Tag Archives: North Carolina State Wolfpack

College Basketball: The Five Best Matchups of the ESPN Tip-off Marathon

The start of the college basketball is still a few months away, but schedules and matchup are slowly being released throughout the offseason. Beginning at 11 p.m. on August 11, ESPN’s Eamonn Brennan began releasing the matchups for the annual ESPN Tip-Off Marathon. The Tip-Off Marathon begins at 7 p.m. on November 11 and there will be games broadcasted consecutively on the network for more than 24 hours.

To make the marathon work, games will be played across the country and ESPN is using time zone differences to its full advantage.

The Tip-Off Marathon will feature title contenders (Duke, Kansas, Kentucky and Michigan State), some of last season’s Cinderella teams (Florida Gulf Coast, La Salle and Wichita State) and every other type of team in between.

While most fans are unlikely to be up at a the crack of dawn to watch Hawaii host New Mexico State, there are a number of intriguing matchups to be played on November 11 and 12.

The headliners are obviously the two Champions Classic games: Kentucky-Michigan State and Duke-Kansas.

Each of the four teams in the Champions Classic will have played each other in the event after this season, which is the third year of the Classic. With four of the best programs in college basketball competing in the Champions Classic, there are destined to be compelling matchups every year.

The Champions Classic website acknowledges that the 2011 games included Mike Krzyzewski breaking Bob Knight’s NCAA Division I men’s basketball all-time wins record as well as a preview of that year’s championship game with the Kentucky-Kansas matchup.

This year’s Champions Classic games will be filled with compelling story lines, highly touted prospects and very good basketball.

Here are the five best games in the ESPN Tip-Off Marathon based on how the teams performed last season, the players returning and the strength of their 2013 recruiting classes.

5. Western Kentucky at Wichita State

The Shockers are coming off the heels of their run to the Final Four last spring, and it’s time for them to try to build off of last season. Wichita State’s best player, senior forward Cleanthony Early, returned to school in hope of another tournament run. However, Wichita State will have to move on without Carl Hall and Malcolm Armstead, who averaged a combined 23 points and 10 rebounds per game last season.

Creighton has moved to the Big East, which means that Wichita State has a chance to assert its dominance in the Missouri Valley. The Shockers’ game against Western Kentucky will be their first time in the national spotlight since April.

The Hilltoppers are no slouches, even though WKU isn’t known for its basketball. In their opening matchup in last year’s NCAA tournament, they were beating Kansas with 18 minutes left in the game and only lost by seven to the Jayhawks.

Western Kentucky’s leading scorers, T.J. Price and George Fant, will be juniors this season. The duo averaged 28 points and 11 rebounds per game last season. WKU lost only two seniors to graduation from last year’s team that went 20-16, which means that the Hilltoppers could be chosen on selection Sunday next spring.

4. North Carolina State at Cincinnati

Both North Carolina State and Cincinnati had early NCAA tournament exits last season. The two schools each lost by four points in their first matchups.

The Wolfpack lost most of its star players to graduation, the NBA or another school via transfer. Sophomore forward T.J. Warren will lead the new-look North Carolina State team along with the nation’s 13th best recruiting class that Mark Gottfried assembled. Five freshmen will join the Wolfpack this season, and three of them (point guard Anthony Barber, center BeeJay Anya and power forward Kyle Washington) are in ESPN’s top 100 players of the 2013 class.

The Cincinnati Bearcats lost three key players–guard Cashmere Wright, center CheikhMbodj and guard JaQuon Parker–to graduation following last season. However, UCbrings back its leading scorer, Sean Kilpatrick, who averaged 17 points per game last season. Senior forwards Titus Rubles and Justin Jackson, as well as junior guard Jeremiah Davis III will have to step up this season for Cincinnati to make it back to the NCAA tournament. The Bearcats have the 24th best 2013 recruiting class, which is led by power forward Jermaine Lawrence.

Cincinnati and North Carolina State lost several starters from last year’s squads. They hope that their top 25 recruiting classes are enough to make it further in the NCAA tournament next year than they did last season.

3. Florida at Wisconsin

The Florida-Wisconsin matchup will be overshadowed because it falls in between the Kentucky-Michigan State and Duke-Kansas games, but it is certainly a treat for college basketball fans. Florida and Wisconsin are two programs that are consistently good.

Florida won the national championship in 2006 and 2007 and the Gators have made the Elite Eight for three consecutive seasons.

Wisconsin has made the NCAA tournament every year since 1999.

Florida will be led by senior center Patric Young, who averaged 10.1 points and 6.3 rebounds per game last season. The Gators also have two of the top 12 2013 recruits, per ESPN. Point guard Kasey Hill and power forward Chris Walker are five-star recruits who made Billy Donovan’s two-player freshmen class the 10th best in the country.

Wisconsin returns its leading scorer, Ben Brust, who averaged more than 11 points and five rebounds per game last season. The Badgers also have sophomore Sam Dekker, who could be ready for a breakout season after averaging more than nine points and three rebounds per game in 2012-13.

The Badgers’ top incoming freshman is power forward Nigel Hayes, who was ranked 83rd overall in the country by ESPN. Wisconsin’s five-player freshman class is ranked 32nd in the country.

These schools played in November last season and Florida won at home by 18. Now it’s Wisconsin’s turn to have home-court advantage and try to pick up a key non-conference win.

2. Duke vs. Kansas

The two incoming freshmen with the most hype will get to square off at this year’s Champions Classic. Jabari Parker and the Duke Blue Devils will challenge Andrew Wiggins and the Kansas Jayhawks.

While Parker and Wiggins will get most of the attention, other highly ranked recruitswill get the chance to make a name for themselves on a national stage.

