Super Bowl series 2017: NFC West

Super Bowl series 2017: NFC West

Football is right around the corner and The Game Haus is going to get you ready for the 2017-18 NFL season. The Super Bowl series is going to explain how every team in the NFL can win Super Bowl LII. The Super Bowl series will be divided into eight editions, one for each division. This is the seventh edition, Super Bowl series: NFC West.

Seattle Seahawks

The Seahawks are coming off a 10-5-1 season in which they lost in the playoffs to the NFC champion Atlanta Falcons. This franchise has become one of the most consistent in the NFL, making the playoffs for five straight seasons and six of the last seven.

Winning Super Bowl LII is not as daunting of a task as it may be for other teams. There are some issues the Seahawks need to fix though in order to win the Super Bowl.

Seattle is led by its defense and everyone knows it. The Seahawks finished the season giving up just 18.2 points per game, which ranked third in the NFL. They also finished in the top 10 in rush defense (seventh, 92.9 yards per game), pass defense (eighth, 225.8 yards per game) and total defense (fifth, 319.6 yards per game).

Super Bowl series 2017: NFC West

(Photo Credit: https://www.richardsherman25.com)

In the 2017-18 season, Seattle’s defense should be even better. Up front, they drafted defensive tackle Malik McDowell from Michigan State to play along side Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril and even Frank Clark. Seattle also has one of the best linebacking corps led by Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright. The Seahawks’ front seven will be extremely talented which will allow the Legion of Boom to continue their dominance.

Speaking of the Legion of Boom, the unit will get some much-needed help back at safety. Earl Thomas will be returning from his leg injury and that couldn’t be better news for this secondary. Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor have proven to be great players, but Earl Thomas may just be the heart and soul of this defense.

Before Thomas went down with a broken leg, the Seahawks were only allowing 16.2 points per game. After Thomas went down, that number jumped to 23.3, an entire touchdown more per game. As long as this secondary can remain healthy, it will be safe to assume that Seattle will have a top five defense capable of leading this team to a Super Bowl berth.

The offensive side of the ball is where fans should worry. Getting back to the Super Bowl is going to require going back to their original identity. The Seahawks were known as a defensive team that could run the ball. Last season, that changed dramatically.

Seattle only ran the ball 40.7 percent of the time. They also ranked 20th in rushing attempts per game at 25.2. That number dropped from 2014 when they averaged 31.8 attempts per game, and from 2015 in which they averaged 31.2 attempts per game. Running the ball less resulted in the 21st ranked rushing attack in the NFL at just 103.8 yards per game.

The Seahawks made many moves to address their running game. Seattle’s offensive line was pretty awful last season in both run and pass protection. This led to the signing of Luke Joeckel and the selection of center/guard Ethan Pocic from LSU in the NFL Draft. They also signed running back Eddie Lacy from Green Bay.

The Seahawks hope these additions will bring back the identity that led them to two straight Super Bowl appearances.

If Seattle can become a dominant rushing team again, then they will continue making deep playoff runs. The Seahawks also need to earn home-field advantage. Over the past five seasons, Seattle has gone 39-6 at home, including the playoffs. They must also become more disciplined as a team. Seattle had the seventh most penalties per game at 7.3. As long as Seattle does these things, then the Seahawks can once again become Super Bowl champions.

Arizona Cardinals

Super Bowl series 2017: NFC West

(Photo Credit: AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

The Arizona Cardinals may be the most overlooked team in the NFL. They did finish second in the NFC West last season at 7-8-1 but missed the playoffs. Carson Palmer looked old, yet the offense was still able to be successful. Defensively, the Cardinals dropped off a bit from previous years. So, what is it going to take to see Arizona win its first Lombardi Trophy?

Answering that question takes us back to the saying that defense wins championships. Carson Palmer can’t lead this team to a Super Bowl at the age of 37, but the defense can. Arizona’s defense is going to hurt from the losses of Calais Campbell and Tony Jefferson.

They are hoping that rookies Haason Reddick and Budda Baker can fill these holes, but that will be a tough task. Rookies don’t always make immediate impacts so the Cardinals made moves in free agency to help with these departures as well. Arizona signed Jarvis Jones, Karlos Dansby and Antoine Bethea.

In order to win a Super Bowl, these roster changes must improve on the 22.6 points allowed per game last season. Arizona struggled to stop opponents mostly in the second half of games, allowing the 21st most points per second half at 11.8 per game. Not every area of the Cardinals defense was bad. They only gave up 305.2 total yards per game last season which was second-best in the NFL.

If Arizona’s defense can turn these small yardage totals into fewer point totals, then they can easily make the playoffs and possibly the Super Bowl. But as is the case for every team, they need some help from their counterpart.

Arizona must balance out their offense. The Cardinals only ran the ball 36.7 percent of the time last season. They have to put the ball in David Johnson’s hands and take it out of Carson Palmer’s in order to make a deep playoff run. 24.9 rushing attempts for 108.2 rushing yards per game will not be enough in the NFL. The best teams in the NFL still run the ball well even though it is a passing league.

Although they pass the ball too frequently, it has led to a lot of points. Arizona averaged the sixth-most points in the NFL at 26.1 per game. The offense has been really good but balance will be the key. If the Cardinals do this and can improve on allowing fewer points per game, then Arizona will be the next Super Bowl champions.

Los Angeles Rams

Super Bowl series 2017: NFC West

(Photo Credit: AP Photo/Kelvin Kuo)

The Los Angeles Rams are going to need a miracle season to win Super Bowl LII. After going 4-12, there have been many changes within the organization.

Head coach Jeff Fisher was rightfully fired in favor of Sean McVay. McVay has brought in new offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur and well-known defensive coordinator Wade Phillips. There is optimism in L.A. that a new coaching staff can send this team in the right direction and it all starts with that loaded defense.

Wade Phillips will be taking over a defense that was much better than it looked on paper. The Rams gave up 24.6 points per game, which ranked 23rd in the NFL. Despite giving up so many points, they only gave up an average of 337 yards per game which was ninth-best.

The defense was constantly in tough situations. Los Angeles tied for 26th in the NFL with 1.8 giveaways per game. Despite all this, the Rams defense can become elite.

The reason this defense has a chance to become the best in the NFL is the combination of talent and their new coordinator. The defensive line is headlined by superstar Aaron Donald and defensive end Robert Quinn. Other top defenders on this team include Connor Barwin, Michael Brockers, Alec Ogletree, Mark Barron, Trumaine Johnson and Lamarcus Joyner.

Phillips will transition the Rams to a 3-4 scheme and his track record as a coordinator is impressive. Since 2011, Phillips’ defenses have ranked eighth, 24th and fourth (twice) in points allowed. They have also ranked second, seventh (twice), first and fourth since 2011 in yards. Phillips and the Rams are a match made in heaven that will turn this already talented defense into being Super Bowl elite.

The biggest question mark for the Rams is their offense and how Jared Goff will fair in his first season as full-time starter. Goff looked bad in his minimal action during his rookie campaign. He had a 54.6 completion percentage and threw for 1,089 yards, five touchdowns and seven interceptions in seven games.

