Articles By All

All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/bubble-watch-michigan-state-lsu-texas-am-and-ole-miss-face-critical-week
Body:

The bubble watch is on.

 

Selection Sunday is less than five weeks away and the bracket is starting to take shape.

 

We’re pretty sure we know the teams in contention for the No. 1 seeds and teams that are safely in, which of course leaves the bubble — all the teams that have done some good things and some bad things through the first three months of the season.

 

For better or worse, most of those teams can get off the bubble, either solidifying their Tournament credentials or playing their way out.

 

Here’s a look at the 10 teams under the most pressure this week.

 

All RPI and schedule strength figures are from CBSSports and Jerry Palm.

 

LSU (17-6, 6-4 SEC)

This week: Kentucky (Tuesday), at Tennessee (Saturday)

The good: LSU is 4-2 against the RPI top 50, including true road wins over West Virginia and Ole Miss.

The bad: The Tigers have lost to sub-150 RPI teams in Auburn, Missouri and Mississippi State.

The bubble: Handing Kentucky its first loss of the season would solidify LSU’s status in the field, but that road trip to Tennessee may be the more important game given LSU’s lapses in games it should win.

 

Seton Hall (15-8, 5-6 Big East)

This week: Georgetown (Tuesday), at Providence (Saturday) 

The good: Seton Hall is one of two teams to beat Villanova this season.

The bad: The Pirates have been swept by DePaul and Butler.

The bubble: Seton Hall is 3-6 since its overtime upset of Villanova on Jan. 3. The next four games are brutal with Georgetown at home and Providence, Villanova and St. John’s on the road next week. Not a good situation for a team already trending the wrong way.

 

Michigan State (15-8, 6-4 Big Ten)

This week: at Northwestern (Tuesday), Ohio State (Saturday)

The good: KenPom likes Michigan State better than the RPI, ranking the Spartans at No. 28 (compared to No. 52 in the RPI).

The bad: Michigan State is 0-4 against the RPI top 30.

The bubble: Saturday’s home loss to Illinois puts Michigan State onto the bubble. The Spartans can’t (and probably won’t) lose to Northwestern. Facing RPI No. 35 Ohio State in East Lansing will be critical.

 

Texas A&M (16-6, 7-3 SEC)

This week: Georgia (Wednesday), Florida (Saturday)

The good: Texas A&M is 7-3 in the SEC. 

The bad: The Aggies don’t have a top 50 RPI win.

The bubble: Second place in the SEC won’t be enough to guarantee an NCAA Tournament berth. The next three games against RPI No. 24 Georgia, No. 67 Florida and No. 51 LSU — all at home — are huge for the Aggies’ hopes.

 

NC State (14-10, 5-6 ACC)

This week: Virginia (Wednesday), at Louisville (Saturday)

The good: The Wolfpack rank 11th in strength of schedule and defeated RPI No. 4 Duke on Jan. 11.

The bad: After a loss to Wake Forest a week ago, NC State is already up to double-digit losses. The Wolfpack haven't won back-to-back games since early December.

The bubble: For NC State to stay in the discussion, the Wolfpack may need to split the week against top 15 opponents. NC State will face Virginia in its first game without guard Justin Anderson.

 

St. John’s (15-8, 4-6 Big East)

This week: DePaul (Wednesday), at Xavier (Saturday)

The good: The Red Storm are ranked No. 50 in the RPI and No. 27 in strength of schedule. St. John’s swept Providence for its two top-50 wins.

The bad: Providence may be the only NCAA at-large team St. John’s has defeated this season.

The bubble: A home loss to DePaul would be devastating. Road wins over Xavier on Saturday and/or Georgetown on Tuesday would put St. John’s back on the right track.

 

The Mountain West

This week: Wyoming at San Diego State (Wednesday), Colorado State at San Diego State (Saturday)

The good: Colorado State (20-4, 7-4 MW) has the best RPI in the Mountain West plus a home win already over San Diego State. Wyoming (19-5, 8-3 MW) completed a season sweep of Colorado State last week.

The bad: Neither team has a top-75 non-conference win.

The bubble: If Mountain West at-large bids go through San Diego State, this will be the key week.

 

Ole Miss (16-7, 7-3 SEC)

This week: at Florida (Thursday), Arkansas (Saturday)

The good: The Rebels are No. 39 in RPI and 3-3 against the top 50.

The bad: Ole Miss has home losses to Western Kentucky, TCU and Charleston Southern.

The bubble: Splitting the week would maintain the status quo. Two wins would further solidify the Rebels’ chances. Ole Miss already has wins against each of these teams this season.

 

Purdue (15-9, 7-4 Big Ten)

This week: at Rutgers (Thursday), Nebraska (Sunday) 

The good: The Boilermakers have three top 40 wins (Indiana, Ohio State and Iowa).

The bad: All of those wins were at home. So were bad losses to Gardner-Webb and North Florida.

The bubble: The Boilers are hanging on, but they’ll lose their grip if they don’t go 2-0 this week.

 

Illinois (16-8, 6-5 Big Ten)

This week: Michigan (Thursday), at Wisconsin (Sunday)

The good: Defeating Michigan State on the road was a signature moment, but Illinois had already picked up two top 20 wins before Jan. 7 (Baylor on a neutral court, Maryland).

The bad: Illinois has lost five games to teams ranked between Nos. 50-100.

The bubble: Asking Illinois to beat Wisconsin in Madison may be too much to ask, but the Illini need to beat Michigan to avoid a season sweep to the Wolverines.

Teaser:
Bubble Watch: Michigan State, LSU, Texas A&M and Ole Miss Face Critical Weeks
Post date: Tuesday, February 10, 2015 - 15:25
All taxonomy terms: AJ Allmendinger, NASCAR, News
Path: /nascar/aj-allmendinger-2015-season-driver-preview
Body:

Telling AJ Allmendinger that things happen for a reason used to get under his skin. The phrase irked him for its simplicity, as he felt there was always more to the story.

 

The last few years changed his mind.

 

Allmendinger lost a full-time seat with Penske Racing in the middle of the 2012 season when he failed a NASCAR drug test for taking Adderall without a prescription — a situation he says was a one-time mistake and not a long-term problem. The subsequent suspension and fallout dropped Allmendinger from the high point of his career to rock bottom. The path back to respectability seemed long. “I knew at that point that I had to make some changes,” Allmendinger says. “If (NASCAR) was ever going to happen again, I wanted it to happen the right way.”

 

In 2014, it happened the right way, and with a surge no one expected. After riding a part-time gig in 2013, Allmendinger took over full-time in the seat of JTG-Daugherty Racing’s No. 47, driving for a one-car team doing its best to throw punches at NASCAR’s behemoths. The organization had struggled before Allmendinger’s arrival, earning only four top-10 finishes in the last three seasons with veteran Bobby Labonte. Allmendinger had some struggles — he drove to just the 25th-best average running position of all full-time drivers — but he got the job done in his last, best chance to earn a spot in NASCAR’s postseason. Besting road course king Marcos Ambrose, Allmendinger earned his first career Cup victory at Watkins Glen in August.

 

Athlon Sports’ 2015 Racing magazine delivers full driver profiles as well as complete 2015 NASCAR coverage. Click here to order your copy today!

Thanks to the new championship format, Allmendinger’s regular-season win earned the No. 47 car an unexpected Chase berth.

 

“I love that underdog role. I love the small team,” he says. “We’ve got to go out there and work harder just to compete. It has happened for a reason. I have found a home. I wouldn’t change anything.”

 

The Chase opportunity didn’t reinvent the No. 47 team — it was out after the first round — but it represented progress. RCR chassis and engine support, new in 2014, paid dividends, along with crew chief Brian Burns. Both are back. Allmendinger, who was signed to a long-term extension with his primary sponsors Clorox and Kimberly-Clark, understands he has a foundation to build from now.

 

“It’s baby steps,” he says. “It’s great to win a race, but I still look at us in general and know that we were about a 20th-place team. I want to get to be a 15th-place team. I want to get to be a top-10 team. We can get better every weekend, get more competitive.”

 

Allmendinger includes himself in the discussion of what needs to improve; he’s still inconsistent on the track and learning how to lead a one-car team off it. He knows that this year will still require heavy lifting and some good fortune to earn a second consecutive postseason appearance. “We have a long way to go,” he says. “But we know that if we can go out there and hit our best, we can win any given race.”

 

No. 47 JTG-Daugherty Racing Chevrolet

Primary Sponsors: Kimberly-Clark Products, Clorox

Owner: Tad & Jodi Geschickter/Brad Daugherty

Crew Chief: Brian Burns

Year With Current Team: 3rd

Under Contract Through: 2016

Best Points Finish: 13th (2014)

Hometown: Los Gatos, Calif.

Born: Dec. 16, 1981

 

Career Stats

YearsStartsWinsTop 5sTop 10sPolesTitlesEarned
9227173520$27,806,820

 

Photos by Action Sports, Inc.

Teaser:
2015 driver profile for AJ Allmendinger on the NASCR Sprint Cup circuit.
Post date: Tuesday, February 10, 2015 - 14:00
All taxonomy terms: Martin Truex Jr., NASCAR, News
Path: /nascar/martin-truex-jr-2015-season-driver-preview
Body:

Martin Truex Jr. is eager to start 2015 strong and continue the late-season momentum that salvaged an otherwise awful start driving Furniture Row Racing’s No. 78 Chevrolet. “Racing is never harder than when you’re not running good — just everything about it gets magnified,” Truex says. “The relationships get damaged, the confidence gets damaged, and everybody’s in a bad mood. It’s a constant downward spiral, and until you can stop that and turn it around, it’s hard to gain momentum.”

 

It’s a story Truex lived firsthand during his maiden voyage with this single-car program, his best option after the 2013 Michael Waltrip Racing Richmond debacle resulted in the contraction of MWR from three cars to only two. The cloud seemed to hang over Truex and his new team well into 2014. Right away, Truex blew an engine in the Daytona 500 and showed few signs of positive results until late in the 36-race schedule. The team lacked confidence and struggled to jell, leading a total of one lap all season.

 

After Truex missed the Chase by well over 100 points — and suffered through a personal nightmare of his longtime girlfriend Sherry Pollex being diagnosed with stage III ovarian cancer — many wondered whether he would even stick around to complete his two-year deal.

 

Fortunately for both sides, a no-pressure Chase allowed Truex the opportunity to use the postseason races as a testing ground for 2015. Five top-15 finishes in the first five postseason races reminded both sides what this team is capable of; after all, other programs running Richard Childress Racing chassis, like AJ Allmendinger and JTG-Daugherty Racing, won races and ran competitively all season long.

 

Athlon Sports’ 2015 Racing magazine delivers full driver profiles as well as complete 2015 NASCAR coverage. Click here to order your copy today!

In a surprising move, crew chief Todd Berrier was ousted in early December. Race engineer Cole Pearn earned a promotion, his first crew chief job, as the team hopes a “new school” approach will be the perfect match for NASCAR’s new rules. Hopes are high that the new pairing won’t miss a beat. Pearn, a former RCR employee, should strengthen the ties between the team and its engine and chassis provider.

 

A tire test at California in the fall instilled hope in Truex after the team tested the new aerodynamic package, one that decreased the height of the rear spoiler and featured other adjustments that added more front turning ability to the car.

 

Now, Truex must turn to 2015 with an optimistic yet cautious approach in the second and final year of his contract. “Realistically, you can’t expect to go from where we were and be the top title contender,” Truex says. “In the last third of 2014, we were consistently a top-15, close to top-10 car. If we can come out of the box doing that and then continue to improve, I would be happy with that.”

 

If that doesn’t occur, expect Truex to become one of the sport’s top free agents. Both he and FRR deserve better than the driver’s career-worst 24th-place ranking from a year ago.

 

No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Chevrolet

Primary Sponsor: Furniture Row

Owner: Barney Visser

Crew Chief: Cole Pearn

Year With Current Team: 2nd

Under Contract Through: 2015

Best Points Finish: 11th (2007, ’12)

Hometown: Mayetta, N.J.

Born: June 29, 1980

 

Career Stats

YearsStartsWinsTop 5sTop 10sPolesTitlesEarned
113332329570$47,445,541

 

Photos by Action Sports, Inc.