Kansas also has the top center prospect in Joel Embiid (ranked 6th overall by ESPN), small forward Wayne Selden (ranked 14th overall by ESPN), point guard Conner Frankamp (46th nationally) and shooting guard Brannen Greene (47th nationally).

Duke also signed Matt Jones (36th nationally) and Semi Ojeleye (40th nationally).

The Blue Devils also return starting guards Quinn Cook and Rasheed Sulaimon, who both averaged more than 11 points per game last season.

Kansas lost all five starters from last season, but the Jayhawks return Perry Ellis and Naadir Tharpe, who were the team’s best bench players.

Both teams reloaded on talent and they are poised to make deep tournament runs this season.

1. Kentucky vs. Michigan State

After Kentucky’s fourth-place finish in the SEC last season, John Calipari is bringing the best recruiting class in the country for 2013 to Lexington, and it includes six players in the top 25 spots of ESPN’s top 100 players.

The Wildcats also return Alex Poythress and Willie Cauley-Stein, who were both ranked in the top 40 players of the 2012 class by ESPN.

UK will likely begin the season as the No. 1 team in the country and the Wildcats are ready to turn the page after their season-ending loss to Robert Morris in the first round of the NIT.

Michigan State doesn’t have a single 2013 recruit ranked in the top 100 players by ESPN, but the Spartans are returning four starters from last year’s team that advanced to the Sweet 16. Michigan State will be led by senior point guard Keith Appling, star shooting guard Gary Harris and senior forward Adreian Payne. Tom Izzo has the roster to make his seventh final four at Michigan State.

This may be the best test of the regular season for both teams, and it comes in November rather than in conference play.

Click here to read this article on BleacherReport.com. 

College World Series 2013: Most Dangerous Teams Heading to Omaha

Click here to read this article at BleacherReport.com.

LSU won the College World Series in 2009 and the Tigers have won six titles since 1991.  (Elsa/Getty Images)
LSU won the College World Series in 2009 and the Tigers have won six titles since 1991.
(Elsa/Getty Images)

Five baseball teams punched their tickets to the 2013 College World Series over the weekend after winning two games in the super regional round.

Several familiar faces secured their spots in Omaha, Neb. with wins on Saturday, including LSU (16 appearances) and UCLA (19 appearances).

Sunday was a day for the history books for several college baseball programs that are new to the CWS.

After advancing to the super regional round for the first time in school history, Indiana made the College World Series after defeating the No. 7 national seed Florida State on the road in Tallahassee, Fla.

The Louisville Cardinals defeated the No. 2 national seed Vanderbilt to advance to theCWS for only the second time in school history.

North Carolina State will play in Omaha for the second time ever, with the Wolfpack’s last appearance coming in 1968.

The remaining three super regional victors will be crowned on Monday night with the opening games of the CWS beginning on Saturday.

As the eight-team championship field takes shape, college baseball fans should be aware of LSU, Indiana and North Carolina State–three teams that will be especially dangerous in Omaha.

Only the University of Southern California has won more College World Series titles than LSU’s six championships. The Tigers won their first CWS in 1991 with their most recent coming in 2009. No other school has won more than two during that stretch, which means LSU has built its own modern-day dynasty in college baseball.

On an annual basis, LSU expects to make it to Omaha and the Tigers expect nothing short of a championship once they’re there.

LSU is 17-6 against ranked opponents this season and the Tigers only lost one series all year.

By playing in the SEC, the Tigers have more experience against NCAA tournament teams than most of the other Omaha-bound teams. The SEC led the country with nine teams in the 64-team tournament.

LSU is one of the most dangerous teams in the College World Series because it has a strong pitching staff and defense to go along with its depth in its batting order.

The Tigers’ top three starting pitchers are 27-3 this season, which means that they can have an ace on the mound in each game of a three-game series.

Through 66 games this season, LSU has committed only 51 errors compared to its opponents’ 96. The Tigers field the ball cleanly and limit costly mistakes in the field that can come back to bite them.

On offense, five LSU starters are batting .315 or higher. Eight starters have 30 or more RBI and on average, the Tigers strike out fewer than six times per game, which means they put the ball in play and give themselves more opportunities to score.

LSU’s success in the 2013 MLB Draft sums up why the Tigers are a title contender in Omaha. Nine current LSU players were drafted, five of which were selected in the first 10 rounds.

While the SEC is considered a powerhouse conference in college baseball, the Big Ten’s glory days were in the 1960s. Ohio State was the last Big Ten team to win the College World Series when the Buckeyes won in 1966. The last Big Ten team to advance to Omaha was Major League Baseball Hall of Famer Barry Larkin’s Michigan squad in 1984.

The Indiana Hoosiers are breaking stereotypes this year. IU had an 18-game winning streak this season and is currently undefeated in the NCAA tournament.

The Hoosiers are even more dangerous because they won their season series against Louisville, who they play in the first round in Omaha. Overall, Indiana is 12-4 against teams who made the NCAA tournament.

Collegiate Baseball Newspaper recognized three IU players–sophomore catcher Kyle Schwarber, redshirt sophomore pitcher Aaron Slegers and junior infielder DustinDeMuth–as All-Americans.

The Hoosiers hit for both average and power, which makes them so dangerous. They have a team batting average of .305 and have hit 53 home runs, 18 of which have come off the bat of Schwarber.

IU has a team ERA of 2.67. Opposing batters are hitting only .249 against Indiana with 18 home runs.

In a season of firsts–the first year of Indiana’s multi-million dollar Bart Kaufman Field, the first time hosting a regional as well as the first time to advance to a super regional and the College World Series–the Hoosiers are a threat to win the NCAA title this season.

