The NCAA Tournament lived up to its “March Madness” moniker Thursday, particularly in the Mile High City.
Three double-digit seeds pulled off stunning upsets in Denver alone, highlighted by No. 13 Morehead State’s shocking 62-61 victory over Louisville, the biggest victory in the program’s history. Twelfth-seeded Richmond held off No. 5 Vanderbilt in the closing seconds and Gonzaga, a No. 11 seed, rocked sixth-seeded St. John’s.
As if that weren’t enough action, both Temple and Butler pulled off buzzer-beating victories to snag vintage March Madness wins on Day 1 of the tournament. No. 4 Kentucky avoided maybe the biggest upset of the day with a late pressure-packed bucket of its own to slip past Princeton.
Madness, I tell you.
Carmelo Anthony’s drawn-out saga is beginning to border on LeBron James’ “Decision” of last summer. The good news is, it may be coming to an end soon.
Reports indicate that the Denver Nuggets and New Jersey Nets have agreed once again on a tentative deal to send the superstar east in a blockbuster trade. Yahoo! Sports’ Adrian Wojnarkowski reports that the “framework” of the deal has been agreed upon and all that is left is selling Anthony on signing the three-year, $65 million contract extension he’s mulled for months.
In the proposed nine-player deal, according to Fan Nation, the Nuggets would send Anthony, Chauncey Billups, Renaldo Balkman, Melvin Ely and Shelden Williams to the Nets in exchange for top pick Derrick Favors, Devin Harris, Troy Murphy, Ben Uzoh and four first-round draft picks.
With the trade still in limbo, Anthony and Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov could hold a weekend face-to-face meeting in Los Angeles, site of this week’s All-Star festivities, ESPN reports. Prokhorov said last month at a news conference that the Nets would no longer pursue Anthony, but the Russian billionaire seems to have changed his stance.
While all signs point to Anthony landing in New Jersey, it’s still possible the New York Knicks could make a final-hour offer that trumps the Nets’ proposal. Anthony’s future does have a date it will be decided by. The NBA’s trade deadline is Thursday at 3 p.m. ET.
The NBA’s All-Star weekend begins tonight. Anthony and the All-Stars don’t play until Sunday, but here’s what to watch tonight (all times Eastern):
All-Star Celebrity Game (7 p.m., ESPN)
Where else can you see Justin Bieber and Scottie Pippen share a floor? A mix of former legends and entertainment stars play in the first basketball game of All-Star weekend. Jimmy Kimmel and ESPN columnist Bill Simmons serve as coaches.
Rookie Challenge (9 p.m., TNT)
Blake Griffin, John Wall and the rookie squad face off with their sophomore counterparts, led by Stephen Curry and Brandon Jennings.
No. 13 UConn at No. 16 Louisville (9 p.m., ESPN)
Kemba Walker and the Huskies are back on track but face a difficult road test when they play the Cardinals, who defeated them in double overtime on January 29.
By the numbers
9: Games played by safety Bob Sanders over the past three seasons since winning the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year award in 2007. The oft-injured Sanders was cut by the Indianapolis Colts on Friday.
12: Consecutive All-Star game starts for Spurs big man Tim Duncan after Gregg Popovich announced that Duncan would replace injured Yao Ming in the Western Conference’s starting lineup Sunday.
42: Points scored by Bulls guard Derrick Rose, a career high, in Chicago’s 109-99 victory over San Antonio on Thursday.
Albert Pujols will be a St. Louis Cardinal in 2011. After that is anybody’s guess.
Yet another deadline passed Wednesday when Pujols and the Cardinals failed to reach a contract extension before their mutually agreed-upon noon Eastern deadline. The two sides had extended negotiations, hoping to reach a last-minute deal, but failed to settle on terms.
Now, contract talks between the three-time MVP and the Cards will be broken off until the fall as the slugger has repeatedly said he does not want his deal to be a distraction during the season.
