With just a few weeks remaining until the NBA postseason, every night can impact the standings. NBA Playoff Picture keeps you up to date on all the most important news for all 16 berths and seeds.

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Oklahoma City Downs a Dream: The Phoenix Suns aren’t entirely out of the playoff picture at this point, but it will be hard to recover from what the Thunder managed to do to them in 24 swift minutes on Sunday evening.

Down 20 early in the offering, the Thunder utilized small lineups and desperate chances on its way to a borderline stunning 109-97 win. The team outscored Phoenix by 20 over the game’s final 24 minutes, with Russell Westbrook nearing yet another triple-double (33 points on 27 shots, nine rebounds, seven assists), Dion Waiters offering his bi-weekly “this is why we still take chances on him” contribution of 18 points on 20 shots, and bench performers D.J. Augustin and Anthony Morrow combined for 30 points on only 15 attempts from the field.

Phoenix never seemed to find a defensive rhythm after the lay-up line that was the first half, and as a result the team is now four games back in the race for the final postseason berth in the West. OKC also moved to 2.5 games up over the New Orleans Pelicans, keeping pace in spite of NOLA’s 22-point win over the hapless (and clearly tanking, as the team’s coaching staff went away from productive lineups in the second half) Minnesota Timberwolves.

Rockets Ascend: Afforded the national TV showing and a frustrated opponent to tee off upon, the Houston Rockets elbowed their way into the Western Conference’s second-best record on Sunday afternoon. Despite injuries to three former starters, the Rox rode James Harden’s 9-10 touch from the free throw line to a 99-91 win that was more lopsided than the final score would indicate.

Dwight Howard managed a double-double despite playing just 18 minutes, as the Wizards solidified their slot as The Fifth Seed That Can’t Wait for 2014-15 To Be Over.

Memphis Blues Again: The Grizzlies have lost 11 of 20 since Feb. 25. This is a bit of a problem, a problem that can’t be solved by sliding Vince Carter into the starting lineup or making snarky remarks about Jeff Green.

Working on the road, in the home of the San Antonio franchise that the Grizzlies famously downed in the first-round of the 2011 playoffs, Memphis had no answer for Kawhi Leonard’s length and touch on Sunday evening. In a 103-89 loss that allowed Houston to vault past Memphis and into the West’s second seed, the Grizz were continually kept at arm’s length by a Spurs squad that seemed to have a rotation answer for every Memphis run.

Working small by design, the Grizzlies could not keep Leonard (25 points, 10 rebounds) away from his preferred spots close to the basket. San Antonio dominated the glass, kept the ball moving (25 assists; hardly home cooking from the local scorers’ crew), and barely broke a sweat in winning its sixth game in seven tries. Quietly, per the team’s custom, the Spurs moved into second place in terms of defensive efficiency on the season over the weekend.

Nets Appeal: Smirking in the face of the whole of NBA fandom, the Brooklyn Nets managed to ride into the East’s playoff bracket by taking advantage of a miserable Los Angeles Lakers team, ticking off those of whom that want nothing to do with watching BKN past the third week of April. Joe Johnson, still a guy that plays basketball for a lot of money, helped helm his team’s fourth quarter stand after the Lakers threatened. Brooklyn center Brook Lopez continued to add to what has been a fabulous March turn by adding 30 points in the face of a Laker frontcourt that seemed to have no idea what to do with a big man that can walk and chew gum at the same time.

The team’s 107-99 win put the trillion-dollar squad a half game up over the same Boston Celtics team that …

Boston Blows It: The Celtics shouldn’t have been favored against a Los Angeles Clippers team that had no business losing to a C’s group working eight games below .500 in late March, and yet the Celtics still managed to make it worse with lethargic and uninspired play from the outset. Brad Stevens’ crew managed to make an interesting game in spite of the slow start, returning to force former Celtics coach Doc Rivers to put his Clipper starters in late in the fourth quarter following a Boston run, but the same spark that inspired the Marcus Smart-driven run in recent weeks just wasn’t there for the Celtics. Smart, in particular, appears to have hit the rookie wall.

Celtic wing Jae Crowder had his moments, and the application of a Hack-a-DeAndre Jordan acted as an intelligent move as the Celtics came back, but Boston dug itself too deep a hole in the opening moments. As a result, following the 119-106 dive, the team now stands a half-game behind Brooklyn for the East’s final postseason seed.

Miami Acts its Age: Officially listed as “questionable” heading into an anonymous Sunday afternoon game in Detroit, Dwyane Wade managed to turn back the clock on his way to a 40-point outing in the Heat’s win over the Pistons. That total ranks as the second-highest output of Wade’s season thus far, made all the more impressive in the face of the fact that helper Luol Deng had to leave the game after just 18 unproductive minutes due to a painful knee contusion. With 21-year old (!) Andre Drummond adding a season-high 32 points, the Heat needed everything they could get from their franchise player in the 109-102 win.

(There’s also the whole part about Dwyane Wade having to drain fluid out of his troublesome left knee just a day before keeping his Heat a game and a half up on the Nets for the seventh spot in the East.)

Quickly: The Pacers badly needed Rodney Stuckey to return in order to keep their playoff hopes alive, which somehow isn’t the saddest thing to happen in Indiana this month … Cleveland and Philadelphia paid tribute to the NCAA Tournament by missing a ton of shots and taking far too long to finish their game on Sunday afternoon, the Cavs eventually held on despite Kevin Love’s back injury … Pesto goes with anything.

Monday's Most Important Games

Boston at Charlotte, 7:00 p.m. ET: It’s to the discredit of all involved that a 32-41 team and a 31-41 outfit are battling in late March for the chance to make the playoffs in the East, but this is what happens when Danny Ainge intelligently decides to rebuild on the fly and Michael Jordan decides that he wants to prove himself to Jerry Krause. The C’s have lost two of three to Charlotte on the year, but the Hornets will be likely working with a hobbled Al Jefferson and Mo Williams.

Houston at Toronto, 7:30 p.m. ET: This could act as the trappiest of all trap games, as the Rockets are coming off of a solid road win over the Wizards and the Raptors could be looking to turn things around after not bothering to guard anyone in the 2015 calendar year. Toronto has it in them to down the West’s current second seed at full strength, but with Kyle Lowry likely out the Raps will be up against it.

Milwaukee at Atlanta, 7:30 p.m. ET: The Hawks might sit all of their starters again, and Milwaukee might still struggle to score 78 points.

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Kelly Dwyer is an editor for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at KDonhoops@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @KDonhoops

Author: Kelly Dwyer
Posted: March 30, 2015, 4:18 am

No. 1 Star: Jaromir Jagr, Florida Panthers

He may be 43-years old, but Jagr still has it. No. 68 scored twice, including the eventual game-winner as the Panthers doubled up the Ottawa Senators 4-2. Jagr is now two points away from Ron Francis for 4th all-time (1,796) & 11 goals from Marcel Dionne for 4th all-time (731). His second goal came in vintage Jagr fashion: 

No. 2 Star: Jason Chimera, Washington Capitals

Chimera scored twice 2:59 apart in the third period to break a 2-2 tie and guide the Capitals to a 5-2 win over the New York Rangers. Chimera hadn’t scored in 21 games for Washington. Alex Ovechkin had a pair of his own and now sits one goal away from his sixth consecutive 50-goal season. The Capitals have now won four of their last six games.

No. 3 Star: John Tavares, New York Islanders 

A wild first period saw six goals in the opening 9:54, but things calmed down as the Islanders edged the Detroit Red Wings 5-4. Tavares recorded three assists as New York won for the first time in seven tries at Nassau Coliseum. The Islanders capitalized on three of their four power play opportunities and are now tied with Pittsburgh for second in the Metropolitan Division. The Penguins hold a game in hand.

Honorable Mention: David Pastrnak’s goal 4:23 into overtime gave the Boston Bruins a crucial second point in their 2-1 win over the Carolina Hurricanes. Pastrnak assisted earlier on Ryan Spooner’s seventh of the season. Tuukka Rask made 30 saves as the Bruins now sit three points ahead of Ottawa and four ahead of Florida for the East’s final wildcard spot:

Jiri Hudler tallied his 28th of the season and assisted on two others as the Calgary Flames got by the Nashville Predators 5-2 and swept the three-game season series. Lance Bouma put home a pair and Michael Ferland scored his first career NHL goal in the win … John Gibson made 26 saves and Francois Beauchemin’s 10th of the season early in the third period stood as the winner as the Anaheim Ducks beat the New Jersey Devils 2-1. Gibson, who won for the fourth time in five starts, was aided by saves like this one on Adam Henrique:

Jonathan Toews’ goal with 30.8 seconds left in regulation snapped a 3-3 tie and helped defeat the Winnipeg Jets 4-3. The win moves Chicago back into the third spot in the Central Division.

The Pittsburgh Penguins blew a 2-0 first period lead, but goals from David Perron and Sidney Crosby in the shootout helped them by the San Jose Sharks 3-2. In overtime, Pittsburgh killed off Patric Hornqvist's double minor to help get them to the shootout and their second win in as many days. Marc-Andre Fleury made 30 saves and birthday boy Max Lapierre was 13-for-14 in the face-off circle.

Did You Know? “The Islanders have their most wins since they had 50 victories in 1983-84.” (AP)

Dishonorable Mention: The Rangers have now lost three out of four games … Carolina has dropped five of their last six games against Boston … Petr Mrazek was pulled after allowing four goals on 11 shots … Patrick Sharp scored the tying goal after an unfortunate meeting betwee the linesman and Toby Enstrom’s stick along the boards:


Author: Sean Leahy
Posted: March 30, 2015, 3:02 am

Some of the final invites to Augusta National were sealed with Sunday the cut off to crack the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking. Anirban Lahiri, Paul Casey, Branden Grace and Bernd Wiesberger earned spots in the year's first major by remaining in the top 50. 

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Just one player hopped into the top 50 that was outside of it last week: Brendon Todd, who was already in the Masters by virtue of his Byron Nelson Championship victory. 

Several players had opportunities to break into the top 50, but all came up short. 

Marc Warren had to beat Todd at the Valero Texas Open to move from 52nd into the top 50, but didn't. Warren was T-35. Todd was T-30 at TPC San Antonio.

Harris English also finished T-30, but had to finish at least in the top 10, and get a little help, at the Texas Open. 

Overseas, George Coetzee had a chance to earn a Masters invite with a win at the European Tour's Trophee Hassan II. He came up two shots short of winner Richie Ramsay, finishing third and left on the outside of the gates on Washington Road. 

There's only one more way to get into the Masters: win the Shell Houston Open. 

Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

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Author: Ryan Ballengee
Posted: March 30, 2015, 1:42 am

Welcome back to the winner's circle, Cristie Kerr.

Kerr won the LPGA Tour's Kia Classic on Sunday at Aviara Golf Club in Carlsbad, Calif., for her first win since the 2013 Kingsmill Championship. The two-time major winner closed with 7-under 65 to win by two shots over Mirim Lee on 20 under par, a new tournament scoring record.

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The win is Kerr's 17th and the first by an American-born player on the LPGA Tour dating back Christina Kim at the Lorena Ochoa Invitational last November. It's also Kerr's first win since she became a mother to son Mason in December 2013.

World No. 1 Lydia Ko made a Sunday charge, shooting 5-under 67 for her 28th consecutive under-par round on the LPGA Tour, one shy of Annika Sorenstam's record set in 2004. However, Ko came up three shots short of a second win this season.

Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

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Author: Ryan Ballengee
Posted: March 30, 2015, 1:15 am

It took 20 tournaments, but the PGA Tour has its first multiple-time winner in the 2014-15 season, and it's probably a guy you didn't expect -- but should have.

Jimmy Walker won the Valero Texas Open on Sunday by four shots, earning his second win of the year to follow up on a successful title defense at the Sony Open in Hawaii. Walker closed with 2-under 70 at TPC San Antonio's Oaks Course to pick up the win in his hometown. He ended a streak of nine consecutive tournaments where the 54-hole leader or co-leader failed to hoist the trophy on Sunday.

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Jordan Spieth tried his best to put some doubt in the ultimate outcome, making four consecutive birdies before a closing par with the tournament all but finished.

"(Spieth) really made me fight hard," Walker said. "He kept hitting it close, and I had to keep making putts."

Unfortunately for Spieth, who also shot 70, Walker matched the last two birdies of Spieth's run with longer putts so that the 21-year-old only gained two shots on the lead.

"You're never out of it in this game," Spieth said, "but Jimmy shut that down pretty quickly with his made putts."

If the 36-year-old late bloomer wasn't already on your radar for the Masters, he should be. For Walker, it's not only his second win this season but his fifth in the last 17 months -- the most on the PGA Tour in the span. He hits the ball a mile (17th on Tour), is third on Tour in strokes gained putting and leads the Tour in birdies per round. 

Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

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Author: Ryan Ballengee
Posted: March 30, 2015, 12:51 am

Even though Michigan State pushed Wisconsin to overtime in the Big Ten title game two weeks ago, the Badgers were excited the Spartans will be joining them in the Final Four.

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They believe the presence of two Big Ten teams in Indianapolis only bolsters the reputation of a conference many have said wasn't as strong as usual this year.

The Big Ten had a down year right?

— Sam Dekker (@samdek1) March 29, 2015

Remember when everyone said the Big Ten wasn't that good this year? Yea, me too.

— Frank Kaminsky III (@FSKPart3) March 29, 2015


— Duje Dukan (@DDukan13) March 29, 2015

Credit Wisconsin for its season-long brilliance and Michigan State for peaking in March, but the idea that the NCAA tournament proves the Big Ten was underrated doesn't hold up under scrutiny.

First of all, a single-elimination tournament isn't nearly as accurate a barometer of conference strength as a 30-game regular season, and the Big Ten was fourth in RPI behind the Big 12, Big East and ACC. Secondly, the Big Ten's five other NCAA tournament teams besides Wisconsin and Michigan State went a combined 3-5 and none made it out of the opening weekend.

What having two Final Four teams does do for the Big Ten is give it better odds of ending its national title drought. The Big Ten has been one of the nation's strongest leagues more often than not over the past 15 years, but the last Big Ten team to win a championship was Michigan State in 2000.

The Big Ten most recently put two teams in the Final Four in 2005 when Michigan State and Illinois both lost to eventual champion North Carolina.

The league is hoping for a better outcome this time.

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Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: March 30, 2015, 12:47 am

Craig Sager, the famed sideline reporter beloved by fans and athletes alike, is suffering once again from leukemia. The Turner Sports legend, who returned to airwaves earlier in March to much deserved fanfare, recently had to cancel plans to call several NCAA tournament games for TNT and TBS.

Sager’s son Craig Sager Jr. released the news via Twitter on Sunday.

We wanted to ensure he was taken care of & that we knew what the next steps were before we shared this #SagerStrong pic.twitter.com/IhUM2nK8yl

— Craig Sager II (@CraigSagerJr) March 29, 2015

It nearly goes without saying that the NBA is a poorer place without Craig Sager on the sidelines. Last season’s playoff run and the first chunk of the 2014-15 season just didn’t feel the same without Sager’s mid- and postgame interviews. Everyone at Yahoo Sports wishes Mr. Sager a full and speedy recovery.

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Kelly Dwyer is an editor for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at KDonhoops@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @KDonhoops

Author: Kelly Dwyer
Posted: March 30, 2015, 12:08 am

If Kentucky is going to become college basketball's first unbeaten national champion in nearly four decades, the Wildcats will have to emerge from a heavyweight Final Four field.

They'll be joined in Indianapolis by fellow No. 1 seeds Wisconsin and Duke and an underdog Michigan State team that has a few too many Final Four appearances in recent years to be labeled a Cinderella. 

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Duke's victory over Gonzaga ensured that the Final Four will have three No. 1 seeds for only the second time this century and the fifth time since the NCAA tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1986. The 2008 Final Four remains the only one that featured all four No. 1 seeds.

This year's marquee semifinal will pit Kentucky against a Wisconsin team many coaches have called the most challenging matchup in the field for the Wildcats. The Big Ten champion Badgers have a lethal offense highlighted by Frank Kaminsky, Sam Dekker and Nigel Hayes, all big men who are tall and strong enough to defend the Wildcats' array of 7-footers yet shoot well enough to force them out of the paint at the other end.

Everything Wisconsin does well offensively was on display in the second half of their Elite Eight victory over Arizona on Saturday when the Badgers shot nearly 80 percent from the field and 10 of 12 from behind the arc. That scoring barrage earned them a rematch with Kentucky, which beat them in the Final Four a year ago on Aaron Harrison's go-ahead 3-pointer with 5.7 seconds to go. 

The winner of the Kentucky-Wisconsin game will face either Duke or Michigan State, two programs that have combined for 12 Final Four appearances since 1999. The Blue Devils defeated the Spartans 81-71 in Indianapolis back in November behind 19 points from Quinn Cook and 17 from Jahlil Okafor, but Michigan State is a stronger team today than it was then.

A Michigan State team that lost stars Gary Harris, Adreian Payne and Keith Appling last spring has exceeded expectations this season, finishing third in its league, taking Wisconsin to overtime in the Big Ten title game and defeating Georgia, Virginia, Oklahoma and Louisville in the NCAA tournament. The emergence of Travis Trice as a go-to scorer has been a huge key, as has improved team defense and the development of several frontcourt role players.

Duke will still be a formidable challenge for the Spartans because of its talented freshmen. Okafor is the nation's best low-post scorer, Tyus Jones is an elite point guard who can score or distribute and Justise Winslow has been one of the NCAA tournament's breakout stars so far.

There's no question Kentucky is still the favorite in spite of its close call against Notre Dame in the Elite Eight on Saturday night. The Wildcats boast the nation's best defense and an improving offense that sank nine straight shots to help thwart the Irish's upset bid.

It will be up to the Badgers, Spartans and Blue Devils to put that same pressure on Kentucky and then try to finish the job. The Wildcats have consistently shown the will to win late in close games, but they should expect to be tested again next week by a heavyweight Final Four field.  

