Articles By David Fox

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When Oregon’s season hit a critical point, the Ducks leaned on a fifth-year senior who has been around the block.

Mike Moser, a veteran who has played for UCLA and UNLV, kept the Ducks in NCAA Tournament contention with back-to-back double doubles during the weekend.

Moser had 12 points and 20 rebounds in an 87-83 overtime win over UCLA on Thursday and followed that with 20 points and 12 rebounds in a 78-63 win over USC to earn Athlon Sports National Player of the Week honors.

As Oregon has recovered from a 2-8 swoon from Jan. 5-Feb. 8, Moser has been the leader. He’s scored at least 20 points in three of the last four games, and of his five double-doubles this season, two came last week.

Photo courtesy of Eric Evans/GoDucks.com.

Athlon Sports Weekly College Basketball Awards

National Player of the Week: Mike Moser, Oregon
The well-travelled Moser is playing his best basketball as an Oregon Duck at the right time of the year. Moser, who played one season at UCLA and two at UNLV before opting to spend his final year of eligibility in Eugene, scored 20 points and grabbed 12 rebounds to lead the Ducks to a 78–62 win at USC. Moser is averaging 17.6 during Oregon’s current five-game winning streak.

National Freshman of the Week: Aaron Gordon, Arizona
Arizona has answered any questions left by the void of Brandon Ashley in recent weeks. A major reason has been the play of Aaron Gordon, the freshman defensive whiz who is becoming a more consistent contributor in the offensive end. In routs of Stanford and Cal, Gordon totaled 32 points on 12-of-20 shooting. Gordon also contributed 15 rebounds against the Cardinal.

Under-the-Radar Player of the Week: Bryant Mbamalu, Louisiana-Lafayette
Mbamalu was spectacular in the Ragin’ Cajuns’ 102–76 win over South Alabama. The senior guard scored 32 points and grabbed 11 rebounds (both season highs) to lead UL-Lafayette to its 10th Sun Belt win of the season.

Other Standout Performances of the Week:

Antonio Barton, Tennessee

After scoring a total of six points (and missing all eight 3-point attempts) in his previous two games, Barton had season highs in both scoring (21 points) and assists (six) to lead Tennessee to an easy 76–38 win over Vanderbilt. The fifth-year senior, a transfer from Memphis, hit 7-of-11 from the field, including 5-of-7 beyond the 3-point arc.

Dorian Finney-Smith, Florida
Finney-Smith broke out of an extended scoring slump by averaging 17.5 points and 5.5 rebounds to help Florida improve to 16–0 in the SEC. The transfer from Virginia Tech scored 19 points — including a huge 3-pointer in the final minute — to lead the Gators in a 57–54 win at Vanderbilt on Tuesday night. Then, on Saturday, he scored 16 points in a 79–61 win over LSU that clinched the SEC title for Florida.

Isaiah Cousins, Oklahoma
Oklahoma completed a season sweep over rival Texas with a 77–65 win in Norman. Cousins, a sophomore guard, led the way with a career-high 24 points on 7-of-11 shooting from the field. Since missing all eight shots against Oklahoma State two weeks ago, Cousins has converted 17-of-31 from the field.

Tyler Haws, BYU
Haws continues to score at a high level as his BYU Cougars are making a late charge at a possible at-large bid in the NCAA Tournament. The junior guard scored 25 points in Saturday’s win at San Diego. Haws, who leads the West Coast Conference with a 23.4-point average, has scored in double figures in every game this season.  

Justin Martin, Xavier
Martin rebounded from a subpar effort (three points, three rebounds) in a win over St. John’s on Tuesday by scoring 19 points and grabbing 16 rebounds in Xavier’s huge 75­–69 win over Creighton in Cincinnati. It was the first career double-double for the junior forward from Indianapolis.

Brenton Williams, South Carolina
Williams poured in a game-high 24 points to lead South Carolina to a surprising 72–67 win over Kentucky — easily the biggest victory of the Frank Martin era in Columbia. Williams only hit four field goals but connected on 15-of-16 from the foul line — including four following the two technicals that led to John Calipari’s ejection.

Jared Brownridge, Santa Clara
Brownridge scored a career-high 38 points and added seven rebounds, three assists and two steals as Santa Clara posted an 86–78 win at Pepperdine. A freshman guard from Aurora, Ill., hit 12-of-22 from the field, including 7-of-9 from the 3-point line.

Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State
Smart overcame a slow start (one point in the first half) to lead Oklahoma State to its biggest win of the season — a 72–65 victory over Big 12 champion Kansas. The sophomore guard scored 20 points in the second half to help the Cowboys rally from a 10-point deficit. In the final 10 minutes, he hit 4-of-4 from the field and had three assists and zero turnovers.

K.J. McDaniels, Clemson
McDaniels, one of the nation’s most underrated players, had perhaps the best game of his junior season. He scored 26 points and had 14 rebounds and six blocks to key the Tigers’ 77–73 double-overtime win over Maryland. The Birmingham, Ala., native is averaging 16.8 points and 6.9 rebounds.

Teaser:
Oregon's Mike Moser earns Athlon Sports Player of the Week honors
Post date: Monday, March 3, 2014 - 12:33
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The first weekend in March was not a bad way to start the greatest five weeks in the college basketball season.

Wichita State wrapped up an undefeated regular season. Virginia came a little closer to winning the ACC. Louisville, Michigan State and Kentucky — all preseason top five teams — looked completely out of sorts.

In other words, unpredictability reigns.

More unlikely storylines are sure to occur as conference tournaments start later this week in most of the traditional one-bid leagues.

Our focus for the week, though, starts with the major programs hitting their stride (Wichita State and Virginia) and others with newfound concerns (Syracuse, Michigan State, Ohio State and Cincinnati), plus some of the bubble teams that helped their case Saturday.

College Basketball Recap: 10 Things to Know

1. There is no disputing Wichita State’s bid for history
In the NCAA Tournament, teams like Wichita State generally end up darlings. Turns out going 31-0 draws scrutiny. Wichita State completed the first undefeated regular season in a decade and the first 31-0 start in 23 seasons with its 68-45 win over Missouri State. The achievement, though, has drawn a similar level of scrutiny — or in some cases, scorn — as Boise State’s best teams in college football. And that’s fair. Wichita State is no mid-major deserving to be the lovable underdog. The Shockers pay coach Gregg Marshall $1.75 million, and as noted by their coach, they draw 10,000 fans per game and travel on private planes. But 31-0 against any schedule is worthy of history. We spelled out Wichita State’s other superlatives in its undefeated season elsewhere, but this is a team that will be favored to make it all the way to an unprecedented 35-0.

2a. Virginia picked up its biggest win in 20 years in unlikely fashion
It's tough to find more unlikely heroes than Akil Mitchell. The senior forward who averages seven points per game scored eight in the first half to keep Virginia afloat in time for Malcolm Brogdon to give the Cavaliers a commanding lead in the ACC standings with a 75-56 win over Syracuse. Brogdon finished with 19 points including eight during the run that decided the game as moved Virginia to 16-1 in the ACC. Think about it: Joe Harris, a preseason ACC player of the year contender, scored six points on 2-of-10 shooting and Virginia still scored 75 against Syracuse.

2b. Time to worry about Syracuse
Despite starting 25-0, the Orange might slip to a No. 2 seed after this 1-3 slide. This team is not ready to advance deep in the Tournament. Syracuse has gone five consecutive games without averaging a point per possession (one point per possession is considered average). Syracuse hasn’t even shot 45 percent from the field since Jan. 25 against Miami. What’s troubling is that the performance against Virginia wasn’t even particularly bad by Syracuse’s recent standards as the Orange shot 35.7 percent from the field and 22.7 percent from 3.

3. Kentucky is an absolute mess
The talk of Kentucky winning a national title or reaching the Final Four is long gone. It’s time to start wondering if Kentucky is going to win a game in the NCAA Tournament. By virtue of being a team far too talented to get a seed as low as Kentucky will get, the Wildcats have a good chance to win a game in the Tourney. But there’s little reason to have any faith in Kentucky after Saturday. Going to overtime with LSU and losing to Arkansas — bubble teams both — is one thing. Losing to South Carolina, the worst team in the SEC, is another. John Calipari got himself ejected arguing with officials, but his team still attempted 42 free throws to South Carolina’s 33. The offensive execution was dreadful as Kentucky shot 35.3 percent from 3-point range and an unbelievable 22.9 percent from 2-point range.

4. We’re not going to say Oklahoma State is back, but...
Any time a team beats Kansas, it’s worthy of note. Oklahoma State has won three in a row since Marcus Smart returned from suspension, no win bigger than a 72-65 defeat of Kansas. Smart scored 21 points, mainly due to volume (14 shots from the field, 14 free throws). Teammate Markel Brown was the more efficient scorer, adding 21 points on 4-of-7 shots from the field and 10-of-10 free throws. Oklahoma State caught Kansas on a night when the Jayhawks committed 22 turnovers, in part due to 11 Oklahoma State steals. Feel free to put Oklahoma State in a bracket, just don’t expect the team you saw in December and January.

5. Louisville collapsed
Winning on the road against a good team is tough, but, still, Louisville did not look great in its collapse against Memphis. The Cardinals had been a dominant team recently, even if it was largely against bad teams in the American. At Memphis, the Cardinals took an eight-point lead with 4:47 to go but ended up losing 72-66. Memphis got hot from the free throw line, but Louisville helped out with no fied goals in nearly five minutes to finish the game.

6. Michigan State suffered a “complete meltdown”
Even in Branden Dawson’s return, Michigan State looked as weak as it has all season. The Spartans lost 53-46 at home to an Illinois team that’s 6-10 in the Big Ten. Michigan State was just as inept in the offensive end as you’d imagine for a team that couldn’t muster 50 points against the Illini. Outside of Gary Harris, who scored 19 points, Michigan State shot 11 of 30 from the field. Tom Izzo called the game a “complete meltdown.” The Spartans are 4-6 since Jan. 21 and stand a chance to enter the Big Ten tournament with seven conference losses as they finish the regular season with Iowa and Ohio State.

7a. Cincinnati’s offensive shortcomings will bite them in March
At least Cincinnati’s defense showed up at UConn. That’s the only reason Cincinnati had a chance to defeat the Huskies in Hartford in a 51-45 loss. At the same time, this game continued to show that Cincinnati may have trouble scoring points in the NCAA Tournament. The Bearcats scored only four points in the first 12:07 in the second half and struggled in traditional (45 points, 27.1 percent shooting) and advanced (0.672 points per possession) metrics. The key is bottling up Sean Kilpatrick, who was the only Bearcat with more than eight points. Cincinnati doesn’t have secondary scorers to overcome a 4-of-16 game from its star player.

7b. Another coach/official confrontation draws attention
Only a week after Jim Boehiem’s tantrum and ejection, Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin nearly had a similar confrontation with official Ted Valentine. Cronin didn’t get a technical foul arguing a questionable out-of-bounds and after running in front of his bench toward Valentine. Cronin had to be restrained by three of his players and an assistant, but Valentine didn’t come out of this much better, nearly going nose to nose with the Bearcats coach.



8. No bubble team had a better week than Xavier
The Musketeers have struggled to get into a groove in the Big East, but they’re hitting a stride at a good time. After defeating St. John’s on the road early in the week, Xavier defeated Creighton 75-69 on Saturday. Doug McDermott was productive as usual with 27 points, but Xavier held the rest of the Bluejays to 5 of 22 from 3-point range. For Xavier, Justin Martin had 19 points and 16 rebounds, and Semaj Christon finished with 21 points.

9. Oregon had a decent week, too
It’s time to call Oregon’s turnaround legitimate. The Ducks had lost eight of 10 at one point after starting 13-0, but they have since recovered in the last week. Oregon played their way back into the NCAA Tournament field with a six-game losing streak. The signature win was an 87-83 win in double overtime against UCLA, but Oregon avoided an upset by defeating USC 78-63. The lopsided win as deceptive was the game was tied in the final 10:21

10. SEC bubble teams handled themselves well
Besides Florida, most of the SEC seems to be looking for ways to be disappointed on Selection Sunday. Give at least a little credit to Tennessee, Missouri and Arkansas for avoiding home upsets. Arkansas had the toughest challenge, beating Georgia 87-75. Tennessee crushed Vanderbilt 76-38, and Missouri defeated Mississippi State 85-66. Granted, we’re giving these teams credit for doing things they should do anyway, but that doesn’t happen all the time in the SEC. Just ask Kentucky.

Short stuff

• Now is a good time to start doubting Ohio State. Few teams had a worse week than Ohio State, which lost Thursday to Penn State and Sunday to an Indiana team playing without standout freshman Noah Vonleh.

• Pittsburgh isn’t on the bubble, but the Panthers came close to testing that with an 85-81 win over Notre Dame in overtime.

• Utah is going to go to the NIT which is a.) really good for the program Larry Krystkowiak inherited three years ago and b.) a little unfortunate. Utah is 8-8 in the Pac-12, but the Utes gave themselves a paltry non-conference schedule as they continued the rebuilding process. Utah’s strength of schedule is ranked 112th in the RPI.

• The jockeying to be the Atlantic 10’s last at-large bid in the NCAA Tournament will be tight. Dayton defeated UMass 86-79 to stay in contention while Richmond may be out after losing 66-43 to Rhode Island.

• Saint Louis has lost two in a row after starting 12-0 in the Atlantic 10, and neither game, whether at home against a bad Duquesne team or on the road at VCU, has been particularly close.

• From the land of the bizarre, the SWAC will allow four teams ineligible for an NCAA Tournament bid to play in the conference tournament. If an ineligible team wins the tournament, the SWAC’s automatic bid will be awarded to the eligible team that advances the furthest or the highest-seeded team if multiple teams are eliminated in the same round. The four ineligible teams includes league leader Southern (13-2 in the SWAC), Arkansas-Pine Bluff (8-7), Mississippi Valley State (5-10) and Grambling State (2-10).

Teaser:
College Basketball Weekend Recap: 10 Things to Know March 3
Post date: Monday, March 3, 2014 - 07:00
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When Wichita State reached the Final Four last season, the Shockers were a part of a trend, a team outside of the power structure reaching the final weekend of the college basketball season.

George Mason did it. VCU did it. Butler did it twice.

What the Shockers did Saturday night puts them in a company all their own. Or if Wichita State is put into a category, it stands in even more rare company than simply making a Final Four.

Four wins in two weeks is one thing. Winning 31 games in a row is another.

Wichita State wrapped up an undefeated regular season, a feat that hasn’t been matched in a decade with a win total that hasn’t been matched in 23 years.

