Articles By Rich Mcvey

All taxonomy terms: College Football, Overtime
Path: /college-football/college-football-fields-gets-social
Body:

The newest trend on college football fields is the use of Twitter hashtags. Three teams have added hashtags to their field in recent times. The newest is the University of Arkansas, who joins Michigan and Mississippi State. Check them out below. (It's hard to believe universities would be so self-serving. By the way, follow us @AthlonSports.)

The University of Arkansas just added #GOHOGS to Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium in time for their spring game.

 

Mississippi State painted #HAILSTATE in an end zone during a game against Mississippi last fall.

 

Michigan painted the hashtag #GOBLUE in two places on the field for its annual spring football scrimmage.

Teaser:
<p> Arkansas, Michigan and Mississippi State add field hashtags</p>
Post date: Friday, April 20, 2012 - 07:02
All taxonomy terms: Dallas Cowboys, NFL, News
Path: /nfl/2012-dallas-cowboys-schedule
Body:

The 2012 NFL schedule for the Dallas Cowboys has been released. Here's a weekly look that includes dates, times and television information.

Week 1—Sept. 5: @ New York Giants, 8:30 p.m. ET, NBC

Week 2—Sept. 16: @ Seattle Seahawks, 4:05 p.m. ET, Fox

Week 3—Sept. 23: Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 1 p.m. ET, Fox

Week 4—Oct. 1: Chicago Bears, 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN

Week 5—Oct. 7: BYE WEEK

Week 6—Oct. 14: @ Baltimore Ravens, 1 p.m. ET, Fox

Week 7—Oct. 21: @ Carolina Panthers, 1 p.m. ET, Fox

Week 8—Oct. 28: New York Giants, 4:15 p.m. ET, Fox

Week 9—Nov. 4: @ Atlanta Falcons, 8:20 p.m. ET, NBC

Week 10—Nov. 11: @ Philadelphia Eagles, 4:15 p.m. ET, Fox

Week 11—Nov. 18: Cleveland Browns, 1 p.m. ET, CBS

Week 12—Nov. 22: Washington Redskins, 4:15 p.m. ET, Fox

Week 13—Dec. 2: Philadelphia Eagles, 8:20 p.m. ET, NBC

Week 14—Dec. 9: @ Cincinnati Bengals, 1 p.m. ET, Fox

Week 15—Dec. 16: Pittsburgh Steelers, 4:15 p.m. ET, CBS

Week 16—Dec. 23: New Orleans Saints, 1 p.m. ET, Fox

Week 17—Dec. 30: @ Washington Redskins, 1 p.m. ET, Fox

Teaser:
<p> The 2012 NFL schedule for the Dallas Cowboys.</p>
Post date: Wednesday, April 18, 2012 - 10:05
All taxonomy terms: Philadelphia Eagles, NFL, News
Path: /nfl/philadelphia-eagles-2012-schedule
Body:

The 2012 NFL schedule for the Philadelphia Eagles has been released. Here's a weekly look that includes dates, times and television information for football fans.
 

Week 1—9/9: @Cleveland Browns 1 p.m. ET, FOX
 

Week 2—9/16: Baltimore Ravens 1 p.m. ET, CBS
 

Week 3—9/23: @ Arizona Cardinals 4:05 p.m. ET, FOX
 

Week 4—9/30: New York Giants 8:20 p.m. ET, NBC
 

Week 5—10/7: @ Pittsburgh Steelers 1 p.m. ET, FOX
 

Week 6—10/14: Detroit Lions 1 p.m. ET, FOX
 

Week 7—BYE
 

Week 8—10/28: Atlanta Falcons 1 p.m. ET, FOX
 

Week 9—11/5: @ New Orleans Saints 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
 

Week 10—11/11: Dallas Cowboys 4:15 p.m. ET, FOX
 

Week 11—11/18: @ Washington Redskins 1  p.m. ET, FOX
 

Week 12—11/26: Carolina Panthers. 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
 

Week 13—12/2: @ Dallas Cowboys 8:20 p.m. ET, NBC
 

Week 14—12/9: @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers 1 p.m. ET, FOX
 

Week 15—12/13: Cincinnati Bengals 8:20 p.m. ET, NFL Network
 

Week 16—12/23: Washington Redskins 1 p.m. ET, FOX
 

Week 17—12/30: @ New York Giants 1 p.m. ET, FOX

Teaser:
<p> The 2012 NFL schedule for the Philadelphia Eagles has been released.</p>
Post date: Wednesday, April 18, 2012 - 07:48
All taxonomy terms: Washington Redskins, NFL, News
Path: /nfl/washington-redskins-2012-schedule
Body:

The 2012 NFL schedule for the Washington Redskins has been released. Here's a weekly look that includes dates, times and television information.
 

Week 1—9/9: @ New Orleans Saints, 1 p.m. ET, FOX
 

Week 29/16: @ St. Louis Rams, 4:05 p.m. ET, FOX
 

Week 39/23: Cincinnati Bengals, 1 p.m. ET, CBS
 

Week 49/30: @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 4:15 p.m. ET, FOX
 

Week 510/7: Atlanta Falcons, 1 p.m. ET, FOX
 

Week 610/14: Minnesota Vikings, 4:15 p.m. ET, FOX
 

Week 710/21: @ New York Giants, 1 p.m. ET, FOX
 

Week 810/28: @ Pittsburgh Steelers, 1 p.m. ET, FOX
 

Week 911/4: Carolina Panthers, 1 p.m. ET, FOX
 

Week 10: BYE WEEK
 

Week 1111/18: Philadelphia Eagles, 1 p.m. ET, FOX
 

Week 1211/22: @ Dallas Cowboys, 4:15 p.m. ET, FOX
 

Week 1312/3: New York Giants, 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
 

Week 1412/9: Baltimore Ravens, 1 p.m. ET, CBS
 

Week 1512/16: @ Cleveland Browns, 1 p.m. ET, FOX
 

Week 1612/23: @ Philadelphia Eagles, 1 p.m. ET, FOX
 

Week 1712/30: Dallas Cowboys, 1 ET, FOX

Teaser:
<p> The 2012 NFL schedule for the <strong>Washington Redskins</strong></p>
Post date: Tuesday, April 17, 2012 - 21:03
All taxonomy terms: New York Giants, NFL, News
Path: /nfl/new-york-giants-2012-schedule
Body:

The 2012 NFL schedule for the New York Giants has been released. Here's a weekly look that includes dates, times and television information.


