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So this is the new normal for the Syracuse Orange.


The cloud of an NCAA investigation, and the uncertainty that came with it, has been lifted. Syracuse will be docked three scholarships per year for the next four years. Among the NCAA’s other penalties, Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim will be suspended for the Orange’s first nine ACC games this season. In March, Boeheim announced that he would coach for three more seasons, at which point longtime assistant Mike Hopkins will take over.


After all that turmoil, things do seem fairly normal at Syracuse. 


The Orange will miss center Rakeem Christmas, who made a huge jump in production as senior, and power forward Chris McCullough, who bolted for the NBA despite playing just 16 games as a freshman after a tearing the ACL in his right knee. However, a strong perimeter game, led by a pair of fifth-year seniors in Michael Gbinije and Trevor Cooney, should have the Orange competing for an NCAA Tournament berth once again.


All ACC predictions and a full preview of each team in the conference can be found in the Athlon Sports 2015-16 Preview Magazine, and on newsstands everywhere.


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More than anything else, Syracuse’s success will depend on the health of DaJuan Coleman. The 6'9", 255-pound big man hasn’t played since January 2014 after suffering the second knee injury of his career. Coleman, who will be a fourth-year junior, hasn’t played an injury-free season since his senior year of high school. Now, Syracuse is looking to him as its starting center.


“I think it would be impossible for most of us to work out for two years every day, day in, day out with no reward,” Boeheim says of Coleman’s long road to recovery. “I’m so hopeful that that reward will come for this guy next year.”


Behind Coleman will be sophomore Chinonso Obokoh, who averaged just 6.8 minutes per game a year ago, and Moustapha Diagne, a 6'8" freshman who is probably more suited to the power forward position.


Much is expected of junior Tyler Roberson, who started 19 games after McCullough went down in January. He can be a force on the offensive boards. “I think he’s shown just glimpses of what he can do,” Boeheim says.


Tyler Lydon is a lanky freshman with a soft touch from the 3-point line. Big guards Gbinije and Malachi Richardson could spend time in the frontcourt at small forward.


Syracuse Facts & Figures

Last season: 18-13, 9-9 ACC

Postseason: None

Last NCAA Tournament: 2014

ACC Projection: Eighth

Postseason projection: First Round




In Gbinije, Cooney and Kaleb Joseph, Syracuse returns all three perimeter starters. Cooney can be inconsistent, but he still averaged 13.4 points per game and led the Orange in 3-pointers for the second straight season. Boeheim says he could be in for a big senior year. Gbinije split time between the point and small forward last year. He made 39.2 percent of his 3-point attempts, and his 107 assists were just 12 shy of Joseph’s total.


“If Rakeem Christmas wasn’t here, Michael Gbinije would’ve been the most improved player on our team,” Boeheim says. “He’s certainly among the top five most improved players in the ACC.”


Don’t be surprised if Boeheim gives Gbinije even more time at the point this season. That’s because Joseph struggled as a freshman. He made just 37.6 percent of his shots and dipped to 20 percent from 3-point range. His defense wasn’t great, either.


If Gbinije is at the point, Boeheim could give more time to Richardson, a freshman who can drill the 3 and whose height gives him the ability the play big at the top of SU’s zone or slide to the backline. Frank Howard, a 6'5" freshman, can play either guard position.


Key Losses: C Rakeem Christmas, F Chris McCullough

Top Players: G Kaleb Joseph, G Trevor Cooney, G/F Michael Gbinije, F Tyler Roberson, C DaJuan Coleman




Freshman guard Malachi Richardson could play a key role as a 3-point threat on the wing opposite veteran Trevor Cooney. Tyler Lydon, another outside shooting threat, has the ability to play either forward position. Moustapha Diagne is a natural power forward who might see time at center as well. Frank Howard, a combo guard, will provide backcourt depth as a freshman.


Final Analysis


Is any program coming off a more difficult year than Syracuse? The season started with a hearing in front of the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions and ended with the release of the NCAA’s report the day before the season finale. In between, Coleman missed the entire year due to injury, and McCullough went down for the season in mid-January. On top of that, Syracuse issued a self-imposed ban on postseason play. The program’s 18 wins last year marked the fewest for the Orange since the 1981-82 team went 16–13.


This is a new year, and even though Syracuse will have to deal with the NCAA’s penalties over the next four years, the SU coaches and players at least know what they’re facing. Armed with that knowledge, a core of underrated veterans and the promise of a strong recruiting class, Syracuse figures to surpass the 20-win mark and return to the NCAA Tournament.

Syracuse Orange 2015-16 Basketball Team Preview and Prediction
Post date: Tuesday, October 20, 2015 - 07:00
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News, Magazines
Path: /magazines/virginia-cavaliers-2015-16-basketball-team-preview-and-prediction

Depending on which side of the debate you were on, Virginia was either bad for college basketball last season, or, like Wisconsin, an example of old-school cool.


With their deliberate style of play and stifling defense, the Cavaliers aren’t for everyone. But they make no apologies for their pace, and it’s hard to argue with the results — consecutive 30-win seasons and ACC regular-season titles, and 15 games last season in which an opponent was held under 50 points.


In a one-and-done era, Virginia is a throwback, with players often sticking around four and even five years. Such maturity has been a key to the program’s success, coach Tony Bennett believes.


If so, the Cavaliers are positioned to be a pain to play once again this year. Even with swingman Justin Anderson becoming the rare Virginia player to leave early for the NBA, the Cavaliers are as experienced a team as you’re likely to find these days.


So critics take heed: Virginia is not going away anytime soon, and the Cavs could be even better this year.


All ACC predictions and a full preview of each team in the conference can be found in the Athlon Sports 2015-16 Preview Magazine, and on newsstands everywhere.


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In the continuation of a recent trend, forward Darion Atkins was the latest Virginia big man to have a breakthrough senior season last year. With Atkins gone, it is center Mike Tobey’s turn to make the most of his last go-round. A gifted offensive player, the 6'11" senior has lacked consistency. “Mike has given us flashes,” Bennett says. “There’s nothing like knowing this is your last year.”


There’s nothing like having a fifth-year senior, either, and Virginia has such a player in forward Anthony Gill, a third-team All-ACC selection who stepped up his offensive production when Anderson was hurt last year. Gill has also become a hard-nosed defender. He and Tobey give the Cavaliers a major presence around the rim at both ends.


Potentially providing spark on the perimeter is senior Evan Nolte, who has had a hot-and-cold career but is being encouraged by teammates to let shots fly. Jack Salt, who redshirted last season, and sophomore Isaiah Wilkins are waiting their turn in the Virginia way but can provide depth.


No. 3 Virginia Facts & Figures

Last season: 30-4, 16-2 ACC

Postseason: Second round

Consecutive NCAAs: 2

ACC Projection: Third

Postseason projection: Elite Eight





A complete package on and off the court, senior Malcolm Brogdon passed on the NBA to finish a master’s degree in public policy and play on the U.S. Pan Am Games team in the summer. He’s one of the top returning players in the country, an All-ACC pick and second-team All-American last year.


“We’re looking for him to make little improvements, and be even more efficient,” Bennett says.


Point guard London Perrantes has played with poise beyond his years for two seasons. As Perrantes transitions to being an upperclassman, Bennett is looking for more from his junior point guard, whose shooting percentage dipped last season.       


“He’s got such a good feel for the game,” Bennett says. “It’s a matter of knowing what the team needs; being a little more assertive in his role and more assertive offensively if that’s required.”


Depth won’t be an issue. Point guard Devon Hall got his feet wet last year after a redshirt season. So did wing Marial Shayok, who was the only freshman to play in all 34 games last year.


Then there’s Tennessee transfer Darius Thompson, who sat out last season. The bottom line is that Virginia has no shortage of options both on and off the ball.


Key Losses: G Justin Anderson, F Darion Atkins

Top Players: G London Perrantes, G Malcolm Brogdon, F Evan Nolte, F Anthony Gill, C Mike Tobey




Not many programs redshirt these days. The latest to take a developmental year at Virginia is Jack Salt, a 6'11", 235-pound New Zealander who made big strides, Tony Bennett says. He and freshman Jarred Reuter could immediately be Virginia’s most physical players. Combo guard Darius Thompson, a transfer from Tennessee, started 10 games for the Volunteers in 2013-14.


Final Analysis


After going unbeaten until the final day of January and rising to No. 2 in the polls, Virginia was left with a bad taste last year following a Round of 32 NCAA Tournament loss to Michigan State.


A veteran team enters the season with a palpable sense of unfinished business and Bennett pointing to one of the five pillars of his program — Thankfulness — as a key. It relates to the wisdom gained from failure, and how it’s applied. “If we’re really thankful for what that taught us, we’ll use that to grow, get better and be as good as we can be,” Bennett says.


That could be very good indeed. With a firm identity and style of play, Virginia has been building toward a breakthrough season.


“We obviously haven’t won a national championship or been to the Final Four yet,” Bennett says. “But we’re knocking on the door. We’re improved.”

Virginia Cavaliers 2015-16 Basketball Team Preview and Prediction
Post date: Tuesday, October 20, 2015 - 07:00
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The inroads made by Notre Dame during its ACC championship run and trip to the Elite Eight — where the Irish fell by just two points to then-undefeated Kentucky — planted seeds of production and confidence that should continue to sprout in 2015-16.


“The whole season was a statement,” says Irish head coach Mike Brey of the 32–6 campaign. “It was just so pure. I hope we can bottle it and keep it going.”


Gone are first-round draft choice Jerian Grant and second-rounder Pat Connaughton, the driving forces behind reaching the program’s highest victory total since 1908-09.


But budding leadership from senior big man Zach Auguste and junior guards Demetrius Jackson and Steve Vasturia should sustain the winning atmosphere that permeated the program during its March run. The supporting cast appears capable of filling in the gaps.


“The expectations of the group coming back will be very high,” Brey says. “It’s a championship group. It’s certainly something to build on. We want to use that momentum.”


All ACC predictions and a full preview of each team in the conference can be found in the Athlon Sports 2015-16 Preview Magazine, and on newsstands everywhere.


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Measuring the contributions of Connaughton based upon his 12.5 points and 7.4 rebounds per game, as well as his 93 3-pointers, does minor justice to the value the undersized but tenacious rebounder with long-range shooting prowess provided. “My concerns are not the basketball stuff we’re losing, and we know we’ve lost a lot,” Brey says. “It’s the leadership stuff.”


Emerging as a go-to guy in the postseason was Auguste, the 6’10” rangy athlete who spearheaded the charge in the victory over North Carolina in the ACC Tournament finals and again in the near-upset of Kentucky when he scored 20 points and grabbed nine rebounds against the Wildcats’ gargantuan frontline.


“(Auguste) really matured and came into his own,” Brey says. “We have footage to show him from March if he gets off the rails. We have footage of him keeping it simple and being amazingly productive.”


Filling Connaughton’s role will be bruising 6’5” sophomore Bonzie Colson, who played winning basketball in spurts during the ACC regular season. “Bonzie Colson with more minutes — which he will get — is a natural rebounder,” Brey says. “Not that he’s going to play like Pat, but he’s very good with the ball and can shoot some threes.”


Role players up front in Notre Dame’s three-to-four-guard offense include senior Austin Burgett, sophomores Martinas Geben and Austin Torres and freshman Matt Ryan.


Notre Dame Facts & Figures

Last season: 32-6, 14-4

Postseason: Elite Eight

Consecutive NCAAs: One

ACC Projection: Fifth

Postseason projection: Second Round




The do-everything Grant has no replacement when it comes to the complete game he offered offensively. But the Irish have a budding star in Jackson, who has NBA-level athleticism at the point. “He’s the guy I need to talk through,” Brey says. “We’ve already started to nurture that relationship. He was a strong voice for us in the postseason.”


Joining Jackson in the backcourt is Vasturia, who raised his game to another level in the postseason as well. “We’re going to ball screen for Steve now because he can come off, make a drive, and make a decision,” Brey says.


The most likely candidate to replace Grant in the starting lineup is junior V.J. Beachem, a willowy 6’8” shooting guard who may have the best long-range stroke on the team with Connaughton’s departure.


Offering minutes off the bench for Jackson at the point is sophomore Matt Farrell. Another candidate to get into the mix in the backcourt is freshman Rex Pflueger, whom Brey calls “a bouncy, more athletic Vasturia.”


Key Losses: G Jerian Grant, F Pat Connaughton

Top Players: G Demetrius Jackson, G Steve Vasturia, G/F V.J. Beachem, F Bonzie Colson, F Zach Auguste




Matt Ryan, a 6’8” shooter, and Rex Pflueger, an athletic 6'6" 2-guard, could provide an instant offensive spark for the Irish. “There’s no question Ryan and Pflueger will challenge for playing time,” coach Mike Brey says. “They believe they’re ready. They’re very confident guys. They have an edge about them. They love to compete.” Elijah Burns will have trouble cracking the rotation as a freshman.


Final Analysis


The leadership and production lost with the departure of Grant and Connaughton won’t be known until the Irish get into the heat of conference play. But the coming of age of Auguste, Jackson and Vasturia during the stretch run was apparent, and having quality players/athletes to supplement the Big 3 has been addressed on the recruiting front.


After failing to make it as far as the Sweet 16 for 12 seasons, the Fighting Irish look to be a legitimate postseason threat for the second year in a row.


“This program has been built where we’ve lost really good, even great players and we’ve been able to figure it out the next year and be pretty successful,” says Brey, now entering his 16th season at Notre Dame. “The leadership and setting the tone lost with the departure of those two men is my biggest concern.”

Notre Dame Fighting Irish 2015-16 Basketball Team Preview and Prediction
Post date: Tuesday, October 20, 2015 - 07:00
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Few teams in the country return more production or experience than Florida State — the Seminoles’ top six scorers are back, and eight returning players have been starters at some point. But it’s what’s being added to the roster that has the Noles poised to end a three-year hiatus from the NCAA Tournament.


A five-man recruiting class that ranks among the top 10 nationally — and arguably is the best of Leonard Hamilton’s 14-year tenure in Tallahassee — will substantially boost the team’s talent level. Perhaps even more important, it will improve the Seminoles’ depth on the perimeter, their biggest weakness last season.


“When you have guys playing 36-37 minutes a game, it’s only natural they will wear down, and we had a lot of our guards doing that last year,” Hamilton says. “Now we can go big. We can go small. We have the interchangeable parts to do things differently. That’s going to help us improve in all areas.”  


All ACC predictions and a full preview of each team in the conference can be found in the Athlon Sports 2015-16 Preview Magazine, and on newsstands everywhere.


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Finding a steady presence in the post has been a big issue for the Seminoles the last two years — and it remains a glaring question. 


The good news: Four players who received steady minutes last season are back. Senior 7-footers Boris Bojanovsky (7'3") and Michael Ojo (7'1") have always been solid shot blockers but have struggled to score. Hamilton says both have spent more time in the gym this summer than ever before. “There’s a transition from the European style of ball to ours in America,” Hamilton says. “Those guys have grown up and worked hard. I expect them to progress.”


The same goes for versatile forwards Jarquez Smith and Phil Cofer, both of whom can step outside and knock down jumpers. Still, it’s improved rebounding and interior defense that the Noles need most from their big men.


Florida State Facts & Figures

Last season: 17-16, 8-10 ACC

Postseason: None

Last NCAA Tournament: 2012

ACC Projection: Sixth

Postseason projection: Second Round




The return of sophomore Xavier Rathan-Mayes gives Hamilton a potential star to build around. The slender 6'4" Canadian is best known for a mind-boggling offensive tear — scoring 30 points (including six straight 3-pointers) in the last 4:38 of a loss to Miami. But he’s capable of being a solid distributor as well.


