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Andy Katz’s college basketball tiers I February 10 I CBB on FOX

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Andy Katz lists nine teams he considers title contenders at this point in the season, followed by 12 more teams who he believes has an outside shot at a title as well. Teams include the Gonzaga Bulldogs, Purdue Boilermakers, Kentucky Wildcats, Kansas Jayhawks, Duke Blue Devils, Villanova Wildcats, Arkansas Razorbacks, and Michigan State Spartans.



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CFL West Preview: Blue Bombers once again the team to beat

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The Winnipeg Blue Bombers have been the class of the CFL the past three seasons — and don’t appear ready to relinquish that lofty status.

About the only thing Winnipeg has done wrong the last three campaigns is lose last year’s Grey Cup in a close encounter against the underdog Toronto Argonauts — denying the Blue Bombers a rare three-peat.

You get the feeling if football had a best-of-seven series instead of a winner-take-all showdown for the championship, it would have been Winnipeg coming out on top. But full credit to Toronto, which made the plays when it needed to and was a worthy champion.

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The stinging setback should only motivate the Blue Bombers, who have given Winnipeggers plenty to cheer about while the Jets have been spinning their wheels in recent years.

Once again, everyone is chasing the Blue Bombers in the West Division this year. The 2023 season kicks off Thursday night with a West showdown between the Calgary Stampeders and visiting B.C. Lions.

Here’s a look at the West teams in order of predicted finish.

Winnipeg Blue Bombers

Last season: 15-3, first in West Division, lost to Toronto in Grey Cup.

Head coach: Mike O’Shea (82-58 in eight seasons in CFL, all with Winnipeg. Has won two Grey Cups) 

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Starting quarterback: Zach Collaros (Entering 12th season in CFL, fourth with Winnipeg. CFL’s most outstanding player last two seasons).

The skinny

The Blue Bombers fell just short of becoming the first team to three-peat since Edmonton won five in a row from 1978 to 1982. One bad fourth quarter was no reason to reinvent the wheel. The Blue Bombers signed O’Shea to a contract extension and have most of the key parts back.

Collaros, the clear No. 1 player in the league, is the only opening-day starting quarterback from last year back in the role with the same club this season.

There was a bit of a hiccup in the pre-season with key free-agent receiver Kenny Lawler placed on the suspended list — Postmedia has reported it’s for immigration issues. The Bombers have said Lawler, who returns to the team after playing in Edmonton last year, will miss three to four weeks.

However, the Bombers are deep at receiver. Dalton Schoen, last year’s rookie of the year, is back and gives Collaros a sure-handed target.

Calgary Stampeders

Last season: 12-6, third in West Division, lost to B.C. in West semifinal.

Head coach: Dave Dickenson (73-29-2 in six seasons in CFL, all with Calgary. Won 2018 Grey Cup).

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Starting quarterback: Jake Maier (Entering third season in CFL, all with Calgary. First year as starter).

The skinny

There was a changing of the guard last year when Maier replaced Bo Levi Mitchell midway through the season. The Californian put up solid numbers (league-best 74.7 per-cent completion rate, 14 touchdowns, seven interceptions) before his season ended when the Stamps lost in the West semifinal for the third year in a row.

The Stamps did lose some key players in free agency — including defensive end Shawn Lemon (cut by B.C.), linebacker Jameer Thurman (Hamilton) and defensive lineman Folarin Orimolade (Toronto).

Offensively, Maier should be helped by league-leading running back Ka’Deem Carey.

B.C. Lions

Last season: 12-6, second in West Division, lost to Winnipeg in divisional final.

Head coach: Rick Campbell (61-77-2 in eight seasons in CFL, two with B.C. Won Grey Cup with Ottawa in 2016) 

Starting quarterback: Vernon Adams Jr. (Entering seventh season in CFL, second with B.C.).

