Good morning to everyone but especially to...
THE SOUTH CAROLINA GAMECOCKS AND THE VIRGINIA TECH HOKIES
The quest for a repeat marches on.
South Carolina beat Maryland, 86-75, to advance to its third consecutive women's Final Four and set up one of the most anticipated semifinals in recent memory.
- Reigning Player of the Year Aliyah Boston led the way with 22 points, 10 rebounds and five assists. Zia Cooke (18 points) and Brea Beal (16 points) added key backcourt scoring.
- The Gamecocks are 36-0 this season and look to become the 10th team ever to go undefeated.
- That will be no easy task: In the Final Four awaits Iowa and Hawkeyes superstar Caitlin Clark, fresh off a 40-point triple-double. It will pit the nation's No. 2 scoring defense (South Carolina) against the nation's No. 1 offense (Iowa).
Meanwhile, Virginia Tech is going to its first Final Four after topping Ohio State, 84-74. Led by Georgia Amoore (24 points), the Hokies handled the Buckeyes' press well, and Elizabeth Kitley (25 points, 12 rebounds, three blocks) dominated down low. Kitley's battle against LSU's Angel Reese will be awesome.
Here's our early preview of what to expect in the Final Four.
- After an Elite Eight run, Rodney Terry accepted the full-time job at Texas.
- UNC leading scorer Caleb Love entered the transfer portal.
- Tyrese Proctor is returning to Duke.
- Good news, Eagles fans: The NFL will not change anything about the QB sneak/push.
- Mike Trout and Tiger Woods are partnering up on building a golf course.
- The Cubs and Nico Hoerner agreed to a three-year, $35-million extension.
- The USMNT beat El Salvador, 1-0, behind a Ricardo Pepi goal.
And not such a good morning for...
LAMAR JACKSON AND THE BALTIMORE RAVENS
Right as Ravens head coach John Harbaugh sat down to speak with the media at the NFL owners meetings, his quarterback sent out tweets that sent a shock through the room, and the league as a whole: Lamar Jackson requested a trade March 2, five days before Baltimore franchise-tagged him.
This does not guarantee a trade. Players have requested trades before and not been traded. But it does seem to confirm a lot of things.
- In his tweets, Jackson said "the Ravens has [sic] not been interested in meeting my value." Apparently that means a contract with a high level of guaranteed money.
- Harbaugh, meanwhile, was quite optimistic, though he admitted he hasn't talked to Jackson recently.
- Ravens GM Eric DeCosta did meet with Jackson recently and said at the NFL Combine that he wants Jackson to remain a Raven. Ravens president Sashi Brown expressed the same Monday.
This has seemed like a tug of war for a long time, and the timeline of Jackson with the Ravens has included many ups and downs. The ups? He's a bonafide superstar, the 2019 MVP and a historically great dual-threat quarterback. The downs? The lack of playoff success and the injuries -- especially the most recent one, when Jackson and the Ravens seemed to be at odds -- come to mind.
Another thing worth noting: it's been almost a month since Jackson requested a trade and three weeks since he and other teams could negotiate. But the only real news we've really heard is teams saying they're not interested in him, even though he's a 26-year-old star at the game's most important position.
Our Cody Benjamin has 11 potential landing spots for Jackson, and the Colts are on top -- and potentially interested. There's an intriguing rumor attached to another team as well.
Not so honorable mentions
- This J.T. Realmuto ejection is the definition of an umpshow.
- Joey Votto will begin the season on IL. So will Triston McKenzie.
Where FAU ranks among Cinderellas -- and why its coach almost quit 🏀
Is FAU a Cinderella story? It's become a popular question -- nearly as popular as the Owls themselves.
- On the one hand, FAU isn't from a major conference, and not many people knew FAU before the bracket.
- On the other hand, FAU had 31 wins entering the NCAA Tournament and were 13th(!!!) in the NET Rankings on Selection Sunday. They were probably under-seeded by the Selection Committee.
I'm going to lean on the side of "yes, FAU is a Cinderella." The program had zero NCAA Tournament wins entering this year! Now they're in the Final Four! FAU comes in 11th in our top 25 Cinderellas of all-time. Here's the top five:
- 1. NC State 1983 -- No. 6 to NCAA Tournament champion
- 2. Loyola Marymount 1990 -- No. 11 to Elite Eight
- 3. Saint Peter's 2022 -- No. 15 to Elite Eight
- 4. Villanova 1985 -- No. 8 to NCAA Tournament champion
- 5. Butler 2011 -- No. 8 to title game
This is a really fun list from our Chip Patterson, and I will always love 2011 VCU, which made "First Four to Final Four" a thing the first year the First Four existed.
Whether FAU is a Cinderella or not, there's no doubt the Owls are a remarkable story, made even more remarkable by the fact that their coach, Dusty May, almost quit right after taking the job. Our Matt Norlander has the inside story.
First MLB Power Rankings and award predictions ⚾
We're two days away from Opening Day, and that calls for season-opening Power Rankings from our Matt Snyder.
Here's the top five:
- 1. Astros: "They didn't make it through the spring unscathed with the losses of Jose Altuve and Lance McCullers Jr., but as of now I'm undeterred."
- 2. Padres: "MONSTER Juan Soto season on the horizon. And you could argue they'll have two other top-five MVP finishers."
- 3. Braves: "There's enough talent here to make me look incredibly stupid for not having the Braves as an easy and obvious number one heading into the year."
- 4. Mets: "The bullpen was already the biggest question mark and the loss of Edwin Díaz was obviously major, but remember he was just pretty good in 2021 and horrible in 2019."
- 5. Yankees: "The Carlos Rodón injury, especially given his history of arm issues, is a huge concern going in."
Matt is one of three of our experts who picked Soto to win NL MVP, and Soto's teammate Manny Machado also got a vote. As for AL MVP, four of our six experts like Shohei Ohtani. For AL Cy Young, though, it's more spread out.
- Gerrit Cole (2)
- Shohei Ohtani
- Luis Castillo
- Framber Valdez
- Alek Manoah
So if you're playing fantasy baseball, try to get those guys, and be sure to sign up for our Fantasy Baseball Today newsletter.
NFL free agency awards, plus the best Over/Under futures bets 🏈
Though there are plenty of big names out there, the first wave of free agency is over, and outside of Jackson, things have calmed down. That means it's (early) offseason awards season. What was the best move? Most of our experts -- including Will Brinson -- agree it's...
- Brinson: "Orlando Brown Jr. to Bengals -- Cincy lost some talent on the defensive side of the ball but I don't even care what happened when the Bengals can go lock down a star-level left tackle in his prime to protect Joe Burrow for the next few years. It was a shocking signing for a team who is typically considered frugal but it's a perfect deal for a team desperate to protect a franchise quarterback who takes too many hits."
We also handed out most baffling move, best bargain and much more, so be sure to check out our experts' thoughts.
How do those moves impact the betting market? We're still waiting on one big move -- Aaron Rodgers to the Jets, his preferred destination -- but as long as that goes through, our Jordan Dajani loves the Jets over. You can see all of his best bets here.
What we're watching Tuesday 📺
🏀 Heat at Raptors, 7:30 p.m. on TNT
🏀 Pelicans at Warriors, 10 p.m. on TNT