Dallas Colleges: Michigan State Spartans

Position U: Kicker

June, 18, 2014
Jun 18
10:30
AM CT

Who really deserves to claim the title of “Kicker U” for the 2000s?

1. Ohio State (80 points): The Buckeyes placed first among place-kickers and tied for ninth at punter thanks to an award winner in each category. The high-point man who helped Ohio State win the “Kicker U” label was Mike Nugent, who won the Lou Groza Award, was a two-time All-American and All-Big Ten pick and was picked in the second round of the 2005 draft. Punter B.J. Sander won the Ray Guy Award and was drafted in the third round before enjoying a short career with the Green Bay Packers.

Award winners: B.J. Sander, Guy (2003); Mike Nugent, Groza (2004).
Consensus All-Americans: Mike Nugent (2002, 2004).
First-team all-conference: Dan Stultz (2000), Adam Groom (2002), Mike Nugent (2002, 2004), B.J. Sander (2003), Josh Huston (2005).
NFL first-round draft picks: None.
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: B.J. Sander (Round 3, 2004), Mike Nugent (Round 2, 2005).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: None.

2. UCLA (72 points): A pair of consensus All-Americans (Justin Medlock and Kai Forbath) and a Lou Groza Award (which Forbath won in 2009) helped UCLA push toward the top of the rankings. Medlock was also drafted in 2007 and has spent portions of several seasons on NFL rosters, while also kicking at times in the CFL.

Award winners: Kai Forbath, Groza (2009).
Consensus All-Americans: Justin Medlock (2006), Kai Forbath (2009).
First-team all-conference: Nate Fikse (2001, 2002), Justin Medlock (2004, 2006), Aaron Perez (2008), Kai Forbath (2009), Jeff Locke (2012).
NFL first-round draft picks: None.
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: None.
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Justin Medlock (Round 5, 2007), Jeff Locke (Round 5, 2013).

3. Colorado (64 points): Three-time all-conference pick Mason Crosby -- also a consensus All-American in 2005 -- accounted for nearly all of Colorado’s point production at place-kicker. He went on to become a sixth-round draft pick and has set several franchise records as a member of the Green Bay Packers. Mark Mariscal also added some points by winning the Ray Guy Award and becoming an All-American and all-conference selection in 2002.

Award winners: Mark Mariscal, Guy (2002).
Consensus All-Americans: Mark Mariscal (2002), Mason Crosby (2005).
First-team all-conference: Jeremy Flores (2001), Mark Mariscal (2002), Mason Crosby (2004, 2005, 2006), John Torp (2005).
NFL first-round draft picks: None.
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: None.
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Mason Crosby (Round 6, 2007).

4. Michigan State (62 points): With six first-team All-Big Ten selections -- including three-time honoree Brandon Fields, who was also a consensus All-American in 2004 -- Michigan State takes the No. 3 spot. The Spartans have also had two punters drafted since 2001, which is a rare feat for a college program, as well as kickers Dave Rayner and Craig Jarrett.

Award winners: None.
Consensus All-Americans: Brandon Fields (2004).
First-team all-conference: Brandon Fields (2003, 2004, 2006), Brett Swenson (2009), Aaron Bates (2010), Dan Conroy (2010), Mike Sadler (2012, 2013).
NFL first-round draft picks: None.
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: None.
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Craig Jarrett (Round 6, 2002), Dave Rayner (Round 6, 2005), Brandon Fields (Round 7, 2007).

T-5. Baylor (56 points): Baylor places almost solely because of one player: mid-2000s standout Daniel Sepulveda. The two-time Ray Guy Award winner scored 44 points by himself, which is greater than the score for every other program in the punter rankings except one (No. 2 Michigan State, which had 48).

Award winners: Daniel Sepulveda, Guy (2004, 2006).
Consensus All-Americans: Daniel Sepulveda (2006).
First-team all-conference: Daniel Sepulveda (2004, 2006), Derek Epperson (2009), Spencer Roth (2013).
NFL first-round draft picks: None.
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: Daniel Sepulveda (Round 3, 2007).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: None.

T-5. Oklahoma State (56 points): Between Quinn Sharp’s three all-conference selections at punter and two at place-kicker, Dan Bailey's 2010 Groza Award and Matt Fodge’s 2008 Guy Award, Oklahoma State fared well at both kicking positions.

