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This preview and more on San Diego State 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.

San Diego State Facts & Figures
Last season: 23-11 (9-7 Mountain West)
Postseason: NCAA Round of 32
Coach: Steve Fisher (281-171 at San Diego State)
Mountain West projection: Fourth
Postseason projection: NCAA Round of 32
San Diego State is firmly entrenched as one of leading powers in the West, and two offseason developments figure to ensure that the Aztecs are a factor in the month of March.

First, the athletic department reversed course and elected to remain in the Mountain West, one of the toughest basketball conferences in the country, instead of dropping down to the inferior Big West due to football’s yearning to join a top-flight conference. The other key development occurred in mid-May when fifth-year senior forward Josh Davis decided to transfer from Tulane to San Diego State. Davis averaged 17.6 points and 10.7 rebounds last season for the Green Wave and is eligible to play immediately after earning his degree at Tulane.

The addition of Davis gives the Aztecs the bona fide star they would otherwise lack after standout Jamaal Franklin skipped his senior season in favor of the NBA. Davis’ presence will be crucial in a loaded league in which the Aztecs will be challenged by strong teams from New Mexico, UNLV and Boise State.

Frontcourt

The addition of Davis gives San Diego State a player capable of racking up double-doubles, as he had 16 for Tulane last season. He is billed as the best frontcourt player in San Diego State’s program since Kawhi Leonard, now a budding star for the NBA’s San Antonio Spurs.

The 6-8 Davis earned first-team All-Conference USA honors at Tulane and joins gritty junior JJ O’Brien as a frontcourt starter. O’Brien is a strong defender who is gradually improving his offensive repertoire.

Athletic sophomore Winston Shepard could make a big jump this season. He experienced consistency issues last season after arriving as one of the most ballyhooed recruits in program history. Shepard started just two games as a freshman and averaged 5.7 points while shooting only 39.3 percent from the field.

Sophomore post Skylar Spencer excelled on the defensive end with 51 blocked shots and will again be part of the rotation. Junior wing Dwayne Polee II underwhelmed last season after transferring from St. John’s but figures to get more minutes with Franklin gone. Junior post James Johnson will help in a backup role, and redshirt freshman Matt Shrigley has a nice shooting touch.

Backcourt

Replacing Franklin will be quite a chore, as he was the only Division I player to lead his team in scoring, rebounding, assists and steals last season. Coach Steve Fisher supported his point guard’s decision to depart a season early, and Franklin was a second-round pick of the Memphis Grizzlies.

Senior Xavier Thames isn’t going to approach Franklin’s 17-point average, but he’s a capable floor leader despite his assists average dropping from 4.1 as a sophomore to 2.4 last season. Thames (9.5 ppg) is San Diego State’s top returning scorer but isn’t a strong shooter and dealt with periodic back issues last season. He is at his best when penetrating and drawing fouls.

Junior transfer Aqeel Quinn offers 3-point shooting prowess and has two years of major-college experience at Cal State Northridge. Quinn averaged 6.8 points as a sophomore.

Incoming freshman Dakarai Allen is expected to make immediate contributions as a defender. How he fares on the offensive end will determine how much of an impact he will make. Allen is one of two newcomers from Sheldon High in Sacramento. Guard D’Erryl Williams also chose the Aztecs and he will back up Thames this season.

Newcomers

Senior forward Josh Davis is an impact transfer who is expected to be San Diego State’s leading scorer and rebounder. Freshman guards Dakarai Allen and D’Erryl Williams are both expected to contribute with Allen entering the fold as the more polished player. Junior guard Aqeel Quinn provides outside shooting punch and redshirt freshman wing Matt Shrigley will also be part of the rotation.

Final Analysis
Factoid: 8. Steve Fisher has strung together eight consecutive 20-win campaigns at a school that was one of the worst programs in the nation prior to his arrival in 1999.
San Diego State is seeking its fifth straight NCAA Tournament berth, and it would be a surprise if the Aztecs aren’t part of the 68-team field considering the proven ability of Fisher and head coach-in-waiting Brian Dutcher to reload on the fly.

The schedule has a few challenges — a road date at Kansas and a home contest against Arizona are the highlights — as San Diego State wants to make sure it is battle-tested. The conference slate will certainly be arduous, as the Mountain West will again be a fiercely competitive league with conference road wins hard to come by.

Even with all its recent success, San Diego State has won only three NCAA Tournament games in its history. That numbers should be four (at least) by the end of the 2013-14 season.

Photo courtesty of Ernie Anderson/San Diego State athletics

Teaser:
College Basketball: 2013-14 San Diego State Preview
Post date: Monday, October 14, 2013 - 07:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football
Path: /college-football/2013-legends-poll-top-25-college-football-week-7
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The Legends Poll top 25 saw its first significant shake-up after a wild weekend of upsets in college football.
 
Missouri and Texas provided the first upsets of the day, vaulting No. 14 Mizzou 11 spots after its 41-26 win over Georgia in Athens. The Bulldogs fell eight spots to No. 15. 
 
Texas shocked Oklahoma in the Red River Rivalry, springing a 36-20 upset in Dallas. The Longhorns moved into the rankings at No. 25 and Oklahoma dropped five spots to No. 17, which made No. 11 Baylor the highest ranked Big 12 team for the first time in the history of the conference.
 
No. 12 Stanford suffered one of the biggest tumbles in the rankings as well, falling eight spots after falling at Utah, 27-21.
 
Alabama, which received one less first place vote this week (13), Oregon and Clemson remained unchanged in the top 3 this week. No. 4 Ohio State moved up a spot and fifth-ranked Florida State made its first top 5 appearance of the season, setting up a top 5 showdown at Clemson next weekend.
 
No. 21 Virginia Tech was the only other newcomer to the rankings this week.
 
Northwestern and Notre Dame 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 (13)6-03971
2OregonOregon (3)6-03872
3ClemsonClemson6-03653
4Ohio StateOhio State6-03495
5Florida StateFlorida State5-03376
6LSULSU6-131010
7Texas A&MTexas A&M5-12998
8LouisvilleLouisville6-02719
9UCLAUCLA5-025411
10South CarolinaSouth Carolina5-124515
11BaylorBaylor5-023114
12StanfordStanford5-12304
13Miami (FL)Miami (FL)5-022513
14MissouriMissouri6-018725
15GeorgiaGeorgia4-21557
16Texas TechTexas Tech6-015220
17OklahomaOklahoma5-112912
18WisconsinWisconsin4-211324
19Oklahoma StateOklahoma State4-18922
20Fresno StateFresno State5-07921
21Virginia TechVirginia Tech6-177-
22FloridaFlorida4-26016
23WashingtonWashington4-25719
24MichiganMichigan5-15417
25TexasTexas4-234-

* 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:
Post date: Sunday, October 13, 2013 - 18:40
All taxonomy terms: College Football
Path: /college-football/golden-arm-performances-week-7
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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. Sean Mannion, Orgeon State
Another week meant another big game for Oregon State’s Sean Mannion. No quarterback on the Golden Arm Award watch list had more passing yards than Mannion, who passed for 493 yards and four touchdowns in a road win at Washington State. Mannion continues to put up huge numbers on a regular basis. Mannion currently leads the nation in passing yards (2,511 yards) and touchdowns (25) and has only been intercepted three times this season. He is the only quarterback in the country averaging over 400 yards per game.
 
David Fales2. David Fales, San Jose State
The San Jose State Spartans were led to a road victory at Colorado State by David Fales. Fales passed for 431 yards and three touchdowns, including a game-winning 62-yard pass to Tyler Winston in the fourth quarter to break a 27-27 tie. Remarkably, that was the shortest distance thrown by Fales on a touchdown in the game. Fales had an 83-yard pass and a 77-yard pass for touchdowns in the second quarter as well. This was the second time this season Fales surpassed 400 passing yards in a single game.
 
3.  Tajh Boyd, Clemson
Clemson struggled early on against Boston College despite playing at home, but Tajh Boyd never got rattled and eventually helped lead the Tigers to another win to remain undefeated. Boyd became the school’s all-time leading passer while throwing for 334 yards and a touchdown in the game. Boyd also added 33 rushing yards and a rushing touchdown. Next week Boyd will go head-to-head with freshman sensation Jameis Winston and Florida State.
 
4. Connor Shaw, South Carolina
Staying in the same state, South Carolina’s starting quarterback had a big afternoon in helping the Gamecocks rout Arkansas on the road. Shaw completed 19 of 28 passes for 219 yards and three touchdowns, including two touchdown passes to Bruce Ellington in the second quarter to take a 17-point lead into halftime. Shaw also added 37 rushing yards and a rushing touchdown late in the third quarter as the Gamecocks pulled away from the Razorbacks with ease.
 
5. Taylor Kelly, Arizona State
Arizona State struck quickly against Colorado when Taylor Kelly completed a 69-yard pass to Jaelen Strong for an early touchdown. As the Sun Devils were off to the races against Colorado, Kelly tossed a second touchdown pass to Davon Coleman early in the second quarter and ran 17 yards for a touchdown just before halftime for a big lead at the break. Kelly passed for 233 yards, averaging a season high 12.3 yards per attempt and avoided an interception.

Sponsored by Transamerica

 

Teaser:
Golden Arm Performances of Week 7
Post date: Sunday, October 13, 2013 - 18:20
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Oregon Ducks, Pac 12, News
Path: /college-football/mariota-named-athlon-sports-national-player-week
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Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota may have entered the weekend as the Heisman frontrunner, but Saturday’s 45-24 win at Washington erased any doubt.

Mariota led one of the most impressive wins by a national championship by taking apart the stout Huskies’ defense, earning Athlon Sports National Player of the Week honors.

Washington entered the game allowing only 146.4 passing yards per game and two total passing touchdowns. Mariota crushed those numbers with his usual efficiency. The sophomore completed 24 of 31 passes for 366 yards with three touchdowns while rushing for 88 yards and a score.

A testament to Mariota’s ability and Oregon’s depth on offense, the Ducks amassed 631 yards despite missing running back De’Anthony Thomas and tight end Colt Lyerla for the entire game. Top wide receiver Josh Huff also missed time during the game with an injury.

Mariota has accounted for 25 total touchdowns this season (17 passing and eight rushing) without a turnover as Oregon defeated Washington for the 10th consecutive time.

Athlon Sports Week 7 National Awards

National Offensive Player of the Week: Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon
The Ducks quarterback was brilliant again, this time on the road against a ranked divisional foe and rival. Mariota led the Ducks to an easy 45-24 win over Washington by completing 24-of-31 passes for 366 yards and three touchdowns through the air. He added 88 yards rushing on 13 carries and another touchdown on the ground. He is now 18-1 as a starter with 63 career total touchdowns and just six interceptions. Mariota hasn't thrown a pick in 233 attempts.

National Defensive Player of the Week: Nate Orchard, LB, Utah
Fellow defensive linemates Trevor Reilly and Tenny Palepoi have made more plays and garnered more headlines through five games, but Saturday night's upset of Stanford was Orchard's coming out party. He registered his second and third sack of the season and forced two huge fumbles for a Utah defense that simply outplayed the Cardinal for most of the game. He finished with five total tackles on the night and was a big part of the final minute goal-line stand that won the game for the Utes.

National Freshman of the Week: Christian Hackenberg, QB, Penn State
It took unlikely completions on the game's final drive in the game's final minute against Michigan, but Hackenberg wrote the first chapter of what could be a stellar career. He posted his third 300-yard effort in six career starts and accounted for four touchdowns in the thrilling come-from-behind victory over the Wolverines. He completed 23 of his 44 passes and now leads the Big Ten in passing at 278.7 yards per game.

Coordinator of the week: Major Applewhite, Texas
The defense was off to a bad start for Texas, but the offense has been nearly as disjointed this season for Texas. Not against Oklahoma. Quarterback Case McCoy missed some open deep throws, but he still finished 13 of 22 for 190 yards. They key for Applewhite’s offense though was third down conversions (13 of 20) and a two-headed rushing attack from Malcolm Brown and Johnathan Gray that combined for 253 yards on the ground.


Athlon Week 7 Conference Awards

ACC
Offense: Anthony Boone, Duke
Defense: Vic Beasley, Clemson
Freshman: Jack Tocho, NC State
Coordinator: Jim Knowles, Duke

Big 12
Offense:
Tevin Reese, Baylor
Defense: Ryan Mueller, Kansas State
Freshman: Davis Webb, Texas Tech
Coordinator: Major Applewhite, Texas

Big Ten
Offense: Jeremy Langford, Michigan State
Defense: D.J. Olaniyan, Penn State
Freshman: Christian Hackenberg, Penn State
Coordinator: Dave Aranda, Wisconsin

Pac-12
Offense: Marcus Mariota, Oregon
Defense: Nate Orchard, Utah
Freshman: Andy Phillips, Utah
Coordinators: Dennis Erickson/Kalani Sitake, Utah

SEC
Offense:
Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M
Defense: Lamin Barrow, LSU
Freshman: A’Shawn Robinson, Alabama
Coordinator: Dave Steckel, Missouri

 

Teaser:
Mariota named Athlon Sports National Player of the Week
Post date: Sunday, October 13, 2013 - 14:53
Path: /college-football/college-fantasy-football-week-7-start-or-sit-report
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Week 7 is here already and now it is time to make a push for the fantasy playoffs.  If your team is in the middle of the pack, every roster move you make from this point on can propel you up in the standings or bring your team closer to irrelevancy. 

Start

James Franklin, QB-Missouri at Georgia
Franklin leads the undefeated Tigers into Athens to face a Georgia defense that is allowing 32.2 points per game and over 260 yards in the air.

Bo Wallace, QB-Ole Miss vs Texas A&M
The Aggies defense is allowing nearly 30 points per game, and Wallace should post a solid stat line if the Rebels reach the 30-point mark.

Keenan Reynolds, QB-Navy at Duke
When the Blue Devils faced Georgia Tech’s triple-option attack in Week 3, they surrendered 344 rushing yards.

