Articles By David Fox

All taxonomy terms: Oregon Ducks, Pac-12, College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/profiling-oregon-ncaa-tournament-bubble-watch
Body:

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
Path: /college-basketball/duke-north-carolina-preview-rivalry-worth-wait
Body:

Mid-February already was abnormally late for the first Duke-North Carolina game. The original tipoff for Feb. 12 was only the second time since 1988 the first meeting of the rivalry was played as late as February.

Then came the snow in the Tobacco Road.

The postponement made Mike Krzyzewski and Roy Williams wait until Feb. 20 for their first meeting of the season.

For fans, the wait will pay off in fascinating ways. Duke will play three games in five days, including Saturday’s matchup with Syracuse at Cameron Indoor. North Carolina is amidst a stretch of four games in eight days.

And more than that, a little more than two weeks will separate this game and the return trip to Durham on March 8.

Not a bad way to ease into March Madness.

What’s on the line for Duke
The Blue Devils remain in contention for a No. 1 seed, but this game will loom large for a team with five overall losses and a 10-3 record in the ACC. The rivalry has been tilted toward Duke since 2010 as Krzyzewski’s team has won seven of the last nine. Despite Duke’s edge in the rankings and ACC standings, the Tar Heels have one more RPI top 50 wins (five) than the Blue Devils this season (four).

What’s on the line for North Carolina
The Tar Heels need to legitimize this latest hot streak of seven consecutive wins. An enigma to start the season, North Carolina isn’t losing to teams outside of the RPI top 100 anymore (Miami, UAB and Wake Forest). If the Heels can show they can still beat the top teams, the selection committee should feel confident putting Carolina in the top half of the bracket.

Duke at North Carolina
Thursday, 9 p.m., ESPN/ACC Network
Line: Duke by 2

About Duke
Record: 21-5, 10-3 ACC
AP: 5
RPI: 8
KenPom: 3
Sagarin: 4

About North Carolina
Record: 18-7, 8-4 ACC
AP: NR
RPI: 28
KenPom: 22
Sagarin: 24

Athlon Editor Picks
David Fox: Duke 72-68
Braden Gall: North Carolina 77-74
Mitch Light: Duke 77-64
You’ll tune in to watch: Jabari Parker, Duke
The Blue Devils freshman will play his first and probably only game in Chapel Hill before he goes to the NBA Draft. After a brief slump early in the conference schedule, Parker again looks like the best freshman in a star-studded rookie class. Since fouling out of the overtime loss to Syracuse, Parker is averaging 22.3 points and 10.5 rebounds in his last four games.

Pivotal Player: James Michael McAdoo, North Carolina
Much of North Carolina’s turnaround has been due to the improved play of James Michael McAdoo. After an uneven sophomore season, McAdoo is becoming the player Roy Williams hoped he would be. McAdoo’s turnaround has been keyed by playing closer to the basket rather than settling for mid-range jumpers. He had 24 points and 12 rebounds in Saturday’s win over Pittsburgh, but he got into foul trouble against Florida State on Monday for a scoreless night.

Biggest question: How does Duke handle Carolina in the paint?
Duke’s biggest weakness is on the interior as the Blue Devils have allowed opponents to shoot 49.3 percent form 2-point range, an average that ranks 200th in the country. If McAdoo is attacking the paint, he’ll give Duke trouble. Beyond McAdoo, North Carolina also has 6-foot-9, 200-pound freshman Kennedy Meeks, who exploded for a 23-point, seven-round performance Monday against Florida State.

Teaser:
Duke-North Carolina Preview: Rivalry worth the wait
Post date: Thursday, February 20, 2014 - 12:57
Path: /college-football/ranking-best-coaching-tandems-big-ten-2014
Body:

The SEC has football dominance. The ACC has the defending football national champion and three Basketball Hall of Fame coaches. The American has the defending basketball national champion.

However, one of the strongest leagues in terms of football and basketball coaching tandems is the Big Ten.

Names like Tom Izzo, Bo Ryan, John Beilein and Thad Matta would end up on anyone’s list of top 20 coaches in college basketball right now. Tim Miles and Richard Pitino are among the league’s rising stars. Meanwhile, the football side has seen marked improvement. Adding Urban Meyer and James Franklin from the SEC has added an edge to the Big Ten football coaching ranks. Kevin Wilson and Jerry Kill have at least made their programs more competitive.

