Articles By Mitch Light

All taxonomy terms: College Football
Path: /college-football/qa-fred-russells-biographer
Body:

Fred Russell, one of the preeminent sportswriters of the 20th century, spent 69 years at the Nashville Banner, including 50 as the paper’s sports editor. Russell was known throughout the South as an authority on college football — his popular “Pigskin Preview” was a staple in The Saturday Evening Post from 1949-62 — but he covered all sports with a passion and thoroughness that were unmatched in the industry.

Freelance author Andrew Derr recently published the first complete biography on Russell’s career in the business — “Life of Dreams: The Good Times of Sportswriter Fred Russell.”

We sat down with Derr, who attended Vanderbilt on the Fred Russell-Grantland Rice Scholarship, in Nashville to discuss his project.

Athlon Sports: What was the inspiration to write this book?
Andrew Derr: I did an article on Mr. Russell for a Vanderbilt magazine back in the early 2000s and realized just how much of an impact he had had on so many people. There were so many writers who had either worked for him at the (Nashville) Banner or came to Vanderbilt for the (Russell-Rice) scholarship and one way or another were still active in sportswriting, whether regionally or nationally. That got me thinking that this guy really had a major impact and a sustainable legacy. And of course his impact with Vanderbilt and Nashville. He really represented Nashville well. For anybody who followed sports in the middle part of the 20th century, when you thought of Nashville, you thought of Fred Russell.

Mr. Russell was known for having great relationships with all of the subjects he covered. What do you think he would think of today’s media world, specifically the fact that it’s very, very difficult to get to know the people you are writing about?
I think he would still find a way to build the relationships, one player and one coach at a time. He would just do his thing and still use the approach that was successful back in the day. It’s certainly a different era of information gathering and accessibility with the online world, but he would still apply his basic tenets of fair reporting and informative analysis to be successful.

What was his favorite sporting even to cover?
The favorite singular events for him were The Masters and the Kentucky Derby. He loved the Derby. In his own biography, in the ‘50s, he called it the “most electric moment in sports.” He went to 40 or 50 in a row of both of those events. As far as team sports, he was a huge baseball fan. He covered spring training every year even though Nashville only had minor league teams. And then, of course, college football. That is the sport that largely put him on the national stage, when he had the opportunity to write for The Saturday Evening Post for about a dozen years.

You talked to a lot of people when you worked on the project. Who were some of the people you were surprised to get access to?
The two that stood out were George Steinbrenner and Bobby Knight. Both of those guys got back to me quickly once they found that I was doing a book on Mr. Russell, and they were excited to talk about him. He was a guy that they interacted with years ago, and they felt he did it the right way. They were very fond of him.

He was a proud Vanderbilt graduate and was probably known as a Vanderbilt homer. Was he well-liked by everyone back in the day, or did some fans of other schools not really care for him? Did you get a sense of that during your research?
Maybe it was because of the time that I was doing the biography (after his death), but everyone only had nice things to say. I talked to some people over at the University of Tennessee, and they had fond memories of Mr. Russell. They remember the battles the two schools had in the 1950s and 60s. I think the other thing to consider was that The Banner, his paper, had a heated rivalry with the other paper in town, The Tennessean. Those relationships were tense. He rubbed some people the wrong way, but there was always respect. He had so many contacts in the sports world, particularly at Vanderbilt. He had great relationships and inside access to the athletic department where the athletic department would make sure that The Banner and Fred Russell got the first word on any news, and that drove the people at The Tennessean nuts. So they did respect him, but he kept beating them on so many stories. Years later, they had great things to say about him, but if I had interviewed them back in the day, the responses might have been a bit different.

Teaser:
<p> Andrew Derr has written the first biography of legendary Nashville-based sportswriter Fred Russell. He talked about his project with Athlon Sports.&nbsp;</p>
Post date: Friday, June 15, 2012 - 09:28
Path: /college-basketball/7-coaching-replacements-seth-greenberg-virginia-tech
Body:

Virginia Tech has fired men's basketball coach Seth Greenberg after nine seasons with the Hokies. With that news, we compiled a list of possible replacements to take over in Blacksburg.

 

Blaine Taylor, head coach, Old Dominion

Taylor has a 378–192 record as a head coach, with stops at Montana (1991-98) and Old Dominion (2001-current). He has built ODU into a consistent winner in the competitive Colonial Athletic Association, with nine straight winning league seasons. He made the NCAA Tournament in 2005, ’10, ’11 with the Monarchs.

 

 

Jeff Capel, assistant coach, Duke

Capel enjoyed a successful four-year run as the head coach at VCU from 2002-06, guiding the Rams to a record of 50–22 in CAA games and a berth in the 2004 NCAA Tournament. He then served as the head coach at Oklahoma, recording an overall mark of 96–69 from 2006-11.

 

Dino Gaudio, analyst, ESPN

Gaudio was fired after three seasons at Wake Forest in 2010 despite an overall record of 61–31 and an ACC mark of 27–21. He also has experience as a head coach at Army (1993-97) and Loyola (Md.) (1998-00). Gaudio is an outstanding recruiter.

 

Ron Hunter, head coach, Georgia State

Hunter did a great job in his first season at Georgia State, improving the Panthers from 6–12 in the Colonial in 2011 to 11–7 in ’12. Previously, he served as the head coach at IUPUI for 17 seasons, overseeing the school’s move from the NAIA ranks to Division I Independent to member of the Summit League. IUPUI went 98–56 over 10 years in the Summit during Hunter’s tenure.

 

Scott Sutton, head coach, Oral Roberts

The son of former Oklahoma State coach Eddie Sutton has put up gaudy numbers in 13 years at Oral Roberts. His record in the Summit League is 163­–59, including a 17–1 mark this season. ORU has made three trips to the NCAA Tournament on Sutton’s watch.

 

Orlando Antigua, assistant coach, Kentucky

Antigua joined John Calipari’s staff in 2008-09 at Memphis and made the move to Kentucky, where is he is completing his third season. He has no experience as a head coach, but his status as one of Calipari’s top recruiters will make him a candidate for some head coaching positions in the near future.

 

Dan Muller, assistant coach, Vanderbilt

Muller, a 1998 graduate of Illinois State, recently completed his 12th season on Kevin Stallings’ staff at Vanderbilt. He was reportedly in the mix for head coaching vacancies at Mississippi State, Miami (Ohio), Southern Illinois and Stanford following the ’11-12 season. Muller serves as the Commodores’ recruiting coordinator.  

--Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch on Twitter)

Teaser:
<p> A look at possible coaching fits for the Hokies basketball program.</p>
Post date: Monday, April 23, 2012 - 17:50
Path: /college-basketball/final-four-preview-clark-kellogg
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Athlon Sports’ Mitch Light caught up with CBS college basketball analyst Clark Kellogg earlier this week to chat about the Final Four.

Athlon Sports: You’ve been involved in the sport for a long time, both as a player and broadcaster. Can you remember a Final Four matchup as juicy as what we have with Kentucky and Louisville?

Clark Kellogg: No, I can’t. When you consider what that rivalry means to the folks in Kentucky and also to people that follow college basketball closely, it’s way up there in the regular season — highly intense and extremely passion-driven. Now you factor in the stage that it is being played on and what is at stake, then it goes to a level that we haven’t seen in a Final Four matchup, quite honestly. This will be my fourth year calling the national championship game, and I spent 12 years as a studio analyst before that and watched it for a number of years before that, and I don’t know if we’ve ever had this kind of a matchup — a rivalry that has teams of this type of tradition, like Louisville and Kentucky.

Kentucky is the favorite. If you are looking at it from a Louisville standpoint, other than the obvious of making shots, what do the Cardinals need to do well to win this game? What’s a matchup that Louisville might need to win?

It is really too hard to lock into a particular matchup. The point you made, and it’s very simplistic and an obvious one, but shot-making is huge. It has such a big impact on everything, being able to set up your defense, being able to keep pressure on Kentucky. I think Louisville will be able to get good shots. They’ve got to be able to knock a high percentage of them down. Kentucky is without weaknesses, so being able to score the ball is one of the elements you have to bring to the table. I just don’t think you can out-defense Kentucky or slow them down enough to beat them just in a defensive battle. Scoring the ball and making shots is a huge, huge part of the equation for any team to beat them.

Looking at Kansas, I think a popular storyline this year has been Kansas’ relative lack of elite talent. They have good players, but they might not have a bunch of future pros on the team. Is that accurate?

It’s not elite compared to some of the recent teams that Kansas has had, particularly the 2008 national championship team, and even last year’s team when you had the Morris twins. So I can understand why people would say that. The jury is out what is going to happen in the post-college careers of players like Tyshawn Taylor and Elijah Johnson, even a guy like Jeff Withey. That being said, I think it is being overstated a tad, but compared to recent Kansas teams, yes, this is not a team that jumps out at you with a bunch of players with obvious pro potential. That being said, you don’t have to be in the pros to get to the Final Four. You just have to be able to handle the landscape in front of you, and Kansas has done that with really good defense and the play of Thomas Robinson and the improved play of Jeff Withey and the brilliance of Tyshawn Taylor for the last third of the season.

Looking at your alma mater, Ohio State, what is the key to defending Jared Sullinger? You have to kind of push him off the block and out of his comfort zone, right?

I think that is one of them. You want to be able to defend Jared Sullinger effectively one-on-one, but Kansas likes to double-team the post, and they do it aggressively and hard. If they determine that is the strategy that they want to go with, they will have to rotate well on defense. The key is you have to make it tough for a guy like Jared Sullinger. Don’t allow him to get a steady diet of a certain defense. Don’t allow him to get a rhythm. You want to minimize his deep post touches and you want to attack him at the other end of the court as well. The key matchup for me for Kansas will be Deshaun Thomas. They really don’t have a natural defender for him among their starters. I am interested to see how they deal with him. He is a scorer in the truest sense of the word. He can make threes. He can post you up. He can hit a mid-range shot. He is an elite scorer at the college level. How Kansas deals with him may be more important than what they do with Jared Sullinger.

Got to you ask about a team that is not in the Final Four, but how much fun was it for you to have your son, Nick, and his team, the Ohio Bobcats, enjoy so much success in the NCAA Tournament?

It is a thrill and a sense of pride and gratitude that I can’t adequately describe in words because of how full it makes you as a dad, as a mom, and as a sibling, to see your son or your brother out there. Just a tremendous run and an exciting run of fun for our family, and I was full beyond a measure of pride because of how Nick handled himself off the floor. He’s been grounded. He’s worked hard, and he’s been a good teammate.

I know you are involved with the Capital One Cup. Can you tell us a little bit about that and how you got involved?

Certainly can. I am an advisory board member for the Capital One Cup and have been for two years. Capital One is committed to the achievement of student-athletes, both on and off the court or field, and that dedication and drive to be the best is really the reason why the Capital One Cup was created. It rewards Division I athletic programs for their cumulative on-field performance across men’s and women’s sports with over $400,000 combined student-athlete scholarships. I couldn’t be happier to be associated with the Capital One Cup. And fans have an opportunity to follow their university of choice in the Capital One Cup simply by going to CapitalOneCup.com. You can find the standings at Facebook.com/CapitalOneCup and Twitter.com/CapitalOneCup. And all four of the Final Four teams have an opportunity to win as many as 60 points by winning the National Championship.
 

Teaser:
<p> CBS Analyst Clark Kellog discusses the upcoming Final Four.</p>
Post date: Thursday, March 29, 2012 - 16:29
Path: /college-basketball/sweet-16-toughest-path-final-four
Body:

The editors at Athlon Sports debate some of the hot topics surrounding the NCAA Tournament.

What No. 1 seed has the toughest remaining path to the Final Four?

Nathan Rush: Syracuse has not been the same since Fab Melo was suspended. The Orange were lucky to avoid becoming the first No. 1 seed to fall to a No. 16 in their nail-biter against UNC-Asheville. Coach Jim Boeheim’s team had the talent to advance to the Sweet 16, but beating a tough Wisconsin club and either Ohio State or Cincinnati will be too tall a task without the 7-foot Brazilian big man Melo on the floor.

Mitch Light: Tough call. I don’t think it’s North Carolina, even with Kendall Marshall’s injury. I will go with Michigan State. The Spartans will be tested by Louisville in the Sweet 16, but I’ll take Tom Izzo over Rick Pitino in the showdown of coaching legends. Then, Marquette — assuming it beats Florida — awaits. The Golden Eagles are very talented and are playing with a ton of confidence. The most intriguing matchup will be Jae Crowder vs. Draymond Green, two of the most versatile big men in the nation. Marquette was my Final Four pick out of the West before the Tournament began, and I’m sticking with Buzz Williams’ club.

Patrick Snow: I think it’s close between Michigan State and Syracuse, but the Spartans look to have a slightly more difficult road to New Orleans. First up for MSU is Louisville, a red-hot team with a coach who has taken three different schools to the Final Four. The Cardinals have been a very streaky team, and the Big East Tournament champions currently seem to be on a UConn-like tear from last season. If Tom Izzo’s bunch beats Louisville, it would face the winner of Marquette and Florida. The Golden Eagles have lost only three games since Jan. 11, and they have a pair of high-scoring seniors in Darius Johnson-Odom and Jae Crowder. Meanwhile, the Gators destroyed their competition in the first two tourney games and have five players who average in double-figures. I still expect the Spartans to make the Final Four, but the Phoenix regional will be difficult.

Braden Gall: Easily the Syracuse Orange. Wisconsin lives and dies by the 3-point shot, and we all know the easiest way to beat a zone is to knock down shots from the outside. They are physical, experienced and won’t back down from the challenge. Jim Boehiem is also staring at a matchup with either Cincinnati or Ohio State in the Elite 8. The Buckeyes offer both the interior strength to take advantage of the Melo-less defense and the outside shooting and perimeter defense to slow the outstanding trio of Syracuse guards. Even the defensively minded Bearcats have played the Orange tough this season, losing a close one at home during the regular season and knocking off the Orange in the Big East tourney. North Carolina will likely have to face Kansas, and Michigan State is staring at a brutal match-up with Marquette, but no team faces a potential two-game combo like Syracuse could endure — all without the Big East Defensive Player of the Year.

