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All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/ranking-college-basketballs-national-champions-1985

Not all national champions are created equal, especially in college basketball.


With 64 teams — and now 68 — competing for a national title, the odds for a random result in the postseason is almost certain.


In some ways, that makes sustained greatness through the course of the season even more impressive. Only one team since the field expanded has gone wire-to-wire as a No. 1 team in the country, far fewer than the number of great teams that didn’t win a title.


Thanks to the three weeks of the NCAA Tournament, a handful of teams that won a national title might not end up on a list of the top 40 or 50 teams of the era. Instead, they got hot that the right time, caught the right matchups or got lucky that upsets in the bracket helped clear the way for a title.


In ranking the top national champions of the 64-team era, starting in 1985, we attempted to look at the entire picture — chiefly, how the team performed from beginning to end during the season, who each team had to beat in the Tournament and the overall talent on the roster.


Check back after Monday’s title game to find where this year’s winner ranks — and if that team is able to claim the No. 1 spot.


1. 1992 Duke

Record: 34-2, 14-2 ACC

Championship game: Defeated Michigan 71-51

Coach: Mike Krzyzewski

Duke won the national title a year earlier, vanquishing undefeated UNLV in the Final Four. That was only the beginning. The Blue Devils went wire-to-wire as the No. 1 team in the country, ending the season with a rout of the Fab Five in the championship game. Before that, national player of the year Christian Laettner hit the the greatest shot in NCAA history for the Blue Devils to defeat Kentucky in overtime in the Elite Eight. In the next game, Mike Krzyzewski had to out-duel mentor Bob Knight in an 81-78 win over Indiana in the Final Four.


2. 1996 Kentucky

Record: 34-2, 16-0 SEC

Championship game: Defeated Syracuse 76-67

Coach: Rick Pitino

“The Untouchables” outscored opponents by 22 points, and their only regular season losses came to teams that reached the Final Four. Kentucky atoned for one of those losses by defeating UMass, national player of the year Marcus Camby and coach John Calipari in the national semifinal. Led by Tony Delk, Ron Mercer and Antoine Walker, Kentucky finished off Syracuse in the title game for the Wildcats’ first national title since 1978.


3. 2001 Duke

Record: 35-4, 13-3 ACC

Championship game: Defeated Arizona 82-72

Coach: Mike Krzyzewski

The Blue Devils featured two national players of the year in Shane Battier and Jay Williams, who won the award a year earlier. Duke spent the entire season in the top five but needed the biggest comeback in Final Four history to that point to advance to the title game. Duke trailed Maryland by 22 in the first half before rallying for a 95-84 win to face Glibert Arenas and Richard Jefferson for Arizona in the title game.


4. 2012 Kentucky

Record: 38-2, 16-0 SEC

Championship game: Defeated Kansas 67-59 

Coach: John Calipari

Perhaps the Kentucky team with John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins and Eric Bledsoe a year earlier was more talented, but this squad was pretty darn close. Anthony Davis won pretty much every award in the sport before being the No. 1 overall draft pick. Despite the two losses, Kentucky defeated every team it faced — the Wildcats lost in the SEC tournament to Vanderbilt, a team it had defeated twice during the regular season, and then atoned for its one-point loss to Indiana in December with a 102-90 win over the Hoosiers in the Sweet 16. Teammates Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist were the top two picks in the following NBA draft.


5. 2009 North Carolina

Record: 34-4, 13-3 ACC

Championship game: Defeated Michigan State 89-72

Coach: Roy Williams

Led by national player of the year Tyler Hansbrough, Ty Lawson and Wayne Ellington, North Carolina was a dominant team for most of the season but especially in the postseason. The Heels’ 72-60 win over Blake Griffin and Oklahoma was their closest game in the NCAA Tournament.


6. 1990 UNLV

Record: 35-5, 16-2 Big West

Championship game: Defeated Duke 103-73

Coach: Jerry Tarkanian

The 1991 team that went to the Final Four with a 34-0 record was the better UNLV team of the two during this stretch, but the 1990 squad won the national title behind the play of Larry Johnson, Stacey Augmon and Greg Anthony. The Rebels stunned Duke 103-73, setting the stage for the Blue Devils’ win over UNLV the following year in the Final Four.


7. 2005 North Carolina

Record: 33-4, 14-2 ACC

Championship game: Defeated Illinois 75-70

Coach: Roy Williams

North Carolina’s first championship team since 1993 and Roy Williams’ first title-winning team spent most of the season in the shadow of 37-2 Illinois. The Tar Heels settled that once and for all with a 75-70 win over the Illini in the national title game. In the following NBA draft, four Tar Heels (Marvin Williams, Raymond Felton, Sean May and Rashad McCants) were lottery picks.


8. 2008 Kansas

Record: 37-3, 13-3 Big 12

Championship game: Defeated Memphis 75-68 (OT)

Coach: Bill Self

Kansas’ first championship team in 20 years wasn’t quite a sure thing, even though the Jayhawks spent all but one week of the season ranked in the top five. To reach a Final Four that included all No. 1 seeds, Kansas had to survive Stephen Curry-led Davidson with a 59-57 win in the Elite Eight and then needed a Mario Chalmers miracle shot and missed free throws from Memphis to clinch the title.


9. 1999 UConn

Record: 34-2, 16-2 Big East

Championship game: Defeated Duke 77-74 

Coach: Jim Calhoun

After knocking on the door several times, UConn won the national title in its first trip to the Final Four. Led by Rip Hamilton and Khalid El-Amin, the Huskies spent the entire season ranked in the top four before defeating Elton Brand, Shane Battier and Duke in the national title game.


10. 2004 UConn

Record: 33-6, 12-4 Big East

Championship game: Defeated Georgia Tech 82-73

Coach: Jim Calhoun

Calhoun’s second national title team was loaded with NBA Draft picks. Emeka Okafor and Ben Gordon were selected second and third overall, respectively, in the 2004 draft, and Charlie Villanueva followed as a first-round pick in the 2005 draft. Josh Boone and Marcus Williams, late first-rounders in 2006, were both freshmen on this team.


11. 1987 Indiana

Record: 30-4, 15-3 Big Ten

Championship game: Defeated Syracuse 74-73

Coach: Bob Knight

The first season with the 3-point shot was indeed a game-changer as this Final Four was marked more by run Rick Pitino’s Providence team made to the national semifinal. Knight’s team, led by Steve Alford, showed plenty of ability to adjust, defeating UNLV 97-93 in the semifinals and Syracuse 74-73 in the title game.


12. 2015 Duke

Record: 35-4, 15-3

Championship game: Defeated Wisconsin 68-63

Coach: Mike Krzyzewski

This Duke team will be remembered for what it accomplished for Krzyzewski — his fifth national title and his 1,000th career win, among other records broken this season. It was also one of his most unique teams, starting three freshmen and playing zone from time to time. The Blue Devils spent all season in the top five and lost twice after Jan. 13, both to the same Notre Dame team that took Kentucky to the wire in the Elite Eight. All-American Jahlil Okafor and Justise Winslow could be top-five picks, and Tyus Jones could be a first-rounder.


13. 1991 Duke

Record: 32-7, 11-3 ACC

Championship game: Defeated Kansas 72-65

Coach: Mike Krzyzewski

The Blue Devils made up for a 30-point loss to UNLV in the title game a year earlier by spoiling UNLV’s undefeated season in the Final Four. Though this was a team amid a run of five Final Fours and on the front end of back-to-back titles, this Duke team spent most of 1990-91 chasing UNLV, Ohio State, Arkansas and Indiana in the rankings.


14. 2007 Florida

Record: 35-5, 13-3 SEC

Championship game: Defeated Ohio State 84-75

Coach: Billy Donovan

The second of Florida’s back-to-back champions had the tougher mountain to climb, not just because the Gators were the preseason No. 1. This Florida team needed to defeat Aaron Brooks-led Oregon in the Elite Eight, UCLA in the Final Four and then a Greg Oden/Mike Conley Ohio State team in the championship game.


15. 1994 Arkansas

Record: 31-3, 14-2 SEC

Championship game: Defeated Duke 76-72

Coach: Nolan Richardson

Arkansas and the 40 Minutes of Hell won the first title for the SEC since 1978, going through Michigan (with four of the Fab Five still remaining), Arizona and Duke (led by Grant Hill).


16. 1993 North Carolina

Record: 34-3, 14-2 ACC

Championship game: Defeated Michigan 77-71

Coach: Dean Smith

Smith’s final national championship run had to go through four coaches who would finish their careers with national titles or Hall of Fame inclusion or both: Nolan Richardson, Bob Huggins, Roy Williams and Steve Fisher. The title game would end on Chris Webber’s infamous timeout blunder.


17. 2002 Maryland

Record: 32-4, 15-1 ACC

Championship game: Defeated Indiana 64-52

Coach: Gary Williams

This might not be the most memorable national champion for a handful of reasons. Juan Dixon lost out on national player of the year to Duke’s Jay Williams, and the team had few other prominent players (Steve Blake ended up as this team’s best pro). The Terrapins lost only one ACC game (at Duke) during the regular season before defeating Kentucky, UConn, Kansas and Indiana in the Tournament.


18. 1995 UCLA

Record: 31-2, 16-2 Pac-12

Championship game: Defeated Arkansas 89-78

Coach: Jim Harrick

UCLA’s championship team and the only Bruins title team not coached by John Wooden was saved in the second round by a layup from Tyus Edney for a come-from-behind win over Missouri.


19. 2013 Louisville

Record: 35-5, 14-4 Big East

Championship game: Defeated Michigan 82-76

Coach: Rick Pitino

The 2013 Cardinals were the rare national champion to endure a three-game losing streak at some point during its championship season (to Syracuse, Villanova and Georgetown in January). The Cards also faced only one top-three seed (No. 2 Duke in the Elite Eight) in its Tourney run.


20. 1998 Kentucky 

Record: 35-4, 14-2 SEC

Championship game: Defeated Utah 78-69

Coach: Tubby Smith

For Kentucky’s second title in three seasons, the Wildcats needed to overcome double-digit deficits in each of their final three games. 


21. 2010 Duke

Record: 35-5, 13-3 ACC

Championship game: Defeated Butler 61-59

Coach: Mike Krzyzewski

Duke has had better championships teams and better teams that didn’t win a title. That said, Jon Scheyer, Nolan Smith and Kyle Singler gave us a classic title game that was also one of the sport’s great what-if moments when Gordon Hayward’s final shot attempt fell short.


22. 1989 Michigan

Record: 30-7, 12-6 Big Ten

Championship game: Defeated Seton Hall 80-79

Coach: Steve Fisher

One of the truly bizarre national championship runs in the history of the sport. Michigan was a preseason top-three team and then went through a 5-5 stretch in the conference season. All of that was before athletic director Bo Schembechler replaced coach Bill Frieder, who had accepted the job at Arizona State, with Steve Fisher for the NCAA Tournament.


23. 2003 Syracuse

Record: 30-5, 13-3 Big East

Championship game: Defeated Kansas 81-78

Coach: Jim Boeheim

One may ask why a Syracuse team led by Carmelo Anthony, Hakim Warrick and Gerry McNamara is this low. Before the Tournament, this was was not one of Boeheim’s best teams. Those three great players lost to Rutgers in January and spent the first two months of the season unranked.


24. 1997 Arizona

Record: 25-9, 11-7 Pac-10

Championship game: Defeated Kentucky 84-79 (OT)

Coach: Lute Olson

Even with Mike Bibby and Michael Dickerson, Arizona didn’t have many guarantees entering the 1997 Tournament. They lost seven conference games during the regular season but defeated three No. 1 seeds and a handful of future pros on the way to the title — Kansas (with Paul Piece and Raef LaFrentz), North Carolina (with Vince Carter and Antawn Jamison) and Kentucky (with Scott Padgett, Ron Mercer and Nazr Mohammed)


25. 2000 Michigan State

Record: 32-7, 13-3 Big Ten

Championship game: Defeated Florida 89-76

Coach: Tom Izzo

This was the high point of Izzo’s magic touch in March. The Spartans won the Big Ten and earned a No. 1 seed, but they were hardly a dominant team all season. They also had a draw that included a No. 8 seed and a No. 5 in the Final Four.


26. 2006 Florida

Record: 33-6, 10-6 SEC

Championship game: Defeated UCLA 73-57

Coach: Billy Donovan

Between his first Final Four and his first national title, Donovan was snakebit for several years in the first weekend of the Tournament. This run from a team that lost six games in the SEC was a major surprise.


27. 1988 Kansas

Record: 27-11, 9-5 Big 8

Championship game: Defeated Oklahoma 83-79

Coach: Larry Brown

How can a team coached by a Hall of Famer and led by a national player of the year, Danny Manning, be this low? Danny and the Miracles were 18-11 and unranked entering the NCAA Tournament.


28. 1986 Louisville

Record: 32-7, 10-2 Metro

Championship game: Defeated Duke 72-69

Coach: Denny Crum

A great nickname (“Never Nervous” Pervis Ellison) and an upset of Duke in the title game made this Tournament run memorable. Otherwise, Louisville spent only three weeks of the season ranked in the top 10.


29. 2011 UConn

Record: 32-9, 9-9 Big East

Championship game: Defeated Butler 53-41

Coach: Jim Calhoun

The Big East was loaded in 2010-11, so that .500 league record has to be taken in context. Still, UConn went 4-7 in its last 11 games before the Big East Tournament. Kemba Walker caught fire in the postseason before a dud of a national title game against Butler.


30. 2014 UConn

Record: 32-8, 12-6 American

Championship game: Defeated Kentucky 60-54

Coach: Kevin Ollie

A pedestrian regular season became special when Shabazz Napier led UConn to wins over No. 2 Villanova, No. 3 Iowa State, No. 4 Michigan State, No. 1 Florida and No. 8 Kentucky. The latter was the last time the Wildcats lost a game.


