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March Madness Bracket HelpThe day after Selection Sunday is not a great time to get caught up on the college basketball season.

As you start to fill out NCAA Tournament brackets for your pools, Athlon Sports did some of the homework for your basketball cram session. March Madness is unpredictable, and we expect it to be again this year after a season in which top teams lost on a nightly basis.

But there are some tried and true trends in the Tournament, and we’ll break them down here.

These are our favorite rules for picking our brackets, along with some of the examples from this year’s field.

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East
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Advance all the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds
The turnover at the No. 1 spot all season prompted us to consider if this would be the year a No. 16 seed beats a No. 1. Sure, it might happen, but the 16 seeds this season aren’t going to do it -- a 20-loss team (Liberty), the No. 7 seed in the MEAC (North Carolina A&T), a team that started 5-10 (LIU Brooklyn), the third-place team in a watered-down CAA (James Madison), a .500 team from the Sun Belt (Western Kentucky) and the SWAC champion (Southern). The pair of No. 15 seeds winning last season may convince you to pick against a No. 2. Don’t. Before last season we went 11 years between 15 seeds winning in the first round. However...

Consider dropping a No. 1 or a No. 2 in the round of 32
The top seeds were unclear going into the conference tournaments, meaning few teams had iron-clad cases to be on the top line. The eight teams at the top have lost to teams in the No. 8-9-seed range sometime during the season, and may do so again in the Tourney. Consider: Only one No. 1 seed since 2004 failed to reach the Sweet 16 (2011 Pittsburgh, who lost to Final Four-bound Butler). During that same span, 12 of 28 No. 2 seeds failed to reach the the second weekend.
Our picks for vulnerable top-two seeds: Miami (cooled at the end of the rgular season, could face Illinois in round two), Georgetown (has not reached the Sweet 16 since 2007), Kansas (potential North Carolina or Villanova matchup is worrisome).

Don’t fall in love with upsets
We remember Final Four teams like Butler, VCU and George Mason. Don’t get too caught up trying to look smart by advancing a No. 11 seed to the FInal Four. Of the last 48 Final Four teams, 41 were top-four seeds, and four of the seven who were top-four seeds were No. 5 seeds. Butler, VCU and George Mason are memorable because they're outliers.

Related: NCAA Tournament Bracket Cheat Sheets

Pay attention to game sites as much as seeds
Coaches would prefer to drop a seed if it means playing closer to home and in front of a more friendly crowd. Trust the coaches on this. Also, make sure your upset pick isn’t playing too far from home. You may love an East Coast mid-major, but you may want to back off as it gets sent to San Jose. We don't need to tell you to favor Louisville, the No. 1 overall seed playing in Lexington, Ky., and potentially Indianapolis. Here are a few other team locations to consider in the rounds of 64 and 32:
Teams playing close to home in the early rounds: Cal (in San Jose against UNLV), Oregon (in San Jose, its own time zone against Oklahoma State), Kansas State (in Kansas City)
Teams playing far from home you may want to avoid: Colorado State (in Lexington, Ky., against Missouri), South Dakota State (vs. Michigan in Auburn Hills, Mich.), San Diego State (in Philadelphia, albeit against Oklahoma), Syracuse (in San Jose against Montana, then potentially Cal/UNLV), Florida and Miami (in Austin, Texas)

Related: March Madness by the numbers 

Pay attention to extreme free throw numbers
Expect closer games in the NCAA Tournament. That means free throws will play a critical role. If you’re on the fence about a team, give free throw numbers a look. Avoid falling in love with teams that can’t hit free throws.
Key teams with high free throw percentages: Davidson, Oklahoma, Creighton, Oklahoma State, Arizona, Missouri
Key teams with low free throw percentages: Wisconsin, Cincinnati, North Carolina, Pittsburgh

All that talk about bubble teams, forget it
We spent the last six weeks talking about bubble teams. Time to stop paying them any mind, especially bubble teams from major conferences. Teams had trouble clinching a Tourney bid because they couldn’t win consistently. Teams from major conferences had chances all year to prove they were Tourney teams and didn’t do it until the last week of the season. Knock them out early. The exception: Bubble teams from mid-major conferences. The inclusion of VCU and George Mason in recent years were criticized ... until they reached the Final Four.
Bubble teams to avoid beyond round of 64: Ole Miss, Iowa State, Cincinnati, Villanova

Give credit to coaches who win in the Tournament
Some coaches have a knack for winning the tournament. Some don’t. Does a coach always seem to win one more game than you expect? Does another continually let you down? For further reading, Peter Tiernen at Bracket Science explains overachievers and underachievers.
Coaches who overachieve compared to seed: Michigan State’s Tom Izzo, Louisville’s Rick Pitino, Marquette’s Buzz Williams, Arizona’s Sean Miller, VCU’s Shaka Smart
Coaches who underachieve compared to seed: Gonzaga’s Mark Few, Temple’s Fran Dunphy, New Mexico’s Steve Alford, Georgetown’s John Thompson III, PIttsburgh’s Jamie Dixon, Cal’s Mike Montgomery

When picking a mid-major to advance, do your homework
Look beyond the record. We like mid- and low-major teams that tested themselves against major competition, whether or not they won games. Make sure to look at a mid-majors conference record. Did a team play well during its conference season, or did it wait until the conference tournament to get hot?
Teams that challenged themselves in the non-conference: Belmont, Davidson, Florida Gulf Coast, Temple, Wichita State
Teams that didn’t: James Madison, LIU Brooklyn, Middle Tennessee State, New Mexico State, Valparaiso, Saint Mary’s

Use caution with teams that faded since February and early March
Are teams tired? Was there a major personnel change? Was there an injury? Did opponents catch up? In any case, we don’t like teams limping into the Tournament, no matter what they did from November through January. On the flip side, give credit to teams that got better as the season went along. Did a team get a player back from injury or make a key lineup change?
Teams that faded: Florida, Michigan, Minnesota, Oklahoma
Teams that faded prior to the conference tourneys: Creighton, Miami, Syracuse
Teams that improved through the season: Duke (with Ryan Kelly), North Carolina, Ohio State
Absences to consider: Akron (Alex Abreu, suspended) UCLA (Jordan Adams, injured)

When picking a champ or Final Four team, consider the point guard
An NBA-bound point guard isn’t necessary to reach the Final Four or win a title, but it’s tough to advance that far without consistent point guard play. Who has a steady point guard, who has a liability?
Good teams with questionable point guard situations: Arizona, Kansas, Michigan State

Balance on offense and defense
Defense wins championship is a football saying. Don't let it take over your bracket. The key to winning in March is balance on both sides of the court, especially for teams that can play multiple tempos and styles. The last 10 national champions ranked in the top 20 in both of Ken Pomeroy’s adjusted offensive and defensive rankings.
The teams in the top 20 in both this season are: Florida, Gonzaga, Indiana, Louisville, Ohio State and Pittsburgh

Related: All Athlon Sports 2013 NCAA Tournament content

Teaser:
<p> March Madness is here. Athlon Sports will give you the best tips for a winning bracket</p>
Post date: Monday, March 18, 2013 - 10:30
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Every NCAA Tournament field is unique, yet the same.

Even with 68 teams, the teams selected for the field -- and those who arrive via automatic bid -- assemble a mix of national powers, regulars on the March Madness scene and newcomers.

We’re used to seeing Kansas in the field, as well as some familiar surnames. But some of the absences are notable, too. The SEC and the state of Texas rule the the college football scene, but not the NCAA Tournament. Philadelphia is one of the greatest cities for basketball talent, but rarely is it as well-represented in March as it is right now.
 

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Here’s a look at key numbers in the 2013 field of 68:

4. Tournaments in the last six with a Zeller, a Curry and a Plumlee
Three families have racked up frequent flyer miles to watch the Zeller, Curry and Plumlee brothers play in the NCAA Tournament. This is the fourth in the last six seasons to have all three, with Cody Zeller at Indiana, Seth Curry at Duke and Mason and Marshall Plumlee also at Duke. The other years with all three:
2012: Cody Zeller and Tyler Zeller (North Carolina), Seth Curry and Mason and Miles Plumlee (Duke).
2011: Tyler Zeller, Seth Curry, Mason and Miles Plumlee
2008: Luke Zeller (Notre Dame), Stephen Curry (Davidson) and Miles Plumlee

Related: Our best advice for your bracket pool

24. Consecutive Tournament appearances by Kansas
With 24 Tournament appearances in a row, the Jayhawks are closing on the record of 27 consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances held by North Carolina (1975-2001). If Kansas reaches the field next season, it will tie Arizona (1985-2009) for No. 2 at 25 consecutive appearances. Other consecutive NCAA streaks: Duke (18), Michigan State (16), Gonzaga and Wisconsin (15)

5. Teams Lon Kruger has taken to the Tournament, most for any coach
Lon Kruger is one of the nation's best coaches when it comes to turning around programs. He did that once against with Oklahoma, leading the Sooners to their first Dance since Blake Griffin took OU to the Elite Eight in 2009. Kruger is the first coach to take five teams to the NCAA Tournament with Oklahoma joining Kansas State, Florida, Illinois and UNLV.

1. Team in ACC history to win the league’s regular season and tournament titles and not be a No. 1 seed
Much of Miami’s accomplishments this season have started with the phrase “the first ACC team other than Duke or North Carolina to...” This time, it doesn’t need a qualifier. The No. 2 seed Hurricanes were the first ACC team to win the league’s regular season and tournament titles in the same season to not be a No. 1 seed since seeding began. Miami is also the first ACC team other than Duke or North Carolina to win the outright regular season and tournament titles since a David Thompson-led NC State team in 1974.

1. Big East team to make the NCAA Tournament every season since 2006
Marquette has been securely in the field for some time, but it’s notable that the Golden Eagles are the only program from the Big East to reach the NCAA Tournament every season from the time the league expanded in 2005 to the time it splits after this season.

3. SEC teams in the field
Not only did the SEC tie its fewest number of NCAA bids since the field expanded to 64, it did so with a low batting average. The 14-league team sent three bids to the Tournament, with two being seeded ninth or lower (Ole Miss and Missouri). The Big East had the most bids with seven teams (of 15), but the Mountain West (five of nine teams) and Big Ten (seven of 12) sent more than half their membership to the Tournament.

8. Future ACC teams in the field
The Big East Tournament marked the dissolution of a legendary basketball conference, which for now is the ACC’s gain. Eight teams of the ACC’s future lineup are in the field (Duke, Louisville, Miami, NC State, North Carolina, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh and Syracuse). Compare that to five presumptive members of the new Big East/Catholic 7 (Butler, Creighton, Georgetown, Marquette, Villanova) and two for the Conference To Be Named Later (Cincinnati, Memphis, Temple). In fact, five automatic bids were won by teams headed to new conferences in the next few years: Creighton (Missouri Valley to the Big East), Louisville (Big East to ACC), Pacific (Big West to West Coast) and Memphis (Conference USA to Big East). Only one team won an automatic bid as a member of a new league -- Belmont in the Ohio Valley.

3. Members of Philadelphia’s Big 5 in the field
The bubble was kind to Philadelphia. Villanova, Temple and La Salle were all on on the bubble through February and into March. All three reached the field, giving Philadelphia’s Big 5 schools (the others are Penn and St. Joseph’s) three teams in the Tourney for the first time since 2008 and only the second time since 1997.

1989. The last time Middle Tennessee made the Tournament
One of the last teams in the field, Middle Tennessee, is the (proud) owner of the the longest NCAA Tournament drought ended in this field. The Blue Raiders last appeared in March Madness in 1989 when the Blue Raiders upset Florida State in the first round. Other notable droughts that ended were La Salle (first since 1992), James Madison (first since 1994) and North Carolina A&T (first since 1995). This doesn’t include Division I newcomer Florida Gulf Coast’s first Tournament.

20. Losses by Liberty, most for a Tournament team since 2008
When Liberty won the Big South Tournament on March 10, the Flames tied (15-20) a dubious record by becoming the second 20-loss team to reach the NCAA field. Coppin State won the MEAC Tournament with 20 losses in 2008.

3. Of the last six national title winners to miss the NCAA Tournament the next year
Rupp Arena will host the early rounds of the NCAA Tournament, but Lexington won’t even have Kentucky to watch in the postseason. With its facility in use, Kentucky will face Northeast Conference regular season champion Robert Morris on its home court in the NIT. Kentucky is the third defending national champion in the last six years to play in the NIT the following year, joining 2010 North Carolina and 2008 Florida.

1995. The last time Rick Barnes didn’t coach in the NCAA Tournament
The NCAA Tournament fate for Texas and Rick Barnes has been sealed since about the the time the Longhorns lost to Chaminade in Maui. But it’s still remarkable that this is the first Tournament without Texas since 1998 and the first without Barnes since 1995, who coached three consecutive Clemson teams to the Tournament. Other notable absences: Xavier (first miss since 2005), Purdue and BYU (first misses since 2006) and West Virginia (first miss since 2007).

0. Teams from the state of Texas in the field, first time since 1977
Stephen F. Austin, Prairie View A&M and UT Arlington, which all lost conference tournament finals, were the last hopes for a team from Texas making the field. Texas, Texas A&M, Houston, Texas Tech and others needed to win automatic bids to reach the field. Baylor was clinging to the bubble before losing to Oklahoma State in the Big 12 Tournament. That leaves this year’s field without a representative from the Lone Star State for the first time since 1977.

Related: All Athlon Sports 2013 NCAA Tournament content

Teaser:
<p> March Madness by the numbers: Kansas, Philadelphia, SEC among notables</p>
Post date: Monday, March 18, 2013 - 08:05
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The NCAA Tournament begins in about 48 hours with the First Four. For now, though, we’ll have plenty of hand-wringing about Selection Sunday.

Most of the teams in the field weren’t a shock -- Ole Miss erased any doubt by winning the SEC Tournament. Kentucky played its way out by losing to Vanderbilt days earlier.

But the bracket brought its share of surprises anyway: What are Middle Tennessee and La Salle doing here? Where is Tennessee? What does an ACC regular season and tournament title get you these days? And who the heck seeded the Pac-12?

When the Tournament starts, everyone will forget the frustrations of the selection process, but for now, here’s what struck us as the bracket was revealed:

Miami left out of a No. 1 seed
The Hurricanes became the first team to win the ACC regular season and tournament titles and not be a No. 1 seed. Louisville and Kansas moved onto the first line by winning conference tournaments, and the final two No. 1 seeds instead went to Indiana and Gonzaga. The Hoosiers lost to Wisconsin in the Big Ten semifinals, but they were a possible No. 1 overall seed heading into the conference tournaments. With two losses, Gonzaga had the fewest losses in the country. The selection committee may have put weight on Miami’s finish late in the regular season, which included three losses in the final five games (at Wake Forest, at Duke, Georgia Tech). Miami was ranked fifth in the official seed list.

The South is the most interesting region, because:
Wolters vs. Burke? In a round of 64 game, Michigan will face South Dakota State, setting up a meeting between potential national player of the year Trey Burke against one of the most fun players to watch in the mid- to low-major ranks in Nate Wolters. The winner may draw VCU’s havoc defense, which will face an Akron team that just suspended its point guard.

Roy vs. Kansas: North Carolina’s hot streak earned the Tar Heels a No. 8 seed, where they may end up facing Kansas in the round of 32. Roy Williams coached at Kansas from 1988-2003, taking the Jayhawks to four Final Fours. Williams' old team also knocked North Carolina out of the Tournament in the Elite Eight last season. Of course, North Carolina won’t face Kansas if the Heels can’t defeat ninth-seeded Villanova, which reached the Tournament by knocking off big-name teams in the Big East.

Tubby vs. Howland: The most important coaching matchup for career trajectory may be between UCLA and Minnesota. Despite winning the Pac-12 regular season this year and reaching three Final Fours, Howland is under a microscope at UCLA. The same may be true for Tubby Smith, whose Minnesota team enters the Tournament on a three-game losing streak. One of these coaches will have an early exit.

Florida vs. Georgetown, part 2: Florida and Georgetown were scheduled to open the season on an aircraft carrier before the game was called at halftime due to moisture on the court. If the Gators and Hoyas can navigate the first weekend, they’ll meet in the Sweet 16, this time indoors.

Bucknell is the most over-seeded team
The official seeding list suggest Bucknell should be a No. 12 seed, but the Bison ended up with a No. 11 seed facing Butler in Lexington, Ky. With three top-100 wins (La Salle, New Mexico State, Loyola-Maryland), the Bison are a stretch here. Bucknell is also the Patriot League’s highest seed since 2006 when the Bison defeated Arkansas as a No. 9 seed.

The committee made a statement with non-power conference teams
Middle Tennessee and La Salle are in, Tennessee and Kentucky are out. Middle Tennessee won the Sun Belt regular season championship and 28 games before FIU knocked it out of the conference tournament. La Salle had a top-50 RPI and defeated Butler and VCU in January. The selection committee handed 11 at-large bids to teams outside of the six major conferences, matching last year’s total. Those at-large bids went to the Atlantic 10, Mountain West (four each), Missouri Valley, Sun Belt and  West Coast (one each).

The committee recognized the SEC struggled this year
The SEC landed only three teams in the field, fewest since 2009, and one of those teams (Ole Miss) was seeded at No. 12. The Rebels were the third-lowest seeded at-large team, according to the official seed list at No. 47. That’s one spot behind Saint Mary’s, two ahead of La Salle and three ahead of Middle Tennessee. The SEC ranked eighth in conference RPI, and it showed in the field. Two of the SEC’s three teams were sent to the lower half of the bracket with Missouri earning a No. 9 seed and Ole Miss at 12. Regular-season champion Florida, though, earned a No. 3 seed.

The committee devalued the Pac-12, too
It’s been five seasons since the NCAA Tournament had this many teams from the Pac-12, so maybe the committee was out of practice. Oregon and Cal landed as No. 12 seeds, despite both teams sharing second place at 12-6 in the league. Neither team was considered to be on the bubble for several weeks, but received seedings more likely to go to some of the last teams in the field. Oregon won the Pac-12 Tournament, finished one game behind UCLA in the standings and defeated the Bruins twice, yet the Ducks were six seeds behind UCLA. Colorado was seeded 10th while Arizona was seeded sixth. Which brings us to...

The strangest round of 64 game is No. 5 UNLV vs. No. 12 Cal
Not only is Cal’s No. 12 seed low, the Bears will play in a rematch of a regular-season game in the round of 64, a possibility the committee attempts to avoid. And what does UNLV get for its 76-75 win over Cal and a No. 5 seed? Playing Cal in its backyard in San Jose.

Teaser:
<p> Selection Sunday analysis: Ole Miss erases doubt, Middle Tennessee brings questions</p>
Post date: Sunday, March 17, 2013 - 20:13
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Even since his first season as a college head coach at UMass, John Calipari has thrived with freshmen. That season in 1988-89, Calipari had a rookie Jim McCoy, who averaged 19.8 points per game.

That freshman and that team didn’t resemble the recruiting empire Calipari built at Memphis and Kentucky where a glut of talented freshmen sign with Cal, win a ton of college games in one year and then go on to be NBA Draft picks.

No, McCoy put up big numbers but went 10-18 at UMass as a freshman. He’s certainly one of Calipari’s best freshmen, but he’ll have trouble landing in the top 10 from recent years.

Sorting through Anthony Davis, Derrick Rose, John Wall and more is a tall task, but we tried to tackle it here with Calipari’s top 20 freshmen.

We included three freshmen from this season’s team, but this early in the season, their grade is incomplete. We anticipate one or all three to make a move up this list, but for now, this elite group of rookies is tough one to crack.