Where the SEC and Pac-12 had few schools with balance between their basketball and football coaches, the Big Ten is flush with them.

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.

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. 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.

4. 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.

5. 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.

6. 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.

7. 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.

8. 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.

9. Northwestern
Football:
Pat Fitzgerald | Basketball: Chris Collins

Fitzgerald generally gets the most out of his team, making last year’s 0-7 finish that much more befuddling. The losing season ended Northwestern’s streak of five consecutive bowl games, but five postseason appearances in six years outpaces any other coach in Northwestern’s history. Collins, a former Duke assistant, is early in his tenure with the basketball program, but the Wildcats already earned road wins over Indiana, Wisconsin and Minnesota during his tenure.

10. Penn State
Football:
James Franklin | Basketball: Pat Chambers

If Franklin can weather the next few years of NCAA sanctions, the Pennsylvania native who led Vanderbilt to three consecutive bowl games could return the Nittany Lions into a Big Ten title contender in short order. Penn State is one of the toughest basketball jobs in the league, but the Nittany Lions have already topped their win total from each of Chambers’ first two seasons.

11. Maryland
Football:
Randy Edsall | Basketball: Mark Turgeon

After a transfer-filled first season and injury-plagued second season, Edsall’s program showed signs of momentum in Year 3 as the Terrapins went 7-6. With a 3-5 record in conference play, Edsall will be hard-pressed to show more progress in the first season in the Big Ten. Maryland still has a way to go before it is a power in basketball again. Turgeon is seeking his first winning ACC season in three years with the Terps.

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

Hazell built from the ground up at Kent State, experience he’ll need to pull Purdue out of the 1-11 hole from his first season. Painter’s program was in Big Ten title contention when Robbie Hummel, JaJuan Johnson and E’Twaun Moore were on campus, though they couldn’t all stay healthy at the same time. Since then, Purdue has struggled to stay above .500 in the league.

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

Groce had a veteran team in his first season, leading the Illini to 23 wins, the Maui Invitational title and the round of 32 in the NCAA Tournament. This year’s squad has been a team in transition hovering around the .500 mark. Beckman doubled his win total in his second season, but going from two wins to four probably isn’t what Illinois expected when they hired the successful Toledo coach.

14. Rutgers
Football:
Kyle Flood | Basketball: Eddie Jordan

Not great news for a Rutgers program taking a step up in both sports in the Big Ten. Jordan has NBA credentials, but his first season has been a rough ride in the American. After a starting 7-0, Flood is 8-11 in his last 19 games.
 

Teaser:
Ranking the Best Coaching Tandems in the Big Ten in 2014
Post date: Thursday, February 20, 2014 - 07:00
Path: /college-basketball/weekly-tipoff-which-team-fastest-riser-last-few-weeks
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It happens every basketball season around this time.

Just when you think you’ve got the NCAA Tournament bubble figured out, a few teams make a run late in the season to be considered.

Some of those teams will prove to be on a hot streak, returning to earth in the coming weeks. Others will go into the conference tournaments ready needing only a game or two to fill the final slots on the bracket.

Our staff wonders who that team could be this season.

Name a team that wasn’t on the bubble two weeks ago that can make the NCAA Tournament.

Mitch Light: West Virginia still has some work to do, but it’s quite remarkable that we are talking about this team possibly earning an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. The Mountaineers have won four of their last six to improve their record to 15–11 overall and 7–6 in the very tough Big 12. They have four wins against top-50 RPI teams, highlighted by a 102–77 beatdown vs. Iowa State on Feb. 10. Nine of WVU’s 11 losses have come against top-50 RPI teams, and the two that did not occurred in November (Virginia Tech) and December (Purdue). Bob Huggins’ team plays three of its final five regular-season games at home, including a huge home game against Kansas on March 8. The opportunity is there for this team to make the NCAAs.  

David Fox: If Nebraska can continue its hot streak in the final month of the season, the Cornhuskers could make a late push for an NCAA Tournament bid. There’s little room for error, though. This team lost to Creighton and UMass early in the season and then endured a six-game losing streak. But Tim Miles’ team is one of the most improved in the country since then, defeating Ohio State and Indiana at home and then shocking Michigan State on the road. Terran Petteway has proven himself to be a 30-point player when called upon. He and the Huskers are capable of stringing together a winning streak against the lower tier of the Big Ten to set up a huge regular-season finale in Lincoln against Wisconsin.

