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

No. 20 Memphis Facts & Figures
Last season: 31-5 (16-0 Conference USA)
Postseason: NCAA Round of 32
Coach: Josh Pastner (106-34 at Memphis)
American projection: Second
Postseason projection: NCAA Round of 32
Josh Pastner is wired to be positive regardless of the circumstances. So each time he was asked about Conference USA over the past four years, the Memphis coach would explain that the league is good because every team has good players, and he always did it with emotion.

But Pastner couldn’t have possibly really believed it. The proof was in the seeds his Tigers received. “We had 30 wins on Selection Sunday last season, and we were a six seed,” Pastner says. “We won 26 the year before, and we were an eight seed. Year before that, we had 25 wins and were a 12 seed. So hopefully that’ll change with the move to the American Athletic Conference.”

Truth is, it should.

Conference games against East Carolina, Marshall, Rice and Tulane have been replaced with games against Louisville, Connecticut, Cincinnati and Temple. That alone will increase the Tigers’ strength of schedule and give them a chance to accumulate more quality victories than normal. And the good news is that Pastner has the roster to win big in this transitional year.

Frontcourt

The Tigers’ top three frontcourt rebounders from last season — D.J. Stephens, Tarik Black and Adonis Thomas — are gone, meaning Shaq Goodwin will be asked to have a breakthrough year in which he looks more like the McDonald’s All-American he was in high school than the inconsistent freshman he was last season. Might a better body help? Pastner believes so and is thus thrilled that Goodwin has lost 20 pounds to become a leaner and more athletic version of himself.
 
“Shaq is playing above the rim now,” Pastner says. “Last year he played at the rim. But I want him above the rim, and that’s where he’s going to be.”

Freshman Austin Nichols, a highly touted local product who chose Memphis over Duke, is expected to start next to Goodwin. George Washington transfer David Pellom should provide experienced depth up front, and freshman Dominic Woodson will serves as an emergency post player. Freshmen Nick King and Kuran Iverson could emerge as stars on the wing. They might actually be the Tigers’ top two NBA prospects.

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


Backcourt

Whether Memphis exceeds or falls short of expectations will largely be determined by the performance of the guards. It all starts with Joe Jackson, the reigning C-USA Player of the Year who shot 51.9 percent from the field and 44.7 percent from 3-point range last season while averaging a team-best 13.6 points and 4.8 assists per game. He was, in a word, terrific. And the Memphis native is now on pace to go down as one of the most accomplished players in school history.

“Just look at his hardware,” Pastner says “He’s been the MVP of two conference tournaments. He was the C-USA Player of the Year last season, and he has a chance to be one of the top five scorers in Memphis history.”

The rest of the backcourt isn’t bad, either.

Chris Crawford and Geron Johnson give Pastner two more senior guards who have started at the Division I level, and Missouri transfer Michael Dixon, provided he gets a waiver from the NCAA to play immediately, will give Memphis a total of four senior guards who have averaged double-figures in points at the high-major level. Then there’s sophomore Damien Wilson, freshman Markel Crawford and freshman Pookie Powell. All three are capable of contributing, though Crawford is recovering from ACL surgery and Powell could be an academic casualty.

Newcomers

Nick King and Austin Nichols are the prizes of the recruiting class. Nichols is a 6-8 power forward. King is a 6-6 small forward. Both are expected to play major minutes, along with power forward Kuran Iverson. Markel Crawford is a hard-nosed guard who has a chance to be good in time. But he’s recovering from ACL surgery and might have trouble cracking the rotation as a freshman. David Pellom is a fifth-year transfer from George Washington who projects as the Tigers’ first post player off the bench.

Final analysis
Factoid: 2.65. Memphis signed Josh Pastner to a contract worth $2.65 million annually after last season in an attempt to prevent schools from trying to lure its young coach. The salary ranks top-10 nationally.


The quality of the veteran backcourt combined with the depth throughout the roster is why the Tigers should finish in the top three of the AAC. But they still have to do it, and skeptics will remain until they do so because Pastner only has one victory over a top-25 opponent through four years, and he’s never advanced past the Round of 32 of the NCAA Tournament. In other words, he’s recruited brilliantly and won lots of games, but very few of those wins have come against quality competition. Such can be attributed, on some level, to the lack of opportunities C-USA provided. But this move to the American leaves Pastner with no excuses to approach Selection Sunday with anything other than a resume that ensures Memphis receives its highest seed since the John Calipari era.

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

Teaser:
College Basketball: 2013-14 Memphis Preview
Post date: Friday, October 25, 2013 - 07:00
All taxonomy terms: NFL
Path: /nfl/10-big-injuries-will-impact-rest-nfl-season
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The NFL is a 17-week war of attrition, and it plays out like that every season. Having the best talent in the league certainly helps. Having all that talent healthy for the stretch run and the playoffs helps even more.
 
That’s why there’s nothing worse than being a team on a roll or in contention and suffering a serious, early injury. All of a sudden, before the stretch run even begins, all the air can get let out of a team’s tires. One key loss of a player in the wrong spot and everything a team has built can quickly be torn down.
 
So as we near the halfway point of the season, which teams are in trouble? Here are the 10 biggest injuries in the NFL so far that could impact the rest of the NFL season. Some of these players are just invaluable to their teams. And some of them are just one of many injuries that are threatening to tear some of the NFL’s top contenders apart:
 
Jay CutlerBears QB Jay Cutler – The much-maligned leader of the Bears was on his way to one of his finest seasons with the Bears (4-3) battling in the rough NFC North. But his torn groin could keep him out a month and leaves the Bears in the hands of Josh McCown. To make matters worse for the Bears, linebacker Lance Briggs will miss 4-6 weeks with a shoulder injury, too.
 
Falcons WR Julio Jones – It’s bad enough that Roddy White has hobbled through a dreadful start to his season with ankle and hamstring injury, but the loss of Jones (on injured reserve with a fractured foot) is a crusher for the struggling NFC favorites. Jones already had 41 catches for 580 yards through five games and now quarterback Matt Ryan is basically left with receiver Harry Douglas and tight end Tony Gonzalez. It doesn’t help that running back Steven Jackson has been out with a hamstring injury, too.
 
Colts WR Reggie Wayne – The torn ACL that ended the 34-year-old’s season might end his career and certainly is a crushing blow to the Colts, who were on top of the world after their stunning victory on Sunday night over the Denver Broncos. Wayne’s 38 catches for 503 yards led Indy and now leaves QB Andrew Luck with only T.Y. Hilton (27-412) and Darius Heyward-Bey (18-190).
 
Patriots WR Danny Amendola – This wasn’t entirely unpredictable since he hadn’t played a full season since 2010 and many questioned the big contract he got from the Pats, but groin and concussion issues has limited to playing in just three of the first seven games. Yes, the Patriots are 5-2 but without Amendola and, until last Sunday, TE Rob Gronkowski, it’s been a struggle for QB Tom Brady, who has had to make do with Julian Edelman and a cast of unknowns.
 
Patriots DT Vince Wilfork – The big run stopper in the middle of the Patriots’ defense, who’s out for the year with a torn Achilles, might actually be their biggest loss. And to make matters worse, Bill Belichick’s defense is also without linebacker Jerod Mayo (pectoral) for the season and, at least temporarily, cornerback Aqib Talib (hip), too.
 
Randall CobbPackers WR Randall Cobb – His leg injury will keep him out two months, but that’s not the worst of it for the Packers. Their offense was suddenly decimated with the loss of Cobb, receiver James Jones (shin/leg) and tight end Jermichael Finley, who was in ICU for a while with head and neck injuries. Aaron Rodgers still has Jordy Neslon to throw to, but his No. 2 through 4 targets are, at least for now, one.
 
Rams QB Sam Bradford – St. Louis may have been a longshot to make the playoffs, but at 3-4 the Rams weren’t out of it. Without Bradford, though, they most definitely are. Bradford was playing well (14 touchdowns, four interceptions) but what makes this a real disaster is what he’s left behind. The only other quarterback on the roster was Kellen Clemens before the Rams scrambled to sign Brady Quinn. Now it’s hard to see them winning many more games at all.
 
Broncos T Ryan Clady – It’s hard to argue the Broncos are struggling without him since he suffered his Lisfranc injury in Week 2, but any time a team loses an all-pro left tackle it’s a big issue. And since the Broncos are built around Peyton Manning, keeping upright is key. They’ve survived so far, but their pass protection was shaky against the Colts and it remains to be seen how it’ll hold up the rest of the year.
 
Cowboys DE DeMarcus Ware – The Cowboys’ best defensive player – and maybe the best in the NFC East – already missed one game with an injured thigh and might miss more. Most people think that the Cowboys are vulnerable, even in a terrible division. The loss of Ware would make things even worse, especially since the Cowboys are reeling from injuries to RB Demarco Murray (knee), WR Miles Austin (hamstring) and they just had to cut DT Jay Ratliff (hernia) who has yet to play this year.
 
Texans LB Brian Cushing – Quarterback troubles have probably doomed the Texans anyway and at 2-5 they were unlikely to make a playoff push. But any hopes of that ended when Cushing – the leaders of a defense that is remarkably ranked first in the NFL – broke his leg and tore a ligament in his knee. That solidified the Texans’ spot as one of the most disappointing teams in the league.
 
By Ralph Vacchiano, @RVacchianoNYDN
Teaser:
10 Big Injuries That Will Impact the Rest of the NFL Season
Post date: Thursday, October 24, 2013 - 15:15
Path: /college-basketball/college-basketball-2013-14-connecticut-preview
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This preview and more on Connecticut and the American are available in the Athlon Sports 2013-14 College Basketball Preseason Annual. The magazine is available online or on newsstands everywhere.

No. 21 Connecticut Facts & Figures
Last season: 20-10 (10-8 Big East)
Postseason: None
Coach: Kevin Ollie (20-10 at UConn)
American projection: Third
Postseason projection: NCAA Round of 32
Connecticut spent last season on a mission to make a statement in a season without postseason eligibility. Now the Huskies are determined to launch the program back among the elite in the nation.

They return their entire starting lineup and several key reserves from a 20-win team and added some quality recruits. They enter a brand new landscape as a member of the American Athletic Conference.

“They know they’re good,” coach Kevin Ollie says. “But they know they’ve got a lot of work to do to prove that each and every day. They know climbing up the ladder takes one step at a time, but to fall off the ladder just takes one step.”

Frontcourt

The Huskies are injecting some much-needed depth to their front line. Only one starter — junior DeAndre Daniels — averaged more than 4.9 points last season. Rebounding was a major issue, as UConn lost the battle of the boards in 19 games and ranked among the worst in the league in rebounding percentage.

Ollie will count on promising newcomers Kentan Facey and Amida Brimah to contribute right away, especially in the shot-blocking and rebounding departments. Facey, a New York native, was a 4-star recruit who picked UConn over Louisville and Florida.

Daniels, a smooth, athletic small forward, is poised for a breakout season. He’s added muscle to his wiry frame and has potential to emerge as a Player of the Year candidate in the American. He increased his scoring from 3.0 points as a freshman to 12.1 as a sophomore.

Ollie is optimistic that Tyler Olander, who’s coming off a disappointing junior season, will finally live up to expectations and make a consistent impact. The 6-9 Connecticut native has yet to average more than 5.0 points per game in his career.

