Tennessee has been No. 1 in our rankings since mid-January, when the Volunteers escaped against Alabama and Duke beat Virginia. Rick Barnes’ team hasn’t lost since.
But we’re dropping the Vols to No. 2 this week.
We’ve said since the beginning of last season that these rankings aren’t done like the AP or coaches’ polls, in which winners rise, losers fall, and that’s about it. These are based on an entire body of work, not just how a team is playing now or whom we would take on a neutral floor. And right now, the answer is clear: Duke is No. 1.
The Blue Devils beat Virginia for the second time this season on Saturday, this time in Charlottesville and at full strength. Aside from the fact that Duke has two losses and Tennessee has one, there isn’t a category that puts the Volunteers ahead of the Blue Devils.
NET? Duke. Strength of schedule and nonconference SOS? Duke by a landslide. KenPom? Duke. BPI? Duke. Sagarin? Duke. Quadrant 1 wins? Duke.
If Duke stumbles again or Tennessee beats Kentucky twice in the next six games, we could revisit the debate. But right now, it’s hard to come up with an argument (besides record) to put the Volunteers ahead of the Blue Devils based on the overall body of work.
1. Duke Blue Devils (21-2)
Previous ranking: 2
This week: at Louisville (Tuesday), vs. NC State (Saturday)
Duke did things to Virginia’s defense that no team has done to the Cavaliers since Tony Bennett arrived in Charlottesville — and if Duke is going to shoot like it did on Saturday, give the Blue Devils the national championship trophy right now. That’s unlikely, however. They head to Louisville on Tuesday. Could it be a letdown spot after a big win?
2. Tennessee Volunteers (22-1)
Previous ranking: 1
This week: vs. South Carolina (Wednesday), at Kentucky (Saturday)
Tennessee, ranked No. 1 in the polls, will play one game before heading to Kentucky on Saturday to face one of the hottest teams in college basketball. The Volunteers will host South Carolina on Wednesday in a rematch of a game Tennessee won by 22 points on the road. Tennessee’s offense remains elite, and the defense is looking better. The Vols have held four of their past five opponents to fewer than one point per possession.
3. Virginia Cavaliers (21-2)
Previous ranking: 3
This week: Beat North Carolina 69-61 on Monday, vs. Notre Dame (Saturday)
Monday was a really impressive bounce-back for Virginia coming off the loss to Duke. The Cavaliers came back late in the second half behind multiple big shots from Kyle Guy. Ty Jerome looked fully healthy after playing 37 minutes against the Blue Devils. He finished with 15 points and 11 assists on Monday. Virginia next returns home to face a Notre Dame team the Cavaliers beat by 27 points last month in South Bend.
4. Gonzaga Bulldogs (23-2)
Previous ranking: 4
This week: at Loyola Marymount (Thursday), at San Diego (Saturday)
How will Gonzaga replace Killian Tillie? Had the Bulldogs not done it for the first half of the season, there might be more concern. The most obvious solution is for Mark Few to do what he did the first 15 games: Play freshman Filip Petrusev for longer stretches. Petrusev’s role diminished considerably once Tillie returned, but he played 21 minutes against Saint Mary’s and finished with 15 points.
5. Michigan Wolverines (22-2)
Previous ranking: 5
This week: at Penn State (Tuesday), vs. Maryland (Saturday)
It was hard to predict that Jon Teske would be the game-changer on Saturday in the win over Wisconsin. After a three-game stretch in which Teske totaled just 19 points on 21 shots, he went for 17 points and 12 rebounds — and, more importantly, limited Ethan Happ in the second half. Teske’s development into an inside-outside weapon and an elite defender has been impressive.
6. Kentucky Wildcats (20-3)
Previous ranking: 6
This week: vs. LSU (Tuesday), vs. Tennessee (Saturday)
Kentucky is not that far from a 1-seed in projected brackets, something that was impossible to see coming five weeks ago. The Wildcats have seven Quadrant 1 wins at the moment, tied for third-most in the country. They’ve beaten North Carolina, Kansas and Louisville. There’s a huge chance for John Calipari’s team on Saturday, when Tennessee and its 18-game win streak come to town.
