Apparently, Le'Veon Bell has been holding in some bad feelings toward ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper for a while.

Bell, the Pittsburgh Steelers' star running back, was drafted in the second round two years ago. He has since blossomed to be arguably the best running back in the NFL. You'd think that he wouldn't really care what a media draft analyst had to say about him coming out of Michigan State, but you would be dead wrong.

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In a long rant from his verified Twitter account, Bell snapped on Kiper. Here goes:

I think it's so funny how Mel Kiper is just "qualified" to tlk about the draft...dude be wrong with just about everything tho...

— Le'Veon Bell (@L_Bell26) March 4, 2015

of course anybody can say anything about a "can't miss" prospect like Clowney or Peyton Manning or somethin like that...

— Le'Veon Bell (@L_Bell26) March 4, 2015

but he was WRONG about Ray Lewis, he def was WRONG about me...he has his favorites, and it's just crazy that ppl listen to that dude

— Le'Veon Bell (@L_Bell26) March 4, 2015

him and his buddy Todd Mcshey...no way they watch legitimate film on all the prospects and can understand the way to compare and contrast

— Le'Veon Bell (@L_Bell26) March 4, 2015

they both just have their favorites, and roll with they favorites all year...straight upp

— Le'Veon Bell (@L_Bell26) March 4, 2015

😂😂😂😂 see what I mean... pic.twitter.com/xHRGvya8tH

— Le'Veon Bell (@L_Bell26) March 4, 2015

just go to http://t.co/3NPEbvcETH and look what he said about my "skills" transitioning to the next level...

— Le'Veon Bell (@L_Bell26) March 4, 2015

all the things he said I "struggled" with, I'm excelling in! but of course he didn't know that cuz he didn't watch no legitimate film on me.

— Le'Veon Bell (@L_Bell26) March 4, 2015

but to all the draft prospects out there, don't even worry about what they say on TV cuz NFL coaches watch film, and I mean LEGITIMATE film

— Le'Veon Bell (@L_Bell26) March 4, 2015

Who knew he was storing that up all this time?

In fairness, draft analysts miss all the time. Team scouts and executives, whose jobs are to evaluate these players and guide the actual choices on draft day, miss all the time. It's far from an exact science. If you can predict the NFL draft perfectly, there's a heck of a job waiting for you as The Greatest NFL General Manager Of All Time. Kiper's job is to have strong opinions, and that opens him up for criticism.

Kiper wasn't even that critical of Bell. Here are two quotes from him leading up to the draft:

MLive.com, Dec. 11, 2012: "He's a very patient runner, you look at how he wears the defense down, his body lean, he gets 2 yards when you think he's stopped," Kiper said. "He's deceptively quick, he allows the hole to develop. He doesn't have a great initial burst….he's in the second-round discussion."

The State News, April 3, 2013: “He’s a build-up speed guy, he’s not quick out of the blocks, he’s deceptively quick,” Kiper said. “I think people misjudge and misread him when they get those pursuit angles going. He can catch the ball adequately, he can block adequately.”

Not too bad. And Bell's major weight loss between college and his second NFL season is a reason he looks like a totally different back than when he was at Michigan State. You can't always predict that. 

But it's Kiper's job to have opinions on the draft, and the players have the right to throw it back in his face if they succeed beyond his draft prediction. We're just glad Bell got that off his chest. He'd been holding onto it for a while. 

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Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdowncorner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab

Author: Frank Schwab
Posted: March 4, 2015, 6:12 pm

Sure, Shane Battier might have retired after the 2013-14 season to become a broadcaster, but that doesn't mean he's stopped pursuing his true passion — hosting karaoke events to raise money for charity. Nor does it mean that his former Miami Heat teammates — or, notably in this case, his head coach — will stop getting their vocalization on for a good cause.

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Battier held his annual "Battioke" event on Tuesday night, an evening of South Beach song and dance in support of his Take Charge Foundation's work on "providing resources for the development and education of underserved youth and teens." Past editions have featured, um, interesting performances from the likes of Heat boss Pat Riley, Shai-loving All-Stars LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, and, of course, my Yahoo colleague Dr. Ken Jeong. This year, though, the star-making turn came from Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra, who donned a fedora, took the stage with girlfriend Nikki Sapp, and proceeded to prove that he didn't really remember very much of the Michael Jackson classic "Billie Jean."

Listen, we've all been there — you pick a song at karaoke thinking, "Man, I love that one," only to realize A) you're not totally sure how it goes and B) it is way longer than you remember it. Kudos to Coach Spo for refusing to let go of the rope, embracing the grind, staying the course and doing his level best to land the plane.

He may, however, need to adapt his process when it comes to non-marching-in-place-related dance moves:

While the Spoelstra-Sapp rendition of the M.J. hit left something to be desired, the performance of Vanessa Carlton's "A Thousand Miles" by recent Miami re-signee Michael Beasley — who joined with LeBron to slay Juvenile's "Back That Azz Up" at Battioke 2014 — and former Kansas State teammate/fellow 10-day addition Henry "Don't Call Me Bill" Walker — apparently gave the audience everything they never knew they wanted:

That solo earned Beasley recognition as the champion of Battioke 2015, topping Spoelstra, host Battier (who brought out ringer Jon Secada for a duet) and Riley (who performed "Twist and Shout" alongside a large number of women) among other competitors. Best of all for Super Cool Beas: he didn't even have to dress up like Sisqo to win the 'chip, as James Jones did last year. Way to stay true to your identity, Mike.

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Dan Devine is an editor for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at devine@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter!

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Author: Dan Devine
Posted: March 4, 2015, 6:01 pm

One of the thousands of questions surrounding the Buffalo Bills' trade for running back LeSean McCoy on Tuesday: How does this help their quarterback situation? 

A day later, the Bills agreed to terms to trade for veteran Minnesota Vikings quarterback Matt Cassel. The deal will send two undisclosed draft picks to Minnesota, and Cassel and an undisclosed pick to Buffalo.

QUARTERBACK PROBLEM SOLVED!

Maybe not. Cassel will turn 33 before next season and hasn't played well for four years. Since he had a nice 2010 for the Kansas City Chiefs, Cassel has posted ratings of 76.6, 66.7, 81.6 and 65.8. Still, the free-agent market for quarterbacks is incredibly thin, the Bills don't have a first-round pick this year after trading up to draft Sammy Watkins last year, and they obviously are wary about EJ Manuel's chances of becoming a franchise quarterback.

The Bills are probably hoping to take the approach of loading up a great supporting cast and letting the quarterback be a game manager. They have a former All-Pro in McCoy to run the ball, Watkins should develop into a nice playmaker when whoever plays quarterback can get him the ball, and the defense with a lot of talent and new coach Rex Ryan around to run it should be nasty.

Unless Manuel takes a huge step forward and wins the starting job, is Cassel good enough to get the Bills to the playoffs for the first time this century? Maybe. But really, the Bills didn't have any great Plan B option.

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Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdowncorner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab

Author: Frank Schwab
Posted: March 4, 2015, 5:44 pm

The Dallas Stars’ playoff hopes are already slim — nine points out of a wild card spot — and losing one of their top defensemen Tuesday night won’t help matters.

Early in the first period of their 2-1 overtime win over the New York Islanders Tuesday, Matt Martin collided knee-on-knee with Trevor Daley, sending the Stars blueliner to the ice in pain. 

It was nothing malicious from Martin, as you can see from his immediate response, just clumsy, and unfortunately Daley was on the receiving end. Still, just like players have to be in control of their sticks, Martin needs to be in control of his body if he's going to lay a lick on an opponent.

Daley was done for the game and Martin was given a five-minute major for kneeing and an automatic game misconduct. The NHL announced Wednesday morning that the Islanders forward will have a phone hearing with the Department of Player Safety.

"From my view he was planted, there wasn't intent," Islanders head coach Jack Capuano told Arthur Staple of Newsday afterward. "[Martin's] an honest guy, I think people know that." 

Stars coach Lindy Ruff, however, had a different opinion.

From Mike Heika of the Dallas Morning News:

“That’s a suspension. It’s another stupid hit that makes you just shake your head. We’ve already lost our best forward [Tyler Seguin] and now we’ve lost probably our best defenseman for a period of time on a play that just wasn’t necessary.”

Ruff added that Daley, who is having a career season with 16 goals and 33 points, could be out “weeks,” joining the already-injured Tyler Seguin on IR.

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Sean Leahy is the associate editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Sean_Leahy

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Author: Sean Leahy
Posted: March 4, 2015, 5:34 pm

(Evergreen Park Police Department)Chris Janes spent five months worrying about where a team of 12-year-old baseball players lived, so you'd figure he knows where his own house is, but nope.

Janes, the whistleblower who pushed Little League International for months to strip the U.S. title of Chicago's Jackie Robinson West team, was arrested early Tuesday morning after he drunkenly showed up at the wrong home, banged on the door and swore at the people who lived there.

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Janes, 39, told the Chicago Tribune he'd been at a bar local Monday night, where he watched the Chicago Blackhawks game. He intended to walk home, but instead wound up at the wrong house a block away. When he started to cause a racket, the couple inside the house didn't recognize Janes and called the police. The Tribune explains more of the odd scene:

"When they asked what he wanted, he said, 'Just come on out here.' She called the police, and Mr. Janes left the area. We stopped him a couple houses to the north," Donovan said.

When police arrived, Janes was "uncooperative, wouldn't identify who he was, seemed intoxicated. After they tried to handcuff him, he pulled away, but we did get him handcuffed," Donovan said.

One of Janes' arms was bleeding, Donovan said, so police called an ambulance and the wound was bandaged. Donovan does not know how Janes cut his arm. Neither does Janes.

(AP)Janes now faces charges of disorderly conduct, assault, resisting arrest and obstructing a police officer. On Tuesday night, he spoke to the media outside his home in Evergreen Park.

He's a coach and vice president of the Little League there. His team was trounced 43-2 by Jackie Robinson West as the team advanced to the Little League World Series. As his rival team became a national feel-good story, Janes started logging inconsistencies with where the players on the team actually lived and JRW's boundaries within the local league district. 

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After Little League initially ruled that all the Jackie Robinson West players were eligible, Janes wrote Little League International a letter wanting a better explanation and threatened legal action if he didn't get it. He also kickstarted the media firestorm that led to Little League International re-investigating the case and stripping JRW of its title.

Janes, who'd been well spoken throughout the Little League controversy, offered a straightforward apology, taking responsibility for his actions. He told the Tribune:

"People have been asking, but I don't remember. I don't remember any of it. I feel awful, awful," Janes said. "There's no two sides of it. I had too much to drink. I thought I was going to my house. I don't even know these poor people, and I scared the hell out of them" ...

"I thought I was going home. I went to the wrong house. After that, I really can't tell you what happened. I have no idea. I read the report, too, and I feel awful. I scared some poor lady. I treated the police poorly who have been so supportive of us."

The Evergreen Police had been stationed outside of Janes' home in the aftermath of the JRW decision, because he said he was receiving death threats. So at least they know where he lives.

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Mike Oz is the editor of Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at mikeozstew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @MikeOz

Author: Mike Oz
Posted: March 4, 2015, 5:32 pm

Ndamukong Suh is about to get paid. A lot.

The Detroit Lions defensive tackle is less than a week from hitting free agency, if he chooses not to re-sign with the Lions before then, and he could get the most guaranteed money for a defensive player in NFL history. That has led to "$uh" being used on Twitter, and that has turned into a billboard around Detroit.

The Detroit Free Press said several digital billboards have popped up around the Detroit and Grand Rapids areas with the simple message "$uh?"

Yup. These billboards are popping up all over Detroit right now. #Suh pic.twitter.com/ZzHHg4Fixf

— Dave Birkett (@davebirkett) March 4, 2015

What does this ambiguous message mean? Et tu Suh?

Maybe it's meant to read that Suh is just interested in the money and not the loyalty to the Lions, but, well, duh. He has earned the right to hit free agency in his prime, and the Lions declined to use the hefty franchise tag on him. Or maybe it's a message to the Lions to pay Suh. You'd think if a fan base is spending that much on some digital billboards that they'd want to clear that up.

This will not be the first or last message directed at Suh, one of the most coveted unrestricted free agents in NFL history. It'll be tough to top Indianapolis Colts punter Pat McAfee's tweet at Suh, however.

.@NdamukongSuh Hey boss, I hope you have a fantastic Monday.. Just want to let you know what Indy looks like today pic.twitter.com/WrE4kHvRzM

— Pat McAfee (@PatMcAfeeShow) March 2, 2015

All the chatter over the next few days won't change one outcome: No matter who Suh ($uh, if you prefer) signs with, it'll be for a historic amount of cash.

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Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdowncorner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab

Author: Frank Schwab
Posted: March 4, 2015, 5:18 pm

Fresh off what is arguably the greatest fat guy touchdown of all-time, Baylor’s LaQuan McGowan has been practicing at tight end during spring practice.

McGowan, a guard who is listed at 6-foot-7 and 410 pounds, caught an 18-yard touchdown pass against Michigan State in the third quarter of the Cotton Bowl after checking in as an eligible receiver.

McGowan, a redshirt junior who is now wearing No. 80, showed how well he can move for his size against the Spartans. Now Baylor head coach Art Briles hopes to incorporate the big man into the offense moving forward.

“We’re looking at him as kind of a slot and tight end type of guy,” Briles said per the Waco Tribune. “He can certainly help us in the run game in those situations. The way we’re looking at it is we’ve got three games in nonconference to kind of feel it out and see what he can do and teach him what to do in live action.”

Bears quarterback Seth Russell, who is slated to replace Bryce Petty as starter, is impressed with McGowan’s hands.

“His hands are about as big as my leg, so I can pretty much put it wherever and he can snag it out of the air,” Russell said.

Hopefully we’ll see McGowan’s receiving skills on display once again in Baylor’s spring game on March 20.

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Sam Cooper is a contributor for the Yahoo Sports blogs. Have a tip? Email him or follow him on Twitter!

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Author: Sam Cooper
Posted: March 4, 2015, 5:16 pm

The earth shook with jaws hitting the ground when it was leaked last month that the NHL was partnering with ESPN for the 2016 World Cup of Hockey.

The same ESPN it spurned twice for media rights deals with Comcast/NBC? The same ESPN that reduced hockey to a footnote in its on-air coverage, especially on SportsCenter and its sports screaming talk shows (FIRST TAKE, AROUND THE HORN)?

Yes, that ESPN.

The same NHL that was so loyal to NBC that it entered into an exclusive 10-year deal rather than placing hockey on multiple networks?

Yes, that NHL.

“We’re thrilled to be back with the NHL in the United States,” said ESPN President John Skipper. ”The place is electric with excitement about getting back into hockey. We have a lot of hockey fans here.”

ESPN and Sportsnet were awarded the exclusive rights to the World Cup of Hockey, scheduled for Sept. 17-Oct. 1 in Toronto in 2016. The eight-team tournament – representing six nations, with a European all-star team and a North American Young Stars team – will conclude with a best of three final round for the Cup.

The partnership with Sportsnet was expected. The NHL had just ended a contentious bidding war between Rogers (Sportsnet) and Bell (TSN) in Canada, with Sportsnet winning the national rights package for the next 12 years.

According to NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, both networks had a chance to present their bids for the tournament. “I would describe the negotations as competitive,” said Bettman.

Contrary to reports, Sportsnet did not have a “right to match,” according to Bettman.

“I was gratified and pleased that we had the level of interest from both networks there,” said NHLPA chief Donald Fehr. “But you can only have one.”

As expected as the Sportsnet rights win was – and there was zero chance the NHL would going to turn its back on its new dance partner for their arch rival, TSN – the ESPN decision was just as unexpected.

So why go back to the World Wide Leader?

Bettman said the primary motivator was ESPN’s ability to schedule the event. He said NBC had scheduling conflicts during the tournament, while ESPN had the network space available.

“NBC was involved in process but it became clear that, among other things, they had scheduling issues. It made the most sense to be partnering in this regard with ESPN. We couldn’t be more delighted about having them involved,” said Bettman.

NBC released the following statement: 

“As the home of hockey in the U.S., which includes rights to the NHL through 2021, the World Championships through 2017 and the Winter Olympics through 2030, we were interested in working with our partners again, but this event proved challenging due to programming commitments.”

Among NBC's scheduling commitments at that time are the Ryder Cup, NASCAR, F1, Notre Dame Football and the Paralympics. 

That said, the NHL going from NBC, which has given hockey the most airtime it’s ever received on cable, to ESPN, which has given hockey about as much attention as televised badminton since they lost the rights, must have stung Comcast a little, right?

“We have a terrific relationship with NBC Sports. We love the way they cover our game and they way they treated us,” said Bettman. “We have continued to maintain an excellent relationship with NBC. There are no points of friction or hard feelings. This is going to be an opportunity to promote into our season on NBC.”

Skipper said ESPN’s job is to “hand over a tremendous amount of interest” into the NHL season.

But what about ESPN’s interest after the World Cup? It’s been documented how little time is devoted to the NHL on SportsCenter. It’s also been rumored that the NHL’s deal with ESPN came with some coverage contingencies, i.e. better placement of highlights on SportsCenter.

“I’m not so sure – with my tongue in my cheek – that I’ve noticed much of a difference in their SportsCenter coverage when we were with them and after,” quipped Bettman.

“We kind of view this as an opportunity to rekindle the SportsCenter interest,” he said. “To the extent that the people on SportsCenter are more focused on hockey in September, maybe that carries over to the regular season.”

Yeah, maybe.

As we said previously: The NHL is in great shape in the U.S. thanks to various factors, one of them being NBC. It doesn’t need ESPN as it once did, but the World Cup of Hockey does need ESPN, in order to feel like a global event and feel like something different than the near-monthly “special events” on NBC.

Contrary to what many in the NHL’s Board of Governors and some agents believe, leaving ESPN wasn’t a mistake for the NHL. Failing to maximize the NHL’s potential on U.S. cable television – with a multi-network, multi-rights holder deal – when it re-upped with NBC might have been.

If it was a mistake, Bettman’s deal with ESPN takes a stride to correct it.

“If you look around the US broadcasting landscape, the three majors are on multiple platforms to begin with,” he said. “This isn’t revolutionary.”

Well, outside of the idea that the NHL and ESPN are partners again. 

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Author: Greg Wyshynski
Posted: March 4, 2015, 5:16 pm

The Washington Wizards raised some eyebrows last weekend when they capped their "Inspire" social media campaign — the team's chosen method of celebrating Black History Month — by posting a somewhat offputting split-screen image of owner Ted Leonsis alongside Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on their official Facebook page:

The image in question. (Via the Wizards' Facebook page)

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After plenty of people, including a number of media outlets, pointed out the awkward and odd juxtaposition of arguably the greatest civil rights leader in American history's advocacy for "infinite hope" with a white multimillionaire describing his approach to entrepreneurship — among a number of others, including lining up Benjamin Davis, one of the Tuskegee Airmen and the first African-American general officer in the U.S. Air Force, next to team mascot G-Wiz — the Wizards on Tuesday issued a statement on the kerfuffle:

Throughout Black History Month we ran an “Inspire” campaign. We asked a variety of Wizards, Capitals and Mystics players and staff to share who inspired them. We asked them for a favorite quotation and then created a composite image that was half the player/staff member and half the person they admired. We released one composite image a day throughout February in an attempt to honor those whom our staff had identified as heroes. We intended this as a way to celebrate Black History Month and focus on the many important contributions by African-Americans to American history and culture. On a personal level, it was a way to share thoughts on African-American historical figures whom we admire http://www.nba.com/wizards/bhm-2015. We may have missed the mark, and we apologize to those who were offended by the way this was presented.

More a "look over the whole body of work"/"sorry, not sorry" sort of thing than an actual apology — and the Wiz have left up the King/Leonsis joint quote image — but the issue's been addressed, I guess. Okey-doke.

The Wizards, who dropped a 97-92 decision to the Chicago Bulls on Tuesday, have lost seven of their last eight games and 12 of their last 15 during a confounding stretch that's seen them fall from early-season dark-horse contenders in the Eastern Conference to just 1 1/2 games up on the No. 6-seeded Milwaukee Bucks.

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Dan Devine is an editor for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at devine@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter!

