J.D. Martinez signs with Red Sox

Outfielder J.D. Martinez has signed a five-year contract with the Boston Red Sox, per Pedro Gomez of ESPN.

The deal is worth $110M with an option to opt out after two years.

Martinez, 30, spent 2017 with the Detroit Tigers and Arizona Diamondbacks, who acquired him at the trade deadline. He hit for a .303 average and 45 home runs last season. Most of his productivity came in the second half of the season, giving the Diamondbacks the edge they needed to make the playoffs.

The right-handed power hitter will now face the task of lifting balls over Fenway Park’s Green Monster. Despite the scary name, Martinez shouldn’t have much trouble clearing the wall. His home runs traveled an average of 407 feet in 2017 (the Monster is 310 feet from the plate), and they reached an average height of 48 feet, 11 feet higher than the Green Monster. Martinez hits home runs about ten feet further and higher than the MLB average.

An announcement is expected soon, and he will likely join the team in Fort Myers tomorrow.

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Sideline Intel Bracketology: Feb. 19

We didn’t exactly learn a ton this weekend. At least, not nearly as much as we’ve learned over the last couple weeks of upset-filled, action-packed hoops.

We learned that Baylor — now that it’s finally healthy — may be a legitimate tournament contender after knocking off both Kansas and Texas Tech. We learned that Purdue isn’t actually imploding, although the Boilermakers nearly picked up a third-straight loss, at home, against Penn State. We learned that Kentucky may not be done yet when the Wildcats fended off Collin Sexton and his feisty Alabama side.

That’s about it.

But what we did get was a reminder.

In case you forgot, Villanova has been the most consistently elite team in college hoops over the last four years. Yes, the Wildcats took a couple of recent losses to St. John’s and Providence, but when they went into Cincinnati and absolutely ran away from then-No. 4 Xavier, they reminded us that they’re one of the most fearsome teams in the country.

So, for that reason, ‘Nova is back in the No. 1 overall spot in our latest bracket. Here’s the rest of the field:

Ed. Note: all-caps denote current conference leaders.

~~~

EAST REGIONAL | Boston, Mass.

(Pittsburgh, Pa.)
No. 1 Villanova (24-3, 11-3 Big East)
No. 16 GRAMBLING (15-12, 11-3 SWAC) / No. 16 SAVANNAH STATE (13-14, 10-2 Mid-Eastern)

No. 8 
Alabama (17-10, 8-6 SEC)
No. 9 Florida State (19-8, 8-7 ACC)

(Boise, Idaho)
No. 5 Tennessee (19-7, 9-5 SEC)
No. 12 VERMONT (22-6, 12-1 America East)

No. 4 Ohio State (22-7, 13-3 Big Ten)
No. 13 LOYOLA-CHICAGO (23-5, 13-3 Missouri Valley)

(Detroit, Mich.)
No. 6 Florida (17-10, 8-6 SEC)
No. 11 St Bonaventure (20-6, 10-4 Atlantic 10)

No. 3 Michigan State (26-3, 14-2 Big Ten)
No. 14 BUCKNELL (20-9, 14-2 Patriot)

(Nashville, Tenn.)
No. 7 St. Mary’s (25-4, 14-2 West Coast)
No. 10 Arkansas (19-8, 8-6 SEC)

No. 2 North Carolina (21-7, 10-5 ACC)
No. 15 CHARLESON (22-6, 13-3 Colonial)


SOUTH REGIONAL | Atlanta, Ga.

(Charlotte, N.C.)
No. 1 VIRGINIA (24-2, 13-1 ACC)
No. 16 MONTANA (20-7, 13-2 Big Sky)

No. 8 
Houston (21-5, 11-3 American)
No. 9 Seton Hall (18-9, 7-7 Big East)

(Boise, Idaho)
No. 5 NEVADA (23-5, 12-2 Mountain West)
No. 12 UCLA (19-8, 10-5 Pac-12) vs. No. 12 Kansas St. (19-8, 8-6 Big 12)

No. 4 Clemson (20-6, 9-5 ACC)
No. 13 NEW MEXICO STATE (22-5, 9-2 WAC)

(Wichita, Kan.)
No. 6 Texas A&M (17-10, 6-8 SEC)
No. 11 Texas (16-11, 6-8 Big 12)

No. 3 CINCINNATI (23-4, 12-2 American)
No. 14 WRIGHT STATE (20-8, 12-3 Horizon)

(Nasvhille, Tenn.)
No. 7 Miami (18-8, 7-7 ACC)
No. 10 MIDDLE TENNESSEE (22-5, 14-1 Conference USA)

No. 2 AUBURN (23-4, 11-3 SEC)
No. 15 UC SANTA BARBARA (20-6, 9-3 Big West)


MIDWEST REGIONAL | Omaha, Neb.

(Pittsburgh, Pa.)
No. 1 XAVIER (24-4, 12-3 Big East)
No. 16 FLORIDA GULF COAST  (20-10, 11-2 Atlantic Sun) / No. 16 NICHOLLS STATE (18-9, 12-2 Southland)

No. 8 
Arizona State (19-7, 7-7 Pac-12)
No. 9 TCU (18-9, 6-8 Big 12)

(Boise, Idaho)
No. 5 West Virginia (19-8, 8-6 Big 12)
No. 12 BUFFALO (20-7, 12-2 MAC)

No. 4 Wichita State (21-5, 11-3 American)
No. 13 SOUTH DAKOTA STATE (23-6, 11-1 Summit)

(Dallas, Tex.)
No. 6 Kentucky (18-9, 7-7 SEC)
No. 11 USC (19-9, 10-5 Pac-12)

No. 3 Texas Tech (22-5, 10-4 Big 12)
No. 14 BELMONT (22-7, 14-2 Ohio Valley)

(Detroit, Mich.)
No. 7 Missouri (18-9, 8-6 SEC)
No. 10 NC State (!8-9, 8-6 ACC)

No. 2 Purdue (24-5, 13-3 Big Ten)
No. 15 WAGNER (20-7, 13-3 Northeast)


WEST REGIONAL | Los Angeles, Calif.

(Charlotte, N.C.)
No. 1 DUKE (22-5, 10-4 ACC)
No. 16 PENNSYLVANIA (19-7, 9-1 Ivy)

No. 8 
Creighton (19-8, 8-6 Big East)
No. 9 Butler (18-10, 8-7 Big East)

(San Diego, Calif.)
No. 5 Oklahoma (16-10, 6-8 Big 12)
No. 12 LOUISIANA-LAFAYETTE (23-4, 13-1 Sun Belt)

No. 4 GONZAGA (25-4, 15-1 West Coast)
No. 13 EAST TENNESSEE STATE (23-5, 14-1 Southern)

(San Diego, Calif.)
No. 6 RHODE ISLAND (21-4, 13-1 Atlantic 10)
No. 11 Providence (17-10, 8-6 Big East) / No. 11 Virginia Tech (19-8, 8-6 ACC)

No. 3 ARIZONA (21-6, 11-3 Pac-12)
No. 14 RIDER (21-7, 14-2 Metro Atlantic)

(Wichita, Kan.)
No. 7 Michigan (22-7, 11-5 Big Ten)
No. 10 Louisville (18-9, 8-6 ACC)

No. 2 Kansas (21-6, 10-4 Big 12)
No. 15 WINTHROP (18-9, 12-4 Big South)


Oh, and here’s a look at the bubble:

Last Four Byes
NC State
St. Bonaventure
Texas
USC

Last Four In
Virginia Tech
Providence
UCLA
Kansas State

First Four Out
Syracuse
Baylor
Boise State
Washington

Next Four Out
Penn State
Maryland
Nebraska
Marquette

Four More
Temple
Utah
LSU
Western Kentucky

MLB releases pace-of-play changes for 2018 season

Major League Baseball released its new pace-of-play initiatives that will take effect in the upcoming 2018 season and, surprisingly, the addition of a pitch clock was not part of the changes.

Commissioner Rob Manfred was rumored to be considering unilaterally implementing a pitch clock, which would have been against the wishes of numerous players and fans. Many fans argue that introducing a clock to a game — which has been famous for being “timeless” — interferes with the integrity of the game.

“Players were involved in the pace-of-game discussion from Day One, and are committed to playing a crisp and exciting brand of baseball for the fans,” MLB Players’ Association executive director Tony Clark said in a statement. “But they remain concerned about rule changes that could alter the outcome of games and the fabric of the game itself — now or in the future.”

MLB will give the players a chance to decrease the time of games before forcing a pitch clock, according to MLB Network Insider Jon Morosi.

The full rule changes are included in MLB Network Radio’s tweet below, but one of the more notable changes will be limiting teams to six mound visits per nine innings.

If the game reaches extra innings, teams will be allowed one non-pitching-change mound visit per inning.

This will be the players’ last chance before a pitch clock is forced upon them. If the average time of game in 2018 does not fall close to or below three hours, look for Rob Manfred to implement the clocks for the 2019 season.

The First Line: Feb. 18, 2018

While many have been distracted by the shock and awe of the Winter Olympics, or the pageantry of NBA All-Star weekend, the NHL has continued to roll on through the latter half of its season.

Here are three forwards — one center, left wing and right wing — that fans should keep an eye on after their performance over the last week:

Nikita Kucherov, Right Wing: Since breaking into the league in the 2013-14, Kucherov has been money for the Lightning. His performance has gotten better and better each year in the league and this season is no different. Kucherov already has 31 goals (he scored 40 last year and has set a new career high in assists with 46. Yet over this past week the Russian born forward has been on fire picking up eight points through two goals and six assists.

Alex Ovechkin, Left Wing: It is just another season in the career for Ovechkin who has been on a hall of fame career path since he recorded 106 points in his first year in the NHL. This year Ovechkin has already recorded 65 points and is on pace to challenge his point total from 2014-15 (81) and maybe even 2010-11 (85). This week, Ovechkin has taken his anger over not being allowed to play in the Olympics out of opposing teams picking up two goals and five assists in just four games played.

Mark Scheifele-Center: In his second year of an eight year deal, the 24 year-old has helped Blake Wheeler give Winnipeg one of their best seasons in recent memory. With 23 games left to play the team currently sits three points behind the Knights in the Western Conference. The Jets played and won three games over this past week in large part thanks to the work of Scheifele who picked up two goals and five helpers. While the Ontario native isn’t having a career year, but weeks like this will keep him and his team as a contender in the playoff picture.

 

 

 

 

Eric Hosmer signs with Padres

It may have taken a little bit longer than most were expecting, but the Padres finally landed the star first baseman.

The unusual “Cold Stove” we’ve seen this offseason heated up late Saturday night, as Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune reported that the Padres signed longtime Royals’ first baseman Eric Hosmer to an eight-year contract.

It was later reported by Fan Rag Sports’ Jon Heyman that Hosmer will be paid $144 million, and his contract includes an opt-out after five years.

The move should surprise few, as the Padres were considered the favorite to sign Hosmer throughout the offseason. The next closest team in the hunt was Kansas City, but the Royals likely didn’t want to commit to that large of a contract with third baseman Mike Moustakas still available on the free agent market, according to Heyman.

The Padres are now expected to move first basman Wil Myers to the outfield to make room for Hosmer at first base.

Hosmer had a very good 2017 season, hitting .318/.385/.498 with 25 home runs and 94 RBIs. His park-adjusted OPS+ was 132, 32 percent better than league average, and he was worth 4 WAR. He also won his fourth Gold Glove award, as well as his first Silver Slugger.

The Padres already have a great farm system with seven players in the Top 100 according to MLB Pipeline, and with the addition of Hosmer to complement sluggers like Myers and Hunter Renfroe, this could be a dangerous team much sooner than many expect.

Sideline Intel Bracketology: Feb. 16

There I was, Thursday afternoon, thinking to myself, “Man, there’s not a ton of change on this bracket I’m going to be releasing tomorrow.”

And then college basketball decided to be college basketball.

On Thursday night alone, Villanova fell at Providence, Saint Mary’s lost to San Francisco, Penn State obliterated Ohio State, Purdue lost to Wisconsin, and a wild night-cap saw Arizona take down rival Arizona State on the road.

Okay, now things are looking a bit different. And the bubble certainly isn’t immune to such movement.

Let’s take a look:

Last Four Byes
NC State
USC
Providence
Virginia Tech

Last Four In
Texas
UCLA
St. Bonaventure (NEW)
Kansas State

First Four Out
Syracuse
Baylor
Boise State
Temple

Next Four Out
Nebraska
Penn State
Washington
Maryland

Four More
Marquette
SMU
Utah
Western Kentucky

As for the rest of the field…

Ed. Note: all-caps denote current conference leaders.

