Articles By Nathan Rush

Path: /mlb/5-reasons-yasiel-puig-should-play-mlb-all-star-game
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Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig has taken Major League Baseball by storm since defecting from Cuba, fleeing to Mexico and signing a seven-year, $42 million deal last season.

Yet despite the fact that the 22-year-old wunderkind has dominated the nightly highlights and is undeniably the top storyline of the season’s first-half, Puig will not participate in the All-Star Game at New York’s Citi Field on Tuesday. These are five reasons why Puig should play in the Midsummer Classic:

1. Star power
Forget range factor, Puig has got off-the-charts “it” factor. The toolsy 6’3”, 245-pounder has a flair for the dramatic, whether he’s gunning down runners, mashing two homers in his second big league game or partying with Jay-Z at the 40/40 Club in New York.

2. Awesome numbers
The manchild has had a monsterous season thus far — hitting .391 with a 1.038 OPS, eight HRs, 19 RBIs, five stolen bases and 28 runs scored in 151 at-bats over 38 games since making his debut on June 3. It’s a small sample size, but Puig has done more damage than just about anyone not named Miguel Cabrera or Chris Davis thus far.

3. Chance for breathtaking plays
Remember when Bo Jackson took over the 1989 All-Star Game? Puig is a “Bo Jackson-type package,” according to Dodgers manager Don Mattingly. Whether or not that comp is all hype or simply hyperbole, there’s no denying Puig’s penchant for spectacular plays reminiscent of Bo.

4. Freddie Freeman is injured
Puig was runner-up to Atlanta first baseman Freddie Freeman in the fan vote for the final National League roster spot. Freeman is unable to play due to a thumb injury. Rather than let Giants manager Bruce Bochy select a replacement, the fans should be heard — that’s the whole concept of a fan vote, right?

5. Vin Scully Loves Yasiel Puig
Even if Commissioner Bud Selig doesn’t care about star power, TV ratings, big plays or the fans, he should at least care about iconic Dodgers voice Vin Scully. The 85-year-old loves Puig, thinking his accomplishments are “not to be believed, because this game is not that easy. … His talent is absolutely breathtaking.” No one knows better than Uncle Vin, who remains the best in the business.
 

Teaser:
Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig will not play in the MLB All-Star Game at Citi Field, but he should.
Post date: Monday, July 15, 2013 - 16:40
All taxonomy terms: NFL, NBA, MLB, Monthly
Path: /monthly/jay-z-becoming-sports-newest-super-agent
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Jay-Z has built an empire in the worlds of music and fashion. Now the 43-year-old is set to try his hand at building the brands of athletes across the sports landscape. Jay-Z’s Roc Nation Sports has teamed with Creative Artists Agency (CAA) — which represents everyone from Tom Cruise to Justin Timberlake to Derek Jeter — to form an alliance with the potential to become an immediate power player. 

“Because of my love of sports, it was a natural progression to form a company where we can help top athletes in various sports the same way we have been helping artists in the music industry for years,” Jay-Z said.
 
After serving as the posterboy of the Nets’ move from New Jersey to his home borough of Brooklyn, Jay-Z’s time as an NBA “owner” — his shares totaled less than one percent of the franchise — is over.
 
“Our newest endeavor is committed to building the brands of professional athletes as we have done for some of today’s top music artists,” Jay-Z wrote on his website, LifeandTimes.com. “For Roc Nation Sports to function at its full potential, NBA rules stipulate that I relinquish my ownership in the Brooklyn Nets.”
 
Jay-Z came out swinging for the fences, signing Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano as Roc Nation Sports’ first client. Fitting, since Jay-Z boasts that he “made the Yankee hat more famous than a Yankee can.” But Cano is more than just the best player on Jay-Z’s favorite team. Cano is a pending free agent and a former client of Scott Boras — the most feared agent in baseball. If Jay-Z can play hardball and beat Boras at his own game, the rest of the industry should be on high alert.
 
Roc Nation Sports’ first NFL client is cha-cha dancing New York Giants wideout Victor Cruz, whose “prior relationship” with Jay-Z allowed the music mogul to side-step the NFL’s “runner rule,” which bans anyone who is not a certified agent to recruit players.
 
Recently, the NFLPA enacted what has been called the “Jay-Z Rule,” which states: “Whereas, the Regulations Governing Contract Advisors requires applicants to hold an undergraduate degree and post-graduate degree from an accredited college or university.” Apparently, the School of Hard Knocks is not an accredited university.
 
To counter that, Roc Nation Sports hired Kimberly Miale as its first agent certified by the NFLPA. Although she has never negotiated an active NFL contract, Miale is the de facto face of the franchise. Miale’s status had many NFL agents crying foul following Roc Nation Sports’ signing of New York Jets rookie quarterback Geno Smith, who infamously fired his agents after falling in the draft. Smith was photographed with Jay-Z before signing with Miale — but really Jay-Z.
 
Signing with Jay-Z has more perks than just the occasional photo-op, though. Roc Nation Sports’ first female athlete, WNBA rookie Skylar Diggins, was gifted a new Mercedes Benz (photo to right) as a surprise present at Notre Dame graduation, prompting Diggins to reference Jay-Z in a tweet: “99 Problems but a Benz Ain’t One.”
 
Another wave of hoopers is expected to join Jay-Z's expanding empire. Among the most likely candidates are three-time scoring champion and national ad campaign pitchman Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma City Thunder and the current consensus No. 1 prospect in the 2013 NBA Draft, Kentucky big man Nerlens Noel.
 
Boras and other established sports agents can compete with buying their clients new cars. But it will be tough to compete with Jay-Z’s crossover appeal to a generation of athletes who grew up singing his songs.
Teaser:
<p> Jay-Z is Becoming Sports' Newest Super Agent&nbsp;</p>
Post date: Friday, June 21, 2013 - 11:15
All taxonomy terms: high school, MLB, NBA, NFL, NFL, NBA, MLB, High School
Path: /nfl/greatest-high-school-classmates-sports-history
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Some high schools have only one big man on campus. Others have a whole gang of future stars running the hallways. These are the 10 greatest high school classmates in sports history.



Robert Nkemdiche and Austin Meadows
Grayson High School (Loganville, Ga.)

The class of the Class of 2013, Nkemdiche and Meadows were this year’s consensus top prospects in football and baseball, respectively. Nkemdiche is a chiseled 6’5”, 260-pound defensive end, while Meadows is a 6-foot-3, 200-pound five-tool center fielder. Nkemdiche has stardom ahead of him at Ole Miss while Meadows was selected ninth overall by the Pirates in the MLB Draft.

Randy Moss and Jason Williams
DuPont High School (Belle, W.Va.)

One of the greatest jump-ball receivers in NFL history was one of West Virginia’s best-ever high school dunkers, catching alley-oops from a mop-topped “White Chocolate” in the mid-1990s. Jerry West may be the greatest prep player in Mountain State history, but Moss and Williams were so fun to watch that their highlights were later turned into a Nike commercial.

John Havlicek and Phil Niekro
Bridgeport High School (Bridgeport, Ohio)

“Hondo” was an eight-time NBA champ with the Boston Celtics. “Knucksie” was the godfather of the knuckleball, most notably for the Atlanta Braves — for whom he pitched a no-hitter in 1973. They lived on the same street, went on fishing trips together and were high school classmates in the late 1950s. Now each is a member of his sport’s respective Hall of Fame.

Matthew Stafford and Clayton Kershaw
Highland Park High School (Dallas, Texas)

Before becoming an NFL Draft No. 1 overall pick quarterback and NL Cy Young-winning starting pitcher, respectively, Stafford and Kershaw were childhood buddies who grew up playing on the same basketball and soccer teams before becoming a dominant pair of arms — righty and lefty, to boot — at the top of Highland Park’s pitching rotation in the early 2000s.

Jason Segel and Jason Collins
Harvard-Westlake School (Los Angeles, Calif.)

The first openly gay NBA player teamed up with the comic actor best known for his work on the cult classic Freaks and Geeks and CBS hit sitcom How I Met Your Mother. The Collins twins (Jason and Jarron) were McDonald’s All-Americans. Segel, however, was a high energy “low budget Mark Madsen” who even won a dunk contest back in the day.



Victor Oladipo and Cyrus Kouandjio
DeMatha Catholic High School (Hyattsville, Md.)

Fun names to say, Oladipo and Kouandjio. Oladipo was a high-flying Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year on the hardwood at Indiana, while Kouandjio is a national championship-winner on the gridiron at Alabama. Two physical freaks and future millionaires — Oladipo is expected to be a top-five pick in the 2013 NBA Draft and Kouandjio is a preseason All-American penciled into the top 10 of every 2014 NFL Draft mock.

Marv Albert and Neil Diamond
Abraham Lincoln High School (Brooklyn, N.Y.)

Yessshhh!!!! The leather-loving NBA announcer was a classmate of the seventh-inning stretch “Sweet Caroline” soft rocker. Two of the best voices in sports attended the same high school that Jesus Shuttlesworth played for in Spike Lee’s “He Got Game” — not to mention ballers Stephon Marbury, Sebastian Telfair and Lance Stephenson, and legendary authors Arthur Miller and Joseph Heller.

Snoop Dogg and Cameron Diaz
Long Beach Polytechnic (Long Beach, Calif.)

Don’t act like Snoop and Cam aren’t in the world of sports. Snoop Dogg coaches pee-wee football and gave Oregon speedster De’Anthony Thomas his “Black Mamba” nickname. Diaz was a cheerleader, played an owner in "Any Given Sunday" and stole the show by feeding A-Rod popcorn at the Super Bowl. But back in the late-80s, these two owned the halls at Long Beach Poly.

Donovan McNabb and Antoine Walker
Mount Carmel High School (Chicago, Ill.)

Before McNabb was dry-heaving in the Super Bowl and Walker was shimmy-ing following yet another bad 3-point attempt, the duo teamed up in Chi-town. McNabb played football, ran track and hooped with Walker — as well as future NFL star Simeon Rice. Despite having three future pro athletes on the same court, Mount Carmel failed to win a state championship during the mid-1990s run.

Bill Belichick and Buzz Bissinger
Phillips Academy (Andover, Mass.)

Classmates with Florida governor Jeb Bush, the three-time Super Bowl winning coach and Friday Night Lights author are just two of the seemingly endless list of distinguished alumni from Phillips Andover — which also boasts the likes of both Presidents George Bush (H.W. and W.), John F. Kennedy Jr. and Dr. Benjamin Spock.
 

Teaser:
<p> Greatest High School Classmates in Sports History, including Robert Nkemdiche and Austin Meadows, John Havlicek and Phil Niekro, Matthew Stafford and Clayton Kershaw, Randy Moss and Jason Williams, Jason Segel and Jason Collins, Victor Oladipo and Cyrus Kouandjio, Marv Albert and Neil Diamond, Snoop Dogg and Cameron Diaz, Donovan McNabb and Antoine Walker, Bill Belichick and Buzz Bissinger.</p>
Post date: Thursday, June 6, 2013 - 17:49
Path: /nfl/10-craziest-parents-sports
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The craziest parents in sports have all had strange twists and turns along the way to fame or infamy. Many plotted every step of their child’s life. Others got in the way. Some were successful. Some failed. Every one of them made their kid’s journey a wild ride — for better or worse.

1. Marv Marinovich, father of Todd Marinovich
The undisputed worst sports parent in history, Marv was Dr. Frankenstein of “Robo QB” son Todd — who was dubbed “America’s first test-tube athlete” due to Marv’s extreme Eastern Bloc training methods. Only Ivan Drago was more programmed. Every aspect of Todd’s career was choreographed by Marv, who dictated diet, workout and daily routine — going over-the-top at every stop.

Todd’s success in high school and at USC (Marv’s alma mater) resulted in a first-round selection by the L.A. Raiders (Marv’s old team). But after eight games over two seasons, Todd’s NFL career ended with a 50.7 completion percentage, 1,345 yards, eight TDs, nine INTs, a 66.4 passer rating and 3–5 record as a starter.

The sad story of Todd’s post-NFL life has been well-documented. But the key words are heroin addiction, herniated disc, blown-out knee, CFL, Arena League and innocence lost. Oh, and Marv. Most people blame Marv.

2. Minna Wilson, mother of Tony Wilson
Mrs. Wilson remixed the LL Cool J hit “Mama Said Knock You Out” into “Mama Said No Knock Out.” When Steve McCarthy trapped Tony Wilson against the ropes, Mama Minna jumped into the ring and took a few swings of her own — resulting in a Wilson Family disqualification.



3. Andrea McDonald, mother of Alex Collins
One of the top running backs in the Class of 2013, South Plantation (Fla.) product Alex Collins could dodge or bulldoze just about anyone in his way — with the notable exception of his mom.

When Collins decided he was de-committing from Miami and heading to Arkansas, not only did Andrea McDonald refuse to sign his letter of intent, she stole the document and hid it before he could fax it in. When Collins’ dad signed the paperwork instead, McDonald hired The Cochran Firm to represent her. Soo wee! That’s overprotective.

4. Richard Williams, father of Venus and Serena
Call Richard crazy like a fox — or crazy like Joe Jackson. It’s hard to argue with results. Richard coached both of his daughters from the Compton, Calif., public courts all the way to No. 1 world rankings.

An outwardly angry man who, rightfully, made race an outspoken issue on his rise to the top, Richard was questioned by the tennis world for holding his daughters back from the traditional youth tournament circuit. But it worked. His public outbursts, paranoia and media ramblings are no big deal these days.

5. Earl Woods, father of Tiger Woods
“My first conscious memory… is my father crazy-gluing this plastic golf club to my hands. His hair was all messed up, and he had this crazy look in his eye,” Tiger Woods, parodied brilliantly by Tim Meadows, says in a classic skit on Saturday Night Live. That’s probably not so far from the truth, consider Earl introduced Tiger to golf before he was age two.



