UW Men 14-4 on the Season

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Andrew Andrews connected on a straightaway jumper with one second remaining, lifting the Washington Huskies past short-handed Colorado 52-50 on Thursday night for their third win in a row.

Nigel Williams-Goss had 16 points to lead Washington (14-4, 3-3 Pac-12), which won at Colorado for the first time in its last five games here. Andrews finished with 12 points on 3 of 12 shooting from the floor, connecting on his last and most important attempt.

Colorado (9-9, 2-4) was without two of its best players. Josh Scott remained sidelined with a back injury and Xavier Johnson sat out to serve a one-game suspension for violating a team rule.

Jaron Hopkins had 11 points. Wesley Gordon added 10 points for Colorado, which lost its fourth in a row.

After a Colorado turnover with 34 seconds left the Huskies worked the clock until Andrews got a decent look from just beyond the foul line and knocked down the decisive jumper.

Patriots Caught Playing with Dirty Balls????

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The New England Patriots, coach Bill Belichick and the NFL are really going to have some questions to answer in the run-up to Super Bowl XLIX now.

ESPN reported late Tuesday night the Patriots had 11 of their 12 allotted game footballs underinflated by 2 pounds per square inch for Sunday’s AFC championship game rout of the Indianapolis Colts, citing “league sources either involved or familiar with the investigation.”

NFL spokesman Michael Signora said in an email the league is “not commenting on the matter at this time.”

Patriots spokesman Stacey James issued a statement reiterating the Patriots “have been in complete cooperation with the league and will continue to do so.”

The Patriots are scheduled to arrive in Arizona on Monday for the Feb. 1 title tilt against the Seattle Seahawks.

The issue is whether the Patriots used footballs deflated below league requirements to get better grip in the rain during their 45-7 romp Sunday night.

Belichick said Monday the team would “cooperate fully with whatever the league wants us to; whatever questions they have for us, whatever they want us to do.” He declined to comment Tuesday in a media teleconference when asked whether the NFL had contacted him.

A finding that the Patriots intentionally broke the rules could yield a strong response from the NFL, especially given the league has disciplined the team in the past.

In 2007, the league fined Belichick $500,000 and took away the team’s first-round draft pick the following year after it was found the Patriots illegally videotaped the New York Jets’ signals in what became known as the “Spygate” scandal.

NFL rules stipulate the ball must be inflated to 12½ to 13½ pounds. The referee – on Sunday, it was veteran Walt Anderson – “shall be the sole judge as to whether all balls offered for play comply with these specifications,” the rules say.

“A pump is to be furnished by the home club, and the balls shall remain under the supervision of the Referee until they are delivered to the ball attendant just prior to the start of the game.”

Each team makes 12 primary balls available for testing 2 hours, 15 minutes before the game. The home team also makes available 12 backup balls.

NBA Team Values

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The Los Angeles Lakers unseated the New York Knicks as the NBA’s most valuable team, worth $2.6 billion, according to a Forbes poll released on Wednesday that showed the average team value rose 74 percent from last year.

The average NBA team’s value rose to $1.1 billion from $634 million last year, a jump Forbes said was driven primarily by the NBA signing expanded national media deals with broadcast partners Walt Disney Co and Time Warner Inc.

There are now 11 NBA teams worth at least $1 billion, up from three a year ago, Forbes said in a statement.

The colossal rise in average team value is the biggest one-year gain since Forbes began tracking team valuations in the four major U.S. sports leagues in 1998.

Last October, the National Basketball Association agreed on a more than $20 billion multi-year contract with Disney and Time Warner that dwarfed the previous deal.

The Lakers’ value shot up 93 percent from last year while the Knicks, who topped the list the last two years, were second with a value of $2.5 billion, up 79 percent from last year.

The Los Angeles Clippers, who were purchased for $2 billion last year by former Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer, were valued at $1.6 billion, putting them fifth on the list behind the third-place Chicago Bulls ($2 billion) and fourth-place Boston Celtics ($1.7 billion)

The reigning NBA champion San Antonio Spurs were ranked 11th out of the league’s 30 teams with a 51.5 percent jump in value to $1 billion.

Super Bowl XLIX Storylines

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With almost two weeks of what will be non-stop Super Bowl coverage around the football world, there will come a time when the same story is recycled and then recycled again. It’s one of the drawbacks of actually having a week off between the conference championship games and Super Bowl Sunday.

