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BC-AP Sports Digest

March 28, 2019

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TOP STORIES

BBO--OPENING DAY

Four-man outfields. Launch angles. A starting pitcher facing only one batter in a playoff game. Baseball is clearly far into a new age as teams prepared for this opening day. By Baseball Writer Ben Walker. SENT: 1,100 words, photos.

BKC--NCAA-TIPPING OFF

The closest thing to a long shot left in the NCAA Tournament is in the Sweet 16 for the third time in four years, made the Final Four a couple years ago and is led by a coach with almost 650 wins who has guided three programs to the dance. Next up for No. 12 seed Oregon: Virginia. By Basketball Writer Dave Skretta. UPCOMING: 900 words, photos by 4 a.m.

BBO--A CHANGING GAME

For a sport that leans so much on familiarity and tradition, baseball seems to be changing at an unusually rapid pace. Whether it’s because of new technology, new strategies or new rules, the sport could look a lot different over the next decade or so. By Baseball Writer Noah Trister.UPCOMING: 1,000 words, photos by 4 a.m.

BKC--NCAA-REGIONAL GUIDE

Last year’s NCAA Tournament was an epic ride for the underdogs, from UMBC’s historic takedown of No. 1 Virginia to Loyola-Chicago’s march to the Final Four. This year, Cinderella stayed home to get some beauty sleep. Top seeds and power programs only, please. By Basketball Writer John Marshall. SENT: 700 words, photos.

BKC--NCAA-PERFECT BRACKET

COLUMBUS, Ohio _ Gregg Nigl defied huge odds and picked every NCAA Tournament game correctly through the first two rounds. The achievement has made a national celebrity out of the 40-year-old neuropsychologist from Columbus, Ohio. He’s been on most of the major network news shows. Now Buick is going to fly him and his 9-year-old son to California to see their beloved Michigan Wolverines play in the next round. By Mitch Stacy. UPCOMING: 480 words, photos by 4 a.m.

BKC--NCAA-TOURNAMENT MONEY-BUBBLE TEAMS

RALEIGH, N.C. _ It’s a moment every year that shows March Madness has arrived: players on bubble teams nervously waiting to find out whether they’ve earned a spot in the NCAA Tournament. Their conferences wait, too, salivating at the financial jolt that comes when the right names pop up in the bracket — and maybe even make a run. By Aaron Beard and Larry Fenn. SENT: 920 words, photos.

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Data distribution: The APs is sharing more than 20 years’ worth of tournament payout data on data.world, which members can use to explore the amount a school’s wins have earned for its conference and the amount a school has received relative to its production. If your news organization is not yet licensed to access our data distribution, contact apdigitalsales@ap.org The data.world link: https://data.world/associatedpress/ncaa-conference-payouts

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SPORTS SHOWCASE

SKI--FAST FRIENDS

Ten years ago, ski racer Thomas Walsh was diagnosed with cancer that ended up taking his pelvis. By his side that day was Olympic champion Mikaela Shiffrin. She remains one of his biggest fans as Walsh rises through the ranks as a Paralympian. They’ve long been good friends, with Walsh taking some of his first lessons from Shiffrin’s mom. “He has that kind of ‘zest-for-life’ that is very rare, very contagious, and cannot be stifled. Not even by cancer,” Shiffrin said. By Pat Graham. UPCOMING: 960 words, photos by 4 a.m.

NCAA TOURNAMENT

Men:

BKC--NCAA WEST REGION PREVIEW

ANAHEIM, Calif. _ From the palm trees outside to the big men inside, the Western portion of the Sweet 16 looks strikingly familiar. Michigan’s the only team that would like for it to end the same as last year. By National Writer Eddie Pells. SENT: 810 words, photos.

BKC--NCAA-SOUTH REGION PREVIEW

LOUISVILLE, Ky. _ Top-seeded Virginia has already gone two games further than last year’s NCAA Tournament. Now in the Sweet 16, the Cavaliers aim to be more assertive against No. 12 seed Oregon. By Gary B. Graves. SENT: 800 words, photos.

