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This Q&A and more on Oklahoma State and the Big 12 are available in the Athlon Sports 2013-14 College Basketball Preseason Annual. The magazine is available online or on newsstands everywhere.
Marcus Smart stunned the basketball world when he announced he would return for another season with Oklahoma State, delaying a jump to the NBA even as he was projected as a top-five pick. For the reigning Big 12 Player of the Year, there was unfinished business on the court, after last season ended in disappointment. And there was unfinished business off the court, where following a tumultuous first 17 years of his life, he enjoyed just being a college kid. Now Smart is focused on one more year as a Cowboy — and all that it could bring.

His Oklahoma State team checked in at No. 8 in our countdown.

You decided to forego the NBA Draft. Did you ever expect so many people to weigh in with opinions on your decision?

The society we live in, people are always worried about what other people are doing. Why they did it. What made them do it. That’s just the world we live in, especially with social media and everything. I wasn’t really surprised. But at the same time, it is my business, my decision — not their’s — so it doesn’t matter what they think. Not trying to disrespect anyone, everyone has a right to their opinion. At the same time, it’s my life.

Any regrets?

None at all.

After some people weighed in, criticizing your decision and saying you’d be picked lower in a better draft class, you took offense to it. Talk about your response to those doubts of you and your game.

The morning I announced I was coming back, we actually watched ESPN and Skip (Bayless) and Stephen A. (Smith) were going at it. Skip made some comments that pretty much said he didn’t think I could play with this year’s draft class. My whole life I’ve been told I couldn’t do this or I couldn’t do that. It’s a motivator. For him to say that, I felt a little disrespected. All respect to him, but I didn’t agree with what he said. I know coming in here, nobody thought I’d accomplish all that I did my first year. Like I said, it all comes down to how bad you want it and how hard you work. I bet on myself. I know what I can do. I believe in my ability. And I’m a competitor. I’ll do whatever I can to help this team win.

Talking about this team, what do you like about this team’s collection of players?

The chemistry of this team. We were a tight team last year, but this year, more than ever, we’re tighter. And that’s going to go a long way. We’re just as experienced. We have depth, a lot of veteran guys on this team who knows what it takes. That’s always good. I just like the way we connect with each other.

What is the ceiling on this team?

There is none, none at all. It all comes down to us. No excuses. We have everyone back. It all comes down to how the dice rolls and how we make the dice roll. It’s up to us. We control our own destiny.

What is your favorite enemy arena in the Big 12?

Kansas, Allen Fieldhouse. Being good friends with Phil (Forte) and his dad being an alum who played football at KU, that’s all we used to hear –— stories about KU. Basketball. Football. We grew up watching Kansas and hearing the stories about how historic it is and about the major tradition there and how intense it is, and how hard it is to win there. And everybody knows that, it’s one of the hardest places in the country to go win. And it’s one of the great atmospheres.

What’s your least favorite arena?

Texas Tech, just because of the atmosphere. It’s a nice coliseum to play in. It’s huge. It looks beautiful, but the atmosphere just isn’t there.

Who is the toughest guy in the Big 12 to defend?

I’d probably say Andrew Wiggins at Kansas. I’m sure I’ll end up on him some. That’s going to be a tough matchup for anybody to guard him. He’s a great player. He’s a big-time player.

Who’s the toughest guy in the Big 12 to score on?

Isaiah Austin. His length. He’s a great shot blocker. I know he blocked like six or seven shots a game. And that’s a big. He changes shots for his team. And it’s tough to score on him.

What other coach in the Big 12 could you see yourself playing for?

Bill Self. He’s a great coach. Everybody knows his track record, all that he’s instilled into that program. He knows what he’s doing and he does it well.

Your rise from a dangerous upbringing has become a national story, with details of how you survived in a rugged south Dallas neighborhood, eventually moving across town to blossom and become a big-time recruit. What kind of stuff did you see?

I saw my friends doing all kinds of drugs. Snorting. Smoking. I didn’t even know what it was. Psycho-type stuff. I’ve seen people get jumped and beaten … shot. I’ve seen police chases every day. I’ve seen gang members drive through apartments, while little kids are in the street, don’t give a care; little kids getting hit by cars. I saw my brother sell (drugs) to one of my friends.

How influential was your mother, Camellia, who moved the family out of those surroundings, in not only allowing you to have a basketball future, but in possibly saving your life?

I thank God every day for giving my mom the strength and the confidence to move us. To just drop everything — that’s where all my family was – to go to this place where we had no idea who anybody was or what to expect …  she took a chance. That was a great chance she took.

And still, you believe that those early life lessons were good for you?

God does everything for a reason. He doesn’t bring us this far to leave us. For me to go through that, it was what he planned, in order to get me somewhere better and to do something better with my life. That’s exactly the way he planned it. And it worked out the way he wanted it. I definitely think that was a blessing.

Clearly, it’s working out the way you wanted it, too?

Now, I’m a D-I college basketball player at Oklahoma State. I’m living the life that most kids would chop off their right arm for, a paid scholarship to go to college for free. Kids’ parents are out here struggling to get them to college, my mom doesn’t pay anything. It’s a blessing. I thank God every day. I’m doing something productive with my life. My mom, she’s great. She’s really one of my heroes.

What did you learn from your latest international experience, playing on the gold medal Team USA U19 squad in the Czech Republic?

I learned how to be a little more elusive and tricky coming off ball screens and getting in the paint; making better decisions.

What was your reaction when you learned you were one of two college players invited to the Team USA Mini-Camp in Las Vegas, alongside a bunch of NBA pros?

I was ecstatic. It’s a prestigious event to be a part of. And to be one of two college players to go, and not any of the college players drafted this year, it’s an honor indeed to have on my track record as an individual, and for Oklahoma State. I got to go out there and represent my school and my family. I’m blessed. I thank God for giving me the opportunity for being there.

Having experienced a year of college basketball, how much better can you be as a sophomore?

There are no limitations. I’ve just got to work at it and want it. That’s with anybody though; anybody in college basketball. It’s all about how hard you work. I think I can become a pretty good player if I just stay focused, keep my eyes on the right things work hard. I don’t have to wonder what I’m in for any more, like a lot of incoming freshmen. I’ve been through it a year. I’ve been put in the fire in tough games. So I’m used to it and I know what to expect. So nothing will come as a surprise for me.

Teaser:
College Basketball: Q&A with Oklahoma State's Marcus Smart
Post date: Tuesday, November 5, 2013 - 07:00
All taxonomy terms: Funny, Overtime
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During this weekend's Georgia-Florida matchup, the cameras caught this poor fan getting a head full of peanut shells. We approve. 

Teaser:
During this weekend's Georgia-Florida matchup, the cameras caught this poor fan getting a head full of peanut shells. We approve.
Post date: Monday, November 4, 2013 - 08:30
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Legends Poll
Path: /college-football/2013-legends-poll-top-25-college-football-week-10
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It seems every team is gunning for top-ranked Alabama, and Florida State once again proved it belongs among the top contenders after another dominating performance against a top 10 opponent. 
 
No. 3 Florida State dismantled Miami (FL) in Tallahassee Saturday night in front of a record crowd, 41-14, sending the Hurricanes tumbling eight spots to No. 15 in the Legends Poll.
 
Alabama and No. 2 Oregon were idle over the weekend. But Oregon has its chance to make a statement in front of the nation next Thursday night when it takes on No. 6 Stanford.
 
Besides Miami, there were no other changes in the top 14 positions in the Legends poll.
 
No. 4 Ohio State continued its dominant play against inferior opponents behind the sterling play of Braxton Miller in their 56-0 win over Purdue, and No. 17 Michigan State stepped forward as the toughest possible opponent for the Buckeyes. Michigan State took care of in-state rival Michigan on Saturday, knocking the Wolverines out of the Legends Poll.
 
Georgia and Arizona State moved back into the top 25 at No. 24 and No. 25 respectively.
 
Oregon State was the other team to drop out of the rankings.
 
To see the individual votes by coach, visit the Legends Poll
 
THE LEGENDS POLL TOP 25
RKTEAMRECORDPOINTSPV RK
1AlabamaAlabama (15)8-03991
2OregonOregon (1)8-03822
3Florida StateFlorida State8-03713
4Ohio StateOhio State9-03524
5BaylorBaylor7-03325
6StanfordStanford7-13246
7ClemsonClemson8-12888
8AuburnAuburn8-12829
9MissouriMissouri8-128111
10OklahomaOklahoma7-124210
11LSULSU7-223812
12Texas A&MTexas A&M7-222613
13South CarolinaSouth Carolina7-221015
14Oklahoma StateOklahoma State7-118817
15Miami (FL)Miami (FL)7-11767
16LouisvilleLouisville7-114816
17Michigan StateMichigan State8-112222
18UCLAUCLA6-210820
19WisconsinWisconsin6-210719
20Fresno StateFresno State8-010518
21Texas TechTexas Tech7-28914
22Northern IllinoisNorthern Illinois9-07521
23UCFUCF6-16724
24GeorgiaGeorgia5-331-
25Arizona StateArizona State6-225-
 

* The Legends Poll voting process is exactly what the BCS is trying to create and Athlon will bring it to you as the de facto Selection Committee for fans to follow over the next two seasons, allowing you to see how the Selection Committee will operate from 2014 onward. You can see the entire Poll at www.legendschannel.com.

Teaser:
2013 The Legends Poll Top 25: College Football Week 10
Post date: Monday, November 4, 2013 - 07:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football
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Transamerica is a proud sponsor of the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award. The award is presented each year by the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Education Foundation to the nation’s top college quarterback based on character, citizenship, scholastic achievement, leadership qualities, and athletic accomplishments. Candidates must be a graduating senior or fourth-year junior on schedule to graduate with their class. As a leading financial services company, Transamerica takes pride in being there for those moments when our customers say, “It’s real now.” Moments like the birth of a new baby, the opening of a new business, college acceptance, retirement, and other key milestones. By showing our support for the young men on the Top 30 watch list, we look forward to seeing them thrill fans around the country and experience moments during the season and beyond when they say, “It’s real now.”

Taylor Kelly1. Taylor Kelly, Arizona State

Taylor Kelly got an early start among the Golden Arm Award candidates this week with a big Thursday night performance against Washington State. On Halloween night Kelly had a whole bag of tricks for the Cougars, running for two touchdowns in the first quarter, then throwing four more before halftime to build a 42-14 lead. One more touchdown pass in the third quarter gave Kelly seven total touchdowns as the Sun Devils picked up a 55-21 victory and held on to their top spot in the Pac 12 South Division. Kelly passed for 275 yards and rushed for 66 yards on the night and this was the third straight game Kelly passed and rushed for a touchdown in the same game.
 
2. Tajh Boyd, Clemson
Clemson wasted little time in getting on the scoreboard on the road at Virginia. Tajh Boyd tossed the first of three touchdowns when he completed a 33-yard pass to Sammy Watkins just 87 seconds into the game. The two would connect on a 96-yard touchdown play early in the third quarter as well as Boyd put together a 300-yard day with 377 passing yards while completing 24 of 20 attempts. This marked Boyd’s second straight 300-yard game in a row and fifth this season. Boyd also notched a rushing touchdown from one yard out late in the first half to give Clemson a 35-7 halftime lead.
 
3. Derek Carr, Fresno State
Fresno State kept their BCS dreams alive late Saturday night with a home win over Nevada. The formula for a win was similar to what it has been all year, with Derek Carr throwing for 487 yards and three touchdowns, including a 32-yard pass to Josh Harper early in the fourth quarter to help the Bulldogs start to pull away from their Mountain West Conference foe. This was the fifth time Carr has thrown for at least 400 yards in a game this season and was his third straight without an interception.
 
4. Jordan Lynch, Northern Illinois
Northern Illinois had no problems taking care of Massachusetts on the road. As usual, Jordan Lynch carried the offense to a big game. Lynch completed 10 of 13 passes for 160 yards and a touchdown but once again did most of his damage on the ground. The Huskies quarterback led the team with 119 yards and a new career high four touchdowns before getting an extended rest in the second half. This marked the fourth time Lynch has rushed for 100 yards in a game and the fourth straight game Lynch rushed for a touchdown.
 
5. Connor Shaw, South Carolina
A week after stepping in to lead South Carolina to a rally for a win on the road, Connor Shaw was back at leading the Gamecocks to a win. Though Shaw only completed 10 out of his 20 attempts, four of those went for a touchdown. Shaw returned to the starting line-up after having to come in off the bench last week and he battled admirably against a Mississippi State team that caused some frustration early on. Shaw did toss two of his four touchdowns in the first quarter and his two third quarter touchdown passes put the Gamecocks up 31-10, which was more than enough.
Sponsored by Transamerica
Teaser:
The Golden Arm award is presented to the top senior quarterback by the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Foundation.
Post date: Sunday, November 3, 2013 - 21:22
Path: /college-football/oklahoma-states-chelf-earns-athlon-national-player-week-honors
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By virtue of the process of elimination, Clint Chelf entered the season as one of the most experienced quarterbacks in the Big 12.

After the opener, he also had the least firm grip on his starting job when he was replaced by J.W. Walsh. But in the first week of November, Chelf has Oklahoma State in control of its fate in the Big 12 race.

