Articles By David Fox
If it seems the Big 12 is having a bit of an identity crises, that much is true in the NFL Draft, too.
Oklahoma and Texas are the powerhouses in the draft in the last decade. The Sooners and Longhorns have combined for 98 picks in the last 10 years. The other eight teams have combined for 135 during that span.
OU and Texas have combined for nearly has many first-rounders (18) in the last 10 years as the rest of the league combined (19).
Yet Oklahoma and Texas are in trouble spots right now — Bob Stoops is coming off an eight-win season and cleaning house on his coaching staff; Texas is on Year Two of a new coaching staff.
Instead, TCU and Baylor are the top dogs in the league, and their draft day-performance is starting to show it, too.
For fans who are college football-centric, NFL Draft day is a chance for bragging rights and a sort of referendum on the relative talent levels for teams and conferences. Whether that’s fair or not is up for debate.
Here’s how teams in the Big 12 fared in the last 10 drafts, followed by a few observations.
*Data derived from Pro Football Reference
Big 12 NFL Draft Picks
|School||Total Picks||First Round||2004-13 Record|
• From the “that can’t be right” file: Oklahoma State has a mere 17 draft picks in the last 10 years? Maybe Mike Gundy and predecessor Les Miles deserve more credit in Stillwater.
• How about TCU at third in the league in draft picks in the last 10 years? It’s a distant third behind Oklahoma and Texas, but third nonetheless. West Virginia and Baylor are right behind.
• Of Baylor’s 22 draft picks in the last decade, 15 have come in since 2011, including four of the Bears’ five first-rounders.
• Kansas State’s more-with-less stereotype holds weight here. Kansas State’s first-round pick in the last 10 years wasn’t even recruited by Bill Snyder. No. 17 overall pick Josh Freeman played his entire college career for Ron Prince. Snyder’s last first-round pick was cornerback Terence Newman in 2003.
• Iowa State hasn’t had a first-round draft pick since running back George Amundson in 1973, the longest drought for a Power 5 conference team by 14 years.
One of football’s up-and-coming defensive coordinators got his start in the one of the most unlikely places — playing fullback for a school that was ground zero of the modern spread offense.
Kalani Sitake has been a defensive assistant in major college football for merely a decade, but he’s already one of the most intriguing names in the coaching ranks.
When the time came for the BYU fullback to enter the workforce in 2001, Sitake knew what he wanted to do, just not all the details.
“I just wanted to coach ball,” Sitake said. “I didn’t care where it was or what position.”
His first job was as a secondary and special teams coach at a junior college, not exactly the most logical landing spot for a guy who played offense under LaVell Edwards.
The gig lasted a year before he returned to BYU as a graduate assistant working with linebackers. During the first four years of his career at three stops, Sitake had coached defensive backs, linebackers, running backs, offensive line and tight ends.
That meant a ton of film study and a ton of phone calls to figure out the intricacies of each position.
“I’m kind of a football nerd where I try to watch as much film as I can on different schemes and different philosophies,” Sitake said. “I take a huge interest in learning as much as I can.
“When all your friends are football coaches, you just talk ball. Let’s say you’ve got a new position, it wouldn’t be hard to find a half a dozen guys who are willing to open up and share ideas.”
One of those would be Gary Andersen, who hired Sitake as running backs coach when Andersen was head coach at Southern Utah.
When head coach Kyle Whittingham and coordinator Andersen filled out their defensive staff at Utah following the departure of Urban Meyer to Florida in 2005, Andersen added Sitake as linebackers coach.
As Andersen left for his own head coaching job, Sitake had become one of the key figures in Utah’s transition from a Mountain West power to a solid Pac-12 program. Despite the step up in week-to-week competition, Utah had an above-average defense all four seasons in the Pac-12 under Sitake.
The Utes led the Pac-12 in fewest yards per play in 2011, their first year in the league. They’ve led the league in sacks per game each of the last two seasons. They’ve ranked in the top three in the Pac-12 in fewest yards per carry in each of the last four seasons. Moreover, Sitake was the leader of many of Utah’s critical recruiting efforts.
He’d done enough to enjoy job security at Utah or eventually take a more high-profile coordinator position.
Instead, Sitake rejoined Andersen at Oregon State as defense coordinator. A lateral move was puzzling, particularly since Sitake left an $800,000 per year contract (including bonuses) on the table with Utah. Utes defensive line coach Ilaisa Tuiaki also left for Oregon State.
The move was considered to be indicative of a rift between Whittingham and his athletic director.
Sitake bristles at the episode and the attention he’s received, in part, because of the move to Oregon State.
“Coaching isn’t rocket science,” Sitake said. “There are people that try to sit there and try to blow up their contribution to it. I’m nothing. I’m really nothing. I’ve been lucky to have great people around me and really good players.”
But there’s also good reason why Andersen hired Sitake — for a third time, mind you.
Andersen has called him “a great technician,” and his defenses have been praised for the fundamentals — rarely being out of position and tackling soundly.
This may make sense given his background, but Sitake often takes his defensive cues from effective offense.
Sitake refers to “identity” for his defense the same way he speaks of identity for Edwards’ offense at BYU.
Today’s up-tempo offenses aren’t as complex as traditional pro-style offenses. Sitake wants his defense to be just as focused on execution, not complexity.
“It’s simple but it has a few variables where it could be perceived as difficult,” Sitake said. “There’s a saying that if you keep it simple, it will be clean football. You look at all this fast-tempo offense, there’s not a lot to it. It’s just simple but executed really well.”
At the same time, Sitake spends time teaching offensive concepts to his defensive players.
Maybe it’s old habit for the former fullback, but it’s also part of the grand plan.
“We spend a lot of time on defense teaching what the offense is trying to do,” Sitake said. “I really believe that if you teach them the other side of the ball, you’re not memorizing, you’re understanding.”
Photo courtesy of Karl Maasdam.
The NFL Draft interview process is going to be interesting for Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston, who is a contender for the No. 1 spot.
Among other off-field concerns Winston will need to address is the incident when he was cited for the theft of crab legs from a Tallahassee, Fla., Publix.
In a conversation with Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch aired on ESPN’s Draft Academy, Winston attempted to explain his side.
This may not have helped.
Harbaugh, the former coach of the San Francisco 49ers, advised Winston to keep his response short and sweet — “I did something wrong, I’m sorry, and I learned.”
Winston, though, wanted to explain that the crab legs weren’t stolen; they were a hook up.
Here’s the video, the transcript and some editorial notes.
Fisch: I know there’s a story with the snow crabs or stone crabs or whatever it might have been, but you left it out when Coach asked you if you had any issues. I wouldn’t leave it out.
(ed. note: Stone crab is a Miami Beach fine dining staple and essentially localized to the famous Joe’s Stone Crab. Fisch did some good eating while offensive coordinator at Miami.)
Winston: Oh. Oh, man. Yeah.
Harbaugh: Stone crabs? (ed. note: Is this the first time Harbaugh has heard of this? That reaction says yes.)
Fisch: Whatever the whole theft thing was at Publix or whatever it might have been. I don’t know the whole — I just know it happened. That’s the elephant on the room for you. Everyone’s going to want to know what happened.
(ed. note: The crab legs are not the elephant in the room.)
Fisch: Don’t by accident just talk about the BB gun and your high school coach crying and forget about the fact that everyone on SportsCenter read about that incident because then it looks like you’re covering it up or you're hiding it.
(ed. note: Fisch mimics the ESPN crawl.)
Harbaugh: If you don’t want to go into it — “I screwed up. I f---ed up. Learned from it.” Be as serious as a heart attack.
Winston: How am I supposed to handle, like, if I just got them for free. Just say I messed up?
Harbaugh: If someone gave them to you for free? So what happened. Explain that to me. You got them for free? Explain that to me.
(ed. note: Harbaugh leans in as if he's the coach of the team potentially drafting Winston.)
Winston: A week before was my buddy’s birthday, and we got a cake and we met a dude inside Publix and he said anytime you come in here I got you. That day we just walked out. He hooked us up with that. When I got crab legs, I did the same thing. He just gave them to me and I walked out. Someone for inside the store had told the security that I didn’t pay for them, and that’s how the whole thing started.
Harbaugh: OK. Then, put that in a nice... Keep that in a tidy box. “I got some crab legs and people at the store reported that I didn’t pay for them. And they were right. I didn’t pay for them, and I f---ed up. I shouldn’t have been taking anything for free. I’ve learned.”
This is a big year for Steve Spurrier. Not only does the Head Ball Coach turn 70, he’ll also see his 100th player picked in the NFL Draft.
During his time as a head coach at South Carolina, Florida and Duke, Spurrier has coached 99 players who were selected in the following NFL Draft, the most among active coaches.
Many outlets will count how many NFL Draft picks a particular school or conference can call their own, but we haven’t seen the tally yet for head coaches.
This, hopefully, will remedy that. Using Pro Football Reference as a resource, we charted every draft pick for active coaches in FBS.
The data wasn’t totally surprising — coaches who have been around for a while have churned out the most draft picks. Frank Beamer has coached long enough to watch multiple players of his drafted in the 12th round.
A few disclaimers:
• This exercise is looking merely at head coaches, mainly because it’s the most interesting and most easily quantifiable look. Coordinators and position coaches play as much of a role for these future pros as head coaches, if not more. At the same time, some of these guys would be drafted if they were coached by Vince Lombardi or Vince Gill.
• This is an inexact science. We assigned players to their most recent coach before the draft. For example, Urban Meyer coached Ohio State’s draft classes since 2013 and Florida’s NFL draft classes from 2006 to 2011 (he coached at Florida from 2005-10). In other words, a draftee may have played his first three seasons for Coach A and his senior season for Coach B. In that case, the tally goes to Coach B.
And on to the charts:
Total NFL Draft Picks, By Coach
|Coach||Total Picks||Picks at Current School|
|1.||Steve Spurrier, South Carolina||99||31|
|2.||Frank Beamer, Virginia Tech||92||90|
|3.||Nick Saban, Alabama||82||41|
|4.||Mark Richt, Georgia||74||74|
|5.||Bob Stoops, Oklahoma||70||70|
|6.||Les Miles, LSU||67||60|
|7.||Kirk Ferentz, Iowa||55||55|
|8.||Bill Snyder, Kansas State||50||7*|
|9.||Larry Coker, UTSA||47||0|
|10.||Urban Meyer, Ohio State||44||9|
|11.||Tommy Tuberville, Cincinnati||40||0|
|T12.||Brian Kelly, Notre Dame||36||19|
|T12.||Frank Solich, Ohio||36||6|
|14.||Gary Patterson, TCU||34||34|
|T15.||Mike Riley, Nebraska||32||0|
|T15.||Dennis Franchione, Texas State||32||0*|
|17.||Gary Pinkel, Missouri||31||27|
|T18.||George O'Leary, UCF||29||14|
|T18.||Bret Bielema, Arkansas||29||4|
|20.||Dabo Swinney, Clemson||28||28|
*in his current stint with this team
Total First-Round Picks, By Coach
|Coach||Total Picks||Picks at Current School|
|1.||Nick Saban, Alabama||21||16|
|2.||Larry Coker, UTSA||20||0|
|3.||Steve Spurrier, South Carolina||17||4|
|4.||Les Miles, LSU||15||13|
|5.||Bob Stoops, Oklahoma||13||13|
|T6.||Mark Richt, Georgia||11||11|
|T6.||Urban Meyer, Ohio State||11||2|
|8.||Frank Beamer, Virginia Tech||8||8|
|T9.||Gary Pinkel, Missouri||7||6|
|T9.||Tommy Tuberville, Cincinnati||7||0|
Draft Picks for Recently Retired/Inactive Coaches
%still active as a position coach in college
Cincinnati Reds manager Bryan Price secured a spot among great managerial rants in baseball history with an expletive-filled tirade with reporters after Monday’s 6-1 win over the Brewers.
