03 May

Biggest position of need for each preseason top-10 team during spring window

College football’s best teams don’t need much to stay at the top of the rankings when 2024 season gets underway in August, but to reach the national championship game in a rugged, 12-team College Football Playoff? Yeah, safe to say everybody could use a little help.

Polling team experts from 247Sports, we’ve chosen the biggest need for for every preseason top 10 team —based on CBS Sports’ pre-spring top 25 rankings — when the spring transfer portal window opens April 16.

Transfer portal needs for top-10 teams
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Defensive tackle: Georgia is in a position to stand pat, but it would not be surprising to see the Bulldogs pursue a defensive tackle in the transfer portal. Georgia’s 2023 defensive line lacked a game changer the likes of Jalen Carter and Jordan Davis , and that inability to consistently wreak havoc on the interior defensive line showed up at different points — especially in the SEC Championship Game loss to Alabama. The Bulldogs have several defensive tackles who could take a step forward in 2024, but if the right player enters the portal, they should give chase. — Jordan D. Hill, Dawgs247; Read more here on Georgia’s transfer portal needs
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Ohio State
Right tackle: Adding an offensive tackle — or perhaps an offensive guard — will be Ohio State ‘s focal point in the portal. If the Buckeyes are able to land a right tackle, for example, it likely will be someone not yet in the portal. Meaning, the guys in there right now would not be an upgrade compared to any of the current options. It remains to be seen if OSU can check this need off its list because it is difficult to find impact offensive tackles via the portal. However, last year the Buckeyes landed a good one in left tackle Josh Simmons. — Dave Biddle, Bucknuts247; Read more here on Ohio State’s pursuit of a transfer offensive lineman
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Defensive tackle: If Texas still had T’Vondre Sweat and Byron Murphy, the Longhorns might be college football’s preseason No. 1. But they’re off to the NFL , and though Texas feels good about Alfred Collins and Vernon Broughton rising from rotational players to starters, depth at interior defensive line is unclear. The Longhorns brought in 6-foot-4, 293-pounder Tia Savea from Arizona, but will absolutely be in the market during the spring window if a difference-making defensive tackle emerges, per team sources. — Chip Brown , Horns247; Read more here on Texas’ transfer portal needs
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Defensive tackle: A host of defensive linemen from last year’s unit graduated, so the Ducks added Jamaree Caldwell , a four-star transfer from Houston , to the position group during the winter period. Oregon has loaded up on defensive linemen over the last two recruiting cycles from the prep ranks, but just four players have recorded more than one full season of college football. Adding defensive tackle depth and experience will be an area of focus; it’s hard to believe the Ducks will roll into the 2024 season, its first in the Big Ten, with such a young group at such a critical position. — Matt Prehm, Duck Territory
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Defensive back: The loss of starters Terrion Arnold and Kool-Aid McKinstry to the NFL Draft were expected and capable of being absorbed. However, the winter transfer portal window crushed the Tide’s depth at defensive back. Freshman All-American Caleb Downs left, along with Dezz Ricks, Trey Amos, Jameer Grimsley, Earl Little, Kristian Story, Antonio Kite and Jake Pope. The addition of Michigan transfer Keon Sabb helped settle the safety position, but Alabama needs more bodies at cornerback. — Alex Scarborough, Bama247; Read more here on Alabama’s transfer portal needs
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Ole Miss
Running back: Ole Miss seemingly owns all the pieces to make a run at the College Football Playoff this fall, with one single exception: running back. When the spring transfer portal window swings open, expect the Rebels’ top priority to be finding a replacement (or two) for the record-setting Quinshon Judkins, who left for Ohio State over the offseason. The Rebels strengthened themselves at every position on the field during the wintertime portal session — except running back. — David Johnson, Inside The Rebels; Read more here on Ole Miss’ transfer portal needs
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Notre Dame
Offensive tackle: Notre Dame is expected to be selectively active in the portal’s spring window, with its sights set on what amounts to a “unicorn acquisition”: a potential starter at offensive tackle. Depth concerns exist at tight end, where two of the five among a uniquely talented room are coming off ACL injuries, including starter Mitchell Evans. A third, Eli Raridon, was put on a bit of a pitch count this spring to save wear and tear after two such injuries plagued half of both his 2022 and 2023 campaigns. — Tim O’Malley, IrishIllustrated.com
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Offensive line: Cody Schrader had a season for the ages last year for the Missouri Tigers , leading the SEC in rushing. Schrader would tell you much of his success came from running behind an excellent offensive line that featured soon-to-be NFL players Xavier Delgado and Javon Foster , who combined for 109 game appearances and 82 starts. Top transfer portal addition Cayden Green (No. 10 overall, No. 2 OT) of Oklahoma will fill one of the spots. But expect the Tigers to be in the market for another big-time offensive lineman to help solidify the trenches. — Carl Reed, 247Sports
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Penn State
Wide receiver Penn State was likely to look for more receiver help even before senior KeAndre Lambert-Smith hit the transfer portal. Redshirt junior Harrison Wallace looked strong in the spring game coming off an injury-plagued 2023 campaign, while former Top247 recruit Kaden Saunders has taken a step forward in the slot and Ohio State transfer Julian Fleming has earned praise in his first semester. But no one in this position room beyond Fleming owns even 600 career yards, and the Nittany Lions must maximize quarterback Drew Allar’s junior campaign under new offensive coordinator Andy Kotelnicki.” — Tyler Donohue, Lions247; Read more here on Penn State’s transfer portal needs
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Defensive tackle: Without question, the biggest position of need for LSU is the interior defensive line. It was one of the biggest storylines throughout the spring after the Tigers lost both starters to the NFL Daft and didn’t replace them in the first transfer window. LSU feels good about one starting spot with veteran Jacobian Guillory, but who starts next to him and the depth behind the starters remains major question marks. The problem is LSU is over the 85-man scholarship limit, so it’ll have to see some attrition at a few positions and then likely cut down by a few more in order to fill that need at defensive tackle in the spring portal window. — Glen West, Geaux247; Read more here on LSU’s transfer portal needs

