Articles By Athlon Sports

All taxonomy terms: Kenneth Faried, College Basketball, NBA
Path: /nba/kenneth-faried-denver-nuggets-reach-60-million-deal
Body:

Fresh off an oustanding summer spent as part of Team USA’s dominant run through the FIBA World Cup in Spain, Kenneth Faried has just gotten paid — big time. The relentless power forward, who started next to Anthony Davis for the Americans all summer, has reached a reported five-year, $60 million agreement with the Denver Nuggets.

 

The move can be seen not just as a result of Faried’s terrific FIBA performance, but also as a reaction to news of a new NBA TV deal. If Faried wasn’t worth all those simoleons as soon as a week ago, he probably is now. The $24 billion arrangement between the league, ESPN and Turner (which almost triples the previous one in place) is likely to make the salary cap jump upwards within a few years. By the time Faried’s contract is winding down, his pay rate will be far more equitable to his team.

Known for his long dreadlocks and bouncing, energetic style, Faried is dubbed by affectionate followers as “The Manimal.” His instinctive attack of the glass for rebounds and putbacks has electrified Nuggets fans since his rookie season in 2011-12. This kind of action — Faried putting back a Team USA teammate’s miss (Kyrie Irving’s) — has become quite the familiar basketball sight amidst the Rockies:

 

Later reports suggested the deal could violate the league’s collective bargaining agreement. It is, in so many words, simply too good of a value for Denver. But what’s clear is that they’re willing to pay their forward, and that he wants to stay put for a while. Whether the deal is bumped down to four years or not, Faried appears to be staying with his team.

 

The Nuggets went through a difficult transition year in 2013-14, going 36-46 under new coach Brian Shaw as they lost valuable pieces like Andre Iguodala, Kosta Koufos, Corey Brewer, Andre Miller, Danilo Galinari and Javale McGee through free agency, trades and injuries. They’ll have a hard time making waves in the vaunted Western Conference going forward, but locking down the valuable Manimal is sure to help.

 

— John Wilmes

@johnwilmesNBA

Teaser:
Post date: Tuesday, October 7, 2014 - 14:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Legends Poll
Path: /college-football/legends-poll-top-8-college-football-rankings-week-6
Body:

For the first time in the Legends Poll’s short history, two teams from the state of Mississippi are in the top 5.

 

No. 3 Mississippi State catapulted into the top 5 after a dominating performance over Texas A&M in Starkville Saturday, and the Bulldogs received their first ever first-place vote from Auburn legend Pat Dye. Dye is so high on Mississippi State, he picked them to upset his former team — and now No. 1 in the Legends Poll Top 8 — Auburn this coming weekend.

 

No. 4 Ole Miss also made its first top 5 appearance in the rankings this week after knocking off former No. 1 Alabama 23-17 at home this past Saturday. The Rebels don’t have much time to relax, though, as they travel to Texas A&M this week.

 

Top-ranked Auburn received seven first place votes and the other six went to Florida State, which moved back up a spot to No. 2 in the rankings.

 

Unbeaten Baylor rounded out the top 5, followed by Alabama, Notre Dame and Michigan State.

 

To see the individual votes by coach, visit the Legends Poll.

 

RKTEAMRECORDPOINTSPV RK
1AuburnAuburn (7)5-01045
2Florida StateFlorida State (6)5-0953
3Mississippi StateMississippi State (1)5-083-
4Ole MissOle Miss5-067-
5BaylorBaylor5-0627
6AlabamaAlabama4-1311
7Notre DameNotre Dame5-028-
8Michigan StateMichigan State4-1208
Teaser:
Post date: Tuesday, October 7, 2014 - 13:40
All taxonomy terms: LeBron James, NBA
Path: /nba/lebron-james-calls-out-nba-owners-again
Body:

The new NBA TV deal is going to make everyone involved with the league a lot of money. It’s worth a reported $24 billion, after all. But, at least in the short term, it’s also dragging out some old grudges. Namely, it reminds us all of the tension between team owners and players during the 2011 NBA lockout, which led to the season starting late, on Christmas day.

 

"We gave a lot," James said to reporters in the wake of the new TV deal, looking back at 2011’s collective bargaining agreement that got the players back on the hardwood, but also put a hard cap on team spending and greatly reduced player salaries. “The whole thing that went on with the last negotiation process was the owners are losing money. There's no way they can sit in front of us and tell us that right now.”

 

$24 billion — this huge number is only the latest signal that owners dishonestly portrayed their earnings in 2011. The $2 billion price tag of the Los Angeles Clippers was a sure sign that basketball’s profits are going through the roof, as was the much-less-reported $550 million that the Milwaukee Bucks (one of the least lucrative franchises in the league) recently sold for, to hedge fund gurus Wesley Edens and Marc Lasry of New York.

 

LeBron James showed this summer just how much clout he carries in the NBA. The league was at a standstill waiting for his decision to return to Cleveland, which set off an eventful chain of free agency events. He then recruited friends and respected peers Kevin Love, Mike Miller, Shawn Marion and James Jones to his new team effectively acting as the Cavs' general manager.

The deal James signed this summer only keeps him in Cleveland for two seasons at the most, and he can dangle his ever-precious abilities over NBA executives in Ohio and beyond as soon as next summer, if he’s to opt out of his second year. So when he speaks his mind about the league’s business, you better believe that the brass above is listening.

 

— John Wilmes

@johnwilmesNBA

Teaser:
Post date: Tuesday, October 7, 2014 - 09:00
Path: /college-basketball/college-basketball-2014-15-louisville-cardinals-team-preview
Body:

College basketball season is creeping up fast, and Athlon Sports is counting down to Midnight Madness and the start of practice on Oct. 17. 

 

No. 9 Louisville will play under its fourth different conference banner under Rick Pitino when the Cardinals, formerly of Conference USA, the Big East and American, join the ACC. Pitino has his team ready to contend in yet another league thanks in part to the return of forward Montrezl Harrell, who spurned the NBA draft for a shot at a national title.

 

The Louisville edition is one of dozens available in our online store and on newsstands everywhere now.

 

Rick Pitino says that his frontcourt will not take a backseat to any team’s this season. He feels the same way about his backcourt. Pitino is a Hall of Famer who has won conference titles in five different leagues, so even though the Cardinals are making their debut in the Atlantic Coast Conference, Louisville won’t have issues being outcoached.

 

Pitino talks like a coach who expects another top-10 season with a team he believes can play on the brightest national stages, even though the Cards have only one starter left from their 2013 NCAA championship team. Despite Pitino’s confidence in his first five, the coach understands that his bench is unproven. The reserves are talented, but their growth and improvement will determine if Louisville can handle elite teams.

 


No. 9 Louisville Cardinals Facts & Figures

Last season: 31-6, 15-3 American

Postseason: NCAA Sweet 16

Consecutive NCAAs: 8

Coach: Rick Pitino (335-116 at Louisville, 148-62 CUSA/Big East/AAC)

ACC Projection: Third

Postseason Projection: NCAA Sweet 16

 


Frontcourt

 

For two hours last April, Pitino was convinced that Montrezl Harrell was bound for the NBA. He would have been a first-round selection. But two hours after telling Pitino he was leaving, Harrell did a U-turn, saying he was determined to play his way into recognition as one of the top-10 players in the country. Harrell has the force, determination and skills. He must improve his 46 percent free throw stroke and prove he can make the 12-foot jumper. 

 

Wayne Blackshear is the sole remaining starter from the 2013 champs, and Blackshear played off the bench at times last season. Pitino has questioned Blackshear’s commitment to the game. He has also become a player who’s too willing to defer to teammates and settle for perimeter shots.

 

Mangok Mathiang is following the Gorgui Dieng growth pattern. He averaged 3.6 points and 3.6 rebounds in less than 15 minutes per game, but Pitino loves his ability to block shots and protect the rim. Mathiang needs to make the improvement that Dieng made, playing at the top of the key and passing the ball.

 

Pitino says that he expects Akoy Agau, a sophomore power forward, to be the team’s most improved player, but Agau will have to out-perform four talented freshmen.

 

Chinanu Onuaku, whose older brother, Arinze, played at Syracuse, is the most physically ready to play. Jaylen Johnson, who is 6-9, is considered the most skilled. A pair of 7-footers with foreign backgrounds, Matz Stockman (Norway) and Anas Osama Mahmoud (Egypt), fill out the frontcourt.

 

Backcourt

 

Russ Smith was one of the best players in college basketball the last two seasons, but even Smith says the Cardinals will not have major issues replacing him. Sophomore Terry Rozier was terrific off the bench last season, averaging 7.0 points and less than one turnover in 19 minutes per game. He’s dynamic off the dribble and protects the ball.

 

Pitino does not run a point guard/shooting guard offense, but he is demanding more leadership from Chris Jones, his senior. The coach has asked Jones to lose some weight because he believes that would give Jones the quickness to get into the lane against any defender.

 

Anton Gill, a sophomore, showed a solid shooting stroke in limited minutes, but his push for more playing time won’t be any easier even with the departures of Smith and sharp-shooting Luke Hancock. Quentin Snider was the best high school player in Kentucky last season. He is a combo guard known for his poised decision-making.

 

Pitino is also high on Shaquan Aaron, who follows Peyton Siva and Terrence Williams from Seattle to Louisville. Pitino is already comparing Aaron to former Cardinal Francisco Garcia.

 

Final Analysis

 

Replacing Smith, Hancock and Stephan Van Treese (who started 21 games at center) would seem to be a daunting task, considering all the big shots that Smith and Hancock made the last two seasons.

 

But Pitino is convinced that this will be one of his better teams by the end of the season if Mathiang can make a normal progression and if he can develop at least one of his freshmen. 

 

Pitino might be right about his team. Harrell has the tenacity and ability to play inside with anybody. Blackshear has plenty of big-game experience. Rozier and Jones are capable of averaging more than 20 points per game. A maiden trip through the ACC will only make the season more interesting.

 

Newcomers

 

Shaqquan Aaron is a dynamic scorer and playmaker from the wing. Quentin Snider understands the value of taking good shots but can still make highlight plays. Chinanu Onuaku brings a blue-collar approach to collecting rebounds and defending the paint. Jaylen Johnson needs to add 15 pounds but plays well above the rim. Expect either Matz Stockman or Anas Osama Mahmoud to redshirt. Both will need time.

Teaser:
College Basketball 2014-15: Louisville Cardinals Team Preview
Post date: Tuesday, October 7, 2014 - 07:00
All taxonomy terms: NBA, News
Path: /nba/nba-reaches-new-24-billion-tv-deal-espn-turner
Body:

The NBA announced Monday that it’s a reached a new nine-year, $24 billion TV deal with ESPN and Turner. That’s an awful lot of money. The new arrangement — effective starting with the 2016-17 season, and running until 2024-25 — is worth nearly triple the amount of the current one. Annual payments to the league will rise from $930 million to $2.66 billion, according to The New York Times.

 

Alex Kennedy of Basketball Insiders reported last night that he’d “talked to a few young players tonight about NBA's new TV deal. They are understandably ecstatic. Good time to be a young NBA player.”

 

This lucrative contract means more income for everyone involved—that’s why LeBron James signed his newest deal with the Cleveland Cavaliers for just two years, including a second-year player option. He knew the sport was about to see significantly more TV money, and that it would trickle down to the players soon enough. Barring injuries, it’s safe to expect James to sign for a historically large figure either next summer or in 2016.

 

Here’s more from the NBA’s press release:

 

“Under the agreements, the partners will televise more national regular-season games (ABC/ESPN: 100; Turner: 64) and will continue to do so generally on Wednesdays (ESPN), Thursdays (TNT), Fridays (ESPN), and Sundays (ABC/ESPN). By the end of these new agreements, the NBA’s partnership will reach 41 years with Turner, while the league’s relationship with ABC/ESPN will extend to 23 years. Additionally, NBA TV’s Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and Saturday game telecasts will continue to fill out the schedule, ensuring a full week of nationally televised games. The NBA’s 24-hour network will present over 100 regular-season games each year.”

 

— John Wilmes

@johnwilmesNBA

Teaser:
Post date: Monday, October 6, 2014 - 13:31
All taxonomy terms: NBA
Path: /nba/lebron-james-redebuts-cleveland-cavaliers
Body:

The 2014 NBA Preseason began Saturday night, but had its big splash on Sunday when LeBron James and the new-look Cleveland Cavaliers played their first game together at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland. James and the Cavs beat their new coach David Blatt’s old squad — Maccabi Tel Aviv, a pro team from Israel—and the competition wasn’t particularly close. 

