Taking a Closer Look at the Number One Overall Recruit: Michael Porter Jr.

Michael Porter Jr. brings in the new era of college basketball players. He is the clear No. 1 recruit in the 2018 class according to ESPN.com. We will see just how good he can be come November.

The 6-foot-10 superstar put up some absurd stats in his senior year to help him finish on top of ESPN’s top 100 high school players in the country. He averaged 36.2 points per game, 13.6 rebounds, 5.0 assists, 3.2 steals and 2.7 blocks. I guess you could say that’s how you fill up a stat sheet.

Michael Porter Jr.

Michael Porter Jr. goes in for a dunk in his game in the state quarterfinals in March (Photo/ Johnny Andrews)

Porter, who was once a Washington signee, is now headed to Missouri. The switch happened after former Washington coach Lorenzo Romar was fired and replaced with long time Syracuse assistant coach, Mike Hopkins.

After former Washington assistant coach Michael Porter Sr. was awarded a position in Missouri’s coaching staff, his son Porter Jr. followed. This arguably was Missouri’s biggest recruit ever, and undoubtedly their biggest recruit in the past decade. Their highest ranked recruit before Porter was Montaque Gill-Caesar, who was ranked 41st in ESPN’s top 100.

Porter, who is already projected to go No. 1 overall in next year’s draft, comes into Missouri with scouts raving of his talents. Porter has an unbelievable combination and balance of physic and skill. The 18-year-old stands 6-foot-10, 215 pounds for a unique brew of size, length, bounce and skill that makes him the best player in the class.

He is versatile on the perimeter despite his size. He is able step back and tack the long jumper and can virtually get whatever shot off he wants because of his long frame.

Porter is also very comfortable in running the floor and in space, which is unique for a player his size. He has displayed the ability to shoot the 3-pointer or take a couple dribbles and pull up for a mid-range jumper. He has also shown a nice touch around the rim, and his ability to finish above the rim is greatly evident.

He’s basically got everything that entails a superstar, and that’s just on the court. Off the court, he is also one of the most interesting recruits in the country, starting with his family.

Michael Porter Jr.

Porter was named MVP of this year’s McDonald’s All American game this year (AP Photo)

Porter has basketball in his blood. His father, of course, is now on the coaching staff at Missouri and was previously on the staff at Washington. His mother was also an elite basketball athlete in high school. As stated previously, Porter averaged 36.2 points per game in high school, which is 22.5 points fewer than his mother.

That’s right. Porter’s mother, Lisa Porter, averaged 58.7 points per game.

Not a typo.

She went on to play for the University of Iowa and scored over 1,300 points in her career. She also lead Iowa to their first Big Ten title.

On top of that, Porter is dating actress Madison Pettis, who is best known for her appearance as Dwayne Johnson’s daughter in “The Game Plan.”

Regardless of his off-the-court life, what most people should be concerned with is what he can do on the court. There is no question he is the best recruit this year coming out of high school and there is no question that the kid can hoop.

A talent like that could make Missouri relevant again in the win column and maybe help them to another tournament appearance. That is something that they haven’t seen in a long time.

 

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The Need for an Eight Team Playoff

(USA Today)

(USA Today)

There must be an eight team playoff in college football. This college football season has been the best of any in recent history. There is constant rhetoric on who should have been in the playoffs and who shouldn’t.  There is constant questions on who is capable of challenging the unbeatable Alabama Crimson Tide.

Alabama has clearly looked like the best team in the country, but games are not won on paper and anything can happen once the ball is kicked off. There are upsets every week and Week 11 showed it more than ever. For the first time since 1985, the second, third and fourth ranked teams all lost on the same day. It was madness and chaotic and we all loved it! College football still has a little guy, Western Michigan, that went undefeated and gets absolutely no love at all. Their schedule is blamed for their low rankings at the end and throughout the year. There is an issue with the current format of a four team playoff.