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Author: Dan Devine
Posted: March 4, 2015, 4:58 pm

Mike Ribeiro has gone to great lengths this year to change his image. He asked Nashville to sign him and bought a home in the city in order to escape the fishbowl atmosphere of other markets. Has openly discussed his past as a therapeutic measure. But sometimes the past catches up in some way shape or form. 

According to a TMZ report, Ribeiro’s former nanny is suing the Nashville center and his wife for more than $1 million for an incident that happened in 2012.

This is from the report:

Ribeiro's accuser doesn't go into detail about the alleged incident ... only claiming she suffered unspecified injuries at the hands of the 35-year-old All-Star. 

The woman also claims ... after the alleged incident, Mike's wife verbally attacked her.

That does not sound all too great for Ribeiro, who is having a renaissance year with Nashville at age 35 with 52 points in 64 games. He has, at least publicly, walked the straight and narrow off the ice, after Coyotes general manager Don Maloney trashed the center for behavioral issues after a buyout last summer from Arizona.

Per Ribeiro’s lawyer to TMZ:

"My clients strongly deny these allegations."

"We will defend the lawsuit fully. We anticipate the true facts will come out in due course." 

The report does not indicate whether Ribeiro was then a member of the Dallas Stars or Washington Capitals. 

Regardless of the claims, and countermeasures and who is telling the truth and who isn’t, this is not exactly the type of healthy distraction that helps a team or a player. When Nashville signed Ribeiro, it knew he had a bit of a history, one that hasn't been fully told in detail, but one he said he had come to grips with.

From USA Today the day he signed a one-year $1.05 million deal over the summer:

"My wife and I still go to therapy, and couples therapy. What couples do to get healthy, I'm doing it," Ribeiro said. "The main thing is to keep my children happy. For years I've been talking the talk, but children learn by seeing action and doing what you do. And that's what I do every day, to be a better dad and a better person, a better husband."

And now we wait for the facts to play out. 

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Josh Cooper is an editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @joshuacooper

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Author: Josh Cooper
Posted: March 4, 2015, 4:26 pm

When Saint Joseph's went from the fringes of the NCAA tournament picture to winning the Atlantic 10 tournament last March, it was bad news for bubble teams hoping to hear their names called on Selection Sunday.

The Hawks claimed an automatic NCAA tournament bid, forcing teams with stronger profiles from their league into the at-large pool and reducing the number of spots available to bubble teams by one.

This March, there will surely be an interloper or two that uses an unexpected league tournament run to make its way into the NCAA tournament field this season. Here's a look at some potential bid thieves that fans of potential bubble teams should watch out for during the next two weeks of conference tournament action.

1. UConn (17-11, 10-6): Even though UConn slid to the fringes of the bubble picture by suffering too many road losses in league play, the defending national champions have a pretty good chance to salvage their season next week. The American Athletic Conference tournament will take place in Hartford, where the Huskies should feel right at home. They've won their last seven home games including victories over the league's top three teams, Tulsa, SMU and Cincinnati. The key for UConn will be getting efficient perimeter scoring from others besides Ryan Boatright. Daniel Hamilton has enjoyed a solid freshman season, but he's shooting just 40 percent. Rodney Purvis has been a disappointment, but he is coming off a 28-point outburst against SMU.

2. Richmond (17-12, 10-6): One of the best teams in the Atlantic 10 has only six scholarship players. Another hasn't been the same since losing one of its standouts to a season-ending knee injury last month. A third is in its first year in the league and is still scrambling just to make the NCAA tournament. In a year in which the Atlantic 10 is clearly not as strong as it usually is, that leaves the door wide open for a surprise team to win its conference tournament. Rhode Island, UMass, George Washington and St. Bonaventure are all threats, but the team worth keeping an eye on the most is Richmond. The Spiders have won four straight, they swept the season series against rival VCU and they're the fourth highest-rated Atlantic 10 team in the KenPom rankings behind the Rams, Dayton and Davidson.

3. Illinois State (19-11, 11-7): In a year in which Wichita State and Northern Iowa have dominated the Missouri Valley Conference, Illinois State has emerged as by far the biggest threat among the rest of the league. The Redbirds actually will be the fourth seed at Arch Madness this week by virtue of losing a tiebreaker to Indiana State, but they're a very respectable No. 67 in the KenPom rankings and they're third in the league in both points per possession scored and surrendered. The question will be whether the Redbirds fare better against the league's two powerhouses, both of which swept the season series against Illinois State but survived close games to do it. One advantage Illinois State should have is on the glass because it is the Valley's best offensive rebounding team.

Three other dark horses:

Saint Mary's (21-8, 13-5): Gonzaga is the WCC's juggernaut and BYU is the top challenger, but the best of the rest in that league is the Gaels. They've split with the Cougars this season and led the Zags deep into the second half in Moraga 10 days ago. They also boast one of the nation's most undervalued players in Brad Waldow.

UNLV (16-13, 7-9): There's a chance leading scorer Rashad Vaughn returns from his torn meniscus in time for next week's Mountain West tournament. If so, the Rebels are a more of a threat to win the conference tournament on their home floor in what is clearly a down season for the Mountain West as a whole.

Northwestern (15-15, 6-11): Could the Wildcats make their first-ever NCAA tournament by going on an improbable Big Ten tournament run? It's a major long shot, yes, but they have played all the league's top teams close and have won five of six including upset victories over Indiana, Iowa and Michigan.

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Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: March 4, 2015, 4:22 pm

(Ed. Note: This is an edition of GRANDSTANDING, the Yahoo Sports podcast featuring columnists Jay Busbee and Kevin Kaduk. Subscribe to Grandstanding via iTunes right here, or via other podcast feeds right here. Thanks for checking it out!)

We've got a fine podcast for you today, folks. Well, it's not so much us as it is Jeremy Roenick. He's good.

In a conversation with Yahoo Sports' Jay Busbee and Kevin Kaduk, Roenick took time to discuss matters both on and off the ice. Primarily, he's pretty ticked off at the negative impact that social media has had on the game of hockey, specifically the rumors surrounding his former teammate and current Blackhawk Patrick Sharp.

"Social media would have ruined my social life," Roenick says. "It gives a platform for gutless meager individuals to be mean people and say things to hurt people without repercussions or accountability ... If you know Patrick like I do, he's a very upstanding man, he's one of the more respectful people I've ever been around or played with or been friends with. To have rumors going around about him is just ridiculous." 

Roenick also discussed more sports-angled matters with us, including:

• Why he now hates to skate (2:00 mark)

• How he knew it was time to retire (4:01 mark)

• His thoughts on trade deadline winners and whether any team in the East can challenge the stalwarts of the Western Conference (7:25 mark)

• The social media business starts up at the 9:51 mark, and you don't want to miss it.

Roenick's also repping Kraft's "Hockeyville USA" program, which is helping bring some extra coin to rinks across the United States. Check 'em out for how you can enter your own hometown rink in the contest.

This podcast is part of Yahoo Sports' new ongoing Grandstanding series, in which Jay Busbee and Kevin Kaduk kick around every topic in sports. Find us on Twitter (@kevinkaduk and @jaybusbee) Facebook (Kaduk here, Busbee here) or via the hashtag #grandstanding.

Subscribe to Grandstanding via iTunes right here, or via other podcast feeds right here. Thanks for checking it out!

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Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at jay.busbee@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter.

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And keep up with Jay over on Facebook, too.

Author: Jay Busbee
Posted: March 4, 2015, 4:07 pm

Bryce Dixon #13 of the USC Trojans is tackled by Tyler Price #49 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish on November 29, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)The status of USC’s projected starter at tight end is reportedly up in the air.

A report emerged from the Los Angeles Daily News on Tuesday night saying that sophomore Bryce Dixon had been dismissed from the team due to a “student-conduct issue” stemming from an incident that "involved a USC female student." However, while acknowledging that Dixon missed the first day of spring practice due to a conduct issue, Trojans’ head coach Steve Sarkisian declined to expand on Dixon’s status.

“Sarkisian declined to say more about it, citing privacy laws and instruction from the university’s general counsel,” wrote Gary Klein of the Los Angeles Times.

On top of that, the Orange County Register’s Michael Lev described the situation as “fluid.”

A source close to the situation told me not to draw any conclusions just yet, that it’s a fluid situation and that Dixon has to go through a process. (The latter sounded an awful lot like the Josh Shaw deal from last year.) That same source could not estimate how long Dixon would be away from the team.

Dixon, who caught 14 passes for 198 yards and four touchdowns as a true freshman in 2014, was suspended for the Cal game last season for disciplinary reasons but returned the following week.

Dixon’s name remains on the roster, and the team’s official blog acknowledged that he missed day one of practice with a "conduct issue."

The Trojans’ only other scholarship tight end on the roster for spring practice, Jalen Cope-Fitzpatrick, was academically ineligible and missed the entire 2014 season. In addition to Cope-Fitzpatrick, who has just three career catches for 16 yards, walk-on Connor Spears is also available in spring ball.

Four-star freshman Tyler Petite and preferred walk-on Caleb Wilson are also set to join the program in the fall.

For more USC news, visit TrojanSports.com.

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Sam Cooper is a contributor for the Yahoo Sports blogs. Have a tip? Email him or follow him on Twitter!

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Author: Sam Cooper
Posted: March 4, 2015, 3:49 pm

Brett Moffitt has a ride for NASCAR's western swing.

The Michael Waltrip Racing driver will pilot the No. 34 for Front Row Motorsports for the next three races. The No. 34 is open because its original driver, David Ragan, is filling in for Kyle Busch at Joe Gibbs Racing. Moffitt will drive at Las Vegas, Phoenix and Auto Club Speedway.

Moffitt filled in for Brian Vickers at Atlanta in MWR's No. 55 and drove it to an eighth-place finish despite sustaining crash damage early in the race. His performance was so exceptional that it elicited a statement from MWR on Monday afternoon.

“We are proud of how the entire No. 55 Aaron’s Dream Machine team has performed while Brian Vickers was recovering from his December surgery," MWR co-owner Rob Kauffman said. "The race in Atlanta showcased the progress of the entire organization, as well as a promising young driver in Brett Moffitt. Brett has been in the MWR system the past couple of years and we’re enthusiastic about his potential. Brett is under a multi-year agreement with Michael Waltrip Racing. MWR would love to get back to a three-car team and grow with him into the future.  Before this past weekend we stated that we felt his name should be mentioned among the impressive crop of young drivers coming into the sport, and the Atlanta result validated that claim. While we work towards a fully supported in-house program, it is MWR’s desire that Brett get more quality opportunities in either of NASCAR’s top divisions and we will work diligently to make that happen."

But since MWR doesn't have a third team for Moffitt and Vickers is returning to the Sprint Cup Series at Las Vegas, Moffitt didn't have a ride, making him an appealing option for Front Row Motorsports.

"I'm excited about the opportunity to run some races for Front Row," Moffitt said in a Front Row release. "After last weekend, I'm obviously eager to get back into a car and keep racing. I'm grateful to Bob Jenkins and his team for giving me the chance to do that. I'll do my best to get some good finishes for them. I'm also thankful that Michael Waltrip Racing is allowing me to pursue this opportunity. I think it's going to benefit everyone in the end."

Joe Nemechek drove the No. 34 car at Atlanta and was involved in a late-race crash with Greg Biffle and a host of others.

Moffitt drove in seven Sprint Cup Series races in 2014 and before Atlanta, his highest finish was 22nd.

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Nick Bromberg is the editor of From The Marbles on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at nickbromberg@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: March 4, 2015, 3:27 pm

We know all the relevant free agents by each position and have scanned the top 25 overall, but these free agents need teams to sign them.

There will be a wide variety of shoppers at the free agent market when it opens on March 10, from the Jacksonville Jaguars and their staggering $68.5 million in cap room to the New Orleans Saints, who are $22.4 over the cap with less than a week to clear some space. Who are the most interesting teams to track in free agency? Here they are, with all current cap numbers coming from OverTheCap.com:

Jacksonville Jaguars ($68.5 million under the cap): Of course they have to be on here with all that cap space. With $68.5 million in your pocket you can order an Ndamukong Suh at the window and still have enough left over for a Randall Cobb with some Devin McCourty for dessert. If the Jaguars, sick of not finishing over .500 since 2007, want to go crazy and land impact players, they certainly can.

This has also been a team that has been fairly patient in free agency. Linebacker Paul Posluszny might be the last big headline signing, and that was in 2011 (unless guard Zane Beadles got you excited last year). The Jaguars surely want to build the right way, and not tie up a lot of their resources on one free agent class. But with that much cap room to spend and a long playoff drought, it'll be hard to show restraint.

Oakland Raiders ($57.4 million under the cap): Last year's free agency was so bad that "The Raiders signed a bunch of players who can be cut after one year with no long-term ramifications!" actually became a positive rallying cry for Raiders fans. Oof. Oakland couldn't manage to sign one long-term impact free agent despite the most cap room in free agency history, lost Lamarr Houston and Jared Veldheer and the one long-term helper they tried to land, guard Rodger Saffold, had his contract voided because of a failed physical. Bad, bad, bad.

Needless to say, general manager Reggie McKenzie can't strike out again. Signing a bunch of disposable veterans last year was awful given the Raiders' cap situation, but at least McKenzie can try again. And he better land a few difference makers. 

[Check out Shutdown Corner's full 2015 free agent rankings – click here for offensive players, and click here for defensive players and specialists]

Green Bay Packers ($32.5 million under the cap): They're not here because they'll spend; general manager Ted Thompson doesn't believe in free agency. They're on the list because of what they can lose.

Green Bay has some very intriguing free agents hitting the market: Cobb, tackle Bryan Bulaga, cornerbacks Tramon Williams and Davon House and linemen Letroy Guion and B.J. Raji among them. Why they didn't just use the franchise tag on Cobb is odd (supposedly they didn't want to upset Jordy Nelson, who would then make less than Cobb, but that's worth losing a 24-year-old coming off a 1,287-yard season?). They'll use that cap room to retain whoever they can, and they don't want to lose much after coming thisclose to winning the NFC championship game last season.

Dallas Cowboys ($6.6 million under the cap): They're still not in a position to spend like crazy, especially after putting the franchise tag on Dez Bryant. They're worth watching because they're the Cowboys and they're always interesting, but mostly for the running back situation. Will they re-sign NFL offensive player of the year DeMarco Murray or let him walk? Would their backup plan include Adrian Peterson? They also have other free agents like offensive tackle Doug Free and linebackers Justin Durant and Bruce Carter who they'll have to make decisions on.

Indianapolis Colts ($41.3 million under the cap): At this moment they have the most cap room of any 2014 playoff team. That changes if quarterback Andrew Luck gets the extension he's now eligible for. But reports out of Indianapolis indicate the Colts might wait a year on Luck, which would give them a one-year window to go nuts in free agency to see if they can get over that New England Patriots hump in front of them. The Colts won't want to tie up all their long-term cap space, but they can be an interesting team on the market.

Philadelphia Eagles ($32.2 million under the cap): Oh, they're definitely on the list now. That number doesn't count the LeSean McCoy trade; NJ.com estimated the Eagles will have $46 million in cap room after McCoy gets traded to Buffalo. Also, inside linebacker DeMeco Ryans and his $6.8 million base salary are now expendable with the addition of linebacker Kiko Alonso. The Eagles need pass rushers and cornerbacks, and could probably use a receiver and a running back. With that cap space, they can check off just about every box. Not a bad spot for a team that was 10-6 last season. 

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Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdowncorner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab

Author: Frank Schwab
Posted: March 4, 2015, 3:13 pm

42. Michael Sgarbossa to Anaheim for Mat Clark

Literally who cares about this trade at all? The Sgarbossa and Clark families, and that's got to be about it.

41. Jordan Leopold to Minnesota for Justin Falk and a 5th

Just the fact that this is what facilitated that cloying letter from Leopold's daughter getting out to the public makes me furious that it happened. Yuck.

40. Sven Baertschi to Vancouver for a 2nd

This is classic Flames asset management. Baertschi was a first-round pick, and highly regarded prospect out of junior, with stats that suggested he might have been a value pick even a few spots higher. So the Flames of course rushed him up to the NHL too early and put a lot of pressure on him. He struggled a little bit, so Brian Burke ripped him in the media, and they've spent the last two seasons sending him and up down regardless of his actual performance, and then trade him to a division rival for a second-round pick.

Wouldn't be surprised at all to see him become a very useful second-line wing in Vancouver.

39. Adam Cracknell to St. Louis for future considerations

You never know, that future consideration could end up being Ryan Johansen!!!

38. Jared Knight to Minnesota for Zack Phillips

Phillips kind of flamed out for Minnesota after being a first-round pick, so this is one of those “hopefully a change of scenery does him good” deals. Low risk for the Bruins.

37. Tim Gleason to Washington for Jack Hillen and a 4th

Why would either team want either of these players? At least Carolina got a fourth-round pick out of the deal.

36. Ben Smith and a conditional 7th to San Jose for Andrew Desjardins

I don't know why anyone would want Ben Smith, but then again I don't know why the Sharks would want John Scott and Scott Hannan and all these other bums they've acquired in the last year. But yeah Joe Thornton isn't leader-y enough.

35. Freddie Hamilton to Colorado for Karl Stollery

Another who-cares move. Karl Stollery was a good college hockey defenseman and thus ends up knowledge of this trade.

34. TJ Brennan to Toronto for Spencer Abbott

Another minor-league deal, and hey, there's another college hockey guy. Spencer Abbott is, of course, better known as “That guy who played with Brian Flynn at Maine.”

33. Marek Zidlicky to Detroit for a 3rd

Detroit's fascination with acquiring a right-shooting defenseman apparently led them to this decision and I guess I get it but Marek Zidlicky isn't good enough to be useful to the Devils without getting a lot of sheltered minutes. Red flags all over the place, but low-risk for the Wings.

32. Cory Conacher to Vancouver for Dustin Jeffrey

Man, remember when everyone thought Cory Conacher was good? Tampa to Ottawa to Buffalo to the Island to Vancouver since 2012-13. In the two seasons since, he still hasn't scored as many goals as he did in 47 his rookie year.

31. Ben Lovejoy to Pittsburgh for Simon Despres

I understand that the Penguins are familiar with Ben Lovejoy and they wanted to shore up the bottom of their defense, but isn't Simon Despres — who's 23 and projects pretty well even now — a better option? Lovejoy starts in his own zone more, sure, but the Ducks went out and got defense but considered him expendable. Have you seen the Ducks' defense? Good gamble here for Anaheim.

30. David Leggio to Arizona for Mark Louis

Leggio is 30 already, and he's having an abysmal season in the AHL. I don't know why you trade for him, because you can get an .866 AHL goalie literally anywhere there's ice, but it's not like he's going to get a shot in the bigs so who cares? Hell, the way Arizona's going, an .866 AHL goalie might be just what they want in Glendale.

29. Devante Smith-Pelly to Montreal for Jiri Sekac

It's another one of those “change of scenery” moves, and it's a good one from Marc Bergevin. Smith-Pelly has a lot of upside (in theory), and Sekac was an asset he got for nothing this summer. Even if Sekac has been semi-useful, this is a bet you make when you have the kind of playoff assurances Montreal does.

28. Erik Cole and a 3rd to Detroit for Mattias Backman, Mattas Janmark, and a 2nd

What was Cole, like the ninth-best forward on a Stars team that isn't going to make the playoffs? Getting two prospects and a second for Cole and a third makes a lot of sense for Jim Nill, who probably has a lot of familiarity with the quality of the players he acquired from Ken Holland.

27. Chris Stewart to Minnesota for a 2nd

Well, getting Chris Stewart off your team is a nice move for anyone. Chris Stewart isn't good. That Buffalo ransomed him for a second-round pick is nice and helpful. But here's the thing: Tim Murray dramatically overestimated Stewart's market value and as a result settled for less at the deadline than he was reportedly offered in the run-up to it. It happens, bud.

26. James Sheppard to New York for a 4th

Getting a half-decent NHL forward for basically nothing was a good move on a day full of them by Glen Sather.

25. Korbinian Holzer to Anaheim for Eric Brewer and a 5th

Dave Nonis continued to work his magic, somehow, and got someone to take Korbinian Holzer off his hands. Brewer has played 26 games this year and only nine with Anaheim. Wanna bet he even gets that many with the Leafs?

24. Brian Flynn to Montreal for a 5th

Another strong tank move from Murray. Flynn is okay, with a positive relative corsi, dismal zone starts, and work against Buffalo's top competition. Having him off the roster helps the team be worse.