Overall, the Rams ranked in the bottom of almost every offensive category. They ranked 31st in all of the following: points in third quarter (1.6 per game), points in first half (7.8 per game), points in second half (6.2 per game), plays (60 per game), rushing yards (78.2 per game) and passing yards (184.4 per game).

They also ranked 32nd in the following: points (14 per game), second quarter points (3.3 per game), total yards (262.7 per game), yard per play (4.4), third down conversion (31.5 percent) and first downs per game (15).

As you can see, the offense was horrible. The good news is Goff can’t get any worse. Los Angeles also signed center John Sullivan and offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth to help their struggling offensive line. The Rams hope these additions will allow talented running back Todd Gurley to run for more than 3.2 yards per carry like he did last year.

The Rams also did plenty to help their passing game in the offseason. They signed Robert Woods and drafted other receivers in Cooper Kupp and Josh Reynolds. Los Angeles also drafted tight end Gerald Everett. There is nowhere to go but up and these additions should help improve the Rams’ offense.

It is going to take everything falling into place perfectly for the Rams to bring a Super Bowl victory to L.A. Wade Phillips must turn this defense into an elite defense similar to the ones he had in Houston and Denver. Todd Gurley is going to have to win the rushing title as well. If the Rams do both of these things and Jared Goff begins to show the talent of a number one overall pick, then the Rams can miraculously win Super Bowl LII, just don’t bet on it.

San FRANCISCO 49ers

Super Bowl series 2017: NFC West

(Photo Credit: http://www.49ers.com/)

It was hard trying to find reasons the Rams could win the Super Bowl so finding reasons for the 49ers is like asking a dog to meow, but this is what the Super Bowl series is all about.

San Francisco had a horrible season, finishing 2-14. It was one of the worst seasons in franchise history. This year they will be looking to bounce back under new general manager John Lynch and new head coach Kyle Shanahan.

Finding themselves in the playoffs means fixing the worst rush defense in the NFL. San Fransisco gave up 165.9 rushing yards per game last season. Running backs would see the 49ers on their schedule and smile as if it was Christmas. This caused Lynch to focus hard on the defensive side of the ball this offseason.

San Francisco added defensive end Elvis Dumervill and linebacker Malcolm Smith in free agency. They also used their first two picks of the draft on defense. The 49ers selected defensive end Soloman Thomas and linebacker Rueben Foster.

The 49ers weren’t just bad against the run, they were just bad all around. San Francisco ranked 32nd in points allowing 30 per game. The bulk of the points came at the end of halves. They allowed 9.5 points per second quarter and 8.2 points per fourth quarter. These numbers will have to come down drastically if the 49ers are to make a run towards the playoffs. Their pass defense was average, giving up 240.5 yards through the air per game, which ranked 14th.

Similar to the Rams offense, the 49ers’ defense can’t get much worse. Improving over time will happen but becoming a top 15 defense is what it will take to get to the Super Bowl.

Offensively, the 49ers did have an identity under Chip Kelly and that was running the ball. Since Chip Kelly is no longer around, it will be interesting to see if Shanahan will continue to build off that foundation. The 49ers averaged 126.4 yards on the ground, which was fourth in the NFL.

Despite running the ball well, the 49ers struggled to open up the passing attack and converting on third down. San Francisco only managed to throw for 181.9 yards per game. They also only converted on third down 35 percent of the time. Struggling in these two areas caused the Niners to average 19.3 points per game.

Adding to their offensive woes, the Niners only managed to convert points in the red zone 68 percent of the time. All of these handicaps must improve in order for the 49ers to win the Super Bowl. That and hoping the rest of the league forfeits their season but hey, this was worth a shot.

 

Thank you for checking out the Super Bowl series: NFC West. Stay tuned the final edition of the Super Bowl series and check out the previous editions of the Super Bowl series here.

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Featured image courtesy of http://www.steelcityunderground.com/2016/09/09/2016-nfl-predictions-nfc-west/

2017 NFL Draft Day 3

2017 NFL Draft Day 3: Future Stars

The first two days and three rounds of the NFL draft have finished. The third day of the draft is rounds four through seven. These players drafted on day three sometimes do not even make the roster. So what players remaining, after day two, have a chance to become stars in the NFL? Here are some who may answer that question.

Chad Kelly, QB, Ole Miss

2017 NFL Draft Day 3

(Photo Credit: Chuck Cook, USA TODAY Sports)

Chad Kelly is flying high under the radar. Kelly is the nephew of Buffalo Bills legend Jim Kelly. Chad Kelly had a pretty solid career while at Ole Miss. Going 14-8 as a starter and even notched a win against Alabama. Kelly threw for 6,858 yards, 50 touchdowns, and just 21 interceptions. He also added 958 yards and 16 touchdowns on the ground in his career.

Kelly had a lot of problems off the field that have derailed his career. He was kicked off the team at Clemson for actions against the coaching staff. Once he left Clemson he landed at East Mississippi Community College, more commonly known as Last Chance U. There Kelly led EMCC to a 12-0 season and an NJCAA National Football Championship.

If Kelly has learned from his past mistakes and can be a model citizen off the field then there is a chance he can become a star in the NFL. He has great arm strength and can make NFL throws. Kelly has played primarily in the shotgun and will need to work on his under center mechanics. Also he has great touch passing skills and is much better when moving outside the pocket and throwing. If a team takes a risk in the sixth or seventh round there is a good chance Kelly becomes an NFL starter one day.

Dede Westbrook, WR, Oklahoma

Dede Westbrook was one of the top five receivers in all of college football last season. Some would argue he was the best. Last season he had 80 receptions, 1,524 yards, and 17 touchdowns. Westbrook is an excellent route runner with big play capability. In the open field, Westbrook is explosive and turns a lot of good plays into big plays. Some say his size is an issue but make no mistake, Westbrook could be a scary playmaker in the NFL.

 

Donnel Pumphrey, RB, San Diego St.

Donnel Pumphrey is only still available because of his size, 5-foot-8 and 176 pounds.. The Las Vegas product is the all-time leading rusher in NCAA history. NFL tacklers will be able to arm tackling him but that is only if they can catch him. He is so quick and fast that when he sees a hole he hits it without a second thought.  Pumphrey may not become an every-down back in the NFL but he can create momentum-changing plays. One NFL team will be very happy one day because of the risk they took on him.

 

Malachi Dupre, WR, LSU

Malachi Dupre has fallen mostly because LSU has not had a quarterback capable of helping any receiver. LSU has had some of the worst quarterback play in the country which is why Dupre only put up 98 receptions, 1,609 yards, and 14 touchdowns in his three years at LSU. If you throw the ball in Dupre’s direction there is a good chance he will catch it. He has one of the best catch radii of all the prospects. He will have to work on his route running but with a solid quarterback Dupre could break out as the next great LSU wideout to turn pro.

Ryan Switzer, WR, North Carolina

2017 NFL Draft Day 3

(Photo Credit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5OC3Yp4T7KI)

Ryan Switzer may be the most underrated, underappreciated player in this draft. Similar to Dede Westbrook and Donnel Pumphrey, size is the only reason for that. In his senior season at North Carolina, Switzer snagged 96 receptions for 1,112 yards, and six touchdowns. He has also proven to be a great return man who returned seven punts for touchdowns in his collegiate career. Switzer can be a Wes Welker or Julian Edelman type playmaker in the NFL and that is a reason teams should draft him as soon as possible.

