Sunday, April 14, 2024
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Duke bolsters historic 2024 recruiting class; Bills’ bills come due; USWNT wins classic

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🏀 Good morning to everyone but especially …

THE DUKE BLUE DEVILS

The rich get richer, and Duke is absolutely raking it in. Khaman Maluach, the top center and No. 3 overall prospect in 247Sports’ 2024 recruiting rankings, committed to the Blue Devils, another massive win in a historic haul for Jon Scheyer. Here’s his 2024 class so far …

  • Cooper Flagg (No. 1 overall, No. 1 SF)
  • Khaman Maluach (No. 3 overall, No. 1 C)
  • Isaiah Evans (No. 12 overall, No. 3 SF)
  • Kon Knueppel (No. 17 overall, No. 5 SF)
  • Patrick Ngongba II (No. 18 overall, No. 5 C)
  • Darren Harris (No. 50 overall, No. 14 SF)

It’s the most top-50 recruits in a class since Kentucky in 2017. While Flagg, who has a perfect 1.000 rating, is the crown jewel, Maluach is a huge addition, literally and figuratively. The 7-foot-1 South Sudan native didn’t pick up basketball until he was a teenager, but once he did, the potential was obvious. He currently plays for NBA Academy Africa and considered Kansas, Kentucky, UCLA and the G League Ignite before choosing Duke.

Why did all of those powerhouses come calling? Travis Branham explains in Maluach’s scouting report.

  • Branham: “His size, length and energy are all outstanding while also possessing a tremendous amount of skill, able to step out and make shots from three, score on the block, catch lobs, switch on defense and of course, block shots.”

Duke could end up with the best class in 247Sports history depending on how the rest of the recruiting cycle plays out. Regardless, the Blue Devils have 2024’s top class, with a fascinating addition as the latest piece.

😁 Honorable mentions

🏈 And not such a good morning for …

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THE BUFFALO BILLS

When you load up a Super Bowl-caliber roster and fall short, you have to pay the piper eventually. The Bills did so Wednesday, parting ways with several key veterans:

  • S Jordan Poyer
  • C Mitch Morse
  • WR Deonte Harty
  • RB Nyheim Hines
  • DB Siran Neal

Furthermore, the Bills will designate CB Tre’Davious White as a post-June 1 cut, per CBS Sports lead NFL Insider Jonathan Jones. Buffalo also restructured the contracts of DB Rasul Douglas and LB Von Miller.

This was always coming: The Bills were projected to be nearly $20 million over the salary cap and atop our list of teams needing to cut costs. The moves opened up over $37 million in cap space, but it’s never a fun — or easy — exercise.

  • Poyer, 32, might be the toughest goodbye. With Buffalo since 2017, he was an All-Pro in 2021 and he made the Pro Bowl in 2022. He had 22 interceptions over the last seven seasons, tied for seventh in the NFL.
  • Morse, 31, and White, 29, have also been stalwarts. Morse is among the NFL’s best and steadiest centers and was a Pro Bowl selection in 2022. White was a two-time Pro Bowl pick and a 2019 All-Pro, and his story is partially a “what if.” On the verge of superstardom, White tore his ACL late in 2021, came back late in 2022 but wasn’t the same and then tore his Achilles last season.

The story of this group was coming up short: the 2021 loss to the Chiefs when a White-less defense couldn’t stop the Chiefs for 13 seconds, the 2022 loss to the Bengals that included Stefon Diggsoutburst and the 2023 loss to the Chiefs again.

Are the Bills done? Absolutely not. No team with Josh Allen is. But the simple truth is it will be a massive challenge to build a roster close to as good as the ones they’ve had, making the playoff disappointments all the sadder in the rearview.

😓 Not so honorable mentions

🏒 NHL trade deadline: Avalanche, Panthers get high marks for big moves

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Ahead of tomorrow’s NHL trade deadline, four of the league’s best are loading up for the stretch run and beyond.

