Breaking Down the 2009 Preseason Mags… Athlon Sports.

Posted by nvr1983 on September 30th, 2009

The preseason magazines hit bookshelves across the country a few weeks ago. Each year some get progressively better, others get progressively worse and some continue to be excellent (I’m talking to you Blue Ribbon). First up is Athlon Sports, which didn’t score all that well two years ago, but I promise the magazine has taken a few strides forward.

Canadian Cover

I. Covers (5 pts) - are they cool? inclusive?

The 32 covers this year are down from 34 last year, but they include a cover for Canada (as seen above) so at least they are thinking of the Canucks up north.

Coolest Cover: Duke/North Carolina. Yes, this rivalry gets enough attention as is, but it is one of few covers that is posed. Ed Davis and Kyle Singler look like they are about to kill each plus Singler looks like he is using the men’s room.

Say what? The Memphis/Arkansas cover doesn’t feature the FedEx Forum imploding. I guess without the recruits coming in next year, the Tigers aren’t that bad off.

Total points = 4

II. Ease of Use (5 pts) – how hard is it to find confs/teams?

Table of contents in the beginning is very easy to use. Plus, you can pretty much just open up the magazine and figure out where you need to go quickly as the magazine is done alphabetically first by conference then by team.

Total points = 4.5

III. Roundup (10 pts) – every mag has one – tell us something new!

10 Things to Watch is a little better than last year’s version. This one is a little more original and contained a few nuggets that surprised me: #8 about LaceDarius Dunn and his incredible lack of assists stands out.

Hoops Madness is the same old. Nothing really jumps out at me this year. The Hoops Superlatives  is full of debate — Scottie Reynolds is listed as the top scorer!?!

Total points = 4.5

IV. Features (15 pts) – give us some insightful and unique storylines.

There are three main features this year–one is above-average, the next is average, and the final one is a little below average. There’s an outstanding feature on whether mid-major coaches should make the jump to a larger conference. There’s also the standard “look at what John Calipari is doing” feature and finally one that seems like it is a year late. Athlon takes a look at the trend of players going overseas.

Athlon also has The Scoop which is a collection of interviews with some of the game’s top players. Nothing too noteworthy except Washington‘s Isaiah Thomas plans to stick around Seattle for awhile.

Overall, the section is better than last year, but there is still lots of room for improvement.

Total points = 8

V. Predictions (20 pts) – how safe are their picks? do they take any chances? are they biased toward the big boys?

Athlon projects the full field of 65 as well as a preseason top 25. A rematch of one of last year’s Elite Eight games is their projected national title game (doesn’t take long to figure out which two teams they are picking in the finals).

Big Conference Bias: Only one mid-major makes their Sweet 16, but then again, they make their bracket based on their rankings with the higher seed always advancing. Butler is the only mid-major Athlon has in its top 16.

Mid-Major Watch: Athlon seems pretty high on the three teams they’ve got in the top 25: BYU, Butler, and Dayton. Major diss on Siena though. The Saints are projected as a seven seed, but get barely a blurb in the magazine. That’s a big-time negative.

All-Americans: Putting Devan Downey, Patrick Patterson, and Kyle Singler on the first team is debatable. Downey is great, but first team? Patterson may not put the numbers up needed to be a first-teamer and Kyle Singler should have an outstanding year, but put him ahead of Sherron Collins, Evan Turner, or Willie Warren? Athlon also doesn’t include any freshmen on its top three teams which is unrealistic.

Boldest Prediction: The Pac-10 receiving only three bids to the dance. Athlon has California, Washington, and UCLA going dancing. It’s going to be a really down year for Pac-10 ball, but it’s tough fathom only three teams getting in. Someone else (Arizona? Oregon State?) has to step up.

What they got right: It’s hard to argue with most of Athlon’s conference standings predictions. The SEC, Big East, and ACC stand out the most as being the most realistic.

Total points = 14

VI. Conference Pages (5 pts) – as a primer for the conference, how much can we learn here?

I’m using the review of the 2008 preview as a guide for this critic and I can use the same exact two sentences from 2008:

  • The major conferences get a predicted order of finish, a brief recruiting roundup, and three teams of all-conference selections plus a “superlatives” section, which is fairly weak compared to others we’ve seen (POY, DPOY, most underrated, newcomer).
  • The mid-major and small conferences only get a predicted order of finish, one team of all-conference selections and an all-time NCAA Tourney stat for the conference (which is interesting).

That’s a failure on Athlon’s part to come up with anything new.

Total points = 2

VII. Team Pages (20 pts) – how in-depth is the analysis? where does it come from? is it timely and insightful given this year’s squad or is it just a rundown of last year’s achievements?

The team pages haven’t changed over the past few years, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing in this case. Athlon goes pretty in-depth with each major conference team and select mid-majors. The rest of the country gets a nice paragraph per team which is ok with me considering I don’t need to know every last detail about Sacramento State.

This is worth repeating from 2008: “The depth of analysis is solid if not spectacular for the major conference teams, but largely lacking for the others.”

Total points = 15

VIII. Recruiting (5 pts) – we want to know who the top players are coming into college bball, where they’re going and who to watch for next year.

Scout.com provides all the recruiting information for Athlon. There’s six pages dedicated to recruiting, but all six pages are dedicated to lists containing all the top recruits and where they are going as well as a top classes list. You can  probably find all this information right on Scout.com’s website.

Total points = 2

IX. Title IX Guilt (aka Chick Ball) (5 pts) – the less the better…

I personally would like to see a little more about the women’s game. It’d be nice if Athlon at least added a projected field of 64 onto the few pages dedicated to the top 25.

Total points = 4.5

X. Intangibles (15 pts) – what’s good and bad about the magazine as a whole?

Athlon keeps improving in the areas that matter most to readers: team analyses and predictions. Many preview magazines don’t give readers a sense of what a team is all about whereas Athlon’s team previews give a very accurate impression of the team.

The mainstream media has been quick to overlook a lot of sleepers for this upcoming season, but Athlon nails many of them. The magazine has teams like Cincinnati, Seton Hall, and Vanderbilt making the jump to being real players in their conference and the country.

The predictions this year aren’t quite as by the book as they were in past so it looks like Athlon is taking some risks in an attempt to improve its reputation among the preview magazines.

Total points = 11

RTC Grade for Athlon = 69.5 pts

Basis: Athlon is moving up the ranks among the preview magazines. It has a great professional look to it and the analysis is becoming quite reliable. It’s best use is still to just familiarize yourself with all the names for the upcoming season, but it is definitely worth buying while you wait for Blue Ribbon. Overall, it’s an easy, informative read that won’t leave you cursing at thoughtless projections.

Grading Scale:

  • 90-100 pts - exceptional quality in all areas – must buy and keep on-hand all season!
  • 80-89 pts - very good quality mag – worthy of purchasing and reading cover-to-cover
  • 70-79 pts - average, run of the mill magazine – some value in certain areas but weak in others – tough call as to whether to purchase it
  • 60-69 pts - magazine on the weaker side, but may still have some positive attributes – probably not worth the money, though
  • 0-59 pts - such a low quality magazine that it’s not worth any more than the five minutes you thumbed through it at the store
nvr1983 (1264 Posts)


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