Articles By David Fox

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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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<p> Florida Gators 2013 Spring Football Preview</p>
Post date: Wednesday, March 13, 2013 - 08:00
Path: /college-basketball/daily-march-madness-tracker-sec-teams-baylor-stay-alive
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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

Teaser:
<p> Daily March Madness Tracker: SEC teams, Baylor stay alive</p>
Post date: Monday, March 11, 2013 - 12:15
Path: /college-basketball/amazing-college-basketball-stats-week-march-4-10
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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.

Teaser:
<p> Amazing College Basketball Stats of the Week: March 4-10</p>
Post date: Monday, March 11, 2013 - 07:40
Path: /college-basketball/daily-march-madness-tracker
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: 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

Teaser:
<p> Road losses have Kentucky and Virgnia on the outside looking in before huge college basketball weekend</p>
Post date: Friday, March 8, 2013 - 10:30
Path: /college-basketball/daily-march-madness-tracker-villanova-iowa-state-make-cases
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: 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

Teaser:
<p> Daily March Madness Tracker: Villanova, Iowa State make cases</p>
Post date: Thursday, March 7, 2013 - 11:25
Path: /college-basketball/11-teams-could-burst-ncaa-tournament-bubbles
Body:

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
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: 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
Body:

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.

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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
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: 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

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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.

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<p> College basketball debate: Oladipo or Zeller?</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: 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

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<p> Daily March Madness Tracker: Reasons for optimism after Michigan-Michigan State</p>
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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

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<p> BYU Cougars 2013 Spring Football Preview</p>
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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
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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: 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.


Related College Football Content

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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
Path: /college-football/cincinnati-bearcats-2013-spring-football-preview
Body:

For the fourth time since 2004, Cincinnati will begin spring practice with a new coach. Mark Dantonio, Brian Kelly and Butch Jones all put an imprint on the program despite three-year stints for each. The most experienced coach Cincinnati has hired during this run, Tommy Tuberville arrives from Texas Tech to a program that has won at least 10 games in five of the last six seasons. He’ll be expected to continue the tradition with the Bearcats, but they’re not without their question marks. The development of the offense will be worth watching as both starting quarterbacks from a year ago return to a unit short on proven skill players.

Cincinnati Bearcats 2013 Spring Preview

2012 Record: 10-3 (5-2)

Spring practice dates: March 1-April 13

Returning Starters: Offense – 7, Defense – 6

Returning Leaders:

Passing: Munchie Legaux, 120 of 230, 1,716 yds., 13 TDs, 9 INTs
Rushing: Ralph David Abernathy IV, 69 car., 366 yds., 3 TDs,
Receiving: Anthony McClung, 34 rec., 539 yds., 2 TDs,
Tackles: Greg Blair, 138
Sacks: Nick Temple, 2.5
Interceptions: Arryn Chenault, 3

Redshirts to Watch: DB Drake Bruns, DL Jonathan Burt, WR Nate Cole, QB Bennie Coney, DB Marcus Foster,  LB Joey Jones, LB Ey'Shawn McClain, DL Alex Pace, OL Kyle Williamson

Early Enrollees to Watch: DB Zach Edwards, ATH Javon Harrison, OL Kyle Williams

JUCO Transfers to Watch: DB Darren Dodson, DL Jerrell Jordan

2013 Schedule

Aug. 31 Purdue
Sept. 7 at Illinois
Sept. 14 Northwestern State
Sept. 21 at Miami (Ohio)
Big East schedule TBA:
Connecticut
Louisville
SMU
Temple
at Houston
at Memphis
at Rutgers
at USF

Offensive Strength: Cincinnati returns its entire starting offensive line, including All-Big East first-team selection Eric Lefeld at left tackle and second-team selection Austen Bujnoch at left guard. This group of five started all but the first two games last season as Cincinnati had the Big East’s best rushing attack in terms of yards per game (201.5), yards per carry (5.4) and touchdowns (25).

Offensive Weakness: How will the skill positions shake out? The Bearcats lost their bedrock of their offense in running back George Winn plus their top two targets in the passing game in tight end Travis Kelce and receiver Kenbrell Thompkins. At quarterback, Brendon Kay, who wrestled the starting job from Munchie Legaux late last season, is the incumbent starter, but Legaux remains on the roster.

Defensive Strength: Greg Blair provides a solid foundation at middle linebacker.  The senior led the Big East with 138 tackles and earned first-team all-conference honors. Although the Cincinnati pass rush will be a concern, the tandem of defensive tackles in front of Blair returns. The Bearcats ranked in the top three in the Big East in both rush defense and pass efficiency defense.

Defensive Weakness: The Cincinnati pass rush stalled for a few games after Walter Stewart, who was an All-Big East second-teamer despite playing only half the year, was lost for the season. The Bearcats still finished second in the league in sacks, but they’ll miss Stewart and ends Dan Giordano and Brandon Mills. No returning lineman had more than one sack last season.

Spring Storylines Facing the Bearcats

1. How the new staff impacts the offense. In the last two seasons, Cincinnati’s offense has been anchored by a 200-plus-carry running back as George Winn filled the shoes of Isaiah Pead. Tuberville ran a spread offense at Texas Tech, but he hired Florida State assistant Eddie Gran to run his offense. Gran was a long-time running backs coach for Tuberville at Auburn, suggesting Cincinnati will continue a more balanced approach.

2. A change in the run game. As noted, Winn is gone, but that does’t mean Cincinnati lacks for options in the run game. Keep in mind, no one was familiar with Winn when Isaiah Pead left. Ralph David Abernathy IV is the top returning rusher, but he may be more effective as a change-up rather than an every-down back. Two returnees are in the mix (Deionte Buckley and Tion Green), but the position battle may not be settled until junior college transfers Rodriguez Moore and Hosey Williams arrive in the fall.

3. A full spring for Brendon Kay. After steadying the Cincinnati offense with three consecutive wins to end the season, Kay is the presumptive starter over Legaux.  Although former coach Butch Jones didn’t close the quarterback competition until late in the preseason, Legaux was the odds-on favorite since the end of 2011. How will Kay react to starting spring practice with the quarterback job to lose, especially with a new coaching staff on board?

4. Finding big-play contributors on the defense. Though Cincinnati finished second in the Big East in sacks and interceptions, no individual player stood out in terms of big play production, for better or worse. No one on the roster had more than five sacks or three interceptions. After losing veterans in the front seven and experienced defensive backs Drew Frey and Camerron Cheatham, Cincinnati is also looking for a bit of leadership.

5. Defensive improvement. Besides finding a big-play threat on the defense, new coordinator Art Kaufman will be tasked with leading another defensive facelift. Though Cincinnati’s defensive numbers against the run and the pass weren't awful, Cincinnati still ranked last in the Big East in yards allowed per game (yet fourth in yards allowed per play). Kaufman was in charge of one of the best defensive turnarounds last season at Texas Tech, so there’s reason to believe he’ll be able to hone in on Cincinnati’s defensive strengths while tweaking the areas where the Bearcats need help.

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Big East Team Recruiting Rankings for 2013

Teaser:
<p> New coach Tommy Tuberville tries to build on solid foundation as Cincinnati opens spring practice.</p>
Post date: Thursday, February 28, 2013 - 06:24
Path: /college-basketball/amazing-college-basketball-stats-week-feb-18-24
Body:

These days, it takes a special effort to defeat Syracuse or Colorado State on their home courts.

The Orange and the Rams have owned their arenas, with home winning streaks of 38 and 27 games, respectively. Both of those streaks ended Saturday thanks to dominating performances from two players.

One, Georgetown’s Otto Porter, was on everyone’s radar heading into a landmark game at the Carrier Dome. The other, New Mexico’s Kendall Williams, woke up Saturday morning averaging 12.6 points per game but went home with a 46-point outburst.

In another wild weekend of college basketball, some teams stuck to a true and tried formula (VCU) while others who flirted with disaster finally ran out of luck (Miami). And three teams in the SEC needed a little more time to either pad their postseason resumes (Kentucky and Tennessee) or potentially end their NCAA Tournament hopes (Alabama).

Here’s a roundup of the key numbers from another week of college hoops:

65. Combined homecourt winning streaks ended Saturday at Syracuse and Colorado State
Within minutes of each other Saturday, two of the three longest active homecourt winning streaks ended. Georgetown defeated Syracuse 57-46 to end the Orange’s 38-game home winning streak, and New Mexico defeated Colorado State 91-82 to end the Rams 27-game home winning streak. For a handful of reasons, the Hoyas’ win was especially notable:
• The last team to win in the Carrier Dome was also Georgetown on Feb. 9, 2011. The last non-Georgetown team to beat Syracuse on the road was Seton Hall on Jan. 25, 2011.
• The last time Syracuse failed to score 50 points at the Carrier Dome was Jan. 24, 2004 in a 66-45 loss to Pittsburgh.
• Georgetown also ended Syracuse’s 57-game home winning streak at Manley Field House in 1980.

33.3. Percentage of Georgetown-Syracuse field goals belonging to Otto Porter
Georgetown’s do-it-all forward Otto Porter entered himself into the National Player of the Year discussion with a dominating performance in the Hoyas’ 57-46 win over Syracuse to put his team in first place in the Big East. Not only did Porter carry Georgetown, he carried the entire game. He made a third of both team’s combined field goals with 12 of 36 in addition to carrying 32 percent of the total scoring in the game. No one on Porter's own team had more than two field goals or seven points. With 33 points in 40 minutes, Porter finished 0.825 points per minute. The national leader -- injured Lehigh guard C.J. McCollum -- averages 0.77 points per minute.

10. Three-pointers for Kendall Williams against Colorado State
Never mind player of the week, Georgetown’s Porter may not have been the player of his time slot Saturday. As Porter scored 33 on Syracuse, New Mexico’s Kendall Williams had an out-of-nowhere 46 points and 10 three-point baskets to defeat Colorado State 91-82. How unlikely was Williams’ breakout in Fort Collins? Before the game against Colorado State, Williams was 32 of 99 on three-point baskets this season, making an average of 1.3 per game. He was 10 of 13 on Saturday. Beyond that, Williams topped his previous career high (24 points) in the second half alone with 26 points after the break. Williams’ 46 points is the most for a Lobo since 1979 and the fourth-highest total in Mountain West history. Three of the four MWC single-game scoring totals better than Williams belong to BYU’s Jimmer Fredette.

37. Points to which Aaron Craft contributed against Michigan State
Yes, it’s possible for a guard who had been starting for nearly three season to hit a career high during his junior year. Aaron Craft scored a career-high 21 points in Ohio State’s 68-60 win over Michigan State on Sunday. With six assists (including four on three-pointers), Craft contributed to a total of 37 points against Michigan State. The lack of a supporting cast for Deshaun Thomas has been a season-long issue for the Buckeyes but not against the Spartans. Thomas tied his second-lowest scoring total of the season with 14 points and tied a season-low with only four field goals in a game in which Ohio State trailed by 9 early in the second half.

