Articles By David Fox

All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/final-four-game-preview-and-predictions-wisconsin-vs-kentucky

In many ways, Kentucky-Wisconsin isn’t a rematch.


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


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


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


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


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


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


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



31 Reasons This Will Be The Best Final Four Ever

Ranking Every National Champion since 1985

The Top 20 Players in the 2015 Final Four


No. 1 Kentucky vs. No. 1 Wisconsin

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


Announcers: Jim Nantz, Bill Raftery and Grant Hill

Line: Kentucky by 5


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

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


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

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


Trending: Wisconsin’s offense

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


Number of Note: 439

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


Kentucky will win if...

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


Wisconsin will win if...

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


Athlon Sports Staff Predictions

David Fox: Kentucky 68-63

Braden Gall: Kentucky 72-70

Mitch Light: Kentucky 72-66

Jake Rose: Wisconsin 68-62

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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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



31 Reasons This Will Be The Best Final Four Ever

Ranking Every National Champion since 1985

The Top 20 Players in the 2015 Final Four


No. 7 Michigan State vs. No. 1 Duke

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


Announcers: Jim Nantz, Bill Raftery and Grant Hill

Line: Duke by 5


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

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


Player on the Spot: Duke’s Jahlil Okafor

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


Trending: Michigan State’s free throw shooting

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


Number of Note: 22-to-6

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


Michigan State will win if...

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


Duke will win if...

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


Athlon Sports Staff Predictions

David Fox: Duke 70-61

Braden Gall: Duke 78-62

Mitch Light: Duke 68-57

Jake Rose: Duke 73-70

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

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


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


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


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


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


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


1. 40-0

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


2. Wire-to-wire great teams

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


3. A Kentucky-Duke title game

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


4. People are watching

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


5. The Big Men

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


6. Pro Prospects

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


7. All-Americans

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


8. The coaches

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


9. Coach K’s historic year

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


10. The Hall of Fame

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


11. Bo Ryan’s bid for history

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


12. Michigan State is the underdog

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


13. Tom Izzo

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



14. Willie Cauley-Stein

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


15. Kentucky’s unselfishness

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


16. Aaron Harrison’s clutch shots

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


17. Quinn Cook’s humility

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



18. Justise Winslow’s emergence

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


19. Sam Dekker’s emergence

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


20. Tyler Ulis

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



21. Nigel Hayes

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


22. Karl-Anthony Towns

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



23. Wisconsin’s laid-back team

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



24. An All-Big Ten title game?

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


25. Travis Trice’s mom

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


26. Lourawls “Tum Tum” Nairn Jr.

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


27. The NCAA has a social conscience

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


28. Bill Raftery

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


29. Rematches

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


30. Vicarious wins

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


31. Crowd-watching

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


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

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


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


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


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


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


1. Frank Kaminsky, Wisconsin

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


2. Justise Winslow, Duke

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


3. Jahlil Okafor, Duke

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


4. Willie Cauley-Stein, Kentucky

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


5. Sam Dekker, Wisconsin

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


6. Karl-Anthony Towns, Kentucky

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


7. Tyus Jones, Duke

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


8. Quinn Cook, Duke

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


9. Aaron Harrison, Kentucky

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


10. Travis Trice, Michigan State

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


11. Branden Dawson, Michigan State

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


12. Nigel Hayes, Wisconsin

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


13. Andrew Harrison, Kentucky

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


14. Denzel Valentine, Michigan State

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


15. Bronson Koenig, Wisconsin

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


16. Tyler Ulis, Kentucky

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


17. Trey Lyles, Kentucky

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


18. Devin Booker, Kentucky

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


19. Josh Gasser, Wisconsin

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


20. Matt Jones, Duke

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

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

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


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


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


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


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


Coach: John Calipari (fifth Final Four)


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


Best Player: Karl-Anthony Towns, Kentucky

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


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

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


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

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


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


Head Coach: Bo Ryan (second Final Four)


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


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


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


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


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


Head Coach: Tom Izzo (seventh Final Four)


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


Best Player: Travis Trice, Michigan State

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


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

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


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

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


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


Head Coach: Mike Krzyzewski (12th Final Four)


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


Best Player: Justise Winslow, Duke

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


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


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

2015 Final Four Preview: How Can Every Team Win?
Post date: Monday, March 30, 2015 - 09:00
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Path: /college-basketball/potential-coaching-candidates-replace-rick-barnes-texas

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


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


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


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


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


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


The Favorites


Gregg Marshall, Wichita State

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


Shaka Smart, VCU

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


The Realistic Contenders


Archie Miller, Dayton

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


Buzz Williams, Virginia Tech

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


Larry Krystkowiak, Utah

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


The Wild Cards


Kevin Ollie, UConn

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


Jamie Dixon, Pittsburgh

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


Chris Mack, Xavier

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


Jay Wright, Villanova

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


Matt Painter, Purdue

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


Leon Rice, Boise State

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


Ben Jacobson, Northern Iowa

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

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


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


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


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


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


Related: Michigan State vs. Louisville Preview and Picks


No. 2 Gonzaga vs. No. 1 Duke

Region: South (Houston)

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


Announcers: Jim Nantz, Bill Raftery and Grant Hill

Line: Duke by 2 1/2


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

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


Tournament Surprise: Gonzaga’s Przemek Karnowski

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


Gonzaga will win if...

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


Duke will win if...

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


Athlon Staff Predictions

David Fox: Duke 79-70

Braden Gall: Duke 70-68

Mitch Light: Duke 77-73

Jake Rose:  Duke 77-74

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


No. 7 Michigan State vs. No. 4 Louisville

Region: East (Syracuse, N.Y.)

