Kansas Tops West Virginia

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Landen Lucas rarely gets much credit for the work he does for Kansas, mainly because the blue-collar forward earns his minutes with rebounding and defense rather than offense.

So when Perry Ellis had the ball with a clear path to the rim Tuesday night, he decided to reward his teammate. With a deft flip of his wrist, Ellis lobbed up a pass that Lucas dutifully flushed.

“He was open,” Ellis said with a shrug, “so I had to get him some.”

Lucas had certainly earned it. He pulled down a career-high 16 rebounds, scored nine points and even had four blocks in the sixth-ranked Jayhawks’ 75-65 victory over No. 10 West Virginia.

“I see him out there working hard,” Ellis said. “You got to reward your teammate.”

Besides, Ellis still scored a game-high 21 points. Frank Mason III added 14 for the Jayhawks (20-4, 8-3), who handled the Mountaineers’ pressure well most of the night in avenging their lopsided loss lost month in Morgantown that had them playing catch-up in the league race.

Now, they are tied with the Mountaineers (19-5, 8-3) and No. 3 Oklahoma (20-3, 8-3) as they pursue their 12th consecutive Big 12 championship. All three teams have seven games remaining, with the Jayhawks and Sooners to meet on Saturday in Norman, Oklahoma.

“We knew we weren’t too far out of it,” Lucas said. “We handled business, but now we have a big one Saturday. We’re just going to get mentally prepared to go down there and win.”

Devin Williams had 14 points and nine rebounds, and Jaysean Paige also scored 14 points for the Mountaineers — though their leading scorer was just 5 of 16 from the field.

“You just can’t miss that many shots,” West Virginia coach Bob Huggins said. “You can’t miss that many transition opportunities. We had all kinds of transition opportunities and we didn’t convert one.”

Lynch …Peace Out.

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Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch has indicated publicly and to the Seahawks organization that he will retire from football

Lynch tweeted a peace-sign emoji and a photo of his cleats hanging up Sunday, a sign the running back would walk away from the game. There were reports Lynch would call it a career last week, and NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport reported Sunday that Lynch has indeed informed the Seahawks that he is retiring

After rushing for over 1,000 yards in four straight seasons for the Seahawks, Lynch carried the ball just 111 times for 417 yards in 2015. He played in seven games while dealing with hamstring and abdominal injuries. 

Lynch was a first-round draft pick of the Buffalo Bills in 2007 and joined Seattle via a mid-season trade in 2010. Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman seemed to confirm Lynch’s retirement on Twitter.

Salute to my guy @MoneyLynch … It was an honor sharing the field with you.

A fan favorite in Seattle, Lynch made one of the most famous runs in playoff history during a Seahawks upset of the New Orleans Saints in January 2011. Lynch won a Super Bowl with Seattle after the 2013 season.

Lynch finishes his career with 9,112 yards and 74 touchdowns.

Broncos Best Defense Ever…………..Don’t Think So.

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The Denver Broncos hoisted the Lombardi Trophy Sunday night after besting Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers, ending one of the most impressive postseason runs in recent memory and sparking linebacker Danny Trevathan to claim his unit performed better than even the historic 1985 Chicago Bears unit.

“You’re going to ask me? No. 1. No. 1 in my opinion, over ’85 Bears,” Trevathan said, according to NFL.com’s Dan Hanzus . “If not No. 1, No. 2. I feel like we did a good job playing our games. It wasn’t ever pretty, but when you put it in our defense’s hand we always come up with that win.”

Let the debate begin.

What the Broncos accomplished was impressive, of course. The unit shut down Newton, the league MVP, sacking him six times and forcing him into one interception on an 18-of-41 line while the Panthers mustered a 3-of-15 mark on third down.