03 May

Raiders’ Antonio Pierce will not be part of Arizona State’s negotiated resolution with NCAA as case nears end

Las Vegas Raiders coach Antonio Pierce will not be part of the negotiated resolution between the NCAA and Arizona State tied to the almost-three-year-old case that’s nearing a conclusion, sources told CBS Sports.

Pierce isn’t necessarily exonerated in the case. He’s not compelled to sit for an in-person interview with NCAA investigators looking into alleged major recruiting violations at the school, but instead, sources told CBS Sports that Pierce will be submitting a written statement to NCAA. After the statement is reviewed and compared to the NCAA’s findings, Pierce could then be penalized. Pierce’s cooperation with the NCAA is not required because he is no longer in college athletics.

Sources previously told CBS Sports the negotiated resolution, which is expected to be made official in the near future, contains a show-cause penalty for former Sun Devils head coach Herm Edwards. Pierce, considered a central figure in the recruiting scandal, could receive a similar penalty.

A show-cause penalty means a school could be subject to sanctions if it hires a coach during the length of that punishment. Neither Pierce nor Edwards are expected to return to college football anytime soon, however.

This is essentially the NCAA’s scarlet letter in preventing accused coaches from getting jobs. Show-cause penalties were recently strengthened at the NCAA’s annual convention in January.

CBS Sports reported in February that Arizona State was expected to agree to major violations in the negotiated resolution process. The case began when the ASU staff allegedly entertained recruits on campus during the COVID-19 dead period, which was in violation of NCAA rules. Further postseason penalties are not expected after the school self-imposed a one-year bowl ban in August 2023 in an attempt to mitigate future punishment.

A negotiated resolution occurs when schools, involved persons and NCAA enforcement agree to “violation, level, classification and penalties,” according to the association. The process uses fewer resources and expedites cases. Any final penalties are approved by the NCAA Committee on Infractions.

Pierce, a former Arizona linebacker, was a valued ASU assistant from 2018-21. He was elevated to defensive coordinator in 2020 and resigned prior to the 2022 season.

The alleged violations came to light in 2021 when a dossier of information was sent to Arizona State and NCAA compliance. Edwards reportedly met with several prospects, including some in 2020, at a rented off-campus home in the swanky Paradise Valley area.

It is not clear whether any sanctions would follow Pierce to the NFL.

Edwards, back at his old job as an NFL analyst with ESPN, could also be subject to punishment under the NCAA’s head coach responsibility bylaw. Though the bylaw was strengthened on Jan. 1, 2023, Edwards would be subject to previous language, that existed when the ASU investigation began, stating coaches are “presumed to be responsible” for the actions of their staff.

