Articles By Athlon Sports
Fuel up the RV and cash in those frequent flier miles, it is time to start checking off “bucket list” destinations. These are some of the best places to go and sights to see in 2016, spanning the calendar and the country. Ready… set… go!
Daytona 500 – Daytona International Speedway; Daytona Beach, Fla. (Feb. 21)
NASCAR’s first points race of the season is also its most prestigious. This year the Speedway will show off its new $400 million makeover. The venue now holds 101,500 fans over three concourses and has three times as many concession stands (and twice as many bathrooms) as before.
NHL Stadium Series – Red Wings at Avalanche; Coors Field; Denver (Feb. 27)
Tap the Rockies to watch what has become a new NHL tradition—the outdoor game. A 53-foot long, 96,500-pound mobile refrigeration unit keeps the 20,000 gallons of water on ice in the temporary rink.
MLB Spring Training – Yankees at Red Sox – JetBlue Park; Fort Myers, Fla. (March 15)
Even though the game doesn’t count in the regular season standings, the heated rivalry that makes this matchup compelling is on full display in the preseason. Plus, JetBlue Park has a Green Monster with seats inside.
March Madness opening weekend – Bellagio Hotel and Casino; Las Vegas, Nev. (March 17–20)
Let’s be honest: One of the most compelling reasons to watch the NCAA tournament is to bet on it. Make the viewing experience more interesting this year by anchoring yourself in the Bellagio’s Sports Book room that boasts 38 TVs and a river of libations. “The wagering action is fast and furious for four consecutive days,” says Jay Rood, VP of Race & Sports for MGM Resorts International.
WWE WrestleMania 32 – AT&T Stadium; Arlington, Texas (April 3)
The House That Jerry Built welcomes the world’s top professional wrestlers for a rumblefest. As with WWE itself, there is a lot of speculation about who will be there. One swirling rumor is a return of Stone Cold Steve Austin, who has hinted he might come out of retirement for this one.
Boston Marathon – Boston, Mass. (April 18)
In a city steeped in history, the Boston Marathon has been a tradition since 1897. The race has meandered along the same 26.2-mile point-to-point course, ending in the city center. Qualifying standards ensure only the swift get into the event. “The qualifying standards have become intertwined with the race itself,” says Race Director Dave McGillivray. “They help give Boston its true identity.”
Kentucky Derby 142 – Churchill Downs; Louisville, Ky. (May 7)
Depending on your style, you can customize race day to suit your tastes. Those looking for debauchery and madness should make their way straight to the infield, while those who prefer something more refined should head for the grandstands. In either location, you can suck down a mint julep while rooting for “your” horse to win.
100th Indianapolis 500 – Indianapolis Motor Speedway; Indianapolis, Ind. (May 29)
The Indy 500 is Woodstock for car fanatics with 200 mph laps, nightly concerts and plenty of tent camping on the grounds. The event has recently added an exclusive kind of camping on the track infield. “Glamping (glamorous camping) has become extremely popular,” notes Doug Boles, president of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. So come for the private tents and stay for the race.
Portland Timbers at Seattle Sounders – CenturyLink Field; Seattle, Wash. (Summer, TBD)
Trek to the Pacific Northwest to take in this heated rivalry that is the closest thing the U.S. has to a European-style football atmosphere. “Portland and Seattle have a 40 year history of battling it out on the pitch,” says Portland Timbers Army fan club board member Garrett Dittfurth. “From the fans to the players to the cities there just isn't a lot of love lost there.”
Fly fishing – Yellowstone River; Wyoming, Montana, North Dakota (early–late July)
Fishing the Yellowstone River gives the angler the opportunity to wade in one of the last and longest remaining undammed rivers in the lower 48 states, alongside elk, bison and sometimes bear. “We are fishing in the world's first national park for wild, native Yellowstone Cutthroat trout,” says Teton Floats guide Joe Morin. “It doesn't get much better.”
Summer Olympics (Games of the XXXI Olympiad) – Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (Aug. 5–21)
The Olympics remain well, the Olympics, of the sporting world. For two weeks, the entire planet pauses to tune into this spectacular event. Sure, coveted tickets are hard to find and room rates are high, but those who make the trip can take solace in the fact that they can finally wear that red, white and blue cape they’ve been dying to show off.
Bonneville Speed Week – Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah (Aug. 13–19)
Gearheads make an annual pilgrimage to the Utah desert to blast across the scorched Earth in muscle cars they’ve built themselves. It’s modern day drag racing with drivers pushing speeds of 400 mph on the eight-mile point-point course. “Everything about Bonneville is totally different from any other kind of racing around the world,” says driver Danny Thompson who did 419 mph in 2014. “You’re going two football fields a second.”
National Park Service Centennial – Yosemite (Calif.), Grand Canyon (Ariz.), Glacier (Mont.), Rocky Mountain (Colo.), Mammoth Cave (Ky.), Olympic (Wash.), Grand Teton (Wy.), etc. (Aug. 25, 100th anniversary)
The U.S. National Park Service celebrate its 100 birthday this year, so there is no better time to tromp around the some 84 million acres of outdoor space. “The national parks are great because they are truly democratic and are owned by all of us,” says Andrew White, spokesperson for Grand Teton. “More than anything, they teach us about ourselves, our past, and our future.”
Hike the Appalachian Trail – Springer Mountain, Ga., to Mount Katahdin, Maine (Spring/Summer/Fall)
This long walk in the woods—all 2,200 miles of it—winds through 14 states stretching from Georgia to Maine. The hazards are many—black bears, stinging mosquitoes and paralyzing blisters—but the payoff is to finish something only roughly 15,500 people have done since the full trail opened in 1937.
Tennessee vs. Virginia Tech (CFB) – Bristol Motor Speedway; Bristol, Tenn. (Sept. 10)
Billed as the “Battle as Bristol,” this matchup hopes to set the record for the highest football game fan attendance ever, with 150,000 fans. The field will be located in the middle of the track infield and the stadium seating will be split in half evenly between the two teams’ supporters.
Ryder Cup – Hazeltine National GC; Chaska, Minn. (Sept. 30–Oct. 2)
Over the last 50 years, Hazeltine has hosted every premier championship offered by the USGA and PGA of America. The Europeans teams have won the last three Ryder Cups in a row, so the Americans are due for a win in the high-stakes biennial international golf tournament.
B.A.S.E. Jumping on Bridge Day – New River Gorge, W. Va. (Oct. 15)
Since 1980, B.A.S.E. jumping has been part of the state’s largest annual event. Nearly 100,000 spectators watch more than 400 jumpers leap off the 876-feet high New River Gorge Bridge in 30-second intervals. The landing patch is tight. “New jumpers will typically land in the water,” says volunteer coordinator Mark Kissner. “We have an old saying: ‘You dry faster than you heal.’ ”
By Matt McCue
There’s a reason Jerry Rice, 53, is nicknamed the “G.O.A.T.” (Greatest of All-Time). Not only does he own nearly every receiving record, but he is also arguably the greatest player in Super Bowl history. In four career Super Bowl appearances, Rice posted 33 catches for 589 yards (17.9 ypc) and eight TDs — with three rings (all with the 49ers), one loss (with the Raiders) and a Super Bowl MVP award. We caught up with Rice heading into the “Golden Super Bowl,” Super Bowl 50 in the Bay Area.
Growing up, what team did you cheer for to win the Super Bowl?
My team was the Dallas Cowboys with Roger Staubach, Tony Hill, Drew Pearson, fullback Robert Newhouse and Tony Dorsett. I dreamed of one day playing for the Cowboys, but I got picked by the San Francisco 49ers.
Does your Super Bowl XXIII MVP game mean more to you than the other two Super Bowl wins?
All of them had a significant part of making me the person that I am today. Super Bowl XXIII, being able to move the ball down the field on the final drive and win that game against Cincinnati. Super Bowl XXIV, being able to score three touchdowns in that game and then Super Bowl XXIX against the San Diego Chargers, being able to strike early and get the momentum going in our direction. I can’t just point to one.
You scored a record three TDs twice, against the Broncos in Super Bowl XXIV and the Chargers in Super Bowl XXIX. What do you remember about those games?
Against Denver, I was not the primary receiver on the first one over the middle. I was the third option, but Joe (Montana) came back to me and that’s when I uncovered. What we noticed about Denver’s big safeties was that they liked to make contact, but they didn’t wrap up. So I got hit over the middle and I was able to bounce into the end zone. My second one was a circle post right before the half. My third one I took a shot over the middle that took the air out of me. My teammates ran down and picked me up and asked if I was okay. I said, “No.” The wind was completely knocked out.
You scored three more TDs against the Chargers while playing hurt. How did you play the biggest game of your life with a separated shoulder?
I had one situation where my jersey came over my pads, and I couldn’t put it back on. (Teammate) Deion Sanders had to put it back on for me. I somehow fought through the pain to raise my arms to make the catches.
Were you ever nervous before a Super Bowl?
I had nerves before every Super Bowl game. You hear players say they’re going to look at the Super Bowl like every other game. (Laughs) This one is much bigger. Before Super Bowl XXIII, I was up all night playing the first 15 plays over and over in my head. The next day I went over on the first bus, put my uniform on and decided to relax on a table in the locker room and fell asleep.
As a player you had the mantra, “Look good, feel good, play good.” Tell us about your style choices these days.
Van Heusen understands that life is a game of inches. Their new flex collar dress shirts provide that half-inch of flexibility around your neck and doesn’t compromise the look. For my style, I like to put different colors together, and I like to make a statement. I throw on a tie and a handkerchief.
Where should fans attending Super Bowl 50 go to have a good time in the Bay Area?
Crustacean is a fantastic restaurant that serves great crab legs and garlic noodles right in the city (San Francisco). Alcatraz and Fisherman’s Wharf are a must. And have drinks at the Continental Lounge in San Jose. We’re going to host some parties there and invite people to give them an insider’s look into the Super Bowl.
Interview by Matt McCue
Photography by Al Bello
Wardrobe by Van Heusen
Whether it’s playoff time or rivalry week, big games call for big viewing parties. And while you could serve the same old chips and salsa, you could also take it up a notch. You know what they say: Big players make big snacks for big games. Double or triple this dip recipe to feed a crowd of friends and fans — or tuck the bowl under your arm and watch the chip crumbs pile up on your shirt.
4 oz. light cream cheese
¼ cup ranch dressing
¼ cup hot wing sauce
½ cup shredded cheddar-jack cheese
1 cup shredded chicken breast
Flat-leaf parsley leaves, chopped
Chips (tortilla or pita)
1. Preheat oven to 350°F
2. In medium bowl, combine cream cheese, ranch dressing, wing sauce, ¼ cup cheddar-jack cheese and chicken breast.
3. Spoon into small baking dish, top with remaining ¼ cup cheddar-jack cheese.
4. Bake for 20 minutes, or until cheese is bubbly. Top with chopped parsley
5. Serve with chips
Recipe by Bobbi Burleson (BobbisKozyKitchen.com).
Athlon Sports & Life, in partnership with Geico, has released Trivia-Fu, a new sports trivia app to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Super Bowl. The free app allows players to challenge friends or random opponents to trivia battles featuring 10,000 Super Bowl-related questions across 50 levels. Leaderboards keep track of players' progress, while points are awarded for increased levels of question difficulty (easy, medium, hard).
Gameplay is simple. Connect to Facebook to challenge a friend or go it alone and play against a random foe. Answer as many questions as you can to rack up points in each quarter, but remember to keep an eye on that play clock. Play smart, it only takes one wrong answer before you turn the ball over to your opponent.
Stuck on a question? No problem! Call a timeout and play a Coin Flip card to eliminate two incorrect answers, or maybe play the Substitution card to request a new question. You're limited to three timeouts per match, so use those cards wisely.
Think you know your Super Bowl trivia? Here are a few sample questions from the game to test your knowledge.
Easy: Who is featured in the famous “Hey Kid, Catch!” Coca-Cola commercial during the Super Bowl?
A. Joe Namath
B. Joe Greene
C. Joe Montana
D. John Madden
Medium: Which was the first team to play in three consecutive Super Bowls?
A. Miami Dolphins
B. Buffalo Bills
C. New England Patriots
D. Green Bay Packers
Hard: Who made the tackle on the “One Yard Short” play in Super Bowl XXXIV?
A. London Fletcher
B. Tommy Polley
C. Mike Jones
D. Keith Lyle
Answers: B. Joe Greene; A. Miami Dolphins; C. Mike Jones
In each issue of Athlon Sports & Life, we pick six of our favorite things you need to know about. They may be books, automobiles, games, gear, booze, apparel or whatever happens to be awesome. Here's what made our list this issue:
A fitness-tracking timepiece that balances form and function? Yes, please. We downloaded the watch’s phone app and had it synced up in minutes to track distance, steps and calories burned. You can customize the watch's look with various quick-release straps. The "Gift Set" version we tested came with two: an orange nylon strap and a black silicone/work-out friendly alternative. More traditional straps are available online. The battery life is estimated at more than one year, so there’s no need to recharge it.
Mission Belt (Sports Editions)
Besides the fact that you can show off your school spirit by displaying your team’s logo on the buckle, the Mission Belt is also cool in its own right. Since it locks in place without the use of holes, you can adjust it to fit perfectly around your waist. Licensing includes NCAA, NBA and NHL.
Sports Illustrated Super Bowl Gold: 50 Years of the Big Game
If the big game had a yearbook, this would be it. It’s comprehensive and perfectly executed from beginning to end. The historic photography is stunning, while the insightful commentary from players who were in the actual games make it hard to put down. $40 www.amazon.com
50 Years, 50 Moments: The Most Unforgettable Plays in Super Bowl History
Super Bowl MVP Jerry Rice compiled his list of the most iconic, strategic, and record-breaking moments in football history, from the Super Bowl’s inception to today. The 464-page book is an engaging must-read for NFL fans. $29.99 www.harpercollins.com
Every beer drinker loves the taste of a well-poured draft beer. For most, that’s impossible to achieve at home. Until now. This portable, battery-powered machine gives your bottled, canned or growlered beer that unique draft-poured taste. How? They claim the device uses high-frequency sound waves and oscillation to create a great head and flavorful taste. And that's exactly what it does. $169.99 www.fizzics.com
Jack Daniel’s Gentleman Jack
If you’re looking to ease someone into a love of whiskey, Gentleman Jack is a great place to start. This Tennessee whiskey is charcoal mellowed before going into the barrel; then it’s mellowed again after reaching maturity to make it extra smooth. The distillery calls it “double mellowed.” And after multiple samples, so were we. It’s sweet to the nose, and offers a short finish. Perfect for any tailgating occasion. $39 www.jackdaniels.com
The Super Bowl may be the NFL’s biggest game, but only two teams get the opportunity to share this stage each season. Because of this, many of the game’s greatest players, including members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, were never given an opportunity to play for the Vince Lombardi Trophy. Here are the 10 NFL legends who never got their chance to enjoy the Super Bowl spotlight.
