Articles By David Fox

All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/our-best-advice-picking-your-2015-ncaa-tournament-brackets
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The day after Selection Sunday is not a great time to get caught up on the college basketball season.

 

As you start to fill out NCAA Tournament brackets for your pools, Athlon Sports did some of the homework for your basketball cram session. March Madness is unpredictable, and we expect it to be again.

 

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

 

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

 

Advance all the No. 1 seeds (and maybe all of the No. 2 seeds)

 

A No. 1 seed has never lost in the round of 64. We have little doubt it will happen one day, but you’re more likely to wreck your bracket by advancing a No. 16 seed. The No. 2 seeds have been more vulnerable in the last two seasons than ever before. Two No. 2 seeds lost in 2012 and No. 15 seed Florida Gulf Coast advanced all the way to the Sweet 16. If you must drop a No. 2 before the Sweet 16, do your homework.

 

This year? It’s still foolish to touch the No. 1 seeds in the first round. Two of the matchups for No. 2 seeds will at least make us think. Virginia struggled with turnovers late in the year, and its best player is still battling back from injury. Belmont launches 3s as well as anyone in the country, but the Bruins were the No. 3 team in their own league. In the West, Arizona faces a Texas Southern team that defeated Michigan State and Kansas Stat earlier in the year.

 

Drop at least one No. 1 or a No. 2 in the round of 32

 

In the last five Tournaments, 11 of the 40 No. 1 or No. 2 seeds lost before the Sweet 16. Only once in the last five years have all the No. 1 seeds advanced to the Sweet 16. As for the No. 2 seeds, their matchups with 7-10 seeds are against are talented but streaky teams, capable of knocking off a top seed on a quick turnaround. The 7-10 seeds in particular are interesting: Wichita State, Indiana, Michigan State, Davidson, VCU and Ohio State. All of these teams have the goods to knock off a No. 2 on a good day.

Our picks for vulnerable top-two seeds: Gonzaga, Kansas, Virginia

 

Don’t fall in love with upsets

 

Wichita State, Butler, VCU and George Mason in the Final Four are all memorable. So is Florida Gulf Coast’s run to the Sweet 16 two years. Still, don’t get too caught up trying to look smart by advancing a double-digit seed to the Final Four. Of the last 56 Final Four teams, 46 were top-four seeds, and four of the seven who were not top-four seeds were No. 5 seeds. 

 

Butler, VCU and George Mason and last year’s ninth-seeded Wichita State are memorable because they're outliers. After No. 7 UConn and No. 8 Kentucky reached the national final last season, there might be a temptation to advance more lower-seeded teams to the Final Four. UConn caught fire with an other-worldly performance from Shabazz Napier, and Kentucky was a talented team that underachieved all year. Proceed with caution.

 

Don’t go chalk all way the Final Four

 

Statistically, advancing every higher seed every round might not be a bad idea, but what’s the fun in that? Only once have all four No. 1 seed advanced to the Final Four. Want to know if your Final Four is risky or too safe? Add up the seeds of your Final Four. The median for the last 20 Final Fours is 14. If the seeds for your Final Four add up to 10 or fewer, you’ve picked a safe Final Four. If the Final Four seeds add up to 20 or more, you’re picking the kind of Final Four that has happened only three times in 20 years.

 

The real upset potential starts at the No. 5 seeds

 

Advance some double-digit seeds to the Sweet 16, but keep track of how many. The 2011 tournament was the only time in the last 11 years four double-digit seeds have reached the Sweet 16. Three double-digit seeds in the second weekend is probably a good rule of thumb.

 

Since the field expanded in 1985, the No. 4 seed wins 79 percent of the time. That drops to 63.3 percent for the No. 5 seed, 65.8 percent for the No. 6 and 60.8 percent for the No. 7.

12-5 Upsets We Like: Buffalo over West Virginia, Eastern Washington over Georgetown, Wofford over Arkansas

11-6 Upsets We Like: Dayton/Boise State over Providence, BYU over Xavier

10-7 Upset We Like: Davidson over Iowa, Ohio State over VCU

 

Pay attention to extreme free throw numbers

 

Expect closer games in the NCAA Tournament. That means free throws will play a critical role. If you’re on the fence about a team, give free throw numbers a look. Avoid falling in love with teams that can’t hit free throws.

Key teams with high free throw percentages: BYU, Oregon, Notre Dame, Wisconsin

Key teams with low free throw percentages: Louisville, Michigan State, VCU, West Virginia

 

All that talk about bubble teams? Forget it

 

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

Bubble teams to avoid beyond round of 32: Georgia, Indiana, Ole Miss, St. John’s, UCLA

 

Use caution with teams that faded since February and early March

 

Are teams tired? Was there a major personnel change? Was there an injury? Did opponents catch up? In any case, we don’t like teams limping into the Tournament, no matter what they did from November through January. On the flip side, give credit to teams that got better as the season went along.

Teams that faded: Iowa, Oklahoma State, Utah, VCU

Teams that improved through the season: Baylor, Boise State, BYU, Davidson, Oregon

 

Find balance on offense and defense

 

Defense wins championship is a football saying. Don't let it take over your bracket. The key to winning in March is balance on both sides of the court, especially for teams that can play multiple tempos and styles. The last 10 national champions ranked in the top 20 in both of Ken Pomeroy’s adjusted offensive and defensive rankings. Steer clear from advancing teams to the Elite Eight or Final Four if they have a great offense and questionable defense or vice versa.

The teams around the top 20 in both this season are: Arizona, Gonzaga, Kentucky, Northern Iowa, Utah, Villanova, Wichita State

Good offense, bad defense: BYU, Davidson, Indiana, Iowa State, Notre Dame, Oregon

Good defense, bad offense: Louisville, San Diego State

Teaser:
Our Best Advice to Picking your 2015 NCAA Tournament Brackets
Post date: Monday, March 16, 2015 - 08:30
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/kentucky-wildcats-skip-cutting-down-nets-after-sec-tournament-championship
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Kentucky skipped the tradition of cutting down nets after it won the SEC tournament championship Sunday.

 

Instead, team managers cut down nets after Kentucky’s 78-63 win over Arkansas and brought it to the locker room — in one piece.

 

 

 

“Those aren’t the nets we’re really looking to cut down,” center Willie Cauley-Stein said. “It’s part of the process for us winning and everything, but we’re looking for something bigger. We’re looking to cut down a couple more nets in the (NCAA) Tournament).

 

The team claimed the SEC tournament championship trophy and thanked the fans on the podium but rushed to the locker room with ladders still set up around the nets.

 

The gesture may be especially interesting for Cauley-Stein, a junior on Kentucky’s team who has never cut down nets as a member of the program. Kentucky missed the NCAA Tournament when he was a freshman. Florida won the SEC tournament when he was a sophomore. And last year, when Kentucky went to the Final Four, Cauley-Stein was unable to climb the ladder to during the ceremony due to an ankle injury.

 

A pre-meditated act, a statement or an act of forgetfulness, who knows?

 

“I didn’t even know we were supposed to do it,” freshman point guard Tyler Ulis said.

 

Karl-Anthony Towns wore the net around his neck in the postgame and echoed his fellow big man Cauley-Stein.

 

“We’re just not done,” Towns said. “We’ve got more to do. We’re not done yet.”

Teaser:
Kentucky Wildcats Skip Net Cutting After SEC Tournament
Post date: Sunday, March 15, 2015 - 17:56
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/surprise-surprise-kentucky-wildcats-can-shoot-free-throws
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Ever since Memphis missed critical free throws in the 2008 national championship game against Kansas to send the game to overtime — a game and title the Jayhawks eventually won — free throw shooting has been under the microscope for every John Calipari team.

 

All that talent and the great equalizer often has been the free throw line.

 

On this year’s team, the line may be Kentucky’s secret weapon.

 

Kentucky is 49-of-58 from the free throw line in two SEC tournament games, boosting an already respectable rate of 72 percent from the line.

 

It’s no coincidence that Calipari’s national championship team of 2012 is also his best free throw shooting team of his time at Memphis and Kentucky. That team shot 72.3 percent from the line. This year’s team is two-tenths of a percent behind.

 

If free throw shooting at some point becomes the determining factor in Kentucky’s bid for a 40-season, Calipari can thank peer pressure and family pressure around his top two big men.

 

Kentucky isn’t a top-100 free throw shooting team just because its guards are shooting around an 80 percent clip — that’s where Aaron and Andrew Harrison are — it’s because Karl-Anthony Towns and Willie Cauley-Stein are factors at the line.

 

Towns doesn’t just shoot well for a big man. He shoots free throws well for anyone. The 6-11 freshman shoots 81.1 percent from the line, better than either of the Harrisons and second only to prodigious jump shooter Devin Booker (82.8 percent).

 

For Towns, this was ingrained since the third grade. Towns was always tall for his age, and his father wanted to make sure the free throw shooting wouldn’t be the liability it is for so many other big men.

 

“My dad seeing how tall I was always wanted to make sure I was good at shooting free throws,” said Towns, who is 11-of-11 from the line in the SEC tournament. “I just constantly practiced shooting free throws. I always knew at my height I would be fouled. Every day I work on my free throws.”

 

Cauley-Stein maybe needed some extra prodding.

 

He was a 37 percent free throw shooter as a freshman, then improved to 48.2 percent as a sophomore. He’s now shooting nearly 60 percent as a junior.

 

“We work on it. And we talk a lot of trash,” Aaron Harrison said. “He took it to heart. Willie’s improved a lot and for Karl, it’s just easier.”

 

Kentucky’s four big men, Towns, Cauley-Stein, Trey Lyles and Dakari Johnson, are shooting a combined 68.6 percent from the line. That’s not great, but it’s better than at least a dozen NCAA Tournament at-large teams shoot as a team.

 

If Kentucky’s size wasn’t imposing enough, now not even the free throw line can put a dent in the Wildcats’ armor.

 

Calipari's Best FT Shooting Teams Since 2002
TeamRatePostseason
2012 Kentucky72.3National champion
2015 Kentucky72.1?
2011 Kentucky71.0Final Four
2009 Memphis69.0Sweet 16

 

Calipari's Worst FT Shooting Teams Since 2002
TeamRatePostseason
2008 Memphis61.4National runner-up
2007 Memphis62.1Elite Eight
2003 Memphis63.5NIT
2013 Kentucky64.2NIT

 

Teaser:
Surprise, surprise: The Kentucky Wildcats Can Shoot Free Throws
Post date: Sunday, March 15, 2015 - 07:00
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/watch-albany-stuns-stony-brook-late-3-clinch-ncaa-bid
Body:

Poor, poor Stony Brook.

 

The Seawolves latest attempt to reach their first NCAA Tournament ended in the most cruel way.

 

Albany’s Peter Hooley hit a 3-pointer with 1.6 seconds left to give the Great Danes a 51-50 win in the America East championship game to clinch and NCAA bid.

 

The shot may be the wildest of March Madness regardless of what happens in the NCAA tournament. A jumper from Ray Sanders hit the top of the backboard, and Albany tipped the ball out to the perimeter where Hooley could make the game-winning shot.

 

Take a look:

 

 

 

For Stony Brook, this the latest miss in the program’s hunt for its first NCAA bid. Since 2010, Stony Brook has won the America East regular season title three times and reached the America East championship four times. The Seawolves have come up empty each time.