College football is exciting and a four team playoff system was a great start, but we want, no, we need more. There needs to be an eight team college playoff. Part of the reason the college game went to a playoff system was because the BCS system didn’t allow the nation to see a true champion. There was rarely a year in which the third ranked team in the BCS didn’t have a case to be in the national championship. This year is no different. As mentioned previously, Western Michigan went undefeated and has to settle for playing in the Cotton Bowl. This isn’t the first time a small school had been disrespected by the polls.

The Little Guy

(Photo: Steve Grayson/WireImage)

(Photo: Steve Grayson/WireImage)

Why can’t the little guy get a chance to upset Goliath? There are plenty examples of teams who did not have a snowball’s chance in Hell to win against a college football giant, but somehow found a way. In 2006, Boise State won one of the greatest games in college football history.

The 2006 Boise State team was a member of the Western Athletic Conference, which is now extinct in football. It was a conference that was considered one of the worst in the country.  Boise State had two big non-conference wins that season. The Broncos beat Oregon State 42-12 and they also won at Utah 36-3. Boise finished the season undefeated, but the BCS only ranked Boise at eighth. Boise State was never considered for the national championship because of their weak conference. They had to settle for playing number 10 ranked Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl which became an instant classic.

To sum up the game, with a 1:02 left in a 28-28 tie, Boise State quarterback Jared Zabransky threw an interception to Marcus Walker who ran the interception back 34 yards for a touchdown to give Oklahoma a 35-28 lead. Fast forward to Boise State’s next possession with 18 seconds remaining. It was fourth and 18. Boise State ran the famous hook and lateral that worked for a touchdown. The game was tied at 35 with just seven seconds remaining.

Oklahoma got the ball first in overtime and Adrian Peterson ran it in for a 25 yard touchdown to give Oklahoma a 42-35 lead. Boise was able to answer with a touchdown and head coach Chris Petersen decided to go for two. Boise State ran the statue of liberty in for the two-point conversion and the win, 43-42. The Broncos finished the season with a perfect 13-0 record and the only team left undefeated that season.

Continuing with the theme of small conference schools being snubbed, the next example is the 2008 Utah Utes who were in the Mountain West. Utah won at (24) Michigan, then beat (11) TCU and (14) BYU at home. They finished ranked sixth in the final BCS rankings and had to settle for playing in the Sugar Bowl against (4) Alabama. Utah easily won the Sugar Bowl 31-17 even though they were 10 point underdogs. They finished the year as the only undefeated team in the country, but were not the national champions.

(ESPN/The Associated Press)

(ESPN/The Associated Press)

That same year Boise State finished the regular season undefeated as well, and was ranked ninth in the BCS. The Broncos only had one impressive win that season in which they won at Oregon 37-32. It was the famous LeGarrette Blount punch game. That year Boise didn’t even get to play in a BCS Bowl game. They played TCU in the Poinsettia Bowl and lost 17-16.

2009 left the BCS in chaos at the end of the year as there were five undefeated teams: Alabama, Texas, Cincinnati, TCU and Boise State. The national championship game ended up being Alabama versus Texas. The other three undefeated teams were not given the chance to play for a national championship.

Texas had gone 3-0 against the top 25 with only one of those wins coming on the road. Cincinnati had gone 4-0 against the top 25 with three of those wins coming on the road. Texas was chosen because of their name. The small schools always get the short end of the stick when being listed with the best of the best.

(https://www.reddit.com/r/CFB/comments/3ucxld/week_13_trash_talk_thursday_trashgiving/)

(https://www.reddit.com/r/CFB/comments/3ucxld/week_13_trash_talk_thursday_trashgiving/)

The last example of small schools from small conferences comes from 2010 from TCU. TCU won at (24) Oregon State to open the season. The Horned Frogs only had one other ranked game which came on the road against (6) Utah. TCU demolished the Utes 47-7. In the end their wins weren’t impressive enough as they finished the season in the BCS ranked third. The two teams that finished ahead of them, Auburn and Oregon, were both undefeated as well. TCU ended up in the Rose Bowl against (4) Wisconsin and won 21-19 to finish the season undefeated.

They Can’t Beat The Big Boys. Or Can They?