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The skinny

The Lions orchestrated a huge turnaround last year, going from 5-9 to 12-6 and falling one win short of a Grey Cup appearance. But, of course, they did that with star Canadian quarterback Nathan Rourke, who has taken his significant talents to the NFL after he was signed by the Jacksonville Jaguars.

When Rourke was hurt in mid-season last year, the Lions traded for a veteran in Adams Jr., who had fallen out of favour in Montreal. He kept the Lions afloat before Rourke returned for the playoff run.

The Lions hope Adams can return to 2019 form when he was a CFL East all-star. They also acquired Dane Evans, who struggled last year with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats after helping them reach the Grey Cup the past two seasons. It is an intriguing 1-2 punch at QB.

Receivers Dominique Rhymes, Keon Hatcher and Lucky Whitehead all finished in the top 10 in receiving yards last year. The big question is can they maintain that pace without Rourke.

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Edmonton Elks

Last season: 4-14, fifth in West Division, missed playoffs.

Head coach: Chris Jones (57-51 in six seasons in CFL — three with Edmonton and three with Saskatchewan. He returned to Edmonton for a second stint last year).

Starting quarterback: Taylor Cornelius (Entering third season in CFL, all with Edmonton).

The skinny

Jones inherited a mess last year and the result was predictable. The roster was a revolving door during a true rebuilding season.

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By year’s end, though, the Elks believed they identified a starting quarterback in the six-foot-five Cornelius.

The big quarterback has a top target in marquee free agent Eugene Lewis, a huge producer the past few years with a Montreal team that had trouble settling on a starting quarterback.

The Elks are on an astounding 17-game losing streak at home, a CFL record. They haven’t won at Commonwealth Stadium since before the pandemic in 2019.

To their credit, the Elks haven’t been above poking fun at themselves.

They have a real shot to end that streak in Week 1 when they host Saskatchewan.

Saskatchewan Roughriders

Last season: 6-12, fourth in West Division, missed playoffs. 

Head coach: Craig Dickenson (28-20 in three seasons in CFL, all with Saskatchewan).

Starting quarterback: Trevor Harris (Entering 12th season in CFL, first with Saskatchewan).

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The skinny

A disaster of a Grey Cup-hosting season ended with the Roughriders missing the playoffs after losing their final seven games.

The Roughriders gave up a franchise-record sack total, had numerous off-field woes and stripped starting quarterback Cody Fajardo of his job late in the season when the team still had playoff hopes.

However, the team decided to retain Dickenson and general manager Jeremy O’Day, giving them a chance to clean things up after they guided the team to the West final the previous two seasons.

The big new piece is Harris, who revitalized his career in Montreal last year before signing with the Roughriders this off-season.

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Linebacker Larry Dean anchors the defence after fellow LB Darnell Sankey departed for the XFL.

Week 1 Picks

B.C. Lions at Calgary Stampeders (-3.5), Thursday, 9 p.m. ET / 6 p.m. PT

Rematch of last year’s West semifinal — except with no Rourke. Including that game, Calgary was 1-3 versus B.C. last year. A message could be sent with a win here. PICK: Calgary

Hamilton Tiger-Cats at Winnipeg Blue Bombers (-5.5), Friday, 8:30 p.m. ET / 5:30 p.m. PT

Mitchell faces a massive challenge in his Hamilton debut. Winnipeg was 8-1 at home last season. PICK: Winnipeg

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Ottawa Redblacks at Montreal Alouettes (-3.5), Saturday, 7 p.m. ET / 4 p.m. PT

Redblacks starting quarterback Jeremiah Masoli isn’t ready to return just yet from a season-ending leg injury suffered last year. That gives the start to Nick Arbuckle. This is Montreal’s first game with Fajardo as starting quarterback and Pierre Karl Peladeau, fresh off a Memorial Cup win with the Quebec Remparts, as owner. PICK: Montreal

Saskatchewan Roughriders (-2.5) at Edmonton Elks, Sunday, 7 p.m. ET / 4 p.m. PT

Harris returns to one of his former CFL homes in his first game as a Roughrider. Jones’ teams showed improvements in second seasons in his previous coaching stints with Saskatchewan and Edmonton. We expect the same this time around with the Elks. PICK: Edmonton

Odds from FanDuel on Wednesday afternoon.

