NCAA

Rivera feels safe this year, not sure beyond that

201211181504542936904-p2.jpeg

Rivera feels safe this year, not sure beyond that

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) Ron Rivera said based on recent conversations with team owner Jerry Richardson he doesn't know if he'll remain the Carolina Panthers head coach beyond this season.

Rivera said Richardson didn't offer him any guarantees, but said ``I know that nothing is going to happen until after the season.''

Rivera's coaching seat got a little hotter after the Panthers (2-8) suffered yet another fourth quarter meltdown Sunday, losing 27-21 to Tampa Bay in overtime. Rivera is 8-18 in his two seasons as Carolina's coach.

Richardson fired general manager Marty Hurney four weeks ago and Rivera indicated at the time his own future was tied to Carolina's ability to start ``trending upward'' the rest of the season.

But the Panthers are just 1-3 since Hurney was ousted.

With a new general manager coming in at some point, Rivera has reason to be concerned. He knows many GMs like to assemble their own coaching staff. Rivera said he most recently spoke to Richardson on Friday and said the owner has been ``supportive'' and ``fair and open'' with him.

But Rivera also knows the NFL is a production-based business.

``With him it's `Ron, we've got to get things going. I know it's frustrating on you and your coaches' because it's frustrating on him,'' Rivera said of Richardson.

Richardson was unavailable for comment.

Rivera, 50, said this season has been frustrating with the Panthers losing a number of close games, including four of which they've held a lead in the fourth quarter.

Quarterback Cam Newton said the closes losses have been ``the story of the season.''

Rivera said knowing the Panthers are good enough to beat teams like Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Seattle and Tampa Bay is sometimes more difficult to swallow than if they were losing by 14 points every game.

``There just seems to be something missing,'' Rivera said.

The Panthers set out with a goal to win the Super Bowl, but 10 weeks into the season they've already been eliminated from contention to win the NFC South.

``It's tough when you lose (because) things aren't as good as they are when you win, obviously,'' Rivera said. ``Food doesn't taste right. It's difficult to communicate with people looking them in the eye and talking to them. It's hard, and I get it.''

Defensive end Charles Johnson, the team's highest-paid player and a captain, took to Twitter after Sunday's loss to express his frustration over the Panthers giving up an 11-point lead with six minutes to play against the Bucs.

``Embarrassed to be a part of that last drive! Some people study and work harder than others and they get expose(d) in the game,'' Johnson wrote.

Johnson said Monday the frustration wasn't directed at any teammate or member of the coaching staff and in hindsight he should have kept the comments in house, something Rivera urged him to do next time.

But Johnson said he supports Rivera.

``You can't worry about who is going to go and who is going to stay. That is for the front office to decide,'' Johnson said. ``But I'm going to fight with coach until the end. No matter what he does I'm going to ride with him. He's trying to lead us to the right place, so you have to stick with him.''

Rivera said he thinks he has what it takes to turn things around in Carolina given time.

He's in the second year of a four-year contract.

``I'd like to believe that we're doing things the right way - not completely obviously because we've lost too many games in close situations,'' Rivera said.

He points to the players' work ethic and the extra time they put in after practice as examples that they're willing and eager to get better and the team is headed in the right direction.

``I was on a team when I first started coaching that wasn't very good and as soon as practice was over the players couldn't wait to leave,'' Rivera said. ``I'm on a team right now where when practice ends, you've got guys catching balls and guys walking through protections. You'll see the DBs staying out there and working on their technique. There's a commitment that they're still making. ... (But) we haven't won. That's the hard part.''

After the game a linebacker Thomas Davis and other Carolina players expressed concern over Rivera's job security because of their inability to close out games.

``I'll be all right,'' Rivera said. ``No matter what happens, I'll be OK. Whether I'm here next year or not, I will be A-OK. I will go forward. I will make things happen. I will do things. Whether it's here or somewhere else, I will. I believe in who I am and firmly believe in my abilities as a coach.''

---

Online:http://pro32.ap.org/poll andhttp://twitter.com/AP-NFL

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

winthrop_unca_usat.jpg
USA Today Sports Images

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)

MORE NCAA: ALL THE TOP BRACKETOLOGISTS PICKS IN ONE PLACE

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

Quick Links

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

usatsi_10446977.jpg
USA Today Sports Images

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.

RELATED: BEAL IMPRESSED BY LEBRON AT ALL-STAR GAME

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.

RELATED: LATEST NBA POWER RANKING