JOHN CALIPARI’S TOP 20 FRESHMEN

Anthony Davis

1. Anthony Davis, Kentucky
Season: 2011-12
Davis didn’t simply have one of the best freshman seasons in college basketball history -- he had one of the best seasons of any player. If there was an award to be won or honor to receive, Davis earned it. He was the consensus national player of the year, a unanimous All-American, the national defensive player of the year and the Final Four Most Outstanding Player. After leading Kentucky to its eighth national title and first championship since 1998, Davis was the No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft. The only other players to win the Naismith Award, the Final Four MOP and then be selected first overall in the draft all the in the same season were Kansas’ Danny Manning and. UCLA’s Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. With a 7-foot-four wingspan, Davis was a defensive force, setting an NCAA freshman record and Kentucky record with 186 blocks.

2. Derrick Rose, Memphis
Season: 2007-08
Hard to believe as it is, Rose wasn’t the most decorated player on his own team as a freshman. That distinction went to All-American and Conference USA player of the year Chris Douglas-Roberts. Rose belongs on this list, though, as the point guard of a team that played for a national title before falling 75-68 in overtime to Kansas. Rose averaged 20.8 points, 6.5 rebounds and 6 assists per game in the NCAA tournament, but his missed free throws late in regulation of the title game sealed Memphis’ fate. Months later, Rose was the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft.

3. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Kentucky
Season: 2011-12
It’s never bad when the team’s most competitive player and glue guy happens to also be the No. 2 player in the NBA Draft (behind only teammate Anthony Davis, the No. 1 overall pick). Kidd-Gilchrist’s intangibles were second-to-none, a trait that was absent on some of Calipari’s most talented teams. Kidd-Gilchrist averaged 11.9 points and 7.4 rebounds, earning Most Outstanding Player honors for the East regional as the Wildcats reached the Final Four and eventually won the national title.

John Wall

4. John Wall, Kentucky
Season:
2009-10
Calipari started at Kentucky the same way he finished his time at Memphis – with an elite one-and-done point guard. Wall followed in the footsteps of Rose and Tyreke Evans at Memphis and preceded Brandon Knight and Marquis Teague at Kentucky. In leading Kentucky to a 35-3 season, Wall was the National Freshman of the Year and the Associated Press and coaches’ pick for SEC Player of the Year (Oddly enough, teammate DeMarcus Cousins was the coaches’ pick for SEC freshman of the year). Wall was blocked for most national player of the year awards by Ohio State’s Evan Turner, but Wall did earn the Adolph Rupp Trophy. Go figure.

5. Brandon Knight, Kentucky
Season:
2010-11
Knight was a McDonald’s All-American, but his arrival wasn’t as heralded as John Wall’s to Kentucky or Derrick Rose’s to Memphis. Still, he brought similar results. Knight wasn’t a collegiate All-American like Wall, but he took Kentucky deeper into the NCAA Tournament for the Wildcats first Final Four appearance since 1998.

6. Nerlens Noel, Kentucky
Season: 2012-13
Before his devastating knee injury against Florida, Noel was having an award-worthy season even if his team paled in comparison to recent Calipari squads. When he did play, Noel was offensively limited but few were better on the defensive end of the floor. He could have challenged Davis’ blocked shots numbers and was a leading candidate for national defensive player and freshman of the year honors. The flat-topped center finished his season averaging 10.5 points, 9.5 rebounds, 4.4 blocks and 2.1 steals per game.


7. Tyreke Evans, Memphis
Season: 2008-09
After Calipari moved him to point guard, Evans had the unenviable task of stepping in for Rose, who had just led Memphis to the national championship game. Evans was a stat-sheet stuffer from the start with 17.1 points per game, 5.4 rebounds and 3.9 assists in his single season at Memphis.

8. Dajuan Wagner, Memphis
Season:
2001-02
Before the deluge of one-and-dones followed Calipari to Memphis and Kentucky, he had Wagner with the Tigers. He averaged 42 points per game in high school before landing in Memphis, where he averaged 21.2 points for the Tigers. Calipari revoked Wagner’s sophomore scholarship to persuade him to enter the NBA Draft, where he became the No. 6 pick. However, health and injury issues derailed his promising career.

9. DeMarcus Cousins, Kentucky
Season:
2009-10
What could Cousins’ ceiling be if he were able to tackle his maturity issues? Kentucky fans may ask the same thing. He was dominant in his single season alongside Wall in 2009-10, averaging 15.1 points and 9.8 rebounds. His talent was undeniable, but so was his tendency to sulk on the sideline. Cousins and Wall went 35-3 in during the regular season before falling in the Elite Eight to West Virginia.

10. Marcus Camby, UMass
Season: 1993-94
Camby would go on to bigger things as a junior when UMass reached the Final Four and earning National Player of the Year honors, but his rookie season in Amherst wasn’t too shabby. Despite starting only 12 games, Camby was the Atlantic 10 Freshman of the Year after averaging 10.2 points, 6.4 rebounds and 3.6 blocks per game.

Terrence Jones

Others of note:
11. Terrence Jones, Kentucky (2010-11)
12. Eric Bledsoe, Kentucky (2009-10)
13. Sean Banks, Memphis (2003-04)
14. Jim McCoy, UMass (1988-89)
15. Marquis Teague, Kentucky (2011-12)
16. Darius Washington Jr., Memphis (2004-05)
17. Will Herndon, UMass (1989-90)
18. Doron Lamb, Kentucky (2010-11)
19. Alex Poythress, Kentucky (2012-13)
20. Archie Goodwin, Kentucky (2012-13)

Teaser:
<p> College basketball: John Calipari's top 20 freshmen</p>
Post date: Friday, March 15, 2013 - 12:20
Path: /college-basketball/daily-march-madness-tracker-statements-illinois-and-syracuse
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Caution employers: Work productivity may be down Thursday and Friday this week and next.

The wild ride continues as college basketball conference tournaments enter their most dramatic phase. Four games in one day in major conferences, championships in the one-bid leagues.

Athlon Sports will keep you up to date on the major news for the NCAA Tournament from the day’s games and what to watch in the day ahead.

MARCH 15 DAILY MARCH MADNESS TRACKER

And, this is why we liked Illinois in tournament play.
Against Minnesota, Brandon Paul had his highest-scoring game (25 points) and most field goals (10) since Dec. 8. That date is not insignificant. Paul had 35 points in the win that day over Gonzaga, now the No. 1 team in the country. True, Illinois needed Paul’s buzzer-beater to defeat Minnesota, but if the Illini can get D.J. Richardson going (2 of 12 against the Gophers), no one will want to face Illinois in the Tourney.

Should Cal be nervous?
Cal has looked like an NCAA Tournament lock for a few weeks, but the Bears now have reason to be nervous. Cal lost 79-69 in overtime to Utah, the 10th seed in the Pac-12 Tournament. Why was Cal a lock in the first place? Defeating Arizona on the road, beating UCLA and Colorado at home, and sweeping Oregon plus no bad losses assembled a strong case. The wins over the Ducks aren’t as impressive, and now Cal has its worst loss of the season on the heels of losing to Stanford in the regular-season finale. Cal may still be in the field, but its seeding has taken a hit.

Syracuse surging?
After shaking off a tough first half against Seton Hall, Syracuse pulled off its most impressive win since Feb. 4 over Notre Dame, if not since Jan. 19 at Louisville, by defeating Pittsburgh 62-59. James Southerland has been on fire for the Orange, scoring 20 in both Big East Tournament games. Should we buy into Syracuse again? Let’s wait to see if the ‘Cuse can crack 50 against Georgetown today.

Iowa State climbing, Oklahoma slipping
The Cyclones entered the Big 12 on the right side of the bubble, but they can probably rest easy after defeating Oklahoma 73-66 in the first round of the conference tournament. Iowa State picked up its second top-100 win away from Ames and its first over a prospective tournament team. Against upcoming opponent Kansas, Iowa State has been a matchup problem against the Jayhawks with its ability to shoot threes. Iowa State made 17 and 14 threes in the two losses to the Jayhawks. As for Oklahoma, the Sooners have damaged their seeding in recent weeks with losses to Texas, TCU and now in the first game in the Big 12 Tournament.

Baylor, see you in the NIT.
Baylor entered the Big 12 Tournament fighting for its postseason life. No one told Baylor. Despite a late surge, the Bears fell behind big early on the way to a 74-72 loss to Oklahoma State. Baylor fans may want to gripe about a disputable foul call that sent Phil Forte, a 91-percent free throw shooter, to the line for the game-winning shots, but the Bears' 18-point halftime deficit didn't help, either. The Bears’ slim NCAA Tournament hopes are gone. A popular preseason pick to win the Big 12, Baylor wraps up one of the most disappointing seasons in the country.

Louisiana Tech’s fade
At one point this season, the Bulldogs won 18 games in a row, including a 16-0 start in the WAC as of March 2. Louisiana Tech’s at-large credentials at the time were debatable -- a top-50 RPI, one top-50 win (Southern Miss), one sub-200 loss (McNeese State). That’s gone after a three-game losing streak to end the season. Tech lost on the road to New Mexico State and Denver to end the regular season and then to No. 9 seed UTSA in the WAC quarterfinals. Louisiana Tech is heading to the NIT.

March Controversy
Charlotte’s 68-63 win over Richmond in the Atlantic 10 first round may be more notable for officiating miscues than its impact on the bracket. Charlotte hit eight straight free throws to turn a three-point deficit into a five-point win in the final five seconds. First, Richmond fouled a Charlotte shooter before a shot. Charlotte made the front end of the one-and-one but as the ball went through the hoop, Richmond’s Derrick Williams became entangled with a Charlotte player and was called for a deadball technical foul, resulting in three more free throws (two for the technical, one for the second half of the one-and-one). Charlotte made all three to take the lead, and took a commanding lead when making four of seven (three attempts on a shot from halfcourt and four more on two technicals on Mooney).

Related: Twitter accounts every March Madness fan should follow

KEY FRIDAY GAMES
All times Eastern

ACC quarterfinals
Virginia vs. NC State (2 p.m., ESPN2)

Atlantic 10 quarterfinals
Butler vs. La Salle (6:30 p.m.)
UMass vs. Temple (9 p.m.)

Big 12 semifinals
Iowa State vs. Kansas (6:30 p.m., ESPNU)
Kansas State vs. Oklahoma State (8:30, ESPNU)

Big East semifinals
Georgetown vs. Syracuse (7 p.m., ESPN)
Louisville vs. Notre Dame (9 p.m., ESPN)

Big Ten semifinals
Indiana vs. Illinois (noon, ESPN)
Wisconsin vs. Michigan (2:30 p.m., ESPN)

Mountain West semifinals
New Mexico vs. San Diego State (9 p.m., CBS Sports Network)
UNLV vs. Colorado State (11:30 p.m. CBS Sports Network)

Pac-12 semifinals
UCLA vs. Arizona (8 p.m., Pac-12 Networks)

SEC quarterfinals
Tennessee vs. Alabama (3:30 p.m., ESPNU)
Vanderbilt vs. Kentucky (7:30 p.m. ESPNU)
Missouri vs. Ole Miss (10 p.m., ESPNU)

BY THE NUMBERS
NCAA TOURNAMENT PROJECTED LOCKS (50)
ACC (4): Duke, Miami, NC State, North Carolina
Atlantic 10 (4): Butler, Saint Louis, Temple, VCU
Atlantic Sun (1): Florida Gulf Coast*
Big 12 (4): Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State
Big East (8): Cincinnati, Georgetown, Louisville, Marquette, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Villanova
Big South (1): Liberty*
Big Ten (6): Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Wisconsin
Colonial (1): James Madison*
Horizon (1): Valparaiso*
Ivy (1): Harvard*
Missouri Valley (1): Creighton*
Mountain West (4): Colorado State, New Mexico, San Diego State, UNLV
Northeast (1): LIU Brooklyn*
Ohio Valley (1): Belmont*
Patriot (1): Bucknell*
Pac-12 (5): Arizona, Cal, Colorado, Oregon, UCLA
SEC (2): Florida, Missouri
Southern (1): Davidson*
Summit (1): South Dakota State*
Sun Belt (1): Western Kentucky*
West Coast (1): Gonzaga
*clinched NCAA Tournament bid

ONE-BID LEAGUES (9)
America East, Big Sky, Big West, MAAC, MAC, MEAC, Southland, SWAC, WAC
Note: Conference USA likely will be a one-bid league if Memphis wins its conference tournament.

THE BUBBLE: 15 teams for nine spots
Alabama
Arizona State
Boise State
Iowa
Iowa State
Kentucky
La Salle
Memphis
Middle Tennessee
Minnesota
Ole Miss
Tennessee
Saint Mary’s
Wichita State
Virginia

Teaser:
<p> Daily March Madness Tracker: Statements for Illinois and Syracuse</p>
Post date: Friday, March 15, 2013 - 11:26
Path: /college-basketball/40-twitter-accounts-every-march-madness-fan-should-follow
Body:

College basketball can be a tough sport to follow, even for die-hard fans. Nearly 350 teams, more than 30 conferences, games everyday of the week make college hoops a great sport, but also difficult to get a comprehensive handle on.

But there’s also recruiting gurus and a new wave a statistic-loving experts who can make college basketball fandom an exhaustive affair.

If you’re on Twitter, here are the 40-plus folks to follow who can offer numbers, news, insight and humor.

THE MARCH MUST-FOLLOW

March Madness TV @MarchMadnessTV
Quiet during the regular season, CBS' account for March Madness ramps it up around the conference tournaments and into the NCAA Tournament. Want to know immediately who's in the field, where to watch the key games and best action and other factoids? This is a must-follow.

 

 

THE BIG NAMES

Andy Katz @ESPNAndyKatz
If you follow college basketball, you probably know ESPN.com’s lead reporter on the sport already. His feed is a one-stop shop for news, comments and retweets of the college basketball media from ESPN and elsewhere.

 

 

Seth Davis @SethDavisHoops
You can’t escape him on television as basketball season takes over on CBS on Saturday. He’ll Tweet his SI.com Hoop Thoughts, views he’s gleaned scouts on key players and his own opinions. He’s a big name for sure, but he takes questions from Twitter every week in Twenty for Tuesday.

 

Jay Bilas @JayBilas
ESPN’s best color and in-studio basketball analyst is also one of the most interesting voices on Twitter. His insight is valuable and witty, but perhaps his best quality is his unfiltered take on the NCAA. He also has a follower-to-following ratio in excess of 400,000-to-0.

 

The CBSSports.com team
Jeff Borzello @JeffBorzello
Jeff Goodman @GoodmanCBS
Matt Norlander @MattNorlander
Gary Parrish @GaryParrishCBS

Want a lesson in newsroom chemistry? The CBSSports.com college basketball team is it. Parrish is an ace columnist. Goodman seems to know every roster and assistant from North Carolina to North Carolina A&T. Borzello is the recruiting expert. Norlander curates the blog and the podcast. The banter and non-basketball Tweets, though, make them worth following as a group as they poke at Goodman’s obsessiveness, Parrish’s fashion choices, Norlander’s affinity for tempo-free stats.

 

The Bracket Experts
Joe Lunardi @ESPNLunardi
Jerry Palm @jppalmCBS

Face it: You probably have a handful of questions about your team. 1. Is my team in the NCAA Tournament or on the bubble? 2. Where is my team seeded? 3. What if X beats Y and Y beats Z? Lunardi and Palm have your answers. And they seem to take the constant questions and occasional criticism in stride.

 

 

Michael DeCourcy @tsnmike
Let’s step away from this ESPN/CBS dominance for a bit with DeCourcy, a staple from The Sporting News and now the Big Ten Network. He’ll be kind, critical but also unafraid to challenge the prevailing wisdom.

 

Pat Forde @YahooForde
Forde offers in-game notes and opinion on the most prominent teams. Cue the Kentucky fans: He’s from Louisville but gives both teams a fair shake.

 

Dick Vitale @DickieV
We’ve poked fun at Vitale, but the ESPN institution has taken to Twitter well. His enthusiasm for being on the road at college basketball’s best sites translates to social media, too. We’ll sum it up this way: If you like Vitale on air, you’ll like him on Twitter even in CAPS LOCK.

Luke Winn @lukewinn
Sports Illustrated’s top basketball writer puts out must-read power rankings throughout the season. @AndyGlockner and @RobDauster are also key follows from the SI team for nationwide info. Winn's work is rich in data, charts and visual aids. For example:

 

The rest of the ESPN team
Dana O’Neil @ESPNDanaONeil
Jason King @JasonKingESPN
Eamonn Brennan @eamonnbrennan
Myron Medcalf @MedcalfByESPN
Fran Fraschilla @franfraschilla
Jimmy Dykes @JimmyDykesLive

No one has more boots on the ground than ESPN, especially covering college basketball full-time. From the great feature writers (O’Neil and King) to the blog network (Brennan and Medcalf) and the on-air guys (Fraschilla and Dykes), you won’t starve for information.

 

GOING DEEPER

USA Today Voices
Eric Prisbell @EricPrisbell
Nicole Auerbach @NicoleAuerbach
Dan Wolken @DanWolken

USA Today recently expanded its online sports coverage. Prisbell reports and investigates, which means he may report some things you’ll hate to hear about your team and love to hear about your rivals. Auerbach covers the nationwide blog and curates a chat with Prisbell. Wolken is by trade a college football writer, but the former Memphis newspaper columnist has some biting basketball takes, too.

 

Ken Pomeroy @kenpomeroy
Remember when baseball statistics like OPS and BABIP and WAR started making the rounds? Tempo-free basketball stats are kind of like that. Ken Pomeroy and his ilk wants to be able to compare an up-tempo team like North Carolina to a low-tempo team like Wisconsin on an even playing field. You’ll have to visit his site and pay the subscription to get all the advanced stats, but Pomeroy brings a quirky sense of humor to Twitter.

 

The Recruiting Gurus
Eric Bossi @ebosshoops
Jerry Meyer @jerrymeyer247
Brian Snow @BSnowScout
Dave Telep @DaveTelep

Want to know who’s next up for your team or what coach is watching what recruit? Basketball recruiting hasn’t blown up quite like football on national signing day, but veteran recruiting reporters Eric Bossi, Jerry Meyer, Brian Snow and Dave Telep know their way around the AAU circuit.

 

The Independent Voices
Rush the Court @rushthecourt
Michael Rogner @RunTheFloor

Looking for a different take away from the big multimedia companies, try these two blogs to shuffle things up. Both gather links from around the web, create their own content and analysis and share opinions, especially live on game day.

 

The Coaches
Chris Mack @CoachChrisMack
Eric Reveno @CoachReveno

Admit it: Most coach Twitter accounts are boring, especially if he’s not the coach of your favorite team. Many accounts aren’t even run by the coach himself. We applaud Xavier coach Chris Mack and Portland coach Eric Reveno for sharing the coach experience with their followers. Both have occasionally self-deprecating senses of humor, especially when it comes to parenting and travel. But they also take on more heady issues. Reveno, in particular, Tweets about the tough job of a coach and offers suggestions to the NCAA.

 

Check Your Local Listings
Most of these on the list are national names. We couldn’t possibly go through the long list of great beat writers and local columnists out there. Some of our favorites for top teams this year including @RickBozich and @ericcrawford for Louisville, @JerryTipton and @kysportsradio for Kentucky, @insidethehall and @indystar_hutch for Indiana and @ACCSports, @DavidTeelatDP and @bylinerp for all things Duke, North Carolina and ACC.

Teaser:
<p> Twitter accounts every college basketball fan should follow</p>
Post date: Thursday, March 14, 2013 - 14:30
Path: /college-basketball/daily-march-madness-tracker-big-east-tournament-wont-disappoint
Body:

Caution employers: Work productivity may be down Thursday and Friday this week and next.

The wild ride continues as college basketball conference tournaments enter their most dramatic phase. Four games in one day in major conferences, championships in the one-bid leagues.

Athlon Sports will keep you up to date on the major news for the NCAA Tournament from the day’s games and what to watch in the day ahead.

