If you waited until the end of football to tune into this college basketball season, or if you have yet to pay attention, shame on you. Secondly, boy have you missed a lot. We’ve learned to expect the unexpected more than ever up until this point in this season.

Being an SEC guy through and through, it kills me to say this, but the Big Ten is the cream of the crop in college basketball this year. The SEC has Florida. The ACC– Duke and Miami. The Big 12– Kansas and Kansas State. The Big East has the best argument outside of the Big Ten with six teams quietly (due to the obsession with the Big 10 this year) in the top 25, but up until this point in the season the ceiling of potential success for the Big 10 (with Indiana, OSU, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Mich. State) looks to be higher.

With that said, it looks as though there’s not an elite team that’s above the rest like, say, a Kentucky last year. Maybe it’s simply parody. Maybe it’s due to the one-and-done rule that’s being revisited with Kentucky’s Nerlens Noel’s recent ACL injury. Maybe the level of play is lower than in years past, including more teams in the fun, but whatever the reason, it’s just that… fun. And lots of it. Oh, and the best part is, it’s only February.

In case you’re just tuning in or just want some reminders, here are a few lists that will hopefully spark some interest in the rest of the college basketball season for you… or not, whichever you choose, but that’ll be your own fault.

Top games thus far this season: (in no particular order)

#3 Michigan 62 vs. Wisconsin 65– Tied late in regulation, Wisconsin elects not to use an extra foul on Tim Hardaway Jr., and he promptly steps up and drills a three with under 4 seconds left to put the Wolverines up by 3. Game over right? Wrong. Wisconsin inbounds the ball and Ben Brust races up the floor and heaves a 40-footer, and, you guessed it, nails it to send it into overtime. Brust later hit the game winning 3-pointer with 40 seconds left in overtime.

#25 Notre Dame 104 vs. #11 Louisville 101– The 5-overtime game. Not the most well-played game and definitely not the prettiest, but the most entertaining up until this point. As the game progressed, it became almost laughable as it seemed Louisville would ultimately find a way to win countless times, but somehow Notre Dame hung around and extended the game… again, again, again, and again. Louisville’s sideline was tense and enduring Pitino’s tirades in between overtime, and even catching his clipboard he’d launched, while the Irish sideline and Coach Mike Brey were all smiles and having fun as he said afterward. This is probably due to in large part that Louisville, namely Russ Smith, had a shot to win the first four overtimes and a chance to tie the last one, and he obviously failed on all such attempts.

Illinois 74 vs. #1 Indiana 72– Indiana dominated the game for the first 35 minutes or so of game action, and then seemingly on the verge of becoming the elite team of college basketball, they began to crumble. The great Illini comeback was capped off by an incredible backdoor cut on an inbounds play, leading to a wide-open, game-winning layup as time expired.

Both Michigan vs. Ohio State games– In the first meeting on January 13th, Trey Burke’s stepback jumper to tie the game with 17 seconds left went down, then came out, leaving Michigan on the wrong side of the 56-53 decision at the hands of then #15 OSU. Then on February 5th, Michigan got the upper hand 76-74, as guards Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. caught fire in the second half. The game ended somewhat controversially as OSU point guard Aaron Craft drove the basket for what would have been a tying basket, but it was rejected by Tim Hardaway Jr. amidst some contact.

A few players to keep an eye on:

Trey Burke (PG, Michigan)– Most likely the favorite at this point in the Player of the Year race, the Sophomore is averaging 18.2 points per contest and 7 assists per game. He’s the leader of one of the best teams, explosive with the ball in his hands, and just has a knack for getting the ball through the net.

Victor Oladipo (G, Indiana)– Probably my new favorite player in the game. A highlight dunk waiting to happen. A former 3-star recruit coming out of high school, this freakishly athletic guard has transformed himself into one of the premier explosive players in the college game. Most importantly, he’s been at his best in big games for the Hoosiers averaging 20 PPG when his team has played a ranked opponent.

Doug McDermott (F, Creighton)– This guy is no stranger to the avid college basketball fan, but could unfortunately go under the radar to the casual fan because of the lack of media exposure. He averages over 23 points and 7 boards per game and has an outside shot at Player of the Year honors. Look for McDermott to become more of a household name in March.

Mason Plumlee (F, Duke)– Finally, this Senior has played himself into Player of the Year talk by putting up gaudy numbers (18 points and almost 11 boards a game).