Here’s how Wichita State stacks up with history:


• Wichita State is the first team to reach 31-0 since UNLV won their first 34 games in 1990-91. Led by Larry Johnson, Stacey Augmon and Greg Anthony, that Runnin’ Rebels squad won the national title a year earlier before falling to eventual national champion Duke in the Final Four for their only loss of 1991.

• The Shockers have been downright dominant during this run. Wichita State’s win to seal a 31-0 regular season played out like so many this season — in lopsided fashion. Wichita State defeated opponents by an average 15.5 points per game, both against the overall schedule and in conference. The Shockers played in only five games all season decided by fewer than 10 points.

• The Shockers are the first team to reach the conference tournament undefeated since St. Joseph’s, led by Jameer Nelson and Delonte West, did it in 2003-04. The Red Hawks started 27-0 before losing to Xavier in the Atlantic 10 quarterfinals that season. The game against Xavier also was their first game as the No. 1 team in the polls.

• St. Joe’s chances for a No. 1 seed were questioned after the loss to Xavier, but the Red Hawks ended up as a top seed in the East region before falling to second-seeded Oklahoma State 64-62 in the Elite Eight.

• All but one of the 11 other teams to start 30-0 or better reached the Final Four. The exception was 1974-75 Indiana, which topped out in the regional final.

• The NCAA selection committee is not supposed to look at what Wichita State did last season, but we can. The Shockers are 61-9 in the last two seasons. Since March 1 last year, the only teams to defeat Wichita State are Creighton twice and eventual national champion Louisville.

• If the Shockers win the Missouri Valley Tournament, they will match UNLV’s 34-0 start and likely will grab a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. If Wichita State wins its first NCAA Tourney game — and no No. 1 seed has lost to a No. 16 — Wichita State will be college basketball’s first 35-0 team.

• Don’t dismiss the Missouri Valley Tournament as a formality for Wichita State, though. The Shockers haven’t won Arch Madness since 1987 under Eddie Fogler.

• Wichita State’s status as a No. 1 seed likely depends entirely on being 34-0. Other than the loss column — and it’s worth reiterating that’s not to be ignored — the Shockers don’t have a No. 1 seed profile. Wichita State is 3-0 against the RPI top 50 with the only win against a sure NCAA Tournament team coming on the road against Saint Louis. Wichita State has only six top 100 wins and only two of those (the season sweep of Indiana State) are in conference play.

• Advanced analytics are a little more kind to Wichita State than the RPI, which does not count margin of victory among any other things in its formula. Wichita State is ranked sixth in Ken Pomeroy’s rankings. However, the Shockers have one trait that every national champion has had since 2003, a top 20 ranking in both adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency.

• You haven’t seen the last of Wichita State after this season, either. The Shockers have one senior among their top seven scorers. That’s a major piece in Cleanthony Early (15.7 points per game, 5.9 rebounds per game), but sharpshooter Ron Baker and point guard Fred VanVleet are sophomores.
 

Teaser:
Wichita State wraps up undefeated regular season: Superlatives on the Shockers
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Expectations have changed drastically in Stillwater in the last two months.

What looked like a team that would challenge Kansas’ reign atop the Big 12 at the start of the season is now fighting for an NCAA Tournament spot.

Drawing a first-round bye in the conference tournament, earning an NCAA Tournament bid and winning a game once in the field is now one of the most optimistic prospects for the Cowboys.

The good news for coach Travis Ford is that all of that looks attainable. Marcus Smart appears refreshed since his return to the lineup two games ago, and the Pokes have ended a seven-game losing streak.

A win over Kansas on Saturday would be a tall task, but it would seem to all but clinch a bid for the Cowboys. Here’s how Oklahoma State’s profile looks heading into the final stretch:
 

Remaining scheduleBy the numbers
March 1: Kansas
March 3: Kansas State
March 8: at Iowa State
Record: 18-10, 6-9 Big 12
RPI: 49
Strength of Schedule: 42
KenPom: 27
Best win: Texas at home
Worst loss: Texas Tech on the road

How Oklahoma State could be in the Tournament
The Cowboys need to come back from a seven-game losing streak from Jan. 27-Feb. 17. Defeating Texas Tech and TCU in Marcus Smart’s first two games back from suspension is a start. Smart has been the playmaker the Cowboys’ need with 17 assists in two games, but his shot is still inconsistent (0 of 3 from 3 against Texas Tech, 1 of 8 from 2 against TCU).

How Oklahoma State could be left out
The seven-game losing streak is tough to ignore, even if it includes only one loss to a team that’s certainly outside of the field (Texas Tech). The Cowboys’ personnel is not what it was during the non-conference schedule when forward Michael Cobbins was healthy and backup point guard Stevie Clark was on the roster. The final stretch will be tough against Kansas, Kansas State, Iowa State and a tough opponent in the Big 12 tournament.

Oklahoma State needs to: Defeat Kansas State and/or Iowa State
The Cowboys can probably afford a loss to Kansas at home Saturday, but that puts more pressure on the Pokes to at least split the last two Big 12 regular season games and win a game in the conference tournament. Defeating the Jayhawks on Saturday or winning in Ames next week would be the best thing Oklahoma State could do for its NCAA prospects.

Oklahoma State can’t afford to: Lose to Kansas State or go winless in the Big 12 Tournament
Kansas State is drifting onto the bubble. Oklahoma State may be able lose to Kansas and Iowa State and still have a decent NCAA profile, but it certainly can’t lose at home to the Wildcats. Seventh place in the Big 12 — where Oklahoma State is tied right now — would draw TCU in the conference tournament. That does nothing for the NCAA resume, but at least it draw the No. 2 seed in the next game.

Insight from the Oklahoma State beat: John Helsley, The Oklahoman
“The Cowboys were playing as well as anyone in the country into January, when they lost post player Michael Cobbins to a blown Achilles. And they haven’t been the same since, with the impact of that injury way more damaging than anyone imagined, leaving them exposed in the middle on both ends of the floor. They’ve gone from the front end of the AP Top 25 to the back end of the Big 12 standings. Since returning from a three-game suspension, point guard Marcus Smart seems to have rediscovered the 'facilitator' style that made him a special freshman a year ago. He’ll need to maintain that mindset to lead a surge down the stretch.”

Teaser:
Profiling Oklahoma State: NCAA Tournament Bubble Watch
Post date: Friday, February 28, 2014 - 12:28
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The NCAA Tournament field is ever-evolving at this time of year.

A week or so ago, Arkansas was barely on the NCAA Tournament radar. After Thursday’s win over Kentucky, the Razorbacks can claim a spot in the field barring a major loss. Minnesota has enjoyed the same turnaround after defeating Iowa.

Five of six ranked teams in action Thursday night lost, perhaps signaling a wild two weeks before the major conference tournaments begin.

Here are the games that will determine the field, plus projections of the bubble teams under pressure in the final weeks.

Key Games with NCAA Tournament Implications this Weekend

Providence at Seton Hall (Friday, 7 p.m., CBS Sports Network)
The Friars once looked like an NCAA Tournament team, but their only three wins in the last month are against DePaul twice and Butler once. With two wins over Georgetown and one over Xavier, Seton Hall is relishing its spoiler role.

Vanderbilt at Tennessee (Saturday, noon, ESPN2)
While the fans in Knoxville scream for a Bruce Pearl return, Cuonzo Martin is still on the edge of NCAA Tournament consideration. Not with a home loss to Vanderbilt, though.

Texas Tech at Baylor (Saturday, 1:30 p.m., Big 12 Network)
Texas ended Baylor’s four-game winning streak with a 74-69 win on Wednesday. Baylor can’t afford to take losses in bunches again like it did back in January.

Louisville at Memphis (Saturday, 2 p.m., CBS)
The possibility of a repeat won’t seem too far-fetched for Louisville if the Cards win in Memphis.

Related: Louisville-Memphis Game Preview

Missouri State at Wichita State (Saturday, 2 p.m., ESPN)
The only thing standing between Wichita State and an undefeated regular season is the last team to truly challenge the Shockers this season.

LSU at Florida (Saturday, 4 p.m., CBS)
A win in Gainesville may be one of the last hopes for LSU to get an at-large bid. Good luck. The Gators have won 30 in a row at home.

Syracuse at Virginia (Saturday, 4 p.m., ESPN)
The Orange draw their second consecutive road game against a delirious crowd, this time against a Cavaliers team with an ACC title on its mind.

Related: Syracuse-Virginia Game Preview

Texas at Oklahoma (Saturday 4 p.m., Big 12 Network)
The two teams are jockeying for seeding in the Big 12 tournament. The Longhorns are still looking to buck the trend of dismal road play.

Creighton at Xavier (Saturday, 5 p.m., Fox Sports 1)
The Musketeers are seeking their first RPI top 50 win since defeating Cincinnati on Dec. 14.

Minnesota at Michigan (Saturday, 6 p.m., Big Ten Network)
Welcome back to the bracket projections, Minnesota. The Gophers’ win over Iowa on Tuesday puts Richard Pitino’s team in a better spot. Winning in Ann Arbor might seal a bid.

Cal at Arizona State (Saturday, 6 p.m., Pac-12 Network)
The Bears defeated Arizona the first time around but lost by 28 in the return trip. Not a great look for a team trying to build an NCAA resume.

Iowa State at Kansas State (Saturday, 7 p.m., ESPNU)
The Cyclones keep rolling while Kansas State is 2-2 since the upset of Kansas. The Wildcats’ two wins were over TCU and Texas Tech.

Kansas at Oklahoma State (Saturday, 9 p.m., ESPN)
Oklahoma State roared back in the second half against Kansas during the first meeting in Lawrence before coming up short. Seems like ages ago.

Related: Oklahoma State bubble watch profile

NCAA Tournament Projections and Bubble Watch

ACC (5)
Feeling good: Duke, North Carolina, Syracuse, Virginia
Bubble in: Pittsburgh
Bubble out: Clemson

American (5)
Feeling good: Cincinnati, Connecticut, Louisville, Memphis
Bubble in: SMU
Bubble out: None

Atlantic 10 (5)
Feeling good: George Washington, Saint Louis, UMass, VCU
Bubble in: St. Joseph’s
Bubble out: Richmond, Dayton

Big 12 (7)
Feeling good: Iowa State, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas
Bubble in: Baylor, Kansas State, Oklahoma State
Bubble out: West Virginia

Big East (4)
Feeling good: Creighton, Villanova
Bubble in: St. John’s, Xavier
Bubble out: Georgetown, Marquette, Providence

Big Ten (6)
Feeling good: Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Wisconsin
Bubble in: Minnesota
Bubble out: Nebraska

Mountain West (2)
Feeling good: New Mexico, San Diego State
Bubble in: None
Bubble out: Boise State

Pac-12 (7)
Feeling good: Arizona, Stanford, UCLA
Bubble in: Arizona State, Cal, Colorado, Oregon
Bubble out: None

SEC (4)
Feeling good: Florida, Kentucky
Bubble in: Arkansas
Bubble out: LSU, Missouri, Tennessee

West Coast (2)
Feeling good:
None
Bubble in: BYU, Gonzaga
Bubble out: None

Favorites in one-bid leagues (22)
America East:
Vermont
Atlantic Sun: Mercer
Big Sky: Weber State
Big South: High Point
Big West: UC Santa Barbara
Colonial: Delaware
Conference USA: Southern Miss
Horizon: Green Bay
Ivy: Harvard
MAAC: Iona
MAC: Toledo
MEAC: North Carolina Central
Missouri Valley: Wichita State*
Northeast: Robert Morris
Ohio Valley: Belmont
Patriot: Boston University
Southern: Elon
Southland: Stephen F. Austin
Summit: North Dakota State
Sun Belt: Georgia State
SWAC: Texas Southern
WAC: New Mexico State
*Wichita State would be an at-large if the Shockers lose in the MVC tournament

Teaser:
NCAA Tournament Projections, Bubble Watch and Key Games
Post date: Friday, February 28, 2014 - 11:52
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Virginia wasn’t one of the first major stories of the season in the ACC, but it may be the last.

The Jabari Parker Watch was alive at Duke for most of the early part of the year, and Syracuse started 25-0 with a series of wild finishes.

The Cavaliers, though, may end up as league champions after Saturday. Virginia ascended to the ACC lead last week and will play their biggest game in decades against the Orange.

For its part, Syracuse is trying to reassert itself after a series of close calls and two losses in recent weeks.

The game may be a test in momentum. Through the course of the ACC season, Virginia has found complementary scorers for preseason conference player of the year contender for Joe Harris, or in the case of Malcolm Brogdon, a new leading scorer. Even freshman London Perrantes has emerged as a 3-point threat in recent weeks.

Many of the things that worked for Syracuse during that undefeated start have shown some cracks: C.J. Fair has been inconsistent, freshman Tyler Ennis is no longer invincible in end-of-game situations, and the 3-point shot has gone dormant.

What’s on the line for Syracuse
This is a tough question to ask of a team that started 25-0, but where is Syracuse going? After losses to Boston College and Duke, Syracuse bounced back to beat Maryland, but it was another close game and another narrow victory over a team not going to the NCAA Tournament. A game in Charlottesville is an opportunity for the Orange to regain their early season form.

What’s on the line for Virginia
History, pretty much. With a win over Syracuse, Virginia would lead the ACC by three games in the win column. Virginia has not won an outright ACC regular season title since 1981.

Syracuse at Virginia
Saturday, 4 p.m. Eastern, ESPN

About Syracuse
Record: 26-2, 13-2 ACC
AP: 4
RPI: 9
KenPom: 10
Sagarin: 15

About Virginia
Record: 24-5, 15-1 ACC
AP: 12
RPI: 14
KenPom: 4
Sagarin: 10

Athlon Editor Picks
David Fox: Virginia 58-52
Braden Gall: Virginia 55-51
Mitch Light: Virginia 55-51
You’ll tune in to watch: Virginia’s bid for time in the national spotlight
Despite that gaudy conference record, Virginia won’t be a contender for a No. 1 seed based on non-conference losses to VCU, Wisconsin, Green Bay and Tennessee. The Cavs quietly took the lead in the conference with a little help from the unbalanced schedule in the ACC. Virginia’s conference strength of schedule is ranked 15th in the ACC in KenPom. Win this game, and Virginia will be overlooked no more.

Pivotal player: Trevor Cooney, Syracuse
Since Cooney went for nine 3-pointers against Notre Dame, Syracuse’s top threat from beyond the arc is 11 of 40 from long range. The Cavaliers are allowing ACC opponents to shoot only 30.8 percent from 3-point range, the best rate in the league.

