Source: Mark Brown / Getty Images North America

Preview: SMU at Houston

No. 12 Houston must rebound from a loss for the first time since early January and avoid looking ahead to its regular-season finale when struggling SMU pays a visit on Thursday night for an American Athletic Conference contest. The Cougars saw their 12-game winning streak come to an end and lost for the first time in 34 home contests Saturday with a 69-64 setback against Central Florida.

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“I’m proud of my team,” Houston coach Kelvin Sampson told reporters of the Cougars, who are tied with Cincinnati for first place in the American. “We’re 27-2 and 14-2 in the league. We’ll go back to work, regroup and get back at it.” Cincinnati visits red-hot UCF on Thursday and hosts Houston on Sunday in what could be a showdown for the regular-season crown in the American, but the Cougars must stay alert against an SMU team that started the league season 3-1 before dropping 10 of its last 12 contests. The Mustangs gave Cincinnati trouble last week in a 52-49 defeat before losing by 12 to Wichita State on Sunday, dropping into a tie for 10th in the league with Connecticut. SMU junior point guard Jimmy Whitt Jr., who had 20 points, six rebounds and six assists in the 69-58 loss to Houston on Jan. 16, missed the game against Wichita State with a shoulder injury and is considered day-to-day.

TV: 9 p.m. ET, ESPN

ABOUT SMU (13-15, 5-11 American): Senior guard Jahmal McMurray, who recorded 27 points against Cincinnati on Feb. 27, leads the team in scoring (17.8 per game) while Whitt (12.0 points) tops the Mustangs in rebounds (6.6), assists (4.1) and steals (1.4). Versatile senior guard Jarrey Foster returned to the lineup Sunday after missing 10 games with a knee injury, scoring seven points on 1-of-6 shooting with a pair of rebounds in 20 minutes. Sophomore forward Ethan Chargois also averages 12 points and freshman big man Feron Hunt scored a season-high 14 against Wichita State.

ABOUT HOUSTON (27-2, 14-2): Senior guard Corey Davis Jr. led the way with 19 points in Saturday’s loss and is averaging 21.5 over the last four contests, including 20-of-36 shooting from 3-point range, to push his season mark to a team-high 16.1 points per game. Armoni Brooks, who was held to seven points by UCF, is the only other playing averaging in double figures scoring (13.5) for the well-balanced Cougars and the junior guard tops the team in rebounding (6.4). Sophomore guard DeJon Jarreau has stepped up his production level the last three games, averaging 13.7 points and 4.7 assists.

TIP-INS

1. SMU sophomore F Isiaha Mike averages 11.9 points, but is just 9-of-30 from the field over the last three contests.

2. Houston senior G Galen Robinson Jr. is set to tie Ken Ciolli and George Walker on Thursday for second in team history in games played (129).

3. The Mustangs, who have lost three in a row against the Cougars after winning five of the previous six, averaged 50.7 points over their last three games.

Posted in CBB, Top Fantasy Picks

Pictured: Markus Howard
Source: Drew Hallowell / Getty Images North America

Preview: Marquette at Seton Hall

Marquette’s quest for its first outright Big East regular-season title has been slowed by back-to-back six-point losses. The 15th-ranked Golden Eagles aim to get back on track Wednesday when they travel to the Prudential Center to face Seton Hall, which has dropped three in a row to put its NCAA Tournament hopes in jeopardy.

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Big East leading scorer Markus Howard scored 21 straight points for Marquette in the first half and finished with 33 on Sunday, but a high volume of turnovers plagued the Golden Eagles for the second consecutive contest in a 66-60 setback to Creighton. “If somebody makes running offense harder on you, you have to work harder, you have to be stronger, you have to be more fundamentally sound,” Marquette coach Steve Wojciechowski said. While the Golden Eagles trail first-place Villanova by a half-game, the Pirates will play a pivotal role in which team will win the Big East title as they wrap up their season with home games against both clubs. “We’ve still got two Top 25 teams coming back to our house. We’re going to keep it together and keep fighting like we did (Saturday),” Myles Powell told NJ.com, referring to his 35-point performance in a 77-71 double-overtime loss to Georgetown.

