Archive for March, 2017

Jusuf Nurkic’s injury is a fibular fracture that will sideline him at least two weeks

Posted by    |    March 31st, 2017 at 8:12 pm

Nurkic was injured in the Trail Blazers’ win against the Rockets.

Portland Trail Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic suffered a non-displaced fibular fracture in his right leg in the team’s 117-107 win over the Houston Rockets on Thursday, the team announced. He has been sidelined and will be re-evaluated in two weeks.

Portland acquired Nurkic and the Denver Nuggets’ 2017 first-round pick in exchange for Mason Plumlee at the trade deadline. He averaged 15 points, 10 rebounds, three assists, two blocks and a steal per game before his injury, helping guide the Trail Blazers to the Western Conference’s eighth seed and a 13-7 record since the All-Star break.

More to come on this developing story.

Tuscaloosa bar denies they kicked out Deshaun Watson

Posted by    |    March 31st, 2017 at 6:10 pm

Watson isn’t drinking free in T-town anytime soon.

On Friday evening, this video surfaced of former Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson exiting a bar in Tuscaloosa.

“That’s rude,” a woman says off camera, voicing her displeasure about the situation.

You can hear someone else (presumably in Watson’s party) say, “we’re leaving” and a waitress saying, “y’all have a great day, sorry about that.”

Watson is pretty stoic in demeanor, but he certainly doesn’t look happy as he turns to leave the establishment, called Innisfree — an Irish pub just a few blocks away from Alabama’s Bryant-Denny Stadium.

SB Nation reached out to the Tuscaloosa Innisfree location and a manager told us, “He was not kicked out, but we don’t have any other comment.”

Either way, it doesn’t seem like the atmosphere was particularly cordial.

@paiggggeeeyyyy @DeshaunWatson4 @rollbamaroll @espn @clemsonfball @AlabamaFTBL Everyone in the bar told him he was just unwelcome

— Sierk (@doctor_59) March 31, 2017

The woman’s final remarks shortly before the video cuts off get to the root of the conflict here. “That’s sad, sorry,” she says to Watson, before being rebuked by her daughter and then saying, “no, just because he played for …” and the video cuts.

One can assume she’s saying that Watson played for Clemson, and anyone with a pulse in that bar remembers Watson doing this to the Tide in the national championship game.


Old wounds die hard.

Seattle Sounders vs. Atlanta United 2017 live stream: Start time, TV channel, and how to watch online

Posted by    |    March 31st, 2017 at 4:00 pm

Atlanta brings their electric attack to the Pacific Northwest on Friday night.

Following a slow start to their season, Seattle Sounders won their last game heading into the international break. They’ll expect to put another three points on the board at home on Friday, but their defense will face a tough test in Atlanta United.

Both teams will be hoping that their players are fresh after traveling for international matches. Clint Dempsey and Roman Torres had to play key roles for their national teams, while Miguel Almiron and Kenwyne Jones will spearhead the Atlanta attack after sweating through international games as well.

The Sounders have had some moments of brilliance this season, but have still get to get their attack firing on all cylinders. They’ll be hoping Dempsey and Nicolas Lodeiro work out their chemistry soon. Atlanta, meanwhile, is second in MLS with 11 goals scored.

But the international break was not kind to Atlanta United. Their star forward and the league’s leading scorer — Josef Martinez — is out 4-6 weeks after getting injured while playing for Venezuela. Atlanta is also without defender Zach Loyd. The Seattle Sounders are missing Brad Evans and Aaron Kovar, while it’s not yet known whether Jordan Morris will be fit enough to dress after picking up an ankle injury two weeks ago.

Match info, plus how to watch on TV and stream

TV: Fox Sports 1 (U.S. – English), Fox Deportes (U.S. – Spanish)

Online: Fox Soccer 2 Go, Fox Sports Go

Match date/time: Friday, 10 p.m. ET

Venue: CenturyLink Field, Seattle

Listings via LiveSoccerTV

MLS Week 5 preview and fixtures: How will Atlanta United cope without the league’s top scorer?

