March 19, 2014

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2014 NCAA Tournament Cinderellas

By: Matt Bowen

The table for the 2014 NCAA Men’s Basketball Division I Championship is now set. March Madness is ubiquitous. The greatest annual sporting event in the world has finally arrived and Fathead can help you do your homework in regards to selecting Cinderellas.

Questioning our credentials? Last year we picked the Wichita State Shockers to make a deep run and they didn’t disappoint. A trip to the 2013 Final Four followed by a clean 34-0 2014 regular season record legitimizes our picking prowess.

The landscape of college basketball has changed recently. No longer are little-known schools like Wichita State perennial Cinderellas. A true tournament sleeper can be nearly any seed these days. Cinderella can be a lower seeded team from a major conference. They can also be a mid-major squad with a healthy seed. These mid-majors can easily be overlooked in your local brackets because of lack of face time in the national spotlight.

This article highlights one sleeper from every region of the tournament.

Let’s dance!

UCLA Bruins

Will UCLA play cinderella in 2014?

The South Region: UCLA Bruins

You may be scratching your head and wondering how one of the most storied teams in college basketball history is a Cinderella.

True, the UCLA Bruins are a No. 4 seed, but they are the forgotten No. 4 seed in this year’s tournament. The other No. 4 seeds are the Louisville Cardinals, San Diego State Aztecs and Michigan State Spartans. These teams all are unhappy with their seeding for one reason or another.

Not UCLA in the South Region. They were the only non-ranked No. 4 seed at the end of the season. The Bruins got hot in the Pac 12 Tournament and stole the show from Arizona in the championship game.

UCLA is a deep team with eight solid contributors playing 17-plus minutes a game. They also have four players averaging 10-plus points. This time of year depth like that trumps most.

Starting point guard Kyle Anderson is a matchup nightmare. At 6’9”, 230 lbs. he’s a dynamic specimen and a true triple-double threat. With the ball in his hands and momentum on their side the Bruins won’t stop dancing until the clock strikes midnight.

The West Region: Baylor Bears

The Baylor Bears are a legitimate Cinderella out of the West Region as the No. 6 seed.

They mirror the previously mentioned UCLA Bruins in terms of depth and scoring. Eight guys play at least 14-plus minutes per game and four average 10-plus points.

They’ve won 10 of their last 12 games and have overcome a rough patch of their season where they lost 7-of-8.  They rebound well and share the rock so look out for the Bears on the fast break.

They have a sharpshooter in Brady Heslip who shoots 47.3 percent beyond the arc. These team attributes combined with Heslip’s range makes them a true contender. An Elite 8 run isn’t out of the question.

The Midwest Region: Iowa Hawkeyes

The Midwest Region is by far the deepest in the tourney and the Iowa Hawkeyes will have to make it through the Tennessee Volunteers in Round 1 to truly put their dancing shoes on.

They’ll be up to the challenge despite losing 6-of-7 to close the season. For that reason alone they’ll be written off by many and left by the roadside on the way to the Final Four.

Think twice before making this mistake on this No. 11 seed. The Hawkeyes are as talented as they come with a unique blend of athleticism. Truth be told, they’re one of the deepest teams in the nation.

They have 10 players who average double-digit minutes and depend on scoring contributions from all. Nine, yes nine Hawkeyes score at least five points per contest. That might not seem like a jaw-dropping stat but every coach in the country desires that type of balance.

The team can score in bunches too. Scoring an impressive 82 points/game and led by senior Roy Devyn Marble they do everything well in every facet of the game. Don’t pass on this well-wounded bunch.

The East Region: Providence Friars

Come this time next week the Providence Friars will be the water cooler kings of college basketball.  Everybody will be talking about them. That’s what wins over admired North Carolina and Iowa State will do for you in the first weekend of the tournament.

On paper they may not be the sexiest car on the lot but they have heart and soul.

They did beat highly respected Creighton twice during the season and point guard Bryce Cotton is one of the best playmakers in the country. Remember his name because he averaged 21.4 points per game this season. Any time a kid averages 20-plus in college means he’s a star. Cotton is no different.

The Friars shoot 78.1 percent from the free throw line which is arguably the most valuable asset this time of year. Something about them screams Cinderella.

Good luck and enjoy the pageantry of the Madness.

