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.

September 19, 2011

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NCAA Football Conference Realignment: Selecting the Top 64 Schools

By: Anson Whaley

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about NCAA Football Conference allignment and how superconferences could be good for college football. My point was that if six such conferences existed, the BCS would be more accessible to a greater number of teams. But with the Big 12 possibly on the verge of an epic collapse, the more likely scenario is a sport with only four of those 16-team conferences.

That got me to thinking – if it did happen, who would likely be included? Rivals/Yahoo had some writers discuss the issue with each one coming up with their list of NCAA teams. It’s safe to say there were some notable omissions – Duke, UConn, and Indiana all were left off some of the rosters.NCAA football rules college athletics, but is it really fair to leave out such NCAA basketball powerhouses?

Well, I’ll get to that in a bit. But for the record, basketball programs that don’t play FBS football were left out of consideration. So Villanova, Georgetown, Xavier, Marquette, Gonzaga, et al? No dice.

So here’s my list of 64 teams:

The Absolute Locks– There’s absolutely no discussion on these guys. The fact that I even have to list them is borderline insulting. Call them first-ballot Hall of Famers, if you will. If there was only one superconference, these guys would be the first ones in: Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, LSU, Michigan, Miami, Nebraska, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Stanford, Tennessee, Texas, USC

Next In Line- These schools aren’t the cream of the crop, but they’d definitely get in without any question. Any NCAA conference would be glad to have them and there’s as much of a chance of Oddibe McDowell getting into the Hall of Fame as there is of these schools being left out: Arizona, Arkansas, California, Kansas, Kansas State, Michigan State, Maryland, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma State, Oregon, Penn State, Pittsburgh, UCLA, Virginia Tech, West Virginia, Wisconsin

Still In With Little Question – This is the third tier…NCAA schools that no sane conference would leave out. There could be some trivial questions about a few of them, but these institutions would certainly all be in as well. Arizona State, Boston College, Cincinnati, Clemson, Colorado, Georgia Tech, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisville, Mississippi, Mississippi State, North Carolina State, Purdue, Oregon State, Syracuse, Texas A&M, Virginia, Washington

The “Basketball” Schools– Personally, I don’t see how you have superconferences without including some of the most storied basketball programs around. Sure, we all get that despite March Madness, in terms of money, NCAA basketball takes a back seat to football. But as the second biggest college sport, these schools have got to be in. After all, are you really going to turn down these schools that not only each have won multiple basketball championships for someone like Baylor? Didn’t think so: UConn, Duke, Indiana

The “Non-BCS Football Schools”– These guys have all had incredible success without being in a BCS automatic qualifying conference. I can listen to the argument of not moving them to the front of the line for various reasons such as market size, but they’ve all been ranked in the top ten in recent years on the gridiron and are too good to leave out: Boise State, BYU, TCU, Utah

The Final Five In

Minnesota – Mediocre football and basketball programs, but has had respectable years in each.

Northwestern– Here mostly for their academics and market (Chicago). Oh yeah, and Michael Wilbon.

Rutgers – One of oldest universities and recent football success with average of nine wins from 2006 – 2009.

South Carolina – Are you gonna be the one to tell Steve Spurrier he’s not invited?

South Florida– Football program on the rise after only being in Division I for ten years and brings the Tampa market.

Left Out – Can’t find room for everybody and these would be the unlucky schools if I were putting the conferences together. Would they be on someone’s list? Absolutely. But on mine, they just miss the cut: Vanderbilt, Baylor, Iowa State, Washington State, Wake Forest

March 14, 2011

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Predicting the NCAA Tournament’s Final Four

By: Anson Whaley

 

    

With the NCAA Tournament bracket officially released, it’s time to take a look and see who’s got the best chance of going to the Final Four. Sure it’s weeks away, but while there are games in between, when it’s all said and done, getting to Houston is all that matters.

The East may be the toughest region in the bracket. While top overall seed Ohio State will play its first two games in Cleveland, the Buckeyes will have their hands full with potential games against programs such as Kentucky, Syracuse, and surging North Carolina. And if those teams stumble, there are plenty of others that are capable of giving the Buckeyes all they can handle, including Villanova, West Virginia, George Mason, Washington, and Xavier. All of those teams have been ranked at some point in the season and on any given day could challenge Ohio State.

