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College Basketball: Who Gets the Spotlight This Week?



One thing fans have learned about preseason rankings in college basketball: They don’t mean a thing.

Early-season tournaments have created opportunities for teams from the periphery to emerge, and they have. Expect plenty of different programs to take turns in the spotlight from now until March.

Juwan Howard has dispelled any questions about his ability to run a college program. Despite no prior head coaching experience, Howard, a former Wolverine, has fit in seamlessly as Michigan’s coach. Howard’s confidence, poise and temperament were on full display last week as Michigan won games over Iowa State, North Carolina and Gonzaga en route to winning the prestigious Battle 4 Atlantis in the Bahamas. No team in college basketball has a better résumé than the Wolverines right now.

Obi Toppin is a potential all-American. Toppin, Dayton’s 6-foot-9 superstar, broke out last week at the Maui Invitational. Through six games, he is averaging 23 points, 8.3 rebounds and 1.6 blocks. “He’s going to be a problem for a lot of people,” Coach Anthony Grant said. “He can hurt you either inside or outside. He’s really versatile.” Toppin is shooting an impressive 50 percent from 3-point range. Dayton’s top six scorers are all shooting better than 34 percent from long distance. “We’ve got a lot of different guys that can open things up,” Grant said. “It gives us great spacing and that opens things up for Obi in the middle of the floor.”

Aaron Wiggins is Maryland’s long-term X Factor. The Terps have everything else, as shown by their 84-63 win over Marquette on Sunday in the final of the Orlando Invitational. If the 6-6 Wiggins can become a major scoring threat alongside Anthony Cowan and Jalen Smith, then this could be a season to remember in College Park.

“We don’t want him passing up open looks,” Maryland Coach Mark Turgeon said of Wiggins, who had 15 points on Sunday against Marquette. “We need him to be a big part of what we do. The great thing about Aaron is even when he’s not making shots, he’s doing everything else right.” Maryland is built to match up with any team in college basketball. “I think they’re a team that can win a national championship,” Marquette Coach Steve Wojciechowski said.

Michigan will travel to Louisville on Tuesday. The Wolverines’ 7-0 start has featured many impressive wins, but beating the Cardinals on their home floor will be even tougher. Coach Chris Mack has a team built to be the Atlantic Coast Conference’s best this season, led by the junior Jordan Nwora. A 6-7 wing, Nwora is averaging 21.9 points a game.

Duke and Michigan State go head-to-head on Tuesday in East Lansing. The Blue Devils lost a nonconference home game last week for the first time since 2000 when they fell to Stephen F. Austin at Cameron Indoor Stadium. The Spartans were upset in the first round of the Maui Invitational by Virginia Tech. Both teams still have what it takes to be major factors at the tournament. It will be the first game for Duke without the freshman Cassius Stanley, who is out indefinitely with a hamstring injury.

Ohio State’s first major road test will occur on Wednesday at North Carolina. The Buckeyes (7-0) have been as impressive as any team in college basketball in the first month of the season, but have yet to play a game outside Columbus. “You never really know just how good your team is until you play a game away from home,” Coach Chris Holtmann said. “We’ve still got the youngest team we’ve ever had and we’re going to be playing freshmen and sophomores on the road at North Carolina.”

  • Kansas center Udoka Azubuike was a combined 24 for 29 from the field in three games last week at the Maui Invitational. There’s no way that Texas Tech and Kansas State would have split the Big 12 regular-season title last season ahead of the Jayhawks if Azubuike had not been sidelined with a torn ligament in his hand. A 7-footer, he is currently leading all of college basketball in field-goal percentage at 79.7 percent.

  • Auburn Coach Bruce Pearl deserves the same credit that Virginia Coach Tony Bennett is getting for his team’s play over the first month of the season. Like Bennett, Pearl lost significant production from last season’s team that reached the Final Four, but still managed to go undefeated in November. “I like the fact that we’re playing with force,” Pearl said. The Tigers are 7-0 and have four players averaging in double figures.

  • Providence had a terrible November. The Friars have already lost games to Northwestern, Penn, Long Beach State and Charleston. Key games in December include Rhode Island, Florida and Texas. Coach Ed Cooley has an awful lot of work ahead.

  • The Memphis freshman Precious Achiuwa is thriving without James Wiseman in the lineup. Wiseman was suspended after his mother accepted money from his coach. In the four games since that suspension began, the 6-9 Achiuwa is averaging 19 points and 10.5 rebounds while shooting 50 percent from the field.

  • Oklahoma State’s performance at the Preseason N.I.T. sent a message to the rest of the Big 12. The Cowboys beat Syracuse and Ole Miss back-to-back last week by an average of 27.5 points. Oklahoma State’s next four games will be arduous. The Cowboys host Georgetown and Wichita State in Stillwater, travel to Houston and play Minnesota on a neutral floor.

  • Indiana is about to step up in class. The Hoosiers’ 7-0 start didn’t feature a single game against a team from a power conference. That will change on Tuesday in Bloomington against Florida State in the A.C.C./Big Ten Challenge. Every remaining game on Indiana’s schedule will be against a high-major opponent.

  • DePaul’s Charlie Moore is quietly playing like one of the best point guards in the country. In his last three games, Moore, a 5-11 guard, is averaging 21 points and 11 assists. “He’s doing a great job of balancing both scoring and distributing,” DePaul Coach Dave Leitao said. “When he can do both, it changes everything.” The Blue Demons are 8-0 and will next host Texas Tech on Wednesday.

  • San Diego State has put itself in position to be a national factor. The Aztecs are 8-0 after back-to-back wins over Creighton and Iowa at the Las Vegas Invitational. “This is the deepest team we’ve had at San Diego State,” Coach Brian Dutcher said. “I’m playing 10 guys every single game.”