Veteran Niels Giffey has the ability to contribute in a variety of ways. Improving Phil Nolan showed flashes of his potential down the stretch last season. Fellow sophomore Leon Tolksdorf will likely play a limited role as a big man who can shoot from the perimeter.

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

 
Backcourt

The Huskies boast one of the most talented — and deepest —backcourts in the country. Returning starters Shabazz Napier, Ryan Boatright and Omar Calhoun combined to average 43.6 points per game last season — 62 percent of UConn’s scoring.

No one means more to the Huskies than Napier, the heartbeat of the team. He led UConn in scoring (17.1 ppg) and late-game heroics while ranking second in rebounding (4.4 rpg) and earning first-team All-Big East honors. He’s fully recovered from a foot injury that hampered him near the end of last season.

The confident Boatright, already a lethal offensive weapon and defensive pest, worked on improving his all-around game over the summer. Boatright and Napier were two the 12 collegiate guards invited to attend the Nike Point Guard Skills Academy in New Jersey in June.

Calhoun, who had offseason surgery on both hips, should take another significant step forward coming off a productive freshman season. The former 4-star recruit averaged 11.1 points, highlighted by two games of at least 20 points in Big East play.

“From a scoring standpoint, from a leadership standpoint and a facilitator standpoint, all of our guards have gotten better,” Ollie says.

Ollie also will be able to turn to freshman Terrence Samuel, an unselfish New York City product blessed with size and toughness, and versatile swingman Lasan Kromah, a George Washington transfer, for minutes on the perimeter.

Newcomers

Kentan Facey, an active 6-9 forward, will likely see major minutes and contribute on the boards. A long shot-blocking center, Amida Brimah plays with great energy but needs to add muscle to withstand physical pounding inside. Terrence Samuel is a strong guard with great court vision. Transfer Lasan Kromah, who averaged 11.0 points, 4.1 rebounds and 2.1 assists in three years at George Washington, has the tools to play several positions.

Final Analysis
Factoid: 4. In UConn’s final four games last season, emerging star DeAndre Daniels played his best basketball, averaging 21.2 points, 9.0 rebounds and 3.3 blocks.


The talented and tough-minded Huskies have improved in several areas, especially depth, which will give Ollie more flexibility and create more competition for playing time.

With a lethal backcourt leading the charge, UConn should challenge for the American championship. Their final destination this season may depend in part on the development of their young frontcourt players.

The upbeat and demanding Ollie is pushing his Huskies to play with the same grit, heart and attitude as last season.

“Hopefully, we have that same mindset, especially with the talent that we have coming back,” Ollie says. “If everybody comes back with that level of unity, playing for one another, everything else will take care of itself — championships, whatever follows that. Everybody will be able to have the opportunity to shine individually. So I hope we have that same attitude. I’m pushing for that.”

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

Teaser:
College Basketball: 2013-14 Connecticut Preview
Post date: Thursday, October 24, 2013 - 07:00
Path: /college-basketball/college-basketball-2013-14-wisconsin-preview
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This preview and more on Wisconsin and the Big Ten are available in the Athlon Sports 2013-14 College Basketball Preseason Annual. The magazine is available online or on newsstands everywhere.

No. 22 Wisconsin Facts & Figures
Last season: 23-12 (12-6 Big Ten)
Postseason: NCAA Round of 64
Coach: Bo Ryan (291-113 at Wisconsin)
Big Ten projection: Fourth
Postseason projection: NCAA Round of 32
Sam Dekker was in a foul mood after his freshman season at Wisconsin ended with a shorter-than-expected stay in the postseason. UW has advanced to the NCAA Tournament in each of Bo Ryan’s 12 seasons leading the program, but 2012-13 marked only the second time during that span that the Badgers failed to win a game once they got there.

Dekker called a 57–46 loss to Ole Miss a “bulletin-board game” for the returning Badgers entering the offseason. But his spirits picked up considerably during the summer when he’d walk into the Kohl Center and see several of his teammates — even the newcomers — already hard at work. “We just have a really, really hard-working bunch that’s not going to back down from much at all,” Dekker says.

UW’s roster includes six freshmen and two returning players who missed last season due to injuries. To help get the Badgers up to speed as quickly as possible, Ryan scheduled a series of five exhibition games in Canada in August. The trip allowed UW to hold 10 additional practices over the summer.

Frontcourt

The Badgers must replace all three starters. While center Jared Berggren and forwards Ryan Evans and Mike Bruesewitz had their share of struggles on offense in 2012-13, they were solid rebounders and the leaders of a defense that statistically was among the best during Ryan’s successful run at UW. Junior Frank Kaminsky, a reserve during his first two seasons, will be expected to take over at center for Berggren, the program’s all-time leader in blocked shots. Kaminsky can stretch defenses with his ability to knock down shots from 3-point range, but he needs to be stronger around the rim on both ends of the court.

Dekker will move into a starting — and perhaps starring — role after being a sparkplug off the bench during his first season with the Badgers. The dynamic forward averaged 9.6 points per game, the most by a UW freshman since Alando Tucker’s 12.0 in 2002-03.

Finding a third starter and some depth in the post will likely be Ryan’s biggest challenge heading into the season. Junior forward Duje Dukan, who redshirted last season after dealing with a bout of mononucleosis during the preseason conditioning session, senior forward Zach Bohannon and junior center Evan Anderson have to prove they’re ready for expanded roles. UW likely will need Vitto Brown and Nigel Hayes to make significant contributions as freshmen. If Brown and Hayes can earn Ryan’s trust as defenders, one of them could find a place in the starting lineup.

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


Backcourt

The Badgers return four guards with starting experience. Junior Josh Gasser started 66 games at shooting guard during his first two seasons and was ready to take over as the Badgers’ point guard in 2012-13 before sustaining a season-ending knee injury in late October. Gasser, who makes good decisions, shoots well from 3-point range and is a great defender, expects to be back in time for the 2013-14 opener.

Senior Ben Brust averaged a team-high 11.1 points per game in his first season as a starter. After being mostly a spot-up shooter during the first half of his career, Brust became a more complete player and was arguably UW’s most valuable asset a year ago.

George Marshall replaced Gasser at point guard to start the season, but he was replaced after six games by Traevon Jackson. Jackson, a junior, has a knack for making clutch plays in close games, but he needs to improve his shot selection and ball-handling. If Marshall, a sophomore, can overcome confidence issues, he can help the Badgers on offense because he’s quick enough to get to the rim and has a nice shooting stroke. Freshman Bronson Koenig, a terrific passer who might be able to help UW score in transition more often, adds to a deep backcourt.

Newcomers

UW went into Ohio to land a pair of athletic forwards in Vitto Brown and Nigel Hayes, who should battle for playing time in the Badgers’ depleted frontcourt. Bronson Koenig is a flashy point guard who will be tough to keep off the floor. Riley Dearring is a good shooter but probably needs a redshirt season to add muscle to his thin frame. Redshirting might also be the best option for Jordan Hill, who is a tenacious defender but needs to work on his offensive game.

Final analysis
Factoid: 12.
Wisconsin has finished no worse than fourth place in the Big Ten in each of Bo Ryan’s 12 seasons. The Badgers finished fourth or better only three times in the 34 seasons prior to Ryan taking over the program.


UW finished with its lowest field goal, free throw and 3-point shooting averages in Ryan’s 12 seasons but still finished with seven victories over teams ranked in the top 15 of the AP poll. The Badgers should be better offensively with Dekker becoming the team’s go-to scorer, but UW’s success — and Dekker’s mood heading into the next offseason — will depend on how much Kaminsky and others step up in the frontcourt.

2013-14 Preseason Top 25
22. Wisconsin
23. UCLA
24. Baylor
25. Wichita State

Teaser:
College Basketball: 2013-14 Wisconsin Preview
Post date: Wednesday, October 23, 2013 - 07:00
Path: /nfl/2013-nfl-power-rankings-week-7
Body:

Ranking all 32 NFL teams, from the lone undefeated Kansas City Chiefs to the still-winless  Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Jacksonville Jaguars.

1. Chiefs (7-0) Brian Cushing has “respect” for Jamaal Charles.

2. Colts (5-2) Lose Reggie Wayne (ACL) for year in win vs. Broncos.

3. Broncos (6-1) Peyton Manning loses homecoming in Indianapolis.

4. Saints (5-1) Status of injured Jimmy Graham (foot) uncertain.

5. Seahawks (6-1) Defense swarms Arizona with seven sacks, two INTs.

6. 49ers (5-2) Colin Kaepernick sprints to fourth straight victory.

7. Packers (4-2) Jermichael Finley “walking” after scary neck injury.

8. Jets (4-3) Nick Folk misses from 56, hits from 42 to beat Pats.

9. Patriots (5-2) Unsportsmanlike conduct flag gives Jets new life.

10. Bengals (5-2) Mike Nugent hits last-second 54-yard game-winner.

11. Lions (4-3) Megatron highlight-reel 50-yard TD highlights loss.

12. Cowboys (4-3) DeMarcus Ware (quadriceps) misses first game ever.

13. Eagles (3-4) Nick Foles leaves loss to Cowboys with concussion.

14. Falcons (2-4) Harry Douglas steps up for Julio Jones, Roddy White.

15. Redskins (2-4) Brandon Meriweather suspended for illegal hitting.

16. Bears (4-3) Jay Cutler (groin), Lance Briggs (shoulder) injured.

17. Titans (3-4) Return man Darius Reynaud cut after latest muff.

18. Chargers (4-3) Own time-of-possession (37:30-to-22:30) vs. Jags.

19. Steelers (2-4) Big Ben earns 28th fourth-quarter comeback win.

20. Ravens (3-4) After hip injury, Ray Rice says he’s got “burst back.”

21. Panthers (3-3) Captain Munnerlyn has pick-six on game’s first play.

22. Rams (3-4) Auditioning QBs after Sam Bradford’s ACL injury.

23. Cardinals (3-4) Carson Palmer has thrown 11 INTs in last five games.

24. Texans (2-5) Brian Cushing suffers broken fibula, torn LCL in loss.

25. Bills (3-4) Snap six-game road losing streak with win in Miami.

26. Dolphins (3-3) Trade conditional ’14 draft pick for Bryant McKinnie.

27. Raiders (2-4) Terrelle Pryor works with QB guru Tom House on bye.

28. Browns (3-4) Brandon Weeden on hot seat after latest struggles.

29. Giants (1-6) Eli Manning throws zero INTs for first time this year.

30. Vikings (1-5) Josh Freeman not ready for prime time on MNF.

31. Buccaneers (0-6) Debate over Doug Martin labrum injury continues.

32. Jaguars (0-7) Have lost every game this season by double digits.
 

Teaser:
Ranking all 32 NFL teams, from the unbeaten Chiefs to the winless Bucs and Jaguars.
Post date: Tuesday, October 22, 2013 - 19:17
All taxonomy terms: NFL
Path: /nfl/prime-time-players-week-7
Body:

Andrew Luck, QB, Colts
The heir to the horseshoe throne in Indy, Luck spoiled Peyton Manning’s homecoming in prime time on Sunday night. The second-year phenom passed for 228 yards, three TDs and zero INTs, while scrambling for 29 yards and one TD on the ground during a 39–33 victory over the Broncos, snapping Denver’s 17-game regular-season winning streak. The Colts bounced back from a Week 6 loss at San Diego and have not lost consecutive games since Luck took over for Manning under center at Lucas Oil Stadium last season.

