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All taxonomy terms: Adam Scott, Golf
Path: /golf/top-30-golfers-2016-majors-no-5-adam-scott
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They’re the cream of the major championship crop, circa 2016 — the Athlon Major Championship Dream Team. Leading up to The Masters, we'll be unveiling Athlon Sports’ 30 players to watch for majors season, with commentary on each from the ’s .

 

No. 5: Adam Scott

Born: July 16, 1980, Adelaide, Australia | Career PGA Tour Wins: 13 (10 on the European Tour) | 2015 Wins (Worldwide): 0 | 2015 Earnings (PGA Tour): $1,382,365 (18th) | World Ranking: 6

Gary Williams' Take: No one was under more scrutiny entering 2016 with the anchored putter ban in place than Adam Scott. The early returns have been spectacular. He putted very well at the Presidents Cup with a conventional length putter and finished the year with runner-up finishes at the CIMB Classic and the Australian Open, and he's been arguably the best player in the world in 2016 with back-to-back wins at the Honda and WGC-Cadillac, which have put him atop the list of Masters favorites. Quite a bit has changed since Scott won his first major at The Masters in 2013, including marriage, the birth of a child, the loss of Steve Williams on his bag (although Steve will be on the bag at Augusta) and now the anchoring ban. If there is anyone who can carry on with grace, it will be Scott, who can rely on one of the finest tee-to-green games in golf. Scott will never have to be the best putter on Tour to win, but if he can be adequate and clutch late in tournaments, he will contend. However, Scott plays a limited PGA Tour schedule, and thus he has fewer chances to win compared to Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler, who play seven or eight more events. Winning a second major with a conventional putter would be a big step towards the Hall of Fame for Scott.

 

Major Championship Résumé
Starts: 59
Wins: 1
2015 Performance:
    Masters – T38
    U.S. Open – T4
    British Open – T10
    PGA Championship – Cut
Best Career Finishes
    Masters - 1 (2013)
    U.S. Open – T4 (2015)
    British Open - 2 (2012)
    PGA Championship - T3 (2006)
Top-10 Finishes: 15
Top-25 Finishes: 28
Missed Cuts: 16


Athlon's 2016 Golf annual provides in-depth previews of this year's four majors, including the top 30 players to watch this season. One of these elite players, Zach Johnson, also takes you tee to green with full-swing instruction and short game essentials. .

Teaser:
Post date: Friday, April 1, 2016 - 10:17
Path: /college-football/ranking-big-12s-toughest-college-football-schedules-2016
Body:

The round robin doesn’t leave much room for differentiation between teams’ schedules. There’s no ducking squads from other divisions, and nine conference games only leaves three slots to fill that could boost a team’s strength of schedule.

 

With two notable exceptions, Big 12 teams are consistently lining up quality non-conference opponents. As such, in many cases, it’s not who’s on the schedule so much where games are being played that determine which squad is facing the more daunting slate.

 

* - neutral site

 

1. Oklahoma

Non-Con: Houston*, ULM, Ohio State

Big 12 Home: Kansas State, Kansas, Baylor, Oklahoma State

Big 12 Road: TCU, Texas Tech, Iowa State, West Virginia

Big 12 Neutral: Texas

 

You probably don’t see this very often: The consensus favorite to win the conference also has its toughest schedule. You also don’t see a team take on a non-conference combo like Ohio State and Houston, which went a combined 25-2 last season and each won a New Year’s Six bowl, very often. Oklahoma also has road trips to Lubbock and Morgantown, two of the Big 12’s wildest outposts, and a visit to TCU on the docket. If the Sooners make it back to the College Football Playoff, they will have earned it.

 

2. Kansas State

Non-Con: at Stanford, Florida Atlantic, Missouri State

Big 12 Home: Texas Tech, Texas, Oklahoma State, Kansas

Big 12 Road: West Virginia, Oklahoma, Iowa State, Baylor, TCU

 

There was a time when the Wildcats would consistently bring up the rear of this list and would be pretty shameless about it, too. Someone managed to convince Bill Snyder his team needed to see the Farm, though, and that sent K-State vaulting up this list in 2016. Not to mention, playing TCU, Baylor, West Virginia and Oklahoma in hostile territory is about as tough as the league office can make it on a team right now.

 

3. Texas

Non-Con: Notre Dame, UTEP, at California

Big 12 Home: Iowa State, Baylor, West Virginia, TCU

Big 12 Road: Oklahoma State, Kansas State, Texas Tech, Kansas
Big 12 Neutral: Oklahoma

 

Just about any other year, non-conference tilts with the Fighting Irish and Golden Bears would be good enough to rank No. 1. Yet, Cal doesn’t look quite so frightening right now. Furthermore, the Longhorns get some of their tougher games at home. With all that said, this schedule is still challenging enough to get Charlie Strong a pink slip if his team doesn’t improve from last year’s 5-7 finish.

 

4. Iowa State

Non-Con: Northern Iowa, at Iowa, San Jose State

Big 12 Home: Baylor, Kansas State, Oklahoma, Texas Tech, West Virginia

Big 12 Road: TCU, Oklahoma State, Texas, Kansas

 

After what might turn out to be more than a mere tune-up against FCS foe Northern Iowa, new head coach Matt Campbell will surely get a hearty Hawkeye welcome on Sept. 10 when he takes his team to Kinnick Stadium for the annual in-state grudge match. The Cyclones do get a relatively favorable home-road split in Big 12 play. Unfortunately, no schedule can really be considered favorable for a program so moribund.

 

5. Oklahoma State

Non-Con: Southeastern Louisiana, Central Michigan, Pittsburgh

Big 12 Home: Texas, Iowa State, West Virginia, Texas Tech

Big 12 Road: Baylor, Kansas, Kansas State, TCU, Oklahoma

 

Anybody know the connection between Oklahoma State and Pitt? Not a trick question - it’s a weird matchup. As for the Big 12 slate, road games you don’t want: Oklahoma, Baylor and TCU might be the top three. The Cowboys have them all away from Stillwater.

 

6. Texas Tech

Non-Con: Stephen F. Austin, at Arizona State, Louisiana Tech

Big 12 Home: Kansas, West Virginia, Oklahoma, Texas

Big 12 Road: Kansas State, TCU, Oklahoma State, Iowa State

Big 12 Neutral: Baylor

 

Texas Tech is another Big 12 team that has opted to up its degree of difficulty lately, as evidenced by this fall’s trip to Sun Devil Stadium. Inside the conference, the good news is the Red Raiders don’t have to hoof it to Morgantown. They also draw the Sooners in Lubbock, a game that Oklahoma shouldn’t take lightly.

 

7. TCU

Non-Con: South Dakota State, Arkansas, at SMU

Big 12 Home: Iowa State, Oklahoma, Texas Tech, Oklahoma State, Kansas State

Big 12 Road: Kansas, West Virginia, Baylor, Texas

 

TCU has a schedule made for a dark horse. SEC opponent Arkansas will likely take a step back after graduating key cogs on offense from the Razorbacks’ 2015 team. Potential 50-50 games with Texas Tech, Oklahoma State and Kansas State all come in Fort Worth. So does the Horned Frogs’ showdown with Oklahoma in a revenge spot for Gary Patterson’s team.

 

8. West Virginia

Non-Con: Missouri, Youngstown State, BYU*

Big 12 Home: Kansas State, TCU, Kansas, Oklahoma, Baylor

Big 12 Road: Texas Tech, Oklahoma State, Texas, Iowa State

 

Missouri entering rebuild mode pushes West Virginia’s schedule farther down this list than one would expect. On the other hand, a neutral site game against BYU is nothing to sneeze at. Landing Baylor, TCU and Oklahoma in Morgantown is a nice break for the Mountaineers; potential toss-ups versus Texas, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech on the road is not.

 

9. Kansas

Non-Con: Rhode Island, Ohio, at Memphis

Big 12 Home: TCU, Oklahoma State, Iowa State, Texas,

Big 12 Road: Texas Tech, Baylor, Oklahoma, West Virginia, Kansas State

 

Just about any other Power Five team not named Kansas would ride this schedule to bowl eligibility. The non-conference highlight is a visit to Memphis. What are the chances the Tigers hold up with head coach Justin Fuente and star quarterback Paxton Lynch gone? It is worth noting that Kansas has five road games in conference play, so it’s not all cream cheese.

 

10. Baylor

Non-Con: Northwestern State, SMU, at Rice

Big 12 Home: Oklahoma State, Kansas, TCU, Kansas State

Big 12 Road: Iowa State, Texas, Oklahoma, West Virginia

Big 12 Neutral: Texas Tech

 

Art Briles continues to schedule games like he’s positioning his team to make a bowl, not competing for national titles.

 

— Written by Allen Kenney, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Kenney is founder and editor of and host of the Blatant Homerism Podcast. Follow him on Twitter .

Teaser:
Ranking the Big 12's Toughest College Football Schedules in 2016
Post date: Friday, April 1, 2016 - 10:00
Path: /college-basketball/5-x-factors-syracuse-orange-vs-north-carolina-tar-heels-final-four-matchup-2016
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Two months ago, if I were tell you that North Carolina (32-6) was going to make the Final Four in Houston, you would’ve agreed that it was at least likely. But if I were to tell you that Syracuse (23-13) would be playing in that same Final Four, you might ask if I had just bumped my head. Yet, here we are.

 

Related: 

 

All season long, Carolina has looked like a national title contender. The Tar Heels have a Hall of Fame coach, great guard play, fantastic big men, depth, and multiple ways to hurt you offensively.

 

The Orange, on the other hand, have looked like anything but a title contender — until now. They too have a Hall of Fame coach in Jim Boeheim, but Boeheim was suspended for nine games to start the ACC season. The Orange actually lost their first four ACC games and five of their last six, and somehow found a spot in this Tournament — much to the chagrin of the college basketball media — self included. 

 

So now, we have the Final Four matchup between two college basketball blue bloods. Here are five X-factors to keep an eye on while you’re watching on Saturday night.

 

1. Tempo

Tempo is one of the more popular analytics in college basketball — and we’re going to see two different styles in tempo between North Carolina and Syracuse. The Tar Heels can play at both break-neck speeds and at a half-court, “run your motion offense” type of pace. Typically, Carolina only uses about half the shot clock before its possession ends (15.4 seconds), and they rank 62nd in adjusted offensive tempo. Currently, Carolina ranks as the No. 1 offense in terms of efficiency, a testament to the Heels’ balanced attack.

 

Carolina’s attack starts with guards Marcus Paige and Joel Berry II. Paige doesn’t turn the ball over and does a great job of distributing, especially on the break. But the highlight of Carolina’s pace isn’t the guards, but the big men. National player of the year candidate Brice Johnson and fellow forwards Kennedy Meeks and Isaiah Hicks all get up and down the hardwood very well.

 

On the other side, there is Syracuse’s renown, aggressive 2-3 zone. The question is how will the Orange’s zone translate against Carolina’s great transition offense? Syracuse’s zone is harassing, forcing teams to work for the best shot they can find, wasting precious ticks off the shot clock. According to KenPom, Syracuse’s defense forces opponents to use close to 20 seconds of the shot clock on average.

 

2. Marcus Paige

Paige came into his senior season as the preseason pick for ACC Player of the Year, and his performance was keeping pace with his accolades through December. Once January and ACC play rolled around, Paige’s shot had gone array, as he was shooting merely 38.7 percent from the field and only 32.4 percent from deep.

 

The shooting woes transformed Paige’s game on the fly. Paige went from premiere perimeter scorer to a distributor and prime defender. Truth be told, he didn’t have to be the go-to guy on such a well-rounded and deep Carolina team. But now, Paige is back to being an offensive weapon, scoring in double figures in his last six games, and knocking down threes at a 48 percent clip in the Tournament.