1. Barry Sanders, RB (1989-98)
Playoff record: 1–5
Best team: 1991 Lions (12–4 record, lost in NFC Championship Game)
Closest call: 1991 (NFC Championship Game, 41–10 loss at Redskins)
After winning his playoff debut 38–6 against the Cowboys, Sanders lost his next five postseason games. Shockingly, one of the most exciting players of all-time was limited to 13 or fewer carries in four of his six playoff contests. The only time No. 20 was given more than 20 carries, he ripped off 169 yards in a 28–24 loss to the Packers. Although Sanders ran wild every year on Thanksgiving Day, he never showed up to the party on Super Bowl Sunday.
2. Deacon Jones, DE (1961-74)
Playoff record: 0–2
Best team: 1967 Rams (11–1–2 record, lost in Divisional Round)
Closest call: 1969 (Divisional Round, 23–20 loss at Vikings)
The “Secretary of Defense” was known for head-slapping opposing offensive linemen, but the two-time Defensive Player of the Year must have been doing some head-scratching after retiring with zero playoff wins on three different teams — and zero Super Bowl appearances — despite an unofficial total of 173.5 sacks during his Hall of Fame career.
3. Dick Butkus, LB (1965-73)
Playoff record: 0–0
Best team: 1965 Bears (9–5 record, missed postseason)
Arguably the greatest middle linebacker in history, Butkus played for George Halas — the legendary coach whose name graces the trophy awarded to the winner of the NFC Championship Game — and on the same team as Hall of Fame triple-threat playmaker Gale Sayers. Despite looking great on paper at the time and even better in historical hindsight, Butkus’ Bears were unable to make the playoffs, which is the first step toward advancing to the Super Bowl.
4. Gale Sayers, RB (1965-71)
Playoff record: 0–0
Best team: 1965 Bears (9–5 record, missed postseason)
Butkus and Sayers were drafted Nos. 3 and 4 overall, respectively, by the Bears in 1965. But the Hall of Fame duo were unable to translate their individual achievements into team success. Sayers notched a record six TDs in a single game — with nine carries for 113 yards and four TDs, two catches for 89 yards and one TD, and five punt returns for 134 yards and one TD as a rookie — but failed to score even a single Super Bowl trip.
5. Earl Campbell, RB (1978-85)
Playoff record: 3–3
Best team: 1979 Oilers (11–5 record, lost in AFC Championship Game)
Closest call: 1979 (AFC Championship Game, 27–13 loss at Steelers)
The “Luv Ya Blue” bulldozer was unable to take down the powerful “Steel Curtain” during back-to-back AFC Championship Game losses. In two painful defeats at Pittsburgh, Campbell had a combined 39 carries for 77 yards (1.97 ypc), two catches for 15 yards, and zero TDs. Campbell’s two scoreless games against the Steelers were the only two playoff games in which he failed to find the end zone.
6. O.J. Simpson, RB (1969-79)
Playoff record: 0–1
Best team: 1974 Bills (9–5 record, lost in Divisional Round)
Closest call: 1974 (Divisional Round, 32–14 loss at Steelers)
Another victim of the mighty Steelers, the Juice had better luck than Campbell — with 18 touches for 86 total yards and one TD — but was unable to lead the Bills to victory in what would be his only postseason appearance. The actor and defendant never basked in the spotlight of the Super Bowl but he was seen by millions during his days as Lt. Nordberg in the "Naked Gun" franchise and his starring role in the Trial of the Century.
7. Eric Dickerson, RB (1983-93)
Playoff record: 2–5
Best team: 1985 Rams (11–5 record, lost in NFC Championship Game)
Closest call: 1985 (NFC Championship Game, 24–0 loss at Bears)
Upon first glance, the single-season rushing yards record holder posted solid playoff numbers. But take off the goggles and you’ll see that Dickerson’s 248-yard, two-TD outburst during a 20–0 win over the Cowboys in 1985 accounted for one-third of his career postseason rushing yards and half of his total TDs.
8. LaDainian Tomlinson, RB (2001-11)
Playoff record: 4–5
Best team: 2006 Chargers (14–2 record, lost in Divisional Round)
Closest call: 2010 (AFC Championship Game, 24–19 loss at Steelers)
Infamously sulking on the sideline, injured and wearing in a Darth Vader facemask and trench coat at New England — after just two carries for five yards — was clearly the low point of L.T.’s playoff career. Staying on the dark side, three of his five playoff losses were by margins of three points, one defeat came by four points and the most lopsided was a nine-pointer.
9. Tony Gonzalez, TE (1997-2013)
Playoff record: 1–6
Best team: 2003 Chiefs (13–3 record, lost in Divisional Round)
Closest call: 2012 (NFC Championship Game, 28–24 loss vs. 49ers)
It took Gonzo 16 seasons to finally earn a playoff win. Then, with the Falcons holding a 17–0 lead over the 49ers in the NFC title game, it looked like the future Hall of Fame tight end would be punching his ticket to the Super Bowl and possibly riding off into the sunset as a champion. The massive comeback by the Niners would be the all-time great’s final playoff game.
10. Warren Moon, QB (1984-2000)
Playoff record: 3–7
Best team: 1993 Oilers (12–4 record, lost in Divisional Round)
Closest call: 1993 (Divisional Round, 28–20 loss vs. Chiefs)
Moon won five consecutive Grey Cups and was twice named Grey Cup MVP in the Canadian Football League. But in these United States south of the border, the former CFL champion was unable to translate his prior success to the NFL Playoffs. Moon’s waning moment came in the worst collapse in postseason history, as his Oilers watched a 35–3 lead evaporate into a 41–38 overtime loss against the Frank Reich-led Bills.
So your friends are coming over for the big game and you're looking to prepare something different. We've got you covered. These chicken tenders are breaded in Cool Ranch Doritos and baked, so they have all the zesty kick without the grease.
Doritos-Crusted Chicken Sliders Recipe
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken tenderloins
1 bottle salad dressing (to marinate; Italian, Chipotle Ranch or plain old Ranch are great)
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 bag flavored tortilla chips (we like Doritos)
1 package slider buns 1 head Bibb lettuce
1 bottle Ranch dressing
1. Halve the chicken tenderloins and place them in a gallon-sized resealable bag and coat with salad dressing. Let it marinate for 30 minutes or longer.
2. Preheat the oven to 350° F. As the oven heats, set up three bowls for breading the chicken. Fill the first bowl with a mixture of flour, cayenne pepper and black pepper. Crack eggs into the second bowl and whisk them together to create an egg wash. Smash Doritos and place them in the third bowl.
3. Dip each piece of chicken in the flour mixture, then the egg wash, then the crumbled Doritos. (You may need to sprinkle more chips on top to thoroughly coat each piece.) Place each breaded piece of chicken on a parchment-lined baking sheet.
4. Bake chicken in the oven for 27-30 minutes, or until fully cooked. (There should be no pink showing when you cut ‘em in half.)
5. Assemble the sliders: Cut each bun in half. Place a piece of lettuce on the bottom bun, then the chicken, then drizzle with ranch and top with the other half of the bun.
The 2016 NASCAR Sprint Cup season is just around the corner. And after watching Kyle Busch return from a serious injury to win his first Sprint Cup title in dramatic fashion, fans can't wait for the green flag to drop on a new season. The 14th edition of Athlon Sports Racing arrives just in time to provide the preseason analysis and predictions craved by race fans from Sonoma to Daytona and everywhere in between.
The most complete preview of the year in racing is available now on newsstands across the country.
Related: Top 35 Drivers for 2016
We take a few laps around the track, asking "10 Tough Questions" and providing the politically incorrect answers — exploring hot topics like the new NASCAR rules package, the late-season Matt Kenseth-Joey Logano dustup, “fixing” Daytona and Talladega and more.
In this year’s edition, Athlon gets personal with some of the sport’s most compelling figures. We take a look at how Kevin Harvick has transformed himself into the sport’s front-runner. Our exclusive Q&A with Joey Logano brings you the unfiltered opinions of the defending Daytona 500 champ (and “star” of “Sharknado 3”).
There’s always been a tension in the sport between its love for tradition and its embrace of new technology in the quest for speed. We take a look at how technology, advanced analytics and fan demands are changing a sport that still clings to its roots in our feature “Culture Clash.”
As always, Athlon Sports takes you inside the garage with anonymous, highly opinionated quotes from rival head wrenches, crewmen and wheelmen. Every track is previewed extensively, as are the top 25 drivers and the best of the rest racing for the checkers. There's also a rundown of the Truck Series and XFINITY Series, both of which are populated by racing's future stars.
Sunday’s AFC Championship Game between the Denver Broncos and New England Patriots also represents Manning-Brady Bowl XVII. These two future Hall of Fame quarterbacks have already faced each other 16 times in their careers. Tom Brady holds a commanding 11-5 edge on Peyton Manning, but this rivalry is tied 2-2 in playoff matchups. This will be the fourth time each will stand in the other’s way of getting to the Super Bowl, with Manning having won their previous two AFC Conference Game clashes.
Here’s a look back at the 16 prior games between the generation’s finest signal-callers, ranked in order of historical significance, in-game excitement and individual performance.
1. Manning-Brady Bowl IX
2006 – AFC Championship at Indianapolis
Colts 38, Patriots 34
Peyton Manning – 27-of-47, 349 yards, TD, INT, rush TD
Tom Brady – 21-of-34, 232 yards, TD, INT
Tony Dungy and Manning finally punched their ticket to the Super Bowl with a thrilling come-from-behind win in the AFC title game. Trailing 21–3 in the second quarter, it looked as if Bill Belichick and Brady would cruise to victory. But Manning rallied back, leading an 80-yard drive that ended in a go-ahead TD run by Joseph Addai with one minute remaining. Brady’s last-ditch, last-second effort ended in an interception by Marlin Jackson. The Colts went on to win a rainy Super Bowl XLI against the Bears in Miami.
2. Manning-Brady Bowl XIV
2013 – Week 12 at New England
Patriots 34, Broncos 31 (OT)
Tom Brady – 34-of-50, 344 yards, 3 TD
Peyton Manning – 19-of-36, 150 yards, 2 TD, INT
In what was easily the most hyped and arguably the most exciting game of the season, Manning’s Broncos jumped out to a 24–0 lead only to have Brady’s Patriots charge back to take a 31–24 edge late in the fourth quarter — after scoring on the first five possessions of the second half. But Manning wasn’t done, finding Demaryius Thomas for a touchdown to force overtime at 31–31. The game ended with not a bang but a whimper, as a botched punt return set up a chip shot field goal to clinch a New England win.
3. Manning-Brady Bowl XV
2014 – AFC Championship at Denver
Broncos 26, Patriots 16
Peyton Manning – 32-of-43, 400 yards, 2 TD
Tom Brady – 24-of-38, 277 yards, TD
It’s only fitting that Manning have one of his best performances ever against the Patriots in the season he rewrote the NFL record book. The top-seeded Broncos simply had too much offense against Brady and the Patriots, who were without tight end Rob Gronkowski and could muster just 64 yards rushing. Manning was methodical in his dissection of the New England defense, as Denver was content to chew up clock and basically play keep away after taking a 20-3 lead midway through the third quarter. The victory got Manning back to the Super Bowl as he moved to 2-0 against Brady in conference championship games.
4. Manning-Brady Bowl IV
2003 – AFC Championship at New England
Patriots 24, Colts 14
Tom Brady – 22-of-37, 237 yards, TD
Peyton Manning – 23-of-47, 237 yards, TD, 4 INT
The first of soon-to-be five playoff meetings between Brady and Manning was a rough one for the true blue horseshoes. Manning threw four picks in the snow — three to Ty Law and one to Rodney Harrison, who also forced a fumble of Marvin Harrison — in a physical game many point to as a catalyst for the implementation of the more pass-happy rules we know and love (hate?) today. New England then went on to win the “breast Super Bowl ever,” bookending Janet Jackson’s “wardrobe malfunction” with a win over the Panthers in Super Bowl XXXVIII.
5. Manning-Brady Bowl VI
2004 – AFC Divisional Round at New England
Patriots 20, Colts 3
Tom Brady – 18-of-27, 144 yards, TD, rush TD
Peyton Manning – 27-of-42, 238 yards, INT
The second playoff meeting between Brady and Manning was owned by the home team Patriots, who dominated time-of-possession 37:43-to-22:17 — including a 21:26-to-8:34 edge in the second half — in a Foxboro snowstorm. Adding insult to injury, Rodney Harrison sealed the win with an interception in the end zone with 10 seconds remaining. From there, Brady’s Patriots marched to wins at Pittsburgh and against Philadelphia in Super Bowl XXXIX.
6. Manning-Brady Bowl XI
2009 – Week 10 at Indianapolis
Colts 35, Patriots 34
Peyton Manning – 28-of-44, 327 yards, 4 TD, 2 INT
Tom Brady – 29-of-42, 375 yards, 3 TD, INT
The Manning-Brady Bowl skipped a year following the 2008 season-ending knee injury suffered by Brady in the season opener. But the two made up for lost time in 2009. Manning threw a game-tying scoring strike to Reggie Wayne — who made a highlight reel diving catch in the end zone — before Matt Stover’s extra point gave Indianapolis a one-point lead with 16 seconds remaining.
7. Manning-Brady Bowl III
2003 – Week 13 at Indianapolis
Patriots 38, Colts 34
Tom Brady – 26-of-35, 236 yards, 2 TD, 2 INT
Peyton Manning – 29-of-48, 278 yards, 4 TD, INT
Despite Manning’s best efforts — throwing four TDs to four different receivers — the Colts lost a close call following a dramatic 4th-and-1 stop with 18 seconds to play. Willie McGinest stuffed Edgerrin James for a one-yard loss to secure turnover on downs and Brady victory formation.
8. Manning-Brady Bowl X
2007 – Week 9 at Indianapolis
Patriots 24, Colts 20
Tom Brady – 21-of-32, 255 yards, 3 TD, 2 INT
Peyton Manning – 16-of-27, 225 yards, TD, INT, rush TD
The Patriots improved to 9–0 by defeating the 7–0 Colts en route to an 18–0 start to a season that ended with a painful loss to Eli Manning’s Giants in Super Bowl XLII. Touchdown Tom threw three TDs for a record ninth consecutive game, breaking Peyton’s record of eight straight. In a tale of two halves, Indy outgained New England 229-to-114 in the first half, only to see the Pats outgain the Colts 228-to-100 in the second half.
