year and could be challenged by a Tar Heels unit that has held both Harvard (38.2 percent) and Arkansas (36.9 percent) to less than 40 percent shooting in the tourney.


North Carolina will win if…

Marcus Paige protects the basketball and makes shots. Wisconsin is known for its defense, but this isn’t one of Ryan’s best defensive teams and Paige is coming off a near perfect showing against Arkansas. He knocked down half of his shots (5-of-10) and posted a sterling 61 assist-to-turnover ratio. The Heels' schizophrenic offense goes as Paige goes.


Athlon Staff Predictions:

David Fox: Wisconsin 74-67

Braden Gall: Wisconsin 78-71

Mitch Light: North Carolina 83-81

Jake Rose: Wisconsin 65-60

Sweet 16 Preview and Prediction: Wisconsin vs. North Carolina
Post date: Wednesday, March 25, 2015 - 16:00
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/sweet-16-game-preview-and-predictions-west-virginia-vs-kentucky

Sooner or later, the debate of Kentucky’s greatest team will become a major topic. If this year’s team goes 40-0, the debate might not last long.


There’s also the 1995-96 Untouchables or 2012 national championship team or the first title team in 1948.


One team that might get shortchanged is 2010, a team that featured NBA All-Stars John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins, plus pros Eric Bledsoe and Patrick Patterson.


That team was done in by guys named Da’Sean Butler and Joe Mazzulla in the Elite Eight.


The sense of history isn’t lost on Kentucky, especially given the familiarity between John Calipari and Bob Huggins. The two have faced each other 10 times, most of those coming when Calipari was at UMass and Memphis and Huggins was at Cincinnati. Huggins holds an 8-2 edge in the series.


Kentucky already avenged that 2010 loss with a meeting in the 2011 round of 32 when No. 4 seed Kentucky defeated No. 5 seed West Virginia on the way to the Final Four.


But given the stakes and the situation — another Kentucky team aiming for history against this pressing, pesky West Virginia squad — seems to bring up old memories.


Other Sweet 16 Previews

Wichita State vs. Notre Dame

Xavier vs. Arizona

North Carolina vs. Wisconsin


No. 5 West Virginia vs. No. 1 Kentucky

Region: Midwest (Cleveland)

Time: Thursday, Approx. 9:45 p.m., ET


Announcers: Marv Albert, Chris Webber and Len Elmore

Line: Kentucky by 13 1/2


Matchup to Watch: Kentucky vs. West Virginia’s press

Coaches can be stubborn, but not apparently Bob Huggins. The Hall of Famer scrapped his old plans and installed a relentless fullcourt press. The result has been a Sweet 16 team that leads the nation in turnover rate and steal rate by comfortable margins. Kentucky has faced a pressing team in Arkansas twice this season, plus Louisville, and won with little difficulty. No one does the press quite like West Virginia. The question is if it matters.


Tournament Surprise: Kentucky’s 3-point shooting

Kentucky wasn’t a great 3-point shooting team during the season, and the Wildcats don’t necessarily need to be one even at this stage of the Tournament. Still, the Wildcats are 7-of-25 (28 percent) from 3-point range in the last two games after shooting 34.7 percent during the season.


West Virginia will win if...

The Wildcats are completely befuddled by the press and irritated by another physical opponent. But as Calipari said, many teams have tried many ways to beat Kentucky, and none of them have worked yet.


Kentucky will win if...

The Wildcats get into their offense with minimal trouble. West Virginia is a bit of a one-trick pony. The Mountaineers rank 303rd in effective field goal defense (52.7 percent) and they foul a lot. Kentucky ranks 74th in free throw shooting (72.2),



David Fox: Kentucky 68-54

Braden Gall: Kentucky 71-60

Mitch Light: Kentucky 73-51

Jake Rose: Kentucky 72-60

Sweet 16 Game Preview and Predictions: West Virginia vs. Kentucky
Post date: Wednesday, March 25, 2015 - 15:30
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/sweet-16-game-preview-and-predictions-wichita-state-vs-notre-dame

This is probably not something that gets said very often in college sports: Notre Dame wants what Wichita State has.


Notre Dame is a college athletics powerhouse, primarily due to the football program, though the men’s basketball program is no slouch. Wichita State doesn’t even have a football team.


Despite its lower seeding and place in the Missouri Valley Conference, Wichita State has been the better basketball program in the last three years. The Shockers have been to a Final Four, they went 35-1 last season and they picked up one of the signature wins in school history — and recent NCAA Tournament history — by defeating Kansas in the round of 32.


Notre Dame is an NCAA Tournament regular under Mike Brey, but this year’s trip to the Sweet 16 is a true rarity. The Irish haven’t been this close to a Final Four since 2003; they haven’t been to an Elite Eight since 1979.


Moreover, the amount of emotional energy spent by both Notre Dame and Wichita State — for different reasons — will be worth watching.


Only after the 67-64 overtime win over Butler did Notre Dame coach Mike Brey reveal to the public and his team that his mother had passed that Saturday morning.


A day later, Wichita State faced Kansas in a long-awaited matchup between the in-state foes in an arena in driving distance from both campuses.


