Barry Switzer not happy about ‘Horns Down’ penalty policy

Barry Switzer is not happy about the “Horns Down” penalty policy that will be in place for the Big 12 Championship Game on Saturday.

Oklahoma was informed that players will be penalized for doing the “Horns Down” gesture in their revenge game against Texas. “Horns Up” is the hand signal given by Texas fans to mimic the look of a steer. Adversaries will flip their hands downward as a sign of their opposing feeling towards Texas.

Switzer, who coached Oklahoma from 1973-88, says the penalty is “bulls—.”

“That’s bulls—,” Switzer told The Athletic’s Jason Kersey of the rule. “‘Horns down’ is part of the history of the game. It’s a natural reaction. It’s like someone gives you the finger. You give them the finger back, right? Well, if someone does a ‘Horns up,’ you do a ‘Horns down’ back at them.”

We agree with Switzer, but the Big 12 feels otherwise. Unfortunately, they are taking some of the fun out of the game with such a penalty.

West Virginia wide receiver David Sills was penalized for doing a “Horns Down” when playing Texas this season, and that was bad enough. It’s unfortunate to see a gesture that is so innocuous become a penalty.

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By: Larry Brown

9 things we learned about college football this weekend

Will Grier Eligible For Mountaineers

Written by Aaron Torres at Fox Sports.com

Oklahoma may have stolen the headlines in the Big 12 a few weeks ago, thanks to the shocking retirement of head coach Bob Stoops. However, no team in the conference got more important on-the-field news than West Virginia did on Tuesday.

The Mountaineers announced that transfer quarterback Will Grier is eligible immediately.

Grier, of course, transferred to the school after playing six games – starting five – for Florida during the 2015 season and leading the Gators to a 6-0 record. However, he was suspended for the second half of that 2015 season after failing a test for performance-enhancing drugs, which warranted a one-year suspension from competition.

Because Grier sat out all of 2016 as a transfer, West Virginia pursued a waiver to make the fourth-year signal-caller eligible right away, as opposed to at the halfway point of the season. That waiver has apparently been granted.

As a result, the Mountaineers are once again contenders in the Big 12. Dana Holgorsen’s club is coming off a solid 10-3 season, but must replace the production of starting quarterback Skyler Howard, who tossed for over 3,300 yards and 26 touchdowns last season.

They now have that replacement in Grier, who threw for 1,200 yards and 10 touchdowns in leading the Gators to six straight wins to open the 2015 season. And when combining Grier with running back Justin Crawford (1,184 yards rushing) and wide receiver Ka’Raun White (brother of current Chicago Bear) Kevin White, the Mountaineers should once again have one of the most potent offenses in the Big 12.

West Virginia was ranked No. 15 in Stewart Mandel’s post-spring Top 25.

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Best Three Headed Offensive Attacks In College Football

Written by Barton Simmons at 24/7Sports

Some teams have a great quarterback. Some have a bell cow running back. Others have an unstoppable receiver on the outside. But there are the rare programs that have all three, a triumvirate of offensive firepower.

These are the top trifectas entering the 2017 college football season.

1. Oklahoma State – QB Mason Rudolph, RB Justice Hill, WR James Washington

Two thirds of Oklahoma State’s trifecta are possible first-round draft picks in next spring’s NFL Draft. Rudolph threw for more than 4,000 yards as a junior and has all his weapons back. Those weapons include Washington, a 1,300-yard receiver from the fall who’s one of the game’s most explosive big-play threats. Justice Hill rounds out the group after leading all freshman running backs nationally last fall with 1,142 rushing yards.

2. Penn State – QB Trace McSorley, RB Saquon Barkley, TE Mike Gesicki

You could make a strong argument that Trace McSorley was the best quarterback in the Big Ten last fall. In his second year playing in offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead’s system, he is expected to be one of the best quarterbacks in the country in 2017. Saquon Barkley is a virtual lock to be a first-rounder in next year’s NFL Draft at running back and tight end Mike Geisicki is one of the best big-bodied pass catchers in college football.