TV: 6:30 p.m. ET, FS1

ABOUT MARQUETTE (23-6, 12-4 Big East): Howard, who was named one of the five finalists for the 2019 Bob Cousy Award on Tuesday, erupted for 26 points and Theo John added 10 to go along with a career high-tying 11 rebounds in the Golden Eagles’ 70-66 win over Seton Hall on Jan. 12. Sam Hauser had 13 points in that contest, but answered two strong shooting performances with a dismal 1-for-7 effort from the field — including 1-for-6 from 3-point range — to finish with just three in the loss to the Bluejays. Hauser wasn’t alone with his troubles against Creighton, as the rest of the club combined to shoot 10-for-25 outside of Howard’s 11-for-21 effort from the floor.

ABOUT SETON HALL (16-12, 7-9): Powell, who averages a team-best 22.3 points per game, had 21 in the first meeting with Marquette while fellow guard Quincy McKnight and forward Sandro Mamukelashvili each had 13. The 6-foot-10 Mamukelashvili, who averages 9.0 points, has upped the ante with four double-digit performances in his last five games — including 14 to go along with 11 rebounds versus the Hoyas. McKnight has struggled mightily from the floor in his last three outings, shooting 6-for-26 in that stretch while finishing with just three points in the last two.

TIP-INS

1. Marquette F Sacar Anim answered an 8-for-12 shooting performance in a 76-58 win at Providence on Feb. 23 by going 4-for-12 from the field in his last two games.

2. Seton Hall G Myles Cale is just 3-for-13 from the field and 1-for-6 from 3-point range in his last two contests.

3. The Golden Eagles have won 19 of the 26 all-time meetings with the Pirates.

Posted in CBB, Top Fantasy Picks

Pictured: Isaiah Mucius (middle)
Source: Chris Richards

Preview: Wake Forest at Duke

One of the ACC’s worst teams takes on one of its best as Wake Forest visits Duke on Tuesday evening in the penultimate regular-season game for both. The Demon Deacons are coming off a lopsided home loss to Syracuse, while the No. 4 Blue Devils improved their record to 2-1 without Zion Williamson following a blowout win over Miami on Saturday.

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Wake Forest was within five points early in the second half before going without a basket for over 13 minutes as the Orange ran away with it 79-54. “It’s tough playing against the Syracuse 2-3 (zone),” Wake Forest freshman forward Isaiah Mucius told reporters after the loss. “They’re super athletic. … We tried as best we could. They just played great defense and we had a tough time scoring the ball.” Duke bounced back following last Tuesday’s loss at Virginia Tech with a resounding 87-57 home win over Miami on Saturday where everyone contributed, much to the delight of its head coach. “Our guys played really well today. They responded to the practice we finally had. We had two really good days of practice. Especially our defense; our defense was outstanding. I’m proud of them. Everyone helped us today,” coach Mike Krzyzewski told the media afterward.

TV: 7 p.m. ET, ESPN

ABOUT WAKE FOREST (11-17, 4-12 ACC): Sophomore guard Chaundee Brown led the Demon Deacons in scoring against the Orange with 14 points on 5-of-11 shooting, while Mucius added 10 points in 19 minutes off the bench. Leading scorer Brandon Childress (14.6 points) had an off-day with just five points on 1-of-8 shooting, including 1-of-7 behind the arc. Wake Forest shot just 32.7 percent from the field while getting outscored 44-10 in the paint and turned the ball over 23 times against Syracuse.

ABOUT DUKE (25-4, 13-3): Freshman RJ Barrett, the ACC’s leading scorer at 23.1 points per game, scored 19 points on 8-of-18 shooting against Miami, while Cameron Reddish matched him for game-high scoring honors on 7-of-14 from the field. Even Jack White, who hadn’t made a 3-pointer in his last 28 attempts, got in on the action as the junior forward scored nine on 3-for-3 shooting from 3-point range. The Blue Devils completely overwhelmed the Hurricanes, shooting 57.1 percent from the floor and winning the rebounding battle 45-29.

TIP-INS

1. Duke leads the all-time series 172-78 and has won nine straight over Wake Forest, including an 87-65 win earlier this season.

2. Barrett needs 25 points to break the Blue Devils’ all-time scoring record for a freshman. The current record was set last season by Marvin Bagley III (694 points).

3. The Blue Devils lead the ACC in offensive rebounding (13.7 per game) and offensive rebounding percentage (36.1).

Posted in CBB, Top Fantasy Picks

Pictured: David Krejci
Source: Maddie Meyer / Getty Images North America

Preview: Lightnings at Bruins

The Boston Bruins are playing some of their best hockey of the season despite missing an important player as they prepare to host the NHL-best Tampa Bay Lightning for an Atlantic Division showdown on Thursday. The Bruins knocked off red-hot San Jose 4-1 on Tuesday to extend their point streak to 14 games (10-0-4), but All-Star David Pastrnak (thumb) has missed half of them.