 

Here is the complete sequence that broke Stony Brook’s heart:

 

Teaser:
Watch: Albany Stuns Stony Brook with Late 3 to Clinch NCAA Bid
Post date: Saturday, March 14, 2015 - 14:48
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/watch-out-sec-bruce-pearl-shaking-your-league-again
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Auburn may be staring down the most lopsided final score in the SEC tournament. If that’s the way Saturday’s semifinal plays out, it will be the most one of the meaningful blowouts in the history of Auburn basketball.

 

Kentucky and Auburn might be one of the biggest conference tournament semifinal mismatches in the country, but Auburn has already made its statement.

 

With an epic LSU collapse Friday, the Tigers left the door open for Auburn in the SEC quarterfinals. Coach Bruce Pearl and the Tigers busted through, defeating LSU 73-70 for Auburn’s second win over an NCAA contender in two days. Auburn upset Texas A&M 66-59 a night earlier, potentially sending the Aggies to the NIT. 

 

After winning four conference games all season, Auburn has won three SEC tournament games in three days.

 

Certainly, LSU gave Auburn a gift with a spectacular meltdown in the final minutes. LSU led by eight with 2:45 to go before Auburn went on an 11-3 run to tie the game with regulation.

 

It was also easy to see Pearl’s team rocketing ahead of SEC foes making incremental progress.

 

LSU may be the most talented team in the league not named Kentucky. Auburn is has a better roster than ... Missouri and Mississippi State? Yet all of LSU’s pro prospects couldn’t help the Tigers hit shots at the end, decide the proper time to foul or not to foul or prevent yet another series of end-of-game gaffes.

 

When a perfect play needed to be run, Auburn ran it.

 

Down 3 in the final seconds of regulation, Cinmeon Bowers set the screen for KT Harrell, the leading scorer in the SEC, to hit an uncontested 3 to tie the game at 64.

 

 

“I make KT look real good,” Bowers said. “I told him I’m going to get this screen for you to get a good shot. ... It’s going to be cash every time.”

 

Now, Auburn’s future as a factor in the SEC is just as certain as Harrell’s game-tying shot.

 

Just look around at the trajectory of teams around the SEC. Kentucky will be on top as long as John Calipari is there. Florida went 16-17, but that’s probably an aberration. 

 

The next tier of the SEC is wide open. Vanderbilt and Alabama are treading water. Missouri, Mississippi State and South Carolina are perpetually rebuilding.

 

Texas A&M will add a top-five recruiting class next season. LSU will add two five-star prospects. But Auburn just beat those last two teams, and the Tigers beat both of them with a vastly inferior roster. Auburn has only one regular taller than 6-7. The Tigers are playing guys who were at New Mexico State and Niagara last season.

 

In the last two games of the SEC tournament, Auburn has played greater than the sum of its parts. That’s not something many SEC teams can say.

 

If Pearl has found a way to lead this team to wins over A&M and LSU in two days, what is he going to do when he has players?

 

That’s coming. Auburn already has a top-15 recruiting class when its head coach couldn’t recruit until late August due to NCAA sanctions stemming from his time at Tennessee.

 

In the short term, Pearl’s not talking about potential miracles against Kentucky. He’s called them the biggest, most physical team he’s seen in his career. His team is woefully undersized in comparison, even moreso with the absence of 6-8 forward Jordon Granger, who will miss the game after he was ejected for throwing a punch in a scrum against LSU.

 

In the only meeting between Auburn and Kentucky this season, the Wildcats won 115-75, a game decided when Kentucky took a 30-4 lead to start the game.

 

A competitive game on its own would be a major victory for Auburn, but it won’t be the last.

 

“(We’re) just trying to get Auburn relevant, for us to be a factor,” Pearl said. “The way our kids play hard, the way they don't quit, and the way they believe in each other, they're making some history.”

Teaser:
Watch Out, SEC, Bruce Pearl is Shaking Up Your League Again
Post date: Saturday, March 14, 2015 - 07:00
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/college-basketballs-best-players-every-height
Body:

College basketball, especially this time of year, is all about mismatches.

 

In general, that means a power forward with quickness or a big guy who can step out to take a 3.

 

With 351 teams in college basketball, the sample size leads to size mismatches between a 5-foot-8 guard and a 7-6 center. And we’re not kidding. This is a matchup that actually happened a year ago.

 

That leads us to the Tall-America team, a collection of the best players at every height from a 5-7 point guard to a 7-6 center.

 

For sake of consistency, we used only the heights provided on school rosters for this season. We’re not ignorant to schools adding an inch or two to each player, but we also don’t have exact heights from the NBA Draft.

 

5-7 

Christopher Anderson, San Diego

Anderson does what you’d hope for a 5-7, 150-pound point guard. He dished out 197 assists and grabbed 58 steals. Anderson finished his career 9.2 points, 5.9 assists and 2.0 steals per game.

 

5-8

Saah Nimley, Charleston Southern

Nimley — whose Twitter handle is @CantGuardNims — had a career year as a senior, averaging 21.2 points per game to lead the Big South.

 

5-9

Nic Moore, SMU

The Mustangs have had their personnel issues this season, but Moore, the American Athletic Conference Player of the Year, has held it together. The Illinois State transfer averaged 14.4 points and 5.3 assists per game.

 

5-10

Stefan Moody, Ole Miss

Moody transferred from FAU to junior college to Ole Miss, where he’s become a clutch performer for a Rebels team en route to the NCAA Tournament. Moody averaged 18.8 points per game in conference play and shot better than 90 percent from the free throw line.

 

5-11

Phil Forte, Oklahoma State

One of the Cowboys’ Big Two, Forte rounded out his game from just a 3-point jump shooter. He’s still hitting nearly 40 percent for his 3s, but he’s doubled his production from inside the arc to average 15.5 points per game.

 

6-0

Yogi Ferrell, Indiana

Ferrell played as a freshman for the 2012-13 team that spent much of that season ranked No. 1. His last two teams haven’t had the record of his rookie season, but Ferrell has stood out through some difficult times. He was seventh in the Big Ten in scoring (16 ppg) and fourth in assists (five per game).

 

6-1

Tyus Jones, Duke

Jones took over the point guard spot manned by senior Quinn Cook and met all expectations for a national championship-contending Duke team. Jones is in the top 40 nationally in offensive rating, and his clutch play in the second half led Duke to a come-from-behind win over North Carolina on Feb. 18.

 

6-2

Kevin Pangos, Gonzaga

Pangos is averaging a career-low 11.6 points per game, but he’s having one of his best years. Credit that to the best supporting cast he’s had at Gonzaga. The senior is sixth nationally in offensive rating and a career-high five assists per game.

 

6-3

Kris Dunn, Providence

Dunn is arguably the nation’s must underrated player. He’s overshadowed by teammate LaDontae Henton’s 20 points per game, and he doesn’t play on a glamour team in a glamour league. Dunn averages 15.5 points of his own and leads the nation in assist rate at nearly 50 percent and ranks fifth in steal rate.

 

6-4

Buddy Hield, Oklahoma

Hield is leading the Big 12 at 17.4 points per game, winning the first Big 12 Player of the Year award for the Sooners since Blake Griffin in 2009. Hield topped 20 points in a Big 12 game eight times.

 

6-5 

Jerian Grant, Notre Dame

The representatives for 6-foot-5 may be the most loaded group in the country. Utah’s Delon Wright, Ohio State’s D’Angelo Russell and BYU’s Tyler Haws were all considered here. The nod, though, goes to Notre Dame’s high-scoring guard who averages 16.9 points per game and leads the ACC in assists (6.6).

 

6-6 

Justin Anderson, Virginia

Anderson returned from an eight-game absence in the ACC tournament against Florida State, going scoreless in 12 minutes. When healthy, Anderson has been the MVP of the 29-2 Cavaliers, averaging 12.8 points per game and ranking in the top 50 nationally in offensive rating.

 

6-7 

Stanley Johnson, Arizona

Johnson has had his trouble finishing around the basket at times this season (a 3-for-19 performance against Utah), but he still leads the Pac-12 champion in scoring at 14.1 points per game while averaging 6.6 rebounds.

 

6-8 

Montrezl Harrell, Louisville

This is another loaded height with Iowa State’s Georges Niang, LSU’s Jordan Mickey and Northern Iowa’s Seth Tuttle all representing for 6-foot-8. Harrell, though, can’t be dismissed as the pick. Harrell has an imposing offensive game that’s only getting more dangerous as he’s able to stretch the floor. Harrell is averaging 15.7 points per game and 9.5 rebounds.

 

6-9 

Rakeem Christmas, Syracuse

Christmas is one of the most improved players in the country. After failing to average double figures in his first three seasons, the former role player is averaging 17.5 points and nine rebounds for the Orange this season.

 

6-10

Kyle Wiltjer, Gonzaga

The most offensively productive Kentucky player is one who had to transfer to find playing time. Wiltjer’s game has been a perfect fit for Gonzaga as the junior has averaged 17.1 points per game, buoyed by 61 3-pointers by the forward.

 

6-11 

Jahlil Okafor, Duke

Okafor has been exactly what was promised for the post presence who could be the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA Draft. Okafor is second in the ACC at 17.4 points per game, sixth nationally in effective field goal rate and eighth in offensive rebound rate. He’s neck and neck with our seven-footer for National Player of the Year.

 

7-0

Frank Kaminsky, Wisconsin

Kentucky’s Willie Cauley-Stein is also listed at 7-foot, but we have to go for Frank the Tank. Kaminsky burst onto the scene last season and has been even better in 2014-15, averaging 18.4 points per game and 8.1 rebounds. He’s always been a effective 3-point shooter, but he’s improved his jumper to 41 percent from long range.

 

7-1 

Ben Lawson, Western Kentucky

The Brit is a defensive specialist for the Hilltoppers, averaging 3.2 rebounds and 1.7 blocked shots in 18.8 minutes per game.

 

7-2 

Isaac Haas, Purdue

The freshman Haas may have lit a fire under 7-foot center A.J. Hammons, who had a career year for the Boilers. Haas wasn’t so bad himself, averaging 7.9 points and 4.2 rebounds.

 

7-3 

Boris Bojanovsky, Florida State

The Slovak is averaging 5.1 points, 3.4 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game for the Seminoles.

 

7-6

Mamadou N’Diaye, UC Irvine

The tallest player in college basketball for two seasons averaged 11.1 points and five rebounds per game in an injury-shortened season.

 

Christopher Anderson image courtest of Brock Scott. Mamdou N'Diaye image courtesy of UC Irvine.

Teaser:
College Basketball's Best Players at Every Height
Post date: Friday, March 13, 2015 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/secs-bubble-has-popped-let-murray-state-take-its-place
Body:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Let’s get weird, NCAA selection committee.

 

In one day, the SEC lost probably one and perhaps two teams in consideration for the NCAA Tournament. Texas A&M lost 66-59 to an Auburn team that won four SEC games all year. Ole Miss lost 60-58 to a South Carolina team that won six league games.

 

If the Aggies and Rebels are a representative sample of the bubble, send the lot of them to the NIT.

 

This is not picking on Texas A&M and Ole Miss in particular, but let’s entertain that they’re typical of the bubble. These two just happened to lose in one place in one day and in sloppy and spectacular fashion.

 

Texas A&M won’t go to the NCAA Tournament. Ole Miss, by virtue of beating Arkansas and Oregon on the road this year, might.

 

Every year we do the same thing. We identify a dozen or so halfway decent teams, call it the bubble, and those that don’t fall all over themselves against an Auburn or South Carolina in a conference tournament claim the last bids in the NCAA Tournament.