The North Carolina State Wolfpack is entering the CWS as one of the hottest teams in college baseball. In its last 117 innings, North Carolina State has lost only once when it lost 2-1 to No. 1 North Carolina in 18 innings.

The Wolfpack also rattled off a 15-game win streak in April so when they get on a roll, as they are now, they are hard to beat.

North Carolina State is led by sophomore pitcher Carlos Rodon, who leads the country in strikeouts with 170. Rodon is 9-2 this season and opposing hitters have a .201 batting average against him.

The Wolfpack also has a pair of shutdown closers in its bullpen. Chris Overman and Grant Sasser, who have a 0.34 and 1.10 ERA, respectively, have combined for 14 saves this season.

Trea Turner is a five-tool player for North Carolina State and he is their most productive offensive player. He is hitting .378 this season with seven home runs, 41 RBI, a .460 OBP and 27 stolen bases. Turner is a terror on the base paths, stealing 57 bases in 61 attempts last season, and he has scored a team-high 65 runs this year.

When the eight teams begin College World Series play in Omaha, will the experience of a college baseball juggernaut, such as LSU, North Carolina, South Carolina or Oregon State, prevail? Or, will there be a changing of the guard as one of the new teams to Omaha makes a title run?

Unfortunately, LSU and UCLA are matched up in the first round as well as Indiana and Louisville, which means there will be limited opportunities for a Midwest vs. South/West Coast match up.

Wichita State advanced to the finals in the 1993 College World Series but since then, every team to do so was from a warm weather climate.

The programs with the appropriate weather to play baseball year round and the history of success in Omaha are more likely to be successful, which is why I think either LSU, the winner of North Carolina vs. South Carolina or Oregon State (if the Beavers beat Kansas State) will win the College World Series.

However, Indiana has proven that it is a different breed of a Big Ten team compared to the conference’s reputation over the past forty years, which is why I expect the Hoosiers to be among the final four teams in Omaha.

Pre-selection show bracketology tips

The biggest moment of the college basketball season—Selection Sunday—is almost here. While basketball analysts argue over the No. 1 seeds and bubble teams in the final hour before the bracket is announced, here are a few tips to help you have success in your March Madness predictions.

  • Don’t go all “chalk”—Only once, in 2008, did all four No. 1 seeds make the Final Four. With all of the attention focused on the top teams and their respective regions, it is very tempting to lean towards going chalk—choosing the better seed—but stay strong and resist the temptation. Only 14 No. 1 seeds have made the Final Four in the past decade and there were no top seeds in both 2006 and 2011.
  • Don’t pick Gonzaga to advance past the Sweet Sixteen—The Bulldogs are a staple for the NCAA Tournament after making it every season since 1999 but they only one Elite Eight appearance in that span. While Gonzaga has never been a No. 1 seed, the Zags lost in the Round of 32 as a No. 2 and No. 3 seed in 2004 and 2005. The Bulldogs have proven that they can make the Sweet Sixteen, with five appearances since ’99, they have struggled to make a deep run in March.
  • Expect Georgetown to be upset—In the past three seasons, the Hoyas are 1-3 in the NCAA Tournament and were eliminated by No. 11 North Carolina State, No. 11 VCU and No. 14 Ohio. While Georgetown will likely by a No. 2 seed, they don’t have a good recent track record in March.
  • Pick at least one No. 12 seed to upset a No. 5 seed—No. 12 seeds upset No. 5 seeds in 34 percent of the matchups and at 12 seed has defeated a 5 seed in 11 of the past 12 years. Keep in mind that No. 12 seeds have a winning record in Round of 32.
  • Don’t overthink the 8/9 and 7/10 matchups—The differences between these middle seeds are small. Flip a coin, choose the team with the longer name or simply go with your gut because anything can happen in these first round matchups.

Making cases for Kansas, Michigan and Florida to be ranked No. 1

Last week was a bloodbath for the AP Top 25. No. 1 Duke lost at Miami (FL) by 27. Louisville lost three consecutive games in the Big East to No. 6 Syracuse, Villanova and Georgetown. Minnesota lost four straight games in the Big Ten. With all of the losses by ranked teams, the No. 1 position is up for grabs and three teams have cases to claim the top spot in this week’s updated polls.

Kansas’ case to be ranked No. 1

The Kansas Jayhawks have won 33 straight games at Allen Fieldhouse and are one of the hottest teams in college basketball. (Image courtesy of http://bleacherreport.com/articles/1501647-kansas-basketball-jayhawks-lack-of-offense-isnt-a-big-concern)
The Kansas Jayhawks have won 33 straight games at Allen Fieldhouse and are one of the hottest teams in college basketball. (Image courtesy of http://bleacherreport.com/articles/1501647-kansas-basketball-jayhawks-lack-of-offense-isnt-a-big-concern)

The Jayhawks are 18-1 and their only loss was by three points to then-No. 21 Michigan State in the second game of the season. Since its only blemish on its 18-1 record, Kansas beat No. 7 Ohio State in Columbus, Ohio and topped No. 11 Kansas State on the road. Bill Self’s squad is off to a 6-0 start in the Big 12 and the team has won 33 consecutive games at Allen Fieldhouse. Kansas is nearly unbeatable at home and its two victories against ranked opponents were on the road, which proves that the Jayhawks can win anywhere they play. They also beat Ohio State, who gave Michigan its only loss of the season, by eight points.

Michigan’s case to be ranked No. 1

Similarly to Kansas, Michigan only has one loss this season and it was also by three points when the Ohio State Buckeyes defeated the Wolverines on Jan. 13. Michigan has two wins against ranked opponents. The Wolverines defeated then-No. 18 North Carolina State at home and then-No. 9 Minnesota on the road. The co-leaders of the Big Ten are 19-1 (6-1) and have 15 double-digit wins this season. Michigan’s resume also includes wins over Pittsburgh, Kansas State and Illinois, who are all teams that have been ranked at some point during the season but weren’t when they lost to the Wolverines.