Mark Ross: Just as soon as North Carolina gets John Henson back against Creighton, Kendall Marshall fractures a bone in his right wrist in the win against the Bluejays. He hasn’t been ruled out of Friday’s game against Ohio, but even if Marshall does play, you have to assume he will be limited at the very least, perhaps even to the point of playing basically one-handed. As talented as the Tar Heels are, Marshall, who ranks second in the nation in assists, is clearly the engine that makes this offense run. Marshall has also been more assertive when it comes to scoring, as he has scored 11 or more points in each of the last six games. But Roy Williams doesn’t need Marshall to score — he needs him to run the offense, because the only options behind Marshall with any experience running the point are Stilman White and Justin Watts, who combined to average less than 12 minutes per game. Marshall, not surprisingly, leads the team at 33 minutes per game. Should Carolina get by Ohio, with or without Marshall, then an even tougher task looms against the winner of the Kansas-NC State tilt. Bottom line: The one time of the year you need to be at full strength is March and Carolina is anything but at this point.
 

Teaser:
<p> The editors at Athlon Sports debate some of the hot topics surrounding the NCAA Tournament.</p>
Post date: Wednesday, March 21, 2012 - 14:58
Path: /college-basketball/ncaa-tournament-which-teams-missed-sweet-16-0
Body:

The editors at Athlon Sports tackle a few questions on college basketball with the Sweet 16 quickly approaching. Here's No. 1.

Which team are you most surprised did not make the Sweet 16?

Nathan Rush: After Vanderbilt defeated Kentucky in the SEC Tournament title game, it looked like the Commodores were coming together at just the right time. When the bracket came out, VU appeared to have a shot to make a deep run in the NCAA Tournament, with matchups against Harvard and Wisconsin (most likely) on the first weekend. I doubted Duke and Missouri, but thought Vanderbilt had a team built to last in March. But John Jenkins and Jeffery Taylor got cold at the wrong time against a tough Badger defense.

Mitch Light: Missouri is the obvious answer, but I picked Florida to beat the Tigers in the Round of the 32, so I can’t really say I’m surprised that Fran Haith’s team, as a No. 2 seed, is not in the Sweet 16. I’ll go with Florida State. The Seminoles played very well down the stretch and appeared to be the most complete team in the Nashville pod of the East Region. FSU survived a scare from St. Bonaventure in the first round, but could not get past the scrappy Bearcats from Cincinnati in the Round of 32. The Noles’ defense was strong, as usual, but they had trouble on the offensive end, shooting .380 from the field while committing 17 turnovers. Any team that beats both North Carolina and Duke twice in the same season is clearly talented enough to advance to the Sweet 16, but the Seminoles simply didn’t get it done when it mattered most.

Patrick Snow: I’m still shocked about Missouri, who did not even make it to the Round of 32. The senior-dominated Tigers entered the tourney at 30–4, and they had just won a Big 12 Tournament title by beating all three opponents by at least 14 points. Then came the game with Norfolk State. Most heavy favorites lose early in the tournament because they have a bad shooting night and do not take care of the basketball. However, that was not the case with Missouri. Frank Haith’s crew shot over 50 percent from the field and only committed eight turnovers in scoring 84 points. Mizzou simply did not bring it on the defensive end and could not match the hustle (14 offensive rebounds for the MEAC Tournament champions) of Anthony Evans’ club. Norfolk State did not have anyone averaging over 16 points per game on the season, yet three Spartans scored at least 20 points against the Tigers. I definitely thought ultra-experienced Missouri would make the Sweet 16, instead of becoming history’s fifth No. 2 seed to lose to a No. 15 seed.

Mark Ross: Vanderbilt seemed to have all the momentum coming off its victory over No. 1 overall seed Kentucky in the SEC Tournament championship and did something the Commodores had struggled to do recently — win their opening game in the NCAA Tournament. Vanderbilt seemed to match up well against Wisconsin, and many were even looking ahead to a potential Sweet 16 matchup against No. 1 seed Syracuse, who is without the services of big man Fab Melo. But the Badgers had other ideas. Wisconsin’s defense held Vanderbilt’s big guns John Jenkins and Jeffery Taylor in check, and the Badgers took a page out of the Commodores’ play book and scored half of their 60 points via the 3-pointer. Vanderbilt shot poorly from beyond the arc (5-of-19) and committed several offensive fouls in the first half that limited their chances to put points on the board and put some players in early foul trouble. Jenkins had a chance to give Vanderbilt the lead late in the game, but his 3-pointer was long. The 60–57 loss was not how these group of Commodores envisioned their season would end back in November.

Braden Gall: The Missouri Tigers. This team featured the best backcourt combination of experience, talent, confidence and poise of any team in the nation. Mizzou rolled through the Big 12 Tournament and had won 12 straight games over teams not from Kansas. And frankly, the Tigers didn’t play a terrible game where they missed shots and committed uncharacteristic turnovers. They were simply outworked on the glass by a bigger team and didn’t deserve to win. Those Mizzou seniors will spend the rest of their lives wondering if they played with enough urgency in the second half against Norfolk State.
 

Teaser:
<p> Athlon Sports editors debate some college baskeball questions. First off is a look at which teams missed a great opportunity to advance to the Sweet 16.&nbsp;</p>
Post date: Tuesday, March 20, 2012 - 13:15
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/10-candidates-replace-doc-sadler-nebraska
Body:

Doc Sadler was fired after six seasons at Nebraska. He went 101–89 overall but only 34–63 in league play (five in the Big 12, one in the Big Ten). Here is a list of 10 possible replacements.

Gregg Marshall, head coach, Wichita State
Marshall has a 303–142 record in 14 seasons as a head coach. He took Winthrop to the NCAA Tournament seven times in nine seasons and will have Wichita State in the field this year (as a high seed) for the first time in his five seasons.

John Groce, head coach, Ohio
The former aide to Thad Matta at Butler, Xavier and Ohio State is in his fourth season at Ohio. He has the Bobcats in the NCAA Tournament for the second time and has an overall record of 83–55. Groce is an Ohio native who has spent most of his time in the Midwest.

Danny Manning, assistant coach, Kansas
The former All-American at Kansas and No. 1 overall NBA Draft pick has been on Bill Self’s staff for the first nine seasons, the first four as in an administrative role and the last five as a full-time assistant. He has been praised for his work with the KU big men.

Ben Jacobson, head coach, Northern Iowa
Jacobson has an overall mark of 126–67 and a 64–42 record in the Missouri Valley Conference in six seasons at Northern Iowa. The Panthers have two NCAA Tournament appearance during his tenure with one trip the Sweet 16.

Steve Prohm, head coach, Murray State
Prohm is in his first season as the head coach at Murray State. He guided the Racers to a 27–1 regular-season record and then added three more wins in the OVC Tournament. Murray, a No. 6 seed, beat Colorado State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Thursday.

Johnny Jones, head coach, North Texas
Jones recently completed his 11th season as the head coach at North Texas. He has taken the Mean Green to the NCAA Tournament twice (in 2007, ’10) and lost in the Sun Belt Tournament finals in each of the past two seasons. A former player and assistant coach at LSU, Jones served as the interim head coach at Memphis in 1999-2000.

Ron Hunter, head coach, Georgia State
Hunter did a great job in his first season at Georgia State, improving the Panthers from 6–12 in the Colonial in 2011 to 11–7 in ’12. Previously, he served as the head coach at IUPUI for 17 seasons, overseeing the school’s move from the NAIA ranks to Division I Independent to member of the Summit League. IUPUI went 98–56 in its 10 years in the Summit during Hunter’s tenure.

Tim Jankovich, head coach, Illinois State
Jankovich has nine years of head coaching experience, four at North Texas in the mid-1990s and the last five at Illinois State. His teams at ISU have been solid (48–42 in the MVC), but the Redbirds have yet to break through and reach the NCAA Tournament. Jankovich has worked for Bill Self at Illinois and Kansas and Kevin Stallings at Vanderbilt.

Tim Miles, head coach, Colorado State
Miles, believed to be the first coach to ever tweet during halftime of an NCAA Tournament game, had Colorado State in the NCAAs for the first time since 2003. He has 17 years of head coaching experience, two at Maryville (N.D.) State, four at NW Minnesota State, six at North Dakota State and five at Colorado State.

Scott Sutton, head coach, Oral Roberts
The son of former Oklahoma State coach Eddie Sutton has put up gaudy numbers in 13 years at Oral Roberts. His record in the Summit League is 163—59, including a 17–1 record this season. ORU has made three trips to the NCAA Tournament on Sutton’s watch.

Teaser:
<p> Doc Sadler was fired at Nebraska. Who are some candidates to replace him?</p>
Post date: Friday, March 16, 2012 - 11:01
Path: /college-basketball/candidates-replace-rick-stansbury-mississippi-state
Body:

Rick Stansbury stepped down Thursday afternoon after 14 seasons as the head coach at Mississippi State. Here is a list of possible replacements.

Johnny Jones, head coach, North Texas
Jones recently completed his 11th season as the head coach at North Texas. He has taken the Mean Green to the NCAA Tournament twice (in 2007, ’10) and lost in the Sun Belt Tournament finals in each of the past two seasons. A former player and assistant coach at LSU, Jones served as the interim head coach at Memphis in 1999-2000.

Sean Woods, head coach, Mississippi Valley State
Woods completed his fourth season as the boss at Mississippi Valley State on Tuesday night with a loss to Western Kentucky in the First Four. Woods is a Kentucky graduate who played for Rick Pitino in the early 1990s.

 

Phil Cunningham, assistant coach, Mississippi State
Cunningham has served on Rick Stansbury’s staff at Mississippi State for the past 11 seasons. He has also spent time at Georgia State and James Madison, and had as a previous stint at Mississippi State (1991-92) when he worked for Richard Williams.

Marcus Grant, assistant coach, Mississippi State
A Mississippi State alum and a three-year starter under former MSU coach Richard Williams, Grant has been on the Bulldogs’ staff since 2004. He is regarded as an outstanding recruiter.

Gregg Marshall, head coach, Wichita State
Marshall has a 303–142 record in 14 seasons as a head coach. He took Winthrop to the NCAA Tournament seven times in nine seasons and will have Wichita State in the field this year (as a high seed) for the first time in his five seasons.

Steve Prohm, head coach, Murray State
Prohm is in his first season as the head coach at Murray State. He guided the Racers to a 27–1 regular-season record and then added three more wins in the OVC Tournament. Murray, a No. 6 seed, beat Colorado State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Thursday.

John Cooper, head coach, Tennessee State
Cooper recently completed his third season as a head coach at Tennessee State. The Tigers finished the year with an 18–12 record and lost to Murray State in the finals of the OVC Tournament. He spent six seasons as an assistant at South Carolina on Eddie Fogler’s staff from 1995-2001 and later worked at Oregon and Auburn.

Orlando Antigua, assistant coach, Kentucky
Antigua joined John Calipari’s staff in 2008-09 at Memphis and made the move to Kentucky, where is he is completing his third season. He has no experience as a head coach, but his status as one of Calipari’s top recruiters will make him a candidate for some head coaching positions in the near future.

Robert Kirby, assistant coach, Georgetown
Kirby joined the Georgetown staff in June 2010 after a 12-year stint as an assistant at Mississippi State. He also served as an assistant at State, working for Richard Williams, from 1990-93.

—by Mitch Light

Teaser:
<p> Mississippi State needs to replace Rick Stansbury, who retired after 14 seasons as the head coach in Starkville.&nbsp;</p>
Post date: Thursday, March 15, 2012 - 15:13
All taxonomy terms: Kentucky Wildcats, SEC, College Basketball
Path: /college-basketball/ncaa-tournament-kentucky-or-field
Body:

The brackets are out, and the NCAA Tournament begins in just days. The editors at Athlon Sports are debating some of the hot topics regarding the Field of 68.

If you had a choice, would you take Kentucky or the field to win the title?

Mitch Light: I’d take the field. Kentucky is, in my opinion, clearly the best team in the nation, but it’s tough to win six straight games even if you have the best players. Two years ago, the Wildcats featured the most talented roster in the nation, but lost to West Virginia in the Elite Eight. A year ago, the Cats weren’t as talented yet advanced to the Final Four for the first time since 1998. The point? Talent alone doesn’t guarantee a trip to the Final Four, let alone a national title. If you have to take one team to win it, Kentucky is the obvious pick. But if given a choice, take the field.

Mark Ross: I have become more and more of a believer in Kentucky as the season has progressed, but I will still take the field. Kentucky is immensely talented, and any team that has Anthony Davis anchoring the middle is a threat to win it all, but I think they are too young and not deep enough to do it this year. John Calipari has gone with a seven-man rotation for the most part this season, so foul trouble could be a real issue, especially if it happens to Davis or Terrence Jones. Only one player in the rotation is an upperclassman, and that’s senior guard Darius Miller, who went 7-of-17 from the field and just 2-of-9 from 3-point range in the Wildcats’ 71-64 loss to Vanderbilt in the SEC Tournament championship game on Sunday. This is the first taste of NCAA Tournament play for the rest of the young ‘Cats, and I am one who believes experience is a crucial component to having success in March. The talent’s clearly there, but you need more than that to win these next six games. Just ask the 2009-10 Kentucky team.

Nathan Rush: Kentucky has no weakness. Coach John Calipari is a master motivator who has seen it all — coming within a Derrick Rose made free throw of winning the national title at Memphis in 2008. Center Anthony Davis is the best defensive player in the nation and the likely No. 1 overall pick in the upcoming NBA Draft. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Terrence Jones are inside-out threats who attack the rim off the dribble and can also hit open jump shots. Darius Miller is a senior leader and athletic defender. The Wildcats one “flaw” is the lack of a Rose or John Wall caliber point guard. Marquis Teaque is a ball hog, but Doron Lamb picks up the slack with his high IQ and unselfish brand of basketball. UK even has spare parts like Kyle Wiltjer and Eloy Vargas on the bench. This is the best Kentucky team since Rick Pitino left the Big Blue Nation. I’ll take the Wildcats over the 67 other teams in the field.

