Wisconsin Basketball

Wisconsin Basketball is a Force to be Reckoned With

It is no question that the Wisconsin basketball program has been one of the most successful programs in college basketball over the past decade. Their upset victory over the number one overall seed Villanova on Saturday has the Badgers looking for another long run into the NCAA tournament.

Wisconsin Basketball

Wisconsin senior forward Nigel Hayes, makes a game-winning layup against Villanova on Saturday. (Photo/ M.P King, State Journal)

Wisconsin basketball is not one of the marquee programs when you mention the top college basketball programs, but it should be. The Badgers have by no means been as historically successful as the other top tier franchises like Duke and Kansas. However, they have been at the top of college basketball along with the rest since 2000.

They had only two NCAA tournament appearances before 1994 with one of those being a national championship in 1941. Since 2000 they have made every single tournament and have appeared in eleven sweet sixteen’s, four elite eights and three final fours. They were runner-up to Duke in 2015.

They have also won three Big Ten conference tournaments since 2000 and four regular season championships.

The Badgers finished second in the regular season this year in what was a rather strange season for the Big Ten. The Badgers then lost in the Big Ten tournament championship to a surging and emotional Michigan squad, which resulted in an eight seed in the NCAA tournament.

It was a rather controversial eight seed considering Wisconsin’s Big Ten foe Minnesota drew a five seed even though Wisconsin beat Minnesota twice during the season. The Badgers didn’t let it faze them after a solid ten-point first round victory over Virginia Tech. They definitely didn’t it let them faze them after a three-point win over tournament-favorite Villanova.

All four senior starters played a part in the 2015 runner-up experience. The Badgers are riding their experience into their sweet sixteen matchup against the Florida Gators. The Gators, who are coming off of dominating 65-39 victory over Virginia, look to make their eighth elite eight since 2000.

The Gators come in as a four seed. Many think they are the favorite against the Wisconsin team, who many thought would not be here. But Wisconsin is here, and they’re a force to be reckoned with.

Wisconsin

Sophomore forward Ethan Happ looks for a shot in a game against Michigan in January. (Photo/ Amber Arnold)

Led by seniors Nigel Hayes and Bronson Koenig, the Badgers look to compete again this year for their first NCAA championship since 1941.  With the help of key sophomore Ethan Happ, the Badgers have one of the most dangerous rosters in the NCAA.

The one and done era is evidently upon us, but Wisconsin is one of the few teams to be led with this much experience.

The bottom line is that this team knows how to win. In late game situations, they know what to do and they know how to do it without panicking. That’s a talent that you can’t teach. It’s talent that the Badgers have. It’s a talent that can win you a national championship.

Anyone who draws the Wisconsin Badgers in this upcoming tournament shouldn’t judge them by their seed, and consider themselves lucky because the Badgers are here to win.

 

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“From Our Haus to Yours”

National Signing Day 2017: SEC

The SEC dominates National Signing Day seemingly every year. This page will be updated throughout the day. Here are how the teams look right now:

1. Alabama Crimson Tide

Commitments: 24, 5*: 3, 4*: 19, 3*: 1, Other: 1

Nick Saban has assembled another great class. Athlete Dylan Moses (who will most likely play linebacker), offensive tackle Alex Leatherwood and running back Najee Harris are some of the best players for the Tide. Harris is supremely talented, but it is a loaded backfield that may not offer much playing time. Alabama recruited a lot of offensive play-makers this season. There a lot of good recruits still considering Alabama.

Top Prospects Signed: ATH Dylan Moses (5*), RB Najee Harris (5*)

2. Georgia Bulldogs

Committed: 26, 5*: 4, 4*: 17, 3*: 5, Other: 0

Kirby Smart has put together a great first full class for the Bulldogs. Offensive tackle Isaiah Wilson and Safety Richard LeCounte are among the best players in the class. In the next few years, Georgia should be dominant in the trenches and well on their way to SEC East superiority.

Top Prospects Signed: OT Isaiah Wilson (5*), S Richard LeCounte (5*)

3. LSU Tigers

Committed: 23, 5*: 0, 4*: 16, 3*: 7, Other: 0

In Ed Oregeron’s first class, he has helped LSU stay prominent in recruiting. He has a lot of secondary and quarterback help on the way. Corner Kary Vincent is one the best players in the class for the Tigers. Quarterbacks Lowell Narcisse and Myles Brennan have different styles, but should help out with LSU’s offensive struggles.

Top Prospects Signed: OT Austin Deculus (4*), CB Kary Vincent (4*)

4. Texas A&M Aggies

Committed: 24, 5*: 0, 4*: 9, 3*: 15, Other: 0

The Aggies have a lot of players coming in this class. Quarterback Kellen Mond is a highly touted player and may get a chance to get on the field, with all of the transfers out of College Station. He leads a class with a lot of wide receivers. Linebacker Anthony Hines is going to be a difference-maker for the Aggie defense.

Top Prospects Signed: QB Kellen Mond (4*), LB Anthony Hinds (4*)

5. Auburn Tigers

Committed: 21, 5*: 0, 4*: 11, 3: 7, Other: 3

The Tigers have a good recruiting class, which they will be expecting to help win the SEC West with. Former Baylor quarterback Jarrett Stidham will be joining the Tigers from JuCo and will hopefully solve the issues at the position. Their best offensive line recruit Calvin Ashley is a tackle who will be looking to get on the field from day one.

Top Prospects Signed: OT Calvin Ashley (4*), QB Jarrett Stidham (4*)

6. Tennessee Volunteers

Committed: 27, 5*: 1, 4*: 6, 3*: 20, Other: 0

Butch Jones has put together yet another impressive recruiting class. Five-star offensive tackle Trey Smith is one of the best in the class and will likely start the season as a starter. Linebacker Maleik Gray will help out with some of the losses they suffer on defense.