Biggest question: Will C.J. Fair take charge?
Fair is the senior and Syracuse’s leading scorer, but he’s also streaky. In the last five games, he’s shot 32 of 82 from the field (39 percent). Such a high-volume shooter probably needs to be more efficient, but that’s going to be tough against Virginia’s stingy defense.

Teaser:
College Basketball Game Preview: Virginia seeks ACC title vs. Syracuse
Post date: Friday, February 28, 2014 - 11:18
Path: /college-basketball/college-basketball-game-preview-louisville-seeks-flex-muscles-vs-memphis
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If Louisville is truly rounding into postseason form, Memphis will be the key test Saturday.

The Cardinals flopped at home against the Tigers in the first meeting back on Jan. 9, losing 73-67. Memphis’ entire starting five scored in double figures that day, the last time an opponent scored more than 70 points against Louisville.

“Our worst game of the season was Memphis,” Louisville coach Rick Pitino said. “You have to give them credit because they made us look bad. That was our poorest performance of the season at the defensive end. We did a lot of things that were uncharacteristic of us, but we are a much different team now then when we played them.”

Going into Thursday, Memphis had hopes of scoring a rare season sweep of Louisville, but the Tigers may have a new host of problems with a 77-68 loss to Houston. The loss was only the third for a team in the top five of the American standings against a team in the bottom six — SMU owns the other two losses to USF and Temple.

What’s on the line for Louisville
The Cardinals moved into a tie with Cincinnati for the American Athletic Conference lead with a win Thursday against Temple. Louisville’s road to the top seed in the conference tournament will be tougher with Saturday’s game at Memphis, a road trip to SMU and the home finale against UConn. Meanwhile, Cincinnati face UConn and Rutgers on the road and Memphis at home.

What’s on the line for Memphis
With a 73-67 win over Louisville on Jan. 9, Memphis is seeking its first season sweep of the Cardinals since 1996-97 when both were in Conference USA. Like Louisville, the Tigers wrap up their season with a tough stretch (at Cincinnati, vs. SMU). Memphis was sloppy in a loss Thursday to Houston, allowing 21 points on 14 turnovers.

Louisville at Memphis
Saturday, 2 p.m. Eastern, CBS

About Louisville
Record: 24-4, 13-2 American
AP: 7
RPI: 28
KenPom: 2
Sagarin: 4

About Memphis
Record: 21-7, 10-5 American
AP: 21
RPI: 39
KenPom: 45
Sagarin: 46

Athlon Editor Picks
David Fox: Louisville 71-65
Braden Gall: Louisville 74-68
Mitch Light: Louisville 64-60
You’ll tune in to watch: The Russ Smith Show
The Louisville guard scored only 10 points against Cincinnati on Saturday, but the last two were the only ones anyone will remember. Smith continues to be an All-America caliber guard who is having a season even better than what he did year ago. Now a darling of advanced analytics, Smith is shooting 52 percent from 2-point range (up from 45.8) and 37.6 from 3 (up from 32.8). He’ll be matched up against Memphis’ standout defensive duo of Geron Johnson and Michael Dixon.

Pivotal player: Austin Nichols, Memphis
The 6-8 freshman could be a key player for Memphis late in the year. The guard-oriented Tigers have had four standout games from Nichols in a row with 12 points per game in that span. Facing a small lineup against UConn and two bad AAC teams in Rutgers and Temple may have helped.

Biggest question: Who will hit free throws?
Struggling to hit free throws is usually a red flag in March. Few teams are more concerned than Louisville and Memphis, who are two of the worst in the country from the line. Memphis ranks 304th (65.8 percent), and Louisville is a few steps behind at No. 313 (65.5).
 

Teaser:
College Basketball Game Preview: Louisville seeks to flex muscles vs. Memphis
Post date: Friday, February 28, 2014 - 11:03
Path: /college-basketball/profiling-arkansas-ncaa-tournament-bubble-watch
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For several seasons, Arkansas has been close to the NCAA Tournament but not quite in the field.

The culprit primarily has been any game away from Fayetteville. The Razorbacks are near-unbeatable at home. During the last three seasons, Arkansas is 50-6 at home and 5-30 in road and neutral games.

That trend will need to change immediately if Arkansas is going to stay in NCAA Tournament contention when the Razorbacks face Kentucky. Arkansas hasn’t reached the filed since 2008, John Pelphrey’s first season as head coach. This matchup could be the critical game for the Razorbacks to be an at-large team.
 

Remaining scheduleBy the numbers
Feb. 27: at Kentucky
March 1: Georgia
March 5: Ole Miss
March 8: at Alabama
Record: 18-9, 7-7 SEC
RPI: 69
Strength of Schedule: 83
KenPom: 52
Best win: Kentucky at home
Worst loss: Texas A&M on the road

How Arkansas could be in the Tournament
The Hogs could finish the season on a hot streak that would potentially include wins over LSU, Kentucky, Georgia and Ole Miss. The onus will be on the 6-10, 242-pound Bobby Portis to give Kentucky the same trouble LSU big man Johnny O’Bryant III did twice this season.

How Arkansas could be left out
Without a win over Kentucky or a few wins in the SEC Tournament, Arkansas’ resume isn’t overwhelming. The Razorabcks played seven teams ranked 200 or worse, including two sub-300 teams in the RPI. The Hogs allowed a Feb. 13 road game against Missouri slip away for an 86-85 loss, a defeat that could have given Arkansas breathing room on the bubble.

Arkansas needs to: Sweep Kentucky
The Razorbacks defeated Kentucky 87-85 in overtime on Jan. 14 in a game marked by an unlikely game-winning put-back by Michael Qualls and curious officiating that led to a combined 81 free throw attempts. A win at Rupp, especially if it’s a little cleaner, could make Arkansas the No. 3 team in the SEC.

Arkansas can’t afford to: Lose in Tuscaloosa
Missouri slipped in the NCAA Tournament projections after a loss to Alabama on Saturday. That’s not something Arkansas can afford to do, either. The Razorbacks can’t afford home losses to Georgia or Ole Miss either, but Alabama would be the most damaging.

Teaser:
Profiling Arkansas: NCAA Tournament Bubble Watch
Post date: Thursday, February 27, 2014 - 17:42
All taxonomy terms: Oregon Ducks, Pac-12, College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/profiling-oregon-ncaa-tournament-bubble-watch
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Oregon began the season as one of the nation’s surprise teams. Dana Altman’s mishmash of transfers, including players from Houston, UNLV, Detroit and a few junior colleges.

After a 13-0 start, Oregon lost five in a row once the Ducks entered Pac-12 play. Oregon has become more consistent in February, but the Ducks haven’t been able to return to their early season form. With three games in the last four against NCAA-caliber competition, Oregon will look to grab a signature win in time for Selection Sunday.
 

Remaining scheduleBy the numbers
Feb. 27: at UCLA
March 1: at USC
March 4: Arizona State
March 8: Arizona
Record: 18-8, 6-8 Pac-12
RPI: 41
Strength of schedule: 44
KenPom: 36
Best win: BYU at home
Worst loss: Oregon State on the road

How Oregon could be in the Tournament
The Ducks have a Tournament-worthy record, thanks to a 13-0 start to the season. Although Oregon lacks a true statement win, the Ducks have few bad losses, going 6-1 against RPI teams ranked between 51-100. With a high-paced offense led by Houston transfer Joseph Young, the Ducks' only loss outside of the top 100 is on the road to Oregon State.

How Oregon could be left out
The Ducks’ best wins are over teams like BYU, Georgetown, Washington, Illinois and Ole Miss — opponents that range between bubble teams and NIT-caliber at best. Oregon also is one of the worst defensive teams in the Pac-12, particularly on the interior where the Ducks rank 11th in the league in 2-point field goal percentage defense and defensive rebound rate.

Oregon needs to: Beat UCLA on the road
The Ducks have not won a road game since Jan. 26 against Washington State and have defeated an RPI top 75 opponent since December. A win over Arizona in the regular season finale also would bode well for the Ducks’ NCAA hopes. Oregon lost 67-65 to Arizona in Tucson on Feb. 6.

Oregon can’t afford: A loss to USC
The Ducks will face three likely NCAA Tournament teams in the final four games, the exception being a road trip to USC. Oregon could make up for such a bad loss by defeating UCLA and Arizona or with a run in the Pac-12 Tournament, but Dana Altman may not want to test that.

Teaser:
Profiling Oregon: NCAA Tournament Bubble Watch
Post date: Thursday, February 27, 2014 - 16:08
Path: /college-basketball/profiling-georgetown-ncaa-tournament-bubble-watch
Body:

Simply being in NCAA Tournament contention in the final days of February has to be a pleasant surprise for Georgetown.

The Hoyas have been out of sorts ever since losing to 15th-seeded Florida Gulf Coast in the NCAA Tournament last season. The season began with a puzzling loss to Northeastern in Puerto Rico. Guard Greg Whittington was dismissed in November. Center Josh Smith was ruled academically ineligible in January.

Georgetown has at least recovered to be on the fringes entering the final key stretch of the regular season. The good news is that the Hoyas have opportunities to lock up a bid with a tough road game (Marquette) and two games against the top two teams in the Big East (Creighton and Villanova).

Here’s how Georgetown’s NCAA Tournament profile looks heading into tonight’s game against Marquette.
 

Remaining scheduleBy the numbers
Feb. 27: at Marquette
March 4: Creighton
March 8: Villanova
Record: 16-11, 7-8 Big East
RPI: 60
Strength of schedule: 25
KenPom: 64
Best win: Michigan State on a neutral court
Worst loss: Northeastern on a neutral court

How Georgetown could be in the Tournament
The Hoyas started 3-6 in Big East play, including a five-game losing streak, before an unlikely 64-60 win over Michigan State at Madison Square Garden started a hot streak for the Hoyas. One of the major developments has been the emergence of guard Jabril Trawick, who has averaged 11.4 points in his last eight games. Trawick’s emergence alongside D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera and Markel Brown in the backcourt is key for a team that has struggled offensively.

How Georgetown could be left out
Georgetown has three good neutral site wins, but the Hoyas have struggled away from home. The Hoyas’ only road wins are over DePaul and Butler, the two last place teams in the league. A season sweep by Seton Hall isn’t a great look, either.

Georgetown needs to: Beat Marquette or (even better) beat Villanova on the road
On paper, Marquette is the most winnable game remaining in the regular season, but the Golden Eagles defeated Georgetown 80-72 in overtime during the Hoyas’ January funk. Defeating Marquette and losing to Creighton and Villanova to end the season may be the most likely, but it still sets up a Georgetown team that needs to win a game or two in the Big East Tournament.

Georgetown can’t afford: Losing out
The Hoyas’ back-to-back loses to St. John’s (Feb. 16) and Seton Hall (Feb. 20) cast doubt on their improvement earlier in the month. Losing three in a row to finish the regular season would put Georgetown on a 1-5 slide to finish the season and render the Big East tournament moot.

Teaser:
Profiling Georgetown: NCAA Tournament Bubble Watch
Post date: Thursday, February 27, 2014 - 15:10
Path: /college-basketball/weekly-tipoff-are-you-north-carolina-believer
Body:

One of the main storylines early in the season was the unpredictability of North Carolina. The Tar Heels defeated Louisville, Michigan State and Kentucky early in the year but also lost to UAB and Belmont — all before conference play started.

North Carolina was either going to have one of the strangest resumes for any team in the NCAA Tournament or some of the strongest wins for any program to land in the NIT.

Since Jan. 26, though, North Carolina has stabilized for eight consecutive wins heading into tonight’s game against NC State.

How much is that old North Carolina team still haunting the Tar Heels this season. We asked our editorial staff.

Weekly Tipoff: Are you a believer in North Carolina’s turnaround?

Mitch Light: North Carolina has proven to be a solid top-15-ish team that is capable of advancing to the Sweet 16, but I don’t believe this team is good enough to string four wins together in the NCAA Tournament and reach the Final Four. There have been some positive signs over the last month — Marcus Paige is playing well; Leslie McDonald has shown he can be a 20-point scorer; James Michael McAdoo has played with aggression — but this is still a flawed team that struggles to shoot the ball (especially from the foul line).  

David Fox: To me, the most telling moment of North Carolina’s run in the second half this season wasn’t the win over Duke. It was the 105–72 rout of Wake Forest two days later. Wake isn’t a great team, but the Demon Deacons were good enough to beat North Carolina in early January when the Tar Heels were searching for an identity. And after the Duke win, this was the kind of game Carolina would have dropped early in the season. The Heels responded with a convincing win. This isn’t one of Roy Williams’ finest teams in Chapel Hill, but at least it has dropped the Jekyll and Hyde act from early in the season.

Braden Gall: The 2013-14 Tar Heels might be the best coaching job Roy Williams has ever done. Jeff Goodman of ESPN told me last weekend that this is the least talented North Carolina team he has ever seen. While I don't agree with that entirely, it is hard to find the All-America talent that normally carries Williams’ teams deep into the tournament. Marcus Paige is excellent, and James Michael McAdoo is playing well. Leslie McDonald is a nice player as well. And this unit plays solid defense and hits the glass. However, it’s a bad shooting team both from outside the arc and from the free throw line.
 

Teaser:
Weekly Tipoff: Are you a North Carolina believer?
Post date: Wednesday, February 26, 2014 - 13:37
Path: /college-basketball/weekly-tipoff-does-wichita-state-deserve-no-1-seed
Body:

Wichita State is one game away from doing something that hasn’t been done in a decade and an Missouri Valley Tournament away from doing something that hasn’t been done since Jerry Tarkanian’s heyday at UNLV.

Yet for some reason, the Shockers’ record, run to 30-0 after Tuesday’s win over Bradley, isn’t impressive enough for a handful of fans who’d rather see four other teams occupy No. 1 seeds.

The Missouri Valley isn’t what it was from 1999-2006, in part because Creighton is off to the Big East. Unless Wichita State loses in the MVC tournament, the league will send only one team to the NCAA Tournament.

The lackluster schedule means Wichita State, ninth in RPI and seventh on KenPom, has only two top 50 wins — at Saint Louis and against BYU on a neutral court.

Other than the empty box in the loss column, Wichita State doesn’t have the typical profile of a No. 1 seed in the Tournament. If the Shockers get to Selection Sunday with an unblemished record, should they draw the near-automatic win over a No. 16 seed? We asked our editorial staff for their thoughts.

Weekly Tipoff: Do the Wichita State Shockers deserve a No. 1 seed?

