Happy Thursday everyone, and welcome to one of the best days on the NFL calendar.
Let’s get right to it.
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Good morning to everyone but especially to…
NFL FANS EVERYWHERE…
Over the next three days, what happens in Vegas… will not stay in Vegas. The NFL Draft starts tonight in Sin City, and I’m excited to see what’s going to happen. It’s already been a wild offseason, and it’s going to get even crazier tonight.
We have so many mock drafts, including five from our experts right here. Those five include four different No. 1 overall picks. We also have NFL insider Jason La Canfora’s mock top 10 (plus one) and NFL expert Josh Edwards’ three-round mock of what every team should do — not what they will do. If every team listened to Josh, here’s how the top five would play out:
- 1. Jaguars: OL Evan Neal, Alabama
- 2. Lions: EDGE Kayvon Thibodeaux, Oregon
- 3. Texans: OL Ikem Ekwonu, NC State
- 4. Jets: CB Ahmad Gardner, Cincinnati
- 5. Jets: CB Derek Stingley Jr., LSU
Now that would be something. Josh has Travon Walker — the favorite to go No. 1 overall at Caesars Sportsbook — going seventh to the Giants and Aidan Hutchinson — the favorite to go No. 2 overall — falling all the way to the Seahawks at nine. Of course, this is what Josh thinks should happen, not what will happen.
One position not mentioned above that will feature heavily tonight? Wide receiver. Caesars Sportsbook currently has the over/under at 6.5 being drafted tonight. If the over hits, it would tie (or pass) the record of seven, set back in 2004. So, what’s fueling the rise of the wide receiver? Our college football reporter Dennis Dodd took a look.
- Dodd: “Welcome to the Age of the Wideout. If you haven’t noticed, they are the best, quickest, way to the end zone. … There would arguably be no Alabama dynasty without Nick Saban’s difference-making receivers. Know your alphabet. The X and Y are the key to offensive ABCs. There’s a reason why five-receiver sets employ as many pass catchers as offensive linemen.”
As for everything else to get you prepared:
- NFL Draft expert Chris Trapasso’s top 300 prospects
- NFL reporter Jonathan Jones‘ insider notebook
- Ten sleepers you should know
- As it stands now, eight teams won’t make a pick tonight.
- SportsLine’s top draft props
Tonight, we’ll have instant analysis and grades for every pick and much more. You can follow along with all of our NFL Draft coverage here.
… AND ALSO A GOOD MORNING TO THE MILWAUKEE BUCKS AND GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS
When the Bucks lost Game 2 to the Bulls and lost Khris Middleton to an MCL sprain, things could have gotten iffy. Instead, the reigning champs showed their championship mettle: three straight wins by a combined 70 points — capped by last night’s 116-100 triumph — to finish the series in five games.
- Giannis Antetokounmpo had 33 points and nine rebounds.
- Pat Connaugton scored 20 points off the bench.
- The Bucks held the Bulls to 100 points or fewer for the fourth time in the series.
- Milwaukee has now won 20 of its last 22 games against Chicago (regular-season and postseason).
Milwaukee’s upcoming series against the Celtics should be absolutely awesome. Hopefully Middleton can be back for at least some of it, but even if he can’t, the Bucks are plenty capable. They showed as much in the opening round.
That wasn’t the only 3-vs-6 series to end in five games last night. The Warriors finished off the Nuggets with a 102-98 victory.
- Stephen Curry had 30 points, and Gary Payton II came up huge with 15 points on 6-for-8 shooting off the bench.
- The Warriors won the fourth quarter 32-20.
- For Denver, Nikola Jokic‘s historic season comes to an end with a masterful 30-point, 19-rebound, eight-assist game.
It wasn’t the Warriors’ prettiest performance ever, but finding ways to win ugly is crucial in the playoffs, writes NBA reporter Colin Ward-Henninger.
