- If you’re rooting for a ton of underdogs, check out their upset bracket full of surprises.
- If you’re more level-headed and want to see what SportsLine’s simulation model came up with for the entire tournament, click here.
Let’s get right to it.
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Good morning to everyone but especially to…
The luck of the Irish came through. All Notre Dame needed, coincidentally, was to play into the wee hours of Saint Patrick’s Day.
Notre Dame defeated Rutgers, 89-87, in a double overtime contest that ended shortly after midnight on the east coast. Here’s how the ending of the First Four game went:
- With 40 seconds left, Prentiss Hubb made two free throws to put the Fighting Irish up three. 87-84.
- With 22 seconds left, Rutgers star Ron Harper Jr. nailed a long, contested 3-pointer to tie it at 87.
- Then, Notre Dame’s Blake Wesley drove to the basket but missed. Paul Atkinson was there for the rebound, though, and converted with just over a second left. 89-87. Rutgers did not get a final shoot off afterwards.
If this is a sign of what’s to come over the next few weeks, sign me up. This game had big shot after big shot and stirring comebacks by both sides. Atkinson will be remembered as the hero for his putback, but his full-game effort — 26 points on 13-for-15 shooting and six rebounds — was vital as the Notre Dame guards were quiet offensively.
Notre Dame will face 6-seed Alabama tomorrow.
… AND ALSO A GOOD MORNING TO THE WRIGHT STATE RAIDERS
Welcome to the club, Wright State! The Raiders earned their first NCAA Tournament win last night, topping Bryant, 93-82. Tanner Holden scored 37 points, the most ever by a Horizon League player at the NCAA Tournament, and grabbed 11 rebounds. The Raiders will take on 1-seed Arizona tomorrow.
- Kenny Payne is headed back to his alma mater; the former Louisville star will be the program’s next head coach.
- Spencer Dinwiddie hit another big shot as the Mavericks beat the Nets.
And not such a good morning for…
BAKER MAYFIELD AND THE CLEVELAND BROWNS
Four years ago, no one knew what the Browns would do with the first pick in the draft until Roger Goodell stepped to the microphone and announced Baker Mayfield. Fast-forward to today, and Mayfield’s impending exit from Cleveland is looking nearly as abrupt as his arrival. Mayfield tweeted a statement thanking and, seemingly, saying goodbye to Cleveland on Tuesday. There are two potential reasons for this:
- First, the Browns are fielding trade calls regarding Mayfield.
- Second, Cleveland — along with Carolina, Atlanta and New Orleans — is pursuing Deshaun Watson.
- On Wednesday, former teammate Duke Johnson mocked Mayfield’s tweet.
It was a tough 2021 season for Mayfield, who ranked near the bottom of the league in most major statistical categories and played through a torn labrum in his non-throwing shoulder. Still, the Browns are running the risk of having a lame duck quarterback in place if they don’t acquire Watson. Mayfield seems convinced he’s played his last game for the Browns, and the Browns haven’t done much, if anything, to indicate otherwise.
Mayfield, when healthy, proved a capable quarterback. He helped Cleveland end a 17-season playoff drought in 2020 and would be significantly cheaper than Watson or Jimmy Garoppolo… or any other option the Browns would consider if they want to remain competitive. Our NFL guru Cody Benjamin mapped out potential trade destinations for Mayfield, and a team that traded its quarterback this offseason tops the list.
- Benjamin: “[The Colts] are the team closest to contention without any clear answer at QB, following the trade of Carson Wentz. … They don’t have many other options, besides a perpetually banged-up Jimmy Garoppolo or an ultra-expensive Matt Ryan. Mayfield, meanwhile, has proven he can win while leaning on the run, which the Colts are built to do.”
Not so honorable mentions
- Russell Westbrook was on the butt end of some brutal trash talk as he struggled and the Lakers lost again.
- Travis Steele is out as Xavier’s head men’s basketball coach.
Ranking the best games of the first full day of March Madness, plus final bracket tips 🏀
Well, friends, we’ve made it. The first full day of the NCAA Tournament. I can’t wait.
