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Bubble Watch: Under .500 might not be a problem in 2019

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Editor's note: The NCAA tournament Bubble Watch has been updated through games of Sunday, Feb. 24.

If there's one question we here at Bubble Watch receive more than any other, it is this:

"Why isn't my team in Bubble Watch instead of Team X?" Here, Team X always, without fail, refers to a team that has a sub-.500 record in major-conference play.

Let's be even more specific. As of the moment, the following teams would all be in the tournament if the selection were held today, according to Joe Lunardi's latest bracket:

All of these teams are carrying sub-.500 records in conference play, and Bubble Watch mainstays Minnesota and Clemson, perched right on Lunardi's cut line, are similarly underwater in their league games. How is this happening?

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Reports: Rangers ship Hayes to Jets for Lemieux

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The New York Rangers have traded center Kevin Hayes to the Winnipeg Jets for a 2019 first-round draft pick, winger Brendan Lemieux and a conditional pick, according to multiple reports.

Hayes is expected to plug in on Winnipeg's second line alongside Patrik Laine; this is the second consecutive year the Jets have secured a second-line center at the trade deadline. Last season, Winnipeg acquired Paul Stastny from the St. Louis Blues -- a move that helped the Jets reach the Western Conference finals.

Lemieux, 22, is a son of longtime NHL player Claude Lemieux. He has nine goals and two assists in 44 games this season.

The Jets were believed to be in on Ottawa Senators center Mark Stone, but the price tag was too high.

Hayes, 26, has 14 goals and 28 assists for 42 points in 51 games this season while averaging a career-high 19:27 a night. He has been a regular in the New York lineup since 2014-15. Hayes has two goals and eight assists in 34 playoff games.

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'Last Chance U' coach resigns after Hitler text

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Independence Community College football coach Jason Brown, featured on Season 3 of the popular Netflix series "Last Chance U," resigned Sunday after allegedly telling a German player on the team, "I am your new Hitler."

Brown posted his resignation letter Sunday night on Twitter, writing "it would be nearly impossible to stay here." He referred to a story last week in the Montgomery County Chronicle, which reported a text message exchange between Brown and freshman player Alexandros Alexiou, who had posted the texts on social media.

Referring to disciplinary points that Alexiou had accrued for missteps, Brown allegedly wrote, "410pm on field u German f---. u have 17 points toward your 25 points ... u got an extra point for not hanging the lion poster as instructed I'm your new Hitler figure out your life."

Brown also threatened to take away Alexiou's scholarship during the Feb. 12 exchange.

ICC president Dan Barwick told KOAM television in a statement that the college did not condone Brown's language and was investigating. Barwick said he had addressed the incident with Brown, who "fully understands that his language was not appropriate."

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NHL trade deadline central: Rankings, grades, news and more

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The trade deadline for the 2018-19 NHL season is on Monday, Feb. 25. Luckily for you, we've got all angles covered as general managers around the league look to bolster their team for a Stanley Cup run, or maximize their assets looking ahead to the draft and free agency this summer.

Scroll through to find trade target rankings, grades, the latest news and more, and be sure to bookmark: We'll keep this updated through the Feb. 25 deadline with our final thoughts on all of the moves.

More: Trade tracker | Trade Grades

Feb. 25

10:54 a.m. ET: Center Kevin Hayes to the Jets.

The deal:

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Yanks ink Hicks to 7-year extension through '25

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The New York Yankees have signed Aaron Hicks to a seven-year extension that will keep the outfielder under contract through the 2025 season.

The deal, announced Monday, also includes a club option for the 2026 season.

Career high?
Games137Yes
HR27Yes
RBIs79Yes
Runs90Yes
WAR4.7Yes
-- ESPN Stats & Information

The Yankees did not disclose financial terms, but Hicks will make $70 million over the first seven years, according to ESPN and multiple reports.

"He's a big part of this team and a big part of our success ... I always love playing by him," said Yankees OF Aaron Judge. "To hear he got seven years, we'll be playing together for a long time."

The deal, which will start this year, was first reported by the YES Network.

