Auston Matthews’ historic goal pace, plus more wild college basketball upsets

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Good morning! Justin Fields did the right thing, actually.

While You Were Sleeping: Auston Matthews is doing it

Three weeks ago, we wrote about Auston Matthews’ historic 70-goal pace, which would give us the NHL’s first 70-goal season since 1993. The good news: Matthews is still on track. 

One complication: Will Toronto manage his playing time down the stretch? The Leafs won that game last night, 6-3, over Arizona and sit fifth in the Eastern Conference standings. In what we can file under “good timing,” Jonas Siegel published a wonderful story yesterday about how Matthews’ stardom sprouted from the most unlikely place

P.S. While we’re here, a certain team in Baton Rouge hit this bonkers game-winner last night to beat No. 17 Kentucky at the buzzer:

Barring an SEC tourney run, my Tigers won’t make the NCAA Tournament, and yet they’ve beaten two ranked teams in consecutive games, overcoming 15-point deficits in both contests. At least we got LSU women’s hoops star Angel Reese storming the court with all the students. 

It wasn’t the only big upset of the night, either: Penn State upended No. 12 Illinois with a furious double-digit comeback in the last three minutes of the game. Whew, college basketball.

Poor Justin: Leave Justin Fields alone

The podcast clip was less than a minute, but it said everything about where Bears quarterback Justin Fields is right now and how the pressure of something completely out of your control can weigh on you. Two things: 

  • Fields sparked “controversy” earlier in the week by unfollowing the Bears on Instagram, which many took as a sure sign he’ll be elsewhere next season. It was categorized in the same vein of celebrities unfollowing exes on social media after breakups. Drama!
  • In the clip, which aired on The 33rd Team podcast, Fields explained he just wants clarity — and that he wants to stay with the Bears. Unfollowing his team was simply a way to clear his feed (and mind) while his future remains the No. 1 story of the NFL offseason. We should all take a lesson from that. Clear your feed, clear your mind. 

It behooves the Bears to find the best deal for Fields — if they want to trade him at all — but it’s easy to forget there’s a human cost here. Fields just wants to know where he’s living and working next year. We can all relate to that. 

We still have two months until the NFL Draft. Fields might be waiting a little while longer.

News to Know

CFP already talks expansion
The College Football Playoff will officially expand to 12 teams this season, but that hasn’t stopped officials from discussing the possibility of a 14- or 16-team field when the new media rights contract begins in 2026. Again: This could have its positives … but the news cycle is simply exhausting. Stewart Mandel worries we’re fixing something that isn’t broken, and he might be right.

Pitino apologizes
We’re at a full circle here in just four days. St. John’s coach Rick Pitino apologized last night for his apoplectic comments over the weekend, when he slammed the school’s basketball facilities and players on the roster. Before the apology, he’d tried to walk back the remarks, which rang hollow. Dana O’Neil wrote a great column about the entire charade, which was “just another episode in the coach’s long-running show.”

It’s worth how much?
Inter Miami began the MLS season with a nice 2-0 win over Real Salt Lake last night, but I was more interested in Paul Tenorio’s excellent behind-the-scenes story about the masterful business plan Inter pulled off, even before the Messi signing. The eye-popper: the club is now worth just over $1 billion, up about 70 percent from its value in 2022. Just absurd. Pink jerseys for everyone.

More news

Things You Need to See: A stoppage-time stunner

It’s hard to think of things more deflating in sports than an opponent’s stoppage-time goal to break a tie. Make it happen in the Champions League Round of 16, and the deflation becomes unbearable. 

It happened to Arsenal yesterday afternoon, on this howitzer from Porto forward Galeno:

Absolute mayhem, doing that in the 94th minute with the last shot of the match. Arsenal hasn’t seen the Round of 16 since 2017, either. All is not lost for Arsenal, but if this goal makes a difference on the next leg? Woof.

Watch This Game

NBA: Suns at Mavericks
7:30 p.m. ET on TNT
I choose to celebrate the NBA’s return with a great game. I’m largely focusing on the Mavericks, who overhauled their team at the trade deadline and, in a wide-open West, could become contenders. They sit in seventh right now, just one game back of fifth place — currently occupied by Phoenix. 

NBA: Lakers at Warriors
10 p.m. ET on TNT
Yes, we’re in on the whole doubleheader, mostly because this is officially the beginning of When NBA Teams Start Really Caring. With LeBron James out to rest his ankle, the Warriors could get one game closer to leapfrogging L.A. in the standings.

Pulse Picks

This morning, Katie Strang and Corey Pronman published an intensely well-reported story on a young NHL prospect, Trevor Connelly, and the problem he presents to NHL front offices. The story is absolutely worth your time, and we’ll probably have more on it this weekend. 

I continue to just be rapt by the Bucks’ bizarre season. Eric Nehm scored an exclusive interview with Milwaukee superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo, who was shockingly honest about, well, everything.

Another huge NBA exclusive interview: Jayson Tatum opened up to our Jared Weiss about this particular moment in his young career. He says the NBA is “mine to take.” 

We have a new NFL mock draft, this one via our beat writers for each team. Falcons make a big move in this one. 

Jayson Stark conducted a poll of baseball insiders and came away with five MLB players most likely to be traded during spring training.

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(Photo: Mark J. Rebilas/USA Today)

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