Teaser:
2015 driver profile for Martin Truex Jr. on the NASCR Sprint Cup circuit.
Post date: Tuesday, February 10, 2015 - 13:00
All taxonomy terms: Paul Menard, NASCAR, News
Path: /nascar/paul-menard-2015-season-driver-preview
Body:

A little food for thought: Paul Menard is coming off what could be considered his best career Sprint Cup season. He had career-bests in both top 5s (5) and top 10s (13), and while his points position was his lowest since 2010, the average finish was among the best of his career. 

 

Menard isn’t going to win Richard Childress a Cup title, but what he will do in 2015 is what he has done for the last several years — give the team some strong finishes and bring good information to the table that can be used to help the organization move forward. Menard has the tendency to be a little streaky — he can reel off a string of top 10s followed by several mid-pack finishes — and overall, that’s not going to be championship material. Unlike his teammate Ryan Newman, Menard isn’t consistently strong enough to make a title run out of a season that doesn’t include a win.

 

That’s not to say Menard couldn’t have an outside chance at the Chase; however, it’s likely that he’ll need to win to do it, and the odds aren’t in his favor with just one Cup win to his name. He can be a threat at some tracks — 10 of his 13 top-10 finishes last season came at tracks 1.5 miles or longer — but it’s more likely that he’ll be more of a top-15 threat than a top-10 one. And with the field as stacked as it is, that’s not likely to make the cut.

 

Athlon Sports’ 2015 Racing magazine delivers full driver profiles as well as complete 2015 NASCAR coverage. Click here to order your copy today!

In Menard’s favor are solid equipment and sponsorship. While RCR might be a step behind the biggest teams, it is still among the sport’s elite, and Menard has equipment that matches his talent — not something every driver enjoys. He’s in a stable position in part because of his family-owned sponsorship, but he’s not merely riding the coattails of his family legacy. Because of that stability, Menard doesn’t have to look over his shoulder to see if a youngster with money is waiting in the wings, and he’s a solid enough performer that he’s an asset to RCR because of the information he can bring to the table.

 

His crew chief is a question mark for 2015. Justin Alexander took over head wrench duties after Slugger Labbe was promoted within the RCR organization. Alexander certainly has the credentials to be a successful crew chief, and Menard did post a top-5 finish during Alexander’s five-race test run in 2014, but this duo hasn’t been together long enough to be properly evaluated. Technology, more than ever, makes an impact

these days, and Alexander’s experience could move the needle.

 

Overall, expect 2015 to be a solid season for Menard, who has proven to be a steady driver. The biggest factor against him is probably the depth of competition in Sprint Cup right now. He’s capable of solid finishes, but so are many others, and that makes it unlikely that he will enjoy a season that exceeds expectations. He’ll put together some good runs, keep his cars in one piece and bring his team information it can use. All good things for a mid-tier driver like Menard.

 

No. 27 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet

Primary Sponsor: Menards

Owner: Richard Childress

Crew Chief: Justin Alexander

Year With Current Team: 5th

Under Contract Through: 2016

Best Points Finish: 16th (2012)

Hometown: Eau Claire, Wis.

Born: Aug. 21, 1980

 

Career Stats

YearsStartsWinsTop 5sTop 10sPolesTitlesEarned
112911154710$34,181,518

 

Photos by Action Sports, Inc.

Teaser:
2015 driver profile for Paul Menard on the NASCR Sprint Cup circuit.
Post date: Tuesday, February 10, 2015 - 12:15
All taxonomy terms: Essential 11, Overtime
Path: /overtime/athlons-essential-11-links-day-february-10-2015
Body:

This is your daily links roundup of our favorite sports and entertainment posts on the web for Feb. 10:

 

Happy 20th birthday to LPGA star Lexi Thompson. I'd say she has a few good years left.

 

Jameis Winston flew around with a jetpack.

 

• Is Peyton coming back? All signs point to yes

 

Jeremy Lamb's pregame handshake is totes adorbs.

 

Some guy wrote Knicks owner James Dolan a nasty letter, and got one in return.

 

This Florida State throwdown in which the player's hand never touches the rim has renewed debate over what constitutes a dunk.

 

Sports Pickle analyzes the obvious photoshopping on the SI Swimsuit cover.

 

• Speaking of the Swimsuit issue, Caroline Wozniacki appears in this year's edition.

 

Eventful night for Kevin Durant: He dropped 40, laid out Kenneth Faried with a flagrant and then threw the ball at him.

 

Derek Dorsett had to hop/limp to the bench like an old man after breaking a skate.

 

K.J. McDaniels had a sweet self-serve alley-oop.

 

• The new "This Is SportsCenter" ad riffs on the Katy Perry halftime sharks.

 

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

Teaser:
Post date: Tuesday, February 10, 2015 - 11:03
All taxonomy terms: New York Knicks, NBA
Path: /nba/knicks-owner-james-dolan-sends-nasty-e-mail-fan
Body:

James Dolan is not the best — everybody knows that. The New York Knicks’ owner has a reputation for meddling and spreading dysfunction throughout his organization;  even new team president Phil Jackson is not safe from his wrath.


Weeks ago, it came out that Dolan reportedly lowballed potential coaching candidate Steve Kerr — now thriving with the Golden State Warriors — because Kerr did too much prying research into the Knicks’ infrastructure. This sin caused an old-school fan to lose his cool, and e-mail Dolan his piece of mind. Via Deadspin:


Subject: I have been a knicks fan since 1952


At one stage I thought that you did a wonderful thing when you acquired EVERYTHING from your dad. However, since then it has been ALL DOWN HILL. Your working with Isaiah Thomas & everything else regarding the Knicks. Bringing on Phil Jackson was a positive beginning, but lowballing Steve Kerr was a DISGRACE to the knicks. The bottom line is that you merely continued to interfere with the franchise.


As a knicks fan for in excess of 60 years, I am utterly embarrassed by your dealings with the Knicks. Sell them so their fans can at least look forward to growing them in a positive direction Obviously, money IS NOT THE ONLY THING. You have done a lot of utterly STUPID business things with the franchise. Please NO MORE.


Fans are emotional, so this letter comes as no surprise. The catch here is Dolan’s shockingly petty response:


On Fri, Jan 23, 2015 at 8:15 PM, James Dolan <[email protected]> wrote:


Mr Bierman
You are a sad person. Why would anybody write such a hateful letter. I am.just guessing but ill bet your life is a mess and you are a hateful mess. What have you done that anyone would consider positive or nice. I am betting nothing. In fact ill bet you are negative force in everyone who comes in contact with you. You most likely have made your family miserable. Alcoholic maybe. I just celebrated my 21 year anniversary of sobriety. You should try it. Maybe it will help you become a person that folks would like to have around. In the mean while start rooting.for the Nets because the Knicks dont want you.


Respectfully
James Dolan


If you’re not sick of laughing at Dolan after that, just take a listen to his comically corny blues band, JD and the Straight Shot:

 

— John Wilmes

@johnwilmesNBA

 

Teaser:
Post date: Tuesday, February 10, 2015 - 10:14
Path: /college-football/sec-team-recruiting-consensus-rankings-2015
Body:

Athlon Sports has averaged out the four major recruiting services — 247Sports, Rivals.com, Scout.com and ESPN — and created the SEC consensus team recruiting rankings for 2015. Here is what we learned:

 

Roll Tide, Roll

According to the 247Sports composite rankings, there were a total of 33 five-star recruits in the entire 2014 class and 35 in the '15 class. Alabama has signed six five-star recruits in each of the last two classes. For 2015, the ACC as a league signed seven five-stars and the Pac-12 signed eight. Bama alone signed four more five-star prospects than the entire Big Ten (1) and Big 12 (1) combined this cycle.

 

S-E-C dominance

Of those 68 five-star recruits entering college football over the last two cycles, the SEC has signed 37. That’s six more than the other four power conferences combined. The ACC is second with 12 five-star signees over the last two years. The Pac-12 has 11, the Big Ten has five and the Big 12 is last with just three five-star signatures the last two years. The SEC placed 12 teams in the consensus Top 25 classes.

 

Old recruiting power

Butch Jones and the Vols landed their second consecutive top-five class this cycle — the first time that has happened in school history. Not since 2010 (9th) had Tennessee posted a top-10 class and not since 2007 (3rd) had the Vols landed in the top five. Now, in Jones’ first two full cycles, he’s done it twice. The average national ranking for the Vols the three years prior to Jones taking over full time was 17.

 

Listen to the Cover 2 Podcast Recruiting Special feat. Barton Simmons:



Subscribe: iTunes | Stitcher

 

Closing strong

Jim McElwain took over the job at Florida with a recruiting class with less than 10 commitments and ranked dead last in the SEC. After a big National Signing Day with a pair of five- and four-star signees, the Gators snuck into the Top 25 and jumped four teams in the league to finish 10th in the SEC.

 

Starkville, Miss.

According to Rivals.com (and including Texas A&M and Missouri), the ’15 class is Dan Mullen’s best at Mississippi State. The Bulldogs have finished better than 11th in the SEC only once under Mullen and that was 10th in 2012. Finishing seventh in the league, ahead of teams that normally recruit at a higher level — like Florida, South Carolina, Ole Miss and Arkansas — is a huge statement for HailState.

 

Expectations still high

According to 247Sports, LSU signed another top-five class. In fact, it marks the sixth time in seven years Les Miles has landed a class ranked in the top seven nationally, giving LSU one of the best rosters of talent in the nation. Yet, LSU has gone from first to fifth in the SEC West over the last four seasons. With another elite class of players, Miles once again must manage the usual high expectations in Baton Rouge.

 

   Total5-Star4-StarNat'l Avg247RivalsScoutESPN
1.Alabama246141.51221
2.Tennessee291154.54545
3.Auburn271196.39637
4.Georgia282117.510758
5.LSU252118.8581210
6.Texas A&M253111112101012
7.Mississippi St28071718161816
8.Ole Miss220718.317211619
9.South Carolina3001019.819192021
10.Florida212323.321232920
11.Arkansas210723.324252222
12.Missouri23122425272618
13.Mississippi St210240.339354443
14.Vanderbilt180352.847487244

 

Teaser:
SEC Team Recruiting Consensus Rankings for 2015
Post date: Tuesday, February 10, 2015 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: Kentucky Wildcats, SEC, College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/when-will-kentucky-basketball-lose-its-first-game
Body:

Kentucky isn’t the only team chasing history in the SEC.

 

The Wildcats took another team’s best shot Saturday in a 67-61 win over Florida, but as has been the case in close calls all season, Kentucky continued its march to an undefeated regular season and more.

 

That Florida gave Kentucky a game is little surprise to John Calipari, who has come to expect that every team is looking for its signature moment of the season when it faces the Wildcats. 

 

A game against Kentucky is a game to end the streak, a chance to be the ultimate spoiler.

 

“There will be games where players play out of their minds,” Calipari said. “After the game, Billy (Donovan) said it was the best game by far they’ve played all year. ... That’s every game we play.”

 

Ironically, Kentucky was in this spot less than a year ago, knocking off a 35-0 Wichita State team in the NCAA Tournament. The end of the Shockers’ bid at 40-0 was only the start of the run for Kentucky. The only interruption between the NCAA Tournament a year ago and today was a loss in the title game to UConn.

 

On paper, Kentucky will be favored in every game — SEC or otherwise — until a potential Final Four, but a pristine record is far more fragile in reality than it is on paper.

 

KenPom.com gives Kentucky at least an 84 percent chance to beat each individual opponent during the final eight games. The same projection, however, predicts a 30-1 record at the end of the regular season and a 56.7 percent chance to go undefeated.

 

In other words, Kentucky will be a heavy favorite in each game to finish the season, but the chances of the Wildcats going 8-0 in totality is not quite as certain.

 

So when might that mystery loss occur? Here’s a look at Kentucky’s final eight opponents and if they might have what it takes to make history against the Wildcats.

 

Feb. 10: at LSU

LSU may have the most pro potential of SEC teams not named Kentucky, and the Tigers get UK in Baton Rouge only three days after a close call in Gainesville. That’s roughly 10 hours on a plane between Saturday and tipoff at LSU on Tuesday, plus two raucous atmospheres. LSU is one of the few SEC teams that may be able to match up against Kentucky’s size with 6-foot-10 Jarell Martin and 6-8 Jordan Mickey. Beyond the forwards, LSU also has a 6-6 emerging guard in Tim Quarterman (though he doesn’t have the bulk of the Harrisons). If point guard Josh Gray can play under control and Keith Hornsby is knocking down shots, LSU could give Kentucky fits.