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


Announcers: Verne Lundquist and Jim Spanarkel

Line: Michigan State by 2


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

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


Tournament Surprise: Louisville’s Anton Gill

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


Michigan State will win if...

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


Louisville will win if...

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


Athlon Staff Predictions

David Fox: Louisville 68-65

Braden Gall: Michigan State 66-63

Mitch Light: Michigan State 67-64

Jake Rose: Michigan State 66-60

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Related: Arizona vs. Wisconsin Preview and Predictions


No. 3 Notre Dame vs. No. 1 Kentucky

Region: Midwest (Cleveland)

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


Announcers: Marv Albert, Chris Webber and Len Elmore

Line: Kentucky by 11


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

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


Tournament Surprise: Notre Dame’s Demetrius Jackson

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


Notre Dame will win if...

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


Kentucky will win if...

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


Athlon Sports Staff Predictions

David Fox: Kentucky 80-67

Braden Gall: Kentucky 78-65

Mitch Light: Kentucky 77-65

Jake Rose: Notre Dame 78-72

Elite Eight Preview and Predictions: Notre Dame vs. Kentucky
Post date: Friday, March 27, 2015 - 17:34
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Path: /college-basketball/elite-eight-preview-and-predictions-arizona-vs-wisconsin

Opportunities like the one Arizona is facing don’t come around all that often.


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


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


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


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


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


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


No. 2 Arizona vs. No. 1 Wisconsin

Region: West (Los Angeles)

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


Announcers: Kevin Harlan, Reggie Miller and Dan Bonner

Line: Arizona by 1 1/2


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

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


Tournament Surprise: Wisconsin’s Zak Showalter

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


Arizona will win if... 

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


Wisconsin will win if...

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


Athlon Staff Predictions

David Fox: Arizona 60-57

Braden Gall: Arizona 67-64

Mitch Light: Arizona 56-50

Jake Rose: Wisconsin 74-69


Elite Eight Preview and Predictions: Arizona vs. Wisconsin
Post date: Friday, March 27, 2015 - 17:06
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Path: /college-basketball/potential-coaching-candidates-replace-donnie-tyndall-tennessee

Tennessee needs a coach ... again.


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


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


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


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


Chris Holtmann, Butler

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


Mike White, Louisiana Tech

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


Shaka Smart, VCU

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


Rick Barnes, Texas

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


Rick Byrd, Belmont

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


Archie Miller, Dayton

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


Ben Jacobson, Northern Iowa

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


Steve Prohm, Murray State

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


Bryce Drew, Valparaiso

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


Brad Underwood, Stephen F. Austin

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


Richard Pitino, Minnesota

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


Bobby Hurley, Buffalo

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

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


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


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


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


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


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


Other Sweet 16 Previews

NC State vs. Louisville

Michigan State vs. Oklahoma

UCLA vs. Gonzaga


No. 5 Utah vs. No. 1 Duke

Region: South (Houston)

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


Announcers: Jim Nantz, Bill Raftery and Grant Hill

Line: Duke by 5


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

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


Tournament Surprise: Justise Winslow’s stock

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


Utah will win if...

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


Duke will win if...

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


Athlon Staff Predictions

David Fox: Duke 71-64

Braden Gall: Duke 67-64

Mitch Light: Duke 80-70

Jake Rose: Duke 74-70

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


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


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


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


Other Sweet 16 Previews

Michigan State vs. Oklahoma

Utah vs. Duke

UCLA vs. Gonzaga


No. 8 NC State vs. No. 4 Louisville

Region: East (Syracuse, N.Y.)

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


Announcers: Verne Lundquist and Jim Spanarkel

Line: NC State by 2


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

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


Tournament Surprise: Louisville holding it together without Chris Jones

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


NC State will win if...

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


Louisville will win if...

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


Athlon Staff Predictions

David Fox: Louisville 77-74

Braden Gall: NC State 68-64

Mitch Light: Louisville 66-60

Jake Rose: NC State 64-62

Sweet 16 Game Preview and Predictions: NC State vs. Louisville
Post date: Thursday, March 26, 2015 - 16:12
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/dean-smith-leaves-200-dinner-out-each-his-players

Legendary North Carolina coach Dean Smith was renowned for his relationship with everyone who played for him during his 36 years with the Tar Heels. 


That extended to his will.


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


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



Dean Smith Leaves $200 for "Dinner Out" for Each of his Players
Post date: Thursday, March 26, 2015 - 14:24
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/sweet-16-game-preview-and-predictions-ucla-vs-gonzaga

Gonzaga is one of the nation’s most consistent basketball programs and, really, one of the great success stories in the sport.


Who would believe that a West Coast Conference school in Spokane, Wash., would be an NCAA Tournament regular with a coach who has stayed for more than a decade?


Yet coach Mark Few has one major hole on his résumé — a trip to the Final Four. The Zags haven’t even been to the Elite Eight since his tenure began. The postseason exits have included five losses in the Sweet 16 or round of 32 as a top-four seed.


That may change this season, but the Bulldogs have have to conquer the demons of 2006 to keep moving. Gonzaga lost to UCLA 73-71 in the 2006 Sweet 16, a game that reduced star forward Adam Morrison to tears. Gonzaga has had two top-two seeds since that loss, this one and the team that lost to Wichita State in the round of 32 two years ago.


For times to change, Gonzaga on one hand faces a No. 11 seed but also a team with some historical baggage and an offense that can match the Bulldogs’ prolific scoring ability.