Week 1—9/5: Dallas Cowboys 8:30 p.m. ET, NBC
 

Week 2—9/16: Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 1 p.m. ET, FOX
 

Week 3—9/20: @ Carolina Panthers, 8:20 p.m. ET, NFL Network
 

Week 4—9/30: @ Philadelphia Eagles, 8:20 p.m. ET, NBC
 

Week 5—10/7: Cleveland Browns, 1 p.m. ET, CBS
 

Week 6—10/14: @ San Francisco 49ers, 4:15 p.m. ET, FOX
 

Week 7—10/21: Washington Redskins, 1 p.m. ET, FOX
 

Week 8—10/28: @ Dallas Cowboys, 4:15 p.m. ET, FOX
 

Week 9—11/4: Pittsburgh Steelers, 4:15 p.m. ET CBS
 

Week 10—11/11: @ Cincinnati Bengals, 1 p.m. ET, FOX
 

Week 11Bye Week
 

Week 12—11/25: Green Bay Packers, 8:20 p.m. ET, NBC
 

Week 13—12/3: @Washington Redskins, 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
 

Week 14—12/9: New Orleans Saints, 4:15 p.m. ET FOX
 

Week 15—12/16: @Atlanta Falcons, 1 p.m. ET, FOX
 

Week 16—12/23: @ Baltimore Ravens, 1 p.m. ET, FOX
 

Week 17—12/30: Philadelphia Eagles, 1 p.m. EST, FOX

Teaser:
<p> The 2012 NFL schedule for the&nbsp;<strong>New York Giants</strong>&nbsp;has been released.&nbsp;</p>
Post date: Tuesday, April 17, 2012 - 20:34
All taxonomy terms: Overtime
Path: /overtime/bobby-petrino-motorcyle-club-t-shirt
Body:

Last week Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino got in hot water after he wrecked his motorcycle and didn't mention to school officials that he had a hot 25-year-old blonde riding on the back. The blonde had been hired by Petrino to work at the university and was also having an "inappropriate relationship" with the old, married ball coach.

To mark the occasion of massive stupidity/awesomeness, someone has created a T-shirt. The front says, "Bobby Petrino Motorcyle Club" and the back says "Fayetteville, AR — For Now," noting the likelihood that Petrino could be out of a job.

Personally, we think the back should say, "If you can read this, the blonde fell off." T-shirts are below, and can be bought for $32 here

Teaser:
<p> We're not sure we want to join this club.</p>
Post date: Monday, April 9, 2012 - 06:07
All taxonomy terms: Monthly
Path: /tweet-this-caption
Body:

September's Tweet This Caption (PLAY NOW)

Can you think of a funny caption for the photo above? If so, follow us on Twitter @AthlonSports, tweet a funny caption with the hashtag #athloncaption and we'll select our favorite to win a $200 Athlon Sports Collectibles gift certificate.


 

August's Tweet This Caption Winner

Congratulations to Phillip Freeman Jr. who won August's Tweet This Caption contest in Athlon Sports—the nation's largest sports magazine.

The winning caption:

Even dropping players from planes could not stop Newton & the Panthers that day.

 


July's Tweet This Caption Winner

Congratulations to Rich Nestor of Chicago who won July's Tweet This Caption contest in Athlon Sports—the nation's largest sports magazine.

The winning caption:

The side-effects of painting your football field blue


 

June's Tweet This Caption Winner

Congratulations to Phillip Thomas Duck of Red Bank, N.J., who won June's Tweet This Caption contest in Athlon Sports—the nation's largest sports magazine.

The winning caption:

Who would've known Mitt Romney had such bad seats...

 

 


 

May's Tweet This Caption Winner

Congratulations to Paul Matthies of Gatesville, Texas, who won May's Tweet This Caption contest in Athlon Sports—the nation's largest sports magazine.

The winning caption:

"Say it ain't so, Shirtless Joe!"

 


 

April's Tweet This Caption Winner

Congratulations to Dedric Boys of Chicago, who won April's Tweet This Caption contest in Athlon Sports—the nation's largest sports magazine.

The winning caption:

"My head's just not in the game."

 


March's Tweet This Caption Winner

Congratulations to Brad Hughes of Jonesboro, Ark., who won March's Tweet This Caption contest in Athlon Sports—the nation's largest sports magazine. 

The winning caption:

"Hey Tony, this guy said he was your father!"

Teaser:
<p> And the winner is...&nbsp;</p>
Post date: Thursday, April 5, 2012 - 13:41
All taxonomy terms: Overtime
Path: /overtime/gorgeous-girls-golfing-2012-masters-edition
Body:

The Masters officially kicks off today. Where else can you see a group of grown men stressing out while hitting a little round ball for days on end, all in search of a green jacket that their significant other will never let them wear in public? Still, we'll be tuned in the entire time. But to get us in the right frame of mind, we put together some of the most gorgeous girls golfing (or at least pretending to golf) that we could find on the internet. And fortunately, not one is wearing a green jacket.

Teaser:
<p> No green jacket required</p>
Post date: Wednesday, April 4, 2012 - 23:19
All taxonomy terms: Bud Cauley, Kyle Stanley, Rickie Fowler, Golf
Path: /golf/young-guns-pga-tour
Body:

Kyle Stanley had come oh-so-close. He had the 2011 John Deere Classic in his hip pocket after a final-round 66, only to ­­have Steve Stricker pick that pocket with a spectacular bunker shot on the 18th hole. And then, in even more heartbreaking fashion, Stanley saw the 2012 Farmers Insurance Open trophy slip through his fingers with a playoff loss to Brandt Snedeker. But persistence pays off, as Stanley proved with his stunning come-from-behind win at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. Behind by eight shots when the final day began, Stanley shot a stunning 65 to overtake Spencer Levin and earn his first PGA Tour win. Shot by shot on a magical Sunday, Stanley transformed his tomorrows.

“You go from a very low point to a high point,” Stanley said after the biggest day of his young career. “I’m not sure I expected to maybe recover this quickly. ... I think the biggest challenge was seeing if I could put last week behind me. I think I did.”

Stanley stands at the vanguard of young players on the verge of PGA Tour dominance, players who challenge fairways and attack flags with style and confidence. 

A former ACC Player of the Year at Clemson, the 24-year-old Stanley did everything but win last season. He had four top 10s and nine top 25s. He finished 55th on the PGA Tour money list and earned more than $1.5 million. 

There will be adjustments in 2012. Stanley lost caddie Bobby Brown, who went back to his former boss Dustin Johnson. But one thing won’t change — Stanley’s commitment to winning.

“The biggest thing is I really, really care about what I do out on the golf course,” he said, “and sometimes I care to a fault. I’ve just got to relax a little bit and trust in my preparation.”

Rickie Fowler is another of those “Young Guns” loaded for bear in 2012. Fowler already is a well-known name, with his colorful attire, his 2010 Ryder Cup appearance and his “damn the torpedoes” approach. A Walker Cup teammate to Stanley in 2007, Fowler was the PGA Tour Rookie of the Year in 2010 and became the youngest U.S. player ever to compete in the Ryder Cup. He shared some spotlight again last summer when he finished fifth at the British Open. All the notoriety and accomplishments notwithstanding, he is still chasing his first PGA Tour win. 

