The Month of Madness

March 1, 2021

Welcome to March 🏀

The month of madness is about to begin. For the first time in two years, basketball fans can get hyped for the greatest month-long phenomenon in sports. The Sportsletter’s bracket pool will feature some exciting prizes, too. Stay tuned.

Letter Rip!

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NCAA

Kansas Blows Up Baylor’s Undefeated Season

Photo: Ronald Martinez / Getty Images

#17 Kansas Knocks Off #2 Baylor, Gonzaga Completes Undefeated Regular Season

 

It took until the final days of February, but the 17th-ranked Kansas Jayhawks put the first blemish on No. 2 Baylor’s record with a 71-58 win on Saturday at Allen Fieldhouse. The Bears shot just 34.8% in a game where they were out-rebounded 48-28. And the question mark surrounding the validity of Baylor’s No. 2 ranking just got bigger. The Bears had a tough road in the Big 12 this season, but they also avoided seven games against ranked opponents due to COVID-19 cancellations. Would they have still been undefeated at this juncture of the year had they played those games? Playing opponents on their schedule like #1 Gonzaga, #7 Oklahoma, #10 West Virginia and #18 Texas Tech may have proved otherwise. With a record of 18-1, Baylor is still a projected No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, but Kansas just brought them back to Earth.

Watch: Kansas Upset Ruins Baylor’s Undefeated Season

 

Other NCAA Updates

Nine of the Top-25 teams in men’s college basketball hit a snag in the road this weekend. Only three of those came at the hands of another ranked opponent, leaving six teams victims of unranked foes. Expect a shakeup when today’s rankings are revealed.

 

NCAA Men’s Basketball Scores

#1 Gonzaga def. Loyola Marymount (86-69)

#3 Michigan def. Indiana (73-57)

#9 Iowa def. #4 Ohio State (73-57)

#5 Illinois def. #23 Wisconsin (74-59)

#6 Alabama def. Miss. State (64-59)

Oklahoma State def. #7 Oklahoma (94-90, OT)

Butler def. #8 Villanova (73-61)

#10 W. Virginia def. Kansas State (65-43)

North Carolina def. #11 Florida State (78-70)

#12 Houston def. South Florida (98-52)

Xavier def. #13 Creighton (77-69)

#18 Texas Tech def. #14 Texas (68-59)

 

Additional Storylines

ESPN: The Unreal Offensive Numbers Behind Gonzaga’s First Undefeated Season

Yahoo! Sports: Roy Williams Reaches 900 Wins With UNC’s Upset of #11 Florida State

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PGA

For Tiger: The Sunday Reds

Photo: Sam Greenwood / Getty Images

PGA Players Don Red & Black on Sunday to Show Appreciation for Tiger Woods

 

Last week was another hold-your-breath moment for sports fans after Tiger Woods was involved in a car accident that resulted in multiple bone fractures and a shattered ankle. Luckily, Woods is okay, and the golf world has been there to encourage him in his recovery.

 

On Sunday, PGA players at the WGC-Workday Championship wore red and black to show appreciation for Woods and what he means to the game. One particular competitor and rival of Woods — Rory McIlroy — wore red for the first time in his 14-year career. Tiger’s traditional Sunday colors were on display at the Puerto Rico Open, too.

 

“It’s hard to explain how touching today was when I turned on the tv and saw all the red shirts. To every golfer and every fan, you are truly helping me get through this tough time.” — Tiger Woods

 

Morikawa Wins WGC-Workday Open

As for the athletes on display this weekend, Collin Morikawa (-18) was a three-stroke winner at the opening event of the Florida Swing. He beat out Viktor Hovland (-15), Brooks Koepka (-15) and Billy Horschel (-15). The PGA Tour moves to Orlando for the Arnold Palmer Invitational next weekend.

 

Watch: Morikawa Wins WGC-Workday Open

 

Additional Storylines

Golf Channel: Photos: Players Wear Red & Black for Tiger Woods on Sunday

USA Today: What We Know: The Latest on Tiger Woods’ Recovery Timeline

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NBA

Knicks on the Rise 👀

Photo: Sarah Stier / Getty Images

New York Pulls Above .500 as NBA Nears Middle of the Season

 

We’re closing in on the all-star break in the NBA to signal the midway mark of the regular season, and a few surprise teams are climbing fast. The New York Knicks won their third straight game on Sunday over the Pistons (109-90), and they’ve cracked the .500 mark (18-17) for the first time in more than eight seasons (minimum 20 games). The Knicks are 7-3 since trading for Derrick Rose on Feb. 8.