Mitch Light: It’s easy to look at the Shockers’ gaudy record (30-0) and assume they will be a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. But it’s not that simple. Take a look at Wichita’s résumé: Gregg Marshall’s team has only one win against a sure-fire NCAA Tournament team — at Saint Louis on Dec. 1. The Shockers have a few other decent wins — vs. Tennessee, BYU, Alabama and Davidson — but only one of those teams (BYU) is ranked in the top 50 of the RPI. That being said, it will be difficult for Wichita State — assuming it remains undefeated — to not be a No. 1 seed because there aren’t many great teams in college basketball this season. The Shockers picked a good season to be great.  

David Fox: If Wichita State gets to Selection Sunday undefeated, no question the Shockers deserve a No. 1 seed. And depending on what happens in other leagues, you could make a case a one-loss Wichita State should be a No. 1 seed. We saw last week how tough it is to remain perfect when Syracuse lost at home to an awful Boston College team. Since Wichita State’s scare against Missouri State on Jan. 11, the Shockers have defeated teams by an average of 15.5 points. Even teams like Florida and Arizona have played down to overmatched opponents in recent weeks. Even if the Missouri Valley isn’t as strong as it normally is, give credit to Wichita State for never even offering a glimmer of hope for an upset for most of the season.

Braden Gall: Do I think Wichita State is one of the best four teams in the nation? No. Do I think Wichita State will finish unbeaten in the regular season and conference tournament? Yes. And if the Shockers can finish the season unblemished then they will absolutely deserve the right to be a No. 1 seed. This team has depth, experience, talent and coaching, and it has non-conference wins over Saint Louis, BYU and Tennessee. Will I be picking WSU to make it back to the Final Four regardless of seeding? No. But an undefeated regular season is a special story that deserves a spot on the first line of the bracket.

Teaser:
Weekly Tipoff: Does Wichita State deserve a No. 1 seed?
Post date: Wednesday, February 26, 2014 - 13:19
Path: /college-basketball/pinpointing-coaches-year-every-major-college-basketball-conference
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With a little more than two weeks to Selection Sunday, the college basketball season almost certainly has a few more surprises even before the NCAA Tournament.

Some of those, though, won’t be many of the best coaching jobs in each league. By now, we know the teams that have overachieved, teams that have faced some of the most adversity and teams that have thrived despite of limitations.

For the most part, we know who is in contention for coach of the year in every major conference even before the invitations to the NCAA Tournament.

Maybe other programs not listed here will catch a hot streak in the postseason. Maybe others will falter. But for many of these, we need little more information to declare the following coaches frontrunners for their league’s coach of the year honors.

ACC
Tony Bennett, Virginia

Saturday seemed to be the day the light bulb went off everywhere but Charlottesville: Virginia can win the ACC regular season title. The Cavaliers took up first place with Syracuse’s loss to Duke. Despite Syracuse’s undefeated start to the season, Jim Boeheim’s costly outburst against Duke may cost him coach of the year hardware. Bennett’s doing this on his own merits, though. The build, like Virginia’s playing style, has been methodical. The Cavs have increased their ACC win total each season under Bennett. The difference this season has been the emergence of Malcolm Brogdon as a scorer to complement Joe Harris. While the traditional metrics indicate a modest improvement in the offensive end to 65.9 points per game, Virginia is a top-50 team in Ken Pomeroy’s adjusted offensive efficiency rating for the first time under Bennett.
Other challengers? North Carolina’s Roy Williams

American
Larry Brown, SMU

The hire of Brown at SMU was questionable two seasons ago as the then-72-year-old coach ventured back into college basketball for the first time since 1988. And beyond that, SMU was more than a decade removed from its last season with a winning record in conference play. To put that in further perspective, that was three coaches and two conferences ago. This didn't seem to be a job for a veteran coach nearing retirement. But after overhauling the roster in his first season, Brown has SMU on the brink of its first NCAA Tournament since 1993. The Mustangs aren’t totally feasting on the bottom half of the American, either. SMU has swept the season series against Connecticut and defeated Cincinnati and Memphis at home.
Other challengers? UConn’s Kevin Ollie

Atlantic 10
Jim Crews, Saint Louis

The tempting pick is Mark Lonergan of George Washington. Athlon picked the Colonials 10th in the conference, but they’re pushing for an NCAA bid. Sometimes, though, it helps not to overthink these selections. Crews, who was not named the permanent head coach until April, has Saint Louis undefeated in a surprisingly deep league. The Billikens are one of the top defensive teams in the country and count only two losses by single digits to Wisconsin and Wichita State.
Other challengers? George Washington’s Mark Lonergan, UMass’ Derek Kellogg, St. Joseph’s Phil Martelli

Big 12
Bill Self, Kansas

It seems too easy to pick the team that has already clinched at least a share of the conference title, but there’s more to this season for Self. The Jayhawks lost their entire starting five from last year, and although they added the best freshman class in the country, they played the toughest non-conference schedule in the nation. Andrew Wiggins started his career inconsistently, and point guard play was suspect early as well. Kansas indeed has the best roster in the league, but give Self credit for winning his 10th consecutive league title with more than week to go.
Other challengers? Oklahoma’s Lon Kruger, Texas’ Rick Barnes, Iowa State’s Fred Hoiberg

Big East
Jay Wright, Villanova

It would be a disservice to Villanova to boil its season down to the two lopsided losses to Creighton, the Wildcats’ only two losses in Big East play. This is still a team that defeated Kansas and Iowa early in the year. After an uneven 2012-13 and a losing season in 2011-12, Villanova is on its way to its best win total in four seasons.
Other contenders? Creighton’s Greg McDermott

Big Ten
John Beilein, Michigan

Just think of the adjustments Michigan has made this season: Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. left school early. Mitch McGary has played eight games all season. And then go-to scoring threat Nik Stauskas went into a midseason slump. The Wolverines have developed Caris LeVert into an impact player and freshman Derrick Walton into a Big Ten-caliber point guard. Michigan leads for the Big Ten title with arguably a better offensive team than a year ago.
Other contenders? Nebraska’s Tim Miles

Missouri Valley
Gregg Marshall, Wichita State

The Shockers are making a bid to be the first team to enter the conference tournaments undefeated since St. Joseph’s in 2004 and first to be undefeated on Selection Sunday since UNLV in 1991. Case closed.

Mountain West
Steve Fisher, San Diego State

By the time New Mexico defeated San Diego State on Saturday, it was easy to forget that the Lobos were a near-unanimous pick to win the Mountain West. Meanwhile, San Diego State was picked fourth by Athlon and by the media in the preseason poll. The Aztecs had to replace Jamaal Franklin and Chase Tapley, but the development of Xavier Thames enabled San Diego State to climb as high as No. 5 in the AP poll.
Other contenders? New Mexico’s Craig Neal

Pac-12
Tad Boyle, Colorado

Colorado has managed to keep its head above water despite the season-ending injury for Spencer Dinwiddie on Jan. 12. The Buffaloes are 5-5 since then, but haven’t lost to a team outside of the RPI top 50 without Dinwiddie starting. If Colorado can navigate these last three road games against Utah, Stanford and Cal, Boyle should have his team in the NCAA Tournament, a remarkable feat.
Other contenders? Arizona’s Sean Miller, Utah’s Larry Krystkowiak

SEC
Billy Donovan, Florida

For the most part, the SEC has been lackluster this season. Not Florida, though. The Gators are doing things they haven’t done since winning back-to-back national titles, including reaching the No. 1 spot in the polls and defeating Kentucky and Tennessee on the road in the same season. Now, Donovan has his eyes set on Florida’s first perfect SEC record in school history.
Other contenders? Georgia’s Mark Fox

Teaser:
Pinpointing Coaches of the Year for Every Major College Basketball Conference
Post date: Wednesday, February 26, 2014 - 07:00
Path: /college-basketball/profiling-minnesota-ncaa-tournament-bubble-watch
Body:

Minnesota won an NCAA Tournament game last season, and Tubby Smith was shown the door.

The Gophers are flirting with the NCAA bubble, and first-year coach Richard Pitino has the Minnesota fanbase energized.

Pitino has a chance to be the first first-year coach to reach the Tournament since Bill Muselman in 1972, but the Gophers have to make a major statement this week. The Gophers picked up two major wins in January against Wisconsin and Minnesota, but Pitino’s team has been quiet since then.

As they enter a critical week, Minnesota will look to rediscover the magic from earlier this season. Here’s a look at the Gophers as they enter tonight’s key game against Iowa:
 

Remaining scheduleBy the numbers
Feb. 24: Iowa
March 1: at Michigan
March 9: Penn State
Record: 17-11, 6-9 Big Ten
RPI: 47
Strength of schedule: 42
KenPom: 58
Best win: Wisconsin at home
Worst loss: Purdue on the road

Why Minnesota could be in the Tournament
The Gophers were the taste of the Big Ten for a week or so in January just as Wisconsin and Ohio State started to slump. Minnesota played a major role in that, defeating the Buckeyes and Badgers in Minneapolis. With Andre Hollins and Dre Mathieu, Minnesota has two quick guards able to pick apart opposing defenses.

Why Minnesota could be left out
The Gophers’ best days were in January. Since the upset of Wisconsin, Minnesota is 2-6. That stretch has included losses to Northwestern, Purdue and Illinois — teams that are Big Ten Tournament or bust at this point. Minnesota doesn’t have the non-conference resume to force the selection committee to overlook a potential losing record in Big Ten play.

Minnesota needs to: Beat Iowa and/or Michigan this week
Unless Minnesota can defeat Iowa at home today or Michigan in Ann Arbor on Saturday, the Gophers’ pair of top-20 wins back in January will look like the exception not the rule. Minnesota’s best win away from home is Richmond on the road, so the Gophers could split the week and still need to win a game or two in the Big Ten Tournament.

Minnesota can’t afford: A loss to Penn State
Losing to Iowa and Michigan would almost certainly banish Minnesota to the NIT. Minnesota finishes the season with Penn State at home on March 9. A loss there may be NCAA Tournament Kryptonite no matter what happens this week.

Teaser:
Profiling Minnesota: NCAA Tournament Bubble Watch
Post date: Tuesday, February 25, 2014 - 15:08
All taxonomy terms: Missouri Tigers, SEC, College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/ncaa-tournament-bubble-watch-profiling-missouri
Body:

Hovering around .500 in the SEC is not great for an NCAA Tournament resume. Missouri could learn how damaging that could be as the Tigers sit on the bubble.

As the Tigers head into tonight’s game against Georgia, Missouri is entering the must-win territory of its schedule, especially after a loss to Alabama on Saturday. Georgia is not a threat to go to the NCAA Tournament, but the Bulldogs are comfortable with the spoiler role, defeating bubble teams like Ole Miss and LSU in Athens in February.

Athlon Sports is breaking down some of the most vulnerable bubble teams as the regular season draws to a close, starting today with Missouri as the Tigers head into a key game against Georgia.
 

Remaining scheduleBy the numbers
Feb. 25: at Georgia
March 1: Mississippi State
March 5: Texas A&M
March 8: at Tennessee
Record: 19-8, 7-7 SEC
RPI: 45
Strength of schedule: 62
KenPom: 54
Best win: UCLA at home
Worst loss: Alabama on the road

Why Missouri could be in the Tournament:
The Tigers have one of the most dynamic backcourts in the league in transfers Jordan Clarkson (Tulsa), Jabari Brown (Oregon) and Earnest Ross (Auburn). The Tigers swept the season series against fellow bubble team Arkansas. Mizzou also is 10 days removed from a win over Tennessee. It’s tough to see the SEC garnering fewer than three NCAA Tournament bids, and Missouri has as much of a chance as any.

Why Missouri could be be left out:
Missouri’s team defense is dreadful. The Tigers rank last in defensive efficiency in SEC play on KenPom, a deficiency that led to Missouri’s worst losses of the season to Alabama, Ole Miss, Vanderbilt and Georgia. Beyond a win over RPI no. 15 UCLA, Missouri does not have another win over a sure-fire NCAA Tournament team. Facing Florida and Kentucky once apiece this season — Mizzou lost both — deprives the Tigers of a chance for a signature win.

Missouri needs: To beat Tennessee
A season sweep to Georgia wouldn’t be a great look, but the road trip to Knoxville could be the key game if the Tigers win the next three. A win over Tennessee on the road combined with one win in the SEC Tournament might be enough to keep the Tigers in the field.

Missouri can’t afford: Losses to Mississippi State or Texas A&M
The Tigers are three days removed from their worst loss of the season to RPI No. 117 Alabama. Another loss to a bad team this close to the NCAA Tournament would be a trend rather than an aberration.

Insight from the beat: Steve Walentik, Columbia (Mo.) Daily Tribune
“Missouri missed opportunities to separate itself from all the middling teams in the SEC while too often coming up a little short on the road in league play. ... Missouri needs junior guards Jabari Brown and Jordan Clarkson at peak form down the stretch with only one other player (Earnest Ross) averaging more than 5.1 points in SEC play. The Tigers are also going to have to stop surrendering so many open looks from beyond the 3-point arc. They're giving up an average of 7.9 made 3-pointers during SEC play and have allowed five different opponents to make at least 10 against them.”

Teaser:
NCAA Tournament Bubble Watch: Profiling Missouri
Post date: Tuesday, February 25, 2014 - 13:29
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/ncaa-tournament-projections-bubble-watch-and-key-games
Body:

March is three days away and a handful of teams are down to their final three and four games before the conference tournaments.

No doubt, it’s crunch time around the nation.

Somehow, the NCAA selection committee is going to have to find a way to fill 68 spots, which is as tough as ever on the bubble.

Here’s a look at the key games this week involving bubble teams and how the field could shake out on Selection Sunday:

Key Games with NCAA Implications This Week

Xavier at St. John’s (Tuesday, 7 p.m., Fox Sports 1)
The Musketeers are sliding with a 3-5 record in the last eight games with two of those wins coming against Butler and DePaul. St. John’s missed a golden opportunity to improve its case when it lost a close one to Villanova on Saturday.

Iowa at Minnesota (Tuesday, 7 p.m., Big Ten Network)
Minnesota has lost six of its last eight since defeating Wisconsin on Jan. 22. The stretch has included losses to Northwestern, Purdue and Illinois, so the Gophers are at a point where they probably need to beat Iowa on Tuesday or Michigan on Saturday.

Dayton at St. Joseph’s (Tuesday, 7 p.m., CBS Sports Network)
The Flyers have reeled off six consecutive wins to go with non-conference wins over Gonzaga, Cal and Ole Miss. This will be the make-or-break stretch against St. Joe’s, UMass, Saint Louis and Richmond. St. Joe’s isn’t an NCAA lock by any means, either.

