A No. 1 seed nearly chokes in the NCAA Tournament, plus a possible major upset

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Good morning! Close out that task before overtime today.

While You Were Sleeping: Can every game go to overtime?

Two high seeds entered last night’s games in position to advance to their respective Sweet 16s. Both had to sweat: 

  • On the men’s side, No. 1 seed Houston really, really tried to lose to No. 9 seed Texas A&M. There is always a fine line between grit and collapse in these sorts of games. On one hand, Houston squandered a 12-point lead with two minutes remaining and allowed this to happen as time expired in regulation:
  • And then there is the grit, which emerged in the overtime period of the Cougars’ 100-95 win. Is it troubling that one of this tournament’s best teams simply could not put away a decent A&M squad? Or is it impressive that Houston survived four starters fouling out and still advanced to the school’s fifth straight Sweet 16? I think both are true, actually.
  • On the women’s side, No. 2 seed Stanford nearly went out sad at home to No. 7 seed Iowa State in an 87-81 overtime win. The two teams traded gutsy 3-pointers worthy of Mike Breen “bang!” calls in the last minute of OT. Stars for both teams — Stanford’s Cameron Brink and Iowa State’s Audi Crooks — fouled out in this one, too. Whew. 

The men’s Sweet 16 is set, with every No. 1 and 2 seed advancing. I eagerly await watching this Houston team play a red-hot Duke this week. Bonus points go to Creighton, who outlasted Oregon in double overtime earlier yesterday. 

Meanwhile, we still have one more day of second-round women’s games to go:

Upsets? Caitlin Clark and Iowa might be in trouble

Thus far, the women’s NCAA Tournament bracket has been largely written in chalk. According to our numbers, that could change tonight: 

  • Vegas favors Clark and the Hawkeyes by 15.5 points against No. 8 seed West Virginia, but our Slingshot metric gives West Virginia a 41 percent chance to win. It might be at least worth a bet on the cover?
  • The larger story has a truly in-depth stat breakdown, but I thought this particular metric was fascinating: The Mountaineers lead the country in steals (one steal every 16.5 opponent possessions), which historical data shows to be “something you cannot ignore.” No one would be able to keep up with Iowa in a shootout, but a disruptive defense could change the tenor entirely. 

Read the full digest for more on this matchup and others tonight. And keep an eye on Iowa later.

News to Know

Ohtani speaks today
Burbling in the background of the NCAA Tournaments has been the Shohei Ohtani betting saga, which has only festered in the public eye as the Dodgers and their superstar remain silent on the matter. That changes today: Ohtani confirmed to The Athletic he plans to address the media, a rarity for the media-averse superstar. The questions surrounding this story continue to pile up, too.

NFL kickoffs could change today
Team owners will vote on a frankly fun new proposal that could radicalize the way kickoffs work. Cowboys special teams coordinator Jon Fassel is leading a proposal to eliminate the kicking team’s running start on kickoffs and incentivize kickers to deposit the ball in a “landing zone” between the 20-yard line and goal line, wherein the receiving team must return the kick. The change’s supporters say it will reduce injuries while also encouraging more kick returns. Read more on the proposal here.

More news

Things You Need to See: Welcome back, Tyler Adams

Before yesterday, Tyler Adams had not played for USMNT since the 2022 World Cup, and it wasn’t by choice. Adams has missed most of the last year-plus for both USMNT and Bournemouth with injury issues. 

He returned to the USMNT lineup last night. Does this look rusty to you?

That’s an absolute rocket from Adams in the 45th minute of USMNT’s Nations League final win over Mexico (2-0, of course). We still have many months until the 2026 World Cup, but a mostly healthy USMNT team that gets goals from Adams and Gio Reyna (this nifty strike in the 63rd minute) looks promising already.

Watch This Game

NCAAW: No. 8 West Virginia vs. No. 1 Iowa
8 p.m. ET on ESPN
After we hyped it above, of course you have to watch. It should be good, but it would also be very funny if the Hawkeyes produced a blowout to spite me. 

NBA: Sixers at Kings
10 p.m. ET on NBA TV
Both of these teams are ensnared in gnarly playoff-seeding races with just a couple weeks left in the regular season. This game matters.

Pulse Picks

Kalyn Kahler has a super interesting story on how NFL assistant coaches share salary info with each other — in secret

Ben Standig has an NFL mock draft to start your week. Another Vikings trade up. 

I always love this story every year: Jim Bowden makes 24 predictions for the MLB season. We’ll circle back to this tomorrow. 

Despite all the highlights, it’s been a tough year for Victor Wembanyama. He still isn’t worried about his future in San Antonio

Scott Wheeler has a ranking of the top 64 prospects in this year’s NHL Draft. Macklin Celebrini sits atop the heap. 

Jack Gohlke is still trying to process his NCAA Tournament star turn, even after Oakland got bounced. 

Most-read on the website yesterday: LSU coach Kim Mulkey threatens legal action against the Washington Post in a four-minute tirade. Probably not the last time we hear about this. 

Most-clicked in the newsletter yesterday: former Orioles owner Peter Angelos’ obituary.

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(Photo: Petre Thomas/USA Today Sports)

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