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Tom Watson returns as US Ryder Cup captain

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Tom Watson returns as US Ryder Cup captain

NEW YORK (AP) Tom Watson feels right at home in Scotland.

The PGA of America is counting on that comfort level to break its road losing streak in the Ryder Cup.

The last time the U.S. team won in Europe was in 1993, which just happens to be when Watson served as captain for the first time. That drought gave the PGA of America good reason to break from recent precedent in selecting its leader for the 2014 Ryder Cup at Gleneagles.

``It's about time to start winning again for our team,'' Watson said Thursday at a news conference at the Empire State Building. ``That's the attitude that I hope that my players have.''

Watson will be by far the oldest man to fill the role and the first repeat captain for the U.S. since 1987. But he knows how to win in the blustery conditions of Scotland.

The Americans have lost seven of the last nine Ryder Cups and have not won away from home since Watson was the captain at The Belfry in England. They are coming off a staggering loss this year at Medinah, where Europe strung together a remarkable rally from a 10-6 deficit going into the final day to win by one point.

Watson is the first repeat U.S. captain since Jack Nicklaus in 1987, when the Ryder Cup was played on his home course of Muirfield Village in Ohio. Watson becomes the seventh American to get more than one shot.

His selection received an immediate endorsement from Tiger Woods. The Stanford alums have never been particularly close, and Watson has criticized Woods for not showing respect for the game with his demeanor on the course.

``I think he's a really good choice,'' Woods said in a statement. ``Tom knows what it takes to win, and that's our ultimate goal. I hope I have the privilege of joining him on the 2014 United States team.''

Watson went out of his way Thursday to praise Woods as ``the best player maybe in the history of the game.''

``My relationship with Tiger is fine,'' he said. ``Whatever has been said before is water under the bridge. No issues.''

Watson breaks the PGA of America's prototype in a big way. The eight-time major champion will be 65 when the Ryder Cup is played in Scotland. Sam Snead was 57 when he was captain in 1969, and the oldest European captain was John Jacobs (56) in 1981.

Watson predicted that some would say: ``Why is Watson, being the old guy, being the captain?

``I deflect that very simply by saying: `We play the same game,''' he said. ``I play against these kids at the Masters. I play against them at the British Open.''

He does hope to play more PGA Tour events in the next two years to spend more time around his future team.

Watson has not been back to the Ryder Cup since that `93 victory. But since then, he had been pining for another chance to serve as captain.

With that familiar gap-tooth grin, Watson recalled his reaction when the PGA of America first contacted him more than a year ago: ``Boy, I've been waiting for this call for a long time.''

As much as Watson is beloved around the world for his timeless game, epic duels with Nicklaus and graciousness in any outcome, the Scots consider him one of their own. Watson won his first major at Carnoustie in 1975 when he quickly understood how to play links golf. He won five British Open titles, the most of any American, with four of those in Scotland.

``I think we will agree that he is recognized as one of the top players under challenging conditions, and we certainly hope that that's going to translate to our team,'' PGA of America President Ted Bishop said.

Watson nearly made it six claret jugs three years ago. At age 59, he came within an 8-foot par putt on the last hole from winning at Turnberry. Watson missed the putt, and then lost to Stewart Cink in a playoff.

The ovation he heard that week in Turnberry might be different at Gleneagles. His job will be to help the players handle the pressure of the hostile crowd and the enormity of the moment.

The PGA of America broke from its model of taking former major champions in their late 40s who still play on the PGA Tour and are in touch with the players. Watson last played a full schedule in 1998, though the PGA of America had to wonder if perhaps the young captains were too close to the players.

Bishop first thought of Watson while flying back from Bermuda after the 2011 PGA Grand Slam of Golf, when he read a book about that near-miss at the British. When he first called, Watson was in a field in South Dakota pheasant hunting.

A few blocks from Broadway on Thursday, Watson compared himself to a stage manager with the job of putting his actors in best position to succeed. He mentioned the importance of luck in winning the Ryder Cup.

But he acknowledged that the good karma of his victories overseas - and especially in Scotland - might be that little nudge that returns the Americans to victory.

``It may give them a sense: `This guy has been there before and he's been successful before and we're going to be a success because he's there leading us,''' Watson said.

He expects he'll help out in the most mundane of areas, such as advice on how to adjust to the time change. At the 1981 Ryder Cup at Walton Heath, Watson recalled, he cautioned Tom Kite not to tweak his swing just because he felt lousy the first few days there. Kite was glad he listened.

Watson dismissed talk that the Europeans were more motivated than the Americans in recent years. What he heard from Davis Love III, the captain at Medinah, was a team devastated by defeat.

--

AP Golf Writer Doug Ferguson 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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