Paul Perkins, RB-UCLA vs California
Perkins was solid in relief of injured running back Jordan James last Thursday at Utah and should post nice numbers against a Bears defense that is allowing 219 rushing yards per game.

Larry Dixon, RB-Army vs Eastern Michigan
Dixon has topped 100 yards in a game three times this season and faces an Eagles defense that has allowed 19 rushing touchdowns in 2013, third-most in the FBS.

David Oku, RB-Arkansas State vs Idaho
Oku and the Red Wolves offense host a Vandals defense that is allowing 224.8 rushing yards per game and 6.0 yards per carry.

Trayion Durham, RB-Kent State at Ball State
Durham has only topped the 100-yard mark once this season, but he should make a push to reach that plateau this week when the Golden Flashes face a Ball State defense that gives up over 200 rushing yards per game.

Albert Wilson, WR-Georgia State vs Troy
Wilson is averaging 30 receiving yards per game against FBS opponents this season, but that number should rise significantly this week when he faces a Troy defense that allows over 315 passing yards per game.
 

Bench

C.J. Brown, QB-Maryland vs Virginia
There has not been any information concerning the availability of Brown for Saturday when the Terps host Virginia. For those that have early lineup deadlines, be prepared to leave the senior signal-caller on the bench this week.

Nate Sudfeld, QB-Indiana at Michigan State
If the Hoosiers offense struggles to move the ball against Sparty’s defense, do not be surprised if Tre Roberson receives significant snaps.

Baker Mayfield, QB-Texas Tech vs Iowa State
Fantasy owners were relieved to hear that there was no structural damage to Mayfield’s knee after his injury last weekend, but he may be extremely limited or unavailable Saturday when the undefeated Red Raiders host the Cyclones.

Vad Lee, QB, Georgia Tech at BYU
This week, the Yellow Jackets travel cross country to face a BYU defense that is allowing a respectable 132 yards per game on the ground.  More importantly for owners of Lee, the Cougars defense has only allowed two rushing touchdowns so far this season.

James Sims, RB-Kansas at TCU
Facing his toughest test of the season last week, Sims ran for a season-low 28 yards on nine carries against Texas Tech.  It won’t get any easier for the Jayhawks offense this week when they travel to TCU.

Travis Greene, RB-Bowling Green at Mississippi State
The Falcons have only played two non-MAC FBS schools this season (Tulsa and Indiana), and in those two games, Greene has rushed for a total of 131 yards and zero touchdowns on 33 carries.

James Conner, RB-Pitt at Virginia Tech
Conner exploded for 292 yards in back-to-back games against New Mexico and Duke, but was held in-check when the Panthers hosted Virginia two weeks ago.  This may be the toughest test remaining on the schedule for the Panthers offense.

Donnel Pumphrey, RB-San Diego State at Air Force
Three points to consider:  Adam Muema rushed for 134 yards and two touchdowns on 24 carries against Nevada, 72 of Pumphrey’s 112 rushing yards last week were gained in a single play, and the Aztecs offense turned to Muema once they reached the red zone.

 

For Start/Bench advice from Joe DiSalvo, send an email
Follow Joe on twitter (@theCFFsite)

Teaser:
Post date: Thursday, October 10, 2013 - 13:00
Path: /nfl/new-york-giants-vs-chicago-bears-preview-and-prediction
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Two teams featuring embattled, high-profile quarterbacks and struggling defenses are on tap tonight when the New York Giants square off against the Chicago Bears at 8:25 p.m. ET on the NFL Network. The Giants are in desperate need of a win following a disastrous 0-5 start while the Bears are looking to put an end to their two-game losing streak.

Although there’s plenty of blame to go around for the Giants’ horrendous start to the season, Eli Manning is bearing the brunt of it, unfairly or not. Following a near-flawless opening stretch in his first season under new Bears head coach Marc Trestman, Jay Cutler has been anything but perfect and the offense has gotten off to slow starts in each of the past two games, both losses.

4 Things to Watch

Controlling the Clock
The Giants are last in the NFL in time of possession, keeping the ball for less than 26 minutes per game. The Bears aren’t too much better, coming in at 29:10, which places them 21st in the league. What this means is that each team’s defense has spent more than 30 minutes, or half, of every game on the field. Considering both units have had to deal with numerous injuries that have taken their toll on their respective depth charts, it’s really no surprise that both are in the bottom third of the total defense rankings. The Giants’ and Bears’ offenses are equally capable of moving the chains and putting some points on the board. Chances are whichever team has the ball longest tonight will do just that, and probably win.

Collapsing the Pocket
Eli Manning and Jay Cutler have been sacked a collective 24 times and have turned the ball over 23 times (18 INTs, 5 fumbles) through five games. Needless to say, they have made their share of mistakes in the early going. Getting pressure on the quarterback is the easiest, and often most effective, way to rattle a quarterback, but this has not been a strong suit for either defense thus far. The Giants have the second-fewest sacks in the NFL with five and the Bears are just one spot ahead of them with eight. The Giants’ defensive line has been surprisingly ineffective, as the trio of Jason Pierre-Paul, Justin Tuck and Mathias Kiwanuka have combined for three sacks. The Bears’ D-line has been beset by injuries, first losing All-Pro tackle Henry Melton and most recently Nate Collins to torn ACLs, and their main pass rusher, Julius Peppers, has just one sack. Someone from either the Big Blue Wrecking Crew or one of the Monsters of the Midway will need to bring the heat tonight, otherwise the quarterbacks will dictate the outcome of this game.

Can’t Be a One-Man(ning) Show
Eli will be the first to admit that he’s simply not getting the job done. No NFL quarterback can expect to win if he throws more interceptions (12) than touchdowns (8) week in and week out. That said, no quarterback can do it alone either, including big brother Peyton. While the older Manning is re-writing the record books with every game, he’s getting 117 yards rushing per contest and also has the support of the top defense against the run. Cutler has Matt Forté, one of the most versatile and productive running backs, at his disposal. Eli meanwhile is getting 57 yards rushing per game and the backing of a defense that’s allowing nearly 400 yards and more than 36 points per game. Granted, his turnovers (14 total) have certainly not helped, but the bottom line is the Giants have to figure out something on the ground so that Manning doesn’t have to throw the ball 40 times every game. That’s easier said than done, however, as the Giants will be without leading rusher David Wilson, who will miss tonight’s game because of a neck injury. That leaves Brandon Jacobs (2.2 ypc) and Da’Rel Scott (3.5 ypc), re-signed this week, to get the job done. Manning may want to make sure his arm stays loose.

Hurry Up, Offense
Chicago got off to a 3-0 start thanks to two fourth-quarterback comebacks in the first two games and then putting 40 points on the board against Pittsburgh in Week 3. Two of the keys to these victories were a fast start by the offense and keeping the score close early. The Bears scored at least a touchdown in the first quarter of each game and trailed by no more than seven at the half. In the past two games, both losses, the Bears scored a total of three points in the first quarter of both games and were outscored 50-20 by the Lions and Saints in the first half. Last week the Bears had just two first downs more than halfway through the second quarter and dug themselves into a 20-7 halftime hole they couldn’t get out of. The time of possession disparity has already been documented (see above), so a quick, and productive, start by Cutler and company would not only get the Bears off on the right foot, but also would prevent the Giants from building any much-needed momentum.

New York Key Player: Jason Pierre-Paul, DE
To be fair, the Giants’ defensive line as whole isn’t getting the job done, as evidenced by their collective four sacks. The star of the show, however, is Pierre-Paul, and he hasn’t been anywhere near the disruptive force he was two seasons ago. In 2011, JPP staked his claim as one of the NFL’s rising stars following an All-Pro season highlighted by 16.5 sacks. He managed just 6.5 sacks last season, as the Giants’ defense dropped all the way to 31st in the league. He underwent back surgery in June to repair a herniated disc, but was back on the field for the season opener. He’s also been dealing with a knee issue and it’s apparent he hasn’t been the same player that he was just two seasons ago. Pierre-Paul has one sack, which came in Week 1, and a total of 13 tackles in five games. Without a consistent pass rush or the threat of Pierre-Paul coming in and making the big play, offenses have gashed the Giants on both the ground (126 ypg) and through the air (269.2 ypg). Chicago quarterback Jay Cutler is not known for his ball security (3 lost fumbles) in the pocket and the Bears have struggled some with pass protection over the last two games. With the Giants desperately needing a win, this is the perfect time for the 2011 JPP to make an appearance.

Chicago Key Player: Julius Peppers, DE
Just as Jason Pierre-Paul is for the Giants, Peppers is the key component to the Bears’ defensive line. The highest-paid player on Chicago’s roster, Peppers has amassed 22.5 sacks over the last two seasons. Unfortunately, he is on pace for about three this season, as he has just one through five games. Peppers didn’t even register a single tackle last week against New Orleans, his second such no-show this season. The Bears’ defensive line has been hit hard by injuries with All-Pro tackle Henry Melton and his replacement, Nate Collins, both lost for the season because of torn ACLs. Chicago’s defense has fared pretty well against the rush (98.2 ypg), but is giving up about 280 yards per game. A more consistent pass rush would make the linebackers’ and defensive backs’ jobs easier in coverage, and Peppers needs to lead the way in that department. Halloween is still three weeks away, but Bears fans would love to see a monstrous effort from Peppers tonight.

Final Analysis

The Giants aren’t the only winless team left in the NFL, but other than the Steelers, no one needs a victory more than Tom Coughlin’s battered and frustrated bunch. Although the Bears have dropped two in a row and the defense has allowed at least 340 yards in each game, Chicago hast two new things New York doesn’t – a more productive running game and three wins under its belt.

With Matt Forté leading the charge, Jay Cutler doesn’t have to carry the load, while Eli Manning once again is forced to try and keep the Giants in the game by throwing on nearly every play. It won’t look pretty, but the Bears take care of business at home and Coughlin’s squad becomes the first Giant team since 1976 to start 0-6.

Chicago 27, New York 17

Teaser:
New York Giants vs. Chicago Bears Preview and Prediction
Post date: Thursday, October 10, 2013 - 08:00
Path: /college-basketball/college-basketball-2013-14-villanova-preview
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This preview and more on Villanova 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.

Villanova Facts & Figures
Last season: 20-14 (10-8 Big East)
Postseason: NCAA Round of 64
Coach: Jay Wright (257-144 at Villanova)
Big East projection: Fourth
Postseason projection: NCAA Round of 64

Jay Wright knew last season’s team was talented, but most people had their eyes focused on the 2013-14 season as the year when Villanova could really make noise.

That all changed during one week in late January, when the Wildcats knocked off Louisville and Syracuse in back-to-back games. They quickly went from a team struggling with consistency to one that could beat anyone.

“I didn’t know if we would become a good team in February or in March, but then in January we won those games,” Wright says. “I thought, we have the ability to do this right now. I think we all recognized that week that we can do it right now.”

Villanova ended up riding those two wins to an NCAA Tournament berth, falling to North Carolina in the Round of 64. The Wildcats lose just one (Mouphtaou Yarou) of their top six players, and an additional season of experience is only going to help.

“I think we have a chance to be a better team,” Wright says. “We’re going to miss Mouph, but we’re bringing back the whole team. That year of playing together is more valuable than bringing in a great player.”

Frontcourt

The loss of Yarou, who started 107 games in his career, will impact the Wildcats’ post play. The center responsibilities will now fall to Daniel Ochefu, a sophomore who came to Villanova as a 4-star recruit. Ochefu has shown flashes of his potential, but his numbers dwindled as the season progressed. He needs to be more aggressive, especially in a relatively small Villanova lineup.

“We’re really excited about him,” Wright says. “He’s a completely different player than Mouph. More perimeter-oriented, finesse. We’re hoping he can be the biggest factor in making up for Mouph’s rebounding and defense.”

Jayvaughn Pinkston has continued to improve after a rocky start to his Nova career. He knows what he is — an undersized power forward who simply outworks and overpowers opponents. And it’s effective. The 6-7 Pinkston was the team’s leading scorer and second-leading rebounder last season.

Depth will come from two freshmen — Kris Jenkins and Darryl Reynolds. Jenkins came up through the famed Gonzaga (D.C.) College High School program, while Reynolds was a late signee with a good frame.

Backcourt

Wright is known to fill his lineups with aggressive, attack-minded perimeter players. This year’s backcourt is a little different, but it’s still a deep, experienced group.

Ryan Arcidiacono burst onto the scene as a freshman, scoring in double-figures in the first five games of the season. He showed some inconsistency, but finished strong — hitting double digits in eight of his last nine contests. Expect his efficiency to improve as a sophomore.

Backcourt mate Darrun Hilliard averaged 11.4 points last season though he shot only 40.3 percent from the field. On the wing, James Bell is arguably the team’s best 3-point threat. He has a strong build and can help out on the glass and defend bigger small forwards. When Bell and Hilliard can keep defenses honest from the perimeter, the Wildcats’ offense becomes difficult to defend.

After sitting out last season, Rice transfer Dylan Ennis will help shore up the backcourt depth. Ennis, whose younger brother Tyler plays at Syracuse, could ease some of the pressure off of Arcidiacono.

“He’s going to fill a lot of roles,” Wright says. “He’s athletic and strong enough to guard a 3-man at times, and he’s good enough with the ball to play the point. We look at him as a basketball player.”

During the spring, it looked as though Tony Chennault would transfer, but he ultimately decided to return. Freshman Josh Hart can provide assistance on the wing. He’s an aggressive offensive player with size.

Newcomers

Outside of Dylan Ennis, Jay Wright might not need an immediate impact from the newcomers. Josh Hart is an aggressive scorer, while Kris Jenkins should be able to come off the bench and provide some pop. Darryl Reynolds was a spring addition to the group, and he will provide some interior depth. Ennis, though, should be a key asset for Wright on the perimeter after transferring from Rice.