 

The selection committee needs to shake things up.

 

Every precedent says Murray State won’t be in the field. The Racers played one RPI top 50 team and lost to that team by 27. That’s the only NCAA Tournament they’ve faced all year.

 

No one on Selection Sunday will be surprised if Murray’s name isn’t called. When Murray doesn’t go to the tournament, selection committee chair Scott Barnes won’t have to go on TV and explain why.

 

No one will pity Murray State because those are the breaks.

 

In the last two weeks, I’ve watched Murray State in the Ohio Valley tournament, and I’ve watched Texas A&M and Ole Miss in the SEC tournament in the last two weeks.

 

I’d rather see more of Murray State.

 

Instead of rewarding Murray State’s 25-game win streak that came to an end on a 3-pointer with 3.2 seconds left in an Ohio Valley final, the committee will pick among flawed major conference bubble teams.

 

Even if Texas A&M and Ole Miss are out of the field, there are still plenty of teams like Texas A&M and Ole Miss still playing — Indiana, Purdue, UCLA and Georgia for starters.

 

And some unnamed school that makes South Carolina coach Frank Martin ill to see in the field.

 

“I’m not going to use school names because it makes me sick to my stomach,” Martin said. “Texas A&M gets beat today with a leading scorer in the conference (Danuel House) not playing. And all of the sudden they’re no longer an NCAA tournament team? Yet there’s a team that everyone has in from a different conference and they got beat last game of the season by a lot of points. Yet’s OK for them, but it’s not OK for our guys?”

 

We could take guesses at the team making Martin sick. Maybe it’s St. John’s, who lost 105-68 to Villanova in its last regular conference game. Or Ohio State, which lost 72-48 to Wisconsin. Maybe it was some lopsided conference tournament score.

 

The team he’s referring to doesn’t really matter.

 

We’re talking about a Texas A&M that turned the ball over 19 times and trailed by double figures in the second half to Auburn.

 

Or we’re talking about an Ole Miss team that turned the ball over 21 times and shot 30 percent from the field in a game it absolutely could not lose.

 

“We have had a hard time handling the pressure of games when things went bad for us,” A&M coach Billy Kennedy said.

 

Said Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy: “The inability to make a play has cost us.”

 

Sure, they both lost Saturday, but those aren’t trends I want Tournament coaches to admit.

 

Even in its last game, a loss, Murray State hit 11 3-pointers, scored 88 points and shot 33-of-68 from the floor. Let’s see more of that.

 

Teams like Ole Miss and Texas A&M have shown us enough. Perhaps Georgia has as well. The Bulldogs’ best two wins of the year are over Ole Miss. At least by drawing South Carolina, Georgia can show us it can beat the No. 11 seed in its own league, something the Bulldogs didn’t do during the regular season.

 

“How do you know the middle of the pack SEC is good? How do you know the middle of the pack Big Ten is good?” Prohm said after the Ohio Valley tournament. “Everybody just starts with an RPI number. That’s not fair. Watch the teams play. A team wins 25 in a row, there’s no question that team belongs in the Tournament. It shouldn’t even be up for debate. I’m not saying it’s a 10 seed (we deserve), but if it’s a 12 seed, a 12-seed play-in game, we definitely are deserving.”

 

And it’s not just Georgia or Ole Miss taking up valuable space in the NCAA Tournament.

 

Iowa lost to Penn State in the Big Ten tournament and will likely stay in the field despite doing nothing of note since early February. The Hawkeyes beat North Carolina in December, swept an OK Ohio State team and beat Maryland in early February. Since then, Iowa has lost to Northwestern, Minnesota and Penn State.

 

St. John’s lost to Providence by 17 and may still be in the field. 

 

And Murray State isn’t the only low-major that should find its way into the field,  regardless of the conference tournament. 

 

If Stephen F. Austin loses in the Southland tournament, the Lumberjacks are out, too. They’ve lost once since Nov. 24. They won their league by two games and neat VCU last year in the tournament.

 

North Carolina Central is 16-0 in the MEAC, won its league by four games and outscored league opponents by more than 15 points per game.

 

On the CBS Sports Eye on College Basketball Podcast, Gary Parrish suggested a tweak to the system.

 

Teams from traditional one-bid leagues win their regular season in dominant fashion get into the 64-team bracket, regardless of their conference tournament results. The conference tournament champion, in the case of the OVC, play in the first four.

 

The selection committee doesn’t even need to go that far.

 

Just take Murray State as an at-large. Or Stephen F. Austin or North Carolina Central if need be. Other arms of the NCAA ignore precedent all the time, why not tournament selection committee?

 

Don’t think of it as breaking the rules, just making new ones.

 

Photo courtesy of Tab Brockman, Murray State Athletics

Teaser:
The SEC's Bubble has Popped: Let Murray State Take its Place
Post date: Friday, March 13, 2015 - 08:30
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/college-basketball-expert-poll-how-can-game-be-fixed
Body:

College basketball seems to be in a state of crisis.

 

The sport is fading into a niche market with only March Madness able to capture widespread national attention.

 

The reasons are many: The sport lacks the stars power it did when players stayed in school for four years. Defenses have free reign, deflating scoring totals and slowing the game. Timeouts at the end of the game grind momentum to a halt in the final minutes.

 

All of these are popular topics to improve the game. But which is the No. 1 thing our panel would fix?

 

Athlon Sports College Basketball Expert Survey

 

Question 4: What is the No. 1 thing that could be done to improve college basketball?

 

VotesChange
8Reduce the number of timeouts
5Implement baseball-style draft rules
3Require players to stay two seasons rather than one
2Shorten the shot clock
2Enforce no-contact rules for the defense
1Limit official reviews by time
1Start the regular season later
1Reform NCAA investigation process
1Ban timeouts during play
1"Teach guys how to shoot"
1Make officiating a full-time job under NCAA
1Widen the lane
1Eliminate one-and-done

 

• If you’re keeping track of the trends: nine of the responses had to do with timeouts, nine had to do with reforming the NBA draft rules and six had to do with the flow of the game.

 

• A note on “baseball-style draft rules:” This refers to the rules in college baseball where a player can go pro out of high school, but if he enrolls in college, he can’t enter the draft again until after his junior season.

 

• Our panelists expanded on this more than anything else we asked. Here are their responses:

 

• “Streamline the last few minutes. That would include fewer timeouts for a team per game, and eliminating the 60-second period after someone fouls out, which is just adding more timeouts.”

 

• “I would definitely get rid of one-and-done and try to implement the baseball rule. That would be ideal. If not, at least require two years of college ... And time outs should be cut back to four total but no more than two in the last two minutes.”

 

• "Limit officials to two minutes for a video review with an actual timer. Can't figure it out by then? Stick with the original call. Reviews take far too long and kill any momentum.”

 

• I'd like to see one-and-done become two-and-done. It would change the nature of recruiting in a good way and enhance the relevance of the academic side of things. In concert, I'd like to see the NBA draft opened up to players who want to turn pro out of high school. Let the NBA figure out what to do with those kids. No one should have to go to college. No one does now, but there isn't a compelling enough alternative.”

 

• I love the idea of baseball-style draft rules but I think the most realistic thing to improve the game is fewer timeouts. I’d like to see coaches have just three timeouts in the second half.”

 

• Change one-and-done to two-and-done. Great players staying even one more season would have a trickle-down effect on the quality of the game, because great players make those around them better. My close runner-up would be for USA Basketball to get more involved in skills clinics, which it has already begun to do. Nothing against legitimate AAU coaches and tournaments, but less summer games and more skills development camps, with an emphasis on ball handling, passing, blocking out, setting good screens and shooting mechanics, would improve the game as much as anything could.”

 

• “The college game is being watered down by lack of talent. I'd change the NBA one-and-done rule to the baseball rule where players can either declare out of high school or stay three years in college.”

 

• “Hire a bunch of former FBI guys to be NCAA investigators.”

 

• The best thing for college basketball would be de-emphasizing AAU, but that won't happen. So I'd say reducing number of timeouts.”

 

• “If the NBAPA would cooperate, sign me up for baseball-style draft rules. Including the no-declaration. If you’re a high school senior or college junior, NBA is free to draft you, but there’s no guarantee you sign.”

 

• “Get the NBA to eliminate age-limit rule. Let high school stars go directly to the NBA. College basketball was at its best when the game trended toward upperclassmen, not one-and-dones. Sure, the best ones will leave. But there's more overall talent in amateur basketball today than ever. College hoops would thrive with upperclassman-oriented teams.”

 

• “The baseball-style NBA draft rule. Would help the game locally and nationally. Lack of stars hurts it nationally. And fans of the passionate programs are robbed of the chance to watch guys grow up in their programs. You no longer see guys climb up the scoring lists.”

 

• “Coordinate all officials under the same umbrella, pay them more and make sure they work less.”

 

• “Enforce no-contact rules. Defense has too much power.”

 

• “Fix the timeout rules. Take at least one away (I'd remove two), and eliminate live-ball timeouts (especially called from the bench when the defense has the offensive team stuck. That's insane.)”

 


More than two dozen college basketball experts from throughout college basketball media participated in the Athlon Sports survey conducted in late February and early March this year.

 

All were notified their individual responses to our six questions would not be revealed on AthlonSports.com, but they were free to post their responses to their own sites, on their broadcasts or to their social media outlets.

 

The panel was comprised of:

 

Rick Bozich, WDRB Louisville

Mike DeCourcy, Sporting News

Chris Dortch, Blue Ribbon

Wes Durham, ACC Network/Fox Sports Network

Ryan Fagan, Sporting News

John Feinstein, Washington Post/NBC Sports

Pat Forde, Yahoo! Sports

John Gasaway, ESPN

Scott Gleeson, USA Today

Jeff Goodman, ESPN

Seth Greenberg, ESPN

Steve Greenberg, Chicago Sun-Times

Raphielle Johnson, College Basketball Talk

Blair Kerkhoff, Kansas City Star

Will Leitch, Sports on Earth

Mike Lopresti, NCAA.com

Troy Machir, Sporting News

Matt Norlander, CBSSports.com

Jerry Palm, CBSSports.com

Brendan Prunty, SI.com

Joe Rexrode, Detroit Free Press

Lindsay Schnell, SI.com

David Teel, Virginia Daily Press

Jerry Tipton, Lexington (Ky.) Herald Leader

Dick “Hoops” Weiss, Blue Star Media

Luke Winn, SI.com

Teaser:
College Basketball Expert Poll: How Can The Game Be Fixed?
Post date: Thursday, March 12, 2015 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/8-slumping-teams-avoid-your-2015-ncaa-tournament-bracket
Body:

Earlier, Athlon Sports looked at the teams that are surging into the NCAA Tournament.

 

This is the flip side. These are teams that are limping their way into the field, provided some of them making at all.

 

For whatever reason — cold shooting, injury — these teams will be in the field but perhaps in name only. The teams you may have liked at one point of the season are giving off clear warning signs.

 

Pick them in your bracket at your own risk.

 

Indiana

Given the roller coaster of Indiana basketball this season, maybe a great postseason is in the works for the Hoosiers. Indiana was 15-4 on Jan. 22 and has gone 4-8 since. The defense in the last three games, in particular, has been dreadful, allowing 1.16 points per possession against Northwestern, Iowa and Michigan State.