Will Kentucky lose this game? Maybe

 

Feb. 14: South Carolina

One of Kentucky’s closest calls this season came in double overtime against Texas A&M. The Aggies — who are second in SEC play in 2-point defense — held Kentucky to 9-of-36 from inside the 3-point line. South Carolina doesn’t have the size and length Texas A&M does, but the Gamecocks nonetheless have a strong interior defense, holding opponents to 41.9 percent shooting from 2. There's also some history here. South Carolina defeated Kentucky in Columbia last season and took out a John Wall-led team in 2010.

Will Kentucky lose this game? Nope

 

Feb. 17: at Tennessee

Tennessee will be an interesting matchup, particularly for Kentucky point guard Andrew Harrison. The Volunteers lead the SEC in defensive turnover rate and steal rate in conference games, and Harrison, while improved this season, is as streaky as they come. Just in the last week, he played his best game of the year against Georgia (23 points, seven assists, one turnover) and then one of his worst against Florida (one point, two assists, three turnovers). Playing against Tennessee will require patience against the zone and patience against a team that’s averaging the fewest possessions per game in the SEC (62.9). Kentucky already had some difficulty with the next two slowest-tempo teams in the league, Vanderbilt and Florida.

Will Kentucky lose this game? It’s plausible

 

Feb. 21: Auburn

No team shoots more 3-pointers than Auburn at 20.7 per game. The problem is the Tigers make only 33.4 percent of them, ranking eighth in the SEC. Maybe Auburn will have a ridiculous day from the 3-point line as Ole Miss did on Jan. 6 when the Rebels went 9-of-17 in an 89-86 overtime loss. That is the only chance Auburn has to end a streak of its own: Auburn hasn’t defeated Kentucky since 2000 and hasn’t defeated Kentucky in Lexington since 1988.

Will Kentucky lose this game? Only in football

 

Feb. 25: at Mississippi State

This is as good a time as any to mention that Kentucky hasn’t been immune to the injury bug. The Wildcats haven’t had Alex Poythress, who went down with a torn ACL, since December. Forward Trey Lyles (7.5 points, 5.3 rebounds) has missed the last three games with an illness, leaving Kentucky’s guards to pick up some of the rebounding slack. Lyles probably will be healthy in time for this particular game, but the point is that no team makes it to March completely healthy

Will Kentucky lose this game? Nope

 

Feb. 28: Arkansas

Other than Florida, Arkansas is the only SEC team to consistently give Kentucky trouble during the last few years. The Razorbacks have won four of the last five meetings, including the last three. This season, Arkansas has one elite big man, Bobby Portis, who could go toe-to-toe with Kentucky’s front. He’ll be outnumbered, but he alone is still a better matchup than most. The question is what kind of game the streaky Michael Qualls will have. Arkansas is the highest-scoring team in the SEC, at least according to raw numbers, but the Hogs rank third in offensive efficiency.

Will Kentucky lose this game? In Fayetteville, maybe, but probably not in Lexington

 

March 3: at Georgia

The final scoresheet shows an 11-point Kentucky win Feb. 3, but Georgia had this to within five points with two minutes to go. In Lexington. Without Marcus Thornton. All of that is notable. In the return trip, Kentucky will visit Athens to face a veteran Georgia team that, presumably, will have its leading scorer and rebounder. 

Will Kentucky lose this game? We’re still picking Kentucky, but this is the one we like

 

March 7: Florida

Kentucky caught Florida right after the Gators played their worst game of the season in a loss to Vanderbilt. Maybe the Wildcats underestimated Florida. Maybe Billy Donovan finally woke up his team in time for Kentucky. The Wildcats still managed to escape an off game due to near-perfect free throw shooting and the continued emergence of Karl-Anthony Towns. Florida played long stretches without Michael Frazier, but the Gators also had plenty go their way, too.

Will Kentucky lose this game? No

Teaser:
When Will Kentucky Basketball Lose Its First Game?
Post date: Tuesday, February 10, 2015 - 07:45
All taxonomy terms: Ricky Stenhouse Jr., NASCAR, News
Path: /nascar/2015-nascar-driver-profile-ricky-stenhouse-jr
Body:

The statistics say Ricky Stenhouse Jr. endured a 2014 season that didn’t mesh with the lofty expectations that came with his move full-time to Sprint Cup racing after a pair of Nationwide Series titles in 2011 and ’12. The temptation is to call last year his sophomore slump. But Stenhouse didn’t perform below his ability. Rather, he was just another Roush driver who struggled to find competitive speed in a season in which the three-driver team rarely found any.

 

“We all drive different, have different setups and crew chiefs, but we’re all complaining about the same thing,” Stenhouse says of RFR in 2014. “At least we know there’s a problem there somewhere that we’ve got to get out.”

 

For Stenhouse, those handling issues translated to a season with just one top-5 result, five top-10 finishes and an average finish of 22.4 — a drop of 3.5 positions per race from 2013, his first full season in Cup racing.

 

It was a clear disappointment, especially when Stenhouse was gift-wrapped his All-Star crew chief from past Nationwide success (Mike Kelley). It provided the 27-year-old with sage learning moments, ones he’ll have to use in order to stay employed beyond 2015.

 

“I need to make sure I don’t ask the crew chief or engineers to fix my car in a way that I know they probably can’t,” Stenhouse says. “Taking a 12th-place and trying to finish fifth with it is tough to do in the middle of a race. We need to work on it a little bit at a time instead of trying to make big adjustments. I think that threw us off a bit (in 2014).”

 

Athlon Sports’ 2015 Racing magazine delivers full driver profiles as well as complete 2015 NASCAR coverage. Click here to order your copy today!

Driver No. 17 also enters this season with a keen sense of what he has to do to improve the car more quickly each weekend. In 2014, Stenhouse started studying the at-track performance data of his Ford counterparts more closely. The homework, while not providing instant success, changed his driving style.

 

 “I like to drive in the corner hard, use the brake and then jump right back into the gas,” Stenhouse says. “But last year I found a lot of race tracks where you change it up and kind of roll into the corner and get back to the gas, you go faster.”

 

That’s a good thing, as 2015 comes with the mantra “no excuses.” His best friend Trevor Bayne is now a teammate, and the duo now has reasonable Cup experience. They, along with veteran Greg Biffle, had input on offseason personnel shuffles to boost the team. It’s not the playoffs or bust for Stenhouse … but it’s close.

 

Jumping from 27th in points to Chase contention is a bit unrealistic. That leaves Stenhouse optimistic that a Chase-berthing win is in reach — ideally during one of two Bristol Motor Speedway stops, where he finished a career-best second last spring. A short track win for Stenhouse would earn him a spot in the Chase and end his pursuit for a first career victory.

 

“I think there’s no reason we can’t win a race in 2015,” Stenhouse said. “I really want to get that marked off our list.”

 

No. 17 Roush Fenway Racing Ford

Primary Sponsors: Fastenal, Zest, Fifth Third Bank, NOS, Ford, Ecopower

Owners: Jack Roush/John Henry

Crew Chief: Mike Kelley

Year With Current Team: 3rd

Under Contract Through: 2015

Best Points Finish: 19th (2013)

Hometown: Olive Branch, Miss.

Born: Oct. 2, 1987

 

Career Stats

YearsStartsWinsTop 5sTop 10sPolesTitlesEarned
47602810$11,343,905

 

Photos by Action Sports, Inc.

Teaser:
2015 driver profile for Ricky Stenhouse Jr. on the NASCR Sprint Cup circuit.
Post date: Monday, February 9, 2015 - 16:35
All taxonomy terms: Aric Almirola, NASCAR, News
Path: /nascar/2015-nascar-driver-profile-aric-almirola
Body:

Entering his fourth full season at Richard Petty Motorsports, Aric Almirola is a believer that a low level of offseason turbulence — a rarity for the organization — is reason to believe that his team can keep moving forward in 2015.

 

A Chase for the Sprint Cup contender for the first time last year, Almirola enters this season with the same crew chief (Trent Owens), the same core group of team members, a steady sponsor situation and a race team on substantially better financial footing.

 

“Everything being kind of status quo on that side is really good,” Almirola says.

 

RPM certainly hopes so, as its owners have opted to invest heavily in improving the program. The team moved into a larger race shop this offseason and started hanging the bodies on its cars, a step toward independence from fellow Ford team and technical partner Roush Fenway Racing.

 

“We’ll still work with (RFR) on the technical and engineering side,” Almirola says. “We’ll still share information, share wind tunnel time, all of those things. But we’re going to be putting the bodies on race cars in the way we think it should be done.”

 

The move in-house should have a positive impact on Almirola’s season, as RPM won’t have identical cars to those raced at RFR. It’s a solution that makes sense when considering RFR’s frustrating season-long 2014 slump.

 

Athlon Sports’ 2015 Racing magazine delivers full driver profiles as well as complete 2015 NASCAR coverage. Click here to order your copy today!

However, striking out on its own is a long-term process for a team that still has distinct disadvantages. Just a two-car program, RPM is third on the Ford food chain, with financials that pale in comparison to both RFR and Penske, even with the increased support. Almirola must deal with a new teammate, Sam Hornish Jr., who’s had limited success on the Cup level.

 

Most important, Almirola — despite making the Chase — still has much to prove. He scored the fewest points in the 16-driver field, as mechanical failure at Chicagoland ended his title hopes in September. He earned just two top-5 finishes in 36 starts; believe it or not, that’s a career year for Almirola.

 

It’s a safe bet that his No. 43 team will need to score another win — like the unexpected one at Daytona last July in the rain-shortened summer race — to earn another Chase spot. Almirola is most confident that it could happen at a place where RPM can bridge the equipment gap, like a short track. Kansas, where the driver led a career-best 69 laps a few years back before suffering tire trouble, is another strength. It’s a running theme for the program — bad racing luck creeps up too often to kill consistency.

 

“We’ve had a lot of moments of brightness. We’ve had many weekends where we’ve run up front in the top 5, the top 10,” Almirola says. “But we just haven’t done that on a consistent basis.”

 

That means Almirola will likely pick and choose his opportunities to go for broke. If he hits, he’ll make the Chase. If he misses? Well, at least his team has a long-term plan for success; we’ll see if a midpack points finish has it staying the course.

 

No. 43 Richard Petty Motorsports Ford

Primary Sponsors: Smithfield Foods, STP, Fresh From Florida

Owners: Richard Petty/Andy Murstein/Doug Bergeron

Crew Chief: Trent Owens

Year With Current Team: 4th

Under Contract Through: 2016

Best Points Finish: 16th (2014)

Hometown: Tampa, Fla.

Born: March 14, 1984

 

Career Stats

YearsStartsWinsTop 5sTop 10sPolesTitlesEarned
7143151910$19,633,191

 

Photos by Action Sports, Inc.

Teaser:
2015 driver profile for Aric Almirola on the NASCR Sprint Cup circuit.
Post date: Monday, February 9, 2015 - 16:32
All taxonomy terms: Brian Vickers, NASCAR, News
Path: /nascar/2015-nascar-driver-profile-brian-vickers
Body:

Brian Vickers became one of NASCAR’s feel-good stories of the 2013 season. He played the role of the comeback kid, the former young gun with a Nationwide Series title and Hendrick Motorsports on his résumé who overcame a near-fatal blood clot to return to the track. A 2013 win at New Hampshire put Vickers in MWR’s No. 55 Toyota full-time last season and carried with it some veteran expectations.

 

Vickers had the experience to become a Chase contender again. The problem was, his return to competition coincided with MWR’s return to the basement.

 

The first Toyota program, which had once DNQ’d for 22 of 36 races with one of Waltrip’s cars in 2007, had fought hard to build up into a Chase-level outfit. But then, teammate Clint Bowyer intentionally spun his car, resulting in the infamous “SpinGate” scandal in the fall of 2013 that saw MWR trying to fix the final results of a race. The team’s downward slide seemed almost instantaneous from there.

 

The results were what you’d expect after that type of doomsday scenario. Vickers earned just one top-5 result away from the restrictor plate tracks of Daytona and Talladega and led just 53 laps for the entire season. He finished a disappointing 22nd in the standings.

 

“Not having the third team changed a lot,” Vickers says of last season. “Having that one extra resource is nice. I wish we still had that. But we tried to make it work. The two teams still worked well together.”

 

Both Vickers and Bowyer failed to win a race or qualify for the Chase. The disappointing finishes were a result of what Vickers felt were missed opportunities. “We had a lot of races where we didn’t reach our potential because something happened — a blown tire, an engine, whatever it may be — and that’s what hurt us,” he says. “But I think we learned from it.”

