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Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Coaches on the Hot Seat - Power Rankings - Basketball Pre-Season All-Americans

Pressure gauge Coach's on Hot Seat
Nobody ever said it was easy being a college football coach at a high-level program -- that's why they get paid the big bucks. Here are eight men with good jobs who are embroiled in a variety of difficult circumstances:

Brian Kelly (17), Notre Dame. Forget the wins and losses -- which is admittedly hard to do when you're 4-5 and coming off consecutive defeats to Navy and Tulsa, the latter of which Kelly botched with reckless play calling in the final minute. That's not why Kelly should be feeling pressure today. Kelly and his superiors at Notre Dame tried to offer a cogent explanation for the tragic circumstances at practice last week when Declan Sullivan died. What remained unconvincingly explained was why the Fighting Irish had to practice outdoors Wednesday amid high winds and had to have the practice filmed from a dangerous height given the weather. Given the tragic outcome, it's difficult to support Notre Dame in this situation. It should be noted that Sullivan's parents issued a statement that was very gracious toward the school, but there seems to have been a serious lack of perspective in the decisions made by Kelly and his staff.
(It also has been a surreal run of dark news for Notre Dame, dating to last spring when prize offensive line recruit Matt James died while on spring break in Florida. In addition to the two deaths, the severity of injuries sustained by the team has been brutal. Quarterback Dayne Crist has had a second straight season ended by a major knee injury. Star tight end Kyle Rudolph is lost for the season with a torn hamstring. Starting running back Armando Allen's college career is reportedly over with a hip injury, and the same has been speculated for nose guard Ian Williams, who suffered a knee injury. But walking around campus on crutches for months is far from the worst fate a young man can suffer. Notre Dame's players know that all too well right now.)

Rich Rodriguez (18), Michigan. While the Wolverines wait to hear the NCAA's ruling on an infractions case that occurred on Rodriguez's watch, his football team has resumed its losing ways. Michigan's dreadful defense gave up 41 points to previously impotent Penn State in its third straight defeat after a 5-0 start. In each of Rodriguez's first two years, the Wolves lost seven of their last eight, and he's now a stunning 3-17 in October and November.

Butch Davis (19), North Carolina. Davis' NCAA problems appear to be much more widespread and severe than Rodriguez's, and they have scuttled what looked to be one of the school's brightest seasons. The Tar Heels had to rally from 10 points down in the fourth quarter Saturday to beat FCS William & Mary and now face three straight ranked opponents. They could be facing a must-win season finale against rival Duke to become bowl-eligible.

Mark Richt (20), Georgia. The Bulldogs lost the Desperation Bowl to Florida in overtime Saturday, dropping to 4-5. (And dropping Richt to 2-8 against the rival Gators.) With a trip to Auburn still on the schedule, chances of avoiding a Richt-record sixth loss look slim. This team's biggest impact has been made on the police blotter, with the spate of arrests and off-field issues adding to the fan unrest.

Randy Shannon (21), Miami. The Hurricanes fell behind Virginia 24-0 on Saturday and a late rally behind a backup quarterback fell short, dropping them to 5-3 on the season. More ominously for Shannon, it drops him to 14-15 in ACC play in his fourth season in charge in Coral Gables. When Miami moved into the expanded 12-team conference from the Big East, it was expected to be a fixture in the league title game. Now, two games behind Virginia Tech in the loss column in the Coastal Division, it's likely that the ACC will go a sixth straight season without Miami playing for a conference title.

Mike Sherman (22), Texas A&M. The good news is that Sherman and the Aggies whipped rival Texas Tech on Saturday 45-27. The bad news is that Sherman is 1-8 against ranked opponents -- and the next three are all ranked (Oklahoma, Baylor, Nebraska). This was hyped as a potential breakthrough team in the Big 12, but at 2-2 in league play, it hasn't happened so far. Sherman is 7-13 overall against Big 12 opponents.

Dennis Erickson (23), Arizona State. If he only got to play Washington and Washington State every week, Erickson would be golden -- he's 8-0 against them since taking over in Tempe. It's the rest of the league that's causing him problems -- he's 7-17 against the lower seven, and hasn't beaten a non-Washington Pac-10 opponent since 2008. And it didn't help that two Sun Devils were caught last month on surveillance video allegedly stealing electronics from teammates in their dorm. Players Lee Adams and Jamil Douglas were indefinitely suspended.