9. Manning-Brady Bowl I
2001 – Week 3 at New England
Patriots 44, Colts 13
Tom Brady – 13-of-23, 168 yards
Peyton Manning – 20-of-34, 196 yards, TD, 3 INT, rush TD
Brady’s first career start came against Manning, the man who would become his chief rival over the next decade-plus. But Brady’s first career TD pass didn’t come until Week 5. But he did go on to throw his first career playoff TD in a Super Bowl XXXVI win over Kurt Warner’s heavily favored Rams.
10. Manning-Brady Bowl VII
2005 – Week 9 at New England
Colts 40, Patriots 21
Peyton Manning – 28-of-37, 321 yards, 3 TD, INT
Tom Brady – 22-of-33, 265 yards, 3 TD
After starting his career 0–6 head-to-head, Manning finally earned his first victory over Brady. The stable of Colts playmakers helped their quarterback as much as they could — with Edgerrin James, Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne all topping 100 yards from scrimmage. The statement win moved Indy to an 8–0 start in a 2005 season that saw the Colts jump out to 13–0 before staggering down the stretch and going one-and-done in the playoffs against the eventual Super Bowl XL champion Steelers.
11. Manning-Brady Bowl V
2004 – Week 1 at New England
Patriots 27, Colts 24
Tom Brady – 26-of-38, 335 yards, 3 TD, INT
Peyton Manning – 16-of-29, 256 yards, 2 TD, INT
The NFL kicked off the 2004 season with Manning vs. Brady in a rematch of the 2003 AFC Championship Game. The results were the same, despite a solid effort from Manning and 142 rushing yards from Edgerrin James. Indy won nearly every statistical category but was just 3-of-7 in the Red Zone, which ultimately dropped Manning to 0–5 against Brady.
12. Manning-Brady Bowl XIII
2012 – Week 5 at New England
Patriots 31, Broncos 21
Tom Brady – 23-of-31, 223 yards, TD, rush TD
Peyton Manning – 31-of-44, 337 yards, 3 TD
Just when it looked as if there may never be another Manning-Brady Bowl — due to the four (or more) neck surgeries that caused Manning to miss the 2011 season — the rivalry was renewed in style. Manning’s jersey was different but his game was the same. Unfortunately for No. 18, Brady led four scoring drives of at least 80 yards as the Patriots set a franchise record with 35 first downs.
13. Manning-Brady Bowl XII
2010 – Week 11 at New England
Patriots 31, Colts 28
Tom Brady – 19-of-25, 186 yards, 2 TD
Peyton Manning – 38-of-52, 396 yards, 4 TD, 3 INT
New England started strong in each half, taking a 21–7 advantage in the second quarter and 31–14 lead early in the fourth quarter. Playing from behind all game was good for Manning’s stats. But it was Brady — who leaned on a combined 165 yards and two TDs on the ground from running backs BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead — who had the last laugh.
14. Manning-Brady Bowl VIII
2006 – Week 9 at New England
Colts 27, Patriots 20
Peyton Manning – 20-of-36, 326 yards, 2 TD, INT
Tom Brady – 20-of-35, 201 yards, 4 INT
For a second straight season, Indianapolis improved to 8–0 following a Week 9 win at New England. Brady threw four INTs after entering the game with just five picks through the season’s first seven games. Adam Vinatieri also hit two field goals in his first game against the Patriots as a member of the Colts.
15. Manning-Brady Bowl XVI
2014 – Week 9 at New England
Patriots 43, Broncos 21
Tom Brady – 33-of-53, 333 yards, 4 TD, INT
Peyton Manning – 34-of-57, 438 yards, 2 TD, 2 INT
The Patriots jumped all over the Broncos at home, scoring three times in the second quarter alone to take a commanding 27-7 lead at halftime. Even though Manning threw for the most yards in his career against the Patriots, he was very succinct in his performance, saying after the game, “Well I don’t usually stink, but I stunk today.” This win also was important in that it gave New England the head-to-head tiebreaker over Denver for the top seed in the playoffs after both finished the regular season 12-4. The rematch would have been in Foxboro for the right to go the Super Bowl, but Indianapolis took care of that when the Colts upset the Broncos in the Divisional Round. The Patriots would dispatch of the Colts in the AFC Championship Game and then survived the Seahawks to get Brady (and Bill Belichick) that coveted fourth Super Bowl ring.
16. Manning-Brady Bowl II
2001 – Week 6 at Indianapolis
Patriots 38, Colts 17
Tom Brady – 16-of-20, 202 yards, 3 TD
Peyton Manning – 22-of-34, 335 yards, TD
Remember when Brady and Manning were in the same division? Those were the days. The Patriots and Colts shared the old AFC East prior to the 2002 Texans expansion and subsequent divisional realignment. Had Brady and Manning stayed in the same division — and history had played out exactly as it did — we’d be prepping for Manning-Brady Bowl XXVIII this week.
(Top photo courtesy of Getty Images)
The start of the NASCAR season is only weeks away with the Daytona 500 fast approaching on Feb. 21.
Everything you need to prepare for the 2016 autoracing season is available in Athlon Sports’ Racing Preview, available on newsstands everywhere and in our online store.
In this year’s issue:
• Top 25 Driver Profiles: Ranking, reviewing, analyzing and previewing the seasons ahead for the top drivers in NASCAR for 2016.
• Personality portraits on Kevin Harvick’s dabbling in MMA, Jimmie Johnson’s Twitter troll game, how Kyle Busch’s crash at Daytona is still making waves, a look behind Brad Keselowski’s blog life, and more.
• Young Guns by Joe Menzer: Jeff Gordon has retired, Tony Stewart is next up, and some of racing’s biggest names are into their 40s. NASCAR’s future is riding on a wave of rising talent.
• Brand New Man by Geoff Miller: How a personal and professional transformation has propelled Kevin Harvick to the head of the pack.
• Q&A with Joey Logano
• Culture Clash by Matt Crossman: Technology, analytics and fan demands are changing a sport that still clings to its roots.
As a sneak peek of the 2016 Athlon Sports Racing Preview, here are the top 35 drivers for the upcoming season.
1. Joey Logano
Logano has all the pieces to the championship puzzle, but in order to put them together, he needs to learn to work with his peers. At this level, respect is key; if it’s not there, it will come back to bite a driver. Logano found that out the hard way in 2015, and it will be the path he chooses from here that defines his 2016 season as champion … or chump.
2. Kevin Harvick
Harvick enters 2016 as a solid favorite for a second title, and he’s certainly capable. Harvick and his team are tough; it’s a lot easier to finish first when your starting point is often second place. Look for them to power on through this year as they have the last two.
3. Jimmie Johnson
Johnson needs to act soon on that seventh championship; few drivers have won titles past 40. But few drivers have accomplished what Johnson has in just 14 years, either. He’s got a few surprises left.
4. Kyle Busch
All told, 2016 will be a season for Busch to both defend his title and add to his already impressive résumé. With a long-term contract extension for both him and sponsor M&M’s, expect this driver/team combination to be championship-ready for years to come. “I don’t know what my legacy is quite yet,” Busch says. “Certainly I think there’s a lot to add to it.”
5. Matt Kenseth
Kenseth’s team remains a fully funded entry in 2016 with sponsor Dollar General handling 30 races while DeWalt plans to sponsor six events. Between the stable funding and his race team’s company-wide success, Kenseth makes for an easy choice as again being a series frontrunner and championship competitor down the stretch.
6. Brad Keselowski
Keselowski is capable of winning his second career title this year. In order for that to happen, though, he’ll have to do more than lead laps and post a superior average finish. He needs to close the deal on track. If he can do that, he’ll be in the mix.
7. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
For Earnhardt Jr., the time is now if he’s going to win a Cup title. As a unit, his team has to cut down on miscues, including at tracks where they have struggled in the past. But as 2015 showed us, they’re just a few small breaks away from breaking through.
8. Kurt Busch
Busch, despite his lack of true consistency from year to year, is a proven champion, and he can be one again. It’s hard to say that 2016 looks like his year, given the considerable competition he’ll get from all sides, but he’s also a driver you never count out.
9. Denny Hamlin
In 2016, Hamlin’s fortunes will be predicated on his ability to avoid trouble. He’s proven to be impressive in the races that comprise the Chase’s third round (Martinsville, Texas and Phoenix) and would be an odds-on favorite to earn a spot in the finale in Homestead again should he advance that far.
10. Carl Edwards
That unbridled enthusiasm is what has JGR thinking that Edwards, 36, is still in his prime entering his 12th season of full-time Sprint Cup Series competition. Expect for him to be a factor again in 2016.
11. Martin Truex Jr.
Truex, 35, now hopes both men can keep riding the wave in a 2016 season that will likely define the next several years of his Cup career.
12. Jamie McMurray
With investor Rob Kauffman’s addition and McMurray’s propensity to finish races — he’s failed to finish only five of his last 108 starts and last season completed the fourth-most laps in the series — consistency should earn McMurray a second straight appearance in the Chase. The next step is to figure out a way to advance and run up front once they get there.
13. Ryan Newman
If a RCR chooses expansion, Newman could stay in the fold, but his reputation for being a less-than-stellar team player coupled with lagging numbers in the last two years make him a hard sell to sponsors. Realistically, 2016 will be a year-long audition for Newman to find a ride for 2017 and beyond; that could either fuel the fire for the veteran driver or become a distraction.
14. Kasey Kahne
All the pieces of Kahne’s puzzle remain in place — fast cars, sponsor dollars, top-flight team. But what the driver needs to do more than anything is to make his own luck. If he and his team can find consistency to go with the speed they’re capable of, they can win races and make the Chase, which Kahne missed by a spot in 2015.
15. Kyle Larson
Together, Larson and crew chief Chad Johnston will go to work trying to resurrect each other’s reputations. Keep in mind that drivers with potential, like Larson, tend to bounce back during their third seasons. (Jeff Gordon, as an example, shot all the way up to become series champion.) We won’t go that far here, but there’s ample reason to expect that Larson, Ganassi’s biggest asset, can qualify for his first Chase appearance with a little luck.
16. Austin Dillon
17. Paul Menard
18. Greg Biffle
19. Chase Eliott
20. Tony Stewart
21. Aric Almirola
22. Clint Bowyer
23. AJ Allmendinger
24. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
25. Danica Patrick
26. Ryan Blaney
27. Trevor Blaney
28. Casey Mears
29. Brian Scott
30. Landon Cassill
31. Christ Buescher
32. Matt DiBenedetto
33. Michael Annett
34. Alex Bowman
35. Ty Dillon
In 1993, Ken Griffey Jr. had only scratched the surface of a Hall of Fame career. Then 23, Griffey was coming off what was then a career-high 27 home runs and 103 RBIs. He had already garnered three All-Star appearances (including one MVP) and three Gold Gloves.
Yet only four years into his career, there was a sense more was on the way, particularly as the last-place Mariners began to build their franchise around The Kid.
The following is a feature by John Owen from the 1993 Athlon Sports’ Baseball Annual in the preseason before Griffey hit 40 home runs for the first time and finished second in AL MVP voting.
Griffey discussed his challenges before becoming a pro, including thoughts of suicide, his battles with fan perception and the vast amount of potential that would await him for the rest of his career.
Ken Griffey Jr. admitted his failure. He set his goal and simply couldn’t measure up. Inadequacy is a sensation he has seldom experienced. But this time he was forced to confront his personal defeat head-on.
“It’s not going to work,” the Seattle Mariners’ center fielder admitted during the offseason. “I tried. But it’s not going to work. Learning kanji (Japanese system of writing) shouldn’t be so difficult. There are only a couple thousand characters to memorize.”
You see, Griffey embarked upon a major league barnstorming tour with one conviction. Before he left Japan, he was going to learn the language.
The box score of last winter’s tour credited the athlete known to the Japanese as Junior-san with a .353 batting average and a series-high nine RBI. But he was zero for 2,000 against the language.
And a sign of relief swept through the American League. Junior Griffey had finally confirmed there was something he couldn’t do. It’s news to Tom Kelly of Minnesota.
“He doesn’t seem to have a ceiling I can see,” the American League manager commented after Junior was voted the Most Valuable Player of the 1992 All-Star Game.
This may be the summer Griffey explores the outer reaches of the stratosphere. His Seattle Mariners have a new manager in Lou Piniella.
They also have a new hitting coach. When the latter’s credentials were questioned, he responded with a smile. “I taught Junior how to hit.” Yep, Ken Griffey Sr. is beginning his first season as the Mariners’ batting coach. “Junior has always listed to what I have to say.” And if anything changes, he’ll turn The Kid over to Birdie.
Birdie is Ken’s wife and Junior’s mother. She also has some qualifications as a scout.
“That boy loved baseball from the day he could walk,” she reports, adding that he walked unaided at the age of 7 months and was running the bases a month later.
She remembers the first time her son made an out in a Little League game. Ken Jr. broke into tears. “I had to explain to him that there are gong to be a lot of games when you don’t get hits,” Birdie says.
Well, maybe not a lot. Her son was blessed with good genes.
In the 1980 All-Star Game, Ken Sr. singled and hit a home run and was voted MVP. Last July, Junior hit a single, a double and a home run. The father-son All-Star Game home runs and matching MVP trophies made major league history.
About the time he was contemplating a curveball thrown by a Japanese southpaw in Fukuoka, Junior-san learned he had also be awarded a 1992 Gold Glove Award for outfielders back in the United States.
At the age of 23, Griffey has already reached what would be considered lifetime goals for most athletes.
In his first year in the majors, a candy bar bearing his name was marketed in Seattle, and there was a stampede of customers that produced 800,000 sales. As a rookie, he was already on a merchandising par with George Herman (Baby) Ruth.
Griffey’s first minor league hit was a home run. He doubled in his first official major league trip to the plate in 1989 as a rookie. In his first appearance in Seattle’s Kingdom, before the hometown fans, he hit an opposite-field homer on his first swing. When the Mariners advanced their promotional schedule and gave away Ken Griffey Jr. posters, the rookie blasted a game-winning home run against Charlie Hough of Texas. It was the first time Griffey had ever batted against a knuckleballer.
However, the popular conception that everything came quick and easy for Griffey was dispelled last spring when the Mariner center field revealed in an interview with The Seattle Times that he occasionally contemplated suicide as a teenage and that he was admitted to a hospital in Mount Airy, Ohio, in 1988 after taking 277 asprin tablets.
