Good morning to everyone but especially to…
THE TENNESSEE VOLUNTEERS
On Monday, Alabama ascended to No. 1 the AP Top 25 for the first time in two decades. Just 48 hours later, No. 10 Tennessee ensured the Crimson Tide’s stay atop the rankings would not last long, as it beat Alabama 68-59 in Knoxville.
Tennessee, which leads the nation in defensive efficiency, held the Crimson Tide to their fewest points this season and allowed just 35% shooting. Alabama also turned the ball over 19 times.
- Tennessee’s backcourt duo of Santiago Vescovi and Zakai Zeigler paced the hosts with 15 points apiece, and big man Jonas Aidoo posted 12 points and 11 rebounds, the first double-double of his career.
- Making this win all the more impressive is the fact that it came without key players Josiah Jordan-James and Julian Phillips.
- Tennessee has won each of its last two games against the top-ranked team (also 2018 vs. Gonzaga) and won six straight home games against top-10 teams.
- This is the eighth time this season the No. 1 team has gone down. (Purdue three times, Houston twice, North Carolina twice)
The win couldn’t have come at a better time for Tennessee, which had lost three of four (and two straight on buzzer beaters).
Alabama, meanwhile, suffers its first SEC loss of the year (12-1).
And not such a good morning for…
FRANKIE MONTAS AND THE NEW YORK YANKEES
The start of spring training didn’t exactly bring great news for the Yankees. Starting pitcher Frankie Montas will miss most, if not all of, the 2023 season due to arthroscopic surgery on his right (throwing) shoulder.
- Montas, 29, was traded to the Yankees from the Athletics midway through last season. He struggled in pinstripes, going `1-3 with a 6.35 ERA in eight starts.
- One season earlier, however, Montas went 13-9 with a 3.37 ERA for Oakland and finished sixth in AL Cy Young voting.
- He’s set to be a free agent after this season.
It’s certainly not ideal for the Yankees, and it hinders their pitching depth behind a starting rotation that likely will look like this: Gerrit Cole, Carlos Rodón, Luis Severino, Nestor Cortes and Domingo Germán.
Not so honorable mentions
Predictions for the Genesis Invitational 🏌
There’s a certain buzz around the PGA Tour, and a lot of it revolves around one player: Tiger Woods. He’s back for his first PGA Tour event in over two years, and he’ll tee off at the Genesis Invitational with Rory McIlroy and Justin Thomas at 3:04 p.m.
As noted in Wednesday’s newsletter, expectations for Woods should be in check. While his name will always generate interest, it likely won’t be near the top of the leaderboard — and that’s ok. As for the guys who likely will be contending come Sunday afternoon, our Patrick McDonald has made his predictions.
His winner is no stranger to hardware:
- McDonald: “Winner: Justin Thomas (16-1) — The two-time PGA champion may have found something in the desert. Finishing alone in fourth, Thomas ranked second on the week in strokes gained tee to green behind only Scottie Scheffler thanks to a strong weekend performance. He gained nearly five strokes on approach across his final two rounds and is extremely encouraging considering his recent woes with his scoring clubs. He remains one of the best iron players in the world, is the top player in this field from around the green over the last six months and drove the ball like a stallion at TPC Scottsdale. He should have won here in 2019 when J.B. Holmes slow played him. That is 100% not lost on a competitor like Thomas.”
You can see all of Patrick’s picks and analysis here.
Felony charge against Chris Beard dropped
The Travis County District Attorney’s Office dismissed a third-degree felony assault charge against former Texas head coach Chris Beard on Wednesday.
- The dismissal comes just over two months after Beard was arrested after allegedly strangling his fiancée, Randi Trew
- In a statement, the Travis County District Attorney’s Office said, “the felony offense cannot be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.”
Beard was immediately suspended by Texas following the incident and fired for cause in early January. Trew had publicly recanted some of the allegations detailed in the police report shortly before Beard’s firing, but in a statement, the university maintained Beard had “engaged in unacceptable behavior that makes him unfit to serve as head coach at our university.”
Champions League: Chelsea fall at Dortmund, Benfica beats Brugge ⚽
No matter how much money you spend during the transfer window, you can’t purchase victories — at least not immediately. Just ask Chelsea.
The team’s recent slog continued with a 1-0 loss at Borussia Dortmund. The hosts put just two shots on goal all match but managed to find the net on one of them: Karim Adeyemi‘s outstanding tally off a wonderful solo counterattack. Plain and simple, the spending hasn’t paid off for the Blues, and manager Graham Potter hasn’t impressed, either, writes our Chuck Booth.
- Booth: “He was expected to have growing pains in the role but after being appointed in September, Potter has had time to instill some of his ideas in the squad. … Finding new ways to not put the ball in the back of the net is a common issue for Chelsea and one that is only capitalized by their limited choices in registering their new signings for Champions League play. Only Enzo Fernandez, Joao Felix, and Mykailo Mudryk were registered for the competition when David Dataro Fofana has been their only new signing that is somewhat of a true number nine. Chelsea have scored just five goals in their last nine games, failing to record multiple goals in a game even once in 2023.”
Elsewhere in the Champions League, Benfica beat Club Brugge 2-0.
But perhaps the biggest result of the day came in the Premier League, where Manchester City beat Arsenal, 3-1, to rise to the top of the table. But City needs to shore up left back to stay there, writes our James Benge.
Grading all five NFL head coaching hires 🏈
All five NFL head-coaching openings have been filled. Here’s a quick reminder of who went where:
- Jan. 26: The Panthers hired former Colts coach Frank Reich.
- Jan. 31: The Broncos traded for former Saints coach Sean Payton.
- Jan. 31: The Texans hired 49ers defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans.
- Feb. 14: The Colts hired Eagles offensive coordinator Shane Steichen.
- Feb. 14: The Cardinals hired Eagles defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon.
It’s no surprise that all five of those teams have quarterback issues: it’s unclear who will start in Carolina, Houston and Indianapolis and the starters in Denver (Russell Wilson) and Arizona (Kyler Murray — eventually) are coming off difficult years.
So, how did each franchise do? Our Tyler Sullivan graded all five hires and awarded two “A” grades, including…
- Sullivan: “Broncos — The only reason why this gets an ‘A’ instead of an ‘A+’ is due to the price tag attached to getting Payton as the Broncos needed to send New Orleans their 2023 first-rounder (No. 30 overall) and a 2024 second. Denver also received a 2024 third along with Payton. That said, if Payton can change the culture at Mile High and help Russell Wilson rekindle the elite play we once saw out of him in Seattle, this will be a worthwhile investment by the Broncos.”
I could not agree more. When you have a commitment as big as the Broncos do in Wilson (five years, $245 million), you have to give him a chance to succeed. Yes, you can chalk up that disastrous Year 1 in Denver to Nathaniel Hackett, but then you have to give Wilson someone established. Payton does just that. If he can’t get a bounce-back from Wilson, it’s doubtful if anyone can.
What we’re watching Thursday 📺
🏀 No. 3 Purdue at Maryland, 6:30 p.m. on BTN
🏀 Bucks at Bulls, 7:30 p.m. on TNT
🏀 No. 12 Michigan at No. 2 Indiana, 8:30 p.m. on BTN
🏒 Devils at Blues, 9 p.m. on ESPN
🏀 Clippers at Suns, 10 p.m. on TNT