23. Torrey Mitchell to Montreal for Jack Nevins and a 7th

See No. 24. Buffalo's top four scorers at 5-on-5 this season are no longer with the club.

22. Max Talbot and Paul Carey to Boston for Jordan Caron and a 6th

Well this is a move I don't get for the Bruins. Sure, Caron didn't figure into their plans, and Max Talbot had 50 percent of his salary retained. But is Max Talbot what the Bruins need? He sure isn't, because he's not a Dennis Seidenberg trade.

21. James Wisniewski and a 3rd to Anaheim for Rene Bourque, William Karlsson, and a 2nd

Of all the people to scapegoat on the Blue Jackets defense, I can't see where James Wisniewski is one of them. And then taking on that Rene Bourque contract, which has another season left on it? At least they got a second-round pick out of it, I suppose.

20. Ian Cole to Pittsburgh for Rob Bortuzzo and a 7th

This was actually a good move for the Penguins as they tried to shore up that defense. Cole plays bottom-pairing minutes but gets decently tough zone starts and does well. Bortuzzo plays middle-pair minutes — when he plays at all — and needs favorable zone starts, and still gets buried. On the balance, the Pens getting Cole and Lovejoy gives them some pretty good options at the end of the bench and costs them a guy they've given up on and a guy who's not good. (Not that it was what they needed or anything, but they upgraded the blue line.)

19. Michal Neuvirth to Long Island for Chad Johnson and a 3rd

This is the mega-tank mode move for all to fear. Tim Murray's goaltenders for the foreseeable future are Anders Lindback and Chad Johnson. Meanwhile Garth Snow gets a very serious backup in Michal Neuvirth for basically nothing. Great move for both teams, given what they're going for.

18. Tomas Fleischmann to Anaheim for Dany Heatley and a 3rd

Fleischmann is okay but not-having Heatley is great. Solid swap for Bob Murray. Meanwhile, the Panthers are that much closer to winning the 2006-07 Stanley Cup.

17. Olli Jokinen to St. Louis for Joakim Lindstrom and a conditional 6th

Toronto got someone to take Olli Jokinen. What a world. Huge win for Nonis.

Mar 2, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks center Antoine Vermette (80) during the first period against the Carolina Hurricanes at the United Center. (Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports)

16. Antoine Vermette to Chicago for a 1st and Klas Dahlbeck

I said it on Monday morning but even if Vermette doesn't work out, this basically doesn't cost the Blackhawks anything they had an actual need of. And Vermette will probably work out okay if they use him properly.

15. Jiri Tlusty to Winnipeg for a 3rd and conditional 6th

I'm always going to be in favor of getting a useful NHLer, which is what Tlusty is, for middle-round picks. Real nice little move by Kevin Cheveldayoff, but it wasn't his best of the day.

14. Jaromir Jagr to Florida for a 2nd and conditional 3rd

There's no reason at all for Florida to acquire Jagr because they're not going to make the playoffs, but Jagr is awesome and having him around must be awesome. Hope he plays for all 30 teams before he's done. He'll only need to play 11 more seasons in which he plays for two teams apiece. I can see it happening.

13. Sean Bergenheim and a 7th to Minnesota for a 3rd

Speaking of useful NHLers for mid-round picks, Bergenheim is probably a little better — if unluckier — than Tlusty, so the fact that the Wild got him for very little indeed strikes me as a win. Minnesota really upgraded their forward depth this week.

12. Braydon Coburn to Tampa for Radko Gudas, and 1st and a 3rd

Coburn, despite the protestations of Flyers fans, is actually good. They'll tell you he's not but they also generally think Nick Schultz is, so there ya go. Tampa gives up a first here, but who cares because they have a dozen future stars under the age of 25, and also offload Radko Gudas, who is not good. Coburn helps them a lot.

11. Daniel Winnik to Pittsburgh for a 2nd, a 4th, and Zach Sill

The Pens probably needed to make another trade or two like this, and they did give up three assets for a rental, but they're going to miss maybe one of those assets at most. I think Rutherford did very well here, and had a good couple of days ahead of the deadline overall.

10. Kimmo Timonen to Chicago for a 2nd and a conditional 4th

This could be a game-changer for Chicago. We have no idea what Timonen is at this point, given how much time he's missed, but the gamble isn't a bad one at all. Timonen, when he's at 100 percent, is an excellent defenseman, and they'd be using him in a mop-up role. That's luxury right there. Costs them nothing, really.

9. Brett Connolly to Boston for two 2nds

Boston should have been a little more worried about offloading bad contracts than getting players they don't need, but as “players they don't need” go, Connolly's a reasonable gamble as well. He's a very young winger and a high first-round pick who — say it with me — might just need a change of scenery. The Bruins' wing depth isn't what Tampa's is, and he might flourish with more minutes. Or not. Definitely worth the risk, even if he's not, say, a middle-pairing defenseman.

8. Tyler Kennedy to Long Island for a conditional 3rd

Kennedy is an extremely sneaky-good pickup for the Islanders. Among Sharks forwards with at least 200 minutes at 5-on-5 — he has just 25 games played this year — his goals per 60 minutes is tied for third on the team with Joe Pavelski and Logan Couture. Not bad company. His assists per 60 is also third. And his CF% is 54.5. Sure he plays soft minutes, but if you have a player doing that in your bottom six, that is extremely useful. Garth Snow speed-bagged San Jose here.

7. Curtis Glencross to Washington for a 2nd and a 3rd

A 32-year-old wing who doesn't fit into your plans for a rebuild, and who's only marginally effective, and is almost certainly going to be leaving this summer for two assets of any kind is a good one. Not sure why Washington cared so much.

6. Zbynek Michalek and a conditional 3rd to St. Louis for Maxim Letunov

Michalek as a third-pairing defenseman (once Kevin Shattenkirk comes back) doesn't seem fair, but here we are.

5. Jeff Petry to Montreal for a 2nd and a conditional 5th

How is this all Edmonton got for him? It's an expiring contract, yeah, but the seeds for this trade were sown months and months ago. He's been mishandled for years, and isn't it weird how he's been mishandled for years, and isn't it weird how that made him not want to re-sign with the Oilers?

4. Keith Yandle, Chris Summers, and a 4th to New York for Anthony Duclair, John Moore, a 1st and a 2nd

It's a hefty price to pay, no doubt about that, but having Keith Yandle as a defenseman for $2.625 million — retained salary is fun — sure is nice. Meanwhile, the Coyotes get better at some point around 2018 and make a serious run at Auston Matthews next season. Buffalo probably has them outgunned for that one too, but you never know with the lottery.

3. Lee Stempniak to Winnipeg for Carl Klingberg

Klingberg recently passed through waivers without being claimed. Stempniak is decent. The Jets did a real good job adding to their bottom-six forwards this week.

2. Andrej Sekera to Los Angeles for a 1st and Roland McKeown

Another thing I wrote about on Monday, but here it is again: The Kings got a guy who was a solid No. 1 defenseman, albeit on a bad team, for next to nothing by their reckoning. Hate to be anyone going up against that defense in the playoffs.

1. Nathan Horton to Toronto for David Clarkson

I get it from both sides but this trade is an absolute shock and I still cannot believe it happened. The salary structure for the Blue Jackets has to be the weirdest in the league; a list of players making more than $4 million for them includes Sergei Bobrovsky, Scott Hartnell, Fedor Tyutin, Jack Johnson, Brandon Dubinsky, and now Clarkson. But they made Ryan Johansen beg for $4 million a season. Doesn't make any damn sense given the fact that they're never going to spend close to the cap. This is how you allocate your money? Toronto has its own payroll problems but good lord, at least they're mis-spending to the cap, rather than mis-spending to some arbitrary, low number.

(Not ranked this week: Llamas.

It's a good thing no one goes back and re-watches trade deadline coverage years from now, because that joke didn't age well from last week.)

MORE FROM YAHOO HOCKEY:

Author: Ryan Lambert
Posted: March 4, 2015, 2:58 pm

Welcome to Random Recaps, our new weekly feature at From The Marbles. In this space, we'll recap a race from the past at the track the where Sprint Cup Series is racing next.

This week's race is the 2010 Shelby American. Need to know how Random Recap works? Click here.

Jimmie Johnson scored his 49th career victory in the Shelby American with a 1.87 second win over Kevin Harvick.

Hendrick Motorsports cars swept three of the top four positions as Jeff Gordon and Mark Martin finished third and fourth. The team's fourth car, Dale Earnhardt Jr., finished 16th. Will he ever win again? He has just one win since 2006.

Johnson, the four-time defending Sprint Cup Series champion, led the final 17 laps after passing Gordon under green. Gordon, who dominated the race, had the lead after the race's final restart for 17 laps until Johnson snuck by. New four-time led just 18 laps all race while old four-time led 219 of the 267 circuits.

The final caution of the race was brought out by Rookie of the Year candidate Kevin Conway, who looks to have a bright future in the Sprint Cup Series with the mega financial backing of sponsor ExtenZe, who may or may not be involved in a study that will be the talk of the first week of March in the year 2015.

The race's biggest crash happened on lap 94 when Jamie McMurray, Kurt Busch and Juan Pablo Montoya got together.

Harvick has the points lead through three races by 47 points over teammate Clint Bowyer.

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Nick Bromberg is the editor of From The Marbles on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at nickbromberg@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: March 4, 2015, 2:44 pm

Arizona State is moving ahead with renovations to Sun Devil Stadium and released an updated look at what the stadium will look like when the renovations are complete.

According to the university, the changes to Sun Devil Stadium include the "'Double Inferno' upgraded student section, enhanced seating and legroom, more restrooms and concession options, technological upgrades, improved air and traffic flow through the venue, a connection to the surrounding landscape, additional premium seating options, and a new video board and sound system, among other new amenities."

The first phase of the renovations is a new student section in the south end zone. It's expected to be complete in August before the 2015 season. The second phase of construction will begin after the 2015 season while the third phase will be done before the 2017 season.

Sun Devil Stadium originally opened in 1958.

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Nick Bromberg is the assistant editor of Dr. Saturday on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at nickbromberg@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: March 4, 2015, 2:05 pm

The Nathaniel Narbonne (Harbor City, Calif.) High School girls basketball team is back in the California Interscholastic Federation L.A. City Section tournament after winning an appeal Tuesday. Narbonne's jerseys featuring pink numbers were deemed illegal. Courtesy of The Daily Breeze

The girls were originally removed from the tournament because they wore jerseys with pink letters and numbers in the semifinal win on Saturday. The jerseys were from breast cancer awareness month, but had not been approved for the rest of the year. Pink is not at official Narbonne color, so wearing the jerseys was in violation of league rules. 

The coach told the Los Angeles Times that it was a mistake; that she didn't know they had to fill out a waiver in order to wear the jerseys. 

The Narbonne girls had also worn the jerseys in the City Section quarterfinal, without a problem. After the semifinal, the City Section commissioner announced that the team had been removed from the City Section tournament and would not be allowed to play in the state tournament. 

The decision sparked immediate backlash on social media. Even the executive director of the CIF said the punishment was "not appropriate."

Narbonne appealled the decision, and was granted its rightful place in the championship. When the girls take the court on Saturday, though, they'll be doing so without their coach. Coach Victoria Sanders is suspended for the rest of 2015, including the state playoffs. 

Narbonne will also be on probation for the entire 2015-2016 season, and cannot host a home playoff game in 2016, according to the L.A. Times.

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Danielle Elliot is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Contact her at delliot@yahoo-inc.com or follow her on Twitter or Facebook.

 

Author: Danielle Elliot
Posted: March 4, 2015, 1:53 pm

Penn State could be in an advantageous position vs. other Big Ten schools when it comes to the cost of attendance stipend.

As part of the NCAA's autonomy reforms, schools in the Power Five conferences are allowed to provide stipends to cover the cost of attendance. Cost of attendance is tabulated by each school, and so there are some discrepancies from school to school for various reasons.

Need an example? Just look at what PSU lists as the cost for miscellaneous expenses for a student vs. what other Big Ten schools do. From PennLive.com:

Based on cost-of-attendance figures cited by CollegeData.com for the 2014-15 academic calendar, Penn State ranks at the top of the Big Ten with a miscellaneous expenses figure of $4,788. If it stays the same next school year, that means $4,788 of walking-around money during the nine-month period for athletes who receive full grants in aid.

In contrast, Ohio State ranks a mere 8th in the Big Ten, currently designating a mere $2,454 of tuition cost to incidental expenses - barely half of PSU's amount. You would expect Urban Meyer, Thad Matta and their messenger, Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith, to have a say in doubling that number or more by July when schools must designate any changes. Same with Jim Harbaugh and John Beilein at Michigan whose incidental expenses amount is currently designated as a relative pittance - $2,054, 12th in the conference.

Michigan State is last in the conference at less than $2,000 per student.

According to PennLive, Penn State coach James Franklin has said that stipends could be a factor in recruiting. While we've learned to rule out nothing when it comes to the recruitment process, would roughly $3,000 make a difference in a Penn State vs. Michigan State decision?

The disparity also shows the issue in the cost of attendance stipend. Since schools calculate it themselves, each school has a different number and there is some room for maneuvering. If schools could up their cost of attendance stipend to keep up with other schools in recruiting and retaining athletes, that tells you all you need to know about the depth and true accuracy of the number.

Ideally, the cost of attendance stipend for all universities could be calculated by an independent agency and isn't easily manipulated by schools themselves. That way, cost of living expenses and other factors can be considered without any possible number-rigging. But since cost of attendance stipends are quickly becoming a reality, we realize there's not enough time to set a system like that up.

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Nick Bromberg is the assistant editor of Dr. Saturday on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at nickbromberg@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: March 4, 2015, 1:02 pm

Former West Virginia quarterback Clint Trickett wanted to become a coach when his playing days were over and it appears he didn't have to wait long to be one.

Fox Sports reported Tuesday night that Trickett was set to be the quarterbacks coach at East Mississippi Community College. Trickett then confirmed the news on Twitter Wednesday afternoon. 

Proud to officially be the QB coach at East Mississippi CC! Home of the 2011, 2013, & 2014 JUCO National Champions! Lets get to work #PR1DE

— Clint Trickett (@CJTrickett9) March 4, 2015

Trickett was forced to retire from football in December after suffering five concussions in 14 months. In his career at Florida State and West Virginia, Trickett threw for 5.837 yards, 32 touchdowns and 21 interceptions.

His father, Rick, is the offensive line coach at Florida State.

EMCC has won three of the last four NJCAA football championships. Ole Miss QB Bo Wallace played there before he went to the Rebels and so did Chad Kelly, who is transferring to Ole Miss for the 2015 season. Kelly, who has had a couple tumultuous off-field incidents, spent a year at EMCC after he parted ways with Clemson.

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Nick Bromberg is the assistant editor of Dr. Saturday on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at nickbromberg@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: March 4, 2015, 12:34 pm
(Getty Images)

Alcides Escobar is known for his flashy play at shortstop. We found out Tuesday he's just as flashy off the field.

See, it appears that Escobar drives a golden truck. That's right, a truck that is so overwhelmingly golden it would surely make a certain Austin Powers villain jealous.

Mike Swanson, the Royals' VP of communications & broadcasting, tweeted out a picture of Escobar's ride:

Now if we can only get our shortstop a Rawlings Gold Glove to put inside his car. pic.twitter.com/XTFScA1nLk

— Mike Swanson (@Swanee54) March 3, 2015

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Now that's how you make a statement on the streets. As Swanson points out though, Escobar hasn't won a Gold Glove yet in his career. His teammates Salvador Perez, Eric Hosmer, and Alex Gordon received the honor in 2014, but Baltimore's J.J. Hardy was deemed the top defensive shortshop in the American League.

So if you can't beat 'em, join 'em? Escobar sure seems to have found one way to do just that.

(H/T Eye on Baseball)

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Israel Fehr is a writer for the Yahoo Sports blogs. Have a tip? Email him at israelfehr@yahoo.ca or follow him on Twitter. Follow @israelfehr

Author: Israel Fehr
Posted: March 4, 2015, 6:00 am

Listen, I'm not trying to say I told you so, but ... I mean ... when it comes to the Utah Jazz being one of the out-of-contention teams most worth watching down the stretch, I literally did tell you so.

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That right there is Jazz center Rudy Gobert flashing to the foul line to receive a feed from Utah swingman Gordon Hayward, taking one dribble past Western Conference All-Star starter Marc Gasol, heading into the teeth of the Memphis Grizzlies' vaunted defense, elevating and throwing down an all-arms-and-legs left-handed jam to give Utah a 13-point lead with 41.4 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter.

What's even better, though, is what came afterward. Did you catch that?

After finishing his flush and beginning to backpedal on defense, Gobert looked over to the Utah bench and gave a sharp salute, which was returned by teammates Rodney Hood and Elijah Millsap, who couldn't contain their smiles. And why should they? They've got plenty to smile about.

Not only did the Jazz go into the Grindhouse and impose their will on the Grizzlies — albeit a short-handed version of the Grizzlies playing without the suspended Tony Allen, the ill tandem of Zach Randolph and Beno Udrih and the injured Vince Carter — en route to a 93-82 win, but in the process, they improved to 5-1 since the break, with three of those wins coming over Western Conference playoff teams (Portland, San Antonio and now Memphis).

Stop the presses: the Utah Jazz are pretty good, pretty fun, and pretty tough to beat right now.

This isn't a seismic shock to anyone who was paying attention earlier in the season. The Jazz were a better, livelier team through the first four months than their 19-34 pre-All-Star-break record suggested. Utah looked like a club finding its way in first-year head coach Quin Snyder's motion offense, one that was lining up behind the leadership of fifth-year men Gordon Hayward and Derrick Favors, and starting to show signs of a defensive resurgence keyed by shot-blocking, rim-protecting Rudy Gobert. It certainly didn't hurt that the 7-foot-2 French sophomore also looked like he was becoming a pick-and-roll monster with surprising touch and passing instincts who dunked everything in sight, either.

Then, just before the All-Star break, came the trade request from the disgruntled Enes Kanter, who felt like he'd waited too long for a solidified spot as an offensive focal point. Then, just before the trade deadline, came the shipment of Kanter to the Oklahoma City Thunder in exchange for center Kendrick Perkins (whom Utah promptly bought out) forward Grant Jerrett, the rights to 25-year-old FC Barcelona center Tibor Pleiss, the Thunder's lottery-protected 2017 first-round pick and the Detroit Pistons' 2017 second-rounder.

Suddenly, the path was cleared for Gobert to go from reserve-minutes revelation to starting center alongside Favors in what Jazz fans hoped would be the sort of frontcourt that could stifle opposing offenses. Through six games, the results have far, far exceeded expectations.

Before the All-Star break, the Jazz ranked 27th among 30 NBA teams in defensive efficiency, allowing opponents to score 106.1 points per 100 possessions. Since the break — an admittedly small sample, but also the only sample we have to go on for the Favors-Gobert pairing as a starting big-minutes duo — Utah has skyrocketed up the charts, utterly snuffing out the opposition to the tune of a suffocating 87.7 points-per-100 allowed, far and away the stingiest mark in the league.

Teams are shooting a microscopic 39.2 percent from the field against Utah over the past half-dozen games, second-best in the league, behind only Roy Hibbert and Frank Vogel's Indiana Pacers. As you'd expect given an increase in minutes for the Gobert-Favors duo, they've been excellent in protecting the lane, ranking among the league's top half-dozen teams in field-goal attempts allowed at the rim, opponents' field goal percentage in the restricted area, and both second-chance points and points allowed in the paint  per game.

Moreover, with Gobert and Favors locking down inside, the Jazz's wings — Hayward, long-limbed, quick-footed rookie point guard Dante Exum, 6-foot-6 D-League call-up Elijah Millsap, et al. — have been better able to stay at home and take away easy looks on the perimeter. Utah's giving up just 18.3 3-point attempts per game since the break (again, second-best, behind only the Blazers) and they're only allowing a 24.5 percent success rate from downtown, easily the lowest in the NBA during that stretch.

After they force those misses, Utah's cleaning the glass, ranking sixth in defensive rebounding percentage since the break, corralling 77.1 percent of their opponents' misses. When you factor in their bigs-led penchant for cleaning up their own mistakes on the offensive end, the Jazz rise up to second in the post-All-Star NBA in total rebounding percentage, behind only Oklahoma City.