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“At this time of year, (we are) just focusing game by game,” Boston’s David Krejci told reporters. “Obviously, we know where we are at in the standings, and that’s where we want to be. But we know that it’s going to be a battle. Hockey in March is one of the hardest months of the season.” The Bruins sit 19 points behind Tampa Bay in the Atlantic but are just one ahead of Toronto for second place and home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs. Tampa Bay set a franchise record on Wednesday with its 10th straight victory as it coughed up a two-goal lead before defenseman Victor Hedman scored in overtime for a 4-3 triumph over the New York Rangers as it matched Boston’s 14-game point streak (12-0-2) – all this month. Nikita Kucherov set up Hedman’s game-winner for his third assist of the contest and league-leading 104th point of the season for the Lightning, who can reach 50 wins on Thursday.

TV: 7:30 p.m. NBC Sports Network, Sportsnet One, Sportsnet East, Sportsnet Ontario, TVA

ABOUT THE LIGHTNING (49-11-4): Kucherov is four points shy of matching the franchise single-season record set in 2006-07 by Vincent Lecavalier while Brayden Point reached 80 for the first time in his career on Wednesday with an assist. Captain Steven Stamkos added a pair of assists in the win, giving him 16 of his 77 points in his last 10 games, and J.T. Miller has scored in three of his last four contests. Andrei Vasilevskiy recorded his 29th win on Wednesday and is 9-0-2 with a .950 save percentage in February while backup Louis Domingue has won a franchise-best 11 straight starts.

ABOUT THE BRUINS (37-17-9): Brad Marchand has picked up his production level in linemate Pastrnak’s absence, collecting 17 of his team-high 74 points in the last 11 contests after scoring one goal and setting up two others on Tuesday. Krejci also has been a major factor during Boston’s 14-game run, registering five goals and 10 assists over the last 12 contests to push his season total to 55 points. Marcus Johansson notched an assist in his team debut on Tuesday, telling reporters: “It’s such a good team, you just go out and play, you don’t have to think too much.”

OVERTIME

1. The Lightning were 6-for-6 on the penalty kill during Wednesday’s win and are 25-for-25 over their last seven contests.

2. Boston C Noel Acciari, who took a puck to the face in Tuesday’s game, is questionable to face the Lightning while D Kevan Miller (upper body) is doubtful.

3. Tampa Bay C Tyler Johnson’s goal in the first period against the Rangers was the 300th point of his career.

Posted in NHL, Top Fantasy Picks

Pictured: Jaylen Hands
Source: Joe Robbins / Getty Images North America

Preview: USC at UCLA

The stakes are always high when cross-town rivals USC and UCLA square off, but Thursday’s Pac-12 game at Pauley Pavilion brings a bit of added significance. The Trojans and Bruins are tied for fifth in the conference, one game behind Utah in their bid to receive a first-round bye in the Pac-12 tournament with each having a road game against the Utes remaining.

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UCLA is in this position thanks to sophomore guard Jaylen Hands, who scored all his career-high 27 points in the second half as the Bruins erased a 19-point deficit en route to a 90-83 victory over Oregon on Saturday. “We’ve just got to figure out, how can we package that second half,” interim UCLA coach Murry Bartow told reporters. “If we can figure out how to tie a ribbon around the second half as we move forward, then we’re a pretty good basketball team.” USC missed all six of its free-throw attempts – the first time in school history it didn’t record a point from the line – in a 67-62 loss to Oregon State on Saturday in its final home game of the regular season. The Trojans snapped a four-game losing streak in the series with an 80-67 victory Jan. 19 behind 21 points apiece from senior forward Bennie Boatwright and junior forward Nick Rakocevic.

TV: 9 p.m. ET, ESPN

ABOUT USC (15-13, 8-7 Pac-12): Boatwright is third in the conference in scoring (team-high 18.3 points), and is shooting 65.5 percent from 3-point range in the last three games and 58.7 percent on 46 attempts over his past six contests. Rakocevic (15.1 points) leads the Pac-12 with 13 double-doubles and is third in rebounding (team-high 9.4) but recorded only four points versus Oregon State and a total of five boards in his last two games. Freshman guard Kevin Porter Jr. (9.1 points, 4.0 rebounds) registered his first career double-double with 11 points and a personal-best 10 rebounds Saturday, and has reached double-figure scoring in three of his last four contests.

