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USA Today Sports Media Group
Michael Sykes

Nate Oats has Alabama looking more like a legit basketball school instead of a football powerhouse

This is For The Win’s daily newsletter, The Morning Win. Did a friend recommend or forward this to you? If so, subscribe here. Have feedback? Leave your questions, comments and concerns through this brief reader survey! Now, here’s Mike Sykes.

Good morning, Winners! Welcome back to the Morning Win! Happy Friday! We’ve made it through the week, folks. Happy Easter if you’re celebrating this weekend.

Alabama-UNC was everything that we love about March Madness. It had a David vs. Goliath vibe to it, you know?

On one side, you had a college basketball blue blood in UNC. On the other hand, you had Alabama, who was considered the underdog coming into this game. That was the weird part about this thing. I’m not quite sure that Bama should’ve been the underdog that it was.

Most people expected UNC to pull this one out, which is reasonable considering how good that team has been all season long. But Alabama doing this shouldn’t be shocking. This program has been pretty good under Nate Oats.

In the last five years, Bama has:

— Made it to the Elite 8 for the first time in 20 years.

— Made it to the Sweet 16 three times (2021, 2023, 2024).

— Been named a No. 1 seed (2023) and a No. 2 seed (2021) in the tournament.

That all seems basketball-school-ish to me.

But that’s the thing, right? This is the wrong sport. When we talk about this school, it’s usually because of something Nick Saban has done. That’s why Charles Barkley called the team frail (and why Nate Oats can have his snappy comeback now). We’re not used to seeing Alabama basketball do this.

But we’d better get used to it — at least as long as Oats is there. I don’t know if he’ll be poached by one of college basketball’s more traditional schools. I don’t even know if Alabama allowed that to happen.

But, until that day comes, put some respect on Alabama Basketball’s name.

RELATED: Who is Grant Nelson? Meet Alabama’s new transfer star

Leaving it on the floor

Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Sometimes, winning looks ugly. It did for Dejounte Murray and the Hawks on Thursday when they beat the Celtics.

Murray dragged the Hawks to a win. He took 44 shots (!!!!!) to score 44 points, which sounds awful. But, man. Honestly? The Hawks needed every single shot to win that game.

The last one was the most crucial — Murray hit a game-winner over Jrue Holiday for the win.

This was one for the history books, folks. Murray is the third player in the last 20 years to take at least 44 shots in a game. per Stat Muse. You can probably guess the other two: Russell Westbrook and Kobe Bryant.

“I don’t want to take that many shots. But I know Kobe would be proud of me,” Murray said after the game. Yeah, I agree.

A dazzling start

(Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images)

The Juan Soto era is off to an amazing start in New York. He saved opening day for the Yankees with an incredible throw home from the outfield.

Here’s Blake Schuster with more.

“The latest superstar to wear the pinstripes got to play hero on Opening Day, helping the Yankees come back from a 4-0 deficit after the second inning by going 1-for-3 at the plate with two walks and an RBI. But it was what he did at the end of the game that made his debut really stand out.

As the Yankees clung to a 5-4 lead with runners on first and second in the bottom of the ninth inning, Soto gathered a Kyle Tucker hopper to right field and fired a dart back to home to nail Maurico Dubón before he could score the tying run.” 

This throw was unfair, man. Soto is unreal.

Must be nice being a Yankees fan.

Photo Friday: A’s fans have had enough

D. Ross Cameron-USA TODAY Sports

A’s fans showed up to the game…but didn’t go into Oakland Coliseum to watch their favorite team. Instead, they partied and protested outside to voice their displeasure with team ownership.

READ MORE: When will the A’s actually play in Vegas?

Quick hits: The best bets on the Sweet 16 … The latest NBA mock draft … and more

— Prince Grimes has you covered again on Sweet 16 bets — this time on the women’s side. I told you he was cookin’.

Here’s Bryan Kalbrosky with his latest NBA mock draft and the rise of Donovan Clingan.

14 women are fighting for roster spots on Team USA’s basketball roster this summer. This camp is STACKED. Meg Hall has more.

— Charles Curtis has the 10 best songs from Beyoncé’s Cowboy Carter album.

— Speaking of Cowboy Carter, Beyoncé put a twist on Dolly Parton’s hit record “Jolene.” This is pretty cool. Caroline Darney has more.

Dan Hurley is funky. Blake Schuster explains.

That’s all, folks! Thanks so much for reading! Enjoy the weekend. We’ll talk again next week. Until then! Peace.

-Sykes ✌️

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