Patrick Snow: I feel like it’s almost crazy to take one team over the field in any NCAA Tournament, but it also feels crazy to pick against Kentucky. The Wildcats are the most talented and complete team in the tourney, and this year’s squad has been amazingly consistent. John Calipari is very controversial with his recruiting methods and powerful basketball-insider friends, but he does have this UK team playing quality defense. That may seem easy with a presence like Anthony Davis in the post, but the Cats still deserve some credit for stopping opponents. Kentucky has lost past NCAA Tournament (and the SEC Tourney title) games when it goes cold on offense, especially from 3-point range. However this UK team can win even when not shooting well because of its defensive ability. I would take the field in most years, but the gap in talent between Kentucky and the rest of the field is just too immense not to pick the Wildcats.

Braden Gall: Absolutely the field. I like Kentucky to make a deep run and play in the championship game, but if I am gambling (which, of course, we do not condone at Athlon Sports), it’s hard to not to take the 67 other basketball teams in the brackets. Vanderbilt showed the nation that Kentucky can be stopped with excellent defense and timely shooting. The Cats are the most talented team in the nation with the best player in the nation, but they can be beat if you force them to shoot from the outside, get them into early foul trouble and out-work them, which is much easier said than done.

Teaser:
<p> We asked Athlon Sports' editors if they would choose Kentucky or the field in the NCAA Tournament.</p>
Post date: Wednesday, March 14, 2012 - 16:38
Path: /college-basketball/ncaa-tournament-underseeded-teams
Body:

The brackets are out, and the NCAA Tournament begins in just days. The editors at Athlon Sports are debating some of the hot topics regarding the Field of 68.

Which team do you believe was the most under-seeded?

Mark Ross: Half of Florida’s losses this season came to three teams that are either seeded No. 1 or 2 in the bracket. Florida lost three times to No. 1 overall seed Kentucky, lost by four points on the road to Syracuse (No. 1 in the East) and by seven on the road to Ohio State (No. 2 in the East). The Gators split their season series against SEC Tournament champion Vanderbilt, who’s the No. 5 seed in the East, and with the exception of a home loss to Tennessee, their other three losses came on the road. Florida also beat ACC Tournament champion Florida State (No. 3 in the East) by 18 points in late December. The Gators got the No. 7 seed in the West region, and I think you could make a strong argument that they should be as high as No. 5 in the bracket period, but especially ahead of both Murray State (No. 6) and New Mexico (No. 5) in their region.

Mitch Light: Memphis seems to be a bit low as a No. 8 seed. The Tigers don’t have many quality wins, but they played great down the stretch, winning their final seven games by an average margin of 22.7 points. The computers also really like this team; the Tigers’ RPI is 15, and they are No. 19 in the KenPom.com efficiency ratings. It wouldn’t surprise me at all to see this team knock off Michigan State in the second round (or, to be politically correct, the third round).

Nathan Rush: Murray State was given a No. 6 seed despite a 30–1 record that included wins over Memphis and Saint Mary’s. The Racers have the talent, experience and swagger to prove they were “under-seeded” by the Selection Committee. In the backcourt, junior Isaiah Canaan, senior Donte Poole and Jewuan Long control the fast-paced tempo. Down low, senior Ivan Aska (6’7", 230) and junior Edward Daniel (6’7", 220) are physical enough to defend the rim but athletic enough to keep up in the open court. First-year coach Steve Prohm has a dangerous team heading into the friendly confines of Louisville — which is roughly four hours away from Murray, Ky.

Patrick Snow: I was surprised to see Memphis with an 8-seed. The Tigers won the regular-season championship in Conference USA, as well as the league tournament title. Josh Pastner scheduled tough opponents, and Memphis’ RPI was in the top 20. The Tigers did have some early losses to tourney teams like Louisville, Georgetown and Michigan, but still finished 26–8 while winning 20 of their last 23 games.

Braden Gall: I will vote Murray State as the most under-seeded team in the nation. The Racers get my nod also because of what the selection committee did to them in terms of match-ups. As the No. 23 overall seed, this makes them the No. 3 six-seed in the tourney. But the committee clearly wanted to make their path to the Final Four as difficult as possible. Games with Marquette and Mizzou loom large and are terrible guard-heavy match-ups for the Racers. For a team that won both its regular-season and tourney title with technically the best record in the nation? A four or five would have been more appropriate. 

Teaser:
<p> Which teams deserved a better seed from the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee?</p>
Post date: Wednesday, March 14, 2012 - 14:27
Path: /college-basketball/ncaa-tournament-overseeded-teams
Body:

The brackets are out, and the NCAA Tournament begins in just days. The editors at Athlon Sports are debating some of the hot topics regarding the Field of 68.


Which team do you believe was the most over-seeded?

Mark Ross: Alabama at No. 9 seems a little high to me. The Crimson Tide went 9–7 in the SEC, but only one of those wins came against a team that finished better than .500 in the league and that was against Tennessee, which didn’t even make the NCAA Tournament. Alabama has also been a team in turmoil, as several key players have been suspended at different points this season, including Tony Mitchell, the team’s second-leading scorer and rebounder, who won’t be back at all. Alabama had some quality non-conference wins against teams in the field, including Wichita State, Purdue and VCU, but the last of those came in November. Since then, Bama is just 1–6 against tournament teams, and that lone win was against Detroit, who’s a No. 15 seed. Put it all together and I see a team that should be at the least a double-digit seed.

Mitch Light: I thought Virginia was in danger of not making the field of 68, but the Cavs received a No. 10 seed in the West. Virginia limped to the finish line, losing three of its last four games and five of its last eight. The Cavs only had two top-50 RPI wins — vs. Michigan in November and NC State in January — and lost three games vs. teams ranked 100 or lower. It will be nice to see senior Mike Scott, one of the more underrated players in the nation, end his career in the NCAA Tournament, but Virginia is fortunate not to have been seeded in the No. 12 or 13 range.

Nathan Rush: Baylor was gifted a No. 3 seed despite finishing the season on a 10–7 run, following a 17–0 start to the year. The Bears’ roster looks good on paper, when matched up against recruiting rankings, but the sum of the team is less than its parts. The star of the show, Perry Jones III, is overrated and unable to take over when it matters most. Coach Scott Drew lacks the Tournament resume to instill confidence, earning just his third NCAA Tournament berth since taking over BU in 2004. Several teams seeded No. 4 or 5 are better suited for March Madness than is Baylor, a team I expect to be exposed once the ball is in the air.

Patrick Snow: I’ll go with the Cincinnati Bearcats, who spiked up the bracket big time with a couple of wins in the Big East Tournament. Mick Cronin’s crew entered the conference tourney with the resume of a 9 or 10 seed, with an RPI outside of the top 40. The Bearcats did well in league play but had a very weak non-conference schedule, including early losses to Presbyterian and Marshall. The NCAA committee usually does not factor league tourney results very heavily, but that was not the case here. Cincinnati had a nice showing in the Big Apple, defeating Georgetown and Syracuse before losing in the final to Louisville. That late boost should have maybe earned Cincy an 8-seed at best, but to jump all the way to the 6-line was very surprising.

Braden Gall: It is tough to pick on the little guy here, but I will go with Colorado State. As the No. 41 overall seed, the Rams were ranked ahead of seven other at-large teams, and I am not sure they even belonged in the tournament at all. Their best non-conference win was over Colorado (which had to win its way into the tourney) by one point. They lost six games in a strong Mountain West, including a loss to three-win Boise State. Wins in the league at home against New Mexico and UNLV are nice, but teams like Drexel, Miami (Fla.), Washington, Tennessee and Northwestern strike me as more deserving. Honorable Mention in this category goes to UConn as the No. 34 overall seed.

Teaser:
<p> Athlon editors debate which teams received a favorable seed from the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee.</p>
Post date: Wednesday, March 14, 2012 - 10:05
Path: /college-basketball/ncaa-tournament-breakout-players
Body:

 

The brackets are out, and the NCAA Tournament begins in just days. The editors at Athlon Sports are debating some of the hot topics regarding the Field of 68.

Which player are you most looking forward to watching on a national stage?

Mitch Light: Nate Wolters of South Dakota State is a scoring point guard who plays an exciting brand of basketball. The 6-4 junior from St. Cloud, Minn., is averaging 21.3 points per game but doesn’t do too much damage from 3-point range (one made three per game). He is a high-volume 2-point shooter who also gets to the foul line a bunch (7.1 shots per game). Earlier this season, he erupted for 34 points in the Jackrabbits’ 92–73 win at Washington. SDSU will need Wolters to be at his very best to have a chance of knocking off Baylor in the first round this Thursday in Albuquerque.

Mark Ross: Creighton's Doug McDermott has already received a lot of press this season as the Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year. That said, I am curious to see how he fares against Alabama in the Bluejays' opening game. McDermott is 6-7 and could be at a slight height disadvantage against the other Crimson Tide big men (depending on lineups). McDermott may need to alter his game somewhat to try and stretch Bama's defense and take advantage of his quickness, range and shot-making ability. If Creighton gets by Alabama then presumably a matchup with No. 1 seed North Carolina looms, which would pit McDermott against his former high school teammate, Harrison Barnes. North Carolina has seven players who are all athletic and 6-7 or taller which they can use to defend McDermott, including ACC Defensive Player of the Year John Henson. This should be a perfect opportunity for McDermott to show the nation, not to mention NBA scouts who are sure to be watching, what he can do on the big stage.

Nathan Rush: Now is the time for North Carolina's Harrison Barnes to show he can be a consistent leader, defender and late-game closer on basketball's biggest stage. The sophomore from Ames, Iowa, will be counted on to carry the Tar Heels to the Final Four in New Orleans, after falling one win short of the national semifinals last season. In the process, the 6'8", 215-pound small forward will answer several questions about his pro potential. Barnes has been compared to former Roy Williams product Paul Pierce and 2003 national champion Carmelo Anthony. With UNC's supporting cast, Barnes will be cutting down the nets on Monday night, April 2, if he has that type of All-Star killer instinct.
Patrick Snow: I think Doug McDermott of Creighton has a chance to have a Stephen Curry- or Jimmer Fredette-like effect on this year’s tournament. The 6-7 sophomore averaged 23.2 points and 8.2 rebounds per game this year, and he shot an amazingly efficient 61 percent from the field. McDermott dropped 36 points on Long Beach State in the BracketBusters game and had 33 in the Bluejays’ victory over Illinois State in the Missouri Valley Tournament Championship. Creighton has a tough draw with a physical Alabama squad and then a potential North Carolina matchup in the next round, but McDermott is the type of dynamic scorer who fans will love to watch.

Braden Gall: From the little-guy-early-upset category, I will have to go with Long Beach State's Casper Ware and South Dakota State's Nate Wolters. I like both of these teams to pull the upset in the first round. But if you are asking me about the star player I can't wait to see push his team to New Orleans, none will be more fun to watch than Flip Pressey of Missouri. His vision and speed make him arguably the most difficult point guard in the nation to stop, and the Tigers looked poised to make a deep run — if they can get past their mirror image from Marquette in the Sweet 16.
 

Teaser:
<p> Nate Wolters, Casper Ware and Doug McDermott will be on a national stage this weekend in the NCAA Tournament.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, March 13, 2012 - 15:41
Path: /college-basketball/candidates-replace-darrin-horn-south-carolina
Body:

Darrin Horn was fired as the head coach at South Carolina after four seasons. He went 10–6 in the SEC in Year 1 but is 13–35 since. Overall, he went 60–63 at South Carolina after a five-year run at Western Kentucky, his alma mater.

Here are some of the names South Carolina might target:

 

Gregg Marshall, head coach, Wichita State
Marshall is a South Carolina native who did a tremendous job in nine seasons as the coach at Winthrop. He took the Eagles to seven NCAA Tournaments and compiled an astounding 104–24 record in the Big South. He is finishing up his fifth season at Wichita State and has the Shockers as a No. 5 seed in the South Region. He will likely be South Carolina’s top choice.

 

 

 

John Cooper, head coach, Tennessee State
Cooper recently completed his third season as a head coach at Tennessee State. The Tigers finished the year with an 18–12 record and lost to Murray State in the finals of the OVC Tournament. He spent six seasons as an assistant at South Carolina on Eddie Fogler’s staff from 1995-2001.

 

Ron Hunter, head coach, Georgia State
Hunter did a great job in his first season at Georgia State, improving the Panthers from 6–12 in the Colonial in 2011 to 11–7 in ’12. Previously, he served as the head coach at IUPUI for 17 seasons, overseeing the school’s move from the NAIA ranks to Division I Independent to member of the Summit League. IUPUI went 98–56 in its 10 years in the Summit during Hunter’s tenure.

 

John Groce, head coach, Ohio
The former aide to Thad Matta at Butler, Xavier and Ohio State is in his fourth season at Ohio. He has the Bobcats in the NCAA Tournament for the second time and has an overall record of 83–55. Groce is an Ohio native who has spent most of his time in the Midwest, but he was on the staff at NC State from 1996-2000.

 

Orlando Antigua, assistant coach, Kentucky
Antigua joined John Calipari’s staff in 2008-09 at Memphis and made the move to Kentucky, where is he is completing his third season. He has no experience as a head coach, but his status as one of Calipari’s top recruiters will make him a candidate for some head coaching positions in the near future.

 

Tubby Smith, head coach, Minnesota
This is a long shot, but Smith’s name seems to get mentioned every time there is an opening at a school in the Southeast. He has been at Minnesota for five years, but has yet to win an NCAA Tournament game and has a record of 38–49 in Big Ten games.
 

—By Mitch Light

Teaser:
<p> Gregg Marshall tops the list of candidates to replace Darrin Horn as the head coach at South Carolina.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, March 13, 2012 - 12:58
Path: /college-basketball/ncaa-tournament-upsets
Body:

The brackets are out, and the NCAA Tournament begins in just days. The editors at Athlon Sports are debating some of the hot topics regarding the Field of 68.

Name two double-digit seeds that you believe will win at least one game.