31. 1985 Villanova

Record: 25-10, 9-7 Big East

Championship game: Defeated Georgetown 66-64

Coach: Rollie Massimino

A Big East team winning a title wasn’t a surprise in a year when Georgetown and St. John’s spent time as the No. 1 team in the rankings. Villanova, led by top-10 draft pick Ed Pinckney, remains the lowest-seeded team to win the national championship (eighth).

Ranking College Basketball's National Champions since 1985
Post date: Tuesday, April 7, 2015 - 10:00
All taxonomy terms: Adam Scott, Golf
Path: /golf/top-30-golfers-2015-majors-no-2-adam-scott

They’re the cream of the major championship crop, circa 2015 — the Athlon Major Championship Dream Team. Leading up to The Masters, we'll be unveiling Athlon Sports’ 30 players to watch for majors season, with commentary on each from the Golf Channel’s Brandel Chamblee.


No. 2: Adam Scott


Born: July 16, 1980, Adelaide, Australia | Career PGA Tour Wins: 11 (9 on European Tour) | 2014 Wins (Worldwide): 1 | 2014 Earnings (PGA Tour): $4,098,588 (13th) World Ranking: 6

2014 Key Stats:

      Par Breakers: 24.18% (2nd)

      Par 5 Birdie or Better Leaders: 55.88% (1st)

      Approaches from 100-125 Yards: 15’8” (2nd)


Brandel Chamblee's Take

Scott will be the object of a lot of scrutiny this year, the last in which he’ll be able to use an anchored putter, as he will inevitably have to begin testing alternative methods for 2016. He has said, however, that he will use the long putter until he has to change. If that is the case, then I don’t expect much to change in Adam’s game this year from the previous four. Since 2011, when Adam first went to the anchored putter in majors, he has six top fives in the game’s biggest events, and in two of those years, 2012 and 2014, he did not finish worse than 15th in a major, something Tiger Woods has managed to do only three times in his career (2000, 2005 and 2007).

Scott is the game’s most consistent performer as evidenced by his Tour leadership in consecutive cuts made and the All-Around category at the end of the 2014 season. He simply does not have a weakness. In an age where players seek high launch-low spin numbers to maximize distance and suffer with accuracy off of the tee, Adam does not give into this trend. He has the power to have much more control with low launch-high spin tee shots and then the ability to adjust and hit green-grabbing, towering irons. At 35 of years of age, turning 36 in July, Adam is in the prime of his career, when experience, talent and ability are at their peak, and nobody in golf is better equipped to do more this year than he is.

Major Championship Résumé
Starts: 55
Wins: 1

2014 Performance:
Masters - T14
U.S. Open - T9
British Open - T5
PGA Championship - T15

Best Career Finishes: 
Masters - 1 (2013)
U.S. Open - T9 (2014)
British Open - 2 (2012)
PGA Championship - T3 (2006)
Top-10 Finishes: 13
Top-25 Finishes: 26
Missed Cuts: 15


—Brandel Chamblee is lead analyst for the Golf Channel. Be sure to follow him @ChambleeBrandel on Twitter.


Athlon's 2015 Golf annual provides in-depth previews of this year's four majors, including the top 30 players to watch this season. One of these elite players, Billy Horschel, also takes you tee to green with full-swing instruction and short game essentials. BUY IT NOW.

Post date: Tuesday, April 7, 2015 - 09:59
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/very-early-college-basketball-top-25-2015-16

A champion has been crowned in college basketball, and while the shining moment will continue in Durham, the rest of the sport is starting to look to 2015-16.


Some programs are under more pressure than others in the coming days and weeks. Underclassmen will start to consider the NBA Draft, recruits will commit,  and transfers will come and go.


We don’t have the most clear picture yet of what the start of 2015-16 will look like, but we’re nevertheless curious.


Here’s our first look at the top 25 for 2015-16, a list that’s certain to change based on the draft, recruiting or more time for thought on our part about the year ahead.


*indicates underclassmen who haven’t declared for the draft, but are still projected to be high first-round draft picks.


1. North Carolina (26-12, 11-7 ACC)

Returnees: G Marcus Paige, F Brice Johnson, F Kennedy Meeks, F Justin Jackson, J.P. Tokoto, F Isaiah Hicks, G Nate Britt, G Joel Berry

Outlook: The Tar Heels’ roster returns virtually intact with each of the top 10 scorers returning to Chapel Hill. After years of roster turnover and un-North Carolina-like results in the ACC, the fortunes should be ready to turn. Paige will be a National Player of the Year candidate and the cast around him continues to improve.


2. Kentucky (38-1, 18-0 SEC)

Losses: F Karl-Anthony Towns*, C Willie Cauley-Stein*, G Aaron Harrison*, G Andrew Harrison*, F Trey Lyles*, G Devin Booker*

Returnees: G Tyler Ulis, F Alex Poythress, C Dakari Johnson, F Marcus Lee

New arrivals: C Skal Labissiere, G Isaiah Briscoe, G Charles Matthews

Outlook: Expectations may be tempered after the last two seasons, especially if everyone who could leave for the NBA Draft does. Ulis is a playmaker, and at 5-foot-9, he’s not going pro. As usual, Kentucky adds the No. 1 recruiting class, though this one includes “merely” two top-20 recruits in Labissiere and Briscoe so far. Kentucky is still in on as many as five top-10 recruits who are likely waiting to see who goes to the draft for the Wildcats or other teams.


3. Virginia (30-4, 16-2 ACC)

Losses: F Darion Atkins

Returnees: G Malcolm Brogdon, G Justin Anderson, F Anthony Gill, C Mike Tobey, G London Perrantes

Outlook: The Cavaliers will be loaded with seniors after back-to-back ACC regular season titles. The biggest question will be if Anderson takes a look at the NBA Draft. Virginia lost three of its last five (albeit to teams that made the Sweet 16 or better in Louisville, North Carolina and Michigan State), but the Cavs should continue to be contenders.


4. Duke (35-4, 15-3 ACC)

Losses: G Quinn Cook, C Jahlil Okafor*, F Justise Winslow*

Returnees: G Tyus Jones, F Amile Jefferson, G Matt Jones, G Grayson Allen

New arrivals: F Chase Jeter, G Luke Kennard, F Sean Obi

Outlook: The biggest decision will be that of point guard Tyus Jones, who may be a late first-rounder. If he returns, Duke will be among the national elite. As usual, Duke has talent waiting in the wings and arriving to the program. Obi is a Rice transfer who will be a key big man after averaging 11.4 points and 9.3 rebounds last season.


5. Maryland (28-7, 14-4 Big Ten)

Losses: G Dez Wells, G Richaud Pack, F Evan Smotrycz

Returnees: G Melo Trimble, F Jake Layman, G Jared Nickens, G Dion Wiley

New arrivals: C Diamond Stone, F Robert Carter jr.

Outlook: Maryland was one of the biggest surprises in 2014-15, finishing second in the Big Ten. Next season will bring legitimate expectations. That’s because standout freshmen Melo Trimble and Jake Layman will be sophomores and because landing the top-10 prospect Stone was a major coup for Mark Turgeon. Forward Robert Carter Jr. also will be eligible after averaging 11.4 points per game and 8.4 rebounds at Georgia Tech in 2013-14.


6. Michigan State (27-12, 12-6 Big Ten)

Losses: G Travis Trice, F Branden Dawson

Returnees: G Denzel Valentine, G Bryn Forbes, F Matt Costello, F Gavin Schilling, F Marvin Clark Jr., G Lourawls “Tum Tum” Nairn Jr.

New arrivals: G Eron Harris

Outlook: Michigan State will miss Trice’s scoring punch and Dawson’s rebounding. Harris, who averaged 17.2 points per game for West Virginia in 2013-14, will help the former. Tum Tum Nairn will hold down the point guard spot and take over leadership of the team as just a sophomore. 


7. Kansas (27-9, 13-5 Big 12)

Losses: G Kelly Oubre

Returnees: F Perry Ellis, G Frank Mason, F Cliff Alexander, G Wayne Selden, G Brannen Greene, F Jamari Traylor, F Landen Lucas, G Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk

New arrivals: F Carlton Bragg

Outlook: Kansas’ prospects depend quite a bit on potential NBA Draft departures, most notably the decision of Ellis. Even if the superstars are gone, are you going to be against Bill Self in the Big 12? Kansas is still on a couple of top 10 recruits for next year’s class.


8. Iowa State (25-9, 12-6 Big 12)

Losses: G Bryce Dejean-Jones, F Dustin Hogue

Returnees: F Georges Niang, G Monte Morris, F Jameel McKay, F Abdel Nader

New arrivals: G Hallice Cooke, G Deonte Burton

Outlook: The Cyclones are in good hands with Niang and Morris still on board. As usual, transfers — Cooke from Oregon State, and Burton, a point guard from Marquette — will round things out.


9. Gonzaga (35-3, 17-1 West Coast)

Losses: G Kevin Pangos, G Byron Wesley, G Gary Bell Jr.

Returnees: F Kyle Wiltjer, C Przemek Karnowski, F Domantas Sabonis, G Kyle Dranginis, G Eric McClellan

Outlook: Replacing Pangos at point guard will be no small issue. Otherwise, this is a team built for another run. The replacements include a handful of players who saw few if any minutes last season — McClellan (who was dismissed from Vanderbilt before landing at Gonzaga), Josh Perkins (who missed all but five games with a broken jaw) or redshirt Bryan Alberts.


10. Notre Dame (32-6, 14-4 ACC)

Losses: G Jerian Grant, G Pat Connaughton

Returnees: F Zach Auguste, G Demetrius Jackson, G Steve Vasturia, F Bonzie Colson

Outlook: The departures of Grant and Connaughton probably mean Notre Dame won’t come within a hair of the Final Four again, but there are plenty of pieces for Notre Dame to make noise in the ACC. Colson is a future star.


11. NC State (22-14, 10-8 ACC)

Losses: G Ralston Turner

Returnees: G Trevor Lacey, G Cat Barber, F Kyle Washington, F Abdul-Malik Abu, F Caleb Martin, F Beejay Anya

Outlook: Perhaps another year of Lacey and Barber and the rest of them playing together will help NC State hit its ceiling more often. That will be the expectation.


12. Wisconsin (36-4, 16-2 Big Ten)

Losses: F Frank Kaminsky, F Sam Dekker*, G Traevon Jackson, G Josh Gasser, F Duje Dukan

Returnees: F Nigel Hayes, G Bronson Koenig, G Zak Showalter

New arrivals: G Brevin Pritzl

Outlook: Hayes’ decision regarding the NBA Draft will be closely watched. His return means Wisconsin will remain in the Big Ten race. The Badgers lose a ton of experience from this year’s Final Four team, but rest assured Bo Ryan has something up his sleeve.


13. Indiana (20-14, 9-9 Big Ten)

Returnees: G Yogi Ferrell, G James Blackmon Jr., F Troy Williams, G Robert Johnson, G Nick Zeisloft, F Hanner Mosquera-Perea

New arrivals: F Thomas Bryant, F Juwan Morgan

Outlook: Tom Crean could be well-positioned to return to the good graces of Indiana fans next season. Nearly everyone is back, and the frontcourt will get some desperately needed help from the 6-10 Bryant, a McDonald’s All-American who committed to IU last week.


14. Arizona (34-4, 16-2 Pac-12)

Losses: F Stanley Johnson*, G T.J. McConnell, F Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, F Brandon Ashley

Returnees: C Kaleb Tarczewski, G Gabe York

New arrivals: F Ryan Anderson, G Allonzo Trier, F Ray Smith, G Justin Simon, C Chance Comanche

Outlook: McConnell and Hollis-Jefferson are big losses as would be Johnson when he makes it official. Sean Miller continues to reload with 247Sports’ No. 2 recruiting class featuring four top-50 prospects and Anderson from Boston College (14.3 ppg, 7.3 rpg in 2013-14). 


15. Villanova (33-3, 16-2 Big East)

Losses: G Darrun Hilliard, F JayVaughn Pinkston, G Dylan Ennis

Returnees: G Josh Hart, G Ryan Arcidiacono, F Daniel Ochefu

New arrivals: G Jalen Brunson

Outlook: Hilliard was the closest thing Villanova had to a star player last season, but this was a balanced team with six guys averaging nine or more points per game. Losing Ennis, a graduate transfer, hurts. Nova adds the five-star point guard Brunson to a team that will already have a senior point guard in Arcidiacono.


16. Oklahoma (24-11, 12-6 Big 12)

Losses: F TaShawn Thomas

Returnees: G Buddy Hield, G Isaiah Cousins, F Ryan Spangler, G Jordan Woodward

Outlook: The Sooners’ prospects hinge on whether or not Hield returns. If he’s back, Oklahoma is a senior-laden squad capable of challenging for a Big 12 title. If not, Oklahoma may be a fringe NCAA team.


17. Wichita State (30-5, 17-1 Missouri Valley)

Losses: F Darius Carter, G Tekele Cotton

Returnees: G Fred VanVleet, G Ron Baker, F Shaquille Morris, G Evan Wessel

Outlook: Wichita State already survived a tense moment when Alabama courted Gregg Marshall. Now, the Shockers will wait out Baker’s decision on the NBA Draft. If he returns, the Shockers can’t be dismissed as long as VanVleet and Baker are in the backcourt.


18. Utah (26-9, 13-5 Pac-12)

Losses: G Delon Wright

Returnees: G Brandon Taylor, G Jordan Loverage, F Jakob Poeltl, G Dakari Tucker, F Brekkott Chapman

Outlook: Wright could have the biggest impact of any single departure in the country. He’s a lockdown defender and an efficient point guard, two things not easily replaced. The return of big man Poeltl is critical for Utah’s hopes to contend in the Pac-12.


19. SMU (27-7, 15-3 American)

Losses: C Yanick Moreira

Returnees: G Nic Moore, F Markus Kennedy, F Ben Moore

New arrivals: G Shake Milton

Outlook: SMU has been knocking on the door of postseason relevance for two seasons. First came a snub to the 2014 NCAA Tournament and then the questionable goaltending call in a loss to UCLA in the round of 64. Moreira is a substantial loss, but SMU returns enough to contend for another AAC title.


