Articles By Athlon Sports

Path: /college-football/minnesota-and-jerry-kill-team-rise-tough-schedule-awaits-november
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Now might be a decent time to start buying low on Minnesota in the Big Ten West Division. The balance of power in the Big Ten still appears to be in the top-heavy east, but the West can quickly become Minnesota’s to lose the way this season has been going.

 

Minnesota could be about to get a harsh dose of reality in the second half of the season. Before it does though, Minnesota has two games it should be able to win against Purdue and at Illinois. After that, it may be up to the momentum to carry them the rest of the way, because the back-end of the schedule could be steep.

 

Minnesota’s final four games are at home against Iowa and Ohio State and on the road at Nebraska and Wisconsin. The game with Iowa could determine first-place in the Big Ten West. Ohio State may be the best team in the Big Ten after all. Road trips to Nebraska and Wisconsin could have the division riding on the outcomes, and both the Huskers and Badgers figure to be favorites in that equation. But who can count Minnesota out?

 

Jerry Kill has been through a little bit of everything as a head coach, and he has battled back time and time again during his time at Minnesota. Seizures have become a public story for Kill, but each time he seems to come back more motivated to prove nothing will keep him down. That message has been a rally cry for the Gophers as well, because every time it looks as though Minnesota is getting knocked down, this team finds a way to respond.

 

Though the level of competition has not been too intimidating, outside of a road trip to TCU, you can see that mentality playing out this season. Against Middle Tennessee early in the year, Minnesota jumped out to a 28-0 lead. The Blue Raiders made things interesting in the second half, but the team found a way to hold on. It was a bit of an eye-opener for Minnesota and should have told this team that finishing strong is just as important as starting strong.

 

Last season Minnesota ended the season on a three-game losing streak, including a loss to Syracuse in the Texas Bowl, another game the Gophers failed to drive the final nail in the coffin.

 

This season has shown Minnesota can start strong. Now all that remains to be seen is how the Gophers finish.

- By Kevin McGuire (@KevinonCFB)

Teaser:
Minnesota and Jerry Kill a Team on the Rise - But Tough Schedule Awaits in November
Post date: Sunday, October 12, 2014 - 16:10
Path: /college-football/michigan-state-remains-big-tens-best-team-despite-late-game-struggles
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Michigan State may still be the best team in the Big Ten, but their struggles to close out games should be alarming for Spartans fans.

 

Painful memories of what could have been against Oregon are still fresh. Michigan State held a 27-18 lead at Oregon early in the season, and looked to be in full control of the Ducks. Then Oregon proceeded to score 28 unanswered points, sending the Spartans back to East Lansing with no parting gifts. A few weeks later Michigan State was once again in complete control of Nebraska, only to see the Huskers manage to put together a rally in the fourth quarter with 19 unanswered points. Fortunately for Michigan State, the damage to Nebraska had already been done and the Nebraska rally ran out of time.

 

This weekend Michigan State was a heavy favorite on the road against Purdue, but the Boilermakers gave Michigan State quite the fight. Rather than wait until the fourth quarter, Purdue came out swinging from start to finish. This game did not play out the way it did against Nebraska or Oregon, but it opens up a bit of a concern for the defending Big Ten champions moving forward.

 

How worried should Michigan State be after being outscored 50-45 over the last five quarters of play?

 

Michigan State has a decent enough track record in recent seasons to suggest the ship will eventually get back on the right course. Last season Michigan State allowed a high of 28 points in a game (twice, to Indiana and Nebraska) and already this season they have done so twice with some interesting offenses still to play. Maybe this year’s defense is not as automatic as its 2013 defense was, but Michigan State is still managing to play from ahead on a regular basis. And when the defense is put to the test to come up with a stop, more often than not Michigan State is finding a way to shut the door on opposing offenses.

 

"When you look at our football games, we're playing well enough to get up by 21 points and that's the first thing you have to be able to do," Dantonio said in his postgame comments following the win at Purdue Saturday. "When they come back, we somehow find a way at the end. I think that it makes us a stronger football team."

 

On Saturday it was Darien Harris coming to the rescue. With Purdue looking to tie things up with just about 90 seconds remaining to play, Harris picked off a pass deep in Purdue’s end of the field and returned it for a touchdown. In a sense, it was a 14-point swing and it was just the kind of big play the defense needed.

 

At this stage of the game, Michigan State is as battle-tested as almost any team can be. They have experienced the pain of losing and the thrill of victory when things become tight. As far as the Big Ten is concerned, Michigan State is still the team to beat. The playoffs may be another topic of debate, but it is likely no team would want to be paired against Michigan State defense in the four-team field.

- By Kevin McGuire (@KevinonCFB)

Teaser:
Michigan State Remains Big Ten's Best Team Despite Late-Game Struggles
Post date: Sunday, October 12, 2014 - 15:50
Path: /college-football/michigans-win-over-penn-state-quiets-hot-seat-talk-brady-hoke-now
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Michigan picked a good week to scrap together a win, but how much will a win over Penn State calm the noise surrounding the fate of head coach Brady Hoke? The fate of Hoke may already be written, but he at least gave reason to hold off any thought of being dismissed from his job in the middle of the season.

 

Though it would go against the grain of how schools of the size and caliber of Michigan typically handle things, there could have been an argument to be made supporting a decision to let Hoke go now if Michigan had lost to Penn State. A bye week before heading on the road to take on in-state rival Michigan State would have been a good time to allow an interim coach plenty of time to regroup the team’s focus and implement a game plan.

 

After Michigan wiggled by Penn State 18-13 Saturday night in the Big House, the talks about firing Hoke should be silenced, at least for now. Still, change should still be expected, and demanded, by the denizens in Ann Arbor, because a narrow six-point victory over a team visibly decimated up front by two years of sanctions is still little to be overly proud of. This Michigan team still has questions facing them in the coming weeks.

 

For starters, how does this team go into and come out of the bye week with Michigan State on deck? It has to feel good for Michigan to go into the bye off a win after a stretch of humbling losses. At the same time, Michigan’s offense only managed to score one touchdown, and that came on a play that was nearly an interception. The offense should remain a significant concern heading into the Michigan State game. Penn State’s defense is pretty good. Michigan State’s is the best in the Big Ten (for three quarters, at least).

 

Michigan still has to win three more games to become bowl eligible. It is not going to be easy if Michigan continues to play at this level. The Wolverines play road games at Michigan State, Northwestern and Ohio State. Home games against Indiana and Maryland are mixed in as well. In most seasons you would expect to say there are easily three automatic wins in that mix for Michigan, but that is not the case right now.

 

Hoke continues to sell the idea Michigan can still compete for a Big Ten championship. Mathematically speaking, he is 100 percent correct. Those who have been watching this team play are right to have a contrasting opinion to Hoke’s. Michigan may very well find three wins before the season is over, but it will still take something more for Hoke to be back as head coach in Michigan. Otherwise, the 2015 season will likely be more of the same for the Wolverines.

- By Kevin McGuire (@KevinonCFB)

Teaser:
Michigan's Win over Penn State Quiets Hot Seat Talk on Brady Hoke - For Now
Post date: Sunday, October 12, 2014 - 15:25
All taxonomy terms: MLB, News
Path: /mlb/5-storylines-watch-al-and-nl-championship-series-royals-giants-cardinals-orioles
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The marketing for MLB likes to say that, “You can’t script October.” So true. Every postseason the games write the stories themselves, furnishing our sports memories with moments that last forever. Here are several story lines to keep an eye on during the AL and NL Championship Series.