Mitch Light: I realize I’m not the only member of the Long Beach State bandwagon, but I really like this team to beat New Mexico in the 5 vs. 12 matchup in the West Region. The 49ers feature an elite guard in Casper Ware and a solid cast of role players. They don’t have great size, but senior forward T.J. Robinson is averaging a double-double and shooting over 50 percent from the floor. This team also won’t be spooked by the big stage; Long Beach has played at Pittsburgh, San Diego, Louisville, Kansas and North Carolina and also played Xavier, Auburn and Kansas State on a neutral court.

I also like Ohio University in a 4 vs. 13 game against Michigan in the Midwest Region. Ohio defends the 3-point shot very well — opponents only shoot 30.3 percent — and Michigan relies heavily on the 3-point arc. Keep an eye on junior guard D.J. Cooper, who scored 23 points as a freshman two years ago when the Bobcats pounded Georgetown 97–83 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

Mark Ross: Long Beach State (No. 12 in the West) will have its hands full with Drew Gordon and No. 5 New Mexico, but this is a veteran team that starts four seniors and one junior and won’t be intimidated by the higher-seeded Lobos. The 49ers’ non-conference schedule this season included eight teams — Creighton, Kansas, Kansas State, Louisville, Montana, North Carolina, San Diego State and Xavier — that are in this year’s field of 68. And although Long Beach State went 1–7 in these games (beat then-No. 15 Xavier on a neutral court in December), the 49ers’ margin of defeat was a respectable 7.4 points. This is a team that has been working toward this point all season, and not only do I think they will upset New Mexico, I also sixth-seeded think they have good shot at beating Louisville, should the Cardinals take care of business against Davidson, and advancing to the Sweet 16.

Speaking of Xavier, the Musketeers (No. 10 in the South) have been inconsistent throughout the season, but played well in the A-10 Tournament before falling to St. Bonaventure in the championship game. Xavier gets No. 7 seed Notre Dame in the first round, and I think the Musketeers will be too much for the Fighting Irish to handle. Notre Dame was hit hard early by injuries and had a remarkable season going 13–5 in the Big East, but most of its big wins came at home. The Fighting Irish have struggled against athletic, guard-oriented teams that can defend, and Xavier seems to fit the bill here.

Nathan Rush: West Virginia (No. 10) and Belmont (No. 14) are the double-digit underdogs with the best chance of winning at least one game. The Mountaineers are playing Gonzaga (No. 7) in Pittsburgh, which is less than two hours away from their home in Morgantown. Along with a “homecourt” edge, WVU also has senior leaders in Kevin Jones and Truck Bryant as well as a Tournament-tested coach in Bob Huggins; “Huggy Bear” is 15–4 all-time in the first round of the Big Dance. The Bruins are a longshot against Georgetown (No. 3), but Rick Byrd’s team is well-coached, experienced and more athletic than most realize. Plus, the Hoyas are fresh off of back-to-back losses in the first round, making John Thompson III’s squad vulnerable for late-game “deja vu all over again” jitters against a smart Belmont team hungry to earn the school’s first-ever NCAA Tournament victory.

Patrick Snow: I have been a fan of San Diego State all season, but the 6th-seeded Aztecs are ripe for an upset versus lower-seeded NC State. Steve Fisher’s bunch lost four starters from last year’s Sweet 16 club, but SDSU still won 26 games. Even though sophomore guard Jamaal Franklin has been on fire lately, I believe NC State will be able to pack it in on defense against the Aztecs, a team that only shot 34 percent from 3-point range (T-182nd in the nation) this season. For the Wolfpack, sophomore forward C.J. Leslie can be a force inside and played well down the stretch. Guard Lorenzo Brown is one of the more underrated players in the country, as he contributes in all areas of the game. That duo is part of five NC State players who average double-digit points, and Mark Gottfried’s team should share the ball well enough to beat San Diego State.

Saint Mary’s had a solid year in winning the West Coast Conference and breaking Gonzaga’s decade-plus stranglehold on WCC regular-season league titles. However, Purdue showed improvement late — winning five of its last seven regular-season games — and Robbie Hummel has been playing back to his 2009-10 form. The senior forward is a great story of perseverance after multiple ACL tears, and he forms a trio of top treymakers with Ryne Smith and D.J. Byrd. The Gaels will be led by a formidable duo in Aussie guard Matthew Dellavedova and burly Rob Jones inside, and Randy Bennett’s club should control the boards. But Purdue’s veteran group should be able to control the tempo, and I see Matt Painter’s Boilermakers pulling the upset over Saint Mary’s.

Braden Gall: I will go with St. Bonaventure (No. 14) and Long Beach State (No. 12). In an East Region loaded with hot teams — Vanderbilt won the SEC tourney, Florida State won the ACC tourney and Montana has won 14 straight — St. Bonaventure enters having won five straight and the Atlantic 10 tourney. The Bonnies are an excellent offensive team (38th in Pomeroy’s adjusted offensive efficiency ratings) with stud big man Andrew Nicholson playing like a lottery pick. He has averaged 26 points and 10.6 rebounds per game over his last seven, and the Bonnies are 6–1 over that span. Something has to give against a team that plays stellar defense like Florida State, which also lacks a true point guard.

New Mexico also plays excellent defense, but Long Beach State can really score and certainly won’t be scared of the Mountain West champs. Dan Monson’s bunch has played Louisville, Kansas, North Carolina, Xavier, Kansas State, San Diego State, Pitt and Creighton in non-conference action. The 49ers lost to Kansas by eight, North Carolina by six, Creighton by two and the Aztecs by four in overtime. They have won 18 of their last 20 and are as prepared to make a Sweet 16 run as any mid-major squad in the tourney.

Teaser:
<p> Athlon Sports editors discuss the NCAA Tournament. Which double-digit seeds are most likely to win at least one game?</p>
Post date: Monday, March 12, 2012 - 17:10
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball
Path: /college-basketball/bracket-breakdown-field-68-1
Body:

By Mitch Light

Selection Sunday is just days away. Here's a conference-by-conference look at the Field of 68, as of Friday morning.

ACC (5)
In: Duke, Florida State, Miami, North Carolina, Virginia
Worth a mention: NC State
Notes: NC State is over .500 in the ACC (9–7) and technically has no top-50 RPI wins. But it does have two wins over Miami (No. 55) and one over Texas (No. 52) — and two of those came away from home. The Pack need to beat Virginia in the ACC quarters to have a chance. The biggest intrigue in Atlanta surrounds Duke and North Carolina. The Tar Heels appear to be in decent shape to land a No. 1 seed, but Duke could play its way into that spot if it wins the ACC Tournament.

American East (1)
In:
Stony Brook

A-10 (4)
In:
Dayton, Saint Louis, Temple, Xavier
Worth a mention: Saint Joseph's
Notes: Xavier and Dayton were the two final teams in the field as of Friday morning. It’s tough to differentiate between these two rivals. Xavier’s computer numbers are a bit better, but Dayton has better wins. Xavier did win at Vanderbilt, but the Commodores were missing center Festus Ezeli at the time. Dayton has wins over Alabama (at full strength), at Temple (not at full strength), vs. Saint Louis and vs. Ole Miss. This debate will be settled on the court, however, as these two rivals play in the A-10 Tournament tomorrow night in Atlantic City. The winner should be in decent shape. The loser could still be in, but it will be very close.

A-Sun (1)
In:
Belmont

Big 12 (6)
In: Baylor, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Missouri, Texas
Worth a mention: None
Notes: Texas picked up a huge win over Iowa State Thursday in the Big 12 Tournament. The Horns are in good shape.

Big East (10)
In:
Cincinnati, Connecticut, Georgetown, Louisville, Marquette, Notre Dame, Seton Hall, South Florida, Syracuse, West Virginia
Worth a mention: None
Notes: West Virginia is still in decent shape, even after blowing a lead vs. UConn in the Big East Tournament. Seton Hall, with seven top-100 RPI wins, is on shaky ground; beating Louisville Wednesday night would have ended any doubt. South Florida was impressive in its win over Villanova on Wednesday, but let one get away vs. Notre Dame on Thursday. Seton Hall and South Florida will be sweating Selection Sunday.

Big Sky (1)
In:
Montana

Big South (1)
In:
UNC-Asheville

Big Ten (6)
In:
Indiana, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Purdue, Wisconsin
Worth a mention: Northwestern
Notes: Northwestern’s chances took a huge hit with the OT loss to Minnesota on Thursday. Simply put, it’s hard to put a team that is only 1–10 vs. RPI top-50 teams into the field. The Wildcats have had ample opportunities to get that ‘big’ win, but only did so once — vs. Michigan State at home.

Big West (1)
In:
Long Beach State.

Colonial (2)
In: Drexel, VCU
Notes: Drexel snuck in on Thursday night after Mississippi State lost to Georgia. The Dragons don’t have the profile of an NCAA team — they have one win over a top-80 RPI team (VCU at home) and have three losses to teams ranked 120 or lower — but Bruiser Flint’s club did win 27 games and dominate the CAA. This one is tough.

C-USA (2)
In:
Memphis, Southern Miss

Horizon (1)
In:
Detroit

Ivy (1)
In:
Harvard

MAAC (1)
In:
Loyola
Worth a mention: Iona
Iona is 25–7 with an RPI of 40. The Gaels have four top-100 wins but also have two losses to teams ranked 220 or worse. It’s hard to pick between Iona and Drexel.

MAC (1)
In:
Akron

MEAC (1)
In:
Norfolk State

MVC (2)
In:
Creighton, Wichita State

MWC (4)
In:
Colorado State New Mexico, San Diego State, UNLV
Worth a mention: None
Notes: Colorado State picked up a convincing 81–60 win over TCU in the MWC quarterfinals on Thursday. The Rams are in.

Northeast (1)
In:
Long Island

OVC (1)
In:
Murray State

Pac 12 (1)
In:
California
Worth a mention: Arizona, Oregon, Washington
Notes: Washington suffered a crushing blow in the quarterfinals of the Pac-12 Tournament, losing to Oregon State. The Huskies won the regular season but do not have a win vs. a team ranked in the top-80 of the RPI. That is stunning. Arizona has only one win to brag about, at Cal in early February. The Cats might have to win the league tourney to get in. Oregon (RPI 63, KenPom 63) played well down the stretch but lost to Colorado in the Pac-12 quarterfinals. The Ducks are done.

Patriot (1)
In:
Lehigh

SEC (4)
In:
Alabama, Florida, Kentucky, Vanderbilt
Worth a mention: Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Tennessee
Notes: Mississippi State played its way out Thursday night with a loss to Georgia — its second of the season to the Dawgs — in the opening round of the SEC Tournament. Crushing. Tennessee has two wins over Florida and a win at home vs. Vanderbilt, but there also several warts on the résumé. They are 17–13 overall (win vs. Chaminade doesn’t count) and have four losses to 100+ RPI teams. This is a good team that might have to reach the SEC semis to warrant serious consideration. Ole Miss will have to beat Tennessee on Friday night to remain in the picture. The Rebels have some solid wins — Alabama (with JaMychal Green back in the lineup), Miami, Mississippi State — but also has a lot of losses (12).

Southern (1)
In:
Davidson

Southland (1)
In:
UT-Arlington

Summit (1)
In:
South Dakota State
Worth a mention: Oral Roberts
ORU’s résumé looks similar to Drexel’s and Iona’s — a lot of wins, but not a lot of good ones. In a normal year, this team wouldn’t have much of a shot at an at-large bid. But this isn’t a normal year.

Sun Belt (1)
In:
Western Kentucky

SWAC (1)
In:
Mississippi Valley State

WAC (1)
In:
Nevada

WCC (3)
In: BYU, Gonzaga, Saint Mary’s
Notes: BYU has solid numbers (RPI 46, KenPom 48), and six of the Cougars’ eight losses have come against teams ranked in the RPI top 30.
 

Teaser:
<p> Selection Sunday is just days away. Here's a conference-by-conference&nbsp;look at the Field of 68, as of Friday morning.</p>
Post date: Friday, March 9, 2012 - 09:48
Path: /college-basketball/temple-great-get-big-east
Body:

By Mitch Light

Conference realignment is being driven by football. That is undeniable. And for the most part, college basketball will suffer. We are losing the twice-annual Border War between Kansas and Missouri. We are losing Pittsburgh and Syracuse at Madison Square Garden in the Big East Tournament — and gaining schools like SMU, UCF and Houston.

But finally, we are seeing some moves that will actually improve the college basketball landscape. First, Memphis was added to the Big East for all sports beginning in 2013. This proud program has dominated Conference USA in recent years and will bring a national brand to the Big East. And then, on Wednesday morning, the league extended an invitation to A-10 power Temple, which will be making its 30th NCAA Tournament appearance this season — most for any school not currently in a Big Six power conference.

This most recent move was done to give the Big East eight football-playing schools for the 2012 season after West Virginia bailed for the Big 12 earlier than expected. It’s a good move for Big East football (Temple has improved dramatically since being kicked out of the league after the ’04 season). But it’s a great move for Big East basketball. 

This storied league has taken a few hits in recent years. Expansion has watered down the product. Yes, Louisville and Marquette are quality programs who are consistently in the NCAA Tournament. But South Florida, DePaul and Rutgers have done nothing to improve the overall quality of play in the league.

The impending loss of both Syracuse and Pitt to the ACC will be a crushing blow. These are two outstanding programs that have routinely competed for league championships. Pitt is suffering through a rare down season — the Panthers will miss the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2001 — but Syracuse is as good as ever, with a current No. 2 national ranking.

The recent wave of Big East expansion resulted in the addition of SMU, Houston and UCF for football and basketball and San Diego State, Boise State and Navy for football only. This news, to no one’s surprise, was not greeted too fondly by the league’s basketball fans. SMU, Houston and UCF hardly even move the needle in their own markets, let alone the Northeast, home to the majority of the league’s teams.

Now, however, some good news. Memphis and Temple are outstanding programs that will add some intrigue to Big East basketball. We are still stuck with SMU, UCF and DePaul (to name a few), but we can now look forward, beginning in the 2013-14 season, to some great matchups in the future. Memphis vs. Louisville (or Cincinnati) on Big Monday will be appointment viewing. As will Temple vs. Villanova or Georgetown.

