2014/2015 NCAA Men’s Basketball Preview

The 2014 NCAA men’s basketball season is already underway, and it is full of exciting storylines. Here is a comprehensive overview of the top conferences this season, and a prediction for the March Madness tournament.

ACC

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Powerhouses: Duke has the perfect recipe for success this year, and will be the favorite to win the ACC, and maybe even the national championship. Start with the leadership of Coach K, add the experience of Quinn Cook and Rasheed Sulaimon and the freshman talent of Jahlil Okafor, Tyus Jones and Justise Winslow, and Duke will be a force to be reckoned with this year. Additionally, North Carolina is looking very strong behind veteran coach Roy Williams. Marcus Paige is easily one of the best players in the nation, and UNC’s strong rookie class consists of Justin Jackson, Joel Berry and Theo Pinson. Expect a very strong season from the Tar Heels.

Contenders: Louisville will step into its first year in the ACC ready to fight. Coach Rick Pitino has lost players from his last championship run, but will have a strong core left to begin the year with. The Cardinals will be stacked with Montrezl Harrell, Chris Jones and Terry Rozier. Add the team’s freshman talent, and they will be looking at success leading up to March. Virginia exploded onto the national spotlight last year when they won the ACC, and they should be looking to carry over their success into this season. Malcolm Brogdon remains the key piece for this Cavalier team, and will be joined by London Perrantes, Anthony Gill and Justin Anderson. Expect a good season, but a rough time against the top ACC teams for Virginia.

Pretenders: Boston College is in for a rough season under a new coach. The team finished second to last last season, and should expect the same this season. The lone bright spot for this struggling squad is one of the best players in the country, junior Olivier Hanlan. Virginia Tech will round out the bottom of the ACC this season, as they did last season. Don’t expect great things from new coach Buzz Williams as he tries to salvage the wreckage of this team.

Big Ten

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Powerhouses: Wisconsin might be the absolute best team in the country, and will easily sweep the Big Ten. Led by Frank Kaminsky and Sam Dekker, this squad is potent and fully loaded. Nigel Hayes rounds out the rest of the starting five, and each player will be producing at a high level. The Badgers have a legitimate shot at the championship this year. Michigan State surprises nobody with yet another top season. Tom Izzo is a fantastic coach, and should be able to lead a group of youngsters to glory. Additionally, the key weapon for the Spartans is Dawson, who will explode this season.

Contenders: Ohio State had a rough year, losing to Dayton in the first round of the tournament, and losing star point guard Aaron Craft. However, the Buckeyes once again have a great recruiting class, and D’Angelo Russell will mix well with the returning seniors to make a lethal combination on the court. Michigan will be another deep team, even though they lost their star Nik Stauskas. The Wolverines have brought in the touted recruit Kameron Chatman, who should be able to dominate no matter where he is on the court, due to his large frame. Additionally, guard Caris Levert should be watched as he will hope to lead this team to success this season.

Pretenders: Northwestern no longer has Drew Crawford, who was their only good player last season. Now this team will struggle to find a point-producer, and with little defense as well, the Wildcats will sink to the bottom of the Big Ten this season. Don’t expect much from Penn State either this season, as the Nittany Lions have little to no depth. The only bright spot for this struggling squad is Brandon Taylor, but he is the only good thing going for this team.

Big 12

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Powerhouses: Kansas is one of the absolute best teams in the country, and will no doubt win the Big 12. The main concern for the Jayhawks is their loss of several key players, such as Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid. But Bill Self has assembled a young new squad, anchored by veteran Perry Ellis. The youngsters consist of Cliff Alexander, Kelly Oubre and Devonte Graham, and will be dominating the court. Expect a very strong showing from Kansas this season. Also a top performer is Texas. Texas had a fantastic season last year, and they will be losing no key players. Instead, the Longhorns are adding one of the best freshmen in the country in Myles Turner. Expect Turner to inject a shot of energy into this squad to propel them to a high ranking this year.

Contenders: Iowa State lost a few key players in the offseason, yet gained a much more important transfer in Dejean Jones from UNLV. While the team has to replace some stars, they still have talented players from last year in Jameel McKay and Abdel Nader. Dustin Hogue and Georges Niang will round out this talented squad in what looks like a very successful season for the Cyclones. Oklahoma will have a solid season no matter what, yet one player will decide if it will be very successful, or not so much. Transfer TaShawn Thomas is a force to be reckoned with, and will round out a great Sooner team filled with the likes of Dante Buford and Buddy Hield. Watch for the Sooners’ season to go one of two ways.

