THE INJURY HEARD AROUND THE WORLD OR AT LEAST IN NORTH CAROLINA

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Duke freshman sensation Zion Williamson was forced out of Wednesday night’s game against rival North Carolina after just 36 seconds with what Blue Devils coach Mike Kzryzewski called a “mild knee sprain.” Continue Reading By Ryan McGee

Many talented Duke basketball players have taken the Cameron Indoor floor to face North Carolina over the years, from Shane Battier to J.J. Redick to Jayson Tatum.

Few had the hype freshman sensation Zion Williamson brought to the storied rivalry Wednesday night. But in the first minute against the Tar Heels, Williamson suffered a knee injury and was ruled out for the remainder of the contest. That setback seemed to stun Duke, and North Carolina rolled to an 88-72 victory. Continue Reading By Dan Bernstein

Zion Williamson Sneaker Blowout Floor

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Tonight, all eyes were on Cameron Indoor Stadium, the stage for the latest chapter of the storied rivalry between North Carolina and Duke Basketball. This matchup in particular was intriguing due to it being the rivalry debut of high touted freshman standout Zion Williamson, the overwhelming favorite to be selected with the top pick in this year’s NBA Draft. Prior to tip-off, tickets for the game were reportedly selling for an average of more the $3,000 and among the notable names in the crowd was none other than former President Barack Obama. All the ingredients were in place for one of the year’s most exciting nights of basketball. Then, the Sneaker Blowout Heard ‘Round the World took place. Continue Reading By 

Nike has been outfitting Duke’s basketball team since 1993, but it’s possible that the sports-apparel giant was never so happy with the arrangement as this year, given that among the current group of Blue Devils is one Zion Williamson. For his part, Williamson was never under more of a spotlight than Wednesday night, when the front-runner to be taken No. 1 overall in June’s NBA draft squared off for the first time this season with Duke’s arch-nemesis, North Carolina.

Unfortunately for Williamson and college basketball fans everywhere — and very unfortunately for Nike — Williamson didn’t last long against the Tar Heels, because he was forced from the game in the first minute with a knee injury. The mishap occurred as the 285-pound forward was planting his left foot to pivot — and his shoe exploded. Continue Reading By Des Bieler

The entire NBA world will have an eye on Duke-North Carolina on Wednesday night, tuning in more for Zion Williamson than the pageantry of the historic rivalry. It’s fitting for the audience to match the atmosphere, as this game has collected the buzz of an enormous NBA clash, with tickets hitting Super Bowl prices and preview commercials running every hour on the hour.

Of course, with the game being framed this way, Sports Illustrated‘s NBA staff had to weigh in. In advance of the game, we asked our staff what team they would most like to see land Zion Williamson. Continue Reading By  THE CROSSOVER STAFF

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Former President Barack Obama was in attendance for Wednesday night’s upset by the No. 9 North Carolina Tar Heels of the No. 1 Duke Blue Devils at Cameron Indoor Stadium.

Duke University officials had increased security with the likelihood that Obama would be in attendance, a person with knowledge of the situation told USA TODAY Sports earlier Wednesday.

The person requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak on the matter.

Obama was video-taped pregame by ABC11’s Mark Armstrong high-fiving fans and later was captured by ESPN cameras. Continue Reading By 

Former President Barack Obama looks on during the first half between the Duke Blue Devils and North Carolina Tar Heels.

Former President Barack Obama looks on during the first half between the Duke Blue Devils and North Carolina Tar Heels. (Rob Kinnan, USA TODAY Sports)

The 44th president of the United States is taking in one of the biggest college basketball games of the year.

Former President Barack Obama was spotted at Cameron Indoor Stadium on Wednesday before No. 1 Duke takes on No. 8 North Carolina in one of the best rivalries in all of sports.

Obama is a known basketball fan as he was famous for walking ESPN through his March Madness bracket during his two terms as the Commander-in-Chief.