5 Storylines to Watch in AL and NL Championship Series

 

Speed vs. Power

 

What a contrast of styles the ALCS is going to deliever. The Royals, the Wild Card, cinderella story from the AL Central, made it to the League Championship Series with their game-changing speed, timely hitting, and brilliant defense. The Orioles won the disastrous American League East by 12 games with brut strength.
 

Both teams pitching is rather similar, with the only true ace belonging to the Royals and “Big Game” James Shields, even though he really hasn't lived up to that moniker. It sounds good though. Pitching aside, the Royals and O’s couldn't be more polar opposites. The Royals led baseball in stolen bases (153) and were last in baseball in home runs (95). In the other dugout, the Orioles led baseball in dingers (211) and were last in stolen bases (44). Pretty remarkable that two teams with such a contrast in styles were able to make it this far into the Postseason. Should make for a fantastic ALCS.

 

Same Teams, Different Year

 

If the Giants and Cardinals weren't wearing different uniforms, they might be mistaken for the same ball club. Both teams have an ace backed by reliable starting pitching, and good, not outstanding bullpens. In fact, both clubs have the exact same team ERA (3.50), almost identical BAA (SF-2.41, STL-2.42), and number of strikeouts (SF-1211, STL-1222).
 

Both clubs thrive on timely hitting, not gaudy power numbers. In the NLDS, it was Brandon Belt that hit the midnight, 18th inning homer in Game 3 that gave the Giants a two-games-to-one lead over the baseball’s best regular season team, the Washington Nationals. It was a mix of Kolten Wong, Matt Carpenter, and Matt Adams that sent the favored Dodgers and Clayton Kershaw back to Chavez Ravine in dramatic and unlikely fashion.

 
Since, 2000, the Cardinals have made it to the NLCS nine different times (Ed Rooney voice: “Niiiiiiiine times), including the last four in a row, and the World Series four times, winning it all twice. Not to be outdone, the Giants have been to three of the last five NLCS, winning the World Series two times as well.

 

Lefty vs. Lefty

 

The Cardinals were able to do the impossible in the NLDS against the Dodgers, they beat Clayton Kershaw…twice…in one series. Against the game’s best hurler and probable 2014 NL Cy Young Award and MVP winner, St. Louis was able to put an 8-spot in game one thanks to lefty Matt Carpenter’s homer and double that sparked an unbelievable comeback. In game four, Kershaw was throwing a one-hit shutout in the sixth when Matt Adams took him deep to give the Cards a 3-2 lead they would hold on to and take the series. To my knowledge, the Cardinals do not play with four-leaf clovers in the cleats.
 

How long can their luck against power lefties last? The Cards are all but guaranteed to see the Giants ace, Madison Bumgarner twice, if not three times in this series. Bumgarner’s numbers against left-handed batters are pretty dominating. This season lefties are hitting just .224/.246/.293 with just 1 HR, 5 walks, and a SO/BB ratio of 11.60. Bumgarner pitched against the Cards just twice this season, but only allowed 5 runs on 9 hits, 16 strikeouts, 4 walks, and a slash line of .205/.271/.341.
 

Kolten Wong, Matt Adams, and Matt Carpenter, the heroes of the NLDS for the Cards, will have their hands full with MadBum in game one Saturday night against the Giants.

 

Kings of Kansas City

 

Much has been made of the Kansas City Royals and their fantastic October run that has led up to this ALCS against the Orioles. The world knows that they haven’t made a Postseason, let alone a World Series appearance since their Fall Classic title in 1985. But the relationship between this club and their city is certainly special. Sick and tired of being bottom dwellers in the AL Central and playing little brother to the St. Louis Cardinals and the self-appointed “best fans in baseball,” Kansas City Royals fans have been out in full force for their ball club. The atmosphere they have created for their team at Kauffman Stadium has been nothing short of magnificent. The brooms for a sweep against the Angels and the saturated sea of Royal blue has been a sight long over-due in the city of Kansas City. And nothing may have been more evident of the relationship between the city and the ball club when star first baseman, Eric Hosmer, invited the fans to a local watering hole via Twitter after the series clincher against the  Angels and offered to fund a happy hour to anyone that joined. A $15,000 tab and some spilled beer later, a bond that was forged over years of lackluster baseball and recent resurgence was solidified.

 

Orioles Sluggers

 

In the three games sweep against the Detroit Tigers in the ALDS, the Orioles put up 21 runs, 10 of which came against the likes of the last three AL Cy Young Award winners (Scherzer, Verlander, and David Price). Let there be no doubt, the Royals bullpen (ERA 3.30) is much, much better than that of the Tigers in which the Orioles scored 11 runs in their series sweep.
 

But the most fascinating thing about the Orioles slugging is the fact that they lead baseball in homers (211) by far, and they did it without last season’s home run leader, a lackluster and suspended Chris Davis, and injured stars Manny Machado and Matt Wieters. Davis did hit 26 long balls this season, but thats less than half of the 53 that he hit last year.
 

Not only was Davis a shell of what he had been, but he got himself suspended for a bizarre use of Adderall. Machado’s “Young and the Restless” 2014 season was wild and over-dramatic. In-between stints on the disabled list and run-ins with Oakland A’s, Machado only played half the season and put up less than stellar numbers. Matt Wieters was having the best season of his young career when he was sidelined for a torn UCL that required Tommy John surgery, which seems unheard of for a catcher. But even without three of their best players, the O’s were able to slug their way to an AL East title thanks in large part to season home run leader Nelson Cruz (40), Adam Jones (29), and Steve Pearce (21).

 

Can the O’s continue to defy baseball logic and march toward their first Fall Classic appearance since 1983 with their love of the long ball? Or will the Royals arsenal of power arms stifle their bats and continue their Cinderella run to the World Series?

By Jake Rose

Teaser:
5 Storylines to Watch in the AL and NL Championship Series Royals Giants Cardinals Orioles
Post date: Saturday, October 11, 2014 - 13:25
All taxonomy terms: MLB, News
Path: /mlb/7-mlb-players-watch-al-and-nl-championship-series-2014
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The month of October enhances the drama of baseball every year to immeasurable proportions. October forges players into baseball legends and imprints the moments of greatness in the timeline of American sports. David Freese, Kirk Gibson, Bill Mazeroski, Derek Jeter, Joe Carter, and Don Larsen are just a handful of the names who delivered in the most important month of the season, October.


This postseason is full of star talent. We all know guys like Trout, Kershaw, Strasburg, and Adam Jones, but a lot of times it’s the guys that you might least expect to make the biggest difference in going home early or winning World Series MVP.

 

Here is a list of seven players who will have a major impact on the Postseason, one way or the other, going forward.


7 Players to Watch in AL and NL Championship Series

 

Matt Holliday

 

In the second half of the season, Matt Holliday practically carried the Cardinals on his bat to an NL Central title, hitting 14 of his 20 long balls after the All Star break. Holliday’s success is absolutely vital if the Cards have any chance of making it back to the Fall Classic. This season, in games that the Cards won Holliday hit .320, with 14 home runs, an OBP of .416 and 73 RBI. In games in which St. Louis lost, Holliday was .210, 6 HR, and just 17 RBI in 70 games.
 