Discussions between St. Louis and Pujols’ agent, Dan Lozano, had been heating up in recent weeks. SI.com’s Jon Heyman reported Tuesday that the Cards offered Pujols an eight-year deal in excess of $200 million.
According to Heyman’s sources, Pujols, 31, is seeking a greater deal than Alex Rodriguez’s record 10-year, $275 million contract signed in 2008. It’s not clear whether the length of the deal or the money is holding up the Pujols deal.
Pujols has a no-trade clause and is unlikely to go anywhere during the upcoming season but could presumptively go anywhere once it's over. The consensus best player in baseball will be a free agent and probably will have every team in baseball expressing some degree of interest in landing his talents.
Despite not reaching a deal, the nine-time All-Star will still report to Jupiter, Florida, on Thursday and join his teammates for the first day of spring training. The Cardinals are hoping to be a contender with Pujols in 2011, but without a deal, a cloud of uncertainty could disrupt their season.
Here’s what to watch tonight (all times Eastern):
Denver Nuggets at Milwaukee Bucks (9 p.m., ESPN): Carmelo Anthony and the Nuggets, who have dropped four of five, play their final game before the All-Star break when they take on the Bucks. Denver has until February 24 to deal 'Melo or stick with him the rest of the year.
No. 10 Wisconsin at No. 11 Purdue (6:30 p.m., Big Ten Network): After knocking off No. 1 Ohio State, the Badgers face the Boilermakers in West Lafayette, Indiana, where they have won only twice in 40 years.
By the numbers
31: Points scored during the first half by Dwyane Wade in the Miami Heat’s 110-103 victory over the Indiana Pacers on Tuesday, tying a franchise record. Wade finished with 41.
39: Age of seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong, who retired from professional cycling for the second time Wednesday.
$23 million: Colts quarterback Peyton Manning’s potential 2011 salary after Indianapolis placed the franchise tag on the four-time MVP. The Colts placed the franchise tag on Manning in 2004 before reaching a record seven-year, $98 million deal.
Jerry Sloan caught the basketball world off guard Thursday when he abruptly resigned after 23 years as head coach of the Utah Jazz.
Just days after signing a contract extension, the NBA’s longest-tenured coach had a change of heart and decided to call it quits. Rumors quickly surfaced that Sloan’s departure was due to a clash with Jazz star Deron Williams and that he could no longer stomach the rift between him and his best player.
But Sloan, 68, shot down the speculation in his farewell press conference, electing to take the high road on his way out of Salt Lake City.
"I had a feeling this time was the time to move on," an emotional Sloan said. "(That's) a long time to be in one organization. Again, I've been blessed. Today is a new day. When I get this over with, I'll feel better. My time is up and it's time to move on."
Imagine traveling thousands of miles, shelling out even more dollars and getting to the Super Bowl, arguably the biggest day of your life as a fan, only to find out that you don't have a seat.
That's exactly what happened to roughly 400 fans at Super Bowl XLV. Now, the NFL is sweetening its offer after robbing the group of its Super Bowl experience.
The 400 fans were forced to give up their seats at last week's Super Bowl after fire marshals deemed a section of Cowboys Stadium incomplete and uninhabitable. The decision was made just hours before kickoff and left a large cluster of die-hard fans displaced and displeased.
The NFL originally offered to give ticket holders a refund of $2,400 - or three times face value of their tickets - but the fans' complaints grew louder and the NFL was forced to up the ante.
With two of the NFL's most storied franchises squaring off on the gridiron Sunday, SI.com's Peter King says we could be in for one of the greatest Super Bowls of all time.
Super Bowl XLV has the potential to be historic for a number of reasons. It pits the Pittsburgh Steelers and Green Bay Packers against one another, the NFL's two longest-running single-city franchises and the two teams that are tied for the most NFL titles over the last 50 years with six apiece.
Sunday's game in Dallas also brings together two of the most fervent fan bases in all of pro football. King writes that Pittsburgh's and Green Bay's fans are as loyal, loud and dedicated as any fans he's seen since he began covering the NFL in 1984. They also travel to games unlike many others, and King expects both groups to be in full force with such a legendary matchup in store Sunday.
