February 22, 2024

Clemson pulls off historic upset over UNC; NBA Power Rankings have a new top three


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🐅 Good morning to everyone but especially …

THE CLEMSON TIGERS

For just the second time in 62 visits, Clemson is leaving Chapel Hill a winner. The Tigers beat No. 3 North Carolina, 80-76, in the latest stunner in the world of men’s college basketball.

PJ Hall had 25 points and nine rebounds, and Joseph Girard III added 21 points and five 3-pointers. It was a huge win for the Tigers, not just given the historical context, but also given their inconsistencies. They’re 6-7 since a 9-0 start to the season, and even with Tuesday’s win, they’re just 5-6 in the ACC.

Clemson’s last three losses were by a combined five points, and the Tigers looked like they were going to let another opportunity slip. After leading by as much as 16, Clemson found itself tied with under four minutes left. This time, though, Hall and Girard made big shots to secure the victory.

North Carolina, meanwhile, has sandwiched an impressive win against Duke over the weekend with underwhelming losses to Georgia Tech and Clemson. The Tar Heels seemingly lost both looking ahead and in a letdown, which isn’t ideal. But in this crazy college basketball season, perhaps no win or loss should be surprising.

👍 Honorable mentions

😬 And not such a good morning for …


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THE OAKLAND/EVENTUALLY-TO-BE-LAS VEGAS ATHLETICS

The Athletics are set to move to Las Vegas eventually. But does Las Vegas even want them? According to Mayor Carol Goodman, uhhhhh, not really.

Goodman, who has served as Las Vegas’ mayor since 2011, had some surprising comments regarding the Athletics’ impending relocation to her city.

  • Regarding the stadium’s specific location (on The Strip): “I thought, ‘This does not make sense,’ and so why is it happening?”
  • Pretty straightforward: “I personally think they’ve gotta figure out a way to stay in Oakland and make their dream come true.”
  • Think of the fans: “I just know that (owner John Fisher) — longtime successful family — in my opinion, needs to listen to the people that are up there. It’s their team.”

Goodman clarified her comments later Tuesday, lauding Las Vegas as a “spectacular market for major league sports franchises.”

This continues a rocky transition for the franchise.

Yikes.

👎 Not so honorable mentions

  • One anonymous GM said Mike Vrabel may not have gotten a job because he’s … a large person.
  • Khris Middleton sustained an ankle injury on a flagrant closeout by Kevin Durant.
  • Klay Thompson admitted it’s “hard” to not close out games.
  • Zach Wilson‘s trade market is lacking.
  • In his latest Court Report, Matt Norlander explained Scott Drew‘s recent ejection.

🏈 Super Bowl position-by-position preview


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When comparing the Chiefs and 49ers, one thing that stands out is how good the teams are, 1-53. Yes, there are superstars, but they’re far from alone.

Even when there’s a clear advantage at one position — say, Patrick Mahomes — there’s a really good counterpart (Brock Purdy). Purdy has the better weapons, too. It’s hard to argue anyone can top Christian McCaffrey, Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk.

But what about the other spots? Jared Dubin took a position-by-position look at the two teams, and in a game full of great matchups, Travis Kelce vs. George Kittle at tight end might just be the best.

  • Dubin: “This is SO close. … Kelce has looked a lot like his old self, racking up 23 catches for 299 yards and three scores in three AFC playoff games. Kittle … is a monster run blocker who is key to everything San Francisco does offensively. We gave the nod to Kelce here due to his track record and greater importance to Kansas City’s pass offense, which is where tight ends make most of their impact these days. But going with Kittle wouldn’t necessarily be wrong here, either.”

As for other close battles, how about two great defensive lines? And offensive lines? They’re really close calls, and Jared did an excellent job with this breakdown.

🏀 NBA Power Rankings: Cleveland surging as deadline nears


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Every NBA team — even the best ones — endures a rollercoaster season. Wins, losses, injuries, road trips, homestands, drama, trades, yada yada yada. You can’t get too high, and you can’t get too low. You just have to keep going.

That’s exactly what the Cavaliers have done. Nearly two months ago — Dec. 14, to be exact — Cleveland lost its third straight to fall to a mere 13-12 on the season, and Darius Garland fractured his jaw. One day later, the team announced Evan Mobley would undergo knee surgery and miss six-to-eight weeks. Trade rumors swirled around Donovan Mitchell.

Since then, when their season looked on the precipice, they’ve won 14 of their last 15 games and have gotten both Garland and Mobley back. Cleveland rose to No. 2 in Colin Ward-Henninger’s latest weekly NBA Power Rankings, a four-spot jump.

  • Ward-Henninger: “The Cavs were already winning without their full complement of stars, and now that they’re back, they’re … still winning. Four more victories make it six in a row overall, with Mitchell averaging 33 points, seven assists and five rebounds for the week on 56/43/86 splits. Mobley averaged 16 points, nine rebounds and five assists in the three games he played.”

It’s also been a bumpy road for the team ahead of them after a slow start. Here’s the top five:

  1. Clippers (previous: 2)
  2. Cavaliers (6)
  3. Thunder (8)
  4. Nuggets (4)
  5. Celtics (5)

🏀 Mercury acquire Kahleah Copper in blockbuster trade


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The wild WNBA free agency period might have just had its wildest move yet: Three-time All-Star and 2021 WNBA champion/Finals MVP Kahleah Copper is heading to the Mercury in a blockbuster deal. Here are the details:

Mercury receive:

  • Kahleah Copper
  • Morgan Bertsch

Sky receive:

  • No. 3 overall pick 
  • Rights to swap 2026 second-round picks
  • 2025 second-round pick
  • 2026 first-round pick
  • Michaela Onyenwere
  • Brianna Turner

Copper is coming off a career-high 18.7 points per game after shooting a career-high 40.4% on 3-pointers. The Mercury have been busy this offseason, and this is their best move yet, writes Jack Maloney in his trade grades.

  • Maloney: “They made Nate Tibbetts the highest-paid coach in WNBA history, hired long-time WNBA star Kristi Toliver to Tibbetts’ staff, signed Natasha Cloud in free agency and traded for Rebecca Allen. Acquiring Copper is the crowning achievement.  … Copper’s ability to thrive on or off the ball makes her a perfect fit for this new Mercury team, as does her versatility on the defensive end. Getting her cost the Mercury a lot of draft compensation and an elite interior defender in Turner, but that was worth the price for an All-Star in their prime.”

In a vacuum, the Sky’s return is solid, Jack notes. But the vibes after losing a star? Not so great.

📺 What we’re watching Wednesday

🏒 Lightning at Rangers, 7 p.m. on TNT
🏀 No. 16 Alabama at No. 12 Auburn (M), 7 p.m. on ESPN2
🏀 Warriors at 76ers, 7:30 p.m. on ESPN
🏀 Notre Dame at No. 9 Duke (M), 9 p.m. on ACC Network
🏒 Wild at Blackhawks, 9:30 p.m. on TNT
🏀 Pelicans at Clippers, 10 p.m. on ESPN





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