“It seemed like everyone was yelling at me in baseball, then I came home and everyone was yelling at me there,” Griffey said. “I got depressed. I got angry. I didn’t want to live.”
Griffey said he went public with his confession in the hope that it might dissuade some other depressed youngsters seeking the same “solution” for their problems.
“Don’t ever try to commit suicide,” he pleaded. “I am living proof of how stupid it is.”
There is possibly no more vibrant figure in baseball than The Pride of the Griffeys as he enters his third season in the majors. Although the Mariners have had only one winning season in the history of the franchise, Griffey polled over 2 million All-Star Game votes nationwide in each of the last tow seasons, leading all American League players in 1991. He has been a .300 hitter in each of his last three seasons and ranked third in the American League in extra base hits last summer with 70.
Admirers of his defensive skills claim Griffey chases fly balls like Willie Mays and has an arm like Roberto Clemente. Griffey has taken many extra-base hits away from slugging rivals.
“I like playing defense because it’s the only time I get to see somebody else besides me get mad,” he laughs.
Griffey will chase baseballs through an outfield fence and hit them over the wall, yet, oddly, he convinces some fans that he is playing at three-quarters speed.
“My intensity is always there, but when I step to the plate, maybe it doesn’t always show,” Griffey analyzes. “I want to be the best player I can be. It may seem that I’m being selfish, but if I am, it’s for the good of the team.”
Griffey has a congenial relationship with all in management. With tongue firmly lodge in cheek, Seattle president Chuck Armstrong complained that although Griffey is the offensive and defensive leader of the team, he had not yet obtained a multimillion-dollar TV contract for the Mariners or sold out the Kingdom in April or October.
The next time Armstrong walked through the Mariner locker room, he heard Griffey call his name. “You didn’t tell me you wanted me to negotiate a new TV contract. When do I start?”
As for Piniella, he promises that players and fans will see a new Junior Griffey this summer, one exercising leadership skills.
At one time last fall, while the Mariners were shopping for a manager, Griffey questioned out loud whether he wanted to play for Piniella. Some hurt lingered, he admitted, from the 1990 season when Ken Sr. was used sparingly by Piniella in the Cincinnati lineup. Senior eventually got his release from the Reds and joined Junior in the Seattle lineup.
If Junior had some misgivings about Piniella, the feeling was not reciprocated. Piniella says he treasures the memories of his son, Lou Jr., growing up with Ken Jr. around the Cincinnati ballpark. Even before Piniella took the Seattle job, he says, the most prominent piece of “art work” in youngest son Derek’s room was the poster of the Griffeys, father and son.
“His dad for years talked about how good an athlete his son was,” Piniella recalls.” He had a cocky, having-fun approach, telling his dad he could do better than him. He’s not offensive-cocky, just a happy, smiling kind of kid.”
Once in a while last year, when the Mariners were mired in one of their lengthy losing streaks, the smile disappeared. Griffey like Seattle. At the same time, he would also like to play for a team capable of remaining in pennant content past April Fools’ Day.
“If we continue to have the worst record in baseball, he’s not sure this is where he wants to play his entire career,” Armstrong acknowledges.
But to most Seattle fans, the loss of Griffey would mean the loss of this franchise’s last measure of credibility. Of course, his father’s presence on the Mariner bench is a definite positive factor for Seattle.
Wherever the Mariner center fielder’s baseball career takes him in the next decade, he will be traveling on fast wheels. His automotive tastes run to BMWs, Mercedes Benzes and pickups or vans that vibrate down the road on a sonic cushion of subwoofers, tweeters and amplifiers. Before he was able to drive himself, Kenny (his family nickname) was sometimes driven to Little League games in the family Rolls Royce.
By contrast, Ken Sr. grew up in a housing project in a single-parent welfare family. He worked as a grocery store clerk, a meter “maid” and in an armaments factory before he was drafted in a late round by the Reds in 1969. Junior’s dad swears that his signing “bonus” consisted of a Reds jacket, an athletic supporter and a pair of sweat socks. If he held out, the Reds might have thrown in a Japanese dictionary.
But Ken Jr. is the world traveler. At first he wasn’t considered for last winter’s trip to Japan because the major leagues had a no-repeat rule, and Junior made the tour in 19890. He was named MVP, and Junior-san has been a Japanese sports hero ever since. Asian writers saw Griffey conclude a long day of baseball by dancing up the 102 stairs of the Chiba Marine Stadium and out the exit with a farewell wave.
That rated an encore. The major leagues decided to allow Griffey to revisit Japan last winter as a tip of the cap to the Mariners’ new non-voting majority owner. Hiroshi Yamauchi had never before seen major league baseball as it is played in the United States. Nor had he ever met Junior-san, whose earning potential may soon approach that of the Nintendo founder.
His selection for the 1992 team also afforded Griffey and his bride the opportunity to honeymoon at Disneyland in Tokyo. Junior breathed easy when he learned that Mickey Mouse spoke English.
Whether they’re tangled or snagged, cords can be a major hassle. To help you find the perfect wireless headphones, we tested a variety of models. These five are ideal for a hard-working, active lifestyle.
A-Audio’s Icon Bluetooth over-the-ear cans add a touch of class with super-soft leather and chrome detailing. Looks aside, the sound cancellation blocks out coffee shop chatter, and the Bass-Enhancer mode gives your music some solid thump.
Jaybird’s X2 earbuds are lightweight, have an eight-hour battery life and provide killer sound in a small package. The silicone ear fins keep them in place even during rigorous physical activity.
Looking for a good pair of affordable wireless headphones? Motorola’s S10-HD headphones are comfortable, with zero pressure on the ears and temples. The 33-foot Bluetooth range and noise reduction make these a steal of a deal.
Outdoor Technology’s Tuis won’t take up much space in your carry-on, but they carry a big sound. They also work with an included cord, so you can listen while your phone is in airplane mode, then stow the cord and listen wirelessly while you sprint through the airport.
Jabra’s Sport Pulse wireless earbuds have a 30-foot Bluetooth range, provide rich sound and offer five hours of battery life. They also measure your heart rate and test your VO2 max, allowing you to track the quality of your workouts.
By Billy Brown
With so many fitness and nutrition programs claiming to be the holy grail of fitness, it can be hard to know where to start. To help prepare for a healthy new year, we asked fitness professionals and world-class athletes to share their best advice. Judging from the responses, it looks like being fit is simpler than we’ve been making it.
[ Manage Your Meals ]
“Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper. I try and have a big breakfast and a big lunch and some nights I have no dinner and the next day I’ll feel the strongest. You don’t put gas in your car when you park it in the garage at night.”
—Gary Player, 80-year-old fitness icon and nine-time major championship-winning member of the World Golf Hall of Fame
[ Have Fun ]
“Engage in workouts you enjoy and look forward to. If you loathe every minute of exercise you’re going to find ways to skip it, quit early or not give it your all.”
—Cynthia Sass, New York Yankees nutrition consultant and author of “Slim Down Now: Shed Pounds and Inches with Real Food, Real Fast”
[ Do Your Own Thing ]
“In the field of strength and conditioning, there are a million ways to skin a cat. No one system is the best. Take bits and pieces of everything in the field and create your own system with what works for you.”
—Eric Ciano, Buffalo Bills head strength and conditioning coach
[ Be Consistent ]
“The best program in the world will not work if you don’t do it. It’s not so much a matter of what you do as it is ‘just do something’ consistently.”
—Tripp Smith, Hammer Smith Sports (Norcross, Ga.) founder
[ Be Patient ]
“When I was rehabbing from an ACL surgery in 2012, during the first 12 months of my rehab my trainer and physiotherapists were very good at managing my expectations by letting me know that my body and mind were going to have good days as well as bad days along the way.”
—Kelsey Serwa, 2014 Sochi Olympic silver medalist, 2011 X Games gold medalist and 2011 World Championships gold medalist in ski cross
by Billy Brown
Los Angeles Angels center fielder Mike Trout, 24, is seemingly the perfect player. He’s a five-tool threat who reminds old-school scouts of Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays. He’s also the dream of every new-age stat-nerd, with more total Wins Above Replacement (sabermetric stat to “summarize a player’s total contributions to his team”) by his age than anyone in history, including all-timers like Ty Cobb and Ted Williams.
In four full seasons, Trout has four straight top-two MVP finishes — a feat only three others (Barry Bonds, Yogi Berra, Stan Musial) have accomplished. But the 2014 AL MVP remains as hungry as ever this offseason.
“I can get better every year,” says Trout, who has a career .304 batting average, 139 home runs and 397 RBIs.
To reach his potential, Trout goes hard in the gym to withstand the rigors of 162 games.
The training weeks are structured as follows: heavy cardio on Monday, big lifts on Tuesday, core and bodyweight exercises on Wednesday, recovery on Thursday, power effort on Friday and upper body strength on Saturday. Sunday varies depending on how Trout feels. Proper nutrition and hydration are also key to his routine.
“The biggest thing I had to work on with him was eating a balanced breakfast, and what to eat before and after training,” says Dan Richter, Trout’s longtime offseason trainer from his hometown of Millville, N.J.
“In the beginning he had trouble with cramping, so I really pushed the hydration and pre- and post-training fuel. He typically has gotten that squared away with a simple meal an hour to an hour and a half before training and a BODYARMOR (sports drink), which has a lot of potassium that helps prevent cramping. Also having him make sure that he gets a good quality protein and balanced meal within 30 minutes to an hour after training.”
The Trout-Richter training team is doing something right; Trout has played 612-of-648 possible games over the past four seasons.
“He helps me prepare for the rigors of the season,” says the 6'2", 235-pound Trout. “He constantly changes the workouts to keep things fresh. Some days are going to be more intense than others. Because we have been working together for some time now, he knows what I need and when to push me or drop me back so that when the time comes to go to Spring Training I am ready to rock and roll.”
At the ripe old age of 24 and already arguably a walking Hall of Famer, Trout is taking the steps necessary to prolong his career.
“When I was younger I didn’t have to train as much because I wasn’t playing day in and day out like I am now. The big change for me was now every offseason I train,” says Trout. “Getting to know how to handle my body and what I need to do to play every day without injury, and what I may need to work on to keep myself that way. There is always room for improvement.”
By Matt McCue
The end of the college football season is never a welcomed sight for fans of all 128 programs. However, the end of November brings arguably one of – if not No. 1 – parts of the college football regular season in rivalry week.
Rivalries are a huge part of college football and matter for bragging rights among the teams and on the recruiting trail. Rivalries are often built on geography, tradition and history. However, rivalries can morph based upon the coaches involved, current success of teams or realignment in leagues.
With several huge rivalry matchups this week, Athlon Sports ranks the best 25 rivalries in college football. Army-Navy (played on Dec. 12 this year) ranks No. 1, but two matchups – Ohio State-Michigan and Auburn-Alabama – take place this week.
College Football's Top 25 Rivalries
1. Army-Navy (Navy, 59-49-7)
Go ahead and try to attend this game without experiencing a surge of patriotism. If the Super Hornets’ flyover doesn’t get you, the Army paratroopers will. If you miss the parades of Cadets and Midshipmen, then the non-stop spirit videos on the big board will stir your senses. By game’s end, no matter what the score, America wins. That may seem hokey to some, but they haven’t been there. Trust us, Army-Navy is college football in its purest state. Today, that’s something worth celebrating. Fans of the teams thirst for victory, and so do the players, who are truly playing for their fellow students. Afterward, they rejoin their classmates in preparation for military service, not an NFL career. For 364 days of the year, Army and Navy are on the same team. For three hours on a chilled December afternoon, they represent every soldier or sailor who has ever donned a uniform, walked a post or sailed into the dark of night. The football has been pretty good over the years, too. Five Heisman winners have participated in the rivalry, and dozens of Hall of Famers have taken the field representing the academies. Though Navy has dominated the scoreboard over the past decade, the game remains a huge draw and a still thrills fans across the country. Most important, it pits future military and government leaders against each other as they fight for their Academies and provide the country with an afternoon of prideful competition.
2. Alabama-Auburn (Alabama, 43-35-1)
When Bill Curry was coaching at Alabama, he went to a Birmingham elementary school one day to speak with children about football and life. Upon entering the classroom, he saw a boy standing in the corner, sobbing. Curry wondered what was going on, and a student told him, “Jason is an Auburn fan, and we took care of him.” Curry brought Jason out of the corner and told him it was all right to root for the Tigers, no doubt angering the young Crimson Tide supporters in the room. Truth be told, it isn’t all right to be an Auburn fan — if you follow the Tide. Tiger fans feel the same way about Bama. If you live in the state of Alabama, you have to choose; you either yell “Roll Tide” or “War Eagle.” You’re either a fan of the big-brother Crimson Tide, or Auburn, which has its roots in agricultural education and resents the perceived arrogance of its rival. In a state with no major professional sports team, Auburn-Alabama football is a religion. Curry’s minister once told him it was more important. It has been that way from the game’s earliest days, which proved to be so contentious that the schools stopped playing each other for 41 years. Once they resumed hostilities, they did so at a geographically neutral site, in Birmingham, but Auburn fans groused for decades because Legion Field was the Tide’s home away from home. That changed when the game moved to campus, but the vitriol has not abated. Fans of both teams crave victory, and a loss means a full year of misery from friends, co-workers and even family members. It’s enough to make someone want to stand in a corner and cry. And for the first time in Iron Bowl history, an SEC West and trip to the BCS national championship hung in the balance in 2013 when the Tigers won with the most improbable play in college football history.
3. Michigan-Ohio State (Michigan, 58-47-6)
Some think the story is a tall tale, but others swear it’s true. After his Ohio State team scored its final touchdown late in a 50–14 rout of Michigan at the end of the 1968 season, Buckeyes coach Woody Hayes elected to go for two points, instead of kicking the PAT. When asked afterward why he did that, Hayes reportedly said, “Because they wouldn’t let me go for three.” Hayes’ hatred for “that team up north,” as he referred to Michigan, was legendary. Rest assured that Wolverine fans harbor no affection for the Buckeyes, either. The schools have met every year but five (1913-17) since 1900 — the teams’ first game was in 1897 — and their contests have become appointment viewing for much of the country, late in November, usually under gun-metal gray skies with a hint of winter in the air. More important, Big Ten supremacy is usually at stake, especially since Bo Schembechler took over in Ann Arbor in 1969 to turn the U-M fortunes around and provide an irascible counterbalance to the cantankerous Hayes. Since that point, Michigan-Ohio State has been the nation’s most consistently competitive and heated rivalry. Because the games have so much significance and occur at season’s end, a loss can be doubly haunting. Not only does the vanquished team lose to a hated foe, but its season can be destroyed also. There may be games that match these schools’ animosity for each other, and there may be contests that are as consistently important. But none combines the two into such a volatile package. This rivalry has some extra punch in 2015 with the arrival of Jim Harbaugh as Michigan's coach. Urban Meyer is 3-0 as Ohio State's head coach against Michigan.
