The Prelude to Madness

March 13, 2024 The Prelude to Madness

By: Carlos Alvarez

Good Morning

This week is a sports fans dream, and it’s only Wednesday. Day 2 of NFL Free Agency brought another wave of deals. Champions League stories of glory are being written. The Players Championship tees off tomorrow. And finally, we’re on the doorstep of March Madness. Champ week is rolling, and the men’s major conference tournaments are about to tip-off.

Brackets are coming. Can you feel it?

Selection Sunday: 4 Days

Letter Rip!



The Prelude to Madness

Photo: David Becker / Getty Images

5 Teams Add Their Names to the Bracket as Champ Week Heats Up; Automatic Bids, Bubble Watch & More

Four days and counting! The NCAA Tournament is inching closer each day, and the lines on the 68-team bracket are starting to fill in. We’ve spent the last two editions focused on women’s hoops. #5 Texas won the Big 12 last night, and Portland upset #14 Gonzaga to take the WCC as 14 (out of 32) women\’s tournament auto bids are locked.

As we shift to major men’s conference tournaments for the rest of the week, 11 teams have already punched their tickets. Five did so last night, including Saint Mary’s with a takedown of Gonzaga for the West Coast Conference crown (69-60). Oakland, Wagner, South Dakota State and College of Charleston were on an auto-bid hunt last night, too. Meanwhile, James Madison (31-3) locked their spot on Monday as they became the only 30-win team of the season out of the Sun Belt. Purdue, Houston and UConn (all with 28 wins) could join them with deep runs this week. Let’s take a look at the 11 men\’s teams (out of 32 automatic bids) to solidify their spot in March Madness before a quick glance at this week’s conference tourneys.

Tickets Punched (11 of 32)

Saint Mary’s (WCC)

Oakland (Horizon League)

College of Charleston (CAA)

Wagner (NEC)

South Dakota State (Summit League)

Morehead State (Ohio Valley)

Drake (Missouri Valley)

Longwood (Big South)

Stetson (ASUN)

Samford (Southern)

James Madison (Sun Belt)

Joe Lunardi’s Bubble Watch

  • Last 4 Byes: Michigan State, Seton Hall, TCU, Mississippi State
  • Last 4 In: Colorado, Virginia, St. John’s, Indiana State
  • First 4 Out: Texas A&M, New Mexico, Wake Forest, Villanova
  • Next 4 Out: Pittsburgh, Iowa, Providence, Memphis

Conference Tournaments (In Action Today)

Men’s ACC Tournament (Schedule)

Men’s Big 12 Tournament (Schedule)

Men’s Big East Tournament (Schedule)

Men’s Big Ten Tournament (Schedule)

Men’s PAC-12 Tournament (Schedule)

Men’s SEC Tournament (Schedule)

You can find links to each conference tournament’s full schedule above. Since we can’t list all the games, we’ll dive deeper on Thursday and Friday as the tournament fields shrink approaching semifinals and finals. Enjoy the prelude to madness!

Read More

ESPN+: 15 Burning Conference Tourney Questions

NCAA: Tracking All 32 NCAA Men’s Basketball Conference Tournaments & Auto Bids

USA Today: Conference Tournaments Begin in Earnest With Plenty of Teams on the Bubble



Free Agency\’s 2nd Wave

Photo: Wesley Hitt / Getty Images

More Running Back Moves — Derrick Henry (Ravens), Aaron Jones (Vikings) — Highlight 2nd Wave of Free Agency… But Where is Dallas?

The second waves of NFL Free Agency came crashing ashore into the midweek. A number of high-profile players were swept off the board on Tuesday, but one team — often in the spotlight — is oddly quiet. The Dallas Cowboys have done… nothing!? 31 of the NFL’s 32 teams have completed a minimum of three transactions, either via FA signing, trade or a re-sign. The Cowboys have one. They re-signed a long-snapper. Yikes. Is the Dallas playoff curse deterring FAs from wanting to play for the Cowboys? Or are Jerry Jones and fam simply sitting this year out? Bizarre.