Groundhog Day isn’t the only holiday being celebrated across the country today.
February 2 also marks National Signing Day, the day when uncommitted high school football stars announce their much-anticipated decisions on where they will play college football. Coaches huddle around fax machines all day eagerly awaiting national letters of intent to come in while rabid fans scour the internet for the first indication their team might have landed a big-time recruit.
Much like the news of whether Punxsutawney Phil sees his shadow or not (he did not!), National Signing Day is more of a ritual than anything. It is one of the biggest days on the college football calendar, yet a majority of recruits have already made their college decisions. Prior to Wednesday, only 12 of 247Sports.com’s top 100 recruits from the Class of 2011 had to yet commit, but three of the top five remain undecided, including No. 1 overall prospect Jadeveon Clowney, a defensive end measuring in at 6’5”, 255 pounds.
With announcements rolling in throughout the day, SI.com’s Andy Staples is live blogging the event and providing instant updates and analysis as the decisions come in. Click here to follow the action and check out SI.com all day for more news regarding National Signing Day.
No longer considered the world's top golfer, spokesperson or role model, Tiger Woods is hoping a turnaround 2011 season can resurrect his career.
He teed the new season off yesterday with a respectable 3-under 69 in the first round of the Farmer’s Insurance Open at Torrey Pines. Playing the North Course, Woods turned in a bogey-free round, along with 18 holes without an incident from the gallery. The world’s former No. 1 trails rookie leader Sunghook Kang by five strokes but is in prime position to compete this weekend and build on a feel-good start.
“I'm happy with the way I played, absolutely," Woods said after the round. "I could have been a lot better if I took care of the par 5s a little bit more, but obviously, I didn't do that."
Remember Chris Webber's infamous timeout? Or Steve Bartman's untimely snag?
When you think of the Boston Red Sox, do you think of recent World Series victories? Or do you think of painful losses and a wobbly grounder splitting Bill Buckner's legs at first base? And when you think of major collapses, do you get flashbacks to Greg Norman at Augusta or Jean Van de Velde rolling up his pants and wading in the Barry Burn at Carnoustie?
Our strongest sports memories aren't always our fondest, but the harsh reality is sports can often be as cruel as they are rewarding. For every winner, there is a loser. And for every priceless moment of utter bliss, there is usually a devastating feeling of emptiness right around the corner.
The Indianapolis Colts are not dead just yet. Nor is Peyton Manning.
The team snapped an uncharacteristic three-game losing streak Thursday by notching a 30-28 victory over division rival Tennessee. Manning, who had been the brunt of criticism of late after throwing a career-high 11 interceptions over the skid, led the way, passing for 319 yards, two touchdowns and, most notably, zero interceptions.
Despite a closer-than-reality final score, Thursday night’s game may appear to be a ho-hum victory for the Colts, but SI.com’s John P. Lopez writes that it was nothing but.
With the Yankees retaining their set of free-agent icons, our attention now shifts to rest of the offseason market and where others players seeking new deals might land.
Just yesterday, All-Star first baseman Carlos Peña agreed to a one-year, $10 million deal with the Chicago Cubs, according to SI.com's Jon Heyman. Peña joins Jayson Werth (Nationals), Adam Dunn (White Sox), Victor Martinez (Tigers) and others as free-agent sluggers with new homes.
Although the left-handed Peña hit a career-low .196 with Tampa Bay last season, the Cubs are still attracted to his 28 home runs and first-class defense after trading Derek Lee to the Atlanta Braves last season.
But the biggest star to watch this winter - yes, more than Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera - is Cy Young winner Cliff Lee (above). In his latest update, Heyman reports that a handful of teams are lining up to sign the top-of-the-rotation ace and that two teams have offered him seven-year contracts worth more than $20 million annually.
It's a steep price to pay but one that many baseball clubs are willing to shell out. Currently, there are 22 $100 million-men in baseball, and that number is sure to rise with free agents like Lee and Carl Crawford yet to find new clubs.