Braden Gall: St. John’s is the easy answer here because other surging teams like Nebraska and Georgia just don’t have enough on their résumé to be in the conversation. The Red Storm have won five straight games and eight of their last nine since a double-overtime loss to Providence in early January capped a five-game losing streak. Steve Lavin’s team lost to Creighton in Omaha but played extremely well and then avenged the loss at home last weekend. Toss in road wins at Butler, Providence and Seton Hall as well as Georgetown and Marquette at home and St. John’s is right in the NCAA Tournament mix after starting the season 9–8 overall and 0–5 in conference play.

Teaser:
Weekly Tipoff: Which team is the fastest riser in the last few weeks?
Post date: Wednesday, February 19, 2014 - 11:00
Path: /college-football/ranking-best-coaching-tandems-sec-2014
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When we started this series on the top coaching tandems, we knew it would be tough, especially given our guiding principle that the football coach and the basketball coaches should be considered to be on equal footing

For most schools, they’re not. Especially in the SEC.

We set out to determine the coaching tandems able to keep fans happy from the start of football season to the end of basketball season.

Arguably, coaches like Nick Saban and Gus Malzahn do enough during football season to keep fans happy year round, no matter what happens on the basketball court. The same could be said of John Calipari and Kentucky, just in a different sport.

Still, we’re not going to stray from our plan. That’s why the top football coach in the league (Saban) and the top two basketball coaches (Calipari and Billy Donovan) are not in the top spot. Certainly, if Florida football returns to New Year’s Day bowl status or Kentucky starts to play in the football postseason, those two programs likely would move up.

For now, a different program gets the call for the top football-basketball coaching tandem in the SEC.

1. 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.

2. 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.

3. 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.

4. 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.

5. 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.

6. 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.

7. 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.

8. Ole Miss
Football:
Hugh Freeze | Basketball: Andy Kennedy

Ole Miss has a football coach who has gone to back-to-back bowl games and a basketball coach who went to an NCAA tournament. That hasn’t happened in the same season in more than a decade at Oxford.

9. Auburn
Football:
Gus Malzahn | Basketball: Tony Barbee

Few teams can figure out how to stop Malzahn’s offense. The problem, as far as this ranking is concerned, is that even fewer can figure out how to win basketball games at Auburn.

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

Sumlin gave Texas A&M instant credibility as an SEC program. Johnny Manziel is gone, but the Aggies have plenty of momentum. A&M basketball, though, is on the way to three losing conference seasons under Kennedy.

11. Vanderbilt
Football:
Derek Mason | Basketball: Kevin Stallings

Both Vanderbilt positions are all about fit as the only private school in the league and the one with the highest academic standards. Mason knows the terrain coming from Stanford, but football fans have had a taste of the big time from the James Franklin era. Stallings is considered one of the league’s best tacticians.

12. Tennessee
Football:
Butch Jones | Basketball: Cuonzo Martin

Any questions about Jones’ ability to recruit have been answered with a top 10 signing class in 2014. Now, he has to return the Volunteers to relevance. Tennessee has been just short of the NCAA Tournament in Martin’s three seasons, but the Volunteers have had a winning league record in the last two seasons.

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

Bielema and Anderson both have fine credentials with Bielema winning three conference titles at Wisconsin and Anderson reaching the Elite Eight while at Missouri. That said, never have proven they can approach that level at Arkansas.

14. Mississippi State
Football:
Dan Mullen | Basketball: Rick Ray

Mullen’s four consecutive bowl games at Mississippi State shouldn’t be overlooked, especially as the SEC has been at the top of its powers. The Bulldogs’ basketball program has a long way to go in Ray’s second season.

Teaser:
Ranking the Best Coaching Tandems in the SEC for 2014
Post date: Wednesday, February 19, 2014 - 07:00
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This season will not be a repeat of J.J. Redick vs. Adam Morrison. Or Jimmer Fredette vs. Kemba Walker.

Creighton’s Doug McDermott is the clear frontrunner for national player of the year honors as one of the nation’s leading scorers for the leader in a major conference.

