Articles By David Fox

All taxonomy terms: College Football, News
Path: /college-football/goodbye-dr-lou-holtz-and-espn-part-ways
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ESPN’s Saturday College Football Final will have a new look during the 2015 season.

 

Analyst Lou Holtz and ESPN have parted ways by a “mutual agreement,” SI.com’s Richard Deitsch reported Sunday night. Holtz, the 78-year-old former Notre Dame coach, appeared on much of ESPN’s college football programming, including the Saturday College Football Final and the network’s Thursday night game.

 

In May, Holtz told 247Sports.com that he intended to retire after the 2014 season.

 

Holtz’s departure is the second from the Saturday night recap show. Host Rece Davis will host College GameDay, replacing Chris Fowler. Mark May is the only remaining member of the three-man team on College Football Final.

 

Presumably the Dr. Lou segment, the halftime pep talk and Final Courtroom courtroom arguments are gone from ESPN for good.

 

As a example of what we'll all miss, here’s Holtz going crazy with a cowbell for some reason:

 

Teaser:
Goodbye, Dr. Lou: Holtz and ESPN Part Ways
Post date: Monday, April 13, 2015 - 11:46
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/seven-wildcats-entering-draft-whats-next-kentucky
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Kentucky’s NBA Draft prospects left little room for drama. Seven Wildcats announced — simultaneously — that they’d head for the NBA Draft on Thursday, less than a week after their what would be their final game for Kentucky.

 

At this rate, it’s easier to note who will be back at Kentucky for 2015-16. Let's start with point guard Tyler Ulis, junior forward Marcus Lee and injured senior Alex Poythress.

 

Those three, plus an incomplete recruiting class that already ranks No. 1 in the country, is enough for a competitive team next season. Athlon Sports ranked the Wildcats No. 2 in its early top 25 for 2015-16.

 

The draft announcements were just one domino as John Calipari assembles his roster for 2015-16. Kentucky has three commitments for the 2015 and should add a few more blue chip prospects as recruiting continues into the summer.

 

So how might this shake out for Kentucky next season. First, let’s take a look at the roster how it stands:

 

Projected starters

PG Tyler Ulis, 5-9/155, Soph.

SG Isaiah Briscoe, 6-3/200, Fr.

SF Alex Poythress, 6-8/238, Sr.

PF Marcus Lee, 6-9/220, Jr.

C Skal Labissiere 6-10/200, Fr.

 

Bench

G Charles Matthews, 6-6/172, Fr.

G Dominique Hawkins, 6-0/195, Jr.

F Derek Willis, 6-9/220, Jr.

 

That’s already a solid group that may be the favorite in the SEC. The 5-9 Ulis is not the typical Calipari point guard, both in stature and experience. He’s also mighty efficient. Despite coming off the bench, Ulis ranked 71st nationally in offensive rating on KenPom.com, better than anyone else on Kentucky besides Karl-Anthony Towns. Ulis led Kentucky in assist rate and assist-to-turnover ratio.

 

Poythress played only eight games last season due to a torn ACL. He’s standout defender on the wing who averaged 11.2 points per game as a freshman in 2012-13. Lee hasn’t been able to get regular minutes on Kentucky’s last two teams. He’s a springy forward whose claim to fame is seven offensive rebounds against Michigan in last year’s Elite Eight while Willie Cauley-Stein was injured.

 

Center Skal Labissiere of Memphis is the highlight of the recruiting class, and he’ll fit right into Calipari’s tradition of highly drafted big men. He’ll open the season in the discussion for the No. 1 overall draft pick, but looming NCAA issues could cost him a few games

 

Kentucky, of course, is in on a few major recruits. Here’s quick run down:

 

• Combo guard Malik Newman, a McDonald’s All-American, could play in the off guard role similar to Devin Booker, but he could produce at greater volume without a platoon system at Kentucky next season. He’s also considering Mississippi State, LSU and Kansas. Newman’s father, Horatio Webster, played basketball at Mississippi State.

 

• Forward Jaylen Brown has as many as eight schools on his final list, which he announced Tuesday. He’s the No. 2 prospect in the class behind LSU’s Ben Simmons, according to 247Sports.com.

 

• Power forward Thon Maker is a seven-footer from Toronto looking to reclassify to the 2015 class. His recruitment has been a bit bizarre.

 

• Center Stephen Zimmerman is another McDonald’s All-American big man who is considering Kentucky, UCLA, Arizona, Kansas and UNLV (Zimmerman goes to Las Vegas Bishop Gorman).

Teaser:
Seven Wildcats Entering Draft. What's Next For Kentucky?
Post date: Friday, April 10, 2015 - 11:28
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/ranking-college-basketballs-national-champions-1985
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Not all national champions are created equal, especially in college basketball.

 

With 64 teams — and now 68 — competing for a national title, the odds for a random result in the postseason is almost certain.

 

In some ways, that makes sustained greatness through the course of the season even more impressive. Only one team since the field expanded has gone wire-to-wire as a No. 1 team in the country, far fewer than the number of great teams that didn’t win a title.

 

Thanks to the three weeks of the NCAA Tournament, a handful of teams that won a national title might not end up on a list of the top 40 or 50 teams of the era. Instead, they got hot that the right time, caught the right matchups or got lucky that upsets in the bracket helped clear the way for a title.

 

In ranking the top national champions of the 64-team era, starting in 1985, we attempted to look at the entire picture — chiefly, how the team performed from beginning to end during the season, who each team had to beat in the Tournament and the overall talent on the roster.

 

Check back after Monday’s title game to find where this year’s winner ranks — and if that team is able to claim the No. 1 spot.

 

1. 1992 Duke

Record: 34-2, 14-2 ACC

Championship game: Defeated Michigan 71-51

Coach: Mike Krzyzewski

Duke won the national title a year earlier, vanquishing undefeated UNLV in the Final Four. That was only the beginning. The Blue Devils went wire-to-wire as the No. 1 team in the country, ending the season with a rout of the Fab Five in the championship game. Before that, national player of the year Christian Laettner hit the the greatest shot in NCAA history for the Blue Devils to defeat Kentucky in overtime in the Elite Eight. In the next game, Mike Krzyzewski had to out-duel mentor Bob Knight in an 81-78 win over Indiana in the Final Four.

 

2. 1996 Kentucky

Record: 34-2, 16-0 SEC

Championship game: Defeated Syracuse 76-67

Coach: Rick Pitino

“The Untouchables” outscored opponents by 22 points, and their only regular season losses came to teams that reached the Final Four. Kentucky atoned for one of those losses by defeating UMass, national player of the year Marcus Camby and coach John Calipari in the national semifinal. Led by Tony Delk, Ron Mercer and Antoine Walker, Kentucky finished off Syracuse in the title game for the Wildcats’ first national title since 1978.

 

3. 2001 Duke

Record: 35-4, 13-3 ACC

Championship game: Defeated Arizona 82-72

Coach: Mike Krzyzewski

The Blue Devils featured two national players of the year in Shane Battier and Jay Williams, who won the award a year earlier. Duke spent the entire season in the top five but needed the biggest comeback in Final Four history to that point to advance to the title game. Duke trailed Maryland by 22 in the first half before rallying for a 95-84 win to face Glibert Arenas and Richard Jefferson for Arizona in the title game.

 

4. 2012 Kentucky

Record: 38-2, 16-0 SEC

Championship game: Defeated Kansas 67-59 

Coach: John Calipari

Perhaps the Kentucky team with John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins and Eric Bledsoe a year earlier was more talented, but this squad was pretty darn close. Anthony Davis won pretty much every award in the sport before being the No. 1 overall draft pick. Despite the two losses, Kentucky defeated every team it faced — the Wildcats lost in the SEC tournament to Vanderbilt, a team it had defeated twice during the regular season, and then atoned for its one-point loss to Indiana in December with a 102-90 win over the Hoosiers in the Sweet 16. Teammates Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist were the top two picks in the following NBA draft.

 

5. 2009 North Carolina

Record: 34-4, 13-3 ACC

Championship game: Defeated Michigan State 89-72

Coach: Roy Williams

Led by national player of the year Tyler Hansbrough, Ty Lawson and Wayne Ellington, North Carolina was a dominant team for most of the season but especially in the postseason. The Heels’ 72-60 win over Blake Griffin and Oklahoma was their closest game in the NCAA Tournament.

 

6. 1990 UNLV

Record: 35-5, 16-2 Big West

Championship game: Defeated Duke 103-73

Coach: Jerry Tarkanian

The 1991 team that went to the Final Four with a 34-0 record was the better UNLV team of the two during this stretch, but the 1990 squad won the national title behind the play of Larry Johnson, Stacey Augmon and Greg Anthony. The Rebels stunned Duke 103-73, setting the stage for the Blue Devils’ win over UNLV the following year in the Final Four.

 

7. 2005 North Carolina

Record: 33-4, 14-2 ACC

Championship game: Defeated Illinois 75-70

Coach: Roy Williams

North Carolina’s first championship team since 1993 and Roy Williams’ first title-winning team spent most of the season in the shadow of 37-2 Illinois. The Tar Heels settled that once and for all with a 75-70 win over the Illini in the national title game. In the following NBA draft, four Tar Heels (Marvin Williams, Raymond Felton, Sean May and Rashad McCants) were lottery picks.

 

8. 2008 Kansas

Record: 37-3, 13-3 Big 12

Championship game: Defeated Memphis 75-68 (OT)

Coach: Bill Self

Kansas’ first championship team in 20 years wasn’t quite a sure thing, even though the Jayhawks spent all but one week of the season ranked in the top five. To reach a Final Four that included all No. 1 seeds, Kansas had to survive Stephen Curry-led Davidson with a 59-57 win in the Elite Eight and then needed a Mario Chalmers miracle shot and missed free throws from Memphis to clinch the title.

 

9. 1999 UConn

Record: 34-2, 16-2 Big East

Championship game: Defeated Duke 77-74 

Coach: Jim Calhoun

After knocking on the door several times, UConn won the national title in its first trip to the Final Four. Led by Rip Hamilton and Khalid El-Amin, the Huskies spent the entire season ranked in the top four before defeating Elton Brand, Shane Battier and Duke in the national title game.

 

10. 2004 UConn

Record: 33-6, 12-4 Big East

Championship game: Defeated Georgia Tech 82-73

Coach: Jim Calhoun

Calhoun’s second national title team was loaded with NBA Draft picks. Emeka Okafor and Ben Gordon were selected second and third overall, respectively, in the 2004 draft, and Charlie Villanueva followed as a first-round pick in the 2005 draft. Josh Boone and Marcus Williams, late first-rounders in 2006, were both freshmen on this team.

 

11. 1987 Indiana

Record: 30-4, 15-3 Big Ten

Championship game: Defeated Syracuse 74-73

Coach: Bob Knight

The first season with the 3-point shot was indeed a game-changer as this Final Four was marked more by run Rick Pitino’s Providence team made to the national semifinal. Knight’s team, led by Steve Alford, showed plenty of ability to adjust, defeating UNLV 97-93 in the semifinals and Syracuse 74-73 in the title game.

 

12. 2015 Duke

Record: 35-4, 15-3

Championship game: Defeated Wisconsin 68-63

Coach: Mike Krzyzewski

This Duke team will be remembered for what it accomplished for Krzyzewski — his fifth national title and his 1,000th career win, among other records broken this season. It was also one of his most unique teams, starting three freshmen and playing zone from time to time. The Blue Devils spent all season in the top five and lost twice after Jan. 13, both to the same Notre Dame team that took Kentucky to the wire in the Elite Eight. All-American Jahlil Okafor and Justise Winslow could be top-five picks, and Tyus Jones could be a first-rounder.

 

13. 1991 Duke

Record: 32-7, 11-3 ACC

Championship game: Defeated Kansas 72-65

Coach: Mike Krzyzewski

The Blue Devils made up for a 30-point loss to UNLV in the title game a year earlier by spoiling UNLV’s undefeated season in the Final Four. Though this was a team amid a run of five Final Fours and on the front end of back-to-back titles, this Duke team spent most of 1990-91 chasing UNLV, Ohio State, Arkansas and Indiana in the rankings.

 

14. 2007 Florida

Record: 35-5, 13-3 SEC

Championship game: Defeated Ohio State 84-75

Coach: Billy Donovan

The second of Florida’s back-to-back champions had the tougher mountain to climb, not just because the Gators were the preseason No. 1. This Florida team needed to defeat Aaron Brooks-led Oregon in the Elite Eight, UCLA in the Final Four and then a Greg Oden/Mike Conley Ohio State team in the championship game.

 

15. 1994 Arkansas

Record: 31-3, 14-2 SEC

Championship game: Defeated Duke 76-72

Coach: Nolan Richardson

Arkansas and the 40 Minutes of Hell won the first title for the SEC since 1978, going through Michigan (with four of the Fab Five still remaining), Arizona and Duke (led by Grant Hill).

 

16. 1993 North Carolina

Record: 34-3, 14-2 ACC

Championship game: Defeated Michigan 77-71

Coach: Dean Smith

Smith’s final national championship run had to go through four coaches who would finish their careers with national titles or Hall of Fame inclusion or both: Nolan Richardson, Bob Huggins, Roy Williams and Steve Fisher. The title game would end on Chris Webber’s infamous timeout blunder.

 

17. 2002 Maryland

Record: 32-4, 15-1 ACC

Championship game: Defeated Indiana 64-52

Coach: Gary Williams

This might not be the most memorable national champion for a handful of reasons. Juan Dixon lost out on national player of the year to Duke’s Jay Williams, and the team had few other prominent players (Steve Blake ended up as this team’s best pro). The Terrapins lost only one ACC game (at Duke) during the regular season before defeating Kentucky, UConn, Kansas and Indiana in the Tournament.

 

18. 1995 UCLA

Record: 31-2, 16-2 Pac-12

Championship game: Defeated Arkansas 89-78

Coach: Jim Harrick

UCLA’s championship team and the only Bruins title team not coached by John Wooden was saved in the second round by a layup from Tyus Edney for a come-from-behind win over Missouri.

 

19. 2013 Louisville

Record: 35-5, 14-4 Big East

Championship game: Defeated Michigan 82-76

Coach: Rick Pitino

The 2013 Cardinals were the rare national champion to endure a three-game losing streak at some point during its championship season (to Syracuse, Villanova and Georgetown in January). The Cards also faced only one top-three seed (No. 2 Duke in the Elite Eight) in its Tourney run.