Connor Harris, LB, Lindenwood

Connor Harris could have been a first round pick. He has it all, the size, the speed, and the intangibles. Teams seem to be holding it against him that he played in division II but Harris is a tackling machine. Harris holds the record at 633 career tackles. He has the ability to drop in coverage and has shown impressive ball-hawking skills as well. Any team that drafts him is getting a player who doesn’t have to come off the field and is a prototypical, old-school linebacker.

Jake Butt, TE, Michigan

Jake Butt is the victim of a bad injury at the worst time. Leonard Fournette and Christian McCaffery got a lot of heat for skipping their bowl games but had Jake Butt done the same then he wouldn’t have torn his ACL for the second time in his career. Butt would have been a second round pick without the injury but now teams are scared. He averaged 11.9 yards per reception for his career and is a guaranteed first down waiting to happen. Every team in the NFL needs a tight end that can get them out of a jam like that. If Butt can become healthy and get a shot, he has a great chance of being a top 10 tight end in the league.

 

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“From Our Haus to Yours”

Chicago Bears 2017 NFL Draft Profile

On the third day of Draftmas TGH gave to me! The Chicago Bears Draft Profile! (It makes more sense if you sing it..)

Summary

The Bears had a very underwhelming season in a very tough division. The Vikings, Packers and Lions were all solid teams last year and will probably continue that into next year.

The offseason was an interesting one for the Midway Monsters. They let go of Jay Cutler much to the surprise of no one and they brought in Mike Glennon who seemed to have been forgotten about until this offseason. Personally I think Glennon has a lot to prove and deserves a starting role. We will see if the Bears risk will pay off.

They also strengthened their Wideout core by adding Markus Wheaton, Rueben Randle and Kendall Wright. While all of them have their issues they also all have a lot of talent in completely different ways. Paring them with the surprise in Cameron Meredith and the hopefully healthy Kevin White and this could be one of the more interesting Wide Receiver groups in the NFL.

Lastly they added Prince Amukamara and Quitin Demps to try and shore up their Defensive Backs. While they aren’t big names they still should add some much needed help in the secondary.

Picks and Needs

The Bears have 7 picks in this draft. It is good that they have kept so many and should be able to fill some major holes with them.

First round: (1) No. 3

Second round: (1) No. 36

Third round: (1) No. 67

Fourth round: (2) No. 111, No. 117

Fifth round: (1) No. 147

Sixth round: (0)

Seventh round: (1) No. 221

Having two fourth round picks should allow Chicago to find some solid depth players. Also while I won’t be looking at trades in this Profile I can definitely see the Bears making some moves up or down in the draft depending on their board.

The worst thing Chicago can do with these picks is pick an early Quarterback or panic and trade up for someone they do not really need.

Here are their needs at Offense:

Left Tackle

Left Guard

Backup Pass Catching Tight End (Preferably one that they can grow)

Now for Defense:

Cornerback

Safety (Either one)

Edge Rushing Defensive End

Inside Linebacker to go along with Trevathan

Targets and Thoughts

I will pick who I think is best for the team just as I did in my other draft profile. There will be no trades and I will be looking at just the first three rounds.

Courtesy of: Youtube.com

First Round:

Pick #3: Jamal Adams SS, LSU

What is not to like about this kid? He is everything you could ask for in a safety and more. Many people believe he might be the safest pick in the draft.

Second Round:

Pick #36: Cordrea Tankersley CB, Clemson

It seems as though his choice to go back for his Senior Year payed off. He won a National Championship and is now one of the best Corners in the draft. It is very possible he could be off the board before the 36th pick but, if he is still here I think the Bears continue adding to their defense.

Third Round:

Pick #67: Roderick Johnson OT, Florida State

At 6’7, 298, Johnson has the size and arm length to be a very productive left tackle. His footwork needs some fine tuning but, he has the potential to be an extremely good asset for the Bears offensive line.

Conclusion

The Bears can add some needed pieces to help them contend in the brutal NFC North. Shoring up the secondary and adding a tackle may not seem like much but, it can go a long way for a team that struggled much of last season. Hopefully Mike Glennon will be the Quarterback they needed.

Thank you for joining us on our third day of TGH Draftmas! Check back tomorrow where we will be bringing you the Draft Profile of the Jacksonville Jaguars!

You can read all of the previous days of Draftmas below!

Draftmas Day 1: Cleveland Browns

Draftmas Day 2: San Francisco 49ers

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“From Our Haus to Yours”

Eliminate College Conferences

Change. It is a simply spelt and pronounced word, but becomes complex when people start to deal with change. People run away from change out of fear. People usually grimace at the thought of change. Change is often looked at as a bad thing, but change can also be viewed as a great thing. Change is needed for growth and knowledge. Society finds it hard to change things that are long standing traditions, even if they do not work, are outdated, or completely wrong.

(Photo: Daniel Gluskoter, AP)

(Photo: Daniel Gluskoter, AP)

Take a look at the national anthem controversy for instance. Rather than admit its flaws, people are back-lashing against Colin Kaepernick. Why can’t we admit our faults as people or as a society? Because people hate change, whether it’s for the betterment of society or not. It is so much easier to go with the flow rather than to adapt.

It is time for a change in college football by eliminating any and all conferences. They are unnecessary in this day and age. They serve no purpose other than to please tradition. This is a highly unpopular opinion but hear me out before you grab your pitchforks.

Sep 3, 2016; Green Bay, WI, USA; Wisconsin Badgers players celebrate defeating the LSU Tigers by doing the Lambeau Leap following the game at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports ORG XMIT: USATSI-269730 ORIG FILE ID: 20160903_jla_sh5_731.jpg

(Sep 3, 2016; Green Bay, WI, USA; Wisconsin Badgers players celebrate defeating the LSU Tigers by doing the Lambeau Leap following the game at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY)

The best teams need to play each other weekly regardless of their region or conference. Week one was one of the greatest weeks of college football ever. People are still glamorizing it because it was that epic. We saw great games all over such as (15) Houston defeating (3) Oklahoma. We saw Wisconsin upset (5) LSU. We saw unranked Texas A&M upset (16) UCLA. (18) Georgia beat (22) North Carolina. (2) Clemson had to sneak by unranked Auburn by six points. Fans saw Texas upset (10) Notre Dame in an overtime classic. On a Monday night game, (4) Florida State beat (11) Ole Miss.

Week two also saw some great programs matching up for exciting games. Arkansas was unranked and upset (15) TCU. (17) Tennessee beat Virginia Tech at Bristol Motor Speedway in the most attended game in college football history with 156,990 in attendance.

(http://www.usatoday.com/videos/sports/ncaaf/2016/11/18/houston-dashes-louisville's-playoff-hopes-upset/94060980/)

(http://www.usatoday.com)

Since the first two weeks there still have been great non-conference games even as teams have gotten into conference scheduling. In week six, Navy upset (6) Houston 46-40 in one of the most exciting back and forth games of the year. Most recently in week 12, the same Houston team that was upset by Navy, and was unranked, ended (5) Louisville’s shot at making the playoffs. They upset the Cardinals 36-10.

