BRIDGEPORT, Conn. — There was no good answer for the NCAA when it came to seeding Connecticut for March Madness.
The Huskies lost five games this year, their most heading into tournament time since 2005. But UConn also wasn’t fully itself all season, having gone without Paige Bueckers for three months as the sophomore star recovered from knee surgery.
Bueckers returned in February, but only played 45 minutes over the course of three games in the Big East tournament. The Huskies won those three games by a combined 96 points to glide to their eighth straight conference title. So, they were clearly still an elite team, it was just a question of how much they could rely on Bueckers in their quest to reach a 14th straight Final Four — which the Huskies did on Monday night with a 91-87 victory over N.C. State in double overtime.
It was a game worthy of a national championship, two excellent teams playing their best ball, trading big shots and big stops for 50 pulsating minutes. And it was in that atmosphere that one of the best players in the sport found her stride and had a defining game.
“I would have loved to have watched that game,” Buckers said. “I think being in it was obviously crazy. … I know that there’s going to be ups and downs through the process. There’s going to be highs and lows. It’s not always going to be easy. There’s going to be hard times. But just staying confident and trusting myself that I’m going to get it back, and also just my teammates and my coaches instilling that confidence in me that they trust me in these moments, they trust me with the ball, and they trust me to do the right thing. I just wanted to continue to play, and Coach is always huge on me about just making sure to just find a way to win. I think that was the key tonight.”
UConn’s resume didn’t warrant a No. 1 seed in this year’s tournament, but the committee’s mandate is to consider what a team will be in March Madness with the roster it has. Only, with Bueckers having barely played, there was no way to know. So, the NCAA selection committee kind of threw up its hands and made Connecticut the No. 2 seed in the Bridgeport Regional, effectively treating the Huskies like a top seed without the official designation.
The atmosphere for Monday night’s regional final, pitting No. 2 UConn against No. 1 N.C. State, was rollicking enough that you couldn’t just dismiss the Huskies’ home-state advantage. At the same time, the Wolfpack weren’t at all fazed by it, and that showed when Jakia Brown-Turner drilled a corner three with 0.8 seconds left in overtime to force a second session of extra basketball.
“I just tuned the crowd out and just played hard for my team,” said Brown-Turner, who led N.C. State with 20 points. “I did everything I could to get stops, rebounds, and score, just anything to help the team. I really didn’t hear the crowd. Like, when I’m on the court, I get zoned out.”
It wasn’t home court that was the difference in lifting UConn to yet another Final Four and extended N.C. State’s wait to return for another year since the Wolfpack’s lone trip in 1998. It was Bueckers.
“We were trying to do some different things, but obviously I didn’t do a good enough job getting us in a position to maybe slow her down,” N.C. State coach Wes Moore said. “She had a great performance.”
Bueckers hadn’t scored more than 16 points in a game since her return, and didn’t start logging more than 20 minutes per game until the tournament started. She had been good, but not great, scoring 15 points on 7-of-17 shooting in the regional semifinal against Indiana on Saturday. And if she had been anything less than her full star self on Monday, it would be the Wolfpack heading to Minneapolis right now instead of the Huskies on their way to a date with Stanford.
Bueckers scored 15 of UConn’s 26 points in the two overtimes, including a three-pointer to open the second OT, after Brown-Turner had beaten her defensive effort to make the game-tying triple. It can be hard for a Connecticut player to have a signature moment, because the Huskies are regularly so dominant. This was the game — at least for now — that Bueckers can hang her hat on.
“Literally I was thinking, we have Paige Bueckers and they don’t,” said Huskies guard Christyn Williams, a star in her own right and UConn’s second-leading scorer on Monday with 21 points. “I mean, like, once she makes one, the rim is like this big. She’s just going to keep making them. So just keep giving her the ball.”
There’s a critical difference between that, and what happened with UConn last year, when the Huskies were overly reliant on Bueckers as a freshman, and for as much as she could carry them, it wound up being too much to ask. While playing without her for so much of this season was a tremendous challenge for UConn, it also meant greater responsibility for Williams and Azzi Fudd, among others, to raise their games and make sure UConn was still UConn.
