Happy Wednesday everyone! Hope you're well. The NCAA Tournament is underway, and there's still time for you to enter our Men's Bracket Games and our Women's Bracket Games. You won't regret it. Especially not if you read this newsletter. I promise all of my picks are going to be 100% correct.
OK, well I promise I'm trying my best at least.
Let's get right to it.
Good morning to everyone but especially to...
THE PITTSBURGH PANTHERS AND TEXAS A&M-CORPUS CHRISTI ISLANDERS
One night of NCAA Tournament action, two fantastic finishes. No. 11 seed Pittsburgh and No. 16 seed Texas A&M-Corpus Christi are in the win column and into the Round of 64. Let's start with Pitt, whose 60-59 win over Mississippi State featured 21(!) lead changes.
- The final lead change came via Jamarius Burton's tough pull-up jumper with 10 seconds remaining.
- The Bulldogs had three great chances to win it afterward: Tolu Smith got blocked by Guillermo Diaz-Graham, Shakeel Moore missed a wide-open 3-pointer and D.J. Jeffries' tip just before the buzzer sounded went begging.
- It's Pitt's first NCAA Tournament win since 2014.
- The Panthers will face No. 6 seed Iowa State tomorrow.
Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, meanwhile, got its first NCAA Tournament win ever, beating Southeast Missouri State, 75-71, thanks to a career-high 22 points from Jalen Jackson. The Islanders' reward is a meeting with top overall seed Alabama tomorrow.
- Here are the men's basketball AP All-Americans.
- Alejandro Zendejas chose the United States over Mexico as his international team.
Not so honorable mentions
- The Lamar Jackson saga took another strange turn.
- Damian Lillard doesn't love the current state of the NBA.
- Freddie Freeman hurt his hamstring at the World Baseball Classic.
- Will Wade's contract at McNeese State includes a five-game suspension.
- Coppin State fired Juan Dixon.
- Syracuse landed Notre Dame transfer JJ Starling.
Brackets are here! Get back in your pools and join our Men's and Women's Challenges for the chance to win a new SUV and a college basketball dream trip! No purchase necessary. See Terms & Rules for details.
NCAA Tournament preview: Picking first-round upsets, X-factors for contenders 🏀
Still pulling your hair out over your March Madness bracket? Me too.
We have more help for you today, and it starts with my advice for picking first-round upsets. I looked at some historical trends to give you one upset from each seed, 9-16. Here's one of my favorites:
- Pereles: "(11) Providence Friars -- The top storyline of this game is Bryce Hopkins. After barely playing last season at Kentucky, Hopkins transferred to Providence and blossomed into a First Team All-Big East performer. ... Coach Ed Cooley also has a bevy of veteran guards willing and able to take on big roles when needed. Kentucky has looked like a title contender one day and a bubble team the next; Providence will be ready for whichever version comes its way."
Want to get into some game theory with your picks? Our Mike McClure has some value upset picks based on what other people are (or aren't) picking.
While stars often steal the show in March, every team needs some role players to step up at some point, and our David Cobb examined X-factors for some of the top title favorites. If you're in on (2) UCLA (like I think I might be), get to know the name Amari Bailey.
Here's more stuff to know as you fill out -- or adjust, or procrastinate on -- your bracket.
- Matt Norlander's awesome feature on Marquette and Shaka Smart
- Who is the best at what? I handed out team superlatives.
- Ranking first-year coaches who could make a Final Four trip
And make sure that your bracket is entered in our Men's Bracket Games!
NFL legal tampering period, Day 2: Giants, Cowboys make huge moves 🏈
The NFC East sent three teams to the playoffs last season, and those squads don't plan on going anywhere any time soon. The Giants acquired Darren Waller, and the Cowboys traded for Stephon Gilmore to headline the second day of the legal tampering period.
Let's start with Waller, who is a major addition to what should be a revamped Giants receiving core.
- The Giants sent a 2023 third-round pick to Las Vegas.
- Waller, 30, had back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons in 2019 and 2020 before injury-riddled 2021 and 2022 seasons. Still, since 2019, he ranks third among tight ends in both receptions and receiving yards.
- With Daniel Jones now on a long-term contract, this was a big move to upgrade the talent around him. The Giants earned a very solid "B+" in Garrett Podell's trade grades.
When healthy, Waller is the rare type of tight end you can build your passing offense around -- a group that includes guys like Travis Kelce, Mark Andrews and George Kittle. Waller is a terrific downfield threat, and his two career 1,000-yard seasons are more than all Giants tight ends ever (Mark Bavarro had one).
As for the Cowboys, Gilmore may be past his peak at 32, but he only cost Dallas a fifth-round pick. Gilmore will line up opposite Trevon Diggs on what is a loaded Dallas defense. The Cowboys were one of Tuesday's biggest winners, writes our Jeff Kerr.
On the Aaron Rodgers front, the biggest/latest news surrounds Rodgers' "wish list" of players he wants the Jets to sign. It includes three Packers teammates.
- WR Allen Lazard
- WR Randall Cobb
- WR Odell Beckham Jr.
- TE Marcedes Lewis
The Jets did end up agreeing to a deal with Lazard, but our Will Brinson opines that Rodgers is holding both the Jets and Packers "hostage."
Make sure to keep these tabs open today:
Champions League: Erling Haaland ties record in Manchester City romp; Does Liverpool have a chance? ⚽
Erling Haaland. That's it. That's the story. The Norwegian superstar tied a UEFA Champions League record with five goals as Manchester City thrashed RB Leipzig, 7-0, to advance to the quarterfinals.
Here's the list of players to score five time in a UEFA Champions League game:
- Lionel Messi (Barcelona) -- 2012 vs. Bayer Leverkusen
- Luiz Adriano (Shakhtar Donetsk) -- 2014 vs. BATE Borisov
- Erling Haaland (Manchester City) -- 2023 vs. RB Leipzig
It was the type of performance that confirms Haaland can end City's Champions League struggles, writes our Roger Gonzalez.
- Gonzalez: "This is not the Manchester City of the past, the one with a lineup filled with the world's best players yet a defense that too often can let them down, with an attack that sometimes just never showed up when it mattered most. It's a team that has a future multiple Ballon d'Or winner who has everything it takes to be a true legend of the game and prolifically lift them to the highest of heights."
In the other game, Inter Milan held on for a 0-0 draw against Porto to advance after winning the first leg 1-0. Today, we have a pair of matches to finally cut the field down to eight:
- Real Madrid vs. Liverpool (5-2), 4 p.m. on Paramount+ (preview)
- Napoli vs. Eintracht Frankfurt (2-0), 4. p.m. on Paramount+ (preview)
That first match promises to be a fun one, with Liverpool desperately trying to claw back into things. If you rode with Tom Fornelli's best bet yesterday, you made yourself some money, and he's back to put more change in your pocket. We also have expert picks and stats to know on the final day of the Round of 16.
What we're watching Wednesday 📺
🏀 We're watching the men's NCAA Tournament and the women's NCAA Tournament.
⚽ Real Madrid vs. Liverpool, 4 p.m. on Paramount+
⚽ Napoli vs. Eintracht Frankfurt, 4. p.m. on Paramount+
🏀 76ers at Cavaliers, 7:30 p.m. on ESPN
🏒 Wild at Blues, 9:30 p.m. on TNT
🏀 Warriors at Clippers, 10 p.m. on ESPN