Pierce was among five assistants who resigned or were fired after the allegations surfaced. Other Arizona State assistants reportedly cooperated with the NCAA hoping to mitigate penalties.

The Arizona State case is believed to be “bifurcated” — a newly adopted method where resolution can be reached with individuals and/or schools within a larger case.

Air Force, Tennessee and Memphis recently had cases resolved through bifurcation. Arizona State self-imposed the postseason ban while former assistant coaches were still going through a traditional investigation.

Michigan and former coach Jim Harbaugh were seemingly on a bifurcated track when they agreed to what was described as a “tentative resolution” that resulted in a four-game suspension for Harbaugh to start the 2023 season. In the ongoing case, Harbaugh is alleged to have lied to NCAA investigators about Level II violations regarding recruiting visits during the pandemic.

Michigan is also being investigated for possible wrongdoing in the celebrated sign-stealing case as well.

03 May

Michigan staffer, former star QB Denard Robinson arrested on OWI charge following single-vehicle crash

Michigan staffer and former Wolverines quarterback Denard Robinson was arrested Monday morning for allegedly operating a vehicle while intoxicated, the Ann Arbor Police Department confirmed to 247Sports. The 33-year-old Robinson was involved in a single-vehicle crash prior to his arrest.

First-year Wolverines coach Sherrone Moore confirmed through a statement that Robinson, who serves as the assistant director of player personnel, will be suspended indefinitely.

“We will continue to monitor the situation and will have no further comment at this time.” Moore said in the statement.

Robinson was added to former coach Jim Harbaugh’s staff in 2022 and was retained by Moore when he was promoted from his offensive coordinator spot to replace Harbaugh, who left for the NFL this offseason after leading the Wolverines to a 15-0 record and their first College Football Playoff National Championship win in program history.

Prior to joining Michigan’s staff, Robinson spent three years in various with the Jacksonville Jaguars, including offensive quality control coach and scouting assistant. A native of Deerfield Beach, Florida, Robinson starred on the gridiron before moving on to a career in coaching.

He signed with Michigan in 2009 and played situationally as a freshman before winning the starting job entering his sophomore year. He finished the 2010 campaign with 4,272 yards of total offense and 32 touchdowns, earning first-team All-American and first-team All-Big Ten honors. He was also crowned Big Ten Most Valuable Player and Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year.

From 2010-11, Robinson posted consecutive seasons with at least 1,500 yards passing and 1,500 yards rushing, becoming the first player in NCAA history to do so. He also set the NCAA record for most career rushing yards by a quarterback with 4,495, a mark later surpassed by Navy’s Keenan Reynolds.

He’s still Michigan’s all-time leader in single-season total offense thanks to his efforts in 2010. Robinson’s electric play-making and standout style earned him a spot as the cover athlete on EA Sports’ NCAA Football 14, which was released in 2013.

19 Apr

Joel Embiid comes up clutch just in time; Concern for Jimmy Butler; Bad news on Zion’s injury

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🏀 Good morning to everyone but especially …

If the 76ers want to do something this postseason, they’ll need Joel Embiid at his best. If they want to do something
special this postseason, they’ll need members of the supporting cast at their best, too. In Wednesday’s Play-In Tournament game, they got both, and not a moment too late.

Embiid scored 11 of his 23 points in the fourth quarter, and Nicolas Batum added 20 points on six 3-pointers — both season highs — as Philadelphia eked out a 105-104 win over the Heat to earn the 7 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs.

Embiid was awful early on, and so were the 76ers. They had 39 points (and 12 turnovers) at halftime. But Batum and Tyrese Maxey got going in Philadelphia’s 30-point third quarter, and then Embiid looked like himself in the fourth, delivering a pair of 3-pointers, a crucial and-one off an offensive rebound and an assist to Kelly Oubre Jr. that put the hosts up for good. Brad Botkin says while the finish was encouraging, the 76ers need more from the reigning MVP to be a true threat.

The Heat, meanwhile, will hope the concerns surrounding Jimmy Butler’s knee injury prove false. Miami will face the Bulls for the No. 8 seed after Chicago cruised by the Hawks, 131-116. Sam Quinn wonders if Trae Young has played his last game for Atlanta.