 

20. 1998 Kentucky 

Record: 35-4, 14-2 SEC

Championship game: Defeated Utah 78-69

Coach: Tubby Smith

For Kentucky’s second title in three seasons, the Wildcats needed to overcome double-digit deficits in each of their final three games. 

 

21. 2010 Duke

Record: 35-5, 13-3 ACC

Championship game: Defeated Butler 61-59

Coach: Mike Krzyzewski

Duke has had better championships teams and better teams that didn’t win a title. That said, Jon Scheyer, Nolan Smith and Kyle Singler gave us a classic title game that was also one of the sport’s great what-if moments when Gordon Hayward’s final shot attempt fell short.

 

22. 1989 Michigan

Record: 30-7, 12-6 Big Ten

Championship game: Defeated Seton Hall 80-79

Coach: Steve Fisher

One of the truly bizarre national championship runs in the history of the sport. Michigan was a preseason top-three team and then went through a 5-5 stretch in the conference season. All of that was before athletic director Bo Schembechler replaced coach Bill Frieder, who had accepted the job at Arizona State, with Steve Fisher for the NCAA Tournament.

 

23. 2003 Syracuse

Record: 30-5, 13-3 Big East

Championship game: Defeated Kansas 81-78

Coach: Jim Boeheim

One may ask why a Syracuse team led by Carmelo Anthony, Hakim Warrick and Gerry McNamara is this low. Before the Tournament, this was was not one of Boeheim’s best teams. Those three great players lost to Rutgers in January and spent the first two months of the season unranked.

 

24. 1997 Arizona

Record: 25-9, 11-7 Pac-10

Championship game: Defeated Kentucky 84-79 (OT)

Coach: Lute Olson

Even with Mike Bibby and Michael Dickerson, Arizona didn’t have many guarantees entering the 1997 Tournament. They lost seven conference games during the regular season but defeated three No. 1 seeds and a handful of future pros on the way to the title — Kansas (with Paul Piece and Raef LaFrentz), North Carolina (with Vince Carter and Antawn Jamison) and Kentucky (with Scott Padgett, Ron Mercer and Nazr Mohammed)

 

25. 2000 Michigan State

Record: 32-7, 13-3 Big Ten

Championship game: Defeated Florida 89-76

Coach: Tom Izzo

This was the high point of Izzo’s magic touch in March. The Spartans won the Big Ten and earned a No. 1 seed, but they were hardly a dominant team all season. They also had a draw that included a No. 8 seed and a No. 5 in the Final Four.

 

26. 2006 Florida

Record: 33-6, 10-6 SEC

Championship game: Defeated UCLA 73-57

Coach: Billy Donovan

Between his first Final Four and his first national title, Donovan was snakebit for several years in the first weekend of the Tournament. This run from a team that lost six games in the SEC was a major surprise.

 

27. 1988 Kansas

Record: 27-11, 9-5 Big 8

Championship game: Defeated Oklahoma 83-79

Coach: Larry Brown

How can a team coached by a Hall of Famer and led by a national player of the year, Danny Manning, be this low? Danny and the Miracles were 18-11 and unranked entering the NCAA Tournament.

 

28. 1986 Louisville

Record: 32-7, 10-2 Metro

Championship game: Defeated Duke 72-69

Coach: Denny Crum

A great nickname (“Never Nervous” Pervis Ellison) and an upset of Duke in the title game made this Tournament run memorable. Otherwise, Louisville spent only three weeks of the season ranked in the top 10.

 

29. 2011 UConn

Record: 32-9, 9-9 Big East

Championship game: Defeated Butler 53-41

Coach: Jim Calhoun

The Big East was loaded in 2010-11, so that .500 league record has to be taken in context. Still, UConn went 4-7 in its last 11 games before the Big East Tournament. Kemba Walker caught fire in the postseason before a dud of a national title game against Butler.

 

30. 2014 UConn

Record: 32-8, 12-6 American

Championship game: Defeated Kentucky 60-54

Coach: Kevin Ollie

A pedestrian regular season became special when Shabazz Napier led UConn to wins over No. 2 Villanova, No. 3 Iowa State, No. 4 Michigan State, No. 1 Florida and No. 8 Kentucky. The latter was the last time the Wildcats lost a game.

 

31. 1985 Villanova

Record: 25-10, 9-7 Big East

Championship game: Defeated Georgetown 66-64

Coach: Rollie Massimino

A Big East team winning a title wasn’t a surprise in a year when Georgetown and St. John’s spent time as the No. 1 team in the rankings. Villanova, led by top-10 draft pick Ed Pinckney, remains the lowest-seeded team to win the national championship (eighth).

Teaser:
Ranking College Basketball's National Champions since 1985
Post date: Tuesday, April 7, 2015 - 10:00
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/very-early-college-basketball-top-25-2015-16
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A champion has been crowned in college basketball, and while the shining moment will continue in Durham, the rest of the sport is starting to look to 2015-16.

 

Some programs are under more pressure than others in the coming days and weeks. Underclassmen will start to consider the NBA Draft, recruits will commit,  and transfers will come and go.

 

We don’t have the most clear picture yet of what the start of 2015-16 will look like, but we’re nevertheless curious.

 

Here’s our first look at the top 25 for 2015-16, a list that’s certain to change based on the draft, recruiting or more time for thought on our part about the year ahead.

 

*indicates underclassmen who haven’t declared for the draft, but are still projected to be high first-round draft picks.

 

1. North Carolina (26-12, 11-7 ACC)

Returnees: G Marcus Paige, F Brice Johnson, F Kennedy Meeks, F Justin Jackson, J.P. Tokoto, F Isaiah Hicks, G Nate Britt, G Joel Berry

Outlook: The Tar Heels’ roster returns virtually intact with each of the top 10 scorers returning to Chapel Hill. After years of roster turnover and un-North Carolina-like results in the ACC, the fortunes should be ready to turn. Paige will be a National Player of the Year candidate and the cast around him continues to improve.

 

2. Kentucky (38-1, 18-0 SEC)

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

Returnees: G Tyler Ulis, F Alex Poythress, C Dakari Johnson, F Marcus Lee

New arrivals: C Skal Labissiere, G Isaiah Briscoe, G Charles Matthews

Outlook: Expectations may be tempered after the last two seasons, especially if everyone who could leave for the NBA Draft does. Ulis is a playmaker, and at 5-foot-9, he’s not going pro. As usual, Kentucky adds the No. 1 recruiting class, though this one includes “merely” two top-20 recruits in Labissiere and Briscoe so far. Kentucky is still in on as many as five top-10 recruits who are likely waiting to see who goes to the draft for the Wildcats or other teams.

 

3. Virginia (30-4, 16-2 ACC)

Losses: F Darion Atkins

Returnees: G Malcolm Brogdon, G Justin Anderson, F Anthony Gill, C Mike Tobey, G London Perrantes

Outlook: The Cavaliers will be loaded with seniors after back-to-back ACC regular season titles. The biggest question will be if Anderson takes a look at the NBA Draft. Virginia lost three of its last five (albeit to teams that made the Sweet 16 or better in Louisville, North Carolina and Michigan State), but the Cavs should continue to be contenders.

 

4. Duke (35-4, 15-3 ACC)

Losses: G Quinn Cook, C Jahlil Okafor*, F Justise Winslow*

Returnees: G Tyus Jones, F Amile Jefferson, G Matt Jones, G Grayson Allen

New arrivals: F Chase Jeter, G Luke Kennard, F Sean Obi

Outlook: The biggest decision will be that of point guard Tyus Jones, who may be a late first-rounder. If he returns, Duke will be among the national elite. As usual, Duke has talent waiting in the wings and arriving to the program. Obi is a Rice transfer who will be a key big man after averaging 11.4 points and 9.3 rebounds last season.

 

5. Maryland (28-7, 14-4 Big Ten)

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

Returnees: G Melo Trimble, F Jake Layman, G Jared Nickens, G Dion Wiley

New arrivals: C Diamond Stone, F Robert Carter jr.

Outlook: Maryland was one of the biggest surprises in 2014-15, finishing second in the Big Ten. Next season will bring legitimate expectations. That’s because standout freshmen Melo Trimble and Jake Layman will be sophomores and because landing the top-10 prospect Stone was a major coup for Mark Turgeon. Forward Robert Carter Jr. also will be eligible after averaging 11.4 points per game and 8.4 rebounds at Georgia Tech in 2013-14.

 

6. Michigan State (27-12, 12-6 Big Ten)

Losses: G Travis Trice, F Branden Dawson

Returnees: G Denzel Valentine, G Bryn Forbes, F Matt Costello, F Gavin Schilling, F Marvin Clark Jr., G Lourawls “Tum Tum” Nairn Jr.

New arrivals: G Eron Harris

Outlook: Michigan State will miss Trice’s scoring punch and Dawson’s rebounding. Harris, who averaged 17.2 points per game for West Virginia in 2013-14, will help the former. Tum Tum Nairn will hold down the point guard spot and take over leadership of the team as just a sophomore. 

 

7. Kansas (27-9, 13-5 Big 12)

Losses: G Kelly Oubre

Returnees: F Perry Ellis, G Frank Mason, F Cliff Alexander, G Wayne Selden, G Brannen Greene, F Jamari Traylor, F Landen Lucas, G Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk

New arrivals: F Carlton Bragg

Outlook: Kansas’ prospects depend quite a bit on potential NBA Draft departures, most notably the decision of Ellis. Even if the superstars are gone, are you going to be against Bill Self in the Big 12? Kansas is still on a couple of top 10 recruits for next year’s class.

 

8. Iowa State (25-9, 12-6 Big 12)

Losses: G Bryce Dejean-Jones, F Dustin Hogue

Returnees: F Georges Niang, G Monte Morris, F Jameel McKay, F Abdel Nader

New arrivals: G Hallice Cooke, G Deonte Burton

Outlook: The Cyclones are in good hands with Niang and Morris still on board. As usual, transfers — Cooke from Oregon State, and Burton, a point guard from Marquette — will round things out.

 

9. Gonzaga (35-3, 17-1 West Coast)

Losses: G Kevin Pangos, G Byron Wesley, G Gary Bell Jr.

Returnees: F Kyle Wiltjer, C Przemek Karnowski, F Domantas Sabonis, G Kyle Dranginis, G Eric McClellan

Outlook: Replacing Pangos at point guard will be no small issue. Otherwise, this is a team built for another run. The replacements include a handful of players who saw few if any minutes last season — McClellan (who was dismissed from Vanderbilt before landing at Gonzaga), Josh Perkins (who missed all but five games with a broken jaw) or redshirt Bryan Alberts.

 

10. Notre Dame (32-6, 14-4 ACC)

Losses: G Jerian Grant, G Pat Connaughton

Returnees: F Zach Auguste, G Demetrius Jackson, G Steve Vasturia, F Bonzie Colson

Outlook: The departures of Grant and Connaughton probably mean Notre Dame won’t come within a hair of the Final Four again, but there are plenty of pieces for Notre Dame to make noise in the ACC. Colson is a future star.

 

11. NC State (22-14, 10-8 ACC)

Losses: G Ralston Turner

Returnees: G Trevor Lacey, G Cat Barber, F Kyle Washington, F Abdul-Malik Abu, F Caleb Martin, F Beejay Anya

Outlook: Perhaps another year of Lacey and Barber and the rest of them playing together will help NC State hit its ceiling more often. That will be the expectation.

 

12. Wisconsin (36-4, 16-2 Big Ten)

Losses: F Frank Kaminsky, F Sam Dekker*, G Traevon Jackson, G Josh Gasser, F Duje Dukan

Returnees: F Nigel Hayes, G Bronson Koenig, G Zak Showalter

New arrivals: G Brevin Pritzl

Outlook: Hayes’ decision regarding the NBA Draft will be closely watched. His return means Wisconsin will remain in the Big Ten race. The Badgers lose a ton of experience from this year’s Final Four team, but rest assured Bo Ryan has something up his sleeve.

 

13. Indiana (20-14, 9-9 Big Ten)

Returnees: G Yogi Ferrell, G James Blackmon Jr., F Troy Williams, G Robert Johnson, G Nick Zeisloft, F Hanner Mosquera-Perea

New arrivals: F Thomas Bryant, F Juwan Morgan

Outlook: Tom Crean could be well-positioned to return to the good graces of Indiana fans next season. Nearly everyone is back, and the frontcourt will get some desperately needed help from the 6-10 Bryant, a McDonald’s All-American who committed to IU last week.

 

14. Arizona (34-4, 16-2 Pac-12)

Losses: F Stanley Johnson*, G T.J. McConnell, F Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, F Brandon Ashley

Returnees: C Kaleb Tarczewski, G Gabe York

New arrivals: F Ryan Anderson, G Allonzo Trier, F Ray Smith, G Justin Simon, C Chance Comanche

Outlook: McConnell and Hollis-Jefferson are big losses as would be Johnson when he makes it official. Sean Miller continues to reload with 247Sports’ No. 2 recruiting class featuring four top-50 prospects and Anderson from Boston College (14.3 ppg, 7.3 rpg in 2013-14). 

 

15. Villanova (33-3, 16-2 Big East)

Losses: G Darrun Hilliard, F JayVaughn Pinkston, G Dylan Ennis

Returnees: G Josh Hart, G Ryan Arcidiacono, F Daniel Ochefu

New arrivals: G Jalen Brunson

Outlook: Hilliard was the closest thing Villanova had to a star player last season, but this was a balanced team with six guys averaging nine or more points per game. Losing Ennis, a graduate transfer, hurts. Nova adds the five-star point guard Brunson to a team that will already have a senior point guard in Arcidiacono.

 

16. Oklahoma (24-11, 12-6 Big 12)

Losses: F TaShawn Thomas

Returnees: G Buddy Hield, G Isaiah Cousins, F Ryan Spangler, G Jordan Woodward

Outlook: The Sooners’ prospects hinge on whether or not Hield returns. If he’s back, Oklahoma is a senior-laden squad capable of challenging for a Big 12 title. If not, Oklahoma may be a fringe NCAA team.