With Z-Bo absent, the Jazz owned the glass on Tuesday, outrebounding Memphis 55-37, as Gobert set a new Grizzlies' opponent record by snagging a career-high 24 rebounds in his 36 minutes of play.

Per @nbastats, Rudy Gobert (career high 24 rebounds) grabbed one third - 33.3% - of all available rebounds while on the court tonight.

— Ross Wooden (@RossWooden) March 4, 2015

Tasked with guarding the high-post-oriented Gasol for much of the night, Gobert often found himself pulled away from the rim early in defensive possessions, leading to a rare rejectionless night for the NBA's leader in block percentage. (He's gone without a block just eight times in 59 appearances this season.) But Favors plugged the gap, blocking three shots and altering several others; Memphis shot just 22-for-52 (42.3 percent) in the paint on Tuesday.

And yet, despite all their excellent defensive work, the Jazz actually trailed by a point at halftime, 38-37, thanks to their own inability to generate any offense, as Utah shot 13-for-44 through two quarters. They came alive in the third, though, as Hayward — who'd been in a hellacious slump since the All-Star break, shooting just 35.5 percent from the floor and 20 percent from 3-point range — finally broke free, scoring 13 points on 6-for-8 shooting to tilt the game in Utah's favor.

Hot starts to the fourth by Favors (eight of his 21 points in the frame) and rookie swingman Hood (six of his 13 in the fourth) helped the Jazz extend a three-point lead. An 11-1 mid-quarter run pushed the advantage to double-digits, where it stayed for most of the final 6 1/2 minutes, allowing Gobert to put the afore-video'd exclamation point on the proceedings.

Hayward finished with 21 points, eight rebounds, six assists, three steals and just two turnovers in 35 minutes of work. Gobert added 15 points and an assist to his career-high rebounding total. Exum chipped in a career-high seven assists with three rebounds, two blocks and a steal. Little-used forward Jeremy Evans pulled down seven rebounds in 11 1/2 minutes of work off the bench. Everybody brought something to the table, and it added up to an impressive win over the West's No. 2 seed.

Utah has now won three straight games for the first time this season. After their dismal start, they're now over .500 (16-15) since Dec. 20 and within one game of matching their full-season 2013-14 win total. The starting lineup of Hayward, Favors, Gobert, Exum and fellow Aussie import Joe Ingles has outscored opponents by 24 points in 65 minutes since the All-Star break, a strong number, and that overall defense just continues to improve month after month — from third-worst in the league at the end of November, to 25th out of 30 in December, to 15th (smack dab in the middle of the pack) in January, to the absolute top of the heap since the beginning of February.

The job's not done, of course. The offense remains middling at best. With Exum still very much learning the offensive ropes at the NBA level and former starter Trey Burke a feast-or-famine option depending on whether his shot's falling, the Jazz attack cam become impotent when Hayward's not clicking, especially with ball-handling slasher Alec Burks out for the year following shoulder surgery.

Utah needs more steady playmaking, more dynamism in attacking the basket and more shooting all over the place to field a truly threatening offensive attack, and we'll need to see this meat-grinder defense over a longer stretch of time before we can start penciling in the Jazz as Western playoff spoilers next season. But none of that means we shouldn't get excited about what we are seeing right now.

Gobert is a holy terror in front of the basket on both ends. Favors looks about as good and complete as he ever has. Hayward is starting to make a lot of people who clucked at his max contract wonder if they spoke too soon. The 19-year-old Exum does one or two things every night that make you think he could be one of the best backcourt defenders in the league before he can buy a six-pack.

The Jazz are no longer merely a pack of assets, a collection of theoretically intriguing pieces. They're starting to resemble an honest-to-God puzzle, one that isn't yet finished but that actually looks like it's going to be something, and soon. After several largely aimless years, that sure seems worth saluting to me.

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Dan Devine is an editor for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at devine@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter!

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Author: Dan Devine
Posted: March 4, 2015, 5:52 am

No. 1 Star: Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tampa Bay Lightning

The rookie netminder made 28 saves and recorded his first NHL shutout as the Lightning blanked the Buffalo Sabres 3-0. Steven Stamkos scored his 36th of the year as Tampa won for the 13th time in their last 15 games at Amalie Arena. 

No. 2 Stars: Trevor Lewis / Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles Kings

The Kings forwards each had a goal and two assists as LA beat the Edmonton Oilers 5-2 to snap a three-game losing streak. LA has won seven of their last eight meetings against Edmonton and since 2008 are undefeated on the road in regulation against them. Lewis and Kopitar ended up connecting on two goals, like this one to give LA a 2-0 lead:

No. 3 Star: Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals 

Ovechkin continued his march toward another Rocket Richard Trophy with a pair of goals as the Washington Capitals beat the Columbus Blue Jackets 5-3. Nick Backstrom and Jason Chimera each recorded a pair of assists. Joel Ward reached the 500-game plateau.

Honorable Mention: The New Jersey Devils scored twice in the game’s opening four minutes en route to a 3-1 win over the Nashville Predators. Cory Schneider made 33 stops as the Devils won for the sixth time in eight games. Mike Cammalleri scored an empty-netter to give him 9 points in his last seven games … Predators forward Matt Cullen played in his 1,200th NHL game … Jiri Hudler scored 1:21 into overtime to help give the Calgary Flames a 3-2 win over the Philadelphia Flyers:

Scott Hartnell of the Blue Jackets scored twice and added an assist in the loss … Nazem Kadri and Peter Holland scored five minutes apart early in the third period to help give the Toronto Maple Leafs a 3-2 win over the Florida Panthers. The game featured a wacky third period that saw Al Montoya, who replaced an injured Roberto Luongo after the first period, get injured himself and force the Panthers to scramble for a solution. After a delay, and Florida contemplating the possibility of suiting up Derek McKenzie or Scottie Upshall, Montoya returned briefly before Luongo regained the crease. It was so wild that goaltending coach Robb Tallas suited up, just in case … Matt Dumba scored twice in the second period and Charlie Coyle put home the winner in the shootout as Minnesota Wild edged the Ottawa Senators 3-2. Devan Dubnyk made 31 saves in regulation and overtime and two big ones in the shootout … Cody Eakin’s goal 2:18 into overtime gave the Dallas Stars a 2-1 win over the New York Islanders. Anders Lee forced the extra period after his shot deflected off Jordie Benn’s skate with 1.1 seconds left in the third period. Kari Lehtonen made 35 saves and won for the first time in four starts … Jakob Silfverberg scored a goal and assisted on two others as the Anaheim Ducks downed the Arizona Coyotes 4-1. Andrew Cogliano added a pair of goals and Frederik Andersen made 29 saves in his first start since Feb. 8. Ryan Kesler opened the scoring with a beautiful individual effort while shorthanded:

Matt Nieto scored twice and helped the San Jose Sharks to a 6-2 rout of the Vancouver Canucks. Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau each added two assists and Antti Niemi made 26 saves for his first win in four starts ... In a losing effort, Henrik Sedin scored twice for the Canucks and became the fourth Swedish-born NHL player to reach 900 career points:

Did You Know? “Darryl Sutter coached his 1,102th game, tying Billy Reay for 16th overall in NHL history.” (AP)

Dishonorable Mention: Nashville dropped their fourth straight, a season high … The Flyers thought they had tied the game on a Nick Schultz goal but the officials huddled and ruled the defenseman made incidental contact with Karri Ramo before the puck crossed the line:

The Blue Jackets have now lost seven in a row … Matt Martin was give a five-minute major and automatic game misconduct for kneeing Trevor Daley in the first period:

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Author: Sean Leahy
Posted: March 4, 2015, 5:49 am

They stormed back from six down late in the second half at LSU. They survived overtime against Ole Miss and Texas A&M. They thwarted Florida's spirited upset bid.

In a year in which Kentucky has needed to engineer some artful escapes against SEC opponents to preserve its undefeated record, the Wildcats saved one of their best for last.

Kentucky moved within one win of an unbeaten regular season with a 72-64 road victory over a Georgia team that had the Wildcats teetering several times in the second half. The Bulldogs shredded Kentucky's typically formidable defense most of the night by spreading the floor and attacking the rim, enabling them to open leads of nine with nine minutes to play and six with five minutes to play.

Just like it has in previous tests, Kentucky gathered itself and responded, this time seizing back control with a game-ending 16-2 surge. Freshman center Karl-Anthony Towns scored a game-high 19 points for the Wildcats including the go-ahead basket with 2:53 to go when he recovered his own miss, absorbed contact and laid the ball in.

That Kentucky managed to win on the road despite shooting below 40 percent from the field and struggling on defense is a testament to its resilience. At this point, the top-ranked Wildcats have proven it's foolish to count them out of a game unless they have fewer points than their opponent and the clock reads triple zeroes.

It was Towns who showed the greatest resilience Tuesday night, bouncing back after drawing coach John Calipari's ire late in the second half when he lowered his shoulder and committed a charge in the post instead of kicking the ball out to a wide-open Tyler Ulis. Towns responded by scoring seven points in the final three minutes to help Kentucky put the game away.

Georgia's three missed front ends of 1-and-1s in the last five minutes has to be the most frustrating part of the loss for coach Mark Fox. His offensive scheme was shrewd, his team played with effort and energy, his home crowd was loud and still it wasn't enough. 

Had the Bulldogs managed to close out the game strong and spring the upset, they would have not only foiled Kentucky's bid for history but also secured their own place in the NCAA tournament. Instead they still probably need a win at Auburn on Saturday to feel good about their position entering the SEC tournament.

Kentucky meanwhile is one win away from a perfect 31-0 regular season. All that stands between the Wildcats and history is struggling Florida at Rupp Arena, and barring a surprise, Kentucky won't need an escape to win that one.

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Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: March 4, 2015, 5:39 am

 Mar 3, 2015; Lawrence, KS, USA; Kansas Jayhawks forward Perry Ellis (34) holds his knee after a collision during the first half against the West Virginia Mountaineers at Allen Fieldhouse. (Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports)Jamari Traylor saved senior night and helped Kansas win another Big 12 regular season championship outright on Tuesday with a huge second half that thwarted an historic upset bid from West Virginia at Allen Fieldhouse.

The Jayhawks took advantage of awful free throw shooting by the Moutaineers down the stretch to force overtime and win 76-69, getting revenge for a loss at West Virginia last month. West Virginia missed three of five free throws in the final 45 seconds of regulation and went 16-for-28 at the foul line in the game.

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The Mountaineers raced to an 18-point lead in the first half made even more impressive because they were playing without leading scorer Juwan Staten and senior Gary Browne. Staten provided the winning layup, albeit controversial, against the Jayhawks in Morgantown.

West Virginia was trying to be the first team to beat Kansas on senior night in 32 years. It was also trying to end the Jayhawks’ 23-game home-court winning streak and become the first team to sweep Kansas in the regular season in Bill Self’s tenure as coach at KU.

But with Big 12 Player of the Year candidate Perry Ellis out of action after a teammate rolled into his leg late in the first half, Self had to lean heavily on Traylor, who came through with a performance Kansas fans won’t soon forget.

Traylor scored all of his 14 points in the second half and overtime and gave Kansas a strong presence in the post with Ellis out and Cliff Alexander missing another game with NCAA eligibility issues. Frank Mason also came up big on a night when the Jayhawks failed to make a 3-pointer. Kansas went 0-15 from behind the arc and did not attempt a 3-pointer in overtime. Mason scored 19 points and grabbed seven rebounds.

West Virginia not only struggled at the foul line, it struggled to put the ball in the basket period. The Mountaineers made only 22 of 63 field goal attempts but kept themselves in it in the second half by making 3-pointers. They were 9-for-25 behind the arc in the game.

The Mountaineers made one two-point field goal in the final 24 minutes of the game. Kansas celebrated another championship because of that fact probably more than any other.

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[Kyle Ringo is the assistant editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at kyle.ringo@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @KyleRingo

Author: Kyle Ringo
Posted: March 4, 2015, 5:23 am

There is an old basketball truism that defenders should not be caught ball-watching on defense. The idea is pretty simple — when guys focus on the ball, they lose sight of other offensive players and allow them to get open shots. Anyone with any experience in basketball does not need an example to prove the point.

Newcomers, though, could stand to learn a lot from the mistake Washington Wizards forward Otto Porter made in the final seconds of Tuesday night's game against the Chicago Bulls at the United Center. Then again, merely stating that Porter got caught ball-watching does not communicate the hilarity of whatever caused him to allow Tony Snell to get open.

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With the Bulls up 95-92 and just five seconds separating the shot and game clocks, the Wizards needed a stop to have any chance at sending the game to overtime. Not surprisingly, the Bulls waited a while to initiate any action in the half-court offense, and Snell made his move with 10 seconds on the shot clock. Porter must not have expected him to move at all, because he took his time in chasing him to the other side of the court. Keep an eye on the bottom left corner of the screen:

Let's take a look on Vine, too, because a play this silly benefits from endless viewings:

By our estimate, Porter waited nearly three full seconds to chase Snell. Although the Bulls wing missed his shot, Porter remains at fault for the result of the play. His non-movement required Marcin Gortat to rotate off Pau Gasol to chase Snell. Gasol ended up in excellent position to snag the offensive rebound, and his two free throws iced the game for Chicago in their 97-92 win.

Porter is not going to live this moment down any time soon. The brilliant folks at The Wizznutzz have already turned him into a meme:

new trend: OTTOING u jus stand on a lonely street corner in akimbo position waiting for the asteroid pic.twitter.com/7I6LFRQihX

— Ras BoboNutzz (@wzzntzz) March 4, 2015

This incident is the latest and worst in a series of missteps for Porter, who has not been particularly impressive since becoming the third selection in the 2013 NBA Draft out of Georgetown. Although Porter has improved since a rookie season derailed by injury and ineffectiveness, he is averaging only 5.9 points and 2.8 rebounds in 18.8 minutes per game and generally does not make the impact expected of a high-lottery player. The Wizards have already picked up his option for next season, but he will have to perform better soon for the franchise to factor him into their long-term plans.

Tuesday's loss also continues the Wizards' confounding struggles over the past month after having stopped a six-game losing streak with Saturday's victory over the Detroit Pistons. Washington has now lost 12 of their last 15 and looks like a shadow of the team that seemed ready to challenge for the East title.

On the other side, the Bulls impressed despite playing without Derrick Rose, Jimmy Butler, and Taj Gibson. The front line of Gasol (20 points, 10 rebounds, two blocks), Joakim Noah (14 points, 12 rebounds, five assists, three blocks, two steals), and Nikola Mirotic (23 points and eight rebounds) was especially effective, which may increase confidence that Chicago can hold onto a top-four seed in the East with so many major names on the shelf.

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Eric Freeman is a writer for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at efreeman_ysports@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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Author: Eric Freeman
Posted: March 4, 2015, 4:52 am

If you didn’t watch the Florida Panthers-Toronto Maple Leafs game Tuesday night, you missed one of the oddest third periods in recent memory. 

Roberto Luongo started for the Panthers but didn’t return after the first intermission after taking a shot to the shoulder/neck area. Al Montoya came on in relief, but then injured himself during a Toronto goal early in the third period. With Luongo still in the dressing room, Florida faced an interesting predicament: who would play goal?

Officials halted the game as the Panthers attempted to figure out what to do. Scottie Upshall and Derek McKenzie ran back to the dressing room with everyone believing one of them would suit up. It turned out, they weren’t needed, as Montoya would re-enter the game, but it was obvious he was hurting.

With Montoya back, the Panthers still wanted to have some insurance in case another change was needed, so they called upon 41-year old goaltending coach Robb Tallas, who last played in the NHL in 2001 and retired from the game in 2005 after spending some time in Europe. 

The Panthers actually needed NHL approval to dress Tallas, as per Rule 5.3

"In regular League and Playoff games, if both listed goalkeepers are incapacitated, that team shall be entitled to dress and play any available goalkeeper who is eligible. This goalkeeper is eligible to sit on the player’s bench, in uniform. In the event that the two regular goalkeepers are injured or incapacitated in quick succession, the third goalkeeper shall be provided with a reasonable amount of time to get dressed, in addition to a two-minute warm-up."

 In this situation, the League approved Florida's request to dress goaltending coach Robb Tallas.

"We were really concerned, playing a good game and lose both goalies boom, boom,'' said Panthers head coach Gerard Gallant, via the Miami Herald. "There was a lot of confusion going on."

But the fun didn't stop there. After Montoya's allowed Toronto's go-ahead goal, Luongo appeared from the dressing room in his gear and took over for the final 9:08 of the 3-2 defeat. (Luongo, by the way, stopped all 19 shots he faced during the game.)

This wasn’t the first time the Panthers needed Tallas’ help. In March 2013, with starter Jose Theodore injured, the team called up Jacob Markstrom from their AHL affiliate in San Antonio. Thanks to United Airlines the netminder’s gear was lost, so he arrived to the rink empty-handed. Scott Clemmenson would play the entire game — a 3-2 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes — and Tallas would participate in warmups and watch from the bench. Oddly enough, that also occurred on a March 3rd.

Next March 3rd I will be nowhere near a hockey rink #coincidence

— Robb Tallas (@robbtallas) March 4, 2015

After Tuesday's game, Montoya and Luongo weren't available to the media as they were receiving medical treatment. Panthers GM Dale Tallon said that Montoya's injury was serious enough that the team will be recalling a netminder from the AHL.

The Panthers missed out on a big two points with the loss. They remain two points behind the Boston Bruins for the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference, with the Bruins owning two games in-hand.

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Sean Leahy is the associate editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Sean_Leahy

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Author: Sean Leahy
Posted: March 4, 2015, 4:17 am

Houston Rockets forward Josh Smith has heard a lot of criticism over the past few years that he takes too many three-pointers. Those comments are accurate — Smith hasn't topped 31 percent from long range since 2010-11 — but it's easy to see how he may have grown tired of the naysayers after several years. He probably gets the gist at this point.

We can understand, then, why Smith may have chosen to respond to the haters during the Rockets' visit to the Atlanta Hawks on Tuesday night. After hitting his first triple of the game with 2:19 remaining in the third quarter, the former Hawk put his finger to his lips to quiet down the booing crowd.

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But Smith didn't stop there. He did the same thing after his second three-pointer put the Rockets up 84-72 with 11:03 left in regulation:

It probably won't surprise you to learn that the Philips Center crowd didn't stop shouting even with the team down big. They haven't remembered the good times in the two season since Smith last suited up for Atlanta, and an apparent runaway victory for Houston wasn't going to stop them from raining down boos.

It turns out that the home crowd had the right idea, because the Hawks followed Smith's second taunt with a remarkable run to wrest back control of the game. Pablo Prigioni hit a three-pointer on the Rockets' next possession to open up a 15-point lead, but the Hawks ended the game on a 32-9 run to end up with a 104-96 win to extend their streak to five in a row. Here's a look at some of the key moments in their huge comeback:

While it would be too much to suggest that Smith's action inspired the Atlanta comeback, a 20-point swing indicates that he wasn't very successful in shutting them up. (He also helped out with three missed shots and two turnovers.) It was arguably the least effective shoosh since that guy from "Encino Man" tried to tell everyone that Linkavitch Chomofksy wasn't really an Estonian exchange student:

Despite what would be understandable embarrassment, Smith did not try to walk back his actions. If anything, he doubled down on them. From Kevin Arnovitz for ESPN.com:

"I mean, those fans are fickle, very fickle and bandwagoners," Smith said. "It really doesn't mean anything to me."

Aside from the Smith sideshow, the Hawks' comeback speaks to the qualities that have allowed them to reach the NBA's best record at 48-12. Six players scored during the game-closing run as the Hawks regularly found good shots on offense and forced the Rockets into bad decisions at the other end. As usual, Atlanta looked in control of themselves and supremely confident under pressure.

Meanwhile, Houston clearly missed MVP candidate James Harden, who sat out this one while serving his one-game suspension for kicking LeBron James in the groin on Sunday. Without Harden, the Rockets too often hoisted three-pointers after a single pass or hoped that Donatas Motiejunas could create a look on his own inside. Houston lacked a calming element in crunch time on Tuesday — it's arguable that their struggles won Harden a few MVP votes simply because they rarely look so flustered when he has the ball in his hands.

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Eric Freeman is a writer for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at efreeman_ysports@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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Author: Eric Freeman
Posted: March 4, 2015, 3:42 am

There's no need to wait until after the NCAA tournament to identify who the most coveted coach on the market will be this spring. 