That’s a testament to McDermott’s season, but also a reflection of the rest of the field. This season has seen some great players, especially in the freshman ranks, but not all of them have been consistent enough to rival McDermott for postseason honors.

But let’s say McDermott was not in the race this season. Who would be the top contenders for the Naismith and Wooden awards? Our editoral staff answers.

Assuming Doug McDermott will win National Player of the Year honors, who would be No. 2 on your ballot?

Mitch Light: This was very difficult. I went with Jabari Parker because he does so much for Duke. The freshman from Chicago quickly emerged as the Blue Devils’ primary option, and he leads the team in scoring (19.5 ppg) and rebounding (8.5). Parker is Duke’s only consistent threat on the low block, and he is also a weapon on the perimeter due to his ability to handle the ball and shoot from 3-point range. Mike Krzyzewski’s team features some nice front-end talent but isn’t loaded with future NBA players and lacks depth. Parker’s presence makes Duke a threat to win the national title; without him, the Blue Devils would struggle to make the top 25.

David Fox: Good thing McDermott is a virtual lock for National Player of the Year because the rest of the race would be a jumble. I tend to favor players whose teams would be lost without them. That leads me to Sean Kilpatrick at Cincinnati. The Bearcats get perpetually overlooked because they play a soft non-conference schedule, and they’re generally a low-scoring, defensive-minded team. Without Kilpatrick, Cincinnati would be lucky to be in contention for the NIT.

Braden Gall: Obviously, there really isn’t a clear challenger to McDermott. Iowa State’s Melvin Ejim was my first thought but one could argue (although I wouldn’t) that he isn’t the most important player on his own team. Sean Kilpatrick and Shabazz Napier carry their teams offensively for Cincinnati and UConn, respectively, while Russ Smith plays a similar role for Louisville in the American Athletic Conference. That said, No. 2 on my ballot will come from the winner of the Syracuse-Duke game in Durham this weekend. If the Orange complete the sweep over Duke, my vote would go to C.J. Fair — aka, the best player on the best team in the nation. If Duke can continue to surge up the polls and beats Syracuse, my vote would go to Jabari Parker, a freshman who has been the team’s best player.

Teaser:
Weekly Tipoff: Who is the No. 2 candidate for player of the year?
Post date: Wednesday, February 19, 2014 - 07:00
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Syracuse and Wichita State remain undefeated. Doug McDermott scored a bunch. And Florida handled a couple of SEC teams.

On the surface, the last week was pretty typical as far as the 2013-14 season goes.

But behind all those things we’ve come to accept as automatic this season, there are a few interesting numbers to crunch.

Wichita State is the first to do something in a decade. Syracuse may hit a mark that coincides with the dawn of the Jim Boeheim era. And Florida did something it never has during the Billy Donovan era.

Those, of course, weren’t the only statistical notables. Nebraska and Memphis were on opposite sides of ending droughts this week among other numericals from the week in college basketball.

College Basketball Key Stats of the Week: Feb. 18

21. Teams to win their first 27 games
Wichita State’s seeding in the NCAA Tournament is going to be a hot debate if the Shockers get to Selection Sunday undefeated. After Saturday, they’re still in rarefied air by starting 27-0, the 21st team in NCAA history to do so. The last was a Jameer Nelson-led St. Joseph’s team in 2003-04. St. Joe’s streak ended at 27 games when the Red Hawks lost to Xavier in the Atlantic 10 tournament. Wichita State has four more regular-season games before it even gets to the Missouri Valley Tournament. That 2003-04 St. Joe’s team, by the way, was a No. 1 seed and lost to Oklahoma State in the Elite Eight.

70. Points per game for Syracuse
Scoring is up nation-wide, but the nation’s No. 1 has not contributed to that trend. Syracuse continued its 25-0 start despite never cracking 60 points in the last three games. Tempo-free and per possession statistics are the preferred measure these days, but it’s still jarring to see Syracuse averaging a mere 70 points per game. If the trend sticks, this will be the lowest-scoring Syracuse team since 1962-63. That team during Jim Boeheim's freshman season as a player averaged 62 points per game.