Final analysis
Factoid: 26.1. Villanova led the nation last year by attempting 26.1 free throws per game. The Wildcats also led the nation by making 18.8 free throws per game.
Villanova has the pieces in place to be a factor in the new-look Big East. Arcidiacono should be more consistent with his shot selection and decision-making, while Pinkston gives the Wildcats a legitimate go-to-guy around the basket. With a solid cast of role players — and the addition of Ennis — Villanova is as strong 1-4 as anyone in the league. The key will be Ochefu: Can he fill the shoes left by Yarou? If so, expect big things from this team.

Teaser:
College Basketball: 2013-14 Villanova Preview
Post date: Thursday, October 10, 2013 - 07:58
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This preview and more on Xavier 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.

Xavier Facts & Figures
Last season: 17-14 (9-7 Atlantic 10)
Postseason: None
Coach: Chris Mack (90-44 at Xavier)
Big East projection: Sixth
Postseason projection: NCAA First Four

For the first time since 2005, there was no postseason basketball at Xavier last March.

Don’t get used to it.

Chris Mack, who is 46 games over .500 in four seasons as the head coach at his alma mater, has reloaded his roster and put his program is position for a successful inaugural season in the revamped Big East.

Frontcourt

Matt Stainbrook is the biggest addition, at least in stature. The 6-10 center played his first two seasons at Western Michigan, where he averaged 8.8 points and 6.4 rebounds as a freshman and 11.4 and 6.8 as a sophomore. The Ohio native dropped 50-plus pounds while sitting out last season as a transfer, but his progress was slowed by a torn meniscus is his right knee suffered in February. Stainbrook underwent surgery and rehab, and is expected to be a go-to player in the paint this season. His weight loss has improved his mobility and stamina, which should help fill the void left by former rebounding leader Travis Taylor.

The elder statesman of the frontcourt is power forward Isaiah Philmore, a bullish big-bodied Maryland native who came on strong late in his first season at Xavier after transferring from Towson. He averaged 7.5 points and 5.0 rebounds on the season but scored in double figures in seven of his last 11 games. Philmore emerged as a leader who earned his teammates’ respect through his physical play.
Jalen Reynolds, an explosive 6-9 forward who can shoot outside and attack the rim, is in the frontcourt mix after being ineligible last year. He joins freshman Aleksandar Vezenkov, a 6-8 combo forward with a mid-range game and experience against high-level European players. Vezenkov has played on Bulgarian junior national teams and as an amateur member of the Greek pro team Aris.

Sophomore James Farr, a 6-9 forward, remains a question mark. Although he improved last year, Farr struggled defensively and played limited minutes. Erik Stenger is 6-8 local product who provides energy off the bench in limited minutes.

The most intriguing battle could be at the small forward position. Junior Justin Martin has the most experience, but his production decreased as the season progressed. He scored 10 points or more in the first eight games but hit double figures only four times the rest of the way. Vezenkov could slide over to the 3 and create some mismatches for opposing small forwards. Freshman Kamall Richards, who brings physicality to the position, could be a factor as well.

Backcourt

The backcourt is anchored by guard Semaj Christon, who overcame an elbow injury and recurring cramps as a rookie to lead Xavier in scoring (15.2 ppg), assists (4.6 apg) and steals (1.5 spg). Christon was a second-team All-A-10 pick and became Xavier’s first A-10 Rookie of the Year.

Christon’s court awareness and attacking mentality carried Xavier through some tough spots. A former top-40 national recruit, Christon needs to emerge as more of a threat from 3-point range (he made only seven all season) and cut down on his turnovers (team-leading 109), but he has the ability to be one of the better combo guards in the nation as a sophomore.  

Dee Davis, a junior, returns as Xavier’s starting point guard. He is an outstanding perimeter defender who will be asked to guard some of the better perimeter players in the Big East. Davis needs to be more efficient inside the arc — he hit only 42.2 percent of his 2-point field goals  — but did a nice job keeping defenses honest by shooting 36.8 percent from long range.

Myles Davis and Brandon Randolph are expected to solidify the backcourt. Ineligible last year, Davis begins his Musketeers career with a reputation as an elite-level shooter. Randolph is a top prospect who’s dangerous in the open court.

Newcomers

Matt Stainbrook, who has two years of eligibility after transferring from Western Michigan, will provide a presence inside. Myles Davis and Jalen Reynolds, both ineligible last season, weren’t allowed to participate in team activities in ’12-13. Both should contribute right away. Aleksandar Vezenkov, a spring signee, is a skilled big man who can shoot from the outside. Brandon Randolph will see time as a backup point guard. Kamall Richards is a physical wing player.

Final Analysis
Factoid: 87.4. Xavier has won 87.4 percent of its games at the Cintas Center. The Musketeers are 173–25 at the on-campus arena that opened for the 2000-01 season.

Xavier possesses what it lacked last season — depth. An influx of talent both in the frontcourt and on the perimeter will allow Mack to employ a variety of different looks.

Christon will once again be the primary weapon on offense, but the Musketeers will have scoring threats at every spot on the court. The defense, always a strength, will be tested on a more consistent basis in the more challenging Big East, but Xavier has the ingredients necessary to a significant player in its new league.

Photo courtesy of Bob Stevens

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College Basketball: 2013-14 Xavier Preview
Post date: Thursday, October 10, 2013 - 07:25
Path: /college-basketball/college-basketball-2013-14-st-johns-preview
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This preview and more on St. John's 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.

St. John's Facts & Figures
Last season: 17-16 (8-10 Big East)
Postseason: NIT second round
Coach: Steve Lavin (51-47 at St. John's)
Big East projection: Fifth
Postseason projection: NCAA Round of 64
Steve Lavin didn’t wait very long after the end of a difficult season — one in which is father passed away in February and his best player was suspended in March — to start looking ahead.

It wasn’t just that St. John’s fourth-year head coach wanted to forget 2012-13 as soon as possible. It was more the promise the coming season holds that has him — and Red Storm fans — feeling that the future, finally, is now.

“I like where we are, and I like where we’re headed,” Lavin says.

Consider that St. John’s returns 91.6 percent of its scoring and 88.3 percent of its rebounding from a 17–16 NIT team. A roster that was dominated by freshmen and sophomores is now a year older and a year more seasoned. And that roster now includes Rysheed Jordan, a top-30 national recruit who is expected to make an immediate contribution.

There is one key unanswered question as St. John’s begins play in the new Big East, the basketball-centric spinoff from the old Big East: How will Lavin deal with the issue of junior guard De’Angelo Harrison, who led the team in scoring last year (17.8 ppg) before he was suspended for the final six games?

Frontcourt

JaKarr Sampson, the 2012-13 Big East Rookie of the Year, is ready to add the responsibility of leadership to his other considerable contributions.
“I’m pushing myself to be more of a leader, rather than being in the back row because I’m a freshman,” says Sampson, who averaged 14.9 points and 6.6 rebounds per game.

The 6-8, 204-pound Sampson gives the Johnnies a solid foundation for what could be a top-notch frontcourt, one that also features shot-blocking specialist Chris Obekpa. The 6-9 Obekpa, though raw offensively, led the nation in blocks last year with an average of 4.0 per game.

There’s also some interior depth in the form of God’sgift Achiuwa and junior college transfer Orlando Sanchez, who has finally been cleared academically. Achiuwa averaged 9.4 points and 5.8 rebounds two years ago before redshirting last year. The 6-9 Sanchez will help in the low post with his rebounding ability for a team that struggled on the boards last season.

Sir’Dominic Pointer and Marc-Antoine Bourgault will compete for time on the wing.

Backcourt

Lavin now has options at point guard — with the added bonus of being able to keep Harrison at the shooting guard spot, which is his natural position. Junior Phil Greene IV was solid running the point a year ago, averaging 10.1 points and 2.6 assists. Jordan, one of the nation’s top point guard recruits, will push for some of those minutes immediately. His ability to also play the 2 offers Lavin the luxury of some flexibility in the backcourt.

But the focus will still be on Harrison, who missed the final six games of the ’12-13 season to recurring tardiness and poor behavior, according to published reports. Harrison is a prolific scorer, but he needs to improve his efficiency. At the time of his suspension, he was shooting 34.7 percent overall and 28.6 percent from three in league games. When he’s on his best behavior, Harrison is a legitimate weapon.

Jamal Branch, a 13-game starter, and Felix Balamou, a slasher with some promise, provide depth. There’s also the addition of a much-needed 3-point presence — St. John’s was last in the Big East last year in 3-point shooting at 27.1 percent — with Harvard transfer Max Hooper available after sitting out last season.

Newcomers

Five-star point guard Rysheed Jordan is touted by the school as the highest-rated recruit in Steve Lavin’s four years. Jordan averaged 25 points as a senior. Junior college transfer Orlando Sanchez, ineligible last season, will bring a post presence and some needed rebounding. Harvard transfer Max Hooper, a 6-6 wing, will help improve the league’s worst 3-point shooting offense from a year ago.

Final analysis
Factoid: 7.3. St. John’s led the nation with 7.3 blocked shots per game — 0.6 more than any other team — thanks in large part to a school-record 133 from freshman Chris Obekpa.

Talent isn’t the issue with this team. Pulling it all together is. A lot will depend on how much Harrison has matured — if at all — upon his return to the active roster.  

Lavin must also refine his team’s offensive skills. St. John’s was among the nation’s worst offensive teams a year ago, ranking 314th in effective field goal percentage (according to KenPom.com) and 315th in free throw percentage.

But the team’s most pressing needs (rebounding and 3-point shooting) can be filled with the additions of Sanchez and Hooper, who both sat out last season. Point guard depth was addressed as well with Jordan’s arrival.

On paper, this is an NCAA Tournament team with the potential to reach the Sweet 16. Lavin’s task is turn that potential into a reality.

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College Basketball: 2013-14 St. John's Preview
Post date: Thursday, October 10, 2013 - 07:08
Path: /college-basketball/college-basketball-2013-14-georgetown-preview
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This preview and more on Georgetown 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.

Georgetown Facts & Figures
Last season: 25-7 (14-4 Big East)
Postseason: NCAA Round of 64
Coach: John Thompson III (209-89 at Georgetown)
Big East projection: Third
Postseason projection: NCAA Round of 64
It’s only one player, right?

Normally, when a team that won 25 games and earned a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament returns all but one player, it can be expected to be ranked among the top five or 10 teams in the country. That isn’t the case with Georgetown, though — because that one departing player is Otto Porter, the No. 3 pick in the 2013 NBA Draft and a consensus All-American last season.

“He’s ready,” coach John Thompson III said when Porter declared he was leaving early for the draft. “A lot of people come into this — a lot of players — with the notion of ‘I want to leave as soon as possible.’ They enter college, they walk in the door thinking about walking out the door. That has never been the case with him.”

Of course, the next step is finding a replacement for Porter. Here’s a hint: It won’t be easy.

Frontcourt

In an ideal world, Greg Whittington would have replaced Porter this season. However, the 6-9 Whittington — who was ruled academically ineligible for the second half of last season — suffered a knee injury in June that could jeopardize his return.

“Greg will return when he is 100 percent healthy,” Thompson III said at the time. “At this point, there is no specific timetable for his return.”

If Whittington is forced to miss the entire season, Georgetown’s frontcourt will go from one predicated on length and versatility to one highlighted by strength and bulk.

The big addition up front is UCLA transfer Josh Smith. When focused and on the court, Smith is one of the better low-post scorers around — but that didn’t happen often enough with the Bruins. He was always in foul trouble, and he couldn’t stay on the floor due to conditioning. If he’s in shape, Smith will be a big boost for the Hoyas in the post when he joins at the midseason point.

Another newcomer to keep an eye on is freshman Reggie Cameron, who will help fill Porter’s shoes. A native of New Jersey, the 6-7 Cameron is one of the best incoming shooters in the country.

Thompson III also brings back two starters: Nate Lubick and Mikael Hopkins. Lubick is a veteran who rebounds, sets screens and isn’t opposed to doing the dirty work around the basket. Hopkins adds a different dimension due to his ability to pass out of the post.

Moses Ayegba is raw, but he provides depth and strength.

Backcourt

Although Porter received most of the national attention for the Hoyas last season, Markel Starks was no slouch on the perimeter. He went through bouts of inconsistency, but Starks playing well generally meant that Georgetown was playing well. He’s a strong guard who can create for himself and others, and he is adept at initiating the Hoyas’ offense. With Porter gone, Starks will have to take on a bigger offensive and leadership role.

One player primed for a breakout offensive season is sophomore D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera. The Indianapolis native came into college with a reputation as a guy who could get points, and he didn’t disappoint, especially over the second half of the season. He will have more responsibility this season, and his ability to make shots from behind the arc and create his own looks off the bounce will be a major plus.

Jabril Trawick is the starter on the wing. Trawick isn’t a prolific scorer, but he is a very good defender and athlete who uses his strength effectively.

There isn’t much depth at point guard, but Aaron Bowen and Stephen Domingo should see some minutes on the wings. Bowen is athletic and can defend, while Domingo has deep range..

Newcomers

Both newcomers will help the frontcourt tremendously. Josh Smith was an effective player at times for UCLA, and his ability to score with his back to the basket is a plus. Reggie Cameron is a smooth 3-point shooter who is at his best when used as a pick-and-pop power forward of sorts. He lacks quickness, but he should find plenty of opportunities in Georgetown’s half-court offense.

Final Analysis
Factoid: 2-5. Georgetown is only 2–5 in its last five NCAA Tournament appearances. Making matters worse, the Hoyas were a No. 2 or 3 seed in four of those five tournaments. They need to win when it counts.


Georgetown might have been the Big East favorite had Whittington not been injured. As it stands, the Hoyas have some question marks heading into the season. Porter provided so many things at both ends of the floor and will be impossible to replace. Smith-Rivera will have to be a consistent scoring option on the perimeter, but someone has to step up in the frontcourt. The answer could be Cameron, who creates matchup problems with his ability to step out and shoot. It could also be Smith — if he stays on the floor.