In his second start since returning to the starting lineup, Chelf accounted for 299 yards of total offense and three total touchdowns in a 52-34 win over Texas Tech to earn Athlon Sports National Player of the Week honors.

In road wins over Iowa State and Texas Tech, Chelf has supervised the first Oklahoma State offense to score 50 points in back-to-back road games. He’s also helped lead the Cowboys to a 7-1 start and a 3-1 start in the Big 12 with games against Texas, Baylor and Oklahoma State his his future.

Athlon Sports Week 10 National Awards

National Offensive Player of the Week: Clint Chelf, Oklahoma State
Chelf may have had the rug pulled out from under him when J.W. Walsh replaced him as the starter in the second game of the season, but the senior is making the most of his return to the lineup. Chelf completed 18 of 34 passes for 211 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions in the road win over Texas Tech. For the second consecutive game, Chelf produced in the run game with 88 yards and two touchdowns on six carries.

Defensive Player of the Week: Garrison Smith, Georgia
Smith, a senior defensive end, had the most productive day of his career in a very important game for the Georgia program. The Atlanta native had nine tackles and was credited with 2.5 sacks (for 12 lost yards) in the Bulldogs’ 23-20 win over Florida — their third straight over their rivals from Gainesville. Georgia held the Gators 319 total yards and allowed only one drive that went for more than 50 yards.

National Freshman of the Week: Tarean Folston, Notre Dame
Folston gave a major lift to a Notre Dame run game that has struggled all season by rushing for 140 yards and the game-winning touchdown on 18 carries against Navy. Folston is only the second Notre Dame tailback to top the 100-yard mark this season. The rookie from Cocoa, Fla., is also the first Notre Dame freshman to rush for 100 yards since 2007.

National Coordinator of Week: Pat Narduzzi, Michigan State
Who else could it be? The No. 1 defense in the nation showed the nation why it might be the only unit in the Big Ten that can stop Ohio State. The Wolverines posted a school-record low of minus-48 yards rushing as Narduzzi dialed up pressure all night long. Michigan State finished with seven sacks, 12 first downs allowed 168 total yards of offense. The 23-point win was the most lopsided victory since 1967 between the two in-state rivals. 

Athlon Sports Week 10 Conference Awards


Three things we learned from Florida State’s rout of Miami, plus all the hits and misses of the Week 10 in Athlon Sports’ Three and Out Recap.
ACC
Offense: Devonta Freeman, Florida State
Defense: Kasim Edebali, Boston College
Freshman: Jeremy Pruitt, Florida State
Coordinator: Tyler Boyd, Pittsburgh

Big 12
Offense: Clint Chelf, Oklahoma State
Defense: Will Clarke, West Virginia
Freshman: Daikiel Shorts, West Virginia
Coordinator: Mike Yurcich, Oklahoma State

Big Ten
Offense: Philip Nelson, Minnesota
Defense: Shilique Calhoun, Michigan State
Freshman: Christian Hackenberg, Penn State
Coordinator: Pat Narduzzi, Michigan State

Pac-12
Offense: Taylor Kelly, Arizona State
Defense: Devon Kennard, USC
Freshman: Scooby Wright, Arizona
Coordinator: Clancy Pedergast, USC

SEC
Offense: Tre Mason, Auburn
Defense: Garrison Smith, Georgia
Freshman: Kelvin Taylor, Florida
Coordinator: Mike Bobo, Georgia

Teaser:
Oklahoma State's Chelf earns Athlon National Player of the Week Honors
Post date: Sunday, November 3, 2013 - 15:55
All taxonomy terms: ACC, Syracuse Orange, College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/college-basketball-2013-14-syracuse-preview
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This preview and more on Syracuse and the ACC are available in the Athlon Sports 2013-14 College Basketball Preseason Annual. The magazine is available online or on newsstands everywhere.

No. 9 Syracuse Facts & Figures
Last season: 30-10 (11-7 Big East)
Postseason: NCAA Final Four
Coach: Jim Boeheim (920-314 at Syracuse)
ACC projection: Second
Postseason projection: NCAA Sweet 16
The Syracuse Orange are coming off a most unlikely trip to the Final Four. It’s still difficult to believe that a team that lost four of its last five regular-season games, including a 61–39 embarrassment at Georgetown in the  finale, somehow found itself playing in the Georgia Dome in Atlanta a month later.

But Syracuse did just that. First, the Orange advanced to the Big East Tournament championship game, a run that included an overtime revenge-flavored win over Georgetown. Then Syracuse made it to the Final Four for the fifth time in school history.

Now, Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim faces a new challenge as he enters his 38th season at the helm at alma mater. Syracuse, a charter member of the Big East Conference, joins the ACC this season.

“It’s a tough league, but we were in a tough league before,’’ Boeheim says. “It’s doesn’t get any tougher, but it’ll be different.’’

Frontcourt

To get right to the point, Syracuse will have one of the best frontcourts in the entire country. While the losses of Carter-Williams, Triche and Southerland are significant, Syracuse fans exhaled a sigh of relief last June when C.J. Fair announced that he would return for his senior season. Fair, a versatile 6-8 forward, led the Orange in both scoring and rebounding last season. He also made 46.9 percent of his 3-point attempts. He will be a candidate for All-America honors and the ACC’s Player of the Year award.

At the other forward spot, expect sophomore Jerami Grant to enjoy a breakout season. Grant, another in Syracuse’s line of long, lean and athletic forwards, averaged just 3.9 points as a freshman. But when offered more playing time due to injuries plus James Southerland’s midseason suspension, Grant responded. In eight games between Jan. 12 and Feb. 13, Grant averaged 8.6 points and 5.4 rebounds.

In the middle, Boeheim has the pleasure and the challenge of sorting through three solid centers. Rakeem Christmas, a 6-9 junior, started all 40 games last season, but Baye Moussa Keita at times was the more reliable player, especially on defense. Meanwhile, Dajuan Coleman was always considered the best offensive player of the three centers, though he struggled as a freshman. Coleman missed several games after mid-season knee surgery and saw only sparse playing time after his return.

Freshmen Tyler Roberson and B.J. Johnson will most likely serve as backups at the forward spots, while fellow first-year player Chinonso Obokoh is a probable redshirt candidate due to the log-jam at center.

2013-14 Conference Previews
ACC | American | Big 12 | Big East
Big Ten | Mountain West | Pac-12 | SEC


Backcourt

Syracuse must totally rebuild its backcourt. Michael Carter-Williams entered the NBA Draft after a sterling sophomore season. He went from being the fourth guard in a three-guard rotation as a freshman to one of the top point guards in the country. But Syracuse also lost Brandon Triche, who started every game of his four-year Syracuse career and was a part of more wins than any player in SU history.

Boeheim will turn to freshman Tyler Ennis to be his starting point guard. Ennis, a native of Ontario, Canada, led St. Benedict’s (N.J.) Prep to the championship game in the National High School Invitational last April. He was the leading scorer at the FIBA Under-19 World Championships in July. Ennis’ backup could be another freshman in Ron Patterson, a former Indiana commit who spent last year at prep school.

There will be a battle between sophomores Michael Gbinije and Trevor Cooney to see who starts at the 2-guard spot. Gbinije sat out last year after transferring from Duke. Cooney endured a rough freshman year, making just 26.7 percent of his 3-point shots.  

Newcomers

Freshman point guard Tyler Ennis and Duke transfer Michael Gbinije could form the Orange’s starting backcourt. Tyler Roberson and B.J. Johnson figure prominently in back-up roles at the forward spots. Ron Patterson, a natural off-guard, might see time as the back-up to Ennis at the point. Chinonso Obokoh, a 6-10 center, enters a crowded position and could redshirt.

Final Analysis
Factoid: 4. Jim Boeheim has taken Syracuse to the Final Four in four consecutive decades, reaching the NCAA’s final weekend in 1987, 1996, 2003 and last season. Only three other coaches can match that feat — Mike Krzyzewski, Dean Smith and Rick Pitino.


Syracuse’s move from the Big East to the ACC doesn’t figure to alter the Orange’s winning ways. Boeheim remains in charge. The forwards are still long and athletic. The guards are big and tall. The zone remains the defense of choice.

Fair is a top-notch talent who gives Syracuse leadership and reliable scoring. The three-player combination at center provides Boeheim will plenty of choices. Grant could be the next big thing. And the early returns on Ennis and Gbinije sound promising. If Boeheim finds answers in the backcourt, the Orange will challenge for the ACC crown in their first year in the league.
 

2013-14 Preseason Top 25
9. Syracuse
10. North Carolina
11. Ohio State
12. Michigan

13. Marquette
14. New Mexico
15. Notre Dame
16. Creighton
17. Tennessee
18. VCU
19. UNLV
20. Memphis
21. Connecticut
22. Wisconsin
23. UCLA
24. Baylor
25. Wichita State

Teaser:
College Basketball: 2013-14 Syracuse Preview
Post date: Friday, November 1, 2013 - 07:00
Path: /college-basketball/college-basketball-2013-14-michigan-preview
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This preview and more on Michigan and the Big Ten are available in the Athlon Sports 2013-14 College Basketball Preseason Annual. The magazine is available online or on newsstands everywhere.

No. 12 Michigan Facts & Figures
Last season: 31-8 (12-6 Big Ten)
Postseason: NCAA runner-up
Coach: John Beilein (122-85 at Michigan)
Big Ten projection: Third
Postseason projection: NCAA Sweet 16
John Beilein sat in the front row of the Barclays Center in late June with a smile on his face. About to begin his seventh season at Michigan, Beilein watched as the two best players he’s ever coached had their names called during the first round of the 2013 NBA Draft.

But now, for Beilein, life without superstar point guard Trey Burke and veteran sharpshooter Tim Hardaway Jr. officially begins. And one season after taking the Wolverines to the national title game for the first time since 1993, the expectations have now been raised.

“That’s part of the business you have to go through right now,” says Beilein. “If you don’t recruit good enough players (you won’t win). If you recruit really good players, they could go pro and you’re back to where you started.”

Michigan lost its two best players to the NBA, but it didn’t lose everything. Expected first-round picks Mitch McGary and Glenn Robinson III shocked many by announcing they’d be back for a sophomore season.

Frontcourt

At 6-10, 255-pounds, McGary was expected to be the Wolverines’ best big man prospect since Chris Webber. And though it took him about five months to figure everything out, he lived up to that billing during a wild NCAA Tournament run that turned him into a legit star. The Indiana native averaged 14.3 points and 10.7 rebounds in the Wolverines’ six NCAA games, highlighted by his 25-point, 14-rebound effort against Kansas.

McGary will anchor Michigan’s front line this season, and he’ll likely do so at multiple positions. Beilein wants McGary to play both power forward and center, and wants to continue expanding his game — as a shooter, as a transition player and a finisher.

Who plays next to him, though, remains a mystery.

If Michigan opts to go big, something Beilein rarely does, McGary will be joined up front by either senior Jordan Morgan or junior Jon Horford — two role players who should see extended time either way next season. Morgan averaged a solid 4.3 rebounds in only 15.9 minutes as a junior.

If the Wolverines go small, Robinson (6-6, 220) will be back at the stretch-4 position, giving Michigan incredible versatility. Robinson has stated he’d like to spend more time at his natural position, small forward, and Beilein says the smooth wing will likely play with the ball in his hands more often this season.

“I don’t know how close I was to leaving, I always wanted to come back here and stay,” Robinson says. “I’m going to have a chance to come in and hopefully be a leader for this team.”

2013-14 Conference Previews
ACC | American | Big 12 | Big East
Big Ten | Mountain West | Pac-12 | SEC


Backcourt

Burke and Hardaway are gone, but Michigan’s cupboard isn’t bare.

Incoming freshman point guard Derrick Walton was the Gatorade Player of the Year in Michigan as a high school senior, and 5-star shooting guard Zak Irvin was Indiana’s Mr. Basketball.

Walton will be joined at the point by tournament sensation Spike Albrecht, but even both players combined will have a tough time replicating what Burke was able to bring to the table.

Walton has been committed to the program since 2011, and he watched Burke’s entire development from afar.

“The coaches always told me to watch Trey, watch the point guard position, because that’s where I’d be playing,” he says. “He said it was a point guard’s dream. He’s right. They let you play. They let you create. But it’s important for me to be my own person, I can’t be somebody else.”

At shooting guard, Michigan has a logjam. Sophomore Nik Stauskas, who shot 44.0 percent from 3-point range, will likely slide down and spend more time at the 2, while improving sophomore Caris LeVert will also compete for minutes.

Newcomers

Michigan’s highly touted class is highlighted by 5-star shooting guard Zak Irvin, who claimed Indiana’s Mr. Basketball last season. The club’s most important newcomer is 4-star point guard Derrick Walton, who is looking to fill Trey Burke’s shoes as the team’s floor leader alongside Spike Albrecht. Power forward Mark Donnal, a 4-star big man with an outside touch, rounds out the class.

Final Analysis
Factoid: 23. Guard Spike Albrecht scored a total of 23 points in Michigan’s two Final Four games. He scored a total of 22 during the 18-game Big Ten season.


Michigan has plenty of work to do without Burke running the show. However, the Wolverines avoided the doomsday scenario when both Robinson and McGary opted to return.

Beilein, who has established himself as one of the elite coaches in the game, has enough talent on his roster to remain in the top tier in the rugged Big Ten. By the time March rolls around, don’t be surprised if Michigan has emerged as a favorite to reach the Final Four for the second straight season.

