Juniors Joel Berry and Justin Jackson are surely smarting from 2016’s championship game

UCLA ended the season as the AP’s No. 3 team, and they’ve been led to this point by star freshman Lonzo Ball. The probable one-and-done is contributing 14.9 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 7.8 assists per game, a testament to how versatile his game already is. Fellow freshman T.J. Leaf is adding 16.3 points and 8.2 rebounds per contest. Steve Alford’s team boasts non-conference wins over Kentucky, Long Beach State, and Ohio State, and they finished out the regular season on a nine-game winning streak.

Back on the East Coast, AP No. 2 team Villanova looks strong again, and the Wildcats of Philadelphia have every reason to expect a No. 1 seed this year. They fought from a No. 2 line in last year’s tournament to win the title on a dramatic buzzer-beater three, and despite being forced to play more small-ball lineups, Jay Wright led his club to a 28-3 overall regular season record. The return of Josh Hart for his senior year has seen the burly guard average 18.7 points and 6.5 rebounds per game this season, and he leads the Wildcats into their campaign to repeat as national champions.

Kentucky is again stacked with blue chip talent, and it’s a pair of freshman guards, De’Aaron Fox and Malik Monk, who’ve stepped up to lead the way for John Calipari. Roy Williams’ Tar Heels are also riddled with talent up and down the roster, and his team carries the further memory of losing in such crushing fashion in last year’s tournament final. Juniors Joel Berry and Justin Jackson are surely smarting from 2016’s championship game, a strong motivating factor as they enter the tournament.

After scrubbing the field again, I made a few changes, usually of a seed line or so. I attempted to try to be as consistent with my reasoning for placing teams as possible, and hopefully the Selection Committee did the same. We will know soon enough and I’ll be back later Sunday with a review of my performance and the real bracket.

And while it’s true Duke finished three games behind UNC in the regular season, the Blue Devils’ league slate was a bit tougher — they played 13 games against league opponents in this projection, while Carolina played just 11. 12

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CJ McCollum scored 31 points to lead the Portland Trail Blazers past the Brooklyn Nets.

Kawhi Leonard had 34 points and 10 rebounds and San Antonio overcame a listless start to beat Minnesota and wrap up its 20th straight playoff spot.

The Spurs won in overtime for the second straight night to extend their winning streak to seven.

LaMarcus Aldridge added 18 points and 10 rebounds for the Spurs, and Pau Gasol had 17 points and eight rebounds in his fifth straight game as a reserve. The Spurs outscored the Timberwolves 35-20 in the final quarter and overtime.

Karl-Anthony Towns had 24 points and 14 rebounds for Minnesota. The Timberwolves had not played since Wednesday night in Utah and had won four of five.

BROOKLYN NETS 116 — PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS 130

CJ McCollum scored 31 points to lead the Portland Trail Blazers past the Brooklyn Nets.

Al-Farouq Aminu made five 3-pointers and finished with 23 points off the bench as well as a team-high six rebounds for Portland, which won consecutive games for the first time since a three-game win streak from Jan. 21-27.

The Blazers went 16 of 25 (64 percent) on 3-pointers and shot 57 percent from the field overall. With its win and Denver’s loss to Charlotte on Saturday night, Portland moved within 1 1/2 games of the Nuggets for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

Brook Lopez led the Nets with 26 points.

I think that’s really important and I think that’s where Sashi is coming from. It could happen that way — not that we want it to be that way, but at the same time, that’s a reality, too. But we’re going to do everything we can to go find a quarterback for the Cleveland Browns.”

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he has earned the hefty contract he¡¯ll be paid, whether in Cincinnati or elsewhere

Kirkpatrick is one of two Bengals in this category. With concerns surrounding fellow corner Adam Jones¡¯ future with the Bengals, Kirkpatrick, becomes a priority this offseason. Coming off the best year in his career, he has earned the hefty contract he¡¯ll be paid, whether in Cincinnati or elsewhere.

Limited Youth Paul Posluszny Jersey But the Bengals, despite appearing deep at the position on paper, don¡¯t have much experience behind the two starters ¡ª something they value much more than most other teams in the league. Franchising Kirkpatrick could be a last-resort move the Bengals make to ensure their talented press corner remains a fixture in the team¡¯s ascending secondary.