Dayton's Archie Miller has already secured that title by doing an even more remarkable job this season than he did last year when he led the Flyers to the Elite Eight.

When Miller had to dismiss his only two big men in December, it left Dayton with only six scholarship players and nobody taller than 6-foot-6. The Flyers responded by vowing not to make any excuses, reinventing themselves on the fly and exceeding all expectations.

Dayton's 75-59 rout of co-Atlantic 10 leader Rhode Island on Tuesday night moved the Flyers within one win of securing at least a share of their first conference title since joining the Atlantic 10 in the 1995-96 season. If Dayton (23-6, 13-4) wins at La Salle on Saturday, Davidson (21-6, 12-4) will have to win its final two games against VCU and at Duquesne just to forge a tie.      

Tuesday's victory keeps Dayton on pace for about a No. 8 seed in the NCAA tournament with a chance to improve that if it keeps winning. Quality wins against VCU, Ole Miss, Texas A&M and Rhode Island aren't overly impressive, but the Flyers have a top 30 RPI because they've only suffered one sub-100 loss the entire season.

What's especially remarkable about what Dayton has accomplished this year is that its style of play is the antithesis of that of last year's team. Whereas last year's Flyers played an 11-man rotation featuring four players 6-foot-9 or taller, this year's team seldom plays more than seven guys and divides the bulk of the minutes among six.

The secret to Dayton's success the past couple months has been finding ways to exploit its quickness advantage on offense without getting pummeled in the paint or on the glass defensively.

Dayton is second in the Atlantic 10 in points per possession so far this season even though it gets little in transition and it seldom even bothers to try for offensive rebounds. When opponents have played man-to-man, Miller has taken advantage of Dayton's superior speed by spreading the floor, identifying the most favorable mismatch and attacking off the dribble. When opponents have gone zone to prevent those mismatches, Miller has a handful of skilled wings he can play in the high post and ask to shoot, drive or distribute.

Remarkably, Dayton is also third in the Atlantic 10 in points per possession surrendered and first in defensive rebounding percentage despite giving up a few inches in every game at both frontcourt positions. Dyshawn Pierre is averaging a team-high 8.0 rebounds, Kendall Pollard is averaging 5.6 and both guys are doing an admirable job defending bigger players.  

"I'm not sure surprised is the word I'd use but I'm definitely proud," Miller told Yahoo Sports in January. "I'm proud of the way they've handled adversity. They have not budged. They have not moved. To be quite honest with you, they've stuck their chests out a little bit and they keep coming."

Dayton's surprising success should land Miller on the short list of candidates for national coach of the year along with John Calipari, Tony Bennett, Larry Krystkowiak and a handful of others. It also is sure to make him a popular figure with athletic directors seeking to hire a new basketball coach. 

Last year, Miller reportedly received interest from the likes of Marquette and Wake Forest but opted to sign a longterm extension at Dayton instead. He'll probably have another difficult decision to make this spring, especially if name-brand jobs like Georgia Tech, Texas or Indiana were to come open. 

From Louisiana Tech's Michael White, to Northern Iowa's Ben Jacobson, to perennial candidates Gregg Marshall and Shaka Smart, there are lots of coaches who should be hot names this spring. 

Miller should be a lot of athletic director's first phone call though. With what he's accomplished at Dayton, he has earned that.

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Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: March 4, 2015, 3:37 am

Rutgers senior guard Myles Mack is 5-foot-10. It's important to know that while watching the accompanying video here because Mack is the guy Maryland star Dez Wells hurdled Tuesday night during the 10-ranked Terrapins' 60-50 victory.

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The sight of Wells flying at him and then over him midway through the first half led Mack to get rid of the ball when it might have been to his advantage to drive to the basket. It's tough to blame the guy flinching just a bit.

It was just one of several jaw-dropping displays of athleticism from Wells during a performance in which he led his team to a victory with 20 points and 10 rebounds.It was Maryland's 25th victory of the season. You have to think NBA scouts and general managers will have a lot of interest in Wells this summer.

Dez Wells on tonight’s big baseline dunk: “I saw somebody going to take a charge and I said *shakes head* that’s his problem.” #Terps

— Daniel Martin (@DMartinCSN) February 25, 2015

Is it too early to nominate Wells for next year's slam dunk contest during All-Star weekend?

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[Kyle Ringo is the assistant editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at kyle.ringo@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @KyleRingo

Author: Kyle Ringo
Posted: March 4, 2015, 2:59 am

It's funny that both LeSean McCoy and Kiko Alonso were rumored to be on the trade block, but somehow the idea of them being traded for each other makes Tuesday's trade between the Buffalo Bills and Philadelphia Eagles fascinating.

From the Eagles' perspective, it makes a ton of sense. But from the Bills' angle, the trade requires a little hope and vision.

Oh, sure, there's the immediate return of McCoy and everything he brings. He fell short of his 2,000-yard rushing goal for 2014 (by almost 700 yards), but he rallied after a slow start, remains relatively young  (turning 27 before training camp) and is the kind of pass-receiving back who can make a bad quarterback average.

And that's exactly what the Bills have now.

[Check out Shutdown Corner's full 2015 free agent rankings – click here for offensive players, and click here for defensive players and specialists]

With no first-round pick and no free-agent quarterbacks who will make anyone excited without beer goggles, the Bills are faced with — having been stood up by (LOL) Josh McCown — finding a temporary bridge QB to compete (still LOLing) with EJ Manuel.

So what's a team to do in that situation?

Surround QB1 with whatever complementary talent it can and make chicken salad, you know? Wide receiver — check. Sammy Watkins and Robert Woods are a good 1-2 punch. The offensive line could be good, and you can bet that new offensive coordinator Greg Roman already has implored the team to import Mike Iupati. McCoy, Fred Jackson, Bryce Brown and Anthony Dixon will fit Rex Ryan's ground-and-pound directive (even if McCoy and Jackson might not be best buds).

It's not perfect, but it's not bad. And there's excitement in Buffalo to get a player such as McCoy, who has 26 plays of 20 yards or longer the past two seasons. Isn't McCoy what C.J. Spiller was supposed to be?

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The drawbacks are these: It's unclear if EJ Manuel will be the Week 1 starter in Buffalo. (USA TODAY Sports)

• The Bills are giving up on Alonso, who could be one of the NFL's best linebackers if his torn ACL hasn't held him back. And he wasn't due to hit free agency for another three years.

• McCoy eats up more than $10 million next season, while Alonso was on the books for less than a million. That limits what the Bills can do in free agency.

• The Bills' top two backs, McCoy and Jackson, have a combined 2,740 carries and 622 receptions in the NFL, which is quite a bit of tread off those tires.

• And, yeah, still no QB.

With this defense and this run game, the Bills are a threat. But they're an also-ran until they find a capable trigger man. You can throw as many screens to McCoy and slants to Watkins as you want; until they find someone who can fire it to the sticks on third-and-8 in the fourth quarter against a six-man blitz, forget about it.

McCoy gives them another playmaker, and Roman and Ryan know how to employ a full-house backfield to maximum effectiveness. Now the clock is started on the team finding the right man to hand him the ball. That matters most.

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Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at edholm@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Eric_Edholm

Author: Eric Edholm
Posted: March 4, 2015, 2:26 am

Joffrey Lupul and Dion Phaneuf of the Toronto Maple Leafs, and Phaneuf's wife actress Elisha Cuthbert, have threatened legal action against TSN after the network published a tweet on-air during its Monday NHL trade deadline coverage that joked about an affair between Lupul and Cuthbert. 

The network issued an on-air apology to them on Tuesday night during SportsCentre and the Leafs' game at the Florida Panthers. Delivered by lead anchor James Duthie, who hosted the TradeCentre broadcast, it read: 

"Yesterday when TSN was reporting on the NHL trade deadline it displayed a scrolling ticker of tweets from the public.
"In spite of TSN's protocols to prevent unfounded and inappropriate tweets from making it to air, a false, and inappropriate tweet was allowed to run.
"There was no basis for the false allegation made in this tweet.
"TSN unreservedly apologizes to Joffrey Lupul, Dion Phaneuf and Elisha Cuthbert and regrets any embarrassment this unfortunate incident has caused to them."
A law firm representing the players and Cuthbert demanded from TSN "a formal apology and pay a significant amount of damages to each of our clients for broadcasting a false and defamatory tweet during their trade deadline show." It sent a similar demand to Anthony Adragna, the Toronto Maple Leafs fan who wrote the offending tweet. 
On Monday, he responded to talk about a lawsuit thusly: 

Whats all this crap about a lawsuit. If anyone is getting sued its TSN for being negligent not me

— Anthony Adragna (@AdragnaA21) March 2, 2015

Yeah, about that...

MORE FROM YAHOO HOCKEY

Author: Greg Wyshynski
Posted: March 4, 2015, 2:10 am

Actual baseball is back, with major-league teams playing against major-league teams. Tuesday was the first day of games in the Cactus and Grapefruit leagues, and while the outcomes ultimately mean very little, it's still nice to see the homers and great defensive plays again.

So come with us, fair reader, as we show you the five plays you need to see from the first day of spring training games.

1. YOENIS CESPEDES GOES GRAND SALAMI
New Detroit Tigers outfielder Yoenis Cespedes showed that swing that's won the last two Home Run Derbys, connecting for a grand slam in the Tigers' 15-2 win over the Orioles. Ubaldo Jimenez was in midseason form, allowing six runs in 1.1 innings.

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2. KANG SHOWS OFF HIS POWER
Jung-ho Kang signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates in January, coming over from Korea, where he was the MVP last season hitting 40 homers. There was debate about whether that power would translate to MLB. In his first game, at least, the answer was yes. Check out his opposite-field homer as the Pirates beat the Toronto Blue Jays 8-7. Note the leg kick.

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3. RUSSELL MARTIN SHOWS OFF HIS DEFENSE
Russell Martin delivered the first "must-see" defensive play of the young baseball season in the Blue Jays' loss to the Tigers. Watch him track down this bouncer and make an off-balance throw for the out at first. Nice first impression, Russell.

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4. AARON JUDGE'S THREE-RUN HOMER GIVES THE YANKEES A TIE
Well, it's not quite a walk-off homer, but Aaron Judge's three-run, ninth inning homer made sure the New York Yankees didn't lose. He tied their game against Philadelphia Phillies 5-5 with a two-out homer in the ninth. And since this is spring, the game just ended in a tie. It was a game-not-losing homer. (Can that be a thing?) Judge, by the way, is the No. 1 Yankees prospect, per Baseball Prospectus.

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5. DESTIN HOOD CRASHES INTO THE WALL, MAKES THE CATCH
Destin Hood, who the Cleveland Indians signed to a minor-league contract, made a nice first impression with this great catch in an otherwise forgettable 10-0 loss to the Cincinnati Reds.

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Mike Oz is the editor of Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at mikeozstew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @MikeOz

Author: Mike Oz
Posted: March 4, 2015, 1:44 am

One thing we've heard all year long is that the NCHC is the best and deepest conference in the country. In a lot of ways, this is certainly true.

Perhaps the biggest, and the one that's best buoyed the conference's astonishing five teams in the top eight Pairwise spots right now, is the fact that everyone has a really great strength of schedule. North Dakota's schedule is the eighth-hardest, Minnesota Duluth's is first, Omaha's is third, Miami's is fifth, Denver's is fourth. And St. Cloud, which as of now is now out of contention for the NCAA tournament because it's below .500, is second. For an eight-team conference, this is pretty incredible. Only Western Michigan (27th in the PWR but seventh in strength of schedule) and Colorado College (49th, sixth) sit outside even remote contention.

Those SOS ratings are buoyed appreciably by the fact that no one lost more than five games out of conference all year, and the NCHC's combined record against non-conference opponents was 53-25-4 (.671), though it must be said that North Dakota, Omaha, and Denver only played a combined 11 conference games away from home. So when non-conference opponents are spotting teams that much leeway, the overall strength of schedule is going to benefit a lot.

So that got me wondering just how good these teams actually are. Winning a lot is one thing, but in such small samples you can get a pretty inaccurate picture of overall team quality. Consider that Merrimack went 9-2-1 out of conference for the third-best record in the country in such games, but once it got into Hockey East play, it lost 14 of 22. Looks can be deceiving.

Which is why you have to look beyond wins and losses. People in college hockey circles are generally loath to do this kind of thing, but it's important in terms of predicting future success. Let's take North Dakota, just for example. They're first in the country in the polls, in winning percentage, and in the Pairwise. But how good are they, really? Their numbers come in at 51.7 percent corsi for, which is good for 24th in the country. That's also only fourth in the NCHC. Now, you can say that's a consequence of them leading so much, and that's probably not inaccurate (though Miami and Duluth having four and five fewer wins but CF% of at least 55 should have a smaller but not dissimilar impact on their possession numbers). 

Where North Dakota differs, and which comes as no surprise, is that they have both the highest shooting percentage and save percentage in the league. Looking at the roster, you'd have to say that maybe shooting 8.8 percent at evens is a little bit high even for a team that talented — and with Mark MacMillan potentially done for the year, even more so — but Zane McIntyre was always going to be stopping about .940 at evens. He's just that good, and given the fact that his team concedes an inordinate number of shot attempts (42.3 per game, third-most in the conference) he's utterly crucial to their ongoing success. If he was even a little worse, let's say he allowed an extra five goals in 32 games this season, we're not having a discussion about North Dakota being the top team in the country; their shot generation is decidedly middle of the pack on a national level, so the fact that they have 73 even-strength goals goes a long way. 

Of course, only about 25 or 30 percent of most games is played at 5-on-5, so you have to consider special teams quality as well. Here too, North Dakota doesn't exactly impress in comparison with its conference rivals; its 20.9 percent conversion rate on power plays is fourth in the conference behind St. Cloud, Denver, and Colorado College (somehow). Its PK is, not surprisingly, the best by a decent margin, because McIntyre has an .872 save percentage when down a man. The NCHC average is .863. But North Dakota takes a lot of penalties (second-most in the conference) and draws the the third-most. Their power play opportunity differential for the season is plus-1. 

This is a team that's gone out of its way to not-test itself (only three road or neutral-site games out of conference? Grow up.) and are only going to play their toughest road dates of the season this coming weekend. And the average winning percentage of their OOC opponents is currently .377, so it's not like they're playing anyone good; in fact, only Providence (21-11-2) and Bemidji (15-4-5) are over .500 from that group. North Dakota went a scintillating 2-1-1 against those teams. And Bemidji isn't actually good. And that was when Providence was playing like absolute garbage. And three of those games were in Grand Forks.

The point is that if I'm North Dakota I'm scared to death of the possibility of playing either Miami or Duluth in the conference tournament, and Denver wouldn't be a picnic either. All these teams are better fundamentally than North Dakota, which has to rely on getting world-beating goaltending every night to win a lot of games. In all, 15 of their games this season have been decided by one goal plus an empty-netter or fewer. I think this weekend's series at Miami will go a long way toward showing whether this team is actually capable of upholding the level of play people expect — rightly or wrongly — from the No. 1 team in the country.

It's all well and good to be an okay or even pretty good team with elite goaltending. You can definitely win that way, and North Dakota has. You can't knock them for logging wins no matter how they do it. But can they win a national title? Depends what happens when McIntyre, as all goalies do, has an inevitable bad game. 

The playoffs begin

Meanwhile, out East, the three conferences largely based there are starting their conference tournaments this coming weekend, and boy if none of them are even a little bit interesting.

In the ECAC, Quinnipiac, St. Lawrence, Yale, and Colgate earned the actual byes, while Dartmouth earned a de facto one in a two-game series with Princeton. Harvard's probably going to club Brown, Cornell will likely smoke Union, and the only one that might be close is RPI and Clarkson (which I guess is why they're the Nos. 8 and 9 seeds). As with the regular season — and as detailed in this space last week — Quinnipiac is the best team in this conference, with third-place Yale not all that far behind them. 

In Atlantic Hockey, it's Robert Morris, Canisius, RIT, Bentley, and Mercyhurst earning the byes. In the first round, Holy Cross will massacre Niagara, Air Force will casually do away with AIC, and Sacred Heart will probably beat up on Army pretty easily. If Robert Morris doesn't win this conference in a walk it would be a big surprise. 

And in Hockey East, it's BU, Providence, BC, and Lowell as the top four getting byes. Notre Dame will humiliate UMass, Northeastern will steamroll Merrimack, Vermont will handle Maine, and UNH might get a series from UConn but I doubt it. Even if there wasn't much separating the byes from the non-byes in (four points separated second place from seventh), the winners here are fairly clear.

I'd be shocked if there are more than two upsets in all three of these conferences combined. This is a very stratified year for all three of the conferences.

A somewhat arbitrary ranking of teams which are pretty good in my opinion only (and just for right now but maybe for a little longer too?)

1. North Dakota (swept St. Cloud)

2. Miami (split with Denver)

3. Minnesota State (took three points from Michigan Tech)

4. BU (won two of three against Northeastern)

5. Minnesota Duluth (tied Omaha twice)

6. Denver (split with Miami)

7. Boston College (beat Harvard, split with Notre Dame)

8. Minnesota (idle)

9. Quinnipiac (beat Harvard, lost to Dartmouth)

10. Providence (swept Maine) 

Ryan Lambert is a Puck Daddy columnist and also covers the NCAA for College Hockey News. His email is here and his Twitter is here

Author: Ryan Lambert
Posted: March 4, 2015, 1:17 am

Tony Allen isn't quite sure what to tell you, man. (Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports)Memphis Grizzlies head coach Dave Joerger made a surprising announcement during his pregame media session on Tuesday. Perimeter stopper Tony Allen won't play against in Tuesday night's game against the Utah Jazz at FedEx Forum, as he'll be serving a one-game suspension for "violating team policy," according to Ronald Tillery of the Memphis Commercial Appeal:

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Joerger would not elaborate on why Allen was disciplined.
“It’s an isolated incident that happened. We’ve moved on. It’s over,” Joerger said. “He’s been great for us. I’ve played him more in February than any other time in the season. He’s been great accepting his new role, being some with the second unit and some with the first unit. He’s been locked in. He has had playoff focus. This is an isolated incident.”

(Well, I'm glad we've established that this is an isolated incident.)

The 6-foot-4-inch Allen is still one of the league's premier wing defenders at age 33, and serves as vital piece of a typically stout Grizzlies defense that ranks seventh in the league in points allowed per possession. Allen's numbers haven't changed much over the course of the season — he averaged 8.1 points, 3.8 rebounds, 2.1 steals and 1.5 assists in 25.5 minutes per game through his first 36 appearances, and has averaged 7.9 points, 4.3 rebounds, 1.6 steals and 1.4 assists in 25 minutes per game as a sub over the last 14 games. His role has been substantially altered over the past month and a half, however, as Joerger has shifted him from the starting five to the bench with the Grizzlies prioritizing the integration of mid-January trade acquisition Jeff Green. The former Seattle SuperSonics, Oklahoma City Thunder and Boston Celtics swingman has averaged 12 points, 3.9 rebounds and 1.8 assists in 28.8 minutes per game in 21 appearances as a Grizzly, 17 of them as a starter.

The specific rules Allen violated remain unclear, but the Grizzlies could've used him against Utah's Gordon Hayward. The Butler product's been cold of late, shooting just 35.5 percent shooting from the floor and 20 percent from 3-point range since the All-Star break, but is still in the midst of the best season of his young career, averaging 19.5 points, 4.8 rebounds and 4.2 assists per game.

Allen won't be the only Grizzly sidelined on Tuesday. Star power forward Zach Randolph and backup point guard Beno Udrih will both miss the game due to illness, meaning Joerger will have to shuffle up his rotations a fair amount to help the Grizzlies stave off an upset and draw within 3 1/2 games of the idle Golden State Warriors for the top spot in the Western Conference.

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Dan Devine is an editor for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at devine@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter!

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Author: Dan Devine
Posted: March 4, 2015, 12:48 am

Tempers flared when the Miami Heat and Phoenix Suns clashed at AmericanAirlines Arena, with an evening of physical play resulting in a handful of technical fouls and a trio of third-quarter ejections.