Top Prospects Signed: OT Trey Smith (5*), LB Maleik Gray (4*)

7. Florida Gators

Committed: 20, 5*: 0, 4*: 13, 3*: 6, Other: 1

Florida has struggled to find good offense, but they don’t have too many skill position players in this class. They need to hit on the ones they did sign. Their best recruit is offensive tackle Tedarrell Slaton, which should help the offense out. Wide receiver Daquon Green is going to have to step up and be the play-maker Florida so desperately needs.

Top Prospects Signed: OT Tedarrell Slaton (4*), WR James Robinson IV (4*)

8. South Carolina Gamecocks

Committed: 21, 5*:0, 4*: 9, 3*: 11, Other: 1

Will Muschamp is doing a great job of recruiting for South Carolina. Corner Jameyst Williams is committed, but may be flipped. He will help out a secondary that isn’t near the top in the SEC. Shi Smith will give the Gamecocks a weapon at the wide receiver position.

Top Prospects Signed: CB Jamyest Winston (4*), WR Shi Smith (4*)

9. Kentucky Wildcats

Committed: 24, 5*: 0, 4*: 5, 3*: 18, Other: 1

Mark Stoops helped the Wildcats be one of the most improved teams in the country. The defense wasn’t great, so Kentucky emphasized that in this recruiting class. Secondary players Yusuf Corker and Tyrell Ajian will both be expected to produce in the coming years.

Top Prospects Signed: CB Yusuf Corker (4*), S Tyrell Ajian (4*)

10. Mississippi State Bulldogs

Committed: 23, 5*: 0, 4*: 10, 3*: 13, Other: 0

The Bulldogs got a bowl win, but it was a lackluster season otherwise. Coming into the fold will be a lot of defensive players. Brian Cole and Montez Sweat are both JuCo players who will likely help the Bulldogs immediately.

Top Prospects Signed: S Brian Cole (4*), DE Montez Sweat (4*)

11. Arkansas Razorbacks

Committed: 26, 5*: 0, 4*: 8, 3*: 15, Other: 3

Arkansas doesn’t have the best class, but they targeted a lot of offensive players in the class. Brandon Martin is a great JuCo wide receiver that will catch passes from Austin Allen next season. Quarterback Daulton Hyatt is expected to be the future leader of the team.

Top Prospects Signed: WR Brandon Martin (4*), Daulton Hyatt (4*)

12. Missouri Tigers

Committed: 23, 5*: 0, 4*: 0, 3*: 20, Other: 3

Missouri doesn’t look like they will be in an SEC Championship Game any time soon. Defensive line has been a huge target for this class. Defensive tackles Walter Palmore and Rashad Brandon both are great hauls for the Tigers.

Top Prospects Signed: QB Taylor Powell (3*), Rashad Brandon (3*)

13. Ole Miss

Committed: 21,  5*: 0, 4*: 8, 3*: 11, Other: 2

Ole miss is usually a lot higher in these rankings as of late, but this year was a down year for recruiting. Wide receiver D.D. Bowie and Linebacker Breon Dixon are both great finds for Ole Miss.

Top Prospects Signed: OLB Breon Dixon (4*), WR D.D. Bowie (4*)

14. Vanderbilt Commodores

Committed: 20, 5*: 0, 4*: 1, 3*: 13, Other: 6

The Commodores find themselves in a familiar position at the bottom of this list. Defensive end Dayo Odeyingbo and linebacker Colin Anderson will need to help make the Vanderbilt defense elite to win football games.

Top Prospects Signed: LB Colin Anderson (3*), DE Dayo Odeyingbo (4*)

 

ACC Signing Day- Here

Big Ten Signing Day- Here

Big 12 Signing Day- Here

Pac-12 Signing Day- Here

 

NFL Draft Prospects to Watch in the 2017 Outback Bowl

The Outback Bowl doesn’t have the most prospects, but there are a lot of players that will go in the first rounds of the 2017 NFL Draft. Both teams specialize in defense and have the prospects to back that up. These are the best prospects in the Outback Bowl:

Florida Gators

Jalen Tabor, CB

Projected Draft Range: First round

Some believe that Tabor is better than former teammate Vernon Hargreaves III, who was drafted by the Buccaneers in the first round of the 2016 NFL draft. Tabor is a shut down corner, but has good ball skills when the ball is thrown his way. He is well built at six feet and 201 pounds.

Jarrad Davis, LB

Projected Draft Range: First round-second round

Davis has battled injuries this season, but is still one of the best linebacker prospects in the class. In nine games he had 60 total tackles with six for loss. He is good at stopping the run, but needs to work on his coverage skills to stay on the field for three downs in the NFL.

Caleb Brantley, DT

Projected Draft Range: First round-second round

Outback Bowl

Caleb Brantley (Photo courtesy: wuft.com)

If teams want a run stopping defensive tackle Brantley should be their choice. He sheds blockers with relative ease and gets to the ball carrier. Brantley is even able to take on double teams and still get the stop. The area of his game he needs to work on is his pass rushing. He has recorded just 1.5 sacks this season.

Iowa Hawkeyes

Desmond King, CB

Projected Draft Range: First round-second round

Outback Bowl

Desmond King (Photo courtesy: hawkcentral.com)

King has some of the best ball skills in the class and had eight interceptions in 2015. That season he even won the Jim Thorpe Award as the best defensive back. He has added value in the return game. King’s speed has come into question by some NFL teams. There is even rumblings of him moving to safety in the NFL.