Other Notes of Interest:

The “U” is for real. And yes, we’re still talking about basketball. Miami is ranked 2nd in the AP Poll this week–the highest ranking in school history. If beating the then top-ranked Duke Blue Devils by 27 doesn’t get your attention, I’m not sure what will. Also, like any historically good Miami team, this team has swagger. Lots of it. They play hard-nosed, floor-slapping defense, and they’re shoes can be louder than the fans at times. Heck, Lebron James and Dwayne Wade even sat courtside at a recent game. Some thought after his cinderella run at George Mason that Jim Laranega took the Miami job to cruise into retirement, but he’s done a marvelous job with this team and they mean business. It’ll be exciting to see what they can do come tourney time. And keep on eye on Shane Larkin (Yes, Barry Larkin’s son).

Nerlens Noel out for the season. Unfortunately, the worst fear of Big Blue Nation were confirmed this week as explosive shot-blocker Nerlins Noel received news that he tore his ACL Tuesday while blocking a shot against Florida. You hate to see this happen to any player, especially one of his caliber and potential–one who could undoubtedly be playing for a salary this year if it wasn’t for the NBA age limit rule.

Curse of #1 and March Madness coming early. As alluded to earlier, each of the past five weeks, the top ranked team in the nation has gone down. This makes for excitement, as no team is head and shoulders above the rest. This should make March all the more interesting, as the NCAA Tournament generally depends on which team is hot at the right time, but it looks like the field is much more wide open this year. Florida’s Billy Donovan says 30 teams have a shot to make the Final Four. Butler’s Brad Stevens says everyone that gets in has a shot this year. Should be fun.

In conclusion, if you’ve yet to dive into this college basketball season physically and emotionally, yes you’ve missed a lot, but it’s not too late. I’m not sure how the games and story-lines can get much better, but I know they will. March Madness doesn’t disappoint.

**Feel free to agree, disagree, or comment other input as you please. I’m sure I left some top news, info, etc. out.

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By: Philip Matthews

David Fangupo: The 350-Pound Running Back

Tyler Raborn —  Wednesday, February 13, 2013 — 6 Comments

Check out this video of David Fangupo, a 350-pound running back from Hawaii:

According to the Huffington Post, David has committed to the University of Hawaii, making him the first athletic 350-pounder not to commit to an SEC school in years…

Sports Illustrated will feature Michael Jordan on its cover for the 50th time in celebration of his 50th birthday on its February 18th issue:

SI 50th MJ

As the Chicago Tribune pointed out, Jordan declined to interview with SI:

Interestingly, SI notes that Jordan — now owner of the Charlotte Bobcats — again declined the magazine’s requests for an interview, as he has done ever since SI made light of his attempt to play baseball following his first retirement in 1993.

The article that “made light” of Jordan’s attempt to play baseball was published on March 14th, 1994. Steve Wulf’s account of Jordan’s spring training sarcastically described, as the article’s title pointed out, Jordan’s inability to become a serviceable baseball player…

The single most impressive thing Jordan has done on a baseball field occurred shortly before his first official spring training game, last Friday in Sarasota, Fla. He and some of the other White Sox were taking BP on an out-of-the-way diamond—Minnie Minoso Field, to be exact—when it came time to collect the baseballs and put them in a basket on the mound. Much to the delight of a small crowd, Jordan started shooting fallaway jumpers with the balls. For the sake of posterity and those basketball fans who miss him, it should be noted that Jordan was 5 for 7 from the field.

But to Wulf’s dismay, the magazine took his criticism a step further, with this cover:

Bag It, Michael

Wulf subsequently left Sports Illustrated, as this Deadspin article recounting the saga notes:

Wulf was so irked about SI‘s stubbornness that he up and left the magazine (he went on to become the founding editor of ESPN The Magazine).

So…

Dear Michael,

Happy Birthday! And look, we made you this magazine cover to say, “Happy 50th!”

Sincerely,

The guys you hate

U.S. Map of NFL Fandom

Tyler Raborn —  Tuesday, February 12, 2013 — 13 Comments

Check out this interesting map provided by Facebook’s Sean Taylor and shared by FlowingData:

NFL Fans on Facebook

As Sean Taylor explains:

The National Football League is one of the most popular sports in America with some incredibly devoted fans. At Facebook we have about 35 million account holders in the United States who have Liked a page for one of the 32 teams in the league, representing one of the most comprehensive samples of sports fanship ever collected. Put another way, more than 1 in 10 Americans have declared their support for an NFL team on Facebook.