It’s inevitable.

It’s also only magnified by the fact that this particular Super Bowl between Tom Brady’s New England Patriots and Russell Wilson’s Seattle Seahawks has a whole bunch of storylines surrounding it.

On that note, here’s a brief look at the top storylines for Super Bowl XLIX set to take place February 1st in Arizona. We will provide you our in-depth look and normal weekly piece a few days prior to the big game itself.

Pete Carroll Against His Old Team

At some point, every football-related newspaper or website will cover this back story between now and the Super Bowl itself. It’s a story that pits Carroll’s previous struggles in the NFL against his current success at the same level. Carroll coached the New England Patriots for all of three seasons (1997-1999). It came at a time in his career after he was promoted to a head coaching role following a two-year stint as the San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator. Okay, that’s a storyline in and of itself.

While not disastrous by any stretch of the imagination, Carroll’s three year stint in New England wasn’t anything to write home about. He finished .500 or better in all three seasons, earning playoff spots in 1997 and 1998. However, following an eight-win 1999 season, Carroll was fired. He was then replaced by Bill Belichick, who is leading the Patriots to their sixth Super Bowl in his 15 seasons as the team’s head coach. Did we mention that prior to his gig in San Francisco, Carroll was the head coach of the New York Jets? Good thing we did, because it’s a stint that lasted about 364 days longer than Belichick’s tenure as the Jets head coach.

Tom Brady’s Third Attempt at Matching Joe Montana and Terry Bradshaw

It’s probably a good thing that Mr. Brady isn’t taking on a certain NFC East team this upcoming February in his sixth Super Bowl appearance. After hoisting the Lombardi in his first three tries, Brady has lost his last two attempts to match Montana and Bradshaw with four Super Bowl titles. Both losses have come against Eli Manning and the New York Giants.

If you look at Brady’s overall performance in these FIVE Super Bowls, not much has changed from his early-career success. After throwing a combined six touchdowns compared to one interception in wins against St. Louis, Carolina and Philadelphia, Brady compiled three touchdowns and one interception in his two losses to the Giants. The difference between success and failure for the Patriots can be summed up by the following statistic. Their defense forced a total of one turnover in the team’s two losses compared to eight in the three Super Bowl victories. Overall, New England’s five Super Bowl appearances with Brady at the helm have been decided by a total of two points.

A Dying Dynasty vs A New Dynasty

No matter how much success New England has over the next couple seasons, its Tom Brady-led dynasty is surely going to come to an end at some point in the not-so-distant future. At 37 years old and with 237 NFL starts under his belt, Brady simply isn’t gong to be able to cleat up forever. In fact, this might be his last chance of earning that elusive fourth Lombardi Trophy.

At 62 years old and with 40-plus years of NFL coaching experience, Bill Belichick’s future is a bit less certain. Unlike actually suiting up on the field, coaches can (health permitting) man the sideline into their golden years. The oldest coach in the NFL today is New York Giants’ Tom Coughlin at 68 years old. So, Belichick’s window is likely closing as well.

Interestingly enough, Seahawks head man Pete Carroll is the second-oldest head coach in the league at 63. Though, it’s safe to assume that he’s a more youthful individual than Belichick. At least, that’s the conclusion we can draw by looking at the two on the sideline. The biggest comparison to draw here is between the quarterbacks. Russell Wilson (26) was 11 years old when Brady attempted his first NFL pass back in 2000. As a whole, Seattle was the seventh-youngest team heading into the season at an average age of nearly 26 years old. Even when Carroll retires, Seattle will boast the youth on the roster with potential replacements within the coaching staff to succeed for some time.

Rob Gronkowski vs Earl Thomas

This is a matchup that will be the central focus of film sessions for both teams heading into the Super Bowl. The best all-around tight end in the NFL going up against one of the best defensive players of the modern era. A player in Gronkowski that makes opposing linebackers and defensive backs look like road kill the vast majority of the time going up against a safety in Earl Thomas that eats pass catchers alive with the widest coverage net of any safety in the league.

Tom Brady put up 14 touchdowns compared to five interceptions for a 109.7 rating when targeting Gronkowski during the regular season. Meanwhile, Thomas allowed just two interceptions with a 85.6 rating when he was targeted. It truly is strength versus strength in this one.

In reality, whoever wins this matchup will likely be hoisting the Lombardi when all is said and done in Arizona next month.