Responding to a question from C. Trent Rosencrans of the Cincinnati Enquirer on the status of All-Star catcher Devin Mesoraco, Price lit into accurate reports about roster moves concerning his team.
The final tally was 77 “F” words and 11 “S” words. Quite impressive for a rant after game No. 13 of a 162-game season.
Tim Tebow will receive at least one more shot at an NFL career after signing a one-year contract with the Philadelphia Eagles on Monday.
The 2007 Heisman winner and two-time national champion at Florida participated in an offseason workout for Philadelphia on Monday.
The signing of Tebow, who hasn’t played in an NFL game since 2012, is the latest in a number of high-profile unorthodox moves by Eagles coach Chip Kelly.
Tebow was a first-round NFL draft pick of the Denver Broncos in 2010 and went 7-4 as a starter in 2011, leading the Broncos to a playoff win in overtime against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The Broncos traded Tebow to the New York Jets in 2012 where he played sparingly. He signed with the Patriots in 2013 but did not make the regular season roster.
Tebow is 8-6 as a starter in his career and has completed 47.9 percent of his passes with 17 touchdowns and nine interceptions, all with Denver.
Since he was cut by the Patriots, Tebow had been an analyst for the SEC Network.
Some day a college football program is going to hit six figures in attendance — for a spring game.
Ohio State came 609 fans short of the 100,000 mark Saturday when it drew what is presumed to be a record for spring game attendance.
The Buckeyes counted 99,391 fans to their spring scrimmage Saturday, and just think what it would have been had quarterbacks J.T. Barrett and/or Braxton Miller played. Would that might have been good for an extra 400 fans?
Spring game attendance is a tricky thing: Not every school tracks it. Tickets are often free. Many schools provide merely estimates.
That said, in recent years, several schools have provided attendance figures, so it’s worth looking at which schools had the biggest spring crowds.
Ohio State has the top two, but Alabama has six of the top 11 on record.
Top Spring Game Attendance Figures Since 2007
|1.||2015||99,391||Defending national champion|
|4.||2007||92,138||First season under Nick Saban|
|5.||2010||91,312||Defending national champion|
|7.||2013||83,401||First season under Gus Malzahn|
|8.||2012||81,112||First season under Urban Meyer|
|9.||2008||80,149||First season under Bo Pelini|
|10.||2013||78,315||Defending national champion|
|11.||2012||78,315||Defending national champion|
|12.||2015||76,881||First season under Mike Riley|
|15.||2014||72,000||First season under James Franklin|
|20.||2009||65,000||Defending national champion|
|24.||2015||60,000||First season under Jim Harbuagh|
Spring practice for the Texas Tech defense may as well be spring training for a high school baseball team.
Always watching, new defensive coordinator David Gibbs is telling his players to keep their eye on the ball. Or more specifically the quarterback and when and where the ball is going.
A defender might break up a pass or get a takeaway, but if his eyes aren’t where Gibbs wants them to be, he’ll hear it.
“If your eyes aren’t in the right spot as you go through a progression, even if you make a play, he won’t be happy because it isn’t the way he teaches it,” safety J.J. Gaines said.
Texas Tech’s defense needs more than just eyes on the ball. The Red Raiders need their hands on the ball.
That’s why Gibbs is here. Texas Tech had only 15 takeaways last season, 18 the year before and 13 before that. The Red Raiders defense hasn’t had more than 20 takeaways in a season since 2010.
At one point, Texas Tech went 16 consecutive games without a positive turnover margin and 12 consecutive games in the red. Obviously, there’s an offensive component to all this, but in those 16 games, Texas Tech’s defense forced only 18 turnovers. Texas Tech went 5-11 overall and 2-10 in the Big 12 in those 16 games.
Listen to the Cover 2 Podcast: Early 2015 Big 12 Preview
Meanwhile, on the other side of the state, Houston was racking up turnovers at a near-record pace. The Cougars had twice as many takeaways as Texas Tech in 2014. They’ve had more takeaways in the last two seasons (73) than Texas Tech had in their last four (66).
If for no other reason than the stat sheet, Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury had to give Houston’s defensive coordinator, Gibbs, a look. Whatever approach Gibbs brought to Houston, Texas Tech needs some of that magic touch if the Red Raiders are going to reverse their momentum.
“I don’t have any miracle answers,” Gibbs said. “Just because it worked at Houston doesn’t mean it’s going work here. But I also believe in the system that we’ve put in.”
Perhaps this is basic, but Gibbs is focusing on eye discipline to boost Texas Tech’s dismal turnover numbers. For a team that has the fewest takeaways in the Big 12 in the last three seasons (40), Gibbs has to start with the basics.
“We’re built on more pressure and keeping eyes on the quarterback and when the ball is thrown, where the ball is thrown, it allows you to have more guys breaking on the ball,” Gibbs said.
The 47-year-old Gibbs is well-traveled. He’s coached defensive backs for three different NFL teams and has been a coordinator at Minnesota and Auburn.
His 2013 season at Houston was something of a breakout. Houston forced 43 turnovers, eight more than any other team in the country that year. The Cougars also averaged nearly a plus-2 turnover margin per game (plus-1.92).
How did Houston thrive on turnovers? Some of it was certainly ability and coaching. The Cougars were also a statistical anomaly.
According to Football Study Hall, teams recover roughly 50 percent of all fumbles and intercept 22 percent of passes defended (interceptions plus pass breakups).
The 2013 Houston defense recovered 69.3 percent of fumbles and intercepted 31.3 percent of defending passes. Combined with the offense’s good fortune, Houston “nearly broke the system,” Football Study Hall’s Bill Connelly wrote.
In other words, Houston was lucky. But there’s something to be said about being at the right place at the right time.
“I believe you ask a basketball coach if you believe that his team got outhustled or outrebounded or watch a basketball game and one team always gets the loose balls, what’s the difference between a loose ball in basketball than a fumble in football? It’s hustle,” Gibbs said. “It’s guys running to the football. It’s a combination of things. Is it luck? Yeah, it’s luck.”
As much as Gibbs needs to reverse Tech’s turnover trend, he needs to repair a dismal run defense. The Red Raiders allowed a Big 12-worst 259.5 rushing yards per game and allowed 5.2 yards per carry, the eighth-worst average in the league.
Opponents weren’t afraid to average 50 carries per game against the Red Raiders because they knew Tech couldn’t do anything to stop it.
Defensive line has been a major issue, and Texas Tech is counting on a true freshman, Breiden Fehoko, to be an impact player. The linebackers are short on experience as well.
Perhaps some of the youth might be a good thing. Gibbs is the fifth person to coordinate the defense since Ruffin McNeill left before the 2010 season.
In many ways, all the ingredients of a disorganized defense were present in Lubbock in recent years.
Gibbs is another new face, so where might he succeed where others have not? If Gibbs can get everyone in the right place at the right time, he’ll have a fighting chance to turn around the Red Raiders’ defense.
“That’s what happens on these bad defenses,” Gibbs said. “You got guys trying to do too much and then all heck breaks loose. I see it on good defenses. But the good defenses have good players behind the players making the mistakes. The problem at some of these places is that you don’t have the erasers. I’m not saying they were doing it last year, but they’re not going to do it this year.”
Move over Dizzy Bat, now we have Dizzy Punt.
What’s Dizzy Punt, you ask? Coaches at Dakota State, an NAIA program in Madison, S.D., show us, and we’re pretty much going to keep it on a loop for a few minutes.
Georgia Tech is making sure it commemorates its first win over rival Georgia in six years.
The Yellow Jackets also went on to win the Orange Bowl, defeating Mississippi State 49-34 and earning a bowl championship ring.
One side of the Orange Bowl championship ring commemorates the Yellow Jackets' ACC Coastal title. The other salutes the Georgia “State Champs.” Georgia Tech also defeated Sun Belt champion Georgia Southern 42-38.
Georgia Tech quarterback Tim Byerly shared an image of the ring during his stint as a guest Tweeter for @GTStudents on Thursday.
We finally got the Orange Bowl Rings!! Just as much yours as they are ours. Thx for the support all year Jacket fam!! pic.twitter.com/wPLxXdwNWz— GTStudents (@GTStudents) April 15, 2015
For now, public shaming will need to be part of the rebuilding process of the North Carolina defense.
Even in spring, there’s plenty of it to go around.
Gene Chizik is in Chapel Hill to fix one of the worst defenses in school history, a unit that has kept Carolina hovering around .500 the last two seasons. Many coaches will spend spring practice preaching physicality. The new defensive coordinator for the Tar Heels is making it part of his central platform.
“We point guys out in meetings that aren’t physical,” Chizik told Athlon Sports. “We’ll point them out and call them out. They know that if they’re not physical and taking the mentality of the physical defense, it’s going to be hard for them to play in it.”
At the same time, hiring Chizik, the former national championship coach at Auburn, to repair the North Carolina defense is as clear a signal as anything in that meeting room.
Cleaning house on the entire defensive coaching staff was a bold move for North Carolina, and one coach Larry Fedora had to make.
Just as players are going to have trouble staying on the field if they’re not playing with the edge Chizik desires, Fedora may have trouble staying at Carolina if Chizik’s defense doesn’t deliver.
There’s no way around it: North Carolina’s defense was historically bad last season. The Tar Heels couldn’t hide it.
• Three times North Carolina scored 35 points or more and lost because the Tar Heels gave up 70 (East Carolina) and 50 (Clemson and Notre Dame) in those games.
• The Tar Heels’ 497.8 yards allowed per game was the fourth-worst in ACC history and second-worst in UNC history.
• North Carolina was last in the ACC pass defense, rush defense, pass efficiency defense and yards allowed per carry. The Heels gave up 67 touchdowns last season, 22 more than the next worst team in the ACC.
• Opponents converted on 49 percent of third downs and scored touchdowns on 72.2 percent of red zone trips, both were among the five worst rates in the nation.