Other Sweet 16 Previews

North Carolina vs. Wisconsin

Xavier vs. Arizona

West Virginia vs. Kentucky


No. 7 Wichita State vs. No. 3 Notre Dame

Region: Midwest (Cleveland)

Time: Thursday, 7:15 p.m., ET


Announcers: Marv Albert, Chris Webber and Len Elmore

Line: Wichita State by 1


Matchup to Watch: The contest around the rim

Wichita State is a strong defensive team on the ball and at the rim — despite having a smaller lineup. The Shockers rank ninth nationally in field goal defense at 2-point range at 42.1 percent where Notre Dame, with its attacking guards, is No. 1 in the country from 2-point range (58.3 percent). The 6-foot-10 Zach Auguste, the biggest regular for either team, may be the key player. He had 25 points against Northeastern in the round of 64 and seven points in the round of 32 against Butler.


Tournament Surprise: Wichita State’s free throw shooting

The Shockers were an average free throw shooting team during the season, making 68.8 percent from the line on 20 trips per game entering the NCAA Tournament. Last week, Wichita State was 47-of-58 (81 percent). Fred VanVleet and Ron Baker alone were 18-of-20 against Indiana.


Wichita State will win if...

VanVleet and Baker out-duel Jerian Grant. This is going to be a heavyweight backcourt matchup among veterans who can make huge shots in meaningful games. VanVleet should be able to pick apart the Notre Dame defense while Baker probably won’t have another cold shooting night after an off day against the Hoosiers. Even Evan Wessel emerged from out of nowhere to hit 4-of-6 3-pointers against Kansas. Grant can match this group shot for shot.


Notre Dame will win if...

The Irish make a defensive stand. Notre Dame and Wichita State are both in the top 10 in offensive efficiency. The X-factor would seem to be Notre Dame’s ability to defend. Wichita State doesn’t turn the ball over often, and Notre Dame doesn’t force many. Will that trend change or will Notre Dame need to be sturdy in the halfcourt? Pat Connaughton is coming off a five-block, nine-rebound performance against Butler, including the key block to prevent Butler from a potential game-winning shot.



David Fox: Wichita State 78-75

Braden Gall: Notre Dame 78-69

Mitch Light: Notre Dame 78-70

Jake Rose: Notre Dame 72-70

Sweet 16 Game Preview and Predictions: Wichita State vs. Notre Dame
Post date: Wednesday, March 25, 2015 - 15:00
All taxonomy terms: Essential 11, Overtime
Path: /overtime/athlons-essential-11-links-day-march-25-2015

This is your daily links roundup of our favorite sports and entertainment posts on the web for March 25:


Kate Upton got back in front of a camera recently.


• ICYMI: Pete Carroll videobombed a John Clayton report. Carroll said later he was checking for a ponytail.


• This is cool: The best music from the Sweet 16 college towns.


Kentucky barely watches tape of its opponents. I'm getting an Apollo Creed in Rocky I vibe from that revelation.


Charles Barkley's colleagues tried to shame him. Turns out he's un-shame-able


Here's a bracket of sports announcer movie cameos. I've always been partial to Musberger and Fouts in "The Waterboy." In other bracket alternatives, here's a craft beer bracket.


That one guy from One Direction decided to go a different direction.


Read this story on the Jets's recent quarterback history, but only if you're a masochist or it's for Lent.


• When the real world intrudes: Venezuelan unrest is affecting MLB players from that country.


The NFL might tinker with the lowly extra point at its May meeting.


This year's offseason carousel of bad NFL quarterbacks.


• Watch Ronda Rousey armbar Jimmy Fallon into submission.


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

Post date: Wednesday, March 25, 2015 - 14:10
Path: /college-football/ohio-state-buckeyes-2015-spring-football-preview

Ohio State opened spring practice with a target on its back. The Buckeyes are the defending national champions and the favorite to win college football’s national title in 2015. Of course, a lot can happen between now and the end of the year. However, Ohio State is positioned for another run at the championship, especially with the returning talent on both sides of the ball.


5 Storylines to Watch in Ohio State’s Spring Practice


1. The Quarterbacks

Don’t expect to see a clear winner emerge from the quarterback battle in Columbus this spring. The Buckeyes have three players – J.T. Barrett, Cardale Jones and Braxton Miller – that are capable of winning a Heisman if they are the starter for the full season. But it’s hard to gauge the quarterbacks this offseason with Barrett still recovering from a leg injury and Miller not at full strength from shoulder surgery. With Barrett and Miller sidelined, Jones will have the opportunity work as the No. 1 option this spring.


2. New Targets at Receiver

There are few holes for coach Urban Meyer to fill this offseason, with the biggest concern on offense revolving around a receiving corps that loses Devin Smith (28.2 ypc), Evan Spencer and tight end Jeff Heuerman. Using the word “concern” might be a bit much here, as Ohio State returns plenty of talent in the receiving corps. Michael Thomas returns after catching 54 passes last year, and Dontre Wilson and Jalin Marshall are back after sharing the H-back role last year. What other receivers will take a claim for snaps this spring? Could it be redshirt freshmen Terry McLaurin or Johnnie Dixon? Or will incoming freshman K.J. Hill make an impact in the fall?


3. New Starter at Right Tackle

Darryl Baldwin (15 starts at right tackle in 2014) is the only departing member of Ohio State’s offensive line. With left tackle Taylor Decker and guard Pat Elflein leading the way, the Buckeyes should have one of the nation’s top lines in 2015. But who steps up to fill Baldwin’s shoes this spring? Senior Chase Farris and sophomore Jamarco Jones are considered the favorites to replace Baldwin on the right side. Will a clear frontrunner emerge?