Kevin Zeitler, Cincinnati Bengals offensive guard

To my knowledge, the only direct response we’ve received was from the NFL’s tax attorney, Jeremy Spector, through a writer who contacted them about the petition. The NFL’s justification was that it was only the league office that is tax-exempt, not the teams themselves; that they deserve that status as a trade organization promoting an industry; and that they wouldn’t really pay that much money in taxes anyway after all the accounting was done.

Adrian Amos Jersey Besides the fact that this multi-billion dollar industry being governed by a non-profit seems, on the face of it, unfair to everyone else who works hard and pays taxes, I really started the petition as a tool to gain some financial leverage over the NFL, and as a mechanism to call in the only body who seemed to have any authority over them: Congress.

I felt like every season started with some issue that fans felt uncomfortable with, but that we had no power to do anything about, whether it be the player lockout, the replacement refs, the growing body of evidence that the NFL hid reports linking concussions to later life disabilities, and so on. We just see that list of concerns getting longer today.

NFL standings and playoff picture 2014: Packers maintain narrow NFC North lead

The NFC North has been a two-team race for much of the season, and like much of the season, the Green Bay Packers held on to their narrow lead. Aaron Rodgers led the Packers to a solid victory over the Atlanta Falcons on Monday Night Football, lifting Green Bay to its 10th win of the season and tying them with a few other elite teams for the best record in the NFL.

They’re maintaining a narrow one-game lead over the Detroit Lions in the NFC North. Detroit is 9-4 after a dominant win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Sunday. They’ve got games against the Minnesota Vikings and Chicago Bears up next, and then a rematch with the Packers in Week 17, so the NFC North isn’t quite locked up just yet.

Both the Vikings and Bears are struggling this season. The Vikings are still trying to find a solution in the running game after the loss of Adrian Peterson for the season, and rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater has a long way to go. Jay Cutler doesn’t look like his old self for the Bears, and there’s talk of Marc Trestman’s job being in danger.

Whatever the case, it’s still a two-team race, though the Packers have the edge. Let’s take a look at the rest of the divisions and where they stand after Week 14:

Whether Peterson will win his appeal could hinge on how Henderson interprets Peterson’s decision to skip a disciplinary meeting. Though Vincent admits he told Peterson he would not be subject to the new personal conduct policy, a report by USA Today suggested that Vincent’s assurances depended on Peterson’s attendance at the meeting, which Peterson protested.

Henderson could also determine that Vincent didn’t have the authority to interpret Peterson’s potential discipline based on Vincent’s testimony.

An attorney for the NFL, Daniel Nash, during the arbitration hearing asked Vincent if in his position he’s responsible for interpreting the Personal Conduct Policy for the league.

“No, sir,” Vincent said.2

Compensatory picks are a reward for smart teams

When the NFL implemented compensatory draft picks in 1994, the idea was that the extra picks would lend a hand to the teams that got out-spent in free agency, which was then new in the league: Compensatory picks go to teams that lose more in free agency than they gain, and so the picks were envisioned as a safeguard against the rich raiding the rosters of the poor.

It hasn¡¯t worked out that way, however. In a league with revenue sharing and a salary cap, there¡¯s not much of a distinction between the rich and the poor.

Instead, compensatory picks have turned out to reward smart teams. The teams that have been wise about not over-spending in free agency and keeping themselves in good salary cap shape are the ones that keep getting lots of compensatory picks, while the teams that overspend in free agency are the ones that don¡¯t receive compensatory picks.
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Although Sanu didn¡¯t second-guess the pass-heavy strategy of offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, he did seem to imply that maybe Shanahan got a little too crazy with the passing game when the Falcons were leading 28-3.
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¡°I mean, the thought crosses your mind,¡± Sanu said when asked if Atlanta should¡¯ve run the ball more in the second half. ¡°But as a player you¡¯re going to do what the coach wants you to do. He¡¯s called plays like that throughout the season all the time. He¡¯s been aggressive, we¡¯re an aggressive offense, so we go out there and we do what we do.¡±

If you missed Gaga¡¯s halftime show, you can see the entire thing below. Just make sure you¡¯re not in the middle of a workout or anything important.