Trevathan himself made plenty of big plays and surely put himself in a position for a massive new contract, including a key fumble recovery

Denver’s performance came after a postseason in which the unit took care of business against Ben Roethlisberger and Tom Brady before handling the MVP, with Trevathan a big winner and Von Miller taking home the game’s MVP award. For context’s sake, the Denver Post‘s Nicki Jhabvala provided a closer look at what the Broncos did to opponents in the playoffs:

What the Broncos’ defense did to Ben Roethlisberger, Tom Brady & Cam Newton in the playoffs:
36 QB hits
14 sacks
25 passes defensed

Impressive, but ’85 Bears impressive? The Buddy Ryan 46 defense might have been the best blitzing unit of all time, besting opposing offenses not just with scheme, but with athleticism—a feat well ahead of its time.

That one would be up to fans to decide. Difference in level of competition, the star players, the evolution of the game all play a massive part in the discussion. If there is one surefire takeaway, though, it’s that Trevathan’s unit certainly belongs in the conversation.

Debate on.

Media Backlash on Cam…??

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Cam Newton’s postgame pity party was uncomfortable to watch. The last place the Panthers quarterback wanted to be after suffering the biggest loss of his football-playing life was in front of a horde of media. 

And the last thing he wanted to hear was a Broncos player gloat about it within earshot. Newton forced out one non-answer after another, reluctantly expounded just a bit while still saying nothing of import, then reached his limit when he overheard Denver cornerback Chris Harris describing to his own contingent of media just feet away how the Broncos got to Newton.

This doesn’t excuse Newton’s behavior throughout, but it does bring clarity to his breaking point moment — the moment he stood up and walked away after having heard enough.

There’s no question swallowing a Super Bowl loss is incredibly difficult. Having to bare that pain in front of the world cannot be easy. But Newton knows enough to understand that life doesn’t always break your way, no matter how diligent your preparation, how intense your desire. Sometimes you just lose. And it hurts like hell.

Accepting that like an adult comes, in his case, with being the NFL’s MVP.

Superbowl by the Numbers

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0 — There have been zero Super Bowl shutouts.

1 — This is the first time two No. 1 overall picks will face off in the Super Bowl: Peyton Manning was No. 1 pick in 1998, Cam Newton was No. 1 pick in 2011.

2 — This is the Panthers’ second trip to the Super Bowl.

3 — Number of Heisman Trophy-winning quarterbacks to play in the Super Bowl: Cam Newton, Jim Plunkett, Roger Staubach.

3.5 — Opening line on the game, with the Panthers being favored (It’s up to 6 now).

4 — Fewest passes completed in a game, by Miami’s David Woodley (4-for-14) in Super Bowl XVII.

5 — Number of interceptions thrown by Raiders QB Rich Gannon in Super Bowl XXXVII, a (dubious) record.

6 — Fewest number of completions by a winning Super Bowl quarterback (Bob Griese in Super Bowl VIII).

7 — Seconds, the quickest scoring play in Super Bowl history, coming on a safety on Denver’s first play of Super Bowl XLVIII against Seattle.

8 — Number of trips to the Super Bowl for Denver, tied for most in NFL history with New England, Dallas and Pittsburgh. The Broncos’ five Super Bowl losses are a record.

9 — Most appearances in the game as a player, coach, or assistant, a record shared by Dan Reeves (twice as a player, three times as an assistant, four times as a head coach) and Bill Belichick (three times as an assistant, six times as a head coach).

10 — Number of players to return a kickoff for a touchdown in Super Bowl history.

11 —Most Super Bowls played in one city, New Orleans.

12 — More like 1-2: Carolina’s Cam Newton was the first pick in the 2011 NFL draft, Denver’s Von Miller was the No. 2 pick.

13 — Number of Super Bowl broadcasts John Madden was a part of (one as a pregame analyst, 12 as a color commentator).

14 —Fewest points by a Super Bowl-winning team (The Dolphins in Super Bowl VII).

15 — Fewest yards penalized, combined, in a Super Bowl — Dallas was penalized three times in Super Bowl VI, Miami wasn’t penalized at all.

16 — Consecutive passes completed by Tom Brady in Super Bowl XLVI against the Giants.

17— Games won by the undefeated Super Bowl VII-champion Dolphins. Interestingly, also the number of points Miami scored in their shutout win over Washington.