As always, Thompson III will have this team defending at a high level, and his offensive system will also win some games. How far this team goes could depend on its ability to make plays when it matters. The Hoyas’ struggles in March are becoming more and more noticeable.

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College Basketball: 2013-14 Georgetown Preview
Post date: Thursday, October 10, 2013 - 07:00
All taxonomy terms: Dallas Cowboys, Tony Romo, Troy Aikman, NFL
Path: /nfl/tony-romo-better-hall-famer-troy-aikman
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Admit it. You knew it was coming. Everybody in Dallas did. Everybody everywhere did. As the score got higher, the game got wilder, and more people started flipping their TV over to the game, everyone had the same thought going through their head: When is Tony Romo going to blow it?
 
He was brilliant against the high-flying Denver Broncos on Sunday, at least as good as Peyton Manning who right now is the best there is. He completed 25 of 36 passes for a ridiculous 506 yards and threw five touchdown passes. He was having what might have been the finest game of his 11-year career.
 
Then, on his final pass of the game, right at the two-minute warning, he ignored an open running back DeMarco Murray underneath and tried to squeeze a tight pass into tight end Gavin Escobar deep in his own territory. It was, of course, picked off by Broncos linebacker Danny Trevathan, giving the Broncos the ball and the time to set up the game-winning field goal in a 51-48 win.
 
In a game where Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said, “Tony played as good a football game as I've ever seen him play,” everyone knew it was bound to happen. That’s the way it us with Romo. Everyone just sits back and waits for him to fail.
 
And really, that’s just unfair.
 
 Tony Romo's numbers, through his first 98 starts, absolutely blow away Troy Aikman's stats. 
 
Romo has been a terrific quarterback for the Cowboys, better than they ever should’ve expected from an unheralded, undrafted free agent out of Eastern Illinois in 2003. He wasn’t brought in to be the next great quarterback of “America’s Team.” But that’s exactly what he became.
 
To say he chokes — or that he choked in that game against the Broncos — is a terrible label. Sometimes things happen, even to the greatest quarterbacks in the game.
 
“You know, those plays happen in split seconds,” Garrett said. “And you saw something that he liked. He cut it loose. Their defender made a good play. It was a difference-making play of the game.”
 
It only seems like Romo is on the wrong end of those difference-making plays far too often. But the truth is, without him, the Cowboys of the last decade wouldn’t have been in very many big games.
 
In other words, Romo hasn’t been the complete failure that some make him out to be. In fact, when you compare him to the Dallas Cowboys’ last great quarterback – Hall of Famer Troy Aikman – Romo’s numbers absolutely blow his away. Granted, it’s a different era now and the passing game has exploded since Aikman’s day. But the numbers are startling nonetheless.
 
Through 98 starts, Aikman (1989-95) completed 62.8% of his passes for 16,607 yards, 98 touchdowns and 85 interceptions. Romo, in that span, has completed 65.2% of his passes for 26,998 yards, 187 touchdowns and 90 interceptions. Aikman had a passer rating of 81.6 and was only over 90 in two seasons. Romo is at 96.6 and has never been below 91.4.
 
Aikman won more (60 to 57). And he also had an enormous advantage in the postseason. Aikman was 10-1 in the playoffs in those years and led the Cowboys to three Super Bowl titles. Romo has been to the playoffs just three times with a record of 1-3.
 
Of course, Aikman had the benefit of Emmitt Smith in his backfield. Romo has only had a Top 10 rushing attack once. And Aikman played with defenses that were better, and ranked higher too. Also, it should be noted, that Aikman was the No. 1 overall pick in the draft while Romo was an undrafted free agent.
 
So the fact that Romo has accomplished as much as he has isn’t bad.
 
But there’s a truth about quarterbacking that Peyton Manning once learned and so did his little brother, Eli, and so has Drew Brees and Joe Flacco and many, many others before them. Quarterbacks, as former Giants GM Ernie Accorsi once said, are judged by only one criteria: “Can they take their team down the field, with the championship on the line, and into the end zone?”
 
In other words, can they perform when it really counts?
 
Romo has had plenty of terrific moments in his career. He’s made plenty of big passes in big spots and seized his share of big games. But in the biggest games, with the eyes of the world upon him, with playoff berths or playoff games on the line, there’s just something about him that seems to make him constantly fall short.
 
So for now he falls to a place where the Mannings and Flacco and Brees and so many others once resided: To the dark hole of great quarterbacks not great enough to win the big one. And no matter what he does in his career, the truth of the matter is that his reputation isn’t going to change until he finally does.
— By Ralph Vacchiano, @RVacchianoNYDN
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Post date: Wednesday, October 9, 2013 - 14:00
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/college-basketball-2013-14-cincinnati-preview
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This preview and more on Cincinnati and the American Athletic Conference are available in the Athlon Sports 2013-14 College Basketball Preseason Annual. The magazine is available online or on newsstands everywhere.

Cincinnati Facts & Figures
Last season: 22-12 (9-9 Big East)
Postseason: NCAA Round of 64
Coach: Mick Cronin (135-100 at Cincinnati)
American projection: Fourth
Postseason projection: NCAA Round of 64

After spending the last eight years in the Big East struggling for its share of national recognition in a league loaded with college basketball heavyweights, Cincinnati will immediately be viewed as one of the top dogs in the new American Athletic Conference.

The Bearcats would have preferred to have landed in the Atlantic Coast Conference like three of their former Big East colleagues, but the move to The American might be beneficial in some respects. They won’t have to plow through the meat grinder of the Big East schedule. But they’ll also have to strengthen their non-conference schedule to compensate for the loss of games against marquee Big East opponents, a formula that worked well under Bob Huggins in the Bearcats’ old Conference USA days.

Mick Cronin begins his eighth season as the head coach at his alma mater armed with a contract extension through 2018. He’ll have to replace three starters, including point guard Cashmere Wright, who ran the Cincinnati offense for the past four years and is the only player in school history with 1,300 points, 475 assists and 175 steals.
 
The Bearcats will lean heavily on shooting guard Sean Kilpatrick, a fifth-year senior who decided he would enhance his NBA prospects by returning to school for one more year. They will also feature one of the school’s most promising newcomers in years in 6-9 freshman power forward Jermaine Lawrence, a national top-25 recruit whom many believe could be a one-and-done player.

Frontcourt

Cronin believes he has solved what was one of Cincinnati’s glaring weaknesses from a year ago by adding low-post scoring with Lawrence and 6-10 freshman Jamaree Strickland. He’s also hoping for increased production from senior Titus Rubles. Last year, Rubles averaged 5.9 points and 5.9 rebounds while shooting only 33.8 percent from the field. Senior backup center David Nyarsuk, at 7-1 the tallest player in Cincinnati history, blocked 29 shots in limited playing time, but he averaged only 2.6 points and 2.5 rebounds.

The wild card for Cincinnati could be forward Shaquille Thomas. A 6-7 sophomore, Thomas has the athletic ability to become a 1,000-point scorer, but he still has a long way to go to translate that athleticism into a skill set.

Senior Justin Jackson has proven to be a consistent shot-blocker and solid rebounder, but has not developed offensively and still has a tendency to get into foul trouble. Jermaine Sanders, a 6-5 junior, must become more assertive and improve his shooting to make an impact. He made only 13-of-48 from long range last year and shot 53.1 percent from the free throw line.

Backcourt

The likely successor to Wright at point guard is freshman Troy Caupain, a prolific scorer who averaged 26 points in high school last season. One of Caupain’s strengths is his ability to get to the rim, but it’s always risky to rely on a freshman to run the offense. Junior Ge’Lawn Guyn was last year’s backup at the point, but he would have to make major improvements to win the starting job.

At shooting guard, sophomore Jeremiah Davis III received a medical redshirt after missing most of last season with a wrist injury. He could provide long-range scoring punch to complement Kilpatrick, who led the team in scoring (17.0 ppg) despite shooting a career-low 39.8 percent from the field.  

Newcomers

Cincinnati’s top-25 recruiting class is led by freshman power forward Jermaine Lawrence, who’s expected to make an immediate impact. Center Jamaree Strickland is a traditional back-to-the-basket, low-post scorer but missed all of his junior year in high school and part of his senior year with a knee injury. Troy Caupain is a prolific scorer who will be given a chance to run the offense. Kevin Johnson is a Cincinnati prep product who can play both guard positions, and DeShaun Morman will be asked to provide depth from the wing.

Final Analysis
Factoid: Sean Kilpatrick needs to score 556 points to become only the second player in school history to score 2,000 points, joining Oscar Robertson, who scored 2,973 in three years.


Cincinnati has thrived in recent years with veteran players who used their experience and physical toughness to compete successfully in the Big East. This year, however, the Bearcats will be younger, relying heavily on at least two freshmen — Lawrence and Caupain. That’s a lot to ask of first-year players, but it might be easier to get away with in the American than it was in the Big East.

Cincinnati will also have be more efficient on the offensive end after ranking 260th nationally in 2-point shooting (45.5 percent), 255th in 3-point shooting (31.6) and 302nd in free throw shooting (64.7). The hope is that UC will be able to increase its tempo — and create easier baskets — against less physical defenses in its new league.

Kilpatrick, who played for Team USA in the World University Games, was named team captain last spring and will be expected once again to carry the scoring load for a team that is seeking its fourth straight NCAA Tournament appearance.

Teaser:
College Basketball: 2013-14 Cincinnati Preview
Post date: Wednesday, October 9, 2013 - 07:16
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/college-basketball-2013-14-iowa-state-preview
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This preview and more on Iowa 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.

Iowa State Facts & Figures
Last season: 23-12 (11-7 Big 12)
Postseason: NCAA Round of 32
Coach: Fred Hoiberg (62-39 at Iowa State)
Big 12 projection: Fourth
Postseason projection: NCAA Round of 32


With three junior college transfers and a pair of high school signees all vying for playing time, Fred Hoiberg says it may be a while before he has a good feel for his Iowa State basketball team.


“Right now there are a lot of unknowns,” Hoiberg says.


The scenario isn’t all that new for the Cyclones, who continue to win at a high level despite a roster that features so many new faces each year that people jokingly refer to Iowa State as “Transfer U”. While transfers — many of whom arrive with baggage — often flounder at other schools, Hoiberg has proven to be as good as any coach in America at incorporating new parts and getting them to blend with those already in place.
  

It worked with transfers such as Royce White, Korie Lucious, Chris Babb, Chris Allen and Scott Christopherson, who led the Cyclones to 23 wins, a top-four finish in the Big 12 and the third round of the NCAA Tournament in each of the past two seasons. Cyclones fans are hoping former Marshall standout DeAndre Kane and the other new arrivals can help continue the trend in 2013-14.


Frontcourt


While most of Iowa State’s rotation will be dotted with new faces, the Cyclones couldn’t feel better about what they have returning in the post, where starters Melvin Ejim and Georges Niang return after starting every conference game last season. “When they’re on the floor,” Hoiberg says, “I like our chances against anyone.”

Ejim, who will be a fourth-year starter, is a bit undersized at 6-6. But that didn’t stop him from averaging 11.3 points and a league-best 9.3 boards a year ago. The highly skilled Niang is fresh off one of the best freshman seasons in Iowa State history. The 6-7, 245-pounder averaged 12.1 points, 4.6 rebounds and shot a team-high 51.5 percent from the field. Niang has the versatility to score from anywhere on the court, including 3-point range.


The Cyclones are counting on junior Percy Gibson to step up after a disappointing sophomore campaign. Hoiberg describes junior college transfer Daniel Edozie as “a big, physical kid who will get in there and battle. He’s a good rebounder.”



Backcourt


As comfortable as Iowa State feels about its frontcourt, the Cyclones are in a state of flux on the perimeter, where Babb, Lucious, Clyburn and Tyrus McGee all graduated. That foursome combined to average 47.2 points last season. “It’s going to be a completely different look,” Hoiberg says. “There’s going to be a battle for minutes. I’m excited to see who emerges.”

The Cyclones received a huge boost in May when Kane announced he was leaving Marshall and transferring to Iowa State, where he will be eligible to play immediately. A combo guard, Kane is one of two active Division I players to average 15 or more points in each of his first three college seasons. He averaged 15.1 points and seven assists in 2012-13.

Senior Bubu Palo is a candidate to join Kane in the backcourt. Off-court issues limited Palo to 17 games last season, but the former walk-on is still one of the squad’s most experienced players and its top perimeter defender.

A pair of junior college transfers, K.J. Bluford and Dustin Hogue, could also factor prominently into the mix. Hoiberg likes the 6-6 Hogue because of his ability to play multiple positions. And he says Bluford is a “Tyrus McGee type” because of his ability to connect from long range.

Matt Thomas, who is considered one of the top shooters in the Class of 2013, could be a factor, too, along with freshman Monte Morris and redshirt freshman Sherron Dorsey-Walker.


Newcomers

Don’t be surprised if Marshall transfer DeAndre Kane, a combo guard, leads the team in scoring. Matt Thomas and Monte Morris are both top-100 prospects who could make significant impacts as freshmen. K.J. Bluford led the junior college ranks in 3-pointers per game last season. Dustin Houge in another juco who could play a big role on the perimeter.

Final Analysis
Factoid: 9.9. The Cyclones led the nation by averaging 9.9 made 3-point field goals per game in 2012-13. Iowa State ranked third nationally in scoring (79.4 ppg).
Iowa State has the talent to contend for an NCAA Tournament berth for the third straight year, but only if the newcomers jell in a hurry. Hoiberg has dealt with a plethora of fresh faces before, but in most of those scenarios, the players were transfers who had spent a year on campus practicing with the team before becoming eligible. “With the other guys, we knew what we were getting and who they were going to be,” Hoiberg says. “These guys are going to have to bond right from the start.”