Missouri at Georgia (Tuesday, 9 p.m., ESPNU)
No bubble team in the SEC wants any part of Georgia. Despite their overall record, Georgia has been the spoiler in the SEC with wins over Missouri earlier in the season, plus LSU and Ole Miss. Missouri is coming off a loss to Alabama and could slide onto the bubble with a second consecutive loss and a season sweep to the Bulldogs.

West Virginia at Iowa State (Wednesday, 8 p.m., Big 12 Network)
The Mountaineers have cooled off since defeating Baylor, Kansas State and Oklahoma in consecutive games. Lopsided losses to Texas and Baylor in the last two games probably signal West Virginia is an NIT team.

Cal at Arizona (Wednesday, 9 p.m., ESPN2)
Arizona is in the conversation for the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament especially if the Wildcats can avenge their only loss in regulation this season.

Baylor at Texas (Wednesday, 9 p.m., ESPNU)
The unpredictable Bears have won four in a row since a 2-8 start in the Big 12. None of those games is as tough as road trip to Austin.

Nebraska at Illinois (Wednesday, 9 p.m., Big Ten Network)
The Cornhuskers won’t have an opportunity to pick up a top 50 win until the last day of the regular season against Wisconsin. For now, they can’t afford any bad losses to teams like Illinois.

Stanford at Arizona State (Wednesday, 11 p.m., ESPNU)
This game will be more pressing for Arizona State than for Stanford, which defeated UCLA over the weekend. After defeating Arizona on Valentine’s Day, the Sun Devils dropped road games to Colorado and Utah.

Arkansas at Kentucky (Thursday, 7 p.m., ESPN)
Arkansas is hanging on to relevance. Perhaps the only way the Razorbacks can get an at-large bid is to finish what LSU could not by winning in Lexington.

Georgetown at Marquette (Thursday, 9 p.m., Fox Sports 1)
Defeating Xavier was key for Georgetown to recover from Thursday’s loss to Seton Hall. The Hoyas will have one more chance to defeat an NIT-worthy team before finishing up with Creighton and Villanova.

Oregon at UCLA (Thursday, 11 p.m., ESPN2)
The Ducks started 13-0, but they haven’t defeated a top 50 team since BYU on Dec. 21. At least the Ducks stopped losing to teams like Oregon State and Washington.

NCAA Tournament Projections and Bubble Watch

ACC (5)
Feeling good: Duke, North Carolina, Syracuse, Virginia
Bubble in: Pittsburgh
Bubble out: Clemson

American (5)
Feeling good: Cincinnati, Connecticut, Louisville, Memphis
Bubble in: SMU
Bubble out: None

Atlantic 10 (5)
Feeling good: George Washington, Saint Louis, UMass, VCU
Bubble in: St. Joseph’s
Bubble out: Richmond, Dayton

Big 12 (7)
Feeling good: Iowa State, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas
Bubble in: Baylor, Kansas State, Oklahoma State
Bubble out: West Virginia

Big East (5)
Feeling good: Creighton, Villanova
Bubble in: Georgetown, St. John’s, Xavier
Bubble out: Providence

Big Ten (6)
Feeling good: Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Wisconsin
Bubble in: Nebraska
Bubble out: Minnesota

Mountain West (2)
Feeling good: New Mexico, San Diego State
Bubble in: None
Bubble out: Boise State

Pac-12 (6)
Feeling good: Arizona, Stanford, UCLA
Bubble in: Arizona State, Cal, Colorado
Bubble out: Oregon

SEC (3)
Feeling good: Florida, Kentucky
Bubble in: Missouri
Bubble out: Arkansas, LSU, Tennessee

West Coast (2)
Feeling good:
None
Bubble in: BYU, Gonzaga
Bubble out: None

Favorites in one-bid leagues (22)
America East:
Vermont
Atlantic Sun: Mercer
Big Sky: Weber State
Big South: High Point
Big West: UC Santa Barbara
Colonial: Delaware
Conference USA: Southern Miss
Horizon: Green Bay
Ivy: Harvard
MAAC: Iona
MAC: Toledo
MEAC: North Carolina Central
Missouri Valley: Wichita State*
Northeast: Robert Morris
Ohio Valley: Belmont
Patriot: Boston University
Southern: Elon
Southland: Stephen F. Austin
Summit: North Dakota State
Sun Belt: Georgia State
SWAC: Southern
WAC: New Mexico State
*Wichita State would be an at-large if the Shockers lose in the MVC tournament

Teaser:
NCAA Tournament Projections, Bubble Watch and Key Games
Post date: Tuesday, February 25, 2014 - 07:00
Path: /college-basketball/north-carolinas-leslie-mcdonald-earns-athlon-player-week-honors
Body:

When North Carolina’s season started, P.J. Hariston and Leslie McDonald were in NCAA suspension limbo.

McDonald, though, was the clear No. 2 anytime the two suspensions were mentioned. Now that he’s been in the lineup for weeks, McDonald has proven himself one of the key missing pieces for the Tar Heels’ season.

The senior guard led North Carolina with 21 points in Thursday’s 74-66 win over Duke and added 19 points in Saturday’s rout of Wake Forest to earn Athlon Sports National Player of the Week honors.

"Once you see the ball go in the rim, you see that it starts going for you,” McDonald said after the Duke win. “I had the mentality where if it's going in for me, I'll keep using it to my advantage. I was feeling pretty hot, and I was making sure I was taking good shots."

National player of the week: Leslie McDonald, North Carolina
After recovering from a dismal two games from the field, McDonald combined to shoot 14 of 21 from the floor in Carolina’s wins over Duke and Wake Forest. For a team with suspect outside shooting, McDonald made 5 of 6 3-pointers in the 105-72 win over Wake.

National freshman of the week: Jabari Parker, Duke
Parker scored 19 points — the final two on a huge bucket in the lane with 1:31 remaining — and grabbed 10 rebounds to help Duke beat Syracuse 66–60 at the Carrier Dome. Despite a loss earlier in the week to North Carolina, Parker has double-doubles in three consecutive games.

Under-the-radar players of the week: Johnny Dee and Duda Sanadze, San Diego
Dee had 16 points and Sanadze had 15, including game-clinching free throws, in San Diego’s 69-66 upset of Gonzaga on Saturday. The backcourt duo combined to shoot 9-of-22 from the field, but more important, 9-of-10 from the free throw line in San Diego’s first win over Gonzaga in 11 meetings. The pair of Toreros also combined for 30 points in a 61-59 win over Portland earlier in the week.

Other top performers this week

Montrezl Harrell, Louisville
Russ Smith hit the game-winning shot, but Harrell, a sophomore forward, was Louisville’s best player as the Cardinals recorded a 58–57 win at Cincinnati in a battle of American Athletic Conference heavyweights. Harrell scored 21 points and grabbed 10 rebounds — his seventh double-double of the season — to help Louisville move into a tie with Cincinnati (in the loss column) in the American.

Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State
Smart was sensational in his return from a three-game suspension, scoring 16 points and adding 10 assists, six steals, three rebounds and two blocks in Oklahoma State’s much-needed 84–62 win over Texas Tech. The Cowboys, once ranked in the top 10, had lost seven straight games — the final three with Smart serving a suspension for pushing a fan in the final seconds of a loss at Texas Tech on Feb. 8.

Kenny Gaines, Georgia
Gaines poured in a career-high 27 points (on 9-of-14 shooting) to lead Georgia to a dominating 73–56 win at South Carolina. The Bulldogs have won five of their last six and sit alone in third place in the SEC with a 9–5 record in league play.

DeAndre Kane, Iowa State
Kane continues to make a strong case for Big 12 Player of the Year honors. The senior guard scored 20 points, grabbed six rebounds and handed out five assists in Iowa State’s 71–60 win at TCU. A fifth-year transfer from Marshall, Kane is averaging 16.3 points, 6.6 rebounds and 6.0 assists.

Stephen Holt, Saint Mary’s
Holt enjoyed a career day, scoring 35 points — nearly half of his team’s total — to lead Saint Mary’s to a 76–54 win at Santa Clara, The senior guard, who scored only seven points in a loss to San Francisco two days earlier, hit 14-of-17 from the field (including 4-of-6 from 3-point range).

Levi Randolph, Alabama
Randolph scored a total of 24 points as Alabama went 1–6 in a season-killing seven-game stretch from Jan. 30-Feb. 20. The junior guard scored 33 on Saturday night to lead the Crimson Tide to an 80–73 win over Missouri. Randolph connected on 11-of-15 from the field, including 5-of-7 from 3-point range.

Nik Stauskas, Michigan
Stauskas delivered in the clutch to help Michigan complete the season sweep over Michigan State. The sharp-shooting guard scored a game-high 25 points (on 9-of-13 shooting) and also had a team-high  five assists to lead Michigan to its 11th Big Ten win of the season. Stauskas, who leads the team in scoring (16.7 ppg), had 19 points in the Wolverines’ win in East Lansing in late January.

Delon Wright, Utah
Utah snapped a two-game losing streak and moved back to one game under .500 in league play (7–8) thanks to a big game from Wright. The junior guard scored 22 points, grabbed nine rebounds and added six assists as the Utes coasted to an easy 86–63 win over Arizona State in Salt Lake City.

T.J. Warren, NC State
Warren, the ACC’s leading scorer, scored 31 points to help NC State post a 71–64 win over Virginia Tech in Blacksburg. A sophomore forward, Warren connected on 3-pointers on the Wolfpack’s first two possessions and scored 17 of his team’s 35 points in the first half. He is averaging 23.3 points and 7.1 rebounds.

Cameron Bairstow, New Mexico
Bairstow was dominant in the Lobos’ biggest win of the season. The senior forward scored 26 points (on 11-of-18 shooting) and grabbed nine rebounds to lead New Mexico to a 58–44 win over San Diego State in a showdown of the top two teams in the Mountain West.

Teaser:
North Carolina's Leslie McDonald earns Athlon Player of the Week honors
Post date: Monday, February 24, 2014 - 14:33
Path: /college-football/ranking-nations-college-coaching-tandems
Body:

Football is king in the SEC, but outside of pockets in Lexington and Gainesville, basketball never feels like a pressing issue.

The Big Ten, on the other hand, is where a balance between football and basketball success is trending upward. The league doesn’t have the names of the new ACC — Krzyzewski, Boeheim, Williams and soon Pitino — but Tom Izzo, Bo Ryan, John Beilein and Thad Matta stack up with any roster of basketball coaches in the country.

Football is starting to shed its image of unable to compete in the big game. Mark Dantonio led Michigan State to the Big Ten’s second Rose Bowl win since 2000. Ohio State’s Urban Meyer, despite two losses to finish the season, is on the short list of top football coaches after Alabama’s Nick Saban.

Our ranking of the top college football and basketball coaching tandems attempts to identify the programs that can expect to be competitive from August to April, from the start of football season to the end of basketball season.

The teams at the top of our national list can expect to have their fanbases at a fever pitch year round.

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

The Spartans have a good chance of sweeping Big Ten coach of the year honors with Dantonio already receiving both the coaches’ and media awards with a Rose Bowl-winning season. Izzo will have some tough competition with the coaches at Wisconsin, Iowa, Nebraska and Minnesota for basketball honors, but the Spartans could still win a conference title despite a rash of injuries to key players. A healthy basketball squad this season would be in contention for Izzo’s second national title and seventh Final Four.

Related: Complete Big Ten coaching tandem rankings

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

Meyer is well on his way to replicating his Florida tenure at Ohio State. The Buckeyes won his first 24 games before losses to Michigan State in the Big Ten title game and Clemson in the Orange Bowl. This is not Matta’s most complete team on the basketball side, but he’s led Ohio State to at least a share of the conference regular season title five times, the conference tournament title four times and a Final Four appearance twice.

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

On the basketball side, Duke has a Hall of Fame coach with four national championships, two Olympic gold medals and more than 900 wins. On the other side, the Blue Devils have a coach who has reached bowl games in back-to-back seasons with the ACC’s worst program. Krzyzewski is four years removed from his most recent national title, but as usual, he’s in contention for another one this season. Meanwhile, Cutcliffe led Duke to 10 wins and the ACC title game last season. One interesting parallel for these coaches: Both had health scares that sidelined them for a year (Krzyzewski’s back in 1995 and Cutcliffe’s heart in 2005), but both coaches are at the top of their games.

Related: Complete ACC coaching tandem rankings

4. Louisville
Football:
Bobby Petrino | Basketball: Rick Pitino

The Petrino/Pitino sound-alike duo is back in the Derby City. The first time around wasn’t so bad for Louisville. Petrino successfully guided the Cardinals into the Big East era with an Orange Bowl victory in his final season in 2006. Louisville is counting on Petrino to do the same as the Cards move into the ACC in 2014. Since 2009 alone, Pitino has led the basketball program to the 2013 national title, two Final Fours and three 30-win seasons. Certainly, it’s risky bringing Petrino — a career-long flight risk whose Arkansas tenure was bought down by ethical failings — back into the fold.

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

Stoops earned a victory lap in 2013 after his program went 11-2, finished at No. 6 in the AP poll and defeated Alabama in the Sugar Bowl. After two seasons of falling below expectations, Oklahoma had as much of a surprise season as the Sooners possibly could in 2013. Overall under Stoops, OU has finished in the top 10 nine times in 15 seasons. Facing sanctions when he was hired, Kruger needed only one season to rebuild Oklahoma into an NCAA Tournament team. Beyond Oklahoma, Kruger is the only coach to lead five different teams to the NCAA Tournament.

Related: Complete Big 12 coaching tandem rankings

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

Ryan’s consistency at Wisconsin has been astounding with NCAA Tournament bids and top four finishes in the Big Ten for every year of his tenure since 2001-02. Moreover, Ryan is 12-3 against Izzo and 13-1 against Michigan’s John Beilein. The only thing missing from his resume is a deep NCAA Tournament run. Andersen also kept the football program a consistent program in the Big Ten. In his first season, the Badgers went 9-4, with three of those losses coming by one score.

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

Sean Miller’s last four NCAA Tournament appearances have resulted in either a Sweet 16 or an Elite Eight. It’s only a matter of time before he gets to the Final Four or better, especially as he’s returned Arizona to national powerhouse status. Rodriguez has made the most of his second chance in a major conference since his ill-fated tenure at Michigan. The Wildcats have back-to-back eight win seasons and back-to-back bowl wins in two seasons under RichRod.