“I didn’t want to leave on a season like that,” says Rathan-Mayes, who briefly considered entering the NBA Draft. “We definitely feel like we have something to prove. With the guys we have returning, and coming in, we have a chance to do something special.”


If prize recruit Dwayne Bacon lives up to his potential, Rathan-Mayes may be right. An athletic 6'7" wing from the famed Oak Hill (Va.) Academy, Bacon excels at attacking the basket. He has all the physical tools to be one of the nation’s top freshmen.


Montay Brandon and Devon Bookert are proven seniors who will continue to play major roles but will likely benefit from having more rest — both averaged around 35 minutes per game in 2014-15. Bookert, who shot just under 40 percent from 3-point range, will move between the point and the wing. Brandon led the team in rebounding last season with 5.5 per game and also averaged 11.8 points while shooting an impressive 54.1 percent from the floor.


Freshmen Malik Beasley and Terance Mann, both four-star prospects, are expected to earn significant playing time, along with junior college transfer Benji Bell. That trio’s size and athleticism will immediately bolster the defense. “We always take the approach that (newcomers) have to earn their rightful place, but to say that I’m impressed with their athleticism and skills would be an understatement,” Hamilton says. “They should be able to make contributions, and combined with some savvy veterans, we can be more efficient.”


Key Losses: F Kiel Turpin

Top Players: G Xavier Rathan-Mayes, G Devon Bookert, G Brandon Montay, G/F Dwayne Bacon, C Michael Ojo


Final Analysis


The roster has a nice blend of youth and experience, reminiscent of the well-rounded FSU teams Hamilton guided to four straight NCAA Tournaments from 2009-12. The Noles still lack an inside scoring threat, but the perimeter will be good enough to make up for it. Look for Hamilton to go with smaller lineups and play four guards at times. With a deeper and more talented rotation, the Noles are a virtual lock to improve. Just how much will hinge on a return to playing great defense — something that has been missing in recent years — and quick development of the freshmen. If that happens, Hamilton’s club won’t have much trouble securing an NCAA Tournament bid.

Florida State Seminoles 2015-16 Basketball Team Preview and Prediction
Post date: Tuesday, October 20, 2015 - 07:00
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Few coaches have shown an ability to adapt quite like Rick Pitino Nobody embraced the 3-point shot more quickly than Pitino. The man pressed the tempo when other coaches slowed it down. And he won.


Pitino’s latest adaptation? Proving he can win big with graduate transfers.


Concerned that four starters and two transfers were leaving, Pitino and his assistants spread the word that the Cardinals were willing to rebuild with graduate transfers, players who earned degrees at other schools but were eligible to play elsewhere for one season. Message received. Pitino landed two of the best 10 available — forward Damion Lee of Drexel and guard Trey Lewis of Cleveland State. The success of Louisville’s season will depend on the ability of Lee and Lewis to deliver in the ACC as consistently as they did at the mid-major level.


The season, though, will have a cloud over it after salacious accusations surfaced weeks before practice began. Will the NCAA step in? Will more details arise in the coming weeks? Either could impact a team full of unproven players in the ACC.


All ACC predictions and a full preview of each team in the conference can be found in the Athlon Sports 2015-16 Preview Magazine, and on newsstands everywhere.


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Lee will inherit the minutes Wayne Blackshear played at small forward last season. Lee scored 30 or more five times at Drexel last season while averaging 21.4 points and 6.1 rebounds. He’s not a great shooter, but his attacking style put him at the free throw line more than seven times per game. Deng Adel, a four-star recruit from Australia, will earn minutes if he can clean up his ball handling. He’s a dynamic athlete but a bit raw.


Louisville’s other forward position will be more difficult to fill because Montrezl Harrell gave the Cardinals muscle and resolve as well as points and rebounds. Pitino loves the way that sophomore Jaylen Johnson improved late last season and believes he has the athleticism to develop into a force. But he’s raw and averaged less than five minutes per game last season.


The center position is muddled — sophomores Chinanu Onuaku, Anas Mahmoud and Matz Stockman as well as hometown freshman Raymond Spalding will all get looks, and it’s now or never for junior Mangok Mathiang. Look for Onuaku to win the job. After nearly leaving at the end of the season, he huddled with Pitino and dedicated himself to becoming a leader and worker. Onuaku showed he was more than merely talk. He started for the U.S. team that won the gold medal in the World University Games, contributing 12 blocked shots while averaging 4.6 points and 5.0 rebounds. Onuaku also improved his free throw stroke by adopting Rick Barry’s under-hand method.


No. 23 Louisville Facts & Figures

Last season: 27-9,12-6 ACC

Postseason: Elite Eight

Consecutive NCAAs: 9

ACC Projection: Fourth

Postseason projection: Second Round




Two double-figure scorers have also departed the backcourt — Terry Rozier, who was taken 16th overall by the Boston Celtics, and Chris Jones, who failed to finish the season with the Cards after Pitino dismissed him in February. Fourth guard Anton Gill also bolted (to Nebraska) after the season.


Quentin Snider benefited from Jones’ dismissal, moving into the starting lineup and scoring in double figures in five of Louisville’s final eight games. Snider is a poised and intelligent player who needs to improve his assertiveness on offense.


Lewis is a lock to fill the 2-guard spot. Pitino raved about his leadership early in the summer. The coach actually fell in love with his game when Lewis scored 24 of Cleveland State’s 33 points when the Cards defeated CSU last November. Lewis made 96-of-227 3-pointers last season. Nobody on Pitino’s 2015 team made more than 60 shots from distance.


Backcourt depth is not a strength. Freshman Donovan Mitchell will be the top reserve. He’s a powerful, mature player who loves to attack the rim, but he has not developed the ball-handling skills to play point guard. Ryan McMahon, another freshman, is an undersized shooter whom Pitino recruited on a recommendation from Dick Vitale.


Key Losses: G Terry Rozier, F Montrezl Harrell, G Chris Jones, G/F Wayne Blackshear

Top Players: G Quentin Snider, G Trey Lewis, F Damion Lee, F Jaylen Johnson, F/C Chinanu Onuaku




This is the critical area for Rick Pitino’s team. The Cardinals need Damion Lee to score the way he did at Drexel (21.4 ppg) and Trey Lewis to shoot from distance as he did at Cleveland State (42.3 percent). Donovan Mitchell enters as the most talented freshman, an acrobatic scorer who will have to improve his ball skills. Deng Adel and Raymond Spalding will need more time to fit in. Ryan McMahon is a project.


Final Analysis


This is Pitino’s most difficult team to judge because it’s risky predicting how easily guys like Lee and Lewis will transition to a new coaching system and a more athletic league in only one season. They must deliver, because no returnees averaged five points or five rebounds, and Louisville failed to score more than 60 points a dozen times last season, losing six of those games.


If the transfers hold their own, and Onuaku, Johnson and Snider make solid freshman-to-sophomore improvement, Louisville should finish right behind the top tier in the ACC.


Louisville Cardinals 2015-16 Basketball Team Preview and Prediction
Post date: Tuesday, October 20, 2015 - 07:00
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Path: /magazines/miami-hurricanes-2015-16-basketball-team-preview-and-prediction

At this time last year, coach Jim Larranaga had a team of unknowns. He had three returning players, one of whom was injured, and nine newcomers who had never worn the Hurricanes uniform. He had little idea what to expect.


He does now. Almost everyone returns from a group that reached as high as No. 15 in the polls and reached the NIT final. Not only that, but the Hurricanes also added a talented transfer at forward, a position of need. A midseason slide cost Miami an NCAA Tournament berth last year, but anything less than a trip to the NCAAs this March will be a major disappointment.


All ACC predictions and a full preview of each team in the conference can be found in the Athlon Sports 2015-16 Preview Magazine, and on newsstands everywhere.


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After shouldering a heavy load last year, Tonye Jekiri has a little help. The 7-footer from Nigeria landed on the ACC All-Defensive Team after leading the conference in rebounding (9.9 rpg) and finishing fifth with 1.4 blocks per game. He also chipped in 8.6 points while playing 30.3 minutes per game. That workload was possible because he learned how to defend without fouling. Not bad for a player entering his sixth season of basketball. He’s not in the category of Jahlil Okafor, Montrezl Harrell or Rakeem Christmas, but with those players gone, Jekiri could be on of the ACC’s best all-around big man and become an NBA Draft pick if he continues to round out his game.


Who will start next to him is another matter. UM has high hopes for Kamari Murphy, a 6'8", 216-pound forward who excels at defense and dunking. The high flyer sat out last year after transferring from Oklahoma State, where he averaged slightly more than six points, six boards and one block two seasons ago. Now a fourth-year junior, Murphy should be an immediate contributor on defense and in the transition game. If he proves he can score, he’ll see most of the work.


Senior Ivan Cruz Uceda has considerable offensive potential but was limited last year because of poor conditioning. It was especially tough for Uceda; after the Madrid native transferred from junior college, he was ineligible for 16 games and was then thrown into the fire of January conference play. Uceda brings a crafty touch inside and is unafraid to shoot from the perimeter (62 of his 99 attempts were 3s). The senior needs work defensively.


Miami Facts & Figures

Last season: 25-13, 10-8

Postseason: NIT runner-up

Last NCAA Tournament: 2013

ACC Projection: Seventh

Postseason projection: First Round




This group includes one of the ACC’s most gifted scorers, a strong point guard, a versatile defender and two sophomores with lots of offensive ability.


Leading scorer Sheldon McClellan, who averaged 14.5 points per game while shooting 48.4 percent from the field, could play himself into an NBA Draft spot with night-in, night-out consistency. The 6'5" senior from Houston can score in a variety of ways, though he’s best slashing to the hoop or throwing down alley-oops.


UM hopes McClellan’s running mate, point guard Angel Rodriguez, won’t repeat his roller-coaster season. The 5'11" senior shot down Florida and Duke early in the year but suffered a catastrophic slump that left him with a pedestrian 11.9 points-per-game average (to go with 3.9 assists and 1.8 steals).


At 6'6", junior Davon Reed guards four positions and is one of the league’s most efficient shooters (1.51 points per attempt, 8.2 points per game). UM will start him in a three-guard lineup.


The Hurricanes lost two guards to transfer but should handle those losses well. Manu Lecomte (Baylor), a strong perimeter shooter, and Deandre Burnett (Ole Miss) were in and out of the lineup. Sophomore combo guard Ja’Quan Newton and sophomore wing James Palmer are ready for larger roles. Newton, a slasher, needs to improve his outside shooting, while Larranaga wants more defense and rebounding from Palmer.


Key Losses: G Deandre Burnett, G Manu Lecomte

Top Players: G Angel Rodriguez, G Sheldon McClellan, G Davon Reed, F Kamari Murphy, C Tonye Jekiri




Kamari Murphy’s D-and-dunk game could have helped Miami last year, but he sat out after transferring from Oklahoma State. The 6'8" junior needs to improve his shot but will be an immediate contributor on defense and in transition. With a veteran-heavy rotation, the Canes can afford to take it slow with their two freshmen: 6'10" Nigerian Ebuka Izundu, who is a skinny project in the mold of Tonye Jekiri, and 6'7" wing Anthony Lawrence Jr.


Final Analysis


Miami has a chance to muscle its way into the top 25 and stay there. The Canes are on the outside of the league’s elite but should battle Notre Dame, Louisville, Florida State and NC State for next-tier supremacy. In a league this strong, that’s not a consolation prize; that means you’re headed to the NCAA Tournament. That’s where Miami should be going, given its strength in the middle and in the backcourt. Comparisons will be drawn between this team and the 2012-13 squad that surprised the bluebloods by winning the ACC title. This group doesn’t appear to be quite that strong, but it should be a fun season in Coral Gables nonetheless.

Miami Hurricanes 2015-16 Basketball Team Preview and Prediction
Post date: Tuesday, October 20, 2015 - 07:00
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Mark Gottfried feels good about the progress the NC State program has made under his watch. The Wolfpack have been to the NCAA Tournament four years in a row and twice have reached the Sweet 16, including last year’s run highlighted by an upset of Villanova, a No. 1 seed.


And Gottfried feels good about his team’s potential this season. “I like where we can get to,” he says.


But Gottfried would have felt better about his team’s chances — in both the ACC race and the postseason — if guard Trevor Lacey had returned for his senior season. Lacey, the team’s top scorer (15.7 ppg) and emotional leader, caught Gottfried by surprise when he opted to turn pro. There’s still talent in place to contend without Lacey; it will just be a learning process.


“Trevor was such a big part of what we did last year,” Gottfried says. “We’ve got to figure out how to win without him.”


All ACC predictions and a full preview of each team in the conference can be found in the Athlon Sports 2015-16 Preview Magazine, and on newsstands everywhere.


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NC State got to the NCAA Tournament on the strength of its guard play last season. Then in the biggest win of the season — a 71–68 upset of Villanova in the Round of 32 — forwards Abdul-Malik Abu and Lennard Freeman both delivered double-doubles. The Wolfpack are counting on more from their forwards this season, especially Abu, who averaged 6.4 points per game as a freshman. With strong hands and a soft touch, Abu has the potential to double his scoring average with a little more consistency. He’ll have plenty of minutes. Kyle Washington transferred to Cincinnati, leaving only three scholarship forwards on the roster.


Freeman, the team’s top rebounder, was instrumental in the Wolfpack’s late-season run. Gottfried has compared him to Cleveland Cavaliers forward Tristan Thompson for all the little things he does to help the team win. But a leg injury will keep the junior off the court until mid-September at the earliest. It might take him the first month of the season to catch up physically.


Junior BeeJay Anya led the ACC in blocked shots (87 in only 19.4 minutes per game), but he has struggled with his weight. With only three options at forward, Gottfried says that the Wolfpack need Anya to get down to about 280 pounds (he’s listed at 295) to be effective this season. If Anya can get in better shape, he also could be more of a factor on offense. NC State’s best regular-season wins (vs. Duke, at UNC, at Louisville) coincided with Anya’s best games.


NC State Facts & Figures

Last season: 22-14, 10-8 ACC

Postseason: Sweet 16

Consecutive NCAAs: Four

ACC Projection: Ninth

Postseason projection: First Four




NC State has had a clear go-to player in each of the past two seasons in Lacey and T.J. Warren, the ACC Player of the Year in 2014, and Gottfried expects junior point guard Anthony “Cat” Barber to follow in their footsteps. “Our team starts with him,” Gottfried says of Barber, who averaged 12.1 points and 3.7 assists per game last season. “I think that Cat is in a position to have an unbelievable year.”


Barber really came on in the last three months of the season, improving his 3-point shooting and his decision making. Without Lacey, Barber’s role will expand, but he will have plenty of help on the perimeter from junior guard Terry Henderson, sophomore twins Caleb and Cody Martin and freshmen Maverick Rowan and Shaun Kirk.


Henderson, who’s from Raleigh, sat out last season after transferring from West Virginia. He averaged 11.7 points and made 37.6 percent of his 3-pointers for the Mountaineers as a sophomore in 2013-14.


Rowan, who reclassified and committed in August, should help offset the loss of top 3-point shooter Ralston Turner. The Martins and Kirk give Gottfried some flexibility to go “small,” with a four-guard lineup, and really get after teams defensively.