For the former Oklahoma State star, seeing young players like 2011 PGA Championship winner Keegan Bradley crack the shell offers inspiration. “It’s a bit of motivation for myself to kind of stand up and get my game where I want to it to be and be in contention,” Fowler, 23, said. “I feel like that’s the reason why a lot of us play, is we love being in contention and winning golf tournaments.”

Bud Cauley, 21, is another newcomer hoping to parlay a fearless game into professional success. A three-time All-American at the University of Alabama, Cauley defeated Fowler, then the No. 1-ranked amateur in the world, at the 2009 U.S. Amateur. 

Cauley turned pro after the NCAA Championships last spring and earned $735,150 in eight starts, good enough to skip Q-school and go directly to the PGA Tour. But Cauley knows that distinction simply opens the door. He has to be successful to stick around, and he is headed in the right direction with three top-30 finishes in his first three starts of 2012.

There were 14 first-time winners on the PGA Tour last season. In 2012, there could be at least three more. “I can’t speak for anyone else, but obviously with what the guys did last year, a lot of the rookies had a lot of success,” Cauley said. “You go out there and everyone has the same opportunity to win and just everyone does their own specific things in their games to try to be successful.”

As Stanley proved, for Fowler and Cauley, it’s only a matter of time.

Teaser:
<p> A look at Kyle Stanley, Rickie Fowler and Bud Cauley</p>
Post date: Wednesday, April 4, 2012 - 11:18
All taxonomy terms: Seattle Seahawks, NFL, News
Path: /nfl/seattle-seahawks-new-uniforms-revealed
Body:

Nike, the NFL's official new apparel provider, didn't take long to shake things up. The most notable change so far being the Seattle Seahawks' new uniforms, which were revealed today, along with the rest of the league. Seattle's uniforms got the most significant revamp with new colors and styling from top to bottom. Check out more photos at the team's website.

To see all 32 new team uniforms, click here.

Teaser:
<p> Nike updates the NFL's Look.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, April 3, 2012 - 13:08
All taxonomy terms: Anthony Davis, Overtime
Path: /overtime/cbs-sports-wants-davis-take-brow
Body:

CBS Sports flashed a headline this morning mocking Kentucky sensation Anthony Davis' now famous uni-brow by proclaiming: "Take A Brow." We had to share it. The screenshot is below.

Teaser:
<p> CBS Sports flashed a headline this morning mocking Kentucky sensation Anthony Davis' now famous uni-brow by proclaiming: "Take A Brow."&nbsp;</p>
Post date: Tuesday, April 3, 2012 - 11:58
Path: /nascar/long-and-short-it-kasey-kahne-looking-rebound
Body:

by Dustin Long

Kasey Kahne is not panicking about the start to his season. He’s relieved, in a way, heading into this weekend’s NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Martinsville Speedway even though he’s 27th in championship standings.

Kahne feels better after a season-best 14th at Auto Club Speedway on Sunday. A poor finish might have dropped him outside the top 35 in the car owner standings, meaning he would not have been guaranteed a starting spot at Martinsville.

“I was a little worried at California,” Kahne said Tuesday afternoon. “If we had one more bad race there, we would have been fighting for a (starting) position at Martinsville, which would have been unheard of for us.”

While Kahne has not had the results in his first year with Hendrick Motorsports, his car has shown speed. That provides hope. Success will come when he can avoid trouble.

His season, so far, has been a litany of misfortune.

His Daytona 500 ended early because of a crash and he placed 29th. He hit the wall early at Phoenix and limped to a 34th-place finish. He crashed early at Bristol and finished 37th. His best finish before Sunday was 19th at Las Vegas.

Even after Sunday’s finish, Kahne wasn’t thrilled, writing on Twitter: “Pissed I ran bad. Happy my car is in one piece.”

Kahne, who started fifth at Auto Club Speedway, began sliding back in the pack shortly after the green flag flew.

“I started off really loose and was sliding around a lot and the race got over too quick,” Kahne said. “We didn’t have enough time to get the car right. By the end of it we were running probably seventh-place lap times, but we were so far behind because of all the green-flag laps. We were getting better. We had made a lot of gains. We just needed 200 laps. The rain came and we didn’t get it.”

He finished and that’s something considering his early woes.

Kahne heads to Martinsville 68 points out of 10th place in the points — the last spot guaranteed to make the Chase. A year ago, Brad Keselowski was 50 points out of 10th at this point. Keselowski fell further back during the summer and still made the Chase via the wildcard.

So there’s no reason yet for Kahne to panic.

“I’ve handled it pretty well,” he said of his struggles. “The biggest reason why is how fast our cars are and the way they feel. I think everything is there. The engines run incredibly good compared to what I have had in the past.

“I knew going in just because I was going to Hendrick Motorsports didn’t mean I was going to start winning more races. It’s still a huge team effort. There’s still a lot of things you have to do right in order to run up front and contend for those wins. It takes a little bit of time. I think we’re pretty good as a team. Hopefully, we can start running in the top 10.”

NEW FORMAT  The Sprint All-Star race, which will be held May 19 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, will have a new format this year.

The 90-lap race will be divided into five segments. The first four will be 20 laps each with the final segment 10 laps.

Gone is the 10-minute break before the final segment. Instead, there will be a mandatory pit stop — with a twist.

The winners from the first four segments will move to the front of the field and be the first four cars to enter pit road for this stop. They’ll be followed by the rest of the field. The move was made to encourage drivers to race more for a win in the previous segments.

So the winner of the first segment will enter pit road first, followed by the winner of the second segment and so on. Should there be a repeat winner of segments, the second-place finisher in that segment moves up. Thus, if a driver wins the first two segments, he’ll be the first car in pit road (for winning the first segment) and the second-place car in the second segment will be the second car on pit road.

There will once again be a fan vote to add a driver to the All-Star Race. Also, the pit crew challenge on May 17 again will determine the order teams pick their pit stall for the all-star race.

Teaser:
<p> Following a wet weekend in Southern California, Athlon Sports contributor Dustin Long takes a spin around the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.</p>
Post date: Wednesday, March 28, 2012 - 13:41
Path: /columns/horsepower-rankings/nascar-horsepower-rankings-10
Body:

by Matt Taliaferro

1. Tony Stewart  Stewart and crew chief Steve Addington already have scored two wins this season — and in only five races. Hey, wins count above all else here.

2. Greg Biffle  The points leader’s only misstep — and it was a only a small hiccup at that — was a 13th at Bristol. He’s been sixth or better in the other four events.

3. Kevin Harvick  Happy and his retooled No. 29 team have been nearly as good as Biffle. Their worst performance thus far are a pair of 11th-place runs. Otherwise, they’re seventh or better every week.

4. Jimmie Johnson  Things couldn’t look better for Johnson and Team 48. Not only have all suspensions and point penalties been rescinded, but they’re rolling through top 10s even with blown engines.