Tamba Hali, LB, Chiefs
Kansas City’s defense terrorized Houston in a 17–16 victory at Arrowhead Stadium. Hali led the way with 2.5 sacks for 29 lost yards as well as a pair of forced fumbles — the second of which was recovered by linebacker Derrick Johnson late in the fourth quarter to seal the Chiefs’ win. With a 7–0 start, Kansas City has all but assured its first trip to the playoffs since 2010. Of the 31 teams to start 7–0 in the Super Bowl era, all 31 made the playoffs, 15 advanced to Super Sunday and nine raised the Vince Lombardi Trophy.

A.J. Green, WR, Bengals
In an epic battle of arguably the league’s top two wide receivers, Green had the last laugh against the Lions’ Calvin Johnson, winning 27–24 at Detroit. Green posted six catches for 155 yards (25.8 ypc) and an 82-yard TD, while Megatron finished with nine catches for an identical 155 yards (17.2 ypc) and two trips to the end zone. After the game, the duo exchanged jerseys as a sign of mutual respect.

Ryan Mathews, RB, Chargers
Sure it was against the winless Jaguars, but Mathews had one of his better days as a pro during a 24–6 road win at Jacksonville — which came on short rest following a Monday night win over the Colts last week. The fourth-year back out of Fresno State had 21 carries for a Week 7-best 110 yards and one TD, his first rushing score since Oct. 7 last season.
 

Teaser:
The best performances in the NFL from Week 7.
Post date: Tuesday, October 22, 2013 - 18:52
All taxonomy terms: Bull riding, College Football, News
Path: /news/silvano-alves-seeks-record-third-straight-pbr-title-world-finals
Body:
Silvano Alven PBR ChampSilvano Alves gently eases himself down onto a near-ton of snorting muscle inside the padded metal chute. In an instant he’s thrown sickeningly headfirst over the animal’s horns into the chute front; not once, but twice. There is concern on the rider’s face, mercifully protected now by a grilled metal helmet that has replaced the once-traditional cowboy hat. He backs off the bull momentarily to gather himself.
 
Soon after—3.37 seconds to be exact—Alves is ingloriously tossed to the turf by the bull named Stone Sober, whose own worksheet is impressive: only once in 25 tries has he been successfully ridden. Another fact becomes abundantly clear: A bucking bull doesn’t discern a two-time consecutive world champion on its back from the rawest greenhorn.
 
While Alves miraculously avoided serious injury at that Professional Bull Rider’s (PBR) tour stop in Thackerville, Okla., earlier in the year, the native Brazilian rider is the rugged sport’s on-going sensation and the outright favorite to make it three world championships in succession―an unprecedented feat―at the PBR World Finals at Las Vegas on Oct. 23-27.
 
“Silvano was born to ride bulls,” says his friend, fellow PBR competitor and frequent translator Guilherme Marchi, the 2008 PBR world champion. “He is very focused and he loves what he does.”
 
That love sprung to life for Alves, born and raised in the Brazilian town of Pilar do Sul, a city of close to 26,000 people within the state of Sao Paulo, from watching his father and uncles ride bulls. 
 
“I remember they supported me a lot,” Alves, 25, says. When he was 13, in 2000, young Silvano mounted his first bull at “the home of a friend on my first bull training.”
 
 PBR World Finals 
Las Vegas, NV
Oct. 23-27 
Alves’ popularity on the PBR circuit has brought even more increased awareness of the sport to his native land. Today, 25 bull riders with Brazilian roots grace the 100-rider PBR roster. Should Alves three-peat as champion this week, five of the last six PBR world titlists will have come from Brazil.
 
“It started for us when Adriano Moraes (1994), Paulo Crimber (1998), Ednei Caminhas (2000), and André Moraes (2001) came to the United States and had success,” says Marchi of the cavalcade of Brazilian riders that preceded his own PBR debut in 2004. “We had success because of the bull riders that came before us. We were very interested by their successes, the quality of life, and the financial rewards we could have.”
 
Alves launched his impressive PBR career in 2010, winning Rookie of the Year honors and wasting no time building his championship legacy, which began the following year. “Winning in 2011 was a dream come true, it was very emotional,” says Alves, a family man and devout Christian, who now lives with his wife, Evelin, and two children Hanyelle, 4, and Edward, 2, in Decatur, Texas.
 
“The second time was more emotional for me, because winning back to back championships had never been done before.”
And a third straight title is in the crosshairs. “I do not know if I will win,” he says, “but I am certainly working toward that, though all the riders are riding very well. Only God knows what will happen.”
 
By Alan Ross
Teaser:
Silvano Alves seeks a record third straight PBR title at World Finals.
Post date: Tuesday, October 22, 2013 - 16:18
All taxonomy terms: Pac-12, UCLA Bruins, College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/college-basketball-2013-14-ucla-preview
Body:


This preview and more on UCLA and the Pac-12 are available in the Athlon Sports 2013-14 College Basketball Preseason Annual. The magazine is available online or on newsstands everywhere.

No. 23 UCLA Facts & Figures
Last season: 25-10 (13-5 Pac-12)
Postseason: NCAA Round of 64
Coach: Steve Alford (First season at UCLA)
Pac-12 projection: Second
Postseason projection: NCAA Round of 32
The Steve Alford Era at UCLA got off to a rather inauspicious start, as the former All-American at Indiana arrived in Westwood with little fanfare and amid questions about his coaching past. The school’s boosters — many of whom pined for Brad Stevens, Billy Donovan or Rick Pitino — weren’t impressed with the résumé of their new coach: Five NCAA Tournament wins in 18 seasons at Southwest Missouri State, Iowa and New Mexico.

How can Alford resuscitate his image and satiate the masses? Simple. Win.

Howland did plenty of that his first five years — 126 times, in fact. That number fell to 107 in his last five seasons at the helm, and despite a Pac-12 regular season crown and 25 wins in 2013, Howland wore out his welcome.

Alford, though, barely got one. And with a thin roster and a meager recruiting class, winning games, much less hearts and minds, won’t be an easy task.

After transfers and NBA defections, the Bruins are left with just 10 scholarship players, four of whom have not played a college game and another who averaged just over six minutes last season.

Alford will turn to three players from Howland’s highly regarded 2012 recruiting class to lead the way, starting with do-everything point forward Kyle Anderson and feisty scorer Jordan Adams. The key, though, might be the other remaining member of the class, Tony Parker. A 6-9 center who fell out of favor with Howland, Parker could thrive in the size-deficient Pac-12.

Related: Q&A with UCLA's Kyle Anderson

Frontcourt


The loss of Shabazz Muhammad after one year to the NBA Draft leaves the Bruins without some firepower, but a veteran group in the post should ease some of the pain. Travis and David Wear return for their senior years and will provide leadership and production, though both need to get better around the rim.

Parker toyed with the idea of transferring but stayed in Westwood hoping to improve drastically on his meager 6.3 minutes per game last year as a freshman. Reports about Parker over the summer were positive — if he has dropped some weight and added some mobility, the Bruins may have their big man.

UCLA also picked up a key transfer in former Texas Tech forward Wanaah Bail, a lengthy big man who could be a defensive force in the Pac-12 when he was declared eligible this month.

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


Backcourt

Anderson is a 6-9 Swiss Army Knife who can play almost any spot on the floor. The former 5-star recruit earned second-team All-Pac-12 honors last season, when he averaged 9.7 points, 8.6 rebounds and 3.5 assists. Anderson will handle the point more frequently as a sophomore
with Larry Drew II lost to graduation. Expect his production — and his impact on the game — to increase significantly.

Adams will once again be one of the Bruins’ primary options on offense. He averaged 15.3 points (eighth in the Pac-12) and had a team-high 46 3-pointers as a freshman. Adams burst onto the scene with four straight 20-point games to start his career and added three more by the end of December. He had only four more the rest of the way, however, and UCLA will rely on him to play at a high level on a more consistent basis as a sophomore.

Defensive stopper Norman Powell, who averaged 22.1 minutes last season primarily coming of the bench, is the only other backcourt contributor returning. Two freshman, Bryce Alford (the coach’s son) and Zach LaVine, will play immediately. Alford, who broke the New Mexico high school single-season scoring record last year, is a capable outside shooter. LaVine can play both backcourt positions and oozes potential.

Newcomers

UCLA's 2013 class does not have the star power of the previous haul, but multiple players could be thrust into major roles early. Freshman Zach LaVine should see time as the backup point guard. Wanaah Bail, who originally signed with Texas Tech, will be a key part of the frontcourt. Bryce Alford, Steve’s son, can bring some outside shooting off the bench. Noah Allen will find time as a reserve small forward.

Final Analysis
Factoid: 1-3. Steve Alford is 1–3 as a No. 3 seed in the NCAA Tournament. The losses have come to two No. 14 seeds and a No. 11 seed.


Ultimately, the biggest thing Alford has going for him is that he’s not Ben Howland. Howland’s gruff exterior was tolerable, if not commendable, during UCLA’s three-year Final Four run in the mid-2000s. While no banners were hung, the Bruins hadn’t enjoyed that kind of success in decades. Things turned sour for Howland, however, and the school opted to pull the plug in March.

Alford steps into one of the elite coaching jobs in the nation. There is pressure to win every year at UCLA. And while the 2013-14 roster lacks depth, there is enough talent in the short term to contend for the Pac-12 title. Long term, Alford will need to prove that he can build a program that can compete for a national title on a consistent basis. UCLA fans will accept nothing less.

2013-14 Preseason Top 25
23. UCLA
24. Baylor
25. Wichita State

 

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College Basketball: 2013-14 UCLA Preview
Post date: Tuesday, October 22, 2013 - 07:00
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This Q&A and more on UCLA and the Pac-12 are available in the Athlon Sports 2013-14 College Basketball Preseason Annual. The magazine is available online or on newsstands everywhere.
Kyle Anderson is a New Jersey native who was considered one of the top point guards coming out of high school two years ago. Anderson’s freshman season at UCLA was solid — he earned second-team All-Pac-12 honors after averaging 9.7 points, 8.6 rebounds and 3.5 assists — but he was forced to play out of position due to the presence of senior point guard Larry Drew II.

Now, as a sophomore, Anderson can expect to have the ball in his hands more frequently while playing under new coach Steve Alford. Athlon Sports caught up with Anderson over the summer to talk about his transition to the West Coast and his thoughts on the upcoming season.

His UCLA team checked in at No. 23 in our countdown
.

You are  New Jersey guy. Why did you decide to go to all the way across the country and what do you miss most about the northeast?

I wanted to go to UCLA because of its history and tradition. The hardest thing was the distance. It’s been a challenge, but I came around, and I’m happy I decided to come all the way out here. I was real homesick last year, especially in the summer, but I got over it once the games started. It was rough at first, though. It’s been a personal challenge for me and I never considered leaving for another school.

You were recruited by Ben Howland. When did you know he was going to be fired at UCLA and were you surprised when it happened?