With no more names like Beltran, Berkman, Freese, Pujols, or Allen Craig in the lineup to offer protection or to give protection to, Holliday’s job is that much more important. It is safe to say that whether or not the Red Birds fly high in October relies on the shoulders of Matt Holliday.

 

Matt Carpenter


Matt Carpenter absolutely smashed the Dodgers October dreams in the NLDS, hitting three homers and knocking in seven runs. Along with Holliday, Carpenter will have to continue knocking the ball around the yard if the Cards want to advance to the Fall Classic for the second year in a row and third time in four years. Asking for three home runs and three doubles from Carpenter in the NLCS might be asking too much, he only hit eight long balls all season long, but it’s not unreasonable to see Carpenter be a big-time producer against the Giants, and it all starts with him getting on base.

 

Joe Panik

 

Second base was supposed to be Marco Scutaro’s this season. And then it was supposed to be Ehrie Adrianza’s, then Dan Uggla’s, and then Joaquin Araias’. None of those worked out. What did work out was calling up 2011 first round pick, Joe Panik, the 23 year old New Yorker.

 
Panik declared the starting second base job his in the second half of the season, hitting .305/.343./.368 in 287 plate appearances, and making Bruce Bochy’s job a heck of a lot easier.
 

Panik is the first player in Giant’s history to have five hits in his first two postseason games, getting three in NL Wild Card game in Pittsburgh. and adding two more in game one of the NLDS against the Nationals, including a triple and an insurance run.


If Panik can just be consistent at the plate, get on base, and be the kickstarted of this Giant’s offense, Pence, Posey, and Panda should be able to do the rest.


Madison Bumgarner


Madison Bumgarner might be the best pitcher remaining in the Postseason. His uncanny, left-handed delivery and tight command of the strike zone could be trouble for the left-handed Cardinals hitters. Bumgarner hardly gives up walks (BB% 4.9), so the battle with the patient Cardinals bats should be an interesting one. In the regular season, Bumgarner surrendered 21 homers and only one of those long balls was to a fellow lefty. Bumgarner gets takes the hill in Game 1 of the NLCS on Saturday night, and depending on how the series plays out, we could see Mad-Bum several times in the coming games.

 

Eric Hosmer

 

Eric Hosmer might finally be turning into the player he was projected to be, right in front of our very eyes. Hosmer’s career has been up and down since finishing third in the AL Rookie of the Year vote in 2011. His sophomore slump was rather noticeable but rebounded fantastically in 2013 and had a good enough 2014, but a stress fracture in his right hand limited his power to just 9 HRs.
 

When the bright lights of the Postseason flipped on in the AL Wild Card game against the As, Hosmer has been remarkable. At a time when its all about who is hot, Hosmer has been scorching. Against the As, Hosmer went 3 for 4 including a one-out triple in the bottom of the 12th, which led to him scoring a run and tying the game, sparking the Royals massive comeback. Hosmer also chipped in an RBI and two walks.
 

Hosmer continued his hot streak into the ALDS against the AL’s best team, the Los Angeles Angels. In game two, Hosmer came up big once again, getting three hits, scoring two runs, and adding two RBI. But nothing was bigger than his 11th inning monster two-run shot to off reliever Kevin Jepsen, a no-doubter.

If the Royals are going to continue this Cinderella run through October, they are going to need Hos to keep on swinging to keep up with the O’s big bats.

 

Yordano Ventura

 
This youngster might be the most exciting new pitcher to enter the baseball water-cooler talk this October. With a fastball that reached 102 MPH in the ALDS against the Angels, Yordano Ventura could be the pendulum that swings in the Royals favor against the Orioles, especially if he gets the chance to start more than once in the series. But it’s not just Ventura’s fastball that makes hitters whiff. His curveball might have more break on it than anyone else the Orioles have faced this season, to go along with a change up that hits 87 MPH. The big question is how well will the youngster handles the ever increasing spotlight that comes with the stage of the Postseason.  Ventura was rocked in his first Postseason appearance, coming out of the bullpen in the AL Wild Card Game against the As, but completely rebounded in the next round against the Angels. Ventura faces an Orioles lineup that crushed fastballs and hit more dingers that any other team in baseball.

 

Adam Jones


Adam Jones is the motor that keeps the Orioles team going. In the ALDS against the Tigers, jones went 2 for 11 in 13 plate appearances. The Orioles power at the plate is well-known, but going against power pitchers James Shields, Wade Davis, and Yordano Ventura could prove to be a problem in hitting long balls, base hits may be the difference in the series. If that is the case, Jones is going to have to put wood on the ball and drive in runs the old fashioned way, 2 hits in 3 games won’t cut it. Also, with the Royals ability to use their speed to score runs, Jones’ defense will be a major factor in preventing runs.

- By Jake Rose

Teaser:
7 MLB Players to Watch in the AL and NL Championship Series 2014
Post date: Saturday, October 11, 2014 - 13:15
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy, News
Path: /fantasy/college-fantasy-football-week-7-start-or-sit-report
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It's Week 7 of the 2014 college fantasy football season. 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-Misouri vs Georgia

This week, Mauk should have a healthy set of receivers as Darius White and Jimmie Hunt return from injury and the Tigers are catching a Bulldogs team that lost their Heisman hopeful, running back Todd Gurley, to an indefinite suspension.

 

Justin Thomas, QB and Zach Laskey, RB-Georgia Tech vs Duke

Miami was the first quality opponent that the Blue Devils have played this season and the Hurricanes outgained them easily 426-264.  Duke figures to stay in the bottom one-third of the FBS in rushing yards allowed (186.4 rypg) when they travel to Atlanta to face a ranked and undefeated Yellow Jackets team.

 

Mark Weisman, RB-Iowa vs Indiana

The senior running back has seen his carries increase over the past couple of weeks and he could be in line for another busy day when the Hawkeyes host Indiana this Saturday.  Weisman has scored a touchdown in four of five games this season and has six of Iowa’s eight rushing touchdowns.

 

Mario Pender, RB-Florida State at Syracuse

Pender’s weekly value is at a season-high now that Karlos Williams is unlikely to suit up this weekend due to an ankle injury.  The Syracuse rush defense is giving up a respectable 130 yards per game, but assuming the lead-role in the Seminoles’ backfield makes Pender an attractive Week 7 start.

 

Nick Chubb, RB-Georgia at Missouri

Missouri’s defense hasn’t exactly shut opposing running backs down this season and Chubb should be in line for 20-plus carries due to the absence of Todd Gurley (suspension), Keith Marshall (ankle), and Sony Michel (shoulder).

 

Marteze Waller, Fresno State at UNLV

Waller has carried the ball at least 15 times in five of Fresno State’s six games this season.  Against the nation’s second-worst run defense, fifteen carries and 100 yards looks like a given this Friday night for the junior running back.

 

A.J. Ouellette, RB-Ohio vs Bowling Green

The freshman running back is reportedly recovered from an ankle injury and no team has given up more rushing touchdowns in the FBS than Bowling Green (21).