Other Sweet 16 Previews

NC State vs. Louisville

Michigan State vs. Oklahoma

Utah vs. Duke


No. 11 UCLA vs. No. 2 Gonzaga

Region: South (Houston)

Time: Friday, 7:15 p.m. ET


Announcers: Jim Nantz, Bill Raftery and Grant Hill

Line: Gonzaga by 8 1/2


Matchup to Watch: UCLA’s Tony Parker vs. the Gonzaga frontcourt

UCLA’s big jokester has become a serious impact player on the court. The Bruins are at their best when they can get to Parker off the dribble drive. UCLA is 7-2 when Parker gets 10 shots from the field, including four of the last six games. Gonzaga counters with 7-foot-1 center Przemek Karnowski.


Tournament Surprise: Bryce Alford’s scoring

Alford scored 27 points in the upset of SMU and 22 in the win over UAB, marking the first time all year he’s topped 20 points in back-to-back games. Alford averaged 15.1 points per game entering the NCAA Tournament.


UCLA will win if...

The starting five can continue to hold up. Benches shorten during the NCAA Tournament, but UCLA is taking this to the extreme. The Bruins aren’t a particularly deep team, but they’ve received only 6 points from their bench in the first weekend of the Tournament. 


Gonzaga will win if...

The Bulldogs run their offense with minimal interruption. Gonzaga is one of the nation’s best all-around offensive teams from the field, ranking second in 2-point shooting and third in 3-point shooting. This game has all the ingredients for a track meet, and Gonzaga should be able to match up better in those conditions with UCLA than SMU or UAB did.


Athlon Staff Predictions

David Fox: Gonzaga 85-71

Braden Gall: Gonzaga 80-59

Mitch Light: Gonzaga 88-77

Jake Rose: Gonzaga 82-68

Sweet 16 Game Preview and Predictions: UCLA vs. Gonzaga
Post date: Thursday, March 26, 2015 - 14:00
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/wisconsins-nigel-hayes-has-embarrassing-moment-caught-hot-mic

Wisconsin’s Nigel Hayes already familiarized himself with the NCAA’s stenographers. Now he’s learning a little something about a hot mic.


At Wednesday’s pregame press conference, Wisconsin’s players were asked a question by a female reporter. Hayes leaned over to whisper to teammate Frank Kaminsky, “God, she’s beautiful.”


And, yes, the microphones were on. Hayes, naturally, was a bit embarrassed.


Oddly enough, the stenographer’s official transcript did not note the exchange.


Watch here:


Wisconsin's Nigel Hayes Has Embarrassing Moment Caught on Hot Mic
Post date: Thursday, March 26, 2015 - 13:38
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/college-basketballs-10-best-coaches-who-have-never-been-final-four

The Sweet 16 will feature its share of powerhouse coaches. Nine of the coaches in the regional semifinals have a grand total of 41 Final Four appearances. Five of those have five or more appearances in the final weekend.


On the other side, seven coaches this weekend are trying to reach the first Final Four of their careers, and for many of them, it’s been a long climb.


Notre Dame’s Mike Brey and UCLA’s Steve Alford have coached 20 years each in college basketball without a Final Four. NC State’s Mark Gottfried has coached 18 years. Gonzaga’s Mark Few has coached 16.


As the NCAA Tournament moves into the regionals, we wouldn’t be surprised if one coach does not reach his first Final Four, though it’s certainly possible all of them get left out yet again.


Suffice to say, no one wants to be on this list next season.


1. Sean Miller, Arizona

Closest call: Miller has lost three times in the Elite Eight, with Arizona in 2011 and 2014 and with Xavier in 2008.

What’s his story? In 11 seasons as a head coach, Miller has reached the Sweet 16 six times and the Elite Eight three times with two schools. The last two trips to the regional final have been heartbreakers — a 64-63 loss to Wisconsin last season and a 65-63 loss to UConn in 2011. At 46, Miller's first Final Four probably won’t be his last.

Can he reach the Final Four this year? Yes, but this region is a grinder. Miller will face his old school and former assistant in the Sweet 16 and then either North Carolina or a rematch with Wisconsin in the Elite Eight.


2. Mark Few, Gonzaga

Closest call: An Adam Morrison-led Gonzaga team lost in a 73-71 heartbreaker to UCLA in the 2006 Sweet 16.

What’s his story? Gonzaga was a Tournament darling when the Bulldogs reached the Elite Eight under Dan Monson in 1999. Now, Gonzaga may be more well known for busting your brackets. The Bulldogs’ first No. 1 ranking and No. 1 seed was marred in 2013 when Gonzaga lost to Final Four-bound No. 9 seed Wichita State. This is Few’s second Sweet 16 since 2006.

Can he reach the Final Four this year? Yes. The Zags sliced through their first weekend opponents and draw an 11 seed — albeit a hot UCLA squad — in the Sweet 16. A potential matchup with Duke in the regional final would be the toughest matchup, but this may be Few’s best team in Spokane.


3. Tony Bennett, Virginia

Closest call: Virginia has lost twice in the Sweet 16, once as the coach at Washington State and once at Virginia, the latter a 61-59 loss to Michigan State in 2014.

What’s his story? After back-to-back regular season ACC championships, Bennett has all of three NCAA wins to show for it. He can coach, but running a slower offense doesn’t always translate to deep NCAA Tournament runs, as Bo Ryan could once attest.

Can he reach the Final Four soon? Yes, but remember Ryan didn’t make it to the Final Four until the Frank Kaminsky-Sam Dekker-Josh Gasser group became a dangerous enough offensive team to play at different tempos. Bennett also might be glad to go the rest of his career never seeing Michigan State in the Tourney ever again. Sparty has eliminated the Cavs the last two years.