21. Extra scoring chances for VCU against Xavier
How did VCU erase a 17-point deficit in the second half to defeat Xavier 75-71 on the road? The Rams did what they do best and manufactured extra scoring chances through takeaways and offensive rebounds. VCU finished the game with a plus-11 edge in turnover margin and a 13-3 advantage in offensive rebounds, giving the Rams 21 more scoring chances (extra scoring chances per game are determined by offensive rebounds + opponent turnovers - opponent offensive rebounds - turnovers). VCU leads the nation in extra scoring chances per game with 12, but the Rams average only 7.7 extra scoring possessions per game on the road.

55. Points per game in the last three for Miami
Miami’s first ACC loss was a shocker with an 80-65 loss at Wake Forest, but the Hurricanes have been flirting with a letdown for the last week thanks to an offensive slump. Miami averaged 70.4 points per game through its first 23 games but averaged 55 points in its last three. Late-game heroics from Kenny Kadji and Shane Larkin lifted Miami against Clemson and Virginia, but the Hurricanes weren’t even in position for anything dramatic in the loss to Wake. In the last three games, Miami has shot 39.9 percent from the floor (down from 45.8 percent prior) and 32.4 percent from three-point range (down from 36.4 percent).

0. Points scored by TCU starters in the first half against Kansas
If TCU had any ideas of pulling another miracle upset of Kansas this season, those hopes were dashed quickly. TCU defeated Kansas 62-55 on Feb. 6 for its only Big 12 win and only victory since Dec. 30. The Horned Frogs had no such luck in the rematch: The TCU starting lineup went scoreless in the first half at Kansas, contributing to a 38-9 halftime deficit. TCU, at least, won the second half 39-36.

9. Overtimes in SEC play Saturday
For a major conference that may struggle to put at-large teams in the NCAA field, the SEC kept its fans waiting on pins and needles for most of the day Saturday. Four SEC games went to overtime, including two games decided in multiple overtimes. Kentucky had perhaps the most important SEC win of the day, defeating Missouri 90-83 in overtime to keep the Wildcats in the NCAA discussion after Nerlens Noel’s season-ending injury. Tennessee won a game it couldn’t afford to lose if it hopes to get on the NCAA bubble by defeating Texas A&M 93-85 in four overtimes on the road. Meanwhile, Alabama lost a game it couldn’t afford to lose by falling to LSU 97-94 in three overtimes. In a game only important to NIT selection, Georgia defeated South Carolina 62-54 in OT.

3. Double-doubles for NC State players in a loss to North Carolina
Indicative of NC State’s maddening season, NC State had three players with a double-double in a 76-65 loss to North Carolina: Richard Howell had 13 points and 17 rebounds, T.J. Warren had 10 points and 10 boards and Lorenzo Brown had 12 points and 12 assists. The Wolfpack, picked to win the ACC in the preseason poll, slipped to 8-6 in the conference with the loss to the Heels. A major reason for the turnaround from North Carolina’s 91-83 loss to the Pack in the first meeting on Jan. 26 was the development of freshman point guard Marcus Paige. After appearing lost in the first meeting, Paige had eight assists and no turnovers in the rematch.

16.7. Scoring average for Doug McDermott in the last six games
Is it fair to say a player who has scored 20 points in three of his last five games is in a slump? In Doug McDermott’s case, maybe it is. The Creighton forward has averaged 16.7 points per game in his last six. After a 74-66 loss at Saint Mary’s on Saturday, McDermott’s swoon has coincided with a 2-4 stretch for Creighton. Averaging 16.7 points per game would be great for just about anyone, but McDermott was averaging 24 points per game on Feb. 2 when Creighton was 20-3.

Teaser:
<p> Amazing College Basketball Stats of the Week: Feb. 18-24</p>
Post date: Monday, February 25, 2013 - 06:30
Path: /college-basketball/college-basketball-weekend-preview-another-classic-georgetown-syracuse-rivalry
Body:

A casualty of conference realignment will be a boon for the turnstiles at the Carrier Dome.

With Syracuse off to the ACC next season, Saturday’s matchup will be the second-to-last regular-season meeting in a a storied Big East rivalry between the Orange and Georgetown and the last in upstate New York.

Syracuse is sending the series out in style, at least. The Orange will have the record crowd at a fever pitch. With added seating in the Carrier Dome, Syracuse already has announced a sellout with a ticket count of 35,012, the largest crowd for an on-campus game during the regular season.

But the game isn’t just an opportunity for Syracuse-Georgetown nostalgia. With an eight-game winning streak, Georgetown has moved into a three-way tie for the Big East lead along with Syracuse and Marquette.

Both teams have a Big East Player of the Year contender with the Hoyas’ Otto Porter putting the team on his back iHe’ll try to out-duel Syracuse’s breakout point guard Michael Carter-Williams for what could be another chapter in a rivalry that will be altered thanks to a changing college landscape.

One of the key stories for both teams this season has been how each team has dealt with absences. Georgetown has thrived without George Whittington, who remains the Hoyas’ third-leading scorer and second-leading rebounder despite being declared academically ineligible in January.

Meanwhile, Syracuse stumbled at times without James Southerland, who has since returned from being ineligible, and DaJuan Coleman, who remains sidelined following knee surgery.

Related: NCAA Tournament projections and bubble watch

GAME OF THE WEEK
Georgetown at Syracuse
Where: Carrier Dome,

Syracuse, N.Y., cap. 35,012
When: Saturday, 4 p.m. ET
TV: CBS

GEORGETOWN PROBABLE STARTERS
G Markel Starks (6-2/175, Jr.)
G Jabril Trawick (6-5/210, So.)
F Otto Porter (6-8/205, So.)
F Nate Lubick (6-8/235, Jr.)
F Mikael Hopkins (6-9/223, So.)
SYRACUSE PROBABLE STARTERS
G Michael Carter-Williams (6-6/185, So.)
G Brandon Triche (6-4/200, Sr.)
F Jerami Grant (6-8/203, Fr.)
F C.J. Fair (6-8/215, Jr.)
F Rakeem Christmas (6-9/242, So.)

Game-defining matchup: Georgetown’s Otto Porter v. Syracuse's zone defense
How will Syracuse defend Georgetown’s do-it-all forward Porter with the zone? Porter could hurt Georgetown by scoring inside or outside -- the 6-8 forward is 29 of 65 from three-point range this season -- or he could beat Syracuse with his passing from down low.  Whether it’s Rakeem Christmas on the inside or C.J. Fair and Jeremi Grant on the perimeter, Syracuse will need a team effort to shut down Georgetown’s MVP.

Player we’re watching: Georgetown’s D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera
The Hoyas would like to find a No. 2 scoring option after Porter. The freshman Smith-Rivera showed signs he might be that guy. He scored 33 points on 10 of 12 shooting in Georgetown’s win over DePaul on Wednesday. Sure, that’s against DePaul, but Smith-Rivera averaged 10.6 points per game in the eight games prior to his breakout against the Blue Demons.

Stat that matters: Syracuse’s three-point shooting
When James Southerland was out for six games, Syracuse didn’t just miss 13.8 points per game the sixth man brought off the bench. The Orange missed his a ability to stretch the defense. With Southerland out, Syracuse attempted 15 three-pointers per game, making 32.2 percent of them. Since Southerland returned on Feb. 10 against St. John’s, Syracuse is attempting 18.8 threes per game, making 36 percent of them. That’s good news, but Georgetown will be the best defensive team Syracuse has faced since Southerland returned.

How Georgetown can win: Frustrate Michael Carter-Williams
The formula is pretty simple for defeating Syracuse: Limit Carter-Williams’ playmaking ability, and Syracuse will have some difficulty. The Orange are 1-3 in Big East play when Carter-Williams has fewer than five assists and 0-3 when he has more turnovers than assists.

How Syracuse can win: Put pressure on Porter’s supporting cast
Point guard Markel Sparks and Smith-Rivera have been more productive with Whittington out, but this remains Porter’s team. In each of the last two games, Porter has been the third-leading shot-taker on his own team, yet the Hoyas won both games. It seems a stretch for Georgetown to win a game on the road against Syracuse with someone other than Porter taking the most shots from the field.

Prediction: Syracuse 65, Georgetown 58

WEEKEND ON TAP
All times Eastern


NC State at North Carolina (Saturday, 4 p.m., ESPN)
The Tar Heels are probably in the NCAA Tournament field, but defeating NC State would ease a few doubts about North Carolina’s chances of reaching the field. Meanwhile, NC State is looking for its first regular season sweep of the Heels since 2003. North Carolina has enjoyed a boost from P.J. Hairston, who is averaging 20.7 points per game since re-entering the starting lineup in the last three games.

Related: Top 40 college football/basketball coaching tandems

New Mexico at Colorado State (Saturday, 4 p.m., NBC Sports Network)
It’s safe to say this is the biggest week for Colorado State basketball in recent memory. The Rams faced UNLV on Wednesday but lost 61-59. They'll return home to face the MWC-leading Lobos for a chance at a conference title. Colorado State is searching for its first league championship since 1988-89, when Boyd Grant led the Rams to the outright WAC title. New Mexico beat CSU 66–61 in Albuquerque in late January.

Related: Freshman of the Year debate: Bennett, McLemore or Smart?

Creighton at Saint Mary’s (Saturday, 6 p.m., ESPN)
The marquee matchup in this year’s BracketBusters may actually impact the brackets.  Creighton, despite its recent struggles, isn’t in danger of missing the NCAA Tournament. Saint Mary’s, on the other hand, desperately needs a quality win. The Gaels have a gaudy record (21–5), but their RPI is 51 and they don’t have any wins vs. top-60 RPI teams. It’s fair to call this a must win for SMC.

Marquette at Villanova (Saturday, 6 p.m., ESPN2)
Villanova responded to its wins over Syracuse and Louisville in January by losing back-to-back games to Notre Dame and Providence. How will the Wildcats respond to defeating Connecticut on the road last weekend, a win that may put them back into the NCAA field? Meanwhile, Marquette is looking to stay in the Big East regular season title race. A win in Philly would keep Marquette in a tie with the Syracuse-Georgetown winner.

Arkansas at Florida (Saturday, 7 p.m., ESPNU)
Anyone else starting to have doubts about Florida’s Final Four potential? The Gators are beating teams by an average of 20.7 points per game, but their best wins outside of Gainesville are over Florida State in Tallahassee and Air Force in Sunrise, Fla. In their last road games against competent teams, they lost 80-69 to Arkansas and 63-60 to Missouri. Arkansas looks like an NCAA Tournament team at home, but they’ve been dismal on the road, including losses to Vanderbilt, South Carolina and Texas A&M.

Stanford at Oregon (Saturday, 8 p.m., Pac-12 Networks)
Stanford may have played itself out of NCAA contention by losing three of four, including its second loss of the season to USC. The Ducks are hopeful they’ll have starting point guard Dominic Artis back for Stanford, who defeated the Ducks 76-52 with Artis sidelined. Oregon has gone 4-3 without their standout freshman point.