 

Kansas

The Jayhawks expect Perry Ellis back for the NCAA Tournament. Make no mistake: That’s huge for their prospects. The junior forward has been carrying KU for the latter portion of the conference schedule. Even with Ellis, though, Kansas flashed some warning signs in losses to Oklahoma State, West Virginia and Kansas State, plus sluggish games against TCU and Texas. Kansas won its 11th consecutive Big 12 title and will be seeded well, but unless the Jayhawks do something great in the conference tournament, stay away.

 

Oklahoma State

At one point in February, Oklahoma State had defeated Baylor twice and Kansas once. Since Feb. 14, the Cowboys are 1-5 including two losses to West Virginia and losses to TCU and Texas Tech. Oklahoma State doesn’t have a ton of scoring depth and one of those options (Phil Forte) is prone to awful days from 3-point range.

 

Ole Miss

The Rebels are sliding off the bubble and may well find their way into the NIT if they can’t win a game or two in the SEC tournament. Since Feb. 25, Ole Miss lost at home to fellow bubble team Georgia and a Vanderbilt team that’s not going to get an at-large bid. The Rebels also lost by 10 on the road to LSU. Stefan Moody has been great at getting to the free throw line and converting when he’s there (35-of-37) in the last four games, but he’s shot 6-of-31 from long range during the same span. Live by the 3, die by the 3.

 

Texas

The Longhorns closed the regular season with victories over Baylor and Kansas State in what were essentially must-win games. Before that, Texas had underachieved all year with two four-game losing streaks contributing to a 6-10 Big 12 record at one point. Is Texas finally delivering on its potential or still a team to avoid?

 

Texas A&M

Like Ole Miss, Texas A&M is flirting with disaster if it can’t win in the SEC tournament. Unlike the Rebels, the Aggies don’t have as many quality wins — A&M swept the series against LSU whereas Ole Miss beat Arkansas and Oregon on the road and Arkansas on a neutral court. Texas A&M went from reasonably safe to losing nailbiters to Florida and Alabama.

 

Utah

The Utes were one of the best turnaround stories in the sport, and when Utah was 21-4, it was easy to get overly optimistic. The last three weeks of the season may have brought things down to Earth. Arizona completed a season sweep of Utah, and the Utes let a lead slip away in a 77-68 loss to a Washington team that won only five Pac-12 games all year. After Utah finished 2-3 in the Pac-12, watch the Utes carefully.

 

VCU

You’ll be tempted to pick VCU on name recognition and the Rams’ NCAA Tournament seed. Beware! The Rams lost the linchpin of the havoc defense, Briante Weber, on Jan. 31 and finished on a 5-6 slide. VCU had defeated only one KenPom top 100 team without Weber.

Teaser:
8 Teams Slumping Their Way Into March Madness
Post date: Wednesday, March 11, 2015 - 12:00
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/college-basketball-expert-poll-who-are-best-announcers
Body:

March Madness is upon us, which means a healthy dose of quick channel surfing ... or switching among live streams, if that’s your thing.

 

Either way, you’re counting on a broadcast team to deliver the goods on the moment — the exact situation, what it means and what each team might be likely to do.

 

The third in our series of questions for our college basketball expert survey deals with the sport’s top television broadcasters.

 

We asked more than two dozen college basketball experts in the media to name their top three play-by-play announcers and their top three color analysts. Like our poll of the top three coaches Monday, we did not ask our panelists to rank the announcers, simply to name a top three. Nor did we ask for broadcast duos.

 

Nevertheless, one broadcast duo was an overwhelming No. 1 in our voting.

 

Athlon Sports College Basketball Expert Poll

 

Question 3: Who are the top college basketball announcers?

 

Play-by-playVotesColorVotes
Dan Shulman, ESPN19Jay Bilas, ESPN22
Sean McDonough, ESPN11Bill Raftery, CBS13
Ian Eagle, CBS6Dan Dakich, ESPN10
Gus Johnson, FOX/BTN5Fran Fraschilla, ESPN9
Mike Tirico, ESPN5Doris Burke, ESPN5
Dave Pasch, ESPN4Clark Kellogg, CBS3
Dave Flemming, ESPN3Dick Vitale, ESPN3
Kevin Harlan, CBS3Stephen Bardo, FOX/BTN2
Verne Lundquist, CBS3Bill Walton, ESPN2
Jim Nantz, CBS3Shane Battier, ESPN1
Brent Musburger, ESPN2Dan Bonner, ACC Network1
Brad Nessler, ESPN2Sean Farnham, ESPN1
Marv Albert, CBS1Seth Greenberg, ESPN1
Adam Amin, ESPN1Andy Katz, ESPN1
Rece Davis, ESPN1Jon Sundvold, ESPN1
Mark Jones, ESPN1  
Dave O'Brien, ESPN1  
Jon Sciambi, ESPN1  
Joe Tessitore, ESPN1  

 

• ESPN’s No. 1 team of Dan Shulman and Jay Bilas ran away with the voting. Bilas appeared on 22 of 25 ballots, and Shulman appeared on 19 of 25. Hard to imagine a single announcing team in any sport being as universally respected.

 

• Ian Eagle was the top-voted play-by-play analyst from CBS/Turner, the broadcast partner of the NCAA Tournament, yet Jim Nantz is on the call for the Final Four. Perhaps our panel thinks of Nantz more as an NFL or golf announcer whereas Eagle is a full-time voice on college basketball.

 

• Speaking of the Final Four, Bill Raftery was a strong No. 2 among color analysts. Raftery will be on the Final Four call this year with Nantz and Grant Hill. Raftery, who has trademark calls of “Onions!” and “with a kiss,” will replace Greg Anthony while he serves a suspension.

 

• One response: “Jay Bilas, Clark Kellogg and, in a sick, twisted sort of way, Dan Dakich.” 

 

• This was a tough year for ESPN’s Dick Vitale, as he was taken off a Duke-North Carolina game for the first time in his career. Some of our panelists still have a soft spot for the iconic Dickie V: “Dick Vitale, like the Beatles, in a category all his own.”

 

• One respondent had a tough time narrowing the field for play-by-play announcer: “This is difficult. I think Dan Shulman is terrific. I like everything Gus Johnson. Jim Nantz adds real gravitas, and Kevin Harlan is a favorite.”

 

• We knew anecdotally that ESPN’s Doris Burke had the respect of her peers. She finished with more votes than Clark Kellogg, Dick Vitale and Doug Gottlieb.

 

• Marv Albert is best known for his NBA work, but he is a play-by-play broadcaster for CBS/Turner in the NCAA Tournament. “at 100 Marv will still be great.”

 

• We didn’t ask about the top sideline reporters. Should we have?

 

• One of our panelists who answered other questions in the survey declined these two, citing a “conflict of interest.”

 


More than two dozen college basketball experts from throughout college basketball media participated in the Athlon Sports survey conducted in late February and early March this year.

 

All were notified their individual responses to our six questions would not be revealed on AthlonSports.com, but they were free to post their responses to their own sites, on their broadcasts or to their social media outlets.

 

The panel was comprised of:

 

Rick Bozich, WDRB Louisville

Mike DeCourcy, Sporting News

Chris Dortch, Blue Ribbon

Wes Durham, ACC Network/Fox Sports Network

Ryan Fagan, Sporting News

John Feinstein, Washington Post/NBC Sports

Pat Forde, Yahoo! Sports

John Gasaway, ESPN

Scott Gleeson, USA Today

Jeff Goodman, ESPN

Seth Greenberg, ESPN

Steve Greenberg, Chicago Sun-Times

Raphielle Johnson, College Basketball Talk

Blair Kerkhoff, Kansas City Star

Will Leitch, Sports on Earth

Mike Lopresti, NCAA.com

Troy Machir, Sporting News

Matt Norlander, CBSSports.com

Jerry Palm, CBSSports.com

Brendan Prunty, SI.com

Joe Rexrode, Detroit Free Press

Lindsay Schnell, SI.com

David Teel, Virginia Daily Press

Jerry Tipton, Lexington (Ky.) Herald Leader

Dick “Hoops” Weiss, Blue Star Media

Luke Winn, SI.com

Teaser:
College Basketball Expert Poll: Who are the Best Announcers?
Post date: Wednesday, March 11, 2015 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/8-teams-surging-march-madness-2015
Body:

Sometimes winning in the NCAA Tournament is more about who has the hottest team rather than the best team.

 

Take, for example, last year’s national finalists. UConn and Kentucky did nothing during the regular season to indicate they’d be championship contenders before catching a hot streak in the postseason.

 

A few of the teams with momentum we know all too well — Wisconsin, Duke, Villanova and of course this year’s version of Kentucky.

 

Instead, here we'll highlight some of the teams further down the bracket, if they’re on a mock bracket at all at this point.

 

These eight teams have already caught fire late in the season and may have what it takes to continue their hot streaks into the conference and NCAA tournaments.

 

Baylor

The Bears were 6-6 in the Big 12 on Valentine’s Day before winning five of their last six during the regular season, the only loss in the road in overtime to a desperate Texas team. Some of the wins were a little lightweight — Baylor played Big 12 No. 10 seed Texas Tech twice in the final six. But Baylor also beat Iowa State on the road and Kansas State and West Virginia at home. Guard Taurean Prince is averaging 19.5 points per game off the bench in this span.

 

Boise State

The Broncos did plenty of damage to their at-large hopes in a two-week span during the holidays, losing to Loyola (Ill.), Utah State and Wyoming amid a four-game losing streak from Dec. 23-Jan. 10. A dismal non-conference schedule and a loss to Fresno State in February didn’t help, either. Still, Boise State may have saved itself by winning 14 of its final 15, including a season sweep of San Diego State.  Senior Derrick Marks, who is carrying the team solo since Anthony Drimic was hurt in December, will try not to let this moment slip away.

 

BYU

The Cougars were 7-5 in the West Coast Conference on Feb. 5, but rebuilt their NCAA resume thanks to eight consecutive wins, including a 73-70 win at Gonzaga to finish up the regular season. Kyle Collinsworth picked up his sixth triple-double of the season in the WCC semifinal against Portland. If he can pick up one more in the NCAA Tournament, he’ll break the career record set by LSU’s Shaquille O’Neal.

 

Cincinnati

The Bearcats helped their case for NCAA Tournament inclusion in the final week of the season by defeating Tulsa 56-47 on the road and Memphis 77-65 at home. After back-to-back narrow losses to Tulane and Xavier in February, Cincinnati won five in a row to clinch bye in the American tournament. Not bad for a program that’s been under interim coach Larry Davis since December.

 

Davidson

Bob McKillop has his most dangerous team since Stephen Curry was on campus. The Wildcats closed the regular season with nine consecutive wins to claim the Atlantic 10 regular season title in only their first year in the league. Davidson is a machine on offense, averaging 1.21 points per possession during the nine-game winning streak. During that span, Davidson is making 11.3 3-pointers per game at a 41-percent clip.

 

Maryland

The Terrpains started the season 14-1 with the only loss coming to Virginia. The Terps finished the regular season on a seven-game win streak to clinch the No. 2 seed in the Big Ten tournament. Maryland has been excellent on the defensive end, highlighted by holding Wisconsin to 0.96 points per possession in a 59-53 upset of the Badgers on Feb. 24.

 

Oregon

Dana Altman earned Pac-12 coach of the year honors after his team surged through the end of the season. The Ducks won nine of their last 10 after a 90-56 loss at Arizona on Jan. 28. During that span, Oregon defeated Utah and potentially knocked Stanford out of the NCAA Tournament. The Ducks perhaps already played their way into the field, but they could help their seeding if they can beat both Utah and Arizona on the way to an automatic bid.