 

Athlon Sports’ 2015 Racing magazine delivers full driver profiles as well as complete 2015 NASCAR coverage. Click here to order your copy today!

The poor season notwithstanding, Vickers knows time can be a major asset to any team — especially one that’s had time to recover from a traumatic period like MWR’s previous offseason.

 

Vickers, however, now needs his own time to heal. He announced mid-December that he was forced to undergo heart surgery a second time, a necessity after his body rejected the 2010 attempt to plug a hole in his heart. The recovery will force him to miss an unspecified number of races. Depending on how long he’s out, Vickers may not even earn the medical exemption necessary in order to qualify for the Chase. (Drivers must attempt every regular season race to be eligible).

 

When Vickers returns to the No. 55, he’ll find consistency both in the pit box and on the fenders. Engineer-turned-crew chief Billy Scott returns for his second full season, while Aaron’s will again provide the majority of sponsorship funding. But MWR still has quite the hill to climb, and another health issue for their driver doesn’t help. With Vickers’ contract up at the end of 2015, this pending free agent is facing an uncertain future both with his team and in the sport.

 

Vickers, however, now needs his own time to heal. He announced mid-December that he was forced to undergo heart surgery a second time, a necessity after his body rejected the 2010 attempt to plug a hole in his heart. The recovery will force him to miss an unspecified number of races. Depending on how long he’s out, Vickers may not even earn the medical exemption necessary in order to qualify for the Chase. (Drivers must attempt every regular season race to be eligible).

 

When Vickers returns to the No. 55, he’ll find consistency both in the pit box and on the fenders. Engineer-turned-crew chief Billy Scott returns for his second full season, while Aaron’s will again provide the majority of sponsorship funding. But MWR still has quite the hill to climb, and another health issue for their driver doesn’t help. With Vickers’ contract up at the end of 2015, this pending free agent is facing an uncertain future both with his team and in the sport.

 

Vickers, however, now needs his own time to heal. He announced mid-December that he was forced to undergo heart surgery a second time, a necessity after his body rejected the 2010 attempt to plug a hole in his heart. The recovery will force him to miss an unspecified number of races. Depending on how long he’s out, Vickers may not even earn the medical exemption necessary in order to qualify for the Chase. (Drivers must attempt every regular season race to be eligible).

 

When Vickers returns to the No. 55, he’ll find consistency both in the pit box and on the fenders. Engineer-turned-crew chief Billy Scott returns for his second full season, while Aaron’s will again provide the majority of sponsorship funding. But MWR still has quite the hill to climb, and another health issue for their driver doesn’t help. With Vickers’ contract up at the end of 2015, this pending free agent is facing an uncertain future both with his team and in the sport.

 

No. 55 Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota

Primary Sponsor: Aaron’s

Owner: Michael Waltrip/Rob Kauffman

Crew Chief: Billy Scott

Year With Current Team: 4th

Under Contract Through: 2015

Best Points Finish: 12th (2009)

Hometown: Thomasville, N.C.

Born: Oct. 24, 1983

 

Career Stats

YearsStartsWinsTop 5sTop 10sPolesTitlesEarned
1231632977120$38,266,887

 

Photos by Action Sports, Inc.

Teaser:
2015 driver profile for Brian Vickers on the NASCR Sprint Cup circuit.
Post date: Monday, February 9, 2015 - 16:30
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Oregon Ducks, Pac 12, News
Path: /college-football/oregon-finds-its-replacement-marcus-mariota-transfer-vernon-adams
Body:

The battle at Oregon to replace quarterback Marcus Mariota was one of the biggest storylines set to unfold in college football’s spring practice, but coach Mark Helfrich found his answer on Monday with the announcement Eastern Washington quarterback Vernon Adams would transfer to Eugene.

 

Adams has been a prolific quarterback at Eastern Washington for the last three seasons and was a runner-up for the Walter Payton Award (the FCS Heisman) in 2013 and '14.
 

Here are a couple of things to watch with Adams leaving EWU for Oregon:

 

He will be Oregon’s starter in 2015:

With Mariota departing, Oregon’s quarterback battle expected to feature Jeff Lockie (41 career pass attempts), Ty Griffin (a Georgia Tech transfer), Taylor Alie (a walk-on) and freshmen Morgan Mahalak and Travis Waller. Adams has the mobility, accuracy, arm strength and skill set to thrive in Oregon’s offense. He’s the best quarterback on the roster.

Stepping up in competition/Previous FBS games:
This is without question the biggest question mark in regards to Adams’ transfer. How will he handle the FCS to FBS move? There’s a small sample size to examine, as Adams has played two FBS opponents at Eastern Washington. In those two contests, Adams combined to throw for 886 yards, 11 touchdowns and completed 54 of 76 throws. Adams also rushed for 107 yards and two touchdowns against Oregon State in 2013.

Adams won’t be around at Oregon in spring practice:
Outside of how he transitions to the FBS level, the biggest concern for Oregon has to be getting Adams acclimated to the offense. The California native won’t arrive until the summer, which limits his time to learn the offense and practice with the supporting cast. Adams should thrive in Oregon’s offense, but it’s likely he gets more comfortable and succeeds even more as the year progresses. While Adams needs time to settle into the offense, there’s a critical non-conference matchup (with potential playoff implications) at Michigan State on Sept. 12.


Oregon is still the (significant) favorite in the North:

Had Oregon went into the season without Adams, it’s likely most preseason predictions would have featured more debate and discussion on the North Division favorite. But now that the Ducks have a potential All-Pac-12 quarterback and dynamic playmaker in place, Oregon has to be the clear favorite in the North. While a non-conference road trip to Michigan State awaits in Week 2, most of the Ducks’ toughest Pac-12 games – at Arizona State, at Stanford and USC – are later in the year.
 

Adams won’t have to do it alone:

It’s going to take Adams a few games to get comfortable with the offense and playing at a higher level, but Oregon won’t have to ask him to win games on his own. The Ducks have a deep supporting cast, including running backs Royce Freeman and Thomas Tyner, a standout group of receivers, headlined by Devon Allen, Bralon Addison, Byron Marshall and Darren Carrington. The offensive line has a few holes to address, but several players received significant snaps due to injuries in 2014.

 

Oregon opens its season with…

Eastern Washington. How’s that for a storyline in 2015?

 

Here’s a look at Adams’ stats at EWU from 2012-14:

YearGamesCompletionsAttemptsPass YdsTDsINTsRush YdsTDs
2012121312151,9612083421
2013153194864,99455156054
2014102513803,4833582856

 

I asked two writers that watched Adams during his career at Eastern Washington. What exactly does Adams bring to the table and what should we expect from the senior in 2015?
 

Kyle Kensing, (@kensing45), University Avenue and BleacherReport.com

"Despite getting zero recruiting interest from Pac-12 schools coming out of Southern California, Vernon Adams has proven he can hang with Pac-12 competition.

 

He's done so twice, in fact. Last year, he accounted for seven touchdowns total against a Washington defense that was loaded with NFL-level talent. In 2013, he went off for six touchdowns in an upset of Oregon State.

 

No knock on Eastern Washington, which is one of the premier FCS programs, but imagine what Adams can do to the Pac-12 when he's surrounded by more Pac-12-quality players.

 

I would imagine that's the outlook Mark Helfrich has in adding Adams for this one season. He's experienced, talented and at EWU, he played a style similar to what will be expected of him at Oregon.

 

Beau Baldwin is one of the more innovative offensive coaches in the FCS, so Adams should transition smoothly at Oregon.

 

He can run and does, but he's not a 'running' quarterback. It's more a nice weapon he can unleash if he has to, but Adams thrives more as a passer. He has tremendous arm strength and delivers the ball well on the move. That latter attribute should result in Oregon utilizing the pop pass more in 2015." 

 

Craig Haley, (@CraigHaley), FCS Executive Director for The Sports Network:

 

"Vernon Adams is an electric player and has a great chance to succeed at Oregon. He's a dual threat and will have to adjust from the spread to the read option, but he has the right skill set. He's already shown he can dominate Pac-12 competition. Clearly, he was underrecruited by the FBS when he was in high school. It's a huge loss for the FCS level."

 

Twitter Reaction:


 


Vernon Adams - Eastern Washington Highlights:

Teaser:
Oregon Finds its Replacement for Marcus Mariota in Transfer Vernon Adams
Post date: Monday, February 9, 2015 - 15:48
All taxonomy terms: NBA
Path: /nba/ranking-nba%E2%80%99s-title-contenders
Body:

10. Oklahoma City Thunder

Don’t count the Thunder out just yet. Even though they’re two spots out of the Western Conference playoffs at the moment, it would take just one signature winning streak to close their current two-game gap. And once Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook — the most talented duo in the whole game — are in the postseason, anything is possible.

 

9. Los Angeles Clippers

The Clippers were climbing these rankings until Blake Griffin was taken out of action with an elbow infection that will require surgery and keep him out indefinitely. The L.A. depth chart is shallow behind Blake, so keeping things afloat will be a tremendous challenge. But if they can stay in the playoffs without their big man, then they’ll still have one of the best starting units around if he returns to action in the spring.

 

8. Chicago Bulls

The Bulls have been struck by a winter malaise that’s not common in the Tom Thibodeau era. And with starting forward Mike Dunleavy out and Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah still on the mend from injuries, Chicago has been hard to gauge. But we’ve seen them grab enough statement wins to know they’re still in this conversation.

 

7. San Antonio Spurs

The Spurs haven’t blown anyone away yet this season, but they’re also the consummate peak-when-it-matters squad. The dominance they showed in last year’s championship run evoked some of the best teams in NBA history, and if they can return to something resembling that scary form, they could become the favorites to take it all home once again.

 

6. Portland Trail Blazers

Through hell and the high water of injury troubles, the Blazers have improved by developing their bench into a unit much more effective than it was last year. Meyers Leonard and C.J. McCollum have become weapons as the Portland starting five continues to get better together, and the team’s defense has been surprisingly efficient. Now that they’re healthy again, we’ll see just how potent they can be.

 

5. Houston Rockets

James Harden might not win the MVP — Steph Curry’s eminent likability makes him the favorite in a media narrative sense, even if The Beard has put his team on his shoulders more than any other star this season. If Harden and Co. can continue to chug along with their defense-first attack, though, they’ll get Dwight Howard back in time for April and be a team who nobody wants to face.

 

4. Atlanta Hawks

The Hawks, by way of inertia, have proved themselves as contenders. No 42-10 team has ever not has serious potential to win the NBA Finals, and Atlanta’s newness to this realm shouldn’t disqualify them. Plus, as the Spurs showed us last year, no amount of star power is an appropriate match for a team that amasses into something much greater than the sum of its parts.

 

3. Cleveland Cavaliers

Ah, so, finally — the Cavs are who we thought they were. Winners of 13 of their last 14, they’ve begun to integrate Kevin Love into their offense in big ways, and their defense has been on a huge uptick ever since Timofey Mozgov came to town. It was fun to watch the Cleveland empire burn before it started, but now it looks like they’re building their throne quite effectively.

 

2. Memphis Grizzlies

Memphis’ grind-it-out style is moving in the opposite direction of the rest of the league. A spread-out, three-point-loving style has become the mark for most good teams, but the Grizzlies defy that trend by being so good at a slow, half-court style that they make you play it, too. It remains to be seen whether anyone has the antidote to this terrific, nostalgic molasses.

 

1. Golden State Warriors

The Warriors have simply been more impressive than any other team. Often ranking No. 1 on both offense and defense, they’ve even gone through their spectacular season without consistent health from multi-skilled center Andrew Bogut. Golden State can beat you in so many ways — they’re not just the jump-shooters many claim them to be — and they look poised to unleash their full arsenal this spring.

 

— John Wilmes

@johnwilmesNBA

Teaser:
Post date: Monday, February 9, 2015 - 13:41
All taxonomy terms: Essential 11, Overtime
Path: /overtime/athlons-essential-11-links-day-february-9-2015
Body:

This is your daily links roundup of our favorite sports and entertainment posts on the web for Feb. 9: 

 

Jason Day's win yesterday was just a reminder that he has a hot wife.

 

Dean Smith left quite a legacy in his 83 years. And he did pretty well on the court, too: Here are Dean's best wins at North Carolina.

 

Iowa's Adam Woodbury went full-on Moe Howard against Maryland.

 

Willie Cauley-Stein had an utterly monstrous slam against Florida.