Tonight's game in a snapshot. pic.twitter.com/fX92E9LS89

— Ira Winderman (@IraHeatBeat) March 3, 2015

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Business picked up in earnest with just under nine minutes remaining in the third quarter and the Heat holding a 12-point advantage over the visiting Suns. Miami point guard Goran Dragic — a member of the Suns just two weeks ago, before he expressed displeasure with the Suns' three-point-guard rotiation and a lack of trust in the Phoenix front office and publicly requested a trade, which landed him in Florida and earned some harsh words from Suns general manager Ryan McDonough — stole the ball from Phoenix forward P.J. Tucker and took off on a fast break.

Suns forward Markieff Morris, who's been a bit salty of late, hustled back to snuff out Dragic's layup attempt, and he did so with extreme prejudice and physicality:

Morris met Dragic in the air, missing his right-handed swipe at the ball but body-bumping his former teammate off-course, sending him tumbling to the deck under the basket and rolling back past the photographers' area along the baseline. After reviewing the play, the referees assessed Morris a flagrant foul-2 for "unnecessary and excessive" contact, earning him an automatic ejection at the 8:43 mark of the third quarter.

You could argue that the play didn't merit a flagrant-2 — Morris didn't seem to be acting with malice, he seemed to make a play on the ball, and Dragic certainly fell hard, that seemed to be due more to the high-speed, mid-air collision than because Morris acted in an "unnecessary and excessive" manner. Then again, you could also watch the play and say that Morris got his hands up high, that going straight through Dragic's body did represent an excessive means of trying to contest the shot, and that by creating that collision, Morris is responsible for Dragic's careening aftermath.

In any event, Morris finished with 13 points on 6-for-10 shooting to go with five rebounds and one assist in 21 1/2 minutes of play before his early exit. Dragic got up a bit gingerly, but hit the two free throws that came with the flagrant and stayed in the game until picking up hsi fifth personal foul less than one minute later.

If Morris' hard foul represented simmering tensions between two clubs fighting for playoff spots in their respective conferences, the bad blood boiled over just four minutes later, when Miami's Hassan Whiteside and Phoenix's Alex Len — two big, good, young starting centers who'd been bumping and needling one another all game long — decided the time had come to make their festering discontent both blatant and ground-and-pound-based:

Whiteside grabbed the offensive rebound after a Dwyane Wade miss and threw down a dunk in Len's mug. While attempting to defend the shot, Len whacked Whiteside in the face. After he got smacked, Whiteside didn't exactly try to prevent his body from coming down directly on top of Len. (Again, they'd been doing this sort of stuff to one another just about all night.)

The Phoenix big man responded to this by shoving Whiteside to the ground. Whiteside responded by executing a pretty sound double-leg takedown and bringing the 7-foot-1 Ukrainian to the ground, drawing the attention of the officials, their teammates and the hootin'-and-hollerin' Miami crowd.

Your man Rod Steiger-at-SeaWorld was pretty amped up about the fracas:

No punches were thrown and no teammates appeared to leave the immediate areas of their benches, so, all told, to borrow a phrase from one of the finer films of 1991, they ain't no brawl. And yet, for their roles in the tussle, both Len and Whiteside got the gate, too, exiting the contest at the 4:26 mark of the third. Whiteside finished with 17 points on 8-for-12 shooting, 10 rebounds (six on the offensive glass), two steals and two blocks in 26 minutes. Len had 10 points on 4-for-9 shooting, 11 rebounds, two steals and an assist in 27 minutes.

After three ejections in less than five minutes, cooler heads prevailed ... for literally 42 seconds.

That's how long it took for Heat forward Henry Walker — plucked off the scrap heap, re-signed to a second 10-day contract earlier Monday — to team with "The Birdman," Chris Andersen, in lowering the boom on unejected Suns twin Marcus Morris as he drove to the basket:

After initially ruling Walker's smackdown a common foul, the officials went to the videotape and upgraded it to a flagrant-1, meaning nobody got ejected. Kind of boring, all things considered, right?

The NBA announced Tuesday that Len will receive a $20,000 fine for his role in the tussle with Whiteside, who himself earned a $15,000 fine for the same incident. Markieff Morris also got a notice from the league office for a $15,000 fine for his ejection. That makes for a total of $50,000 in fines spread over three players, although none will miss any games due to suspension. That outcome could be big for both teams as they attempt to keep pace with several other teams vying for the final playoff spots in their respective conferences.

The haymakers eventually ceased and both sides eventually got back to the business of basketball, which was much more Miami's cup of tea on this particular night. The Heat kept control throughout the fourth and pulled away late, finishing on a 16-9 run over the final five minutes to seal a 115-98 win. Despite dealing with foul trouble throughout, Dragic did his fair share of damage to his former team, scoring 21 points (5-for-9 from the field, 2-for-2 from 3-point land, 9-for-9 from the free-throw line) in just 15 minutes of floor time. Unheralded rookie Tyler Johnson led the way with a career-high 26 points in 26 minutes off the Miami bench, making 10 of his 13 shots and adding three steals in the victory, which improved the Heat to 26-33 on the season.

It was yet another disappointing loss for the Suns, who turned in a dismal shooting performance — 42.3 percent from the floor, 7-for-31 from long distance, and only 25-for-38 on freebies — while committing 19 turnovers that led to 22 Miami points. Tucker and Eric Bledsoe each had 20 for the Suns, who have lost 10 of their last 13 games and now sit at 31-30, 2 1/2 games behind the Oklahoma City Thunder for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

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Dan Devine is an editor for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at devine@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter!

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Stay connected with Ball Don't Lie on Twitter @YahooBDL, "Like" BDL on Facebook and follow Dunks Don't Lie on Tumblr for year-round NBA talk, jokes and more.

Author: Dan Devine
Posted: March 4, 2015, 12:46 am

Massive player-for-player swaps in the NFL are rare, but Tuesday's deal between the Buffalo Bills and Philadelphia Eagles would certainly count as massive.

According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, the Eagles will trade running back LeSean McCoy to the Buffalo Bills for linebacker Kiko Alonso. Alonso played for Eagles coach Chip Kelly at the University of Oregon.

Multiple outlets confirmed Schefter's report.

The trade will end the Eagles career of McCoy, one of the franchise's biggest stars the last few years. McCoy was a two-time first-team All-Pro, but his numbers took a huge dip last year and there was speculation he wouldn't return in 2015. McCoy had 2,146 yards from scrimmage in 2013, but just 1,474 last year. His average dropped nearly a yard per carry too, from 5.1 to 4.2.

The move is just as interesting from the Buffalo side. New coach Rex Ryan likes to run the football, but he also likes difference makers on defense. That's what Alonso looked like during a fantastic rookie season. He had 159 tackles in 2013 and was a huge playmaker for the Bills. He tore his ACL last year and missed the entire season, but all reports are that his rehabilitation is going well. The Eagles are still taking a risk by adding a player coming off a serious knee injury, but the Bills are making a huge gamble by trading a young defensive star for a running back with 1,461 career carries whose production was way off his norm last year. Especially since McCoy is slated to make $9.75 million in base salary this season and it doesn't bring Buffalo closer to solving its problem at quarterback.

Trent Cole, who will reportedly be cut by the Eagles after 10 years and 88.5 sacks with the team, took to Twitter to sum up his feelings shortly after the trade was reported.

No respect!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Caption that!

— Trent Cole (@Pro_Hunt58) March 4, 2015

It is the type of mega-deal you don't see often in the NFL, one that will be debated for many years to come.

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Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdowncorner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab

Author: Frank Schwab
Posted: March 3, 2015, 11:48 pm

On Saturday, footage of a fight between Minnesota Wild and Colorado Avalanche fans at a game in Denver surfaced, showing a nasty brawl.

New video of the brawl surfaced on Tuesday, and it’s rather intense.

From City Pages: 

City Pages reader Keenan Price sent along a much better video of the fight in the stands during Saturday night's Wild game in Colorado. Just as we suspected, the whole thing started because an angry drunken Avs fan got way too fired up.

Price, a Wild fan, said his section was full of people cheering on the Wild, and as the game progressed what started as good-natured trash-talk ramped up into something more serious.

"I started filming because I thought the guy getting all worked up was funny; I didn't think it was going to escalate into a throw down," says Price. "It was definitely people just getting worked up over no real reason, then more and more people got involved and there you go."

Here’s the video:

WARNING: STRONG ADULT LANGUAGE AND VIOLENCE IN VIDEO

Fans Fight in Stands at Wild-Avalanche Game from Voice Media Group on Vimeo.

As you can see, an Avalanche fan in a Ray Bourque jersey appeared drunk out of his gourd, threatening to stab other people and physically being held back by his seat mates.

Then as he’s being held back, a woman wearing Wild gear slaps him, sparking an all-out melee. (She’s the one on the ground in the brown jacket being consoled by another fan … as she continues to taunt the Avs fans.) 

Nevertheless, that Avs fan was completely out of control and arena security should have been on him about a minute before all this happened. When’s the last time you saw something like this allowed to happen in the lower bowl?!

 

 

Author: Greg Wyshynski
Posted: March 3, 2015, 11:32 pm

(AP)David Wright knows the right time to eat lunch, and it sure as heck isn't during a New York Mets intrasquad scrimmage. 

In a rather delicious slice of Mets drama, Wright and veteran relief pitcher Bobby Parnell had to teach youngster Noah Syndergaard — the team's No. 1 prospect according to Baseball America — a lesson Tuesday afternoon about when it's OK to eat and when you should be with the team.

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They spotted Syndergaard, a much-heralded, 22-year-old pitching prospect, eating lunch in the clubhouse during Tuesday's game and weren't having it. Marc Carig of Newsday had the scoop and recounts what's happened:

Noah Syndergaard should pick better times to eat lunch. (Getty Images)

Wright caught the former first-rounder off guard by demanding that he get back to the dugout immediately. Stunned, Syndergaard did not get up from his chair until the intervention of another veteran leader, Bobby Parnell.

With Syndergaard's plate still piled with food, Parnell picked it up and tossed it into a nearby trash can. With the message received, Syndergaard stood up and joined his teammates in the dugout, a lesson learned after a rare bit of clubhouse justice meted out by veterans.

"If a kid's not playing nice, you take his toys away," Parnell told Newsday.

Wright's intent, he told Newsday later, was not to single out Syndergaard. Rather, he believed it was important to remind a young player to be mindful about chances to learn. During the exchange, Wright barely raised his voice. He even smiled. But his words carried some punch.

"I'm not a big ranter and raver," Wright said. "When I get on somebody, it's 99-percent private. I'm not going to yell and scream. But when I speak to somebody, when I get on somebody, the point needs to be taken."

Count this as another clubhouse struggle revolving around the idea of players doing their own thing away from the team — which is sometimes a part of baseball these days. Modern technology and personalized schedules mean not every player is doing the same thing at the same time. On the flip side, that's not always great for team building.

Mat Latos recently complained about how members of last year's Cincinnati Reds team would hang out in the clubhouse during games and not cheer on their teammates. Meanwhile, new Minnesota Twins manager Paul Molitor has put restrictions on the use of mobile devices in his clubhouse. Last year's Kansas City Royals buried their heads an iPad game before kicking the habit and making a postseason run.

For his part in Tuesday's incident, Syndergaard told Newsday that he understood why the Mets veterans reacted the way they did and that he'd learn from the situation. And learning from your mistakes is what spring training is all about, right?

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Mike Oz is the editor of Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at mikeozstew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @MikeOz

Author: Mike Oz
Posted: March 3, 2015, 11:03 pm

Michigan football head coach Jim Harbaugh, center, stands for the national anthem with son Jay, right, and recruits, before an NCAA college basketball game against Northwestern at Crisler Center in Ann Arbor, Mich., Saturday, Jan. 17, 2015. (AP Photo/Tony Ding)Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh is truly a man of the people.

A few hours before tweeting about his “devout” fandom for Judge Judy, Harbaugh sprung to action to assist two women who got into a car accident on icy I-94 in Ann Arbor on Tuesday afternoon.

According to Mlive.com, Michigan athletics spokesman Dave Ablauf said that Harbaugh and UM athletics staff member James Minick “administered first aid to both individuals and kept them warm with coats until emergency medical personnel arrived.”

The accident occurred at around 2:40 p.m. Tuesday. The car involved, a 2003 Jeep Cherokee, was traveling westbound and “flipped multiple times before ending up on the eastbound side of I-94.” Additionally, police said the vehicle “hit the median before traveling up a snow embankment and landing on the eastbound side of the highway.”

Both women, the 53-year-old driver and the 73-year-old passenger, were wearing seatbelts and were transported to a local hospital.

According to WDIV, their injuries are not life-threatening.

For more Michigan news, visit TheWolverine.com.

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Sam Cooper is a contributor for the Yahoo Sports blogs. Have a tip? Email him or follow him on Twitter!

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Author: Sam Cooper
Posted: March 3, 2015, 10:54 pm

LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 18:  Actress Elisha Cuthbert and athlete Dion Phaneuf attend the 40th American Music Awards held at Nokia Theatre L.A. Live on November 18, 2012 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images)TSN’s embarrassing publication of a Twitter joke alleging an adulterous relationship between Toronto Maple Leafs winger Joffrey Lupul and actress Elisha Cuthbert, the wife of teammate Dion Phaneuf, may end up costing the network and the fan that tweeted it.

During TSN’s TradeCentre deadline coverage on Monday, a running scroll at the bottom of the screen published tweets sent to the #TradeCentre hashtag. One of the tweets from Anthony Adragna, a Leafs fan, made the allegation. 

The players and Cuthbert have retained Gall Legge Grant & Munroe LLP, which released the following statement on Tuesday: 

"On behalf of our clients Dion Phaneuf, his wife Elisha Cuthbert and Joffrey Lupul, we have sent a letter to TSN demanding that TSN issue a formal apology and pay a significant amount of damages to each of our clients for broadcasting a false and defamatory tweet during their trade deadline show yesterday. We are sending a similar letter to the author of the tweet, Mr. Anthony Adragna.

"It is bad enough that there are people who spend their time using social media to publish such false and malicious stories, but it is made much worse when a reputable media outlet like TSN gives broad circulation and credibility to these false stories by republishing them as TSN did.

"If TSN and Mr. Adragna do not immediately comply with the demands set out in our letters, we have instructions from our clients to immediately commence a lawsuit against them.

"Our clients will not be discussing this matter with the media.”

After a screen grab of the tweet went viral, Lupul called TSN “a poor man’s TMZ” and called the situation “embarrassing.” Adragna tweeted that the line was a “joke” and later said “my words and actions are my fault I've admitted that many times. Those words actually getting on air is out of my control."

TSN apologized during the show via social media:

"Earlier today, an inappropriate and disrespectful tweet was erroneously aired. As soon as it was flagged, we immediately removed it. We’ve reached out to the Toronto Maple Leafs organization and all those impacted to extend our sincerest apologies for our error. It should have never, ever gone to air."

TSN said it's going to read this other apology on the air on SportsCentre and during TSN’s broadcast of the Toronto Maple Leafs @ Florida Panthers game:

"Yesterday when TSN was reporting on the NHL trade deadline it displayed a scrolling ticker of tweets from the public. In spite of TSN's protocols to prevent unfounded and inappropriate tweets from making it to air, a false, and inappropriate tweet was allowed to run. There was no basis for the false allegation made in this tweet. TSN unreservedly apologizes to Joffrey Lupul, Dion Phaneuf and Elisha Cuthbert and regrets any embarrassment this unfortunate incident has caused to them." 

1. Canada has fairly rigid libel laws. TSN was completely irresponsible in allowing that on the air. This will not end well.

2. That said, Lupul and Phaneuf are essentially threatening to sue the co-owners of their team. Awkwarrrd.

3. Please recall the landmark case ‘Burke v. Poonerman,’ which was filed in a B.C. court.

4. I really hope this means the end of automated tweets appearing in hockey coverage and a return to curated tweets read by cheeky Americans wearing diarrhea pants.

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Author: Greg Wyshynski
Posted: March 3, 2015, 10:51 pm

Los Angeles Clippers guard J.J. Redick was ejected towards the end of his team’s close win over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Monday evening, in an odd display that surprised both teams.

Redick wasn’t involved in the previous play, he seemingly had no beef with the refereeing crew due to a series of calls or non-calls, and he apparently does not have a history with Josh Tiven – the official that whistled him for two quick Ts down the stretch of a two-possession game that wasn’t decided until the game’s final minute.

To hear Redick tell it, the referees were overstepping their bounds when J.J. tossed out some innocuous comments, and Minnesota coach Flip Saunders (who also received a technical) was just as out of bounds for using both poor language, and literally not staying out of bounds.

From Ben Bolch at the Los Angeles Times:

Redick also was unyielding about his role in the dust-up with Saunders. Redick said he had asked referees to intervene after Saunders walked on the court during a dead ball.

"I'm not sure why he was out on the court, but he was yelling and stuff, so I said to the ref, 'Man, get him off the court,'" Redick said. "And Flip turned to me and said, 'Man, shut the . . . up.' And he said it like three times. And I just walked to my spot and I got a double technical for that.

"So I shouldn't have kept talking, but all I said to [referee] Josh [Tiven] was, 'I'm going to get my money back' and he threw me out for that. If I'm going to get thrown out, man, at least let me say some stuff."

Should the referees be giving out three quick technical fouls in a four-point game with less than 70 seconds left? Should Flip Saunders, a longtime NBA head coach, be engaging with opposing players like this?

Should Redick be tossed from the game for yelling things about how he’s “going to get my money back,” a reference to the small fine the league awards those hit with Ts and the NBA’s ability to overturn technical fouls after a review?

The NBA, in its first day of releasing reviews of calls made in the last two minutes of close games, has gone over the tape.

And, no, J.J. Redick will not be getting his money back. From the league’s report:

Redick (LAC) makes comments and gestures deemed contrary to the NBA's "respect for the game" guidelines and is issued a second unsportsmanlike technical. All unsportsmanlike technicals are reviewed by Rod Thorn after games.

Coach Saunders (MIN) complains while on the court and is assessed an unsportsmanlike technical. Redick (LAC) yells at Saunders and is assessed an unsportsmanlike technical. By rule, two technicals on opposing teams during a timeout offset (no shots)

And for Redick’s final T:

This unsportsmanlike technical foul is Redick's (LAC) second and results in an ejection.

Each of these calls were labeled “CC,” meaning “correct call.” You can watch the video here, although the Clippers’ feed of the broadcast clearly shows Redick continuing to yap at the officials and gesticulate after being given his first technical, whereas the Timberwolves’ feed shows Saunders clamming up.

It’s easy to understand why Redick was carrying on. For one – he’s J.J. Redick, he tends to do that. Secondly, because Redick and Saunders received offsetting technical fouls, J.J. likely assumed that the refereeing crew wouldn’t have the chutzpah to call another technical (and the requisite free throw for the Wolves; which Ricky Rubio went on to miss) this late in a game that could go either way. Redick isn’t exactly a star, but it’s rare to see referees tossing any players late in a game and even rarer for them to be handing out technical free throws that could shift the balance of the contest.

Safe in that knowledge, Redick kept talking; and even with the context of the four and possibly three-point game weighing heavily, the referees were right to tell him to hit the bricks.

And the NBA is absolutely right for releasing these reports. By and large, NBA referees do a fantastic job calling a game that is nigh on impossible to perfectly officiate, and nobody is going to be embarrassed by this sort of transparency.

Save for players like J.J. Redick, I suppose, who will not be getting his money back.

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Kelly Dwyer is an editor for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at KDonhoops@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @KDonhoops

Author: Kelly Dwyer
Posted: March 3, 2015, 10:15 pm

Ever since Phil “CM Punk” Brooks signed with the UFC, the former pro wrestler-turned-real-fighter has been dominating headlines. Hardcore fans scream about ‘legitimacy’ while casual fans are peeking around the proverbial corner to see what all the fuss is about.

Brooks, who has never actually fought professionally, has made quite a name for himself in the sport of MMA in only a few short months. This is in part due to his background as a WWE superstar (something fight fans have trouble reconciling with at times) and the fact that he is getting preferential treatment over many other, more seasoned fighters.

Most assume that when Brooks does, in fact, make his in-cage debut, that he will be featured prominently. Brooks let the MMA world know a few weeks ago that he would be training for his UFC debut with world-renowned striking coach Duke Roufus in Milwaukee. Roufus is a former kickboxing champion who trains the likes of UFC lightweight champ Anthony “Showtime” Pettis and undefeated welterweight Ben Askren among others.