Award winners: Matt Fodge, Guy (2008); Dan Bailey, Groza (2010).
Consensus All-Americans: None.
First-team all-conference: Dan Bailey (2010), Quinn Sharp (2010, 2011, 2012 at punter; 2011, 2012 at place-kicker).
NFL first-round draft picks: None.
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: None.
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: None.

7. Florida State (54 points): A pair of Groza Award wins (by Graham Gano and last season by Roberto Aguayo) helped Florida State place third solely among place-kickers and sixth overall. Aguayo helped extend the Seminoles’ streak of first-team All-ACC place-kickers to three consecutive years after Dustin Hopkins earned the honor in 2011 and 2012. Since Aguayo was only a redshirt freshman last fall, there is a good chance the streak will continue. Punter Shawn Powell was the Seminoles' only All-American during this stretch.

Award winners: Graham Gano, Groza (2008); Roberto Aguayo, Groza (2013).
Consensus All-Americans: Shawn Powell (2011).
First-team all-conference: Dustin Hopkins (2011, 2012), Shawn Powell (2011), Roberto Aguayo (2013).
NFL first-round draft picks: None.
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: None.
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Dustin Hopkins (Round 6, 2013).

8. Georgia (52 points): Give Mark Richt credit: In his 13-plus seasons as Georgia’s coach, he has rarely been without a consistent place-kicker. Players like Blair Walsh, Brandon Coutu, Billy Bennett and most recently Marshall Morgan have given Georgia a consistent scoring threat in the kicking game. And Drew Butler had one of the best seasons by any punter in SEC history when he won the Ray Guy Award in 2009.

Award winners: Drew Butler, Guy (2009).
Consensus All-Americans: Drew Butler (2009).
First-team all-conference: Billy Bennett (2002), Brandon Coutu (2005), Drew Butler (2009), Blair Walsh (2010), Marshall Morgan (2013).
NFL first-round draft picks: None.
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: None.
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Brandon Coutu (Round 7, 2008), Blair Walsh (Round 6, 2012).

8. Miami (52 points): Another program with two punters who were drafted (Matt Bosher and Pat O’Donnell, both in the sixth round), Miami hasn’t had a punter win the Ray Guy Award or earn an All-America nod, but the Hurricanes do boast four all-conference punters since the turn of the century. Bosher was also an all-conference place-kicker in 2010.

Award winners: None.
Consensus All-Americans: None.
First-team all-conference: Freddie Capshaw (2000, 2001), Todd Sievers (2001, 2002), Jon Peattie (2003), Matt Bosher (2009 at place-kicker, 2010 at punter), Pat O’Donnell (2013).
NFL first-round draft picks: None.
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: None.
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Matt Bosher (Round 6, 2011), Pat O’Donnell (Round 6, 2014).

10. Florida (48 points): Chas Henry, who won the Ray Guy Award and was a consensus All-American and first-team All-SEC pick in 2010, accounted for 24 of Florida’s 30 points at punter. The Gators also had a pair of place-kickers (Jeff Chandler and Caleb Sturgis, a two-time all-conference pick) drafted.

Award winners: Chas Henry, Guy (2010).
Consensus All-Americans: Chas Henry (2010).
First-team all-conference: Chas Henry (2010), Caleb Sturgis (2011, 2012), Kyle Christy (2012).
NFL first-round draft picks: None.
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: Jeff Chandler (Round 4, 2002).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Caleb Sturgis (Round 5, 2013).

REST OF “KICKER U” RANKINGS
46 – California; 44 – Auburn, Nebraska, Utah, Wake Forest; 42 – Georgia Tech; 40 – Purdue; 38 – Pittsburgh, Tennessee; 34 – Iowa, Louisville, Maryland; 32 – BYU, Texas A&M, TCU, Wisconsin; 28 – LSU, Michigan, Oregon State; 26 – USC, Virginia Tech; 22 – Arizona State; 16 – Ole Miss; 14 – Arizona, Penn State, Texas; 12 – Alabama, Duke, Illinois, Kansas State, Kentucky, Missouri, Northwestern, Oklahoma, Syracuse, Washington State; 8 – Virginia, West Virginia, Boston College; 6 – Indiana, Oregon, Rutgers, Stanford; 2 – Arkansas, South Carolina, Vanderbilt; 0 – Clemson, Iowa State, Kansas, Minnesota, Mississippi State, North Carolina, NC State, Notre Dame, Texas Tech, Washington.