👍 Honorable mentions
Here’s what Caitlin Clark said in her Fever introductory press conference.
Clark’s former team, Iowa, got a huge transfer portal boost in Lucy Olsen.
Grant Hill personally delivered USA jerseys to Embiid, Jayson Tatum and Jrue Holiday.
Justin Verlander will make his season debut tomorrow.
The Red Sox and Guardians played the shortest game since 2010 thanks to Tanner Houck’s gem.
Dylan Cease waved off his manager … and then struck out the next batter.
Albert Suárez made his first MLB appearance since 2017.
🤕 And not such a good morning for …
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The Pelicans have one last chance to save their season. And Zion Williamson won’t be on the floor for it. New Orleans’ oft-injured star sustained a left hamstring strain late in the Pelicans’ Play-In loss to the Lakers on Tuesday. Not only will he miss tomorrow’s game against the Kings — in which the winner gets the No. 8 seed in the playoffs and the loser’s season ends — but he won’t even be reevaluated for two weeks.

In case you missed the game Tuesday or yesterday’s newsletter, Williamson was magnificent — 40 points, 11 rebounds and five assists — before he exited with 3:19 left and the game tied at 95.

Williamson’s injury woes are well-documented, but this year he played a career-high 70 games. Now, unless New Orleans can win tomorrow and then keep its season alive for at least two more weeks against the top-seeded Thunder, the lasting image of its season will be Williamson trudging back to the locker room … again.

Simply put, it’s a cruel, cruel twist of fate for a team and a player heading in the right direction, James Herbert writes.

Herbert: “If this is an even bigger buzzkill than any of Williamson’s previous injuries, it is because of what it interrupted. Williamson was not only making the absolute most of the stage he had that night, he had been showing for months that he — and, by extension, New Orleans — had gotten serious. He was in the best shape of his career, playing the best defense of his career and leading a deep and exciting team that was doing everything it could to make its pieces fit.”
👎 Not so honorable mentions
Jason Kelce lost his Super Bowl ring in a pool of Skyline chili.
Yu Darvish (neck tightness) is on the IL. Same for Garrett Whitlock (oblique).
Robert Stephenson (elbow) is done for the year.
🏀 Jontay Porter receives lifetime ban from NBA for gambling violations
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The NBA banned Raptors forward Jontay Porter for life after he was found to have violated the league’s gambling policies. The investigation is still ongoing, but the league said Porter “violated league rules by disclosing confidential information to sports bettors, limiting his own participation in one or more games for betting purposes, and betting on NBA games.”

This scandal began in late March, after a March 20 game against the Kings. Prior to the game, Porter “disclosed confidential information about his own health status to an individual he knew to be an NBA bettor.” Another bettor then placed an $80,000 parlay bet that would have won $1.1 million if Porter hit the under on his player props. Porter then removed himself from the game after scarcely playing due to illness.
The bet was frozen and not paid out given the unusual activity, and sports betting operators brought it to the league’s attention.
From January to March, when with the Raptors’ G League team, Porter placed at least 13 bets on NBA games using an associate’s account. Damningly, this included a parlay in which Porter bet against the Raptors.
No one affiliated with the NBA can wager on any NBA property, including the WNBA, G League, Basketball Africa League, NBA2K League or Summer League, and last week, commissioner Adam Silver called player gambling the “cardinal sin.”

⚽ Real Madrid, Bayern Munich into UEFA Champions League semifinals
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Somehow, some way, it’s Real Madrid’s day in the UEFA Champions League again, and they got revenge in the process. Los Blancos are into the semifinal for the 12th time in the last 14 seasons after a 4-4 (4-3 in penalties) triumph over Manchester City, which defeated Real Madrid in last year’s semifinal en route to the championship.

Tied 3-3 after the first leg, Rodrygo opened the scoring in the 12th minute, but Kevin de Bruyne equalized for the hosts in the 76th minute. After extra time couldn’t decide things, Manchester City took the early lead in penalty kicks when Ederson stopped Luka Modric in the first round. That was Madrid’s last miss from the spot, though, and Andriy Lunin stopped Bernardo Silva and Mateo Kovacic. Anthony Rudiger scored in the fifth round to seal it.

Outshot 33-8 and out-possessed 67%-33%, Los Blancos found a way. It’s what they do in this tournament, over and over and over, and they’re a clear No. 1 in Chuck Booth’s ranking of the remaining teams.