That is the situation Chizik is charged with repairing in his first coaching job since he was fired at Auburn after the 2012 season. With numbers like that, the problems are many — personnel, scheme, leadership, attitude, technique. Chizik keeps going back to square one this spring.
“The biggest thing we have to do is we got to change the mental picture and mindset of these guys,” Chizik said. “You can’t play a style of football without physicality being the No. 1 goal. I don’t feel like we’re there yet at all. They’ve got to learn how to play physical football and bring it every day.”
That much may be true, but Chizik is also changing the scheme at North Carolina, moving from Vic Koenning’s 4-2-5 defense to a more traditional 4-3. That leaves Chizik trying to figure out how last season’s personnel fit in the new look.
“It was recruited as a different defense,” Chizik said. “We’re trying to take some of the spots that are in-between guys. When you have a 4-2-5 you have some guys that are ‘tweener players, so we’ve got to find spots for those guys.”
Middle linebacker Jeff Schoettmer is already one of the top players on the defense, and as a former walk-on safety, he should be plenty comfortable in coverage when North Carolina goes to the Tampa 2 look.
The defensive line has some promise, but the player with the highest ceiling is a true freshman in end Jalen Dalton, a top-100 prospect from Clemmons, N.C. The defensive backs return almost entirely intact, but this was a group torched for an ACC-record 31 touchdown passes.
This is the area where Chizik may need to thrive the most. His secondaries were the foundation of a national championship team at Texas in 2005 and an undefeated team at Auburn in 2004. Chizik coached three consecutive Thorpe Award winners from 2004-06 — Carlos Rogers at Auburn and Michael Huff and Aaron Ross at Texas.
Listen to the Cover 2 Podcast: Early 2015 ACC Preview
Beyond the personnel, there’s the problem of his defenses getting off the field.
No ACC defense has been on the field in the last two seasons than North Carolina. The Tar Heels defense played 76.2 snaps per game in 2014 and 76.4 per game in 2013, both the highest rates in the conference in each of the last two seasons.
Opposing offenses aren’t going to change, and neither will Fedora’s up-tempo spread. So the defense has to change to stay off the field for 80 snaps in a game, as happened in four consecutive games at one point last season.
Chizik says the problem isn’t with conditioning, but if the Tar Heels get into a potential shootout, they’re going to need to be more mindful with substitutions.
“If it does become an 85-play game on defense, we’re going to have a great rotation plan with depth particularly early in the season,” Chizik said. “We can’t be afraid to substitute early in the game.”
Given his track record as a defensive coordinator, Chizik is pretty close to a sure-bet to fix North Carolina. He hasn’t been a coordinator since 2006, but he had a top-25 defense in each of his last four seasons as a DC at Texas and Auburn.
In six seasons as a head coach at Auburn and Iowa State, however, Chizik had as many winning seasons as seasons that finished 3-9 or worse.
There was also a consistent cloud of NCAA issues at Auburn from over-the-top recruiting practices that were eventually banned to pulling assistants off the recruiting trail to the Cam Newton saga that hounded Auburn throughout the the 2010 national championship season.
North Carolina has its own issues with an ongoing academic scandal that may or may not bring NCAA sanctions.
An independent report detailing academic fraud at UNC predates Fedora’s tenure and wasn’t limited to football, but that doesn’t mean the head football coach won’t spend time dealing with the fallout — among other issues.
Part of Chizik’s job, as he puts it, is to take the defense so Fedora doesn’t have to worry about the day-to-day issues on that side of the ball.
“Mack Brown used to tell me all the time: You have no idea the things that are behind the scenes that never get to you because it’s my job to put them out before they do,” Chizik said. “And I know that’s what Larry does. That’s why I want to take all the defensive issues off is plate to the best of my ability so that he can do his duties.”
That means a ton of long days from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m., the kinds of days Chizik left behind when he was out of coaching for two seasons. During that time, he worked with the SEC Network and SiriusXM Radio and spent time with his family — his family still lives in Auburn while his daughter finishes school there.
“I hadn’t had many 17-hour days in the last two years,” Chizik said. “I haven’t had any. But I’ve had several in the last couple of months.”
And Chizik hopes eventually some of them will start to involve more praising his defense rather than calling out players.
The NBA Playoffs begin Friday, meaning the NBA coaching carousel is about to get started.
In most years, this is of secondary concern to the college ranks. The checkered track record of college coaches in the NBA, not to mention the wildly different job descriptions, have kept GMs and ADs in their own playgrounds.
The NBA and college coaching ranks have been a little more interchangeable than usual in recent years. Two new college hires for 2015-16 have been NBA head coaches (Alabama’s Avery Johnson and Nevada’s Eric Musselman). The success of former Butler coach Brad Stevens with the Celtics may earn some college coaches another look.
Then there are the usual college coaches with NBA ties who might see the allure in returning to the league, if not this season then perhaps in coming seasons.
With a recent report pegging Florida’s Billy Donovan as a potential candidate for the Oklahoma City Thunder (should they part ways with Scott Brooks), here are five coaches who might earn a look from the NBA in the coming years.
Billy Donovan, Florida
The rumors of Donovan taking a renewed look at the NBA have kicked up in recent months, and Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski names a potential destination of Oklahoma City. Donovan’s contract, extended by one year to 2020, contains a mere $500,000 buyout if he leaves for the NBA. There’s little more for him to accomplish at Florida with two national titles and four Final Fours and an almost certain induction into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame. Following the 2007 national title, Donovan was hired as the head coach for the Orlando Magic for a matter of days before having second thoughts and returning to the Gators.
John Calipari, Kentucky
Calipari’s 72-112 stint with the New Jersey Nets from 1996-99 was the least successful period of his career. For a coach as stubborn as Calipari, the opportunity to atone for that failed stint in the pros might be tough to resist. In coach years, that NBA stint was an eternity ago. He’s gone to four Final Fours, won a national title and sent dozens of players to the NBA since then. He could, presumably, land with a team that contains multiple players he coached in college. Calipari had already been offered a sweet deal by the Cleveland Cavaliers before this year’s 38-1 season.
Kevin Ollie, UConn
Ollie was already well-respected in NBA circles before leading the Huskies to the 2014 national championship. He’s a rising star in the profession and would have immediate credibility in an NBA locker room after 12 seasons in the league. The NBA would have to pry him away from his alma mater where he was the handpicked successor to Jim Calhoun.
Fred Hoiberg, Iowa State
Hoiberg has returned his alma mater to national prominence, taking the Cyclones to four consecutive NCAA Tournaments for the first time in school history. He’s considered one of the sharpest offensive minds in college basketball in part because of his knack for analytics. His exposure to that was honed in the NBA when he worked in the front office for the Minnesota Timberwolves. Like Ollie, he’d have credibility as a former NBA player. Hoiberg is undergoing open heart surgery during the offseason to replace his aortic valve, a procedure related to the surgery that ended his playing career 10 years ago.
Larry Krystkowiak, Utah
Like Ollie and Hoiberg, Krystkowiak comes from NBA stock, playing in the league for more than a decade. Unlike the other two, he’s been an NBA head coach before, going 31-69 in two seasons with the Milwaukee Bucks. Also unlike Ollie and Hoiberg, Krystkowiak isn’t an alum of his employer. His work at Utah can’t be denied as he’s led the Utes to progressive improvement during the last four seasons, culminating with their first Sweet 16 since 2004.
When Ohio State plays its spring game Saturday, the Buckeyes will be a long way from deciding their biggest offseason question as they head into 2015.
National championship quarterback Cardale Jones will start for one squad. Sophomore Stephen Collier will start for the other.
The spring game won’t include 2013 starter Braxton Miller and 2014 starter J.T. Barrett, who are sitting out this spring due to shoulders.
Naturally, coach Urban Meyer doesn’t expect to make his decision on a starting quarterback until closer to the season.
“I think the middle of training camp because I think every one of them deserve that opportunity and right now two of them aren’t getting it,” Meyer said. “I think by training camp you have to have a handle on that thing.”
Miller was lost for the 2014 season in August to a right shoulder injury. Barrett stepped in and set school records for touchdown passes and total offense before sustaining a shoulder injury of his own against Michigan. Jones then started the Big Ten championship game, the Sugar Bowl semifinal and the national championship game.
All three stayed at Ohio State when Miller could have transferred and been eligible immediately as a graduate transfer. Jones was eligible for the NFL Draft.
“The quarterbacks have continued to amaze me,” Meyer said. “The power of the unit is incredible in that room. Cardale has had a great spring. J.T. has had a very good spring. Braxton is right in the middle of it. You never knew how that dynamic would work out.”
The college basketball coaching carousel has slowed down with all but a handful of mid-major and low-major jobs filled.
Unless a college coach makes a leap to the NBA in the coming weeks and months, every major job is filled. All in all, this was a quiet year in the carousel, though three head coaches with Final Four experience took new jobs.
Only five jobs in the Power 5 conferences — Alabama, Arizona State, Mississippi State, Tennessee and Texas — opened this season. That, of course, doesn’t include notable openings at VCU, St. John’s and DePaul.
How did the most important hires grade out in 2015-16? Here’s a look at 13 of the key hires in college basketball this offseason.
Shaka Smart, Texas
Hired from: VCU
Replaced: Rick Barnes, hired at Tennessee
Texas needed to make a bold move to replace Barnes, a coach who ultimately fell victim to the expectations he raised in Austin. Smart certainly qualifies a bold hire. Smart resisted overtures from major programs since leading VCU to the Final Four in 2011, and now he'll be expected to challenge Kansas in the Big 12. The 38-year-old Smart brings energy, buzz, a defined style and a track record of success. VCU reached the NCAA Tournament in five of six years under Smart and three times finished second in conference play (once in the Colonial and twice in the more competitive Atlantic 10).
Ben Howland, Mississippi State
Hired from: N/A
Replaced: Rick Ray, hired at Southeast Missouri State
Howland’s track record is impeccable, including three consecutive Final Fours and four Pac-10/12 regular season titles at UCLA. Howland’s program tailed off after 2008 thanks to a few recruiting classes that didn’t pan out, but he still won a regular season title in his final year. Perhaps just as relevant to Mississippi State fans is Howland’s track record at Pitt, a moribund program that reached back-to-back Sweet 16s under his watch. Howland might not have produced enough for UCLA, but this is a home run hire for Mississippi State.
Avery Johnson, Alabama
Hired from: N/A
Replaced: Anthony Grant, hired as Florida assistant
A handful of former NBA coaches have tried their hand at college coaching in recent years. Few bring as successful a pro track record as Johnson, who went 194-70 in four seasons with the Dallas Mavericks. Johnson has been an NBA coach of the year and reached the NBA Finals. Alabama ultimately failed in wooing Gregg Marshall from Wichita State, but the Crimson Tide still landed a coach who can hold his own against other recent SEC hires Bruce Pearl and Ben Howland.
