BY JEFF EISENBERG
March 28, 2017
One of this week's Final Four starters is a bearded 300-pound 7-footer from Poland who’s as skilled as he is big. Another is an ultra-athletic wing from South Carolina starring in his home state. A third is a fiercely competitive swingman from Canada known for his scoring and intensity.
This year’s 20 Final Four starters are a diverse group. With the Final Four tipping off on Saturday, here’s a list of starters on each team ranked from most to least valuable:
1. Sindarius Thornwell, G, South Carolina
The catalyst for this year’s most surprising Final Four team, Thornwell has scored at least 24 points in all four of South Carolina’s NCAA tournament victories. The 6-foot-5 senior has always been dangerous attacking the rim, but this year he shoots more consistently from the perimeter and gets to the foul line more often off the bounce.
BY BRENT SCHROTENBOER
March 28, 2017
The latest round of NFL stadium drama all began in 2013, when the owner of the St. Louis Rams bought 60 acres of prime estate near the Los Angeles airport.
What happened next was like a high-stakes game of musical chairs – three teams trying for two spots in L.A. By the time the music stopped on Monday, three cities were left standing empty-handed – St. Louis, San Diego and Oakland.
But who really won in the end? And is the NFL better off as a business after three teams recently decided to relocate to other cities?
A look at the winners, losers and future rounds of NFL market intrigue, according to experts consulted by USA TODAY Sports:
BY GARY PARRISH
March 24, 2017
MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- John Calipari was at The Peabody late Wednesday. On the top floor. Surrounded by about 100 old friends. In the Skyway that overlooks downtown Memphis -- a place where he went 137-14 in his final four years coaching the Tigers while making four consecutive Sweet 16s, three straight Elite Eights and the national title game of the 2008 NCAA Tournament.
He was a king here once. That’s not an overstatement.
Calipari, for years, was the most popular person in the city by a wide margin. And anybody who dared question him -- for enrolling a known gang member, for pulling a scholarship from a signed prospect, for barely suspending a player charged with domestic violence -- was labeled a “miserable.” He was the man pointing and essentially saying “fake news” before that other man started pointing and saying “fake news.” And Memphians ate it up. In Cal We Trust, the diehards insisted. Those were fun and weird times.
But everything changed the moment Calipari changed addresses.
When he left Memphis for Kentucky on April 1, 2009, while the NCAA was investigating Derrick Rose’s fraudulent standardized test score that ultimately caused the 2008 season to be vacated, UK fans who previously called Calipari a slimy cheater embraced him with open arms while Memphis fans who treated him like a god decided he was the devil. It’s all ridiculous, of course, because Calipari’s not much different in 2017 than he was in 2007. His zip code changed. But he didn’t. And I’ve never understood how hundreds of thousands of people, maybe even millions, can have their view of a human flip so drastically based on where that human works.
But that’s sports, right?
In any other world, it makes no sense for Oklahoma City fans to despise Kevin Durant for spending nine great years with the franchise and then deciding, accurately, that he would have a better chance to achieve his dreams with Golden State. But in the sports world, it feels mostly normal.
BY JOHN ROHDE
March 23, 2017
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Kansas coach Bill Self is one of this year's 14 finalists for induction into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass.
Voters don’t tend to nominate or induct coaches who can’t coach. Yet seemingly every March, Self suffers the slings and arrows of sarcastic soothsayers.
“Don’t pick Kansas in your bracket,” sayeth the naysayers. “KU won’t make it past the first weekend. No one chokes in March quite like Kansas.”
With Thursday night’s 98-66 dismantling of No. 4-seeded Purdue at the Sprint Center, the Jayhawks will face Oregon in the Midwest Regional Final at 7:49 p.m. on Saturday to advance to the Final Four next weekend in Glendale, Ariz.
This will be Self’s ninth regional final of the millennium.
He coached mid-major Tulsa to the 2000 South Regional final.
He coached Illinois to the 2001 Midwest Regional final during his first season with the Fighting Illini.
Come Saturday, Self will coach his seventh regional final with Kansas.
BY JONATHAN WASSERMAN
NBA lead writer
March 21, 2017
NBA scouts have plenty of reasons to continue watching the final 16 teams in the NCAA tournament.
Seven prospects left in the field could potentially land in this year's lottery, including two players who'll be competing for No. 1 overall consideration.
But every year, March Madness also brings out talent that's gone overlooked during the course of the regular season. Through the first weekend, we've already seen several under-the-radar prospects break through into the 2017 draft discussion for the first time all year.
We ranked the top names still playing based on long-term NBA potential—not their current college impact.
BY MOKE HAMILTON
March 19, 2017
With the amazing feats of OKC's Russell Westbrook and Houston's James Harden, San Antonio's Kawhi Leonard’s emergence as perhaps the best two-way player in the league and Cleveland's LeBron James as the only other person that could challenge him for that title, the competition for this year's NBA Most Valuable Player Award is a four-horse race.
Legitimate arguments can be made for each of the four, with Harden and Westbrook likely ending up first and second, in some order.
Traditionally, the coach of the year Award has been much more difficult to predict. But this season, with NBA teams having less than 15 games remaining, a few names probably deserve more mention than others.