Bill Stewart (24), West Virginia. A portion of the Mountaineers fan base has never embraced the likable Stewart as a long-term replacement for Rodriguez, which is why his 18-8 record his first two seasons wasn't received with universal enthusiasm. After a 5-1 start this year, Stewart has now lost back-to-back games to Syracuse (on homecoming) and previously nose-diving Connecticut. Even in victory, his teams have been inconsistent and very rarely blow anyone out.

NCAA Football Power Rankings
1 Last Week: 1 Oregon Ducks (8-0)
A lot of Auburn fans believe the Tigers have a better résumé than the Ducks. That's debatable. Auburn has four very good wins (at Mississippi State, South Carolina, Arkansas, LSU), while Oregon only has two (Stanford, at USC), and Auburn's opponents have a far better cumulative record than Oregon's opponents. But the Cardinal could beat either three or all four of Auburn's best vanquished foes, and Oregon beat Stanford by three touchdowns. Until someone besides Arizona State gets within 20 points of the Ducks, it's going to be tough to downgrade them.
Last game: Beat USC, 53-32
Next game: Saturday vs. Washington

2 Last Week: 2 Boise St. Broncos (7-0)
Only two teams left on Boise State's schedule can offer the Broncos even the slightest challenge. Hawaii is one of them. The Warriors lead the nation in passing at 395.4 yards per game. Unfortunately, Hawaii ranks 111th in the nation in rushing. Boise State's defense doesn't even have to make the Warriors' offense one-dimensional. It already is. That won't work on the blue turf.
Last game: Beat Louisiana Tech, 49-20
Next game: Saturday vs. Hawaii

3 Last Week: 3 TCU Horned Frogs (9-0)
Looking for an impressive, under-the-radar win? Auburn's road win at Mississippi State looks quite awesome in hindsight, but the gold standard for these wins might be TCU's 45-10 annihilation of Baylor (currently 7-2) in Week 3. If the Horned Frogs can get past Utah, that win could loom larger -- especially if Baylor continues to stun the members of the Big 12 South. Of course, it would be foolish to assume the Horned Frogs will win easily in Utah. The Utes haven't lost at home since September 2007.
Last game: Beat UNLV, 48-6
Next game: Saturday at Utah

4 Last Week: 4 Auburn Tigers (9-0)
Auburn fans constantly want to know why I hate their team so much. On the contrary, I don't hate the Tigers at all. They're a fabulous team, and they have the nation's most dominant player in Cam Newton. I'm not ignoring Auburn's résumé, either. It is excellent. But at the top of the poll, I'm asked to compare apples (AQ-conference teams) with oranges (non-AQs). So I have to try to guess what would happen if Auburn played against Boise State or TCU. My personal opinion is that Boise State or TCU would win because they have prolific offenses and disciplined defenses. I could be wrong, but that's my opinion. Fortunately for Auburn, the voters in the coaches' poll and Harris poll and the computer rankings disagree with me. Guess who you'd rather have on your side? This week's Disgrace to the University doesn't care about that. Here's what Gail in Atlanta has to say, unedited: "just a comment on you article about Oregon and their breakneck speed over USC- you forgot to mention that Auburn has beaten 4 ranked team (that are actually still ranked this morning and all who won yesterday while Oregon has beaten two-one that will be no longer ranked taday- and outside of UCLA and Standford the rest of their opponets have loosing records. Thanks for the luv. If Auburn wins the NC, I would prefer that you don't jump on our bandwagon. Call in sick that day..." Folks, if you're going to misspell the name of the school in Palo Alto, at least call it Stansbury. Then I'll just think you're a big Saved By The Bell fan.
Last game: Beat Ole Miss, 51-31
Next game: Saturday vs. Chattanooga