Conference tournament previews:
ACC | Atlantic 10 | Big 12 | Big East | Big TenMountain West | Pac-12 | SEC


MARCH 14 DAILY MARCH MADNESS TRACKER

Villanova keeps climbing
The Wildcats were pretty safe after defeating Georgetown in the final week of the regular season, but Villanova now has a chance to move up the bracket after advancing in the Big East Tournament. The Wildcats pulled away from an undermanned St. John’s team 66-53 and will face Louisville today. Nova’s frontcourt of Mouphtaou Yarou and JayVaughn Pinkston pounded St. John’s for a combined 30 points and 16 rebounds. The Wildcats were characteristically effective from the line, shooting 19 of 23. File that number away.

Cincinnati pulls out of funk
After having to sweat in an overtime win over USF at home, Cincinnati defeated Providence 61-44 in a game that could have been problematic for the Bearcats. Cincinnati won’t have to beat Georgetown to get into the field. The Bearcats will just try to show any signs they can advance.

Syracuse stalls, then roars back
The Orange started its game against Seton Hall on Saturday looking as sluggish as it had for most of the last few months. Syracuse trailed by nine midway through the first half but finished with a 75-63 win. Most encouraging was the play of James Southerland and Brandon Triche. Southerland bounced back from an 0-for-8 performance against Georgetown to score 20. Triche broke out of his slump from the last few weeks to score 17.

Should UCLA fear Arizona State?
Arizona State lost an eight-point lead in the final 1:04 of regulation against a Stanford team that made attempted (and made) one field goal all game. The Sun Devils eventually won 89-88 in overtime to keep their slim NCAA hopes alive. Why should a team that nearly coughed up a win over the ninth-seeded team be a threat to the No. 1 seed in the Pac-12? Well, freshman Jahii Carson was unstoppable with 34 points. And UCLA hasn’t shown it can be trusted tto avoid a let down.

UNLV makes most of its break
Disappointing UNLV ended the season with a loss to Fresno State at home. The Rebels will advance on their homecourt by defeating Air Force 72-56, but UNLV caught a break. Air Force’s leading scorer Michael Lyons left with a knee injury. Still, the Rebels should be pleased with the win, especially with the play of Anthony Bennett. In February, he was one of the top freshmen in the country, but he scored in double figures only once since Feb. 16. Against Air Force, he was 10 of 14 from the field for 23 points with seven rebounds.

In the one-bid conference tourneys...
Bucknell clinched the Patriot League’s bid by defeating Lafayette in the title game. The Bison have a legit forward in Mike Muscala and gave Missouri fits earlier this season. No top four seed will want to meet Bucknell in the round of 64. ... Both of the top two seeds in the MEAC lost their first games in the conference tournament -- Norfolk State to eighth-seeded Bethune-Cookman and North Carolina Central to seventh-seeded North Carolina A&T. You’ll recognize Norfolk State: The Spartans upset No. 2 seed Missouri in the NCAA Tournament last season. The MEAC frontrunners went a combined 31-1 in league this season.

Related: Top Buzzer Beaters for 2012-13 (so far)

KEY THURSDAY GAMES
All times Eastern


Note: The first rounds of the Atlantic 10, ACC and Big Ten begin Thursday while the SEC moves into the second round.

Big 12 quarterfinals
Oklahoma vs. Iowa State (12:30 p.m., ESPN2)
Oklahoma State vs. Baylor (9:30 p.m., Big 12 Network)

Iowa State is lingering on the bubble, but the Cyclones might feel pretty good if they can defeat Oklahoma for their second win over a top-50 team in eight days. The Sooners would have good reason to worry about their seed with a loss Thursday. They’ve already lost to Texas and TCU since the end of February ... Baylor will need to make a deep run to reach the NCAA Tournament, but back-to-back wins over Kansas and Oklahoma State will allow us to dream.

Big East quarterfinals
Cincinnati vs. Georgetown (noon, ESPN)
Syracuse vs. Pittsburgh (2 p.m., ESPN)
Villanova vs. Louisville (7 p.m., ESPN)
Notre Dame vs. Marquette (9 p.m., ESPN)

As indicated above, the bubble work may be done for Cincinnati and Villanova. This is simply going to be great basketball in the final Big East Tournament as we know it. Three future conferences will be represented Thursday with the future Big East in name only (Georgetown, Marquette), the conference-to-be named (Cincinnati) and the ACC (Syracuse, Pitt, Louisville, Notre Dame).

Big Ten first round
Illinois vs. Minnesota (noon, Big Ten Network)
Unless Michigan loses to Penn State for the second time in two weeks, the first day of the Big Ten Tournament will be most notable for the 8-9 game. Both Illinois and Minnesota this season defeated Indiana, whom the winner will draw in the next round. Minnesota was in a funk in the last week of the season. The Gophers need Trevor Mbakwe, Rodney Williams and Andre Hollins to heat up to have a chance to win the postseason. Illinois lost its final two regular season games, too, but if Brandon Paul catches fire, no one will want to face the Illini.

Mountain West semifinals
UNLV vs. Colorado State (10:30 p.m., CBS Sports Network)
Colorado State took care of business against Fresno State even without starting point guard Dorian Green. UNLV may be the luckiest team in the postseason -- the Rebels are playing on their home court and faced Air Force without their best player and are likely to face Colorado State without its point guard.

Pac-12 quarterfinals
Arizona State vs. UCLA (3 p.m., Pac-12 Networks)
Arizona vs. Colorado (5:30 p.m., Pac-12 Networks)

UCLA isn’t far removed from losing to Washington State on the road, and the Bruins must face a team that gave them fits in the regular season. The Sun Devils dominated inside in an 18-point win back in January, and UCLA needed it star freshmen to combine for 64 points to defeat Arizona State in overtime at home.

Related: All 2013 postseason college basketball coverage

BY THE NUMBERS
NCAA TOURNAMENT PROJECTED LOCKS (50)
ACC (4): Duke, Miami, NC State, North Carolina
Atlantic 10 (4): Butler, Saint Louis, Temple, VCU
Atlantic Sun (1): Florida Gulf Coast*
Big 12 (4): Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State
Big East (8): Cincinnati, Georgetown, Louisville, Marquette, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Villanova
Big South (1): Liberty*
Big Ten (6): Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Wisconsin
Colonial (1): James Madison*
Horizon (1): Valparaiso*
Ivy (1): Harvard*
Missouri Valley (1): Creighton*
Mountain West (4): Colorado State, New Mexico, San Diego State, UNLV
Northeast (1): LIU Brooklyn*
Ohio Valley (1): Belmont*
Patriot (1): Bucknell*
Pac-12 (5): Arizona, Cal, Colorado, Oregon, UCLA
SEC (2): Florida, Missouri
Southern (1): Davidson*
Summit (1): South Dakota State*
Sun Belt (1): Western Kentucky*
West Coast (1): Gonzaga
*clinched NCAA Tournament bid

ONE-BID LEAGUES (9)
America East, Big Sky, Big West, MAAC, MAC, MEAC, Southland, SWAC, WAC
Note: Conference USA likely will be a one-bid league if Memphis wins its conference tournament.

THE BUBBLE: 17 teams for nine spots
Alabama
Arizona State
Baylor
Boise State
Iowa
Iowa State
Kentucky
La Salle
Memphis
Middle Tennessee
Minnesota
Ole Miss
Tennessee
Saint Mary’s
Wichita State
UMass
Virginia

Teaser:
<p> Daily March Madness Tracker: Big East Tournament won't disappoint</p>
Post date: Thursday, March 14, 2013 - 12:30
Path: /college-basketball/2013-atlantic-10-conference-tournament
Body:

March Madness is just getting started as the college basketball season shifts to the conference tournaments. Titles will be won, NCAA Tournament spots will be clinched or lost all over the country. Here’s what to watch in the Atlantic 10.

ATLANTIC 10 CONFERENCE TOURNAMENT
Starts: Thursday
Final: Sunday in Brooklyn (CBS)
First-round games (All Thursday):
No. 8 Richmond vs. No. 9 Charlotte
No. 5 Butler vs. No. 12 Dayton
No. 7 Xavier vs. No. 10 St. Joseph’s
No. 6 Massachusetts vs. No. 11 George Washington

Byes to the quarterfinals
No. 1 Saint Louis
No. 2 VCU
No. 3 Temple
No. 4 La Salle

Full Bracket: (.pdf)

Other conference tournament previews:
ACC | Big 12 | Big East | Big Ten | Mountain West | Pac-12 | SEC


THE FAVORITE: Saint Louis
The Billikens finished the season on a tear, winning 12 of their last 13. Along the way, Saint Louis comfortably defeated the second seed (VCU) and fourth (La Salle) seed in the field and defeated the fifth seed (Butler) on the road. Dwayne Evans has been the key, averaging 16.5 points and 8.9 rebounds in the final 13 games.

DARK HORSE: Xavier
A big roll of the dice to pick Xavier to win in a tournament setting. The Musketeers have the players (Semaj Christon, Travis Taylor) and have defeated good teams (Memphis on Feb. 26 and top-seeded Saint Louis on March 6). But Xavier also hasn’t won consecutive games since defeating Duquesne and Fordham, two of the bottom three teams in the A-10, in early February. During Xavier’s late stretch, the Musketeers let games slip away against VCU, UMass and Butler. They’ll have to figure out how to play more consistently in a hurry.

ATHLON’S PICK: VCU
The Rams’ swarming defense will be tough to break in a tournament setting. Be sure to track the turnover numbers. The Rams are undefeated when forcing 15 or more turnovers and winless when forcing fewer than 15.

Related: Top Buzzer Beaters for 2012-13 (so far)

NCAA TOURNAMENT LOCKS:
Butler, Saint Louis, VCU

BUBBLE TEAMS:
Temple
After winning its final seven games, Temple is a virtual lock for the NCAA Tournament. The Owls lost to Duquesne, St. Bonaventure and Canisius early this season, but may have played their way in with a win over VCU in the regular season finale. The worst case scenario would be a loss to No. 11 George Washington in the A-10 Tournament opener, but the Colonials would first have to upset UMass. Even if that happens, it’s tough to see Temple missing the field unless there’s a numbers crunch for at-large bids.

La Salle
It’s been a while since we’ve heard much from La Salle, the No. 4 seed in the A-10 Tournament. Since defeating Butler and VCU in back-to-back games in January, the Explorers are 0-3 against the top three seeds in the A-10. Meanwhile, La Salle’s RPI and strength of schedule took a hit with four games against teams that didn’t even make the A-10 field. The Explorers’ RPI and strength of schedule numbers are marginal, so La Salle will rest easier if the Explorers defeat No. 5 seed Butler in the quarterfinals. If La Salle faces No. 12 seed Dayton and loses, the situation will be dicey.

Related: All 2013 postseason college basketball coverage

Teaser:
<p> 2013 Atlantic 10 Conference Tournament</p>
Post date: Thursday, March 14, 2013 - 09:40
Path: /college-basketball/2013-sec-tournament-preview
Body:

March Madness is just getting started as the college basketball season shifts to the conference tournaments. Titles will be won, NCAA Tournament spots will be clinched or lost all over the country. Here’s what to watch in the SEC.

SEC TOURNAMENT
Starts: Thursday
Final: Sunday in Nashville, Tenn. (ABC)
Early round games
No. 12 South Carolina vs. No. 13 Mississippi State (Wednesday)
No. 11 Texas A&M vs. No. 14 Auburn (Wednesday)
No. 8 Georgia vs. No. 9 LSU (Thursday)
No. 5 Tennessee vs. South Carolina/Mississippi State (Thursday)
No. 7 Arkansas vs. No. 10 Vanderbilt (Thursday)
No. 6 Missouri vs. Texas A&M/Auburn

Byes to the quarterfinals:
No. 1 Florida
No. 2 Kentucky
No. 3 Ole Miss
No. 4 Alabama

Full Bracket: (.pdf)

Other conference tournament previews:
Big 12 | Big East | Mountain West | Pac-12


THE FAVORITE: Florida
Florida stumbled down the stretch on the road in league play, but the Gators were clearly the best team in the league all season long. Florida will need to prove it can win away from Gainesville (the Gators went 7-6 on the road) and win close games (the Gators were 0-5 in games decided by single digits). Plan your brackets accordingly.

DARK HORSE: Tennessee
Any team with Jordan McRae, Trae Golden and Jarnell Stokes is capable of winning four games in four days. The Vols have won eight of nine, and probably need to win two more to secure an at-large invite to the NCAA Tournament. A talented team that went 8-1 down the stretch and needs to win games? Seems like a good mix.

ATHLON’S PICK: Florida
It’s always dangerous to pick against Kentucky — which will have the majority of the fan support — at the SEC Tournament, but the Wildcats simply have not been able to win consistently enough to trust them in the SEC Tournament. Florida has the talent and could re-focus in time to win its first SEC Tourney since 2007.

Related: Top Buzzer Beaters for 2012-13 (so far)

NCAA TOURNAMENT LOCKS:
Florida, Missouri

BUBBLE TEAMS:
Kentucky
The Wildcats may have the strongest case of any of the five bubble teams in the SEC. Kentucky was in the field before Nerlens Noel got hurt and defeated Missouri and Florida at home in close games after Noel’s injury. But Kentucky also lost by 30 to Tennessee in Knoxville, plus on the road to Arkansas and Georgia. Avoid a loss to Vanderbilt or Arkansas in the first game, and John Calipari will feel more confident about defending his title.

Tennessee
The Volunteers surged at the end of the season with only one loss after Feb. 6. The run included wins at home over Kentucky, Florida and Missouri, but Georgia continued to be the Achilles’ heel for the Vols. Lucky for Cuonzo Martin, Tennessee won’t see the Bulldogs unless it’s in a conference title game. A bad loss to either South Carolina or Mississippi State might knock Tennessee out. A win over Alabama in the quarterfinals might be enough to keep the Vols in.

Ole Miss
The Rebels earned a bye to the quarterfinals, where they’ll hope to meet Missouri again. The Tigers will likely head to the NCAA Tournament with a strong non-conference resume, but they’re seeded sixth in the SEC. If Ole Miss draws Missouri, the Rebels will have a chance to prove their signature win of the season wasn’t a product of playing the Tigers in Oxford without Laurence Bowers.

Alabama
Losing to LSU and needing a miracle halfcourt shot to beat Georgia is not a great way to get into the field, especially for a Crimson Tide team with losses to Auburn, Tulane, Mercer and Dayton on the resume. It’s tough to see this team reaching the field without wins over Tennessee in the quarters and Florida in the semis, at least.

Arkansas
At home, Arkansas is a sure-bet tournament team. Away from Fayetteville, the Hogs are beatable by everyone but Auburn. We list Arkansas as a bubble team because of the Razorbacks’ potential when they’re on their games. That said, it may be automatic bid or bust.

Related: All 2013 postseason college basketball coverage

Teaser:
<p> 2013 SEC Tournament Preview</p>
Post date: Wednesday, March 13, 2013 - 11:00
Path: /college-football/florida-gators-2013-spring-football-preview
Body:

Florida lived on the edge like few teams last season. No matter the opponent -- from Bowling Green and Louisiana-Lafayette to Texas A&M and LSU, the Gators made Saturdays interesting. In Will Muschamp’s third season, the coach will take the record (11-2) but maybe not the stress of games that shouldn’t be as close as they were.

Spring opens with plenty of questions, though. Jeff Driskel was a liability at times at quarterback last season, but he’s the focal point this season. On defense, many of the top playmakers are gone, opening doors for talented youth to make a move.

Florida Gators 2013 Spring Preview

2012 Record: 11-2 (7-1)

Spring practice dates: March 13-April 6

Returning Starters: Offense – 5, Defense – 4

Returning Leaders:

Passing: Jeff Driskel, 156 of 245, 1,646, 12 TDs, 5 INTs
Rushing: Driskel, 118 car., 413 yds, 4 TD
Receiving: Quinton Dunbar, 36 rec., 383 yds., 4 TDs
Tackles: Loucheiz Purifoy, 51
Sacks: Dominique Easley, 4
Interceptions: Jaylen Watkins, 3

Redshirts to watch: S Marcus Maye, QB Skyler Mornhinweg, TE Colin Thompson, DT Quinteze Williams

Early Enrollees to watch: LB Alex Anzalone, DL Joe Ivie, LB Daniel McMillian, OL Tyler Moore, WR Demarcus Robinson

JUCO Transfer to Watch: DT Darious Cummings

2013 Schedule
Aug. 31: Toledo
Sept. 7: at Miami
Sept. 21: Tennessee
Sept. 28: at Kentucky
Oct. 5: Arkansas
Oct. 12: at LSU
Oct. 19: at Missouri
Nov. 2: Georgia (Jacksonville)
Nov. 9: Vanderbilt
Nov. 16: at South Carolina
Nov. 23: Georgia Southern
Nov. 30: Florida State

Offensive Strength: The offense as a whole is in transition with new faces on the offensive line and questions at running back and wide receiver. That leaves quarterback, or at least Jeff Driskel’s returning experience, as a strength. Driskel threw all but 43 of the Gators’ pass attempts last season.

Offensive Weakness: The Gators averaged an un-Florida-like 5.3 yards per play last season. Only Missouri and Kentucky averaged fewer in the SEC last season. The Gators will focus on a power run game under Will Muschamp and coordinator Brent Pease, but Florida will need to find playmakers with running back and Mike Gillislee and tight end Jordan Reed gone.

Defensive Strength: Florida is overflowing with numbers at cornerback, which is allowing Muschamp to tinker with moving players around. Loucheiz Purifoy will see time on offense while Cody Riggs and Jaylen Watkins may play safety.

Defensive Weakness: As usual, the Gators have plenty of talented players on defense, but there’s a question of who will become the big-play leader. Matt Elam led the team in interceptions (four) and was second in tackles for a loss (11), but he’s gone. Empty spots in the front seven mean Florida is also looking for a pass rusher to emerge.

Spring Storylines Facing the Gators

1. Can Jeff Driskel emerge? Driskel won’t be competing for his job after starting all but two games last season. Now, it’s time to see what he can do with a full spring as the No. 1 quarterback. He has a strong arm and he can scramble, but he needs to be able to make more plays downfield and avoid sacks. Two huge safety nets in Gillislee and Reed are gone, so Driskel needs to emerge as a playmaker in his own right.

2. Finding offensive playmakers. Where would Florida have been without the steady, grinding run game of Gillislee? That’s not a question the Gators hope to answer. The Gators used to have a steady stream of offensive playmakers, but there’s been a drought of reliable big play receivers. This spring, cornerback Loucheiz Purifoy is working out at the position, and early-enrolling freshman Demarcus Robinson could make an impact. At running back, the race is on to replace Gillislee. Matt Jones came on late last season, including eight carries for 81 yards and a touchdown against Florida State. He’s one of three scholarship tailbacks in spring camp.

3. A new offensive line look. Three starters are back on the offensive line, including center Jon Harrison, right guard Jon Halapio and right tackle Chaz Green. Sophomore D.J. Humphries could take over at left tackle and may have a bright future there. Maryland transfer Max Garcia is a projected starter at left guard while Nebraska transfer Tyler Moore could press Green for playing time.

4. Changing of the guard in the front seven. The Gators will have a ton of turnover in the front seven with linemen Sharrif Floyd and Omar Hunter and all three starting linebackers gone. Linemen Dante Fowler Jr. and Jonathan Bullard are looking to build on positive freshman seasons. Ronald Powell, a former No. 1 prospect, is looking to make a return from a torn ACL. With defensive tackle Darious Cummings arriving from junior college, Florida will have candidates at line. The Gators will need help at linebacker, though.

5. Filling both safety spots. Where Florida is stocked at cornerback, the Gators have questions at safety. Matt Elam was Florida’s top defensive player last season. He left big shoes to fill. Josh Evans, who started the last two seasons, are also gone. Hopes are high for Marcus Maye to take over for Elam, but he’s a redshirt freshman.

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College Football's Top 15 Spring Quarterback Battles to Watch for 2013

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Now that the calendar has turned to March, fans of bubble teams may be refreshing web sites of their favorite bracketologists.

