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Blaming Gonzaga’s WCC affiliation for NCAA championship loss is a disservice to basketball — and logic



What college basketball needs right now: fans in the stands coaches out on the recruiting trail, watching five-star prospects and undiscovered gems at the Nike Peach Jam, and teams traveling to play road games without fear they’ll be called off because of contact tracing. Hopefully the sport will be able to return to all of these essential elements very soon.

What college basketball does not need, ever: college football’s galling elitism.

The NCAA Tournament is an egalitarian enterprise. For all the carping about how mid-major programs do not get a fair deal, they are guaranteed each year roughly one-third of the field — one-third of the opportunities to compete for a national championship. Some, such as the Loyola Ramblers in 2018, advance extremely near to claiming that title. The Gonzaga Bulldogs came so close so often and invested so much in pursuing excellence they were able to outgrow the mid-major label.

For all they accomplish, though, there still are some willing to destroy logic in the attempt to shove them back into that category.

MORE: Baylor reminds Gonzaga of how tough it is to win it — and them — all

The Zags continue to compete in the West Coast Conference. They have won or shared its regular-season championship in 20 of the past 21 seasons. They have not missed an NCAA Tournament since 1998.

And if that was where it all stopped — entering the tournament, going home quickly — perhaps there would be a case that remaining as a WCC member is an impediment that cannot be overcome. The Zags still were alive in March Madness 2021, though, as it steamrolled into April for the Final Four.

They still were alive at 9:18 p.m. Monday, carrying a perfect record into tipoff of the NCAA championship game. It was the second time since 2017 they got that far in the tournament. They came close to winning the title in 2017, a one-point game against North Carolina with 50 seconds remaining turning into a six-point Tar Heels victory. The Zags were beaten soundly, this time, by an extraordinary Baylor team that performed at the peak of its game.

A lot of people watched what occurred and came to this conclusion: Playing in the WCC didn’t prepare the Zags for the tournament. They weren’t battle-tested. That’s why they lost. Not the 10 3-pointers the Bears made, or their 48.5 offensive rebound percentage, or Gonzaga All-American Corey Kispert’s suddenly wayward shooting.

But no, it was Pepperdine’s fault.

Mercifully, no one among America’s sporting media was foolish enough to propose this theory to Gonzaga coach Mark Few following the loss to Baylor, so I have no quotes from him to decorate this column. I have only facts, which should scream loudly to everyone that “battle-tested” is a myth. The Zags’ difficulty in winning the NCAA championships comes down to — and this may be hard to grasp — it is difficult to win an NCAA championship.

MORE: Breaking down the 1-minute, 36-second stretch that ended Gonzaga’s title hopes

Since 2015, when the Zags advanced to the Elite Eight with Kyle Wiltjer as their star player, Gonzaga has won more NCAA Tournament games than any other program.

Its 20 NCAA victories are more than two-time champion Villanova (17), more than North Carolina (16), more than Duke (15), more than Kansas and Kentucky (13 each) and more than Wisconsin (10). That’s right. You line up the blue bloods, the recent major-conference powers, and Gonzaga’s NCAA Tournament success — while supposedly being hindered by the WCC — exceeds everyone.

In that six-tournament period, it took the eventual NCAA champion to eliminate them three times and a Final Four entrant to eliminate them twice. They have reached two Final Fours in that period. Only Villanova, North Carolina and Michigan State can say the same. These are some of the teams Gonzaga has defeated in that time: Florida State, Iowa, West Virginia, Creighton, Ohio State, USC, UCLA (twice).

Oh, and Baylor.

The Bulldogs have reached six consecutive Sweet 16s. No other active college team can match that streak. In fact, since the tournament expansion to 64 teams in 1985, only three other times has such a streak been achieved: twice by Duke, and once by North Carolina.

If the Zags are not properly prepared for the NCAA Tournament, then who on Earth is?

MORE: Baylor ends Gonzaga’s perfect season with a Texas-sized storybook finish

The two highest-rated conferences according to the NCAA’s NET system in 2020-21 were the Big Ten and Big 12. They produced 16 NCAA tournament bids between them, but only two teams that advanced as far as the Sweet 16. Their experience suggests that being “battle-tested” actually might be a detriment in pursuit of a championship ring.

The dismissal of Gonzaga is a product of the elitism that bleeds over from college football, which is so entrenched in its aristocracy that it refuses even to allow programs to earn championship opportunities on the field, whether they come from the wealthiest conferences or beyond. In the College Football Playoff invitational, teams do not earn their positions in the tournament. They are, universally, selected.

A Gonzaga never would stand a chance in such an operation, but the Zags are welcome in college basketball. The game’s most rational fans understand their value, their talent and their achievement.

This is correct. It’s really not complicated. The facts cannot be disputed, only ignored.


SL vs IND | We were 10-15 runs short and that made a difference in the end, admits Shikhar Dhawan



Following a four-wicket loss at the hands of Sri Lanka, Indian skipper Shikhar Dhawan has admitted that the visitors were 10-15 runs short after the first innings, which made the difference. However, Dhawan also insisted that he continues to be proud of his team for putting up a fight.

Despite losing the toss, Shikhar Dhawan and India were sent to bat first, on a surface that read tricky. While India’s start, especially from Ruturaj Gaikwad and Dhawan suggested a great presence of mind, the scoring rate started to decline after Gaikwad’s dismissal. Since then, it was a struggle for the Indian batters, who could only end up putting 132 runs on the board, with only five specialist batsmen in the playing XI. 