Jaleel Johnson, DT

Projected Draft Range: Second round-fourth round

Johnson is a good run stopper as a defensive tackle, but is surprisingly a great pass rusher from the interior too. He has 7.5 sacks this season. Johnson has great size at six feet three inches and 310 pounds. His pass rushing ability may help him move up draft boards.

 

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2017 Outback Bowl Preview

The Florida Gators are taking on the Iowa Hawkeyes in the 2016 Outback Bowl.

Florida Gators

The Gators lost four games this season, all to bowl teams, to finish at 8-4. Their solid wins include victories over LSU, South Carolina, Georgia, Vanderbilt and Kentucky.

Outback Bowl

Jalen Tabor (Photo courtesy: profootballfocus.com)

Luke Del Rio and Austin Appleby both have played quarterback for the Gators, but neither has been great. Del Rio is the starter and thrown for 1,358 yards and eight touchdowns, but has been injured. Appleby has 1,225 passing yards and eight touchdowns.

Wide receiver Antonio Callaway is the best player on offense and finished the regular season with 666 receiving yards and three touchdowns. He could have better production with better quarterback play.

The leading rusher is Jordan Scarlett, who has 795 rushing yards and six touchdowns. He averages 4.9 yards per carry and isn’t much of a big play threat with a long run of 33 yards.

The defense is what makes Florida a good team. They allow just 142.3 rushing yards per game. Their pass defense is elite and gives up only 156 yards per game.

Jalen Tabor has been a great corner for Florida with four interceptions this season.

Iowa Hawkeyes

Iowa has four losses on the season, with one coming to FCS-level, North Dakota State. They have solid wins over Miami (OH), Minnesota, Michigan and Nebraska.

Outback Bowl

LeShun Daniels (Photo courtesy: globegazette.com)

C.J. Beathard had a disappointing year after getting Iowa to the Rose Bowl last season. He has 1,874 passing yards and 17 touchdowns. He has a completion percentage of just 58%, showing his accuracy issues.

Riley McCarron is the best receiver with 506 yards and four touchdowns. George Kittle also has four touchdowns to help out Beathard.

The Hawkeyes have two running backs who have had great seasons. LeShun Daniels has 1,013 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns. Akrum Wadley rushed for 966 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns. The two each get a lot of carries and keep each other fresh.

Iowa has a good rush defense that allows 154 yards per game. The pass defense is even better allowing 200 yards per game.

Jaleel Johnson has been a great pass rusher with 7.5 sacks this season.

Prediction

Iowa’s offense won’t be able to move the ball on the Florida defense. Florida’s offense will score just enough to win.

 

Florida Gators 21 Iowa Hawkeyes 12

 

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NCAA Football Week Four Picks

Rob Doerger and Joe DiTullio, personalities on the DiTullio and Doerger College Sports Show, make their picks for all division one FBS games.

Away Home Location Rob Joe
#5 Clemson Georgia Tech Bobby Dodd Stadium, Atlanta, GA Clemson Ga Tech
Wyoming Eastern Michigan Rynearson Stadium, Ypsilanti, MI Wyoming Wyoming
TCU SMU Gerald J. Ford Stadium, Dallas, TX TCU TCU
USC #24 Utah Rice-Eccles Stadium, Salt Lake City, UT Utah Utah
Kent State #1 Alabama Bryant-Denny Stadium, Tuscaloosa, AL Alabama Bama
Margin of Victory 28 34
#12 Georgia #23 Ole Miss Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, Oxford, MS Ole Miss Ole Miss
Nevada Purdue Ross-Ade Stadium, West Lafayette, IN Purdue Nevada
San José State Iowa State Jack Trice Stadium, Ames, IA Iowa St Iow St
Charlotte Temple Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia, PA Temple Temple
Iowa Rutgers High Point Solutions Stadium, Piscataway, NJ Iowa Iowa
#13 Florida State South Florida Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, FL FSU FSU
Colorado State Minnesota TCF Bank Stadium, Minneapolis, MN Minnesota Minnesota
#11 Wisconsin #8 Michigan State Spartan Stadium , East Lansing, MI Mich St MSU
East Carolina Virginia Tech Lane Stadium, Blacksburg, VA VT Va Tech
Central Michigan Virginia Scott Stadium, Charlottesville, VA CMU CMU
Syracuse Connecticut Rentschler Field, East Hartford, CT Uconn Uconn
Wagner Boston College Alumni Stadium , Chestnut Hill, MA BC BC
Gardner-Webb Ohio Peden Stadium, Athens, OH Ohio Ohio
Miami (OH) Cincinnati Nippert Stadium, Cincinnati, OH Cincy UC
Western Illinois Northern Illinois Huskie Stadium, DeKalb, IL NIU NIU
Appalachian State Akron InfoCision Stadium, Akron, OH Akron Akron
Boise State Oregon State Reser Stadium, Corvallis, OR Boise Boise
BYU West Virginia FedExField, Landover, MD WVU BYU
Duke Notre Dame Notre Dame Stadium, Notre Dame, IN Notre Dame Notre Dame
Mississippi State Massachusetts Gillette Stadium, Foxboro, MA Miss St Miss St
#19 Florida #14 Tennessee Neyland Stadium, Knoxville, TN Florida Tennessee
Pittsburgh North Carolina Kenan Stadium, Chapel Hill, NC Pitt Pitt
Texas San Antonio Old Dominion S.B. Ballard Stadium, Norfolk, VA Old Dom UTSA
Penn State #4 Michigan Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor, MI Michigan Michigan
Wake Forest Indiana Memorial Stadium , Bloomington, IN Indiana IU
Delaware State Missouri Memorial Stadium/Faurot Field, Columbia, MO Mizzou Mizzou
Vanderbilt Western Kentucky L.T. Smith Stadium, Bowling Green, KY WKU Vandy
Tulsa Fresno State Bulldog Stadium , Fresno, CA Tulsa Tulsa
Colorado Oregon Autzen Stadium, Eugene, OR Oregon Oregon
#18 LSU Auburn Jordan-Hare Stadium, Auburn, AL LSU LSU
Ball State Florida Atlantic FAU Football Stadium, Boca Raton, FL Ball St Ball State
North Texas Rice Rice Stadium, Houston, TX Rice Rice
#6 Houston Texas State Bobcat Stadium , San Marcos, TX Houston Houston
Central Arkansas Arkansas State Centennial Bank Stadium, Jonesboro, AR Ark St Arkansas St
New Mexico State Troy Veterans Memorial Stadium , Troy, AL Troy Troy
Nicholls South Alabama Ladd-Peebles Stadium, Mobile, AL USA USA
Georgia Southern Western Michigan Waldo Stadium, Kalamazoo, MI WMU WMU
UCF Florida Intl FIU Stadium, Miami, FL UCF UCF
Louisiana Tech Middle Tennessee Floyd Stadium, Murfreesboro, TN Louisiana Tech La Tech
Army Buffalo UB Stadium, Buffalo, NY Army Army
Missouri State Kansas State Bill Snyder Family Stadium, Manhattan, KS Kansas St KSU
#20 Nebraska Northwestern Ryan Field, Evanston, IL Nebraska Nebraska
Oklahoma State #16 Baylor McLane Stadium, Waco, TX Baylor Baylor
South Carolina Kentucky Commonwealth Stadium, Lexington, KY Kentucky South Carolina
#7 Stanford UCLA Rose Bowl, Pasadena, CA UCLA Stanford
#3 Louisville Marshall Joan C. Edwards Stadium, Huntington, WV Louisville Louisville
Bowling Green Memphis Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium, Memphis, TN Memphis Memphis
Louisiana Lafayette Tulane Yulman Stadium, New Orleans, LA ULL ULL
Southern Mississippi UTEP Sun Bowl, El Paso, TX So Miss So Miss
Idaho UNLV Sam Boyd Stadium, Las Vegas, NV UNLV UNLV
#17 Arkansas #10 Texas A&M AT&T Stadium, Arlington, TX Texas A&M TAMU
California Arizona State Sun Devil Stadium, Tempe, AZ Arizona St ASU
Air Force Utah State Romney Stadium, Logan, UT Air Force AF
#9 Washington Arizona Arizona Stadium, Tucson, AZ Washington Washington
Gameday Guest Picker (Knoxville, Tennessee) Kenny Chesney Peyton Manning
Season Total 205 193