As college basketball’s regular season and conference tournament season nears a close, Athlon Sports will keep you up to date on the key developments through the week. Each day brings key developments for the NCAA Tournament, so in this space, we’ll update which teams look to be in the field, which might be playing themselves out as well as the key games of the day.

Related: Key stats from March 4-10

MARCH 11 DAILY MARCH MADNESS TRACKER AND BUBBLE WATCH

SEC teams clinging to hope
Alabama, Kentucky, Ole Miss and Tennessee could audition for roles as monsters in bad horror movies. Just when their NCAA Tournament hopes appear to be dead, they keep coming back. Alabama lost back-to-back games to Florida and Ole Miss, but got a midcourt desperation shot from Trevor Releford to avoid a loss to Georgia. The Bulldogs defeated Tennessee and Kentucky in the last week and half, but the Volunteers and Wildcats turned around to defeat the SEC’s top two teams (Missouri and Florida, respectively). After losing to SEC bottom feeders South Carolina and Mississippi State in a span of two weeks, Ole Miss won a head-to-head meeting with Alabama and defeated LSU on the road. Here’s a look at their resumes heading into the SEC Tournament:

  Alabama Kentucky Ole Miss Tennessee
SEC Record 12-6 12-6 12-6 11-7
RPI ranking 62 50 56 55
Kenpom.com ranking 69 35 45 62
Top-100 record 7-7 7-9 7-6 9-9
Best win Kentucky Florida Missouri Florida
Worst loss at Auburn at Georgia at Miss. State Georgia

Baylor not done yet
Baylor headed into its regular-season finale against Kansas riding a 1-5 streak that damaged the Bears’ NCAA hopes. An 81-58 win over the Jayhawks on Saturday alone won’t get Baylor into the field, but at least it hints at what Baylor can do when it plays to its potential. The Bears (3-10 against the top 50, ranked No. 62 in the RPI) open the Big 12 Tournament against Oklahoma State.

Big Ten bubble watch
Only a week or so ago, the Big Ten looked like it established clear tiers between the NCAA teams and the NIT teams. It remains to be seen if that has changed with Minnesota's recent struggles. At the very least, Minnesota’s seeding has taken a hit in the last week. The same team that defeated Indiana on Feb. 26 lost at Nebraska and at Purdue last week. The Gophers still have an 11-8 record against the top 100, which is a better mark than Iowa, for example. The Hawkeyes finished a game ahead of Minnesota in the Big Ten standings, but Iowa is 5-8 against the top 100. The difference in strength of schedule contributes to Minnesota’s RPI in the top 25 and Iowa’s at 75.

What’s going on in the Mountain West?
Saturday was drama-filled for the Mountain West with three of the four games potentially impacting the field. New Mexico started the day with a reasonable case for a No. 1 seed, but the Lobos lost 89-88 on the road to Air Force. Boise State further strengthened its case for an at-large with a 69-65 win over San Diego State to improve its record to 4-6 against the top 50. The Broncos’ signature win this season was on the road against Missouri Valley regular season and tournament champion Creighton on Nov. 28. The most puzzling result, however, was UNLV’s loss at home to Fresno State. The Bulldogs are 11-18 this season and 5-11 in the Mountain West, two of those wins coming against UNLV.

Temple picks up key win
Since a loss to RPI No. 219 Duquesne on Valentine’s Day, Temple has been fighting to stay in the field. The Owls ended its regular season with an 84-76 win over VCU that should be a a boost to their at-large hopes. Since the Duquesne loss, Temple has won seven in a row, including five top-100 wins (at UMass, La Salle, at Charlotte, Detroit and VCU). Fran Dunphy’s team earned the No. 3 seed in the Atlantic 10 Tournament and will catch either UMass or George Washington after a bye.

No guarantees in the Pac-12
UCLA clinched an outright Pac-12 title with a little help from Oregon, which lost to Colorado (without Andre Roberson) and Utah (which finished 5-13 in the league). A puzzling Saturday in the Pac-12 may hint at a wild conference tournament. For starters, Washington State started the week with two league wins but defeated the conference champion (UCLA) and then the hottest team in the league (USC). Colorado also found time to lose at home to Oregon State (4-14 in the league).

Cincinnati dodges one
The Bearcats have been on a slide to the NCAA bubble but avoided a problematic loss by defeating USF 61-53. The Bearcats needed overtime to defeat the 12-18 Bulls. Now, Cincinnati opens the Big East Tournament against a Providence team that defeated the Bearcats on Feb. 6 in addition to beating Villanova twice and Notre Dame.

Related: Video Slideshow: Top Buzzer Beaters for 2012-13

KEY MONDAY GAMES
All Times Eastern

FIU vs. Western Kentucky (7 p.m., ESPN)
Sun Belt Championship

Davidson vs. Charleston (7 p.m., ESPN)
Southern Championship

Northeastern vs. James Madison (7 p.m., NBC Sports Network)
Colonial Championship

Saint Mary’s vs. Gonzaga (9 p.m., ESPN)
West Coast Championship

Iona vs. Manhattan (9 p.m., ESPN)
MAAC Championship

BY THE NUMBERS
NCAA TOURNAMENT PROJECTED LOCKS (39)
ACC (4): Duke, Miami, NC State, North Carolina
Atlantic 10 (3): Butler, Saint Louis, VCU
Atlantic Sun (1): Florida Gulf Coast*
Big 12 (4): Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State
Big East (6): Georgetown, Louisville, Marquette, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, Syracuse
Big South (1): Liberty*
Big Ten (6): Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Wisconsin
Ivy (1): Harvard*
Missouri Valley (1): Creighton*
Mountain West (4): Colorado State, New Mexico, San Diego State, UNLV
Ohio Valley (1): Belmont*
Pac-12 (5): Arizona, Cal, Colorado, Oregon, UCLA
SEC (2): Florida, Missouri
West Coast (1): Gonzaga
*clinched NCAA Tournament bid

ONE-BID LEAGUES (15)
America East, Big Sky, Big West, Colonial, Horizon, MAAC, MAC, MEAC, Northeast, Patriot, Southern, Southland, Summit, SWAC, WAC
Note: Conference USA and the Sun Belt likely will be one-bid leagues if their proejcted champions win their conference tournaments.

THE BUBBLE: 14 teams

RELATED:
All 2013 NCAA Tournament Coverage

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The most important number of the college basketball weekend was five. As in five teams to clinch NCAA Tournament bids.

Two of the automatic bids went to regular season champions — Creighton in the Missouri Valley and Belmont in the Ohio Valley — who needed every second to win their conference title games. Harvard also clinched its NCAA Tournament bid as the Crimson defeated Cornell and Princeton lost to Brown to hand Harvard the Ivy title and its second consecutive Tourney trip.

Elsewhere, two teams came from obscurity to claim bids. Florida Gulf Coast, in only its second season eligible for the postseason, won the Atlantic Sun tournament, defeating Mercer on its home court. And Liberty rendered its lackluster Big South season moot by winning four in a row to reach the NCAA Tournament despite 20 losses.

March is indeed bringing us Madness as buzzer beaters were a highlight all weekend as were some notable numbers good (for Saint Louis and Pittsburgh) and bad (for Florida and Syracuse).

Here’s a look at the key numbers from the weekend in college basketball:

5. Median margin of victory in 18 games between the Big Ten’s top five
The Big Ten wrapped up a regular season where it seemed to have the best game of the week every week since mid-January. That’s not an exaggeration. Five teams finished with two games of Indiana’s outright title at 14-4. In the 18 games between Indiana, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State and Wisconsin, the median margin of victory was five points. On Sunday, the Big Ten season ended the way it had been played for most of the season with a one-point win and an Indiana victory in a key game with the Hoosiers’ 72-71 win at Michigan. By defeating the Wolverines, Indiana finished 5-2 against the other top five teams in the Big Ten. The Hoosiers were the only team among the top five with a winning record against the other four. Michigan State and Ohio State each went 4-4, Wisconsin went 3-3 and Michigan went 2-5.

1,224. Games Jim Boehiem coached before his team failed to score 40 points
The final Big East regular season game between Georgetown-Syracuse produced some history, but not the kind Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim wanted. A Boeheim-coached team failed to score 40 points for the first time in his 912-win career as Georgetown won 61-39. His team’s lowest scoring performance waited until its 1,225th career game. Other notable numbers from Georgetown’s win:
♦ Otto Porter, who accounts for 28.3 percent of Georgetown’s scoring in Big East games, scored 10 of the Hoyas’ 61 points against Syracuse (16.4 percent) Saturday. Porter scored 33 of the Hoyas’ 57 points in the first meeting with rival Syracuse.
♦ Syracuse scored a grand total of 84 points on Georgetown this season.
♦ Syracuse had four assists Saturday against Georgetown. The Orange average 14.6 assists per game.

19.7. Points per game for Seth Curry in ACC road games
Duke’s Seth Curry hit his first seven shots on the way to 20 points in a 69-53 win over North Carolina in Chapel Hill to continue his hot play away from Cameron Indoor Stadium. Curry is averaging 19.7 points per game in ACC road games, compared to 15.8 points at home. That road average for the senior guard includes a scoreless game at Miami on Jan. 23. The game against the Hurricanes must have left an impression on Curry. Since being shut out in Coral Gables, Curry has averaged 22.1 points in seven road games.

72.4. Possessions per game for UCLA, most since 2004-05
UCLA clinched the outright Pac-12 title Saturday, so this seems a good time to highlight the adjustments Ben Howland has made. Of course, the freshman class of Shabazz Muhammad, Ryan Anderson and Jordan Adams has been key to UCLA’s 13-5 season in the conference. But Howland also turned up the tempo in a major departure from the previous eight seasons. UCLA averaged 72.4 possessions per game in 2012-13 to rank in the top 30 nationally. To put that in perspective: UCLA averages four more possessions per game more this year than any season since 2004-05. During the Bruins’ run of three consecutive Final Fours under Howland, UCLA was one of the slowest-paced teams in the country, topping out at 66.7 possession per game.

UCLA possessions per game under Ben Howland
Source: TeamRankings.com

Season Possessions/game Nat'l rank
2012-13 72.4 29
2011-12 66.2 262
2010-11 68.9 172
2009-10 67.4 254
2008-09 67.9 239
2007-08* 66.7 262
2006-07* 65.3 263
2005-06* 64.4 308
2004-05 72.9 48
2003-04 68.8 203

*reached the Final Four

7:36. Length of Florida’s field goal drought against Kentucky
Kentucky boosted its NCAA Tournament hopes by defeating Florida 61-57 Saturday. The Gators did their part to help by failing to hit a field goal in the final 7:36. In Florida’s final 14 possessions, the Gators had no points and five turnovers. Kentucky was also allergic to the basket late, too, failing to convert a field goal in the final 4:48. Florida also dropped to 0-6 in games decided by 11 points or less.

56. Years since Saint Louis last won an outright conference title
Few programs battled more adversity this season than Saint Louis. Coach Rick Majerus stepped down for health reasons in August before he died on in Dec. 1. Under interim coach Jim Crews, Saint Louis won its first outright conference title since 1956-57 and first regular season title of any kind since sharing the Missouri Valley crown in 1970-71. Saint Louis played in six conferences (MVC, Metro, Midwestern, Great Midwest, Conference USA) before winning the Atlantic 10 this season at 13-5.

2. Teams from Kansas sharing the Big 12 title
Kansas and Kansas State both finished the season 14-4 in the Big 12, setting up an interesting duo for a shared regular season title. Kansas has won at least a share of the last nine Big 12 titles while Kansas State has not won a conference title of any kind since winning the Big 8 in 1977.

20. Losses for Big South champion Liberty
Liberty became the most unlikely NCAA Tournament team in five years when the 15-20 Flames defeated Big South No. 1 seed Charleston Southern 87-76  in the conference tournament. Liberty is the second 20-loss team to reach the field, joining Coppin State (16-20) in 2008. How unlikely was this run by Liberty? The Flames started the season 1-10 and didn’t defeat a Division I team until Dec. 31. Liberty hadn’t won consecutive conference games all year until it went 4-0 in the Big South Tournament.

71.7. Pittsburgh’s shooting percentage against DePaul, a Big East record
Pittsburgh wrapped up its final season in the Big East and the final season of this iteration of the league by setting a record. The Panthers hit 33 of 46 shots from the field in an 81-66 win over DePaul on Saturday for a 71.7 shooting percentage. The performance from the floor beat the Big East record of 71.4 percent held by Syracuse against DePaul in 2011 and Boston College against Georgetown in 1982.

41 of 47. Temple’s Khalif Wyatt from the free throw line in the last four games
Opponents would be well-advised to keep Temple’s Khalif Wyatt off the free throw line, but that’s easier said than done. Wyatt is 41 of 47 (87.2 percent) from the free throw line in the last four games. That includes a 13 of 16 performance in a critical 84-76 win over VCU on Sunday.

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Now that the calendar has turned to March, fans of bubble teams may be refreshing web sites of their favorite bracketologists.

As college basketball’s regular season and conference tournament season nears a close, Athlon Sports will keep you up to date on the key developments through the week. Each day brings key developments for the NCAA Tournament, so in this space, we’ll update which teams look to be in the field, which might be playing themselves out as well as the key games of the day.

Related: 11 Potential Bid Thieves for bubble teams

MARCH 8 DAILY MARCH MADNESS TRACKER AND BUBBLE WATCH

Kentucky finished as an at-large
Lose at Arkansas? Not good, but plenty of solid teams have lost in Fayetteville this season. Lose to Florida over the weekend? Not good, either, but that would not be unexpected. That said, if Kentucky had one must-win game in its final stretch, it was Georgia. The Wildcats lost 72-62, dimming their hopes to reach the NCAA Tournament as an at-large. It's worth noting CBS' Jerry Palm has Kentucky has his last team in the field Friday while Joe Lunardi tabbed the Cats as one of the first eight teams out. At 15-15, Georgia still has work to do to even reach the NIT, but the Bulldogs may have cost Tennessee and Kentucky trips to the NCAA Tournament. “I’m so disappointed in the job I’ve done with this team,” Kentucky coach John Calipari said. “I’ve never had a team not cohesive this time of year.”

Call it a day for Virginia, too.
Remember when Virginia beat Duke to end February? Seems like ages ago, right? The Cavaliers have been victims of last second shots on the road the last two games, the latter a runner by Florida State’s Michael Snaer in the final seconds for a 53-51 loss. Losing to teams like Boston College and Florida State in March is no way to make the field as an at-large.

UMass misses opportunity
The Minutemen have been a bubble team, including one of Jerry Palm’s first four teams out Thursday morning. UMass could have solidified its case Thursday, but lost to Butler 73-62. The Minutemen will need a deep run in the Atlantic 10 Tournament, if not a championship to reach the NCAA Tournament.

Colorado makes statement
The Buffaloes solidified their spot in the field by beating Oregon 76-53, but perhaps what was most important about the win was the personnel. Colorado beat the Pac-12-leading Ducks and held them to 37.5 percent shooting despite the absence of Andre Roberson, who missed the game with a “viral illness.” Roberson averages 10.8 points and 11.5 rebounds.

Pac-12 madness
Does anyone want to win the Pac-12? With Oregon’s loss to Colorado, all three of the league’s frontrunners lost early in the week (UCLA to Washington State, Cal to Stanford). Only Oregon or UCLA can win an outright title Saturday as Cal has wrapped up its season.

The WAC may be a one-bid league
If Louisiana Tech loses in the WAC Tournament, it may be tough to sell the 25-4 Bulldogs as an at-large team. Tech lost 78-60 at New Mexico State on Thursday, ending its undefeated run through the conference. The loss was actually the Bulldogs best loss of the season -- New Mexico State is No. 60 in the RPI. Louisiana Tech also lost to a sub-250 team in McNeese State back in December. The Bulldogs have three top-100 wins, none of which against at-large candidate for the Tournament (Southern Miss, New Mexico State and Denver, all at home).

KEY SATURDAY GAMES
All Times Eastern

CONFERENCE TOURNAMENT CHAMPIONSHIPS
Atlantic Sun:
Noon, ESPN2
Ohio Valley: 6 p.m., ESPN2

Florida at Kentucky (noon, CBS)
Kentucky’s hopes of an at-large bid are all but over, but there's still reason to believe the Wildcats could win the SEC Tournament. The last time Kentucky faced such adversity this season, the Wildcats lost by 30 to Tennessee. Will Kentucky have any energy left to face Florida at home?

Syracuse at Georgetown (noon, ESPN2)
Georgetown will try to re-state its case for a Big East regular season title and a No. 1 seed after losing to Villanova on Wednesday. Syracuse is mired in a puzzling funk. The Orange were 18–1 after beating Cincinnati on Jan. 21. Now, Jim Boeheim’s club is 22–7 after Saturday’s home loss to Louisville. It’s tough to imagine this team winning at Georgetown.

Minnesota at Purdue (noon, Big Ten Network)
The Gophers may be an NCAA Tournament team, but they didn’t make Selection Sunday any easier for themselves by losing 53-51 to Nebraska on Wednesday. Minnesota will need to win this game just to finish .500 in the Big Ten. That won’t be easy against Purdue. The Boilermakers have been feisty in recent weeks defeating Wisconsin in Madison and giving Michigan problems at home.

La Salle at Saint Louis (1:30 p.m., NBC Sports Network)
The Atlantic 10 title is up for grabs in this game and the VCU-Temple on Sunday. Saint Louis (with a win and a VCU loss) and a the Rams (with a win over Temple and a Saint Louis loss) are the only teams that can claim outright titles. La Salle, one of the last teams in the field, is looking for a share of the A-10 title and a signature win to lock up a Tournament bid.

Ole Miss at LSU (Saturday, 1:30 p.m., SEC syndication)
The Rebels are teetering on the bubble, even after a win over Alabama earlier this week. Ole Miss can’t afford to lose to LSU if it hopes to use the SEC Tournament as a springboard to an at-large NCAA bid.

Kansas State at Oklahoma State (1:30 p.m., Big 12 syndication)
Surprising Kansas State can secure no worse than a tie for the Big 12 title with a win in Stillwater. That, however, won’t be easy. Oklahoma State has lost only twice at Gallagher-Iba Arena, to Gonzaga in December and to Kansas, in overtime, late last month. The Cowboys are a lock to make the NCAA Tournament, but they could use a few more quality wins to improve their seed, especially after Tuesday’s loss at Iowa State.

San Diego State at Boise State (3:30 p.m., NBC Sports Network)
A handful of teams will be more worried than Boise State about getting into the field. The Broncos have won four of the last five, the loss coming in a heartbreaker to UNLV on Tuesday.

Missouri at Tennessee (4 p.m., ESPN)
This is a must win for a Tennessee team that put itself in a precarious position with a loss at Georgia on Saturday. The Volunteers, who had won six straight before the loss in Athens, only have two top-50 RPI wins — none away from home. Missouri is 2–6 on the road in the SEC, but the last four losses have been in overtime at Kentucky, by two at Arkansas, by two at Texas A&M and by three at LSU. The Tigers are capable of winning in Knoxville.

Notre Dame at Louisville (4 p.m., CBS)
It’s a rematch of the longest regular-season game in Big East history — Notre Dame’s four-overtime, 104–101 victory over Louisville on Feb. 9. The Cardinals haven’t lost since, running their winning streak to six straight with a 67–51 win over Cincinnati on Monday night. Notre Dame is a solid 4–4 on the road in the league this season, highlighted by a 51–42 victory at Pittsburgh last Monday night. The Fighting Irish have an opportunity to enhance their NCAA Tournament seed, but Louisville will be tough to tame at the Yum! Center.

Duke at North Carolina (9 p.m., ESPN)
Both teams have been rejuvenated of late — Duke by the return of forward Ryan Kelly and North Carolina by the move to a smaller lineup. Kelly scored 36 points against Miami in his first game back from injury and 18 against Virginia in his second. North Carolina has only lost once since Roy Williams replaced forward Desmond Hubert with guard P.J. Hairston in the starting lineup. The Tar Heels have played their way off the NCAA Tournament bubble and into “lock” status.

