Good morning to everyone but especially to...
THE CHAMPIONS LEAGUE
The Champions League has already delivered plenty of thrilling moments, and we're sure to get more today. The Round of 16 continues with a pair of matches today, featuring some of the top contenders for the title -- and streaming, as always, on Paramount+.
Liverpool-Real Madrid, of course, is a rematch of last year's final, which Real Madrid won 1-0 behind a goal from Vinícius Júnior.
Our James Benge expects more of the same in his bold predictions.
- Benge: "What does not seem to have been convincingly changed is Trent Alexander-Arnold's habit of switching off to so much danger behind him at the back post, something that was most cruelly exposed by Vinicius Junior at the Stade de France in last year's final. Even neutrals in Paris could not help but feel like they had found themselves in an old-school horror movie an hour in, screaming 'HE'S BEHIND YOU' to no avail. ... Unfortunately for Liverpool, Vinicius is on something of a tear at the moment, scoring six in his last nine appearances and weighing in with three assists."
Unsteady defending and plenty of attacking prowess? Sounds like an easy over, our Tom Fornelli writes in his Corner Picks.
While those two are the reigning finalists, Napoli might actually be the team to beat. Luciano Spalletti's team leads Serie A by a whopping 15 points, and our Francesco Porzio took a look at how the Azzurri have become a dominant force. You can see all of our experts' picks and predictions here.
- Giannis Antetokounmpo's wrist injury isn't too serious.
- The Bulls signed Patrick Beverley for the rest of the season.
- The Colts are hiring Jim Bob Cooter as offensive coordinator.
- The Chargers promoted Derrick Ansley to defensive coordinator.
And not such a good morning for...
MATT BARZAL AND THE NEW YORK ISLANDERS
With under two months to go in the regular season, the Islanders are hoping to make a playoff push. Standout center Mathew Barzal won't be a part of it... at least for the foreseeable future. The former Calder Memorial Trophy winner is out indefinitely due to a lower-body injury.
- The Islanders are already without forwards Josh Bailey and Jean-Gabriel Pageau, both of whom are dealing with upper-body injuries.
- Barzal's 51 points are second on the team behind Brock Nelson, and his 37 assists lead the team.
- After Monday's win over the Penguins, the Islanders are in a Wild Card spot but have little room for error.
The Islanders could make a move ahead of the March 3 trade deadline, and our Chris Bengel has plenty of trade targets, including...
- Bengel: "The Islanders already parted with a significant portion of capital to land Bo Horvat last month, so a top forward like Patrick Kane or Tyler Bertuzzi probably isn't coming to Long Island. However, Max Domi would be a solid consolation prize. Domi will be an unrestricted free agent this summer, which means that the price tag won't be insanely high. ... The 27-year old would also be a nice addition to an Islanders power-play that is converting just 17.1 percent of their opportunities, which is seventh-worst in the league."
Not so honorable mentions
- A pair of Guardians prospects suffered injury setbacks.
Power Rankings, All-Star Break edition: Celtics reclaim No. 1 🏀
While the NBA All-Star Game doesn't quite mark the halfway point of the season, it does give us a chance to take a step back and assess where we are with about 25 games to go with each team.
So, where are we?
Our Colin Ward-Henninger answers that question in his latest NBA Power Rankings, and there's a new team on top:
- Ward-Henninger: "1. Celtics -- Third in offense. Fourth in defense. First in net rating. Best record. ... Jayson Tatum has been the key, and should be discussed more prominently in MVP conversations. The Celtics' net rating improves by an incredible 11.4 points per 100 possessions when Tatum is on the floor, largely due to his career-best 30.6 points per game and .608 true shooting percentage. Jaylen Brown is the ideal No. 2 next to Tatum, while Malcolm Brogdon and Derrick White have provided exactly what they need."
Colin might be underselling the Celtics, too. In the front court, there's the ageless Al Horford, do-it-all Grant Williams and rim protector extraordinaire Robert Williams III. Boston is really good. The problem might be that the top of the East is really good, too.
Four of Colin's top five reside in the East:
Will Russell Westbrook signing work out for the Clippers? 🏀
Russell Westbrook has found yet another new team, but he's not traveling far. The former MVP, who started his season with the Lakers and got dealt to the Jazz at the trade deadline plans to join the Clippers after being waived by Utah.
- Not counting the Jazz (for whom he never played a game), this will be Westbrook's fifth team in five seasons: Thunder, Rockets, Wizards, Lakers and Clippers.
- Over his one-and-a-half seasons with the Lakers, Westbrook filled the stat sheet with 17.4 points per game, 6.9 assists per game and 7.2 rebounds per game. But his awful perimeter shooting (under 30% from three) and high turnover rate made him a bad fit alongside LeBron James and Anthony Davis.
Now, Westbrook will play alongside another pair of Los Angeles stars -- Kawhi Leonard and Paul George -- but will it generate better results? Our Brad Botkin isn't so sure.
- Botkin: "This is one of the least efficient scorers and worst shooters in history who is having one of the least efficient and worst-shooting seasons of his career; his 45.2 effective field-goal percentage... registers as his worst mark since his second season. ... [The Clippers] might win the title this year, but if they do, it won't be because of the Westbrook addition. It will be in spite of it. "
Bracketology update, games to watch as March Madness nears 🏀
Three weeks from now, we'll be frantically filling out our NCAA Men's Tournament brackets, worrying about picking the wrong Cinderella or missing out on the right one and convincing ourselves this is the year we pick a perfect Final Four.
But three weeks is a long time in the world of college basketball. Top seeds will be jumbled and bubbles will burst between now and then. For now, though, Jerry Palm's latest Bracketology has these eight at the top:
- 1 seeds: Alabama, Houston, Purdue, Kansas
- 2 seeds: Baylor, Texas, UCLA, Arizona
While the Crimson Tide are the top seed, they're no longer atop the AP Top 25. That honor belongs to Houston for the third different stint this season. The Cougars first rose to the top in late November, got back there in early January and are now back again thanks to a seven-game winning streak. They're also atop the Coaches Poll and Gary Parrish's Top 25 And 1. Be sure to check out my top games to watch this week. Hopefully, it will help you fill out those brackets eventually.
Of course, Bracketology isn't just limited to the men's side of things. Our Connor Groel has the outlook for the women's Tournament. There isn't quite as much drama for the 1 seeds -- South Carolina, Indiana, Stanford and UConn -- but the 2 seed race is heating up, Connor writes.
In the AP Poll, unbeaten South Carolina held steady at No. 1.
What we're watching Tuesday 📺
⚽ Liverpool vs. Real Madrid, 3 p.m. on CBS and Paramount+
⚽ Eintracht Frankfurt vs. Napoli, 3 p.m. on Paramount+
🏀 No. 11 Tennessee at No. 25 Texas A&M, 7 p.m. on ESPN
🏀 No. 9 Baylor at No. 14 Kansas State, 7 p.m. on ESPN2
🏀 No. 6 Iowa at No. 7 Maryland, 8 p.m. on BTN
🏀 No. 10 Marquette at No. 19 Creighton, 8:30 p.m. on FS1
🏀 No. 23 Iowa State at No. 8 Texas, 9 p.m. on Longhorn Network