7. Houston Cougars (23-1)
Previous ranking: 8
This week: at UConn (Thursday), at Tulane (Sunday)
Another high-level defensive performance from the Cougars, who held Cincinnati scoreless for the final six-plus minutes of Sunday’s game and finished on an 8-0 run to beat the Bearcats and take control of the AAC standings. Former UMass transfer Dejon Jarreau had perhaps his best game in a Houston uniform, finishing with 16 points, eight rebounds and five assists.
8. North Carolina Tar Heels (19-5)
Previous ranking: 7
This week: Lost to Virginia 69-61 on Monday, at Wake Forest (Saturday)
Not only did North Carolina lose to Virginia on Monday, but the Tar Heels also lost Nassir Little in the first half with a right ankle injury. Fortunately, Cam Johnson was able to return late in the game after he limped to the locker room in the second half. On the court, Carolina didn’t get enough from Luke Maye. The senior finished with four points on 10 shots.
9. Nevada Wolf Pack (23-1)
Previous ranking: 8
This week: at Wyoming (Saturday)
It will be interesting to see what the committee does with the Wolf Pack. They were a 4-seed in the bracket reveal on Saturday despite getting out to a 23-1 start. However, they lack quality wins. Their best wins are over Utah State and Arizona State, two teams that aren’t locks to make the NCAA tournament. Nevada’s big remaining chance comes March 2 at Utah State.
10. Michigan State Spartans (19-5)
Previous ranking: 10
This week: at Wisconsin (Tuesday), vs. Ohio State (Sunday)
We continue to see how vital Nick Ward is to the Spartans’ success. He finished with 22 points and nine rebounds in the blowout win over Minnesota on Saturday after totaling 30 points and 10 rebounds in Michigan State’s previous three games — all losses. He needs to be a dominant force down low, as Cassius Winston can’t do it all by himself offensively. (Matt McQuaid‘s going for season highs in points and assists didn’t hurt, either.)
11. Kansas Jayhawks (19-6)
Previous ranking: 11
This week: Beat TCU 82-77 in OT on Monday, vs. West Virginia (Saturday)
If you had told Bill Self at the beginning of the season that he would be closing out an overtime Big 12 road win with a lineup of Devon Dotson, Charlie Moore, Ochai Agbaji, K.J. Lawson and David McCormack, he would have had to assume things weren’t going according to plan. Thanks to a combination of ineligibility, injuries and foul trouble, those were the five available scholarship players late on Monday — and it somehow worked. Dotson was terrific in the extra period, and the Jayhawks came out with a key road win over TCU.
12. Marquette Golden Eagles (20-4)
Previous ranking: 12
This week: at DePaul (Tuesday)
Sacar Anim‘s emergence is coming at an opportune time for the Golden Eagles. Freshman Joey Hauser has totaled eight points in his past three games after scoring double figures in seven of his previous eight. Sam Hauser scored just four points against Villanova after dropping at least 19 points in six straight games. Anim, however, has hit double figures in three straight games.
13. Purdue Boilermakers (17-6)
Previous ranking: 13
This week: at Maryland (Tuesday), vs. Penn State (Saturday)
That’s eight wins in a row for the Boilermakers, who are likely to be favored in every game the rest of the season after Tuesday’s trip to Maryland. If Purdue can get through that game with a win, it will have a legitimate shot to win the Big Ten title. Michigan, the co-leader atop the standings, has to face Michigan State twice in the final two weeks of the season.
14. Louisville Cardinals (17-7)
Previous ranking: 14
This week: vs. Duke (Tuesday), vs. Clemson (Saturday)
Louisville has lost two of three, and Duke comes to town on Tuesday. Plus, the Cardinals have to face Virginia twice in their final four games of the season. Chris Mack’s defense has struggled of late, allowing at least one point per possession in three straight games after letting just one opponent hit that mark in the previous six contests. That obviously won’t work against Duke.
