Hey everyone! It's Zach Pereles back after some Thanksgiving vacation. It was great to relax and see family, but I'm excited to be back, and I promise to give you a better start to your day than the one Brian Kelly gave Notre Dame football players yesterday.
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More on that in a bit... let's get right to it.
Good morning to everyone but especially to...
THE PHOENIX SUNS
Let's start in Phoenix, where the Suns extended their winning streak to a franchise-record-tying 17 thanks to a 104-96 win over the Warriors.
Deandre Ayton dominated the Warriors' undersized front line, racking up 24 points and 11 rebounds, and Chris Paul posted 15 points and 11 assists. Even after Devin Booker exited early with a hamstring injury, Phoenix showed plenty of balance and depth, especially on the defensive end.
Stephen Curry -- hounded by Suns lockdown defender Mikal Bridges all night -- scored just 12 points on 4-for-21 shooting. And speaking of streaks, the Warriors' streak of 43 straight games scoring at least 100 points came to an end.
This one was as impressive as it gets, writes our NBA expert Brad Botkin:
- Botkin: "Bridges didn't fall for any of Curry's lull-you-to-sleep movement. He thwarted the post-entry split action that the Warriors use to get Curry multiple clean 3-point attempts just about every game. He didn't lose him in transition. If he did get cross-matched, someone else filled in. He was prepared. Actively and relentlessly connected. He was awesome."
... AND THE OHIO STATE BUCKEYES
Over in Columbus, Ohio State rallied from as much as 15 points down to shock No. 1 Duke, 71-66. E.J. Liddell came up clutch down the stretch, and Zed Key scored a career-high 20 points for the Buckeyes. Duke freshman star Paolo Banchero scored 14 points on 4-for-14 shooting.
But maybe we should have seen this coming? It was the first true road game of the season for the young Blue Devils and Ohio State has now won a remarkable eight of its last 11 games against AP No. 1 teams. For me, though, Tuesday night showed just how good the experienced Buckeyes can be. This is one I'll remember when filling out my bracket in March.
- Welcome to Detroit, Javier Báez! The star shortstop reportedly signed a six-year, $140-million deal with the Tigers on Tuesday. "When he's on, he'll play like an MVP in the batter's box, on the bases and on defense," writes our MLB expert Matt Snyder.
- QB Malachi Nelson, the No. 2 recruit in the class of 2023, followed new USC coach Lincoln Riley to USC, flipping his commitment from the Sooners to the Trojans.
And not such a good morning for...
THE NOTRE DAME FIGHTING IRISH
Yes, the Fighting Irish were featured in this section yesterday. No, it's not a typo that they're here today and, no, their name does not appear in the graphic above.
After a wild weekend of college football, we knew a big shuffle was coming to the latest College Football Playoff rankings. Tuesday night's reveal certainly did not disappoint. Here's the newest top six:
1. Georgia (11-0) (last week: 1)
2. Michigan (11-1) (last week: 5)
3. Alabama (11-1) (last week: 3)
4. Cincinnati (12-0) (last week: 4)
5. Oklahoma State (11-1) (last week: 7)
6. Notre Dame (11-1) (last week: 6)
Notre Dame, which has won its last seven straight games (and its last six by double digits), just lost head coach Brian Kelly to LSU. They are the biggest loser -- and it's not the players' fault, writes our college football writer Barrett Sallee:
- Sallee: "Notre Dame doesn't get to present a closing argument since it won't play this weekend, while its two biggest threats do. Plus, committee chair Gary Barta went deeper into how Kelly's absence could play a role in the Irish being on the outside looking in. ... 'Once the championship games wrap up ... the protocol does include the ability for the committee to consider a player or coach not being available.'"
Not so honorable mention:
- The Lakers reportedly will be without LeBron James for "several games" due to the NBA's health and safety protocols. James, who is vaccinated against COVID-19, will be out 10 days or until he returns multiple negative tests within a 24-hour span. James had already missed 11 games this season entering Tuesday due to ankle and abdominal injuries.
- Giants QB Daniel Jones reportedly suffered a neck strain and is week-to-week. The Giants, who are still on the fringes of the NFC playoff picture, will likely turn to Mike Glennon this weekend against the Dolphins.
Brian Kelly's move to LSU shows he quit on Notre Dame 🏈
Oh, more piling on Notre Dame? Sorry, Irish fans. Maybe this will feel more like a much-needed venting session.
In case the packed Thanksgiving weekend sports schedule left you in a daze, and you somehow missed it: Kelly took the LSU job Monday night, hastily scheduled a 7 a.m. meeting for his Notre Dame team Tuesday morning and then departed said meeting after just a few minutes.
In other words, he quit on Notre Dame, writes our college football reporter Dennis Dodd:
- Dodd: "Six days before his team could get into the CFP for the third time in four years, Kelly not only accepted the LSU job, he left right away. That is unprecedented. In the history of the sport, few if any coaches have ever left with a championship on the line.
Among the messages Kelly sent: I don't think the Fighting Irish are going to get to the playoff, but even if they do, I don't care because they aren't going to win anyway."
I 100 percent agree here. Notre Dame isn't in prime position for a playoff bid, but it is really not far-fetched to imagine the Fighting Irish logo in the top four next week. And now what? Kelly will be out on the road recruiting at LSU instead of coaching for a title at Notre Dame? The Fighting Irish haven't even named an interim coach. Here's more from Dodd:
- Dodd: "Here we are in what should be the most exciting week of the season. Instead, the conference championship games and playoff build have been hijacked by the coaches. They -- and their agents -- have set a new standard. What exactly is that standard, though?"
College football is changing in front of our eyes -- and not in a good way.
Pete Prisco's Power Rankings: Cardinals still No. 1, but movement below 👀
With a bye over the weekend, Arizona stayed at No. 1 in Pete Prisco's Power Rankings. The Cardinals are immediately followed by two other NFC teams. Here's Prisco's top five:
1. Cardinals (last week: 1)
2. Packers (last week: 3)
3. Buccaneers (last week: 5)
4. Patriots (last week: 7)
5. Chiefs (last week: 8)
As for those on the highest upward trajectory, let's focus in on the AFC West:
- Raiders (jumped from 22 to 12): "They saved their season in a way by winning at Dallas. Derek Carr was outstanding in getting that overtime victory."
- Broncos (jumped from 24 to 14): "At 6-5, they are in the playoff hunt. The defense was outstanding against Justin Herbert. That unit could carry them to the playoffs, but they face a tough one against the Chiefs this week."
On the other end of the spectrum, we can turn to one city to find two of the biggest droppers:
- Rams (down from 2 to 7): "They sure don't look like the Super Bowl team everybody expected to see. Matt Stafford is really struggling, but they get the Jaguars this week as their tonic."
- Chargers (down from 9 to 15): "They looked awful on offense for most of the game against the Broncos. Their system is hurting Justin Herbert. Set him free."
What we're watching Wednesday 📺
🏀 76ers at Celtics (-2.5), 7:30 p.m. on NBA.TV | It's always a good time when Philly and Boston meet up, no matter the sport. Both of these teams are sitting at 11-10 and could use a boost.
🏀 No. 24 Michigan (-1.5) at UNC, 9:15 p.m. on ESPN 2 | A rematch of the 1993 National Championship game. Both the Wolverines and Tar Heels have stumbled a bit out of the gate, and this would be a quality win for either team.