 

Vanderbilt

The Commodores aren’t an at-large candidate, but they have the potential to wreak havoc in the SEC tournament. Vandy has won their last five and eight of their final 10. The only losses have come by a combined six points in overtime (Tennessee) or on the road (Florida). The Commodores have been torching opponents from 3-point range, averaging 11 3s per game at a 50.9 percent rate. If the ‘Dores can defeat Tennessee in their tournament opener, Vanderbilt could be a nightmare matchup for Arkansas, Ole Miss or Georgia. The latter two are trying to stay in the field.

Teaser:
8 Teams Surging into March Madness 2015
Post date: Wednesday, March 11, 2015 - 08:30
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/college-basketball-expert-poll-which-coach-rise
Body:

College basketball coaches are always in a process of becoming.

 

Every coach in the profession is looking for the next milestone. Well, every coach except for Mike Krzyzewski.

 

If you follow the sport closely, you probably have an opinion on the best coach without a national title, the best coach without a Final Four, the best coach outside of a power conference, the best coach under 40, or whatever the case may be.

 

If your school is close to making a coaching change, maybe you’re especially interested in the coaches who are on the rise.

 

For the second part of our college basketball expert survey, we asked a panel of more than two dozen college basketball experts who they believed was in the process of becoming one of the best in the profession.

 

The results were somewhat surprising from multiple angles. Some of our panelists reached into the low-major ranks to respond. Some reminded us that even coaches who reached the Final Four still have things to accomplish before they reach the top of the mountain.

 

Athlon Sports College Basketball Expert Poll

 

Question 2: Which coach is early in his career now but will be considered a top-10 name in the next decade?

 

VotesSchoolCoach
5Archie Miller, Dayton
4Shaka Smart, VCU
3Tony Bennett, Virginia
3Dan Hurley, Rhode Island
2Chris Holtman, Butler
2Fred Hoiberg, Iowa State
2Sean Miller, Arizona
1Chris Collins, Northwestern
1John Groce, Illinois
1Larry Krystkowiak, Utah
1Matt Langel, Colgate
1Gregg Marshall, Wichita State
1Cuonzo Martin, Cal
1Tim Miles, Nebraska
1Steve Prohm, Murray State
1Brad Stevens, Boston Celtics
1Brad Underwood, Stephen F. Austin
1Will Wade, Chattanooga
1Michael White, Louisiana Tech

• The nature of the question was up for interpretation for many of our panelists — “early in his career” and “top-10” coach are flexible designations. We have coaches from Colgate and Chattanooga listed here along with three coaches who have already reached a Final Four and a number of coaches already at power programs. Sean Miller has coached for 11 total seasons, six at Arizona. That’s early in a career when compared with lifers like Krzyzewski.

 

• It’s interesting that Sean Miller wasn’t the top Miller on the list. The younger brother Archie Miller took Dayton to the Elite Eight last season and has the Flyers in NCAA contention despite a ton of in-season roster turnover. That said, don’t read too much into that. In all likelihood, much of our panel either already considered Sean Miller a top-10 coach or a guy who’s not “early” in his career.

 

• That one vote for Boston Celtics coach and former Butler head man Brad Stevens came with this comment — “when he when he returns to college, as he inevitably will.”

 

• A number of coaches showed up on both this list and our best coaches in the game today poll — Sean Miller, Tony Bennett, Shaka Smart and Fred Hoiberg. 

 

• Rhode Island’s Dan Hurley received three votes. His name should look familiar — he’s the brother of ex-Duke star Bobby Hurley and son of Hall of Fame high school coach Bob Hurley. Dan Hurley is making his own mark, leading massive rebuilds at Wagner and Rhode Island in just five years as a head coach.

 

• Think of the journey for Butler coach Chris Holtmann. He wasn’t a full-time head coach until December when his boss, Brandon Miller, officially left his post to deal with health issues.

 

• Also on the list are a few names that are about to move out of low-major ranks into the mid-majors include Chattanooga’s Will Wade (a former Shaka Smart assistant), Louisiana Tech’s Michael White (who was interviewed for the Tennessee job last season), Stephen F. Austin’s Brad Underwood (who is 59-7 as a head coach) and Murray State’s Steve Prohm.

 

• The most surprising name on this list? Matt Langel. The 37-year-old has been at Colgate for four seasons, taking over a seven-win team the year before he arrived. The Red Raiders went 12-6 for its first winning record in the Patriot League since 2002-03.

 


More than two dozen college basketball experts from throughout college basketball media participated in the Athlon Sports survey conducted in late February and early March this year.

 

All were notified their individual responses to our six questions would not be revealed on AthlonSports.com, but they were free to post their responses to their own sites, on their broadcasts or to their social media outlets.

 

The panel was comprised of:

 

Rick Bozich, WDRB Louisville

Mike DeCourcy, Sporting News

Chris Dortch, Blue Ribbon

Wes Durham, ACC Network/Fox Sports Network

Ryan Fagan, Sporting News

John Feinstein, Washington Post/NBC Sports

Pat Forde, Yahoo! Sports

John Gasaway, ESPN

Scott Gleeson, USA Today

Jeff Goodman, ESPN

Seth Greenberg, ESPN

Steve Greenberg, Chicago Sun-Times

Raphielle Johnson, College Basketball Talk

Blair Kerkhoff, Kansas City Star

Will Leitch, Sports on Earth

Mike Lopresti, NCAA.com

Troy Machir, Sporting News

Matt Norlander, CBSSports.com

Jerry Palm, CBSSports.com

Brendan Prunty, SI.com

Joe Rexrode, Detroit Free Press

Lindsay Schnell, SI.com

David Teel, Virginia Daily Press

Jerry Tipton, Lexington (Ky.) Herald Leader

Dick “Hoops” Weiss, Blue Star Media

Luke Winn, SI.com

Teaser:
College Basketball Expert Poll: Which Coach is on the Rise?
Post date: Tuesday, March 10, 2015 - 08:30
All taxonomy terms: College Football, News
Path: /college-football/fashion-police-ncaa-bans-crop-tops-oversized-facemasks
Body:

What did Shawn Oakman ever do to the NCAA?

 

The NCAA Football Rules Committee last week approved rules banning “crop tops” and “non-standard/overbuilt facemasks.” Baylor defensive end Shawn Oakman in a few games last season had both.

 

A player wearing a crop top tucks the bottom of the jersey into his pads, exposing the stomach. The overbuilt facemasks refer to those with four or five bars across and/or several diagonal bars across the front of the facemask. 

 

Players with a crop top will cost their teams a timeout when they leave the game to fix their jerseys.

 

The NFL banned the same facemasks last season.

 

In other words, say goodbye to Ezekiel Elliott’s belly button and DeForest Buckner’s Bane look.

 

This is not allowed...

 

This is also not allowed.

Teaser:
Fashion Police: NCAA Bans Crop Tops, Oversized Facemasks
Post date: Monday, March 9, 2015 - 19:25
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Oklahoma Sooners, Big 12, News
Path: /college-football/oklahoma-football-bob-stoops-lead-silent-demonstration
Body:

If there’s a way to make a positive out of an awful situation, University of Oklahoma athletics is doing the work.

 

The Oklahoma campus was rocked Sunday evening and Monday when a video of fraternity members chanting racial slurs surfaced. The university severed all ties and affiliations with the Sigma Alpha Epsilon chapter and closed the fraternity house on campus.

 

Football and basketball players, joined by coaches Bob Stoops and Lon Kruger, demonstrated outside of the athletic facility this morning

 

“It’s something that should concern everyone,” Kruger told Guerin Emig of the Tulsa World. “It’s not just athletics.”

 

 

While the condemnation of such nakedly racist behavior should be expected rather than applauded, let’s give credit to the Sooners for this peaceful show of solidarity. Emotions easily could have spilled over — and to a degree they did in this profane Snapchat from linebacker Eric Striker.

 

Striker eventually apologized for the outburst via teammate Charles Tapper.

 

Striker joined his teammates for a silent march from the practice facility on campus. Oklahoma athletics posted a video of the protest today on its official web site.

 

 

 

 

The repercussions of this incident are unclear, but at least one recruit announced he would de-commit from Oklahoma. Mesquite (Texas) North Mesquite offensive tackle Jean Delance announced he’d re-open his recruitment.

 

 

Teaser:
Oklahoma football, Bob Stoops Lead Silent Demonstration
Post date: Monday, March 9, 2015 - 18:14
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/dummies-guide-march-madness-2015
Body:

This college basketball season has been one of mixed emotions.

 

We’ve celebrated the careers of legends Dean Smith and Jerry Tarkanian while mourning their passing. We watched Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski and Philadelphia’s Herb Magee celebrate their 1,000th win. We’ve watched day-in and day-out greatness at Kentucky.

 

Yet we’ve also watched another Hall of Fame coach see his legacy tainted and the future of the program thrown into doubt due to NCAA violations, and Jim Boeheim wasn’t alone in dealing with off-court issues when programs should be gearing up for postseason.

 

Amid all of this, March Madness and the unpredictability of tournament season is here. Remember, at this point last season, Connecticut was on no one’s radar as a national championship contender. Neither was Kentucky. A series of upsets, though, led us to UConn winning a national title. Madness, indeed.

 

For any fan just getting into college basketball in time for championship week and office pools: What took you so long?

 

You have some catching up to do. By waiting until the final weeks, you’ve missed a historic season. Every season is historic for one reason or another, so maybe this season will be among the most memorable even before the NCAA Tournament.

 

You may need to catch up a bit, but that’s what you’ll learn here.

 

Kentucky is going for perfection

 

College basketball hasn’t had a story like this since — when, exactly? Kevin Durant vs. Greg Oden in the first year of one-and-done in 2007? The Christian Laettner Duke years? This is the No. 1 story in college basketball as Kentucky tries to match Indiana’s undefeated national championship team in 1975-76. Only five teams since have entered their league tournament undefeated, and only 1991 UNLV could claim to be as divisive. No fan base is more invested than Kentucky’s, and John Calipari may be the only coach to match Mike Krzyzewski as a love-him or hate-him figure in the sport. One way or another, Kentucky will make history in this Tournament — either by becoming the first team to go 40–0 or being on the wrong end of a monumental upset.

 

The Player of the Year race may go down to the wire

 

Maybe it’s for the best that the race for the Wooden or Naismith awards doesn’t get the same hype as the Heisman Trophy. A year after the Player of the Year award was a season-long coronation for Creighton’s Doug McDermott, the sport has a legitimate two-player race between Duke’s Jahlil Okafor and Wisconsin’s Frank Kaminsky. Both play center for national championship contenders, but they don’t fit the same profile. Okafor, who does his best work around the basket, has been a contender for the No. 1 overall draft pick since he was in high school. Kaminsky, who is more of a threat from the perimeter, was a virtual unknown two years ago. This will be the most heated Player of the Year race since Duke’s J.J. Redick and Gonzaga’s Adam Morrison shared the award in 2005-06. 

 

A Final Four drought could end out West

 

The two best coaches who have never reached the Final Four both reside out West, and both may have their best chance to reach the final weekend of the NCAA Tournament. Gonzaga’s Mark Few has a 30-win team that may be better than his Bulldogs team that was a No. 1 seed in 2013 or the team with Adam Morrison in 2006. Meanwhile, Sean Miller’s Arizona team recent wrapped up another Pac-12 championship and will enter postseason with one of the best rosters in the nation. Miller has been to the Elite Eight three times in his career, once with Xavier and twice with Arizona. 