 

3. Offensive Rebounding

Much has been made about North Carolina’s frontcourt, and rightfully so, as its collection of big men are a force. And that force could have a heyday against the Orange on the offensive glass. Syracuse ranks 337th in defensive rebounding, allowing teams to gobble up offensive boards at a near 35 percent clip. In turn, Carolina is phenomenal at grabbing offensive boards, rebounding their misses 40 percent of the time, good enough for third in the nation.

 

Carolina is averaging 12.5 offensive rebounds per game in the Tournament, while the Orange are allowing more than 10. When it comes to cleaning the glass, it starts with Carolina’s Johnson. The All-American averages 9.8 rebounds per game and pulled down three offensive boards per game in ACC play. Rebounding for Carolina doesn’t end with Johnson, as the Heels have six players that average double figures in rebounds per 40 minutes.

 

If ‘Cuse wants its unlikely run to continue, giving the most efficient offense in the nation extra possessions won’t be the answer.

 

4. Syracuse Shooting

The biggest key for Syracuse to maintain this improbable Final Four run is the Orange are going to have to shoot lights out, which figures to be easier said than done in Houston. NRG Stadium has been not been kind to shooters in its brief history. According to Sports Illustrated’s Ted Keith, the last time the Final Four was in Houston in 2011, teams shot just 34.3 from the field and 28.1 from three. Flat-out awful.

 

The Orange can’t matchup with the Heels in the paint. Carolina has too much talent and too much depth. Where Syracuse has to succeed is behind the three-point arc, where more than 42 percent of the team’s shots have come from. Michael Gbinije, Trevor Cooney and Malachi Richardson have each attempted more than 215 three-pointers this season, and more than half of Cooney’s and Richardson’s field goal attempts have been from deep.

 

In short, the Orange love the deep ball, but shooting less than 30 percent, like they did against Carolina in their first two meetings, won’t suffice.

 

Finally, keep an eye on Syracuse’s freshman, stretch-four, Tyler Lydon. Lydon is the only Syracuse player who is shooting at least 40 percent from behind the arc. If he finds his range in Houston, it could open up the floor for Gbinijie and others via dribble penetration or interior passing.

 

5. Keep Your Composure

North Carolina has won its past nine games, a stretch that includes the Tar Heels clinching the ACC regular season championship, claiming the conference tournament and making it to Houston for the Final Four. They have averaged 73.5 points per game during this span and have scored 83 points or more in each of their four NCAA Tournament victories. The Heels are well coached, well rounded, deep, relentless on offense, and gritty on defense, as they have won each Tournament game in impressive fashion. This North Carolina team is playing like the national title contender that Williams has been designing for several seasons. This is exactly where the Heels belong.

 

Boeheim’s Orange have used their pressure 2-3 zone defense to stifle opponents in the NCAA Tournament, allowing only 101 points total in the first two rounds, and keeping Gonzaga (62 points) and Virginia (60 points) both in check while orchestrating comeback wins to get to the Final Four.

 

The chances of ‘Cuse playing a perfect game against Carolina are slim, so when things don’t go the Orange’s way, they have to maintain composure — something they’ve done this Tournament, but not necessarily this season. After trailing at halftime in their last two games, the Orange have rallied back to beat teams better than themselves, but now Syracuse faces its biggest hurdle yet in North Carolina.

Teaser:
5 X-Factors for Syracuse Orange vs. North Carolina Tar Heels Final Four Matchup
Post date: Friday, April 1, 2016 - 09:30
Path: /college-basketball/5-x-factors-villanova-wildcats-vs-oklahoma-sooners-final-four-matchup-2016
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The Villanova Wildcats (33-5) and Oklahoma Sooners (29-7) are set to square off in Houston on Saturday in the first of two Final Four matchups. The two opponents each took down their region’s No. 1 seed their last time out on the floor.

 

Related:

 

Villanova and Oklahoma are playing their best basketball of the season on both sides of the floor, particularly on the defensive end. Oklahoma sent the No. 3 and No. 1 seeds home by shutting down their perimeter shooting, holding Texas A&M and Oregon to a combined 10-for-49 from three (20.4 percent). Villanova stifled the South region’s No. 3 and No. 1 seeds with quick hands, causing Miami and Kansas to commit 28 turnovers combined (17 TO for Villanova in those games, +11 TO differential).

 

The Sooners and Wildcats are no stranger to Tournament play, but neither side has been this successful since the 2000s. Villanova last made the Final Four in 2009, falling to eventual national champion North Carolina. Will that be the motivation the Wildcats need to push past Oklahoma and possibly get a shot at revenge on the Tar Heels in the title game? (Syracuse will have something to say about that of course).

 

For Oklahoma it has been an even longer Final Four drought. The Sooners fell to the Indiana Hoosiers back in 2002. Fourteen years later there is a guarantee that one of these schools is headed back to the national championship game, something that neither team has accomplished since the late ‘80s.

 

These are two veteran groups with everything left to play for. College careers are coming to a close for the majority of Villanova and Oklahoma’s star players, now is their time to make history. Here are the key players and matchups to keep an eye on:

 

1. Buddy Hield

Did it come as a surprise to anyone that he would be the first name mentioned on this list? Didn’t think so. The Bahamian bucket machine has put on a clinic through the first two weekends of the Big Dance (29.2 ppg, 56.7 percent FG shooting, 47.5 percent on three-pointers). Even Kobe Bryant came out to see Hield on display, which the senior said inspired him to “put on a show.” He certainly delivered, connecting on eight threes and finishing with 37 points on Saturday to top No. 1 Oregon. Oklahoma will need more of the same from its star this weekend. Because when Hield’s shots are falling at that rate the Sooners are one of the hardest teams in the country to defend.

        

Another important aspect of Hield’s game is recognizing when to attack and when to distribute. He cannot do it all on his own, despite it seeming that way on occasion, so it is vital that his teammates get involved. If Hield’s shot runs cold for a stretch there must be a second and third option that can produce consistently. Isaiah Cousins and Jordan Woodard will have to read the defense and capitalize on mismatches down low. If Oklahoma relies solely on jump shots Villanova will have a hand up to contest every time. The Sooners have to get to the paint and get fouls called on the Wildcats’ starters. All of this cannot happen if they sit around and enjoy the Buddy Hield show.

 

2. Post play

Both squads have a ton of talent and depth in the backcourt so we have a good idea of what to expect from their respective guards. The frontcourts are less predictable. Oklahoma does not get a ton of production from its big men, as starting forwards Ryan Spangler and Khadeem Lattin are the Sooners’ fourth- and fifth-leading scorers. Villanova’s Daniel Ochefu has a size advantage over the smaller Oklahoma bigs and he needs to exploit this mismatch on offense. More importantly, however, he must limit Spangler and Lattin on the offensive glass, as rebounds and putbacks are a big part of their scoring. It is difficult enough controlling the Oklahoma backcourt for the duration of the shot clock, allowing the Sooners second-chance opportunities could be fatal.

 

If Ochefu and Villanova can limit the Sooners to one shot per possession it will    completely change the outlook of this game. Second-chance points hurt you in a handful of ways. First and foremost, you give up a basket. But maybe more concerning is the wasted energy on defense and the inability to get out in the fast break. After playing well in the half court for a full shot clock, and forcing a poor look out of Oklahoma, there is nothing more emotionally draining then allowing that miss to turn into another shot attempt. Oklahoma won’t miss too many opportunities to score, so providing the Sooners with extra time is dangerous. Additionally, Villanova will have an easier time scoring if the Wildcats can get out and run off of a missed shot. If they allow the Oklahoma defense to get set they will have a harder time scoring with regularity.

 

3. Underclassmen

Both of these programs’ success is predicated on building talent over the years, and 2016 is no different. Jay Wright’s Villanova squad has a few underclassmen that play significant minutes, but none exceed 24 per game. On the other side, Lon Kruger’s Oklahoma squad starts four upperclassmen and sophomore Lattin, but at 22 minutes a game he leads the next underclassman by close to 10 minutes. This is the Final Four, and nerves will be at an all-time high for both groups. There is a strong possibility of a starter on either side getting into foul trouble, suffering an injury, or just struggling with their game. The young talent on both teams must be ready to step up in place of the normal contributors when something inevitably goes wrong.

 

It is not necessary for an untested freshman to come into this game and take over, but mistakes will be even more costly than normal. Everyone must come ready to play and recognize that the spotlight has never been bigger. This is where heroes are born and errors are magnified.

 

4. Controlling the basketball

This is key for every team, especially in March, but Villanova must win the turnover battle in order to keep pace with Oklahoma. The Wildcats played brilliantly against Kansas’ three-headed monster backcourt of Devonte Graham, Frank Mason III, and Wayne Selden Jr., who combined for 10 turnovers in the South Region final. If Villanova can force Hield, Woodard and Cousins to cough it up at a similar rate it has a great chance against Oklahoma on Saturday. In contrast, the Sooner guards must be smart in handling the Wildcats’ pressure and establishing their half-court offense. If they can protect the rock and get at least a shot on most of their possessions Oklahoma should be able to pull away from Villanova.

 

There are many similarities between these two teams, so this bout may come down to the little things. When two highly competitive groups are pitted against each other and both come to play, the game is often determined by who dives on more loose balls and wins the hustle plays. Don’t be surprised if an incredible individual effort changes the outcome of this game in the closing minutes.

 

5. Josh Hart

Villanova’s answer for Hield comes in the form of its junior guard. Hart isn’t quite at the level that Hield is when it comes to pure scoring, but he is the best on the Wildcats’ roster at creating his own shot. There are guaranteed to be possessions where Oklahoma’s defense closes out well and Villanova’s efficient passing does not lead to an open look. In a pinch, with the shot clock dwindling, Hart will have to be able to make space for himself and knock down a few contested jumpers. If Hart can get hot he will force Oklahoma’s defenders to help on him, which will get his teammates open. Seniors Ryan Arcidiacono and Daniel Ochefu are quality scorers off of a good pass.

 

When you can get your best guy going it opens up shooting lanes for everyone else. It also tends to instill confidence in the other players. If Hart is feeling it then everyone else just plays a bit more loose and relaxed, the same can be said about Hield. Establishing a rhythm early on in this game could be huge for Villanova if it wants to control the tempo and dictate the pace throughout.

 

Flashback

One more thing Villanova may benefit from is a bit of short-term memory loss. Wright and company have come a long way since the start of the season, but in a December Pearl Harbor Classic matchup these Wildcats were trounced by Oklahoma 78-55. The Sooners connected on 14 three-pointers, and they did not trail at any point during the game. Villanova will want to slow the pace down and keep Hield from getting hot at all costs.

Teaser:
5 X-Factors for Villanova Wildcats vs. Oklahoma Sooners Final Four Matchup
Post date: Friday, April 1, 2016 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: Video, Overtime
Path: /overtime/14-year-old-football-player-takes-down-shoplifter-perfect-tackle-kevin-merz-seattle-prep-gap
Body:

A football background could come in handy even off the field.

 

Kevin Merz, a 14-year-old football player from Seattle Prep, put those skills to good use during a shopping trip at The Gap inside Factoria Mall. While in the store, a man came in with about $800 worth of stolen goods from Target and desperately trying to dodge police. Merz decided to go full-on J.J. Watt and took him down with a perfect tackle to get the man to the ground.

 

SURVEILLANCE VIDEO: A Bellevue teen helped police take down a suspected shoplifter >> http://kiro.tv/TackleHero

Posted by on Tuesday, March 29, 2016

 

Who wouldn't want this guy on their team? Good instincts and great tackling ability.

 

Teaser:
Post date: Thursday, March 31, 2016 - 15:36
All taxonomy terms: NBA, Overtime
Path: /overtime/jalen-rose-yao-ming-hall-of-fame-basketball-nba-houston-rockets-international
Body:

Former Houston Rocket Yao Ming is expected to be inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame later this year and there's someone who's not too happy about it.

 

Former NBA player Jalen Rose had some pretty honest words to say about the induction of Ming, stating that the international committee should not be able to vote for their players and putting them in the same HOF with American greats.