The Big East can never go back to its glory days of the 1980s and 1990s when Georgetown, St. John’s and Syracuse created some of the great matchups in the game. But the league is still very good — and it just got better with the addition of Temple.
 

Teaser:
<p> Temple was added to the Big East to give the league eight football-playing members, but the Owls will be a great addition for men's basketball.</p>
Post date: Thursday, March 8, 2012 - 06:11
Path: /college-basketball/college-basketball-players-year
Body:

By Mitch Light

Athlon Sports is in the business of preseason prognostications, so let’s look back at who we tabbed as the preseason Player of the Year in the nation’s top conferences and who deserves the award in the postseason.

ACC
Preseason Pick: Harrison Barnes, North Carolina
Postseason Pick: Tyler Zeller, North Carolina
Barnes has been very good as a sophomore, and Virginia’s Mike Scott has been great as a senior, but Zeller has been the most impactful player in the league. The senior center is averaging 16.3 points and 9.3 rebounds and has been a force on defense for the Tar Heels. Barnes and point guard Kendall Marshall make more headlines for UNC, but Zeller has been the team’s best player.

Atlantic 10
Preseason Pick:
Tu Holloway, Xavier
Postseason Pick: Ramon Moore, Temple
A senior guard from Philadelphia, Moore has been superb in his final season with the Owls. He is second in the A-10 in scoring at 17.8 points per game and is also chipping in 4.2 rebounds and 3.5 assists per night. Moore is part of a senior class that will be playing in the NCAA Tournament for the fourth consecutive season. St. Bonaventure big man Andew Nicholson was a close second.

Big 12
Preseason Pick:
Perry Jones III, Baylor
Postseason Pick: Thomas Robinson, Kansas
A role player last season as a sophomore on a star-studded Kansas roster, Robinson emerged this season as arguably the finest player in the nation. The 6'9", 247-pound power forward is averaging 18.0 points and a Big-12-best 11.9 rebounds for a Jayhawk team that won its eighth straight league championship.

Big East
Preseason Pick:
Ashton Gibbs, Pittsburgh
Postseason Pick: Jae Crowder, Marquette
West Virginia’s Kevin Jones was outstanding as a senior, but the nod goes to Crowder, whose team had a better season. The former junior college transfer is the heart & soul of the Golden Eagles, who finished in second place in the league standings. He averaged 17.6 points and 7.9 rebounds while shooting .512 from the field and .361 from 3-point range.

Big Ten
Preseason Pick: Jared Sullinger, Ohio State
Postseason Pick: Draymond Green, Michigan State
Sullinger has been very good for the Buckeyes, but Green might be the most valuable player in the country. He has been very productive on the court (16.2 ppg, 10.3 rpg, 3.5 apg), and has also provided great senior leadership for a Michigan State program that had some chemistry issues last season.

Mountain West
Preseason Pick:
Drew Gordon, New Mexico
Postseason Pick: Drew Gordon, New Mexico
This came down to San Diego State guard Jamaal Franklin and a pair of transfers from UCLA, Gordon and Mike Moser of UNLV. Gordon gets the nod for his strong play late in the year. In a four-day stretch in mid-February, he averaged 22.0 points and 18.5 rebounds as the Lobos beat MWC rivals San Diego State (by 10 points) and UNLV (by 20). Then, on the final Saturday of the regular season, Gordon scored 30 points and had 12 rebounds in a win over Air Force.

Pac-10
Preseason Pick: Josh Smith, UCLA
Postseason Pick: Jorge Gutierrez, CaliforniaHis stats won’t overwhelm you (12.9 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 4.0 apg), but Gutierrez is one of the best all-around players in college basketball. Known more for his defense earlier in his career, Gutierrez has developed into a more-than-adequate offensive weapon for the Bears, who are headed to the NCAA Tournament for the third straight season.

SEC
Preseason Pick:
Terrence Jones, Kentucky
Postseason Pick: Anthony Davis, Kentucky
Davis has been productive on offense as a freshman (14.4 ppg), but he has done his best work on the defensive end of the court. He leads the nation in blocked shots (4.7 bpg) and has altered countless others. He is the primary reason why Kentucky is the most feared defensive team in the nation.

Teaser:
<p> Athlon Sports is in the business of preseason prognostications, so let’s look back at who we tabbed as the preseason Player of the Year in the nation’s top conferences and who deserves the award in the postseason.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, March 6, 2012 - 10:13
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball
Path: /college-basketball/bracket-breakdown-field-68-0
Body:

The first Automatic bids will be handed out this weekend. Selection Sunday is just over a week away. Here is our look at the Field of 68.

ACC (5)
In:
Duke, Florida State, Miami, North Carolina, Virginia
Worth a mention: NC State
Notes: NC State is over .500 in the ACC (8–7) and technically has no top-50 RPI wins. But it does have two wins over Miami (No. 52) and one over Texas (No. 54) — and two of those came away from home. The Pack will need to get something done in the ACC Tournament. Miami remains in the field after beating Florida State at home (without Reggie Johnson) and then losing by four at NC State. The Hurricanes’ win at Duke is the difference-maker. Virginia has lost four of six, including Thursday night’s buzzer at home to Florida State. The Cavs might start to sweat if they lose at Maryland on Sunday.

American East (1)
In:
Stony Brook

A-10 (2)
In:
Saint Louis, Temple
Worth a mention: Dayton, Saint Joseph’s, UMass, Xavier
Notes: Xavier is out after failing to protect a 10-point lead at the half vs. Saint Louis. The Musketeers haven’t won two straight games since mid-January. Dayton has three top-30 RPI wins, but also had two losses to teams ranked in the 200s.

A-Sun (1)
In:
Belmont

Big 12 (6)
In:
Baylor, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Missouri, Texas
Worth a mention: None
Notes: Six of Texas’ 11 losses have come against North Carolina, Kansas, Baylor (twice) and Missouri (twice). The only thing close to a bad loss for the Horns was a neutral-court two-OT setback vs. Oregon State. They have a win over Temple on their résumé, too. Iowa State removed any doubt by winning at Kansas State last week.

Big East (10)
In:
Cincinnati, Connecticut, Georgetown, Louisville, Marquette, Notre Dame, Seton Hall, South Florida, Syracuse, West Virginia
Worth a mention: None
Notes: It was a good week for South Florida, which beat Cincinnati on Sunday and won at Louisville on Wednesday — despite scoring a total of 104 points. Despite a 12–5 Big East record, the Bulls still aren’t safe, though. Beating West Virginia at home on Saturday would help. West Virginia is trending in the wrong direction, but there is still enough meat on the bone (wins vs. Georgetown and K-State) to keep the Mountaineers in the field.

Big Sky (1)
In:
Montana

Big South (1)
In:
UNC-Asheville

Big Ten (7)
In:
Indiana, Michigan, Michigan State, Northwestern, Ohio State, Purdue, Wisconsin
Worth a mention: Illinois,
Notes: It was another painful loss for Northwestern, but there is no shame in losing by one point to Ohio State, even at home. The game at Iowa on Saturday is enormous — quite possibly the biggest game in school history. Win and the Cats are likely in. Lose and they will need to win several games in Indy. Illinois’ late-season slide continued with a loss at home to Michigan on Thursday night.

Big West (1)
In:
Long Beach State.

Colonial (1)
In:
Drexel
Worth a mention: George Mason, VCU
Notes: VCU’s profile has received a boost by South Florida’s recent surge. The Rams beat USF by 23 points in November. They will be tough to keep out, especially if they reach the CAA finals. George Mason boasts a gaudy 14–4 mark in the CAA but has no wins vs. top 50 RPI teams. Its best wins are at home against Bucknell and VCU.

C-USA (2)
In:
Memphis, Southern Miss
Worth a mention: UCF
Notes: The Knights have lost three of their past five, including a damaging setback at Rice. The RPI (66) likes this team more than KenPom (94).

Horizon (1)
In:
Valparaiso

Ivy (1)
In:
Harvard

MAAC (1)
In:
Iona

MAC (1)
In:
Akron

MEAC (1)
In:
Savannah State

MVC (2)
In:
Creighton, Wichita State

MWC (4)
In:
Colorado State New Mexico, San Diego State, UNLV
Worth a mention: None
Notes: Colorado State has wins at home over UNLV, San Diego State and New Mexico, but has done nothing on the road. The Rams are 29 in the RPI but 79 in KenPom. They have a lot of losses (10), as well. Last team in for now.

Northeast (1)
In:
Long Island

OVC (1)
In:
Murray State

Pac 12 (2)
In:
California, Washington
Worth a mention: Arizona, Colorado, Oregon
Notes: Washington is in as the projected Pac-12 Tournament champion. Arizona has only one win to brag about, at Cal in early February. The Cats might have to win the league tourney to get in. Colorado has some decent wins but has done very little away from home. Oregon (RPI 44, KenPom 71) has won five of six games and is now 12–5 in the Pac-12. The Ducks are in the hunt.

Patriot (1)
In:
Bucknell

SEC (5)
In:
Alabama, Florida, Kentucky, Mississippi State, Vanderbilt
Worth a mention: Tennessee
Notes: Mississippi State stopped the bleeding with an overtime win at South Carolina on Wednesday night. The Bulldogs’ RPI is 60, and they are ranked 72nd in KenPom. Those are dangerous waters. They have to beat Arkansas at home on Saturday. Tennessee has an opportunity to be the No. 2 seed in the SEC Tournament (the Vols have to beat Vanderbilt), but is still a longshot for an at-large bid. Cuonzo Martin’s club has two great wins over Florida, but not much else to brag about. They are 16–13 overall and have four losses to 100+ RPI teams.

Southern (1)
In:
Davidson

Southland (1)
In:
UT-Arlington

Summit (1)
In:
Oral Roberts

Sun Belt (1)
In:
Middle Tennessee

SWAC (1)
In:
Mississippi Valley State

WAC (1)
In
: Nevada

WCC (3)
In:
BYU, Gonzaga, Saint Mary’s
Notes: BYU has solid numbers (RPI 46, KenPom 37) and two wins vs. teams projected to make the field, Gonzaga and Nevada. Saint Mary’s bounced back from a two-game slide to beat Portland and San Francisco on the road.
 

Teaser:
<p> Selection Sunday is just over a week away. Here is Athlon Sports Field of 68, if the Tournament started today.</p>
Post date: Friday, March 2, 2012 - 09:57
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball
Path: /college-basketball/college-basketball-games-watch-weekend
Body:

Saturday, March 3

West Virginia at South Florida
It’s a matchup between two Big East bubble teams that would love to close the regular season with a win. It’s hard to say which team needs this game more.

Pittsburgh at Connecticut
The Big East schedule-makers probably didn’t envision that these two teams would have a combined 21 league losses (at least) on the final weekend of the season.

Oklahoma State at Kansas State
Kansas State followed up wins at Baylor and Missouri by losing at home to Iowa State. The Cats rebounded with a win at A&M on Tuesday. Frank Martin is begging for more consistency from his team.

Southern Miss at Marshall
Southern Miss is on the verge of its first NCAA  appearance since 1991. Winning at Marshall isn’t a must, but the Golden Eagles could use another solid victory away from home.

Washington at UCLA
Washington will be tough for the Selection Committee to evaluate. The Huskies have plenty of talent but lack quality wins.

Georgetown at Marquette
Marquette’s five-game winning streak ended Wednesday night at Cincinnati. Georgetown has the size to punish the Golden Eagles in the paint. This is an intriguing matchup.

Cincinnati at Villanova
The Bearcats have been living life on the bubble for the past two months. They should be in good shape after beating Marquette and Louisville at home in the past 10 days.

Northwestern at Iowa
This could end up being the most important regular-season game in the history of Northwestern basketball. No pressure, Wildcats.

Vanderbilt at Tennessee
The Commodores rolled past Tennessee with ease in Nashville, but the Volunteers have been a tough out in Knoxville.

Alabama at Ole Miss
Bama heads into the final week of the regular season playing its best basketball of the season. Anthony Grant will have the Tide in the NCAAs for the first time since ’06.

Louisville at Syracuse
Louisville had Big East bully Syracuse on the ropes at the Yum Center, but committed some costly turnovers late in the game. The Cards will have to be nearly perfect to win in the Dome.

Arkansas at Mississippi State
The Bulldogs’ late-season slide has put them in must-win mode. Arkansas beat State by 10 in Fayetteville, but the Hogs have struggled mightily on the road.

Seton Hall at DePaul
This is a tough spot for Seton Hall. A win at DePaul does nothing to enhance its NCAA Tournament profile, but a loss would prove fatal.

San Diego State at TCU
Fort Worth has suddenly become one of the tougher places to play on the MWC circuit. The Frogs have defeated Colorado State, UNLV and New Mexico in consecutive home games.

North Carolina at Duke
The stakes couldn’t be higher when these two arch-rivals get together Saturday night at Cameron Indoor Stadium. The winner will be the outright ACC regular-season champ and earn the No. 1 seed in the league tournament.

Texas at Kansas
Texas can wrap up an at-large invite with a win over Kansas in Lawrence. That, obviously, is no easy task. The Longhorns most likely will head to the Big 12 Tournament needing to win a few games to feel good about their NCAA chances.

Sunday, March 4

Kentucky at Florida
Kentucky has already wrapped up the SEC title, but it’s always fun when the Wildcats and Gators get together in Gainesville. Florida could improve its seed a spot or two with a win.

Illinois at Wisconsin
The Fighting Illini's slide continued Thursday night at home vs. Michigan. A win in Madison is always nice, but Illinois probably needs to win the Big Ten Tournament to make the NCAAs.

Virginia at Maryland
It's not quite time to panic for Virginia, but the Cavs aren't playing their best ball of late. Selection Sunday will be a lot less stressful if they win this game.

Ohio State at Michigan State
Michigan State has already clinched at least a share of the Big Ten title. The Spartans will win the outright title with a win over the Buckeyes.

Purdue at Indiana
Purdue has played its way into the NCAA Tournament by winning four of its last five games. The Boilers would love to get some revenge after losing to IU in West Lafayette in early February.

