Nationals

Middle Tennessee Florida Atlantic joining C-USA

Middle Tennessee Florida Atlantic joining C-USA

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. (AP) Middle Tennessee and Florida Atlantic will join Conference USA, leaving the Sun Belt as part of the ever-changing college landscape.

Conference USA announced the addition of its new members Thursday, just two days after Tulane and East Carolina left Conference USA for the Big East even with East Carolina just leaving in football.

``These are two great universities in wonderful places that have made strong commitments to athletics, and we're excited about the potential they bring to the conference,'' C-USA Commissioner Britton Banowsky said.

The two new members joining Conference USA by 2014 will give the league 14 schools in 10 states.

Middle Tennessee President Sidney McPhee called Thursday a ``historic day'' noting that universities have been in ``constant movement'' to align themselves. The Blue Raiders have won eight all-sports Sun Belt trophies in 12 years, and McPhee said their desire is to compete with the best.

``I've been told when the invitation was made that Conference USA has had their eyes on us for a number of years and a number of institutions have been very impressed by the progress of this university,'' McPhee said.

Florida Atlantic caps a move from Division I-AA and puts the Owls in the league with rival FIU, which joins C-USA in 2013. FAU, with 28,000 students, opened a 29,419-seat football stadium on campus 13 months ago.

``This is a momentous day in the history of Florida Atlantic University,'' Florida Atlantic athletic director Pat Chun said.

Adding these two schools helps C-USA with two years left on its television deals with Fox and CBS.

Middle Tennessee has the most undergraduate students at a Tennessee university and is located 30 miles southeast of Nashville puts C-USA into a media market ranked 29th nationally and its fourth Top 30 market. Florida Atlantic in Boca Raton puts the league into the Miami-Ft. Lauderdale market, which ranks 38th in the country.

Banowsky said C-USA may not be done expanding.

Western Kentucky, a longtime rival of Middle Tennessee's in both the Ohio Valley Conference and Sun Belt, and New Mexico State could become C-USA members. But the commissioner said he would not discuss specifics.

Middle Tennessee athletic director Chris Massaro was more than happy to talk.

His university announced the move in its new $65 million student union building. The pep band and cheerleaders were on hand with a new banner featuring the C-USA logo. The crowd included plenty of graduates from the days when Middle Tennessee competed in Division I-AA and was in the OVC. Massaro pointed to the new $30 million education building that just opened near a $147 million science building being built across the square.

``What we're doing is mirroring the growth of the entire institution,'' the AD said.

What remains to be determined is how quickly both schools start competing in C-USA.

The Sun Belt recently added a $1 million exit fee, and Massaro said the Blue Raiders could switch conferences sooner than July 1, 2014, if it works for both the Sun Belt and C-USA.

Sun Belt Conference Commissioner Karl Benson said he was disappointed in the two schools leaving but that his league is very well positioned for the future.

``I remain very optimistic that the momentum that has been created in the past six months will continue to grow,'' Benson said. ``The continuing 10 members of the SBC are committed to excellence and I am confident that the SBC will take advantage of these latest changes in the landscape. As I have stated many times in the past six months, the SBC will be a major player in the future, especially within its geographic footprint.''

It's unlikely this is the last of conference realignment.

With several Conference USA members leaving that league for the Big East, and now that Sun Belt members are heading to C-USA, fans need to stay tuned.

``There are several outstanding universities that have indicated interest in joining the SBC,'' Benson said. ``While we have conducted research on these universities in the past six months, we will now focus on identifying the ones that will be the best `fit.' for the conference.''

Conference USA already had lost Memphis, Houston, Central Florida and SMU to the Big East earlier this year, prompting the league to add Charlotte, Florida International, Louisiana Tech, North Texas, Old Dominion and Texas-San Antonio starting in 2013. Middle Tennessee tried to join C-USA in that round of expansion and just missed out.

The Big Ten started up realignment again Nov. 19 by luring Maryland from the Atlantic Coast Conference followed by Rutgers leaving the Big East a day later. The ACC replaced Maryland with Louisville on Wednesday. The Big East landed Tulsa on Tuesday in all sports with East Carolina leaving Conference USA in football only.

Banowsky called the continuing realignment disturbing and volatile. He said it destroys rivalries, creates distrust among universities with all the ``commercial influence'' on conferences. But there is no avoiding it.

``They're strong forces, and so change may be the new norm in our industry,'' the C-USA commissioner said.