All these non conference match-ups with top programs facing off gave us excitement. Fans of football rejoiced over how fun it was to watch these teams play their hearts off to win these big time games. These games mean so much more with the rather new playoff system that determines a true champion in college football. Eliminating conferences would not eliminate rivalries because schools would be able to schedule 10-12 games completely how they want. The only thing each school would  have to do is make sure they schedule their rival schools annually.

(MARK ALMOND)

(MARK ALMOND)

These huge games are what the fans want to see. It doesn’t have to be just about the fans either. The college football playoff committee highly values a team’s strength of schedule. Nobody wants to see Alabama playing teams like Chattanooga or Kent State, teams in which they manhandled this year. Ohio State shouldn’t be playing teams like Rutgers, who happens to be in their conference, or Tulsa. Clemson games are boring when they play teams like South Carolina State or Syracuse. Imagine Clemson scheduling Alabama, Michigan, and Ohio State. If a team goes undefeated with a non-conference schedule as tough as this, there would be no question they deserve to be in the playoffs.

One of the biggest problems with the state of college football now is that great teams still get snubbed from making the playoffs. We need the best four teams in the country making the playoffs as long as it is a four team format. Maybe one day it will be a six or eight team format to eliminate more doubt, because there will always be a team or two on the bubble.

Currently the SEC, ACC, Big Ten, Pac 12 and the Big 12 are known as the power five conferences. Most people can agree these are the top five conferences in the country, with each taking turns on where they rank within the power five.

In the current playoff system, one of the power five conferences will not be represented. A champion from one of these conferences will not have the chance to play in the playoffs and prove they are the best team in the country. This doesn’t account for a team without a conference, such as Notre Dame, who could go undefeated and cause two power five conferences to be left out of the playoffs. It also doesn’t account for a year like this one in which Ohio State and Michigan both look like teams capable of winning a national championship.

(http://www.sbnation.com/)

(http://www.sbnation.com/)

The first ever college football playoff left out TCU and/or Baylor in favor of Ohio State. The debate raged on about which of these teams should have gotten in. Ohio State then went on to win the National Championship as a four seed to quiet the debate, but how do we know, without a doubt, that TCU or Baylor would not have done the same? How do we know TCU or Baylor would’t have beat Ohio State? This is the problem with conferences. The Big Ten was assumed to be the better conference which is why the playoff committee chose to take Ohio State over one of the Big 12 teams. It was all because the Big 12 conference doesn’t have a conference championship game.

There is another issue at hand when it comes to conferences and the entire playoff format. There is always a talk of two teams getting into the playoffs from the same conference. If that were to happen, two conference champions from a power five conference would be left out. This was the problem with the BCS system that the playoffs were suppose to fix. The question that should be asked is how can you be a champion of the nation if you weren’t a champion of your conference? Essentially that is what happens if two SEC or two Big Ten teams get into a four team playoff. Eliminating conferences erases all the doubt. It makes teams schedule harder competition and creates more exciting games. If a school didn’t do it, they wouldn’t get into the playoffs.

(Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

(Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Conferences started mostly due to how difficult it was to travel when teams were still taking buses. Colleges can afford to fly their teams in today’s sports and traveling is not as hard as it use to be. What is the need for conferences then? The idea of no conferences at all is highly appealing in my eyes, but will not be popular to most. It would be revolutionary to eliminate conferences. The most remarkable changes in the world once were thought to be outlandish. Conferences are a tired idea that is outdated and the sport can become more exciting by eliminating them.

 

 

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Why the AP Preseason Poll Deserves More Attention

The Associated Press’ NCAA Basketball Preseason Poll has a dual nature in that, it is both meaningful and not meaningful simultaneously. Every year the poll comes out creating a buzz about who should be higher and who should be lower. As with any preseason poll, power ranking or vote basis is complete speculation. So why should you care? Aside from bringing attention and excitement at the approaching season what does it provide us with? History shows that the AP Preseason Poll provides us with a gaze into the future and that we should give it significantly more attention.

Every year in the NCAA tournament brings with it new surprises, bigger upsets and more underdogs advancing. However, the trends found between the AP Preseason Poll and the NCAA Tournament can’t be ignored.

Despite Ben Simmons choosing LSU, the Tigers were the only team ranked in the preseason not to make the 2016 NCAA Tournament. (Photo courtesy of thebiglead.com)

To begin, a high volume of teams appearing in AP Preseason Poll make the NCAA tournament.  The 2015-16 season preached having no definitive power. Still, only one team in the preseason Top 25, LSU, did not make the Big Dance. Over the past ten years, an astounding 85 percent (214/250) of teams in the preseason poll make it to March Madness.  In addition, two teams counted against the percentage were Syracuse in 2014-15 and Connecticut in 2012-13.  Syracuse made a self-imposed ban so they became ineligible. UConn became ineligible due to Academic Progress Reports. Removing those two blemishes moves the 10-year average to 86 percent. Even the most inaccurate year, 2009-10, was still extremely predictable before the season began. Essentially, the Associated Press is able to make an educated guess about one-third of the NCAA field before the season begins.

Percentage of Teams in AP Preseason Poll to Make Tournament
Year Percentage
2015-16 96%  (24/25)
2014-15* 84% (21/25)
2013-14 92% (23/25)
2012-13^ 84% (21/25)
2011-12 84% (21/25)
2010-11 92% (23/25)
2009-10 72% (18/25)
2008-09 80% (20/25)
2007-08 92% (23/25)
2006-07 80% (20/25)
*=Syracuse self-imposed ban.
^=Uconn APR ban.

Not only do they predict who the teams who will be in the tournament well, but in general they are able to identify the very best teams in the tournament. At the end of the year, out of 350-plus teams, we watch four play in April. The majority of those teams are included on the AP’s radar.

Shaka Smart and the 2011 VCU Rams were one of the biggest surprises in the past decade. (Photo courtesy of csmonitor.com)

Over the past decade of basketball, an average of 90 percent of the Final Four has appeared in the poll. Only four teams in the decade were not in the poll, but made the Final Four. Two of them were the surprising runs of VCU and Wichita State to the Final Four in 2011. The poll of the 2007-08 preseason contains a nice surprise.  The top four teams in the poll are the four teams that made the Final Four. That was also the only year since tournament expansion that all four Number One seeds made the Final Four.

Moreover, 81 percent of the teams in the Elite Eight and 68 percent of teams in the Sweet 16 made appearances in the poll. Every year, of course, there are schools like Davidson that make a run. It is difficult to predict those runs during your bracket challenge in March, but the point is, the AP has their finger on the best teams in October.

