NCAA

Well-rested Tigers take on well-tested Giants

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Well-rested Tigers take on well-tested Giants

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) Jim Leyland and the Detroit Tigers found out the hard way that rest means rust in the World Series.

Six years ago, their last Series appearance, they lounged around for nearly a week before getting wiped out by St. Louis.

This time, while once again waiting for the National League opponent to be decided, they stayed busy by working on bunts, playing against their instructional league team and letting ace Justin Verlander throw to hitters.

``Well, we just tried to come up with something,'' Leyland said Tuesday. ``It wasn't like in 2006, where some people would indicate we sat around happy to get there, not doing anything, eating bon-bons.''

``That wasn't the case. We ran into bad weather problems in Detroit, so we were really handicapped,'' the manager said. ``So this time we've done some things to try to keep us from being idle for four or five days. I definitely think it affected the last World Series.''

Verlander will start Game 1 on Wednesday night against Barry Zito and the San Francisco Giants, fresh off another stirring comeback and a Game 7 win Monday night over the Cardinals.

``I feel like I haven't played in over two months when you clinch so quick like this and have to wait for the other team,'' Tigers reliever Jose Valverde said.

Not quite that long.

``What is it, eight months of baseball? What's five days?'' Tigers star Prince Fielder asked.

Said Zito: `` I guess we can hypothesize for a while on how prepared they are, being that they haven't played these high-intensity games.''

The Tigers made it easy on themselves, sweeping the Yankees in the AL championship series. They traveled to San Francisco on Tuesday and held a late-afternoon workout at AT&T Park.

``I loved it because it means we're in the World Series,'' Tigers catcher Alex Avila said. ``Someone asked me that question after we won and I was like, `Would you rather if we had lost some of those games?' It doesn't really matter to me. We did everything we could to stay mentally sharp.''

The Giants had no trouble in that department. They've been on quite a wild ride this October, first overcoming an 2-0 deficit to beat Cincinnati in the best-of-five division series, then escaping a 3-1 hole to beat the defending champion Cardinals in the NLCS.

``You have to throw it all away because it could work in either team's favor,'' Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford said. ``We've been playing every day, so guys might be a little more tired, whereas they've got more rest. Then again, we've been playing, so we've got our timing, where they might not.''

And this little fact: Three times in the past, the World Series has matched a team that went to Game 7 in the LCS against a club that swept its series. In all three instances, the team coming off a Game 7 win breezed to the championship.

Boston swept Colorado in 2007, St. Louis chased Detroit in five games in 2006 and Orel Hershiser and the Dodgers beat Oakland in five games in 1988.

``We're fine. I think we're in the groove and feeling good,'' Giants ace Matt Cain said.

Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera has gone both routes in early rounds. The Tigers slugger was a rookie with the Marlins in 2003 when they rallied past the Chicago Cubs to win the seven-game NLCS and went on to beat the Yankees for the title.

This time, the Tigers gave themselves five off days.

``It's very different. In `03 we came from behind like San Francisco did this year,'' he said. ``We have to focus on what we can do. We can't focus on, `OK we haven't played, we're going to get down.' It's tough. We have to be ready to play tomorrow and we'll see what happens.''

Leyland and Giants manager Bruce Bochy both hoped to be a quick study. There's not a lot of history between these longtime franchises - they've never met in the postseason, and have played only 12 times since interleague action began in 1997.

``I don't really know the Giants that well. I'm kind of getting a crash course on them,'' Leyland said.

``But to be honest, when they were down 0-2 going into Cincinnati having to win three games, for me that was unbelievable. So nothing surprised me when they got to the championship series after I saw what they did in the divisional series,'' he said.

Likewise for Bochy.

``I'll have to learn a lot about them real soon, to be honest,'' he said Monday night.

``I know what a great club they are. And we know all about the guy we're going to be facing opening day and their whole staff,'' he said. ``They swept the Yankees. That tells you how good they are.''

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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