3. Washington – QB Jake Browning, RB Myles Gaskin, WR Dante Pettis

Despite losing a first-round draft pick in John Ross, Washington still returns one of the most dangerous threesomes in the game. Dante Pettis and his 15 receiving touchdowns steps into Ross’ shoes as Browning’s go-to receiver and Myles Gaskin’s 1,373 rushing yards will pace the ground game. Browning, who threw for 43 touchdowns and nine interceptions as a sophomore, just needs to continue to be Mr. reliable for this trio to click.

4. Missouri – QB Drew Lock, RB Damarea Crockett, WR J’Mon Moore

A trifecta that many outside of the SEC may not be familiar with, this is the year that these guys hit the national stage. Drew Lock threw for more than 3,300 yards in his sophomore season in what was a huge leap forward from his freshman campaign. As a junior, he’ll be targeting the SEC’s only returning 1,000-yard receiver in J’Mon Moore. Damarea Crockett has breakout star potential after rushing for over 1,000 yards as a true freshman last fall.

5. West Virginia – QB Will Grier, RB Justin Crawford, WR Ka’Raun White

Will Grier looked like the real deal in the WVU spring game and before his unceremonious departure from Florida he looked poised to be one of the best quarterbacks in the SEC. With Crawford in the backfield (1,184 yards rushing) and White looking to be the next uber-productive Mountaineers wideout, Grier inherits some serious talent. All the Mountaineers were missing last year was a quarterback. Grier will be their best since Geno Smith.

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Gonzaga Outlast West Virginia To Advance to Elite 8

Written by Ben Shpigel at New York Times.com

If Gonzaga was applying for a job, it would saunter into the interview, slap its curriculum vitae on the desk and kick up its feet. Here, look: 19 consecutive N.C.A.A. tournament appearances, two regional top seeds, a No. 1 national ranking, dozens of power-conference teams tamed, three berths in the round of eight and — oh, right, about that.

Year by year, Gonzaga runs out of accolades to garner, skeptics to disprove, objectives to accomplish. One that remains elusive is a trip to the Final Four, where the top-seeded Bulldogs will go this year with one more victory in this West Region.

In edging No. 4 West Virginia by 61-58 on Thursday, they did not play particularly well, or shoot particularly well, or resemble a championship contender in any way beyond displaying the tenacity demanded in the crucible of March.

That resolve guided the Bulldogs during wins last week against inferior teams, and they needed it again at the SAP Center, where West Virginia answered every basket or run or momentum swing with one of its own.

The final push came after Jevon Carter of West Virginia sunk a go-ahead 3-pointer with 1 minute 47 seconds remaining. Trailing by 58-55, Nigel Williams-Goss of Gonzaga made two free throws and, after the Mountaineers’ Daxter Miles Jr. missed two, Jordan Mathews swished a 3-pointer from the corner to put Gonzaga in front by 60-58.

West Virginia (28-9) possessed the ball for the final 37 seconds, missing two 3-pointers from Carter and grabbing two offensive rebounds before failing to get a final shot off before the buzzer. As the horn sounded, Gonzaga’s bench flooded the court and Coach Mark Few pumped his fist and bedlam reigned at center court while West Virginia’s players pulled their jerseys over their heads and processed the finality of it all.

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Top Games for NCAA Tournament For Today

Written by Eddie Timanus  at USAToday.com

Now that the NCAA tournament has reached the Sweet 16, the menu of viewing options is considerably reduced. That doesn’t mean, however, that there still aren’t choices to be made when it comes to prioritizing your hoop-watching schedule. As always, we’re here to help.

Here are the four regional semifinal games slated for Thursday, ranked according to what we think will make for the best matchups. (Times p.m. ET.)