 

17. Wichita State (30-5, 17-1 Missouri Valley)

Losses: F Darius Carter, G Tekele Cotton

Returnees: G Fred VanVleet, G Ron Baker, F Shaquille Morris, G Evan Wessel

Outlook: Wichita State already survived a tense moment when Alabama courted Gregg Marshall. Now, the Shockers will wait out Baker’s decision on the NBA Draft. If he returns, the Shockers can’t be dismissed as long as VanVleet and Baker are in the backcourt.

 

18. Utah (26-9, 13-5 Pac-12)

Losses: G Delon Wright

Returnees: G Brandon Taylor, G Jordan Loverage, F Jakob Poeltl, G Dakari Tucker, F Brekkott Chapman

Outlook: Wright could have the biggest impact of any single departure in the country. He’s a lockdown defender and an efficient point guard, two things not easily replaced. The return of big man Poeltl is critical for Utah’s hopes to contend in the Pac-12.

 

19. SMU (27-7, 15-3 American)

Losses: C Yanick Moreira

Returnees: G Nic Moore, F Markus Kennedy, F Ben Moore

New arrivals: G Shake Milton

Outlook: SMU has been knocking on the door of postseason relevance for two seasons. First came a snub to the 2014 NCAA Tournament and then the questionable goaltending call in a loss to UCLA in the round of 64. Moreira is a substantial loss, but SMU returns enough to contend for another AAC title.

 

20. LSU (27-11, 11-7 SEC)

Losses: F Jarell Martin, F Jordan Mickey

Returnees: G Keith Hornsby, G Tim Quarterman, G Josh Gray, G Jalyn Patterson

New arrivals: F Ben Simmons, G Antonio Blakeney

Outlook: LSU underachieved in the Martin/Mickey era, reaching one NCAA Tournament and losing in a second-half collapse to NC State. The Tigers will be expected to contend in the SEC next season after adding Simmons, the top prospect in the 247Sports rankings. Blakeney is also a five-star prospect. LSU’s supporting cast of Hornsby, Quarterman and Patterson is solid.

 

21. Vanderbilt (21-14, 9-9 SEC)

Losses: F James Siakam

Returnees: C Damian Jones, G Riley LaChance, G Wade Baldwin IV, F Luke Kornet, G Matthew Fisher-Davis, F Jeff Roberson, F Shelton Mitchell

New arrivals: G Nolan Cressler

Outlook: The Commodores were an awfully young team last season and improved as the year went along. Jones’ decision to stay in school was huge. The one major departure is made up for by the arrival of Cressler, who averaged 16.8 points per game as a sophomore at Cornell.

 

22. Butler (23-11, 12-6 Big East)

Losses: G Alex Barlow, F Kameron Woods

Returnees: G Kellen Dunham, F Roosevelt Jones, F Andrew Charbascz

New arrivals: G Tyler Lewis

Outlook: Dunham and Jones will be seniors, and 5-11 NC State transfer Lewis should take over the point guard spot. More important, Butler locked up coach Chris Holtmann with a contract extension. The gap between Butler and Villanova in the Big East is narrowing.

 

23. Louisville (27-9, 13-6 ACC)

Losses: G Terry Rozier, F Montrezl Harrell, Wayne Blackshear

Returnees: G Quentin Snider, F Chinanu Onuaku, F Mangok Mathiang, G Anton Gill

New arrivals: F Raymond Spalding, G Donovan Mitchell, F Deng Adel

Outlook: Rick Pitino will have his youngest team in quite some time, losing each of his top three scorers (four, if you count Chris Jones) and every player who averaged at least 20 minutes per game. The three-man freshman class is ranked fourth on 247Sports.com

 

24. Texas (20-14, 8-10 Big 12)

Losses: F Jonathan Holmes, F Myles Turner

Returnees: G Isaiah Turner, G Javan Felix, C Cameron Ridley, G Demarcus Holland

New arrivals: G Eric Davis, G Kerwin Roach, C Shaquille Cleare

Outlook: How much of a difference can first-year coach Shaka Smart make? Many of the same pieces of a team that was picked to challenge for the Big 12 title last season will return. Adding two four-star freshmen in Davis and Roach and Maryland transfer Cleare means the pieces are in place for Texas to contend for an NCAA spot or more.

 

25. Michigan (16-16, 8-10 Big Ten)

Returnees: G Caris LeVert, G Zak Irwin, G Derrick Walton, G Spike Albrecht, G Aubrey Dawkins 

Outlook: Michigan was a preseason top 25 team before everything went wrong, chiefly an injury to star Caris LeVert. Before falling to .500, Michigan reached an Elite Eight and a national championship game. Let’s give John Beilein another chance at this.

 

Others of Note

 

Arkansas (27-9, 13-5 SEC)

Losses: G Rashad Madden, F Alandise Harris

Returnees: F Bobby Portis, G Michael Qualls, G Anthlon Bell

New arrivals: G Dusty Hannahs, F Ted Kapita

Outlook: If Portis returns, Arkansas will contend for the SEC title. If not, Arkansas slides to the middle of the pack.

 

Baylor (24-10, 11-7 Big 12)

Losses: G Kenny Chery, F Royce O’Neale

Returnees: F Taurean Prince, F Rico Gathers, F Johnathan Motley

Outlook: Not much was expected out of Baylor last season, but they made a nice run before losing to Georgia State in the NCAA Tournament. The Bears need to find a replacement for Chery at point guard to go with that solid front line.

 

Cincinnati (23-11, 13-5 American)

Returnees: F Octavius Ellis, G Troy Caupain, G Farad Cobb, F Gary Clark, G Kevin Johnson, F Shaquille Thomas

Outlook: Cincinnati’s roster returns essentially intact, but the Bearcats hope to have coach Mick Cronin for the season after he missed most of 2015 with a medical issue.

 

Florida State (17-16, 8-10 ACC)

Returnees: G Xavier Rathan-Mayes, G Brandon Montay, G Devon Bookert, G Phil Cofer

New arrivals: G Dwayne Bacon, G Malik Beasley

Outlook: A pick for a sleeper? Florida State returns nearly everybody to a mediocre team and adds two top-25 prospects at guard. 

 

Oregon (26-10, 13-5 Pac-12)

Losses: G Joseph Young, G Jalil Abdul-Bassit

Returnees: F Elgin Cook, F Dillon Brooks, F Dwayne Benjamin, F Jordan Bell

New arrivals: G Tyler Dorsey

Outlook: The Ducks will need to find someone to replace the scoring that Young provided the last two seasons, but the Ducks got major contributions from last year’s freshman class. Oregon adds a top-30 point guard in a class with three top-100 freshmen

 

Purdue (21-13, 12-6 Big Ten)

Losses: G Jon Octeus

Returnees: C A.J. Hammons, G Rapheal Davis, F Vince Edwards, G Kendall Stephens, C Isaac Haas, G Dakota Mathias

Outlook: The seven-footer Hammons could enter the draft. If he returns, the Boiler makers lose only one of their top seven scorers.

 

Texas A&M (21-12, 11-7 SEC)

Losses: F Kourtney Roberson, G Jordan Green

Returnees: G Danuel House, G Jalen Jones, G Alex Caruso,

New arrivals: C Tyler Davis, F D.J. Hogg

Outlook: The Aggies were NIT bound after a disastrous SEC Tournament, but they were on the fringe for most of the season. They hope a standout recruiting class puts them over the top.

 

West Virginia (25-10, 11-7 Big 12)

Losses: G Juwan Staten

Returnees: F Devin Williams, F Jonathan Holton, G Jevon Carter, G Daxter Miles Jr.

Outlook: The Mountaineers, who are still smarting from a 39-point loss in the Sweet 16 to Kentucky, will have to replace the point guard Staten, but they return nearly every other key player from a surprise team in 2014-15.

Teaser:
A Very Early College Basketball Top 25 for 2015-16
Post date: Tuesday, April 7, 2015 - 07:00
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/wisconsin-coach-bo-ryan-criticizes-officiating-national-championship-game
Body:

In a postgame interview with CBS, Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan was critical of the officiating in his team's national championship game loss to Duke.

 

In comments to CBS’ Tracy Wolfson, Ryan said the game had more body contact than in any game Wisconsin played all year.

 

The statistics, at least, were at odds with Wisconsin’s foul numbers all season as Duke went 16-of-20 from the free throw line, including 12-of-16 in the second half alone. Entering game, Wisconsin gave up the fewest free throws per field goal attempt in the country.

 

Here are Ryan’s comments to Wolfson after the game:

 

“It was just a situation were you just have to be able to handle all the hands and the checking and all the body contact. There was more body contact in this game than in any game we played all year. And I just feel sorry for my guys that all of the sudden a game was like that. They’re struggling with that a little bit. We missed some opportunities and they hit some tough shots. It’s just a shame that it had to be played that way. ...

 

“You look at our offensive efficiency and that says a lot about a group of people who are willing to share the ball and I think we set the record for offensive efficiency. It might not look that way our last 10 possessions there tonight. There might have been some reasons for that. I’m proud of them that way. We led the Big Ten in defense, fewest turnovers, fewest fouls — until tonight.”

Teaser:
Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan Criticizes Officiating in National Championship Game
Post date: Tuesday, April 7, 2015 - 00:38
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/national-championship-rapid-reaction-duke-68-wisconsin-63
Body:

Duke has needed to answer in tight spots before, but no pressure situation this season was quite like this.

 

The answer was, again, the same. Let Tyus Jones take over. In a rare Duke year ruled by freshmen, the rookies led the way for the Blue Devils’ 68-63 national championship victory.

 

Duke trailed by as many as nine in the second half and didn’t take a second-half lead until the final 5:32. In a game contested between veterans and young players, Duke's freshman stars — some expected and unexpected — carried the load, scoring 60 of 68 points against Wisconsin for Mike Krzyzewski's fifth national championship.

 

MVP: Tyus Jones

With Jahlil Okafor and Justise Winslow in and out of the game with foul trouble, Jones came up with the big shots like he did in some of Duke's biggest games this season. Jones finished with 23 points, including the dagger with 1:24 to go. Jones had 19 points in the second half alone, including 2-of-3 from 3 and 7-of-7 from the free throw line.

 

Defining Moment

Duke led merely 61-58 at the 3:22 mark, notable in part because Jahlil Okafor was on the bench for meaningful stretches due to foul trouble. Duke put Okafor back into the game at this point and he responded with two field goals and an offensive rebound. 

 

Unsung Hero: Amile Jefferson

Jefferson had only two points, but his defense on Wisconsin’s frontcourt was key. Frank Kaminsky had 21 points, but he went 5-of-12 from 2-point range.

 

Key Stat: 16-6

Duke’s scoring margin from the free throw line. Fouls caught Wisconsin by surprise on both ends of the court. Wisconsin gave up an average of 11 free throws per game entering Monday night. Duke went to the line 20 times. Conversely, Wisconsin averaged 19.4 free throws per game and went 6-of-10 against Duke.

 

Needed More From:

Sam Dekker had a rough night from the field. He got the putbacks off Wisconsin’s offensive rebounds, but his hot shooting cooled. Dekker went 0-of-6 from the 3-point line.

 

Already excited for 2015-16: 

Duke is certain to lose several players to the NBA Draft — Jahlil Okafor, Justise Winslow and Tyus Jones potentially among them — plus Quinn Cook. Guard Grayson Allen gave the Blue Devils a flash of the future as he scored 16 points on 5-of-8 shooting. He averaged fewer than nine minutes per game entering Monday, but he’s hardly a flash in the pan. Allen was a McDonald’s All-American as a recruit and will take on a major role next season.

Teaser:
Post date: Tuesday, April 7, 2015 - 00:11
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/top-10-players-2015-national-championship-game
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How much Duke and Wisconsin can glean from their matchup in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge back in December may be negligible.

 

Some tendencies and stylistic traits may be similar, but consider the personnel. In that meeting in Madison — an 80-70 Duke win — two of the top scorers in the game may not be impact players in Monday night’s national championship game.

 

Duke’s Rasheed Sulaimon certainly won’t be. He scored 14 points against Wisconsin earlier this season but was dismissed from the team in January. Wisconsin’s Traevon Jackson scored a game-high 25 points. He missed more than two months with a foot injury and has played only 28 minutes in the NCAA Tournament.

 

Meanwhile, Justise Winslow and Sam Dekker scored five points apiece in that meeting, and now they’ll be two of the best players on the court Monday night.

 

Who are the best of the best? We’ll try to take a look, obviously tilting toward each player's college production and performance in this NCAA Tournament.

 

1. Frank Kaminsky, Wisconsin

The National Player of the Year contender is coming off a 29-point performance against Arizona and a 20-point performancea gainst Kentucky. He scored 17 points on Duke back in December.

 

2. Jahlil Okafor, Duke

Okafor had his most ineffective two-game stretch of the season in the regional against Utah and Gonzaga but bounced back with 18 points against Michigan State in teh Final Four. Okafor has spent most of the season as the presumptive No. 1 overall draft pick with good reason. His matchup with Kaminsky in the title game will be a classic.

 

3. Justise Winslow, Duke

Winslow has spent most of the season splitting headlines with Jahlil Okafor and Tyus Jones. In the NCAA Tournament, though, Winslow has been Duke’s best player in the regional. Winslow is averaging 15 points, 9.4 rebounds, 3.0 assists and better than 1.4 steals and blocks per game in the last five games.

 

4. Sam Dekker, Wisconsin

The junior had the best games of his career in the West regional against North Carolina and Arizona, twice setting career highs with 23 and 24 points. He had only six career 20-point games entering this Tournament, but he’s averaging 20.6 points in the last five games.

 

5. Tyus Jones, Duke

Jones has been the playmaker in the Tournament he was all season. He’s averaging 11 points and 5.2 assists in the last five games, while playing his most efficient basketball all of the year (3.7 assists per turnover).

 

6. Quinn Cook, Duke

The emotional and senior leader for Duke, Cook is averaging a career-high (by far) 15.6 points per game this season.

 

7. Nigel Hayes, Wisconsin

The 6-foot-7 sophomore is a solid No. 3 scorer for the Badgers (12.2 ppg in the Tournament) and No. 1 for stenographers and lady reporters.

 

8. Bronson Koenig, Wisconsin

Koenig averaged 11.6 points per game after starting point guard Traevon Jackson was hurt in January. He averaged 4.9 points per game before then.

 

9. Josh Gasser, Wisconsin

Gasser has scored in double figures once since Feb. 3, but he’s a glue guy who gives the Badgers a little bit of everything.