NC Sate at Virginia Tech
NC State is showing signs of life after beating Miami at home on Wednesday night. The Pack needs to win this game in Blacksburg and then win a few games at the ACC Tournament.

Teaser:
<p> This is the final weekend of regular-season play in many conferences in college basketball. Here's a look at some of the big games of the weekend.&nbsp;</p>
Post date: Thursday, March 1, 2012 - 20:42
Path: /college-basketball/pressure-west-virginia-northwestern
Body:

Which team is under the most pressure in this final week of the regular season?

Patrick Snow: I think the West Virginia Mountaineers are under a ton of pressure if they want to make a fifth consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance. Bob Huggins’ club is currently tied for ninth in the rough Big East, and WVU has not been playing quality ball down the stretch. After starting the season at 15–5 overall and 5–2 in league play, the Mountaineers have lost seven of their last nine games. Those seven defeats include four home games, and WVU suffered a very tough loss last Friday after blowing an 11-point halftime lead against Marquette. Seniors Truck Bryant and Kevin Jones have led the team all season but have been inconsistent lately. WVU travels to South Florida on Saturday to face a Bulls club that has been very tough this season. A quality road win in the last regular-season game could be the difference-maker in getting the Mountaineers off the bubble, instead of missing the NCAA Tournament for the first time since Huggins’ return to Morgantown.

Mitch Light: There’s a bunch of options here, but I will go with Northwestern, which is scratching and clawing to make the NCAA Tournament for the first time in school history. The Wildcats are currently 17–11 overall and 7–9 in the Big Ten with an RPI of 43. They close the regular season with a home date with Ohio State on Wednesday and a tricky road game at Iowa on Saturday. If they beat Ohio State, they will be a virtual lock for the Tournament. If not, however, Bill Carmody’s club will head to Iowa City in must-win mode against an Iowa team that beat Indiana and Wisconsin in its last two home games. There’s no denying that this will be a stressful week for everyone associated with Northwestern basketball.


What conference tournament are you most looking forward to?

Patrick Snow: I am very excited for the Colonial Athletic Association Tournament this weekend. We all know the success that the CAA has had in recent NCAA Tournaments, producing two Final Four teams over the last six years — George Mason in 2006 and VCU in 2011. Even though three league squads (Drexel, VCU and George Mason) have 23 wins or more, I’m not sure that multiple teams will be invited to this season’s March Madness. That fact will make for a very exciting and pressure-packed league tourney. Three other CAA teams — Old Dominion, Delaware and Georgia State — have double-digit win totals in league play, so it should be wide open in Richmond. Drexel is the top seed on the strength of 17 consecutive victories, while fifth-place Delaware has won eight straight CAA games. VCU and George Mason will also be tough outs, as the CAA tourney figures to produce an electric atmosphere with multiple teams trying to reach their NCAA Tournament goal.

Mitch Light: I think the Missouri Valley Tournament in St. Louis — or Arch Madness, as it’s called — will be fun to watch. The league has two very good teams at the top in Wichita State (16–2) and Creighton (14–4) and then incredible balance with five teams finishing in a tie for third place at 9–9 in the league. Wichita State is the obvious favorite, but Creighton boasts the Valley’s best player in sophomore forward Doug McDermott, the son of head coach Greg McDermott. Looking for a sleeper? Indiana State was a bit of a disappointment this season with an 8–10 league record, but Greg Lansing’s club returns most of the key players from last year’s team that won the MVC Tournament title.

Nathan Rush: The SEC Tournament is must-see TV. Kentucky is the prohibitive favorite to win the national championship. But can the Wildcats cruise to the SEC crown, as they have in each of John Calipari's first two seasons at UK? If they are tested in a do-or-die tournament setting, how will Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and the young Cats react? Also, the SEC has two of the more intriguing NCAA Tournament wild cards. Both Florida and Vanderbilt have the firepower to make a run in March. But if the Gators and Commodores don't get hot at the right time, either (or both) could easily stagger early in the Dance. UF and VU are hit or miss. But which is it? Then there's Alabama, a well-coached club that can stifle just about any offense on the right night. There is plenty of NCAA Tournament insight to be gleaned from the SEC Tournament — which, coincidentally, is in New Orleans, the site of this year's Final Four.



 

Teaser:
<p> The regular season is winding down in the Big Six power conferences. Several teams are in desperate need of some quality wins.&nbsp;</p>
Post date: Tuesday, February 28, 2012 - 11:45
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball
Path: /college-basketball/bracket-breakdown-field-68
Body:

ACC (5)
In:
Duke, Florida State, Miami, North Carolina, Virginia
Worth a mention: NC State
Notes: NC State had three opportunities in the past eight days to pick up a much-needed marquee win, but the Pack went 0-for-3 with the meltdown at Duke the most painful. If they sweep their remaining regular-season games (at Clemson, vs. Miami, at Virginia Tech), they should be in good shape heading into the ACC Tournament. Miami has only one good win — but it was very good, at Duke. The Canes also have no bad losses. A win on Saturday vs. Florida State would be a nice boost.

American East (1)
In:
Vermont

A-10 (3)
In:
Saint Louis, Temple, Xavier
Worth a mention: Dayton, Saint Joseph’s, UMass
Notes: Xavier was among the final teams in the field this week.
The Musketeers’ best win was at Vanderbilt, but that was in November when the Commodores were playing without Festus Ezeli. They have a huge game next Tuesday at Saint Louis. Win, and the X-Men will likely make the field. Dayton has three top-35 RPI wins, but also had two losses to teams ranked in the 200s. The Flyers have eight top-100 RPI wins — a solid number for a bubble team. Saint Joe’s loss at home to Richmond on Wednesday was very damaging.

A-Sun (1)
In:
Belmont

Big 12 (6)
In:
Baylor, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Missouri, Texas
Worth a mention: None
Notes: Six of Texas’ 11 losses have come against North Carolina, Kansas, Baylor (twice) and Missouri (twice). The only thing close to a bad loss for the Horns was a neutral-court two-OT setback vs. Oregon State. They have a win over Temple on their résumé, too. Iowa State doesn’t have a top-100 win away from home, but the Clones have dates at Kansas State and Missouri looming, plus a home game vs. Baylor.

Big East (9)
In:
Cincinnati, Connecticut, Georgetown, Louisville, Marquette, Notre Dame, Seton Hall, Syracuse, West Virginia
Worth a mention: South Florida
Notes: South Florida played very well on Wednesday night at Syracuse, but lost 56–48. The Bulls are 10–5 in the Big East but are lacking quality wins. They have won at Pitt and Villanova, but those two teams are a combined 8–22 in the Big East. With a season-ending schedule that has home games vs. Cincinnati and West Virginia sandwiched around a trip to Louisville, USF will have several opportunities to pick up some decent wins. Cincinnati picked up a huge win Thursday night at home vs. Louisville. Some UC doubters will point to an RPI of 74, which is admittedly very high, but that is a product of a very soft non-conference schedule that included nine games vs. teams ranked 200 or worse in the RPI. Keep in mind that the Bearcats are ranked No. 39 by KenPom and have seven wins away from home. Seton Hall solidified its résumé with a convincing win over Georgetown. West Virginia is trending in the wrong direction (2–6 in last eight), but there is still enough meat on the bone (wins vs. Georgetown and K-State) to keep the Mountaineers in the field.

Big Sky (1)
In:
Weber State

Big South (1)
In:
UNC-Asheville

Big Ten (7)
In:
Indiana, Michigan, Michigan State, Northwestern, Ohio State, Purdue, Wisconsin
Worth a mention: Illinois, Minnesota.
Notes: Illinois has lost six straight and nine of the past 10 games. Minnesota’s loss Wednesday night at home to Michigan was gut-wrenching. Both the Illini and Gophers probably need to win out in the regular season to even be in the discussion for an at-large bid. Northwestern is still in, even after Tuesday night’s crushing overtime loss to Michigan at home. The Wildcats have a top-5 win (vs. Michigan State) and no bad losses. They probably need to be 8–10 in the Big Ten heading into the league tournament. That means winning two of three vs. Penn State (road), Ohio State (home) and Iowa (road).

Big West (1)
In:
Long Beach State.

Colonial (1)
In:
Drexel
Worth a mention: George Mason, VCU
Notes: George Mason boasts a gaudy 14–3 mark in the CAA but has no wins vs. top 70 RPI teams. Its best wins are at home against Bucknell and VCU. The Rams have played a good schedule but failed to beat any of the good teams on their slate.

C-USA (2)
In:
Memphis, Southern Miss
Worth a mention: UCF
Notes: The Knights are close, thanks to wins vs. Memphis and UConn (on a neutral court). Plus, four of their eight losses have come against teams ranked in the top 35. The RPI (64) likes this team more than KenPom (96).

Horizon (1)
In:
Valparaiso

Ivy (1)
In:
Harvard

MAAC (1)
In:
Iona

MAC (1)
In:
Akron

MEAC (1)
In:
Norfolk State

MVC (2)
In:
Creighton, Wichita State

MWC (3)
In: New Mexico, San Diego State, UNLV
Worth a mention: Colorado State
Notes: New Mexico solidified its position with wins over San Diego State and UNLV but then took a small step back with a loss at Colorado State. The Rams have played their way into the discussion. The RPI likes this team (No. 5); KenPom doesn’t (86). CSU’s next two games are at San Diego State and at home vs. UNLV. We’ll know more in a week.

Northeast (1)
In:
Long Island

OVC (1)
In
: Murray State

Pac 12 (3)
In:
Arizona, California, Washington
Worth a mention: Colorado
Notes: Arizona and Washington are new entrants into the field this week. Washington lacks quality wins, but doesn’t really have many bad losses, either. The Huskies’ final three regular-season games are on the road, at Washington State, USC and UCLA. Arizona’s win at Cal in early February is by far its best achievement. The Cats should be glad the field was expanded to 68 teams last year.

Patriot (1)
In:
Bucknell

SEC (5)
In:
Alabama, Florida, Kentucky, Mississippi State, Vanderbilt
Worth a mention: LSU, Tennessee
Notes: Mississippi State has lost four in a row and has dipped under .500 in the SEC for the first time this season. The Bulldogs’ RPI is 60, and they are ranked 78th in KenPom. Those are dangerous waters. LSU, on the other hand, has won four straight. The Tigers, however, only have two top-50 wins (and one was vs. an Alabama team that played without four starters), and 12 of their 17 wins have come against teams ranked 120 or lower in the RPI. Tennessee is a nice story, but the Vols likely will have to win the SEC Tournament to make the field. Alabama's win at Arkansas Thursday night boosted the Tide's profile. 

Southern (1)
In:
Davidson

Southland (1)
In:
UT-Arlington

Summit (1)
In:
Oral Roberts

Sun Belt (1)
In:
Middle Tennessee

SWAC (1)
In:
Mississippi Valley State

WAC (1)
In:
Nevada

WCC (3)
In: BYU, Gonzaga, Saint Mary’s
Notes: BYU has solid numbers (RPI 45, KenPom 36) and two wins vs. teams projected to make the field, Gonzaga and Nevada. Saint Mary’s still has decent numbers (RPI 49, KenPom 42) despite losing three of their last five. The Gael’s trip to San Francisco on Saturday could be tricky.
 

Teaser:
<p> Selection Sunday is just over two weeks away. Here is our look at the Field of 68 heading into this weekend's action.</p>
Post date: Friday, February 24, 2012 - 09:19
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball
Path: /college-basketball/college-basketball-weekend-tap
Body:

COLLEGE BASKETBALL
WEEKEND ON TAP

The regular season is winding down. Every game counts. Here's a look at the key games this weekend. 

Saturday, Feb. 25

Vanderbilt at Kentucky
The Commodores threw a scare into Kentucky in Nashville — they led by four points late in the second half — but had no answer for the Wildcats’ defense down the stretch.

Notre Dame at St. John’s
Notre Dame’s incredible run in the Big East has included four straight wins on the road — three by four points or less. This team is playing with a ton of confidence.

LSU at Ole Miss
LSU has won four straight and is above .500 in the SEC for the first time this season. The Tigers need to win their final three regular-season games to be in the discussion for an at-large bid.

UCLA at Arizona
Arizona is a team that cannot afford any bad losses — and losing to UCLA at home would be a bad loss.

Florida at Georgia
The Gators’ struggles on the road appear to be a thing of the past. Georgia will need to shoot very well to keep this one close.

NC State at Clemson
The Wolfpack are in desperate need of some good wins away from home. Clemson is always a tough out at Littlejohn Coliseum. This is a huge game for NC State.

Rutgers at Seton Hall
Seton Hall solidified its NCAA Tournament resume with a convincing win over Georgetown. This weekend, the Hall will be looking to complete the season sweep vs. in-state rival Rutgers.

Penn at Harvard
With home dates vs. Princeton (Friday night) and Penn, this is a huge week for Harvard, which is closing in on its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 1946.

North Carolina at Virginia
Virginia’s NCAA Tournament résumé is solid; the Cavs have an opportunity to improve their seed with a win over North Carolina.

Missouri at Kansas
It doesn’t get any better than this: Two hated rivals meeting for the final time (we think) in one of the great settings in college basketball with a conference title on the line.

Memphis at Marshall
Memphis is still in good shape, but the Tigers took a step back with a loss at home to UTEP over the weekend. Marshall is good enough to win this game.

Belmont at Mercer
This regular-season finale in the A-Sun figures to be a preview of the league tournament title game, which will played on Mercer’s home floor one week later.

Purdue at Michigan
This is far from a must-win for Purdue, but the Boilermakers will greatly enhance their at-large chances with a win in Ann Arbor.

Mississippi State at Alabama
Mississippi State has lost four straight to dip under .500 in the SEC. The Bulldogs’ RPI is 60, and they are ranked 78th in KenPom. They could really use a win in Tuscaloosa.

Syracuse at Connecticut
The defending national champs stopped the bleeding with the win at Villanova on Monday, but we’re not quite ready to say the Huskies’ ship has been righted.

Colorado State at San Diego State
The Rams are feeling pretty good about themselves after beating New Mexico at home earlier this week. If they can steal a win at San Diego, it will be time to seriously consider them for an at-large invite.