November 8, 2013

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Oregon vs. Baylor Would Be the 2013 Must-See Bowl Game

By: Matt Bowen

Thanks to a tough loss against rival Stanford recently, the Oregon Ducks may be officially out of the National Championship race. With Florida State and Ohio State waiting impatiently for a chance to move up in the ranks, the Ducks need some luck from here on out. While there are games left to be played, No. 1 Alabama seems like a team of destiny(again), Florida State’s only tough opponent left is rival Florida and Ohio State is only threatened by Michigan.

If Baylor doesn't have a date in the BCS National Championship, a matchup with Oregon would make for a very interesting Bowl game.

Ducks fans—don’t hang your head too long—the sun will come up tomorrow. Oregon has a great program and the team is still phenomenal. They are still bound to attend a BCS Bowl Game and their unfortunate loss sets the table for the best bowl game of the season.

Never mind Alabama vs. the field for the National Championship, the must-see game of the year will be Oregon vs. Baylor.

You see, these are the two most entertaining teams in the country. The Baylor Bears are currently 8-0, average an NCAA-best 61 points/game and have an underrated defense. The Ducks are second on the list with 51.7 per on offense.

What more does a college football fan need? Both teams provide plenty of offense and a primetime atmosphere would be television dynamite.

Baylor fans, please don’t scream at your monitors stating, “We Want Bama!” Everybody, even Ball State wants Bama. While the Bears may run the table and go undefeated, it seems like Florida State or Ohio State will still have the upper hand in the political game of BCS poker.

Baylor’s remaining schedule is tough with games against Texas Tech, Oklahoma State, TCU and Texas to end the season. There’s nothing like saving the best for last and if Baylor makes it through unscathed they may just jump everybody in the BCS formula, but it’s a long shot.

Regardless, even if undefeated and snubbed, the game we want to see is Oregon vs. Baylor.

Oregon’s quarterback Marcus Mariota is headed to the NFL next season and it would be interesting to see him lineup across a Baylor defense that only allows opponents 15.4 points/game.

People who haven’t watched Baylor closely this season might write-off Baylor as a one-sided squad that simply puts up crooked numbers, but that’s not the case. While it can easily be argued that Baylor’s recent opponent Oklahoma was their toughest to date, they only allowed 12 points to an offense that averages 28.9 and won decisively, 41-12.

Keep in mind that Oregon’s defense is allowing just 17.9 per outing also.

So, who wins the game between Oregon and Baylor? This game would feature the two best offenses in the land and secretly a pair of the best defenses. What gives?

A football purist would say they want to see the defenses triumph, but the over/under in Vegas would read somewhere around 85. For this one only, forget the defense, we want all the offense these two can dish out. As fans, we can take it.

Oregon vs. Baylor—get ready for it.

Come New Year’s Day, do whatever you have to do watch this one in its entirety. Keeps your fingers crossed that this one happens and enjoy.

January 15, 2013

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What I Will Remember About 2012 – Part 2

By: Joe Williams

Every year we see things we never thought we would and things we never want to see again. We see everything from the incredible to the inspiring to the sad and hilarious. Here’s what I will remember about 2012.

To read part one, click here.

July 23 – Penn State became the first school to receive NCAA sanctions because of criminal matters that did not directly deal with breaking NCAA rules. The penalties included a $60 million fine, a four-year ban on postseason play, a reduction of scholarships for the next four years and the vacating of all victories from 1998-2011.

July 31 – Michael Phelps won his 19th Olympic medal, making him the most decorated Olympian ever.

July 31 – The Fierce Five, the U.S. women’s gymnastics team, won gold at the London Olympic Games.

August 2 – Gabby Douglas became the first African-American woman to win the individual all-around competition.

August 5 – Andy Murray bounces back from losing to Roger Federer in the Wimbledon final to beat Federer and win the gold medal in front of his home country. He broke through again a month later, winning his first major title at the U.S. Open.

Miguel Cabrera winning baseball's Triple Crown is one of the biggest stories of 2012.

August 9 – Usain Bolt made his claim as the greatest sprinter ever by becoming the first man ever to defend his golds in both the 100m and 200m races.

August 9 – Hope Solo, Alex Morgan and the U.S. women’s soccer team won Olympic gold after a controversial semifinal against Canada and then getting revenge against Japan in the final after the shootout that ended the Women’s World Cup in 2011.

August 10 – The “Dwightmare” finally came to an end when Dwight Howard was traded from the Orlando Magic to the Los Angeles Lakers after months and months of indecision about where he wanted to play and who he wanted to play with.