Missouri at Kentucky (Saturday, 9 p.m., ESPN)
Kentucky’s NCAA Tournament hopes took a huge hit last Saturday with a 30-point loss at Tennessee. It’s imperative the Wildcats show they can beat quality opponents without center Nerlens Noel (torn ACL) in the lineup. They whiffed on their first attempt and squeaked by Vanderbilt. But the Cats still have opportunities against Missouri and Florida. The Tigers will be in the NCAA Tournament, but they will not like their seed too much unless they start winning some games away from home. Mizzou is 1–6 in true road games, with the only win coming at Mississippi State.

Ohio at Belmont (Saturday, 10 p.m., ESPN2)
After Creighton-Saint Mary’s, this is the top BracketBuster with two high-level teams in their respective conferences. The matchup of mid-major point guards Ian Clark (Belmont) and D.J. Cooper (Ohio) is the main draw here. Clark is one of the most efficient players for his size (6-foot-3). He’s shooting 55 percent from the field, 48 percent from three-point range and 81 percent from the free throw line. Cooper is working on a unique career with 2,000 career points, 900 assists, 500 rebounds and 300 steals.

Illinois at Michigan (Sunday, 1 p.m., ESPN)
It’s been a streaky season for the streak-shooting Fighting Illini. After losing six of seven during one long stretch of Big Ten action, Illinois has now won four straight, highlighted by the buzzer-beating victory over Indiana two weeks ago. Michigan struggled to beat Penn State at home on Sunday, but the Wolverines were due for a sluggish performance after facing Indiana, Ohio State, Wisconsin and Michigan State in consecutive games.

Cincinnati at Notre Dame (Sunday, 2 p.m., CBS)
Just two weeks ago, Cincinnati was 18–4 overall and 6–3 in the Big East. Now, after three losses in four games (including two at home), the Bearcats are 7–6 in the league with road trips to Connecticut, Notre Dame and Louisville looming. It’s not quite time to panic, but Mick Cronin’s team could really use a win. Notre Dame picked up a much-needed win on Monday night, rallying from an early 19–3 deficit to beat Pittsburgh 52–42 on the road. The Fighting Irish had struggled in their previous two games, losing at Providence and needing overtime to beat DePaul at home.

Michigan State at Ohio State (Sunday, 4 p.m., CBS)
It’s another huge battle between Big Ten heavyweights. Michigan State is making a push toward a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. This might not be Tom Izzo’s most talented team, but the Spartans are finding ways to win. Ohio State is likely out of the Big Ten title race after losing three of its last four, but this is still a very good team that is in position to secure a top-four seed in the NCAAs. The Buckeyes trounced a Tournament-bound Minnesota team 71-45 on Wednesday.

Athlon Sports managing editor Mitch Light contributed to this report.

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For all of last week and into this week, Athlon Sports ranked football and men’s basketball coaching tandems in the power conferences.

It’s a tall task recognizing excellence in both major college sports, but the top of our list, for the most part, includes programs who are in contention for conference championships in both sports, BCS bowls and deep NCAA Tournament runs. Others near the top include one elite coach paired with another who has done excellent work under difficult circumstances (see: Alabama, Oklahoma and Duke).

As with our conference rankings, we tend to favor balance. In short, which coaching duo is most likely to keep its fans happy from August to March.

That is reflected near the top of the rankings, but that prospect gets dicey toward the end of the top 50. Should we reward a program who has slightly above average coaches in one sport or should we reward a program with an elite coach in one and a below average coach in the other?

We believe we looked at all sides and ended up with a solid top 50, but at the same time, it’s one that’s sure to spur debate.

Other coach tandem rankings:
ACC | Big 12 | Big East | Big Ten | Pac-12 | SEC


1. Ohio State
Football:
Urban Meyer | Basketball: Thad Matta

Meyer walked into Ohio State, where he was an assistant under Earle Bruce, and went 12-0 for the second time in his career. It wasn’t always pretty, but the Buckeyes never looked like a team facing a postseason ban. A two-time national champion at Florida, Meyer has also shaken up Big Ten recruiting in one season. Matta rarely is rarely noted as the top basketball coach in the Big Ten, but he’s led the Buckeyes to two Final Fours, three Big Ten tournament titles and at least a share of five regular season conference titles. Ohio State is on its way to its ninth consecutive 20-win season under Matta.

2. Michigan
Football:
Brady Hoke | Basketball: John Beilein

When Michigan raided West Virginia for its football/basketball coaching duo, Rich Rodriguez was pinpointed as the coach who would turn the Wolverines’ fortunes. Instead, Beilein turned out to be the better hire. Never shy about shooting the three-pointer under Beilein, Michigan is more balanced this season, giving the Wolverines their best team since the Fab Five era. The return of defensive line coach Hoke to Ann Arbor is bringing the Wolverines back to basics. They slipped from 11-2 to 8-5 last season, but Hoke is building the classic pro-style powerful Michigan team.

3. Oklahoma
Football:
Bob Stoops | Basketball: Lon Kruger

Big Game Bob has cooled since he had five consecutive top-10 finishes and four BCS games in his first six seasons in Norman, but Stoops still has Oklahoma as one of the consistent frontrunners in the conference. The Sooners have won at least 10 games in six of the last seven years, won the Big 12 in four of the last seven seasons. Stoops' teams obliterated rival Texas the last two seasons. In basketball, Kruger reaffirmed his status as one of the best turnaround artists in the country. In two seasons, he’s resuscitated a program limited by NCAA sanctions under Kelvin Sampson and recruiting misfires under Jeff Capel. If Oklahoma reaches the NCAA Tournament this season -- and it looks like the Sooners will -- Kruger will be the first coach to lead five teams the Tourney.

4. Alabama
Football:
Nick Saban | Basketball: Anthony Grant

There’s not much more we can say about Nick Saban that hasn’t been said since Alabama won its second consecutive national title and third in four seasons. Yet again, he reeled in the nation’s No. 1 signing class, and he's continued to change the face of the SEC. After the SEC was remade by the Fun ‘n’ Gun and the spread, Saban has brought the league back to a combination a punishing run game and physical defense. On the basketball side, Grant hasn’t had the same success as he did at VCU, but hoops isn’t the focus in Tuscaloosa. After a 6-10 SEC season in his first year, Grant has gone 30-14 in conference play since.

5. Notre Dame
Football:
Brian Kelly | Basketball: Mike Brey

Brian Kelly has done what his last three predecessors at Notre Dame failed to do -- restore the Irish to a national-title contending program. That shouldn’t be too much of a shock as Kelly won two Division II titles at Grand Valley State, won a MAC title at Central Michigan and two Big East titles at Cincinnati. Brey lifted Notre Dame basketball out of a similar slump since the end of the Digger Phelps era. In the last eight seasons, Brey has won 20 games each year, and he’s likely to make his ninth NCAA Tournament trip in 13 seasons in South Bend. Brey has not missed the postseason since his first two seasons at Delaware in 1995-97.

6. Louisville
Football:
Charlie Strong | Basketball: Rick Pitino

Athletic director Tom Jurich spent big to keep this duo together when Strong was a hot commodity for Tennessee during the offseason. It’s easy to see why: Louisville is on a short list of programs capable of reaching a Final Four and a BCS game in the same year. Pitino has led the Cardinals to at 25 wins and an Elite Eight or better in three of the last five seasons. Meanwhile, Strong is just getting started with the football program. He’s recruited a young team that will be a Big East favorite in 2013 and potentially a contender in the ACC when the Cards join the league in 2014.

7. Michigan State
Football:
Mark Dantonio | Basketball: Tom Izzo

Tom Izzo is doing it again. While everyone was talking about Indiana and Michigan in the Big Ten, the Spartans may have the league’s best team. Athlon named Izzo its No. 1 basketball coach prior to the season due to Izzo’s regular season and postseason acumen, recruiting and player development skills. All have come into play this season. In football, Dantonio’s star has fallen a bit after going 7-6 overall and 3-5 in the Big Ten last season, but he led the Spartans to 22 wins in 2010-11. Now that Michigan and Ohio State are returning to full strength, Danonio’s job is that much tougher.

8. South Carolina
Football:
Steve Spurrier | Basketball: Frank Martin

What Spurrier has accomplished really is quite extraordinary: He brought two SEC programs to national prominence using different approaches at each spot. At South Carolina, he’s abandoned the high-flying pass offense in favor of a standout run game and stout defense (the Gamecocks have ranked in the top four of the SEC in total defense in four of the last five seasons). Before Spurrier, South Carolina had never finished a season in the AP top 10. Spurrier has done it in back-to-back seasons. The Gamecocks’ basketball program now is the one needing a turnaround. Martin is enduring a dismal first season in Columbia as expected, but the fiery former Kansas State coach has a track record of winning at a place others have not.

9. Florida
Football:
Will Muschamp | Basketball: Billy Donovan

Billy the Kid is the longest-tenured SEC basketball coach, landing at Florida in 1996-97. He’s turned the Gators into one of the most consistent programs in the country with 15 consecutive 20-win seasons, two national championships, and three Final Fours and two more Elite Eights. Though a highly coveted assistant, Muschamp was a curious hire for the Gators, whose last coach without previous head coaching experience (Ron Zook) didn’t pan out. After a 7-6 first season, Muschamp returned Florida to top-10 status last season. The Gators’ 2012 was flawed but still managed to win four one-score games against one of the nation’s toughest schedules.

10. Wisconsin
Football:
Gary Andersen | Basketball: Bo Ryan

Ryan has led Wisconsin to a top-four finish in the Big Ten and the NCAA Tournament every season in Madison since he arrived in 2001-02. Yet even this season, no one caught on (Athlon picked the Badgers sixth in the conference this year, and we were hardly alone in underestimating Wisconsin). No coach is better than Ryan at recruiting to his system and developing talent to it. Andersen is a first-year coach in Madison, but he went 18-8 with two bowl games in the last two seasons at Utah State. His commitment to the run game and physical defense will fit well at Wisconsin.

11. Kansas State
Football:
Bill Snyder | Basketball: Bruce Weber

Snyder has to be considered among the all-time greats after his second stint of rescuing Kansas State football. His second tour of duty with the Wildcats is as impressive as the first. K-State has won 21 games and a Big 12 title the last two seasons despite having the lowest-ranked recruiting classes in the league the last five years. Weber’s tenure soured at Illinois, but so far he’s been a boon for K-State basketball, starting 20-5 overall and 9-3 in the league. Weber started well at Illinois, too, going 37-2 and reaching the national title game in his second season.

12. Duke
Football:
David Cutcliffe | Basketball: Mike Krzyzewski

David Cutcliffe gave Duke fans a reason to get excited for football season with its bowl appearance in 2012, only its third since 1960. A quarterback guru, Cutcliffe has had dangerous passing games since he arrived at Duke. If the Belk Bowl isn’t convincing enough, consider he has more wins in his Duke tenure (18 in five seasons) than any coach since Steve Spurrier (20 wins in three). And you know Krzyzewski: Four national titles, 11 Final Fours, 948 wins and no signs of slowing down.