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Sarri must punish Kepa for Carabao Cup outburst

If the world's most expensive goalkeeper, Kepa Arrizabalaga, starts for Chelsea against Spurs on Wednesday, it will confirm what we have long suspected about player power at Stamford Bridge.

Let's be quite clear about this. Kepa is lucky that his contract was not torn up after openly defying his manager, Maurizio Sarri, and refusing to be substituted in the Carabao Cup final against Manchester City. Those of us who have been watching football for half a century have never seen anything like it. It was shambolic, amateurish and so unfair on Sarri given his current shaky predicament at the club.

The goalkeeper acted like a spoilt kid in an under-8 game, and his claim that it was all a "misunderstanding" is frankly laughable. Kepa had twice gone down suffering from cramps and Sarri wanted to replace him with Willy Caballero as the penalty shoot-out loomed.

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Power Rankings: Circle these games over the final two weeks

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There are officially less than two weeks until the end of the regular season, and there's a race shaping up to nab the final 1-seed -- and the last couple of spots in the top five of the Power Rankings. Duke is in pretty good shape with its résumé (assuming Zion Williamson returns soon); Virginia has lost only twice all season (both times to Duke) and is 9-0 in its other Quadrant 1 games; and Gonzaga has won 18 straight, hasn't had a game within single digits since Dec. 15 and appears unlikely to lose before the NCAA tournament. Kentucky, North Carolina, Tennessee, Michigan and Michigan State all still have shots to move up.

While conference tournaments also will play a major role, what remaining regular-season games will help determine the pecking order of the top-tier teams in the Power Rankings?

Kentucky at Tennessee (Saturday): Tennessee seemed to be in great shape a couple of weeks ago, but the Volunteers are now locked in a three-way tie for first place in the SEC, and their lack of high-level wins outside of Gonzaga is more noticeable. Kentucky likely has to win in Knoxville or win the SEC tournament to remain a 1-seed in Joe Lunardi's latest bracket (and the top four in the Power Rankings).

Duke at North Carolina (March 9): Will Williamson be back by then? Carolina hammered the Blue Devils last week without Williamson, and the Tar Heels are one of the hottest teams in the country. If they beat Duke again and then make a deep run in the ACC tournament, can they jump the Blue Devils? Their combination of wins over Duke and Gonzaga is unparalleled (besides Duke's two wins over Virginia).

There should be no asterisk on North Carolina's victory in Durham. The Tar Heels are the real deal.

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How Yasiel Puig has -- and hasn't -- moved on with the Reds

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GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Yasiel Puig had already broken in a red glove by the time his new team conducted its first full workout here last week. The cleats, the duffel bag, the batting gloves -- all red, flowing in perfect harmony with the Cincinnati Reds uniform that he will don for at least the next five months, perhaps even a bit longer.

"By the way," Puig said, starting to smile, "this is my color. I love red."

Any traces of Puig's tumultuous time with the Los Angeles Dodgers have faded by now, but only by way of appearance. The Dodgers remain a very noticeable presence in Puig's thoughts, acting mostly as a source of motivation in a quest to prove that he can -- and, no matter what the numbers say, always could -- hit those damn lefties.

He is, in spite of lingering bitterness, thankful for the time, thankful for the experiences, thankful for the fans and, yes, thankful for the color.

Blue, Puig announced, is his second favorite.

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Where Le'Veon Bell fits: We put together potential contract offers

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Le'Veon Bell is expected to reset the market for running backs when he hits free agency next month. Which teams are interested, and what could his contract look like?

We asked NFL Nation reporters to make their best offer -- on behalf of the teams they cover -- to the former Pittsburgh Steelers back, who sat out the entire 2018 season because he wanted a long-term contract.

We came up with three teams likely to make offers for Bell, and each has the cap space -- and need -- to sign him. There are also five teams popularly linked with pursuing Bell who our reporters think will get running back help elsewhere.

The offers below are based on what each reporter believes their team's front office would offer Bell next month. We then had senior NFL writer Mike Sando take on the role of Bell's agent and pick the best offer for his client. Check out his decision here.

Jump to the offers and verdict:
GB | HOU | NYJ | Verdict

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Sources: Dodgers re-enter Harper sweepstakes

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The Los Angeles Dodgers have re-entered the Bryce Harper sweepstakes and are interested in a short-term deal with the free-agent slugger, according to ESPN and multiple reports.