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Don’t Write Them Off Yet: How the Panthers can claw their way back into Cup Final

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If history is any indication, the Florida Panthers are in trouble. Only five of 53 teams have rallied from a 2-0 deficit in a best-of-seven Stanley Cup Final. To make matters worse, Florida’s 12 goals against are tied for the most through the first two games of a final.

It would be easy to write off the Panthers right now, but there are reasons to believe that they can at least make the series competitive. Florida, despite being outscored 8-3 at 5-on-5, has carried 55.2 per cent of expected goals. Although that has been somewhat influenced by score effects, it shows that the Panthers have not been utterly caved in by the Vegas Golden Knights. They are also winning the slot battle at 5-on-5, holding a 35-31 edge in scoring chances. (Adin Hill has stopped 18 of the Panthers’ 21 slot shots on net.)

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The first thing the Panthers need to do is keep the Golden Knights and themselves out of their goaltender’s line of vision. The Golden Knights have scored five goals on 24 screened shots in all situations, including four against Sergei Bobrovsky on 18 shots. In their first 16 playoff games, the Panthers allowed seven goals on 123 screened shots. On multiple occasions, Panthers skaters have blinded their own goaltender while trying to block a shot.

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“If we’re going to be there, you’ve got to block them,” Panthers coach Paul Maurice told reporters after Game 2. We’ve got to get in front of those shots, so we’re working at it. We’re trying, but we’re about three inches off on those shots.”


The Panthers must also do a better job of slowing down the Golden Knights once they cross the offensive blue line. Vegas has made a successful first play, such as a completed pass or unblocked shot attempt, following 36 of its 49 offensive-zone carry-ins at 5-on-5 (73.5 per cent). Compare that to the first three rounds, when Florida’s opponents had a combined success rate of 54.5 per cent.


“Their rush game is elite, but we’ve faced other teams like that,” Maurice told reporters Tuesday. “We’ve just put ourselves in a position where we’ve had to give more ice than we want to give. Some of it’s based on their speed. They’re going to get those chances. And some of it is just our positioning. The first game was very even, in terms of what we gave off the rush to what we got off the rush. (In Game 2), clearly they got on us off the rush, and because we were in a deficit by the time they crossed the line, we had a harder time containing and killing those plays in the (defensive) zone, so it’ll be a focus for us, for sure.”

Discipline has been a big issue for the Panthers as well. They have racked up a staggering 130 penalty minutes, including 36 by leading scorer Matthew Tkachuk, who has been whistled for three misconducts. The Golden Knights have scored on four of their 11 power-play opportunities.

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The Panthers have already defied the odds this postseason, overcoming a 3-1 deficit to defeat the record-setting Boston Bruins in the first round. They will lean on that experience as they attempt to claw their way back into the Stanley Cup Final.

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“(When) we were down 3-1 (against the Bruins), we still had some good moments in the games,” Panthers captain Aleksander Barkov told reporters Wednesday. “We took good things out of them and tried to repeat that for 60 minutes. We did that three games straight. Here, it’s no different.”

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Canada Soccer announces camp roster ahead of FIFA Women’s World Cup

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Canada coach Bev Priestman has named her roster for a camp in Australia prior to next month’s FIFA Women’s World Cup, including several players who have been racing to get fit in time for the tournament.

Twenty-five players will attend the Canadian camp starting June 28 on the Gold Coast, with a final tune-up game against fourth-ranked England to be played July 14 behind closed doors. 

Priestman will announce her final 23-woman roster on July 9, one day before the FIFA deadline. Sixth-ranked Canada opens Group B play July 21 against No. 42 Nigeria in Melbourne before facing No. 22 Ireland on July 26 in Perth and No. 10 Australia on July 31 back in Melbourne.