13. Arizona
Football:
Rich Rodriguez | Basketball: Sean Miller

In his first season at Arizona, Rodriguez won winning five of his last seven games as the Wildcats ranked in the top 25 nationally in rushing, passing, total offense and scoring offense. The 8-5 season was a good indication Rodriguez may put up results more similar to his tenure at West Virginia (60-26) than his tenure at Michigan (15-22). In basketball, Sean Miller has restored stability to a program that had two one-season coaches after Lute Olson’s legendary run. Arizona’s not back to level of prominence it enjoyed through the '90s and into the early 2000s, but Miller has already taken Arizona to an Elite Eight and has the Wildcats in contention for its second conference title in his tenure.

14. Miami
Football:
Al Golden | Basketball: Jim Larranaga

This season may be the first in Miami history where the basketball coach has been the Big Coach on Campus rather than the football coach. This isn’t just a knee jerk reaction to Miami’s newfound basketball prominence this season. Larranaga led Miami to a 9-7 season in the ACC a year ago for its first winning season in the conference. That’s on the heels of an accomplished career at Bowling Green and George Mason, where he led the Colonials to the Final Four. Golden’s 13-11 record is nothing special by Miami football standards, but he’s navigating the off-field adversity at Miami with the same skill he used to revive Temple.

15. North Carolina
Football:
Larry Fedora | Basketball: Roy Williams

Roy Williams has his flaws as a coach, some of which are coming to bear this season. But he's nearing 700 career wins with two national championships and seven Final Fours at Kansas and North Carolina. He's already a Hall of Fame coach. North Carolina football remains a sleeping giant, and there’s reason to believe Fedora can be the coach to deliver on that promise once the Tar Heels weather NCAA sanctions. After four consecutive bowl games and a Conference USA title at Southern Miss, he went 8-4 overall and tied for the Coastal Division lead despite a bowl ban last season.

16. West Virginia
Football:
Dana Holgorsen | Basketball: Bob Huggins

Huggins is a potential Hall of Fame coach with 650 Division I wins. He’s been remarkably consistent, going without a losing conference record every season since his first at Akron in 1984-85. He’ll flirt with one this year, however. He’s also four seasons removed from the Final Four. Holgorsen can coach offense as well as anyone, but the Mountaineers’ defense was a major liability in a 7-6 debut in the Big 12. In his first season as a head coach, Holgorsen led West Virginia to a 10-3 record and an Orange Bowl rout of Clemson.

17. Vanderbilt
Football:
James Franklin | Basketball: Kevin Stallings

When was the last time Vanderbilt was a factor in both football and basketball? Since 1974, Vanderbilt has reached the NCAA Tournament and a bowl game in the same calendar year only four times. Kevin Stallings was the basketball coach for three of them. James Franklin was the football coach for two of those years. Vanderbilt is the most unique job in the league as the SEC’s toughest academic school and the only private university in the league. Stallings built his program (six NCAA Tournaments in the last nine seasons) on player development. And Franklin has proven to have the recruiting zeal and enthusiasm to keep the Commodores competitive.

18. Florida State
Football:
Jimbo Fisher | Basketball: Leonard Hamilton

The verdict on Fisher as the coach to return Florida State to national title contention is unsettled. He’s led the Seminoles to their first 10-win seasons since 2004 and their first top-10 finish since 2000. But the Seminoles can’t get back into the title picture thanks to losses to teams like Wake Forest and NC State. He’s facing an interesting season with a handful of staff defections. Basketball is a clear No. 2 sport at Florida State, but Hamilton has taken the ‘Noles to their best era in the sport with four consecutive NCAA Tournaments and an ACC Tournament title last year.

19. Pittsburgh
Football:
Paul Chryst | Basketball: Jamie Dixon

With a 20-6 start in 2012-13, Dixon proved last season’s CBI effort was an outlier. Before 2012, Pittsburgh was one of three teams in the Big East to reach the NCAA Tournament every year since the league reformed in 2005. (Villanova and Marquette were the others). Dixon led Pitt to a 20-win season in all of his 10 seasons with the Panthers, a Big East regular season title in 2011 and a tournament title in 2008. All that’s left is a Final Four. In football, Chryst has had one rocky season with the Panthers, but his decision to stay when his former employer Wisconsin had an opening was a positive for a team with coaching instability. We think Chryst’s philosophy will work well in the long term with Pitt.

20. Texas
Football:
Mack Brown | Basketball: Rick Barnes

This is the most difficult tandem to evaluate in the Big 12 and perhaps the country. On one side, the resumes are impeccable: Brown’s 2005 national title and nine consecutive 10-win seasons and Barnes’ streak of 17 consecutive NCAA Tournaments and the 2003 Final Four. We value consistency, but at Texas, the bar is a little different. Both coaches have a mountain of advantages in resources, exposure and recruiting base. Yet Brown has limped to a 22-16 record the last three seasons, and Barnes may have a losing season on his hands in addition to early exits from the Tournament in recent seasons. Texas coaches should have better results than this.

21. Baylor
Football:
Art Briles | Basketball: Scott Drew

It’s tough to underestimate how far Baylor has come in both sports over the last decade. Briles has turned the Big 12 doormat into a dangerous program with three consecutive bowl games and a Heisman Trophy for Robert Griffin III. In addition, the former Houston coach and Texas high school coach has showed few signs he plans to leave Waco. On the other side, it’s true Baylor’s basketball results haven’t matched it’s talent level, but Drew has led the Bears to two Elite Eights in the last four seasons after winning 21 total games in his first three seasons.

22. Oklahoma State
Football:
Mike Gundy | Basketball: Travis Ford

Gundy has brought Oklahoma State out of Oklahoma’s shadow, winning an average of 9.8 games in each of the last five seasons. Though Oklahoma State didn’t match the 12- and 11-win efforts of the previous two seasons, 2012 may have been his best coaching job, as the Cowboys went 8-5 overall and 5-3 in the Big 12 despite starting three quarterbacks. The Pokes have yet to have similar breakthrough in basketball, but Ford has Oklahoma State on its way to its third NCAA Tournament, its fourth 20-win seasons in five years and perhaps a Big 12 title.

23. UCLA
Football:
Jim L. Mora | Basketball: Ben Howland

UCLA may have the toughest tandem to judge in the Pac-12. Howland has three consecutive Final Fours on his resume, but the program now looks little like the one Howland coached from 2006-08. The Bruins are having their best season of the last four thanks to a signing class that has finally delivered on its promise. But UCLA isn’t immune to puzzling losses (Cal Poly, USC) or criticism from one of its greatest players. On the football side, Mora resuscitated the program with a 9-5 season and a Pac-12 South title, but a three-game losing streak (including two to Stanford) indicates the Bruins still have a way to go to return to national prominence. Still, Howland’s track record and Mora’s quick rebuild is enough to make UCLA’s tandem No. 2 in the league.

24. Boise State
Football:
Chris Petersen | Basketball: Leon Rice

Boise State football had been on a steady ascent since the late 1990s, but Chris Petersen took the program to new heights. The Broncos under Petersen have had two undefeated seasons and BCS wins and three top-10 finishes. Gripe about the level of competition in the WAC and Mountain West, but he’s never finished with fewer than 10 wins in seven seasons as a head coach. The Broncos’ adjustment to major college basketball hasn’t been nearly as quick as the football program’s rise, but Rice, a former Gonzaga assistant may be the coach to lift the Broncos. Boise State is in the mix for an NCAA Tournament bid in the rugged Mountain West.

25. Indiana
Football:
Kevin Wilson | Basketball: Tom Crean

Crean essentially started from scratch at Indiana in 2008-09 with a depleted roster and NCAA sanctions. The Hoosiers won eight Big Ten games his first three seasons in Bloomington, but they arrived to national prominence a year earlier than expected last season. Now, Indiana is a legitimate national title contender again. IU football will always be No. 2, but Kevin Wilson has made progress in two seasons from playing a horde of freshmen in 2011. The Hoosiers improved from 1-11 overall and 0-8 in his first season to 4-8 and 2-6 in his second.

26. LSU
Football:
Les Miles | Basketball: Johnny Jones

The SEC just wouldn’t be the same without Les Miles, whose unpredictability as a gameday coach is matched by eccentricity as a communicator. But he’s had some darn good results at LSU, too. In addition to the 2007 national title, LSU has finished in the top 10 five times under Miles and spent at least one week in the top five in each of his eight seasons in Baton Rouge. In basketball, LSU won’t make the NCAA Tournament in Jones’ first season, but the Tigers could have their best win total since 2008-09. A player on LSU’s Final Four team in 1986, Jones was one of the best coaches in the Sun Belt at North Texas.

27. Clemson
Football:
Dabo Swinney | Basketball: Brad Brownell

With his earnest enthusiasm, Swinney is the kind of character made for college football. He’s good for a chuckle, but he knows how to allocate his budget to top coordinators, especially Chad Morris. His 21 wins in the last two seasons are the most in school history, and the Tigers’ 2011 ACC title was their first since 1991. Brownell came to Clemson with good reputation by taking UNC Wilmington and Wright State to the NCAA Tournament, but he has a two-year postseason drought since reaching the Big Dance in his first season at Clemson.

28. Syracuse
Football:
Scott Shafer | Basketball: Jim Boeheim

Boeheim joined the 900-win club this season and has a chance for another deep run in the NCAA Tournament with this group. He has 16 consecutive 20-win seasons, three Final Four appearances and the 2003 national title. We don’t have any questions about him in these rankings. Shafer is an unknown commodity after he was elevated to replace Doug Marrone during the offseason. The former Stanford and Michigan assistant turned around the Syracuse defense when he first arrived in 2009, but the Orange ranked fifth in the league in total D last season. He is a first-time head coach.

29. Arkansas
Football:
Bret Bielema | Basketball: Mike Anderson

Few tandems in the SEC took their current jobs with resumes as accomplished as Bielema and Anderson. Bielema led Wisconsin to three consecutive Rose Bowls and won at least 10 games four times in seven seasons. Anderson won at UAB, including an upset of Kentucky in the NCAA Tournament, and Missouri, where he won 31 games and reached the Elite Eight in 2008-09. The question is how they will fare at Arkansas. Anderson’s road woes may cost the Razorbacks another Tournament bid, and Bielema is entering his first season coaching and recruiting in the SEC.

30. Iowa State
Football:
Paul Rhoads | Basketball: Fred Hoiberg

It takes a special coach to win in either sport at Iowa State. The Cyclones had more success in basketball in its history, but they were largely dormant after a going 32-5 in 1999-2000. Hoiberg, “The Mayor,” has started to bring his alma mater back. The Cyclones could reach their second consecutive NCAA Tournament this season, the first time that’s happened since 2000-01. Iowa State is not nearly as accomplished in football. Rhoads is a master motivator who has made Iowa State a spoiler in the Big 12 or national title race. He has three bowl games in four seasons but only one winning record.