(http://www.bendbulletin.com/slideShows?layout=2&storyId=1430295)

(http://www.bendbulletin.com/slideShows?layout=2&storyId=1430295)

There is a common theme with all these undefeated small schools. Utah, TCU and Boise State were almost always involved. Utah has had two undefeated seasons in the past 13 seasons and accomplished both of their undefeated seasons in the Mountain West Conference. The Utes ended up leaving for the Pac-12 because it is a power five conference. TCU finished with their only undefeated season in the Mountain West as well, but left for the Big 12, a power five conference. They left because of the disrespect year in and year out towards the Mountain West Conference. The last of these three teams, Boise State, has had three undefeated regular seasons in their last 11 seasons.

Typically a program this consistent would have played in a national championship, but Boise has yet to play for one. There is a bias against teams not in the power five and Western Michigan is the snub this season. The most common response from someone who argues that these teams don’t deserve the shot because of their small conferences has one of two responses.

The first is “let’s see if they do this again next year and next year if they are undefeated they should be in.” There are two problems with that reaction and the first is the team that is undefeated this year is a completely different team than they will be the next year. The second issue is that statement has proven to be false because Boise State had three undefeated regular seasons in four years and never got the chance.

(http://www.nobodywinsontheblue.com/2013/08/2013-boise-state-football-preview.html)

(http://www.nobodywinsontheblue.com/2013/08/2013-boise-state-football-preview.html)

Another common response is “Oh they would get blown out by Alabama and other big schools”. That statement is once again false as there are countless examples of smalls schools upsetting the goliath schools. Above there were examples listed, including Utah beating Alabama, and here are some more: In 2010 FCS member Jacksonville State beat Ole Miss 49-48, FCS James Madison won at (13) Virginia Tech 21-16 and perhaps the biggest upset of all time, 2007 Appalachian State beat (5) Michigan 34-32.

All these small schools pulled off what many believed to be impossible but the game is played on the field and not on paper, or by the amount of stars a recruiting class has. Western Michigan might be able to beat Alabama, Clemson, or Ohio State but everyone assumes they have no chance because of history. Yes, these programs have been national powers for decades but that doesn’t mean the little guy can’t hang, or win. An eight team playoff needs to be made with certain requirements similar to the ramifications in college basketball. These requirements are needed because of the mistakes made since the inception of the four team playoff.

Playoff Mistakes

The college football playoff started in 2014 and is only entering their third year. In 2014, college football fans were so happy to finally receive the playoff system that they had been so desperately asking for for almost a decade. Fans were so happy in fact, there was no chance it would be criticized in the first year, but they had set precedents in which would eventually make the committee look like hypocrites.

(http://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/ncaaf/2014/12/02/college-football-playoff-projection-alabama-oregon-florida-state-tcu/19748763/)

(www.reddit.com)

In 2014, heading into conference championship week the rankings were as follows: (1) Alabama 11-1, (2) Oregon 11-1, (3) TCU 11-1, (4) Florida State 12-0, (5) Ohio State 11-1, and (6) Baylor 11-1. All six teams had won their game on championship week by wide margins. The final college football rankings finished with TCU dropping to sixth and Ohio State finishing in fourth, thus knocking TCU out of the college football playoff. The reasoning given by the committee stated that TCU did not win their conference therefore Ohio State deserved to be in. TCU and Baylor were both 8-1 in conference play, but Baylor beat TCU head to head 61-58.

Fast forward to this year where the playoff committee selected Ohio State over Penn State. Ohio State had one loss on the year to Penn State. Penn State had two losses to Pittsburgh and Michigan. Two years earlier the playoff committee favored Ohio State because they won a conference championship and yet this year left Penn State out who won head to head versus Ohio State, won the division in the BIG 10 in which Ohio State is in, and won the BIG 10 Championship. The college football committee that said conference championships matter two years earlier ignored that Ohio State didn’t win their conference.

Essentially the committee is saying head to head wins mean nothing, nor do conference titles after this year’s playoff selection. Subliminally they are saying whoever can bring in the most revenue will make the playoffs if they have a good year. If revenue matters that much then push it to an eight team playoff to create even more dollars.