Pretenders: Texas Christian is looking shoddy in the upcoming season, after a no-win season last year. Incoming freshman Trey Ziegler is literally the only thing the team has going for it. In dead last in the Big 12 will be Texas Tech, after losing four top players to graduation and transfers. Justin Jamison and Devaugntah Williams will be arriving, and will hopefully add some talent to this lacking team.

Pac 12

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Powerhouses: Arizona already has a lot to prove this season after a disappointing overtime loss in the Elite 8 last year. It will be even more difficult for the Wildcats this year, after having lost stars Aaron Gordon and Nick Johnson. Luckily for Arizona fans, the team still has a very strong team centered around the core of Brandon Ashley and T.J. McConnell. Additionally, the Wildcats recruited very well, and were able to grab an elite recruit in Stanley Johnson. Look for this deep Arizona team to easily win the Pac 12. Utah is another strong team in the conference, who will be once again led by point guard Delon Wright. This team will be making an all-out effort to win the Pac 12, as they brought back four starters from last year. The Utes’ schedule is tougher this year, but this team should be able to handle their opponents.

Contenders: Colorado is fired up and ready to get back to winning after a frustrating blowout loss to Pittsburgh in the tournament. Spencer Dinwiddie and Josh Scott are back and ready for action as they hope to lead this young squad to another successful season. UCLA won the Pac 12 tournament last year, but will be taking a huge hit after losing several key players. Only senior Norman Powell remains, and he and coach Steve Alford must lead a team of youngsters to the promised land. Look for UCLA to be just on the brink of success this season.

Pretenders: Washington State has coach Ernie Kent and guard Davonte Lacy and not much else. This Cougar team better hope for solid production from its freshmen if it hopes to not have a complete disappointment of a season. Oregon State is also in the same boat, as it has only one returning starter in Langston Morris-Walker. This team will have an abysmal season, and the only other bright spot is the transfer of Gary Payton II.

SEC

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Powerhouses: Kentucky is an absolutely dominant team, and will have an easy time winning the SEC. Coach Calipari has a great class of freshmen with Karl Towns, Trey Lyles, Tyler Ulis and Devin Booker. These youngsters will be joining the already proven talent in the Harrison twins, Alex Poythress and Willie Cauley-Stein. Expect the Wildcats to have a dominant season, and get to the NCAA Championship Game. The SEC is also stacked with several other great teams, like Florida. The Gators have quite a few players to replace, yet their core remains in tact. Hill and Walker will get good movement of the ball going from the arch to the paint, and this team will dominate most of their games.

Contenders: Arkansas is another solid team with a great coach, Mike Anderson. Although the Razorbacks are not very deep, they have good stars in Rashad Madden, Bobby Portis and Michael Qualls. Expect this team to put up a solid fight this year, and even make surprises with upsets. Louisiana State also has lots of potential this year, even if they have lost players at the point. On the other hand, the LSU paint is absolutely dominant with Jordan Mickey, Jarrell Martin and Elbert Robinson III. Watch for a good season from the Tigers.

Pretenders: Tennessee has a fantastic player in Josh Richardson, and not much else. Richardson is the team’s only returning starter, and cannot produce enough to keep an entire team afloat. It will be an interesting and disappointing season for the Volunteers. Mississippi State has had an excellent football season, but that success will not transfer over to the basketball season. The Bulldogs haven’t recruited well enough to get talent to be able to compete with the SEC elite, so don’t expect much from them.

Other Top Teams

Wichita State should be expected to have another great year, and is ranked 11 in the AP preseason poll. Gonzaga, VCU, San Diego State and Connecticut are ranked 13, 15, 16 and 17, respectively. These squads come from non-major conferences, yet should all be looked out for as they will all post successful seasons and interesting performances in March.

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National Championship Winner:

The title game will pit two top teams against each other, with Kentucky facing Duke. While the Blue Devils have produced some fantastic regular seasons, they have stumbled recently in the tournament. This year, however, will be different with Coach K’s leadership guiding an elite group of veterans and eager youngsters. Look for the Blue Devils to steal this one from Coach Calipari and his Wildcats.

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2014 MLB Playoffs Preview

The 2014 MLB Postseason begins on September 30 with the Oakland Athletics going to Kansas City to face the Royals in the American League one game Wild Card matchup, and the winner will go on to face the Los Angeles Angels. On October 1, the San Francisco Giants will go to Pittsburgh to face the Pirates in the National League one game Wild Card round, with the winner moving on to face the Washington Nationals. After these two games, the regular divisional round of the playoffs will begin on October 2. Here are Thuuz’s predictions for the the 2014 MLB Postseason.