Teaser:
College Basketball: 2013-14 Iowa State Preview
Post date: Wednesday, October 9, 2013 - 07:05
All taxonomy terms: Denver Broncos, Peyton Manning, NFL
Path: /nfl/the-10-greatest-quarterback-seasons-nfl-history
Body:

Peyton Manning might be the greatest regular season quarterback in NFL history. And what he is doing to the rest of the NFL this fall is downright unfair.

After five games, Manning has 1,884 yards, 20 touchdowns, one interception and has completed 75.8 percent of his passes at a 9.5 yard per attempt average. His per game averages are 376.8 yards, 4.0 touchdowns and 0.2 interceptions and his QB rating is 136.4.

This puts the Broncos signal-caller on pace for 6,029 yards, 64 touchdowns and three interceptions — which would shatter the single-season records for yards held by Drew Brees (5,476) and touchdowns held by Tom Brady (50). His 75.8 percent completion would also obliterate Brees’ present NFL record (71.2 percent) and his 136.4 QB rating would dwarf Aaron Rodgers’ single-season record (122.5).

Simply put, Manning is on pace to produce the best single regular season by a quarterback in NFL history. And it’s not even close.

However, for this season to be considered the greatest of all-time, Manning must deliver in the postseason. He is 9-11 all-time in the playoffs, has won only one Super Bowl and lost another. So for Manning’s 2013 to become the best start-to-finish NFL campaign — which are ranked below — he must finish the season with a second Lombardi Trophy.

1. Steve Young, San Francisco, 1994
There hasn't been a more complete NFL season than the year Young and offensive coordinator Mike Shanahan put together in 1994. The 49ers finished the regular season with the best record in the league at 13-3 while Young set an NFL single-season record for efficiency with a 112.8 QB rating, breaking the previous record set by former mentor Joe Montana. He also came 0.3 percentage points from breaking Ken Anderson's NFL mark for completion percent at 70.6 percent (Young's 70.3 percent still sits at No. 4 all-time). He started all 16 games, finished with 3,969 yards and an NFL-best 35 touchdowns against only 10 interceptions. Additionally, Young led the team in rushing touchdowns with seven as he compiled 293 yards on 58 carries. For all of this he earned the NFL MVP, but what made the '94 campaign special is what took place following the regular season. The Niners steam-rolled the Bears, Cowboys and Chargers en route to Young's first Super Bowl — a win commemorated by a record six touchdown passes, 325 yards passing, the MVP trophy and Gary Plummer's famous monkey exorcism. Oh, and No. 8 was the game's leading rusher as well. Young posted 623 yards passing, 128 yards rushing, 11 total touchdowns and nary an interception in San Francisco's three playoff games. It was the finest season a quarterback has ever seen.

2. Kurt Warner, St. Louis, 1999
Part of what makes Warner's '99 campaign so memorable is how the Northern Iowa signal-caller ended up a Super Bowl champion and NFL MVP. The undrafted rookie finally broke into the league four years after graduating from UNI and led the inept Rams to the best record in the NFC (13-3) as a first-year starter. The 28-year-old led the NFL in touchdown passes (41), completion rate (65.1 percent), yards per attempt (8.7) and QB rating (109.2) while finishing with a franchise-record 4,353 yards passing. He then proceeded to complete over 81 percent of his passes for 391 yards and five touchdowns in his first career playoff start — a 49-37 win over Minnesota. By the end of Super Bowl XXXIV, Warner had thrown for 414 yards and two touchdowns to earn his second MVP trophy of the season. The huge numbers, the sheer improbability and ultimate victory combined to produce what was nearly the greatest season in history.

3. Tom Brady, New England, 2007
Today's sports culture values championships and quarterbacks rarely disagree. So had Brady finished his magical romp through the NFL in 2007, he would be sitting at No. 1 on this list. He is only one of two QBs to ever finish a season 16-0 and eventually worked the record to 18-0 before the show-stopping loss to the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLII . Brady threw for a franchise-record 4,806 yards, good for third all-time in NFL history at the time. His QB rating of 117.2 was second all-time in NFL history and he became the first and only player to ever throw 50 touchdown passes in one season. He threw only eight interceptions and led the league in 11 passing categories. In the postseason, Brady and the Pats were dominant against Miami in the Divisional Round, but the Michigan grad struggled in the final two games of the year. He threw three interceptions and had his second-worst yardage day of the year (209 yards) in the AFC title game win over San Diego. He capped his MVP season with an underwhelming performance against the extraordinary Giants defensive line, costing him his fourth Super Bowl ring and the unbeaten immortality of 19-0.

4. Dan Marino, Miami, 1984
Marino was well ahead of his time back in only his second year in the league. He set an NFL record for passing yards (5,084) that would stand for nearly 30 years and an NFL record for touchdowns (48) that would stand for 20 years. He led the Dolphins to the best record in the AFC at 14-2, claimed the MVP trophy and returned Miami to the Super Bowl where they fell just short of defeating the 18-1 Joe Montana-led 49ers. The Pitt Panther threw for 1,001 yards and eight scores in three postseason games. The 23-year-old with a lightning quick release led the NFL in completions, attempts, QB rating and yards per attempt in a season that totally changed the way the game of football was played. He paved the way for what we see today on Sunday and came up 22 points short of a championship.

5. Joe Montana, San Francisco, 1989
The Golden Domer wasn't ever the most talented or fastest or strongest quarterback on the field, but his 13 regular-season games — and subsequent playoff run — during the 1989 season were as brilliant as most's 16-game seasons. Montana completed 70.2 percent of his passes, led the NFL at 270.8 yards per game and finished with a then-NFL record 112.4 QB rating. His completion rate was second all-time to only Ken Anderson and is still one of only five seasons better than 70 percent in history. The 49ers finished 11-2 in his 13 starts and 14-2 overall and Montana was the MVP of the league. Montana threw for 3,521 yards, 26 touchdowns and only eight interceptions. He also added 227 yards rushing and three more scores on the ground. However, what made No. 16's '89 campaign one of the greatest in history was his thorough destruction of the NFC and Denver Broncos in the postseason. He completed 65 of his 83 passes (78.3 percent) for 800 yards, 11 touchdowns and zero picks, finishing his historic season with arguably the most dominant Super Bowl performance to date by crushing John Elway and company 55-10. Three more games puts Montana over 4,000 yards and 30 touchdowns and moves him ahead of Marino and Brady on this list.

6. Drew Brees, New Orleans, 2009
One could argue Brees' 2011 season was better, but I am guessing if you ask him which year was better, he would take '09 everyday and twice on Sunday. He led the NFL in completion rate (70.6 percent), breaking the aforementioned Anderson's NFL single-season record. He also topped the charts in touchdown passes (34) and QB rating (109.6) en route to a 13-3 final regular season record. He finished with 4,388 yards and only 11 interceptions. He then capped New Orleans' magical resurrection with 732 yards passing, eight touchdowns and no interceptions in three playoff wins. His performance in the Super Bowl XLIV win over the Colts and Peyton Manning gave the Saints franchise their first championship. Brees completed 82.1 percent of his passes and claimed the game's MVP honors.

7. Drew Brees, New Orleans, 2011
It is hard to argue that from a statistical perspective, no quarterback has ever had a better regular season than Brees in 2011. He set NFL records for completions (468), passing yards (5,476) and completion rate (71.2 percent) while leading the Saints to a 13-3 record. He then proceeded to throw for 928 yards and seven touchdowns in two playoff games. His defense let him down in the postseason and he contributed two of the team's costly five turnovers in the divisional round loss to the 49ers.

8. Peyton Manning, Indianapolis, 2006
Much like Brees, Manning has had many elite seasons, but two stand above the rest. One in which he broke an NFL record and played at unprecedented levels (see 2004 below) and the other ended with a Super Bowl championship. Much like Brees, the ring gives Manning's '06 campaign the slight edge. He threw for 4,397 yards on 65.0 percent passing and a league-leading 31 touchdown passes. It was also the only year in which No. 18 threw fewer than 10 interceptions (9). His 101.0 QB rating also led the NFL that season and he added four rushing scores for good measure. Manning led his Colts to four postseason wins that year (16-4 overall) and the 29-17 Super Bowl XLI win over Chicago in which he claimed the game's MVP trophy.

9. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay, 2011
In a season in which three passers topped 5,000 yards and numerous NFL records were broken, Rodgers' season can get lost in the shuffle. Yet, the Packers' passer set every major franchise passing record and led a team that finished 15-1 in the regular season. The year ended with a whimper with Rodgers sitting out the season finale and then losing to the Giants in the team's only playoff game. But his 4,643 yards, 10.5 yards per attempt and absurd 45:6 TD:INT ratio gave No. 12 the most efficient season in NFL history (122.5 QB rating) — and it earned him the league's MVP trophy. Had he posted Matt Flynn's (480 yards passing, 6 TDs) numbers in the final week of the regular season, he would have hit 50 TDs and topped 5,000 yards. That said, Packers fans will always look at '11 with "what-if" memories.

10. Peyton Manning, Indianapolis, 2004
Many believe this season was Manning's best. Statistically speaking it was as he finished the regular season with an NFL-record 49 touchdown passes and 121.1 QB rating to go with 4,557 yards and a 67.6 percent completion rate. The league's MVP was 12-4 and on a path to his first Super Bowl title until New England completely dominated the AFC Championship Game 20-3. Manning ended a remarkable season one game shy of his goal, as he managed only 238 yards passing, no touchdowns and one interception in the disheartening loss to the Patriots.

Others to consider:

Dan Fouts, San Diego, 1981 (10-6, Postseason: 1-1)
Stats: 4,802 yds (NFL record), 33 TD, 17 INT, 90.6 QB rating

Warren Moon, Houston, 1990 (8-7, Postseason: None)
Stats: 4,689 yds, 33 TD, 13 INT, 96.8 QB rating, 215 rush yds, 2 TD

Randall Cunningham, Philadelphia, 1990 (10-6, Postseason: 0-1)
Stats: 3,466 yds, 30 TD, 13 INT, 91.6 QB rating, 118 att., 942 yds, 5 TD

Brett Favre, Green Bay, 1996 (13-3, Postseason: 3-0) MVP, Super Bowl
Stats: 3,899 yds, 39 TD, 13 INT, 95.8 QB rating, 136 rush yds, 2 TD

Michael Vick, Atlanta, 2004 (11-4, Postseason: 1-1)
Stats: 2,313 yds, 14 TD, 12 INT, 78.1 QB rating, 120 att., 902 yds, 3 TD

Michael Vick, Atlanta, 2006 (7-9, Postseason: None)
Stats: 2,474 yds, 20 TD, 13 INT, 75.7 QB rating, 123 att., 1,039 yds, 2 TD

Brett Favre, Minnesota, 2009 (12-4, Postseason: 1-1)
Stats: 4,202 yds, 33 TD, 7 INT, 107.2 QB rating

Michael Vick, Philadelphia, 2010 (8-3, Postseason: 0-1)
Stats: 3,018 yds, 21 TD, 6 INT, 100.2 QB rating, 100 att., 675 yds, 9 TD

Eli Manning, NY Giants, 2011 (9-7, Postseason: 4-0) Super Bowl
Stats: 4,933 yds, 29 TD, 16 INT, 92.9 QB rating

Tom Brady, New England, 2011 (13-3, Postseason: 2-1)
Stats: 5,235 yds, 39 TD, 12 INT, 105.6 QB rating, 109 rush yds, 3 TD

Cam Newton, Carolina, 2011 (6-10, Postseason: None)
Stats: 4,051 yds, 21 TD, 17 INT, 84.5 QB rating, 126 att., 706 yds, 14 TD

Teaser:
Post date: Wednesday, October 9, 2013 - 07:00
Path: /college-basketball/college-basketball-2013-14-virginia-preview
Body:

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

Virginia Facts & Figures
Last season: 23-12 (11-7 ACC)
Postseason: NIT quarterfinals
Coach: Tony Bennett (76-53 at Virginia)
ACC projection: Fifth
Postseason projection: NCAA Round of 32
Win games, lose players. That incongruous trend continued for Virginia in 2012-13. For the fourth straight year, the Cavaliers won more games than the season before. And for the fourth straight year, a couple of players bailed.

The departures of guards Paul Jesperson, who started 33 games and Taylor Barnette, who started two, bring to 10 the number of transfers under coach Tony Bennett, who is entering his fifth year. It’s a puzzling aspect of the affable Bennett’s tenure. Even to him.

“There are different reasons why guys leave, but it’s just more and more of a reality, it’s a different time. It’s not just here, it’s everywhere where you’re going to fight that,” he says.

If Virginia is not exactly winning the fight, it’s definitely surviving it. Quite nicely, in fact. Projected to tumble into the ACC’s second division after reaching the NCAA Tournament in 2012, Bennett’s Cavs instead maintained the program’s quiet momentum, finishing fourth in the conference and advancing to the quarterfinals of the NIT.

While it can’t be called a step forward, it certainly wasn’t much of a step back. Bennett showed that his program has developed staying power.

This year, the Cavaliers could find out how high their ceiling is. With every key contributor except Jesperson and point guard Jontel Evans back, and with guard Malcolm Brogdon returning from a foot injury and South Carolina transfer Anthony Gill bolstering the frontcourt, this is easily Bennett’s biggest, most athletic and versatile team.

Frontcourt

With size, depth and athleticism to spare, Virginia could have one of the ACC’s best frontcourts.

Mike Tobey is the hub. The 6-11 sophomore spent part of the summer playing for the U.S. team at the U19 World Championship. Though he didn’t play a ton on a loaded squad, the experience was invaluable, he says. “Definitely, the experience helped me see more potential and see what I can do down the road,” he says.

Tobey flashed that potential last year, giving Virginia a true back-to-the basket presence. His development was slowed by a bout of mononucleosis that caused him to miss five games. But with added strength and stamina, Tobey could blossom.

Forward Akil Mitchell certainly blossomed last year, finishing with more double-doubles (12) than All-ACC pick Mike Scott did the previous year. The 6-8 Mitchell and the springy, 6-8 Darion Atkins give Virginia two of the ACC’s better frontcourt defenders.