Gottfried says he could potentially use Cody Martin at every position, including as Barber’s primary backup at point guard. “He might be the most unique guy in the country,” Gottfried says.


Key Losses: G Travor Lacey, G Ralston Turner, F Kyle Washington

Top Players: G Cat Barber, G Terry Henderson, F Lennard Freeman, F Abdul-Malik Abu, F BeeJay Anya




Terry Henderson, a transfer from West Virginia, will step into the starting lineup and be counted on to supply 3-point shooting. He will probably also have to help at backup point guard. Shaun Kirk was ticketed for a low-major program before his stock took off at an AAU event in Indianapolis in April. Maverick Rowan, a skilled swingman, was a late addition after reclassifying to the 2015 class.


Final Analysis


With Lacey, NC State would have been one of the favorites to win the ACC regular-season title for the first time since 1989. Without him, the Wolfpack still have an experienced group with potential stars in Barber and Abu. But there are only eight scholarship players on the roster, so the Wolfpack will have to stay healthy.


NC State isn’t likely to contend in the ACC, but it should be back in the NCAA Tournament for a fifth straight year under Gottfried.

NC State Wolfpack 2015-16 Basketball Team Preview and Prediction
Post date: Tuesday, October 20, 2015 - 07:00
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, Life, Magazines
Path: /magazines/kentucky-wildcats-2015-16-basketball-team-preview-and-prediction

The formula never changes. John Calipari loses most of his roster to the NBA. He does not flinch for a second. He merely collects another top-three recruiting class, plugs in extremely capable and eager replacements, and the University of Kentucky becomes a wise bet for the Final Four.


Five fresh starters will crackle into the Wildcats’ lineup this season after UK lost seven players to the NBA (six drafted, four in the first round). That followed a 38–1 season that ended with a jarring 71–64 loss to Wisconsin in the Final Four.


Don’t expect 40–0 talk this winter, but this team looks just as capable of doing what the 2010 (Elite Eight) and 2011 (Final Four) teams achieved.


UK has more than its usual number of veterans (five), the best freshman center prospect in the nation (Skal Labissiere), the breakout Canadian star of the Pan Am Games (Jamal Murray) and a fearless guard with New York City DNA (Isaiah Briscoe).


Calipari has done more with less, but this team will not have the overpowering inside strength and depth of the 2014-15 squad.


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Labissiere, a native of Haiti, will remind more people of Anthony Davis (best case) or Nerlens Noel (worst case) than Karl-Anthony Towns. He’s an elite athlete and a creative scorer, but not the low-post beast that Towns became, in part because he’s only 215 pounds. Labissiere told one interviewer that he tries to model his game after Davis, Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan, Dirk Nowitzki and Carmelo Anthony. Labissiere brings question marks, however, has he has not yet been cleared to play by the NCAA.


The time is now for Kentucky’s three returning frontcourt players. They have all been spectators while teammates starred and moved into the NBA. Alex Poythress, in his fourth season, missed most of last year with a torn knee ligament. Poythress showed flashes of pro potential as a freshman and sophomore and has the physique to play with anybody. He’ll make a jump when he becomes more aggressive and plays through contact.


Opposing coaches have watched Marcus Lee dominate in short stretches and wondered why he didn’t play more. Lee can block shots with anybody, but his offensive game disappears away from the rim. He must prove he can score on more than dunks and rebounds.


Derek Willis is the true mystery man. Calipari has compared his physical skills to former NBA All-Star Bobby Jones, but in two seasons Willis has made 10 field goals while playing 114 minutes. Willis has shown the ability to make 3-point shots. He’s one of only four guys 6'8" or taller, so Calipari will need him to rebound.


No. 1 Kentucky Facts & Figures

Last season: 38-1, 18-0 SEC

Postseason: Final Four

Consecutive NCAAs: 2

SEC Projection: First

Postseason projection: National champion




Kentucky’s backcourt could be improved and tempt Calipari to employ a three-guard set. Some argued that Kentucky was a more fluid and dynamic team when Tyler Ulis played point guard last winter. This season the team belongs to Ulis. He’s a relentless on-the-ball defender who transforms turnovers into layups and dunks. Few defenders can stay in front of him. He also makes shots — 81 percent from the foul line and 43 percent from the 3-point line. His only negative is his size at 5'9".


Calipari could easily play two or three point guards. Murray was Canada’s best player in the Pan-American Games, scoring 22 points to lead the Canadians past the U.S. before they lost to Brazil in the gold medal game.


Briscoe, another freshman, arrives from Newark with the New York City toughness in his game. He’s a conditioning freak who enjoys boxing, cycling and yoga.


Calipari filled out his recruiting class with shooters Mychal Mulder, who excelled at Vincennes (Ind.) University, and Charles Matthews of Chicago.


Don’t overlook junior Dominique Hawkins, who has been used to increase the defensive pressure and change the tempo the last two seasons.




Skal Labissiere, Jamal Murray and Isaiah Briscoe should follow the John Calipari-Kentucky tradition of moving to the NBA after one college season. Labissiere is a motivated kid who survived the 2010 Haitian earthquake and is determined to provide a better life for his family. Murray was UK’s final commitment but plays like a guy who could average 15 per game. Briscoe is a dynamic athlete. Charles Matthews and Mychal Mulder must earn their minutes by making 3s.


Key Losses: G Devin Booker, C Willie Cauley-Stein, G Aaron Harrison, G Andrew Harrison, C Dakari Johnson, F Trey Lyles, F Karl-Anthony Towns

Top Players: G Tyler Ulis, G Isaiah Briscoe, G Jamal Murray, F Alex Poythress, F Skal Labissiere


Final Analysis


After last season, anything was going to be a retreat for the Wildcats, who were overpowering around the rim, intimidating on defense and unbeaten in the SEC.


The primary question for this team: How formidable will the low-post game be in half-court sets?


Calipari has already said he will junk the platoon system he used last winter. That means he’ll pick his top eight guys and let his stars average more than 30 minutes.


Expect this team to play faster than the 38–1 team and push the tempo because of the playmaking skills of Ulis, Murray and Briscoe.


Kentucky Wildcats 2015-16 Basketball Team Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, October 16, 2015 - 08:10
All taxonomy terms: News, Magazines
Path: /magazines/athlon-archive-steve-spurrier-not-darth-vader

When Steve Spurrier retired abruptly from college football coaching this week, the South Carolina coach was the subject of dozens of complimentary columns and retrospectives. Indeed, there has never been another like Spurrier, the all-time wins leader at Florida and South Carolina who redefined the SEC with his offensive brilliance.


At the same time, he was outspoken and — some would say — arrogant, needling rivals along the way. Even in 1995, even some Florida stalwarts were skeptical.


By the end of the 1994, he had won three SEC titles and reached four bowl games. The 1995 season would be his best at Florida despite humiliation in the Fiesta Bowl against national champion Nebraska. The 1996 season would bring Florida’s national title and a Heisman winner.


In this 1995 Athlon Sports feature, reporter Buddy Martin describes Spurrier’s ascent and why the coach continued to lock horns with rivals.




Trash Steve Spurrier if you must. Call him arrogant or insensitive or petulant. But give him credit for perhaps the quickest and most profound rehabilitation of a program in the history of intercollegiate athletics.


Rodney Dangerfield doesn’t live in Gainesville, Fla., anymore. Gator bashers better go looking for new booty because they don’t have Florida football to kick around anymore.


The greatest player in Florida history has now become the greatest football coach in Florida history: 49 wins, 12 losses and one tie (.798), three Southeastern Conference titles and four bowl games. And there is no letup in sight.


If you have that kind of success so quickly and defeat your opponents by such large margins as Spurrier, it doesn’t take long until they want to make you out to be Darth Vader.


How unlikely of a role for Florida’s football coach, once deemed the All-American boy, to become The Villain in some quarters. Suddenly, they want to start keeping score on some minor indiscretions when what they should be keeping score on is the meteoric ascent of Gator football under Spurrier.


Bedraggled and beaten down by so many lashes from the NCAA’s whip, Florida’s football program has come off probation with a vengeance since Spurrier took over in 1990. It is true, however, that Spurrier’s abrasive style alienates some of his own people on hi sway to the penthouse.


Though usually compliant and cooperative with the media, he has been known to call sports writers at home and challenge their facts or points of view. He carries on feuds with two columnists at major newspapers in Florida.


Yet Spurrier also is honest to a fault. Sometimes he says more than he should. Usually he can be counted on for at least a couple of juicy headlines a season. Sensitive alumni might call him mouthy. The press prefers to think of him as candidate.


For the most part, Gator fans are happy with Spurrier’s return. It’s his enemies, namely opposing coaches and hostile media, who like to take potshots at him. Just try to get somebody to say something critical about him for the record. Not many will do that.


The father of a starter on the 1994 Gator team told me: “You can’t say bad things about Steve Spurrier. He’s too big in the state. And he wins.” Behind Spurrier’s back, however, even some of his own faithful will rip him — off the record.


He slams his golf visor to the ground too much.


He’s always running his mouth.


He always blames somebody else when he loses.


He doesn’t sign enough autographs.


He’d better win, he’s so arrogant.


He keeps his quarterbacks on a short leash.


His players don’t like him.


He just cain’t beat them Bowden boys.


And so it goes – the bashing of Steve Spurrier, who, paradoxically, is one of the hottest coaching properties in all of football, college or pro.


As for those few disgruntled Florida fans: That only proves the critics right who say they don’t know prosperity when they see it.


For 50 years Gator fans have been trying to find a coach who could win an SEC title that the school would be allowed to keep. Along comes Spurrier and wins three in five years. They ought to build a statue of him on top of the Century Tower instead of harping at him for his volatile sideline demeanor.


“I wonder how the fans of Tennessee or Georgia or one of those SEC schools would feel if their school — somebody besides Alabama and Florida — played in the championship game,” Spurrier mused in an interview last spring. Good point. Since they started playing the SEC title game three years ago, only the Tide and the Gator have made it there. Florida has won two. Spoiled Gator fans now wonder what’s taking him so long to win a national championship. After all, Miami and Florida State have their trophies on the mantle already.


Bellyachers forget the fact that in five short years, Spurrier took a college football program out of the City Dump and put it on the front counter of Tiffany’s. On April 28, Florida’s ex-wonder boy turned 50. Friends hope age will mellow him some. Diehard Gator fans hope he will develop an even nastier side to his personality. His enemies hope he’ll retire.


To know Spurrier well is to now of his fierce competitive spirit at anything he does. And that his playful sense of humor is to poke fun at both friends and foes alike. Where he gets in trouble is when he mixes the high-spirited competition with the humor.


Example: At several Gator Club meetings in 1994, Spurrier suggested FSU was an acronym for “Free Shoes University.” That was after several Florida State football players had been charged with taking $6,000 shopping sprees at a Foot Locker store, courtesy of an unscrupulous agent.


Yet, Spurrier expresses respect for Florida State. Interestingly enough, during his press conference on the day he was hired, Dec. 31, 1989, Spurrier called Bobby Bowden “probably the best coach in college football today.”


And while he was not directly implicating Bowden with his remarks about “Free Shoes University,” he was certainly casting aspersions on Bowden’s Florida State program.


Trying to keep a sense of humor about to Bowden chortled, “The shoes may have been free, but we’ve paid dearly for everything else.”


There really was no grand plan for Spurrier to become a coach of any kind, let alone Florida’s savior. After almost a decade of knocking around the San Francisco 49ers as a reserve quarterback and punter, and eventually winding up as the starter for the ill-fated Tampa Bay Bucs in their inaugural season, Spurrier returned home to Gainesville to ponder his future in the late ‘70s.


“I didn’t know what I wanted to do,” Spurrier says. “Maybe get into some kind of public relations job, play some golf.”


At that point, coaching was not paramount to him. Then one day he decided to start attending Florida games, sitting in the stands for the first time in his life. That’s where the idea first occurred to Spurrier that he might coach. Shortly thereafter, he was hired as then-coach Doug Dickey’s assistant to instruct the quarterbacks. From there, Spurrier went to Georgia Tech to work for his old coach, Pepper Rogers, and then on to Duke as Red Wilson’s offensive coordinator.


A few years later, Spurrier, at 37, would become the youngest head coach in college football as he took over the Tampa Bay Bandits of the United States Football League.


All the while, the fate of Gator football was riding a roller coaster in the 80s, from championships to NCAA probation. Spurrier told friends he didn’t think he’d ever be the head coach for the Gators because “I don’t think the job will ever be open while I’m coaching.” That’s what he told me one January night in 1985 in Mobile, Ala., The USFL had just lost its court battle with the National Football League, and Spurrier’s career was very much in doubt.


“I think Galen Hall will do a good job for them, and he’ll be there for a long time,” Spurrier said.


After losing his opener to Ole Miss, Hall’s ’89 team won four straight and it appeared as Spurrier had said, that Galen was solidified in that job. Two days later, hall resigned, and the hunt was on for the next Florida coach. All eyes turned to Durham, N.C., where Spurrier’s Blue Devils were about to win the Atlantic Coast Conference and go to their first bowl in two decades.


Unbelievably, however, there was an undercurrent of resistance about Spurrier, not least of which came from athletic director Bill Arnsparger, although he later denied it. Spurrier became the overwhelming choice.


As the 1994 season unfolded, I observed Spurrier up close on a regular weekly basis and was surprised to discover the intense pressure he faced on a daily basis. In today’s world of conflict between coach and athlete, Spurrier’s willingness to make swift and decisive measures in meting out punishment is down right admirable and refreshing.


I asked Spurrier about all that pressure. He told a story about a friend of his, a former player at Georgia now coaching at a small college, who was feeling overwhelmed.


Spurrier: “If you think you’ve got pressure at small school, what do you think it’s like for me at Florida?”


Friend: “The big difference is that when you go to the bank an deposit your check every week, the pressure is alleviated quite a bit.”


Spurrier makes in excess of $700,000 a year. The price of everything has gone up.




Auburn-Florida week in 1994: Perhaps the biggest game ever to be played at Florida Field. Both teams undefeated and nationally ranked, the Gators at No.1  and the Tigers at No. 6 in the Associated press poll. A heated rivalry. And Spurrier against Terry Bowden, son of Bobby, that hated Bowden clan.


A big weekend in the life of all gators, but none more than terry Dean, who was two weeks from his 23rd birthday and himself in position to reap more glory than he ever deemed possible in his football life.


Dean was now the starting quarterback on the nation’s No. 1 team, and with 18 touchdowns in five games, he was on track to perhaps being recognized as the greatest football player in the land. If he was feeling good about himself, little wonder.


Instead of strutting with confidence, however, Terry Dean was beginning to feel the heat more than ever now. Despite his torrid, seven-touchdown first half in the opener against New Mexico State and near-flawless game against Kentucky and first half against Tennessee, he was starting to leak oil: The interceptions mounted against Ole Miss and LSU as Florida continued unbeaten.


After Dean’s poor outing against LSU, Spurrier knew he had to change his coaching strategy. Thus, he would revert to a hardball role with Dean. It was not a language Dean would be able to translate into results on the field. Yet expectations of Terry Dean were never higher. Expectations of Florida football were never higher. The stress impacted everybody.


What was a coach to do? His team was ranked No. 1in the country, his 1uarterback was leading the Heisman race, and yet there was a problem with the offense, which he could only correct through Dean, either by eliminating interceptions or benching him.


On Monday morning after the LSU game, as Dean stepped off the elevator into the athletic office, Spurrier summoned his fifth-year senior quarterback to his office where he would deliver the bad news.