 

"He absolutely, positively does NOT deserve to be in the Hall of Fame," Rose said. "It's not even close. I do not like the fact that there's an international committee that votes for international players and puts them in the same Hall of Fame as the American-born players, but they lower the bar based on their productivity. That's not fair. I don't like that.

 

 

 

Teaser:
Post date: Thursday, March 31, 2016 - 14:45
Path: /college-basketball/syracuse-orange-vs-north-carolina-tar-heels-ncaa-tournament-final-four-preview-prediction-2016
Body:

The North Carolina Tar Heels were expected to be playing in the Final Four. After all, the Tar Heels were named the No.2 overall seed when the NCAA Tournament field was unveiled on March 13. While many expected North Carolina to be playing in Houston on April 2, no one thought the Syracuse Orange would also represent the ACC in the Final Four.

 

Michigan State losing to Middle Tennessee State in the first round certainly helped the Orange. But with victories over Gonzaga in the Sweet 16 and Virginia in the Elite Eight, Syracuse has proven to the naysayers that this Orange team did belong in the NCAA Tournament.

 

Saturday will be the third meeting between these familiar foes with North Carolina winning the previous two. The Tar Heels beat Syracuse on the road 84-73 on Jan. 9 and later won on their own home court, 75-70, on Feb. 29, which was senior night for guard Marcus Paige and forward Brice Johnson.

 

Final Four: No. 10 Syracuse Orange (23-13) vs. No. 1 North Carolina Tar Heels (32-6)

 

When: 8:49 p.m. ET (Saturday)

Where: NRG Stadium (Houston)

TV: TBS

Line: North Carolina -9.5

 

Keys for Syracuse

Syracuse has the athleticism to make it a game with North Carolina, but the Orange will likely struggle with the Tar Heels’ length. The Orange rank 337th in the nation in defensive rebounding, so they will need to tighten up their 2-3 zone to prevent the Tar Heels from getting second-chance opportunities.

 

Syracuse also will need to hit shots from outside. The Orange take 42.2 percent of their shots from the perimeter, so not making them could make for a long night at NRG Stadium. Malachi Richardson was 3-of-7 from the arc against Virginia and the Orange will need him and Michael Gbinije to be efficient on offense if they're going to pull off the upset.

 

Keys for North Carolina

North Carolina will need to continue to lock down on defense as the Tar Heels have in their four Tournament wins, all by double digits. They also will need to use their big men to their advantage against the shorter Orange players.

 

The Tar Heels feature plenty of size, boasting a front line that features 6-foot-10 All-American forward Brice Johnson. Carolina’s leading scorer and rebounder is joined by Kennedy Meeks (6-10), Isaiah Hicks (6-9), Justin Jackson (6-8) and Joel James (6-11) as the primary frontcourt rotation. DaJuan Coleman is the only significant contributor on Syracuse’s roster who can match up size-wise (6-9) with the Tar Heels’ big men, but he averages just 17.5 minutes per game.

 

Much like against Notre Dame when North Carolina shot 72 percent on their two-point attempts, expect the Tar Heels to pound Syracuse inside to take advantage of its size and capitalize on second-chance opportunities.

 

Final Analysis

 

North Carolina is 2-0 against Syracuse this season, but the Orange are playing with more confidence than those previous matchups. In the Tar Heels’ two victories they forced the Orange to shoot the ball from outside and those long-range attempts just weren’t falling. Syracuse shot below 30 percent from three-point land in both games, so look for the Tar Heels to use the same formula Saturday night.

 

It will be hard for the Orange to duplicate their impressive second half performance against the Cavaliers. North Carolina's size and quickness will be too much for Syracuse to handle for 40 minutes.

 

Prediction: North Carolina 88, Syracuse 74

 

— Written by Antwan Staley, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and has extensive experience covering Florida sports teams. Staley has written for Bleacher Report, Pro Player Insiders and is a reporter for Sports Talk Florida. Follow him on Twitter @antwanstaley.

Teaser:
Syracuse Orange vs. North Carolina Tar Heels: NCAA Tournament Final Four Preview and Prediction
Post date: Thursday, March 31, 2016 - 11:30
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball
Path: /college-basketball/oklahoma-sooners-vs-villanova-wildcats-ncaa-tournament-final-four-preview-prediction-2016
Body:

Twos are wild as the second-seeded Villanova Wildcats and Oklahoma Sooners play in first game of the Final Four Saturday at NRG Stadium in Houston. These two met on a neutral court back on Dec. 7 with Oklahoma winning easily, 78-55. The difference came from long range where OU hit 14-of-26 of its three-point attempts while Villanova connected on just four of 32. Since then both teams have improved greatly especially ‘Nova, which put the huge clamps on Kansas to win the South Region.

 

Final Four: No. 2 Villanova Wildcats (33-5) vs No. 2 Oklahoma Sooners (29-7)

 

When: ​6:09 p.m. ET (Saturday)

Where: ​NRG Stadium (Houston, Texas)

TV: TBS

Line: Villanova -2

 

Keys for Oklahoma

Any sort of talk about the Sooners obviously starts with Buddy Hield. The All-American scoring machine is going to have to find open lanes and spaces for shots against Villanova’s suffocating defense. He may be able to do so if Isaiah Cousins and Jordan Woodard are able to get hot early. Domes like NRG Stadium are notoriously hard to shoot in so the Sooners will have to get used to the sight lines and maybe get some early layups to help out.

 

Keys for Villanova

The Wildcats need to bomb away early to keep Oklahoma honest and on its heels. Daniel Ochefu also has to win the battle inside with Ryan Spangler and Khadeem Lattin because when he's involved, the offense clicks a lot better. Finally, Kris Jenkins has to stay on the court. He's had some issues with fouls in the NCAA Tournament, racking up three or more in all but one of the games so far. Jenkins is instant offense, but if he's on the bench, he can't score buckets.

 

Final Analysis

 

These two teams are playing some great basketball right now and it won't stop in the Final Four. I think there will be a boatload of lead changes, but in the end Villanova’s defense will win out. I'm really concerned with Oklahoma's ability to make jump shots in the dome. Hield has had an incredible season, but he may struggle out of the gate. The Sooners’ defense will keep them in this, but the Wildcats get the win and the chance for a national title on Monday.

 

Prediction: Villanova 73, Oklahoma 68

 

— Written by Matt Josephs, who is a part of the Athlon Sports Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter .

 

(Kris Jenkins photo courtesy of )

Teaser:
Oklahoma Sooners vs. Villanova Wildcats: NCAA Tournament Final Four Preview and Prediction
Post date: Thursday, March 31, 2016 - 11:00
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball
Path: /college-basketball/outrageous-predictions-final-four-2016
Body:

In a college basketball season where we didn't know what to expect from week to week, the NCAA Tournament has gone just about how we expected it to — with nobody safe and nothing off the table. This year’s Final Four consists of a No. 10 seed that wasn't supposed to be dancing, an old blue blood, a team from a re-invented conference still looking for respect and a squad led by the nation's top player.

 

Let's do this.

 

With how the season has gone and how the Tournament has subsequently unfolded, I'm calling you a liar if you feel safe placing a bet on who wins this thing. That alone makes this arguably the most difficult "Outrageous Prediction" piece I've written to date. How can one predict the outrageous when literally nothing should surprise anyone from here on out?

Here is my best attempt at doing just that.

 

Outrageous Predictions for the Final Four

 

Villanova rolls Oklahoma

Villanova has grown considerably as a team since the loss to Oklahoma early in the season. The Sooner big men aren't the same as the hosses that Villanova brings to the table. There is a level of physicality that the Wildcats play with that will wear down the Sooners and put everything on Buddy Hield's shoulders. Once that happens, Hield will find himself challenged by Josh Hart at both ends of the floor. Exhaustion will set in for that elite Oklahoma starting five, while Villanova's depth carries the Wildcats to a sound victory.

 

Syracuse upsets North Carolina

C'mon, will you really be shocked? The Orange are in a zone, and speaking of zones, look for that 2-3 zone to be firing on all cylinders. Jim Boeheim beat a Roy Williams team in the tourney before with a combo of solid zone play and long-range bombs from beyond the arc (He also had Carmelo Anthony to lean on). Look for the same formula here, causing some bad shots that don't fall for the Tar Heels. It all leads to an "old Big East" final.

 

The Orange reign supreme

As good as Villanova is, this team hasn't seen a 2-3 zone like what Syracuse runs all year. The Wildcats will have trouble preparing for it with only a day's worth of practice. They'll be forced to fire up low percentage jump shots and prevented from getting the ball inside to their bigs. On the other end, ‘Nova brings little to the table that Syracuse hasn't seen this season defensively. The Orange will play their game and win a low-scoring contest to win the title.

 

Jim Boeheim announces his retirement after cutting down the nets

It's been a taxing year for Boeheim and arguably his best coaching job. He's not going to catch Coach K in the wins column and few others are going to catch Boeheim. It's time to hang it up, pass the torch and go out on top. There wouldn't be a better time to do it.

 

— Written by J.P. Scott, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Scott is the owner of KnowItAllFootball.com and host of "Raising the Bar" on RadiOmaha.com. Follow him on Twitter @TheJPScott.

Teaser:
Outrageous Predictions for the Final Four
Post date: Thursday, March 31, 2016 - 10:30
All taxonomy terms: Dustin Johnson, Golf
Path: /golf/top-30-golfers-2016-majors-no-6-dustin-johnson
Body:

They’re the cream of the major championship crop, circa 2016 — the Athlon Major Championship Dream Team. Leading up to The Masters, we'll be unveiling Athlon Sports’ 30 players to watch for majors season, with commentary on each from the ’s .

 

No. 6: Dustin Johnson

Born: June 22, 1984, Columbia, S.C. | Career PGA Tour Wins: 9 | 2015 Wins (Worldwide): 1 | 2015 Earnings (PGA Tour): $5,509,467 (5th) | World Ranking: 9

Gary Williams' Take: With a win this year, Johnson will extend the longest active streak of winning at least one event on Tour every season going back to 2008. The difficult losses at majors give fans pause, but the fact that he has been so close so often makes it inevitable that he will break through. He also finished tied for sixth at Augusta last year, marking his best result at a course, tee to green, that is built for him. He rarely misses a cut, and his top 10 production ranks with the best on Tour. He may be the player best conditioned to deal with defeat, because he is virtually oblivious to the consequences while others are busy suggesting that he will never recover. He always does, and with playoff wins, two World Golf Championship victories and a sure spot on the U.S. Ryder Cup team, it’s time to focus on the details. Johnson and swing coach Butch Harmon are working on his approaches from 50-125 yards and on improving his wedge play. He should have major championship scar tissue, but he never shows it.

 

Major Championship Résumé

Starts: 27

Wins: 0

2015 Performance:

     Masters – T6

     U.S. Open – T2

     British Open – T49

     PGA Championship – T7

Best Career Finishes:

     Masters – T6 (2015)

     U.S. Open – T2 (2015)

     British Open - T2 (2011)

     PGA Championship - T5 (2010)

Top-10 Finishes: 10

Top-25 Finishes: 14

Missed Cuts: 4


Athlon's 2016 Golf annual provides in-depth previews of this year's four majors, including the top 30 players to watch this season. One of these elite players, Zach Johnson, also takes you tee to green with full-swing instruction and short game essentials. .

Teaser:
Post date: Thursday, March 31, 2016 - 10:16
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball
Path: /college-basketball/betting-against-spread-best-bets-ncaa-tournament-final-four-2016
Body:

Before we break down the Final Four, I just want to thank Syracuse for this run the Orange have made. I'm a proud alumnus of the school and couldn't be more proud of what this team has been able to do. The year featured a loss to St. John's, but also a big victory at Duke during the regular season. Now, No. 10 Syracuse gets fellow ACC member No. 1 North Carolina while No. 2-seeds Oklahoma and Villanova will face off in the other Final Four pairing on Saturday.