Teams in Each Round that Appeared in AP Preseason Poll
Year Final Four Elite 8 Sweet 16
2015-16 75% (3/4) 75% (6/8) 75% (12/16)
2014-15 100% (4/4) 87% (7/8) 68% (11/16)
2013-14 100% (4/4) 87% (7/8) 68% (11/16)
2012-13 75% (3/4) 75% (6/8) 62% (10/16)
2011-12 100% (4/4) 100% (8/8) 87% (14/16)
2010-11 50% (2/4) 62% (5/8) 62% (10/16)
2009-10 100% (4/4) 75% (6/8) 62% (10/16)
2008-09 100% (4/4) 87% (7/8) 75% (12/16)
2007-08 100% (4/4) 75% (6/8) 62% (10/16)
2006-07 100% (4/4) 87% (7/8) 62% (10/16)

Not only does the AP know about the best teams, but also about the best team. In the past decade, only three champions began the year outside the top ten. Only one began the year unranked. Having the champion ranked at the top spot twice shows that the writers have a deep insight. The average rank for the champion in the preseason, not including the unranked Huskies in 2011, is 5.7.

Preseason Ranking for Champion
Year Team Rank
2016 Villanova 11
2015 Duke 4
2014 Connecticut 18
2013 Louisville 2
2012 Kentucky 2
2011 Connecticut NR
2010 Duke 9
2009 North Caroilna 1
2008 Kansas 4
2007 Florida 1

While the Associated Press may not always rank the Final Four as the top four teams, this is still impressive. The AP shows the ability to weed out the teams not up to par before teams play their first game. This is weeks before teams have even scrimmaged or had an exhibition.

In the next month or so, the AP will release the 2016-17 Preseason Poll. This ranking should be given serious consideration. Remember that history proves this ranking to be quite informative.

 

Why Choosing a School Does not Affect NBA Aspriations

Ben Simmons took a lot of heat for his decision to attend LSU for his mandatory year of service after high school. He pledged himself early and the promise was solidified with the hiring of his godfather as an assosciate head coach. Due to the NBA regulation, one-and-done situations like that of Simmons, have become common for top recruits. Frequently, players are committing to schools that would not be considered among the best in the nation. The 2016 and 2017 recruiting classes are no exception. Washington has grabbed two 5-stars in those classes and Western Kentucky landed 5-Star Center Mitchell Robinson. Analysts have criticized players like Simmons for making the decision to go to a non-powerhouse basketball program. The truth is that it does not matter what people say, the results matter.

The main goal of almost any athlete in basketball is to reach the pinnacle of the sport: the NBA. Any decision that a player makes could be an impact one. In any other career path where you choose to attend school can certainly make all the difference. Are young men in the sport making a poor decision by choosing a less than spectacular program? While it is a big decision, the fact is that a player’s college choice is not as impactful as we make it out to be in terms of professional progression.

Past NBA Examples

There have been dozens of precedents for players coming from smaller schools and programs being successful in the NBA. Their success is one piece of evidence that college is not the leading factor in professional development in the sport.

One of the better examples would be four time all-star and four time Defensive Player of the Year, Ben Wallace. Wallace went undrafted out of Division II Virginia Union, and previously was at Cuyahoga Community College. Ben Wallace had an NBA aspirations, NBA drive and NBA talent. Players in his situation slip through the cracks for being extremely raw at recruitment time or undersized for their position.  He went from being a 6 foot 9 under recruited center to one of the leaders on the 2004 Detroit Pistons NBA Finals squad.

There are plenty of examples like that of Wallace from the past: Steve Nash (drafted 15th overall, Santa Clara), Karl Malone (dafted 13th overall, Louisiana Tech), John Stockton (drafted 16th overall, Gonzaga), and many others.  These are not role players in the Association. Rather, these are current or future Hall of Famers. However the league has changed over even the past decade. With a dilution of talent, does this assertion hold up currently?

Current NBA Examples

While the league is, in fact, filled with may players from powerhouse schools, some of the league’s best have come from small, mid-major, and power conference schools not exactly well known for their NBA talent production.

Kawhii Leonard was a 4-star recruit before selecting San Diego State.  Granted he did have Steve Fisher as his guide through the years, the results of his career thus far have been astounding. After being selected 15th overall by the Indiana Pacers and traded to the San Antonio Spurs he became Defensive Player of the Year in 2015 and 2016. All-NBA First team and NBA Finals MVP also rank among the best of his accomplishments thus far.

Paul Millsap’s combination of power and finesse led to him being drafted out of Louisiana Tech. (Photo Courtesy of draftexpress.com)

Paul Millsap has put together an overwhelming NBA career. He was not a highly touted recruit. He did shine at Louisiana Tech, but was still only drafted in the middle of the second round. Millsap is a three time NBA All-Star.

Damian Lillard is one of the best examples out there. He was a 3-star recruit and was not even ranked among the top 50 point guards of his class. Portland took him 6th overall in the 2012 NBA Draft. After a stellar first season with the Trailblazers he became the NBA Rookie of the Year in 2013. The two time All-Star shows much promise for the years to come in his career.

The league contains a plethora of other examples. Two play on the same team in Stephen Curry (drafted 7th overall, Davidson) and Klay Thompson (drafted 11th overall, Washington State). Paul George (drafted 10th overall, Fresno State), James Harden (drafted 3rd overall, Arizona State) and C.J. McCollum (drafted 10th overall, Lehigh) also all went to smaller schools or non-traditional basketball powers.

The 2016 NBA All-Star Rosters fully embody the notion presented here.  The East Roster has 14 members, with Chris Bosh and Jimmy Butler unable to play due to injury.  50% of the East’s roster went to non-traditional basketball powers or smaller schools (Fresno State, USC, Louisiana Tech, Washington, Georgia Tech, and two from Marquette). Marquette made the Final Four with Dwayne Wade, but that actually proves the point further.  Wade made that run for the school, along with help of course, and did not end up at a more traditional basketball power.  He is now a perennial All-Star.

The West All-Star roster mimics the trends of the East.  58.3% of the West’s roster attended a smaller school or non-traditional power (Davidson, San Diego State, Arizona State, Wake Forest, and two from Texas). Some would argue that Texas and Wake Forest players do not belong in this category, however, neither school has a championship and Kentucky has more Final Fours this decade than either program has in its history.  They are hardly basketball powerhouses. However, the All-Star rosters indicate that players do choose these schools and still end up amazing professional talents. Therefore, a trip to UK, UCLA, Duke or North Carolina is not the only path to NBA excellence.

Schools that Guarantee a Draft Spot

Granted that all eligible UK players in the past year entered their names in the draft, there is plenty of proof that powerhouse schools do not guarantee being drafted or NBA success. There is a laundry list of players that enrolled at big schools with their sights set on the pros yet did not blossom for one reason or another.

Marquis Teague is a prime example, being the top point guard in his class in 2011. Teague played a roll in Kentucky’s 2012 National Championship run. Since entering the league in 2012, he averages less than ten minutes per game. Accruing a pedestrian stat line of 2.3 points per and 1.4 assists, he is leagues from the promise that his recruitment showed.

Cheik Diallo did not fill the promise that he had coming into Kansas. (Photo Courtesy of kusports.com)

Even though he has not debuted in the NBA yet, Cheik Diallo (Kansas) is another example. Coming in as a top ten recruit, scouts and coaches thought only the best for him. In his one season at Kansas he averaged a whopping 3.0 points per game in 7.5 minutes of floor time per game. The Pelicans selected Diallo in the 2016 NBA Draft, but it was not until the second round of the draft.