15. Wisconsin Badgers (17-7)
Previous ranking: 16
This week: vs. Michigan State (Tuesday)
We’ve probably been too down on Wisconsin’s profile and should have moved the Badgers into the rankings early. We’ve rectified that and slotted them in at No. 15 despite the loss to Michigan on Saturday. The Badgers have top-12 rankings in the NET, in BPI and at KenPom. They have seven Quadrant 1 wins and a top-15 strength of schedule. They can take another jump with Michigan State visiting Madison on Tuesday.
16. Iowa State Cyclones (18-6)
Previous ranking: 15
This week: at Kansas State (Saturday)
The Cyclones were on the wrong side of history on Saturday, as TCU’s win was the Horned Frogs’ first road win over a ranked team since 1998 — and only the second in program history. Iowa State shot just 29.2 percent from 3-point range and had its worst defensive performance since an early-December loss at Iowa. If the Cyclones harbor Big 12 title hopes, Saturday’s trip to Kansas State is a must-win.
Dropped out: None
Reports: Bears to cut K Parkey in March
After a difficult season culminated by a crucial missed field goal on a potential game-winning field goal in the NFC playoffs, kicker Cody Parkey will be released by the Chicago Bears when the new league year begins in March.
FILE PHOTO: Sep 17, 2018; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bears kicker Cody Parkey (1) watches his field goal during the first half against the Seattle Seahawks at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports
According to multiple reports on Friday, the team intends to cut ties with Parkey once the NFL free agency period begins on March 13.
Parkey, who turned 27 on Tuesday, endured an inconsistent season in Chicago after inking a four-year, $15 million contract last winter following the team’s release of Robbie Gould, the Bears’ all-time leading scorer who moved on to the San Francisco 49ers.
Parkey, a five-year veteran, not only missed a career-high seven field-goal attempts and three extra points during the regular season, but his 43-yard attempt in the final seconds of the NFC wild-card round against the Philadelphia Eagles first hit the upright then the crossbar before bouncing back on the field.
Despite the NFL later ruling that the kick was partially blocked, Parkey took much of the public blame for the Bears’ season ending.
Parkey began his career with the Eagles in 2014 when he made the Pro Bowl as a rookie, scoring a franchise-record 150 points while making 32 of 36 field-goal tries. In two seasons with the Eagles, Parkey never missed an extra point.
Parkey later kicked for the Cleveland Browns in 2016 and Miami Dolphins in 2017.
In January, the Bears signed Tulsa product Redford Jones after conducting a workout that reportedly included multiple hopefuls. Jones made 50 of his 67 field-goal attempts at Tulsa from 2015-17, and he does have a kick on his resume where he hit both uprights. Unlike Parkey’s double-doink, though, that 2016 attempt against Cincinnati ended up going over the crossbar for three points.
“We need more production out of that position,” Bears general manager Ryan Pace said last month after signing Jones. “We know we need to get better there, and it will be an area of focus.”
—Field Level Media
WTA roundup: Bencic upsets Svitolina to reach Dubai final
Belinda Bencic secured a spot in the final by stunning two-time champion Elina Svitolina 6-2, 3-6, 7-6 (3) on Friday at the Dubai Duty Free Championships in the United Arab Emirates.
Tennis – WTA Premier 5 – Dubai Tennis Championships – Dubai Duty Free Tennis Stadium, Dubai, United Arab Emirates – February 22, 2019 Switzerland’s Belinda Bencic in action during the Semi Final against Ukraine’s Elina Svitolina REUTERS/Satish Kumar
Bencic trailed 5-3 in the final set before recovering to defeat the sixth-seeded Svitolina. She will face second-seeded Petra Kvitova in the championship match after the Czech Republic star defeated Taiwan’s Su-Wei Hsieh 3-6, 6-2, 6-4.
