Happy Monday, folks! Hope you had a great weekend.
Let's get right to it.
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Good morning to everyone but especially to...
THE ILLINOIS FIGHTING ILLINI...
On the last day of the regular season, the Big Ten truly experienced the madness of March.
All No. 10 Wisconsin had to do to win the league outright was win at home against Nebraska, the last-place team in the conference playing without its leading scorer. Simple enough, right? Wrong. The Cornhuskers beat the Badgers 74-73 in a game that saw Wisconsin star Johnny Davis hurt his ankle.
That opened the door for No. 20 Illinois to claim a share of the conference crown and earn the top seed in the conference tournament with a win over No. 24 Iowa.
- After trailing by as much as 15, Kofi Cockburn and the veteran-laden Illini righted the ship and held on late, winning 74-72.
- It's the first time they've won or shared a Big Ten regular-season title since 2005, when they eventually went to the national title game.
Illinois' road to the tournament title game will now include either Michigan or Indiana. Illinois went 3-0 combined against those two. Then it's likely either Iowa or Rutgers. Illinois went 3-1 combined against those two. The Illini will avoid Purdue -- who they went 0-2 against and present their worst matchup -- until the title game, should they get there. (Full bracket here)
Perhaps Illinois coach Brad Underwood summed it up best, saying simply, "It was a weird day, a weird, weird day."
... AND ALSO A GOOD MORNING TO THE TEAMS THAT PUNCHED THEIR TICKET TO THE NCAA TOURNAMENT
- Murray State (beat Morehead State to win the Ohio Valley)
- Longwood (beat Winthrop to win the Big South)
- Loyola-Chicago (beat Drake to win the Missouri Valley)
You can keep up with every conference tournament here.
- Yesterday's other college basketball winners: Michigan (at No. 23 Ohio State) and Memphis (over No. 14 Houston)
- Some of the NBA's biggest stars had a great Sunday: Jayson Tatum dropped 54 in a win over Brooklyn and Khris Middleton had 44 in a win over Phoenix.
- Kentucky women won their first SEC Tournament since 1982, beating No. 1 South Carolina in the final.
And not such a good morning for...
THE DUKE BLUE DEVILS
The crowd, the venue, the rivalry and the occasion were all legendary. The performance was anything but.
With nearly 100 of his former players (and plenty of celebrities) in attendance, Mike Krzyzewski's final home game as Duke's head coach went about as poorly as possible: a shocking 94-81 loss to archrival UNC. There are two things that made it a roughly tough weekend to be a Blue Devil. First was the on-court product. Second was the resulting extreme awkwardness of the off-court ceremonies.
As for the game itself, the Blue Devils were all out of sorts in the second half, when the Tar Heels outscored them 55-40. And to be clear: we have to give North Carolina credit. This was an incredibly impressive win for a team that entered the weekend on the bubble.
But this was a meltdown by Duke, too. Remember, the Blue Devils won the first meeting by 20. On Saturday night, though:
- Paolo Banchero scored 23 points but needed 26 shots to get there.
- Duke struggled to defend Caleb Love, who had 22 points -- 12 from the free-throw line alone -- and five assists.
- UNC's Brady Manek made five 3-pointers. Duke made seven 3-pointers as a team.
- UNC's 94 points were the most Duke has allowed in a home game in over three years.
The loss made the rest of the night pretty awkward. Krzyzewski was honored in a lengthy pregame ceremony that included legends such as Christian Laettner, Grant Hill, Jay Williams and J.J. Redick. Following the loss, Krzyzewski spoke to the crowd and was forced to go off-script, in part apologizing for the performance and calling it "unacceptable."
It's a loss that will go down in infamy, writes our college basketball insider Matt Norlander:
- Norlander: "Given the buildup and presumptive nature of a Duke win by plenty, it's easily arguable this is the most gratifying — if not amusing — win for UNC fans over Duke ever. You get one chance to spoil Coach K's final home game. Carolina passed the test. Its base will hold this over the Duke faithful forever. It's so bitter for Duke, but that makes it tremendous for the rivalry. Down in Carolina, this one will live in conversation forever, no matter the favored shade of blue."