4. Restocking the Defensive Line

The Buckeyes have the makings of one of the nation’s top defensive lines with the return of end Joey Bosa and tackle Adolphus Washington. But question marks remain about the rest of this unit, especially as end Steve Miller and tackle Michael Bennett expired their eligibility after the national title. Jalyn Holmes and Tyquan Lewis have the edge in experience over Darius Slade and Sam Hubbard at end, while Michael Hill and Tommy Schutt are the top returning options at tackle. How quickly will this unit reload?


5. Replacing Doran Grant

Grant earned first-team All-Big Ten honors in 2014 after recording 63 tackles, five interceptions and nine pass breakups and leaves big shoes to fill at the cornerback position. Eli Apple – a rising star entering his sophomore year – and Gareon Conley will take on a bigger role in the secondary in 2015. Outside of Conley and Apple, the Buckeyes will look to Marshon Lattimore and sophomore Damon Webb to help fill the production and snaps lost by Grant.


Pre-Spring Outlook on Ohio State in the Big Ten:


National Championship. That’s the expectation for Ohio State in 2015. The Buckeyes return 14 starters from last year’s national title team and have the top quarterback depth chart in college football. The defense needs to reload at end, tackle and cornerback, but this unit should be among the best in the nation. The schedule is manageable with Michigan State and Penn State visiting Columbus. Road trips to Virginia Tech and Michigan will be a challenge. However, Ohio State should be favored to win its all of its regular season games in 2015. 

Ohio State Buckeyes 2015 Spring Football Preview
Post date: Wednesday, March 25, 2015 - 12:00
All taxonomy terms: MLB, News
Path: /mlb/mlb-expert-poll-who-do-you-want-mound-game-7

Athlon Sports has polled 10 experts from around Major League Baseball in an effort to figure out who is the best big-game pitcher in the game. Who would they want on the mound in Game 7 of the World Series?


A first-place vote earns five points and a second-place vote earned four points — so on and so forth with a fifth-place vote earning one point. Below are the voters and results, including first-place votes and number of ballots.

Remember, beauty is in the eye of the beholder (and assuming everyone is perfectly healthy).


The Voters:


Tyler Kepner, NY Times

Andy Baggarly,

Jeff Wilson, Fort Worth Star-Telegram

John Tomase, WEEI

Juan Rodriguez, South Florida Sun-Sentinel

Gordon Wittenmyer, Chicago Sun Times

Bill Plunkett, Orange County Register

C. Trent Rosencrans, Cincinnati Enquirer

Derrick Goold, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Jack Magruder,


The Results:


 PitcherTeamPoints (1st)Ballots
1.Clayton Kershaw38 (4)10/10
2.Madison Bumgarner36 (5)8/10
3.Felix Hernandez22 (1)7/10
4.Adam Wainwright176/10
5.Jon Lester72/10
6.Chris Sale63/10
7.Cliff Lee52/10
8.Cole Hamels42/10
9t.Johnny Cueto31/10
9t.David Price31/10
11t.Yu Darvish22/10
11t.Max Scherzer22/10
11t.Jose Fernandez21/10
14t.Zack Greinke11/10
14t.Corey Kluber11/10
14t.Jeff Samardzija11/10


The Analysis:


Kershaw tops Bumgarner

Based on postseason success, it’s a bit of an upset that Clayton Kershaw gets the nod on the bump in Game 7 over Madison Bumgarner. Mad-Bum landed more first-place votes (5 to 4) over Kershaw, but the Dodgers' three-time Cy Young Award winner was the only pitcher to appear on all 10 ballots. Even our expert poll loves the Giants-Dodgers rivalry.


° Kershaw's postseason stats:
51.0 IP, 1-5, 5.12 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 58 K, 18 BB


° Bumgarner's postseason stats:
88.1 IP, 7-3, 2.14 ERA, 0.88 WHIP, 77 K, 15 BB


King Felix top challenger

Outside of the NL West, Seattle’s Felix Hernandez is the only pitcher who came close to earning the start and the only one to land a first-place vote. He landed on 7-of-10 ballots despite never making a postseason start in his career. Adam Wainwright landed on six ballots, meaning only four names landed on more than half of the ballots.


Senior Circuit

The King of the Northwest is the top arm in the American League but the top of this expert poll was dominated by the National League. The top two, four of the top five and seven of the top nine hail from the senior circuit.


Multiple starters

The Dodgers, Chicago White Sox and the Philadelphia Phillies were the only three teams to have multiple pitchers receive votes. While Cliff Lee may not have much left in the tank for the Phils, the Southside duo of Chris Sale and Jeff Samardzija should have fans in Chicago jacked up about the upcoming season. Both guys are young and surging into the prime of their careers. Everyone knows how nasty the Kershaw-Zack Greinke tandem will be in Los Angeles this year.


Names not receiving votes

Some of the biggest and best names not to receive a single vote? Washington’s Stephen Strasburg and Jordan Zimmermann, the Mets’ Matt Harvey, San Diego’s James Shields and Oakland’s Sonny Gray — who has been electric in big moments with the season on the line for the A’s. No Jered Weaver, Justin Verlander, Gio Gonzalez, Gerrit Cole, Masahiro Tanaka or Julio Teheran either.


