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Upset City: La Salle, Villanova give Philly a jolt

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Upset City: La Salle, Villanova give Philly a jolt

PHILADELPHIA (AP) Look out, Top 25 teams. There's a storm warning in effect for parts of Philadelphia.

No, not because of snow or ice, just a stampede of hundreds of college hoops fans storming the court in celebration of another upset victory.

Villanova and La Salle gave their fans plenty of reasons to run. With Philadelphia teams headed toward an NCAA tournament shutout, the Wildcats and Explorers instead combined for one of the wildest weeks in Philadelphia basketball history: 4 for 4 against Top 25 teams and more students on the court than total baskets made over that span.

They're not ranked in The Associated Press' Top 25 poll - yet - but they've at least squeezed their way into NCAA tournament consideration.

As a bonus, Villanova's wins over No. 5 Louisville and No. 3 Syracuse, and La Salle's wins over No. 9 Butler and No. 19 VCU, injected life into a dreary Philly sports scene.

The question is, was it a wonderful quirk in the schedule that won't mean much in two months, or a spark for both teams to make the tournament field?

``We've got to understand that even though it's a huge step, we've got to play at this level every time,'' Explorers guard Ramon Galloway said. ``It just can't be that we beat Butler and we beat VCU and we come out and play trash against UMass. It can't be that.

``Because it will look like an upset. We don't want to have a mindset of upsetting teams. We want to have a mindset of beating teams.''

The Wildcats, a 2009 Final Four team, have made a habit of big wins under coach Jay Wright.

For the Explorers, recent decades have not been as kind. La Salle hasn't played in the NCAA tournament since 1992 and last season's NIT berth (21-13) was its first since 1991. La Salle's win over Butler was its first over a Top 25 team since 2001 and first over a top 10 team since 1980.

``They're not surprised to win,'' La Salle coach John Giannini said Monday. ``I know people, for reasons that I can't comprehend, have a hard time believing that.''

Most of it stems from the lengthy absence from the tournament, the ultimate judge of a program's success. The other five Philadelphia teams have made multiple NCAA trips since La Salle (14-5, 4-2 Atlantic 10) last played in the tournament. Giannini, who took over in 2004, has led the Explorers to two other 18-win seasons.

``We haven't been the cellar dwellers people paint us as,'' he said.

The Explorers can boast wins over two of the top Atlantic 10 teams and they beat Villanova in November (and lost to Central Connecticut State, too). Up next, Massachusetts at home on Wednesday and then Saturday at George Washington. Temple, another city team in the tournament mix, is the toughest one left on La Salle's schedule. La Salle is 27th in RPI and Villanova 49th, according to Live-RPI.com.

``Based on our history, we know it's way too early to worry about Bracketology,'' Giannini said. ``That's a fan thing. All anyone can do at this point is be in the discussion. We're glad we've done enough to be in the discussion. But a lot's going to happen in the next five weeks.''

The Explorers haven't won enough to earn a national ranking a spot in the March Madness field. Joe Lunardi, who has turned predicting the field into a cottage industry, said La Salle is on the bubble, but out. Even with the head-to-head win, La Salle earned one less vote than VCU (4-3) in The AP Top 25 poll. La Salle has not been ranked since it was 12th in the final poll of the 1989-90 season.

The Wildcats (13-7, 4-3) have only been out of the national rankings for two seasons. No one expected Wright's Wildcats to tumble from a Final Four to a 19-loss season a year ago. Perhaps the only stat more shocking was pulling off back-to-back stunners against top-10 Big East team.

``This doesn't mean we're going to run off every game,'' Wright said. ``It means we have a chance to be a good team in this league.''

The Wildcats lost a shot to make it three straight wins over Top 25 teams when Notre Dame fell out of the poll on Monday. The Wildcats play Wednesday in South Bend, Ind. Lunardi will have them in the field when the updated bracket is released Tuesday.

The Wildcats, the 1985 national champions, started the fun with a 73-64 win over No. 5 Louisville at the Wells Fargo Center. Achraf Yacoubou hit the tiebreaking 3-pointer with 3:57 left that sparked a week of big baskets and students going wild on the court.

The next night, Galloway sprinted the length of the court for the winning basket with 2.7 seconds left to send La Salle to a 54-53 victory over No. 9 Butler. La Salle defeated a top 10 team for the first time since beating No. 8 Notre Dame 62-60 on Jan. 30, 1980. Yes, there was another mad rush from the bleachers at Tom Gola Arena.

Villanova and La Salle combined for the double-dip on Saturday. Ryan Arcidiacono hit the tying 3-pointer with 2.2 seconds left in regulation, and James Bell hit consecutive 3s in overtime to lift Villanova past No. 3 Syracuse, 75-71. The Explorers followed hours later with a 69-61 win at No. 19 VCU.

