Happy Thursday, everyone!
Let's get right to it.
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Good morning to everyone but especially to...
THE UNITED STATES MEN'S NATIONAL TEAM
There has never been a better 2-0 loss in the history of the United States men's national soccer team.
The U.S. is headed to the 2022 World Cup in Qatar despite a 2-0 loss at Costa Rica last night. All the U.S. had to do was not lose by six goals or more, and that was never really in question, even after a pair of second-half goals from Los Ticos. In fact, late in the game, the U.S. took their time before taking corner kicks and goal kicks, normally a tactic by a team in the lead.
No, it wasn't an inspiring performance, and in a vacuum, it wasn't something to celebrate. But last night's result shouldn't be viewed in a vacuum, and it shouldn't take away what was a very successful last week. The Stars and Stripes earned a key point with a draw in Mexico last week and then walloped Panama 5-1 on Sunday to give them more than enough breathing room last night.
After completely missing the 2018 World Cup, the U.S. comfortably qualified for 2022, and that's worth celebrating, writes our soccer expert Roger Gonzalez.
- Gonzalez: "Through the ups and downs, through the good results and bad, this team has once again found its footing under Berhalter and accomplished what they set out to do. Really qualification in 2022 is a continuation of a 2021 year which was really the time when this generation of players came into their own. That summer they won not only the Nations League but also the Gold Cup. And now 2022 is their chance to show the world that America's boys can play, too."
For more analysis from our experts, check out the latest episode of the In Soccer We Trust podcast.
Between now and November, USMNT will hope to get healthy (Weston McKennie, Sergino Dest and Brenden Aaronson all missed this qualifying window), play a couple of friendlies, figure best fits at striker and goalkeeper and much more. As for the immediate future, the World Cup draw is Friday, when we'll learn the USMNT's group opponents.
And not such a good morning for...
The wildest NFL offseason in recent memory has took another shocking turn last night: Bruce Arians is retiring as Buccaneers' head coach and joining the team's front office. Todd Bowles will be Tampa Bay's head coach. Here are the key details:
- Arians started pondering retirement at the NFL Combine in February.
- Arians' new role will be "Senior Football Consultant."
- Tom Brady's unretirement played a role, as Arians is confident the team can still succeed even with a change in coaches.
- Unlike Brady, Arians won't unretire, saying "This is it."
- Here's how Brady reacted to the news.
Bowles has served as Buccaneers defensive coordinator since 2019. Since then, Tampa Bay's defense ranks:
- 1st in rushing defense
- 3rd in takeaways
- T-3rd in sacks
- 5th in yards per play allowed
Prior to that, he was the Jets head coach from 2015-18, where he compiled a 24-40 record. I'm not going to hold that against him, because, well, it's the Jets, and Bowles started five different quarterbacks. Still, it's a late start for Bowles in what will be the most pressure-packed job in the NFL following Brady's return.
Bowles' performance the last three seasons makes him more than deserving of this job, though. So good on Bowles for getting a second head-coaching chance, and good on Arians for supporting Bowles, who is the sixth current minority NFL head coach, writes our NFL reporter Jonathan Jones.
- Jones: "Leaving now ensures not only that Bowles gets the job but a great job at that. So often, NFL coaches become head coaches of bad teams. That's likely why the job was open in the first place. As we know, Black coaches rarely get head coaching jobs. The ones they do usually stink worse than the other ones that are available. ... Arians could have gone out on top after the 2020 season with his championship but decided to try for a second and ultimately came up short on the field. I'd say by making this move, he still went out on top."
The main issue, though, is can Bowles -- who hasn't been a head coach in four seasons -- have a better result this time around? Only time will tell.
How Coach K, Roy Williams, Hubert Davis set Duke, UNC on paths for success 👀
Tomorrow will mark one year since Roy Williams shocked the college basketball world and announced his retirement. It didn't take long for North Carolina to find his replacement in former Tar Heels guard and longtime assistant Hubert Davis. Roughly two months later, Mike Krzyzewski announced he would be retiring... at the end of the 2021-22 season, with Jon Scheyer taking over after that.
The retirements came at a strange time for both sides of college basketball's most iconic rivalry.
- North Carolina struggled mightily in 2019-20 and lost its opening game of the 2021 NCAA Tournament.
- Duke, meanwhile, had a good 2019-20 season before the pandemic ended the season. In 2020-21, the Blue Devils missed the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1995.
It's hard to argue with the results since, though. Duke and North Carolina are both in the Final Four, facing one another in the NCAA Tournament for the first time. I really enjoyed college basketball expert David Cobb's look at Duke's and North Carolina's paths here, with one game in particular playing a key role:
- Cobb: "After losing at home to lowly Pittsburgh on Feb. 16 and falling squarely to the wrong side of the NCAA Tournament bubble, North Carolina rattled off four straight victories entering the regular-season finale at Duke. Coach K's final home game brought swaths of former players and an overall emotional scene, but the Tar Heels stole the show with an offensive masterpiece in a 94-81 win that they sorely needed. The victory finally gave UNC's resume the solidification it needed ahead of Selection Sunday."
While that game made for an awkward goodbye for Coach K, he did use it as motivation for his team, saying, "I'll tell you, the season isn't over." He was right. It wasn't then, and it still isn't now.
What you need to know about each of the Final Four teams 🏀
Believe it or not, there are indeed four teams -- not just Duke and North Carolina -- in the Final Four. Villanova and Kansas are also in New Orleans, and they should give us a thrilling game as well.
- Patterson: "The loss of the 2020 NCAA Tournament is not a primary motivation for Kansas, but it's not lost on anyone around the program that Self and the Jayhawks had the best team in the country at the time that the tournament was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic."
- Patterson: "The word 'attitude' is the slogan posted all over the Villanova facility and it's represented in how the Wildcats do simply bring a more consistent and level approach than your average college basketball team. ... Jay Wright has all week to put in a new game plan specifically for this weekend and there's not another team I trust more to receive and implement such changes than the Wildcats."
You can check out all the key numbers and details on all four teams here.
Shaheen Holloway leaves Saint Peter's to coach Seton Hall 🏴☠️
One month ago, few people knew anything about Saint Peter's.
Now, everyone knows about Saint Peter's and h Shaheen Holloway after the Peacocks' magical run to the Elite Eight. That run has gotten Holloway a new job -- as the head coach at his alma mater, Seton Hall.
- It's a six-year deal for Holloway, and he succeeds Kevin Willard, who left for Maryland earlier this month.
- Holloway starred for the Pirates as a player in the 1990s.
- After a 10-22 record in his first year with Saint Peter's, Holloway posted three straight winning seasons.
- This year, the Peacocks became the first 15 seed to ever make an Elite Eight.
What we're watching Thursday 📺
🏀 Bucks at Nets, 7:30 p.m. on TNT
🏀 Lakers at Jazz, 10 p.m. on TNT