ABOUT UCLA (15-13, 8-7): Sophomore guard Kris Wilkes (team-high 17.2 points) has reached double figures in 26-of-28 games this season, with both misses coming in the last six contests, and scored 20 or more for the ninth time with 20 versus Oregon. Hands (13.5 points), who has averaged 21.4 points while shooting 50 percent from 3-point range in his last five contests, leads the Pac-12 with 6.4 assists per game. Junior guard Prince Ali (9.6 points) averaged only 3.3 points in four games before missing the last two with plantar fasciitis in his left foot.

TIP-INS

1. The Trojans lead the Pac-12 with 16.4 assists per game and are 14-0 this season when recording at least 16.

2. UCLA shot 63.6 percent from 3-point range Saturday – it’s most prolific game since shooting a school-record 76.5 percent in a 95-79 victory over Northwestern in Las Vegas on Nov. 29, 2013.

3. Boatwright, Rakocevic and junior G Jonah Mathews (12.5 points) account for 58.4 percent of USC’s points.

Posted in CBB, Top Fantasy Picks

Pictured: Thaddeus Young
Source: Gregory Shamus / Getty Images North America

Preview: Pacers at Mavericks

The Indiana Pacers seek to post their ninth victory in the past 11 games when they visit the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday. The Pacers endured a 113-109 road loss to the Detroit Pistons on Monday and look to bounce back against a Dallas team that has dropped five straight games.

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Indiana was on the uphill climb against Detroit after falling behind by 16 after one quarter and was unable to make up the difference. “We’ve been notorious for getting off to slow starts,” Pacers forward Thaddeus Young said after the loss. “We can’t come out like we’re warming up. We have to come out ready to jump on teams and be mentally prepared and physically prepared from the start.” Dallas rookie sensation Luka Doncic (ankle) returned from a two-game absence to produce 28 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists in Monday’s 121-112 road loss to the Los Angeles Clippers. All four of Doncic’s triple-doubles have occurred in his past 12 games.

TV: 8:30 p.m. ET, FS Indiana, FS Southwest (Dallas)

ABOUT THE PACERS (40-21): Forward Domantas Sabonis scored 23 points against the Pistons – tying his second-highest output of the season – but departed late in the contest with a sprained ankle. Indiana coach Nate McMillan was unsure what Sabaonis’ status would be and his availability might not be determined until close to game time. Small forward Bojan Bogdanovic poured in 25 points against Detroit and topped 20 points in eight of the past 11 games and 22 times overall.

ABOUT THE MAVERICKS (26-34): Doncic’s latest stellar night came with a bad component as he committed a season-worst nine turnovers, marking the 12th time he has had five or more miscues in a game. “He thinks he can thread any needle and throw the ball through one guy’s nose and out his rear end,” Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said after the loss to the Clippers. “You just can’t do that in this league on a consistent basis.” Reserve forward Dwight Powell scored a career-best 24 points on 10-of-11 shooting and reached 20 points in two of the past three games.

BUZZER BEATERS

1. The Pacers won six of the past nine meetings, including a 111-99 home victory on Jan. 19.

2. Dallas SG Tim Hardaway Jr. scored 20 points against Los Angeles for this third 20-point effort in the past four games.

3. Indiana C Myles Turner (left hip) returned from a two-game absence against Detroit but had just seven points on 3-of-10 shooting in 30 minutes.

Posted in NBA, Top Fantasy Picks

Pictured: Smokey (Volunteers Mascot)
Source: Ronald Martinez / Getty Images North America

Preview: Tennessee at Ole Miss

Seventh-ranked Tennessee looks to keep pace in its quest for the SEC regular-season title, after losing twice in the last three games, when they pay a visit to dangerous Ole Miss on Wednesday night. The Volunteers were routed at No. 4 Kentucky and lost in overtime at No. 14 LSU on consecutive Saturdays to fall into a tie with those two for first place in the league to start the week.

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Tennessee had a two-point lead in the final seconds of overtime at LSU before giving up a rebound basket and fouling with less than one second remaining after missing a 3-pointer to lose 82-80 on Saturday. “When we don’t execute the way I think we need to, you learn from it, and we need to look at the things that we need to do to continue to get better,” Volunteers coach Rick Barnes told reporters. “We know we are going to be in games like this the rest of the way. … We have got to make sure we know how to handle situations, and we have to do a better job obviously.” The Rebels have won five of their last six games but don’t own a win over a team currently ranked this season, so beating Tennessee would help impress the NCAA Tournament selection committee. “They’ve got great character, depth and physicality that you’ll have to match,” Ole Miss coach Kermit Davis told reporters of the Volunteers. “Our guards are going to have to be terrific in the game. I know this, this place will be rocking on (Wednesday).”