The Yankees and the Rangers, Lee's most recent team, are the two favorites to land the starting pitcher, but other teams are expected to join the bidding, says Heyman. With Werth's $126 million deal setting the tone this offseason, Lee's contract could be astronomical and close to the amount of money Yankees star Alex Rodriguez is currently reeling in (10 years, $275 million).
It's plenty cold outside, but baseball's hot stove is beginning to heat up this winter.
And so are talks between the New York Yankees and shortstop Derek Jeter, which earlier this offseason were as cold and distant as a spring training game in Greenland.
SI.com's Jon Heyman reports that there is new optimism between the parties after conversations and meetings held over the past few days. The negotiations have made such an about-face, Heyman writes, that the two sides could even strike a deal in the coming days.
Bill Clinton is hitting the campaign trail once again. And it has nothing to do with 2012.
Instead, the former U.S. President is campaigning for 2022. That’s the year Clinton hopes to bring soccer’s greatest spectacle, the World Cup, back to America.
Clinton, the Honorary Chairman of the USA Bid Committee, wrote an essay in Sports Illustrated this week explaining why 2022 is the perfect time for the World Cup to return to the United States for the first time since 1994.
Back then, Clinton was in the oval office and recalled in his essay the thrill of watching “67,000 enthusiastic fans” cheer on the Cup’s opening game at Soldier Field. This past summer, Clinton experienced a similar feeling while in South Africa watching the U.S.’s dramatic run to the round of 16.
Now, Clinton is trying to do more than just be one of the masses who would love to see the U.S. host the Cup once again. Clinton will travel to Zurich next month with the U.S.’s bid committee to help the group make its formal proposal for the 2022 games on Dec. 1.
Almost one year since his infamous Thanksgiving night accident and 14 years since his iconic first Nike ad, Tiger Woods is saying "hello" to the world again.
Following the downfall of his marriage, No. 1 world ranking and public image in a 12-month whirlwind, Woods is beginning to emerge from his self-induced exile and attempting to reconnect with his fans.
Although Woods has played in golf tournaments and held some awkward press conferences over the past few months, he has yet to appear comfortable being himself with the cameras watching.
But with his personal life self-reportedly in order, Woods says he wants to reconnect with fans and thank them for sticking with him through tough times.
In the past week, Woods has made several moves to show he's ready to return. He wrote an op-ed piece in Newsweek titled "How I've Redefined Victory" and explained his rededication to his family.
He went on ESPN's "Mike & Mike in the Morning" and proclaimed his life was more "blessed and balanced" than before. And he even opened a Twitter account to hear from his fans and attempt a few swings at humor.
It's yet to be seen if Woods can be the golfer and public figure he once was, but if there's one consistent message in his recent public outputs, it's that he's determined to be a better dad.
"I can never truly repair the damage I've done, especially to my family," Woods wrote in his Newsweek essay. "But I can keep trying. ... I'm not the same man I was a year ago. And that's a good thing."
Here's the action to watch tonight (all times Eastern):
Oklahoma City Thunder at Boston Celtics (7 p.m., ESPN)
The Thunder look to avenge their November 7 loss to the Celtics when they travel to Boston to take on the rested Celtics, who are 5-0 at home this season.
An 18-game regular season is going to cost NFL owners some concessions.
The NFL Players Association delivered its response to the owners' 18-game plan on Tuesday and included some bargaining points that could prolong negotiations all the way until March, when the current collective bargaining agreement expires.
Among the players' requests: two bye weeks, increased active rosters, bigger practice squads and a two-thirds reduction in offseason workouts.
The changes undoubtedly would alter the NFL as we know it, but not as significantly as an 18-game regular season. The owners want to shorten the preseason from four games to two and extend the regular season by an additional two contests, leading to more revenue but also a longer season and a mid-February Super Bowl. FULL POST
If the Miami Heat want to be good, they'll have to go bad first.