Fudd, like Williams, had her own huge performance on Monday, scoring 19 points with five rebounds, breaking down the Wolfpack defense with some excellent dribble drives, and making her own impact at UConn’s defensive end. The Huskies don’t beat N.C. State without Bueckers, who, as Geno Auriemma said, “was made for these moments,” but UConn also doesn’t go to another Final Four without a full team capable of getting to those moments — something that it definitely took to hang in with an N.C. State team that deserved its No. 1 seed, and can gripe with the committee over being sent to Bridgeport instead of Wichita, where fourth overall seed Louisville advanced past Michigan in the regional final. If UConn was the best of the No. 2 seeds, and getting a home regional final, it should’ve been against the Cardinals instead of the ACC champion Wolfpack… but also, Louisville beat UConn, 69-64, during the regular season, and the NCAA does generally try to avoid regular-season rematches in the tournament for as long as it can.
But the committee also had to be thinking that maybe this wasn’t UConn’s year. The Huskies hadn’t had a dominant season, hadn’t come out of a particularly strong Big East this year, and hadn’t shown any evidence that their top player was back at the top of her game. That evidence came on Monday, at the best time for UConn and the worst for N.C. State.
“She is still human,” Auriemma said. “And she did still miss two months of basketball. And not just the games, she missed two months of practice.”
This weekend marked a month since Buckers’ return to the lineup. It’s safe to say she’s back, and that means that the only team in the Final Four that isn’t a No. 1 seed… is the team that’s there for the 14th straight year. And the Huskies will go to Minneapolis knowing that their best player is, once again, their best player.
Malo Gusto transfer news: Chelsea agree £26.3m deal for Lyon right-back with player returning to France on loan | Football News
Chelsea have reached an agreement in principle with Lyon for the signing of right-back Malo Gusto.
The west London side have agreed to pay £26.3m plus add-ons for the services of the 19-year-old, who will join the club in the summer.
Lyon head coach Laurent Blanc said that the board had guaranteed to him that Gusto would stay at the club for the rest of the season.
“The board have guaranteed to me that (Rayan) Cherki and Malo Gusto will be here until the end of the season,” Blanc told reporters on Friday.
The statement echoed the thoughts of president Jean-Michel Aulas Aulas who took to social media and declared Gusto would continue with the French giants beyond this transfer window.
But it appears the club has bowed down to the player’s wishes and while Chelsea have agreed the deal, Gusto will now be loaned back to Lyon for the remainder of this campaign.
Chelsea wanted a deal now as they are aware other clubs – such as Manchester United and Tottenham – are interested in the France U21 international.
Reece James has played just once for Chelsea since October 11 due to a knee injury, with the sole appearance – against Bournemouth last month – seeing him aggravate the issue and return to the sidelines.
The England international also missed several months of the 2021/22 season with a hamstring injury.
Chelsea are determined to sign a midfielder and right-back this month, despite already spending almost £500m on new players this season.
The Blues have signed 16 players since Todd Boehly’s consortium purchased the club last summer, but remain keen to add to head coach Graham Potter’s squad during the January window.
Enzo Fernandez is still a target and Chelsea are considering making a new bid for the Benfica and Argentina midfielder.
How much have Chelsea spent in January so far?
Chelsea’s January spending has risen to £190m now the Noni Madueke signing has been completed.
Here are the deals the Blues have made:
- Benoit Badiashile – Monaco, £35m
- David Datro Fofana – Molde, undisclosed (reported £10m deal)
- Andrey Santos – Vasco da Gama, undisclosed (reported £18m deal)
- Joao Felix – Atletico Madrid, £9.7m loan
- Mykhailo Mudryk – Shakhtar Donetsk, £88.5m
- Noni Madueke – PSV Eindhoven
Chelsea have now spent around £460m since Todd Boehly became the new owner of the club, having spent £270m in the summer transfer window.
Who will be on the move this winter? The January transfer window closes at 11pm on Tuesday January 31, 2023.
Keep up to date with all the latest transfer news and rumours in our dedicated Transfer Centre blog on Sky Sports’ digital platforms. You can also catch up with the ins, outs and analysis on Sky Sports News.