Dean knew the conversation was going to be serious when Spurrier closed the door. Dean says he got the worst chewing out of his career. “My knees were shaking,” he said. On the following Saturday, Dean went out and threw four interceptions to Auburn by early in the third period, was benched and never played another significant down at Florida.


Spurrier sees nothing wrong with benching a player, but many would call that more of a “burial” than a benching.


“Look, I’m not going to criticize Terry Dean,” Spurrier said. “I’ve said all along I did a lousy job of coaching him. If Terry goes on to have a great career in the BNFL, then I guess he’ll prove I was wrong. He said I was putting too much pressure on him, and I certainly don’t want to do that to any player. So I made a change.”


That’s now exactly how Dean said it, but clearly, in the press conference following the 36-33 loss to Auburn when Dean revealed he received two mandates from his coach that week to play better or face demotion, that was considered an act of treason. Dean played twice more in mop-up roles.


In the national press, Spurrier took the heat. In a season when a national championship was being talked about, winning your third SEC title seems a bit of a compromise to some. Spurrier says he understands that fans’ expectations of Florida football have been raised considerably.


Fact is, Spurrier only might have been two plays from his chance for a national championship trophy: 1) when Floidia failed to stop Auburn on fourth and 10 in the final minutes of the game, and 2) any one of a dozen plays to stop Florida state in the fourth period after taking a 31-3 lead with 13 minutes left to play in what Seminole fans called “The Choke at Doak.”


The best scenario: Florida beats Auburn, remains ranked No. 1, beats the Seminoles and doesn’t have to face them again, playing a team like Notre Dame in the Sugar Bowl. As it was, the season ended ignominiously with a 23-17 loss against the Gators’ bitterest rival. Florida State found a way to pressure quarterback Danny Wuerffel and put a crimp in Florida’s offense.


Spurrier’s nemesis, Bobby Bowden, thinks the Gator coach will improve with time. “I think you are more impatient when you’re young,” Bowden says, without mentioning Spurrier’s name. I know I certainly was. And I’m a lot more tolerant now than I was 10 years ago.”


However, Bowden is remembering less and less what it’s like to lose to Florida because the Seminoles have dominated the series the last nine years.


“We haven’t actually dominated,” says Bowden. “We‘ve won, but it’s been darn close in most cases. You get back to the bowls, and people ask us why we’ve won them: Probably because we’ve got better players than the people we’re playing. I’m not saying we’ve got better players than them (Florida), we’ve just got a few more better players. But that thing will roll the other way.”


Spurrier’s long-term future at Florida appears to be what he wants to make it. Despite rumors that he had conversations with the Carolina Panthers of the NFL, Spurrier says he has no intentions of leaving his alma mater. With a contract through the year 20000, it would appear that only if and when he’s ready to leave will the Spurrier era end.


That may not happen until he can finally delver on that greatest moment ever for Gator fans, a national championship. First, though, Spurrier’s got to beat Bowden and win the state title.

Athlon Archive: Steve Spurrier is not Darth Vader
Post date: Thursday, October 15, 2015 - 07:45
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News, Magazines
Path: /magazines/duke-blue-devils-2015-16-basketball-team-preview-and-prediction

By riding a group of star freshmen to the school’s fifth national title, Duke finally seems to have found a winning formula in the age of one-and-dones. With another crop of highly touted newcomers coming in to play alongside a group of solid-but-unspectacular veterans, the question becomes whether Duke can sustain it.


This time, the challenge might be steeper. While the Blue Devils’ recruiting class comes with the usual amount of accolades, it doesn’t appear to have the same kind of NBA-ready talent as the last one. And the foundation of established players isn’t quite as substantial as it was a year ago.


And much like last year, the window of time this Duke team has in which to figure itself out is a small one.


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The heart of senior big men Amile Jefferson and Marshall Plumlee has never been in doubt. If the situation called for someone to dive on a loose ball, get fiery in a huddle or follow a big play with a vein-bulging scream, they have always been eager to rise to the occasion. But the ability to be consistently effective ACC big men is something neither has yet demonstrated.


Jefferson’s exit from the starting lineup, clearing out the power forward spot for the smaller but more versatile Justise Winslow, was a major factor in last season’s title run. Meanwhile, despite having the same imposing body of his older brothers, Plumlee has yet to start a game at Duke.


That means freshman Chase Jeter will get as many minutes as he can handle. A spirited rebounder who’s comfortable with his back to the basket, Jeter will be Duke’s best option down low. After sitting out last season, transfer Sean Obi should figure into the equation as well.


No. 2 Duke Facts & Figures

Last season: 35-4, 15-3 ACC

Postseason: National champion

Consecutive NCAAs: 20

ACC Projection: First

Postseason projection: National runner-up




When Las Vegas point guard Derryck Thornton decided to reclassify and enroll at Duke a year early, the entire Blue Devils program likely breathed a sigh of relief. With the graduation of Quinn Cook and the early exit of NBA first-round pick and Final Four hero Tyus Jones, the Blue Devils simply had no other option at point guard. It’ll help that Thornton will have a daunting array of perimeter threats at his disposal.


As a freshman, whenever Grayson Allen had an opportunity to get on the floor he always seemed to make the most of it. That came in handy when his timely shooting and aggressive edge ignited a Duke charge in the title game that lifted the Devils past Wisconsin. Thanks to that performance, Allen will enter this season as the face of the program. A solid shooter with a fearless style and freakish athleticism, he will likely play that role well.


Opposing teams will have trouble figuring out how to deal with freshman wings Luke Kennard and Brandon Ingram. Kennard was a high-volume scorer in high school and will stretch defenses with his silky lefty jumper. Ingram, a four-time state champ in high school, is a wiry 6'8" small forward who has shown the ability to knock down outside shots. Ingram will likely need to get stronger in order to reach his immense potential. But his rare mix of size and perimeter savvy will make him hard to keep off of the floor.


Of course, all of these wing players will have to contend with junior Matt Jones for playing time. With his defense and hustle, Jones clawed his way into the starting lineup and became an indispensable part of the Blue Devils’ title run.


Key Losses: G Quinn Cook, G Tyus Jones, C Jahlil Okafor, F Justise Winslow

Top Players: G Derryck Thornton, G Grayson Allen, G Matt Jones, G/F Brandon Ingram, F/C Chase Jeter




Duke’s recruiting class isn’t merely good; it also fills areas of desperate need. Chase Jeter will be the Blue Devils’ most polished post player. Brandon Ingram, whose mix of length and athleticism will be trouble for opposing wings, likely will start. Luke Kennard will fit nicely into the guard rotation, while Derryck Thornton will be Duke’s only true point guard


Final Analysis


When Winslow, Tyus Jones and star center Jahlil Okafor bolted for the NBA after Duke’s NCAA Tournament triumph, the conventional wisdom was that Duke was headed toward a rebuilding year. There would simply be too many mismatched parts and too many unanswered questions for the Blue Devils to stay among the elite.


But when Ingram gave the Blue Devils’ recruiting class some star power by choosing Duke over North Carolina and Thornton’s reclassification solved the point guard problem, those doubts began to disappear. While they’re thin at spots — in the post and at point guard — the Blue Devils should have impact players everywhere. If they can create the uncommon chemistry of last year’s bunch, the Blue Devils’ ceiling should again be high.


Where before there were reasons why Duke wouldn’t contend in a loaded ACC, now it’s fair to ask: Why not Duke?

Duke Blue Devils 2015-16 Basketball Team Preview and Prediction
Post date: Thursday, October 15, 2015 - 07:30
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News, Magazines
Path: /magazines/north-carolina-tar-heels-2015-16-basketball-team-preview-and-prediction

Roy Williams likes to say that he would rather coach a talented team than an experienced team if forced to choose between the two. What he likes best, though, is coaching experienced talent. That winning combination produced NCAA championships for Williams in 2005 and 2009, and Williams enters this season with another North Carolina team that features an abundance of both qualities.


The Tar Heels have been in a drought according to their own lofty standards, not having reached a Final Four since 2009. Recently, their program has faced uncertainty and criticism in the aftermath of academic misconduct involving past UNC athletes. This season has a chance to be a return to glory of sorts.


UNC’s rotation includes six upperclassmen, headlined by senior guard Marcus Paige, and Williams welcomes back nine of his 10 players who averaged at least 10 minutes per game in 2014-15. UNC returns 88 percent of its points, 84 percent of its rebounds and 75 percent of its assists from last season.


The following article and more can be found in the Athlon Sports College Basketball Preview magazine, .


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As has been the case in recent seasons, the Tar Heels feature imposing depth inside. Brice Johnson is one of the nation’s best interior scorers with his long and lanky frame, and he and Kennedy Meeks are active on the offensive glass. Meeks improved as a defender last season after slimming down, but he and Johnson have room for more growth on that end of the court after being exploited by quick guards and big men alike. They also have been prone to silly fouls, especially illegal screens by Johnson, and it remains to be seen whether another year of maturity will help alleviate that problem.


Isaiah Hicks gives the Heels a capable third big man who would start on many other teams. Hicks has a slender build but excellent athleticism that helps him score points in flurries. Joel James is a bruiser who provides a mean streak that UNC’s other post players lack, and he showed surprisingly soft touch on his short jumper a year ago.


No. 3 North Carolina Facts & Figures

Last season: 26-12, 11-7 ACC

Postseason: Sweet 16

Consecutive NCAAs: Five

ACC Projection: Second

Postseason projection: Final Four




Paige returns as the team’s undisputed leader and most indispensable player. The sweet-shooting lefty fell short of preseason All-America expectations in 2014-15 as he battled a hip injury and plantar fasciitis, but he is back after offseason ankle surgery. Paige has the highest free throw percentage in UNC history, and he is just nine 3-pointers shy of breaking the school record in that category.


A key to UNC’s season is how much help Paige gets on the perimeter. Justin Jackson emerged late last season as a versatile scorer who can hit 3-pointers in addition to making his trademark floaters from mid range. He will share the wing with classmate Theo Pinson, whose defense and athleticism are needed after the early departure of J.P. Tokoto. Also in the mix is freshman Kenny Williams, a shooter who gives the Tar Heels another needed threat behind the 3-point arc.


Joel Berry II and Nate Britt return at point guard, where each will see minutes spelling Paige and playing alongside him when he shifts off the ball. Berry has breakout potential as a scorer and distributor, and Britt is a heady player who made strides last season with his shooting.


Key Loss: G J.P. Tokoto

Top Players: G Marcus Paige, G Joel Berry II, G/F Justin Jackson, F Brice Johnson, F Kennedy Meeks




Kenny Williams is the headline addition in North Carolina’s two-player recruiting class. A 6'3" guard who originally signed with VCU, Williams has a chance to contribute immediately because his biggest strength (perimeter shooting) has been one of UNC’s biggest weaknesses in recent years. Luke Maye, whose father played quarterback at North Carolina in the mid-1980s, is a good passer who could develop into a floor-stretching forward in the future.


Final Analysis


The good news for the Tar Heels is that their best players are experienced, a rarity for top programs today. The bad news is that those players have so much experience because they weren’t good enough to leave school early as NBA Lottery picks. The question then becomes just how valuable UNC’s experience will be. The Tar Heels have not been elite defensively since the 2011-12 season, the year before the current seniors arrived on campus, and last season featured some particularly porous efforts. UNC was shredded by offensive juggernauts Duke, Notre Dame and Wisconsin in its final three losses. It’s probably unreasonable to expect shutdown defense from a group that has been merely decent in that area lately, but some improvement is possible. If the Tar Heels defend a bit better, get a healthy season from Paige and see continued development from the sophomore trio of Jackson, Pinson and Berry, they have legitimate potential to win the ACC and contend for the national title.

North Carolina Tar Heels 2015-16 Basketball Team Preview and Prediction
Post date: Wednesday, October 14, 2015 - 08:30
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News, Magazines
Path: /magazines/maryland-terrapins-2015-16-basketball-team-preview-and-prediction

Maryland endured plenty of change entering last season: A massive roster overhaul coupled with entry into the Big Ten after more than six decades in the ACC. The Terrapins’ results changed, too. They won 28 games, finished a surprising second in a new league and earned a berth in the NCAA Tournament for the first time in five years.


With point guard Melo Trimble and wing Jake Layman remaining at Maryland, transfer Robert Carter Jr. eligible and touted freshman Diamond Stone in the fold, coach Mark Turgeon will field his most talented and versatile team since arriving in College Park.


“If we’re playing a smaller team, we can go small,” Turgeon says. “If we’re playing a bigger team, we can take advantage of matchups and go big. We have a lot of good pieces. We can go in a lot of different directions.”


Podcast: Who should be No. 1 in College Basketball in 2015-16?

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Maryland was forced to frequently play small last season. That won’t be necessary this winter. The 6'9" Carter, who averaged 11.4 points and 8.4 rebounds at Georgia Tech in 2013-14, dropped 18 pounds while in putting his transfer year to good use.


“We expect Robert to make a huge impact,” Turgeon says. “He has the complete game. He’s a low-post player who can shoot mid-range shots. He can shoot 3-pointers. He’s become a much better ball handler, and we’ve worked hard defensively with him.”


The Terps also return junior Damonte Dodd and sophomore Michal Cekovsky. Dodd, Maryland’s top rim protector last season, is up to 252 pounds. Meanwhile, the once-wiry Cekovsky is less likely to be pushed around after adding 25 pounds of muscle.


Stone’s addition was significant for Turgeon, who lured the Milwaukee native out of traditional Big Ten territory. But as hyped as Stone is, Maryland doesn’t need him to dominate as a freshman (though it wouldn’t complain if he did). “There’s a lot of pressure on Diamond because he’s so highly ranked,” Turgeon says. “We’re going to be able to take that off him because we have so many good players.”


No. 4 Maryland Facts & Figures

Last season: 28-7, 14-4 Big Ten

Postseason: Second round

Consecutive NCAAs: 1

Big Ten Projection: First

Postseason projection: Final Four




Trimble was an instant difference maker as a freshman, leading the Terps in scoring, assists, steals and 3-pointers made and demonstrating a knack for getting to the line. He quickly established his value and can grow it further with improvement at the defensive end.


“That’ll be a challenge, for him to do that,” Turgeon says. “His assists will go up. He’s got even more good players around him. I think offensively, he’ll still be Melo. He’ll make the plays, get to the foul line. I think he’ll become a more complete player than he was as a freshman.”


Jared Nickens and Dion Wiley mostly played reserve roles last season but could develop larger profiles as sophomores. Nickens’ shooting helped open the offense at times, while Turgeon says Wiley has matured and improved since the conclusion of his first season.


Then there’s Rasheed Sulaimon, who was dismissed from Duke’s program in January and watched his old teammates win a national championship. His second chance comes with the Blue Devils’ old ACC rival, where he will be immediately eligible as a graduate student, have one year of eligibility and help fill the void created by Dez Wells’ graduation.


“Even though he’s new, he’s doing a great job here in the summer developing relationships,” Turgeon says. “He has experience. He’s played at a high level. Defensively, Rasheed is a very good on-ball defender. Dez was a big-time defender. Rasheed gives us that to go with his offense.”


The Terps’ bolstered frontcourt gives the athletic Layman the chance to slide back to his natural wing position. The senior showed steady improvement throughout his first three seasons and already has surpassed the 1,000-point plateau for his career.


