Good morning, I’m Dan Gartland. Don’t hold your breath for a Pro Bowl recap in Monday’s newsletter.
In today’s SI:AM:
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March is around the corner
If you’re in the Northeast, where some of the coldest weather in decades is forecasted for today and tomorrow, I know just how you should spend your weekend hunkered down indoors: There is an absolutely loaded slate of college basketball games. Hell, the games are so good that they’ll be worth staying inside for even if you’re somewhere sunny and warm.
There are six games on the men’s schedule tomorrow that feature two teams ranked in the top 25. You also have No. 6 Virginia (having another great season after missing the NCAA tournament last year) traveling to Blacksburg to face hated rival Virginia Tech and a rare unranked but still enticing Duke–North Carolina matchup at Cameron Indoor. Here are a few of the biggest games. Then, make sure you’re locked in Sunday as undefeated and top-ranked South Carolina travels to UConn for one of the biggest games of the season in women’s hoops.
No. 8 Kansas at No. 13 Iowa State (Saturday, noon ET on ESPN)
The Big 12 gantlet doesn’t get any easier for the Jayhawks after beating No. 7 Kansas State in Lawrence on Tuesday. Kansas won the first meeting between these two teams, 62–60, on Jan. 14 at Allen Fieldhouse when Caleb Grill’s three-point attempt at the buzzer went begging. The Cyclones are undefeated at home this season (11–0) but have lost their last two games, on the road against Missouri and Texas Tech, and Monday’s loss to the Red Raiders was as bad as any team has had this season. Iowa State blew a 23-point second-half lead and lost in overtime. It was tied for the biggest comeback in Division I this season and the biggest comeback in Texas Tech history. A win at home over a top-10 team would be a nice way to reassure that things are on the right track.
No. 10 Texas at No. 7 Kansas State (Saturday, 4 p.m. ET on ESPN2)
Remember when I said the Big 12 is a gantlet? Six of the conference’s 10 teams are ranked in the top 15 right now. Texas is currently in first place in the conference standings at 7–2, but Kansas State, Kansas, TCU and Iowa State are right there at 6–3. It’ll be a grind for whoever earns the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament. As for this game, the first meeting between these two was a 116–103 shootout on Jan. 3 that was won by the Wildcats, so this could be another barn burner.
No. 1 Purdue at No. 21 Indiana (Saturday, 4 p.m. ET on ESPN)
If you hadn’t watched a Purdue game all year and I asked you to tell me why they’re the top-ranked team in the country, you could probably guess with some confidence, “Do they have a really big guy who other teams can’t guard?” And you’d be right. Purdue seems to churn out big men like clockwork (A.J. Hammons, Isaac Haas, Matt Haarms, Caleb Swanigan, etc.). This year it’s Zach Edey, who at 7'4" has taken on a bigger role this season following the departures of Trevion Willians and Jaden Ivey. Edey leads the team with 22 points and 13 rebounds per game. If you’re a fan of the sort of low-post play that Edey excels at, enjoy games like this one against Indiana. Because as Jeremy Woo wrote in December, there isn’t really a place for guys like Edey in the modern NBA. And, on the other side, Indiana has a star big man, too, in senior Trayce Jackson-Davis. He’s averaging nearly 20 points and more than 11 boards per game.
No. 12 Gonzaga at No. 18 Saint Mary’s (Saturday, 10:30 p.m. ET on ESPN)
Every few years, Gonzaga’s main conference rival makes some noise—and that could be the case this year for Saint Mary’s. The Gaels are 20–4, with those four losses coming by a combined 15 points. They’re an experienced team (three of their top four scorers are upperclassmen) but are led by a star freshman. Aidan Mahaney, a four-star recruit who went to high school two miles from the Saint Mary’s campus, leads the team with 14.8 points per game. The Gaels have lost only one game since he entered the starting lineup in December. Gonzaga is the class of the WCC, but Saint Mary’s always seems liable to give the Zags trouble.
No. 1 South Carolina at No. 5 UConn (Sunday, 12 p.m. ET on Fox)
South Carolina has been the dominant team in women’s college hoops this season, sitting at 22–0. The defending national champs will face a major test, though, as they travel to Hartford to take on a UConn team looking to avenge its loss to the Gamecocks in last season’s national championship game. On paper, Dawn Staley’s squad has the clear depth advantage against the Huskies, who have become extremely reliant on a short rotation due to injuries to key players.
The best of Sports Illustrated
- In today’s Daily Cover story, Michael Farber profiles one of the NHL’s brightest stars: Avs defenseman Cale Makar.
“The NHL has waited almost half a century for another Bobby Orr. Makar found him. In the mirror.”
- Here are the NBA trades that our writers want to see made at the deadline.
- Chris Mannix and Howard Beck gave their thoughts on the NBA All-Star rosters but aren’t too bent out of shape about any snubs.
- Jimmy Traina answered a few reader questions about Fox’s Tom Brady–Greg Olsen dilemma.
- Mitch Goldich spoke to NFL players and fans about whether they’d be in favor of neutral-site conference championship games.
- Courtney Vandersloot is signing with the Liberty, as speculated earlier.
- Robert Kraft wants Tom Brady to sign a one-day contract to retire as a Patriot.
- And with Brady’s retirement, Frankie Taddeo writes that sports bettors now have to say goodbye to one of the most profitable athletes to wager on.
A WWE investor has filed a lawsuit seeking to have Vince McMahon removed from the company’s board.
The top five...
… things I saw last night:
5. The final minute of the Knicks-Heat game.
4. Giannis Antetokounmpo’s 54-point, 18-rebound game.
3. Derek Carr’s self-deprecating joke during the Pro Bowl passing accuracy event.
2. This crafty steal by Nikola Jokić.
1. Kevin Harlan’s call of Dillon Brooks hitting Donovan Mitchell in the groin.
With the NHL All-Star Game set to take place tomorrow, let’s look back at one of my favorite NHL ASG stories of the past decade: Which lovable enforcer was unexpectedly named to the All-Star team in 2016, thanks to an online voting campaign?
- George Parros
- John Scott
- Colton Orr
- Tanner Glass
Yesterday’s SIQ: When the National League was founded on Feb. 2, 1876, which of the following cities did not have a team in the eight-club league?
- St. Louis
Answer: Pittsburgh. The team now known as the Pirates didn’t begin play until 1882 as the Pittsburgh Alleghenys. They joined the NL in ’87 and changed their name to the Pirates in ’91.
On Feb. 2, 1876, a group of club owners met at the Grand Central Hotel in New York to form a new league after the collapse of the preceding National Association. The owners of the Chicago, Cincinnati, Louisville and St. Louis teams had already met two months earlier to discuss forming a new league, and the meeting in New York was designed to get the four East Coast teams on board (Boston, Hartford, New York and Philadelphia).
The meeting was significant not just in baseball history but also in introducing a new model for professional sports in the United States. Under the National Association, players simply split ticket revenue. But Chicago owner William A. Hulbert proposed something radical: Owners would take control of business operations and players would be paid a salary. All tickets would cost 50 cents, and the visiting team would get 15 cents from every ticket sold.
“Hulbert was a genius in the model he created with the National League,” MLB’s official historian John Thorn told the Associated Press in 2017. “It is this model that gave birth to every professional sports league that followed, from football to basketball to European football. Professional sports teams owe everything to Hulbert.”
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