We won the Pac-12 regular-season title, but I think we started to have an idea when we lost in the conference tournament. I got a call from Coach Howland right after he got fired. It was tough because he was the one who recruited me. I thought we had a very good season, but obviously it wasn’t up to me. It was a distraction at times during the season, but we tried to stay focused and not pay attention to what people were saying. 


Do you ever think about what might have happened — and whether Howland would still be the coach — if Jordan Adams (right) hadn’t broken his foot in the Pac-12 tourney?

In my opinion, if Jordan hadn’t gotten hurt, we would have been the fifth seed out west and done well in the NCAA Tournament. Jordan’s injury was very unfortunate, especially the timing of it. I think it all would have worked out if he hadn’t broken his foot, but you can’t go back and think about that now. We have to just look ahead. 


How close did you come to putting your name in for the NBA Draft last year?

Very close, but I decided that this was the right move for me. I wanted to take this offseason as another challenge, to get my body right and take my game to another level rather than trying to go to the NBA. I wanted to stay another year, work on my game and enjoy college for another season. 



Did you know anything at all about Steve Alford, and what are your impressions of him thus far?

I watch enough college basketball and saw a few New Mexico games last season. They had a very good team with guys like Tony Snell and Kendall Williams. I saw the freedom he gave those guys, and hopefully he can bring the success and that freedom to UCLA.

How anxious were you through the process after Howland got fired?

I was wondering who our coach was going to be. The way I found out about Alford being our coach is that someone woke me up and told me. I didn’t really know who he was at first, but when they said he’s the coach at New Mexico, then I realized who it was. He’s a guy who played for one of the greatest coaches of all time in Coach (Bob) Knight and also won a national title. So he knows what it’s like to win at the highest level.

You had to play power forward last season as a freshman. What was the most difficult part of the adjustment and how did it help you?

It was tough going up against guys that were two or three years older and much bigger and more physical. I had to step up for the challenge and it was hard for me, especially early in the season. Once I figured out that I had to be the one to hit first, it became much easier for me. But the physical aspect was by far the most difficult.

Related: 2013-14 Pac-12 Preview

Has Alford told you what your role will be this season — and whether you’ll be the primary point guard?

We haven’t talked about that at all yet. I’m not sure and I’m not going to ask, I’m not that kind of kid. I don’t want to make demands or anything like that, but it’ll be nice to know where I’m going to play. I’m sure I’ll find out soon enough.

Have you always played point guard before last season?

Yes, but I haven’t played it in a while now. But growing up, I was always the point guard. My whole life. Although my first two years at St. Anthony’s, I played with Myles Mack, who is at Rutgers now. I played off the ball a decent amount, but not nearly as much as I was last year with Larry (Drew). Last year playing off the ball encouraged me to go and rebound more. Go get the ball.

You are a unique point guard. Who do you try and pattern your game after?

I’ve always enjoyed watching NBA Classic and seeing Magic Johnson — the way he made his teammates so much better and the way he’d handle the ball and put guys on his hip. Even before I grew, I admired him. Obviously, I’m nowhere near Magic, but we’re both big point guards. He’s one of the best players ever to play the game. Other guys I liked to watch tape of are Penny Hardaway and Steve Smith.

Who gave you the nickname Slow-Mo?

It was this guy named Hassan, who used to commentate over the loud speaker at the IS8 league in New York. I was a young player and he gave me the nickname and it stuck. I loved it. It’s just the way I am. I don’t intend to play slow, but it’s just the way my game is.

How good is Alford’s son, Bryce?  Can you guys play together?

He’s a very good player and can do a lot of things. He’s good with the ball in his hands and finds people. He can create for himself and what he can also do is really shoot the ball. I think we can play together in the backcourt because of his ability to shoot. He can definitely help us this year.

What did you wind up doing in the offseason — and what was your focus in terms of getting better?

I stayed in L.A. all summer for summer school. The biggest thing for me was my eating habits. It sounds silly, but it’s been my Kryptonite. I’ve never been big on eating healthy. I’ve started watching what I eat and it’s already paid off. I’m trying to make it a lifestyle. Sometimes I still cheat on my diet, but I’m already seeing a difference in my body. I played last year at 240 pounds. Now I’m down to 230, and it’s a lot more muscle. If I’m going to cheat on my diet, it’s probably going to be with fast food — maybe a grilled chicken sandwich at McDonald’s.

Most important thing you learned playing for legendary high school coach Bob Hurley?
Just taking everything one day and one practice at a time. Great practices lead to great games. Don’t get ahead of yourself.

Related: 2013-14 UCLA Preview

Favorite visiting venue to play in?

When I was able to come back close to home last year and play in the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. It was great having my family there, but the arena was also unbelievable.

Least favorite?

Colorado. People talk about the altitude, but you don’t believe them until you play there. I thought it was a myth, but it’s tough to breathe. No wonder why the Nuggets are so tough to beat at home.

Other coach in the league he would like to play for?

Sean Miller at Arizona. When he was the head coach at Xavier, he was the first one to offer me a scholarship. I was really young. I think he started recruiting me when I was in the eighth grade.

Who was the toughest player to guard last year in the Pac-12?

Arsalan Kazemi or Oregon. He has a motor like Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and was much stronger and older than me. I couldn’t do anything with him.

Toughest defender you’ve gone up against?

Carlos Emory, also of Oregon. He’s a very good defender, another guy with a high motor who was stronger than me. It came down to experience and he had more than me, as tough as it is to say.



Best player you’ve ever played with?

Kyrie Irving. I played with him in an all-star game and he was just amazing. He can do everything. I was a young kid. He’s like poetry in motion.

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College Basketball: Q&A with UCLA's Kyle Anderson
Post date: Tuesday, October 22, 2013 - 07:00
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That's right, Kansas City Chiefs coach Andy Reid was excited after another big win. And so was LSU Freek, who created another brilliant GIF. This time it was of Reid doing his best impersonation of the Kool-Aid Man. The similarities are uncanny.

Andy Reid is the Kool-Aid man

 

 

Teaser:
Andy Reid IS the Kool-Aid Man (GIF)
Post date: Monday, October 21, 2013 - 22:15
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Legends Poll
Path: /college-football/2013-legends-poll-top-25-college-football-week-8
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Saturday brought chaos to college football, creating nearly a complete overhaul in the rankings after six of the top 10 teams went down in defeat.
 
No. 3 Florida State made the most impressive statement of the weekend, demolishing then-No. 3 Clemson 51-14 in Death Valley. The Seminoles became the first team to score 50 or more points at Clemson. The loss dropped the Tigers to No. 10.
 
Top-ranked Alabama managed to tighten its stranglehold on the No. 1 spot in the Legends Poll. The Crimson Tide received 15 of the 16 first place votes and remain the lone SEC team in the top 10.
 
No. 2 Oregon stayed unbeaten as it awaits a showdown with No. 15 UCLA next weekend. UCLA suffered its first loss at the hands of No. 5 Stanford Saturday but poses a challenge for Oregon.
 
Ohio State held on against Iowa at home and stayed put at No. 4.
 
No. 6 Baylor made its highest ever appearance in the Legends Poll and first ever showing in the top 10. No. 7 Missouri, No. 8 Miami (FL) and No. 9 Texas Tech all made their top 10 appearances this season.
 
Auburn made one of the biggest moves in the rankings, jumping all the way to No. 12 after knocking off Johnny Manziel and No. 17 Texas A&M Saturday.
 
No. 22 Northern Illinois, No. 24 Oregon State and No. 25 Arizona State were also newcomers to the rankings this week.
 
Florida, Georgia, Washington and Texas all dropped out of the top 25.
 
To see the individual votes by coach, visit the Legends Poll
 
THE LEGENDS POLL TOP 25
RKTEAMRECORDPOINTSPV RK
1AlabamaAlabama (15)7-03991
2OregonOregon (1)7-03822
3Florida StateFlorida State6-03685
4Ohio StateOhio State7-03554
5StanfordStanford6-131612
6BaylorBaylor6-031111
7MissouriMissouri7-030814
8Miami (FL)Miami (FL)6-029313
9Texas TechTexas Tech7-024816
10ClemsonClemson6-12343
11LSULSU6-22116
12AuburnAuburn6-1200-
13OklahomaOklahoma6-119517
14LouisvilleLouisville6-11708
15UCLAUCLA5-11629
16Oklahoma StateOklahoma State5-114919
17Texas A&MTexas A&M5-21467
18WisconsinWisconsin5-213418
19Virginia TechVirginia Tech6-110821
20Fresno StateFresno State6-010520
21South CarolinaSouth Carolina5-28210
22Northern IllinoisNorthern Illinois7-070-
23MichiganMichigan6-15724
24Oregon StateOregon State6-142-
25Arizona StateArizona State5-233-

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

 

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Post date: Monday, October 21, 2013 - 11:53
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After all the massive hoopla surrounding the return of Peyton Manning to Indianapolis for last night's game (and the fact that he JUST played against Peyton Manning), you'd think Colts cornerback Vontae Davis would know that it wasn't Tom Brady he just played. You'd be wrong.

Teaser:
After all the massive hoopla surrounding the return of Peyton Manning to Indianapolis for last night's game (and the fact that he JUST played against Peyton Manning), you'd think Colts cornerback Vontae Davis would know that it wasn't Tom Brady he just played. You'd be wrong.
Post date: Monday, October 21, 2013 - 08:46
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When the Ole Miss Rebels beat No. 6 LSU in a stunning upset this weekend, players were anxiously awaiting the joy of giving coach Hugh Freeze a ceremonial Gatorade bath. Unfortunately, they couldn't find him and wandered the field with a giant bucket and nobody to douse. It was equal parts sadness and hilarity. Mostly hilarity.

Teaser:
When the Ole Miss Rebels beat No. 6 LSU in a stunning upset this weekend, players were anxiously awaiting the joy of giving coach Hugh Freeze a ceremonial Gatorade bath.
Post date: Monday, October 21, 2013 - 07:32
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This preview and more on Wichita State and the Missouri Valley Conference are available in the Athlon Sports 2013-14 College Basketball Preseason Annual. The magazine is available online or on newsstands everywhere.

No. 25 Wichita State Facts & Figures
Last season: 30-9 (12-6 Missouri Valley)
Postseason: NCAA Final Four
Coach: Gregg Marshall (139-70 at Wichita State)
Missouri Valley projection: First
Postseason projection: NCAA Round of 32
There is no mystery as to how Wichita State will follow up its Final Four appearance. The Shockers will do the same things they always do under coach Gregg Marshall — defend, rebound, play harder than most teams and win a bunch of games.

That should be enough to get them back in the NCAA Tournament. There, they will take their chances with another tough team loaded with experience and confidence. The Shockers are 9–2 in the postseason with an NIT title and two NCAA appearances the past three seasons. They know how to win against good teams.

“This team has to make some new footprints,” sophomore guard Fred VanVleet says. “It’s nice to look back (on the Final Four), but we lost key guys from that group and it’s time to reload and go right back to war with a new group of guys.”

Frontcourt

A year ago, few people outside Wichita knew about forward Cleanthony Early. During summer workouts, Marshall said that Early had miles to go to understand defense and the need to play hard all the time. Early, then a junior transfer from a Division III junior college, figured it out quickly, especially on offense. In the Final Four, he caught the nation’s attention with 24 points and 10 rebounds against Louisville. He went to the Kevin Durant Nike Skills Academy over the summer, and NBA scouts will stalk WSU games this season. He worked on ball-handling and defense in the offseason.