Florida’s case to be ranked No. 1

The Florida Gators are 16-2 (6-0) and tied with Ole Miss for the SEC lead. Their only two losses are a 65-64 loss at Arizona, a competitive game in which Wildcats guard Mark Lyons hit the game-winning jumper with seven seconds left, and a six-point loss to Kansas State. The Gators have rattled off eight straight wins and have dominated their SEC opponents in conference play. The most points that Florida has allowed in an SEC game is 52 and four of the Gators’ opponents have scored in the forties. Florida’s average margin of victory in conference play is over 26 points and earlier this month they defeated then-No. 17 Missouri 83-52. Granted, the SEC lacks proven teams and depth outside of Florida, Ole Miss and Missouri but the Gators are the team to beat down South.

Kansas has the strongest case because they beat the Ohio State Buckeyes, who later handed Michigan its only loss, on the road by eight. Of the three teams, Florida’s case is the weakest because the Gators have two losses and play in arguably the weakest of the power 6 conferences.

Wisconsin upsets No. 2 Indiana, continues undefeated streak against Crean

Now is not a good time to be a top ranked team in college basketball. In the span of six days, four teams ranked in the top three lost to lower ranked or unranked opponents. Last week, Oregon upset No. 3 Arizona, No. 20 North Carolina State knocked off No. 1 Duke and No. 15 Ohio State was victorious against No. 2 Michigan. With the three losses the No. 5 Indiana Hoosiers moved up three spots to No. 2 but lost to Wisconsin at home 64-59 on Tuesday.

The Badgers were a nightmare matchup for the Hoosiers. Wisconsin prides itself on slowing down the pace of the game and playing tough defense, which go against Indiana’s play style of scoring in transition and racking up over eighty points per game on average.

The first half was different from Indiana’s other home games this season. The Hoosiers typically have no problem scoring at home and distancing themselves from their opponents–even good teams like Minnesota and North Carolina. A combination of easy baskets in transition, effective three-point shooters and multiple scoring options gives Indiana breathing room at halftime. IU was winning by nine points after the first half against North Carolina, 23 points against Minnesota and the rest of their non-conference home games were similar scenarios. However, against the Badgers, Indiana was only leading by one after the first half.

Outside of Cody Zeller’s first half, no Hoosier player had a good performance offensively. Zeller had 18 points on 8-8 shooting against Wisconsin senior center Jared Berggren. In the second half, the sophomore center scored only five points and made just one of his seven shot attempts. Other than Zeller and freshman forward Jeremy Hollowell, who made the one shot that he took and contributed the only two bench points of the night, no Indiana player shot above 43 percent. The other four starters, senior Christian Watford, junior Victor Oladipo, senior Jordan Hulls and freshman Kevin “Yogi” Ferrell, were a combined 10-31. Junior Will Sheehey, sophomore Remy Abell and freshman Hanner Mosquera-Perea were 0-7 from the field. Indiana’s shooting woes were the result of tight defense from Wisconsin and a team-wide epidemic of a bad shooting night. The quality of a team’s warmups may not have a direct correlation to how the players will perform but I noticed that few shots were falling in the pre-game shooting drills, which may have carried over to the actual games.

The lack of outside shooting options for the Hoosiers made it especially difficult for Indiana when one of its players was able to penetrate into the lane. On two occasions, Jordan Hulls drove to the basket, jumped and looked for an outlet pass but he could not find any open teammates and turned the ball over both times.

While the Badgers connected on less than one-third of their three-point attempts, the ones that they made came at critical points in the game, either to take the lead from Indiana or begin to pull away from the Hoosiers. One of their largest leads of the game came with 12:13 remaining in the second half when Wisconsin went on a 9-0 run that included a pair of three-pointers from freshman Sam Dekker and senior Mike Bruesewitz.

Wisconsin center Jared Berggren dunks on Victor Oladipo.
Wisconsin center Jared Berggren dunks on Victor Oladipo.

Victor Oladipo scored the first three points of the game after halftime to extend Indiana’s lead but the Hoosiers failed to play with the urgency that they needed against a tough opponent. Indiana’s zone defense left gaping holes for Wisconsin to exploit and by the time that IU Coach Tom Crean called for full-court pressure, it was too late for the No. 2 team in the country. Wisconsin made six free throws in the final 71 seconds and the Badgers held off Indiana to complete the upset at Assembly Hall.

_____________________

Game Notes

It is irresponsible to declare under most circumstances that the officials decided the game based on their calls. Many Hoosier fans are up in arms over several calls against Indiana.

Were most of the calls justified?

Yes.

Were a couple of the calls absolutely outrageous?

Yes.

The referees did not decide the game but some of the calls certainly made it more difficult for Indiana to surmount Wisconsin in a late comeback. The worst of the calls occurred with 1:11 remaining after Kevin “Yogi” Ferrell made the second free throw after being fouled to bring Indiana within four of Wisconsin. Wisconsin’s Mike Bruesewitz tried to set a screen on Victor Oladipo, held him and the two were tangled up as Oladipo tried to get past him. A foul was called on Oladipo, Brusewitz made a free throw to extend Wisconsin’s lead and Indiana lost seven ticks on the clock when there wasn’t much time to spare.

_____________________

The past eight winners of the Big Ten have lost only seven home games, which suggests that Indiana may be out of luck to win the conference. The Hoosiers still have to face Michigan (x2), Michigan State (x2), Ohio State (x2), Minnesota and Illinois.

