👋 Happy Friday! The last Boston pro sports team to lose at home in regulation was the Red Sox ... on Sept. 28. The Celtics and Pats haven't lost and the Bruins hadn't lost until last night (but it was in OT so "in regulation" still holds).
Today's word count: 1,665 words (6 mins)
Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios
Conference championship weekend is upon us. The action begins tonight in Santa Clara, Calif. and continues through Saturday, with the outcomes dictating who makes the playoff and who makes the Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl.
Pac-12: No. 5 Utah vs. No. 13 Oregon, 8pm ET (tonight)
Big 12: No. 6 Oklahoma vs. No. 7 Baylor, 12pm ET
SEC: No. 4 Georgia vs. No. 2 LSU, 4pm ET
ACC: No. 23 Virginia vs. No. 3 Clemson, 7:30pm ET
Big Ten: No. 1 Ohio State vs. No. 8 Wisconsin, 8pm ET
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios
Heavyweight champion Andy Ruiz Jr. will try to replicate his stunning victory over Anthony Joshua in Saturday's rematch. It's a compelling sports story and arguably the year's biggest fight, but the controversial location — Riyadh, Saudi Arabia — casts a dark shadow.
Why it matters: Saudi Arabia's global reputation was starkly affected by the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi a year ago, and the country has been accused of hosting sporting events to divert attention away from that story and other human rights abuses, while rebranding itself and boosting tourism.
What they're saying: Joshua's promoter Eddie Hearn sees nothing wrong with hosting the fight in Saudi Arabia. "The Saudis want a more positive image worldwide by bringing in events. But isn't that what they should be doing? They have got to change, and they are changing."
The other side: Amnesty International has warned that the Saudis are using this fight to "sportswash" their image.
The bottom line: "Another lucrative new frontier has emerged in the world of sport. But it may present those tempted to come here with as many quandaries as it does opportunities." — Dan Roan, BBC
Photo: Alex Trautwig/MLB Photos via Getty Images
Nationals owner Mark Lerner told NBC Sports Washington yesterday that the team can't afford to re-sign both Stephen Strasburg and Anthony Rendon (both expected to command upwards of $200 million).
"We really can only afford to have one of those guys. They're huge numbers. We already have a really large payroll to begin with."
By the numbers: The reigning champs have ranked in the top seven in payroll four of the last five seasons and already have ~$129 million committed for 2020.
The bottom line: "It's rarely a question of what a team can 'afford' in free agency. It is much more often a question of how much it's willing to spend."
P.S. ... Who would you choose?
CHICAGO — Mitchell Trubisky threw three TD passes and ran for a score in the Bears' 31-24 win over the slumping Cowboys. That's four wins in five games for Chicago.
NEW ORLEANS — Devin Booker scored a season-high 44 points and Ricky Rubio added 15 assists as the Suns beat the Pelicans in OT, 139-132.
NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Tiger Woods shot a bogey-free 66 in the second round of his tournament, the Hero Wold Challenge, to move into a tie for fifth at six-under. His Presidents Cup teammate Patrick Reed is the leader at 12-under.
Alessia Russo (No. 19) and Brianna Pinto (No. 8) are both semifinalists for the MAC Hermann Trophy (nation's best player). Photo: Andy Mead/ISI Photos/Getty Images
The UNC women's soccer program has won 21 of the 31 NCAA tournaments contested, but the Tar Heels currently find themselves in the midst of a title drought, having last won in 2012.
Tonight: The semifinals take place tonight in San Jose, Calif. (ESPNU), and the winners will meet in the national championship on Sunday.
Meanwhile, for the men: The Final Four is still a week away, but the quarterfinals start tonight.
Here's a cool map showing the closest undefeated men's college basketball team to each U.S. county.
16 undefeated teams:
ICYMI ... Women's hoops was awesome last night. Unranked Ohio State took down No. 2 Louisville, No. 13 NC State upset No. 9 Maryland, No. 8 FSU beat No. 19 Michigan State and No. 24 Michigan held off unranked Syracuse in OT.
Photo: Wesley Hitt/Getty Images
One year ago today, Titans running back Derrick Henry exploded for a franchise-record 238 rushing yards and four TD in a 30-9 win over the Jaguars.
One year later ... In each of the Titans last three games (all wins), Henry has topped 140 rushing yards and scored at least one rushing TD.
Go deeper: Stay out of Derrick Henry's Way (FiveThirtyEight)
American skier Travis Ganong during a training session on Wednesday. Photo: Alexis Boichard/Agence Zoom/Getty Images
The International Ski Federation Alpine Ski World Cup arrives in Beaver Creek, Colorado this weekend for its annual Xfinity Birds of Prey races.
Disciplines: Downhill and super-G are speed events, while slalom and giant slalom are technical.
Only four players in MLB history have recorded at least five straight 40-homer seasons.
Answer at the bottom.
🏒 A journey to discover the 'secret' of Ovik (Joe Smith, The Athletic)
"There are more Art Ross Trophy winners coming out of this [Swedish city of 30,000] than any other in the world, with Peter Forsberg and Canucks twins Daniel and Henrik Sedin."
🏈 Can Georgia's offense smash-mouth its way past LSU? (Mark Schlabach, ESPN)
"Compared to the offenses of other College Football Playoff contenders ... Georgia's might feel more like a Sunday drive in your grandfather's Cadillac. With former LSU coach Les Miles behind the wheel."
🏈 The pastor, the porch, and a father's fight with faith (Greg Bishop, SI)
"A man of God and man of football, Vernon Shazier was tested as never before two years ago, on the night his oldest son lay motionless on the field."
Have a great weekend,
Kendall "Strasburg" Baker
Trivia answer: Adam Dunn (update: this question/answer is incorrect. Sorry about that!)