The Duke-North Carolina game is one of the toughest and most expensive tickets to grab this season. One fan bought four tickets for $9,080.25 each, according to the Action Network. From Thomas Lott

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Photo: Sporting News

The Duke Blue Devils had just won a basketball game by 21 points that was played against an opponent with five NCAA championships in its past. This may seem routine by now, given that it was contested at Cameron Indoor Stadium, but even at that it was rather jarring to hear Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski using the occasion to address circumstances from a game the team played last week. This would be the antithesis of “taking it one game at a time.” Continue Reading By Mike DeCourcy

It took less than a minute for Wednesday night’s matchup between No. 1 Duke and No. 8 North Carolina to turn on its heels — literally.

Only 34 seconds in, Blue Devils star Zion Williamson blew out his shoe after an attempted about-face driving the lane, and with it went Williamson’s night — he did not return and instead watched the game from the training room — and Duke’s chances to win. North Carolina would score first on the ensuing possession, and with the air sucked out of Cameron Indoor Stadium, it never trailed in a dominant 88-72 win.

Williamson’s injury took the life out of Duke, which looked listless throughout. The Blue Devils had a chance to cut the lead to a single possession just before half, getting to within five, but UNC went on a surge to extend its lead to 10 and it never got closer.

Luke Maye led UNC with one of his strongest showings of the season, scoring 30 points and grabbing 15 rebounds. Senior Cam Johnson added 26 points, while touted freshmen Coby White and Nassir Little combined for 11 points.

For Duke, RJ Barrett tied his career-high with 33 points, and Cameron Reddish added 27. But no other Blue Devils player added more than six points on the evening, and it was clear Williamson’s absence — both physically and statistically, where he’s averaging 22.4 points and 9.2 rebounds this season — was sorely miss

Even with the loss Duke will remain a No. 1 seed, according to CBS Sports Bracketology Expert Jerry Palm. From 

COLLEGE BASKETBALL HEATING UP TOWARD CONFERENCE TOURNAMENT TIME

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The most amazing thing about Tuesday night’s college basketball action, even more incredible than Duke’s comeback from a 23-point deficit, was that everyone watching on television got the identical picture of doom for “the Commonwealth’s” two top-25 teams.

A television camera affixed to the top of the goal at Kentucky’s Rupp Arena showed everyone how LSU center Kavell Bigby-Williams scored the game-winning tip-in to beat the No. 5 Wildcats by knocking the ball into the goal as it rested on the rim from teammate Skylar Mays’ original attempt at the decisive basket. Bigby-Williams’ goal was not a legal play, but neither was it reviewable under NCAA basketball’s instant-replay rules. Continue Reading By Mike DeCourcy

Welcome to Volume II of The Bilas Index, the most dependable and trusted metric of hoop quality and capability in the known universe. Every conceivable bit of basketball information has been input into the gray matter inside The Bilastrator’s skull, and the output is simply magnificent and not subject to question or reasonable debate. The Bilas Index is the final word on all things basketball, and anyone with a functioning brain knows it. To be clear, The Bilas Index is not some weekly poll voted on by media, coaches or fans. It is not subject to current whim or which way the wind might be blowing. It is a clear-eyed evaluation of the 68 best teams in the country, irrespective of home wins, road wins, quads, calves or pecs. This gift from on high is not parsed by a group of well-fed and well-compensated college administrators pretending to be basketball-literate. It is culled from the most savvy and informed mind the game has ever known, and therefore, it is the most powerful basketball evaluation tool ever invented. Continue Reading By Jay Bilas

It’s easy to labor in obscurity in Buies Creek, North Carolina — until your game starts being connected to college hoops icons. Folks, meet Chris Clemons.