Women’s leagues WNBA, etc. have ushered in sports’ golden age
Choosing between women’s and men’s sports is a false choice. If you’re a certain blogger for Glenn Beck’s conservative Blaze media, revisionist history can be a comfort zone that vilifies feminism in sports as your woke sports boogeyman, but makes you look like a headass instead. Jason Whitlock’s resentment-driven tweet on women’s basketball’s place at the bottom of the sports hierarchy eventually led to a longer missive against women’s societal advancements and the fall of masculinity.
Oddly enough, in a link I don’t care to share, Whitlock proceeded to blame feminism for everything ranging from drag queens, to the degradation of the nuclear family, and the decline of biblical values. In Whitlock’s opinion, the glass ceiling wasn’t sturdy enough.
He pontificated in his Wednesday column: “As technology advanced and curbed the natural hardships of basic survival, American men led the world in granting freedom and autonomy to women. Feminists have taken advantage of man’s instinct to please women, casting themselves as long-suffering victims of male supremacy, and reshaped American society into a culture that favors the weaker sex.”
In fairness to Whitlock, let’s analyze all the excellent points he made.
Hold on a second. I read the entire screed. Something will squeeze out soon…
Whitlock spews more garbage
He did attempt to trace a crooked link between modern society and early man’s roles as hunter-gathers, but it doubled as a rant against evolution. Imagine beginning your argument for a return to medieval masculinity by bemoaning women’s sports on TV. As usual, the intellectual cupboard is bare. Whitlock’s fragility over women’s sports is indicative of the obstacles women in workplaces have always faced. For a contingent of dudes who take his word as gospel though, women’s sports are their bête noire.
Battling over an alternate view of history that makes a case for how sexism was good or opining that the women from the Greatest Generation who took occupations in defense plants and factories during the war effort of the 1940s defanged American culture is a fascinating insight into how a twisted mind justifies itself. Don’t give yourself hemorrhoids trying to mine wisdom from those thought turds, and never roll with a pig in his sty.
Women’s leagues have helped usher in sports’ golden age
If you’ve browsed the front page of Deadspin’s space lately, or any industry leaders like Fox Sports, ESPN, CBS Sports, or Yahoo Sports, you’d know the myth of the feminist agenda pushing men’s sports aside is a pile of crap. America’s Big 4 leagues, plus NASCAR, Formula 1, college football, and college basketball have reigned supreme since being given a 50 to 75-year year head start over organized women’s athletics.
In a few short months, the U.S. Women’s National Team will defend their World Cup so you can expect to see their faces plastered all over ESPN screens between now and then. The USWNT has won half of the first eight Women’s World Cups FIFA’s held, but had to grapple with U.S. Soccer for pay commensurate with men last year. Their decades-long push was reminiscent of Billie Jean King and the “Original Nine’s” early enterprising. Their revolutionary founding of the WTA is one of the impetus for women’s tennis being on a more equal footing with the men’s tour.
The most prominent leagues have had to share space in an increasingly crowded room (pickleball has entered the chat), but this is the golden age of live sports. The continued growth of women’s leagues has been nearly as monumental as streaming has been to prestige television. The only downside to the panoply of options at our disposal is the paradox of choice.
Dawn Staley and Kim Mulkey are college basketball titans
Today men’s college basketball is in a rut. It’s as rife with parity, as it is empty in name-brand, blue-chip talent, or upper-echelon teams. The inverse of men’s hoops’ suboptimal tornado of middle-of-the-road teams, is happening in the division where Dawn Staley’s South Carolina Gamecocks are cruising toward a repeat. Fans love dynasties and one may be building in Columbia.
UConn is still a threat on Feb. 5, however, its biggest obstacle resides within the SEC.
Kim Mulkey and Staley have taken the baton as college basketball’s preeminent rivalry. The juiciest storyline in college basketball, regardless of gender, is the upcoming tilt between the only undefeated teams left in the nation. Hopefully, someone informs Alfalfa’s He-Man Womun Haters club not to switch on the late-night SportsCenter shows on the night of Feb. 18.