4. Fred Hoiberg, Iowa State

Closest call: Iowa State lost 81-76 to eventual national champion UConn in the Sweet 16 in 2014.

What’s his story? The Mayor has revitalized Iowa State basketball, but the Cyclones have yet to make a ton of noise in the NCAA Tournament other than being a tough out in the early rounds. The Cyclones went cold offensively for a mystifying loss to UAB in the round of 64 this season.

Can he reach the Final Four soon? Not if Hoiberg elects to try out coaching in the NBA.


5. Jamie Dixon, Pittsburgh

Closest call: A No. 1 seed in 2009, Pitt lost on a buzzer-beating layup by Villanova’s Scottie Reynolds in the Elite Eight.

What’s his story? Dixon has been remarkably consistent at Pittsburgh in the Big East and the ACC, missing the NCAA Tournament only once in his 11 seasons as a head coach. Dixon’s two best teams, though, lost in heartbreakers in the NCAA Tournament. His 2009 team lost on a buzzer-beater by Villanova in the Elite Eight. And two years later, Pittsburgh committed two late fouls that enabled eighth-seeded Butler to hit the free throws to advance to the Sweet 16.

Can he reach the Final Four soon? Seems unlikely. Pitt hasn’t been to the Sweet 16 since that close call with Villanova.


6. Bruce Pearl, Auburn

Closest call: Tennessee lost 70-69 to Michigan State in the 2010 Elite Eight.

What’s his story? Pearl has a tough enough job making Auburn relevant in the SEC, much less the NCAA Tournament. This is a place where winning two games in the most recent SEC tournament was a sign of major progress.

Can he reach the Final Four soon? No. A Final Four with Auburn? But in the next few years, Pearl probably will bring Auburn to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2003.


7. Buzz Williams, Virginia Tech

Closest call: Williams led Marquette to the Elite Eight in 2013, where the Golden Eagles lost 55-39 to Syracuse.

What’s his story? Williams’ move from Marquette to Virginia Tech was one of the most stunning job changes in the coaching carousel in 2014. After going 11-22 in his first season with the Hokies, Williams has set back his career trajectory by several seasons. 

Can he reach the Final Four soon? No. Virginia Tech had a young team last season, and it showed as the Hokies went 2-16 in the ACC. Virginia Tech isn’t a place where coaches win with a quick fix.


8. Mike Brey, Notre Dame

Closest call: Notre Dame lost 88-71 to Arizona in the 2003 Sweet 16

What’s his story? Not many coaches get to stay at a program 15 years reaching only one Sweet 16. But Brey is universally liked, and he did make the Irish a viable program in the Big East (and now the ACC) even if great NCAA Tournament showings didn’t always follow.

Can he reach the Final Four soon? Maybe, but it will take a heck of an upset to get there. This is perhaps Brey’s best team at Notre Dame and one capable of knocking off Wichita State and West Virginia in its reason. Unfortunately, Kentucky is also in this region. 


9. Dana Altman, Oregon

Closest call: Oregon lost 77-69 to Louisville in the Sweet 16 in 2013.

What’s his story? Altman has taken three teams to the NCAA Tournament and failed to win 20 games only once since 1999. This year may have been his best coaching job, taking a team that was picked to finish seventh in the Pac-12 to the NCAA Tournament

Can he reach the Final Four soon? Maybe. Altman has had some off-court issues that could have threatened his job in Eugene, but the man can coach. Coaches this good eventually get the right group players (or breaks) to make a run in the Tournament.


10. Scott Drew, Baylor

Closest call: Baylor lost in the Elite Eight in 2010 and 2012

What’s his story? Drew is a divisive coach for some reason, despite taking over one of the toughest situations in college basketball and creating a viable Big 12 program. Drew has twice led Baylor to the Elite Eight where the Bears lost to the eventual champions (Duke in 2010 and Kentucky in 2012). Baylor’s loss to Georgia State in the round of 64 was the second Thursday/Friday loss in five trips to the Tourney.

Can he reach the Final Four soon? Why not? He’s been to two Elite Eights and usually has a talented Big 12 roster. This is the kind of coach who makes the Final Four when no one is expecting it.

College Basketball's 10 Best Coaches Who Have Never Been to the Final Four
Post date: Thursday, March 26, 2015 - 12:13
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/sweet-16-game-preview-and-predictions-xavier-vs-arizona

Xavier coach Chris Mack didn’t spent time thinking of a diplomatic or clever way to respond to the awkward situation of facing his predecessor and former boss in the NCAA tournament.


“Honestly, it stinks,” the Musketeers coach told the Turner crew.


This Tournament has had a funny way of setting up matchups that are just as notable for their backstory as the action on the court.


The semifinal in Los Angeles is no exception as Mack and Xavier take on Sean Miller and Arizona. Miller coached at Xavier from 2004-09, taking the Musketeers to the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight in his final two years. 


When Miller was promoted to replace Thad Matta, Miller hired the former Xavier player and assistant Mack. When Miller left for Arizona, Mack took his place. Between Matta and Mack, Miller his facing his predecessor and his successor in back-to-back games.


If it doesn’t stink for Miller, he’s certainly conflicted.


For both of these programs, a Final Four appearance would be monumental. Between Miller and Mack, they’ve been to the Sweet 16 nine times. Miller has been to the Elite Eight three times.


For either of them to continue this run, they’ll have to go through one of their closest allies in coaching.