AL Wild Card

Athletics at Royals: Although it’s very early, this could go down as one of the best games in the playoffs. These teams finished with almost identical records, 89-73 for the Royals and 88-74 for the Athletics, and are both coming off of winning two of their last three games of the regular season. Jon Lester (16-11) will be pitching for the Athletics, and while he is very strong, it will be very difficult to match the dominance of the Royals’ James Shields (14-8). While the Royals are strong defensively, they are no match for the high-powered Oakland offense, which is led by third baseman Josh Donaldson, who has 29 home runs, 98 RBIs and a .255 batting average. Watch the A’s squeak out a gritty win in Kansas City.

NL Wild Card

Giants at Pirates: The Pirates are a very good team and finished with a record of 88-74, but they will be no match for the postseason-electric Giants team, who coincidentally finished with the same regular season record. The Pirates will be pitching one of their solid pitchers in Edinson Volquez (13-7), but he will be outshined by Giants’ ace Madison Bumgarner (18-10). The Giants last made the playoffs in 2012, and before that in 2010, and both times they won the World Series. The Giants just seem to have a magic about them in October, and their entire team is stepping up right now. Look for Joe Panik, Hunter Pence and Pablo Sandoval to join team offensive leader Buster Posey, who has 22 home runs, 89 RBIs and a .311 batting average in lighting up Volquez. Pedro Alvarez and Andrew McCutchen are no match for this time, and the Giants will move on to the divisional round.

AL Divisional Round

Angels vs. Athletics: While this was one of the best series throughout the entire regular season, the Athletics’ performance has noticeably declined. The Angels are the best team in baseball with a record of 98-64. The Angels have been looking forward to another playoff appearance since their last one in 2009, and now they have the best player in baseball in Mike Trout, who has 36 home runs, 111 RBIs and a .287 batting average. Look for this incredibly balanced team to shut down the Athletics very quickly and easily. Everywhere you look, the Angels win this matchup. Mike Trout, Albert Pujols and Howie Kendrick are better than Josh Donaldson, Brandon Moss and Josh Reddick. The Angels also win the pitching matchup, with Jered Weaver (18-9) and CJ Wilson (13-10) being better than Scott Kazmir (15-9), Sonny Gray (14-10) and Jon Lester (11-6). Watch the Angels blaze past Oakland on their quest for their first World Series title since 2002.

Orioles vs. Tigers: While the Tigers barely won the AL Central in the last days of the season, they will not be as fortunate in this matchup. The Orioles are 96-66, and the Tigers are just 90-72. This season, the Orioles have been dominant offensively, being led by Nelson Cruz, Adam Jones and Nick Markakis. Cruz has 40 home runs, 108 RBIs and a .271 batting average, which is strong compared to the Tigers’ best hitter, Victor Martinez, who has 32 home runs, 103 RBIs and a .335 batting average. While the Tigers also have slugger Miguel Cabrera, their offensive depth lowers dramatically after these two. Wei-Yin Chen (16-6), Bud Norris (15-8) and Chris Tillman (13-6) have all been electric for the Orioles, compared to Max Scherzer (18-5), Justin Verlander (15-12) and Rick Porcello (15-13) for the Tigers. However, the Orioles hitting will propel them to the ALCS.

NL Divisional Round

Nationals vs. Giants: The Nationals are best team in the National League with a record of 96-66, but they will be looking at a major upset against a well-rounded San Francisco squad. The Giants have Buster Posey, Hunter Pence and Pablo Sandoval to lead them offensively, among various other key players, and a stacked bench. The Nationals have Adam Laroche with 26 home runs, 92 RBIs and a .259 batting average, Ian Desmond and Anthony Rendon. Overall, the Giants have great depth, and win the offensive matchup slightly. But the Nationals true strength is their pitching, and this is where they outweigh the Giants. Doug Fister (16-6), Tanner Roark (15-10), Stephen Strasburg (14-11), Jordan Zimmerman (14-5) and Gio Gonzalez (10-10) make up one of the absolute best rotations in the MLB. Madison Bumgarner (18-10) is one of the top pitchers in the entire league, and Tim Hudson (9-13), Ryan Vogelsong (8-13), Jake Peavy (6-4) and Yusmeiro Petit (5-5) have proved to be a great rest of the rotation. While the Nationals have better pitching, look for the hot Giants bats to lead them to the NLCS.

Dodgers vs. Cardinals: The Dodgers and the Cardinals are two of the best teams in baseball with records of 94-68 and 90-72, respectively. While the Cardinals have stellar pitching with ace Adam Wainwright (20-9), Lance Lynn (15-10) and Shelby Miller (10-9) all having great seasons. However, the Dodgers have even better pitching. Clayton Kershaw (21-3) is the best pitcher in the MLB, and Zack Greinke (17-8) and Hyu-Jin Ryu (14-7) have been lights-out as well. Additionally, the Dodgers beat the Cards in the offensive category. Adrian Gonzalez has 27 home runs, 116 RBIs, a .276 batting average and Matt Kemp, Hanley Ramirez and Yasiel Puig have all been fantastic. For the Cardinals, Matt Holliday has 20 home runs, 90 RBIs and a .272 batting average, and Jhonny Peralta, Matt Adams and Matt Carpenter have all been good. The Dodgers have an all-around better team, and should cruise to the NLCS with relative ease.