Gill, who started 26 games at South Carolina as a freshman two years ago, is a former high school teammate of Mitchell. He’ll push Atkins for playing time.  

The addition of Gill should allow Evan Nolte, who hit the freshman wall after being forced to bang inside more than he was ready for, to move to a more natural spot on the wing. He hit 39 percent of his 3-point attempts last year.

Backcourt

Did we mention size and depth? That’s the story in the backcourt as well.

Amid all the roster churn of the last four years, senior Joe Harris has been a constant, an impact player from Day 1 who became an All-ACC selection last year. The sweet-shooting Harris was on a tear through the season’s first 28 games but wore down over the final seven. Playing more than 32 minutes per game and drawing so much defensive attention took a toll.

He’ll have more help this year. The versatile Brodgon, who played both guard positions before breaking his foot in February 2012, returns after missing all of last season. He’s likely to get first crack at the point guard position, where he’s got an edge in experience over incoming freshmen Devon Hall and London Perrantes.

The ultra-athletic and energetic Justin Anderson, spectacular at times as a freshman last year, could be poised for a breakout year.

Newcomers

In a departure from the usual, someone transferred in for a change. Anthony Gill was reportedly a load to handle in practice last year and will help right away. Devon Hall is a rangy, pass-first point who made some national top-100 recruit lists. London Perrantes, who also got some top-100 mentions, comes all the way from Los Angeles, where he had Pac-12 offers galore.

Final Analysis
Factoid: Virginia prefers a chilly pace, with scores in 50s whenever possible. The Cavs allowed just 55.6 points per game, fifth in the nation.


Maybe slow and steady does win the race. Bennett’s patient, deliberate approach — on and off the court — is gathering steam.

Bennett has recruited well, and although Virginia’s attrition rate has been high, the players who have bought in have developed, and the program has established an identity and style of play.

The influx of new members has made the ACC tougher than ever. Virginia is doing what it can to keep pace.

Win games, lose players. That incongruous trend continued for Virginia in 2012-13. For the fourth straight year, the Cavaliers won more games than the season before. And for the fourth straight year, a couple of players bailed.

The departures of guards Paul Jesperson, who started 33 games and Taylor Barnette, who started two, bring to 10 the number of transfers under coach Tony Bennett, who is entering his fifth year. It’s a puzzling aspect of the affable Bennett’s tenure. Even to him.

“There are different reasons why guys leave, but it’s just more and more of a reality, it’s a different time. It’s not just here, it’s everywhere where you’re going to fight that,” he says.

If Virginia is not exactly winning the fight, it’s definitely surviving it. Quite nicely, in fact. Projected to tumble into the ACC’s second division after reaching the NCAA Tournament in 2012, Bennett’s Cavs instead maintained the program’s quiet momentum, finishing fourth in the conference and advancing to the quarterfinals of the NIT.

While it can’t be called a step forward, it certainly wasn’t much of a step back. Bennett showed that his program has developed staying power.

This year, the Cavaliers could find out how high their ceiling is. With every key contributor except Jesperson and point guard Jontel Evans back, and with guard Malcolm Brogdon returning from a foot injury and South Carolina transfer Anthony Gill bolstering the frontcourt, this is easily Bennett’s biggest, most athletic and versatile team. - See more at: http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:1IZn8kRNr8gJ:athlonsports.com/college-basketball/college-basketball-2013-14-virginia-preview+&cd=4&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us&client=firefox-a#sthash.gcR4VOGE.dpuf
Teaser:
College Basketball: 2013-14 Virginia Preview
Post date: Tuesday, October 8, 2013 - 23:24
All taxonomy terms: Eli Manning, New York Giants, NFL
Path: /nfl/2013-nfl-picks-every-game-week-6
Body:

A quick look at every game on the NFL schedule for Week 6, along with the consensus picks of Athlon Sports' editors.

Giants (0-5) at Bears (3-2)
The Big Blue Wrecking Crew and Monsters of the Midway defenses need to look alive against Eli Manning (12 INTs, two lost fumbles) and Jay Cutler (six INTs, three lost fumbles) on Thursday. Bears by 7

Packers (2-2) at Ravens (3-2)
Baltimore lost its beloved pregame-dancing linebacker who wore No. 52. Now Green Bay has to cope with the loss of its own post-sack-dancing No. 52, Clay Matthews (broken thumb). Packers by 4

Bengals (3-2) at Bills (2-3)
Thad Lewis, the most statistically accomplished QB in Duke football history, will make a quantum leap from the practice squad to NFL starter. Bengals by 6

Lions (3-2) at Browns (3-2)
Cleveland is 3–0 since the return of wideout Josh Gordon, who is now the center of swirling trade rumors with the receiver-starved 49ers. Lions by 5

Steelers (0-4) at Jets (3-2)
Uber-confident Ryan Clark will be quick to point out to his Blitz-burgh teammates that the Steelers are playing at the site of Super Bowl XLVIII. Steelers by 2

Rams (2-3) at Texans (2-3)
Matt Schaub has thrown a pick-six in a record four straight games. St. Louis’ Janoris Jenkins had three pick-sixes last year and Matt Giordano had an 82-yard pick-six just last week. Texans by 5

Panthers (1-3) at Vikings (1-3)
Carolina outscoring opponents 45–12 at home, but outscored 46–29 on the road this season. Vikings by 2

Raiders (2-3) at Chiefs (5-0)
Oakland swept K.C. last year, winning 26–16 at Arrowhead and 15–0 at the Black Hole. Chiefs by 8

Eagles (2-3) at Buccaneers (0-4)
Chip Kelly and Greg Schiano will give it the old college try once more unto the breach, er, Bay. Eagles by 3

Jaguars (0-5) at Broncos (5-0)
The worst vs. first matchup could feature the Broncos’ second-string in the second half. Broncos by 27

Titans (3-2) at Seahawks (4-1)
Former UW star Jake Locker will be on crutches for his Seattle homecoming. But the Hawks will likely be in “Beast Mode” after two road games. Seahawks by 11

Saints (5-0) at Patriots (4-1)
Last week, Tom Brady failed to throw a TD pass for the first time since Jan. 3, 2010. Patriots by 1

Cardinals (3-2) at 49ers (3-2)
Jim Harbaugh has a 3–1 record against Zona, with a 21–19 loss in 2011 and three victories by a combined score of 74–23. 49ers by 10

Redskins (1-3) at Cowboys (2-3)
Last season, RG3 went 2–0 against Dallas — passing for 404 yards, four TDs and one INT, while scrambling for 92 yards and another TD. Cowboys by 3

Colts (4-1) at Chargers (2-3)
Stanford alum Andrew Luck aims for the season sweep of California clubs, having already defeated Oakland, San Francisco and avocado. Colts by 4
 

Teaser:
Post date: Tuesday, October 8, 2013 - 21:00
All taxonomy terms: Blaine Gabbert, Jacksonville Jaguars, NFL
Path: /nfl/worst-vs-first-jacksonville-28-point-underdogs-denver
Body:

The clawless 0–5 Jacksonville Jaguars take on the stampeding 5–0 Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on Sunday in what Vegas oddsmakers think is the most lopsided matchup in recorded history. The winless Jaguars opened as a 28-point — or four touchdown — underdog against the undefeated Broncos. That number is the largest since the NFL-AFL merger of 1970 and ties the unofficial record, which ESPN.com (citing The Gold Sheet) reports to be when the expansion Atlanta Falcons were 28-point underdogs against the Baltimore Colts in 1966.

Although the gambling line is set to entice bettors and is not necessarily a prediction of the outcome, it is an easy indicator of public opinion based on past on-field performance. And the numbers don’t lie. As the Broncos official Twitter feed (@DenverBroncos) pointed out, “The #Broncos’ 51 points in yesterday’s win are as many points as the Jaguars have scored all season.” And it’s true. Denver’s 51 points in its thrilling win at Dallas is the same total Jacksonville has tallied over five games.

The Broncos have looked like Super Bowl favorites en route to wins over the Ravens (49–27), Giants (41–23), Raiders (37–21), Eagles (52–20) and Cowboys (51–48). Meanwhile, the Jags appear to be aiming for the No. 1 overall pick after losses to the Chiefs (28–2), Raiders (19–9), Seahawks (45–17), Colts (37–3) and Rams (34–20).

A tale of the tape is even uglier, as Denver dominates Jacksonville:

Points per game:
46.0 – Denver Broncos
10.2 – Jacksonville Jaguars

Yards per game:
489.9 – Denver Broncos
251.8 – Jacksonville Jaguars

Total Touchdowns:
29 – Denver Broncos
 5 – Jacksonville Jaguars

Turnover Ratio:
+1 – Denver Broncos
–7 – Jacksonville Jaguars

It starts at the top, where Denver boasts Peyton Manning at quarterback and Jacksonville drags out Blaine Gabbert and Chad Henne, while a percentage of the fanbase pines for local legend Tim Tebow.

Manning is off to an MVP start, passing for 1,884 yards, 20 TDs and one INT for a 136.4 passer rating. Gabbert, the No. 11 overall pick in the 2011 draft, and Henne have combined to pass for 1,082 yards, three TDs and nine INTs. In a surreal setting, Henne will start in place of the injured Gabbert, who has led only one TD drive this year.

Expectations couldn’t be lower. Just keep it within four TDs, Jags.
 

Teaser:
Post date: Tuesday, October 8, 2013 - 20:00
Path: /nfl/2013-nfl-power-rankings-week-5
Body:

Ranking all 32 NFL teams, from the undefeated Denver Broncos to the winless Jacksonville Jaguars.

1. Broncos (5-0) Peyton Manning’s statistics even bigger in Big D.

2. Saints (5-0) Drew Brees gets first win at Soldier Field in fourth try.

3. Chiefs (5-0) K.C. off to best start since 9–0 record in 2003.

4. Colts (4-1) Andrew Luck leads ninth fourth-quarter comeback.

5. Seahawks (4-1) Squander early 12–0 lead in loss at Indianapolis.

6. 49ers (3-2) Injury-riddled Niners solid gold in win over Texans.

7. Packers (2-2) Winners of 23 straight over Lions in Wisconsin.

8. Bengals (3-2) Hold Patriots without TD for first time since 2009.

9. Patriots (4-1) Tom Brady’s TD pass streak ends at 52 straight.

10. Ravens (3-2) Pass rush brings talents and heat to South Beach.

11. Lions (3-2) Calvin Johnson (knee) sits out loss at Green Bay.

12. Bears (3-2) Alshon Jeffery sets team receiving mark (218 yards).

13. Cowboys (2-3) Not the “same old Tony Romo,” but same outcome.

14. Texans (2-3) Gary Kubiak gives Matt Schaub vote of confidence.

15. Dolphins (3-2) Suffer second straight loss after promising 3–0 start.

16. Eagles (2-3) Nick Foles throws two TDs subbing for Mike Vick.

17. Titans (3-2) Five straight three-and-outs to open loss vs. Chiefs.

18. Jets (3-2) Geno Smith throws three TDs in upset over Atlanta.

19. Falcons (1-4) Back-to-back home losses for first time since 2009.

20. Redskins (1-3) RG3 hopes to bounce back strong after bye week.

21. Rams (2-3) End three-game losing streak with win over Jags.

22. Cardinals (3-2) Record seven sacks, first safety in nine seasons.

23. Browns (3-2) Brandon Weeden leads win after Brian Hoyer injury.

24. Raiders (2-3) Charles Woodson ties record with 13th defensive TD.

25. Chargers (2-3) Post past-prime-time loss at Oakland’s Black Hole.

26. Bills (2-3) EJ Manuel out 4-to-6 weeks, Thad Lewis to start.

27. Panthers (1-3) Ugly effort included nine penalties for 79 lost yards.

28. Vikings (1-3) Add Josh Freeman to Ponder, Cassel QB carrousel.

29. Steelers (0-4) Ryan Clark boasts team not “out of” playoff hunt.

30. Giants (0-5) Big Blue feeling blue, 0–5 for first time since 1987.

31. Buccaneers (0-4) Warren Sapp critical of embattled Greg Schiano.

32. Jaguars (0-5) Justin Blackmon shines in debut after suspension.

Teaser:
Post date: Tuesday, October 8, 2013 - 20:00
All taxonomy terms: Baltimore Ravens, prime time, Terrell Suggs, NFL
Path: /nfl/prime-time-players-week-5
Body:

Terrell Suggs, LB, Ravens
“T-Sizzle” was on fire in Baltimore’s 26–23 win on the road at Miami. The self-proclaimed alum of “Ball So Hard University” recorded half of the Ravens’ six sacks, with all three of Suggs’ QB takedowns coming in the fourth quarter with the game on the line. “My wife told me to ‘bring momma three sacks,’” Suggs said after the game. “I said, ‘All right, momma said she wanted three, so go get it.’” The Ravens have a 14–1 record when the 2011 Defensive Player of the Year posts a multi-sack game.

DeSean Jackson, WR, Eagles
Chip Kelly’s high-flying offense was back in business during a 36–21 win over the NFC East rival Giants. Although Philly failed to maximize its opportunities — kicking five field goals of 41 yards or less — Jackson was a big play waiting to happen. The electric wideout had seven catches for 132 yards (18.9 ypc) and a game-sealing TD grab, which was followed by a trolling mockery of the signature salsa dance made famous by New York’s Victor Cruz.

T.Y. Hilton, WR, Colts
Reportedly motivated by trash talk from the Seahawks secondary, Hilton had the last laugh in a 34–28 win over Seattle. Andrew Luck’s other go-to guy — opposite Reggie Wayne — had five catches for 140 yards (28.0 ypc) and a pair of TDs, including a 73-yard scoring strike that marked the longest TD in the careers of both Luck and Hilton. The play proved to be the turning point in the game, as Indy had 13 yards on 12 plays prior to the game-breaking bomb.