 

Mike Krzyzewski reached 1,000 wins and should keep adding more

 

Earlier this season, Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski became the first Division I coach to reach the 1,000-win mark, and he has a team that should be able to build upon that total in the NCAA Tournament. He has Okafor anchoring the center spot, but his backcourt of freshman Tyus Jones and senior Quinn Cook may be the most clutch duo in the country. Depth and defense remain an issue for the Blue Devils, so there’s hope for the Duke haters who enjoyed the Devils’ recent Round of 64 losses to Mercer (2014) and Lehigh (2012).

 

Tony Bennett is college basketball’s newest miracle worker

 

Virginia hasn’t been this good since Ralph Sampson played for the Cavaliers, but what’s most remarkable is that the Cavs aren’t doing it with a ton of stars or flash. Virginia has won back-to-back ACC regular-season titles and enters conference tournament season with just two losses. Coach Tony Bennett has done this without a five-star prospect or a McDonald’s All-American and without his top player, Justin Anderson, for the final eight games of the regular season. The style isn’t for everyone — Virginia ranks 349th of 351 team in terms of tempo — but it is effective.

 

Villanova is the best team no one is talking about

 

Villanova has only lost two games yet is flying under the national radar — a bit puzzling for a program that has won a national championship, been to a Final Four in recent years and has a star coach on the bench. The reason? Maybe it’s because the Big East doesn’t get much exposure from ESPN since most its games are on FOX Sports 1. Or possibly because Villanova lost last season as No. 2 seed in the Round of 32. Whatever the reason, don’t hold it against this year’s Villanova team. The Wildcats are in the top 20 in both offensive and defensive efficiency, a trademark of teams that go on to win the national title.

 

The Hall of Fame announcement will actually be interesting

 

Speaking of Bo Ryan... the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame probably isn’t something even the most ardent fans spend time pondering, especially during the week of the Final Four. This season, though, the announcement may carry more weight than usual. Active coaches John Calipari and Bo Ryan are on the ballot this year. The announcement of new inductees will be made April 6, the same day as the national championship game. Will one or both be involved? 

 

Off-court issues threaten to mar a great tournament

 

Speaking of Hall of Famers, this has not been a good year for Hall of Fame coaches. Krzyzewski dismissed a player who was later revealed to be facing sexual assault allegations. Syracuse banned itself from the postseason months before the NCAA hammered the Orange and coach Jim Boeheim for a wide range of violations. North Carolina coach Roy Williams has an athletic department embroiled in an ongoing academic scandal that seems to get worse every passing week. SMU coach Larry Brown hasn’t had his best player eligible all season. Kansas’ most highly touted freshman and pro prospect might not play again this season while the NCAA investigates possible contact between his family and an agent. Why don’t we all get back to basketball for a bit.

 

You’re going to get annoyed at officials

 

The NCAA Tournament is the crown jewel of the college basketball season and the only college athletics event that comes close to rivaling football. If that’s the case, then why is the product sometimes so crummy? If you’re just checking in with the sport, be prepared: Officiating is inconsistent, defensive players are allowed too much contact and the end of games take for-ev-er due to too many team and official timeouts. This, unfortunately, is the norm.

 

Power teams will be at home

 

Hope you didn’t expect to tune in to watch Syracuse, UConn, Memphis and Florida in this field. They’re home. Sorry. UCLA and Texas are also flirting with the NIT.

 

Big names will be back

 

In the place of those powerhouses, you should be able to welcome back Larry Brown, who hasn’t been to the NCAA Tournament since 1988. Brown’s SMU team was snubbed last season, and now the Mustangs are ready to be in the field for the first time since 1993. Other powers due to be back from long absences: Purdue (2012), Maryland (2010), Utah (2009) and Arkansas (2008).

Teaser:
The Dummies' Guide to March Madness 2015
Post date: Monday, March 9, 2015 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/college-basketball-expert-poll-who-best-coach
Body:

If Kentucky and Duke meet in the Final Four or the national championship game this season, the matchup will be between a pair of coaches who have met only twice in their illustrious careers and never in the postseason.

 

It will also be between the top two coaches in the game today, according to an Athlon Sports expert poll.

 

In the last three weeks, Athlon Sports surveyed 26 college basketball experts in the media for a range of topics in the sport. In our first question, we asked simply “who are the top three coaches in the game today.” We did not ask our respondents to rank their coaches (though some did). Each coach named counts as one point in our results. The answers are...

 

Athlon Sports College Basketball Expert Poll

 

Question 1: Who are the top three coaches in the game today?

 

VotesSchoolCoach
23Mike Krzyzewski
20John Calipari
7Bo Ryan
7Bill Self
5Rick Pitino
4Tom Izzo
3Tony Bennett
2Billy Donovan
1 Mark Few (Gonzaga), Fred Hoiberg (Iowa State), Jim Larranaga (Miami), Bob McKillop (Davidson), Sean Miller (Arizona), Shaka Smart (VCU), Roy Williams (North Carolina)

 

• The top two in our poll were overwhelming. Krzyzewski appeared on 23 of 26 ballots, and Calipari appeared on 20 of 26. Not that those two would be bad choices in any year, but we wonder if there might be a bit of recency bias in the response. (And since we said “in the game today,” that makes perfect sense). These top two coaches have been at the top of people’s minds this season in particular with Krzyzewski crossing the 1,000-win mark and Calipari leading an undefeated team.

 

• Wisconsin’s Bo Ryan is a logical coach on anyone’s ballot this season, but consider where he would have been before last year’s Final Four. Ryan has gone from the most underrated coach in the country to royalty in the sport.

 

• It’s worth nothing both Calipari and Ryan are finalists for the Naismith Hall of Fame this season.

 

• Florida’s Billy Donovan received only two votes. Hard to believe we’d get the same response this time last year. He was ESPN’s No. 1 coach before the season and Athlon’s No. 4. It’s been a rough year in Gainesville.

 

• Give our panel credit for mentions of Davidson’s Bob McKillop and Miami’s Jim Larranaga. 

 

• A few notable names that didn’t appear on anyone’s ballot: Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim, Michigan’s John Beilein and Wichita State’s Gregg Marshall. Boeheim and Beilein make sense as neither of their teams are going to play in the NCAA Tournament. Marshall is a curious absence considering McKillop, Larranaga and VCU’s Shaka Smart all received at least one vote.

 


More than two dozen college basketball experts from throughout college basketball media participated in the Athlon Sports survey conducted in late February and early March this year.

 

All were notified their individual responses to our six questions would not be revealed on AthlonSports.com, but they were free to post their responses to their own sites, on their broadcasts or to their social media outlets.

 

The panel was comprised of:

 

Rick Bozich, WDRB Louisville

Mike DeCourcy, Sporting News

Chris Dortch, Blue Ribbon

Wes Durham, ACC Network/Fox Sports Network

Ryan Fagan, Sporting News

John Feinstein, Washington Post/NBC Sports

Pat Forde, Yahoo! Sports

John Gasaway, ESPN

Scott Gleeson, USA Today

Jeff Goodman, ESPN

Seth Greenberg, ESPN

Steve Greenberg, Chicago Sun-Times

Raphielle Johnson, College Basketball Talk

Blair Kerkhoff, Kansas City Star

Will Leitch, Sports on Earth

Mike Lopresti, NCAA.com

Troy Machir, Sporting News

Matt Norlander, CBSSports.com

Jerry Palm, CBSSports.com

Brendan Prunty, SI.com

Joe Rexrode, Detroit Free Press

Lindsay Schnell, SI.com

David Teel, Virginia Daily Press

Jerry Tipton, Lexington (Ky.) Herald Leader

Dick “Hoops” Weiss, Blue Star Media

Luke Winn, SI.com

Teaser:
College Basketball Expert Poll: Who is the best coach?
Post date: Monday, March 9, 2015 - 08:30
Path: /college-football/jim-harbaugh-will-coach-first-base-oakland-spring-training-game
Body:

New Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh is a Twitter superstar. That much has been established.

 

Now, we’ll find out if he can judge a guy should try to turn a single into a double.

 

Harbaugh arrived at Oakland Athletics spring training in Mesa, Ariz., on Saturday — in uniform — to coach first base for a game against the Los Angeles Angels.

 

Harbaugh and A’s manager Bob Melvin are friends from Harbaugh’s days in San Francisco.

 

The best part of the whole thing? The tall stirrups.

 

Of course.

 

 

 

 

Teaser:
Jim Harbaugh will coach first base for Oakland (for a spring training game)
Post date: Saturday, March 7, 2015 - 13:08
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/say-goodbye-syracuse-basketball-you-know-it
Body:

Syracuse basketball will never be the same.

 

The NCAA committee on infractions hammered Syracuse on Friday, suspending coach Jim Boeheim for nine ACC games next season and restricting scholarships for widespread violations regarding academics and extra benefits.

 

For certain, the tarnish that comes with this sort of penalty will put Boeheim’s legacy into question. The man who built the program won’t join his friend Mike Krzyzewski in the 1,000-win club, at least according to the official record books. He might not get back to 900.

 

Feel free to disregard the vacated wins on Boeheim’s ledger — the NCAA could take away up to 135 of them. The past is the past no matter how the NCAA requires Syracuse to remember it. 

 

Instead, the future of Syracuse basketball is more cloudy than ever.

 

More than the vacated wins, the suspension of Boeheim or the financial penalties, Syracuse will feel the most pain from harsh scholarship limitations combined with the inevitable retirement of its Hall of Fame coach.

 

On Friday, the NCAA announced it will dock the Orange 12 scholarships over the course of four seasons. Syracuse will be on probation until 2020. The Orange will lose a quarter of its roster to the scholarship limit provided Syracuse doesn’t get any back on appeal.

 

If the Orange begin to serve the penalty in 2016-17 — so it does not need to run off players already committed — the program won’t be back to a full scholarship allotment until 2020-21.

 

And there lies the second peg in what could be a disastrous sanction for Syracuse basketball. At the start of the 2020-21 basketball season, Boeheim will be 76 years old.

 

Who will be in charge Syracuse basketball at that point is anyone’s guess. Boeheim is stubborn, but is he stubborn enough to coach Syracuse into his late 70s?

 

If Boeheim retires before the end of the sanctions, who will be in charge? Longtime assistant Mike Hopkins was named Boeheim’s eventual successor in 2007 with no timetable of when he’d take over for his mentor. 

 

If Hopkins, who was not named in the NCAA report, can start elsewhere without an NCAA sanctions, few could blame the up-and-coming coach for giving his head coaching career a better start.

 

A scandal of this magnitude — one that also involves the football program — is also not a good harbinger for an athletic director.

 

Syracuse will face the twilight of Boeheim’s career with only three-quarters of a roster for four seasons. Replacing a legend is tough enough as it is. This will only make the change more clumsy when the time inevitably comes.

 

When Connecticut faced NCAA sanctions at the end of Jim Calhoun’s tenure, the Huskies lost one postseason and three total scholarships in three seasons. There was still enough left for Calhoun’s handpicked successor Kevin Ollie to lead the Huskies to the 2014 national title.

 

After the Clem Haskins scandal at Minnesota in the late ‘90s, the Gophers lost 12 scholarships over the course of four seasons and have won only one NCAA Tournament game in four trips since.