Top Ten College Football Rivalries: #8 Georgia vs. Florida

And coming in at number eight on my Top Ten College Football Rivalries list is…

Courtesy of The Bullgator.com

Courtesy of The Bullgator.com

#8 Georgia Bulldogs vs. Florida Gators. This rivalry has produced seven national titles. Three from Florida in 1996, 2006, and 2008 and Georgia won their national championships in 1920, 1927, 1946, 1968. This rivalry has also produced five Heisman winners. Quarterbacks Steve Spurrier (1966), Danny Wuerfel (1996), and Tim Tebow (2007) all won Heismans for the Gators. And running backs Frank Sinkwich (1942) and Herschel Walker (1982) won the only two Heismans in Bulldog history.

The Georgia Bulldogs versus the Florida Gators is one of the premiere college rivalries in the nation. This rivalry can be marked back as far as 1904. The Georgia fans believe that rivalry started in 1904 which is a year before the University of Florida was established. While, the Florida fans believe the rivalry started in 1915. Since there are two different start years, there are two different records.

Georgia believes they are winning the rivalry 50-42-2. Florida does not count the 1904-1914 games, so they think the rivalry is 49-42-2. But both fans will agree that this rivalry is especially important to the SEC.

Since the formation of the SEC in 1932, this has been one its staple rivalries. But in 1992, it became even bigger when the SEC split into two divisions. Georgia and Florida were both placed in the SEC East and since then they have dominated the East. Florida has claimed the most SEC East titles (11). Georgia has claimed the second most with seven SEC East titles. Florida also has seven SEC Championship Game wins, which is the most. The Bulldogs have two SEC Championships Game wins. This rivalry occurs every year.

top ten college football rivalries

Courtesy of Online Athens.com

The “World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party” (name was discounted in 2006) has produced many great games. The 2002 matchup between the Gators and the Bulldogs featured a top five undefeated Bulldogs team. By the end of the day, the Bulldogs suffered their first defeat. Gator quarterback Rex Grossman lead the Gators to a 20-13 win over the Bulldogs. The Bulldogs finished the season with that as their only loss.

If the Gators never had beaten the Bulldogs, the Ohio State Buckeyes would have never played the Miami Hurricanes in the BCS Championship Game. Think about how much could have changed if Miami would have won that game and there was no phantom pass interference call.

But one of the most memorable moments in this rivalry happened in 2007 and 2008. In 2007, Mark Richt ordered his Bulldog offense to celebrate after the first touchdown. It didn’t work out as Richt intended. Most of the team rushed the field and danced in the end zone after running back Knowshon Moreno scored the first touchdown of the game. This dance would be later referred to the “Gator Stomp.” Georgia earned two unsportsmanlike penalties from the celebration. That was about the last bad thing the Gators did that day. Moreno rushed for over 180 yards and the Bulldog defense sacked Gator quarterback Tim Tebow six teams. The Bulldogs would go onto win the game 42-30. In 2008, the Gators would comeback harder than ever.