20. LSU (27-11, 11-7 SEC)

Losses: F Jarell Martin, F Jordan Mickey

Returnees: G Keith Hornsby, G Tim Quarterman, G Josh Gray, G Jalyn Patterson

New arrivals: F Ben Simmons, G Antonio Blakeney

Outlook: LSU underachieved in the Martin/Mickey era, reaching one NCAA Tournament and losing in a second-half collapse to NC State. The Tigers will be expected to contend in the SEC next season after adding Simmons, the top prospect in the 247Sports rankings. Blakeney is also a five-star prospect. LSU’s supporting cast of Hornsby, Quarterman and Patterson is solid.


21. Vanderbilt (21-14, 9-9 SEC)

Losses: F James Siakam

Returnees: C Damian Jones, G Riley LaChance, G Wade Baldwin IV, F Luke Kornet, G Matthew Fisher-Davis, F Jeff Roberson, F Shelton Mitchell

New arrivals: G Nolan Cressler

Outlook: The Commodores were an awfully young team last season and improved as the year went along. Jones’ decision to stay in school was huge. The one major departure is made up for by the arrival of Cressler, who averaged 16.8 points per game as a sophomore at Cornell.


22. Butler (23-11, 12-6 Big East)

Losses: G Alex Barlow, F Kameron Woods

Returnees: G Kellen Dunham, F Roosevelt Jones, F Andrew Charbascz

New arrivals: G Tyler Lewis

Outlook: Dunham and Jones will be seniors, and 5-11 NC State transfer Lewis should take over the point guard spot. More important, Butler locked up coach Chris Holtmann with a contract extension. The gap between Butler and Villanova in the Big East is narrowing.


23. Louisville (27-9, 13-6 ACC)

Losses: G Terry Rozier, F Montrezl Harrell, Wayne Blackshear

Returnees: G Quentin Snider, F Chinanu Onuaku, F Mangok Mathiang, G Anton Gill

New arrivals: F Raymond Spalding, G Donovan Mitchell, F Deng Adel

Outlook: Rick Pitino will have his youngest team in quite some time, losing each of his top three scorers (four, if you count Chris Jones) and every player who averaged at least 20 minutes per game. The three-man freshman class is ranked fourth on


24. Texas (20-14, 8-10 Big 12)

Losses: F Jonathan Holmes, F Myles Turner

Returnees: G Isaiah Turner, G Javan Felix, C Cameron Ridley, G Demarcus Holland

New arrivals: G Eric Davis, G Kerwin Roach, C Shaquille Cleare

Outlook: How much of a difference can first-year coach Shaka Smart make? Many of the same pieces of a team that was picked to challenge for the Big 12 title last season will return. Adding two four-star freshmen in Davis and Roach and Maryland transfer Cleare means the pieces are in place for Texas to contend for an NCAA spot or more.


25. Michigan (16-16, 8-10 Big Ten)

Returnees: G Caris LeVert, G Zak Irwin, G Derrick Walton, G Spike Albrecht, G Aubrey Dawkins 

Outlook: Michigan was a preseason top 25 team before everything went wrong, chiefly an injury to star Caris LeVert. Before falling to .500, Michigan reached an Elite Eight and a national championship game. Let’s give John Beilein another chance at this.


Others of Note


Arkansas (27-9, 13-5 SEC)

Losses: G Rashad Madden, F Alandise Harris

Returnees: F Bobby Portis, G Michael Qualls, G Anthlon Bell

New arrivals: G Dusty Hannahs, F Ted Kapita

Outlook: If Portis returns, Arkansas will contend for the SEC title. If not, Arkansas slides to the middle of the pack.


Baylor (24-10, 11-7 Big 12)

Losses: G Kenny Chery, F Royce O’Neale

Returnees: F Taurean Prince, F Rico Gathers, F Johnathan Motley

Outlook: Not much was expected out of Baylor last season, but they made a nice run before losing to Georgia State in the NCAA Tournament. The Bears need to find a replacement for Chery at point guard to go with that solid front line.


Cincinnati (23-11, 13-5 American)

Returnees: F Octavius Ellis, G Troy Caupain, G Farad Cobb, F Gary Clark, G Kevin Johnson, F Shaquille Thomas

Outlook: Cincinnati’s roster returns essentially intact, but the Bearcats hope to have coach Mick Cronin for the season after he missed most of 2015 with a medical issue.


Florida State (17-16, 8-10 ACC)

Returnees: G Xavier Rathan-Mayes, G Brandon Montay, G Devon Bookert, G Phil Cofer

New arrivals: G Dwayne Bacon, G Malik Beasley

Outlook: A pick for a sleeper? Florida State returns nearly everybody to a mediocre team and adds two top-25 prospects at guard. 


Oregon (26-10, 13-5 Pac-12)

Losses: G Joseph Young, G Jalil Abdul-Bassit

Returnees: F Elgin Cook, F Dillon Brooks, F Dwayne Benjamin, F Jordan Bell

New arrivals: G Tyler Dorsey

Outlook: The Ducks will need to find someone to replace the scoring that Young provided the last two seasons, but the Ducks got major contributions from last year’s freshman class. Oregon adds a top-30 point guard in a class with three top-100 freshmen


Purdue (21-13, 12-6 Big Ten)

Losses: G Jon Octeus

Returnees: C A.J. Hammons, G Rapheal Davis, F Vince Edwards, G Kendall Stephens, C Isaac Haas, G Dakota Mathias

Outlook: The seven-footer Hammons could enter the draft. If he returns, the Boiler makers lose only one of their top seven scorers.


Texas A&M (21-12, 11-7 SEC)

Losses: F Kourtney Roberson, G Jordan Green

Returnees: G Danuel House, G Jalen Jones, G Alex Caruso,

New arrivals: C Tyler Davis, F D.J. Hogg

Outlook: The Aggies were NIT bound after a disastrous SEC Tournament, but they were on the fringe for most of the season. They hope a standout recruiting class puts them over the top.


West Virginia (25-10, 11-7 Big 12)

Losses: G Juwan Staten

Returnees: F Devin Williams, F Jonathan Holton, G Jevon Carter, G Daxter Miles Jr.

Outlook: The Mountaineers, who are still smarting from a 39-point loss in the Sweet 16 to Kentucky, will have to replace the point guard Staten, but they return nearly every other key player from a surprise team in 2014-15.

A Very Early College Basketball Top 25 for 2015-16
Post date: Tuesday, April 7, 2015 - 07:00
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/wisconsin-coach-bo-ryan-criticizes-officiating-national-championship-game

In a postgame interview with CBS, Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan was critical of the officiating in his team's national championship game loss to Duke.


In comments to CBS’ Tracy Wolfson, Ryan said the game had more body contact than in any game Wisconsin played all year.


The statistics, at least, were at odds with Wisconsin’s foul numbers all season as Duke went 16-of-20 from the free throw line, including 12-of-16 in the second half alone. Entering game, Wisconsin gave up the fewest free throws per field goal attempt in the country.


Here are Ryan’s comments to Wolfson after the game:


“It was just a situation were you just have to be able to handle all the hands and the checking and all the body contact. There was more body contact in this game than in any game we played all year. And I just feel sorry for my guys that all of the sudden a game was like that. They’re struggling with that a little bit. We missed some opportunities and they hit some tough shots. It’s just a shame that it had to be played that way. ...


“You look at our offensive efficiency and that says a lot about a group of people who are willing to share the ball and I think we set the record for offensive efficiency. It might not look that way our last 10 possessions there tonight. There might have been some reasons for that. I’m proud of them that way. We led the Big Ten in defense, fewest turnovers, fewest fouls — until tonight.”

Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan Criticizes Officiating in National Championship Game
Post date: Tuesday, April 7, 2015 - 00:38
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/national-championship-rapid-reaction-duke-68-wisconsin-63

Duke has needed to answer in tight spots before, but no pressure situation this season was quite like this.


The answer was, again, the same. Let Tyus Jones take over. In a rare Duke year ruled by freshmen, the rookies led the way for the Blue Devils’ 68-63 national championship victory.


Duke trailed by as many as nine in the second half and didn’t take a second-half lead until the final 5:32. In a game contested between veterans and young players, Duke's freshman stars — some expected and unexpected — carried the load, scoring 60 of 68 points against Wisconsin for Mike Krzyzewski's fifth national championship.


MVP: Tyus Jones

With Jahlil Okafor and Justise Winslow in and out of the game with foul trouble, Jones came up with the big shots like he did in some of Duke's biggest games this season. Jones finished with 23 points, including the dagger with 1:24 to go. Jones had 19 points in the second half alone, including 2-of-3 from 3 and 7-of-7 from the free throw line.


Defining Moment

Duke led merely 61-58 at the 3:22 mark, notable in part because Jahlil Okafor was on the bench for meaningful stretches due to foul trouble. Duke put Okafor back into the game at this point and he responded with two field goals and an offensive rebound. 


Unsung Hero: Amile Jefferson

Jefferson had only two points, but his defense on Wisconsin’s frontcourt was key. Frank Kaminsky had 21 points, but he went 5-of-12 from 2-point range.


Key Stat: 16-6

Duke’s scoring margin from the free throw line. Fouls caught Wisconsin by surprise on both ends of the court. Wisconsin gave up an average of 11 free throws per game entering Monday night. Duke went to the line 20 times. Conversely, Wisconsin averaged 19.4 free throws per game and went 6-of-10 against Duke.


Needed More From:

Sam Dekker had a rough night from the field. He got the putbacks off Wisconsin’s offensive rebounds, but his hot shooting cooled. Dekker went 0-of-6 from the 3-point line.


Already excited for 2015-16: 

Duke is certain to lose several players to the NBA Draft — Jahlil Okafor, Justise Winslow and Tyus Jones potentially among them — plus Quinn Cook. Guard Grayson Allen gave the Blue Devils a flash of the future as he scored 16 points on 5-of-8 shooting. He averaged fewer than nine minutes per game entering Monday, but he’s hardly a flash in the pan. Allen was a McDonald’s All-American as a recruit and will take on a major role next season.

Post date: Tuesday, April 7, 2015 - 00:11
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/top-10-players-2015-national-championship-game

How much Duke and Wisconsin can glean from their matchup in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge back in December may be negligible.


Some tendencies and stylistic traits may be similar, but consider the personnel. In that meeting in Madison — an 80-70 Duke win — two of the top scorers in the game may not be impact players in Monday night’s national championship game.


Duke’s Rasheed Sulaimon certainly won’t be. He scored 14 points against Wisconsin earlier this season but was dismissed from the team in January. Wisconsin’s Traevon Jackson scored a game-high 25 points. He missed more than two months with a foot injury and has played only 28 minutes in the NCAA Tournament.


Meanwhile, Justise Winslow and Sam Dekker scored five points apiece in that meeting, and now they’ll be two of the best players on the court Monday night.


Who are the best of the best? We’ll try to take a look, obviously tilting toward each player's college production and performance in this NCAA Tournament.


1. Frank Kaminsky, Wisconsin

The National Player of the Year contender is coming off a 29-point performance against Arizona and a 20-point performancea gainst Kentucky. He scored 17 points on Duke back in December.


2. Jahlil Okafor, Duke

Okafor had his most ineffective two-game stretch of the season in the regional against Utah and Gonzaga but bounced back with 18 points against Michigan State in teh Final Four. Okafor has spent most of the season as the presumptive No. 1 overall draft pick with good reason. His matchup with Kaminsky in the title game will be a classic.


3. Justise Winslow, Duke

Winslow has spent most of the season splitting headlines with Jahlil Okafor and Tyus Jones. In the NCAA Tournament, though, Winslow has been Duke’s best player in the regional. Winslow is averaging 15 points, 9.4 rebounds, 3.0 assists and better than 1.4 steals and blocks per game in the last five games.


4. Sam Dekker, Wisconsin

The junior had the best games of his career in the West regional against North Carolina and Arizona, twice setting career highs with 23 and 24 points. He had only six career 20-point games entering this Tournament, but he’s averaging 20.6 points in the last five games.


5. Tyus Jones, Duke

Jones has been the playmaker in the Tournament he was all season. He’s averaging 11 points and 5.2 assists in the last five games, while playing his most efficient basketball all of the year (3.7 assists per turnover).


6. Quinn Cook, Duke

The emotional and senior leader for Duke, Cook is averaging a career-high (by far) 15.6 points per game this season.


7. Nigel Hayes, Wisconsin

The 6-foot-7 sophomore is a solid No. 3 scorer for the Badgers (12.2 ppg in the Tournament) and No. 1 for stenographers and lady reporters.


8. Bronson Koenig, Wisconsin

Koenig averaged 11.6 points per game after starting point guard Traevon Jackson was hurt in January. He averaged 4.9 points per game before then.


9. Josh Gasser, Wisconsin

Gasser has scored in double figures once since Feb. 3, but he’s a glue guy who gives the Badgers a little bit of everything.


10. Matt Jones, Duke

Jones has moved into the starting lineup after the dismissal of Rasheed Sulaimon. He’s a complementary player, but he’s proven he can hit the big 3 when necessary (4-of-7 from 3 against Gonzaga).

The Top 10 Players in the 2015 National Championship Game
Post date: Monday, April 6, 2015 - 11:52
Path: /nba/spurs-spank-warriors-late-season-statement-game

Last week, we told you the San Antonio Spurs were back in championship form. Over the weekend, they confirmed this theory emphatically.


Their 107-92 thrashing of the league-leading Golden State Warriors was never close. Kawhi Leonard made the Warriors’ usually impeccable offense look helpless against the veritable giant quid he creates with his long, relentless arms — Leonard had seven steals in the game. And the Spurs’ passing has rarely been as gorgeous as it was yesterday; with their thrilling chain reactions of ball movement they find open men that even the most expert of viewers have a hard time noticing.