5. Matt Kenseth  Kenseth is either top 3 by day’s end or forgotten somewhere in the mid-teens. Still, this is one of a handful of teams that can win on any given weekend.

6. Brad Keselowski  See: Kenseth, Matt. The only thing that kept either from a top-10 result at Auto Club Speedway was pit road penalties and a rain-shortened event.

7. Carl Edwards  Edwards and the No. 99 gang have two fifth-place runs in the last three weeks. Inexplicably, though, this group has yet to lead a single lap all season. That needs to change.

8. Dale Earnhardt Jr.  Yes, Earnhardt is still mired in a winless skid that dates back to 2008, but top-15 finishes in every race this season — including second- and third-place runs — find him trending in the right direction.

9. Clint Bowyer  Bowyer’s solid start with the surprising Michael Waltrip Racing operation shows an average finish of 12.8 with sixth- (Vegas) and fourth-place (Bristol) runs highlighting the early spring.

Teaser:
<p> A red hot Tony Stewart tops Athlon Sports' weekly Horsepower Rankings.</p>
Post date: Wednesday, March 28, 2012 - 12:56
All taxonomy terms: crossword, Monthly
Path: /monthly/april-2012-crossword-solution
Body:
Teaser:
<p> <img alt="" src="http://ath-clients.s3.amazonaws.com/athlon/AthlonSportsAprilSolution.jpeg" /></p>
Post date: Friday, March 23, 2012 - 16:18
All taxonomy terms: NASCAR
Path: /nascar/pennell%E2%80%99s-picks-fantasy-nascar-trends-auto-club
Body:

by Jay Pennell

 
The Sprint Cup Series rolls back across the country this weekend for the fifth race of the 2012 season at Auto Club Speedway. The 2-mile D-shaped oval is situated about an hour from downtown Los Angeles, taking the stars of NASCAR to Hollywood — a far cry from last week's race nestled in the mountains of Tennessee. 
 
Not only is the area surrounding the track much different from Bristol, but the action on the track will be dramatically different, as well.
 
The Auto Club Speedway has become known for long stretches of green flag racing, with fuel mileage always a concern. Thus, finding the perfect balance on the car is key to a successful day. Watch teams closely throughout the weekend as they work on walking that fine line between loose and tight.
 
One team that should have no problem walking a fine line is this week's fantasy favorites: the No. 48 team led by driver Jimmie Johnson and crew chief Chad Knaus.
 
When it comes to ACS, Johnson is right at home — and it's not just because he's a California native.
 
In 17 career starts, Johnson has an impressive record with five wins, an average finish of 5.1, with 12 top 5s, 13 top 10s, 849 laps led and zero DNFs. 
 
Impressive to say the least. 
 
Yet more importantly for the No. 48 team, this week Hendrick Motorsports scored a huge win over NASCAR. On Tuesday, the penalties and suspensions handed down by NASCAR for unapproved C-posts in Daytona were overturned by the National Stock Car Racing Chief Appellate Officer, John Middlebrook. 
 
Now, instead of losing Knaus and car chief Ron Malec for six weeks, they will remain at the track, leading the way for the No. 48 team. In addition, with the points reduction also overturned, the five-time champion sits 11th in the series standings.
 
A proven track record, a resounding win during the week to regain points and personnel, along with an impressive start to the 2012 season (two top 5s and three top 10s in four races) has Johnson as this week's fantasy favorite.
 
Five Favorites: Jimmie Johnson, Kevin Harvick, Matt Kenseth, Greg Biffle, Tony Stewart
 
While Johnson may be this week's fantasy favorite, you may want to add Michael Waltrip Racing's Clint Bowyer to your starting roster. 
 
Although he has yet to visit Victory Lane in Fontana, Bowyer has a strong average finish of 10.6. In only 11 starts, he has score a solid seven top 10 finishes and has zero DNFs. 
 
Now driving for MWR and working with crew chief Brian Pattie, Bowyer is starting to work through the difficulties of adjusting to a new team. Despite a 30th-place finish in Phoenix, Bowyer has finished 11th or better in three of the first four races and sits eighth in points. 
 
For Pattie, the biggest thing the team needs to overcome in simple mistakes.
 
"Eliminating mistakes helps you run pretty decent — it’s a hell of a concept," he said. "We haven’t really done too much to get things going the right way. Everybody is understanding each other and Clint is understanding the cars more — and so am I. Hopefully we can keep Clint’s top-10 average at Fontana going this weekend.”
 
I expect them to do just that, leading to a solid day in the fantasy column. 
 
Five Undervalued Picks: Clint Bowyer, Jeff Gordon, Carl Edwards, Kyle Busch, Ryan Newman
 
Picking a darkhorse this weekend is more difficult than most. With many favorites in the field, choose your darkhorse driver carefully.
 
This weekend, I'm keeping my eye on Richard Childress Racing's Jeff Burton. Slated to make his 23rd career start at ACS, Burton has struggled recently on the intermediate track. In fact, the driver of the No. 31 Chevrolet has only one top 10 in last seven ACS races, that being a third in 2010. 
 
Yet, after a disappointing effort throughout the entire 2011 season, Burton is eager to get back into contention. One of the biggest issues the No. 31 team encountered last year was on the intermediate tracks. Making an effort to turn that around, RCR brought in new personnel and worked diligently to be a better team at each and every track. 
 
After recording their second top-10 finish of the year last Sunday in Bristol, Burton and his Drew Blickensderfer-led team have a bit of momentum on their side, and are looking to put their intermediate track struggles behind them this weekend.
 
"That was, without a doubt, our weakest point," Burton said, reflecting on their struggles last season. "One-and-a-half and two-mile tracks weren't RCR's strong point last season. We've worked really hard to be better on those tracks. You have to be competitive on these tracks. You can't expect to go and win the championship if you can't go to those tracks and run strong. There are just so many of them on the schedule."
 
Three Darkhorse Picks: Jeff Burton, Joey Logano, Brad Keselowski
 
Best Average Finish at Fontana (Wins):
1. Jimmie Johnson — 5.1 (5)
2. Carl Edwards  9.0 (1)
3. Matt Kenseth  9.9 (3)
4. Clint Bowyer  10.6 (0)
5. Jeff Gordon  11.2 (3)
6. Kyle Busch  12.0 (1)
7. Kurt Busch  12.9 (1)
8. Mark Martin  13.6 (1)
9. Tony Stewart  14.1 (1)
10. Kasey Kahne  14.9 (1)
 
Follow Jay on Twitter: @JayWPennell
Teaser:
<p> Jay Pennell looks at favorites and darkhorses for Sunday's race in Southern California</p>
Post date: Friday, March 23, 2012 - 10:45
All taxonomy terms: crossword, Monthly
Path: /college-basketball/march-2012-crossword-solution
Body:

Teaser:
Post date: Thursday, March 15, 2012 - 15:56
All taxonomy terms: March Madness, College Basketball
Path: /college-basketball/athlons-bracket-breakdown-players-most-popular-picks
Body:

As the hours tick down to enter Athlon's Bracket Breakdown game, we decided to give you a peek into the minds of players who've already set their brackets.