August 12 – Rory McIlroy wins the PGA Championship. He would follow that with two more wins heading into the Tour Championship and cement himself as the top player in the game.

August 15 – Felix Hernandez threw a perfect game against the Rays and the Mariners won 1-0.

September 7 – In the midst of a pennant race and against his wishes, the Washington Nationals shut down their superstar pitcher Stephan Strasburg after 159 1/3 innings. The Nationals would go on to win the NL East and then lose in the NLDS in five games to the St. Louis Cardinals.

September 15 – The NHL labor dispute officially becomes a lockout.

September 24 – The Replacement refs fiasco came to a head on the final play of the Green Bay/Seattle Monday Night Football game. When the officials turned what sure looked to be an interception and a Green Bay win into a touchdown and a Seattle win, the NFL had no choice to settle the dispute with the regular officials.

September 30 – Team U.S.A. chokes the Ryder Cup away, blowing a 10-6 lead on the final day at Medinah. Justin Rose and Ian Poulter led the charge for Europe while Steve Stricker and Jim Furyk dropped critical 1-Up matches. The comeback almost didn’t happen when Rory McIlroy looked at his tee time in Eastern Time instead of Central time and needed a police escort to arrive at the course with just 10 minutes to spare.

October 3 – Miguel Cabrera goes 0-2 in the Detroit Tigers’ 1-0 win over Kansas City in the regular season finale but still manages to be the first player in 45 years to win the Triple Crown, finishing the season with a .330 average, 44 home runs and 139 RBI. He would be name the American League MVP.

October 10 – New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi pulls Alex Rodriguez in the ninth inning of Game 3 of the ALDS. Raul Ibanez took A-Rod’s place and homered to send the game to extra innings. Ibanez did it again in the 12th inning, giving the Yankees the win.

October 13 – Notre Dame comes up with a goal-line stand, stopping Stanford’s Stepfan Taylor on fourth-and-goal and then survives a controversial replay review to beat Stanford 20-13 in overtime to remain undefeated.

October 13 – The St. Louis Cardinals scored four runs in the ninth inning to stun the Washington Nationals and advance to the NLCS.

October 15 – Trailing 24-0 at halftime in San Diego and staring a 2-4 record in the face, the Denver Broncos score 35 unanswered second-half points to beat the Chargers 35-24 and improve to 3-3. They would not lose again in the regular season and finish with the best record in the AFC.

October 25 – Pablo Sandoval hit three home runs in Game 1 of the World Series on his way to earning the World Series MVP award.

October 28 – The San Francisco Giants completed an improbable run to a second World Series win in two years and did it after trailing 2-0 in a best-of-5 series against Cincinnati and then falling behind 3-1 to St. Louis in the NLCS

November 10 – Texas A&M upsets No. 1 Alabama 29-24, led by its redshirt freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel. It was a springboard for Manziel as he led the Aggies to an 11-2 record in their first season in the SEC, a win in the Cotton Bowl and became the first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy.

November 17 – Undefeated Kansas State and Oregon both go down and lose their shot to play for the BCS National Championship. Baylor beat the Wildcats 52-24 and Stanford knocked off the Ducks 17-14 in overtime.

November 21 – Jack Taylor, guard at Grinnell College (Division III), scored an NCAA-record 138 points against Faith Baptist Bible College.

November 22 – Two words…Butt Fumble.

December 1 – Georgia came up five yards short of scoring the game-winning touchdown against Alabama in the SEC Championship Game. Alabama hung on for a 32-28 win and a spot in the BCS National Championship Game.

December 8 – Appalachian State’s Brian Okam quickly became known for the worst free throw ever after a video of his miss went viral.

December 16 – Tom Brady leads the Patriots on a furious rally after falling behind 31-3 against the 49ers. After the game was tied at 34, San Francisco retook the lead and won 41-34.

December 30 – Adrian Peterson runs for 199 yards against the Green Bay Packers after already eclipsing 200 yards twice this season, but he came up a mere nine yards short of the single-season rushing record.

January 10, 2013

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What I’ll Remember About 2012 – Part 1

By: Joe Williams

Every year we see things we never thought we would and things we never want to see again. We see everything from the incredible to the inspiring to the sad and hilarious. Here’s what I will remember about 2012.

January 1 – Matt Flynn and Matthew Stafford combine for 971 net passing yards in 45-41 Green Bay win.