4. Oklahoma-Texas (Texas, 61-44-5)
One of the most unique characteristics about Dallas’ Cotton Bowl is that the teams’ locker rooms empty into a common corridor, so that players take the field through the same tunnel. On more than one occasion, as Texas and Oklahoma have prepared to charge onto the hallowed stadium’s turf, they have encountered each other in a highly charged, emotional moment that could have ignited an inferno. Instead, they decided to enjoin the fight on the gridiron, in front of 95,000-plus fans divided evenly into crimson and burnt orange enclaves. Rarely has the flame from the ensuing collision failed to heat the passions of all in attendance. While the Texas State Fair rollicks on around them, and vendors offer to fry anything that doesn’t move — and some things that do — the Longhorns and Sooners offer a mid-season football feast that dates back to 1900, when Oklahoma wasn’t even a state and Texas was just beginning to tap into the huge oil reserves deep below its surface. The neighbors harbor a significant dislike for each other, and tempers have boiled over many times on nights before the game. It doesn’t help that many OU grads now live in Texas, lured south by jobs in the petroleum industry. And plenty of Lone Star football talent has headed north to Norman, especially when Barry Switzer was pillaging the state’s top programs for all-stars. The action on the field rarely disappoints. Although there have been several blowouts over the years, including 2011’s 55–17 Sooner wipeout, the action is usually taut and has national implications. Though the game is played in October, several championship runs have been spawned by a victory in Dallas, and several high hopes have been dashed.
5. USC-Notre Dame (Notre Dame, 45-36-5)
The nation’s top intersectional rivalry owes a debt of gratitude to some unfriendly residents of Lincoln, Neb., and Bonnie Rockne’s love of warm California weather. At a time when traditional gridiron matchups are being torn asunder by the whirling conference kaleidoscope, Notre Dame and USC continue their annual hostilities, treating the nation to a classic matchup of iconic programs. The schools almost didn’t get together. But in 1925, after ND dropped a 17–0 decision at Nebraska, before an inhospitable crowd of Cornhusker fans, coach Knute Rockne and his wife were joined on the train back to Chicago by USC athletic director Gwynn Wilson and his wife, Marion. While Wilson tried to convince Rockne to ditch the burgeoning rivalry with Nebraska for an annual trip west, Marion Wilson and Bonnie Rockne became fast friends in another train compartment. Rockne resisted Wilson’s entreaties, but his wife was enthralled with the idea of Los Angeles in the late fall. She later convinced her husband to play the Trojans. The resulting rivalry has lasted 85 years and has filled the college football history books with dozens of classic tales. More Heisman winners have played in the Notre Dame-USC game than in any other rivalry, and many a national championship hope has been validated with a victory in the game. Though the teams alternate between their home sites, playing in late November in L.A. and mid-October in South Bend, the game retains a glamour that defines it and is a product of two of college football’s most storied programs.
6. Georgia-Florida (Georgia, 49-42-2*)
The festivities begin at “The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party” around Tuesday, when the big boats start cruising up the St. John’s River in Jacksonville. By game time, everybody is in a festive mood – except the players. The Bulldogs and Gators have engaged in some classics over the years, from Georgia’s thrilling comeback in 1980 to Florida’s soggy 1993 triumph. Cheers! What's more special about this rivalry? These two programs can't even agree on how many times they've actually played. Florida claims the two have met 90 times while the Bulldogs have 91* outcomes in the record books. The Gators claim the 52-0 loss in 1904 doesn't count because they had not yet technically started playing football yet.
7. Miami-Florida State (Miami, 31-29)
For a while there during the 1990s, there was more talent on the field when the ‘Canes and ‘Noles met up than in some NFL stadiums. And everybody wanted to put on a show. This matchup lacks the tradition and history of other rivalries, but the hostility is just as high. And there have been some classics. FSU fans still wince when they hear the words “Wide Right,” while Miami backers still cringe at the 34-3 beating their heroes absorbed in ’84.
8. Harvard-Yale (Yale, 65-58-8)
The Crimson and Bulldogs may not have played the first-ever college football game, but both schools had hands in how the game developed into what we have today. The late-November meeting between the schools is a history lesson wrapped in a high-class tailgate party. Harvard and Yale no longer compete at college football’s highest level, but they remain forever linked to the sport’s earliest days.
9. Florida-Florida State (Florida, 34-23-2)
For years, this was a big brother/little brother battle, with the establishment Gators looking down on the upstart Seminoles. Then, FSU started to win games – a lot of games – and things changed. This may lack the in-state hate of Auburn-Alabama, but don’t worry; the two sides harbor plenty of dislike for each other. During the past three decades, as both have competed for national laurels, their games have become more than just neighborhood brawls.
10. California-Stanford (Stanford, 60-46-11)
To some, The Big Game is the province of the wine-and-cheese crowd, and the schools’ NoCal addresses reinforce that. But there can be no denying that these schools thirst to defeat each other. It’s a classic battle of private (Stanford) against public (Cal), and bragging rights go well beyond which side brings the best pinot to the pre-game party. Plus, what other rivalry can boast a game with a crazy ending as the 1982 contest: “The band is on the field!”
11. Pittsburgh-West Virginia (Pittsburgh, 61-40-3)
Only 75 miles separates the two combatants in the Backyard Brawl. Unfortunately conference realignment (Pittsburgh to the ACC, West Virginia to the Big 12) meant that in the 2011 season this game didn't take place for the first time since 1942. These two teams are scheduled to renew their rivalry in 2022.
12. Texas-Texas A&M (Texas, 76-37-5)
This Thanksgiving weekend tradition has been suspended, at least temporarily, with Texas A&M's move to the SEC. A Texas state legislator has introduced a bill that would require the two in-state teams to play each other in 2013. However, the two teams have yet to agree on a date to resume the rivalry.
13. Oregon-Oregon State (Oregon, 62-46-10)
The Civil War has come a long way since the Ducks and Beavers played to a 0–0 tie in 1983.
14. BYU-Utah (Utah, 57-34-4)
The Holy War might be the best name for any rivalry in the nation.
15. UCLA-USC (USC, 46-31-7)
The Southern California showdown was dominated by USC from 1999-2011, but the Bruins have won the past three seasons.
16. Alabama-Tennessee (Alabama, 53-38-7)
The Third Saturday in October means only one thing to people in the South: Alabama vs. Tennessee.
17. Oklahoma-Oklahoma State (Oklahoma, 84-18-7)
T. Boone Pickens’ interest in the Oklahoma State program was piqued after the Pokes, 3–7 at the time, knocked OU out of the 2001 national title game with a 16–13 win.
18. Clemson-South Carolina (Clemson, 66-42-4)
These two schools were bitter rivals well before they started playing football in the 1890s. Clemson won for the first time last year after South Carolina had won five straight.
19. Mississippi State-Ole Miss (Ole Miss, 62-43-6)
The Egg Bowl is often the only way to salvage a season for these two programs that have struggled to win consistently in the SEC.
20. Auburn-Georgia (Georgia, 56-55-8)
It’s the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry and it dates back to 1892. Georgia holds the slimmest of margins, with a 56–55–8 edge in the series. The Prayer on the Plains only added to this historic battle's legacy.
21. Michigan-Michigan State (Michigan, 68-35-5)
It pains MSU fans that Michigan’s biggest rival is Ohio State, but the “Little Brothers” from East Lansing have won the seven of the last eight in the series. This year's game resulted in one of the most incredible endings in college football history when the Spartans won on the last play of the game.
22. Minnesota-Wisconsin (Minnesota, 59-57-8)
The winner of the Gophers vs. Badgers showdown takes home the prized Paul Bunyan Axe. It’s the most played rivalry in FBS football, dating back to 1890. None will be bigger than the 124th meeting when the Big Ten West championship was to be decided by these two.
23. Michigan-Notre Dame (Michigan, 24-17-1)
These two traditional powers have only played regularly for the past three decades, but they produced a ton of memorable moments. Strike a pose, Desmond!
23. Georgia-Georgia Tech (Georgia, 64-40-5)
You know it’s a good rivalry when the book about the series is called Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate.
25. Lafayette-Lehigh (Lafayette, 78-67-5)
The Rivalry, as it’s called, pits two small private schools located 17 miles apart in Eastern Pennsylvania. Lafayette and Lehigh have met 150 times, including every year since 1897.
College football has hundreds of annual grudge matches, dozens of trophy games and a handful of rivalries that every year, regardless of record, that are mandatory viewing for fans across the country.
And yet none of them are the Iron Bowl.
In celebration of this year’s Alabama-Auburn game, one of the greatest rivalries in all of sports, Athlon Sports has released an exclusive digital edition that chronicles the greatest games and players in the history of the rivalry.
Here’s a taste of what you can find in the digital edition, including this run down of the greatest games in Auburn-Alabama history.
Punt Bama Punt
Auburn 17, Alabama 16
Dec. 2, 1972
In a game that did more than any other to put the Alabama-Auburn rivalry into the national consciousness, the Tigers’ shocking 17–16 win over the unbeaten, No. 2-ranked Crimson Tide featured the unlikeliest case of déjà vu in college football history. A lackluster contest for three quarters, the 1972 edition of the Iron Bowl entered the pantheon of greatest games ever played thanks to the dynamic special-teams duo of Bill Newton and David Langner, who pulled one rabbit out of a hat and then, miraculously, followed it with another. [READ MORE]
Alabama 25, Auburn 23
Nov. 30, 1985
“It was one of the greatest games I’ve ever been associated with,” Alabama coach Ray Perkins said after the wild finishing sequence. “All year long, I’ve said this group of men has been special to work with. I’m just honored to be a part of this team and this game.” [READ MORE]
Alabama 26, Auburn 21
Nov. 27, 2009
The season-saving march culminated with an unlikely hero — a little-used running back who hadn’t caught a TD pass in his career. Coming out of a timeout, Greg McElroy found Roy Upchurch with a 4-yard TD toss with 1:24 left to cap a march that consumed more than seven minutes. Auburn fought its way to the Alabama 37, but a final-play Hail Mary was batted down by Rolando McClain. [READ MORE]
Auburn 28, Alabama 27
Nov. 26, 2010
The year after Auburn nearly pulled a championship-spoiling upset of Alabama, the tables were turned for another classic renewal of the rivalry. Auburn was the unbeaten team with an eye on a national championship and had a Heisman Trophy winner of its own in one-year wonder Cam Newton. The Tide, who entered the season as the nation’s top-ranked team and defending national champions, had suffered a couple of uncharacteristic losses and were ranked No. 11. They also found themselves in the unfamiliar posture of underdogs against their rivals from the Plains. [READ MORE]
The Kick Six
Auburn 34, Alabama 28
Nov. 30, 2013
The Tide lined up for what they hoped would be a game-winning 57-yard field goal from Adam Griffith. Here’s how Auburn broadcasters Rod Bramblett and Stan White called the final play:
“Chris Davis is going to drop back into the end zone in single safety. Well, I guess if this thing comes up short he can field it and run it out. Alright, here we go. 56-yarder, it’s got—no, it does not have the leg. And Chris Davis takes it in the back of the end zone. He’ll run it out to the 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, 35, 40, 45, 50, 45.
“Chris Davis just ran it 109 yards and Auburn is going to the championship game!” [READ MORE]
Alabama 55, Auburn 44
Nov. 29, 2014
The highest-scoring game in Iron Bowl history produced an offensive outburst that must have had Bear Bryant turning over in his grave — though even he would have to be pleased that it came at the expense of that hated “cow college” to the east. Alabama came into the game ranked No. 1 in the nation, yet again with a single blemish on the ledger — a loss to Ole Miss — while Auburn was 8–3 and ranked No. 15 in the nation. The Tigers’ leaky defense had been its undoing in losses to Mississippi State, Texas A&M and Georgia, and it would be its Achilles heel on this afternoon in Bryant-Denny Stadium. But the explosive Tigers offense sure kept things interesting. [READ MORE]
April 6, 2015. Mike Krzyzewski was standing among his players on the floor of Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, listening to the initial notes of “One Shining Moment.” His Duke team had just completed a five-point win over Wisconsin to capture the fifth national championship during his tenure, and it was time for the celebration to begin in earnest. The traditional clip montage from the NCAA Tournament brought out smiles and laughter from his players as Krzyzewski took it all in.
This was not a surprise. No, not at all.
Duke, with three superstar freshmen leading the way — Jahlil Okafor, Justise Winslow and Tyus Jones — began the season ranked No. 4 in the Associated Press top 25 poll. The Blue Devils rose to No. 2 for a five-week stretch in the middle of the season and then again ascended to that spot in the beginning of March. Save for the Kentucky team that blitzed through the regular season and first four games of the NCAA Tournament without a loss, an argument could’ve been made that Duke was the most talented team in the country.
So, cutting down the nets for the fifth time in his career couldn’t have come as that big of a shock to Krzyzewski. He has built Duke into a powerhouse, a modern-day college basketball dynasty that competes year in and year out for top recruits, titles and national attention. In sports, though, we like to see the best of the best end on a high note, riding off into the sunset without a sour memory tainting their legacy.
It was natural to wonder if Krzyzewski, 68 years old as he watched the confetti fall from the top of the stadium, would look around him and think: “How could this get any better?”
The ‘R’ words. They are always thrown around when Krzyzewski finishes one season and sets his sights toward another. He will be 69 in the middle of the 2015-16 season and has accomplished seemingly everything that a basketball coach could possibly set out to accomplish in a career. This season will be his 36th as the head coach of the Blue Devils and his 41st in coaching.
At some point, won’t Mike Krzyzewski have to … retire?
At some point, won’t Mike Krzyzewski have to … be replaced?
This feature and more appears in the Athlon Sports College Basketball Preview, available on newsstands in our online store.
They are questions that produce different answers from Krzyzewski and those around him. This past season alone, Krzyzewski gave two different answers on the retirement subject in a three-month span.
Following his 1,000th career victory on Jan. 25 over St. John’s at Madison Square Garden, Krzyzewski said: “There’s an end in sight. I’m going to be 68 next month, and it’ll end sooner than later, but hopefully not real soon.”