The Warriors have enjoyed a 63-win season largely by being smarter than anyone they face. From their terrific coaching staff — including Steve Kerr and major luxury assistants Ron Adams and Alvin Gentry — to their role players, Golden State has a very impressive brain trust. But San Antonio showed us yesterday that theirs is probably better. They had the Warriors’ moves figured out before they were made, on both sides of the ball.


They were also able to thwart the Warriors’ scintillating perimeter shooting perhaps better than anyone has all year. Golden State shot just 9-for-28 from beyond the arc in the contest, with Steph Curry ultimately getting his (5-of-10 from deep for 24 points overall) but with Klay Thompson being held to just six points, and Harrison Barnes a mere four.


The loss is a reality check for the Warriors. As excellent as they’ve been all season, they need to be even better to take down a dialed-in version of the 2014 champions. Golden State might be making history this season, but the title is still the Spurs’ to lose.


— John Wilmes


Post date: Monday, April 6, 2015 - 10:40
All taxonomy terms: Golf
Path: /golf/golf-experts-poll-will-tiger-woods-ever-win-another-major
Athlon polled a number of golf insiders on a variety of topics, but we start with this question: Are Tiger's problems primarily physical or mental? - See more at:
Athlon polled a number of golf insiders on a variety of topics, but we start with this question: Are Tiger's problems primarily physical or mental? - See more at:

Tiger Woods changed the complexion of this year's Masters with a single tweet: "I’m playing in the Masters. Thanks for all the support,” he wrote on Friday. It seems unlikely that Woods will be a factor this week, but his decision begs the question: Will Tiger ever win another major? Athlon polled a number of golf insiders to get their opinion.



Jay Coffin, Editorial Director, Golf Channel, @JayCoffinGC

Jason Deegan, Senior Staff Writer and Golf Advisor with The Golf Channel online, @WorldGolfer

Steve DiMeglio, USA Today, @Steve_DiMeglio

Bob Harig, ESPN, @BobHarig

Dan Jenkins, Author, Golf Digest Contributor, @danjenkinsgd

Garrett Johnston, Golf journalist, @JohnstonGarrett

Dave Kindred, Golf Digest, Sports on Earth Contributor, @DaveKindred

Alex Miceli, Senior Writer, Golfweek, @alexmiceli

Dan O’Neill, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Dave Shedloski, Golf World, @DaveShedloski

Art Spander, Global Golf Post, @artspander


Will Tiger Woods ever win another major?
Yes    5
No     6



• There are too many issues with his mind and his body. His legacy as the world's second-best player is intact, and he's not catching Jack, so his legacy is already firm no matter what he does from here on out.


• He’s just too good to fade away so quickly.


• He still has time to back into one.


• There are too many question marks to overcome. When he won the U.S. Open in 2008, I’d have bet everything I own that he’d pass Jack Nicklaus’ record. Now, No. 15 seems improbable.


• Hate to be absolute; don't think he will, but ask me that question in a year.


• At this point, it's hard to predict Woods will break par again. But he still has special talent in there somewhere and I believe he will find it at a major at least one more time.


• Very difficult to answer given Tiger's current plight, but the guess here is that he will get things figured out eventually. And once he does, he's got plenty of time and ability to win another major.


• Tiger will win at least one more.

Post date: Monday, April 6, 2015 - 10:18
All taxonomy terms: Justin Rose, Golf
Path: /golf/top-30-golfers-2015-majors-no-3-justin-rose

They’re the cream of the major championship crop, circa 2015 — the Athlon Major Championship Dream Team. Leading up to The Masters, we'll be unveiling Athlon Sports’ 30 players to watch for majors season, with commentary on each from the Golf Channel’s Brandel Chamblee.


No. 3: Justin Rose


Born: July 30, 1980, Johannesburg, South Africa | Career PGA Tour Wins: 6 (7 on European Tour) | 2014 Wins (Worldwide): 1 | 2014 Earnings (PGA Tour): $3,926,768 (15th) World Ranking: 11

2014 Key Stats:

      Strokes Gained (Tee to Green): 1.505 (4th)

      Bounce Back: 25.14% (4th)

      Approaches from 175-200 yards: 29’1” (3rd)


Brandel Chamblee's Take

Rose has won in each of the last five seasons on tour, and it seems he plays his best golf on the best courses, winning at revered venues such as Muirfield Village, Aronomink, Congressional and Merion Golf Club. His great ball-striking is most rewarded where tee-to-green mistakes are hard to overcome. If his putting were anywhere close to his ball-striking — he hasn't finished better than 108th in Strokes Gained on the greens in the last three years — he would be higher placed on this list. Also of some concern is his inability to play links golf courses well, evidenced by only one top 10 in The Open Championship in his career, and that came when he was a 17-year-old amateur. Given the links nature of three of this year’s four majors — and one could argue that Augusta National falls into this category as well — Justin will need to find a more imaginative game in the inevitably windy conditions if he is to add to his one career major championship. Majors aside, Justin’s win streak will not come to an end any time soon; his swing and attitude are simply too good not to serve him well for many more years.

Major Championship Résumé
Starts: 43
Wins: 1

2014 Performance:
Masters - T14
U.S. Open - T12
British Open - T23
PGA Championship - T24

Best Career Finishes: 
Masters - T5 (2007)
U.S. Open - 1 (2013)
British Open - T4 (1998)
PGA Championship - T3 (2012)
Top-10 Finishes: 8
Top-25 Finishes: 22
Missed Cuts: 14


—Brandel Chamblee is lead analyst for the Golf Channel. Be sure to follow him @ChambleeBrandel on Twitter.


Athlon's 2015 Golf annual provides in-depth previews of this year's four majors, including the top 30 players to watch this season. One of these elite players, Billy Horschel, also takes you tee to green with full-swing instruction and short game essentials. BUY IT NOW.

Post date: Monday, April 6, 2015 - 10:02
All taxonomy terms: MLB, News
Path: /mlb/mlb-predictions-2015-national-league

Opening Day of the 2015 MLB season is here with the San Francisco Giants in place as defending World Series champions for the third time in the last five seasons. There is no lack of National League teams aiming to knock the Giants from their perch, starting in their own division. The NL West was transformed during this offseason thanks to a flurry of trades.


The team to beat in the Senior Circuit could come from the NL East, thanks in part to the addition of Cy Young winner to an already formidable starting rotation. And the NL Central could end up being the toughest division in all of baseball, depending on the healthy return of some key players and how one new manager fares with his young charges.


Related: 2015 American League Predictions


Here is how Athlon Sports sees the NL shaking out in 2015, including a look at the leading candidates for MVP, Cy Young and Rookie of the Year.


2015 National League Predictions



NL East

NL Central

NL West






Wild cards: Pittsburgh, San Francisco





World Series




NL East Breakdown

The Nationals made the biggest splash in free agency this offseason, signing Max Scherzer to a seven-year, $210 million contract. The 2013 AL Cy Young winner gives them a starting rotation built for October. However, postseason success has eluded Washington to this point, and a rash of injuries during spring training has only added pressure to the team many are expecting to not just get to the World Series, but win it. Elsewhere, the Marlins and Mets bear watching as both teams hope the return of their aces from Tommy John surgery can propel them into playoff contention. The Braves began their rebuilding project in earnest this offseason while everyone is still waiting for the Phillies to do the same.


NL Central Breakdown

This could end up being the most competitive division in the majors, as it’s not out of the realm of possibility that both wild card teams come from the NL Central. While the Cardinals and Pirates remain the class of the division, the Cubs, Brewers and Reds are each capable of defying expectations and emerging as a playoff contender. Chicago’s extensive rebuilding project overseen by Theo Epstein and company could finally bear fruit with manager Joe Maddon and ace Jon Lester among the new faces for an organization that has a wave of talented prospects waiting in the wings.  Milwaukee’s fate is largely tied to the health of Ryan Braun’s right thumb, while Cincinnati is hoping for bounce-back years from the likes of Joey Votto, Jay Bruce and Homer Bailey.


NL West Breakdown

The Giants are the reigning champs, but the Dodgers revamped their infield in their continued pursuit of getting back to the World Series. No team was busier this offseason, however, than the Padres, as first-year general manager A.J. Preller overhauled his roster through a series of trades, landing Matt Kemp, Justin Upton and Wil Myers (and Craig Kimbrel on Sunday), as well as signing free agent workhorse starter James Shields. The Diamondbacks just want to get off to a better start this season, while the much of the focus on the Rockies will be on Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez. Will either or both All-Stars finish their season on the DL and/or with another team?



1. Giancarlo Stanton, Marlins

The runner-up last season, Stanton is the reigning NL home run champion and could get the extra benefit of playing for a team in playoff contention. As long as he stays healthy, Stanton’s numbers should be MVP-worthy with better lineup protection (Dee Gordon, Martin Prado, Mike Morse added in offseason) around him.

2. Andrew McCutchen, Pirates

3. Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers

4. Buster Posey, Giants

5. Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies

6. Bryce Harper, Nationals

7. Paul Goldschmidt, Diamondbacks

8. Anthony Rizzo, Cubs

9. Anthony Rendon, Nationals

10. Carlos Gomez, Brewers


NL Cy Young

1. Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers

The winner three of the past four years and the reigning NL MVP to boot, the Cy Young probably belongs to Kershaw as long as he stays healthy. Don’t forget he missed more than a month last year and still placed the majors in wins (21), ERA (1.77) and complete games (six).

2. Max Scherzer, Nationals

3. Madison Bumgarner, Giants

4. Jordan Zimmermann, Nationals

5. Johnny Cueto, Reds


NL Rookie of the Year

1. Kris Bryant, Cubs

The best prospect in baseball will start in the minors, but it shouldn’t be long before he takes his place in the heart of the Cubs’ lineup. Bryant should still get more than enough at-bats and hit enough tape-measure home runs to get the votes at season’s end.

2. Joc Pederson, Dodgers

3. Jorge Soler, Cubs

MLB 2015 National League Predictions
Post date: Monday, April 6, 2015 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: MLB, News
Path: /mlb/mlb-2015-american-league-predictions

The American League champion has won just one of the past five World Series. Will the 2015 MLB season produce a different result for the Junior Circuit? Last season, the Kansas City Royals put an end to their 29-year playoff drought in dramatic fashion, venturing on a magical postseason run that came just one game shy of winning it all. This season, the Royals figure to have a tough road just to get back to the playoffs, as they must navigate a crowded AL Central.


The AL East features a little bit of everything – a team that spent big in free agency this offseason, one that’s pinning their hopes on several young players, another that’s hoping their aging superstars can turn back the clock, and a franchise that’s going through a makeover both on the field and in its front office.


The AL West has seen plenty of change too, as one team that’s made it to the playoffs three straight years could take a few steps backward in 2015, while the team that strung together three consecutive 100-loss campaigns from 2011-13 is slowly making its way back towards respectability.


Related: 2015 National League Predictions


Here is how Athlon Sports sees the AL shaking out in 2015, including a look at the leading candidates for MVP, Cy Young and Rookie of the Year.


2015 American League Predictions



AL East

AL Central

AL West






Wild cards: Cleveland, Seattle





World Series




AL East Breakdown

From last place in 2012 to World Series champs in ’13 and back to the basement last season, Boston is looking to go from worst to first yet again. The additions of Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval along with the emergence this spring of dynamic leadoff hitter Mookie Betts gives the Red Sox the deepest lineup in the majors. Now it’s up to the pitching to hold up their end of the bargain. Elsewhere, defending division champion Baltimore stood relatively pat, while Toronto is banking on several young, unproven players and the addition of third baseman Josh Donaldson to end its 21-year playoff drought. Derek Jeter has retired, but the Yankees don’t lack for veteran leadership, while Tampa Bay is under new management both on and off the field, and could struggle to score runs in support of the Rays’ underrated starting rotation.


AL Central Breakdown

Detroit has won the last four division crowns, but don’t be surprised if this ends up being a four-team race. The Tigers still have Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez, but neither are getting any younger and underwent surgery in the offseason. Justin Verlander will start the season on the DL, putting even more pressure on David Price, and the bullpen is suspect at best. Cleveland looks to have the pitching, fronted by reigning Cy Young winner Corey Kluber and finished off by closer Cody Allen, so it will be up to the offense to take care of the rest. Chicago was the most aggressive team in the offseason, adding Jeff Samardzija, David Robertson and Melky Cabrera to its one-two punch of Cy Young contender Chris Sale and MVP candidate Jose Abreu. Kansas City was the story last season, but the Royals lost more than they added and will rely on their pitching, defense and team speed even more in 2015. Minnesota should be a better team, but this may not be reflected in the win column due to the depth of this division.


AL West Breakdown

Los Angeles is still smarting from last year’s brief playoff stay, but the Angels have a pair of MVPs in Mike Trout and Albert Pujols to lead their offense and appear to have enough pitching and depth to defend their division crown. Seattle has its own award contenders in Felix Hernandez and Robinson Cano, and has added enough pieces that should make the Mariners a thorn in the Angels’ side all season long. Texas is healthier, but has already suffered a big blow in the loss of ace Yu Darvish (Tommy John surgery). If Prince Fielder and Shin Soo-Choo bounce back and Adrian Beltre stays productive, the Rangers should at least surpass last year’s win total (67). Houston may not be able to match it’s 19-win improvement from last season, but the Astros have plenty of budding superstars that bear watching, starting with Jose Altuve and George Springer. Oakland won the division in 2012 and ’13, but this is a completely different A’s team, as GM Billy Beane cashed in on most of his valuable assets this offseason in hopes of building a team that can contend for many years in the future. In other words, don’t be surprised if the A’s take their lumps in 2015.



1. Mike Trout, Angels

Trout won his first MVP award after two runner-up finishes his first two seasons, and he did so with arguably his worst numbers (.287-36-111, 115 R, 16 SB). Just 23 years old, the sky is seemingly the limit for the best player in the game.