 

The final was 107-80, a drubbing that featured James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love playing their first game together. The trio didn’t do anything spectacular, but they didn’t need to. Cleveland’s top performer of the game was actually Tristan Thompson, a fourth-year power forward who put up fourteen points and thirteen rebounds on 5-of-10 shooting. He also caught this nifty outlet pass from Love (sure to be the first of many):

 

The contest was all but over when Cleveland opened the second quarter with a 17-6 run, to go up 47-30. When told by an Israeli reporter that the Cavs “smashed” Tel Aviv, Blatt smiled and said: “Those aren’t nice words. Don’t want to use them about my old team.”

 

Things are easy for Cleveland against non-NBA teams, so last night’s result shouldn’t surprise anyone. Perhaps the King and his Cavaliers will face thornier competition in their next battle, which comes against the scorned Miami Heat this Saturday, October 11. Although Dwyane Wade has recently said he and James are still good friends, it’s hard to believe there aren’t some hard competitive feelings between the two that will find their way onto the court.

 

Wade did recently confess that there was a shadowy malaise over LeBron’s final season in Miami. “Throughout that run at certain times, it just wasn’t fun,” Wade told Bleacher Report.

 

— John Wilmes @johnwilmesNBA

Teaser:
Post date: Monday, October 6, 2014 - 11:00
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/college-basketball-2014-15-texas-longhorns-team-preview
Body:

College basketball season is creeping up fast, and Athlon Sports is counting down to Midnight Madness and the start of practice on Oct. 17. 

 

No. 10 Texas is a contender in the Big 12 and on the national stage again. Both prospects were far off the radar in recent years under Rick Barnes, but the arrival of Isaiah Taylor and the development of a core group of veterans has put the Longhorns back into the spotlight.

 

The Texas edition is one of dozens available in our online store and on newsstands everywhere now.

 

The emergence of a standout freshman point guard last season combined with the addition of a five-star big man this season has the outlook at Texas much brighter.

 

Before last season, the thought was Rick Barnes could be looking at his final year as coach of the Longhorns, coming off three player defections and his first losing season in 15 years at UT.

 

But lightly recruited point guard Isaiah Taylor ended up leading the team in assists (4.0 apg) and nearly leading the team in scoring (12.7 ppg) as Texas returned to the NCAA Tournament, losing to Michigan in the Round of 32.

 

This season, Texas adds five-star big man Myles Turner to a veteran team that could finally get out of the first weekend of the NCAAs for the first time since 2008.

 

“The turnaround happened with those guys last year,” Barnes says. “And then when Myles came to visit, I think he sensed the chemistry going on. And our guys knew Myles could come and help, and they said they’d help him every way they could. You have to have a team — not individuals — and we have that again.”

 


No. 10 Texas Longhorns Facts & Figures

Last season: 24-11 overall, 11-7 Big 12

Postseason: Round of 32

Consecutive NCAAs: 1

Coach: Rick Barnes (382-166 at Texas, 166-76 Big 12)

Big 12 Projection: Second

Postseason Projection: NCAA Sweet 16

 


Frontcourt

 

Turner arrives at Texas fresh off of a record-setting performance for blocked shots on the gold-medal winning Under-18 U.S. National team coached by Billy Donovan. Turner also arrives with the same kind of fanfare reserved for the likes of former Texas big men LaMarcus Aldridge and Tristan Thompson. Turner may be a more accomplished shot-blocker than those two as an incoming freshman. And Barnes says Turner will have to be defended from the 3-point line, because his range extends beyond 20 feet. But there won’t be pressure for Turner to be a one-man show, because he enters a frontcourt loaded with experience, scoring and shot-blocking.

 

Jonathan Holmes, last year’s leading scorer (12.8 ppg), is the only senior on the team. At 6-8, Holmes and can play inside (7.2 rpg) and force defenders to follow him out to the arc, where he hit 28 3-pointers last season (second-most on the team).

 

Center Cam Ridley comes off an All-Big 12 third-team season in which he averaged 11.2 points and 8.2 rebounds per game. Ridley also recorded at least four blocks in seven games while averaging 2.2 blocks per game.

 

Junior forwards Connor Lammert and Prince Ibeh play important roles in different ways. At 6-9, Lammert can work inside (5.2 rpg) and outside (18 made 3-pointers last season), while Ibeh protects the rim; he had at least three blocked shots in six games last season. 

 

Backcourt

 

Taylor emerged as the main man at the point last season, replacing Javan Felix as the one running things in the final four minutes of a close game. Taylor proved capable of breaking down the defense of most any team, whether against man-to-man (23 points vs Kansas) or zone (27 points vs Baylor). He should only get better in his second season of college basketball.

 

Felix continues to play an important role as one of the team’s best decision-makers and leaders. He is also the team’s biggest threat from 3-point range (61 made 3s at a .343 clip last season).

 

Demarcus Holland, who held Big 12 scorers Juwan Staten of West Virginia and Andrew Wiggins of Kansas well below their averages, will defend the opposing team’s best perimeter player. And backup guards Martez Walker, Demarcus Croaker and Kendal Yancy should all be able to contribute and provide quality depth.

 

Final Analysis

 

Texas has a nice combination of size and speed, experience and depth, and the addition of Turner could make this a special season for the Longhorns. Holmes is the only senior, but Texas could have three others leave school early (Taylor, Ridley and Turner), depending on how the season goes.

 

Barnes loves the chemistry of this group and says his team’s expectations “will be higher than what anybody else says.”

 

“We had gotten the program to the point where we were always talked about going into a season as a top-10 team,” the coach says. “And when that went away, you don’t like it. But these players have a lot of pride and seem determined to make sure Texas is back where it belongs.”

  

Newcomers

 

Five-star freshman Myles Turner comes as a proven shot-blocker who has back-to-the-basket moves over both shoulders as well as 3-point range. Small forward Jordan Barnett will have to prove he can play defense for Rick Barnes before he can show off his ability to score. 

Teaser:
College Basketball 2014-15: Texas Longhorns Team Preview
Post date: Monday, October 6, 2014 - 07:00
All taxonomy terms: Wilt Chamberlain, NBA
Path: /nba/wilt-chamberlain-will-be-stamps
Body:

No NBA player has ever graced the imagery of U.S. postage. But that all changes this December, when Wilt “The Stilt” Chamberlain — perhaps the most dominant baller to ever hit the floor — has a couple dedicated to him. One of the stamps has him in a Los Angeles Lakers uniform, and in the other he’s with the long-defunct Philadelphia Warriors.

 

Look:

 

 

Chamberlain is of course famous for scoring 100 points in one game in 1962, and for being the league’s all-time leading scorer until Kareem Abdul-Jabbar broke his record in 1984. His all-time record of 23,924 rebounds has not been surpassed, however. The 7’1” big man was in a league of his own through multiple eras of basketball — save for when he played against Bill Russell, his close friend who always thwarted him with his Boston Celtics dynasties.

But perhaps you’ve heard of Chamberlain for another reason. Namely, his claim to have slept with over 20,000 women in his lifetime. Consider that number an early bar for these stamps to clear: Can they adorn that many envelopes?

The oblong stickers are taller than most, just as Wilt was. They’ll be officially unveiled at a ceremony in Chamberlain’s hometown of Phladelphia, during halftime of a 76ers game against the Oklahoma City Thunder. Not a lot of professional athletes have graced postage before — the honor is usually reserved for players from America’s oldest favorite sport, baseball. Ted Williams and Joe DiMaggio are among those previously commemorated, as well as boxer Joe Louis.

 

The crusade to get Chamberlain as the face of your rent checks and letters to grandma was begun by sportswriter Donald Hunt of the Philadelphia Tribune, back in 2008. The wheels of U.S. postage apparently spin as slowly as those of most bureaucracies, so if you’re planning to mount your own stamp campaign, you’d better get started.

 

— John Wilmes

@johnwilmesNBA

Teaser:
Post date: Friday, October 3, 2014 - 14:00
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy, News
Path: /fantasy/college-fantasy-football-week-6-fantasy-value-plays
Body:

DraftKings has released their Daily Fantasy college football salaries for Week 6, and the experts at CollegeFootballGeek.com have hunkered down and scoured all of the data to find the best Value Plays on the docket. 

These Value Plays are comprised of players poised to out-produce their DraftKings salaries this week.  These are the “diamonds in the rough” that your DFS competitors may overlook.  They are the difference-makers you need in your lineup to win one of the big DFS contests!

For your convenience, we have broken the picks down by DraftKings contest game set. Best of luck this week!

(For more detailed Daily Fantasy analysis, picks, player news, player rankings, and stat breakdowns, check out
CollegeFootballGeek.comLearn how to SUBSCRIBE FOR FREE!)

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VALUE PLAYS: SATURDAY (EARLY ONLY) GAME SET


QUARTERBACKS

 
1)    QB Jacoby Brissett, North Carolina State vs. Clemson ($6100)

Brissett threw for 359 yards and three scores last week against Florida State. He has been very consistent this year and could find success against Clemson in what could be a shootout.


RUNNING BACKS

1)    RB Marshawn Williams, Va Tech vs. North Carolina ($3700)

Williams appears to be coming on and could see even more carries with Shai McKenzie out for the season. The UNC defense is terrible and could give up plenty of chunk plays to William this week. Look for Williams to find pay dirt this week.

 

2)    RB Rushel Shell, West Virginia vs. Kansas ($4100)

Shell has scored in three straight games and looks to have locked up the starting RB job for the Mountaineers. He could have a very big day against a putrid Kansas defense. Expect Shell to easily hit value this week.

 

3)    RB Desmond Roland, Oklahoma State vs. Iowa State ($4200)

Roland has scored three rushing touchdowns in the last two games and appears to be rounding into form. He has a juicy match up with the Cyclones 111th ranked rush defense. Look for Roland to find his way into the end zone for the third straight week.

 


WIDE RECEIVERS

 

1)    WR Laquon Treadwell, Ole Miss vs. Alabama ($4300)

Treadwell finally awoke from his slumber last week with 123 yards and two scores against Memphis. He has a tough match up this week with Alabama, but could be leaned on heavily. His price is enticing, so be sure to look his way.

 

2)    WR Mike Williams, Clemson vs. NC State ($4600)

Willams recorded 122 yards and two scores last week against North Carolina. He comes in at a great price this week and has huge potential against NC State. He could be a nice plug and play option this week.

 

 

TIGHT END

 

1)    TE Steven Walker, Colorado State vs. Tulsa ($3000)

Walker has been productive in filling in for Kivon Cartwright. He could find plenty of open space against a miserable Tulsa defense. He looks like a nice punt option.



VALUE PLAYS:  SATURDAY (LATE ONLY) GAME SET


QUARTERBACKS

 

1)    QB Mike Bercovici, Arizona State vs. USC ($5200)

Bercovici threw for 488 yards and three scores against UCLA last week while filling in for Taylor Kelly. He likely won’t hit those numbers this week, but could post solid numbers and hit value against the Trojans.

 


RUNNING BACKS

 

1)    RB Jordan Howard, UAB vs. Western Kentucky ($4300)

Howard ran for 100 yards last week and could easily hit that mark this week against Western Kentucky. The Hilltoppers rush defense ranks 116th in the nation and routinely gets gashed. Look for Howard to break a couple of long runs this week.

 

2)    RB Jeremy Langford, Michigan State vs. Nebraska ($4700)

Langford has been plagued by blow out games this year and has not got into any type of rhythm as of yet. He could see a ton of carries this week against Nebraska and could easily find the end zone a couple of times.

 

 

WIDE RECEIVERS

 

1)    WR D’haquille Williams, Auburn vs. LSU ($4700)

Williams has scored in three of four games this season and is the top option in the Tigers passing game. He has a tough match up this week against LSU, but could easily hit value in this SEC showdown.

- By Todd DeVries and Kevin Mount, CollegeFootballGeek.com


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Teaser:
College Fantasy Football: Week 6 Fantasy Value Plays
Post date: Friday, October 3, 2014 - 11:45
Path: /college-basketball/college-basketball-2014-15-nebraska-cornhuskers-team-preview
Body:

College basketball season is creeping up fast, and Athlon Sports is counting down to Midnight Madness and the start of practice on Oct. 17. 

