Baltimore Orioles v Boston Red Sox
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Good morning to everyone but especially to...


It's here! Opening Day has arrived, and soon the sounds of bats cracking and gloves popping (... and a pitch timer ticking, and players sliding into bigger bases) will fill the air.

Our MLB experts have made their official predictions for season standings, league pennants and, ultimately, World Series champions. Here's a breakdown of who they like to win it all:

Here's why our Dayn Perry went with San Diego.

  • Perry: "I still default to the Astros being the best team in the AL in absence of additional major injuries. The Padres have the most loaded lineup in baseball once Fernando Tatis returns, and my title expectations for them assume they'll be aggressive in fortifying the rotation leading up to the trade deadline."

If the Padres are going to win their first ever championship, Juan Soto is going to have to brush off a down 2022, and our Matt Snyder talked to Soto and wrote about why he should be regarded as the NL MVP favorite.

But before we get too far ahead of ourselves, let's appreciate Opening Day. Whether your team is hoping to contend for a title or get the No. 1 pick in the 2023 draft(or something in between), hope springs eternal today, and there are plenty of great pitching matchups to get the season underway. Our Mike Axisa ranked them all, and atop the list is...

  • Axisa: "1. Max Scherzer, Mets vs. Sandy Alcantara, Marlins -- Arguably the best right-handed pitcher of this generation and arguably the best right-handed pitcher in the sport right now. Scherzer owns three Cy Youngs and three other top-three finishes in the voting, and he will head into the Hall of Fame on the first ballot. Alcantara is the reigning NL Cy Young winner... These two are throwback workhorses who go out expecting to finish what they start."

Here are some more news and notes before things really get going:

Honorable mentions

Not so honorable mentions

Kings clinch first playoff berth since 2006 🏀 


Light the beam and party like it's 2006, Sacramento: The Kings are headed to the playoffs!

  • The Kings clinched a spot with their 120-80 win over the Trail Blazers.
  • Five players scored in double figures, including Keegan Murray, who broke the rookie season 3-point record in the process.
  • The 16-season playoff drought was the longest in NBA history.

To give you an idea of how long it's been: there are only four NBA players who have played this season who also played in 2005-06 -- LeBron James, Andre Iguodala, Chris Paul and Udonis Haslem.

Not only are the Kings going to the postseason, but they made it with ease and are currently the 3 seed in the Western Conference. Here's the list of teams who have clinched a playoff berth so far:

  • West: Nuggets, Grizzlies, Kings
  • East: Bucks, Celtics, 76ers, Cavaliers

Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jrue Holiday put up historic numbers 🏀


Welcome to the 50-point club, Jrue Holiday, and welcome to history, Bucks! Holiday and Giannis Antetokounmpo put up some absurd numbers in a 149-136 win over the Pacers.

  • Holiday: career-high 51 points, eight points, eight assists
  • Antetokounmpo: 38 points, 17 rebounds, 12 assists

What more can I say? Well, a lot actually. Our Jack Maloney put the duo's performance in historic perspective. Here are some of my favorite notes:

  • They're the third duo to post at least 85 points, 25 rebounds and 20 assists in a game. The others are Wilt Chamberlain and Guy Rogers in 1962 (in Chamberlain's 100-point game) and Elgin Baylor and Chamberlain in 1969.
  • Milwaukee is the first team in NBA history to have both a 50-point scorer and a 35-point triple-double in the same game.
  • Holiday became the fourth-oldest player in NBA history at the time of his first 50-point game.

So, yeah. Those guys are pretty good.

Final Four preview: Ranking starters, evaluating rosters 🏀

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament West Regional-UCONN vs Gonzaga

The paths they took to get here differed, but Miami, UConn, San Diego State and Florida Atlantic all have one thing in common: They're the last four teams still competing for a national championship.

But how did these four get here, exactly? Our David Cobb took a trip down memory lane to see where the players ranked as recruits, and the average recruiting rank of the contributors is eye-opening:

  • Miami: 120.8
  • UConn: 152.5
  • San Diego State: 232.5
  • FAU: 261

What I love most about this group is that these teams have found contributors from all over: Miami's standout center Norchad Omier, for example, wasn't even ranked at all in the 2020 recruiting class, spent two years at Arkansas State and is now arguably the most important player on a team two wins away from the title. Meanwhile, six of FAU's top nine contributors weren't ranked at all in their classes, either.

Omier comes in sixth in Kyle Boone's rankings of all of the Final Four starters. The player he'll face Saturday is first:

  • Boone: "1. Adama Sanogo, UConn -- The best player on the best remaining team gets the nod for the No. 1 spot with a bullet. Sanogo is averaging 20.0 points per game in UConn's run -- most among all players remaining in the field -- and adding 9.8 rebounds per game to boot while playing just 25.5 minutes per night."

Here's Kyle's entire 1-20.

Panthers down to two QBs for No. 1 pick; biggest draft needs for every team 🏈

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And then there were two.

The Panthers are reportedly deciding between Bryce Young and C.J. Stroud as their selection with the first overall pick.

  • Young, the 2021 Heisman Trophy winner, stands just 5'10", but Panthers coach Frank Reich said that height does not factor prominently in Carolina's evaluation.
  • Stroud, meanwhile, shined at the NFL Combine and at his Pro Day and is regarded as one of the most (if not the most) polished quarterback prospects in this class.
  • Reich had spoken highly of Anthony Richardson, but both he and Will Levis are apparently out of the running.
  • Our mock drafters are split between Young and Stroud at first overall as well.

The Panthers' top priority is quarterback -- that's why they made the blockbuster trade with the Bears, after all -- but what about elsewhere around the league? Our Josh Edwards took a look at most pressing draft needs in both the AFC and the NFC.

I'm particularly interested in the Eagles, who lost many key parts of their NFC championship team of last year but have two first-round picks. Here's Josh's take:

  • Edwards: "Safety -- Philadelphia allowed Chauncey Gardner-Johnson to walk in free agency. The team also lost veteran Marcus Epps. Those two deficits are compounded by the loss of defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon. ... Philadelphia, at the very least, could stand to add some competition to that part of its roster."

What we're watching Thursday 📺

 White Sox at Astros, 7 p.m. on ESPN
🏀 Celtics at Bucks, 7:30 p.m. on TNT
🏀 Pelicans at Nuggets, 10 p.m. on TNT