KEY SUNDAY GAMES

CONFERENCE TOURNAMENT CHAMPIONSHIPS
Big South:
Noon, ESPN2
Missouri Valley: 1 p.m., CBS

VCU at Temple (noon, CBS)
VCU can win at outright Atlantic 10 title in its first season in the league while Temple is trying to keep a first-round bye in the A-10 Tourney. The Owls have won eight of the last nine games to put them on the right side of the bubble, but their last loss is to Duquesne (1-14 in the A-10). Beating VCU and earning a top-four seed in the conference tournament would be huge for Temple.

Illinois at Ohio State (12:30 p.m., ESPN)
Ohio State looked shaky earlier in the season despite a good record. But lately the Buckeyes look awfully dangerous. They’re starting to find secondary scorers, and they had tremendous defensive effort in Tuesday’s 67-58 win at Indiana. Ohio State will be looking for revenge after losing at Illinois by 19 points in early January.

Indiana at Michigan (4 p.m., CBS)
Indiana has already wrapped up the No. 1 seed in the upcoming Big Ten Tournament, but plenty is at stake. Indiana is eyeing the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament, while Michigan is still in play for one of the four top seeds. Big Ten Player of the Year honors could be at stake, as well. Indiana’s Victor Oladipo and Michigan’s Trey Burke have one more opportunity to state their cases.

Athlon Sports executive editor Mitch Light contributed to this report.

BY THE NUMBERS
NCAA TOURNAMENT PROJECTED AT-LARGE LOCKS (35)
ACC (4): Duke, Miami, NC State, North Carolina
Atlantic 10 (3): Butler, Saint Louis, VCU
Big 12 (4): Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State
Big East (6): Georgetown, Louisville, Marquette, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, Syracuse
Big Ten (6): Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Wisconsin
Mountain West (4): Colorado State, New Mexico, San Diego State, UNLV
Pac-12 (5): Arizona, Cal, Colorado, Oregon, UCLA
SEC (2): Florida, Missouri
West Coast (1): Gonzaga

ONE-BID LEAGUES (18)
America East, Atlantic Sun, Big Sky, Big South, Big West, Colonial, Horizon, Ivy, MAAC, MAC, MEAC, Northeast, Patriot, Southern, Southland, Summit, SWAC, WAC
Note: Conference USA, the Ohio Valley and the Sun Belt likely will be one-bid leagues if their proejcted champions win their conference tournaments.

THE BUBBLE: 15 teams

RELATED:
All 2013 NCAA Tournament Coverage

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<p> Road losses have Kentucky and Virgnia on the outside looking in before huge college basketball weekend</p>
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Now that the calendar has turned to March, fans of bubble teams may be refreshing web sites of their favorite bracketologists.

As college basketball’s regular season and conference tournament season nears a close, Athlon Sports will keep you up to date on the key developments through the week. Each day brings key developments for the NCAA Tournament, so in this space, we’ll update which teams look to be in the field, which might be playing themselves out as well as the key games of the day.

Related: 11 Potential Bid Thieves for bubble teams

MARCH 7 DAILY MARCH MADNESS TRACKER AND BUBBLE WATCH

Miami won’t be a No. 1 seed
What happened to Miami? Barring a handful of dominoes, the Hurricanes may be eliminated from a No. 1 seed by losing to Georgia Tech 71-69 on Wednesday. At the same time, is it time to start worrying about what Miami can do in the postseason? The Hurricanes lost by only 3 on the road at Duke five days ago, but Miami has lost three of four, including defeats to Wake Forest (5-12 in the ACC) and Georgia Tech (6-11).

Villanova adds another marquee win
With a 67-57 win over Georgetown on Wednesday, Villanova has a win over the top three teams in the Big East standings (the Hoyas, Villanova and Marquette) plus another over Syracuse -- all at home. The Wildcats’ problematic resume includes losses to RPI No. 261 Columbia, RPI No. 114 Seton Hall and a season sweep to RPI No. 79 Providence. Villanova iced a win over the Hoyas on free throws to give it a strong case to enter the field. The Wildcats entered the day projected to land in the First Four, but they may be a candidate for the proper field of 64 ... if they can avoid a first-round loss in the Big East Tournament.

Iowa State making a case
The Cyclones still have something left in the tank after a devastating overtime loss to Kansas (in which Iowa State lost a four-point lead with 23 seconds to go in regulation) and then an 86-69 loss to Oklahoma during the weekend. On Wednesday, Iowa State withstood a late Oklahoma State push as an 11-point lead evaporated to two points in the second half in the 87-76 win. The Cyclones can’t afford to lose to West Virginia or early in the Big 12 Tournament, but their resume, which now includes three top-30 wins, might be enough.

Maryland done for an at-large bid
The Terrapins may have erased any doubts about their at-large hopes with a 79-68 loss at home to North Carolina on Wednesday. They’ll try to be a spoiler for Virginia on Sunday, but it’s ACC Tournament or bust for Maryland. Meanwhile, North Carolina clinched a first-round bye in the ACC Tournament. the one-time bubble team is 6-1 since going to a four-guard lineup.

Really, UCLA? Really, Minnesota?
The Bruins and Gophers may be safely in the field, but both lost to teams with losing records Wednesday. UCLA lost to Washington State 73-61, the Bruins first loss in Pullman since 1993. Earlier, Minnesota lost 53-51 to Nebraska. Minnesota’s second- and third-leading scorers Rodney Williams and Austin Hollins went scoreless.

Related: Experts debate Indiana's MVP: Zeller or Oladipo?

Meanwhile, in the Bay Area...
Cal took its first loss since Feb. 7 when it lost 83-70 to rival Stanford, but that wasn’t the most notable development. A shoving match late in the game resulted in the ejections of three assistant coaches, Charles Payne and Mark Madsen from Stanford and Greg Gottlieb from Cal. No punches were thrown, thanks in part to the three assistants breaking up the skirmish. But NCAA rules forbid anyone but a head coach from leaving the bench to break up a potential fight.

KEY THURSDAY GAMES
All Times Eastern

Related: College basketball power rankings: Gonzaga takes top spot

Kentucky at Georgia (7 p.m., ESPN)
The Wildcats remain a bubble team heading into the final regular season games. At this point, Kentucky has to avoid a second consecutive loss to a non-Tournament team after losing to Arkansas 73-60 Saturday. Georgia won’t be a pushover. The Bulldogs defeated surging (at the time) Tennessee 78-68 during the weekend. Since Kentucky’s disastrous loss to Tennessee in its first game without Nerlens Noel, forward Willie Cauley-Stein is averaging 13 points on 71 percent shooting with 8.8 rebounds in the last four games.

Virginia at Florida State (7 p.m., ESPN2)
What is going on with Virginia’s resume? Last week, the Cavaliers beat Duke 73-68 and then lost 53-52 to Boston College. To stay on the right side of the bubble, Virginia probably can’t afford to lose at Florida State (RPI No. 94) and at home to Maryland (RPI No. 84) to round out the regular season.

Butler at UMass (7 p.m., NBC Sports Network)
UMass has put together a nice resume this season, with an RPI just outside of the top 50 (but ranked 82nd on kenpom.com). The Minutemen have few top 50 wins, but a 7-7 record against the top 100. A defeat of Butler, which lost back-to-back games to Saint Louis and VCU, would make UMass one of the top teams to watch in the conference tournaments.

Wisconsin at Michigan State (9 p.m., ESPN)
A game for seeding purposes -- both in the NCAA and Big Ten tournaments -- and perhaps how you should pick either for your bracket. The Badgers and Spartans are tied for fourth in the Big Ten at 11-5, and the top four teams receiving a bye in the conference tourney. Wisconsin finishes at Penn State, and Michigan State finishes at home against Northwestern. Barring an upset in the regular season finale, the winner of this game will get a bye while the loser will face the last-place Nittany Lions in the Big Ten Tournament opener. It’s worth mentioning Michigan State has lost three in a row while Wisconsin is coming off a puzzling 69-56 loss at home to Purdue.

Oregon at Colorado (9 p.m., ESPN2)
Wednesday’s losses by UCLA to Washington State and Cal to Stanford mean a holding pattern atop the Pac-12. The Ducks can take a one-game lead in the win column by defeating Colorado on the road. The Buffaloes have a strong NCAA resume to begin with, but a win over the Ducks would seal a winning season in the conference.

BY THE NUMBERS
NCAA TOURNAMENT PROJECTED AT-LARGE LOCKS (35)
ACC (4): Duke, Miami, NC State, North Carolina
Atlantic 10 (3): Butler, Saint Louis, VCU
Big 12 (4): Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State
Big East (6): Georgetown, Louisville, Marquette, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, Syracuse
Big Ten (6): Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Wisconsin
Mountain West (4): Colorado State, New Mexico, San Diego State, UNLV
Pac-12 (5): Arizona, Cal, Colorado, Oregon, UCLA
SEC (2): Florida, Missouri
West Coast (1): Gonzaga

ONE-BID LEAGUES (17)
America East, Atlantic Sun, Big Sky, Big South, Big West, Colonial, Horizon, Ivy, MAAC, MAC, MEAC, Northeast, Patriot, Southern, Southland, Summit, SWAC
Note: Conference USA, the Ohio Valley, the Sun Belt and the WAC likely will be one-bid leagues if their proejcted champions win their conference tournaments.

THE BUBBLE: 16 teams

RELATED:
All 2013 NCAA Tournament Coverage

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<p> Daily March Madness Tracker: Villanova, Iowa State make cases</p>
Post date: Thursday, March 7, 2013 - 11:25
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Finishing the season on the NCAA Tournament bubble is a tight-rope walk to start. In addition to a handful of teams looking to build their NCAA Tournament resumes, bubble teams must also keep an eye on conference tournaments starting this week.

Bid Thieves are everywhere.

Bid Thieves are teams that otherwise who would not make the NCAA Tournament, but win their conference tournaments to steal an at-large bid from an otherwise “deserving” bubble team.

Think of 2008 Georgia, a team that wasn’t going to sniff the postseason but won the SEC Tournament to banish one unsuspecting at-large team to the NIT. Last season it was Colorado. The No. 5 team in the Pac-12 won the conference tournament for an NCAA bid, perhaps at the expense of its own regular season league champion. A sixth-place USC team did the same in the 2009 Pac-10 Tourney.

We have targeted 11 potential Bid Thieves. Among our criteria to be a Bid Thief, the team must:

1. Not be on the NCAA bubble now and unlikely to play in the Tournament without winning a league tournament.
Be able to win a conference tournament. DePaul winning the Big East

2. Tournament would steal a bid, but DePaul isn’t winning the Big East Tournament.

3. Come from a multi-bid league, or by virtue of winning the conference tournament, turn a one-bid conference into a multi-bid conference.

Here are 11 teams that could pull off such a feat.

11 TEAMS THAT COULD BURST NCAA TOURNAMENT BUBBLES

Arkansas
How the Razorbacks could steal a bid: Win the SEC Tournament, bonus points for defeating bubble teams Alabama, Ole Miss or Tennessee.
Why they're a bid thief: Arkansas has quality players in B.J. Young and Marshawn Powell and a difficult defensive system for which to prepare under Mike Anderson. All of that has been enough for the Hogs to defeat NCAA hopefuls Florida, Missouri, Kentucky, Oklahoma and Tennessee in Fayetteville. The only reason Arkansas isn’t a tournament team is its 1-9 road record. Lucky for Arkansas, the SEC Tournament is played at a neutral site. Unfortunately for Arkansas, the Hogs are 0-2 on neutral sites.

Arkansas State
How the Red Wolves could steal a bid: Win the Sun Belt Tournament, making Middle Tennessee an at-large selection.
Why they’re a bid thief: Middle Tennessee has a five-game advantage over the rest of the Sun Belt, but the Blue Raiders haven’t won a conference tournament since 1989 in the Ohio Valley. Beyond that, the last two Sun Belt Tournament champs have had a losing conference record (Western Kentucky in 2012, UALR in 2011). Middle Tennessee doesn’t have any top-50 wins, but the Blue Raiders have won 27 games. They may be tough to leave out of the field. Why Arkansas State? The Red Wolves are the only Sun Belt team to defeat Middle Tennessee this season with a 66-60 win on Jan. 3.

Related: Ryan Kelly leads key stats of the week

Air Force
How the Falcons could steal a bid: Win the Mountain West Tournament.
Why they’re a bid thief: Air Force flirted with the possibility of being at at-large bid in February when the Falcons started 5-2 in the league. With an RPI outside the top 80, a 7-8 Mountain West record and no notable non-conference wins, Air Force looks like a team outside the field. But the Falcons have notched home wins this season over UNLV, San Diego State and Boise State. One hot streak by guard Michael Lyons could vault the Falcons to the MWC’s automatic bid.

Denver
How they could steal a bid: Win the WAC Tournament, making Louisiana Tech an at-large selection.
Why they’re a bid thief: Louisiana Tech is undefeated in the WAC and had a gaudy record at 26-3 (the Bulldogs, however, finish on the road against New Mexico State and Denver before the conference tournament). Despite the record and top-50 RPI, Louisiana Tech’s at-large credentials would be shaky if the Bulldogs fall in the WAC tournament -- Louisiana Tech’s best win is over Southern Miss while it has lost to Northwestern State and McNeese State. After a slow start, Denver may be the most likely team to upset in the WAC Tournament. The Pioneers have won 15 of the last 16, including a BracketBreaker win at Northern Iowa on Feb. 23.

Related: Experts debate Indiana's MVP: Zeller or Oladipo?

Evansville
How the Purple Aces could steal a bid: Win Missouri Valley Tournament, making Creighton and/or Wichita State at-large selections.
Why they’re a bid thief: Creighton and Wichita State have been shaky in recent weeks, and Evansville has been in position to pounce. The Purple Aces swept Wichita State this season, and Creighton needed a late push to beat Evansville 71-68 on Feb. 16. The Aces’ top player, wing Colt Ryan, enters the MVC Tournament on a tear at 28 points per game in his last four.

Maryland
How the Terrapins could steal a bid: Win the ACC Tournament, bonus points for beating bubble team Virginia.
Why they’re a bid thief: The Terrapins likely played themselves out of at-large contention by losing to Florida State, Boston College and Georgia Tech on the road since Jan. 30 and then a loss to red-hot North Carolina at home Wednesday. Maryland can beat good teams, as it defeated NC State and Duke earlier this season, both at home. If Dez Wells continues playing at a high level and Alex Len plays like a top draft pick, Maryland could catch a winning streak in the ACC Tournament.

Related: College basketball power rankings: Gonzaga takes top spot

Murray State
How the Racers could steal a bid: Win the Ohio Valley Tournament, making Belmont an at-large selection.
Why they’re a bid thief: The Ohio Valley has not supplied two teams to the NCAA Tournament since 1987, but newcomer Belmont could be an exception if the Bruins lose in the conference tournament. Belmont has been in the top 25 of the RPI for most of the season and defeated Middle Tennessee, Stanford and Ohio in the non-conference schedule. Murray State would be a strong candidate to upset Belmont in the OVC tourney. The defending league champs still have Isaiah Canaan and defeated Belmont 79-74 on Feb. 7.

Northern Iowa
How the Panthers could steal a bid: Win the Missouri Valley Tournament, making Creighton and/or Wichita State at-large selections.
Why they’re a bid thief: Northern Iowa is in a similar boat as Evansville. A well-coached team under Ben Jacobson, Northern Iowa looks to take advantage of Creighton and Wichita State’s recent inconsistency. The Panthers defeated both the Bluejays and the Shockers in their most recent meetings as well. Balanced scoring, strong defense and good free throw shooting will make Northern Iowa a dangerous postseason team.

Southern Miss
How the Golden Eagles could steal a bid: Win the Conference USA Tournament, making Memphis an at-large selection.
Why they’re a bid thief: Conference USA may end up a one-bid league, but the only way to find out is if Memphis loses in the conference tournament. Southern Miss’ is the league’s second-best team, but lost by a combined 29 points to the Tigers in two meetings in February.

USC
How the Trojans could steal a bid: Win the Pac-12 Tournament
Why they’re a bid thief: USC stole a bid before in 2009 when it won the Pac-10 tournament as a No. 6 seed. Meanwhile, no one wants to play the Trojans now with interim coach Bob Cantu in charge. USC has won six of the last nine, including an overtime win at UCLA on Jan. 30 and an 89-78 win over Arizona on Feb. 27.

Xavier
How the Musketeers could steal a bid: Win the Atlantic 10 Tournament, bonus points for defeating bubble teams UMass.
Why they’re a bid thief: Xavier has not been consistent late in the season, failing to win back-to-back games since Feb. 9-13. The Musketeers, though, can beat anyone on a good day at home. Xavier defeated Saint Louis 77-66 in overtime Wednesday and Memphis 64-62 on Feb. 26. If not for losses to Richmond, UMass and Dayton in February, the Musketeers would be a stronger bubble team. For a team that hasn’t missed the NCAA Tournament since 2005, the Musketeers wouldn’t shock anyone if it went on a run in the conference tournament.

RELATED:
All 2013 NCAA Tournament Coverage

Athlon Sports' bracket projections and bubble watch

Teaser:
<p> 11 teams that could burst NCAA Tournament Bubbles</p>
Post date: Thursday, March 7, 2013 - 09:45
Path: /college-basketball/daily-march-madness-tracker-ohio-state-ryan-kelly-rise
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Now that the calendar has turned to March, fans of bubble teams may be refreshing web sites of their favorite bracketologists.

As college basketball’s regular season and conference tournament season nears a close, Athlon Sports will keep you up to date on the key developments through the week. Each day brings key developments for the NCAA Tournament, so in this space, we’ll update which teams look to be in the field, which might be playing themselves out as well as the key games of the day.

Related: College basketball power rankings: Gonzaga takes top spot

MARCH 6 DAILY MARCH MADNESS TRACKER AND BUBBLE WATCH

Time to get excited for Ohio State?
The Buckeyes are an NCAA Tournament lock, but they may have helped their seeding with a 67-58 win over Indiana. More than the seeding, should we start to buy Ohio State as capable of making a deep run? There was a lot to like in this game: Ohio State held Indiana to 39.6 percent shooting from the field and a season-low 58 points. The Buckeyes kept IU’s Victor Oladipo from taking a shot from the field in the first half, and they continued to get nice contributions from their secondary scorers with Aaron Craft scoring 15 and Shannon Scott scoring eight off the bench.

Related: Experts debate Indiana's MVP: Zeller or Oladipo?

Ryan Kelly no one-hit wonder
The Duke forward tore through Miami for 32 points Saturday, but it was fair to ask how he could sustain that level of play down the stretch. His second game back from his return from a foot injury was another effective outing. Kelly scored 18 points with nine rebounds and five assists in an 85-57 win over overmatched Virginia Tech. Keep Duke in the national title conversation.

Related: Kelly leads key stats of the week

Ugly finish for St. John’s
By the time a skirmish broke out in the St. John’s-Notre Dame game, the Red Storm already faced a blow to their NCAA Tournament hopes with a 66-40 loss to the Irish. With three consecutive losses and a 2-6 stretch, the Red Storm’s Tourney hopes are all but gone. Making matters worse, Sir’Dominic Pointer will be suspended for the regular season finale against Marquette after being ejected in the fracas with Notre Dame’s Cameron Biedscheid. Pointer averages 6.7 points, 5.3 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game. St. John’s had already lost D’Angelo Harrison (17.8 ppg) to a suspension for the end of the season. St. John's can start planning for the NIT.

Ole Miss still clinging to the bubble
The damage to the Rebels’ NCAA Tournament hopes may be done after losing to two of the SEC’s worst teams -- Mississippi State and South Carolina -- but at least a run in the league tourney could be meaningful. Ole Miss defeated Alabama 87-83 in a virtual elimination game for at-large hopes. Alabama fell behind early before narrowing the deficit to one possession in the final seconds. Alabama and Ole Miss have identical SEC records at 11-6, and they’re separated by two spots in the RPI. That said, Ole Miss has the head-to-head win and one more top-50 win than the Tide (Missouri in Oxford).