Saint Mary’s at San Francisco
The Gaels are struggling at the wrong time of the year. San Francisco has been tough at home down the stretch. The Dons lost by one to BYU then bounced back to beat Gonzaga.

Sunday, Feb. 26

Cincinnati at South Florida
South Florida has already secured its first-ever winning season in Big East play. Now, the Bulls are focused on beefing up their at-large profile.

Indiana at Minnesota
With wins over Kentucky and Ohio State, the Hoosiers are in no danger of missing the NCAA Tournament. But Tom Crean would like to see his team play better away from home.

Pittsburgh at Louisville
Barring a miracle run in the Big East Tournament, Pittsburgh will miss the NCAAs for the first time since 2001.

Wisconsin at Ohio State
The Buckeyes won ugly in Madison, 58–52, earlier this month. They’d love to open things up and get this game in the 70s.

Florida State at Miami (Fla.)
This is huge game for both teams. The Noles are still in the hunt for the ACC title, while the Canes need another quality win on their résumé.

Iowa at Illinois
Illinois has wins over two top-five teams (Ohio State, Michigan State), but the Fighting Illini have played their way off the bubble (on the wrong side) with an epic late-season collapse.
  

Teaser:
<p> Here's a look at the top games on the college basketball schedule this weekend.&nbsp;</p>
Post date: Thursday, February 23, 2012 - 15:55
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball
Path: /college-basketball/ncaa-tournament-predicting-field
Body:

By Mitch Light

Selection Sunday is just over three weeks away. Here's a conference-by-conference projection at the NCAA Tournament's Field of 68.

ACC (6)
In:
Duke Florida State, Miami, North Carolina NC State, Virginia
Worth a mention: None
Notes: Six of NC State’s eight losses have come against teams ranked in the top 40 of the RPI and top 30 of KenPom’s ratings. The Pack also have two wins away from home against teams in this week’s projected field, vs. Texas and at Miami. They could have all but wrapped up a bid last night but could not hold a 20-point lead in the second half at Duke. The Hurricanes have only one good win — but it was very good, at Duke. They also have no bad losses.

American East (1)
In:
Vermont

A-10 (3)
In:
Saint Louis, Temple, Xavier
Worth a mention: Dayton, Saint Joseph’s, UMass
Notes: Xavier continues to be one of the most difficult teams to evaluate. The Musketeers’ best win was at Vanderbilt, but that was in November when the Commodores were playing without Festus Ezeli. They have lost their last four games vs. top-100 RPI teams. Ultimately, this team likely will do just enough to get in. Dayton has three top-35 RPI wins, but also had two losses to teams ranked in the 200s. The Flyers have seven top-100 RPI wins — a solid number for a bubble team.

A-Sun (1)
In:
Belmont

Big 12 (6)
In:
Baylor, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Missouri, Texas
Worth a mention: None
Notes: Five of Texas’ nine wins have come against North Carolina, Kansas, Baylor and Missouri (twice). The only thing close to a bad loss for the Horns was a neutral-court two-OT setback vs. Oregon State. They have a win over Temple on their résumé, too. Iowa State doesn’t have a top-100 win away from home, but they have dates at Kansas State and Missouri looming.

Big East (9)
In:
Cincinnati, Connecticut, Georgetown, Louisville, Marquette, Notre Dame, Seton Hall, Syracuse, West Virginia
Worth a mention: Pittsburgh, South Florida
Notes: Cincinnati is a tough case. Most doubters will point to an RPI of 93, which is admittedly very high, but that is a product of a very soft non-conference schedule that included nine games vs. teams ranked 200 or worse in the RPI. Keep in mind that the Bearcats are ranked No. 43 by KenPom and have three top 100 wins away from home. Seton Hall is back in the field after winning three straight games. The Pirates will be in great shape if they win at Cincinnati this weekend. Pittsburgh is on life support. South Florida has a nice Big East record (9–4) but only one top-75 win (vs. Seton Hall, at home).

Big Sky (1)
In:
Weber State

Big South (1)
In:
UNC-Asheville

Big Ten (9)
In:
Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Northwestern, Ohio State, Purdue, Wisconsin
Worth a mention: None
Notes: It was very difficult to put Illinois, which has lost four straight and seven of eight, into the field, but the Illini have two wins vs. top-10 teams and three vs. top-20 teams. No bubble team can come close to that. So, for the time being, Illinois is still alive. Northwestern’s ongoing quest for its first-ever NCAA Tournament appearance took a hit with a loss at Indiana on Wednesday night, but there is really no shame in losing in Bloomington. It was more of missed opportunity than a bad loss. Minnesota’s profile is shaky, but the Gophers have done just enough to sneak in — for now. Their win at Indiana on Jan. 12 is by far their top accomplishment.

Colonial (1)
In:
Drexel
Worth a mention: George Mason, VCU
Notes: George Mason boasts a gaudy 14–2 mark in the CAA but has no wins vs. top 60 RPI teams. Its best wins are at home against Bucknell and VCU. The Rams have played a good schedule but failed to beat any of the good teams on their slate.

C-USA (2)
In:
Memphis, Southern Miss
Worth a mention: UCF
Notes: The Knights are close, thanks to wins vs. Memphis and UConn (on a neutral court). Plus, four of their seven losses have come against teams ranked in the top 35. The RPI (55) likes this team more than KenPom (89).

Horizon (1)
In:
Valparaiso

Ivy (1)
In:
Harvard

MAAC (1)
In:
Iona

MAC (1)
In:
Akron

MEAC (1)
In:
Norfolk State

MVC (2)
In:
Creighton, Wichita State

MWC (3)
In:
New Mexico, San Diego State, UNLV
Worth a mention: Colorado State
Notes: New Mexico picked up a huge win on Wednesday night, knocking off San Diego State on the road. Colorado State has a solid RPI (33) but is No. 109 in KenPom and doesn’t have a win away from home vs. a team ranked in the top 175 of the RPI.

Northeast (1)
In:
Long Island

OVC (1)
In:
Murray State

Pac 12 (1)
In:
California
Worth a mention: Arizona, Washington
Notes: I tried to find a reason to include either Arizona or Washington. Couldn’t find one — for either team. Washington’s best win is at Arizona. Arizona’s only top-70 win is at Cal. Both teams have the talent to play in the NCAA Tournament, but for now they both lack the résumé.

Patriot (1)
In:
Bucknell

SEC (5)
In:
Alabama, Florida, Kentucky, Mississippi State, Vanderbilt
Worth a mention: Ole Miss, Tennessee
Notes: Alabama is an interesting case. The Crimson Tide are trending in the wrong direction, but they haven’t been playing with a complete roster. Now, how will the Selection Committee treat self-inflicted wounds (suspensions)? Not quite sure. If the Tide get all of their parts back, they are more than good enough to secure a spot in the next few weeks. Tennessee has a ton of work to do — the Vols RPI is 107 and they are 66 in Ken Pom — but gets on this list after winning four straight. Ole Miss missed an opportunity Thursday night against Vanderbilt, losing badly at home to the Commodores.

Southern (1)
In:
Davidson

Southland (1)
In:
UT-Arlington

Summit (1)
In:
Oral Roberts

Sun Belt (1)
In:
Middle Tennessee

SWAC (1)
In:
Mississippi Valley State

WAC (1)
In:
Nevada

WCC (3)
In:
BYU, Gonzaga, Saint Mary’s
Notes: BYU has solid numbers (31 KenPom/45 RPI) and two wins vs. teams projected to make the field, Gonzaga and Nevada. Three of the Cougars’ four remaining games are against teams ranked 150 or worse. They need to win them all.
 

Teaser:
<p> Athlon Sports predicts the Field of 68 with just over three weeks remaining until Selection Sunday.</p>
Post date: Thursday, February 16, 2012 - 22:13
All taxonomy terms: College Football
Path: /college-football/college-football-bowl-predictions-part-2
Body:

By Mitch Light

Champs Sports Bowl — Florida State vs. Notre Dame
These two tradition-rich programs were among the bigger disappointments in 2011. Florida State had significant injuries (most notably to quarterback E.J. Manuel), while Notre Dame’s biggest issue was its inability to protect the football. The Irish ranked 116th in the nation in turnover margin (-1.08 per game).
Notre Dame 31, Florida State 30

Alamo Bowl — Washington vs. Baylor
This figures to be one of the more entertaining games of the bowl season. Both quarterbacks — Baylor’s Robert Griffin III and Washington’s Keith Price — are very talented and both defenses are suspect.
Baylor 41, Washington 34

Armed Forces Bowl — BYU vs. Tulsa
BYU won nine games but only beat one team (Utah State) that currently has a winning record. All of Tulsa’s four losses came to teams that were ranked in the top 10 at one point — Oklahoma, O-State, Boise State, Houston.
Tulsa 30, BYU 20

Pinstripe Bowl — Rutgers vs. Iowa State
Iowa State is the only team in the nation that played 11 BCS conference teams in the regular season. The Cyclones went 5–6 in those 11 games, with two of the wins coming in overtime, vs. Iowa and Oklahoma State.
Rutgers 24, Iowa State 20

Music City Bowl — Wake Forest vs. Mississippi State
It’s dangerous to put too much stock in one game, but it’s hard to believe that a Wake Forest team that was so thoroughly dominated at home by Vanderbilt, which went 2–6 in the SEC, will have too much success against another 2–6 SEC team, Mississippi State.
Mississippi State 27, Wake Forest 17

Insight Bowl — Iowa vs. Oklahoma
Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops will be coaching against his alma mater for the first time. His team will be more talented; just not sure how motivated the Sooners will be after their late-season struggles.
Oklahoma 28, Iowa 24

Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas — Texas A&M vs. Northwestern
Texas A&M is likely the most talented 6–6 team in the nation. The Aggies lost two games in OT and three others by three points or less. Northwestern can be dangerous on offense, but the Cats’ defense will have problems with the A&M attack.
Texas A&M 38, Northwestern 24

Sun Bowl — Georgia Tech vs. Utah
Georgia Tech is 0–3 in bowl games under Paul Johnson and has scored a total of 24 points in those three losses. There’s pressure on the ’11 Jackets to prove that the option attack can be successful when the opponent has a month to prepare.
Georgia Tech 24, Utah 23

Liberty Bowl — Vanderbilt vs. Cincinnati
This game features two of the most underrated tailbacks in the nation, Vanderbilt’s Zac Stacy (1,136 yards on an SEC-best 6.2-yard average) and Cincinnati’s Isaiah Pead (1,110 yards).
Vanderbilt 27, Cincinnati 23

Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl — Illinois vs. UCLA
These two teams have a combined 13 losses and both head coaches have been fired. This is why some people believe there are too many bowls.
UCLA 24, Illinois 17

Chick-fil-A Bowl — Virginia vs. Auburn
Auburn will take the field without Gus Malzahn calling the plays for the first time since 2008. Maybe it’s not as big of a loss as we think: The Tigers scored 17 points or less in six of their eight SEC games and currently rank 104th in the nation in total offense.
Virginia 21, Auburn 17

TicketCity Bowl — Houston vs. Penn State
Penn State has not played a Conference USA team since it hosted Southern Miss in November 2001. The Nittany Lions won that game, 38–20, and should win this one as well due to their outstanding play on defense.
Penn State 31, Houston 20

Capital One Bowl — Nebraska vs. South Carolina
South Carolina is flying under the national radar — pretty surprising for a Steve Spurrier team — but the Gamecocks have won 10 games and bring the nation’s fourth-ranked defense to Orlando. This should be an entertaining matchup.
South Carolina 17, Nebraska 13

Outback Bowl — Michigan State vs. Georgia
Georgia won 10 games this season, but has only defeated two teams with a winning record — Auburn (7–5) and Georgia Tech (8–4). Michigan State is known for its defense, but the Spartans averaged 38.6 points in their last five games.
Georgia 28, Michigan State 20

Gator Bowl — Florida vs. Ohio State
It’s the Urban Meyer Bowl. Florida (6–6 overall) needs to win this game to avoid its first losing season since 1979, when Charley Pell’s first Gator team went 0–10–1. Ohio State, also 6–6, hasn’t had a losing season since 1988.
Ohio State 20, Florida 16

GoDaddy.com Bowl — Arkansas State vs. Northern Illinois
Times are good at Arkansas State. The Red Wolves went 8–0 in the Sun Belt Conference and somehow convinced Gus Malzahn to take over as the head coach after Hugh Freeze bolted for Ole Miss after one season.
Arkansas State 37, Northern Illinois 34

BBVA Compass Bowl — Pittsburgh vs. SMU
Times are tough at Pittsburgh. The Panthers are returning to the BBVA Compass Bowl — despite their objections — and they are doing so without a head coach. Todd Graham left after only one season to take over at Arizona State, forcing to Pitt to undergo its third coaching search in the past 12 months.
SMU 28, Pittsburgh 24

Cotton Bowl — Kansas State vs. Arkansas
Arkansas averaged 41.8 points in its 10 wins and 15.5 points in its two losses — at Alabama and at LSU, ranked No. 1 and No. 2 in the nation in total defense and scoring defense. Kansas State ranks 74th in total defense and 71st in scoring defense.
Arkansas 37, Kansas State 23

Rose Bowl — Wisconsin vs. Oregon
Two of the nation’s best and most-balanced offenses — both Wisconsin and Oregon average over 200 yards per game rushing and passing — will be on display at the Rose Bowl. This game features some serious star power, as well, with each team featuring an All-America-caliber running back (UW’s Montee Ball and UO’s LaMichael James) and dynamic playmakers at the quarterback position (Russell Wilson and Darron Thomas).
Oregon 34, Wisconsin 31

Sugar Bowl — Virginia Tech vs. Michigan
Brady Hoke did a tremendous job in his first season at Michigan. On the surface, a three-game improvement in the win column (both overall and in the league) is impressive, but when you dive into the numbers you really get an indication of how much better Michigan was in 2011. Last year, the Wolverines were outgained by an average of 1.4 yards per game in Big Ten play. In ’11, they were statistically dominant in the league, outgaining their opponents by an average of 130.7 yards per game. That is a staggering improvement in one season.
Michigan 27, Virginia Tech 21