5 Last Week: 5 Utah Utes (8-0)
Utah is staging a Blackout for Saturday's showdown. As any faithful reader of the Power Rankings knows, this is a terrible idea because the football gods frown on such high-school shenanigans. But the football gods might let this one slide. Utah will wear special black-and-camouflage jerseys that will be auctioned off later to help support the Wounded Warrior Project, which aids wounded combat veterans. The football gods smile on this.
Last game: Beat Air Force, 28-23
Next game: Saturday vs. TCU

6 Last Week: 9 Alabama Crimson Tide (7-1)
Alabama is the one-loss team with the best chance to still make the BCS title game -- possibly over an undefeated non-AQ team -- but the Crimson Tide also have the toughest remaining schedule of anyone in the top 10. If Alabama wins at LSU on Saturday, it will turn around and face a 7-2 Mississippi State team coming off a bye week. After FCS creampuff Georgia State, the Crimson Tide then must face Auburn -- which also will be coming off a bye week. Get through all that, and the Tide would still have to avenge a loss to South Carolina or beat Florida a second time. If Alabama gets through that gauntlet, it may have a case for the title.
Last game: Beat Tennessee, 41-10
Next game: Saturday at LSU

7 Last Week: 15 Nebraska Cornhuskers (7-1)
It was a leap of faith to bring Nebraska this high, but the Cornhuskers' loss to Texas truly does look like a fluke after two impressive wins in the last two weeks. Nebraska controls its destiny in the Big 12 North, but it still has four conference games left to play before the Big 12 title game. Another hiccup could be a disaster, but the Huskers seem to have addressed their issues. What remains to be seen is if quarterback Taylor Martinez -- who sat out Monday's practice -- can recover from the leg injury he suffered against Missouri in time to play Saturday.
Last game: Beat Missouri, 31-17
Next game: Saturday at Iowa State

8 Last Week: 8 Wisconsin Badgers (7-1)
Those who read my rant about head-to-head wins a few weeks back will wonder why Michigan State isn't in this spot. After all, the Spartans and Badgers have the same record, and Michigan State won the head-to-head matchup. But it's more complicated than that. Wisconsin won at Iowa a week before the Hawkeyes crushed Michigan State. The only reason Iowa isn't also a one-loss team is because the Hawkeyes dared challenge themselves by playing at Arizona. Should I punish Iowa for playing a tough schedule? No. So I considered Wisconsin, Iowa and Michigan State as teams with similar résumés that all beat one another. At the moment, Wisconsin seems to be the best of the three.
Last game: Beat Iowa, 31-30
Next game: Saturday at Purdue

9 Last Week: 10 Ohio St. Buckeyes (8-1)
Since losing to Wisconsin, the Buckeyes have beaten two inferior conference opponents by a combined score of 101-10. They'll get a bit more of a challenge after their bye week, but they should be able to beat Penn State. That will set up a trip to Iowa that should help untangle the Big Ten title race.
Last game: Beat Minnesota, 52-10
Next game: Nov. 13 vs. Penn State

10 Last Week: 11 LSU Tigers (7-1)
Everyone assumes Alabama is the one-loss SEC team with a shot at the BCS title, but what about the Tigers? Yes, they'd need two teams to beat Auburn to win the SEC West, but stranger things have happened. If LSU's offense ever decides to click, the Tigers can beat anyone. Saturday could determine which direction LSU's season will go. Last year, the Tigers were 7-1 going into the Alabama game and wound up losing three of their last five.
Last game: Lost to Auburn, 24-17
Next game: Saturday vs. Alabama

