Pat Forde at Yahoo Sports 1 day ago
INDIANAPOLIS – Having just handed fifth-ranked Kansas the fourth-worst loss in its gilded history, John Calipari came into the postgame news conference trying to slow the hype train.
"No, we're not that good," the Kentucky coach said before sitting down. "Next question."
Next question: Do you really expect us to believe that?
Because the hype train done left the station Tuesday night, and it's breaking land-speed records rocketing across Hoopsworld. For a sport that crowns its champion in April, November talk is cheap. But after watching Kentucky 72, Kansas 40 – that's Kansas, not Emporia State – it's fair to openly wonder who, how and when anyone will be able to beat the Wildcats.
I've said for years that a team will not run the table again the way Indiana last did in 1976. I believe that. It will take 40 games now, not the 32 those Hoosiers won. The tournament road is tougher and longer, the spotlight is 1,000 times brighter, the pressure is heavier.
For now, feel free to scour the schedule for adequate challengers to this Kentucky team.
Pat Forde at Yahoo Sports 1 day ago
INDIANAPOLIS – Duke center Jahlil Okafor, the most enticing talent in college basketball, had four fouls. And Michigan State wasn’t going away. There were nine minutes left Tuesday night.
Could the Blue Devils hold their seven-point lead without the one guy the Spartans absolutely, positively could not guard? Could they find enough baskets without the ease of throwing the ball inside to the 6-foot-11, 280-pound freshman?
This was going to be interesting.
Turned out to not be that interesting after all, at least in terms of any drama. Duke’s supporting cast – an unfair term for a bunch of guys that talented – immediately took control and pushed the lead to 13 points. Game essentially over. The lead was never single digits again, and the Blue Devils coasted in for an 81-71 victory in the Champions Classic.
This is not a vintage Michigan State team, and it is without a few pieces right now. It will be a while before we see how good the Spartans can be. But they will always challenge a team's toughness and effort, and Duke passed that early test in a big-time atmosphere.
Okafor finished with 17 points but scored just two points in the final 16 minutes. And it didn’t matter a bit.
Pat Forde at Yahoo Sports 2 days ago
Forty names, games, teams and minutiae making news in college football (petition to never play Wisconsin again circulating separately in Lincoln, Neb.):
THE FIVE BIGGEST DUMPSTER FIRES IN COLLEGE FOOTBALL
THE DUMPSTER FIRE THAT WINS
RECONSIDERING THE HEISMAN RACE
As is often the case, something big happens in November that rejiggers our collective thinking about the Heisman Trophy race. It happened to two people Saturday – ushering one player to near the front of the pack, and pushing another back into said pack.
It’s an insane performance.
Three others on The Dash’s radar:
WHY IT’S HARDER FOR RUNNING BACKS
GO BOWLING OR GO HOME
RUNNING THE LEAGUE TABLE
Pat Forde at Yahoo Sports 3 days ago
Every week, I will play Selection Committee member, take a look at the College Football Playoff picture and offer my bracket as if today were Selection Sunday. Feel free to agree or disagree, starting with this question: does the SEC merit two teams in the bracket while evicting the Big 12?
No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 4 Mississippi State in the Sugar Bowl
No. 2 Oregon vs. No. 3 Florida State in the Rose Bowl
On a day when three other one-loss teams fell – Arizona State, Nebraska and Duke – the Ducks enjoyed not playing and held on to the No. 2 spot. The Sun Devils’ upset loss to Oregon State means Oregon is the only realistic Pac-12 playoff contender at this point. They still have quality wins over Michigan State and UCLA, and have recorded five straight dominant victories. But the next two opponents (Colorado and Oregon State) won’t help them much before playing USC, UCLA, Arizona, Arizona State or Utah in the league championship game. Stat: Oregon showed some killer instinct against Stanford and Utah its last two games, outscoring them by a combined 38-7 in the fourth quarter. Next: Colorado.
Dropped out: Baylor.
Also considered: Baylor, TCU, Ohio State, Mississippi.
Pat Forde at Yahoo Sports 4 days ago
On the floor of the Louisiana Superdome after Florida had blasted Cincinnati in the 2010 Sugar Bowl, Jeremy Foley offered me some reader feedback.
I’d written a column the previous day surmising that the game might be the last night of the Florida dynasty – Tim Tebow was leaving, defensive coordinator Charlie Strong was leaving, and head coach Urban Meyer’s future was uncertain after a bizarre retirement/unretirement in a matter of 48 hours. It had been a great run, but the future was in the balance.
“This is not the last night of the Florida dynasty,” Foley said, friendly but firm. “I guarantee you that.”
Nearly five years and zero Southeastern Conference championships or BCS bowl wins later, the dynasty is dead and in need of a revival. And it’s on Foley to bring it back to life.
He’s an accomplished and respected athletic director who suddenly finds his continued viability at Florida very much on the line. After firing Will Muschamp Sunday, Foley has to get his replacement right.
A lot of athletic directors who have two strikeout football hires don’t get to make another one. Foley’s stature gives him wider latitude – but there will be a lot of pressure to hit a home run this time.