18 — With a win Sunday, Carolina would become just the third team in NFL history to win 18 games and a Super Bowl. The 49ers (XIX) and Bears (XX) are the others.

19 — Well, 18.5, but we’ll round up. That was the line of Super Bowl XXIX, which the 49ers easily covered in their 49-26 rout of the Chargers.

20 — Points scored by the Giants in Super Bowl XXV, and they needed every last one of them. Their 20-19 win over the Bills is the slimmest margin in Super Bowl history.

21 — Jamal Lewis’ age when he played in Super Bowl XXXV, the youngest player to play in the game.

22 — Most career tackles in Super Bowls, by Bobby Wagner, who’s played in the game twice.

23 — 22.6, but we’ll round up (again). Ben Roethlisberger’s passer rating in Super Bowl XL, the lowest by a winning quarterback.

24 — Combined points scored by the Packers and Patriots in the first quarter of Super Bowl XXXI, a record.

25 — Value (in thousands) of the Vince Lombardi Trophy made by Tiffany & Co.

26 — Number of times the NFC has won the Super Bowl.

27 — Times a quarterback has been named Super Bowl MVP

.286 — Broncos’ winning percentage in Super Bowls (2-5)

29 — Number of “away” teams to have won the last 49 games (59.2 percent). The Panthers are the road team this year.

30 — Years it’s been since two ex-players faced off as coaches in the Super Bowl. Before Ron Rivera and Gary Kubiak this year, Mike Ditka and Raymond Berry were the last ex-players to lead teams into the game.

31 — Number of teams that have won the game while wearing white jerseys (63.2%). The Broncos are wearing white in Super Bowl 50.

32 — Points Carolina has scored off nine takeaways this postseason

33 — Career Super Bowl catches by Jerry Rice, a record for the game.

34 (minutes) — Length of the infamous power outage in Super Bowl XLVII.

35 — Most points scored in the first half (Washington vs. Denver in Super Bowl XXII).

36 — Mike Tomlin’s age when he won Super Bowl XLIII with Pittsburgh, making him the youngest winning head coach.

37 — Most combined points scored in a fourth quarter, Patriots and Panthers in Super Bowl XXXVIII.

38 — Number of rushing attempts by John Riggins in Super Bowl XVII, a record.

39 — Peyton Manning’s age. He’ll be the oldest quarterback to start a Super Bowl when he takes the field on Feb. 7. 2016.

40 — Minutes (and change). The Giants set a record for time of possession in Super Bowl XXV, controlling the ball for 40:33.

41 — The number of players to win Super Bowl rings playing for two different franchises. A Denver win would push it up to 42 (Peyton Manning) while a Carolina win would push it up to 44 (Ed Dickson, Roman Harper and Michael Oher).

42 — Matt Stover’s age when he kicked off Super Bowl XXXV for the Ravens, making him the oldest player to play in the Super Bowl.

43 — Points allowed by the Broncos in their most recent Super Bowl (43-8 loss to Seattle)

44.5 — The over-under for Super Bowl 50

45 (points) — The biggest margin of victory, from the 49ers 55-10 blowout in over the Bengals in Super Bowl XXIV.

46 — Number of passes Jim Plunkett threw in two Super Bowls without being intercepted.

47 — As in Super Bowl XLVII, the first where two brothers — John Harbaugh of the Ravens and Jim Harbaugh of the 49ers — were opposing head coaches in the game.

48 (degrees) — Expected low temperature on Sunday for Super Bowl 50.

49 — Longest fumble return for a touchdown in Super Bowl history, by Mike Bass in Super Bowl VII

50 — Record number of first downs, combined, by the 49ers and Dolphins (XIX) and Titans and Rams (XXXIV) in their Super Bowls.

 

Louisville Banned

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The University of Louisville plans to announce on Friday a self-imposed postseason ban on its men’s basketball team for the 2015-16 campaign.

The school informed the team’s players in a meeting early Friday afternoon, a source close to the program told The Courier-Journal.