The loss also pushed Duke down to a 3 seed in Jerry Palm's latest Bracketology.
Not so honorable mentions
- Skyy Clark decommitted from Kentucky. Tough news for the Wildcats.
- There's reportedly a push from the Lakers to demote Russell Westbrook to the bench.
- USMNT and Juventus star Weston McKennie has a broken foot.
- Brittney Griner has been detained in Russia
NFL Combine winners and losers, including second-fastest 40-yard dash 🏈
It's crazy what a few seconds -- 4.23 to be exact -- can do, especially for an NFL prospect.
That's how long it took former Baylor defensive back Kalon Barnes to run his 40-yard dash. It's the second-fastest time in NFL Combine history, only 1/100th of a second slower than John Ross in 2017. Our NFL Draft experts currently have Barnes as the No. 20 cornerback (and No. 145th prospect overall) in the draft.
Meanwhile, No. 1 prospect Derek Stingley Jr. did not participate, making a couple of other top prospects big winners from Sunday writes our NFL Draft guru Josh Edwards:
- Edwards: "Washington's Trent McDuffie looked fluid during on-field drills. Cincinnati's Ahmad Gardner had his 40-yard dash time adjusted to 4.41 seconds officially, which is fantastic for a prospect who measured in at 6-foot-3. Gardner and McDuffie are often the two prospects mentioned as being in the same stratosphere as Stingley. Stingley's absence may have opened the door for some change in the pecking order."
Miss anything from the Combine? We have you covered with winners and losers from every position:
- Running backs
- Wide receivers and tight ends
- Offensive linemen
- Defensive linemen
- Defensive backs
MLB negotiations continue, but they're not promising ⚾
One day soon, I hope to bring you good Major League Baseball news. Until then, we'll have to endure this mess together. The league and the players negotiated over the weekend, and the players presented their latest proposal on Sunday.
The owners were not exactly impressed. Here's what MLB spokesman Glen Caplin said:
- Caplin: "We were hoping to see movement in our direction to give us additional flexibility and get a deal done quickly. The players' association chose to come back to us with a proposal that was worse than Monday night and was not designed to move the process forward. On some issues, they even went backwards. Simply put, we are deadlocked. We will try to figure out how they respond, but nothing in this proposal makes it easy."
It's important to take all comments with a grain of salt -- especially comments from the league side given how Rob Manfred has not exactly spoken truthfully throughout this process -- and an MLBPA official strongly disagreed with Caplin's assessment.
Anyway, here are some key features of the union's latest proposal:
- Pre-arbitration bonus pool of $80 million, down from $85 million. The league's proposal is $30 million.
- No changes in Competitive Balance Tax thresholds proposal (explained here). Players want a $230 million threshold in 2022, rising to $268 million by 2026. Owners want a $220 million threshold in 2022, rising to $230 million by 2026.
- No changes in minimum salary proposal. Players want $725,000 with annual raises of $20,000. Owners want $700,000 with annual raises of $10,000.
- The players want a lottery for the top six picks of the draft. Owners want a lottery for only the top five.
I hope to have better news for you soon.
Scottie Scheffler wins Arnold Palmer Invitational ⛳
- Scottie Scheffler's first 70 career PGA Tour starts: Zero wins
- Scottie Scheffler's last three PGA Tour starts: Two wins
After winning the WM Phoenix Open in February, Scheffler came out on top again, this time winning the Arnold Palmer Invitational by a stroke. Amid tough conditions at Bay Hill -- the scoring average Sunday was 75.5 -- Scheffler was steady, firing an even-par 72 to finish the event 5-under. Tyrrell Hatton, Viktor Hovland and Billy Horschel finished T2.
Scheffler joins Hideki Matsuyama as the only players with multiple PGA Tour wins this season, and he's just getting started, writes our golf expert Kyle Porter:
- Porter: "The four best fields that the PGA Tour has seen early in 2022 were the Phoenix Open, Tournament of Champions, Genesis Invitational and Arnold Palmer Invitational. Scottie Scheffler has now won two of those four... Winning can be (and often is) arbitrary, but now Scheffler has the titles to match his talent, and as a result, has become a bona fide star on the PGA Tour. Grade: A+"