2013-14 Preseason Top 25
9. Syracuse
10. North Carolina
11. Ohio State
12. Michigan

13. Marquette
14. New Mexico
15. Notre Dame
16. Creighton
17. Tennessee
18. VCU
19. UNLV
20. Memphis
21. Connecticut
22. Wisconsin
23. UCLA
24. Baylor
25. Wichita State

Teaser:
College Basketball: 2013-14 Michigan Preview
Post date: Friday, November 1, 2013 - 07:00
Path: /college-basketball/college-basketball-2013-14-north-carolina-preview
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This preview and more on North Carolina and the ACC are available in the Athlon Sports 2013-14 College Basketball Preseason Annual. The magazine is available online or on newsstands everywhere.

No. 10 North Carolina Facts & Figures
Last season: 25-11 (12-6 ACC)
Postseason: NCAA Elite Eight
Coach: Roy Williams (282-79 at North Carolina)
ACC projection: Third
Postseason projection: NCAA Sweet 16
Roy Williams warned North Carolina fans that they shouldn’t get used to the small lineups that sparked UNC’s surge in the second half of last season. He wasn’t kidding.

The Tar Heels enter 2013-14 with plenty of size up front and paper-thin depth on the perimeter as they try to get back to the Final Four for the first time since 2009. As emphasis on dribble penetration, floor spacing, and 3-point shooting increases nationwide, UNC could be the rare team whose success will depend upon post play.

The Tar Heels have six players who stand 6-8 or taller, and each one has played significant minutes in the past or figures to be in the rotation this season. The backcourt is a different story. With sharpshooter P.J. Hairston (team-high 14.6 points per game last season) suspended during the summer, UNC could begin the season with only two true wings.

The unbalanced personnel figures to create a style of play much different from the one the Tar Heels used a year ago, when they attempted more 3-pointers than any other UNC team under Williams.

Frontcourt

UNC has plenty of big men who could start at schools all over the country. Forward James Michael McAdoo, whose size and athleticism have earned him NBA buzz since high school, is the most accomplished of the group. After a lackluster sophomore season in which he shot just 44.5 percent from the floor, McAdoo increased his offseason work in an effort to improve his free throw shooting (57.8 percent) and overall offensive efficiency.

Also in the mix at forward are Brice Johnson, who showed a knack for scoring as a freshman, and hustle-minded Jackson Simmons. Freshman Isaiah Hicks figures to push for playing time because of his athleticism and ability to run the floor.

UNC has plenty of bulk at center in sophomore Joel James and highly skilled freshman Kennedy Meeks, who is working to improve his conditioning. James never got going as a freshman, but he has the potential to be a major contributor on both ends of the floor. Desmond Hubert, who started 18 games a year ago, will resume his limited role as a defensive specialist.

No UNC frontcourt player is especially suited to playing small forward, but McAdoo, Johnson, and Hicks are athletic enough to masquerade there if the Tar Heels go with a big lineup.

2013-14 Conference Previews
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Big Ten | Mountain West | Pac-12 | SEC


Backcourt

UNC almost had too many wing players a year ago. But with Hairston finding off-court trouble during the summer and Reggie Bullock and Dexter Strickland departing, now the Tar Heels might not have enough. Sophomore J.P. Tokoto, who could move into a starting role, will be counted on to provide more than his trademark awe-inspiring dunks. He is not a proficient outside shooter, but he has the athleticism to become a force on defense.

At the other wing, fifth-year senior Leslie McDonald will have the biggest role of his career. McDonald is somewhat of a designated shooter, having made 37 percent of his 3-point tries over his last two seasons.

Marcus Paige made strides as a freshman starter at the point, becoming a threat from 3-point range as last season progressed. Paige likely will end up playing significant minutes at shooting guard because of UNC’s wing shortage and the arrival of freshman point guard Nate Britt. Britt was an adept passer in high school and will have a chance to earn major minutes if he makes a quick transition to the college game. Luke Davis returns as the third point guard.

Newcomers

Isaiah Hicks and Kennedy Meeks bring different abilities to UNC’s crowded frontcourt. Hicks is athletic and adept at running the floor, although he needs to add strength and back-to-the basket moves. Meeks, meanwhile, is not an elite athlete. He is a good low-post scorer and skilled passer, especially on outlets, with good hands. Nate Britt is a quick floor general with savvy who will get immediate playing time at the point.

Final Analysis
Factoid: 1.6. UNC averaged 1.6 rebounds per game more than its opponents last season, the lowest rebound margin for a Roy Williams-coached team since Williams’ first season at Kansas (1988-89).


Williams is used to juggling players in his up-tempo scheme, but he hasn’t seen a puzzle quite like this one before. The Tar Heels have an imperfect roster in two ways: They are out of balance with their post/perimeter mix, and they lack the proven stud or two that the best Tar Heel teams usually feature.

That said, UNC has enough talent to finish near the top of a new-look ACC that will feature Syracuse, Pittsburgh, and Notre Dame for the first time. The Tar Heels can reach that potential as long as they maintain good health on the perimeter and consistently find ways to impose their will in the big-vs.-small contrast of styles that they will encounter on a nightly basis.

2013-14 Preseason Top 25
9. Syracuse
10. North Carolina
11. Ohio State
12. Michigan

13. Marquette
14. New Mexico
15. Notre Dame
16. Creighton
17. Tennessee
18. VCU
19. UNLV
20. Memphis
21. Connecticut
22. Wisconsin
23. UCLA
24. Baylor
25. Wichita State

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This preview and more on Ohio State and the Big Ten are available in the Athlon Sports 2013-14 College Basketball Preseason Annual. The magazine is available online or on newsstands everywhere.

No. 11 Ohio State Facts & Figures
Last season: 29-8 (13-5 Big Ten)
Postseason: NCAA Elite Eight
Coach: Thad Matta (250-73 at Ohio State)
Big Ten projection: Second
Postseason projection: NCAA Sweet 16
Unfortunately for Thad Matta, Ohio State’s outlook begins with who is no longer around. That’s because forward Deshaun Thomas and his Big Ten-leading 19.8 points per game are gone, along with the reliable services of post man Evan Ravenel.

Considering that center Amir Williams is far from a finished product and struggles to maintain intensity, the exhausted eligibility of Ravenel is noteworthy.

Thomas, meanwhile, leaves a rather gaping hole. The free-wheeling lefty led the Buckeyes in 29 of their 37 games as a junior last season, and his offensive creativity will be sorely missed.

Now the good news: Matta has the program at an elite level despite having to overcome early NBA defections from the likes of Greg Oden, Mike Conley Jr., Kosta Koufos, Evan Turner and Jared Sullinger over the years, and there is plenty of athleticism and tenacity left on the roster.

Senior Aaron Craft is the catalyst on both ends of the floor and should receive help once again from Shannon Scott, who made major strides last season. Lenzelle Smith Jr. is yet another proven performer at guard.

On the wing, the Buckeyes have three face-up forwards in the 6-7 range in LaQuinton Ross, Sam Thompson and freshman Marc Loving, who all bring an array of gifts to the table.

Frontcourt

Williams represents OSU’s very limited post game, and while he’s the team’s lone shot-eraser, he also isn’t nearly as adept at help defense and shutting down pick-and-roll plays as Ravenel. A big growth year from the 6-11 Williams would be a boon for the Buckeyes, but may not be crucial. Matta is more than willing to play a small lineup this season. Plus, Ohio State is blessed with a lengthy shutdown defender in Thompson and will be able to create mismatches on offense with Ross, who stands a legit 6-8.

Ross shot forward in the 2013 postseason with huge threes and athletic finishes at the basket, causing Arizona coach Sean Miller to label him a “future star.” He could pick up a lot of the scoring load left behind by Thomas. Ross averaged 8.3 points in only 16.9 minutes as a sophomore.

Loving provides even more shooting and versatility and could be an ideal fit as a 4-man in Matta’s system. However, he and Thompson are not polished rebounders. Meanwhile, Trey McDonald, athletic and decently skilled, is still trying to find a spot in Matta’s rotation. He played in only 19 games last season.

2013-14 Conference Previews
ACC | American | Big 12 | Big East
Big Ten | Mountain West | Pac-12 | SEC


Backcourt

Craft has carved out a well-deserved reputation as an elite defender and intense competitor. Now the challenge for Craft is to add onto last season’s averages of 10.0 points and 4.6 assists per game. When asked what new full-time assistant coach and former Duke point guard Greg Paulus might do for the senior, Matta jokes, “Hopefully he can get him to shoot 47 percent from the 3-point line for starters. That would be good.”

The coaches actually would accept Craft simply taking and making a few more important jumpers — like the trey he splashed against Iowa State that put the Buckeyes in the Sweet 16.

Scott is a minimal threat from the perimeter — he hit only 11 3-pointers in ’12-13 — but gives OSU a second ball-handler and another menacing on-ball defender. He’s especially skilled at creating opportunities for others with the shot clock winding down.

The off-guard position is interesting with Smith in the role of steady senior, lanky Amedeo Della Valle capable of providing a spark, and freshman Kameron Williams a potential microwave off the bench.

Newcomers

One of the top forward prospects in the Midwest, Marc Loving earned Ohio’s “Mr. Basketball” and averaged 21.2 points and 8.4 rebounds per game as a prep senior. Still, Loving is a finesse player who will have to adapt to Big Ten physicality. Kameron Williams is a deluxe scorer who can stroke it from deep and already has an effective floater.

Final Analysis
Factoid: 7. Ohio State has had at least one player drafted in each of the last seven years, the longest such streak in the nation.


Matta demands constant effort and smarts on defense, and the results have been borderline spectacular over the years. Ohio State, in fact, has been one of the best teams in the country at defending without fouling, and that needs to be — and should be — a calling card once again.

The offense will jell eventually with Ross poised for a breakout season, and the ball movement leading to shared wealth. Newcomers Loving and Williams should augment nicely.

Rebounding, however, could be at a premium. The Buckeyes will need a collected effort on the backboards if they are to again compete for a Big Ten title.

2013-14 Preseason Top 25
9. Syracuse
10. North Carolina
11. Ohio State
12. Michigan

13. Marquette
14. New Mexico
15. Notre Dame
16. Creighton
17. Tennessee
18. VCU
19. UNLV
20. Memphis
21. Connecticut
22. Wisconsin
23. UCLA
24. Baylor
25. Wichita State

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From classic live game broadcasts to sports talk radio, from Vin Scully to Paul Finebaum, the audio presentation is part of the the routine of being a sports fan.

At Athlon Sports, podcasts are among our favorite ways to consume sports media, so much so that we decided to start the Athlon Sports Cover 2 College Football Podcast.

Name a niche and chances are there’s a podcast about it. The barriers of traditional broadcast don’t apply. Want to spend an hour on one team in college football? No problem. Want to veer off from the games of the week into strange detours into food or pop culture? Who’s going to stop you?

The DIY aspect lends itself to spotty audio quality or less-polished hosts, but that’s the beauty of it. All fans with enough passion and basic technical know-how can share their voice and viewpoint with the world.

We asked around the Athlon office and picked some of our favorites in the sports we cover. One caveat: We tried to stick to podcast-first programs. It’s safe to say if you like ESPN Radio or TV programming, you can find it in a podcast format, too.

Athlon Sports’ Top Sports Podcasts

The B.S. Report
One of the longest-standing podcasts in the sports realm, the B.S. Report features all you’d expect from Bill Simmons: Red Sox/Yankees talk, a six-part NBA preview, guessing NFL betting lines with Cousin Sal plus interviews with Chuck Klosterman, Saturday Night Live writer Robert Smigel and other visiting luminaries. Real World/Road Rules Challenge talk has more or less migrated to Grantland Pop Culture. So there’s that.

The Rich Eisen Podcast
Few are more enthusiastic about the podcast format than Eisen. Sure, he gives listeners plenty of football talk — upwards of two and a half hours sometimes. Eisen goes back and forth with co-hosts in addition to interviewing coaches and players around the league. Eisen has also interviewed Kevin Costner, Carrie Underwood, Larry David, Matt Damon and more.

The Solid Verbal
The Solid Verbal is the granddaddy of college football podcasts. Hosts Dan Rubenstein and Ty Hildenbrandt break down each Saturday’s games, preview the week ahead and help college football memes bubble up to the surface. If the phrases “Clemsoning,” “Dr. Bo Wallace” and “Nick Foles in a Losing Effort (plus sound effect)” mean something to you, odds are you’re a Verballer.

The Will Leitch Experience
A new podcast on the block, Deadspin founder and Sports on Earth columnist Will Leitch strives to interview “a different smart person every day.” Cardinals baseball, Illinois basketball and his move deep into the heart of SEC country have shaped the podcasts of late, but no podcast has more interesting media guests than this one.

Eye On College Football
Chip Patterson hosts the three-times-a-week podcast featuring CBSSports.com college football staff, including Dennis Dodd (on the aptly named Doddcast), Jerry Palm, Tom Fornelli and more as they recap each Saturday, talk news and BCS and break down picks of the week.

Eye On College Basketball
The CBSSports.com college basketball podcast returned earlier this week with columnist Gary Parrish moving into the host role. The CBS crew brings knowledge, opinions, banter and tales from the road long before March Madness.