 

10. Matt Jones, Duke

Jones has moved into the starting lineup after the dismissal of Rasheed Sulaimon. He’s a complementary player, but he’s proven he can hit the big 3 when necessary (4-of-7 from 3 against Gonzaga).

Teaser:
The Top 10 Players in the 2015 National Championship Game
Post date: Monday, April 6, 2015 - 11:52
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/kentucky-fans-are-taking-saturdays-loss-pretty-hard
Body:

Every NCAA Tournament loss stings.

 

When the loss marks the end of an attempt to go 40-0 and that team is Kentucky, well, the final defeat stings more than most.

 

Kentucky guard Andrew Harrison had to apologize after his choice remarks were caught on a hot mic. This fan, however, probably speaks for all of Big Blue Nation:

 

 

 

Other Kentucky fans were less constructive. As many as 29 people were arrested on State Street in Lexington, Ky., and at least three were taken to the hospital, according to the Lexington Herald-Leader.

 

That said, the celebration after a potential win Monday night might have been just as eventful.

 

Here was the scene on State Street on Saturday night and early Sunday morning:

 

 

 

And, finally, the obligatory Ashley Judd/Villanova piccolo girl meme:

 

Teaser:
Kentucky Fans Are Taking Saturday's Loss Pretty Hard
Post date: Sunday, April 5, 2015 - 10:43
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Kentucky guard Andrew Harrison apologized for obscene language directed toward Wisconsin center Frank Kaminsky caught on a live microphone during Saturday’s postgame press conference.

 

After a question directed toward Karl-Anthony Towns about Kaminsky, Harrison can be heard uttering an obscenity and a racial slur under his breath in front of the hot mic.

 

Here’s the video as it was captured on ESPN.

 

Warning: Bad Language Ahead.

 

 

 

By Sunday, Harrison apologized for the incident and apologized to Kaminsky:

 

 

 

 

Teaser:
Kentucky's Andrew Harrison Apologizes for Obscene Remark Caught on Hot Mic
Post date: Sunday, April 5, 2015 - 10:08
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Path: /college-basketball/forget-40-0-why-mondays-wisconsin-duke-championship-game-matters
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The most serious bid for 40-0 to date is complete and unsuccessful.

 

At the hands of Wisconsin’s 71-64 win over Kentucky, the Wildcats will be merely the only team in college basketball history to go 38-0 in a season. That season ended at 38-1.

 

History — at least for that round, undefeated number and the first unbeaten season since 1976 — will have to wait.

 

On Saturday, Kentucky lost for the first time since last year’s national championship game. What this loss means is tough to say. It was not a massive upset. It wasn’t the most unexpected result.

 

The word is probably significant. Kentucky was the most significant team to lose in the NCAA Tournament since the last bid for an undefeated season ended in UNLV’s 79-77 loss to Duke in the 1991 Final Four.

 

This is one of Kentucky’s greatest teams in program history, but the Wildcats’ most lasting note in the history of college basketball will be alongside that UNLV team — a great team ultimately doomed to find the one team that could be better on one particular Saturday.

 

Kentucky and its bid to go undefeated were the main draws for this season, but the final game of 2014-15 shouldn’t be defined by Kentucky’s absence. Wisconsin and Duke will meet Monday night for their own legacies

 

Only two decades ago, Wisconsin was an afterthought, and finally this program is seeking its first national title since 1941. 

 

Dick Bennett took the Badgers to one Final Four in 2000. Bo Ryan has taken Wisconsin to two more with this group. If he wins Monday night, the four-time Division III champion at Wisconsin-Platteville will become the first coach in NCAA history to win titles in two divisions.

 

T-shirts get made for attempts at 40-0, but Wisconsin’s record as far as Kentucky is concerned is far more important.

 

This Badgers team is an offensive force. Think about what Wisconsin has done the last two games. Arizona and Kentucky are two of the nation’s best defensive teams, and Wisconsin sliced through them. Against Arizona, Wisconsin shot 15-of-19 in the second half, including 10 3-pointers. No team in two years had scored 80 points on Arizona. Wisconsin scored 85.

 

Kentucky allowed more than one point per possession three times entering the NCAA Tournament and never more than 1.069. Wisconsin averaged 1.246. Kentucky hit more than 50 percent of its shots for most of the game and finished shooting 48.1 percent and still lost.

 

Wisconsin is that good.

 

Wisconsin’s adjusted offensive efficiency rating on KenPom.com is 128.5. The previous high since 2002 was last year’s Michigan team at 124.1. That qualifies as shattering a record.

 

On the other side, Duke’s bid for a championship is just as significant.

 

This year alone, Mike Krzyzewski has surpassed 1,000 career wins, passed Dean Smith for career ACC wins and tied John Wooden for the most Final Four appearances. A championship Monday would give him five titles, putting him in sole second place all time behind Wooden’s 10 championships.

 

This would also be Duke’s first title since Krzyzewski embraced the one-and-done era. His last championship team in 2010 was dominated by juniors and seniors. This year’s team starts three freshmen.

 

After the game, Kentucky forward Willie Cauley-Stein likened this Tournament to a movie when the main character suddenly dies.

 

This much is true about this championship game. The supporting cast, though, is ready for its moment.

 

Teaser:
Forget 40-0. This is why Monday's Wisconsin-Duke Championship Game Matters
Post date: Sunday, April 5, 2015 - 07:00
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As Kentucky lost its first game of the season Saturday night, the comparisons to the 1991 NCAA Tournament were apparent.

 

That year, 34-0 UNLV, a team mthat like this year’s Kentucky seemed unstoppable. lost to Duke 79-77 in the Final Four.

 

Both Wisconsin and Duke in 2015 hope history repeats itself.

 

If this year’s Final Four looks like the one 24 years ago, Duke will hope it’s because the Blue Devils will win a national title.

 

If this year’s Final Four looks like the 1991 semifinals, Wisconsin will hope it’s because the team that toppled the unbeaten — in this case, the Badgers — will win the national title.

 

This may not be the national championship game that many envisioned, mainly because Kentucky is back in Lexington, but the championship game has plenty of storylines to make it a classic.

 

Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski is going for his fifth title, putting him in sole second place behind John Wooden, and to do it, he’ll have to win a championship starting three freshmen. And Wisconsin will go for its first title since 1941. Bo Ryan is also going for his fifth title, but his first outside of Division III.

 

Duke is here with nine McDonald’s All-Americans. Wisconsin is here with none. Duke is all business. Wisconsin may as well be a comedy troupe.

 

By Monday night, only one will be a champion.

 

Related:

Forget 40-0, This is Why Wisconsin-Duke Matters

31 Reasons This Will Be The Best Final Four Ever

Ranking Every National Champion since 1985

The Top 20 Players in the 2015 Final Four

 

No. 1 Duke vs. No. 1 Wisconsin

Time: 9:15 p.m. ET, Monday

TV: CBS

Announcers: Jim Nantz, Bill Raftery and Grant Hill

Line: Even

 

Matchup to Watch: Wisconsin’s Sam Dekker vs. Duke’s Justise Winslow

The championship game will match up the two hottest players in the NCAA Tournament, potentially with Most Outstanding Player on the line. Winslow is averaging 15 points, 9.4 rebounds and three assists per game in the Tournament, but his defense (1.6 steals and 1.4 blocks per game) will be the key against Dekker. The 6-foot-9 junior is averaging 20.6 points and shooting 61.3 percent in the Tournament.

 

Player on the Spot: Duke’s Jahlil Okafor

Okafor had a quiet regional, scoring 15 total points against Utah and Gonzaga. The All-America center roared back for 18 points against Michigan State. He’ll need more of that Monday night. The question, though, might be more on the defensive end. Wisconsin was able to solve Kentucky’s size by getting Kaminsky into better matchups away from Willie Cauley-Stein. Duke held Kaminsky to 17 points and 5-of-12 shooting in the matchup back in December, but Wisconsin has shown an ability to adjust.

 

Trending: Duke's defense

Duke is playing its best defensive basketball of the season in the last five games, and the Blue Devils will need it against the Badgers. Duke’s opponents are shooting 41.2 percent from 2-point range in the Tournament (compared to 46.3 percent during the season as whole) and 26.9 percent from 3 (compared to 31.4).

 

Number of Note: 5-of-11

That’s combined 3-point shooting for Arizona (2-of-6) and Kentucky (3-of-5) against Wisconsin. The Badgers don’t give their opponents many looks at 3-point shots, and they don’t put their opponents at the free throw line very often, either. Duke will have to score around the basket, or the Blue Devils will have to do what Arizona and Kentucky couldn’t and hit shots from beyond the arc.

 

Duke will win if...

The Blue Devils get an all-around offensive effort. John Calipari was astounded. His team shot 48.1 percent from the field and 90 percent from the free throw line, it turned the ball over only six times and still lost. Wisconsin did everything right in the margins — the Badgers got 12 offensive boards and had more than twice as many 3s. Wisconsin is a historically efficient team, so Duke will have to make every trip down the court count.

 

Wisconsin will win if...

The ride isn’t over. Wisconsin now feels like the team Kentucky once was, only the wave the Badgers are riding is on the offensive end rather than the defensive end. Wisconsin has averaged better than 1.1 points per possession in 12 consecutive games and 1.25 points per possession in the NCAA Tournament. Kaminsky and Dekker are both averaging better than 20 points per game, and they’re doing it against two of the best defensive teams in recent years. This is a historical run.

 

Athlon Sports Staff Predictions

David Fox: Wisconsin 78-75

Braden Gall: Duke 73-70

Mitch Light: Duke 77-73

Jake Rose: Wisconsin 76-72

Teaser:
National Championship Game Preview and Predictions: Duke vs. Wisconsin
Post date: Sunday, April 5, 2015 - 02:17
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
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In many ways, Kentucky-Wisconsin isn’t a rematch.

 

The coaches are the same, the jerseys are the same and many of the players are the same from the Wildcats’ 74-73 win in last year’s Final Four. But at the same time, these are two different teams meeting in the national semifinal.

 

The most obvious change is with Kentucky. The Wildcats reached last year’s Final Four without an injured Willie Cauley-Stein and before freshmen Karl-Anthony Towns, Trey Lyles and Tyler Ulis arrived.

 

And for Wisconsin, Nigel Hayes — now one of Wisconsin’s top three players — logged only seven minutes in last year’s Final Four game.

 

Even the returners are different, says Kentucky coach John Calipari.

 

“I just saw (Wisconsin’s Frank Kaminsky) out in the hallway, and I said, ‘Look, I'm so tired of looking at your tape right now,’” Calipari said. “I said to Bo how much better he's gotten in a two-year period is almost scary. He and (Sam) Dekker both. They both have a swagger about them, they both have a high belief in their teams. They know how they're going to play.”

 

The development of Kaminsky and Dekker and the presence of Cauley-Stein and Towns sets up one of the most anticipated Final Four matchups in several years.

 

The nation’s top offensive team and top defensive team in terms of efficiency will face off Saturday, and only one of those teams hopes history repeats itself.

 

Related:

31 Reasons This Will Be The Best Final Four Ever

Ranking Every National Champion since 1985

The Top 20 Players in the 2015 Final Four

 

No. 1 Kentucky vs. No. 1 Wisconsin

Time: 8:49 p.m. ET, Saturday

TV: TBS

Announcers: Jim Nantz, Bill Raftery and Grant Hill

Line: Kentucky by 5

 

Matchup to Watch: Wisconsin’s Frank Kaminsky and Sam Dekker vs. Kentucky’s Willie Cauley-Stein

Wisconsin has two big guys who can run the floor, play the perimeter and score down low. Kaminsky and Dekker are a combined 87-of-236 (37 percent) from 3 this season. Cauley-Stein, though, is different from most defenders. He’s a seven-footer who can defend the perimeter. Kaminsky and Dekker were a combined 7-of-11 from the field with 23 points in last year’s meeting, and that was when Cauley-Stein didn’t play.

 

Player on the Spot: Kentucky’s Karl-Anthony Towns

Towns had a miserable game against West Virginia — scary, considering Kentucky still won by 39 — and John Calipari didn’t let it slide. Towns responded to his one-point performance with a dominating 25-point game against Notre Dame. Towns finished 10-of-13 from th efield and 5-of-6 from the line with four assists, to boot.

 

Trending: Wisconsin’s offense

Anyone who says Wisconsin can’t score is not paying much attention. No, the Badgers aren’t one of the highest-scoring teams in the country, but they are the most efficient this season (a year after they ranked fourth). Ask Arizona if Wisconsin can score. Arizona is one of the best defensive teams in the country, and the Badgers shredded the Wildcats in the second half of the Elite Eight. Wisconsin shot 15-of-19 from the field and 10-of-12 from 3 in the final 20 minutes against the Wildcats.

 

Number of Note: 439

Free throw attempts for opponents against Wisconsin. The Badgers are one of the most stingy fouling teams in the country. Opponents get 4.5 field goal attempts for every free throw against the Badgers, the best rate in the country. Kentucky is a good free throw shooting team (72.5 percent), especially from its big men. If the game is close, Kentucky’s trips to the line will be watched closely.

 

Kentucky will win if...

Aaron Harrison hits big shots. Harrison hit the key shots against Wichita State, Louisville and Wisconsin in last year’s Tournament, and he did it again against Notre Dame. Wisconsin allows its share of open 3s. Teams shoot 37. 1 percent from 3 against the Badgers, ranking 301st nationally. But those shots are earned. Wisconsin allows 3-pointers at the sixth-best rate of any team this season.

 

Wisconsin will win if...

The Badgers can stretch the Kentucky defense. This game is between the No. 1 team in offensive efficiency and the No. 1 team in defensive efficiency. The difference may be from 3-point line. Kaminsky and Dekker against Cauley-Stein and Towns will be a game-long battle. If Wisconsin can stretch the court and hit 3s, Kentucky may have to ease up on Kaminsky, Dekker and Nigel Hayes. Bronson Koenig and Josh Gasser are a combined 11-of-27 from 3 in this Tournament. If that’s going to change, it will happen against the best 3-point defending team in the country (26.7 percent).