Posted by    |    March 31st, 2017 at 2:02 pm

Kenwyne Jones is in for Josef Martinez, and that should make Atlanta quite a bit different. Plus what games to watch, how to watch them, and what you should keep an eye out for.

Most of MLS was off during the international break while big chunks of their squads were off playing for their countries. And during every international date, some teams get extremely unlucky with injuries. This one was no exception.

The most severe injury was one to Galaxy midfielder Sebastian Lletget, who will miss 4-6 months. The one to Atlanta’s Josef Martinez was less severe — he’ll return sometime in May — but is slightly more immediately interesting.

Martinez has arguably been the best player in the league so far. His replacement Kenwyne Jones is certainly good enough to be an MLS starter, but is a completely different type of player. We’ll get to see how Atlanta copes on Friday night, when they play away to Seattle on FS1.

Your national TV games (all times ET)

Toronto FC vs. Sporting Kansas City — Friday, 7:30 p.m., FS1
Seattle Sounders vs. Atlanta United — Friday, 10 p.m., FS1
Columbus Crew SC vs. Orlando City — Saturday, 4 p.m., UniMas
Portland Timbers vs. New England Revolution — Sunday, 9 p.m., ESPN2

The must-watch game is the one that’ll be most inconvenient for most viewers, unfortunately — that late Friday night one. Seattle vs. Atlanta should be great. But none of the teams featured on national TV this week totally stinks to watch, so they should all be worth your time.

MLS Live games, ranked

  1. Minnesota United vs. Real Salt Lake — Saturday, 8 p.m.
  2. Houston Dynamo vs. New York Red Bulls — Saturday, 8:30 p.m.
  3. New York City FC vs. San Jose Earthquakes — Saturday, 2 p.m.
  4. Vancouver Whitecaps vs. LA Galaxy — Saturday, 10 p.m.
  5. Chicago Fire vs. Montreal Impact — Saturday, 3 p.m.
  6. D.C. United vs. Philadelphia Union — Saturday, 7 p.m.

This is probably the weakest full week of the season for great matchups. It doesn’t help that FC Dallas and Colorado Rapids are off this week. Minnesota has a bad defense and RSL has a new coach, so that game should be interesting. You can definitely skip DC-Philly.

One big storyline: Two new-look teams face off in Minnesota

Minnesota United is working on being the worst team in MLS history, and they know it. They switched to a 3-5-2 formation in the second half of their loss against the New England Revolution and could trot it out from the start this week. They’ve also reportedly made a trade for two defensive players, shipping out Josh Gatt and Mohamed Saied to make room for Sam Cronin and Marc Burch. While Cronin and Burch might not be able to start on Saturday, it wouldn’t be too shocking to see them dress, and both could slot into any formation.

Toronto FC v Colorado Rapids
Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Sam Cronin fills a big hole at defensive midfield for Minnesota

Their opponents on Saturday, Real Salt Lake, have already made a coaching change. Jeff Cassar was sent packing after just three games, with Real Monarchs coach Mike Petke getting promoted to replace him. Petke won Supporters’ Shield with New York Red Bulls in 2013, but was surprisingly fired after his second season in charge of the club.

Petke mostly favored a 4-2-3-1 formation with Red Bulls and used it in his only game in charge of Real Monarchs, but it’s probably not the best fit for the RSL squad. Kyle Beckerman wasn’t even asked to play in a pivot much in his younger days, and at 34, probably wouldn’t be great in a system that asked him to do a ton of running. What Petke’s first lineup will look like is anyone’s guess.

One player to watch: Kenwyne Jones

Atlanta United forward Josef Martinez has a league-leading five goals, but he’s going to be sidelined for 4-6 weeks after picking up an injury on international duty. Enter Kenwyne Jones, his similarly talented but extremely different backup.

Martinez is a small, quick player who’s an excellent dribbler and regularly tried to beat offside traps. In stark contrast to that, Jones is a big target man who doesn’t have quite the speed that he used to back in his Premier League days. He’s still an extremely intelligent player, great in the air and excellent at holding up the ball, but Atlanta can’t play the same way with him that they did with Martinez.