Sri Lanka, on the other hand, after a poor start, at 12-1, took on the challenge of the visiting bowling unit. While wickets kept tumbling, at no stage did Sri Lanka look too far away from a victory. In the end, Dhananjaya de Silva’s unbeaten 40 combined with efforts from Bhanuka (36), Hasaranga (15) and Chamika Karunaratne’s 6-ball 12 took the hosts home. 

In the post-match presentation, Indian skipper Dhawan admitted that the visitors were short of the target by 10-15 runs, which made the difference. 

“The surface turned and was a stopping a bit. We knew we were one batter short. We knew we had to construct our innings smartly. We were 10-15 runs short. That would have made the difference,” Dhawan stated.

Despite the loss at the hands of Sri Lanka, Dhawan insisted that he was proud of his team and the boys for showing a never-die attitude in the second T20I. 

“I am proud of the boys. Never say die attitude is amazing. Hats off to the boys for taking it into the last over.”

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Premier League: Headers in training to be limited



New regulations are to be introduced that will limit the number of headers professional footballers practice in training per week.

Over the last few years, heading within football, especially among children, has become a hot topic.

A study conducted in 2019 found that footballers are more likely to suffer from degenerative brain diseases Dementia compared to people whose jump doesn’t involve frequently heading a ball.

In February of last year, the practice of heading in training sessions was banned for all children aged 11 or under in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland at all levels.

What are the Premier League VAR changes for the 2021-22 season?Read More

Several high-profile former footballers such as Sir Bobby Charlton, Nobby Stiles and Jeff Astle have all died within the last few years after suffering brain disease, with Charlton suffering from Dementia before his death.

In order to protect players, they will be limited to 10 ‘high force’ headers per week in training at ever level of English football including the Premier League.

“Our heading guidance now reaches across all players, at all levels of the game,” said FA chief executive Mark Bullingham.

“We are committed to further medical research to gain an understanding of any risks within football. In the meantime, this reduces a potential risk factor.

“It is important to remember that the overwhelming medical evidence is that football and other sports have positive impacts on both mental and physical health.”

What has the reaction been?

Former Arsenal, West Ham and England central defender Matthew Upson told Sky Sports he is in favour of the rule change.

“I 100% back the research and the studies that have gone into making this step,” he said.

“There’s been a lot of work behind the scenes, researching the impact of heading the ball and it seems a very reasonable request if I’m honest.

“The key words are the ‘high impact’ contact. You can still practice heading, technically, as let’s be honest, heading is a real art – a matter of timing, technicality towards it.

“Those big ones when you’re heading from a goal kick or from a corner – it just makes sense in training not to expose yourself to that impact.

“Save it for opportunities in matches when three points are on the line. In training, it just makes perfect sense, so I fully welcome the change.”

Studies have shown that it can have an impact on your health

When asked whether he looks back on some training sessions in the past and worries about his own health, Upson admits he wouldn’t agree to them now.

“I sometimes cast my mind back to some of the sessions that I’ve done over the 20 years as a professional footballer, and looking back, you wouldn’t entertain a training session like that,” he continued.

“You wouldn’t head a number of large balls into the box. When as an apprentice practicing those big, headed clearances and getting your head on kicks from the halfway line.

“There isn’t really a need to practice that in mass numbers. Studies have shown that it can have an impact on your health.”

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Boston Bruins among 4 free agent destinations for Ryan Getzlaf



The Boston Bruins are looking to bring in a veteran center for their next playoff push and Ryan Getzlaf is one of the leading options.

NHL Free Agency opened on Wednesday and has already kicked into full gear with signings and rumors flying in. The latest comes from TSN’s Pierre Lebrun as the Boston Bruins are one of the top destinations for Ryan Getzlaf if he leaves the Anaheim Ducks for the first time in his 16 year career.

The Bruins join the Dallas Stars, Edmonton Oilers and Montreal Canadiens among the potential destinations.

The move makes a lot of sense for the Bruins, who are still looking to get another Stanley Cup with their main core before the window closes. A potential Bruins-Getzlaf signing feels reminiscent of when Boston brought in David Backes during the 2016 offseason. While that partnership didn’t ultimately work out for either side, it did give them another center and more leadership for the team.

What could Ryan Getzlaf bring to the Boston Bruins?

Getzlaf is an interesting addition for anyone this offseason. The 37-year-old is far from his prime anymore and had the worst statistical season of his career during the 2020-21 season. In 48 games, Getzlaf totaled career lows in goals, assists, and points with 5-12-17. To be fair to him, however, the Ducks were terrible this season. The only team to finish worse than them was the Buffalo Sabres.

A better assumption of what Getzlaf could bring to the table this season would be to look back at the 2019-20 season. He totaled 13 goals and 29 assists, good for 42 points overall. Seeing that the Bruins are looking for secondary scoring and overall solid play from their third and fourth lines, Getzlaf feels like the perfect fit for them this season and maybe even beyond.

The former Stanley Cup champion could channel his former linemate, Corey Perry, by leaving the Ducks as Perry has found success and has made it to back-to-back Stanley Cup Finals. Seems like a good fit if the Bruins and Getzlaf can come together on a deal.

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