MLB Expert Poll: Who do you want on the mound in Game 7?
Post date: Wednesday, March 25, 2015 - 11:30
Path: /college-football/louisville-cardinals-2015-spring-football-preview

Louisville’s first season in the ACC was a successful one. The Cardinals finished 9-4, with two of their losses coming by six points or less. 2014 also brought the return of Bobby Petrino to the Louisville sidelines, and despite a revolving door at quarterback and a struggling offensive line, the Cardinals still averaged 31.2 points per game. Petrino and his staff will be busy this spring, as Louisville returns only seven starters and five All-ACC performers are gone from last year’s 9-4 squad.


5 Storylines to Watch in Louisville’s Spring Practice


1. The Quarterback Battle

Three quarterbacks started a game for Louisville last season, and there’s no shortage of uncertainty here as spring practice begins. Kyle Bolin, Reggie Bonnafon and Penn State transfer Tyler Ferguson will get the first opportunity to claim the job this offseason, as Will Gardner is recovering from a knee injury suffered in early October. Will a clear leader emerge this spring? Or will the battle continue into fall when Gardner is healthy?


2. Reloading at Receiver

There’s no doubt Louisville is going to miss DeVante Parker’s production at receiver in 2014. Parker played in only six games last season but ranked among the best in the ACC after catching 43 passes for 855 yards and five scores. Not only must the Cardinals find a replacement for Parker, the receiving corps also loses Eli Rogers (45 catches in 2014), Kai De La Cruz (26) and tight end Gerald Christian (32). James Quick (36 catches) should see a bigger role in 2015, but transfers Ja’Quay Williams (Texas A&M) and Jamari Staples (UAB) are two names to watch. Junior college recruit Paul Harris is also expected to push for time this offseason.


3. Finding Answers on the Offensive Line

Even though Louisville has a quarterback battle and loses some of its top skill players, the biggest concern for the offense has to be in the trenches. This unit loses three starters, including left tackle Jamon Brown (second-team All-ACC) and both starting guards (John Miller and Jake Smith). Center Tobijah Hughley (11 starts) and right tackle Aaron Epps (six starts) are the only returning starters from 2014. How quickly will the Cardinals restock the trenches?


4. Revamped Secondary

The Cardinals were one of the nation’s stingiest defensive backfields in 2014. In 13 contests, Louisville’s secondary limited opposing quarterbacks to just 14 passing scores and a 53.9 completion percentage. That’s the good news. The bad news? All four starters are gone. Georgia transfers Shaq Wiggins (CB) and Josh Harvey-Clemons (S) are expected to claim two of the starting spots, while safety Chucky Williams (six tackles in 2014) and redshirt freshman cornerback Cornelius Sturghill enter spring with an early edge. Wiggins and Harvey-Clemons have instant-impact talent, and the Cardinals should have a good pass rush to help alleviate some of the concerns about coverage. How quickly can coordinator Todd Grantham get this group performing at a high level?


5. Restocking the Defensive Front

The strength of the defense should be the line and the linebacking corps, but Grantham has a few holes to fill this spring. End B.J. Dubose and linebackers Lorenzo Mauldin and Deiontrez Mount have expired their eligibility after all three players turned in productive 2014 campaigns. Sheldon Rankins, DeAngelo Brown and Pio Vatuvei are penciled in as the starters on the line, while James Burgess, Keith Kelsey and Keith Brown are listed at linebacker. Will Grantham find a few players behind the starters to build depth in the front seven?


Pre-Spring Outlook on Louisville in the ACC:


Florida State and Clemson are considered the favorites in the Atlantic Division, while Louisville and NC State are the two teams fighting for the No. 3 and No. 4 spots in 2015. Although it’s possible the Seminoles or Tigers regress more than anticipated, the Cardinals also have their share of personnel concerns to address before moving up in the Atlantic. Will a quarterback claim the starting job? And how quickly will the offensive line jell? The secondary is the biggest concern on defense, but this unit could quickly settle if Josh Harvey-Clemons and Shaq Wiggins emerge as key contributors. The September slate features games against Auburn and Clemson, and a road trip to Florida State awaits in October. Considering the heavy personnel losses, a realistic goal for Petrino’s second year should be 8-4 or 9-3. 

Louisville Cardinals 2015 Spring Football Preview
Post date: Wednesday, March 25, 2015 - 11:00
Path: /college-football/michigan-state-spartans-2015-spring-football-preview

Michigan State has emerged as a national power under coach Mark Dantonio. The Spartans have won at least 11 games in each of the last four seasons and have claimed back-to-back finishes inside of the top five in the last Associated Press poll. Michigan State has a few personnel concerns heading into spring ball, and Dantonio has to replace coordinator Pat Narduzzi on the defensive side. While there’s a few new faces coming to East Lansing in 2015, the Spartans will contend once again for a top-10 finish.  


5 Storylines to Watch in Michigan State’s Spring Practice


1. New Faces at Running Back

The Spartans enter spring with uncertainty at running back. Jeremy Langford expired his eligibility after rushing for 1,522 yards and 22 scores last season, while second-leading rusher Nick Hill also departs after finishing 2014 with 622 yards. Delton Williams was the team’s third-leading rusher in 2014, but his status with the team is in question after an off-field incident. Talented freshman L.J. Scott won’t arrive until this summer, which leaves Madre London and Gerald Holmes as the team’s top options this spring. Can London or Holmes stake a clear edge in the battle for carries?