 

Matt Jones, RB-Florida vs LSU

Much like LSU, the Gators have woes at quarterback, but that could be a good thing for Jones’ fantasy owners.  The Tigers are allowing over 184 yards on the ground, which ranks them in the bottom one-third of the FBS.

 

 

 

Bench

 

Andrew Hendrix, Miami (OH) at Akron

The Akron defense has held opponents to ten or fewer points three times this year and are ranked 15th in the FBS in points allowed per game (17.0ppg).

 

Marquise Williams, QB-North Carolina at Notre Dame

A struggling North Carolina team could be catching Notre Dame at the perfect time.  The Irish are coming off a dramatic win at home against Stanford and travel to Tallahassee next week for their showdown with Florida State.  Could this be a classic letdown game?  We’re not taking our chances against a stingy Notre Dame defense and their 12.0 ppg average, which is tied for third-best in the FBS.

 

Devin Gardner, QB-Michigan v Penn State

If you play in a Power 5 league and need to start Gardner this week, you are already in desperation-mode.  The thought of Gardner posing a threat on the ground is hopeful at best, as the Nittany Lions have the nation’s second-best run defense.  Should Gardner get things going through the air, finding the end zone may prove challenging, too, because Penn State is only allowing 14.6 points per game.

 

Akeem Hunt, RB-Purdue vs Michigan State

Hunt has been picking up steam as of late, totaling 99, 117, and 199 yards in the past three games.  However, this week the Boilermakers host Michigan State, who are coming off a Week 6 win over Nebraska, a game in which they held Ameer Abdullah to 45 yards on 24 carries.

 

Alex Collins, RB-Arkansas and Jonathan Williams, RB-Arkansas vs Alabama

Collins and Williams have been impactful this season from a fantasy perspective, but neither player has topped the 80-yard mark when the Razorbacks have played defenses ranked in the top 20 against the run (Auburn No. 13, Northern Illinois No. 19).  Not only does Alabama have the third-best defense against the run, but they have only allowed one rushing touchdown and 20 rushing first-downs in 2014, both tops in the FBS.

 

De’Veon Smith, RB-Michigan vs Penn State

Smith became a waiver wire commodity after news broke that Derrick Green would miss the remainder of the season due to an injury.  Smith has value moving forward, but a game against Penn State’s No.2 rated run defense presents a problem this weekend.

 

Travin Dural, WR-LSU at Florida

The inconsistent play at quarterback for LSU is a tremendous blow to Dural’s fantasy potential.  Expect the Tigers to lean on their running game and put the ball in the hands of their backs 40-50 times at Florida.

 

Deontay Greenberry, WR-Houston vs Memphis

Seventeen of Greenberry’s twenty-one receptions this year came in Houston’s first three games of the season.  Since then, the junior receiver has four catches for 43 yards and the Cougars seem unsettled at quarterback.  To make matters worse for Greenberry’s fantasy owners, Memphis comes to town with a top 25 defense. 

 

 

For Start/Bench advice , send an email

Follow Joe on twitter (@theCFFsite)

 

Teaser:
College Fantasy Football Week 7 Start or Sit Report
Post date: Friday, October 10, 2014 - 18:31
Path: /nba/michael-beasley-latest-nba-player-play-asia
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The Memphis Grizzlies waived power forward Michael Beasley (above) yesterday — a former No. 2 overall pick from Kansas State who played for the Miami Heat (twice), the Minnesota Timberwolves and the Phoenix Suns. Beasley, shortly thereafter, decided to play ball in China, for the Shanghai Sharks.

Beasley joins the unique ranks of former NBA ballers who have taken their talents to Asia. Stephon Marbury and Tracy McGrady have both become something like demigods in China after sputtering out of the league, and Ron “Panda Friend” Artest will be embracing the foreign leagues in 2014-15 as well. Andray Blatche and Jordan Crawford will also be balling in China this year, and so will the young Emmanuel Mudiay, a projected top five pick next June who’d rather make some money abroad than sign up for an NCAA squad for one season.

There are unique opportunities for those who flee to China. Marbury has recently been putting on a bizarre, befuddling play about his life, “I Am Marbury,” in which he portrays himself and reportedly closes the production with a loaded soliloquy including lines like “I am Marbury. You are Marbury. We are all connected.”

 

And, oh, look. There’s also a statue of Marbury overseas:

 

Artest has perhaps raised the bar for basketball weirdness by recently unveiling these shoes with stuffed pandas on top of them, about which he says “The shoe has a panda on it. I'll be throwing it to a friend in the crowd. The person who catches it will be the Panda's Friend of the day.”

 

Here’s hoping Beasley can offer some of the same head-scratching stuff from across the ocean. In America, his reputation has been as a strong talent but a lazy worker who’s indiscreet about his recreational relationship with marijuana — a habit that has had him suspended and fined multiple times. Maybe this banal misbehavior can be made into the stuff of opera through the looking glass of the orient, where NBA players go to reimagine themselves these days.

 

— John Wilmes

@johnwilmesNBA

Teaser:
Michael Beasley Is the Latest NBA Player To Play In Asia
Post date: Friday, October 10, 2014 - 14:15
All taxonomy terms: Kevin Durant, NBA
Path: /nba/kevin-durant-will-have-his-own-hbo-special
Body:

On Tuesday, November 4, “Kevin Durant: The Offseason” will debut at 10 P.M. ET on HBO. Yahoo! Sports reports that the show is "a first-person account of the life of the Oklahoma City Thunder superstar forward. Cameras and microphones were apparently embedded with the reigning NBA Most Valuable Player, and following him from the moment his NBA basketball season ended on May 31 until he reported to training camp for the upcoming season in late September.”

From what we know about Durant’s offseason so far, it comes as a bit of a surprise that he’d give up his privacy for it. Prior rumblings suggest the scoring sensation got into a heated spat with rapper The Game that Durant was said to owe him over a bet. 

More ominous, though, has been the quaky speculation about KD’s free agency decision, despite it being two seaons away. Rival LeBron James—who happens to be executive producing two TV shows of his own, though not starring in them—has taught us that one man’s choice of team can shift the league’s power axis for years to come. And Durant is certainly one of the few men with the talent to tilt the whole game.

It’s also been just over a year since Durant joined Jay-Z’s Roc Nation agency, boldly declaring the move on social media:

 

What, precisely, #NEWRULES means is still not entirely clear. The portentous tag has been a signal, for many, that Durant is destined to leave the Thunder, with the most recurring notion being that he’ll return home to D.C. to play for the Washington Wizards. There’s also been much chatter that the superstar’s attitude has changed for the worse under Mr. Carter’s care. Of course, Durant’s emotional, terrific “You’re the real MVP” speech of this past spring runs quite contrary to this story — he seemed as endearing and good-natured as ever in that moment.

But when Durant and HBO lift the veil — partially, at least — with this new feature, we’ll have perhaps our closest look at Durant, and likely our most substantive trace of his supposed transformation. What will we find out?

 

— John Wilmes

@johnwilmesNBA

 

Teaser:
Post date: Friday, October 10, 2014 - 10:10
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy, News
Path: /fantasy/college-fantasy-football-week-7-fantasy-value-plays
Body:

DraftKings has released their Daily Fantasy college football salaries for Week 7, 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 Munchie Legaux, Cincinnati vs. Miami ($4000)
Legaux will get his turn under center with Gunner Kiel out to injury. He doesn’t have to do much to reach value and allow DFS players to stack another position.