The rest of the frontcourt is inexperienced. Carl Hall, the team’s best post scorer, and Ehimen Orukpe, a shot-blocker, are gone. Kadeem Coleby is a transfer from Louisana-Lafayette, where he averaged 9.5 points and 4.9 rebounds. Forward Darius Carter earned NJCAA All-American honors at Vincennes (Ind.) University after averaging 15.8 points and 8.3 rebounds. Freshman Shaq Morris is a skilled post player. Senior Chadrack played in 30 games last season.

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


Backcourt

VanVleet takes over for Malcolm Armstead as the on-court leader. As a freshman, he enjoyed the luxury of learning from seniors Armstead and Demetric Williams. As a sophomore, VanVleet takes on greater responsibilities.

He’ll get plenty of help from the wings. There are not many years of experience in this group, but there is plenty of quality time played big games. Junior Tekele Cotton is a defensive stopper who turned himself into a good outside shooter. Sophomore Ron Baker missed most of the regular season with a stress fracture in his left foot but returned for the postseason and started all five NCAA Tournament games.

“The majority of us are young, but at the same we’ve got a lot of minutes under our belt,” Baker says. “I feel pretty confident in our team. We’re just going to have to get our chemistry right so that we can be successful.”

Sophomore Evan Wessel started eight games before a broken finger ended his season. He made 11-of-24 3-pointers and is one of WSU’s best defenders. Senior Nick Wiggins (41.9 percent from three last year) is an excellent shooter off the bench. He is the brother of Kansas freshman Andrew Wiggins, the nation’s top newcomer.

Newcomers

The Shockers grabbed forward Darius Carter during their Final Four run, and he is expected to help up front. He is an outstanding athlete with good offensive skills. Center Kadeem Coleby, who practiced with the team last season, is a shot-blocker and rebounder who can score around the rim. Center Shaq Morris knows he needs to get in better shape, but he is a prized recruit. It’s not often WSU gets a physically developed big man with four seasons to develop.

Final Analysis
Factoid: 30. Wichita State set a school record for wins with its 30–9 record and has averaged 27.8 wins the past four seasons. Four straight seasons with 20-plus victories are a first for the program.


The Shockers defeated Pittsburgh, Gonzaga, La Salle and Ohio State last season on the way to Atlanta. They didn’t win the MVC, going 12–6 and losing twice to Evansville. That’s both a credit to the Valley and a reminder to the Shockers that they can’t cruise into another memorable March.

With Creighton’s departure for the Big East, Wichita State is the MVC’s clear favorite. A challenging non-conference schedule includes games against Alabama, Saint Louis, Tennessee and Davidson. The potential issues are interior scoring and depth behind VanVleet. Early should develop into a star who can carry WSU with his scoring, and VanVleet, Baker and Cotton are youngsters who play with great composure. Don’t underestimate the return of Wessel, who will add another good shooter and a smart player who knows how to run the offense.

The Shockers’ talent and depth should send them into March with 20 wins and a chance for more. As long as Marshall is the coach, that will be the expectation for Shocker fans every season.

*Photo courtesty of Jeff Tuttle, Wichita State

 

2013-14 Preseason Top 25
24. Baylor
25. Wichita State

 

Teaser:
College Basketball: 2013-14 Wichita State Preview
Post date: Monday, October 21, 2013 - 07:00
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This preview and more on Baylor 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.

No. 24 Baylor Facts & Figures
Last season: 23-14 (9-9 Big 12)
Postseason: NIT champion
Coach: Scott Drew (180-138 at Baylor)
Big 12 projection: Third
Postseason projection: NCAA Round of 32
Ten years after inheriting one of the most difficult situations in college basketball history, Scott Drew and his Baylor basketball team will kick off the 2013-14 season by hanging a championship banner in the Ferrell Center rafters.

Granted, an NIT title hardly compares to a NCAA trophy — or even a Big 12 championship. Still, for a program that nearly received the death penalty following the Patrick Dennehy murder scandal in 2003, winning any sort of trophy is considered a monumental feat in Waco.

“We were disappointed we didn’t make the NCAA Tournament,” Drew says. “But what happened in the NIT was great for this program. It brought a lot of pride to our school and our community. Now we’re ready to take that next step.”

Even with the loss of Big 12 scoring and assists leader Pierre Jackson, Drew and his players are optimistic about the upcoming season. Kansas may be the clear-cut favorite to win its 10th straight conference title, but sleeping on the Bears would be a mistake.

Frontcourt

Not many teams in the country will be as strong in the paint as Baylor. The Bears caught a break when 7-foot-1 center Isaiah Austin was forced to return for his sophomore season after tearing his right labrum in April. Austin was projected as a mid-to-late-first-round NBA Draft pick and had all but decided to leave school after one season, but the injury would’ve kept him from conducting individual workouts with prospective teams and would’ve hurt his draft stock. Austin averaged 13.0 points and a team-high 8.3 rebounds as a freshman, but he was often manhandled on the defensive end. He needs to add some bulk to his wiry, 225-pound frame.

Joining Austin down low is senior Cory Jefferson, a freakishly athletic forward who keyed the Bears’ postseason success. The 6-9 Jefferson averaged 21.2 points in five NIT games and enhanced his skills during the summer as a member of the United States squad that competed in the World University Games in Russia.

Also figuring prominently into the rotation will be Ricardo Gathers, a 270-pound bruiser who averaged 5.7 points and 5.7 boards last season despite playing just 17 minutes a game.

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


Backcourt

The Bears took a massive hit with the graduation of Jackson, a second-round NBA Draft pick who led the Big 12 in scoring (19.8 ppg) and assists (7.1 apg). His likely replacement will be Kenny Chery, who averaged 16.4 points and shot 45 percent from 3-point range in junior college last season. Chery is known as a “scoring guard,” but Drew wants to make sure he also focuses on feeding the Bears’ standout post players as well as long-range specialist Brady Heslip, a senior shooting guard who is looking to bounce back from a mediocre junior year.

Combo guard Gary Franklin, who has been a staple in the Bears’ backcourt rotation the past two seasons, could challenge Heslip for a starting spot. Also contending for minutes will be freshman Allerick Freeman, a top-100 recruit who signed with the Bears in the spring after decommitting from UCLA. Freeman is a shooting guard, but he’s told Drew that he wants to play point guard as well.

The biggest area of improvement for Baylor in 2013-14 will likely be on the wing, where the Bears have three “inside-outside” players who are capable of playing both on the perimeter and in the paint. Freshman Ishmael Wainwright was the highest-ranked member of the program’s 2013 recruiting class and should contend for a starting spot with the versatile Royce O’Neale, who averaged 11.4 points and 5.5 rebounds for the University of Denver last season. Sophomore Taurean Prince will also be in the mix for playing time.

Newcomers

Although they are both natural small forwards, Ishmael Wainwright and Royce O’Neale can play any position except center. The long and athletic Wainwright is known for his leadership and defensive fire — two things Baylor has lacked. O’Neale was one of the better players in the WAC last season for Denver. His experience may give him an edge. Allerick Freeman is a highly ranked combo guard who initially committed to UCLA.

Final Analysis
Factoid: 15–4. Scott Drew since has an 15–4 record in the postseason at Baylor. Under Drew, the Bears have earned three NCAA Tournament bids and made two appearances in the NIT.


Most teams that lose a player of Jackson’s ilk tend to take a step back the following season — especially considering he played the most important position on the court. Baylor, though, returns virtually every other key piece of its roster. The keys for Baylor will be how quickly Chery adapts to the Division I level, the improvement Austin makes on the defensive end and the impact on the wing from Wainwright and/or O’Neale. If those things turn into positives for Baylor, the Bears will be contending for championships much more prestigious than the one they won in 2013.

2013-14 Preseason Top 25
24. Baylor
25. Wichita State

Teaser:
College Basketball: 2013-14 Baylor Preview
Post date: Monday, October 21, 2013 - 07:00
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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.” 
 
Jordan Lynch1. Jordan Lynch, Northern Illinois
Northern Illinois continues to keep their BCS busting dreams alive for a second straight season, and quarterback Jordan Lynch continues to play a starring role in all of it. On the road against central Michigan, Lynch set a new FBS record for the most rushing yards by a quarterback in a game, a record previously held by another Northern Illinois quarterback, Stacey Robinson. Lynch rushed for 316 yards in the win for the Huskies. Lynch also rushed for three touchdowns and completed 20 of 30 passes for 155 yards and a touchdown.
 
2. Sean Mannion, Oregon State
The NCAA passing leader continued to put up big numbers Saturday night. Oregon State’s Sean Mannion completed 35 of 45 passes for 481 yards and four touchdowns. Mannion is closing in on 3,000 passing yards and 30 touchdowns after just seven games. Mannion now has 2,992 yards and 29 touchdowns to just three interceptions and he is averaging about 50 yards more per game than the NCAA’s second-leading passer, Fresno State’s Derek Carr.
 
3. Derek Carr, Fresno State
Derek Carr set a pair of new school records in Fresno State’s 38-14 victory over UNLV. After completing 33 of 46 of his pass attempts for 412 yards and four touchdowns, Carr broke career school records for completions and touchdowns and became the third quarterback in school history to eclipse 10,000 career passing yards. This week marked the fourth time this season Carr had over 400 passing yards in a game and the fifth game with at least three touchdowns.
 
4. Keith Wenning, Ball State
Keith Wenning completed 25 of 37 pass attempts for 324 yards and three touchdowns in Ball State’s road win at Western Michigan. It was the second week in a row Wenning had three touchdown passes. Wenning also continued his season-long streak of 300-yard games, now with eight. Wenning’s performance on the road helped the Cardinals improve to 7-1 and remain in first place in the MAC West Division, ahead of Northern Illinois.
 
5. Blake Bortles, Central Florida
Central Florida got an early start on a weekend full of upsets when they knocked off Louisville Friday night. Central Florida went on a 31-7 run in the second half to pull the upset, and Blake Bortles played a key role in it all. Bortles tossed two touchdowns in leading Central Florida after being down 28-7 midway through the third quarter, including a short game-winning pass to Jeff Godfrey with 23 seconds left in the game. At the end of the night Bortles passed for 250 yards and two touchdowns and scored perhaps the best win of the weekend for a Golden Arm Award candidate.
 
Sponsored by Transamerica
Teaser:
The Golden Arm award is presented to the top senior quarterback by the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Foundation.
Post date: Sunday, October 20, 2013 - 20:28
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Jameis Winston’s performance against Clemson was nearly flawless. Just ask Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher.

Even one of the few miscues for Winston — a first-quarter interception — wasn’t totally on the Florida State freshman quarterback.

“The interception was our fault,” Fisher said. “The headset went out. We signaled the route to the receiver and they ran the double move. The coach who signaled to Winston signaled for the single move. We had to throw away the headset. That could have cost you the ballgame. It cost us a huge turnover in the game. He didn't make that mistake, but he handled it well."

Winston’s poise has been the theme of the season for Florida State as much as the Seminoles’ return to the national championship stage. Against Clemson on the road, Winston displayed both by passing for 444 yards in a 51-14 rout of the Tigers.