We crunched the numbers from thousands of entries to give you a look of how people are picking. Here are the results.

MOST COMMON FINAL FOUR CHOICES
1. Kentucky, Michigan State, Ohio State and North Carolina
2. Kentucky, Missouri, Ohio State and North Carolina
3. Kentucky, Michigan State, Syracuse and North Carolina
4. Kentucky, Missouri, Syracuse and North Carolina
5. Kentucky, Missouri, Florida State and North Carolina

MOST COMMON NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH-UPS
1. Kentucky and North Carolina
2. Kentucky and Kansas
3. Kentucky and Syracuse
4. Kentucky and Ohio State
5. Michigan St. and North Carolina

MOST COMMON NATIONAL CHAMPION PICKS
1. Kentucky
2. North Carolina
3. Michigan State
4. Syracuse
5. Missouri

MOST POPULAR UPSET PICKS
1. Wichita State over VCU
2. Long Beach State over New Mexico
3. Harvard over Vanderbilt
4. California over Temple

MOST COMMON LOW SEED TO WIN THE NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP PICKS
1. Texas (11 seed)
2. Colorado (11 seed)
3. Purdue (10 seed)
4. California (12 seed)
5. Ohio (13 seed)

Teaser:
<p> We reveal the consensus picks from game players.</p>
Post date: Wednesday, March 14, 2012 - 08:48
All taxonomy terms: Overtime
Path: /overtime/tournament-picks-athlon-vs-randomly-ridiculous-prognosticators
Body:

The idea is simple: take a group of seasoned sports experts (we're talking about us, by the way) and pit our knowledge of college basketball against some of the greatest prognosticators known to man. See how Athlon Sports editors stack up against a psychic, a Magic 8 Ball, a quarter, and a pooping chicken in predicting the NCAA Tournament's Elite 8, and ultimate National Champion.

Magic 8 Ball
Methodology: We named the top seed in each match-up and then asked the Magic 8 Ball if they'd win. Near the end, we named one team in the match-up and asked if they'd win. Of course, we cursed and shook the 8 Ball violently every time it told us to "Concentrate and ask again." Thoughts on the picks? Shockingly, they're not too bad.

 


Psychic Hotline
Methodology: We called a psychic hotline and spoke with Nancy, who said she was a "certified psychic." And yes, we laughed when she said it. After several minutes of her telling us she didn't know anything about basketball, we told her to "put up or shut up" on her psychic abilities and start picking some teams. Upon further reflection, we probably should have told her the names of some teams. Thoughts on the picks? We love that she kept saying Kansas over and over, but then picked the Seahawks to win it all.





A Chicken
Methodology: Uh, we know someone with a chicken. We had the chicken poop on the winning team's college logos. Surprisingly, it didn't take long. Apparently, chickens poop a lot. Thoughts on the picks? They seem like a longshot. But if they turn out right, we're buying this chicken and moving to Vegas.


 

Coin Flip
Methodology: Basically, the top seed was heads, the other was tails. Near the end, we just named one team in the match-up and said "heads they win, tails they lose." We flipped until there was a winner.

 

Athlon

Teaser:
<p> The idea is simple: take a group of seasoned sports experts (we're talking about us, by the way) and pit our skills against some of the greatest prognosticators known to man.</p>
Post date: Wednesday, March 14, 2012 - 07:08
Path: /college-basketball/ncaa-tournament-2012-athlons-bracket-cheat-sheet
Body:

So you've been pulled into your office's NCAA Tournament bracket picks game and you have no clue which teams to choose. Athlon Sports is here to help. We put together these handy cheat sheets of bracket picks—starting with the Sweet 16 on down—from three of our college basketball experts. Each editor has their own bracket picks, so you can choose one or use the cumulative knowledge of each to create your own unique picks. Either way, it will likely save you the office humilation of picking Norfolk State to win it all. 
 

Mitch Light's Picks

 

Braden Gall's Picks

 

Nathan Rush's Picks

Teaser:
<p> Athlon editors give their Sweet 16 picks and beyond.</p>
Post date: Monday, March 12, 2012 - 22:44
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball
Path: /college-basketball/bracket-breakdown-pick-60-60k
Body:

Think you've got what it takes to make the right picks in the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament? If so, Athlon has the game for you. No drafts. No rosters. No trades. Simply pick the winners of each game and start earning points. Everything you need to help with your decision is right at your fingertips, including the Athlon Sports StatCast™ - which gives you real-time statistical data on team matchups and who the rest of your competition is picking. PLAY NOW!

Teaser:
<p> Take part in real March Madness and play our bracket game!</p>
Post date: Monday, March 12, 2012 - 12:35
Path: /college-basketball/abc%E2%80%99s-ncaa-tournament
Body:

by David Fox (@DavidFox615 on twitter)

An unfortunate fact for college basketball is that many fans are just getting acquainted with the sport around tournament time.

Athlon Sports won’t judge.

For those about to get a heavy dose of college hoops over the next three weeks, we’ll help you get caught up. We broke down the NCAA Tournament field A to Z, highlighting some key teams, coaches, players, statistics and trends to watch.

It’s an exhaustive list, so some hardcore college basketball aficionados may learn a thing or two as well.

Alaska. With South Dakota State making the field by way of the Summit League’s automatic bid, Alaska and Maine are the only states never to have a team in the NCAA Tournament. The Dakotas were two of the last three states in the Lower 48 to join the field with North Dakota State earning a bid in 2009. The wait for Alaska to join March Madness may be a while, though. Alaska does not have any Division I basketball teams.

Burgess, Bradford. A year after advancing from the First Four to the Final Four, VCU won’t catch anyone off guard. Neither will its prolific wing Burgess. A year ago, Burgess averaged 15.7 points and 7 rebounds during the Final Four run. Like the rest of the Rams, Burgess got hot from 3 on the way to the national semifinal, hitting 17 from beyond the arc in six games. He’s one of two starters back to defend the Final Four along with center D.J. Haley.

Charity stripe. Any Memphis fan can stress the importance of free throw shooting in the NCAA Tournament. The Tigers that year were one of the worst teams from the line in the country in 2008, a deficiency that bit Memphis in the finals seconds against eventual national champion Kansas. Be nervous watching these teams from the free-throw line: Cincinnati (64.1), Kansas State (66.6), Connecticut (66.1). On the other hand, teams to like at the free-throw line: Missouri (76.5 percent), Indiana (76.2), Wichita State (75.1), Baylor (75.1) and Harvard (74.6). As for John Calipari’s current team, Kentucky led the SEC by shooting 72 percent from the line.