Rick Barnes, Tennessee
Hired from: Texas
Replaced: Donnie Tyndall, fired
Barnes was out of work for all of two days before Tennessee hired the former Texas coach. His tenure, though, can be a bit divisive. He has missed the NCAA Tournament only once since 1996 and has 604 career wins. Yet he also left TExas fans wanting more. Since the 2003 Final Four, Barnes had three preseason top 10 teams fail to reach the Sweet 16 and at least seven Big 12 losses in each of the last four seasons. At Tennessee, he’ll recruit and he’ll lend a stabilizing hand to a program in desperate need of one.
Bill Carmody, Holy Cross
Hired from: N/A
Replaced: Milan Brown, fired
Carmody ultimately couldn’t get Northwestern over the hump and into the NCAA Tournament. He did make Northwestern more competitive with four consecutive NIT bids, which was an accomplishment itself. before Northwestern, Carmody was wildly successful at Princeton, going 27-2 and earning a No. 5 seed in the NCAA Tournament in 1997-98. There’s little reason to believe he won’t be successful in the Patriot League.
Steve Donahue, Penn
Hired from: N/A
Replaced: Jerome Allen, fired
Donahue lasted only four seasons at Boston College, but he’s returning to the stage were he had success. Donahue rebuilt a dormant Cornell program into a three-time Ivy League champion and a team that reached the Sweet 16 in 2010. Penn, an NCAA regular under Fran Dunphy from 1993-2006, believes it is getting a sure thing.
Will Wade, VCU
Hired from: Chattanooga
Replaced: Shaka Smart, hired at Texas
This was a natural move for VCU as Wade was an assistant for four seasons under Smart before taking the head coaching position for two seasons at Chattanooga. The Mocs improved from 8-10 in Southern Conference the year before he arrived to 12-4 in his first year to 15-3 in his second. He arrives in a pressure-packed situation in following the most successful coach in a run of three consecutive successful coaches. The 32-year-old Wade is the only one of the last four Rams coaches — Anthony Grant and Jeff Capel were the other two — to arrive at VCU with head coaching experience.
Eric Musselman, Nevada
Hired from: LSU (associate head coach)
Replaced: David Carter, fired
Nevada hopes the well-traveled Musselman will give a jolt to program that slipped from one of the best mid-majors to 9-22 last season. Musselman, a former NBA, Continental Basketball Association and international head coach, has been working to rebuild his career after a DUI arrest during the preseason of his final year with the Sacramento Kings. When he was the coach of the Golden State Warriors for two seasons in 2002-04, he was considered an up-and-comer in the coaching ranks. He’s spent the last three seasons as an assistant at Arizona State and LSU.
Chris Mullin, St. John’s
Hired from: Sacramento Kings front office
Replaced: Steve Lavin, fired
Mullin’s place in St. John’s history is secure. He’s one of the best players in school history, the program’s all-time leading scorer and a three-time Big East Player of the Year. He’s a Naismith Basketball Hall of Famer and Olympic gold medalist. Now, St. John’s hopes he’s the guy who can return the program to glory. He’s never been a coach, spending his post-playing career in NBA front offices. Does the Mullin name connect with recruits? Perhaps not, but few will be better able to articulate the potential of the program like Mullin. Hiring assistants from Kentucky (Barry Rohrssen) and Iowa State (Matt Abdelmassih) is a good sign for recruiting.
Bobby Hurley, Arizona State
Hired from: Buffalo
Replaced: Herb Sendek, fired
One could argue the most impressive Hurley brother in the mid-major ranks between Dan at Wagner and Rhode Island and Bobby at Buffalo. Bobby, though, has the NCAA Tournament appearance with Buffalo last season. He’s also spent his entire coaching career in the Northeast, so his assistant hires at Arizona State will be key.
Brian Wardle, Bradley
Hired from: Green Bay
Replaced: Geno Ford, fired
Wardle was never able to get Green Bay to the NCAA Tournament, but his tenure was nonetheless impressive. The Phoenix were one of the nation’s top mid-majors the recent years, winning 24 games in each of the last two seasons for their best two-year total total since Dick Bennett was the coach in the early 90s. The 35-year-old Wardle played and coached under Tom Crean at Marquette and went to high school in the Chicago area. That should serve him well in Peoria. One concern: Wardle was accused in 2013 of player mistreatment but ultimately retained his post at Green Bay.
Dave Paulsen, George Mason
Hired from: Bucknell
Replaced: Paul Hewitt, fired
After a short-lived tenure by a former high-major coach, George Mason returned to the approach it had when it hired Jim Larranaga in 1997 by hiring a consistent coach coach from the lower levels. Paulsen coached seven seasons at Bucknell, winning a Patriot League title in four of the last five seasons. Paulsen also won a Division III national title at Williams College in 2003.
Dave Leitao, DePaul
Hired from: Missouri (assistant coach)
Replaced: Oliver Purnell, fired
DePaul can at least it hired a coach it knows can win at DePaul. That description doesn’t apply to many active coaches. Leitao is the last coach to take DePaul to the NCAA Tournament — back in 2004. Leitao went 63-60 in his last head coaching gig at Virginia from 2005-09. For a program in desperate need of energy, this hire did not check that box.
New Michigan quarterback Jake Rudock didn’t receive a ringing endorsement from one of his former teammates at Iowa.
“I thought he had a little more fight in him,” defensive end Drew Ott said on Wednesday’s Big Ten spring teleconference. “But maybe an opportunity (arose) over there at Michigan.”
Rudock started 25 games in two seasons at Iowa last season, but was slated to back up C.J. Beathard in 2015. As a graduate student, Rudock was permitted to transfer and play at his new destination without sitting out a year.
Listen: Early 2015 Big Ten preview
In a departure from what most program have done in the past, Iowa allowed Rudock to transfer anywhere, including within the Big Ten.
Rudock is expected to compete for the Michigan starting quarterback job with junior Shane Morris, redshirt freshman Wilton Speight and freshman Alex Malzone when in the fall. Michigan formally announced Rudock’s arrival Thursday.
Ott is a defensive player, so his insight on Rudock wouldn’t be quite as revealing as a wide receiver, for example, but he was asked his opinion anyway.
What kind of player is Michigan getting?
“A smart football player,” Ott said. “He’s going to run an offense and know what to do.”
Is he a leader?
“I don’t know. You’d have to ask someone else.”
Rudock completed 61.7 percent of his passes for 2,436 yards with 16 touchdowns and five interceptions.
Iowa will not play Michigan during the regular season in 2015.
Texas coach Charlie Strong and Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin would like to coach against each other. Presumably as the coaches of Texas A&M.
Strong and Sumlin both told ESPN.com’s Chris Low they’d like to see one of the best rivalries in college football resume. The series was among several great rivalries ended due to conference realignment.
"That game is so much a part of this state," Strong told ESPN.com. "Over 100 years, we've played that game. Why stop it now because we're in different conferences? At some point, when it's right for everybody with the different schedules, I would love to play Texas A&M again."
The rivalry, which was played nearly every year between 1915 and 2011, ended when Texas A&M departed the Big 12. The move of the Aggies and Missouri to the SEC and Nebraska to the Big Ten and Colorado to the Pac-12 put the existence of the Big 12 in jeopardy.
The Big 12 stabilized its 10-team membership with the addition of West Virginia and TCU in 2012. The league’s status may be further solidified as the NCAA appears to have softened its stance on the rule prohibiting 10-team leagues holding a conference championship game.
"Now, moving into Year 4 (of SEC membership) and listening to our former students and our alumni base and knowing a lot of Texas alums, it's important that we play again," Sumlin told ESPN.com. "I think it will happen somewhere down the road.”
The question is scheduling. The next time both teams have a vacancy on their schedules is 2019. The relationship between the two schools has been frigid since conference realignment, but both schools have new athletic directors — Steve Patterson at Texas and Eric Hyman at Texas A&M — since 2012.
Thanksgiving hasn’t been the same since the Texas A&M and Missouri started hanging out with the SEC. Or since West Virginia and Pitt started rolling with the Big 12 and ACC, respectively.
Conference realignment ended a handful of traditional rivalries, either because of scheduling conflicts or acrimonious relationships.
In other words, no more Texas-Texas A&M. No more Backyard Brawl. No more Border War.
Rivalry week isn’t what it used to be, and, frankly, we’d wish everyone would just get along. Here’s a look at what conference changes have cost the sport in terms of history and tradition.
Last played: 2011
Played on Thanksgiving in most years, this heated rivalry ended when the Aggies left the Big 12 for the SEC. The 2012 season maked the first time since 1915 that A&M and Texas haven’t been in the same league — both were charter members of the Southwest Conference and then the Big 12. Few rivalries run as deep in the traditions of each school. Both fight songs mention the other (“Goodbye to Texas University. So long to the Orange and White” in the Aggie War Hymn, “And it’s goodbye to Texas A&M” in Texas Fight). Bevo has been kidnapped through the course of the rivalry, so has Reveille. Long in the shadow of the Longhorns, Texas A&M broke with Texas to join the SEC this season. For now, the best chance of a game between the two may be the Cotton Bowl in Dallas.
Last played: 2011
Separated by 80 miles, the Backyard Brawl was turned up a notch when Pittsburgh stopped playing its other top rival, Penn State. With both teams in the Big East and the game taking place in the final week of November in all but one year since 1997, the rivalry took a new look. The most significant game in the rivalry, though, was in 2007 when a then-No. 2 West Virginia team lost its bid to the national championship thanks to a monumental 13-9 upset to a 4-7 Pittsburgh team.
Last played: 2011
Just because the Border War (now the Border Showdown) doesn’t rise to the same level of national attention as Michigan-Ohio State or the Iron Bowl, that doesn’t make it any less nasty across all sports. Before Missouri left for the SEC, Kansas-Missouri was the oldest rivalry West of the Mississippi. The series has included brawls, conniving and upsets over the years. But now it’s just a Cold War. While he won’t be the final say, Kansas basketball coach Bill Self has indicated he wouldn’t mind of the Jayhawks never played Missouri again.
Last played: 2010
Consider this: there’s a whole generation out there that never watched Nebraska and Oklahoma face off on Thanksgiving. As the Big Eight’s preeminent powers during the 1960s, 70s and 80s, one program in the rivalry was a consistent foil for the other. At one point, the winner of this game won the Big Eight in 31 of 36 seasons, including the 1971 Game of the Century between the No. 1 Cornhuskers and No. 2 Sooners. The formation of the Big 12 ended this game as an annual event, and Nebraska’s departure for the Big Ten ended regular meetings altogether. A sliver of good news, though: The series has been scheduled for a non-conference home-and-home in 2021-22.