Booth: “Madrid are doing the thing again where they were somehow underdogs, but will become the favorite when facing Bayern Munich in the next round. … As long as Rodrygo, Jude Bellingham and Vinicius Junior are all healthy, Real Madrid are the most dangerous club in the competition.”
City, meanwhile, may need a new look to get back to the top, Jonathan Johnson writes.

In the day’s other match, Bayern Munich beat Arsenal, 1-0 (3-2 aggregate), on Joshua Kimmich’s 63rd-minute header. Seemingly on the brink of complete disaster weeks ago, manager Thomas Tuchel turned things around brilliantly, Chuck says. Arsenal, meanwhile, has grown used to disappointment on the biggest stages, but the Gunners’ progress and hope for the future is clear, James Benge writes.

🏈🎣 NFL stars hit the water for ‘The Catch’ fishing tournament
The crossover event of the spring is here: The Sport Fishing Championship’s “The Catch” presented by Verizon pairs world-class anglers with a bevy of NFL stars. The defending champions, Gerry McGraw and Jordan Sanford, will be joined by a pair of running backs who share a bond beyond their position, Dalvin Cook, one of the champions from last year’s event, and his younger brother James Cook.

Also competing this year are Alvin Kamara, Raheem Mostert, James Bradberry, Jalen Carter, Brian Burns, Kayvon Thibodeaux, Jeffery Simmons, Rachaad White, Quinnen Williams, Quincy Williams, David Njoku and Trey Hendrickson.

19 Apr

76ers’ Joel Embiid salvages Play-In stinker with clutch finish, but playoff questions are already starting

If you thought Joel Embiid came into Wednesday’s Play-In game with a built-in excuse for the two months he missed to MCL surgery and rehab, think again. Through most of the first three quarters against the Heat, Embiid and the 76ers were an offensive disaster, and the Philly fans, as they will, were letting them know it.

You wondered if Tobias Harris was going to need security going home.

It was ugly, man. Ugly.

Give credit to Miami’s trademark zone defense that had the Sixers completely out of sorts, but Embiid, in particular, was pretty exposed for an inability to create any kind of offense, or even clear enough space to receive a pass in the first place, from anywhere off his preferred spots, which the Heat were taking away.

He was tired, clearly. He’d looked pretty damn good since returning from injury, averaging over 30 points in five games, but postseason basketball is a different level of intensity, and postseason basketball against the Miami Heat is its own kind of beast. Embiid’s conditioning, understandably, wasn’t ready for what the Heat were throwing at him.

But that excuse wasn’t going to fly as Embiid faded more and more into the background of increasingly stagnated possessions. His history of playoff shortcomings has created short patience for any more big-stage duds, and he was well on his way to one of his worst yet.

Through three quarters, Embiid had made a grand total of three shots. No high-post orchestration. No face-up jumpers. No two-man actions. No bully post-ups. On the rare occasion that he did have control of the ball, he was indecisive and slow to make any sort of move. It removed all tempo from the Philly half-court offense that Nick Nurse spent all season speeding up.

And then it all flipped.

Starting when Caleb Martin front-rimmed a second free throw, which rewarded the suddenly raucous crowd with free chicken, at the midway point of the third quarter, the Sixers turned into a different team. Nic Batum went nuclear with five of his six 3-pointers in the second half. The half-court assertion and tempo returned.

It all culminated with Embiid, who buried a couple of 3s and scored 11 of his 23 points in the fourth quarter, either scoring or assisting on 10 straight points for the Sixers with under three minutes to play to send them into the playoffs to face the Knicks.

The sequence that won the Sixers the game:

1) Jaquez swipes down on Embiid, gives the Sixers free throws
2) Lowry poke-around steal, Batum saves the ball, Embiid 3 in transition
3) Embiid circus shot and-one off the O board
4) Embiid doubled, finds Oubre for another and-one pic.twitter.com/uk8o2d4INT

— Daniel Olinger (@dan_olinger) April 18, 2024
And just like that, Embiid was a hero again. And believe me, it was not headed that way. Again, given the fact that Embiid’s production has declined precipitously in the playoffs (let’s be fair, he has never stayed healthy) so far in his career, had that game had kept going the way it was, the big man was not going to wake up to much sports-talk sympathy in the morning. Not in Philadelphia.