60. Creighton’s 3-point shooting rate against Villanova
Villanova did a better job of shutting down the 3-point line in the rematch against Creighton, but it still wasn't enough. The Bluejays still shot 9 of 15 from long range in Sunday’s 101-80 win to sweep Villanova. Led by Ethan Wragge nine 3s earlier this season, Creighton made 21 3-pointers in the first meeting on Jan. 20. In the two meetings, Creighton was 30 of 50 from long range against its only competition for the Big East crown.

33.1. Villanova’s 3-point percentage defense in its other 23 games
Creighton’s season sweep of Villanova has been so dominating, it has made the Wildcats’ defensive numbers look average. Teams not named Creighton are shooting 33.1 percent from 3 against the Wildcats. The same is true from the field at large: Creighton shot 60.4 percent in two games against Villanova. The Wildcats have held everyone else to 39.5 percent shooting.

2-0. Florida’s record in Knoxville and Lexington this season
Not a whole lot of teams win in Rupp Arena, especially since John Calipari took over. And for some reason, Tennessee had Florida’s number even when the Gators won back-to-back national championships. This week, Florida did something that the Gators hadn’t done during the Billy Donovan era or even the Lon Kruger era by winning road games at Kentucky and Tennessee in the same season. Florida hadn’t swept road games in Lexington and Knoxville since 1988, and in 2014, the Gators did it within four days.

29. Consecutive road games vs. top 10 teams Nebraska lost before Sunday
If Nebraska is going to make a late push for the NCAA Tournament, Sunday’s win over No. 9 Michigan State in East Lansing was a key development for the Cornhuskers. Nebraska defeated the Spartans 60-51 for only the Huskers’ fourth win over a top 10 team on the road in school history. Nebraska had lost 29 consecutive road games to top 10 opponents going back to a Feb. 22, 1997 win over No. 7 Iowa State.

42. Percentage of UConn’s field goals accounted for by Shabazz Napier
A case for the most indispensable player in the country may start with UConn’s Shabazz Napier. With 134 field goals and 137 assists this season, Napier played a direct role in 42 percent of the Huskies baskets this season. On Saturday, he even raised that average in an 86-81 overtime win over Memphis. Napier had 10 baskets and four assists to account for 58 percent of the Huskies’ field goals on Saturday.

0-2. Memphis’ record against UConn in the regular season
Memphis had no peer in the watered-down Conference USA lineup. That has changed in the American, even if the top teams in the league have a substantial edge over the bottom half. With UConn’s win in Memphis on Jan. 16 and in Storrs on Feb. 16, the Huskies are the first team to sweep Memphis during the regular season since Southern Miss did it in 2000-01. SMU and Cincinnati, the only other AAC teams to beat Memphis this season, could do the same in the last two games of the regular season.

296. Career blocks by Arizona State’s Jordan Bachynski
More than a week ago, Arizona State’s Jordan Bachynski quietly broke a 25-year-old Pac-12 record for blocks. Then came an eight-block night in the upset of Arizona on Friday. Bachynski will shatter the Pac-12 career block record set by Arizona’s Anthony Cook (278 blocks from 1985-89).

55. Minutes played by Canisius’ Billy Baron on Saturday
In this spot earlier this season, we noted that Providence’s Bryce Cotton averaged 46.2 minutes per game in conference play. Cotton has nothing on Billy Baron. The nation’s third-leading scorer played all 55 minutes in Saturday’s  92-88 win over Siena in triple overtime. Baron, naturally, filled the stat sheet with 40 points, 10 rebounds and five assists.

Teaser:
College Basketball Key Stats of the Week: Feb. 18
Post date: Tuesday, February 18, 2014 - 07:00
Path: /college-football/ranking-best-coaching-tandems-pac-12-2014
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Not that this is going to assuage fans of our No. 12 team here, but the difference between the 12th coaching tandem in the Pac-12 and the fourth is razor thin.

Indeed, there’s a lot to like about the final Pac-12 coaching tandem on this list.

The Pac-12 coaching tandems for 2014 had a knack for balancing struggling basketball coaches (Ken Bone and Craig Robinson) with superb football coaches (Mike Leach and Mike Riley).

In other spots, there are known commodities as basketball coaches (Lorenzo Romar, Tad Boyle and Mike Montgomery) paired up with football coaches new to the Pac-12 level (Chris Petersen, Mike MacIntyre and Sonny Dykes).

The top two picks for coaching tandems were a little easier given our primary criteria in ranking the tandems: Balance.