Last played: 2014
The Michigan-Notre Dame series has been marked by lulls from 1944-77 and 1910-41, but the two teams have met nearly every year since 1978. The series was an apparent casualty from Notre Dame’s agreement to face four or five ACC schools every season. It remains to be seen how the arrangement will affect Notre Dame’s other traditional games against Michigan State and Purdue. Notre Dame has indicated its top rivalries to preserve would be those with USC, Navy and Stanford.
Last played: 2000
This used to be the biggest rivalry game for both schools, but it was at its best in the late 1970s and 80s when Pitt was a national title contender under Jackie Sherrill and Johnny Majors. Penn State coach Joe Paterno was not the biggest fan of Sherrill, and Pittsburgh was not the biggest fan of the Eastern football league Paterno hoped to establish. Pitt joined the Big East instead. When Penn State joined the Big Ten, it all but ended the series.
Last played: 2008
Once the longest running series in the Sunshine State ended when the SEC moved to an eight-game schedule. The Gators kept their annual series with Florida State, set in motion by the state legislature (Miami also continued to play FSU every year well before both were in the ACC). Florida and Miami played every year from 1938-87, ending just as both programs achieved national prominence. The two teams met intermittently since, but they’ve played only five times since the series ended.
Last played: 2014
The two programs have played only three times in the regular season since Arkansas left the Southwest Conference in 1992. The most recent meeting was a 31-7 Arkansas win in the Texas Bowl last season. The rivalry was at its best when the top two coaches for each school — Darrell Royal at Texas and Frank Broyles at Arkansas — overlapped from 1958-78. In 1969, No. 1 Texas defeated No. 2 Arkansas 15-14 on Dec. 2 of that season. In that famous game, President Richard Nixon attended and declared the Longhorns national champions.
Last played: 2013
Perhaps the biggest basketball casualty due to realignment is the end of Georgetown-Syracuse with the Orange joining the ACC in 2013-14. By the time Syracuse and Georgetown helped launch Big East basketball in 1979-80, Jim Boeheim had already begun to build his program. The advent of the league also coincided with the rise of John Thompson with the Hoyas. One of the first meeting of the two as Big East members — a Georgetown victory at Syracuse’s Manley Field House to end the Orange’s 57-game home winning streak — set the tone for the rest of the rivalry.
Last played: 2014
Back before Florida State, Miami and Virginia Tech joined, ACC basketball was iconic. Maryland was on a virtual island, isolated from the heart of ACC country on Tobacco Road. The Terrapins still tabbed Duke as their top rivalry, though the Blue Devils spent more time agonizing over what was going on in Chapel Hill instead. When both programs were at the top of their games, however, when Gary Williams faced off against Mike Krzyzewski, this series was tough to beat.
College baseball can be a strange sport. Aluminum bats, suspect pitching and liberal scheduling of double headers all lead to some strange scores and comebacks.
This one, though, stands apart: Minnesota State 41, Bemidji State 20.
Just another day in Division II baseball between two in-state foes in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference. This game remarkably didn’t set a record. Division Robert Morris (Ill.) defeated St. Francis (Ill.) 71-1 in a game in 1996 for the highest scoring NCAA baseball game.
This game was the second of a double header and the second of four games between the two schools on Saturday and Sunday. Minnesota State won the series 10-9, 41-20, 14-4 and 23-1. The double headers, it seems, are a norm for Minnesota State, which has had nine of them since March 20.
The box score is a work of art. Here are some of the best highlights:
• The listed attendance was 125. That’s about two runs per fan.
• Minnesota State needed only 35 hits for those 41 runs thanks to six errors, eight walks and three hit batsmen.
• The first plate appearance in the top of the first inning? A hit by pitch.
• The first plate appearance in the top of the second? A throwing error by the third baseman.
• Minnesota State led 22-18 to start the seventh inning and 27-20 to start the eighth before a 14-run final inning. The game ended due to the mercy rule.
• Pitchers combined for five bases loaded walks, two by the team that won.
• Bemidji State’s WHIP was 5.375.
• Bemidji State pitcher Derek Masberg faced 10 batters in the eighth without recording an out.
• Bemidji State Collin Eckman came into the game as a pinch hitter in the second and still finished 4-of-4 with seven RBI and five runs.
• Minnesota State batted around in the second and third and twice in the eighth
• Bemidji State batted around in the second and sixth. Bemidji State went 1-2-3 in the bottom of the eighth to end the game.
Here are the Minnesota State’s live tweets from the game:
Celebrating before the goal line is something we’ve seen all too often in college football.
Apparently, this happens in track, too. Oregon senior Tanguy Pepiot was close to wrapping up the 3,000-meter steeplechase at the Pepsi Invitational on Saturday when he motioned for the home crowd in Eugene to cheer.
Washington junior Meron Simon made up ground on his showboating rival to win the race by a tenth of a second. Oregon, though, still won the meet.
Remember, kids, don’t showboat until after you’ve crossed the finish line or goal line or what have you.
ESPN’s Saturday College Football Final will have a new look during the 2015 season.
Analyst Lou Holtz and ESPN have parted ways by a “mutual agreement,” SI.com’s Richard Deitsch reported Sunday night. Holtz, the 78-year-old former Notre Dame coach, appeared on much of ESPN’s college football programming, including the Saturday College Football Final and the network’s Thursday night game.
In May, Holtz told 247Sports.com that he intended to retire after the 2014 season.
Holtz’s departure is the second from the Saturday night recap show. Host Rece Davis will host College GameDay, replacing Chris Fowler. Mark May is the only remaining member of the three-man team on College Football Final.
Presumably the Dr. Lou segment, the halftime pep talk and Final Courtroom courtroom arguments are gone from ESPN for good.
As a example of what we'll all miss, here’s Holtz going crazy with a cowbell for some reason:
Kentucky’s NBA Draft prospects left little room for drama. Seven Wildcats announced — simultaneously — that they’d head for the NBA Draft on Thursday, less than a week after their what would be their final game for Kentucky.
At this rate, it’s easier to note who will be back at Kentucky for 2015-16. Let's start with point guard Tyler Ulis, junior forward Marcus Lee and injured senior Alex Poythress.
Those three, plus an incomplete recruiting class that already ranks No. 1 in the country, is enough for a competitive team next season. Athlon Sports ranked the Wildcats No. 2 in its early top 25 for 2015-16.
The draft announcements were just one domino as John Calipari assembles his roster for 2015-16. Kentucky has three commitments for the 2015 and should add a few more blue chip prospects as recruiting continues into the summer.
So how might this shake out for Kentucky next season. First, let’s take a look at the roster how it stands:
PG Tyler Ulis, 5-9/155, Soph.
SG Isaiah Briscoe, 6-3/200, Fr.
SF Alex Poythress, 6-8/238, Sr.
PF Marcus Lee, 6-9/220, Jr.
C Skal Labissiere 6-10/200, Fr.
G Charles Matthews, 6-6/172, Fr.
G Dominique Hawkins, 6-0/195, Jr.
F Derek Willis, 6-9/220, Jr.
That’s already a solid group that may be the favorite in the SEC. The 5-9 Ulis is not the typical Calipari point guard, both in stature and experience. He’s also mighty efficient. Despite coming off the bench, Ulis ranked 71st nationally in offensive rating on KenPom.com, better than anyone else on Kentucky besides Karl-Anthony Towns. Ulis led Kentucky in assist rate and assist-to-turnover ratio.
Poythress played only eight games last season due to a torn ACL. He’s standout defender on the wing who averaged 11.2 points per game as a freshman in 2012-13. Lee hasn’t been able to get regular minutes on Kentucky’s last two teams. He’s a springy forward whose claim to fame is seven offensive rebounds against Michigan in last year’s Elite Eight while Willie Cauley-Stein was injured.
Center Skal Labissiere of Memphis is the highlight of the recruiting class, and he’ll fit right into Calipari’s tradition of highly drafted big men. He’ll open the season in the discussion for the No. 1 overall draft pick, but looming NCAA issues could cost him a few games.
Kentucky, of course, is in on a few major recruits. Here’s quick run down:
• Combo guard Malik Newman, a McDonald’s All-American, could play in the off guard role similar to Devin Booker, but he could produce at greater volume without a platoon system at Kentucky next season. He’s also considering Mississippi State, LSU and Kansas. Newman’s father, Horatio Webster, played basketball at Mississippi State.
• Forward Jaylen Brown has as many as eight schools on his final list, which he announced Tuesday. He’s the No. 2 prospect in the class behind LSU’s Ben Simmons, according to 247Sports.com.
• Power forward Thon Maker is a seven-footer from Toronto looking to reclassify to the 2015 class. His recruitment has been a bit bizarre.
• Center Stephen Zimmerman is another McDonald’s All-American big man who is considering Kentucky, UCLA, Arizona, Kansas and UNLV (Zimmerman goes to Las Vegas Bishop Gorman).
Not all national champions are created equal, especially in college basketball.
With 64 teams — and now 68 — competing for a national title, the odds for a random result in the postseason is almost certain.
In some ways, that makes sustained greatness through the course of the season even more impressive. Only one team since the field expanded has gone wire-to-wire as a No. 1 team in the country, far fewer than the number of great teams that didn’t win a title.
Thanks to the three weeks of the NCAA Tournament, a handful of teams that won a national title might not end up on a list of the top 40 or 50 teams of the era. Instead, they got hot that the right time, caught the right matchups or got lucky that upsets in the bracket helped clear the way for a title.
In ranking the top national champions of the 64-team era, starting in 1985, we attempted to look at the entire picture — chiefly, how the team performed from beginning to end during the season, who each team had to beat in the Tournament and the overall talent on the roster.
Check back after Monday’s title game to find where this year’s winner ranks — and if that team is able to claim the No. 1 spot.
1. 1992 Duke
Record: 34-2, 14-2 ACC
Championship game: Defeated Michigan 71-51
Coach: Mike Krzyzewski
Duke won the national title a year earlier, vanquishing undefeated UNLV in the Final Four. That was only the beginning. The Blue Devils went wire-to-wire as the No. 1 team in the country, ending the season with a rout of the Fab Five in the championship game. Before that, national player of the year Christian Laettner hit the the greatest shot in NCAA history for the Blue Devils to defeat Kentucky in overtime in the Elite Eight. In the next game, Mike Krzyzewski had to out-duel mentor Bob Knight in an 81-78 win over Indiana in the Final Four.
2. 1996 Kentucky
Record: 34-2, 16-0 SEC
Championship game: Defeated Syracuse 76-67
Coach: Rick Pitino
“The Untouchables” outscored opponents by 22 points, and their only regular season losses came to teams that reached the Final Four. Kentucky atoned for one of those losses by defeating UMass, national player of the year Marcus Camby and coach John Calipari in the national semifinal. Led by Tony Delk, Ron Mercer and Antoine Walker, Kentucky finished off Syracuse in the title game for the Wildcats’ first national title since 1978.
