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Championship Week Marches on Toward Selection Sunday

Plus, recapping a flurry of NFL free agent moves and trades.

There’s no shortage of college basketball this time of year with conference tournaments heating up heading into the weekend.

Madness is in the air and plenty of upsets have already taken place. On Thursday alone, N.C. State knocked off Duke, Providence took down Creighton, Colorado State beat Nevada and Duquesne defeated Dayton. Upsets abound. Beware, favorites.

Now, let’s talk tournaments and revisit what you might have missed in a busy week around the NFL.

In today’s Winners Club:

Selection Sunday Draws Near

The men’s field of 68 is beginning to come into focus with 14 of the 32 auto-bids already spoken for. The following programs are going dancing: Charleston (CAA), Colgate (Patriot), Drake (Missouri Valley), James Madison (Sun Belt), Longwood (Big South), McNeese (Southland), Montana State (Big Sky), Morehead State (Ohio Valley), Oakland (Horizon), Saint Mary’s (West Coast), Samford (SoCon), South Dakota State (Summit), Stetson (Atlantic Sun) and Wagner (Northeast).

The remaining conference tournament champions will be crowned Saturday and Sunday ahead of the release of the official bracket.

At the moment, the top 10 team by title odds, are as follows:

Connecticut +450
Houston +600
Purdue +800
Arizona +1400
Tennessee +1600
North Carolina +2000
Auburn +2000
Duke +2500
Creighton +2500
Kentucky +2500

Most of them are still alive in their respective conference tournaments and are locks to receive autobids come Sunday.

Knecht is averaging 20.1 points per game this season for Tennessee.

As for the women’s bracket, 18 teams have already punched their tickets: Rice (America East), Richmond (Atlantic 10), Notre Dame (ACC), Texas (Big 12), UConn (Big East), Eastern Washington (Big Sky), Presbyterian (Big South), Iowa (Big Ten), Green Bay (Horizon League), UNLV (Mountain West), UT Martin (Ohio Valley), South Carolina (SEC), Chattanooga (Southern), South Dakota State (Summit League), USC (Pac-12), Texas A&M CC (Southland), Marshall (Sun Belt) and Portland (West Coast). The America East champion will be crowned today and the rest of the tournaments will be decided Saturday and Sunday.

There’s a heavy favorite to win the women’s title and it’s not Caitlin Clark and the Iowa Hawkeyes — it’s the undefeated South Carolina Gamecocks, led by Kamilla Cardoso. Here are the top 10 contenders to cut down the nets in Cleveland:

South Carolina -130
LSU +650
Iowa +650
UCLA +2500
Ohio State +2500
Stanford +2500
Texas +2500
USC +2500
Connecticut +2500
N.C. State +4500

Recapping the Free Agency Frenzy

If you weren’t locked in on the flurry of free agent moves that shook up the NFL landscape earlier this week, don’t fret: Michael Fabiano broke down the fantasy winners and losers.

One of the most high-profile was Saquon Barkley’s move from the New York Giants to the Philadelphia Eagles, but he was just one of several running backs who jumped teams. Josh Jacobs landed with the Green Bay Packers, Derrick Henry is headed to the Baltimore Ravens, Aaron Jones joined the Minnesota Vikings and Tony Pollard ended up with the Tennessee Titans. Got all that? Good.

Philadelphia Eagles running back Saquon Barkley during his introductory press conference.

Oh, yeah, and Kirk Cousins — the prize of the free agent quarterback class — inked a monster deal with the Atlanta Falcons where he’ll team up with Bijan Robinson, Drake London and Kyle Pitts. The other marquee move among the signal-callers was Russell Wilson signing a vet minimum deal with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Steel City... let’s ride?

Fabiano focused on the fantasy impact of free agents at skill positions, but Matt Verderame and Gilberto Manzano touched on all the major signings at every position and graded each. So far, the Jacksonville Jaguars have earned an F (Gabe Davis) and an A+ (Mitch Morse).

So what does all this mean for the upcoming draft? Luke Easterling released an updated mock draft that includes the Vikings moving up to add a quarterback following the departure of Cousins.

But wait, there’s more: The Bears, who are widely expected to draft former Heisman Trophy winner Caleb Williams, made a splash Thursday night when they sent a fourth-round pick to the Chargers in exchange for veteran wide receiver Keenan Allen. Chicago’s current receiver duo of DJ Moore and Allen is a massive upgrade from where it was when current starting quarterback Justin Fields began his career.

In Other News

Rory McIlroy Tied for Lead at Players Championship: McIlroy, who won at TPC Sawgrass in 2019, shot a 65 in the first round despite two water balls — both of which led to questions from Viktor Hovland and Jordan Spieth regarding the location of his penalty drop.

Reigning MVP Joel Embiid Targeting April Return: The 76ers star has been sidelined by a torn meniscus since February but he’s targeting a return in the next month, which would be just in time before the start of the playoffs. Philadelphia (36–30) currently occupies the No. 7 seed.

NBA Exec Believes Teams Will Draft Bronny James: With USC’s season coming to an end, the eldest son of Lakers star LeBron James could decide to return to the Trojans or declare for the draft and join his father in the NBA.

Thanks for reading Winners Club! Stick with us @SI_Betting throughout March as we cover all the madness, starting with Selection Sunday this weekend.