6. William Sanders, father of Barry Sanders
William was an Oklahoma fan who rooted for the Sooners when his Heisman Trophy-winning son Barry was playing for the Oklahoma State Cowboys. Seriously. William was Barry’s presenter at the Pro Football Hall of Fame, at which point he took time out of his son’s big day to “say hello to the greatest running back that ever lived, the No. 1 running back that ever lived. He’s not with us today, I think he’s with his family in Los Angeles — Mr. Jim Brown. So, I want to say hello to him.”

William wrapped up by saying, “I want to introduce you to the third best running back that ever lived, Barry Sanders.” Thanks, dad.

7. Larry Fitzgerald Sr., father of Larry Fitzgerald
Larry Sr. is a sportswriter at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder who was both praised and criticized nationally for covering Larry Jr.’s first trip to the Super Bowl as a neutral “journalist” in the press box and not as a cheering “parent” in the stands.

But he didn’t stay out of it this season when his son’s team — which plays roughly 1,600 miles away from Larry Sr.’s beat — went on a nine-game losing streak. “Definition of team quitting? 9 losses n a row. 9th loss 58-0! Injuries handling of offense worst NFL. Adrian Wilson & Darnell Dockett situations!” he tweeted. “…This is the NFL. Humbling embarrassing frustrating angering disappointing painful. What happens when u quit!”

8. Lynn and Rick Raisman, parents of Aly Raisman
While their little girl Aly had a gold-medal-clinching floor routine, Lynn and Rick Raisman had a national-spotlight-stealing fan routine at the 2012 London Olympics — complete with Team USA Polo uniforms, a flair for the dramatic and a knack for knowing where the cameras were placed. They stuck the landing.



9. Cecil Fielder, father of Prince Fielder
The big beef between history’s only father-son duo to each hit 50 home runs in a single season — Cecil hit 51 HR for the Detroit Tigers in 1990 and Prince hit 50 HR for the Milwaukee Brewers in 2007 — revolves around Cecil wasting his own money, allegedly stealing six-figures of Prince’s money and calling Prince a fat boy — I’m sorry, an “obese kid.” Who will be the bigger man?

10. A.P. Indy, sire of 1,119 foals
Arguably the greatest stud in thoroughbred horse racing history, A.P. Indy did not attend a single race of his 1,119 foals — of which 142 were stakes winners.

Sharing bloodlines with both Seattle Slew and Secretariat, A.P. Indy was sold for $2.9 million as a yearling, posted an 8–2–1 record in 11 starts and commanded a $300,000 stud fee during his lengthy heyday, before retiring prior to the 2012 breeding season. Absolutely crazy.
 

Teaser:
<p> The craziest parents in sports, including Marv Marinovich, Richard Williams, Earl Woods, William Sanders, Larry Fitzgerald Sr., Lynn and Rick Raisman, Cecil Fielder, Minna Wilson, Andrea McDonald and A.P. Indy.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, May 28, 2013 - 11:25
Path: /nba/nba-draft-lottery-rigged
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The 29th NBA Draft Lottery ping-pong balls will be bouncing behind closed doors Tuesday with 1,000 permutations in play and the top three picks in this year’s NBA Draft (Thursday, June 27) at stake. Ever since the New York Knicks won the lottery (and the opportunity to draft Patrick Ewing) in 1985, the process has been a magnet for conspiracy theories.

“It’s too delicious. If you want to go on YouTube you can see the (1985) lottery where I supposedly had the frozen card. It’s all too delightful,” said Commissioner David Stern, discussing the NBA Draft Lottery with ABC during the 2012 NBA Finals and referencing the popular urban legend that the New York Knicks’ envelope had been frozen prior to the 1985 lottery, ensuring that Stern would be able to pick the Knicks’ envelope for the No. 1 overall pick Patrick Ewing.

The NBA Draft Lottery has evolved from the Commissioner pulling envelopes out of a spinning bin to today’s complicated ping-pong ball method overseen by the accounting firm of Ernst & Young — the pillar of integrity who recently settled with the feds, paying $123 million to squash a tax-fraud probe stemming from $2 billion in unpaid taxes.

The weighted system gives the team with the NBA’s worst record (Orlando Magic in 2013) a 25 percent chance to win, the second-worst club (Charlotte Bobcats) a 19.9 percent chance, the third-worst (Cleveland Cavaliers) a 15.6 percent chance and on down the line to the 14th and final non-playoff team (Utah Jazz) with a 0.5 percent shot at the No. 1 overall pick.

After the top three picks have been determined by lottery, picks 4-through-14 are placed in reverse order of record. The lottery is intended to give the worst teams a chance to draft the best players, without handing the worst team the No. 1 pick outright. Sometimes the ball bounces your way and sometimes it doesn’t. But the results can be the difference between LeBron James and Darko Milicic.

There have been a few statistical anomalies in the draft lottery over the years. And each long shot has had a suspicious story to tell.

1.52 %
1993 – Orlando Magic – Chris Webber

The Magic won their second of back-to-back lotteries, having selected Shaquille O’Neal with the top spot the year before. Orlando traded the Fab Five leader Webber for Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway, a castmate of Shaq’s in Blue Chips. Despite having the best record of any non-playoff team, the Magic — who nearly made the playoffs with a roster that included a rookie Shaq and little else — won the lottery (and a Superman sidekick) despite having the longest odds. Doesn't take the Big Aristotle to do the math on this one, which was so shady it actually resulted in a rule change in the lottery process.

1.70 %
2008 – Chicago Bulls – Derrick Rose
Shy Chicago native Derrick Rose landed in his hometown despite the odds. The joke was that the Bulls weren’t going to unretire Michael Jordan’s No. 23 — the jersey number that Rose wore at Memphis — but the local legend could wear No. 1.7 to honor his unbelievable lottery luck.

2.80 %
2011 – Cleveland Cavaliers – Kyrie Irving
Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert (and son Nick) were winners in their first post-LeBron James lottery. Don’t let LeBron’s pregame chalk get in your eyes, though. There’s more. Cleveland won not with its own lottery ball, but with that of the longshot L.A. Clippers, who traded the rights to their selection as part of a bad Baron Davis deal. So, the Cavs’ lottery winnings resulted in both the No. 1 overall pick and the No. 4 pick — not to mention the minor celebrity of lucky charm Nick Gilbert.

4.40 %
2000 – New Jersey Nets – Kenyon Martin
Rod Thorn went from being David Stern’s right-hand man in the league office to the top spot in the Nets’ front office, immediately winning the lottery in a one-man draft class. This was a must since the other top prospects included Stromile Swift, Darius Miles and Marcus Fizer.

5.30 %
2007 – Portland Trail Blazers – Greg Oden
The Blazers were given the chance to carry on their tradition of drafting injury-prone 7-footers, winning the lottery and taking “can’t miss” center Greg Oden one spot ahead of Kevin Durant. Bill Walton, Sam Bowie and Arvydas Sabonis can empathize with Oden.


It doesn’t take a longshot winning the lottery to raise a few eyebrows, however. There are a few other interesting winners and statistics.

– Last year, the New Orleans Hornets (now Pelicans) won the lottery while technically owned by the National Basketball Association itself.

– The worst team in the NBA has only won the lottery four times. The third time was a charm, with Ohio native LeBron James going to the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2003.

– Washington Wizards owner Abe Pollin passed away on Nov. 24, 2009. The Wiz won the very next lottery in 2010, with Abe’s widow Irene Pollin in attendance.

– Basketball history was altered by the bounce of a ping pong ball when Tim Duncan’s destination was David Robinson’s San Antonio Spurs rather than coach Rick Pitino’s Boston Celtics, who owned two picks and had a 36 percent chance of winning No. 1.

Since then, Duncan has won four NBA championships (with a shot at a fifth this year) and Pitino has gone back to school, where he led Louisville to the 2013 NCAA title.

The NBA Draft Lottery is more important than the NBA Draft itself, tune in to ESPN (8:30 p.m. Eastern) to witness the results prior to Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals between the Memphis Grizzlies and San Antonio Spurs.
 

Teaser:
<p> Is the NBA Draft Lottery Rigged?</p>
Post date: Tuesday, May 21, 2013 - 15:40
All taxonomy terms: Monthly
Path: /monthly/best-performances-sports-biopic-history
Body:

Chadwick Boseman plays Jackie Robinson in the biopic “42,” which co-stars Harrison Ford as Branch Rickey. But they are far from the first actors to portray iconic figures from classic true stories on the silver screen. Here are a few of the all-time great performances in sports biopics.


Sandra Bullock as Leigh Anne Tuohy
The Blind Side (2009)
Bullock earned the Academy Award for Best Actress by playing Michael Oher’s fiery adopted mother from Memphis in the highest grossing ($255 million) sports biopic ever.

Gary Cooper as Lou Gehrig
The Pride of the Yankees (1942)
Cooper plays the “Iron Horse” in a baseball classic that also includes cameos from Gehrig’s “Murderer’s Row” teammates Babe Ruth, Bob Meusel and Mark Koening.

Matt Damon as Francois Pienaar
Invictus (2009)

Clint Eastwood directed Damon as the South African rugby star and Morgan Freeman as President Nelson Mandela in an emotional, politically charged “undefeated” drama.

Robert DeNiro as Jake LaMotta
Raging Bull (1980)

Martin Scorsese’s magnum opus featured arguably the most realistic fight scenes ever and earned De Niro the Academy Award for Best Actor for his gritty performance.

Tobey Maguire as Red Pollard
Seabiscuit (2003)

Maguire hung up his Spiderman costume and hopped in the saddle to play the once angry, one-eyed jockey Pollard in an uplifting Depression-era tale of redemption.

Barry Pepper as Roger Maris
61* (2001)
Pepper’s turn as Maris and Thomas Jane’s effort as Mickey Mantle highlight Billy Crystal’s labor of love in the HBO film based on Maris’ historic 1961 season.

Brad Pitt as Billy Beane
Moneyball (2011)
Pitt stars as the Oakland A’s general manager in another successful biopic based on a book by Michael Lewis, who also wrote the source material for The Blind Side.

Ronald Reagan as George “The Gipper” Gipp
Knute Rockne, All American (1940)
Before becoming the 40th President of the United States, Reagan urged Rockne — the iconic Notre Dame coach played by Pat O’Brien — to “win just one for the Gipper.”

Kurt Russell as Herb Brooks
Miracle (2004)
Russell sends chills of exhilaration through the audience with Brooks’ now famous — and parodied — pregame speech to the 1980 U.S. Olympic men’s hockey team.

Will Smith as Muhammad Ali
Ali (2001)
Smith gained 35 pounds of muscle, going from 185 to 220 pounds, in order to play the champ in the Michael Mann film that also stars Jon Voight as Howard Cosell.

Denzel Washington as Herman Boone
Remember the Titans (2000)

Denzel also played boxer Rubin Carter in The Hurricane, but his best sports biopic role is that of the football coach attempting to inspire and unify a racially divided team.
 

RELATED: A Chat with Chadwick Boseman, Star of Jackie Robinson Biopic "42"

Teaser:
<p> From De Niro as Jake LaMotta in "Raging Bull" to Bullock as Leigh Anne Tuohy in "The Blind Side."</p>
Post date: Monday, April 22, 2013 - 14:00
Path: /nfl/10-amazing-feats-shortened-sports-seasons
Body:

Labor disputes, strikes and lockouts happen in the billion-dollar business of pro sports. This year’s NHL season started in the second period. Last year’s NBA schedule didn’t tip off until midway through the second quarter. But sometimes, short seasons produce the craziest results. These are 10 of the best and worst historic moments from such seasons.

1. Mark Moseley, 1982 NFL strike
The only kicker in NFL history to win the Most Valuable Player award, Moseley was nearly automatic for the eventual Super Bowl XVII champion Washington Redskins — connecting on 20-of-21 field goals, yet just 16-of-19 extra points. Moseley hit his NFL-record 21st straight field goal on a game-winner against the Giants that clinched the Skins’ first playoff berth since 1976.

2. Chicago Blackhawks, 2012-13 NHL lockout
When the lockout ended and the puck finally dropped in January, the Blackhawks were ready to rock. Chicago got off to the best start in NHL history, earning at least one point in the first 24 games of the season. When the Hawks finally lost, 6–2 to the Avalanche, it was their first defeat since a 6–1 beatdown against the Predators on March 25, 2012.

3. Rollie Fingers, 1981 MLB strike
The only relief pitcher in history to be named Most Valuable Player, Fingers’ first season in the American League resulted in both an MVP and Cy Young Award. Rollie curled his mustache to the tune of a 6–3 record, 1.04 ERA, 0.87 WHIP, 28 saves and 61 strikeouts in 78.0 innings for the Milwaukee Brewers. Fingers narrowly beat out Rickey Henderson — who hit .319 and had 56 stolen bases in 108 games — in what was essentially a two-man race for MVP honors.

4. Curt Flood, 1972 MLB strike
The Supreme Court ruled in favor of Major League Baseball, 5–3, over Curt Flood, who has since become synonymous with free agency in MLB. After refusing a trade from the St. Louis Cardinals to the Philadelphia Phillies in 1969, Flood fought for players’ rights and — although he was unsuccessful in front of the Supreme Court — he ultimately ushered in the era of free agency (and inflated salaries) we know today.

5. Suge Knight, 1987 NFL strike
Before becoming one of the most feared men in the music industry during the 1990s, the Death Row Records CEO was a replacement player during the 1987 NFL strike — as a defensive end for the Los Angeles Rams, or “L.A. Shams” as they known. Fellow scabs included Sean Payton and Rick Neuheisel. But neither of those quarterbacks-turned-coaches has the street cred of the intimidating big man who was in the car when Tupac Shakur was shot and killed in Las Vegas after a Mike Tyson fight in 1996.