 

Peter King with a pretty cool oral history of the end of the Super Bowl.

 

• Apparently, Warren Sapp's colleagues at NFL Network aren't going to miss him.

 

• Interesting: The more aggressive a golfer is, the better the results (typically). Romeo, hand me the 3-wood.

 

Watch a McDonald's worker lose his s--- after getting fired.

 

LeBron admitted that he tried to motivate Kevin Love via Twitter.

 

Malcolm Butler's not quite ready for his moment in the spotlight.

 

• The Brow's legend grows with a walk-off 3.

 

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

Teaser:
Post date: Monday, February 9, 2015 - 11:43
Path: /college-basketball/remembering-legendary-north-carolina-coach-dean-smith
Body:

Dean Smith is one of the rare figures and perhaps the only figure who directly connects the birth of basketball to its modern era.

 

Smith played at Kansas for Phog Allen, the “Father of Basketball Coaching” who played for the inventor of the game, James Naismith. Smith then coached Michael Jordan. From Naismith to Allen to Smith to Jordan, it would be hard to find a better connection from the infancy of basketball to the modern game. 

 

Beyond the games, records and innovations, Smith was an integral part of bringing athletics into the future by integrating the ACC and taking the lead on social and race issues.

 

Smith died Saturday, leaving a legacy that was celebrated throughout the sports world. Smith was 83.

 

Smith was legendary not only for his basketball record or his role in championing civil rights, but also his way of remembering the names of every player he coached, from the Hall of Famers to the walk-ons.

 

“He made sure that we knew our teachers by their first names, not just the last names,” Tar Heels All-American Vince Carter told Athlon Sports in 2005. He’d come and ask you, ‘so, what’s your teacher’s first name?’ He’d have a coach who was assigned to be at the front door of every one of our classes, every player.”

 

The mantras started in practice.

 

Wrote Eric Montross, an All-American who played for Smith from 1990-94, in “Game Day: North Carolina Basketball:”

 

“The emphasis was on transforming young athletes into mature educated adults of good character, both on and off the court. In my experience, this perspective was emphasized by the unique way that Coach Smith began practices. Instead of beginning in a typical fashion with layup lines or fast-break drills, every Dean Smith practice started with a thought for the day, an impressive mix of life lessons and messages pertinent to the game of basketball.

 

“One such quote, which I have kept with me now for 15 years, reads: ‘When trying to move a mountain, you must first begin by removing small stones.’ Often the freshmen would be called upon to recite these lines, and if the player did not know the quote, the entire team would be sent to the end of the line to run sprints — that is, the entire team minus the player who made the mistake.”

 

Related: How Newspapers Remembered Dean Smith on Monday

 

By the Numbers

 

• Dean Smith won 879 career games, breaking Adolph Rupp’s career wins record of 876 in 1997. Smith now ranks sixth on the NCAA’s all-time wins list behind Mike Krzyzewski (1,003), Herb Magee (1,000), Jim Boeheim (963), Don Meyer (923) and Bob Knight (902).

 

• Only eight coaches have spent more games on the bench than Smith’s 1,133. On that list are Jim Phelan, Krzyzewski, Knight, Boeheim, Jim Calhoun, Lou Henson, Rollie Massimino and Lefty Driesell.

 

• Only three coaches in Division I history have more 20-win seasons: Boeheim (36), Krzyzewski (31) and Smith (30). Smith’s streak of 27 consecutive 20-win seasons is a Division I record by a long shot. The next longest streak belongs to Arizona’s Lute Olson at 20.

 

• Smith also set the record for ACC wins with 422, a mark that wasn’t broken until this season when Krzyzewski did it on Feb. 4. 

 

 

 

 

• This is a startling number, but perhaps understandable considering the standard Smith set at North Carolina. The legendary Tar Heels coach was only named national coach of the year three times in 1977, 1979 and 1993. The latter may be the most interesting. Smith won the Basketball Times and Naismith coach of the year awards. The other awards were swept by one of his proteges, Vanderbilt’s Eddie Fogler.

 

• By now, it’s too easy to forget the college part of college athletics, the University of North Carolina included. Even more important than Smith’s on-court records — and there are many — is that 97 percent of his players graduated. Even those that went to the pros returned to UNC to get their degrees. 

 

Trailblazing Legacy

 

Smith’s legacy cannot be removed from his stance on social issues. Smith was among the key figures in integrating the ACC and college sports. Willie Cooper was the first black player for the Tar Heels’ freshman team in 1964. Charles Scott was North Carolina's first black scholarship player in 1966 and one of the early African-Americans to play on scholarship a major Southern school. Scott helped the Tar Heels to the Final Four in 1968 and 1969.

 

What stuck with Scott was that Smith always called him “Charles” rather than Charlie. Scott’s son, Shannon, is a starting guard for Ohio State this season.

 

Beyond Scott, Smith was outspoken on a variety of issues, including opposition to the death penalty, criticism for the Vietnam War and abolition to nuclear weapons. Such vocal and controversial stances are all but gone from college athletics today.

 

In 2013, though he wasn’t able to receive the award in person, Smith received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest national honor for a civilian. The list of other sports figures honored in such a way is staggering: Hank Arron, Muhammad Ali, Bear Bryant, Roberto Clemente, Joe DiMaggio, Billie Jean King, Jesse Owens, Jackie Robinson, Pat Summitt and John Wooden, for starters.

 

In many ways, the Presidential Medal of Freedom was the perfect culmination for his career. When he started at North Carolina, John F. Kennedy was the president. Nine presidencies later, Barack Obama awarded him the Medal of Freedom. Smith reached his first Final Four when Lyndon Johnson was in office, won his first national championship with Ronald Reagan in office and reached his last Final Four with Bill Clinton in the White House. 

 

Smith retired in 1997 after reaching his 11th Final Four. Only John Wooden (12) reached more. Smith’s 23 consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances from 1975-97 remains a record for coaches. His successors, Bill Guthridge and Matt Doherty, added four more to extend UNC’s streak to 27. Guthridge reached the Final Four twice in three seasons.

 

Smith completed his career one of only four coaches to win an NCAA championship, an NIT championship and an Olympic gold medal, joining Adolph Rubb, Pete Newell and Bob Knight. The 1976 gold is notable in particular after the United States lost to the Soviet Union in 1972.

 

Beyond a coaching tree that includes Hall of Famers Roy Williams and Larry Brown, Smith coached six players who went to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame themselves: Billy Cunningham (1962-65), Bob McAdoo (1971-72, James Worthy (1970-82) and Michael Jordan (1981-84).

 

 

Teaser:
Remembering Legendary North Carolina coach Dean Smith
Post date: Monday, February 9, 2015 - 11:36
Path: /nfl/grading-nfls-new-coaching-hires-2015
Body:

For the second offseason in a row, seven NFL teams have hired new head coaches. Unlike last year, however, the most recent coaching carousel took a few unexpected turns.

 

While Atlanta, Chicago and the Jets all fired their head coach on Dec. 29, the day after the regular season ended (also known as Black Monday), the most surprising dismissal came when Denver fired its head coach the day after the Divisional Round of the playoffs. This offseason also saw a mutual parting of ways in San Francisco and Buffalo’s head coach exercising an opt out clause in his contract.

 

Fortunately, the dust has settled and the coaching carousel has once again come to a complete stop. While it’s entirely too early to fully evaluate each team’s decision, here is an early impression on each hire.

 

1. Rex Ryan, Buffalo Bills

Previous Job: Jets head coach

Career Record: 46-50 (Jets, 2009-14)

 

While it didn’t end well for Ryan with the Jets, the Bills couldn’t have scripted a better ending to the strange Doug Marrone saga than to land their former foe. Marrone exercising his opt out clause, while costly, could be a blessing in disguise as the franchise now gets a chance to reboot with the brash, boisterous Ryan leading the charge. Ryan’s familiarity with the AFC East should not be overlooked nor the notion that the Bills have already become a more interesting team to follow simply because of his presence and personality. The only thing keeping Ryan from receiving a perfect grade is a questionable track record when it comes to quarterbacks, although he did get to back-to-back AFC Championship Games with Mark Sanchez at the helm. At least Ryan has a new offensive coordinator (Greg Roman) to help him try and change his QB rep with EJ Manuel (or whoever ends up getting the starting job).

 
Grade: A

 

2. John Fox, Chicago Bears

Previous Job: Broncos head coach

Career Record: 119-89 (Panthers, 2002-09; Broncos, 2011-14)

 

Similar to the Jets, unexpected circumstances played a big role in the Bears’ search for Marc Trestman’s successor. John Elway’s surprising decision to fire Fox a day after Denver’s home playoff loss to Indianapolis presented Chicago’s new general manager Ryan Pace with an opportunity to do something the franchise had never done before – hire someone with previous head coaching experience. Having won with both the Broncos and before that the Panthers, Fox seems like the perfect choice to get the Bears back on track. He brings instant credibility and a defensive mindset, which for all the criticism and barbs thrown Jay Cutler’s way was one of Chicago’s biggest issues this past season. Granted, Cutler also is at the top of Fox’s question marks and concerns, but a return to the Bears’ roots of defense and running the ball could make life easier for the quarterback too. Fox also gets high marks and praise for putting together an impressive staff led by defensive coordinator Vic Fangio and offensive coordinator Adam Gase, who has worked with Peyton Manning the past three seasons.
 
Grade: A

 

3. Dan Quinn, Atlanta Falcons

Previous Job: Seahawks defensive coordinator

Career Record: First season

 

Quinn may have been the last one to land a job on this list, but give credit to the Falcons for being willing to wait. The architect of the defense that played in back-to-back Super Bowls, Quinn finally gets his well-deserved shot at being a head coach. Mike Smith’s firing was somewhat surprising, given the success he had, but the transition from him to Quinn should be somewhat seamless given their similar backgrounds. It’s hard to gauge how successful a rookie head coach will be, but I like Quinn’s chances provided he’s able to upgrade his defensive personnel and stabilize the offensive line.

 

Grade: B+

 

4. Jack Del Rio, Oakland Raiders

Previous Job: Broncos defensive coordinator

Career Record: 68-71 (Jaguars, 2003-11)

 

John Fox's defensive coordniator in Denver the past three seasons, Del Rio has earned his second shot at being a head coach. A native of the San Francisco Bay Area, Del Rio grew up a Raiders fan and seems to fit their persona to a tee. It certainly didn’t hurt that owner Mark Davis thought the same thing, as he began his pursuit of Del Rio before the regular season ended. Del Rio has experience with young, rebuilding teams and a pretty good track record when it comes to defense. What’s more, Del Rio wanted this job, which is saying something considering how far this franchise has fallen. But with Del Rio now in charge, along with building blocks like linebacker Khalil Mack and Derek Carr, the Silver and Black could be heard from sooner rather than later.

 

Grade: B

 

5. Gary Kubiak, Denver Broncos

Previous Job: Ravens offensive coordinator

Career Record: 61-64 (Texans, 2006-13)

 

Kubiak initially stated he would remain in Baltimore, but then John Elway fired John Fox and everything changed. Drafted by Denver in 1983 and where he spent his entire playing career as Elway's backup, Kubiak is the logical fit from the franchise’s standpoint. Between his nine seasons as a player and his 11 as an offensive coordinator, Kubiak has spent as much time as a Bronco as his new boss. Kubiak also enjoyed success with the Texans, but his two playoff appearances were preceded by just one winning season in his first five and were followed up by a nightmarish 2013 campaign that led to his firing after a 2-11 start. On the field, Kubiak’s West Coast offense and Peyton Manning’s skill set do not seem like the ideal fit, and there’s also the matter of Elway not leaving any room for doubt when it comes to expectations. Keep in mind that Fox took this team to a Super Bowl while Kubiak has yet to make it past the Divisional Round. Welcome home Gary, now get to work.

 

Grade: B-

 

6. Todd Bowles, New York Jets

Previous Job: Cardinals defensive coordinator

Career Record: 2-1* (Dolphins, 2011)

 

Bowles opened many an eye with his work with the Cardinals’ defense the past two seasons (especially 2014), and he was able to parlay that into his dream job. A New Jersey native, Bowles should be pretty familiar with all of the attention, both wanted and unwanted, that comes with being the head coach of a team that calls the media capital of the world home. A former safety, Bowles’ playing experience should help him develop relationships with his new charges. He also has been a head coach before, serving as the Dolphins’ interim for three games in 2011 after Tony Sparano was fired. Unfortunately all of this experience doesn’t really prepare him for one of the biggest challenges awaiting him – finding out if Geno Smith can be a successful starting quarterback in the NFL.