Related: Complete Pac-12 coaching tandem rankings

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

Kansas State doesn’t have the advantages of other Big 12 programs in either sport, but that hasn’t stopped Snyder or Weber from contending. In 2012, Kansas State won a share of the football title (and earned the BCS bid), and in 2013, the Wildcats won a share of the basketball title. Snyder’s second act as Kansas State football coach has been just as impressive as his first, and Weber’s second chance at a big-time program is about to yield his second consecutive NCAA Tournament trip.

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

Not long ago, Florida State’s basketball program arguably was more successful that its football program, especially given the expectation level for both. In four seasons, Jimbo Fisher has returned FSU football to national prominence after a 14-0 season, the national championship and a Heisman Trophy. Hamilton’s basketball program may land in the NIT for the second consecutive season, but that shouldn’t overshadow his tenure. Hamilton is the first FSU basketball coach to lead the Seminoles to four consecutive NCAA Tournaments, four consecutive 20-win seasons and an ACC Tournament title.

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

If anything, Spurrier could teach Martin how to mellow out. Away from game day, Spurrier knows how to relax, especially if there’s a golf course nearby. But the football coach is just as sharp as ever, leading South Carolina, once one of the league’s underachieving programs, to three consecutive top 10 finishes. After a successful run at Kansas State, Martin still has work to do to even get to an NIT, but there have been shades of improvement in his second season with the Gamecocks. He has one of the league’s top freshmen in Sindarius Thornwell.

Related: Complete SEC coaching tandem rankings

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

One thing we’ve learned over the years: Never count out a Beilein-coached team. A season after losing the national player of the year in Trey Burke and playing most of the season without rising star Mitch McGary, the Wolverines remain in contention for the Big Ten title. On the football side, Hoke appeared to have Michigan on the path to Rose Bowl contention, but the Wolverines’ win total has decreased in each of the last three seasons.

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

Notre Dame still has work to do in order to be among the national elite. Alabama exposed as much in the BCS championship game after the 2012 season. Still, a title game appearance is more than Kelly’s predecessors in South Bend. Dealt a curve ball with Everett Golson’s academic issues, Notre Dame still went 9-4 in 2013, Kelly’s eighth consecutive season with eight or more wins. Brey hasn’t been as fortunate this season with a key player, Jerian Grant, lost due to academics. Brey’s streak of seven consecutive 20-win seasons and four NCAA Tournament bids likely ends this season, but the track record suggests Brey’s program won’t be down for long.

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

The coaches have more in common than a Chapel Hill zip code. Both would like their teams to operate at a fast pace, and neither has ever had a losing season as a head coach. Of course, Williams track record is more impressive with two national titles at North Carolina and a basketball Hall of Fame induction. Fedora’s 8-4 season in 2012 despite a bowl ban was impressive, but last season’s 7-6 performance, the third of Fedora’s career, was a let down.

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

In 2006, Baylor football went 4-8 and a sanctioned-limited basketball went 4-13. Less than a decade later, Baylor is competitive on both fronts. In the last three seasons, Baylor football has won its first Heisman and its first Big 12 title. Basketball has been inconsistent under Drew, but the Bears still have two Elite Eight appearances under his watch, which is two more than any other Baylor coach since 1950.

15. UCLA
Football:
Jim L. Mora | Basketball: Steve Alford

With 19 wins in two seasons, UCLA football is a factor again in the Pac-12 even if the Bruins haven’t broken through for a conference title. Alford’s hire was greeted with skepticism, but the Bruins are in NCAA Tournament contention in his first season in Westwood. Expectations soon will be higher.

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

Miles’ credentials are pretty clear: The 2007 national title and appearance in the 2011 title game and four consecutive 10-win seasons. Jones is in his second season at his alma mater after leading one of the most consistent Sun Belt programs at North Texas. Both coaches are standout recruiters in a region flush with prospects.

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

Richt has to wonder what might have been if his team had stayed healthy for all of 2013. Otherwise, Georgia has been the SEC’s most stable program since his tenure began in 2001. The Bulldogs haven’t reached a title game, but they’re consistently in the mix for the East title. Fox has had his own dose of bad luck with players like Trey Thompkins and Travis Leslie leaving for the NBA Draft. The overall record isn’t pretty, but Georgia has been competitive in SEC play, including an 8-4 mark this season.

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

Saban has few peers in football coaching with three national titles in the last five seasons. Another national No. 1 recruiting class ensures the Crimson Tide are still the team to beat in the SEC despite Auburn’s league title in December. Grant has recruited at a high level, though some of his top prospects have been washouts. This season has been the worst of his five-year tenure, which has included two NITs and one NCAA Tournament.

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

Normally, a coaching tandem with basketball national titles and a Sugar Bowl would be enough to be at or near the top. Indeed, if Florida overcame injuries last season to get to a second-tier bowl game, maybe the Gators would be No. 1. Alas, Muschamp will be under pressure in his fourth season after presiding over a loss to Georgia Southern and the program’s first losing season since 1979.

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

Again, the top two basketball coaches in the SEC are paired with football coaches we’re not quite sure about yet. The last two seasons probably haven’t gone the way most Big Blue Nation envisioned, but Calipari and Kentucky are a perfect match. If Kentucky football can get to regular bowl contention, then this might be the best tandem in the league. Stoops brought in a top 25 signing class in 2014, so it may happen in the near future.

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

Cronin took over a Cincinnati program in shambles just as the Bearcats moved into the Big East. Now, it’s one of the most consistent programs in the country thanks to a commitment to a gritty defensive style of play. Cincinnati has reached three consecutive NCAA Tournaments, including a Sweet 16 appearance two years ago. The Texas Tech job wasn’t a great fit for the well-traveled Tuberville, but Cincinnati welcomed him with open arms. With Louisville gone, he should have the top program in the AAC.

22. San Diego State
Football:
Rocky Long | Basketball: Steve Fisher

The former Michigan coach Fisher has had one of the most impressive second acts of anyone. Fisher took over a moribund San Diego State program in 1999 and molded it into the most consistent winner in the Mountain West. This season, the Aztecs are can win their third league title in the last four seasons. Long has also enjoyed his second head coaching stop, continuing the success from the Brady Hoke era. With three bowl games, Long is the only San Diego State coach to reach multiple postseason games.

23. Stanford
Football:
David Shaw | Basketball: Johnny Dawkins

Shaw has established himself as the top football coach in the Pac-12, leading the Cardinal to back-to-back conference titles. Stanford is 34-7 with three BCS bids under Shaw with plenty of potential to continue given his recruiting success. Dawkins hasn’t matched the success of his predecessors Mike Montgomery or Trent Johnson, but Stanford basketball is finally back in NCAA Tournament contention after a six-year absence.

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

Ferentz has had only one 10-win season and top-10 finish since the Hawkeyes did so three seasons in a row from 2002-04. Still, Iowa enjoyed rebound season in 2013, finishing with its first winning record in the Big Ten since 2009. In four seasons, McCaffery has rebuilt an Iowa program that hasn’t reached the NCAA Tournament since 2006 and hasn’t won a Tournament game since 2001.

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

In the last decade, Oklahoma State has risen from an also-ran in football to a program alongside Oklahoma and Texas. The investment from T. Boone Pickens has helped, but Gundy has capitalized with three 10-win seasons in the last four years. After a disappointing season, Ford may be in some trouble if the Cowboys can’t scrap together what they can when Marcus Smart returns from suspension. Still, Oklahoma State has three Tournament appearances in five seasons under Ford.

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

The job in Ames is one of the tougher jobs in either sport, but Rhoads and Hoiberg have been able to keep the Cyclones in postseason contention. More than that, both coaches have a knack the big win — football defeating Oklahoma State in 2011 and basketball defeating No. 7 seed Notre Dame in the 2013 NCAA Tournament.

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

If Wilson can find a defense to match the offense in Bloomington, this tandem will rise near the top. The Hoosiers have improved from 0-8 to 2-6 to 3-5 in the Big Ten in his three seasons. Though Indiana’s disappointing 2013-14 season began with a Sweet 16 exit from the NCAA Tournament last year, Indiana emerged from NCAA sanctions to spend much of last season ranked No. 1.

28. Minnesota
Football:
Jerry Kill | Basketball: Richard Pitino

Kill’s program has enjoyed incremental improvement in each of his three seasons, remarkable given that Minnesota finished 8-5 overall and 4-4 in the Big Ten even as Kill was limited for seven games while he dealt with epilepsy. Pitino, the youngest basketball coach in the Big Ten, has the Gophers in contention for an NCAA Tournament berth in his first season.

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

Pelini will need to use the Gator Bowl victory over Georgia to turn the momentum for his program. Nebraska is consistent, but a little too consistent for fans’ tastes. The Huskers have lost four games each season under Pelini, including a few head-scratchers. The charismatic Miles has Nebraska in postseason contention in 2013-14 after going 5-13 in his first season.

30. Texas
Football:
Charlie Strong | Basketball: Rick Barnes

Texas has gone from having one of the best tandems in the country when Mack Brown and Rick Barnes on the top of their game, and then one of the most disappointing when Brown missed a bowl game and Barnes missed the NCAA Tournament in a three-year span. Now, we don't know what to expect. With Texas enjoying a bounce-back season on the court, Barnes is coach of the year material. Strong is new to the Big 12 and all the pressures of the Texas job, but his track record at Louisville included 23 wins in his last two years.

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

Few coaching tandems are more lopsided than the one that shares the Carrier Dome. After last season’s trip to the Final Four, Boeheim joked his program was due for one trip to the national semifinals each decade (he wasn’t wrong), but the Hall of Famer has a team capable of doing it again. In his first season in the ACC, Boeheim is building upon his win total with 25 consecutive wins to start 2013-14. The football coach, however, is why Syracuse’s tandem is ranked this low in the ACC. Shafer proved himself a perfectly capable coach in his first season, going 7-6 with a Texas Bowl victory.

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

With the NCAA investigation related to the Nevin Shapiro scandal finished an another Penn State coaching search completed, Miami will look to continue its progress under Golden. The Hurricanes have increased their win total every season under Golden, but they remain a middling ACC program (10-6 the last two seasons).

34. BYU
Football:
Bronco Mendenhall | Basketball: Dave Rose

The win totals have dropped from the days when BYU won at least 10 games every year from 2006-09, but Mendenhall has never missed a bowl game as a head coach even as the Cougars opted for independence over Mountain West affiliation. Rose’s program on the basketball side is also one of the most consistent in the country. A Tournament bid this season would be the seventh in the last eight seasons.

35. Missouri
Football:
Gary Pinkel | Basketball: Frank Haith

The question if Missouri could stay afloat in the SEC has been answered with a resounding yes as the Tigers reached the SEC title game and had a shot at the national championship game. Missouri likely will make the NCAA Tournament for the third consecutive season under Haith, but some of the results — two early NCAA exits and a 17-13 record in lackluster league — make it tough to rank this tandem any higher.

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

Swinney’s homespun rah-rah personality and his offensive coordinator seem to have made the Clemson football coach underrated — as if motivation and assistant hires aren’t part of the job. Clemson under Swinney is one of eight programs to win 10 games in each of the last three seasons. Meanwhile, he’s led the Tigers to their first top-10 finish since 1990 and first ACC title since 1991. After two lackluster seasons, Brownell has Clemson basketball in contention for its second NCAA Tournament bid in his four-year tenure.

37. Arizona State
Football:
Todd Graham | Basketball: Herb Sendek

Graham’s reputation as a job jumper will follow him around, but he can coach. The Sun Devils improved from 6-7 the year before he arrived to 8-5 his first season to 10-4 in his second. Sendek is a veteran coach who is probably earning himself more time after entering the season with his future in question. Arizona State is poised for its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2009.

38. Pittsburgh
Football:
Paul Chryst | Basketball: Jamie Dixon
Dixon’s consistency — in results and his approach — remain impressive. He’s never won fewer than 22 games and has missed the NCAA Tournament only once in 11 seasons, all without a ton of McDonald’s All-Americans. After two bowl games and a 13-13 record in two seasons, Chryst’s greatest contribution to Pitt has been putting program on stable footing after a revolving door of three head coaches in two seasons.

39. Oregon
Football:
Mark Helfrich | Basketball: Dana Altman

Helfrich went 11-2 overall and 7-2 in the Pac-12 in his first season as a head coach. The next question is if he can sustain Oregon as a national power. Altman wasn’t the first choice for the basketball program, but he’s led the Ducks to a Sweet 16 berth in his third season. Sustainability will be worth watching for Altman as well. His program has been a haven for high-profile transfers, for better or worse.

40. Colorado State
Football:
Jim McElwain | Basketball: Larry Eustachy

Eustachy took over an experienced Colorado State team in 2012-13 to go 26-9. The veteran coach has plenty of experience building programs, leading Utah State, Iowa State and Southern Miss to the NCAA Tournament. With an 8-6 season and a New Mexico Bowl victory, McElwain, a former Nick Saban assistant, is a rising star in the coaching ranks.
 

Teaser:
Ranking the Nation's College Coaching Tandems
Post date: Monday, February 24, 2014 - 07:00
Path: /college-basketball/college-basketball-weekend-recap-10-things-know
Body:

College basketball will have a new No. 1 team today as Syracuse’s luck ran out — twice — last week.

Florida has as strong a case as any team, turning in another complete performance in a 75-71 win at Ole Miss, the Gators’ 19th victory in a row. Meanwhile, the nation’s lone undefeated team still has plenty of reason to feel underappreciated despite its unblemished record. Wichita State thrashed Drake 83-54 and remains two games away from going to the Missouri Valley Tournament undefeated.

If any team besides Florida or Wichita State ends up No. 1, it will be a surprise, but a handful of teams are playing some of their basketball of the season. Arizona is back to its mid-January form. Kansas answered for its 12-point loss to Texas on Feb. 1 with a 31-point win.

The takeaway from the week, though, may be a first for Jim Boehiem.

College Basketball Weekend Recap: 10 Things to Know

1a. Boeheim cost his team dearly

Jim Boeheim is the Hall of Fame coach, so he’ll get the benefit of the doubt that few other coaches or any of his players would receive for such an outburst. Credit C.J. Fair for pointing out the obvious: Boeheim’s tantrum, his first career ejection, cost Syracuse a realistic chance to tie. Boeheim said the close charge call on Fair on what would have tied the game with 10.4 seconds left was the “game-decider” and the “worst call of the year.” Though Fair and his teammates appreciated the show of emotion, the numbers didn’t really work out. “I think maybe if we didn't get the techs, we probably still had a chance to win,” Fair told reporters. “We lost by (six)? He made three of the four free throws. You do the math.” Maybe not a chance to win, but certainly an opportunity to force overtime.