Regardless of the Cowboys’ disappearing act, Tuesday’s biggest deals included a bunch of running backs — Derrick Henry (Ravens) and Aaron Jones (Vikings). Henry joining the Baltimore backfield with Lamar Jackson should make the AFC’s #1 seed even scarier in 2024. A few defensive studs, including Danielle Hunter, are also on the move. Here’s the latest:

Latest FA Signings (Last 24 Hours)

RB Derrick Henry  Ravens

Contract: 2 Years, $16 Million

RB Aaron Jones  Vikings

Contract: 1 Year, $7 Million

LB Patrick Queen  Steelers

Contract: 3 Years, $41 Million

S C.J. Gardner-Johnson  Eagles

Contract: 3 Years, $33 Million

WR Darnell Mooney  Falcons

Contract: 3 Years, $39 Million

DE Danielle Hunter  Texans

Contract: 2 Years, $49 Million

QB Sam Darnold  Vikings

Contract: 1 Year, $10 Million

RB Gus Edwards  Chargers

Contract: 2 Years, TBD

S Jordan Poyer  Dolphins

Contract: 1 Year, TBD

QB Jameis Winston  Browns

Contract: 1 Year, $8.7 Million

QB Drew Lock  Giants

Contract: 1 Year, $5 Million

TE Gerald Everett  Bears

Contract: 2 Years, $12 Million

WR DeVante Parker  Eagles

Contract: 1 Year, $4.9 Million

Notable Trades

Texans Acquire RB Joe Mixon From Bengals

*Traded From Cincinnati Instead of Released

NFL Transaction Tracker

(FAs, Trades & Contract Info for All 32 Teams)

Read More

ESPN: What Addition of Derrick Henry Means for Ravens, Lamar Jackson

Yahoo! Sports: NFL Winners & Losers: The ‘All-In’ Cowboys Surprisingly Quiet to Start Free Agency



Gunners, Stunner!

Photo: David Price / Getty Images

Champions League: Arsenal Escape Porto (1-0, 4-2 PKs), Barcelona Thrash Napoli (3-1) to Advance

More excitement across the pond! Tuesday’s Champions League action saw two matches in England and Spain. Barcelona laid waste to Napoli early (3-1) to punch their ticket to the last eight, but it was two-plus hours of chaos in London between Arsenal and FC Porto.

Gunners in a Shootout: Arsenal’s Leandro Trossard took a beautiful pass inside the box and placed it bottom-right in the 41st minute to put the Gunners on top (1-0) and even the aggregate, two-leg scoreline at one goal apiece. That touch-shot was the only goal of regulation, but it was enough to force extra time — and eventually penalty kicks. Goalkeeper David Raya was sensational all night. And after Declan Rice put the Gunners ahead in PKs (4-2), Raya’s magnificent save punched Arsenal through. Elation in Emirates Stadium! It’s Arsenal\’s first trip to the Champions League quarterfinals in 14 years. Two more Round of 16 matches (Leg 2) are on the way this afternoon.

Champions League (Round of 16)

Arsenal def. Porto (1-0, 4-2 PKs)

*Arsenal Advance on Aggregate (1-1)

Barcelona def. Napoli (3-1)

*Barcelona Advance on Aggregate (4-2)

Today\’s Schedule

Atletico Madrid vs. Inter (4:00 pm ET, Par+)

Borussia Dortmund vs. PSV (4:00 pm ET, Par+)

Read More

FOX Sports: Champions League Takeaways: Arsenal, Barcelona Return to Quarterfinals

CBS Sports: Mikel Arteta Had Already Drawn Up Blueprint for Arsenal’s Penalty Shootout Excellence




Knicks def. 76ers (106-79)

*Josh Hart (20-19-10) Posts Triple-Double

Pacers def. Thunder (121-111)

