It was more difficult to notice afterward, but the transition continued to unfold after ’06.

Gonzaga continued to make the tournament every year, but most of the time they were seeded somewhere between 7-11. Sometimes they won a game or two, sometimes they didn’t. Like a middle-of-the-road Eastern Conference team in an era of NBA superpowers, the Bulldogs were just sort of there.

Then, the 2012-13 season happened. Gonzaga navigated through a strong non-conference schedule with just two losses, rolled to a perfect record in the West Coast Conference’s regular season, and claimed the conference’s tournament title. On Selection Sunday, the Bulldogs were given a No. 1 seed in a West Region that the public agreed appeared to be the worst of the four the Selection Committee had put together. It was time for Mark Few’s team to finally cash in and make the world a believer again.

The Zags were stunned by ninth-seeded Wichita State in the second round.

Trying to build the next superteam hasn’t ever seemed to work for any NFL franchise —remember the 2011 Eagles? Free agency’s biggest spenders almost always seem to be the teams that are perennial losers.

One Madden-like move teams often make is taking a chance on that injury-prone player who would be awesome if he could just stay healthy. This year, guys like Danny Woodhead (Ravens), Menelik Watson (Broncos) and JC Tretter (Browns) look like early candidates to become last year’s Matt Forte and Ladarius Green. While all three can play, their age and past durability issues should immediately raise red flags.

Ball made controversial comments about James’ sons, LeBron James Jr. and Bryce Maximus James, on March 10 as a guest on the In the Zone with Chris Broussard podcast when he predicted a tougher road to NBA stardom beneath their father’s shadow. Those remarks prompted a response from James, who sent a message through ESPN’s Dave McMenamin to “keep my kids’ name out of your mouth.”
9

The United States might have built the best lineup in baseball history

As a baseball writer, it is exceptionally strange to write about a team that has a location, but no nickname. After two paragraphs of Boston, Boston, Boston, I Would snap and write Red Sox all over my walls, like Jack Torrance at the Overlook. Yet that is what we have with the United States and the other teams in the World Baseball Classic. It is United States here, United States there, Puerto Rico here, Venezuela. They all need nicknames.

This was a good deal for New Orleans to move a talented player who didn’t quite mesh with its spread-it-around passing offense, getting New England is 2017 first- and third-round draft picks in return. The Saints’ wideout corps remains strong, anchored by Michael Thomas and Willie Snead.

Meanwhile, Cooks gives the Patriots another versatile chess piece of speed and quickness with whom to create matchup problems.

Cleveland also got a second-round pick in 2018 out of this deal. There is a good chance it cuts Osweiler, seeing it as a move to spend some major money under the salary cap to get another prospect. For Houston, it opens up a ton of cap space and creates quick relief from its bust of a 2016 signing. It opens the door to deal for Tony Romo.

San Francisco needed receivers of any kind after it moved on from Torrey Smith. Garcon is on the other side of 30, but he is a solid route-runner and blocker with good hands who will be a good No. 2 glue guy for whoever the 49ers anoint as their true go-to, big-play guy outside.

Tampa Bay needed a playmaker opposite Mike Evans who could stretch the field against one-on-one coverage with a knack for home runs. Jackson has lost some speed as he hit 30 last December, but not too much. Jameis Winston will want to show off his big arm.44

AFC West injuries, Week 8: Julius Thomas, Jamaal Charles banged up

The Denver Broncos won on Sunday against the Washington Redskins, but lost an important player in tight end Julius Thomas.

Sunday was just another weekly reminder that the talent difference between the Jaguars and the upper-echelon teams of the NFL is large. Still, glimpses of talent from players like Mike Brown and Denard Robinson continue to offer optimism for a team that actually looks like it might be halfway-functional on offense with a decent quarterback.
David Fucillo of Niners Nation thinks that the defense could have played a bit better, despite holding the Jaguars to 10 points:

The 49ers defense was relatively strong early, but you could argue it was a bit of a listless performance at times. This was as much about how bad the Jaguars offense was as how good the 49ers defense performed. Chad Henne couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn at times, and it cost the Jaguars. The 49ers defense did make some plays, but the pass rush managed no sacks. The defensive did force one turnover, as Dan Skuta scooped up a Marcedes Lewis fumble and ran it back 47 yards for the final touchdown.
In Week 9, the Jaguars and 49ers will be on byes as they rest from the long trip back-and-forth from London.