January 8 – The Denver Broncos make short work of the new NFL overtime rules, scoring an 80-yard touchdown on the first play of overtime to beat the Steelers 29-23 in the first round of the AFC playoffs.

January 9 Alabama actually scored a touchdown in its rematch with LSU in the BCS Championship Game, winning 21-0.

January 14 Tom Brady shredded the Denver Broncos for five touchdown passes in the first half and another in the third quarter to tie the postseason single-game record in a 45-10 win.

January 14 – The 49ers and Saints combine for 34 points in the fourth quarter and four lead changes in the final five minutes as the 49ers outlasted New Orleans 36-32 and advanced to the NFC Championship Game.

January 22 – Joe Paterno passed away.

January 22 – The Baltimore Ravens had a dropped pass in the end zone that prevented them from winning the AFC Championship Game in New England and then missed a 32-yard field goal that would have sent the game to overtime.

January 22 – The New York Giants advanced to the Super Bowl with a 20-17 overtime win against the 49ers after a fumbled punt set up the game-winning field goal.

February 4Jeremy Lin came out of nowhere and led the New York Knicks to a win with 25 points, five rebounds and seven assists in the first of an incredible 13-game stretch in which he averaged 22.3 points and 7.4 assists. His heroics were celebrated worldwide and he ended up on the cover of Time and Sports Illustrated and one of the biggest celebrities in the league.

Jeremy Lin was one of the biggest stories of 2012.

February 5 – The New York Giants beat Tom Brady and the Patriots in another Super Bowl, 21-17, led by Eli Manning and another fourth-quarter comeback.

February 5 – Tom Brady’s wife, supermodel Gisele Bundchen, gets caught on camera blaming Patriot receivers for New England’s Super Bowl loss, saying that her husband cannot throw and catch the ball at the same time.

March 8 – The Indianapolis Colts announced that they will release future hall-of-fame quarterback, Peyton Manning.

March 13 – The First Four was worth watching on this night. First, Western Kentucky rallied from a 16-point deficit with 4:51 to go and beat Mississippi Valley State 59-58. Then BYU followed that up by erasing a 25-point deficit and beat Iona 78-72.

March 16Duke and Missouri, both No. 2 seeds in the NCAA tournament, go down on the same day. Norfolk State upset a 30-win Missouri team 86-84 and then later that night Lehigh defeated the Blue Devils 75-70. Only four No. 15 seeds have ever knocked off a No. 2 seed in history before it happened twice that day.

March 20 – Peyton Manning picks the Denver Broncos.

March 21NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell laid down the law on the New Orleans Saints for their bounty scandal, effectively ending the Saints season before it ever got started. This story never went away due to the continuous appeals of the suspensions.

March 26 – The Denver Broncos trade Tim Tebow to the New York Jets.

March 11 – Tiger Woods withdrew from the final round of the WGC Cadillac Championship with an injury. The blimp that was covering the golf tournament then followed Tiger as he left the golf course, a scene usually reserved for a high-speed chase.

April 1 – I.K. Kim takes the honor for worst golf shot of the year after she missed an 18-inch putt that would have won the LPGA’s first major of the year, the Kraft Nabisco Championship. She ended up losing in a playoff.

April 2 – John Calipari and his Kentucky squad that consisted of six future NBA players wins the national title, beating Kansas 67-59.

April 3Baylor completed a perfect season at 40-0 and won the women’s national title, beating Notre Dame 80-61.

April 8 – Bubba Watson hits one of the greatest shots in Masters history; a miracle 40-yard hook shot out of the pine straw on the second hole of a sudden-death playoff with Louis Oosthuizen. Two putts for par later and Watson was wearing the green jacket.

April 21Phil Humber pitches a perfect game at Seattle, striking out nine in the White Sox 4-0 win.

April 26Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III are drafted by the Colts and Redskins.

May 8 Josh Hamilton hit four home runs and had eight RBI against the Baltimore Orioles.

June 3 – Tiger Woods hit an incredible flop shot from behind the green on 16 that trickled into the hole on his way to winning the Memorial Tournament.

June 7 – LeBron James overwhelms the Boston Celtics with a 45 point and 15 rebound performance in a 98-79 win over Boston on the road to force a Game 7 in South Beach.

June 7 – Novak Djokovic outlasted Rafael Nadal in a grueling marathon in the Australian Open final (5-7, 6-4, 6-2, 6-7 (5), 7-5) in a match that took five hours and 53 minutes and didn’t end until 1:37 a.m.