Weekend Picks: Don't mess with Texas?

January, 24, 2014
Jan 24
12:00
PM CT
Can’t believe it’s already late January. Selection Sunday is coming.

The national scene is beginning to take shape.

Last Saturday was proof. Kansas dismissed Oklahoma State with ease. Syracuse outplayed a good Pitt team down the stretch in the Carrier Dome. Wichita State remained perfect with a victory over Indiana State. And Louisville topped UConn.

My Tennessee over Kentucky pick looked solid for a chunk of the first half. But the Wildcats just had too many weapons for a Vols squad that's still looking for a signature win.

Let's see what happens this weekend. I mean, let's see what happens with college basketball.

Not the Grammys. But I can predict that, too.

Album of the Year? "Random Access Memories," Daft Punk. Best Country Album? "Based on a True Story," Blake Shelton. Best Rap Album? "Good Kid, M.A.A.D City," Kendrick Lamar. Sorry, Kanye.

Back to college basketball.

Remember, this is just one man's take. And I've been wrong before. Many times.

Disclaimer: Myron Medcalf’s views and opinions do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of other ESPN.com staffers, especially with regard to that ridiculous thing he said about Syracuse being better than Arizona last weekend.

Last week: 4-1

Overall: 24-11

Saturday

No. 21 Michigan at No. 3 Michigan State, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN: I’m a big boxing fan. I love the hype that builds up a big fight. The biggest letdown, however, is when one fighter suffers a cut or some other injury that ruins the match. It’s deflating. And that’s how I feel about this heavyweight bout between the Big Ten’s best teams. Both Michigan and Michigan State have proved that they can overcome significant injuries. The Spartans haven’t been healthy all season and now there’s a strong chance that they’ll enter Saturday’s game without Adreian Payne (foot) or Branden Dawson (broken hand). Michigan has played most of the season without preseason All-American Mitch McGary. But the Wolverines are not wrestling with their identity. McGary is not coming back. And they’ve adapted to that on their way to becoming an elite team as Nik Stauskas, Caris LeVert and Glenn Robinson III have formed a potent trio. Michigan State remains a team in flux. Tom Izzo’s program has overcome injuries thus far in Big Ten play. But they’ll be costly Saturday when the Spartans suffer their first conference loss of the year. I’ll stick with this pick even if Payne miraculously returns to the floor.

Prediction: Michigan 79, Michigan State 72

Tennessee at No. 6 Florida, 4 p.m. ET, ESPN: In a weird way, Florida is flying under the radar. The Gators are the best team in the SEC. And they haven’t lost since Dec. 2. But there’s a bigger spotlight on some of the other top-10 teams right now. The Gators are clearly dangerous, especially with Wooden Award candidate Casey Prather healthy. Billy Donovan’s program hasn’t been complete for most of the season. And premier recruit Chris Walker is still unavailable because of eligibility issues. But they have the pieces to compete for a national title. The Gators have forced turnovers on 21.9 percent of their opponents’ possessions, 24th in the nation per Ken Pomeroy. They’ll face a desperate Tennessee team that held its own against Kentucky for a half last weekend but couldn’t finish. The Vols need quality wins. But the SEC won’t provide many opportunities to acquire them. They’ll still be searching after Saturday.

Prediction: Florida 74, Tennessee 66

No. 22 Kansas State at No. 16 Iowa State, 1:45 p.m. ET, ESPN3.com/WatchESPN: Bruce Weber could ultimately be in the running for national coach of the year. His best player is a freshman (Marcus Foster). But the Wildcats are 4-2 in the Big 12 after playing some of the best defense in the league (15th in adjusted defensive efficiency, per Ken Pomeroy). But it will be tough to get a win against an Iowa State team that has a chance to end its three-game losing streak in Ames. The Cyclones, however, are connecting on just 28 percent of their 3-point attempts in conference play. That’s a challenge for a program that has taken 40 percent of its overall field goal attempts from beyond the arc in its first five league games. It seems like a matter of time before the 3-ball becomes a more effective weapon for Iowa State again. And that’s vital. This upcoming stretch will make or break its waning Big 12 title dreams.