2. Connor Cook’s Passing Targets

The uncertainty of Michigan State’s skill players continues at receiver. Tony Lippett was the team’s clear No. 1 target last season, catching 65 passes for 1,198 yards and 11 scores. Lippett has expired his eligibility, and Keith Mumphery also departs East Lansing after ranking second on the team with 495 yards. Macgarrett Kings Jr. caught 29 passes for 404 yards last year and was expected to be a bigger piece of the receiving corps in 2015. However, his status with the team is also uncertain after an off-field incident. Who steps up here this spring? It’s up to Aaron Burbridge, Monty Madaris and R.J. Shelton to develop a better rapport with Cook this offseason.


3. Post-Pat Narduzzi Era

This spring marks Michigan State’s first offseason under Mark Dantonio without Pat Narduzzi coordinating the defense. Continuity was important for the program, and Dantonio promoted assistants Harlon Barnett and Mike Tressel into the co-coordinator role. What tweaks or changes will Barnett and Tressel install this spring?


4. Rebuilding the No Fly Zone

The Spartans have ranked inside of the top 25 nationally in pass efficiency defense in four consecutive seasons. Continuing the recent success will depend on how quick Barnett and Tressel can restock the secondary after the departures of cornerback Trae Waynes and safety Kurtis Drummond. Waynes and Drummond both earned first-team All-Big Ten honors last season and leave big shoes to fill. The spring depth chart lists Darian Hicks or Vayante Copeland at one corner spot, with junior Demetrious Cox at the other. The safety positions appear to be more defined, as Montae Nicholson is a player to watch after recording 31 tackles in 2014, and RJ Williamson returns for his senior year.


5. New Faces in the Defensive Line, Linebacker Corps

Even with the departures of Marcus Rush (7.5 sacks) and linebacker Taiwan Jones, Michigan State is in good shape in its front seven. But the Spartans will spend this spring focusing on settling a few starting jobs, as well as developing depth up front. There’s no question Shilique Calhoun is one of the Big Ten’s top defensive players, and Barnett and Tressel will spend the spring sorting out whether Lawrence Thomas fits better opposite of Calhoun at end or on the inside at tackle. Sophomore tackle Malik McDowell is also expected to have a breakout year.


Pre-Spring Outlook on Michigan State in the Big Ten:


Ohio State is the clear favorite in the Big Ten East Division, and the Spartans are just a step behind entering 2015. Michigan State will miss Narduzzi’s defensive acumen, as well as Lippett at receiver and defensive standouts like Waynes (CB), Drummond (S) and Jones (LB). However, there’s little reason to expect a big drop in wins this year. Michigan State returns one of the Big Ten’s top quarterbacks in Connor Cook, as well as four starters from an offensive line that allowed only 11 sacks in 2014. Another 10-win season is within reach for the Spartans.

Michigan State Spartans 2015 Spring Football Preview
Post date: Wednesday, March 25, 2015 - 10:30
All taxonomy terms: Jason Day, Golf
Path: /golf/top-30-golfers-2015-majors-no-11-jason-day

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. 11: Jason Day


Born: Nov. 12, 1987, Beaudesert, Queensland, Australia | Career PGA Tour Wins: 3 | 2014 Wins (Worldwide): 1 | 2014 Earnings (PGA Tour): $3,789,574 (16th) World Ranking: 4

2014 Key Stats

      Scrambling: 64.95% (5th)

      Approaches from 75-100 yards: 12’11” (2nd)

      Putting from Inside 5 Feet: 98.93% (1st)


Brandel Chamblee's Take

Day would be higher on this list if he hadn’t spent much of 2014 on the sidelines due to injuries to his left thumb and his back, with his left wrist also causing him some concern at The Open Championship. If he can stay healthy, he has every chance of having a spectacular year. In the 17 majors he has played, he has finished in the top five a handful of times. He has power off the tee and great touch around the greens, and he holes more than his share of putts. At 27 years of age and given his obvious talents, he should've won more than three times on the PGA Tour by now, but his inability to hit his scoring irons close to the hole has plagued him at critical times in tournaments, something he appears to have worked on last year by softening the transition move from backswing to downswing and is hitting more partial shots, both of which led to him leading the PGA Championship in greens in regulation. If his scoring irons become a strength, he could become the best player in the world.

Major Championship Résumé
Starts: 17
Wins: 0

2014 Performance:
Masters - T20
U.S. Open - T4
British Open - T58
PGA Championship - T15

Best Career Finishes: 
Masters - T2 (2011)
U.S. Open - 2/T2 (2011, '13)
British Open - T30 (2011)
PGA Championship - T8 (2013)
Top-10 Finishes: 7
Top-25 Finishes: 9
Missed Cuts: 3


—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.

Post date: Wednesday, March 25, 2015 - 10:05
All taxonomy terms: College Football, LSU Tigers, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/lsu-tigers-2015-spring-football-preview

LSU went unbeaten in the 2011 regular season and won the SEC crown.


Since then the Tigers have dropped from first to second (2012) to third (2013) to fifth (2014) in the SEC West standings.


The coaching in the division has gotten significantly more competitive and LSU has struggled at key positions — like, say, the quarterback.


There is loads of talent on this roster and a head coach who has led his team to two national championship games. But make no mistake, this spring is critical for Les Miles to answer key questions about his roster.