 

Athlon Sports Staff Predictions

David Fox: Kentucky 68-63

Braden Gall: Kentucky 72-70

Mitch Light: Kentucky 72-66

Jake Rose: Wisconsin 68-62

Teaser:
Final Four Game Preview and Predictions: Wisconsin vs. Kentucky
Post date: Friday, April 3, 2015 - 14:00
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/final-four-game-preview-and-predictions-michigan-state-vs-duke
Body:

Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski is trying to play coy that his team was not a Final Four contender from the start. 

 

True, this was a Blue Devils team that lost three of six during a stretch in January, including a loss to Miami at home. But this was also a preseason top-four team that only solidified those credentials with 10-point wins over Michigan State and Wisconsin by early December, both away from Durham.

 

“I don't know who expected us to be here,” Krzyzewski said. “We have eight guys and four freshmen. I think at times you expect a program to be here instead of looking at a team.”

 

That’s not entirely true, but if Krzyzewski is going to try to play up the underdog card, he’s going to have a tough time pulling it against Michigan State.

 

Last year’s Spartans team was the one that seemed preordained to go to the Final Four. Every senior who played four years for Tom Izzo to that point had reached the Final Four, and Izzo had two seniors who had never been to the Final Four.

 

The trend ended with Adreian Payne and Keith Appling reaching merely the Elite Eight. This team lost Payne, Appling and Gary Harris and lost five games before the new year, including a home game against Texas Southern.

 

Nevertheless, Michigan State has put it together in the last few weeks and now the Spartans are where they’d be expected to be many years — in the Final Four.

 

“Maybe it wasn't as expected — we had a little rougher run during the year,” Izzo said. “When you get your program to a certain level, I think that's our expectations, that's what we want our kids' expectations, the media and fans.”

 

Related:

31 Reasons This Will Be The Best Final Four Ever

Ranking Every National Champion since 1985

The Top 20 Players in the 2015 Final Four

 

No. 7 Michigan State vs. No. 1 Duke

Time: 6:09 p.m. ET, Saturday

TV: TBS

Announcers: Jim Nantz, Bill Raftery and Grant Hill

Line: Duke by 5

 

Matchup to Watch: Michigan State’s Travis Trice vs. Duke’s Quinn Cook

This is a question of which senior guard is going to get baskets at critical times. Of course, this is a more pressing matchup for Trice, who does not have the luxury of Jahlil Okafor, Tyus Jones and Justise Winslow (though Spartans Denzel Valentine and Branden Dawson are very good). Trice is averaging 19.8 points per game in the tournament (more than four points better than his season average). Cook is averaging 14.5 points per game in the Tournament and hitting 12-of-14 from the free throw line in the last two games.

 

Player on the Spot: Duke’s Jahlil Okafor

Opponents in the regional did a good job of containing the damage from Okafor. Mind you, that’s at the expense of Winslow having his way on both ends of the court against Utah and Gonzaga. Okafor scored a combined 15 points in two games last week and shot 7-of-16 from the field. Okafor averaged 17.5 points and shot nearly 67 percent during the season. He’ll need to approach that if Duke is going to win a title.

 

Trending: Michigan State’s free throw shooting

The Spartans free throw shooting was the weak link during the season, and history suggests that it will bite them during the Tournament. Yet Michigan State recently found its stride at the line. The Spartans hit 6-of-6 free throws in crunch time against Oklahoma and then went 15-of-20 against Louisville. Michigan State shoots 63.2 percent from the line this season, ranking 338th overall.

 

Number of Note: 22-to-6

Justise Winslow has raised his game during the NCAA Tournament, but let’s not overlook point guard Tyus Jones. The freshman has 22 assists and six turnovers during the Tournament. He’s averaging 3.7 assists per turnover in the last four games compared to 2.8 during the regular season. He’s also thrown in two steals per game in the Tourney.

 

Michigan State will win if...

Gavin Schilling and Matt Costello play out of their minds against Okafor. Michigan State’s big men aren’t the first names anyone considers when it comes the Spartans this season. Now, they’re in the critical spot against Okafor. Can they contain him like Utah and Gonzaga did and can they get some baskets agains Okafor’s suspect defense? Michigan State needs that to pull the upset.

 

Duke will win if...

Michigan State’s time is up. The Spartans are a great story and deserve credit for beating the No. 2, No. 3 and No. 4 seeds in the East region. But this is a No. 7 seed that didn’t hit its potential until late in the year. Duke perhaps hasn’t played its best game of the Tournament and still ended up beating Gonzaga by 14, outscoring the Bulldogs 21-10 in the final 10 minutes.

 

Athlon Sports Staff Predictions

David Fox: Duke 70-61

Braden Gall: Duke 78-62

Mitch Light: Duke 68-57

Jake Rose: Duke 73-70

Teaser:
Final Four Game Preview and Predictions: Michigan State vs. Duke
Post date: Friday, April 3, 2015 - 13:37
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/31-reasons-will-be-best-final-four-ever
Body:

For a sport that’s supposed to be in a state of crisis, college basketball has given us a doozy of a final weekend.

 

Criticism of the sport has been almost as big as the season itself in 2014-15. The game is too slow. The final minutes of the game stretch on forever. The officiating is inconsistent. The game has few household names actually playing the game.

 

All of these will be lingering issues, but not until Tuesday.

 

For now, we have an epic Final Four to watch.

 

This year’s Final Four is poised to give the sport a final weekend for the ages, perhaps approaching the legendary status of 1979, 1985, 1991 or 2008.

 

We’ve counted down the ways this will be possibly the greatest Final Four of all time — 31 ways to be exact, one for each Final Four since the field expanded to 64 in 1985.

 

1. 40-0

Kentucky already has The Unforgettables and The Untouchables. The Wildcats are looking to add The Unbeatables. No team in college basketball has been 38-0. No team since UNLV in 1991 has made it to the Final Four undefeated (34-0). And no team since Indiana in 1976 has finished a season undefeated (32-0). Kentucky is chasing basketball immortality.

 

2. Wire-to-wire great teams

The NCAA Tournament is random, and even teams that were great all season lose before the final weekend. It’s a statistical improbability that four of the best teams during the season actually make it to the Final Four. Three No. 1 seeds are in the Final Four for the first time since all four made it in 2008 and only the fifth time since seeding began in 2008. Not only are Kentucky, Duke and Wisconsin No. 1 seeds, they have been consensus top-five teams for most of the season. Kentucky has been No. 1 all year. Duke has been in the AP top five all year. And Wisconsin spent one week ranked seventh this season and never lower than that.

 

3. A Kentucky-Duke title game

Not that we’re rooting for a Kentucky-Duke national championship game — upsets of either would be monumental on their own — but the prospect of an all-blue title game is tough to resist. They’re two of the most polarizing teams in the country. Someone will surely pit John Calipari’s vacated Final Fours against Mike Krzyzewski’s “doing things the right way” (even though Coach K has had his share of one-and-dones). The game has the baggage of Christian Laettner’s game-winning shot in overtime of the 1992 Elite Eight. 

 

4. People are watching

The game is still facing an existential crisis in terms of year-round popularity and the quality of product. That said, it’s tough to call the game “unwatchable” when so many people are watching. Kentucky-Notre Dame was the highest rated college basketball game in cable history. An increase of 2 percent compared to last season was still enough to give the NCAA Tournament its biggest audience since 1993. Maybe it’s Kentucky, Duke, Wisconsin. Maybe it’s the availability of every Tournament game on basic cable. Maybe it’s the ever-increasing access to streaming games. Whatever the reason, the Final Four is viable water cooler conversation.

 

5. The Big Men

The national semifinal is going to give us Frank Kaminsky trying to navigate the stout defense of Willie Cauley-Stein and Karl-Anthony Towns. And the winner of that battle may draw Duke’s Jahlil Okafor in the national championship game. A Towns-Okafor matchup in the title game would be the first time the top two picks in the draft met in the national championship game. UCLA’s Bill Walton and NC State’s David Thompson faced each other in the 1974 title game but were selected No. 1 overall in separate drafts. The top two picks (Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist) in the 2012 draft played in the same title game, they just played for the same team (Kentucky).

 

6. Pro Prospects

Beyond Okafor and Towns as the consensus top two picks, the Final Four is full of future pros. As many as nine players in the Final Four are in DraftExpress’s most recent first-round projection and five in the lottery: No. 1 Towns, No. 2 Okafor, No. 5 Justise Winslow of Duke, No. 6 Cauley-Stein of Kentucky, No. 10 Kaminsky, No. 16 Sam Dekker of Wisconsin, No. 17 Devin Booker and No. 19 Trey Lyles of Kentucky, No. 26 Tyus Jones of Duke.

 

7. All-Americans

There’s plenty of star power here with three first-team All-Americans in the Final Four in Okafor, Kaminsky and Cauley-Stein. This is only the third time in the last decade three first-team All-Americans have played in the Final Four.

 

8. The coaches

Every coach in the Final Four has won a national championship — Bo Ryan’s came in Division III, but more on that later. Still, we’ve got a combined 2,532 career wins, 203 NCAA Tournament wins, 27 Final Fours and six Division I championships in this group. All four coaches were ranked in the top 10 of Athlon’s preseason coach rankings, including each of the top three.

 

9. Coach K’s historic year

The big number for Krzyzewski is 1,000 as he became the first men’s college basketball coach to 1,000 career wins with a Jan. 25 victory over St. John’s. The season has been historic in a handful of other ways. He’s now tied with John Wooden for the most Final Four appearances (12), moving ahead of Dean Smith’s 11. A championship would give him five titles, breaking his tie with Adolph Rupp and moving him to No. 2 to Wooden’s unbreakable 10 titles. He’s also tied Jim Boeheim for the most Tournament appearances (31), and he passed Smith’s record for career ACC wins (432).

 

10. The Hall of Fame

The two coaches facing each other Saturday — in their second consecutive Final Four — are both up for the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame. It’s not certain either or both will get in, but they will get in eventually. Krzyzewski is already in. Izzo is a virtual lock, meaning this Final Four in history’s eyes will have four Hall of Famers. The last time we can guarantee such a thing was 2001 when Krzyzewski, Izzo, Arizona's Lute Olson and Maryland's Gary Williams were in the Final Four.

 

11. Bo Ryan’s bid for history

To think, there was a time when the knock on Ryan was that he couldn’t win in the Tournament, never mind that he won four Division III championships at Wisconsin-Platteville from 1991-99. If Ryan wins a Division I national title, he’ll be the first coach in NCAA history to win championships in multiple divisions.

 

12. Michigan State is the underdog

No Final Four is complete without an unlikely team, and in this group of three No. 1 seeds and power teams, Michigan State gives the national semifinal an appropriate underdog. The Spartans have only one McDonald’s All-American (Branden Dawson) and few highly rated pro prospects. Remember, last year’s team with Adreian Payne, Gary Harris and Keith Appling seemed destined for a Final Four. This Michigan State team was on the bubble at one point his year.

 

13. Tom Izzo

College athletics need more big-time coaches who don’t take themselves too seriously and aren’t afraid to wear their emotions on their sleeve. In just the last year, Izzo dressed like Gene Simmons at Midnight Madness and crumpled in embarrassment when his team missed free throws in a win over Indiana.

 

 

14. Willie Cauley-Stein

Cauley-Stein is a defensive whiz, the most experienced player on a potential 40-0 team and an eminently quotable college basketball player. He’s also a rarity in the sport. He’s an All-American averaging 9.1 points per game, making him the first All-American to average fewer than 10 points per game since 1944-45. That player? Notre Dame’s Bill Hassett, who averaged 8.6 points per game that year. 

 

15. Kentucky’s unselfishness

Not only is Cauley-Stein a rare All-American in terms of scoring, the entire Kentucky team would be an oddity if the Wildcats win a national title. Since the field expanded in 1985, only six national champions didn’t have a 15-points per game scorer. The lowest-scoring top scorers on a title team in the 64-team era are Kansas’ Brandon Rush in 2008 and Florida’s Taurean Green in 2007, both at 13.3 points per game. At 11 points per game, Kentucky’s top scorer Aaron Harrison would shatter that mark.

 

16. Aaron Harrison’s clutch shots

No one was more emblematic of Kentucky’s title game run last season than Aaron Harrison, who hit game-winning shots in the final seconds against Wisconsin in the Final Four and Michigan in the Elite Eight and a go-ahead shot against Louisville in the Sweet 16. With a go-ahead shot against Notre Dame in the Elite Eight this season, Harrison has proven he still has it.

 

17. Quinn Cook’s humility

Kentucky’s players aren’t the only ones who had to learn to put ego aside to reach the Final Four. Quinn Cook had been Duke’s starting point guard for two seasons before Krzyzewski recruited Tyus Jones. In essence, Coach K was asking his senior point guard to move to shooting guard to make room for a freshman. Cook did it without complaint and both have flourished as a result. The result was moments like this:

 

 

18. Justise Winslow’s emergence

He’s managed to upstage Okafor and Jones as Duke’s best freshman in the Tournament. His all-around play hasn’t been a revelation necessarily — he’s been a great scorer, rebounder and defensive presence all year — but it has been the critical piece of the puzzle for Duke.

 

19. Sam Dekker’s emergence

It wouldn’t be fair to say Dekker hadn’t reached his potential at Wisconsin, but he never was an overwhelming player for the Badgers, either. That has changed as Dekker has twice set career highs (23 points against North Carolina, 27 against Arizona) in the regional. The 6-9 forward was unstoppable in the second half against the Wildcats with 5-of-5 3-pointers.

 

20. Tyler Ulis

At 5-foot-9, Tyler Ulis is already one of the smallest players for a major program. Playing on a team with Kentucky’s size only makes his stature more pronounced. He doesn’t back down, though, as evidenced by this exchange with Auburn’s 7-2 center Trayvon Reed.

 

 

21. Nigel Hayes

Every Tournament introduces America to a character who happens to play college basketball. Nigel Hayes is that year’s player. Hayes messed with a stenographer and got caught on a hot mic admiring a lady in the room.

 

22. Karl-Anthony Towns

A potential No. 1 overall pick who photobombs his coach? Sure.

 

 

23. Wisconsin’s laid-back team

Seriously, this is just about every press conference for this team. No one is having more fun than Wisconsin right now.

 

 

24. An All-Big Ten title game?

A Wisconsin-Michigan State championship game would require two upsets on Saturday, which on its own would be monumental. Those upsets would also set up a title game involving two teams from the same conference, something that’s happened only twice in the 64-team era (Kansas over Oklahoma in 1988, Villanova over Georgetown in 1985). It would be the first all-Big Ten final since Indiana beat Michigan in 1976.