RUNNING BACKS

1)    RB Daniel Lasco, Cal vs. Washington ($4900)
Lasco has been on fire lately, with three total touchdowns in the last two games. He doesn’t look to have a huge ceiling this week, but could easily hit value with another score or two.

2)    RB Jon Hilliman, BC vs. NC State ($5000)
Hilliman is on a tear, scoring two touchdowns in each of the past three games. He could shred a suspect NC State defense this week. Look for Hilliman to find pay dirt once again this week.

3)    RB Larry Dixon, Army vs. Rice ($5000)
Dixon ran for 188 yards last week and could find similar success against Rice. Expect both teams to churn out the yardage on the ground this week.

WIDE RECEIVERS

1)    WR De’Runnya Wilson, Miss State vs. Auburn ($4100)
Wilson has become a favorite target of Dak Prescott and could see plenty of targets in this potentially high scoring game. He could be even more heavily involved if Jameon Lewis misses the game.



2)    WR DeVante Parker, Louisville vs. Clemson ($4200)
It appears that Parker could return this week from injury and comes in at a bargain price. Parker could smash his price assuming he is healthy enough to play. Monitor his status leading up to kickoff to make sure he is a full go.


TIGHT END

1)    TE Dan Vitale, Northwestern vs. Minnesota ($3000)
Vitale scored last week and a fairly consistent option at a very inconsistent position.



VALUE PLAYS:  SATURDAY (LATE ONLY) GAME SET

QUARTERBACKS

1)    QB Colby Kirkegaard, Wyoming vs. Hawaii ($5200)
How can you not play a guy with almost the exact same last name as the greatest existentialist philosopher. He is also playing Hawaii, which doesn’t hurt either.

RUNNING BACKS

1)    RB Chris Hairston, ECU vs. USF ($3000)
Hairston led the Pirates in carries last week and could see plenty of opportunity if Breon Allen misses this game with an injury. Hairston could be worth a flier at minimum price.

WIDE RECEIVERS

1)    WR Garrett Brown, Air Force vs. Utah State ($4400)
It’s not often that an Air Force receiver will make this or any fantasy list, but Brown has scored five touchdowns over the past three games. He appears to be worth a shot at this price.



By Todd DeVries & Kevin Mount, CollegeFootballGeek.com
 


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Teaser:
College Fantasy Football: Week 7 Fantasy Value Plays
Post date: Friday, October 10, 2014 - 10:03
Path: /college-basketball/college-basketball-2014-15-north-carolina-tar-heels-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. 6 North Carolina is looking to reclaim its status as a powerhouse program after two subpar seasons, by the Tar Heels’ standards. North Carolina has won an NCAA game in each of the last two years but hasn’t finished higher than third in the ACC. This may be the season the Tar Heels start to resemble their tradition. The roster has stabilized around All-American Marcus Paige with most of the roster returning intact for a run in the ACC.

 

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

 

The North Carolina basketball program hasn’t lived up to its lofty standards on or off the court in recent years. The Tar Heels have not reached a Final Four since 2009, tied for their longest such streak since an eight-year drought from 1983 to 1990, or won the ACC Tournament since 2008. They also have dealt with unexpected transfers and major suspensions of key players during the last four years, issues that used to be few and far between in Chapel Hill.

 

UNC has a chance to get back on track in 2014-15 with a roster that features plenty of depth and talent. The Tar Heels return nine of their 11 rotation players from last season, have a legit leader/star in guard Marcus Paige, and welcome three McDonald’s All-Americans to the mix.

 


No. 6 North Carolina Tar Heels Facts & Figures

Last season: 24-10, 13-5 ACC

Postseason: NCAA round of 32

Consecutive NCAAs: 4

Coach: Roy Williams (306-89 at North Carolina, 130-50 ACC)

ACC Projection: Second

Postseason Projection: NCAA Elite Eight

 


Frontcourt

 

In a sport that has become increasingly perimeter-oriented, the Tar Heels have an abundance of size and potential up front. Junior Brice Johnson and sophomores Kennedy Meeks and Isaiah Hicks all seem poised to take big steps forward in 2014-15.

 

Meeks spent the summer losing weight and getting into better shape, while Johnson continued his career-long goal of adding strength to his slender frame. Both have proven that they are talented offensive players, with Johnson establishing himself as UNC’s best low-post scorer and Meeks showcasing excellent passing and offensive rebounding skills. Both also have plenty of room for improvement defensively. Hicks, who spent last season masquerading as a small forward because of UNC’s lack of depth on the wing, should make a big impact in the paint with his athleticism.

 

Joel James and Desmond Hubert offer significant starting experience and specialty traits that UNC’s other big men lack. James provides brute strength and a physical style, and Hubert contributes superior defense. Undersized Jackson Simmons enters every season with a lowly projection for playing time, but he always carves out a niche for himself with a combination of hustle and savvy.

 

Backcourt

 

This area has transformed from a question mark into an exclamation point in the course of one year, and Paige is a key reason why. He spearheaded UNC’s midseason surge a year ago, finishing fourth in the ACC in scoring and sixth in assists while providing clutch plays against defenses geared to stop him. The good news for UNC fans is that Paige will have more help around him this season.

 

Paige’s preference is to play point guard, but he is a tremendous shooter who is willing to play off the ball to help the team. That selflessness will create minutes at the point for sophomore Nate Britt, who retooled his jumper from a left-handed shot to a right-handed shot in the offseason, and highly touted freshman Joel Berry.

 

On the wing, the Tar Heels figure to have a nice rotation after being thin a year ago. Junior J.P. Tokoto, one of the nation’s most gifted athletes, returns after establishing himself as the team’s top defender. Tokoto must continue to develop his ball-handling and shooting after making just under 50 percent of his free throws last season, but the Tar Heels will get help in both of those departments from a couple of freshmen. Theo Pinson is adept at scoring and creating opportunities for teammates, and Justin Jackson is an accomplished mid-range scorer who also can make 3-pointers.

 

Final analysis

 

UNC’s depth and versatility make the team dangerous on the national scene. Coach Roy Williams has personnel choices and flexibility available to him that he lacked a year ago. He can go big with lineups in which only the point guard is shorter than 6-5, or he can employ a lineup of three point guards late in games to enhance ball-handling and free throw shooting.

 

The challenge of re-climbing the mountain to ACC and national supremacy will be significant, especially with Louisville joining the league, but the Tar Heels have the personnel to succeed against all sizes and styles of opponents.

 

“We definitely have our fair share of tests with our schedule,” Paige says. “But I think that will help us out, and I really think that we are a legitimate Final Four contender if we can put all the pieces together.”

 

Newcomers

 

UNC welcomes a trio of McDonald’s All-Americans who can contribute in various ways on the perimeter. Theo Pinson provides scoring and playmaking ability, and his 6-11 wingspan makes him an intriguing prospect defensively. Justin Jackson is a strong outside shooter, an area of immediate need for the Tar Heels. Joel Berry is a fierce competitor and gifted passer with a strong frame that is uncommon for freshman point guards.