 

​Villanova vs. Oklahoma (Saturday, 6:09 p.m. ET on TBS)

Oklahoma looked awfully impressive in its Elite Eight win over Oregon, but I'm concerned a bit with the reliance of the jump shot for the Sooners. There's no doubt that Buddy Hield is the best player on the court for this one, but the better team may be from Philadelphia. Kris Jenkins has been a revelation for the Wildcats, which were able to conquer their past ghosts of not being able to advance deep into the NCAA Tournament. Villanova is 12-4 ATS in non-conference games this season while Oklahoma is 10-18 ATS against teams with a winning record. I actually think the under may be the better play although it'll be tough to watch. The Sooners have gone under in 17 of their last 25 neutral court games. PREDICTION: Villanova 73-68

 

Syracuse vs. North Carolina (Saturday, 8:48 p.m. ET on TBS)

This is the third matchup between the two ACC schools. Game one was notable because it was in Syracuse and it was the return of Jim Boeheim to the sidelines after his suspension. That was a 33-33 contest before the Tar Heels ran away in the second half on their way to an 84-73 road win. The second matchup took place in Chapel Hill and was a 75-70 Carolina victory. The Heels won both games despite making a total of nine three-pointers. I've said before that North Carolina is most talented team left and when the Tar Heels are focused on the defensive end, no one was going to touch them. It is so hard to figure out what is going to happen with this Syracuse squad that is playing with a ton of house money. You try to bury the Orange early and they still come back late, as shown in the Gonzaga and Virginia victories. I can see two scenarios where they run out of pixie dust and get blown away or they lose a heartbreaker because Carolina's shooters go cold. The Orange have allowed around 56 points per game in this Tournament. I think the under might be the best play here too. PREDICTION: North Carolina 68-62

 

With regards to a lot of the props that surround the Final Four, I don't think there is a lot of value unless you believe in the Sooners. You can get Oklahoma for around 7/2 in some places to win it all. Along those same lines, Buddy Hield is 4/1 to be named the Final Four’s Most Outstanding Player. Kris Jenkins of Villanova is 12/1 to be the MOP and I can see a scenario where the Wildcats win the national championship and he's the reason why. For the most part though, I'd stick to just the games.

 

— Written by Matt Josephs, who is a part of the Athlon Sports Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter .

 

(Top photo courtesy of )

Teaser:
Betting Against the Spread: Best Bets for NCAA Tournament Final Four
Post date: Thursday, March 31, 2016 - 10:00
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball
Path: /college-basketball/top-10-most-memorable-moments-final-four-history
Body:

This weekend’s Final Four will likely bring some exciting moments, as it does every year.  For every college basketball viewer, memories stand out for various reasons, but here are the 10 most memorable moments for me in Final Four history.

 

10. All Four No. 1 Seeds Make It

April 5, 2008 (San Antonio)

For the only time since seeding began, all four No. 1 seeds (Kansas, Memphis, North Carolina, UCLA) made it into the Final Four. The Wildcats won it all in another moment that makes this list, but the fact that the top seeds have only made it to the Final Four once is a testament to the unpredictability of March Madness.

 

9. The Wizard Goes Out on Top

March 31, 1975 (San Diego)

After UCLA head coach John Wooden announced his retirement following a dramatic come-from-behind win in the national semifinals over Louisville, the Bruin players gave him the best goodbye present possible. UCLA beat Kentucky 92-85 in the title game, giving “The Wizard of Westwood” his 10th national championship in 12 years.

 

8. The Battle of the Unrankeds

April 7, 2014 (Arlington, Texas)

Both Connecticut and Kentucky had mediocre seasons by their standards and entered the Tournament unranked in the AP poll as respective No. 7 and No. 8 seeds. Both caught fire in the Big Dance and made the final game, where UConn won 60-54.

 

7. Kansas Rallies

April 7, 2008 (San Antonio)

Memphis led Kansas 60-51 with two minutes remaining in regulation, but the Jayhawks managed to close the gap to 62-60 with 10 seconds left. The Tigers’ Derrick Rose went to the foul line and hit one of two free throws to give his team a 63-60 lead but Kansas’ Mario Chalmers hit a three-pointer to send the game into overtime. Kansas then held Memphis to five points to win its first national championship since 1988.

 

6. Kevin Ware Inspires Louisville to Victory

April 8, 2013 (Atlanta)

After attempting to block a shot in the regional championship against Duke, Louisville guard Kevin Ware landed awkwardly and suffered a compound fracture in his right leg. Despite the gruesomeness of the injury, which was captured on television and shook up everyone who saw it, Ware said, "I'm fine, just win the game.” Louisville did just that and in the Final Four, Ware joined his teammates in full uniform to cheer them on as the Cardinals won the championship.

 

5. The Duke Dynasty is Born

March 30, 1991 (Indianapolis)

After coming up short in three consecutive Final Fours, Duke upset undefeated UNLV in the semifinal and then beat Kansas in the national championship game. Since that upset of the Runnin’ Rebels, the Blue Devils have been the most successful program in college basketball, winning five national titles since 1991.

 

4. Chris Webber Calls Timeout

April 5, 1993 (New Orleans)

The saddest part about this moment is that Webber was the main reason this game was close, scoring 23 points and snagging 11 rebounds. Yet when double-teamed and down 73-71 to North Carolina in the final seconds of the game, the Fab Five sophomore called a timeout that he didn’t have. It gave the Tar Heels a technical foul and the national title and one of the most exciting eras in college basketball history ended with a whimper.

 

3. Magic and Bird Meet for the First Time

March 26, 1979 (Salt Lake City)

The two best players during the 1978-79 college basketball season were Michigan State’s Magic Johnson and Indiana State’s Larry Bird. Their first meeting in the national championship, in which the Spartans won 75-64, garnered the highest television ratings for any college basketball game. Both players went to the NBA the next season and either Magic’s Los Angeles Lakers or Bird’s Boston Celtics were in the Finals every season of the 1980s.

 

2. Villanova Upsets Georgetown

April 1, 1985 (Lexington, Ky.)

College basketball has had its fair share of low-seeded Cinderella stories, but the only team whose carriage never turned back into a pumpkin was the 1985 Villanova Wildcats. The No. 8 seed shocked the college basketball world by making the final and then played a game for the ages to upset top seed and defending national champion Georgetown.

 

1. Don’t You Want Somebody to Hug

April 4, 1983 (Albuquerque, N.M.)

North Carolina State’s championship run was the most dramatic in history and ended with an alley-oop slam dunk by Lorenzo Charles that defeated Houston’s Phi Slamma Jamma attack 54-52. After the win, head coach Jim Valvano ran onto the court looking for a player to hug. No moment in Final Four history has ever been more moving or memorable.

 

— Written by Aaron Tallent, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Tallent is a writer whose articles have appeared in The Sweet Science, FOX Sports’ Outkick the Coverage, Liberty Island and The Washington Post. Follow him on Twitter at .

 

(Jim Valvano photo courtesy of )

Teaser:
Top 10 Most Memorable Moments in Final Four History
Post date: Thursday, March 31, 2016 - 09:30
Path: /college-football/ranking-accs-toughest-college-football-schedules-2016
Body:

When taking a peek at the schedules for the coming season, one has to take into account just how loaded teams like Clemson and Florida State are.

 

Therefore, the teams in the Atlantic division are naturally going to have a bit of a tougher slate by virtue of having to play both top-10-caliber squads.

 

Related: 

 

Looking specifically at those two programs, each has put forth the type of gauntlet that should impress College Football Playoff Committee members.

 

Teams like Louisville and North Carolina are also expected to be in the top 25 to open the season, and games against SEC schools and Notre Dame are all over the place, too.

 

In other words, with everything being relative to where each program stands, there isn’t much in the way of an easy schedule in the bunch. Here is how the ACC teams’ slates break down from most difficult to easiest.

 

* - neutral site

 

1. Florida State

Non-Con: Ole Miss*, Charleston Southern, South Florida, Florida

Atlantic Home: Wake Forest, Clemson, Boston College

Atlantic Road: Louisville, NC State, Syracuse

Crossover: North Carolina, at Miami

 

The Seminoles open with what is sure to be at least a top-15 team with an explosive offense in Ole Miss, then don’t take on a Power Five opponent at home until the first weekend of October, which happens to be against 2015 Coastal Division champion, North Carolina. Things settle down a bit in November, but finish with a Florida team that even at its lowest point has a roster littered with NFL talent. The only solace is that the toughest opponent on the schedule, Clemson, has to come to Doak Campbell Stadium.

 

2. Clemson

Non-Con: at Auburn, Troy, South Carolina State, South Carolina

Atlantic Home: Louisville, NC State, Syracuse

Atlantic Road: Boston College, Florida State, Wake Forest

Crossover: at Georgia Tech, Pittsburgh

 

Auburn is a bit of a wild card to begin with, and the fact that it’s at Jordan-Hare makes it even trickier. Another potential pitfall is the Thursday night road game at Georgia Tech, both because every Thursday night road game breeds upsets and the Yellow Jackets’ offense isn’t easy to prep for on a short week. Louisville has to come to Death Valley before things become more manageable. A carefully placed bye week offsets the fact that the Tigers travel to Tallahassee this season, after which Clemson should be heavily favored in every game on the schedule.

 

3. Pittsburgh

Non-Con: Villanova, Penn State, at Oklahoma State, Marshall

Coastal Home: Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech, Duke

Coastal Road: North Carolina, Virginia, Miami

Crossover: at Clemson, Syracuse

 

After what should be a relative layup against Villanova to start the season, September is brutal, with a home date against Penn State and road trips to Oklahoma State and North Carolina – both of whom could be ranked – finishing off the month. October is a little more manageable, but the Panthers drew Clemson as one of their crossovers and it’s in Death Valley. A road trip to Miami and home game against Duke make the final month even tougher, as bowl eligibility may come down to the home game with Syracuse.

 

4. North Carolina

Non-Con: Georgia*, at Illinois, James Madison, The Citadel

Coastal Home: Pittsburgh, Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech

Coastal Road: Miami, Duke, Virginia

Crossover: at Florida State, NC State

 

This schedule is frontloaded with a very tough first two months, and the back end isn’t exactly a cakewalk, either. The quasi-neutral site test with Georgia to start the year will be followed with a road trip to a Power Five conference team, albeit a one in rebuilding mode, in Illinois out of the Big Ten. October has road trips down south to both Florida State and Miami. The Tar Heels should be able to survive that stretch to the point where they are still in the hunt to defend their Coastal title, although back-to-back games with Georgia Tech and Duke to start November won’t make that easy.

 

5. Louisville

Non-Con: Charlotte, at Marshall, at Houston, Kentucky

Atlantic Home: Florida State, NC State, Wake Forest

Atlantic Road: Syracuse, Clemson, Boston College

Crossover: Duke, at Virginia

 

By all expectations, the Cardinals should be 2-0 by the time the Seminoles come to Papa John’s Stadium, but getting both Florida State then traveling to Clemson two weeks later doesn’t make things easy. Duke is a tougher crossover game than it used to be, and even the trip to Marshall can be a bit of a trap game. Although Houston isn’t in a Power Five conference, the Cougars announced themselves as a player on the national scene last year with a win over Florida State in the Peach Bowl and will likely be favored on the second-to-last game on the schedule.

 

6. Georgia Tech

Non-Con: Mercer, Vanderbilt, Georgia Southern, at Georgia

Coastal Home: Miami, Duke, Virginia

Coastal Road: Pittsburgh, North Carolina, Virginia Tech

Crossover: Boston College*, Clemson

 

That opener, as stated earlier, can throw everything out of whack by virtue of its cross-Atlantic (Ocean) nature, so the Yellow Jackets must work against that. They drew the short end of the stick with a crossover game against Clemson, but having it at home on a Thursday night is highly beneficial. November is brutal, with three road games, including trips to last year’s Coastal champion and a Georgia team that always has talent everywhere.