Miami is having an issue creating a link between Ryan Tannehill and Mike Wallace. Outside of a Week 2 win over the Indianapolis Colts, there’s a pattern between the Dolphins winning and Wallace not producing. Perhaps it’s a product of him asking too much of Tannehill, but Miami needs these two players to get on the same page if they want to have offensive success moving forward.

Some wide receivers are divas — it’s the nature of the position — but it felt like Bryant was falling into the trap of believing Sunday’s game was more about him vs. Calvin Johnson, rather than the the two teams. Managing adversity is more important than coping with success, and it’s something Bryant will need to learn moving forward.
22

Cowboys, Dolphins and Lions chosen for NFL’s 2016 London games

The National Football League has declared the three games being played over in London, England next season, per their official release.

The Dallas Cowboys will face the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Miami Dolphins and Oakland Raiders will square off, and the Atlanta Falcons and Detroit Lions will meet in Wembley Stadium to showcase the game internationally. Jacksonville, Oakland and Atlanta are the “home” teams in those games, which was announced a few weeks ago.

The Lions lost to the Cincinnati Bengals, 27-24, and dropped out of first place in the NFC North. The good news is that Calvin Johnson appears to be over his knee injury, going off for nine catches, 155 yards and two touchdowns.

Online experts are pretty split on picking this game. Five out of eight ESPN analysts are going with the Cowboys, while there’s a bigger consensus at CBS Sports. Seven panelists are picking the Lions, with only Will Brinson and Jeremy Eisenberg going with Dallas. Over at Yahoo Sports, both experts are taking the Lions, and the fan poll is also selecting Detroit.

The Vikings get to play on primetime two weeks in a row and might be going back to Christian Ponder after Josh Freeman got concussed. This is definitive proof that God exists, and really hates football fans. The Walking Dead might be more watchable than this one, and that should not be construed in any way as an endorsement of The Walking Dead. You’ll be better off hitting up Netflix that evening.17

Devastated bear mascot gets heartwarming hug from kindhearted child

Think of the saddest song you ever heard. Maybe it’s Johnny Cash’s cover of “Hurt,” or Brandy’s “Brokenhearted,” or Sufjan Stevens’ “The Only Thing.” Now apply that sadness to this sad bear mascot, sitting all alone at the top of the bleachers, wondering where everything went wrong.

Last year, Kansas was also a No. 1 seed, and made it all the way to the Elite Eight before losing to eventual national champion Villanova. They’re led this season by Frank Mason III, who leads the team in scoring with 20.8 points per game. After the Bruins, Wildcats, and Ducks, the Pac-12 has USC as a likelier-than-not tournament team. The Trojans only lost eight games in the regular season, all in league play, and have great wins against UCLA and SMU.

They’ll start their run to a potential Final Four against the winner of a play-in game between NC Central and UC Davis on Friday in Tulsa, Okla. Should the Jayhawks win their first two games, they’ll play very close to home in the Sweet 16 with the Midwest regional site being in Kansas City.

Tournament darlings Michigan make it into the tournament as a No. 7 seed, and they’ll face 10-seeded Oklahoma State. Tricky matchups for other teams include No. 5 Iowa State vs. No. 12 Nevada and No. 8 Miami vs. No. 9 Michigan State.

You can see the full bracket here, and you can print one out here.

Krzyzewski also noticed a difference in Giles in recent weeks, and it started with him being more enthusiastic and trusting his abilities.

“Instead of being methodical and trying to think about everything, he’s been more athletic,” Krzyzewski said. “I’m so happy for him. And us too.”