 

No. 11 Nebraska ended a 16-year NCAA Tournament drought last season, but the Cornhuskers return enough firepower to contend for more. Tim Miles has built a program ready to contend in the Big Ten — a league in which many of the usual contenders are in a state of transition.

 

The Nebraska edition is one of dozens available in our online store and on newsstands everywhere now.

 

Never mind that Nebraska, led by co-Big Ten Coach of the Year Tim Miles, is coming off its most celebrated season in more than 20 years. Junior guard Terran Petteway, who averaged 18.1 points to lead the Big Ten in scoring, wants more after the Huskers fizzled with first-round losses in the Big Ten Tournament and NCAA Tournament.

 

“The way we finished last year, we don’t want that taste in our mouth,” says Petteway, one of four returning starters for a Nebraska team that finished 19–13. “This year, we’re trying to win the Big Ten. We’re not trying to come in fourth, we’re not trying to come in third. We want to win it.”

 

That’s with all due respect to Wisconsin, Michigan State and Ohio State, teams Petteway says “are going to be pretty good.”

 

Unlike previous seasons, those teams won’t be looking past Nebraska. Not after the Huskers, picked to finish last in the Big Ten, pulled a few upsets, gained steam late and finished a surprising 11–7 — good for fourth place.

 

“The little stretch we went on last year, I think everybody took notice of that,” Petteway says. “This year, it’s not going to be, ‘Oh, Nebraska’s coming, whoopty-doo.’ People are going to be preparing for us. We can’t be no one-hit wonder. We got to make a name for ourselves. This second year is going to be big, because we’re not going to sneak up on nobody. Everybody’s going to be ready for us now.”

 


No. 11 Nebraska Cornhuskers Facts & Figures

Last season: 18-13 overall, 11-7 Big Ten

Postseason: Round of 64

Consecutive NCAAs: 1

Coach: Tim Miles (34-32 overall at Nebraska, 16-20 Big Ten)

Big Ten Projection: Second

Postseason Projection: NCAA Sweet 16

 


Frontcourt

 

Void of depth in the post last season, Nebraska signed fifth-year senior transfer Moses Abraham (who went by Moses Ayegba during his career at Georgetown). The 6-9, 247-pound Abraham is a physical veteran presence inside who may not add much offensively but can rebound, block shots and, in general, be that rim protector the Huskers have sorely missed. 

 

Only now, Abraham, who averaged a mere 13.1 minutes last season, will need to prepare himself for a heavier workload as Nebraska deals with the loss of senior forward Leslee Smith, who suffered an ACL tear July 3 playing for his native British Virgin Islands team in the FIBA Caribbean Championships. It’s uncertain when or if Smith, the Huskers’ first post player off the bench, will return, but it could mean true freshman center Jake Hammond may have to nix plans to redshirt. 

 

Nebraska does return 6-10 junior Walter Pitchford, who started inside last season but is anything but a traditional big man. More of a stretch-4, Pitchford shot a team-best 41 percent on 3-pointers last season. Redshirt freshman Nick Fuller, a 6-6 forward, is a left-handed shooter with range who could also crack the rotation.

 

Backcourt

 

Petteway figures to become Nebraska’s first NBA Draft pick since Venson Hamilton in 1999. Whether that happens this season or next isn’t of concern now to Petteway, who’s concentrating more on improving his game and helping the Huskers win their first NCAA Tournament game in school history. Petteway made a living getting to the rim and scoring in transition, but he needs to shore up his perimeter shooting and, most important, reverse a rather unsightly 52-to-88 assist-to-turnover stat line. 

 

Junior Shavon Shields, with a game very similar to Petteway’s, gives Nebraska a strong one-two punch on the wing. Coaches are counting on a much-improved Tai Webster at guard after the sophomore lost confidence and tailed off down the stretch of a freshman season that didn’t meet lofty expectations. And don’t underestimate the importance of junior Benny Parker off the bench. The diminutive Parker, while not known for his offense, can spark his team with defensive intensity and his ability to move the ball in transition. 

 

Final Analysis

 

Nebraska ended its NCAA Tournament drought — which had dated to 1998 — when many least expected it. The Huskers lose only one main contributor, guard Ray Gallegos, and boast a headline player in Petteway. While these Huskers won’t sneak up on Big Ten teams like they did last season, they have enough scoring options, a salty enough defense and a savvy enough coach to continue their momentum in a league dotted with question marks after the first four or five teams. Anything less than an upper-half finish would be a disappointing step backward, with another top-four finish the ultimate goal in Miles’ third season.

 

Newcomers

 

Georgetown fifth-year transfer Moses Abraham and his 7-4 wing span should help improve Nebraska’s rim protection. True freshman Jake Hammond, a 6-10, 227-pound center, had planned on redshirting to increase his weight and strength, but the injury to Leslee Smith may change those plans. True freshman Tarin Smith could vie for a starting job at point guard, allowing Tai Webster to play more minutes at the off guard.

Teaser:
College Basketball 2014-15: Nebraska Cornhuskers Team Preview
Post date: Friday, October 3, 2014 - 07:00
All taxonomy terms: NBA, News
Path: /nba/nba-has-discussed-eliminating-free-throws
Body:

Nobody watches basketball for the free throws. Tedious, tiring and largely unathletic acts, they slow down every NBA game. This is an observation you’ve probably heard at a bar or on a couch before, but recently the notion of free throws as a total snoozefest has also been discussed by NBA brass.

 

A collection of “the league’s basketball operations folks and rule geeks,” as reported by ESPN’s Kevin Arnovitz, has discussed the prospect of condensing every trip to the foul strike to just one shot. So: The fouled shooter would take one foul shot, worth two points. This rule, if instituted, would shave an estimated five minutes off of game time.

 

One might laugh this concept off as mere theory, unlikely to ever take form in reality. But new league commissioner Adam Silver — who took the helms from David Stern this past February — just may be progressive enough to pass a rule so seemingly experimental. His open, forward tenor is largely different from his predecessor’s, and his swift, judicious handling of Donald Sterling’s dismissal as Los Angeles Clippers owner shows he’s a man of action.

 

Silver has previously said he’d also consider the idea of having one extra referee, off the floor, dedicated solely to video review. This is another measure that could speed up the game — which, truth be told, is not exactly slow as it is. But perhaps the NBA sees an opportunity to become America’s number one sport, as the NFL struggles with repeated PR disasters, and the league is taking any marginal step it can to entice fans ready to jump ship.

 

Less waiting, more dunking is a pretty good selling point. But a shot of speed to one of the world’s faster team sports should be appealing to fans regardless of whether it helps basketball’s TV ratings. There’s no need to fill space with a redundant, stale skill competition — that’s exactly the kind of boring rubbish we turn towards sports to escape. Let’s make basketball more exciting.

 

— John Wilmes

@johnwilmesNBA

Teaser:
Post date: Thursday, October 2, 2014 - 16:00
All taxonomy terms: Peyton Manning, Ty Lawson, NBA
Path: /nba/ty-lawson-brian-shaw-denver-nuggets-plan-visit-peyton-manning
Body:

The comparisons to be made between basketball and football are limited. The former is a continuous game of barely-clad bodies, speeding balletically past each other to score over and over. The latter is a gridiron stop-start of bone-crunching brutality between men in veritable armor, where all points are hard-earned.

But an NBA point guard can certainly learn a lot from an NFL quarterback — the most stressful public position in America, just inches behind Commander in Chief. That’s why Denver Nuggets second-year coach Brian Shaw wants to take his team’s speedy young general, Ty Lawson, a few high miles over to Denver Broncos practice, where he can ostensibly learn from the very best in game management: Peyton Manning.

“I want to take him to a Broncos practice so he can see Peyton Manning and how he directs traffic, and how everybody falls in line behind him. But they only do that because they know the work ethic that he has and the time he puts in, and they respect that,” Shaw said at Nuggets training camp.

 

Lawson chimed in on the idea, too: “I definitely just want to see how he runs his team. To see whether he's yelling and screaming the whole time, or if he's just talking. What his tone is when he's talking to players. I want to see what his mindset is during practice.”

This isn’t the first time Lawson and football have been mentioned in the same news item. Just weeks ago, Lawson took to social media during a pitiful Dallas Cowboys defensive performance to clown on both the ‘Boys and Western Conference rival James Harden, the Houston Rockets superstar known, increasingly, for his own porous D.

 

Here’s Lawson’s unforgettable Instagram joke:

 

The Nuggets are looking to bounce back in 2014-15, after a rough 36-46 season in which they missed the playoffs. If sense of humor and non-traditional learning are any indication of court savvy, then Denver fans have plenty of cause for hope.

 

— John Wilmes

@johnwilmesNBA

(h/t Matt Moore, CBS Sports)

Teaser:
Post date: Thursday, October 2, 2014 - 10:00
Path: /college-basketball/college-basketball-2014-15-villanova-wildcats-team-preview
Body:

College basketball season is creeping up fast, and Athlon Sports is counting down to Midnight Madness and the start of practice on Oct. 17. 

 

No. 12 Villanova is built to win the Big East for a second consecutive season, something the Wildcats haven’t done since 1982-83. But with four starters returning, Villanova will be expected to do more than just win the new Big East, especially after losing in the round of 32 as a No. 2 seed last season.

 

The Villanova edition is one of dozens available in our online store and on newsstands everywhere now.

 

With 15 minutes remaining in their Round of 32 game, Villanova was leading Connecticut and seemed to have some momentum after back-to-back James Bell 3-pointers.

 

That quickly changed.

 

UConn outscored the Wildcats by 13 points over the final 15 minutes, beating Villanova en route to the national championship.

 

“After the game, it was crushing and disappointing,” coach Jay Wright says. “But as you saw them go on, you respected their performance more and became less disappointed in yours.”

 

With only two players gone from last season — including Bell — it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Villanova making a deep run in this season’s NCAA Tournament. The Wildcats are certainly the Big East favorite.

 

“If we handle it well, I like it. If we don’t handle it well, I don’t like it,” Wright says of the expectations. “If I was given the choice, I would like to be in that position.”

 


No. 12 Villanova Wildcats Facts & Figures

Last season: 29-5, 16-2 Big East

Postseason: Round of 32

Consecutive NCAAs: 2

Coach: Jay Wright (285-149 overall at Villanova, 124-79 Big East)

Big East Projection: First

Postseason Projection: NCAA Sweet 16

 


The loss of Bell will hurt Villanova, as the first-team All-Big East performer was Villanova’s top scorer and brought senior leadership.

 

Although he’s not expected to do it on his own, sophomore Josh Hart will get the first crack at replacing Bell. He showed flashes, notching eight straight double-figure games in December and January, and scoring 18 points against Seton Hall in the Big East Tournament.

 

“He had a great freshman year,” Wright says. “He picked things up really quickly. I saw a resiliency from him, and he continued that same way in the offseason. He keeps getting better and better.”

 

Senior Jayvaughn Pinkston followed that path the past three seasons, and is now expected to be a dominant performer on a more consistent basis. At 6-7, 260 pounds, Pinkston can be a load in the paint.

 

“I do expect him to be one of the best players in the Big East,” Wright says. “He needs to go to another level this year. Impact a game consistently, night-in, night-out.”

 

Wright is very excited about the improvement of center Daniel Ochefu. He came on strong down the stretch, blocking shots and rebounding, while also using his passing ability at the other end.

 

Sophomore Kris Jenkins, who lost 43 pounds last year, and freshman Mikal Bridges will provide depth, along with sophomore Darryl Reynolds.

 

Backcourt

 

As always, Villanova will have one of the best backcourts in the country. There’s no physical, attack-minded force like Kyle Lowry, Randy Foye or Corey Fisher, but Ryan Arcidiacono and Darrun Hilliard complement each other well.

 

Arcidiacono made waves as a freshman two seasons ago, but he also had some issues with turnovers and decision-making. Last season, his scoring numbers were down, but his percentages and assist-to-turnover ratio went up. “He did exactly what we wanted our guards to do,” Wright says. “As a freshman, he came in aggressively and made a lot of mistakes. As a sophomore, he used his aggressiveness to be smarter. He’s getting more and more efficient.”

 

Hilliard is a leading candidate for Big East Player of the Year. Known mostly as an outside shooter, the lefty has expanded his offensive game. He finished the season on a high note, averaging 17.3 points in March. “I expect him to develop into a great leader on this team,” Wright says. “He’s one of the best guards in the country.”