In 2008, head coach Urban Meyer told his players they could not take about the 2007 game to media leading up to the 2008 matchup against the Bulldogs. This matchup featured two teams in the top ten of the national rankings, and two teams fighting for the edge in the SEC East. Going into the half, the Gators were leading 14-3. When the last whistle blew the game was nowhere close. The Gators beat the Bulldogs 49-10. That year the Gators won the SEC and the National Championship Game. This Gator team is the last SEC East team to win a SEC Championship and the last SEC East team to win a National Championship game.

Omaha’s Eight

Super Regional Picks: 5 for 8

UC Santa Barbara Gauchos

The Gauchos shocked the college baseball landscape with two straight wins over Louisville, a team with only one home loss until then. They lean heavily on their pitching, especially ace Shane Bieber, who held Washington and Louisville to a combined three runs on 14.1 innings pitched. The bullpen is also solid, anchored by Kyle Nelson who has nine saves with a 2.02 ERA for the year. To take home the title, UCSB will need to see more of the offense they showed in the ninth inning against Louisville in game 2. They loaded the bases against Zach Burdi, one of the best pitchers in the country, and catcher Sam “no relation to Seth” Cohen launched a changeup over the right field wall. It sent the Gauchos to Omaha for the first time, and if this offense shows up there, UCSB could continue their run.

Oklahoma State Cowboys

The Cowboys have been as dominant as any team in the tournament, winning all five games without trailing once. Their pitching was on full display, giving up just one run in each game to sweep South Carolina. The scary thing for the rest of Omaha is that they didn’t even have to use all of their depth. Freshman Jensen Elliott, who shut down Clemson in the regional final, went unused in Columbia, but he could have a major impact if the Cowboys go deep. The offense will need to get continued productivity from Donnie Walton, JR Davis and Conor Costello, but there is no doubt that Oklahoma St is as hot as any team in the country, and will be a very tough out in Omaha.

Miami Hurricanes

Miami is making their 25th appearance in the College World Series, and is looking to add championship #5 to the trophy case. They have as good of an offense as any, with Zack Collins, Brandon Lopez, Johnny Ruiz and Carl Chester all batting above .340.  They also get serious power from Edgar Michelangeli, which Boston College found out about the hard way. They lead the nation in fielding percentage, at .983, and have a pair of solid lefties at the top of their rotation in Michael Mediavilla and Danny Garcia. The Hurricanes had two tough games against Long Beach St, and lost one to Boston College in the super regional, but on paper this team is absolutely stacked with very few holes. If they put it all together, the Canes are one of the favorites here in Omaha.

Arizona Wildcats

The second West Coast team in Omaha, Arizona will look to have similar results as in 2012, when they won the National Championship. The Wildcats don’t light up the stat sheet, but are a gritty team that knows how to get on base when it counts, as they did in the comeback win over Mississippi St. They also feature plenty of speed, with seven starters who each have at least seven steals, and a 71% success rate on stolen bases. They also have plenty of arms, with five pitchers capable of providing a quality start, including Bobby Dalbec, a two-way player who pitched well in the super regional. One of the question marks going into the Tournament was a lack of experience – no one on this team had played in the postseason before – but after winning in Lafayette and Starkville, it is time to put those concerns to rest. Arizona is a tough, blue collar team who has proven to shine in big games. They certainly have the skills and the depth to continue shining.

Florida Gators

The number one overall team had a bit of a scare, losing game 1 to rival Florida St, but rallied to take the series. The Gators have a top 25 offense, and it was rolling against the Seminoles. Peter Alonso, a second round pick by the Mets, has made a big difference in both the quality and the depth of the lineup. He and JJ Schwarz provide power for this offense that few teams can match. The rotation is also elite, and got an especially great performance from Logan Shore in the super regional. When AJ Puck and Nick Faedo are also pitching at a high level, the Gators are very difficult to beat. Florida was the number one overall seed for a reason, and might be the best team on paper. They will need more consistency this week in Omaha, but have a great chance to win their first ever National Championship.

Coastal Carolina Chanticleers

Coastal Carolina might seem like a Cinderella to the casual fan, but the Chanticleers have become a college baseball powerhouse. Coastal won their third regional in the last eight years, and finally broke through to Omaha this time. With this team, any lead they can get will most likely be held by relievers Mike Morrison and Bobby Holmes. Morrison is probably the best closer in the country with a 1.06 ERA, and showed the ability to pitch multiple innings in wins over NC State and LSU. Their offense is also very dynamic, led by Michael Paez and Connor Owings. The Chants lead the nation in home runs with 94, and can put runs up in a hurry. They are a veteran team that excels in big situations, and that is a very dangerous thing to face in Omaha.

TCU Horned Frogs

Make it three consecutive College World Series appearances for TCU, who advanced with a second straight win over Texas A&M in the super regionals. They hope to breakthrough and win their first title this year, and can certainly do it with star freshman Luken Baker. The Horned Frogs bat .304 as a team, and have begun to show quite a bit of power. TCU also features a loaded pitching staff, where their depth was on display against Texas A&M. Brian Howard, number three in the rotation, pitched seven innings with no earned runs against an explosive Aggies offense. The Frogs are a fairly young team, but they do have quite a few players with Omaha experience, and they just got passed a tough hurdle in College Station. They have the depth and talent to make a run in Omaha this year.

Texas Tech Red Raiders

Texas Tech has to feel confident as they ran away with a Big 12 title in a conference that sent three teams to Omaha. They survived a scare from East Carolina in the super regional, but showed why they earned a national seed with an 11-0 beatdown in game 3. Offensively, they are led by Tanner Gardner, who has a .485 on base percentage, and Eric Gutierrez, who bats .326 with a team leading 12 home runs. The pitching staff is young, but showed plenty of talent throughout the season. Erikson Lanning pitched seven shutout innings in the decisive win over East Carolina. They also have a deep bullpen with both Hayden Howard and Robert Dugger capable of pitching multiple innings in relief. This team might be young, but they didn’t win the Big 12 by accident. They have a very dynamic offense, and if their pitching holds up, Tech could absolutely win the whole thing.