The halcyon yesteryear of the UConn-Tennessee rivalry is long gone in the Vols’ post-Pat Summitt era. Even with former Naismith Player of the Year Paige Bueckers on the mend for the entire season and phenom Azzi Fudd in and out of the lineup, UConn has been firmly entrenched in the top 10. Tennessee is still on the road back to prominence under Kellie Harper and was promptly smacked down by the Huskies on Thursday night.
While we’re on that note, contrary to the Blaze TV blogger’s soliloquy about women’s advancements coming off the backs of men’s work, the infrastructure for modern women’s basketball was originally built by the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women. At its peak, the AIAW’s membership consisted of 280 colleges that held championships across 19 sports, including women’s hoops. The AIAW was a women’s collegiate sports organization founded by women, but in 1981, the NCAA took over from the AIAW after 120 schools left for the more economically advantaged NCAA.
Breanna Stewart’s free agency
Over in the WNBA, free agency is in full bloom. Candace Parker is vacillating on whether to wind her career down in Chicago or with one last hurrah in Los Angeles. Free agent center Brionna Jones, the reigning Sixth Player of the Year, is essentially seeking to branch out after her second Finals appearance. Think of a bigger James Harden in 2012, trying to loosen himself from Oklahoma City’s bench.
The bulk of WNBA free agency attention is trained on Breanna Stewart’s movements. Reportedly, Stewart has whittled her choice down to approximately four teams, including her home state New York Liberty, a pairing with Elena Delle Donne in Washington, running it back with a depleted Seattle Storm roster, or zagging unexpectedly to the Minnesota Lynx.
There’s no planned primetime TV special starring Jim Gray, or Hannah Storm for the internet Whitlocks to carp about, but the Liberty are what everyone in the league office is undoubtedly rooting for. Imagine if LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh had chosen the Knicks in 2010. Or if Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and Harden had been a more well-adjusted collection of personalities. Stewart linking up with 2020’s No. 1 overall pick, Sabrina Ionescu, recently acquired 2021 WNBA MVP Jonquel Jones, and free agent Courtney Vandersloot would be the culmination of an arms race with the Las Vegas Aces.
In addition to looking out for her own future, Stewart is using her clout to engineer solutions to funding charter flights for the league’s 12 teams. Stewart’s efforts have reignited the discourse around the WNBA’s problematic travel arrangements. We’ve long known that cramming long athletes onto commercial flights dozens of times a season is a hindrance to peak performance, but the WNBA hasn’t quite taken it to heart yet and Stewart’s not keen on waiting until the CBA expires in 2028 to address it.
Ultimately, for every sports fan with Whitlock’s attitude, there’s Kobe Bryant. Kobe and others understood that a rising tide lifts all boats. In his final years, Kobe became an advocate for women’s hoops. Then, three years and a day ago, he perished on his way to coach his daughter’s AAU team. But if you’re having trouble choosing between living in a shared reality where the Black Mamba’s noblesse oblige spirit is considered ruinous to culture or one where internet Whitlocks signify strength, your worldview is bass-ackwards and you’ve got your head on the wrong side of your torso.
Pep Guardiola jokes he’s ‘sorry’ that he stopped Mikel Arteta from becoming Manchester City manager
The Gunners head north leading rivals City by five points with a game in hand atop the Premier League, but acutely aware of the challenging taking on the frustrated Guardiola and company.
Arteta left Guardiola’s City setup in December 2019 to take the Arsenal helm, transforming the Gunners in remarkable fashion since.
“I am pretty sure if I would have left here before, he would be here [at City] and he would be the best, absolutely,” said Guardiola, of Arteta.
“But I extended my contract, I am sorry, and he didn’t wait, so it could not happen. But definitely it could have.”
Arteta joined Manchester City’s coaching ranks on retiring as a player in 2016, learning his craft under master tactician and serial winner Guardiola.
City’s former Barcelona boss revealed how Arteta would never celebrate goals against the Gunners, the team he represented more than 100 times between 2011 and 2016.
“He loves the club; I remember when we were together here and we scored goals, he jumped a lot and celebrated – except with one team,” said Guardiola.
“One team, every time we score a goal, I jump, look back and he was sitting there. It was Arsenal.”
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