*IND Won 3 of Last 4

Celtics def. Jazz (123-107)

*Jayson Tatum (38 points) Fuels BOS

Kings def. Bucks (129-94)

*SAC Ends 8-Year Losing Streak to MIL

Timberwolves def. Clippers (118-100)

*Anthony Edwards (37 points) Leads Comeback


Panthers def. Stars (4-3)

*FLA Rallies From 3-0 Deficit

Sabres def. Red Wings (7-3)

*Bowen Byram (2G) Leads BUF Charge

Canadiens def. Blue Jackets (3-0)

*Goalie Cayden Primeau Tallies 41-Save Shutout

Avalanche def. Flames (6-2)

*Rantanen, MacKinnon & Nichuskin 3 Points Each

Golden Knights def. Kraken (5-4, OT)

*Jack Eichel (1G, 2A) Hits OT Wrister



Death of Deadspin 2.0

The “sports news” blog Deadspin was sold to a European media company on Monday. The new ownership, Lineup Publishing, effectively fired the entire staff. Deadspin was already on life support after being sold in 2019, but it just died… again. (NY Times, $)

Running Back Rebirth

A year after the position appeared devalued, the demand for running backs returned on the opening day of the legal negotiation period for free agency. Perhaps the NFL values running backs after all — at the right price. (FOX Sports)

The Clippers Lost Their Mojo

After a spirited climb up the Western Conference standings, the Clippers have hit a post-All-Star lull. With Russell Westbrook out indefinitely, will they be able to rediscover their flow in time for the NBA playoffs? (The Ringer)



Cowboys QB Dak Prescott Alleges $100 Million Extortion Attempt for False Sexual Assault Accusations (SI)

Ex-Jaguars Employee Amit Patel Sentenced to Prison for Stealing $22 Million From Team (ESPN)

 NFL Forced to Fix Mistake With Compensatory Draft Picks That Caused 1 Team to Pick 111 Spots Too Low (CBS Sports)

Cavaliers’ Donovan Mitchell Joins Joel Embiid on Ineligible List for NBA Awards (B/R)

PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan Says PGA-LIV Talks ‘Accelerating’ (Yahoo! Sports)

Mets Legend Darryl Strawberry Recovering From Heart Attack (CBS Sports)

PAC-12 Player of the Year Cameron Brink Declares for WNBA Draft (USA Today)

Rangers’ Rookie Enforcer Matt Rempe Suspended 4 Games for Elbow (USA Today)

Rangers’ Rookie Enforcer Matt Rempe Suspended 4 Games for Elbow (USA Today)

Nick Saban Talks NIL at Roundtable, Says What He Believed in College Sports ‘No Longer Exists’ (B/R)

Dallas Seavey Wins Record-Breaking 6th Iditarod Despite 2-Hour Penalty for Moose-Gutting Encounter (AP)



Tonight\’s Must-Watch List


Nuggets at Heat (7:30 pm ET, ESPN)

Cavaliers at Pelicans (8:00 pm ET, NBALP)

Warriors at Mavericks (8:30 pm ET, NBALP)

Lakers at Kings (10:00 pm ET, ESPN)


Kings at Blues (7:30 pm ET, TNT)

Predators at Jets (7:30 pm ET, ESPN+)

Capitals at Oilers (10:00 pm ET, TNT)

Avalanche at Canucks (10:30 pm ET, ESPN+)

UEFA Champions League

Atletico Madrid vs. Inter (4:00 pm ET, Par+)

Borussia Dortmund vs. PSV (4:00 pm ET, Par+)

NCAA Conference Tournaments

Men’s ACC Tournament (Schedule)

Men’s Big 12 Tournament (Schedule)

Men’s Big East Tournament (Schedule)

Men’s Big Ten Tournament (Schedule)

Men’s PAC-12 Tournament (Schedule)

Men’s SEC Tournament (Schedule)