3. 2001 Duke
Record: 35-4, 13-3 ACC
Championship game: Defeated Arizona 82-72
Coach: Mike Krzyzewski
The Blue Devils featured two national players of the year in Shane Battier and Jay Williams, who won the award a year earlier. Duke spent the entire season in the top five but needed the biggest comeback in Final Four history to that point to advance to the title game. Duke trailed Maryland by 22 in the first half before rallying for a 95-84 win to face Glibert Arenas and Richard Jefferson for Arizona in the title game.
4. 2012 Kentucky
Record: 38-2, 16-0 SEC
Championship game: Defeated Kansas 67-59
Coach: John Calipari
Perhaps the Kentucky team with John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins and Eric Bledsoe a year earlier was more talented, but this squad was pretty darn close. Anthony Davis won pretty much every award in the sport before being the No. 1 overall draft pick. Despite the two losses, Kentucky defeated every team it faced — the Wildcats lost in the SEC tournament to Vanderbilt, a team it had defeated twice during the regular season, and then atoned for its one-point loss to Indiana in December with a 102-90 win over the Hoosiers in the Sweet 16. Teammates Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist were the top two picks in the following NBA draft.
5. 2009 North Carolina
Record: 34-4, 13-3 ACC
Championship game: Defeated Michigan State 89-72
Coach: Roy Williams
Led by national player of the year Tyler Hansbrough, Ty Lawson and Wayne Ellington, North Carolina was a dominant team for most of the season but especially in the postseason. The Heels’ 72-60 win over Blake Griffin and Oklahoma was their closest game in the NCAA Tournament.
6. 1990 UNLV
Record: 35-5, 16-2 Big West
Championship game: Defeated Duke 103-73
Coach: Jerry Tarkanian
The 1991 team that went to the Final Four with a 34-0 record was the better UNLV team of the two during this stretch, but the 1990 squad won the national title behind the play of Larry Johnson, Stacey Augmon and Greg Anthony. The Rebels stunned Duke 103-73, setting the stage for the Blue Devils’ win over UNLV the following year in the Final Four.
7. 2005 North Carolina
Record: 33-4, 14-2 ACC
Championship game: Defeated Illinois 75-70
Coach: Roy Williams
North Carolina’s first championship team since 1993 and Roy Williams’ first title-winning team spent most of the season in the shadow of 37-2 Illinois. The Tar Heels settled that once and for all with a 75-70 win over the Illini in the national title game. In the following NBA draft, four Tar Heels (Marvin Williams, Raymond Felton, Sean May and Rashad McCants) were lottery picks.
8. 2008 Kansas
Record: 37-3, 13-3 Big 12
Championship game: Defeated Memphis 75-68 (OT)
Coach: Bill Self
Kansas’ first championship team in 20 years wasn’t quite a sure thing, even though the Jayhawks spent all but one week of the season ranked in the top five. To reach a Final Four that included all No. 1 seeds, Kansas had to survive Stephen Curry-led Davidson with a 59-57 win in the Elite Eight and then needed a Mario Chalmers miracle shot and missed free throws from Memphis to clinch the title.
9. 1999 UConn
Record: 34-2, 16-2 Big East
Championship game: Defeated Duke 77-74
Coach: Jim Calhoun
After knocking on the door several times, UConn won the national title in its first trip to the Final Four. Led by Rip Hamilton and Khalid El-Amin, the Huskies spent the entire season ranked in the top four before defeating Elton Brand, Shane Battier and Duke in the national title game.
10. 2004 UConn
Record: 33-6, 12-4 Big East
Championship game: Defeated Georgia Tech 82-73
Coach: Jim Calhoun
Calhoun’s second national title team was loaded with NBA Draft picks. Emeka Okafor and Ben Gordon were selected second and third overall, respectively, in the 2004 draft, and Charlie Villanueva followed as a first-round pick in the 2005 draft. Josh Boone and Marcus Williams, late first-rounders in 2006, were both freshmen on this team.
11. 1987 Indiana
Record: 30-4, 15-3 Big Ten
Championship game: Defeated Syracuse 74-73
Coach: Bob Knight
The first season with the 3-point shot was indeed a game-changer as this Final Four was marked more by run Rick Pitino’s Providence team made to the national semifinal. Knight’s team, led by Steve Alford, showed plenty of ability to adjust, defeating UNLV 97-93 in the semifinals and Syracuse 74-73 in the title game.
12. 2015 Duke
Record: 35-4, 15-3
Championship game: Defeated Wisconsin 68-63
Coach: Mike Krzyzewski
This Duke team will be remembered for what it accomplished for Krzyzewski — his fifth national title and his 1,000th career win, among other records broken this season. It was also one of his most unique teams, starting three freshmen and playing zone from time to time. The Blue Devils spent all season in the top five and lost twice after Jan. 13, both to the same Notre Dame team that took Kentucky to the wire in the Elite Eight. All-American Jahlil Okafor and Justise Winslow could be top-five picks, and Tyus Jones could be a first-rounder.
13. 1991 Duke
Record: 32-7, 11-3 ACC
Championship game: Defeated Kansas 72-65
Coach: Mike Krzyzewski
The Blue Devils made up for a 30-point loss to UNLV in the title game a year earlier by spoiling UNLV’s undefeated season in the Final Four. Though this was a team amid a run of five Final Fours and on the front end of back-to-back titles, this Duke team spent most of 1990-91 chasing UNLV, Ohio State, Arkansas and Indiana in the rankings.
14. 2007 Florida
Record: 35-5, 13-3 SEC
Championship game: Defeated Ohio State 84-75
Coach: Billy Donovan
The second of Florida’s back-to-back champions had the tougher mountain to climb, not just because the Gators were the preseason No. 1. This Florida team needed to defeat Aaron Brooks-led Oregon in the Elite Eight, UCLA in the Final Four and then a Greg Oden/Mike Conley Ohio State team in the championship game.
15. 1994 Arkansas
Record: 31-3, 14-2 SEC
Championship game: Defeated Duke 76-72
Coach: Nolan Richardson
Arkansas and the 40 Minutes of Hell won the first title for the SEC since 1978, going through Michigan (with four of the Fab Five still remaining), Arizona and Duke (led by Grant Hill).
16. 1993 North Carolina
Record: 34-3, 14-2 ACC
Championship game: Defeated Michigan 77-71
Coach: Dean Smith
Smith’s final national championship run had to go through four coaches who would finish their careers with national titles or Hall of Fame inclusion or both: Nolan Richardson, Bob Huggins, Roy Williams and Steve Fisher. The title game would end on Chris Webber’s infamous timeout blunder.
17. 2002 Maryland
Record: 32-4, 15-1 ACC
Championship game: Defeated Indiana 64-52
Coach: Gary Williams
This might not be the most memorable national champion for a handful of reasons. Juan Dixon lost out on national player of the year to Duke’s Jay Williams, and the team had few other prominent players (Steve Blake ended up as this team’s best pro). The Terrapins lost only one ACC game (at Duke) during the regular season before defeating Kentucky, UConn, Kansas and Indiana in the Tournament.
18. 1995 UCLA
Record: 31-2, 16-2 Pac-12
Championship game: Defeated Arkansas 89-78
Coach: Jim Harrick
UCLA’s championship team and the only Bruins title team not coached by John Wooden was saved in the second round by a layup from Tyus Edney for a come-from-behind win over Missouri.
19. 2013 Louisville
Record: 35-5, 14-4 Big East
Championship game: Defeated Michigan 82-76
Coach: Rick Pitino
The 2013 Cardinals were the rare national champion to endure a three-game losing streak at some point during its championship season (to Syracuse, Villanova and Georgetown in January). The Cards also faced only one top-three seed (No. 2 Duke in the Elite Eight) in its Tourney run.
20. 1998 Kentucky
Record: 35-4, 14-2 SEC
Championship game: Defeated Utah 78-69
Coach: Tubby Smith
For Kentucky’s second title in three seasons, the Wildcats needed to overcome double-digit deficits in each of their final three games.
21. 2010 Duke
Record: 35-5, 13-3 ACC
Championship game: Defeated Butler 61-59
Coach: Mike Krzyzewski
Duke has had better championships teams and better teams that didn’t win a title. That said, Jon Scheyer, Nolan Smith and Kyle Singler gave us a classic title game that was also one of the sport’s great what-if moments when Gordon Hayward’s final shot attempt fell short.
22. 1989 Michigan
Record: 30-7, 12-6 Big Ten
Championship game: Defeated Seton Hall 80-79
Coach: Steve Fisher
One of the truly bizarre national championship runs in the history of the sport. Michigan was a preseason top-three team and then went through a 5-5 stretch in the conference season. All of that was before athletic director Bo Schembechler replaced coach Bill Frieder, who had accepted the job at Arizona State, with Steve Fisher for the NCAA Tournament.
23. 2003 Syracuse
Record: 30-5, 13-3 Big East
Championship game: Defeated Kansas 81-78
Coach: Jim Boeheim
One may ask why a Syracuse team led by Carmelo Anthony, Hakim Warrick and Gerry McNamara is this low. Before the Tournament, this was was not one of Boeheim’s best teams. Those three great players lost to Rutgers in January and spent the first two months of the season unranked.
24. 1997 Arizona
Record: 25-9, 11-7 Pac-10
Championship game: Defeated Kentucky 84-79 (OT)
Coach: Lute Olson
Even with Mike Bibby and Michael Dickerson, Arizona didn’t have many guarantees entering the 1997 Tournament. They lost seven conference games during the regular season but defeated three No. 1 seeds and a handful of future pros on the way to the title — Kansas (with Paul Piece and Raef LaFrentz), North Carolina (with Vince Carter and Antawn Jamison) and Kentucky (with Scott Padgett, Ron Mercer and Nazr Mohammed)
25. 2000 Michigan State
Record: 32-7, 13-3 Big Ten
Championship game: Defeated Florida 89-76
Coach: Tom Izzo
This was the high point of Izzo’s magic touch in March. The Spartans won the Big Ten and earned a No. 1 seed, but they were hardly a dominant team all season. They also had a draw that included a No. 8 seed and a No. 5 in the Final Four.
26. 2006 Florida
Record: 33-6, 10-6 SEC
Championship game: Defeated UCLA 73-57
Coach: Billy Donovan
Between his first Final Four and his first national title, Donovan was snakebit for several years in the first weekend of the Tournament. This run from a team that lost six games in the SEC was a major surprise.
27. 1988 Kansas
Record: 27-11, 9-5 Big 8
Championship game: Defeated Oklahoma 83-79
Coach: Larry Brown
How can a team coached by a Hall of Famer and led by a national player of the year, Danny Manning, be this low? Danny and the Miracles were 18-11 and unranked entering the NCAA Tournament.
28. 1986 Louisville
Record: 32-7, 10-2 Metro
Championship game: Defeated Duke 72-69
Coach: Denny Crum
A great nickname (“Never Nervous” Pervis Ellison) and an upset of Duke in the title game made this Tournament run memorable. Otherwise, Louisville spent only three weeks of the season ranked in the top 10.