Wall's Wizards top Turner's 76ers 116-115 in OT
WASHINGTON (AP) -- John Wall danced "The Dougie" when he was introduced with the Washington Wizards starting lineup, and that was just the warmup act on an eventful night in which he outshined Evan Turner in the first matchup of the top two picks in this year's draft.
No. 1 Wall was all over the place in his home debut - 29 points, 13 assists, nine steals (tying a franchise record), eight turnovers and five fouls in 45 minutes on a sprained right ankle as the Wizards beat No. 2 Turner and the Philadelphia 76ers 116-115 in overtime Tuesday night.
"He's got an unbelievable will to win," Washington coach Flip Saunders said. "He got into some trouble tonight at times, but he fought through it and was able to make some big plays at the end."
Wall upped his season assist total to 31 - and one of them set up a wild shot that sent the game into overtime. With 3.1 seconds remaining, Wall inbounded the ball to Cartier Martin, who nailed a 3-pointer at the top of the key to tie the game with 0.3 left on the clock.
Wall added four points and a steal in overtime - picking Turner's pocket and converting the turnover into a pair of free throws - as the Wizards won for the first time this season.
"I was trying to do anything to help my team win," Wall said. "And everybody else just came along with me and made big plays."
No. 2 pick Turner, who came off the bench and wasn't a factor until the second half, scored all of his nine points in the fourth quarter and finished with six rebounds for the 76ers, who are 0-4 for the first time since 2001-02.
Lou Williams led the 76ers with 30 points, one shy of his career-high. He scored 20 points in the fourth quarter and went 6-for-6 from the free throw line in the final 17 seconds of regulation as the 76ers' lead fluctuated between one and three points - until Martin hit the 3-pointer.
"The kid threw in an unbelievable shot," Philadelphia coach Doug Collins said. "It seems like when you are trying to win that first game, it just seems like it's whew, I don't know what to say. Our guys fought so hard. You don't know how heartbreaking it is for me to walk into that locker room and tell these guys, 'You're playing hard, you're playing hard,' but you have to break bad habits. Losing teams have bad habits. They're not broken overnight."
Andray Blatche added 23 points, eight rebounds and six turnovers for the Wizards. He made the free throws that gave Washington the lead for good with 7.1 seconds left in overtime. Andre Iguodala had the final chance to win it for the 76ers, but he missed a jumper just before time expired.
Although the game was the first meeting between of Wall from Kentucky and Turner from Ohio State, anyone anticipating an intense head-to-heal dual had to wait a while. Wall is already a starting point guard, captain and arguably the most important player on the court for the Wizards, while Turner is a reserve swingman seeking to find his niche for the 76ers.
Turner and Wall were rarely in the same vicinity until late in the third quarter - when Wall embarrassed Turner with a behind-the-back dribble. Turner, however, quickly got even, forcing turnovers by Wall on the next two possessions.
"I just wanted to pressure him so he won't go as freely as he wanted to," Turner said. "We were kind of laying off of him, and I just figured, 'Why not pressure him?' That's what I tried to do."
Both players sought to downplay their one-on-one matchup.
"He got picked two, I got picked one, so I just wish the best of luck for both of us in our careers," Wall said.
Wall said he was lucky with his steals and needed to work on cutting down on the turnovers. He said he tweakedthe ankle he sprained in Washington's loss at Atlanta on Saturday, but he played all but eight minutes of the game. He didn't emerge from the locker room until 50 minutes after the final whistle in part because he was getting treatment, and he looked the part of awkward rookie as he hunched forward in a chair while wearing a backpack during his news conference.
It was the first home opener in a new Wizards era, led by new owner Ted Leonsis at the top and Wall on the court, as the franchise attempts to start over after the most embarrassing of seasons. Leonsis greeted fans wearing a red tie - he plans to change the team's primary color scheme to red next season - and fans had to put on 3-D glasses to watch the pregame video on the overhead scoreboard.
But Wall's dance was more entertaining.
"The security guy told me I need to dance to get the crowd into it," Wall said, "so I did it for them."
Notes: Wizards G Gilbert Arenas, yet to play this season because of a strained tendon in his right ankle, is expected to return to practice Wednesday. ... Collins, in his first trip back to D.C. as a coach since helming the Wizards from 2001-03, got in touch with his most famous player while sightseeing Monday. "I texted Michael Jordan and said, 'I'm walking around the city and it brings back a lot of memories of being here with you.' Basketball was alive when MJ was here." ... Thaddeus Young expressed disappointment over the 76ers' decision not to give him a contract extension. "I would love to be with the team long term, but I recognize that the uncertainty in next year's CBA has an effect on the team's approach to contract extensions," he said in a statement. ... Attendance was 17,803, about 2,000 short of a sellout.

College Basketball Pre-Season All-American Team
Fierce rivals, Duke and North Carolina are all tied up to start the preseason.
Duke's Kyle Singler was the leading vote-getter and only repeat selection for The Associated Press preseason men's basketball All-America team, while North Carolina's Harrison Barnes became the first freshman to make the list since voting began before the 1986-87 season.