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Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: March 29, 2015, 11:23 pm

The members of this year’s Gonzaga basketball team now know the pain felt by only one other group in the program’s history. The players on this season’s Duke team now understand the elation of reaching a Final Four felt by so many former Blue Devils.

Duke’s superior talent overcame the tenacity and experience of the best team in Gonzaga history in a 66-52 Elite Eight victory Sunday afternoon in Houston in the South Region final. 

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In a well-played game in which neither team ever took complete control until the final mintes, a role player made a huge difference for the Blue Devils. Matt Jones, a sophomore from DeSoto, Texas, is a starter and regular contributor for coach Mike Krzyzewski, but he hasn’t achieved star status. He had scored in double figures only six times all season.

But Jones made six of his 10 attempts and scored 16 points supplementing the Duke offense on a day when freshman star Jahlil Okafor was held in check. Jones’ performance helped No. 1 seed Duke advance to the Final Four for the 16th time in its illustrious history for a matchup with Michigan State, while second-seeded Gonzaga fell one game short of its first Final Four just like the 1999 team.

It will be another bitter pill for Gonzaga coach Mark Few, who has guided the Bulldogs to a program record 22-game winning streak this season as well as a school record 35 wins. Meanwhile, Krzyzewski added to his mystique and that of his program by guiding the Blue Devils to the Final Four for the 12th time in his career, tying John Wooden for the most in history. 

The start didn’t go well for Gonzaga senior Kevin Pangos and center Pzremek Karnowski. Both were held scoreless in the first half and they combined for only eight points in the game. Kyle Wiltjer entered the game 9-0 in the NCAA tournament including winning a national title at Kentucky in 2012. 

Duke won despite not getting a single point off the bench. When Jones wasn't making plays for the Blue Devils, forward Justise Winslow was. The Houston product scored 16 points and helped his teammates cut down the nets in his hometown. 


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[Kyle Ringo is the assistant editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at kyle.ringo@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @KyleRingo

Author: Kyle Ringo
Posted: March 29, 2015, 11:21 pm

Denny Hamlin does a burnout after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series auto race at Martinsville Speedway in Martinsville, Va., Sunday, March 29, 2015. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)There are literally billions of dollars at play in today's NASCAR environment, but for a few laps on Sunday, you could have been watching a good old small-track race in the middle of nowhere.

Well, technically, you were; Martinsville is one of the most remote tracks on the circuit. But you get the idea: for all the money and fame these drivers and race teams accrue, sometimes it comes down to two drivers, two cars, one prize. And on Sunday, it was Denny Hamlin who outlasted Brad Keselowski in the closing laps of the STP 500 to notch his first win of the season and fifth at Martinsville overall.

Hamlin had driven one of the best cars all day, but one by one his top challengers dropped back in the pack, either victimized by bad luck (Joey Logano got collected on a spin by Michael Annett) or their own mistakes (Jeff Gordon suffered a critical pit road speeding penalty with less than 40 laps remaining). As with last week, it then fell to Keselowski to sneak in and challenge Hamlin for the victory. Turn after turn in the closing laps, Keselowski got close enough to touch Hamlin's bumper, but couldn't get inside for a pass.

On the final turn of the final lap, Keselowski took one last shot at Hamlin, hitting him hard directly in the bumper, but Hamlin could hold on for the final stretch to the checkered flag.

"I did everything I could other than wreck him," Keselowski said afterward. "I hit him pretty good a couple times, so he did a good job, and he chose not to wreck, which I'll give him credit for. But it was fun."

Hamlin, for his part, credited team owner Joe Gibbs for getting fiery at a competition meeting earlier this week. "Joe raised his voice, which doesn't happen very often, told us to get off our tails and go to work, and we all did it, and great result for this race team," Hamlin said. "Sometimes you need a leader like that to kind of put things in perspective. Not that people weren't working hard, but it just takes that extra 10 percent out of everyone to get to that next level."

"Everybody is frustrated and kind of expressed their feelings," Gibbs said. "But I will say this:  We've kind of charted a course for us to work on."

Early on, it didn't appear Hamlin had much of a chance at victory, not after a loose-tire penalty that buried the 11 car deep in the field. But Hamlin's expertise took him back to the front, and breaks at the right time kept him there,

"I'm just happy that it looks like our short track stuff is starting to turn the corner and kind of hopefully will get back to where its heyday was in 2009 and 2010," Hamlin said.

Kevin Harvick saw his streak of first- and second-place finishes end at 8; he finished eighth. Danica Patrick finished a spot ahead of him, tying her career-best finish. Gordon ended up in ninth. Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr., who never really got going before wrecks consumed them, ended up 35th and 36th, respectively. Chase Elliott, making his first career Sprint Cup start, ended up 38th.

The series now takes a week off for Easter before reconvening at Texas for the Duck Commander 500.

Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at jay.busbee@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter.

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And keep up with Jay over on Facebook, too.

Author: Jay Busbee
Posted: March 29, 2015, 10:39 pm

When the college basketball world last saw Adam Morrison on a big stage, he was weeping on the floor in the closing seconds of a heartbreaking and career-ending loss to UCLA in the 2006 Sweet 16.

Fast forward almost 10 years and Morrison is again in the spotlight during a Gonzaga run, albeit far from front and center. The school's all-time leading scorer and one-time national player of the year is currently a video assistant on Mark Few's team and he got a little bit of screen time during Gonzaga's 66-52 loss to Duke in Sunday's Elite Eight game.

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As you can see, Morrison was sporting quite a different look from his shaggy and mustachioed college days.

Is that Steven Seagal taking in the game?

Adam Morrison alert pic.twitter.com/ThHh5ID0Tz

— The Cauldron (@TheCauldron) March 29, 2015

Morrison also looked a lot less emotional than last time ...

Morrison was drafted No. 3 overall by the Charlotte Bobcats in the 2006 NBA draft and famously bombed out of the league, though not before winning two rings as a little-used reserve for the Los Angeles Lakers. After a few years of playing overseas, Morrison is now back stateside and trying to get a coaching career jump started at his alma mater.

He's been trying to keep things low-profile with limited interviews, though his involuntary appearance on CBS certainly goes against that approach. We can't speak for how much Morrison has contributed to the Zags' success this season, though he's certainly looking the part on the bench.

He also seems to be just as competitive, as evidenced by his response to one Duke fan who chose to taunt him about sharing that 2006 player of the year award with J.J. Redick.

As Zags walk off, Duke fan yells to Adam Morrison, “JJ’s still better than you.” Morrison points & says, “I shoot better than you, though."

— Jerry Brewer (@JerryBrewer) March 29, 2015

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Kevin Kaduk is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at kevinkaduk@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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Author: Kevin Kaduk
Posted: March 29, 2015, 10:19 pm
George H.W. and Barbara Bush pose with Tony Romo, Jason Garrett and Jason Witten. (Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports)

Michigan State has Magic Johnson, Wisconsin has Aaron Rodgers and Kentucky has Ashley Judd.

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Duke? Well, it has one of the former leaders of the free world on its side.

Not to mention his wife and a trio of Dallas Cowboys.

Former president George H.W. Bush and his wife Barbara Bush were among the fans supporting the Blue Devils during their 66-52 Elite Eight win over Gonzaga at Houston's NRG Stadium on Sunday. They met with Tony Romo, Jason Garrett and Jason Witten of the Dallas Cowboys before the game — presumably to talk about their shared Duke fandom — and had great seats located on the far end of the Duke bench.

Extra points to everyone for wearing Duke colors and gear.

Former president George Bush here behind the Duke bench, too. Was at a game in Cameron last year pic.twitter.com/OlevQY26Lz

— Laura Keeley (@laurakeeley) March 29, 2015

The president also spent a little time with Duke's cheerleading squad before the game.

adsfdfGeorge and Barbara Bush are big sports fans, often spotted in the seats behind home plate at Houston Astros games. The pair was also spotted on the Houston Texans' "Kiss Cam" last season.

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Kevin Kaduk is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at kevinkaduk@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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Author: Kevin Kaduk
Posted: March 29, 2015, 9:29 pm

Cowardly. Utterly indefensible. Ugly.

Those are just some of the words being used to describe Rogle forward Andre Deveaux’s actions before a Thursday game against Vasteras in Sweden’s Hockeyallsvenskan.

While both teams were warming up before the game, Deveaux viciously attacked Vasteras defenseman Per Helmersson:

The teams were involved in a playoff series to determine who would be promoted to the Swedish Hockey League. Deveaux played Thursday night, despite what happened before the game. And he also played in Sunday’s final game of the series. Video of the incident didn't surface until afterward.

According to Uffe Bodin, Helmersson laid a hard hit on Deveaux in a previous game, so that could what provoked the slash.

“Embarrassing, so f——— embarrassed that he played today,” Helmersson said, via Sportbladet. “He should [be] shutdown [for] the rest of the season and next season as well. He should be locked up."

"I'm sorry if it sounds horrible, but I do not care [if] their team likes me. Obviously, there is reaction from people when they lose,” Deveaux responded as Rogle won the final two games to clinch promotion.

Did Deveaux regret his actions?

“No. [Helmersson] played on. He was fine. I'll think about him while I celebrate with the team.” 

Wow. That's another level of trash talk.

Once video surfaced, it was then sent to the Disciplinary Board for review. “It speaks volumes in my eyes,” said Federation tournament director Mikael Lundstrom. “This is a pure assault. There is no way on earth that this may occur and I can say without prejudging any decision."

Stick-tap Uffe Bodin

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Sean Leahy is the associate editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Sean_Leahy


Author: Sean Leahy
Posted: March 29, 2015, 9:16 pm

The battle between two of March's most successful coaches was in the hands of one of the most unlikely players on the floor.

Fouled on a put-back attempt by Michigan State's Marvin Clark with 4.9 seconds remaining and his team trailing by one, Louisville center Mangok Mathiang had the chance to send the Cardinals to the Final Four by making two free throws.

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The 48 percent foul shooter's first attempt bounced off the back rim and fell through, drawing a wince from Michigan State alum Magic Johnson. The second bounced hard off the back rim and caromed out, giving the Spartans new life.

Seventh-seeded Michigan State took full advantage of its good fortune, escaping with a 76-70 victory over fourth-seeded Louisville to send Tom Izzo to the Final Four for the seventh time in his tenure. The Spartans will be underdogs regardless of who emerges from the South Region, whether it's top-seeded Duke or second-seeded Gonzaga.  

The three players who have carried Michigan State in this tournament all had a hand in the Spartans' latest hard-fought win. Travis Trice scored 17 points and dished out five assists, Denzel Valentine had 15 points, seven rebounds and six assists and Branden Dawson had nine points, 11 rebounds and the game's biggest basket, a put-back of a Bryn Forbes miss that gave Michigan State a four-point lead with 36 seconds left in overtime.

That Michigan State is going back to the Final Four is surprising given the talent it lost last spring and the recruits it has recently swung and missed on.

Gary Harris, Adreian Payne and Keith Appling all departed after the Spartans' Elite Eight campaign a year ago. Jahlil Okafor, Cliff Alexander, Tyus Jones, Tyler Ulis and James Blackmon are among the many elite prospects who spurned Izzo when he tried to recruit them as potential replacements.

Michigan State didn't notch a single notable win in November and December, but the Spartans began to jell in Big Ten play. Improved team defense, the development of frontcourt players Gavin Schilling and Clark, and Trice's emergence as a go-to scorer carried the Spartans to a third-place finish in the Big Ten and an appearance in the conference tournament title game.

In the NCAA tournament, Michigan State ousted Georgia in the opening round, upset second-seeded Virginia for the second straight year and then outlasted third-seeded Oklahoma in the Sweet 16. The Spartans fell behind Louisville by eight points at halftime and surrendered 28 to guard Wayne Blackshear, but they rallied by keeping the Cardinals out of the paint and riding their three stars to another memorable March win.

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Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: March 29, 2015, 9:02 pm

Louisville sophomore Mangok Mathiang is a 48 percent free throw shooter this season and found himself at the foul line Sunday afternoon with the Cardinals' season on the line in an Elite Eight game against Michigan State.

The Spartans held a one-point lead with 4.9 seconds left in regulation and Mathiang needing to make at least one free throw to tie the score. He did just that with a fortuitous bounce that Michigan State legend Magic Johnson couldn't believe as he watched from the stands in Syracuse. Johnson led the Spartans to the NCAA championship in 1979.

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While Louisville managed to push the game to an extra five minutes because Mathiang came through, Michigan State dominated the overtime and won 76-70 to advance to the Final Four as a No. 7 seed.

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[Kyle Ringo is the assistant editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at kyle.ringo@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @KyleRingo

Author: Kyle Ringo
Posted: March 29, 2015, 9:01 pm

(Photo by John Kelley, Georgia Sports)A day after his second domestic violence arrest in less than a year, Jonathan Taylor has been dismissed from another SEC school.

Alabama coach Nick Saban announced Sunday that Taylor, who was dismissed from Georgia in July, is no longer a part of the Crimson Tide program following his Saturday night arrest.

“Jonathan Taylor has been dismissed from the team and is no longer a part of our program,” Saban said in a statement. “This will still need to go through the legal process, but when he was given an opportunity here, it was under strict guidelines and we made it clear there was a zero tolerance policy.”

The 21-year-old Taylor, a 6-foot-4, 335-pound defensive lineman, was involved in an altercation with his 24-year-old girlfriend on Saturday evening at approximately 6:00 p.m. that resulted in “minor injuries to her neck,” according to Tuscaloosa Police. As a result, Taylor was arrested and charged with domestic violence third degree assault and domestic violence third degree criminal mischief.

Alabama athletic director Bill Battle also issued a statement shortly after Taylor’s dismissal was announced.

“Representing this University is a privilege that none of us can take for granted. As I noted in my comments when the decision was made to allow Jonathan Taylor to attend the University on a football scholarship, I believe in second chances. I still do. However, being successful in that second chance requires responsibility and accountability. In Jonathan’s situation, the University and the Department of Athletics set forth very clear standards of accountability and expectations of conduct. Jonathan was afforded a chance to successfully overcome the difficulties that resulted in his departure from the University of Georgia.

Unfortunately, it appears that he was unable to do so, in spite of extensive efforts to assist him. All of us hope that Jonathan and the young lady involved can deal constructively with the issues that led to this situation, and their aftermath, so that both of them can have productive, healthy futures. Violent conduct by any representative of the University of Alabama athletics department will not be tolerated. More than ever, we take seriously the responsibility that all of us have to represent our University and our state in the best way possible – in competition and in daily life.” 

Taylor was previously arrested for domestic violence in Georgia last summer, leading to his dismissal from the Bulldogs' program. After spending a season playing at Copiah-Lincoln Community College in Mississippi, Taylor enrolled at Alabama in January.

After his enrollment, Saban said that Taylor was worthy of a second chance. 

"I said this before that when people are young – and that is not a mistake that we condone in any shape or form, that's (disrespectful) to any person, let alone a female – there is some occasion to not condemn them for life, but to give them another chance," Saban said in February, per TideSports.com.

"It's up to them to prove that they deserve that chance. And when they get that opportunity they need to definitely do their very best to take advantage of it. This is the decision that we made. I know the sensitivity of the issue, and we're going to do what we can to help this young man have success here and not have issues anymore."

While acting swiftly to deal with Taylor's legal issues, the program has not commented on the DUI arrest of safety Geno Smith. Smith, a senior who had been practicing with the first team at free safety, was previously arrested for DUI in August 2013 and was suspended for that season's opener as a result. 

Saban is scheduled to speak with the media on Monday. 

For more Alabama news, visit TideSports.com.

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Sam Cooper is a contributor for the Yahoo Sports blogs. Have a tip? Email him or follow him on Twitter!

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Author: Sam Cooper
Posted: March 29, 2015, 8:54 pm

Sam Dekker's dagger 3-pointer near the end of Wisconsin's 85-78 win over Arizona on Saturday came from the rafters and brought plenty of rain as it sunk through the hoop.

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It also caused a case of deja vu for fans of Dekker's basketball career because it looked an awful lot like the one he hit to win a state title for Sheboygan Lutheran (Wis.) HS in 2012.

To compare, here's the shot that helped seal Wisconsin's second straight trip to the Final Four:

(Turner Sports)

And here's the high school shot, which came with his team down two points and the clock running out. You'll notice it happened on the University of Wisconsin floor where Dekker would soon star:


The similarities between the two shots were mentioned even before the Badgers cut down the nets at Staples Center. Dekker told the media in Los Angeles that he thought he had to get Saturday's shot "up a little higher" — and the clips would seem to reflect that belief — but that he "kinda" noticed the resemblance when coach Bo Ryan mentioned it.

How do the feelings compare of hitting both shots?

"They're both pretty sweet, obviously," Dekker said after a 27-point performance that included going 5-for-5 on 3-pointers in the second half. "Winning state is something that's always really cool, especially in your senior year with your father as coach.

"But they're 1A and 1B, you can flip-flop them. Going back-to-back Final Four with these guys and Coach Ryan, it's something you can't replace and you wouldn't give up for anything. It's the stuff you dream about."

Dekker and Wisconsin will face Kentucky in the Final Four for the second straight season and, as our own Jeff Eisenberg wrote, the Badgers might have the best chance to upset the Wildcats' undefeated season. Dekker's length and ability to score from just about anywhere — or over anyone — is a big part of the reason why.

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Kevin Kaduk is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at kevinkaduk@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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Author: Kevin Kaduk
Posted: March 29, 2015, 8:10 pm

When Dave Leitao left DePaul for Virginia in April 2005, he tried to soften the blow by insisting "DePaul will always have a special place in my heart."

Apparently the feeling was mutual.

DePaul announced Sunday it has hired Leitao to fill the vacancy created when the school parted ways with Oliver Purnell earlier this month. It's a surprising choice considering the Blue Demons reportedly had been targeting promising up-and-comers like Bryce Drew of Valparaiso and Bobby Hurley of Buffalo. 

The appeal of Leitao is that he's the last coach to enjoy any semblance of success with the Blue Demons.

In three seasons at DePaul from 2002 to 2005, Leitao went 58-34, won a Conference USA title and took the Blue Demons to two NITs and an NCAA tournament. Leitao enjoyed some success on the recruiting trail too, plucking Delonte Holland from the junior college ranks and winning a recruiting battle with Michigan State, Indiana and Ohio State to land future pro Wilson Chandler.