 

There’s solid help on the bench. Dylan Ennis, older brother of recent draft pick Tyler Ennis, didn’t adapt as quickly as some thought last season, but he can do a little bit of everything. Freshman Phil Booth brings scoring and ball-handling.

 

Final Analysis

 

Villanova’s only two losses in conference play last season were by a combined 49 points to Creighton, and with Doug McDermott gone, the Wildcats are clearly the Big East favorite.

 

The pieces are there for a deep March run. The Cats have terrific guard play in Arcidiacono and Hilliard; a bruising forward in Pinkston; and solid role players who are getting better in Ochefu and Hart. Replacing Bell — both in terms of production and leadership — will be the key.

 

If Hart can pick up the slack, though, there aren’t many better starting fives in the country. Throw in improvements from some of the younger players, and we could be talking about last season’s loss to UConn as a stepping stone to a Final Four run.


Newcomers

 

It wasn’t a big recruiting class, but Jay Wright picked up two quality complementary pieces in Phil Booth and Mikal Bridges. Both players are low-maintenance guys, and will accept a backup role until it’s their turn. Booth can bring scoring and solid point guard play, while Bridges is long and athletic. 

Teaser:
College Basketball 2014-15: Villanova Wildcats Team Preview
Post date: Thursday, October 2, 2014 - 07:00
All taxonomy terms: MLB
Path: /mlb/greatest-derek-jeter-moments
Body:

The game of baseball celebrates its heroes and greatest moments unlike any other sport in the world. Our favorite players are immortalized within our ballparks, and in our memories. Their stories are passed down from generation to generation, and their moments have stamped our lives as if they were meant for us specifically.

 

Our grandparents would tell us of Ted Williams’ last at bat in Boston, a home run to deep right center field in a half-empty Fenway. Our parents told us about Hank Aaron smashing an Al Downing hanging breaker into the left field bullpen on a brisk, April night in Atlanta to become the all-time home run king. Our generation will tell stories of Yankees captain Derek Jeter.

 

Jeter wasn’t a slugger, hitting mammoth moon shots that left us in awe, and he never hit more than 24 in a season. He was a good shortstop, not a great one, but Jeter had the ability to make the plays that left your jaw dropped. The backhanded stab, running deep into the hole, jump throw against his momentum, on a rope to first, was his trademark. Not too many shortstops could do that, ever.

 

Derek Jeter’s career has become iconic, not just within baseball, but for all sports. The greatest players in the game all have their signature moments that last forever; Jeter has a catalog. Here are the top five career-defining moments of Derek Jeter’s fantastic career.

 

THE DIVE - July 1, 2004

The Yankees and Red Sox rivalry is always in full swing, even in the dog days of July. Boston right fielder and left-handed batting Trot Nixon hit a cue shot on a pitch away that shot straight up and towards the shallow left field foul line, behind the third base bag. Jeter, sprinting from his position at shortstop, never took his eyes off the pop fly. Jeter made the catch, running full bore along the foul line, not able to stop his momentum before having to dive into the third row of the Old Stadium, face first. Jeter emerged from the crowd battered and bloodied under his right eye and on his chin, a testament to how Jeter played the game, 100% every day.

 

THE FLIP - Oct. 13, 2001

The Yankees were on the road and facing elimination down two games to none against the 102-win Oakland As. In the bottom of the 7th, Terrence Long ripped a line drive along the right field line, Yankee outfielder Shane Spencer corralled the ball in the corner and fired it towards home and catcher Jorge Posada, missing two cut-off men. The A's Jeremy Giambi was rounding third, trucking towards home and towards a tie game as the ball appeared to die in-between home and first…then Jeter happened. In what could be the most heady, intelligent baseball play in Postseason history, Jeter sprinted from his short stop position, realizing Spencer’s throw from deep right field wasn’t going to make it home, scooped up the ball and flipped it towards Posada. Giambi, assuming the ball was going to die alone the baseline, didn't slide and was tagged in the leg just before touching home.

 

Without Jeter’s intuition and guts, Game 3 is tied and the Yankees are more than likely sent home early. Instead, the Bronx Bombers hold onto the 1-run lead and then rally to beat the As in Games 4 and 5, and marched towards another World Series.

 

FOX broadcaster Thom Brennaman summarized “The Flip” as it happened: “Derek Jeter, with one of the most unbelievable plays you will ever see from a shortstop!” Spot on, Thom.

 

DJ3K - July 9, 2011

Getting 3,000 hits in a career all but assures a Cooperstown enshrinement. Derek Jeter decided that getting a patented inside out single to right field, like he had done countless times, wasn't going to be good enough for such a milestone.

 

Instead, the Yankee captain came to the plate in the bottom of the 3rd, with a 1-0 deficit against arguably the best pitcher in baseball, David Price — all while the New York faithful chanted “Der-ek Je-ter” as they had done so many times before — and sent a low-and-in breaking curveball to deep left field.

 

“See ya! History with an exclamation point!” said Yankee broadcaster Michael Kay, who continued: “Derek Jeter has done it in grand style.”

 

Typical Jeter.

 

While Jeter rounded first base, Rays first baseman, Casey Kotchman tipped his cap to the captain, followed by a standing ovation from Yankee fans, and the visiting Rays. Christian Lopez, the man who caught the famed homer, gave the ball back to Jeter, and asked for nothing in return.

 

Jeter is the first and only member of the 3,000 hit club in the Yankees' illustrious history.

 

MR. NOVEMBER - Nov. 1, 2001

After the attacks of 9/11, America was in a state of shock and looking for answers. Our way of life was completely thrown off track. The closest thing that we could find to normalcy was postseason baseball.

 

Sure enough, the Yankees were able to rally past a two-games to-none-deficit at the hands of the Oakland As, and defeat the 116-win Seattle Mariners four-games-to-one in the ALCS.

 

Just seven weeks after the 9/11 attacks, the Yankees found themselves in a two-games-to-one hole to the Arizona Diamondbacks, and the city of New York found itself torn between grieving and cheering. At that time, the Yankees were much more than a baseball team; they were representing New York City, and really, the nation as a whole. Just across town from old Yankee Stadium, New York’s bravest continued the cleanup and rescue effort at Ground Zero, and families continued to mourn. This was the one World Series where the rest of the country wanted the Yankees to win.

 

Derek Jeter came to the plate in the bottom of the 10th inning of a three-three game — at midnight on Nov. 1. It was the first time in the history of the game that the Fall Classic had been played during the month of November. The video board in right field even said: “Welcome to November Baseball.” At the time, Jeter was batting just 1-for-15 in the series.

 

With two outs, Jeter battled back from an 0-2 count and took the 3-2 pitch from Arizona closer Byung-Hyun Kim the other way, a line drive to the right field corner. It barely cleared the short porch Stadium wall.

 

Mr. November was born…and a city was lifted, even if for one night.

 

A BRONX GOODBYE - Sept. 25, 2014

For the first time in Jeter’s career, he didn’t want the ball hit to him at his shortstop home. The Captain was showing his emotions all night, often fighting back tears, adjusting his cap in anxiousness. What should have been a 5-2 win in the top of the ninth for the Yankees, quickly turned into a 5-5 tie thanks to home runs from Orioles Adam Jones and Steve Pearce.

 

With one out in the bottom of the ninth, a runner on second, and Yankee fans standing and chanting their captain’s name, the echo of Bob Sheppard’s introduction rang out one last time: “Now batting for the Yankees, number two, Derek Jeter…number two.”

 

Jeter, with his signature inside-out swing, took the first pitch to right field to plate the winning run for the Yankees.

 

The game didn't matter in the standings, as the Orioles had already clinched the AL East and the Yankees were already eliminated from Postseason contention, but that moment will resonate within the game of baseball forever.

 

This generation’s greatest sports icon was finally walking away from the lights of New York and the National Pastime on his own terms. After being mobbed by his current teammates, and embracing his old ones, Jeter slowly began to walk around the infield of Yankee Stadium, taking it all in, letting the love wash over him.

 

He walked over to where he has played for the past 20 seasons, between second and third base, where he won his five Gold Gloves, and lowered himself. His final act was done.
   

— Jake Rose

Teaser:
Post date: Wednesday, October 1, 2014 - 15:01
Path: /nba/cleveland-cavaliers-and-washington-wizards-are-beefing
Body:

On NBA Media Day, everybody gets to be number one. All the ideals of the upcoming season are fresh, unspoiled by the slog of reality. Players spout off about MVP candidacy, their new-and-improved shooting form and how much they love all of their teammates — soon-to-be champions, all of them.


Washington Wizards shooting guard Bradley Beal was more than bursting with such optimistic energy in D.C. on Monday. The 21-year-old said he and point guard John Wall — a first-time All-Star last season — are “definitely the best backcourt in the league.”

 

Dion Waiters and Kyrie Irving react to Bradley Beal's claim that the Wizards have the league's best backcourt.
Dion Waiters didn’t like that. The mercurial Cleveland Cavaliers shooting guard (known primarily for his role in the team’s locker room unrest last year, reportedly feuding with Kyrie Irving and Tristan Thompson) replied with “that’s nonsense,” when asked what he thought of Beal’s claim. Following a Tuesday practice, Waiters said that “He’s not messing with me and Ky[rie Irving]. I think me and Ky are the best backcourt, young backcourt. That’s all.”

 

While it’s an encouraging sign for Cavs chemistry to see Waiters referring to frenemy Irving with a nickname, his defense also begat a war of words. When poked for a rebuke, Wall slighted Waiters. “They haven’t seen a playoff game yet, so when they make one they can start talking. But if you’re going to be the best backcourt, you have to start,” Wall said after practice Tuesday, twisting the knife in Waiters’ wound over often being pushed into a sixth man role. “This is the year he’s probably starting, so let’s see who’s got the best backcourt. You’ve got to be a starting backcourt to be the best backcourt.”

Cleveland and Washington last regularly exchanged tempers when LeBron James was a Cavalier for the first time. Gilbert Arenas, Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison were thorns in the King’s side for multiple postseasons of that era. While a returned, wiser James may now be beyond speaking ill of other teams, it seems a younger generation is more than happy to renew the flames of rivalry.

 

— John Wilmes

@johnwilmesNBA

Teaser:
Post date: Wednesday, October 1, 2014 - 14:00
Path: /mlb/who-replaces-derek-jeter-face-baseball
Body:

Derek Jeter was the perfect player at the perfect time. Jeter emerged as the Yankee captain at the end of the Steroid Era and perfectly played the role of the “Face of Baseball” ever since.


Jeter played the game “the right way” for 20 seasons, running out ground balls, diving into stands for foul pop-ups, hitting clutch homers, and being an outstanding gentleman of the game, never unruly or ungracious, always polite and obliging. Jeter’s character only enhanced his legend on the field, creating the aura of “The Captain” even when he was reluctant to play the role we all wanted him to. He was always, simply, Derek Jeter.

 

Thanks to the advance of the digital age, social networks, and regional sports networks, the legend of Jeter was able to flourish for all the right reasons. Fans of the game were looking for a player who could be a white knight on and off the field, who could distance himself from scandal and the Steroid Era. What they got was Derek Jeter.

 

Now, a new era of baseball is here. New commissioner Rob Manfred will take the helm without The Captain to be the transcendent star who helped keep the game’s national identity intact. What Manfred does have is a stable of young talent across the league that can attempt to do what Jeter did for the next generation of baseball.

 

Here are the top choices for the Jeter’s replacements as “Faces of Baseball.”

 

GIANCARLO STANTON 

If Ruthian home runs are your thing, Giancarlo has you covered in South Beach. His home runs don’t just leave the ball park, they fly on a Top Gun fighter jet. If Paul Bunyan were a baseball player, he’d have Giancarlo’s two-handed, effortless chop-swing that makes the ball sound like it was shot from a circus cannon.

 

Stanton lead the National League in long balls (37), total bases (299) and slugging percentage (.555) this season, all accomplished before he got hit in the face with a fastball and was forced to sit out the final few weeks of the year.

 

In 2014, Stanton was in the top five in all of baseball in OPS (.995), walks (94), and on-base percentage (.394), and in the top ten in RBIs (105).

 

The California native is just 24 years old and already has 154 homers in his five-year career, which puts him on pace for approximately 340 deep balls after his age 30 season — all while playing in the Grand Canyon of ball parks, Marlins Park.