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“With the preparation camp being only weeks away, I’m so excited to name this squad and see what this squad can bring as we move that much closer towards the Women’s World Cup,” Priestman said in a statement. “Picking this roster brought some incredibly difficult decisions and conversations, which I think speaks volumes to how competitive and exciting the group is.”  

“I must acknowledge the hard work of the players, the clubs and our dedicated support staff to have some long-term injured players available for this camp as I know all parties have done everything possible to get to this point,” she added.

Deanne Rose, Nichelle Prince, Desiree Scott and Quinn, who goes by one name, all make the pre-tournament roster.

Rose and Prince have been recovering from Achilles injuries while Scott picked up an injury at the end of the 2022 season that required surgery. Quinn was dealing with a leg issue.

Veteran centre-back Shelina Zadorsky has recovered from the illness that kept her out of the last camp.

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The pre-tournament roster contains a wealth of experience, led by Christine Sinclair. The team’s talismanic captain, who turns 40 on Monday, is preparing for her sixth World Cup.

The world’s leading international goal-scorer with 190, Sinclair has made 323 appearances for Canada.

Other veterans include Kadeisha Buchanan (131 caps), Alyssa Chapman (96), Jessie Fleming (115), Ashley Lawrence (117), Adriana Leon (96) and Sophie Schmidt (221).

Priestman has said she will give her injured players as much time as possible to return from health, which is understandable given the experience they bring to the table.

Scott has won 186 caps while Prince has 90, Quinn and Zadorsky 89 and Rose 73. 

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Janine Beckie will miss the World Cup after undergoing knee surgery. The influential and versatile forward, who tore the anterior cruciate ligament in her right knee in March in a Portland Thorns pre-season game, has 36 goals in 101 appearances for Canada.

The pre-tournament roster, which includes eight players yet to take part in a World Cup, has an average age of 27.

Forwards Clarissa Larisey and Evelyne Viens are both included on the camp roster although Canada Soccer says they won’t be released by their Swedish clubs until the July 10 start of the official FIFA international window.

“This camp is about us solidifying our identity and player partnerships whilst preparing for our group stage opponents,” said Priestman. “We know we have three difficult games, all with different styles of play and so being able to adapt and be equipped for all three is important whilst really harnessing and imposing our strengths on any opponent we face.” 

The World Cup features 32 countries playing 64 matches across nine host cities in Australia and New Zealand.

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The Olympic champion Canadian women last played April 11, when they lost 2-1 to No. 5 France in Le Mans.

Canada Pre-Tournament Camp Roster

Goalkeepers: Sabrina D’Angelo, Arsenal (England); Lysianne Proulx, SCU Torreense (Portugal); Kailen Sheridan, San Diego Wave FC (NSWSL).

Defenders: Kadeisha Buchanan, Chelsea (England); Allysha Chapman, Houston Dash (NWSL); Vanessa Gilles, Olympique Lyonnais (France); Ashley Lawrence, Paris Saint-Germain (France); Jayde Riviere, Manchester United (England); Jade Rose, Harvard University (NCAA); Shelina Zadorsky, Tottenham (England).

Midfielders: Quinn, OL Reign (NWSL); Marie-Yasmine Alidou D’Anjou, Famalicão (Portugal); Simi Awujo, USC (NCAA); Jessie Fleming, Chelsea (England); Julia Grosso, Juventus (Italy); Sophie Schmidt, Houston Dash (NWSL); Desiree Scott, Kansas City Current (NWSL).

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Forwards: Jordyn Huitema, OL Reign (NWSL); Cloe Lacasse, SL Benfica (Portugal); Clarissa Larisey, BK Hacken FF (Sweden); Adriana Leon, Portland Thorns (NWSL); Christine Sinclair, Portland Thorns (NWSL); Nichelle Prince, Houston Dash (NWSL); Deanne Rose, Reading (England); Evelyne Viens, Kristianstads DFF  (Sweden).

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