So Facebook mapped out these likes by county, as Taylor explained here:

While winning seems to matter, NFL teams have local followings that are probably heavily influenced by family ties and/or where a person grew up,  so we were obviously curious to see where the fans for various teams live now. By considering the physical locations of NFL fans, we can construct a map of the top team for each county in the US. It tells an interesting story about the ways that football rivalries and allegiances alternately divide and unite the country, and sometimes even individual states.

But the most burning questions I have are:

What are all of those Steelers and Cowboys fans doing in the northwest? 

Why does Alaska love Green Bay?

and…

What’s more difficult: “Where’s Waldo?” or “Where are the Jets?”

Rob Ryan— The Right Choice

Tyler Raborn —  Tuesday, February 12, 2013 — Leave a comment

The polarizing Rob Ryan is an excellent choice for the New Orleans Saints defensive coordinator position.

… you’re either slowly nodding your head agreeing with me, or throwing your laptop across the room in utter disgust. There’s no in-between.

During the 2012 season, the New Orleans Saints, under defensive coordinator Steve Spagnola ranked 32nd in defense, allowing a league record 7,042 yards. Following Sean Payton’s reinstatement, Steve Spagnola was relieved of his defensive coordinator responsibilities after only one year. Coach Payton cited a schematic change, from a 4-3 to a 3-4, as the determining factor in Spagnola’s firing.

Many Saints fans oppose the hiring of Rob Ryan due the brash personality he has displayed throughout his coaching career. Yet Ryan fits a mold that has proven to work with Payton in the past.

Gregg Williams’ fiery personality and aggressive play calling established a defensive identity in New Orleans, which helped the Saints win Super Bowl XLIV.

Similarly, Rob Ryan possess a well-documented fiery passion for the game as well as a blitz-heavy defensive mentality.

Further, Ryan is well versed in the 3-4 scheme. The Saints decision to move from a 4-3 to a 3-4 represents a personnel decision. The Saints’ front four got little pressure on opposing quarterbacks this year, ranking 25th in sacks in the league. An aggressive 3-4 should help the Saints confuse opposing offensive lines and get more pressure on the quarterback.

The ability to re-establish a fiery aggressive defense in New Orleans combined with a strong background in the 3-4 scheme Payton wants to implement makes Rob Ryan an excellent selection for the Saints defensive coordinator position.

Ryan will be highly scrutinized by a large contingency of the Who Dat Nation this year.

Fortunately for Ryan, the Saints defense has nowhere to go but up…

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By: Tyler Raborn

Earlier this week I posted a short article on the 2012 NFL All-Pro team and how many stars they had from Scout and Rivals coming out of high school. It had such a positive response that I decided to do the same thing with the 2011 NFL All-Pro team and compare them to the 2012 All-Pro team.

So here’s the 2011 NFL All-Pro Team and how many stars (the star counts are now hyperlinked to their recruiting profiles) they had from Scout and Rivals coming out of high school (players that graduated high school before 2002 are not in the database):

Position

Player

Scout

Rivals

QB Aaron Rodgers
RB Maurice Jones-Drew 4 4
RB LeSean McCoy 5 4
FB Vonta Leach
WR Calvin Johnson 5 4
WR Wes Welker
TE Rob Gronkowski 4 4
OT Jason Peters
OT Joe Thomas NR 4
G Carl Nicks
G Jahari Evans
C Maurkice Pouncey 4 4
DE Jared Allen
DE Jason Pierre-Paul 5 4
DT Haloti Ngata 5 5
DT Justin Smith
OLB Terrell Suggs
OLB DeMarcus Ware
ILB NaVorro Bowman 4 4
ILB Patrick Willis 2 3
ILB Derrick Johnson
CB Charles Woodson
CB Darrelle Revis 3 3
S Troy Polamalu
S Eric Weddle 2 2
KR Patrick Peterson 5 5

And here’s the All-Pro team’s broken down by star and year (Scout’s stars  and Rivals’ stars are averaged):

Stars

2011

2012

5 2 1
4.5 4 1
4 4 4
3.5 0 3
3 1 3
2.5 1 2
2 1 4
Total 13 18
Out of 26 25

While only 13 players from the 2011 All-Pro team were in the database, they still managed to produce 10 players 4-stars or higher. In contrast, the 2012 team had 18 players, but only managed 6 players 4-stars or higher.

But the real story in all of this? Rob Gronkowski.