_____________________

While Will Sheehey and Remy Abell have received national recognition as potentially being the best sixth and seventh men in the country, respectively, the pair has combined for only one point on 0-12 shooting in the past two games. Indiana needs them to step up, especially on offense, if the Hoosiers want to win the Big Ten and battle for a No. 1 seed in March.

However, it is not just Sheehey and Abell who make Indiana’s bench a liability. Jeremy Hollowell has only scored six points in the four games since he sat out during an NCAA investigation. Junior Maurice Creek hasn’t played since the Dec. 15 game against Butler due to an injury and senior Derek Elston has not played in the past three games. Freshman Hanner Mosquera-Perea is not yet a scoring option on offense and only plays when Zeller needs a quick breather. Freshman Peter Jurkin has only played in three games after serving a nine-game suspension and has yet to play for more than four minutes in a game.

Currently, Indiana is only seven players deep. Mosquera-Perea and Hollowell will play minor minutes but IU Coach Crean will need to develop the talent on his bench for Indiana to play to its potential in the remainder of the Big Ten schedule and the NCAA Tournament.

_____________________

Indiana has lost 11 consecutive games against Wisconsin and Tom Crean is still searching for his first win against the Badgers as head coach of Indiana.

2013: Week 2 in review (Jan. 6-12)

College football’s Kelly’s flirt with the NFL

After four consecutive BCS bowl appearances, Oregon Head Coach Chip Kelly decided to remain in Eugene, Ore. despite interest from the Cleveland Browns and Philadelphia Eagles. It remains to be seen if Kelly’s recruiting at Oregon will be impacted in the future due to his interest in the NFL but his window of opportunity to make the jump to the next  level may be closing after turning down several offers to be an NFL head coach.

The Philadelphia Eagles also interviewed Notre Dame Head Coach Brian Kelly just days after the Fighting Irish lost the BCS National Championship to Alabama. Kelly certainly would have been a leap of faith for Philadelphia since he has no NFL experience as a player or coach. Also, Kelly has moved up the ranks incredibly quickly. He has won everywhere that he has coached but just 13 years ago he was an assistant coach at Grand Valley State University. Three years at Central Michigan, three years at Cincinnati and three years at Notre Dame is a very fast progression but Kelly has certainly earned consideration to coach at the next level.

By winning his third BCS National Championship in four years, Alabama Head Coach Nick Saban is definitely in the conversation for the greatest college football coach of all time. While he only has won half the number of national championships that former Alabama Head Coach Bear Bryant won, this is a different era. In Bryant’s day, coaches could have well over 100 players on scholarship. Today the number is 85. Saban announced that he is “at peace” with his current position, which indicates that he is unlikely to return to the NFL. At 61 years old, Nick Saban still has time to bolster his resume and potentially vie for more national championships in the future.

Only one rookie QB advances to the Divisional Round; three great Saturday games

In Ray Lewis’ final home game of his career, the Baltimore Ravens defeated Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts behind Joe Flacco’s two passing touchdowns. The Colts ran 31 more plays and held the ball for 15 minutes longer than Baltimore but could only kick three field goals.

In Washington, Mike Shanahan put rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III in the game despite visible signs of being hurt and RGIII ended up tearing his ACL and LCL in the fourth quarter. The Redskins had taken a 14-0 lead before RGIII left the game to see the team trainer. Seattle then scored 24 unanswered points and ran for 224 yards in the game. Griffin III had surgery performed by Dr. James Andrews, who has worked with Tom Brady, Brett Favre, Albert Pujols and Drew Brees, soon after Washington’s playoff loss and has an eight to twelve month recovery period. Who knows, RGIII could be next year’s Adrian Peterson if he can rehabilitate his knee and come back even stronger.

Somewhere Tim Tebow has to be celebrating secretly that he managed to win a playoff game in Denver and Peyton Manning fell short this season. Despite a Trindon Holliday’s 90-yard punt return and a 104-yard kickoff return for touchdowns, the Broncos could not put away Baltimore, extending Ray Lewis’ career by at least one week. Joe Flacco lead scoring drives in the final thirty-six seconds of both halves. In the first half, the Ravens had three plays for 58 yards and Flacco found Torrey Smith for six on a 32-yard strike. With the game on the line, Baltimore had another three-play drive that resulted in a 70-yard touchdown reception by Jacoby Jones after a blown coverage by Denver safety Rahim Moore. Peyton Manning threw an interception at the end of the first overtime period and Baltimore kicker Justin Tucker won the game in double OT with a 47-yard field goal.

Well, it looks like Jim Harbaugh’s gut paid off. After benching starting quarterback Alex Smith in favor of second-year backup QB Colin Kaepernick, the San Francisco 49’ers have had a record of 6-2-1 and Harbaugh’s team is in the NFC Championship Game for the second year in a row. Against the Green Bay Packers, Kaepernick rushed for an NFL record 181 yards, which is the most ever by a quarterback in a single game. He also threw for 263 yards and accounted for four total touchdowns as the 49’ers downed the Packers 45-31 in Candlestick Park.

San Francisco 49'ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick set an NFL record for rushing yards by a quarterback in a single game with 181 yards against Green Bay. (Image courtesy of http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/nfl/news/20130113/nfl-playoffs-49ers-packers/)
San Francisco 49’ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick set an NFL record for rushing yards by a quarterback in a single game with 181 yards against Green Bay. (Image courtesy of http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/nfl/news/20130113/nfl-playoffs-49ers-packers/)

Two top teams suffer first loss in college basketball

Duke and Arizona were in the top three in virtually every college basketball ranking. However, everything changed in a three-day span. On Thursday night, the No. 3 Wildcats traveled to Matthew Knight Arena in Eugene, Ore. to face the 12-2 Oregon Ducks. Arizona was down 12 points with 3:10 remaining in the game and in typical Wildcat fashion, Sean Miller’s squad fought their way back to within four after Mark Lyons knocked down a pair of three pointers. However, it was too little too late for Arizona and Oregon won 70-66. Two days later, a short-handed Duke team (without senior Ryan Kelly and Seth Curry was injured in the game) lost on the road to No. 20 N.C. State, who was led by C.J. Leslie’s 25 points and six rebounds.