At the end of the day, it’s hard to pick Ohio State or Kentucky to come out of this region because of their difficult path. Each school would need to beat the other, avoid other potential trap games and then beat a North Carolina team that is 14-2 over their past 16 games. I’ll take the No. 2 seed North Carolina Tarheels to come out of this region.

The West also features a difficult path for the No. 1 seed, the Duke Blue Devils. Duke should win its first two games playing in North Carolina, but can then look forward to potential matchups against Arizona, Texas, Cincinnati, UConn, and San Diego State. Texas could be Duke’s biggest challenge in this bracket and even though the Longhorns have struggled a bit lately, they have one of the best resumes in the country with wins against Kansas, North Carolina, and Missouri. A No. 4 seed was a slap in the face to this program, and I think Texas will play with a chip on their shoulders. UConn is also lurking in the region. They’re playing incredible basketball and are fresh off of winning five straight games to capture the Big East Tournament championship. And in Kemba Walker, the Huskies have one of the nation’s best players. Still, UConn can be a bit of a one-man show at times, so I’m taking the Longhorns in a bit of an upset in this region.

No. 1 seed Kansas has an easier time out in the southwest. Big East teams Notre Dame and Louisville could challenge the Jayhawks, but other than that, their path is fairly easy. Georgetown and Florida State have been solid teams this year, but are too inconsistent to make a deep run. I also find it hard to take Purdue too seriously. They have a big win against Ohio State at home this year, but after that, they have a fairly weak resume. The Boilermakers’ body of work includes an ugly loss to Iowa, one of the Big Ten’s worst teams, about a week ago. Purdue simply doesn’t have the manpower to match up with a team like Kansas that has several future NBA players. The Jayhawks should advance to Houston.

Pitt is the No. 1 in the southeast, and after a decade of regular season success, this could be the season they reach the Final Four. Standing in their way will be Kansas State, Wisconsin, Florida, BYU, and St. John’s. All quality teams, but none that the Panthers aren’t capable of beating. Pitt should also watch out for a potential second-round matchup against Butler or Old Dominion. Old Dominion, particularly, could pose problems as they would have a virtual home game against Pitt, playing in Washington D.C. But the Panthers should be extra motivated to reach the Final Four in a year when college basketball is down across the board. I expect Jamie Dixon to get to Houston and Pitt to finally get over the hump.

February 25, 2011

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Fathead’s Top Trends in Sports this Week

By: Lionel

Here’s some proof that school spirit is stronger than the success of a school’s basketball team.  Below are the 50 best selling colleges on Fathead.com over the last month.  By our estimates, only about half of them will make the NCAA Tournament.

The top selling colleges of the last 30 days:

1. Ohio State

2. Michigan

3. Texas

4. Florida

5. Notre Dame

6. Penn State

7. North Carolina

8. Alabama

9. Nebraska

10. LSU

11. Michigan State

12. Auburn

13. Iowa

14. Tennessee

15. Miami (FL)

16. Wisconsin

17. Kentucky

18. Georgia

19. West Virginia

20. Duke

21. Oklahoma

22. Missouri

23. Oregon

24. USC

25. Clemson

26. Kansas

27. Purdue

28. Arkansas

29. Florida State

30. Oklahoma State

31. Louisville

32. Virginia Tech

33. Pittsburgh

34. Boise State

35. Syracuse

36. Connecticut

37. BYU

38. Arizona State

39. Illinois

40. TCU

41. Washington

42. South Carolina

43. California

44. Georgia Tech

45. Kansas State

46. Butler

47. Iowa State

48. North Carolina State

49. U.S. Naval Academy

50. Oregon State

And, of course, here is the weekly list of top Fathead sellers.  The Super Bowl hype is beginning to fade, and with it, the NFL’s stronghold on list.  While many NFL Fatheads remain, the league has given up some ground to the NBA on the heels of a great NBA All-Star Weekend.

The top selling Fatheads of the last 7 days (Feb. 18 – Feb. 24):

1.  Kobe Bryant

2.  Troy Polamalu

3.  Aaron Rodgers

4.  Dwyane Wade Drives

5.  Dallas Cowboys Logo

6.  Aaron Rodgers Super Bowl XLV MVP

7.  Blake Griffin

8.  Rajon Rondo

9.  Drew Brees Quarterback

10.  Derrick Rose