NCAA

Thursday's Sports in Brief

Thursday's Sports in Brief

NEW YORK (AP) Instead of closing in on a deal, the NHL and the players' association are further apart than ever before.

Union executive director Donald Fehr began the first of his two news conferences Thursday night by proclaiming he believed the sides had agreements on such issues as actual dollars, and then returned moments later to reveal the NHL rejected everything his side offered.

Hot-button topics such as the ``make-whole'' provision on existing contracts not only weren't settled, but are no longer being offered by the league. Forget that owners were willing to pay up to $300 million to cover the costs, now Commissioner Gary Bettman is saying the entire concept is off the table - along with everything else the league proposed during the previous two days of talks.

``They knew there was a major gulf between us and yet they came down here and told you we were close,'' deputy commissioner Bill Daly said.

Fehr vehemently disputed that assessment and stuck to his opinion that the sides really aren't far apart.

When the NHL agreed to increase its offer of payments from $211 million, it was part of a proposal that required the union to agree to three nonnegotiable points. The players' association accepted the raise, but then made counterproposals on the issues the league stated had no wiggle room.

The NHL wants to limit personal player contracts to five years, seven for a club's own player. The union countered with an offer of an eight-year maximum length with the variable in salary being no greater than a 25 percent difference between the highest-paid year of the deal and the lowest.

The other sticking points the NHL demanded of the players are a 10-year term on the new agreement, with a mutual opt-out option after eight years, and no compliance buy-outs or caps on escrow in the transition phase to the new structure. The union presented an offer of an eight-year deal with a reopener after six.

The sides won't meet again before Saturday at the earliest.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP) - Manti Te'o was ``at a loss for words'' after capturing the Maxwell Award as the nation's most outstanding player, one of three honors Notre Dame's senior linebacker received at the 22nd Home Depot College Football Awards show at Disney World.

``The last time I ever dreamt of winning that award was on a video game,'' he said. ``So to win it is a mind-blowing experience.''

Te'o now has won six major awards since the end of the regular season, also taking home the Bednarik Award for top defensive player and Walter Camp Foundation player of the year award on Thursday. He became the first defensive player to win the Maxwell Award since 1980, ending a string of nine straight quarterbacks.

Next up is the Heisman Trophy ceremony on Saturday night, with Te'o and Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel considered the favorites.

Manziel won the Davey O'Brien National Quarterback Award and the Aggies' junior offensive lineman Luke Joeckel took home the Outland Trophy for the nation's best interior lineman.

Other players honored Thursday were Southern California's Marqise Lee (Biletnikoff Award for top receiver), Tulane's Cairo Santos (Lou Groza Award for top kicker), Louisiana Tech's Ryan Allen (Ray Guy Award for top punter), Mississippi State's Johnthan Banks (Jim Thorpe Award for top defensive back), and Wisconsin's Montee Ball (Doak Walker Award for top running back).

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Current athletic director and former coach Barry Alvarez will return to the sidelines to coach Wisconsin when it faces No. 8 Stanford on New Year's Day. The announcement came two days after Bret Bielema stepped down to take over at Arkansas.

DENVER (AP) - A person familiar with the decision tells The Associated Press that Butch Jones has rejected an offer to become the football coach at the University of Colorado.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - Charlie Strong is staying at Louisville, saying he turned down an offer from Tennessee to stay with the Cardinals.

BASEBALL

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - A quiet winter meetings figures to lead to a busy rest of December, given how few moves actually got finished at sprawling Opryland hotel.

As teams headed home Thursday, the biggest free agents were still on the market. The availability of slugger Josh Hamilton and pitcher Zack Greinke held up decisions on other signings and possible trades involving Rangers infielder Michael Young and Mets Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey.

The Yankees, quiet thus far, were pursuing former Boston star Kevin Youkilis and also met with the agent for Mark Reynolds.

With most clubs already packed up, Philadelphia acquired outfielder Ben Revere from Minnesota for right-handers Vance Worley and Trevor May.

Hamilton could remain with Texas, and Seattle seemed to be interested. Greinke's options include staying with the Los Angeles Angels, moving up the coast to the Dodgers or signing with the Rangers.

PRO FOOTBALL

PITTSBURGH (AP) - The Pittsburgh Steelers confirmed that Ben Roethlisberger will return to the starting lineup Sunday against San Diego after missing three weeks due to injuries to his right throwing shoulder and ribs.