 

25. Travis Trice’s mom

Do you hear that banshee-like scream when Michigan State’s opponents are attempting free throws? That’s Travis Trice’s mom.

 

26. Lourawls “Tum Tum” Nairn Jr.

That’s the name of Michigan State’s freshman guard. His given name Lourawls is from his father, who was named for the 60s-70s singer Lou Rawls. “Tum Tum” is from a character the 1992 kids movie 3 Ninjas. That’s how you end up with a Louralws “Tum Tum” Nairn Jr.

 

27. The NCAA has a social conscience

The NCAA and its members are still trying to tackle many issues, from violence against women to compensation for players and more. Credit the NCAA for leaving no wiggle room on its position on Indiana’s controversial Religious Freedom Restoration Act. On the eve of the Final Four taking place in Indianapolis, the NCAA was one of the first of many national entities to condemn the law and threaten to move events to other states.  

 

28. Bill Raftery

Bill Raftery is one of the nation’s most beloved college basketball color commentators, but for various reasons, he’s never called a Final Four until this season. Send it in...

 

29. Rematches

The matchups don’t need any more juice than they already have, but there’s plenty of familiarity here. Kentucky beat Wisconsin 74-73 in the Final Four a year ago. The Wildcats lost to Michigan State in Chicago early in the 2013 season. Duke beat Michigan State 81-71 in November. Of course, Wisconsin and Michigan State are conference foes, but they played an epic overtime bout in the Big Ten championship game.  

 

30. Vicarious wins

Congratulations, Texas Southern, Rutgers and Miami, you beat teams in the Final Four.

 

31. Crowd-watching

We’ve got Ashley Judd (Kentucky), Aaron Rodgers and Olivia Munn (Wisconsin), Magic Johnson (Michigan State) and members of the Dallas Cowboys (Duke) sharing the arena with guys like this...

 

Teaser:
31 Reasons This Will Be the Best Final Four Ever
Post date: Friday, April 3, 2015 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/top-20-players-2015-final-four
Body:

During the next few days, many of the headlines for this Final Four will surround the powerhouse programs and Mount Rushmore of coaches who will vie for the national title.

 

All of that is true. Rarely has the Final Four had this many accomplished names on the jerseys and the bench.

 

The players, though, are just as big in terms of star power.

 

Three members of the first-team AP All-America team are still playing. Nine potential first-round draft picks also will be on the court.

 

Who are the best of the best? We’ll try to take a look, obviously tilting toward each player's college production and performance in this NCAA Tournament.

 

1. Frank Kaminsky, Wisconsin

The National Player of the Year contender is coming off a 29-point performance against Arizona. In last year’s Final Four, Kentucky held him to eight points on seven shots from the field and no free throws.

 

2. Justise Winslow, Duke

Winslow has spent most of the season splitting headlines with Jahlil Okafor and Tyus Jones. In the NCAA Tournament, though, Winslow has arguably been Duke’s best player in the postseason for his multi-faceted play. Winslow is averaging 14 points, 9.5 rebounds, 3.3 assists and better than 1.5 steals and blocks per game in the last four games.

 

3. Jahlil Okafor, Duke

Okafor has spent most of the season as the presumptive No. 1 overall draft pick with good reason. Opponents have worked to take him out, and that was successful to a degree in the regional. Okafor topped 20 points in the first two games and then 15 total points in the regional on 7-of-16 shooting against Utah and Gonzaga.

 

4. Willie Cauley-Stein, Kentucky

It says a ton about this Kentucky team that the Wildcats remain undefeated and are heading to the Final Four without a double-digit scoring game from Cauley-Stein in the Tournament. He’s still Kentucky’s MVP with his defensive game at the rim and on the perimeter.

 

5. Sam Dekker, Wisconsin

The junior had the best games of his career in the West regional against North Carolina and Arizona, twice setting career highs with 23 and 24 points. He had only six career 20-point games entering this Tournament, but he’s averaging 21.8 points in the last four games.

 

6. Karl-Anthony Towns, Kentucky

Towns has been arguably Kentucky’s best player the last two months of the season, averaging 12.6 points and 7.3 rebounds per game since Jan. 31. Towns was unstoppable around the basket for 25 points in the Elite Eight against Notre Dame.

 

7. Tyus Jones, Duke

Jones has been the playmaker in the Tournament he was all season. He’s averaging 11.5 points and 5.5 assists in the last four games, while playing his most efficient basketball all of the year (3.7 assists per turnover).

 

8. Quinn Cook, Duke

The emotional and senior leader for Duke, Cook is averaging a career-high (by far) 15.5 points per game this season.

 

9. Aaron Harrison, Kentucky

The Wildcats’ most clutch shooter still has the magic touch. He hit a go-ahead 3-pointer with 3:18 to go as Kentucky beat Notre Dame in the Elite Eight.

 

10. Travis Trice, Michigan State

No player’s emergence in the NCAA Tournament has been more instrumental for the Spartans than Trice's. He’s averaging 15.4 points for the season, but he’s averaging 19.8 points per game. His free throw shooting (16-of-18) has been critical.

 

11. Branden Dawson, Michigan State

The Spartans have needed Dawson to be the do-it-all player to reach this point of the season. He doesn’t have to score as much as a Travis Trice and Denzel Valentine, but his rebounding has been critical. Dawson is averaging 9.3 boards per game in the Tournament and had the key rebound to seal the win over Louisville in the Elite Eight.

 

12. Nigel Hayes, Wisconsin

The 6-foot-7 sophomore is a solid No. 3 scorer for the Badgers (12.3 ppg in the Tournament) and No. 1 for stenographers and lady reporters.

 

13. Andrew Harrison, Kentucky

Harrison has averaged 9.8 points and 2.3 assists per game in the Tournament.

 

14. Denzel Valentine, Michigan State

After a 1-of-6 performance against Virginia in the round of 32, Valentine went 13-of-32 from the field in the regional against Oklahoma and Louisville.

 

15. Bronson Koenig, Wisconsin

Koenig averaged 11.4 points per game after starting point guard Traevon Jackson was hurt in January. He averaged 4.9 points per game before then.

 

16. Tyler Ulis, Kentucky

Kentucky’s smallest player (5-foot-9) may be its best distributor. Ulis has 14 assists, six steals and four turnovers in the Tournament.

 

17. Trey Lyles, Kentucky

He’s the third big man on a team with Towns and Cauley-Stein, but he’s embracing his role and making the most of his opportunities. He’s 16-of-36 from the field in the Tournament with 11 points and 7.3 rebounds per game.

 

18. Devin Booker, Kentucky

Kentucky’s best jumpshooter shook off an ineffective first and second round to hit 9-of-14 shots in the regional, including 4-of-8 from 3.

 

19. Josh Gasser, Wisconsin

Gasser hasn’t scored in double figures once since Feb. 3, but he’s a glue guy who gives the Badgers a little bit of everything.

 

20. Matt Jones, Duke

Jones has moved into the starting lineup after the dismissal of Rasheed Sulaimon. He’s a complementary player, but he’s proven he can hit the big 3 when necessary (4-of-7 from 3 against Gonzaga).

Teaser:
The Top 20 Players in the 2015 Final Four
Post date: Tuesday, March 31, 2015 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/2015-final-four-preview-how-can-every-team-win
Body:

If college basketball is taking a backseat in the sports world, no one told this year’s Final Four participants.

 

The final weekend of college basketball promises to be one of the most important Final Fours in terms of history for the sport.

 

In one bracket, there’s a 38-0 Kentucky team vying to become the first 40-0 team in college basketball history. The Wildcats will face a veteran Wisconsin team that it defeated in last year’s Final Four. On the other side, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, who already crossed the 1,000-win threshold this season, is making his 12th Final Four appearance to tie him with John Wooden.

 

And you know the Final Four is special when the lone underdog — the only team that was not a No. 1 seed — is Michigan State, a team making its seventh Final Four appearance under Tom Izzo.

 

Kentucky Wildcats (38-0, 18-0 SEC)

 

Coach: John Calipari (fifth Final Four)

 

Projected Starters: G Andrew Harrison, G Aaron Harrison, F Trey Lyles, F Karl-Anthony Towns, C Willie Cauley-Stein

 

Best Player: Karl-Anthony Towns, Kentucky

This is the kind of team Kentucky has: The guy who had one point against West Virginia — a game UK won by nearly 40 points — was unstoppable in the next game. Towns finished 10-of-13 for 25 points with five rebounds and four assists against Notre Dame in the regional final, and Kentucky needed every bit of it in a 68-66 win.

 

Will win the national title if... Kentucky keeps being Kentucky. 

The Wildcats have are the first 38-0 team in Final Four history, so what more could be said about what makes Kentucky great? The next two games will probably be more like the win over Notre Dame (a two-point nailbiter) than the rout of West Virginia (a 39-point win). Kentucky responded to the pressure by playing flawless basketball in the final 12 minutes against the Irish.

 

Will lose to Wisconsin on Saturday if... Notre Dame gave teams a blueprint to beat the Wildcats. 

The threat of Notre Dame’s outside shooters were able to open up the lane for Zach Auguste to score 20 points. Wisconsin had the long-range shooters, and, instead of Auguste, the Badgers have the All-American Frank Kaminsky.

 

Wisconsin Badgers (35-3, 16-2 Big Ten)

 

Head Coach: Bo Ryan (second Final Four)

 

Projected Starters: G Bronson Koenig, G Josh Gasser, F Nigel Hayes, F Sam Dekker,  C Frank Kaminsky

 

Best Player: Sam Dekker, Wisconsin. Dekker had hardly been an overwhelming player for the Badgers even if he was a pro prospect. That changed in this Tournament. Dekker had six career 20-point games in his entire career two weeks ago. He had three in four Tournament games, including 20 in the second half against Arizona alone.

 

Will win the national title if... Dekker continues to play out of his mind. Wisconsin’s offense was already the most efficient in the country, and junior Sam Dekker was already a mighty talented player. He’s taken his play to a new level in the NCAA Tournament. He’s averaging 21.8 points per game and shooting 60.4 percent from the field in the last four games.

 

Will lose to Kentucky on Saturday if... the Wildcats’ defense stymies Wisconsin. This will be the nation’s most efficient offense against the nation’s most efficient defense. Moreover, Kentucky’s bigs have the versatility defensively to guard Frank Kaminsky and Sam Dekker. Wisconsin’s duo hasn’t faced a big defender all year who can guard the perimeter like Willie Cauley-Stein.

 

Michigan State Spartans (27-11, 12-6 Big Ten)

 

Head Coach: Tom Izzo (seventh Final Four)

 

Projected Starters: G Travis Trice, G Lourawls Nairn Jr., G — Denzel Valentine, F Branden Dawson, F Matt Costello 

 

Best Player: Travis Trice, Michigan State

Just about everyone from Michigan State is peaking at this point of the season, but especially Trice. In the Big Ten title game against Wisconsin, Trice had six points and went 0-for-4 from 3-point range. In the Tournament, he’s averaging 19.8 points and four assists per game. He’s also been a clutch free throw shooter (16-of-18) on a team that sorely needs it.

 

Will win the national title if... Michigan State continues to have the magic touch. 

The Spartans won’t be the most talented team in Indianapolis, far from it. Trice has made huge shots throughout the Tournament, and the free throw woes that plagued the Spartans during the regular season haven’t hurt Michigan State yet.

 

Will lose to Duke on Saturday if... Duke overwhelms Michigan State.

Feel free to argue that the Spartans were under-seeded as a No. 7, but Michigan State was 19-10 a month ago. This is a team that plays well as a group but matching up with any of Duke’s top three will be a challenge.

 

Duke Blue Devils (33-4, 15-3 ACC)

 

Head Coach: Mike Krzyzewski (12th Final Four)

 

Projected Starters: G Tyus Jones, G Quinn Cook, G Matt Jones, F Justise Winslow, C Jahlil Okafor

 

Best Player: Justise Winslow, Duke

Okafor and Jones entered the Tournament with more fanfare, and the leadership of senior Cook has been a feel-good story. No one in the Tournament, though, was more valuable than Winslow. In four Tournament games, Winslow has averaged 14 points, 9.5 rebounds, 3.3 assists and better than one block and one steal per game.

 

Will win the national title if... The Blue Devils turn out to be the best offensive team in the Final Four. That’s a big ask, considering that Kentucky and Wisconsin — potential matchups in the championship game — are in the top five in offensive efficiency on KenPom. Duke, though, is the most up-tempo of the 3. If Okafor, Jones, Cook and Winslow can go head to head with the best Kentucky and Wisconsin have to offer, the Blue Devils could give Krzyzewski his fifth title in an already momentous year.

 

Will lose to Michigan State on Saturday if... Michigan State’s guards rule the day. The Spartans rank seventh in the country in assists per field goal made, and Travis Trice and Denzel Valentine can get hot from 3-point range.

Teaser:
2015 Final Four Preview: How Can Every Team Win?
Post date: Monday, March 30, 2015 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/potential-coaching-candidates-replace-rick-barnes-texas
Body:

When fans think of the best coaching destinations in college basketball, few may name Texas as one of the top names.

 

True, the Longhorns are not Kentucky, Duke, North Carolina, Kansas, Indiana or UCLA. This is a school and a state where football rules. Basketball is a distant No. 2.

 

Yet that is part of the reason why Texas is so attractive. The Longhorns have all the resources of a blue blood program in terms of finances and facilities, plus a fertile recruiting base. Because of football, though, the Texas basketball job also brings less pressure.

 

Perhaps that’s an odd thing to say about a program that just let go of a coach who had made 16 of 17 NCAA Tournaments and a Final Four, but for several seasons Rick Barnes did not bring top-10 results to a top-10 job.

 

The next coach will be asked to do that, and there’s no reason why it can’t be done in Austin.

 

Texas is the latest big job to open in the carousel, including Alabama, Tennessee, St. John's and Mississippi State (filled by Ben Howland).