The Verdict: Obviously, all eight teams proved they are capable of beating anyone. With that said, I like the Miami Hurricanes, particularly because of their explosive offense. They are well rounded and experienced, and I think they bring another trophy to South Beach.

NCAA Baseball Tournament Preview

Gainesville Regional

The Florida Gators earned the top overall seed in the 2016 NCAA Tournament after finishing with the best RPI and reaching the SEC Championship in Hoover last weekend. They feature a balanced offense, where all nine starters bat at least .260 and an elite bullpen anchored by Shaun Anderson who has only given up 5 runs in 41.1 innings. They could see a dangerous two seed in the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, who boast ten top 25 wins led by one of the best outfields in the country. The Connecticut Huskies come in hot having won 13 of 14 and winning the AAC Tournament. The Bethune-Cookman Wildcats are the four seed after upsetting Florida A&M in the MEAC Tournament, but they are in way over their heads here. This is certainly an intriguing regional with UConn coming in hot, and Georgia Tech having their share of big wins, but Florida is the most talented team here, and it would be a surprise if they didn’t advance.

Tallahassee Regional  

The Florida St Seminoles locked up a hosting bid by beating Miami and NC State to advance to the ACC Championship in Durham. They have an impressive .405 OPS as a team, but will need to have improved starting pitching to make a run. The Southern Miss Golden Eagles were very close to hosting after winning 40 games and the C-USA Tournament, but instead will travel to the Sunshine State. The Golden Eagles have a solid ace in Kirk McCarty, but will need to find consistency in the rotation behind him. They will first meet the South Alabama Jaguars who beat USM twice early this season. The Alabama St Hornets are the only team in the country with a perfect conference record, going 24-0 in the SWAC, but the only NCAA Tournament opponent they faced was South Alabama, who they split a pair of games with. This is probably the favorite for the highest scoring regional, and I like Southern Miss to come out of it as long as their pitching can hold up.

Baton Rouge Regional  

The #RallyPossum propelled the LSU Tigers to a hot finish and the final national seed. They proved they can beat anyone in the country with a series win over Florida and wins over Florida and Mississippi St in Hoover. They appear to have a pretty favorable draw as both the Rice Owls and the Southeastern Louisiana Lions enter the tournament pretty cold. Rice has lost 8 of their last 12 games, and SELA lost series to New Orleans and Central Arkansas to close out the regular season. The Utah Valley Wolverines will join them in Baton Rouge, after winning the WAC Tournament for their first NCAA Tournament appearance. LSU is certainly the hottest team in this regional, and with the home field advantage of baseball’s Death Valley, it’s hard to imagine them getting knocked off here.

Raleigh Regional

It was certainly a great weekend in Raleigh, with the North Carolina St Wolfpack being selected to host, and their bitter rivals North Carolina being left out of the tournament entirely. NC State certainly deserved the one seed with a top ten RPI and 19 top 50 wins, but got a tough draw with the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers. The Big South champs have the best RPI of any non-host at 12, and have an elite pitching staff led by ace Andrew Beckwith (1.79 ERA) and closer Mike Morrison (0.87). Coastal first has a date with the WCC Tournament champion St Mary’s Gaels, who are in their first NCAA Tournament. The Gaels cooled off down the stretch, but had an impressive week in Stockton, beating Gonzaga twice. The Navy Midshipmen are certainly the underdogs here, but have excellent starting pitching, and could very well pull off an upset. This looks like the toughest regional to pick. St Mary’s has the talent to advance, but the travel from the Bay Area to Raleigh makes it tough to pick them. NC State and Coastal Carolina are very evenly matched, but I lean towards Coastal because of their pitching.

Lubbock Regional

The Texas Tech Red Raiders have the distinction of being the only national seed outside of the SEC and ACC. They dominated the Big 12 all season, winning 19 of 24 conference games, including series wins on the road at both Oklahoma St and TCU. They have the best pitching in the regional to pair with a solid lineup led by star first baseman Eric Gutierrez. The Missouri Valley champion Dallas Baptist Patriots earned the two seed here, and have a solid rotation led by Colin Poche and Darick Hall who are a combined 17-3 on the season. The New Mexico Lobos won the MWC Tournament, and most likely needed the win to enter the field of 64. They struggled against the other teams in the regional, losing 2 of 3 to Texas Tech and getting swept by Dallas Baptist. The Fairfield Stags have quite the road trip traveling from Connecticut to West Texas. They’re led by the hard hitting Jake Salpietro, but lack the depth of the other teams in this regional. Texas Tech is probably the most under the radar national seed, but they are consistent and well rounded. They shouldn’t have too many problems at home here.

Charlottesville Regional

You can tell it is officially springtime when the Virginia Cavaliers start to heat up again. The defending champs won their last five series to earn a host spot, and are led by two of the hottest pitchers in the country in Adam Haseley and Tyler Shambora. The East Carolina Pirates already won a series in Charlottesville, but will need to rebound after losing a late series to South Florida and going two and out in the AAC Tournament. The Bryant Bulldogs are very interesting team who jumped on the national radar with an incredible 47-10 record. However, they only played one at large team, and got thumped 16-2 by UC Santa Barbara. We’ll see how they handle the step up in competition. The William & Mary Tribe are one of the most unlikely tournament teams. After losing the first game of their conference tournament, the Tribe looked to be finished when they went down 8 runs in the ninth inning against top 25 mainstay UNC-Wilmington. However, an 8 run inning led to a 12 inning win, propelling William & Mary into the NCAA Tournament. Given their recent history and hot run down the stretch, it’s difficult to imagine Virginia not coming out of this regional.