“It’s reasonable to conclude that violations have occurred in men’s basketball program in the past,” school President James Ramsey said during a news conference Friday to announce the sanctions.

The coaches told the players they only had nine games left, another source said, which is the remainder of the regular season.

The decision comes as the NCAA continues to investigate a woman’s claims that she and other escorts were paid thousands of dollars and given game tickets in exchange for dancing for and having sex with Louisville basketball players and recruits from 2010-14.

It is a significant blow to coach Rick Pitino and his current team, which has an 18-4 record and is in second place in the competitive Atlantic Coast Conference.

Louisville, ranked 18th in the USA TODAY Sports, had high hopes for deep runs in the ACC and NCAA tournaments, and has a team built around two graduate transfers, Damion Lee and Trey Lewis, who came to Louisville to play their final college season and pursue their first NCAA tournament bid.

Reached Friday, Lee’s mother, Michelle Riddick, declined to comment. She said in December that there’s “nothing we can do about” the ongoing investigations.

“We’d like to see my son play in the tournament,” she said. “We can’t stress ourselves over what ifs or what might happen.”

 

Dunk Contest Set

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The lineup for this year’s Slam Dunk Contest in Toronto has been finalized, according to a report.

Cleveland.com’s Chris Haynes says the competition lineup will include Detroit Pistons big man Andre Drummond, Nuggets guard Will Barton, Orlando Magic forward Aaron Gordon, and defending champion Zach LaVine. The lineup will officially be announced on Thursday.

The contest will be held on Saturday, Feb. 13 at All-Star Weekend in Toronto.

LaVine will be looking to become the first back-to-back champion since Nate Robinson, who won in 2009 and 2010. Robinson is also the all-time leader with three career wins in the contest, so LaVine would be on his way to tying Nate if he can win in Toronto.

Rockets Want to Keep Howard….and Get Durant.

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The Houston Rockets have no intention of dealing center Dwight Howard as the NBA’s Feb. 18 trade deadline approaches.

Despite recent reports of trade talk surrounding the 6-foot-11 center, ESPN.com reports that the Rockets plan to keep Howard until the end of the season even though he can become a free agent and leave Houston with the Rockets getting nothing in return.

Howard’s ability to become a free agent is why some believe it is in the Rockets’ best interests to move him at the deadline. However, according to ESPN, the Rockets general manager Daryl Morey’s grand plan is to pursue Oklahoma City Thunder star Kevin Durant in free agency and reunite him with former teammate James Harden, while also re-signing Howard. Yahoo! Sports reported Tuesday that if Durant leaves Oklahoma City, his top choice would be to join Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors.

ESPN reported that the Rockets have not had any “meaningful talks” about trading Howard since December. A report from Comcast Sports New England surfaced Wednesday that the Boston Celtics are interested in trading for Howard. ESPN also reported that Howard does not want to be traded and hopes to enter into negotiations with Houston during the offseason.

An unhappy Howard ditched the Los Angeles Lakers to sign with Houston in the summer of 2013. He played just 41 regular-season games last season, but was instrumental in the Rockets rallying from a 3-1 deficit in the second round against the Los Angeles Clippers and advancing Houston to the Western Conference finals for the first time since the back-to-back championship seasons in 1994 and 1995.

Howard remains a polarizing figure. But when he’s healthy, he has shown he can still be a dominant force at both ends. Before suffering a sprained ankle that forced him out of three games recently, Howard put together an impressive run of 10 consecutive double-doubles. 

He’s missed 10 games this season due to injury and the Rockets have struggled to gain traction, sitting at 26-25 after beating the Miami Heat on Wednesday. Howard, who is is averaging 14.4 points and 11.8 rebounds this season, didn’t play in the game because of a one-game suspension for making contact with an official. That came during a frustrating stretch in which he picked up four technical fouls and two ejections in consecutive games.

The Rockets have played well without Howard before, but if they are to get on a roll and gain significant momentum heading into the stretch drive and beyond, Howard figures to have to be a major part of the progress.

 

Warriors and Durant….????