TV: 7 p.m. ET, SEC Network

ABOUT TENNESSEE (24-3, 12-2, SEC): Barnes would like to see a few changes on offense, telling reporters: “Our guards do need to get fouled more. The only way they are going to do that is being more aggressive attacking the basket as opposed to settling for jump shots.” Junior forward Grant Williams tops the team in scoring (19.0) and rebounding (7.6) while senior guard Admiral Schofield adds 16.9 points per game after scoring 27 at LSU. Junior point guard Jordan Bone runs the show, averaging a team-high 6.3 assists, and is 17-of-30 from the field over the last three contests.

ABOUT OLE MISS (19-8, 9-5): Junior guard Breein Tyree leads the team in scoring (18.4) on 48 percent shooting from the field and is averaging 21.1 over the past nine games. Senior guard Terence Davis does a little bit of everything, scoring 15.6 per contest while leading the team in rebounds (5.9) and assists (3.4). Sophomore guard Devontae Shuler is averaging 12.8 points the last four games after scoring 16 on Saturday in a win over Georgia to push his season mark to 9.8 with a team-high 1.8 steals.

TIP-INS

1. Davis needs two made 3-pointers to pass Jason Harrison (163) for seventh on the Rebels’ all-time list.

2. Tennessee junior Gs Jordan Bowden and Lamonte Turner are a combined 12-of-51 from the field the last three games.

3. Ole Miss senior F Bruce Stevens managed nine points combined the last two games after matching his season high with 17 versus Missouri.

Posted in CBB, Top Fantasy Picks

Pictured: Jack Eichel
Source: Bruce Bennett / Getty Images North America

Preview: Sabres at Flyers

Two teams hoping to remain in the playoff race in the Eastern Conference face off Tuesday when the Buffalo Sabres visit the Philadelphia Flyers. Buffalo is six points behind Carolina for the second wild-card spot while Philadelphia trails the Hurricanes by seven and Columbus by eight for third place in the Metropolitan Division.

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The Sabres were unable to close the cap Monday as they allowed four consecutive goals in the second period en route to their fifth straight road loss – a 5-3 setback at Toronto. Captain Jack Eichel scored twice to extend his point streak to five games (three goals, four assists) and increase his career high – and team-leading – total to 68 points. Captain Claude Giroux celebrated his 800th NHL game Saturday by scoring 1:59 into overtime as the Flyers posted a 4-3 comeback victory over Pittsburgh at Philadelphia’s Lincoln Financial Field in their 2019 Stadium Series matchup. The outdoor contest marked the end of Wayne Simmonds’ 7 2/3-season tenure with the Flyers as the rugged right wing was dealt to Nashville at Monday’s trade deadline.

TV: 7 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network, NBCS Philadelphia

ABOUT THE SABRES (29-25-8): Sam Reinhart followed a hat trick against Washington on Saturday with a goal and an assist versus the Maple Leafs while Kyle Okposo registered two hits and blocked a pair of shots in 11 minutes, 40 seconds of ice time after missing four games with a concussion. Defenseman Brandon Montour, who recorded five goals and 20 assists in 62 games with Anaheim this season, is expected to make his debut with the Sabres on Tuesday after being acquired two days earlier. Buffalo made one deal on deadline day Monday, sending blue-liner Nathan Beaulieu to Winnipeg for a sixth-round pick in the June draft.

ABOUT THE FLYERS (29-26-7): In return for Simmonds, Philadelphia received right wing Ryan Hartman and a conditional 2020 fourth-round draft pick from the Predators. The 24-year-old Hartman, who scored a career-high 19 goals with Chicago in 2016-17, recorded 10 tallies and as many assists in 64 games with Nashville this season. Defenseman Radko Gudas will return to the lineup Tuesday after serving a two-game suspension for a high-sticking infraction against Tampa Bay’s Nikita Kucherov.

OVERTIME

1. Flyers G Brian Elliott, who made his first start – and third appearance – since Nov. 15 because of a lower-body injury Saturday, is expected to get the call again versus Buffalo.

2. Buffalo will be playing on the road for the fifth time in six games after beginning the month with seven straight home contests.

3. Philadelphia D Samuel Morin (knee) was recalled from his conditioning assignment with Lehigh Valley of the American Hockey League and practiced Monday but has yet to be activated from injured reserve.