Las Vegas Could Lose Big $$$$$

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With 12 days to go before the Super Bowl, there is no favorite to win the big game. But it didn’t start out that way and it could be a disaster for Las Vegas sportsbooks.

Shortly after New England Patriots completed their destruction of the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC Championship game, Super Bowl 49 opened with the Seattle Seahawks as 2.5- or 3-point favorites depending on where you looked.

However, in the first 24 hours of betting, the line fell all the way to a pick ‘em (no favorite), a surprisingly big move for a point spread and a rare miss by Las Vegas.

Keep in mind, point spreads are not designed to predict the winner. Rather, the purpose of a point spread is to find a number where equal amounts of money are being bet on both sides. When this happens, Vegas wins as losing bets typically have to pay an extra 10% (e.g. a $100 bet actually costs $110 if it loses).

In the case of the Super Bowl, that didn’t happen. About 80% of the bets on the Big Game in the first 24 hours were on the Patriots, according to PreGame.com.

What is even more intriguing about this big swing is that the early betting action is typically done by the more seasoned and often professional gamblers making big bets (AKA “sharps”) while Joe Public typically waits until a day or two before the game or even game day.

This means that the usually smarter gamblers felt the opening line with the Seahawks favored was a terrible line and immediately put a ton of money on the Patriots including at least one “six figure” bet at the MGM Casino according to ESPN.com.

So when the Super Bowl kicks off there will likely be a lot more money riding on New England which means if the Pats win, Vegas is going to lose big time.

Seahawks Win…One for the Ages 28-22 Comeback

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The loudest stadium in America was silent. A return trip to the Super Bowl was slipping away.

Time for the Seattle Seahawks to show why they are champions.

”You have the belief these guys have in one another, there is nothing you can’t do,” coach Pete Carroll said after an implausible comeback for a 28-22 victory over Green Bay in the NFC championship game Sunday.

Plagued by turnovers and outplayed much of the day, the Seahawks staged a stunning rally built on resilience. Russell Wilson, who struggled until the final minutes, hit Jermaine Kearse for a 35-yard touchdown 3:19 into the extra period to win it.

The Seahawks became the first defending champion to make the Super Bowl in 10 years, and will play the AFC champion New England Patriots, who routed Indianapolis 45-7. How Seattle got there was stunning.

”The will and the drive of these men is unbelievable,” Wilson said. ”We always find a way to finish.”

Seattle (14-4) trailed 19-7 with about four minutes remaining and had been ineffective on offense all game. Wilson finally put a drive together with passes to Doug Baldwin and Marshawn Lynch – initially ruled a touchdown but called back because he stepped out of bounds. Wilson finished with a 1-yard scoring run to cut the lead to 19-14 with 2:09 left.

The onside kick went high to Packers tight end Brandon Bostick, but he couldn’t gather it, and Seattle’s Chris Matthews recovered at the 50. The crowd, quiet since Seattle fell behind 16-0, came alive, and Lynch sped and powered his way to a 24-yard TD run. On the 2-point conversion, Wilson – about to be sacked – threw a desperate pass hauled in by Luke Willson to make it 22-19 with 1:25 remaining.

Aaron Rodgers, limping on an injured calf, calmly led the Packers (13-5) downfield to set up Mason Crosby’s fifth field goal, a 48-yarder with 14 seconds to go to force overtime.

Then Wilson and Kearse struck, with Kearse – the target on all four of Wilson’s interceptions – beating Tramon Williams on the winning pass. Kearse has also caught the winning score in last year’s conference title win over San Francisco.

”Just making the plays at the end and keep believing,” said Wilson, who was overwhelmed and sobbing after the game. ”There was no doubt … we had no doubt as a team.”

Kearse, who has caught touchdown passes in four straight postseason games, and several other Seahawks leaped into the stands behind the end zone, saluting the stadium-record crowd of 68,538. Wilson ran through cameramen to jump on Kearse’s back, and defensive end Michael Bennett borrowed a bicycle from a police officer and rode around the edge of the field saluting the ”12s.”

Until the final minutes, there seemed to be no doubt the Packers were headed to the big game Feb. 1 in Glendale, Arizona. Despite All-Pro Rodgers’ injury, Green Bay and its overlooked defense was carrying the day.

”It’s going to be a missed opportunity that I’ll probably think about for the rest of my career,” Rodgers said. ”We were the better team today, we played well enough to win. We can’t blame anybody but ourselves.”