5 Storylines to Watch in LSU’s Spring Practice:


1. Wide-open QB competition

Improving the passing game is a must this offseason for Miles. This unit was awful in 2014, averaging just 140.6 yards passing per game in SEC tilts. With that in mind, Miles has opened up the competition this spring. Both Anthony Jennings and Brandon Harris struggled mightily last year and both know that they could be the key to an LSU resurgence. Jennings completed less than half of his passes, as the Tigers finished dead last in the SEC in passing offense. Competition can be very healthy and Miles is hoping an open battle will fix his signal-caller woes.


2. Create a pass rush

The defensive end position is one of pride for most LSU faithful, as the track record for elite-level playmakers rushing the QB in Baton Rouge is impressive. Except, that wasn’t the case last year as LSU finished 103rd nationally with just 19.0 sacks. Both Jermauria Rasco and Danielle Hunter are gone, so establishing a pass rush might be new defensive coordinator Kevin Steele’s first order of business — with the help of D-line guru Ed Orgeron. Per usual, there are plenty of talented bodies but someone in the law firm of Bower, Clark, Teuhema, Patterson and Neal needs to step up and become a star. Of course, depending on the scheme, a pass rusher could be found in the form of a linebacker.


3. New-look defense

After two years at Alabama, Steele now has full control of one of the best defensive units in the nation. The biggest question surrounding his arrival is concerning the scheme he will implement this spring. Steele has a 3-4 background, but LSU has been a very traditional 4-3 for as long as Miles has been in charge. The tealeaves indicate that the Tigers will use multiple fronts this fall but there is no reason for Steele to tip his hand until the season begins. Steele has a star in the making with the emergence of Kendall Beckwith as well as a solid collection of potential breakout players at linebacker. How many can Steele get on the field and in what down-and-distance situations remains to be seen.     


4. Playmaker depth

There’s no doubt running back Leonard Fournette will be one of the nation’s leading rushers in 2015. But with the departure of Kenny Hilliard and Terrence Magee, offensive coordinator Cam Cameron needs to restock the depth behind Fournette this spring. At receiver, Travin Dural produced plenty of big plays a year ago but LSU needs to develop a consistent No. 2 and No. 3 pass-catching option. This is a big spring for Trey Quinn, Malachi Dupre and John Diarse at receiver. Lastly, no tight end on the roster caught more than seven passes and the one who did is gone.


5. Find the five best blockers

Miles wants to get the best five blockers on the field and that potentially could mean playing some guys at new/different positions. All-SEC guard Vadal Alexander will move to tackle and take on a bigger role this fall. Ethan Pocic, who might be better suited at tackle, looks like he will stay put at center because of team need. Jerald Hawkins will man the other tackle spot. That leaves Josh Boutte, K.J. Malone, William Clapp and Garrett Brumfield vying for the two guard positions and key reserve roles.


Pre-Spring Outlook on LSU:


As long as Miles is in charge, LSU will enter every season stacked with talent at most positions. But this team is trending in the wrong direction as the rest of the division continues to improve. The Tigers have issues at quarterback and have swapped SEC vet John Chavis for Steele and Orgeron on defense. The talent is still there to challenge in the West but the schedule is downright nasty. This staff will need to get work done this spring to move up the standings. 

LSU Tigers 2015 Spring Football Preview
Post date: Wednesday, March 25, 2015 - 09:30
Path: /top-10-arena-nicknames-college-basketball

There are many reasons why fans gravitate to the college ranks over the professional ones. 


While the level of athlete isn’t comparable in the college game, there are many other reasons why college basketball is more enjoyable than the NBA. Student sections, campus life, small towns, deeply connected alumni bases, dramatic game play, cheerleaders, defensive effort and kids playing for the love of the game are at the top of that list. But college arenas and stadiums are more intimate and interwoven into the history of a school unlike the NBA buildings (minus maybe Madison Square Garden or the Boston Gardens).


And the traditions of the college game — like arena nicknames — are priceless. Here are college hoops best arena nicknames:


1. The Pit, New Mexico (University Arena)
New Mexico’s famous basketball-only arena opened in 1966 as University Arena and was renamed officially as “The Pit” in 2009. It got its nickname from how the building was constructed, as the floor of the arena is 37 feet below “ground level,” meaning the court is actually built inside of a pit. Because it was built into such a small space with steep grading and relatively tight quarters for 15,411 capacity seating, the Lobos have enjoyed one of the loudest home quarter settings in all of college hoops.


2. The Phog, Kansas (Allen Fieldhouse)
Named in honor of former head coach Dr. Forrest C. Allen, who led the Jayhawks program for 39 years and was nicknamed “Phog” for his distinct booming fog-horn voice. Allen Fieldhouse was opened in 1955 following four years of construction, the building currently seats 16,300 and originally cost just $2.5 million to build. The Phog is widely regarded as one of the loudest building in college basketball, and thanks to decades of great teams, is arguably the toughest place to win in all of sports.


3. The Barn, Minnesota (Williams Arena)
One of the older buildings in the nation, Williams Arena was opened in 1928 and cost just $650,000 to build. Its 14,625 rowdy Golden Gophers fans and rounded ceiling shape give it a raucous barnyard feel — which is how the student section (The Barnyard) and building got their of their nicknames. The most unusual characteristic of the building, however, might be the raised floor design. The court is roughly two feet above player benches, press row and the first rows of seats.