The uber-talented yet underachieving team lost its second game in a row, and its third in four games, falling 112-107 last night at home to the Boston Celtics. It was the second loss the Celtics have handed their rivals this season and dropped the Heat to a 5-4 record.
Once thought to have a chance at winning 70 games, the Heat are now struggling to stay over .500. They've yet to find a reliable point guard or post presence, and the Big Three of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh is not playing at the level most expected by this point.
With no identity and so few wins, SI.com's Lee Jenkins suggests the Heat channel their inner bad guy and follow the blueprint of classic championship-winning bad boy teams like the Pistons and NFL Raiders. Rather than trying to be the heroes everyone wants them to be, Jenkins says the Heat should adopt an "us-against-the-world" mentality and start playing like the villains whom teams can't stand off the floor and can't beat on it.
Although the Heat are just nine games into the season, they do need to mix things up if they want to live up to expectations. As Jenkins points out, they've given up 184 points over their last six quarters and have lost two games this season with Eddie House taking the last shot, not one of the team's three superstars. Heat coach Erik Spoelstra is preaching patience, but the team has little cap flexibility or tradeable assets to bolster the team.
So they'll have to improve from within, Jenkins says. Be the bad guys. Embrace the anger. Wear the black hat.
Following the Heat-Celtics game last night, Celtics star Paul Pierce took to his Twitter account to deliver the final blow. "It's been a pleasure to take my talents to South Beach," he tweeted, taking a jab at James' line from this summer.
Maybe that's enough to get them mad.
Here is some of the action going on around the sports world today (all times Eastern):
Portland Trailblazers at Oklahoma City Thunder (9:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)
The Northwest Division-leading Blazers (6-3) hit the road to take on reigning scoring champ Kevin Durant (28.1 ppg) and the Thunder (4-3).
No. 4 Boise State Broncos at Idaho Vandals (9 p.m., ESPN2)
After racking up a school-record 732 yards of offense last Saturday, undefeated Boise State travels to take on Idaho, which gave up 844 yards of their own in a 63-17 loss to Nevada last week.
BY THE NUMBERS
$33,000 - Amount Kentucky freshman center Enes Kanter received from a Turkish club during the 2008-09 season. The NCAA ruled Kanter permanently ineligible to play for the Wildcats on Thursday, but Kentucky is expected to appeal the decision.
18-1 - Record of the Atlanta Falcons at home with quarterback Matt Ryan as the team's starter. The Falcons defeated the Baltimore Ravens at home Thursday night, 26-21.
2011 - Year action sports star Travis Pastrana will compete in NASCAR's second-tier Nationwide series. Pastrana, who has won 16 gold medals in the X games, will run seven Nationwide races next season and 20 in 2012.
Just when you'd forgotten about the various scandals rocking college football comes another one bigger and badder than the last.
ESPN.com reported Thursday that a man representing Auburn star and Heisman favorite Cam Newton had allegedly sought a six-figure payment to secure the quarterback's national level of intent last year.
Former Mississippi State quarterback John Bond told ESPN.com that a former teammate of his, Kenny Rogers, requested $180,000 from the school in exchange for Newton's selecting Mississippi as the school he would transfer to from junior college. Mississippi State declined the offer and reported Rogers to the SEC almost immediately.
One night after Blake Griffin left the league salivating in his debut, rookie John Wall was served up an NBA-sized portion of humble pie in his first game.
The Washington Wizards lost 112-82 to Dwight Howard and the Orlando Magic on Thursday, spoiling the No. 1 overall pick’s debut and giving him a taste of how difficult the NBA can be.
Wall finished with 14 points and nine assists, but much of it came in garbage time when the game’s outcome had long been decided. The Magic jumped out to a 24-7 lead in the first quarter and led by as many as 35 in what turned into a season-opening blowout.
Wall shot just 6-of-19 from the field and committed a team-high three turnovers. Although he showed flashes of brilliance with his all-world athleticism and yo-yo handles, he also committed the type of mistakes you would expect a rookie to make in his first pro game.