 

Grade: B-

 

7. Jim Tomsula, San Francisco 49ers

Previous Job: 49ers defensive line coach

Career Record: 1-0* (49ers, 2010)

 

Nothing against Tomsula, but it’s hard to not perceive his hiring as nothing more than CEO Jed York and general manager Trent Baalke finding their yes-man. How else can you explain Jim Harbaugh leaving the 49ers to become the head coach at Michigan for the same amount of money and the subsequent search that included interviews with at least eight other candidates yet resulted in the hiring of the only one without any previous coordinator or head coaching experience in the NFL? Sorry, one game as the interim head coach in 2010 doesn’t really count nor does his one season as head coach of NFL Europe’s Rhein Fire, who didn’t even qualify for the playoffs that year. And even though Tomsula’s hiring has since been endorsed by the players, how can you justify choosing him over say an experienced head coach like Rex Ryan or a hot coordinator like Adam Gase, who the 49ers interviewed twice, or even in-house candidate Vic Fangio? And then there's the matter that after Tomsula was hired every assistant coach that served under Harbaugh was fired, except one. The popular opinion following Harbaugh’s decision to bolt for his alma mater was there was a power struggle between him and upper management. Tomsula’s hiring pretty much confirms this, no?

 

Grade: D

 

*Interim head coach

Teaser:
Grading the NFL’s New Coaching Hires
Post date: Monday, February 9, 2015 - 11:00
All taxonomy terms: NBA
Path: /nba/nba-remembers-dean-smith-1931-2015
Body:
Dean Smith, the legendary coach who spent more than four decades bringing up some of the finest to ever play the game, has passed away at the age of 83, after a trying battle with dementia.

 

From 1961 to 1997, Smith was the head coach of the University of North Carolina Tar Heels. His lengthy list of accolades includes 11 Final Four appearances, two national titles, four National Coach of the Year designations, and an Olympic gold medal won in 1976. He trained many notable NBA players, including Vince Carter, Rasheed Wallace, Sam Perkins, Jerry Stackhouse, J.R. Reid, Kenny Smith, Brad Daugherty, James Worthy, and of course Michael Jordan. Jordan released the following statement, Sunday, in memory of Smith:

 

“Other than my parents, no one had a bigger influence on my life than Coach Smith. He was more than a coach — he was my mentor, my teacher, my second father. Coach was always there for me whenever I needed him and I loved him for it. In teaching me the game of basketball, he taught me about life. My heart goes out to Linnea and their kids. We’ve lost a great man who had an incredible impact on his players, his staff and the entire UNC family.”

 

Stackhouse sent out this tweet, and explained in an XM radio interview how Smith would even assist him with financial management.

 

Worthy kept it short and sweet:

 

And Worthy’s fellow Los Angeles Lakers trustee, general manager Mitch Kupchak, sent out the following:

 

“Coach Smith was one of the most influential people in my life, and his passing brings me great sadness. However, he was a great man and someone I loved and respected greatly, and I celebrate the fact that I knew him and had him in my life for as long as I did. His influence on my life didn’t end when I left Chapel Hill, as he was a trusted and valuable advisor to me when I became a player, then an executive in the NBA. He had a hugely positive impact on the lives of hundreds of young men who were lucky enough to call him Coach, and I was blessed to be among them.”

 

Rest in peace.

 

— John Wilmes

@johnwilmesNBA

Teaser:
Post date: Monday, February 9, 2015 - 10:24
Path: /college-football/acc-team-recruiting-consensus-rankings-2015
Body:

Athlon Sports has averaged out the four major recruiting services team rankings for the ACC — 247Sports, Rivals.com, Scout.com and ESPN — and created the ACC consensus team recruiting rankings for 2015. Here is what we learned:

 

Florida State, Clemson and everybody else

It’s clear who the class of the ACC was in 2015 recruiting. The Seminoles and Tigers were ranked in the top five nationally by both Rivals and ESPN and the top eight by 247. No one else in the ACC was even close and North Carolina finished third with an average ranking just outside of the top 25. That said, for whatever reason, Scout didn’t agree, ranking both Clemson and Florida State outside of the top 10 nationally (take it up with them, fans).

 

Newest faces

Louisville and Bobby Petrino just completed their first full cycle as a member of the ACC and it appears the Cardinals will do just fine in their new league. The Cards ranked no lower than 32nd nationally by any service and finished solidly in the top half of the league. The same cannot be said about Pitt and Syracuse, who signed the worst two classes in the ACC this fall (mostly due to size for the Panthers).

 

Three-star classes

Florida State and Clemson signed all seven five-star recruits that the ACC landed this cycle. Those two programs, as expected, signed 19 of the 42 four-star recruits as well. Who didn’t sign a single five- or four-star recruit in the ACC? Georgia Tech, Wake Forest, Boston College and Syracuse were the only ACC teams that didn’t land a four-star recruit this year.

 

Middle of the pACCk

The middle of the ACC pack needs to show improvement. Miami was one of the National Signing Day losers after missing out a bunch of quality players and falling outside of the top 25. ESPN and Rivals barely snuck Virginia Tech into the Top 25 and North Carolina was 24th by Scout and ESPN. But those three programs are the next best recruiting brands in the league and have history of competing at a high level in the ACC. So if the league wants to be considered on the same playing field as the SEC or Pac-12 nationally, these three programs need to start threatening top-10 classes on the recruiting trail.

 

Listen to the Cover 2 Podcast Recruiting Special feat. Barton Simmons:



Subscribe: iTunes | Stitcher

 

Positive signs in Winston-Salem?

Using Rivals.com team rankings — because they date back the farthest — Wake Forest signed its best class of the modern era this year. Three of the four sites ranked the Demon Deacons 53rd or better, making it the highest-rated class for Wake Forest since Rivals began tracking team rankings in 2002. ESPN ranked the Deacs an exciting 42nd in the nation — ahead of quality programs like Maryland, BYU, Cal, Utah, Iowa and others. Things could be looking up for Dave Clawson.

 

2015 ACC Consensus Team Recruiting Rankings:

 

  Total5-Star4-StarNat'l Avg247RivalsScoutESPN
1.204104.833112
2.25397.884154
3.19042628282424
4.220527.326263423
5.240429.529244025
6.240231.532323230
7.23043430353833
8.270041.343394241
9.23014848445545
10.240053.553526742
11.25005460475851
12.180156.350616945
13.260059.363624963
14.140261.362726348

 

Teaser:
College Football: 2014 Consensus ACC Team Recruiting Rankings
Post date: Monday, February 9, 2015 - 09:30
Path: /college-football/sec-coordinator-carousel-winners-and-losers-2015
Body:

The league’s coordinator carousel this offseason is another example of how things are just different down South. When it comes to coaching, there is no league in the nation more cutthroat than the SEC.

 

The SEC has hired 14 new coordinators since the end of the season. Six of them have coached in the SEC within the last two years, five were on staff last season and four of them are making the switch to a new SEC school in 2015.

 

Here are the winners and losers from the SEC’s ’15 coordinator carousel:

 

Winners:

 

Auburn

The Tigers went from Ellis Johnson to Will Muschamp and the former Florida coach’s impact was felt immediately. Auburn dominated headlines on Signing Day and Muschamp will undoubtly dominate offensive lines for as long as he stays on the Plains. Guschamp is as good an offense-defense tandem as there is in the nation.

 

Texas A&M

It was costly but landing John Chavis in exchange for Mark Snyder was a big win for Kevin Sumlin. Chavis has a long track record of success in the SEC and for the Aggies to not only secure his services but also steal him from a division rival — one who had shut them down in two meetings — can’t be overrated.

 

Florida

Doug Nussmeier is a solid hire but Jim McElwain will likely control the majority of the offense. However, luring Geoff Collins away from Mississippi State and back to Gainesville was a big win for McElwain. His defensive hire was going to be significantly more important than his offensive move and Coach Juice Points was a home run.

 

Missouri

Part of what gives Missouri the ability to “overachieve” is the coaching staff’s continuity. So losing Dave Steckel to Missouri State after 14 excellent years of service was a big blow to Gary Pinkel’s staff stability. He couldn’t have landed a better replacement, however, in Barry Odom. He played and coached at Mizzou under Pinkel (2003-11) and did fantastic work turning around Memphis’ defense in three short years.

 

Losers:

 

LSU

Going from John Chavis to Kevin Steele can only be considered a major step down. Steele is a great recruiter but that isn’t what LSU needs. The last two years he was in charge of a defense, his unit allowed a pathetic 5.6 yards per play for Clemson in both 2011 and ’12 — ranking 71st and 69th nationally. And technically, Alabama’s defense, while still really good in 2014, was the “worst” it has been since '08. Just ask Urban Meyer. Les Miles did salvage the offseason somewhat by landing ace recruiter and elite D-line coach Ed Orgeron.

 

Tennessee

Mike DeBord is maybe the most fascinating hire in the SEC this year. He hasn’t coached any football since 2012, hasn’t been relevant in college football since leaving Michigan in '07 and hasn’t been a QB coach since '86. He knows Butch Jones extremely well, brings continuity to the offense and maybe even adds a much-needed power running element. And Michigan did go to two Rose Bowls during his last stint in Ann Arbor. But the game has changed dramatically since then, and normally, there is a reason someone hasn’t held a meaningful position in nearly a decade. DeBord is extremely experienced but there are reasonable questions about his upside, ability to develop young talent and knowledge of the way today's SEC works.

 

Kentucky

There should always be concerns when hiring a top assistant from a coaching staff where the head coach is really the offensive architect. Shannon Dawson posted some big numbers on offense for West Virginia last year but didn’t really design the offense and didn’t call the plays either. Dawson can only be considered a step back from a young rising offensive mind like Neal Brown.

 

Georgia

On the plus side, Brian Schottenheimer will give Mark Richt the exact offensive style he wants, his NFL pedigree suggests that the industry’s best respect him and he knows the SEC from his playing days at Florida. However, his offenses in The League have been far from solid (despite some injuries) ranking 25th, 23rd, 30th and 28th in the NFL in total offense over the last four seasons. Generally speaking, coaches don’t leave a high-ranking NFL job for a coordinator job in college and, many times, NFL offenses are too complex for the college game. This is a step down from Mike Bobo.

 

Wait and See:

 

Arkansas

Being able to lure a current head coach away to become a coordinator is no small feat but Dan Enos didn’t exactly set Mount Pleasant on fire during his five-year stint at Central Michigan. He meshes very well with Bret Bielema’s offensive philosophy so odds are this will be a win for the Hogs. But Enos is still very much of an unknown in the SEC.

 

Vanderbilt

Andy Ludwig will bring a power offense that has been extremely successful and his ability to coach quarterbacks is a huge need. Derek Mason’s decision to coach the defense is both a win and loss simultaneously. No one can coach, manage and call that defense better than him (win) but it’s nearly impossible to manage every aspect of the game in such a demanding league when you are so focused on one side of the ball (loss). The jury is still very much out on the Dores' moves but there is no doubt they upgraded these two positions from a year ago.

 

South Carolina

The similarities between DeBord and Jon Hoke are bizarrely similar with a few small twists. Both have deep connections with their new head coaches and haven’t coached in college for a long time. The slight difference is Hoke has been coaching at a high level in the NFL while DeBord has been out of the game for three years. Another difference is Hoke is almost guaranteed to be an upgrade over Lorenzo Ward and is going to call the plays while DeBord could be a step down from Mike Bajakian and will have much less influence than Hoke.

 

Mississippi State

Manny Diaz knows Mississippi State very well having coached there under Dan Mullen in 2010. He was solid for MTSU prior to coming to Starkville and was solid for the Bulldogs, but his track record is a mixed bag since. He did great work last year at Louisiana Tech, taking a unit ranked 70th nationally in total defense the year prior to 35th in '14. However, he also is partly responsible for two of the worst defenses in Texas Longhorns history, giving up over 400 yards per game in 2012-13 in Austin.

 

No changes:

 

Alabama: Lane Kiffin, OC and Kirby Smart, DC
Ole Miss: Matt Luke/Dan Werner, OC and Jason Jones/Dave Wommack, DC

Teaser:
2015 SEC Coordinator Carousel: Winners and Losers
Post date: Monday, February 9, 2015 - 09:00
Path: /college-football/did-michigans-jim-harbaugh-take-shot-ohio-state-and-urban-meyer-over-recruiting
Body:

The Ohio State-Michigan rivalry is among the best in college football, and the intensity between these two programs went up a notch since Jim Harbaugh arrived in Ann Arbor to return the Wolverines back to the Big Ten elite.  