Rob Gronkowski

Dumbfounded doesn’t even begin to describe whatever is going on up there. And keep in mind, that guy—yes, that guy—was just offered $3.75M to be in an “adult film.”

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By: Tyler Raborn

Articles You Need to Read, Issue #1

Tyler Raborn —  Saturday, February 9, 2013 — 1 Comment

There are some extremely talented sports writers out there publishing incredible articles every day. In recognition of this, I’m going to post an “Articles You Need to Read” issue whenever I accumulate 4 to 6 articles that I feel are too good not to read. These articles will not break news nor will they be recaps of games. Rather, they will be characterized by interesting information, heart-warming stories, out-of-the-box analysis, etc.

Here are the four articles that I selected for Issue #1:

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Former NFL QB Jon Kitna finds ‘gold mine’ at his troubled old high school

Jon Kitna prepares for an algebra class at Lincoln High School. (Yahoo! Sports)

Jon Kitna prepares for an algebra class at Lincoln High School. (Yahoo! Sports)

By: Les Carpenter

TACOMA, Wash. – Before he left the Dallas Cowboys to come home again, Jon Kitna had one request of the two principals who run Lincoln High School:

Give me your worst students.

The other teachers told him to stop. This was last February and it was going to be hard enough to teach three algebra classes in the middle of a semester. He was two months gone from an NFL career that went for 16 years, after all. Yes, this was his old high school, the one where he was a star quarterback in the early 1990s, but didn’t the new football coach understand what he was getting into? Continue Reading…

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Texas high schooler turns away from lucrative modeling career to play college football

mylescrosby

Myles Crosby (NBC Sports)

By: Rick Chandler

Myles Crosby, 18, is the 11th-ranked male model in the world, according to Models.com — having posed for Calvin Klein in magazines such as Esquire, GQ and Vanity Fair. The Colleyville, Texas senior could “easily make a six-figure salary” as an international model, said Gerald Frankowski of the Kim Dawson Agency. But he’s giving it all up to play college football. Continue Reading…

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Derek Jeter Calls Grieving Mother Of Victoria Soto; MLB Observes Moment Of Silence For Sandy Hook Victims

A mourner displays a program for the funeral of slain teacher Victoria Soto on Dec. 19. (credit: John Moore/Getty Images)

A mourner displays a program for the funeral of slain teacher Victoria Soto on Dec. 19. (credit: John Moore/Getty Images)

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Yankees captain Derek Jeter personally offered his condolences this week to the mother of Sandy Hook Elementary School teacher Victoria Soto.

Soto, 27, has been hailed a hero for trying to shield her students from the gunfire when shooter Adam Lanza burst into her classroom Friday morning. She was among the 26 victims — 20 children, six school officials — at SHES. Continue Reading…

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From Wall Street to the sidelines: Coastal Carolina’s Joe Moglia is delivering

Associated Press / Charles Statem

Associated Press / Charles Statem

By: 

Joe Moglia remembers the questions he was asked when he tried to transition from the coaching world to the corporate world nearly 30 years ago.

He’s had to answer the same questions since returning to coaching. Now at age 63 and in his first season as a college head coach, he has Coastal Carolina in the FCS playoffs.

The Chanticleers (7-4) will visit Bethune-Cookman (9-2) in a first-round playoff game at 2 p.m. Saturday at Municipal Stadium.

Moglia, the former CEO of TD Ameritrade, has become known as the “billionaire coach.” Cynics have said Coastal Carolina president David DeCenzo fired David Bennett — the only football coach the school had ever known — and hired Moglia last December more for what Moglia could deliver in financial support for the school than in developing a football program. Continue Reading…

RESULTS: Brash & Burn #1

Tyler Raborn —  Friday, February 8, 2013 — 1 Comment

Results

Anything to say for yourselves?

Brash: Lesson learned: never underestimate a Harbaugh.

Burn: At least .200 is better than A-Rod in the playoffs…

Question

Brash

Burn

#1: AFC Champion? Denver Broncos New England Patriots
#2: NFC Champion? Seattle Seahawks Green Bay Packers
#3: Super Bowl Champion? Denver Broncos New England Patriots
#4: NFL Rookie of the Year? Robert Griffin III Andrew Luck
#5: NFL Coach of the Year? Pete Carroll Bruce Arians/Chuck Pagano

Totals

1

1

TIE!

Click here to view the Brash & Burn overall scoreboard.

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By: Caleb Brasher & Tyler Raborn