Pat Forde at Yahoo Sports 4 days ago
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – The product placement was meticulous as always – a can of Coca-Cola was on the right corner of the podium in the Alabama press conference room. Logo facing the cameras.
Nick Saban came in with another Coke product in hand, a bottle of Dasani water. The dispassionate dream killer took his place at the podium and gave his clinical assessment of the day’s events.
“When you beat the No. 1 team in the country, I think that’s a significant accomplishment,” the coach of the Crimson Tide said. “ … This is a really good football team we beat today.”
That team is Mississippi State, 9-0 and No. 1 for the first time in school history, the last overachieving darling standing in this 2014 season. But this is a place where darlings go to die.
Florida State has its sod cemetery. Alabama should have one for glass slippers.
This loss will evict Mississippi State from the top of the rankings – but it may actually help the Southeastern Conference.
“Those are two of the best teams in the country out there battling,” Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen said, “and there’s absolutely no doubt about that.”
Which is saying something.
“We made big-time plays at the right time,” Sims said.
Pat Forde at Yahoo Sports 6 days ago
Back by popular demand (or at least an absence of protest), I present my annual Most Intriguing Lists previewing the season in college basketball. We wrap up the series with the 25 Most Intriguing Questions to be answered this year:
1. What's with all the big guys? Reports of the center position's death have been greatly exaggerated. From 7-footer Frank Kaminsky at Wisconsin to the flotilla of 7-footers at Kentucky to Jahlil Okafor at Duke to Myles Turner at Texas, centers appear alive and well in college hoops this year. And don't forget the power forwards: Montrezl Harrell at Louisville, Chris Walker at Florida, Cliff Alexander and/or Perry Ellis at Kansas, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson at Arizona, Jordan Mickie at LSU, and so forth. After years trending the other way, this season may well be played from the inside out.
18. Will there ever be a solid third team from the SEC? They can have five good football teams in one division, is it too much to ask to find a running mate for Kentucky and Florida? If LSU, Arkansas don't step up into the top 25, it's not happening again this year. Nobody else need apply.
More college basketball coverage:
Pat Forde at Yahoo Sports 6 days ago
A mere 83-mile stretch of U.S. Highway 82 separates gridiron peasantry from royalty.
That's the distance from the humble football hamlet of Starkville, Miss., to the gentrified enclave of Tuscaloosa, Ala. It is the closest distance between any two schools in the Southeastern Conference. You head east across the state line, roll through Reform, go past Gordo, cross the Black Warrior River – and there it is, Bryant-Denny Stadium.
The seat of power in the SEC.
This is the place where Mississippi State will try to complete its improbable peasant rebellion by overthrowing the king, Alabama.
"Nick Saban has the model program in the country right now," Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen said. "They seem to be a team that is always in the championship discussion every single year."
The Bulldogs are never in the championship discussion. Until now. Until being 9-0 for the first time in school history, with victories of escalating impact over LSU, Texas A&M and Auburn. Until being ranked No. 1 for the first time as well.
It's the game of a lifetime on one side of the divide, just the next big one on the other.
More college football coverage:
Pat Forde at Yahoo Sports 7 days ago
Back by popular demand (or at least an absence of protest), I present my annual Most Intriguing Lists previewing the season in college basketball. Today's list, the 25 Most Intriguing Players:
1. Frank Kaminsky, Wisconsin. He's everything that is Wisconsin basketball: not terribly cool, but terribly effective. Like most of the best Badgers over the years, he has steadily built himself from role player into star – it didn't come quickly or naturally. But now Frank The Tank is the best-shooting big man in college basketball – and maybe the best big man, period. He had a stay-or-go decision to make with the NBA in April, and he came back because, as he said, "I absolutely love college. Call me Joe College if you please." Call him the Most Intriguing Player in college, too.
3. Karl-Anthony Towns, Kentucky. If you are considered the best player in John Calipari's armada of 2015 NBA draft picks, you are a great player. Even if he doesn't get a ton of minutes and shots in Kentucky's proposed platoon system, he will get a ton of attention in opposing film sessions. If Towns doesn't leave campus in the spring with a national title, it will be a surprise.
Pat Forde at Yahoo Sports 8 days ago
Back by popular demand (or at least an absence of protest), I present my annual Most Intriguing Lists previewing the season in college basketball. First up, the 25 Most Intriguing Coaches:
1. Bo Ryan, Wisconsin. Broke the Final Four barrier last year, and came within a basket of playing for the national title. Vindication for a system and philosophy that some thought was passé and would never succeed at the highest level. Now, at age 66, can he take it a step farther with a loaded team and win a national title? Might be his best chance – might be his last really good chance.
2. John Calipari, Kentucky. Has assembled the most talented roster of the 21st century, and perhaps beyond. Maybe the tallest team ever, too. Now he will try to play platoon basketball with 10 (or more) stars. Calipari will be at his blowhard best (“We’re trying to do something never done in college basketball”) and paranoid worst (“We are going to have to be mentally tough enough to not be sabotaged”). It will not be dull.