Atlanta United FC v Minnesota United FC
Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

Expect to see a few more lofted crosses into the box, and a bit of Jones coming deep to find the ball so his teammates can make runs into the space behind him.

Four things to read before games get underway

Parker Cleveland at Dirty South Soccer on the tough four-game road trip Atlanta kicks off on Friday.

Spenser Davis at Sounder at Heart on Seattle GM Garth Lagerwey’s praise for Atlanta.

Pat Murphy at Massive Report on another trade, Tony Tchani and money for Kekuta Manneh.

Ben Baer at MLS on why Petke should turn to a diamond midfield.

Previewing the 2017 Final Four: Oregon, Gonzaga, North Carolina & South Carolina

Posted by    |    March 31st, 2017 at 10:15 am

The 2017 Final Four in Phoenix figures to be a weekend that features a little bit of all the different parts that make March Madness the most attractive and exciting postseason in all of American sports.

For starters, you have a powerhouse program in North Carolina, which will be making its 20th all-time appearance at the Final Four, the most of any program in the country. Then there’s Gonzaga, the mid-major Cinderella that did the unthinkable by becoming a national powerhouse, and which is now looking for the final (and most important) notch in its credibility belt. Oregon represents the classic under-the-radar power that felt like it was under-valued all season long, and has now had the chance to prove it on the sport’s biggest stage. The unpredictability of the event is well-represented in South Carolina, a seven seed that hadn’t won a game in the Big Dance in 43 years before stringing together four straight over the last two weeks.

While everyone likely believes they have a good idea how the final two days of the 2016-17 college hoops season is going to play out, that least two weeks have proven how little we know. Don’t be surprised if an unpredictable year gets wrapped up with an unpredictable finish.

Oregon


It’s easy to forget that Oregon actually began the 2016-17 ranked ahead of North Carolina. The Ducks were No. 5 in the preseason polls from both the Associated Press and USA Today, one spot ahead of the Tar Heels.

The preseason hype for Dana Altman’s team simmered a bit when Oregon lost two of its first four games of the season. Never mind that star guard Dillon Brooks missed the loss to Baylor because of a foot injury and that he was limited in the loss to Georgetown for the same reason, the shine was taken away off the Ducks before the rest of the country even had a chance to start paying attention to them.

Eventually, Brooks got back to full strength and so did his team. Oregon reeled off 17 consecutive victories and finished tied with Arizona atop the Pac-12 standings at 16-2. Then, with the Ducks fighting for both a No. 1 seed in the Big Dance and a Pac-12 tournament title, the injury bug reared its head again. Hours before the Pac-12 title game, it was announced that senior big man Chris Boucher was done for the season because of an ACL tear suffered in the semifinals the night before. Boucher had been averaging 11.1 points, 6.1 rebounds and 2.6 blocks per game in a senior season where he had established himself as Oregon’s best defensive player.

With Boucher out, it was on others to step up and shoulder a higher amount of the team’s production load. No one has done that more than sophomore guard Tyler Dorsey, who has scored 20 points or more in seven consecutive games. Midwest Regional MVP Jordan Bell has also become a March monster. He’s notched a double-double in four of Oregon’s last five games, and was two blocked shots away from posting a triple-double in his team’s regional final upset of top-seeded Kansas.

Oregon has been to a Final Four before, but that doesn’t mean they won’t be a stranger in Phoenix. The Ducks won the first NCAA tournament ever all the way back in 1939, and this will be their first trip to the national semifinals since.

Gonzaga


Despite making 19 consecutive NCAA tournament appearances and winning at least one game in the last nine Big Dances, there were still those who wanted to see more from Gonzaga. They got their wish in 2017, as the Zags can never again be referred to as “the winningest college basketball program never to make a Final Four.”

Gonzaga didn’t taste defeat in 2016-17 until its very last game of the regular season, a stunning 79-71 home loss at the hands of BYU. That loss stripped the Bulldogs from having any shot at being the NCAA tournament’s No. 1 overall seed, but a 32-1 mark that included wins over eventual tournament victors like Arizona, Michigan, Iowa State and Saint Mary’s (three times) was still enough in the Committee’s eyes to make Mark Few’s team that headliner in the West Region.