Dozens of other names fit the criteria of players enrolling at a big school that did not work out for one reason or another. Cliff Alexander (Kansas) had academic issues, but did not even come close to expectations. Rasheed Sulaimon (Maryland) was a top 15 recruit but Duke dismissed him and after that no team drafted him. The list goes on and on. Top recruits just do not get a guaranteed pass for attending basketball powerhouses.

The Reality behind the Myth

So why does it not always work? Why do guys come in highly touted with all of the promise in the world but exit without fulfilling expectations? The simple answer would be that players are just overrated as recruits. There is more to it thank that, though.

To begin, NBA talent is NBA talent.  This may seem like a simple assertion, but it has broad consequences. Some players do come in raw and due to their college experience, develop into NBA greats. Even then, that usually has little to do with what school they select. Occasionally a coach takes on a protege and turns them into something that they were not before. This is extremely rare and does not come without the player putting in the effort anyway. Most times a player’s work ethic is what ultimately turns them into a star, if they come in with untapped potential.

Additionally, players’ talent can be diluted in programs where there are many a star. At a program with less talent, there is less keeping a player from standing out head and shoulders above the competition as a superstar. At a bigger program, players can take a back seat post injury or to new blood. The next man up mentality is much easier to believe in when there is another five star recruit to fill a void.

So there are several reasons why going to a powerhouse can actually hinder a player from their NBA dreams. In fact, perhaps the best thing for them to do to enter a league full of isolation play is to isolate themselves from other stars.

NCAA Football Week One Picks

Rob Doerger and Joe DiTullio (Staff writers and personalities on the DiTullio and Doerger College Sports Show), pick every game in the week one slate for FBS.

Away Home Location Rob Joe
Presbyterian College Central Michigan Kelly/Shorts Stadium, Mount Pleasant, MI C. Mich CMU
Charlotte #19 Louisville Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium, Louisville, KY Louisville Louisville
Tulane Wake Forest BB&T Field, Winston-salem, NC Wake Wake
Tennessee-Martin Cincinnati Nippert Stadium, Cincinnati, OH Cincy Cincy
Maine Connecticut Rentschler Field, East Hartford, CT Uconn Uconn
William & Mary NC State Carter-Finley Stadium, Raleigh, NC NC State NC State
Indiana Florida Intl FIU Stadium, Miami, FL Indiana IU
Appalachian State #9 Tennessee Neyland Stadium, Knoxville, TN Tennessee Tennessee
South Carolina Vanderbilt Vanderbilt Stadium, Nashville, TN Vandy Vanderbilt
Southern Utah Utah Rice-Eccles Stadium, Salt Lake City, UT Utah Utah
Weber State Utah State Romney Stadium, Logan, UT Utah St Utah State
Rice Western Kentucky L.T. Smith Stadium, Bowling Green, KY WKU Wku
Oregon State Minnesota TCF Bank Stadium, Minneapolis, MN Minnesota Minnesota
South Dakota New Mexico University Stadium , Albuquerque, NM New Mexico UNM
Montana State Idaho Kibbie Dome, Moscow, ID Idaho Idaho
Jackson State UNLV Sam Boyd Stadium, Las Vegas, NV UNLV UNLV
Mississippi Valley State Eastern Michigan Rynearson Stadium, Ypsilanti, MI E. Mich EMU
Ball State Georgia State Georgia Dome, Atlanta, GA Georgia St Ga State
Albany Buffalo UB Stadium, Buffalo, NY Buffalo Buffalo
Colgate Syracuse Carrier Dome, Syracuse, NY Syracuse Syracuse
Army Temple Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia, PA Temple Temple
Furman #12 Michigan State Spartan Stadium , East Lansing, MI Sparty MSU
Northwestern State #23 Baylor McLane Stadium, Waco, TX Baylor Baylor
Colorado State Colorado Sports Authority Field, Denver, CO Colorado Colorado
Kansas State #8 Stanford Stanford Stadium, Stanford, CA Stanford Stanford
Toledo Arkansas State Centennial Bank Stadium, Jonesboro, AR Toledo Toledo
Cal Poly Nevada Mackay Stadium, Reno, NV Nevada Nevada
Georgia Tech Boston College Aviva Stadium, Dublin GT GT
#3 Oklahoma #15 Houston NRG Stadium, Houston, TX Oklahoma Oklahoma
Fordham Navy Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, Annapolis, MD Navy Navy
Eastern Kentucky Purdue Ross-Ade Stadium, West Lafayette, IN Purdue Purdue
Bowling Green #6 Ohio State Ohio Stadium, Columbus, OH Ohio St OSU
Western Michigan Northwestern Ryan Field, Evanston, IL NW NW
Hawaii #7 Michigan Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor, MI Michigan Mich
Margin of Victory 44 39
Boise State Louisiana Lafayette Cajun Field, Lafayette, LA Boise Boise
South Alabama Mississippi State Davis Wade Stadium, Starkville, MS Miss St Miss St
Missouri West Virginia Milan Puskar Stadium, Morgantown, WV WVU WVU
Howard Maryland Maryland Stadium, College Park, MD Maryland Maryland
Liberty Virginia Tech Lane Stadium, Blacksburg, VA VT Va Tech
Villanova Pittsburgh Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, PA Pitt Pitt
Abilene Christian Air Force Falcon Stadium, Usaf Academy, CO Air Force AF
Rutgers #14 Washington Husky Stadium, Seattle, WA Washington Wash
#16 UCLA Texas A&M Kyle Field, College Station, TX UCLA TAMU
#5 LSU Wisconsin Lambeau Field, Green Bay, WI LSU LSU
Richmond Virginia Scott Stadium, Charlottesville, VA Virginia Virginia
Kent State Penn State Beaver Stadium, University Park, PA Ped St Penn State
Miami (OH) #17 Iowa Kinnick Stadium, Iowa City, IA Iowa Iowa
Texas State Ohio Peden Stadium, Athens, OH Ohio Ohio
Murray State Illinois Memorial Stadium , Champaign, IL Illini Illinois
Southeastern Louisiana #21 Oklahoma State Boone Pickens Stadium, Stillwater, OK OK St OK St
Louisiana Tech Arkansas Razorback Stadium, Fayetteville, AR Arkansas Ark
UC Davis #24 Oregon Autzen Stadium, Eugene, OR Ducks Oregon
#18 Georgia #22 North Carolina Georgia Dome, Atlanta, GA Georgia Georgia
Southern Illinois Florida Atlantic FAU Football Stadium, Boca Raton, FL Salukis FAU
Hampton Old Dominion S.B. Ballard Stadium, Norfolk, VA Old Dom ODU
North Carolina Central Duke Wallace Wade Stadium, Durham, NC Duke Duke
Western Carolina East Carolina Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium, Greenville, NC ECU ECU
Florida A&M Miami Hard Rock Stadium, Miami, FL Miami Miami
Savannah State Georgia Southern Allen E. Paulson Stadium, Statesboro, GA Geo South Geo South
Austin Peay Troy Veterans Memorial Stadium , Troy, AL Troy Troy
VMI Akron InfoCision Stadium, Akron, OH Akron Akron
Alabama A&M Middle Tennessee Floyd Stadium, Murfreesboro, TN MTSU MTSU
SMU North Texas Mean Green Stadium, Denton, TX SMU SMU
San José State Tulsa Chapman Stadium, Tulsa, OK Tulsa Tulsa
Towson South Florida Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, FL USF USF
South Carolina State UCF Bright House Networks Stadium, Orlando, FL UCF UCF
Rhode Island Kansas Memorial Stadium , Lawrence, KS Kansas Kansas
Southeast Missouri State Memphis Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium, Memphis, TN Memphis Memphis
Alabama State Texas San Antonio Alamodome, San Antonio, TX UTSA UTSA
Southern Louisiana Monroe Malone Stadium, Monroe, LA ULM ULM
Southern Mississippi Kentucky Commonwealth Stadium, Lexington, KY Kentucky UK
Massachusetts #25 Florida Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, Gainesville, FL Gators Florida
#20 USC #1 Alabama AT&T Stadium, Arlington, TX Tide Bama
Northern Iowa Iowa State Jack Trice Stadium, Ames, IA Iowa St Iowa State
Fresno State Nebraska Memorial Stadium , Lincoln, NE Nebraska Nebraska
Eastern Washington Washington State Martin Stadium, Pullman, WA Wash St Wash St
New Mexico State UTEP Sun Bowl, El Paso, TX UTEP Utep
South Dakota State #13 TCU Amon G. Carter Stadium, Fort Worth, TX TCU TCU
Stephen F Austin Texas Tech Jones AT&T Stadium, Lubbock, TX TT Ttu
New Hampshire San Diego State Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego, CA SDSU SDSU
#2 Clemson Auburn Jordan-Hare Stadium, Auburn, AL Clemson Clemson
BYU Arizona University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, AZ Arizona BYU
Northern Illinois Wyoming War Memorial Stadium , Laramie, WY NIU NIU
Northern Arizona Arizona State Sun Devil Stadium, Tempe, AZ Arizona St ASU
#10 Notre Dame Texas Royal Texas Memorial Stadium, Austin, TX Irish ND
#11 Ole Miss #4 Florida State Florida Citrus Bowl, Orlando, FL FSU Ole Miss
Gameday Guest Picker (Green Bay, WI) Aaron Rodgers Jared Abbrederis

