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14 hours ago

Axios Sports

๐Ÿ‘‹ Good morning! Another chilly day in the nation's capital. Hope you're staying warmer than I am, wherever you are.

Today's word count: 1,391 words (5 minutes).

Let's sports...

1 big thing: ๐Ÿˆ The small-market conference
Data: Nielsen; Chart: Will Chase/Axios

The four AFC teams still alive in the playoffs represent a victory for sports' universal underdog: the small-market team, Axios' Jeff Tracy writes.

The intrigue: The Bills, Bengals, Chiefs and Titans form the smallest average media market size of any conference's final four since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger.

  • Buffalo (32nd-biggest media market of 32 NFL teams, per Nielsen)
  • Cincinnati (27th)
  • Kansas City (26th)
  • Nashville (25th)

Of note: Their franchise valuations are similarly low: Bengals (32nd), Bills (30th), Titans (28th), Chiefs (20th).

The big picture: The AFC is the "small-market conference," with just four of the top 17 NFL teams by media market size: Jets (t-1st), Chargers (t-3rd), Texans (10th) and Patriots (12th). The other 13 are all NFC teams, including the entire NFC East and NFC West.

What to watch: If the Buccaneers (15th) and Packers* (28th) beat the Rams (t-3rd) and 49ers (8th), respectively, they'll join the AFC in forming an all-small-market final four.

*Milwaukee is considered the Packers' home market for ratings purposes. Green Bay would rank last behind Buffalo.

2. ๐Ÿ€ Florida State loves overtime

Florida State upset No. 6 Duke, 79-78 (OT), on Tuesday night, extending one of the most improbable streaks in sports.

Why it matters: The Seminoles have now won 13 straight overtime games, the longest streak in Division I history. Do you have any idea how difficult that is to do?

  • When overtime arrives, players are tired and often in foul trouble. Defenses have made adjustments, coaches are running low on plays; at that point, it's all about digging deep and staying composed.
  • Coach Leonard Hamilton's calm, cool and collected presence appears to be infectious, and it has resulted in an improbable achievement worth celebrating.

The bottom line: "Never get involved in a land war in Asia, and never get involved in an overtime game against Leonard Hamilton," tweeted CBS Sports' Matt Norlander.

P.S. ... This was Hamilton's 55th win against an AP Top 25 team when unranked, passing Bob Knight for the most ever.

3. ๐ŸŸ Report: Stadium boom incoming

Rendering of the $375 million Moody Center on the UT-Austin campus. Courtesy: Moody Center

Stadium and arena construction in North America will total a relatively tame $5.8 billion this year, a 12% decrease from 2021, Jeff writes.

Yes, but: What the industry lacks in construction it expects to make up for in design, with experts predicting a sports venue boom over the next half decade, SBJ reports.

  • The pandemic has shifted fans' expectations about venue offerings (touchless experience, etc.), which require major overhauls.
  • 51% of venues across the NBA, NFL and MLB were built before 2000, so plenty of renovations (or new buildings) are on the horizon.
  • The World Cup is coming to North America in 2026, and the 17 cities vying to host matches will be upgrading their venues.
  • The NIL era has given colleges another reason to invest in their facilities as the recruiting arms race heats up.
  • MLB-mandated upgrades will drive significant spending on minor league ballpark infrastructure.

Of note: While 2022 will be a down year for construction on major pro venues, college construction ($2.8 billion) is poised to set a new record.

  • Texas begins play at the Moody Center in late April. At $375 million, it's the most expensive college arena ever built and will be a mainstay on the major concert circuit.
  • San Diego State plans to debut its $310 million Snapdragon Stadium in September. It's being built on the site of Qualcomm Stadium, the former home of the Chargers (1967-2016) and Padres (1969-2003).

Read the full report.

4. โšก๏ธ Lightning round

Stephen A. Smith. Photo: Justin Casterline/Getty Images

๐Ÿ˜ท Smith's COVID scare: Stephen A. Smith returned to "First Take" on Tuesday, where he shared his COVID-19 hospitalization experience. "They told me, had I not been vaccinated, I wouldn't be here," he said.

๐Ÿ€ Warriors disavow owner: Billionaire Chamath Palihapitiya, a minority owner of the Warriors, is under fire for saying "nobody cares" about the Uyghurs in China, and the team is distancing itself from him.

๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ธ Saban, West sign letter: Nick Saban, Jerry West and other sports figures from West Virginia have signed a letter urging Sen. Joe Manchin to support the Freedom to Vote Act.