 

7. NC State

Non-Con: William & Mary, at East Carolina, Old Dominion, Notre Dame

Atlantic Home: Wake Forest, Boston College, Florida State

Atlantic Road: Clemson, Louisville, Syracuse

Crossover: Miami, at North Carolina

 

Everything is fine and dandy the first month of the season, as the Wolfpack don’t leave the state of North Carolina until mid-October, although they’ll likely be an underdog when Notre Dame comes to town. After that, look out. Road games to Clemson and Louisville could bring this team back to earth fast, and the late crossover games with Miami and North Carolina present problems as well. It’s only of minor consolation that Florida State comes to Raleigh, as the Seminoles would be favored if the game were played on the moon.

 

8. Virginia Tech

Non-Con: Liberty, Tennessee*, East Carolina, at Notre Dame

Coastal Home: Miami, Georgia Tech, Virginia

Coastal Road: North Carolina, Pittsburgh, Duke

Crossover: Boston College, at Syracuse

 

There are some fortunate bounces here, particularly drawing Boston College and Syracuse from the Atlantic, completely missing the upper half of that division. However, the non-conference slate features a showdown at Bristol Motor Speedway with Tennessee, which will likely be the favorite to win the SEC East, and a late trip to South Bend to face what should be another stout Notre Dame team. Other than that, the biggest challenge should come from the trip to North Carolina, but this is a fairly manageable slate for Justin Fuente in his first year in Blacksburg.

 

9. Miami

Non-Con: Florida A&M, Florida Atlantic, at Appalachian State, at Notre Dame

Coastal Home: North Carolina, Pittsburgh, Duke

Coastal Road: Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech, Virginia

Crossover: Florida State, at NC State

 

September is an absolute cakewalk, easing coach Mark Richt into his first year on the job. October is a much different story, though, with three road games, highlighted by a trip to South Bend, and two home games against rival Florida State and a North Carolina team that returns a boatload. November calms down some, but finishing up with a trip to NC State and a home date against Duke is more difficult that it would have been a few years ago.

 

10. Syracuse

Non-Con: Colgate, South Florida, at Connecticut, Notre Dame*

Atlantic Home: Louisville, NC State, Florida State

Atlantic Road: Wake Forest, Boston College, Clemson

Crossover: Virginia Tech, at Pittsburgh

 

This is a program that is in rebuilding mode, and outside of the season opener against Colgate in the Dome, there’s not a lot of automatic wins here. Louisville will likely be a huge favorite, and South Florida and UConn, while not powerhouses, were both bowl teams in 2015. Notre Dame also is a likely defeat, and the rest of the home games are Virginia Tech, NC State and Florida State, all of whom are likely going to be favored, as well. This could be a better team in Dino Babers’ first year with the program and the won-loss record won’t reflect it.

 

11. Duke

Non-Con: NC Central, at Northwestern, at Notre Dame, Army

Coastal Home: Virginia, Virginia Tech, North Carolina
Coastal Road: Georgia Tech, Pittsburgh, Miami

Crossover: Wake Forest, at Louisville

 

What jumps out immediately is the first month, where road trips to Northwestern and Notre Dame will be difficult. A trip to Louisville also is problematic, but dodging both Clemson and Florida State in the crossover games is helpful. November also will present a challenge, even though North Carolina will be at home. Finishing the season at Pittsburgh and Miami will be interesting, as the Blue Devils may be road favorites depending on how things play out.

 

12. Virginia

Non-Con: Richmond, at Oregon, at Connecticut, Central Michigan

Coastal Home: Pittsburgh, North Carolina, Miami

Coastal Road: Duke, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech

Crossover: Louisville, at Wake Forest

 

The Cavaliers pack all their non-conference games in the first month, and they are no cakewalk. The trip to Eugene to face Oregon is about as hard as it gets, and going to an improving UConn program won’t be a walk in the park, either. Luckily, the Cavaliers miss Clemson and Florida State in the crossover games and Louisville and North Carolina are at home. Closing with Miami and trips to Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech aren’t ideal, but not the worst way to finish up.

 

13. Boston College

Non-Con: at UMass, Wagner, Buffalo, Connecticut

Atlantic Home: Clemson, Syracuse, Louisville

Atlantic Road: NC State, Florida State, Wake Forest

Crossover: Georgia Tech*, at Virginia Tech

 

It can’t be understated that traveling over the Atlantic Ocean for the season opener can be a nightmare to recover from, making that Georgia Tech game a possible scenario where the UMass one the week after is more difficult than it should be. Outside of the obligatory dates with Clemson and Florida State, road trips to NC State and Wake Forest are virtual toss-ups, while getting Syracuse at home is a plus. UConn is another 50-50 type contest which could very well be the difference between making a bowl or not for Steve Addazio and the Eagles.

 

14. Wake Forest

Non-Con: Tulane, Delaware, at Indiana, Army

Atlantic Home: Syracuse, Clemson, Boston College

Atlantic Road: NC State, Florida State, Louisville

Crossover: at Duke, Virginia

 

This schedule is sneaky tough, as the only home game in the first two months that makes a difference because of the venue is against Syracuse. The four road trips in that span will all be ones where the Demon Deacons will most likely be underdogs. Virginia and Boston College are critical home games that could go either way, but Louisville and Clemson are near-certain losses, making the margin for error on bowl eligibility quite slim.

 

— Written by Adam Kurkjian, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and is a reporter for the Boston Herald. He has covered the World Series, Super Bowl, Stanley Cup playoffs, Boston Marathon and Little League World Series, among other events from the high school, college and pro ranks. Follow him on Twitter @AdamKurkjian.

Teaser:
Ranking the ACC's Toughest College Football Schedules in 2016
Post date: Thursday, March 31, 2016 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: NBA, Overtime
Path: /overtime/professional-athletes-blast-dangelo-russell-social-media-nba-nfl-tyrann-mathieu-shannon-sharpe-nick-young-pat-mcafee-lakers
Body:

It's widely known that not only did Lakers rookie D'Angelo Russell break so-called "guy code" by secretly taping Nick Young, he also broke "teammate code." 

 

Every team is different but there's one thing underlying factor: it's a brotherhood. Everything that happens should be kept in-house. Friends and teammates don't rat out their boys. Current and former athletes from the NBA and NFL chimed in on Twitter about the situation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Teaser:
Post date: Wednesday, March 30, 2016 - 16:59
All taxonomy terms: NBA, Overtime
Path: /overtime/stephen-jackson-snitches-get-stitches-espn-sportscenter-lakers-dangelo-russell-nick-young
Body:

Just when you think you've heard all there is to hear about D'Angelo Russell and the Lakers, here comes Stephen Jackson.

 

Not sure what made ESPN think Jackson was the best person to have on a SportsCenter segment, but here we are. When asked about Russell's involvement in filming teammate Nick Young talking about his cheating, Jackson had one major thing to say.

 

"Snitches get stitches," Jackson said. "Old rule, snitches get stitches."

 

After that he goes on to talk about the Derek Fisher and Matt Barnes situation and this "new basketball" that we're all still trying to make sense of. 

 

Teaser:
Post date: Wednesday, March 30, 2016 - 15:04
All taxonomy terms: NBA, Overtime
Path: /overtime/stephen-smith-dangelo-russell-espn-first-take-lakers-nick-young-skip-bayless
Body:

It goes from bad to worse when it comes to D'Angelo Russell and the Lakers.

 

On a segment during ESPN's "First Take" Stephen A. Smith goes in on the Lakers rookie for the recent Nick Young - Iggy Azalea situation. The outspoken personality says this will do irreversible damage to Russell going forward, saying it would be almost impossible for future teammates to trust him.

 

Teaser:
Post date: Wednesday, March 30, 2016 - 11:39
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy
Path: /fantasy/evaluating-fantasy-impact-quarterbacks-tight-ends-new-teams-2016
Body:

As the offseason carries on and we get closer to the NFL Draft, some football owners are already chomping at the bit. They are looking ahead to not only the annual player selection meeting in Chicago at the end of the April, but their own fantasy drafts as well.

 

Sure, the latter may be four months away, but it's never too early to start thinking about fantasy values. Let's take a look at the free agent quarterbacks and tight ends that signed with a new team or were traded, and how the new scenery affects their 2016 fantasy value as things stand at the end of March.

 

Quarterbacks

 

Brock Osweiler, Houston Texans

Osweiler may have found big money by signing with Houston, but that won’t help his current fantasy value. In Denver, Osweiler had flashes of looking good, but he also struggled. His stat line for nine games in 2015 was 1,967 yards passing, 10 touchdowns and six interceptions. In his last four starts, he had at least 230 yards through the air. In Houston, he'll have DeAndre Hopkins as his go-to guy, and a few other possible weapons. However, in that offense, he's a QB2 at best.

 

Mark Sanchez, Denver Broncos

With Osweiler going elsewhere and Peyton Manning retired, the Broncos needed a quarterback. They looked over the free agents and decided to trade a late-round draft pick for Sanchez. This doesn’t mean that Sanchez is locked in as the Week 1 starter, however, as it’s pretty likely the Broncos will add another quarterback or two before training camp comes around. Sanchez isn't a top quarterback option regardless of how it shakes out in Denver.

 

Robert Griffin III, Cleveland Browns

RG3 basically has one year to prove his worth in the NFL. The contract with the Browns gives him a year to show that he can still be a starting quarterback. He is injury-prone, and now he's on a team that has fewer weapons than the Redskins. If, and it's a huge if, but if RG3 is reunited with the currently suspended Josh Gordon, his fantasy value rises slightly, but he remains a risk on draft day. He's someone that should be targeted in the later rounds with boom or bust potential.

 

Tight Ends

 

Coby Fleener, New Orleans Saints

Fleener may end up being undervalued in 2016 drafts because he hasn't really produced during his time in Indianapolis. However, the Saints are looking for a pass-catching tight end, and that's where Fleener steps in. Without a second tight end in the picture, Fleener is the guy in New Orleans. Drew Brees loves throwing to his tight ends (as Jimmy Graham and even Ben Watson can attest to), which should result in a boost for Fleener. His best season was 2014, with 774 yards and eight touchdowns. He should surpass that this coming season.

 

Ladarius Green, Pittsburgh Steelers

Playing behind Antonio Gates for his whole career, Green hasn't had a chance to show what he can do. While Gates has missed time, giving Green a chance to step in, he hasn't been the No. 1 tight end for a team — until now. His best season was 2015, but that was only 429 yards and four touchdowns (in 13 games). While the Steelers do have plenty of other weapons, they do use the tight end and Heath Miller has retired. It’s pretty safe to assume Ben Roethlisberger will get Green involved in the passing game. He's a low TE1/high TE2 with upside.

 

Martellus Bennett, New England Patriots

Bennett, now coupled with Rob Gronkowski and Tom Brady as his quarterback, is still a TE1. He was a top-tier tight end in Chicago, but now he has cemented that value for 2016. The Patriots prefer to run a two-tight end set (see the Gronk/Hernandez era) and they rely on their tight ends in the red zone. Having Bennett will help Gronk and Brady, and Bennett will certainly get enough volume to maintain TE1 value.

 

— Written by Sarah Lewis, who is part of the Athlon Contributor network and lives, eats, and breathes fantasy football. She also writes for among other sites. Have a fantasy football question? Send it to her on Twitter .

Teaser:
Evaluating the Fantasy Impact of Quarterbacks and Tight Ends on New Teams in 2016
Post date: Wednesday, March 30, 2016 - 11:00
All taxonomy terms: Bubba Watson, Golf
Path: /golf/top-30-golfers-2016-majors-no-7-bubba-watson
Body:

They’re the cream of the major championship crop, circa 2016 — the Athlon Major Championship Dream Team. Leading up to The Masters, we'll be unveiling Athlon Sports’ 30 players to watch for majors season, with commentary on each from the ’s .