Winston’s performance against the then-No. 3 Tigers earned him his second sweep of Athlon Sports National Player of the Week and National Freshman of the Week awards.

Athlon Sports Week 8 National Awards
 

National Offensive Player of the Week and Freshman of the Week: Jameis Winston, Florida State
A crowd of more 83,000 and a top-five showdown on the road was nothing to Winston. The freshman completed 22 of 34 passes for 444 yards and three touchdowns in the 51-14 blowout over Clemson. Winston also rushed for a four-yard score in the third quarter and had a 94-yard toss to tight end Nick O’Leary that nearly resulted in a touchdown in the fourth quarter. The freshman’s only interception was the result of a miscommunication by the coaching staff, which is just his third pick on the season.

National Defensive Player of the Week: Michael Sam, Missouri
Missouri beat Florida 36-17 in Maty Mauk’s first start at quarterback, but the story of the day was the Tigers’ surprisingly dominant defense. Defensive end Michael Sam recorded three sacks — to increase his SEC-leading total to 9.0 — to spearhead a Mizzou defense that limited Florida to 151 yards of offense. Sam also leads the SEC with 13.0 tackles for a loss.

National Coordinator of the Week: Derek Mason, Stanford

UCLA's Heisman-contending quarterback Brett Hundley came into the game 11th in the nation in passing efficiency (165.0) and eighth nationally in total offense (345.8 yards per game). The Bruins were fifth nationally in total offense (547.0 yards per game) and seventh in scoring offense (45.8). Mason's physical defense held UCLA to just 10 points and 266 yards of offense, and, in particular, made life miserable for Hundley. The Bruins quarterback threw two interceptions, was sacked four times and mustered just 219 yards of offense.

Athlon Week 8 Conference Awards

ACC
Offense: Jameis Winston, Florida State
Defense: Lamarcus Joyner, Florida State
Freshman: Jameis Winston, Florida State
Coordinator: Jeremy Pruitt, Florida State

Big 12
Offense: Josh Stewart, Oklahoma State
Defense: Charles Tapper, Oklahoma
Freshman: Davis Webb, Texas Tech
Coordinator: Phil Bennett, Baylor

Big Ten
Offense: Devin Gardner/Jeremy Gallon, Michigan
Defense: Max Bullough/Denicos Allen, Michigan State
Freshman: T.J. Simmons, Indiana
Coordinator: Tracy Claeys, Minnesota

Pac-12
Offense: Tyler Gaffney, Stanford
Defense: Jordan Richards, Stanford
Freshman: Michael Adkins II, Colorado
Coordinator: Derek Mason, Stanford

SEC
Offense: Tre Mason, Auburn
Defense: Michael Sam, Missouri
Freshman: Marquez North, Tennessee
Coordinator: Bob Shoop, Vanderbilt

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Jameis Winston earns his second national player of the week honors
Post date: Sunday, October 20, 2013 - 14:50
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This preview and more on Arizona State and the Pac-12 are available in the Athlon Sports 2013-14 College Basketball Preseason Annual. The magazine is available online or on newsstands everywhere.

Arizona State Facts & Figures
Last season: 22-13 (9-9 Pac-12)
Postseason: NIT second round
Coach: Herb Sendek (120-109 at Nebraska)
Pac-12 projection: Fifth
Postseason projection: NCAA Round of 64
Arizona State has made the NCAA Tournament once in seven years under Herb Sendek. That should change this season.

The Sun Devils have one of the nation’s best players in point guard Jahii Carson, an emerging if inconsistent big man in center Jordan Bachynski and a big-time transfer in shooting guard Jermaine Marshall. ASU also has improved its traditionally weak home non-conference schedule, so the NCAA Tournament selection committee won’t scoff at its RPI.

At this point, Sendek may need an NCAA berth to save his job. Carson is expected to turn pro after this season, leaving a huge void in the program. Simply put, it’s now or not anytime soon for both the Sun Devils and Sendek.

Frontcourt

The Sun Devils desperately need the 7-2 Bachynski to shed his reputation as an enigma and become a potential double-double every time he steps on the floor. There are times when Bachynski is a dominant player; he had a Pac-12-record 120 blocks last season. But there are also times when he disappears; he had only two points and three rebounds against California last year. ASU doesn’t need Bachynski to be a big scorer; Carson will take care of that. But he has to stay on the floor for 30 minutes — which means staying out of foul trouble — and contribute, say, 12 points, seven or eight rebounds and three blocked shots every night.

Junior Jonathan Gilling hit a team-high 84 3-point shots last season, but like Bachynski he also had too many off nights. Given the attention Carson demands from the defense, Gilling should get enough open looks to be a 40 percent shooter from 3-point range rather than the 36.7 percent shooter he was last season. To his credit, Gilling has become a much better rebounder — averaging 6.1 per game — and defender.

The loss of Carrick Felix to the NBA is huge. He was ASU’s best defensive player, its second-leading scorer and in many ways, its leader. The Sun Devils don’t have a ready-made replacement. Michigan State transfer Brandan Kearney is the most likely choice, but he won’t be eligible until the Pac-12 season.

Backcourt

ASU should have one of the strongest backcourts in the Pac-12. Carson, obviously, is the catalyst. He was nothing short of brilliant his freshman year, ranking second in the conference in scoring while racking up 177 assists, the sixth-most for a freshman in Pac-12 history.

Carson, however, does has room to improve. He needs to be more consistent with his 3-point shot — although he has an uncanny knack of making them when they most count — which will prevent defenses from sagging off him as they did at times last year. Also, he almost exclusively goes to his right. If he can go left even on occasion, defenders will have to play him more honestly.

But those are nitpicks. Carson is a legitimate All-America candidate, a potential first-round NBA Draft choice and the reason Sendek will employ a hurry-up offense this season. The coach wants his team to shoot the ball in the first 12 seconds of the shot clock as often as possible.

ASU faced a huge hole at off guard when Evan Gordon unexpectedly transferred but then upgraded the position with the transfer in of Marshall, who averaged 15.3 points per game at Penn State last season. Marshall can shoot the three and get to the basket. He should be the perfect complement to Carson.

There’s not a lot of depth or talent behind Carson and Marshall, so it’s imperative they stay healthy. Shaquielle McKissic, a junior college import, could provide some athleticism in a reserve role, and redshirt freshman Calaen Robinson has a chance to earn some playing time, although Carson likely will play at least 35 minutes per game.

Newcomers

The Sun Devils will have eight new players, including five transfers. Jermaine Marshall is the big get; he’ll start at shooting guard and should be the perfect complement to Carson. Transfers Sai Tummala and Brandan Kearney will vie to replace the departed Carrick Felix at small forward. Kearney won’t be eligible until the Pac-12 season but his defense could give him the edge.

Final analysis
Factoid: 20. It had been 20 years since a Pac-12 freshman averaged at least 18.5 points and 5.1 assists per game. Jahii Carson put up those numbers last season.
Believe it or not, the key isn’t Carson. He’ll undoubtedly be one of the country’s top players and arguably the best player in the Pac-12. But the Sun Devils don’t have a lot of size, making it imperative that Bachynski steps up. If he’s more consistent, and ASU can identity a wing player who can defend, ASU should be one of the top four or five teams in the conference and a strong bet to reach the NCAA Tournament.

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College Basketball: 2013-14 Arizona State Preview
Post date: Friday, October 18, 2013 - 07:00
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This preview and more on Colorado and the Pac-12 are available in the Athlon Sports 2013-14 College Basketball Preseason Annual. The magazine is available online or on newsstands everywhere.

Colorado Facts & Figures
Last season: 21-12 (10-8 Pac-12)
Postseason: NCAA Round of 64
Coach: Tad Boyle (69-38 at Colorado)
Pac-12 projection: Third
Postseason projection: NCAA Round of 64
Tad Boyle made history at Colorado the past three years, winning at least 21 games in each of those seasons and taking the Buffs to the postseason three straight times. None of that had been accomplished in the history of the program.

Now, on to the next challenge — keeping all the momentum going. “I think the key is our players,” Boyle says. “They expect to win. They expect to be successful. They expect to go to the postseason. I think our coaches do, and I know our fans are enjoying getting used to it as well.”

Had forward Andre Roberson returned for his senior season instead of jumping to the NBA, the 2013-14 Buffaloes would have been, arguably, the most talented team in school history. Losing Roberson scales back those grand proclamations just a bit, but with another projected NBA first-rounder at point guard in junior Spencer Dinwiddie, a solid nucleus of returning players and another talented recruiting class, this still looks like one of the best CU teams in recent memory.

The Buffs will have an opportunity to prove themselves against a very difficult non-conference schedule. CU will play three top teams from the Big 12 (Kansas at home and Oklahoma State and Baylor in neutral court games) as well as Harvard, Colorado State, Georgia, Wyoming, Air Force and UCSB.

“I love our team coming back,” Boyle says. “We basically have four starters coming back. We lose a pretty key component with Andre, the rebounding and the experience factor, but we have a lot of capable young guys coming in and a couple that were sitting out.”

Frontcourt

Roberson’s 11 points per game won’t be hard to replace, but rebounding is expected to be much more of a collective effort now. Boyle will lean on four players in the paint, with sophomores Josh Scott and Xavier Johnson carrying the biggest expectations into the season.

They might be the second and third best players on the roster behind Dinwiddie. Both enjoyed success as true freshmen and should be able to build on it. Johnson is versatile and will sometimes play more like a guard offensively. Scott has a nice game in the paint and runs the floor well for a big.

Wesley Gordon, a 6-8 redshirt freshman, practiced against Roberson every day last season, and Boyle hopes he learned from the experience. Gordon might be the wild card on the roster because he’s being asked to fill Roberson’s shoes. Freshman Dustin Thomas, a 6-7 forward, will also get minutes.

Backcourt

Dinwiddie is the backbone of this team, and he affects the game in many ways. He led the Buffs in scoring last season at 15.3 points a game and assists with 3.0. He shot 240 free throws and is probably the team’s best defender. Dinwiddie, however, must become a more consistent outside shooter.

“I think he can have a breakout year for us,” Boyle says. “I think he can be one of the premier players in our conference and one of the best guards in the country.”

Fellow junior Askia Booker is fearless. He can get hot and score in bunches, but when his shots aren’t falling, he often becomes a liability. Boyle would like to see improved consistency, shot selection and defense from Booker.

Sophomores Xavier Talton and Eli Stalzer each played a little less than 10 minutes per game last season and will have to fight off freshmen to remain in the rotation.

Redshirt freshman Chris Jenkins, a 6-7 product of the Detroit area, brings length and athleticism off the bench and has a nice shooter’s touch. He could be a starter at some point in the season and send Booker back to the sixth man role in which he excelled two years ago. True freshman Jaron Hopkins will likely serve as Dinwiddie’s backup.

Newcomers

Colorado needs Dustin Thomas to contribute in the frontcourt. Small forward Tre’Shaun Fletcher might have the most scoring ability of the group. Jaron Hopkins will play minutes off the bench at the point.  George King was a late addition to the recruiting class in the spring following Andre Roberson’s departure and is probably the most likely to redshirt.

Final analysis
Factoid: 3. Colorado has had three straight non-losing conference records (one in Big 12, two in Pac-12), its longest such streak since the early 1960s.