 

The Favorites

 

Gregg Marshall, Wichita State

Alabama is prepared to offer more than $3 million a year to Marshall, according to Gary Parrish of CBSSports.com, but Texas may end up being the more desirable spot. Marshall would be a home-run hire for either school. Marshall has turned Wichita State into one of the nation's premier programs, leading the Shockers to 30 wins in each of the last three seasons, including a Final Four in 2013 and a 35-1 season in 2013-14. Marshall also led Winthrop to seven NCAA Tournaments in nine seasons. He can be abrasive, but he's a proven winner who coaches with an edge. And after this year’s NCAA Tournament, he’s proven he can beat Kansas. That's no small factor for a contender for the Texas job.

 

Shaka Smart, VCU

Smart has turned down big-time jobs before, but Texas might be the powerhouse job to pull him away from a good situation at VCU. Smart became one of the hottest names in coaching when he took the Rams to the Final Four in 2011 with his havoc defense. The Rams are 2-4 in the Tournament since then, and they haven’t won a conference regular season title under Smart.

 

The Realistic Contenders

 

Archie Miller, Dayton

He’s one of the hottest coaching candidates out there after taking Dayton to the Elite Eight and NCAA round of 32 in the last two seasons. The 2014-15 season was especially impressive as the shorthanded and undersized Flyers finished 13-5 in the Atlantic 10 and defeated Boise State and Providence in the NCAA Tournament. Miller, however, just agreed a contract extension through 2022 at Dayton.

 

Buzz Williams, Virginia Tech

Williams might have been the ideal candidate had Texas made the move two seasons ago. Williams then would have been coming off two Sweet16s and an Elite Eight at Marquette. Since then, he missed the NCAA Tournament his final year at Marquette and then left abruptly for Virginia Tech where he went 11-22. Williams is a Texas native who spent time as an assistant at UT Arlington, Texas A&M-Kingsville and Texas A&M.

 

Larry Krystkowiak, Utah

Krystkowiak led a major rebuilding project at Utah, taking over a shell of a roster and going 6-25 in his first season. The Utes improved their Pac-12 record each season and reached the Sweet 16 in 2015. Krystkowiak also took Montana to the NCAA Tournament twice, leading an upset over fifth-seeded Nevada in 2006. He also has significant experience in the NBA, including more than a year as a head coach of the Milwaukee Bucks.

 

The Wild Cards

 

Kevin Ollie, UConn

If Barnes underachieved, then Texas should look at one of the nation’s best overachievers. Ollie led seventh-seeded UConn to the national title in his second season. He’s a UConn alum and the hand-picked successor to Jim Calhoun, so this may be a tough sell. If Texas athletic director Steve Patterson, a former NBA general manager, wants to look at a guy with pro credentials, Ollie would be near the top of the list.

 

Jamie Dixon, Pittsburgh

The star has dimmed at bit for Dixon during the last four seasons. His program was once one of the biggest overachievers in the Big East, reaching the NCAA Tournament in each of his first seven years. Pitt has missed the Tournament in two of the last four seasons and has won only three Tournament games since the heartbreaking loss to Villanova in the 2009 Elite Eight.

 

Chris Mack, Xavier

The last three Xavier coaches went to Wake Forest, Ohio State and Arizona with all enjoying success at the major conference level. Mack is just as capable with three Sweet 16 appearances in six seasons.

 

Jay Wright, Villanova

Two early exits from the NCAA Tournament probably won’t endear Wright to Texas, but Wright has built and rebuilt the Villanova program in 14 seasons.

 

Matt Painter, Purdue

Painter led Purdue to the NCAA Tournament six times in his first seven years at Purdue, a run that included the 2010 Big Ten title and two Sweet 16 appearances. After back-to-back losing seasons, Purdue was one of the surprises of the season with a 21-13 campaign last year.

 

Leon Rice, Boise State

The former Gonzaga assistant led Boise State to two NCAA Tournament bids in the last three seasons, notable for being the first at-large bids in school history.

 

Ben Jacobson, Northern Iowa

Jacobson has been at Northern Iowa since 2001 and as head coach since 2006. The entire run includes six NCAA appearances. Jacobson led the Panthers to the Sweet 16 with an upset of No. 1 seed Kansas in 2010, but this year’s squad (31-4) may have been his best team in Cedar Falls.

Teaser:
Potential Coaching Candidates to Replace Rick Barnes at Texas
Post date: Saturday, March 28, 2015 - 17:51
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Name an achievement at Gonzaga and Mark Few has done it: win conference titles, go to the NCAA Tournament, win postseason games, produced All-Americans and a player of the year, send players to the NBA Draft.

 

There is one notable exception: Reaching the Final Four. Few has won 438 career games at Gonzaga, and until Friday, none of those came in the Sweet 16.

 

Now, to reach the first Final Four in school history, Gonzaga and Few will have to through a coach who has achieved pretty much everything one can in the sport — four national titles, 11 Final Fours, two Olympic gold medals and 1,015 career wins.

 

Sunday’s South regional final in some ways returns Gonzaga to its roots as a small-school underdog. The Bulldogs will face Duke, and although the two teams are the top two seeds in the region, the Blue Devils are one of the few teams perceived to be a threat to Kentucky’s dominance this season.

 

Little Gonzaga? Few has built this program into a powerhouse, but for the biggest game in school history, the Zags are an underdog again.

 

Related: Michigan State vs. Louisville Preview and Picks

 

No. 2 Gonzaga vs. No. 1 Duke

Region: South (Houston)

Time: Sunday, 5:05 p.m. ET

TV: CBS

Announcers: Jim Nantz, Bill Raftery and Grant Hill

Line: Duke by 2 1/2

 

Matchup to Watch: Gonzaga’s Kyle Wiltjer vs. Duke’s Justise Winslow

Winslow has become Duke’s most valuable player in the NCAA Tournament, setting up a marquee matchup with the Zags’ best scorer. Winslow had five blocks and five steals in the last two games, and he was the only player on either team to hit shots from long range in the Sweet 16 against Utah. This will be a fascinating matchup on both ends of the court.

 

Tournament Surprise: Gonzaga’s Przemek Karnowski

Karnowski has proven capable of going off for 20 points at times this season, but he’s rarely the first name anyone mentions with this Gonzaga team. Karnowski rectified that with 18 points (and one highlight reel assist) against UCLA. If shots aren’t falling for Gonzaga in Houston, the Bulldogs will need his production down low again.

 

Gonzaga will win if...

The Bulldogs can do what Utah did to Jahlil Okafor. Duke’s standout center scored only six points on six shots against Utah. The Utes double teamed Okafor like every other team but made sure Okafor couldn’t find a shot. Gonzaga will be hard-pressed to follow that blueprint, but the Zags aren’t quite the defensive team Utah is.

 

Duke will win if...

The Blue Devils can guard Gonzaga. Duke’s NCAA Tournament draw has been Robert Morris, San Diego State and Utah. The Utes were the only top-100 KenPom offensive team among those three, ranking 21st in the country in offensive efficiency. None of them are as dangerous or balanced as Gonzaga, the No. 4 team in offensive efficiency. For a Duke team whose last two losses came to another high-scoring team, Notre Dame, the pressure is on to guard Gonzaga’s prolific scorers.

 

Athlon Staff Predictions

David Fox: Duke 79-70

Braden Gall: Duke 70-68

Mitch Light: Duke 77-73

Jake Rose:  Duke 77-74

Teaser:
Elite Eight Game Preview and Predictions: Gonzaga vs. Duke
Post date: Saturday, March 28, 2015 - 12:55
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For most of the season, Rick Pitino and Tom Izzo said they didn’t have teams capable of doing what their previous teams had done in the postseason.

 

They both have their share of Final Fours in their careers, so who could blame anyone for taking Pitino and Izzo at their word?

 

Three games later, they’re both on the precipice of another trip to the Final Four in Sunday’s East regional final. This could be No. 7 for Izzo and No. 8 for Pitino, just another reminder no one should doubt these two coaches in the NCAA Tournament. Perhaps not even Izzo and Pitino should doubt themselves.

 

“I don't really know what I would do without (March Madness),” Pitino said. “I really don't. I see so many coaches tell me, ‘Don't leave. Don't think about leaving. Especially you. You'll miss it so much.’ And I keep listening to people when they say that.”

 

What Pitino would miss would be moments like this: An unlikely group doing unexpected teams. Pitino dismissed his point guard Chris Jones back in February in a season that already seemed to show the Cardinals’ ceiling against top teams. That ceiling is at least an Elite Eight.

 

The same could be said of Izzo. His team has been in rebuilding mode without Adreian Payne, Keith Appling and Gary Harris. The Spartans have been battling their own limitations, both in talent and in free throw shooting all season. Yet free throw shooting clinched a bid to the next round.

 

“One more victory would be one of the sweeter moments in my career because I think it would teach you that you can do it a lot of different ways,” Izzo said.

 

No. 7 Michigan State vs. No. 4 Louisville

Region: East (Syracuse, N.Y.)

Time: Sunday, 2:20 p.m. ET

TV: TBS

Announcers: Verne Lundquist and Jim Spanarkel

Line: Michigan State by 2

 

Matchup to Watch: Louisville’s Montrezl Harrell vs. Michigan State’s frontcourt

The guards on both sides could go back and forth all game long. That leaves the question of how Michigan State will contain Louisville’s Harrell. Matt Costello and Gavin Schilling don’t offer a ton in the offensive end, but they’ll be they key to the game plan to keep Harrell from taking over.

 

Tournament Surprise: Louisville’s Anton Gill

Where did this come from? Gill played two minutes — total — against UC Irvine and Northern Iowa. Against NC State, the lefty was a key player off the bench with seven points and a quick 3-for-3 from the field when Wayne Blackshear was on the bench with four fouls.

 

Michigan State will win if...

The Spartans continue their free throw shooting trend. Michigan State has not been a good free throw shooting team this year, converting only 66.7 percent of their shots from the line this season. The Spartans started 3-of-10 from the line against Oklahoma, but when they needed to put the Sooners away, Michigan State converted 6-of-6 free throws to clinch the win. That’s a trend that needs to continue into the Elite Eight.

 

Louisville will win if...

Terry Rozier is the best guard in the game. Michigan State’s Travis Trice is averaging 20.7 points per game in the tournament, and Denzel Valentine scored 16 against Georgia and 18 against Oklahoma. If Rozier can top each of them, Louisville will have a good shot at the Final Four. Rozier is averaging 18 points and 5.3 assists in the Tournament.

 

Athlon Staff Predictions

David Fox: Louisville 68-65

Braden Gall: Michigan State 66-63

Mitch Light: Michigan State 67-64

Jake Rose: Michigan State 66-60

Teaser:
Elite Eight Game Preview: Michigan State vs. Louisville
Post date: Saturday, March 28, 2015 - 12:43
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Notre Dame may be the best team Kentucky has played all season.

 

That’s worth saying right here right now since Notre Dame probably won’t touch that kind of talk, not after Kentucky answered West Virginia’s pre-game bravado with a 39-point beat down in the Sweet 16. Speak softly and hit some big shots, that’s probably the most advisable strategy at this point.

 

But that initial statement is true: With the possible exception of Kansas and Louisville early in the season, Kentucky hasn’t played a team as good as Notre Dame in at least four months. Certainly, Kentucky hasn’t faced a team with an offensive attack as good as Notre Dame.

 

The Irish rank third in the country in offensive efficiency on KenPom.com. The only other top-20 offensive teams Notre Dame has faced are North Carolina and Vanderbilt.

 

The Irish are in their first Elite Eight since 1979, a game Notre Dame lost to Michigan State as the Spartans continued to face Indiana State in the classic Magic Johnson vs. Larry Bird championship game.

 

And Notre Dame’s prize for getting this far is a date with another potentially historic team.

 

"We are America's team," Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said. "There's no question about it. ... We've got a monumental challenge on our hands, but we play in the best conference in America. Going through the teams we had to go through in ACC play, I think has us very prepared to play against a great team like Kentucky.

 

Related: Arizona vs. Wisconsin Preview and Predictions

 

No. 3 Notre Dame vs. No. 1 Kentucky

Region: Midwest (Cleveland)

Time: Saturday, 8:49 p.m., ET

TV: CBS

Announcers: Marv Albert, Chris Webber and Len Elmore

Line: Kentucky by 11

 

Matchup to Watch: Notre Dame’s perimeter game vs. Kentucky’s defense

One of the only teams to give Kentucky a scare this season was Ole Miss as the Rebels hit 9-of-17 3-point shots in an 89-86 loss in overtime on Jan. 6. Scoring around the basket and getting to the rim is near-impossible at times against Willie Cauley-Stein, Karl-Anthony Towns and the rest of Kentucky’s bigs. Notre Dame will try to beat Kentucky from long range. The Irish have five players who have hit at least 40 3-pointers this season, and they’ll need all of them to contribute.

 

Tournament Surprise: Notre Dame’s Demetrius Jackson

The sophomore guard has been a valuable contributor for most of the season, but he’s been huge in the Tournament. Jackson scored 20 points against Wichita State and has hit six 3-pointers in the last two games, one fewer than he had the previous six.

 

Notre Dame will win if...

Grant approaches 20 points and 10 assists. That would seem to be a magic number, and one Grant hit in Notre Dame’s signature win over Duke on Jan. 28. Grant was a mere 3-of-8 from the field for nine points against Wichita State, but he also had 11 assists and two turnovers. Notre Dame will need a hero effort from its best player to pull the upset.

 

Kentucky will win if...

The Wildcats overwhelm Notre Dame with their size. The Irish have some big guards with Grant, Pat Connaughton and Steve Vasturia all standing 6-5 or taller. Demetrius Jackson (6-1) is the only regular shorter than 6-5. Kentucky counters with four regulars 6-10 or taller and three 6-6 guards.

 

Athlon Sports Staff Predictions

David Fox: Kentucky 80-67

Braden Gall: Kentucky 78-65

Mitch Light: Kentucky 77-65

Jake Rose: Notre Dame 78-72

Teaser:
Elite Eight Preview and Predictions: Notre Dame vs. Kentucky
Post date: Friday, March 27, 2015 - 17:34
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/elite-eight-preview-and-predictions-arizona-vs-wisconsin
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Opportunities like the one Arizona is facing don’t come around all that often.

 

And this doesn’t just refer to an Elite Eight appearance. Instead, the Wildcats can clinch their first Final Four for the program since 2001 by avenging one of last year’s great disappointments.

 

In one of the most thrilling games of last year’s NCAA Tournament, Wisconsin defeated Arizona 64-63 in overtime. Not only is this a rematch, the game features many of the same key figures. Wisconsin returned nearly its entire roster since last season. Arizona returns T.J. McConnell, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Kaleb Tarczewski and Gabe York.