In case you might need to pick and choose which games you watch because, apparently, there is more to life than March Madness, our college basketball expert David Cobb has ranked the best games of the First Round, 1-32. Today’s top contest will make you want to take an extra-long lunch break:
- Cobb: “When Providence plays basketball, it’s usually a close game. When South Dakota State plays, it’s usually a high-scoring game. Mix it all together and what do you get? A close, high-scoring game with upset potential. Yes, please. The Friars are only a two-point favorite, so while the seedings suggest they should win big, all signs point toward a thriller.”
That game tips off at 12:40 p.m. on truTV. What is truTV? Glad you asked! Here’s your answer.
As for everything else you need to know ahead of the madness…
- Here are Thursday’s storylines and schedule.
- Who’s the most likely team to pull the infamous 12-5 upset?
- I enjoyed Kevin Flaherty’s feature on reigning champion Baylor and David Cobb’s profile on corporate executive-turned-Longwood basketball coach Griff Aldrich.
- Important injury news on a key player.
- Expert picks.
We’re only hours away from the tip-off of Men’s March MadnessⓇ, but there’s still time to get in your brackets!
Enter our Men’s Bracket Challenge before 12 p.m. ET today for the chance to win a trip to the 2023 Men’s Final FourⓇ.* It’s not too late to enter, but you need to act now! Get the CBS Sports App or visit our Men’s Brackets lobby to get started.
And, remember to also join our Women’s Bracket Challenge before the Friday deadline (12pm ET). You’ll get the chance to win a trip to the 2023 Women’s Final FourⓇ and a new truck!
*No purchase necessary. See Rules for details
NFL, MLB free agencies roll on with big deals for Von Miller, Freddie Freeman, Kris Bryant 💰
Thanks to the MLB lockout, we now have both NFL free agency and MLB free agency going full throttle. Wednesday saw big deals in both.
We’ll start in the NFL, where Von Miller is headed to the Bills on a six-year, $120-million deal. Miller is fresh off helping the Rams win the Super Bowl, and his 115.5 career regular-season sacks are 22nd all-time. Miller, who turns 33 next month, showed he still has plenty left in the tank with nine sacks in 12 games (including playoffs) with Los Angeles last year, including two sacks in the Super Bowl.
He wasn’t the only notable pass rusher to find a new home:
- The Raiders signed Chandler Jones and traded Yannick Ngakoue to the Colts.
- The Ravens signed Za’Darius Smith.
Meanwhile, in MLB free agency, a former MVP/the reigning World Series champion is headed West. That’s right, Freddie Freeman is a Los Angeles Dodger. It’s reportedly a six-year deal for the man who had been the face of the Braves franchise for the last decade. He ranked fifth in MLB expert R.J. Anderson’s top 50 free agents:
- Anderson: “Freeman is a sensational hitter who hasn’t posted an OPS+ of less than 130 since he was a 22-year-old in 2012. He’s also a mighty fine first baseman, and he’s become a bastion of durability as of late: over the last four years, he’s appeared in 539 of the Braves’ 545 games (that’s 98.9 percent, for those without access to a calculator).”
Also on the move is Kris Bryant, who signing a seven-year, $182-million contract with the Rockies. Bryant was the third-best free agent on the market. While the Rockies aren’t likely to contend, the Blue Jays are, and they also made a big move, trading for Matt Chapman. The move earned them a solid “B” trade grade from Anderson.
Pulisic leads Chelsea over Lille, Villarreal thrashes Juventus late in UCL action ⚽
Chelsea and Villarreal are headed through to the UEFA Champions League quarterfinal after second-leg wins in their Round-of-16 matchups.
The Blues, amid uncertainty about their future, got goals from Christian Pulisic and Cesar Azpilicueta to win 2-1 at Lille and finish up 4-1 on aggregate. Pulisic now has four career UEFA Champions League knockout-round goals, more than all other United States internationals combined.
Elsewhere, Villarreal stunned Juventus with three late goals — one each from Gerard Moreno, Pau Torres and Arnaut Danjuma — to win 4-1 on aggregate after the first leg finished 1-1.
Here are the eight remaining Champions League teams:
- Atletico Madrid
- Bayern Munich
- Manchester City
- Real Madrid
The draw for the quarterfinal, semifinal and final rounds will take place Friday at 7 a.m. on Paramount+ and CBS Sports HQ.
What we’re watching Thursday 📺
We’re going to be watching the NCAA Tournament all day. Here’s the entire schedule.