6. Fernando Valenzuela, 1981 MLB strike
“Fernandomania” jumped out to an 8–0 start with five shutouts and an ERA of 0.50 before finishing the season with a 13–7 record, 2.48 ERA, 1.05 WHIP and a NL-leading 180 strikeouts in 192.1 innings. Valenzuela’s leg kick windup and larger-than-life persona won over baseball fans everywhere during a dark strike-interrupted time. As a result, Fernando became the first rookie to win the Cy Young Award, while also claiming Rookie of the Year honors for the eventual World Series champion Los Angeles Dodgers.

7. Tony Gwynn, 1994 MLB strike
Mr. Padre was attempting to become the first player to hit .400 since Ted Williams (.406) in 1941. Instead, Gwynn was forced to settle for a .394 average over 419 at-bats in 110 games. The 1994 season ended premature and a completely different type of history was made, as the World Series was canceled for the first time since 1904.

8. LeBron James, 2011-12 NBA lockout
The NBA regular season was shortened from 82 to 66 games the year that King James finally won his first ring. Does that add an asterisk to the Miami Heat star’s championship? Michael Jordan won his six rings after 82-game seasons, right? Well, James did average 27.1 points, 7.9 rebounds and 6.2 assists in the 62 regular season games he played — before an eye-popping 30.3 points, 9.7 rebounds and 5.6 assists over 23 playoff games.

9. Tim Duncan, 1998-99 NBA lockout
The first of Duncan’s four NBA Finals wins and three NBA Finals MVP Awards came following a lockout-shortened regular season that shrunk from 82 to 50 games. In just his second season, the “Big Fundamental” averaged 21.7 points, 11.4 rebounds and 2.5 blocked shots in 50 regular season games — before posting 23.2 points, 11.5 boards and 2.6 blocks in 17 playoff games alongside David Robinson.

10. Gary Bettman, 2004-05 NHL lockout
There was no Stanley Cup awarded for the first time since 1919, because there was no NHL season in 2004-05 — the first time in major pro sports that an entire season was canceled due to a labor dispute between players and owners. There were 1,230 games canceled over the 10 months and six days that the lockout lasted. No big deal for Commissioner Bettman, who has gone through three labor disputes since taking over the top spot in 1993.
 

Teaser:
<p> 10 Amazing Feats From Shortened Sports Seasons. Strikes and lockouts have resulted in some of the best, worst and strangest moments in sports history, including Mark Moseley, Rollie Fingers, Curt Flood, Suge Knight, Fernando Valenzuela, LeBron James, Tony Gwynn, Tim Duncan and the Chicago Blackhawks.</p>
Post date: Wednesday, April 17, 2013 - 15:30
Path: /golf/10-best-players-never-win-major-championship
Body:

Most golfers would rather be the worst player ever to win a major championship than to be given the title of “best player never to win a major.”

Sure, the BPNTWAM post was most famously held by Phil Mickelson, who was a 33-year-old with 22 PGA Tour wins, 46 major appearances and 17 top-10 finishes in majors before finally breaking through at the 2004 Masters. Lefty is now a four-time major champion, and his days as BPNTWAM are a distant memory from another era.

Here are our picks for the BPNTWAM most likely to win his first jacket, jug or trophy at the 2013 Masters, U.S. Open, British Open and/or PGA Championship.



Next Tiger?
The Aussie bomber and Spanish waggler were both called the “next Tiger” at one point. Each has missed a career-altering putt on the final hole of a major. The time is now.

1. Adam Scott, Australia
Age: 32
World Ranking: 7
PGA Tour wins: 8
Major Appearances: 47
Best Finish: 2 (’12 British), T2 (’11 Masters)
Top 10 Finishes: 8

2. Sergio Garcia, Spain
Age: 33
World Ranking: 16
PGA Tour wins: 8
Major Appearances: 57
Best Finish: 2 (’07 British, ’99 PGA), T2 (’08 PGA)
Top 10 Finishes: 17

American Dream
Since Tiger Woods won his 14th and most recent major at the 2008 U.S. Open, five Americans have claimed their first major championship. Is this foursome up next?

3. Dustin Johnson, USA
Age: 28
World Ranking: 19
PGA Tour wins: 7
Major Appearances: 16
Best Finish: T2 (’11 British)
Top 10 Finishes: 5

4. Brandt Snedeker, USA
Age: 32
World Ranking: 5
PGA Tour wins: 5
Major Appearances: 21
Best Finish: T3 (’12 British)
Top 10 Finishes: 4

5. Matt Kuchar, USA
Age: 34
World Ranking: 10
PGA Tour wins: 4
Major Appearances: 29
Best Finish: T3 (’12 Masters)
Top 10 Finishes: 4

6. Steve Stricker, USA
Age: 46
World Ranking: 8
PGA Tour wins: 12
Major Appearances: 57
Best Finish: 2 (’98 PGA)
Top 10 Finishes: 10

English Curse
A different sort of announcer jinx has been cast upon the blokes across the pond, as no Englishman has won a major championship since Nick Faldo won the 1996 Masters.

7. Lee Westwood, England
Age: 39
World Ranking: 13
PGA Tour wins: 2
Major Appearances: 59
Best Finish: 2 (’10 Masters, ’10 British)
Top 10 Finishes: 14

8. Luke Donald, England
Age: 35
World Ranking: 4
PGA Tour wins: 5
Major Appearances: 38
Best Finish: T3 (’05 Masters, ’06 PGA)
Top 10 Finishes: 7

9. Justin Rose, England
Age: 32
World Ranking: 3
PGA Tour wins: 4
Major Appearances: 35
Best Finish: T3 (’12 PGA)
Top 10 Finishes: 7

10. Ian Poulter, England
Age: 37
World Ranking: 12
PGA Tour wins: 2
Major Appearances: 40
Best Finish: 2 (’08 British)
Top 10 Finishes: 6
 

Teaser:
<p> 10 Best Players Never To Win a Major Championship, including Adam Scott, Sergio Garcia, Dustin Johnson, Brandt Snedeker, Matt Kuchar, Steve Stricker, Lee Westwood, Luke Donald, Justin Rose and Ian Poulter.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, April 9, 2013 - 12:17
Path: /college-basketball/15-best-teams-never-won-ncaa-tournament
Body:

The best team doesn’t always win the NCAA Tournament. Many of greatest rosters ever assembled failed to cut down the nets in the one-and-done, single-elimination Madness of March. These are the 15 best teams that never won the NCAA Tournament.



1. 1991 UNLV Runnin’ Rebels
(34–1, 18–0 Big West)
Coach Jerry Tarkanian
Lost to Duke, 79–77, in Final Four


Vegas was the undisputed, undefeated heavyweight champion of the world in college basketball before falling to Duke in a rematch of the 1990 title game, in which the Runnin’ Rebels humiliated the Blue Devils, 103–73. With three 1991 NBA Lottery picks — national player of the year forward Larry Johnson (No. 1 overall), wingman Stacey Augmon (No. 9) and point guard Greg Anthony (No. 12) — and the reigning Final Four MOP in Anderson Hunt, UNLV was as intimidating as it was dominant.

2. 1975 Indiana Hoosiers
(31–1, 18–0 Big Ten)
Coach Bob Knight
Lost to Kentucky, 92–90, in Elite Eight


Bob Knight and Joe B. Hall nearly went to blows during a 98–74 IU win over UK in December 1974. The Hoosiers were riding a 34-game winning streak heading into their rematch with the Wildcats in the NCAA Tournament. But without a full strength Scott May — who scored two points due to a broken arm, after scoring 25 in the first meeting — undefeated Indiana fell to Kentucky, a team that went on to lose the national title to UCLA in John Wooden’s final game.

3. 1983 Houston Cougars
(31–3, 16–0 Southwest)
Coach Guy Lewis
Lost to NC State, 54–52, in NCAA title game


Texas’ tallest fraternity, “Phi Slama Jama” was led by a pair of future Hall of Famers in shot-swatting big man Akeem Olajuwon and high-flying Clyde “the Glide” Drexler. The middle of three straight Final Four appearances and first of two national title game runner-up finishes was the most painful, as NC State pulled off one of the greatest Cinderella upsets in Big Dance history.

4. 1985 Georgetown Hoyas
(35–3, 14–2 Big East)
Coach John Thompson
Lost to Villanova, 66–64, in NCAA title game


The Patrick Ewing-led Hoyas were runner-up to North Carolina in 1982, national champs in 1984 and heavily favored to repeat as champs in 1985. But the overwhelming edge in talent for Ewing, Reggie Williams, David Wingate and Co. was no match for the magical shooting night of Rollie Massimino’s Wildcats, who shot 22-of-28 from the field to beat “Hoya Paranoia” on April Fools’ Day.

5. 1984 North Carolina Tar Heels
(28–3, 14–0 ACC)
Coach Dean Smith
Lost to Indiana, 72–68, in Sweet 16


On paper, this was Dean Smith’s most talented team, on the court and on the bench. National player of the year Michael Jordan, Sam Perkins, Brad Daugherty and freshman Kenny Smith headlined a loaded roster, while Roy Williams, Bill Guthridge and Eddie Fogler served as assistants coaches for a group of Tar Heels that couldn’t even make it to the Final Four.

6. 1993 Michigan Wolverines
(31–5, 15–3 Big Ten)
Coach Steve Fisher
Lost to North Carolina, 77–71, in NCAA title game


The sophomore season of the Fab Five — Chris Webber, Juwan Howard, Jalen Rose, Jimmy King and Ray Jackson — produced the same (since vacated) results as their freshman campaign. Michigan marched all the way to the national title game with their signature baggy shorts, black socks and swagger, only to lose to ACC power UNC, after losing to Duke in the championship game the season before.

7. 1997 Kansas Jayhawks
(34–2, 15–1 Big 12)
Coach Roy Williams
Lost to Arizona, 85–82, in Sweet 16


KU had it all, with NBA size down low in Raef LaFrentz and Scot Pollard, clutch shooters in Paul Pierce, Jerod Haase and Billy Thomas, and steady point guard play from Jacque Vaughn and Ryan Robertson. But Roy Williams’ Jayhawks could not close the deal against Miles Simon, Mike Bibby and eventual champion Arizona.

8. 1973 NC State Wolfpack
(27–0, 12–0 ACC)
Coach Norm Sloan
Banned from postseason play


David Thompson and Tommy Burleson led NC State to an undefeated regular season but were unable to go dancing after being banned from postseason play due to NCAA sanctions. When the ban was lifted, the 1973-74 Wolfpack went 30–1 cut down the nets following a national championship.

9. 1974 UCLA Bruins
(26–4, 12–2 Pac-8)
Coach John Wooden
Lost to NC State, 80–77 in 2OT, in Final Four


The next-to-last team coach by the Wizard of Westwood ended UCLA’s streak of seven consecutive NCAA titles. Despite being led by Bill Walton and Jamaal Wilkes, the Bruins were unable to outlast NC State in double-overtime in the Final Four.

10. 1954 Kentucky Wildcats
(25–0, 14–0 SEC)
Coach Adolph Rupp
Elected not to participate


Coach Adolph Rupp chose to take a stand against the NCAA by keeping the unbeaten Wildcats out of the Tournament after Frank Ramsey, Cliff Hagan and Lou Tsioropoulos were ruled ineligible due to a graduation rule that is no longer in place.

11. 1999 Duke Blue Devils
(37–2, 16–0 ACC)
Coach Mike Krzyzewski
Lost to Connecticut, 77–74, in NCAA title game


One of Coach K’s most talented teams was anchored by No. 1 overall pick Elton Brand, sharpshooting senior Trajan Langdon, point guard William Avery and athletic freak frosh Corey Maggette — all of whom went in the top 14 of the 1999 NBA Draft.

12. 1962 Ohio State Buckeyes
(26–2, 13–1 Big Ten)
Coach Fred Taylor
Lost to Cincinnati, 71–59, in NCAA title game


Jerry Lucas and John Havlicek are two of the greatest players in Ohio State history, playing in three consecutive NCAA title games — losing the last two trips as a heavy favorite against in-state rival Cincinnati.

13. 1957 Kansas Jayhawks
(24–3, 11–1 Big Seven)
Coach Dick Harp
Lost to North Carolina, 54–53 in 3OT, in NCAA title game


Kansas’ Wilt Chamberlain was unable to follow in the championship footsteps of San Francisco’s Bill Russell — who led the Dons to titles in 1955 and 1956. The Stilt lost in triple-overtime in what old timers have called the greatest game ever played.

14. 1963 Cincinnati Bearcats
(26–2, 11–1 Missouri Valley)
Coach Ed Jucker
Lost to Loyola-Chicago, 60–58, in NCAA title game


In their fifth straight Final Four appearance, the Bearcats were aiming for a three-peat before the term existed. But back-to-back champion Cincinnati was shocked by underdog Loyola-Chicago in the final.

15. 1979 Indiana State Sycamores
(33–1, 16–0 Missouri Valley)
Coach Bill Hodges
Lost to Michigan State, 75–64, in NCAA title game


The Legend of Larry Bird sprouted from the Sycamores undefeated 33–0 run to the NCAA title game, where Bird vs. Magic made the contest the highest rated college basketball game in history.
 

Teaser:
<p> 15 Best Teams That Never Won the NCAA Tournament, including the 1991 UNLV Runnin' Rebels, 1975 Indiana Hoosiers, 1983 Houston Cougars, 1985 Georgetown Hoyas, 1984 North Carolina Tar Heels, 1993 Michigan Wolverines, 1997 Kansas Jayhawks, 1973 NC State Wolfpack, 1974 UCLA Bruins, 1954 Kentucky Wildcats, 1999 Duke Blue Devils, 1962 Ohio State Buckeyes, 1957 Kansas Jayhawks, 1963 Cincinnati Bearcats and 1979 Indiana State Sycamores.</p>
Post date: Thursday, April 4, 2013 - 08:00
Path: /college-basketball/2013-ncaa-tournament-east-region-sweet-16-preview
Body:

EAST
Washington, D.C.

