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Manchester City Cited Media Leaks in Failed Bid to Avoid Ban

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Last spring, days after news reports revealed the English soccer champion Manchester City was facing expulsion from the Champions League, European soccer’s governing body confirmed the club was indeed in danger. Its investigators had found the club had breached financial control regulations to such an extent that it recommended the team be punished.

Manchester City reacted furiously, arguing leaks to the news media had seriously undermined the integrity of the investigation. The damage to City’s reputation, the team argued, was so serious that not only should the case be thrown out, but Manchester City also should be compensated by UEFA, the body that runs European soccer.

“UEFA has systematically breached, and continues to breach, its duty of confidence,” Manchester City wrote in its submission to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, adding that “leaks” and the decision to refer the club for punishments had caused the club “serious harm and loss.”

The details of City’s reaction to the threat of punishment were published Wednesday by the court, which rejected the appeal in November but only released its report on the case this week. In a 35-page document rejecting City’s appeal, the court detailed efforts by the club to bring an early end to a case that has captivated European soccer since details of City’s so-called financial doping were first published after a leak of internal club documents in 2018.

A ruling on Manchester City’s possible punishment had been expected late last year, and again last month. The delay of a resolution to the case has highlighted the difficulty the adjudicatory arm of UEFA’s financial control body has had in coming to a final decision — one that is likely to lead to an outcry, whatever decision is made.

Any failure to act on the recommendation of UEFA investigators would most likely be seen as a deathblow to the organization’s efforts to impose financial controls on its member clubs. But any penalty, and especially one that sees Manchester City ejected from the Champions League, the world’s richest club competition, will almost certainly lead to more legal action on behalf of the club, which is bankrolled by Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al Nahyan, a billionaire brother of the ruler of the United Arab Emirates.

And the ability of wealthy teams to avoid punishment is not without precedent; last year, UEFA cleared another Gulf-owned team, Paris Saint-Germain, of breaching financial rules, even though the evidence had suggested there was a case to answer.

Manchester City has vigorously denied wrongdoing, and its officials have warned UEFA that they will mount an aggressive response to any effort to punish the club or bar it from the Champions League. “The accusation of financial irregularities are entirely false,” City said in a statement. “The club’s published accounts are full and complete and a matter of legal and regulatory record.”

The case against Manchester City is rooted in the leak of a trove of internal documents obtained by a Portuguese computer hacker, Rui Pinto, and supplied to a group of European news media outlets, notably Germany’s Der Spiegel. News reports about the documents suggested the team had deceived officials responsible for UEFA’s cost control rules by misrepresenting the source of some of its sponsorship income, a key component in meeting regulations imposed on all teams participating in European club competitions.

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U.N.L.V. Ends San Diego State’s Unbeaten Streak

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SAN DIEGO —Elijah Mitrou-Long scored 19 points, including two free throws with 11.5 seconds left, and U.N.L.V. handed No. 4 San Diego State its first loss of the season, a 66-63 defeat on Saturday, ending the Aztecs’ 26-game winning streak.

San Diego State, which had been the only remaining undefeated men’s team, erased most of a 14-point deficit when it pulled to within 64-63 on Malachi Flynn’s 3-pointer with less than 20 seconds left. Mitrou-Long was fouled by Matt Mitchell with 11.5 seconds left and made both free throws.

Flynn missed a contested 3-pointer with 3.3 seconds left and the ball went to the Runnin’ Rebels (15-14, 10-6 Mountain West Conference). After a long pass down the court, Mitchell ended up with the ball and his desperation shot at the buzzer fell short.

San Diego State (26-1, 15-1) unveiled a banner for winning the regular-season conference championship before the game and then looked nothing like the team that raced to the best start in program history. The Aztecs trailed by 14 midway through the second half and were down 11 with 4:32 remaining.

They were uncharacteristically porous on defense and sloppy on offense, missing easy shots and committing careless turnovers.