Prediction: Iowa State 80, Kansas State 79

Florida State at No. 18 Duke, 12 p.m. ET, ESPN: There are a lot of things that make Duke an intriguing team. The Blue Devils have an offense (second in adjusted offensive efficiency, per Ken Pomeroy) that’s led by a young man who could be a top-three draft pick this summer. And Jabari Parker is joined by steady offensive contributors Rodney Hood and Quinn Cook. But a unit that’s ranked 73rd in adjusted defensive efficiency by Ken Pomeroy can’t be trusted. Although it might not matter against a Florida State squad that has held opponents to a 42.6 effective field goal percentage, sixth in the nation. But Leonard Hamilton’s squad has big, strong guards, plus 6-foot-9 Okaro White could be a tough matchup for a Duke team that has struggled against good big men all season. This won’t be an easy game for Duke.

Prediction: Florida State 73, Duke 70

Texas at No. 24 Baylor, 1:30 p.m. ET, ESPN3.com/WatchESPN: Baylor has been up and down. It’s a confusing cycle for Scott Drew’s program. The Bears have wins over Kentucky and a healthy Colorado. But they’ve lost four of their first five Big 12 games. What’s wrong with Baylor? It isn't playing defense. All of those athletic weapons -- Isaiah Austin, Cory Jefferson and Rico Gathers. But the Bears ranked 103rd in adjusted defensive efficiency, per Ken Pomeroy. It’s a waste of talent. Baylor should be better. And maybe this game against Texas will allow it to reverse this messy start. But Texas is rolling. The Longhorns are coming off wins against Kansas State and Iowa State. Jonathan Holmes and Cameron Ridley are bullying teams inside. Javan Felix has really matured. It's a bad time to face Texas.

Prediction: Texas 78, Baylor 74

Future nonconference slate: SMU

April, 4, 2013
4/04/13
12:00
PM CT
Last Wednesday's announcements that Connecticut had agreed to a home-and-home series with Boise State and that Cincinnati would be heading to the Big House in 2017 were the latest in a trend that has seen BCS-conference schools boost their nonconference schedule strength.

While the soon-to-be-former Big East is entering its last season as a BCS school, before the four-team college football playoff takes into effect in the 2014-15 season, aggressive scheduling is one way to keep the league on the national radar.

The slates will provide several opportunities for big national upsets in the coming years, so here's a look at some of the notable future opponents for SMU.

SMU: The Mustangs have quite the in-state home-and-home lineup. They canceled this season's home game with Baylor, and while it is unknown if the 2013 game will be made up or bought-out completely, the schools still have a home-and-home scheduled through 2019. The Battlle for the Iron Skillet with TCU will continue through 2017, with the Horned Frogs playing host this season. SMU will go to Texas A&M this year and host the Aggies in 2014, closing out a four-year home-and-home. They begin this season with a Friday night home contest against Texas Tech.

On the record: Expert predictions

March, 28, 2013
3/28/13
4:00
PM CT
Before the Sweet 16 gets under way, our experts offer their predictions for all four regions:

EAST REGION (Washington, D.C.)

Eamonn Brennan: Indiana over Marquette
Fran Fraschilla: Indiana over Miami
John Gasaway: Indiana over Miami
Seth Greenberg: Miami over Indiana
Andy Katz: Indiana over Miami
Jason King: Indiana over Miami
Myron Medcalf: Miami over Indiana
Dana O'Neil: Indiana over Miami
Bruce Pearl: Miami over Syracuse
Robbi Pickeral: Miami over Indiana
Dick Vitale: Indiana over Miami

WEST REGION (Los Angeles)

Eamonn Brennan: Ohio State over La Salle
Fran Fraschilla: Ohio State over Wichita State
John Gasaway: Ohio State over Wichita State
Seth Greenberg: Ohio State over Wichita State
Andy Katz: Ohio State over Wichita State
Jason King: Arizona over Wichita State
Myron Medcalf: Ohio State over Wichita State
Dana O'Neil: Ohio State over La Salle
Bruce Pearl: Arizona over Ohio State
Robbi Pickeral: Ohio State over Wichita State
Dick Vitale: Ohio State over Wichita State

SOUTH REGION (North Texas)

Eamonn Brennan: Florida over Michigan
Fran Fraschilla: Florida over Kansas
John Gasaway: Kansas over Florida
Seth Greenberg: Kansas over Florida
Andy Katz: Michigan over Florida
Jason King: Kansas over Florida
Myron Medcalf: Michigan over Florida Gulf Coast
Dana O'Neil: Michigan over Florida Gulf Coast
Bruce Pearl: Kansas over Florida
Robbi Pickeral: Florida over Kansas
Dick Vitale: Michigan over Florida