4. The Kennel, Gonzaga (McCarthey Athletic Center)
McCarthey Athletic Center was opened in 2004 and goes by The New Kennel or K2 to fans in the know, however, The Kennel is the best and most fitting. The nickname has carried over from the previous facility in Spokane, the Charlotte Y. Martin Center, and couldn’t be more appropriately named. The Bulldogs play extremely well at home and the boisterous fans pack the tight 6,000-person arena each and every home game. The Kennel cost Gonzaga $25 million to build.


5. The RAC, Rutgers (Louis Brown Athletic Center)
Rutgers’ basketball arena was originally titled the Rutgers Athletic Center (RAC) when it opened in 1977. It was renamed in 1986 as the Louis Brown Athletic Center but the nickname stuck through the name change. The 8,000-seat building hosted the New Jersey Nets from 1977-81 as well as the Scarlet Knights basketball and volleyball teams. The home team hasn’t been a championship contender, but Rutgers plays well at home and the fans are intimidating close to the action. The RAC just sounds like a great place to play hoops.

6. The Slim Gym, San Diego (Jenny Craig Pavilion)
Jenny Craig Pavilion, or the JCP, was opened in 2000 on the beautiful Toreros campus in San Diego, Calif. Named after famous weight loss guru Jenny Craig, the building quickly became known as the Slim Gym for obvious reasons. The punny nickname is one of the most creative and original nicknames in college hoops. JCP seats 5,100 patrons and cost $17.5 million to build.


7. Octagon of Doom, Kansas State (Bramlage Coliseum)
Kansas State plays all of its men’s and women’s basketball games in a place known as The Octagon of Doom. It seats 12,528, was opened in 1988 and cost $17.5 million to build. The nickname comes from the building’s eight-sided shape and was started by fans who would bring octagonal shaped signs with “Doom” written them due to reputation of tenacious defense.


8. The Tad Pad, Ole Miss (C. M. Smith Coliseum)
The Ole Miss Rebels have called C. M. Smith Coliseum home since 1965-66 when the building was originally called Rebel Coliseum. Smith was a three-sport star at Ole Miss, a coach and eventually became the Athletic Director in Oxford. The important Mississippi personality went by “Tad” and so the 9,061-seat building is now referred to as The Tad Pad.


9. Dome of Doom, Wyoming (Arena-Auditorium)
With a formal name like Arena-Auditorium, its no wonder the fans in Laramie came up with a nickname for their basketball arena. The 15,028-seat building was built in 1982 for $15 million and is officially the highest arena in NCAA Division I basketball. Situated at 7,220 feet above sea level, the Dome of Doom, or “Double-A,” literally causes headaches to opposing teams and fans.


10. The Rock, Seton Hall/NJIT (Prudential Center)
165 Mulberry Street in Newark, N.J., is home to one of the most well-used buildings in college sports. Named affectionately for the Rock of Gibraltar corporate logo of Prudential Financial, The Rock is home to three different hockey teams, namely the New Jersey Devils, and has hosted both the New Jersey Nets and New York Liberty of the professional basketball ranks in the past. But why it makes this list is famed Seton Hall basketball — as well as NJIT — calls The PC home. The 18,711-seat building (for basketball) cost an astronomical $375 million to build back in 2007. 


The Best of the Rest:

11. The Thriller Dome, Georgia Tech (Alexander Memorial Coliseum)
12. Dean Dome, North Carolina (Dean Smith Center)
13. The Hump, Mississippi State (Humphrey Coliseum)
14. The Dunk, Providence (Dunkin Donuts Arena)
15. The O-Dome, Florida (Stephen O’Connell Center)
16. The Pete, Pitt (Petersen Events Center)

Old-School Honorable Mention:


Big Brown Box that Rocks, Loyola-Chicago (Alumni Gym)
From 1924 to 1996, Loyola-Chicago called Alumni Gym home. The 2,000-seat building was known for its crazy fans and eventually became known as the Big Brown Box That Rocks.


Chamber of Horrors, New Orleans (Human Performance Center)
New Orleans began playing Division I basketball in 1969 and called the Human Performance Center home until 1983 and then again following Hurricane Katrina from 2005-08. It seated just 1,200 fans was known as The Chamber of Horrors.


<p> College Basketball's Top 10 Arena Nicknames</p>
Post date: Wednesday, March 25, 2015 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: NFL, NBA, MLB, Overtime
Path: /overtime/what-most-popular-throwback-jersey-each-state

Sports fans across the country love their Kobe Bryant throwback jerseys. Just not the state where he plays basketball.


Last week, TicketCity shared a map of the most popular college basketball teams in every state, and now we get this map of throwback jerseys from Mitchell & Ness.


The Philadelphia-based throwback and replica specialists posted this look at the most popular throwback jerseys in each state, regardless of sport.


It’s a fascinating bit of state-by-state nostalgia, and we suspect it's by no means definitive since it represents the sales only one company. Mitchell & Ness doesn't carry a Michael Jordan throwback, which would probably be a staple in a handful of states. Still, it's a fun excercise.


Check the key on the site for a few of the jerseys you don’t recognize. A few of our thoughts are below the map.



• The 1997-97 Kobe Bryant throwback carries Delaware, Oregon, Nevada, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Tennessee and Ohio but not California (that belongs to Joe Montana’s ’89 49ers jersey). 