Other Sweet 16 Previews

North Carolina vs. Wisconsin

Wichita State vs. Notre Dame

West Virginia vs. Kentucky



No. 6 Xavier vs. No. 2 Arizona

Region: West (Los Angeles)

Time: Thursday, approx. 10:17 p.m., ET


Announcers: Kevin Harlan, Reggie Miller and Dan Bonner

Line: Arizona by 11


Matchup to Watch: Xavier’s Matt Stainbrook vs. Arizona’s Kaleb Tarczewski

The 6-foot-10, 270-pound Stainbrook hasn’t encountered too many players who can match up with him. The defensive-minded seven-footer Tarczewski is one of them. Stanbrook leads Xavier at 12.1 points per game, but the Musketeers have four guys averaging 9.9 or more. Stainbrook is an effective passer (2.4 assists per game), and the Musketeers have other scorers up front. Jalen Reynolds scored 21 against Georgia State, and wing Trevone Bluiett is capable of going of for 15 or more.


Tournament Surprise: 3-point shooters off the bench

Gabe York has been giving Arizona a lift of the bench for two years now, so it’s not a huge surprise to see him hit five 3s against Ohio State. For Xavier, Myles Davis is 7-of-13 from 3 in two tournament games. Davis hit eight 3s in the final six games of the regular season.


Xavier will win if...

Dee Davis can keep the offense moving. With a team effort, the Wildcats were able to shut down D’Angelo Russell from the field. Russell finished 3-of-19, but he also had six assists and one turnover. In Dee Davis, Xavier has a pass-first point guard (six assists per game, 2.4 assists per turnover) who can get the ball to the weapons around him.


Arizona will win if...

T.J. McConnell runs the show. Arizona is a great defensive team and has a few future pros, starting with freshman Stanley Johnson. But this is McConnell’s team to run. There’s no reason why McConnell shouldn’t be able to pick apart a team that ranks 216th in effective field goal defense.


Athlon Staff Predictions:

David Fox: Arizona 73-69

Braden Gall: Arizona 68-58

Mitch Light: Arizona 63-56

Jake Rose: Arizona 74-64

Sweet 16 Game Preview and Predictions: Xavier vs. Arizona
Post date: Wednesday, March 25, 2015 - 16:30
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/sweet-16-game-preview-and-predictions-west-virginia-vs-kentucky

Sooner or later, the debate of Kentucky’s greatest team will become a major topic. If this year’s team goes 40-0, the debate might not last long.


There’s also the 1995-96 Untouchables or 2012 national championship team or the first title team in 1948.


One team that might get shortchanged is 2010, a team that featured NBA All-Stars John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins, plus pros Eric Bledsoe and Patrick Patterson.


That team was done in by guys named Da’Sean Butler and Joe Mazzulla in the Elite Eight.


The sense of history isn’t lost on Kentucky, especially given the familiarity between John Calipari and Bob Huggins. The two have faced each other 10 times, most of those coming when Calipari was at UMass and Memphis and Huggins was at Cincinnati. Huggins holds an 8-2 edge in the series.


Kentucky already avenged that 2010 loss with a meeting in the 2011 round of 32 when No. 4 seed Kentucky defeated No. 5 seed West Virginia on the way to the Final Four.


But given the stakes and the situation — another Kentucky team aiming for history against this pressing, pesky West Virginia squad — seems to bring up old memories.


Other Sweet 16 Previews

Wichita State vs. Notre Dame

Xavier vs. Arizona

North Carolina vs. Wisconsin


No. 5 West Virginia vs. No. 1 Kentucky

Region: Midwest (Cleveland)

Time: Thursday, Approx. 9:45 p.m., ET


Announcers: Marv Albert, Chris Webber and Len Elmore

Line: Kentucky by 13 1/2


Matchup to Watch: Kentucky vs. West Virginia’s press

Coaches can be stubborn, but not apparently Bob Huggins. The Hall of Famer scrapped his old plans and installed a relentless fullcourt press. The result has been a Sweet 16 team that leads the nation in turnover rate and steal rate by comfortable margins. Kentucky has faced a pressing team in Arkansas twice this season, plus Louisville, and won with little difficulty. No one does the press quite like West Virginia. The question is if it matters.


Tournament Surprise: Kentucky’s 3-point shooting

Kentucky wasn’t a great 3-point shooting team during the season, and the Wildcats don’t necessarily need to be one even at this stage of the Tournament. Still, the Wildcats are 7-of-25 (28 percent) from 3-point range in the last two games after shooting 34.7 percent during the season.


West Virginia will win if...

The Wildcats are completely befuddled by the press and irritated by another physical opponent. But as Calipari said, many teams have tried many ways to beat Kentucky, and none of them have worked yet.


Kentucky will win if...

The Wildcats get into their offense with minimal trouble. West Virginia is a bit of a one-trick pony. The Mountaineers rank 303rd in effective field goal defense (52.7 percent) and they foul a lot. Kentucky ranks 74th in free throw shooting (72.2),



David Fox: Kentucky 68-54

Braden Gall: Kentucky 71-60

Mitch Light: Kentucky 73-51

Jake Rose: Kentucky 72-60

Sweet 16 Game Preview and Predictions: West Virginia vs. Kentucky
Post date: Wednesday, March 25, 2015 - 15:30
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/sweet-16-game-preview-and-predictions-wichita-state-vs-notre-dame

This is probably not something that gets said very often in college sports: Notre Dame wants what Wichita State has.


Notre Dame is a college athletics powerhouse, primarily due to the football program, though the men’s basketball program is no slouch. Wichita State doesn’t even have a football team.


Despite its lower seeding and place in the Missouri Valley Conference, Wichita State has been the better basketball program in the last three years. The Shockers have been to a Final Four, they went 35-1 last season and they picked up one of the signature wins in school history — and recent NCAA Tournament history — by defeating Kansas in the round of 32.