 

Stanton will be just 26 years old when his contract expires in 2016. Look for the young slugger to get a major payday in a couple years if an extension with the Marlins can’t be reached.

 

Imagine putting that swing in the arena of Yankee Stadium. Look out.

 

ANDREW McCUTCHEN 

What can’t Cutch do? The 2013 NL MVP has been the biggest reason the Pirates have been resurrected after 20 losing seasons and have made it to the postseason the past two years.

 

While McCutchen might be most recognized for his dreads spilling out from under his Pirates cap, his all-around game is nothing to overlook. Besides his MVP award last year, McCutchen is a four-time All-Star, a two-time Silver Slugger, and a Gold Glove center fielder. Some of his numbers this year are better than his MVP season!

 

In 2014, he lead all of baseball in on-base percentage (.410), and was top ten in slugging percentage (.542). McCutchen led  the National League in OPS (.952) and OPS+ (168). Adding to those stats, McCutchen hit .314 with 38 doubles, 25 home runs, and 83 RBIs.

 

McCutchen has all of the qualities that a manager could want from his team leader. Cutch isn't afraid to lay out to make a catch and save a run, or run full-steam into a wall to rob extra bases from a hitter, all for the sake of the team. Cutch will hit a homer in one inning, steal second in another with his lightning speed, and then smack one of his patented doubles in the gap to cap it off.

 

Andrew McCutchen is the complete weapon, and at just 27 years old, ready to make some more noise in The ‘Burgh for seasons to come.


BUSTER POSEY

At just age 27, San Francisco Giants catcher/first basemen Buster Posey has already amassed one heck of an awards mantle, all while looking like he just graduated from high school.

 

The 2010 Rookie of the Year already has two World Series rings, the 2012 NL MVP award, two All-Star game appearances, and a Silver Slugger Award to put on his resume. Posey is the face of one of the most successful North American sports franchises of the past decade in the Giants.

 

After a “sub-par” 2013, Posey rebounded in 2014 with a slash-line of .311/.364/.490, an OPS of .854 to go along with 22 home runs, 28 doubles, and 89 RBIs. Catchers don't put up those kinds of numbers, even “offensive” catchers.

 

If the Giants make another deep run into October in 2014, look for Posey to be the first on the field holding the Commissioner’s Trophy, and on your next box of Wheaties.

 

ANTHONY RIZZO 

Rizzo is the dark horse of the group. The Chicago Cubs first basemen has shown glimpses of what he could become, especially if he gets any protection in the lineup with the organization’s youth movement (Side note: Cubs’ top prospect Kris Bryant very well could be on this list next season).

 

The days of the Cubs signing and flipping talent for trade deadline deals are over, and the time for the team to take steps towards winning is now. That winning starts with the cornerstone of the organization, 25 year old first basemen Anthony Rizzo.

 

2014 was Rizzo’s second full season in The Show, and he was lights out for a last-place team. The lefty was in the top five of the National League in on-base percentage (.386), slugging percentage (.527), and OPS (.913). On top of those numbers, Rizzo hit .288 with 32 homers, and 28 doubles, and earned himself his first All-Star selection.

 

To add to the on-field accolades, Rizzo is a cancer survivor who dedicates so much of his off-time visiting sick children in Chicago hospitals, often times showing up unannounced.

 

If the Cubs plan unfolds like they hope, Rizzo will be the foundation of NL Central Division and pennant-winning teams for years to come. Any guy that can win with the Cubs is going to garner some national attention.

 

ADAM JONES

This season the Baltimore Orioles won the AL East by an unbelievable 12 games over Derek Jeter’s Yankees. This without a true pitching ace, season-ending injuries to All-Stars Manny Machado, and Matt Weiters, and a suspended Chris Davis.

 

Even with all the disorder in the Os lineup, they were able to lead the league in home runs this season, thanks in large part to Adam Jones. who blasted 29 long balls, and tacked on 30 doubles, all while playing Gold Glove caliber defense, again.

 

Along with the leadership of Skipper Buck Showalter, one could easily argue that Jones is the key to the Os success the past several seasons in which he won three Gold Gloves, a Silver Slugger, and went to four All-Star games.

 

Jones’ game might be the smoothest in all of baseball. His swing is easy, yet fierce. He rules center field in the same manner that Ken Griffey Jr. did, dominating. Fly balls don’t get over the head of Adam Jones; they die in the webbing of his glove.

 

Off the field Jones excels just as much. Earlier this year, Jones was awarded the Babe Ruth Birthplace Foundation’s award for community service due to his constant activity within the Baltimore community. After Derek Jeter hit his now-famed walk-off single against the Os in his last at-bat in the Bronx, Jones took to Twitter to sing The Captain’s praises: “Couldn’t have asked for a better role model within the game. Jeter thanks for teaching me that grinding is the way to play.”

 

CLAYTON KERSHAW 

The Dodgers southpaw ace is the only pitcher you will find on this list. Really, it's hard to be the “face of the game” when you're only pitching every fifth day, but Kershaw is that dominating that he needs to be on this list.

 

At age 26, Kershaw has already amassed 98 wins and could be the closest thing we will ever see again to a possible 300-game winner. His career ERA is a slim 2.48 with a win-loss percentage of .667, which is first among active pitchers. The winner of two Cy Young Awards, soon to be three, Kershaw is also the frontrunner for the NL MVP award this year. He has been that dominating.

 

Kershaw was so dominating this season that in the month of June his ERA was 0.87. That is not a typo. That same month, he struck out twice as many batters (61) than he allowed base-runners (30), and threw his first no-hitter on June 19.

 

In 2014, Kershaw led baseball in wins (21), WHIP (0.86), ERA (1.77), WAR (8.0), complete games (6), win-loss percentage (.875), ERA+ (197), FIP (1.81), strikeouts per nine innings (10.8), and strikeouts-to-walks ratio (7.71). These numbers are plenty enough to argue that Kershaw assembled one of the greatest seasons a pitcher has ever had.

 

It's not hard to envision Kershaw as the newest “Face of the Game,” as long as he shaves that awful beard.

 

MIKE TROUT

Let’s face it, once Derek Jeter announced he was retiring earlier in the year, everyone knew that Mike Trout was going to take over as the primary ambassador for the game of baseball. This is truly fitting since Jeter is Mike Trout’s biggest role model.

 

Trout carries himself in the same way that Jeter does. Quiet and reluctant to fall into the accolades and hype being showered upon him. Trout plays the game hard, every single day.

 

Trout’s first three seasons have been nothing short of historic. His first year in the bigs, he was AL Rookie of the Year, an All-Star, a Silver Slugger, and second in MVP voting behind Miguel Cabrera — which has happened twice. Many baseball pundits argue that because of Trout’s stellar play as the Angels’ center fielder, he should have been awarded two MVPs. Surely, this season will be the year Trout overthrow’s Miggy’s reign as AL MVP.

 

To understand the early greatness of Mike Trout, we can look at his WAR (“wins above replacement,” which analyzes how many wins a player is worth per season). Cooperstown legends Mickey Mantle, Ken Griffey, Jr., Al Kaline, Mel Ott, Ted Williams, and Ty Cobb all rank behind Trout in terms of WAR accrued through their age-22 seasons. If that wasn’t enough, according to FanGraphs' measurement of WAR, Mike Trout’s young three-year career is one of the greatest three-year stretches in the history of baseball, just behind the best three-year splits of Babe Ruth, Barry Bonds, Mickey Mantle, Rogers Hornsby, Willie Mays, and Ted Williams. Wow.

 

Analytics aside, in his first three years, Mike Trout’s career slash line is a ridiculous .305/.395./.549 with 97 home runs, 102 stolen bases, 307 RBI, 111 doubles, an OPS of .945, and an OPS+ of 167. Those numbers are absurd for any player, but for a 23-year-old, they are mythical.

 

Trout is the runaway consensus AL MVP this season, and it is by far his worst hitting season since being called up for full-time duty in 2012. Even though the numbers with the lumber aren't as gaudy as the previous two years in terms of average, Trout still leads baseball in runs scored (115), extra base-hits (84), and total bases (338). Trout is also the AL leader in RBIs (111) and WAR (7.9).  Not to be outdone, he is also top five in the game in homers (36), doubles (39), triples (9), walks (88), slugging percentage (.561), OPS (.939), and OPS+ (167).

 

Whew, proof enough?

 

If there is anyone in the game today who can transcend the ballpark and reach the national mainstream, it's Mike Trout, and judging by the 23-year-olds career path thus far, we better get used to seeing him around.

 

With Jeter stepping down, an era and generation of baseball has ended. It's time now for Trout, Stanton, Rizzo, Jones, and McCutchen to take their spot atop the mountain as the players who will lead the game into the next generation.

 

— Jake Rose

Teaser:
Post date: Wednesday, October 1, 2014 - 13:15
All taxonomy terms: NFL
Path: /nfl/nfl-coaches-already-hot-seat-2014
Body:
Well, that didn’t take long.
 
The Oakland Raiders – being the Oakland Raiders – didn’t even make it past the quarter pole of the season before they fired coach Dennis Allen after an 0-4 start. It’s an incredibly quick hook, even by the standards of that dysfunctional franchise. In most of the other spots around the NFL, the hot seats are only just beginning to get warm.
 
So who’s next? Chances are you won’t see another firing this season, because in-season coaching changes are generally pointless and usually only result in a seat-warmer (no pun intended) taking the fired coach’s place. So while the heat may be on, the burners aren’t on high just yet. But here are a list — ranked in order of blistering hot to lukewarm — of coaches who are at least feeling the warmth:
 
Tony Sparano, Oakland – Considering his boss was just fired, Sparano will surely get the rest of the season to help the Raiders play out the string. But while there’s a chance he could end up being Allen’s successor, it’s also just as likely — if not moreso — that there’ll be a new GM in Oakland next season. If that’s the case, the Raiders will start over from scratch. So it may take a miracle — and perhaps something like an 8-4 finish with his motley team — for him to remain employed past season’s end.
 
Rex Ryan, Jets – Remember when the Jets went to back-to-back AFC championship games in his first two seasons and they looked like after many decades they had finally arrived? Yeah, that was shortlived. It’s not only been downhill since then, it’s been chaotic. Now Ryan, who notably was not hired by GM John Idzik, has a struggling, 1-3 team facing a difficult schedule with a struggling second-year quarterback and a good, high-profile veteran on the bench. Add in a sprinkle of the New York media and this has the potential to get ugly, no matter when — or if — Ryan makes the change from Geno Smith to Michael Vick.
 
Gus Bradley, Jacksonville – It may seem unlikely in his second season, especially for a franchise in a small market that is trying to preach the patience of rebuilding. Then again, this looks like an epically bad team and it might depend on just how bad things get. They are now rolling with a promising rookie quarterback in Blake Bortles. Some signs of improvement and development must be seen.
 
Mike Pettine, Cleveland – Yeah, it’s his first season. Like that ever stopped the Browns. His seat isn’t really warm yet, but the fact is his future is tied to what happens with quarterback Johnny Manziel and how he handles the inevitable quarterback switch and what happens after that. If he and his staff mishandles Manziel in any way or if he struggles worse than a lot of people assume he will, don’t be shocked if management turns to the offensive-genius/flavor-of-the-month this offseason in the hopes of turning Manziel into a star.
 
Jeff Fisher, St. Louis – It’s hard to blame Fisher for the quarterback mess he’s been saddled with, and the fact that the Rams play in the best and toughest division in football. And with Sam Bradford out again, this season is already headed for a disaster. He’s a good coach who can build a good foundation and eventually get the franchise turned around. But this is a results-oriented business, and so far in his three years at the helm, the results have been bad.
 
Tom Coughlin, Giants – Don’t bet on this happening, because ownership loves him and he remains one of the finest coaches in the NFL. But the Giants have missed the playoffs four times in the last five seasons and another miss could try the patience of his bosses. That actually was nearly going to be the storyline of the entire season when the Giants were perched on an 0-2 cliff. Now they’re 2-2 and look much better and everything seems fine … at least for now.
 