Posted in NHL, Top Fantasy Picks

Source: Getty Images North America

Preview: Celtics at Raptors

Two of the top Eastern Conference contenders square off for the fourth and final time in the regular season when the Toronto Raptors host the Boston Celtics on Tuesday. The Celtics won the two matchups in Boston while the Raptors also protected home court with a 113-101 win on Oct. 19.

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Toronto played without All-Star small forward Kawhi Leonard (rest) during Sunday’s 113-98 home loss to the Orlando Magic as its seven-game winning streak came to a halt. “Just never really got in a rhythm,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse told reporters. “They made some big shots every time we thought we were right where we needed to be.” Boston has dropped four of its last six games after being humbled 126-116 by the host Chicago Bulls on Saturday. “We just got outplayed in every which way,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens told reporters. “There are no two ways around it. You know, credit them obviously. Once they got rolling, there was no stopping them.”

TV: 8 p.m. ET, TNT, NBCS Boston, Sportsnet One (Toronto)

ABOUT THE CELTICS (37-23): Star point guard Kyrie Irving has been frustrated with his team’s play in recent weeks but was more measured after contributing 37 points and 10 assists in the setback against the Bulls. “It’s basketball, so we’ve got some figuring out to do,” Irving told reporters after the team’s second straight loss. “Go back, watch film. Obviously, some effort plays where we really could’ve covered for one another and just execution on both ends of the floor. Being able to give each other space, make basketball plays, read plays, just play the game at a high level. Obviously, these last two games, we haven’t done that at the level we’ve been capable of. We have to continue to do better.” Small forward Gordon Hayward scored just five points in 24 minutes against Chicago after missing one game with an ankle injury.

ABOUT THE RAPTORS (44-17): The startling loss to Orlando dropped Toronto to 13-4 when playing without Leonard and Nurse said that the game falling in between Friday’s emotional game with the San Antonio Spurs — Leonard’s former team — and the Celtics was why it was picked to rest him. The plan didn’t work with the Magic holding the Raptors to 15 first-quarter points and being the sharper team throughout the contest. Power forward Serge Ibaka scored 14 points off the bench to extend his career-long streak of consecutive games in double digits to 22.

BUZZER BEATERS

1. Irving is averaging 30.3 points against the Raptors this season, including a season-high 43 in a 123-116 overtime win on Nov. 16.

2. Boston reserve PG Terry Rozier is just 5-of-26 shooting over his past three games.

3. Toronto PG Kyle Lowry had 19 points and 10 assists against Orlando for his 16th double-double of the season.

Posted in NBA, Top Fantasy Picks

Pictured: R.J. Barrett
Source: Justin K. Aller / Getty Images North America

Williamson out as No. 3 Duke plays at No. 20 Virginia Tech

Duke figured out how to cope without freshman star Zion Williamson for one game.

It will have to do it again Tuesday night when the third-ranked Blue Devils play at No. 20 Virginia Tech in an ACC game in Blacksburg, Va.

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Coach Mike Krzyzewski told reporters Monday that Williamson is making progress from a Grade 1 knee sprain suffered last Wednesday, but he added that the program will be cautious about the forward’s return.

“There’s no timetable,” Krzyzewski said. “We don’t want to put the pressure of time on him.”

Williamson went out with a sprained knee Wednesday night in the opening minute of a loss to North Carolina. He didn’t play Saturday night at Syracuse, but the Blue Devils found other sources to get it done in a 75-65 victory.

Most notably, RJ Barrett scored 30 points and sophomore guard Alex O’Connell added a career-best 20 points.

“We practiced a couple of days without Zion so we got a feel for our team without him,” O’Connell said. “As great of a player as he is, we have a lot of other talented guys on the team. It just shows once he gets back we will be an even stronger team.”

Duke (24-3, 12-2 ACC) shares first place in the conference with Virginia and North Carolina, while the Hokies (21-6, 10-5) sit in fourth place.

Virginia Tech is also dealing with the absence of a top player, having gone a few weeks without standout guard Justin Robinson, who has a foot injury. The Hokies are 4-3 since he went out, and coach Buzz Williams is keeping a timetable for his potential return under wraps.

“As our roster has changed, we categorize guys in one or two ways in rebounding — they’re either go-gets or get-backs guys,” Williams said. “One way we try to gain possessions is through offensive rebounding, which has never been a forte of ours.”

Redshirt junior forward Kerry Blackshear Jr. has become a go-to player for the Hokies, recording double-doubles in the past two games.