Notre Dame is an NCAA Tournament regular under Mike Brey, but this year’s trip to the Sweet 16 is a true rarity. The Irish haven’t been this close to a Final Four since 2003; they haven’t been to an Elite Eight since 1979.


Moreover, the amount of emotional energy spent by both Notre Dame and Wichita State — for different reasons — will be worth watching.


Only after the 67-64 overtime win over Butler did Notre Dame coach Mike Brey reveal to the public and his team that his mother had passed that Saturday morning.


A day later, Wichita State faced Kansas in a long-awaited matchup between the in-state foes in an arena in driving distance from both campuses.


Other Sweet 16 Previews

North Carolina vs. Wisconsin

Xavier vs. Arizona

West Virginia vs. Kentucky


No. 7 Wichita State vs. No. 3 Notre Dame

Region: Midwest (Cleveland)

Time: Thursday, 7:15 p.m., ET


Announcers: Marv Albert, Chris Webber and Len Elmore

Line: Wichita State by 1


Matchup to Watch: The contest around the rim

Wichita State is a strong defensive team on the ball and at the rim — despite having a smaller lineup. The Shockers rank ninth nationally in field goal defense at 2-point range at 42.1 percent where Notre Dame, with its attacking guards, is No. 1 in the country from 2-point range (58.3 percent). The 6-foot-10 Zach Auguste, the biggest regular for either team, may be the key player. He had 25 points against Northeastern in the round of 64 and seven points in the round of 32 against Butler.


Tournament Surprise: Wichita State’s free throw shooting

The Shockers were an average free throw shooting team during the season, making 68.8 percent from the line on 20 trips per game entering the NCAA Tournament. Last week, Wichita State was 47-of-58 (81 percent). Fred VanVleet and Ron Baker alone were 18-of-20 against Indiana.


Wichita State will win if...

VanVleet and Baker out-duel Jerian Grant. This is going to be a heavyweight backcourt matchup among veterans who can make huge shots in meaningful games. VanVleet should be able to pick apart the Notre Dame defense while Baker probably won’t have another cold shooting night after an off day against the Hoosiers. Even Evan Wessel emerged from out of nowhere to hit 4-of-6 3-pointers against Kansas. Grant can match this group shot for shot.


Notre Dame will win if...

The Irish make a defensive stand. Notre Dame and Wichita State are both in the top 10 in offensive efficiency. The X-factor would seem to be Notre Dame’s ability to defend. Wichita State doesn’t turn the ball over often, and Notre Dame doesn’t force many. Will that trend change or will Notre Dame need to be sturdy in the halfcourt? Pat Connaughton is coming off a five-block, nine-rebound performance against Butler, including the key block to prevent Butler from a potential game-winning shot.



David Fox: Wichita State 78-75

Braden Gall: Notre Dame 78-69

Mitch Light: Notre Dame 78-70

Jake Rose: Notre Dame 72-70

Sweet 16 Game Preview and Predictions: Wichita State vs. Notre Dame
Post date: Wednesday, March 25, 2015 - 15:00
All taxonomy terms: NFL, NBA, MLB, Overtime
Path: /overtime/what-most-popular-throwback-jersey-each-state

Sports fans across the country love their Kobe Bryant throwback jerseys. Just not the state where he plays basketball.


Last week, TicketCity shared a map of the most popular college basketball teams in every state, and now we get this map of throwback jerseys from Mitchell & Ness.


The Philadelphia-based throwback and replica specialists posted this look at the most popular throwback jerseys in each state, regardless of sport.


It’s a fascinating bit of state-by-state nostalgia, and we suspect it's by no means definitive since it represents the sales only one company. Mitchell & Ness doesn't carry a Michael Jordan throwback, which would probably be a staple in a handful of states. Still, it's a fun excercise.


Check the key on the site for a few of the jerseys you don’t recognize. A few of our thoughts are below the map.



• The 1997-97 Kobe Bryant throwback carries Delaware, Oregon, Nevada, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Tennessee and Ohio but not California (that belongs to Joe Montana’s ’89 49ers jersey). 


It’s shocking that that Steve McNair, Eddie George or even a Colts’ Peyton Manning didn’t carry Tennessee and no Green Bay Packer carried Wisconsin. Presumably, there are too many Brett Favre or Bart Starr throwbacks splitting votes in the Dairy State.


• Ray Nitschke’s ’66 Packers throwback is the top jersey in ... Kansas.


• Bryant is the pick in Ohio, again presumably because Cleveland and Cincinnati are splitting purchases in the Buckeye State. Big Red Machine shortstop Dave Concepcion is the top jersey across the river in Kentucky.


• Check the representation of Dallas Cowboys: Troy Aikman in Texas, Deion Sanders for Oklahoma and a real throwback in Roger Staubach in Montana.


• Deion Sanders is the top jersey in three states with three jerseys: Georgia as an Atlanta Falcon, Oklahoma as a Cowboy and Hawaii as a 49er.


• The no-brainers: John Elway (Colorado), Walter Payton (Illinois), Cal Ripken Jr. (Maryland), Larry Bird (Massachusetts), Barry Sanders (Michigan), Ozzie Smith (Missouri), Steve Largent (Washington)


We also love some of the picks in the flyover states or states without a pro team Ryne Sandberg (Alabama), Bo Jackson (Arkansas — NOT Alabama), Mickey Mantle (Idaho), Joe Namath (Iowa), Larry Bird (Mississippi), Steve Carlton (Nebraska), Ernie Banks (New Mexico), Fred Biletnikoff (North Dakota), Walter Payton (South Dakota), Lou Gehrig (Wyoming).