2. Robinson Cano, Mariners

3. Miguel Cabrera, Tigers

4. Jose Abreu, White Sox

5. Jose Bautista, Blue Jays

6. Michael Brantley, Indians

7. Victor Martinez, Tigers

8. Dustin Pedroia, Red Sox

9. Adam Jones, Baltimore

10. Adrian Beltre, Rangers


AL Cy Young

1. Felix Hernandez, Mariners

The 2010 recipient finished a close second to Corey Kluber last season despite posting career-bests in ERA (2.14), strikeouts (248) and WHIP (0.915). As long as he stays healthy, Hernandez should receive enough offensive support to challenge his high-water mark for wins (19 in 2009).

2. David Price, Tigers

3. Chris Sale, White Sox

4. Corey Kluber, Indians

5. Alex Cobb, Rays


AL Rookie of the Year

1. Rusney Castillo, Red Sox

Similar to NL Rookie of the Year favorite Kris Bryant, Castillo will start the season in AAA. However, the only thing that stands between the Cuban import and the necessary at-bats to flash his power/speed potential is 34-year-old Shane Victorino, who underwent back surgery in August.

2. Steven Souza, Rays

3. Dalton Pompey, Blue Jays

MLB 2015 American League Predictions
Post date: Monday, April 6, 2015 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/kentucky-fans-are-taking-saturdays-loss-pretty-hard

Every NCAA Tournament loss stings.


When the loss marks the end of an attempt to go 40-0 and that team is Kentucky, well, the final defeat stings more than most.


Kentucky guard Andrew Harrison had to apologize after his choice remarks were caught on a hot mic. This fan, however, probably speaks for all of Big Blue Nation:




Other Kentucky fans were less constructive. As many as 29 people were arrested on State Street in Lexington, Ky., and at least three were taken to the hospital, according to the Lexington Herald-Leader.


That said, the celebration after a potential win Monday night might have been just as eventful.


Here was the scene on State Street on Saturday night and early Sunday morning:




And, finally, the obligatory Ashley Judd/Villanova piccolo girl meme:


Kentucky Fans Are Taking Saturday's Loss Pretty Hard
Post date: Sunday, April 5, 2015 - 10:43
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/kentuckys-andrew-harrison-apologizes-obscene-remark-caught-hot-mic

Kentucky guard Andrew Harrison apologized for obscene language directed toward Wisconsin center Frank Kaminsky caught on a live microphone during Saturday’s postgame press conference.


After a question directed toward Karl-Anthony Towns about Kaminsky, Harrison can be heard uttering an obscenity and a racial slur under his breath in front of the hot mic.


Here’s the video as it was captured on ESPN.


Warning: Bad Language Ahead.




By Sunday, Harrison apologized for the incident and apologized to Kaminsky:





Kentucky's Andrew Harrison Apologizes for Obscene Remark Caught on Hot Mic
Post date: Sunday, April 5, 2015 - 10:08
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/forget-40-0-why-mondays-wisconsin-duke-championship-game-matters

The most serious bid for 40-0 to date is complete and unsuccessful.


At the hands of Wisconsin’s 71-64 win over Kentucky, the Wildcats will be merely the only team in college basketball history to go 38-0 in a season. That season ended at 38-1.


History — at least for that round, undefeated number and the first unbeaten season since 1976 — will have to wait.


On Saturday, Kentucky lost for the first time since last year’s national championship game. What this loss means is tough to say. It was not a massive upset. It wasn’t the most unexpected result.


The word is probably significant. Kentucky was the most significant team to lose in the NCAA Tournament since the last bid for an undefeated season ended in UNLV’s 79-77 loss to Duke in the 1991 Final Four.


This is one of Kentucky’s greatest teams in program history, but the Wildcats’ most lasting note in the history of college basketball will be alongside that UNLV team — a great team ultimately doomed to find the one team that could be better on one particular Saturday.


Kentucky and its bid to go undefeated were the main draws for this season, but the final game of 2014-15 shouldn’t be defined by Kentucky’s absence. Wisconsin and Duke will meet Monday night for their own legacies


Only two decades ago, Wisconsin was an afterthought, and finally this program is seeking its first national title since 1941. 


Dick Bennett took the Badgers to one Final Four in 2000. Bo Ryan has taken Wisconsin to two more with this group. If he wins Monday night, the four-time Division III champion at Wisconsin-Platteville will become the first coach in NCAA history to win titles in two divisions.


T-shirts get made for attempts at 40-0, but Wisconsin’s record as far as Kentucky is concerned is far more important.


This Badgers team is an offensive force. Think about what Wisconsin has done the last two games. Arizona and Kentucky are two of the nation’s best defensive teams, and Wisconsin sliced through them. Against Arizona, Wisconsin shot 15-of-19 in the second half, including 10 3-pointers. No team in two years had scored 80 points on Arizona. Wisconsin scored 85.


Kentucky allowed more than one point per possession three times entering the NCAA Tournament and never more than 1.069. Wisconsin averaged 1.246. Kentucky hit more than 50 percent of its shots for most of the game and finished shooting 48.1 percent and still lost.


Wisconsin is that good.


Wisconsin’s adjusted offensive efficiency rating on is 128.5. The previous high since 2002 was last year’s Michigan team at 124.1. That qualifies as shattering a record.


On the other side, Duke’s bid for a championship is just as significant.


This year alone, Mike Krzyzewski has surpassed 1,000 career wins, passed Dean Smith for career ACC wins and tied John Wooden for the most Final Four appearances. A championship Monday would give him five titles, putting him in sole second place all time behind Wooden’s 10 championships.


This would also be Duke’s first title since Krzyzewski embraced the one-and-done era. His last championship team in 2010 was dominated by juniors and seniors. This year’s team starts three freshmen.


After the game, Kentucky forward Willie Cauley-Stein likened this Tournament to a movie when the main character suddenly dies.


This much is true about this championship game. The supporting cast, though, is ready for its moment.


Forget 40-0. This is why Monday's Wisconsin-Duke Championship Game Matters
Post date: Sunday, April 5, 2015 - 07:00
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/national-championship-game-preview-and-predictions-duke-vs-wisconsin

As Kentucky lost its first game of the season Saturday night, the comparisons to the 1991 NCAA Tournament were apparent.


That year, 34-0 UNLV, a team mthat like this year’s Kentucky seemed unstoppable. lost to Duke 79-77 in the Final Four.


Both Wisconsin and Duke in 2015 hope history repeats itself.


If this year’s Final Four looks like the one 24 years ago, Duke will hope it’s because the Blue Devils will win a national title.


If this year’s Final Four looks like the 1991 semifinals, Wisconsin will hope it’s because the team that toppled the unbeaten — in this case, the Badgers — will win the national title.


This may not be the national championship game that many envisioned, mainly because Kentucky is back in Lexington, but the championship game has plenty of storylines to make it a classic.


Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski is going for his fifth title, putting him in sole second place behind John Wooden, and to do it, he’ll have to win a championship starting three freshmen. And Wisconsin will go for its first title since 1941. Bo Ryan is also going for his fifth title, but his first outside of Division III.


Duke is here with nine McDonald’s All-Americans. Wisconsin is here with none. Duke is all business. Wisconsin may as well be a comedy troupe.


By Monday night, only one will be a champion.



Forget 40-0, This is Why Wisconsin-Duke Matters

31 Reasons This Will Be The Best Final Four Ever

Ranking Every National Champion since 1985

The Top 20 Players in the 2015 Final Four


No. 1 Duke vs. No. 1 Wisconsin

Time: 9:15 p.m. ET, Monday


Announcers: Jim Nantz, Bill Raftery and Grant Hill

Line: Even


Matchup to Watch: Wisconsin’s Sam Dekker vs. Duke’s Justise Winslow

The championship game will match up the two hottest players in the NCAA Tournament, potentially with Most Outstanding Player on the line. Winslow is averaging 15 points, 9.4 rebounds and three assists per game in the Tournament, but his defense (1.6 steals and 1.4 blocks per game) will be the key against Dekker. The 6-foot-9 junior is averaging 20.6 points and shooting 61.3 percent in the Tournament.


Player on the Spot: Duke’s Jahlil Okafor

Okafor had a quiet regional, scoring 15 total points against Utah and Gonzaga. The All-America center roared back for 18 points against Michigan State. He’ll need more of that Monday night. The question, though, might be more on the defensive end. Wisconsin was able to solve Kentucky’s size by getting Kaminsky into better matchups away from Willie Cauley-Stein. Duke held Kaminsky to 17 points and 5-of-12 shooting in the matchup back in December, but Wisconsin has shown an ability to adjust.


Trending: Duke's defense

Duke is playing its best defensive basketball of the season in the last five games, and the Blue Devils will need it against the Badgers. Duke’s opponents are shooting 41.2 percent from 2-point range in the Tournament (compared to 46.3 percent during the season as whole) and 26.9 percent from 3 (compared to 31.4).


Number of Note: 5-of-11

That’s combined 3-point shooting for Arizona (2-of-6) and Kentucky (3-of-5) against Wisconsin. The Badgers don’t give their opponents many looks at 3-point shots, and they don’t put their opponents at the free throw line very often, either. Duke will have to score around the basket, or the Blue Devils will have to do what Arizona and Kentucky couldn’t and hit shots from beyond the arc.


Duke will win if...

The Blue Devils get an all-around offensive effort. John Calipari was astounded. His team shot 48.1 percent from the field and 90 percent from the free throw line, it turned the ball over only six times and still lost. Wisconsin did everything right in the margins — the Badgers got 12 offensive boards and had more than twice as many 3s. Wisconsin is a historically efficient team, so Duke will have to make every trip down the court count.


Wisconsin will win if...

The ride isn’t over. Wisconsin now feels like the team Kentucky once was, only the wave the Badgers are riding is on the offensive end rather than the defensive end. Wisconsin has averaged better than 1.1 points per possession in 12 consecutive games and 1.25 points per possession in the NCAA Tournament. Kaminsky and Dekker are both averaging better than 20 points per game, and they’re doing it against two of the best defensive teams in recent years. This is a historical run.


Athlon Sports Staff Predictions

David Fox: Wisconsin 78-75

Braden Gall: Duke 73-70

Mitch Light: Duke 77-73

Jake Rose: Wisconsin 76-72

National Championship Game Preview and Predictions: Duke vs. Wisconsin
Post date: Sunday, April 5, 2015 - 02:17
Path: /college-basketball/15-best-teams-did-not-win-ncaa-tournament-2015

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.


RELATED: Top 10 Arenas in College Basketball

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 assistant coaches for a group of Tar Heels that couldn’t even make it to the Final Four.


6. 2015 Kentucky Wildcats

(38-1, 18-0 SEC)

Coach John Calipari

Lost to Wisconsin, 71-64, in Final Four


Kentucky was the first team in history to go 38-0 as it reached the Final Four on a mission to become the first team to hit that magical 40-0 number. The Wildcats’ stifling defense and imposing big men met their match against the historically efficient Wisconsin offense. This UK team didn’t have the star power of perhaps other teams on this list, but it was among the deepest teams of the modern era.

7. 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.

8. 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.

9. 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.

10. 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.

11. 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.

12. 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.

13. 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.

14. 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 '56. The Stilt lost in triple-overtime in what old timers have called the greatest game ever played.

15. 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.

These teams were dominant, but none were able to win it all in the NCAA Tournament.
Post date: Saturday, April 4, 2015 - 23:49
All taxonomy terms: NBA
Path: /nba/nba-power-rankings-april-edition

1. Golden State Warriors (62-13)

The Warriors are winning at a rate that puts them up there with the best squads in league history, and the question of whether they’re title favorites need to be answered with a clear “yes” by now. The real ask is whether you’d take them or the field to win the Finals.


2. Atlanta Hawks (56-19)

The Hawks have been laggard for weeks, but that all seems to be part of coach Mike Budenholzer’s plan. They’re a napping giant, resting their bones, and they’re still the team to beat in the East.


3. Cleveland Cavaliers (49-27)

LeBron James and Co. look better with every day, and only Atlanta appears good enough to beat them in the East. A seven-game series between the two might see Cleveland take the super-talented pieces of their game to an unbeatable stratosphere, though.


4. Houston Rockets (52-24)

James Harden’s MVP campaign is the spearhead at the center of the Rockets’ surprising season. And with Dwight Howard back as the defense’s final line, they seem like the team to meet Golden State in the conference finals.


5. San Antonio Spurs (49-26)

A rejuvenated San Antonio squad is the biggest remaining threat to the Warriors’ throne. The defending champs have regained form behind the amazing play of Kawhi Leonard and Tony Parker, and it should surprise no one if they shock the world in the playoffs.


6. Los Angeles Clippers (50-26)

Chris Paul is having one of the least noticed MVP-worthy seasons within recent memory, and the Clippers’ starting five remains one of basketball’s very best units. They’ve still got glaring holes all over their bench, though.


7. Memphis Grizzlies (51-24)

After looking the part of a championship fighter for much of the season, the Grizzlies have underwhelmed since the All-Star break — they essentially been a .500 team. Memphis hopefuls are praying that the postseason will ratchet their intensity back up.


8. Portland Trail Blazers (48-26)

The Blazers have won a surprising amount of games with Wesley Matthews out for the year. But the numbers (and the eye test) have turned out terrible results for their defense without Wes, and their Western Conference peers will know just how to attack them in the postseason — on the perimeter.


9. Chicago Bulls (45-30)

The Bulls continue to struggle through identity issues and fall short of the ideal dream their hyper-talented roster offers. But if they reach their ceiling in the playoffs, watch out.


10. Toronto Raptors (45-30)

The Raptors might be on the verge of an overhaul, if they experience another first-round exit this spring. General manager Masai Ujiri isn’t one to sit on his hands with a middling collection of talent.


11. Dallas Mavericks (46-30)

Rajon Rondo is starting to look like his scrappy, creative old self as the postseason approaches, and that’s great news for the Mavericks. Now if only they could get Monta Ellis in the right mood…


12. Washington Wizards (42-33)

John Wall is one of the best point guards in the game, but it’s hard to see him overcoming his coach’s strange, nostalgic court vision and a mediocre, aging supporting cast to push Washington deep into the second season.