In the first year, the college football playoff paid out 500 billion dollars to schools which was the largest payout ever, which improved in areas of 200 million from the final BCS season. In total there was a 63 percent increase in postseason revenue. Doubling the amount of teams in the playoff could essentially double the amount of money to be made with extra games of importance.

 

What Should an 8 Team Playoff Look Like?

(AP Images)

(AP Images)

If and when college football goes to an eight team playoff, there needs to be a few rules on who can make the playoffs. In the current system a conference championship means nothing and part of what has made college football great for the past 100 years is the thrill of winning the conference. In basketball, winning your conference give you an automatic bid to the tournament. Football should follow that model to an extent. There are 10 conferences plus four independent schools so with a six team playoff not everyone can automatically get a bid. Here is how college football should handle the eight team playoff that would make everyone happy.

If you win the conference championship of a power five conference (BIG 10, Big 12, Pac-12, SEC, ACC) you are guaranteed a spot in the eight team playoff. To accommodate for small schools and give them the chance they have earned, the sixth spot goes to the highest ranked team from the group of five conferences (AAC, Conference-USA, MAC, Sun-Belt, Mountain West). There would be two spots remaining and those spots should be At-Large bids given to the best two teams remaining in the country. This is what this year’s eight team playoff would look like in this format:

(1) SEC Champion: Alabama vs. (8) Group of 5: Western Michigan

(2) ACC Champion: Clemson vs. (7) Big 12 Champion: Oklahoma

(3) At-Large Bid: Ohio State vs. (6) At-Large Bid: Michigan

(4) Pac-12 Champion: Washington vs. (5) BIG 10 Champion: Penn State

(David Dermer / Associated Press)

(David Dermer / Associated Press)

This college football playoff would have the perfect amount of teams. Aside from the two At-Large bids, nobody can argue the selection of the other six teams. There will always be that argument of bubble teams and who is the most deserving bubble team. In this format some people would be mad that USC isn’t in because of how hot they were towards the end of the year. The simple solution is to tell USC, if you win your conference and you’ll be in.

 

This format doesn’t require a team to go undefeated. An early loss in the season would allow you a second chance to bounce back and win the conference. That can’t be said now. Penn State and Oklahoma won their conference and don’t get a shot to be the national champion. Western Michigan is told good job on going undefeated but your conference is weak, and so is you’re schedule so just take this Cotton Bowl bid. The four team format was a great start, but this eight team format would be the perfect way to crown a champion.

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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2017 College Basketball Bracketology November 9

2017 NCAA Tournament Bracketology

Click on bracket to zoom.

2017-ncaa-bracketology-11-9

First Four Out: BYU, SMU, Clemson, Pitt

Next Four out: Georgetown, Seton Hall, Baylor, Illinois

 

Breakdown by Conference:

ACC 10
Big Ten 7
Pac-12 6
Big 12 5
SEC 4
Big East 4
WCC 2
AAC 2

 

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“From Our House to Yours”

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.

The College Football Playoff Should Expand to Six Teams

Overall, these two years of playoffs in college football have gone tremendously. Ratings have been through the roof, especially in the first year. The championship has never felt more undisputed, and the story-lines of “3rd-string quarterback” or “return to the throne” could not have been scripted with any more perfection.

But to be frank it’s a travesty to watch a playoff that is supposed to be all-decisive not include at least one team that was the winner of one of the best conferences. And when you have five conferences that are slated as the “best conferences” (that’s the ACC, Big 10, Big 12, Pac 12 and SEC, of course) at least one champion gets left out, which sucks when sometimes they only have one or two losses. I specifically reference a greatly talented one-loss Big 12 champion TCU or Baylor team in 2014.

Throw in your possible non-power five busters, potential deserving conference runner-ups, or Notre Dame, and we’re talking about two power five conference champions not in the hunt for what is supposed to be an all-determining playoff.

Is what we have way better than any two-team championship game system or poll determinant? Yes. But leaping over the hurdle of making a playoff isn’t good enough. Why not go all-in on making the champion truly undisputed? It’s as if a vegetarian came off a 144-year diet of not having the best that food has to offer, but then after doing the hard part and enjoying a Big Mac he says, “Oh no, I can’t get into that five-star quality sirloin.” Just cut into that perfect bit of delectable cow now that you finally will eat something from the four-legged milk producer, college football.