The trouble with the Leitao hire is that it's unlikely to either galvanize DePaul's success-starved fan base or inspire Chicago-area recruits. He had been toiling in anonymity as an assistant coach at Missouri and Tulsa under Frank Haith the past few years after his uninspiring four-year tenure at Virginia culminated in his firing following an 18-loss 2008-09 campaign.

The challenge Leitao faces at DePaul now is also considerably tougher than it was during his first stint a decade ago. 

Whereas the Blue Demons enjoyed success in Conference USA, the Big East has thus far proven to be a too great a challenge. They're 36-140 in 10 seasons in the league, a product of a threadbare budget, sub-par facilities and an inability to compete with the dozens of other top programs who recruit Chicago for the city's best prospects.

The potential of a new arena could help Leitao, as could the fact that Purnell actually left him some decent talent with Billy Garrett Jr., Myke Henry and Tommy Hamilton all expected to return.

DePaul apparently felt Leitao was the coach best suited to take advantage. Over the next few years, we'll find out if that gamble was better than rolling the dice on a young, energetic coach from the mid-major ranks. 

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Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: March 29, 2015, 7:53 pm

Hoping to bring awareness to the conditions under which minor-league players work, and more specifically the wages they earn, which often falls below minimum wage, the United Food and Commercial Workers’ union and its allies are gathering at four different spring training games this weekend to show support and provide information to questioning fans.  

According to Ted Berg of USA Today Sports, the union had scheduled rallies at games in Tampa and Lakeland, Fla. on Saturday and will be in Scottsdale and Surprise, Ariz. on Sunday.

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Here are more details of the mission, courtesy of UFCW:

United Food and Commercial Workers’ union and allies will leaflet at four major league spring training games to raise awareness among fans about the plight of minor league players who often make less than minimum wage, are often not paid at all and are not paid federal overtime wages….

“We are leafletting at these games to support minor league ball players,” said Ed Chambers the president of UFCW Local 1625. “We support all workers, irrespective of industry, looking for fair wages and benefits and improved working conditions. Minor league players are no exception.”

According to research done by sports-law expert Michael McCann last February, most minor league players earn between $3,000 and $7,500 for a five-month season. By comparison, fast food workers average between $15,000 and $18,000 a year. It's not enough for many of these young players to live on, especially those with families, so they're forced to supplement their income with offseason jobs. In fact, some even need side jobs during the season to make ends meet.

Unfortunately for minor league players, they don't have a union behind them like the MLBPA, but 34 former minor leaguers have come together to fight for their cause. The group filed a lawsuit against Major League Baseball, former commissioner Bud Selig, and all 30 big-league teams last March that seeks to apply the terms of the Fair Labor Standards Act to minor league players despite MLB’s antitrust exemption.

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According to USA Today Sports, attorney Garrett Broshuis, who spent six years in the San Francisco Giants minor league system is representing the players. Here's more from their report, including a comment from Broshuis. 

Endeavoring a career in professional baseball, as it currently stands, requires a trade-off: Players accept low wages in the short term for the chance, however small, that they will earn millions as Major Leaguers down the road. But Broshuis maintains that, in a $9 billion industry, the lowest-level employees deserve more than just an outside chance at a big-league salary.

“In almost any industry, there are entry-level jobs,” Broshuis said. “If you want to be a carpenter, for instance, you might start as an apprentice, or if you want to be a plumber you might start as an apprentice. But those entry-level jobs are still at minimum wage or above. That’s why we have the minimum wage laws. Major League Baseball has allowed these salaries to stay stagnant for so long that guys are below the poverty line now.”

In the multi-billion dollar business Major League Baseball has become, it's clear they have the means with which to better take care of the future. But until a change is forced, it seems they'll be content running business as usual. By the same token, forces on the other side are seemingly becoming more determined to force those changes, so movements like this weekend's could just be scratching the surface of what lies ahead. 

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Mark Townsend is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at bigleaguestew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Townie813

Author: Mark Townsend
Posted: March 29, 2015, 7:44 pm

Mar 29, 2015; Martinsville, VA, USA; Sprint Cup Series driver Chase Elliott (25) waits as his car is repaired during the STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway. (Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports)NASCAR's future arrived at Martinsville on Sunday, and promptly got knocked back into the garage.

Chase Elliott, defending Xfinity Series champion and son of Hall of Famer Bill Elliott, made his Sprint Cup debut on Sunday in the No. 25 NAPA Chevrolet, and, well, Martinsville and the STP 500 didn't exactly welcome him with a gentle, loving embrace.

Martinsville often resembles a shopping mall parking lot at Christmastime, with cars circling, fenders bending, and tempers rising. Elliott, starting 27th, traded paint with his fellow mid-packers, and on an early restart, Brett Moffitt piled into him. Shortly afterward, on lap 75, Elliott went behind the wall with power steering and radiator problems. It took his team, comprised of Hendrick Motorsports veterans, 69 laps to get Elliott's car back in serviceable condition.

Points aren't the goal for Elliott; experience is. He'll run a handful of events this season in preparation for a full-time Sprint Cup ride next season taking over for Jeff Gordon. It's all part of the most celebrated Cup-level debut in recent memory.

Elliott, son of a 16-time Most Popular Driver and Cup champion, has been a fixture at tracks since he was the size of a Martinsville hot dog. The entire NASCAR community has watched him grow up, and so far, he's exceeded even the loftiest expectations. But the Cup level has a way of reminding even the best young drivers that love and fans don't translate to speed.

It had been a tense weekend for Elliott, starting with qualifying on Friday. Elliott needed to qualify for the race on speed, but rain delayed qualifying. If Mother Nature had washed out qualifying, Elliott would have missed the race. But he ended up starting in the 27th position, and seemed cooler than the subfreezing air temperature on race morning.

Of course, it's not like a terrible first Cup race heralds a terrible career. In their Cup debuts, Dale Earnhardt Sr. finished 22nd, Jeff Gordon finished 31st, Jimmie Johnson finished 39th, and Elliott's father finished 33rd. So, yes, it's a good bet he'll improve.

Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at jay.busbee@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter.

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Author: Jay Busbee
Posted: March 29, 2015, 7:03 pm

At some point in the very near future every MLB and Minor League Baseball team preview that's published will feature more food and drink scouting reports than actual player scouting reports.

That's the direction we're trending, folks. Might as well jump on board now. Kind of like the Minnesota Twins did this week when they introduced the $19 "College Daze Bloody Mary," which comes garnished with a cold slice of pepperoni pizza in addition to many of the usual fixings one might be accustomed to.

The new item will be available at Hrbeks' restaurant, which is named after former Twins' first baseman and Bloomington, Minn., native Kent Hrbek. Here's a peek courtesy of Jeanie Hrbek, Kent's wife.

College Daze bloody mary at #Hrbeks. Comes w slice of cold pizza! 🍕 pic.twitter.com/AohJtCJHpm

— Jeanie Hrbek (@JeanieHrbek) March 26, 2015

And here's the full description, courtesy of Hrbeks'.

This Bloody Mary will bring back the memories (or not)! This cool Bloody Mary gets a cold slice of Pepperoni Pizza which is just what you need with a Bloody Mary! If that wasn’t enough you also get all the other fixings! Beef Stick, Pepper Jack and Cheddar Cheese Cubes, Pepperoncini, Olive, Celery, & a Pickle Spear. Served with a Bud Light Beer Back.

Apparently this is the logical progression from last season's "Better Burger Bloody Mary," which came adorned with a full bacon cheeseburger.

Not a typical cocktail, the Bigger, Better Burger Bloody Mary at Hrbek's has a bacon cheeseburger! #TalkAboutAHomeYum pic.twitter.com/nDiWkklRcs

— Minnesota Twins (@Twins) April 1, 2014

Between these items, the Astros' Chicken and Waffle Cone, and the Krispy Creme Donut Dog offered by the Wilmington BlueRocks, we've officially reached the point of no return. All that's left to wonder is how these items can literally and figuratively be topped in the years ahead. 

BLS H/N: Fox Sports

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Mark Townsend is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at bigleaguestew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Townie813

Author: Mark Townsend
Posted: March 29, 2015, 6:41 pm

As the Pittsburgh Penguins reveal that defenseman Kris Letang will be out indefinitely with a concussion, the NHL tells Yahoo Sports that there will be no supplemental discipline for Arizona Coyotes captain Shane Doan for the hit that put him out. 

Letang left the game with 4:45 left in the second period after taking a shove from Doan away from the puck. He fell against the boards, hitting his head. He was taken to the hospital for observation, and was released on Sunday.

“We have decided not to assess any supplemental discipline to Shane Doan. After reviewing the play carefully and from all angles, we have determined that this was an unfortunate result from a hockey play,” said the NHL in a statement.

“It is not boarding, it is not charging, he doesn't hit him in the head. He finishes his check by shoving Letang and unfortunately, he falls awkwardly. It wasn't really even a violent hit, although resulted in an unfortunate injury.”

Doan was contrite after the game:

"That’s awful. When it happened, I could tell the way he went into the boards was awkward."

"I just went to make sure I got a piece of him so he couldn't jump by me. ... We have to finish our check on him."

"You never ever want to see anybody like that, especially a guy of his caliber and obviously everything he's went through."

Should the hit have warranted a suspension? I didn’t believe so. That’s tough to say when the hitter is someone like Doan, whose sterling reputation as a franchise player and off the ice good dude has always obscured the fact that he frequently “runs around like an idiot,” as Penguins defenseman Ian Cole termed it on Saturday.

But despite the catastrophic result, this one didn’t require a suspension. Tough to hear, considering Letang’s condition, but the right call from the League. 


Author: Greg Wyshynski
Posted: March 29, 2015, 6:12 pm

Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Kris Letang is out indefinitely after suffering concussion at the hands of Arizona Coyotes captain Shane Doan in a game on Saturday. 

From the Penguins, via coach Mike Johnston:

Johnston confirmed that defenseman Kris Letang has a concussion. He's been released from the hospital, but will not be in the lineup tonight. "Like anything else, we’ll just take it as a day-to-day thing and we’ll see how he reacts and recovers from it," Johnston said.

Johnston said the team will go with five defensemen for the game and, if need be, Daniel Winnik could drop back to defense if needed.

The Winnik shift to defense is due to the fact that Christian Ehrhoff is also out of the lineup with an upper body injury. Said Winnik, with regard to shifting to defense:

“I guess [I could play defenseman],” Winnik said. “Some of us were just doing some fun stuff out there. Doing some defensive things out there [during morning skate]. If it happens, I’d be more than happy to go back.”

Doan finished his check well behind the play, sending Letang flying against the boards where his head bounced. There was no penalty on the play. Letang was hospitalized. Said Doan, after the play: "I just went to make sure I got a piece of him so he couldn't jump by me. ... We have to finish our check on him."

 This is unfortunately not the first concussion for Letang, who had two back in 2012 and reportedly another one earlier this season.  As these things go, his return to the lineup can’t be predicted.

Any prolonged absence would be a significant blow to the Penguins. (“Thanks, Capt. Obvious…”) Letang is having a Norris-worthy season, with 54 points in 69 games and third on the team in 5v5 Corsi-for (55.8 percent).

The Penguins have seven games left on the season.  


Author: Greg Wyshynski
Posted: March 29, 2015, 5:16 pm

While Yankee Stadium awaits the return of its summer long tenants, it will occasionally play host to football, hockey and even professional soccer. On Saturday, the schedule called for a Major League Soccer matchup between the home-standing NYCFC squad — which is actually co-owned by the New York Yankees  and Sporting Kansas City. 

The game itself was exciting we're sure — Sporting Kansas City won it 1-0 on a 12th-minute goal — but we're actually far more interested in the video that surfaced on the winning team's Youtube page following the game.

With the stadium clear of fans and presumably only a few stadium workers on hand, three players from the Kansas City team took the field to reenact one of baseball's most famous — or infamous — scenes: the George Brett pine tar incident from July 24, 1983.

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For those unfamiliar, after George Brett hit a two-run homer to give the Kansas City Royals a 5-4 lead in the ninth inning, Yankees manager Billy Martin complained there was too much pine tar on Brett’s bat. Umpire Tim McClelland investigated and determined Martin's claims to be accurate, so he called Brett out, which led to Brett's memorable explosion. 

Here's the original moment in all its glory.

First of all, this would only be appropriate for another Kansas City sports franchise to recreate.

Second, all things considered, we'd say the Sporting Kansas City crew did a fair job. Of course, they did have a few disadvantages with the old stadium being gone, Billy Martin being gone, those glorious Royals jerseys not being available and the darn advertising signage being in the way. But if you can just look past those minor issues, it's applaudable.

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Also, this reenactment might require a sequel, because Tim McClelland’s decision was later overturned after the Royals filed a protest. The game was restarted from the point after Brett's home run, and Kansas City held on to win the game 5-4. Even if we just get a handshake line scene, it would give us the necessary closure.

BLS H/N: Cut 4 

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Mark Townsend is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at bigleaguestew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Townie813

Author: Mark Townsend
Posted: March 29, 2015, 4:58 pm

In 1999, guards Matt Santangelo and Richie Frahm led 10th-seeded Gonzaga on a stunning Elite Eight run, starting the process of transforming a little-known small-conference program into one of college basketball's most prominent brands.

Sixteen years later, the Zags are finally back in the Elite Eight and again one win away from the program's first Final Four.

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Another No. 1 seed stands in Gonzaga's path, though the Zags aren't the plucky little underdogs they were in 1999 entering a 67-62 loss to eventual national champion UConn. Gonzaga has been a season-long fixture in the AP top 10 and is just a 2.5-point underdog against a top-seeded Duke team with a rotation of eight former McDonald's All-Americans.

The matchup between Gonzaga and Duke will determine which team wins the South Region and joins No. 1 seeds Kentucky and Wisconsin and either Michigan State or Louisville at the Final Four in Indianapolis next weekend. A look at three keys to the matchup between the Blue Devils and Zags:

1. Can Gonzaga defend Justise Winslow?

Duke's best lineup in recent weeks has been a three-guard look with 6-foot-6 wing Justise Winslow sliding down to power forward. That look creates a mismatch against Gonzaga since Mark Few plays with two big men on the floor at all times.

Six-foot-9 Kyle Wiltjer will have a size advantage on Winslow when he posts up at one end, but he lacks the lateral quickness to stay with Winslow off the dribble or to chase him off ball at the other end. Few could switch Byron Wesley onto Winslow, but that would leave Wiltjer trying to stay with guard Matt Jones or Grayson Allen.

Defending Winslow is critical because he has been Duke's best player in the NCAA tournament so far. He sparked the run that put away Robert Morris in the opening round, he delivered 13 points and 12 rebounds against San Diego State and he carried the Blue Devils past Utah by scoring 21 points on an array of jump shots, drives and transition layups.  

2. Will outside shots fall for either team in Houston?

Duke and Utah combined to shoot 28 percent from behind the arc on Friday. Gonzaga and UCLA were an even more anemic 18.8 percent. Given that those shooting performances came in the same domed football stadium at which Butler and UConn staged one of the ugliest title games in recent memory, it has sparked questions over whether NRG Stadium is just a venue that is not conducive to perimeter shots.

Players from both teams downplayed such concerns during interviews on Saturday, but research from stats guru Ken Pomeroy suggests there could be something to that discussion. In the 15 games played at NRG Stadium prior to Sunday's Elite Eight clash, teams have shot 32.2 percnet from behind the arc, well below the 36.3 percent they averaged during the course of those seasons.

Adjusting to shooting in the dome will be crucial for both teams because both are reliant on the 3-point shot. Duke is 33rd nationally in threes made and 24th in 3-point shooting percentage. Gonzaga is 40th nationally in threes made and eighth in 3-point shooting percentage. Both play inside-out, punishing teams who double the post by burying outside shots.

3. Can Gonzaga's big men dominate like they did against UCLA?

While Gonzaga has a senior-laden backcourt that shoots exceptionally well from the perimeter, the biggest reason it outclassed UCLA to reach the Elite Eight was the dominance of its frontcourt. Przemek Karnowski, Kyle Wiltjer and Domantas Sabonis complement one another extremely well because they each have such different skill sets.

Karnowski overpowered Tony Parker and Thomas Welsh with his back-to-the-basket game in the paint on Friday, scoring 18 points on only 11 shots and even dazzling the crowd at NRG Stadium in Houston with a gorgeous behind-the-back assist. Sabonis came off the bench to deliver 12 points on 6-for-9 shooting and Wiltjer had a couple nice hook shots in the paint even though his outside shot wasn't falling.

The ability of Karnowski to avoid foul trouble while defending Jahlil Okafor and perhaps get Okafor into foul trouble at the other end will be critical to Gonzaga's chances. The Zags are a much better team when Karnowski is there to provide low-post scoring and to protect the rim.

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Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: March 29, 2015, 4:38 pm

Since we're down to the final moments of postseason life for teams in contention, Puck Daddy solemnly begins a daily countdown to annihilation.

Two big developments on the playoff bubble on Saturday.

In the East, the Boston Bruins snuck ahead of the Ottawa Senators thanks to their regulation win over the Rangers and the Senators’ embarrassing overtime loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs, blowing a third-period lead.

Boston (87 points) is at Carolina on Sunday; Ottawa (86 points) hosts the Florida Panthers, whose season is on the line in the next two games. The Panthers have 83 points and visit the Sens and Boston. Ottawa has a game in-hand on both teams.

The Capitals’ loss to the Predators left them with 90 points and seven games left. That’s four in front of the Senators, who have a game with the Caps on the schedule and a game in-hand. But the Caps have the ROW tiebreaker, 36-32.

Over in the West, the Minnesota Wild moved into third place in the Central, as the Chicago Blackhawks dropped to the first wild card. It’s likely a temporary inconvenience for the Hawks, who have two games in-hand on the Wild. But Minnesota has a significant ROW advantage (40-35) and a game against Chicago left on the schedule.