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The Warriors may want Kevin Durant. The Warriors may end up better with Kevin Durant. But the Warriors don’t need Kevin Durant.

The 44-4 defending champs, pacing for the best record in NBA history, are the “significant frontrunners” to sign KD if the former MVP were to leave the Thunder when he hits free agency this coming summer, Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports reported Tuesday.

First, let’s get the obvious out of the way: There’s no question Durant could make the Dubs better. The possibility may even be likely. For all the buzz surrounding Stephen Curry this season, Durant hasn’t been all that different, putting up numbers and production in line with his MVP-caliber seasons of the past and boasting the crunch-time defense that makes him one of the league’s more unappreciated defensive talents. Durant is better than great. A reasonable person could argue he’s the best player in the league—including Curry. But when talking about bringing the NBA’s best wing to Oakland, to a team that defines “team” as much as any other team could, all of that is missing the point.

This isn’t fantasy basketball. Just because you add a great, once-in-a-generation player, it doesn’t mean you’re automatically getting better. Don’t believe it? Ask how the 2012-13 Lakers felt as they watched their short-term and long-term success drop off with the acquisitions of Steve Nash and Dwight Howard. 

Stars may light up the sky, but if you stick the brightest one you can find in the middle of the aurora borealis, it’s going to look out of place. And make no mistake about it: The Warriors are basketball’s Northern Lights, mesmerizing to such a degree that the level of their beauty isn’t even opinion; it’s postulate.

It almost seems like, if the Warriors were to sign KD, it’d be a move of arrogance as much as one of practicality. It’d be Golden State trying to top what’s arguably the best we’ve ever seen while risking many of the principles they’ve come to boast in the process: Familiarity, continuity, fluidity.

Durant — who is 27 years old, just like Stephen Curry — could extend Golden State’s championship window, but he could also muck up chemistry, flow within the offense, telepathy on D. And Golden State, which has free agents of its own this offseason, including Harrison Barnes, would have to chop off some of its spare parts in order to bring the summer’s most-prized free agent to northern California. But when you gut a six-figure car in the hopes of making it better, you could end up turning the world’s smoothest vehicle into a Rolls-Royce with a faulty engine.

In Golden State, Durant would have to learn a new system. More importantly, the system and personnel would have to learn him. And that’s after the Warriors’ players and front office just spent a few years doing whatever they could to keep a strong core together.

Golden State has made it clear it values chemistry as much as any other organization out there. But chemistry isn’t just about guys getting along in the locker room. Teammates love KD. The issue isn’t that he’d cause trouble. It’s that he’d muddy the (buzzword alert) continuity the Warriors have worked so hard to sustain. Remember, this is the same team that turned down a Klay Thompson-for-Kevin Love offer back when that decision was about as unpopular as it could be. Thompson wasn’t as developed as he is now. And at the time, many considered Love to be the best power forward in the league. The Dubs, going against public pressures, held off because they saw potential in how Thompson could complement Curry even though he, at the time, had never boasted a league-average, single-season PER. They wanted to build a familiar core.

KD has never been a selfish teammate. Not on the floor or off it. And he’s clearly garnered his fair share of practice playing with a ball-dominant, dribble-happy point guard who is perfectly content with iso-ing up a guy and looking for his own shot. But this Warriors offense (and defense, mind you) is different than that of OKC. It’s about those two buzzwords: familiarity, continuity. 

The Dubs’ core has been together for a while now. And that doesn’t mean you can’t change it. At some point, the light is going to flicker, and this team isn’t going to be the most dominant force we’ve seen roll through the NBA in at least 20 years. But it does mean signing Durant is taking a risk in diluting the product in the short term.

It’s fun to think about the best-case scenario if Golden State were to sign KD. How many championships could that team possibly win? But with all the Warriors have now, with all the winning they’re doing at the moment, with all the future Larry O’Brien trophies that seem destined for their mantle even without OKC’s current best player, and with the possibility of how changing courses could turn things in the wrong direction, Golden State has to ask itself: Is risking all that worth it?