“I think I’m always the most proud of how I fight,” Bencic said after posting the victory. “Even when I lose, I learned myself to just look in the mirror and be proud of myself when I’m fighting, when I’m giving my all, when I’m trying to do what I have to do.”
Bencic won eight consecutive points after Svitolina was in position to close out the match. Then the Switzerland native carried the momentum into the tiebreaker to notch one of the biggest victories of her career by outdueling the Ukrainian.
“Basically, I stayed in the zone, even in (the) tiebreak,” Bencic said. “I was barely breathing, just playing automatic. You are not thinking any more. It’s where the instincts just guide you through it.”
Bencic will be seeking her third career title when she squares off with Kvitova, who will be shooting for her 27th.
Kvitova dropped the first set on Friday before recovering to win the last two.
“It was a tough one today, for sure,” Kvitova said. “She really didn’t give me anything for free. It was a tough first set. I’m glad that I was able to came back in the second. I didn’t play great at the end of the first.
“I think I’m pleased with my kind of mental focus after losing the first set, that I was calmer when I came back and played from the beginning of the second set. I still kind of felt that I can do that somehow. I don’t know. It was something weird.”
Kvitova overcame eight double faults to claim the victory.
Hungarian Ladies Open
Top-seeded Alison Van Uytvanck defeated Ukraine’s Kateryna Kozlova 3-6, 6-1, 6-4 to advance to the semifinals in Budapest.
Van Uytvanck, of Belgium, will face fifth-seeded Ekaterina Alexandrova in the semis. The Russian dispatched third-seeded Frenchwoman Pauline Parmentier 6-3, 6-2.
Eighth-seeded Marketa Vondrousova of the Czech Republic will face Russian Anastasia Potapova in the other semi. Vondrousova outlasted Romania’s Irina-Camelia Begu 5-7, 6-1, 6-3 while the 17-year-old Potapova fought past Romania’s Sorana Cirstea 6-4, 6-7 (5), 7-5 in 2 hours, 50 minutes.
—Field Level Media
Patriots owner Robert Kraft facing charges of solicitation of prostitution
New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft is facing charges of misdemeanor solicitation of prostitution after he was twice videotaped paying for a sex act at an illicit massage parlor, police in Florida said Friday.
The 77-year-old Kraft was one of 25 people involved in the alleged solicitation at the Orchids of Asia Day Spa in Jupiter.
Michael Edmondson, spokesman for the state attorney’s office in Palm Beach County, told ESPN that the nature of any charges that the 25 people face will not be released until next week.
Kraft has denied wrongdoing.
The potential charges come amid a widespread crackdown on sex trafficking in Florida from Palm Beach to Orlando. Hundreds of arrest warrants have been issued in recent days as result of a six-month investigation, and more are expected. Ten spas have been closed, and several people charged with sex trafficking have been taken into custody.
Police said they secretly planted undercover cameras in targeted massage parlors and recorded the interactions between men and the female employees.
In a statement, a spokesperson for Kraft said they “categorically deny that Mr. Kraft engaged in any illegal activity. Because it is a judicial matter, we will not be commenting further.”
The NFL said it is “aware of the ongoing law enforcement matter and will continue to monitor developments.”
The individuals named as having solicited prostitutes could be facing either a first- or second-degree misdemeanor for each count. A second-degree charge carries up to a 60-day jail sentence and a $500 fine; a first-degree charge carries up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine.
Most people charged for the first time with soliciting a prostitute in Florida are allowed to enter a diversion program, said attorney David Weinstein, a former prosecutor. Kraft would have to perform 100 hours of community service and pay to attend an educational program about the negative effects of prostitution and human trafficking.
Jupiter Police Chief Daniel Kerr said he was shocked to learn Kraft, who is worth $6 billion, was allegedly paying for sex inside a strip-mall massage parlor.
“We are as equally stunned as everyone else,” Kerr said.
Kraft lives in Massachusetts and has a home in the Palm Beach area. He is a frequent guest of President Donald Trump at his Mar-a-Lago Club. Though a Democrat, Kraft is friendly with Trump.