Three other big reasons why the College Football Playoff should be six teams:

  1. Seeding will matter. Did Alabama in 2014 honestly say “YES! We got Ohio State instead of Florida State!”? I highly doubt it. In a six-team playoff, seeds number one and two get first-round byes, adding a bit of intrigue to selection day.
  2. Everyone loves an underdog. Who wouldn’t love to see a team like Western Kentucky go on an undefeated run? Better yet, that team could go beat an Oklahoma or a Clemson. With six teams, those normally mid and lower-tier teams have more of a chance to get in.
  3. Mo’ money. Simple addition kids, two more games equals two more chances at high ratings. Everyone loves a payday. The schools, the NCAA, the TV networks, everyone.

The counterpoint is somewhat supporting evidence of reason three above: two more games equals two more times for players getting hurt, two more sets of travel costs for families and students, and two more times players can’t get their academics as up-to-date as they could. I honestly cannot deny these negatives, but I think the pros of expansion far outweigh the cons.

As far as going to eight teams opposed to the six I suggest, I think four extra games does cause enough con to outweigh pro. Why? Because plain and simple, I think there are plenty of years teams ranked five or six could make a case for being the number one team in the country. But there are very few years number seven or eight could make the same claim.

Look at the teams ranked number seven and eight in the final regular season AP poll over the past seven years. They average 1.6 losses at they end of the regular season, going a combined 7-7 in the following bowl games (polls and records from sports-reference.com). Eventual 2014 champion Ohio State trounced seventh ranked Michigan State during the season. Furthermore, number eight Mississippi State wouldn’t have stood much of a chance against OSU either. In 2013 I doubt Ohio State or South Carolina would have had a shot against Florida State. And in 2012 Kansas State or Stanford against Alabama? Forget about it.

So to me, six is the perfect number for a playoff in college football. No more, no less.

 

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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.

 

You can ‘Like’ The Game Haus on Facebook and ‘Follow’ them on Twitter. We also have our own subreddit. Be sure to check out TGH’s newly revamped forums if you want to discuss with Terrance or any of the other writers!

Why the Rhode Island Rams Will Make the Sweet 16 in 2017

The Rhode Island Rams, have not made the NCAA Tournament since 1999, will be a Sweet 16 participant in March of 2017. On the surface this sounds like a hilariously bold claim to make. In reality, the Rams’ situation is significantly better and more complex than their 17-15 record would indicate. There is a lot more to the story.

 

Lamar Odom was the star the last time the Rams made the Big Dance. (Photo courtesy of heavy.com)

The Rams are no strangers to success despite being a small school from a small state. Their best campaign was in 1998, when they made a splash and ran all the way to the Elite Eight and were two points from making a Final Four appearance. Lamar Odom was the team’s leader when the Rams last appeared in the Bid Dance in 1998. The 12th-seeded Rhode Island squad lost to Charlotte in overtime. After that the Rams began a lengthy, multi-decade NCAA Tournament drought and have made very little noise since.

 

On another note, the team plays in a conference that is not given the amount of credit that it is due. The Atlantic 10 conference is far from a one-bid league, but for some reason is not looked at in that light. Last year, three teams made the tournament (St. Joseph’s, Dayton, and VCU). So the conference has current legitimacy and it does not lack historical importance.  LaSalle won a title in 1954, VCU had a magical run in 2011, Shaka Smart built the VCU program into a tournament regular, and Phil Martelli has led several runs in his tenure with St. Joe’s. Yet, the notion of the Atlantic 10 being a productive conference is strange. This should not be the case at all.

 

That is where the notion of the Rams making the Sweet Sixteen is generated from. If we look at the conference in a different light, then we can give Rhode Island a bit more credit. If they are a legitimate contender in the conference, then they can be a legitimate contender nationally. So let’s take a peek at the Atlantic 10’s recent history: The conference received three bids in 2015, a whopping six in 2014 (more than the SEC, Big East, and American conferences), and five in 2013 which was the third most by a conference in the tournament. The conference is due a little more respect. They have proven that year in and year out the Atlantic 10 can produce tournament teams. That means that any team able to compete in the A-10 is due some respect.