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Rain knocks out another Phillies-Nationals game

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USA TODAY Sports Images

Rain knocks out another Phillies-Nationals game

WASHINGTON -- The Nationals and Phillies are 2-for-2.

Tuesday night's game was postponed following a two-hour rain delay. Monday's game was postponed after a three-hour rain delay.

Tuesday's game will be made up as part of a split day-night doubleheader Sept. 24 at 1 p.m. and 7 p.m., bumping a four-game series to a five-game series. The Nationals and Phillies are scheduled to also play a split day-night doubleheader Wednesday.

The day was not without news. Nationals ace Max Scherzer broke his nose in batting practice when a ball bounced off his bat and struck him in the face. Scherzer was attempting to bunt at the time.

Scherzer's injury and the multiple postponements throw the Nationals' pitching plans into disarray. They're not sure if Scherzer will pitch as expected Wednesday. It appears Austin Voth, who was scratched from his Thursday start for Triple-A Fresno, will be available to pitch in one of the Wednesday games -- should they be played. More rain is expected Wednesday.

The Nationals will bump Patrick Corbin, who was slated to pitch again Tuesday, into a Wednesday spot. Wednesday's other starter is TBA. It could be Scherzer if he is ready. It could be Erick Fedde, and Voth could be used in the bullpen as the 26th man. That would provide Scherzer a chance to pitch Thursday and Strasburg on Friday against Atlanta. 

Or, Scherzer could be provided more time off. There's a lot to sort out once again thanks to the rain.

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Source: Wizards will have competition with teams like Lakers, Clippers for restricted free agent Bobby Portis

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USA Today

Source: Wizards will have competition with teams like Lakers, Clippers for restricted free agent Bobby Portis

This summer is shaping up to be lucrative for NBA free agents and big man Bobby Portis is well-positioned to cash in. After spending the final three months of the 2018-19 season with the Wizards, Portis is already seeing a healthy market develop ahead of the June 30 start of the league's negotiating period, NBC Sports Washington has learned.

The Wizards are likely to first extend a qualifying offer on June 30 to make him a restricted free agent. According to Spotrac.com, it will be about $3.6 million and that will give the Wizards the right to match an offer sheet from another franchise.

But teams are already indicating they want Portis, who is just 24 and coming off a season in which he averaged a career-high 14.2 points and 8.1 rebounds in 50 games. That market includes 5-10 teams and could grow once free agency opens.

Portis is expected to draw interest from the Lakers, Clippers, Jazz, Bucks, Magic and Knicks among others, NBC Sports Washington has learned.

Despite restricted free agency, Portis has a few things working for him. For one, there are a lot of teams with cap room. Spending won't reach 2016 levels, when the new CBA spiked the salary cap, but there will a lot of money to go around.

Also, guys in Portis' tier will only be helped if the top free agent options continue to dwindle. Klay Thompson looks more likely than ever to stay in Golden State after tearing his ACL. Winning a title could increase the odds Kawhi Leonard re-signs in Toronto, according to reports. And Kevin Durant's torn Achilles has thrown a wrench into the plans of teams with the most money to spend.

There is also the possibility Kemba Walker stays in Charlotte. And Kyrie Irving signing with Brooklyn, if it happens, would leave others exploring backup plans.

Portis isn't directly competing with any of those players, but could benefit if the top options are off the market. His name will only move up the list if that is the case.

Portis also has a unique selling point going for him. He shot 39.3 percent from three this past season and held a 40.3 percent clip to close the year in his 28 games with the Wizards. Three-point shooting is more valuable than ever and he brings that to the table at 6-foot-10.

Portis, who averaged 3.8 three-point attempts per game this past season, was one of only six players 6-10 or taller to shoot at least 39 percent on 3.5 attempts or more (min. 50 G). 

The question for Portis will be whether he gets the money he wants. He turned down an extension with the Chicago Bulls last fall just hours before the deadline to sign one. According to the Chicago Tribune, the deal was worth about $50 million and he wants to be paid in the range of $16 million annually. His asking price was partly why the Bulls traded him to the Wizards in February.

Even if the Wizards clear money, and they are expected to free up some by declining Jabari Parker's $20 million team option by the June 29 deadline, Portis could price himself out of Washington. It might not even take $16 million per year for that to happen.

The Wizards are set to operate through free agency with interim team president Tommy Sheppard at the helm, as the Washington Post reported on Tuesday. Sheppard making the call increases Portis' odds of staying, but that doesn't mean the price will match for both sides.

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