~~~

SOUTH REGIONAL | Atlanta, Ga.

(Charlotte, N.C.)
No. 1 VIRGINIA (24-2, 13-1 ACC)
No. 16 WINTHROP (17-9, 11-4 Big South)

No. 8 
Butler (17-10, 7-7 Big East)
No. 9 MIDDLE TENNESSEE (21-5, 13-1 Conference USA)

(San Diego, Calif.)
No. 5 Wichita State (20-5, 10-3 American)
No. 12 BUFFALO (19-7, 11-2 MAC)

No. 4 Tennessee (19-6, 9-4 SEC)
No. 13 NEW MEXICO STATE (22-4, 9-1 WAC)

(Detroit, Mich.)
No. 6 Florida (17-9, 8-5 SEC)
No. 11 Virginia Tech (18-8, 7-6 ACC)

No. 3 CINCINNATI (23-3, 12-1 American)
No. 14 NORTHERN KENTUCKY (19-7, 12-2 Horizon)

(Charlotte, N.C.)
No. 7 Kentucky (17-9, 6-7 SEC)
No. 10 Seton Hall (17-9, 6-7 Big East)

No. 2 Duke (21-5, 9-4 ACC)
No. 15 BUCKNELL (19-9, 13-2 Patriot)


MIDWEST REGIONAL | Omaha, Neb.

