Good morning, Thursday! I hope you brought your A-game because yesterday set a pretty high bar for all-day sports viewing. Not only did I get to enjoy some important Champions League action, I also watched my favorite baseball team win TWO games (up to nine in a row now!) before then watching a thrilling no-hitter from Carlos Rodon. Then, on top of that, I switched over to watch a preposterous buzzer-beater in an NBA game.
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We also some big news items yesterday, particularly from the world of college sports. The NCAA is passing a major rule change that should affect the landscape of athletics for years to come, and Arizona decided on its new head coach after firing Sean Miller. It was a really busy day with quite a lot to take in.
But, yeah … no pressure, Thursday.
📰 What you need to know
1. NCAA to allow immediate eligibility to transfer athletes ✅
We’re one step closer to “free agency” in college sports. Today, the NCAA is expected to issue final approval to a rule change that would allow athletes the ability to transfer once without being forced to sit out a season. Under the previous legislation, athletes in many sports (including football, baseball, hockey, and basketball) were forced to lose a year of eligibility upon transferring schools.
This is a monumental (and long-anticipated) moment for college sports, particularly college football, as it allows players to switch schools and maintain eligibility.
- The vote to change the rule passed unanimously
- College basketball players have already flocked to the transfer portal in record numbers this offseason in anticipation of the change. As of Wednesday, more than 1,400 Division I men’s basketball players were in the transfer portal
- The AAC also became the latest conference to eliminate intraconference transfer penalties, meaning they won’t force students to lose a year of eligibility when transferring between two schools in the conference
Athletes in fall/winter sports (such as football and basketball) will have to enter the transfer portal by May 1 to gain immediate eligibility, so it’ll be interesting to see how much movement there is over the next couple of weeks.
This rule certainly seems a bit overdue. It never really made sense to me that the NCAA would punish (or at least discourage) student athletes from switching schools if the athlete felt a change was in their best interest. But between this news and the bonus year of eligibility granted to athletes due to the pandemic, it’s a really interesting and unprecedented time for player movement in college sports.
2. Carlos Rodon just misses perfect game, but throws no-hitter for White Sox ⚾
We’re only a few weeks into baseball season, but already we’ve got two no-hitters thrown this year. The first was submitted by Joe Musgrove late last week, and the second came last night in Chicago when White Sox starter Carlos Rodon blanked the Indians. Rodon’s no-hitter was tantalizingly close to a perfect game, but that dream eventually turned into a … toe-hitter.
- Rodon carried a perfect game into the 9th inning, when he finally allowed a baserunner by hitting Cleveland catcher Roberto Perez with a pitch on the foot
- He also nearly lost the no-hitter in the 9th inning when Josh Naylor hit a weak ground ball to first base. Jose Abreu made a fantastic stretch and tagged first before Naylor slid into the bag
- Rodon’s final line: 9.0 IP, 0 H, 7 SO, 0 BB, 1 HBP and 114 pitches
- This is the second no-hitter in as many seasons for the White Sox. Lucas Giolito pitched one on Aug. 25 last year
It’s always awesome to see someone pull off the incredibly difficult task of pitching a no-no, but it’s even better when there’s a feel-good story attached to the arm that throws it. Rodon qualifies here, as he underwent Tommy John surgery in May of 2019 and returned for a very rough 2020 (8.22 ERA in 7 2/3 innings) before then being non-tendered by the White Sox after the season. He sat on the free agency market until the White Sox gave him a one-year deal on Feb. 1.
Rodon, 28, apparently rejected all offers from teams that wanted to make him a reliever this offseason. Good for him for betting on himself and believing in his ability to bounce back as a starter. So far, it looks like he made the right call.
3. Arizona hires Tommy Lloyd as next basketball coach 🏀
The University of Arizona basketball program is desperate for a fresh start and, on Wednesday, they took the first step toward a clean slate. The Wildcats announced yesterday that they’ve hired Gonzaga assistant Tommy Lloyd as their next head coach after firing Sean Miller last week.
- Lloyd spent two decades on Mark Few’s staff at Gonzaga and has played a key role in recruitment efforts while the Zags were rising to national prominence
- Gonzaga has had an agreement with Lloyd for years to be Few’s successor whenever Few retired, but Lloyd chose to take the Arizona job instead
- Lloyd, 46, beat out three former Arizona players/current coaches for the job: Pacific head coach Damon Stoudamire, Arizona assistant Jason Terry and Lakers assistant Miles Simon
I wonder if Wildcats backers are upset that the school went outside the family to make this hire, but in the end it comes down to this: Arizona’s reputation is in the gutter right now and they need the best man for the job to help carry them back to prominence. They obviously felt that guy was Lloyd, and the timing of Miller’s firing (after Gonzaga’s run at the NCAA Tournament had concluded) makes you wonder if they had their eyes on him for a while.
Despite the fact that Lloyd will have to navigate the impending punishments and find a way to clean up the mess Miller left behind, the Arizona job is still a highly regarded landing spot in college basketball and this is an opportunity that he’s earned over the past few decades.
In other college basketball coaching news, Cincinnati hired UNC Greensboro coach Wes Miller to take over the Bearcats program after firing John Brannen.
4. Champions League semifinals are set ⚽
The Champions League is down to just four teams. The quarterfinal round wrapped up yesterday two final second leg matches that sent two more teams through to the semis. Real Madrid played to a scoreless draw with Liverpool, meaning Madrid moves on 3-1 on aggregate. Meanwhile, Manchester City came from behind to beat Borussia Dortmund 2-1, which sends City through as well.
Here are some takeaways from Wednesday’s slate, courtesy of our Roger Gonzalez:
- Real’s thin defense delivers: Real Madrid’s depth continues to be a difference-maker and it once again paid dividends yesterday. With Raphael Varane and Sergio Ramos out of the lineup, Nacho and Eder Militao have served as an excellent bridge until they come back. Combine that with the fact that Thibaut Courtois remains strong in between the pipes, and it’s Real’s defensive depth that is sending them through
- Dortmund didn’t play to their strengths: For Borussia Dortmund to overcome Manchester City, they really needed to get Erling Haaland going. They should have been funneling play through him but, unfortunately, that didn’t happen. Their best player was very quiet over the past few weeks, registering just one shot in each of the two legs of the tie. Without Haaland making a significant impact, Dortmund looked like a different team
So, the semifinal matchups are set. PSG gets Manchester City while Real Madrid faces Chelsea in two-leg affairs that will get started in a few weeks. It’s gonna be a whole lot of fun.
📝 Odds & Ends
📺 What to watch today
🏒 Panthers vs. Lightning, 7 p.m. | TBL -160 | TV: NBCSN
🏀 Celtics vs. Lakers, 10 p.m. | LAL +6 | TV: TNT
🥇 The best thing I saw yesterday
Luka Doncic hit an absolutely ridiculous one-circus 3-pointer at the buzzer to give the Mavericks a win over the Grizzlies.