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31/03/2018

t this year, getting rid of conference affiliatio

The NCAA mens basketball season is nearly upon us, which means its still time to make preseason predictions!Namely, we want to know:Villanova, of course, won the tournament last season with Kris Jenkins epic buzzer-beater against North Carolina. Air Max 97 Uomo .Duke is No. 1 in the AP Top 25, snagging 58 of 65 first-place votes. The Blue Devils are buoyed by junior Grayson Allen and a stellar freshman class. Kentucky (two first-place votes), Kansas (none) and Villanova (four) follow, with Rick Pitinos Louisville team lurking. Air Max 97 Vapormax Hybrid . Clarke was injured while practicing on the Doha Golf Club range after the pro-am on Tuesday. The Northern Irishman arrived at the course on Wednesday hoping to start, but after hitting a few balls on the practice putting green Clarke advised officials he was not fit to play. Air Max 97 Ultra Nere . 24 Baylor in a Big 12 clash between teams trending in opposite directions. Andrew Wiggins made 10-of-12 from the foul line and scored 17 for Kansas (14-4, 5-0 Big 12), which capped a stretch of four straight games against ranked opponents unscathed. http://www.airmaxscontionline.it/nike-air-max-97-prezzo-basso.html . -- Chicago Bears cornerback Tim Jennings was selected Monday to his second straight Pro Bowl, while guard Kyle Long made it after a solid rookie season. MINNEAPOLIS -- One of the fascinating things about sports is that a franchise can seem to be at an oasis, and then find itself wandering in the desert. Such was the case for the Los Angeles Sparks, who got back to the oasis Thursday when they won the 2016 WNBA championship.It came 14 years after their last WNBA title, and nearly three years after the team was kept in Los Angeles by an ownership group including hoops legend Magic Johnson.Sparks forward Nneka Ogwumike hit the game winner with 3.1 seconds left as L.A. beat the defending champion Minnesota Lynx 77-76 in Game 5 of the WNBA Finals at Minnesotas Target Center. L.A. star Candace Parker had 28 points and 12 rebounds and was named WNBA Finals MVP. Los Angeles had a chance to win the title at Staples Center -- where the Sparks won their previous two titles -- on Sunday, but fell in Game 4.Its likely that no one was expecting so much time to pass between Sparks championships. And while its perhaps too stark to term that decade-plus a desert -- the Sparks missed the playoffs only twice in that stretch -- it seemed pretty barren at times for the team and its fans.On Sept. 1, 2001, the Sparks won their first title in a 2-0 sweep -- the WNBA Finals were best-of-three then -- with an 82-54 blowout of Charlotte. A year later, on Aug. 31, 2002, L.A. clinched another sweep on a 3-pointer by guard Nikki Teasley with 2.1 seconds left that gave the Sparks a 69-66 victory over New York.At that point, the Sparks had replaced Houston as the WNBAs standard-bearer. The Comets won the leagues first four titles from 1997-2000. But from 2000-2004, the Sparks had the leagues best record in four of five seasons and were in the WNBA Finals three times. And they had one of the leagues star players in center Lisa Leslie.The Sparks, in fact, were within a hair of winning three consecutive titles. But a 62-61 loss to Detroit in Game 2 of the 2003 WNBA Finals kept them from another sweep. Instead, Detroit took the third game and the title.Disappointing as the ending to 2003 was, the Sparks had no reason to think they would not be back to the WNBA Finals soon. But there would be frustrating losses, last-second heartbreaks, several coaching changes, three transitions of ownership, and the fear of departure from Los Angeles before the Sparks returned to championship form.The Sparks odysseyHeres the thing with the Sparks: It wasnt as if the bottom fell out after 2003. Nor were they without good fortune. In fact, they had the latter twice in the WNBA draft, with Candace Parker as the No. 1 selection in 2008 and Nneka Ogwumike as the top pick in 2012.Yet year after year, the Sparks hopes were derailed. Get ready, because theres a lot to digest.? Coach Michael Cooper, whod overseen the Sparks surge to the top of the league since 2000, left during the 2004 season to become an assistant with the NBAs Denver Nuggets. It was very upsetting to the Sparks players, though they still ended up with the leagues best record, with previous assistants Karleen Thompson and Ryan Weisenberg guiding the team. But the Sparks lost to Sacramento in the conference semifinals.That was just the start of the coaching merry-go-round for the Sparks.? Henry Bibby coached most of the 2005 season, but Joe Bryant finished it. The Sparks went 17-17 and lost again to Sacramento in the conference semifinals.? Bryant had a good 2006 season: The Sparks were first in the West, but lost to Sacramento for the third consecutive year in the postseason, this time in the conference finals.? Then Cooper returned to the WNBA in 2007-09 with the Sparks. The 2007 season was the worst in Sparks history: They went 10-24 without Leslie, who was on maternity leave and didnt play that year. But there was a bright side: The Sparks won the draft lottery for 2008, which brought them Parker.? In 2008 and 09, the Sparks lost in