1b. Jabari Parker, folks
There’s not too much more to be said about one of the nation’s top freshmen and most versatile players. He’s been in All-America form in recent games, picking up his third consecutive double-double with 19 points and 10 rebounds against Syracuse. Perhaps Parker benefitted from facing the Syracuse zone, but his 3-point shooting touch returned with 3 of 3 shots from beyond the arc Saturday night. Parker had made two 3-pointers in the previous six games combined.

2. Caris LeVert is the nation’s most improved player in February
Michigan has been one of the most interesting teams in the country this season, essentially because a different player has stepped up to carry the team without Trey Burke and later Mitch McGary. Nik Stauskas is still productive, but Caris LeVert has been the star in recent weeks. That much was true in Sunday’s 79-70 win over Michigan State. Down by 1 midway through the second half, Stauskas and LeVert took over during a 13-0 run that decided the game. LeVert nailed two free throws, hit a 3-pointer and converted on a dunk as part of the run. After finishing with 23 points, LeVert is averaging 17.8 points in the month of February as Michigan remains in the lead of the Big Ten.

3a. Louisville is in championship form
Hadn’t heard much from Louisville lately? That’s because the Cardinals had been playing the worst teams the American Athletic Conference had to offer in the last few weeks. That changed Saturday with a 58-57 win at Cincinnati. The final shot said a great deal about this Louisville team getting ready for the stretch run. Russ Smith rolled to his left, saw he didn’t have a shot and trusted freshman Terry Rozier with the ball. Rozier immediately passed it back to Smith for the long 2-pointer to win the game. But beyond that, Montrezl Harrell had a standout game with 21 points and 10 rebounds, and Louisville gave Cincinnati little in the offensive end. Sean Kilpatrick was the only player with more than two field goals, and it took him 26 shots to get to 28 points.

3b. Russdiculous
 

4a. Frank Kaminsky should get Big Ten player of the year looks
And that’s kind of ridiculous. Back on Nov. 19, Wisconsin’s Frank Kaminsky scored 43 points against North Dakota. At the time it seemed like an oddity. He hasn’t hit 40 points again, but Kaminsky had as great a week as anyone in the Big Ten. On Feb. 16, Kaminsky had 25 points and 11 rebounds in a road win over Michigan. And on Saturday, he added 21 points and seven rebounds in a 79-74 road win against Iowa. The real scary thing is that the 7-footer is a fine free throw shooter, helping seal the win over the Hawkeyes with 5 of 6 shots from the free throw line.

4b. Iowa’s ceiling strikes again
Iowa is a fine team, but the Hawkeyes have yet to prove they’re better than Sweet 16 material. Iowa and Wisconsin traded the lead six times in the final 3:08 before the Badgers finally sealed the game. Iowa is now 2-7 against the RPI top 50.

5. Florida is as worthy of the No. 1 ranking as anyone
The Gators had a fairly typical game Saturday, defeating Ole Miss 75-71 in Oxford. And by typical, we mean Florida was really, really good. Florida started slow defensively but held Marshall Henderson to 0 of 6 from the field in the second half. Meanwhile, Scottie Wilbekin and Michael Frazier were the outside shooters of note, combine for 9 of 20 from 3. And center Patric Young continues to cap his career in excellent fashion with 12 super-efficient points (4 of 5 from the field, 4 of 4 from the free throw line). The Gators can defend, they can score from inside and outside, and their edge in experience down the stretch is evident.

6. Virginia might win the ACC
Thanks to three combined losses by Duke and Syracuse last week, Virginia has taken over the ACC lead, and there’s no reason the Cavaliers can’t finish the deal. Virginia has lost once since the calendar turned to 2013 — a four-point loss at Cameron Indoor Stadium. For the remainder of the regular season, Virginia has Miami and Syracuse at home and Maryland on the road. Virginia’s run isn’t just fortunate scheduling. The Cavs can win some games in March. In a game where Joe Harris was not at his best (3 of 10 from the field), Virginia still shot 63.6 percent from the floor and outscored Notre Dame 40-19 in the second half of a 70-49 win.

7. A little bit of good and a little bit of bad for Kentucky
Give credit to Kentucky for avoiding a season sweep to LSU with Julius Randle’s putback with 3.9 seconds in overtime off an offensive rebound by James Young. LSU led in the final two minutes of overtime and by two with 21 seconds left in regulation before Kentucky emerged with a 77-76 win. On the one hand, Kentucky needed this kind of hard-earned win. But LSU, a talented but inconsistent team, still appears to have Kentucky’s number. Johnny O’Bryant III had a combined 49 points and 21 rebounds against the Wildcats. If it wasn’t O’Bryant against Kentucky, it was Anthony Hickey (20 points, four 3-pointers, eight assists) from the outside. Kentucky chalked this up to LSU being a good matchup for the Wildcats, but that has to be a concern for a Wildcats team looking to advance in the postseason.

8. Arizona is back among the national elite even without Brandon Ashley
The season-ending injury to Brandon Ashley forced Arizona to adjust to the absence of a key frontcourt player. After an 88-61 win at Colorado, the Wildcats are passing that test. Defensive stalwart Aaron Gordon had his best game of the season with 23 points and 10-of-13 shooting against the Buffaloes. Meanwhile, guard Gabe York entered the starting lineup to grab 10 rebounds against Colorado and score 15 points in Wednesday’s overtime win over Utah. Ashley still leaves a major void, but the only loss without him is in double overtime to Arizona State.

9. Time to start paying attention to New Mexico
It’s been too easy to ignore the Mountain West this season. In all likelihood, this will be a two-bid league. New Mexico, not San Diego State, might end up winning the conference, though. The Lobos shocked a top-10 Aztecs team 58-44, but this thing was over early. New Mexico led by as much as 24 in the second half behind an All-America kind of performance from Cameron Bairstow (26 points, nine rebounds, 11 of 18 shooting). When New Mexico finishes the season on the road at San Diego State, Craig Neal could clinch a regular-season title in his first season with the Lobos.

10. You won’t find many finishes stranger than what happened to Tennessee
Let’s start with the end of regulation in College Station. Volunteers guard Antonio Barton appeared to have hit the game-winning 3-pointer with 2.4 seconds left, but Tennessee coach Cuonzo Martin had called a timeout to negate the shot. On the next play, Jarnell Stokes tied the game on a layup but missed the free throw on the 3-point play to send the game to overtime. In the extra frame, Texas A&M’s Antwan Space hit a 3-pointer with 8 seconds remaining. Here’s the strange part: Space has made nine 3-pointers, and two of them were to beat Tennessee in the final seconds of a game. Beyond the bizarre finishes, Tennessee’s NCAA Tournament hopes may be in trouble with four losses in the last six games.

Short stuff

• Someone will be the No. 2 seed in the Pac-12 Tournament, but no team in this league outside of Arizona looks capable of winning multiple games in the NCAA Tournament. Stanford defeated Arizona 83-74 in a game that was rarely in question. Any time UCLA starts to build momentum, the Bruins get tripped up on the second road trip of the week. The Bruins are 0-3 in Saturday/Sunday road games. Good on Stanford, though, which is a step closer to making the NCAA Tournament for the first time under Johnny Dawkins.

• Andrew Wiggins went 2 of 12 for 7 points in Kansas’ loss to Texas in Austin on Feb. 12. He went 7 of 12 for 21 points in an easy 85-54 win when the Longhorns visited Lawrence. Wiggins is ready for the postseason.

• Is it time to declare a moratorium on referring to North Carolina’s bad losses early in the season? The Tar Heels came back from the win over Duke to roll over Wake Forest 105-72. Leslie McDonald, suspended to start the season, had a breakout week with 21 against Duke and 19 against Wake.

• Oklahoma State is still alive. The Cowboys defeated Texas Tech 84-62 to end a seven-game losing streak in Marcus Smart’s return from suspension. Smart was back to form with 16 points, 10 assists and six steals.

• Who wants to play in the NCAA Tournament from the Big East? St. John’s let a key win slip through its fingers in a 57-54 loss to Villanova. Xavier dropped its fifth game in the last eight games with a 74-52 defeat to Georgetown, a team that lost earlier in the week to Seton Hall.

• Why can’t anyone figure out who the No. 3 team in the SEC is? Missouri keeps doing things like losing 80-73 to an Alabama team with a losing record.

• UMass appeared to be fading a few weeks ago, but the Minutemen picked up two nice wins last week on the road against George Washington on Feb. 15 and at home over VCU on Friday.

• Saint Louis won its 19th consecutive game and still wasn’t satisfied, even if that win was another stout defensive performance against a fellow A-10 team likely headed to the NCAA Tournament in George Washington. The Billikens are the only top 10 team no one’s watching.

Teaser:
College Basketball Weekend Recap: 10 Things to Know
Post date: Monday, February 24, 2014 - 07:00
Path: /college-basketball/college-basketball-preview-michigan-michigan-state-seek-spark-stretch-run
Body:

Not long ago, Michigan and Michigan State appeared to be the only teams in a duel for the Big Ten title.

Technically, the Michigan schools are still locked in the conference title race, but Iowa has been able to close the gap as neither the Wolverines nor the Spartans have been able to win back-to-back games in several weeks.

The Spartans, despite an incomplete roster for most of the season, continue to surprise, but Thursday’s result may have been the most shocking. Michigan State hit 17 3-pointers on 32 attempts in a game in which Tom Izzo’s team attempted only 2-point shots in the first half against Purdue.

John Beilein’s team has had its own share of surprises, too. Nik Stauskas became the go-to player as Big Ten play began, but now that mantle belongs elsewhere.

Just like it was the first time around, the Big Ten lead will be up for grabs when Michigan State faces Michigan.

What’s on the line for Michigan State
Hard to believe, but Michigan State hasn’t won back-to-back games in a month. The schedule has become more difficult in the Big Ten, plus the Spartans played a non-conference game against Georgetown in New York. The Spartans have been limited by injuries all season, so the rotation hasn’t been consistent, either. Still, Michigan State is one game ahead in the win column in the Big Ten standings.

What’s on the line for Michigan
The Wolverines’ drought of consecutive wins isn’t as long as Michigan State’s, but it’s significant. Michigan hasn’t won two in a row since Jan. 30. Michigan can take the Big Ten lead with a win.

Michigan State at Michigan
Sunday, noon Eastern, CBS

About Michigan State
Record: 22-5, 11-3 Big Ten
AP: 13
RPI: 15
KenPom: 17
Sagarin: 9

About Michigan
Record: 18-7, 10-3 Big Ten
AP: 20
RPI: 19
KenPom: 18
Sagarin: 12

Athlon Editor Picks
David Fox: Michigan State 67-62
Braden Gall: Michigan 71-70
Mitch Light: Michigan 74-69
You’ll tune in to watch: A replay of the first meeting ... but better
The first meeting on Jan. 25 was one of the top games of the season. The Wolverines and Spartans went back and forth in East Lansing before Michigan pulled away for a 75-70 win. The finish was remarkable given Michigan State’s limitations — Adreian Payne and Branden Dawson were out, Keith Appling’s wrist limited him to 3 of 11 from the field. This time around, Dawson is still out, and Appling is ailing.

Pivotal player: Adreian Payne, Michigan State
Payne missed the first meeting between the two, but now that he’s healthy, he’s continued to be a matchup problem inside and outside. He hit key 3-pointers against Wisconsin despite the loss and then hit 4 of 8 from beyond the arc in the 3-point fest against Purdue. And remember, this is a 6-10 forward who is a problem in the paint. How Michigan holds him in check will be a key to the game.

Biggest question: Who will take the lead for Michigan?
Nik Stauskas was the top of his game during the first meeting, but opponents have figured out how to defend him in recent weeks. Meanwhile, guard Caris LeVert has emerged as the go-to scorer. His 16.8 points per game leads Michigan in the month of February. Freshmen Derrick Walton and Zak Irvin also have been leading contributors in the last five games.

Teaser:
College Basketball Game Preview: Michigan at Michigan State
Post date: Saturday, February 22, 2014 - 12:42
Path: /college-basketball/college-basketball-preview-kansas-ready-texas-rematch
Body:

Kansas and Texas have identical records at 20-6, but the perception couldn’t be more different.

In Austin, Rick Barnes could be the Big 12 coach of the year. In Lawrence, media are asking Bill Self about the more frustrating parts of the season. Such are the expectation levels in basketball, and you can bet if Kansas and Texas had the same record in football, the roles would be reversed.

The first meeting between these two schools was a pivotal moment in the Big 12 season. With an 81-69 win, Texas proved it was in the league race to stay. And with the loss, Kansas dropped its first Big 12 contest of the season after handling a run of NCAA Tournament-caliber teams in the league.

For the second time around, Self is anticipating a change in the narrative.

“There's something about how teams kind of raise their level the second time you play somebody if they've been handled pretty easily the first time,” Self said. “I don't know why that is, but it seems like it's always that way.”

What’s on the line for Texas
The Longhorns are playing with house money. Contending for the Big 12 title is more than anyone expected. What Texas needs more than anything is a respectable showing on the road. Texas lost its last two road games, by 9 to Iowa State and by 17 to Kansas State. Three of Texas’ last five regular season games are away from Austin.

What’s on the line for Kansas
The Jayhawks have a two-game lead in the Big 12 standings as they look to win their 10th consecutive league title. Even though Kansas doesn’t have a bad loss on its ledger — all six are to teams ranked 38th and above in the RPI — the Jayhawks might have trouble grabbing a No. 1 seed with seven or more losses.

Texas at Kansas
Saturday, 7:30 p.m. Eastern, ESPNU

About Texas
Record: 20-6, 9-4 Big 12
AP: 19
RPI: 24
KenPom: 29
Sagarin: 29

About Kansas
Record: 20-6, 11-2 Big 12
AP: 8
RPI: 1
KenPom: 11
Sagarin: 8

Athlon Editor Picks
David Fox: Kansas 78-67
Braden Gall: Kansas 81-67
Mitch Light: Kansas 83-71
You’ll tune in to watch: Andrew Wiggins, Kansas
The top freshman entering the season is starting to play like a superstar. The 64-63 win over Texas Tech was closer than KU would have expected, but Wiggins had several huge plays late, including the game-winning layup with 2 seconds remaining and a block in the final minute. The first meeting against Texas was one of his most ineffective of the year as the freshman was 2 of 12 from the field.