AP Preseason All-America Team
The Associated Press' 2010-11 preseason All-America team, with school, height, year and votes from a 65-member national media panel (key 2009-10 statistics in parentheses):

• Kyle Singler, Duke, 6-8, senior, 62 votes (16.5 ppg, 7.7 rpg)

• Jacob Pullen, Kansas State, 6-0, senior, 53 (19.3 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 82.2 ft pct, 1.8 steals)

• Jimmer Fredette, BYU, 6-2, senior, 49 (22.1 ppg, 4.7 apg, 45.8 3-pt fg pct, 89.2 ft pct)

• JaJuan Johnson, Purdue, 6-10, senior, 46 (15.5 ppg, 7.1 rpg, 50.7 fg pct, 2.1 blocks)

• Harrison Barnes, North Carolina, 6-8, freshman, 17 (19.7 ppg, 8.8 rpg, 60 fg pct at Ames (Iowa) HS)
-- The Associated Press
The team, chosen by the 65-member national media panel that selects the AP Top 25 men's basketball poll, was announced Monday.

Singler, the leader of the Blue Devils' run to a fourth national championship last season, was listed on 62 of 65 ballots. Barnes received the lowest vote total of the starters with 17.
Joining Singler and Barnes on the team were Jacob Pullen of Kansas State with 53 votes, Jimmer Fredette of BYU, who received 49 votes, and JaJuan Johnson of Purdue, who got 46.
"This is indicative of the great respect that Harrison has nationally, and it's an unbelievable accomplishment for a freshman," said Tar Heels coach Roy Williams, who is coming off his first non-NCAA tournament season at North Carolina. "I know Harrison would agree, however, that it would be even more exciting to make the All-America team that's picked after the season.
"So far in practice, he has shown the ability to grasp things that we are teaching very quickly, he has tremendous concentration and I fully expect that he is going to be a very important player for us from day one."
Singler, a 6-8 senior forward, averaged 16.5 points and 7.7 rebounds last season, which he started on the preseason All-America team and finished with an honorable mention postseason selection.
"Someone asked me if we don't win a national championship, will it ruin the year? You just never know what to expect in the year and toward the end of the year. We're not worried about that right now," Singler said of the 2010-11 Blue Devils, who were the No. 1 choice in the preseason Top 25. "There's so much we can accomplish, especially at the beginning of the year and the middle of the year. There's so much to learn and experience."
The 6-0 Pullen, whose beard took on a profile of its own last season, averaged 19.3 points, 3.4 rebounds and 1.8 steals for Kansas State, which was knocked out of the NCAA tournament by Butler one game before the Final Four. The Wildcats reached as high as No. 5 in the polls last season and start this season ranked third in the Top 25.
Pullen, a defensive stalwart, might have given his virtuoso performance covering Fredette in the NCAA tournament's second round. Pullen had a career-high 34 points that game while Fredette finished with 21 points on 4-of-13 shooting, two days after getting 37 points against Florida.
Fredette, a 6-2 guard known for his ability to score from anywhere on the court, averaged 22.1 points last season while shooting 45.8 percent from 3-point range, one of the best marks in the country.
The 6-10 Johnson averaged 15.5 points, 7.1 rebounds and 2.1 blocks last season as the Boilermakers spent all but one week in the top 10. Despite losing forward Robbie Hummel to an injury late in the season, Purdue reached the third round of the NCAA tournament. Hummel, who many expected to be a preseason All-America, injured the same knee just after practice began last month and will miss the season.
No member of last season's All-America team returned. Freshmen John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins of Kentucky, and juniors Evan Turner of Ohio State and Wesley Johnson of Syracuse all went to the NBA, while Scottie Reynolds of Villanova was a senior.
None of those players were on the preseason team that featured Singler, Kansas' Cole Aldrich and Sherron Collins, Kentucky's Patrick Patterson and Luke Harangody of Notre Dame. Collins was a second-team pick after the season, while Aldrich and Harangody were on the third team. Patterson, like Singler, was among the honorable mentions.
Pullen and Fredette were also among the postseason honorable mentions.

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