June 11 – The Los Angeles Kings win their first Stanley Cup in 45 years after barely squeaking into the final playoff spot in the West and going on one of the greatest runs in playoff history.

June 13Matt Cain pitched a perfect game in a 10-0 San Francisco win over the Astros.

June 21 – LeBron James and the Miami Heat win the NBA championship after beating the Oklahoma City Thunder 121-106 in game five.

June 27 – A four-team college football playoff was formally approved to begin in 2014.

June 30 – The third round of the AT&T National was played with no spectators on the golf course because of safety concerns after a powerful wind storm left trees uprooted all over the golf course.

November 19, 2012

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The Week in Sports

By: Anson Whaley

College football’s top two teams fall: On Saturday night, No. 1 Kansas State was rolled up by Baylor, 52-24. Not to be outdone, the nation’s second-ranked team, Oregon, lost to Stanford in overtime, 17-14. But other than Baylor and Stanford, the real winner in this is the only undefeated team capable of playing for the national championship – Notre Dame. A few weeks ago, with several unbeaten squads, the Irish were left out of the conversation in many talks about the title game. But now, Notre Dame is sitting pretty and if they can win their final game against USC, they should find their way into the BCS championship.

Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera was named AL MVP.

Baseball award winners announced: Major League Baseball dished out their awards for the 2012 season and Miguel Cabrera and Buster Posey were named the American and National League Most Valuable Players. Mike Trout garnered some consideration for the AL award due to his insane WAR of 10.7, the highest since Barry Bonds’ 11.6 a decade ago in 2002. But in the end, he couldn’t compete with Cabrera’s triple crown and the voters got this one right. Trout put up some impressive numbers, but Cabrera did something that hasn’t happened in 45 years – ‘Nuff said.

Royce White facing strange predicament: The career of Houston Rockets’ rookie Royce White could be over before it even begins. White, reportedly dealing with a fear of flying, has yet to play a game for the Rockets and he and the team are at odds. White is so adamant about his health concerns that he even broached the idea of retiring last week. The strange thing about all of this is that the Rockets drafted White even knowing about his condition, so it’s hard to understand their plight. Even though Houston hasn’t expressed an interest in trading him, dealing White to another team that might be more willing to work with him is probably the best for all involved.

Rutgers and Maryland Big Ten bound: NCAA expansion is far from over and the latest splash is that Rutgers and Maryland are headed to the Big Ten. The ACC is well-positioned in college football, but losing Rutgers is yet another blow to the Big East. The conference tried to continue its relevance by adding several more schools in the past year, but while that may work for the short term, Big East teams are still open to being poached. The bottom line is that despite more teams, the Big East is still fairly unstable.

Rory McIlroy misses cut; vows changes in ’13: The top-ranked golfer in the world, Rory McIlroy, missed the cut in the Hong Kong Open. It’s the second time this year that he failed to make the weekend’s play in a tournament he won the previous year. McIlroy thinks he may have had too much going this season and says he’ll play in fewer events in 2013. That’s bad news for TV networks, golf tournaments, and fans, but is probably the right way to go. Less tournaments will hopefully result in less physical wear, but more importantly, mentally, McIlroy should be fresher as well if he’s doing less.

Andrew Bynum the bowler: All-Star center Andrew Bynum still has yet to play a game for his new team, the Philadelphia 76ers, after he was included in a multi-team swap that sent Dwight Howard to the Los Angeles Lakers. Bynum is a younger center with loads of potential, but his knee issues have kept him off the court all season so far. And this weekend, it was reported that Bynum suffered a setback from … bowling. No, seriously. If this is true, you can bet Philly fans won’t give him an easy time about it.

Hockey’s 2012 Hall of Fame class inducted: Joe Sakic, Mats Sundin, Pavel Bure, and Adam Oates were all inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame. Predictably, the ceremony was overshadowed a bit by the NHL lockout. It’s a shame, too, because those were four of the most exciting players in hockey over the past few decades.

Baylor’s 42-game winning streak snapped: When the Baylor women’s basketball team lost to Stanford last week, it snapped the longest active winning streak in the sport. Lost in all of the hysteria, though, is that the Bears lost by only two points. Even with the loss, there’s no reason to write Baylor off as a title contender. And Brittney Griner set the women’s record for dunks in a career in the following game, so there’s that.