(Pittsburgh, Pa.)
No. 1 XAVIER (24-3, 12-2 Big East)
No. 16 PENNSYLVANIA (17-7, 7-1 Ivy) / No. 16 GRAMBLING (14-12, 10-3 SWAC)

No. 8 
Michigan (21-7, 10-5 Big Ten)
No. 9 Florida State (18-8, 7-7 ACC)

(Boise, Idaho)
No. 5 RHODE ISLAND (21-3, 13-0 Atlantic 10)
No. 12 LOUISIANA-LAFAYETTE (22-4, 12-1 Sun Belt)

No. 4 Oklahoma (16-9, 6-7 Big 12)
No. 13 LOYOLA-CHICAGO (22-5, 12-3 Missouri Valley)

(Wichita, Kan.)
No. 6 Miami (18-7, 7-6 ACC)
No. 11 USC (18-9, 9-5 Pac-12)

No. 3 MICHIGAN STATE (25-3, 13-2 Big Ten)
No. 14 UCSB (20-5, 9-2 Big West)

(Dallas, Tex.)
No. 7 Missouri (18-8, 8-5 SEC)
No. 10 NC State (17-9, 7-6 ACC)

No. 2 TEXAS TECH (22-4, 10-3 Big 12)
No. 15 CHARLESTON (21-9, 12-3 Colonial)


EAST REGIONAL | Boston, Mass.

(Pittsburgh, Pa.)
No. 1 Villanova (23-3, 10-3 Big East)
No. 16 SAVANNAH ST. (13-13, 10-1 Mid-Eastern) / No. 16 NICHOLLS ST. (17-9, 11-2 Southland)

No. 8 
Arizona State (19-7, 7-7 Pac-12)
No. 9 TCU (17-9, 5-8 Big 12)

(Boise, Idaho)
No. 5 West Virginia (19-7, 8-5 Big 12)
No. 12 VERMONT (22-5, 12-0 America East)

No. 4 Ohio State (22-6, 13-2 Big Ten)
No. 13 SOUTH DAKOTA STATE  (22-6, 10-1 Summit)

(Nashville, Tenn.)
No. 6 Texas A&M (17-9, 6-7 SEC)
No. 11 Texas (15-11, 5-8 Big 12) / No. 11 UCLA (18-8, 9-5 Pac-12)

No. 3 North Carolina (20-7, 9-5 ACC)
No. 14 BELMONT (21-7, 13-2 Ohio Valley)

(Detroit, Mich.)
No. 7 Alabama (17-9, 8-5 SEC)
No. 10 Louisville (18-8, 8-5 ACC)

No. 2 Purdue (23-5, 12-3 Big Ten)
No. 15 WAGNER (19-7, 12-3 Northeast)


WEST REGIONAL | Los Angeles, Calif.

(Nashville, Tenn.)
No. 1 AUBURN (23-3, 11-2 SEC)
No. 16 FLORIDA GULF COAST (20-9, 11-1 Atlantic Sun)

No. 8 
Saint Mary’s (24-4, 13-2 West Coast)
No. 9 Houston (20-5, 10-3 American)

(San Diego, Calif.)
No. 5 NEVADA (22-5, 11-2 Mountain West)
No. 12 St. Bonaventure (19-6, 9-4 Atlantic 10) / No. 12 Kansas St. (18-8, 7-6 Big 12)

No. 4 ARIZONA (21-6, 11-3 Pac-12)
No. 13 EAST TENNESSEE STATE (22-5, 13-1 Southern)

(Dallas, Tex.)
No. 6 GONZAGA (24-4, 14-1 West Coast)
No. 11 Providence (17-9, 8-5 Big East)

No. 3 Clemson (20-5, 9-4 ACC)
No. 14 RIDER (20-7, 13-2 Metro Atlantic)

(Wichita, Kan.)
No. 7 Creighton (19-7, 8-5 Big East)
No. 10 Arkansas (18-8, 7-6 SEC)

No. 2 Kansas (20-6, 9-4 Big 12)
No. 15 MONTANA (20-6, 13-1 Big Sky)

Colts hire Eagles’ Frank Reich

The Indianapolis Colts have reportedly hired Philadelphia Eagles offensive coordinator as their next coach, per Mike Garafolo of the NFL Network.

The hire comes days after Josh McDaniels backed out of the position to return to the New England Patriots.

Reich was also the San Diego Chargers offensive coordinator before joining the Eagles in 2016. His first NFL was with the colts, where he started as an offensive assistant in 2008.