Boise State lets one slip away
The Broncos are looking like an strong at-large candidate, but Boise State let a key win slip away in a 68-64 loss at UNLV. The Broncos led by 10 with 9:17 to go and then by 6 at the 5:01 mark before the Rebels finished the game on an 18-8 run. The Broncos still have a top-50 RPI and three top-50 wins to make them a strong at-large candidate, especially if they can defeat San Diego State in the regular-season finale.

The first March upset
Conference tournaments started Tuesday with the first notable upset. Longwood, in its first season in the Big South and sixth in Division I, defeated UNC Asheville 87-72. UNC Asheville, seeded No. 3 from the South division, had won the last two Big South Tournament titles and last year’s regular season title. Meanwhile, Longwood improved to 8-24.

Conference tournaments continue
Keep printing brackets: The Atlantic Sun, Northeast, Patriot, Ohio Valley and West Coast tournaments start today.

KEY WEDNESDAY GAMES
All Times Eastern

North Carolina at Maryland (7 p.m., ESPN)
The Tar Heels are 6-1 with guard P.J. Hairston in the starting lineup, including the last six games and the Dec. 29 win over UNLV. That smaller lineup will go up against Maryland and seven-footer Alex Len before facing Duke in the regular season finale. This is a chance for a huge finish for the Heels.

Georgetown at Villanova (7 p.m., ESPN2)
The pattern for Villanova has been a big win or two followed by a puzzling loss -- the Wildcats beat Louisville and Syracuse and lost to Providence a week later, then they beat Marquette and lost to Seton Hall. Those losses to Providence and Seton Hall could keep ‘Nova out of the tournament field as the Wildcats teeter on the bubble. Both CBS’ Jerry Palm and ESPN’s Joe Lunardi have Villanova in the First Four in their bracket projections, which means Jay Wright’s team has little room for error. With a finish against Villanova on the road and Syracuse at home, Georgetown’s hopes to win the Big East regular season title are in range.

Oklahoma State at Iowa State (7 p.m., ESPNU)
Iowa State may be in the field right now, but it’s getting dicey for the Cyclones. Iowa State took Kansas in overtime on Feb. 25 and then lost 86-69 to Oklahoma over the weekend. The Cyclones haven’t defeated a projected NCAA Tournament team since defeating Oklahoma at home on Feb. 4. Beating Oklahoma State (12-4) in the Big 12 would be boon to the Cyclones' resume.

Saint Louis at Xavier (9 p.m., local TV only)
The Billikens may be an NCAA Tournament lock, but winning the Atlantic 10 regular season would be huge for seeding and important for a program that hasn’t won a conference title since 1971. It won’t be easy for Saint Louis, which finishes at Xavier and at home against La Salle. The Billikens have a one-game lead on VCU and two-game lead on La Salle. Meanwhile, Xavier is a few rungs down on the NCAA Tournament bubble after losing to UMass on Saturday, but the Musketeers have opportunities with Saint Louis, Butler and the A-10 Tournament on the horizon.  Xavier has defeated Butler, La Salle, Memphis and Temple at home, but its best win away from Cincinnati is over St. Bonaventure.

BY THE NUMBERS
NCAA TOURNAMENT PROJECTED AT-LARGE LOCKS (36)
ACC (4): Duke, Miami, NC State, North Carolina
Atlantic 10 (3): Butler, Saint Louis, VCU
Big 12 (4): Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State
Big East (6): Georgetown, Louisville, Marquette, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, Syracuse
Big Ten (7): Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Ohio State, Wisconsin
Mountain West (4): Colorado State, New Mexico, San Diego State, UNLV
Pac-12 (5): Arizona, Cal, Colorado, Oregon, UCLA
SEC (2): Florida, Missouri
West Coast (1): Gonzaga

ONE-BID LEAGUES (17)
America East, Atlantic Sun, Big Sky, Big South, Big West, Colonial, Horizon, Ivy, MAAC, MAC, MEAC, Northeast, Patriot, Southern, Southland, Summit, SWAC
Note: Conference USA, the Ohio Valley, the Sun Belt and the WAC likely will be one-bid leagues if their proejcted champions win their conference tournaments.

THE BUBBLE: 15 teams

RELATED:
All 2013 NCAA Tournament Coverage

Athlon Sports' bracket projections and bubble watch

Teaser:
<p> Daily March Madness Tracker: Ohio State, Ryan Kelly on the rise</p>
Post date: Wednesday, March 6, 2013 - 10:26
Path: /college-football/pittsburgh-2013-spring-football-preview
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After an up-and-down season, Pittsburgh is ready to reboot in spring practice.

The Panthers were one of the nation’s most confounding teams in 2012, starting the season with back-to-back losses to Youngstown State and Cincinnati before bouncing back to defeat Virginia Tech. Later in the year, Pitt took Notre Dame to triple overtime, only to lose to Connecticut the following week.

Spring 2013 will be a chance for Pittsburgh to find some consistency. That might not be easy, though. The Panthers must replace a three-year starting quarterback for their first season in the ACC while looking for a sophomore to be the next star tailback.

Pittsburgh Panthers 2013 Spring Preview

2012 Record: 6-7 (3-4)

Spring practice dates: March 5-April 12

Returning Starters: Offense – 5, Defense – 9

Returning Leaders:

Passing: Trey Anderson, 2 of 2, 53 yds.
Rushing: Rushel Shell, 141 car., 641 yds., 4 TDs
Receiving: Devin Street, 73 rec., 975 yds., 5 TDs
Tackles: Jason Hendricks, 90
Sacks: Aaron Donald, 5.5
Interceptions: Hendricks, 6

Redshirts to watch: OL Adam Bisnowaty, DB Trenton Coles, WR Chris Davis, WR Demitrious Davis, LB Devon Porchia, LB Deaysean Rippy, QB Chad Voytik, OL Gabe Roberts

Newcomer to watch: QB Tom Savage (Rutgers transfer)

2013 Schedule

Sept. 2 Florida State (Mon.)
Sept. 14 New Mexico
Sept. 21 at Duke
Sept. 28 Virginia
Oct. 12 at Virginia Tech
Oct. 19 Old Dominion
Oct. 26 at Navy
Nov. 2 at Georgia Tech
Nov. 9 Notre Dame
Nov. 16 North Carolina
Nov. 23 at Syracuse
Nov. 29 Miami (Fri.)

Offensive Strength: Hopes are high for Rushel Shell to step into a line of Pittsburgh running backs including LeSean McCoy, Dion Lewis and Ray Graham. The decorated prep tailback split carries with Graham last season, but he’ll need to shoulder the load with Graham gone. Pitt also has a standout receiver returning in Devin Street, who caught a team-high 73 passes a year ago.

Offensive Weakness: Pittsburgh’s ability to keep its quarterback upright improved in 2012, but it still remained last in the Big East, giving up nearly three sacks per game. Pitt will be looking for a fresh start both from its quarterback, where Tino Sunseri has exhausted his eligibility, as well as new faces on the line.

Defensive Strength: Led by tackle Aaron Donald, defensive line may be Pitt’s top position on the defense. Donald finished with 18.5 tackles for a loss last season. The most notable loss is of starting end Shayne Hale.

Defensive Weakness: The defensive line is a strength, but Pittsburgh will look to produce more of a pass rush. The Panthers ranked second to last in the Big East in sacks last season at 1.9 per game, down from 3.3 a year earlier.

Spring Storylines Facing the Panthers:

1. Solving an intriguing quarterback battle. Pittsburgh has the classic quarterback competition with the veteran, but seldom used backup (junior Trey Anderson), the transfer (Tom Savage, from Rutgers) and the potential QB of the future (redshirt freshman Chad Voytik). Anderson has attempted 35 career passes, but only two last season. Savage was a major recruit when he signed with Rutgers and enjoyed some success as a starter a freshman before he lost his started job midway through the 2010 season. Voytik was a U.S. Army All-American who was a key recruit to stay after Todd Graham bolted for Arizona State after one season.

2. Offensive line movement. Pittsburgh will try to solve its offensive line issues this spring by shifting players around and adding new faces. Redshirt freshmen Adam Bisnowaty (left tackle) and Gabe Roberts (center) enter spring with a chance to start at key positions. Meanwhile, last season’s starters at tackle, Cory King and Matt Rotheram, are slated to move to the guard spots, which are their natural positions.

3. Finding receiver depth. Street will contend for All-ACC honors, but who else will catch passes for the new quarterback. Mike Shanahan is gone as is multi-threat back Ray Graham, who caught 36 passes. Look for tight end J.P. Holtz, who caught 10 of his 13 passes last season in the final five games, to be more of a target.

4. How good can a healthy linebacker corps be? Shane Gordon, Dan Mason and Todd Thomas missed a combined 11 games last season. If this group stays healthy, this could be one of the team’s strengths.

5. A full spring with the same coach. This can’t be overstated. Pittsburgh will have back-to-back spring practices with the same coach for the first time since the end of Dave Wannstedt’s tenure. Only one assistant, defensive line coach John Palermo, is new since last season. Early in the season, the Panthers were a disjointed group, perhaps contributing to Pitt’s inconsistency. The stability on the coaching staff will be a welcome relief for a group of veterans who have had spring practice under three coaches.

Related College Football Content

Ranking the ACC Coaching Jobs for 2013
College Football's Top 5 Running Backs on the Rise for 2013

College Football's Top 5 Quarterbacks on the Rise for 2013

College Football's Top 15 JUCO Transfers for 2013

ACC Team Recruiting Rankings for 2013

Teaser:
<p> Pittsburgh 2013 Spring Football Preview</p>
Post date: Wednesday, March 6, 2013 - 09:30
Path: /college-basketball/daily-march-madness-tracker-cincinnati-baylor-out
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Now that the calendar has turned to March, fans of bubble teams may be refreshing web sites of their favorite bracketologists.

As college basketball’s regular season and conference tournament season nears a close, Athlon Sports will keep you up to date on the key developments through the week. Each day brings key developments for the NCAA Tournament, so in this space, we’ll update which teams look to be in the field, which might be playing themselves out as well as the key games of the day.

Related: College basketball power rankings: Gonzaga takes top spot

MARCH 5 DAILY MARCH MADNESS TRACKER AND BUBBLE WATCH

Baylor on the outs.
Baylor’s NCAA Tournament case was pretty slim to start, with only one top-50 win at home over Oklahoma State on Jan. 21 (the Bears also have a win over RPI No. 51 Kentucky on the road). Baylor’s 79-70 loss to Texas on Monday may be the end of Scott Drew’s NCAA Tournament hopes if the Bears don’t make a strong showing in the Big 12 Tournament. The loss dropped Baylor to 8-9 in the conference and 3-8 in its last 11 games.

Cincinnati looking good despite loss.
Cincinnati’s dysfunctional offense was a mismatch against Louisville, contributing to the Cardinals’ season-high 21 takeaways. Despite a 67-51 loss to Louisville, the Bearcats could remain in the field. In Tuesday morning’s bracket projections, ESPN’s Joe Lunardi had Cincinnati as a No. 9 seed and CBS’s Jerry Palm had the Bearcats as a No. 10. Cincinnati is 2-6 in its last eight, but four of those losses have been on the road (Providence, Connecticut, Notre Dame and Louisville). The Bearcats may have a strong case for the field, but not so strong they can absorb a loss to USF on Saturday.

Siva from the field.
Louisville also had a handful of important developments as it chase a No. 1 seed and a Big East regular season title. Peyton Siva, who went 0 for 9 from the field Saturday against Syracuse, came back to hit 5 of 13 of his shots for 11 points against Cincinnati. The Cards are a half game behind Georgetown for the Big East lead and the top seed in the Big East tourney. The Hoyas play DePaul and Syracuse to finish the regular season while the Cards will have a rematch with Notre Dame from the four overtime classic on Feb. 9. Louisville is 7-4 against the RPI top 50 with the win over the Cats.

Related: Experts debate Indiana's MVP: Zeller or Oladipo?

KEY TUESDAY GAMES
All Times Eastern


Arkansas at Missouri (7 p.m., ESPN)
The Razorbacks have defeated Florida, Missouri, Kentucky and Oklahoma in Fayetteville, but Arkansas had an RPI at No. 80 on Monday thanks to a 1-10 record on the road and on neutral courts. Arkansas’ last chance for a road win will be in Mike Anderson’s return to Missouri. Think the Tigers’ crowd will be fired up?

Related: Key stats of the week

St. John’s at Notre Dame (7 p.m., ESPN2)
The Red Storm are on the outer fringes of the NCAA Tournament bubble, especially after losing to Providence during the weekend. St. John’s may need to win at Notre Dame and/or beat Marquette on Saturday before the Big East Tournament to be a legitimate at-large team.

Ohio State at Indiana (9 p.m., ESPN)
Gonzaga and Duke are putting together nice resumes for No. 1 seeds. Indiana seems to be the best bet for a Big Ten representative on the top line. Rounding out the regular season with wins over Ohio State and Michigan would be a boon to the Hoosiers’ seeding. Meanwhile, the Buckeyes got 24 points from Lenzelle Smith Jr. on Thursday. They need that trend to continue.

Alabama at Ole Miss (9 p.m., ESPNU)
The Crimson Tide fell short in an upset bid at Florida on Saturday. Ole Miss lost to Mississippi State and South Carolina in the last two weeks. Both teams have slim at-large hopes as it is. A loss for either here could mean elimination.

Boise State at UNLV (10 p.m., Time Warner Sportsnet)
The Broncos are starting to look like an NCAA Tournament team again after reeling off four consecutive wins, including a 78-65 win Saturday over Colorado State. That said, Boise State has won only one of its last six road games. The Broncos could be in good position before the Mountain West Tournament if they can defeat UNLV or San Diego State.

BY THE NUMBERS
NCAA TOURNAMENT PROJECTED AT-LARGE LOCKS (35)
ACC (4): Duke, Miami, NC State, North Carolina
Atlantic 10 (3): Butler, Saint Louis, VCU
Big 12 (4): Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State
Big East (6): Georgetown, Louisville, Marquette, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, Syracuse
Big Ten (6): Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Wisconsin
Mountain West (4): Colorado State, New Mexico, San Diego State, UNLV
Pac-12 (5): Arizona, Cal, Colorado, Oregon, UCLA
SEC (2): Florida, Missouri
West Coast (1): Gonzaga

ONE-BID LEAGUES (17)
America East, Atlantic Sun, Big Sky, Big South, Big West, Colonial, Horizon, Ivy, MAAC, MAC, MEAC, Northeast, Patriot, Southern, Southland, Summit, SWAC
Note: Conference USA, the Ohio Valley, the Sun Belt and the WAC likely will be one-bid leagues if their proejcted champions win their conference tournaments.

THE BUBBLE: 16 teams

RELATED:
All 2013 NCAA Tournament Coverage

Athlon Sports' bracket projections and bubble watch

Teaser:
<p> Daily March Madness Tracker: Cincinnati in, Baylor out?</p>
Post date: Tuesday, March 5, 2013 - 10:30
Path: /college-basketball/college-basketball-debate-oladipo-or-zeller
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Indiana has a problem most teams would love to have.

Hoosiers fans could start a lively debate trying to pick IU’s most valuable player in 2012-13. On the one hand, Cody Zeller was the nation’s pick for preseason player of the year. He’s having perhaps a better season than he did a year ago, but he has some competition on his own roster for national and Big Ten honors.

Victor Oladipo is perhaps the nation’s most improved player. Though he’s taking the same amount of shots per game as a year ago, he’s averaging better than three points per game more than he did as a sophomore. That’s thanks to the guard shooting 63.4 percent from the field. He’s also been a defensive dynamo.

Both players are critical to one of the nation’s most efficient offensive teams and one of the most dangerous in transition.

But who is the most valuable?

Athlon Sports asked editorial staff and three reporters who cover the Hoosiers on a regular basis.

Victor Oladipo or Cody Zeller: Who is Indiana’s Most Valuable Player?

THE PANEL


Alex Bozich, Inside the Hall @insidethehall
The pick: Oladipo
There's not a clearcut choice for team MVP, but Oladipo affects the game in more ways than Zeller, so he's more valuable in my eyes for that reason. Zeller was the missing piece that Indiana needed to take a major step up in the college basketball landscape last season, but it's been Oladipo's improvement this year that's elevated the team to another level. He's arguably the best defender in the Big Ten, leads the conference in field goal percentage and steals and when Indiana needed someone to make plays in a tough spot at Michigan State, Oladipo was the guy.

Rick Bozich, WDRB, Louisville @rickbozich
The pick: Zeller
I put that question to Oladipo last week. He did not hesitate: "Cody Zeller." I agree. Zeller makes it go for Indiana, especially on offense. His presence demands double-teams, creating open threes and driving lanes. Defensively, he's first on the team in blocks, second in steals. There's a short list of big men with his skill set.

Tom Dienhart, BTN.com @BTNTomDienhart
The pick: Zeller
For Indiana's MVP, I have to go with Zeller. When the Hoosiers are really rolling and playing well, the offense runs through the 7-footer. He can make a move on the block or kick it out to a shooter. For the most part, when Indiana has struggled, it has been when Zeller hasn't been a big part of the offense. Want more? He also has become a standout defender. He's a unique weapon and talent that few other teams possess. Zeller is special -- and Indiana's MVP.

Related: Who is the nation's top point guard?

David Fox, Athlon Sports @DavidFox615
The pick: Oladipo
That’s a loaded question, isn’t it? I suppose Zeller is the Hoosiers’ “best player.” The NBA Draft experts and advanced statistics seem to agree. But I can’t overlook the leap Oladipo has taken this season. He’d be my vote for most valuable. Indiana wouldn’t be the same team without the impact he’s made on both ends of the court. He’s the most efficient offensive player on the nation’s most efficient offense. He’s the game-turning, dynamic playmaker on one of the best up-tempo, dynamic offenses in the country, and he’ll be among the top vote-getters for National Defensive Player of the Year by leading the Big Ten in steals.

Related: Key stats of the week

Mitch Light, Athlon Sports @athlonmitch
The pick: Zeller
Oladipo is perhaps the most improved player in the country and no doubt one of the most exciting talents in college basketball, but I still maintain Zeller is Indiana’s best player. The big man leads the team in both scoring (16.5 ppg) and rebounding (8.1 rpg) and provides the Hoosiers with a scoring threat on the low block. Zeller is shooting a solid 57.3 percent from the floor and is among the Big Ten leaders in both free throws made and attempted. And while he isn’t an elite shot-blocker, he does provide a defensive presence around the basket. Zeller, with his ability to affect the game from such an important position, is the best player on the best team in the nation.

Mark Ross, Athlon Sports
The pick: Zeller
As impressive as Oladipo's all-around play has been this season, Indiana would not be one of the nation's top-ranked teams and a Final Four contender if not for the Hoosiers' big man, Zeller. There's a reason this sophomore was the popular pick for preseason national player of the year, and it's not like he's had a disappointing season. He's leading the team in both scoring and rebounds, categories in which he ranks third and second, respectively, in the Big Ten, widely considered the nation's toughest conference this season. He's doing all of this while receiving the lion's share of his opponents' attention on the court and dealing with all of the added responsibilities and distractions off of it associated with being in the national spotlight. Zeller, and not Oladipo, is the Hoosier who has had the bull's-eye on his back all season long, and he's the primary reason why Indiana is back among the nation's elite in the first place.

