NBA Power Rankings: Memphis still league's best?

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NBA Power Rankings: Memphis still league's best?

By Tony Andracki & Mark Strotman

Each Monday throughout the regular season, Mark Strotman and Tony Andracki will rank all 30 NBA teams. Below are Week 4 Power Rankings. Think we're way off? Agree with our picks? Hit us up on Twitter at@BullsTalkCSNwith comments or criticisms.
Past rankings: Preseason Week 1 Week 2 Week 3

Tony
MarkComments1
Tony: Tony Parker is a man possessed right now.
Mark: Memphis has wins over Miami, Oklahoma City, New York and the Lakers.
2
Tony: Wade has looked decidedly human this year.
Mark: Home games galore coming up, which means plenty of wins.
3
Tony: Balanced team holds 2nd-best point differential in NBA.
Mark: Southwest division race will be fun to watch (Memphis).
4
Tony: Have come back to Earth a bit lately.
Mark: How long can Jason Kidd keep this up?
5
Tony: Big Three is now Durant, Westbrook, Serge.
Mark: Kevin Martin struggling, but Durant really rolling now.
6
Tony: DeAndre Jordan: All-Star?
Mark: Went 1-3 on brutal road stretch (SAS, OKC, BRK, ATL).7
Tony: Just wait until they get Joe Johnson going.
Mark: Joe Johnson warming up.8
Tony: The ship has been righted, but now they need to get over .500 hump.
Mark: Antwan Jamison the biggest benefactor from D'Antoni?
9
Tony: Streaky team, but winners of four straight right now.
Mark: Just think if they had Bynum.
10
Tony: Holiday has been PHI's MVP, especially with Bynum out indefinitely.
Mark: Al Horford is healthy and better than ever.
11
Tony: Rank last in the league in rebounds per game.
Mark: Big Three continues to bail out inconsistent bench.
12
Tony: Jeff Teague is finally taking the next step.
Mark: Biggest roller coaster in the NBA moving up at the moment.
13
Tony: Looking more and more like a playoff team every day.
Mark: FreeJohnHenson, Skiles!
14
Tony: Relinquishing their hold on Central division.
Mark: Circus trip is over, six of next eight at home.
15
Tony: Three-game losing streak the low point of Thibs' tenure.
Mark: Won three straight before ugly loss at Sacramento.
16
Tony: Newcomers (Mayo, Collison) still carrying this team.
Mark: The NBA's most pleasant surprise in 2012.
17
Tony: Well-rounded squad, but nothing flashy.
Mark: 8-6 record while playing eight on the road.
18
Tony: Kemba has been a driving force in turning this team around.
Mark: Chandler Parsons, Patrick Patterson both look great.
19
Tony: Still no depth. That will eventually haunt them.
Mark: Lost three straight with Love back. Weird.
20
Tony: Lin (34.8 FG) needs to shoot the ball better.
Mark: 1-2 last week, all at home. Ouch.
21
Tony: Hibbert, George may be coming around.
Mark: That's the Paul George we saw in last year's playoffs.
22
Tony: Morris has burst into the starting lineup.
Mark: Markief Morris playing well in starting lineup.
23
Tony: Love is back, but they're still losing.
Mark: Meyers Leonard looked good in Aldridge's absence.
24
Tony: Remember when they started the season 2-0?
Mark: Jameer Nelson strong in return from injury.
25
Tony: Have won two of three against some very good teams.
Mark: 16-point win over Lakers deserves credit.
26
Tony: They'd be a lot better if Anthony Davis could stay on court.
Mark: Last three losses by 1 point, 1 point and in overtime.
27
Tony: Only Phoenix allows more points per game.
Mark: Anthony Davis (ankle) missing two weeks not good news.
28
Tony: Lowry is back, but Calderon was very good in his absence.
Mark: 3-3 since an 0-8 start.
29
Tony: Defense is way too inconsistent.
Mark: Dion Waiters thriving without Kyrie.
30
Tony: Don't worry, Bradley Beal thinks they'll still make the playoffs.
Mark: Getting ugly in D.C. Suck for Shabazz?

Michigan's magical March ends in one-point loss to Oregon in Sweet Sixteen

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USA TODAY

Michigan's magical March ends in one-point loss to Oregon in Sweet Sixteen

Michigan's March magic finally ran out.

The guy who's been so fantastic throughout his senior season, point guard Derrick Walton Jr., missed a game-winning 3-point try at the buzzer, and the Wolverines fell to the Oregon Ducks by a 69-68 final score in the Sweet Sixteen.

It was an incredibly competitive game between the Big Ten Tournament champs and the Pac-12 regular-season champs, with neither side ever leading by more than six.

But Moe Wagner, who scored a career-high 26 points in Michigan's second-round win over Louisville, was pretty much a non-factor in this one, scoring just seven points on 3-for-10 shooting.

Still, seniors Walton and Zak Irvin kept an unusually cold-shooting group of Wolverines alive with a combined 39 points, 23 of which came after halftime. D.J. Wilson also scored in double figures with 12, all coming on 3-pointers.

But Michigan, which had been on fire offensively for much of the last month, shot just 43.1 percent from the field and missed 20 of its 31 shots from behind the arc.