Teaser:
College Basketball 2014-15: North Carolina Tar Heels Team Preview
Post date: Friday, October 10, 2014 - 07:00
All taxonomy terms: Chicago Bulls, Joakim Noah, Pau Gasol, NBA
Path: /nba/chicago-bulls%E2%80%99-pau-gasol-hangs-out-sesame-street
Body:

If you were to scour the NBA for a player who most resembles Big Bird, you’d eventually land on new Chicago Bulls center Pau Gasol. A former champion with the Los Angeles Lakers, and likely Hall of Famer in time, the Spaniard is tall, fluffy and gregarious in the same way as the yellow-feathered pop culture icon. He’s one of the most beloved characters in the league. 

Gasol is one of the friendlier interviews around, and his good will with media corps is clearly no illusion — he’s a giver on the court, too. Arguably, no big man (except for maybe his Bulls counterpart Joakim Noah, or brother Marc Gasol of the Memphis Grizzlies, if anyone) passes the ball so much like a deferential point guard.

It was only a matter of time before Gasol took his loving talents to the arena of childhood pedagogy. His generosity makes eminent sense along the sidewalks of Sesame Street, where Gasol recently revealed himself having a brief party:

 

Whether the center will appear in a full episode or not is unclear — the social media post offered little insight into his involvement with the show. But Gasol will definitely be fighting for a championship alongside Noah, Derrick Rose and indomitable coach Tom Thibodeau with the Bulls in 2014-15.

Gasol has looked sharp in two preseason games with the Bulls, continuing his run of impressive play with the Spanish national team through the FIBA World Cup, where he was perhaps the best player in the whole tournament. His intensity in the post will be a huge asset for Chicago—but so will his aptitude for levity, which he pointedly reminded us of with this snippet of action among Elmo and friends.

 

— John Wilmes

@johnwilmesNBA

Teaser:
Post date: Thursday, October 9, 2014 - 14:00
All taxonomy terms: Blake Griffin, Los Angeles Clippers, NBA
Path: /nba/blake-griffin-begins-mvp-campaign-jumpers-not-dunks
Body:

You know who Blake Griffin is for one reason, above all: He’s one of the most spectacular athletes the NBA has ever seen. The Los Angeles Clippers forward made an immediate impression in his 2010-11 rookie season and has only increased in skill and popularity since. No one this side of Michael Jordan has been so prolific in the art of posterizing other players. Just ask: Timofey Mozgov, Kendrick Perkins and Kris Humphries.

 

That list could go on and on, but our time is finite and the narrative on Griffin has gone to more interesting, subtle places anyways. In 2013-14, his game expanded to include more ball-handling, mid-range shooting and passing. Griffin thrived with added responsibility under new coach Doc Rivers and showed that he’s one of the very best players in the game — that he’s a versatile talent who should be known for more than just his YouTube-friendly pyrotechnics at the rim. He finished third in MVP voting for the year, just behind the untoppable LeBron James and Kevin Durant.

And if Griffin’s preseason debut is any indication, his evolution was only beginning last season. He put on a shooting display in a home loss to the Golden State Warriors, collecting 24 points and 12 rebounds on 9-of-17 shooting, stretching the defense in ways that should have the rest of the league on notice.

 

Clippers point guard Chris Paul is approaching his thirtieth birthday next spring, and the team also lost some bench depth over the summer with the departures of Darren Collison, Danny Granger and Jared Dudley. But the young Griffin’s ascendance gives Clippers fans more than enough cause for hope. A player of his stature can shift the power balance of the NBA for years and years to come. On Blake’s back, the red-and-blue are in as good a shape as anyone going forward.

 

— John Wilmes

@johnwilmesNBA

Teaser:
Post date: Thursday, October 9, 2014 - 09:00
Path: /college-basketball/college-basketball-2014-15-wichita-state-shockers-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. 7 Wichita State keeps making history. The Shockers are two years removed from a Final Four, a feat that was arguably topped a year later when Wichita State won its first 35 games before losing to eventual national runner-up Kentucky in the round of 32. Reaching those either of those marks again is too much to ask, but the Shockers have plenty of firepower returning to remain on the national scene one way or another.

 

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

 

Wichita State dominated the Missouri Valley Conference in historic ways last season. Nine schools will try to change that story this season. It won’t be easy. The Shockers, even without NBA Draft pick Cleanthony Early, show no signs of significant weakening.

 

“That’s like a high major program over there,” Indiana State coach Greg Lansing says. “They literally could have won the national championship last year. The rest of us have to raise our level.”

 

Last season, WSU rolled to an 18–0 league record but largely disappeared from the national view in January and February because nobody regarded an MVC school as a serious challenger. It would help WSU’s strength of schedule and national respect if that changed.

 

“Wichita State has set a bar,” Loyola coach Porter Moser says. “Everybody is chasing that extremely hard. The level of recruiting has really been amped up.”

 

Meanwhile, the Shockers wait and get better.

 

The past four seasons rank with the best in Shocker history — 2011 NIT champions, 2012 MVC champions, Final Four in 2013 and 35 straight wins in 2014. That is a lot to live up to for WSU and a lot to catch up on for the rest of the Valley.

 


No. 7 Wichita State Shockers Facts & Figures

Last season: 35-1, 18-0 MVC

Postseason: NCAA round of 32

Consecutive NCAAs: 3

Coach: Gregg Marshall (174-71 at Wichita State, 84-42 MVC)

Missouri Valley Projection: First

Postseason Projection: NCAA Elite Eight

 


Frontcourt

 

Marshall relies on transfer big men, and this season is no different. Darius Carter, a senior, will step into a larger role in his second season at WSU. Like most junior college transfers, he progressed throughout the season and scored efficiently when he focused on decisive moves to the basket. If he can add more range to his jumper, he can easily be a double-digit scorer.

 

Transfers Tevin Glass (6’8”) and Bush Wamukota (7’0”) need to supply immediate help. Glass is an energetic power forward who should be able to score on rebounds and breaks without needing to dominate the ball. Wamukota’s primary value will come on defense.

 

Marshall has two freshmen centers to work with, both with legitimate size and skills. Shaq Morris (6’8”) redshirted last season. He is skilled offensively but must overcome nagging injuries and adjust to the competition. Rauno Nurger (6’10”) signed with Ole Miss but was released from his scholarship after an assistant coach left the school.

 

Junior Evan Wessel must regain confidence in his shooting touch. His toughness and hustle make him valuable, but 3-of-25 shooting from 3-point range isn’t good enough.

 

Backcourt

 

WSU’s big men are ahead on the learning curve because of the guards. Ron Baker, Fred VanVleet and senior swingman Tekele Cotton will get them in the right places and get them the ball at the right time. That trio is as solid and unselfish as any group in the nation and will nurture the newcomers.

 

Baker is a good shooter (38 percent from 3-point range) with a point guard’s passing ability in the body of a 2 guard. VanVleet is the team leader, so respected that coaches and players listen to and follow his advice. He runs WSU’s pick-and-roll plays with precision.  Cotton earned MVC Defensive Player of the Year honors and is an underrated scorer who can’t be left open behind the arc.

 

WSU survived last season without a backup for VanVleet at the point. Redshirt freshman Ria’n Holland spent the year adding weight and strength. He will play both guard positions. Freshman Corey Henderson Jr. spent the summer learning from VanVleet.