29. 2011 UConn
Record: 32-9, 9-9 Big East
Championship game: Defeated Butler 53-41
Coach: Jim Calhoun
The Big East was loaded in 2010-11, so that .500 league record has to be taken in context. Still, UConn went 4-7 in its last 11 games before the Big East Tournament. Kemba Walker caught fire in the postseason before a dud of a national title game against Butler.
30. 2014 UConn
Record: 32-8, 12-6 American
Championship game: Defeated Kentucky 60-54
Coach: Kevin Ollie
A pedestrian regular season became special when Shabazz Napier led UConn to wins over No. 2 Villanova, No. 3 Iowa State, No. 4 Michigan State, No. 1 Florida and No. 8 Kentucky. The latter was the last time the Wildcats lost a game.
31. 1985 Villanova
Record: 25-10, 9-7 Big East
Championship game: Defeated Georgetown 66-64
Coach: Rollie Massimino
A Big East team winning a title wasn’t a surprise in a year when Georgetown and St. John’s spent time as the No. 1 team in the rankings. Villanova, led by top-10 draft pick Ed Pinckney, remains the lowest-seeded team to win the national championship (eighth).
A champion has been crowned in college basketball, and while the shining moment will continue in Durham, the rest of the sport is starting to look to 2015-16.
Some programs are under more pressure than others in the coming days and weeks. Underclassmen will start to consider the NBA Draft, recruits will commit, and transfers will come and go.
We don’t have the most clear picture yet of what the start of 2015-16 will look like, but we’re nevertheless curious.
Here’s our first look at the top 25 for 2015-16, a list that’s certain to change based on the draft, recruiting or more time for thought on our part about the year ahead.
*indicates underclassmen who haven’t declared for the draft, but are still projected to be high first-round draft picks.
1. North Carolina (26-12, 11-7 ACC)
Returnees: G Marcus Paige, F Brice Johnson, F Kennedy Meeks, F Justin Jackson, J.P. Tokoto, F Isaiah Hicks, G Nate Britt, G Joel Berry
Outlook: The Tar Heels’ roster returns virtually intact with each of the top 10 scorers returning to Chapel Hill. After years of roster turnover and un-North Carolina-like results in the ACC, the fortunes should be ready to turn. Paige will be a National Player of the Year candidate and the cast around him continues to improve.
2. Kentucky (38-1, 18-0 SEC)
Losses: F Karl-Anthony Towns*, C Willie Cauley-Stein*, G Aaron Harrison*, G Andrew Harrison*, F Trey Lyles*, G Devin Booker*
Returnees: G Tyler Ulis, F Alex Poythress, C Dakari Johnson, F Marcus Lee
New arrivals: C Skal Labissiere, G Isaiah Briscoe, G Charles Matthews
Outlook: Expectations may be tempered after the last two seasons, especially if everyone who could leave for the NBA Draft does. Ulis is a playmaker, and at 5-foot-9, he’s not going pro. As usual, Kentucky adds the No. 1 recruiting class, though this one includes “merely” two top-20 recruits in Labissiere and Briscoe so far. Kentucky is still in on as many as five top-10 recruits who are likely waiting to see who goes to the draft for the Wildcats or other teams.
3. Virginia (30-4, 16-2 ACC)
Losses: F Darion Atkins
Returnees: G Malcolm Brogdon, G Justin Anderson, F Anthony Gill, C Mike Tobey, G London Perrantes
Outlook: The Cavaliers will be loaded with seniors after back-to-back ACC regular season titles. The biggest question will be if Anderson takes a look at the NBA Draft. Virginia lost three of its last five (albeit to teams that made the Sweet 16 or better in Louisville, North Carolina and Michigan State), but the Cavs should continue to be contenders.
4. Duke (35-4, 15-3 ACC)
Losses: G Quinn Cook, C Jahlil Okafor*, F Justise Winslow*
Returnees: G Tyus Jones, F Amile Jefferson, G Matt Jones, G Grayson Allen
New arrivals: F Chase Jeter, G Luke Kennard, F Sean Obi
Outlook: The biggest decision will be that of point guard Tyus Jones, who may be a late first-rounder. If he returns, Duke will be among the national elite. As usual, Duke has talent waiting in the wings and arriving to the program. Obi is a Rice transfer who will be a key big man after averaging 11.4 points and 9.3 rebounds last season.
5. Maryland (28-7, 14-4 Big Ten)
Losses: G Dez Wells, G Richaud Pack, F Evan Smotrycz
Returnees: G Melo Trimble, F Jake Layman, G Jared Nickens, G Dion Wiley
New arrivals: C Diamond Stone, F Robert Carter jr.
Outlook: Maryland was one of the biggest surprises in 2014-15, finishing second in the Big Ten. Next season will bring legitimate expectations. That’s because standout freshmen Melo Trimble and Jake Layman will be sophomores and because landing the top-10 prospect Stone was a major coup for Mark Turgeon. Forward Robert Carter Jr. also will be eligible after averaging 11.4 points per game and 8.4 rebounds at Georgia Tech in 2013-14.
6. Michigan State (27-12, 12-6 Big Ten)
Losses: G Travis Trice, F Branden Dawson
Returnees: G Denzel Valentine, G Bryn Forbes, F Matt Costello, F Gavin Schilling, F Marvin Clark Jr., G Lourawls “Tum Tum” Nairn Jr.
New arrivals: G Eron Harris
Outlook: Michigan State will miss Trice’s scoring punch and Dawson’s rebounding. Harris, who averaged 17.2 points per game for West Virginia in 2013-14, will help the former. Tum Tum Nairn will hold down the point guard spot and take over leadership of the team as just a sophomore.
7. Kansas (27-9, 13-5 Big 12)
Losses: G Kelly Oubre
Returnees: F Perry Ellis, G Frank Mason, F Cliff Alexander, G Wayne Selden, G Brannen Greene, F Jamari Traylor, F Landen Lucas, G Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk
New arrivals: F Carlton Bragg
Outlook: Kansas’ prospects depend quite a bit on potential NBA Draft departures, most notably the decision of Ellis. Even if the superstars are gone, are you going to be against Bill Self in the Big 12? Kansas is still on a couple of top 10 recruits for next year’s class.
8. Iowa State (25-9, 12-6 Big 12)
Losses: G Bryce Dejean-Jones, F Dustin Hogue
Returnees: F Georges Niang, G Monte Morris, F Jameel McKay, F Abdel Nader
New arrivals: G Hallice Cooke, G Deonte Burton
Outlook: The Cyclones are in good hands with Niang and Morris still on board. As usual, transfers — Cooke from Oregon State, and Burton, a point guard from Marquette — will round things out.
9. Gonzaga (35-3, 17-1 West Coast)
Losses: G Kevin Pangos, G Byron Wesley, G Gary Bell Jr.
Returnees: F Kyle Wiltjer, C Przemek Karnowski, F Domantas Sabonis, G Kyle Dranginis, G Eric McClellan
Outlook: Replacing Pangos at point guard will be no small issue. Otherwise, this is a team built for another run. The replacements include a handful of players who saw few if any minutes last season — McClellan (who was dismissed from Vanderbilt before landing at Gonzaga), Josh Perkins (who missed all but five games with a broken jaw) or redshirt Bryan Alberts.
10. Notre Dame (32-6, 14-4 ACC)
Losses: G Jerian Grant, G Pat Connaughton
Returnees: F Zach Auguste, G Demetrius Jackson, G Steve Vasturia, F Bonzie Colson
Outlook: The departures of Grant and Connaughton probably mean Notre Dame won’t come within a hair of the Final Four again, but there are plenty of pieces for Notre Dame to make noise in the ACC. Colson is a future star.
11. NC State (22-14, 10-8 ACC)
Losses: G Ralston Turner
Returnees: G Trevor Lacey, G Cat Barber, F Kyle Washington, F Abdul-Malik Abu, F Caleb Martin, F Beejay Anya
Outlook: Perhaps another year of Lacey and Barber and the rest of them playing together will help NC State hit its ceiling more often. That will be the expectation.
12. Wisconsin (36-4, 16-2 Big Ten)
Losses: F Frank Kaminsky, F Sam Dekker*, G Traevon Jackson, G Josh Gasser, F Duje Dukan
Returnees: F Nigel Hayes, G Bronson Koenig, G Zak Showalter
New arrivals: G Brevin Pritzl
Outlook: Hayes’ decision regarding the NBA Draft will be closely watched. His return means Wisconsin will remain in the Big Ten race. The Badgers lose a ton of experience from this year’s Final Four team, but rest assured Bo Ryan has something up his sleeve.
13. Indiana (20-14, 9-9 Big Ten)
Returnees: G Yogi Ferrell, G James Blackmon Jr., F Troy Williams, G Robert Johnson, G Nick Zeisloft, F Hanner Mosquera-Perea
New arrivals: F Thomas Bryant, F Juwan Morgan
Outlook: Tom Crean could be well-positioned to return to the good graces of Indiana fans next season. Nearly everyone is back, and the frontcourt will get some desperately needed help from the 6-10 Bryant, a McDonald’s All-American who committed to IU last week.
14. Arizona (34-4, 16-2 Pac-12)
Losses: F Stanley Johnson*, G T.J. McConnell, F Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, F Brandon Ashley
Returnees: C Kaleb Tarczewski, G Gabe York
New arrivals: F Ryan Anderson, G Allonzo Trier, F Ray Smith, G Justin Simon, C Chance Comanche
Outlook: McConnell and Hollis-Jefferson are big losses as would be Johnson when he makes it official. Sean Miller continues to reload with 247Sports’ No. 2 recruiting class featuring four top-50 prospects and Anderson from Boston College (14.3 ppg, 7.3 rpg in 2013-14).
15. Villanova (33-3, 16-2 Big East)
Losses: G Darrun Hilliard, F JayVaughn Pinkston, G Dylan Ennis
Returnees: G Josh Hart, G Ryan Arcidiacono, F Daniel Ochefu
New arrivals: G Jalen Brunson
Outlook: Hilliard was the closest thing Villanova had to a star player last season, but this was a balanced team with six guys averaging nine or more points per game. Losing Ennis, a graduate transfer, hurts. Nova adds the five-star point guard Brunson to a team that will already have a senior point guard in Arcidiacono.
16. Oklahoma (24-11, 12-6 Big 12)
Losses: F TaShawn Thomas
Returnees: G Buddy Hield, G Isaiah Cousins, F Ryan Spangler, G Jordan Woodward
Outlook: The Sooners’ prospects hinge on whether or not Hield returns. If he’s back, Oklahoma is a senior-laden squad capable of challenging for a Big 12 title. If not, Oklahoma may be a fringe NCAA team.