Roethlisberger will play with a custom-fit rib/chest compression shirt and a layer of Kevlar-lined composite in his shoulder pads to help absorb hits to his clavicle and shoulder joint regions.

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) - NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said Thursday the league is willing to contribute funding to help build a stadium in Oakland to keep the Raiders in town.

Goodell said it is crucial that the Raiders improve their stadium situation. They currently play in the outdated Oakland Coliseum and have said they would like a more modern facility at the same location. There have been talks between the team and city officials but nothing concrete has happened as of yet.

Goodell also said the league's competition committee would consider in the offseason replacing the kickoff. The league previously had moved the kickoff from the 30 to 35-yard line to cut down on violent collisions.

BLUE RIDGE, Texas (AP) - A relative of the slain girlfriend of Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher said she was a loyal friend who brought joy to others with her smiles and laughter.

Kasandra Perkins' great-uncle also told mourners at a service that Perkins loved her family and considered her 3-month-old daughter, Zoey, to be the love of her life.

Family and friends gathered at a rural North Texas church to remember the 22-year-old Perkins, five days after Belcher killed her then shot himself in the head.

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - Peyton Hillis lashed back at former teammate Joe Thomas, comparing the Browns' offensive tackle to a ``crazy ex-girlfriend'' after he made disparaging comments about the Kansas City Chiefs running back.

Thomas told reporters in Cleveland on Wednesday that Hillis didn't always play hard during his time with the Browns. He also accused Hillis of creating a ``toxic'' environment in the locker room by putting his contract situation ahead of the team.

PRO BASKETBALL

ORANGE, Calif. (AP) - Former NBA star Dennis Rodman has been found in contempt of court and ordered to pay $500,000 in back child support to his ex-wife, her attorney said Thursday.

The flamboyant basketball player known for his off-court antics was sentenced to informal probation, his ex-wife's attorney, Mary Ann Noiroux, told City News Service. Orange County Superior Court Commissioner Barry Michaelson warned Rodman could face jail time if he doesn't pay the child support, she said.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - Creighton guard Josh Jones was being held overnight and was to undergo further testing Friday at a Lincoln hospital after passing out before the Bluejays' game against Nebraska.

Coach Greg McDermott wrote in a text message to The Associated Press on Thursday night that Jones ``is tired but doing well.''

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - A Utah State basketball player who collapsed at practice was moved out of the intensive care unit and upgraded to fair condition.

Intermountain Medical Center spokesman Jason Carlton said Danny Berger remains at the Salt Lake City-area hospital.

The 22-year-old Berger collapsed on the court during a practice Tuesday in Logan.

GOLF

SYDNEY (AP) - Australia's John Senden shot a 6-under 66 on Thursday in calm morning conditions at The Lakes to take a two-stroke lead in the Australian Open.

Englishman Justin Rose was second along with Australians Kim Felton, Brendan Jones and Richard Green and New Zealand's Gareth Paddison.

CHON BURI, Thailand (AP) - South Africa's Charl Schwartzel shot a 7-under 65 to take a one-stroke lead after the first round of the Thailand Golf Championship.

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) - China's Shanshan Feng opened a four-stroke lead in the Dubai Ladies Masters, shooting a 7-under 65 in the second round.

DURBAN, South Africa (AP) - Rain washed out play in the inaugural Nelson Mandela Championship. The opening event of the 2013 European Tour season also is sanctioned by the Sunshine Tour.

MIXED MARTIAL ARTS

SEATTLE (AP) - Former Olympic judo bronze medalist and rising mixed-martial arts star Ronda Rousey will fight in the main event at UFC 157 on Feb. 23 in Anaheim, Calif., where she will face Liz Carmouche in the first women's fight in UFC history.

SOCCER

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) - Lionel Messi says that his injured knee feels much better despite fearing the worst when he collided with the goalkeeper during a Champions League match against Benfica.

The Barcelona forward says he may miss Sunday's league match at Real Betis, but had originally thought his career might be in jeopardy.

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Clint Dempsey put Tottenham ahead in the 76th minute on a header that was later ruled an own goal and Spurs reached the knockout stage of the Europa League with a 3-1 win over Panathinaikos.

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

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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

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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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