Here are the current standings. The Death Watch tracks the final Wild Card spot and the teams that are chasing it. Their “tragic number” is the number of points gained by the final wild card team or lost by the team chasing it.

All playoff percentages are from Sports Club Stats; tragic numbers and other figures via the NHL. A team is eliminated from play-offs when their "Tragic Number" hits 0.

Here’s the Eastern Conference picture:

The Capitals face the Rangers on Sunday, with both teams looking for a bounce back from disappointing Saturdays.

Pittsburgh hosts the San Jose Sharks while the Islanders host the Red Wings. The teams are tied with 93 points for second in the Metro, with Pittsburgh holding he tie-breaker and a game in-hand.

The Devils can be eliminated on Sunday with a combination of one point lost vs. Anaheim or gained by the Bruins. 

Meanwhile, in the West …

Newly minted bubble team Chicago travels to play their wild card mates the Winnipeg Jets.

The Calgary Flames have a chance to leap back over the Kings into third place with a win over Nashville. The Kings would have a game in-hand; the two teams meet in the second-to-last game of the season.

In the President’s Trophy race, the Ducks (103 points, 40 ROW) lead the Predators (102, 41) and Canadiens (102, 41); the Rangers (101, 43) are the other team over 100 points. 

If The Playoff Started Today

Potential Bracket Grade: C-plus. Yes, we get Montreal/Boston and the Yzerman Cup, but we don't get Chicago and St. Louis in Round 1 and we get the 10,000th edition of Caps/Rangers. 


Author: Greg Wyshynski
Posted: March 29, 2015, 2:13 pm

The iconic Iron Throne from the HBO series “Game of Thrones” has been much parodied, using materials like carrots

The Dubuque Fighting Saints of the United States Hockey League created their own Iron Throne on “Game of Thrones Night” … and took the “Throne” part quite seriously.


We guess actually having this as King Joffery’s throne would have been way too appropriate, given what a little … king he was.

“Game of Thrones” Night was held on Saturday, before the junior league team’s game against rival Cedar Rapids. The team said that there was a local tie to the fantasy book series, as creator George R.R. Martin used to live in Dubuque and has said “the harsh winters in Iowa were part of the inspiration for the fringed temperatures the books and show are set in,” according to KWWL.

The gimmick for the night, as you can see: “The Throne.” Fans could get pictures with this Porcelain Throne. The team asked fans to bring rolls of toilet paper to the game, which was then donated to local area shelters.

So good news, local shelters of Dubuque: Wiping is coming …


Author: Greg Wyshynski
Posted: March 29, 2015, 1:00 pm

Kyle Larson fainted at an autograph session Saturday and will not drive in Sunday's race at Martinsville. He's being replaced by Regan Smith.

Larson was awake and alert after the fainting spell and was evaluated at both a Martinsville-area medical center and a Charlotte hospital, where he was taken for evaluation by a neurologist. All tests so far have come back negative, however, according to the team, he's being held out as a precaution for more testing.

"After fainting yesterday at an autograph session in Martinsville, VA, Kyle Larson was first evaluated at a local hospital in Martinsville and ultimately evaluated at a Charlotte hospital," Chip Ganassi Racing said in a statement. "Although all tests came back negative and Larson feels completely fine, the doctors felt he should be held for more testing today. Subsequently, Larson will be unable to race today in the STP 500 in Martinsville."

Smith substituted for Kurt Busch earlier this season when Busch was suspended indefintely by NASCAR after allegations of domestic abuse. Smith drove three races in Busch's No. 41 car. He subbed for Tony Stewart in 2014 and has also substituted for Dale Earnhardt Jr. when Jr. missed time in 2012 because of a concussion.

Larson, 22, is in his second year in the Sprint Cup Series. In 45 career starts he has eight top-five finishes and 19 top-10 finishes. He's considered one of NASCAR's brightest up-and-coming talents and is a favorite to make the Chase in 2015. Since he's already attempted to qualify for Sunday's race, he is currently still Chase eligible.

If his absence extends through (or beyond) the Texas race on April 11, he would need a waiver from NASCAR to make the Chase. Given previous circumstances, the waiver is likely to be granted.

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Nick Bromberg is the editor of From The Marbles on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at nickbromberg@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: March 29, 2015, 12:04 pm

You can walk or drive past any major league stadium and figure out pretty quickly which players the corresponding team views as faces of the franchise.

The Los Angeles Angels are no exception to that rule. At the main entrance to Angel Stadium, six large banners each featuring the likeness of an Angels player welcome fans to the ballpark every day, and the message is simply: "These are our guys. Take'em or leave'em."

With that in mind, MLB.com points out that this season's Angels banners have undergone some major changes despite the team making few significant changes during the offseason. Of the six banners, only Mike Trout, Albert Pujols and Jered Weaver remain from last season. Basic math tells us that means three banners were removed and three new banners were put up in their place.

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Here's a look at the new banners. . 

Say Halo to the new entrance #AtTheBigA! 6 #Angels, 6 winners. RT to win a pair of tix to our 1st exhibition game! pic.twitter.com/8nwagRsFd9

— Angels (@Angels) March 26, 2015

It's difficult to tell, but that's Erick Aybar on the bottom left, Garrett Richards top middle, and Huston Street top right. They're the new arrivals. 

As for those removed, according to MLB.com, those would be Josh Hamilton, C.J. Wilson and Howie Kendrick.

Kendrick goes without explanation. He was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers in exchange for left-handed pitcher Andrew Heaney back on Dec. 11. What the Angels are likely to learn here though is that replacing Kendrick's banner will be far easier than replacing his production from the second base position. But sometimes those are the decisions teams must make.

With Hamilton it's understandable as well. After coming forward in February and admitting a relapse reportedly involving cocaine, he could face a year-long suspension, which takes him out of the team's plans. As cold-hearted as it might seem, they're better off distancing themselves from a marketing standpoint while maintaining their support on a personal level.

As for Wilson, well, the message is a little stiffer considering he's still on the team and isn't mired in any controversy. It's simply the Angels acknowledging he's no longer one of the team's best players four years into a five-year, $77.5 million contract, and perhaps on a deeper level they're acknowledging his days are numbered.

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Both potential realities are not lost on Wilson, who briefly addressed the banner removal on Friday.

"It's the big leagues," Wilson said. "You lose 10 or 11 games, you're not going to be the face of a franchise. It's fine."

He's taking it in stride, but his pride has to be a little bit sore. Especially considering he was born and raised in Orange County and grew up wanting to pitch for the hometown team. With that said though, it wasn't just the "10 or 11 losses" that have the Angels souring, it's the 4.81 ERA he posted last season and especially the league-high 85 walks he issued in 175.2 innings.

Those are the areas Wilson has to improve on to change their mind, and he should have a chance to do so. The Angels can send all the symbolic messages they want, but it will always come down to results. If Wilson can somehow use this as motivation as opposed to the beginning of the end, then maybe he can leave the relationship on his own terms.

BLS H/N: Larry Brown Sports 

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Mark Townsend is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at bigleaguestew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Townie813

Author: Mark Townsend
Posted: March 29, 2015, 7:29 am

Mar 28, 2015; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr reacts with guard Stephen Curry (30) in the fourth quarter during the game against the Milwaukee Bucks at BMO Harris Bradley Center. The Warriors beat the Bucks 108-95. (Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports)With just a few weeks remaining until the NBA postseason, every night can impact the standings. NBA Playoff Picture keeps you up to date on all the most important news for all 16 berths and seeds.

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Wonderful Warriors: With a 108-95 win at the Milwaukee Bucks, the Golden State Warriors have clinched the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference and will have homecourt advantage in every playoff series at least until the NBA Finals. The team's 60th win also broke a franchise record for victories previously set in 1975-76, the last time they finished with the conference's best record.

MVP candidate Steph Curry led the way with 25 points on 8-of-13 FG and 6-of-9 3FG, drawing to within 25 of his record for most triples in a single season. That mark is in sight with nine games left, but it's unclear how much Curry will play with the team's regular season goals already met.

The Bucks' loss dropped them to 2 1/2 games ahead of the Miami Heat for sixth in the East, a notable race if only because it will help the better team avoid the Cleveland Cavaliers in the first round. Milwaukee's next three games are against teams currently in the playoffs — at Atlanta, vs. Chicago, at Boston — so they could very well lose their spot with only nine games remaining.

Allergic to Hornets: One day after clinching the top seed in the East, the Atlanta Hawks rested all their starters and were not surprisingly beaten handily by the Charlotte Hornets 115-100. The loss only matters to Atlanta insofar as it pushes them five games back of the Warriors for the best record in the NBA, although that only really makes a difference if those two teams meet in June. My guess is that the Hawks will take their chances there.

However, the win does mean a lot to the Hornets, who are still way back in 11th place but just a game behind the Boston Celtics in the race for No. 8. The hosts apparently appreciate the Hawks' second-best effort — they shot 52.5 percent from the field and 12-of-26 from beyond the arc even though the hobbled Al Jefferson only played 17 minutes. Monday's matchup with the Celtics will probably be a little more competitive.

Not So Fun: The Thunder remain in a strong position to claim the last playoff spot in the West, but they certainly aren't inspiring a ton of confidence along the way. The Utah Jazz held them to 34 points combined over the second and third quarters on their way to a 94-89 win. Russell Westbrook scored his now-customary 37 points but needed 29 shots to get there, and Utah forced 23 turnovers to help make up for their own 38.1 percent shooting.

But the big story from this game came before it, when former Jazz big man Enes Kanter declared that he was extremely frustrated during his 3 1/2 years in Salt Lake City and finally feels like he's on a real professional team in OKC. His point of view makes a great deal of sense, especially when you consider that Utah chose Rudy Gobert and Derrick Favors over him as building blocks, but it was also perhaps not the best collection of statements to give before a triumphant return. Kanter had a nice game — 18 points and 11 rebounds — but the loss is not going to make him look any better.

Blaze of Glory: The Portland Trail Blazers inched closer to clinching a playoff berth with a 120-114 win over the Denver Nuggets. The win matters most in that it brings them just a half-game back of the Los Angeles Clippers for homecourt advantage in a hypothetical first-round matchup. The Blazers will clinch the fourth seed whenever they win the Northwest Division (a foregone conclusion), but a very tight race with the Clippers and San Antonio Spurs makes their end-of-season experience much more complicated.

Quickly: The Chicago Bulls beat the comatose New York Knicks 111-80, thereby moving 1 1/2 games up on Toronto for the No. 3 seed. The result is much more notable for serving as the Knicks' 60th loss, a new franchise record.

Sunday's Most Important Games

There are nine games in all, and more than half of them involve two teams with playoff aspirations.

Rockets at Wizards, 12:30 p.m. ET: A Houston win would allow them to draw even with the Memphis Grizzlies for second-place in the West for at least a few hours. It's also worth keeping an eye on their progress to see the progress of Dwight Howard, who will be playing just his third game since returning from a two-month spell on the sidelines. Washington can bring them to within 1 1/2 games of the Toronto Raptors for fourth place, which would decide homecourt advantage in a first round series.

Clippers at Celtics, 6:00 p.m. ET: The Celtics need a win to stay in sole possession of eighth in the East. Meanwhile, the Clippers cannot fall out of fifth place but would draw even with the Portland Trail Blazers for homecourt advantage with a loss.

Grizzlies at Spurs, 7:00 p.m. ET: A Spurs win and a Clippers loss would bring the defending champions to just a half-game back of the No. 5 seed and its attendant chance at homecourt advantage vs. the Blazers, but this one means a lot more to the Grizzlies. If the Rockets win earlier in the day, then the Grizzlies will need their own victory in order to not fall into third. On a less specific level, they need a strong showing after two home blowout losses to the Cavs and Warriors. Otherwise, it might be tough to name the Grizzlies as a legitimate title contender.

Mavericks at Pacers, 7:00 p.m. ET: An Indiana win would couple with a Boston loss to create a tie for eighth, although it would be broken (for now) by the Celtics' 2-1 advantage in the season series. The Mavericks can get themselves back to within a half-game of the Spurs if they and the Grizzlies both win.

Thunder at Suns, 9:00 p.m. ET: A Thunder win would push the Suns four games back of eighth and all but eliminate them from the race. Perhaps most importantly, we could stop mentioning them in these recaps for at least a few days.

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Eric Freeman is a writer for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at efreeman_ysports@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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Author: Eric Freeman
Posted: March 29, 2015, 7:03 am

In which we recap the day’s events in the NCAA tournament.

MANCHESTER, N.H. — Let’s put it this way: If BU has even the remotest chance of coming back in a game, its almost inhuman ability to dominate the third period all but assures that it will. 

Their game against Minnesota-Duluth was tied at two goals apiece through two periods, but BU made a little switch or two — mixing up the depth lines, changing up the forecheck, the standard stuff it usually does at this point in the game to disquiet opponents — and really stepped into the game in a way it has so many times before.

The top line, indomitable as it so often is at this point of games, crushed UMD in possession, drew a late penalty, and underrated senior Evan Rodrigues scored a wonderful individual goal at 17:36 of the third on the ensuing power play. BU won 3-2 and punched its ticket to the Frozen Four. Because of course it did. It was always going to.

“I thought we did what we do best,” BU coach David Quinn said. “I thought we had a great third period. We were relentless, we we smart, and we just did the things we needed to do to win an incredibly important hockey game and extend our season.”

The Terriers are now 21-0-2 when leading or tied through two periods. They’re also just 6-7-3 when trailing after 40. If they're within striking distance, it’s almost impossible to put them down and keep them there.

But with that ability to basically take over a game occasionally comes a fallowness that leads to some nervy situations in the early going. That’s what happened today. When the top line of Jack Eichel, Evan Rodrigues, and Danny O’Regan were off the ice, BU was getting thoroughly pushed around. And while that line carried play more often than not, this was once again a game where little was happening for them in the offensive zone apart from shuffling the puck along the perimeter.

Rodrigues did have the first of his two goals 7:17 into the first period, as a puck batted high in the air at the attacking blue line on a bad clearing attempt came within a six-foot radius. He swatted at it like a batter trying to foul off an 0-2 pitch high and outside, and to the surprise of basically everybody in the building, it not only got on net, but beat UMD goalie Kasimir Kaskisuo.

Still the problems persisted, and the second period was far more eventful than the first. Three times in the first 7:31, someone scored, with UMD doing so first, just 37 seconds after the break. BU answered 2:55 later to regain the lead, and UMD got back even 3:59 after that. Then the Bulldogs started to exert their influence. BU had to dig deep.

“It was kind of like a heavyweight fight,” Quinn said. “We controlled the first few rounds, almost had a couple of opportunities to deliver the knockout punch. Then they come back and dominate for about 10 or 12 minutes, and we come back and dominate for 10 or 12 minutes.”

The motivated Eichel, the one who explodes off the bench menacingly pitched forward, is a player that exudes confidence. When he does that, and gets a head of steam, all involved — whether playing, coaching, or watching — know something is bound to happen. That Eichel was rarely in evidence through 40 minutes, and the Terriers’ numbers showed it. Possession was in UMD’s favor, goals were even, and the season had as little as 20 minutes left.

Those who watched BU a lot this year could tell that something was off; the game in the eastern marches of college hockey is one built on finesse and the transition. Teams out west tend to be bigger, more physical, and games are often determined by moments of individual skill. Neither is better or worse than the other, and certainly teams out east can dictate a more violent game, while some in the west are more than happy to play faster. But the difference can be jarring, and BU — a smaller team overall — hasn’t played a western team since mid-October when it swept Michigan State and Michigan (not exactly outstanding practitioners of the sport this season) at its own Agganis Arena.

For the second game in a row, the transition game just wasn’t there for the Terriers. UMD was, in fact, doing a better job at stifling them than Yale — its Bulldog compatriots — in terms of limiting chances. BU’s goals came, instead, on a series of failed clearing attempts and a bout of extended possession in the attacking zone.

But where BU, and the Eichel line specifically, has really made its hay this season is that third period. For whatever reason, the Terriers’ style tends to trend more toward that of a powerful heavyweight content lean on opponents, pushing them against the ropes again and again, in hopes of tiring and perhaps provoking them into mistakes. That wasn’t how the opening 40 had gone, of course — it was Duluth doling out most of the punishment — but there was, as always, a kind of expectation that, okay, now they’re going to do something here. The BU goal differential in the third period entering tonight’s game was an astonishing plus-42 in just 38 games, on 67 for and just 25 against.

But if you’re waiting until the later rounds to really try to put your opponent on the canvas, you run the risk of getting KO’ed yourself. It doesn’t happen often, especially if that’s your game plan and you’re well-conditioned, but it certainly can.

“We talked about the same thing,” said UMD coach Scott Sandelin. “Obviously they came out and probably had a little more jump. I mean, obviously it’s tough to generate anything. They were winning races and getting pucks to the net, which is what they do very well.”

The adjustment Quinn made led to the Terriers once again getting the puck deeper into the attacking zone and keeping it there. And while the middle of the ice was still very much the domain of Minnesota-Duluth, the opportunities were certainly starting to come a little more rapid-fire. Shot attempts at 5-on-5 in the third period were 23-7 to BU. Something had to give soon, and of course the top line made it happen.

Late in the game, Rodrigues got the puck in the right wing corner and, in part of a physical battle, was dragged to the ice. Was it a penalty? No surprise here, but Sandelin didn’t think so, and with less than five minutes to go in a tied regional final, few in the building would have begrudged the lack of a call. But called it was, and with just one second to go in the power play, Rodrigues scored his second and staked BU to a lead it would, obviously, never relinquish.

One hesitates to call what BU does “clutch,” because the way they play the game is what engenders late winners and helps them strangle the life out of just about every game. It isn’t so much that someone always steps up as the opponent is nearly always too exhausted to protest. Skill wins games pretty reliably at this level, and the Terrier top line has loads of it. What reply could any Bulldog have had tonight?

How do you not count the lights if you’re lucky enough to survive that long? 

RIT 2, Minnesota State 1

A rather controversial goal got the No. 1 team in the country bounced in just its first game.