17. Wichita State (30-5, 17-1 Missouri Valley)
Losses: F Darius Carter, G Tekele Cotton
Returnees: G Fred VanVleet, G Ron Baker, F Shaquille Morris, G Evan Wessel
Outlook: Wichita State already survived a tense moment when Alabama courted Gregg Marshall. Now, the Shockers will wait out Baker’s decision on the NBA Draft. If he returns, the Shockers can’t be dismissed as long as VanVleet and Baker are in the backcourt.
18. Utah (26-9, 13-5 Pac-12)
Losses: G Delon Wright
Returnees: G Brandon Taylor, G Jordan Loverage, F Jakob Poeltl, G Dakari Tucker, F Brekkott Chapman
Outlook: Wright could have the biggest impact of any single departure in the country. He’s a lockdown defender and an efficient point guard, two things not easily replaced. The return of big man Poeltl is critical for Utah’s hopes to contend in the Pac-12.
19. SMU (27-7, 15-3 American)
Losses: C Yanick Moreira
Returnees: G Nic Moore, F Markus Kennedy, F Ben Moore
New arrivals: G Shake Milton
Outlook: SMU has been knocking on the door of postseason relevance for two seasons. First came a snub to the 2014 NCAA Tournament and then the questionable goaltending call in a loss to UCLA in the round of 64. Moreira is a substantial loss, but SMU returns enough to contend for another AAC title.
20. LSU (27-11, 11-7 SEC)
Losses: F Jarell Martin, F Jordan Mickey
Returnees: G Keith Hornsby, G Tim Quarterman, G Josh Gray, G Jalyn Patterson
New arrivals: F Ben Simmons, G Antonio Blakeney
Outlook: LSU underachieved in the Martin/Mickey era, reaching one NCAA Tournament and losing in a second-half collapse to NC State. The Tigers will be expected to contend in the SEC next season after adding Simmons, the top prospect in the 247Sports rankings. Blakeney is also a five-star prospect. LSU’s supporting cast of Hornsby, Quarterman and Patterson is solid.
21. Vanderbilt (21-14, 9-9 SEC)
Losses: F James Siakam
Returnees: C Damian Jones, G Riley LaChance, G Wade Baldwin IV, F Luke Kornet, G Matthew Fisher-Davis, F Jeff Roberson, F Shelton Mitchell
New arrivals: G Nolan Cressler
Outlook: The Commodores were an awfully young team last season and improved as the year went along. Jones’ decision to stay in school was huge. The one major departure is made up for by the arrival of Cressler, who averaged 16.8 points per game as a sophomore at Cornell.
22. Butler (23-11, 12-6 Big East)
Losses: G Alex Barlow, F Kameron Woods
Returnees: G Kellen Dunham, F Roosevelt Jones, F Andrew Charbascz
New arrivals: G Tyler Lewis
Outlook: Dunham and Jones will be seniors, and 5-11 NC State transfer Lewis should take over the point guard spot. More important, Butler locked up coach Chris Holtmann with a contract extension. The gap between Butler and Villanova in the Big East is narrowing.
23. Louisville (27-9, 13-6 ACC)
Losses: G Terry Rozier, F Montrezl Harrell, Wayne Blackshear
Returnees: G Quentin Snider, F Chinanu Onuaku, F Mangok Mathiang, G Anton Gill
New arrivals: F Raymond Spalding, G Donovan Mitchell, F Deng Adel
Outlook: Rick Pitino will have his youngest team in quite some time, losing each of his top three scorers (four, if you count Chris Jones) and every player who averaged at least 20 minutes per game. The three-man freshman class is ranked fourth on 247Sports.com
24. Texas (20-14, 8-10 Big 12)
Losses: F Jonathan Holmes, F Myles Turner
Returnees: G Isaiah Turner, G Javan Felix, C Cameron Ridley, G Demarcus Holland
New arrivals: G Eric Davis, G Kerwin Roach, C Shaquille Cleare
Outlook: How much of a difference can first-year coach Shaka Smart make? Many of the same pieces of a team that was picked to challenge for the Big 12 title last season will return. Adding two four-star freshmen in Davis and Roach and Maryland transfer Cleare means the pieces are in place for Texas to contend for an NCAA spot or more.
25. Michigan (16-16, 8-10 Big Ten)
Returnees: G Caris LeVert, G Zak Irwin, G Derrick Walton, G Spike Albrecht, G Aubrey Dawkins
Outlook: Michigan was a preseason top 25 team before everything went wrong, chiefly an injury to star Caris LeVert. Before falling to .500, Michigan reached an Elite Eight and a national championship game. Let’s give John Beilein another chance at this.
Others of Note
Arkansas (27-9, 13-5 SEC)
Losses: G Rashad Madden, F Alandise Harris
Returnees: F Bobby Portis, G Michael Qualls, G Anthlon Bell
New arrivals: G Dusty Hannahs, F Ted Kapita
Outlook: If Portis returns, Arkansas will contend for the SEC title. If not, Arkansas slides to the middle of the pack.
Baylor (24-10, 11-7 Big 12)
Losses: G Kenny Chery, F Royce O’Neale
Returnees: F Taurean Prince, F Rico Gathers, F Johnathan Motley
Outlook: Not much was expected out of Baylor last season, but they made a nice run before losing to Georgia State in the NCAA Tournament. The Bears need to find a replacement for Chery at point guard to go with that solid front line.
Cincinnati (23-11, 13-5 American)
Returnees: F Octavius Ellis, G Troy Caupain, G Farad Cobb, F Gary Clark, G Kevin Johnson, F Shaquille Thomas
Outlook: Cincinnati’s roster returns essentially intact, but the Bearcats hope to have coach Mick Cronin for the season after he missed most of 2015 with a medical issue.
Florida State (17-16, 8-10 ACC)
Returnees: G Xavier Rathan-Mayes, G Brandon Montay, G Devon Bookert, G Phil Cofer
New arrivals: G Dwayne Bacon, G Malik Beasley
Outlook: A pick for a sleeper? Florida State returns nearly everybody to a mediocre team and adds two top-25 prospects at guard.
Oregon (26-10, 13-5 Pac-12)
Losses: G Joseph Young, G Jalil Abdul-Bassit
Returnees: F Elgin Cook, F Dillon Brooks, F Dwayne Benjamin, F Jordan Bell
New arrivals: G Tyler Dorsey
Outlook: The Ducks will need to find someone to replace the scoring that Young provided the last two seasons, but the Ducks got major contributions from last year’s freshman class. Oregon adds a top-30 point guard in a class with three top-100 freshmen
Purdue (21-13, 12-6 Big Ten)
Losses: G Jon Octeus
Returnees: C A.J. Hammons, G Rapheal Davis, F Vince Edwards, G Kendall Stephens, C Isaac Haas, G Dakota Mathias
Outlook: The seven-footer Hammons could enter the draft. If he returns, the Boiler makers lose only one of their top seven scorers.
Texas A&M (21-12, 11-7 SEC)
Losses: F Kourtney Roberson, G Jordan Green
Returnees: G Danuel House, G Jalen Jones, G Alex Caruso,
New arrivals: C Tyler Davis, F D.J. Hogg
Outlook: The Aggies were NIT bound after a disastrous SEC Tournament, but they were on the fringe for most of the season. They hope a standout recruiting class puts them over the top.
West Virginia (25-10, 11-7 Big 12)
Losses: G Juwan Staten
Returnees: F Devin Williams, F Jonathan Holton, G Jevon Carter, G Daxter Miles Jr.
Outlook: The Mountaineers, who are still smarting from a 39-point loss in the Sweet 16 to Kentucky, will have to replace the point guard Staten, but they return nearly every other key player from a surprise team in 2014-15.
In a postgame interview with CBS, Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan was critical of the officiating in his team's national championship game loss to Duke.
In comments to CBS’ Tracy Wolfson, Ryan said the game had more body contact than in any game Wisconsin played all year.
The statistics, at least, were at odds with Wisconsin’s foul numbers all season as Duke went 16-of-20 from the free throw line, including 12-of-16 in the second half alone. Entering game, Wisconsin gave up the fewest free throws per field goal attempt in the country.
Here are Ryan’s comments to Wolfson after the game:
“It was just a situation were you just have to be able to handle all the hands and the checking and all the body contact. There was more body contact in this game than in any game we played all year. And I just feel sorry for my guys that all of the sudden a game was like that. They’re struggling with that a little bit. We missed some opportunities and they hit some tough shots. It’s just a shame that it had to be played that way. ...
“You look at our offensive efficiency and that says a lot about a group of people who are willing to share the ball and I think we set the record for offensive efficiency. It might not look that way our last 10 possessions there tonight. There might have been some reasons for that. I’m proud of them that way. We led the Big Ten in defense, fewest turnovers, fewest fouls — until tonight.”
Duke has needed to answer in tight spots before, but no pressure situation this season was quite like this.
The answer was, again, the same. Let Tyus Jones take over. In a rare Duke year ruled by freshmen, the rookies led the way for the Blue Devils’ 68-63 national championship victory.
Duke trailed by as many as nine in the second half and didn’t take a second-half lead until the final 5:32. In a game contested between veterans and young players, Duke's freshman stars — some expected and unexpected — carried the load, scoring 60 of 68 points against Wisconsin for Mike Krzyzewski's fifth national championship.
MVP: Tyus Jones
With Jahlil Okafor and Justise Winslow in and out of the game with foul trouble, Jones came up with the big shots like he did in some of Duke's biggest games this season. Jones finished with 23 points, including the dagger with 1:24 to go. Jones had 19 points in the second half alone, including 2-of-3 from 3 and 7-of-7 from the free throw line.
Duke led merely 61-58 at the 3:22 mark, notable in part because Jahlil Okafor was on the bench for meaningful stretches due to foul trouble. Duke put Okafor back into the game at this point and he responded with two field goals and an offensive rebound.
Unsung Hero: Amile Jefferson
Jefferson had only two points, but his defense on Wisconsin’s frontcourt was key. Frank Kaminsky had 21 points, but he went 5-of-12 from 2-point range.
Key Stat: 16-6
Duke’s scoring margin from the free throw line. Fouls caught Wisconsin by surprise on both ends of the court. Wisconsin gave up an average of 11 free throws per game entering Monday night. Duke went to the line 20 times. Conversely, Wisconsin averaged 19.4 free throws per game and went 6-of-10 against Duke.
Needed More From:
Sam Dekker had a rough night from the field. He got the putbacks off Wisconsin’s offensive rebounds, but his hot shooting cooled. Dekker went 0-of-6 from the 3-point line.
Already excited for 2015-16:
Duke is certain to lose several players to the NBA Draft — Jahlil Okafor, Justise Winslow and Tyus Jones potentially among them — plus Quinn Cook. Guard Grayson Allen gave the Blue Devils a flash of the future as he scored 16 points on 5-of-8 shooting. He averaged fewer than nine minutes per game entering Monday, but he’s hardly a flash in the pan. Allen was a McDonald’s All-American as a recruit and will take on a major role next season.