But he bailed himself and the Sixers out and now he gets a fresh run at a new playoff chapter in what will surely be a fistfight of a first-round series with the Knicks. The good news for Embiid is he has a few days for recovery, and with this first postseason game in the can, hopefully his conditioning will be better come Game 1 on Saturday.

Also, the Knicks aren’t going to pose the same problems that Miami did for Embiid. The Knicks are a tough defensive team that plays hard, don’t get me wrong, but they are not a zone team and Embiid should have more opportunities to operate from his preferred spots as Philly hopefully rediscovers some offensive flow.

For Embiid’s sake, let’s at least hope that’s the case. Because even though the Sixers pulled this one out on Wednesday, his performance, or lack thereof, through three quarters laid some pretty skeptical seeds. The benefit of the doubt is not something Embiid is going to enjoy considering how dominant of a regular-season player he’s been. It’s time for that domination to translate to the playoffs. He bailed himself out of trouble at the last minute against Miami, but an even hotter brand of heat will be on him starting Saturday.

19 Apr

Coby White’s 42-point performance in Play-In Tournament showed why he should win Most Improved Player

CHICAGO — Coby White drained a 31-foot 3-pointer with just under seven minutes left in the game to put the Chicago Bulls up by 21 points against the Atlanta Hawks Wednesday night. It gave him 37 points, tying his career high, and forced Hawks coach Quin Snyder to call a timeout. White’s 3-pointer sent the fans inside the United Center into a frenzy, and booming “Coby White” chants filled the 23,500-capacity arena as he put the finishing touches on the best performance of his professional career.

The seventh overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft ended the game with 42 points, and while it won’t count in the official record books as no statistics from play-in games do, it will serve as the pinnacle of what’s been a standout fifth season for the 23-year-old guard. Coming into the season, White was in a battle with Ayo Dosunmu and Jevon Carter for who would be the Bulls starting point guard as Chicago would endure another season without Lonzo Ball running the show. Coming out of training camp and preseason, White won the job, but it wasn’t until December that the trajectory of his season started to skyrocket.

But that ascension was no accident. In fact, it was the direct result of Bulls’ All-Star guard Zach LaVine going down with a foot injury in late November. LaVine tried to return in January but was ultimately ruled out for the rest of the season after undergoing foot surgery, and his absence meant someone needed to step up for the Bulls to aid DeMar DeRozan on offense.

Not only did White step into that role, he proceeded to turn in supremely efficient performances on a nightly basis. Over the course of the season, he’s averaging career highs across the board, none more impressive than his shooting efficiency, where he’s shooting 44.7% from the field and 37.6% from deep. His 19.1 points, 5.1 assists and 4.5 rebounds are all career highs, and when he’s on the floor, the Bulls score 5.6 more points per 100 possessions, which ranks in the 89th percentile in the league. White’s shotmaking, passing, decision making and defense have all seen major improvements. And if the regular season served as the groundwork for his Most Improved Player candidacy, then Wednesday night’s play-in game against the Hawks should serve as the stamp of approval to etch his name on the trophy.

“I thought he played a really complete game, I know the number, 42 [points] is a huge number, and it’s phenomenal, but I thought he played a really complete game,” Bulls coach Billy Donovan said. “I thought he defended, I thought he assisted, I thought he got downhill, made the game easy for the guys, I thought it was a great performance by him.”

The game just looked incredibly easy for White against the Hawks. He took complete advantage of Atlanta’s porous interior defense, which allows the sixth-most points in the paint (53.7 points per game). He got to the rim at will, and even when he was met with resistance, he had no problem adjusting. There was a string of possessions at the end of the third quarter where he made Atlanta look particularly foolish.

The first came in transition off a missed Hawks jumper. White pushed the tempo and recognized he had two weak defenders, in Trae Young and Bogdan Bogdanovic, in front of him. He just so effortlessly shirked off Young, used his momentum to spin off Bogdanovic and finished easily at the rim.

On the next Bulls possession, off a missed 3-pointer from Jevonte Green, White corralled the offensive board, and as Donovan said, he made the game easy for his teammates by feeding a cutting Green for this thunderous dunk:

Right after that, White was right back at it pushing the pace in transition, and once again made quick work of Young and Bogdanovic trying to challenge him.