An RIT forechecker appeared to shove a defenseman into goaltender Stephon Williams just as linemate Josh Mitchell let a shot go. Puck, defender and goalie all ended up lying in the net, and initially the referee signaled no-goal. But a decently long review overturned the initial call, and RIT held on the rest of the way. (It was ruled that the MSU defenseman initiated contact.)

For much of the game, it seemed as though RIT was going to keep pace with Mankato. The Tigers scored the first goal just 4:30 into the game and didn’t concede until nearly 27 minutes later. Shots were relatively even through two periods too, at 18-14 to the top-seeded Mavericks.

Then it was as though RIT just hit a wall. That whole “best possession team in the country” thing seemed to occur to everyone all at once. Shots ended up being 34-19. But inevitability of possession disparity aside, this was a game RIT had no business winning. And yet here we are.

The romance of the tournament, one supposes.

Denver 5, Boston College 2

Things looked like they were going OK for the Eagles, playing relatively close to home in Providence, R.I., for most of the first period. They weren’t down more than one goal against a very intimidating Pioneer side, and in fact Michael Matheson leveled inside of five minutes to go. If they could get to the intermission tied, things might not have seemed so bad.

But instead Trevor Moore scored with seven seconds to go before the interval, and as it turned out that just about sealed it. The game appeared even for a while longer, then Denver struck twice more in 1:01 midway through the third to really salt the earth. Tanner Jaillet stopped 22 of 24 to pick up the win, 11 of which came in the third when the result was more or less assured.

The win bumped the NCHC to 4-0 in the tournament to that point.

Providence College 7, Miami 5

This game was, in a word, insane. Providence scored seven times, which was odd because in the Hockey East quarterfinals it scored just four goals across three games. Miami scored five times despite missing both its 20-goal scorers to suspension in one case, and injury in another. Providence also has one of the best goalies and defenses in the country.

And how they scored: Providence led 6-2 entering the third period, and Miami couldn’t get much going in attack to answer. So with about 13 — THIRTEEN!!!! — minutes left, Miami coach Rico Blasi pulled his goalie in search of four goals.

And he almost got them. Matthew Caito scored at 11:26, then Devin Loe at 14:14, then Sean Kuraly at 18:27. At that point, it was 6-5 and things were getting awful nerve-wracking.

It wasn’t until Brandon Tanev scored into an empty net with just seven seconds left that the Friars could breathe easy. And not that it ended up mattering, but look at this desperation save from defenseman Louie Belpedio:

Nebraska-Omaha 4, Harvard 1

This one was closer than the scoreline suggests, as Omaha scored two into an empty net. But still, there was very little chance that Harvard was ever going to win it.

Grant Gallo scored just 1:59 into the game, then Avery Peterson scored with less than two seconds left in the first on a 5-on-3. A two-goal deficit is tough for anyone, but particularly so for a team so essentially one-line as the Crimson. Not that the Mavericks could keep that one line silent, as Jimmy Vesey cut the lead in half early in the third with his nation-leading 32nd of the season. But a late penalty from Luke Esposito with 2:30 left assured the Harvard comeback would end before it began. 

North Dakota 4, St. Cloud 1

St. Cloud jumped out to a lead 1:29 in, but then North Dakota figured out that they are much better than the Huskies. They scored the next three goals relatively early in each period (8:59 of the first, 6:49 of the second, 2:53 of the third). This was basically the only possible result here.

Three Stars

1. Jordan Ruby, RIT

Ruby only played 21 games for RIT this season, but he turned in a .923 save percentage across them, and improved that today, stopping 33 of 34 against a much better team. This is the reason the Tigers won: They got pushed around, especially late, and Ruby didn't crack.

2. Evan Rodrigues, BU

Two goals and a massive performance in all three zones. This kid thinks the game at a very high level.

3. Grant Arnold, Denver

Arnold, the Pioneers' captain this year, entered the game with zero goals on the season. He scored the fourth and fifth goals for Denver. I guess you call that leadership.

Author: Ryan Lambert
Posted: March 29, 2015, 5:25 am

No. 1 Star: Tyler Bozak, Toronto Maple Leafs 

Oh, you know, just a Tyler Bozak four-point night against a team in desperate need of points on the playoff bubble. Bozak scored a third-period hat trick and had the primary helper on Eric Brewer’s overtime game-winner in the Leafs’ 4-3 win over the Ottawa Senators. No wonder Connor McDavid wants to be him!

No. 2 Star: Petr Mrazek, Detroit Red Wings

The Red Wings goalie made things interesting between the pipes as Detroit pushes towards the playoffs, shutting out the Tampa Bay Lightning, 4-0. He made 23 saves.

No. 3 Star: Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins

Crosby, who is totally having an off year, increased his hold on the Art Ross by scoring a goal and assisting on two others in the Pittsburgh Penguins’ 3-2 win over the Arizona Coyotes.

Honorable Mention: Filip Forsberg trolled the Washington Capitals with a goal and two assists as the Nashville Predators clinched a playoff spot with a 4-3 win. Troy Brouwer had two goals for the Caps. … Milan Lucic scored two first-period goals, one of them controversial, as the Boston Bruins earned a 4-2 win over Henrik Lundqvist and the New York Rangers. … Kyle Palmieri and Andrew Cogliano scored second-period goals as the Anaheim Ducks defeated the New York Islanders, 3-2. Frederik Andersen made 29 saves. … Melker Karlsson and Brent Burns had power-play goals in the San Jose Sharks’ 3-2 win over the Philadelphia Flyers. Joe Pavelski scored goal No. 36. … Max Pacioretty’s overtime goal gave the Montreal Canadiens a 3-2 win over the Florida Panthers, clinching a playoff spot. … Aleksander Barkov scored two goals. … Rookie John Klingberg scored in OT to give the Dallas Stars a 4-3 win over the Vancouver Canucks, who earned a charity point with a late Radim Vrbata goal.

The Carolina Hurricanes topped the New Jersey Devils, 3-1, as Justin Faulk and Eric Staal had goals. … The Columbus Blue Jackets defeated the St. Louis Blues, 4-2, thanks to a Boone Jenner second-period goal. … Nino Niederreiter scored two goals and Devan Dubnyk made 31 saves to improve to 35-11-3 on the season as the Minnesota Wild defeated the LA Kings, 4-1. … Matt Duchene had a goal and two assists and Jarome Iginla had three assists in the Colorado Avalanche’s 5-3 win over the Buffalo Sabres. Andrej Meszaros had two goals. Phil Kessel and James van Riemsdyk had three assists each. …   

Did You Know? Iginla had three assists, giving him 1,222 NHL points to pass Jean Beliveau into 40th place all time.

Dishonorable Mention: On the Bruin’s first goal, the rebound of a Patrice Bergeron shot went off Lucic's skate and past Lundqvist. No goal on the ice, good goal in video review. … Tuukka Rask left the Bruins’ game with dehydration 10 seconds into the second period. … Victor Hedman was a minus-3. … The Lightning lost defenseman Jason Garrison with an upper-body injury, and center Cedric Paquette was helped off the after sliding into the goal post. … Andy Greene was a minus-3. … Jonathan Quick was pulled at the start of the second period. … Kris Letang was taken to the hospital because “Shane Doan was running around like an idiot.”

Author: Greg Wyshynski
Posted: March 29, 2015, 5:10 am

Mar 28, 2015; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers and film actress Olivia Munn in attendance during the 85-78 Wisconsin Badgers victory against Arizona Wildcats in the finals of the west regional of the 2015 NCAA Tournament at Staples Center. (Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports)Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers has been following closely as Wisconsin makes its run through the NCAA tournament. After the Badgers outlasted Arizona Saturday night to advance to the Final Four, Rodgers made his way onto the court to congratulate the team.

Some people (and one sportswriter in particular) apparently weren’t too pleased that Rodgers was allowed on the court and subsequently did not speak with reporters.

Rodgers heard the uproar loud and clear and responded to the criticism on Twitter.

To the biggest twitter crybaby of the night, I had a pass to be on the court. Send your complaints to the A.D. #quitcrying #youreajoke

— Aaron Rodgers (@AaronRodgers12) March 29, 2015

Also with interview requests, sometimes the answer is yes and sometimes it's no. I'm not there for u, I'm there to support my friends n UW.

— Aaron Rodgers (@AaronRodgers12) March 29, 2015

Rodgers played collegiately at Cal following two seasons at Butte Junior College, but he clearly has a soft spot for the Badgers after spending his entire NFL career playing in Wisconsin.

He’s become close with several Badgers players, including star forward Sam Dekker, who had a career-high 27 points Saturday night.

Incredible game. @samdek1 is cold blooded. #OnWisconsin

— Aaron Rodgers (@AaronRodgers12) March 29, 2015

Rodgers seems to be a bit of a good luck charm for the Badgers, so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him and girlfriend Olivia Munn at the Final Four in Indianapolis next week.

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Sam Cooper is a contributor for the Yahoo Sports blogs. Have a tip? Email him or follow him on Twitter!

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Author: Sam Cooper
Posted: March 29, 2015, 4:41 am

(Photo by John Kelley, Georgia Sports)Alabama defensive lineman Jonathan Taylor is back in the news for all the wrong reasons.

The 21-year-old Taylor, who enrolled at Alabama in January following his dismissal from Georgia, was arrested Saturday and charged with domestic violence and criminal mischief. Taylor was dismissed from Georgia in July following a previous domestic violence arrest. Charges are still pending in that case.

According to a release from Tuscaloosa Police, an altercation with Taylor’s girlfriend took place at approximately 6:00 p.m. Saturday evening. The 24-year-old woman had “minor injuries to her neck” and told police Taylor assaulted her.

Taylor, who is listed at 6-foot-4 and 335 pounds, was arrested for “Domestic Violence 3rd Degree Assault” and “Domestic Violence 3rd Degree Criminal Mischief” and was taken to the Tuscaloosa County Jail where he is being held on $1,000 bond.

Following his dismissal from Georgia, in which he was accused of choking and striking his then-girlfriend with a closed fist, Taylor played the 2014 season at Copiah-Lincoln Community College in Mississippi. He was brought in by Alabama as a part of its 2015 recruiting class.

In a statement that followed his enrollment, the school said that athletics “was not involved” in his admission to the university.

"Jonathan Taylor was admitted to The University of Alabama following the same procedures that the UA Admissions office uses to evaluate any student who has dealt with legal issues," the statement said. "The admissions process includes representatives from academic, legal, student affairs, student conduct, UAPD and counseling.  Athletics is not involved in the admissions process.  Taylor's continued enrollment depends on his ability to fulfill all requirements the University has specifically mandated for him during his time as a UA student."

After Taylor signed with the Tide, head coach Nick Saban said that Taylor deserved a second chance.

"I said this before that when people are young – and that is not a mistake that we condone in any shape or form, that's (disrespectful) to any person, let alone a female – there is some occasion to not condemn them for life, but to give them another chance," Saban said in February, per TideSports.com.

"It's up to them to prove that they deserve that chance. And when they get that opportunity they need to definitely do their very best to take advantage of it. This is the decision that we made. I know the sensitivity of the issue, and we're going to do what we can to help this young man have success here and not have issues anymore."

The news of Taylor’s arrest comes after safety Geno Smith was arrested for driving under the influence on early Saturday morning. Like Taylor, it was Smith’s second offense. Smith was also arrested for DUI in August 2013.

Per TideSports.com, Alabama officials “were not available for comment” on either incident Saturday night. 

For more Alabama news, visit TideSports.com.

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Author: Sam Cooper
Posted: March 29, 2015, 4:09 am

(Everett Aquasox)Seattle Mariners pitching prospect Victor Sanchez died on Saturday, six weeks after sustaining serious head injuries in a boating accident in his home country of Venezuela. He was only 20. 

According to the initial reports, Sanchez was swimming off the beach in Carapao, Venezuela on Feb. 13 when he was struck in the head by a boat propeller. Sanchez sustained a double skull fracture and a hematoma upon impact and later suffered a stroke as a result of his injuries. After undergoing emergency surgery, Sanchez went into a coma and was never able to regain consciousness. 

According to Greg Johns of MLB.com, Sanchez's agent, Rafa Nieves, confirmed the news on Saturday night. 

A short time later, Seattle Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik released the following statement.

"The Seattle Mariners are saddened to learn of the passing of Victor Sanchez. Victor was a tremendous young man and a wonderful teammate. He was a very talented player who was close to fulfilling his promise as a Major Leaguer. He will be missed by his teammates, and the coaches and staff at the Mariners.
"The entire Mariners organization sends our deepest condolences to his family during this difficult time."

At 6-foot and 255 pounds, Sanchez was just starting to work his way into the Mariners long term plans. He finished the 2014 season ranked as their 11th best prospect according to MLB.com, a position he cemented by posting a 4.19 ERA in 23 starts for Double-A Jackson.

Overall, Sanchez had been steadily progressing since signing as a 16-year-old in 2011. In 2012, he posted a 6-2 record with a 3.18 ERA at Class A Everett. The following season, Sanchez pitched a no-hitter for Class A Clinton in only his 27th professional start.

Tragic news about Victor Sanchez. A sad day for the Mariners family. He left many great memories. RIP 2013 No-No https://t.co/1r7QeLD3tT

— Clinton LumberKings (@LumberKings) March 29, 2015

Not many pitchers can boast a no-hitter at the major or minor league level. Sanchez recorded his at only 18. A truly remarkable accomplishment that suggests poise and precision well beyond his years.

Among those grieving tonight are the men who spent those formative years with Sanchez as his teammate in the Mariners organization and as his friend. Many of them took to Twitter late Saturday to extend their condolences and share memories. .  

Prayers for Victor Sanchez family and friends. Was a real good player and a great friend. Going to be missed #RIP

— Taijuan Walker (@tai_walker) March 29, 2015

Wow what a sad day for Victor Sanchez family and the Mariners family. Can't believe my boy is gone. Will be missed but never forgotten #RIP

— Jabari Henry (@bari14) March 29, 2015

We lost a teammate but lost an even better person with the passing of Victor Sanchez tonight. Your memory will live on forever in my heart

— Patrick Kivlehan (@PatrickKivlehan) March 29, 2015

Everyone who watched or knew Sanchez agreed his future looked very promising. Unfortunately, tonight, there's only sadness and confusion over a life cut way too short.

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Mark Townsend is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at bigleaguestew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Townie813

Author: Mark Townsend
Posted: March 29, 2015, 4:09 am

Ottawa Senators goalie Craig Anderson made his first start since March 10, and just his third appearance since Jan. 21, on Saturday night against the Toronto Maple Leafs. It was a start he had to make, with sensation Andrew “Hamburglar” Hammond unable to go due to a “lower body injury.” 

As usual, Anderson did some things that boggle the mind, like on this sequence above. Guess that blocker hand is feeling better …

But Anderson also did something Hammond hasn’t done much of during his time as the starter: He lost a game, and gave up four goals in the process. Eric Brewer’s overtime goal for the Leafs gave them the 4-3 win; the Senators dropped a point behind the Boston Bruins, who defeated the New York Rangers earlier in the day.

A check of social media found some Senators fans less than enthused with Anderson, who stopped 27 of 31 shots for a .871 save percentage. (Three of the goals came at even strength.)

It continued a rather putrid run for Anderson, who has given up three or more goals in his last six appearances.

But can you really blame the guy for this one?

The Sens had a 3-1 lead as of 9:30 of the third period. They allowed a Tyler Bozak power play goal and another goal by Bozak at 18:36 of the third to complete his hat trick (!).

The Leafs out­-possessed all game, skating to a 55.56 percent team Corsi at even strength and an insanely good 61.90 percent Fenwick-for in the third period as Ottawa ceded possession after going up 3-1.

Said Anderson, via the Ottawa Sun:

"They got the one to 2-1 and they got some momentum. Anything can happen. They start playing with more confidence. The energy starts coming and they are snapping it around. Before you know it, we're fishing the puck out of our net. We had the opportunity and we let it slip.”

Anderson, meanwhile, stopped 21 shots in the first two periods and a Joakim Lindstrom penalty shot in the first.

The bottom line is that the Senators couldn’t close the deal against a team completely playing out the string, getting unjustifiably sloppy in their own end in front of Anderson.

If you think this is on Anderson, think again; and then consider the fact that the guy getting hamburgers tossed on the ice in his honor has given up three or more goals in three of his last four starts. 

Author: Greg Wyshynski
Posted: March 29, 2015, 3:57 am

LOS ANGELES — When Sam Dekker and Frank Kaminsky embraced at mid-court after clinching Wisconsin's second straight trip to the Final Four, the two close friends only had time to exchange a few words.

The ones they chose were simple but telling.

"I told him, 'Let's go get a title," Dekker said.

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That's an attainable goal for the Badgers despite the undefeated Big Blue juggernaut in its path. They have enough shooters to spread the floor against Kentucky the way Notre Dame did, the size to defend and rebound against the Wildcats the way the Irish couldn't and two human mismatches in Dekker and Kaminsky who fuel the nation's most unstoppable offense.

The challenge of defending Wisconsin has never been more evident than it was Saturday when the Badgers shot nearly 80 percent from the field and from behind the arc in the second half of their 85-78 victory over Arizona. Dekker and Kaminsky teamed up to make a formidable Arizona Wildcats defense look ordinary, combining for 56 points by exploiting the matchup problems created by their versatility.

Three different Arizona defenders took turns trying to defend Kaminsky, yet he still scored a game-high 29 points.

The national player of the year favorite repeatedly took advantage of Kaleb Tarczewski's lack of mobility on the perimeter just like he did against Arizona in the Elite Eight last March, burying jumpers in the 7-footer's face when he didn't close out quickly enough and dribbling right by him when guarded closely. Neither wing Rondae Hollis-Jefferson nor forward Brandon Ashley had much more success because Kaminsky was able to take both defenders to the low block and overpower them around the rim.

"We knew their bigs couldn't move their feet as well as some guys we've played in the past, and Frank was able to take advantage" Wisconsin guard Zak Showalter said. "It's a testament to how good Frank is and how he deserves to win the player of the year. He works his butt off and he makes some ridiculous shots."

All the different looks Arizona tried to throw at Kaminsky created mismatches for fellow frontcourt standouts Dekker and Nigel Hayes.

