Wednesday, February 28, 2024
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UNC beats Duke in huge college basketball weekend; Sixers’ Joel Embiid to miss extended time

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🏀 Good morning to everyone but especially …

NORTH CAROLINA AND OTHER BIG COLLEGE BASKETBALL WINNERS

Entering Saturday night, No. 7 Duke hadn’t won three straight games at No. 3 North Carolina in over 20 years. Armando Bacot made sure it stayed that way. The Tar Heels’ big man tallied 25 points — his most since the season-opener — 10 rebounds and five assists to lead the hosts to a 93-84 win in Chapel Hill.

It’s been a bit of a quiet year for Bacot, but this was a vintage performance from the fifth-year star, writes Gary Parrish. Bacot wasn’t alone either, with Harrison Ingram adding 21 points (with five 3-pointers) and 13 rebounds. These Tar Heels are every bit a top-tier title contender.

No. 8 Kansas, meanwhile, reminded us it should never be counted out of that conversation, even when it has some struggles. The Jayhawks cruised past No. 4 Houston78-65, and earned a spot in our weekend winners, courtesy of Kyle Boone.

  • Boone: Winner: Kansas remains king in Allen Fieldhouse — No. 8 Kansas was an underdog at home for just the second time ever under Bill Self as No. 4 Houston came to Allen Fieldhouse on Saturday, and the Jayhawks made quick work of the visiting Cougars. … The win moved Self and KU to 11-1 against AP top five opponents in Allen Fieldhouse and 19-1 when facing an opponent ranked higher than KU – including 16 straight wins dating back to 2006. “

The Jayhawks also earned an “A+” in Kyle’s weekly grades. No. 10 Kentucky found itself on the other end of the spectrum: an “F” after a two-loss week, including a 103-92 home loss to No. 5 Tennessee on Saturday. The Volunteers, meanwhile, finally showed offensive firepower outside star Dalton Knecht, writes Cameron Salerno.

Elsewhere in a loaded weekend …

  • Zach Edey joined Patrick Ewing and David Robinson as the only players with 2,000 points, 1,000 rebounds and 200 blocks while shooting 60% or better in their careers as No. 2 Purdue beat No. 6 Wisconsin, 75-69.
  • No. 1 UConn pulled away from St. John’s for a 77-64 win. Madison Square Garden was the perfect venue, writes Matt Norlander.

👍 Honorable mentions

😕 And not such a good morning for …

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JOEL EMBIID AND THE PHILADELPHIA 76ERS (YES, AGAIN)

Another injury, another procedure, another big question about Joel Embiid‘s availability. The 76ers superstar and reigning NBA MVP will undergo a procedure on his injured left knee that will cause him to miss “an extended period of time.”

  • Embiid suffered the injury Jan. 31 against the Warriors after returning from a separate knee injury.
  • Philadelphia said this injury — a displaced flap of the meniscus — is different from the one he had been dealing with. Several players, however, ripped the NBA’s 65-game minimum for MVP and other individual honors in the aftermath of Embiid’s injury, hinting at the idea he returned too quickly. Obviously, we’ll never know if that was the case.
  • Embiid is certainly out of the running for those accolades now.
  • The 76ers are 26-8 when Embiid plays this season and 4-10 when he doesn’t. At 30-18 overall, they’re fifth in the East.

We’ll have a better timeline for Embiid’s potential return after the procedure.

It’s another devastating blow for Embiid and the 76ers. They have been legitimately awesome this season, with Tyrese Maxey blossoming into a star alongside Embiid, who has been even better than his MVP-winning 2022-23 campaign.

Even if/when Embiid is cleared health-wise, he’ll have to get back into shape before even thinking about playing. Embiid’s injury history is long and well-documented, and it has been a huge reason why Philadelphia hasn’t made it past the second round with him. We’ll see if that’s the case once again.

👎 Not so honorable mentions

🏈 Happy Super Bowl week! Five burning questions for 49ers-Chiefs

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Congratulations! You made it through a weekend without NFL action. Now we’re six days from Super Bowl LVIII, and Tyler Sullivan has five burning questions for 49ers-Chiefs. My favorite is …

  • Sullivan:Who wins the matchup: Travis Kelce or 49ers LBs? — San Francisco is allowing the seventh-fewest yards per reception (9.4) and second-fewest yards after catch per reception (3.9) against tight ends this season. The 49ers boast some of the best all-around linebackers in the league, headlined by Fred Warner, who’ll likely be asked to help contain Kelce in order to lower the ceiling of the Chiefs offense. “

I was lucky enough to watch Kelce in person in the AFC Championship. On paper, the Ravens had the perfect personnel to limit him in Pro Bowlers Roquan Smith and Kyle Hamilton. Kelce responded with 11 catches on 11 targets for 116 yards and a touchdown, proving his link with Patrick Mahomes is truly second to none.

(P.S. The Chiefs could also get another weapon back.)

This isn’t the only pass-catcher vs. defense strength-on-strength matchup I’m super excited for. The 49ers’ receivers break tackles like crazy. The Chiefs’ defensive backs tackle like crazy. Jeff Kerr has the breakdown.

🏈 Senior Bowl winners, takeaways

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The 2024 Senior Bowl has come and gone, and as always, the game’s result (16-7, National Team) was far less important than the individual performances. And there were some really good showings. With several top quarterbacks not participating in the actual game, a former potential No. 1 overall pick stole the show, writes Ryan Wilson.

  • Wilson: Spencer Rattler only played two series but was a clinical 4-for-4 for 65 yards, and Saturday’s performance put a bow on a solid week of work for the South Carolina quarterback who endured in the last four years what some players don’t face over an entire playing career. He was solid during the three days of practice, and even though he measured just a shade over 6-feet, his arm is as good as advertised, and he showed the ability to layer throws to the second and third level. … We’re still early in the pre-draft process, but Rattler could not have asked for a better start.. 

Ryan has five winners from the practice sessions, too.

We also have Shrine Bowl takeaways.

📺 What we’re watching Monday

🏀 Warriors at Nets, 7:30 p.m. on NBA TV
🏀 No. 16 Louisville at No. 5 NC State (W), 7 p.m. on ESPN2
🏀 No. 8 Kansas at Kansas State (M), 9 p.m. on ESPN

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