The Roufus camp, and Brooks in particular, have been fairly mum on a potential date for his debut. Even more scarce are any details coming out of the camp in regards to just how well the aging 36-year-old rookie is looking on the mats.

However, fight fans recently got their first glimpse of Punk going at it as Roufus sent out photos showing a sweaty Brooks engaged in the first, true sparring match of his still-young career.

Brooks’ opponent in the photo is professional fighter Craig Eckelberg (4-0). Eckelberg competes in the welterweight division, so it may give an idea on where Brooks could be competing one day (Brooks previously mentioned the middleweight division as a possibility).

As Roufus is quick to point out in the caption on Instagram, the rookie, Brooks, is still very much that – a rookie. The coach said 'Punk has some things to work on but he showed a lot of #Potential'. CM Punk poses with Duke Roufus at Roufusport. (Credit: Duke Roufus/Instagram)Although, the fact that he is actually mixing it up with professionals in one of the world’s most active gyms speaks volumes.

The UFC has a FOX broadcast scheduled in Chicago on July 26. And the “Chicago-Made” Punk is a logical fit for a Windy City debut at some point in his career, but it is still too soon to predict if Brooks will make the jump by the end of July. What do you think? Will Phil Brooks be ready for Chicago in July, or will the UFC use him as a pay-per-view-only attraction? And will training at Roufus Sport be just the kind of experience Brooks needs to win in the Octagon?

Author: Ryan McKinnell
Posted: March 3, 2015, 10:04 pm

As part of its offseason workouts, Temple pitted offense against defense to see who would be crowed “Team Olympic Champions.”

It all came down to a battle of strength between two coaches – wide receivers coach Frisman Jackson and cornerbacks coach Francis Brown – in a tug of war-style showdown with a tire.

With the players hyped, which side would emerge victorious? Offense or defense?

In was a best-of-three battle, but a third round was not required. Still, it was a valiant effort from both sides.

We'll see if the Owls can carry over this kind of energy when spring practice begins on March 22. 

For more Temple news, visit OwlScoop.com.

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Sam Cooper is a contributor for the Yahoo Sports blogs. Have a tip? Email him or follow him on Twitter!

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Author: Sam Cooper
Posted: March 3, 2015, 10:02 pm

The latest running back draft prospect to get hurt was Minnesota's David Cobb, who came up lame while running the 40-yard dash at the NFL scouting combine and opted against trying to run at the Gophers' pro day on Tuesday.

The quad injury hasn't yet healed, and so Cobb will have to hope that teams look back at the strong tape he put up during the season and at the Senior Bowl before stamping a grade on him.

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The same goes for other injured running backs such as Georgia's Todd Gurley, whose ACL rehab limited him from doing anything but lifting at the combine, and Indiana's Tevin Coleman, whose foot injury will keep him on the shelf until April 15.

Could other backs pass them up during the pre-draft process? It's possible.

This is a deep group this year, and it's possible that with a strong pro day and his late-season momentum — plus better health — that Melvin Gordon could slip ahead of Gurley, even though Gordon's good but hardly great 40-yard dashes in Indy represent a missed opportunity for a stock raise.

It also comes down to scheme fit, too. Bishop Sankey went ahead of Carlos Hyde, the prospective top back in last year's draft, because the Tennesee Titans wanted more of a quicker playmaker. (We know how that decision looks now.) Eddie Lacy was the fourth back taken in 2013 because not every team was convinced that he was well-conditioned enough, versatile enough and scheme-diverse enough. (Another oops in retrospect.)

So while teams try to tell you they have the long vision in mind, so many times it comes down to a what-can-you-do-for-me-now proposition, and if teams determine that Gurley might not be healthy enough to practice until August or that he won't regain his full burst until 2016, then potential be damned — he'll slide.

Coleman and Cobb have the chance to work out for teams prior to the draft, which will help. But with a loaded class that could see 10-12 backs taken in the first three rounds, these talented runners' injuries might tilt the scales in other backs' direction when the draft rolls around.

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Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at edholm@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Eric_Edholm

Author: Eric Edholm
Posted: March 3, 2015, 9:38 pm

One common theory about the NHL Awards this year was that we could see a goalie win the Vezina and the Hart. But unlike those seasons of Hasek-ian domination, the theory states that we could see different goalies win each award this June: Pekka Rinne of the Nashville Predators for the Vezina, and Carey Price of the Montreal Canadiens for the Hart. 

The latest Bovada NHL odds have been released, and right now, Price is the odd-on favorite to win the Hart with Patrick Kane out of the mix:

Who will win the 2014 Hart Memorial Trophy as the NHL’s Most Valuable Player?      

Carey Price                               2/1

Alex Ovechkin                           3/1

John Tavares                            7/2

Sidney Crosby                          15/4

Ryan Getzlaf                             15/2

Jakub Voracek                          19/2

Nicklas Backstrom                    12/1

Pekka Rinne                              25/1

Rick Nash                                 30/1

Vladimir Tarasenko                    30/1

But he’s also the odds-on favorite to win the Vezina as well:

Who will win the Vezina Trophy for being the NHL’s top Goaltender? 

Carey Price  (MON)                    5/14

Pekka Rinne (NAS)                    8/5

Marc Andre Fleury (PIT)             18/1

Braden Holtby (WAS)                26/1 

(Marc-Andre Fleury, Vezina finalist, is well-deserved but no less mind blowing.)

Here are the rest of the awards odds:

Who will win the Calder Memorial Trophy as the NHL’s Rookie of the Year?

Filip Forsberg                           5/8

Johnny Gaudreau                      5/2

Aaron Ekblad                            10/3

Michael Hutchinson                   19/2

Mark Stone                               14/1

Mike Hoffman                           15/1

Anders Lee                               18/1

Who will win the James Norris Trophy as the NHL’s best defenseman?          

Shea Weber                              7/4

Kris Letang                               4/1

Drew Doughty                           4/1

Duncan Keith                            5/1

Kevin Shattenkirk                      6/1

P K Subban                              13/2

Ryan Suter                                7/1

Erik Karlsson                            12/1

Who will win the Maurice "Rocket" Richard Trophy Trophy as the NHL’s Top Goal Scorer?    

Alex Ovechkin                           2/7

Rick Nash                                 2/1

Steven Stamkos                        15/2

Joe Pavelski                             20/1

Vladimir Tarasenko                    30/1

The Chicago Blackhawks (15/2) remain the favorites for the Stanley Cup, behind the Anaheim Ducks (9/1) and the Nashville Predators (9/1). The Montreal Canadiens (10/1) are the Eastern Conference team with the best odds. 

Author: Greg Wyshynski
Posted: March 3, 2015, 9:29 pm

The folks in Columbus, Ohio, are still riding high off of Ohio State’s College Football Playoff National Championship over Oregon back in January.

With 696 yards rushing in postseason play, Buckeyes running back Ezekiel Elliott played a huge role in OSU’s title run. To honor Elliott’s stellar play, the Columbus Zoo named its newborn Humboldt penguin Zeke.

He’s really, really cool.

BABY ANIMAL ALERT! Meet Zeke, a Humboldt #penguin chick. He hatched on 2/20 & now weighs 10 ounces! pic.twitter.com/RpGyDnbLAh

— Columbus Zoo (@ColumbusZoo) March 3, 2015

Zeke hatched on Feb. 20 and he recently had to undergo a rigorous physical at the Zoo.

The Zoo says Zeke will join his penguin friends in the exhibit in April.

Go visit him, Ohio State fans!

For more Ohio State news, visit BuckeyeGrove.com.

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Sam Cooper is a contributor for the Yahoo Sports blogs. Have a tip? Email him or follow him on Twitter!

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Author: Sam Cooper
Posted: March 3, 2015, 9:17 pm

When baseball players give each other gifts, it's often an exercise in excess — "Here, fellow rich guys, here are $250 headphones for each of you." But when Matt Garza wanted to give his fellow Milwaukee Brewers starting pitchers a spring-training gift, he hit exactly the right note.

He gave them all these oh-so-comfortable looking personalized robes. It's one of those things you'd absolutely use but might never think to buy for yourself — the sign of a wonderful present.

.@KyleLohse26 models his personalized robe this AM, a gift from @Gdeuceswild to each of the starters. #CactusCrew pic.twitter.com/cZMPnpGvoq

— Milwaukee Brewers (@Brewers) March 3, 2015

Kyle Lohse sporting new bathrobe compliments of teammate Matt Garza who bought one for the whole rotation #Brewers pic.twitter.com/fYByzMKUe2

— Jim Bowden (@JimBowden_ESPN) March 3, 2015

MLB pitchers operate on a schedule in which a proper amount of rest and relaxation is necessary between starts. I know I'd be able to relax at a maximum level if I were wearing a robe with my name and number on it.

Frankly, Garza is brilliant for these. Not only because they're a great gift, but because he's come up with a great new product MLB can market. We've seen MLB sell all sorts of licensed-gear these days, and if they're selling ugly Christmas sweaters, they ought to be selling robes that look like you're favorite players' jersey.

BLS H/N: @PhilHecken

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Mike Oz is an editor for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at mikeozstew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @MikeOz

Author: Mike Oz
Posted: March 3, 2015, 9:15 pm

Chad Johnson was traded by the New York Islanders to the Buffalo Sabres for Michal Neuvirth on Monday, a deal many felt was an upgrade for the Isles’ backup goalie spot. Which, conversely, meant that the Sabres downgraded their own goaltending. 

Why? In theory, because the Sabres want to be as terrible as possible and Neuvirth was playing too well. So, for the second time this season, they traded their starting goalie.

Johnson went on TSN after the trade, and naturally they wanted to ask him about going from a team striving for first place to a team trying to finish last. Host James Duthie twice asked him about playing for a team that’s trying to lose. Johnson remained steadfast that the Sabres are doing everything they can to win games. Like, this season.

"You play to win. I don't think an organization wants to lose,” said Johnson on TSN, in either denial or blissful ignorance.

On Tuesday, with his new team, Johnson told the Buffalo News that the tank talk upset him:

"That whole TSN thing bothered me a little bit," said Johnson, 28. "I was asked to do an interview with them, they called me and I'm sitting on hold while they're saying what they have the right to say. But it was obviously a little disrespectful for them to have me on hold listening to what they have to say and then bring me on line to ask me these questions while they sort of bash me or whatever it is.

"You can do that, but not while you're on the line. It's just disrespectful. Everyone has their own opinion. I'm coming in here to compete and play hard and win hockey games. I guess you don't know what other people's intentions are. Everybody is going to try to write an article, make news I guess."

See, I had no problem with what TSN said or asked. (Alas, their video is geo-locked, so I’m pulling this from the gray matter.)

While Johnson was on hold, they said exactly what the rest of us thought: The Sabres are trying to lose games, so they swapped out a goalie playing well for one who hasn’t (.889 save percentage). 

Their questions were more or less about joining a franchise that’s more interested in losing than winning, which is an indisputable fact, and how a professional athlete with a modicum of pride, which we assume Johnson has, feels about joining that effort.

“If you don't play to win, then you shouldn't be playing,” Johnson told the Buffalo News, and he’s right. But if the grand tanks of the Sabres and Coyotes have taught us anything, it’s that none of this is about the players’ efforts. In fact, some of their efforts are so good that they need to be shipped out of town to prevent the team from stumbling into success.

Which is to say that management, through its best efforts, is the one trying to tank by building a roster that’s sub-mediocre. And while that’s a hard thing for Chad Johnson to hear, filling Neuvirth for his services is very much in that spirit.

It’s not about professional courtesy, it’s about the reality of your surroundings. And honestly, Chad, based on TSN’s track record yesterday, it could have been worse.

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Author: Greg Wyshynski
Posted: March 3, 2015, 9:05 pm

In leagues with standard Yahoo settings, there are basically two acceptable ways to address the position of catcher on draft day:

1) Get Buster Posey in the early rounds, or...

2) Wait it out and find a value — and when it seems like you've finally waited long enough, wait another round or two.

[Yahoo Sports Fantasy Baseball: Sign up and join a league today!]

Seriously, with the exception of Buster, this position is really a minefield of uninteresting numbers and grossly inflated prices. Last season, Posey was the only catcher to finish among the top-50 overall fantasy assets in the year-end ranks (No. 42). In fact, over the past 15 years he's one of just four backstops to have delivered that sort of value. Here's the full list of the catchers who've achieved top-50 status in recent seasons:

2014 – Posey
2013 – none
2012 – Posey
2011 – none
2010 – none
2009 – Joe Mauer
2008 – none
2007 – none
2006 – none
2005 – none
2004 – none
2003 – Javy Lopez
2002 – none
2001 – none
2000 – Mike Piazza

That's it, that's all. No more. Four guys in a decade and a half. Victor Martinez had a couple close calls back in his catcher-eligible days, but he never quite cracked the overall top-50 until he became a DH.

The scarcity devotees may urge you snag a luxury catcher in the early rounds, but, generally speaking, that's a sure way to take a loss. Due to the physical demands of the position, it's rare for any catcher to appear in more than 140 games — only three exceeded that total in 2014. Counting stats will be low. Steals almost never happen. Injuries are incredibly common. No catcher has seen the 30-homer plateau since Lopez in '03. No catcher scored 75 runs last season.

[Related: Dishing on Gattis, and other catchers]

We can find low-level power among the backstops, and Evan Gattis gets a bump because he'll be out from behind the plate. But, again, this is not a spot where you'll want to spend big, unless you're eying Buster. (Or unless you're playing in a two-catcher A.L./N.L.-only league, which isn't the norm at Yahoo. There, you're trying to avoid getting Arencibia'd.)

Posey is the one player who might reasonably give us a 70-20-90-.320 season. Everyone else reeks of 60-14-65-.270. And if you don't believe me, just check last year's average stats...

---

Position averages for the top-15 fantasy catchers, last three years

2014 — 53.0 R, 15.7 HR, 68.5 RBIs, 1.6 SB, .270 AVG
2013 — 60.4 R, 17.2 HR, 71.9 RBIs, 2.1 SB, .279 AVG
2012 — 61.3 R, 19.8 HR, 73.6 RBIs, 2.9 SB, .278 AVG

TIER ONE

Buster Posey

TIER TWO

Carlos Santana
Devin Mesoraco
Jonathan Lucroy
Evan Gattis

TIER THREE

Yan Gomes
Salvador Perez
Yadier Molina
Brian McCann
Matt Wieters
Russell Martin
Wilin Rosario

TIER FOUR

Wilson Ramos
Miguel Montero
Yasmani Grandal
Mike Zunino
Jason Castro
Stephen Vogt
Travis d'Arnaud
Derek Norris
Chris Iannetta

TIER FIVE

Tyler Flowers
Jarrod Saltalamacchia
Carlos Ruiz
Alex Avila
John Jaso
Josmil Pinto
Michael McKenry
Christian Bethancourt
Rene Rivera
Christian Vazquez
Robinson Chirinos
Kurt Suzuki
Dioner Navarro
Hank Conger
Nick Hundley
Francisco Cervelli
A.J. Pierzynski
Welington Castillo
A.J. Ellis

Author: Andy Behrens
Posted: March 3, 2015, 8:48 pm

Idaho says the bowl ban imposed on the football team because of poor APR scores has been lifted.

The Vandals were inelgibile for postseason play in 2014 as a penalty for poor academic performance from 2009-2012. Both Idaho and UNLV were banned because of their low scores.

In a revealing quote on Idaho's website, coach Paul Petrino had this to say:

“It was a group effort,” Petrino said. “Everybody worked really hard.”

The Idaho football website was also quick to point out that the team has accumulated a 2.55 GPA in Petrino's "four semesters" as head coach. According to the school the APR for the team is expected to be in the 960s this season. In 2011 and 2012, the team's score was below 900.

The school will also receive the restoration of four hours a week in practice time if its APR scores are above 940.

Restoring Idaho's bowl eligibility may be like removing a roadblock a car can't access in the first place, however. The Vandals have won three games in the past three years. The team was 1-11 in 2012 and 2013 and 1-10 in 2014. If you're a casual fan, the only thing you remember about Idaho's season may be their involvement in the game at Florida on Aug. 30 that was canceled and never made up because of a thunderstorm.

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Nick Bromberg is the assistant editor of Dr. Saturday on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at nickbromberg@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: March 3, 2015, 8:04 pm

If someone told you that, if you stayed up for 48 consecutive hours, you could play Augusta National Golf Club, there's a good chance you would run to your nearest coffee machine and start brewing. 

If you had to give a kidney to play the home of the Masters, there's a chance you'd handle the scalpel yourself.

Not Phil Mickelson, though. The three-time Masters winner has probably played Augusta National more times than he can ever remember. So, not that it's old hat, but he can go there pretty much whenever he wants. Perhaps that's why he canceled a scheduled Tuesday practice round there. Why?

"Just tired," Mickelson said Monday after The Honda Classic. 

Mickelson then made the short drive from PGA National to Seminole Golf Club for its famous, star-studded pro-member tournament. Along with partner and Augusta National member Jimmy Payne, Mickelson came in a tie for eighth, four shots behind the winning duo of Rory McIlroy and John Pinkham.

Ah, the life of a golf legend. 


Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

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Author: Ryan Ballengee
Posted: March 3, 2015, 8:02 pm

Jeff Hornacek looks upstairs for an answer. (Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports)A look around the league and the Web that covers it. It's also important to note that the rotation order and starting nods aren't always listed in order of importance. That's for you, dear reader, to figure out.

C: The Arizona Republic. Strong words from Paul Coro ("It is difficult for the Suns to even look at the standings any longer when they have to take such a long, hard look at themselves") and head coach Jeff Hornacek ("We have to find out who on this team is going to be tough") after the Phoenix Suns got blown out again on Monday, this time by the Miami Heat in a physical affair that Erik Spoelstra's club won going away.

PF: South Florida Sun Sentinel. Things were a bit lighter-hearted in the winning locker room, where Heat center Hassan Whiteside offered his side of the altercation with Suns sophomore Alex Len that led to both big men getting ejected in the third quarter: "It was the fourth or fifth time I dunked on him and I could tell he was frustrated."

SF: The Starters. Trey Kerby, America's greatest visual mathematician, presents his greatest achievement to date: The "NBA Coaches as Dads Matrix." Where does your favorite team's coach rate on the grumpy/chill and hip/out-of-touch axes?

SG: The New York Times. Andrew Keh on blood clots, which have unfortunately become a major topic of interest in the NBA after season-ending diagnoses for Mirza Teletovic and Chris Bosh and the untimely death of Jerome Kersey. (One positive postscript: Teletovic was at Barclays Center for the Brooklyn Nets' Monday night win over the Golden State Warriors, he's reportedly feeling fine, and he was even putting up shots with his teammates at practice on Tuesday.)

PG: The Washington Post. Geoff Edgers with a neat look at Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's evolution into a pretty prominent and wide-ranging cultural critic: "Kareem has something to say, has found a way to say it, and it’s not what you would expect him to say. He’s a new kind of public intellectual.”

6th: Salt City Hoops. Ben Dowsett digs into the NBA's recently released Synergy Sports-powered play-type data to take the temperature of the Utah Jazz, finding some encouraging signs to keep an eye on down the stretch, especially related to the play of emerging defensive centerpiece Rudy Gobert and the team's improving ability to stifle opponents in the pick-and-roll.

7th: GQ. A handful of your favorite hoops writers wax poetic about the ABCs of NBA style.

8th: The Hook. Noted mad scientist Tom Ziller presents a plan to end "one-and-done" forever, make the D-League a real viable minor league and add a round onto the NBA draft. Yes, please.

9th: The New York Times, New York Post, Posting and Toasting, The Triangle and Deadspin. Harvey Araton, Mike Vaccaro, Matt Miranda, Jason Concepcion and Albert Burneko say goodbye to the late Anthony Mason.

10th: The Nation. Dave Zirin considers Mason and two other sporting legends lost this week — trail-blazers Earl Lloyd and Minnie Minoso — as "people who reached outside their respective communities while never forgetting the soil that nurtured them."

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Dan Devine is an editor for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at devine@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter!

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Stay connected with Ball Don't Lie on Twitter @YahooBDL, "Like" BDL on Facebook and follow BDL's Tumblr for year-round NBA talk, jokes and more.

Author: Dan Devine
Posted: March 3, 2015, 8:00 pm

Shutdown Corner has compiled information from teams, watched college tape and gathered our notes from the Senior Bowl and NFL scouting combine to assemble our top 50 overall prospects available in the 2015 NFL draft.