Top Dog — Indiana (1)
The Hoosiers are headed to their second straight Sweet 16. But IU has not advanced to the Elite Eight since 2002, when Indiana was an unlikely national runner-up to Maryland. After cruising past James Madison, 83–62, the Hoosiers earned a hard fought victory over Temple, 58–52. Victor Oladipo hit a top-of-the-key three — on a kick-out swing pass from Cody Zeller — with 14 seconds to play to take a four-point lead Indiana would not relinquish, as the Hoosiers capped their come-from-behind win over the Owls on a 10–0 run. Now IU prepares for a Sweet 16 showdown with Syracuse in a rematch of the 1987 national title game.

Underdog – Syracuse (4)
Coach Jim Boeheim is making his 16th trip to the Sweet 16, with his signature 2-3 zone defense leading the charge yet again. The Orange suffocated Montana, 81–34, to get the party started. Syracuse then outlasted California, 66–60, in front of a partisan San Jose crowd, holding the Bears to just 4-of-21 shooting (19.0 percent) from 3-point range. The triumph over Cal marked Boeheim’s 50th career NCAA Tournament win.

Player to Watch – Shane Larkin, Miami (2)
Barry Larkin’s son has been a catalyst for the Canes all season, earning ACC Player of the Year honors along the way. After advancing to the school’s second Sweet 16, Miami will continue to lean on Larkin on the second weekend of the Tournament. In a Sweet 16-clinching 63–59 win over Illinois, Larkin capped a 17-point night with a clutch go-ahead 3-pointer.

The Quote
“I know everybody on our team — we weren’t ready to go home. We had two close games. We had a lot of those this year. What we went through earlier this year prepared us for this weekend.” — Marquette guard Vander Blue, who scored 29 points on 9-of-15 shooting in a 74–72 victory over Butler and 16 points in a 59–58 win over Davidson.

Sweet 16 Previews:
Midwest Region
West Region
South Region
East Region

 

Teaser:
<p> 2013 NCAA Tournament: East Region Sweet 16 Preview, including the Indiana Hoosiers, Miami Hurricanes, Marquette Golden Eagles, Syracuse Orange, Victor Oladipo, Cody Zeller, Shane Larkin, Jim Boeheim and Vander Blue.</p>
Post date: Monday, March 25, 2013 - 17:01
Path: /college-basketball/2013-ncaa-tournament-south-region-sweet-16-preview
Body:

SOUTH
North Texas

Top Dog — Kansas (1)
Coach Bill Self earned his 300th career win with a 70–58 victory over North Carolina — and former Kansas coach Roy Williams. The Jayhawks struggled to pull off a 64–57 win over No. 16 seed Western Kentucky in the Round of 64. KU’s leading scorer this season, redshirt freshman shooting guard Ben McLemore has disappeared during the Tournament, with just 13 total points on 2-of-14 shooting from the field and 0-of-8 from 3-point range over two games. Senior big man Jeff Withey has picked up the slack, however, averaging 16.5 points, 11 rebounds and six blocks per game over the Tournament’s first weekend.

Underdog – Florida Gulf Coast (15)
Andy Enfield was a cult hero heading into the Tournament because he is a self-made millionaire with a supermodel wife. Now the Eagles coach is leading the greatest Cinderella story in Big Dance history. FGCU upset No. 2 seed Georgetown, 78–68, before taking down San Diego State, 81–71, to become the first No. 15 seed to advance to the Sweet 16.

Player to Watch – Trey Burke, Michigan (4)
The National Player of the Year candidate got off to a rocky start, scoring just six points on 2-of-12 shooting in a 71–56 win over South Dakota State. But Burke bounced back with 18 points, seven assists and two steals in a 78–53 statement win over VCU to advance to Michigan’s first Sweet 16 since 1994. Burke will need to bring his A-game in order for U-M to earn a trip to the Final Four for the first time since the Fab Five in 1993.

The Quote
“The one thing that coach talked to me before I transferred here (from Rutgers), he said ‘You’re putting yourself in big moments and big games.’ … I really took full advantage of it tonight and I told myself, ‘If I’m open, I’m going to knock down the shot.’” — Florida guard Mike Rosario, who scored 25 points on 8-of-12 shooting in a 78–64 win over Minnesota.

Sweet 16 Previews:
Midwest Region
West Region
South Region
East Region

 

Teaser:
<p> 2013 NCAA Tournament: South Region Sweet 16 Preview, including the Kansas Jayhawks, Florida Gulf Coast Eagles, Michigan Wolverines, Florida Gators, Trey Burke, Andy Enfield, Ben McLemore and Jeff Withey.</p>
Post date: Monday, March 25, 2013 - 16:55
Path: /college-basketball/2013-ncaa-tournament-west-region-sweet-16-preview
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WEST
Los Angeles

Top Dog — Ohio State (2)
The Buckeyes were the only top-four seed in the West Region to advance to the Sweet 16 in Los Angeles. And it wasn’t easy. Ohio State edged No. 10 seed Iowa State 78–75 on an Aaron Craft 3-pointer with 0.5 seconds remaining. The Buckeyes, who led by 13 points at one point of the second half, fell behind on two separate occasions with less than four minutes to play. While it was tougher than most OSU fans would have liked, beating Iowa State could be a good omen: The last three single-digit seeds to defeat the Cyclones in the NCAA Tournament went on to win the national title — 2012 Kentucky, 2005 North Carolina and 2000 Michigan State.

Underdog – La Salle (13)
According to the official seed list released by the NCAA, La Salle was the second-to-last at-large team to make the field of 68. Now, the Explorers are two wins away from the Final Four. Led by Ramon Galloway, a transfer from South Carolina, La Salle defeated Boise State, Kansas State and Ole Miss in a magical five-day stretch. Galloway averaged 21.3 points and converted 22-of-41 from 3-point range in La Salle’s three wins.

Player to Watch – Mark Lyons, Arizona (6)
Lyons, a senior point guard at Arizona, will become the first player to play in the Sweet 16 in consecutive seasons for two different teams. Lyons played his first three seasons at Xavier, which advanced to the Sweet 16  in 2010 and ’12, then enrolled at Arizona as a post-graduate transfer for his final season of eligibility. He scored 23 points in Arizona’s 81–64 win over Belmont then followed up with 27 in a 74–51 in over Harvard.

The Quote
“You know what I asked them? ‘On Oct. 15, down eight with eight minutes to go, would you take it for the right to go to Los Angeles in the Sweet 16?’ And they did it from there.” — Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall, on what he told his team when they fell behind No. 1 seed Gonzaga by eight points in the second half.

Sweet 16 Previews:
Midwest Region
West Region
South Region
East Region

 

Teaser:
<p> 2013 NCAA Tournament: West Region Sweet 16 Preview, including the Ohio State Buckeyes, Arizona Wildcats, Wichita State Shockers, La Salle Explorers, Aaron Craft and Mark Lyons.</p>
Post date: Monday, March 25, 2013 - 16:46
Path: /college-basketball/2013-ncaa-tournament-midwest-region-sweet-16-preview
Body:

MIDWEST
Indianapolis

Top Dog — Louisville (1)
Louisville is playing like the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament. The Cardinals advanced to the Sweet 16 with a surprisingly easy 82–56 win over a very good Colorado State team. Shooting guard Russ Smith, never known to be the most efficient player on the Cards’ roster, scored 27 points on only 15 shots to lead the way for Rick Pitino’s club. In its two wins, Louisville is shooting a combined 56.9 percent from the floor and has forced an average of 20.5 turnovers. That’s a formula for success at any level of basketball.

Underdog – Oregon (12)
It flew a bit under the radar, but No. 12 seed Oregon recorded one of the most impressive wins of the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament, rolling past Saint Louis 74–57 on Saturday. The Ducks, grossly underseeded by the Selection Committee, knocked off the No. 5 and No. 4 seeds by a combined 30 points. Oregon is led by a pair of senior forwards, E.J. Singler (younger brother of former Duke star Kyle Singler) and Rice transfer Arsalan Kazemi. The Ducks are outstanding on the defensive end of the court and are a very good rebounding team. They do, however, struggle from the 3-point line, ranking 298th in the nation at 27.5 percent.

Coaching Showdown to Watch: Izzo vs. Coach K
Two of the great NCAA Tournament coaches of all time — Michigan State’s Tom Izzo and Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski will meet in the Sweet 16 in Indianapolis. Duke, the No. 2 seed, is a slight favorite over the No. 3-seeded Spartans. Izzo is 1–7 all-time vs. Coach K, but the one victory came in the 2005 Sweet 16. These teams last met in November 2011 at Madison Square Garden. Duke won 74–69.

The Quote
“I don’t want to put the pressure on Rick and his guys, but they’re special. They need a little luck like everybody does to win it all, but that’s as impressive team as I‘ve been against, certainly.” — Colorado State coach Larry Eustachy, after his team lost to Louisville.

Sweet 16 Previews:
Midwest Region
West Region
South Region
East Region

 

Teaser:
<p> 2013 NCAA Tournament: Midwest Region Sweet 16 Preview, including the Louisville Cardinals, Oregon Ducks, Michigan State Spartans, Duke Blue Devils, Rick Pitino, Tom Izzo and Coach K.</p>
Post date: Monday, March 25, 2013 - 16:38
Path: /college-basketball/10-biggest-disappointments-ncaa-tournament
Body:

There was plenty of action on the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament. Florida Gulf Coast became the first No. 15 seed Cinderella to make the Sweet 16 of the Big Dance. Wichita State “shocked” No. 1 seed Gonzaga to become just the fifth No. 9 seed to advance to the Sweet 16 since 1985. Buzzer-beaters and pep bands, coeds and coaches, commercials and cheerleaders — all the usual March Madness was in full effect. But there were also a few letdowns in the Rounds of 64 and 32.

1. Overreaction to Aaron Craft charge call
The Zapruder film was replayed in super-slow-mo fewer times than Craft’s controversial, momentum-shifting charge taken with 1:41 left and Ohio State trailing Iowa State by one. The call wiped out a made basket and free-throw attempt by Will Clyburn and gave the Buckeyes the ball. Craft eventually nailed a game-winning 3 with 0.5 seconds to play. But all anyone wanted to talk about was the charge call.

2. Over-hyped, over-seeded mid-major “powers”
Gonzaga (No. 1 seed), New Mexico (No. 3) and Saint Louis (No. 4) entered the NCAA Tournament with a combined 89–16 record as the champions of the West Coast, Mountain West and Atlantic 10 Conferences, respectively. Then the Zags, Lobos and Billikens lived up to their untrustworthy nicknames and soft resumes, belly-flopping on the biggest stage in college basketball.

3. UCLA, especially Shabazz Muhammad
Ben Howland was kicked to the curb after the underachieving Bruins were bounced from the Tourney with their usual lackluster showing. But the bigger news was that of Muhammad’s reported age bouncing from 19 to 20 years old, thanks to the slip of the tongue from an apparent snake-oil salesman father. UCLA’s dumpster fire season caused so much stress, every Bruin fan this side of Bill Walton likely aged in Shabazz years, too.

4. Ben McLemore’s disappearing act
Ray Allen comparisons and talk of going No. 1 overall in the 2013 NBA Draft had McLemore sitting pretty prior to the start of the Big Dance. But a combined 2-of-14 shooting effort, including 0-of-8 from 3-point range, has the Jesus Shuttlesworth fantasy cooling off. McLemore has scored just 13 points over two NCAA Tournament games, missing layups, mishandling alley-oops and bricking wide open corner threes.

5. Scootie Randall’s shooting vs. Indiana
Temple’s second leading scorer was 0-of-12 from the field and 0-of-6 from 3-point range in a 58–52 loss to Indiana. The Owls’ go-to guy, Khalif Wyatt, dropped 31 points but got no help from his partner-in-crime. Randall joined Connecticut’s Khalid El-Amin as second player to shoot 0-of-12 or worse in an NCAA Tourney game since 1985.

6. Lack of Dick Vitale announcing
After all these years, college basketball fans are forced to wait one more week before they are graced with the voice of Dick Vitale. In his 34-year career, Vitale has yet to work the Final Four. Needless to say, fans of international TV are ready for Dickey V. He still won't be a PTPer, but he'll be at the Big Dance, baby.
 
7. Davidson late-game meltdown vs. Marquette
Steph Curry was not walking through that door for Davidson in the Round of 64 against Marquette. The No. 14-seed Wildcats were outscored 13–5 over the last 1:33 of a 59–58 loss to the No. 3-seed Golden Eagles, including a game-winning drive to the rim by Vander Blue.

8. Marshall Henderson meltdown vs. La Salle
Everyone’s favorite villain in college hoops left the court with birds a’ blazin’ — flipping off the crowd with a double-barreled effort at the Sprint Center in Kansas City following Ole Miss’ 76–74 loss to La Salle. That seems so tame for Marshall, yet such an appropriate ending for the Rebel.

9. Lame TruTV, Wichita State Shocker jokes
What channel is TruTV, anyway? There’s a team called the Shockers? Insert lame joke. Really? This is Twitter comedy at its worst.

10. Wardrobe of Amanda Marcum Enfield
The wife of Florida Gulf Coast coach Andy Enfield isn’t even wearing a bikini. What? But at least FGCU isn’t playing Wichita State. Or Brent Musburger isn't calling games.
 