He is expected to fly to Indianapolis tonight to sign his contract, something the Colts really hope actually happens this time.

UPDATE, 5:37 p.m.

Reich has signed a five-year contract, making the deal official.

Draft Overview: Cleveland Browns

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After an abysmal 0-16 campaign, the Cleveland Browns are on the clock with the first pick in the 2018 NFL Draft.

Coach Hue Jackson will return next season after not winning a single game in 2017, but they will be under the leadership of new general manager John Dorsey, who took over after Sashi Brown was dismissed in December.

This is the second straight year the Browns will have the first overall pick. Last year, they selected defensive tackle Myles Garrett. They also hold the fourth overall pick, which they acquired from Houston.

Cleveland took a shot on Notre Dame quarterback Deshone Kizer in the fourth round of the 2017 draft, who became the starter. He was benched in Week Five but soon returned after Kevin Hogan failed to impress. Kizer threw for 2,894 yards, 11 touchdowns and 22 interceptions in 15 starts.

Despite being young and not that bad, Kizer is not the guy for the Browns. They are in desperate need of a quarterback. Well they are in desperate need of a lot of other things, too, but quarterbacks are important.

Lucky for Cleveland, they can pick any quarterback they want with the first pick.

USC’s Sam Darnold and UCLA’s Josh Rosen are often called the best quarterbacks in the class, but rumor that Rosen dissed Cleveland creates some concern. Look for them to go with Darnold or Josh Allen out of Wyoming.

The free agent market for quarterbacks is not bad this year, and the Browns have been rumored to be interested in some, but signing a guy like Kirk Cousins is a long shot.

The fourth pick is the more intriguing of the two, because we most likely know what they’ll do with the first. Cleveland has several options regarding what to do with it.

Only two more players will be off the board by this time, so the Browns can snag the best available player in a deep class.

Alabama safety Minkah Fitzpatrick would be a great addition to play opposite Jabrill Peppers. Penn State running back Saquon Barkley could also still be there for the Browns to pick.

Their other option is to trade the pick. Teams will be antsy to move up to take their man, just look at the Bears last year. If Cleveland is as committed as they seem to a long term rebuild, they have the chance to land a good haul of top picks for the next few seasons.

Anyway, do you remember Trent Richardson?

Weekend Preview: Big Ten headliners, bounce-back opportunities, bubbles to be burst

We’ve only got about four more of these left in the dwindling college basketball season. You know, those weekends where you can wake up in the late morning and spend your whole day bouncing around the country as the entire hoops landscape explodes with storylines.

February 10 and 11 will be no different.

If you’re a college hoops addict like myself, here’s how you should be spending your next 48 hours:

Saturday

Butler @ No. 1 Villanova | Noon EST | FOX
Up until its loss to St. John’s at home Wednesday, Villanova seemed pretty much unbeatable this season — other than, of course, its eight-point loss at Butler. The Bulldogs have recently become a kryptonite for ‘Nova in Big East play, having now won three in a row in the series, two of which coming when the Wildcats were ranked No. 1 in the nation. Villanova’s sometimes-suspect defense will be once again put to the test, as a Butler team that ranks No. 26 in KenPom’s offensive efficiency ratings posted 101 when it hosted ‘Nova on December 30. Prediction: Villanova 92, Butler 87 // Chances of Upset: 45%

No. 10 Kansas @ Baylor | 2 p.m. EST | CBS
Baylor? Really? Yes, really. Just a week ago, the Bears sat at 12-10 with a dismal 2-7 mark in Big 12 play, and had taken single-digit losses to Kansas State, Oklahoma and Kansas. Two impressive wins over Iowa State and at Oklahoma State over the past seven days have Baylor back in the tournament conversation. On the flip side, the Jayhawks, which recently lost by five to those same Cowboys, have a brutal stretch ahead with a trip to Ames, followed by home tilts with West Virginia and Oklahoma, followed only by a trip to Lubbock to take on Texas Tech. I don’t think Kansas slips up here, but if they do, they could find themselves in a tough spot going into the final week of the season. Prediction: Kansas 74, Baylor 66 // Chances of Upset: 30%

No. 21 North Carolina @ NC State | 2 p.m. EST | ACCN
Who on earth is NC State? My best answer: A bonafide giant killer. The Wolf Pack continue to hover on the bubble despite wins over Duke, North Carolina and Arizona. The biggest reason is inconsistency. A loss to Virginia Tech and a scare against Pittsburgh have kept NC State from building real momentum, but that could change with a sweep of the Heels. The Wolf Pack, after Saturday, enter a stretch of three winnable games (@ SYR, @ WAKE, vs. BC). I’m not saying Saturday’s game will be an upset, but UNC is riding a high and could easily fall into a trap when it visits Raleigh. Prediction: North Carolina 88, NC State 84 // Chances of Upset: 42%