13. Oklahoma City Thunder (42-33)

How far can Russell Westbrook’s insanity take the Thunder? Without Kevin Durant and Serge Ibaka… probably not very far, especially seeing as they’re likely to draw the Warriors in the first round. But it’s still impossible not to get drunk on Westbrook’s inspired play.


14. New Orleans Pelicans (40-34)

Anthony Davis has had as good of a season as any 22-year-old ever has. Maybe next year, he’ll have the coach and supporting cast to help him take New Orleans Pelicans to the postseason.


15. Utah Jazz (34-41)

The Jazz have had arguably the NBA’s best defense since the All-Star break, and things are looking way, way up for them as soon as next season.


16. Milwaukee Bucks (37-38)

Time will tell whether the Bucks made the right moves at the trade deadline, reshuffling the deck of their youth. For now, though, they’ve lowered their ceiling demonstrably.


17. Miami Heat (34-41)

Goran Dragic hasn’t been the shot in the arm to the Heat’s offense that they were hoping for, but they’ve still got enough firepower to make things interesting in a likely first round matchup with LeBron and the Cavs.


18. Phoenix Suns (38-38)

The future is dubious for the Suns, who’ve had a tragic, tough-to-stomach season by losing Dragic and an unheard-of number of games decided in the waning seconds.


19. Brooklyn Nets (34-40)

The Nets are a team about nothing, with management more concerned with saving lost money than making playoff noise, and no visible plan for team-building success in place.


20. Boston Celtics (34-41)

The Celtics are the friskiest, most fun candidate for the East’s eighth and final playoff spot. Of all the cores fighting to get blown out by the Hawks, the one with a progressing Marcus Smart is the most compelling.


21. Charlotte Hornets (32-42)

The Hornets, like the Nets, are stuck with a bunch of questionable investments, and look to have no way out of them anytime soon. Optimism isn’t easy, here.


22. Indiana Pacers (32-43)

Paul George’s return looks less and less likely every day, and there’s really no reason for it as Indiana falls further and further away from postseason contention.


23. Orlando Magic (22-53)

Elfrid Payton and Victor Oladipo have established themselves as perhaps the most exciting young backcourt in the NBA. Now the Magic need to solidify the future with the right coaching hire this summer.


24. Sacramento Kings (26-48)

DeMarcus Cousins is one of the most intriguing talents in the game, and he deserves a consistent culture to grow in. Hopefully George Karl can finally provide that for him next season.


25. Detroit Pistons (29-46)

Stan Van Gundy has tinkered with his roster a ton this season, which has resulted in a lot of inconsistent play. But he’s shown an encouraging knack for player development.


26. Denver Nuggets (28-47)

The Nuggets, like the Magic, need to nail their coaching hire to get fans excited again. A lot is resting on what they do during this offseason.


27. Minnesota Timberwolves (16-59)

The Timberwolves are right where any young team should be: at the bottom of the standings, ready to add another potent piece to their already terrific farm of talent through the draft. The future looks real fun up north.


28. Philadelphia 76ers (18-58)

Nerlens Noel isn’t getting enough attention in the Rookie of the Year race. He’s been on a tear that puts him among the very best rim protectors of the game, but the constant moral outrage over the Sixers’ tanking endeavor has covered it up.


29. Los Angeles Lakers (20-54)

What’s new, here? Nothing. The Lakers are terrible, and the only way out seems to be another big-name signing in free agency. Does L.A. still have enough glamorous appeal to pull one off?


30. New York Knicks (14-61)

The Knicks are awful, and Phil Jackson has his work cut out for him to prove he’s the man to shift their sorry trend. If New York still sucks in 2015-16, will his legend start to diminish?


— John Wilmes


Post date: Friday, April 3, 2015 - 15:09
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/final-four-game-preview-and-predictions-wisconsin-vs-kentucky

In many ways, Kentucky-Wisconsin isn’t a rematch.


The coaches are the same, the jerseys are the same and many of the players are the same from the Wildcats’ 74-73 win in last year’s Final Four. But at the same time, these are two different teams meeting in the national semifinal.


The most obvious change is with Kentucky. The Wildcats reached last year’s Final Four without an injured Willie Cauley-Stein and before freshmen Karl-Anthony Towns, Trey Lyles and Tyler Ulis arrived.


And for Wisconsin, Nigel Hayes — now one of Wisconsin’s top three players — logged only seven minutes in last year’s Final Four game.


Even the returners are different, says Kentucky coach John Calipari.


“I just saw (Wisconsin’s Frank Kaminsky) out in the hallway, and I said, ‘Look, I'm so tired of looking at your tape right now,’” Calipari said. “I said to Bo how much better he's gotten in a two-year period is almost scary. He and (Sam) Dekker both. They both have a swagger about them, they both have a high belief in their teams. They know how they're going to play.”


The development of Kaminsky and Dekker and the presence of Cauley-Stein and Towns sets up one of the most anticipated Final Four matchups in several years.


The nation’s top offensive team and top defensive team in terms of efficiency will face off Saturday, and only one of those teams hopes history repeats itself.



31 Reasons This Will Be The Best Final Four Ever

Ranking Every National Champion since 1985

The Top 20 Players in the 2015 Final Four


No. 1 Kentucky vs. No. 1 Wisconsin

Time: 8:49 p.m. ET, Saturday


Announcers: Jim Nantz, Bill Raftery and Grant Hill

Line: Kentucky by 5


Matchup to Watch: Wisconsin’s Frank Kaminsky and Sam Dekker vs. Kentucky’s Willie Cauley-Stein

Wisconsin has two big guys who can run the floor, play the perimeter and score down low. Kaminsky and Dekker are a combined 87-of-236 (37 percent) from 3 this season. Cauley-Stein, though, is different from most defenders. He’s a seven-footer who can defend the perimeter. Kaminsky and Dekker were a combined 7-of-11 from the field with 23 points in last year’s meeting, and that was when Cauley-Stein didn’t play.


Player on the Spot: Kentucky’s Karl-Anthony Towns

Towns had a miserable game against West Virginia — scary, considering Kentucky still won by 39 — and John Calipari didn’t let it slide. Towns responded to his one-point performance with a dominating 25-point game against Notre Dame. Towns finished 10-of-13 from th efield and 5-of-6 from the line with four assists, to boot.


Trending: Wisconsin’s offense

Anyone who says Wisconsin can’t score is not paying much attention. No, the Badgers aren’t one of the highest-scoring teams in the country, but they are the most efficient this season (a year after they ranked fourth). Ask Arizona if Wisconsin can score. Arizona is one of the best defensive teams in the country, and the Badgers shredded the Wildcats in the second half of the Elite Eight. Wisconsin shot 15-of-19 from the field and 10-of-12 from 3 in the final 20 minutes against the Wildcats.


Number of Note: 439

Free throw attempts for opponents against Wisconsin. The Badgers are one of the most stingy fouling teams in the country. Opponents get 4.5 field goal attempts for every free throw against the Badgers, the best rate in the country. Kentucky is a good free throw shooting team (72.5 percent), especially from its big men. If the game is close, Kentucky’s trips to the line will be watched closely.


Kentucky will win if...

Aaron Harrison hits big shots. Harrison hit the key shots against Wichita State, Louisville and Wisconsin in last year’s Tournament, and he did it again against Notre Dame. Wisconsin allows its share of open 3s. Teams shoot 37. 1 percent from 3 against the Badgers, ranking 301st nationally. But those shots are earned. Wisconsin allows 3-pointers at the sixth-best rate of any team this season.


Wisconsin will win if...

The Badgers can stretch the Kentucky defense. This game is between the No. 1 team in offensive efficiency and the No. 1 team in defensive efficiency. The difference may be from 3-point line. Kaminsky and Dekker against Cauley-Stein and Towns will be a game-long battle. If Wisconsin can stretch the court and hit 3s, Kentucky may have to ease up on Kaminsky, Dekker and Nigel Hayes. Bronson Koenig and Josh Gasser are a combined 11-of-27 from 3 in this Tournament. If that’s going to change, it will happen against the best 3-point defending team in the country (26.7 percent).


Athlon Sports Staff Predictions

David Fox: Kentucky 68-63

Braden Gall: Kentucky 72-70

Mitch Light: Kentucky 72-66

Jake Rose: Wisconsin 68-62

Final Four Game Preview and Predictions: Wisconsin vs. Kentucky
Post date: Friday, April 3, 2015 - 14:00
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/final-four-game-preview-and-predictions-michigan-state-vs-duke

Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski is trying to play coy that his team was not a Final Four contender from the start. 


True, this was a Blue Devils team that lost three of six during a stretch in January, including a loss to Miami at home. But this was also a preseason top-four team that only solidified those credentials with 10-point wins over Michigan State and Wisconsin by early December, both away from Durham.


“I don't know who expected us to be here,” Krzyzewski said. “We have eight guys and four freshmen. I think at times you expect a program to be here instead of looking at a team.”


That’s not entirely true, but if Krzyzewski is going to try to play up the underdog card, he’s going to have a tough time pulling it against Michigan State.


Last year’s Spartans team was the one that seemed preordained to go to the Final Four. Every senior who played four years for Tom Izzo to that point had reached the Final Four, and Izzo had two seniors who had never been to the Final Four.


The trend ended with Adreian Payne and Keith Appling reaching merely the Elite Eight. This team lost Payne, Appling and Gary Harris and lost five games before the new year, including a home game against Texas Southern.


Nevertheless, Michigan State has put it together in the last few weeks and now the Spartans are where they’d be expected to be many years — in the Final Four.


“Maybe it wasn't as expected — we had a little rougher run during the year,” Izzo said. “When you get your program to a certain level, I think that's our expectations, that's what we want our kids' expectations, the media and fans.”



31 Reasons This Will Be The Best Final Four Ever

Ranking Every National Champion since 1985

The Top 20 Players in the 2015 Final Four


No. 7 Michigan State vs. No. 1 Duke

Time: 6:09 p.m. ET, Saturday


Announcers: Jim Nantz, Bill Raftery and Grant Hill

Line: Duke by 5


Matchup to Watch: Michigan State’s Travis Trice vs. Duke’s Quinn Cook

This is a question of which senior guard is going to get baskets at critical times. Of course, this is a more pressing matchup for Trice, who does not have the luxury of Jahlil Okafor, Tyus Jones and Justise Winslow (though Spartans Denzel Valentine and Branden Dawson are very good). Trice is averaging 19.8 points per game in the tournament (more than four points better than his season average). Cook is averaging 14.5 points per game in the Tournament and hitting 12-of-14 from the free throw line in the last two games.


Player on the Spot: Duke’s Jahlil Okafor

Opponents in the regional did a good job of containing the damage from Okafor. Mind you, that’s at the expense of Winslow having his way on both ends of the court against Utah and Gonzaga. Okafor scored a combined 15 points in two games last week and shot 7-of-16 from the field. Okafor averaged 17.5 points and shot nearly 67 percent during the season. He’ll need to approach that if Duke is going to win a title.


Trending: Michigan State’s free throw shooting

The Spartans free throw shooting was the weak link during the season, and history suggests that it will bite them during the Tournament. Yet Michigan State recently found its stride at the line. The Spartans hit 6-of-6 free throws in crunch time against Oklahoma and then went 15-of-20 against Louisville. Michigan State shoots 63.2 percent from the line this season, ranking 338th overall.


Number of Note: 22-to-6

Justise Winslow has raised his game during the NCAA Tournament, but let’s not overlook point guard Tyus Jones. The freshman has 22 assists and six turnovers during the Tournament. He’s averaging 3.7 assists per turnover in the last four games compared to 2.8 during the regular season. He’s also thrown in two steals per game in the Tourney.


Michigan State will win if...

Gavin Schilling and Matt Costello play out of their minds against Okafor. Michigan State’s big men aren’t the first names anyone considers when it comes the Spartans this season. Now, they’re in the critical spot against Okafor. Can they contain him like Utah and Gonzaga did and can they get some baskets agains Okafor’s suspect defense? Michigan State needs that to pull the upset.


Duke will win if...

Michigan State’s time is up. The Spartans are a great story and deserve credit for beating the No. 2, No. 3 and No. 4 seeds in the East region. But this is a No. 7 seed that didn’t hit its potential until late in the year. Duke perhaps hasn’t played its best game of the Tournament and still ended up beating Gonzaga by 14, outscoring the Bulldogs 21-10 in the final 10 minutes.


Athlon Sports Staff Predictions

David Fox: Duke 70-61

Braden Gall: Duke 78-62

Mitch Light: Duke 68-57

Jake Rose: Duke 73-70

Final Four Game Preview and Predictions: Michigan State vs. Duke
Post date: Friday, April 3, 2015 - 13:37
All taxonomy terms: Tiger Woods, Golf
Path: /golf/golf-experts-poll-are-tigers-problems-mental-or-physical

Tiger's decision regarding The Masters dragged on into the 11th hour, much like waiting through a boring Oscars telecast for the Best Picture announcement. We finally know that he will, in fact, be on hand for the season's first major.


Although he's decided to tee it up at Augusta National on Thursday, he's clearly not the steely-eyed golf machine he once was, having displayed an all-too-human vulnerability to an aging body and decaying confidence. We never thought we'd say this, but we hope he doesn't embarass himself come Thursday.


Athlon polled a number of golf insiders on a variety of topics, but we start with this question: Are Tiger's problems primarily physical or mental?



Jay Coffin, Editorial Director, Golf Channel, @JayCoffinGC

Jason Deegan, Senior Staff Writer and Golf Advisor with The Golf Channel online, @WorldGolfer

Steve DiMeglio, USA Today, @Steve_DiMeglio

Bob Harig, ESPN, @BobHarig

Dan Jenkins, Author, Golf Digest Contributor, @danjenkinsgd

Garrett Johnston, Golf journalist, @JohnstonGarrett

Dave Kindred, Golf Digest, Sports on Earth Contributor, @DaveKindred

Alex Miceli, Senior Writer, Golfweek, @alexmiceli

Dan O’Neill, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Dave Shedloski, Golf World, @DaveShedloski

Art Spander, Global Golf Post, @artspander


Are Tiger's problems mental or physical?
Mental       4
Physical    1
Both          6


• Started mental as the scandals ended his aura of invincibility and led to a loss of confidence in every aspect of his life, even the swing.