Campbell’s star scorer, the 5-9 guard from Raleigh had a season-high 48 points Wednesday to give him 2,978 for his career, moving him past Kansas star Danny Manning (2,951) and Cincinnati Hall of Famer Oscar Robertson (2,973) into ninth place in men’s Division I career scoring. The Camels defeated visiting Hampton, 87-84, in Buies Creek.
Rick Barnes will take you to his favorite lunch spot, but not until this tour ends. Continue Reading By Bob Hille

He’s the head coach of the No. 1-ranked Tennessee Volunteers, but he also might as well be a Knoxville Chamber of Commerce rep as he weaves past a statue of Pat Summitt, steers down Phillip Fulmer Way and rolls toward Tee Martin Drive in a super-sized SUV that hogs the streets of Tennessee’s campus during the school’s winter break.

“You gotta see this,” he says as he ignores the GPS directions to the restaurant, and charts his own course.

Barnes speaks of Knoxville as if he’s a proud, longtime resident of this growing city. Continue Reading By Myron Medcalf

Wednesday was not a great night for many bubble teams, although NC State picked up a decent win.

Auburn and Lipscomb are among a handful of bubble teams that lost a chance to help themselves.

Seton Hall defeated Georgetown 90-75 in a game featuring two teams on the bubble and has done a better job of defending its home floor lately. This is the third straight win at home for the Pirates. Things are about to get tougher because three of their next four are on the road. Georgetown’s slim chances just got a lot slimmer. Here’s how the rest of bubble teams in action Wednesday fared:Continue Reading By 

Photo: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

The Cal basketball team may have blown its best opportunity to produce a conference win in 2018-19 with a 75-67 overtime loss to UCLA Wednesday night. The defeat was the 13th straight for the Golden Bears, one which dropped them to 5-19 on the season and 0-12 in the much-maligned Pac-12.

It’s also a defeat which allows us to ask the question: Is Cal the worst power conference team in the history of college basketball?

On the surface this seems like a hyperbolic overreaction to something happening in the present. Do a little digging, however, and Wyking Jones’ team is putting together a pretty compelling case. Continue Reading By Mike Rutherford

By the end of this week, there will be just one month until Selection Sunday—the day that will determine the postseason fate for so many March hopefuls. With three-quarters of the regular season already in the books, we have a good idea of who this year’s top contenders are and who the favorites are in each conference race and tournament. But even if we think we know how things will play out in this final month, there’s bound to be at least one or two major surprises in store. Between now and March 17, will happen that few will see coming? We asked our staff to each make one bold prediction for the days leading up to (and including) Selection Sunday. Continue Reading By THE SI STAFF

Duke forward Zion Williamson dunks in a game against St. John's.

Duke forward Zion Williamson dunks in a game against St. John’s. PHOTO: ROB KINNAN/REUTERS

If you follow college basketball only casually until the NCAA tournament begins, there’s a good chance that the only thing you know about the 2018-19 season is the existence of a very large Duke freshman named Zion. But with the regular season winding down, fans are starting to wonder whether their teams will attract an invitation to March Madness.

Figuring out how your team rates will be different this year. RPI, the metric the NCAA has used since 1981 to gauge the strength of teams, has been replaced by a new, more sophisticated measure called NET. Continue Reading By Laine Higgins

 

 

AROUND THE NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE

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The Cleveland Browns announced that they signed Hunt to a one-year deal on Monday, worth just a bit more than the league minimum, with some incentives sprinkled in. This move reunited Hunt with John Dorsey — the general manager that initially drafted him. Continue Ready By 

Where the addition could alter roles is in the passing game, with Hunt potentially supplanting pass-catching back Duke Johnson. At this point, Browns general manager John Dorsey isn’t indicating he’s moving on from the chess-piece running back he gave a new three-year contract extension to last offseason. From Kevin Patra

Antonio Brown has officially requested a trade from the Pittsburgh Steelers, a source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter on Tuesday. The news of Brown’s trade request comes right after the Pro Bowl wide receiver tweeted a farewell to the Steelers and their fans, saying it is “time to move on and forward.” Continue Reading By ESPN

The NFL combine will be televised on broadcast TV for the first time. ABC will present a two-hour special on March 2 from Indianapolis that will feature drills by quarterbacks and wide receivers.