Teaser:
<p> 10 Biggest Disappointments in NCAA Tournament, including the overreaction to the Aaron Craft charge call, over-hyped mid-major powers exiting early, Shabazz Muhammad's false age, Ben McLemore's disappearing act, Marshall Henderson's meltdown and Andy Enfield's wife.</p>
Post date: Monday, March 25, 2013 - 16:00
Path: /college-basketball/ranking-every-coach-2013-ncaa-tournament
Body:

The NCAA Tournament is a results-based business for coaches. Having the best players or fanbase or reputation isn’t enough. Dean Smith couldn’t even make the Final Four with a team that had Michael Jordan, Sam Perkins, Brad Daugherty and Kenny Smith. Jim Valvano ran wild after motivating a group of nobodies past the future Hall of Fame-laden “Phi Slamma Jamma” of Akeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler.

Like it or not, the NCAA Tournament is a proving ground for coaches. And the best in the business inevitably rise to the top. Who are the best suits with dry erase boards in this year’s Field of 64? (Sorry First Four losers.)

Here’s a rundown of the coaches in this year’s NCAA Tournament, broken down by tier — in terms of best results in previous tournaments — and ranked within their group of similarly accomplished peers.

NCAA Champions
It don’t mean a thing if you ain’t got a ring. These are the nine coaches who have cut down the nets, for a combined 14 NCAA titles between them. It’s a mix of program builders and powerhouse caretakers. But each has proven capable of sealing the deal with a championship on the line.

1. Mike Krzyzewski, Duke
29th NCAA Tournament
11 Final Fours
4-time Champion (1991, ’92, 2001, ’10)
4-time Runner-up (’86, ’90, ’94, ’99)

Coach K finds a way, even if it takes a miracle shot from Christian Laettner to advance or an unanswered Hail Mary from Gordon Hayward at the buzzer to hold on for the win.

2. Rick Pitino, Louisville
18th NCAA Tournament
6 Final Fours
1996 Champion
1997 Runner-up

Pitino has famously taken three different schools (Providence, Kentucky and Louisville) to the Final Four and carries a perfect 10–0 record in Sweet 16 contests. 


3. Tom Izzo, Michigan State
16th NCAA Tournament
6 Final Fours
2000 Champion
2009 Runner-up

The method to Izzo’s March Madness has proven successful year after year, thanks to a physical, possession-by-possession, down-and-distance strategy that is football-like.

4. Roy Williams, North Carolina
23rd NCAA Tournament
7 Final Fours
2-time Champion (2005, ’09)
2-time Runner-up (1991, ’03)

Ol’ Roy has been an underachieving nice guy with several teams at both Kansas and North Carolina. But there’s no denying the Tourney success of Dean Smith’s protégé.


5. Billy Donovan, Florida
13th NCAA Tournament
2-time Champion (2006, '07)
2000 Runner-up
Billy the Kid went from being Rick Pitino's go-to-guy and right-hand-man to having one more title ring than his mentor along with a Pitino-esque 5–1 record in Sweet 16 contests.


6. Jim Boeheim, Syracuse
30th NCAA Tournament
2003 Champion
2-time Runner-up (1987, ’96)

Boeheim was a victim of IU’s Keith Smart and a dominant UK team before riding Carmelo Anthony to a title. Still, the overrated Orange are usually overripe by March.


7. Bill Self, Kansas
15th NCAA Tournament
2008 Champion
2012 Runner-up

Self has coached three schools (Tulsa, Illinois and Kansas) to the Elite Eight, but also staggered to early losses — Round of 64 in 2005 and ’06, Round of 32 in ’10 — at KU.


8. Tubby Smith, Minnesota
17th NCAA Tournament
1998 Champion

Won it all — with “Pitino’s players,” according to the Big Blue Nation — in his first season at Kentucky, after leading both Tulsa and Georgia to the Sweet 16 previously.


9. Steve Fisher, San Diego State
13th NCAA Tournament
1989 Champion
2-time Runner-up (1992, ’93)

Made the NCAA title game three times in his first five seasons at Michigan, winning a championship as an interim coach and losing twice with the Fab Five. Not much since.

Runners-up
These guys have come within one win of a big pay raise and bump in historical status. They’ve been there, but they haven’t quite done that. Keep in mind, four of the top six coaches on this list lost the NCAA title before they climbed the ladder to cut down nets.


10. Brad Stevens, Butler
5th NCAA Tournament
2-time Runner-up
(2010, '11)
It doesn’t take Nate Silver or Joe Lunardi to know that the 36-year-old wunderkind Stevens is a chess master in March.


11. Ben Howland, UCLA
10th NCAA Tournament
3 Final Fours
2006 Runner-up

Howland’s star has faded considerably since making three straight trips to the Final Four (2006-08) in his early days at UCLA.

12. Thad Matta, Ohio State
11th NCAA Tournament
2 Final Fours
2007 Runner-up

It took a healthy Greg Oden to get Matta to the title game. Generally speaking, the Buckeyes treat NCAA games like BCS bowls.


13. Bruce Weber, Kansas State
9th NCAA Tournament
2005 Runner-up

The bottom has fallen out on Weber’s brackets since Deron Williams and Dee Brown led the Illini to the final Monday in 2005.


Final Four
This group has either shocked the world or barely lived up to Final Four expectations. Experiencing the final weekend is huge. Handling the hype is easier said than done, but much easier after seeing how it’s done — albeit from a loser’s prospective.

14. Shaka Smart, VCU
3rd NCAA Tournament
2011 Final Four
Havoc ensues when Smart’s teams take the court. No one should be Shaka-ed if and when the Rams win in March.

15. Jim Larranaga, Miami
6th NCAA Tournament
2006 Final Four

Leader of arguably the greatest Cinderella story in Big Dance history — CAA at-large berth George Mason’s run to the Final Four.


16. Jay Wright, Villanova
10th NCAA Tournament
2009 Final Four
4 Sweet 16s

The best-dressed coach has never been best in show at the Big Dance but Wright has lived up to expectations most years.


17. Tom Crean, Indiana
7th NCAA Tournament
2003 Final Four
2 Sweet 16s

Dwyane Wade showed flashes of otherworldly superstardom en route to Marquette making the Final Four. Can Crean take credit?


18. John Thompson III, Georgetown
9th NCAA Tournament
2007 Final Four
2 Sweet 16s

The son and namesake of the 1984 NCAA champion Georgetown coach, JT3 has yet to match is dad’s level of Tourney success.


19. Lon Kruger, Oklahoma
14th NCAA Tournament
1994 Final Four
3 Sweet 16s

Kruger has taken five schools (Kansas State, Florida, Illinois, UNLV and Oklahoma) dancing, but has just three Sweet 16 trips.

20. Mike Montgomery, Cal
16th NCAA Tournament
1998 Final Four
3 Sweet 16s

Monty knew how to disappoint when he was the boss On the Farm at Stanford. Luckily, hopes haven’t been as high at Cal.


Elite Eight
These coaches have all been one win away from the promised land of the Final Four, where the buffalo wings are hot, the beer is cold and the brackets are completely broken.

21. Sean Miller, Arizona
6th NCAA Tournament
2 Elite Eights
3 Sweet 16s


22. Bo Ryan, Wisconsin
12th NCAA Tournament
2005 Elite Eights
5 Sweet 16s


23. Bob McKillop, Davidson
7th NCAA Tournament
2008 Elite Eight


24. Jamie Dixon, Pittsburgh
9th NCAA Tournament
2009 Elite Eight
3 Sweet 16s


25. John Beilein, Michigan
8th NCAA Tournament
2005 Elite Eight
2 Sweet 16s


26. Mark Gottfried, NC State
9th NCAA Tournament
2004 Elite Eight
2 Sweet 16s


27. Larry Eustachy, Colorado State
5th NCAA Tournament
2000 Elite Eight


Sweet 16
The second weekend of the NCAA Tournament is the bare minimum for some programs and a rare thrill for others. There’s plenty of name recognition in this group. But the potential has yet to match the production in March.

28. Buzz Williams, Marquette
5th NCAA Tournament
2 Sweet 16s


29. Mark Few, Gonzaga
14th NCAA Tournament
4 Sweet 16s 


30. Steve Alford, New Mexico
7th NCAA Tournament
1999 Sweet 16


31. Mike Brey, Notre Dame
11th NCAA Tournament
2003 Sweet 16


32. John Groce, Illinois
3rd NCAA Tournament
2012 Sweet 16


33. Mick Cronin, Cincinnati
5th NCAA Tournament
2012 Sweet 16


34. Randy Bennett, Saint Mary's
4th NCAA Tournament
2010 Sweet 16


35. Tommy Amaker, Harvard
3rd NCAA Tournament
2000 Sweet 16

Round of 32
Coaches who have a win on Thursday or Friday, but have yet to triumph on Saturday or Sunday in order to punch their tickets to the second weekend of the Big Dance. For a few small school underdogs, one win in the Tourney is a David vs. Goliath story that lives forever. For others, failing to move forward is a major step backward.

36. Fred Hoiberg, Iowa State
2nd NCAA Tournament
2012 Round of 32

37. Bob Thomason, Pacific
4th NCAA Tournament
2 Rounds of 32

38. Dana Altman, Oregon
9th NCAA Tournament
2 Rounds of 32

39. Travis Ford, Oklahoma State
4th NCAA Tournament
2010 Round of 32

40. Mike McConathy, Northwestern State
3rd NCAA Tournament
2006 Round of 32

41. Greg McDermott, Creighton
5th NCAA Tournament
2012 Round of 32

42. Gregg Marshall, Wichita State
9th NCAA Tournament
2007 Round of 32

43. Fran Dunphy, Temple
15th NCAA Tournament
2 Rounds of 32

44. Tad Boyle, Colorado
2nd NCAA Tournament
2012 Round of 32

45. Jim Crews, Saint Louis
5th NCAA Tournament
1989 Round of 32

46. Frank Haith, Missouri
3rd NCAA Tournament
2008 Round of 32

Winless in NCAA
Earning a spot in the NCAA Tournament implies either a conference tournament championship or national respect — or both. But it doesn’t guarantee a win once the Tourney tips off. These coaches have yet to earn a ‘W’ in the Dance.

47. Rick Byrd, Belmont
0–5 in NCAA Tournament

48. Will Brown, Albany
0–2 in NCAA Tournament

49. Marvin Menzies, New Mexico State
0–2 in NCAA Tournament

50. Keith Dambrot, Akron
0–2 in NCAA Tournament

51. Josh Pastner, Memphis
0–2 in NCAA Tournament

52. Dave Rice, UNLV
0–1 in NCAA Tournament

53. Dave Paulsen, Bucknell
0–1 in NCAA Tournament

54. Scott Nagy, South Dakota State
0–1 in NCAA Tournament

55. Wayne Tinkle, Montana
0–2 in NCAA Tournament

56. Tim Cluess, Iona
0–1 in NCAA Tournament

First Four Winners
Still trying to figure out the First Four. Still not liking it. But they’ve survived and “advanced,” I guess.

57. Cy Alexander, North Carolina A&T
6th NCAA Tournament
2013 First Four

58. Ray Harper, Western Kentucky
2nd NCAA Tournament
2012 First Four

59. John Giannini, La Salle
1st NCAA Tournament
2013 First Four

60. Matt Brady, James Madison
1st NCAA Tournament
2013 First Four

First Big Dance
A great group of coaches making their debut in the NCAA Tournament, highlighted by Mr. One Shining Moment and a man whose supermodel Mrs. has been stealing the show.

61. Bryce Drew, Valparaiso

62. Andy Enfield, Florida Gulf Coast


63. Andy Kennedy, Ole Miss

64. Roman Banks, Southern


 

Teaser:
<p> Ranking Every Coach in the 2013 NCAA Tournament, including Mike Krzyzewski, Rick Pitino, Tom Izzo, Roy Williams, Billy Donovan, Jim Boeheim, Bill Self, Tubby Smith, Steve Fisher, Brad Stevens, Ben Howland, Thad Matta, Bruce Weber, Shaka Smart, Jim Larranaga, Jay Wright, Tom Crean, John Thompson III, Sean Miller, Bo Ryan, Bryce Drew and Andy Enfield.</p>
Post date: Thursday, March 21, 2013 - 17:30
Path: /college-basketball/2013-ncaa-tournament-west-region-preview
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WEST
Los Angeles

COMPLETE REGION PREVIEWS
East
| Midwest | South

Top Two

(1) Gonzaga Bulldogs (31–2, 16–0 WCC)
The Zags locked up the West Coast Conference Tournament title with a 65–51 win over Saint Mary’s, capping a perfect season in-conference — albeit a league without much competition to speak of. Coach Mark Few’s team lost only twice this season, handily to Illinois (85–74) in early December and on a crazy floater as the buzzer sounded at Butler (64–63) in late January.

Cinderella’s no more, Gonzaga earned its first-ever No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. The Bulldogs are hopeful that this will finally be the Final Four breakthrough season they’ve been waiting for. Five trips to the Sweet 16 — all since 1999 — have resulted in just one Elite Eight (the inaugural 1999 Cinderella run) and zero Final Four appearances. Long-locked big man Kelly Olynyk, versatile wing Elias Harris and a stable of guards, led by Kevin Pangos, Gary Bell and John’s son David Stockton, will look to change that.

(2) Ohio State Buckeyes (26–7, 13–5 Big Ten)
One of the most impressive teams in the country coming down the stretch, Ohio State enters the NCAA Tournament on an eight-game winning streak that includes an upset at Indiana, two wins over Michigan State and a Big Ten Tournament title-clinching victory over Wisconsin. And while the Buckeyes may not jump off the page, they are a steady veteran team with no embarrassing losses — having suffered defeats at Duke, Kansas, Indiana, at Michigan State, at Michigan in overtime, at Wisconsin and at Illinois.

Coach Thad Matta’s team is top heavy, however. Wingman Deshaun Thomas scored 28 percent (627-of-2,237) of the Bucks’ points this season, while point guard Aaron Craft is leaned on for a disproportionate amount of OSU’s ball-handling. Injury or foul trouble for either Thomas or Craft would make it nearly impossible for Ohio State to advance to its 12th Final Four or sixth title game appearance — the most recent coming at the site of this year’s Final Four, with Greg Oden leading a runner-up effort in Atlanta in 2007.