MIDWEST REGION (Indianapolis)

Eamonn Brennan: Louisville over Michigan State
Fran Fraschilla: Louisville over Michigan State
John Gasaway: Louisville over Duke
Seth Greenberg: Louisville over Michigan State
Andy Katz: Louisville over Michigan State
Jason King: Louisville over Duke
Myron Medcalf: Louisville over Michigan State
Dana O'Neil: Louisville over Michigan State
Bruce Pearl: Louisville over Duke
Robbi Pickeral: Louisville over Duke
Dick Vitale: Louisville over Michigan State

No. 20 Michigan State rallies past Texas

December, 22, 2012
12/22/12
4:04
PM CT


Derrick Nix scored 25 points to help No. 20 Michigan State rally past Texas, 67-56.

Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl

December, 2, 2012
12/02/12
8:55
PM CT
TCU Horned Frogs (7-5) vs. Michigan State Spartans (6-6)

Dec. 29, 10:15 p.m. ET, Tempe, Ariz. (ESPN)

TCU take by Big 12 blogger David Ubben: The Horned Frogs brought a new style of football in their first year in the Big 12, forcing the rest of the league to get used to more low-scoring games decided in the running game. The Frogs won four games this year with 27 points or less and scored fewer than 20 points in two more, while holding opponents to less than 30. The Frogs season turned when it lost Casey Pachall, who left school to seek treatment for drug and alcohol addiction, forcing redshirt freshman Trevone Boykin to learn on the job. He’s been up and down, but the Frogs live to run the ball and play defense.

They’ll face a Michigan State team which loves to do the exact same. Expect another game won by the team that wins the line of scrimmage and the time of possession battle. The Spartans are fourth nationally in total defense, and the Frogs led the Big 12 in the stat by more than 35 yards per game.

TCU clinched its eighth consecutive bowl bid with a banged-up season in the Big 12, playing with a team that was made up of 70 percent freshmen and sophomores, by far the youngest team coach Gary Patterson had ever fielded. Still, in their first year in a tougher league, the Horned Frogs finished tied for fifth and won seven games despite missing more than 20 players that it expected to have when 2011 ended. Top running back Waymon James suffered a season-ending knee injury, leaving Matthew Tucker as the lone returnee from a trio of running backs that rushed for at least 700 yards last season. Ed Wesley left the team and entered the NFL supplemental draft after spring practice. It was a season full of difficult circumstances for the Frogs, but they perservered and will try to get a jump on a promising 2013 season with a win in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl.




Michigan State take by Big Ten blogger Adam Rittenberg: The bar had been raised for Michigan State entering the fall after the Spartans recorded a team-record 11 victories in each of the past two seasons. Many pegged Mark Dantonio’s squad to reach its first Rose Bowl in a quarter-century and continue to establish itself as a new power in the Big Ten. Things didn’t work out that way, as the Spartans repeatedly came up short, struggled at home and needed a Week 13 win just to become bowl-eligible for the sixth straight year, a team record.

A talent-stocked Spartans defense did its part, finishing in the top 10 nationally in total defense (fourth), scoring defense (10th), rushing defense (eighth) and pass defense (ninth). Middle linebacker Max Bullough and cornerback Darqueze Dennard are among the standouts on a unit that allowed fewer than 20 points in eight games.

Most of Michigan State’s problems came on offense, as the Spartans struggled to replace quarterback Kirk Cousins and his top three receivers. Junior signal caller Andrew Maxwell had mixed results in his first year as the starter, and while a young receiving corps improved, there was little continuity in the pass game. Running back Le'Veon Bell did his share, taking the ball more times (350) than any other FBS player and recording 1,648 yards and 11 touchdowns. But the unit struggled to turn yards into points and lost five Big Ten games by a total of 13 points, including all four conference contests at home.

Bowl practices should help the young offense, but Michigan State’s defense likely will need a big effort against TCU in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl to secure the team’s second straight postseason win.

Charmed? Obstacles stacked against TCU

November, 27, 2011
11/27/11
9:17
PM CT
A week ago, the TCU Horned Frogs won by 24 points and fell in the BCS rankings one spot to No. 20. This week they were idle and moved up two spots to No. 18 heading into the final week of the regular season. Gotta love the BCS.