Defense. Be cautious of teams vulnerable on defense in the NCAA Tournament. Some teams that worry us include: Creighton (101.8 points allowed per 100 possessions according to kenpom.com, 183rd nationally), Davidson (98.7 points), Florida (98.3 points) and Saint Mary’s (97.4 points).

Eustachy, Larry. The return of Larry Eustachy to the NCAA Tournament is one of the major redemption stories for the coach and his program. He left Iowa State in disgrace in 2001 after he was photographed with beer in his hand among students at a campus party in Columbia, Mo. The AP National Coach of the Year admitted he had problem with alcohol and set out to solve it. He landed at Southern Miss in 2004 and rebuilt the program for its first Tournament appearance since 1991.

Fathers. Where would Creighton and Detroit be without good genes? Both teams’ star players – Doug McDermott at Creighton and Ray McCallum at Detroit – happen to be the sons of their head coaches. Both took different routes to play with their fathers. Greg McDermott, then the struggling head coach at Iowa State, didn’t think Doug had the size to flourish in the Big 12. The McDermotts reunited in the Missouri Valley where Doug became the league player of the year. Elsewhere, Ray McCallum Jr. could have played just about anywhere but he ended up in the Horizon League. The son spurned Arizona, Florida and UCLA to play for his father Ray McCallum Sr. at Detroit.

Green, Draymond. Few players in the country are as NCAA Tournament-tested as Michigan State forward Draymond Green. He came off the bench for the Spartans’ Final Four runs in 2009 and 2010 and had his best career tournament game in his only start last season with 23 points and 11 rebounds in a round of 64 loss to UCLA. In 12 NCAA Tournament games, Green has averaged 9.8 points and 6.3 rebounds. Look for him to exceed those averages as the centerpiece for the Spartans this season.

Harvard. Between Jeremy Lin and Ryan Fitzpatrick, Harvard has had a couple of opportunities to brag about its alums in the sports world. Finally, the Crimson can brag about current players in the NCAA Tournament. After falling short in a one-game playoff with Princeton for the Ivy League title last season, Harvard avoided such drama this season by winning the Ivy and earning its first NCAA Tournament since 1946.

Injuries. A handful of injuries could dampen teams’ hopes in the Tournament. Start with a torn ACL for Indiana point guard Verdell Jones. North Carolina also will be concerned with a wrist injury for ACC defensive player of the year John Henson. Injuries to Michigan State’s Branden Dawson, Duke’s Ryan Kelly and Florida’s Will Yeguete will put pressure on role players for each team.

Jayhawks. Kansas continued the longest active streak for NCAA Tournament appearances at 23 straight years in the field. Since losing to Bucknell and Bradley in the first round in back-to-back years, Kansas has won at least one game in the last five Tournaments, including the 2008 national championship. Mid-majors, though, still seem to have a hex on Kansas as the Jayhawks lost to VCU in the Elite Eight last season and Northern Iowa in the second round in 2010.

Kentucky. The Wildcats enter the tournament as the prohibitive favorite after losing only a buzzer-beater to Indiana on Dec. 10 and Vanderbilt this past weekend. Kentucky reached the Elite Eight in the first season under Calipari and the Final Four in the second season. Big Blue Nation is expecting the next step with good reason: Kentucky is stocked with future NBA talent, and it might have the best player in the country in Anthony Davis. Still, youth is a concern with freshmen and sophomores making up six of its top seven players. Kentucky won’t out-shoot many teams from 3-point range, either.

Lopsided losses. North Carolina is on the short list of teams capable of winning the national title, but the Tar Heels still have the 33-point loss to Florida State from Jan. 14 on their resume. Here are the worst losses for other top title contenders: Kentucky (by 7 points to Vanderbilt), Syracuse (9 points at Notre Dame), Kansas (10 points to Kentucky in Maui), Michigan State (15 points at Indiana), Ohio State (11 points to Kansas), Duke (22 points at Ohio State), Missouri (16 points at Kansas State).

Majerus, Rick. This season will mark the return of Saint Louis to the NCAA Tournament. The Billikens have been absent since 2000 under now-Washington coach Lorenzo Romar. This is also a return to the Tournament for Rick Majerus, who last coached in the Big Dance with Utah in 2003. The coach who led the Utes to the national championship game in 1998 left Utah citing health reasons partway through the 2003-04 season. After working with ESPN, he took the USC job for four days before leaving the Trojans due to health concerns.

New Orleans. The Final Four returns to New Orleans for the fifth time in the last 30 years, a fact a handful of top teams hope brings good mojo. North Carolina won the title twice here in 1982 and 1993. Carmelo Anthony led Syracuse to a championship in the Superdome in 2003. The Orange also played for a title in New Orleans in 1987 when they lost to Indiana. Kansas has reached the Final Four twice in New Orleans (2003, 1993). Kentucky has done it once (1993).

Orange. Syracuse first fought through the Bernie Fine scandal to start the season. Then came the Yahoo! Sports story that indicated Syracuse since 2001 played at least 10 players who failed tests for banned substances. Distractions don’t seem to be a problem for this group, though. If there’s another potential distraction to add: Since the 2003 championship, Syracuse has been eliminated by lower seeds in four of its last six appearances, including to sixth-seeded Marquette in the round of 32 last year.

Patsos, Jimmy. The NCAA Tournament is a great vehicle for drama and nail-biting, but it’s also a great vehicle to introduce basketball’s most interesting personalities to the mainstream. Loyola (Md.) coach Jimmy Patsos will be one of those this season. He picked up part-time work as a bartender while coaching under Gary Williams at Maryland, he loves the Grateful Dead, and he’ll talk and talk and talk. He can coach a bit, too. Loyola went 29-140 from 1999-2000 through 2004-05, his first season. This year, Loyola won 24 games and won the MAAC tournament for the Greyhounds’ first NCAA bid since 1994.

Quincys. Pierre Jackson is Baylor’s leading scorer, and Perry Jones is Baylor’s biggest star. That said, Baylor wouldn’t be the contender it is without its Quincys, particularly Quincy Acy. The forward is Baylor’s heart and motivator on the floor. The freshman Quincy Miller is far from a finished product, but he’s valuable contributor.

Rants. Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin and Lamar coach Pat Knight weren’t shy in delivering blunt assessments of their teams in front of the cameras. They must have been just as effective in the locker room. Cincinnati’s brawl with rival Xavier was one of the low points of the season, but the Bearcats turned around their season after Cronin clearly expressed his embarrassment after the incident. The Bearcats lost that day, in addition to losing to Presbyterian and Marshall weeks earlier. Cincinnati went 19-7 and reached the Big East tournament final after the brawl. After a Feb. 22 loss to Stephen F. Austin, Knight evicerated his seniors. Lamar went 6-0 since, winning the Southland tournament for the school’s first Tournament bid since 2000.