“He has just become integral to literally everything we do on both ends,” Williams said.

Barrett, who leads the ACC with 23.3 points per game, drained several big shots from the perimeter at Syracuse, but he also picked up some of the interior slack for Duke.

“It was just important for me to get in there and make reads,” Barrett said.

Barrett leads the ACC with six games with 30 or more points. He has set a conference freshman record with 20 games with at least 20 points; the previous mark of 19 was set by Georgia Tech guard Kenny Anderson in 1989-90.

Duke will be playing its third game in seven days. This trip will be its final out-of-state game until the NCAA Tournament, as all eyes continue to be on the potential return of Williamson, the favorite to be the No. 1 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft.

“The main thing is for him to get healthy and continue to improve,” Krzyzewski said via ESPN. “We’ve got some new things we saw against Syracuse (on Saturday) and maybe there’ll be more (vs. Virginia Tech).”

Virginia Tech has lost two of its past three home games, falling to Louisville and Virginia, with a victory against Georgia Tech in between.

Duke has lost in each of the past two seasons in Blacksburg.

Posted in CBB, Top Fantasy Picks

Pictured: Ben Simmons
Source: SL / Getty Images North America

Preview: 76ers at Pelicans

The Philadelphia 76ers are having a tough time with All-Star center Joel Embiid on the sidelines and will try to find a winning formula without him when they visit the New Orleans Pelicans on Monday. After struggling to get past Miami on Thursday at home while Embiid (knee) began what is expected to be at least a week-long absence, the Sixers were embarrassed 130-115 by Portland on Saturday.

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The Trail Blazers had a 61-42 advantage on the glass and scored the most points for a Philadelphia opponent in a regulation game this season. “We just didn’t rebound well enough against a team like this,” point guard Ben Simmons told reporters. “It’s a group effort rebounding. I think just all of us combined, I don’t think we did enough.” The Pelicans have a very different drama with their star big man, Anthony Davis, and they angered some fans by resting him Saturday at home against the Los Angeles Lakers. Jrue Holiday helped send the fans home happy by scoring 27 points in New Orleans’ 128-115 triumph.

TV: 8 p.m. ET, NBATV, NBCS Philadelphia, FS New Orleans

ABOUT THE 76ERS (38-22): Simmons scored 29 points and Tobias Harris added 20 in the loss to the Blazers as Philadelphia fell two games behind third-place Indiana in the Eastern Conference. “Clearly we miss Joel,” Harris told reporters. “There’s no getting around that. He’s a big piece to our team, but we don’t have him right now and we have to be able to get efforts from everybody else on the team.” Veteran guard JJ Redick has seen his scoring total fall in each of the last five games after a seven-point effort in the loss and he is 4-for-15 from beyond the arc since the All-Star break.

ABOUT THE PELICANS (27-34): Forward Cheick Diallo has taken advantage of some available minutes while the Davis drama plays out and notched his second straight double-double while making all eight of his shots against the Lakers. Julius Randle added 24 points, Ian Clark had 17 off the bench and Elfrid Payton finished with 14 and nine assists as New Orleans put forth a team effort without its All-Star. “I think you can take all the guys that were involved in the game in some stage,” coach Alvin Gentry told reporters. “They did something positive for us.”

BUZZER BEATERS

1. Holiday scored 30 points while Davis was limited to 12 in a one-point loss at Philadelphia earlier this season.

2. Diallo has 34 points and 28 rebounds in 45 minutes over his last two games.

3. Sixers PG T.J. McConnell has 23 assists and two turnovers over his last six games.

Posted in NBA, Top Fantasy Picks

Pictured: Auston Matthews
Source: Claus Andersen / Getty Images North America

Preview: Sabres at Maple Leafs

The Toronto Maple Leafs snapped a season-high three-game winless skid in style, overcoming an early three-goal deficit with six unanswered tallies to best an Original Six rival. The Maple Leafs bid to ride that momentum against another Atlantic Division adversary on Monday when they host the Buffalo Sabres in the third contest of their four-game homestand.

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“I think that first period intermission we just wanted to come in and just take a deep breath, get our composure back and just go to work,” said Auston Matthews, who scored and set up a goal in Toronto’s 6-3 triumph over Montreal on Saturday to boost his point total to 15 (nine goals, six assists) in his last 13 games. The 21-year-old capped a two-goal performance with three seconds remaining in overtime in the Maple Leafs’ 4-3 win over the Sabres on Dec. 4. Sam Reinhart scored and set up a goal in that contest and registered his third career hat trick in Saturday’s 5-2 victory against Washington to lift his point total to six (four goals, two assists) in his last five games. “I just like the urgency and the desperation in our game right now,” said Buffalo coach Phil Housley, whose team snapped a four-game skid (0-3-1) on Saturday and resides six points out of the final wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference.