Listen to Athlon Sports writers Braden Gall and David Fox talk Bo Pelini, Oklahoma State-Texas Tech, Miami-Florida State and more Week 10 action in this week's Athlon Sports Cover 2 Podcast.
ESPNU: College Football and ESPNU: College Basketball
Podcasts are generally a DIY format, but ESPN is able to throw its weight around on its podcast. The ESPN name allows football host Ivan Maisel and basketball host Andy Katz to regularly book coach interviews on top of being informative.

Outkick the Podcast
Seven episodes in and Clay Travis has interviewed Joe Namath, Ricky Williams and Phillip Fulmer. The love-him or hate-him host also knows his audience and knows it will go bonkers for an interview with former South Carolina quarterback and off-the-field legend Stephen Garcia.

ESPN Fantasy Focus Baseball
The daily grind of fantasy baseball is tough to navigate sometimes, that’s why Matthew Berry’s and Nate Ravitz’s podcast is the people’s choice.

Effectively Wild
Ben Lindbergh and Sam Miller with Baseball Prospectus know the baseball grind as much as anyone in the podcast or media biz. Like the athletes they cover and analyze (and analyze and analyze), they post a new podcast every day.

The MMQB Podcast and The Stewart Mandel Podcast
From Sports Illustrated land, the MMQB Podcast takes you through the NFL as only Peter King can with oodles of interviews around the sport. Mandel tackles the college football side with his own share of high-profile guests.

The Chrome Horn Podcast and The David Smith Podcast
Athlon Sports contributor Geoffrey Miller covers the weekly goings on all over NASCAR in the Chrome Horn podcast with Nick Bromberg from Yahoo! Sports' From the Marbles blog. David Smith, another Athlon contributor, looks at big-picture racing issues with guests from all over the sport.

The SEC Report and SEC Sports Roundtable
From the folks at Saturday Down South, the SEC Report is — you guessed it — an all-SEC, all the time podcast. With 14 teams and plenty of news from the season to recruiting season, they stay busy. And if you want a podcast that sounds like you dishing with your SEC friends, check out the SEC Sports Roundtable, mainly because it’s a group of friends dishing about the SEC.

Pac-12 Networks Football Podcast
Ex-football coach Rick Neuheisel is broadcasting natural, and he knows his way around the Pac-12 after coaching at UCLA, Washington and Colorado. He’s also a good fit on the podcast with Mike Yam when the program veers into non-football topics.

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This preview and more on Marquette and the Big East are available in the Athlon Sports 2013-14 College Basketball Preseason Annual. The magazine is available online or on newsstands everywhere.

No. 13 Marquette Facts & Figures
Last season: 25-9 (14-4 Big East)
Postseason: NCAA Elite Eight
Coach: Buzz Williams (122-54 at Marquette)
Big East projection: First
Postseason projection: NCAA Sweet 16
With double-digit conference victories in seven of the last eight seasons, the Marquette Golden Eagles were one of the most successful teams in the Big East. Now with the new private-school iteration of the league set to debut for the 2013-14 season, Marquette remains well-positioned to continue its run of success.

This Marquette team, however, could have a very different look. For the first time in well over a decade, the Golden Eagles’ focus figures to shift to the frontcourt. That’s not to suggest they won’t have talent in the backcourt; the key to coach Buzz Williams’ success has always been the steady stream of “switchables” he churns out.

But big men Davante Gardner, Jamil Wilson, Chris Otule and Jameel McKay are going to be leaned upon up front like never before as a revamped group of guards gets up to speed.

If everything comes together as Williams hopes, a Big East title should be well within the Golden Eagles’ grasp.

Frontcourt

It would have seemed far-fetched to have suggested only a couple years ago that MU’s hopes would ever be pinned to the broad shoulders of Gardner. After all, he arrived at MU in 2010 as a 6-8, 300-pound-plus project who didn’t figure to mesh well with Williams’ frenetic style of play — especially on the defensive end. But Gardner showed from early on that his ample backside and craftiness around the basket couldn’t be ignored, and he heads into this season as the league’s reigning Sixth Man of the Year, not to mention MU’s leading returning scorer. Gardner shot a Big East-leading 58.5 percent while coming off the bench in 2012-13, and he attempted 5.0 free throws per game, knocking them down at an 83.5 percent clip.

When Williams needs a defensive presence in the lane, he will turn to the 6-11 Otule, who will be in his sixth season thanks to a medical hardship. He started last season and blocked more than a shot per game while altering quite a few more. He’s also a decent rebounder.

Wilson, who will see most of his minutes at power forward, is actually the Golden Eagles’ leading returning 3-point shooter (.360) and rebounder (4.9 rpg). He also is a great passer for his size and blocked nearly a shot per game.

McKay was a two-time first team NJCAA All-American at Indian Hills (Iowa) Community College in Ottumwa, Iowa. He is a high-energy athlete who should get plenty of minutes right away.

2013-14 Conference Previews
ACC | American | Big 12 | Big East
Big Ten | Mountain West | Pac-12 | SEC


Backcourt

Youth will be served at both guard spots, where it’s likely a true freshman will start at point guard and two others will see big minutes alongside. Duane Wilson will give the Golden Eagles an offensive threat they haven’t had handling the ball in years with an ability to get to the basket, draw fouls and also knock down 3-pointers.

Williams is a big fan of junior Derrick Wilson’s reliability — he committed only 19 turnovers in 457 minutes — but Duane Wilson will be tough to keep off the floor in crunch time because he can create as well as keep defenses honest.

The 6-5 JaJuan Johnson and the 6-4, 230-pound Deonte Burton will give Williams the ability to use different looks at shooting guard and on the wing. Johnson is more of shooter and finisher. Burton’s body should allow him to make the transition to the physical style Williams prefers.

Junior Todd Mayo can be an explosive scorer, but he’s butted heads with Williams at times and his role has diminished.

Newcomers

Jameel McKay, Duane Wilson and Deonte Burton are all Milwaukee natives. While it will undoubtedly be fun for them to play in their hometown, it would also behoove them to try and avoid some of the inherent distractions that comes along with that. All three have the ability to be special players, along with Memphis native Jajuan Johnson. John Dawson will have his work cut out for him to get into the rotation in his first year at MU. The five combine to form Williams’ third top-25 recruiting class in six seasons.

Final Analysis
Factoid: 16-0. Marquette went 16–0 when it made more free throws than its opponent attempted last season. The Golden Eagles averaged 15.7 made free throws per game.


Nine letterwinners return, but there will still be plenty of playing time available for the newcomers. All told, this will be Williams’ biggest, deepest and most athletic group from front to back.

The key will be how quickly Division I neophytes like McKay and Duane Wilson, specifically, can adapt considering how much will be put on them from the outset.

Williams and his players have made a habit of exceeding expectations, using their underdog mentality to reach new heights each season. Now that they will be one of the favorites in the new-look Big East, will the Golden Eagles have what it takes to live up to the hype? History suggest it would be wise not to bet against them.

2013-14 Preseason Top 25
13. Marquette
14. New Mexico
15. Notre Dame
16. Creighton
17. Tennessee
18. VCU
19. UNLV
20. Memphis
21. Connecticut
22. Wisconsin
23. UCLA
24. Baylor
25. Wichita State

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This preview and more on Creighton and the Big East are available in the Athlon Sports 2013-14 College Basketball Preseason Annual. The magazine is available online or on newsstands everywhere.

No. 16 Creighton Facts & Figures
Last season: 28-8 (13-5 Missouri Valley)
Postseason: NCAA Round of 32
Coach: Greg McDermott (80-30 at Creighton)
Big East projection: Second
Postseason projection: NCAA Sweet 16
Creighton fans long dreamed of a Catholic-school basketball league, the rumors of which circulated for years like some sort of mythical treasure. They have football to thank a dream come true.

When the (former) Big East football schools added members such as Tulane and SMU in an attempt to remain relevant, the basketball schools revolted. Seven Catholic schools reformed with the Big East name and kept the tournament in Madison Square Garden. Creighton’s investments and improvements, starting under former coach Dana Altman in 1994, paid off. The Big East wanted the best basketball schools, and Creighton fit, despite a geographic issue. The Bluejays, after 55 largely successful years in the Missouri Valley Conference, are stepping up to play powers such as Georgetown, Marquette and Villanova.

“There’s a huge buzz,” senior forward Doug McDermott says. “It’s always been out there, and then it just happened.”

McDermott, a 6’8” All-American, is responsible for much of that buzz. He turned down NBA possibilities to play his final season in the Big East. In July, the buzz grew when the NCAA gave forward Grant Gibbs, one of the nation’s best passers, a sixth season. The Bluejays enter the Big East as one of the favorites with four starters and three experienced reserves back.

McDermott’s return makes the transition easier. Coach Greg McDermott, his father, knows life in the Big East will test Creighton in ways the MVC did not. Creighton owned the best (or close to it) of everything — tradition, resources, facilities, academics, city — in the Valley. In the Big East, assets such as an NBA-quality arena are not nearly so special. While the Bluejays consistently won in the MVC, they did not dominate. Since 2000, they've won four MVC regular-season titles, sharing two. “We’ve gone from the top of the heap to the middle or near the bottom,” Greg McDermott says.

Frontcourt

For its debut, Creighton will hit teams with a blend of outside shooting and crisp execution that is difficult to defend. It finished second nationally in shooting percentage (50.1 percent) and 3-point shooting (41.4). Doug McDermott (23.2 ppg, 7.7 rpg) is an excellent shooter who hustles his way into easy baskets and scores with a variety of post moves. He improved his dribble game and mid-range shot as a junior, despite defenses designed to stop him. Gibbs (8.5 ppg, 5.8 apg) excels at finding McDermott at his sweet spots and helps run the team from his forward position.

Creighton will miss center Gregory Echenique, whose size enabled him to guard most big men without help. He gave a finesse team a good dose of banging, and his replacements are not nearly as experienced nor physically imposing. Junior Will Artino (3.9 ppg, 2.5 rpg) is the first choice to man the middle.

“He played great basketball for us in February and March,” Greg McDermott says. “His skill level is on the perimeter offensively, and he’s a great passer.”

Sophomore Geoffrey Groselle (7’0”) played in 17 games last season. Forward Ethan Wragge (7.7 ppg, 2.6 rpg) causes mismatches with his 3-point shooting and is strong enough to guard some post players.

“I think we’ve got a group that can really shoot the basketball,” the coach says. “With Doug and Ethan Wragge, it puts a lot of pressure on the defense.”

2013-14 Conference Previews
ACC | American | Big 12 | Big East
Big Ten | Mountain West | Pac-12 | SEC


Backcourt

The backcourt is solid with junior Austin Chatman (7.4 ppg, 4.2 apg) back for a second season as the starter at point. He may struggle defensively with bigger guards, but his quickness makes his him a threat in the open court. Senior Jahenns Manigat (5.9 ppg) started all 36 games last season. In recent seasons, the Bluejays lacked dynamic scoring and quick defenders on the perimeter. The addition of transfers James Milliken and Devin Brooks, both juniors, should help. Brooks can ease the burden on Chatman as the prime ball-handler.
“(Milliken) has a really good feel for the game,” Doug McDermott says. “He doesn’t hunt shots. He’s looking for the post and keeps his eyes up.”

Junior guard Avery Dingman (3.7 ppg) is a career 40.7-percent shooter from behind the arc. Redshirt freshman Isaiah Zierden is also a good shooter.

Newcomers

Creighton went to the junior colleges in an attempt to upgrade its athletic ability in the backcourt. Devin Brooks can push the ball and get it to shooters. He averaged 5.6 assists for Iowa Western Community College, which advanced to the NJCAA National Tournament. Guard James Milliken, from Cowley (Kan.) Community College, averaged 18.5 points and made 42.2 percent of his threes. Coaches will consider redshirting freshman center Zach Hanson.

Final Analysis
Factoid: 25.7. Doug McDermott averaged 25.7 points in nine games vs. teams ranked in the top 50 of the RPI last season. He scored a season-high 41 points in a win over Final-Four bound Wichita State.


Creighton leaves a comfortable home in the MVC for a bigger challenge, one filled with big names and schools with similar resources and history. Few schools will benefit more from the recent wave of conference realignment. There are risks — the Bluejays need to recruit a higher level of athlete, and they are faced with the difficulties of geographic isolation. The return of Doug McDermott and Gibbs should make the first Big East season memorable.

“Every night, we’re going to have to bring it,” Chatman says. “We have a lot of high hopes and aspirations.”

2013-14 Preseason Top 25
13. Marquette
14. New Mexico
15. Notre Dame
16. Creighton
17. Tennessee
18. VCU
19. UNLV
20. Memphis
21. Connecticut
22. Wisconsin
23. UCLA
24. Baylor
25. Wichita State

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This preview and more on Notre Dame and the ACC are available in the Athlon Sports 2013-14 College Basketball Preseason Annual. The magazine is available online or on newsstands everywhere.

No. 15 Notre Dame Facts & Figures
Last season: 25-10 (11-7 Big East)
Postseason: NCAA Round of 64
Coach: Mike Brey (285-142 at Notre Dame)
ACC projection: Fourth
Postseason projection: NCAA Sweet 16
After resisting conference alignment until 1995, Notre Dame became a frontrunner in the Big East, finishing second in 2011 and third in 2012. The Irish landed their fourth straight NCAA Tournament bid in 2013. Now they must adapt to their new surroundings in the venerable Atlantic Coast Conference.