West Region: No. 1 Gonzaga (34-1) vs. No. 4 West Virginia (28-8)

Time/TV: 7:37, TBS

Why to watch: This figures to be a fascinating test for the top seed. One could call this a contrast in styles, though the Bulldogs have shown they can adapt to a fast or slow pace. The Mountaineers’ constant full-court press, however, isn’t so much about establishing a tempo. WVU does like to generate fast-break points from turnovers, but the long-term objective is to wear down opponents. If the Zags avoid turnovers and shoot well enough to set up their own half-court defense, things could be close throughout.

Why it could disappoint: If the Mountaineers get on a roll quickly, Gonzaga might not have the long-range firepower to mount a comeback. But the game could get away from the West Virginia if the Bulldogs can establish dominance on the boards, particularly on the offensive end resulting in second-chance points.

West Region: No. 3 Oregon (31-5) vs. No. 7 Michigan (26-11)

Time/TV: 7:09, CBS

Why to watch: The term gets overused, especially at this time of year, but there’s an unmistakable “team of destiny” vibe around the Wolverines. It began with their run through the Big Ten tournament, and they’ve now prevailed in an entertaining track meet and a wire-to-wire slugfest in the Big Dance. The journey continues against the Ducks, who’ve shown no less resolve by overcoming the loss of key big man Chris Boucher to reach this point. Both teams have a lot of guys who are making big shots, so it could be another wild ride.

Why it could disappoint: It’s possible that Michigan’s tank will finally hit empty. It could likewise get out of hand for Oregon if they encounter an extended cold spell.

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Re-Seeding the Sweet 16

Written by Matt Norlander at CBSSports.com

From 68 to 16, let’s get down to re-seeding this field. It’s one of the strongest second-weekend groups ever, even with No. 1 overall Villanova out and odds-on title favorite Duke now gone as well.

Twelve of the top 16 teams seeded by the committee made the Sweet 16. That’s the second most in the past 20 years, per the NCAA.

Quick look at the regions: The East, almost always a top-two appealing regional, is a distant No. 4 this year. The South has three blue bloods, plus Butler, which knocked off Villanova twice this season, swept Xavier and beat Arizona. You’ll notice those latter two schools are still in the field. The West has Zaga-Zona, and yet West Virginia is the most intriguing dark horse left in the field. The Midwest has the Michigan factor, a Purdue team with a National Player of the Year candidate and a Kansas team that stormed through the first weekend.

In re-seeding the field, I look at how teams played in their past two games but also factor in what they did in the regular season. I’m also not abiding by the committee’s seed decisions. These are how I would power-rank/seed the 16 remaining teams based on résumé, how they’re playing now and who I think is best overall.

Let’s rock.

1. Gonzaga Bulldogs

With No. 1 overall seed Villanova out, Gonzaga is the easy choice here. The Bulldogs are the No. 1-ranked team in multiple metrics, and oh yeah, have lost only one freaking time this season. That’s three times fewer then the next-closest teams in college basketball. This also ranks as the best per-possession defense in college hoops. GU got a push, then a controversial break, against Northwestern, but this is the best Bulldogs team in program history. They got through the first part, now comes the hard part. Nigel Williams-Goss will have to re-establish himself as one of the top 10 players in America when he goes up against West Virginia’s dogged press. No one left in the field can match Gonzaga’s talented bigs: Przemek Karnowski, Zach Collins, Killian Tillie.

2. Kansas Jayhawks

No team looked better the first weekend than Kansas, which breezed past UC Davis and then got some challenge from Michigan State before pulling away in the final six minutes. The 30-4 Jayhawks aren’t deep but their trio of Josh Jackson/Frank Mason/Devonte’ Graham looks as capable and dangerous now as it has all season. KU won the Big 12 by four games, Bill Self got past the Tom Izzo trap, and with Kansas getting its regional in Kansas City, this is setting up as a huge homecourt advantage situation. In talent and résumé, KU is a firm No. 2.