โšฝ๏ธ Good read: Real Sociedad's secret? It's all about staying local. (Bruce Schoenfeld, ESPN)

"Real Sociedad's secret to standing tall in LaLiga isn't money or ambition; it's all about investing, working and being connected to what's local."
5. ๐Ÿ’” RIP, Lucy: "The Queen of Basketball"
Delta State's Lusia Harris in action against LSU during the 1977 AIAW championship game. Photo: John G. Zimmerman/SI via Getty Images

Lusia Harris, the only woman to be drafted by an NBA team, died unexpectedly Tuesday. She was 66.

Bio: Lucy, as she was known to teammates and friends, was a native of Minter City, Miss., and led Delta State to three straight AIAW (pre-NCAA) national championships from 1975-77.

  • Harris was a starter on the U.S. team that won the inaugural Olympic women's basketball tournament in Montreal in 1976. A 6-foot-3 center, she was the first woman to score a basket in the Olympics.
  • A year later, she was selected by the New Orleans Jazz in the seventh round (137th overall) of the 1977 NBA draft. She declined to try out for the team, and it was later revealed that she was pregnant at the time.ย 
  • In 1992, Harris became the first Black woman inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame. Seven years later, she was part of the inaugural Women's Basketball Hall of Fame class.

The big picture: These days, an electrifying talent like Harris would be a WNBA star with a slew of brand deals. But her moment came decades before the WNBA was founded, when few opportunities were available to female athletes interested in becoming pros.

Go deeper ... Harris' death comes amid growing buzz for "The Queen of Basketball," a short documentary about her life that was recently shortlisted for the Oscars.

6. ๐Ÿ“บ Networks overhaul measurement system

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

After years of griping about Nielsen's outdated measurement practices, media giants are finally beginning to test ways to assess viewership ahead of the 2022 TV season, Axios' Kerry Flynn and Sara Fischer write.

Driving the news: In a watershed moment, NBCUniversal has struck a deal with a new measurement company, iSpot.tv, to test an alternative standard during the Olympics and the Super Bowl.

How it works: iSpot.tv is one of dozens of vendors across six categories that NBCU is evaluating for potential partners.

  • While Nielsen relies on a panel of tens of thousands of homes to measure TV viewership, vendors like iSpot rely on relationships with smart TV providers to deliver viewership data in near-real time from tens of millions of people.
  • "I think the reality is that the panel does not have anywhere near the power and control that it once did," said David Levy, CEO of OpenAP, an advanced TV ad company.

My thought bubble: TV ratings are paramount in the sports world (see: the constant debate over why they're up or down). So viewership accuracy is key, especially as consumer habits change.

7. ๐ŸŒŽ The world in photos
Photo: Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

BOSTON โ€” Willie O'Ree, the first Black player to appear in an NHL game, finally had his No. 22 retired by the Bruins on Tuesday night.

Photo: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

MELBOURNE, Australia โ€” No. 17 Emma Raducanu beat Sloan Stephens, 6-0, 2-6, 6-1, in the opening round of the Australian Open โ€” her first Grand Slam match since winning the 2021 U.S. Open.

Jazz Janewattananond during a practice round at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. Photo: Francois Nel/Getty Images

ABU DHABI, U.A.E. โ€” What a shot.

8. ๐Ÿ“บ Watchlist: The greatest show on ice

Colorado has an elite superstar in Nathan MacKinnon โ€” and so much more. Photo: Norm Hall/NHLI via Getty Images

Want entertaining hockey? Look no further than the Avalanche, who are scoring at a historic rate and will be going for their 14th win in 16 games tonight against the Ducks (10pm ET, TNT).

  • By the numbers: The Avalanche are scoring an NHL-best 4.25 goals per game, the best mark since the 1995-96 Penguins (4.41) and 1.21 goals better the league average this season (3.04).
  • Wild stat: Colorado has six players who've scored at least one point per game (min. 20 games played). No other team has more than three.

More games:

9. ๐Ÿ€ NBA trivia

Karl-Anthony Towns and Anthony Edwards. Photo: Jordan Johnson/NBAE via Getty Images

Karl-Anthony Towns and Anthony Edwards have each scored 20+ points in the same game 15 times this season.

  • Question: Who's the only duo with more such games?
  • Hint: Kevin Durant and James Harden are tied with Towns and Edwards, so it's not them.

Answer at the bottom.

10. ๐ŸŽฎ Stat du jour: Activision or MLB?

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

Microsoft is acquiring Activision Blizzard for $68.7 billion in cash โ€” a seismic deal that will reshape the video game and esports industries.

Wild stat: Microsoft could have bought all 30 MLB franchises for less money (~$66 billion).

Talk tomorrow,

Kendall "Trying to visualize $68.7 billion dollars in stacks of $100 bills" Baker

Trivia answer: Chicago's DeMar DeRozan and Zach LaVine (23 times)

๐Ÿ™ Thanks for reading.ย Be sure to follow us on Twitter (@kendallbaker andย @jeffreytracy), and tell friends to sign up for Axios Sports here.