“I like the veteran group that we’ll have taking us into a new league,” says coach Mike Brey, who enters his 14th season with the Irish.

Notre Dame has size and experience up front and a reinforced backcourt.

“People have said we play a little more like the ACC teams, and that’s been an advantage for us in the Big East,” Brey says. “We’re skilled. That second big guy is able to face the bucket. In the ACC, the biggest difference is the second big, or a 4-man who spreads you out and can make a shot. It’s a tricky match-up. We’ve always had the ability to play like that. I’m interested to see what gives.”
 
Frontcourt

The Irish must learn to play without Jack Cooley, who won the league’s most improved player award as a junior, and then claimed first-team All-Big East honors as a senior when he averaged 13.1 points and 10.1 rebounds per game.

“Jack was the ultimate get-a-second-shot guy,” Brey says. “We don’t have an offensive rebounder as good as Jack Cooley.”

Brey will rely upon a trio of 6-10 players — fifth-year seniors Tom Knight and Garrick Sherman and sophomore Zach Auguste — to compensate for the loss of Cooley.

Knight moved into the starting lineup early in the 2013 Big East season when veteran Scott Martin suffered a season-ending knee injury.

“He flat-out saved us,” Brey says. “If Tom Knight doesn’t come to the party, we’re going to the NIT.”

Sherman was inconsistent in his first year of eligibility after transferring from Michigan State, but he was huge down the stretch and in postseason play. Auguste emerged when Sherman struggled.

Pat Connaughton, a 6-5 junior, rebounds well enough to play the 4 spot and carried the Irish from beyond the arc in the Big East Tournament.

2013-14 Conference Previews
ACC | American | Big 12 | Big East
Big Ten | Mountain West | Pac-12 | SEC


Backcourt

The loss of sharpshooters Ben Hansbrough and Tim Abromaitis in recent years took Notre Dame’s outside game down a peg. But the Irish are solid in the backcourt with veteran guards Eric Atkins and Jerian Grant as well as sophomore Cameron Biedscheid, who must improve his defense and outside shooting consistency.

Freshman point guard Demetrius Jackson, a McDonald’s All-American, shooting guard Steve Vasturia and swingman V.J. Beachem provide ample depth.

The Irish now have a backcourt with the athleticism to contend with the ACC’s up-tempo pace.

“I’d like to see a Grant-Atkins-Jackson perimeter,” Brey says. “Can we pressure the ball a little more instead of just playing position defense all the time? I like that look. Notre Dame has never had a perimeter with that kind of a gear.”

Newcomers

Notre Dame’s perimeter play will get a boost with the addition of local standout Demetrius Jackson, sharpshooter Steve Vasturia and athletic swingman V.J. Beachem. Another local product — freshman power forward Austin Torres — may redshirt in 2013-14 but gives the Irish long-term punch up front. A pair of 6-9 sophomores — Eric Katenda and Austin Burgett — could help up front.

Final Analysis
Factoid: 11. Notre Dame enjoyed a winning Big East record in 11 of its final 13 seasons in the league (all under Mike Brey). The Irish did not have a winning conference mark in any of their first five seasons in the Big East.


Despite the loss of Cooley, a double-double machine, the Irish have size up front and a faster-paced backcourt, which takes them into their new conference prepared for a variety of styles.

“The Big East was more brute force,” Brey says. “In the Big East, if they had a wide open 15-footer, they’d still try to come at you and drive it down your throat. In the ACC, guys are going to take (the shot) a little more often. That’s kind of how we played.

“The one thing we hang our hat on is our efficiency on the offensive end. We don’t turn it over, we’re going to get a good shot, and we’re going to control tempo.”

Of concern to Brey is moving from a conference accustomed to getting eight, nine, even 10 teams in the NCAA Tournament. The ACC placed only four teams in the NCAAs a year ago. But Brey’s Irish have a way of adapting to the landscape, which led to an impressive 38–16 mark in their last three seasons in the Big East.

“We had such a consistent and respected identity in the Big East that you’d like to get off to a very good start in the ACC,” Brey says. “We want an NCAA bid in our first year in this new league.”

2013-14 Preseason Top 25
13. Marquette
14. New Mexico
15. Notre Dame
16. Creighton
17. Tennessee
18. VCU
19. UNLV
20. Memphis
21. Connecticut
22. Wisconsin
23. UCLA
24. Baylor
25. Wichita State

Teaser:
College Basketball: 2013-14 Notre Dame Preview
Post date: Wednesday, October 30, 2013 - 07:00
Path: /college-basketball/college-basketball-2013-14-new-mexico-preview
Body:


This preview and more on New Mexico and the Mountain West are available in the Athlon Sports 2013-14 College Basketball Preseason Annual. The magazine is available online or on newsstands everywhere.

No. 14 New Mexico Facts & Figures
Last season: 29-6 (13-3 Mountain West)
Postseason: NCAA Round of 64
Coach: Craig Neal (first season)
Mountain West projection: First
Postseason projection: NCAA Sweet 16
Steve Alford’s swan song at New Mexico will be remembered for his reluctance to eat crow after a dispiriting Round of 64 loss in the NCAA Tournament to Harvard when a charged-up fan base expected the Lobos to cobble together a history-making run at the Sweet 16.

The once-beloved boy wonder blamed everybody else for his team’s meltdown and then authored a stirring escape and landed one of the top jobs in college basketball. Alford bailed for UCLA 10 days after signing a 10-year extension with New Mexico, which included a hefty buyout. He was replaced by longtime assistant Craig Neal, who turned down an opportunity to join his friend in Los Angeles’ shark tank to swim around in Albuquerque’s fishbowl.

The man affectionately nicknamed “Noodles” for his wiry build as a player at Georgia Tech will try to cross off benchmarks left unchecked by his predecessor.

A breathless fan base — which watched the Lobos win the Mountain West Conference regular-season and tournament titles, crack the top 10, get a No. 3 seed and fizzle against a double-digit seed for the second time in six years — wants desperately to believe what Neal told reporters at his introductory news conference: “Steve set the bar really high, and I’m going to jump over it.”

With four of five starters returning from a 29–6 squad, and emboldened by a groundswell of support for its new head coach, New Mexico could finally break through, provided it shores up its offensive deficiencies.

Frontcourt

The early-season emergence of starting forward Cameron Bairstow and center Alex Kirk forced the Lobos to switch from a four-guard lineup to the more traditional three-guard set.  

Kirk, once the biggest question mark because of offseason back surgery two years ago, is now, arguably, the Lobos’ most indispensable player, a point hammered home when the second-team All-MWC big man admitted he was grappling with graduating early and following Alford to UCLA because he wouldn’t have to sit out a year. Kirk averaged 12.1 points and a team-high 8.1 rebounds in 2012-13, and has a feathery outside touch. He also had 63 blocks, a big reason he became only the second Lobo to make the MWC All-defensive team. The 6-9 Bairstow played surprisingly well last season but won’t fly under any team’s radar this year.   

Both Kirk and Bairstow should be confident heading into the 2013-14 season after they played for their respective countries in the World University Games.

Neal will finally have Obij Aget, a 7-foot center originally from Sudan who was a part of the Lobos’ 2012 signing class but never enrolled at New Mexico after tearing his ACL.

2013-14 Conference Previews
ACC | American | Big 12 | Big East
Big Ten | Mountain West | Pac-12 | SEC


Backcourt

Shooting guard Kendall Williams — at times a sturdy pillar, other times a shrinking violet — is the reigning MWC Player of the Year after averaging a team-high 13.3 points, highlighted by a 46-point explosion against Colorado State in which he made a MWC record 10 3-pointers.

New Mexico will rely on Williams more than ever in the absence of 3-point marksman Tony Snell, who left for the NBA after his junior season. Deshawn Delaney, a transfer from Vincennes (Ind.) University, is expected to fill Snell’s spot. Kansas transfer Merv Lindsay gives the Lobos another option on the wing.

Guard Arthur Edwards started 26 games and made 40 percent of his 3-pointers for a Northwest Florida State team that played in its second straight National Junior College Division I championship.    

Gone is Alford’s sharpshooting son, Bryce, who followed his dad to UCLA, but in his place is perhaps a more dynamic newcomer, Cullen Neal. The true freshman could see minutes this year after getting out of his Letter-of-Intent with Saint Mary’s to join forces with father, Craig.

At the helm of it all is heady point guard Hugh Greenwood, the only returning player to start every game last season. The Aussie averaged five rebounds per game and led the team in boards eight times.

Newcomers

Guards Deshawn Delaney and Arthur Edwards will give New Mexico a much-needed perimeter presence. Local product Cullen Neal is a high-energy player, known for riling up opposing fans. Tim Myles played for the same AAU team that produced ex-Lobo Tony Danridge and current Lobo Kendall Williams. Obij Aget was originally a part of New Mexico’s 2012 recruiting class. Merv Lindsay redshirted in 2012-13 after transferring from Kansas.

Final Analysis
Factoid: 9. New Mexico won nine games in league play in 2012-13 in which it failed to shoot better than 40 percent from the field. The Lobos compensated by holding opponents to 39 percent shooting, the second-best defensive number in program history.


Look for the Lobos to transition from being a squad that grinds out low-scoring bloodbaths into a more wide-open, offensively potent ball club under Neal. If Williams can play with more consistency, not only will New Mexico battle for top shelf in the Mountain West, but it also might, for once, be around for the latter stages of March.

*photo courtesy of Karsen King Welch/UNM

2013-14 Preseason Top 25
13. Marquette
14. New Mexico
15. Notre Dame
16. Creighton
17. Tennessee
18. VCU
19. UNLV
20. Memphis
21. Connecticut
22. Wisconsin
23. UCLA
24. Baylor
25. Wichita State

Teaser:
College Basketball: 2013-14 New Mexico Preview
Post date: Wednesday, October 30, 2013 - 07:00
Path: /nfl/2013-nfl-picks-every-game-week-9
Body:

A quick look at every game on the NFL schedule for Week 9, along with the consensus picks of Athlon Sports' editors.

Bengals (6-2) at Dolphins (3-4)
A pair of Texas-born and bred gunslingers go toe-to-toe in South Florida, when Andy Dalton and Ryan Tannehill square off on Thursday. Bengals by 4

Falcons (2-5) at Panthers (4-3)
Cam Newton had arguably his most impressive game as a pro last season against Atlanta, the NFC South division rival that also happens to be the ATL native’s hometown team. Superman threw for 287 yards, two TDs and zero INTs, while rushing for 116 yards and one TD in a 30–20 win at Carolina in Week 14 last year. Panthers by 5

Vikings (1-6) at Cowboys (4-4)
Adrian Peterson’s offensive linemen were gifted snowmobiles by the 2,000-yard MVP runner earlier this week. Now the big fellas will need to clear a path for A.D., a Palestine, Texas, native playing in front of friends and family in Big D. Cowboys by 7

Saints (6-1) at Jets (4-4)
Rob Ryan vs. Rex Ryan will be a Big Apple heavyweight bout just short of King Kong vs. Godzilla. One of Buddy’s boys will leave with dinner table bragging rights. Saints by 8

Titans (3-4) at Rams (3-5)
Why isn’t the Jeff Fisher Bowl in Nashville? Probably because the gravel-voiced, mustachioed coach demanded to have homefield advantage against the Titans-Oilers franchise he coached from 1994-2010. And this time, fans might actually show up in St. Louis — unlike the sparsely populated Monday night game played opposite Game 5 of the World Series. Titans by 4

Chiefs (8-0) at Bills (3-5)
Alex Smith has posted a remarkable 27–5–1 record over the last three seasons. That is serious “game management,” Captain Checkdown. Chiefs by 5

Chargers (4-3) at Redskins (2-5)
San Diego takes the flight from the West Coast for an Eastern Time Zone 1 p.m. kickoff. That’s usually not good for the split stats. But these Bolts have been electric on the East Coast, with wins at Philadelphia and Jacksonville this year. Redskins by 1

Eagles (3-5) at Raiders (3-4)
Chip Kelly has a revolving door at quarterback, with Mike Vick limping to the bench, Nick Foles clearing out the concussion cobwebs and rookie Matt Barkley trying to get up to speed. Meanwhile, the Silver-and-Black feel like its found a star quarterback in Terrelle Pryor — who, come to think of it, would probably be pretty darn good at running Kelly’s spread-option offense. Raiders by 2

Buccaneers (0-7) at Seahawks (7-1)
The Jaguars were unheard of 28-point underdogs on the road against the Broncos in Week 6. The Bucs opened as 16-point underdogs on the road against the Seahawks. That seems low considering Seattle’s average margin of victory at home is 20 points, including a 45–17 win over Jacksonville — Tampa Bay’s misery-loving company in the two-team winless club. Seahawks by 16

Ravens (3-4) at Browns (3-5)
The original Browns return to their original hometown to take on the expansion Browns. In Week 2, the Ravens (a team that moved from Cleveland to Baltimore in 1996) defeated the Browns (a team that rejoined the NFL in 1999), 14–6. Judging from recent history, the timing of this contest couldn’t be worse. Baltimore is 10–1 in games following its bye week since 2002 and 5–0 after a bye under John Harbaugh. Ravens by 3