- Ward-Henninger: “The game wasn’t pretty, but when it came down to crunch time, Curry took what the defense was giving him and found a way to help his team win. That’s what it takes to eliminate a team from the playoffs, and that’s what the Warriors will require as they continue their march toward the familiar ground of the NBA Finals.”
Golden State will face the winner of Memphis-Minnesota next.
- Devin Booker could return as early as tonight.
- Donovan Mitchell is expected to play tonight.
- Five-star 2023 power forward GG Jackson is headed to North Carolina.
- Cam Robinson got a three-year, $54-million extension from the Jaguars.
Not so honorable mentions
- The Bulls led the Eastern Conference as recently as February 25. Then they fell all the way to the six seed and got blown out in the first round.
- Likely MVP Nikola Jokic and the Nuggets are done, too. That’s not Jokic’s fault, of course — he averaged a 30-point double-double this series — but Denver needs a healthy Jamal Murray and a healthy Michael Porter Jr. to truly contend.
- No one wants to take responsibility for the Lakers‘ disastrous season.
UCL recap: Liverpool beat Villarreal 2-0 in first leg of semifinal ⚽
We’re halfway to an all-England UEFA Champions League final. One day after Manchester City topped Real Madrid 4-3 in their first leg match, Liverpool beat Villarreal 2-0 behind an own goal from Pervis Estupiñán off a cross from Jordan Henderson in the 53rd minute and a Sadio Mané goal just two minutes later.
The Reds are, simply, inevitable writes soccer expert James Benge.
- Benge: “If you were to slam your head against a brick wall for long enough, eventually it might just crumble. This is of course something best left to professionals at demolition jobs. Liverpool may yet have proven themselves to be that, not just in this competition but every one in which they played. … There is no point acting like the quadruple is not an extremely live prospect a month and a day out from the Champions League final.”
The quadruple James speaks of is…
- League Cup (which Liverpool already won)
- FA Cup (Liverpool faces Chelsea in the final May 14)
- Premier League (Liverpool is one point behind Manchester City with five matches left)
- UEFA Champions League (Liverpool are 90 minutes from a spot in the May 28 final)
For more, you can check out our player ratings and soccer guru Jonathan Johnson’s breakdown on how Liverpool erased Villarreal’s upset blueprint. Remember, you can watch the Champions League on Paramount+.
Who will replace Mark Emmert as president of the NCAA? 🤔
Two days ago came the big announcement that NCAA president Mark Emmert is stepping down. His last day will be June 30, 2023 or whenever his successor is officially appointed, whichever comes first.
So, who will that successor be? Dodd has a list of candidates, and topping that list is…
- Dodd: “If he’s interested, Dan Gavitt has to be the No. 1 candidate. Right now, the NCAA does one thing really well — putting on its basketball tournaments. Gavitt runs those tournaments. He has the demeanor and the mutual respect to inject some credibility back into the president’s office.”
The list also includes a former U.S. Secretary of State and a former U.S. Secretary of Defense.
Best games from the men’s basketball NCAA Tournament 🏀
I’ll admit it: We’re less than one month into the offseason, and I already miss college basketball. A lot. I plan to fill much of the offseason reliving this season’s best games. Luckily, I know where to start: Our college basketball experts’ best games of the men’s NCAA Tournament.
There were plenty to choose from, but David Cobb‘s choice was my personal favorite: Arizona’s 85-80 overtime win over TCU.
- Cobb: “TCU had the ball with the game tied at 75 in the final seconds when it appeared that Horned Frogs point guard Mike Miles was fouled near mid-court by Arizona wing Dalen Terry. Instead, the officials let play continue when Terry’s bump sent Miles to the floor. As the basketball came loose, Terry scooped it up and barreled toward the basket for a potential game-winning lay-up at the buzzer. He made it, but it was just a fraction of a second too late.”
Here are the highlights. You’re welcome.
What we’re watching Thursday 📺
- We’re watching the NBA playoffs. Here’s how you can, too.
- We’re also watching the NFL draft. Here’s how you can, too.