Stay tuned for the next edition of Sports.Eat.Sleep.Repeat.!

The first college basketball stock report of 2013

Conference play is officially underway in most conferences, which means that it’s time to evaluate whether it’s time to buy, sell or hold stock in some of the country’s top college basketball teams.

BUY

Butler

Brad Stevens has the Butler Bulldogs looking up as they head into A-10 play. (Image courtesy of http://bleacherreport.com/articles/1446736-butlers-brad-stevens-the-most-job-secure-coach-in-college-basketball)
Brad Stevens has the Butler Bulldogs looking up as they head into A-10 play. (Image courtesy of http://bleacherreport.com/articles/1446736-butlers-brad-stevens-the-most-job-secure-coach-in-college-basketball)

The Bulldogs’ two losses came in the team’s first five games and since their loss to Illinois, who is currently ranked eleventh, Brad Stevens’ squad has rattled off nine straight victories, including a win over No. 1 Indiana. Butler is playing their trademark tough defense and the Bulldogs have wins over Marquette, North Carolina and Northwestern in addition to knocking off the Hoosiers. Butler is the favorite to win the A-10 and its stock can continue to rise with a good conference record.

VCU

The Rams suffered three early losses to Wichita State, who is likely the second best team in the Missouri Valley, Duke and Missouri. However, VCU rebounded and is 12-3 with favorable chances to win a wide open Atlantic 10.

Minnesota

The Golden Gophers started the season unranked but have won their way to the ninth spot in the rankings. Their lone loss was to Duke, which is certainly nothing to be ashamed of considering the Blue Devils’ success this season. Minnesota is on a nine game win streak and has won six consecutive games by double digits, with the latest being a 76-63 home win against No. 18 Michigan State.

Kansas State

In Bruce Weber’s first year as head coach of the Wildcats, Kansas State is off to an impressive 12-2 record. K-State lost to Michigan and Gonzaga early in the season but have put those behind them with wins over Florida and Oklahoma State. The Wildcats will be in the mix of teams competing for second place in the Big 12 behind Kansas.

Kentucky

UK was way overrated at No. 3 in the preseason but the Wildcats have had time to work out some of their kinks in their non-conference schedule. Ryan Harrow gives them a good option at point guard that they were missing early in the season. They lost to Duke and Louisville, two of the top four teams in the country, and Notre Dame in their first true road test. Many of the growing pains are out of the way and a top three finish in the SEC isn’t out of the question as the will compete with Florida and Missouri for the conference title.

SELL

Ohio State

Brandon Paul and the Fighting Illini handled their business against Ohio State and make basketball fans wonder how good the Buckeyes really are. (Image courtesy of http://www.toledoblade.com/Ohio-State/2013/01/05/No-11-Illinois-rebounds-with-home-win-over-No-8-Buckeyes-74-55.html)
Brandon Paul and the Fighting Illini handled their business against Ohio State and make basketball fans wonder how good the Buckeyes really are. (Image courtesy of http://www.toledoblade.com/Ohio-State/2013/01/05/No-11-Illinois-rebounds-with-home-win-over-No-8-Buckeyes-74-55.html)

The Buckeyes have faced three ranked teams-Duke, Kansas and Illinois-and lost all three games. With six ranked teams in the Big Ten, the Buckeyes will have to win big games, especially on the road, and they haven’t proven that they’re up to the challenge just yet.

Pittsburgh

The Panthers cracked the AP Top 25 with an appearance at No. 24 but it will be short-lived after losing to Cincinnati and Rutgers in their first two Big East games, which makes then tied for last place in the conference. Pittsburgh had two freshmen in the starting lineup, which could make for a slow start to conference play.

Cincinnati

Mick Cronin’s Bearcats reached as high as eighth in the rankings but Cincinnati lost to New Mexico and St. John’s in the team’s last three games. UC has a challenging next matchup when it hosts No. 21 Notre Dame on Monday.

Wisconsin

The Badgers entered the season in the AP Top 25 but fell quickly out of the polls after losses to Florida, Creighton, Virginia and Marquette. Wisconsin plays Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan State, Minnesota and Ohio State in consecutive games in January, which bodes for a difficult month and a bad start to Big Ten play.

HOLD

Duke

The Blue Devils have passed every test that has been thrown at them this season but they can only move down in the rankings from the No. 1 spot. Duke will be expected to win the ACC but North Carolina State, North Carolina or Maryland all have the talent to upset the Blue Devils in conference play.

Arizona

Sean Miller’s Wildcats are the best team out West but San Diego State, Colorado and Utah’s close losses have shown that Arizona is vulnerable and it could suffer its first loss to a PAC-12 opponent this month.

Illinois

The Fighting Illini are a very difficult team to examine. They won by double digits against Butler and on the road against Gonzaga. Then Illinois lost to Missouri and Purdue in a three-game stretch, followed by a dominating win over Ohio State. Illinois is certainly a force to be reckoned with in the Big Ten but their up and down play gives the impression that they will have their share of impressive wins and tough losses this season.

Oklahoma State

The Cowboys blew out North Carolina State early in the season but have lost consecutive games to No. 10 Gonzaga and No. 25 Kansas State, which means that Oklahoma State still has room for improvement in the remainder of the season.