Steelers (2-5) at Patriots (6-2)
Ben Roethlisberger and Tom Brady have won a combined five Super Bowl rings. There’s no denying their past success. This season? Not so much. Big Ben has eight TDs, seven INTs and just two wins, while Tom Terrific has nine TDs, six INTs and five sub-250-yard games. Patriots by 7

Colts (5-2) at Texans (2-5)
Indy and Houston have squared off twice since the Andrew Luck era began. In those two meetings, each team came away with a 1–1 record and a combined score of 45–45. The tiebreaker this week might not be as evenly matched. The Colts are fresh off a bye week. Last season, Luck took down the Packers in his coming out party after an off week. Meanwhile, the Texans are in the midst of a quarterback crisis, starting Case Keenum over a healthy Matt Schaub. Colts by 4

Bears (4-3) at Packers (5-2)
No need to “Daaa-ble Check,” this Monday night party is definitely in grill class. Da Bears take on Aaron Rodgers and the Pack at Lambeau Field in the 187th meeting in the league’s longest running rivalry. Dating back to 1921, Chicago leads the all-time series against Green Bay, 92–88–6. However, the Cheeseheads from Title Town are currently riding a six-game winning streak over Bill Swerski’s Superfans from the Windy City. Packers by 10

Last week: 11–3 // Season: 76–44
 

Teaser:
A preview and prediction of every game on the NFL schedule in Week 9.
Post date: Tuesday, October 29, 2013 - 21:14
Path: /nfl/2013-midseason-nfl-awards
Body:

The 2013 NFL season has already reached halftime — but not the one Bruno Mars will be performing at during Super Bowl XLVIII in New York. It’s way too early to start engraving the hardware, but after the first four games, these are the playmakers who have distinguished themselves as award-worthy:

Most Valuable Player
Peyton Manning, QB, Broncos

Already a four-time MVP (2003, ’04, ’08, ’09), Manning is in the process of putting together the finest season of his Hall of Fame career. The 16th-year veteran has completed 71.2 percent of his passes for 2,919 yards, 29 TDs and six INTs for a 119.4 passer rating.

Offensive Player of the Year
Calvin Johnson, WR, Lions

Megatron has been destroying defenses this season, with 47 catches for 821 yards and seven TDs through just seven games. Johnson is not quite on pace to break his own single-season receiving yards record (1,964 yards in 2012) but he is on pace for 1,876 yards and 16 TDs.

Defensive Player of the Year
Richard Sherman, CB, Seahawks

The undisputed leader of Seattle’s “Legion of Boom” secondary, Sherman has been talking the talk and walking the walk — with swagger. The 6'3", 195-pounder out of Stanford via Compton has four INTs returned for 124 yards (31.0 ypr) and a 58-yard pick six.

Offensive Rookie of the Year
Eddie Lacy, RB, Packers

It’s a wide open field for Offensive Rookie of the Year. But if Lacy stays healthy and keeps up his recent pace (296 rushing yards and two TDs from Weeks 6-8), he could wrap up the hardware and, more important, give Aaron Rodgers a little help.

Defensive Rookie of the Year
Kiko Alonso, LB, Bills

The No. 46 overall pick out of Oregon has made an immediate splash in the NFL. Alonso has 81 total tackles, four INTs for 38 yards, one sack, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery this season.

Comeback Player of the Year
Alex Smith, QB, Chiefs

The former No. 1 overall draft pick was thrown to the scrap heap by the 49ers in favor of Colin Kaepernick last season. One team’s trash is another team’s treasure. Smith has thrown for 1,795 yards, nine TDs and four INTs for 8–0 Kansas City.

Coach of the Year
Andy Reid, Chiefs

After being booed out of Philadelphia by the Santa-hating masses, Reid put on a big red jacket and took his bag of tricks to Kansas City, where he has the Chiefs poised to go from worst (2–14 in 2012) to first.
 

Teaser:
Post date: Tuesday, October 29, 2013 - 21:04
Path: /nfl/2013-nfl-power-rankings-week-8
Body:

Ranking all 32 NFL teams, from the unbeaten Chiefs to the winless Bucs and Jaguars.

1. Chiefs (8-0) “Baby Andy Reid” Halloween costume goes viral.

2. Colts (5-2) Reggie Wayne undergoes surgery during bye week.

3. Broncos (7-1) Peyton Manning has three INTs, lost fumble in win.

4. Seahawks (7-1) Golden Tate taunts Rams, apologizes postgame.

5. 49ers (6-2) Joe Montana critical of new stadium in Santa Clara.

6. Packers (5-2) Convert 15-of-20 third-or-fourth downs in victory.

7. Patriots (6-2) Tom Brady’s throwing hand under constant scrutiny.

8. Saints (6-1) Drew Brees completes passes to 10 different targets.

9. Bengals (6-2) Marvin Jones catches franchise record four TDs.

10. Lions (5-3) Matthew Stafford impromptu QB sneak seals win.

11. Chargers (4-3) Philip Rivers, wife Tiffany welcome seventh child.

12. Cowboys (4-4) Tyron Smith holding penalty gives Lions new life.

13. Ravens (3-4) Sign Bernard Scott to add depth to injured backfield.

14. Panthers (4-3) Record over .500 mark for first time since 2008.

15. Bears (4-3) Brandon Marshall predicts early return for Jay Cutler.

16. Titans (3-4) Bury owner Bud Adams (1923-2013) on bye week.

17. Rams (3-5) St. Louis hosts loss on MNF, Game 5 of World Series.

18. Cardinals (4-4) Larry Fitzgerald youngest player to 800 receptions.

19. Raiders (3-4) Terrelle Pryor rushes for QB-record 93-yard score.

20. Jets (4-4) Geno Smith throws two pick-sixes in 40-point loss.

21. Giants (2-6) Eli has 2–0 record, one TD, zero INTs last two weeks.

22. Eagles (3-5) Lose 10th consecutive game at home at “the Linc.”

23. Redskins (2-5) Mike Shanahan loses his Mile High homecoming.

24. Falcons (2-5) Outrushed by Cardinals, 201-to-27 yards, in loss.

25. Texans (2-5) Case Keenum to start, Matt Schaub now backup.

26. Bills (3-5) Mario Williams records 11th sack of year in defeat.

27. Dolphins (3-4) Suffer fourth straight loss after 3–0 start to season.

28. Browns (3-5) Travis Benjamin out for season after tearing ACL.

29. Vikings (1-6) Cordarrelle Patterson scores 109-yard return TD.

30. Steelers (2-5) Lose three O-linemen to injury in loss at Oakland.

31. Buccaneers (0-7) Have lost 12 of last 13 games dating back to 2012.

32. Jaguars (0-8) London’s “home” team loses in front of 83,559 fans.
 

Teaser:
Ranking all 32 NFL teams, from the unbeaten Chiefs to the winless Bucs and Jaguars.
Post date: Tuesday, October 29, 2013 - 20:57
Path: /nfl/prime-time-players-week-8
Body:

Calvin Johnson, WR, Lions
Cowboys wideout Dez Bryant said he was the best at what “he does” and Johnson was the best at what “he does.” Apparently, Bryant’s the best at throwing tantrums on the sideline in a losing effort and the receiving machine known as Megatron is the best at making plays between the lines. Johnson had 14 catches for a career-high 329 yards (23.5 ypc) and one TD during a 31–30 come-from-behind victory over Dallas. Johnson’s receiving yardage total is the second-most in NFL history, trailing L.A. Rams receiver Flipper Anderson’s 336 yards set in 1989 in an overtime game against the Saints.

Drew Brees, QB, Saints
New Orleans’ band leader threw five TDs in a single game for the sixth time in his career during a 35–17 win over Buffalo. Brees completed 26-of-34 passes for 332 yards, five TDs and zero INTs for a season-high 146.1 passer rating. Strangely enough, Brees has zero picks in games in which he throws five scoring strikes. He did, however, throw one INT during his career-high six-TD effort back in 2009. Slacker. Of Brees’ five TD passes, two deep balls went to rookie speedster Kenny Stills, two red zone over-the-middle laser beams to tight end Jimmy Graham and one score to Lance Moore.

Antrel Rolle, S, Giants
With the Giants offense able to muster just five Josh Brown FGs, the Big Blue Wrecking Crew defense was called on to carry the load during a 15–7 victory at NFC East rival Philadelphia. Rolle led the way with a stat-stuffing performance that included five total tackles, one sack, one forced fumble and one INT of Michael Vick before the Eagles dual-threat passer injured his hamstring and was replaced by rookie Matt Barkley. For the game, New York held Philly to 201 total yards, 3-of-14 conversions on third-or-fourth-down and zero offensive TDs.

Andre Ellington, RB, Cardinals
The No. 187 overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft, Ellington made the most out of NFL start No. 1 during a 27–13 victory over the Falcons. The 5'9", 199-pound rookie out of Clemson had 15 carries for 154 yards (10.3 ypc) and a highlight-reel 80-yard sprint to the end zone. Ellington’s breakout performance came just hours after his cousin, South Carolina Gamecocks receiver Bruce Ellington, had a 10-catch, 136-yard, two-TD outburst in a thrilling double-overtime win at Missouri.
 

Teaser:
The best performances in the NFL from Week 8.
Post date: Tuesday, October 29, 2013 - 20:48
All taxonomy terms: Adrian Peterson, NFL, News
Path: /nfl/should-vikings-trade-adrian-peterson
Body:

The NFL trade deadline is 4 p.m. ET today. The Minnesota Vikings are 1-6 and seemingly headed nowhere. Should the team seriously consider trading its franchise running back and the reigning league MVP? Athlon editors Braden Gall and Mark Ross weigh in with their thoughts.

Yes
First, let me state for the record, that Adrian Peterson is the best running back I have ever watched or covered professionally in a decade of being in the business. He is the most physically gifted runner to come out of high school since Herschel Walker or Bo Jackson in the 80s. He is great. But the question about his future in Minneapolis is one that the Vikings brass should be asking themselves after falling to 1-6 on the season Sunday night. There are more than a few good reasons why Minnesota should trade their star tailback.

Peterson is due over $60 million in salary from 2014 to the end of his contract following the 2017 season. He hits the Vikings salary cap with over $14 million in each of the next four seasons, so taking that contract off the books opens up a tremendous amount of space to rebuild a roster. He plays the most destructive position on the field, has an extremely violent running style and a history of serious injury. All-Day Peterson, who will be 29 years old at the start of the '14 season, never comes out of the game and has touched the ball 21.8 times per game for his career — over 2,000 touches in seven seasons. Should that continue, he'd be nearing 4,000 career touches by the end of his contract. Only three players have ever topped 4,000 touches in a career: Emmitt Smith, Walter Payton and Curtis Martin. Needless to say, his best years are likely behind him.

Lastly, his value will never be higher than it is right now. The Browns just got a first-round pick for Trent Richardson, a guy who is very talented but has averaged 3.4 yards per carry for his career. If T-Rich is worth a first-rounder, albeit a lower pick, what would A.D. be worth? Two firsts? A first and a second? Three No. 2s? Peterson is a huge cap hit, plays a devalued and high-risk position, has already used up a lot of his career tread and won't ever be worth as much on the open market as he is right now.

I would hate it for the people of Minnesota, but Vikings fans know all too well what can happen to a team that trades away a star tailback for small boatload of draft picks. The Cowboys acquired three first-round picks, three second-round picks and three Super Bowl championships for Herschel Walker in 1989.
Braden Gall (@BradenGall)

No
To borrow a phrase from a wildly successful musician who recently entered the sports agency business, Minnesota has close to 99 problems but Adrian Peterson isn’t one of them. And while he clearly represents the best trading chip the Vikings possess, there is just no way the team will get a proper return for the reigning NFL MVP and the league’s top running back.

In 1989, Minnesota traded for Dallas’ Herschel Walker, one of the top running backs in the game at that time. The cost for the Vikings was high — five players and six draft picks. The Cowboys turned those draft picks into the likes of Emmitt Smith, Russell Maryland, Kevin Smith and Darren Woodson, and the rest, as they say, is history. The Cowboys went on to win three Super Bowls in the 1990s while Walker played just three seasons for the Vikings, helping them get to the playoffs just once.

While Peterson (28) is around the same age as Walker (27) when he was traded and is considerably more accomplished, there is no way the Vikings can even hope for that same type of return, not in the current NFL. The Indianapolis Colts got Trent Richardson from the Cleveland Browns for a 2014 first-round pick in September. Richardson may not compare to Peterson in terms of production, but he is six years younger, a factor that has become even more important when it comes to running backs.

If anything, Peterson could be among the last of what is becoming an endangered species — the workhorse running back. More and more teams are either employing a running back-by-committee approach in their backfield or moving on to the “next” guy as soon as the current one starts showing signs of slowing down.  Case in point, no running backs were taken in the first round of April’s draft for the first time since 1963.