• He's worn out between the ears after nearly two decades of carrying the game on his shoulders.


• Mental. Everybody but him seems to know it.


• It's 90 percent in his head and 50 percent physical. Yeah, the math doesn't add up, but that's how I see it.


• He will never be 100% healthy physically, but his mental game pulled him through. Now with his mental game in flux his game in general is substandard.


• He’s in a vicious circle right now. He needs to play a lot of golf to get out of his funk, but his body isn't healthy enough to do that.  


• Based on his play this year, he obviously has some confidence issues. He admits to being less focused than he was in the past and his physical problems hinder his ability to practice, much less play frequently. Not a good combination.

Both, I believe. If you have back or knee troubles, in golf or baseball (or tennis), well, they are games of swinging. And once doubts creep into the mind, you have what you had in Phoenix, the former greatest golfer in the world  chili-dipping and blasting long. That's a man untrusting of his game at the current time.


• Both. His back problems might be better, but he was still away from the game for long period of time and he needs to practice. In the meantime, he changed coaches, altered his swing and saw those problems creep into his short game. For one of the best ever around the greens, it is surely more than physical. There are issues of confidence and doubt that have come along with all the other changes.


• Tiger's struggles are more physical than mental. His inability to perform physically is hurting the mental part, however.

Post date: Friday, April 3, 2015 - 10:51
All taxonomy terms: MLB, News
Path: /mlb/baseballs-greatest-opening-day-moments-2015

Monday marks Opening Day of the 2015 MLB season, although the games actually begin with Sunday night’s matchup between the St. Louis Cardinals and Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field. Whether Opening Day ever becomes an official national holiday, something more than 100,000 Americans supported via an online petition posted on the White House’s Web site last year, remains to be seen, but it’s clear the first day of the baseball season holds a special place in the hearts of the fans of America’s pastime.


Related: Ranking the National League Ballparks in 2015 (Expert Poll)


Besides signaling the start of a new season and the opportunity to cheer on their favorite team and/or player, Opening Day also has been the catalyst for some of baseball’s most historic moments and impressive achievements.


The Day Baseball Changed Forever

On April 15, 1947, Jackie Robinson, 28, played first base for the Brooklyn Dodgers, becoming the first African American to play in MLB’s modern era in the process. By breaking the color barrier, Robinson forever changed America’s pastime and this also represented the start to his eventual Hall of Fame career. Even though he went hitless (0-for-3) in his first game, Robinson’s impact on the game is unmistakable, as evidenced by the fact his No. 42 has been retired permanently.


“The Judge” Holds Court in the Dugout and at the Plate

Similar to Jackie Robinson, Frank Robinson was a trailblazer in his own right. A Hall of Fame player with 586 career home runs, two MVP awards and a Triple Crown, Robinson debuted as player-manager of the Cleveland Indians back on April 8, 1975, becoming the first African American manager in major league history.


Facing the New York Yankees at home, Robinson batted second as the team’s DH and gave the fans at Cleveland Stadium something to cheer about early when he homered off of Doc Medich in the bottom of the first. The Indians would go on to win 5-3, giving Robinson the first of the 1,065 wins he would amass in his 16 seasons as a manager. Robinson also was no stranger to going deep on Opening Day. His eight career Opening Day home runs are the most in history, a mark he shares with Ken Griffey Jr.


Presidential First Pitch

Twelve U.S. presidents have thrown out the ceremonial first pitch of the MLB season. The first to do so was William Howard Taft back on April 14, 1910. A noted baseball fan, Taft attended the Washington Senators’ opener at Griffith Stadium. While several other presidents, including Woodrow Wilson (pictured above in 1916), preceded Ronald Reagan in fulfilling this duty, he is the first Commander-in-Chief credited with throwing out the first pitch from the mound rather than the stands. Reagan did so in 1984 as part of an unscheduled appearance at Baltimore’s Memorial Stadium.


Since Reagan, each of the sitting presidents have participated in at least one Opening Day, the most recent being Barack Obama’s appearance at the Washington Nationals’ season-opener in 2010 — the 100th anniversary of the presidential first pitch.


The Bambino Christens His House

It was known as “The House That Ruth Built” and if there was every any doubt as to why, just go back to what happened on April 18, 1923. On the first Opening Day in Yankee Stadium (the original, not the one that opened in 2009), Ruth fittingly produced the first home run – a three-run shot into the right field bleachers. This blast helped the Yankees defeat the Red Sox, Ruth’s former team, and was the first of 259 home runs Ruth would hit at his house.


Related: Ranking the American League Ballparks in 2015 (Expert Poll)


The Hammer Ties the Bambino

On April 4, 1974, Hank Aaron forever etched his name into the record books when he hit a three-run home run off of Cincinnati’s Jack Billingham in the top of the first inning at Riverfront Stadium. Besides staking his Atlanta Braves to an early 3-0 lead, it represented the 714th home run in Aaron’s career, tying Babe Ruth for the most in MLB history. Aaron finished his Hall of Fame career with 755 home runs, a mark that many still acknowledge as the all-time record.


Feller’s No-No

Hall of Fame pitcher Bob Feller threw three no-hitters in his career, including one on April 16, 1940. Taking the mound for the Cleveland Indians against the Chicago White Sox at the original Comiskey Park, Feller made one run stand, holding the home team hitless while allowing five walks and striking out eight. This remains as the only no-hitter thrown on Opening Day.


Going the Distance

On April 13, 1926, the Washington Senators and Philadelphia A’s opened their season by needing 15 innings to decide the winner. While on the surface that may not seem that impressive, consider that the two starting pitchers – Walter Johnson and Eddie Rommel – were on the mound for the entire game!


Johnson, the Hall of Fame righty who is considered one of the greatest pitchers of all-time, allowed just six hits and struck out 12 in his 15 innings of work for the Senators. Opposing him was the knuckleballer Rommel, who surrendered nine hits and walked five. The Senators broke through in the bottom of the 15th, giving Johnson a 1-0 win in a pitching matchup for the ages.


In fact, Johnson owned Opening Day in many ways, as the man known as “The Big Train” took the mound for 14 season-opening starts. In those starts, he went 9-5 with 12 complete games, including three that went to extra innings. Seven of his nine victories were shutouts, and he struck out more batters (82) than hits allowed (81) in 124 innings pitched.


Opening Day Power

Toronto’s George Bell hit three home runs off of Kansas City starter Bret Saberhagen on April 4, 1988 to become the first player to do so in his team’s opener. Chicago Cubs outfielder Tuffy Rhodes was the next to accomplish this feat when he took New York Mets ace Dwight Gooden out of Wrigley Field three times exactly six years later. Rhodes’ power display was certainly unexpected, as he entered that game with just five home runs in four seasons and wound up with a total of 13 in 590 career at-bats.


The most recent to go yard three times on Opening Day was Detroit’s Dimitri Young, who tamed Comerica Park with three home runs on April 4, 2005. Two of Young’s taters came off of Kansas City starter Jose Lima, while he victimized reliever Mike MacDougal with two outs in the bottom of the eighth for his third round-tripper.


Giving Fans Their Money’s Worth

Those in attendance at Progressive Field on April 5, 2012 got to see plenty of baseball action. The Cleveland Indians and Toronto Blue Jays battled for 16 innings, the longest Opening Day game in MLB history. Although the home team lost, 7-4, those that stuck around for the entire game basically got a two-for-one deal with their ticket.


Saving Their Best For Last

In 1901, the Detroit Tigers, playing their first-ever game, trailed the Milwaukee Brewers 13-4 headed into the bottom of the ninth. The home team mounted a monumental rally, tallying 10 runs to beat the Brewers, 14-13. More than 110 years later it remains the greatest Opening Day rally in major league history.

Baseball's Greatest Opening Day Moments
Post date: Friday, April 3, 2015 - 10:30
All taxonomy terms: NBA
Path: /nba/florida%E2%80%99s-billy-donovan-might-be-headed-nba

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.


University of Florida’s long-tenured head coach, Billy Donovan, is said to be looking for an opportunity in the NBA. The 49-year-old saw his Gators disappoint this season, finishing below .500 and missing the NCAA tournament, so now he’s reportedly peering toward the pros for his next campaign.


Donovan’s most likely landing spot could be with his in-state Orlando Magic, a team that already has a coaching vacancy lined up for the summer.Donovan would, in theory, be a terrific fit with the team’s young core, including Elfrid Payton, Victor Oladipo and Nikola Vucevic.


The Magic may be hesitant to get involved with Donovan, though — he’s left them feeling burned before. In 2007, Orlando and Donovan went so far as to introduce Billy as their new head coach at a press conference, only to have Donovan retract his agreement in the coming days, after having second thoughts about leaving the college ranks.


The Denver Nuggets will also have an opening on their bench, and the New Orleans Pelicans and Chicago Bulls are candidates to follow suit.


Donovan’s friend Rick Pitino believes the 49-year-old is ready to make the jump after nearly two decades in Gainesville. "I think Billy has looked at it,” Pitino said on ESPN Radio, “I think he has an urge to coach in the NBA — a strong desire to coach in the NBA — and would like to try it, very similar to Brad Stevens, who is doing a wonderful job with the Celtics. I think people like that, with that type of personality, will do very well.


“If Billy doesn't do well, he can go back to college. Brad Stevens can go back to college. When you get to be our age, Tom [Izzo] and my age, where are you going back to? The McBurney's YMCA on 37th Street or 34th Street? If you're happy where you're at, it's a good place to stay."


— John Wilmes


Post date: Friday, April 3, 2015 - 10:25
All taxonomy terms: Dustin Johnson, Golf
Path: /golf/top-30-golfers-2015-majors-no-4-dustin-johnson

They’re the cream of the major championship crop, circa 2015 — the Athlon Major Championship Dream Team. Leading up to The Masters, we'll be unveiling Athlon Sports’ 30 players to watch for majors season, with commentary on each from the Golf Channel’s Brandel Chamblee.


No. 4: Dustin Johnson


Born: June 22, 1984, Columbia, S.C. | Career PGA Tour Wins: 9 | 2014 Wins (Worldwide): 1 | 2014 Earnings (PGA Tour): $4,249,180 (12th) World Ranking: 7

2014 Key Stats:

      Driving Distance: 311.0 (2nd)

      Fairway Proximity: 27’9” (1st)

      Par Breakers: 23.39% (4th)


Brandel Chamblee's Take

Starting with his rookie year in 2008, Johnson has won in eight consecutive seasons on the PGA tour, which is something very few players have done. In fact, going back over 50 years, only Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer have matched this feat, putting the South Carolinian in Hall of Fame company. That Dustin is amongst the most talented golfers in the world is no question — he gets so much for free, it seems — but just as big as his talent are the questions that follow his commitment to the game and his off-the-course activities. In taking a leave of absence for professional help with personal problems late in 2014, Dustin missed the Ryder Cup and the PGA Championship, the latter being the second major he has missed in recent years for questionable reasons. His return to the PGA Tour is accompanied by a lot of buzz, and for good reason, since he’s one of the longest and straightest hitters in the game. Nobody on tour hit their approach shots closer to the hole on average in 2014, and with the improvement he made in his short shots and putting, only Adam Scott ranked higher than him in the All-Around category. He could be one of the greatest players of all time if he respected his talent the way his peers do.

Major Championship Résumé
Starts: 20
Wins: 0

2014 Performance:
Masters - Cut
U.S. Open - T4
British Open - T12
PGA Championship - DNP

Best Career Finishes: 
Masters - T3 (2013)
U.S. Open - T4 (2014)
British Open - T2 (2011)
PGA Championship - Cut (2013, '14)
Top-10 Finishes: 1
Top-25 Finishes: 3
Missed Cuts: 3


—Brandel Chamblee is lead analyst for the Golf Channel. Be sure to follow him @ChambleeBrandel on Twitter.


Athlon's 2015 Golf annual provides in-depth previews of this year's four majors, including the top 30 players to watch this season. One of these elite players, Billy Horschel, also takes you tee to green with full-swing instruction and short game essentials. BUY IT NOW.

Post date: Friday, April 3, 2015 - 10:17
Path: /college-football/nebraska-cornhuskers-2015-schedule-and-analysis

A new era of football begins in Lincoln this season as Mike Riley takes over at Nebraska.


The Huskers boast the best roster in the division and could be considered the front-runner in the West. Since joining the Big Ten, Nebraska hasn't gotten any favors from the schedule and that could once again be an issue in 2015.


If Riley's bunch makes it to the B1G title game, however, it will have earned it and could have an outside shot at a playoff spot.


Related: 2015 Nebraska Spring Football Preview


2015 Nebraska Cornhuskers Schedule


Bye: 12, * - Fri.