Related: Our best advice for your bracket pool

Sweet 16 Sleeper

(7) Notre Dame Fighting Irish
It’s hard not to notice the Irish when they’re wearing those Digger Phelps’ highlighter jerseys they wore in the Big East Tournament. Wins over Louisville (in 5OT), Marquette, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati (twice), Villanova and Kentucky (with Nerlens Noel) are just as hard to overlook. Unlike Manti Te’o’s girlfriend, those wins are real, as are the Irish’s impressive shooting percentages as a team (46.3 FG, 70.7 FT, 37.3 3PT). Also, Jerian Grant — much like his bespectacled father and uncle Harvey and Horace — is unafraid of the big stage.

Upset Watch

(11) Belmont Bruins vs. (6) Arizona Wildcats
Coach Rick Byrd won an NAIA national championship with Belmont in 1989 and is leading the Bruins to their sixth NCAA Tournament berth since 2006. But Belmont has yet to pull off a first-round upset, coming painfully close in a 71–70 loss to Duke in 2008. Could this finally be the year? Senior guards Ian Clark and Kerron Johnson give the Bruins valuable leadership and surprising athleticism. Arizona can not afford to overlook the team on the other side wearing red, white and blue.

Related: March Madness by the numbers

Cinderella Superstar

Kendall Williams, Jr., New Mexico Lobos (3)
The lead Lobo dropped 46 points, on 12-of-16 shooting (including 10-of-13 from downtown), in a statement win at Colorado State in late February. But it is Williams’ all-around game that drives coach Steve Alford’s club. The junior from Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., averages 13.5 points, 5.0 assists, 3.6 rebounds and 1.1 steals per game. Originally a UCLA commit, Williams brings size (6’4”, 185), speed and a point guard’s mentality to a dangerous New Mexico team.

Related: All Athlon Sports 2013 NCAA Tournament content

Teaser:
<p> 2013 NCAA Tournament: West Region Preview, including the Gonzaga Bulldogs, Ohio State Buckeyes, Notre Dame Fighting Irish and New Mexico's Kendall Williams.</p>
Post date: Monday, March 18, 2013 - 11:19
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EAST
Washington, D.C.

COMPLETE REGION PREVIEWS
Midwest
| South | West

Top Two
(1) Indiana Hoosiers (27–6, 14–4 Big Ten)
The preseason No. 1 team in the nation desperately wanted to be the top overall seed in this year’s Big Dance. That distinction would have meant playing in front of a home crowd in Indianapolis. But when the Big Ten regular season champs lost to Wisconsin, 68–56, in the Big Ten Tournament, IU lost its grip on its potential tickets to Indy.

Tom Crean boasts arguably the most talented team in the country, with high-flying wing Victor Oladipo, steady big man Cody Zeller, big shot taker Christian Watford and freshman point guard Yogi Ferrell highlighting a deep roster. This particular group of Hoosiers represents the renaissance of Indiana basketball. Anything less than the school’s ninth trip to the Final Four — and first since 2002 — will be considered a failure. And really, IU’s sixth NCAA title — its first since 1987 — is the unspoken expectation.

(2) Miami Hurricanes (27–6, 15–3 ACC)
The 2012-13 Canes are the undisputed greatest team in Miami basketball history after clinching both the ACC’s regular season and conference tournament titles — the latter coming with an 87–77 victory over traditional powerhouse North Carolina. These are uncharted waters for the Hurricanes, however, who are making just their sixth trip to the NCAA Tournament since rejoining the D-I ranks in 1985 and have just one Sweet 16 appearance (2000) to their credit.

While no one on the Miami roster has any NCAA Tourney experience, coach Jim Larranaga has five prior trips to the Big Dance under his belt — famously leading CAA Cinderella story George Mason to the Final Four in 2006. Larranaga has even more talent to work with this time around, with a balanced backcourt of Barry’s son Shane Larkin and New York City product Durand Scott, and a stacked frontcourt of 300-pounder Reggie Johnson and former Florida transfer Kenny Kadji.

Related: Our best advice for your bracket pool

Sweet 16 Sleeper

(6) Butler Bulldogs
Coach Brad Stevens is making his fifth trip to the NCAA Tournament in six seasons at Butler. The 36-year-old has two runner-up finishes — coming a front-rimmed halfcourt shot away from beating Duke in 2010 — and an 11–4 record in the Big Dance. Not bad. Along with a brilliant coach, Butler also has the resume (wins over Indiana, Gonzaga and North Carolina) and big-time players (led by Arkansas transfer Rotnei Clarke) to advance to the second weekend of the Tourney.

Upset Watch

(12) California Golden Bears vs. (5) UNLV Runnin’ Rebels
While the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee always tries to avoid rematches, it was unable to break up the bracket with this first-round matchup. Berkeley lost to Vegas, 76–75, in early December this season. Now Cal gets its chance at revenge, playing in front of a presumably Bear-friendly crowd in San Jose. UNLV will have to overcome its own youth as well as a rematch in a hostile environment.

Related: March Madness by the numbers

Cinderella Superstar

Mike Muscala, Sr., Bucknell Bison (11)
The 6’11”, 240-pound senior anchors the Bison on both ends of the floor, averaging a team-high 19.0 points per game, while cleaning up the glass to the tune of 11.2 rebounds, dishing out an underrated 2.3 assists and protecting the rim defensively with 2.4 blocks and countless altered shots in the paint. If Bucknell hopes to pull off a “Butler” against Butler, Muscala will be counted on to do the heavy lifting.

Related: All Athlon Sports 2013 NCAA Tournament content

Teaser:
<p> 2013 NCAA Tournament: East Region Preview, including the Indiana Hoosiers, Miami Hurricanes, Butler Bulldogs, California Golden Bears, UNLV Runnin' Rebels and Bucknell's Mike Muscala.</p>
Post date: Monday, March 18, 2013 - 11:18
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SOUTH
North Texas

COMPLETE REGION PREVIEWS
East
| Midwest | West

Top Two

(1) Kansas Jayhawks (29–5, 14–4 Big 12)
After losing three straight games to start February, the Jayhawks won 10 of their next 11 contests to cap their regular season with a share of the Big 12 title and a statement victory over conference co-champion Kansas State, 70–54, in the Big 12 Tournament title game. The Kansas faithful are aiming to make their 15th trip to the Final Four and shooting for the fourth national championship for the alma mater of the game’s inventor and KU’s first coach, Dr. James Naismith.

Coach Bill Self has made two trips to the NCAA championship game — beating John Calipari and Memphis in overtime in 2008 and losing to Coach Cal’s Kentucky team last season. But Self has also failed to advance to the Sweet 16 three times while at KU, including back-to-back losses in the first round in 2005 and 2006. This year’s squad has the firepower to go the distance, led by potential No. 1 overall NBA Draft pick shooter Ben McLemore, senior shot-blocker Jeff Withey and senior point guard Elijah Johnson.

(2) Georgetown Hoyas (25–6, 14–4 Big East)
The Hoyas had hoped to “kiss Syracuse goodbye” after sweeping the Orange during the regular season, but instead lost to their longtime rivals, 58–55 in overtime, in the final conference meeting between the teams in the Big East Tournament. The loss was Georgetown’s second in four games after reeling off an 11-game winning streak from late January to early March.

John Thompson III has the luxury of coaching one of the top all-around players in the country in Otto Porter Jr., a 6’8” sophomore wing who has shown the ability to rise to the occasion when the pressure is on and the spotlight is brightest. Porter is talented enough to carry the Hoyas to their sixth Final Four. But he will need the help of veteran lead guard Markel Starks, forward Nate Lubick and freshman D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera if JT3 hopes to match his father (1984) by winning the school’s second national title.

Related: Our best advice for your bracket pool

Sweet 16 Sleeper

(5) VCU Rams
Giant slayer Virginia Commonwealth knocked off Duke under coach Anthony Grant in 2007 before going coast-to-coast from the First Four to the Final Four under current coach Shaka Smart in 2011. The Rams’ havoc is keyed by wings Treveon Graham and Troy Daniels, big man Juvonte Reddic and senior point guard Darius Theus. No team wants to play the perennial Cinderellas from Richmond, a team that changed coaches but not its NCAA Tournament results.

Upset Watch

(11) Minnesota Golden Gophers vs. (6) UCLA Bruins
Unfortunately for the crazier-than-ever Bill Walton, these Bruins’ disappointing season may end in the same one-and-done fashion that coach Ben Howland controversially speculated of star freshman Shabazz Muhammad. The Golden Gophers have a championship winning coach (Tubby Smith), brothers in the backcourt (Andre and Austin Hollins) and enough athletic wing defenders (Rodney Williams and Trevor Mbakwe) to end Shabazz’s college career earlier than even Howland expects.

Related: March Madness by the numbers

Cinderella Superstar

Nate Wolters, Sr., South Dakota State Jackrabbits (13)
The Summit League Player of the Year has been compared to none other than Steve Nash — who led Santa Clara to an upset over No. 2 seed Arizona in the 1993 NCAA Tourney. Wolters fills the stat sheet, averaging 22.7 points, 5.8 assists, 5.6 rebounds and 1.8 steals per game. Wolters will have a chance to show off his all-around game against Michigan’s National Player of the Year candidate Trey Burke, in a battle of two of the best point guards in the college game.

Related: All Athlon Sports 2013 NCAA Tournament content

Teaser:
<p> 2013 NCAA Tournament: South Region Preview, including the Kansas Jayhawks, Georgetown Hoyas, VCU Rams, Minnesota Golden Gophers, UCLA Bruins and South Dakota State's Nate Wolters.</p>
Post date: Monday, March 18, 2013 - 11:16
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MIDWEST
Indianapolis

COMPLETE REGION PREVIEWS
East
| South | West

Top Two

(1) Louisville Cardinals (29–5, 14–4 Big East)
The top overall seed in this year’s NCAA Tournament, Louisville earned the Big East Tournament championship with a 78–61 win over Syracuse. The victory was the U of L’s 10th straight and 13th in its last 14 games — with the only loss being an epic five-overtime defeat at Notre Dame in early February.

Clearly, coach Rick Pitino knows how to get the job done in March, having made six Final Fours with three different schools (Providence, Kentucky and Louisville) and cutting down the nets after winning it all with Kentucky in 1996. With veteran guards Peyton Siva and Russ Smith leading the way and defensive enforcer Gorgui Dieng down low, Louisville’s 10th trip to the Final Four — and maybe even its third NCAA title (1980, 1986) — could be in the Cards.

(2) Duke Blue Devils (27–5, 14–4 ACC)
Coach K’s team failed to win the ACC Tournament for only the fifth time since 1999, losing to mediocre Maryland, 83–74, for the second time in eight games. Duke’s up-and-down season has been highlighted by a No. 1 ranking in the AP top 25 and given a black eye by a 27-point loss at Miami in late January.

On the bright side, the Blue Devils are still coached by the greatest NCAA Tournament coach since John Wooden. Coach Mike Krzyzewski has four NCAA championships (1991, 1992, 2001, 2010) and 11 Final Four appearances. This year’s squad has an inside-out game built around big man Mason Plumlee and a plethora of spot-up shooters, including Seth Curry, Ryan Kelly and Quinn Cook — all of whom shoot over 40 percent from 3-point range and better than 80 percent from the free-throw line.

Related: Our best advice for your bracket pool

Sweet 16 Sleeper

(5) Oklahoma State Cowboys
Cowboy combo guard Marcus Smart joined Kevin Durant (2007) and Michael Beasley (2008) — both of whom went on to be the No. 2 overall pick in their respective NBA Draft classes — as only the third player ever to be named Big 12 Player of the Year and National Freshman of the Year in the same season. “Smart-acus” is joined by fellow blue chip recruit Le’Bryan Nash and guards Markel Brown and Phil Forte, giving coach Travis Ford a perimeter lineup that will be tough to match up with.

Upset Watch

(11) First Four winner (Saint Mary’s Gaels vs. Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders) vs. (6) Memphis Tigers
Coach Josh Pastner has not been the wunderkind he was proclaimed as John Calipari’s replacement at Memphis. This season, the Tigers were 1–3 against teams that made the field of 68, with their only win coming against Ivy League champion Harvard, in a 60–50 contest that was much closer than the final score indicates. The winner of the Saint Mary’s and Middle Tennessee No. 11-seed play-in game will have an excellent shot at an obviously talented, athletic and underachieving Memphis squad.

Related: March Madness by the numbers

Cinderella Superstar

Doug McDermott, Jr., Creighton Bluejays (7)
The son of coach Greg McDermott is a legitimate National Player of the Year candidate after a dominant junior season. The 6’8” Ames, Iowa, native — who was a high school teammate of former North Carolina star Harrison Barnes — averages 23.1 points per game on 56.1 percent shooting from the field, 86.0 percent from the free-throw line and an amazing 49.7 percent from 3-point range.

Related: All Athlon Sports 2013 NCAA Tournament content

Teaser:
<p> 2013 NCAA Tournament: Midwest Region Preview, including the Louisville Cardinals, Duke Blue Devils, Oklahoma State's Marcus Smart and Creighton's Doug McDermott.</p>
Post date: Monday, March 18, 2013 - 11:12
All taxonomy terms: NFL, NBA, MLB, NASCAR
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Turns out, Tony Gonzalez is not retiring after all. Arguably the greatest tight end in history is returning to the Atlanta Falcons for the 2013 season, his 17th year in the NFL — despite previously being “95 percent” sure that 2012 would be his last season.

“I’m happy to say that after speaking with my family, I’m coming back,” Gonzalez said in a series of tweets on Tuesday.

“The lure of being on such a great team and organization, along with unbelievable fan support was too good to pass up.