Galloway scored a career-high 31 points against the Rams and was named A-10 player of the week. Darrun Hilliard earned Big East honors for Villanova.

Used to the floor-storming students the second time around, Hilliard escaped to the locker room after defeating the Orange.

``First time, I was enjoying it,'' he said. ``Second time, I was like, I've got to get out of there. They get real crazy on the court.''

Maybe the Explorers and Wildcats can give them reasons to go wild again when the tournament field is set.

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Ravens reportedly agree to a deal keeping John Harbaugh in Baltimore long term

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USA Today Sports

Ravens reportedly agree to a deal keeping John Harbaugh in Baltimore long term

The Ravens have reportedly agreed in principle to a new contract extension with head coach John Harbaugh, a move already being praised by national pundits everywhere. 

It was nearly a month ago that the Ravens announced Harbaugh would be returning as the team’s head coach in 2019, which was noteworthy considering his status as a potential lame duck head coach.

In the same release, the team announced they were working towards a contract extension with Harbaugh, whose current deal was set to expire next year.

Despite reports from national NFL insiders, including Jason La Canfora and Peter King, that Harbaugh might prefer to hit free agency as a highly sought-after head coach after the 2019 season, it appears the Ravens will keep him in Baltimore for the foreseeable future. 

This news comes on the heels of a busier-than-usual coaching carousel, with a quarter of the 32 NFL teams changing head coaches in the last month, including two AFC North rivals. Harbaugh almost certainly would have been the cream of the crop among coaching free agents no matter when he became available, so the Ravens were looking to lock him up long term.

After a tough November home loss to the Steelers that put the team at 4-5, Harbaugh was asked about his job security, and he remained steadfast and confident.

"I've never been someone who's worried about keeping a job," Harbaugh said. "It's always been, for me, [about] doing the job. I've got a bunch of great coaches and a bunch of great players that bust their tails every day to do the best job they can. I feel really good about the way this team has been coached for the last 11 years, and for the last number of weeks we've been in the season. So, there are no regrets. Never been any regrets here with me."

After that game, the Ravens rattled off six wins in seven games to make the playoffs, and many players credited Harbaugh with keeping the team together. It was prior to Week 16 when the front office announced Harbaugh would be returning no matter how the season ended, but the strong finish and AFC North title certainly made the decision easier.

A coach with a special teams background, Harbaugh is an anomaly in the current era of young, offensive-minded head coaches. He won Super Bowl XLVII in 2013, and holds a 104-72 career record in Baltimore.

The terms of the new deal have not yet been released, but it will be interesting how many years the team is committing to Harbaugh.

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Bradley Beal's agent says guard's not looking for a trade: 'He wants to win'

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Bradley Beal's agent says guard's not looking for a trade: 'He wants to win'

Bradley Beal, his agent Mark Bartlestein told Bleacher Report, would like to stay in Washington - even as he's a hot topic among front offices as the trade deadline approaches.

From Bleacher Report:

His agent, Mark Bartelstein, is not looking for a trade. "Brad wants to win, Bartelstein told B/R. "He wants to win at the highest level, and he wants to compete for championships. I think he's seeing progress, and he's going to do everything he can to lead this team. They got themselves into a huge hole, and he's going to do his best to get them out of it.

The Wizards are facing tough decisions when it comes to the future of the franchise as this season's trade deadline approaches. Beal, as NBC Sports Washington's Ben Standig detailed this week, is among the most tradable assets they have, especially when it comes to their three major contracts. But owner Ted Leonsis took a firm stance against tanking while speaking to reporters in London, and Beal is integral to their playoff hopes with John Wall sidelined. 

This isn't the first time this season that Beal has denied wanting to be anywhere but DC. When drama swirled around the team earlier this season, Beal denied a report that he had requested a trade.

"That's nonsense," he said at the time. "I heard it earlier before the game and I was like, 'If it didn't come from the horse's mouth, it wasn't me.' I got this Washington jersey on and I come here and work everyday, you know, until otherwise. This is where I wanna be."

Earlier this season, it was reported that the Raptors were interested in Beal but couldn't afford what the Wizards were asking for him. According to the latest report on Beal from Bleacher Report, there are a number of teams who may still be interested. 

Again, from Bleacher Report:

There are so many teams in the mix trying to make that extra push that want Beal," a Western Conference executive told B/R.

But even if some fans are clamoring for a big trade at the deadline, the price tag for Beal - who had 26 points in the Wizards' comeback win over the Knicks this week - only seems to be rising. 

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