31. Cincinnati
Football:
Tommy Tuberville | Basketball: Mick Cronin

Both coaches are solid in their respective sports. Cronin has led the Bearcats through a lengthy rebuilding process. He started with two losing seasons, but he has Cincinnati on its way to its third consecutive NCAA Tournament berth. Tuberville was a somewhat surprising hire as the coach bolted Texas Tech this offseason. Given his baggage of jumping jobs, smacking headsets off assistants and possibly deserting recruits during a dinner, Tuberville is far removed from a his standout stretch at Auburn.

32. Kentucky
Football:
Mark Stoops | Basketball: John Calipari

Calipari may be the top coach in the game right now. Even one of his down teams this season will make a run at an SEC regular season title. From 2005-12, his average record each season was 34-5. And in the outlier (29-9 in 2010-11), Kentucky still reached the Final Four. His strategy of cycling through one-and-dones isn’t everyone’s favorite vision for college basketball, but he proved last season he can win a national title doing it. Football is a second priority at Kentucky, but they’ll hope first-time head coach Mark Stoops is more like Bob than Mike. He impressed on the recruiting trail with the nation’s No. 36 class. Still, in the SEC, that ranks only 13th.

33. Minnesota
Football:
Jerry Kill | Basketball: Tubby Smith

Minnesota is going to have a tough time winning in either sport, but the Gophers at least have the right coaches leading the program. Kill has won at every level from Saginaw Valley State to Emporia State to Southern Illinois to Northern Illinois. He led the Gophers back to a bowl game in his second season. Smith, who led Kentucky to a national championship in 1998, is Minnesota’s first successful basketball coach since crippling sanctions in the late 90s. He should have the Gophers in their third NCAA Tournament in five seasons.

34. Cal
Football:
Sonny Dykes | Basketball: Mike Montgomery

Prior to the season, we rated Montgomery as the Pac-12’s top basketball coach At Stanford, Montgomery never finished lower than second in the conference from 1996-2004. Then, he raised the profile at Cal, reaching the NCAA Tournament three times in his first four seasons at Berkeley. In football, Cal will hope Dykes can restore some excitement to a program that had grown stale under predecessor Jeff Tedford. Dykes is a spread offense guru who coached under Mike Leach at Texas Tech and has experience in the Pac-12 at Arizona. He improved his win total each season at Louisiana Tech.

35. Virginia
Football:
Mike London | Basketball: Tony Bennett

In 2012, the football program slipped back to 4-8 after an eight-win season in London’s second year. The former police officer went 24-5 at Richmond with an FCS title before returning to Virginia. After ending Virginia’s four-year NCAA Tournament drought last season, Bennett has the program in position for its first back-to-back Tournament bids since 1994-95. His offensive and defensive systems will keep scores low, but it’s proven to work when he’s at at talent disadvantage.

36. Virginia Tech
Football:
Frank Beamer | Basketball: James Johnson

Beamer is synonymous with Virginia Tech football even if his streak of eight consecutive 10-wins seasons ended in 2012. The Hokies haven’t missed a bowl game or had a losing season since 1992, Beamer’s sixth season in Blacksburg. Johnson is a much more unknown commodity. He was noted as a recruiter under predecessor Seth Greenberg’s staff, but it’s been a tough season in his debut as a head coach.

37. Texas A&M
Football:
Kevin Sumlin | Basketball: Billy Kennedy

Sumlin’s teams at Texas A&M and Houston have finished in the top three nationally in total offense in four of the last five seasons. The exception was 2010 when Houston quarterback Case Keenum was injured (Houston still finished 11th nationally). With a Cotton Bowl victory, a win over Alabama and a Heisman Trophy for Johnny Manziel, Sumlin rode that wave to a top-10 signing class, outpacing former recruiting rivals Texas and Oklahoma. The basketball program isn’t where Mark Turgeon and Billy Gillispie had it, but the Aggies have already exceeded last season’s win total (14). Billy Kennedy built Southeastern Louisiana and Murray State over the course of a few years, so his upcoming seasons will be worth watching.

38. Kansas
Football:
Charlie Weis | Basketball: Bill Self

In the last eight seasons, Self has led Kansas to the 2008 national title, the 2012 title game, eight consecutive Big 12 championships and five conference tournament championships. Yet Self still finds a way to be doubted. He’s one of the nation’s top coaches, regular season or postseason. He’s not contributing to the Jayhawks’ low ranking, clearly. Weis was a puzzling hire from the start and did nothing in his first season to make KU’s roll of the dice look great. Weis is 17-32 in his last four seasons as a head coach, including 1-11 in Lawrence.

39. TCU
Football:
Gary Patterson | Basketball: Trent Johnson

Another tough call in the Big 12 rankings. We wouldn’t be shocked if this doesn’t look like a great ranking in a few years. Gary Patterson is one of the nation’s best coaches, and he lived up to that in his first season in the Big 12. The Horned Frogs had to replace their returning starter at quarterback midseason and still reached a bowl game. His future success in the Big 12 will depend on his ability to recruit the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex at an elite level. Trent Johnson is a solid basketball coach who had a good run at Stanford and Nevada but wisely bolted LSU for TCU before landing himself on the hot seat in Baton Rouge.

40. Georgia
Football:
Mark Richt | Basketball: Mark Fox

The hot seat talk form when Georgia went 14-12 and 7-9 in the SEC in 2009-10 has cooled. Richt’s 14-2 record in the SEC the last two seasons is his best in any two-year span at Georgia, though Georgia has been the beneficiary of some fortunate scheduling. Still, the Bulldogs were a play away from reaching the national title game before losing the SEC Championship Game. The hire of Georgia’s other Mark from Nevada was greeted with skepticism as Fox hadn’t coached anywhere near the Southeast. Fox is trying to avoid his third losing season in four years at Georgia.

Also considered:
41. Colorado
42. Northwestern
43. San Diego State
44. BYU
45. Purdue
46. Nebraska
47. Missouri
48. Oregon State
49. Stanford
50. Iowa

Teaser:
<p> Ohio State takes top spot in Athlon's national football/basketball coach tandem rankings.</p>
Post date: Thursday, February 21, 2013 - 11:00
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball
Path: /college-basketball/ncaa-tournament-projections-and-bubble-watch-pac-12-adding-bids
Body:

Selection Sunday is less than a month away, and the picture for who’s in and who’s out of the NCAA Tournament is becoming more clear.

In general, most of the 68 spots are fairly certain. Of the 32 conferences, we’ve tabbed 20 as being one-bid leagues, determined solely by conference tournaments. On the other end of the spectrum, at least 30 teams are safely in the field barring a total collapse between now and March 17.

That leaves the bubble, where every win and loss is magnified and every result from November and December takes on a renewed significance.

Here’s our look at the NCAA Tournament field for 2013. This is not intended to be a prediction, per se, but a snapshot at how the field may look right now.

We looked at RPI, strength of schedule, good wins and bad losses in our projections. You will also see references to Ken Pomeroy’s rankings. The selection committee is not instructed to use the rankings during the selection process, but we include them as an added resource.

NCAA TOURNAMENT BRACKET PROJECTIONS: FEB. 21

TOP FOUR SEEDS
Indiana
Miami
Duke
Michigan State

ACC (5)
In: Duke, Miami, North Carolina, NC State, Virginia
Worth a mention: Florida State, Maryland
Bubble notes: Virginia entered the field last week and remains in despite road losses to North Carolina and Miami. The Cavs missed a golden chance to all but clinch a bid with the 54-50 road loss to the Hurricanes on Tuesday. Maryland moved one step forward with a win over Duke on Saturday and then one step back by losing to Boston College on Tuesday. The regular season finale between the Terps and Cavs in Charlottesville may be a key game for both. Other than a season sweep of Maryland, Florida State is running low on quality ACC wins.

Related: This week's college basketball power rankings

Atlantic 10 (5)
In: Butler, La Salle, Saint Louis, Temple, VCU
Worth a mention: Charlotte, UMass, Xavier
Bubble notes: VCU has a good resume numbers-wise, but the Rams missed an opportunity to solidify their profile by losing to Saint Louis on Tuesday. Their best win remains Memphis in the Battle 4 Atlantis. Temple put itself into a precarious position by losing to Duquesne, which is ranked outside the top 200 in the RPI. Three wins over the Syracuse and Saint Louis, plus wins over bubble teams Charlotte, Villanova and UMass could work in the Owls’ favor. Charlotte is hovering just inside the top 50 in the RPI with its worst loss coming to George Washington on the road. The 49ers two standout wins, however. (La Salle, at Butler). UMass lost on the road to St. Bonaventure on Wednesday, making the Minutemen an at-large longshot.

Related: Key games with postseason implications to watch this week

Big 12 (5)
In: Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State
Worth a mention: Baylor
Bubble notes: In a game between bubble teams Wednesday, Iowa State defeated Baylor 87-82 for a regular season sweep. If Baylor is left out of the field, it will be due to the Bears' poor performance against the Tournament-bound teams in the Big 12: Baylor's only win over the "in" group was over Oklahoma State at home in January.

Related: Ben McLemore, Marcus Smart or Anthony Bennett: Who is the best freshman?

Big East (8)
In: Cincinnati, Georgetown, Louisville, Marquette, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Villanova
Worth a mention: St. John’s
Bubble notes: By defeating RPI No. 32 Connecticut on the road on Saturday, Villanova moves back into the field. The win gave the Wildcats their first top-100 road win, joining a resume that already includes victories over Louisville and Syracuse. ‘Nova has a bad loss to No. 254 Columbia, but that is the Wildcats’ only loss to a team outside of the top 100. St. John’s is fading with three losses in its last five games, albeit all three on the road against Tournament-bound teams (Georgetown, Syracuse and Louisville). Remaining games against Pittsburgh, Notre Dame (on the road) and Marquette may be must-win situations.

Big Ten (7)
In: Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Ohio State, Wisconsin
Worth a mention: Iowa
Bubble notes: After enduring a 2-7 start to Big Ten play, Illinois looked like it would work its way onto the bubble despite a stellar non-conference performance. Since the lackluster conference start, Illinois has gone on a four-game win streak, defeating Indiana and Minnesota two weeks ago and then 20-point routs of Purdue and Northwestern. Iowa’s case to join the field is getting stronger with Sunday’s 72-51 win over Minnesota, its third RPI top-50 win of the season, all of which at home. The Hawkeyes are being dragged down by a weak non-conference schedule.

Related: Key stats from Feb. 11-17

Conference USA (1)
In: Memphis
Worth a mention: Southern Miss
Bubble notes: Southern Miss has only two top-100 wins (Denver and UTEP), leaving Conference USA as a possible one-bid league if Memphis wins the tournament. The Tigers’ at-large credentials aren’t great, either, with a win at Southern Miss being Memphis’ signature achievement this season.

Missouri Valley (2)
In: Creighton, Wichita State
Worth a mention: Indiana State, Northern Iowa
Bubble notes: The at-large profiles coming out of the Missouri Valley will give the selection committee much to ponder. Wichita State recovered from a three-game losing streak to win four of a row, including Tuesday’s win over NCAA hopeful Indiana State (RPI No. 64) on the road. Creighton ended its own three-game losing streak Saturday with a come-from-behind win at Evansville before dispatching Southern Illinois on Tuesday. A BracketBuster game at Saint Mary’s on Saturday could help both teams’ at-large credentials. Indiana State had been flirting with a spot in the Tournament, but the Sycamores’ three-game losing streak will be tough to overcome. Indiana State lost to RPI No. 226 Missouri State on Feb. 12 and No. 177 Bradley on Saturday.