AL Championship Round

Angels vs. Orioles: The Orioles will be coming off of a tough, long series with the Tigers, whereas the Angels will have easily defeated the Athletics in a short series. While both teams are similar in that they have excellent hitting, pitchings is what is going to win the AL Pennant for the Angels. Weaver and Wilson are all better than Chen, Norris and Tillman. And another factor that cannot be matched is Mike Trout. Trout will be playing in his first playoffs ever, and will be good for numerous home runs, RBIs and great defensive plays. Watch the Angels move on to the World Series in five or six games.

NL Championship Round

Dodgers vs. Giants: The Dodgers won this season series 9-10, but this will not be the case in the NLCS. The Giants are just too hot, and are ready to get payback on the team that stole the NL West from them. In addition to Buster Posey, big bats like Hunter Pence, Pablo Sandoval, Michael Morse and Travis Ishikawa will make the Dodgers’ pitchers pay, yes, even Clayton Kershaw. Also, the Dodgers pitchers have looked excellent on paper, but Kershaw is the only real untouchable one. Plus, Bumgarner is incredible, and the Giants pitching staff is really growing well and having great performances. Look for the Giants to win this series in seven games in what will be one of the all-time great postseason series’.

World Series

Angels vs. Giants: When the Giants get on a roll in the playoffs, they just don’t stop until they are holding up the World Series trophy. They won in 2010, then in 2012, and are on track to win every other year, and 2014 should be no different. If the Giants can get through the Dodgers pitching staff, the Angels’ pitchers should not be a problem. Look for the Giants offense to only get hotter and hotter as they try to relive their famous postseason magic of recent years. Look for the Giants to be victorious in seven games in a magnificent rematch of the 2002 World Series, in which the Angels won in seven games.

2014/2015 College Football Conference Previews

ACC- With Louisville joining the ACC, and the defending National Champions Florida State in the conference, the ACC should be fairly strong this year.  The Florida State Seminoles are the obvious choice to lead the ACC. Having won the national championship last year, the team should have high hopes and spirits for the upcoming season.  Coach Jimbo Fisher is considered legendary, and defending Heisman trophy winner Jameis Winston only got better in the offseason. With Winston on the field and Fisher on the sideline, the Seminoles have a shot at repeating their success from last season.

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Big Ten- As the Big Ten expands to 14 teams; the competition is growing evermore fierce.  Both Rutgers and Maryland are joining the Big Ten this year, but that isn’t the biggest talk in the conference. Everyone is talking about the Ohio State program, as the Buckeyes are predicted to take first in the Big Ten this year.  Even though Michigan State was first last year, their defense was hit hard by players moving on in their careers.  The Buckeyes have the number one defensive line this year, so it is going to be hard to get any run game going. While Ohio State should be strong, Penn State and Michigan are emerging contenders, and shouldn’t be tossed aside. The best player in the Big Ten this year should be Braxton Miller, the Ohio State Quarterback. Look to this young man to put the offense on his back and carry the team to the end zone.

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Big 12- In the past, the Big 12 has been regarded as a lower tier conference when compared to the SEC, Pac-12, and ACC. However, after Oklahoma’s Sugar Bowl win against Alabama, the conference is finally getting the respect that it deserves. Baylor and Texas have also built up a highly competitive football program to help the Big 12 rep. Oklahoma is predicted to take the top spot in the Big 12 this year, but Baylor shouldn’t be far behind. The stand out player of the Big 12 is expected to be Baylor’s Quarterback, Bryce Petty. 2013 was his first year in the starting spot, but he proved that he deserved the spot. With 4,200 yards and 32 touchdowns, the returning Petty has put Baylor in contention for the conference title, as well as the national championship.

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Pac-12- Even though the SEC remains the top conference, the Pac-12 is quickly closing the gap. With four teams being top contenders for the Pac-12 championship, the Pac-12 looks like it’s going to have an exciting year. Oregon, Stanford, UCLA, and USC are all fighting for the top spot, but right now it looks like Oregon will just barely win the conference. The Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota is the player to watch this year in the Pac-12 because if he stays healthy, it fares very well for Oregon.