Peyton Manning, QB, Broncos
Sure, the four-time MVP completed 33-of-42 passes (78.6 percent) for 414 yards, four TDs and one INT for a 129.6 passer rating in a 51–48 win on the road at Cowboys Stadium. But the 16th-year veteran has been doing that just about every week. It was Manning’s naked bootleg TD run — his first rushing TD since 2008 — that stole the show. “You want to do it about every five years or so,” joked Manning.

Tony Romo, QB, Cowboys
This space is usually reserved for winners, but Romo’s historic losing effort deserves mention. In a 51–48 disappointing defeat to Denver, Romo became just the fifth quarterback in NFL history to pass for 500 yards and five TDs in a single game. Romo completed 25-of-36 passes for 506 yards, five TDs and one INT, going toe-to-toe with Manning in a shootout for the ages. Dallas and Denver combined for the second-highest scoring game in regulation (99) since the NFL-AFL merger in 1970.
 

Teaser:
Post date: Tuesday, October 8, 2013 - 19:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football
Path: /college-football/amazing-pac-12-college-football-stats-week-6
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 6.

4,011: Mannion, Halliday’s 4,011 passing yards meet Saturday in Pullman

Oregon State quarterback Sean Mannion, the nation’s leading passer at 2,018 yards, travels to take on the nation’s third-best passer in Washington State’s Connor Halliday (1,993) Saturday night. The two have combined to complete 66.1 percent of their passes (349-of-528) for 34 touchdowns. Halliday is coming off the nation’s best yardage performance of the season — 521 yards (on 41-of-67 passing) last week against Cal. He and Bears QB Jared Goff combined for a Pac-12 record 1,010 passing yards. And it might not just be a free-for-all Saturday as the Cougars and Beavers are tops in the Pac-12 in collecting interceptions — Washington State has nine, Oregon State eight.

3 for 300: Kelly, Mannion two of three FBS QBs to throw for 300-plus in every start this season
Arizona State QB Taylor Kelly and Oregon State’s Sean Mannion make up two of the three FBS quarterbacks to throw for over 300 yards in each of their starts this season. The Pac-12 duo has done so in the first five games. Ball State’s Keith Wenning is the other, having done so over the first six games. And there is no reason to think either Pac-12 QB won’t make it 6-for-6 to start the season. Kelly and the Sun Devils’ ninth-ranked passing offense (359.4 YPG) plays host to Colorado and its 121st-ranked pass defense (326.8 YPG). Mannion’s second-ranked passing offense (420.6 YPG) might have a bit tougher task against Washington State’s 54th-ranked passing defense (219.3 YPG), but the Cougars did just surrender 504 yards to Cal QB Jared Goff.


6 for 0: Washington’s six turnovers have not cost the Huskies
Washington has only coughed the ball up six times this season, but none of them have been converted into scores. Meanwhile, the Husky defense has turned six of the eight turnovers they have forced into points. UW will need to be productive with whatever it can get this week when Oregon comes to Seattle. The Ducks are third in the nation in turnover margin (1.6) — 13 gained to five lost — to go along with the nation’s best scoring offense (59.2 PPG) and second-best scoring defense (11.8 PPG).

0: Stanford has not allowed a first-quarter touchdown this season
Stanford travels to Salt Lake City for just the third-time in program history (1902 and 1995) looking for its third win there and looking to keep alive its streak of not allowing a first-quarter touchdown this season. The Cardinal has surrendered 12 points in the opening 15 minutes off of four field goals. Utah has outscored its opponents 45-20 in the first quarter this season. The two teams rank right next to each other in PPG in the nation at 24th and 25th with the Cardinal scoring 39.2 and the Utes 39.0. Utah did score a first-quarter TD in the last meeting in Salt Lake City in 1995.

9: Arizona, USC on opposite end of turnovers at nine gained, nine lost
When Arizona and USC meet in Los Angeles Thursday it will be two teams that are far apart in the turnover department. The Wildcats have gained nine turnovers and are plus-5 in turnover margin; the Trojans have lost nine turnovers and are minus-2 in turnover margin. Arizona has won 16 straight games when it wins the turnover battle. Its last loss when winning such a battle was against USC in 2008.

5: USC is facing Arizona, Arizona State in back-to-back games for the fifth time
When the Trojans take on the Wildcats Saturday it will be the fifth time USC has played Arizona and Arizona State in consecutive games. It also occurred in 1980, 2005, 2010 and 2011. The Trojans won the first six meetings before falling at ASU in 2011 (43-22). They came back to defeat Arizona 48-41 in Los Angeles the following week. Arizona arrives in LA to meet a USC squad, which is once again coming off a road loss at Arizona State (62-41).

65-0: UCLA at its best in the third quarter, outscoring opponents 65-0
The Bruins are 4-0 for the first time since 2005 thanks in part to the third quarter. UCLA has outscored its opponents 65-0 in the third — serving as its most productive offensive quarter and obviously its most stout defensive quarter. This week, the Bruins welcome a Cal team that has had most of its scoring output in the third quarter (45), but has also given up 66 points in the 15-minute frame.

202: Oregon’s Mariota sets new mark for consecutive passes without an interception
Marcus Mariota pushed his streak to 202 straight pass attempts without an interception with his 27 throws in the 57-16 win over Colorado. The 202 breaks the old mark of 178 set by Kellen Clemens in 2004. Mariota has now thrown for at least one touchdown in all 18 career games he has played. Mariota also accounted for a school-record 42 points in the Colorado victory, with five TD throws and two rushing scores.

24: Utah’s 24-year-old, redshirt freshman kicker is perfect
Andy Phillips, a former member of the U.S. Ski Team, is a perfect 9-for-9 on field goals and 24-of-24 on PATs for the Utes through five games. The 24-year-old, who had never played football at any level and only played soccer as a high school freshman, is tied for first in the nation in field goal percentage, and his nine field goals is the most of any kicker in the nation without miss.

755: The 755 yards Colorado allowed to Oregon last week is not a school record — by 120 yards
When the No. 2 Ducks hung 57 points and 755 yards of total offense on host Colorado last week it was not a school record for either team — gained or allowed. The yardage was 17 off of Oregon’s school-record 772 it set in this year’s season opener against Nicholls State. You have to go a little farther back to find yardage like that against the Buffs. The 755 are the most allowed since Oklahoma racked up 875 yards (758 on the ground) in an 82-42 victory on Oct. 4, 1980.

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

Pittsburgh Facts & Figures
Last season: 24-9 (12-6 Big East)
Postseason: NCAA Round of 64
Coach: Jamie Dixon (262-86 at Pittsburgh)
ACC projection: Seventh
Postseason projection: NCAA Round of 64

Hard to figure out what the letters A-C-C stand for around Pittsburgh these days. Is it Atlantic Coast Conference — the Panthers’ new league? Or Abrupt Continuous Changes — the Panthers’ offseason plight?

Pittsburgh transitions from the Big East to the ACC with more moving parts than a Quentin Tarantino flick. Coach Jamie Dixon lost two players to graduation, two to transfers (two others departed last season) and one to the NBA. Add a firing and hiring on the coaching staff and you have a team that will face challenges in trying to improve on a 24–9 record that included a one-and-done experience in the NCAA Tournament.

The biggest void is the somewhat surprising loss of richly talented 7-foot center Steven Adams, a blossoming star who bolted to the NBA after his freshman year.

Dixon, who’s never met a challenge he doesn’t like, must rely on a coaching resume that’s enabled him to get to nine NCAA Tournaments in 10 years, in addition to posting the best all-time winning percentage (.669) in Big East games.

Frontcourt

For the second consecutive season, Pittsburgh will look for immediate help from a freshman in the interior. Highly regarded Mike Young will fill that role at power forward. A strong and relentless force with a nice scoring touch, Young must help offset the loss of Adams. His ability to step outside and score could add needed offensive punch.

Young will benefit by playing alongside experienced senior starters in forward Lamar Patterson and center Talib Zanna, the team’s top returning scorers. Patterson is the most versatile of the Panthers with his ability to play inside or on the perimeter at shooting guard. He fits the mold of the prototypical Pittsburgh player — tenacious on defense and on the boards with offensive versatility. Zanna, who moves to center from forward, must develop consistency to complement his impressive athleticism. He had great moments last season, but too often faded in the background.

A trio of intriguing newcomers will push for playing time immediately, including versatile 6-7 freshman Jamel Artis, 6-10 junior college transfer Joseph Uchebo and 6-9 Rutgers transfer Derrick Randall. Uchebo could be a factor at center as the season progresses.

Backcourt

Make no mistake, Pittsburgh is point guard James Robinson’s team. Only a sophomore, he spent much of last season deferring to graduate Tray Woodall, yet still led the Big East in assist-to-turnover ratio. Robinson is smooth, self-assured and cerebral. His ability to set the tempo will be a necessity as Dixon plans to employ more of a run-and-gun style to tap into an athletic roster.

Robinson’s backcourt mate will be drawn from a committee of players, including junior Cameron Wright and sophomore Durand Johnson. Freshmen Chris Jones, Josh Newkirk and Detrick Mostella could also be in the mix. Johnson is the most intriguing of the bunch after leading Pittsburgh in 3-point shooting last season at 38 percent. He periodically provided a spark off the bench and showed unlimited range. The uber-quick Wright lacks Johnson’s scoring touch, but provides shut-down defense and relentless rebounding skills. Mostella, a late commitment who chose Pittsburgh over Georgetown, Miami (Fla.) and Oklahoma State, provides explosiveness (he’s a slam-dunk champ) with 3-point range. He could turn out to be a major recruiting.

Newcomers

The Pittsburgh roster will be dotted with seven new players, including redshirt freshman Chris Jones. Forward Michael Young should make the greatest impact as he moves into a starter’s role at power forward. Transfer Joseph Uchebo will provide needed size to the interior, while late commit Detrick Mostella, a natural scorer who originally planned to attend Oklahoma State, could take over at shooting guard. Mostella very well could end up being the gem of this voluminous incoming class.



Final Analysis

Factoid: Pittsburgh is one of only seven schools to advance to the NCAA Tournament in 11 of the past 12 seasons. The others are Duke, Gonzaga, Kansas, Michigan State, Texas and Wisconsin.
On paper, Pittsburgh appears to be no better than a middle-of-the-pack ACC team. Good thing Dixon puts little stock in such things. Despite rarely having all-world talent, the veteran coach annually has the Panthers competing for conference titles and high seeds in the NCAA Tournament, including top seeds in 2009 and ‘11.

This team, one Dixon likes a great deal, could follow suit. His formula for success is simple: Intense defense, aggressive rebounding and winning by attrition. Fresh off of signing a 10-year contract extension, Dixon will add a new wrinkle with the up-tempo style. This will appease a segment of Pittsburgh fans who believe Dixon’s perceived conservative approach inhibits players from flourishing offensively and fails to lure high-end recruits. His teams haven’t made it past the NCAA’s opening weekend since 2009.

Don’t expect this Pittsburgh squad to make a run to the Final Four, but a competitive season in the ACC and a 12th NCAA tourney berth in 13 years is realistic.

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The ACC hasn’t been able to brag No. 1 conference status for a while. Last season it was the Big Ten. Before that, the Big East had its run.

Perhaps expansion diluted the ACC product a bit in past years. Until last season, Miami didn’t offer much. Boston College’s best days were largely in the Big East. And Virginia Tech can only dream of the days it was the first team in the NIT.

Finally, expansion will boost the ACC’s basketball product. Syracuse, Pittsburgh and Notre Dame join the league this season all after reaching the NCAA Tournament last season. The Orange reached the Final Four. If not this season, the ACC will be the top basketball league in 2014-15 when Louisville replaces Maryland.

For this season, though, the ACC will have plenty of intriguing storylines, not least of which Mike Krzyzewski, Roy Williams and Jim Boeheim battling for the league crown. Duke is the favorite with freshman Jabari Parker and Mississippi State transfer Rodney Hood joining a stout returning cast in Durham.

ACC Predicted Order of Finish

ALL-ACC FIRST TEAM
G Jerian Grant, Notre Dame
G Joe Harris, Virginia
G Rasheed Sulaimon, Duke
F C.J. Fair, Syracuse
F James Michael McAdoo, North Carolina

ALL-ACC SECOND TEAM
G Eric Atkins, Notre Dame
F Rodney Hood, Duke
F Jabari Parker, Duke
F T.J. Warren, NC State
F Okaro White, Florida State

ALL-ACC THIRD TEAM
G Olivier Hanlan, Boston College
G/F Dez Wells, Maryland
F Ryan Anderson, Boston College  
F Travis McKie, Wake Forest
F Akil Mitchell, Virginia

1. DUKE (team preview)
Postseason projection:
NCAA Final Four

Even with loss of his top three scorers, Coach K has enough firepower for another big year.

2. NORTH CAROLINA (team preview)
Postseason projection:
NCAA Sweet 16
Off-the-court issues create plenty of uncertainty, but the talent for another deep NCAA Tournament run is in place.

3. SYRACUSE (team preview)
Postseason projection:
NCAA Sweet 16
Forward C.J. Fair has star potential, but the loss of three double-digit scorers creates big voids, especially in the backcourt.

4. NOTRE DAME (team preview)
Postseason projection:
NCAA Round of 32
Assist machines Jerian Grant and Eric Atkins give the Irish the best backcourt in the ACC.

5. VIRGINIA (team preview)
Postseason projection:
NCAA Round of 32

Seniors Joe Harris and Akil Mitchell may be the best inside-outside duo in the conference.

6. FLORIDA STATE (team preview)
Postseason projection:
NCAA Round of 64
Giving several young players playing time last year will now pay off and help offset losing clutch shooter Michael Snaer.

7. PITTSBURGH (team preview)
Postseason projection:
NCAA Round of 64
With the return of three starters, Jamie Dixon has the nucleus needed to generate yet another NCAA run.

8. MARYLAND
Postseason projection:
NIT
Losing lottery pick Alex Len won't stop the Terps from being a factor in their last year in the ACC.