So, can TCU actually sneak into a BCS game?

Technically, yes. The odds, though, are heavily stacked against them.

First, a reminder how a non-AQ team earns an automatic BCS berth: By winning its league championship (and being the champ is the key, not the final ranking, see Boise State); finishing in the top 16 of the BCS standings; and finishing higher than a champion of an AQ league. West Virginia is the highest-ranked Big East team at No. 23, and it isn't assured of winning the league.

By the time the Frogs (9-2) kick off their finale in Forth Worth against UNLV (2-9) at 1:30 p.m. Saturday, they'll have a pretty good idea if there's any hope. No. 6 Houston (12-0) controls its destiny: Beat No. 24 Southern Miss (10-2) in the Conference USA title game (11 a.m. Saturday, ABC), and an automatic BCS berth belongs to Case Keenum and the Coogs.

Lose, and suddenly the door flings open for the Frogs.

Here's the three-step process that must happen for TCU to seal a third consecutive BCS berth:

1. Houston must lose to Southern Miss -- which seemingly killed its BCS dreams with an awful loss to UAB two weeks ago.

2. TCU must beat UNLV (2-9) to win the Mountain West Conference title outright and do so in an overpowering way to make gains with voters (playing UNLV could actually hurt TCU in the computers, just see its 34-10 win over Colorado State that dropped it from No. 19 to 20).

3. TCU must move up two spots to No. 16 in the BCS rankings released next Sunday night.

If the first two dominoes fall, how plausible is a move into the top 16?

Well, No. 17 Baylor, with banged-up quarterback Robert Griffin III, plays host to No. 22 Texas. No. 16 Michigan's regular season is over. No. 15 Wisconsin faces No. 13 Michigan State in the Big Ten title game. No. 14 Georgia gets No. 1 LSU in the SEC championship game. Would loses to ranked teams, two of which will be in conference title games bump those teams down far enough to help TCU?

How charmed are these Frogs? We'll soon find out.

Longhorns, Buckeyes and the case for No. 1

February, 16, 2011
2/16/11
11:03
AM CT


Pat Forde makes a case for which team deserves to be No. 1 and analyzes Michigan State's chances of making the NCAA Tournament.

Stars aligned for new-era Final Four?

March, 28, 2010
3/28/10
10:21
AM CT
HOUSTON -- On Saturday the Final Four got an injection of new blood. Today, two blue-bloods could get in or it could be a totally fresh-faced weekend in Indianapolis.

First, who are the new guys already in? The Butler Bulldogs are for the first time ever, having upset Syracuse and Kansas State. The Bulldogs, coached by 33-year-old Brad Stevens, get to play in their hometown.

West Virginia is also in after stunning Kentucky. The Mountaineers, led by Morgantown native Bob Huggins, haven't made the Final Four since 1959.

And now we have Bruce Pearl's Tennessee Volunteers and Scott Drew's Baylor Bears attempting to make it a clean sweep for the renegades against the establishment.

Tennessee faces Tom Izzo's never-say-die Michigan State Spartans and the Bears -- truly the real Cinderella here after being picked to finish 10th in the Big 12 -- get the Duke Blue Devils, the final No. 1 seed standing, and coach Mike Krzyzewski.

The Volunteers are in the Elite Eight for the first time in school history. Baylor hasn't been here since 1950 when the tournament field was eight. Krzyzewski is 10-1 in regional final games.

For the Bears, a trip to Indianapolis will likely hinge on the play of their Big Three -- Tweety Carter, LaceDarius Dunn and Ekpe Udoh against the Big Three of Duke -- Kyle Singler, Jon Scheyer and Nolan Smith.

So, are the Stars aligned for a new-ear Final Four? Krzyzewski says get used to the parity and the unexpected:

"Different teams have a chance to win right now unless you get that super team that has guys sticking together who are pro caliber, pro caliber for a while," Krzyzewski said. "It will be like this from now on, which I don't think is bad. It's pretty darn interesting. But it's tougher to maintain a high level."
ESPN Dallas' Jeff Caplan is in San Antonio and will be chatting live from tonight's Alamo Bowl, along with members of the ESPN.com blog nation, as Texas Tech takes on Michigan State after a week in which the university fired Red Raiders coach Mike Leach.

The chat promises to be spirited. Don't miss out. Go here to participate. The game starts at 8 p.m. CT / 9 p.m. ET.