There’s no denying that Peterson is worthy of a Walker-esque haul in a trade. He’s the best running back in the NFL and one of the best to ever play the position. But there is no team that will give the Vikings that many players and picks, not in this new era of the rookie salary cap. To put it simply, Peterson is an once-in-a-lifetime player and it would take a historic trade to validate getting rid of him. Like the one Minnesota did 24 years ago. Sorry Vikings fans, I don’t see history repeating.
Mark Ross

Related Content:

Ranking the NFL's 2,000-yard Seasons

Teaser:
Should the Vikings Trade Adrian Peterson?
Post date: Tuesday, October 29, 2013 - 10:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football
Path: /college-football/amazing-pac-12-college-football-stats-week-9
Body:

True college football fans like to examine and dissect statistics, whether it's a quarterback's completion percentage or a team's winning record on the road. We, however, love stats. With that in mind, we scoured the Pac-12 to put together some of the strangest, most amazing, and just plain cool numbers from around the conference in Week 9.

1: Cardinal defense limits Oregon State to one pass play of 20-plus yards
Stanford’s then 82nd-ranked pass defense (250.1 YPG) limited Oregon State’s top-ranked passing offense in the number of big plays they converted in the Cardinal’s 20-12 victory Saturday. Entering the game, the Beavers led the nation in pass completions of 20-plus yards. Oregon State QB Sean Mannion had just one Saturday night — a 20-yarder in the third quarter to convert a third-and-8. The drive ended four plays later on a failed fourth down attempt.
 
3: Trojans limited Utes to three points in third straight win against Utah
USC won its third in a row in the series against Utah with its 19-3 win Saturday, holding the Utes to three points or less for the fifth time in the 12-game series.
 
5: Washington moves to 5-0 when outscoring opponents in the first quarter
With 17 first-quarter points on the way to a 41-17 win over California, Washington is now outscoring its opponents 67-17 in the first 15 minutes. The Huskies are 5-0 in games where they outscore their opponents in the opening quarter, and 0-3 in the other three.
 
7: UCLA’s seven second-half drives produced a much different result than its seven first-half series
After a 14-all tie at halftime, nothing worked for UCLA in its 42-14 loss to Oregon. The Bruins had seven drives over the final 30 minutes, running 32 plays for 79 yards. Five of the first six drives ended in punts. The other ended with Avery Patterson’s interception of Brett Hundley that was turned into a TD seven plays later, and turned a one-score game into a two-score advantage. The last drive was the most sustained of the second half — six plays for 32 yards — but started with 2:25 left in the game, the Bruins trailing 42-14 and ran the clock out. UCLA ran 39 plays for 198 yards with two scores, an interception, two turnovers on downs, a punt and kneel down in the first half.
 
10: Oregon QB Marcus Mariota is a perfect 10 in the second half
Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota was a perfect 10-for-10 passing for 98 yards and a touchdown in the second half of the Ducks’ 42-14 win over UCLA. Mariota finished 21-of-28 for 230 yards and the 8-yard, third-quarter TD pass to Bralon Addison.
 
10 part II: Utah defense racks up 10 tackles for loss for the second time this season
In its 19-3 loss to USC, Utah recorded at least 10 tackles for loss for the second time this season (11 vs. Weber State), and held the Trojans to a season-low 30 rushing yards. It is the third time the Utes have kept an opponent under 100 yards on the ground (69 vs. Weber State, 48 vs. Oregon State), and the second time they’ve held an opponent under 300 yards (205 vs. Weber State) this season.
 
49: UCLA defense has given up 49 second-half points the last two weeks, after 17 the first five
After allowing only 17 second-half points in its first five games, UCLA has surrendered 49 the last two weeks against Oregon and Stanford. A 14-all tie against Oregon on Saturday was the first time the Ducks had been deadlocked at intermission. But they returned to score 28 points in the second half — the most allowed by the Bruins over the final 30 minutes this season. Last week at Stanford, UCLA trailed 3-0 before allowing 21 second-half points in a 24-10 loss.
 
50: Buffs receiver ties school record for plays of 50-plus 
Colorado receiver Paul Richardson collected his sixth play of 50-plus yards in Saturday’s 44-20 loss to Colorado. The 75-yard touchdown reception in the first quarter quarter tied the school’s modern-day record for plays of 50 yards or more in a single season, and was the 12th such play in his career. Richardson now has 50 catches for 914 yards and seven touchdowns, and is on pace to break the school’s single-season records in all three categories (78-1,149-11).
 
100: Denker becomes second Wildcats QB to rush for 100 yards since 2000 
Arizona quarterback B.J. Denker’s first 100-yard rushing game was nearly 200 (192 yards on 15 carries) in Saturday’s 44-20 win over Colorado. The senior is the first Wildcat QB to rush for 100 yards since Matt Scott last season (15-100 vs. USC). Together, they are the only two Arizona QBs since 2000 to rush for 100 yards. A career-long 54-yard run in the third quarter is where Denker picked up the majority of his rushing yards Saturday. His 457 yards of total offense (265 passing, 192 rushing) was the sixth-best offensive game in school history.
 
600: Huskies go past 600 yards of offense for third time this season 
With 642 total yards in its 41-17 win over California Saturday, Washington surpassed 600 yards for the third time this season. Entering 2013, the program had only surpassed 600-plus yards on six other occasions. Washington eclipsing 500 total yards for the fourth time this season is just the third time in 67 years the Huskies have accomplished that feat (2005, 2007). 
 
By Corby A. Yarbrough
Teaser:
The bizarre, important and historic numbers from around the conference.
Post date: Tuesday, October 29, 2013 - 07:15
All taxonomy terms: Atlantic 10, VCU Rams, College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/college-basketball-2013-14-vcu-preview
Body:


This preview and more on VCU and the Atlantic 10 are available in the Athlon Sports 2013-14 College Basketball Preseason Annual. The magazine is available online or on newsstands everywhere.

No. 18 VCU Facts & Figures
Last season: 27-9 (12-4 Atlantic 10)
Postseason: NCAA Round of 32
Coach: Shaka Smart (111-17 at VCU)
Atlantic 10 projection: First
Postseason projection: NCAA Round of 32
Shaka Smart had something to prove last season. VCU stepped up in weight class from the Colonial to the Atlantic 10, and many wondered if Smart’s Rams could validate their recent postseason success given a grueling regular season. VCU finished second in the A-10 and won an NCAA Tournament game for the third straight year. Check.

This season, Smart adds a weapon he’s not had since coming to VCU four seasons ago — depth. The Rams can legitimately go 10-to-11 players deep this season, a boon to their physically demanding havoc style that led the nation in turnover percentage and steal percentage last year.

“We’ve got about five guys, maybe six, that can potentially play minutes at point guard spot,” says Smart. “It’s not necessarily that we have point guards as much as we have point guard options. Terrance (Shannon) gives us low-post options, too. The good thing is that we have juniors and seniors that have been a part of a lot of winning.”

Frontcourt

Shannon, a 6-8, 240-pound workhorse who transferred to VCU from Florida State for his final college season. Shannon “gets it,” according to Smart, and was FSU’s third-leading scorer (8.9 ppg) and leading rebounder (6.5 rpg) last season before injuring his neck.

Shannon will take some of the physical play away from 6-9 Juvonte Reddic, a second-team All-A-10 performer. Reddic is a silky-smooth scorer who appears on most NBA Draft boards. In fact, Reddic was invited to the prestigious Amare Stoudemire Skills Camp and the LeBron James Skills Academy. Reddic put up 16 points and 13 rebounds against Duke’s Mason Plumlee and had seven double-doubles in a 10-game stretch during the middle of the conference season.

“He can be dominating when he brings it,” says Smart, “and we’ve been working on Juvonte bringing it every night. To his credit, he’s done a phenomenal job with it over his career, but we want more.”

Treveon Graham played the 4 spot in Smart’s four-guard offense and is a threat all over the court. Graham is a 36.6 percent 3-point shooter but earned the nickname Freight Train for his ability to drive straight to the rim and absorb contact to score or get to the foul line. Graham is a pure scorer who averaged more than 15 points per game last season and also earned second-team All-A-10 honors.

Jarred Guest is a wiry 6-8, and his length is nightmarish for opponents trying to beat the press. Guest snared more offensive rebounds (45) than defensive rebounds (43).

2013-14 Conference Previews
ACC | American | Big 12 | Big East
Big Ten | Mountain West | Pac-12 | SEC


Backcourt

There is no doubt that the meat of this team resides in its backcourt, and Smart has a cadre quick and athletic guards. Finding minutes for his options may be the coach’s biggest issue.

Senior Rob Brandenberg and junior Briante Weber are the incumbents. Brandenberg is a slasher of the highest magnitude and one of the best in the nation at turning the corner at the elbow. He’s also changed his shot to become a weapon from beyond the arc. Smart notes that Brandenberg had an outstanding summer.

Weber is the embodiment of havoc. He led the nation in steal percentage in both of his first two seasons and nabbed 10 thefts against NCAA Cinderella Florida Gulf Coast. The point guard spot will be Weber’s to lose.

Both will be pushed hard by newcomers Jordan Burgess and Doug Brooks. Smart makes no bones about the impact Burgess can make. “He was the toughest player on the team last year,” Smart says of the redshirt freshman.

Sharpshooting Melvin Johnson may hold the biggest key to VCU’s success because Smart has to replace Troy Daniels and his school-record 124 3-pointers. Billed as a dead-eye shooter, Johnson displayed more of a mid-range game in his freshman season. Johnson has that New York guard savvy and can score in a seemingly unlimited number of ways.

Newcomers

Mo Alie Cox redshirted last season but is a muscled 6’6 and carries a 7’3” wingspan. Jordan Burgess is another redshirt who would have seen plenty of minutes last season had he been playing. Doug Brooks has all the trappings of another Briante Weber on defense, and he can shoot the basketball. Point guard JeQuan Lewis will be thrown on the court to see how he fares. Antravious Simmons needs to reshape his body, but he could find his way onto the court.

Final Analysis
Factoid: 17. VCU was 17–0 last season when senior Rob Brandenberg scored 11 or more points.


Point guard is the big question mark, although Smart is not fazed. “We have this conversation every two years,” says the coach. “Who replaces Eric (Maynor)? Who replaces Joey (Rodriguez)? The point guard position more than anything is getting into the offense and spearheading the defense.”

Toughness is a word the VCU coaches are also using. With Shannon and Burgess, VCU figures to be a much tougher team. Perhaps that’s the missing ingredient for another deep run in the NCAA Tournament. The talent is certainly there.

*Photo courtesy of VCU Athletics

2013-14 Preseason Top 25
17. Tennessee
18. VCU
19. UNLV
20. Memphis
21. Connecticut
22. Wisconsin
23. UCLA
24. Baylor
25. Wichita State

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Post date: Tuesday, October 29, 2013 - 07:00
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This preview and more on Tennessee and the SEC are available in the Athlon Sports 2013-14 College Basketball Preseason Annual. The magazine is available online or on newsstands everywhere.

No. 17 Tennessee Facts & Figures
Last season: 20-13 (11-7 SEC)
Postseason: NIT first round
Coach: Cuonzo Martin (39-28 at Tennessee)
SEC projection: Third
Postseason projection: NCAA Round of 32
An SEC Payer of the Year candidate at shooting guard, two potential all-league forwards, a high-impact transfer and a 5-star freshman. Life is good on Rocky Top — unless you like expectations.

Still itching the burn of back-to-back NIT appearances, Tennessee third-year head coach Cuonzo Martin states the obvious for 2013-14.

“(The NCAA Tournament) is very important,” Martin says. “You have the personnel to be there, so you should be there. That part should be understood. It’s a given.”

Martin is 39–28 and 21–13 in SEC play since coming to Tennessee from Missouri State. He’s notched nine top-25 wins and is the only coach other than Kentucky’s John Calipari to have beaten every league team over the last two-year span. The one thing he hasn’t done at Tennessee, however, is coach in the NCAA Tournament.

Frontcourt

This conversation begins with Jeronne Maymon’s left knee, shifts to Jarnell Stokes’ production and ends with a question of depth.

Both Maymon and Martin have said the former Marquette transfer will be 100 percent for 2013-14. That was said last offseason, however, and his surgically repaired knee never fully healed. At his peak, Maymon is one of the SEC’s top inside presences, proven when he averaged 12.7 points and 8.1 rebounds in 2011-12. Even if he’s ready to go when the Vols open the season, it will likely take time for Jeronne Maymon to look like Jeronne Maymon.

No one wants that process to progress more than Stokes. The 6-8, 260-pound fire hydrant continually complained last season about battling double-teams. After in-season adjustments, Stokes averaged 13.1 points and 10.7 rebounds in SEC play. He flirted with the NBA Draft, but questions surrounding his scoring ability, athleticism and motor brought him back.  

The lone true reserve frontcourt player is 6-10, 280-pound junior college transfer Rawane Ndiaye. Sophomore Derek Reese, a long and lean wing, will see some time at the 4, along with undersized banger Quinton Chievous and freshman A.J. Davis.

2013-14 Conference Previews
ACC | American | Big 12 | Big East
Big Ten | Mountain West | Pac-12 | SEC


Backcourt

Former point guard Trae Golden is gone and no one seems fazed. The two-year starter announced his transfer from UT in the summer and was eventually replaced on the roster by Memphis transfer Antonio Barton.

Whereas Golden was a score-first guard and a defensive liability, Barton is a pass-first leader and a gritty defender. The latter is a far better fit for Tennessee.