the conference finals, painfully both times. In 2008, they were 1.3 seconds from advancing to the WNBA Finals, but San Antonio got a buzzer-beater from Sophia Young to win Game 2 and extend the series. San Antonio then won Game 3. In 2009, Leslies last season, the Sparks had a tough conference finals with eventual champion Phoenix, losing in three games.? Cooper left again, this time to take over the Southern Cal womens program, and former WNBA player Jennifer Gillom was hired as coach for 2010. The Sparks went to the playoffs (falling in the conference semifinals) despite a losing record. Gillom was replaced by Bryant -- in his second stint with the team -- during the 2011 season, aand the Sparks didnt make the playoffs. Air Max 97 Undefeated. Appearing to stabilize again, or so it seemed, the Sparks hired Carol Ross, who went 24-10 in both 2012 and 13. In her first season, L.A. lost in the conference finals to Minnesota. Her second ended with another of those gut-punch defeats that really stung the Sparks: Then-rookie Brittney Griner hit a jumper for Phoenix with 4.9 seconds left, and Parker missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer, as the Mercury won Game 3 of their conference semifinal series. Ross wouldnt have another chance at the playoffs.? Thats because after a slow start in 2014, Ross was fired in late July. Longtime general manager Penny Toler took over on the sidelines. The season again ended in the conference semifinals with a loss to Phoenix.? Last season, Brian Agler -- who previously coached at Minnesota and Seattle -- became the Sparks sixth coach in seven years. One couldnt be surprised that Parker sat out the first part of the 2015 season to rest, and perhaps also because she wanted a break from the coaching carousel.But once she returned in late July, she and Agler clicked and the Sparks made the playoffs. They put a scare into Minnesota in the conference semifinals, falling just short in Game 1 and then extending the series to three games. The Lynx won that series and eventually the championship, but the Sparks, it appeared, were ready for a big 2016 season.Whos in charge?And if you think thats a lot of drama, there also was upheaval among ownership. The Sparks were one of the WNBAs original eight franchises when the league launched in 1997, and were owned by the Lakers Jerry Buss until 2006.Then the team was sold to non-NBA owners, longtime fans Carla Christofferson and Kathy Goodman. Their Gemini Basketball LLC owned the team from 2007-2011. Williams Holdings Group, headed by Paula Madison, with Christofferson and Goodman among minority owners, took over from 2011-13.But a bombshell dropped on New Years Eve 2013: Williams Holdings Group was pulling out of its ownership interest. It took everyone by surprise, including then-WNBA president Laurel Richie and Ross, who had signed a contract extension to stay on as coach just weeks earlier.The month of January 2014 was the bleakest and most unsettled of the Sparks history. No one seemed to be sure what the teams status was, including the players and coaches. Season-ticket holders who already put money down for 2014 got no response from the organization, which technically had no employees. The most prominent rumor was that the NBAs Golden State Warriors might take over the Sparks and move them to the Bay area.But February brought relief for the Sparks and their fans: Mark Walter and Magic Johnson, who headed the ownership group that bought the Dodgers, formed a group to buy the Sparks. Johnson, who had been a womens basketball advocate and a presence at Sparks games, officially became a key part of the organization.Johnson said then that he believed the Sparks could soon recapture their championship ways. And he worked with Toler -- the lone survivor of all the changes since she took over as GM in 2000 -- to make that happen.The Sparks had the second-best record in the WNBA this season at 26-8 behind Minnesotas 28-6. The league changed its playoff format this year, getting rid of conference affiliation for the postseason and instead taking the top eight teams and seeding them by record.Also, the top two teams got early-round byes and advanced to the semifinals. The Sparks did not have to play the teams that too often had been their nemesis in the postseason -- Minnesota and Phoenix -- just to make it to the WNBA Finals.The Lynx were the Sparks Finals opponent, but by then Los Angeles was a team with the confidence, the passion and the consistency to win a championship. And the fortitude -- it took a lot of that for the Sparks to fight back after Sundays 85-79 disappointment in Game 4.Its the first WNBA title for all the current Sparks, who range in experience from 13-year veteran Alana Beard to second-year player Chelsea Gray.And even for all the players who spent time in Los Angeles but didnt get a title with the Sparks -- including retired WNBA standouts like Tina Thompson, Ticha Penicheiro and Chamique Holdsclaw -- there is probably a feeling of celebration.Its taken a long time, and there have been some very rough roads. But the Los Angeles Sparks are WNBA champions again. Wholesale Jerseys 2019 Wholesale Jerseys 2020 Wholesale Jerseys Wholesale Jerseys Wholesale Jerseys 2019 Cheap Nike NFL Jerseys Cheap Jerseys Wholesale ' ' '