After receiving tough tests from eighth-seeded Northwestern in the second round fourth-seeded West Virginia in the third, everything clicked for Gonzaga in the Elite Eight. The third time in a regional final proved to be the charm, as the Bulldogs dropped the hammer on 11th-seeded Xavier, punching their ticket to the Final Four with an 83-59 rout.

For this Gonzaga team to have a different level of success in the NCAA tournament, it had to first gain a different level of athleticism on its roster. Few accomplished that by landing high-profile transfer in WCC Player of the Year and All-American candidate Nigel Williams-Goss (Washington), backcourt mate Jordan Matthews (Cal) and junior swingman Johnathan Williams (Missouri). That trio combined with veteran big man Przemek Karnowski and super-talented freshman big man Zach Collins have formed the biggest, most complete and overall best stable of talent in Gonzaga’s two decade run as a player on the national scene.

Now we get to find out if it also forms the best team in college basketball this season.

North Carolina


North Carolina may not be the only No. 1 seed still standing, but there’s little doubt that the Tar Heels are now the overwhelming favorite to cut down the nets inside University of Phoenix Stadium. After winning the ACC’s regular season championship by a full two games, the Tar Heels were rewarded by the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee with the top seed in the South Region.

UNC claimed the South Regional title by knocking off Texas Southern, Arkansas, Butler and Kentucky in consecutive games. The final win of that quartet was a 75-73 thriller over the second-seeded Wildcats in which North Carolina’s Luke Maye hit a dramatic game winner with just 0.3 seconds to play. The shot was sweet redemption for a Tar Heel team that was beaten at the buzzer by Kris Jenkins and Villanova in 2016 national championship game.

Always known for their ability to put points on the board, North Carolina enters the Final Four ranking third in the nation in assists per game (18.2) and ninth in points per game (85.0). They are especially potent on the glass, where they lead the country in both rebounds per game (43.7) and offensive rebound percentage (40.9 percent).

ACC Player of the Year Justin Jackson leads the team in scoring at 18.2 points per game, but there are three other Tar Heels who average better than 12.0 ppg. Junior point guard Joel Berry (14.6 ppg/3.6 apg) makes the UNC offense go, while big man Kennedy Meeks (12.3 ppg/9.3 rpg) has finally become a complete player in his senior season.

This will be the ninth Final Four appearance for head coach Roy Williams, who now ranks behind only only John Wooden (12), Mike Krzyzewski (12), and Dean Smith (11) in that category. Under Williams, the Tar Heels have won both their national championships in years where the team has both won the Maui Invitational and not won the ACC tournament, a pair of attributes the 2016-17 team owns. The Heels are making their 20th all-time appearance at the Final Four, the most of any program in history.

South Carolina


South Carolina might not be a March Madness Cinderella in the most traditional sense. That role is typically reserved for the little guy, the small conference champion who makes the most of their rare moment in the spotlight by stunning a national powerhouse or two. It’s a mold that a state school with a big-time coach from a power conference doesn’t seem to fit.

Still, the Gamecocks are in the midst of one of the more improbable runs in recent NCAA tournament history. And if they win two more games, they’ll have a claim to the title of being the most improbable champion in NCAA tournament history.

There was nothing in the weeks leading up to the NCAA tournament that indicated South Carolina could be capable of winning more than one game in the Big Dance, let alone four. The team had dropped five of its last seven games, with four of those defeats coming by seven points or more. If there was a reason to talk about the Gamecocks on Selection Sunday, it was to label them as arguably the most over-seeded team in the field of 68.

Two weeks later, Frank Martin’s seventh-seeded South Carolina squad is somehow one of the final four teams still dancing. The team has thrived on its defense all season, but the biggest way to explain its recent run of success is to point to star guard Sindarius Thornwell. The SEC Player of the Year is the leading scorer in the tournament, scoring somewhere between 24 and 29 points in each of USC’s four wins. If that continues, and a supporting cast that features super-talented backcourt mate PJ Dozier continued to pull its weight, then the Gamecocks might not be done shocking the college basketball world.