The Buffs have the talent, experience and depth — as well as the coaching — to compete with Arizona, UCLA and Oregon for the conference title. Anything short of another NCAA Tournament appearance would be a disappointment at a school that is finally falling in love with its basketball program.

Teaser:
College Basketball: 2013-14 Colorado Preview
Post date: Friday, October 18, 2013 - 07:00
All taxonomy terms: Oregon Ducks, Pac-12, College Basketball, News
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This preview and more on Oregon and the Pac-12 are available in the Athlon Sports 2013-14 College Basketball Preseason Annual. The magazine is available online or on newsstands everywhere.

Oregon Facts & Figures
Last season: 28-9 (12-6 Pac-12)
Postseason: NCAA Sweet 16
Coach: Dana Altman (73-37 at Oregon)
Pac-12 projection: Fourth
Postseason projection: NCAA Round of 64
For all the success Oregon enjoyed in 2013, the Ducks still entered the offseason with a bad taste in their mouths. Louisville might have gone on to win the national championship, but that didn’t make Oregon’s loss to the Cardinals in the Sweet 16 any easier to swallow.

“I felt like that wasn’t the way it was supposed to be,” UO guard Johnathan Loyd says. “We want to fix that this year.”

As usual, the Ducks will attempt a quick rebuilding effort. For the third straight year, they’ve added a high-profile transfer with one season of eligibility remaining, in this case Mike Moser from UNLV. Meanwhile, replacing last season’s one-year wonder, Arsalan Kazemi, could be this team’s biggest question mark.

Oregon boasts a couple of emerging stars in sophomore Dominic Artis and Damyean Dotson. They’ll look to senior junior college transfer Richard Amardi, who was able to practice with the team over the summer, and Moser to help fill the gaps created by the loss of eight lettermen.

Frontcourt

Kazemi was a player who “got every rebound,” according to Dotson, who says the second-round NBA Draft pick will be Oregon’s toughest player to replace. Ben Carter, who averaged 10 minutes per game as Kazemi’s backup, will have an opportunity to take on a more prominent role. He’s a tough, athletic forward who showed flashes in the rare chances he got to spell Kazemi.

Amardi is a native of Ontario, Canada, a transfer who originally signed a Letter-of-Intent with Iowa State before joining the Ducks. At 6-9, he joins 6-11 senior Waverly Austin as the biggest players on the roster. Austin will look to find some consistency after playing sparingly behind Tony Woods last year, while Amardi provides some needed athleticism given the loss of dunk-artist Carlos Emory. “I’ll have somebody to throw more lobs to,” Loyd predicts.

If Kazemi wasn’t Oregon’s biggest loss, then it was do-everything wing E.J. Singler, who played just about every position on the floor at one time or another. The Ducks will look to Moser — the one-time UCLA Bruin who later transferred to UNLV — for similar versatility. Moser’s production dipped last season, but he averaged 14.0 points and 10.5 rebounds for UNVL two yearse ago.

Backcourt

Singler, Emory, Kazemi and Woods were four of Oregon’s top five scorers in 2012-13. The lone returner from the top five is Dotson, a wing who showed the potential to be one of the most explosive scorers in the conference both from the perimeter and attacking the basket.

“I’m more comfortable now, but every game you’ve got to work,” Dotson says. “Scoring isn’t going to come easy. You’ve got to take good shots, you can’t force them.”

Among the areas of his game Dotson tried to address over the offseason was the consistency of his defensive effort.
A foot injury cost point guard Artis nine games of his freshman season, during which the Ducks went 5–4. Hopes are high for the San Francisco native in ’13-14. “I expect him to be one of the best point guards in the country, start to finish,” Loyd says.

With Artis out, Loyd was among those who helped fill the void at the point. He was most effective as a spark off the bench — being named Most Outstanding Player of the Pac-12 Tournament — rather than when Artis was sidelined.

“I could tell my conditioning wasn’t where it was supposed to be,” says Loyd, who made 16 starts as a junior. “This year, hopefully being in a bigger role, I’ll be ready from the start.”

Oregon’s depth in the backcourt took a hit when Willie Moore and Fred Richardson III elected to transfer. Thus the Ducks will need some production from junior college transfer Jalil Abdul-Bassit and perhaps in-state recruit A.J. Lapray, who impressed teammates with his shooting ability over the summer.

Newcomers

Junior college transfer Richard Armardi ads size to frontcourt which lost some big bodies. Jordan Bell is an athletic freshman who can block shots. Mike Moser was considered one of the best players in the country two years ago at UNLV. Guard Joseph Young averaged 18 points per game at Houston last season. He is appealing for immediate eligibility. Freshman Christiano Felicio from Brazil also has eligibility concerns.


Final Analysis
Factoid: 1. Only once in the past 17 years has a Dana Altman-coached team failed to win at least 10 conference games. Altman’s first Oregon team, in 2010-11, went 7–11.


How long can Dana Altman keep working his rebuilding magic? He’s had major makeovers in each of his four seasons as Oregon’s coach and made significant postseason runs in each of the past three years. He faces another big chemistry test in 2013-14, and by now players have every confidence in Altman’s ability to construct a contender.

“I think we’re going to do a lot of winning,” Loyd says.

Teaser:
College Basketball: 2013-14 Oregon Preview
Post date: Friday, October 18, 2013 - 07:00
Path: /college-football/top-college-football-player-matchups-watch-week-8
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Each week, Athlon Sports will highlight some of the best one-on-one matchups to watch in college football. Here are the most important games within the game to watch this weekend:

Brett Hundley, QB vs. Shayne Skov, LB (UCLA at Stanford)
There may be no more important player in the nation this weekend than Hundley. He struggled against the Cardinal in his first meeting last year but learned from the experience and played well in the Pac-12 title game. With a developing supporting cast and electric dual-threat ability, he has the talent to take over a game at any point (ask Bo Pelini). Shayne Skov is the quarterback and leader of one of the best front sevens in the nation. He is the leading tackler and posted 14.0 tackles and 2.0 TFL in two wins over the Bruins last year.

Week 8 Previews and Predictions: ACCBig 12 Big Ten Pac-12 SEC

Cameron Erving, OT vs. Vic Beasley, DE (Florida State at Clemson)
The Seminoles 6-foot-6 junior is on the radar for NFL scouts, but Erving has been inconsistent at times. Saturday night should be a good showcase game as he will be matched up against Clemson ends Corey Crawford and Vic Beasley. That duo has combined for 18 tackles for a loss and 11 sacks this year. If Erving keeps Beasley and Crawford away from quarterback Jameis Winston, Florida State is going to have its way with the Tigers’ secondary.

Lamarcus Joyner, CB vs. Sammy Watkins, WR (Florida State at Clemson)
Two five-star recruits turned ACC stars will go head-to-head this weekend in Death Valley. Watkins is one of the nation’s most versatile and explosive wide receivers and is leading the Tigers with 36 catches, 582 yards and three straight games with a touchdown. Joyner, who is the Noles No. 2 tackles, helped to hold Watkins to just 24 yards on six receptions in the FSU win last year in Tallahassee. This will be a huge showdown between two future NFL players.

Melvin Gordon, RB vs. Jonathan Brown, LB (Wisconsin at Illinois)
On defense for Illinois, Brown, the Big Ten’s top tackler (60 total, 12.0 per game) will be faced with one of the most difficult tasks a linebacker in this league can face. Wisconsin’s offense is No. 1 in the league because of its traditionally powerful and deep running game. Wisconsin boasts the league’s No. 1 (Melvin Gordon), No. 4 (James White) and No. 10 (Corey Clement) rushers. Brown may have 20 tackles in this game but if they are all six yards down the field, it will be a long day for Illinois.

Jasson Verrett, CB vs. Josh Stewart, WR (TCU at Oklahoma State)
Stewart has one game under his belt after sustaining a concussion against West Virginia, but he had only two receptions against Kansas State. The Cowboys’ top receiver will need to be at his best in his matchup against Thorpe Award contender Jason Verrett, one of the top cover corners in the country. Stewart caught six passes for 120 yards against TCU a year ago. 

Teaser:
Top College Football Player Matchups to Watch in Week 8
Post date: Thursday, October 17, 2013 - 10:31
All taxonomy terms: Video, videos, Overtime
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The fine folks at TexAgs took a video camera to The Grove at Ole Miss on Saturday prior to the Aggies’ 41-38 win over the Rebels. 
 
By far the star of the video is an Ole Miss fan at the 38-second mark. Prepare for awesomeness.
 
Some of our favorite lines that have ever been spoken in the history of mankind: “Ole Miss is the most fun school you’ll ever go to. And when you go to a college, you’re gonna make the grades blah blah blah, as long as you get a two-oh….Ole Miss, we may all be…have lower IQs…I have a higher IQ than most these people, but…well no that’s a lie but…we have fun, and we don’t ever miss a party.”
 
 
Teaser:
Ole Miss Coed REALLY Enjoying Pregame Festivities
Post date: Thursday, October 17, 2013 - 08:42
All taxonomy terms: NFL
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Tom Brady made the NFL and the world stand up and take notice (again) of the New England Patriots on Sunday with his remarkable, come-from-behind, last-second win over the New Orleans Saints. The Denver Broncos, of course, have been making people take notice all season with their remarkable, high-scoring, 6-0 start.
 
Those two are widely considered the teams to beat in the conference, with some eyes watching closely the teams in Indianapolis and Cincinnati, too.
 
But why is it that so many are ignoring or dismissing what’s happening in Kansas City, where the revived Chiefs are an impressive 6-0? Maybe it’s time everyone stood up and took notice of them, too.
 
The Chiefs may not have played the Broncos yet – they still have to face them twice – but there is nothing phony about their undefeated start to the Andy Reid Era. They look like a team that has some staying power and should be a factor all season long. So while you’re pondering who’ll represent the AFC in Super Bowl XLVIII, here are five reasons why you should also consider that the Chiefs are for real …
 
1. Andy Reid is a great coach — There’s a reason he lasted 14 years in Philadelphia, where he won nearly 60 percent of his games. He’s one of the finest coaches in the entire NFL and he doesn’t just stubbornly force players into his systems, he tailors what he does to suit the players he has.
 
No, he didn’t win a Super Bowl with the Eagles and that will forever keep him a notch below the — for lack of a better word — “elite” coaches in NFL history. But he got the Eagles to five NFC championship games in his tenure, which still makes him one of the elite of this generation. Hiring Reid was one of the smartest decisions the Chiefs organization had made in years.
 
2. Alex Smith is a winning quarterback — Smith was once the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft (2005) which is hard to remember given how erratic (and sometimes bad) he was during his first five NFL seasons and because he lost his job to Colin Kaepernick last year.
 
But behind that smog is the fact that the 49ers were a mess for most of Smith’s tenure and he was lost in an environment that changed offensive coordinators and offensive systems seemingly every year. The Chiefs picked him off the scrap heap, basically, after the 49ers cast him aside. But they were wise enough to see this truth: Once Jim Harbaugh took over the 49ers and the environment around Smith settled down, he was 20-6-1 as a starter, including an overtime loss in the 2011 NFC championship game.
 
Smith has talent. He’s smart and efficient and knows how to run a West Coast offense, which requires quick passes and quick decisions. He’s capable of carrying a team if necessary, but more importantly he knows how to manage a game and avoid costly turnovers, which might be the most important thing a quarterback can do nowadays.
 
