NCAA

AP Sources: Shafer to take over at Syracuse

AP Sources: Shafer to take over at Syracuse

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) Four years ago, Scott Shafer's football sojourn almost seemed at a dead end.

Fired after only one year as defensive coordinator at Michigan under Rich Rodriguez, a victim of one of the worst seasons in Wolverines history, Shafer was down and out after stops at five colleges in a five-year span.

Then came a phone call at Christmas time in 2008 from Doug Marrone, who had just been hired as coach at Syracuse. The two clicked and Shafer was hired as defensive coordinator. He quickly transformed a woeful Orange defense into an intimidating unit, becoming fast friends with Marrone as both became key cogs in turning around a program that had reached the depths of despair.

Now, with Marrone suddenly leaving this week to coach the Buffalo Bills, Shafer has landed his first job as a head coach. He will officially replace Marrone, two people familiar with the selection process told The Associated Press on Tuesday. Both spoke on condition of anonymity because there had not been an official announcement from the university.

The school was expected to schedule a press conference for Thursday.

With national signing day looming, acting quickly to find a replacement was of the utmost importance. Dr. Daryl Gross, the athletic director, hinted in a radio interview Monday that the choice would come from within the staff.

``We want to move fast and make sure we get things in place,'' Gross said.

Syracuse has received 14 commitments so far, nine of them from three-star athletes, including quarterbacks Zach Allen of Texas and Austin Wilson of Pennsylvania, according to Rivals.com. The site ranks the Orange class at No. 71.

Though an official announcement has not yet been made, Shafer was congratulated by his son and former players Rob Long and Antwon Bailey on Twitter.

Shafer, a 1990 graduate of Baldwin Wallace University, was one of Marrone's first hires. Though he's never been this high up the coaching chain, Shafer expressed interest in taking that next step and was a candidate for the Western Michigan job that went to P.J. Fleck last month.

Marrone preached discipline, accountability, character, and integrity, and Shafer will have to follow that lead if the team is to remain on the upswing. Marrone rejuvenated a team that went 10-37 under his predecessor, Greg Robinson, and transformed it into a two-time bowl winner.

Syracuse finished 8-5 this year and 5-2 in the conference. The latter mark was good for a four-way tie in the race for the Big East title.

``I think we have an outstanding bunch of individuals on the (Syracuse) team,'' Marrone said Monday in Buffalo after being introduced as the Bills coach, indicating the staff he picks there will have NFL experience. ``I think we have an outstanding bunch of coaches, support staff, and I think everything's in place. And I really think that moving forward toward the ACC, there are things that are going to go on that are going to push this program forward.''

Stability and continuity are big deals at Syracuse. Basketball coach Jim Boeheim is in his 37th season at his alma mater and his three assistant coaches - Mike Hopkins, Adrian Autry, and Gerry McNamara - are Syracuse graduates, as are lacrosse coaches John Desko and Gary Gait and football assistants Rob Moore and Bob Brotzki.

Offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett, a 2002 graduate of Cal-Davis, was in charge of an offense that set numerous school records in 2012 with fifth-year senior quarterback Ryan Nassib at the helm. Hackett, just 33, has limited coaching experience, but retaining him on staff is paramount going forward.

The up-tempo spread offense Marrone and Hackett installed in August at the end of preseason camp has piqued the interest of quarterback prospects like Allen and Wilson. Hackett developed Nassib and transformed Syracuse's offense into one of the best in the nation. Syracuse finished 2012 first in the Big East in total offense with an average of 473.4 yards per game, and Nassib is being projected as an early-round pick in the upcoming NFL draft.

The Orange will play eight ACC games next season, as well as non-conference dates with, among others, Northwestern and Penn State.

2018 Big South Tournament Bracket, How to watch, Dates, Preview, Location

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2018 Big South Tournament Bracket, How to watch, Dates, Preview, Location

The Big South conference had a surprising start to their league play this year with preseason favorites UNC-Asheville and Winthrop losing two of their first three games.  Since, things have settled down in the Big South with those two squads separating themselves from the pack late in the season.

This 2017-18 season, the Big South is a single bid conference but does have opportunities to get a couple of teams into the NIT. Depending on how this tournament plays out, there may be two or three teams in the second biggest tournament in the country.

READ MORE: NCAA TOURNAMENT BUBBLE WATCH

Like always the tournament will be hosted at multiple sites. The first round will be on campus-sites with the No.7 and No. 8 teams hosting their respective games. From there, the remaining teams will head to Asheville, NC for two rounds as the Bulldogs earned the No. 1 seed. The highest remaining team will then host the championship game.

Home-court advantage will clearly be a factor for which ever team hosts, but it has also been a theme of the Big South. Combined, the entire conference is 88-38 at their home court. Only Liberty has a winning record on the road at 5-4. The host of the quarterfinals and semifinals, UNC-Asheville, is 13-1 at Kimmel Arena. The lone loss being against Liberty.

Only one year in this format, Winthrop won the championship in 2016-17 as the hosts.

TOURNAMENT INFORMATION:

When is the Big South Tournament?

The Big South Tournament will be Tues. Feb 27, March 1-2, and the Big South championship is on March 4.

Where is the Big South Tournament?
The Big South tournament will primarily be hosted at Kimmel Arena in Asheville, North Carolina. The higher seeds will host the first round match-ups. The Big South Championship will also be at the highest seed’s home court.

How to watch the Big South Tournament?

The Big South Tournament will be televised as a part of ESPN’s family of networks, excluding the first round. The first round can be seen on the Big South Network, the quarterfinals and semifinals will be streamed on ESPN3, and ESPN will televise the Big South Championship.