The Wolverines actually shot under 40 percent over the opening 20 minutes as the two defenses did good work for these typically high-scoring squads. Michigan turned the ball over seven times before the break but trailed by just two as it went to the locker room.

The tit-for-tat nature of the game continued at the outset of the second half before Oregon reached its game-high six-point lead, but Michigan responded with seven straight and grabbed its first lead of the second half around the 11-minute mark. The Ducks answered that mini surge with six straight of their own, part of a larger 10-4 spurt, before Wilson and Walton hit back-to-back triples to once again give the Wolverines a narrow advantage, this time with a little more than four minutes remaining.

Oregon and Irvin traded buckets from there, and a Walton jumper was Michigan's sixth straight make from the field, putting the Wolverines up three with under two minutes to play. But Michigan didn't score again, and Jordan Bell and Tyler Dorsey got back-to-back layups, the latter the game-winning one ahead of Walton's missed 3-point attempt as time ran out.

Dorsey was fantastic for the Ducks, scoring 20 points, his sixth straight game with at least 20 points. Bell had a double-double with 16 points and 13 rebounds. Oregon advanced to its second straight Elite Eight with the win.

Michigan's entertaining end-of-season run is over. Entering Thursday night's game in Kansas City, the Wolverines had won seven straight and 10 of their last 12. Those two losses came by a combined seven points. Add this loss in and just eight points separated Michigan from 13 consecutive wins.

Certainly this group of Wolverines will be remembered for its sensational four wins in four days at the Big Ten Tournament after that horrifying aborted takeoff, as well as for reaching the third Sweet Sixteen in the last five seasons under John Beilein.

Cubs president Theo Epstein, world's greatest leader? 'The pope didn't have as good of a year'

Cubs president Theo Epstein, world's greatest leader? 'The pope didn't have as good of a year'

MESA, Ariz. – Cubs president Theo Epstein showed zero interest in playing along with Fortune magazine putting him on the cover and ranking him No. 1 on the list of "The World's 50 Greatest Leaders," or two spots ahead of Pope Francis.

"The pope didn't have as good of a year," manager Joe Maddon said Wednesday, channeling Babe Ruth.

Epstein essentially bit his tongue, responding to reporters with a copy-and-paste text message that reflected his self-awareness and PR savvy. 

"Um, I can't even get my dog to stop peeing in the house," Epstein wrote. "The whole thing is patently ridiculous. It's baseball – a pastime involving a lot of chance. If (Ben) Zobrist's ball is three inches farther off the line, I'm on the hot seat for a failed five-year plan. 

"And I'm not even the best leader in our organization; our players are."

Epstein obviously has a big ego. No one becomes the youngest general manager in baseball history and builds three World Series winners without a strong sense of confidence and conviction. But he genuinely tries to deflect credit, keep a relatively low profile and stay focused on the big picture. 

Fortune's cover art became an older image of Epstein standing at the dugout, surrounded by reporters during a Wrigley Field press gaggle. (This was not Alex Rodriguez kissing a mirror during a magazine photo shoot.) The text borrowed from Tom Verducci's upcoming "The Cubs Way" book. 
 
Fortune still hit an Internet sweet spot and generated a lot of buzz, ranking Epstein ahead of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos (No. 4), Army Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster (No. 7) and German Chancellor Angela Merkel (No. 10).

"I'm all about the pope," Maddon said. "Sorry, Pope Francis. We're buds. I'd like to meet him someday. But after all, what we did last year was pretty special. 

"Has the pope broken any 108-year-old curses lately?"

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Epstein also ended an 86-year drought for the Boston Red Sox, putting the finishing touches on the immortal 2004 team and winning another championship in 2007 with eight homegrown players. 

No matter how the Cubs try to airbrush history now, that five-year plan featured lucky breaks, unexpected twists and turns and payroll frustrations as the franchise went from 101 losses in 2012 to 103 wins last season. But even after the biggest party Chicago has ever seen, no team in baseball is better positioned for the future. And there is no doubt that Epstein is a Hall of Fame executive.  

"He's very good at setting something up and then permitting people to do their jobs," Maddon said. "That's the essence of good leadership, the ability to delegate well. But then he also has the tough conversations. 

"He sees both sides. I've talked about his empathy before. I think that sets him apart from a lot of the young groups that are leading Major League Baseball teams right now. You know if you have to talk to him about something, he's got an open ear and he's going to listen to what you say. He's not going to go in there predetermined. 

"You can keep going on and on, him just obviously being very bright, brilliant actually. He's got so many great qualities about him. But he leads well, I think, primarily because of his empathy."

That blend of scouting and analytics, open-minded nature and pure guts led to the Cubs: drafting Kris Bryant and Kyle Schwarber; trading for Anthony Rizzo, Kyle Hendricks, Jake Arrieta, Addison Russell and almost their entire bullpen; and signing transformative free agents like Jon Lester and Zobrist.            

Chairman Tom Ricketts locked up Epstein before the playoffs started last October with a five-year extension believed to be worth in the neighborhood of $50 million. Arrieta didn't laugh off the Fortune rankings.

"It just shows you all the positive that's he done," Arrieta said. "Not only here, but beforehand in Boston and what he's built for himself and for the city of Boston and the city of Chicago. It's hard to understate what he means to the organization."