Mountain West (5)

In: Boise State, Colorado State, New Mexico, San Diego State, UNLV
Worth a mention: Air Force
Bubble notes: A win over Air Force on Wednesday night combined with a loss by Ole Miss helped Boise State return to the field. The Broncos have top two top-50 wins at Creighton (RPI No. 47) and UNLV (No. 17), which is better than most teams on the bubble. The Broncos have lost their last five MWC road games for a 5-6 mark in the league, but they have a chance to end that streak with a trip to RPI No. 146 Fresno State. Home dates with Colorado State and San Diego State could help the Broncos clinch an at-large bid.

Pac-12 (6)
In: Arizona State, Arizona, Cal, Colorado, Oregon, UCLA
Worth a mention:Stanford
Bubble notes: Colorado split with the Arizona schools last week, which turns out to be good for both the Buffaloes and Arizona State. In the last two weeks, Colorado has a win at RPI No. 38 Oregon for a crucial road victory, and a win at home over No. 11 Arizona. Cal entered the field this week after stringing together back-to-back wins over Arizona on the road and RPI No. 41 UCLA at home. With three top-50 wins and no losses to teams outside the top 100, Cal should feel pretty good. The Sun Devils also entered our field this week with a season sweep of Colorado, defeating the No. 23 Buffaloes in Boulder on Saturday. With losses to Stanford and Utah in the last three games (plus a home loss to DePaul in December), Arizona State doesn’t have much wiggle room. The Sun Devils’ RPI is dangerously low at 67. Stanford entered last week on the bubble and lost at home to UCLA and USC, giving the Cardinal a season sweep to the Trojans, who are ranked 97th.

SEC (2)
In: Florida, Missouri
Worth a mention: Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky
Bubble notes: With five losses in the last seven games, Ole Miss may have played itself out of a bid. The Rebels endured their worst loss of the season with a 63-62 defeat to South Carolina on Wednesday. Unfortunately for Kentucky, the selection committee will take injuries into account, and a 30-point loss to Tennessee without Nerlens Noel won’t help the Wildcats’ case. Alabama is in the same spot it was in two seasons ago with a great SEC record but a bubble resume thanks to losses to Dayton, Tulane, Mercer and Auburn. Arkansas should be mentioned for its wins over Florida and Missouri in recent weeks, but the Razorbacks still have a low RPI (74) and a dismal road record (1-6).

West Coast (2)
In: Gonzaga, Saint Mary's
Worth a mention: BYU
Bubble notes: Saint Mary’s could have eased its fears of making the Tournament by defeating Gonzaga, but the Gaels lost 77-60. A BracketBuster game against Creighton on Saturday can’t be understated. Other than a possible rematch with Gonzaga in the WCC tournament, this game will be Saint Mary’s last chance for a top-50 win.

One-bid conference projections

Conference Projected winner Conference Projected winner
America East Stony Brook MEAC Norfolk State
Atlantic Sun Florida Gulf Coast Northeast Robert Morris
Big Sky Montana Ohio Valley Belmont
Big South Charleston Southern Patriot Bucknell
Big West Long Beach State Southern Davidson
Colonial Northeastern Southland Stephen F. Austin
Horizon Valparaiso Summit Western Illinois
Ivy Harvard Sun Belt Middle Tennessee
MAAC Niagara SWAC Southern
MAC Akron WAC Louisiana Tech

Teaser:
<p> NCAA Tournament Projections and Bubble Watch: Pac-12 adding bids</p>
Post date: Thursday, February 21, 2013 - 10:00
Path: /college-basketball/college-basketball-freshman-year-bennett-mclemore-smart-enter-debate
Body:

Like just about everything else this college basketball season, the National Freshman of the Year race is a bit of a mess.

A week ago, Kentucky’s Nerlens Noel could have been considered a frontrunner, not only for the top freshman, but also the National Defensive Player of the Year. His season-ending injury likely takes him out of the running.

The race for Freshman of the Year has fewer contenders now, but the debate is no less settled. For now, three appear to be the frontrunners -- UNLV’s Anthony Bennett, Kansas’ Ben McLemore and Oklahoma State’s Marcus Smart.

With McLemore and Smart facing each other tonight in Stillwater, a rematch from a game Oklahoma State won on Feb. 2, Athlon Sports decided to take a look at all three.

NATIONAL FRESHMAN OF THE YEAR - WHO IS THE LEADER?

ANTHONY BENNETT, UNLV
The case for Bennett: Bennett is second in the Mountain West in scoring at 18 points per game and fifth and rebounding at 8.7 per game. In key wins over New Mexico and San Diego State in the last two weeks, Bennett had a double-double in each, his ninth and 10th double-doubles of the season. His 12 20-point games leads the conference.

The case against Bennett: UNLV has underachieved in Mountain West play, going 6-5 in the league. Bennett hasn’t been the only reason for those struggles, but he scored fewer than 10 points in losses to Air Force and Colorado State and shot 5 of 16 in a loss to an 8-16 Fresno State team. Of Bennett’s 10 double-doubles this season, only three have come in Mountain West play.

BEN McLEMORE, KANSAS
The case for McLemore: Before the season started, few talked about Kansas as a national title contender. McLemore’s emergence as a redshirt freshman powered a 19-1 start. The 6-foot-5 guard has scored in double figures in all but two games this season, both of which Kansas won easily. He’s capable of flash like a 360-degree dunk on Texas, but he’s also an 87.1 percent free throw shooter. He’s been the fastest riser on NBA Draft boards this season and may end up being the No. 1 overall pick.

The case against McLemore: Kansas slipped in a three-game losing streak to start February. McLemore wasn’t awful during that stretch, but he was 6 of 16 from the field and 0 of 6 from three-point range in an embarrassing loss to TCU. He lost in a head-to-head meeting with Marcus Smart on Feb. 2, but he finished with 23 points and five rebounds that day.

MARCUS SMART, OKLAHOMA STATE
The case for Smart: Smart has transformed the Oklahoma State season. The all-effort point guard is among the Big 12 leaders in scoring, assists, rebounds and steals. During Oklahoma State’s seven-game winning streak, he’s averaging 19.1 points, 6.1 rebounds and 4.4 assists. In the head-to-head matchup against McLemore and Kansas, Smart had 25 points and nine rebounds

The case against Smart: Oklahoma State wasn’t the same team early in the season as it is now, starting 12-5. In losses, Smart scored 23 points against Gonzaga and 25 against Kansas State. His worst game of the season was a 10-point, 3-of-10 effort in a loss to Oklahoma. Unlike Bennett and McLemore, Smart is not the leading scorer on his own team, but he is the best facilitator -- by far -- of anyone in the group.

Stats from Statsheet.com, including a side-by-side comparison of all three.

COMPARISON: BASIC STATS

  Bennett McLemore Smart
Points per game 17.9 16.7  15.0
Rebounds per game 8.7 5.5 5.8
Assists per game 1.1 1.9 4.5
Field goal percentage 53.9 51.1 41.6
Free throw percentage 70.7 87.1 77.6
Steals per game 0.8 1.2  2.9
Blocks per game 1.2  0.9 0.8

Notes: It's not a surprise to see Bennett, the power forward, with the biggest edge in rebounding over the two guards. Neither is it a surprise to see Smart, the point guard, with the edge in assists. What sticks out here is McLemore’s overall efficiency -- 51.1 percent from the field is outstanding for a guard, and 87.1 percent from the line is outstanding for anybody.

COMPARISON: ADVANCED STATS

  Bennett McLemore Smart
Points per 40 minutes 25.8 21.1 18.2
Points per FG attempt 1.52   1.52 1.37
Effective FG % 58.6 60.0 50.8
True shooting % 61.5 64.7 54.5
Plus/minus per game +8.2 +12.2 +10.8

Notes: Bennett gets a major bump in points per 40 minutes since he averages the fewest minutes per game. Bennett averages fewer than 28 per game while Smart averages nearly 33 and McLemore averages 31.5. McLemore’s advantage in the efficiency numbers shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise, either. Effective field goal percentage is designed to give added weight to better three-point shooters, and McLemore is the best in that area. The same goes for true shooting percentage, which takes into account efficiency from both the three-point line and free throw line. Although Smart is often referred to as the most valuable freshman, McLemore leads the trio in plus/minus per game (the difference between points scored and points allowed while a given player is on the court). Kansas has the best record of the three teams and  has an edge over Oklahoma State in points allowed and points scored as a team.

COMPARISON: “TOP” CONFERENCE COMPETITION
Is anyone padding numbers? For McLemore and Smart, we removed TCU, Texas Tech, Texas and West Virginia from their Big 12 averages. For sake of comparison, we removed Fresno State, Nevada and Wyoming from Bennett’s numbers in Mountain West play:

  Bennett McLemore Smart
Points per game  15.4 21.0 19.3
Rebounds per game 8.5 5.4 6.7
Assists per game 0.9 1.3 4.7
Team record 4-4 5-2 4-3

Notes: This is a sort of-arbitrary and sort of-sensible way to look at the three candidates by measuring their impact in the toughest conference games. These numbers disregard UNLV’s loss to Fresno State and Kansas’ loss to TCU, two major losses that are part of the picture. It also doesn’t count McLemore’s games against NCAA contenders Michigan State, Saint Louis, Colorado, Belmont, Ohio State and Temple. Kansas scheduled the toughest early in the season, so McLemore deserves credit for his role in the 12-1 nonconference record in addition to scoring 21 points per game against Big 12 Tourney contenders. These numbers, though, underscore how valuable Smart has been in the Big 12 race. His scoring average against the Big 12’s best teams is four points per game better than his overall scoring average, and that doesn’t get to his stat-sheet stuffing prowess in rebounds and assists. Bennett’s numbers, however, declined against the top teams in the Mountain West.

Teaser:
<p> College basketball freshman of the year: Bennett, McLemore, Smart enter the debate</p>
Post date: Wednesday, February 20, 2013 - 11:40
Path: /college-basketball/college-basketball-bracket-update-big-12-tourney-implications-kansas-oklahoma-sta
Body:

A wild college basketball season has an eventful week ahead of it.

Entering Tuesday, 11 conferences had ties atop their leagues -- either outright ties or teams tied in the wins or losses column. And these aren’t obscure conferences either: The Atlantic 10, Big 12, Big East, Big Ten and Mountain West are all crowded at the top.

Indiana taking the top spot in the Big Ten with Tuesday's win over Michigan State was just the start. Determining conference frontrunners will be the theme of the week.

In the Big 12, Kansas State took sole ownership of first place Monday, but the Wildcats will be in a tie for first by the end of the day Wednesday when Kansas, led by Jeff Withey, and Oklahoma State meet in Stillwater.