To reiterate, we like a coaching tandem that keeps fans happy from the start of football season to the end of basketball season, from August to April. That made our top two picks clear in our eyes.

1. 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.

2. 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.

3. 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.

4. 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.

5. 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.

6. Washington
Football:
Chris Petersen | Basketball: Lorenzo Romar

Washington ended up being the school that could finally pry Petersen away from Boise State. Petersen’s predecessors Dan Hawkins and Dirk Koetter struggled once they left Boise though neither was as highly regarded as Petersen, who led Boise State to two undefeated seasons. Romar’s program has been up and down. He has three Sweet 16 appearances, three conference tournament championships and two regular season titles during his tenure.

7. Colorado
Football:
Mike MacIntyre | Basketball: Tad Boyle

Colorado has made two of the best coaching hires in recent seasons, and the Buffaloes needed them in a major way. Boyle has led Colorado to three consecutive postseason appearances for the first time in school history. A fourth and third consecutive NCAA appearance could be on the way despite a season-ending injury to Spencer Dinwiddie. The football program is counting on MacIntyre to replicate his reclamation project at San Jose State.

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

Montgomery is one of the top coaches in the Pac-12 — going back to his time at Stanford. Cal is rarely one of the top teams in the league, but the Bears have been consistently above average under Montgomery. That’s not easy at Cal. Football is starting from scratch under Dykes, who had a good track record at Louisiana Tech, but the Bears were a dreadful 1-11 in his first season in Berkeley.

9. Oregon State
Football:
Mike Riley | Basketball: Craig Robinson

Riley generally has been an overachiever at Oregon State, leading the Beavers to 36 wins in four seasons from 2006-09. That said, Oregon State has had a losing conference record in three of the last four seasons. Basketball has made strides under Robinson, but the program hasn’t been able to get over the CBI hump. That’s not likely to change in his sixth season.

10. Washington State
Football:
Mike Leach | Basketball: Ken Bone

Wazzu is creeping back toward relevance in football as Leach has installed his pass-oriented offense in Pullman. The transition might have been slower than expected, but a bowl appearance in his second season is a major improvement from where Washington State was only three seasons ago. With an overall losing record in five seasons, Bone may be near the end of his tenure with the basketball program.

11. USC
Football:
Steve Sarkisian | Basketball: Andy Enfield

USC athletics director Pat Haden didn’t have much of a grace period, having to make a number of key hires early in his tenure. He twice went young an energetic with Sarkisian and Enfield. One is a known commodity who was a former assistant who already had success at a Pac-12 school (Sarkisian). The other was an obscure name until he won two games in March (Enfield).

12. Utah
Football:
Kyle Whittingham | Basketball: Larry Krystkowiak

In no other league would Utah be ranked last, but the Utes are still looking to be competitive in both sports. Whittingham has a Sugar Bowl victory on his resume, but the Utes are 9-18 in Pac-12 play in three seasons. Krystkowiak took over a mess of a program mired in player transfers. He’s laid the groundwork for a competitive team that could head to the NIT only two seasons after going 6-25.

Teaser:
Ranking the Best Coaching Tandems in the Pac-12 in 2014
Post date: Tuesday, February 18, 2014 - 07:00
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Doug McDermott bobblehead day left Jay Wright’s head spinning again.

If there’s one thing we know about the Big East this season, it’s that Creighton has Villanova’s number. The first time around, the Bluejays launched 21 3-pointers against Villanova. The Wildcats shut down some of Creighton’s outside shooting, but they couldn’t contain McDermott, the Athlon Sports National Player of the Week.

The Creighton senior scored 39 points against Villanova to put the Bluejays up by a game in the win column in the Big East standings. McDermott scored Creighton’s first 11 points in the first four minutes as Creighton never trailed the traditional Big East power.

Related: 10 Things You Need to Know from the Basketball Weekend

National Player of the Week: Doug McDermott, Creighton
Dougie McBuckets continued to move up the all-time scoring list last week, passing Larry Bird on Sunday. McDermott matched a season high with 39 points against Villanova, completing a regular-season sweep against the Big East leaders. McDermott also scored 26 points in a 68-63 close call with Butler on Thursday. The senior shot 24 of 36 from the field for the week.