1.Sept. 5Lincoln, NE
Sneaky Good Opener Generally, Week 1 is the best weekend of non-conference action nationally and this one in Lincoln is sneaky good. BYU and Nebraska have never played, but the blues and reds will look great on the turf of Memorial Stadium.
2.Sept. 12Lincoln, NE
For the second straight week, the Huskers will face a team they've never played before. South Alabama is a tricky out after reaching a bowl game a season ago.
3.Sept. 19Miami, FL
Historic Rivalry Aside from Nebraska's 41-31 win last season in Lincoln, this matchup has carried with it national title implications. The five previous meetings came in a national title situation beginning with the infamous two-point try to cap the 1983 season. Nebraska leads the all-time series 6-5.
4.Sept. 26Lincoln, NE
These two have met only five times (all since 1999) and Big Red faithful will never forget what took place in 2004. Southern Miss' lone win in the series came in a 21-17 upset in Lincoln. The Huskers have crushed the Eagles in two meetings since (2012-13).
5.Oct. 3Champaign, IL
Nebraska hasn't lost to Illinois since 1924 and is 9-2-1 all-time in the series. As Big Ten foes, the Huskers outscored the Illini 84-33 in two blowout wins the last two seasons. This will be the first visit to Champaign since 1986.
6.Oct. 10Lincoln, NE
Big Red Clash A huge divisional showdown between what should be the top two teams in the West could decide one half of the B1G title game by early October. The Badgers have won four of the last five meetings, but are 0-3 all-time in Lincoln. Nebraska has allowed 129 points in the last two meetings.
7.Oct. 17Minneapolis, MN
Road Test Possibly the biggest road game of the year for Mike Riley's bunch. This old-school Midwest rivalry has been rekindled since NU joined the Big Ten and last year's heart-breaking loss at home was an instant classic. The Huskers won every meeting from 1963-2012 (16 games) but have now lost twice in a row to the Gophers.
8.Oct. 24Lincoln, NE
Weird things happen when these two get together. Nebraska leads the all-time series (6-2), but this budding rivalry has seen its share of bizarre occurrences. The Wildcats impressed in Lincoln in 2011, Taylor Martinez erases a 12-point fourth-quarter lead in Evanston a year later and, of course, the Hail Mary of '13. Buckle up, folks.
10.Oct. 31West Lafayette, IN
These two have met a total of three times, as Nebraska has crushed the Boilermakers twice since joining the Big Ten. Purdue has been outscored 79-21 in the past two matchups.
11.Nov. 7Lincoln, NE
Season-Defining Moment Nebraska could still win the West and the Big Ten title if it loses this game, but how it plays in this game will define the Huskers '15 campaign. The last three meetings have been exciting and close. The Cornhuskers won the first seven meetings in the series but have lost the last two get-togethers. 
11.Nov. 14Piscataway, NJ
Trap Game There will be a lot of red on the field in New Jersey when Nebraska plays its first-ever game in Piscataway. Rutgers fell 42-24 a year ago in Lincoln and appears to be trending in the wrong direction, but NU will be coming off a massive battle with MSU the previous week.
13.Nov. 27*Lincoln, NE
Rivalry Game Nebraska exacted some revenge on Iowa a year ago with a thrilling comeback in Iowa City. The Big Red is 29-13-3 all-time against Iowa and has won three of the four meetings since moving to the B1G. However, the only loss came in a 38-17 embarrassment in Lincoln two years ago.


Listen to the Cover 2 Podcast: Early 2015 Big Ten Preview

Subscribe: iTunes | Stitcher

Nebraska Cornhuskers 2015 Schedule and Analysis
Post date: Friday, April 3, 2015 - 09:30
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/31-reasons-will-be-best-final-four-ever

For a sport that’s supposed to be in a state of crisis, college basketball has given us a doozy of a final weekend.


Criticism of the sport has been almost as big as the season itself in 2014-15. The game is too slow. The final minutes of the game stretch on forever. The officiating is inconsistent. The game has few household names actually playing the game.


All of these will be lingering issues, but not until Tuesday.


For now, we have an epic Final Four to watch.


This year’s Final Four is poised to give the sport a final weekend for the ages, perhaps approaching the legendary status of 1979, 1985, 1991 or 2008.


We’ve counted down the ways this will be possibly the greatest Final Four of all time — 31 ways to be exact, one for each Final Four since the field expanded to 64 in 1985.


1. 40-0

Kentucky already has The Unforgettables and The Untouchables. The Wildcats are looking to add The Unbeatables. No team in college basketball has been 38-0. No team since UNLV in 1991 has made it to the Final Four undefeated (34-0). And no team since Indiana in 1976 has finished a season undefeated (32-0). Kentucky is chasing basketball immortality.


2. Wire-to-wire great teams

The NCAA Tournament is random, and even teams that were great all season lose before the final weekend. It’s a statistical improbability that four of the best teams during the season actually make it to the Final Four. Three No. 1 seeds are in the Final Four for the first time since all four made it in 2008 and only the fifth time since seeding began in 2008. Not only are Kentucky, Duke and Wisconsin No. 1 seeds, they have been consensus top-five teams for most of the season. Kentucky has been No. 1 all year. Duke has been in the AP top five all year. And Wisconsin spent one week ranked seventh this season and never lower than that.


3. A Kentucky-Duke title game

Not that we’re rooting for a Kentucky-Duke national championship game — upsets of either would be monumental on their own — but the prospect of an all-blue title game is tough to resist. They’re two of the most polarizing teams in the country. Someone will surely pit John Calipari’s vacated Final Fours against Mike Krzyzewski’s “doing things the right way” (even though Coach K has had his share of one-and-dones). The game has the baggage of Christian Laettner’s game-winning shot in overtime of the 1992 Elite Eight. 


4. People are watching

The game is still facing an existential crisis in terms of year-round popularity and the quality of product. That said, it’s tough to call the game “unwatchable” when so many people are watching. Kentucky-Notre Dame was the highest rated college basketball game in cable history. An increase of 2 percent compared to last season was still enough to give the NCAA Tournament its biggest audience since 1993. Maybe it’s Kentucky, Duke, Wisconsin. Maybe it’s the availability of every Tournament game on basic cable. Maybe it’s the ever-increasing access to streaming games. Whatever the reason, the Final Four is viable water cooler conversation.


5. The Big Men

The national semifinal is going to give us Frank Kaminsky trying to navigate the stout defense of Willie Cauley-Stein and Karl-Anthony Towns. And the winner of that battle may draw Duke’s Jahlil Okafor in the national championship game. A Towns-Okafor matchup in the title game would be the first time the top two picks in the draft met in the national championship game. UCLA’s Bill Walton and NC State’s David Thompson faced each other in the 1974 title game but were selected No. 1 overall in separate drafts. The top two picks (Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist) in the 2012 draft played in the same title game, they just played for the same team (Kentucky).


6. Pro Prospects

Beyond Okafor and Towns as the consensus top two picks, the Final Four is full of future pros. As many as nine players in the Final Four are in DraftExpress’s most recent first-round projection and five in the lottery: No. 1 Towns, No. 2 Okafor, No. 5 Justise Winslow of Duke, No. 6 Cauley-Stein of Kentucky, No. 10 Kaminsky, No. 16 Sam Dekker of Wisconsin, No. 17 Devin Booker and No. 19 Trey Lyles of Kentucky, No. 26 Tyus Jones of Duke.


7. All-Americans

There’s plenty of star power here with three first-team All-Americans in the Final Four in Okafor, Kaminsky and Cauley-Stein. This is only the third time in the last decade three first-team All-Americans have played in the Final Four.


8. The coaches

Every coach in the Final Four has won a national championship — Bo Ryan’s came in Division III, but more on that later. Still, we’ve got a combined 2,532 career wins, 203 NCAA Tournament wins, 27 Final Fours and six Division I championships in this group. All four coaches were ranked in the top 10 of Athlon’s preseason coach rankings, including each of the top three.


9. Coach K’s historic year

The big number for Krzyzewski is 1,000 as he became the first men’s college basketball coach to 1,000 career wins with a Jan. 25 victory over St. John’s. The season has been historic in a handful of other ways. He’s now tied with John Wooden for the most Final Four appearances (12), moving ahead of Dean Smith’s 11. A championship would give him five titles, breaking his tie with Adolph Rupp and moving him to No. 2 to Wooden’s unbreakable 10 titles. He’s also tied Jim Boeheim for the most Tournament appearances (31), and he passed Smith’s record for career ACC wins (432).


10. The Hall of Fame

The two coaches facing each other Saturday — in their second consecutive Final Four — are both up for the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame. It’s not certain either or both will get in, but they will get in eventually. Krzyzewski is already in. Izzo is a virtual lock, meaning this Final Four in history’s eyes will have four Hall of Famers. The last time we can guarantee such a thing was 2001 when Krzyzewski, Izzo, Arizona's Lute Olson and Maryland's Gary Williams were in the Final Four.


11. Bo Ryan’s bid for history

To think, there was a time when the knock on Ryan was that he couldn’t win in the Tournament, never mind that he won four Division III championships at Wisconsin-Platteville from 1991-99. If Ryan wins a Division I national title, he’ll be the first coach in NCAA history to win championships in multiple divisions.


12. Michigan State is the underdog

No Final Four is complete without an unlikely team, and in this group of three No. 1 seeds and power teams, Michigan State gives the national semifinal an appropriate underdog. The Spartans have only one McDonald’s All-American (Branden Dawson) and few highly rated pro prospects. Remember, last year’s team with Adreian Payne, Gary Harris and Keith Appling seemed destined for a Final Four. This Michigan State team was on the bubble at one point his year.


13. Tom Izzo

College athletics need more big-time coaches who don’t take themselves too seriously and aren’t afraid to wear their emotions on their sleeve. In just the last year, Izzo dressed like Gene Simmons at Midnight Madness and crumpled in embarrassment when his team missed free throws in a win over Indiana.



14. Willie Cauley-Stein

Cauley-Stein is a defensive whiz, the most experienced player on a potential 40-0 team and an eminently quotable college basketball player. He’s also a rarity in the sport. He’s an All-American averaging 9.1 points per game, making him the first All-American to average fewer than 10 points per game since 1944-45. That player? Notre Dame’s Bill Hassett, who averaged 8.6 points per game that year. 


15. Kentucky’s unselfishness

Not only is Cauley-Stein a rare All-American in terms of scoring, the entire Kentucky team would be an oddity if the Wildcats win a national title. Since the field expanded in 1985, only six national champions didn’t have a 15-points per game scorer. The lowest-scoring top scorers on a title team in the 64-team era are Kansas’ Brandon Rush in 2008 and Florida’s Taurean Green in 2007, both at 13.3 points per game. At 11 points per game, Kentucky’s top scorer Aaron Harrison would shatter that mark.


16. Aaron Harrison’s clutch shots

No one was more emblematic of Kentucky’s title game run last season than Aaron Harrison, who hit game-winning shots in the final seconds against Wisconsin in the Final Four and Michigan in the Elite Eight and a go-ahead shot against Louisville in the Sweet 16. With a go-ahead shot against Notre Dame in the Elite Eight this season, Harrison has proven he still has it.


17. Quinn Cook’s humility

Kentucky’s players aren’t the only ones who had to learn to put ego aside to reach the Final Four. Quinn Cook had been Duke’s starting point guard for two seasons before Krzyzewski recruited Tyus Jones. In essence, Coach K was asking his senior point guard to move to shooting guard to make room for a freshman. Cook did it without complaint and both have flourished as a result. The result was moments like this:



18. Justise Winslow’s emergence

He’s managed to upstage Okafor and Jones as Duke’s best freshman in the Tournament. His all-around play hasn’t been a revelation necessarily — he’s been a great scorer, rebounder and defensive presence all year — but it has been the critical piece of the puzzle for Duke.


19. Sam Dekker’s emergence

It wouldn’t be fair to say Dekker hadn’t reached his potential at Wisconsin, but he never was an overwhelming player for the Badgers, either. That has changed as Dekker has twice set career highs (23 points against North Carolina, 27 against Arizona) in the regional. The 6-9 forward was unstoppable in the second half against the Wildcats with 5-of-5 3-pointers.


20. Tyler Ulis

At 5-foot-9, Tyler Ulis is already one of the smallest players for a major program. Playing on a team with Kentucky’s size only makes his stature more pronounced. He doesn’t back down, though, as evidenced by this exchange with Auburn’s 7-2 center Trayvon Reed.



21. Nigel Hayes

Every Tournament introduces America to a character who happens to play college basketball. Nigel Hayes is that year’s player. Hayes messed with a stenographer and got caught on a hot mic admiring a lady in the room.


22. Karl-Anthony Towns

A potential No. 1 overall pick who photobombs his coach? Sure.



23. Wisconsin’s laid-back team

Seriously, this is just about every press conference for this team. No one is having more fun than Wisconsin right now.



24. An All-Big Ten title game?

A Wisconsin-Michigan State championship game would require two upsets on Saturday, which on its own would be monumental. Those upsets would also set up a title game involving two teams from the same conference, something that’s happened only twice in the 64-team era (Kansas over Oklahoma in 1988, Villanova over Georgetown in 1985). It would be the first all-Big Ten final since Indiana beat Michigan in 1976.


25. Travis Trice’s mom

Do you hear that banshee-like scream when Michigan State’s opponents are attempting free throws? That’s Travis Trice’s mom.


26. Lourawls “Tum Tum” Nairn Jr.

That’s the name of Michigan State’s freshman guard. His given name Lourawls is from his father, who was named for the 60s-70s singer Lou Rawls. “Tum Tum” is from a character the 1992 kids movie 3 Ninjas. That’s how you end up with a Louralws “Tum Tum” Nairn Jr.


27. The NCAA has a social conscience

The NCAA and its members are still trying to tackle many issues, from violence against women to compensation for players and more. Credit the NCAA for leaving no wiggle room on its position on Indiana’s controversial Religious Freedom Restoration Act. On the eve of the Final Four taking place in Indianapolis, the NCAA was one of the first of many national entities to condemn the law and threaten to move events to other states.  


28. Bill Raftery

Bill Raftery is one of the nation’s most beloved college basketball color commentators, but for various reasons, he’s never called a Final Four until this season. Send it in...


29. Rematches

The matchups don’t need any more juice than they already have, but there’s plenty of familiarity here. Kentucky beat Wisconsin 74-73 in the Final Four a year ago. The Wildcats lost to Michigan State in Chicago early in the 2013 season. Duke beat Michigan State 81-71 in November. Of course, Wisconsin and Michigan State are conference foes, but they played an epic overtime bout in the Big Ten championship game.  


30. Vicarious wins

Congratulations, Texas Southern, Rutgers and Miami, you beat teams in the Final Four.


31. Crowd-watching

We’ve got Ashley Judd (Kentucky), Aaron Rodgers and Olivia Munn (Wisconsin), Magic Johnson (Michigan State) and members of the Dallas Cowboys (Duke) sharing the arena with guys like this...


31 Reasons This Will Be the Best Final Four Ever
Post date: Friday, April 3, 2015 - 09:00