How SEC Basketball is on the Rise

SEC basketball is not held in high esteem, but it should be and will be soon. Right now when people hear the letters SEC they think two things: bone-crushing football and Kentucky basketball. There is not much thought given to the basketball league that has not finished higher than fifth in conference RPI since 2011-12.

However, conference RPI is not always the best indicator of league strength from top to bottom. The PAC-12 proved this in the 2016 NCAA Tournament. The PAC-12 was second in conference RPI but went 2-5 in the round of 64. By percentage the AAC was the only conference worse in overall tournament record. This means that there is more to a conference’s power than the RPI. So even though the SEC is weak in that perspective, there are other things to rate them on.

The truth is that SEC basketball is subtly moving toward relevancy at more than a Big Blue Nation perspective. It will not happen overnight, but the tools are in place and all indications are that the SEC will have a heavy handed affect on March Madness for years to come.

Where it starts: Coaching

John Calipari is the best recruiter in the SEC and one of the best in the nation. (Photo courtesy of espn.com)

Coaches control everything. They are in charge of the program’s recruiting success or failure, in game management and tactics of their teams and the integrity of their programs. The SEC is exemplary in this category starting at the top. John Calipari is the best coach in the SEC, no argument there. While before it seemed he was the only one that mattered, he is no longer the only relevant coach in the conference. Other coaches with storied careers are beginning to make waves.

Ben Howland was the architect behind the three straight UCLA Final Four appearances. After a brief hiatus from basketball, he carries a 413-225 career record into his second season at Mississippi State. Bruce Pearl (257-139) finds himself in a similar situation. The difference is that his was more than just a brief hiatus, and he went from one SEC school to another. After three years off, the coach that formerly led the Tennessee Vols to the Elite Eight. Furthermore, there is Rick Barnes (619-333) who now coaches at Pearl’s former school. He once led Texas to 14 straight NCAA tournaments, including a Final Four, two Elite Eight appearances and two Sweet Sixteens.

There is more to add to the list including Frank Martin at South Carolina, Billy Kennedy at Texas A&M and Andy Kennedy at Ole Miss, among other notable names. In reality, had Billy Donovan not left for the Oklahoma City Thunder and the ACC not have four of the greatest coaches in the game (Mike Krzyzewski, Jim Boeheim, Roy Williams and Rick Patino), the SEC would be have the best coaching arsenal in the NCAA. Regardless, there is an overabundance of elite coaches and that is where growth begins.

Where it leads: The Recruits

High profile coaches bring in high profile recruits. High profile recruits lead to better classes. Better classes lead to better teams. It is a very linear and logical progression. Year in and year out big programs replace their losses without skipping a beat. Thankfully the best example, Kentucky, is in the SEC. They are proof that this strategy can and does work. The SEC has not always been the most prolific in this category, but that is changing.

Obviously the main source of recruits is Kentucky and this year is no exception. They have been top two in recruiting every year since 2009. The program has been keeping the SEC afloat in the pool of relevancy for quite a while. However, there are indications that other schools will join the party.

Surely no one has already forgotten the mania that was Ben Simmons nine month vacation at LSU. Last year the Tigers also grabbed Antonio Blankley, another top 25 recruit. Malik Newman, even though he has now transferred to Kansas, was a great grab by Mississippi State as part of a stellar 2015 class.

The 2016 class was no exception for Kentucky, but there are other SEC schools rising. Mississippi State had a second straight top 25 class with Ben Howland at the helm. Also in the top 50 are Texas A&M, Arkansas, Georgia and Tennessee. Alabama even squeezed in aftergrabbing two 4-stars thanks to Avery Johnson.

In addition Bruce Pearl was able to elevate his 2016 class by getting to work as soon as his show-cause ban lifted. Auburn ranks 25th this year, but it is the 2017 class that should have everyone murmuring about SEC basketball. The Auburn Tigers currently hold the top spot. Arkansas, Vanderbilt and Texas A&M made the top 25 while LSU is sitting pretty at 26.

The way the conference is headed right now, players will continue to flock to these schools.  The coaches that everyone want to play for are there.  They can help develop young men into NBA stars. The only thing that remains is seeing if success will be found. While not every coach in the SEC is grabbing top 100 prospects left and right, their resumes make it much easier to get any players that they may desire.

Where it ends: Results Tested and Made in March

NCAA Tournament success is the paramount of all measurements. Even just an appearance or several straight appearances can lead to a school being viewed in a more positive light. Now, the SEC has not had the most amazing tournament record over the past decade, but there are some positives to look at.

In 2015 there were five bids by SEC teams. That is a stark improvement from the three per year of the past several seasons. The horizon brings a few more bright hopes. Currently, ESPN Bracketologist Joe Lunardi has four squads in the 2017 NCAA Tournament (Kentucky, Vanderbilt, Florida and Texas A&M). That is not very many, but he has Mississippi State in the first four out.

The Aggies may have found some stability for their program. (Photo courtesy of ncaa.com)

Texas A&M also looks to be on its way to being a tournament regular, and had they not met a talented Oklahoma team last year, they may have been the Final Four participant from the region. Additionally, there are some teams not there who could find a way to sneak in. LSU, Auburn and Arkansas all could find themselves with a bid.  If any of those teams, plus Mississippi State find their way in, then the SEC could put six schools in for the first time since 2008.