Key Losses: G Richaud Pack, F Evan Smotrycz, G/F Dez Wells

Top Players: G Melo Trimble, G Rasheed Sulaimon, F Jake Layman, F Robert Carter Jr., C Diamond Stone




The Terrapins scored a recruiting coup on late March when center Diamond Stone, a McDonald’s All-American, committed to the program. But the coveted big man isn’t Maryland’s only significant addition. Junior college transfer Jaylen Brantley could slide in as Melo Trimble’s backup at the point, and former Duke wing Rasheed Sulaimon will try to script a better ending to his career than his unceremonious departure from Durham last winter.


Final Analysis


Maryland will begin the year as a top-10 team. The last time it started a season there, it won the 2002 national title.


These Terps aren’t prohibitive favorites nationally, and they don’t possess the same postseason experience as the 2002 champions did. But they nonetheless are creating considerable excitement about building on a breakout season.


“We have good pieces and good players,” Turgeon says. “The personalities fit. I think the pieces fit. Every indication in how they’re working in the spring and summer is showing me they want to be a great team. We’re on the right track right now.”

Maryland Terrapins 2015-16 Basketball Team Preview and Prediction
Post date: Tuesday, October 13, 2015 - 08:30
All taxonomy terms: Brett Favre, Green Bay Packers, NFL, Monthly
Path: /favre

The man who contemplated retirement on an annual basis — and actually went through with it a few times, only to change his mind and come back for more — has found peace and happiness now that he’s finally embraced it.


And not even the roar of 67,000 adoring fans welcoming him to home to Lambeau Field in July for his induction into the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame, or slinging passes to his old teammates during a charity flag-football game the next day, will change his mind.


“I don’t believe I’ll be making a comeback,” Brett Favre said with a laugh after throwing two touchdown passes and an interception to his fellow “has beens” (his words). “My feet are killing me.”


Favre, 45, played 20 NFL seasons, including 16 with the Packers and two with the rival Minnesota Vikings, a move that infuriated many of his fans at the time but is now all but forgotten by most. We caught up with the legendary QB to ask him about his record-breaking career and life after the game with wife Deanna, daughters Breleigh and Brittany and grandsons Parker and A.J. 


What’s your life like nowadays?

I would say fairly normal. One of the things Reggie White told me after he retired was, (doing his best imitation of White’s deep baritone) “I’m telling you, the one thing you’re going to miss is NOT football.” And I thought, “He’s crazy.” And I haven’t missed football. I’ve missed [coach] Mike [Holmgren] chewing my butt, rooming with [best friend] Frank [Winters], bus rides. And that’s what I miss. I don’t miss 3rd-and-15 in the Metrodome and we haven’t won a game there in eight years. I don’t miss that. I miss the camaraderie with the guys. I miss the things that Reggie told me I would miss and he’s right. It’s less about the game and more about the people.


You have two grandsons. You once said that if you had a son, you wouldn’t let him play football. Do you still feel that way?

I still kind of feel that way. Now, my two grandsons, one’s five, one’s a year, and what they’ll do, I don’t know. Brittany’s husband is a soccer guy — he’s actually from England — so they may play soccer, they may play football, I don’t know. But there is this, I don’t know what you’d call it — anxiety, knowing what football can do. Now, in saying that, I had a wonderful career. Did I get my share of hits and bumps and bruises? Of course. What are the long-term effects? Time will tell. I don’t know. I don’t think the cumulative of playing 20 years of football, plus in college, that’s 24, plus high school, has a positive effect on you. I would be nervous, for obvious reasons. It’s a violent game.


You were fearless as a player, but it doesn’t sound like you’re that way with the boys.

[My brothers] and I, we were into everything. If Mom and Dad turned their backs, were we out in the street, we were doing who knows what. And how they got through that, I have no idea. Because now as a parent and as a grandpa, every little move and every little detail, I want to be watching and observing and making sure they don’t get hurt or whatever. I would have never thought that I would be that way. But I’m totally the opposite of what I thought I’d be. I do have anxiety. You’d think I’d be, “Hey, throw ‘em out there. Let ‘em go. They’ve got to be kids.” I understand that, but you also know [the dangers].


How does it feel to have reconnected with the Packers and their fans after how ugly things got in the summer of 2008?

I feel much better now because things are in a much better place and I — like most people, probably — questioned if we would ever get to that point. And not only have we gotten to that point, but we’ve gotten there times 100. I remember leaving the stadium and going home [before being traded to the New York Jets in August 2008], and it was like leaving family, and I don’t know if I’ll ever see them, or if we’ll ever be as close as we have been. I remember thinking as I left, just me, just thinking in the car, “How did it ever get to this? I cannot believe we’re at this point, after 16 great years, wonderful years.”


How then did it feel to have 67,000 fans cheering you upon your return to Lambeau Field?

The emotions were far greater than what I thought they were going to be. And that’s a tribute to the fans. It really is. Amazing. I feel like I’m back home. I can’t stress to you how overwhelming it was, not only for me but for my family. What a great feeling.


If the Falcons hadn’t traded you to Green Bay, do you think you would’ve had the career you did?

Let me say this: I’m glad we don’t have to find out. Had I stayed in Atlanta, I don’t see much upside there. I felt stuck. [Falcons coach] Jerry [Glanville] didn’t like me. I had gotten lost in the shuffle. No one really, I walked past players and no one even knew who I was. And I just don’t know if time would have allowed for that to happen. And then you fall through the cracks — it happens all the time. But the great thing about Atlanta is it got me to Green Bay. And the rest is history. It was a perfect fit. It just all fell into place. I think I related to the fans there more than I would have anywhere else. It could not have happened any better.


Is it tougher for young professional athletes today than when you played?

There’s no doubt today it is tougher. You can criticize your coaches on Twitter, your teammates on Facebook, and things like that and it’s instantaneous. The old-timey coaches are like, “You’ve got to be kidding me.” We’re all human. We all make mistakes. But as athletes, celebrities, it’s more visible. You live and learn. I’m thankful that I survived the early stages of my career. I haven’t had a drink since ’98, and I’m very thankful for that. I survived drug addiction and seizures and so forth. God was looking out for me, even though I was not looking out for myself. And a lot of the things that I’ve done, I obviously regret, but it’s about moving on and becoming a better person. I have a long ways to go, never will be perfect, but I do strive to be that person.


How do you view your career?

I had dreams and aspirations. All I thought about was playing pro football and pro baseball as a kid. Now, probably most kids think that way. But I’m one of those that can say, ‘My dreams came true.’ But then, also, say they were surpassed. When things went bad [in Green Bay] … it was unfortunate. It hurt me, it hurt the Packers fans, it hurt the Packer organization emotionally. But I knew what I had done spoke for itself. And it’s kind of like looking in a mirror and liking what you see. We all have flaws, we’ve all made bad decisions, we’ve all made mistakes that we later regret, but just the body of work. Was it perfect? Absolutely not. But I played as hard as I could, I did everything I possibly could. I committed myself to the team, the organization and the fans, and more than anything, if there was anything that bothered me, it was that I didn’t do more. But I do know that I did all I could.


by Jason Wilde


Brett Favre retired from the NFL, but he's still a busy man
Post date: Sunday, September 20, 2015 - 01:01
All taxonomy terms: Magazines
Path: /magazines/athlon-sports-2015-16-preseason-womens-college-basketball-top-25

Once again, Connecticut is an easy choice to take the women’s basketball national title. The Huskies will be aiming for their 11th championship, which would tie the fabled UCLA men’s program for the most all time.


There will be some talented teams pursuing the Huskies, but the crew from Storrs is an overwhelming favorite.


1. Connecticut (38-1)

The Huskies lost All-American Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, but the program is so strong that it should only be a bump in the road. It starts with senior forward Breanna Stewart, who was the consensus 2015 National Player of the Year. UConn will also rely on returning double-digit scorers Moriah Jefferson, Morgan Tuck and Kia Nurse. Katie Lou Samuelson, the nation’s top-rated recruit according to the All Star Girls Report, could step into Mosqueda-Lewis’ spot.


2. Notre Dame (36-3)

Coach Muffet McGraw will have to replace standout Jewell Loyd, but the Fighting Irish have successfully replaced All-Americans before. Four proven starters are back, and a tremendous recruiting class will join the program. Sophomore Brianna Turner may be Notre Dame’s next All-American, and she will be joined in the starting lineup by Lindsay Allen, Taya Reimer and Michaela Mabrey. Arike Ogunbowale leads a freshman class that includes three top-20 recruits.


3. Tennessee (30-6)

Mercedes Russell and Diamond DeShields were two of the best freshmen in the country in 2013-14, and they both sat out last year. Now, Russell (who underwent surgery on both feet) and DeShields (who transferred from North Carolina) will be playing together for the Lady Vols. Add in returnees Bashaara Graves and Jasmine Jones, plus two outstanding recruits, and Tennessee could be the top team in the SEC.


4. South Carolina (34-3)

Tiffany Mitchell returns as the Gamecocks’ unquestioned leader, but the spotlight at USC may fall on sophomore A’ja Wilson and junior Alaina Coates. Those two delivered impressive numbers last year while coming off the bench. Can they move to another level as starters in 2015-16?


5. Ohio State (24-11)

The Buckeyes should top the Big Ten under third-year head coach Kevin McGuff. Ohio State will be powered by sophomore guard Kelsey Mitchell, who netted 24.9 points per game as a freshman. Backcourt partner Ameryst Alston will provide senior leadership, while forwards Shayla Cooper and Alexa Hart are also returning starters.


6. Mississippi State (27-7)

A very young Bulldogs team set the school record for wins last year, so expectations are soaring in Starkville. MSU’s nucleus will feature four returning starters: juniors Breanna Richardson and Dominique Dillingham, plus sophomores Victoria Vivians and Morgan William. Teaira McCowan, a 6'7" freshman center, should also make an impact this winter.


7. Baylor (33-4)

The talented tandem of junior forward Nina Davis and senior point guard Niya Johnson will make the Bears a serious Final Four contender. Juniors Imani Wright, Khadijiah Cave and Alexis Prince are proven veterans. The contributions of newcomers Alexis Jones (a Duke transfer) and freshman post players Kalani Brown and Beatrice Mompremier could be critical.


8. Louisville (27-7)

The Cardinals lost three starters, so they will be looking for help from one of the nation’s top recruiting classes. Louisville, which has reached the Final Four two times over the last seven years, will be paced by the team’s top two scorers from 2014-15, sophomore forwards Mariya Moore and Myisha Hines-Allen. Asia Durr, who was listed as the No. 2 prospect in the country by the All Star Girls Report, leads an outstanding five-player recruiting class.


9. Texas A&M (23-10)

The Aggies should have strong senior leadership and an equally strong bench this year. Courtney Williams and Courtney Walker return after they both tallied over 14 points per game in 2014-15, and point guard Jordan Jones should be back after suffering a knee injury during the season.


10. Texas (24-11)

Heading into her fourth season in Austin, coach Karen Aston has done a tremendous job rebuilding the Longhorns. Eight players who saw significant minutes last year return, with 6'5" junior Kelsey Lang and 6'7" senior Imani McGee-Stafford forming an impressive baseline tandem. The development of freshman shooting guard Lashann Higgs could prove to be a key for Texas.


11. Oklahoma (21-12)

The Sooners used a balanced attack to cross the 20-win plateau last year, and they have four starters returning. A productive perimeter group features juniors Peyton Little and Gioya Carter, along with sophomore Gabbi Ortiz. Senior forward Kaylon Williams will need some help on the baseline.


12. Northwestern (23-9)

After reaching the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 18 years, the experienced Wildcats should have their sights set even higher in 2015-16. Four starters return for coach Joe McKeown, and all four scored in double figures last year. That quartet includes seniors Maggie Lyon and Lauren Douglas, plus juniors Nia Coffey and Ashley Deary.


13. Duke (23-11)

Elizabeth Williams is gone, but Azurá Stevens appears to be the heir apparent to Williams’ All-American legacy. Stevens, a 6'6" sophomore wing, contributed 14.1 points and 8.2 rebounds per game as a freshman. Rebecca Greenwell is another sophomore who is a proven scorer, and the Blue Devils will also rely on Amber Henson, Oderah Chidom and an outstanding recruiting class that features four top-50 prospects.


14. Arizona State (29-6)  The Sun Devils were the surprise team of 2014-15, and they have a strong cast returning. Senior sharpshooter Katie Hempen is the top scoring threat, and junior Sophie Brunner is productive in the paint. Senior Elisha Davis will be back running the point, with junior Quinn Dornstauder returning in the post.


15. Florida State (32-5)

The Seminoles enjoyed a great run last year, and four the of the team’s five double-digit scorers will be back in Tallahassee. Senior center Adut Bulgak will lead the way after she averaged 12.3 points and 9.5 rebounds in 2014-15. Bulgak should get plenty of help from junior center Leticia Romero, junior forward Ivey Slaughter and sophomore forward Shakayla Thomas.


16. Maryland (34-3)

The Terrapins have reached the past two Final Fours, but the graduation of Laurin Mincy and the late transfer of Lexie Brown created major voids. Senior Malina Howard and juniors Shatori Walker-Kimbrough and Brionna Jones will form a solid foundation, but highly regarded freshmen Brianna Fraser and Kiah Gillespie will have to adapt to the college game quickly.


17. Stanford (26-10)

The Cardinal will rely on 3-point shooting and a strong junior class that features guard Lili Thompson, who led a balanced attack with 13.3 points per game last year. Thompson will be supported by classmates Erica McCall, Briana Roberson and Karlie Samuelson, and sophomore Kaylee Johnson is another proven performer.


18. Oregon State (27-5)

The Beavers are coming off their best season in school history, and expectations should be even higher in Corvallis for 2015-16. Four starters return, including three who piled up impressive numbers last year. Jamie Weisner (13.7 ppg, 6.2 rpg), Ruth Hamblin (12.9 ppg, 8.6 rpg) and Sydney Wiese (12.7 ppg, 5.6 apg) will give Oregon State an outstanding core.


19. Kentucky (24-10)

The Wildcats were inconsistent last year, but a veteran backcourt should keep UK on target this winter. Senior point guard Janee Thompson will work with juniors Makayla Epps and Linnae Harper on the perimeter. Highly regarded newcomers Evelyn Akhator (the No. 1 junior college recruit in the nation) and freshman Batouly Camara will be counted on for immediate help.


20. North Carolina (26-9)

The Tar Heels have talent, but these are tumultuous times in Chapel Hill. After Diamond DeShields transferred following a tremendous 2013-14 freshman campaign, leading scorer Allisha Gray opted to transfer this summer. Stephanie Mavunga and Xylina McDaniel will give UNC two talented forwards, but freshmen Stephanie Watts and Destinee Walker will have to step up immediately in the backcourt.


21. George Washington (29-4)

The Colonials will have plenty of depth and plenty of size. The impressive George Washington frontline will be led by senior Jonquel Jones, who averaged a double-double in 2014-15. The 6'4" Jones will be joined on the baseline by 6'5" sophomore Kelli Prange and 6'2" junior Caira Washington. Junior Hannah Schaible will be the Colonials’ top perimeter threat.


22. Chattanooga (29-4)

The gaudy 2014-15 win total included victories over Tennessee and Stanford, and a strong nucleus returns for veteran coach Jim Foster. Junior forward Jasmine Joyner led the Mocs in scoring and rebounding last year, and senior point guard Alicia Payne is back to run the show. Junior Chelsey Shumpert and sophomore Keiana Gilbert are also reliable contributors.


23. South Florida (27-8)

All five starters return for the Bulls, including a pair of supremely talented seniors. Courtney Williams delivered 20.3 points, 7.5 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game last year, while Alisia Jenkins posted 12.8 points, 11. 3 rebounds and 2.3 blocked shots.


