NCAA

Cy and goodbye: Mets trade Dickey to Blue Jays

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Cy and goodbye: Mets trade Dickey to Blue Jays

NEW YORK (AP) Cy ya later.

R.A. Dickey and his nasty knuckleball are headed north of the border.

After weeks of speculation and then a weekend spent ironing out the last few details, the New York Mets finally traded the NL Cy Young Award winner to the Toronto Blue Jays in a seven-player swap Monday.

``I can't tell you how excited I am to be part of an organization that's committed to winning and putting a product on the field that the fans can be excited about,'' Dickey said Tuesday. ``A lot of people say these things at the beginning of spring training and the beginning of all new things, but I think in this particular case that the reason it feels so good is because it's so true, and you don't feel like you're tying to convince yourself of the things that you're saying.''

Toronto acquired the 38-year-old Dickey and catchers Josh Thole and Mike Nickeas. The Mets got top catching prospect Travis d'Arnaud and veteran catcher John Buck, plus minor league right-hander Noah Syndergaard and outfielder Wuilmer Becerra.

Earlier in the day, Dickey and the busy Blue Jays agreed to a new contract adding $25 million over two years clearing the way for New York to send him to a team that's spending a lot of money trying to join baseball's elite.

General manager Sandy Alderson said the Mets didn't completely decide to trade Dickey until they saw the final package that Toronto offered.

``This was a complicated deal,'' Alderson said on a conference call.

Dickey was already signed for $5.25 million next year, including a $250,000 escalator. His new contract drops next year's salary to $5 million, adds $12 million salaries for both 2014 and 2015, and includes a $12 million club option for 2016 with a $1 million buyout.

Dickey said New York's initial offer would have added $14 million over two years and the Mets increased it to $20 million.

``It's think it's important for me to grieve leaving New York,'' he said. ``I had proverbial home there. I had a home among fans. I had a home in an organization. I had a lot of success there, and I think it's important for me to be sad about that for a moment before I move on to the next feeling.''

Toronto has now acquired All-Stars Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle, Melky Cabrera and Dickey since the season ended.

``We're just so close to contention,'' Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos said. ``It's not just about one season. This allows us to put what we feel is a contending team together for an extended run, for a three- to five-year period.''

Dickey became the fourth pitcher to win the Cy Young and be traded before the next season, joining David Cone, Pedro Martinez and Roger Clemens.

Alderson said the Mets' preference going into the offseason was to sign Dickey to a multiyear deal. But as the winter meetings approached in early December, Alderson said Dickey's value ``in a possible trade was also sky-rocketing. At some point, those lines crossed.''

Several teams made runs at a deal for Dickey, with Texas and the Los Angeles Angels among those in the mix. Alderson said while some clubs popped in and out of trade talks, Toronto's interest remained steady.

The Blue Jays have missed the playoffs since winning their second straight World Series crown in 1993, and have boldly moved to reshape a team that went 73-89 last season in the rugged AL East.

Dickey was 20-6 with a 2.73 ERA last season, capping his rapid rise from the majors' scrap heap to an ace pitcher. He did it by perfecting a way to throw his floater faster than previous knuckleballers, and tossing it with exceptional control.

``It was an extraordinary privilege for us to be part of his career,'' Alderson said. ``The final chapter has not been written.''

Dickey joins a stellar Toronto rotation that includes Johnson, Buehrle and returning starters Ricky Romero and Brandon Morrow.

``We clearly are convinced this can be a front-line starter for us,'' Anthopoulos said. ``I don't think he gets the credit or the respect he deserves because of his age, and because of what he does throw. And I understand because it's so rare.

``But there's so much overwhelming data and evidence that points to him continuing to have this success.''

Thole gives the Blue Jays a catcher who is familiar with handling Dickey's knuckleball, and Anthopoulos said that relationship was a key to the deal.

``R.A. is too important to our chances to take a chance and have a tryout camp to see if someone can catch him,'' he said.

Despite a big spot in the rotation to fill minus Dickey, Alderson said the Mets were not giving up on next season.

``We certainly are not punting on 2013,'' he said.

Alderson called d'Arnaud, who turns 24 in February, the top catching prospect in the minors and predicted he could contribute on the major league level next year. He hit .333 at Triple-A Las Vegas with 16 homers and 52 RBIs before tearing a knee ligament trying to break up a double play in June.

Popular with Mets fans, Dickey perturbed team management when he spoke about his contract situation last week during a club event at Citi Field for children displaced from their schools by Superstorm Sandy.

Dickey said he enjoyed playing for the Mets and added it would be ``disappointing'' if he went through his option year without a new deal and became a free agent.

``If that's the decision that they make, I feel like it would be unfortunate because it probably is going to mean that I'm not going to be back,'' Dickey said then. ``And that would be sad.''

Buck was an All-Star with Toronto in 2010. The 32-year-old hit .192 with 12 homers and 41 RBIs for Miami last season, then was part of the blockbuster trade between the Marlins and Blue Jays.

The 20-year-old Syndergaard went 8-5 with a 2.60 ERA for Class-A Lansing. The 18-year-old Becerra hit .250 with four RBIs in 11 games in the rookie Gulf Coast League.

Thole, 26, hit .234 with one homer and 21 RBIs in 104 games this year. The 29-year-old Nickeas split last season between the Mets and Triple-A Buffalo. He batted .174 with one homer and 13 RBIs for New York.

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AP Sports Writers Ronald Blum and Mike Fitzpatrick contributed to this report.

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. 

PODCAST: BIGGEST STORYLINES COMING OUT OF ALL-STAR BREAK

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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