 

That does not change the fact that Rhode Island has not danced since 1999. So what makes this Rhode Island team ready to not only break through the tournament bid barrier, but also make a run this year? It is the process that has been the re-formation of the Rams’ program. In reality, the Rams have proven that, when healthy, they can be one of the best teams in the conference and thus one of the best teams in the country.

 

E.C. Matthews was preseason all A-10 and a candidate for the conference player of the year. (Photo courtesy of draftexpress.com)

Current head coach Dan Hurley took over for the 2012-13 season.  The team went 8-21. Over the next few seasons, Hurley steadily improved the team’s standing, capped by a 23-10 record in 2014-15. Unfortunately, the team was not one of the A-10 teams invited to the dance. Then, just when they seemed poised to finally make that coveted NCAA appearance, disaster struck.  A whole ten minutes into the team’s opener guard E.C. Matthews tore his ACL. In 2014-2015 season, he had averaged 16.9 points, 2.0 assists and 4.6 rebounds per game.  Matthews was a legitimate candidate for A-10 player of the year. The loss was devastating and all of the momentum that Rhode Island and Hurley had built dissipated.

 

This year will be different. Mathews is back along with an excellent supporting cast and a great deal of experience. In all, the team returns four of its five leading scorers. It gets better because, these five players are also the five leading rebounders on the team. The only notable departure is fourth leading scorer Four McGlynn who graduated. So a team that was already able to muster a .500 record (9-9) in a conference that has proven itself all comes back with another year of experience–and returns a star player.

The crux of the matter is this: the team that lost their star player was still able to muster a .500 record in an underappreciated conference. They have proven that, when all together, they can win. Three players plus Mathews return who played on the 23-10 2014-2015 team and Four McGlynn was not even a part of that team. So, what we have is a team that has proven that they can win, when healthy, and now adds Kuran Iverson’s production. Last year’s team was actually picked second in the preseason Atlantic-10 poll and Matthews and Martin were preaseason all A-10. This team was supposed to win last year. Now they have another year under their belts and a returning star.  This is an experienced team that knows how to play together. Sure, it may take a moment for E.C. Matthews and Iverson to gel. However, this team has the experience and drive to make some noise.

Dan Hurley did not lose all of the momentum that he had been building with the boys in baby blue when Matthews was injured. He merely stowed it away for the 2016-2017 season, the season in which the Rhode Island rams will taste the sweetness that is the second weekend in March.

 

 

Super Sophomores: Coaches Looking to Build on First Year Success

Determining whether or not a coach will have longevity with a program is difficult to tell at the early stages of his career.  The second year, in some ways, is more crucial than the first.  The coach has his first class of recruits, expectations rise, and that leeway that is often given to a coach based on what he was left is beginning to subside. Having a successful first year can be telling, but another successful year will breed better recruiting opportunities and subsequently aid a school in ascertaining the prestige that they desire for their program.  Several coaches look to solidify themselves at their current program.  Some may use this success to stay while others may move on to better opportunities.  Here is a look at some of the coaches who’s second year could build on the momentum of their first:

 

 

Matt McCall, Chattanooga

 

As first seasons go, Matt McCall put together a historic one with the Mocs. (Photo courtesy of ESPN.com)

The Mocs gave McCall a huge extension running through the 2021-2022 season.  The school hopes that their show of confidence in him will keep him around for a bit, as other coaches have jumped ship after just a single good year.  McCall lead the team to their first regular season conference  title since before the new millennium began, and their first bid to the dance since 2009.  After the 29-win season, something of epic proportions for the mid-major school, McCall was a finalist for several Coach of the Year Awards catered to Mid-Major schools.  Despite all of this success in the first season, there are still issues that he must deal with. Being in such a small venue, it can be difficult to attract big time recruits.  The one success story so far is Makinde London, a former top 100 recruit and current Mocs transfer.  Though he will miss this season, transfers can be a way for a smaller school to build a significantly better roster.  At current point, McCall will return all three leading scorers in Tre’ McLean, Justin Tuoyo, and Greg Pryor.  The team will also have Casey Jones back after he sat out a significant portion of last season and had elected to take a medical redshirt. It may be difficult to replicate the success that was had last year, but the team will be playing in March Madness.