24. Syracuse (22-10)

The Orange are another program with five returning starters. The backcourt combo of Alexis Peterson and Brianna Butler will lead the way after they combined for just under 30 points per game last year. The key performer may be center Briana Day, who contributed 9.4 points and 10.4 rebounds per contest as a sophomore.


25. Princeton (31-1)

The Tigers ripped off 31 straight wins before they fell to Maryland in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Princeton lost the player on top of its scoring column, but the next six players on that list return. Most important, the Tigers will have five proven seniors — guards Michelle Miller and Amanda Berntsen, plus forwards Alex Wheatley, Annie Tarakchian and Taylor Williams.

Athlon Sports' 2015-16 Preseason Women's College Basketball Top 25
Post date: Monday, September 14, 2015 - 07:00
All taxonomy terms: NFL, News
Path: /nfl/nfl-2015-regular-and-postseason-predictions

The defending world champion New England Patriots open defense of their title on Thursday night to kick off the 2015 regular season. While football fans everyone are overjoyed that the attention on the nation's most popular sport will finally shift back to what happens on the field, the ultimate goal for all 32 teams remains the same — get to Super Bowl 50.


The Patriots are the champs looking to pull of another repeat, while the Seahawks would like to make some history of their own by becoming just the third team to play in three straight Super Bowls. The Buffalo Bills were the last to do so back in the early 1990s. Can Seattle be the next? Not likely, according to the panel of Athlon editors who have made their predictions for how the upcoming season and postseason will play out.


There does seem to be mutual agreement when it comes to the top and bottom of each division, as all five editors have the same champion for six of the eight and the same cellar dweller for all but one (NFC South). The only disagreement when it comes to first-place teams is in the AFC North and NFC East. After that, opinions vary, but in the end this panel seems to believe that Green Bay will wind up on top of the football world when all is said and done.

In addition to the predicted standings for every conference, Athlon’s editors also make their Wild Card (WC) picks as well as the respective conference championship game (CG) matchups and their best guess as to which teams will face off at Levi's Stadium on Feb. 7, 2016 with the Lombardi Trophy on the line.    


AFC East
 Rob Doster
Braden Gall
John Gworek

Steven Lassan

Mark Ross
AFC North
AFC South
AFC West
AFC Playoffs
CGPatriots over

Colts over


Colts over
Patriots over

Broncos over



NFC East
 Rob Doster
Braden Gall
John Gworek
Steven Lassan
Mark Ross
NFC North
NFC South
NFC West
NFC Playoffs
CGSeahawks over
Packers over
Packers over
Packers over
Seahawks over


Super Bowl 50

 Rob Doster
Braden Gall
John Gworek

Steven Lassan

Mark Ross







NFL 2015 Regular and Postseason Predictions
Post date: Thursday, September 10, 2015 - 09:30
All taxonomy terms: College Football, News
Path: /college-football/challenge-athlon-sports-experts-week-1-pick-em

College football is back, and the competition off the field is nearly as heated as the competition on game day.


The gives you the chance to compete with your friends and our experts each week.


Think you’re up for taking on our experts every week? Think you can beat the writers and editors each week? and compete for tons of cool prizes.


Here are this week’s top picks from Athlon Sports senior writer David Fox:


Thursday’s Games


North Carolina vs. South Carolina (Charlotte)

Both teams need to re-boot their defenses under new coordinators. South Carolina has the stiffer test in the opener against Marquise Williams.

Fox’s Prediction: North Carolina 28­–21


WKU at Vanderbilt

Western Kentucky put up points on just about everyone last season. Derek Mason’s life won’t get any easier if his first game at DC is a showcase for WKU QB Brandon Doughty.

Fox’s Prediction: WKU 35–21


Michigan at Utah

Jim Harbaugh may have won the offseason, but he’s going to need solid offensive line play to win his debut at Michigan. That’s been in short supply.

Fox’s Prediction: Utah 24–21


TCU at Minnesota

Trevone Boykin’s Heisman bid gets an early test in a rematch against the standout Minnesota secondary.

Fox’s Prediction: TCU 28–14


Friday’s Games


Baylor at SMU

A neat game for head coaches who worked their way from Texas high schools to being offensive masterminds. Unfortunately, it won’t be close.

Fox’s Prediction: Baylor 56–14


Washington at Boise State

Washington’s defense is rebuilding. So is Boise State’s backfield. I’ll throw my lot in with the Broncos.

Fox’s Prediction: Boise State 35–28


Saturday’s Games


Stanford at Northwestern

Stanford will have a lopsided advantage in the trenches and has the more experienced quarterback. The Wildcats could go 0-for-the-Bay Area the last two openers.

Fox’s Prediction: Stanford 28–21


BYU at Nebraska

Nebraska’s 29-game season-opener winning streak might end if we see the same Taysom Hill we saw at the start of last season.

Fox’s Prediction: BYU 28–24


Louisville vs. Auburn (Atlanta)

Jeremy Johnson might be the most hyped first-year starting quarterback in a preseason since Tim Tebow. Facing Louisville in an opener is an interesting test.

Fox’s Prediction: Auburn 28–21


Penn State at Temple

Christian Hackenberg and P.J. Walker combined for six interceptions in this game last year. This game has to be better, right?

Fox’s Prediction: Penn State 24–14


Virginia at UCLA

UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen’s first start comes against a team rebuilding the pass rush.

Fox’s Prediction: UCLA 35–21


Bowling Green vs. Tennessee (Nashville)

Can Tennessee live up to the hype? The Volunteers might have to play through some nerves as they start the season.

Fox’s Prediction: Tennessee 35–17


Arizona State vs. Texas A&M (Houston)

This game could set up as a shootout. Arizona State will be the team that can make the critical stop or force the crucial turnover.

Fox’s Prediction: Arizona State 35–28


New Mexico State at Florida

Treon Harris is a surprise starting quarterback for new Gators coach Jim McElwain. Can he hang onto the job?

Fox’s Prediction: Florida 49–14


Texas at Notre Dame

Expect some nasty defense in this one. Notre Dame has the experience on defense and a functional offense, making this an easy pick for the Irish.

Fox’s Prediction: Notre Dame 24–10


Wisconsin vs. Alabama (Arlington)

Wisconsin’s normally stout offensive line is a question this year. Alabama will have a major edge.

Fox’s Prediction: Alabama 31–14


Texas State at Florida State

FSU won’t have much trouble, but Everett Golson’s progress will be worth watching.

Fox’s Prediction: Florida State 41–10


Mississippi State at Southern Miss

Mississippi State will go as far as Dak Prescott can take the Bulldogs.

Fox’s Prediction: Mississippi State 28–10


Colorado at Hawaii

This is actually an interesting late-night game. Well-traveled USC transfer Max Wittek might give the Warriors a chance, and those late games at Hawaii are always tricky.

Fox’s Prediction: Colorado 28–21


Monday’s Game


Ohio State at Virginia Tech

The Buckeyes will be better prepared for anything Bud Foster throws at them this time around.

Fox’s Prediction: Ohio State 28–14


Challenge Athlon Sports Experts in the Week 1 Pick 'em
Post date: Thursday, September 3, 2015 - 12:45
Path: /college-football/ranking-college-footballs-best-and-worst-logos-2015

Just about every sports fan is tied to their team’s logo, which makes ranking logos complicated. To get an educated opinion on what is a good logo and what isn't, Athlon Sports turned to one of the people most responsible for helping produce some of the best-looking magazines on the newsstands, graphic designer .


After going through each of the Power 5 conferences (, , , , ) with her trained eye, Cantrell decided to look at the FBS a whole. Here is her ranking of the top 20 logos in the FBS ranks, and five she just doesn't care for:



Talk about classic. The Longhorns’ logo is simply unique and is arguably one of the best  in college football.

2.North CarolinaThe Tar Heels’ logo is a staple. The font used fits the NC perfectly together creating a timeless look.

I love a good script font that is gender neutral… and this logo does the trick. The color scheme along with the beautiful flow of the letters makes this logo top in my book in the Pac-12.

4.Penn StateA very underrated logo, Penn State’s Nittany Lion looks like it is ready to hunt someone down. The oval makes this animal-based logo different from the others and gives it an all-around aggressive feel. I love it.
5.TennesseeThe Volunteers’ power T is probably the best logo in the SEC for one reason: it’s so recognizable. The unique style of the T is unlike any other and who can forget that bright orange?
6.MiamiThe uniqueness of the Canes’ logo is unlike any others. I am a big fan of the symmetry and the color scheme works perfectly together.
7.OregonThe Ducks' O displays simplicity at its finest. The font of the O has a great shape that gives it a different compared to your average O.
8.ClemsonThere are so many different animal logos, but the tiger paw print is synonymous with Clemson. Also, the roughness of the lines gives the logo a nice edgy feel, which goes perfectly with the bright orange.
9.Notre DameThe Notre Dame logo will always be a favorite in my book because of how perfectly the interlocking letters go together. The D is so different than most Ds, and by itself might look off, but placed with the N the pair is simple, readable and creative.
10.West VirginiaPerfect placement. The placement of the WV is what makes this logo. It’s different and the sharp edges really bring a strong, tough look to the logo.
11.LSUI love that LSU finally realized its initials alone are very recognizable. This newer look is sleeker and not so busy. Though the LSU tiger is also very well known and loved, the Tiger is much better as a secondary logo in this case.
12.Michigan State

The Spartans’ logo is spot on; I particularly enjoy the curves of the helmet.

13.AuburnMy roommate is an Auburn grad and I can hardly stand the site of the mass amount of Auburn things in our apartment, but if you actually look at the logo, for what it is, then you’ll notice how well done it is. The pairing of AU is perfectly placed where both letters stick out, but also evolve into its own logotype. It has a great look and they do a good job not overdoing it.
14UConnThe UConn logo is exactly the way a stylized animal logo should look like. The sharpness of the lines give an aggressive feel along with the color scheme. I also really enjoy how the eyes are blue and the tongue is red, they are subtle and simple details that really make the Huskies' logo unique.
15.IndianaThe placement of the Hoosiers logo is what makes it distinctive, and the simplicity of it makes it stand out among the rest.

The Commodores’ logo is flashy and fun. The gold and black keep sleekness to the logo and the white V really pops next to the black.

17.GeorgiaI actually really love the Georgia logo, but I also love the Green Bay Packers’ logo and they look identical. Georgia’s logo is perfectly clean, both in color combination and in the marriage of the G and the thin red oval.

The Syracuse S is simple, stylish and sophisticated. This logo screams “sports” and I enjoy the clean edges of the S paired with the color scheme.

19.USCThe interlocking letters make this logo. That subtle detail in the crossing gives just enough detail to really bring this logo to the next level.
20.Texas A&MThank you Aggies for beveling your T correctly. I can only hope some schools take notice of how well done this look is (cue Texas Tech).

And her picks for the worst college football logos in 2015 (in alphabetical order):



The Jayhawk has design potential, but this cartoon look isn’t it. Someone needs to jump into the 21st century and modernize this bad boy.

 Oregon StateI am just not a fan of the beaver... it looks like a blob.
.South CarolinaGamecocks, you’ve got too much going on in your logo. It all starts to blur together and then it’s hard to see what it really is.
 UtahThis logo could be really cool, but the circle bothers me. The block U and feather detail is great, but it the circle gives an off-balanced feel.
 WisconsinThis logo wouldn’t be that bad if the W didn’t look like it is dancing. This gives it a cartoonish look and the drop shadow doesn’t help its case.
Ranking College Football's Best and Worst Logos in 2015
Post date: Thursday, August 27, 2015 - 10:30
Path: /college-football/ranking-secs-best-and-worst-college-football-logos-2015

Just about every sports fan is tied to their team’s logo, which makes ranking logos complicated. To get an educated opinion on what is a good logo and what isn't, Athlon Sports turned to one of the people most responsible for helping produce some of the best-looking magazines on the newsstands, graphic designer .


Here is what she had to say about the 's football logos:


1.TennesseeThe Volunteers’ power T is probably the best logo in the SEC for one reason: it’s so recognizable. The unique style of the T is unlike any other and who can forget that bright orange?
2.LSUI love that LSU finally realized its initials alone are very recognizable. This newer look is sleeker and not so busy. Though the LSU tiger is also very well known and loved, the Tiger is much better as a secondary logo in this case.
3.AuburnMy roommate is an Auburn grad and I can hardly stand the site of the mass amount of Auburn things in our apartment, but if you actually look at the logo, for what it is, then you’ll notice how well done it is. The pairing of AU is perfectly placed where both letters stick out, but also evolve into its own logotype. It has a great look and they do a good job not overdoing it.

The Commodores’ logo is flashy and fun. The gold and black keep sleekness to the logo and the white V really pops next to the black.

5.GeorgiaI actually really love the Georgia logo, but I also love the Green Bay Packers’ logo and they look identical. Georgia’s logo is perfectly clean, both in color combination and in the marriage of the G and the thin red oval.
6.Texas A&MThank you Aggies for beveling your T correctly. I can only hope some schools take notice of how well done this look is (cue Texas Tech).
7.Ole MissThis logo is near and dear to me, being an Ole Miss grad. I personally think it looks good on everything, but that’s just me finding sentiment in the logo (which I told myself I wasn’t going to do). If you really take a look at the logo for what it is, it could definitely be updated. The brush script font went out of style ten years ago, but I guess it just works for Ole Miss… or so I think.
8.AlabamaThe Crimson Tide’s logo is hard for me to take seriously because I think the Alabama A and the Atlanta Braves A are identical. One of the teams needs to claim it.
9.Mississippi StateI like the look of the Bulldogs’ power M. It has a great shape to it and the slabs of the typeface are not overdone. The ribbon adds a nice touch, but I do not think it is necessary to outline the entire thing in gray unless it is behind a dark color.
10.FloridaThe colors in this logo blend too much. The gator logo is very well designed, but I wish the gator popped a little more.
11.KentuckyThe Wildcats’ logo has improved a lot since their old one, but I wish the typeface did not look so stretched out. I liked the condensed look of the old one.
12.ArkansasThis logo has improved a lot throughout the years, but it could still take a more modern route. Animal logos do much better when they are more stylized.
13.MissouriMissouri has an aggressive logo. Toning it down a bit by taking off some of the detail would take this logo to another level.
14.South CarolinaGamecocks, you’ve got too much going on in your logo. It all starts to blur together and then it’s hard to see what it really is.
Ranking the SEC's Best and Worst College Football Logos in 2015
Post date: Tuesday, August 25, 2015 - 10:30
Path: /college-football/ranking-pac-12s-best-and-worst-college-football-logos-2015

Just about every sports fan is tied to their team’s logo, which makes ranking logos complicated. To get an educated opinion on what is a good logo and what isn't, Athlon Sports turned to one of the people most responsible for helping produce some of the best-looking magazines on the newsstands, graphic designer .


Here is what she had to say about the 's football logos:



I love a good script font that is gender neutral… and this logo does the trick. The color scheme along with the beautiful flow of the letters makes this logo top in my book in the Pac-12.