 

The loss has given Arizona reason to simmer for a year.

 

“It gave us a long time to think about it, and we watched them go to a Final Four and lose at the buzzer to Kentucky,” McConnell said. “We thought that should have been us. But that's driven all of us to work as hard as we did in the summer and as hard as we did this season to be as good as we are.”

 

The coaches are also back. Last year’s meeting gave Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan his first Final Four appearance. Now, Arizona’s Sean Miller is atop the list of best coaches without a trip to the final weekend of the NCAA Tournament.

 

Arizona hopes to change that trend while Wisconsin would like nothing more than to have history repeat itself.

 

No. 2 Arizona vs. No. 1 Wisconsin

Region: West (Los Angeles)

Time: Saturday, 6:09 p.m., ET

TV: TBS

Announcers: Kevin Harlan, Reggie Miller and Dan Bonner

Line: Arizona by 1 1/2

 

Matchup to Watch: Wisconsin’s Frank Kaminsky vs. Arizona’s Kaleb Tarczewski

The Badgers’ big man was the key figure in last year’s meeting, scoring 28 points. He’ll be matched up again against the seven-footer Tarczewski. He was instrumental in disrupting Matt Stainbrook in the last round against Xavier. Stainbrook had 17 points and 10 rebounds, but Arizona wanted to shut down his passing (two assists, three turnovers) and offensive rebounding (one). Besides approaching 30 points last season, Kaminsky had seven offensive boards against the Wildcats.

 

Tournament Surprise: Wisconsin’s Zak Showalter

The Badgers rely heavily on their starting five, even though Traevon Jackson returned to play nine minutes in the Sweet 16 against North Carolina. Showalter, though, came off the bench to give Wisconsin three quick buckets in eight minutes against the Tar Heels.

 

Arizona will win if... 

The Wildcats can muster some 3-point shooting. Wisconsin allows opponents to covert 37.4 percent of their 3-point shots, ranking 302nd in the country. That would be a more troubling number for the Badgers if they didn’t give up the ninth-fewest 3-pointers. Arizona is 19-of-52 from 3 in this Tournament.

 

Wisconsin will win if...

Sam Dekker is a beast again. Dekker was the best player on the court against North Carolina, scoring 23 points and grabbing 10 rebounds against the Tar Heels. He was especially dangerous around the basket, going 9-of-10 from 2-point range. If Dekker can crack a team that ranks third in defensive efficiency, Wisconsin could go to its second consecutive Final Four.

 

Athlon Staff Predictions

David Fox: Arizona 60-57

Braden Gall: Arizona 67-64

Mitch Light: Arizona 56-50

Jake Rose: Wisconsin 74-69

 

Teaser:
Elite Eight Preview and Predictions: Arizona vs. Wisconsin
Post date: Friday, March 27, 2015 - 17:06
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
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Tennessee needs a coach ... again.

 

The coaching turmoil with Tennessee’s football and men’s basketball continued Friday with the firing if basketball coach Donnie Tyndall after one season. Only months after his arrival at Tennessee, Tyndall faced an NCAA investigation stemming from allegations at his previous stop at Southern Miss.

 

Tyndall is likely to face NCAA sanctions related to academic misconduct and impermissible financial aid to players at Southern Miss.

 

The Volunteers have had three basketball coaches since 2011, including Bruce Pearl and Cuonzo Martin. Tennessee is the third SEC program to replace its coach this season. Alabama is still seeking a replacement for Anthony Grant while Mississippi State hired Ben Howland to replace Rick Ray.

 

Here are few names to watch as the coaching carousel is fired up. A few of these names were on our list of coaches on the rise in our college basketball expert poll earlier this season.

 

Chris Holtmann, Butler

Perhaps no coach has enjoyed a greater rise this season than Holtmann. He started the season as an interim coach while Butler’s Brandon Miller took a leave of absence. By December, the interim tag was lifted, and Holtmann was on his way to a 23-11 season and a second-place finish in the Big East. Tennessee has been in discussions with the former Gardner-Webb coach, according to a Friday report from the Tennessean.

 

Mike White, Louisiana Tech

White turned down the job before the Volunteers hired Tyndall last season. The question is if this is a road either party will go down again. The 38-year-old is primed for a move, but no NCAA Tournament appearances despite three Conference USA regular season titles is a bit concerning. The Bulldogs are 44-8 in C-USA the last three seasons, stalling in the league tournament each year.

 

Shaka Smart, VCU

Smart has turned down big-time jobs before, so it’s curious what would make the Tennessee job different. Smart became one of the hottest names in coaching when he took the Rams to the Final Four in 2011 with his havoc defense. The Rams are 2-4 in the Tournament since then, and they haven’t won a conference regular season title under Smart.

 

Rick Barnes, Texas

Barnes may be out at Texas, according to a report from 247Sports.com. The latter end of his tenure with the Longhorns had become frustrating, particularly last season when a preseason top 10 team bowed out of the NCAA Tournament as a No. 11 seed. Still, he’s reached the NCAA Tournament in 19 of 20 seasons dating back to his time at Clemson. Barnes’ wife is a Tennessee alum.

 

Rick Byrd, Belmont

Byrd is another guy who was a serious coaching candidate for Tennessee in a past season. Byrd interviewed for the job in 2011 after Pearl was fired. Byrd is one of the most respected coaches in the country for his work in nearly 30 years at Belmont, a former NAIA program that has reached the NCAA Tournament seven times in 10 years. He’s a Knoxville native who is also about to turn 62 years old.

 

Archie Miller, Dayton

He’s one of the hottest coaching candidates out there after taking Dayton to the Elite Eight and NCAA round of 32 in the last two seasons. The 2014-15 season was especially impressive as the shorthanded and undersized Flyers finished 13-5 in the Atlantic 10 and defeated Boise State and Providence in the NCAA Tournament. Miller, however, just agreed a contract extension through 2022 at Dayton.

 

Ben Jacobson, Northern Iowa

Jacobson has been at Northern Iowa since 2001 and as head coach since 2006. The entire run includes six NCAA appearances. Jacobson led the Panthers to the Sweet 16 with an upset of No. 1 seed Kansas in 2010, but this year’s squad (31-4) may have been his best team in Cedar Falls.

 

Steve Prohm, Murray State

In four seasons at Murray State, Prohm has coached a team that went 31-2 in 2011-12 and another that won 25 in a row en route to a 27-5 record in 2014-15. He unearthed point guard Cam Payne out of Memphis two years ago and watched him develop into a pro prospect. The Alabama graduate would be a likely candidate for the opening in Tuscaloosa if the bid for Wichita State’s Gregg Marshall falls through.

 

Bryce Drew, Valparaiso

Famous for his game-winning shot to beat No. 4 seed Ole Miss in the 1998 NCAA Tournament, Drew has become a solid coach in his own right. He’s led Valpo to two NCAA Tournaments and three Horizon League titles.

 

Brad Underwood, Stephen F. Austin

The former Frank Martin assistant has been a head coach for only two seasons, but it’s been quite the run. The Lumberjacks are 61-8 in two seasons with two Tournament appearances and two conference titles. His pressure defense has finished in the top 10 in defensive turnover rate in teach of the last two seasons.

 

Richard Pitino, Minnesota

The Gophers won 25 games and the NIT last season before slipping to 6-12 in the Big Ten in Pitino’s second season. The 32-year-old is three years into his head coaching career, but he’s served as an assistant for Billy Donovan (as Anthony Grant did before going to VCU) and his father.

 

Bobby Hurley, Buffalo

The former Duke guard led Buffalo to the first NCAA Tournament in school history in 2015. In two seasons with the Bulls, Hurley is 42-20 overall and 25-11 in the MAC.

Teaser:
Potential Coaching Candidates to Replace Donnie Tyndall at Tennessee
Post date: Friday, March 27, 2015 - 12:10
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Recent years have been a renaissance of basketball in the West. Arizona is a Final Four contender again. UCLA is back in the Sweet 16 in consecutive seasons for the first time since reaching three consecutive Final Fours from 2006-08. And Gonzaga may have its best team of the Mark Few era.

 

One program that has lagged behind, though, is Utah.

 

The Utes sunk to their deepest depths in the first season under Larry Krystkowiak, going 6-25 overall. Entering this season, Utah has reached the Sweet 16 only once since the height of the Rick Majerus era 1997-98.

 

To keep advancing, Utah will have perhaps its toughest test of the season.

 

The Utes are one of the country’s best defensive teams, but handling Duke’s multi-faceted attack. Utah has defeated Wichita State and BYU this season and lost hard-fought games to Arizona and Kansas.

 

With Jahlil Okafor, Tyus Jones, Quinn Cook and Justise Winslow, Duke may be the toughest hill to climb on a stage where Utah hasn’t been in a decade.

 

Other Sweet 16 Previews

NC State vs. Louisville

Michigan State vs. Oklahoma

UCLA vs. Gonzaga

 

No. 5 Utah vs. No. 1 Duke

Region: South (Houston)

Time: Friday, approx. 9:45 p.m. ET

TV: CBS

Announcers: Jim Nantz, Bill Raftery and Grant Hill

Line: Duke by 5

 

Matchup to Watch: Duke’s Jahlil Okafor vs. Utah’s Jakob Poeltl

Jahlil Okafor is one of the most prominent names in college basketball. His post game has few equals. Could one of them be Utah’s Jakob Poeltl? He’s an under-the-radar draft prospect and not one of the top names on his own team. But he’s also a seven-footer who is quickly becoming an intriguing prospect. Utah ranks fourth nationally in 2-point defense with opponents shooting 41.2 percent.

 

Tournament Surprise: Justise Winslow’s stock

Justise Winslow been solid to outstanding for most of the season, but the headlines at Duke have more often been Okafor or the Tyus Jones/Quinn Cook backcourt duo. Winslow, though, has been the highlight-reel guy in the tournament with his all-around play. He’s scored 19 points in two tournament games, but he’s had 12 total assists and 23 total rebounds in two games. He threw in four steals and three blocks against San Diego State.

 

Utah will win if...

Delon Wright can make life difficult for Duke’s defense. The Blue Devils have had trouble at times this season shutting down attacking guards. If Wright, one of the most well-rounded and unselfish guards in the country, can run the show against Duke, the Utes will have a chance to pull the upset.

 

Duke will win if...

The Blue Devils’ stars are stars. This is the time for Okafor, Winslow, Jones and Cook to shine — and they need to because Duke doesn’t have a ton of depth.

 

Athlon Staff Predictions

David Fox: Duke 71-64

Braden Gall: Duke 67-64

Mitch Light: Duke 80-70

Jake Rose: Duke 74-70

Teaser:
Sweet 16 Game Preview and Predictions: Utah vs. Duke
Post date: Thursday, March 26, 2015 - 16:34
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Before this season, Louisville and NC State hadn’t faced each other in a game since 1988. The coaches at that time were Denny Crum and Jim Valvano.

 

Thanks to ACC expansion, the two met during the regular season this year, and thanks to the glut of teams in the ACC and other power conferences, league games in the NCAA Tournament may becoming a regular occurrence.

 

Five ACC teams remain in the field, but that number is guaranteed to shrink by one on Friday when Louisville faces NC State at the Carrier Dome.

 

After upsets of No. 1 Villanova and No. 2 Virginia, the East Region is wide open as the first region in 11 years to lose both its No. 1 and No. 2 seed. Despite roster limitations (Louisville) and inconsistent play (NC State) this season, both teams are realistic contenders for a Final Four.

 

Other Sweet 16 Previews

Michigan State vs. Oklahoma

Utah vs. Duke

UCLA vs. Gonzaga

 

No. 8 NC State vs. No. 4 Louisville

Region: East (Syracuse, N.Y.)

Time: Friday, 7:37 p.m. ET

TV: TBS

Announcers: Verne Lundquist and Jim Spanarkel

Line: NC State by 2

 

Matchup to Watch: Louisville’s Terry Rozier vs. NC State’s Cat Barber

Louisville and NC State need these two guards to flourish for both of them to advance in the Tournament. In the only meeting between these two teams this season, Barber had 21 points, in part because of a 10-of-13 performance from free throw line, on Feb. 14. With eight field goals and seven assists, Rozier was responsible for 15 of Louisville’s 22 buckets against Northern Iowa.

 

Tournament Surprise: Louisville holding it together without Chris Jones

Rick Pitino admitted that this team would be much better if the Cardinals did not have to dismiss point guard Chris Jones from the team. That’s true, but credit Louisville for not folding, especially in a tight game against UC Irvine and against a dangerous Northern Iowa team. Wayne Blackshear has scored in double figures in seven of the last eight games, and Quentin Snider has scored 26 total points in two games in the Tourney.

 

NC State will win if...

The Wolfpack’s bigs can turn this into a perimeter game. BeeJay Anya is a standout shotblocker, but he isn’t the only big body who will try to counter Montrezl Harrell. Anya, Abdul-Malik Abu, Kyle Washington and Lennard Freeman all stand 6-8 or taller. Louisville ranks 308th in 3-point shooting (30.8 percent), so NC State will try to make this a perimeter game.

 

Louisville will win if...

The Cardinals can shut down the NC State guards. Trevor Lacey, Ralston Turner and Barber all average more than 12 points per game. No forward averages more than 6.7. NC State might not be able to survive an off night by one or two of their standout guards.

 

Athlon Staff Predictions

David Fox: Louisville 77-74

Braden Gall: NC State 68-64

Mitch Light: Louisville 66-60

Jake Rose: NC State 64-62

Teaser:
Sweet 16 Game Preview and Predictions: NC State vs. Louisville
Post date: Thursday, March 26, 2015 - 16:12
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/dean-smith-leaves-200-dinner-out-each-his-players
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Legendary North Carolina coach Dean Smith was renowned for his relationship with everyone who played for him during his 36 years with the Tar Heels. 

 

That extended to his will.

 

After his passing on Feb. 7, Smith left $200 to each letterman who played for him at North Carolina. The checks carried the note for “Dinner Out.”

 

Here is the letter addressed to Dante Calabria, who played guard for North Carolina’s 1993 championship team.

 

 

Teaser:
Dean Smith Leaves $200 for "Dinner Out" for Each of his Players
Post date: Thursday, March 26, 2015 - 14:24

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