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SEC- As always, the SEC is predicted to be the strongest conference this year. Even though the SEC didn’t take home the national title last year, there is a good chance that they reclaim the trophy. With Alabama, Auburn, and Georgia all coming into the season as favorites, the SEC has a lot of teams that could potentially by great this year.  Alabama is predicted to take the top spot over Auburn, taking revenge over the tigers for the last minute win in 2013. While ‘Bama lacks the Quarterback that they have had in past years, their running game and defense is as strong as always.  The top player in the SEC for the 2014 season is predicted to be Todd Gurley, the Georgia running back that was injured in the LSU game last year. After he got hurt, the Bulldog’s season began a downwards spiral. His previous two years Gurley carried the ball for 2,374 yards and 27 touchdowns, and he’s only gotten faster and stronger.  If Gurley stays healthy, Georgia will be a threat to every team in the country.

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AAC- Even though the conference has been fairly unstable for the last few years, American Athletic is stable once again. While no team in the American Athletic conference is looking at the national championship, some teams are looking at some large bowl games. The top of the conference is very evenly matched, with Cincinnati, East Carolina, and UCF all being top contenders. Even though Cincinnati is predicted to finish in the top spot of the conference, American Athletic is kind of a toss up. Cincinnati has a strong defense, and their offense is looking increasingly better, especially with the addition of Gunner Kiel, a Notre Dame transfer. Kiel should bring a spark to the Cincinnati offense, and help lead the team to a conference championship and even a bowl game.

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Conference USA- Even though Conference USA is not one of the strongest conferences, the C-USA teams may be able to prove themselves this year. Marshall is favored for every game in their schedule, and are predicted to go undefeated for the year.  If that happens, Marshall will definitely get a bid to a big bowl game, and they will get the chance to prove that their conference packs a punch. Marshall is the obvious favorite for C-USA, and is coming into the season with something to prove. The team will have 13 returning seniors, and the dynamic senior quarterback, Rakeem Cato, will lead the offense.  Cato is the star of C-USA, and the entire league will look to him to show the country what C-USA is made of.

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FBS Independent- As usual, Notre Dame will lead the Independent teams, but Notre Dame isn’t in for a stellar year. While star quarterback Everett Golson is returning after a 1-year ban, he doesn’t have much to work with. Wide Receivers are going to have to step up to help put the ball into the end zone, but most of the weight rests on Golson’s shoulders.  The defense will also have to step up big time in order to help the team. While there are some good players on D, there are some big holes that still need to be filled.

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MAC- Even though the new four game playoff increases the gap between the top conferences and the lower ones, teams from the lower conferences still have the opportunity to show up on the national stage through bowl games.  This year Bowling Green has the chance to get to a big bowl game. Bowling Green averaged 38 points per game last year, and with a new head coach and returning quarterback Matt Johnson, that number is only expected to increase. Toledo is the hardest game on Bowling Green’s schedule, and even that isn’t too tough of a game. Bowling Green is rallying behind Johnson to help lead the team to a bowl game this year.

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Mountain West- The Mountain West is no longer the conference it was in 2013, or the year’s prior. The losses of coaches and players really hurt the conference’s power.  Boise State lost their head coach but acquired the offensive coordinator from Arkansas State. Injuries hurt the Broncos last year, but if they remain healthy, they should win the conference. However, if Boise suffers injuries again, the Utah State Aggies will win. Aggies’ Chuck Keeton returns to the starting quarterback position after tearing his ACL last season. If Keeton can come back strong, the Aggies have a chance to take the conference from under Boise.

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Sun Belt- The Sun Belt conference is a fairly small conference with fairly unknown teams. However, UL Lafayette is proving to be quite strong, at least for their conference. They are predicted to go 8-0 within Sun Belt and 10-2 overall.  The Ragin’ Cajuns are led by quarterback Terrance Broadway and their wide selection of running backs. Broadway led the team to average 33.8 points per game in 2013, and he will be looking to increase that number to give the Cajuns even more leverage over their opponents.

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2014/2015 Bundesliga Preview

The 2014-2015 Bundesliga season will kick off on August 22 with Bayern Munich playing VfL Wolfsburg in the first German soccer that’s being played since Bayern Munich beat VfB Stuttgart on May 10 to win the Bundesliga. In anticipation for the season, we prepared an overview of every Bundesliga team, as well as a ranking of the top five players in the Bundesliga.

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Top Five Players

5:  Philipp Lahm- Defender, Bayern Munich

When you think of Bayern, you think of offense. But Bayern’s strikers get the ball because the team is so good defensively. Lahm has been the team’s captain for several years, and has led his defense to be one of the best in the world. Lahm is one of the main reasons Bayern is so great, and he will surely maintain this level of play this season.