  • The league-leading Panthers acquired Vladimir Terasenko from the Senators.
  • The Avalanche added Casey Mittelstadt from the Sabres and Sean Walker from the Flyers in a pair of statement moves just minutes apart.
  • The reigning-champion Golden Knights won the Noah Hanifin sweepstakes in a late-night blockbuster with the Flames.
  • The Oilers acquired Adam Henrique and Sam Carrick from the Ducks.

Florida got Tarasenko, who helped the Blues to the Cup in 2019, at a discount: a pair of picks, one conditional. Austin Nivison gave Florida an “A-” in his trade grades.

  • Nivison: “If there was one nitpick with this Panthers team, it’s that they were missing more consistent scoring on the wings. Sam Reinhart, Carter Verhaeghe and Matthew Tkachuk have been carrying most of the offensive burden in 2023-24. … According to Natural Stat Trick, Tarasenko is scoring at a rate of 1.11 goals/60. That is better than all but two Panthers — Reinhart and Verhaeghe.”

The Avalanche gave up much more in their trades: Bowen Byram for Middlestadt and a 2025 first-round pick and Ryan Johansen for Walker and a 2026 fifth-round pick. Still, the Middlestadt move is a strong one as Colorado gets its second-line center behind superstar Nathan MacKinnon. The 2022 champs got a “B+” in Austin’s trade grades, but the Sabres weren’t far behind.

Hanifin, meanwhile, was a popular name on the rumor mill all season, and Las Vegas shelled out a first-round pick in 2025 or 2026, a conditional third-round pick, and defenseman Daniil Miromanov.

You can keep up with every move via our NHL trade deadline tracker.

⚽ USWNT tops Canada in rain-soaked W Gold Cup semifinal

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They splished and they splashed, desperately trying to adjust to a waterlogged field and a ball that skipped and stopped like it was in a cartoon.

And in the end, it was the USWNT earning a 2-2 (3-1 PEN) win over Canada to advance to the W Gold Cup final, where they’ll face Brazil.

Playing through atrocious conditions that had several former USWNT players saying the game should be called offJaedyn Shaw pounced on a back pass and finished coolly in the 20th minute. It looked like that would hold up, but Jordyn Huitema headed home a wonderful team goal in the 82nd minute.

In the ninth minute of extra time, Rose Lavelle nodded a ball on to a streaking Sophie Smith, who put a composed finish into the net. Once again, though, the drama wasn’t done: USWNT goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher collided with Canada’s Vanessa Gilles, and after a VAR look, it was ruled a penalty. Adriana Leon converted in the 127th minute to force penalty kicks.

Minutes after the mistake, Naeher played hero, not only saving three penalty kicks — including Jessie Fleming‘s to clinch it in the fourth round — but converting one of her own. Here’s Sandra Herrera on what the win means for the Stars and Stripes.

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⚽ UEFA Champions League: Real Madrid, Manchester City advance

Sometimes in the UEFA Champions League, you must survive and advance. No one has survived and advanced better than 14-time title winners Real Madrid, and Los Blancos had to hold on by the skin of their teeth once again Wednesday, squeaking out a 1-1 draw against RB Leipzig.

Madrid won the first leg, 1-0, but needed the crossbar to make that result stand up. Vinícius Júnior scored in the 65th minute, and it looked like the Spanish giants — far from their best — would be OK. But Willi Orbán equalized three minutes later, and had Dani Olmo‘s 92nd-minute half-volley not been denied by the woodwork, we’d be talking about an all-time upset. There’s a reason Los Blancos hardly celebrated, Chuck Booth notes.

Manchester City, meanwhile, needed no such drama, resting several key players in a 3-1 win over Copenhagen. The Citizens’ path to the final is wide open, James Benge writes.

📺 What we’re watching Thursday

Braves at Red Sox, 1 p.m. on ESPN
🏒 Blues at Devils, 7 p.m. on ESPN
🏀 Heat at Mavericks, 7:30 p.m. on TNT
🏀 Washington at No. 21 Washington State (M), 9 p.m. on FS1
🏀 No. 5 Arizona at UCLA (M), 9:30 p.m. on ESPN
🏀 Celtics at Nuggets, 10 p.m. on TNT

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