One question for Mike Leach: Why?

December, 30, 2009
12/30/09
1:37
PM CT
In the football portion of the Texas Tech official Web site, fans can submit questions for Mike Leach to answer on his television and radio programs.

The only question that seems appropriate in the wake of the university Wednesday firing its quirky head coach whose growing arrogance, or perhaps simply egotism, seemed to be surpassing his offensive ingenuity, is: Why?

Why risk humiliation to himself and his family? Why risk the total destruction of a career? Leach, a law school graduate, is officially out at Texas Tech, the final result of a complaint alleging that Leach had mistreated little-used receiver Adam James, the son of ESPN college football analyst Craig James, after he had sustained a concussion.

Much like former Kansas coach Mark Mangino, who built up the Jayhawks program and took it to a BCS bowl only to resign after the season amid accusations that he verbally abused players, Leach's many successes at Tech will be a footnote to his controversial firing.

Why these coaches, with their multi-million-dollar contracts and legions of adoring fans, engage in self-destructive behavior, alleged or not, is inexplicable.

When Leach arrived and landed his aerial circus in Lubbock, land of 3-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust for generations, no one knew if it would work. Starting with a skinny gunslinger from New Braunfels, Kliff Kingsbury helped Leach get the Red Raiders off the ground in a big way.

A decade later, Leach's spread offense has transformed the face of Texas Tech football, and in a large degree, college football itself.

Leach's offensive prowess, seemingly always one step ahead of opposing defenses, and his peculiar personality, punctuated by rambling speeches, reveling in his outspokenness, odd quotes and a love for pirates, a storyline in particular that became a national media phenomenon, endeared him to the Texas Tech fan base.

He was one year into a $12.7 million deal that came about through its own strange twists and infighting with the administration.

Still, Leach was the king of Lubbock. So close to playing for the Big 12 title and even a national championship last season, the Red Raiders took a step back this year, but had a chance to end things on a positive note at the Alamo Bowl on Saturday against Michigan State.

Instead, the fallout from the dizzying past few days will begin in the Alamodome. Where the program and Leach go from here is anybody's guess.

The only question that comes to mind is: Why?

Alamo Bowl becoming Suspension Bowl

December, 29, 2009
12/29/09
9:34
PM CT

Wow, this is not what Alamo Bowl organizers had in mind. Michigan State will play Texas Tech Saturday night at the Alamodome, but who won't be there is a bigger story than who will.

The Spartans will leave behind 13 suspended players -- two have been kicked off the team entirely -- the result of a fracas between football players and frat boys, never a good idea. And it's not like Michigan State suspended a bunch of scrubs. The suspensions include starting wide receivers B.J. Cunningham and Mark Dell, and starting cornerback Chris L. Rucker.

Of course, the Red Raiders will be without head coach and offensive mastermind Mike Leach, who was accused of mistreating a player, Adam James, son of ESPN college football analyst Craig James, after he sustained a concussion. Tech suspended Leach indefinitely. Defensive coordinator Ruffin McNeill will call the shots in the Alamo City.

Pittman, No. 2 Texas ready for No. 9 Spartans

December, 21, 2009
12/21/09
9:56
PM CT
Texas senior center Dexter Pittman will enter Tuesday's big game against No. 9 Michigan State as the Big 12 player of the week for his huge play last week in a 103-90 win against No. 10 North Carolina at Cowboys Stadium, and a 104-42 blowout of Texas Pan-American earlier in the week.

Pittman averaged 18.5 points and 11.0 rebounds as Texas moved to 10-0, winning all 10 games by double-digits. Pittman had 14 points and seven rebounds (five offensive) during last Tuesday’s home win against UT-Pan American. He followed it up with 23 points, 15 rebounds (12 offensive) and two blocks in Saturday’s victory against North Carolina.

His 12 offensive rebounds equaled the Tar Heels' team total. Pittman hit 14-of-23 (.609) field goals and 9-of-14 (.643) free throws in the two games.

Through the first 10 games, Pittman ranks second on the team in scoring (14.6) and rebounding (7.1) and leads the Longhorns in blocked shots (23). He leads the Big 12 Conference in field goal percentage (.734), hitting 58-of-79 field goals.

Just three days after dispatching North Carolina, Texas welcomes the Spartans at 6 p.m. at te Erwin Center. Catch it on ESPN2.

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