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4: Franck Ribery- Midfielder, Bayern Munich

While some may say that Ribery is getting old and will soon be worthless, that is false if you look at his stats. On a Bayern team where there are so many goal scorers that it is difficult to to get your shot, Ribery posted 10 goals and 10 assists. He is still a crucial part of this team, and he will keep up his scoring this season.

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3: Roberto Firmino- Midfielder, Hoffenheim

Normally, when one thinks of the Bundesliga, they think of Bayern and Dortmund, nobody else. Firmino is underrated because of this, but he is absolutely one of the best assets of the league. Firmino put up 16 goals and 11 assists last year, and while his team didn’t support him much, if he keeps it up, the team could be dangerous in the near future.

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2: Robert Lewandowski- Striker, Bayern Munich

Lewandowski is a goal-scoring machine. The fact that he put up 20 goals last year was amazing, and if you count his six assists, he has proven that he can fit into any offense, which will be good for Bayern Munich. If Lewandowski plays like he has been playing with Dortmund for Bayern, they will easily win the Bundesliga for the third year in a row.

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1: Marco Reus- Midfielder, Borussia Dortmund

Reus is one of the best offensive weapons in the entire world, it’s that simple. He may not have put up the most goals, but having 16 goals and 13 assists led the Bundesliga in points. His ability to always generate offense and make magic happen is why he is the best player in the Bundesliga. If Dortmund wants to win the title, Reus needs to play even better next year.

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Team by Team Overview:

Augsburg: Augsburg was very happy with their eighth place finish last season, yet has undergone several improvements. After losing Andre Hahn, manager Markus Weinzierl added four new strikers, and is ready to slowly, but surely improve. Expect Augsburg to have a very similar, solid finish.

Bayern Munich: Bayern Munich will win their third title in a row. Period. This is one of the greatest football teams in recent history in all the world, and the loss of Mario Mandzukic means nothing to the team, who added an even better striker, Robert Lewandowski. The team has one of the best goaltenders in the world, one of the best defenses in the world, one of the best midfields in the world and some of the best strikers in the world. This team is indestructible. Bet on Bayern to possibly even win the Champions League.

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Bayer Leverkusen: Bayer added great new coach Roger Schmidt, who has made several very good signings, such as Hakan Calhanoglu, Wendell and Vladlen Yurchenko. The problem is that the team still lacks depth in nearly all other places. Expect a solid finish from Bayer, but also expect them to barely miss a Champions League berth.

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Borussia Dortmund: While Dortmund is a fantastic team, for the team being they will have to deal with being the Scottie Pippen to Bayern’s Michael Jordan. Dortmund has arguably the best player in the Bundesliga with Marco Reus, and other great players like Mario Gotze, Mats Hummels and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. The problem is that Bayern just has too much depth at every position for Dortmund to compete. Expect Dortmund to have a great finish, but come up just short in second place.

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Borussia Moenchengladbach: Borussia Moenchengladbach is a perennially well-rounded team, and they have added to that with the stellar signings of Fabian Johnson and Andre Hahn. Borussia Moenchengladbach will have an even better season this year, and will be fighting very hard to get that last Champions League berth. Keep your eye on Borussia Moenchengladbach this season.

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Eintracht Frankfurt: After a terrible end to the season last year, Frankfurt has a lot to prove. With new coach Thomas Schaaf at the helm, the team is surely going to gain experience with their new signings, and climb out of the bottom of the Bundesliga.

 

FC Koln: Koln won the 2.Bundesliga last season, and is ready to continue their success on the biggest stage in Germany, a place that they are hoping to stay. The teams has tons of new signings, and is preparing to be inching towards the middle of the Bundesliga in years to come.

 

Freiburg: Freiburg is definitely going to struggle this season, as they have been known for solid defense, and have just lost their two best defenders, Matthias Ginter and Oliver Baumann. While the team has added some new players, watch this season be a battle.

 

Hamburg: Hamburg is looking to have another stable season, as they have made some very sensible signings in Pierre-Michel Lasogga and Johan Djourou. Watch Hamburg do well, but do nothing special in the middle of the standings this season.

 

Hannover: Under the continually solid guidance of Tayfun Korkut, Hannover will again have a good season, finish right in the middle of the Bundesliga. The addition of Joselu will definitely help the team to keep up the moderate success.

 

Hertha Berlin: Hertha Berlin is definitely a dark horse to make the Champions League this season. They had a good eleventh place finish last season, and will definitely improve upon that greatly this season. They have made some fantastic signings in Roy Beerens, Valentin Stocker, Johnny Heitinga and Julian Schieber. This team is definitely going to have a good season.