“We have a great shot to get to the Super Bowl, RISE UP ATLANTA!”

Gonzo is the latest — but not the only and surely not the last — high-profile athlete to have one foot out the door before pivoting back to the pros for another run. These are the top 10 athletes to “unretire,” in order of the success they had upon their respective returns.

1. Michael Jordan
Retired: 1993, 1998, 2003
Unretired: 1995, 2001


“I’m back.”

His Airness uttered the most famous comeback line ever in 1995, when Jordan returned to the NBA following the first of three retirements. After playing minor league baseball in the Chicago White Sox organization, MJ jumped back onto the court to lead the Chicago Bulls to three more NBA championships and the greatest single-season record (72–10) in history.

Jordan walked away from the game again after hitting the championship-clinching final shot in the 1998 NBA Finals. But MJ couldn’t stay away, so he unretired again in 2001, playing two seasons with the Washington Wizards before finally retiring — for the final time? — as a 40-year-old.

“One day you may look up and see me playing a game at 50,” Jordan said during his infamous Hall of Fame induction speech in 2009. “Don’t laugh.”

2. George Foreman
Retired: 1977, 1997
Unretired: 1987


Following a life-altering, near-death experience in a loss to Jimmy Young in Puerto Rico, Foreman took a decade off before making an historic comeback at 38 years old. The former champ more than held his own, going a full 12 rounds with Evander Holyfield as a 42-year-old in 1991 and becoming the oldest heavyweight champion in history after knocking out Michael Moorer as a 45-year, 299-day-old 250-plus-pounder in 1994.

3. Brett Favre
Retired: 2006 (kind of), 2008 (sort of), 2009 (maybe), 2011 (definitely)
Unretired: 2007, 2008, 2009


The undisputed king of the fake retirement, Favre became synonymous with indecisiveness to the point where Super Bowl commercials mocked his inability to make up his mind. Favre’s emotional final press conference as a Packer in 2008 was followed by a change of heart and a trade to the Jets. A sex scandal and retirement later, Favre was off to play for the Vikings, where he had one of his best seasons ever as a 40-year-old before being knocked out of the game for good.


4. Floyd Mayweather
Retired: 2006, 2008
Unretired: 2007, 2009


“Money” Mayweather returned to the ring in 2007 for a cool $25 million to fight Oscar De La Hoya — in a fight that set a new record for most pay-per-view purchases in boxing history, as 2.4 million households paid the price. Then, in 2008, Mayweather canceled a lucrative rematch with De La Hoya and “decided to permanently retire from boxing.” Floyd’s fought four times since, making an estimated $100-million-plus over that stretch. Imagine how much cash Mayweather could bag if he fought Manny Pacquiao?

5. Randall Cunningham
Retired: 1995, 2001
Unretired: 1997


One of the most exciting dual-threat quarterbacks of all-time, Cunningham retired as the scrambling Tecmo Bowl legend “QB Eagles,” then returned to post arguably his finest season in the NFL — throwing for 3,704 yards, 34 TDs and a 106.0 passer rating for the 15–1 Vikings in 1998.

6. Roger Clemens
Retired: 2003, 2006, 2007
Unretired: 2004, 2007, 2012


Just last season, a 50-year-old Rocket was pitching in the Independent League for the Sugar Land Skeeters, sparking speculation that the seven-time Cy Young Award winner would pitch again for MLB’s Houston Astros. Clemens was the ace of the short season, arriving in midseason form — at midseason — in his early-to-mid-40s for both the Astros and New York Yankees.

7. Mario Lemieux
Retired: 1997, 2006
Unretired: 2000


Super Mario retired due to back problems and a Hodgkin’s lymphoma diagnosis before throwing his hat back on the ice in December 2000. Following a 44-month retirement, Lemieux joined Gordie Howe and Guy Lafeur as the third Hall of Famer to play after being inducted. Lemieux won a gold medal as the captain of Team Canada at both the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City and 2004 World Cup of Hockey.

8. Mark Martin
Retired: 2006
Unretired: 2009


True, the ageless wonder never left the NASCAR track. But Martin did take a last lap in 2006, his supposed final season running a full-time schedule. Three years later, Martin was a five-time winner and Cup runner-up while racing full 36-race slate for the top team in the business, Hendrick Motorsports. Martin only ran 24 races last season and there is speculation that this will be the 54-year-old’s final race to the finish. But after a third-place finish at this year’s Daytona 500, it’s hard to believe Martin is going to park his car.

9. Pele
Retired: 1972, 1977
Unretired: 1975


A living legend, Pele stopped playing full-time for his Brazilian club Santos in 1972. The three-time World Cup champion came out of his quasi-retirement to play for the New York Cosmos in 1975, however, instantly becoming the face of the upstart NASL. Fittingly, Pele went out in style in an exhibition match between Santos and Cosmos on ABC’s Wide World of Sports in 1977.

10. Sugar Ray Leonard
Retired: 1982, 1987, 1991, 1997
Unretired: 1984, 1988, 1991, 1996


A detached retina started a string of retirement-comebacks for Sugar Ray, who won the WBC middleweight title belt from Marvin Hagler in 1987 to highlight his many moves in and out of the ring. His last few bouts had mixed results, as he defeated Roberto Duran to take a 2–1 career lead over the Panamanian in 1989, then lost to Terry Norris in 1991 and suffered a TKO to Hector Camacho as a 40-year-old in 1997.

11. Deion Sanders
Retired: 2000, 2005
Unretired: 2004


At 37 years old, Prime Time returned to the gridiron to team up with good buddies Ray Lewis and Ed Reed as a member of the Baltimore Ravens. Once the fastest man in the NFL, Deion wore No. 37 to remind opponents just how old he was. In two seasons, Sanders hauled in five INTs for 144 yards and his ninth career pick-six.

12. Ricky Williams
Retired: 2004, 2011
Unretired: 2005


After leading the NFL in carries in back-to-back seasons and failing a few drug tests, Ricky went up in smoke — retiring from football after earning both an NFL rushing title and Heisman Trophy. Williams served a suspension, studied yoga and played a little ball in Canada before returning to the league, where he posted an 1,100-yard, 11-TD season in 2009 but never regained his All-Pro pre-retirement form.

13. Ryne Sandberg
Retired: 1994, 1997
Unretired: 1996


After struggling to stay healthy and hitting a combined 14 home runs during the 1993 and 1994 seasons, Sandberg hung up his spikes and sat out the 1995 season. The 1984 NL MVP returned in 1996, however, hitting 25 HRs and 92 RBIs as a 36-year-old in 1996 and taking one last trot around the bases in 1997 before retiring — for good this time.

14. Magic Johnson
Retired: 1991, 1996
Unretired: 1996


After retiring from the NBA due to HIV in 1991, Magic was named MVP of the 1992 NBA All-Star Game and won a gold medal as a member of the Dream Team at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona. But he didn’t officially return to the NBA until 1996, when Johnson played 32 games, primarily as a power forward, averaging career lows in points (14.6 ppg), rebounds (5.7 rpg) and assists (6.9 apg).

15. Justine Henin
Retired: 2008, 2011
Unretired: 2010


A seven-time Grand Slam champion, Henin retired while ranked No. 1 in the world and set to return to the French Open, where she was the three-time defending champion heading into the 2008 event. She returned to the courts in 2010, but a brutal elbow injury suffered at Wimbledon derailed the comeback attempt and ended a brilliant career.

16. Lance Armstrong
Retired: 2005, 2011
Unretired: 2009


The seven-time Tour de France winner — results that have since been voided due to a steroid scandal that finally caught up with the yellow-bellied yellow jersey-wearing cyclist and cancer survivor — probably wishes he hadn’t come back in 2009. After finishing third and 23rd in the 2009 and 2010 Tours de France, Armstrong peddled away from the sport in 2011 but ultimately couldn’t outrace his past.

17. Reggie White
Retired: 1999, 2001
Unretired: 2000


The Minister of Defense played 13 consecutive Pro Bowl seasons with the Eagles and Packers before retiring following the 1998 season. The 2000’s were not as kind to the gentle giant, as White managed a career-low 5.5 sacks — just the third single-digit sack total of his NFL career — during his solo season with the Panthers.

18. Bjorn Borg
Retired: 1983, 1993
Unretired: 1991


The 11-time Grand Slam winner grew his hair out long like the old days and grabbed a wooden racket nearly a full decade after leaving the courts. But the Swede was ill-prepared for the comeback, failing to win a single set in his first nine matches back.

19. Bob Cousy
Retired: 1963, 1970
Unretired: 1970


The Houdini of the Hardwood spiked ticket sales in Cincinnati as a 41-year-old player-coach, suiting up for seven games at the end of the 1970 season — averaging an un-Cousy-like 0.7 points and 1.4 assists while sharing the court with legends such as Oscar Robertson and Jerry Lucas.

20. Muhammad Ali
Retired: 1979, 1981
Unretired: 1980


Two of Ali’s five career losses came during a comeback effort that, in hindsight, may have contributed to the current physical state of the boxing icon who famously could “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee” during his prime. Back-to-back losses to Larry Holmes and Trevor Berbick proved disastrous in both the short and long term for Ali.

Teaser:
<p> 20 Athletes Who Retired Then Unretired, including Michael Jordan, Brett Favre, George Foreman, Roger Clemens, Muhammad Ali, Floyd Mayweather, Mark Martin, Sugar Ray Leonard, Deion Sanders, Reggie White, Ryne Sandberg, Randall Cunningham, Mario Lemieux, Lance Armstrong, Bob Cousy, Bjorn Borg, Pele, Ricky Williams, Magic Johnson and Justine Hennin.</p>
Post date: Thursday, March 14, 2013 - 17:45
Path: /mlb/top-20-mlb-prospects-world-baseball-classic
Body:

The 2013 World Baseball Classic starts March 2, with round robin pool play getting the party started for the 16-team international tournament won by Japan in both 2006 and ’09. The championship round runs from March 17-19 at AT&T Park in San Francisco. Until then, many of the world’s top players will be going head-to-head from Tokyo to Miami.

Here’s a rundown of the top 20 MLB prospects playing in the WBC this time around.


Top 10 WBC Prime Prospects
These twentysomethings are players who are either working their way up an MLB farm system or making big enough waves internationally that they could make the jump to the bigs sooner rather than later.

Player, Pos., Country
Ht., Wt., Team, Age
2012 Statistics


1. Jose Abreu, 1B, Cuba
6-2, 258, Cienfuegos, 26
Cuban NL: .394, 35 HR, 99 RBI, 1.379 OPS


The Cuban slugger’s combination of plate discipline and power have drawn comparisons to both Miguel Cabrera and Barry Bonds. If his 2011-12 season wasn’t awesome enough, his age 24 year in 2010-11 produced a .453 average, 33 HR and a 1.583 OPS. Abreu has been hyped as the “best offensive weapon on the planet.”

2. Xander Bogaerts, SS, Netherlands
6-3, 185, Boston Red Sox, 20
A-AA: .307, 20 HR, 81 RBI, .896 OPS


The Red Sox top prospect is the most exciting shortstop the farm system has seen since Hanley Ramirez. The X-man leads a loaded Dutch lineup that also includes Andrelton Simmons and Jonathan Schoop as well as veteran Andruw Jones.

3. Jameson Taillon, RHP, Canada
6-6, 225, Pittsburgh Pirates, 21
A-AA: 9–8, 3.55 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 116-142 K-IP


The No. 2 overall pick in the 2010 MLB Draft, Taillon is one of the Pirates’ co-aces of the future, along with 2011 No. 1 overall pick Gerrit Cole.

4. Masahiro Tanaka, RHP, Japan
6-2, 205, Rakuten, 24
JPPL: 10–4, 1.87 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 169-173 K-IP


Now that Yu Darvish is stateside, Tanaka is the ace of the Land of the Rising Sun. His 2012 season was a down year compared to 2011, when Tanaka went 19–5 with a 1.27 ERA, 0.875 WHIP and 241 strikeouts in 226.1 innings.

5. Alfredo Despaigne, OF, Cuba
5-8, 214, Granma, 26
Cuban NL: .326, 36 HR, 105 RBI


Another Cuban power hitter, the diminutive Despaigne homered off Stephen Strasburg in the 2008 Olympics and has twice set the HR record in Cuba — with 32 in 2008-09 and then 36 jacks in 2011-12, breaking the record held by last year’s AL Rookie of the Year runner up Yoenis Cespedes.

6. Jonathan Schoop, 3B, Netherlands
6-1, 195, Baltimore Orioles, 21
AA: .245, 14 HR, 56 RBI, .710 OPS


Schoop can scoop anywhere in the infield, providing dynamic defense from short, second or third. That versatility will come in handy for Holland.

7. Andre Rienzo, RHP, Brazil
6-3, 190, Chicago White Sox, 24
A-AA-AAA: 7–3, 2.53 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 113-103.1 K-IP


The ace of Barry Larkin’s Brazilian beisbol club has pitched well since being suspended 50 games for a positive PED test.

8. Jose Berrios, RHP, Puerto Rico
6-0, 187, Minnesota Twins, 18
RK: 3–0, 1.17 ERA, 0.62 WHIP, 49-30.2 K-IP


A teenage Puerto Rican prodigy who is mature for his age, Berrios those BBs over the plate.

9. Kenta Maeda, RHP, Japan
6-0, 161, Hiroshima, 24
JPCL: 14–7, 1.53 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, 171-206.1 K-IP


Japan’s other ace, Maeda has a three-quarter delivery and excellent command of the strike zone.

10. Hayato Sakamoto, SS, Japan
6-1, 176, Yomiuri, 24
JPCL: .311, 14 HR, 69 RBI, 16 SB, .815 OPS


Bigger and stronger than Kaz Matsui, Japan’s best shortstop has downplayed his interest in MLB.


Next 10 WBC Prospects
Not quite in their prime, these prospects are either too old, too young or unlikely to defect or post.