 

While these two teams won’t meet until November, that won’t stop the fireworks between the two programs until the matchup on the gridiron.

 

Standout high school running back Mike Weber was committed to Michigan at one point but is headed to Ohio State after flipping to the Buckeyes late in the recruiting process. However, Weber’s position coach (Stan Drayton) recently left for the NFL. Needless to say, Weber (and his high school coach had some words for Urban Meyer) wasn’t happy with the news and tweeted this following the announcement.

Which brings us to this Harbaugh tweet from Saturday…was this directed at Ohio State? 

After Harbaugh's tweet, Ohio State director of player personnel Mark Pantoni tweeted this in response:

Are we reading too much into these tweets? Or was Harbaugh's tweet a jab at Ohio State over the Weber recruiting situation? Either way, the Ohio State-Michigan rivalry is certainly more interesting with Harbaugh back in Ann Arbor.

Teaser:
Did Michigan's Jim Harbaugh Take a Shot at Ohio State and Urban Meyer Over Recruiting?
Post date: Monday, February 9, 2015 - 08:30
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/kentucky-finds-ways-win-duke-villanova-get-revenge-college-basketball-weekly-10
Body:

Revenge was the name of the game this week in college basketball.

 

Not too long ago, the cracks appeared to be showing for teams like Duke, Villanova and Iowa State as they took key losses. A few weeks later, those losses now look like wake-up calls as all three answered in rematches.

 

Duke would find no drama in its second game against Notre Dame this season as the Blue Devils embarrassed a top 10 team by 30 points. Villanova took its only loss in regulation in a lopsided defeat to Georgetown, but the Wildcats returned the favor with an impressive defensive performance against its classic Big East rival. And Iowa State, which lost a head-scratcher to Texas Tech two weeks ago, turned around for a 37-point rout.

 

Yet the story of the week may be the continued win streak by Kentucky. The Wildcats lost all three meetings to Florida a year ago, but needed all 60 minutes to put away the Gators in their first matchup this season.

 

1. Kentucky keeps finding ways to stay undefeated

Winning conference road games is tough, and we’re sure Kentucky’s not going to get enough credit for answering the call each game in an otherwise mediocre SEC. The Wildcats’ 68-61 win at Florida is a perfect example of why Kentucky remains undefeated. The Gators played arguably their best game of the season (only days after their worst game of the season in a loss at Vanderbilt), Kentucky had some key lapses, and still the Wildcats walked away with a win. Andrew Harrison was a non-factor (no field goals, three turnovers), and the Wildcats shot 3-of-14 from 3-point range. Still, Kentucky won because it was 21-of-22 from the free throw line while Florida went 7-of-14. And Karl-Anthony Towns played his best game of the season with 19 points and eight rebounds. Towns is averaging 15.3 points per game in his last three, and Aaron Harrison rebounded from a one-point game against Georgia for 23 against the Gators. We’ve known this for a while, but taking out Kentucky is going to take an outstanding effort from a darn good team.

 

2. Duke looks like the scariest team in the country

Time to stop worrying about what’s wrong with Duke and try to figure out how anyone is going to slow down the Blue Devils. On Jan. 28, Notre Dame beat Duke 77-73 in South Bend for the Blue Devils’ third loss of the season. Duke hasn’t lost since. The rematch against the top-10 Irish was a thorough 90-60 beatdown. Notre Dame took a 6-0 lead, and from there, Duke went on a 43-7 run during the first half. This came with Jahlil Okafor playing only eight minutes in the first half due to foul trouble. Meanwhile, Justise Winslow continued his hot streak, flourishing in transition for 19 points. Guard Matt Jones obliterated his career high with 17 points (3-of-5 from 3) off the bench. And when Okafor was in the game he simply went 9-of-11 form the field for 20 points with 10 rebounds in 23 minutes. Quite the statement for Duke.

 

3. Virginia needs to adjust without Justin Anderson

On the court Saturday, Virginia played yet another stifling game against a quality opponent. The Cavaliers defeated Louisville 52-47, holding the Cardinals to 13 points in the first half and 0.85 points per possession overall. The rub, though, is pending hand surgery for Justin Anderson, arguably the team’s most important player. Surgery to repair a broken finger may put him out for 4-6 weeks, through the first week of March or into the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament. The Cavaliers face only three KenPom top 100 teams (North Carolina, Pittsburgh, Syracuse) before the finale against Louisville, but Anderson’s absence will be a key speed bump for a team that’s had trouble closing out games in recent weeks.

 

4. Oklahoma State makes a major statement

Oklahoma State found one way to separate itself from the depth of the Big 12, arguably the deepest league in the country. The Cowboys defeated Kansas 67-62 to give the Pokes a win over Kansas in each of the last three seasons, including the last two games in Stillwater. Kansas did not have a great game, turning the ball over 18 times, but the key for Oklahoma State is the emergency of secondary scorers. For most of the season, the Pokes could count on only Le’Bryan Nash and Phil Forte to light up the scoresheet. That’s changed. Four Cowboys scored in double figures against KU. Point guard Anthony Hickey has become the key No. 3 with 12 points per game in the last four.

 

5. Another red flag for Arizona?

On first glance, Arizona’s 81-78 loss to Arizona State shouldn’t be a major warning sign. The season is long, and this was a road game against a capable rival. The Sun Devils got a little hot from 3 (7-of-15) and were able to pull off the upset. But this is also the third loss of the season for Arizona against a team that won’t be in the NCAA Tournament. The other two were to UNLV and Oregon State, both on the road. Arizona may still be a title contender at 20-3 but these losses may cost the Wildcats a No. 1 seed.

 

6. Villanova avenges its worst loss of the season

OK, Villanova, we’re believers again. The Wildcats lost by 20 to Georgetown back on Jan. 19 for one of its two losses of the season, and from there they faced the dregs of the Big East. On Saturday, Villanova made a statement in its rematch with the Hoyas, defeating Georgetown 69-53 in a defensive turnaround. Georgetown averaged 1.18 points per possession and shot 51.1 percent from the field in the first meeting. In the second game in Philadelphia, Villanova held Georgetown to 0.79 points per possession and 30 percent shooting from the field, including 1-of-17 from 3-point range. Villanova was especially effective off takeaways, outscoring Georgetown 24-8 on turnovers despite being in the red in turnover margin (20-15).

 

7. Time to start buying into Baylor

There are plenty of Baylor and Scott Drew skeptics out there. Some of that is earned, for sure. Dare we say this is a year to start buying into the Bears? Baylor demolished West Virginia 87-69 on the road for their fourth win in their last five Big 12 games. Wins in bunches don’t come often in this league, so Baylor’s hot streak must be noted. Baylor went on a 21-0 run in the first half and took advantage of West Virginia’s struggles in the halfcourt. Against the Baylor zone, West Virginia shot a mere 6-of-23 from 3. Meanwhile, Rico Gathers was a beast as always on the glass with 16 rebounds, five on the offensive glass. Gathers’ 17 points against West Virginia was his second-highest total in a Big 12 game in his career.

 

8. Time to start selling West Virginia?

The other side of Baylor’s rout in Morgantown: Maybe West Virginia is a team to start looking at a little more critically. The Mountaineers’ elite pressure defense helped turn around the team this season, but West Virginia doesn’t do much of anything else very well. Now, the Mountaineers’ other deficiencies are starting to catch up to them. Their last three Big 12 losses — to Texas, Oklahoma and Baylor — have been routs. The loss also highlights that West Virginia has only two top-50 RPI wins and one of those is over Wofford.

 

9. Shorthanded Illinois is making a move

On Jan. 24, Illinois was 13-8 overall and 3-5 in the Big Ten, thanks in part to an injury to guard Rayvonte Rice. Now, Rice and fellow guard Aaron Cosby are still out with suspension. That hasn’t been a problem for Illinois, which won its third consecutive game with a 59-54 road win over Michigan State. Malcolm Hill, who scored 19 points against the Spartans, has become Illinois’ best player as the Illini have quietly become an NCAA bubble team. Even before the win over Michigan State, Illinois had a 2-3 record against the RPI top 20 with wins over Baylor and Maryland.

 

10. Temple is the turnaround team no one’s talking about

The consistently underrated Fran Dunphy has led a remarkable turnaround in Philadelphia, leading the Owls to a 17-7 start and 8-3 in the American Athletic Conference. The Owls went 9-22 (4-14 AAC) a year ago, and after a 61-60 comeback on the road against Memphis, the Owls are in the NCAA Tournament discussion. The final shot, a Josh Brown jumper off a bounce pass from Will Cummings, deserves attention, especially since Dunphy elected not to take a timeout. But the real story is that Temple is back to defending at a high level after a three-year slump. The Owls rank eighth in the nation in defensive efficiency on KenPom and 13th in defensive effective field gal rate, both the best for Temple since 2009-10.

 

Short Stuff

 

• Providence coach Ed Cooley was hospitalized Saturday after leaving the Friars’ game against Xavier early in the second half. After overnight observation for high blood pressure, Cooley is expected to return Wednesday against Villanova.

 

• UCLA built momentum for its at-large credentials and then promptly ended its hot streak with a 64-62 loss at Cal. The Bruins defeated Utah, Colorado and Stanford just before sustaining their worst loss of the season, at least considering the opponent.

 

• Seton Hall’s at-large credentials are crumbling, too. The Pirates fell to 5-6 in the Big East after back-to-back losses to DePaul and Marquette. Not a great omen with Georgetown, Providence and Villanova in the next two weeks.

 

• Georgia welcomed back Marcus Thornton after a two-game absence due to a concussion — the Bulldogs lost both games. Thornton scored only eight points in 26 minutes, but the Bulldogs still found a way to beat Tennessee 56-53.

 

• Texas Tech gets the award for worst box score of the week. The Red Raiders scored only 38 points in a loss to Iowa State, in part by going 0-of-8 from the free throw line.

 

• No team had a more exciting week than St. Bonaventure. The Bonnies had buzzer-beaters to defeated two of the best teams in the Atlantic 10 in Davidson and VCU.

Teaser:
Kentucky Finds Ways to Win; Duke, Villanova Get Revenge: The College Basketball Weekly 10
Post date: Monday, February 9, 2015 - 07:45
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/syracuse-basketballs-postseason-ban-cynical-it-comes
Body:

On Saturday, Syracuse will play its first meaningless game of the season.

 

Wait, that’s not entirely true. The game means something for Pittsburgh, a team clinging to the NCAA Tournament fringe but more than likely host an NIT game.

 

In that way, the Panthers aren’t all that different from Syracuse, another team that at least until Wednesday still had the slimmest of hopes of participating in March Madness.

 

The difference, though, is that Syracuse isn’t playing any more games that really matter. Instead, Syracuse, facing an NCAA investigation, elected to get a head start on its potential sanctions by forfeiting its chance at any postseason. No NCAA Tournament. No ACC Tournament. No NIT. No CBI.

 

Pittsburgh still has an opportunity to do what Syracuse cannot. Maybe Pitt will win the NCAA Tournament. Maybe Pitt will beat Louisville, North Carolina and Virginia. That’s all highly unlikely, for sure, but Panthers coach Jamie Dixon’s team can still try to pull off the feat.

 

No matter how much Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim tries to dress this up as a self-imposed punishment with teeth or tries to acknowledge mistakes, this move is as cynical as they come.

 

Syracuse, as an institution, decided to make the lost season official. The timing is, to put it mildly, convenient.

 

Syracuse has lost three of its last five and eked out a two-point win against lowly Virginia Tech on Tuesday. Hope is pretty slim for a meaningful postseason. This will probably be only the second Syracuse team to fail to win 20 games since 1982.

 

No question, Syracuse did the smart thing as a program, sacrificing what’s likely to be a mediocre postseason in hopes that by the time the Orange are ready to be a more realistic contender in future the sanctions will be done and gone.

 

You can’t wait and say, ‘We’ll take it next year,’” Boeheim told host Chris McManus on his weekly coach’s radio show. “You have to take it.”

 

That’s not entirely true. Syracuse could have waited out the NCAA or could have announced a postseason ban for 2015-16. Syracuse could have announced the ban before the season — the investigation concluded in October — before it became evident the Orange would fall well below their own standard.

