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Sports Brief: January 16-19

Collegiate Baseball Top 25

February is almost upon us, and so is collegiate baseball. Before each season, three or four baseball analyst organizations release a list of their anticipated top 25. The first sports page to release was DI Baseball: here is where they put teams on the list. 

The number one team in the nation, according to DI Baseball, is Wake Forest. Fresh off a notable trip to the national semifinals in 2023, Wake Forest holds the lead in the D1 Baseball Preseason Top 25 rankings for the upcoming ’24 campaign. Despite saying goodbye to standout players like Rhett Lowder and Brock Wilken, the Demon Deacons possess a formidable roster led by Nick Kurtz and Josh Hartle. The team secured top-notch transfers as well, including former Tennessee pitcher Chase Burns and Team USA standout Seaver King.

At the forefront of the rankings, Wake Forest faces tough competition from the SEC, with Florida, Arkansas and LSU securing spots at No. 2, 3 and 4 respectively. The Gators, coming off a national runner-up finish, promise a strong performance, while the Hogs boast a potent combination of pitching prowess and offensive strength. Defending champions LSU showcase a deep pitching staff and a formidable lineup centered around star third baseman Tommy White.

TCU, fresh from a College World Series appearance last season, claims the fifth spot, with a mix of returning offensive power and a robust pitching staff. The SEC continues its dominance in the top 10, with Vanderbilt at No. 6, Texas A&M at No. 8 and Tennessee at No. 9. Oregon State takes the lead in the West at No. 7, and Clemson, ranked No. 10, leads a cluster of ACC teams in the middle of the rankings. Notably, Texas A&M is the highest-ranked among teams not in the previous season’s final standings.

The SEC asserts its dominance with eight teams securing positions in the Top 25, closely followed by the ACC with six representatives. The Big 12 features four teams, including Kansas State, who narrowly missed the NCAA tournament last season. The Pac-12 claims two spots, and five additional conferences—American, Big Ten, Big West, CAA and Sun Belt—each have one team in the preseason rankings.

As excitement builds for the 2024 college baseball season, all eyes are on Wake Forest and the powerhouse teams ready to compete for supremacy on the diamond. The stage is set for an exhilarating season filled with intense competition and memorable moments.

Update on NFL Playoffs

As the dust settles on an exhilarating Wild Card weekend, six teams have secured their spots in the NFL Divisional Round. The Houston Texans, Kansas City Chiefs, Green Bay Packers, Detroit Lions, Buffalo Bills and Tampa Bay Buccaneers emerged victorious, setting the stage for intense matchups ahead.

In a standout Monday night performance, the Buffalo Bills showcased their dominance by storming past the Pittsburgh Steelers with a 31-17 victory. Quarterback Josh Allen stole the spotlight, tallying four total touchdowns. Meanwhile, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers proved their mettle by steamrolling the Philadelphia Eagles 32-9, earning them a ticket to face the Lions in the next round.

The Detroit Lions provided fans with an emotional playoff win by edging past the Los Angeles Rams in a nail-biting 24-23 triumph. Adding to the drama, the Green Bay Packers delivered a stunning blow to the Dallas Cowboys, demolishing the team that had not lost at home once this season.

The Kansas City Chiefs faced the Miami Dolphins in the fourth-coldest game in NFL history, emerging victorious with a 26-7 win. Quarterback Patrick Mahomes led the Chiefs with 262 passing yards and a touchdown, while their defense effectively handled Miami’s offensive strategies.

Looking ahead to the Divisional Round, here’s how the playoff bracket shapes up: in the AFC Divisional Round, No. 4 Houston Texans at No. 1 Baltimore Ravens, and the No. 3 Kansas City Chiefs at No. 2 Buffalo Bills.

In the NFC Divisional Round: No. 7 Green Bay Packers at No. 1 San Francisco 49ers, and No. 4 Tampa Bay Buccaneers at No. 3 Detroit Lions.

Josh Giddey Cleared from Allegations

Amidst the ongoing success of the youthful OKC Thunder core, a recent incident involving player Josh Giddey posed potential complications. Newport Beach, California police have now confirmed that Giddey will not face charges after thoroughly investigating allegations that surfaced on social media.

The police department, following an exhaustive examination of the claims, stated they could not find evidence to support any criminal activity related to Giddey. Consequently, the police investigation has been closed officially.

In a news release on Wednesday, the Newport Beach Police Department emphasized its commitment to sharing accurate information with the public while safeguarding the rights of everyone involved. The allegations first emerged in November when an anonymous social media user claimed a high school junior was seen with the 21-year-old basketball player in videos and pictures. The post has since been deleted.

The NBA initiated its own investigation into the claims with spokesperson Michael Bass informing The Associated Press on Wednesday that the league was aware of the findings in the police probe and was “continuing our review” of the allegations.

Giddey, during a November news conference, opted not to comment on the allegations, stating, “For right now, I don’t have anything to say.” 

Hailing from Melbourne, Australia, Giddey was chosen sixth overall in the 2021 draft and holds the distinction of being the first NBA Global Academy graduate selected in the NBA draft. Notably, he earned a spot on the All-Rookie second team during the 2021-2022 season.

With the legal inquiry now resolved, Giddey and the Thunder can shift their focus back to on-court challenges, leaving behind the brief cloud of uncertainty that momentarily overshadowed the promising trajectory of the young team.

Bills Mafia to the Rescue

The Buffalo Bills are enlisting the support of their dedicated fanbase, known as the Bills Mafia, to assist in the snow-clearing efforts at Highmark Stadium. This initiative is in preparation for the Bills’ crucial AFC divisional playoff clash against the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday.

Through a discreet social media post, the team coaxed fans to join the snow-clearing endeavor on Friday, commencing at 2 p.m. ET and extending into the evening hours. The clandestine operation aims to ensure that Highmark Stadium is ready for the playoff showdown, scheduled for a 6:30 p.m. ET kickoff on Sunday.

Weather conditions are expected to be less severe than the Bills’ wild-card round victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers, which was rescheduled due to extreme weather. The forecast predicts a relatively mild temperature of 20 degrees at kickoff, but the National Weather Service anticipates a snow accumulation of 2-8 inches on Friday and Saturday leading up to the game.

To maintain secrecy, the Bills have outlined the requirements for potential helpers — individuals aged 18 or older with proper photo identification. Those willing to participate should come equipped with weather-appropriate gear, including gloves, scarves, hats, boots and coats. If available, a shovel is recommended, but the team assures one will be provided for those without.

Compensation of $20 per hour will be offered to the covert workers, along with a promised “comfortable, warm break.” This operation mirrors similar initiatives taken by other NFL teams like the Green Bay Packers, who sought assistance from their fanbase in snow-clearing activities at Lambeau Field.

Last week’s undertaking saw many shovelers navigate the challenging conditions to prepare the stadium for the rescheduled game against the Steelers. In a furtive social media post, volunteer Logan Eschrich shared footage of the “snowcrew” making progress under the radar.

“It would have been absolutely impossible to play. We could barely see the next row down from us. And unfortunately, it’s still that way,” Eschrich commented. 

The efforts made headway in clearing the snow, ensuring that the game could proceed despite the challenging weather conditions.

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