Who is the defending Big South Champion?

The Winthrop Eagles won the 2016-17 Big South Championship after hosting the main portion of the tournament. It was the Eagles 11th Big South Championship in their history, the most ever in the Big South.

2018 BIG SOUTH TOURNAMENT BRACKET:

First Round – Tuesday, Feb. 27

No. 9 Presbyterian at No. 8 Charleston Southern 7:00 pm (Big South Network/ Roku)
No. 10 Longwood at No. 7 High Point                     7:00 pm (Big South Network/ Roku)

Quarterfinals - Thursday, March 1

7/10 Winner vs. No. 2 Radford                     1:00pm, at Asheville, NC (ESPN3)
No. 6 Gardner-Webb vs. No. 3 Winthrop   3:00pm, at Asheville, NC (ESPN3)
8/9 Winner at No. 1 UNC Asheville              7:00pm, at Asheville, NC (ESPN3)
No. 5 Liberty vs. No. 4 Campbell                  9:00pm, at Asheville, NC (ESPN3)

Semifinals - Friday, March 2

TBD vs. TBD                          6:00pm, at Asheville, NC (ESPN3)
TBD vs. TBD                          8:00pm, at Asheville, NC (ESPN3)

Big South Championship - Sunday, March 4

TBD vs. TBD                          1:00pm, higher seed host (ESPN)

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PREVIEW:

Even as the No. 3 seed and losers of their last two games, Winthrop is probably still the favorite heading into the tournament. Their offense is one of the highest scoring in all of college basketball (80.7 ppg), with Xavier Cooks scoring 17.6 ppg (3rd in Big South). However, the Eagles’ offense is not powered entirely behind three-point shooting, it is done with balance on both sides of the ball. They have the best two-point shooting percentage in the league (47.3 percent), lead the Big South in rebounding averages, blocks, and field goal defense. In addition, their guards’ three point shooting ability is pretty good too at 37.5 percent and making 9.5 deep balls a game.

However, when they go quiet from long range or another team matches their three-point shooting for a contest, they are susceptible. Also as defending champs, they have been here before and are motivated to get back to the NCAA Tournament.

As the Big South tournament hosts, UNC Asheville will have a leg up on the competition, but they have not been as dominant as a top seed should be. The Bulldogs are one of the most consistent teams in the conference with all five starters scoring in double figures each game. If one is betting, they are the safe bet to win it all based on what is mentioned above.

While Radford was a pleasant surprise throughout league play, do not anticipate that they will be a contender. They are eighth in scoring in the conference (68.2) and around the same mark when it comes to shooting. Their defense has bailed them out as probably one of the top defensive units in the league, but their leading scorer is a post player, Ed Polite Jr.  (13.6 ppg) and if shut down in the paint, there is no offense.

Liberty is the darkhorse in the Big South Tournament. The do boast the best defensive numbers in the conference (64.0 points against per game) and have a high-powered offense, although it is spotty.  Two players are shooting well above 40 percent or better from behind the arc. Dominating the boards, they limit other team’s second chance opportunities. Do not bet against the Flames in a one-on-one contest.

PICK: No. 3 Winthrop

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Wizards vs. Sixers: TV, live stream and radio info, things to watch

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Wizards vs. Sixers: TV, live stream and radio info, things to watch

Bradley Beal, Otto Porter, Kelly Oubre, Jr. and the Washington Wizards battle Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, J.J. Redick and the Philadelphia 76ers on Sunday night.

Here is all you need to know: TV, live stream and radio info, tip-off time, plus three things to watch:

WASHINGTON WIZARDS VS. PHILADELPHIA 76ERS

Where: Capital One Arena
Tip-off: 8 p.m.
TV: NBC Sports Washington (coverage begins at 7 p.m.)
Live stream: NBCSportsWashington.com
Radio: 1500 AM

Another test

The Wizards continue their difficult stretch coming out of the All-Star break against a very dangerous Sixers team. Philly has proven to be very streaky this season, but right now they are rolling. They come to Washington having won their last seven games dating back to Feb. 6 when they beat the Wizards at the Wells Fargo Center. The Wizards are also playing well, having won eight of their last 11, despite their loss to the Hornets on Friday.

The Sixers are currently seventh in the East and appear on track to make the playoffs. If they keep rising the standings, they could meet the Wizards, who are currently fourth, in the first round. 

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Season series

Speaking of the playoffs, this game could end up looming large for postseason seeding. The Sixers have won two of the three matchups between these teams this year. If they win on Sunday, they will take the season series and own the tiebreaker over Washington.

If the two teams tie head-to-head and end up with the same record at the end of the season, it will then come down to conference record. The Sixers currently have a better record against East teams than the Wizards. But if they can beat Philly this time, the Wizards will have a chance to secure the conference tiebreaker down the stretch of this season.

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Sixers are tough to guard

The Wizards have found out the hard way this season just how difficult it can be to match up with the Sixers, who are led by two emerging stars in Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. Embiid is 7-foot-1 with rare abilities to stretch the floor and beat opponents off the dribble. Simmons is 6-foot-10, yet can lead the fastbreak with rare speed and vision to find his teammates with crisp passes.

The mobility for their size is almost unmatched and it has not been easy for the Wizards to answer. In their last meeting earlier this month, Simmons had 15 points, eight assists, six rebounds and three steals. Embiid had 27 points, 13 rebounds and three blocks. The Wizards have to try to limit those guys while also dealing with other challenges like Robert Covington, Dario Saric and J.J. Reddick.

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