Dekker eclipsed his career high for the second straight game, erupting for 27 points on five 3-pointers and an array of driving layups at the rim. Hayes took advantage of having Tarczewski and Ashley guarding him most of the night by floating to the perimeter and sinking two of Wisconsin's 10 second-half 3-pointers in their faces.

"Arizona tried to guard me with 7-footers and put their small guys on Sam or Frank, which is something we welcome with open arms," Hayes said. "If they sagged off me, I shot it. If they came out attacked me, I tried to get to the rim."

Arizona stayed in striking distance most of the second half with a strong offensive performance of its own, but the Wildcats never trimmed the lead to any less than five points in the final 10 minutes. They could only watch helplessly during the final minute as their third chance in five years to get Sean Miller to his first Final Four ended once again in Elite Eight heartbreak.

Whereas Wisconsin punctuated its Elite Eight victory over Arizona with a wild celebration last year, the mood in the Badgers' locker room was far more focused and businesslike this time around. Kaminsky and Dekker deferred their NBA dreams a year to chase a championship, not a Final Four, and that attitude rubbed off on their teammates.

"What this team has done is unbelievable," Wisconsin assistant Greg Gard said. "They've had a target on their back all year, they've set the bar high in terms of what they want to accomplish and they haven't been shy about putting it out there. We want to win a national championship, and there are steps along the way. Goal No. 1 was the non-conference season leading into Big Ten play. Goal No. 2 was the Big Ten tournament. Goal No. 3 was getting back to the Final Four. Now we're in a two-game tournament that we've got to go win to attain our last goal."

Wisconsin will have an extra layer of motivation facing a Kentucky team that ended the Badgers' season two wins shy of a title a year ago. Aaron Harrison sank a go-ahead 3-pointer over Josh Gasser with 5.7 seconds left and Traevon Jackson could not answer at the other end, preserving a memorable one-point victory for the Wildcats.

Both Kentucky and Wisconsin are better teams than they were a year ago.

The Wildcats are awash with McDonald's All-Americans and boast an improving offense and the nation's premier defense. The Badgers have the nation's most efficient offense fueled by a multitalented frontcourt that is exceptionally difficult to defend.

While Wisconsin players wouldn't admit they were eager for another shot at Kentucky, they did acknowledge the memory of last year's loss has fueled them all year.

"It drove us a lot," Wisconsin forward Duje Dukan said. "Being at the Final Four but losing by one play, that kills you inside knowing you were so close to playing for a national championship. That drove everyone all offseason during workouts. We wanted to get to the same position as last year and this time we want to take advantage."

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Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: March 29, 2015, 3:48 am

Kentucky has made it to the Final Four undefeated, but it endured quite a scare from Notre Dame in the Elite Eight on Saturday in Cleveland.

All season long college basketball analysts and fans have been asking what it would take to beat the Wildcats, who are widely considered one of the most talented teams in the history of the college game. 

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Notre Dame provided as good a blueprint as anyone has all season but couldn’t finish the job in the final minutes of a feisty, gritty, determined, leave-it-all-out-there effort. Kentucky survived 68-66 thanks to two Andrew Harrison free throws with six seconds left. Notre Dame's Jerian Grant sprinted down the court and had an opportunity to win the game at the buzzer, but Kentucky's swarming defense made him double-pump and his shot missed the mark.

Harrison may have scored the final points of the game, but Karl Anthony-Towns carried the Wildcats to this win. The 6-foot-11 product of Piscataway, N.J. seemed unstoppable at times in the paint. Towns scored 25 points, and coach John Calipari and Towns’ teammates deserve credit for recognizing his dominance and continually feeding him the ball.Mar 28, 2015; Cleveland, OH, USA; Kentucky Wildcats celebrate after the game against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in the finals of the midwest regional of the 2015 NCAA Tournament at Quicken Loans Arena. Kentucky won 68-66. (Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports)

Kentucky advances to its 17th Final Four and its fourth trip in the past five years. The Wildcats improved to 38-0.

The score was tied 31-31 at the half and was tight throughout, but Notre Dame consistently put the Wildcats in the unusual position of playing from behind.

The Wildcats handled the pressure of that exceedingly well. Willie Cauley-Stein missed a tip-in attempt with 12 minutes, 16 seconds left in the game. It was the final missed field goal attempt of the night for Kentucky. The Wildcats made nine consecutive shots to win the game. 

Despite that fact, Notre Dame was able to take a lead into the final 90 seconds. But the Irish missed their final three attempts, all jump shots by Grant

When Kentucky is in trouble in the NCAA tournament it turns to Aaron Harrison. It happened again Saturday when Harrison buried a 3-pointer from well beyond NBA range with just over three minutes left to give Kentucky a one-point lead and force a Notre Dame timeout.

But when the Fighting Irish came back down the floor, Grant, the team's catalyst all season, answered with a 3-pointer of his own from similar distance.Grant scored 15 points and dished six assists. Forward Zach Auguste led Notre Dame with 20 points and he grabbed nine rebounds, despite dealing with foul trouble. Bonzie Colsom provieded 13 valuable minutes off the bench. 

Guard Pat Conaughton suffered through a poor shooting night but he contributed nine rebounds.

Notre Dame went 29 minutes without committing a turnover but gave the ball back to the Wildcats with a shot clock violation in the final 34 seconds. That allowed Kentucky to bleed the clock before Andrew Harrison drove the lane and drew the foul with six seconds left. He cooly sunk both to send Kentucky back to the Final Four.


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[Kyle Ringo is the assistant editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at kyle.ringo@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @KyleRingo

Author: Kyle Ringo
Posted: March 29, 2015, 3:20 am

If you were keeping score at home back on March 12, you can probably rattle off the exact order of events and appearances made by actor Will Ferrell during his five-stadium Cactus League tour. In one day, Ferrell achieved his goal of playing 10 different positions for 10 major league teams, and in the process raised an estimated $1 million for Cancer for College and Stand Up to Cancer.  

The stunt was created for the right reasons. It didn't interfere with any meaningful games or take away opportunities from upcoming players. And overall, it made for a unique baseball experience and a fun break from the usually mundane routines of spring training. It was pretty much impossible to find a reason to hate the idea or its execution, even if you might be growing tired of Ferrell's comedic stylings.

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Unless, of course, you're Hall of Fame football coach and retired television analyst John Madden. Then you hated it

"I hate it," Madden told KCBS 740 in San Francisco. "That's a lack of respect, that's a lack of respect for the game, I think, and a respect for what players have to do to get where they are."

Bah, humbug!

Those comments were actually made the day of the event, so they've been out there for a couple weeks. But it wasn't until Ferrell's appearance on "Conan" on Friday night that we finally got a response.  

“First of all, he’s right. Look at me. I’m all about lack of respect. I don’t think the interviewer told him it was all for charity, number one, but I do love that in his mind he just thought I was just like ‘Major League Baseball, I want to play in 10 different games for 10 different teams. I want to do it Thursday! Because I’m a big shot, and make it happen now!’ Like I’m Veruca Salt. So he’s like ‘this Will Ferrell thinks he can just insert himself into big league games.”

(USA TODAY Sports)
As Ferrell indicates, Madden probably hated it because he just didn't get it. Nobody bothered explaining what the mission was, so he'd just assumed Ferrell and Major League Baseball were conspiring to sell out the game in order to promote a movie or an HBO special or whatever else Ferrell had going on.  

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Honestly, it's quite a reach to find that conclusion even without all the facts, but if Ferrell's giving Madden the benefit of the doubt we should too. 

By the way, just so there's no confusion here, Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon absolutely loved the idea. Otherwise, how could we explain this?

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BLS H/N: For The Win

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Mark Townsend is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at bigleaguestew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Townie813

Author: Mark Townsend
Posted: March 29, 2015, 2:08 am
Wisconsin forward Sam Dekker (15) celebrates after Wisconsin beat Arizona 85-78 in a college basketball regional final in the NCAA Tournament, Saturday, March 28, 2015, in Los Angeles. Wisconsin advances to the Final Four in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

After limping to a three-point halftime deficit against No. 2 seed Arizona, the top-seeded Wisconsin Badgers shot a blistering 78.9 percent from the field (15-of-19) and 83.3 percent from 3-point line (10-of-12) in the second half to blow past the Wildcats, 85-78, and back into the Final Four for the second straight season.

Much like in its Sweet 16 win over North Carolina, it was Frank Kaminsky and Sam Dekker leading the way for the Badgers. Kaminsky dominated on the low post, scoring a game-high 29 points while drilling 10-of-12 from the free-throw line. Meanwhile, Dekker knocked down 5-of-6 shots from long distance and scored a career-high 27 points on only 11 shots.

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It was Kaminsky who helped the Badgers jump out to a lead in the second half, but it was Dekker who sealed the deal. Dekker’s second-half performance looked like something out of a video game. He didn’t miss; knocking down all six shots he took from the field (including five 3-pointers) and going 3-for-3 from the line.

In addition to Kaminsky and Dekker, senior Josh Gasser and sophomore Nigel Hayes pitched in with 10 and eight points, respectively, and each knocked down a pair of treys.

In a game that was played almost a year to the day of Wisconsin’s Elite Eight win over the Wildcats in last year’s tournament, the Badgers put up the most points against Arizona in more than two years – when USC put up 89 on the Cats on Feb. 27, 2013.

Though it seemed like Wisconsin couldn’t miss, Arizona never folded and hung tough – predominantly from the free-throw line. The Badgers’ lead grew as large as 11 late in the second half, but the Wildcats hit 20-of-22 free throws in the second half (28-of-30 for the game) to stay within striking distance.

Arizona, who were led by Brandon Ashley and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson with 17 points apiece, even cut the lead down to five with under a minute to go, but Wildcats coach Sean Miller curiously didn’t instruct his team to put the Badgers on the free-throw line. That allowed the Badgers to let the shot clock wind down before Dekker hit a high-arcing three with 20 seconds left to seal the victory.

The Badgers’ impressive win sets up a Final Four showdown against the winner of Saturday night’s matchup between No. 3 seed Notre Dame and undefeated Kentucky, the tournament’s top seed.

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Sam Cooper is a contributor for the Yahoo Sports blogs. Have a tip? Email him or follow him on Twitter!

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Author: Sam Cooper
Posted: March 29, 2015, 12:49 am

New Jersey republican Gov. Chris Christie hasn't said whether he plans to run for president in 2016. If he does, he might now receive fewer votes in the state of Kentucky than he otherwise would have. 

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Christie was in Cleveland on Saturday where he attended the Elite Eight NCAA tournament game between undefeated Kentucky and Notre Dame wearing Fighting Irish colors. Christie is Catholic and his daughter, Sarah, is a freshman at Notre Dame. So maybe folks in Kentucky will give him a break. Probably not. 

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie in the house to cheer on the Irish. pic.twitter.com/ARucAfZMHV

— Angelo Di Carlo (@angdicarlowndu) March 29, 2015

Chris Christie at the UK game wearing a Notre Dame hoodie pic.twitter.com/zNjpCnZvP0

— Matt Jones (@KySportsRadio) March 28, 2015

Christie is a big sports fan. He attended a Dallas Cowboys game in December to support his friend, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones. He also attended a playoff game between the Cowboys and Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field and received plenty of feedback from the people of Wisconsin and their respresentatives. 

Maybe Christie heard 'America's team' was playing Saturday and got confused. The Cowboys have been known by the nickname for decades. Notre Dame coach Mike Brey borrowed it Friday that his team would be 'America's team' against the Wildcats who haven't lost a game since last season's national title game against UConn.

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[Kyle Ringo is the assistant editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at kyle.ringo@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @KyleRingo

Author: Kyle Ringo
Posted: March 29, 2015, 12:49 am
Mar 6, 2015; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indiana Pacers fans celebrate the Pacers' victory during a game against the Chicago Bulls at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Indiana defeats Chicago 98-84. (Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports)

The state of Indiana and its governor Mike Pence have received substantial criticism over this week for the passage and signing of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a law that keeps state and local government from prohibiting individuals and businesses from expressing strongly held religious beliefs. Critics believe that the measure provides cover for discrimination against and denial of service to LGBT individuals in practice, among other concerns. Many individual organizations have spoken out against the measure, including the Indianapolis-headquartered NCAA, which will also hold the Men's Basketball Final Four in the city next weekend. President Mark Emmert clearly expressed his displeasure with the law on Thursday, reiterating its commitment to welcoming all people to its tournaments and events.

The NBA has now joined the NCAA with a statement of its own. In a joint press release issued Saturday, the NBA, Indiana Pacers, WNBA, and Indiana Fever made it clear that they will continue to welcome all manner of paying costumers. Here is the full text:

The following joint statement was issued today by the NBA, WNBA, Indiana Pacers and Indiana Fever in regard to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act recently signed into law in Indiana:
“The game of basketball is grounded in long established principles of inclusion and mutual respect. We will continue to ensure that all fans, players and employees feel welcome at all NBA and WNBA events in Indiana and elsewhere.”
Additionally, Pacers and Fever owner Herb Simon stated:
“The Indiana Pacers, Indiana Fever and Bankers Life Fieldhouse have the strongest possible commitment to inclusion and non-discrimination on any basis. Everyone is always welcome at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. That has always been the policy from the very beginning of the Simon family’s involvement and it always will be.”

While these statements do not explicitly deride the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the implication is that the NBA does not support any attempt to discriminate against certain groups of fans or players. This news should not come as a great shock — the league fully supported veteran big man Jason Collins when he came out as a gay man in April 2013 and has typically been one of the most progressive sports leagues in the United States in terms of supporting LGBT rights. This press release does not represent a new line of thinking for the league and its franchises — it is a continuation of commonly expressed beliefs.

Similarly, the Pacers are not the first NBA team to come out against a bill in the state legislature. The Phoenix Suns and managing partner Robert Sarver opted to wear their "Los Suns" jerseys during the Western Conference Finals in 2010 to support fans and residents in the face of Senate Bill 1070, which encouraged racial profiling in the enforcement of immigration laws.

Hall of Famers and current Turner Sports commentators Charles Barkley and Reggie Miller expressed their own distaste for Indiana's RFRA earlier this week, with the former stating that the Final Four should be moved and the latter, the best player in Pacers history, expressed disappointment in what he still referred to as his "adopted home state."

The NBA and the Pacers will likely see some backlash for their official statement, but, as Yahoo's own Dan Wetzel wrote on Friday, such points of view occupy the fringes of the political spectrum with increasing regularity. While roughly 19 other states have similar laws, governor Jan Brewer vetoed Arizona's version of the bill in 2014 over concerns that it would bring shame upon the state. Perhaps Pence should have done the same.

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Eric Freeman is a writer for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at efreeman_ysports@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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Author: Eric Freeman
Posted: March 29, 2015, 12:20 am

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There's midseason form and then there's Mike Trout's advanced version of midseason form that only the man himself can achieve. On Saturday, we were fortunate enough to experience the latter during the Angels 5-4 loss to the Dodgers. 

In one afternoon at his Arizona office in Tempe, Trout took an apparent Dodgers' home run off the board with a leaping catch at the fence, and then a few short innings he put a home run on the board with an absolute rocket to left-center field. 

First, let's dicuss the robbery. 

In the very first inning, Trout glided back to the deepest part of the ballpark at Tempe Diablo Stadium and then timed his leap beautifully to take away what we're fairly certain would have been a home run from Alex Guerrero. Sometimes it's difficult to tell where exactly the ball was caught in relation to the wall from the front and side camera angles, but at worst he robbed a triple because that's a long way from home plate and Guerrero has some decent speed. 

It wouldn't rank all that close to the top of his all-time greatest catches, many of which have been home run robberies. But it definitely stands out from the pack in March.

As for the home run. 

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That was a no doubter off Dodgers starter Dustin McGowan.

One can safely assume we'll see plenty more just like that this season, and perhaps a few more hugs as well.

Your browser does not support iframes. Great catches, home runs and hugs. All in a day's work for Mike Trout.

And he even had time left to tweet about basketball. 

Wisconsin can shoot !!!! #MarchMadness

— Mike Trout (@Trouty20) March 28, 2015

BLS H/N: Cut 4

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Mark Townsend is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at bigleaguestew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Townie813

Author: Mark Townsend
Posted: March 28, 2015, 11:56 pm

Goalie goals are always fun. Announcers who wildly call goals are also incredibly fun. On Saturday, the Finnish second-tier Mestis league playoff game between TUTO and KooKoo — amazing team names, eh? — provided us with both.

As TUTO held a 2-0 lead in the third period, KooKoo pulled their goaltender to try and get back into the game. KooKoo won the center ice face-off and their defenseman dumped the puck in. Minnesota Wild goalie prospect Kaapo Kahkonen corralled it behind his net and saw he had all the time in the world. 

That’s when the play-by-play man realized what was about to happen: 

Now, goalie goals are pretty rare, and we usually see a wilder celebration than what Kahkonen and his teammates did; but the call of the goal was definitely on the level of Reto Berra’s celebration when he scored one himself in the AHL in January.

TUTO would hold on for a 3-0 win and now lead the series three games to one.

"Clean Sheet and a goal, so it wasn't that bad," Kahkonen joked afterward.

The goal wasn't a first for Kahkonen. He actually scored one in junior, but as he revealed postgame, there is no video, so we'll just take his word for it.

Stick-tap Eye on Hockey

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Sean Leahy is the associate editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Sean_Leahy


Author: Sean Leahy
Posted: March 28, 2015, 10:30 pm

Head coach Rick Barnes of the Texas Longhorns reacts in the second half against the Butler Bulldogs during the second round of the 2015 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament on March 19, 2015 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.The Rick Barnes era is reportedly over at Texas.

Multiple outlets are reporting that Barnes has been fired after 17 seasons with the program. Barnes, the winningest coach in Texas history, went 402-180 during his tenure and led the Longhorns to NCAA tournament appearances in 16 of his 17 seasons with the program, most recently losing to Butler in the first round last Thursday. The Longhorns also reached the Final Four in 2003 and made two Elite Eight experiences under Barnes.

According to ESPN’s Jeff Goodman, athletic director Steve Patterson informed Barnes of the school’s decision to let him go.

