Thursday, April 18, 2024
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Syracuse stuns No. 7 UNC; Celtics back at No. 1 in CBS’ NBA Power Rankings

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🍊 Good morning to everyone but especially …

THE SYRACUSE ORANGE

One of the greatest aspects of college basketball is just how much things can change in a very short amount of time. Oh yeah, and the craziness that can come on any night. Just ask Syracuse. Exactly one month after getting bulldozed by 36 in Chapel Hill, the young but talented Orange upset No. 7 North Carolina, 86-79, giving first-year head coach Adrian Autry his first signature win in charge of his alma mater.

  • This was a shot-making masterpiece: The Orange shot a season-high 62.5%, their best against an AP top-10 team since at least 1980 and their best against any opponent since 2011.
  • The starting backcourt of Judah Mintz and JJ Starling shot a combined 65.4%, scoring 48 points on 17 of 26 from the field.
  • The defense wasn’t always great, but it was good enough, especially down the stretch. Quadir Copeland led the charge there.
  • The win snaps Syracuse’s 16-game losing streak against AP top-10 opponents, which had been its longest such losing streak since at least 1980. It’s the program’s first win over a top-10 team since beating then-No. 1 Duke in 2019.

Sometimes opponents get hot and make a ton of shots, even the really hard ones. But we probably need to have a chat about North Carolina, which is 2-3 over its last five games after starting the season 17-3. The defense hasn’t been good enough, and according to advanced stats site Bart Torvik, North Carolina has been the 65th-best team in the nation since this rough patch began on Jan. 30. We’ll see if it’s more than a rough patch soon enough, but it certainly hasn’t been good.

😁 Honorable mentions

😣 Not so honorable mentions

⚽ UEFA Champions League: Favorites win, picks for today’s action

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So far, so good — well, good enough — for two UEFA Champions League favorites in the knockout rounds. Manchester City pulled away from FC Copenhagen3-1, while Real Madrid snuck by RB Leipzig1-0, to open the Round of 16.

The Citizens got a masterclass from Kevin de Bruyne as the Belgian midfielder scored the opening goal and assisted on the visitors’ two others, to Bernardo Silva and Phil Foden. It’s wonderful to see the oft-injured star in full form, but Manchester City will worry about the injuries to two other standouts, notes James Benge.

  • Benge: Jack Grealish‘s first start in a month ended prematurely midway through the first half while Silva exited moments after a thumping tackle into his left ankle. Even a team of City’s quality can only take so many blows with so much football left to play. … City fans will hope that Silva’s exit was a mere precaution, that Grealish stepped off before doing any major damage. With Jeremy Doku in fine fettle the latter was not particularly missed while Julian Alvarez or Mateo Kovacic could plug a Silva-shaped hole in Guardiola’s XI. There is not a lot behind them, though.”

Foden also stepped up at a crucial time yet again, writes Chuck Booth.

For Real Madrid, Jude Bellingham‘s absence (sprained ankle) was quite noticeable, but Brahim Diaz provided his own moment of solo brilliance for Los Blancos’ only tally, and backup keeper Andriy Lunin came up huge against several Leipzig attacks. The big question for Carlo Ancelotti now will be whether Bellingham can be back for the second leg on March 6.

Today, we have two more Round of 16 first legs on the docket:

We also have …

🏀 Celtics regain top spot in weekly NBA Power Rankings

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When you’re as good as the Celtics are, any loss feels strange. So even though Boston has lost just three times in the last month, they had dipped slightly in Colin Ward-Henninger’s weekly Power Rankings, which take into account every result Tuesday-Monday. Not anymore.

  • Ward-Henninger: “Guess who’s back? The Celtics are No. 1 again, as Kristaps Porzingis went off in a 3-0 week, averaging 30 points in just under 32 minutes per game. He admitted that Boston could play better, but doesn’t think people should overreact because they ‘haven’t been beating everybody by 30, like we did at the beginning of the season.’ We agree, Zinger.”

Right behind them is another rising conference leader.

  • Ward-Henninger: “The Timberwolves could have been at the top of the rankings were it not for an overtime loss to the Bulls to start the week. They dominated road wins over the Bucks and Clippers to reestablish themselves as the No. 1 team in the West, with the offense doing the heavy lifting for a change. Anthony Edwards and Karl-Anthony Towns led the way, but Minnesota got plenty of contributions from up and down the lineup in an uplifting week.”

Here’s the top five:

  1. Celtics (previous: 5)
  2. Timberwolves (6)
  3. Cavaliers (2)
  4. Pelicans (8)
  5. Clippers (1)

🏀 Catching up on college hoops as Selection Sunday nears

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USATSI

We’re about a month away from Selection Sunday and all the awesomeness (and nervousness) that comes with filling out your bracket.

If you’ve been locked in on the NFL or just haven’t been locked in to the hectic college basketball schedule, we get it. I promise. But now is the time to lock in, and we’re here to help. Specifically, I’m here to help with answers to the 20 biggest questions you might have as you get caught up. You probably remember Purdue last year for becoming the second No. 1 seed to lose to a No. 16 ever, but the Boilermakers are ranked No. 2 in the nation and could be even better this year.

  • Pereles: Zach Edey is putting together another player-of-the-year season (23.3 ppg, 11.7 rpg, 2.3 bpg). He’s a near lock to be the first repeat Naismith Player of the Year winner since Virginia‘s Ralph Sampson won three straight from 1981-83. Like Virginia, Purdue is looking to go from losing to a No. 16 seed to winning a title. The biggest difference this year, though, is much-improved point guard Braden Smith (12.7 ppg, 7.1 apg).”

Edey repeating would be a remarkable story. But it doesn’t hold a candle to what might be the best story in the sport: Myles Rice, a third-year freshman who beat cancer and has Washington State on the precipice of its first NCAA Tournament berth since 2008. Matt Norlander has Rice’s story in his weekly Court Report.

  • Norlander: “On March 9, 2023, Rice made the short drive over the Idaho border for his final chemotherapy treatment. Less than three months later, on June 1, as he enjoyed an afternoon on the golf course with his father Joel, he got the call. The cancer was officially in remission. The best was yet to come — beyond everyone’s expectations. Rice was outstanding all summer and into the preseason. But to be in contention for Pac-12 Freshman of the Year and lifting Washington State to rarely seen heights amounts to one of the most shocking 2024 plot twists in American sports.”

📺 What we’re watching Wednesday

🏀 Seton Hall at Xavier, 7 p.m. on CBS Sports Network
🏀 Bulls at Cavaliers, 7:30 p.m. on ESPN
🏒 Panthers at Penguins, 7:30 p.m. on TNT
🏀 No. 11 South Carolina at No. 13 Auburn (M), 8:30 p.m. on SEC Network
🏀 Clippers at Warriors, 10 p.m. on ESPN

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