Barton averaged 5.6 points and 1.1 assists in 16.7 minutes per game last season and left the Tigers amicably after Joe Jackson decided to return for his junior year. At Tennessee, Barton will be asked to initiate Martin’s motion offense, defend like a hound dog and hit timely 3-pointers.

If he does, the scoring door will swing open for first-team All-SEC shooting guard Jordan McRae, versatile wing Josh Richardson and smooth shooting freshman Robert Hubbs.

McRae’s senior campaign is worthy of attention. The gangly 6-6 scorer staged an impromptu SEC Player of the Year campaign after coming off the bench in 10 of the season’s first 11 games. He started the rest of the way and led the Vols in scoring (15.7 ppg), minutes played (33.6 mpg), 3-pointers made (60) and 3-point percentage (.355).

Though a capable scorer from mid-range and off the bounce, Richardson is relied on for defense. He drew the toughest defensive assignment last year. Hubbs comes with hype and will be expected to add a scoring spark for the Vols. Armani Moore took over point guard duties midway through last season as a freshman, helping UT win eight of its final nine regular-season games. He’ll split backup minutes with incoming freshman Darius Thompson.

Newcomers

Robert Hubbs, a 6-6 shooting guard , is a gifted scorer with range beyond the 3-point line. He’s joined by fellow incoming guards Darius Thompson and Antonio Barton, a Memphis transfer. Barton will likely start from Day 1, backed up by Thompson. A.J. Davis, the son of NBA veteran Antonio Davis, isn’t as physically imposing as his father, but is athletically gifted at 6-9, 208 pounds. Junior college transfer Rawane Ndiaye will be a reserve center.

Final Analysis
Factoid: 37.7. Jordan McRae averaged an SEC-high 37.7 minutes per game in conference action last season. Though he flourished, averaging 19.2 points in league play, coach Cuonzo Martin wants a more manageable workload for his star shooting guard in 2013-14.


As much as Tennessee has coming back in 2013-14 is as much as it will lose come 2014-15. McRae, Maymon and Barton are all seniors and Stokes is eyeing the 2014 NBA Draft. If Martin is going to lead the Vols to their first NCAA Tournament since Bruce Pearl’s departure, this is the year.

“They want to be an NCAA Tournament team,” Martin says. “They’re hungry. They’ve been attacking offseason workouts.”

With Kentucky projected to be a top-5 team, Tennessee should hang with Florida for next-best in the SEC. All the pieces are there. Much of how far the Vols go hinges on Maymon’s knee and Barton’s play at the point.

2013-14 Preseason Top 25
17. Tennessee
18. VCU
19. UNLV
20. Memphis
21. Connecticut
22. Wisconsin
23. UCLA
24. Baylor
25. Wichita State

 

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College Basketball: 2013-14 Tennessee Preview
Post date: Tuesday, October 29, 2013 - 07:00
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After another eye-opening offensive performance, Baylor moved up another spot in the Legends Poll and made its first ever top 5 appearance.
 
The fifth-ranked Bears continued their dominance at Kansas, pounding the Jayhawks 59-14 on the road, setting up a Big 12 showdown with Oklahoma Thursday, Nov. 11.
 
No. 1 Alabama remained atop the Legends Poll rankings, followed still by Oregon, Florida State and Ohio State. But Florida State continued gaining ground on Oregon following its 49-17 win over NC State in Legends Poll Voter Bobby Bowden’s return to Doak Campbell Stadium.
 
No. 6 Stanford dropped a spot and was followed by Miami (FL), Clemson, Auburn and Oklahoma. Ninth-ranked Auburn moved into the top 10 for the first time this season.
 
No. 11 Missouri tumbled four spots in the rankings following a heartbreaking defeat at the hands of No. 15 South Carolina. No. 14 Texas Tech also fell out of the top 10 after suffering its first loss at Oklahoma.
 
No. 22 Michigan State and No. 24 Central Florida were newcomers to the poll this week.
 
Virginia Tech and Arizona State dropped out of the top 25.
 
To see the individual votes by coach, visit the Legends Poll
 
THE LEGENDS POLL TOP 25
RKTEAMRECORDPOINTSPV RK
1AlabamaAlabama (15)8-03991
2OregonOregon (1)8-03802
3Florida StateFlorida State7-03733
4Ohio StateOhio State8-03514
5BaylorBaylor7-03296
6StanfordStanford7-13225
7Miami (FL)Miami (FL)7-02998
8ClemsonClemson7-126110
9AuburnAuburn7-125012
10OklahomaOklahoma7-124313
11MissouriMissouri7-12427
12LSULSU7-223811
13Texas A&MTexas A&M6-220517
14Texas TechTexas Tech7-11689
15South CarolinaSouth Carolina6-216721
16LouisvilleLouisville7-115814
17Oklahoma StateOklahoma State6-115516
18Fresno StateFresno State7-011220
19WisconsinWisconsin5-211018
20UCLAUCLA5-28815
21Northern IllinoisNorthern Illinois8-08422
22Michigan StateMichigan State7-160-
23MichiganMichigan6-15723
24UCFUCF6-149-
25Oregon StateOregon State6-22624

 

* The Legends Poll voting process is exactly what the BCS is trying to create and Athlon will bring it to you as the de facto Selection Committee for fans to follow over the next two seasons, allowing you to see how the Selection Committee will operate from 2014 onward. You can see the entire Poll at www.legendschannel.com.

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This preview and more on UNLV and the Mountain West are available in the Athlon Sports 2013-14 College Basketball Preseason Annual. The magazine is available online or on newsstands everywhere.

No. 19 UNLV Facts & Figures
Last season: 25-10 (10-6 Mountain West)
Postseason: NCAA Round of 64
Coach: Dave Rice (51-19 at UNLV)
Mountain West projection: Second
Postseason projection: NCAA Round of 32
Dave Rice has accomplished plenty in his first two seasons as coach at UNLV. The former reserve guard on the Runnin’ Rebels’ 1990 national championship team has led his alma mater to back-to-back NCAA Tournament berths and has won a total of 51 games. Rice also coached the Rebels to their first win over a No. 1-ranked team in 22 years with an upset of North Carolina in his first season, and he recruited and coached the school’s first No. 1 overall NBA Draft pick since Larry Johnson in forward Anthony Bennett last season.

Now, the question is: Can Rice keep the momentum going in Year 3 despite a number of key losses?

In addition to Bennett, the Rebels must move forward without three other starters — point guard Anthony Marshall, shooting guard Katin Reinhardt and forward Mike Moser. Overall, six of the team’s top eight scorers from a squad that went 25–10 and lost to California in the Round of 32 have moved on. But Rice remains optimistic his team can return to the NCAAs for the seventh time in eight years.

“It’s always difficult to replace guys who have experience,” Rice says. “But we’re very pleased with the guys we have coming in and development of our returning guys.”

Frontcourt

The slippery slope of recruiting a rare talent like Bennett is only being able to keep him around for one year. Still, Rice believes it was a win-win for the Rebels. “Anthony Bennett was terrific for us as a freshman,” Rice says. “He’ll be a great representative for our program and will help us with our recruiting in terms of being able to say we had the No. 1 draft pick.”

Bennett’s good friend and fellow Canadian import Khem Birch returns at forward after earning Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year honors as a sophomore. In league games, the 6-9 Birch averaged 3.0 blocks per game and shot 53.8 percent from the floor.

Junior Roscoe Smith, a hard-nosed defender and rebounder who started on UConn’s 2011 national title team as a freshman, and sophomore Savon Goodman, a high-energy performer who scored 61 points and grabbed 23 rebounds in a summer league game in July, likely will join Birch up front.

Carlos Lopez-Sosa, a 6-11 senior, Christian Wood, a highly recruited 6-10 freshman forward from nearby Findlay Prep, and athletic 6-9 redshirt freshman Demetris Morant add quality size and depth.

2013-14 Conference Previews
ACC | American | Big 12 | Big East
Big Ten | Mountain West | Pac-12 | SEC


Backcourt

Rice’s first order of business will be finding a replacement for Marshall, who led the Mountain West in assists and finished second on the team in scoring. The leading candidates to start are Deville Smith, a transfer from Southwest Mississippi Community College described by Rice as “a pass-first point guard who is lightening quick,” and 6-6 Jelan Kendrick, a former McDonald’s All-American from Indian Hills Community College who has the versatility to play several positions for the Rebels.

Two other players in the point guard mix are sophomore Daquan Cook, who saw limited time as a backup to Marshall, and highly touted freshman combo guard Kendall Smith.

The top returning player in the backcourt is junior Bryce Dejean-Jones, a solid scorer who Rice believes is “as good a perimeter defender as there is in the league.”

Kevin Olekaibe is also a potential contributor on the perimeter. A three-year starter for league rival Fresno State, Olekaibe moved back to his hometown of Las Vegas to be closer to his ailing father. He is eligible to practice with the Rebels this season and has petitioned the NCAA for a waiver to play right away.

Freshman Dantley Walker, the top prep scorer in Nevada state history, joins the team after serving a two-year LDS Church mission but will likely redshirt.

Newcomers

Two junior college transfers with prior Division I experience, point guard Deville Smith (Mississippi State) and combo guard Jelan Kendrick (Memphis and Ole Miss), are being counted on to provide immediate help in the backcourt. Roscoe Smith, a transfer who started for two years at Connecticut, and freshman Christian Wood will play key roles in the frontcourt. Redshirt freshman Demetris Morant adds quality depth in the post, while true freshman Kendall Smith has the versatility to help at both guard spots. The Rebels could get a big boost in the backcourt if senior Kevin Olekaibe is granted his eligibility waiver by the NCAA.

Final Analysis
Factoid: 2. UNLV has produced two No. 1 overall NBA Draft picks (Larry Johnson, Anthony Bennett) since 1991. Duke (Elton Brand, Kyrie Irving) and Kentucky (John Wall, Anthony Davis) are the only other schools to match that number during that span.


It can be argued that no team in the Mountain West lost as many key players as the Rebels. But this is still a deep, talented and versatile squad capable of returning to the NCAA Tournament. How long it takes Rice to get the newcomers to mesh with talented returnees like Dejean-Jones and Birch will be the key. The non-conference schedule, which includes early home games with Arizona State and Illinois and a road date at Arizona, is challenging, especially for a team with so many new pieces.

*Photo Courtesy of UNLV Athletics

2013-14 Preseason Top 25
20. Memphis
21. Connecticut
22. Wisconsin
23. UCLA
24. Baylor
25. Wichita State

Teaser:
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Transamerica is a proud sponsor of the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award. The award is presented each year by the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Education Foundation to the nation’s top college quarterback based on character, citizenship, scholastic achievement, leadership qualities, and athletic accomplishments. Candidates must be a graduating senior or fourth-year junior on schedule to graduate with their class. As a leading financial services company, Transamerica takes pride in being there for those moments when our customers say, “It’s real now.” Moments like the birth of a new baby, the opening of a new business, college acceptance, retirement, and other key milestones. By showing our support for the young men on the Top 30 watch list, we look forward to seeing them thrill fans around the country and experience moments during the season and beyond when they say, “It’s real now.”

1. Connor Shaw, South Carolina

South Carolina’s offense was in need of a hero on the road at unbeaten Missouri, and Connor Shaw took on that role coming off the sidelines. Shaw did not start for South Carolina due to an injury concern, but with the Gamecocks down 17-0 Steve Spurrier made the switch to the banged up Shaw and it paid off brilliantly. Shaw completed 20 of 29 pass attempts for 201 yards and three touchdowns as South Carolina dug out of a 17-0 hole and picked up a double overtime win to hand Missouri their first loss of the season.

2. Jordan Lynch, Northern Illinois

If not for the flair for the dramatics provided by Shaw and South Carolina, Northern Illinois’ own super hero quarterback would have been on top of this week’s top performers round-up for the second time this season. Jordan Lynch completed 16 of 20 pass attempts for 223 yards and four touchdowns and he came within one yard shy of a 100-rushing performance. Lynch did add one rushing touchdown and even caught a 17-yard touchdown pass as Northern Illinois blew away Eastern Michigan. The Huskies remain undefeated and in position to make a return trip to the BCS party.

3. Blake Bortles, Central Florida

There was no letdown game for Central Florida a week after knocking off Louisville. Blake Bortles completed 20 of 24 pass attempts for 286 yards and he rushed for 26 yards and a touchdown as Central Florida dominated Connecticut. With Bortles leading the offense the Knights remain on top of the American standings and the first BCS bowl bid in program history is beginning to come into focus.

4.  Tajh Boyd, Clemson

Clemson took a while to finally awake from the slumber Florida State put them in last week, but the Tigers eventually hit their stride on the road against Maryland. Tajh Boyd passed for 304 yards and a touchdown and rushed for 24 yards and a touchdown as Clemson pulled away from the Terapins, 40-27. Boyd’s performance helped move past a poor showing against Florida State and helps get Clemson back on track for a run at a potential BCS at-large bid. 

5. Keith Wenning, Ball State

If you are not tuning in to watch some MAC football, you are missing out on some good quarterbacking. Just as Jordan Lynch is putting on a show at Northern Illinois, Ball State’s Keith Wenning is putting up big numbers as well for the Cardinals. In a 42-24 victory at Akron that sent Ball State to an 8-1 record, Wenning completed 25 of 25 passes for 240 yards without an interception. Five of his passes were good for a touchdown.

Sponsored by Transamerica

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