 

Shocking Stat: Head coach Tom Thibodeau has instilled a defensive mindset that has the Knicks with the 1st-ranked defense in the NBA. They’re holding opponents to 104.0 points per game. The Lakers defense is 2nd at 105.6 ppg.

 

Other Teams on the Rise

Bucks: Won 5 Straight

Heat: Won 6 Straight

Celtics: Won 3 Straight

Lakers: Won 2 Straight

Jazz: Won 8 of 10

Suns: Won 8 of 10

Wizards: Won 7 of 10

Mavericks: Won 7 of 10

 

Teams Struggling: Pacers (L3), Magic (L3), Blazers (L4), Rockets (L11)

 

Additional NBA Highlights

  • Giannis Antetokounmpo Scores 17 of Bucks’ Last 22 to Beat Clippers (105-100)
  • Jayson Tatum Scores Late Game-Winner to Push Celtics Past Wizards (111-110)
  • L.A. Lakers Demolish Warriors by 26 Without a 20-Point Scorer (117-91)

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NFL

The Pittsburgh Pay Cuts

Photo: Jamie Sabau / Getty Images

Ben Roethlisberger & The Steelers Are At A Crossroads, But That’s Just The Beginning

 

The Pittsburgh Steelers were the talk of the NFL last season after an 11-0 start, followed by an epic collapse. With QB Ben Roethlisberger turning 39 tomorrow, and the Steelers currently $30 million over the cap, there’s trouble in Pittsburgh. Roethlisberger and the team have publicly said they’re planning to rework his deal, but that still leaves questions for a team with an aging quarterback and a low first-round draft pick. In short, it means more pay cuts.

 

Players to Watch

A handful of star players will need to make sacrifices or ultimately leave the black and gold. Veterans like CB Joe Haden, C Maurkice Pouncey and G David DeCastro are long-time Steelers with high contracts that could be targets. No matter how you spin it, tough times are on the horizon in Pittsburgh.

 

Additional Storylines

The Athletic: Ben Roethlisberger’s New Contract Should Force the Steelers to Break the Mold

ESPN: What Another Ben Roethlisberger Season Means for Steelers in 2021 and Beyond

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🎥 THE HIGHLIGHTS

🏒 NHL: Kane Scores Goal 400

The Blackhawks stayed hot with a 7-2 win over the Red Wings on Sunday as Patrick Kane netted goal No. 400. Chicago (12-7-4) has won six of their last eight.

 

🏀 NCAAW: A&M Wins Top-5 Showdown

3rd-ranked Texas A&M topped 5th-ranked South Carolina (65-57) in the battle of the weekend in women’s college hoops. The Aggies are making a case for the No. 1 overall seed with just one loss this year by four points.

 

🥊 BOXING: Canelo Retains the Title

Canelo Alvarez took down challenger Avni Yildirim Saturday night in Miami to keep the WBC and WBA super middleweight titles. Alvarez delivered a beatdown that resulted in Yildirim’s corner calling the fight after three rounds.

 

🏈 FCS: NDSU’s 39-Game Streak Broken

North Dakota State’s unbelievable 39-game win streak finally came to an end on Saturday with a blowout upset by Southern Illinois (38-14). The Bison hadn’t lost an FCS game since Nov. 4, 2017.

 

🏎️ NASCAR: Byron Blows Away Miami

William Byron captured his second NASCAR Cup Series victory on Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway in the Dixie Vodka 400. The 23-year-old driver dominated the race, winning Stage 2 and leading 102 laps.

 

⛳️ LPGA: Korda Sisters Win Back-to-Back

Nelly Korda won the Gainbridge on Sunday after her older sister Jessica won the season-opening event last month. They became the second pair of sisters to win back-to-back on the LPGA Tour (Annika and Charlotta Sorenstam, 2000).

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THE STORYLINES 

⚾️ Spring Training: 5 Things to Watch

As always, never believe anything you see on a baseball diamond in February or March. So, with that out of the way, a hearty welcome back to Major League Baseball, which will stage a month of exhibitions before starting a hoped-for 162-game season April 1. (USA Today)

 

🏀 Inside the Jeremy Lin Controversy

A day after a league official told ESPN’s Marc J. Spears that the G League is investigating a claim made by Jeremy Lin that he was called “coronavirus” during a game, Lin tweeted that he’s “not naming or shaming anyone.” (ESPN)

 

🏈 The Seahawks Wouldn’t Trade Wilson

Right? Russell Wilson’s mini media blitz happened two weeks ago, but the fire we thought flamed out in the time since roared back to life Thursday morning. Turns out, there’s more Seahawks drama for this offseason. (The Ringer)

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📰 THE HEADLINES