St. Bonaventure. The NCAA slapped the Bonnies with the “lack of institutional control” in 2004, setting up a major reclamation project for coach Mark Schmidt. By defeating Xavier for the Atlantic 10 tournament final, St. Bonaventure earned its first NCAA Tournament bid since 2000 and knocked a bubble team out of the field. The country now will get to know senior Andrew Nicholson, one of the nation’s best-kept secrets. Against Xavier, Nicholson had one of the best games of his career with 26 points, 14 rebounds and eight blocks.

Tigers. Missouri hasn’t made the most NCAA Tournament appearances without a trip to the Final Four. That distinction belongs to BYU with 27 Tournaments without a Final Four. Missouri is right behind with 25 appearances without reaching the national semifinals. Led by Jimmer Fredette, BYU had one of its best shots last season before falling in the Sweet 16 to Florida. Missouri is in perhaps its best position to end that drought this year with its best seeding since being a No. 1 seed in 1994 (the Tigers lost to Arizona 92-72 in the Elite Eight that season).

USF. The Bulls may be a shining beacon to the likes of UCF, SMU and others, moribund basketball powers who will soon join a basketball-centric conference. The Bulls went 1-15 in their first season in the Big East before navigating a weaker Big East schedule this year to reach its first NCAA Tournament since 1992.

Valleys. As in the Missouri Valley and Ohio Valley conferences. Since 2008, the MVC’s only tournament wins were Northern Iowa’s run to the Sweet 16 in 2010. Could the Valley make another major statement in this tournament? History says it could be. When the Missouri Valley is a multi-bid league, as it is this season with Wichita State and Creighton in the field, it tends to succeed. In 2007, Southern Illinois reached the Sweet 16 when the MVC was a two-bid league. In 2006, the MVC had four bids with Bradley and Wichita State advancing to the Sweet 16. Meanwhile, the Ohio Valley, a traditional one-bid league, has scored upsets in the last two tournaments with Morehead State upsetting fourth-seeded Louisville in 2011 and Murray State upsetting fourth-seeded Vanderbilt in 2010. This year, the OVC will be favored in its first tournament game with 30-1 Murray State in the field.

Western Kentucky. Western Kentucky was one of the most unlikely teams to clinch a spot in the field when the Hilltoppers won the Sun Belt tournament. Western Kentucky was 5-11 when it fired head coach Ken McDonald on Jan. 6. Then-interim coach Ray Harper went 4-7 before the Hilltoppers elevated him to permanent head coach on Jan. 19 after a loss to South Alabama. That loss was the last under Harper. Western Kentucky won its final six games, including the regular-season finale against Sun Belt champ Middle Tennessee and the conference tournament. At 15-18, Western Kentucky is the only team in the field with a losing record.

Xavier Thames. San Diego State’s third leading scorer, Thames started his career at Washington State. He’s one of a handful of transfers who could make an impact on this year’s field: Mike Moser (UCLA to UNLV), Drew Gordon (UCLA to New Mexico), Matt Carlino (UCLA to BYU), Rob Jones (San Diego to Saint Mary’s), Brandon Wood (Valparaiso to Michigan State), Chris Allen (Michigan State to Iowa State).

Yarou, Mouphtaou. We’ll use this spot – and the name of the Villanova forward – to note two major absences from the NCAA Tournament. The state of Pennsylvania has two teams in the field (Lehigh and Temple), but not Pittsburgh and Villanova. Pitt had made 10 consecutive tournaments, and Villanova made seven. Both were the longest active Tournament streaks in the Big East. That honor now falls to Marquette with seven consecutive trips to the Tournament.

Zellers. Expect a handful of sick days back in Washington, Ind., with hometown favorites Tyler and Cody Zeller playing a major role in the Tournament. Tyler anchors the frontcourt of a team with title hopes in North Carolina. If that could be upstaged, at least in Indiana, Cody helped pull the Hoosiers out of the cellar with their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2008.

—by David Fox (@DavidFox615 on twitter)

CHECK OUT ALL OUR NCAA TOURNAMENT PREVIEWS

2012 NCAA Tournament – South Region Preview
2012 NCAA Tournament – West Region Preview

2012 NCAA Tournament – East Region Preview

2012 NCAA Tournament – Midwest Region Preview

 

Teaser:
<p> For those about to get a heavy dose of college hoops over the next three weeks, we’ll help you get caught up. We broke down the NCAA Tournament field A to Z, highlighting some key teams, coaches, players, statistics and trends to watch.</p>
Post date: Monday, March 12, 2012 - 10:00
Path: /college-basketball/brackets-ncaa-tournament-2012
Body:

The NCAA Men's Basketball Championship field of 68 is out and the brackets are revealed. Kentucky, who lost to Vanderbilt in the SEC Championship game earlier today, stands as the No. 1 overall seed.

Here are the top four teams in each region:

South: Kentucky, Duke, Baylor, Indiana
East: Syracuse, Ohio State, Florida State, Wisconsin
West: Michigan State, Missouri, Marquette, Louisville
Midwest: North Carolina, Kansas, Georgetown, Michigan

CLICK IMAGE BELOW TO ENLARGE THE NCAA BRACKET 2012

Teaser:
<p> Tournament match-ups have been revealed on Selection Sunday.</p>
Post date: Sunday, March 11, 2012 - 22:59
Path: /college-basketball/coaching-candidates-replace-bruce-weber-illinois
Body:

One of the most intriguing coaching positions in college basketball became available when Illinois dismissed Bruce Weber on Friday morning after nine seasons in Champaign. Some consider Illinois one of the elite jobs in the sport. The school has a strong history of success and is located near the hoops hotbed of Chicago. Others, however, believe this job is overrated. This faction contends that it’s very difficult to win at a high level unless you are willing to swim in murky recruiting waters.

That, however, is a debate for another day.

Right now, let’s take a look at some of the coaches that the school likely will target.

Top Tier

Shaka Smart, head coach, VCU

Smart emerged as a star in the coaching world when he guided VCU to the Final Four last season. This season, the Rams are back in the NCAA Tournament despite losing most of their key contributors from the Final Four team. He has a 38–16 record in the CAA in his three seasons at VCU. Smart, who has plenty of Midwest ties, would be a home run.

 

 

Brad Stevens, head coach, Butler

Stevens is perhaps the most respected head coach in the sport not named Mike Krzyzewski. Butler reached to the NCAA Tournament in each of his first four seasons as a head coach, highlighted by back-to-back trips to the national title game. Stevens has made it clear that he is very happy at Butler, but he might have to listen if Illinois came calling.

 

Chris Collins, associate head coach, Duke

Collins is an Illinois native who starred at Duke in the mid-'90s and has served on Mike Krzyzewski’s staff at his alma mater since 2000. He has no experience as a head coach, and his candidacy might be hurt due to the fact that several of Coach K’s assistants have not enjoyed a high level of success as head coaches.