Fort Worth Regional

The TCU Horned Frogs made their statement to host by winning the Big 12 Tournament in a thriller over West Virginia. They have one of the most talented players in the country in Luken Baker, who has a 1.70 ERA in ten starts, and bats .376 while playing DH on his off days. The Arizona State Sun Devils played very well in the nonconference, sweeping tournament teams New Mexico, Cal St Fullerton and Xavier, but couldn’t find any consistency in conference. They’ll look to rebound from an ugly loss to USC where they gave up 31 runs in the regular-season finale. The Gonzaga Bulldogs made their case to be the best team in the west, winning a share of the WCC and going 7-1 against the Pac-12. The Oral Roberts Golden Eagles are arguably the most dangerous four seed in the tournament, and proved it with a series win at Dallas Baptist and a two game sweep at Oklahoma St. They play well on the road, and won’t be intimidated. This is perhaps the only regional where I feel that all four teams have a genuine shot at advancing. However, the safe bet is TCU as they have more offensive firepower than the other 3 teams.

College Station Regional

The Texas A&M Aggies have been a staple in the top five all year, and are as talented as any team in the country. They have arguably the best infield in the country led by Boomer White, Austin Homan and Hunter Melton, as well as a pitcher in Kyle Simonds, who no hit Vanderbilt. The Minnesota Golden Gophers are one of the best stories of the season, as they rallied to win the Big Ten as pitching coach Todd Oakes battled cancer. However, the Gophers feel like a real reach as a 2 seed as they didn’t win a series against any NCAA Tournament teams. The Wake Forest Demon Deacons are one of 10 ACC teams in the field, and cemented their place with wins over Duke and Virginia in Durham. Wake can hit with anyone, especially when 3B Will Craig gets going, but their pitching was very inconsistent all year. The Binghamton Bearcats shook off a 2-13 start to finish 30-23 and win the America East. This is definitely Texas A&M’s regional to lose, as they are just much more balanced and deep than the other 3 teams here.

Louisville Regional

The Louisville Cardinals have been possibly the most consistent team all season, and are the only team nationally in the top ten for both batting average and ERA. They also have the advantage of playing at home, where they are 33-1 on the year. The Ohio St Buckeyes ride a hot finish complete with a Big Ten Tournament title into the NCAA. They have a dynamic offense, but will need much better pitching, especially out of the bullpen. The Wright St Raiders are back in the NCAA Tournament after once again dominating the Horizon League, going 23-6. They took care of business in conference, but were easily beat in their two series against top 50 opponents against NC State and Georgia. The Western Michigan Broncos struggled for most of the season, finishing 22-32, but stunned the heavily favored Kent St in the MAC Tournament. They can score runs, but their pitching isn’t nearly at the level to compete with the other three teams. This appears to be the easiest regional to pick. Louisville is deep and talented, and has been dominant at home against far tougher opponents. It would be a major surprise if they got knocked out at this stage.

Nashville Regional

Tim Corbin’s Vanderbilt Commodores finished as national runners up last year, and won the title the season before. They’ve reloaded every year, and feature one of the best rotations in the country along with a balanced lineup. They also have more big game experience than any other team in the tournament. The Washington Huskies had a chance to win the Pac-12 in their final series, but consecutive losses to Utah gave the title to the Utes. Washington is still a tough opponent with the ability to play up or down to their competition, shown by wins over Arizona, Arizona St and St Mary’s, and losses to Washington St and UC Riverside. The UC Santa Barbara Gauchos looked to be the team to beat out west for most of the season, but faltered down the stretch to finish third in the Big West. They have a gritty team that never lit up the scorebooks, but find ways to win. The Xavier Musketeers are no stranger to Nashville, as they lost to Vanderbilt in the 2014 Tournament and got swept there earlier this season. They enter the field largely due to their 4-1 mark against Creighton. Vanderbilt is a very consistent and well coached team, and seemed to get a favorable draw with two west coast schools traveling to Tennessee. They’re heavy favorites at home here.

Clemson Regional

Monte Lee’s first season managing the Clemson Tigers has been a phenomenal one, as they earned a national seed off of an ACC Tournament championship. Their lineup features the best freshman in the country in Seth Beer, whose .372 average and 63 RBIs certainly make opponents want to drink. The Oklahoma St Cowboys have been a mainstay in the top 25 all season, and are led by a very solid middle infield of Donnie Walton and JR Davis. The Cowboys will first meet up with their old Big Eight opponent, the Nebraska Cornhuskers. The Huskers were very hot down the stretch, winning their last five series before crashing and burning in Omaha at the Big Ten Tournament. Finally, the Western Carolina Catamounts qualified after upsetting Mercer to win the SoCon Tournament. This is a tough regional with Oklahoma St certainly capable of advancing, but given Clemson’s hot streak and home field advantage, the Tigers are the safe pick.

Columbia Regional

Chad Holbrook’s South Carolina Gamecocks have been one of the best turnarounds from last season. They have quality pitching and one of the best pure hitters in the country in Gene Cone. Making a short drive down the coast are the UNC Wilmington Seahawks, one of six teams to qualify from the state of North Carolina. They have a very solid lineup featuring Brian Mims, a power hitting second baseman which is very rare. The Duke Blue Devils are in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1961 after impressive series wins against Florida St, Clemson and Georgia Tech. The Rhode Island Rams round out the regional, and do have a legit ace in Tyler Wilson, who is 12-1 on the year. While Duke and Rhode Island definitely could win a game or two, I think this regional comes down to the Gamecocks and Seahawks. I lean towards Wilmington because I think their offense is slightly better.