Texas @ TCU | 2 p.m. EST | ESPNU
The Big 12 bubble landscape is one of the most intriguing in any league and these two teams epitomize it. The difference? TCU got to this point by starting red-hot and then opening conference play 2-6, whereas the ‘Horns took a few early-season losses but gradually put together a decent résumé. Texas got the better of TCU by just a point in Austin earlier this month in 2OT and I have a feeling this matchup will be just as exciting. The Horned Frogs, though, get it done and stay on the right side of the bubble. Prediction: TCU 85, Texas 83 

No. 3 Purdue @ No. 4 Michigan State | 4 p.m. EST | ESPN
This one just speaks for itself — the Big Ten’s best, two top-five teams, two bonafide No. 1 seed candidates, a handful of NBA prospects. Miles Bridges. Isaac Haas. Vincent Edwards. The Izzone. Matt Painter. Not much more needs to be said. Just watch this one, okay? You won’t be sorry. Prediction: Purdue 68, Michigan State 67

No. 15 Tennessee @ Alabama | 6 p.m. EST | SECN
Collin Sexton. Collin Sexton. Collin Sexton. Oh, yeah, Tennessee is pretty darn good, too. The Volunteers’ recent win over Kentucky solidified them as an SEC contender and a potential top-four seed in March. Going into Tuscaloosa will be no easy task, though, as the Vols will have their hands full with Sexton —  whose 18 points recently led ‘Bama over Trae Young and Oklahoma — and the Crimson Tide. I’m going to go ahead and call upset, but certainly believe Tennessee could get through this test and ultimately go on to compete for an SEC title. Prediction: Alabama 74, Tennessee 71 // Chances of Upset: 64%

UCLA @ Arizona State | 7 p.m. EST | PAC12
Pac-12 basketball just got very interesting with the rise of the Bruins. When UCLA took three losses in a row against Colorado, Oregon State and Oregon, it was a mile away from the Tournament conversation. The Bruins covered that mile in about two weeks, lopping off California, Stanford, USC and Arizona all in a row to revive their season. Coming off a win of its own over USC, Arizona State is looking to do the same and get itself essentially within one or two wins of a locked-up March bid. UCLA’s hot, ASU’s seemingly figuring things out, both teams need it. This one should be fun. Prediction: UCLA 78, Arizona State 74 

No. 7 Texas Tech @ Kansas State | 8 p.m. EST | ESPNU
At this point, it’s pretty hard to watch a Big 12 game without there being some kind of intriguing storyline. This one pits arguably the nation’s most surprising team as it competes for a conference title and a No. 1 seed. No one saw that coming. What no one else would also see coming would be a Kansas State upset, as the Wildcats — a bubble team in the truest sense of the term — look to pick up another résumé win. They’ve already beaten Oklahoma by 18, TCU by five, and came just one point from beating Kansas. There’s also the revenge factor — Tech took down K-State by 16 on January 7. For those reasons, I’m giving the Wildcats a good chance to win, but favoring Texas Tech in a close one. Prediction: Texas Tech 76, Kansas State 70 // Chances of Upset: 38%

No. 24 Kentucky @ Texas A&M | 8:15 p.m. EST | ESPN
Speaking of the revenge factor, enter Texas A&M. The Aggies came inches from a win at Rupp Arena back on January 9, as a full-court pass went out of bounds beyond the outstretched hands of center Tyler Davis, who was arguably fouled by UK’s Wenyen Gabriel as time expired. Reed Arena will be electric in a whiteout and I don’t think Kentucky’s young team will be ready for a red-hot A&M team on the road, especially one that just topped Auburn on the road. Prediction: Texas A&M 77, Kentucky 74 // Chances of Upset: 70%

No. 12 Gonzaga @ No. 11 Saint Mary’s | 10 p.m. EST | ESPN2
Ah, yes, the one time the country pays attention to West Coast Conference basketball. It’s for good reason, especially this year. Saint Mary’s has pretty clearly been the better of the two WCC Goliaths, with losses only to Washington State (by 5) and Georgia (by 2) on neutral courts in early December. This team is a deep tournament threat and you should start getting to know them before you see them pop up as a five- or six-seed in your bracket. The Gaels toppled Gonzaga in Spokane earlier this season, 74-71. The Bulldogs have the pieces for revenge, but I’ve got Saint Mary’s taking a stranglehold on the WCC with the conference tourney just three weeks away. Prediction: Saint Mary’s 79, Gonzaga 72 // Chances of “Upset:” 35%