9. MIAMI
Postseason projection:
NIT
The Hurricanes must replace their top six scorers and nearly 90 percent of their offense.

10. BOSTON COLLEGE  
Postseason projection:
NIT
Every starter returns, and no team in the conference has a better group of outside shooters.

11. GEORGIA TECH
Postseason projection:
NIT
Landing a postseason bid is a realistic goal in Year 3 of the Brian Gregory era.

12. NC STATE
Postseason projection:
NIT
Promising sophomore T.J. Warren returns, but that's where the good news ends.

13. WAKE FOREST
Despite an 11–39 record in league play over the last three seasons, the Deacs brought coach Jeff Bzdelik back.

14. CLEMSON (bonus team preview)
The Tigers desperately need a good start after losing 10 of their last 11 games in 2012-13.

15. VIRGINIA TECH
With Erick Green (and his 25 points per game) gone, just staying competitive will be a struggle.

All ACC team previews are available in full in the 2013-14 Athlon Sports College Basketball annual, available online or on newsstands.


ACC AWARDS

Player of the Year: Joe Harris, Virginia
Harris topped our list of the nation’s top shooters after averaging 16.3 points per game and shooting 46.9 percent from the field.

Best Defensive Player: Daniel Miller, Georgia Tech
Interior defender needs to polish his offensive game, but the senior has averaged better than two blocks per game for his entire career.

Most Underrated Player: Dez Wells, Maryland
Xavier transfer made good on his move to a new league by averaging 13.1 points, 4.9 rebounds and three assists. The do-everything player hope to lead the Terps to the Tourney.

Newcomer of the Year: Jabari Parker, Duke (full list of the ACC’s key new faces)
The key word for Parker is versatility with his ability to score and defend all over the floor. He and Mississippi State transfer Rodney Hood will be matchup nightmares.

Top coach: Mike Krzyzewski, Duke (full ACC coach rankings)

Coach on the hot seat: Jeff Bzdelik, Wake Forest (full hot seat list)

 

The ACC hasn’t been able to brag No. 1 conference status for a while. Last season it was the Big Ten. Before that, the Big East had its run.

Perhaps expansion diluted the ACC product a bit in past years. Until last season, Miami didn’t offer much. Boston College’s best days were largely in the Big East. And Virginia Tech can only dream of the days it was the first team in the NIT.

Finally, expansion will boost the ACC’s basketball product. Syracuse, Pittsburgh and Notre Dame join the league this season all after reaching the NCAA Tournament last season. The Orange reached the Final Four. If not this season, the ACC will be the top basketball league in 2014-15 when Louisville replaces Maryland.

For this season, though, the ACC will have plenty of intriguing storylines, not least of which Mike Krzyzewski, Roy Williams and Jim Boeheim battling for the league crown. Duke is the favorite with freshman Jabari Parker and Mississippi State transfer Rodney Hood joining a stout returning cast in Durham.

ACC Predicted Order of Finish - See more at: http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:Wgl_kHNGZ08J:athlonsports.com/college-basketball/college-basketball-2013-14-acc-preview+&cd=1&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us&client=firefox-a#sthash.dUgd9WJY.dpuf
The ACC hasn’t been able to brag No. 1 conference status for a while. Last season it was the Big Ten. Before that, the Big East had its run.

Perhaps expansion diluted the ACC product a bit in past years. Until last season, Miami didn’t offer much. Boston College’s best days were largely in the Big East. And Virginia Tech can only dream of the days it was the first team in the NIT.

Finally, expansion will boost the ACC’s basketball product. Syracuse, Pittsburgh and Notre Dame join the league this season all after reaching the NCAA Tournament last season. The Orange reached the Final Four. If not this season, the ACC will be the top basketball league in 2014-15 when Louisville replaces Maryland.

For this season, though, the ACC will have plenty of intriguing storylines, not least of which Mike Krzyzewski, Roy Williams and Jim Boeheim battling for the league crown. Duke is the favorite with freshman Jabari Parker and Mississippi State transfer Rodney Hood joining a stout returning cast in Durham.

ACC Predicted Order of Finish - See more at: http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:Wgl_kHNGZ08J:athlonsports.com/college-basketball/college-basketball-2013-14-acc-preview+&cd=1&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us&client=firefox-a#sthash.dUgd9WJY.dpuf
The ACC hasn’t been able to brag No. 1 conference status for a while. Last season it was the Big Ten. Before that, the Big East had its run.

Perhaps expansion diluted the ACC product a bit in past years. Until last season, Miami didn’t offer much. Boston College’s best days were largely in the Big East. And Virginia Tech can only dream of the days it was the first team in the NIT.

Finally, expansion will boost the ACC’s basketball product. Syracuse, Pittsburgh and Notre Dame join the league this season all after reaching the NCAA Tournament last season. The Orange reached the Final Four. If not this season, the ACC will be the top basketball league in 2014-15 when Louisville replaces Maryland.

For this season, though, the ACC will have plenty of intriguing storylines, not least of which Mike Krzyzewski, Roy Williams and Jim Boeheim battling for the league crown. Duke is the favorite with freshman Jabari Parker and Mississippi State transfer Rodney Hood joining a stout returning cast in Durham.

ACC Predicted Order of Finish - See more at: http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:Wgl_kHNGZ08J:athlonsports.com/college-basketball/college-basketball-2013-14-acc-preview+&cd=1&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us&client=firefox-a#sthash.dUgd9WJY.dpuf
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This preview and more on Clemson and the ACC are available in the Athlon Sports 2013-14 College Basketball Preseason Annual. The magazine is available online or on newsstands everywhere.

Clemson Facts & Figures
Last season: 13-18 overall (5-13 ACC)
Coach: Brad Brownell (51-45 at Clemson)
ACC projection: 14th
Postseason projection: None
The task facing Clemson coach Brad Brownell and his staff this winter is, shall we say, unenviable. In Brownell’s fourth season, he’ll try reversing a slide which has seen the Tigers regress from 22–12 and an NCAA Tournament victory in 2010-11 to 16–15 in ‘11-12 to 13–18 (and 11th in the ACC) last season after losing 10 of their final 11 games.

The additions of former Big East powers Syracuse, Pitt and Notre Dame to an already-formidable ACC make that challenge even tougher — and Clemson must play all three on the road. Oh, and did we mention that Clemson will have no seniors on its roster?

Welcome to the new and improved ACC, Tigers.

Never discount Brownell’s ability to squeeze as much as possible from his teams, but improving on 2012-13’s mark and getting back to .500 will be a difficult challenge. Clemson lost two of its top three scorers from last season and will return only one player who averaged more than 7.9 points per game — junior wing K.J. McDaniels, who averaged 10.9 per game.

Brownell was allowed some extra time to mold his team: The Tigers took a 10-day visit to Italy in August, which included four games against Italian teams as well as 10 pre-trip practices.

But for real improvement, Clemson must polish its skills, toughness and perhaps, most important, its leadership.

“I think leadership has to come from the players, and I don’t think it did this year,” Brownell said after last season. “I think that was part of our problem. When you see a team do what we did, there’s an indication of no clear direction. When a team is coach-directed, it’s never as good as it is when a team is player-directed.”

Frontcourt

Say this for the Tigers’ frontcourt: It does not lack for opportunity.

With the graduation of Devin Booker (third-team All-ACC pick last season) and Milton Jennings (10.2 ppg, 6.4 rpg) and the transfer of Bernard Sullivan (1.8 ppg, 1.3 rpg) to Charlotte, Clemson returns a combined of 2.1 points and 2.6 rebounds per game from post players Landry Nnoko and Josh Smith, both of whom appeared raw in limited action as freshmen.

Small forward Jaron Blossomgame is one of the most high-regarded players on the roster, but he was forced to redshirt last season following a slow recovery from a compound leg fracture suffered in May 2012. He underwent a second procedure on the leg in June but was expected to be ready for the beginning of preseason workouts in October.

Brownell bolstered the roster with a pair of spring signees in 6-10 junior college transfer Ibrahim Djambo and 6-10 Senegal prospect Sidy Djitte.

Djambo and Nnoko figure to have the inside track toward starting roles.

Backcourt

There are certainly reasons to be excited about the Tigers’ backcourt despite some youth and lingering injuries. McDaniels emerged as an athletic playmaker capable of highlight-reel dunks, but Brownell wants him to improve his outside shooting to diversify his offensive repertoire.

Jordan Roper became a solid member of the rotation as a freshman, shooting 41.4 percent from 3-point range while averaging 7.9 points per game. He, too, must take another step forward in his development.

Junior Rod Hall is a steady, if unspectacular point guard who plays solid defense; he averaged 5.7 points and 3.5 assists as a sophomore and, along with McDaniels, will serve as a team leader. Adonis Filer hopes to build on an up-and-down freshman campaign that was highlighted by his 21-point outburst against The Citadel. Sophomore Devin Coleman — who redshirted last winter after rupturing his Achilles tendon — and freshman Patrick Rooks will provide some solid shooting whenever needed.

Newcomers

Patrick Rooks, a 6-3 shooting guard, is expected to bring immediate shooting ability, while fellow 3-star swingman Austin Ajukwa is a more versatile player who could fit as a 2 guard or small forward. Ibrahim Djambo, a 6-10 junior college transfer, should see immediate playing time in the post. Another spring signee, 6-10 big man Sidy Djitte, chose Clemson over Cincinnati and Memphis.

Final analysis
Factoid: 5. Clemson took a total of five charges in 31 games last season. It says a lot about the Tigers’ overall toughness, something that must change to compete in the improved ACC.


Poor recruiting by Oliver Purnell in his final months at Clemson — as well as a roster exodus following the transition from Purnell’s up-tempo style to Brownell’s motion offense — has left the Tigers in a difficult spot in the ever-improving ACC.

Four consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances are starting to look like a distant memory, and unless you’re Kentucky, winning with no seniors on the roster is not a recipe for success.

Brownell is an excellent coach, but this looks like a season to build, take some lumps and learn. A .500 record would be an excellent accomplishment.

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

Florida State Facts & Figures
Last season: 18-16 (9-9 ACC)
Postseason: NIT first round
Coach: Leonard Hamilton (219-143 at Florida State)
ACC projection: Sixth
Postseason projection: NCAA Round of 64
Even after a down year, it seems Leonard Hamilton can do no wrong. After missing the NCAA Tournament for the first time in five seasons, Florida State responded by giving its coach a hefty raise in July that pushes his annual salary past the $2 million mark and an extension through 2017.

There’s plenty of reason for all that faith — and for renewed expectations. Nine scholarship players return, seven of whom saw their first action in the ACC last season. That group also includes senior Okaro White, one of the top small forwards in the ACC.

Hamilton is counting on all that possible depth to make up for the loss of the only starter, guard Michael Snaer, a terrific defender with a remarkable knack for hitting big shots.

“I thought the learning experiences our players went through were valuable,” says Hamilton, who enters his 12th season in Tallahassee, making him the second-longest tenured coach in the ACC behind only Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski. “I can see the scenario setting up, and we’re preparing ourselves to keep our program moving in the direction we’ve been moving the last number of years.”

Frontcourt

For the first time in his career, White will likely be the primary option on offense. But, it’s the veteran’s ability to help in virtually every area that makes him so valuable to this team. A good outside shooter who gets to the free throw line frequently, White is also the Noles’ best rebounder, and he can guard multiple positions.

“I don’t believe you can replace any one player, but with the players we have we are going to be a well-rounded team,” White says. “I still think it’s about defense for us though. It always is.”

What kind of production the Noles will get from their big men remains uncertain. The roster boasts three raw 7-footers — senior Kiel Turpin (7-0) and sophomores Boris Bojanovsky (7-3), who added a much-needed 15 pounds this offseason, and Michael Ojo (7-1) — along with 6-9 power forward Robert Gilchrist, a junior college transfer who has played sparingly.

“Boris is holding his ground better and Michael has really made big improvements too,” White says. “All our big guys are going to contribute this year. It’s early, but I really believe we will be better offensively.”

Backcourt

The emergence of sophomore Devon Bookert last season finally gives the program a true point guard — a rarity in the Hamilton era — to build around. An Alaska native, Bookert adds a new dimension with his decision-making and pass-first mentality. Bookert can’t be left open, either. He knocked down an impressive 53 percent of his 3-point attempts (32-of-61) last season.

“Devon was a steal for us,” White says. “You don’t see too many true point guards these days. He’s very smart with the ball. With all the playing time he got last year he’s coming into this season with a lot more confidence.”

On the wing, streak-shooting senior Ian Miller might be the key to replacing Snaer’s offense. Hampered by a foot injury last season, Miller is capable of being a major scoring threat. Sophomores Aaron Thomas and Montay Brandon, who can also play point, will add to the rotation again.

Newcomers

Florida State was dealt a major blow when prized recruit Xavier Rathan-Mayes was declared academically ineligible. He was expected to be an immediate contributor. Big man Jarquez Smith is a raw prospect with good size. Wing Brandon Allen is a wild card, having spent the last three years playing minor league baseball.

Final Analysis
Factoid: Departed senior Michael Snaer made six buzzer-beating, game-winning shots during his career, which is recognized as a NCAA record.

Playing so many young players last season should now pay off. This will be a deep team with lots of improved individuals and plenty of size. White gives the Noles a solid piece to lean on. Bookert will make the offense run smoother. A preseason trip to Greece — where they played against the Greek national team — built more chemistry, too.

Getting more offensive production out of their big men is a big question mark. So is replacing Snaer, whose leadership may be missed the most.

More than anything, getting back to the NCAA Tournament depends on the defense. Hamilton has built this program around stingy, physical defense, and that was missing last season. If the Noles prove to be one of the nation’s toughest teams to score on once again, they’ll grind out an NCAA bid. If not, they’ll have to settle for the NIT again.
 

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Sooners defensive co-captain Corey Nelson will miss the remainder of the 2013 season with a partially torn pectoral muscle. Nelson sustained the injury in the third quarter during the Sooners 20-17 home win over TCU.

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