3. Arizona Wildcats

The Wildcats are 32-4! I think the bigness of their record is far overlooked. With Lauri Markkanen, Allonzo Trier, Kadeem Allen and Rawle Alkins, that quartet can go up against any other team’s best four in this tournament. The Wildcats won the Pac-12 tournament, had no problems with North Dakota, then looked good in beating Saint Mary’s in what was as competitive a game as I expected. Sean Miller’s team can win the national title this season. Markkanen has no match in this field.

4. UCLA Bruins

UCLA won at Kentucky, has a better offense and looked better in its two games than the Wildcats. I have to put the Bruins at No. 4 here. Great news is we get a DYNAMITE Sweet 16 matchup on Friday night in Memphis with these two teams. Lonzo Ball was spectacular in the second half of UCLA’s victory against Cincinnati, the final game of the second round. With the Bruins’ weapons, in addition to their road victories against Kentucky and Arizona, a fitting No. 4.

5. Kentucky Wildcats

Wildcats have won 13 straight. Feels like only UK fans realize that. John Calipari’s team got a tussle and a close call from Wichita State (loved that game), but with Bam Adebayo playing the way he is, it’s really tempting to say Kentucky’s a top-three team. It’s hard to mend that with the whole résumé, though. Interesting factor for me is Malik Monk. He has been quiet. Will the UCLA game bring out the best in him? I think so. And we get another round of De’Aaron Fox vs. Lonzo Ball. Somebody pinch me!

6. West Virginia Mountaineers

The Mountaineers, which got past Bucknell and then did what they wanted against Notre Dame, rank sixth in KenPom. Won at Virginia, defeated Kansas, and now present a tantalizing challenge for Gonzaga. That game is the second best of the Sweet 16 matchups. WVU’s pressing style and Bob Huggins’ coaching, in my estimation, make this the sixth best team left in the field in terms of accomplishment, ability and résumé.

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Huggy Bear Is The Quintessential West Virginia Coach

Written by Dana O’Neil at ESPN.com

Bob Huggins is a few Eagle Rare bourbons in at a small hotel bar when, from underneath his nylon pullover, a light blinks on his wrist.

It’s his Fitbit.

It occurs to you in that moment, in the Doubletree hotel bar in Charlottesville, Virginia, that a blinking Fitbit on the bourbon-sipping Huggins is the perfect metaphor for the West Virginia Mountaineers coach.

Because Huggins is a living, breathing contradiction. Only partially because he is still living and breathing.

By his own admission he has died twice, his genetically impaired heart calling uncle on his exercise-averse, hard-living lifestyle. Ten days ago, Huggins collapsed to his knees in the first half of the Mountaineers’ game against Texas, his internal defibrillator sending him a shock — and perhaps a reminder — after an irregular heartbeat. By the way, he coached the second half.

Huggins refuses to slow down, professionally or socially.

He is a gruff, hard-cursing taskmaster whose verbal dressing-downs could wilt a redwood. The F-word is not part of his vocabulary. It is his vocabulary.

Yet ask him about his mother, dead 14 years now, and he practically melts.

He’s a renegade who refuses to dress the part. He long ago ditched the requisite suit and tie most every other coach favors, preferring his comfy pullover. Rather than stalk the sideline in anger, he sits slump-shouldered on a stool to better aid his aching hips.

Yet people are fiercely loyal to, if not downright protective of, him. They insist that the man painted the villain is actually just the opposite.

Most of all, Huggins is a basketball survivor, a man who has amended his style of play to suit his players; he just won’t amend himself. He lost a long battle of wills with the administration after 16 years, a Final Four and two Elite Eights at Cincinnati. He didn’t fade away. Instead he lived to coach another day, his stature never diminishing, perhaps instead growing.

So what’s the secret to his survival?

Despite all those contradictions, Huggins just might be the simplest man to understand in all of college basketball.