USC @ No. 13 Arizona | 10:15 p.m. EST | ESPN
Pac-12 after dark at its finest! Arizona, the odds on favorite to win this chaotic league, has lost two in a row for the first time since its dismal trip to the Bahamas back in November. As for USC, blowing a nine-point lead to ASU means they’re right back in the thick of the bubble, and another loss or two away from trouble. Another situation out in the Pac-12 where two of the league’s likely four or five tournament teams both need key victories. Don’t count out USC — which matches up well with the Wildcats, especially down low — but Arizona’s going to get it done on their home court before a monumental trip to Tempe Thursday. But if you’re not asleep yet, give this one a watch to close out a jam-packed day of hoops. Prediction: Arizona 82, USC 72 // Chances of Upset: 20%

Sunday

No. 6 Cincinnati @ SMU | 2 p.m. EST | ESPN
Yes, more basketball on Sunday, thanks to the American Athletic Conference! If you haven’t noticed yet, the Cincinnati Bearcats are a legitimate contender; I don’t think they’ll compete for a No. 1 seed due to their conference’s reputation, but they’ll be a dangerous No. 2 or No. 3 seed. SMU’s dangerous, too, having beaten Wichita State on the road, not to mention neutral victories over Arizona and USC. But coming off of two tough road losses, the Mustangs need this one to get back on the right side of the bubble. Cincinnati doesn’t have any particular “need” in this one, aside from keeping first place in the American to themselves, but they’ll probably get it done anyway. Check this game out if for no other reason than to get an early look at one of the most physical teams you’ll be seeing in the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament. Prediction: Cincinnati 68, SMU 60 // Chances of Upset: 25%

Tulane @ Houston | 4 p.m. EST | ESPNU
Okay, you’re only going to want to check this one out if you’re truly a college basketball junkie, but Houston is worth watching as a potential upset special with a No. 10 or No. 11 seed in March. Tulane’s got some unfinished business, too, with a few impressive wins over SMU and Temple under their belt. In order to make some tournament noise, though, they’ll need to erase their recent 1-4 stretch, pick up this win in Houston, and probably win five of the six contests that follow. All of that is pretty unlikely, but Tulane’s nine-point home win over Houston earlier in the season proves they’ve at least got a good shot on Sunday. Prediction: Houston 77, Tulane 68

Sideline Intel Bracketology: Feb. 9

Great, more chaos.

Ohio State beats Purdue. Texas A&M beats Auburn. Bubble teams drop like flies — and some step up to take their spots, for now. St. John’s beats Duke and Villanova.

No, St. John’s is not in the field of 68. I mean, not yet at least. When they beat Xavier, Creighton, Seton Hall and Marquette I’m sure we’ll have a spot for them.

But with all that said, this week’s field is extremely shaken up from even just a week ago. The biggest drop? Louisville down from a No. 5 seed to a No. 8 seed. The biggest jump? Texas A&M up from a No. 8 seed to a No. 6 seed.

Even the bubble looks a whole lot different, as you can see:

Last Four Byes
Houston
Providence
Alabama
NC State

Last Four In
Missouri
Syracuse
Virginia Tech
UCLA

First Four Out
Kansas State
Washington
Marquette
SMU

Next Four Out
Western Kentucky
Nebraska
St. Bonaventure
Temple

Four More
Wyoming
Maryland
Baylor
Penn State

Looking at the bubble, there are a few teams who’ve made some noise and a few who’d rather kill the noise they made this week. Syracuse and UCLA caught the right side of the bubble with key wins. While the Orange won at Louisville, the Bruins defeated both USC and Arizona to jump from completely off the bubble to in the tournament field.

Fellow Pac-12 school Washington played its way out of the field with a 65-40 loss at Oregon. With its win over Texas, Kansas State was a tough team to keep out, but a 38-point loss to West Virginia and an RPI outside the Top 50 were tough to forgive.

But enough about the bubble, here’s how the full tournament field shakes out:

Ed. Note: all-caps denote current conference leaders

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SOUTH REGIONAL | Atlanta, Ga.