Related: 11 Doug McDermott Facts

National Freshman of the Week: Sindarius Thornwell, South Carolina
The Gamecocks are one of the worst teams in a lackluster SEC, but Thornwell is one of the key pieces as Frank Martin tries to turn things around in Columbia. Thornwell scored 22 points in a win over Alabama on Saturday and 19 in a win over Vanderbilt on Thursday afternoon. The guard also had 10 total rebounds and 10 total assists in South Carolina’s first back-to-back SEC wins since 2011.

Under-the-Radar Player of the Week: Kerry Hammonds II, Middle Tennessee
Middle Tennessee has snuck into the mix for the Conference USA regular season title after dismantling league leader Southern Miss 81-64. Hammonds scored 26 points in the win over the Golden Eagles on Saturday, including six shots from 3-point range. Hammonds had 18 points in a win over Tulane earlier in the week.

Other top performers last week:

Scottie Wilbekin, Florida
The Gators may have cleared the path to a perfect SEC season by conquering their toughest week of the season so far. Florida defeated Tennessee and Kentucky on the road for the first time in the same season since 1988. The Gators point guard led the way with 23 points in a 69-59 win at Kentucky and 21 points in a 67-58 win at Tennessee. The senior was 21 of 24 from the free throw line for the week with no turnovers.

Shabazz Napier, UConn
Napier continued his case for American Athletic Conference Player of the Year honors with a gargantuan effort against Memphis. Napier scored 34 points and added five rebounds, four assists and four steals in the 86-81 win over the Tigers in overtime Saturday.

Dwayne Evans, Saint Louis
The Billikens took a major step toward a second consecutive Atlantic 10 title thanks to Evans’ play in a key 64-62 win over VCU. Evans had 21 points and 10 rebounds against the Rams as the Billikens moved to 10-0 in the A-10. A year ago, Evans was one of the hottest players in the country late in the season as Saint Louis won the A-10 regular season and tournament titles.

James Michael McAdoo, North Carolina
The long-awaited breakout for McAdoo is here as the junior had 24 points and 12 rebounds in a 75-71 win over Pittsburgh on Saturday. McAdoo has been leading the way as North Carolina — a team noted for its bizarre losses early in the year — has discovered consistency. The Tar Heels have won six games in a row heading into busy week with the first meeting with Duke postponed to Feb. 20.

Frank Kaminsky, Wisconsin
The Badgers’ big man gave Wisconsin its fourth victory in a row in a 75-62 win at Michigan on Sunday. Kaminsky scored 25 points on 11 of 16 shooting against the Wolverines while adding 11 rebounds. On Thursday, Kaminsky added 17 points in a 78-70 win over Minnesota.

Jordan Bachynski, Arizona State
Arizona finally ran into a defensive force that could match the Wildcats. The center Bachynski had eight blocks in a 69-66 double overtime upset of the No. 2 Wildcats on Friday night. Bachynski helped Arizona State in the offensive end with 13 points, led by 7 of 11 free throw shooting.

Jabari Brown, Missouri
The Tigers guard kept Missouri in NCAA contention this week with two key wins over Arkansas and Tennessee. Brown had 24 points in a 75-70 win over Tennessee on Saturday and 25 points in Thursday’s 86-85 win over Arkansas. Brown’s basket with 12.2 seconds left against the Razorbacks clinched the win.

Rakeem Christmas, Syracuse
Christmas had the steal to set up C.J. Fair’s game-winning layup as Syracuse defeated NC State 56-55 to remain unbeaten. Christmas finished with 14 points, 12 rebounds and seven blocks in the win. In another close call with Pitt on Wednesday, Christmas had seven points, five rebounds and three blocks.

Javan Felix, Texas
With leading scorer Jonathan Holmes out for one game last week, Felix helped pick up the slack with 27 points in 30 minutes in a 87-68 win over Oklahoma State on Tuesday. When Holmes returned, Felix remained the go-to player with 18 points in a 88-71 win over West Virginia on Saturday. Felix shot 16 of 30 from the field for the week.

Kenny Chery, Baylor
The junior college transfer point guard kept Baylor in contention for an NCAA Tournament spot with a triple-double in the 87-73 double overtime win over Kansas State. Chery finished with 20 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds as Baylor fought back from a 10-point deficit with nine minutes to go. The triple-double was the sixth in Baylor history.

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Post date: Monday, February 17, 2014 - 13:10

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