11. Phillippe Aumont, RHP, Canada
6-7, 260, Philadelphia Phillies, 24

Potential closer of the future pitched 14.2 innings with a 3.68 ERA for the Phils last season.

12. Yulieski Gourriel, 3B, Cuba
6-0, 196, Sancti Spiritus, 28

Son of former National Team star, Lourdes, has been called the “Cuban Derek Jeter” but is unlikely to defect.

13. Frederich Cepeda, OF-DH, Cuba
5-10, 201, Sancti Spiritus, 32

One of the Cuban mainstays, Cepeda hit .500 with three HRs in 6 games and 24 AB in the 2009 WBC.

14. Alexei Bell, OF, Cuba
5-8, 187, Santiago, 29

Another usual suspect on Cuba’s National Team, Bell was the first player to hit 30 HR and 100 RBI in Cuba.

15. Seung-Yeop Lee, 1B, Korea
6-0, 210, Samsung, 36

“The Lion King” has still got it, crushing for .307, 21 HR, 85 RBI and a .966 OPS in Korea last season.

16. Shinnosuke Abe, C, Japan
5-11, 214, Yomiuri, 33

The big-hitting backstop mashed .340, 27 HR, 104 RBI and a .994 OPS in Japan last season.

17. Jen-Ho Tseng, RHP, Chinese Taipei
6-1, 198, Sanmin Senior High School, 18

Wanting to sign with an MLB team as soon as he can, Tseng’s game will be on display at the WBC.

18. Erisbel “Barbaro” Arruebarruena, SS, Cuba
6-0, 198, Cienfuegos, 22

A slick-fielding newbie to Team Cuba, “Barbaro” is a mystery man who could have baseball abuzz soon enough.

19. Tae-Kyun Kim, 1B, Korea
6-0, 220, Chiba Lotte, 30

A big hitter who shined in the 2009 WBC but has slipped of late, jumping from Korea to Japan professionally.

20. Kang Jung-Ho, SS, Korea
6-0, 180, Hyundai, 25

One of Korea’s rising stars for many years, Jung-Ho has come into his own and should shine in the WBC.


WBC Hall of Fame Five
These WBC alums were relative unknowns who have since evolved into high-paid MLB stars.

Yu Darvish, RHP, Japan
6-5, 216, Texas Rangers, 26
MLB: 16–9, 3.90 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 221-191.1 K-IP

Served as the lights out closer on Japan’s second straight WBC championship team.

Aroldis Chapman, LHP, Cuba
6-4, 205, Cincinnati Reds, 25
MLB: 5–5, 1.51 ERA, 0.81 WHIP, 38 SV, 122-71.2 K-IP

An erratic yet charismatic lefty for Cuba was one of the top closer’s in MLB last year.

Yoenis Cespedes, OF, Cuba
5-10, 210, Oakland A’s, 27
MLB: .292, 23 HR, 82 RBI, 16 SB, .861 OPS

A five-tool quick-twitch outfielder who carried the A’s to a longshot playoff berth.

Norichika Aoki, OF, Japan
5-9, 176, Milwaukee Brewers, 31
MLB: .288, 10 HR, 50 RBI, 30 SB

Japan’s best outfielder since Ichiro has not been a star but has been serviceable.

Hyun-Jin Ryu, LHP, Korea
6-2, 255, Los Angeles Dodgers, 25

The rising MLB rookie was a horse for Korea’s gold medal-winning 2008 Olympic team.
 

Teaser:
<p> Top 20 MLB Prospects in World Baseball Classic, including Cuba's Jose Abreu, Netherlands' Xander Bogaerts, Canada's Jameson Taillon, Japan's Masahiro Tanaka, Cuba's Alfredo Despaigne, Netherlands' Jonathan Schoop, Brazil's Andre Rienzo, Puerto Rico's Jose Berrios, Japan's Kenta Maeda, Japan's Hayato Sakamoto, Canada's Phillippe Aumont, Cuba's Yulieski Gourriel and Korea's Seung-Yeop Lee.</p>
Post date: Friday, March 1, 2013 - 14:23
Path: /nfl/10-best-performances-nfl-scouting-combine
Body:

Millions of dollars were made at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, where the top prospects in the 2013 NFL Draft ran, jumped, lifted and interviewed in the most important job interview of their lives. These are the 10 biggest money-makers with the best performances at this year’s Combine.



1. Barkevious Mingo, DE, LSU
As expected, “KeKe” was on another level in shorts and a cutoff at the Combine. An “Underwear Olympics” gold medalist, Mingo (6’4”, 241) ran a 4.58 in the 40, skied for a 37” vertical and exploded for a 10’8” broad jump. The long and lean Bayou Bengal is a boom or bust prospect who could become a beast off the edge as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme.

2. Lane Johnson, LT, Oklahoma
A high school quarterback turned tight end turned high-rising first-round potential franchise left tackle, L.J. was arguably the most impressive athlete in Indianapolis. The 6’6”, 303-pound dancing bear had 35 1/4” arms and 10 1/8” hands, ran a 4.72 in the 40, had 28 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press, a 34” vertical and 9’10” broad jump.

3. Ziggy Ansah, DE, BYU
The Ghana native is a raw athlete who possesses arguably more untapped potential than any other pass-rushing prospect in this year’s class. At 6’5” and 271 pounds, Ansah ran a 4.63 in the 40 and had a 4.26 in the 20-yard shuttle, while also posting a 34.5” vertical and 9’10” broad jump.

4. Margus Hunt, DE, SMU
The “Eastern Block” from Estonia is a giant at 6’8” and 277 pounds. But he’s also a freakish athlete who posted a Combine-best 38 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press, ran an eye-popping 4.60 in the 40, skied for a 34.5” vertical and 10’1” broad jump.

5. Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia
The mini-Mountaineer weighed in at just 5’8” and 174 pounds but showed off blistering speed, running a 4.34 in the 40-yard dash — the second-fastest time of the Combine, behind Texas wideout Marquise Goodwin’s 4.27.



6. Jonathan Cooper, OG, North Carolina
Carolina’s Cooper looked better in shorts than did his top guard competition, Alabama’s Chance Warmack. The big fella from Chapel Hill posted a powerful 35 reps of 225 on the bench and ran a 5.07 in the 40-yard dash — nearly a half-second faster than Warmack’s labored 5.49 in the 40.

7. Desmond Trufant, CB, Washington
In line to become the third Trufant brother to play on Sundays, Desmond helped his draft stock look more like Marcus (No. 11 pick in 2003) than Isaiah (Undrafted in 2006). The youngest Trufant ran a 4.38 in the 40, posted a 37.5” vertical, 10’5” broad jump and a respectable 16 reps of 225 for a 6’0”, 190-pounder cover corner.

8. Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State
FSU’s latest elite cornerback prospect, the X-man showed elite explosiveness with a 40.5” vertical leap and an unbelievable 11’ broad jump, while also displaying a size-speed combination worthy of a first-round pick — running a 4.43 in the 40-yard dash at 6’1” and 210 pounds.

9. Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee
A height-weight-speed extraordinaire, Patterson stood tall at the Combine, running a 4.42 at 6’2” and 216 pounds. The one-and-done Volunteer and former JUCO star also had a 37” vertical and 10’8” broad jump en route to establishing himself as the top receiver in this year’s draft.

10. Tyler Eifert, TE, Notre Dame
If the Golden Domer wasn’t already the top tight end prospect in the Class of 2013, he certainly is after putting on a show in Indy — running a 4.68 in the 40, ripping off 22 reps of 225, leaping for a 35.5” vertical and 9’11” broad jump, and slashing his way to a 4.32 in the 20-yard shuttle and 11.52 in the 60-yard shuttle.

 

Teaser:
<p> 10 Best Performances at the NFL Scouting Combine, including LSU's Barkevious Mingo, Oklahoma's Lane Johnson, BYU's Ziggy Ansah, SMU's Margus Hunt, West Virginia's Tavon Austin, North Carolina's Jonathan Cooper, Washington's Desmond Trufant, Florida State's Xavier Rhodes, Tennessee's Cordarrelle Patterson and Notre Dame's Tyler Eifert.</p>
Post date: Wednesday, February 27, 2013 - 12:15
All taxonomy terms: Tyrann Mathieu, NFL
Path: /nfl/tyrann-mathieu-draft-stock-rising-nfl-combine
Body:

"Honey Badger" don’t care. But Tyrann Mathieu has made an effort to show his commitment to football during the NFL Scouting Combine.

The former LSU cornerback and Heisman Trophy finalist has put his old persona behind him and attempted a fresh start after being suspended for the 2012 season due to various failed drug tests and arrests.

“My best friend right now is honesty,” said Mathieu. “I’m trying to be as open as possible because I want to rebuild that trust.”

The 5’9”, 186-pound nickelback and return specialist ran a 4.50 in the 40-yard dash and posted a 34” vertical leap. Those were more than respectable numbers following a disappointing four-rep effort on the 225-pound bench press — which tied for worst among defensive backs.

Mathieu is still rocking his bleach-blonde Mohawk, and he wants NFL decision makers to know he is still the same playmaker who had six forced fumbles, five fumble recoveries, two INTs and two punt return TDs as a Bednarik Award-winning, SEC Defensive Player of the Year, first-team All-America cornerback and return specialist as a sophomore at LSU.

At the same time, he wants to make it clear that he’s not the same person he was when he was the seemingly too-big-to-fail “Honey Badger” character. He’s a changed man.

“I’ve been to rehab. I’ve been to counseling. I have a sponsor,” said Mathieu. “I’m surrounding myself with people who want to do what I want to do, which is be a football player. To go back down that road? Not a chance in the world. Not a chance in this lifetime.

“I’ve got to be the best person that Tyrann can be.”
 

Teaser:
<p> Former LSU cornerback and Heisman Trophy finalist Tyrann Mathieu had only four reps of 225 pounds on the bench press but he ran a 4.50 in the 40-yard dash and interview well at the NFL Scouting Combine, improving his draft stock in the process.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, February 26, 2013 - 13:41
Path: /nfl/star-lotulelei-heart-condition-hurts-draft-stock
Body:

Utah defensive tackle Star Lotulelei was not allowed to work out at the NFL Scouting Combine due to a heart condition that was discovered during his pre-draft medical screening in Indianapolis.

Lotulelei will return to Salt Lake City for a second opinion after his most recent echocardiogram showed a low Ejection Fraction, with his left ventricle pumping at a rate less than the normal 55-to-70 percent efficiency, according to reports.

Once thought to be a lock top-10 pick — and even a viable candidate to go No. 1 overall to the Kansas City Chiefs — Lotulelei’s heart condition could result in a steep fall down draft boards.

The best-case scenario is that the irregularity in heartbeat was caused by dehydration or possibly rapid weight loss experienced by Lotulelei, who weighed in at 311 pounds in Indianapolis. The worst-case scenario is a serious medical condition that could pose a long-term health risk.

Lotulelei is just the latest elite prospect in the Class of 2013 to experience a serious setback leading up to the April 25-27 NFL Draft. In addition to Lotulelei (heart), Georgia outside linebacker Jarvis Jones (neck), USC quarterback Matt Barkley (right arm), Georgia inside linebacker Alec Ogletree (DUI) and Notre Dame inside linebacker Manti Te’o (Catfish) all have serious red flags.
 

Teaser:
<p> Utah defensive tackle Star Lotulelei was not allowed to work out at the NFL Scouting Combine after it was discovered that he has a heart condition.</p>
Post date: Monday, February 25, 2013 - 14:15
Path: /nfl/geno-smith-makes-case-be-kansas-city-chiefs%E2%80%99-no-1-pick
Body:

West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith entered the NFL Scouting Combine already perceived as the best passer in a clustered Class of 2013 — a group of signal-callers that includes USC’s Matt Barkley, NC State’s Mike Glennon, Florida State’s E.J. Manuel, Arkansas’ Tyler Wilson, Oklahoma’s Landry Jones, Syracuse’s Ryan Nassib and Tennessee’s Tyler Bray.

After running an official 4.59 in the 40-yard dash, Smith is an even more intriguing player to watch. An added athletic dimension to the pocket passer only increases the value of the Mountaineer. Smith’s time was the fastest time among quarterbacks, as Manuel (4.65) and Wilson (4.95) were the only aforementioned passers to break the five-second mark.

Although Smith’s 4.59 isn’t challenging the record-setting 4.41 run by Robert Griffin III before being picked No. 2 overall by the Washington Redskins last year, it is the same time Cam Newton ran two years ago before going No. 1 overall to the Carolina Panthers.

Smith was not only fast but explosive — posting an impressive 33.5” vertical leap and 10’4” broad jump in Indianapolis. The 6’2”, 218-pounder also spun the ball well as a throwing quarterback during position drills with the receivers. The only potential downside of the Combine experience for Smith has been his hand measurement of 9 ¼” — compared to Barkley’s 10 1/8” and Manuel’s 10 3/8” hands.

Still, Smith has shown enough to be considered a viable option for coach Andy Reid and the Kansas City Chiefs at No. 1 overall as well as several other quarterback-starved teams picking in the top-10 — including the Jacksonville Jaguars (No. 2), Oakland Raiders (3), Cleveland Browns (6), Arizona Cardinals (7), Buffalo Bills (8) and New York Jets (9).

One thing is certain, Smith made himself millions of dollars by competing on the biggest stage in NFL scouting. In fact, running, jumping and throwing at the Combine may have secured Smith the top spot in the NFL Draft on April 25.
 

Teaser:
<p> West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith ran a 4.59 in the 40-yard dash and threw the ball well at the NFL Scouting Combine, making his case to be the No. 1 overall pick of coach Andy Reid and the Kansas City Chiefs at the NFL Draft on April 25.</p>
Post date: Sunday, February 24, 2013 - 15:39

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