All times are Eastern.

TUESDAY Michigan at Louisville (7:30 p.m., ESPN), Florida State at Indiana (9 p.m., ESPN2), Duke at Michigan State (9:30 p.m., ESPN)

WEDNESDAY Penn at Villanova (6:30 p.m., Fox Sports 1), Virginia at Purdue (7:15 p.m., ESPN2), Notre Dame at Maryland (7:30 p.m., ESPN), Texas Tech at DePaul (8:30 p.m., Fox Sports 1), Ohio State at North Carolina (9:30 p.m., ESPN)

FRIDAY Iowa at Michigan (6:30 p.m., Fox Sports 1), Duke at Virginia Tech (7 p.m., ACC Network), Providence at Rhode Island (7 p.m., ESPN2), Pitt at Louisville (9 p.m., ACC Network).

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Knicks Fire Coach David Fizdale



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The Knicks on Friday fired Coach David Fizdale and one of his assistants, Keith Smart, with the team on pace to record the worst season in franchise history.

Mike Miller, also an assistant coach, was named the interim head coach.

Fizdale was doomed by a 4-18 start, which included eight consecutive defeats — the past two at home by a combined 81 points to Milwaukee and Denver. Such margins are often regarded in the N.B.A. as clear signs that the players are no longer responding to the coach.

The reality, though, is that Fizdale had been on the brink of dismissal since Nov. 10, when the Knicks lost by 21 to the lowly Cleveland Cavaliers at Madison Square Garden. That defeat prompted the team president, Steve Mills, and General Manager Scott Perry to meet during the second half with the team owner, James L. Dolan, and then hold an unexpected postgame news conference in which they said that the team was falling short of expectations.

The Knicks are 2-10 since the Cleveland loss and have looked less and less competitive. Yet Fizdale’s departure, with a 21-83 record that sticks him with the lowest winning percentage of any coach in team history at .202, would appear to shift the pressure onto Mills and Perry.

Hours after seeing Durant and Irving land with the Nets, Mills issued a statement to the news media acknowledging that “while we understand that some Knicks fans could be disappointed with tonight’s news, we continue to be upbeat and confident in our plans to rebuild the Knicks to compete for championships in the future, through both the draft and targeted free agents.”

In an October radio interview, Durant shed some light on how much the Knicks’ stature has diminished under Dolan since the franchise’s last trip to the N.B.A. finals in 1999, saying that younger players, unlike fans, don’t remember the Knicks ever being good.

“I remember the Knicks being in the finals, but the kids after me didn’t see that. So the brand of the Knicks isn’t as cool to them as, let’s say, the Golden State Warriors or even the Lakers or the Nets now,” Durant said. “The cool thing right now is not the Knicks.”

A coaching change is bound to lead to better efforts from the Knicks, but their problems run far deeper.

Neither Dennis Smith Jr., the standout player acquired from Dallas in the Porzingis trade, nor Kevin Knox, the Knicks’ top draft pick in 2018, has shown signs of progress this season. The players Mills and Perry did manage to sign in July when they whiffed on Durant and Irving have created a logjam at power forward.

The website, run by Nate Silver, projected the Knicks to finish 20-62 after the summer signings of Julius Randle, Marcus Morris, Taj Gibson and Bobby Portis.

Fizdale is not even halfway through a four-year, $22 million deal he signed with the Knicks heading into last season. He said after losing 129-92 to the Nuggets on Thursday night that he was not concerned about being fired.

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Eli Manning Is Ready for Another Chance



EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — For the past 11 weeks, as rookie Daniel Jones has taken over the spotlight as the starting quarterback of the Giants, Eli Manning has been running the scout team at practice. As the backup quarterback, Manning played in the style of opposing quarterbacks to prepare the Giants defense for what they will face on game day.

This week, Manning got to be himself again.

Manning, 38, was benched in Week 3 after the Giants (2-10) lost the first two games of the season. At the time, it seemed likely that Manning’s storied Giants career was coming to an end. But now Jones is sidelined with a high-ankle sprain and Manning will likely get at least one more shot, on Monday night against the Philadelphia Eagles (5-7).

“He’s a legend,” running back Saquon Barkley said. He added: “The way he operated in practice, the way he operated in the building was the same Eli that we know. Good to see him come out this week and get a chance. It’s going to be awesome for him.”

Jones was injured in the second quarter of the Giants’ loss to the Packers on Sunday. He played the entire game, but after a magnetic resonance imaging exam on Monday he was in a walking boot and was on the sidelines at practice during the week, biking and stretching.

“It’s pretty disappointing, especially after thinking I was going to be able to play,” Jones told reporters on Wednesday. “I understand it, I guess, and hopefully it’ll heal up pretty quickly.”

Last spring, the Giants drafted Jones, 22, sixth over all, and the expectation was that he would succeed Manning quickly. Jones made his first start against Tampa Bay on Sept. 22, when he led the Giants to a 32-31 comeback win. Jones has thrown for 18 touchdowns and has averaged 235.7 yards in his 10 starts.

Manning’s legacy with the Giants is already secure, despite his not being on the field for most of the season. He had been the face of the franchise since he was drafted in 2004, and he led the Giants to Super Bowl victories in the 2007 and 2011 seasons.

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Villarreal 0-0 Atletico Madrid – HIGHLIGHTS – 12/6/19



Villarreal y Atlético Madrid no pudieron romper el cero y se tienen que conformar con el empate.

Atletico Madrid’s spiral continues with 0-0 draw with Villarreal in LaLiga.

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