Other possibilities

Anthony Grant, head coach, Alabama

Grant, a former Billy Donovan assistant, has been a head coach for six seasons, three at VCU and three at Alabama. He took VCU to the NCAA Tournament in 2007 (and beat Duke in the first round) and 2009 and is on the verge of taking Bama to the NCAAs for the first time since 2006. Alabama is good job. Illinois is a better job.

Kevin Stallings, head coach, Vanderbilt

Stallings is in his 13th season at Vanderbilt and will have the Commodores in the NCAA Tournament for the fifth time in the past six seasons and the sixth time in nine seasons. Stallings is an Illinois native who played at Purdue and served as the head coach at Illinois State for six seasons. He is happy at Vanderbilt, but could be ready for another challenge.

Chris Mack, head coach, Xavier

Mack has been very successful in his two-plus seasons at Xavier, but he reputation took a hit early this season when his team was involved in a post-game brawl with rival Cincinnati.

Scott Drew, head coach, Baylor

Drew will be taking Baylor to the NCAA Tournament for the third time in the past five seasons. He has done a tremendous job recruiting to Baylor, but isn’t regarded as an elite strategist. He is a native of Valparaiso, Ind.

Buzz Williams, head coach, Marquette

Williams’ name has come up for several Big 12 jobs in recent season, but he has elected to remain at Marquette. He has taken the Golden Eagles to the NCAA Tournament in five straight seasons.   

Gregg Marshall, head coach, Wichita State

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

-by Mitch Light
Teaser:
<p> Looking at the likely crop of candidates to take over for Bruce Weber</p>
Post date: Friday, March 9, 2012 - 12:25
Path: /nfl/rob-gronkowski-really-wants-be-madden-13-cover
Body:

Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, aka "Gronk," is throwing his hat into the ring for The Madden NFL 13 Cover in a big way. Gronk recently put together a video of himself "getting jacked at all times, going crazy" in a bid to win votes. BTW, we're loving the retro work out pants worn by his brothers. 

Teaser:
<p> Gronk is REALLY campaigning to be the game's cover boy. Check out his awesome video.</p>
Post date: Friday, March 9, 2012 - 11:21
Path: /mlb/2012-fantasy-baseball-primer-first-base
Body:

The 2012 baseball season is just around the corner. As players gets loosened up at Spring Training, we thought we'd pull from Athlon’s 2012 MLB Preview Magazine to catch you up on some of the top players at each position and help you win your 2012 fantasy baseball league. Today, we look at first basemen, starting with the top tier players and work our way down.

 

TIER 1

1. Albert Pujols, Angels (A) Let’s say you signed Pujols to a 10-year contract back in 2002. Your fantasy crew would have gleaned 47 BA points, 187 homers, 440 RBIs, 466 runs and even 63 steals more than the median first baseman with 2,000 more plate appearances in that decade. And as for 2012, Angel Stadium plays better for right-handed hitters than Busch. Heck, Albert fractured his wrist last June and still only missed 14 games. Incomparable and indestructible.

 

2. Miguel Cabrera, Tigers (A) Cabrera is now one of three active players to have won a league title in each of the triple crown categories, joining Pujols and A-Rod. The gap between him and first base preeminence is this: no 40-homer and two 120-RBI seasons to six of each for Albert. Not a bad consolation prize, though.

 

3. Adrian Gonzalez, Red Sox (A) We jumped Gonzalez 34 spots in our 2011 preseason top 100 after he signed with Boston, and even that played out as a bit conservative. He wound up leading the bigs in AVG on contact to the opposite field (.500) and the AL in opposite-field homers (10) — a Fenway effect that makes him a top-10 roto hitter.

 

4. Joey Votto, Reds (A) Votto’s power is a tad short of the first base elite, but he’s likely going to hit .025 higher than anybody on the list below him. No player laced line drives at a higher rate (26%) last year, and his .363 AVG with runners in scoring position since 2009 is 25 points higher than anyone else in the majors.

 

5. Prince Fielder, Free Agent (A)  Fielder is so feared that only 38.0% of pitches to him were in the strike zone — lowest among regulars. There’s a good reason for that; only Pujols matches his hits-homers-ribs triumvirate since 2006. If he relocates to a friendly venue, slip him ahead of Votto.

 

6. Mark Teixeira, Yankees (A) Teixeira’s AVGs have regressed from .308 to .292 to .256 to .248, yet he’s kept his HR sum steady from 33 to 39, and his RBIs between 108 and 122. His BAbips imply there’s no cause for alarm; he should settle in the .280-.285 window.

 

TIER 2

7. Eric Hosmer, Royals A .357 AVG and .965 OPS in his last 34 games tells us that Hosmer’s the real deal. Just 34 walks all year tells us that he has work to do, but also that there’s tons more upside. We’re actually projecting Hosmer ahead of Teixeira, but the raw numbers must be tempered by the fact that Tex has been doing it eight years longer.

 

8. Paul Konerko, White Sox (E) With two of his five best seasons occurring at ages 34-35, Konerko has proven to be a durable commodity. He is, however, edging toward DH-dom, and his lineup protection is evaporating.

 

9. Freddie Freeman, Braves Hosmer’s NL doppelganger…six weeks older, a highly analogous stats overlay and almost indistinguishable promise (although we lean a bit to Eric). No 21-year-old first baseman since Orlando Cepeda in 1959 had as many hits (161) or homers (21).

 

10. Ryan Howard, Phillies (F) A guaranteed full year of Howard would bounce him into the bottom of the first tier, so this will be the most-watched Achilles since the Trojan War. Whenever he returns (estimates range from Opening Day to June), keep in mind his 2010-11 HR-RBI totals were off an average of 18-31 from 2006-09, and that his five-year AVG is merely .266.

 

11. Ike Davis, Mets (C,F) Davis was off to a big start before a mysteriously persistent ankle injury wiped him out in May. He purports to be 100% now, but since he declined surgery, there’s some unease. The out-of-sight/out-of-mind effect could make him a bargain at your draft, so you’d have to be out of your mind not to have him in your sights.

 

12. Justin Morneau, Twins (F) Morneau’s missed roughly half of each of the last two schedules with numerous maladies, but when last seen completely healthy (July 2010), he was playing at an MVP level. His spring training will be a page-turner.

13. Paul Goldschmidt, Diamondbacks (C) The Minor League Player of the Year in some circles and Double-A Hitter of the Year in others, he showed power, patience and poise during his two-plus months in Phoenix. Not enough contact to be a high-average hitter, but he’s a future 30-100 type.

 

TIER 3

14. Mark Reynolds, Orioles A home run machine (fifth in the majors since 2008) who comes with his usual disclaimer (118th in AVG).

15. Lance Berkman, Cardinals (E) Berkman is a sho-nuff hitter’s hitter whose OPS stands in the all-time top 20. He’s also a 36-year-old injury time bomb who no longer has Pujols hitting in front of him.

Teaser:
<p> Albert Pujols, Miguel Cabrera, and the rest...</p>
Post date: Wednesday, March 7, 2012 - 06:47

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