Orange Bowl — Clemson vs. West Virginia
Clemson, which won an ACC title for the first time since 1991, averaged 39.4 points in its 10 wins and 14.3 points in its four losses. The Tigers rebounded from a late-season swoon — they lost three of the final four regular-season games — and pounded Virginia Tech, 38–10, in the ACC Championship Game. This is an explosive offensive team that can be very difficult to stop once it gets rolling.
Clemson 38, West Virginia 20

Fiesta Bowl — Oklahoma State vs. Stanford
Oklahoma State will react in one of two ways: The Cowboys, feeling snubbed by the BCS, play with a chip on their shoulder to prove that they, not Alabama, deserved a shot at LSU in the national title game. Or, the Pokes, feeling jilted by the BCS, are lethargic and fail to recapture the magic that made them one of the most entertaining teams throughout the 2011 season. My guess: The former.
Oklahoma State 34, Stanford 27

BCS National Championship — LSU vs. Alabama
The two SEC West superpowers meet in a winner-take-all rematch for the national title. LSU won the first fight, 9–6 in overtime in Tuscaloosa, but the Tigers weren’t necessarily the better team. Yes, they won the game, but the better team doesn’t always win. Alabama hasn’t faced quite as difficult of a schedule as LSU, but the Crimson Tide’s numbers on defense are scary good; they are giving up less than 200 yards per game (60 yards fewer than the No. 2 team, LSU) and only 3.4 yards per play. The offense has been more than good enough to win every game that wasn’t against LSU and did a decent job moving the ball against the Tigers (295 total yards) in its only loss.
Alabama 20, LSU 17

Teaser:
<p> Mitch Light breaks down the bowl games, starting with Notre Dame vs. Florida State in the Champs Sports Bowl.</p>
Post date: Thursday, December 29, 2011 - 02:22
Path: /college-football/college-football-bowl-predictions-part-1
Body:

By Mitch Light

New Mexico Bowl — Temple vs. Wyoming
For the second time in three seasons, Wyoming is in a bowl game with a true freshman at quarterback. Two years ago, Austyn Carta-Samuels guided the Cowboys to a win over Fresno State in the New Mexico Bowl. With Carta-Samuels gone — he transferred to Vanderbilt in the offseason — coach Dave Christensen handed the offense to Brett Smith, who ranks second in the Mountain West in total offense and fourth in passing efficiency. The key for the Cowboys, however, will be on defense. They rank 115th in the nation in stopping the run — a huge concern with Temple’s potent rushing attack on the horizon.
Temple 24, Wyoming 21

Idaho Potato Bowl — Utah State vs. Ohio
Utah State opened up the season with a 42–38 loss at Auburn, the defending national champs. The Aggies went on to lose four of their next six games — all by 10 points or less — before ending the season on a five-game winning streak. Ohio must regroup after blowing a 20–0 lead in the second half to Northern Illinois in the MAC Championship Game. Three of the Bobcats’ four losses came by three points or less. These are two solid teams.
Utah State 27, Ohio 24

New Orleans Bowl — UL-Lafayette vs. San Diego State
Mark Hudspeth did a great job in his first year at UL-Lafayette, guiding the Ragin’ Cajuns to an 8–4 overall record and their first bowl game in the FBS ranks. San Diego State is making back-to-back postseason appearances for the first time in school history. The Aztecs will lean heavily on underrated tailback Ronnie Hillman, who ranks third nationally in rushing (138.0 ypg).
San Diego State 34, UL-Lafayette 21

Beef O’Brady’s Bowl — FIU vs. Marshall
Marshall, at 5–3, had its first winning record in seven seasons in Conference USA. The Herd got it done with a true freshman (Rakeem Cato) taking the majority of the snaps at quarterback. FIU failed to repeat at Sun Belt champs, but the Golden Panthers still won eight games in the regular season, including their final three.
Marshall 20, FIU 14

MAACO Bowl Las Vegas — Arizona State vs. Boise State
Boise State, 11–1 overall, was relegated to the MAACO Bowl for the second straight season after getting snubbed in the BCS bowl selection process. This team deserves better. Arizona State, on the other hand, is fortunate to still be playing. The Sun Devils lost their final four games, including the last two at home, to finish at 6–6.
Boise State 37, Arizona State 21

Poinsettia Bowl — Louisiana Tech vs. TCU
Louisiana Tech is one of the more undervalued teams in the nation. The Bulldogs went 8–4 overall and won their final seven games. They lost by two points at Southern Miss (11–2), by one point to Houston (12–1) and by six, in overtime, at Mississippi State. TCU is obviously very good — the Frogs won at Boise State — but Louisiana Tech, a double-digit underdog, is capable of winning this game.
Louisiana Tech 24, TCU 21

Hawaii Bowl — Nevada vs. Southern Miss
Southern Miss got shipped off to Hawaii despite winning the Conference USA Championship Game. It’s a fun trip for the players, but too far for the majority of the fans, many of whom would have made the relatively short trip to the Liberty Bowl in Memphis. Nevada once again brings a high-powered attack to the table; the Wolf Pack have averaged over 500 yards per game in each of the past four seasons.
Southern Miss 41, Nevada 37

Independence Bowl — Missouri vs. North Carolina
SEC-bound Missouri salvaged what had been a disappointing season by winning its final three games, including a 17–5 decision over Texas and a 24–10 win over Kansas in the final Border War showdown for the foreseeable future. North Carolina struggled down the stretch, not surprising for a team playing with an interim head coach (Everett Withers) who was never expected to get the job on a full-time basis.
Missouri 28, North Carolina 17

Little Caesar’s Pizza Bowl — Western Michigan vs. Purdue
Western Michigan boasts one of the nation’s most potent pass-catch duos in Alex Carder and Jordan White. The Broncos rank eighth in the nation in passing (328.8 ypg) and White leads all receivers nationally with 10.6 receptions per game. WMU will have to score a bunch of points, because its defense could have trouble with Purdue.
Purdue 41, Western Michigan 33

Belk Bowl — Louisville vs. NC State
Picked by most to finish near the bottom of the Big East in 2011, Louisville was the surprise of the league, tying for the title with West Virginia and Cincinnati. And with talented true freshman Teddy Bridgewater emerging at quarterback, the future is bright for the Cards. At NC State, Tom O’Brien likely saved his job by winning three of his final four games, most notably a 13–0 shutout vs. rival North Carolina.
Louisville 23, NC State 17

Military Bowl — Toledo vs. Air Force
Toledo averaged 52.8 points in its last six games, but managed to only go 5–1 in that stretch. The Rockets lost to Northern Illinois, 63–60, at home in a game that ultimately cost them the MAC West title. Air Force was a bit of a disappointment, finishing in fifth place in the Mountain West with a 3–4 league record.
Toledo 41, Air Force 27

Holiday Bowl — California vs. Texas
Texas limped to the finish line, losing three of its final four games. Amazingly, the Longhorns are 6–11 in the Big 12 over the last two seasons. Cal played well late, winning three of its last four, with the only loss coming by three points at Stanford.
California 27, Texas 17
 

Teaser:
<p> Mitch Light takes a look at the first round of bowl games.</p>
Post date: Friday, December 16, 2011 - 07:54
Path: /college-football/college-football-predictions-every-game-week-14
Body:

By Mitch Light

Friday

No. 67 Ohio vs. No. 57 Northern Illinois (MAC Championship Game)

Northern Illinois, winner of seven straight, brings an explosive offense to Ford Field in Detroit. NIU ranks ninth in the nation in total offense and has scored 40 points or more in nine of its 12 games. Ohio, too, can score points, but Frank Solich’s club leans on its defense. The Bobcats allowed only 350.7 yards and 22.0 points per game.
Northern Illinois 34, Ohio 21

No. 54 UCLA at Oregon (ACC Championship Game)
This isn’t what Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott had in mind when the league expanded to 12 teams to set up a conference championship game. Oregon is a 31-point favorite over a UCLA team that went 6–6 overall and is fresh off a humbling 50–0 loss to USC. Oh, and the Bruins have fired their coach.
Oregon 48, UCLA 14

Saturday, Dec. 3

No. 1 LSU vs. No. 15 Georgia (SEC Championship Game)
LSU has all but locked up a spot in the national title game, but the Tigers still have plenty to play for — a coveted SEC championship. Les Miles’ club proved once again why it’s deserving of the No. 1 spot in the polls with a thorough, 41–17, victory over Arkansas on Friday.
LSU 34, Georgia 17

No. 7 Oklahoma at No. 3 Oklahoma State
Oklahoma State is ranked No. 3 in the BCS, but it appears as though the Pokes are a long shot to play in the national title game — even with a convincing win over Oklahoma coupled with an LSU loss to Georgia in the SEC title game.
Oklahoma State 41, Oklahoma 33

No. 6 Virginia Tech vs. No 25 Clemson (Pac-12 Championship Game)
Clemson established itself as a legitimate national title contender — at the time — with a dominating 23–3 win at Virginia Tech back on Oct. 1. Times have changed. The Tigers are now 9–3, having lost three of their last four games, each by 14 points or more.
Virginia Tech 34, Clemson 24

No. 10 Wisconsin vs. No. 9 Michigan State (Big Ten Championship Game)
The Badgers will have an opportunity to avenge their “Hail Mary” loss when they face Michigan State in the first-ever Big Ten Championship Game. The Spartans have had a fine season — they won 10 games for the second year in a row — but Wisconsin is the best team in the Big Ten. The Badgers have been mauling the opposition with a devastating rushing attack and an efficient passing game.
Wisconsin 27, Michigan State 20

No. 42 Iowa State at No. 12 Kansas State
Kansas State still has a shot at its first BCS bowl since 2004. Here’s what needs to happen: The Wildcats need to beat Iowa State (likely); Oklahoma State needs to beat Oklahoma (very possible); and Michigan, which doesn’t play, needs to remain outside the top 14 of the BCS standings (it is No. 16 now). Not bad for a team that was predicted by most — including Athlon Sports — to finish ninth in the Big 12.
Kansas State 31, Iowa State 17

No. 115 New Mexico at No. 13 Boise State
This is the final game before the Bob Davie era begins at New Mexico. It will be a major surprise if the margin of victory for Boise State is less than 40 points.
Boise State 51, New Mexico 0

No. 29 Texas at No. 16 Baylor
Texas somehow won at Texas A&M over the weekend despite gaining only 237 yards of offense. Yards and points should be easier to come by in Waco, but the Horns might not be good enough offensively to outscore the Bears.
Baylor 30, Texas 27

No. 116 UNLV at No. 17 TCU
It’s TCU’s final game as a member of the Mountain West. It will not be close.
TCU 47, UNLV 10

No. 38 Southern Miss at No. 18 Houston (C-USA Championship Game)
Houston is one win away from its first Conference USA title since 2006 and its first-ever spot in a BCS bowl. With a win over Southern Miss, the Cougars are likely headed to the Sugar Bowl to face Michigan. But first things first: Southern Miss is a very good team that won 10 games in the regular season, highlighted by a 30–24 win at Virginia in September.
Houston 47, Southern Miss 31

No. 66 Connecticut at No. 32 Cincinnati
Connecticut needs to win to become bowl-eligible in the first season of the Paul Pasqualoni era. Cincinnati needs to win to grab a share of the Big East title. Cincinnati is the better team.
Cincinnati 31, Connecticut 20

No. 82 Syracuse at No. 53 Pittsburgh
It’s been a disappointing third season for Doug Marrone at his alma mater, but the Orange (5–6 overall, 1–6 Big East) can still become bowl-eligible with a win at Pittsburgh. The Panthers, too, need to win to extend their season. Not sure it will be a great game, but there is a lot at stake for both teams.
Pittsburgh 27, Syracuse 14

No. 56 BYU at No. 78 Hawaii
The Cougars haven’t been overly impressive, but they’ve still managed to win eight games — so far — in their first season as an Independent. Usually, a trip to Hawaii is no easy task, but the Warriors are struggling (despite beating Tulane last week).
BYU 41, Hawaii 30

No. 111 Troy at No. 62 Arkansas State
Arkansas State is one away from wrapping up a perfect 8–0 mark in the Sun Belt Conference. Hugh Freeze has done a tremendous job in a very short time in Jonesboro.
Arkansas State 33, Troy 14

No. 63 Wyoming at No. 110 Colorado State
Wyoming has very quietly enjoyed a solid 2011 season. The Cowboys are 7–4 overall and 4–2 in the MWC. With a win over rival Colorado State — the two schools are only 65 miles apart — Wyoming will secure a third-place finish in the league standings.
Wyoming 34, Colorado State 13

No. 102 Fresno State at No. 64 San Diego State
Fresno State has a losing record in the WAC for the first time in the 15-year Pat Hill era. And it’s only the second time in the past 13 years that the Bulldogs will not be playing in a bowl game.
San Diego State 33, Fresno State 15

No. 71 Utah State at No. 101 New Mexico State
Utah State recovered from a slow start — which included several painfully close losses — to win four straight games. The Aggies (of USU, not NMSU) are headed to a bowl game (the Idaho Potato Bowl) for the first time since 1997.
Utah State 30, New Mexico State 10

No. 112 Idaho at No. 72 Nevada
Nevada proved there is life after Colin Kaepernick, averaging over 500 yards of offense for the fourth straight season. Idaho, on the other hand, has struggled after the graduation of its standout quarterback, Nathan Enderle.
Nevada 44, Idaho 14

No. 113 Middle Tennessee at No. 98 North Texas
It’s been a nightmare season for Middle Tennessee, which is 2–9 overall with wins over two of the worst FBS teams in the nation — Memphis and FAU.
North Texas 21, Middle Tennessee 17

No. 107 UL-Monroe at No. 117 Florida Atlantic
Mercifully, Howard Schnellenberger’s final season in coaching will not end with an 0–12 record. The Owls finally broke through last week with a 38–35 win over UAB. They will, however, likely send their coach out with a 1–11 mark.
UL-Monroe 28, Florida Atlantic 10

Last week — 40-12
Season — 526–139

Teaser:
<p> It's Championship Week in College Football</p>
Post date: Friday, December 2, 2011 - 07:00

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