The morning after winning that fifth national title, Krzyzewski said in a radio interview: “I’m not close. I’ll be back next year, and I would think for a few more years.”
Will he or won’t he? Each year that Krzyzewski returns to the Duke bench — with a talent-rich roster, a high national ranking and a legit chance for another national championship — the question will continue to linger. But so will this one: Whenever Coach K decides that the time is right to leave Duke, who will be his successor?
It’s college basketball’s (multi) million-dollar question.
Inheriting the Throne
First things first: The coach who takes over for Mike Krzyzewski will have his work cut out for him.
In his 35 seasons at Duke, Krzyzewski has amassed a legacy that will go untouched by the coach who succeeds him. He has won 945 games (while losing just 251), produced a 378–152 record in Atlantic Coast Conference play, won 13 ACC Tournament championships and 12 regular-season conference championships. He’s been named the Naismith National Coach of the Year three times and produced 54 NBA Draft picks.
His postseason success is virtually unparalleled; he’s advanced to the NCAA Tournament in 31 straight seasons in which he coached the entire campaign. (He missed the final two months of the ’94-95 season with a back injury.)
Not to mention his head coaching duties with USA Basketball, where he will aim for a third straight goal medal at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
But most important, he turned Duke back into Duke.
“Durham was not a pleasant place to be in 1983,” ESPN analyst and former Duke player Jay Bilas told Yahoo! Sports in January, alluding to the long-since-forgotten alumni petition to fire Krzyzewski.
Related: Duke Team Preveiw
Now, though, Duke is one of the crown jewels of the college basketball coaching world. But it is a very insular environment, with Krzyzewski almost exclusively turning to former players to be assistant coaches and nurturing them until they are fully entrenched alongside him or ready to begin their own careers. Everything is done and kept in the family. So much so that many Duke assistants have felt the need to finally venture out on their own in order to escape K’s long shadow.
“It’s really safe,” Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey, a former Duke assistant for eight seasons, said in an interview during the 2014-15 season. “And you can get into a comfort zone. As a head coach, you’ve got to fight that. But even after my fifth, sixth, seventh year there, I thought, ‘Man, maybe I’ve stayed here too long.’”
And that was from one of the few Krzyzewski assistants who did not play at Duke.
That makes the succession all the more complicated. There are numerous worthy candidates with Duke pedigrees who have served under Krzyzewski — Harvard’s Tommy Amaker, Northwestern’s Chris Collins, Stanford’s Johnny Dawkins and Marquette’s Steve Wojciechowski.
But while the Duke job post-Krzyzewski remains a coveted position, there is a concern among his former pupils about being typecast as a “just a Duke guy.”
“Wojo was worried about it,” says Brey, who offered advice to the former top Blue Devils assistant before he took the Marquette job in 2014. “He had turned down Dayton, and after six months began thinking, ‘Uh-oh, no one is ever going to come back to me because I’m turning them down.’”
Chris Carrawell, who served in a number of roles on Krzyzewski’s staff in his post-Duke playing days and now is an assistant for the Golden Eagles under Wojciechowski, goes even further.
“Truthfully, guys are a little scared about the job,” Carrawell says of the head coaching position at Duke. “What Coach has done there, it can never be duplicated. But if you’re a Duke guy and you take over that job, you’re always going to be held to him and that standard.”
Who’s Got Next?
Those who have their finger on the pulse of the college basketball world continue to wonder which coach will be the right fit for Duke after Krzyzewski leaves.
Will Duke stick with Krzyzewski’s way of business and keep it in the Blue Devil family? Will Krzyzewski be allowed to name his own successor? Will it be a big name? A small name? A no-name? A college guy or an NBA one?
Krzyzewski and Duke continue to remain mum about the topic, which only fuels the speculation about who it might be — and under what circumstances it might happen. There are several ways to handle a succession plan in college basketball.
At Connecticut, Kevin Ollie was named the Huskies’ interim head coach after Jim Calhoun abruptly retired near the end of the summer in 2012. At Syracuse, Jim Boeheim announced he would stay three years before retiring despite NCAA sanctions; that led the school to officially designate Mike Hopkins, his longtime right-hand man, as the Orange’s coach-in-waiting. When SMU lured Larry Brown out of retirement in 2012 to be its head coach, it was done so with the agreement that Tim Jankovich — at the time the head coach at Illinois State — would join the Mustangs’ staff as the coach-in-waiting.
In basketball circles, three names repeatedly come up when the topic of Krzyzewski’s successor is broached — Wojciechowski, Collins and current Duke associate head coach Jeff Capel. Wojciechowski was especially close with Krzyzewski during his playing career and joined Duke’s staff a year after graduating, staying there until 2014. Plus, at 39, Wojciechowski is already older than his former coach was when Krzyzewski was hired at Duke.
In his first season in Milwaukee, Wojciechowski earned praise — despite a poor record — from a tactical standpoint, and he has done an outstanding job on the recruiting trail.
Collins was also a right-hand-man for Krzyzewski for 13 seasons, finally leaving the nest in 2013 to take over at Northwestern. But while Collins would presumably be on the short list, his candidacy seems iffy. An Illinois native and former Mr. Basketball in the state, Collins appears to be in Evanston for the long haul.
“In my case, I got to the point where I wanted to be a head coach,” he says about leaving Duke.
Related: ACC Predictions
There are other names, too. Former All-America point guard Bobby Hurley, a member of Krzyzewski’s back-to-back title teams in 1991 and 1992, saw his stock rise this past season in his second year at Buffalo. Hurley, the son of legendary New Jersey high school coach Bob Hurley, took the Bulls to the NCAA Tournament and nearly knocked off West Virginia in the second round.
Hurley is viewed as having the perfect blend for a Krzyzewski successor: Duke background, NBA experience, assistant coaching experience outside of Durham and success as a head coach. But Hurley is still considered green, even as he bolted Buffalo to take over at Arizona State in the offseason.
That leaves a candidate who originally didn’t seem to be a logical choice — Capel. He has been a head coach twice — at VCU and then at Oklahoma — but his tenure with the Sooners did not end well. OU went 43–51 in the three seasons in which Blake Griffin was not on the roster, and Capel was dismissed after the 2010-11 season due in part to some NCAA issues related to the recruitment of Tiny Gallon.
When Krzyzewski brought him on staff two months later, it was believed to be little more than helping out a former Dukie.
Instead, Capel has become integral to Krzyzewski’s continued longevity — and perhaps set himself up as the heir apparent. Capel is still young (40) and has emerged as Duke’s lead recruiter (he helped secure commitments from Jabari Parker, Jahlil Okafor and Tyus Jones). He’s also gained Krzyzewski’s trust, having been given scouting duties for every game during the 2014-15 season. And it’s clear he wants to be a head coach again. Capel was wooed by Arizona State after last season but opted to remain by Coach K’s side in Durham.
What did that mean for the future at Duke? At a press conference back in Durham following the team’s championship, Krzyzewski gave an answer that — finally — just might have tipped his hand.
“Jeff is savvy, and he is a hell of a coach,” Krzyzewski said. “But I mean, Jeff is a head coach. He’ll get something great. He is doing something great right now.”
But when does it become something more?
-By Brendan Prunty
Beef jerky is a snack for all occasions, whether you’re a crossbow-wielding deer hunter trying to stay camouflaged or a pencil-pushing desk jockey hoping to avoid hunger pains in a mid-afternoon meeting. With that in mind, we bit off as much as we could chew and found these to be our four favorite flavors of jerky.
“Great, middle of the road taste that satisfies.”
The little voice in our stomach was quieted by this traditional style and classic flavor profile.
Fire It Up
“Sweet, slightly smoky and surprisingly tender.”
Ball Park Bourbon BBQ
A “new jerky experience” includes flame-grilled technique that improves the texture.
Burn Bigfoot Burn
“So much burn. Guaranteed to make you sweat.”
Jack Link’s Sriracha
Leave it to the crew that messes with Sasquatch to start a five-alarm flavor fire in our mouth.
Be My Baby
“You can’t go wrong with Sweet Baby Ray’s.”
Sweet Baby Ray’s Honey Chipotle
There’s no doubt about the sauce being the boss with this delicious sweet heat combination.
Ben Simmons is the top-ranked freshman in the country and the most heralded recruit to land in Baton Rouge since Shaquille O’Neal. The 6'10", 225-pound Aussie arrives at LSU having lost only one game in high school during the past three years, and some observers even compare him to LeBron James due to his versatility and ability to make others better from the forward position.
Simmons talked to Athlon about why he chose LSU over Duke and Kentucky, the players to whom he compares himself and why he gave up rugby.
When did you start playing basketball in Australia?
It was always more basketball for the simple fact that my dad played professionally in Europe and Australia. I grew up playing. Everyone in my family played — my brothers and sisters. My mom was always supportive of everybody. Basketball was always the main thing.
You also played rugby growing up. Were you any good?
I think I could have played at the professional level of Australian football, but I stopped playing. It was a lot of running, and I’m not going to run the whole time unless I’m giving a lot to the team. I felt like I was running so much and wasn’t giving a lot to the team. I felt like I had to be in a position where I could score and I was playing forward. I was the tallest guy, and I had to kick the ball to the shortest guys downfield. For me, I felt I like I didn’t contribute that much because I didn’t score. I wanted to be the guy who kicked the furthest goal and celebrate, but I had to stick to my role. I stuck to basketball because I’m in love with the sport.
When I spoke to Dante Exum before he was drafted last year, he said he was fairly anonymous in Australia. What’s it like for you when you go home?
I remember going out with him after he had been drafted. I think one person came up to him. It was crazy. Last year when I went home as a junior everybody was coming up to me. I don’t think he had much media attention since he stayed in Australia and then it all hit him. For me, I’m on YouTube highlights, and there’s been more media attention on me than there was with him.
Looking back, do you feel it was it the right decision to leave Australia and play high school basketball in the U.S.?
I think it was the perfect decision for me. It helped me develop as a person. I’ve been through so much and learned so much over the past three years. As a person and a player, I’ve developed more than I would have back home.
Was it difficult to leave?
It was definitely my idea. It was more of a family decision, but I always wanted to play high school over here — and the next goal is college.
What was your personal highlight of playing at Montverde Academy?
Just winning the national championship three times. Now I go down in history as one of the top guys in national high school basketball — which is a cool thing.
You are a pretty even-keeled guy. What gets you emotional? What gets you worked up?
When I’m playing PlayStation. That’s probably (the) only time. I try and keep a level head. Playing NBA2K, that’s the one. Especially losing to my (friend), Corey. That kills me. When he started playing, he used to dominate me all the time, and it used to frustrate me. I kind of caught up. He’s the better player, but I feel like I’m better. He’s better, but I’m not going to accept it. That’s why I just keep playing — and keep losing, so it’s kind of frustrating. I show emotion when I need to. Winning a game or the national championship, I was happy. But it didn’t really satisfy me. It was my third one and I still have much more to do. I want to be the best player in the NBA and winning an NBA Championship and the MVP. All of that, if I’m able to do that. At LSU, I want to win as many games as we can. I’m not used to losing, so I’m going to do everything I can to make sure we win.
Do you know your overall record at Montverde?
I lost one game — to Wheeler out of Georgia at the City of Palms Tournament in Florida. I remember being sick the whole week. It was just one loss. I didn’t really care that much.
Why did you choose LSU?
My godfather, David Patrick, is the main reason. He’s an assistant coach at LSU. He’s family to me. I’ve known him my whole life. He played with my dad, and my dad took him under his wing when he was a rookie in the professional league back home. I feel like he’s never done anything wrong by me. For me it’s just another team. It’s about the people on the team and the people around it. I really trust Coach (Johnny) Jones — he’s been the same guy from when he started recruiting me until now. He hasn’t changed at all.
Was it an easy decision because of your relationship with David?
Definitely. For me, it was cool having offers from Duke and some of the other big schools. I felt like I kind of waited to see who I could get offers from just because I’m an Australian kid. To have Coach Cal and Coach K call. That was cool for me. Once I had everyone calling, I already knew where I wanted to go — so I didn’t want to hold them up, get more attention or lead them on, so I committed pretty quickly.
Have you had a chance to meet former LSU star Shaquille O’Neal yet?
I haven’t met him yet, but we’ve spoken on the phone. I think I’m fine when I meet big pro athletes. I’ve met Michael Jordan, Kobe — to me, they are just other hoopers. To meet him, it will be cool — with his personality and what he’s done.
What are your expectations at LSU?
I don’t really have any besides to win. I don’t have any pressure on me. I don’t have any. I’m not worried about that. I’m going to do what I know how to do, and if that’s not good enough, the expectations are too high.
Who is the best player you’ve ever played against?
LeBron at his camp before my senior year. I played against James Harden recently. To me, they are just other players. I don’t get nervous when I play against guys. Back when I played against LeBron, I was a little nervous — but not anymore. Now I know what I can do.
Your confidence level was completely different during your junior season in high school compared to this past year. Why?
I think I was holding back a little bit. I had my role and I was sticking to it. My role this year was to be a leader and make sure I took over games — and I think I did that.
Your dad taught you the game and played it professionally. How are your games different?
I have more skill than my dad. He was more of a center or a power forward.
What player do you think is the best comparison for your game?
It’s kind of hard because I’m not as athletic as LeBron, but I’m athletic. I think I handle the ball a bit better, but at the same time he’s stronger, more physical and athletic. I don’t even know. I couldn’t tell you a player. I think sometimes LeBron, or Magic (Johnson) or Scottie Pippen.
What’s the area you’ve been working on most in preparation for college?
My perimeter shot and being a better ball handler. I think I have a good handle, but I want to tighten it up a little more.
What’s your position?
It was point forward, but I think now it’s 1 through 5. I can guard the 5-man, and I showed that at the Nike Camp. I can guard a 4, 3, 2 and 1 — and can run all positions, too. I think I’m able to be versatile.
Favorite music to listen to?
Future, Kanye, JayZ, Rick Ross.
What would you say is the coolest part of the whole ride so far?
Just being Ben Simmons. Being me and being recognized for that. Having a chance to be a role model for people back home. I love people knowing who I am. I think it’s cool. It’s just a blessing.
During his first two seasons at Wisconsin, Nigel Hayes often chose to deflect any attention sent his way. That wasn’t always the case, of course, as Hayes’ fascination with NCAA Tournament stenographers last spring was a hit with fans and media from around the country.
But much of the time, Hayes steered the focus away from himself and onto someone else. When he was asked questions after a big performance, he’d look into the cameras and say he was just trying to be like Frank or Josh, referring to two of the Badgers’ elder statesmen, Frank Kaminsky and Josh Gasser.