 

Granted, Syracuse basketball and Minnesota basketball can’t be mentioned in the same sentence, but the future is no less cloudy.

 

For the next four or five years, Syracuse basketball is looking at the possibility of a new coach, a shorthanded roster and a brutal ACC schedule.

 

When Boeheim arrived at Syracuse as a player in 1962, the Orange went 8-13 when he was a freshman. Syracuse went nearly two decades between 20-win seasons.

 

Syracuse won’t be in those depths when Boeheim departs. But the national title contender that usually occupies the Carrier Dome? That program’s future is more questionable than ever.

Teaser:
Say Goodbye to Syracuse Basketball as You Know It
Post date: Friday, March 6, 2015 - 13:52
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Oregon Ducks, Pac 12, News
Path: /college-football/oregon-designers-pay-tribute-marcus-mariota-hypothetical-trophy-case
Body:

What does the trophy case look like for one of the most accomplished college football players of the last few years?

 

Digital journalists Matt Walks and Carli Krueger visualized such a trophy case for former Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota, who won a Heisman trophy, two Pac-12 titles and more in his three seasons as a starter.

 

“He’s bound for the NFL now, but Carli and I wanted to pay him a farewell tribute by imagining what his theoretical trophy case might look like,” Walks writes. “One of us graduated from Oregon and the other lives there, so even though he’s gone, we’re not about to forget Mariota’s legacy or accomplishments.”

 

The trophy case is pretty impressive. Walks breaks down each award in the case here.

 

(h/t @RedditCFB)

 

Teaser:
Oregon Designers Pay Tribute to Marcus Mariota with Hypothetical Trophy Case
Post date: Friday, March 6, 2015 - 10:12
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/best-freshman-seasons-college-basketball-history
Body:

So much for the “Year of Readiness.”

 

As major conference commissioners float the idea of ending freshman eligibility — an idea deemed obsolete in the 1970s — freshmen are continuing to dominate the college basketball scene.

 

Kentucky, the national championship favorite, is filled with impact freshmen, as usual. And one of the two players in serious contention for National Player of the Year, Duke’s Jahlil Okafor, is also a freshman.

 

Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany spoke of this new push for freshman ineligibility as a “year of readiness.”

 

As far as we’re concerned, these freshmen — whether they were one-and-done or completed their four years of eligibility — were plenty ready from the moment they stepped on campus.

 

1. Anthony Davis, Kentucky 2011-12

Stats: 14.1 points, 9.8 rebounds

His case for top freshman: John Calipari is known for his work with great freshman point guards, but the best player he coached in college may be a forward. Carmelo Anthony was an NCAA Tournament Most Outstanding Player, Durant was the consensus Player of the Year, Derrick Rose was the No. 1 overall draft pick, and Greg Oden was the National Defensive Player of the Year. Davis did all of that. Before Davis, the last player of the year, Tournament MVP and No. 1 draft pick was Kansas’ Danny Manning in 1988 — when he was senior.

 

2. Kevin Durant, Texas 2006-07

Stats: 25.8 points, 11.1 rebounds

His case for top freshman: In the first season impacted by the NBA’s rule to require draftees to be a year removed from high school, Durant showed what a new breed of precocious freshmen could do in college. In his only college season, Durant was the only player in the country to finish in the top 10 in scoring and rebounding — he finished fourth in both. Despite Durant’s prolific season, his play didn’t translate to postseason success. Texas lost in the second round of the NCAA Tournament to USC, led by another freshman, O.J. Mayo.

 

3. Carmelo Anthony, Syracuse 2002-03

Stats: 22.2 points, 10 rebounds

His case for top freshman: Some freshman-led teams have come close, but Anthony became the first rookie since Pervis Ellison in 1986 (Louisville) to lead his team to a national title. Anthony was a second-team All-American in his only college season, but none were better in the NCAA Tournament. Anthony was the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player, helping Jim Boeheim to his first national championship. In the final against Kansas, Anthony scored 20 points with 10 rebounds and seven assists. A game earlier in the national semifinal against Texas, Anthony had 33 points and 14 rebounds.

 

4. Chris Jackson, LSU 1988-89

Stats: 30.2 points, 2.5 rebounds

His case for top freshman: Jackson, who later changed his name to Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, turned in one of the all-time best freshman seasons nearly two decades before it became commonplace for first-year players to rewrite record books. Jackson averaged 30.2 points per game, which remains a Division I freshman record.

 

5. Jahlil Okafor, Duke 2014-15

Stats: 18.2 points, 9.6 rebounds

His case for top freshman: Okafor, another Chicago native, has a chance to pull off a similar season as Davis, and he’s in a two-man race for National Player of the Year with Wisconsin’s Frank Kaminsky. He’s a contender to be the top player taken in the NBA Draft. As for the national championship, Okafor may have to go through Kentucky to win it. Even if none of that happens, Okafor remains the best post player in the college game in years.

 

6. Wayman Tisdale, Oklahoma 1982-83

Stats: 24.5 points, 10.3 rebounds

His case for top freshman: Tisdale was the forefather to the great freshmen of the 2000s. It’s fitting, then, that his name is on the National Freshman of the Year award. In 1983, Tisdale was the first freshman to be a first-team All-American while also earning Big Eight Player of the Year honors. He accomplished both feats again as a sophomore and a junior.

 

7. Kevin Love, UCLA 2007-08

Stats: 17.5 points, 10.6 rebounds

His case for top freshman: During better times for Ben Howland at UCLA, the coach relied primarily on veterans. Love was the exception during the Bruins’ run of Final Fours. Love led UCLA in scoring and rebounding in the Bruins’ last of three consecutive appearances in the national semifinal. He also finished the season with 23 double-doubles; Michael Beasley is the only other freshman to amass more. Love was a consensus All-American and the Pac-10 Player of the Year, one of only two freshmen to earn the honor.

 

8. Michael Beasley, Kansas State 2007-08

Stats: 26.2 points, 12.4 rebounds

His case for top freshman: A year after Durant lit up the Big 12, Beasley did the same a year later. Beasley set a Big 12 single-season record by averaging 26.2 points per game, breaking Durant’s record of 25.8. Beasley finished with 13 30-point games, the most for any Big 12 player in a season (Durant had 11). Beasley’s 28 double-doubles also set a national freshman record. Like Durant and Texas, Beasley and Kansas State failed to get out of the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament, losing to Wisconsin in the second round.

 

9. Patrick Ewing, Georgetown 1981-82

Stats: 12.7 points, 7.5 rebounds, 3.2 blocks

His case for top freshman: Ewing’s arrival turned Georgetown into a power program and the Big East into a power league. Ewing blocked 119 shots as a freshman, leading the Hoyas to 30 wins and the first Final Four of the John Thompson era.

 

10. Magic Johnson, Michigan State 1977-78

Stats: 17 points, 7.9 rebounds, 7.4 assists

His case for top freshman: The statline, of course, is ridiculous as Magic averaged 17-8-7 for a team that reached the Sweet 16. It was only the beginning.

 

11. Kenny Anderson, Georgia Tech 1989-90

Stats: 20.7 points, 8.1 assists, 5.4 rebounds

His case for top freshman: Anderson was one of three 20-point scorers on a team that reached the Final Four. Oh, and he threw in 277 assists, too.

 

12. Jared Sullinger, Ohio State 2010-11

Stats: 17.2 points, 10.2 rebounds

His case for top freshman: Ohio State has had more success with star freshmen in recent years than any other Big Ten team. Sullinger may have been the best of a group that includes Greg Oden and Mike Conley Jr. Unlike Oden, Conley and big men B.J. Mullens and Kosta Koufos, Sullinger elected to stay for his sophomore season. As a freshman, Sullinger was a consensus All-American and the Big Ten’s first National Freshman of the Year since Michigan’s Chris Webber in 1992.

 

13. Derrick Rose, Memphis 2007-08

Stats: 14.9 points, 4.7 assists, 4.5 rebounds

His case for top freshman: Hard to believe as it is, Rose wasn’t the most decorated player on his own team as a freshman. That distinction went to All-American and Conference USA Player of the Year Chris Douglas-Roberts. Rose belongs on this list, though, as the point guard of a team that played for a national title before falling 75-68 in overtime to Kansas. Rose averaged 20.8 points, 6.5 rebounds and 6.0 assists per game in the NCAA Tournament.

 

14. Jabari Parker, Duke 2013-14

Stats: 19.1 points, 8.7 rebounds

His case for top freshman: An all-time team of freshmen from Chicago would be mighty scary between Davis, Rose, Okafor and Parker. Unfortunately for Parker, the big takeaway from his lone season in Durham may be Duke’s loss to No. 14 seed Mercer in the round of 64. Parker, though, was the freshman of the year and runner-up to Creighton's Doug McDermott for National Player of the Year.

 

15. John Wall, Kentucky 2009-10

Stats: 16.6 points, 6.5 assists, 4.3 rebounds

His case for top freshman: John Calipari started at Kentucky the same way he finished his time at Memphis – with an elite one-and-done point guard. Wall followed in the footsteps of Rose and Tyreke Evans at Memphis and preceded Brandon Knight and Marquis Teague at Kentucky. In leading Kentucky to a 35-3 season, Wall was the National Freshman of the Year and the Associated Press and coaches’ pick for SEC Player of the Year (Oddly enough, teammate DeMarcus Cousins was the coaches’ pick for SEC Freshman of the Year).

 

16. Greg Oden, Ohio State 2006-07

Stats: 15.7 points, 9.6 rebounds

His case for top freshman: For at least a year, Oden vs. Durant was a heated debate. Durant was the consensus Player of the Year, but Oden and fellow freshman Mike Conley Jr. helped Ohio State reach the national championship game. Oden ended up going first in the NBA Draft, but it was the last time he’d have the edge over Durant, who became an NBA superstar while Oden’s pro career has been derailed by injuries. As a college player, Oden holds the distinction of being the only freshman to win National Defensive Player of the Year honors by averaging 9.6 rebounds and 3.3 blocks per game.

 

17. Pervis Ellison, Louisville 1985-86

Stats: 12.6 points, 7.8 rebounds

His case for top freshman: Never Nervous Pervis was Louisville’s third leading scorer as a freshman, but he made his impact in the NCAA Tournament. Ellison was the NCAA Tournament Most Outstanding Player in 1986, the first time a rookie earned the award since freshman eligibility was re-established.

 

18. Shaquille O’Neal, LSU 1989-90

Stats: 13.9 points, 12 rebounds, 3.6 blocks

His case for top freshman: Naturally, Shaq knew how to make an entrance. O’Neal was the first player in SEC history to record 100 blocks in a season at 115 as a freshman. That total remains 10th in SEC history, behind two of his own totals as a sophomore and junior. O’Neal also finished in the top 10 nationally in rebounding as a rookie.

 

19. Tyler Hansbrough, North Carolina 2005-06

Stats: 18.9 points, 7.8 rebounds

His case for top freshman: It’s easy to forget that Hansbrough’s first season brought no guarantees. Credit his overshadowed freshman season to the way his career finished with a national title and National Player of the Year honors. When Hansbrough was a freshman, he led a team that lost most of its top players from the 2005 national champions. An unranked team in the preseason finished No. 10 in the rankings.

 

20. Brandon Knight, Kentucky 2010-11

Stats: 17.3 points, 4.1 assists

His case for top freshman: Knight wasn’t Calipari’s best point guard, and the 2010-11 team wasn’t one of his best at Kentucky. Yet the 2011 Cats were his first in Lexington to reach the Final Four before losing to the Kemba Walker-led UConn buzz saw.