 

No. 7: Bubba Watson

Born: Nov. 5, 1978, Bagdad, Fla. | Career PGA Tour Wins: 9 | 2015 Wins (Worldwide): 1 | 2015 Earnings (PGA Tour): $6,876,797 (3rd) | World Ranking: 4

Gary Williams' Take: The enigma wrapped in a riddle. For someone with so many complex layers, who gives the appearance of inconsistency, he is wildly consistent. He misses few cuts, racks up countless top 10s, and wins every year. His performances in the majors in 2015 were very disappointing, with two missed cuts and a tie for 21st at the PGA being his best result. He’s arguably the most unorthodox player and person in the game. He doesn’t work with an instructor, can shape a ball designed not to curve and gives unvarnished views on things that most players shy away from because there is little to gain. His blowout win at the Hero World Challenge in December, in a tiny field against elite players, followed by his win at the Northern Trust Open are simply indications that when his mind is right, he is lethal. He may also be the most entertaining player to listen to during a round of golf. He should remain among the favorites at The Masters for the next 10 years.

 

Major Championship Résumé

Starts: 32

Wins: 2

2015 Performance:

     Masters – T38

     U.S. Open – Cut

     British Open – Cut

     PGA Championship – T21

Best Career Finishes:

     Masters - 1 (2012, ’14)

     U.S. Open – T5 (2007)

     British Open – T23 (2012)

     PGA Championship - 2 (2010)

Top-10 Finishes: 4

Top-25 Finishes: 9

Missed Cuts: 12

 

Athlon's 2016 Golf annual provides in-depth previews of this year's four majors, including the top 30 players to watch this season. One of these elite players, Zach Johnson, also takes you tee to green with full-swing instruction and short game essentials. .

Teaser:
Post date: Wednesday, March 30, 2016 - 10:42
Path: /college-football/ranking-pac-12s-toughest-2016-college-football-schedules
Body:

Unprecedented parity has transformed the landscape, turning a conference once dominated but just one or two teams into a wide-open free-for-all.

 

That trend should continue in 2016, with no clear front-runner for the league championship standing out on paper. All of last season's top performers, including reigning champion Stanford, must address sizable voids left by departing players.

 

An open race should for a wildly competitive and entertaining campaign. Some teams have schedules more conducive to making a run to the top, while others must endure a grind to win out.

 

* - neutral site

 

1. USC

Non-Conference: Alabama*, Utah State, Notre Dame

South Home: Arizona State, Colorado

South Road: Arizona, Utah, UCLA

Crossover: at Stanford, Cal, Oregon, at Washington

 

A brutal schedule starts and ends with teams that played in New Year’s Six bowl games a season ago. One just happens to be defending national champion Alabama.

 

Between dates with the Crimson Tide and Notre Dame, USC draws the three best teams from the North in cross-divisional play

– Oregon, Stanford and Washington – and gets just two South division foes at home.

 

2. UCLA

Non-Conference: at Texas A&M, UNLV, at BYU

South Home: Arizona, Utah, USC

South Road: at Arizona State, at Colorado

Crossover: Stanford, at Washington State, Oregon State, at Cal

 

Power Five conference programs will often take advantage of their status by playing more home dates than road. UCLA gets an even six on each side, with two challenging contests away from the Rose Bowl in non-conference play, and some trap contests in the Pac-12 slate.

 

3. Stanford

Non-Conference: Kansas State, at Notre Dame, Rice

North Home: Washington State, Oregon State

North Road: Washington, Oregon, Cal

Crossover: USC, at UCLA, Colorado, at Arizona

 

Stanford often plays one of the more ambitious schedules in college football, typically facing 11 power-conference opponents. The 2016 campaign is no exception.

 

This is Stanford's year to draw more road games than home in Pac-12 play, and that includes treks to Oregon and Washington -- two teams likely to contend for the North division crown. The Cardinal avoid Utah in cross-divisional play, but travel to UCLA.

 

4. Oregon

Non-Conference: UC Davis, Virginia, at Nebraska 

North Home: Washington, Stanford

North Road: Washington State, Cal, Oregon State

Crossover: Colorado, Arizona State, at USC, at Utah

 

Autzen Stadium was recently the Pac-12's most feared venue, but losses there last season to Washington State and Utah, and Arizona in 2014, have worn the veneer somewhat. Defending home field is critical -- particularly with pivotal, North division games against Stanford and Washington coming in Eugene.

 

Oregon's road docket is challenging. The Ducks travel to USC and Utah in divisional crossover competition, trek to Martin Stadium to visit Washington State, and go to Lincoln, Neb., for a marquee, non-conference date with the Cornhuskers.

 

5. Colorado

Non-Conference: Colorado State*, Idaho State, at Michigan

South Home: Arizona State, UCLA, Utah

South Road: USC, Arizona

Crossover: at Oregon, Oregon State, at Stanford, Washington State

 

Colorado’s gained a lot of invaluable experience and suffered repeated heartbreak, dropping several close games in 2015. The 2016 Buffaloes return with one of the Pac-12’s most veteran rosters, and a real chance to finally break out under head coach Mike MacIntyre.

 

Doing so means braving a challenge schedule, which sends Colorado to Michigan, Oregon and Stanford.

 

6. Washington

Non-Conference: Rutgers, Idaho, Portland State

North Home: Stanford, Oregon State

North Road: Oregon, Cal, Washington State

Crossover: at Arizona, at Utah, USC, Arizona State

 

Chris Petersen returns an experienced lineup for what could be a breakout season at Washington. The Huskies have the pieces to contend for their first conference championship since 2000, but must do so against an imbalanced road schedule.

 

Drawing 2015 Pac-12 Championship Game participants Stanford and USC is big, but Washington must try to snap its 13-year losing skid against rival Oregon in Autzen Stadium. The Huskies do avoid UCLA in divisional crossover.

 

7. Oregon State

Non-Conference: at Minnesota, Idaho State, Boise State

North Home: Cal, Washington State, Oregon

North Road: Washington, Stanford

Crossover: at Colorado, Utah, at UCLA, Arizona

 

Gary Andersen endured a rough introduction to the Pac-12, going winless in his first season at Oregon State. The Beavers get the benefit of more home games than road in the conference, including a potentially rebuilding Cal and an unknown Arizona.

 

The Beavers' non-conference slate is challenging, opening with a visit to Big Ten country at Minnesota, and Boise State coming to Reser Stadium.

 

8. Utah

Non-Conference: Southern Utah, BYU, at San Jose State

South Home: USC, Arizona

South Road: UCLA, Arizona State, Colorado

Crossover: at Cal, at Oregon State, Washington, Oregon

 

The imbalanced conference schedule works against Utah this year, sending the Utes to Arizona State -- where they have struggled since joining the Pac-12 in 2011 -- and to dangerous Colorado. The Buffs have played Utah close every year in their rivalry week matchup.

 

Utah draws quality North division foes Oregon and Washington at home, and travels for more manageable dates with Cal and Oregon State.

 

9. Arizona State

Non-Conference: Northern Arizona, Texas Tech, at UTSA

South Home: UCLA, Utah

South Road: USC, Colorado, Arizona

Crossover: Cal, Washington State, at Oregon, at Washington

 

Arizona State's results at Sun Devil Stadium last season were decidedly better than on the road. Drawing UCLA and Utah in Tempe bodes well, as well as home rematches of late-season losses at Cal and Washington State.

 

Facing an imbalanced road schedule in 2016, with critical South division matchups at USC and Arizona, and trips to face North division heavies Oregon and Washington, this season's Sun Devils will need to win more on the road.

 

10. California

Non-Conference: Hawaii*, at San Diego State, Texas

North Home: Oregon, Washington, Stanford

North Road: Oregon State, Washington State

Crossover: at Arizona State, Utah, at USC, UCLA

 

No team in the Pac-12 will rack up as much mileage as Cal, based solely on the Golden Bears’ Week Zero matchup with Hawaii in Australia. However, it's their home slate that warrants attention.

 

Texas, UCLA, Oregon, Washington and Stanford all visit Berkeley in 2016. Any of the latter three could win the North, but Cal has a prime opportunity to score a division-altering win at home.

 

11. Arizona

Non-Conference: BYU*, Grambling State, Hawaii

South Home: USC, Colorado, Arizona State

South Road: UCLA, Utah

Crossover: Washington, Stanford, at Washington State, at Oregon State

 

Arizona’s non-conference schedules have been anything but daunting in recent seasons, though the addition of a neutral site game against BYU ups the ante some for 2016.

 

After easing into conference play with paycheck games against Grambling State and Hawaii, Arizona faces a much more favorable league slate than the season ago. The Wildcats draw a bye week in the heart of Pac-12 play, which they didn’t have in 2015, and they get five home games in conference.

 

12. Washington State

Non-Conference: Eastern Washington, at Boise State, Idaho

North Home: Oregon, Cal, Washington

North Road: Stanford, Oregon State

Crossover: UCLA, at Arizona State, Arizona, at Colorado

 

A landmark 2015 season may have laid the foundation for Washington State to return to the Pac-12 title hunt for the first time since the early 2000s. The Cougars play a favorable non-conference slate, bereft of Power Five competition -- though a road game at Boise State is perhaps more challenging than most Power Five dates.

 

In league play, the road breaks down nicely for a surprise run to Levi's Stadium and the Pac-12 Championship Game. The Cougars host Oregon, UCLA and Arizona -- all teams they beat on the road last season. Stanford's a tough road date, but Washington State draws a winnable Oregon State game away from the Palouse.

 

— Written by Kyle Kensing, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a sportswriter in Southern California. Kensing is publisher of . Follow him on Twitter

Teaser:
Ranking the Pac-12's Toughest 2016 College Football Schedules
Post date: Wednesday, March 30, 2016 - 10:30
All taxonomy terms: NBA, Overtime
Path: /overtime/lakers-isolating-dangelo-russell-secretly-taping-nick-young-iggy-azalea-los-angeles
Body:

This has to be the worst Lakers season ever.

 

Not only do they suck on the court, but things are turning bad for them off the court as well. Rookie D'Angelo Russell recently caught teammate Nick Young on camera talking about cheating on his fiancee, Iggy Azalea. It's a violation of what many are calling "bro code" and has resulted in the Lakers shunning and isolating the young guard.

 

According to , the Lakers are teaching Russell a valuable lesson. In one instance, Russell sat down by Lou Williams and the former Sixth Man of the Year gets up and walks away. That can't be good for team chemistry.

 

"It's bad," ESPN.com's Ramona Shelburne said. "It's about as bad as it can get. There were trust issues already. Now there's no trust."

 

One person who doesn't seem to mind the video, and seems thankful for it's release, of course it's I-G-G-Y.

 

Teaser:
Post date: Wednesday, March 30, 2016 - 10:23
All taxonomy terms: Overtime
Path: /overtime/john-cena-jimmy-fallon-play-game-sticky-balls-tonite-show-wwe
Body:

John Cena won't be at Wrestlemania, but he was able to play a competitive game of "Sticky Balls."

 

The wrestler had a little fun with Jimmy Fallon during a segment on the show. Even though Cena is out of the ring with an injury, he's still well enough for a fun game like this. 

 

Teaser:
Post date: Wednesday, March 30, 2016 - 10:09
Path: /college-football/kansas-state-wildcats-2016-spring-football-preview
Body:

Thanks to injuries and inconsistency at key positions, the were one of the streakiest teams in college football in 2015.

 

Kansas State swept its three-game non-conference slate to open the schedule, then dropped six games in a row to open Big 12 play, including heartbreakers to ranked Oklahoma State, TCU and Baylor squads, and a humiliating 55-0 loss to eventual conference champion Oklahoma. As Bill Snyder-coached teams often do, the Wildcats responded. Kansas State beat Iowa State and Kansas as expected, before edging West Virginia 24-23 in the regular season finale to earn a spot in the Liberty Bowl.

 

The Liberty Bowl did not go the Wildcats’ way, as they lost 45-23 to Arkansas, to finish the season at 6-7. Now the focus shifts to 2016 as Kansas State opens spring practice in preparation for what the Wildcats hope will eventually result in a seventh consecutive bowl appearance.