The combine workouts run from March 1-4 and also will be televised by NFL Network. ABC will team with ESPN to televise all three days of the draft, April 25-27 from Nashville, Tennessee. AP

Kyler Murray announced Monday he’s committed to becoming an NFL quarterback, but the A’s aren’t ready to give up their pursuit of the star, reports The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal.

According to Rosenthal, the team still wants to offer Murray a contract above his now-forfeited $4.66 million signing bonus. The contract wouldn’t be limited like the NFL’s rookie wage scale. Continue Reading By CHARLOTTE CARROLL

Former Mississippi State defensive lineman Jeffery Simmons, a projected first-round pick in the NFL draft, suffered a torn ACL in his left knee during training.

The Buccaneers have released defensive end Vinny Curry, the first major roster cut under new head coach Bruce Arians.

Redskins brass has played coy with the status of Alex Smith next season, but one Washington player expects the starting quarterback to sit out the 2019 campaign and perhaps even longer.

Eric Reid is staying in Carolina. The Panthers on Monday announced that they have signed the veteran safety to a three-year contract extension that will keep him with the team through the 2021 season.

The Buffalo Bills on Tuesday signed free-agent offensive lineman Spencer Long to a three-year contract, the team announced.

A football legend is calling it quits after 51 years in and around the National Football League. Pro Football Hall of Famer Emmitt Thomas informed the Chiefs on Tuesday that he is retiring from coaching.

NFL executive vice president of football operations Troy Vincent tweeted on Tuesday that the meeting will “set the stage” for the rest of the offseason by reviewing “player health and safety, pace of play, rules, technology and more.”

A year ago at this time, NFL general managers and coaches were preparing for what we all knew would be an unprecedented offseason of quarterback movement. It was going to be wild and wacky, and, if you recall, Washington and Kansas City had already agreed to a trade involving a playoff quarterback before the Super Bowl was even played. Continue Reading By 

The start of the 2018 season for Julian Edelman was a career low, but it ended on a huge high. The Patriots receiver missed the first four weeks of the season after he was suspended for using performance-enhancing drugs. Five months later, he was named Super Bowl MVP after the Patriots defeated the Rams in Super Bowl 53. Continue Reading By Gabrielle McMillen

Matthew Stafford was not particularly good in 2018, as he threw for fewer than 4,000 yards for the first time since an injury-shortened 2010 campaign, and he tossed just 21 TDs against 11 interceptions. His pedestrian numbers, when coupled with the Lions’ disappointing 2018 season, have led to plenty of speculation that Detroit could be looking for a new QB sooner rather than later. From Rory Parks

Matt Bryant is interested in returning to the Buccaneers, and the 17-year veteran’s former team is “definitely” interested in bringing Bryant back From Vaughn McClure.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has answered Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards’ letter that was sent after the Saints’ NFC championship loss to the Rams.

The letter penned to Goodell expressed disappointment with the outcome of the game, including the no-call that could have resulted in the Saints winning the game. Continue Reading By ALEXIS MANSANAREZ

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Adam Schefter of ESPN reported the two sides agreed to a four-year, $30.25 million fully-guaranteed contract with a $20 million signing bonus. Sam Darnold was the No. 3 overall pick of the 2018 NFL draft, which was considered a steal by some. Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller listed the USC product as the No. 1 quarterback in the class, well ahead … Read moreNATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE NEWS DARNOLD, PATRIOTS, RAVENS LAMAR JACKSON, PETER KING

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COLLEGE FOOTBALL NEWS & NOTES

Twitter is a unique beast, with college football Twitter its own monster and the Notre Dame subsection a terror all its own. The overreactions, hot takes and incessant hand-wringing create an ecosystem unlike any other throughout fall’s Saturdays. The gifs, memes and intentional misspellings of “FIGTHING IRISH” develop a language at best English-adjacent. The on-field … Read moreCOLLEGE FOOTBALL NEWS & NOTES