Three teams are tied for the Big East lead, with two of those teams -- Georgetown and Syracuse -- facing each other on Saturday. And the wild Mountain West could have a new bell cow -- or Ram -- by the end of the week, as well.

All times Eastern.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL BRACKET UPDATE - FEB. 20

MOST IMPORTANT GAME:
Kansas at Oklahoma State (Wednesday, 9 p.m., ESPN2)

With Kansas’ three-game swoon two weeks ago and Oklahoma State’s seven-game win streak, this game will be for a share of the Big 12 lead -- Kansas State was alone in first place after defeating West Virginia on Monday. The Jayhawks rebounded from their losing streak to beat Kansas State thanks to 30 points from Ben McLemore and then stifling a hapless Texas team. Kansas will revisit Oklahoma State, who won in Lawrence on Feb. 2. Marcus Smart scored 25 points in that game and has shown no signs of slowing down. Kansas may have played itself out of No. 1 seed contention, but a road win against a conference title contender should help the Jayhawks curry favor. For Oklahoma State, a regular season sweep of Kansas could give the Cowboys an edge in seeding and playing closer to home in the NCAA Tournament.

ALL EYES ON: Colorado State
at UNLV (Wednesday, 10 p.m., CBS Sports Network)
New Mexico (Saturday, 4 p.m., NBC Sports Network)

The Rams are moving up from lovable mid-major to a legitimate contender for a Mountain West title and team likely to advance in the NCAA Tournament. The Rams, who lead the nation in rebound rate despite a small lineup, will face the most talented team in the league (UNLV) and the team with a half game lead in the standings (New Mexico). Colorado State will either pick up or shed some believers this week.

UNDER PRESSURE: Ohio State
Minnesota (Wednesday, 7 p.m., Big Ten Network)
Michigan State (Sunday, 4 p.m., CBS)

With three losses in the last four games, Ohio State slid into fifth in the Big Ten,  a position that's not bad considering the strength of the conference. But since taking Michigan to overtime on the road, the Buckeyes have lost to Indiana by 13 and Wisconsin by 22. The Buckeyes will be tough to beat at home, but they must shoot better than 26.1 percent from three-point range, as they’ve done the last three games.

RISING: Georgetown
DePaul (Wednesday, 7 p.m.)
at Syracuse (Saturday, 4 p.m., CBS)

Lampooned for its low scoring games early in the season, Georgetown is averaging 67.2 points per game its last five. That’s not overly impressive, but it's not the sub-50-point games the Hoyas had earlier this season, either. The Hoyas’ style has led to efficiency -- Georgetown leads the Big East in both field goal percentage and field goal percentage defense in conference games. And now that efficiency might lead to a regular season Big East title. The Hoyas are one of three teams tied for the Big East lead at 9-3. One of those is Saturday’s opponent Syracuse, which has a 37-game winning streak at home.

SINKING: Cincinnati
at Connecticut (Thursday, 7 p.m., ESPN)
at Notre Dame (Sunday, 2 p.m., CBS)

Cincinnati has been in a team-wide scoring slump. The Bearcats have failed to score 60 points in each of its last four losses, including three since Feb. 6. In the last four games, Louisville is shooting 34.8 percent from the field and 26.4 percent from three-point range. After falling to 7-6 in the Big East, the Bearcats will need to reclaim some credibility on the road, not an easy proposition.

MID-MAJOR TO WATCH:
Creighton at Saint Mary’s (Saturday, 5 p.m., ESPN)

BracketBuster games largely don’t impact NCAA Tournament selection, but this one might. Saint Mary’s has a lackluster at-large resume despite its 22-5 record and 11-2 mark in the West Coast Conference. The Gaels lack a top-50 win this year. A win over Creighton would be a key resume-builder. Creighton’s profile is a little stronger, but the Bluejays have struggled recently. They needed a late surge to defeat Evansville 71-68 to end a three-game losing streak in the Missouri Valley.

TIP-INS:
La Salle at Temple (Thursday, 7 p.m., CBS Sports Network)
This is the rare Big 5 matchup withe Temple where La Salle may hold the upper hand. Temple has played three consecutive games decided by one point, winning two of them.

Cal at Oregon (Thursday, 8 p.m., ESPNU)
Cal is putting together a nice NCAA Tournament resume. The Bears hope to add a season sweep of Pac-12 leader Oregon to wins over Arizona and UCLA.

NC State at North Carolina (Saturday, 4 p.m., ESPN)
The ACC is out of reach, but NC State can go for its first regular season sweep of North Carolina since 2003.

Marquette at Villanova (Saturday, 6 p.m., ESPN2)
With a win at Connecticut on Saturday, Villanova is back in the NCAA Tournament conversation. Can the Wildcats handle prosperity this time around?

Arkansas at Florida (Saturday, 7 p.m., ESPNU)
Arkansas can’t defeat anyone (but Auburn) on the road, but the Razorbacks have defeated three sure NCAA teams at home (Oklahoma, Missouri, Florida). Florida’s closest home game was a 14-point win over Ole Miss.

Missouri at Kentucky (Saturday, 9 p.m., ESPN)
Missouri has Laurence Bowers back. Kentucky doesn’t have Nerlens Noel. The Wildcats’ hopes to prove they’re still a Tournament team continue with a tough home test.

Illinois at Michigan (Sunday, 1 p.m., ESPN)
What’s that? Illinois has won four in a row? The Illini have their longest win streak since early December, and two of those wins (Indiana, at Minnesota) didn’t come cheap.

Teaser:
<p> Conference frontrunner status is on the line in the Big 12, Big East, Mountain West and more</p>
Post date: Wednesday, February 20, 2013 - 10:00
Path: /college-football/ranking-college-football-basketball-coach-tandems-big-ten
Body:

With college football’s spring practice and basketball’s postseason around the corner, Athlon Sports decided this would be a good time to evaluate each school’s coaching tandem.

In this ranking, we aimed to reward balance. In short, which school’s fanbase is most likely to be satisfied from September to March? A handful of schools may have an accomplished football coach while the basketball coach is looking to keep his job, or vice versa. We did not grade on a curve in those cases.

In evaluating coaches, we examined past performance, with more focus on current and recent results and future expectations. We also considered how good a fit a particular coach is for a particular school.

The Big Ten has perhaps the best collection of coaching duos in the country, especially at the top.

The Jim Tressel/Thad Matta tandem was one of the best in the country before scandal cost Tressel his job. The Buckeyes may have enhanced their coaching duo even more with the hire of Urban Meyer. Ohio State’s new football coach, however, is no stranger to sharing the spotlight with a top basketball coach. He and Billy Donovan won a combined four national titles at Florida from 2006-08.

But the choice for Ohio State at No. 1 wasn’t easy. Michigan has two coaches who have led the Wolverines from mediocrity to the top of the Big Ten in Brady Hoke and John Beilein. And Michigan State the basketball coach we ranked No. 1 prior to the season and a football coach one year removed from playing for the Big Ten title.

Other coach tandem rankings:
ACC | Big 12 | Big East | Pac-12 | SEC


1. Ohio State
Football:
Urban Meyer | Basketball: Thad Matta

Meyer walked into Ohio State, where he was an assistant under Earle Bruce, and went 12-0 for the second time in his career. It wasn’t always pretty, but the Buckeyes never looked like a team facing a postseason ban. A two-time national champion at Florida, Meyer has also shaken up Big Ten recruiting in one season. Matta rarely is rarely noted as the top basketball coach in the Big Ten, but he’s led the Buckeyes to two Final Fours, three Big Ten tournament titles and at least a share of five regular season conference titles. Ohio State is on its way to its ninth consecutive 20-win season under Matta.

2. Michigan
Football:
Brady Hoke | Basketball: John Beilein

When Michigan raided West Virginia for its football/basketball coaching duo, Rich Rodriguez was pinpointed as the coach who would turn the Wolverines’ fortunes. Instead, Beilein turned out to be the better hire. Never shy about shooting the three-pointer under Beilein, Michigan is more balanced this season, giving the Wolverines their best team since the Fab Five era. The return of defensive line coach Hoke to Ann Arbor is bringing the Wolverines back to basics. They slipped from 11-2 to 8-5 last season, but Hoke is building the classic pro-style powerful Michigan team.

3. Michigan State
Football:
Mark Dantonio | Basketball: Tom Izzo

Tom Izzo is doing it again. While everyone was talking about Indiana and Michigan in the Big Ten, the Spartans may have the league’s best team. Athlon named Izzo its No. 1 basketball coach prior to the season due to Izzo’s regular season and postseason acumen, recruiting and player development skills. All have come into play this season. In football, Dantonio’s star has fallen a bit after going 7-6 overall and 3-5 in the Big Ten last season, but he led the Spartans to 22 wins in 2010-11. Now that Michigan and Ohio State are returning to full strength, Danonio’s job is that much tougher.

4. Wisconsin
Football:
Gary Andersen | Basketball: Bo Ryan

Ryan has led Wisconsin to a top-four finish in the Big Ten and the NCAA Tournament every season in Madison since he arrived in 2001-02. Yet even this season, no one caught on (Athlon picked the Badgers sixth in the conference this year, and we were hardly alone in underestimating Wisconsin). No coach is better than Ryan at recruiting to his system and developing talent to it. Andersen is a first-year coach in Madison, but he went 18-8 with two bowl games in the last two seasons at Utah State. His commitment to the run game and physical defense will fit well at Wisconsin.

5. Indiana
Football:
Kevin Wilson | Basketball: Tom Crean

Crean essentially started from scratch at Indiana in 2008-09 with a depleted roster and NCAA sanctions. The Hoosiers won eight Big Ten games his first three seasons in Bloomington, but they arrived to national prominence a year earlier than expected last season. Now, Indiana is a legitimate national title contender again. IU football will always be No. 2, but Kevin Wilson has made progress in two seasons from playing a horde of freshmen in 2011. The Hoosiers improved from 1-11 overall and 0-8 in his first season to 4-8 and 2-6 in his second.

6. Minnesota
Football:
Jerry Kill | Basketball: Tubby Smith

Minnesota is going to have a tough time winning in either sport, but the Gophers at least have the right coaches leading the program. Kill has won at every level from Saginaw Valley State to Emporia State to Southern Illinois to Northern Illinois. He led the Gophers back to a bowl game in his second season. Smith, who led Kentucky to a national championship in 1998, is Minnesota’s first successful basketball coach since crippling sanctions in the late 90s. He should have the Gophers in their third NCAA Tournament in five seasons.

7. Northwestern
Football:
Pat Fitzgerald | Basketball: Bill Carmody

The star of Northwestern’s Rose Bowl teams has led the Wildcats to their most sustained period of success. Fitzgerald’s five consecutive bowl games is only one fewer than Northwestern had before he was promoted to replace the late Randy Walker. With a 10-3 season and a Gator Bowl win, Fitzgerald led Northwestern to its first 10-win season since 1995 and first bowl win since the 1948 season. Carmody has yet to lead Northwestern to its first NCAA Tournament in program history, but four consecutive NITs is a big deal for the Big Ten’s most historically downtrodden program.