—By Ralph Vacchiano
Teaser:
Post date: Wednesday, October 1, 2014 - 12:30
All taxonomy terms: Kobe Bryant, Nick Young, NBA
Path: /nba/nick-%E2%80%9Cgrandpa-swaggy%E2%80%9D-young-wins-nba-media-day
Body:

 

NBA Media Days are all about talking the talk and looking the part. The day’s cliches about added muscle, renewed focus and championship aspirations have become as predictable as the four seasons. We’ve even got Media Day Bingo to guide us through these tropes:

 

 

So when character rears it head on the eve of training camp, it shines through all these dull gestures. Nick Young, a Los Angeles native and happy Lakers returnee — his new deal is worth about $21 million over four years — knows as much about this pomp as anyone. He’s a true showman.

 

“I’m a star,” he said, chuckling at media day. “Swaggy P” stole the show at the Lakers season-opening presser, smiling a mile a minute as he riffed hilarious lines like: “Kobe practiced with me, I didn’t practice with him… I was showing Kobe the ropes this summer.”

 

He went on to say that the team’s new rookies (Jordan Clarkson and Julius Randle) must call him “Daddy Swag,” “Uncle Swag,” and eventually "Grandpa Swaggy." Young also said he taught new Lakers coach Byron Scott all about team defense over Swaggy’s “summer of enlightenment”—“we need some guys to be in the back, just in case I get blown by,” he jested.

 

Scott hasn't replied with any of his own jokes, but Kobe certainly has. Here he makes sure we remember who stands in whose shadow in Young's relationship with Australian pop star Iggy Azalea:

 

 

Young’s loose, fun confidence has long been a staple of both his personality and his game. Swaggy was a silver lining to last year’s ugly 27-55 Lakers campaign — he blossomed into one of the best hot-handed scorers in the league, averaging 17.9 points per game, a career high. So when he proclaims that he’ll be fighting for both the MVP and Sixth Man awards in this interview, he’s only halfway kidding.

 

A super-sub version of Young would be an asset to any contender. Swaggy P is a telling personality for the new tone of Lakers-dom. Written off in past seasons for his inefficient, irrationally confident playing style, Young has consistently shrugged the skepticism aside and kept his moxie. No one expects these rag-tag Lakers to be competitive in a loaded Western Conference, but being the underdog suits Young, Kobe Bryant (who spoke of his inner “rage” at media day) and the rest of the new-look Lakers.

 

Let the year of the Swaggy begin.

 

— John Wilmes

Teaser:
Post date: Wednesday, October 1, 2014 - 09:15
Path: /college-basketball/college-basketball-2014-15-san-diego-state-aztecs-team-preview
Body:

College basketball season is creeping up fast, and Athlon Sports is counting down to Midnight Madness and the start of practice on Oct. 17. 

 

No. 13 San Diego State is preparing for another run in the NCAA Tournament after reaching the Sweet 16 in two of the last four years. Once an afterthought, winning the Mountain West is now commonplace for Steve Fisher’s team. Do the Aztecs have what it takes to reach truly uncharted territory in the Elite Eight or better?

 

The San Diego State edition is one of dozens available in our online store and on newsstands everywhere now.

 

San Diego State exceeded expectations last season with the second Sweet 16 appearance in school history, and it will be no surprise to see the Aztecs advance deep into the NCAA Tournament again this season.

 

The Aztecs lost their top two players in point guard Xavier Thames and rebounding dynamo Josh Davis, but plenty of athleticism and talent remains on campus. San Diego State returns three frontcourt starters (JJ O’Brien, Winston Shepard and Skylar Spencer) and the Mountain West’s top reserve (Dwayne Polee II) from a 31–5 club. They also welcome an impressive cast of newcomers.

 

Once a program with no tradition that received sparse interest locally, the Aztecs are among the top programs in the West and seeking their 10th consecutive 20-win campaign. San Diego State has won at least 25 contests in five of the last six seasons, topped by a school-best 34–3 mark in 2010-11.

 

A knack for reloading and the ability to get players to sell out defensively have been trademarks of the program’s recent successful run. The names change, role players develop into standouts and the victories follow.

 

San Diego State is easily the class of the Mountain West entering this season. The question isn’t whether or not the Aztecs will be part of the NCAA Tournament field. It is this: How far can they advance?

 


No. 13 San Diego State Facts & Figures

Last season: 31-5, 16-2 Mountain West

Postseason: Sweet 16

Consecutive NCAAs: 5

Coach: Steve Fisher (312-176 overall at San Diego State, 129-99 Mountain West)

Mountain West Projection: First

Postseason Projection: NCAA Sweet 16

 


Frontcourt

 

The athletic Shepard will receive the opportunity to show he’s a go-to player after finishing second on the squad in scoring (11.6 ppg) as a sophomore. Shepard fancied himself as a one-and-done college player, but his inconsistent jumper remains a work-in-progress despite impressive versatility to play multiple positions.

 

Polee was the Mountain West’s Sixth Man of the Year last season, and the 6-7 wing has the nickname — “TramPolee” — to go with his soaring skill set. Polee was a force over the second half of last season and helps present matchup problems if San Diego State opts to start him in a three-forward alignment.

 

O’Brien and Spencer are returning starters who know their roles. O’Brien, a senior forward, does all the little things and is a strong defender, while Spencer, a 6-10 junior center, established a school record for blocked shots (89) in a season and is on pace to shatter the school’s career mark.

 

Arizona transfer Angelo Chol and freshman Zylan Cheatham will supply much-needed interior depth. Ballyhooed freshman Malik Pope will receive opportunities to contribute on the wing, while sophomore Matt Shrigley will again play a role after ranking second on the squad in 3-point baskets (40) last season.

 

Backcourt

 

San Diego State will be hard-pressed to replace Thames, who emerged as a major star as a senior and became a second-round draft pick of the NBA’s Toronto Raptors.

 

Sophomore D’Erryl Williams played in 20 games off the bench last season and will compete with incoming freshman Kevin Zabo, a Canadian import. Whoever lands the starting point guard role will represent a drop-off from Thames, and coach Steve Fisher will attempt to diminish the amount of pressure the duo will face early in the season.

 

Incoming freshman Trey Kell will have a chance to make an impact at shooting guard — whether it be as a starter or from off the bench. Kell averaged 25.6 points last season as one of the top prep players in San Diego.

 

Holdovers Aqeel Quinn and Dakarai Allen will compete for playing time, as will Hartford transfer Parker U’u.

 

Final Analysis

 

San Diego State figures to be an NCAA Tournament participant for the sixth straight season — an incredible accomplishment for a program that had never notched an NCAA victory prior to the 2011 tourney.

 

The Aztecs have established an expectation of winning and have reached the Sweet 16 in two of the past four seasons. The next step is making it to the Elite Eight, but the 69-year-old Fisher also has an eye on cracking the Final Four before he retires.

 

How ready the newcomers are for the big stage might determine whether 2015 is the year in which San Diego State breaks through. The abundance of depth will ensure that a key injury won’t derail those hopes.

 

Regardless, the Aztecs will again be one of the top programs in the West and a program to watch during the month of March.

 

Newcomers

 

Angelo Chol was a valuable reserve at national powerhouse Arizona and has two seasons of eligibility remaining. Malik Pope earned a five-star recruiting grade from one major recruiting service despite missing all of last season with a broken left leg. Zylan Cheatham also figures to make an immediate contribution after being one of the top prep players in the state of Arizona. Trey Kell is a highly regarded shooter, while Kevin Zabo provides much-needed playmaking ability.

 

Teaser:
College Basketball 2014-15: San Diego State Aztecs Team Preview
Post date: Wednesday, October 1, 2014 - 07:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football
Path: /college-football/legends-poll-top-8-college-football-rankings-week-5
Body:

Alabama strengthened its grip on the No. 1 spot in the Legends Poll Top 8. Despite not playing, the Crimson Tide received 11 of the 14 first place votes. 

 

Idle Oklahoma moved up a spot to No. 2 and faces a tough road test at Texas Christian this upcoming weekend. 


Florida State dropped another spot to No. 3 after a lackluster performance at NC State.  The Seminoles’ defense struggled at times, but Florida State managed to hold on against a team they typically struggle with on the road. Oregon and Auburn rounded out the Top 5. 

No. 6, Texas A&M kept its spot after grasping a 35-28, come from behind, victory over Arkansas in Dallas. The Aggies were followed by Baylor and Michigan State. Notre Dame dropped out of the Top 8 despite a 31-15 victory over Syracuse.  Mississippi State and UCLA also received votes.

 

To see the individual votes by coach, visit the Legends Poll.

 

 

RKTEAMRECORDPOINTSPV RK
1AlabamaAlabama (11)4-01091
2OklahomaOklahoma (2)4-0973
3Florida StateFlorida State (1)4-0792
4OregonOregon4-0674
5AuburnAuburn4-0575
6Texas A&MTexas A&M5-0366
7BaylorBaylor4-0247
8Michigan StateMichigan State3-114-
Teaser:
Post date: Tuesday, September 30, 2014 - 10:50
Path: /college-basketball/college-basketball-2014-15-michigan-state-spartans-team-preview
Body:

College basketball season is creeping up fast, and Athlon Sports is counting down to Midnight Madness and the start of practice on Oct. 17. 

 

No. 14 Michigan State is riding its longest Final Four drought under Tom Izzo, but don’t pity the poor Spartans who last reached the national semifinals in 2010. Izzo, though, has a challenge with Adreian Payne, Keith Appling and Gary Harris gone from a team that won 29 games and reached the Elite Eight. As usual, he’ll have veterans ready to step into lead roles.

 

The Michigan State edition is one of dozens available in our online store and on newsstands everywhere now.

 

Tom Izzo has built Michigan State to the point where last year’s run to the Elite Eight after a Big Ten Tournament Championship was considered to be an unsatisfying campaign.

 

Izzo wants to feel good about last year’s injury-strained accomplishments, but wonders if his second national title might have been in store if former point guard Keith Appling hadn’t wrecked his wrist and if former power forward Adreian Payne hadn’t been weighed down by mononucleosis. 

 

Now, the Spartans will need paybacks from the basketball gods in the health category and rapid development from freshmen if they are going to contend for a conference title. 

 

“I like the direction we’re heading right now,” Izzo says. “I think that we could be really good (this) year and then really, really good down the road.”

 


No. 14 Michigan State Facts & Figures

Last season: 29-9, 12-6 Big Ten

Postseason: NCAA Elite Eight

Consecutive NCAAs: 17

Coach: Tom Izzo (468-187, 221-101 Big Ten)

Big Ten Projection: Third

Postseason Projection: NCAA Sweet 16

 


Frontcourt

 

The Branden Dawson who averaged 17.5 points during a six-game postseason hot streak is the Dawson that Michigan State desperately needs on a consistent basis. Dawson has honed his perimeter shooting skills to the point of becoming capable of playing the 3. But Michigan State will need him to attack opponents as a mismatch 4, as he did last March when he was Big Ten Tournament MOP. 

 

Dawson has been a transition-and-garbage scorer in the past. But his improved jump shot, coupled with solid ball-handling skills and explosive finishing ability, may allow him to take his game to the next level. It’s rare to find a senior with Dawson’s raw talent. Injuries have kept him in the college ranks. His focus and effort have fluctuated in the past. Now he is driven to have the type of senior year Payne enjoyed last season. 

 

When properly charged, Dawson is one of the most dynamic players in the conference. However, with Payne and Gary Harris gone to the NBA, Dawson will experience defenses designed to contain him for the first time in his college career. 

 

Junior center Matt Costello has added a layer of muscle and appears ready to blossom after a pair of seasons diminished by injury and illness. He has become a quality face-up shooter during the offseason, but his back-to-the-basket skills are average. He is strong enough to command respect on defense and the glass. He has been in the shadow of Payne and former Spartan Derrick Nix for two years. Now Michigan State needs Costello to emerge as a plus pivot, but that might be a year away from coming to fruition. 

 

Interior depth is a major concern. Sophomore Gavin Schilling is a stock-rising banger off the bench. Muscular 6-7 freshman Marvin Clark Jr. will need to contribute due to Izzo’s dismissal of stretch-4 Kenny Kaminski in August. 

 

The depth issues mean Costello will need to play hard while avoiding foul trouble — always a terrible conflict of interest in the Izzo program. That could make it difficult for Michigan State to lead the Big Ten in defensive field goal percentage for a second straight year.

 

Backcourt

 

Denzel Valentine is a dazzling passer as a point/wing, and a respectable shooter. He has All-Big Ten potential and a triple-double skill set. With last year’s quiet seniors gone, Valentine’s leadership vocals are providing a fresh vibe. He can provide spot duty at the 4 if necessary. 