Michigan

The country’s No. 2 team is off to a 15-0 start but it is only a matter of time until the Wolverines lose their first game. The Big Ten schedule for every team is a mine field–one bad step or slip up and Michigan can receive the first blemish on its 2012-13 campaign. However, the Wolverines are one of the best teams in the country and will give Indiana a run for its money to win the Big Ten.

Stay tuned for the next edition of Sports.Eat.Sleep.Repeat.!

Duke Deserves to be Ranked Number One

As a freshman at Indiana University, my allegiance is to the Hoosiers, who currently sit atop the college basketball rankings. Indiana has a 7-0 record and is coming off of a 24-point victory over No. 14 North Carolina. The team’s other statement win came in the Legends Classic championship game against Georgetown. While I would pick IU to win a matchup against any team in the country, I’m going to assume the role of the devil’s advocate and argue that Duke deserves to be ranked number one.

There may not be a team in the history of college basketball that has compiled a more impressive resumé through the first seven games of the season. The Blue Devils have three wins over top five teams to their name. Duke has already knocked off No. 3 Kentucky, No. 2 Louisville, and No. 4 Ohio State. Add in a victory against Minnesota, who is currently No. 21 in the country, and one of the best mid-major programs over the past two seasons, VCU. And their non-conference schedule is not quite over; Duke will play Temple and Davidson, two respectable opponents, before ACC play begins. At this pace, Coach Mike Krzyzewski’s squad has virtually guaranteed itself a No. 1 seed in March.

Mason Plumlee has led Duke to a hot start and consideration for the top spot in the rankings. Courtesy of http://bleacherreport.com/articles/1393299-duke-basketball-full-preview-predictions-and-storylines-for-2012-13.

IU would be ranked second at no fault of its own. Duke has simply scheduled some of the best competition in college basketball and passed every test with flying colors. Down the road, however, Indiana’s schedule is much tougher than that of Duke. The Hoosiers have ten Big Ten games against teams that are currently ranked and that number could increase if Wisconsin can find its way back into the top 25. The Blue Devils have two games against both North Carolina and North Carolina State but no other team is ranked. Florida State is the next closest team from the ACC to being ranked and the Seminoles are the 37th team in the AP poll.

Without question, Indiana and Duke have proven themselves to be the two best teams in the country. One can only hope that they meet in Atlanta next spring in the Final Four or the national championship game. Coach K vs. Tom Crean. Mason Plumlee vs. Cody Zeller. Seth Curry vs. Yogi Ferrell.  Those matchups have March Madness written all over them. In the mean time, the two college basketball powerhouses can only compete in the polls, where they will likely be separated by the smallest of margins.

An Extremely Early 2013 Bracketology Report from ESPN’s Joe Lunardi

It is November 12. Some college basketball teams haven’t even had their season opener yet but it’s never too early for the man with the greatest job in the world, ESPN Bracketologist Joe Lunardi, to hypothesize about what next spring’s NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament will look like. Last Tuesday, he made his second bracket prediction of the year.

Joe Lunardi’s second bracket prediction of the 2012-13 season. Courtesy of http://espn.go.com/mens-college-basketball/bracketology/_/year/2013.

Immediately, the strength of the Midwest Region stood out to me. The number one overall seeded Indiana Hoosiers are the best ranked team in the region. Florida is a No. 2 seed, North Carolina State is the No. 3 seed, followed by No. 4 Arizona, No. 5 Creighton, No. 6 Baylor, No. 7 Cincinnati, No. 8 Marquette, and No. 9 Saint Louis. Indiana and North Carolina State are national championship contenders, which is why it’s surprising that Lunardi has the Wolfpack as a No. 3 seed when they are currently No. 6 in the country. From top to bottom, the region is filled with dangerous teams that could knock off a lower seeded opponent. Florida will compete with Kentucky to be the best team in the SEC this year. Arizona will be at worst a Sweet Sixteen team but has Final Four potential if it the Wildcats get the right matchups. Creighton has preseason All-American forward Doug McDermott. Even the Cincinnati Bearcats can shock the nation thanks to its pair of high-scoring guards, Sean Kilpatrick and Cashmere Wright. Five of the teams in the Midwest Region are currently ranked in the top sixteen teams in the AP Top 25.

Joe Lunardi’s Midwest Region Prediction. Courtesy of http://espn.go.com/mens-college-basketball/bracketology/_/year/2013.

The weakest region projection is by far the West Region. Ohio State is the No. 1 seed but the quality of the teams goes down in a hurry. Duke is the region’s No. 2 seed and has two future NBA Draft picks in Mason Plumlee and Seth Curry. UCLA is not nearly as intimidating now that freshman Shabazz Muhammad has been ruled ineligible for the entire season by the NCAA. UNLV and Gonzaga are not in one of the power six conferences, which means they won’t be tested nearly as much  and they may not deserve their rankings.

Joe Lunardi’s projected West Region as of November 6, 2012. Courtesy of http://espn.go.com/mens-college-basketball/bracketology/_/year/2013.

College basketball is going to pick up this week, with Kentucky and Duke playing Tuesday night. Until the next bracketology update, enjoy the start of college basketball season and stay tuned for the next edition of Sports.Eat.Sleep.Repeat.

Ranking the 6 Power Conferences in College Basketball

The majority of the teams that make the NCAA Tournament every spring are from the Power 6 Conferences: the ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, Big East, Pac-12 and SEC. From year to year, the best college basketball conference varies. With three teams in the top five, the Big Ten takes the crown this year.