Coral Gables Regional

The Miami Hurricanes look to make it back to back Omaha trips, and certainly have the talent to do so. Jim Morris has led this team to a 45 win season, with an incredible 19 of those coming against the top 25. They have the best catcher in the country in Zack Collins, who has a .540 on base percentage. The Florida Atlantic Owls won Conference USA and beat Miami in a midweek game, but cooled off down the stretch costing them a hosting chance. They have proven that they can play with anyone in the country, boasting a win in Coral Gables and two on the road at Mississippi St. FAU will take on the Long Beach State Dirtbags, who lost a chance at the Big West crown by falling to bitter rival Cal St Fullerton on the last day of the season. They have series wins against Fullerton, Arizona St and Nebraska, but will be leaving the west for the first time all season. The Stetson Hatters are no strangers to the NCAA Tournament, but face an uphill battle in Coral Gables. They finished just 9-12 in the Atlantic Sun, but won 4 games in 4 days to take the conference tournament. This regional should come down to Miami and FAU, and while the Owls can give Miami a run for their money, the Hurricanes will be too much.

Oxford Regional

After making a semifinal run in Hoover, the Ole Miss Rebels came just short of a national seed. The Rebels are a force at home, as LSU and Louisville both learned the hard way this season. They aren’t a team that features a lot of stars, but they are very solid across the board, especially with their pitching. No strangers to SEC matchups, the Tulane Green Wave will head over to Oxford after finishing on top of the AAC standings. They’ve struggled to score at times, but the Tulane pitching is good enough to keep them in just about any game. Another ACC team, the Boston College Eagles, will head down south. They play up or down to their competition as much as anyone in the country, having beaten NC State, Louisville and Virginia, but losing to Pittsburgh and Notre Dame. It’s not every year that the Pac-12 champ comes in below .500 and as a 4 seed, but that’s exactly where the Utah Utes stand. They started off 3-11, but kicked into gear once conference play started, holding off Washington for the title. This is a pretty wide open regional, where any of the teams could get hot, but I like Tulane and their pitching.

Starkville Regional

The Mississippi State Bulldogs shocked most of the country by winning the SEC, and it was certainly no fluke. They have a solid lineup with no holes, a deep and talented pitching staff, and have continued to improve as the season has gone on. It wouldn’t be the NCAA Tournament without the Cal State Fullerton Titans in the field. Fullerton had some ups and downs, but finished strong to overtake Long Beach St for the Big West title. The Titans have had some offensive struggles, but have one of the best pitching staffs in the country, and are one of few teams to go 4 deep in their rotation. The Louisiana Tech Bulldogs finished very strong to ensure their place in the field, sweeping Northwestern State and Rice. They have a great outfield, where all three bat over .325. The fourth seeded Southeast Missouri State Redhawks also have a chance to be dangerous. They went 22-8 in the OVC and have an ace in Joey Lucchese who will give teams problems. This is probably the toughest regional in the field. Cal State Fullerton would be my pick in many regionals, but Mississippi St has pitching to match them as well as a much better lineup.

Lafayette Regional

The Sun Belt champ UL Lafayette Rajin’ Cajuns were rewarded for their play in conference, as well as their brutal nonconference schedule. Their strengths are primarily defense and pitching, where they have one the best bullpens in the country. The Arizona Wildcats had chances to host, but likely blew them by dropping series to Oregon and Arizona St. They have a solid lineup that gets on base, but will need to find a third starter behind JC Cloney and Nathan Bannister. The Sam Houston State Bearkats will be looking for revenge, as they were swept in Lafayette to start the season. They won 10 of 11 down the stretch, including taking the Southland Tournament. Finally, we have the first team who punched their ticket, the Princeton Tigers. Princeton won the Ivy, going 13-7. This is another balanced regional, but I like Arizona to win a couple of low scoring games here.

 

The Game Haus Play Of The Week – 2/29/16

College match-ups are more than just games. They involve passion, drive, talent, and team comrade. These college athletes’ enthusiasm achieves more than just points on the scoreboard or a statistic in their teams’ record. Being a fan of a college sport becomes a lifestyle with the history becoming a part of your own blood.
As a fan watching your favorite college basketball team play ball, there is nothing as exciting as your favorite player sinking three point shots. Especially when your team is involved in a back to back battle trying to secure the lead and establish a deficit for the opposing team. It’s true that every shot counts, but it does not mean that these shots are less deserving of the previous shot. Unless of course, a shot was so remarkable that not only does it get noticed, but is talked about well after the game is played.
This week’s Play of the Week does just that. During the Vanderbilt Commodores versus the Florida Gators basketball game within the first half, senior center Josh Henderson who stands at 7 feet tall whom has attempted only two 3 point shots within his career decided to impress his fans by sinking a 80 foot buzzer beater from the opposite foul line. Yes, you read that correctly. The OPPOSITE FOUL LINE!  Typically, when an athlete makes a shot from outside the 3 point line, he/she would either jump, step forward, step backward, or a possibly combination of the above. However, in this case Josh Henderson did not do that. Instead, he just turned and threw the ball toward the basket achieving the shot. Needless to say, this shot was truly remarkable and is a must see.

If you happened to miss this 80-foot buzzer, you can watch it here:

If you would like to talk more about this amazing shot, come meet me and others in the forum.

To nominate a play of the week, please post your entries on our FacebookTwitter and Instagram Pages. Perhaps your selection will get chosen for next week’s “Play of the Week.”

Congrats to Keith Schoenfeld for picking this week’s play of the week.

 

Information Courtesy of USA Today and ESPN