“Well it’s very sad. I was very surprised to see it,” Trump said at the White House on Friday. “He’s proclaimed his innocence, totally. But I’m very surprised to see it.”
Kraft’s wife, Myra Hiatt Kraft, died in 2011. He has been dating 39-year-old actress Ricki Noel Lander since 2012.
Team owners are subject to the NFL’s personal conduct policy, and owners and league employees are held to an even higher standard than players.
Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay was suspended for six games in 2014 after he was arrested on drug charges. He was also fined $500,000.
Vero Beach Police Chief David Currey, whose agency has been involved in the investigation, told reporters earlier this week that the prostitutes are victims who have been trapped into the trade.
“These girls are there all day long, into the evening. They can’t leave, and they are performing sex acts,” Currey said, according to TCPalm. “Some of them may tell us they’re OK, but they’re not.”
Kraft, who made his initial fortune through a packaging company, was a Patriots season-ticket holder when he purchased the team’s previous stadium in 1988, then used his leverage to buy the team for $172 million in 1994 to keep it from moving to St. Louis.
He hired Bill Belichick to be his coach in 2000, and the team subsequently drafted quarterback Tom Brady, launching nearly two decades of success.
Under Kraft, who also owns Major League Soccer’s New England Revolution, the Patriots have been the most successful team in pro sports, having made it to 10 Super Bowls, winning six, including this year against the Los Angeles Rams.
But there also have been issues involving team actions under Belichick.
In 2007, the Patriots were caught filming signals from New York Jets coaches; New England was suspected of doing so against other teams as well, and that was confirmed later on. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell fined the Patriots $250,000 and stripped them of their 2008 first-round draft pick. Belichick was fined $500,000, the most an NFL coach ever was fined.
In the 2014 AFC Championship Game, the team — specifically Brady — was accused by the Colts of doctoring footballs.
The NFL concluded that Patriots employees were involved in deflating the footballs and Brady was “at least generally aware” it was being done. After lengthy legal battles, Brady served a four-game suspension at the beginning of the 2016 season and the Patriots were fined $1 million — the heftiest for a team in league history. New England was stripped of a first-round and a fourth-round draft choice.
Neither Kraft nor Belichick was implicated after the investigation.
Longtime Patriots captain Devin McCourty told NBC Boston, which is with him on a goodwill trip to Puerto Rico, of the Kraft news: “When you see things come out like that you really have to just let it play out. See what it is, what it isn’t, and go from there.”
Information from ESPN’s Paula Lavigne, Mike Reiss and The Associated Press was used in this report.
Mark Levin blasts Mueller report as ‘impeachment’ manual for House Dems and media
Jimmy Kimmel wishes son happy birthday on Instagram, thanks hospitals that saved him
Recap: ‘Game of Thrones,’ Season 8, Episode 2 – Winterfell prepares for an epic battle
Washington state could become first state to allow human composting
Ben Carson explains benefits of investing in ‘Opportunity Zones’ for areas facing economic challenges
Tulsi Gabbard: Mueller report found ‘no collusion took place,’ Dems shouldn’t push to impeach Trump
NHL roundup: Lightning overwhelm Devils
Tiger Woods surges up leaderboard at WGC-Mexico Championship
Bucks vs. Warriors – Game Summary – November 8, 2018
ChargePoint gives Europe equal billing in electric car grid plan
‘Avengers,’ ‘Captain America’ star Hayley Atwell nude photos hacked: report
‘Fantastic Beasts’ flies to top of weekend box office
- Mark Levin blasts Mueller report as ‘impeachment’ manual for House Dems and media
- Jimmy Kimmel wishes son happy birthday on Instagram, thanks hospitals that saved him
- Recap: ‘Game of Thrones,’ Season 8, Episode 2 – Winterfell prepares for an epic battle
- Washington state could become first state to allow human composting
- Ben Carson explains benefits of investing in ‘Opportunity Zones’ for areas facing economic challenges
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