What is the Most Popular Throwback Jersey in Each State?
Post date: Wednesday, March 25, 2015 - 07:00
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/sweet-16-east-region-preview-top-players-and-tv-schedule

The East region will have an ACC flavor even though the ACC regular season champion is at home. Louisville and NC State will meet in the Sweet 16 on an ACC floor for a rare conference game in the NCAA Tournament.


At the same time, Oklahoma will try to save face for a beleaguered Big 12, but the Sooners will have to go through Tom Izzo, who as usual has his Michigan State squad peaking in March.


Here’s a look at the East Regional in Syracuse at a glance.


Friday’s Schedule

No. 8 NC State vs. No. 4 Louisville (7:37 pm., TBS)

No. 7 Michigan State vs. No. 3 Oklahoma (approx. 10:07 p.m., TBS)


Top Five Players

1. Montrezl Harrell, Louisville

2. Buddy Hield, Oklahoma

3. Terry Rozier, Louisville

4. Branden Dawson, Michigan State

5. Trevor Lacey, NC State


Top Dog — Oklahoma

For the first time since 2004, a regional will begin with the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds eliminated in the first weekend. That leaves No. 3 Oklahoma as the top-seeded team in the East region. The Sooners held off Dayton in the round of 32 thanks to some late heroics by Buddy Hield. He’s usually a big-time shotmaker, but a block helped seal the win over the Flyers. Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger is taking his fourth team to the Sweet 16, but he hasn’t taken a team beyond that since the 1994 Final Four at Florida.


Underdog — NC State

NC State was one of the most frustrating teams during the regular season, a team with the talent to be a top team in the ACC, but also a team capable of losing to Clemson, Boston College and Wake Forest. LSU collapsed down the stretch in the round of 64, and Villanova’s offense went cold for an entire game as NC State went to the Sweet 16. Cat Barber, Trevor Lacey and Abdul-Malik Abu are a talented trio, and the Wolfpack can’t be dismissed simply because it is a No. 8 seed in the Sweet 16.


An All-ACC Sweet 16 game

With memberships ballooning in the major conferences, the selection committee is having a tougher and tougher time of making sure that conference teams don’t play each other until the Elite Eight. The ACC sent six of its 15 members to the field and two of them — Louisville and NC State — will meet in the Sweet 16. On an ACC court in the Carrier Dome, no less. The Louisville-NC State meeting in the regional semifinal was permissible since the two teams played only once during the regular season. NC State won 74-65 on Feb. 14.


The Quote

“(Former Michigan State All-American) Draymond Green actually this morning said ‘Don't let this be your last game,’ and I texted him back and said, ‘I won't.’ But that was our mindset coming in. We knew they were a great team, we had to jump out on them early.”

-Michigan State guard Travis Trice on his hot start against Virginia

Sweet 16 East Region: Preview, Top Players and TV Schedule
Post date: Tuesday, March 24, 2015 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/sweet-16-south-region-preview-top-players-and-tv-schedule

The first weekend of the NCAA Tournament wiped away notion of Cinderellas, but if you’re looking for an underdog, perhaps you can find one in the South Region.


Going up against Duke is the lowest seed remaining in the Tournament, a team that won six games just four years ago and a team that’s been very good for a long time but never reached the Final Four. Of course, we’re talking about UCLA, Utah and Gonzaga, so Cinderella fits this crew about as much as “South” region does.


Here’s a look at the South Regional in Houston at a glance.


Friday’s Schedule

No. 11 UCLA vs. No. 2 Gonzaga (8:15 p.m., CBS)

No. 5 Utah vs. No. 1 Duke (approx. 9:45 p.m., CBS)


Top Five Players

1. Jahlil Okafor, Duke

2. Delon Wright, Utah

3. Justise Winslow, Duke

4. Tyus Jones, Duke

5. Kyle Wiltjer, Gonzaga


Top Dog — Duke

Even before the Tournament, Duke looked like the easy favorite in the South region. The first two games made the pick look even more easy. The Blue Devils made easy work of Robert Morris and then had no trouble with the length of San Diego State in the round of 32. The Blue Devils averaged 1.11 points per possession against San Diego State, the third-highest average against the Aztecs this season. Jahlil Okafor was 12-of-16 from the field for 26 points, but the most impressive player may have been Justise Winslow. The freshman had 13 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks in a highlight-reel day.


Underdog — UCLA

Go ahead and debate if UCLA should be in the field in the first place, but it’s no question the Bruins have taken advantage of the selection committee’s vote of confidence. A goaltending call late in the round of 64 gave UCLA a leg up on SMU, and the Bruins thrashed No. 11 seed UAB in 92-75 to go to the Sweet 16. UCLA isn’t a deep team, but the Bruins can score. UCLA’s starting five scored 88 points against the Blazers.


Gonzaga’s redemption

The Bulldogs have been snakebit in the NCAA Tournament, reaching the Sweet 16 on once since 2006. The program hasn’t won in the Sweet 16 since 1999, the year before Mark Few became the head coach. This is one of Few’s best teams in 16 seasons in Spokane, but Gonzaga will need to conquer one demon to reach the regional final. The Sweet 16 matchup with UCLA is a rematch of the 2006 regional semifinal that ended with National Player of the Year Adam Morrison in tears after a 73-71 Bruins win.


The Quote

“Now we look around and it's like, Pinch me. Here we are. It's been a fun run with a lot of these guys that have been a part of it.”

-Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak, whose first team at Utah in 2011-12 went 6-25 in 2011-12

Sweet 16 South Region: Preview, Top Players and TV Schedule
Post date: Tuesday, March 24, 2015 - 08:30
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Kentucky’s bid for an undefeated season will have to go through West Virginia, the team that in 2010 beat what was arguably John Calipari’s best team in Lexington.


In the other regional semifinal, Wichita State and Notre Dame will try to re-orient themselves for an emotional — for very different reasons — Sweet 16 game.


Here’s a look at the Midwest Regional in Cleveland at a glance.


Thursday’s Schedule

No. 7 Wichita State vs. No. 3 Notre Dame (7:15 p.m., CBS)

No. 5 West Virginia vs. No. 1 Kentucky (approx. 9:45 p.m., CBS)


Top Five Players

1. Willie Cauley-Stein, Kentucky

2. Karl-Anthony Towns, Kentucky

3. Jerian Grant, Notre Dame

4. Fred VanVleet, Wichita State

5. Ron Baker. Wichita State


Top Dog — Kentucky

Kentucky has done nothing to change the perception that it is the top dog of the entire Tournament. In the round of 32, Cincinnati gave the Wildcats some difficulty early on, but Kentucky’s depth and length was too much to handle. The Bearcats tried to get under Kentucky’s skin with a physical game to no avail. If anything was an issue, Kentucky’s guards had an off game against Cincinnati. Aaron Harrison, Andrew Harrison, Devin Booker and Tyler Ulis combined to shoot 12-of-34 from the field overall and 4-of-15 from 3.


Underdog — Wichita State

A disclaimer: the underdog label is not appropriate for Wichita State. In the last three years, Wichita State has gone to the Final Four, started a season 35-0 and conquered Kansas in the round of 32. The Shockers have accomplished more in recent years than its Sweet 16 opponent, Notre Dame. But No. 7 Wichita State is the lowest-seeded team remaining in the region. After the build-up to the anticipated matchup with the Jayhawks, the Shockers’ energy levels will be a storyline to watch.


Kentucky vs. West Virginia again

Kentucky and West Virginia have met in the NCAA Tournament three times since John Calipari and Bob Huggins have been at their current posts. The most recent was a 71-63 Kentucky win in the round of 32 in 2011. The most memorable was in the 2010 Elite Eight when fourth-seeded West Virginia upset a top-seeded Kentucky team led by John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins. This year’s meeting will be just as compelling when undefeated Kentucky faces West Virginia’s relentless pressure. The Wildcats will face back-to-back physical opponents in Cincinnati and West Virginia before they get to the Elite Eight.


The Quote

“I'd talk to her during the season and very rarely did I get ‘hey, Mike, how you doing?’ It's like, ‘Have you got them ready? Are they ready? I think we can beat Duke, Mike.’ It's unbelievable. She was intense.”

Notre Dame coach Mike Brey, who revealed Saturday his mother, Betty Brey, died the morning of the Notre Dame’s 67-64 overtime win over Butler.

Sweet 16 Midwest Region: Preview, Top Players and TV Schedule
Post date: Tuesday, March 24, 2015 - 08:00
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The West region will be full of familiar faces on a number of fronts. For starters, each team in the Sweet 16 is no stranger to this stage. In the last five seasons alone, these four teams have been to the regional semifinal 12 times.


But if the region goes chalk and sends top two seeds Wisconsin and Arizona to Saturday, the game will be a rematch of last year’s Elite Eight that sent Bo Ryan to his first Final Four.


Here’s a look at the West Regional in Los Angeles at a glance.


Thursday’s Schedule

No. 4 North Carolina vs. No. 1 Wisconsin (7:47 p.m., TBS)

No. 6 Xavier vs. No. 2 Arizona (approx. 10:17 p.m., TBS)


Top Five Players

1. Frank Kaminsky, Wisconsin

2. T.J. McConnell, Arizona

3. Sam Dekker, Wisconsin

4. Marcus Paige, North Carolina

5. Stanley Johnson, Arizona


Top Dog — Wisconsin

The Badgers are making their fourth Sweet 16 appearance in the last five seasons, but the goals are far more grand than they once were for Wisconsin. To reach the Final Four for the second consecutive season, the Badgers have to get through North Carolina. The Tar Heels are generally regarded as a dynamic offensive team because of their up-and-down style, but Wisconsin ranks first in the nation in offensive efficiency. The battle for tempo will be the most interesting matchup of the game.


Underdog — Xavier

Xavier is no stranger to this stage. The Musketeers are in the Sweet 16 for the fifth time in the last eight years. But they’re also a No. 6 seed among Wisconsin, Arizona and North Carolina. With freshman Trevon Bluiett and sophomore Jalen Reynolds emerging, this Xavier team is peaking at the right time.


Familiar Faces for Sean Miller

The selection committee made sure Sean Miller’s path to his first Final Four was an emotional one. To get to the Sweet 16, the Arizona coach had to go head to head with Ohio State coach Thad Matta, his predecessor and former boss at Xavier. Miller’s Sweet 16 matchup will be a against Xavier, a team he coached for five seasons. On the Xavier bench is Chris Mack, who spent all five of those seasons on Miller’s staff before succeeding him with the Mountaineers.


The Quote

“It's been a hard year, it really has. I probably acted sillier in the locker room after this game than I have in quite a while. I'm going to try to enjoy the dickens out of this one for a while.”

-North Carolina coach Roy Williams after the 87-78 win over Arkansas, referring to the passing of mentor and UNC legend Dean Smith earlier this year.

Sweet 16 West Region: Preview, Top Players and TV Schedule
Post date: Tuesday, March 24, 2015 - 07:30