 

Bobby Hurley, Arizona State

 

Bobby Hurley needs to perform better within the PAC-12 Conference schedule to make some noise in March. (Photo courtesy of foxsports.com)

While Hurley did not have a stellar year, the PAC-12 was loaded with talent.  The team did quite well out of conference (10-4). The reason that this team ends up on this list is that Hurley seems to have no problem attracting players to Tempe. His 2016 class is full of talent at multiple positions and is the 22nd ranked class by ESPN, 31st by Rivals, and 39th by 247 Sports.  The class features two top 100 recruits in Sam Cunliffe and Jethro Tshisumpa.  In his first year, Hurley lured three Junior College transfers as well as one of his former players, Shannon Evans, who sat out this season.  The team returns leading scorer Tra Holder, but they lose Gerry Blakes, Willie Atwood and Eric Jacobsen to graduation, as well as Savon Goodman to transfer.  This means that the team’s success will rely on Tra Holder, Obinna Oleka and the quick growth of the team’s incoming freshman.  Hurley played in an era of upperclassman, but now must adapt his coaching style to develop players quickly if he wants to build the Sun Devils into a strong program.

 

Ben Howland, Mississippi State

 

Ben Howland’s recruiting skills seem to have followed him all the way to Starkville. (Photo courtesy of CBSSports.com)

The Bulldogs hiring of the former UCLA coach added more coaching depth to an already full conference. The hiring is one of the best pick-ups in years, but there is a lot of work to do.  Ben Howland is almost a decade removed from three consecutive Final Four appearances and 2 National Title appearances, but he has the track record that indicates he can make something of the youngsters in Starkville. The team had a relatively lackluster year, but there are already two reasons for the fans of Maroon and White to get excited and both involve recruiting. First of all, Howland was able to land top 15 recruit Malik Newman and now it appears that he may even be withdrawing from the NBA draft to return for his sophomore year. On top of that, a top five recruiting class has been put together that includes five top 100 players.  The team should be able to significantly improve on its 14-17 record from last year. All signs show that the hiring was beneficial for the school and the program is headed in a great direction not just in the long term, but also for the upcoming season.

The Game Haus Play Of The Week – 4/4/16

College sports are the epitome of what the future holds for professional sports. College athletes who give it their all by defining new bounds that lead to establish something incredible all while playing for the love of the sport is truly astounding. If these athletes were given the true opportunity to showcase their skills on a professional level, their efforts would not go unnoticed.

Nevertheless, all athletes have some sort of athletic ability. Sometimes that ability can be defaulted due to a moment’s lapse of judgement that gives another athlete a moment to showcase their skills. This week’s play of the week, does just that. For where there is opportunity, there is the ability to grow.
This particular athlete saw that opportunity and ran for it. Literally, ran for it. But first, let’s set up this play. In the top of the 6th inning of the Mississippi State and Ole Mississippi baseball game, the game was tied 1-1 leading to the bottom of the 6th. An RBI single from Reid Humphreys would lead Jake Mangum to score, increasing MSU’s lead. It wasn’t until the bottom of the 7th inning after Ole Miss was unable to increase their lead which produced a throwing error in the bottom of the 7th that resulted in a failed pickoff attempt where Jacob Robson, a senior, was able to reach home base from 1st to give MSU a final score of 3-1. Yes, you read that correctly. A run scored by Jacob Robson from first base to home on a failed pickoff attempt. The speed of Robson is so extraordinary that if you blinked, you could miss it. Just imagine this speed in the majors. Wow.
Just in case you missed it, Robson’s incredible finish to the MSU game can be seen here:

https://amp.twimg.com/v/f50a124a-59ca-4f7f-995e-fc05b73caa23

If you would like to talk more about this amazing dunk, 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 MSU Baseball for choosing this week’s play of the week.

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