 

Instead, Syracuse elected to change the conditions of this season. The Sporting News’ Mike DeCourcy has gone so far as to call it “a disgrace that rises to the highest level of all that is untoward in college athletics.”

 

Denying guys like Rakeem Christmas, Trevor Cooney and Michael Gbinije a chance to play in the NCAA Tournament — a goal they thought they had until this week — is “reprehensible,” DeCourcy writes.

 

Indeed, the players are the primary losers here. Not Boeheim, whose march to 1,000 wins will only be marginally impacted. Not the program, which gets to avoid a likely NIT invite so a better team can play in the NCAA Tournament.

 

Boeheim tried to save face this week, but in some ways his defense makes the curiously timed self-imposed sanctions seem worse.

 

Boeheim says he believes the self-imposed punishment indeed has teeth. Syracuse still has a shot at the NCAA Tournament, he says, and playing in the NIT and ACC Tournament is still a chance for his young team to improve.

 

The former is a long shot. Syracuse is ranked No. 71 in the RPI with only two wins against teams in the top 90 — No. 47 Iowa and No. 62 Long Beach State. His team is woefully thin with the season-ending injury to freshman forward Chris McCullough. And his team, already 15-7, has the toughest portion of the ACC schedule ahead of it. The Orange still have to face Duke twice, plus Notre Dame on the road and Virginia and Louisville at home.

 

The latter, the extra practice time and experience in a one-and-done situation, is a legitimate sanction for the Orange.

 

But who loses if Syracuse doesn’t get those extra games or practices? Syracuse has only two top 100 prospects for the 2015 draft, according to DraftExpress.com. One is out for the rest of the season with injury. The other is Christmas, a senior. Both are second-rounders right now at best.

 

Syracuse though has a handful of juniors and underclassmen who could become pros or solid college players. Even Boeheim says NIT experience could be good for them. Instead, the Orange's season ends March 7 at NC State.

 

“I saw Hakim Warrick grow up in the NIT when he was a freshman,” Boeheim told McManus. “He came in and had an unbelievable game at Richmond. It led to a breakout year as a sophomore, so you’re giving up something.”

 

So exactly who is giving up something? Not any of the adults in the room.

 

Of course, Syracuse isn’t the first to decide when it will serve its sanctions. Miami football announced midseason that it would self-impose a postseason ban in 2011 and '12, amid the Nevin Shapiro scandal.

 

Ohio State learned the wrong lesson when the Buckeyes elected to play out a 6-7 season under an interim coach that ended in a Gator Bowl loss. The Buckeyes served a bowl ban in 2012, when a 12-0 season ended without a Big Ten title game or a BCS bowl appearance.

 

This shouldn’t even be an option for schools. That the NCAA allows programs to decide when it serves a punishment is preposterous. The NCAA tacitly encourages such behavior from institutions that broke rules in the first place.

 

In other words, the NCAA is investigating a program for doing something against the rules and then allows the program to decide when and how it serves its sentence. Syracuse gets to plea bargain and punish its current players for something that happened several years ago.

 

At least as far as NCAA rules are concerned, these are serious issues. Fab Melo, who was declared ineligible for the 2012 NCAA Tournament, is having his academic record investigated. James Southerland, who missed six games in 2012-13 due to an academic issue, is also believed to be involved.

 

At one point, Syracuse itself admitted that the NCAA was investigating the program’s adherence to its own drug policies.

 

And Syracuse’s own investigators looked into an internship program that placed Syracuse athletes at an Oneida, N.Y., YMCA. The investigation centered on a former YMCA employee that had exceptional access to men’s basketball players and had been sued by the YMCA for allegedly misappropriating $338,000 worth of funds.

 

According to an ESPN source, the issues stretch back for more than a decade, ending in 2013. “Things were going on consistently for a long time,” the source told ESPN.com’s Brett McMurphy.

 

Boeheim has been there for the entire time, plus for Syracuse’s previous postseason ban in 1993. Should he know everything going in the athletic program? No, but these are issues that span several years and several areas of NCAA interest. Perhaps he should know something.

 

In the end, Syracuse may end up dodging any major sanctions. The NCAA isn’t known for its track record of consistency. But skipping out on the postseason this year has another effect: Even at 15-7 now, the Orange may end the season approaching a .500 record; They could very well find themselves in a position where one and done in the ACC Tournament and NIT hands Jim Boeheim the first losing season of his career.

 

Perhaps the notion of two postseason bans in his career, including one has he’s marching toward 1,000 wins, is enough to dent his tremendous legacy of building his alma mater into a national power.

 

But decades from now, his ledger merely will read 1,000 wins and one or two below-average seasons in the twilight of his career.

 

Again, how convenient.

Teaser:
Syracuse Basketball's Postseason Ban is as Cynical as it Comes
Post date: Saturday, February 7, 2015 - 07:00
All taxonomy terms: Chris Paul, Los Angeles Clippers, NBA
Path: /nba/chris-paul-criticizes-rookie-woman-referee
Body:
Thursday night was a bad one for the Los Angeles Clippers. They lost 105-94 to LeBron James and the surging Cleveland Cavaliers — winners of 12 straight — but the final score was a lot closer than most of the game. L.A. was down by more than thirty for parts of the second half.

 

On top of the bad loss was a worse media gaffe by their point guard and leader, Chris Paul. Paul took to criticizing rookie female referee Lauren Holtkamp after the game. He wasn’t too pleased with a technical foul call in the third quarter.

 

"I think we have to show better composure, but at the same time some of [the technical fouls] were ridiculous," Paul told reporters. "The tech that I get right there was ridiculous. I don't care what nobody says, I don't care what she says; that's terrible. There's no way that can be a tech. We try to get the ball out fast every time down the court, and when we did that, she said, 'Uh-uh.' I said, 'Why, uh-uh?' And she gave me a tech. That's ridiculous. If that's the case, this might not be for her.”

 

Poor choice of words, CP3. While criticizing a rookie referee is hardly taboo, and while the “her” in “this might not be for her” is technically correct, many are going to read this as sexist.

 

Personally? Paul doesn’t strike me as the politically incorrect type; just a guy who got beat badly by one of his close friends — LeBron — on national TV, and was thus liable to say all kinds of dumb nonsense in his post-game frustration. He was throwing a bit of a hissyfit at the wrong time. That’s the peril of having a job where they throw microphones into your face right after you take a shower.

 

In any event, it’s a bad look for Paul, his team, and for the league, and it should surprise no one when he inevitably gets fined for his words.

 

— John Wilmes

@johnwilmesNBA

Teaser:
Post date: Friday, February 6, 2015 - 16:08
All taxonomy terms: Essential 11, Overtime
Path: /overtime/athlons-essential-11-links-day-february-6-2015
Body:

This is your daily links roundup of our favorite sports and entertainment posts on the web for Feb. 6: 

 

Introducing another SI Swimsuit rookie, Hailey Clauson.

 

• Brian Williams got caught in a lie, and the Internet sprang into action.

 

Tiger withdrew yesterday, citing an inability to activate his glutes. Hate it when that happens. If this spells the end, then Tiger can sit on his glutes and count the $1.3 billion he's earned.

 

Pete Carroll cried at 4:50 am Tuesday morning. Boy, coaches keep tight schedules.

 

• In case you're not on Gronk overload, here he is dancing to MC Hammer.

 

Everyone cheats, all the time.

 

Chris Paul called out a lady ref after last night's game. Off to sensitivity training with him.

 

A handy flowchart for analyzing your team's recruiting class.

 

Watch a giant high school football player dominate the competition in small-town North Dakota.

 

• I know some of you are excited for "Better Call Saul." So this one's for you.

 

• Tom Hanks reunited with a former co-star at last night's Rangers game.

 

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

Teaser:
Post date: Friday, February 6, 2015 - 11:02
Path: /mlb/2015-mlb-spring-training-reporting-dates-and-locations
Body:

The Super Bowl is over, which means the NFL season is complete and it’s almost time for baseball! Spring training will start up in two weeks in Florida and Arizona  with the St. Louis Cardinals and Chicago Cubs set to open the 2015 MLB season on Sunday night, April 5. Opening Day will follow, as the San Francisco Giants look to defend their World Series title.

 

Florida plays host to 15 teams, the Grapefruit League, during spring training, while the greater Phoenix metropolitan area is home to the other 15 teams that make up the Cactus League.

 

To help get you ready for the upcoming season, Athlon Sports' 2015 MLB Preview magazine is available on newsstands and to order online now. Starting with 22 unique covers to choose from, Athlon covers the diamond and circles the bases with enough in-depth preseason analysis, predictions and other information to satisfy fans of the national pastime from the Bronx to the Bay and everywhere in between.

 

This year's edition includes "15 Things to Watch in 2015," a look back on the 2005 MLB Draft, features on World Series MVP Madison Bumgarner, the return of New York Yankees outcast Alex Rodriguez, and Joe Maddon’s arrival as manager of the Chicago Cubs, and much more. As always, there are team-by-team previews for all 30 clubs, with rosters, stats and schedules as well as analysis on the top 10 prospects in their farm system. Athlon also offers its predictions on how this season will shake out, both for the regular and postseason, as well as for the major awards. Athlon Sports' 2015 MLB Preview is the most complete preseason publication available today. Order your copy now! 

 

TeamLocationPitchers & CatchersPosition Players
Reporting DateFirst WorkoutReporting DateFirst Workout
Arizona DiamondbacksScottsdale, AZFeb. 19Feb. 20Feb. 24Feb. 25
Atlanta BravesLake Buena Vista, FLFeb. 20Feb. 21Feb. 25Feb. 26
Baltimore OriolesSarasota, FLFeb. 19Feb. 20Feb. 24Feb. 25
Boston Red SoxLee County, FLFeb. 20Feb. 21Feb. 24Feb. 25
Chicago CubsMesa, AZFeb. 19Feb. 20Feb. 25Feb. 25
Chicago White SoxGlendale, AZFeb. 19Feb. 20Feb. 24Feb. 24
Cincinnati RedsGoodyear, AZFeb. 18Feb. 19Feb. 23Feb. 24
Cleveland IndiansGoodyear, AZFeb. 18Feb. 20Feb. 22Feb. 24
Colorado RockiesScottsdale, AZFeb. 20Feb. 21Feb. 27Feb. 27
Detroit TigersLakeland, FLFeb. 19Feb. 20Feb. 24Feb. 24
Houston AstrosKissimmee, FLFeb. 20Feb. 21Feb. 24Feb. 25
Kansas City RoyalsSurprise, AZFeb. 19Feb. 20Feb. 24Feb. 25
Los Angeles AngelsTempe, AZFeb. 19Feb. 20Feb. 24Feb. 25
Los Angeles DodgersGlendale, AZFeb. 19Feb. 20Feb. 24Feb. 26
Miami MarlinsJupiter, FLFeb. 20Feb. 20Feb. 24Feb. 24
Milwaukee BrewersPhoenix, AZFeb. 20Feb. 22Feb. 25Feb. 26
Minnesota TwinsFort Myers, FLFeb. 22Feb. 23Feb. 27Feb. 28
New York MetsPort St. Lucie, FLFeb. 19Feb. 21Feb. 24Feb. 26
New York YankeesTampa, FLFeb. 20Feb. 21Feb. 25Feb. 26
Oakland A'sMesa, AZFeb. 19Feb. 20Feb. 24Feb. 25
Philadelphia PhilliesClearwater, FLFeb. 18Feb. 19Feb. 24Feb. 24
Pittsburgh PiratesBradenton, FLFeb. 18Feb. 19Feb. 23Feb. 24
St. Louis CardinalsJupiter, FLFeb. 19Feb. 20Feb. 24Feb. 25
San Diego PadresPeoria, AZFeb. 19Feb. 20Feb. 24Feb. 25
San Francisco GiantsScottsdale, AZFeb. 18Feb. 19Feb. 24Feb. 24
Seattle MarinersPeoria, AZFeb. 20Feb. 21Feb. 24Feb. 25
Tampa Bay RaysCharlotte County, FLFeb. 21Feb. 23Feb. 25Feb. 28
Texas RangersSurprise, AZFeb. 20Feb. 21Feb. 25Feb. 26
Toronto Blue JaysDunedin, FLFeb. 23Feb. 23Feb. 27Feb. 27
Washington NationalsViera, FLFeb. 20Feb. 21Feb. 26Feb. 26
Teaser:
2015 MLB Spring Training Reporting Dates and Locations
Post date: Friday, February 6, 2015 - 11:00

Pages