8. Purdue
Football:
Darrell Hazell | Basketball: Matt Painter

Purdue isn’t a factor in a standout season for Big Ten basketball, but that shouldn’t diminish Painter’s tenure. The Boilermakers have reached six consecutive NCAA Tournaments, won a game on each trip and reached the Sweet 16 twice. Purdue could have been ever better those seasons if Painter had a full roster including a healthy Robbie Hummel. Hazell is a first-year coach who led Kent State to 11 wins last season. He has Big Ten ties as an assistant at Ohio State before landing with the Golden Flashes.

9. Nebraska
Football:
Bo Pelini | Basketball: Tim Miles

Pelini has won nine or 10 games in each of his five seasons at Nebraska, but the Cornhuskers are still struggling to reach their '90s level of prominence. Nebraska has also lost exactly four games each season, including three consecutive bowl defeats. Miles built the Colorado State program from single-digit wins his first two seasons to 20 and an NCAA Tournament berth in his last. He’ll face a similar uphill battle with Nebraska hoops.

10. Iowa
Football:
Kirk Ferentz | Basketball: Fran McCaffery

The longest-tenured football coach in the Big Ten is having trouble keeping Iowa competitive. The Hawkeyes won a share of the Big Ten in 2002 and 2004 and went to the Orange Bowl in 2009, but they’ve struggled since. The Hawkeyes are 10-14 in the Big Ten the last three seasons. After three seasons, McCaffery has rebuilt a downtrodden program into an NCAA Tournament contender in the rugged Big Ten.

11. Penn State
Football:
Bill O’Brien | Basketball: Pat Chambers

It’s only been a year, but O’Brien has done a masterful job of navigating the adversity at Penn State. Despite a handful of transfers and a bowl ban, O’Brien led the Nittany Lions to an 8-4 season in 2012. He held together a standout recruiting class, but the job is going to get tougher. After winning 42 games in two seasons at Boston University, Chambers took one of the toughest jobs in the Big Ten. Without their best player, Tim Frazier, Penn State is winless in the league this season.

12. Illinois
Football:
Tim Beckman | Basketball: John Groce

After a hot start in basketball, Illinois has skidded into Big Ten play. A win over Indiana in February, however, hints the Illini aren’t out of it yet. In two NCAA Tournament appearances with Ohio, Groce helped the Bobcats to advance both times, but he was 34-30 overall in the MAC. After a nice three-year run at Toledo, Beckman had a disastrous first season at Illinois, going 2-10 overall and winless in the Big Ten.

BIG TEN COACH TANDEM RANKINGS - 2014 LINEUP

1. Ohio State

2. Michigan

3. Michigan State

4. Wisconsin

5. Indiana

6. Minnesota

7. Northwestern

8. Purdue

9. Nebraska

10. Iowa

11. Maryland
Football:
Randy Edsall | Basketball: Mark Turgeon
Maryland is banking on Edsall not being nearly as bad has his first two seasons may indicated. Turgeon may be a year away from truly contending with the Terrapins.


12. Penn State

13. Illinois

14. Rutgers
Football:
Kyle Flood | Basketball: Mike Rice
Flood led Rutgers to a share of the Big East title in  his first season as head coach. Rice is 19-33 in the Big East in three seasons.

 

Teaser:
<p> Ohio State, Michigan and Michigan State headline a deep league of coaching tandems in the Big Ten.</p>
Post date: Monday, February 18, 2013 - 06:50
Path: /college-basketball/10-amazing-college-basketball-stats-feb-11-17
Body:

A handful of players hit multiple milestones this week, but they weren’t necessarily the most notable numbers of the week.

Creighton’s National Player of the Year contender Doug McDermott reached the 2,000-point mark, Kansas’ Jeff Withey set the Big 12’s career blocks record and Ohio’s D.J. Cooper moved into a tie for 15th on the all-time assists list.

Meanwhile, Kentucky and John Calipari flopped in a major way in its first game without Nerlens Noel, Indiana and Florida kept rolling over opponents, and Wisconsin soared at home.

In a wild season, we still found notable storylines in the numbers this week.

KEY COLLEGE BASKETBALL STATS FOR FEB. 11-17

30. Margin of defeat for Kentucky against Tennessee on Saturday

Before Saturday, Kentucky knew Nerlens Noel was its top player and the most consistent piece on a marginal NCAA Tournament team. But Tennessee proved the Wildcats could be lost without him. The Wildcats’ 88-58 loss to Tennessee was the biggest defeat of the John Calipari era by a long shot. The previous biggest losses were by 17 to eventual national champion Connecticut in the Maui Invitational in 2010 and by 17 to Florida on Tuesday, when Noel originally sustained a torn ACL. The numbers fallout was astounding: Zero fast-break points for Kentucky, 50 first-half points allowed and a 39-point deficit that wasn’t erased until the Wildcats ended the game on an 11-2 run.

How valuable is Nerlens Noel? Take a look at Kentucky’s key numbers in games with their National Defensive Player of the Year candidate and one game without him:

KENTUCKY WITH NOEL AGAINST TENNESSEE
Points allowed 62.8 per game 88
Field goal % defense 38.2 58.0
Blocks 7.5 per game 6
Steals 6.4 per game 7
Defensive rebound % 69.4 45.0
Offensive rebound % 34.8 33.3

21. Average margin of victory for Indiana and Florida this season
This isn’t a shock to anyone following college basketball this season, but when Indiana and Florida win this season, they tend to win big. That continued Saturday when Indiana 83-55 defeated Auburn and Indiana defeated Purdue 83-52. That boosted the Hoosiers’ nation leading average scoring margin to 21.9 points per game and the Gators to 21.7 per game. What do those near-identical scores mean? According to Matt Woods of TeamRankings.com, both teams have the highest average scoring margin since 2001 Duke (22.6 points per game). The last time two teams in a season averaged a scoring margin of 20 points per game, Kansas and Memphis met for the national title in 2008. Of the last 11 teams to defeat opponents by 20 points per game in a season, four won a national title. In his post, Woods notes how each team fared in the NCAA Tournament.

31. Auburn’s largest margin of defeat at home since 1952
The Tigers haven’t been a great basketball program, but the 83-53 rout to Florida was the worst for Auburn at home since the Tigers lost by 40 to Kentucky on Jan. 30, 1952. That game was notable more for the names in the arena that day -- Adolph Rupp was the coach at Kentucky and future Georgia football coach Vince Dooley played for Auburn.

60. Maryland’s shooting percentage against Duke
Maryland shot 60 percent from the field (27 of 45) in an 83-81 win over Duke on Saturday, the first time any team shot that well against the Blue Devils since Jan. 30, 2010. In that game, Georgetown shot 71.7 precent from the floor on 33-of-46 shooting. Both hot shooting teams were anchored by big men -- Georgetown by Greg Monroe in 2010 and Maryland by Alex Len on Saturday. Len was 6 of 8 from the field and 7 of 8  from the free throw line for 18 points, outdueling Mason Plumlee who fouled out with four points. The must-win game for the Terps boosted their RPI from No. 70 to 63 in one day.

6-1. Wisconsin’s Big Ten home record
Wisconsin’s 6-1 Big Ten home record isn’t all that impressive -- most top-25 teams will have similar or better home conference records. But Wisconsin’s 71-49 throttling of Ohio State further illustrated the Badgers’ dominance at the Kohl Center. Wisconsin has defeated three RPI top-25 teams at home (Michigan, Ohio State and Minnesota) and two other NCAA Tournament contenders (Illinois and Iowa). Moreover, three Wisconsin players average in double figures at home (Jared Berggren, Ben Brust and Ryan Evans) while none average 10 points per game on the road.

Here’s a closer look at Wisconsin’s overall home/road splits:

WISCONSIN HOME ROAD
Field goal % 44.9 37.9
Field goal % defense 37.1 44.3
Points for 70.7 57.4
Points against 51.3 61.0
Scorers averaging 10+ ppg 3 0

28, 7 and 4. Marcus Smart’s stat line against Oklahoma
With UNLV and Anthony Bennett struggling to stay above .500 in the Mountain West and with Nerlens Noel out for the season, the National Freshman of the Year spotlight may turn to the Big 12. Kansas’ Ben McLemore and Oklahoma State’s Marcus Smart will be in the discussion, and Smart’s game against Oklahoma will highlight the rookie guard’s credentials. Smart’s 28 points, seven rebounds and four assists in the 84-79 overtime win over the Sooners underscored what a unique player his in the Big 12. In conference games, Smart is the only player in the Big 12 to rank in the top five in scoring, assists and steals and the only player to rank in the top 15 in scoring, rebounding and assists.

63. Combined points for UCLA’s top three freshmen against Stanford
Ben Howland’s freshman class of Shabazz Muhammad, Kyle Anderson and Jordan Adams was tabbed as the trio that would salvage UCLA basketball. It’s been an up-and-down season, but the trio showed what they could do when they’re all on their games at the same time. The three rookies combined for 63 points in an 88-83 win over Stanford with 25 from Muhammad, 20 from Adams and 18 from Anderson. The 63 points was the most they’ve had as a group in Pac-12 play; the previous high was 46. It was also the most since combining for 72 against Fresno State on Dec. 22.

25-6. Amount Villanova freshman guard Ryan Arcidiacono outscored UConn leading scorers Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright
Connecticut isn’t going to the NCAA Tournament, but the Huskies might end up helping Villanova find its way to the field. The Wildcats earned a resume-boosting win by defeating Connecticut 70-61 on Saturday for their first top-40 win since defeating Louisville and Syracuse in consecutive games in January. Streaky freshman guard Ryan Arcidiacono outdueled UConn’s top guards Ryan Boatright (four points) and Shabazz Napier (two), though Napier had 10 assists.

4. Consecutive Big East wins for Providence
Hopes are high for Providence under second-year coach Ed Cooley, and the Friars have had a taste of what that might mean in the last two weeks. With a 71-54 win over Notre Dame on Saturday, Providence has won four consecutive Big East games, its longest conference winning streak since 2003-04. And the Friars aren’t ganging up on the have-nots in the Big East -- three of their four wins have come against NCAA contenders Notre Dame, Cincinnati and Villanova. Providence has had only minimal contributions from its standout freshman class, too. Kris Dunn is averaging only 5.6 points per game and Ricky Ledo has not qualified academically.

4. Active coaches in the Basketball Hall of Fame
Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim, SMU’s Larry Brown, Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski and North Carolina’s Roy Williams are the only active men’s college basketball coaches in the Basketball Hall of Fame, but that number could increase by one before next season. Louisville’s Rick Pitino was named as one of 12 finalists to be enshrined this season along with former UNLV coach Jerry Tarkanian. The Hall of Fame Class of 2013 will be announced before the national title game in Atlanta.

Teaser:
<p> Kentucky's landmark loss without Nerlens Noel, Indiana and Florida's dominance and Maryland's big upset were key numbers in the last week.</p>
Post date: Monday, February 18, 2013 - 06:30

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