NCAA

Panthers fire GM Hurney after team's 1-5 start

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Panthers fire GM Hurney after team's 1-5 start

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) Panthers owner Jerry Richardson sat down in his office Sunday night with Marty Hurney and posed two questions to the franchise's longtime general manager: Why are the Panthers 1-5 and when are they going to get better?

Hurney said he couldn't give him an honest answer for either question.

The following morning Richardson made the tough decision to fire Hurney, who has been with the team since 1998 and the GM for the past 11 years.

The move came one day after star quarterback Cam Newton expressed his frustration following Carolina's fourth straight defeat, a 19-14 loss to Dallas.

Hurney took full responsibility for the team's failures.

``Words don't keep your job, actions do,'' Hurney said. ``The bottom line is we were 1-5. We're 1-3 at home.

``We laid in egg in front of the Giants on national TV (a 36-7 loss) and came back the last two weeks and lost against teams we felt like we had a good chance to beat. It can't continue to go this way,'' he said.

``Marty made every effort to bring success to the Panthers and took the team to a Super Bowl and two NFC championship games,'' Richardson said in a statement. ``Unfortunately, we have not enjoyed the success we hoped for in recent years. I have the greatest respect and admiration for Marty and will always appreciate the way he tirelessly served the organization.''

Richardson spent most of Monday in meetings and talking to people around the league he confides in.

Hurney said he doesn't expect his replacement will be named until after the season, but he's not completely sure.

There's a chance Richardson could bring in an older, more experienced former general manager to advise him on the direction of the franchise and give him an honest evaluations of the players in the interim.

One of the people Richardson's trusts the most is former New York Giants general manager Ernie Accorsi. He's also close friends with the Rooney family in Pittsburgh.

In the meantime, Brandon Beane, the team's director of football operations, will handle day-to-day football matters until a new GM is hired. And coach Ron Rivera said when it comes to personnel decisions he'll have final say in matters for now.

``If a decision has to be made involving the football team and players, it will all stop with me,'' Rivera said, who added he was surprised by the move.

Rivera said at this point no assistant coaches have been fired, but he wouldn't rule that out.

``We're all being evaluated,'' Rivera said.

Hurney said he fought for his job, but in the end couldn't blame Richardson. Hurney added he thinks the Panthers need more leadership.

``I think we need somebody to step up in the locker room and take hold,'' he said. ``I think there are people capable of that. I think we need some players to step up and say enough is enough.''

Newton experienced virtually no losses before becoming a pro, and he was the 2011 Offensive Rookie of the Year. But this season has been a struggle, and he seemed at a loss for solutions Sunday.

``Well everybody's looking at it, it's not just me,'' he said. ``(We) try to find ways to keep games close and whether it's me, I don't know. Whether it's the coordinator, I don't know ... but we've got to find a way to change that.''

Hurney regrets not winning a Super Bowl in Carolina - they lost 32-29 to New England for the 2003 title - and the team's inability to post back-to-back winning seasons.

``I hope this change starts accomplishing the direction to those goals,'' Hurney said. ``I am responsible for everybody in coaching, the players, the scouts and everybody in football operations. After six weeks, we are 1-5 coming off a 6-10 season.''

Hurney was general manager when the Panthers went to the Super Bowl and the NFC championship games in the 2003 and 2005 seasons, as well as winning the NFC South in 2008.

Hurney was well liked and respected within the organization, but his personnel decisions in the draft and in free agency were routinely criticized by fans tired of the Panthers' losing ways.

Defensive end Charles Johnson, the team's highest-paid player, said on Twitter: ``Marty wasn't the reason we are losing! ... Unbelievable!''

Carolina's last playoff victory came in 2005 when it reached the NFC championship game before losing at Seattle. The Panthers appeared to turn things around in 2008 when they won the NFC South and earned a first-round bye before getting upset 33-13 at home by the Arizona Cardinals. They haven't been back to the playoffs since.

Hurney's philosophy has been to build through the draft and re-sign proven players rather than going after high-priced free agents. But the team wasted a number of high draft picks through the years.

The personnel blunder that angered fans most was giving 34-year-old quarterback Jake Delhomme a five-year, $42.5 million contract months after he turned over the ball over six times in the playoff loss to Arizona.

Delhomme started 2009 with a five-turnover game against Philadelphia and was cut after the season. Delhomme cost the Panthers $12 million against the salary cap in 2009 even though he was no longer on the roster.

Eric Shelton, Dwayne Jarrett, Jimmy Clausen and Everette Brown were all drafted in the second round, but failed to meet expectations. Brown, in particular, was a costly choice in 2009 because the Panthers gave up their first-round pick the following year to San Francisco to get him. Brown lasted only two seasons in Carolina.

Hurney also was criticized for giving big contracts to keep the team's core intact following a 2-14 season in 2010.

He did well with first-round draft picks Jordan Gross, Jon Beason, Jonathan Stewart, Chris Gamble and Newton, last year's No. 1 overall pick.

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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