We'll roll our list out 10 players at a time this week, counting backward from 50 (along with those who just missed the cut). Please note: These are the best players available — and not where we think the prospects will be drafted.

31. Florida State CB P.J. Williams 
6-0, 194

Tough, active and physical corner who plays with an edge. The position is still relatively new to him, having switched from safety in high school, but Williams has developed nice instincts and brought some salt to the position. He's still a bit grabby and occasionally loses focus, so Williams could grow with the right teacher in the NFL. His ball skills and instints are strong, and Williams has more physical gifts than 2014 second-round pick Lamarcus Joyner and projects to be an outside starter in the league in time, especially in a man-based scheme. Attention to detail will be the key.

NFL comparison: Chris Culliver

Draft range: Second round

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32. Miami (Fla.) OT Ereck Flowers
6-6, 329

The massive Flowers plays with grit and fire and will appeal to old-school offensive line coaches who can work with his run-blocking prowess. Flowers needs work in pass protection, especially with his hands, and can could stand to play with better leverage, feet and balance. But he has the requisite skills to be a front-line starter, although perhaps not elite, as a left or right tackle — perhaps even as a rookie. He seeks to bury his opponents and has the will to be a good player in this league with patience and growth.

NFL comparison: Marcus Gilbert

Draft range: Late first to early second round

33. Florida OT D.J. Humphries
6-5, 307

Stood tall against top SEC rushers, including Missouri's Shane Ray and LSU's Danielle Hunter, and Florida State DE Mario Edwards. Humpries plays with emotion and aggression and yet stays in control. He has very good base and upper-body strength and above-average athleticism for the position. Humphries moves well and can work his way to the second level against linebackers and safeties in the run game and can be a better pass-blocking left tackle in time when he learns better balance and leverage.

NFL comparison: William Beatty's body and athleticism and Branden Albert's skills

Draft range: Late first to early second round

Jalen Collins (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)34. LSU CB Jalen Collins
6-1, 203

No other corner in this class possesses Collins' height-weight-speed combination (he chased down Wisconsin RB Melvin Gordon from behind in the season opener). He also has great short-area quickness and long arms (32 inches) to play press and zone coverages to re-route receivers and turn and run with them. His relative inexperience (10 college starts) and technique and awareness issues are something to watch, but with patience and good tutelage, Collins could be special in time. He passes the eye test, and though Collins might not be instant coffee in the NFL or possess elite playmaking skills, there's a ton of upside.

NFL comparison: Has Vontae Davis potential in time

Draft range: Top 40 pick

35. Texas A&M OT Cedric Ogbuehi
6-5, 306

Extremely long-armed, nimble-footed left tackle prospect who took a step backward in 2014. Shifting from right tackle to left at "Offensive Line University," Ogbuehi struggled to anchor in pass protection and gave up a slew of sacks. It appeared he lost confidence, necessitating his move back to the right side midseason in what was deemed by the Aggie coaches as an unselfish move for the team's benefit. Once considered a potential top-five prospect, Ogbuehi still has great upside but likely needs to keep building his base strength, and regain his edge and focus. There is still a lot to work with, but he has a boom-bust quotient as last season showed.

NFL comparison: If we're hedging, we'd say Ryan Harris, but on the highest end he could be Russell Okung 

Draft range: Top 50 pick

36. TCU LB Paul Dawson
6-0, 230

Tremendously productive player who, as the combine showed, is not a track athlete. His poor workouts and times in Indy raised questions about whether Dawson will be limited on the next level or whether his rare football IQ and instincts can carry him through to be productive. Personal character and work-ethic questions have followed Dawson around in scouting circles. He might need a hard-nosed coach such as the Packers' Winston Moss to coax the best out of Dawson, teach him how to be a pro and get him to commit to being great. But his coverage skills, ability to disengage and sniff out plays are all outstanding. Dawson could be great. Or he could never find his niche as a pro.

NFL comparison: A shorter-armed Daryl Washington (and not just because they both went to TCU) is the ceiling, but we are harboring some frightening visions of Arthur Brown admittedly, too

Draft range: Second round

37. UCLA DE Owamagbe Odighizuwa
6-3, 267

Great "test" athlete with shredded frame who plays with a white-hot motor. Sounds good, right? It is, and scouts have warmed to him over the past year or so, but "Owa" isn't the most gifted or natural pass rusher, has an injury history and might not be a perfect fit as an edge player in a 3-4 scheme. There's a lot to like about this massive-handed, long-armed rusher, and he's a plus factor against the run. But his sack production might be limited until he is in the league for a while. He wins more with effort and pursuit than he does with closing burst and raw football speed. A good player with upside who can make a defense better.

NFL comparison: Jason Babin and Brian Robison

Draft range: Top 50 pick

Jaelen Strong (AP)38. Arizona State WR Jaelen Strong
6-2, 217

Strong might get lost in the hype of a gifted WR draft class, but he's an athletic possession receiver (that's not a knock) who can carve up defenses with his skills, especially against smaller, less physical cornerbacks. Watch him go back and forth with Washington's Marcus Peters, one of the more talented corners in this draft crop, and you can see Strong's competitiveness and basketball-like skills. He might not be a No. 1 in the NFL and projects as an excellent sidekick "Z" receiver in a West Coast type of offense. Strong is not a deep burner and has a cap on what he'll be in the NFL, but there's a lot to like about his ability to track and snag a high volume of passes in the right scheme.

NFL comparison: Eric Decker

Draft range: Late first round to mid-second

39. Florida State OL Cameron Erving
6-5, 317

The former defensive tackle-turned offensive tackle-turned center could have a home at several NFL positions, even if his best place might be inside. Switching from left tackle to the pivot midseason out of necessity, Erving made himself a lot of money by handling the move beautifully. He's a heady, competitive worker who occasionally was beat outside by raw speed but who harnessed his good hand work and long arms to be a functional blocker inside. He is considered a football junkie and a gym rat. Erving could be a good guard, but watching him last season at center had two scouts Shutdown Corner spoke with convinced that it will be his best home in the pros. Erving's best days are likely ahead of him, even if he doesn't project to be an NFL tackle.

NFL comparison: A less intimidating, nasty version of Eric Wood 

Draft range: Late first to mid-second round

40. Oklahoma DT Jordan Phillips
6-5, 330

This scouting enigma possesses elite size — including nearly 35-inch arms — and good athleticism for a man his size, but the tape shows a player who doesn't disrupt as often as he should. With just enough flash plays to tease scouts, Phillips will be a projection player, but he might never be a 60-snap dominator a la Dontari Poe. In a rotation where Phillips is asked to occupy two gaps and keep lanes clear for linebackers to make plays, this country-strong mountain of a man could be effective. He'll be the kind of player who makes you say "wow" with an occasional play in the backfield but might never reach Pro Bowl status because of his consistency issues.

NFL comparison: Linval Joseph or Damon Harrison (minus a few pounds)

Draft range: Top 50 picks

The rest of the Top 50 list

Nos. 41-50: Devin Funchess talented but flawed player

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Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at edholm@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Eric_Edholm

Author: Eric Edholm
Posted: March 3, 2015, 7:51 pm

Well, this is depressing. Former Houston Rockets, Orlando Magic and New York Knicks guard Steve Francis got dragged to the floor, stepped on and choked by his own chain, which was later stolen, during an altercation at a hip-hop show in Houston over the weekend.

Naturally, TMZ has the video, which — again — is something of a bummer, and also contains some NSFW language:

Francis, 38, was one of many people on stage during a concert by Houston rap duo the Sauce Twinz. For one reason or another, beef began to broil, and before long, Francis found a hand around the gold chain around his neck, then found himself on the floor. Sources told TMZ that the as-yet-unidentified man who grabbed the chain ended up making off with it, and that police were not called to the scene in connection with the fight or the theft. (The Sauce Twinz apparently regret the incident.)

This is the latest in a string of sad and somewhat concerning updates on Francis over the past year, as the nine-year NBA veteran and former No. 2 overall pick in the 1999 draft — who last played pro ball in China in 2010, making just four appearances for the Beijing Ducks before being cut — has become considerably more likely to make headlines for things going awry or getting weird in nightclubs than for anything else.

Two months ago, mere weeks before his 38th birthday, the three-time All-Star was adamant that he could still play in the NBA. It seems like maybe mounting a big-league comeback shouldn't be at the top of his to-do list right now.

More NBA coverage:

- - - - - - -

Dan Devine is an editor for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at devine@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter!

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Stay connected with Ball Don't Lie on Twitter @YahooBDL, "Like" BDL on Facebook and follow Dunks Don't Lie on Tumblr for year-round NBA talk, jokes and more.

Author: Dan Devine
Posted: March 3, 2015, 7:45 pm

The perfect sandwich, the perfect cocktail, the perfect design of a fantasy league, there are no obvious answers. These sorts of things are constantly debated and argued, with a consensus unlikely to be reached. One person’s mistake is another person’s perfect mix. (You really like mayo? Get the hell out of my kitchen.) 

On my fantasy clipboard, there’s certainly room for both of the major formats – but I decisively prefer the auction game when push comes to shove. That doesn’t mean you have to agree with me, of course. Some of my oldest friends don’t agree with me

[Yahoo Sports Fantasy Baseball: Sign up and join a league today!]

To start off today’s debate, I’ve collected some reasons why you might prefer a Fantasy Draft or a Fantasy Auction. Sure, the auction section is longer. I can’t help what I love, what I prefer. I want you to love auctions, too. I want you to carry a gavel everywhere you go.

Why you might prefer a Fantasy Draft 

- They’re unquestionably shorter than an auction, anywhere from 30 percent to 70 percent shorter (depending on the specs of your room). In a world where everyone is busy, this is not an insignificant point. 

- It’s the format most people grew up playing. It’s the known format. 

- It’s less intimidating to new owners. It's simpler. 

- It’s more user-friendly if someone gets bumped offline. Assuming the bumped party has a queue arranged, they’ll get players they want. I’ve yet to see a strong artificial intelligence offered by any auction software  the game is too dynamic to get it just right. 

- The pricing is more likely to make sense in a draft room. This is not necessarily an argument I care very much about, but it’s been mentioned by people I respect.

Why you might prefer a Fantasy Auction 

- Anyone can land Mike Trout, or Clayton Kershaw, or Andrew McCutchen. Heck, you could roster all three of them if you’re willing to accept scrambling elsewhere. The entire player pool is open to you. 

You have significantly more structuring options at your disposal. You decide how you want to arrange the flow of your payroll. No one can run a stars-and-scrubs plan in a competitive draft, but it’s on board for an auction. More choices, more fun. 

- You potentially have a say on every player who’s on board. Contrast this to a draft, where owners in different neighborhoods have little influence on each other’s decisions. You're truly opposing everyone in the room, directly. 

You constantly need to monitor the resources of other owners, trying to get into their heads a bit as the evening moves on. You’re being challenged at the poker table. These elements exists in drafts, too, but to a far simpler degree. 

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- The flow of players can come out in any order. Have some fun with it. Nominate a popular closing handcuff before the incumbent closer. Get a hot sleeper on the table when people still have money. Play a game of chicken late, hoping your final targeted piece won’t be mentioned until the room’s financial structure is in your favor. 

You have more opportunity to mess with your opponents. Bid someone up just for the fun of it. Of course if you take it one step too far and get left holding the bag, it can knock you off your game for a while. 

- If you’re out of leverage late, you have to play a delicate guessing game with the burden of nomination. Propose a weak player and you’re likely stuck with him for the minimum. Select a bigger name and watch those with resources trample your bid. Can you find the right pocket of name when you’re tied to this position? Challenge is good. 

- An auction will scramble your brain, and I say that in a good way. I’ve never walked out of any auction without notable regret, and a feeling that I probably missed out on several good pockets of opportunity. Again, these are things you’ll get from the draft, but it’s to a lesser extent. 

Start your engines, gamers. Name your preferred format in the comments. Fill in the draft gaps that you feel I missed, or accept the inevitable  auctions are the best way to do business. 

Author: Scott Pianowski
Posted: March 3, 2015, 7:29 pm

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The next chapter in Curt Schilling vs. Twitter trolls morphed into one of baseball's most familiar clashes: the Boston Red Sox vs. the New York Yankees. And again, Schilling won, dismantling one Yankees employee in particular.

On Sunday, Schilling penned a 1,700-word blog post exposing some of the Twitter trolls who had been harassing him by sending sexually explicit messages about his 17-year-old daughter, who he had publicly congratulated for getting into college. In many cases, these tweets were far, far over the line, going past your typical locker-room bro bragging and even into unacceptable talk of rape.

Schilling called out two of the Twitter bozos in particular: Sean MacDonald and Adam Nagel, both of whom have since deleted their accounts. In the aftermath of Schilling's crusade, Nagel was suspended by Brookdale Community College, where he's a student, and MacDonald was terminated by the Yankees, where he worked as a part-time ticket seller. MacDonald's tweets aimed at Schilling's daughter — which we won't reproduce here, but you can find on Schilling's blog — included things like which sexual positions he'd use on her.

(AP)

From NJ.com's Erin O'Neill:

MacDonald was hired as a part-time ticket seller for the New York Yankees at the end of January, according to Jason Zillo, the team's director of communications. Zillo said MacDonald worked about 18 hours over four days for the Yankees. Zillo said MacDonald was fired today.

"We have zero tolerance for anything like this," Zillo said. "We've terminated him."

MacDonald, who recently graduated, was a former vice president of the Theta Xi fraternity at Montclair State University.

The fraternity posted on social media that they were aware of the "inappropriate and offensive tweets that were posted by an alumnus of Theta Xi Fraternity. We agree wholeheartedly that cyber-bullying is unacceptable and should not be tolerated."

Consider this a harsh lesson in what Schilling said Sunday when he published his rant: "There are repercussions to your actions in the real world." Schilling didn't just respond to these knuckleheads on Twitter, but he researched who they were, called attention to their behavior to the world outside of social media and encouraged actual punishments for their trolly behavior.

While the comeuppance is warranted, sadly, it won't stop this type of behavior from occurring every day online. We live in an era in which people think they can say anything on social media, and just apologize or delete their accounts when they're backed into a corner. Schilling's saga might make someone think twice before firing off a stupid tweet aimed at a celeb or athlete, but it won't change the culture of the desperate-for-attention trolling that's taken over the web. 

More MLB coverage from Yahoo Sports:

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Mike Oz is an editor for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at mikeozstew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @MikeOz

Author: Mike Oz
Posted: March 3, 2015, 7:29 pm

Here are your Puck Headlines: A glorious collection of news and views collected from the greatest blogosphere in sports and the few, the proud, the mainstream hockey media.

Photo by Eliot J. Schechter/NHLI via Getty Images

• Even the rats from New York go to retire in South Florida.

• Columbus Blue Jackets netminder Sergei Bobrovsky will make his first start since Jan. 21 tonight against the Washington Capitals. [Blue Jackets]

• Were the Anaheim Ducks the biggest winners of the trade deadline? [The Hockey Writers]

• The Boston Bruins have to be considered a trade deadline losers for failing to address their biggest needs. [Bruins Daily]

• If you want to win the Stanley Cup, you may have to pay a price at the deadline. [Raw Charge]

• The Ben Smith trade was a look to the future for GM Stan Bowman and the Chicago Blackhawks. [Bleacher Report]

• Now that the NHL trade deadline is over, how are AHL teams affected? [FOHS Farm Report]

• Have the Pittsburgh Penguins transformed themselves into a elite defensive squad? [The Pens Blog]

• Mike Richards could be back up soon with the LA Kings, thanks to the NHL's post-deadline day roster rules. [Mayor’s Manor]

• Examing some Eastern Conference acqusitions with a fantasy hockey spin. [Dobber Hockey]

• During the trade deadline madness, the Philadelphia Flyers extended French forward Pierre-Edouard Bellemare with a two-year deal worth $1.425 million. [Daily News]

• Mats Zuccarello on his extension with the New York Rangers: “I told [my agents] enough is enough, I’m happy with the offer and it’s important for me to stay here for a long time.” [NY Post]

• The trial for Slava Voynov on his felony domestic violence charge has been postponed until March 10. [LA Times]

• “After dad and husband killed in double murder, Canadian family lives out his Islanders dream in New York” [NY Daily News]

• Great read by Tal Pinchevsky on how a former minor league enforcer became a drug dealing cop. [Vice Sports]

• What top prospects could potentially be joining Jack Eichel or Connor McDavid in Buffalo next season? [What’s Going On in Buffalo

• “Failure to recognize birthday of Canadian hockey a national disgrace” [Montreal Gazette]

• Get on your white coats and check out this medical look at Patrick Kane’s injury. [Undisclosed Injury]

• A youth hockey team in Massachusetts avoided tragedy after the ceiling of the facility they were practicing in collapsed. [Prep Rally

• Underwater hockey looks pretty damn fun. [io9]

• This is one thundering check by Cole Cassels on Matt Spencer. [Buzzing the Net]

• Finally, in a career filled with ups and downs, Robb Scott has gone from selling tourist art on the Halifax waterfront to being the exclusive artist to Sidney Crosby all in the past decade: 

MORE FROM YAHOO HOCKEY:

Author: Sean Leahy
Posted: March 3, 2015, 7:12 pm

The term ‘super fight’ gets thrown around a lot in the sport of mixed martial arts. All too often, unfortunately, the outcome of these billings is anything but super – at least in terms of hype matching overall return.

There is one fight out there that fans have been clamoring for the last year and it may be the only fight a major organization can put together that is worthy of the super-fight moniker. And half of the ‘last great super fight’ tandem fanned the flames this weekend at UFC 184 when he addressed his future.

"I don't know when I'm going to move up in weight,” said UFC light heavyweight champion at Saturday’s UFC 184 Welcome to the Show press event in Los Angeles. “I've entertained the thought of going to heavyweight so many times…”

UFC heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez sits atop his throne of the UFC’s big men. When he isn’t battling one of his many well-publicized injuries, the American Kickboxing Academy product has looked nearly unstoppable as the heavyweight king. He is undefeated since 2011 and when healthy, continues to improve on an already terrifying resume.

The fight between Jones and Velasquez has been milled about for the last year or so among pundits, and it’s only picking up steam as Jones continues to dominate at 205. Some believe that Bones’ upcoming fight with Anthony Johnson at UFC 187 in May will be his last at his weight class. If so, a potential showdown with Velasquez may lie just on the horizon.

"But if I do go to heavyweight,” continued Jones, “or when I do go to heavyweight, I do believe I have the skill set to beat Cain."

Velasquez must also first dispatch his next challenger, interim champion Fabricio Werdum in Mexico City this summer at UFC 188, but assuming he does, the super fight could be a showdown between the UFC’s most dominant big men. As of right now the UFC’s heavyweight division is short on clear-cut contenders, and a fighter the likes of Jon Jones moving up in weight would unquestionably warrant an immediate title shot.Jon Jones will face Anthony Johnson at UFC 187 on May 23. (Getty Images)

And if they do one day meet inside the Octagon, then the company’s youngest champion likes his chances, “My main reason for believing I'll beat Cain is his size," Jones said. "He's not one of these massive heavyweights who's going to just outweigh me and out-power me in every situation. He's a guy I can totally compete with.”

Jones isn’t wrong: Velasquez (13-1) is an undersized heavyweight. On average he weighs 240 pounds – a full 25 pounds under the heavyweight limit. It hasn’t affected his performances inside the cage (albeit only four fights in the last five years), but it doesn’t take away from the fact that the champ is not your prototypical ‘hulking’ heavyweight.

Jones (21-1), on the other hand, is an extremely large light heavyweight and for the majority of his career, most thought that an eventual move to heavyweight was only a matter of time. Jones would be packing muscle onto what is an already lean physique at 205 and his 6’4” frame would seemingly be more than equipped to handle the added weight.

Velasquez comes in at a generous 6’1” and is more bulldog than Great Dane. Jones has an 81.5-inch reach, where his heavyweight contemporary clocks in at just 77.0 on the dot.

Meaning: if and when Jones and Velasquez ever do square off, you can expect the ‘eye test’ to be a lot closer than you may think.

And at least one of them thinks it could be a fight – dare we say ‘super’ – that MMA fans could get behind.

"When it happens," Jones said, "it will be a good one."

 

Author: Ryan McKinnell
Posted: March 3, 2015, 7:03 pm

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