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Kansas And Frank Mason Have A Comeback For The Ages Against WVU

Written by Chip Patterson at CBSSports.com

Bill Self and his staff haven’t lost back-to-back games at Allen Fieldhouse since arriving at Kansas in 2003. He reminded the Jayhawks of that at halftime of Monday night’s 84-80 overtime win against West Virginia — when KU was trailing by seven, a deficit that would double with mere minutes to play — and the team responded with an effort down the stretch that was as crazy as it was clutch to cap one of the most memorable nights in the history of that storied building.

There’s a lot to unpack here, including Kansas’ almost miraculous rally, how West Virginia let it happen, and what it ultimately means for both teams. Let’s start with the victors, and the moment that things turned in Lawrence: when Kansas started to make its move from being down 64-50 with 2:45 to go to sending this game into overtime.

When Kansas started to have hope

West Virginia played as well as it could’ve played for about 30 minutes. Bob Huggins had a solid game plan (likely thanks to the win in Morgantown earlier this season) and stunned the home crowd with an early double-digit lead. As mentioned, the Mountaineers led by seven at halftime and every time Kansas threatened to make a run, there was an answer from Tarik Phillipor Elijah Macon.

That is, until Frank Mason went into takeover mode.

Mason didn’t shoot the ball well most of the night and did most of his damage at the free throw line, but he had some huge three-pointers to spark the comeback. Landen Lucas was a monster on the offensive boards, and by securing the rebound from a Devonte Graham missed three-pointer he kept the possession alive for Mason, who buried a triple with 2:21 remaining.

Timeout Kansas, and suddenly it’s a nine-point game. Two missed WVU free throws and a Devonte Graham three-pointer, and suddenly its a six-point game. The fans who had previously left Allen Fieldhouse thinking Kansas was about to be swept by West Virginia were pushing their way back into aisles from the section exits and the place was rocking.

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College Basketball Preview For Week of 2/13/17

Written by Eddie Timanus at USAToday.com

We’re now officially less than a month away from Selection Sunday.

As one might expect, college basketball fans around the country are experiencing the full range of emotions, from supreme confidence or cautious optimism to out-and-out panic. The top games on the upcoming weeknight slate will feature all of the above and then some.

Game of the week: No. 14 West Virginia at No. 3 Kansas, Monday, 9 p.m. ET, ESPN — The host Jayhawks, seeking their 13th consecutive Big 12 title in the regular season, remain well-positioned for a No. 1 seed. This isn’t a free ticket to the Final Four to be sure, but generally speaking it offers an easier path than No. 2 seeds or lower would have to negotiate. Nevertheless, KU has endured more than a few close encounters of late in its Big 12 journey, not all of which have resulted in Jayhawks’ victories.

WVU, in fact, is one of the two squads owning a conference win against Bill Self’s team. A regular-season sweep won’t come easily, but the Mountaineers do have a deep bench that allows them to maintain the pressing style that coach Bob Huggins prefers. The field-goal accuracy isn’t always there for West Virginia, and a slow start in the hostile environs of Allen Fieldhouse could spell trouble.
Player to watch: Luke Kennard, Duke — The No. 19 Blue Devils are finally getting all their parts in working order, resulting in their current five-game winning streak. But Kennard has been the most consistent producer all season, and he’s kept the Duke ship afloat as his teammates worked their way back from injuries or suspensions. He carries an even 20-point scoring average into Wednesday’s major showdown at No. 13 Virginia (9 p.m. ET, ESPN2).
Conference to watch: Big Ten — The B1G usually arrives at the Big Dance with both quality and quantity. The league is conspicuously short on the former this year, as was made all too plain by its absence from the committee’s preliminary top 16 seeds released over the weekend. Several of the conference’s front-runners could still get there, of course. But they’ll face stiff challenges from the mid-tier league members that will have the equally urgent need to take advantage of dwindling opportunities to add heft to their body of work.
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