Teaser:
The Best Freshman Seasons in College Basketball History
Post date: Friday, March 6, 2015 - 08:30
All taxonomy terms: College Football, News
Path: /college-football/ohio-state-releases-awesome-national-championship-hype-video
Body:

College football season has been over for 52 days. A long, cold 52 days.

 

Thankfully, Ohio State is giving us the warm fuzzies as we all try to climb out of winter and into spring.

 

The national champion Buckeyes released their national championship hype video Thursday, and hit the spot.

 

Give it a look. It’s awesome.

 

(at least until Coldplay starts playing.)

 

Teaser:
Ohio State Releases Awesome National Championship Hype Video
Post date: Thursday, March 5, 2015 - 13:50
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/12-unlikely-players-who-could-be-2015-ncaa-tournament-heroes
Body:

 

Every team that makes a run in the NCAA Tournament needs a role player to become the hero for a game or two.

 

For 2014 national champion Connecticut, it was DeAndre Daniels. The forward was a solid player entering the tournament, but he exploded for 27 points in the Sweet 16 against Iowa State and then 20 in the Final Four against Florida?

 

And who could have expected that lightly used Marcus Lee would have stepped in for 10 points and seven offensive rebounds to send Kentucky to the Final Four.

 

Pinpointing the kinds of unlikely heroes is tough — especially in the case of a guy like Lee — but we might as well give it a try.

 

Trey Lyles, Kentucky

Lyles might not sneak up on anyone since he was a McDonald’s All-American and John Calipari touted him as Kentucky’s X-factor. Yet he’s still been easy to overlook for most of this season with the way Willie Cauley-Stein and Karl-Anthony Towns have played in Kentucky’s frontcourt. Lyles, though, is plenty capable of taking charge, scoring 18 points on 8-of-10 shooting Saturday against Arkansas.

 

Darion Atkins, Virginia

Atkins lost his starting job last season and regained it for good early in the ACC schedule. Atkins is already a key post defender for the Cavaliers, but with Justin Anderson out, he’s also been able contribute more on the offensive end in recent games. He’s scored at least 10 points in three of the last four games after scoring in double figures just twice before Feb. 22.

 

Gabe York, Arizona

Arizona’s stars haven’t always played like stars at times this season. Thankfully for the Wildcats, York has been there to save the day off the bench. He scored 13 points in 28 minutes against UCLA on Feb. 21 and added 12 in the grinder against Utah on Saturday night. This is the second time York has been something of a secret weapon for Zona. He moved into the starting lineup after the Brandon Ashley injury last season. 

 

Kris Jenkins, Villanova

Villanova is already one of the more balanced scoring teams in the field. The seventh-leading scorer acting as an X-factor is icing on the cake. Jenkins is an outside shooter by trade, hitting four 3s in the comeback against Xavier on Saturday, but he was also able to get to the free throw line nine times a game earlier against Providence.

 

Matt Jones, Duke

Duke’s stars — Jahlil Okafor, Tyus Jones, Quinn Cook and Justise Winslow — are playing like stars. Matt Jones has provided key depth, especially since Rasheed Sulaimon was dismissed. Jones is averaging 7.9 points per game in nine games since Sulaimon was booted. 

 

Dallin Bachynski, Utah

A senior seven-footer is a nice asset to have on the bench. Larry Krysktkowiak has gone to that well judiciously — Bachynski played scored 13 points on 12 shots in 23 minutes in a key win over Stanford on Feb. 12 and eight points in 25 minutes against Arizona, but he played 14 minutes in a three-game span in February. A team whose main weakness is offensive rebounding could use his size in March.

 

Bonzie Colson, Notre Dame

Just what Notre Dame needs — another guard who can score. The 6-5 Colson has come on in recent weeks, but none better than his 17 points on 7-of-7 shooting and nine rebounds against Louisville on Tuesday. Before that Colson had 16 points against both Boston College and Syracuse in Notre Dame’s previous two games. The freshman’s fearless streak earned him a defensive assignment against Duke’s Okafor a few weeks ago. 

 

Jared Nickens, Maryland

The 6-foot-7, 200-pound freshman forward has been able to contribute in a number of ways for the surprising Terrapins. He stepped into the starting lineup for six games earlier this season when Mark Turgeon was tinkering with his lineup. Coming off the bench, Nickens is a 3-point threat who can also grab rebounds.

 

Allerik Freeman, Baylor

Freeman gives Baylor a quick offensive threat off the bench, which Baylor needs especially around the rim. Freeman gave Baylor 11 points in 21 minutes in a win over Kansas State on Feb. 21 and 10 points and four offensive rebounds in 27 minutes against West Virginia on Saturday. He shoots better than 50 percent from 2-point range on a team that otherwise shoots 45.3 percent.

 

Jamari Traylor, Kansas

Traylor’s role has expanded in recent weeks, first as Cliff Alexander’s playing time dwindled and then more after Alexander was pulled off the floor due to potential NCAA eligibility reasons. Traylor was huge in Tuesday’s comeback against West Virginia. With Perry Ellis out during the second half and Kelly Oubre fouled out, Traylor had 14 points and six offensive boards.

 

Joel Berry, North Carolina

Could Joel Berry become the 3-point threat North Carolina desperately needs? Berry hit 3-of-5 3-pointers against Georgia Tech on Thursday. Sure, it was against a bad Yellow Jackets team, but still a key development for a team looking for perimeter scorers apart from Marcus Paige.

 

Wayne Blackshear, Louisville

Blackshear responded to fouling out with no points against Syracuse by scoring 10 against Miami, 10 against Georgia Tech and 18 against Florida State. Louisville needs more of that from its senior guard with Chris Jones off the team.

Teaser:
12 Unlikely Players Who Could Be 2015 NCAA Tournament Heroes
Post date: Thursday, March 5, 2015 - 08:30
Path: /college-football/michigan-coach-jim-harbaughs-twitter-delight
Body:

Let’s face it: College football coaches’ Twitter accounts are mostly hit or miss.

 

Most are full of inspirational quotes, coded recruiting announcements and a general excitement to “get after it.”

 

Thankfully, Jim Harbaugh has returned to college football to spice up social media.

 

From @CoachJim4UM, he tweets at Madonna, he hangs out with Garth Brooks, he professes his admiration for Judge Judy, and he displays questionable choices with capital letters.

 

Here are some of the highlights just from the last month.

 

Teaser:
Michigan Coach Jim Harbaugh's Twitter is a Delight
Post date: Wednesday, March 4, 2015 - 12:54
All taxonomy terms: Overtime, News
Path: /overtime/princes-high-school-basketball-picture
Body:

Prince is pretty much the coolest dude on the planet. Seriously, even cool people bow to the coolness that is Prince.

 

Before Purple Rain, before Sign “O” the Times, before changing his name to an unpronounceable symbol, Prince Rogers Nelson was a sometimes disgruntled high school basketball player in his hometown of Minneapolis.

 

Libor Jany, a crime and justice writer with the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, tweeted these two great clips from the Star-Tribune archives from Prince’s playing days at Bryant Junior High and Minneapolis Central High.

 

 

Jany also shared this gem where a young (and short) Prince was not pleased with his playing time.

 

Teaser:
This is Prince's High School Basketball Picture
Post date: Wednesday, March 4, 2015 - 12:07
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/most-glaring-weaknesses-college-basketballs-top-national-title-contenders
Body:

Every team has a weakness. Even Kentucky.

 

Winning and losing in the NCAA Tournament is almost always about the matchups. A bad draw or a little bad luck in the first weekend of the Tournament can turn a potential championship season into a disappointment. The key for upset-hungry teams in March will be their ability to pounce when the time is right.

 

The teams that will be among the favorites to advance to Final Four have earned that status by being balanced, sound teams on both side of the court. Only one of them can be a champion, though.

 

Here’s how things could unravel for some of the nation’s top teams.

 

Kentucky

Fatal flaw: A backcourt collapse

The nation’s only undefeated team and undisputed No. 1 has so few flaws, it’s tough to pick out the weak spots that could doom a run to the Final Four. An opponent getting ridiculously hot from 3 would seem to be a must to beat Kentucky, but how could the Wildcats beat themselves? The guards might do it. Point guard Andrew Harrison has had his lapses at times, though’s also had his share of standout games this season. The offense has run better for stretches this season with Tyler Ulis at the point, but will Calipari put his team into the hands of a 5-9 freshman in the Tournament? Kentucky’s 3-point shooting (160th nationally at 34.3 percent) and free throw shooting (100th at 71 percent) is also the only other non-elite part of the Wildcats’ game.

 

Virginia

Fatal flaw: Closing out wins

For the time being, the Cavaliers have overcome this flaw, preserving wins over Pittsburgh, Florida State, Wake Forest and Virginia Tech with ease. But there was a stretch in late January and early February where lopsided games early in the second half became more dramatic in the final seconds. This is how Virginia lost its only game of the season to Duke on Jan. 31, but even Wake Forest in Charlottesville and Virginia Tech in Blacksburg made the Cavs work to preserve a lead.

 

Duke

Fatal flaw: Defending attacking guards

The diminished depth is a major concern, though it will be less so when benches shrink in the NCAA Tournament. Instead, the biggest problem for Duke has to be problems defending guards. Notre Dame’s Jerian Grant shredded Duke’s guards earlier this season. So did Miami’s duo of Angel Rodriguez and Manu Lecomte. Virginia Tech took Duke to overtime a week ago thanks to its guards getting to the rim. Duke was a bad defensive team a year ago and got burned by Mercer in the Tournament. Could history repeat itself?

 

Villanova

Fatal flaw: Rebounding

Villanova isn’t necessarily an undersized team — particularly by Villanova standards — but the Wildcats aren’t a big team, either. The 6-foot-11 Daniel Ochefu is the only regular taller than 6-7. He averages 8.3 boards per game. Every regular is 6-2 or taller and top guard Darrun Hilliard is 6-6. Yet Villanova ranks 115th in offensive rebound rate and 160th in defensive rebound rate on KenPom.com.

 

Arizona

Fatal flaw: Scoring from its stars

Arizona won’t play many games tougher than the Wildcats’ win in Salt Lake City on Saturday night. Utah’s a great defensive team, but Arizona should still wonder if it can score enough to make it to the Final Four. Freshman Stanley Johnson went 3-of-19 from the field, which would be a footnote if not for Arizona’s struggles a week ago against UCLA. In that game, Gabe York and Dusan Ristic came off the bench to bail out the starters in a 57-47 win over the Bruins. 

 

Wisconsin

Fatal flaw: Frontcourt depth

Good thing Frank Kaminsky never gets into foul trouble. Wisconsin has proven that it can keep winning even without its starting point guard, but surviving any absence of Kaminsky would seem to be slim. Kaminsky is the only player on the roster taller than 6-9. That said, Kaminsky foul trouble is a true rarity. He hasn’t played with more than three fouls in a game all season.

 

Gonzaga

Fatal flaw: Free throw shooting

Gonzaga has one of the most balanced and efficient offenses in the country, making it all that more baffling that the Bulldogs can’t hit free throws. Gonzaga is converting only 69.8 percent of free throws this season, raking 150th nationally. 

Teaser:
Fatal Flaws for College Basketball National Title Contenders
Post date: Tuesday, March 3, 2015 - 08:30

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