Nathan Rush, Athlon Sports
The pick: Zeller
Zeller may not have a high-flying highlight reel like Victor Oladipo, but the 7-foot sophomore from Washington, Ind., is the Hoosiers’ best player this season. In fact, Zeller is one of the more important players ever to wear candy-striped warm-up pants in IU’s rich basketball history. When the 5-star Zeller signed with Indiana — instead of his brother’s alma mater, North Carolina, or in-state upstart Butler — it signaled the beginning of a new era and the return of national championship expectations in Bloomington. Since then, Zeller has delivered, carrying the Hoosiers to a No. 1 ranking. He has been so good and so consistent during his two seasons that his talents are now being taken for granted. But make no mistake, Zeller is the foundation piece on which Tom Crean’s team is built.

Teaser:
<p> College basketball debate: Oladipo or Zeller?</p>
Post date: Tuesday, March 5, 2013 - 09:50
Path: /college-basketball/daily-march-madness-tracker-reasons-optimism-after-michigan-michigan-state
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Now that the calendar has turned to March, fans of bubble teams may be refreshing web sites of their favorite bracketologists.

As college basketball’s regular season and conference tournament season nears a close, Athlon Sports will keep you up to date on the key developments through the week. Each day brings key developments for the NCAA Tournament, so in this space, we’ll update which teams look to be in the field, which might be playing themselves out as well as the key games of the day.

Related: Key stats of the week

MARCH 4 DAILY MARCH MADNESS TRACKER AND BUBBLE WATCH

Virginia’s bizarre bubble case continues.
The NCAA Tournament resumes for bubble teams are -- by definition -- difficult. But Virginia is pushing the envelope in this department. In one week, the Cavaliers defeated Duke 73-68 in a game that seemed to put the Hoos into the field. Then Virginia turned around to lose to Boston College 53-52 on a three-pointer in the final 8.2 seconds Sunday. Seven games separate Duke and BC in the ACC standings, and 135 spots separated the Cavs’ two opponents in the official RPI to start last week. And that’s just one week. Elsewhere on its resume, Virginia has a win at Wisconsin and a loss on a neutral site to Old Dominion (5-25, 3-15 Colonial).

Michigan bounces back.
A great game with a dubious finish on both sides of the court. First, John Beilein left a 44 percent free throw shooter on the court late in a close game, and later Michigan State failed to execute a final play when it had the ball in the final seconds. Still, Michigan had reason to brag. Trey Burke continued to state a case for National Player of the Year with a steal and a dunk to give the Wolverines the lead in its 58-57 win and then the steal on the game’s final play. And that 44 percent free throw shooter, Mitch McGary, is starting to look like a secret weapon for Michigan. He scored 11 points, giving him another double-figure game late in Big Ten play. He averaged 12 points per game during a three-game stretch against Indiana, Ohio State and Wisconsin. On Wednesday, Michigan gave Penn State its only Big Ten win of the season, but rebounded in short order. With a regular season finale against Indiana and the Big Ten Tournament, Michigan is still in the running for a No. 1 seed.

Related: Where does Trey Burke rank among this year’s point guards?

Michigan State’s losing streak.
Without a deep run in the Big Ten Tournament, Michigan State may have lost a chance at a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, but there may not be much reason to worry about the Spartans. First, a three-game losing streak to Indiana, Ohio State and Michigan -- the latter two on the road -- should give Michigan State no reason to hide in shame. Another reason not to count out Sparty: Adreian Payne is playing lights out. The  matchup nightmare is averaging 15.3 points and 12 rebounds in the last four games.

Ryan Kelly’s impact on the bracket.
Around this time of year, we talk about how key injuries can hurt a team’s seeding this late in the season. After Saturday, we’re going to see a return from injury boost a team in the bracket. If defeating Miami wasn’t enough, Duke proved what a force it is with Kelly in the lineup. Remember, when Kelly first went down with an ankle injury, Duke was 15-0 and an unquestioned No. 1.

North Carolina back?
The Tar Heels probably sealed an NCAA Tournament bid by defeating NC State on Feb. 23, but does Carolina have a good chance to advance? Roy Williams’ team may be putting things together. Marcus Paige was masterful against NC State and added nine assists in a 21-point rout of Florida State on Sunday. Reggie Bullock is averaging 18 points and 10.7 rebounds in he last three games, and the Heels seem to have found a lineup they like with P.J. Hairston starting.

SEC slipping.
Ole Miss’ NCAA Tournament case has been lacking for some time now, but the Rebels may have played themselves out of the field by losing to Mississippi State 73-67 on Saturday. The Bulldogs’ hadn’t won since Jan. 12, starting a 13-game losing streak that included a pair of 40-point losses in SEC play. With Ole Miss’ loss to South Carolina on Feb. 20, the Rebels have two losses to sub-200 RPI teams in the last two weeks. Tennessee’s NCAA Tournament case is looking better, but the Vols didn’t help themselves by losing 68-62 to Georgia. Tennessee has been swept by Georgia and Ole Miss in the SEC this season. Meanwhile, Kentucky could have done itself a great service by winning at Arkansas on Saturday, but the Wildcats may still have a stronger case than the Rebels and Volunteers, despite a 30-point loss to the latter.

Cantu Can Do.
Will anyone in the Pac-12 want to face USC in the conference Tournament? After sweeping the Arizona schools last week, the Trojans are 7-4 under interim coach Bob Cantu. USC was 7-10 when it fired Kevin O’Neill on Jan. 14. With USC rounding out the regular season against the Washington schools, USC could finish 11-7 in the league.

GAMES ON TAP
All times Eastern.


Cincinnati at Louisville (7 p.m., ESPN)
The Bearcats’ dodged a bubble-bursting loss by pulling out a 61-56 win at home over a Connecticut team playing without leading scorer Shabazz Napier. Winning in Louisville will be tough.

Baylor at Texas (9 p.m., ESPN)
Baylor’s still sitting on the bubble. The Bears can’t spend too much time dwelling on the collapse in the final seconds against Kansas State in Saturday. A loss to Texas (5-11 in the Big 12) would be a compelling reason to keep Baylor out of the field.

BY THE NUMBERS
NCAA TOURNAMENT PROJECTED AT-LARGE LOCKS (34)
ACC (4): Duke, Miami, NC State, North Carolina
Atlantic 10 (3): Butler, Saint Louis, VCU
Big 12 (4): Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State
Big East (6): Georgetown, Louisville, Marquette, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, Syracuse
Big Ten (6): Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Wisconsin
Mountain West (3): Colorado State, New Mexico, UNLV
Pac-12 (5): Arizona, Cal, Colorado, Oregon, UCLA
SEC (2): Florida, Missouri
West Coast (1): Gonzaga

ONE-BID LEAGUES (17)
America East, Atlantic Sun, Big Sky, Big South, Big West, Colonial, Horizon, Ivy, MAAC, MAC, MEAC, Northeast, Patriot, Southern, Southland, Summit, SWAC
Note: Conference USA, the Ohio Valley, the Sun Belt and the WAC likely will be one-bid leagues if their proejcted champions win their conference tournaments.

THE BUBBLE: 17 teams

Teaser:
<p> Daily March Madness Tracker: Reasons for optimism after Michigan-Michigan State</p>
Post date: Monday, March 4, 2013 - 10:00
Path: /college-football/byu-cougars-2013-spring-practice-preview
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BYU’s second season as an independent was a little rockier than the first, but the Cougars still finished the season in a bowl game.

Injuries and ineffectiveness meant BYU had to start three quarterbacks through the course of its 8-5 season. The Cougars were a stout defensive team, but struggled to score points against tougher competition. BYU hopes it has its quarterback of the future already on the roster and on the mend in sophomore Taysom Hill.

This spring, he’ll be a handful of players reintroducing himself to the coaching staff. BYU has a handful of players, like Hill, returning from injury, and as usual, the Cougars will welcome a handful of key players coming back from LDS missions.

BYU Cougars 2013 Spring Preview

2012 Record: 8-5

Spring practice dates: March 2-April 5

Returning Starters: Offense – 8, Defense – 4

Returning Leaders:

Passing: Taysom Hill, 181 of 308, 425 pass yds., 4 TDs, 2 INTs
Rushing: Jamaal Williams, 166 car., 775 yds., 12 TDs
Receiving: Cody Hoffman, 100 rec., 1,248 yds., 11 TDs
Tackles: Daniel Sorensen, 68
Sacks: Kyle Van Noy, 13
Interceptions: Daniel Sorensen, 3

JUCO Transfers to Watch: OL Josh Carter, OL Tim Duran, OL Edward Fusi, DB Sam Lee, DB Trent Trammell, DL Kalolo Uto, OL De'Ondre Wesley

2013 Schedule

Aug. 31 at Virginia
Sept. 7 Texas
Sept. 21 Utah
Sept. 27 Middle Tennnessee
Oct. 4 at Utah State
Oct. 12 Georgia Tech
Oct. 19 at Houston
Oct. 26 Boise State
Nov. 9 at Wisconsin
Nov. 16 Idaho State
Nov. 23 at Notre Dame
Nov. 30 at Nevada

Offensive Strength: Beyond questions at quarterback, BYU should feel comfortable at the offensive skill positions. As the Cougars started three quarterbacks last season, Cody Hoffman was the consistent target. He finished with 73 more catches and nearly 1,000 more yards than anyone else on the roster. Jamaal Williams took over the starting running back duties at midseason and finished with 775 yards and 12 touchdowns.

Offensive Weakness: The offensive line is the most uncertain spot on this side of the ball. The most steady lineman, right tackle Braden Brown, is gone. An influx of junior college transfers will be in the mix for starting jobs. The Cougars also have a few health concerns with quarterback Taysom Hill and running back Michael Alisa returning from injuries.

Defensive Strength: BYU’s defensive strength begins with Kyle Van Noy, an All-America candidate. The pass rush extraordinaire finished with 13 sacks last season. Though he was consistent for most of the season, he finished with 9.5 tackles for a loss in the final three games and added a pick six in the bowl win over San Diego State. As a unit, the defense ranked second in the nation in rush defense (86.9 yards per game) and held five opponents to seven points or fewer.

Defensive Weakness: Perhaps not a weakness as much as a question for the spring: BYU loses seven starters on the defense. That includes five in the front seven. The Cougars may have the depth to replace the players gone with experienced backups, a handful of newcomers and several players returning from injuries or LDS missions.

Spring Storylines Facing the Cougars

1. Taysom Hill’s recovery. Hopes are high for BYU’s young quarterback. The dual-threat started twice before missing the remainder of the season with a torn ACL. In his best game of the season (albeit against Hawaii), Hill passed for 112 yards and two touchdowns with an interception while rushing for 143 yards and a score. He’ll have to show this spring he’s healthy and ready to take over the offense full time.

2. Junior college transfers on the offensive line. Left tackle Ryker Matthews may be the only sure thing on the offensive line. That may be startling for a team that returns four starters. BYU addressed its need by adding four junior college offensive linemen to compete for positions.

3. Competition at cornerback. The most uncertain position on the defense may be cornerback where three graduated, including one starter in Preston Hadley. Early enrollee Trenton Trammell may compete for time. Depth beyond the other starting cornerback, Jordan Johnson, is far from settled as well.

4. Returning bodies on the defensive line. All three starters on the defensive line are gone, but there’s no reason for Bronco Mendenhall to panic. Eathyn Manumaleuna started the first four games last season before missing the end of the year with an injury. He earned a medical redshirt, giving BYU a lineman who can play all line positions. In addition, Tuni Kanuch and Sae Tautu are back from LDS missions.

5. Depth at middle linebacker. Like defensive line, the linebacker group lost starters, but a mix of players will give BYU options. Both starting inside linebackers are gone. Austen Jorgensen received a medical waiver and will look to reclaim the form he had in 2010 when he amassed 46 tackles. Uani Unga had 28 tackles as a redshirt freshman last season.

Related College Football Content

College Football's Top 5 Running Backs on the Rise for 2013
College Football's Top 5 Quarterbacks on the Rise for 2013

College Football's Top 15 JUCO Transfers for 2013

Teaser:
<p> BYU Cougars 2013 Spring Football Preview</p>
Post date: Monday, March 4, 2013 - 08:45
Path: /college-basketball/amazing-college-basketball-stats-week-feb-25-march-3
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Welcome to March.

College basketball’s best month has arrived, and, boy, did it deliver immediate dividends.

The first full slate of games in March brought a classic individual performance — one for the ages, Mike Krzyzewski called it — and one of the best games of the season. And that was just Duke’s win over Miami. Earlier on Saturday, we also had one of the March staples of the unlikely hero when Luke Hancock upstaged guys like Michael Carter-Willaims, Peyton Siva and Russ Smith.

Related: Who is the nation's top point guard?

Meanwhile, Oklahoma came within two free throws of a record. Doug McDermott returned to form. And Ole Miss continued to court the NIT. In short, an eventful weekend. In all likelihood, the first of five wild Saturdays in March.

Here’s a look at the key numbers from the first weekend of March:

1.13. Points per minute for Ryan Kelly after a 13-game layoff
Good luck trying to find a way to overestimate Ryan Kelly’s 36 points in 32 minutes against Miami. The Duke forward missed 13 games due to an ankle injury but returned to score a career high in the 79-76 win over Miami. Beyond the raw numbers, the per-minute average for Duke's wildcard player is equally important. Kelly averaged 1.13 points per minute against Miami. Before his injury, Kelly averaged 0.47 points per minute this season. On Saturday, the senior scored 16 of Duke’s first 28 points against the Hurricanes. By that point, he already exceeded the 13.8 points per game he averaged prior to his injury. Again, the minutes were almost as impressive as his scoring: Kelly exceeded the 32-minute mark only eight times in the last two seasons.

1 of 18. Peyton Siva’s line from the field against Syracuse this season
Peyton Siva is one of the top point guards in the country, but not against Syracuse. On Saturday, Siva missed all nine of his shots from the field, eight of which were from three-point range in Louisville's 58-53 win over Syracuse. Earlier this season, Siva went 1 of 9 from the field against the Orange, including 1 of 7 from three-point range in a 70-68 loss on Jan. 19. Siva failed to reach the free throw line in both games. Lucky for Louisville...

6 of 7. Luke Hancock’s line from three-point range against Syracuse this season
The George Mason transfer was the hero of Louisville's win over Syracuse on Saturday by hitting 4 of 5 shots from the field, all from beyond the arc. Hancock, who started the season in a 4-for-29 slump from three-point range, was the hero in the Cardinals’ win over the Orange with his three-point shooting and a critical steal late in the game. In the first meeting with Syracuse, he scored seven points on 2-of-2 three-point shooting.

12. Margin of victory in Florida’s closest win of the season
Florida hasn’t had to sweat much at home this season — so much so that a 12-point win in the O’Connell Center qualifies as its closest victory of the season. The Gators defeated Alabama 64-52, but they were tied with 7:47 to go and trailed by as much as eight in the second half. Should Florida be encouraged it battled back in the second half or does it reinforce the Gators don’t have a great record in close games late? Florida is 0-5 in games decided by 11 points or less.

41. Season-high scoring by Creighton’s Doug McDermott
A week ago, we noted McDermott’s struggles, relatively speaking. The Creighton forward averaged 16.7 points per game during a six-game span from  Feb. 6-23. This week, the old McDermott returned. The junior scored 32 points against Bradley on Wednesday. He topped that with a season-high 41 points against Wichita State in what could be his final home game if he leaves for the NBA Draft. Creighton had been sliding down mock brackets, but the Bluejays’ 91-79 win over the Shockers clinched a Missouri Valley regular season title. His 41-point outburst (on 15-of-18 shooting) was his sixth 30-point game of the season. And McDermott’s not padding his stats, either. Four of those 30-point games have come against Tournament hopefuls Wisconsin, Cal, Akron and Wichita State.

34 for 34. Oklahoma from the free throw line against Iowa State
The Sooners tied a Division I record with a perfect performance from the foul line, making all 34 free throw attempts in the 86-69 win over Iowa State. Only two other teams have gone 34 for 34 from the line. No team has a perfect mark in a game with 35 or more free throw attempts.

17. VCU steals against Butler
Even for VCU, this got out of hand. The Rams forced 23 turnovers in Saturday’s 85-52 rout of Butler, 17 of those takeaways came from a VCU steal. To put this in perspective, Butler opponents are averaging six steals per game. VCU guard Darius Theus nearly matched that on his own with five.

27. Seasons since Bob Huggins had a losing conference record
West Virginia lost 91-65 to Kansas, which isn’t a surprise given the Mountaineers’ struggles this year. The loss is notable by moving West Virginia to 6-10 in the league to seal a losing Big 12 season. The losing conference record will be the first for a Bob Huggins-coached team since his first as a Division I head coach when Akron went 6-8 in the Ohio Valley in 1984-85. Since then, Huggins has led four different schools to winning records in six leagues: Akron in the OVC, Cincinnati in the Metro, Great Midwest and Conference USA, Kansas State in the Big 12 and West Virginia in the Big East.

10.4. Points per game for Cal’s Allen Crabbe since “the shove”
Cal is surging with its seven-game winning streak to put it within a game in the loss column of the Pac-12 regular season title. The Pac-12 scoring leader, though, is not. Crabbe is averaging 10.4 points per game in four games since the shove that earned Cal coach Mike Montgomery a reprimand from the conference. After the game, Montgomery noted the shove “worked” as Crabbe scored 23 points in the game against USC. Crabbe was averaging 19.8 points per game on Feb. 17, but he scored only eight in Saturday’s 62-46 win over Colorado to drop his scoring average to 18.8 per game.

8 of 36. Marshall Henderson from the field in Ole Miss’ losses to South Carolina and Mississippi State
If Ole Miss misses the NCAA Tournament, the culprit almost certainly will be bad losses to South Carolina on Feb. 20 and Mississippi State on Saturday. Marshall Henderson struggled in the two games. Though he scored 16 points against Mississippi State and 11 against South Carolina, he was woefully inefficient. Henderson was a combined 8 of 36 in these two resume-killing losses. He went 4 of 19, including 3 of 18 from three-point range against Mississippi State and 4 of 17 from the field and 3 of 11 from beyond the arc against South Carolina.

Teaser:
<p> Amazing College Basketball Stats of the Week: Feb. 25-March 3</p>
Post date: Monday, March 4, 2013 - 06:25
Path: /college-basketball/daily-march-madness-tracker-virginia-seals-bid
Body:

Now that the calendar has turned to March, fans of bubble teams may be refreshing web sites of their favorite bracketologists.

As college basketball’s regular season and conference tournament season nears a close, Athlon Sports will keep you up to date on the key developments through the week. Each day brings key developments for the NCAA Tournament, so in this space, we’ll update which teams look to be in the field, which might be playing themselves out as well as the key games of the day.

Related: Conference-by-conference Tourney projections and bubble watch

MARCH 1 NCAA TOURNAMENT TRACKER AND BUBBLE WATCH

Virginia seals a bid?
The question for sometime has been what would Virginia need to do to overcome a handful of really bad losses. The Cavaliers’ loss to Old Dominion early in the season would be one of the worst for an NCAA at-large teams and that doesn’t get to a home loss to Delaware, a road loss to George Mason and ACC road losses to Wake Forest, Clemson and Georgia Tech. Well, defeating Duke at home might be the game that clinches the NCAA Tournament for Virginia. The Blue Devils entered Thursday ranked No. 1 in the RPI, but Mike Krzyzewski spent most of the evening in a foul mood. With a 73-68 win over Duke, Virginia has top-30 wins over Duke, NC State, North Carolina and Wisconsin, the latter on the road.

Gonzaga’s case for a No. 1 seed.
Gonzaga already had momentum for a No. 1 seed, but in the last week Duke lost to Virginia, Michigan lost to Penn State, Indiana lost to Minnesota, Florida lost to Tennessee, Miami lost to Wake Forest, and Michigan State lost twice. Gonzaga, though, keeps winning. The Zags defeated BYU 70-65 on Thursday with one game left before the West Coast Conference Tournament. Not a bad week for Gonzaga’s seeding hopes.

Temple survives a scare.
The Owls may have played themselves into the field int the last two weeks with a four-game winning streak, but they had to survive a non-conference scare Thursday night. Khalif Wyatt scored 12 of the last 14 points to defeat Detroit 83-78. Defeating Detroit (RPI No. 61) won’t make-or-break a Tournament bid for Temple, but it’s better to have an extra top-100 win on the resume.