The Bulls could honestly use this game against the Hawks as the tape to prove why White should win Most Improved Player. He did a little bit of everything to show not only that he is capable of stepping up in big moments but also that he has grown in several areas of his game.

“I’m just grateful to be where I’m at, that first playoff series I ever had in my career didn’t go how I wanted it to go, and then last year I played better in the play-in, and then this year — I just wanted to be aggressive and take what the defense gave me, and just try to lead. Coming into the game, I want to impact winning on both ends of the ball, and that’s what I focus on. And tonight, I was just aggressive and things were going my way.”

Sure, White is getting far more opportunity this season due to the injuries to the Bulls roster, so naturally, his stats would go up, but no one could’ve predicted that White would be such an efficient scorer, as he was a career 41.9% shooter from the floor going into this season. He’s upped his production while also improving his efficiency, a difficult task for young players to do, and his decision making as a facilitator has him just a hair behind DeRozan for leading the team in assists. His commitment and willingness to defend has also helped him improve on that end of the floor, and while he’s not exactly locking anyone up, he’s active just enough to cause problems for the opposing team.

White’s been having an unbelievable season, and while Wednesday night’s performance felt like a peak moment in his breakout year, the Bulls will need him to build upon that for their next game against the Miami Heat. It will be another win-or-go-home situation for Chicago, and unlike the Hawks, the Heat will put up a far better fight defensively. There’s a chance Jimmy Butler may not be healthy for that game, but either way, the Bulls will need White to deliver once again if they want to grab the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. And if Wednesday night was any indication, White is not afraid of a high-pressure moment.

19 Apr

Top championship predictions, series picks, best bets by proven basketball expert

The 2024 NBA playoffs don’t technically begin until Saturday but several teams will still be fighting to get into the postseason when the NBA play-in tournament concludes on Friday. The Boston Celtics finished with the best record in basketball at 64-18 and now they’re just waiting to see who their first-round matchup will be. It’s been an unbelievable season for the Celtics, but can you trust a team that hasn’t won a title since 2008 as +175 favorites to win the NBA championship and -200 favorites to win the East?

Elsewhere in the 2024 NBA futures, the Denver Nuggets are +125 favorites to win the West and go back to the NBA Finals. They’re followed by the Clippers (+600), Thunder (+625) and Mavericks (+700) in the Western Conference championship odds. So who wins each conference, and how can you find value throughout the 2024 NBA playoffs? Before making any basketball picks or 2024 NBA futures bets, be sure to see the latest NBA predictions from SportsLine basketball expert Bruce Marshall.

An in-demand guest on numerous sports talk radio and TV shows across the country, Marshall’s vast array of editorial work has been featured in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, the New York Post and many other outlets. He has won various handicapping titles and also is working on several book projects. Marshall has crushed his NBA picks this season for SportsLine members, entering the postseason on a 153-117 run that has returned nearly $2,500 for $100 players. Anybody following is way up.

Now, he has revealed his top 2024 NBA futures bets. You can head to SportsLine to see them.

Top 2024 NBA futures bets
One of Marshall’s top 2024 NBA futures picks: He’s backing the Knicks (+1400) to win the Eastern Conference. After a come-from-behind win in the fourth quarter against the Bulls on the final day of the regular season, the Knicks edged out the Bucks for the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference. New York enters the 2024 NBA playoffs as one of the hottest teams in basketball.

New York has won its last five games despite receiving news last week that all-star forward Julius Randle required season-ending shoulder surgery. However, Jalen Brunson has kicked it into high gear since the realization that Randle’s season was done, averaging 39.4 points and 7.6 assists during the Knicks’ current winning streak.

Brunson finished the season averaging 28.7 points and 6.7 assists (both career-highs) and has established himself as one of the NBA’s best point guards. OG Anunoby also gives Tom Thibodeau the defensive stopper that his schemes desperately require, and those are both big reasons why Marshall sees value in the Knicks even without Randle on the court. See the rest of Marshall’s NBA futures bets at SportsLine.

How to place 2024 NBA futures bets
Marshall has revealed five other NBA futures picks. They include multiple series upset picks and two other futures that return 40-1 or higher. You can see all of Marshall’s top 2024 NBA futures picks here.

19 Apr

Heat star out for Play-In game vs. Bulls on Friday with knee injury

Miami Heat forward Jimmy Butler has been ruled out of the team’s Play-In Tournament game against the Chicago Bulls on Friday night due to MCL sprain in his right knee, the team announced. The injury took place during the first quarter of Wednesday’s 105-104 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers in the No. 7 vs. No. 8 Eastern Conference Play-In matchup.