Special teams trickery lifted the Seahawks back into the game after falling behind 16-0. Their first touchdown came on a fake field goal when holder Jon Ryan threw 19 yards to tackle eligible Garry Gilliam in the third quarter. And Matthews’ onside kick recovery kept the Seahawks alive.

Lynch rushed for 157 yards on 25 carries and was the one consistent offensive force Seattle had. He was crucial to both late scoring drives in regulation.

And after the Packers tied it, Seattle wouldn’t be denied in overtime, winning the coin toss and going 87 yards in six plays.

The 16-point comeback was the largest in the second half in a conference title game. The Colts defeated the Patriots after trailing 21-6 in 2006.

”It takes everybody and everybody had to contribute to get that done,” Carroll said. ”It was so much heart, so much belief today. Somehow, somehow we pulled it out.”

The matchup of Green Bay’s top-ranked scoring offense against the league’s stingiest defense instead was being controlled by the Packers’ ability to stop – and turn over – the Seahawks. The five giveaways were the most in the Carroll era that began in 2010.

The silence of the fans was remarkable for much of the windy, intermittently rain day. Rookie safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix had two interceptions and Green Bay sacked Wilson five times.

Yet it wasn’t enough.

”I felt our football team was a special group. They’ve been great all year,” coach Mike McCarthy said. ”This is a hard one to swallow.”

Seahawks All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman played much of the final quarter holding his left arm at his chest. The center of conversation after last January’s NFC championship win against the 49ers, he quietly left the field with his arm still pinned to his body, an NFC championship towel hanging off his right arm.

Sherman said after the game about the Super Bowl: ”I will 100 percent be able to play.”

Rodgers didn’t shy away from throwing at Sherman, and in an early matchup of All-Pros, Rodgers’ pass to rookie Davante Adams in the end zone was snagged by Sherman.

But the Pack was right back in scoring position moments later when Clinton-Dix grabbed a tipped pass and returned it 26 yards to the Seattle 4. Fullback John Kuhn, another All-Pro, had his TD dive reversed by a replay review and Seattle held. Crosby made it 3-0.

Doug Baldwin fumbled the ensuing kickoff at his 23, and Crosby made a 19-yarder.

It didn’t get better in the first half for the hosts. Randall Cobb caught an 18-yard TD pass on the final play of the opening quarter to make it 13-0; Green Bay outgained Seattle 137-3 in the period.

The Seahawks’ initial first down came nearly eight minutes into the second quarter.

Crosby nailed a 40-yarder to conclude Green Bay’s dominant first half. Wilson was picked off three times, had a QB rating of 0.00, and Seattle was fortunate it didn’t trail by more.

Even after the fake field goal TD made it 16-7, the Seahawks didn’t seem likely to pull off the comeback. Yet they did, becoming the first team since New England a decade ago to return to the Super Bowl.

”I’m honored to be on this team, Wilson said. ”I’m going to the Super Bowl again.”

Patriots Win a Weak AFC Conference

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Bill Belichick and Tom Brady are headed to a special place where no coach or player has gone more – the Super Bowl.

They earned their trip with the second most lopsided AFC championship victory ever.

The New England Patriots dominant duo earned a sixth trip to the Super Bowl with a 45-7 wipeout of the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC championship game before a raucous, rain-soaked crowd Sunday night.

BOX SCORE: PATRIOTS 45, COLTS 7

Scoring touchdowns on their first four second-half possessions, the Patriots (14-4) moved on to face defending champion Seattle (14-4) for the NFL title on Feb. 1 in Glendale, Arizona. Belichick will face Pete Carroll, whom he replaced as Patriots coach 2000. The Seahawks beat the Green Bay Packers 28-22 in overtime in the NFC title game.

”I only have one thing to say. We’re on to Seattle,” Belichick said, echoing the statement he repeated several times, ”We’re on to Cincinnati,” after a 41-14 loss at Kansas City dropped the Patriots to 2-2.

Brady threw three touchdown passes, LeGarrette Blount ran 30 times for 148 yards and three scores and the Patriots charged away after leading just 17-7 at halftime.

”I know we’ve had some ups and downs this year,” Brady said, ”but right now we’re up, baby, and we’re going to try to stay up for one more game.”

In his first year as a starter, Brady led the Patriots to a Super Bowl win in the 2001 season, starting a run of three championships in four years. Now he and Belichick have a chance for their first in 10 years