Related: Roundtable debate: Who are the top five point guards?

Deshaun Thomas in a supporting role.
Thomas remains Ohio State’s top scorer, but Thad Matta has to be pleased others besides Thomas have led the way. Only seven times all season a Buckeye other than Thomas has led Ohio State in scoring, and two of those were in back-to-back games. Lenzelle Smith Jr. scored 24 points as Ohio State had to sweat through a 63-53 win over Northwestern. Thomas scored 19. Against Michigan State on Sunday, Aaron Craft led Ohio State in scoring with 21 points.

Big East maneuverings.
News reports from SI.com and ESPN on Thursday afternoon indicated the Catholic Seven could break off from the Big East as soon as next season and could add Butler and Xavier from the Atlantic 10 immediately. Creighton, Dayton and Saint Louis could be realistic targets at a later date if the league expands to 12.

Just for fun, let’s look at what that league would be this season. Here’s a look at the new 12-team league with projected NCAA Tournament seedings from Jerry Palm’s latest bracket.

Team Seed
Georgetown 1
Butler 4
Saint Louis 4
Marquette 5
Creighton 10
Villanova 12
St. John's NIT
Xavier NIT
Providence NIT
Dayton  
Seton Hall  
DePaul  

WEEKEND ON TAP
All times Eastern


SATURDAY
Louisville at Syracuse (noon, CBS)

When these two teams first met on Jan. 19, no one would have projected Georgetown to be the Big East’s most likely team to be a No. 1 seed, but here we are. The Cardinals are still in the mix for a regular season conference title, sitting a game behind the Hoyas. Syracuse is still in the mix, but this likely is a must win before the Orange visit D.C. in the regular season finale.

Alabama at Florida (noon, ESPN)
The Tide simply have too many bad losses (Dayton, Mercer, Tulane, LSU) to be a strong at-large candidate. A win in Gainesville would set up for a more meaningful SEC Tournament for Bama.

Butler at VCU (noon, ESPN2)
VCU is getting close to wrapping up an NCAA Tournament bid. A win over Butler may do it. If the Bulldogs can defeat VCU in Richmond, where the Rams haven't lost in Atlantic 10 play, it could be a further boon to the seeding of a team that has defeated Marquette, North Carolina, Indiana, Gonzaga and Temple.

Tennessee at Georgia (1:30, SEC Network)
Want to be in the Tournament, Tennessee? Take care of business by beating Georgia on the road. The Vols’ last road trip was a quadruple overtime win over Texas A&M.

Iowa State at Oklahoma (1:30 p.m., Big 12 Network)
The Cyclones lost in devastating fashion to Kansas. Iowa State may be in the field, but Fred Hoiberg’s team can erase doubts by winning in Norman.

Wichita State at Creighton (2 p.m., ESPN2)
We’re starting to wonder how many bids the Missouri Valley could get. Wichita State and Creighton once looked like locks, but the Shockers lost to Evansville twice and Southern Illinois. Meanwhile, Creighton has lost four of seven. The winner of the MVC regular season finale may sleep a little easier about its at-large prospects.

Connecticut at Cincinnati (2 pm., Big East Network)
After losing five of the last six, Cincinnati has played itself on the bubble. The Bearcats have to find some way to stop this slide or risk being left out of the field.

Kentucky at Arkansas (4 p.m., CBS)
Athlon put the Wildcats back in the field this week. A game at Fayetteville is a great chance to prove the Wildcats can compete without Nerlens Noel. Florida and Missouri lost at Arkansas, so a Kentucky win would be a statement. Arkansas is on the bubble, but its dismal road record is holding back the Hogs. The Razorbacks need to win this game to set up a key game at Missouri on Tuesday.

Miami at Duke (6 p.m., ESPN)
After Miami lost to Wake Forest, Duke missed an opportunity to make up ground for a regular season ACC title by losing at Virginia on Thursday. Miami clinched at least a share of the regular season title with the Blue Devils’ loss.

Kansas State at Baylor (7 p.m., ESPN2)
Baylor’s big statements that it belongs in the field were a home win over Oklahoma State on Jan. 21 and a road win at Kentucky on Dec. 1. Do the Bears have anything more to show us?

St. John’s at Providence (8 p.m., Big East Network)
The Red Storm are trying to get into the Tournament picture. Providence has been a tough out this season, defeating Villanova twice plus Cincinnati and Notre Dame.

Arizona at UCLA (9 p.m., ESPN)
The Pac-12 title is up for grabs, but Oregon and Cal are also in the mix with the two preseason favorites. Arizona may not be in danger of losing a Tournament bid, but Arizona has something to prove after losing by 11 to USC on Wednesday.

SUNDAY
Villanova at Pittsburgh (noon, Big East Network)

The Wildcats ensured no one would feel sorry for them if they miss the field when they lost to Seton Hall. Villanova can prove it belongs by finishing well against Pitt and Georgetown -- or it can go to the Big East Tournament riding a three-game losing streak.

Michigan State at Michigan (4 p.m., CBS)
Did Michigan play itself out of a No. 1 seed by losing to Penn State on Wednesday? Maybe. Michigan State is still in the mix. Trey Burke’s rebound from a six-turnover effort against the Nittany Lions is another key storyline.

BY THE NUMBERS
NCAA TOURNAMENT PROJECTED AT-LARGE LOCKS (32)
ACC (4): Duke, Miami, NC State, North Carolina
Atlantic 10 (2): Butler, Saint Louis
Big 12 (4): Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State
Big East (6): Georgetown, Louisville, Marquette, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, Syracuse
Big Ten (6): Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Wisconsin
Mountain West (3): Colorado State, New Mexico, UNLV
Pac-12 (4): Arizona, Cal, Colorado, Oregon, UCLA
SEC (2): Florida, Missouri
West Coast (1): Gonzaga

ONE-BID LEAGUES (17)
America East, Atlantic Sun, Big Sky, Big South, Big West, Colonial, Horizon, Ivy, MAAC, MAC, MEAC, Northeast, Patriot, Southern, Southland, Summit, SWAC
Note: Conference USA, the Ohio Valley, the Sun Belt and the WAC likely will be one-bid leagues if their proejcted champions win their conference tournaments.

THE BUBBLE: 19 teams


RELATED: Tourney Hopes—A Deep Dive Into The SEC's Current Resume

Teaser:
<p> Daily Bubble Watch and NCAA Tournament Tracker: Virginia seals bid?</p>
Post date: Friday, March 1, 2013 - 11:04
Path: /college-basketball/college-basketball-debate-who-nations-top-point-guard
Body:

In a college basketball season marked by uncertainty, determining the nation’s top players at any position is a tall task.

That starts at point guard. At midseason, we picked Trey Burke, Phil Pressey and Michael Carter-Williams as All-America point guards up to then. But we acknowledged we wouldn’t be shocked to see that group change order or welcome newcomers.

The order changed, but not at the top.

Burke separated himself from every other point guard on our panel of eight reporters, bloggers and editors. In addition to being a near-unanimous No. 1, Burke was the only point guard to appear on every ballot.

We asked eight writers and editors from inside the Athlon offices and outside to provide a their top five point guards and an explanation of their top picks.

Here are the results of the voting, awarding five points for each point guard at No. 1, four for No. 2 and so on.

Name Pts. Name Pts.
1. Trey Burke, Michigan 39 7. Aaron Craft, Ohio State 7
2. Michael Carter-Williams, Syracuse 18 8. Isaiah Canaan, Murray State 4
3. Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State 16 T-9 Peyton Siva, Louisville 2
4. Phil Pressey, Missouri 13 T-9 Nate Wolters, South Dakota State 2
5. Matthew Dellavedova, Saint Mary's 12 11. Myck Kabongo, Texas 1
6. Shane Larkin, Miami 8    

THE PANEL

Dienhart’s ballot
1. Burke
2. Carter-Williams
3. Pressey
4. Canaan
5. Siva

Tom Dienhart, BTN.com @BTNTomDienhart
Point guard may be the deepest position in the nation. I have to go with Burke. He showed again on Sunday why he's so good, notching 26 points, eight assists and one turnover in a win over Illinois. Burke is so quick, able to get to the rim off the bounce and also pull up for a jumper. He's deadly in transition and limits turnovers. And, best of all: Burke, who averages 18.6 points and 6.9 assists, makes those around him better as a deft passer.

Eisenberg’s ballot:
1. Burke
2. Larkin
3. Smart
4. Pressey
5. Dellavedova

Jeff Eisenberg, The Dagger on Yahoo! Sports @JeffEisenberg
It's a testament to how good Trey Burke has been this season that selecting the nation's best point guard isn't a greater challenge. Although Shane Larkin has thrived in Miami's ball-screen heavy offense and Marcus Smart has transformed Oklahoma State with his versatility and competitiveness, no point guard has made a greater impact than the Michigan sophomore. Burke can win a game so many different ways, from his 39.7 percent outside shooting, to quick first step to the basket, to his ability to create for his teammates. Better yet, his exceptional decision making enables him to use those tools at the appropriate time. Not only is he averaging 18.9 points per game, his assist-to-turnover ratio is best among all point guards nationally.

Ennis’ ballot
1. Burke
2. Craft
3. Dellavedova
4. Pressey
5. Siva

Mark Ennis, Big East Coast Bias @Mengus22
It wasn’t easy ranking point guards because each has his own skill set that fits the role his respective team needs him to play. I put Trey Burke first because he’s been a consistent scoring threat while also getting the rest of the Michigan lineup involved. Aaron Craft is driving Ohio State’s late season surge with his defense and leadership. Matthew Dellavedova and Phil Pressey are the heart and soul of their respective teams, carrying the offenses at times for clubs that will be tough come tournament time. Peyton Siva, like Craft, makes his team better not so much by scoring, but by steadying the team and playing smothering defense.

Fox’s ballot
1. Burke
2. Larkin
3. Smart
4. Carter-Williams
5. Pressey

David Fox, Athlon Sports@DavidFox615
Despite struggling mightily against Penn State earlier this week, Burke is my clear No. 1 point guard with his ability to run Michigan’s offense to near-perfection, never mind scoring the way he does. It took that fluke of a loss to reinforce how great Burke has been. His six turnovers that night were the most since the end of last season and as many as his previous five games combined. For the remainder of my ballot, I gave strong consideration to two point guards who elevated their teams to new heights in Larkin and Smart. And when Pressey and Carter-Williams are on, they rival Burke. But both have played out-of-control at times this season.

Gall’s ballot
1. Burke
2. Carter-Williams
3. Craft
4. Pressey
5. Canaan

Braden Gall, Athlon Sports @bradengall
Aaron Craft is the best defender and the best leader. Micheal Carter-Williams is the most talented and the best future NBA prospect. Phil Pressey is the best pure passer and ball handler. But the best all-around floor leader in the nation is Michigan's Trey Burke. He can score from the outside, in fact, his only weakness is his penchant to take too many threes. He has the size and speed to be a lottery pick and has a 3.6 assist-to-turnover ratio on the season. Throw in more than three boards per game on what could be the best team of the group and it's hard to argue with Burke as the nation's top point guard.

Light’s ballot:
1. Smart
2. Burke
3. Carter-Williams
4. Pressey
5. Dellavedova

Mitch Light, Athlon Sports @athlonmitch
This was very tough, but I will give the nod to Marcus Smart of Oklahoma State over Trey Burke of Michigan. Smart has made a tremendous impact on the Oklahoma State program as a freshman. Heading into the weekend, the Cowboys are 21–6 overall and 11–4 in the Big 12, one game behind Kansas and Kansas State. Smart’s production has been solid (14.7 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 4.4 apg), but his value to the team — and pardon the cliché — cannot be measured by the box score. He is a tremendous leader, even as a freshman, who is willing to do whatever it takes to get his team a win.

Ross’ ballot
1. Burke
2. Dellavedova
3. Carter-Williams
4. Wolters
5. Smart

Mark Ross, Athlon Sports
Not only is Burke the nation's top point guard in my eyes, he's one of the leading contenders for national player of the year honors. Burke does it all, leading the Wolverines (23-5, 10-5 Big Ten) in scoring (18.8 ppg), assists (6.9 apg) and steals (1.4 spg). He leads the Big Ten in assists and is second in scoring, while also leading the nation in assist-to-turnover ratio at 3.9. He also shoots 50 percent from the field, 40 percent from beyond the arc and nearly 80 percent from the free-throw line. There may be other point guards that score more or are better on defense, but when it comes to the complete package there's none better than Burke.

Rush’s ballot
1. Burke
2. Smart
3. Dellavedova
4. Carter-Williams
5. Kabongo

Nathan Rush, Athlon Sports
Burke has established himself as the premier point guard in the college game this season, while Smart is clearly the top pro prospect among lead guards eligible for the 2013 NBA Draft. Burke has been brilliant — averaging 18.8 points, 6.9 assists, 3.1 rebounds and 1.4 steals per game while posting FG-FT-3PT shooting percentages approaching the 50-80-40 trinity. Burke's most impressive statistic, however, is his 3.57 assist-to-turnover ratio. He's also led the Wolverines to a 23–5 overall record and undefeated mark in Ann Arbor. Burke is the best.

Jim Young, ACCSports.com@accsports
Why is Miami on top of the ACC? Perhaps it’s because Larkin has emerged as the league’s top point guard. Larkin doesn't overwhelm you with scoring (just 12.7 ppg in league play) but, given the talent around him, he doesn't have to. He passes (4.8 apg), takes care of the ball (2.2 A/TO ratio) and takes it away (1.9 spg). Oh, and he's efficient (112.4 ORtg). Most impressive? When it comes down to crunch time, on a team loaded with seniors, it's clear that Larkin, a sophomore, is the go-to guy.

Teaser:
<p> College basketball debate: Who is the nation's top point guard?</p>
Post date: Friday, March 1, 2013 - 10:30
Path: /college-football/miami-hurricanes-2013-spring-football-preview
Body:

One of the youngest teams in the country may be a little closer to growing up.

Miami played 21 freshmen last season, including 10 who started at least one game. That made the Hurricanes one of the youngest teams in the country.  On the field, it showed -- particularly on defense. The ‘Canes endured a three-game losing streak in October and had one of the worst defenses in the league.

Yet Miami finished 7-5 overall and 5-3 in the ACC despite having the prospect of a bowl game and a conference title game yanked away midseason. Al Golden returns with 14 players who started at least seven games, but that does not include a handful of players who contributed greatly -- including budding star Duke Johnson.

Miami Hurricanes 2013 Spring Preview

2012 Record: 7-5 (5-3)

Spring practice dates: March 2-April 13

Returning Starters: Offense – 9, Defense – 5

Returning Leaders:

Passing: Stephen Morris, 245 of 421, 3,345 yds., 21 TDs, 7 INTs
Rushing: Duke Johnson, 139 car., 947 yds., 10 TDs
Receiving: Phillip Dorsett, 58 rec., 842 yds., 4 TDs
Tackles: Shayon Green, 67
Sacks: Anthony Chickillo, 4
Interceptions: James Gaines, 2

Redshirts to Watch: LB Jawand Blue, DL Jacoby Briscoe, WR Jontavious Carter, QB Preston Dewey, DL Dwayne Hoilett, OL Danny Isidora, WR D'Mauri Jones, DL Jake O'Donnell

Early Enrollees to Watch: TE Standish Dobard, OL Hunter Knighton

JUCO Transfers to Watch: LB Devante Bond, DL Ufomba Kamalu, TE Beau Sandland

2013 Schedule

Aug. 30 FAU
Sept. 7 Florida
Sept. 21 Savannah State
Sept. 28 at USF
Oct. 5 Georgia Tech
Oct. 17 at North Carolina
Oct. 26 Wake Forest
Nov. 2 at Florida State
Nov. 9 Virginia Tech
Nov. 16 at Duke
Nov. 23 Virginia
Nov. 29 at Pittsburgh

Offensive Strength: Start with sophomore Duke Johnson, who become Miami’s most explosive offensive threat in several seasons. The running back was ninth in the nation in all-purpose yards per game and averaged 10.7 every time he touched the ball. He finished the season with 14 total touchdowns, including 10 rushing, one receiving, one passing and two on kickoff returns. He’ll be back in 2013 running behind an offensive line that returns all five starters. Quarterback Stephen Morris is also back after passing for 3,354 yards, the fifth-highest total in program history.

Offensive Weakness: Johnson will be the Hurricanes' top threat on offense, but Miami’s meager rushing averages are surprising. Miami ranked 81st nationally at 144.9 yards per game and 42nd in yards per carry at 4.7. Mike James, who carried eight more times than Johnson last season, is gone. No other tailback had more than 16 carries. With Eduardo Clements battling injury, Miami may look to newcomers to spell their star running back. Johnson topped out 16 carries in a game last season, but twice in the final three games. Developing depth will be a major question during the spring.

Defensive Strength: Miami graduated one senior starter on each side of the ball. On defense, the Hurricanes will have to hope last season’s youth contributed to producing one of the worst units in the ACC. With a full season under its belt, this group of returning veterans may be improved simply by having more experience. The Miami defense could also be a takeaway-prone group at times last season. Four times last season, Miami forced three or more turnovers as UM averaged two takeaways per game.

Defensive Weakness: The Hurricanes were a mess on defense last season, finishing last in the ACC in both rushing yards and passing yards allowed per game. The run defense may be more pressing, however. Miami mixed and matched its starting lineup all season, but nowhere more than in the linebacker corps. Most of the Canes’ personnel there returns, with the exception of starting linebacker Gionni Paul. Eddie Johnson, another returning starter at outside linebacker, is suspended indefinitely.

Spring Storylines Facing the Hurricanes

1. Miami v. The NCAA. This is an off-field story, but one that could have repercussions throughout college sports. University president Donna Shalala’s fiery response to the NCAA notice of allegations indicated Miami is not going to take many more sanctions without a fight. If more news develops during spring practice, coach Al Golden will continue to be the public face, especially concerning Miami’s postseason eligibility.

2. Miami’s revamped offensive coaching staff. The Hurricanes scored a victory in the assistant coaching carousel when they hired James Coley from Florida State as offensive coordinator to replaced Jedd Fisch, who took the same position with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Coley will call plays at Miami, an opportunity he didn’t have at Florida State with Jimbo Fisher manning those duties. The ‘Canes didn’t do too much shuffling on his staff, moving Hurlie Brown from an administrative role to running backs coach, Brennan Carroll from tight ends coach to wide receivers and hiring Larry Scott from USF to coach tight ends. With the nine returning starters including Duke Johnson and Stephen Morris, there might not be much reason for Coley to change things drastically.

3. Getting the most out of the defensive line. Miami needs help all over the defense, but the Hurricanes have a substantial chance to improve across the defensive front. Tackle Curtis Porter played only the final four games last season. Having him healthy could be a huge asset to Anthony Chickillo and the pass rush. Expectations have been high for Chickillo, but his 2012 production was similar to 2011. Added talent at the tight end position from the junior college ranks enabled Miami to move starting tight end Dyron Dye to defensive end.

4. Adjusting personnel in the back seven. Linebacker and defensive back will see the most changes of any position on the team. Besides losing a full-time starter at linebacker and cornerback, outside linebacker Eddie Johnson, who was fourth on the team with 59 tackles, is suspended indefinitely. Part-time starting cornerback Thomas Finnie also left the team.

5. The arrival of Beau Sandland. Miami was once a home for great tight ends from Jeremy Shockey to Kellen Winslow to Greg Olsen and Jimmy Graham. Like many position groups at Miami, tight end took a dip in the last few years. Miami is eager to add a true difference-maker at the position, and the Hurricanes may have one in 6-4, 250-pound junior college transfer Beau Sandland.


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Teaser:
<p> Al Golden's young Hurricanes look to grow up during spring practice</p>
Post date: Friday, March 1, 2013 - 10:00

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