Butler remained in the game after the injury, finishing with 19 points, five assists and five steals on 5-for-18 shooting. There’s added importance on Butler’s health because the Heat will face the Chicago Bulls on Friday for the No. 8 seed, with the loser being eliminated from the postseason.

The Miami star is expected to miss multiple weeks, according to a report from Shams Charania.

Butler suffered the injury with seconds remaining in the first quarter when Kelly Oubre Jr. landed on him following a pump fake near the basket. The concern was immediate from the Heat players and coaches.

Jimmy Butler goes down, grabs at his right leg and screams.

Erik Spoelstra: “What the f*ck was that?”

Alonzo Mourning: “Oh boy.”

Pat Riley looks on in concern. pic.twitter.com/GwcY9ynJd3

— Wes Goldberg (@wcgoldberg) April 17, 2024
Butler limped to the locker room after the quarter ended, but later returned. In the final three quarters, he scored 12 points on 3-for-14 shooting and took just two shots in the last nine minutes of the game.

“It had me feeling that I couldn’t do too much,” said Butler, who was clearly limping on his way out of the Wells Fargo Center.

Jimmy Butler limped out of Wells Fargo Center after the Heat’s play-in loss.

(via @JakeLFischer) pic.twitter.com/xrb78IHM4d

— Ball Don’t Lie (@Balldontlie) April 18, 2024
What Butler brings on both ends of the court — not to mention his leadership — simply cannot be replaced by anyone on the Heat roster. Miami’s offense landed in the bottom-10 during the regular season and dropped significantly with Butler off the floor. In his minutes, the Heat averaged 116 points per 100 possessions, compared to 109 when he was on the bench.

Butler has a history of grinding through injuries during the postseason while racking up gargantuan minute totals, but he was clearly hindered during Wednesday’s game and the reports are ominous. The Heat could still beat the Bulls in a one-game scenario, especially at home, but their chances of challenging the Boston Celtics in the first round without Butler would be very slim.

19 Apr

Prediction, TV channel, live stream, how to watch NBA Play-In Tournament online, odds

The final Western Conference Play-In Tournament game is set, as the New Orleans Pelicans will host the Sacramento Kings on Friday night. The winner will secure the No. 8 seed and advance to face the Oklahoma City Thunder in the first round of the playoffs, while the loser will head to the lottery.

The Pelicans are in this spot after losing to the Los Angeles Lakers in the first round of the Play-In Tournament, and will be without star forward Zion Williamson, who suffered a hamstring strain in that game. As for the Kings, they crushed the Golden State Warriors in their first Play-In game, but will also be shorthanded on Friday due to long-term absences for Malik Monk and Kevin Huerter.

Ahead of Friday’s win-or-go-home game, here’s everything you need to know:

Pelicans vs. Kings
Date: Friday, April 19 | Time: 9:30 p.m. ET
Location: Smoothie King Center — New Orleans, Louisiana
TV channel: TNT | Live stream: fubo (try for free)
Odds: Kings -1.5 | O/U 210.5
Pelicans: A once-promising season for the Pelicans has quickly fallen apart. They lost to the Lakers on the final day of the regular season to miss out on the final guaranteed playoff spot in the West, then lost to the Lakers again in the 7 vs. 8 game a few days later, and lost Zion Williamson to a hamstring strain in the process. He is due to be re-evaluated in two weeks, and even if they’re able to beat the Kings on Friday, it seems unlikely that he’d participate in the first round of the playoffs. And without him, they have no chance versus the Thunder.

Kings: The Kings went 4-7 down the stretch in the regular season to fall to ninth, but are one win away from escaping the Play-In Tournament and clinching back-to-back playoff berths for the first time since 2005-06. To do so, they’ll have to get past a Pelicans team that has had their number all season. The Kings are 0-5 against the Pels this season, with four of those losses by double digits. Even with Williamson sidelined, they will not have an easy time on the road.

The Pelicans’ long-term hopes are shot without Williamson, but they can win one game at home. Their perimeter defenders make this a bad matchup for the Kings, especially with Monk and Huerter sidelined. I’ll take the Pels in a close one. Pick: Pelicans +1.5