Now, Kaminsky and Gasser are gone. So are Sam Dekker, Traevon Jackson and Duje Dukan, three other key pieces from a Wisconsin team that won a program-record 36 games and advanced to the NCAA title game for the first time in 74 years before falling to Duke.
Hayes will be asked to step into a leadership role as a junior, but he seems poised to take on that extra responsibility. Athlon sat down with Hayes, who averaged 12.4 points and 6.2 rebounds last season.
Were you surprised by all the attention you got during the NCAA Tournament?
For all that stenographer stuff? Kinda sorta, but then after awhile not really. They just loved our team, and I guess it was something for people to talk about. So they kept talking about it. I guess I have one of those personalities that attract people. I guess it worked out perfectly. Thanks to that, they wanted to follow us a little bit more, and they got to see how good of a bunch of guys that we are and how close of a team we were. But I didn’t expect any of that to happen at all. It kind of got carried away a little bit. But as they say in Hollywood, any publicity is good publicity.
What was the funniest moment last season? Years from now, when you look back on the season, will there be a go-to story that shows how loose this team was?
It may not be appropriate right now to say, so that just goes to show what kind of team we were. We had some good guys.
Have you watched the video of the loss to Duke in the NCAA Tournament title game?
I have not.
Do you plan to?
No, not too painful. It’s just that I think I know personally what I could have and should have done better. Usually after games, you can watch film and you can see what you did wrong. But when it’s a loss that big, as soon as the game is over, the first 38 things you say to yourself is, ‘Damn, I should have done this, this, that, that, that and that,’ because you remember the entire game play by play.
What’s No. 1 on the list?
I missed two layups, I think. I missed two free throws, I think. I didn’t help over once on Tyus (Jones) curling to the rim for a wide-open layup. I could just go down the list of what I did wrong, so there’s no need to go back and watch it again.
Why did you go to Wisconsin?
When I was being recruited during my junior year, I was always told to go to the place that loves you the most and you’ll be the happiest. And here we are. I’m pretty happy, and these two years haven’t been too shabby.
Where would you have gone if you hadn’t chosen Wisconsin?
I really liked Stanford a lot. Being from Ohio, I always wanted to go to Ohio State, but I definitely liked Stanford. You can’t go wrong with a Stanford degree or the connections that you create at Stanford. And then the California atmosphere, that was just a pretty good place to be.
You lived alone last year, right?
I still do.
How come? That’s pretty rare.
I was going to live with a couple of guys and I was like, ‘You know, I’m way too clean and precise to live with other people.’ I can afford it now, so here I am by myself, and it’s been great. I’m my own best friend. It’s clean.
There can’t be many 20-year-old guys on campus who are that concerned about keeping their apartment clean.
People have said I have moderate OCD, which I guess would make my mother proud because she raised us to be clean. She would definitely be proud to hear that. What’s ironic, though, is I’m messy at home (in Toledo, Ohio) because I think that she’ll clean it up. But when I’m on my own, she raised me right. I can take care of myself.
Ever get lonely in the apartment, though?
Not at all. I usually read, and reading can take you places as they say. When you’re engaged in a book, there’s no such thing as lonely.
What book are you reading now?
I’m almost finished with the Malcolm X autobiography.
How do you expect your role to change this season?
I probably will have to shoot the ball more and, man, I know players hate when they have to do that. (Smiles) So I’ll probably have to shoot the ball more. I’ll probably have to become more of a vocal leader. Last year, we never had a true vocal leader; it was kind of a collective thing. But this year with all the inexperience we have, I think I may definitely have to evolve into the role of a vocal leader.
The known commodities on this team are you and junior point guard Bronson Koenig. Do you expect some of the lesser-known guys — junior forward Vitto Brown, redshirt freshman forward Ethan Happ, sophomore guard Jordan Hill — to emerge this season?
I definitely expect them to, and if we want to have any type of season that we’ve been accustomed to these past two years, they’re going to have to. And I think they’ll be ready for it. They’ve been working hard this offseason.
Were you surprised when Bo Ryan announced he’d retire following the 2015-16 season?
Surprised? Not really. I know he’s on the old side of things. He’s been doing this for a while. And I’m sure it’s caught up to him, all the obligations and engagements that he has to do. But if he’s doing it because he’s had his fair share of it, then all you can do is tip your hat to him and say thank you for your contributions in coaching us so far and best of luck. But I just have this weird feeling that he’s not going to be done. I just don’t see him having anything else to do or anything else that he loves as much to do besides coach basketball.
So you think he could change his mind between now and the end of the season?
I personally think so, yeah. He has a great life here — he walks outside, and he’s treated like royalty. What better life can you ask for? Coaching Wisconsin, people love you, fans love you, the world loves you. Pretty good life right there.
(Ed. Note: This interview was conducted in July, before reports indicated Ryan may not retire at the end of the season. Hayes may have been correct in his assumption that Ryan is not done.)
If this is it, do you expect him to change much this year?
He’ll still be the same old Bo. Lots of expletives, lots of anger and lots of crouching.
What is your favorite place to play in the Big Ten, other than the Kohl Center?
I’ve never been to Michigan State, so I don’t know how that is. That could be in there. I really don’t have a favorite place to play at.
Do you have a least favorite place to play?
Probably Penn State. I don’t want this to go bad — it probably will — but it’s just because we’re used to an atmosphere at our home games where there are more people and we can feed off the energy. When you play at Penn State, there’s not as many people there at the game, so we have to play off our own team energy. Which is fine. It’s just not as much of a full, exciting environment as we’re accustomed to.
What coach in the league would you like to play for, other than Bo Ryan?
Coach (Mark) Turgeon (of Maryland) was my coach for the first couple of days at the Pan-Am Games (tryouts). He seemed like pretty good people. So I guess just by default, since he’s the only other one I’ve ever been coached by, it’d be him.
Who was the toughest player you had to guard last season?
For me, it probably would have been my mismatch with (Maryland’s) Dez Wells. I pride myself on defense, and I’m usually able to guard 1 through 5 for the most part, but he was just that perfect combination of, ‘I can get around Nigel,’ and whatever he had together, he had it. That right there was definitely the toughest for me personally.
Who was the toughest defender who guarded you?
Probably Willie (Cauley-Stein) from Kentucky. That’s always been his staple. He’s 7-foot and he can move like a guard, so you can just see the problems that would create.
Georgia finds itself in new, but positive, territory this year: coming off a good year, and expecting another one.
In the program’s recent past, any positive momentum has been derailed by players leaving early for the NBA (Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Trey Thompkins and Travis Leslie), or coaches leaving (Tubby Smith), or NCAA problems (Jim Harrick).
But after last season’s trip to the NCAA Tournament, the Bulldogs return four players who started at least 14 games and 60 percent of both their scoring and rebounding, and they add several more potential pieces to the rotation.
“This group and the entire program is just on more stable ground right now,” coach Mark Fox says. “It feels different than it did a few years ago, certainly, because we’re more prepared, and deeper, and healthier.”
That doesn’t mean Fox’s team doesn’t have some big questions heading into this season.
All SEC predictions and a full preview of each team in the conference can be found in the Athlon Sports 2015-16 Preview Magazine, available online and on newsstands everywhere.
Podcast: Who should be No. 1 in College Basketball in 2015-16?
The biggest void was left by the departure of Marcus Thornton, the team’s leading scorer and rebounder. He missed two games last season, and Georgia lost them both. And the team’s only other graduated senior, Nemanja Djurisic, was a dependable forward who will also be missed.
So the hopes now fall on Yante Maten, who showed promise off the bench last year. The 6'8" Maten is a more classic post player than Thornton or Djurisic, and he was good enough out of high school that Michigan State wanted him. Maten is a shot-blocking machine and has a smooth shooting motion. The question is how soon he can be a physical factor in the post, particularly against bigger opponents.
Beyond Maten is a host of unproven players. Junior Houston Kessler and sophomore Osahen Iduwe have played sparingly. That leaves two freshmen with a prime chance to play right away.
Derek Ogbeide can be a strong physical presence, while Mike Edwards is very athletic. Both are true post players. E’Torrion Wilridge slides into the role vacated by Cameron Forte, who transferred to Portland State rather than play his senior season at Georgia.
Fox is known for developing players, so all three freshman forwards could eventually be pretty good. But how much they can help this year is uncertain. For that reason, how well Maten adjusts to a starting role could very well be the key to Georgia’s season.
Georgia Bulldogs Facts & Figures
Last season: 21-12 (11-7 SEC)
Postseason: First round
Consecutive NCAAs: 2014
SEC projection: 6
Postseason projection: NCAA First Four
If experienced guards are the key to winning in March, then Georgia sets up well.
Kenny Gaines, a senior who has started the past two seasons, offers 3-point shooting and slashing ability and has been the team’s best perimeter defender. When Gaines gets hot, he has All-SEC ability.
Charles Mann will begin his third year as the starting point guard, where at 6'5" he is a size mismatch for some teams. He’s great at getting to the rim and getting fouled, leading the SEC with 6.7 free throw attempts per game last season. But he sometimes depends too much on being fouled, and his outside shot is very inconsistent. Mann also averaged more than three turnovers per game last season.
Then there’s junior J.J. Frazier, who had 37 points in a win at Mississippi State last year, the most by a Georgia player in 23 years. Frazier’s height (5'10") limits him, but he offers high energy on both ends of the court, along with good outside shooting.
Junior Juwan Parker started 14 games last year, but his season was derailed by a nagging Achilles injury. He had surgery as soon as the season ended. Parker isn’t a great scorer, but he plays a very heady game. Another junior, Kenny Paul Geno, started six games last year, and while he also isn’t a dynamic scorer, Fox liked the energy he brought on both ends up the floor.
Despite all that returning depth, freshman William “Turtle” Jackson figures to see minutes at both guard spots. Jackson, a homegrown recruit from Athens, reneged on a commitment to UConn to sign with Georgia.
Key Losses: F Nemanja Djurisic, F Marcus Thornton
Top Players: G Charles Mann, G. J.J. Frazier, G Kenny Gaines, G Juwan Parker, F/C Yante Maten
Mark Fox gets knocked for not signing many elite recruits, and while this class doesn’t allay that criticism, it could be his best at Georgia. Post players Derek Ogbeide and Mike Edwards were late bloomers who could be starters very soon. Guard Turtle Jackson, who was wanted by some big-name schools, could be starting by his sophomore season. Forward E’Torrion Wilridge offers versatility and length.
Georgia isn’t going to be picked by anybody to threaten Kentucky for the top of the SEC, and the Bulldogs set up to be an NCAA bubble team once again. Still, just being in that position for another season is progress. The question is whether Fox and this core can do more than just make the NCAAs.
Larry Krystkowiak will never say that the Utah Utes have arrived. They climbed from the depths of a six-win season in his first year as Utah’s coach to the Sweet 16 in his fourth year, but Krystkowiak wants more. Rather than viewing an NCAA Tournament loss to eventual champion Duke as a destination, he expects the feeling of that defeat to propel the Utes into the 2015-16 season.
“You hope it sets a little fire for the guys to work harder this offseason,” Krystkowiak says. “This is the time where individuals can look at what they bring and where they need to get better.”
The Utes must replace NBA first-round draft pick Delon Wright, one of the top all-around players in school history. They also need to get tougher inside and rebound better if they expect to compete for a Pac-12 championship. Otherwise, with the return of center Jakob Poeltl and several veteran players, the Utes are well positioned for another high finish in the conference.
Pac-12 predictions and a full preview of each team in the conference can be found in the Athlon Sports 2015-16 Preview Magazine, available online and on newsstands everywhere.
Podcast: Who should be No. 1 in College Basketball in 2015-16?
Wright’s decision to return as a senior was a major breakthrough for the Utes last year, and Poeltl’s choice to stay in school as a sophomore could be just as meaningful to the program. Poeltl matched up well with Duke’s Jahlil Okafor in the NCAA Tournament and is a projected lottery pick in 2016.
Poeltl will anchor a defensive scheme that has transformed the program. The Utes led the Pac-12 in field goal defense, allowing conference opponents to shoot 39.0 percent.
Dallin Bachynski graduated, and Jeremy Olsen retired from basketball for medical reasons, taking away Utah’s depth at center. Poeltl will have to avoid the foul trouble that limited him to 23.3 minutes per game as a freshman. Krystkowiak will use smaller lineups when Poeltl is on the bench.
The Utes have plenty of options in the frontcourt. Jordan Loveridge endured some poor offensive games, yet he made 43.5 percent of his 3-pointers and averaged 10.0 points. Chris Reyes is a solid defender and rebounder, although he played only 15.7 minutes as a starter. Brekkott Chapman and Kyle Kuzma are athletic players who will be expected to do more scoring in Wright’s absence.
Utah Utes Facts & Figures
Record: 29-6, 13-5 Pac-12
Postseason: Sweet 16
Consecutive NCAAs: 1
Pac-12 Projection: 5
Postseason Projection: First Round
Wright did everything for Utah as a point guard and team leader. The Utes hope Isaiah Wright (not related) can fill in adequately for Delon, drafted No. 20 overall by Toronto. The younger Wright showed promise in a limited role as a freshman, but he must improve his 37 percent shooting.
Brandon Taylor has the height of a traditional point guard, but he functions better off the ball. He was Utah’s most improved player last season, shooting 43.9 percent from 3-point range. Brandon Miller may figure into the point guard rotation as a freshman, having returned from a two-year church mission.
The Utes are well stocked at the wing positions. Dakarai Tucker is a good shooter who can supply offense as a reserve. Junior college transfer Lorenzo Bonam has some of Delon Wright’s multidimensional ability, and Gabe Bealer is another capable transfer, although he’s coming off a knee injury. Kenneth Ogbe was bothered by injuries last season and hopes to provide some defense.
Key Losses: G Delon Wright, C Dallin Bachynski
Top Players; G Isaiah Wright, G Brandon Taylor, G/F Dakarai Tucker, F Jordan Loveridge, F/C Jakob Poeltl
Gabe Bealer’s 2014-15 junior college season ended with a knee injury in November, so he enrolled at Utah ahead of schedule and continued his rehabilitation. If he’s healthy, Bealer is expected to play a big role as a swingman. Lorenzo Bonam, another versatile junior college transfer, filled a scholarship vacancy created by center Jeremy Olsen’s retirement for medical reasons. Freshman guard Brandon Miller will provide depth, and freshman forwards Makol Mawien and Austin Montgomery could figure into Utah’s frontcourt plans — if they develop soon enough.