It’s shocking that that Steve McNair, Eddie George or even a Colts’ Peyton Manning didn’t carry Tennessee and no Green Bay Packer carried Wisconsin. Presumably, there are too many Brett Favre or Bart Starr throwbacks splitting votes in the Dairy State.


• Ray Nitschke’s ’66 Packers throwback is the top jersey in ... Kansas.


• Bryant is the pick in Ohio, again presumably because Cleveland and Cincinnati are splitting purchases in the Buckeye State. Big Red Machine shortstop Dave Concepcion is the top jersey across the river in Kentucky.


• Check the representation of Dallas Cowboys: Troy Aikman in Texas, Deion Sanders for Oklahoma and a real throwback in Roger Staubach in Montana.


• Deion Sanders is the top jersey in three states with three jerseys: Georgia as an Atlanta Falcon, Oklahoma as a Cowboy and Hawaii as a 49er.


• The no-brainers: John Elway (Colorado), Walter Payton (Illinois), Cal Ripken Jr. (Maryland), Larry Bird (Massachusetts), Barry Sanders (Michigan), Ozzie Smith (Missouri), Steve Largent (Washington)


We also love some of the picks in the flyover states or states without a pro team Ryne Sandberg (Alabama), Bo Jackson (Arkansas — NOT Alabama), Mickey Mantle (Idaho), Joe Namath (Iowa), Larry Bird (Mississippi), Steve Carlton (Nebraska), Ernie Banks (New Mexico), Fred Biletnikoff (North Dakota), Walter Payton (South Dakota), Lou Gehrig (Wyoming).

What is the Most Popular Throwback Jersey in Each State?
Post date: Wednesday, March 25, 2015 - 07:00
All taxonomy terms: Boston Celtics, NBA
Path: /nba/boston-celtics-are-surprise-playoff-team-0

Brad Stevens needs more props in the Coach of the Year race.


He doesn’t deserve to win it. No one leading a sub-.500 team should be able to claim that award, and likely never will. At 31-39 at time of publication, Stevens' Boston Celtics are likely to end up on the wrong side of that line.


But Boston would also be set to enter the Eastern Conference playoffs, and face the top-seeded Atlanta Hawks, if the postseason started today. That’s pretty surprising.


General manager Danny Ainge might not be exactly thrilled about how many wins Stevens has been able to manufacture out of this roster. Ainge, since ending the Big Three era, signed Stevens to a five-year deal that made it clear that a long rebuilding stretch was expected. Ainge has shuffled the Celtics’ deck over and over again since, collecting draft picks and middling talent in the name of tomorrow. At a glance, Ainge could be seen as trying to tank.


The Celtics, as constituted, don’t have any players even particularly close to All-Star status. Their leading scorer in recent games has been Evan Turner — a forward who was considered an empty stats guy with the Philadelphia 76ers, and a cancer with the Indiana Pacers.


In Boston, though, he’s been productive and efficient. He tallied a triple-double in a recent win over the Brooklyn Nets. His skills are maximized amidst a nucleus of role players whose talents have been organized into something greater than their sum. Jae Crowder, Luigi Datome and Jonas Jerebko were all afterthoughts in midseason trades, but in Celtics green they’re all quite useful.


Add in the emergence of young center Tyler Zeller, the exciting arrival of rookie guard Marcus Smart and the recently acquired scoring machine Isaiah Thomas (who may have finally found an NBA home) and this motley Celtics team looks like one of the year’s most endearing, surprising stories.


— John Wilmes


Post date: Tuesday, March 24, 2015 - 16:18
All taxonomy terms: Boston Celtics, NBA
Path: /nba/boston-celtics-are-surprise-playoff-team

Brad Stevens needs more props in the Coach of the Year race.


He doesn’t deserve to win it. No one leading a sub-.500 team should be able to claim that award, and likely never will. At 31-39 at time of publication, Stevens' Boston Celtics are likely to end up on the wrong side of that line.


But Boston would also be set to enter the Eastern Conference playoffs, and face the top-seeded Atlanta Hawks, if the postseason started today. That’s pretty surprising.


General manager Danny Ainge might not be exactly thrilled about how many wins Stevens has been able to manufacture out of this roster. Ainge, since ending the Big Three era, signed Stevens to a five-year deal that made it clear that a long rebuilding stretch was expected. Ainge has shuffled the Celtics’ deck over and over again since, collecting draft picks and middling talent in the name of tomorrow. At a glance, Ainge could be seen as trying to tank.


The Celtics, as constituted, don’t have any players even particularly close to All-Star status. Their leading scorer in recent games has been Evan Turner — a forward who was considered an empty stats guy with the Philadelphia 76ers, and a cancer with the Indiana Pacers.


In Boston, though, he’s been productive and efficient. He tallied a triple-double in a recent win over the Brooklyn Nets. His skills are maximized amidst a nucleus of role players whose talents have been organized into something greater than their sum. Jae Crowder, Luigi Datome and Jonas Jerebko were all afterthoughts in midseason trades, but in Celtics green they’re all quite useful.


Add in the emergence of young center Tyler Zeller, the exciting arrival of rookie guard Marcus Smart and the recently acquired scoring machine Isaiah Thomas (who may have finally found an NBA home) and this motley Celtics team looks like one of the year’s most endearing, surprising stories.


— John Wilmes


Post date: Tuesday, March 24, 2015 - 16:18