 

Combo guard Travis Trice has thickened his once-scrawny body and hopes to finally have a full, healthy season. He’s a streak shooter who is ready to take his role to 30 minutes per game, mostly at the point. Trice is being given the keys to the offense for the first time and could emerge as one of the surprise players in the Big Ten. He’s pretty good, not great. 

 

Alvin Ellis can play defense, run the floor and hit the open jumper, making him a rangy, useful role player.  

 

If Cleveland State transfer Bryn Forbes, a deep shooter, gains immediate eligibility, Michigan State’s depth and offensive firepower will receive a substantial boost.

 

Final Analysis

 

Leadership is on an upswing with Valentine and Trice. With six departed players and a thinned-out roster, this energetic mix of good personalities is similar to the surprising 2012 group that won the Big Ten and advanced to the Sweet 16 with Draymond Green. But the conference is stronger at the top this year than in 2012.

 

Newcomers

 

Lourawls Nairn is the fastest point guard Tom Izzo has ever signed. He struggles with his jump shot and finishing at the rim. Marvin Clark has nice shooting touch and a strong build but must play harder in the medium-range game. Javon Bess is an Izzo-style blue collar battler at the wing. Bryn Forbes was second-team All-Horizon League at Cleveland State, averaging 15.6 points while shooting 42 percent from deep. 

Teaser:
College Basketball 2014-15: Michigan State Spartans Team Preview
Post date: Tuesday, September 30, 2014 - 07:00
Path: /college-basketball/college-basketball-2014-15-iowa-state-cyclones-team-preview
Body:

College basketball season is creeping up fast, and Athlon Sports is counting down to Midnight Madness and the start of practice on Oct. 17. 

 

No. 15 Iowa State has rebuilt itself into a national contender, and that shouldn’t be any different despite the departures of DeAndre Kane and Melvin Ejim. With a healthy Georges Niang and another influx of transfers, Iowa State will be a team to watch again.

 

The Iowa State edition is one of dozens available in our online store and on newsstands everywhere now.

 

Iowa State’s run to the Sweet 16 in 2013-14 did more than stamp the Cyclones as a perennial contender in the Big 12. After knocking off North Carolina without an injured Georges Niang in the Round of 32, Iowa State made a name for itself nationally, and with that, Fred Hoiberg has acquired the reputation of being one of the top coaches in the game. 

 

On the back of a trio featuring Niang, Melvin Ejim and DeAndre Kane, Iowa State rattled off wins over Kansas State, Kansas and Baylor to win its first Big 12 Tournament championship since 2000. If it weren’t for a broken foot that Niang suffered in a second-round NCAA Tournament win over North Carolina Central, the red-hot Cyclones could have contended for an appearance in the Final Four. 

 

With the departures of Melvin Ejim, the Big 12’s Player of the Year, and DeAndre Kane, a dynamic guard who averaged 17.1 points and 6.8 rebounds per game, it is natural to think that Hoiberg’s program could be due for a rebuilding season. However, with another round of transfers set to infiltrate the lineup, it appears that 2014-15 will be anything but that. 

 


No. 15 Iowa State Facts & Figures 

Last season: 28-8, 11-7 Big 12

Postseason: NCAA Sweet 16

Consecutive NCAAs: 3

Coach: Fred Hoiberg (90-47 overall, 37-33 Big 12)

Big 12 Projection: Third

Postseason Projection: NCAA Sweet 16  

 


Frontcourt

 

Chemistry and versatility are Hoiberg’s keys to a successful basketball team. Niang possesses both of those characteristics. Niang, who averaged 16.7 points per game as a sophomore, rebounded from the broken foot quite well in the offseason by losing 15 pounds.

  

“He has always been very tough for bigger players to guard,” Hoiberg says. “The way that he got his body as finely tuned as it is will allow him to be a more versatile basketball player and play more positions.”

 

What doesn’t show up in the box score is Niang’s natural leadership ability. “Georges is as good as I have ever been around as far as pulling a group together,” Hoiberg says. “I think he knows that this is his team next year.”

 

Iowa State’s frontcourt will be far from a one-man show. Transfers Jameel McKay (Marquette) and Abdel Nader (Northern Illinois) will make their presence felt in a hurry.  

 

“Jameel will have an immediate impact just because of his motor and his ability to run the floor and protect the rim,” Hoiberg says. “Plus, I think he can give us something on the offensive end.”

 

McKay, an athletic 6-9 shot-blocker, likely won’t be eligible until December but is the type of player Hoiberg has never had at Iowa State. Nader’s ability to play multiple positions is a strength. 

 

Then, there is Dustin Hogue, an active 6-6 senior who exploded onto the national scene via a 34-point outburst in a Sweet 16 loss to UConn. Between Hogue, who averaged 8.4 rebounds per game last season, and McKay, there is a decent chance that a Cyclone could lead the Big 12 in rebounding this season. 

 

Related: Georges Niang talks loyalty to Iowa State and returning form injury

 

Backcourt

 

A promising sophomore and a fifth-year graduate transfer are expected to lead the way for the Cyclones on the perimeter. Expect Monte Morris, who did a tremendous job taking care of the ball as a true freshman, to run the show at point guard. He committed only 28 turnovers in 1,013 minutes last season.

 

Former USC Trojan and UNLV Runnin’ Rebel Bryce Dejean-Jones could ultimately lead Iowa State in scoring. Jones started 26 games for UNLV last season and averaged 13.6 points along the way. He will have the ball in his hands a lot in Hoiberg’s fast-paced system. 

 

Iowa State has depth, too. Junior Naz Long made 46.2 percent of his shots from 3-point range over the last 10 games of last season. Long is one of the program’s emotional leaders in addition to being one of the top sixth-men in the Big 12. 

 

Sophomore Matt Thomas made the second most 3-pointers for freshman in Iowa State history. He averaged 21.2 minutes but did not play more than 20 in any of the final eight games. True freshman Clayton Custer should serve as a quality backup to Morris up at the point. 

 

Final Analysis

 

Once again, Hoiberg has replenished his roster with quality transfers who meld well with veterans like Niang, Long, Morris and Thomas. The talent is on hand for Iowa State to make a legitimate run at a Big 12 championship. 

 

Newcomers

 

Transfers Bryce Dejean-Jones (UNLV), Abdel Nader (Northern Illinois) and Jameel McKay (Marquette) will all make an immediate impact in Ames. Dejean-Jones is a natural scorer. At 6-6, Nader can hit an outside shot while being a force on the glass as well. McKay could be one of the top rebounders in the Big 12. Freshman Clayton Custer should be the backup point guard. Greek big man Georgios Tsalmpouris is a project. 

Teaser:
College Basketball 2014-15: Iowa State Cyclones Team Preview
Post date: Monday, September 29, 2014 - 07:00
Path: /college-basketball/college-basketball-q-iowa-state-forward-georges-niang
Body:

Georges Niang is hardly a household name among casual fans, but he has earned respect the hard way: by winning. Niang played in the shadow of Nerlens Noel and Wayne Selden in prep school but was part of an Iowa State trio a year ago — along with Melvin Ejim and DeAndre Kane — that wound up winning the league tourney. 

 

Now it’s Niang’s team, and the 6-7 Massachusetts native has completely transformed his body. Niang discusses his trash-talking methods, why he stuck with Iowa State and where he got his first name from.

 

This interview and more appears in the 2014-15 Athlon Sports college basketball annual, available on newsstands and in our online store now.

 

OK, so why the “S” at the end of your first name?

 

I was named after one of my dad’s best friends, who was originally from Africa. It’s actually supposed to be pronounced with a French accent since he was French, but I don’t want anyone to do that. But the “S” is silent. I’ve heard people pronounce it so many different ways that I don’t even bother to correct them. I just go with it.

 

You played against Nerlens Noel and Wayne Selden every day for two years at the Tilton School in New Hampshire. What did you learn from those guys?

 

I learned how to slow down playing against Nerlens, how to put the defender on the hot seat and make them guess on what move is coming. I learned how to compete against Wayne. Those guys made me a lot better, but the guy I really watched and learned from when I arrived at Tilton was Alex Oriakhi. I was a freshman and he was a junior at the time, and I really tried to model myself after Alex. He’s a great kid who worked so hard.

 

Team Preview: No. 15 Iowa State Cyclones

 

You committed to Iowa State as an unknown, but then started to get attention after a strong showing at the Peach Jam. Why did you remain loyal to the Cyclones despite high-profile schools trying to get you to re-open your recruitment?

 

I remember the first time Coach (Fred) Hoiberg saw me. I was playing St. Mark’s — which had Nik Stauskas, Kaleb Tarczewski and Alex Murphy — and I didn’t miss a shot. I was 11-for-11, and he said afterwards that he wanted me to be a part of Plan A at Iowa State. They were the first school that believed in me. I trusted them and committed on May 15 before my junior season. I’m not going to call out specific schools, but there were schools who called me and told me not to go to Iowa State — that there’s nothing in Iowa and to come play with us. But I knew Iowa State was where I wanted to be. I never even thought about going anywhere else.

 

You’ve had two pretty good seasons in Ames, and I saw that one ESPN writer even had you on his Preseason first-team All-America team. However, there are plenty of fans who have no idea who you are. Why is that?

 

I agree. I think there are plenty of fans who think I’m just a bum who should be down at the YMCA, but I think I get respect from the guys that really know basketball. I work so hard, and I don’t think people understand how hard I work to improve. A lot of players in the league are gifted with athleticism. I wasn’t really gifted with any.

 

You broke your foot in Iowa State’s opening-round NCAA win against NC Central and weren’t able to do anything until May, yet you look to be in the best shape of your career when you showed up at the LeBron James Skills Academy in July. How were you able to manage the transformation?

 

The first week of May, I was still in a boot. I went back to Massachusetts with my trainer, and he sat me down. I weighed 255 and had 16 percent body fat. He said we can do it the hard way or you can walk away. I went with the hard way. I did yoga every day, lifted and did conditioning every day for four weeks and went twice every day on the court. They were long days, but were worth it. Now everyone who first sees me reacts the same way: “Holy @#$%.” It feels good because I’m a lot healthier than I was before. I feel better when I wake up. I eat better. It’s just a lifestyle change. Now I’m at 227 to 230 and am trying to get that vertical up!

What do you remember about the game against NC Central in which you broke your foot?

 

I felt a snap and fell to the ground. I’d broken my left foot before. I came out of the game and Coach Hoiberg told me to sit down. After a little while, he told me to check back in. It didn’t hurt when I got up, but then it was bad when I took the first couple of steps. I went in, scored five points — on a 3 and a floater — and then told him to take me out of the game. They did x-rays and told me I broke it. I was upset, but more because I felt bad for my team.

 

DeAndre Kane and Melvin Ejim are both gone now. How does that alter your role?

 

I think I’ll have to do more of what they did well — be a better rebounder since Melvin was such a great rebounder and be a better playmaker since that’s what DeAndre did so well. I was a leader last year, but I’ll have to step up in that area as well. I think the biggest thing for me is just to make plays.

 

Fred Hoiberg seems so mellow on the sidelines and even off the court. What’s an example when he actually showed some real emotion?


It came after we lost three games in a row — to Oklahoma, Kansas and Texas. Usually, he walks into the film room and is really quiet. He rolls in, says “What’s up, fellas” and sits down. Well, that day he walked in and says, “Show some emotion, guys.” He goes up to one of our guys and chest-bumps him — he’s yelling and screaming. I thought Tom Izzo had walked in. But he wanted to let us know that we played with no life.

 

You are admittedly one of the better trash-talkers around. Who else do you respect for their trash-talking ability and what is your reasoning for talking to opponents?


DeAndre Kane knows how to get under guys’ skin. He’d make guys take tough shots. (Former Oklahoma State guard) Markel Brown can talk with the best of them. He’s a silent assassin and talks when no one is expecting it. I usually do it when someone is killing us and you want them to get off their game. You want to draw a rift between the other team. For instance, when (Oklahoma State’s) Marcus Smart is killing us, I’d start telling him he should have left last year — and then tell his teammates that he doesn’t trust them.

 

You guys will add a couple more transfers this year in Bryce Dejean-Jones (UNLV) and Abdel Nader (Northern Illinois) in addition to junior college transfer Jameel McKay. How different will this team be?