 

5 Storylines to Watch During Kansas State’s Spring Practice

 

1. Quarterback Competition

The topic on everyone’s mind heading into Kansas State spring practice is the quarterback competition. Jesse Ertz won the starting job last year but suffered a season-ending injury in the opener. Many expected Alex Delton to ascend to the top of the depth chart at some point last season as a true freshman, but a knee injury held him back.

 

As a result, Joe Hubener was on the receiving end of the majority of the offensive snaps for the Wildcats last season. He had his struggles as a passer, completing just 47.6 percent of his attempts for 1,837 yards, nine touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Hubener did carry the football a team-high 180 times for 613 yards (second only to Charles Jones’ 696) and scored 13 touchdowns on the ground, which was more than twice as many as any other player on the team.

 

Hubener, a senior that started 11 regular season games last year, certainly has the edge in experience, but his inconsistency led to the coaching staff to rely on former receiver Kody Cook down the stretch. Simply put, it’s a wide-open race as both Delton and Ertz are quite capable of beating Hubener out this spring or fall. The Wildcats will also take a long look at incoming true freshman Skylar Thompson, a four-star recruit and early enrollee that may be the most talented of them all.

 

Related: 

 

2. Rebuilding the Offensive Line

Regardless of who wins the QB job, he’ll be operating behind the least experienced offensive line in the Big 12. Kansas State returns just two players that have combined to make 17 total starts on the offensive line. By contrast, every other team in the league returns at least 25 career starts.

 

Rising sophomore center Dalton Risner, who made 13 starts as a redshirt freshman last season, and Manhattan, Kan., native Terrale Johnson, who made four starts last year, are the only returning offensive linemen with any starting experience. Johnson played left guard primarily and has the inside track for a starting position heading into the spring, while fellow 2015 backups Will Ash and Bryce Fitzner are also likely to figure into the starting lineup.

 

Expect A.J. Allen and Jason Lierz to also state their case for a spot on the first team this spring, alongside fellow challengers Ajanhe Brager, Alec Ruth and a host of redshirt freshmen and newcomers.

 

3. Finding Offensive Playmakers

As if questions surrounding the quarterback position and offensive line weren’t enough, the coaching staff will be looking for a few playmakers to step up this spring as well. Tyler Lockett and Curry Sexton combined for 2,574 receiving yards in 2014 (each with more than 79 catches and 1,000 yards) but Deante Burton led the Wildcats with 38 receptions, 510 receiving yards and four touchdowns as a junior last season. Burton has good size (6-2, 205) and has been a key contributor on special teams, but he needs to step up to become an all-conference-level weapon like Lockett and Sexton.

 

Burton, whose 77-yard touchdown catch helped spark the team’s comeback in the 24-23 victory over West Virginia in the regular season finale, will team with receivers Winston Dimel (8 rec., 261 yds., 2 TDs), Dominique Heath (28-313-3), and Zach Reuter (6-47-0) to give the Wildcats a solid, but thin receiving corps.

 

The running back position is deeper, but has yet to live up to expectations. Charles Jones averaged 4.9 yards per carry, but gained just 696 rushing yards with five touchdowns, while backup Justin Silmon added 355 rushing yards and scored twice on 78 carries as a freshman. Kansas State likes to run its quarterback, which helped the Wildcats avoid an embarrassingly low rushing total, but the Wildcats still gained only 157.7 yards on the ground per game last year, which ranked an uncharacteristic eighth in the conference and 86th in the nation.

 

4. Replacing Key Contributors on Defense

There are fewer question marks regarding the defensive personnel than there are on offense heading into 2016. For instance, Will Geary has All-Big 12 potential at defensive tackle and cornerback Duke Shelley also could push for a spot on the all-conference team. Jordan Willis ranked second in the conference a year ago with 9.5 sacks, while Elijah Lee leads a linebacker corps that could make a strong case as the best in the Big 12.

 

But, Kansas State must replace a few key contributors on a defense that finished in the middle of the pack in the Big 12 with an average of 452.2 total yards allowed per game last season. Marquel Bryant and Travis Britz, who combined for 9.5 sacks and 19.5 tackles for a loss last season, must be replaced on the defensive line, as well as safety Morgan Burns, who recorded one of the unit’s five interceptions in 2015.

 

The defense should receive a boost from the return of safety Dante Barnett, who suffered a season-ending injury in the 2015 opener and missed the rest of the year. Barnett, a senior defensive back with 29 career starts under his belt, received an extra year of eligibility as the result of a medical redshirt.

 

5. Will 2016 Be the Last Hurrah for Bill Snyder?

Snyder is one of the true legends in college football. It’s rare for active coaches to pace the sidelines in a stadium that already bears his name, but Snyder certainly deserves the honor after leading a monumental turnaround in Manhattan and winning 193 games across 25 years as the head coach of the Wildcats. Of course, Snyder is 76 years old and has already retired once – a decade ago. It shouldn’t shock anyone if he steps away at some point in 2016.

 

Pre-Spring Kansas State Outlook in the Big 12

 

Though Kansas State isn’t nearly as talented as Big 12 rivals Oklahoma, Baylor, Texas and TCU, it shouldn’t be a surprise if this team challenges for a Big 12 title in 2016. After all, the Wildcats have been surprising us for a quarter century under Snyder by relying on underrated recruits, junior college transfers and walk-ons.

 

However, the schedule is tougher, especially the season opener on the road against Stanford, which represents a significant upgrade in non-conference competition. Also, the Wildcats open Big 12 play at West Virginia, and will face the Sooners, Bears and Horned Frogs on the road.

 

A seventh straight bowl game is a worthy and achievable goal, and while a conference title isn’t expected, the Wildcats are never far away – especially if a quarterback emerges.

 

— Written by Nicholas Ian Allen, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Allen's work can also be found on . Follow him on Twitter .

Teaser:
Kansas State Wildcats 2016 Spring Football Preview
Post date: Wednesday, March 30, 2016 - 10:00
Path: /college-basketball/15-best-teams-did-not-win-ncaa-tournament-2016
Body:

This college basketball season has been characterized by one thing – parity – and it’s a label that has carried over into the NCAA Tournament. But that’s not always the case as there often has been a team that has clearly separated itself from the rest of the pack. However, that regular season or even early Tournament domination hasn’t always been punctuated with a national championship.

 

Here are the 15 best college basketball teams whose paths to championship glory were cut off by the single elimination, one-and-done roadblock that is March Madness.


1. 1991 UNLV Runnin’ Rebels

(34–1, 18–0 Big West)
Coach Jerry Tarkanian
Lost to Duke, 79–77, in Final Four

Vegas was the undisputed, undefeated heavyweight champion of the world in college basketball before falling to Duke in a rematch of the 1990 title game, in which the Runnin’ Rebels humiliated the Blue Devils, 103–73. With three 1991 NBA Lottery picks — national player of the year forward Larry Johnson (No. 1 overall), wingman Stacey Augmon (No. 9) and point guard Greg Anthony (No. 12) — and the reigning Final Four MOP in Anderson Hunt, UNLV was as intimidating as it was dominant.


2. 1975 Indiana Hoosiers

(31–1, 18–0 Big Ten)
Coach Bob Knight
Lost to Kentucky, 92–90, in Elite Eight

Bob Knight and Joe B. Hall nearly went to blows during a 98–74 IU win over UK in December 1974. The Hoosiers were riding a 34-game winning streak heading into their rematch with the Wildcats in the NCAA Tournament. But without a full strength Scott May — who scored two points due to a broken arm, after scoring 25 in the first meeting — undefeated Indiana fell to Kentucky, a team that went on to lose the national title to UCLA in John Wooden’s final game.


3. 1983 Houston Cougars

(31–3, 16–0 Southwest)
Coach Guy Lewis
Lost to NC State, 54–52, in NCAA title game

Texas’ tallest fraternity, “Phi Slama Jama” was led by a pair of future Hall of Famers in shot-swatting big man Akeem Olajuwon and high-flying Clyde “the Glide” Drexler. The middle of three straight Final Four appearances and first of two national title game runner-up finishes was the most painful, as NC State pulled off one of the greatest Cinderella upsets in Big Dance history.

 

Related: 


4. 1985 Georgetown Hoyas

(35–3, 14–2 Big East)
Coach John Thompson
Lost to Villanova, 66–64, in NCAA title game

The Patrick Ewing-led Hoyas were runner-up to North Carolina in 1982, national champs in 1984 and heavily favored to repeat as champs in 1985. But the overwhelming edge in talent for Ewing, Reggie Williams, David Wingate and Co. was no match for the magical shooting night of Rollie Massimino’s Wildcats, who shot 22-of-28 from the field to beat “Hoya Paranoia” on April Fools’ Day.

 

Related: 


5. 1984 North Carolina Tar Heels

(28–3, 14–0 ACC)
Coach Dean Smith
Lost to Indiana, 72–68, in Sweet 16

On paper, this was Dean Smith’s most talented team, on the court and on the bench. National player of the year Michael Jordan, Sam Perkins, Brad Daugherty and freshman Kenny Smith headlined a loaded roster, while Roy Williams, Bill Guthridge and Eddie Fogler served as assistant coaches for a group of Tar Heels that couldn’t even make it to the Final Four.

 

6. 2015 Kentucky Wildcats

(38-1, 18-0 SEC)

Coach John Calipari

Lost to Wisconsin, 71-64, in Final Four

 

Kentucky was the first team in history to go 38-0 as it reached the Final Four on a mission to become the first team to hit that magical 40-0 number. The Wildcats’ stifling defense and imposing big men met their match against the historically efficient Wisconsin offense. This UK team didn’t have the star power of perhaps other teams on this list, but it was among the deepest teams of the modern era.


7. 1993 Michigan Wolverines

(31–5, 15–3 Big Ten)
Coach Steve Fisher
Lost to North Carolina, 77–71, in NCAA title game

The sophomore season of the Fab Five — Chris Webber, Juwan Howard, Jalen Rose, Jimmy King and Ray Jackson — produced the same (since vacated) results as their freshman campaign. Michigan marched all the way to the national title game with their signature baggy shorts, black socks and swagger, only to lose to ACC power UNC, after losing to Duke in the championship game the season before.


8. 1997 Kansas Jayhawks

(34–2, 15–1 Big 12)
Coach Roy Williams
Lost to Arizona, 85–82, in Sweet 16

KU had it all, with NBA size down low in Raef LaFrentz and Scot Pollard, clutch shooters in Paul Pierce, Jerod Haase and Billy Thomas, and steady point guard play from Jacque Vaughn and Ryan Robertson. But Roy Williams’ Jayhawks could not close the deal against Miles Simon, Mike Bibby and eventual champion Arizona.


9. 1973 NC State Wolfpack

(27–0, 12–0 ACC)
Coach Norm Sloan
Banned from postseason play

David Thompson and Tommy Burleson led NC State to an undefeated regular season but were unable to go dancing after being banned from postseason play due to NCAA sanctions. When the ban was lifted, the 1973-74 Wolfpack went 30–1 cut down the nets following a national championship.


10. 1974 UCLA Bruins

(26–4, 12–2 Pac-8)
Coach John Wooden
Lost to NC State, 80–77 in 2OT, in Final Four

The next-to-last team coach by the Wizard of Westwood ended UCLA’s streak of seven consecutive NCAA titles. Despite being led by Bill Walton and Jamaal Wilkes, the Bruins were unable to outlast NC State in double-overtime in the Final Four.


11. 1954 Kentucky Wildcats

(25–0, 14–0 SEC)
Coach Adolph Rupp
Elected not to participate

Coach Adolph Rupp chose to take a stand against the NCAA by keeping the unbeaten Wildcats out of the Tournament after Frank Ramsey, Cliff Hagan and Lou Tsioropoulos were ruled ineligible due to a graduation rule that is no longer in place.


12. 1999 Duke Blue Devils

(37–2, 16–0 ACC)
Coach Mike Krzyzewski
Lost to Connecticut, 77–74, in NCAA title game

One of Coach K’s most talented teams was anchored by No. 1 overall pick Elton Brand, sharpshooting senior Trajan Langdon, point guard William Avery and athletic freak frosh Corey Maggette — all of whom went in the top 14 of the 1999 NBA Draft.