The Austin American-Statesman is reporting that school officials “reached their final decision” on Saturday and “plan on making an announcement either Sunday or Monday.” Additionally, the school hopes to hire Barnes’ replacement “within a week,” per the Statesman.

The Statesman also reported that Patterson met with Barnes in person “at least twice” since the Butler loss and asked Barnes to make changes to his staff.

Goodman pointed toward VCU’s Shaka Smart and Wichita State’s Gregg Marshall as potential candidates. Marshall has also been connected to the opening at Alabama in the past week. NBC Sports’ Rob Dauster also named Virginia Tech coach Buzz Williams as a potential candidate.

After a 24-11 campaign in 2013 (which earned Barnes a two-year contract extension), expectations were high for the Longhorns headed into this season. However, the team was plagued by inconsistent play and finished 20-14 overall and finished sixth in the Big 12 with an 8-10 conference record.

Barnes was the head coach at Clemson, Providence and George Mason before his time at Texas. He also served as an assistant at Ohio State, Alabama, George Mason and Davidson. 

According to NBC Sports, Barnes could be a candidate for the opening at Tennessee after Donnie Tyndall was fired on Friday. 

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Author: Sam Cooper
Posted: March 28, 2015, 10:21 pm

Saturday was a bad day to be a baseball in Florida

In particular, the baseball that met the bat of New York Yankees slugger Alex Rodriguez had a rough ride out of George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, but at least it had a good view. 

The home run was Rodriguez's third of the spring and it was easily his most impressive. 

Rodriguez was sitting first-pitch baseball and got a first-pitch fastball from Baltimore Orioles left-hander Brian Matusz, and then confirmed he still has the bat speed to square up a fastball and hit it a long ways.

As many people have described it, it was a vintage A-Rod home run that absolutely exploded off his bat, which has to be viewed as an encouraging sign for anybody with a vested interest in the Yankees. 

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Overall, Rodriguez is hitting .306 on the spring with the three homers and a double. He's shown excellent plate discipline as well, and with each passing day he seems more comfortable at the plate. He's making a strong case to be Joe Girardi's full-time designated hitter.

At this point, the main concerns with A-Rod might come down to durability and versatility. With that in mind, Girardi plans on giving A-Rod his first look at first base on Sunday. He's tentatively scheduled to play five innings, and it's hoped he'll eventually prove to be a realistic emergency option behind Mark Teixeira and Garrett Jones. A-Rod has been receptive to the idea as well, because it could give him another path to Girardi's lineup aside from DH and third base. 

Our suggestion: Just keep hitting titanic home runs, A-Rod. That is your surest ticket to 140 games. 

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Mark Townsend is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at bigleaguestew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Townie813

Author: Mark Townsend
Posted: March 28, 2015, 10:14 pm

A car crashed in an endurance race at the Nurburgring Nordschliefe in Germany on Saturday, flipping over a fence and killing at least one spectator and injuring others.

The car, driven by Jann Mardenborough, became vertical as it lost control. He then flipped over the catchfence after impact with the tire barriers in front of the wall. Here's video of the crash. You do not see the car land on the other side of the track. It then cuts to Mardenborough out of the car and a crowd around the scene.

The race was the first of the VLN Endurance Championship Nurburgring. Here's a statement from the VLN via Autosport:

"The opening round of the VLN Endurance Championship at the Nurburgring was marred by an accident on Saturday which injured several spectators.

"One of the spectators died, despite the immediate actions of the rescue crew in the medical centre at the circuit.

"The other injured spectators have been taken to hospital for ongoing medical care.

"The race was stopped to give emergency crew quick access to the circuit, and wasn't restarted.

"The accident occurred in the Flugplatz part of the circuit, with a competitor leaving the circuit for a yet unspecified reason and finishing up behind the safety fencing.

"The VLN and the organisers are deeply saddened by the accident, and their thoughts are with the families and friends of the victims."

The VLN series is a 10-race series at Nurburgring involving both amateurs and professional drivers. The Nissan was reportedly entered in the race to prepare for the 24-hour race at the track, which is considered one of the most dangerous in the world.

Mardenborough, 23, got his start in racing by winning a video game contest in 2011 and last year won a GP3 race. GP3 is a lower-level series to Formula 1.

Nissan Motorsport (NISMO), said it was cooperating with the investigation of the accident.

The driver, Jann Mardenborough got out of the car and, after initial checks in the circuit Medical Centre, has been taken to hospital for further routine checks.Today's events have been a tragedy. We are all deeply shocked and saddened by these events and our immediate thoughts go to the deceased, those injured and their families and friends.The team is fully co-operating with the race organisers to conduct an immediate and thorough investigation into this incident.

In 2013, Kyle Larson's car flipped into the catchfence at Daytona International Speedway in an Xfinity Series race. The debris from the multi-car crash injured over 20 fans and crews worked the majority of the next night to fix the fence for the Daytona 500.

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Nick Bromberg is the editor of From The Marbles on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at nickbromberg@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: March 28, 2015, 9:19 pm

This has been the year of the emergency backup goaltender – because starters seem to always get injured and forced these 40-something dudes into awkward bench photo ops.

From Robb Tallas to Arturs Irbe, to Dwayne Roloson … it has happened too many times. But has been equally hilarious in every situation. Behold the above glory of Bruins goaltending coach Bob Essensa on the bench in a game against the New York Rangers.

And another great, and closer, shot of Essensa (s/t Jeff Paterson)

Photo via Jeff Paterson on Twitter

He’s 50 years old, and started 67 games for the Winnipeg Jets in 1992-93. His last NHL action came in 2001-02 when he played nine games with the Buffalo Sabres and notched a 2.91 goals against average and .850 save percentage. Tuukka Rask left the game in the second period due to dehydration and could not return.

Boston won 4-2, backup Niklas Svedberg stopped 16 of 18 shots on goal in relief of Rask. And most importantly, didn't get hurt.

Said Essensa to Matt Kalman of The Bruins Blog:

"They barely got me under the [salary] cap. We were negotiating for half a period."

While this whole situation is obviously hilarious, it is something that needs to be addressed, especially after Tallas was almost thrust into action with Florida earlier in the season. But until then, let us continue to mock and enjoy ...

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Josh Cooper is an editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @joshuacooper


Author: Josh Cooper
Posted: March 28, 2015, 9:18 pm

Penguins defenseman Kris Letang was taken to the hospital after a collision with Shane Doan in Pittsburgh’s Saturday game against the Arizona Coyotes. This came after the below late hit by Arizona forward Shane Doan in a 3-2 Pittsburgh win.

The video:

Said Penguins defenseman Ian Cole to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review’s Josh Yohe in the locker room after the game.

"Doan was running around like an idiot today."

Letang has a history of concussions and also has come back from a stroke. The look on his face after the play was just scary. And Doan ... what's the point of finishing that check? He didn't have the puck, and it was clear and obvious that he didn't. He was not given a penalty on the play.

Doan is one of those players who ‘plays the game hard’ but really has had some moments where he has made some dirty plays in his career. Though he often expresses a great amount of remorse afterwards as he did Saturday.

Said Doan to the Arizona Republic’s Sarah McLellan:

"That’s awful. When it happened, I could tell the way he went into the boards was awkward."

"I just went to make sure I got a piece of him so he couldn't jump by me. ... We have to finish our check on him."

"You never ever want to see anybody like that, especially a guy of his caliber and obviously everything he's went through."

Still, rules are rules. The hit was late. It was forceful, and it was unnecessary. Is this Department of Player Safety worthy … sure seems so.

According to TSN's Bob McKenzie, Letang will stay overnight at the hospital for observation. Between Olli Maatta (out for the season with shoulder surgery following thyroid cancer), Christan Ehrhoff (upper body injury) and now Letang, the Pens are looking thin on the blueline. But again, most importantly in this situation is Letang's health, just because that looked pretty scary.

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Josh Cooper is an editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @joshuacooper


Author: Josh Cooper
Posted: March 28, 2015, 8:55 pm

Dec 6, 2014; Atlanta, GA, USA; Missouri Tigers wide receiver Jimmie Hunt (88) catches a pass against Alabama Crimson Tide defensive back Geno Smith (24) in the third quarter of the 2014 SEC Championship at the Georgia Dome. (Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports)Alabama senior defensive back Geno Smith was arrested early Saturday morning for driving under the influence. This is the second time Smith, a projected starter at free safety, has been arrested for DUI during his time at Alabama.

The 6-foot, 197-pound Smith was previously arrested in August 2013 and was suspended for the opening game of that season. According to Al.com, Smith remained in Tuscaloosa County Jail as of “early Saturday afternoon” and missed the Crimson Tide’s fifth practice of the spring.

Smith started six games for the Crimson Tide last season and was fifth on the team with 56 tackles. Smith provided depth at both cornerback and safety in 2013, registering 10 tackles and four pass breakups in 12 games played. He also played in 13 games as a freshman in 2012 and finished with nine tackles.

He has started eight games total in his career.

Smith was the favorite to replace Nick Perry at free safety for the Tide this season and has been practicing with the first team during the spring, per Al.com.

The program has not yet commented on Smith’s arrest or status with the program.

For more Alabama news, visit TideSports.com.

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Sam Cooper is a contributor for the Yahoo Sports blogs. Have a tip? Email him or follow him on Twitter!

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Author: Sam Cooper
Posted: March 28, 2015, 8:46 pm

As a baseball player, Ichiro Suzuki is simply one of the best we've seen in the past 20 years. No one could possibly deny that. As a provider of memorable quotes, however, he just might be the most underrated athlete in the entire professional sports landscape.

Lines like “If I'm in a slump, I ask myself for advice” and “I'll walk on my hands before I use crutches,” rank pretty closely with baseball's most quirky and quotable legends, such as Yogi Berra and Casey Stengel. He's a really clever guy whose sense of humor and undeniable charm translate well in any language or walk of life. He's just Ichiro, and that's always good enough for us.

Perhaps that was good enough for the Miami Marlins as well. Back on Jan. 23, they reached a one-year agreement with the 41-year-old outfielder that will allow him to continue his career in the United States and continue his quest for 3,000 hits in Major League Baseball. 

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The deal came at a time when Ichiro was seriously wondering if a market would ever develop for his services. He was working out back in Japan, waiting and waiting and waiting for nearly three months for the phone to ring with a major league offer. It was an experience unlike any other he'd had in baseball, because after all, this is Ichiro, a sure-fire Hall of Famer whenever he decides to hang it up. And as only Ichiro can, he was able to sum up his experience with a most unique comparison. 

From the Wall Street Journal: 

“That must be what it feels like to be a puppy at a pet shop,” Ichiro explained in his unique style. “Amongst all the cute little puppies jumping and tumbling for prospective owners, there’s one who’s a little older, a little more mature, who keeps getting passed over for the more adorable ones. When someone finally comes along and points a finger at him, an undying loyalty is born.”

We never thought of it that way, but that's about as good and adorable a description as one could possibly come up with.

Marlins: "How much is that doggy in the window?"

Ichiro's agent: "Oh, let's say $2 million for one year."

Marlins: "We'll take him!" 

Of course, the Marlins already feature an impressive group of young pups, particularly in their outfield. In fact, Giancarlo Statnon, Marcell Ozuna and Christian Yelich make up perhaps the most talented young outfield in the entire National League, which means Ichiro will be relegated to the experienced backup role. 

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Really, it's not a bad gig for Ichiro to have at this stage in his career. For the Marlins, though, it's an exceptional deal because he'll be a great source of knowledge for those young guys in terms of not only playing the game, but also preparing for the game day in and day out. That's perhaps the most impressive thing about Ichiro. No one has ever outworked him, and helping to instill that mindset on those blooming talents could make his impact on the Marlins last far beyond the one year. 

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Mark Townsend is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at bigleaguestew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Townie813

Author: Mark Townsend
Posted: March 28, 2015, 6:50 pm

The question about Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota is how he’ll transition to the NFL.

Mariota, like all quarterbacks from spread college offenses, is a bit more of a complicated projection. The game he played at Oregon will not be the same game he plays in the NFL. There will be a three-step, five-step, seven-step drop foundation he’ll need to learn. Even if the Philadelphia Eagles and former Oregon coach Chip Kelly end up drafting Mariota, it will be a different game for him than he's used to.

Mariota was very comfortable in Oregon offense. He understood and executed the concepts at high efficiency with great confidence. But does he have to run that offense in the NFL to be successful?

Mariota’s mobility and ability to make plays outside of structure will help him early in his career, but he will face the same issue all scheme-based spread quarterbacks ultimately must deal with: Can he become a refined pocket quarterback with the subtle nuanced traits that are demanded to play consistently over time? We don’t know that yet, and neither do the NFL teams studying him. What we can do is look at Mariota’s skills from his college film and see what he does well and what he needs work on.

Everyone knows Mariota has great running ability; his athletic ability really isn’t in question. But let’s look at three areas that will be important to him in his NFL transition, and the things he does well and things he’ll need to work on (and remember, all NFL draft prospects come in with things to work on, Mariota can improve in every area that needs work):


One thing that stood out is an excellent ball position on his drop. He has a quick compact delivery that at times was reminiscent of Dan Marino’s delivery.

He has light feet on his drop and set. He‘s a real quick-twitch athlete, and as such he can extend plays and create.

Mariota is a little bit of a short-armer on intermediate throws. There was not a lot of arm extension. Some deeper intermediate throws lost energy on the back end.

His interception to Stanford’s Alex Carter is a great example. You can see the play at 35 seconds on this clip:

(YouTube screen shot)

(YouTube screen shot)

(YouTube screen shot)

Mariota does not consistently bring his hips through his throws, which makes him more of a touch thrower than a power thrower. Which brings us to …

Arm strength

Mariota’s arm strength must be researched. Within the context of the Oregon offense he’s more of a touch thrower than someone who can drive the ball, although he’s good at touch passes. He showed the ability to make firm touch seam throws that are a staple of NFL passing games. He showed the ability to throw with precise ball location on touch throws; that’s the strength of his game. He also is very good at throwing between the numbers.


Mariota did consistently throw to open receivers, so you could not see much of the anticipation throws or tight window throws that are necessary in the NFL. He does throw with consistent velocity and accuracy at the intermediate levels, with a snap delivery without exerting much energy. He also has an outstanding ability to throw on the move, both to his right and left; while he showed the vision and spatial awareness to locate receivers and make throws off improvised movement. But he was a hitch thrower, meaning he needed to plant and hitch to drive the ball. He did not drive the ball sitting on his back foot. He’ll need to do that at times in the NFL.

Pocket presence

This is hard to evaluate because progression passing is not a true foundation of the Oregon pass game.

Mariota’s poise in the pocket is a question. He is not a naturally comfortable pocket quarterback. He must develop more comfortable and composed pocket movement, to slow down his feet and keep his eyes focused downfield as opposed to seeing and reading the rush. Mariota had a tendency to come off primary read too quickly if he did not see it as clearly defined, and there was also a tendency at times to leave the pocket early and play to his legs. Again, that might be a function of the Oregon pass game. What Mariota is used to is a precisely timed pass game with the ball out quickly to schemed open receivers. In the NFL, he’ll need to work on his progression reading and be patient in the pocket.

He’s not a late-in-the-down pocket quarterback at this point. Can that be taught at the NFL level or will he leave the pocket and rely on his legs? Does Mariota need throws to be defined to turn it loose? These are questions you need to have an answer for.


There were three things I didn’t see much of at all from Mariota: Muddied pocket throws (a couple here and there when the pocket was not clean around him), anticipation throws and tight-window throws. How important is that to an evaluator?

These are things that Mariota can work on in the NFL. But you will see designed movement and read option as featured parts of the offense whichever team drafts Mariota. That puts tremendous stress on the defense and plays to Mariota’s strengths. We’ll see through the years if he can progress and become an effective NFL passer.

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NFL analyst and NFL Films senior producer Greg Cosell watches as much NFL game film as anyone. Throughout the season, Cosell will join Shutdown Corner to share his observations on the teams, schemes and personnel from around the league.

Author: Greg Cosell
Posted: March 28, 2015, 5:01 pm

If you had March 28 as the first day we'd truly question something Alex Rodriguez did on or off the field this spring, you'd be rolling in a lot of money.

Things have been going very smoothly for A-Rod on basically every level, and they've gone especially well for him on the field. Well enough, in fact, that he may have the inside track to become the Yankees full-time designated hitter.

That's a decision that will ultimately come down to manager Joe Girardi, with perhaps some influence from general manager Brian Cashman and others in the Yankees front office. Unfortunately, none of the above had any say over A-Rod's decision to challenge the cannon that long-time major league outfielder Jeff Francoeur possesses for a right arm during Friday's game in Clearwater.

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If only A-Rod was ten years younger and ten years healthier, that would have been far less embarrassing. He still would have been out, possibliy with a cringe-worthy and potentially injury-inducing slide, so it's probably a good thing he's actually not ten years younger. 

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A quick glance on the scouting report wouldn't have hurt either. This wasn't Francoeur's first major league assist, and he's working hard to make sure it's not his last for the Phillies.

At 31, Francoeur's looking to make Philadelphia's rebuilding roster as a reserve outfielder after spending two seasons in limbo, bouncing back and forth between the majors and minors with the Kansas City Royals, San Francisco Giants and San Diego Padres. He even made a few relief appearances for San Diego's Triple-A affiliate last season looking to carve out a niche in that role.

No doubt, Francoeur brings an interesting skill set if he could put everything together at once. He hit 29 home runs for the Atlanta Braves in 2006. He posted a .311 batting average in 75 games for the New York Mets in 2010. He stole 22 bases for the Royals in 2011. He has perhaps the strongest outfield arm in the game. And he seems like a good guy to have around the clubhouse.

Hopefully we'll be seeing more of all those skills in the coming months. It could make for a fun story

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Mark Townsend is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at bigleaguestew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Townie813

Author: Mark Townsend
Posted: March 28, 2015, 4:56 pm

Tom Brady has given the New England Patriots several friendly bargains with his contract. Perhaps one concession written into his deal is that he can perform wild and acrobatic activities off the field, and Bill Belichick and Robert Kraft can't say anything about it.