(Charlotte, N.C.)
No. 1 VIRGINIA (23-1, 12-0 ACC)
No. 16 NICHOLLS ST. (15-9, 9-2 Southland) / No. 16 WAGNER (18-6, 11-2 NEC)

No. 8 
Texas Christian (16-8, 4-7 Big 12)
No. 9 Arizona State (18-6, 6-6 Pac-12)

(Boise, Idaho)
No. 5 Oklahoma (16-7, 6-5 Big 12)
No. 12 VERMONT  (20-5, 10-0 America East)

No. 4 Miami (18-5, 7-4 ACC)
No. 13 LOUISIANA-LAFAYETTE (20-4, 10-1 Sun Belt)

(Nashville, Tenn.)
No. 6 RHODE ISLAND (19-3, 11-0 Atlantic 10)
No. 11 Houston (18-5, 8-3 American)

No. 3 Tennessee (18-5, 8-3 SEC)
No. 14 UC SANTA BARBARA (19-5, 8-2 Big West)

(Charlotte, N.C.)
No. 7 Seton Hall (17-7, 6-5 Big East)
No. 10 Alabama (15-9, 6-5 SEC)

No. 2 North Carolina (18-7, 7-5 ACC)
No. 15 BUCKNELL (17-9, 11-2 Patriot)


MIDWEST REGIONAL | Omaha, Neb.

(Detroit, Mich.)
No. 1 Michigan State (23-3, 11-2 Big Ten)
No. 16 NC A&T (15-9, 8-1 MEAC)

No. 8 
Gonzaga (22-4, 12-1 West Coast)
No. 9 Butler (17-8, 7-5 Big East)

(Boise, Idaho)
No. 5 ARIZONA (19-6, 9-3 Pac-12)
No. 12 NEW MEXICO STATE (21-3, 8-0 WAC)

No. 4 West Virginia (18-6, 7-4 Big 12)
No. 13 EAST TENNESSEE STATE (21-4, 12-0 Southern)

(Dallas, Tex.) 
No. 6 Kentucky (17-7, 6-5 SEC)
No. 11 Syracuse (16-8, 5-6 ACC) / No. 11 UCLA (17-7, 8-4 Pac-12)

No. 3 Texas Tech (20-4, 8-3 Big 12)
No. 14 BELMONT (19-7, 11-2 Ohio Valley)

(Nashville, Tenn.)
No. 7 Florida State (17-7, 6-6 ACC)
No. 10 Providence (16-8, 7-4 Big East)

No. 2 CINCINNATI (22-2, 11-0 American)
No. 15 CHARLESTON (19-6, 10-3 Colonial)


EAST REGIONAL | Boston, Mass.

(Pittsburgh, Pa.)
No. 1 XAVIER (22-3, 10-2 Big East)
No. 16 FGCU (19-8, 10-0 Atlantic Sun)

No. 8 
MIDDLE TENNESSEE (19-5, 11-1 Conference USA)
No. 9 Michigan (19-7, 8-5 Big Ten)

(San Diego, Calif.)
No. 5 Florida (16-8, 7-4 SEC)
No. 12 BUFFALO (18-6, 10-1 MAC)

No. 4 Clemson (20-4, 9-3 ACC)
No. 13 LOYOLA-CHICAGO (20-5, 10-3 Missouri Valley)

(Wichita, Kan.)
No. 6 Texas A&M (16-8, 5-6 SEC)
No. 11 BOISE STATE (20-4, 10-2 Mountain West)

No. 3 Duke (19-5, 7-4 ACC)
No. 14 RIDER (18-7, 11-2 Metro Atlantic)

(Detroit, Mich.)
No. 7 Nevada (20-5, 9-2 Mountain West)
No. 10 Texas (15-9, 5-6 Big 12)

No. 2 Purdue (23-3, 12-1 Big Ten)
No. 15 MONTANA (19-5, 12-0 Big Sky)


WEST REGIONAL | Los Angeles, Calif.

(Pittsburgh, Pa.)
No. 1 Villanova (22-2, 9-2 Big East)
No. 16 UNC ASHEVILLE (17-9, 10-3 Big South)

No. 8 
Louisville (17-8, 7-5 ACC)
No. 9 Arkansas  (16-8, 5-6 SEC)

(San Diego, Calif.)
No. 5 Wichita State (18-5, 8-3 American)
No. 12 Missouri (16-8, 6-5 SEC) / No. 12 Virginia Tech (17-7, 6-5 ACC)

No. 4 OHIO STATE (21-5, 12-1 Big Ten)
No. 13 SOUTH DAKOTA STATE (21-6, 9-1 Summit)

(Dallas, Tex.)
No. 6 SAINT MARY’S (24-2, 13-0 West Coast)
No. 11 NC State (16-8, 6-5 ACC)

No. 3 AUBURN (21-3, 9-2 SEC)
No. 14 WRIGHT STATE (19-7, 11-2 Horizon)

(Wichita, Kan.)
No. 7 Creighton (18-6, 8-4 Big East)
No. 10 Southern California (17-8, 8-4 Pac-12)

No. 2 KANSAS (19-5, 8-3 Big 12)
No. 15 PENNSYLVANIA (16-6, 6-0 Ivy)