 

We’ll buckle down better defensively, but with Fred, you’ll always expect a team that will compete every night. I think we’ll have more overall talent this year than in my first two years, but the key is putting it all together. We don’t have the chemistry yet — and that can make or break a season.

 

What’s your favorite place to play other than your gym?

 

Phog Allen (Fieldhouse, at Kansas). There’s so much energy in that building. I love going in there. The fans are as crazy as our fans and it’s just wild.

 

What’s your least favorite place to play?
 

I don’t want to upset Buddy (Hield), but probably Oklahoma or TCU. We always play in Oklahoma in the morning and it’s so dull. There’s also nothing exciting about Norman. TCU is always dead, although they should be better this year.

 

Other than Coach Hoiberg, who would be a coach you’d want to play for?

 

This might get me into trouble, but (Kansas) Coach (Bill) Self. I really have a lot of respect for him, because I like the way he runs a tight ship — and even though he does it differently than Coach Hoiberg, he demands a lot from his guys.

 

Who is the toughest player you’ve had to guard?

 

It was Romero Osby from Oklahoma a couple years ago. I held him to seven points the first time we played, but then he dialed me up for 27 and did it with every type of move.

 

Where would you be if you weren’t at Iowa State?

 

If Boston College had offered me a scholarship, that’s where I’d probably be. I grew up down the road and always wanted to stay close to home.

Teaser:
College Basketball: Q-A with Iowa State forward Georges Niang
Post date: Monday, September 29, 2014 - 07:00
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy, News
Path: /fantasy/college-fantasy-football-2014-week-5-start-or-sit-report
Body:

It's Week 5 of the 2014 college fantasy football season, and non-conference play is coming to a close. Who should you start or bench in your lineup this week? TheCFFSite.com's Joe DiSalvo runs down the start or sit options for this Saturday to help you win your league.

 

Start

Maty Mauk, QB-Missouri at South Carolina

There are only nine teams in the nation allowing more than 300 passing yards per game, and the Gamecocks are one of those nine.

 

Trevone Boykin, QB-TCU at SMU

Boykin has the pleasure of playing against an SMU defense that is allowing 530 yards per game and an FBS worst 48.7 points per game.

 

Deshaun Watson, QB-Clemson vs North Carolina

The Deshaun Watson era is now upon us and we like his matchup this week against a reeling North Carolina defense.

 

Leonard Fournett and Kenny Hilliard, RBs-LSU vs New Mexico State

The Aggies are allowing 299.3 rushing yards per game, and if the Tigers reach that number this week, chances are pretty good that both Fournette and Hilliard will eclipse the 100-yard mark.

 

Kenneth Dixon, RB-Louisiana Tech at Auburn

Even though the Bulldogs travel to Auburn this week, Dixon should still get a significant amount of carries and the junior running back has scored a touchdown in every game this season.

 

Alex Collins, RB-Arkansas vs Texas A&M

The Aggies are the only team in the entire FBS that have played four games and not given up a rushing touchdown.  We’re expecting that statistic to change this week when the Texas A&M front seven faces their toughest challenge to date.

 

Malcolm Brown, RB-Texas at Kansas

Brown has not rushed for 70 yards in a game this season, but a Week 5 matchup at Kansas could produce his first 100-yard performance of 2014.

 

Antwan Goodley, WR-Baylor at Iowa State

Goodley and Corey Coleman return for the Bears this week, which means trouble for opposing defenses.  However, their return also presents trouble for fantasy owners when it comes to making roster decisions.  When Baylor travels to Iowa State this weekend, Goodley and teammate K.D. Cannon are likely the two best fantasy options at receiver.

 

Tajae Sharpe, WR-Massachusetts vs Bowling Green

Bowling Green is giving up over 337 yards per game in the air, second-worst in the FBS, and Sharpe is the primary receiving threat for the Minutemen.

 

 

Bench

Cody Kessler, QB-USC and Sean Mannion, QB-Oregon State

Why did we link these two names together?  Well, we have your water cooler stat of the week.  Both defense combined are giving up a total of 308 passing yards per game.  That’s a combined total!  A product of their competition?  Maybe.  USC did just play a run-heavy offense in Boston College.  However, neither team has given up a passing TD in 2014 and both defenses have 5 INTs each.  Something has to give this week, but are you willing to take that chance?  We did rank Kessler at No. 27, but you may have better options on your roster.

 

Gunner Kiel, QB-Cincinnati at Ohio State

Kiel has thrown ten TD passes in the Bearcats first two games of 2014 (Toledo and Miami-OH), but this week he’ll face a much better defense in Ohio State, the third-best pass defense in the nation allowing 99.3 passing yards per game.

 

Terrel Hunt, QB-Syracuse vs Notre Dame

Hunt has accounted for at least 90 rushing yards and totaled six touchdowns in Syracuse’s previous two games.  However, a date with Notre Dame this weekend should minimize the potential for a big game.  The Irish are only one of two FBS schools that have not given up a rushing touchdown this season.

 

Marquise Williams, QB-North Carolina at Clemson

We always advise playing a guy when he’s hot, but after last week’s loss to East Carolina, Williams certainly does not meet that requirement, and a road game at Clemson will not make things any easier.

 

Kareem Hunt, RB-Toledo vs Central Michigan

Hunt has missed the second half in Toledo’s previous two games due to injury, and earlier this week, coach Campbell stated that his sophomore running back looked ‘okay’ in practice.  ‘Okay’ isn’t convincing enough for us, and unless we hear more, Hunt should sit this one out.

 

Dee Hart, RB-Colorado State at Boston College

Hart excited fantasy owners after his Week 1 performance against Colorado, but the Alabama transfer has done very little since then.  Fellow running back Treyous Jarrells has been impressive running the ball, too, so continue to expect a RBBC from the Rams.

 

Marlon Mack, RB-South Florida at Wisconsin

If the game against Wisconsin gets out of hand, expect Mack to lose a significant amount of carries to D’Ernest Johnson and Darius Tice.

 

Dominique Brown, RB-Louisville vs Wake Forest

Now that Michael Dwyer is back in the mix, it will be interesting to see how the carries shake out in the Louisville backfield moving forward.

 

Jacobi Owens, RB-Air Force vs Boise State

Owens has rushed for 431 yards and three TDs in Air Force’s first three games, but this week he will face the nation’s second-best run defense in Boise State (53.5 rypg).

 

Shaun Wick, RB-Wyoming at Michigan State

Wick has topped the 100-yard mark three times in four games, but this week the Cowboys travel to Michigan State and the Spartans are only giving up 71.7 yards per game on the ground, 21.0 ypg to teams not named Oregon.

 

 

For Start/Bench advice , send an email

Follow Joe on twitter (@theCFFsite)

Teaser:
College Fantasy Football 2014 Week 5 Start or Sit Report
Post date: Friday, September 26, 2014 - 13:00
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy, News
Path: /fantasy/college-fantasy-football-week-5-fantasy-value-plays
Body:

DraftKings has released their Daily Fantasy college football salaries for Week 5, and the experts at CollegeFootballGeek.com have hunkered down and scoured all of the data to find the best Value Plays on the docket. 

These Value Plays are comprised of players poised to out-produce their DraftKings salaries this week.  These are the “diamonds in the rough” that your DFS competitors may overlook.  They are the difference-makers you need in your lineup to win one of the big DFS contests!

For your convenience, we have broken the picks down by DraftKings contest game set. Best of luck this week!

(For more detailed Daily Fantasy analysis, picks, player news, player rankings, and stat breakdowns, check out CollegeFootballGeek.comLearn how to SUBSCRIBE FOR FREE!)


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VALUE PLAYS: SATURDAY (EARLY ONLY) GAME SET


QUARTERBACKS

 

1)    QB Tanner McEvoy, Wisconsin vs. South Florida ($5600)

McEvoy ran for 158 yards and a score last week versus Bowling Green and has been putting up solid numbers over the past few weeks. He could have a big day against a weak USF defense that will likely have no answer for the Badgers offense.

 

2)    QB P.J. Walker, Temple vs. UCONN ($5200)

Walker has been a decent DFS option this year and could put up a big effort against UCONN. Look for Walker to hit value this week and allow DFS players to load up at another position.

 

 

RUNNING BACKS

1)    RB Jon Hilliman, BC vs. Colorado State ($3700)

This bruising freshman has scored four touchdowns in the past two games and appears to have taken control of the BC backfield. He could find the end zone again this week against a Colorado State defense that ranks 103rd against the run this year. Expect Hilliman to easily surpass value this week.

 

2)    RB Corey Clement, Wisconsin vs. South Florida ($4800)

Clement ran for 111 yards and two scores last week against Bowling Green and there is little reason to believe he won’t duplicate those numbers this week against South Florida. This game could get out of hand early, leading to more carries for Clement. Expect this Badgers to pay off big time this week.

 

3)    RB Desmon Peoples, Rutgers vs. Tulane ($4800)

Peoples should see plenty of carries this week with the season ending injury to Paul James. He has proven to be a capable backup and could really do some damage against a Tulane defense that ranks 100th against the run this year.  If it wasn't for sophmore Justin Goodwin snaking carries, Peoples would be a no-brainer play.


 

WIDE RECEIVERS

 

1)    WR Michael Thomas, Ohio State vs. Cincinnati ($4400)

Thomas has scored in every game this season and looks to be the main target in the Ohio State passing game. He could find plenty of open space this week against a Cincinnati pass defense that ranks 108th in the country. A trip or two to the end zone seems likely for Thomas this week.

 

2)    WR Isaiah Ford, Virginia Tech vs. Western Michigan ($4400)

Ford has scored twice over the past two games and is averaging 7.5 receptions per game over that span. He could continue his recent success against an overmatched Western Michigan defense. Expect Ford to easily hit value this week.

 

 

TIGHT ENDS

 

1)    TE Sam Arneson, Wisconsin vs. South Florida ($2900)

In case you have not noticed, there is a distinct Wisconsin flavor this week. Arneson has been very productive over the past two games and appears to be under priced this week. Paying up for a TE is not a generally a great strategy, so run with Arneson this week.


VALUE PLAYS:  SATURDAY (LATE ONLY) GAME SET


QUARTERBACKS

 

1)    QB Brad Kaaya, Miami vs. Duke ($5000)

This true freshman has played pretty well over the past two weeks, throwing seven touchdowns and averaging 350 yards per game. He may have to throw the ball often in this showdown with Duke. He looks like a nice punt option this week.

 

2)    Terrel Hunt, Syracuse vs. Notre Dame ($5800)

Hunt has run for five touchdowns over the past two games and has put up huge fantasy numbers. He has a touch test this week with Notre Dame on the schedule, but his numbers are too good to ignore. He may not post huge numbers, but could easily be worth his price tag.

 

 

RUNNING BACKS

 

1)    RB Terron Ward, Oregon State vs. USC ($5300)

Ward has scored four rushing touchdowns over the past two games and is also an excellent receiving option out of the backfield. He could have a big game against at Trojan rush defense that ranks 116th in the nation. Look for plenty of points in this contest and plenty of fantasy points from Ward.

 

 

WIDE RECEIVERS

 

1)    WR Jimmie Hunt, Missouri vs. South Carolina ($4100)

Hunt has scored five touchdowns in the last three games and could see even more targets this week with Darius White likely out with an injury. The South Carolina pass defense ranks 116th in the country and could afford Hunt plenty of opportunities this week. Look for Hunt to easily hit value this week.

 

2)    WR Cody Core, Ole Miss vs. Memphis ($4400)

Core has scored a touchdown in every game this season and has developed into the top deep threat for the Rebels. He could find plenty of success this week against a Memphis defense that may be hard pressed to stop the Ole Miss passing attack.

 
 

TIGHT ENDS

 

1)    TE Alan Cross, Memphis vs. Ole Miss ($2900)

Cross has recorded three touchdowns on the season and is the 2nd leading receiver for Memphis. He looks to be a nice option at a weak TE position.

- By Todd DeVries and Kevin Mount, CollegeFootballGeek.com

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Learn how to SUBSCRIBE to CollegeFootballGeek.com for FREE! Our members earn REAL CASH MONEY playing Daily Fantasy on DraftKings. Features include:

 

  • - Weekly Player Rankings
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Teaser:
College Fantasy Football: Week 5 Fantasy Value Plays
Post date: Friday, September 26, 2014 - 12:00

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