The Phillies absolutely want Harper. But does he want them? It's time for a final answer.

As Harper's new deal approaches the finish line, the intrigue only begins for the free agent and his primary suitor. Who else in baseball will be feeling the heat this season?

1 Related

Harper is seeking a long-term deal and, despite being unsigned just over a month before the start of the season, has given no indication that he is willing to change that demand, sources told ESPN's Jeff Passan.

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John Calipari of Kentucky Wildcats says he's overrated as recruiter

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Hours after seeing James Wiseman, the No. 1 prospect in the Class of 2019, choose Memphis over his Kentucky Wildcats, John Calipari called himself "overrated as a recruiter."

The Wildcats still have ESPN's No. 3-rated recruiting class behind Louisville and USC, but missed on Wiseman and are unlikely to land any of the top five prospects in the country.

"I think I'm overrated as a recruiter," Calipari said. "We've had kids that made the decision to come here, and it's played out well for almost all of them. My thing is, I want to be able to sleep at night. I want to make sure I'm telling the truth. I want to make sure I'm sticking with guys.

No. 1 recruit James Wiseman commits to coach Penny Hardaway and Memphis.

How is Memphis' hiring of Penny Hardaway paying off? With James Wiseman now headed to the Tigers, the answer is very, very well.

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Penny Hardaway hits hometown gold with James Wiseman

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This is why Memphis hired Penny Hardaway.

Yes, Hardaway will be asked to also win games at some point, but Tuesday, Nov. 20, was the first order of business for him.

And Hardaway answered the bell, as Memphis landed the No. 1 recruit in the 2019 class, 7-foot center James Wiseman.

Not only did Hardaway convince Wiseman to stay home and play for the Tigers in college, but he also beat out Kentucky and John Calipari -- arguably Memphis' all-time greatest coach and the sport's top recruiter over the past decade -- for the potential No. 1 pick in 2020. Kentucky had been the heavy favorite until March, when Memphis fired Tubby Smith and hired Hardaway, one of the program's greatest players of all time and a legend in the city.

No. 1 recruit James Wiseman commits to coach Penny Hardaway and Memphis.

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From India to Northern Arizona, Sanjana Ramesh makes history during NCAA early signing period

By Katie Barnes | Nov 20, 2018
espnW.com

Courtesy NBA Academies

Northern Arizona recruit Sanjana Ramesh was India's captain at the 2017 FIBA U16 Asia Cup.

Sanjana Ramesh grew up playing sports. Outside her home in India's Bengaluru, Karnataka, Ramesh often competed against her older brother in soccer and badminton, honing her competitive spirit. She started playing basketball at 12 as a hobby with friends. By 13, she was playing for her state team. Basketball quickly transformed into her favorite sport.

"You can be creative on the court and make new things," Ramesh said in a phone interview. "It's like an art."

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Everything to know a month from college football recruiting early signing period

We are four short weeks away from college football's the early signing period in recruiting, so it's time to get caught up on what to expect over the next month. Last year's early signing period, the first in football, saw a large number of prospects sign, and that is expected to happen in this class, as well.

That means that these next four weeks are crucial for coaches and their recruiting classes, because once a prospect signs his national letter of intent, he is off-limits for other coaches to recruit him.

Here is everything you need to know leading up to the early signing period.

When is it?

Prospects in their senior year are able to sign their letters of intent beginning Dec. 19 through Dec. 21. Once they sign, they are locked in to that school and can enjoy the rest of their senior year of high school without fielding calls, texts and messages from coaches all over the country.

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ESPN 300 DT Faatui Tuitele commits to Washington Huskies

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Washington landed a big piece for its 2019 recruiting class Sunday when ESPN 300 defensive tackle Faatui Tuitele announced his commitment to the Huskies.

Tuitele is the No. 40-ranked prospect in the country and chose Washington over Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State and Texas. It's quite the win for coach Chris Petersen and his staff, who currently hold the No. 21-ranked recruiting class in the country.