2.OregonThe Ducks' O displays simplicity at its finest. The font of the O has a great shape that gives it a different compared to your average O.
3.USCThe interlocking letters make this logo. That subtle detail in the crossing gives just enough detail to really bring this logo to the next level.
4.WashingtonThe Huskies’ W is so classic and sleek that it works.
5.UCLAThe Bruins’ logo is a classic take on a script logo. Underlining the letters make the logo stand out and gives a great softness to all the curves.
6.Washington StateA lot of creativity went into making this logo. The subtle WSU in the body of the cougar is a really cool concept.
7.ColoradoI really like the concept behind this logo, but I wish the CU was a little easier to read.
8.StanfordStanford’s S is extremely classic. The touch of white and red trim makes the logo.
9.ArizonaI like the concept, but I hate that two typefaces were made in the making of this. The inner A is too pointed for the slab serif A around it.
10.Arizona StateI am glad they finally dropped the words that used to be incorporated with this logo. The pitchfork has an edginess to it and is quite different to the rest the logos in college football.
11.UtahThis logo could be really cool, but the circle bothers me. The block U and feather detail is great, but it the circle gives an off-balanced feel.
12.Oregon StateI am just not a fan of the beaver... it looks like a blob.


Ranking the Pac-12's Best and Worst College Football Logos in 2015
Post date: Monday, August 24, 2015 - 12:30
Path: /college-football/ranking-accs-best-and-worst-college-football-logos-2015

Just about every sports fan is tied to their team’s logo, which makes ranking logos complicated. To get an educated opinion on what is a good logo and what isn't, Athlon Sports turned to one of the people most responsible for helping produce some of the best-looking magazines on the newsstands, graphic designer .


Here is what she had to say about the 's football logos:


1.North Carolina

The Tar Heels’ logo is a staple. The font used fits the NC perfectly together creating a timeless look.

2.MiamiThe uniqueness of the Canes’ logo is unlike any others. I am a big fan of the symmetry and the color scheme works perfectly together.
3.ClemsonThere are so many different animal logos, but the tiger paw print is synonymous with Clemson. Also, the roughness of the lines gives the logo a nice edgy feel, which goes perfectly with the bright orange.

The Syracuse S is simple, stylish and sophisticated. This logo screams “sports” and I enjoy the clean edges of the S paired with the color scheme.

5.Virginia TechThe combination of the V and T goes together flawlessly and makes it one of the most recognizable initial-based logos.
6.Florida StateLast year FSU modernized its very historic Seminoles logo. Thank you. There is nothing wrong with a little upgrading and bringing it up to pace with the rest of the world. Props.
7.PittPittsburgh is the only logo that uses its shortened name and it works. Arching the block font and adding a drop cap gives the logo a funky (in a good way) look.
8.DukeI think this logo had good intentions, but didn’t follow through. The definite points on a more rounded letter makes this logo different, but by connecting the two objects in the center, making the D, the logo would make more of a statement.
9.VirginiaI really enjoy the two sabres crossed beneath the serif V. It’s both creative and symmetrical… I just wish the V was filled in.
10.Wake ForestProps to the Demon Deacons for finally changing their primary logo. This logo is more modern than the old cartoon-looking one they use as their secondary.
11.NC StateI would do one of two things. Change the placement and keep the same colors or change the colors of NC and keep the placement. There is just too much going on.
12.Georgia TechThe arrangement of the GT makes the Yellow Jackets ‘logo. Also, changing the color to a more brown-based gold instead of the old yellow gold gives this logo a more up-to-date look.
13.LouisvilleI love this particular logo, but when text is added to it, like for the Cardinals’ secondary logo, I really dislike it. The cardinal stands out on its own well. It’s creative and fierce… you don’t need anything else.
14.Boston CollegeThe color scheme in this logo doesn’t do it for me. I almost wish the eagle was gold so that it broke up the letters a little more. Just a thought.
Ranking the ACC's Best and Worst College Football Logos in 2015
Post date: Friday, August 21, 2015 - 11:30
Path: /nfl/nfl-scouts-talk-anonymously-about-nfc-west-teams-2015

The NFC West is poised for another great year, as the Seahawks will once again begin as the presumed favorites. Meanwhile, the Cardinals and the Rams appear to be capable of contending, while there are plenty of unknowns when it comes to the 49ers. The Cardinals might have the best chance to take down the Seahawks, especially if Carson Palmer can play a full season. However, the Rams seem to be headed towards a great season with such a strong defense. The 49ers disappointed last season and had a tumultuous offseason, but they're only two years removed from a Super Bowl appearance. The biggest question seems to be, can the Seahawks make it back to a third straight Super Bowl?


In order to get an accurate assessment of the four NFC West teams heading into 2015, Athlon asked NFL scouts to talk anonymously about the Cardinals, Rams, 49ers and Seahawks.


Note: These scouting reports come directly from NFL scouts and do not necessarily reflect the views of Athlon's editorial staff. 



“The Cardinals opened 9-1 a year ago, but lost QB Carson Palmer after six games, could not compensate at the position, and lost five of their last seven including a wild card exit against Carolina."…


"Bruce Arians has an ability to tap into the mentality of pro players and they have responded to his approach in a big way."…

"If Palmer can come back healthy, their passing game should pick up where it left off before his injury."…

"Larry Fitzgerald is on the back-nine of his career, but between him, Michael Floyd and John Brown, the rookie sensation from Pitt State (Kan.), they have an excellent combination of styles and ability."…


"TE John Carlson chipped in 33 receptions a year ago, but because of their past RT problems, the tight ends are often kept in to help with pass protection."…


"With that said, they drafted Florida OT D.J. Humphries in the first round and plan to insert him into the lineup right away."…


"Arians is very high on RB Andre Ellington, but there were lots of doubts he could be the lead pony and it proved to be true when he ran for only 660 yards (3.3 ypc) and only three touchdowns. He did catch 46 passes, but Northern Iowa RB David Johnson (6-1, 224), the team's third-round pick, has been added to the mix."…


"LT Jared Veldheer was a solid addition in free agency last year and the Cardinals hope LG Mike Iupati (49ers) can do the same this year. Iupati is a power player all the way and can help them improve their run game, which ranked 31st in the league (81.8 ypg)."…

"Defensive coordinator Todd Bowles parlayed their defensive success into the head coaching job with the Jets, so James Bettcher takes over the role."…


"Arizona is based in a 3-4, but they love to play their ‘big’ nickel/three-safety package. Deone Bucannon was a surprise first-round selection in 2014, but he found a contributing role and registered 86 total tackles."…


"Rashad Johnson led the team with 101 total stops and four interceptions."…

"CB Patrick Peterson is an elite player and Jerraud Powers is expected to take over the other side with the departure of Antonio Cromartie back to the Jets."…

"The front seven is going through some changes with the loss of Darnell Dockett, Dan Williams, Larry Foote and Tommy Kelly, however, they still have Calais Campbell with Cory Redding and Corey Peters both being signed as free agents."…

"Other than Alex Okafor who had eight sacks in 2014, this linebacker group needed a boost, so Missouri's Markus Golden was their choice in the second round. He is extremely tough and was discounted by the media because of all the attention on Shane Ray."…

"The window for winning is closing with an aging and vulnerable Palmer, so there is palpable urgency inside the Cardinals' building to make a huge push in 2015.”



“Not sure how a possible move to LA affects the players and coaches in 2014, but the Rams certainly look like an organization on the move based upon owner Stan Kroenke’s activities in Southern California."…


"Head Coach Jeff Fisher goes into his fourth season with a record of 20-27-1, so this is a huge year for his future."…


"Having grown weary of all the injuries to QB Sam Bradford and his unwillingness to re-structure the contract, they dealt him and a fifth-round pick to the Eagles for Nick Foles and a pair of draft choices (including a 2016 second-round choice). They are hoping Foles’ availability will win the day as compared to the oft-injured Bradford."…


"Brian Schottenheimer left for Georgia as offensive coordinator, so Frank Cignetti takes over and he will need better play from a substandard offensive line."…

"Last year’s first-round selection Greg Robinson will likely go back to LT after starting 12 games at guard."…

"At pick No. 10, they opted for talent over need as Georgia RB Todd Gurley was the choice. He is coming off a November ACL, but they saw him as the best player in the entire 2015 class."…


"This is a defensive-centric team, but after a slow start in 2014, they only finished tied for 16th in scoring and 17th in total yards."…


"Their front line has phenomenal talent in DEs Robert Quinn and Chris Long, plus DTs Aaron Donald, Michael Brockers and new addition Nick Fairley."…


"Akeem Ayers was signed in free agency from New England as a Sam linebacker, while James Laurinaitis and Alec Ogletree are very active defenders."…

"In the back end, the Rams traded for Bucs’ safety Mark Barron in October and they are hoping that he, T.J. McDonald and Rodney McLeod can give them the ability to put three safeties on the field together to contend with the taller wide receivers and bigger tight ends of the league."…

"The corners are good enough with pressure up front as Janoris Jenkins has always been athletic and E.J. Gaines was an impressive sixth-round find in last year’s draft."…


"With San Francisco losing so many starting caliber players in the offseason, maybe the door is open for the Rams to get out of the NFC West cellar."…


"How Foles plays behind a shaky OL will determine much of what happens both on and off the field in 2015.”



“As many in the league anticipated, the 49ers’ brass got what they wanted at the end of 2014, head coach Jim Harbaugh departing for another job. In what was discussed and speculated on for almost two years, the divorce finally happened when the parties mutually agreed to part ways and Harbaugh left for Michigan."…


"DL coach Jim Tomsula takes over and he was rumored to be the internal favorite all along."…

"He will have his hands full trying to make QB Colin Kaepernick into a bona fide starter and figuring out how to replace five notable players that retired or left in free agency on the defensive side of the football."…

"Kaepernick spent the offseason in Arizona re-tooling his mechanics and it will be interesting to see if that training can translate to the real season."…

"RB Frank Gore hit free agency and ended up with Indianapolis, so Carlos Hyde, who only had 333 yards rushing last year, will become the feature back."…

"The offensive line is still in the top third, if everyone is healthy, and should bounce back from a subpar showing in 2014."…


"Mike Iupati opted for the Cardinals, which opens his LG spot for Brandon Thomas who essentially ‘redshirted’ last season with an ACL tear."…


"WR Anquan Boldin had his seventh 1,000-yard plus season despite the 49ers ranking 30th in passing at 191.4 yards per game…


"Torrey Smith was brought in from the Ravens to replace Michael Crabtree, who went across the Bay to Oakland."…


"Maybe the biggest key for Kaepernick will be getting TE Vernon Davis back into the offense, he only caught 26 balls for a 9.4 average and two touchdowns last season."…


"On defense, DE Darnell Dockett decided to stay within the division and he will bolster the front in the absence of Ray McDonald and the retired Justin Smith."…

"They also drafted Oregon DE Arik Armstead to help put the unit back together again."…


"The linebacker position was jolted when  All-Pro Patrick Willis, their spiritual leader, retired from the game at age 30, only to have rookie Chris Borland walk away from the sport less than a week later."…


"NaVorro Bowman missed the entire season, but is expected to be 100 percent healthy for the 2015 campaign."…


"With Aldon Smith only playing seven games, Ahmad Brooks and Aaron Lynch combined for 12 sacks, so this might be their deepest position."… [Editor's note: Aldon Smith was released by the 49ers on Aug. 7 shortly after he was arrested on DUI, hit-and-run and vandalism charges.]

"Former Chargers’ CB Shareece Wright was signed as a starter with Tramaine Brock, Chris Cook and Dontae Johnson battling at the other post."…

"It appeared San Francisco was set at safety with Antoine Bethea and maybe the best young centerfielder in the game in Eric Reid, but they made a surprise pick in the second round by choosing Samford FS Jaquiski Tartt."…

"Expect Jimmie Ward, who was plagued by a foot problem all year, to play a more prominent role in 2015."…

"On paper, the 49ers have definitely taken a step back from a personnel perspective, now we will see if the same is true in coaching as well.”



“Don’t expect a case of the Super Bowl ‘blues’ with this team. Pete Carroll and John Schneider really operate from the same sheet of music in terms of communicating their philosophy of competition and high energy for the entire organization."…


"Russell Wilson is exceptionally instinctive as a player and with the trade for TE Jimmy Graham, he will have another option down the seam and on scrambles."…


"Because of Graham’s capacity to detach and play from the slot, his presence should create even more air inside the box for RB Marshawn Lynch. ‘Beast Mode’ re-upped after his feelings were hurt and he left the country for a few weeks post-Super Bowl, but he should be able to play out the deal for the next three seasons."…

"Defensive coordinator Dan Quinn departed for the Falcons’ head coaching position, but Seattle still has talent at every level of the D."…


"They have more of a ‘rotational’ front four now, but the linebackers complement each other well and play outstanding football. Bobby Wagner still doesn’t get the recognition he deserves, yet people around the league know exactly what he represents as a player."…

"Three-quarters of the secondary starters return with Cary Williams replacing Byron Maxwell opposite of Richard Sherman and he should be an adequate fit in this scheme."…

"Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor form the best safety tandem in the entire NFL, they are spectacular together, but of course, Thomas is coming off shoulder surgery and may not be available until October."…

"The Seahawks have mastered the art of bringing in players that ‘have something to prove’ and built a roster of hungry individuals that should keep them right at the top of the NFC.”

NFL Scouts Talk Anonymously About NFC West Teams
Post date: Thursday, August 20, 2015 - 12:00
Path: /college-football/ranking-big-tens-best-and-worst-college-football-logos-2015

Just about every sports fan is tied to their team’s logo, which makes ranking logos complicated. To get an educated opinion on what is a good logo and what isn't, Athlon Sports turned to one of the people most responsible for helping produce some of the best-looking magazines on the newsstands, graphic designer .


Here is what she had to say about the's football logos:


1.Penn StateA very underrated logo, Penn State’s Nittany Lion looks like it is ready to hunt someone down. The oval makes this animal-based logo different from the others and gives it an all-around aggressive feel. I love it.
2.Michigan State

The Spartans’ logo is spot on; I particularly enjoy the curves of the helmet.

3.IndianaThe placement of the Hoosiers logo is what makes it distinctive, and the simplicity of it makes it stand out among the rest.
4.IowaThe Hawkeye is fierce, without being too intense. Keeping a one-color scheme makes the logo pop.
5.Ohio StateI actually like the Buckeyes logo a lot, but it is a little busy. The color scheme is on point though. Also, does anyone else think the spacing of the words is a little off?
6.NebraskaThe Huskers’ logo is straightforward and clean. I am a fan of this block letter N.
7.MichiganEvery thing but the "Michigan" banner is great.
8.MinnesotaThe treatment and color scheme of this logo works, but I am not a fan of how large the seraphs are.
9.PurdueThe slant of this logo is really harsh and combined with the lightness of the gold it makes this logo hard to read.
10.MarylandI know there is an attachment to the state flag, but this added detail is unneeded. It’s too tiny and detailed to be in a logo. 
11.IllinoisI prefer the old power “I” to this one (without the text), but this logo is a little more modern and looks a lot sleeker than the old logo with Illinois written over the top of it.
12.RutgersIllinois and Rutgers seem to be thinking the same things. While modernizing their logo they have taken all creativity and washed it away. However, I am a fan of some of their secondary logos.
13.NorthwesternNorthwestern hasn’t updated their logo in a while and it’s noticeable. The shape of then N just doesn’t work by itself.
14.WisconsinThis logo wouldn’t be that bad if the W didn’t look like it is dancing. This gives it a cartoonish look and the drop shadow doesn’t help its case.
Ranking the Big Ten's Best and Worst College Football Logos in 2015
Post date: Thursday, August 20, 2015 - 11:00
Path: /nfl/nfl-scouts-talk-anonymously-about-nfc-south-teams-2015

Since the NFC South's inception in 2002, only one team has won back-to-back division titles — the Carolina Panthers from 2013-14. However, they finished with a sub-.500 record last yea. With no true dominant team, this division is really a toss-up. Any of these teams could win this division, but will any of them clearly stand out from the others?