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Hoffenheim: Hoffenheim finished ninth last season, and will finish even higher this season, as they retain star goal scorer Roberto Firmino. In addition, the team also signed Adam Szalai, who will put more balls in the net. Watch Hoffenheim closely, they will be very interesting to watch this season.

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Mainz: Thomas Tuchel was an extremely reliable and successful manager for Mainz, but since he has left, it will be interesting to see what happens to them this season. The team has made some small signings, but they lost Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting, which is a huge blow to the team. Expect a drop in the standings this season.

 

Paderborn: Paderborn barely earned a promotion into the Bundesliga last season, and is sure to struggle this season. While the team added ten new players, there is no way that these players can compete with the rest of the Bundesliga, and they will surely finish dead last.

 

Schalke: Schalke is known for being streaky, which is something that could keep them out of the Champions League this year. The team has made several great signings, such as Kevin-Prince Boateng, Sidney Sam and Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting. If Schalke plays like they are capable of playing, they could be looking at a third place finish, but you never really know with them.

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Stuttgart: Stuttgart is going to be relegated. There is really nothing that new manager Armin Veh can do for the team, they just don’t have the talent. Unfortunately for Stuttgart, there are no players in their price range that are good enough to compete with the rest of the Bundesliga. Don’t bet on Stuttgart this season.

 

Werder Bremen: Manager Robin Dutt barely saved them from being relegated last season, and had them finish in twelfth place. That was a miracle, and will not happen again. The already weak team lost Aaron Hunt, and has no bright spots. Don’t expect anything from Werder Bremen this season.

 

Wolfsburg: Wolfsburg suffered heartbreak last season after barely missing a Champions League berth with their fifth place finish. That will not be the case this season, as the star-studded team retained Ricardo Rodriguez and Luis Gustavo and added Kevin De Bruyne, Sebastian Jung and Aaron Hunt. Watch them close in on Dortmund near the end of the season for the second place, but come up just short and finish in third, yet still qualify for the Champions League.

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2014/2015 English Premier League Preview

The 2014-2015 English Premier League season will begin Saturday, August 16, marking the first time the teams set foot on the pitch since Manchester City won their second title in three years on May 11. To prepare for the season, here is an overview of every Premier League team, in addition to a ranking of the five best players in the Premier League.

Top Five Players:

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5: Robin Van Persie- Striker, Manchester United

Manchester United had a disappointing seventh place finish last year, yet will surely be climbing right back to the top this year, behind the veteran leadership of Van Persie among others. Van Persie posted a solid 12 goals last season, but coming off that slump, should be expected to produce many more this season, as well as many more assists to Wayne Rooney, who should definitely have a great year.

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4: Eden Hazard- Midfielder, Chelsea

Coming off of his stellar showing in the World Cup for Belgium, Hazard is ready to bring Chelsea right back to the very top of the Premier League. While Hazard put up a great 14 goals and 7 assists last season, he has really improved, and can be expected to produce even more of the Chelsea offense, and really ascend to the very top of the league.

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3: Sergio Aguero- Striker, Manchester City

The key to Manchester City’s success is that they have so many great players who can handle the ball and do the unthinkable, and Aguero is right at the top of this list. When he gets the ball, he makes magic happen, and he made this very clear last season with his 17 goals and 6 assists. Expect Aguero to really explode in this dangerous offense this season.

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2: Yaya Toure- Midfielder, Manchester City

Toure played a massive role in Manchester City’s dominant first place finish last season, leading the team in both goals with 20, and in assists with 9. Manchester City is likely to repeat their great success again this year, and a huge part of that success will be based on Toure’s performance. And it is not lacking, Toure plays amazing soccer and will surely have an incredible season.

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1: Wayne Rooney- Forward, Manchester United

No surprises here, Rooney is the face of British soccer, and rightly so, as he finished last season with a fantastic showing of 17 goals and 10 assists. While Manchester United had a disappointing finish last season, expect them to rely heavily on Rooney. Rooney has the talent and the skills, and he should put up and even better performance this season. Rooney has also just been named captain of Manchester United, and has a lot to live up to, but he can back it up with his play.

 

Team by Team Overview:

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Arsenal: Arsenal definitely had a solid finish last season, ending up in fourth place. The main reason for this sudden drop at the end of the season was a lack of depth, something that was solved by veteran manager Arsene Wenger. Wenger signed Alexis Sanchez, a talented forward, who will play well with Mesut Ozil and Olivier Giroud to round out a fantastic offense that will lead Arsenal to a top three finish this year.

 

Aston Villa: Aston Villa barely avoided relegation last season, ending up in fifteenth place. Aston Villa is always a decent squad, yet they have added nothing special this offseason. If they hope to avoid relegation this year, Gabriel Agbonlahor and Christian Benteke will really need to step up their offensive production. Expect another bottom finish from Aston Villa, and a possible relegation.