 

The most exciting thing about the SEC right now is the potential. There are potential tournament regulars outside of just Kentucky now. SEC basketball is no longer a joke.

New NCAA Social Media Rules, and the Impact

I’m quite the insomniac. So Sunday night I’m up late browsing on social media when I see several new tweets pop up. I click the chrome tab and select to view the new tweets. They are all from one person – Luke Fickell, Ohio State’s defensive coordinator and linebacker coach (I’m a die-hard Buckeye, for those of you who do not know). And all of the tweets have something in common – they are re-tweets. They are re-tweets of committed recruits. They are re-tweets of committed recruits from the class of 2017 and 2018. This has to violate the NCAA social media rules, right?

What? Isn’t that a violation of the NCAA recruiting rules? Are they going to drop the hammer down on us in their usual, overreacting, no you can’t pay for a kid’s meal when his dad just died, way?

Other coaches began doing it too. Tennessee Volunteer coach Butch Jones, Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh, even LSU’s Les Miles.

Is this the seventh sign of the apocalypse?

No, of course not. It is the new, and fairly comical, NCAA rule regarding social media.

You see, if you couldn’t tell from the beginning of the article, back in the good ol’ days no social media interaction between college football coaches and recruits was allowed until the recruit penned his John Hancock on one of those fancy letters of intent. But now the NCAA has made the rule more NCAA like. That is to say, made it more middle ground-ish, complex, and needlessly controversial.

To put it simply, a coach can share, re-tweet or like the post of a recruit so long as they don’t comment on it. The general motto is “click, but don’t type”. Clicking, the stuff you are now able to do on social media, includes:

  • Re-tweeting and sharing a post (unless the prospect in question is currently visiting your school)
  • Liking or “reacting” to a post

Typing, what you are still not allowed to do, includes:

  • Commenting on a post
  • Adding words or emoticons to a share or re-tweet
  • Tagging or mentioning a specific recruit in a post

There’s the rule broken down.

Now do I personally agree with the rule? I could go either way. While I think some people’s need for vindication on social media is something that describes the shallowness, selfishness, and sadness of my generation, I also think that there is really no harm in it so long as people are smart. What made this an issue originally is that some coaches worried they might not get a player because they didn’t re-tweet or favorite as much as another coach. If that is really an issue, then I am against the new by-laws allowing more interactions. Twitter should not be influential in a recruit’s decision, end of story.

The thing is, I don’t think — at least in most cases — that social media really does impact a recruit’s decision. Most players are smart enough to choose their college based on where they feel most comfortable, not which coach favorited their offer letter picture. But you can bet that most coaches will not take that risk when trying to land that five star that could change their program. Which brings me to the other negative of this situation, the hassle. Every team wants the edge on their opponents, and if re-tweeting is a way to get one, by golly they will re-tweet everything a recruit throws up in 140 characters or less.

To sum this whole situation up, I think it’s funny sometimes to look at this day and age we now live in where social media is considered a recruiting resource that needs to have its own by-laws. I’m active on social media and in the same generation as these recruits, so who am I to judge? To get a like or a re-tweet feels good, let alone a like or a re-tweet from Urban Meyer. That said, it should have no impact on where an athlete furthers his or her academic and athletic career. And I hope the folks out there are smart enough that it won’t.

SEC 2016-2017 Preview

After an entertaining SEC Media Week, I am doing a quick preview of one of the strongest conferences in the land.

Courtesy of Getty Images

Courtesy of Getty Images

SEC Player of the Year: LSU’s Running Back Leonard Fournette

For me it is a two horse race for the POTY for the SEC. It will be either be LSU’s running back Leonard Fournette or Ole Miss quarterback Chad Kelly. I think I am leaning closer to Fournette. He is just one of the unicorns of College Football. He is so powerful and so strong, and he can catch the ball out of the backfield. He does it all for the Tigers on the offensive side of the ball.

Last year, Fournette accounted for the 45% of the offensive touchdowns, which lead the nation. I think Fournette will comeback this season on mission to prove he should have been in New York last year. Fournette will easily have 2000+ yards on the ground and about 300+ yards receiving. With dual threat quarterback Brandon Harris improving from last year to spring ball and throughout the summer it will make the defense have to defend more than Fournette.

Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Andy Lyons/Getty Images

SEC East Champion: Tennessee Volunteers

The SEC East is pretty much Tennessee’s to lose. The Vols are really only competing with Georgia and Florida for the crown in the East and that is not saying too much. This is because of all the turnover that UGA will have this year. And because Florida will have to play a new quarterback since former starting quarterback Will Grier is no longer there. Second year Coach McElwain has a great core of receivers for whoever the quarterback is but, I would not count on a new starter to take any team to Atlanta for a SEC Championship Game.

Tennessee is just the strongest team in one of the weakest divisions in College Football. South Carolina has a new coach, and possibly a new quarterback that has never played a down of college football.  Vanderbilt is still climbing out of the basement of the SEC, but they do return a good defense. I think this year will be the year we look at as Vandy’s take off year. They will probably still miss a bowl game but the nation will know that Vandy is finally playing football again.

Do you see where I am going with this? Tennessee is the only logical choice to win the division. They have one of the best backfields in the league with quarterback Joshua Dobbs and running back Jalen Hurd. On the defensive side they return seven starters from their stalwart defense of a year ago. Tennessee should run away with the East crown, but it is the SEC East. Anything can and will happen.

Courtesy of AP

Courtesy of AP

SEC West Champion: LSU Tigers

On this side of the conference, we have one of the strongest division in College Football. My big favorites for the West are LSU, Bama and Ole Miss. All of those teams have great reasons why they can win the Division.

LSU with their tandem of Brandon Harris and one of the greatest running backs in school history, Leonard Fournette. Alabama still has Nick Saban, so it does not matter who their quarterback is because most of their quarterbacks are just game managers anyways. Ole Miss has the best quarterback in the conference with Chad Kelly. He is also the only quarterback in the conference with a win against the reigning National Champion Alabama Crimson Tide.

I think the division will be decided on Novemeber 5th when Alabama comes to LSU to play them under the lights of Death Valley. Whoever wins that game most likely wins the division. I think it will be LSU. We all should know that Saban has not found a way to stop a true dual threat quarterback. Until he shows that he can I will always pick the dual threat quarterback against Coach Saban. And LSU also plays Ole Miss at home this year but, they play Arkansas and Texas A&M on the road this year. Both teams look to be very dangerous this year and could spoil some teams National Championship aspirations.

SEC Champion: LSU Tigers

Les Miles has to do this year. After everything that has happened this summer in Baton Rouge, that area needs something to bring them together. Just like how Clemson did something wonderful for the state of South Carolina after the summer they had last year. Not only that, but, Les Miles need this to get the LSU fans off of his back. Last year they wanted him fired and a SEC Championship will be a great rebuttal to those fans. Miles has a great team coming into this season and he needs to strike now before they miss their opportunity with Brandon Harris and Leonard Fournette.

 

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