San Diego State had been projected as the No. 1 seed in the East Region in the N.C.A.A. tournament by ESPN’s Joe Lunardi. Providing the Aztecs do not falter again, the loss could keep the Aztecs in the West as the No. 2 seed. Gonzaga is the projected No. 1 seed in the West, where the regionals will be at Staples Center in Los Angeles.

The Aztecs will drop from their No. 4 spot in the Top 25, which matched the highest ranking in school history. The Top 25 was also shaken by No. 3 Kansas’ 64-61 win over No. 1 Baylor.

U.N.L.V.’s Amauri Hardy scored 17 points, and Bryce Hamilton added 11 points and 10 rebounds.

Flynn scored 24 points, Mitchell had 13 and Jordan Schakel had 10 for San Diego State.

The Aztecs pulled within 62-60 on Flynn’s two free throws with 1:47 left and Arop Aguek’s layup with 25.6 seconds left. Mitrou-Long then made two free throws with 19.9 seconds left for a four-point lead.

Hardy’s jumper gave U.N.L.V. a 44-30 lead three minutes into the second half before San Diego State pulled within seven. But Hardy then made a free throw and a layup to put the Runnin’ Rebels back up by double digits.

U.N.L.V. took advantage of numerous breakdowns by the Aztecs to take a double-digit lead midway through the first half and were up 37-25 at halftime after a steal and dunk by Mitrou-Long.

San Diego State never led after going up 14-13 on a Flynn 3-pointer, and then allowing U.N.L.V. to go on a 10-0 run. Mitrou-Long started it by converting a 4-point play when he hit a 3-pointer and was fouled by Flynn.

The Aztecs’ only points in a four-minute span were two free throws apiece by Mitchell and Flynn. U.N.L.V. kept connecting, though, getting a bank shot by Hamilton and a 3-pointer by Mitrou-Long to take its first double-digit lead, 28-18 with 7:12 before halftime.

San Diego next hosts Colorado State on Tuesday.U.N.L.V. will play Boise State in its home finale on Wednesday.

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New Hockey Folk Hero, David Ayres

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That was quite the story tonight. Carolina could really bond over this game and the result. For Ayers, he has a story for the ages as he gets the victory.

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NCAA tournament bubble watch: Providence, Memphis help cause

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Three weeks away from Selection Sunday means NCAA tournament bubble teams are feeling the pressure to bolster their profiles in hopes of keeping their postseason hopes alive. 

Here’s a look at which teams enhanced and stained their résumés the most in Saturday’s action. 

PROFILE WINNERS

Providence: The Friars (16-12) started the day as one of the “last four in” the projected field of 68. Their 84-72 home victory over Marquette (and Markus Howard’s 38 points) moved them closer to the safety zone. Providence’s NCAA profile is peculiar in the sense that it features four résumé-staining Quadrant 4 losses. However, it also showcases seven Quadrant 1 victories, which is more than any bubble team. 

STATEMENT WIN: Kansas makes case as NCAA tournament’s top No. 1 seed

Memphis: The Tigers (19-8) picked up a much-needed 60-59 win over fellow bubble team Houston. Memphis has regrouped with two consecutive wins after losing three in a row before that. This victory alone over a Houston squad leading the American Athletic standings won’t push coach Penny Hardaway’s team into the projected field of 68 because a NET score in the 60s doesn’t do any favors, but beating Houston counts as a marquee win, which Memphis was desperately lacking on its résumé. 

Arkansas: The Razorbacks (17-10) are currently on the outside looking in as a bubble team that needs to keep winning to have a shot at the NCAAs. So beating SEC foe Missouri 78-68 on Saturday was necessary to keep those hopes alive. Arkansas only has a 4-9 record in league play (the committee doesn’t look at that), but has a top-50 NET score, top 15 non-conference strength of schedule and no Quad 3 or Quad 4 losses on its profile. 