Big Ten

Ranked Teams

1. Indiana

4. Ohio State

5. Michigan

14. Michigan State

23. Wisconsin

All-Americans

Trey Burke-Guard-Michigan

DeShaun Thomas-Forward-Ohio State

Cody Zeller-Center-Indiana

The Hoosiers have taken control of the preseason #1 ranking thanks to Cody Zeller and depth unparalleled in the rest of college basketball. Courtesy of http://bleacherreport.com/articles/1319961-big-ten-basketball-predicting-the-2012-13-big-ten-stats-leaders

Big Ten basketball is back. The Indiana Hoosiers are the unanimous preseason number one team with the best player in the country. Ohio State returns junior DeShaun Thomas, who shot 52% from the field last season and doubled his scoring from his freshman year. The Buckeyes also have Aaron Craft, who is arguably the best defender in the country. Only Penn State and Nebraska, which are historically schools focused on their football programs, finished with a record below .500 last season. From top to bottom, the Big Ten has depth in teams and individual players. Minnesota, a middle-of-the-road Big Ten team, has a top prospect in power forward Trevor Mbakwe. Michigan sophomore guard Trey Burke is a preseason All-American in many sports outlets after averaging 14.8 points, 4.6 assists, and 3.5 rebounds as a freshman.

ACC

Ranked Teams

6. North Carolina State

8. Duke

11. North Carolina

25. Florida State

C.J. Leslie leads the Wolfpack to the top ten rankings and NC State is ready for a national championship run. Courtesy of http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/sports/college/mensbasketball/acc/story/2012-04-18/cj-leslie-nc-state/54385466/1.

North Carolina lost four starters and Duke lost two starters to the 2012 NBA Draft, which hurts the strength of the ACC this year. However, North Carolina State is taking over the reigns as a national championship contender because its top four players are returning from last season. C.J. Leslie, Lorenzo Brown, Scott Wood, and Richard Howell all averaged double-digits in scoring last year, when the Wolfpack made a Sweet Sixteen run. They also have the tenth best recruiting class, which is highlighted by shooting guard Rodney Purvis. The bottom of the ACC drops off quickly with teams like Boston College, Georgia Tech, and Wake Forest, which were significantly below last season.

Big East

Ranked Teams

2. Louisville

9. Syracuse

22. Notre Dame

24. Cincinnati

Peyton Siva is an electric guard and the motor behind the Louisville Cardinals. Courtesy of http://www.zimbio.com/pictures/9vA3Yb_luTk/East+Basketball+Tournament+Second+Round/k0L4kz6WMdR/Yancy+Gates.

Louisville was a surprise Final Four team in a region that featured Michigan State and Missouri as the top two teams. The Cardinals return a loaded roster with Russ Smith, Chane Behanan, Peyton Siva, and Gorgui Dieng, which is why they sit at the second spot in the preseason rankings. While Syracuse and Pittsburgh are set to join the ACC in July of 2012, the Big East will still benefit from the Orange’s top ten preseason rank. While ‘Cuse lost Dion Waiters, Kris Joseph, and Fab Melo to the NBA Draft, they bring back Brandon Triche, C.J. Fair, James Southerland, Rakeem Christmas. They also have the fifteenth ranked recruiting class for this year, with forward Jerami Grant, guard Trevor Cooney, and forward DaJuan Coleman. The Notre Dame Fighting Irish, who were ousted in the first round of the NCAA Tournament last season by the upset-minded Xavier Musketeers and Cincinnati Bearcats, led by their talented backcourt of Sean Kilpatrick and Cashmere Wright, are also ranked going into the season. Pittsburgh, Marquette, and Georgetown are all knocking on the door of the top 25.

SEC

Ranked Teams

3. Kentucky

10. Florida

15. Missouri

While the SEC is the perennial powerhouse in college football, it does not have much depth in college basketball. Outside of its top few teams, the conference is dismal. Kentucky is one of the best teams in country once again thanks to the best recruiting class in the nation with four ESPN 100 players. Nerlens Noel, Alex Poythress, Archie Goodwin, and Willie Cauley-Stein are the next class of potential one-and-dones who were recruited by John Calipari. Senior Kenny Boynton will have Florida in the spotlight this season. The newest school to the SEC, Missouri is ranked fifteenth in the preseason. Tennessee received some attention in the preseason rankings but is still far off from cracking the top 25.

Big 12

Ranked Teams

7. Kansas

19. Baylor

Kansas’ Jeff Withey is one of the best centers in college basketball and will be crucial to the Jayhawks’ success this season. Courtesy of http://www.zimbio.com/photos/Jeff+Withey/Ivo+Baltic/Las+Vegas+Invitational+Day+One/h5A83sDt-ft.

Overall, the Big 12 had a successful 2012 NCAA Tournament. Kansas made the National Championship game and Baylor made the Elite Eight. Three of its six teams lost to the eventual champion Kentucky. Former Jayhawks Tyshawn Taylor and Thomas Robinson are now in the NBA, which means that this year’s Kansas squad will rely on Elijah Johnson and Jeff Withey to take them back to the promised land. Baylor will be a prominent team on the national level. Texas, Oklahoma State, and Kansas State all received votes for the AP Top 25 but fell short of being ranked. Having Missouri leave for the SEC will hurt them.

Pac-12

Ranked Teams

12. Arizona

13. UCLA

Shabazz Muhammad is looking to bring back the glory days of UCLA basketball but that may be hard to do if he is only there one year. Courtesy of http://sports.yahoo.com/blogs/ncaab-the-dagger/ucla-shabazz-muhammad-miss-2-4-weeks-due-005359555–ncaab.html.

Similarly to the SEC, the Pac-12’s top tier is elite and the rest of the conference struggles greatly. Arizona and UCLA are both bringing in top 25 recruiting classes and Xavier transfer Mark Lyons will certainly bolster the Wildcats’ lineup this season. The Pac-12 is looking to improve upon its overall performance last season, where only Colorado and California made the NCAA Tournament.