 

Burnley: This is Burnley’s first season back in the Premier League, after earning a promotion last year, and expectations should be low. The only upside to Burnley is that they signed some players who all have experience in the Premier League, something that they will be able to help the younger members of Burnley’s side with. Expect Burnley to get relegated this season.

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Chelsea: Chelsea will win the Premier League this year, it’s as simple as that. They were excellent in their third place finish last year, and just two more wins could have won them the title. They have always been a stacked team, but legendary manager, Jose Mourinho, made some fantastic signings in Cesc Fabregas, Didier Drogba and Diego Costa. Bet on Chelsea to win it all.

 

Crystal Palace: Crystal Palace should be having a better year this season, than they did last season. The team will be solid, and will be led once again by Dwight Gayle in the scoring department. Expect Crystal Palace to have a solid, middle-of-the-pack season, something that their fans will be looking forward to, as the team won’t have to worry about relegation.

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Everton: Everton will be coming back with a vengeance this season, as they barely missed a Champions League berth last season. Everton was already a star-studded squad, but the signing of Romelu Lukaku will be a huge benefit to their team. Tim Howard will still be their goalie, and coming off of his jaw-dropping World Cup performance, he should be ready to dominate, and lead Everton to a Champions League berth.

 

Hull City: While Hull City has only been back in the Premier League for one season, they have enough knowledge and experience to maintain a decent performance this season. The signing of Robert Snodgrass was huge, and should be enough to help them move up from sixteenth if he plays well.

Leicester City: Though newly promoted teams normally don’t do very well in their first season at the top, Leicester City’s amazingly dominant performance in the Championship last season should give them the confidence to play well. Additionally, the signing of Leonardo Ulloa should help them avoid relegation this season.

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Liverpool: There is no doubt that Liverpool will still be one of the best squads in the Premier League this season, but they will feel a noticeable drop in performance this season with the absence of Luis Suarez, who lead the Premier League with 31 goals and 12 assists. However, the team made some good new signings, and should be looking at at top five, or top seven finish.

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Manchester City: Manchester City will be defending its title this season, and will surely have a difficult task ahead of them. Chelsea is looking very good this season, but Manchester City has added Fernando, who will increase the defensive depth of this squad. If Manchester City hopes to repeat as champions, Yaya Toure and Sergio Aguero need to have even better seasons than last year.

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Manchester United: It is no secret that Manchester United had a terrible season by their expectations last season, but new manager Louis van Gaal should be able to lead them back to a Champions League berth if Robin Van Persie and Wayne Rooney can step it up this season.

 

Newcastle: Newcastle finished tenth last season, and should be proud of that, yet also be expecting a better performance this season. The additions of Remy Cabella and Siem de Jong are huge for them, and could help them incrementally increase their ranking this season.

 

Queens Park Rangers: QPR is yet another decent Premier League team. They are back after being promoted from the Championship, and should be ready for a lower-tier finish, yet should not be worried about relegation. Expect them to regain their confidence, gain more experience, and be ready in the future to compete even harder.

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Southampton: Southampton had a surprisingly strong eighth place finish last season, yet they should not expect much this season. They lost several key players and their manager, and essentially need to start from scratch. Expect a noticeable drop in the standings for Southampton.

 

Stoke City: After a stellar ninth place finish for Stoke last season, they have become a more enticing team for free agents, and they have signed several new players. Expect them to keep climbing in the top half of the Premier League with a solid finish.

 

Sunderland: By a miracle, Sunderland barely avoided relegation last season. They are a solid squad, and the signings of Jack Rodwell and Billy Jones will no doubt help them. Expect Sunderland to have a low-level finish, but not have to worry about relegation.

 

Swansea City: Wilfried Bony and Pablo played huge roles in the moderate success of Swansea last season. They need to play even better this season if they want to avoid relegation. Unfortunately, this will most likely be the result of this season for Swansea.

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Tottenham Hotspur: The Spurs will surely have another solid performance this season compared to the Premier League as a whole, but a disappointing one by their standards. They will not make the Champions League, but they will still have a solid season overall.

 

West Bromwich Albion: Although there have been a few new signings by West Brom, they will not be able to avoid relegation like they did last season. Their new manager is solid, yet inexperience, much like their players. Don’t bet on West Brom to have a good showing this season.

 

West Ham United: West Ham had a solid finish last season, and they didn’t have to worry about relegation. They shouldn’t have to worry about relegation this season either, because of their solid defense. The team does need goals, so the signing of Enner Valencia definitely made sense. Expect West Ham to have a solid mid-level finish again this season.