Oh, and he’s also now 26-6-1 in his last 33 starts.
 
3. Dwayne Bowe is a true No. 1 receiver  The Chiefs’ best receiver could’ve been one of the big winners on the free-agent market last spring, but he never got there thanks to a five-year, $56 million contract he got on the eve of free agency. So far through six games he has only 20 catches for 229 yards and two touchdowns, but the numbers almost don’t matter. His 6-2, 221-pounds presence has opened up a ton of other things for the Kansas City offense and that’s an enormous help for a quarterback in his first year with a new team. Had the Chiefs let him go, they would’ve had to overpay to replace him – if they even could. Instead, ownership made the necessarily financial commitment.
 
4. The Chiefs defense can play and rush the passer — In this era of wide open passing attacks, absolutely nothing counteracts that better than a strong, fierce pass rush. It is the ultimate weapon to disrupt the timing of even the best quarterbacks in the NFL. The Chiefs, it turns out, can rush the passer. They had 27 sacks last season, but already have 31 in 2013 after a 10-sack performance against the Oakland Raiders. And a defense that ranked 25th in the NFL last season is now fifth in the NFL under former Jets defensive coordinator Bob Sutton and they’re giving up a league-low 10.8 points per game. In their 3-4 defense — and a tip of the hat to Reid for sticking with the 3-4 instead of his favored 4-3 — linebackers Justin Houston (9 ½ sacks) and Tamba Hali (7 ½) have already combined for 17 sacks this season and nose tackle Dontari Poe has 4 ½. They have a very effective inside-outside punch.
 
5. The players are happier — Don’t underestimate that fact. Several NFL agents insist there was a lot of mistrust and misery under the previous regime, though it’s possible that had a lot to do with the losing and not necessarily former GM Scott Pioli and his head coaches. Whatever the reason, the atmosphere in Kansas City had soured and a fresh start was necessary. New GM John Dorsey seems to be popular and there was an immediate respect among everyone for Reid. Of course, the 6-0 start has helped, too.
 
— By Ralph Vacchiano, @RVacchianoNYDN
Teaser:
5 Reasons the Kansas City Chiefs Could Win It All
Post date: Wednesday, October 16, 2013 - 15:00
Path: /college-basketball/college-basketball-2013-14-purdue-preview
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This preview and more on Purdue and the Big Ten are available in the Athlon Sports 2013-14 College Basketball Preseason Annual. The magazine is available online or on newsstands everywhere.

Purdue Facts & Figures
Last season: 16-18 (8-10 Big Ten)
Postseason: CBI quarterfinals
Coach: Matt Painter (176-95 at Purdue)
Big Ten projection: Seventh
Postseason projection: NCAA Round of 64
Purdue went a respectable 8–10 in a rugged Big Ten last season, but some horrible performances during non-conference play led to a 16–18 overall record. The Boilermakers missed the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2006. “When we were bad, we were really bad,” coach Matt Painter said.

The Boilermakers will again be a young team — they don’t have a scholarship junior on the roster, for instance — but look to be back among the better teams in the Big Ten. Center A.J. Hammons has the talent to be one of the conference’s best players, and the Johnson brothers — Terone and Ronnie — could be an explosive backcourt. Just as important: Painter believes ingredients have arrived to bolster Purdue’s defensive play and outside shooting, two areas the Boilermakers struggled in last season.

“Our talent is better,” Painter says. “Our depth is better.”

Frontcourt

In an era in which true post players are hard to find, the 7-0, 256-pound Hammons will provide Purdue with quite a weapon. He’s got soft hands, a deft touch and tremendous strength underneath the basket both offensively and defensively. Now, he needs to develop some maturity after an inconsistent freshman season during which Painter often sent him to the bench because of a perceived lack of effort.

"The sky is the limit for him,” Painter says. “We need to get his production to meet his talent. When it does, we're going to be a pretty good basketball team."

Painter also has high hopes for redshirt freshman Jay Simpson, who missed most of last season with a lingering foot injury. Simpson also has battled asthma issues during his career.

Incoming freshman Basil Smotherman also will challenge for playing time. Senior Travis Carroll provides an experienced backup behind Hammons, and Donnie Hale will be counted on to help out with the rebounding off the bench. Errick Peck transferred to Purdue from Cornell for his final season of eligibility. He averaged 9.7 points for the Big Red last season.

Backcourt

Painter had few options to run the point last year other than freshman Ronnie Johnson. All that responsibility was sometimes overwhelming, but Painter believes it will pay off this season.

“As I said last year, the best thing that could happen to us would be for Ronnie Johnson to play 30 minutes a game,” Painter says, “and the worst thing that could happen to us would be for Ronnie Johnson to play 30 minutes a game.”

Johnson gets from one end of the court to the other with the ball as fast as any player in the country. He averaged 10.3 points and 4.1 assists in his first season but shot only 38.5 percent from the field and made a total of six 3-pointers.

“We’re going to have more depth (this season), more experience, more competition,” Painter says. “He’s not just going to get the basketball and that’s that. But if he makes strides, and he plays up to his ability, he can be one of the best point guards in the league.”

Older brother Terone Johnson led the Boilermakers in scoring last season with a 13.5-point average, including a 32-point performance against eventual national runner-up Michigan. But Painter thought Johnson sometimes let his emotions get the better of him.

“We have to get him to be a good leader for this team,” Painter says. “We not only need him to play like it, but he also has to act like it. He has to always be out there and lead by example.”

There are some intriguing backcourt possibilities beyond the two Johnsons, too. Incoming freshman Bryson Scott can play both on and off the ball and has an edge the Boilermakers sorely missed last season.

Fellow freshman Kendall Stephens is expected to shore up Purdue’s poor outside shooting. So is senior Sterling Carter, who transfers in for his final season from the University of Seattle. Don’t count out Rapheal Davis, who started 17 games as a freshman and was impressive on the defensive end.

Newcomers

The Boilermakers have five new faces, including three freshmen and two seniors who already graduated from their former schools. Some Purdue fans took it personally when Bryson Scott finished fourth in Indiana’s Mr. Basketball voting after a stellar career at Fort Wayne Northrop High School. He’s considered one of the best incoming combo guards in the nation and should contribute immediately. Kendall Stephens, the son of former Boilermaker standout Everette Stephens, will be counted on to stretch the defense. Basil Smotherman has shown he can play a variety of roles up front. Painter expects Errick Peck and Sterling Carter to add some needed maturity and toughness.

Final Analysis
Factoid: 291. Purdue ranked 291st in the nation in free throw percentage, hitting only 65.3 percent. That is the lowest percentage by a Matt Painter-coached Purdue team.


The Boilermakers should return to the NCAA Tournament after a one-year absence. Anything less would be a major disappointment. If the Johnson brothers and Hammons are as good as Painter expects, and the small but talented freshman class develops quickly, Purdue could be a surprise contender in the Big Ten.

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

Iowa Facts & Figures
Last season: 25-13 (9-9 Big Ten)
Postseason: NIT runner up
Coach: Fran McCaffery (54-50 at Iowa)
Big Ten projection: Sixth
Postseason projection: NCAA Round of 64
After three seasons on the job in Iowa City, Fran McCaffery’s latest rebuilding project is almost complete. All that remains is ending Iowa’s NCAA Tournament drought, which dates back to the 2005-06 season. The chance of that happening looks good — on paper — with all but one key player returning from last season’s team that finished runner-up to Baylor in the NIT.

Now it’s just a matter of living up to the hype, a challenge that’s been rare for Iowa during most of the past decade.

“We expected to build something special,” says McCaffery, who also rebuilt programs at Lehigh, UNC-Greensboro and Siena before coming to Iowa.

Iowa’s victory total has increased in each of McCaffery’s first three seasons — from 11 to 18 to 25 last season, which tied for the second most wins in school history.

Frontcourt

The thought of Iowa having the deepest frontline in the Big Ten was hard to envision when McCaffery took over a depleted and deflated Hawkeye program in 2010. Player defections from the previous coaching regime had gutted the program and caused a serious shortage of talent.

Now however, the front line is a position of strength, bolstered by the addition of Wisconsin transfer Jarrod Uthoff, who has the versatility to play both forward positions. Uthoff, an Iowa native, spent the 2010-11 season redshirting at Wisconsin and then sat out last year at Iowa due to transfer rules.

Aaron White and sophomore center Adam Woodbury both started all 38 games last season. White played his best ball in Big Ten play, averaging 13.6 points and 5.9 rebounds in 18 league games. He was named third-team all-conference. The 7-1 Woodbury, a former top recruit, didn’t make a huge impact as a freshman (4.9 ppg, 4.8 rpg), but he is poised for a big leap forward. Woodbury worked during the offseason to improve his free throw shooting and his ability to attack the basket.

“I’m more explosive,” Woodbury says. “I’m stronger around the rim. I’m able to step out further on my jump shot. I’m just trying to improve my all-around game.”

Another player to watch is 6-10 Gabe Olaseni, who is still raw on offense but a force at times on defense thanks to his athleticism and length.

Backcourt

There is also depth on the perimeter, along with a potential star in Devyn Marble.

McCaffery has three point guards on scholarship if you include Marble. The other two are sophomores Mike Gesell and Anthony Clemmons. Gesell started 30 of the 34 games that he played in last season, shifting between point and shooting guard. He became the only Hawkeye freshman to finish with at least 295 points, 85 rebounds and 85 assists in a single season despite missing four games with a foot injury. Clemmons played in all 38 games and started 13 times. He ranked second on the team and third among Big Ten rookies with 105 assists last season. He also excels as an on-the-ball defender.

Marble established himself as Iowa’s go-to player on offense last season. He plays both guard positions and was instrumental in Iowa advancing to the NIT title game, averaging 20.6 points, 4.0 rebounds and 2.4 steals in the five postseason games. Marble enters this season ranked 28th on the school’s scoring list with 1,134 points. His father, Roy Marble Sr., is Iowa’s career-scoring leader with 2,116 points. Roy and Devyn are the only father-son duo in Big Ten history to eclipse 1,000 points in a career.

Junior Josh Oglesby and incoming freshman Peter Jok will compete for playing time at shooting guard. The hope is that at least one of them will develop into a consistent 3-point shooter. Oglesby suffered through a season-long slump last season, shooting just 26.9 percent from 3-point range. Jok was once considered one of the top freshmen in the nation, but his high school career was derailed by a knee injury. He is now healthy.

Newcomers

Playing time will be tough to come by with so many returning players, but Jarrod Uthoff should make an immediate impact after sitting out the last two seasons. He is a versatile scorer and a defender. The hope is that Peter Jok will help solve the perimeter shooting woes that plagued the Hawkeyes throughout last season. Kyle Meyer will add depth to an already deep frontline.

Final Analysis
Factoid: 4. Six of Iowa’s nine regular-season Big Ten losses last season came by four points or less, including one in overtime and another in double-overtime.


Everybody associated with the Iowa program will consider it a huge disappointment if this team doesn’t finish in the upper-half of the conference and make the NCAA Tournament. Playing in the NIT in each of the past two seasons was beneficial, but now it’s time to take the next step. And the pieces are in place for that to happen, barring a rash of injuries.

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Post date: Wednesday, October 16, 2013 - 07:00

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