TV: 7 p.m. ET, MSG Buffalo, TVA, TSN4 (Toronto)

ABOUT THE SABRES (29-24-8): Captain Jack Eichel tallied twice in the first encounter with Toronto and had two of his club-best 47 assists against the Capitals to boost his team-leading point total 66 – two more than his previous career high set last season. “I thought we’ve done a good job the last two games for sure,” the 22-year-old Eichel told reporters. “I thought we’ve defended when we need to, we’ve worked hard, we played pretty desperate.” Jeff Skinner, who leads the team with 36 goals, survived a scare after injuring his ankle and reportedly was making jokes during the second intermission before returning to Saturday’s game to start the third period.

ABOUT THE MAPLE LEAFS (37-20-4): Mitch Marner recorded his 15th multi-assist and 22nd multi-point performance on Saturday by setting up both of Zach Hyman’s third-period goals to boost his team-leading totals in assists (50) and points (71). The 21-year-old’s point total surpassed his previous high of 69, set in 2017-18. Hyman, who boasts three goals in his last three games, has posted 17 of his 27 points on home ice this season.

OVERTIME

1. Buffalo D Rasmus Ristolainen snapped a six-game point drought with an assist on Saturday and heads into the tilt with Toronto, against which he set up two goals in the first meeting.

2. Maple Leafs F Patrick Marleau, who scored in the first matchup with the Sabres, has nine points (two goals, seven assists) in February.

3. Buffalo G Carter Hutton has turned aside 116 of his last 124 shots, but only has a 1-2-1 record to show for it.

Posted in NHL, Top Fantasy Picks

Pictured: DeMar DeRozan (left) & Kyle Lowry (right)
Source: Ethan Miller / Getty Images North America

Preview: Spurs at Raptors

DeMar DeRozan will make his first trip back to where he started his career when the San Antonio Spurs visit the Toronto Raptors on Friday. DeRozan, who was sent to the Spurs in the blockbuster deal last summer that placed Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green in Toronto, is averaging 21.4 points while trying to pull San Antonio into the Western Conference playoffs.

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DeRozan was a four-time All-Star for the Raptors and holds the franchise records for games played (675), minutes (22,986) and points (13,296) and is expected to be greeted warmly by the Toronto crowd. “I think it’ll definitely be one for the ages,” DeRozan told TSN of his impending return. “It’s something where you think you’ve experienced everything, but that will be an interesting moment.” The Raptors have done just fine without DeRozan and sit in second place in the Eastern Conference coming out of the All-Star break and went into the break hot with wins in six straight. DeRozan’s Spurs are in a more precarious position and went into the break in seventh place in the West after dropping four of the first five on their eight-game Rodeo Road Trip.

TV: 7 p.m. ET, ESPN, TSN 1/3/4 (Toronto)

ABOUT THE SPURS (33-26): San Antonio struggled through the Western Conference portion of the trip prior to the break, falling at Sacramento, Golden State, Portland and Utah before recovering with a 108-107 victory at Memphis on Feb. 12. DeRozan, who missed out on the All-Star game in his first season with the Spurs, is averaging 23.5 points on the trip while All-Star forward LaMarcus Aldridge went into the break strong with three straight double-doubles. San Antonio finishes out the trip with a back-to-back at New York and Brooklyn on Sunday and Monday before playing eight of their next 10 at home.

ABOUT THE RAPTORS (43-16): Leonard did make the All-Star Game in his first season with Toronto and started for winning Team LeBron, scoring 19 points in as many minutes. The Raptors made a splash ahead of the deadline by bringing former All-Star center Marc Gasol over from the Grizzlies and are undefeated in three games with him in the lineup. Gasol, 34, is still ironing out his place in the rotation and came off the bench in each of his first three games, averaging 10 points in 20 minutes.

BUZZER BEATERS

1. Spurs PG Derrick White (plantar fasciitis) sat out the last five games but is expected to return Friday. 

2. Raptors SG Patrick McCaw (shoulder) sat out the final game prior to the break and is questionable.

3. San Antonio earned a 125-107 home win over Toronto on Jan. 3 behind 21 points, 14 rebounds and 11 assists from DeRozan.

Posted in NBA, Top Fantasy Picks