Giles will admit that it’s hard not to compete against his former self, but comparing 2017 Giles to 2015 Giles becomes tough to avoid when he shows those bursts of brilliance.19

The World Baseball Classic just kicked into high gear

The World Baseball Classic rolled on yesterday, with Pool B playing its final two games. Japan beat China, though thankfully China scored a run. And Cuba advanced over Australia thanks to a grand slam from Alfredo Despaigne. But more importantly, Pools C and D opened play on Thursday night, and it was somehow even more exciting than it was supposed to be.

The excitement from the game between Canada and the Dominican Republic came from the DR players and the crowd at Marlins park. It’s really bad luck that Canada had to face the DR in their first game. The DR team is made up almost completely of actual MLB All-Stars, and you could tell how grim the task was by the looks on the Canada players’ faces. Yeah, not pleasant.

Still, from Cutler’s point of view, a trade back to the place he started his NFL career would make sense from a pragmatic standpoint, if not an emotional one. It’s just unlikely the franchise would feel the same way. If the Broncos want a veteran passer, Romo will be the sole option.

Teaming with first-year head coach Kyle Shanahan could be the panacea that cures Cutler’s inefficient ways, but that’s a theory that failed to pan out in the past with coordinators like Mike Martz and Marc Trestman. Still, the 49ers offer a clean slate — and he could reunite with his two backups last year, Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley.

This would also give him a chance to revive his value as a passer. San Francisco’s roster is relatively bare, but the club has nearly $99 million to spend in free agency this spring and has started revamping its receiving corps, most notably with productive veteran Pierre Garcon. Add in a dynamic young tailback in Carlos Hyde, and you can begin to see the foundation for a revival for one of the league’s storied franchises.
18

WBC 2017: Schedule, scores, highlights, and more

The greatest international baseball tournament on Earth is back, with 16 countries battling it out in the 2017 World Baseball Classic.

Some of the best players in Major League Baseball are a part of the event, including MVP winners Miguel Cabrera, Buster Posey, and Andrew McCutchen, Cy Young Award winner Felix Hernandez, and younger stars like Jose Altuve, Nolan Arenado, Francisco Lindor and Manny Machado.

He’s been magical ever since. On Tuesday he became the sixth player in history to score 30,000 points, dropping 25 on the Lakers in a Mavericks win. Dirk scored the Mavs’ first eight points and 18 in the first quarter. He’s 38 years old. He’s hitting a crazy milestone late in his career and he’s still winning games for his team. Nowitzki is a big part of the reason Dallas still has hope for making the postseason despite beginning the season 2-13 and 6-20.

Now, in theory, the improvement could really kick in. UTSA’s returning production figures (18th overall, 19th on offense, 33rd on defense) are strong, and at worst, recent recruiting should make for more competition in key areas like the receiving corps, offensive line, and secondary.

S&P+ projects UTSA to win seven games, but the upside on the schedule is obvious. The Roadrunners are given at least a 52 percent chance of winning in nine games (including seven of eight C-USA battles) and a 40 percent chance in a 10th. If this seasoned squad can close out close games, the Roadrunners could contend for the C-USA West title.

There are obvious potential limitations. We don’t know that the passing game will ever be as efficient as it needs to be, and there’s nothing saying that the secondary will be any better at preventing big plays. But the ceiling is high in San Antonio.6

Potential landing spots for Brandon Marshall

Granted his release Friday by the rebuilding-from-scratch New York Jets, the veteran wideout is free to pick a new team. Marshall hopes to land with a contender, but who will come calling for the 32-year-old wideout?

Let’s try to find him a new home:

Baltimore Ravens: This checks all the boxes. The ultra-consistent Ravens are a perennial contender with a strong head coach and a reliable, veteran quarterback. With Steve Smith out the door, Marshall would fill the void for a receiving core still hoping for more from Breshad Perriman. This makes even more sense if Baltimore is tempted to part ways with Mike Wallace and his $8 million cap hit. Ravens writers see a potential match:

This was a heavyweight war. The fight was filled with big body kicks, plenty of knees and some vicious elbows. Early it was Mark Hunt dishing out the punishment with some heavy leg kicks.

