This is the first of our evaluations for the preseason guides. We'll spend the money on all of them so that you can spend your money on just the best. First up: Athlon Sports.
Full page ads: 16 (8.3% of the guide)
Cover: Regional. I purchased the California version which features Stanford's Chasson Randle and Cal's Allen Crabbe. Most of the other covers feature three players.
1. 10 Things to Watch: The first two of the ten things clearly outline the target audience for Athlon. No. 1 is "Kentucky's quest to repeat with a mostly new roster" which is a brief look at how young they're going to be again, and I agree that this will be an interesting storyline. But No. 2 is "The suddenly interesting A-10." The interest in the Atlantic 10 is number of things, but sudden is not one of them – unless you view the A-10 as cute and cuddly mid-majors who have just added Butler and VCU, two cute and cuddlies that have crashed the dance. Which, as we'll see in a bit, is exactly how Athlon views conferences outside the big six.
2. Hoops Madness: This is a series of lists. Impact freshman, new coaches, players back from injury, etc… which is a very handy resource. My favorite of them is the International Dream Team, and not just because it features my man Matthew Dellavedova.
3. The Class of 2007: Another interesting feature which looks at Scout's top-15 prospects and gives blurbs on what they're now doing. It would have been better if they would have gone deeper into the rankings and cherry-picked some of the more interesting stories. Most of the top-15 are in the NBA.
4. UCLA's Makeover: Everyone is fascinated by the possibility that UCLA's current run of sucking might come to an end due to a Calipari-esque recruiting class, and Athlon is no different.
5. Back to School: Everyone is fascinated by Larry Brown's decision to take over the head coaching position at SMU, and Athlon is no different.
6. Exclusive Q&A's: Doug McDermott, Cody Zeller, and Phil Pressey.
7. Preseason Top-25: Fairly standard choices here with 1. Indiana, 2. Louisville, 3. Kentucky, and 4. Kansas. One strange thing about the list is that they don't put spaces in school's names, so Michigan State (No. 10) is MICHIGANSTATE, and No. 11 North Carolina State is NCSTATE.
8. Bracket Breakdown: A 2-page mock-bracket in which is filled in all the way through the National Title game (Hoosiers!). For some reason they went straight chalk with their projections, assumedly so that they don't confuse people with their previous team rankings.
9. 2012-13 Preseason All-American Team: I'm not sure why they chose a font from Space Invaders, but the players are Mike Moser, Doug McDermott, Shabazz Muhammad, Pierre Jackson and Cody Zeller. There are also 2nd, 3rd and honorable mentions, and absolutely no blurbs about any of it.
10. Recruiting Report: 2012 – 2015 rankings (via Scout). All lists – no information. If that's the case, then just link the website.
11. Women's Hoops: Two pages of coverage for the women's game. Why bother with two pages of meaningless coverage? Either do it, or don't.
12. The Back Page: A list of the top coaches. Tom Izzo, by the way, is their man.
Previews: One page previews of which pictures and worthless call-out boxes occupy about a third of the page. Every major conference team gets previewed, along with the mid-majors they earlier predicted to make the Tournament. The rest of the teams get short blurbs where an entire conference can be covered in one page. So it's fine (but thin) for the high majors. For the rest, it's completely unacceptable.
The verdict: NO. Don't bother. Unless you're the family of one of the cover players and you'd like something to frame. Is that harsh? Actually, considering the price point ($6.99) it pretty much equals expectations.