In order to get an accurate assessment of the NFC South heading into 2015, Athlon asked NFL scouts to talk anonymously about the Falcons, Panthers, Saints and Buccaneers.


Note: These scouting reports come directly from NFL scouts and do not necessarily reflect the views of Athlon's editorial staff. 


Atlanta Falcons


“The lack of difference-making talent on this Falcons roster cost head coach Mike Smith his job, so now the organization has shuffled the deck in the player personnel department and hired Dan Quinn from the Seahawks to fix the worst defense in the league."…


"Scott Pioli will have more say in the draft, but GM Thomas Dimitroff will inevitably lean on Quinn to shape their philosophy."…


"The heat is on because Matt Ryan does have franchise QB ability, but will be entering his 10th season when Atlanta moves into a new stadium for the 2017 season."...


"When healthy, Julio Jones is at the top of the league’s wide receivers, however, the offensive line has been a total failure and they still haven’t found a top-shelf replacement for Tony Gonzalez at tight end."…


"Third-round draft pick Indiana RB Tevin Coleman brings big speed to the table and he should pair off well with Devonta Freeman."…


"Amazingly, the defense is in worse shape. The Falcons were 32nd in rush, total and third down defense because they simply could not rush the passer and no one in the secondary has shut-down capability."…


"To upgrade the pressure issue, they drafted Clemson DE Vic Beasley at sixth overall and he should fit their coveted ‘hybrid’ DE/OB spot."…


"Paul Worrilow has emerged as a steady linebacker after injuries decimated the position each of the past two seasons."…


"CBs Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford are OK, but neither has the height/weight/speed to contend with the giant-sized receivers in this division, so the club took a shot in the second round on LSU CB Jalen Collins (6-1, 203)."…


"At safety, maybe William Moore will finally reach his potential in Quinn’s scheme and the club is counting on second-year prospect Dezmen Southward to become a capable starter."…


"While things have not gone well for two straight seasons, none of their NFC South brethren have run off and dominated the division, so the Falcons have real hope that Quinn can engineer a quick turnaround.”


Carolina Panthers


“As expected, Carolina took a step back in 2014 after the retirement of LT Jordan Gross and the free agent departure of WR Steve Smith, however, the entire division literally went ‘south,’ so the Panthers got into the playoffs and actually won a game over a QB-depraved Arizona Cardinals squad."…


"QB Cam Newton was harassed and hit all year behind a porous offensive line and then capped off the season with a near-tragic car accident."…


"In the draft, LSU’s La'el Collins was off the board due to a bizarre set of circumstances surrounding the death of a female acquaintance and Pittsburgh’s T.J. Clemmings was not a consideration at No. 25 due to a stress fracture, so they opted for Washington LB Shaq Thompson."…


"2014 first-round pick WR Kelvin Benjamin showed that he was far more advanced than people expected and looks like a future star in the league."...


"TE Greg Olsen has quietly enjoyed a very productive NFL career after being traded from Chicago in July 2011."…


"The Greg Hardy legal situation drained the entire organization on and off the field, and while he spent almost the entire season on the Commissioner’s Exempt List, the Panthers still managed to finish 10th in total defense."…


"Their front seven is strong with legit interior defensive linemen and all-star LBs Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis."…


"The secondary survived due to the emergence of two rookies: CB Bene Benwikere and SS Tre Boston, but surprisingly, the entire unit was not addressed in the draft."…


"With Newton and Kuechly as their cornerstones, Carolina will always contend for division honors, the question is can they improve enough everywhere else to challenge for a Super Bowl?."...


"The guess here is probably not due to their weaknesses at OT and in the secondary.”


New Orleans Saints


“On paper, the Saints made a financial commitment for the 2014 season that was going to put them in position to challenge for a Super Bowl championship. Instead, they finished 7-9 and found themselves $30 million over the salary cap heading into the 2015 league year."…

"After all the contract angst about TE Jimmy Graham last year, they traded him to Seattle on the eve of free agency for a first-round pick (No. 31) and center Max Unger. The offensive line still has OG Jahri Evans and they drafted Stanford OT Andrus Peat with the 13th overall selection."…

"RB Mark Ingram was extended, while C.J. Spiller was added to the backfield in March."…

"Drew Brees is a tactical QB and needs precision around him in the form of timing and disciplined routes. WR Kenny Stills was shipped to Miami and, from afar, it appears that he and Graham were not on the same page with the face of the franchise."…

"The defense hit rock bottom in nearly every statistical category and it all began with the knee injury to Jairus Byrd after four games."…

"The Rob Ryan scheme never generated the chaos needed to create fumbles and interceptions and the Saints finished the year minus-13 in turnover margin."…

"With Seattle's first-round pick, New Orleans drafted Clemson LB Stephone Anthony who will bring leadership and production to the position.”


"If DE Cameron Jordan can return to form and Byrd and fellow safety Kenny Vaccaro bounce back from their injuries, with the addition of CB Brandon Browner to counter the big receivers in this division, New Orleans could bounce back in a big way in 2015."…


Tampa Bay Buccaneers


“In the first year of the Lovie Smith/Jason Licht era, the Buccaneers were very aggressive in free agency and praised for all their additions last March. After a disastrous 2-14 campaign, veterans Josh McCown, Anthony Collins and Michael Johnson were released and Tampa Bay appears ready to start over with No. 1 pick QB Jameis Winston as the central figure in their rebuilding efforts."…


"He will have the ability to play 'above-the-rim' with over-sized WRs Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans on the perimeter, but someone needs to emerge as a slot receiver and the offensive line has to be better than last year’s horrid group that contributed to the Bucs being 29th in rushing offense and tied for 29th in sacks allowed."…


"Penn State OT Donovan Smith and Hobart College OG Ali Marpet were both selected in the second round, so that’s a start to constructing a pocket for Winston who needs room to operate because of his leggy build and one-speed athleticism."…


"Dirk Koetter is the new offensive coordinator and he will be tasked to maximize the abilities of TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins who flashed as a rookie."…


"Defensively, DT Gerald McCoy and LB Lavonte David are Pro Bowl-caliber players, but no one else must be game-planned for by opponent offenses."…


"The pass rush was not addressed in the draft, so George Johnson (trade with Lions) and Jacquies Smith will enter camp as the opening day starters."…


"The back end has been turned over completely since 2013 with only CBs Johnthan Banks and Alterruan Verner returning from last year’s unit."…


"Safeties Mark Barron (in-season trade to Rams) and Dashon Goldson (March trade to Redskins) were both jettisoned, so while the offense has received all of the media attention, the defense has been completely re-worked from front to back, but this is a group that is a work in progress.”

NFL Scouts Talk Anonymously About NFC South Teams
Post date: Wednesday, August 19, 2015 - 11:30
Path: /nfl/nfl-scouts-talk-anonymously-about-nfc-north-teams-2015

The Green Bay Packers have won four straight NFC North titles, and that grasp atop the standings doesn't seem to be fading away anytime soon. However, this certainly remains a very interesting division, and each team's success could revolve around just a few key players. The Vikings will have Adrian Peterson back, so that should have a strong impact on the team. Will it be enough to make the playoffs though? How will these teams compete with the dominant Packers?


In order to get an accurate assessment of how the four NFC North teams are shaping up heading into the 2015 season, Athlon asked NFL scouts to talk anonymously about the Bears, Lions, Packers and Vikings.


Note: These scouting reports come directly from NFL scouts and do not necessarily reflect the views of Athlon's editorial staff. 



“With high hopes for 2014, the Bears’ season quickly dissolved into a 5-11 campaign due to a dysfunctional locker room, no apparent leadership from the head coach or QB positions and a defense that made zero strides as a unit."…


"Marc Trestman and GM Phil Emery were shown the door and veteran coach John Fox and first-time GM Ryan Pace were hired in the offseason."…


"New offensive coordinator Adam Gase followed Fox from Denver and he has the unenviable task of ‘fixing’ Jay Cutler."…


"WR Brandon Marshall was traded to the Jets, but Matt Forte, Alshon Jeffery and Martellus Bennett all return, and West Virginia WR Kevin White was chosen at pick No. 7, so there is ‘talent’ in the building."… [Editor's note: Kevin White will start the season on the Physically Unable to Play (PUP) list because of a stress fracture in his shin that will require surgery. He will miss the first six games, at minimum.]


"OG Kyle Long has proven to be a Pro Bowl-level player, but the rest of the offensive line is a work in progress."…


"Vic Fangio comes to the Windy City from the 49ers as the defensive coordinator and he has one of the toughest jobs in football as Chicago tries to transition from the 4-3 to the 3-4."…


"They signed a notable free agent at every level of the defense in OLB/DE Pernell McPhee (Ravens), LB Mason Foster (Buccaneers) and safety Antrel Rolle (Giants). McPhee has never been a full-time player, Foster missed most of 2014 with an Achilles injury and Rolle is on the backside of his career, however, they can provide a new voice and serve as a conduit for Fangio to the other defensive players."…


"PK Robbie Gould struggled with a nagging quad injury all season and only made 9-of-12 field goals in 12 games."…


"Fox and Co. will try to push the reset button with a roster of mixed pieces and parts, but this looks like the weakest team in the division.”



“Give Jim Caldwell and his staff credit, they cleaned up the turnover margin (minus-12 to plus-seven) and put themselves in position to win 11 games last year."…


"They dialed back QB Matthew Stafford and relied on a defense that finished top two in run, total and scoring defense."…


"DT Ndamukong Suh and his contract situation dominated the headlines for months on end before they opted not to franchise tag him and he signed with the Dolphins. Now, the trick will be to see if Haloti Ngata and a host of others can replace Suh in the middle."…


"Calvin Johnson continues to be a preeminent talent in the league, but he did miss three games in 2014."…


"The Lions are looking for much more from last year’s first-round pick, TE Eric Ebron, to give Stafford another safe option in the passing game."…


"Joique Bell is a dependable RB and Theo Riddick will assume the Reggie Bush role…The offensive line was uneven last year, but first-round pick, Duke OG Laken Tomlinson should help right away."…


"DE Ziggy Ansah is developing nicely as a complete player and their linebackers are underrated as a group."…


"Overall, this secondary was OK with Suh and that front, but they did add a pair of rookie corners in Stanford’s CB Alex Carter and Texas’ Quandre Diggs."…


"After shuffling through three placekickers, Matt Prater came onboard and was adequate enough to hold the job."…


"GM Martin Mayhew made the right call on Caldwell as coach in 2014. With more organizational leadership stability and financial flexibility post-Suh, it will be interesting to see if the Lions can chase down the Packers in the division.”



“The Packers major in evaluating college prospects and their own team, then they sit back and use this knowledge to selectively sign pro free agents and fill specific needs in the draft."…


"GM Ted Thompson and head coach Mike McCarthy are the longest-tenured duo in the entire NFL and that continuity pays dividends when it comes to scouting and developing players."…


"Offensively, Green Bay is set at all of the skill positions with Aaron Rodgers, Eddie Lacy, Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb all at the top of their respective games."…


"The offensive line is more functional than spectacular, but they found a fifth-round gem in OC Corey Linsley last year."…


"This is a middle-of-the-league defense and they will rely on a wave of linemen and the flexibility of Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers to bolster their front, while they drafted Arizona State DB Damarious Randall in the first round and Miami-OH CB Quentin Rollins in the second."…


"Much will be expected of Casey Hayward and Micah Hyde, so the competition for playing time will be intense in training camp."…


"McCarthy announced over the winter that he would no longer call plays in order to focus on the entire team, this coming after the Packers gave up seven blocked kicks during the season and melted down in the final minutes of the NFC title game on special teams. Still, as long as Rodgers is healthy, they are the clear front-runners in the NFC North.”



“Mike Zimmer put his imprint on this team with a no-nonsense, tough guy approach that resulted in a very competitive 7-9 record despite not having RB Adrian Peterson for the final 15 games."…


"There are three major coaching chores for the Vikings on offense in 2015: the continued development of QB Teddy Bridgewater, getting OT Matt Kalil back to Pro Bowl form and tapping into the raw talent of underachieving WR Cordarrelle Patterson."…

"Bridgewater looks like the future at the position after starting 12 games and hitting 64.6 percent of his passes with 14 touchdowns and 12 interceptions, while leading the team to four come-from-behind victories."…


"The Peterson suspension/reinstatement, ‘I Don’t Want To Play in Minnesota Anymore Game,’ grabbed all the headlines during the spring, but at the end of the day, he was not traded, so the anticipation is that he will be in a purple uniform by September."…


"They traded for Mike Wallace from the Dolphins to give them a vertical threat, while figuring out what happens with Patterson."…


"TE Kyle Rudolph is solid and the rest of the offensive line is intact, so there is a degree of continuity around Bridgewater."…

"DE Everson Griffen and rookie OLB Anthony Barr are both playmakers, and the Vikings added an immediate starter in Round 2 with the selection of UCLA LB Eric Kendricks."…


"The secondary has more ‘ability’ than results, but still added the draft’s consensus No. 1 corner, Trae Waynes from Michigan State."… 


"The reality is that there is a blue-chip talent in virtually every position group on this roster. If DT Sharrif Floyd, safety Harrison Smith and CB Xavier Rhodes continue to improve, this defense has the makings of becoming a top-third unit in the league.”

NFL Scouts Talk Anonymously About NFC North Teams
Post date: Tuesday, August 18, 2015 - 10:00
Path: /college-football/ranking-big-12s-best-and-worst-college-football-logos-2015

Just about every sports fan is tied to their team’s logo, which makes ranking logos complicated. To get an educated opinion on what is a good logo and what isn't, Athlon Sports turned to one of the people most responsible for helping produce some of the best-looking magazines on the newsstands, graphic designer .


Here is what she had to say about the 's football logos:


 TeamLogo Analysis
1.Texas Talk about classic. The Longhorns’ logo is simply unique and is arguably one of the best  in college football.
2.West Virginia Perfect placement. The placement of the WV is what makes this logo. It’s different and the sharp edges really bring a strong, tough look to the logo.
3.Oklahoma Again, like the West Virginia logo, this logo stands out because of the placement of the letters. It’s clean, bold and gets right to the point.
4.Kansas State Kansas State’s logo is an aggressive take on a silhouette, and I love it. The simplicity in the details is what makes this logo shine. 
5.TCU The block-style font is classic in the world of sports logos. A three-letter logo can sometimes be tricky to keep balanced, but curving the letters was the right way to go.
6.Baylor The placement of this logo is similar to the Sooners one, but in my book, the thickness of the gold stroke weakens this logo.
7.Iowa State  I am a fan of block letters and arched text, but this logo has too much going on. Backing off on something — beveling, stoke or color would strengthen the logo.
8.Oklahoma State This is not a monogram, but a logo. If the words did not vary so drastically in size I think the logo would have a stronger presence. I do enjoy the use of the black and orange, but the thin grey stroke is unnecessary.
9.Texas Tech Great placement; too much beveling. The two-toned colors along with both a white and black stroke makes this logo look overdone.
10.Kansas The Jayhawk has design potential, but this cartoon look isn’t it. Someone needs to jump into the 21st century and modernize this bad boy.
Ranking the Big 12's Best and Worst College Football Logos in 2015
Post date: Tuesday, August 18, 2015 - 09:30