Watch as Brady frightens Patriots Nation here, posting a video to his Facebook page (click the photo on top) of him cliff diving in — we believe — Costa Rica, where he's vacationing with his family. The jump, which is set to the Superman soundtrack, appears to be well over 30 feet — quite frightening.

Brady just sent fans into a tizzy. Naturally, he lived to tell the tale and post the video, along with a funny caption: "Never doing that again! #AirBrady"

That's Belichick's hope, anyway. The fans of New England, too, could use some reassurance on this front as well.

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Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at edholm@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Eric_Edholm

Author: Eric Edholm
Posted: March 28, 2015, 4:56 pm

Anyone who has ever attempted to put together a mock draft knows that there are a handful of teams whose picks represent flashpoint moments in the draft.

Think back to last year. The Jacksonville Jaguars taking Blake Bortles third overall was the first bolt out of the blue, and it helped set the table for the rest of the first round.

Then there are the trades. The Cleveland Browns shifted up, down and around the first round (and elsewhere) and easily became one of the pivotal, first-round shaping teams last season. (Which is different from being effective drafters, but that's another point.)

There are a handful of teams who can change the tide of Round 1 on April 30 — either by making surprising picks or by making moves up or down that could shift the landscape significantly. We might not know what the effect of these plate tectonics might be, but we certainly can see where the fault lines might lie.

Here's a look at the teams that significantly could alter how the top of the draft is shaped:

Tennessee Titans (No. 2 overall pick) — Ken Whisenhunt's professed love for Marcus Mariota felt a little ingenuine to us, but we also can buy into the idea that Zach Mettenberger might not represent their vision of a franchise quarterback either. Those things are mutually exclusive. The second pick is for sale, but how high is their price? The Titans' biggest need — outside of quarterback, that is — is talent. Jim Schwartz used this line when he took over the 0-16 Detroit Lions, and we're going to steal it and stamp it here, too. The Titans are starting to forge the broad strokes of a decent front seven on defense, they have a few OK receivers and some offensive linemen worth working around. Other than that, it's an ugly roster. Depending on what they do, whether it's trade down, take Mariota or fall back on Leonard Williams, could help shape other teams' pursuit of quarterbacks in this draft.

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Washington Redskins (No. 5 overall pick) — We like that the Redskins have been active in free agency, but not active in a "Daniel Snyder is crazy" kind of way. New GM Scot McCloughan is one of the keenest talent evaluators in the game, and he knows the value of picks. That's why we believe any team seeking to move up for Mariota (or whomever else) could really start in earnest at No. 5 overall. That's where the Redskins' pick should be for sale. Really, their needs don't quite sync up perfectly with the talent available, so a move down makes a ton of sense. If they stay put, is it an edge rusher? If so, which one? We assume they'll lean toward either Dante Fowler Jr. or Vic Beasley, whichever one the Jacksonville Jaguars do not take third. But the Redskins are a wildcard factor in the big picture for sure. Why else? Well, we also can't rule out them taking a quarterback. Ah, the Redskins — always fascinating.

New York Jets (No. 6 overall pick) — They, too, will consider Mariota. The Jets are sending six key decision makers Saturday up to Oregon to meet with the quarterback and try to decide if he's worth their investment. Otherwise, they could be the trade-up destination for another team should he still be on the board at 6. And like the Redskins, the Jets have their eyes on the edge-rush candidates; that's the one clear thing (other than maybe a rangy safety) that their defense lacks at this point. Plus, it's a first-year general manager in Mike Maccagnan, so we don't have a great feel for what direction he might go. We've had various people connect them to Todd Gurley, too, which is fascinating. Is 6 too early for him?

St. Louis Rams (No. 10 overall pick) — The Rams have drafted 28 players the past three seasons (including 13 of those picks in the first three rounds) and could stand to move up if they wanted. That said, they have a mere five selections in the draft, sending fourth- and sixth-round choices to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for safety Mark Barron. Sure, the Rams might be content at 10 and could have a choice offensive lineman — it's a need — fall into their laps, or they could even get lucky and be able to pick a top receiver, such as Amari Cooper or Kevin White, whichever one the Oakland Raiders pass on at 4. But Jeff Fisher's continual hinting that the Rams' QB picture is far from complete is intriguing, and it opens up the possibilities of what this team could do.

Cleveland Browns (Nos. 12 and 19 overall picks) — Ah, yes, the Browns once again find themselves in the draft vortex as big players yet riding that line of insanity. There's a good bet that when it's all said and done, GM Ray Farmer might not end up making picks at 12 and 19. No team has more draft cache right now than the Browns, with their 10 overall picks, including additional fourth- and sixth-round picks to play with. What confuses the matter and might not be clear until next week is whether Farmer and Co. are docked a selection for the texting-from-the-booth incident (how Browns is that, by the way?) and if it's a mid-rounder that could change their plans. Are the Browns interested in Mariota? Would they move up? Down? Could they go completely off radar altogether? They certainly are a get-your-popcorn-ready team if there ever was one on April 30.

New Orleans Saints (Nos. 13 and 31 overall picks) — The Saints own five of the top 78 picks, plus an additional fifth-rounder, amid a napalm job to half their roster — with the other half perhaps ready to be nuked as well. We've been told by league sources that the Saints "still have a big move or two" left in them, so we only can assume that they'll be big players when it comes to Round 1. The Jimmy Graham trade netted them No. 31 and the Kenny Stills deal (which we're still trying to figure out) got them another third-rounder. Everything's on the table, but we've heard they are going all in on revamping this defense and also looking to add a big receiver. The depth of the draft at those respective positions allows them to sit tight and take several good football players. But something tells us that fireworks might be afoot. They're not done blowing stuff up.

Philadelphia Eagles (No. 20 overall) — There are a handful of other teams between 13 and 20, such as the Miami Dolphins or San Diego Chargers, that are capable of shaking things up. But there will be a virtual drumroll and a tangible buzz when the Eagles find themselves on the clock. And, of course, we have no freaking clue when that actually will be. Chip Kelly is making the call on these picks now, and for all we know he could trade every pick he has; we wouldn't put it past him. Needs? They still have plenty — secondary, offensive line pass rusher, maybe receiver — the Mariota talk won't go away. It would be a profound disappointment if they stood pat at 20 and took, say, Florida State C-OG Cameron Erving. Nothing against Erving, a player we like very much. It just wouldn't be a very Kelly-ish move, right?

Baltimore Ravens (No. 26 overall) — The Ravens have 10 selections total, with extra fourth-, fifth- and sixth-round picks they can move, along with all of their own picks except in Round 7. (They also have three compensatory picks — one in Round 4, two in Round 5 — but those cannot be traded by league rules.) GM Ozzie Newsome has shown a propensity to deal, and he nailed trades up for Joe Flacco and Haloti Ngata, but not wantonly, either. Newsome has to love what he sees in front of him to move up; more likely is for them to move back if the right player isn't on his plate. But they also have some real holes on their team, one that nearly took down the New England Patriots in the playoffs and could go a long way this season if they patch up the roster smartly. Staying put at 26 could land them a receiver or cornerback or pass rusher — all areas they'd love to improve. But the Ravens also could be a team to watch for a trade, and they pick right in front of the deal-happy Dallas Cowboys at 27, which ups the stakes a tad.

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Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at edholm@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Eric_Edholm

Author: Eric Edholm
Posted: March 28, 2015, 4:31 pm

The silver lining to the NCAA tournament playing out largely as expected so far is that this weekend's Elite Eight actually lives up to its name.

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Six of the top eight teams in the final AP Top 25 are still alive and the remaining two teams are name-brand programs that have been to the Elite Eight a combined 14 times this century.

A showdown in the West Regional between top-seeded Wisconsin and second-seeded Arizona is one of the most hotly anticipated games of the tournament pitting two teams that met with a Final Four berth on the line a year ago. The Badgers rode Frank Kaminsky's 28-point performance to a one-point overtime victory last March, dooming Sean Miller to his third Elite Eight defeat in three tries and sending Bo Ryan to his first Final Four.

The South Regional clash between Duke and Gonzaga is also a blockbuster game between teams that have spent most of the season ranked in the top six nationally. The second-seeded Zags are one win away from their first Final Four in program history, but top-seeded Duke will be a formidable challenge between its array of shooters, the low-post scoring of Jahlil Okafor and the way Justise Winslow has impacted games in the NCAA tournament. 

Any game involving unbeaten Kentucky could be one-sided considering the dominance that the top-seeded Wildcats have exhibited, but at least they drew the most dangerous possible Elite Eight matchup out of any team in the South Regional.

Third-seeded Notre Dame has validated its strong season-long play with its best postseason run under Mike Brey, toppling Duke and North Carolina en route to an ACC tournament title and then validating that with an impressive NCAA tournament. Kentucky has the size and length to bludgeon the Irish on the glass, but Notre Dame's slow-paced style is conducive to its chances of an upset, as is having an array of shooters who can force some of the Wildcats' shot blockers out of the paint and open up driving lanes for Jerian Grant. 

The lone surprising Elite Eight matchup is in the East Regional, where top-seeded Villanova and second-seeded Virginia both bowed out in the round of 32. That opened the door for fourth-seeded Louisville and seventh-seeded Michigan State to shove their way within a victory of the Final Four.

The Cardinals are a more capable scoring team now than at any point in the regular season because their offense appears to run more smoothly and create better shots with Quentin Snider at point guard instead of the dismissed Chris Jones. The Spartans have benefited from senior Travis Trice playing the best basketball of his career on a big stage and from Denzel Valentine and Branden Dawson stepping up huge in supporting roles. 

The strength of this year's Elite Eight is not surprising because college basketball's upper crust has been a cut above the rest of the teams all season.

None of the top eight teams in the final AP poll had more than five losses and six had three or less. That's a rarity compared to the previous three years when at least one No. 1 seed entered the NCAA tournament with six or more losses.

The past few Elite Eights have typically featured some surprise entrants, from Dayton and UConn last March, to Wichita State in 2013, to VCU and Butler in 2011. 

This year is different. This eight truly feels elite.

Related Video:

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Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: March 28, 2015, 3:14 pm

Since we're down to the final moments of postseason life for teams in contention, Puck Daddy solemnly begins a daily countdown to annihilation.

Huge night of action in the playoffs races on Saturday night, and there are a few teams that can end any uncertainty about their participation in the postseason.

* The Canadiens would clinch a playoff berth if they defeat the Panthers in any fashion ORif the Rangers defeat the Bruins in any fashion OR if they get one point against the Panthers AND the Bruins defeat the Rangers in a shootout.
* The Ducks would clinch a playoff berth if they defeat the Islanders in any fashion OR if they lose to the Islanders in overtime or a shootout.
* The Lightning would clinch a playoff berth if they defeat the Red Wings in any fashionOR if they get one point against the Red Wings AND the Rangers defeat the Bruins in any fashion OR if the Rangers defeat the Bruins in regulation.
* The Predators would clinch a playoff berth if they defeat the Capitals in any fashion.

The St. Louis Blues can clinch with a win over the Blue Jackets.

UPDATE: The NHL lists the Blues' magic number as two, but apparently it's three, as they can't clinch tonight. 

Here are the current standings. The Death Watch tracks the final Wild Card spot and the teams that are chasing it. Their “tragic number” is the number of points gained by the final wild card team or lost by the team chasing it.

All playoff percentages are from Sports Club Stats; tragic numbers and other figures via the NHL. A team is eliminated from play-offs when their "Tragic Number" hits 0.

Here’s the Eastern Conference picture:

We added the Penguins to the Death Watch. Not because there’s a chance they’ll miss the dance, but because there’s a chance they could tumble to the Wild Card. They host Arizona tonight.

The Ottawa Senators lick their wounds after a thumping by the Rangers and travel to that empty husk known as the Toronto Maple Leafs. They lead the Bruins … well, by a game in-hand at this point. The B’s host the already-clinched Rangers, with a returning Henrik Lundqvist.

The Panthers are hanging on and face the Canadiens at Bell Centre, with the Senators waiting for them on Sunday.

Meanwhile, in the West …

The Wild’s win over the Flames on Friday solidified their standing for the playoffs; tonight, they face the LA Kings with a chance to pass the Chicago Blackhawks for third in the Central – but Chicago will have two games in-hand.

(How hilarious would it be if the Blues finish first in the Central to avoid Chicago and then end up playing Chicago in the wild card matchup? D’oh.)

The best the Kings can do tonight is tie the Canucks in points tonight, as Vancouver has the ROW advantage. Vancouver hosts Dallas in a critical game before hitting the road for four tough games.

Both Winnipeg and Calgary are off tonight.

The President’s Trophy race has the Rangers leading with 101 points and 43 ROW; Anaheim is next at 101 and 39, and both Nashville and Montreal have 100 points and 40 ROW. St. Louis (99 and 37) and Tampa Bay (99 and 44) are right there too. 


Author: Greg Wyshynski
Posted: March 28, 2015, 2:14 pm

This week, we had an opportunity to interview Arnold Palmer. Over email, Palmer discussed a variety of subjects, including the Masters, Rory McIlroy, his Arnold Palmer Invitational and a health issue he's faced with the help of Janssen Pharmaceuticals.

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Ryan Ballengee: Given all you've accomplished in your professional life, what are the goals and challenges that motivate you today?

Arnold Palmer: I still enjoy what I do. I haven’t been playing much golf and none since I dislocated my shoulder in December, but I come to the office every day. We have a lot going on right now and we’re working on some exciting projects in our businesses and charities.

Ed. Note: Last week, Palmer's golf-course design company announced plans for its first-ever Scottish course at Castle Stuart.

RB: Did you have a chance to speak with your grandson after his run at the Puerto Rico Open? If so, would you share what you said to Sam?

AP: I was disappointed that Sam could not pull out his first win there, but also proud of his playing. He was doing something right to get himself into the playoff and I’m pleased by the progress he is showing.

RB: The reaction has been mixed to Rory McIlroy's club-throwing incident at Doral. When you were in your 20s, did you ever have an incident that made you that visibly frustrated?

AP: When I was playing in a junior tournament one time, I missed a short putt and threw my putter into the trees. I went on to win the tournament and later, instead of my dad congratulating me, he told me that if I ever threw a club again, I’d never play in another golf tournament. I haven’t thrown a club since.

RB: The PGA Tour recognized the importance of the Arnold Palmer Invitational by now offering a 3-year exemption to the winner. What does that mean to you and what do you think it will mean for the long-term future of the event?

AP: Of course I’m very pleased that the PGA Tour has recognized our event in this way. I think players will give it a second look when planning their golf schedule and it will help our event remain relevant and a place where the guys want to play every year.

RB: How did you learn of the blood clot in your leg, and how were Janssen Pharmaceuticals products instrumental in your treatment?

AP: Many people don’t know that I experienced a blood clot caused by deep vein thrombosis, or DVT, which is when a blood clot forms in a deep vein in the body, often the leg or thigh. I’m fortunate that my DVT was diagnosed and treated before it led to something even more serious and that’s why I encourage people to talk to their doctor if they think something is wrong. I’ve teamed up with Janssen Pharmaceuticals to raise awareness about blood clot prevention and treatment. My story is on www.Drive4Clots.com.

RB: What was your first Masters Champions dinner like, and do you think it has evolved in the spirit Ben Hogan intended back in '52?

AP: I remember what a thrill it was to attend my first Champions Dinner. Just being in the same room with some of the guys I had admired growing up and to be there because I had won The Masters was quite an honor. I still attend the dinner every year and it is one of the highlights of my time at Augusta during Masters week.

Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

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Author: Ryan Ballengee
Posted: March 28, 2015, 1:45 pm

Butch Harmon has seen this before: A top player falling so in love with the gym that his golf game suffers.

Harmon saw that with Tiger Woods, and now he thinks he's seeing it again with world No. 1 Rory McIlroy.

"If you look at Tiger and how much stronger he got as he went on, you look at Rory the way he is now," Harmon said on the Irish radio program "Off the Ball."

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"The only caution I would give Rory is, I see a lot of pictures of him lifting a lot of very heavy weights and I think, in a way, you can almost hurt yourself in the gym if you get too bulky. Hopefully, he will keep his body tone down, more like a Dustin Johnson (a Harmon client), who’s in absolutely perfect physical shape to play golf."

McIlroy, with the help of sponsor Nike, posted a video this week of the four-time major winner's workout routine. In it, McIlroy talked about how he became dedicated to work in the gym, including using a workout as a reward for a good round on the course.

Harmon doesn't dismiss strength-training. However, Harmon, believes that training should focus on core strength -- particularly for someone like McIlroy who hits the ball so far.

He said, "That helps support your back and your back is not geared for making a golf swing thousands and thousands of times and you have to have the strength in your core to handle that."

Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

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Author: Ryan Ballengee
Posted: March 28, 2015, 1:10 pm

We at least know one thing about Tiger Woods' schedule: It won't include the Shell Houston Open.

The Friday deadline for players to commit to next week's last tournament before the Masters came and went without Woods joining the field. A rumor, albeit not a strong one, had been started suggesting Woods, seeking some kind of tournament experience before heading down Magnolia Lane, might pick the Houston Open. No dice. After all, Woods has never played in the Houston Open as a pro.

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Earlier in the week, Woods' friend Notah Begay III told 120 Sports that Woods is "50-50" to play the Masters, but that was an improvement from a 1-in-10 shot just three weeks ago. Most seem to read the tea leaves to suggest Woods won't play for a second consecutive years.

However, Woods doesn't have a specific deadline to commit to the Masters. Since a player can only get in the tournament by invitation, there are no alternates. That means Woods has until his issued tee time on Thursday to show up and register. Out of professional courtesy, Woods is expected to reveal his plans late next week.

If Woods chooses not to play at Augusta National, then, golf cannot go through this will-he-won't-he exercise every week. Rule the rest of April out if Woods is a no-show for the Masters. The next time we could expect to see Woods, who will drop out of the top 100 in the Official World Golf Ranking, is The Players Championship in early May.

Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

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Author: Ryan Ballengee
Posted: March 28, 2015, 12:58 pm

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