NCAA Basketball: Kansas at Kansas State

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👀 Good morning to everyone but especially ...


Normally, the last-place team in the Ivy League doesn't get the top billing in this newsletter.

But Monday was far from a normal day for Dartmouth. The Big Green got a big win off the court, with the National Labor Relations Board regional manager ruling the members of the team are school employees and can vote to form a union.

Dennis Dodd explains:

  • Dodd: "In essence, the decision changes the decades-old designation from 'student-athlete' to 'student-employee,' at least at Dartmouth. That NLRB official decided the players should be compensated because of the labor they provide to the private Hanover, New Hampshire-based school. As such, Dartmouth players could collectively bargain for salary, working conditions such as practice times and travel arrangements."

Dartmouth plans to appeal the decision, per reports. The vote to unionize, meanwhile, could come within a month and requires a simple majority to pass.

You may be thinking, "So what? It's Dartmouth." The Ivy League doesn't award athletic scholarships, and in general, its sports are not revenue-producing. That didn't matter, however, to Laura Sacks, the NLRB manager who ruled simply, "[Players] perform work in exchange for compensation."

This is the furthest a college athlete unionization attempt has gone -- Northwestern football had its 2014 unionization attempt rejected by the NLRB -- and it could lead to significant changes, Dennis notes.

  • Dodd: "The emergence of NIL collectives has created a sort of awkward compensation system as those organizations try to lure players to their favorite schools. The Dartmouth situation would eliminate collectives, if implemented nationally, as the schools would be the employer. Dartmouth players testified during the NLRB hearing they spent more than 40 hours per week on their sport. The NCAA allows only 20. ... A memo from the NLRB general counsel in September 2021 stated that players could be compensated by their schools and be classified as employees."

😊 Honorable mentions

😕 Not so honorable mentions

  • The 49ers are not happy with their Super Bowl practice field.
  • Jarred Vanderbilt (right foot strain) will miss three-to-four weeks.
  • Eric Bieniemy is officially off the Commanders' staff after they hired Kliff Kingsbury.
  • The SEC and Big Ten reportedly have issues with the College Football Playoff.

🏀 Sunflower Showdown shocker: Kansas State beats No. 4 Kansas

NCAA Basketball: Kansas at Kansas State

Three days ago, Kansas cruised past then-No. 4 Houston and Kansas State dropped its fourth straight game. Monday, the Wildcats topped the No. 4 Jayhawks, 75-70, in overtime. Ah, the joys of college basketball!

  • Tylor Perry had a season-high 26 points, including an absolutely ridiculous shot clock-beating layup that gave the Wildcats the lead for good in overtime. Cam Carter added 19 points and 11 rebounds.
  • The Jayhawks shot just 41.2% from the field and 20% on 3-pointers.
  • Kansas State is a perfect 6-0 in overtime games this season after going 5-0 in overtime games last year. Those 11 overtime wins total are four more than any other team in Division I.

Kansas ran into the same issues that have plagued its up-and-down season -- little bench support (two points) and poor outside shooting key among them -- but give massive credit to the Wildcats for a gritty defensive effort and just enough offense to pull off the upset.

🏈 Ranking every Super Bowl starter, highlights from Opening Night

Getty Images

Here they are again: the Chiefs in the Super Bowl. And here he is again: Patrick Mahomes at No. 1 in Pete Prisco's Super Bowl starter rankings.

  • Prisco: "The guy at the top is clearly the difference in any game. That means his value is far greater than just one spot. ... This guy is special. Even when he was counted out earlier this year, he finds a way to get it done. He's on his way to being the best ever."

Mahomes was No. 1 last year ... and in 2021 ... and in 2020. In six years as a starter, he's reached four Super Bowls, and Pete is absolutely right. He is on the way to being the best ever. Assessing his path there, though, is a tough task, Tyler Sullivan notes.

Here's what's not tough: For all the great plays he makes, his ability to avoid the bad ones flies under the radar. He has gone six straight playoff starts without an interception, the longest streak ever.

Here's Pete's top five:

  1. Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes
  2. 49ers RB Christian McCaffrey
  3. 49ers LT Trent Williams
  4. Chiefs TE Travis Kelce
  5. Chiefs DE Chris Jones

The 49ers have seven of the top 11 players, but Brock Purdy isn't among them. He comes in 13th overall. When Purdy's at his best, this is a near-unstoppable offense. When he's not, he forces throws, commits turnovers and digs his team into holes -- something he's done in both playoff games so far. He has also dug them out of those holes, too. We'll see what he does against an excellent defense Sunday.

Both teams were at Super Bowl Opening Night on Monday. Here were some highlights:

🏀 NBA teams under most pressure as trade deadline looms

NBA: Los Angeles Lakers at Minnesota Timberwolves

We're two days away from the NBA trade deadline. The time to make moves is running down, and the rumors mill is ratcheting up.

The pressure is also rising, and Sam Quinn has the five teams under the most pressure. No. 1 is no surprise.

  • Quinn: "1. Lakers -- This team needs wholesale fixes (which probably includes a coaching change) to meaningfully contend. Saying all of that on paper is one thing. Actually forcing a 39-year-old LeBron James to play out the remainder of what looks like a lost season is another. He hasn't exactly been subtle here. He's tweeting hourglasses in classic passive-aggressive James fashion. ... That's the minefield the Lakers are navigating right now. How do you keep James happy without giving him too much influence over roster decisions?"

But it's Sam's No. 2 team that really intrigues me because they're actually, you know, good.

  • Quinn: "2. Timberwolves -- They'll never have a better chance than this. ... They're already over next season's projected first apron before accounting for the impending free agencies of Mike Conley and Kyle Anderson. Oh, and they have new owners coming whose appetite for spending is not yet clear. In small-market Minneapolis, every penny counts. ... Anthony Edwards is 22. Jaden McDaniels is 23. Karl-Anthony Towns is 28, but his shooting suggests he'll age fairly well. The Timberwolves should have a reasonably competitive core for a long time. So how are they going to balance the needs of that core with the possibility of a Finals run this season?"

⚾ Bobby Witt Jr. signs record-setting extension with Royals 


In 2023, Bobby Witt Jr. emerged as the new, exciting face of the Royals. On Monday, he got paid like it: an 11-year, $288.7 million extension.

The previous largest contract in franchise history was $82 million to Salvador Perez. So yeah, it's a big deal, literally and figuratively.

  • Witt, 23, finished seventh in AL MVP voting after slashing .276/.319/.496 with 30 home runs, an MLB-best 11 triples and 49 stolen bases.
  • Also a terrific defender, Witt posted 4.4 WAR, fourth-best by any Royals player in either of his first two seasons.
  • It's the second-largest contract ever given to a player at least four years away from free agency behind Fernando Tatis Jr.'s 14-year, $340 million deal with the Padres from 2021.

The Royals went 56-106 last season, so there's a long way to go, but having Witt there to see it through is a reassuring step.

📺 What we're watching Tuesday

🏀 Ole Miss at No. 15 South Carolina (M), 6:30 p.m. on SEC Network
🏀 Clemson at No. 3 North Carolina (M), 7 p.m. on ESPN
🏀 Mavericks at Nets, 7:30 p.m. on TNT
🏀 No. 18 Dayton at Saint Joseph's (M), 8 p.m. on CBS Sports Network
🏀 Butler at No. 1 UConn (M), 8:30 p.m. on FS1
🏀 No. 15 Texas Tech at No. 18 Baylor (M), 9 p.m. on ESPN
🏀 Bucks at Suns, 10 p.m. on TNT