13. 1962 Ohio State Buckeyes

(26–2, 13–1 Big Ten)
Coach Fred Taylor
Lost to Cincinnati, 71–59, in NCAA title game

Jerry Lucas and John Havlicek are two of the greatest players in Ohio State history, playing in three consecutive NCAA title games — losing the last two trips as a heavy favorite against in-state rival Cincinnati.


14. 1957 Kansas Jayhawks

(24–3, 11–1 Big Seven)
Coach Dick Harp
Lost to North Carolina, 54–53 in 3OT, in NCAA title game

Kansas’ Wilt Chamberlain was unable to follow in the championship footsteps of San Francisco’s Bill Russell — who led the Dons to titles in 1955 and '56. The Stilt lost in triple-overtime in what old timers have called the greatest game ever played.


15. 1963 Cincinnati Bearcats

(26–2, 11–1 Missouri Valley)
Coach Ed Jucker
Lost to Loyola-Chicago, 60–58, in NCAA title game

In their fifth straight Final Four appearance, the Bearcats were aiming for a three-peat before the term existed. But back-to-back champion Cincinnati was shocked by underdog Loyola-Chicago in the final.

Teaser:
15 Best Teams That Did Not Win the NCAA Tournament
Post date: Wednesday, March 30, 2016 - 09:30
All taxonomy terms: MLB
Path: /mlb/5-mlb-players-could-disappoint-2016
Body:

The history books are filled with players that post All-Star statistics for a season or two — perhaps even challenging for an MVP or Cy Young Award — and then fade into mediocrity. Some were overachievers to begin with, while others couldn’t handle the spotlight. There are also plenty of star players that see a significant drop-off in production due to age or injury, who see their power dry up or their velocity drop off.

 

Simply put, regression is an unfortunate yet completely natural part of the game. With that in mind, we take a close look at five players that could disappoint in 2016, plus some others to keep an eye on.

 

Jacob deGrom, RHP, New York Mets

2015 Statistics in 30 games: 14-8, 2.54 ERA, 205 K, 38 BB, 191 IP

 

Simply put, deGrom, 27, has been one of the best pitchers in the National League since making his big league debut in 2014. deGrom, who earned NL Rookie of the Year honors after posting a 9-6 record with a 2.69 ERA and 144 strikeouts in 140 1/3 innings across 22 starts two years ago, was even better last season. In addition to a lower ERA, his walk rate dropped from 7.6 to 5.1 percent and his strikeout rate rose from 25.5 to 27.3 percent.

 

However, despite the sparkling results in most areas and his role as one of the key cogs in baseball’s best pitching staff, it’s possible that deGrom has been a little too good in his first two big league seasons. Plus, there are a few potential red flags that could be early signs of a downturn in production.

 

First, deGrom benefitted from a .271 BABIP last season – and while he was certainly more good than lucky, it’s very possible deGrom’s fortunes even out a little this year. Secondly, deGrom allowed a higher home run rate in 2015 (2.1 percent) than he did as a rookie (1.2 percent). He also threw six wild pitches last season compared to just one in 2014 — an admittedly small matter but still worth noting.

 

Finally, there was concern early this spring that deGrom’s velocity was down significantly from last season. Last year, deGrom averaged a shade less than 96 miles per hour with his fastball (95.81, to be exact, according to ). Unofficially, he was sitting in the low 90s earlier in March, which prompted concern among fans and the media – especially for a pitcher that doesn’t have elite secondary pitches. However, data also shows that deGrom is a bit of a slow starter (literally as he posted his lowest velocity in April in each of the last two seasons), and needs time to warm up to his high-end velocity.

 

Despite the drop in velocity from his peak last season, deGrom has been solid this spring. In four Grapefruit League starts, deGrom has posted a 1.62 ERA with 15 strikeouts and two walks in 16 2/3 innings. He also hit 94 miles per hour multiple times on the stadium radar gun in his most recent start Saturday against the Braves.

 

Still, if there’s one member of the Mets to be wary of in 2016 (aside from 42-year-old Bartolo Colon, who will likely give way to a hopefully fully healthy Zack Wheeler in July anyway), it’s deGrom.

 

Dee Gordon, 2B, Miami Marlins

2015 Statistics in 145 games: .333/.359/.418, 24 2B, 8 3B, 4 HR, 46 RBI, 58 SB

 

Speed never slumps, and naturally, fast players are weapons on the base paths and can also use their speed to beat out infield hits. Dee Gordon, the two-time defending National League stolen base champion, is one of the fastest players in baseball. As he also has a high groundball rate, Gordon’s speed, logically, had an impact on the 27-year-old second baseman winning the batting title with a .333 average, leading all of baseball with 205 hits, and securing his first career Silver Slugger Award last year in his first season with the Marlins. He also earned a Gold Glove for his work in the field, which was an added bonus.

 

But as it relates to 2016 there is reason to believe that Gordon won’t be able to maintain his high average. First of all, Gordon posted an incredibly high (even for a speedster) .383 BABIP, meaning there was a fair amount of luck involved in his average - especially given the fact that Gordon hit .272/.314/.345 in four seasons with the Dodgers.

 

Furthermore, if Gordon’s average dips, his on-base percentage will go with it because the left-handed hitter doesn’t walk enough (particularly for a leadoff man). Gordon has 93 career walks in 1,972 career plate appearances for a walk rate of 4.7 percent. He also strikes out too much, having posted a 15.6 career strikeout rate that fell slightly last season (13.9 percent) thanks to putting the ball in play more often.

 

Sure, Gordon made strides in 2014 when he hit .289/.326/.378, and has certainly benefitted from experience gained by the opportunity to play every day over the last two seasons, but it’s natural to think that Gordon will revert closer to his .293/.328/.369 career slash in 2016 — or worse.

 

Nelson Cruz, OF/DH, Seattle Mariners

2015 Statistics in 152 games: .302/.369/.566, 22 2B, 1 3B, 44 HR, 93 RBI, 3 SB

 

In many ways, the slugger Cruz and the speedster Dee Gordon are polar opposites as baseball players. However, they are similar in the fact that both were among the league leaders in BABIP in 2015, and used that good fortune to post career highs in multiple statistical categories. For Cruz, it was hits (178), home runs (44), and runs scored (90) despite the home ballpark switch from hitter haven Camden Yards in Baltimore to pitcher-friendly Safeco Field in Seattle.

 

Cruz, who will turn 36 in July, has proven himself to be one of the most feared power hitters in the American League. But, it simply isn’t reasonable to expect him to continue the torrid pace he set in his first year with the Mariners — especially since the regression may have already started.

 

Cruz slowed significantly over the final six weeks of the 2015 season. In 42 games from Aug. 10 to Oct. 3, Cruz hit just .242/.315/.461. He connected for 11 home runs, but also struck out in 33.7 percent of his 184 plate appearances and drew only 16 walks during the same span.

 

And, while it’s only spring training, 2016 isn’t off to a great start, either. Cruz had a sore left knee at the beginning of camp, which contributed to a 1-for-20 start at the plate. Though he’s warmed up lately, through 13 games the right-handed hitter is batting just .150/.227/.400 with 10 strikeouts in 44 plate appearances (a 22.7 percent strikeout rate). Cruz has launched three home runs, but the thin Arizona air is much more forgiving than Seattle’s.

 

Jared Weaver, RHP, Los Angeles Angels

2015 Statistics in 26 games: 7-12, 4.64 ERA, 90 K, 33 BB in 159 IP

 

Jacob deGrom may be in danger of losing a mile an hour or two off his fastball, but at least he’s still expected to reach the mid-90s regularly. Weaver would be lucky to touch the mid-80s.

 

Last season, Weaver averaged 84.3 miles per hour when throwing a four-seam fastball, which was a drop of three miles per hour from the previous year. Understandably, hitters had great success against Weaver last season, as he posted a 4.64 ERA that was easily a career high, and 13.5 percent strikeout rate that was the lowest of his career.

 

Given Weaver’s regression in 2015, one could argue that expectations are already low for the former Angels ace heading into the season. However, at a not-yet over-the-hill 33 years old and just three years removed from a three-year stretch from 2010-12 in which he was an All-Star and finished in the top five of the Cy Young voting each year, fanning 22.3 percent of hitters over that span, there’s some hope that last year was an aberration. Weaver also has rediscovered a preferable arm slot and continues to develop an ever-expanding arsenal of secondary pitches to combat his lack of velocity in an attempt to turn things around in 2016.

 

But, the evidence is difficult to ignore. In three Cactus League starts this spring, Weaver has allowed eight earned runs on 13 hits — including an eye-popping five home runs – with five strikeouts in less than 10 innings. According to reports, his fastball averaged around 80 mph in his most recent spring start and Weaver also has been struggling with a neck issue, which could cause him to spend time on the disabled list early in the season.

 

Pablo Sandoval, 3B, Boston Red Sox

2015 Statistics in 126 games: .245/.292/.366, 25 2B, 1 3B, 10 HR, 47 RBI

 

Like Jared Weaver, expectations are modest for Sandoval. A two-time All-Star and 2012 World Series MVP that hit .294/.346/.465 across seven seasons with San Francisco, Sandoval struggled mightily in his first season in Boston after signing a five-year, $95 million to join the Red Sox. Though his on-base and slugging percentages had both been on the decline since 2011, Sandoval posted full-season career lows in every major offensive statistical category in 2015.

 

Listed at 5-foot-11 and 255 pounds, Sandoval was the focal point of a great deal of chatter when he reported to spring training looking considerably heavier. Though Sandoval has had a decent spring numbers-wise, with a .265/.306/.559 slash in 14 games, which includes two home runs and four doubles, the 29 year old has been dealing with back stiffness after hurting himself diving for a ground ball on March 24 and is now fighting with Travis Shaw just to win the starting third base job in Boston.

 

As a result, Sandoval has been the topic of trade rumors this spring. A move back to the NL West (the Padres are reportedly scouting him) could be beneficial, and might take some of the pressure off, but either way; a complete bounce-back performance appears to be a long shot at this point.

 

Others to Watch

(alphabetical order)

 

Jose Bautista, OF, Toronto Blue Jays

Brad Boxberger, RHP, Tampa Bay Rays

Matt Carpenter, 3B, St. Louis Cardinals

Bartolo Colon, RHP, New York Mets

Brandon Crawford, SS, San Francisco Giants

Khris Davis, OF, Oakland Athletics

R.A. Dickey, RHP, Toronto Blue Jays

Yunel Escobar, 3B/SS, Los Angeles Angels

Adrian Gonzalez, 1B, Los Angeles Dodgers

Curtis Granderson, OF, New York Mets

Scott Kazmir, LHP, Los Angeles Dodgers

Howie Kendrick, 2B, Los Angeles Dodgers

A.J. Pollock, OF, Arizona Diamondbacks

Albert Pujols, 1B/DH, Los Angeles Angels

Alex Rodriguez, DH, New York Yankees

James Shields, RHP, San Diego Padres

 

— Written by Nicholas Ian Allen, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter .

Teaser:
5 MLB Players That Could Disappoint in 2016
Post date: Wednesday, March 30, 2016 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball
Path: /college-basketball/one-shining-moment-luther-vandross-new-artist-cbs-turner-march-madness
Body:

You know the college basketball season is over when you hear "One Shining Moment."

 

The song is heard while the craziest parts of March Madness are ran, and we've all just become accustomed to hearing it at the season's end. Luther Vandross has always been our sendoff before we all inevitably switch our brains to NBA Playoffs mode. 

 

 

According to SI.com's Richard Deitsch, this year's version will have a different artist to be determined at a later date. Not the best idea to mess with a winning combination.

 

 

Let's just hope it's not the Charles Barkley version.

 

Teaser:
Post date: Tuesday, March 29, 2016 - 15:24

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