 

Final Analysis

 

The Shockers will miss Early, who played his best on the road and gave the team an athlete who could match up with the NCAA’s top teams. His ability to spread the floor with his outside shooting cleared space for the guards and big men to operate.

 

Once again, however, WSU will enjoy an advantage in depth and athletic ability over its MVC rivals. Its non-conference schedule includes Memphis, Alabama, Seton Hall, Tulsa and Saint Louis, so it should be able to compile a solid power ranking. WSU’s goal is to schedule so that it does not depend on the strength of the MVC, and its recent success has helped attract home-and-home series with high-profile opponents and top neutral-site tournaments.

 

Winning the MVC won’t be enough. The Shockers will expect to grab another good seed in the NCAA Tournament and win more games. The guards are ready, and it will be their job to prepare the newcomers for March.

 

Newcomers

 

Tevin Glass and Bush Wamukota are expected to rebound and defend and adjust quickly from junior college. Shaq Morris is an intriguing talent who can shine if he learns how to play hard consistently. Corey Henderson Jr. can give WSU the backup point guard it lacked last season. Guard Ria’n Holland, who redshirted last season with Morris, is an excellent shooter. Rashard Kelly and Zach Brown can help on the wing, and both are more mature than most freshmen after a year at prep school. WSU picked up Rauno Nurger in the summer, and coaches were thrilled to get a skilled big man with four years to develop.

 

Photo courtesty of Wichita State

Teaser:
College Basketball 2014-15: Wichita State Shockers Team Preview
Post date: Thursday, October 9, 2014 - 07:00
Path: /nba/houston-rockets-dallas-mavericks-renew-rivalry-preseason
Body:

Paul Pierce set a hell of a tone for the NBA preseason when he poked the Chicago Bulls’ Joakim Noah in the forehead. “We’re going to be the instigators,” he said of his new club, the Washington Wizards. After more unusually physical play throughout the game, Wizards big man Dejuan Blair went on to compare the team’s deep, bulky frontcourt to that of the brash, roundly hated Detroit Pistons “Bad Boys” teams of a quarter century ago.

Animosity and antagonism continued in the next day of the preseason — this time in Dallas, where the Mavericks hosted their unsavory state rival, the Houston Rockets. Geography has always made the teams natural rivals, but in recent years their tension has grown to soap opera proportions.

 

Rockets GM Daryl Morey heated the bad blood between the two sides by calling Mark Cuban and asking if he’d be willing to trade Dirk Nowitzki, in 2013. Cuban wasn’t amused by the breach of etiquette, and he didn’t forget. This past July, the Mavs owner roped Chandler Parsons away from Houston by offering the restricted free agent a contract the Rockets had to refuse. The deal was designed as a poison pill to the Rockets’ salary cap — it was plus-sized and loaded with unwieldy clauses — and Morey didn't match it, letting his prized forward walk to Houston's in-state adversary.

Parsons is now the Helen of Texas — a figure who’s come to symbolize the volcano of hate between these teams. His friend and ex-teammate James Harden said, shortly after Parsons’ departure, that every Rocket not named Harden or Dwight Howard “is a role player.” Later that week, Parsons had this to say:

 

The game between the two teams Tuesday night was a continuation of their long quarrel. A lot of body-checking and flaring tempers led to a ludicrous 81 combined fouls on Houston and Dallas. Rockets point guard Patrick Beverley could be seen knocking Parsons to the hardwood. Things came to a nervy ending when Rockets rookie Kostas Panikolaou made some big free throws to seal a narrow 111-108 Rockets road victory. 

 

— John Wilmes

@johnwilmesNBA

Teaser:
Post date: Wednesday, October 8, 2014 - 14:00
Path: /nfl/8-nfl-teams-desperate-need-great-quarterback
Body:
As good as the Seattle Seahawks defense was last season, they don’t win the Super Bowl without Russell Wilson, who only now is beginning to get the recognition he deserves. And look how Peyton Manning transformed the Denver Broncos, or what Andrew Luck is doing in Indianapolis.
 
Having a top quarterback, a franchise quarterback, is everything for an NFL team. And if you don’t believe that, just look at the teams that don’t have one. Either they have no realistic shot at competing for a championship, or worse – they’re just a mess.
 
At the moment there are at least eight teams in a somewhat desperate need for a quarterback, either now or in the future. Here’s a look at those eight and their current quarterback condition. The good news is many of them will be in contention for a Top 5 draft pick where Oregon’s Marcus Mariota or maybe Florida State’s Jameis Winston could be the answer to their prayers:
 

Buffalo Bills

The benching of E.J. Manuel in his second NFL season in favor of well-travelled vet Kyle Orton is a huge indictment of the former first-round pick. His decidedly mediocre numbers and poor decision making didn’t bode well for a coach (Doug Marrone) who may have to answer soon to a new owner. Manuel wasn’t exactly thought of as a once-in-a-generation QB when he was taken, so nobody would be surprised if the Bills look elsewhere again next season if they can.
 

New York Jets

Owner Woody Johnson just expressed his faith in Geno Smith as a franchise quarterback, but then he went out and missed a team meeting (inexcusable for someone in his position) and played so poorly in San Diego he got benched for Michael Vick. He makes terrible decisions on the field, can’t seem to handle the pressure or the responsibility off it, and is now a huge target of the New York media. A new coach is surely on his way next season. May as well let him rebuild with someone else running his offense.
 

Houston Texans

They are 3-2 behind the 31-year-old Ryan Fitzpatrick and they have two young, somewhat promising quarterbacks sitting behind him in Ryan Mallet and Tom Savage. But both have plenty of question marks and may not be the long-term answer.  The Texans are not winning because of Fitzpatrick who has more interceptions (six) than touchdowns (five). If they had a real quality quarterback they’d probably be 4-1 at least. At some point, coach Bill O’Brien will have to start over with his own guy.
 

Tennessee Titans

If Jake Locker could only stay healthy, maybe he’d look like a franchise quarterback. Then again, maybe not. In his fourth season already he’s put together numbers that would add up to a good, but not exactly great season. Maybe the ability is there, but a franchise can’t be led by a quarterback on the sidelines. Time for the Titans to move on.
 

Washington Redskins

They have maybe the most interesting quarterback situation in the league, with the dangerous and explosive Robert Griffin III constantly getting hurt and Kirk Cousins showing flashes of brilliance, followed by flashes of inconsistency. They’ll obviously have to make a choice between the two, but what about choosing none of them? They could probably trade both for picks and start over with someone that fits Jay Gruden’s system better than either of them do.
 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

To everyone outside the organization, Mike Glennon looks like the future. But inside he sure didn’t seem to win any friends in Lovie Smith’s regime early. Finally they reversed their crazy decision to start Josh McCown at the beginning of the season and Glennon has shown promise. But if the coach doesn’t fully believe in him, can he really succeed?
 

Arizona Cardinals

They’re not desperate for a quarterback there, but obviously Bruce Arians has built a solid team and one that could be well set up for the future. The problem? Carson Palmer will turn 35 in December and Drew Stanton, a limited backup, is 30. Maybe they can squeeze another couple of years out of Palmer, but at some point they need to start planning for future years. They’re probably too good to get a high draft pick, but if they have a chance and have a conviction on a first-rounder, they should pounce.
 