When the Utes were good in 2014-15, they were really good. Most of their 13 conference victories came by big margins. That trend may have hurt them in some close games, as they were not attuned to making critical plays at the end. Utah still tied for second place in the Pac-12 and thrived in traditional statistical categories of shooting percentage and field goal defense. The Utes’ biggest deficiency was rebounding, particularly in their defeats. They should improve in that area as Poeltl manages to stay in games for longer stretches.
Krystkowiak’s increased strength of schedule helped Utah earn a No. 5 seed in the 2015 NCAA Tournament. This season’s schedule is similar, highlighted by a game vs. Duke at Madison Square Garden, a home date with San Diego State and a trip to Wichita State. Utah catches a break in the Pac-12 scheduling by not having to visit Arizona.
The Utes are trending well, having gone from three conference wins in 2011-12 to 13 in ‘14-15. Such a trajectory will be difficult to maintain, but with a new practice facility opening and Krystkowiak having signed a contract through 2023, Utah should have some staying power in the Pac-12.
There’s a renewed optimism around Oregon State basketball, and for good reason. The Beavers, who were picked to finish a distant last in the 2014-15 Pac-12 preseason poll, became one of the game’s feel-good stories during Wayne Tinkle’s debut season in Corvallis. Oregon State finished 17–14 overall, captured a program-record 15 home victories and recorded a massive upset of Pac-12 power Arizona. A roster short on talent and experience utilized stifling defense — paced by Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year Gary Payton II — to frustrate opponents and grind out victories, putting Oregon State in the conversation for an NIT berth down the stretch.
Still, Tinkle does not believe his squad overachieved in Year 1. He points to the way the Beavers’ thin roster sputtered down the stretch, resulting in losses in seven of their last eight games. Tinkle declined an invitation to the College Basketball Invitational, instead opting to rest and focus on the following season.
And with a top-25 recruiting class merging with Oregon State’s core of returning players, the Beavers are eyeing their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 1990.
Pac-12 predictions and a full preview of each team in the conference can be found in the Athlon Sports 2015-16 Preview Magazine, available online and on newsstands everywhere.
Podcast: Who should be No. 1 in College Basketball in 2015-16?
Oregon State’s long list of potential impact newcomers starts with Tres Tinkle, Wayne’s son and a four-star recruit. At 6'8" and 220 pounds, he boasts length and versatility to shoot from the perimeter or finish at the basket while playing the 3 or 4. Fellow incoming freshman Drew Eubanks, a four-star prospect from Oregon, packs impressive, raw athleticism into his 6'10", 240-pound frame.
Meanwhile, senior Daniel Gomis’ decision to return to the Beavers rather than step away from basketball to pursue other opportunities after graduating this spring provides a big lift. His 4.3 points and 3.9 rebounds per game last season are far from eye-popping, but his physical presence as a rim protector made him Oregon State’s top post player. He’ll also be relied on as a veteran leader.
Additionally, senior Jarmal Reid has earned praise from Tinkle because of the way he’s transformed his body to become more athletic during the offseason. Fellow senior Olaf Schaftenaar was the Beavers’ best 3-point shooter a year ago (37.6 percent) but still has work to do to use his 6'10", 235-pound frame to score with his back to the basket. Cheikh N’diaye, a 7-foot junior from Senegal, was used in spurts last season but needs to improve his strength and conditioning to increase his playing time. Justin Stangel, a former walk-on who was awarded a scholarship before last season, could be the Beavers’ most improved player and a potential contributor in his final season.
Oregon State Beavers Facts & Figures
Record: 17-14, 8-10 Pac-12
Last NCAA Tournament: 1990
Pac-12 Projection: 6
Postseason Projection: First Round
The unquestioned heartbeat of the 2014-15 Beavers was Payton II, the son of NBA legend Gary Payton, the best player in Oregon State history. Payton II led the Beavers in scoring (13.4 ppg) while dishing out 3.2 assists per game, playing relentless defense on the perimeter (3.1 spg) and bringing rare toughness inside. Payton II is only 6'3", but he led the team in rebounding (by a wide margin) at 7.5 per game and ranked second in blocks (1.2 bpg). He continues to work on his shot and ball handling, two qualities that will help him develop into a pro.
Upperclassmen Malcolm Duvivier, one of three double-figure scorers last year (10.7 ppg), and Langston Morris-Walker will be needed as veteran leaders and complementary options on offense. But the Beavers’ backcourt will also feature some fresh, highly touted contributors. Stephen Thompson Jr., the son of the Oregon State assistant coach, was a top-50 overall national recruit because of his deadly outside jumper and ability to finish in the paint. Freshman point guard Derrick Bruce, meanwhile, can push the tempo and play lockdown perimeter defense.
Key Loss: G/F Victor Robbins
Top Players: G Gary Payton II, G Malcolm Duvivier, G Langston Morris-Walker, F Tres Tinkle, F Olaf Schaftenaar
Tres Tinkle, Stephen Thompson, Drew Eubanks and Derrick Bruce are the obvious highlights of the Beavers’ highly touted class, but big man Gligorije Rakocevic and guard Kendal Manuel can also play. Rakocevic blends intense physicality with underrated skills around the basket. Manuel, a late addition to the class, is primarily a shooter who played on Tres Tinkle’s AAU team.
Obviously, expectations are high for Oregon State, both inside and outside the program. The Beavers have already bought into a feisty defensive philosophy. Now, they’ve added natural scorers who should help alleviate the team’s extended offensive droughts.
Still, Tinkle has preached that, even with these talented newcomers, it could take some time for this team to develop chemistry. The coach is confident, though, that the Beavers are in a better position to finish strong because of the added depth. Tinkle hopes that it all leads to the Beavers’ snapping a 25-year March Madness drought.
This is UCLA, and as Steve Alford enters his third season at the helm of the program with 11 NCAA championships, the pressure is on to move past the Sweet 16 following consecutive regional semifinal appearances.
As the Bruins aim higher entering the 2015-16 season, they’re aided by the fact they return plenty of able bodies. The 11 scholarship players on the roster represent the most Alford has had since he arrived in 2013.
The hope in Westwood is that the Bruins can find the right blend of experience and incoming freshman talent. “I think we’re right there, knocking on the door of really making a special run,” junior guard Bryce Alford says.
Pac-12 predictions and a full preview of each team in the conference can be found in the Athlon Sports 2015-16 Preview Magazine, available online and on newsstands everywhere.
Podcast: Who should be No. 1 in College Basketball in 2015-16?
When it comes to replacing first-round draft pick Kevon Looney, UCLA will need to do so in two primary ways.
It must replace Looney, the rebounder, whose 9.2 rebounds per game were second most in the Pac-12. The logical candidate is center Tony Parker, a 6'9", 260-pound senior who averaged 8.3 rebounds himself during the NCAA Tournament. Parker, once a top recruit out of Georgia, struggled early in his career, but he emerged as a quality big man a year ago, his first as a full-time starter.
Center Thomas Welsh averaged 15 minutes per game off the bench as a freshman and will help on the glass as well, likely seeing increased minutes after averaging 9.7 rebounds per 40 minutes. The 7-footer got additional experience in the summer playing for the U.S. U19 team at the FIBA World Championships.
As far as replacing Looney’s offensive production, part of that will fall to Jonah Bolden, a five-star prospect from Australia who was a part of UCLA’s decorated 2014 recruiting class. Bolden was ineligible to play last season, though he practiced with the team upon his arrival last January until he was sidelined due to knee surgery in May. The 6'10" Bolden is an inch taller than Looney, can score in a variety of ways and boasts a nice jump shot. If healthy, he’s the best bet to start at the 4, paired with Parker.
Forward György Golomán and junior college transfer Ikenna Okwarabizie add some depth to the frontline.
UCLA Bruins Facts & Figures
Record: 22-14, 11-7 Pac-12
Postseason: Sweet 16
Consecutive NCAAs: 3
Pac-12 Projection: 4
Postseason Projection: Second Round
The question of whether Bryce Alford should remain the Bruins’ starting point guard has been a divisive one through two seasons. He is a shooter first, and a streaky one. Alford shot 25 percent or worse in five Pac-12 games (four regular season, one tournament) as a sophomore, including an 0-of-10 performance at Utah. But he still finished second on the team in scoring, was its best 3-point threat and improved as a passer with better court awareness.
The arrival of freshman Aaron Holiday, the younger brother of Jrue Holiday, gives UCLA some options. Holiday is a skilled ball handler and distributor, and remains a logical candidate to start at point guard, thereby allowing Alford to slide over to the 2-guard spot, arguably his more natural position. Holiday could free up Isaac Hamilton — who split duties with Alford at point guard at the start of last season — to be more of a slasher, a role he found to his liking during the stretch run. The Bruins will need to replace the scoring of Norman Powell, whose 16.4 points per game led the team, and using Alford and Hamilton along the wings would give them more space to operate.
Incoming freshman Prince Ali, a “big, athletic guard who has tremendous versatility” according to the elder Alford, should provide additional scoring. The four-star prospect and McDonald’s All-American averaged 22.5 points per game as a high school senior. Ali is also a candidate to start, especially should Alford remain at point guard. Noah Allen, a 6'6" swingman, provides depth. He averaged just over 10 minutes per game as a sophomore last season.
Key Losses: F Kevon Looney, G Norman Powell
Top Players: G Aaron Holiday, G Bryce Alford, G Isaac Hamilton, F Jonah Bolden, F/C Tony Parker
The two freshman guards, both four-star prospects, figure to receive extended minutes right away. Aaron Holiday could end up as the starting point guard. Prince Ali, whose scoring and driving ability are reminiscent of Norman Powell, should be in the backcourt rotation as well and potentially start. Alex Olesinski is a versatile big man who can shoot, with a nice touch around the perimeter and the ability to guard multiple positions. Junior-college transfer Ikenna Okwarabizie adds depth and size.
A deep roster gives UCLA hope that it might not only finish at the top of a wide-open Pac-12 but also make a deep tournament run in Year 3 under Steve Alford. The Bruins have not advanced past the Sweet 16 since 2008, when they made the last of three consecutive Final Four appearances. If Alford, who is 50–23 in his first two seasons, can successfully pair the veterans — three returning starters — with a top-25 recruiting class, UCLA might have a chance to meet those expectations.
The Oregon basketball program has been identified by two things during the tenure of head coach Dana Altman — roster turnover and winning. The first trend has continued as the 2015-16 season approaches, but the Ducks are confident that the second one will as well.
Fueled by the scoring punch of Joseph Young, Oregon went 26–10 last season and set a program record by winning at least 20 games for the fifth straight year. With Young now putting up shots for the Indiana Pacers, the Ducks will look elsewhere for points, not to mention the ball-handling role he filled with increasing frequency in 2014-15.
There’s at least one trend the Ducks hope to end when next March rolls around. After reaching the Sweet Sixteen in 2012-13 — nobody on the current roster remains from that squad — Oregon hasn’t made it beyond the NCAA Tournament’s round of 32 in either of the last two years. “We still haven’t gotten past that first weekend,” senior Elgin Cook says. “We’re going to practice hard every day so we can be conditioned enough, and condition our minds, to play that long.”
Podcast: Who should be No. 1 in College Basketball in 2015-16?
With Young filling it up from outside, the Ducks were able to mask their lack of low-post scoring punch on most nights in 2014-15. They still don’t have a dominant scorer in the post, though sophomore Jordan Bell’s school-record 94 blocked shots as a freshman established him as an intimidating defensive presence.
What Oregon does boast is a trio of veteran wings who are threats both to go to the hole and pull up and shoot. Cook, Dwayne Benjamin and Dillon Brooks combined for an average of 32.9 points per game last season, and each has the ability to carry the scoring load at times. “We’re just going to go out there and play as a team,” Benjamin says. “One night it might be my night, next night might be Dillon’s night.”
Cook is the team’s top returning scorer after averaging 13.0 points per game as a junior. He may never be a scorer on the order of Young, but he’s worked hard over the last two years to clean up his jump shot and provide a complement for his ability to slash to the rim. “Just getting plenty of shots up — shooting off the dribble, catch-and-shoot,” Cook says. “Doing a lot of work.”
The Ducks did add some size in their recruiting class, with the Junior College Player of the Year — Chris Boucher — and four-star freshman Trevor Manuel. Like sophomore Roman Sorkin, they’re lanky big men who are as comfortable trying to score from outside as they are inside.
No. 21 Oregon Ducks Facts & Figures
Record: 26-10, 13-5 Pac-12
Postseason: Second Round
Consecutive NCAAs: 3
Pac-12 Projection: 3
Postseason Projection: Second Round
The loss of Young somewhat resembles having to replace two players since the natural shooting guard also handled the ball quite a bit during his senior season. Given the loss as well of starting 2-guard Jalil Abdul-Bassit, that’s a lot of minutes that Altman has to replace in the backcourt.
In keeping with his track record, Altman went out and nabbed a transfer who is expected to play a big role — in this case point guard Dylan Ennis, a fifth-year senior from Villanova. The Ducks also added one-time Arizona commit Tyler Dorsey, a top-25 recruit who can help replace Young’s scoring output. Sophomore Casey Benson and freshman Kendall Small provide depth.
To get all the newcomers on the same page, the Ducks went on a preseason trip to play five exhibition games in Spain in August.
“It’s all about the leadership of the fellows who have been here,” Benjamin says. “We‘re returning some important players from last year, so it’s just going to take us getting the new players involved.”
Key Losses: G Jalil Abdul-Bassit, G Joseph Young
Top Players: G Dylan Ennis, G Tyler Dorsey, F Elgin Cook, F Dillon Brooks, F Jordan Bell
As usual, Dana Altman combed the waiver wire and brought in transfers who are expected to have an immediate impact, including a couple who add size to the roster. Dylan Ennis is a projected starter at the point, and Chris Boucher provides badly needed size in the frontcourt. Tyler Dorsey should help fill the scoring void left by Joseph Young. Fellow freshmen Kendall Small and Trevor Manuel could round out the regular rotation.
The Ducks may have been known for Young’s prolific scoring in 2014-15, but their defense — the bread-and-butter of a Dana Altman team — was as critical. Oregon went 17–0 when holding an opponent under 70 points, but 9–10 when the opponent hit for 70 or more.
The lack of size in the post forced Altman to employ more of a high-scoring, up-and-down pace than he preferred last season. He intends for the Ducks to be tougher on defense in 2015-16.
“That’s how we’re going to win most of our games,” Benjamin says. “Again, we won’t be the biggest team in the country. We’re going to win with our defense and our effort.”