Syracuse: The Orange (15-12) have a way to go to really enter the at-large bid discussion but winning games it should like Saturday against Georgia Tech will only help that cause. Syracuse’s NET score in the 60s isn’t good and neither are just two Quadrant 1 wins on the NCAA portfolio. But if Syracuse can pick up a couple of marquee victories in the final weeks of ACC play, it’s in business to push to the right side of the bubble. 

PROFILE LOSERS 

Purdue: The Boilermakers (14-13) fell 71-63 to Michigan at home in a must-win game to stay in the NCAA tournament hunt. It’s the fourth consecutive loss for Purdue, which now slips further to the wrong side of the bubble with a near-.500 record. The Boilermakers have an appealing NET score of 34 (and the committee has proved in the past how much it harps on this) and no horrible losses to go with four Quadrant 4 wins. But if there aren’t enough wins on the profile, it won’t matter.

Florida: The Gators (17-10) entered the day as a projected No. 11 seed and Saturday’s 65-59 loss to Kentucky won’t change that seed line. But if it gets close on Selection Sunday the loss could matter considering it would’ve given UF a résumé-lifting Quad 1 road win. Florida has a NET score in the 30s an top-15 strength of schedule, but it’s also one bad loss away from drifting to the wrong side of the bubble. 

Rhode Island: The Rams (19-7) fell in overtime to Davidson 77-75 and could potentially see their seeding line dip from No. 10 to a less safe No. 11. Rhode Island has an exceptional NET score in the low 30s but also owns only one Quadrant 1 win on its résumé. Another Quad 2 win over Davidson would have helped offset those profile shortcomings. 

Richmond: The Spiders (20-7) had won five in a row to leapfrog to one of the “last four in” the projected field this February. But mid-majors don’t have much room for error — meaning Saturday’s 75-71 loss to St. Bonaventure will likely shove Richmond out of the field. A NET score in the 40s is decent, but only two Quad 1 wins means the committee will already be harping on one portfolio shortcoming. 

North Carolina State: The Wolf Pack (17-10) came up with a huge win over Duke earlier this week, but couldn’t pull off another Quadrant 1 victory in falling to Florida State 67-61. A NET score in the 50s is the biggest profile flaw right now if the committee conducted a blind resume test. But adding to N.C. State’s five Quad 1 wins would have catapulted the Wolf Pack much further to the safety zone. Expect them to stay at the No. 10 seed line. 

Mississippi State: The Bulldogs (17-10) lost to SEC foe Texas A&M after starting the day as one of the “first four out” on the projected bracket. Expect MSU to slip further to the wrong side of the bubble after this road loss. It’s not a résumé stain, but it is a loss that makes the next few weeks look bleak as far as tournament hopes go. Ben Howland’s team needs to start winning or it’s NIT. 

Oklahoma: The Sooners (16-11) lost to Oklahoma State 83-66 and as a result will take a hit from a projected No. 10 seed to a No. 11 seed — which is much closer to the wrong side of the bubble than fringe teams would prefer. Even though it was a road loss, now this puts OU in a position of needing to enhance its credentials in the final two weeks of the regular season. This team has a NET score in the 40s but is drastically lacking in the Quadrant 1 win department with just one. 

***

NCAA tourney explainer:

  • Quadrant 1 wins: Home games vs. 1-30 NET teams; Neutral-site games vs. 1-50 NET; Away games vs. 1-75 NET
  • Quadrant 2 wins: Home games vs. 31-75 NET; Neutral-site games vs. 51-100 NET; Away games vs. 76-135 NET
  • Quadrant 3 wins, losses: Home games vs. 76-160 NET; Neutral-site games vs. 101-200 NET; Away games vs. 136-240 NET
  • Quadrant 4 wins, losses: Home games vs. 161-plus NET; Neutral-site games vs. 201-plus NET; Away games vs. 241-plus NET

Note:  Mostly all statistical data are used from USA TODAY Sports veteran bracketologist Shelby Mast. WarrenNolan.com and the NCAA’s NET rankings are also a reference point. 

Follow college basketball reporter Scott Gleeson on Twitter @ScottMGleeson.

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