Pivotal player: Javan Felix, Texas
The Longhorns aren’t the most prolific or efficient 3-point shooting team in the Big 12, but Javan Felix will take some shots. Felix is 14 of 33 from 3-point range in the last three games. The formula for a road upset is 3-point shooting, and Felix is Texas’ best hope.

Biggest question: How will Texas defend Joel Embiid?
Kansas’ other big-name freshman returned from injury to score 18 against Texas Tech. In the Longhorns’ last game, Iowa State dominated inside, outscoring Texas in the paint 40-17.

Teaser:
College Basketball Game Preview: Texas at Kansas
Post date: Saturday, February 22, 2014 - 08:30
Path: /college-basketball/college-basketball-preview-stakes-are-different-syracuse-duke-rematch
Body:

The last time Syracuse and Duke met, it might as well have been a Final Four game.

A massive arena, two 900-win coaches and a thriller down to the end of Syracuse’s 91-89 win in overtime. The rematch of the game of the year will have a different feel, and not just because the game is in cozy Cameron Indoor instead of the Carrier Dome.

The names are the same, but both Syracuse and Duke are coming off losses, both problematic for different reasons. The first loss of the season for the Orange came against a team that entered the matchup with six wins all year. Duke’s loss was far less embarrassing at North Carolina, but the Blue Devils’ went cold from the field in the final six minutes, contributing to the Tar Heels’ come-from-behind win.

Neither team desperate by any means, but both programs are seeking to avoid an unlikely two-game losing streak.

What’s on the line for Syracuse
The Orange had been flirting with their first loss for weeks before the bottom fell out against Boston College on Wednesday. Has the pressure been lifted or does Syracuse have major concerns after shooting 32.3 percent from the floor at home against a bad Boston College team?

What’s on the line for Duke
Duke needs to answer for a loss, too. The Blue Devils collapsed down the stretch against rival North Carolina on Thursday as a four-point lead in the final 6:26 ended in an eight-point defeat.

Syracuse at Duke
Saturday, 7 p.m. Eastern, ESPN

About Syracuse
Record: 25-1, 12-1 ACC
AP: 1
RPI: 7
KenPom: 9
Sagarin: 11

About Duke
Record: 21-6, 10-4 ACC
AP: 5
RPI: 10
KenPom: 5
Sagarin: 4

Athlon Editor Picks
David Fox: Duke 68-60
Braden Gall: Duke 73-67
Mitch Light: Duke 80-61
You’ll tune in to watch: Jabari Parker vs. Tyler Ennis Part II
Ennis' bid at late-game perfection ended in the last week against NC State and Boston College, but the first game against Duke was one of the high points of his season. Ennis had three assists and no turnovers and was perfect from the field (1 for 1) and the free throw line (6 for 6) in the final 10 minutes of the overtime win. How he responds to Syracuse’s first loss and his own personal cold streak will be key. Parker began the season as a prolific 3-point shooter, but that part of his game has been all but abandoned in ACC play.

Pivotal players: Duke’s second and third options
The first meeting between the two was a key moment for Blue Devils not named Jabari Parker and Rodney Hood. Amile Jefferson had six offensive rebounds. Rasheed Sulaimon and Andre Dawkins had a combined 30 points. Those three players had minimal contributions in Thursday’s loss to North Carolina.

Biggest question: Can Syracuse score enough to win in Cameron?
Syracuse hasn’t cracked 60 points in the last four games and topped 70 points only once since Jan. 7. The per-possession numbers have been just as dismal: Syracuse has averaged 92.7 points per 100 possessions in the last two games. C.J. Fair has been streaky, and Trevor Cooney has been cold from 3-point range. That can’t continue if Syracuse hopes to win games deep into March.

Teaser:
College Basketball Preview: Syracuse at Duke
Post date: Saturday, February 22, 2014 - 07:00
Path: /college-basketball/college-basketball-preview-louisville-rounding-form-time-cincinnati
Body:

Louisville has a knack for heating up as the calendar turns to March. It happened last season, as the Cardinals didn’t start to look like national championship contenders until weeks before the Big East Tournament.

The Cardinals are in that form again, but you can’t blame fans if they haven’t noticed. Louisville has pounded the teams in the bottom half of the American Athletic Conference. A rematch with Cincinnati could be the turning point.

The Bearcats, though, know what they’re getting when they face Louisville again. The Cardinals are a little more balanced than the first time around, a little more consistent.

But Cincinnati leads the American right now and could take a major step to winning the league with a season sweep of its Ohio River rivals.

What’s on the line for Louisville
The Cardinals are looking to re-announce themselves as a Final Four contender. Since the last time Louisville faced Cincinnati, a 69-66 loss, Louisville has faced the dregs of the American Athletic Conference. Louisville hasn’t had much trouble with teams ranked outside of the RPI 150, defeating them by an average of 26 points per game since the start of February.

What’s on the line for Cincinnati
The Bearcats are looking to complete a season sweep of Louisville after defeating the Cardinals 69-66 at the KFC Yum! Center on Jan. 30. With a victory, Cincinnati will have a three-game edge in the win column in the American. Cincinnati lost to New Mexico and Xavier in the non-conference schedule, so a win over Louisville could be a boon to Bearcats’ NCAA Tournament seed.

Louisville at Cincinnati
Saturday, noon Eastern, CBS

About Louisville
Record: 22-4, 11-2 American
AP: 11
RPI: 36
KenPom: 3
Sagarin: 10

About Cincinnati
Record: 24-3, 13-1 American
AP: 7
RPI: 14
KenPom: 21
Sagarin: 21

Athlon Editor Picks
David Fox: Louisville 71-63
Braden Gall: Cincinnati 68-62
Mitch Light: Louisville 60-58
You’ll tune in to watch: Russ Smith vs. Sean Kilpatrick
Two of the most dynamic veteran guards in the country will meet at least one more time this season Kilpatrick led the way in the first meeting with 28 points against the Cardinals while Smith had 14 points and four turnovers. This is the point last season when Smith began to carry Louisville to the national title.

Pivotal players: Louisville’s point guards
Chris Jones and Terry Rozier are key cogs in Louisville’s pressure defense, which for the second consecutive season is second only to VCU in turnover rate. Since the first meeting, the freshman Rozier has become more and more involved in the offensive end. Rozier shot 11 of 24 from the floor in Louisville’s last two games, home routs against Rutgers and USF.

Biggest question: Who wins the frontcourt matchup?
Cincinnati senior Justin Jackson is the top shot blocker in the American at 3.1 blocks per game. He’ll be tasked with limiting contributions from Louisville’s improving duo of forwards in Montrezl Harrell and Mangok Mathiang.

Teaser:
College Basketball Game Preview: Louisville at Cincinnati
Post date: Friday, February 21, 2014 - 13:53
Path: /college-football/ranking-best-coaching-tandems-big-12-2014
Body:

The Big 12 has not been short on surprises in the last year.

On the football side, a league that appeared to have few top 10-caliber programs in the preseason produced one that spent much of the season there (Baylor) and another that finished there by defeating Alabama in the Sugar Bowl (Oklahoma).

In basketball, Kansas, as usual, is atop the standings, but the league has shown impressive depth with teams like Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas State and Iowa State all surprising through the course of the year.

Still, our selection for the top coaching tandem in the league — the one that best meets our criteria of keeping fans happy from the start of football to the end of basketball season — are among the most predictable.

Bob Stoops is good for 10 wins and Big 12 title contention nearly every season. And Lon Kruger, no matter where he’s the coach, is will almost always put an NCAA Tournament team on the court.

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

Stoops earned a victory lap in 2013 after his program went 11-2, finished at No. 6 in the AP poll and defeated Alabama in the Sugar Bowl. After two seasons of falling below expectations, Oklahoma had as much of a surprise season as the Sooners possibly could in 2013. Overall under Stoops, OU has finished in the top 10 nine times in 15 seasons. Facing sanctions when he was hired, Kruger needed only one season to rebuild Oklahoma into an NCAA Tournament team. Beyond Oklahoma, Kruger is the only coach to lead five different teams to the NCAA Tournament.

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

Kansas State doesn’t have the advantages of other Big 12 programs in either sport, but that hasn’t stopped Snyder or Weber from contending. In 2012, Kansas State won a share of the football title (and earned the BCS bid), and in 2013, the Wildcats won a share of the basketball title. Snyder’s second act as Kansas State football coach has been just as impressive as his first, and Weber’s second chance at a big-time program is about to yield his second consecutive NCAA Tournament trip.

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

In 2006, Baylor football went 4-8 and a sanctioned-limited basketball went 4-13. Less than a decade later, Baylor is competitive on both fronts. In the last three seasons, Baylor football has won its first Heisman and its first Big 12 title. Basketball has been inconsistent under Drew, but the Bears still have two Elite Eight appearances under his watch, which is two more than any other Baylor coach since 1950.

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

In the last decade, Oklahoma State has risen from an also-ran in football to a program alongside Oklahoma and Texas. The investment from T. Boone Pickens has helped, but Gundy has capitalized with three 10-win seasons in the last four years. After a disappointing season, Ford may be in some trouble if the Cowboys can’t scrap together what they can when Marcus Smart returns from suspension. Still, Oklahoma State has three Tournament appearances in five seasons under Ford.

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

The job in Ames is one of the tougher jobs in either sport, but Rhoads and Hoiberg have been able to keep the Cyclones in postseason contention. More than that, both coaches have a knack the big win — football defeating Oklahoma State in 2011 and basketball defeating No. 7 seed Notre Dame in the 2013 NCAA Tournament.

6. Texas
Football:
Charlie Strong | Basketball: Rick Barnes

Texas has gone from having one of the best tandems in the country when Mack Brown and Rick Barnes on the top of their game, and then one of the most disappointing when Brown missed a bowl game and Barnes missed the NCAA Tournament in a three-year span. Now, we don't know what to expect. With Texas enjoying a bounce-back season on the court, Barnes is coach of the year material. Strong is new to the Big 12 and all the pressures of the Texas job, but his track record at Louisville included 23 wins in his last two years.

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

Kansas has one of the most lopsided coaching tandems in a major conference in terms of results. No doubt, Self is one of the top 10 basketball coaches in the country. No matter the personnel changes, Kansas has won the Big 12 in nine consecutive seasons, a run that includes the 2008 national title and the 2012 Final Four. Meanwhile, Weis is just looking to win consecutive games.

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

Like Kansas, West Virginia is saddled with a prolific basketball coach and a spotty football coach. In 2012-13, Huggins endured his worst season since his first at Akron in 1984-85. The Mountaineers have rebounded nicely this season, contending for an NCAA Tournament spot. Holgorsen’s tenure started at 10-3, but West Virginia is 6-14 since.

9. Texas Tech
Football:
Kliff Kingsbury | Basketball: Tubby Smith

Before Kingsbury took a snap as Texas Tech’s quarterback, Smith had already won the national championship at Kentucky. Certainly, this is one of the most unique coaching tandems in the country, but both are having success in their first seasons. Kingsbury started his tenure 7-0 and capped the season with a bowl win over Arizona State. Smith has been handed one of the toughest jobs in the Big 12, but the Red Raiders have defeated Baylor, Oklahoma State and Oklahoma in his first season.

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

It’s almost not fair to rank TCU last in the Big 12. Patterson’s program had been near-automatic in the Mountain West, but a run of player departures and injuries have contributed to a 6-12 Big 12 record. TCU may be a more competitive Big 12 program, but Patterson needs time and consistency on his roster. Johnson had a good track record at Nevada and Stanford, but the Horned Frogs were out of place in the Mountain West basketball lineup. The move to the Big 12 hasn’t helped.

Teaser:
Ranking the Best Coaching Tandems in the Big 12 in 2014
Post date: Friday, February 21, 2014 - 07:00
Path: /college-basketball/whats-store-syracuse-after-its-first-loss
Body:

The number of teams chasing perfection diminished by half Thursday night, and now one of those can relax a bit.

Wichita State now has all the attention as the lone undefeated team after Boston College shocked Syracuse on Wednesday night for the first loss of the season for the Orange.

Coaches and players who have been in the position of an undefeated team at this stage of the season have said losing relieves some of the pressure of remaining perfect.

Before Wednesday, Syracuse had been far from perfect despite the record. Close calls with Duke, Pittsburgh and NC State turned into a shocking loss to 7-19 Boston College, an upset that would rival a No. 2 losing to a No. 15 in the NCAA Tournament.

Will a loss loosen up Syracuse in time for the stretch run? History says teams losing their first game this late in the season flourish for the remainder of the year.

Every other team in Syracuse’s position reached Selection Sunday with only one loss. With road trips looming against Duke and Virginia plus an ACC Tournament, Boeheim may count himself lucky to get to Selection Sunday with only one more loss, especially given the performance Wednesday.

Since the field expanded, though, only one team that sustained its first loss after Feb. 15 went on to win the national title — 1992 Duke. All but one reached the Elite Eight.

Since the field expanded in 1985, nine teams have been undefeated as of Feb. 15, including Syracuse and Wichita State this season.

Here’s what they’ve done the rest of the way, followed by a few notes:
 

Unbeaten on Feb. 15StartedFinishedNCAA TourneyFirst LossRPI
2013-14 Wichita State28-0N/AN/AN/A 
2013-14 Syracuse25-00-1N/ABoston College169
2007-08 Memphis26-012-2National runner upTennessee1
2004-05 Illinois29-08-2National runner upat Ohio State51
2003-04 St. Joseph's27-03-2Elite EightXavier (A-10 Tourney)35
2003-04 Stanford26-04-2Round of 32at Washington7
1995-96 UMass26-09-2Final FourGeorge Washington50
1991-92 Duke22-013-1National championat Wake Forest48
1990-91 UNLV34-00-1National runner upDuke (NCAA Tourney)3

• Every team that picked up its first loss after Feb. 15 didn’t lose again until the NCAA Tournament. That includes conference tournament championship for all but 2004 St. Joe’s, which was undefeated until it lost to Xavier in the Atlantic 10 Tournament.

• Most concerning for Syracuse isn’t so much that the Orange lost. It’s that Jim Boeheim’s team lost to a dreadful Boston College team. The Eagles entered the game ranked 194th in the RPI and 152nd on KenPom.com. After the win, BC ranked 169th in the RPI and 131st on KenPom. Every other team’s first loss came to a team that ranked 51st in the final RPI or higher. This year’s Boston College squad almost certainly finishes outside of the top 100.

• If Wichita State loses before the round of 32 at least, the Shockers also will fall to a team outside of the RPI top 50.

Teaser:
What's in store for Syracuse after its first loss?
Post date: Thursday, February 20, 2014 - 15:22

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