While Hunt looked like he was closing the distance in first round, Overeem exploded in the second round with some brutal work to the body. Overeem’s kicks and knees to the body took the air out of Hunt. While the Australian was still in the fight when an elbow stunned Overeem, the veteran stuck to the game plan and was relentless with the knees, softening Hunt up. The finish came in the third when Overeem ripped a left elbow in the clinch and finished it off with right knee to the jaw and Hunt was out cold.

But Elkins was able to absorb punches most men would buckle under. When they went to the mat, Bektic unloaded with a flurry of punches and elbows to the head of Elkins. Split above the right eye, Elkins was covered in blood with his vision impaired but despite fighting with only one eye, Elkins took his chance when it came. After missing a heel hook, Elkins took Bektic’s back, ripping a right hand and head kick to floor Bektic and shock the masses.

23

We can figure from those totals that Chambers’ nonscoring contributions were 36.4 wins below replacement level

To reiterate, this is the most cynical view possible of Charlotte’s decision. It wasn’t clear at the time the 2016 Nets’ pick would be so valuable, since the team had not yet bought out Deron Williams, and future picks surely are somewhat discounted in value. And both teams were correct to believe the No. 9 pick was unusually valuable in 2015 because of the depth of the draft. (So far, however, No. 11 pick Myles Turner looks like a better prospect than either Hornets pick Frank Kaminsky III or Celtics target Justise Winslow.)

Still, based on typical pick values, merely trading the 15th and 16th picks for the ninth pick would have been overpaying — as most trades up in the draft are. The additional picks would have made this an incredibly lopsided trade.

We can figure from those totals that Chambers’ nonscoring contributions were 36.4 wins below replacement level, and no Hall of Famer in the modern era has been more than 17.2 wins below replacement level in terms of nonscoring contributions. (I wouldn’t take those calculations too seriously, since they don’t account for the differing replacement levels of offense and defense by position, but they offer a reasonable comparison for Chambers.)

So Chambers might have scored like a Hall of Famer — he also benefited from playing in a fast-paced era, when points were relatively easy to come by — but the totality of his game is more appropriate for the Hall of Very Good.

Korver said he was unaware that his 3 with 1:17 remaining, which gave Cleveland a four-point lead, was the one that set the mark.

“I did not know that,” Korver said. “That was a new record? That’s interesting, I didn’t know that. I know we made a lot of 3s. It felt like for a while it was great basketball. Drive, kick, swing, swing, good shots.”

The Cavaliers made seven 3-pointers in each of the first three quarters and four in the fourth, finishing 25-for-46 (54.3 percent).
19

It’s been a great 10 years with the Minnesota Vikings

New York ran the offense exclusively in Jackson’s first full season with Derek Fisher as coach. Fisher tried to tweak the offense in his second season in New York, which was a source of contention between he and Jackson, sources say. Jackson fired Fisher midway through last season and, after a stint with Kurt Rambis as interim head coach, hired Hornacek. In a clear sign that the triangle has returned to prominence, Hornacek said on Tuesday that players will be evaluated at the end of the season, in part, based on their ability to execute the triangle aspects of the offense.

“As times goes on, you say can they get it? Are they getting better at it?” Hornacek said, when asked about the system of offense. “End of the year comes and we’re having our discussions and you say, ‘Can this guy play this offense?’ We’ll say either yea or nay or he’s getting it, he’s getting better. So I’m sure that’s part of evaluations this summer.”

It’s unclear what this means for players like Derrick Rose, a free agent this summer who last week talked about how difficult it was to learn the offense and referred to it as “random basketball.”

“It’s been a great 10 years with the Minnesota Vikings,” Peterson said in a statement to ESPN’s Josina Anderson. “They know what I bring to the organization as a player, with my work ethic and dedication. I spoke with [Vikings GM] Rick Spielman this past weekend. The door is still open to find some common ground. I understand addressing the offensive line is one of their main priorities this offseason.

“In the meantime, I will explore my other options and see what path God leads me on. My main goal remains the same: to win a Super Bowl championship with a great team, which I also believe we have in Minnesota.”2