St. Louis Rams

Maybe no franchise quarterback has had worse injury luck than Sam Bradford, who has now suffered back to back ACL tears. Behind him on the depth chart is vet Shaun Hill and undrafted Austin Davis. Though Davis has shown some ability, the Rams are going to get a high pick this year and they’d be wise to take advantage and move on.
 
—By Ralph Vacchiano
Teaser:
Post date: Wednesday, October 8, 2014 - 12:37
Path: /nba/paul-pierce-teaching-washington-wizards-how-talk-trash
Body:

The Washington Wizards broke out of prolonged mediocrity in 2013-14, surprising many with their first-round playoff dismissal of the Chicago Bulls, and subsequent hard-fought loss to the Indiana Pacers. Over the summer, they lost integral wingman Trevor Ariza, but replaced him with a legend: Paul Pierce.

 

The former Boston Celtics star and future Hall of Famer is having an immediate influence on Wizards culture. Asked about his arrival, 21-year-old Washington guard Bradley Beal said, “I think I trash talk a little bit more than I used to. He’s that swagger type of guy that we need.”

 

Fans who watched Pierce’s preseason debut against the Bulls monday night (an 85-81 Wizards win) should hardly be surprised by this rhetoric. Pierce delivered a questionable open-court foul against Jimmy Butler in the game’s early stages, then got into a scuffle with reigning Defensive Player of the Year Joakim Noah. Pierce ended up poking the wily center in the face:

 

This sort of behavior is, as you may have suspected, not exactly common in exhibition games. But Pierce is an elder statesman now, and he appears not to be wasting any time bringing a new, harsher edge to this Wizards squad, a team he thinks can reach the NBA Finals. Pierce recently detailed his thought process before joining the Wizards:

 

“They have one of the best backcourts in basketball. They’re lacking experience, a guy in the locker room and on the court that can help end games. I was like, I probably can fit in. After LeBron said he was going back to Cleveland, the dynamics of the Eastern Conference, with Indiana, I was like, this is a team that could be in the Eastern Conference finals, or possibly the Finals, based on what’s here. And adding me to some of the other veterans they added, I was like, why not?”

 

— John Wilmes

@johnwilmesNBA

Teaser:
Post date: Wednesday, October 8, 2014 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/college-basketball-2014-15-florida-gators-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. 8 Florida has every reason to believe it can pick up where it left off after reaching the Final Four a year ago and three Elite Eights in the three seasons before that. The core of Scottie Wilbekin, Patric Young and Casey Prather are gone, but Billy Donovan has a several players ready to step into starring roles.

 

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

 

Coach Billy Donovan’s Florida Gators reached the Final Four in 2013-14 by winning the old-fashioned way. In a time when one-and-done phenoms command center stage, the Gators won a school-record 30 straight games led by four seniors with a combined 547 games played at UF.

 

Donovan now looks to replace the reigning SEC Player of the Year (point guard Scottie Wilbekin) and SEC Defensive Player of the Year (center Patric Young), along with All-SEC small forward Casey Prather. That trio, plus forward Will Yeguete, accounted for more than half the team’s points, but more important, they anchored a defense that allowed just 57.8 points per game.

 

Still, the future remains bright in Gainesville. 

 

The 2014-15 Gators will be more athletic and explosive than the team that lost to eventual champion UConn in the national semifinals. UF returns one of the nation’s best 3–point shooters, guard Michael Frazier II, ultra-versatile forward Dorian Finney-Smith and two sophomores, point guard Kasey Hill and power forward Chris Walker, who were 2013 McDonald’s All-Americans.

 

With Donovan’s penchant to develop winners, the Gators should challenge for their third straight SEC crown despite the senior losses.

 


No. 8 Florida Gators Facts & Figures

Last season: 36-3, 18-0 SEC

Postseason: NCAA Final Four

Consecutive NCAAs: 5

Coach: Billy Donovan (451-169 at Florida, 195-100 SEC)

SEC Projection: Second

Postseason Projection: NCAA Elite Eight

 


Frontcourt

 

The 6-10, 250-pound Young was three-year starter and a fixture under the basket. But he was prone to lapses of inconsistency and finished his career with just 11 double-doubles in 150 games. The 6-8 Finney-Smith actually led UF in rebounding (6.7 per game) last season coming off the bench. If the 6-10 Walker develops as expected, he will provide a superior shot-blocking presence to Young. Still, Young’s post defense was as good any player in the nation, while his hustle will be impossible to replace.

 

Yeguete was a hard-nosed defender, strong rebounder and garbage man on offense. Michigan transfer Jon Horford, the 6-10 younger brother of Gators legend Al Horford, will look to fill Yeguete’s role.

 

Prather led the team in scoring (13.8 ppg) and the SEC in field goal percentage (.603) with his slashing style. Duke transfer Alex Murphy, who will sit out the first semester unless granted an NCAA waiver, will provide scoring punch as a stretch-4 similar to his brother Erik, an All-SEC player at UF in 2012-13. Freshman Devin Robinson can fill it up, too.

 

The key to the Gators’ inside game will be Walker. A top-10 recruit in the Class of ‘13, Walker initially failed to qualify academically and then served a 12-game NCAA suspension for receiving improper benefits during his AAU career. Walker lacked strength at 212 pounds and a feel for the college game. He averaged 1.9 points, 1.3 rebounds and 4.8 minutes, but he has added 15 pounds this offseason and will be expected to man the middle.

 

Backcourt

 

Wilbekin was playing as well as anyone in the nation until he ran into UConn All-American Shabazz Napier during the Final Four. Wilbekin’s on-the-ball defense, clutch shooting and leadership will be missed.

 

Hill plays a different game, using his blinding speed to create seams on drives to the basket and open shots for teammates. But Hill’s outside shooting and defense have a long way to go. Dynamic freshman Chris Chiozza is undersized but explosive. He is expected to back up Hill.

 

Frazier set a school record with 118 3-pointers but struggles to create his own shot. He vastly improved his defense as a sophomore and likes to mix it up on the glass. Frazier averaged 3.5 rebounds. Gifted freshman Brandone Francis should provide additional scoring once he learns the college game.

 

The Gators’ backcourt will get a major boost if guard Eli Carter returns from a lingering leg injury. Carter averaged 14.3 points during two seasons at Rutgers, but broke his leg late in his sophomore season and sat out last year at UF.

 

Final Analysis

 

It is a credit to Donovan’s coaching and recruiting that the Gators should contend for another SEC title. The losses are huge, but the talent is there for UF to make another deep NCAA Tournament run, too. While last year’s team leaned on its defense, clutch scoring and competitive fire, the ’14-15 Gators should be an up-tempo team that will be entertaining to watch. Whether it can win close games will be the key to the season. Florida was 15–2 last season during games decided by fewer than 10 points.

 

Newcomers

 

Jon Horford, a transfer from Michigan, should provide a physical presence off the bench, while Alex Murphy, a transfer from Duke, will offer scoring punch from the perimeter. Devin Robinson was rated a five-star recruit by some services and will be in the rotation. Brandone Francis is a physical specimen, but remains a bit raw. Chris Chiozza is a playmaker who will spell Kasey Hill.

Teaser:
College Basketball 2014-15: Florida Gators Team Preview
Post date: Wednesday, October 8, 2014 - 07:00
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

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