Hailing from St. Louis School in Honolulu, Tuitele is the fifth prospect to commit to Washington from Hawaii in this class. His school has produced top recruits in the past, including current Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa and former Oregon Heisman-winning quarterback Marcus Mariota.

Tuitele is the highest-ranked commitment in Washington's class and gives the Huskies four ESPN 300 commitments. He is joined by ESPN 300 defensive tackle Jacob Bandes, ESPN 300 quarterback Dylan Morris and offensive lineman Sama Paama as the top commitments.

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Adidas consultant details payments to influence Dennis Smith Jr., two Kansas players

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NEW YORK -- Former Adidas consultant T.J. Gassnola detailed payments he made to the families or friends of Brian Bowen, Dennis Smith Jr., Deandre Ayton, Billy Preston and Silvio De Sousa in his testimony Thursday.

Gassnola was questioned by both government and defense attorneys in the federal wire fraud case against Adidas executive James Gatto, Adidas consultant Merl Code Jr. and runner Christian Dawkins. The defense's cross-examination of Gassnola will continue Monday.

Arizona coach Sean Miller has no interest in discussing his school's alleged ties to the FBI bribery trial unfolding in New York right now.

The government alleges defendants defrauded certain NCAA Division I schools by causing them to issue financial aid to players who were ineligible because their families had received illicit payments to sign with Adidas-sponsored teams.

As the first federal trial begins Monday in a corruption scandal that threatens to engulf college basketball, the coaches at four schools mentioned in the indictment are not the only ones nervous. Coaches at a half-dozen other schools could come up.

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Hot Board - Midnight Madness for Kentucky Wildcats, Duke Blue Devils

The two biggest recruiting powers in the game the last several years are obvious: Kentucky and Duke. And the next two weekends, both programs will look to flex their muscles at Midnight Madness events. Kentucky kicks things off this weekend with Big Blue Madness, while Duke will host Countdown to Craziness next weekend. Both weekends generally feature a long list of high-profile prospects, and this year is no different.

Moreover, in a surprising twist, neither school features the No. 1 class in the country right now. These two weekends will go a long way toward determining whether either of them ends up atop the rankings once again.

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Florida State Seminoles, Oklahoma Sooners, Nebraska Cornhuskers, USC Trojans, Tennessee Volunteers have recruiting help on the way

Through six weeks of the college football season, math tells us that some teams are struggling. No need to look that up; I did the research and it's true.

The season isn't over yet, but whether it's the overall record or just one side of the ball, there are quite a few teams that could use a little help.

Through the magic of recruiting, help is on the way in the form of talent and hope. Landing that one piece of the puzzle can be make or break for a team on the verge of pushing to the next level. Landing an entirely new 25-piece puzzle and starting over is an option for some teams, too.

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Georgia Bulldogs land Lewis Cine, No. 3 ranked safety in 2019 class

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The Georgia Bulldogs continue to be a dominant force on the recruiting trail under Kirby Smart.

On Wednesday, safety Lewis Cine became the latest highly coveted prospect to announce that he will play college football in Athens.

The 6-foot-2, 181-pound No. 3-ranked safety in the class of 2019 selected Georgia over Penn State, Florida, Michigan and Texas after making official visits to all five schools.

"I committed to Georgia because I felt comfortable there," said Cine. "I always wanted the best of both worlds, which is football and the educational aspect, and they provide that."

Cine began the process favoring Penn State, but Georgia made a move in the spring and summer with a Sept. 28 official visit for the Tennessee game pushing the Bulldogs over the top.

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Canadian women's basketball star Laeticia Amihere returning from knee injury stronger than ever

By Walter Villa | Oct 11, 2018
Special to espnW

Courtesy Canada Basketball/FIBA

Laeticia Amihere, the No. 10 prospect in the 2019 class, is explosive on both offense and defense. And now she's healthy.

Laeticia Amihere glanced up at her opponent. Way up.

The 6-foot-3 forward was representing Canada at the 2017 U19 World Cup in Italy, and she had drawn the assignment of defending China's 6-9 star center, Xu Han. There was reason to believe that, despite the height difference, Amihere was up to the task. Months earlier, Amihere got credit for being the first Canadian woman to dunk in a game. The video of the 15-year-old slamming it down on a fast break went viral.

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