BKC--NCAA-OREGON-AMIN

LOUISVILLE, Ky. _ Ehab Amin’s believes his unusual journey to the NCAA Tournament that has taken him from his home in Egypt to Wisconsin, Texas and now Oregon has been worth every second. The guard chose basketball over soccer for the chance to play some day in the tournament. He is fully embracing the moment. By Teresa M. Walker. SENT: 800 words, photos.

BKC--NCAA-DUKE-REDDISH

DURHAM, N.C. _ When Duke needs a clutch 3-pointer, the best option might be Cameron Reddish. The freshman has been solid overall, hitting one-third of his 3s — but that number jumps to 42 percent in the second halves of games that are either tied or within a possession. By Joedy McCreary. SENT: 650 words, photos.

BKC--HOUSTON’S RESURGENCE

HOUSTON _When the Houston Cougars were last in the Sweet 16 Hakeem Olajuwon starred and coach Guy V. Lewis stalked the sideline in his trademark plaid jackets. Thirty-five years later a new generation of Cougars led by Houston native Galen Robinson Jr., Armoni Brooks and Corey Davis Jr. finally have the team in the round of 16 again after decades of struggles. By Kristie Rieken. SENT: 840 words, photos.

Women:

BKW--NCAA-BAYLOR-KALANI’S FINAL CHANCE

WACO, Texas _ Kalani Brown has conference titles, NCAA trips and individual awards. The only thing missing for the 6-foot-7 senior center is a Final Four trip. By Stephen Hawkins. UPCOMING. 680 words, photos by 4 a.m.

BKW--NCAA-SOUTH CAROLINA’S CHALLENGE

COLUMBIA, S.C. _ South Carolina coach Dawn Staley doesn’t enjoy watching her last game against Baylor, even as the Gamecocks prepare for another shot at the top-seeded Lady Bears in the Sweet 16 this week. By Pete Iacobelli. SENT: 660 words, photos.

BKW--IOWA-SWEET SIXTEEN

IOWA CITY, Iowa _ Iowa reached the Sweet Sixteen in large part because of the spectacular play of Megan Gustafson. If the Hawkeyes want to go further, they’ll need Gustafson’s teammates to give her some help. By Luke Meredith. SENT: 610 words, photos.

BASEBALL

BBO--MANFRED-VETERANS

NEW YORK _ Good but unexceptional veterans must realize teams find them less valuable in the age of analytics, Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred maintained ahead of season openers. Players have expressed anger following the second straight slow free-agent market, one that saw record deals for top stars and plummeting prices for many journeymen. By Baseball Writer Ronald Blum. SENT: 800 words, photos.

BBO--VANISHING COMPLETE GAMES

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. _ The complete game is nearly completely gone from baseball. Shutouts are vanishing, too. Roughly every other game 40 years ago featured a starter who went the distance. And now? There was a complete game about once every 50 games last season. By Howard Fendrich. SENT: 1,000 words, photos.

BBA--RED SOX-MARINERS OPENER

SEATTLE _ Before the defending World Series champion Boston Red Sox take the field to begin the 2019 regular season, they’re already playing catch up in the American League race. No, really. The Red Sox are facing a two-game deficit heading into their regular-season opener against the Seattle Mariners, who are already 2-0. By Tim Booth. SENT: 780 words, photos.

BBN--BRAVES-PHILLIES OPENER

PHILADELPHIA _ Bryce Harper is the new star in Philadelphia and the Phillies can’t wait to show him off on opening day against the Atlanta Braves. By Dan Gelston. SENT: 800 words, photos.

BBN--METS-DEGROM

ARLINGTON, Va. _ All it took were some beef-and-cheese taquitos and 10-for-$2 mini-tacos from 7-Eleven to seal NL Cy Young Award winner Jacob deGrom’s $137.5 million deal with the New York Mets. OK, well, not quite. By Howard Fendrich. SENT: 700 words, photos.

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A paginated preview of the MLB season, with the first full day of regular-season games starting March 28, is available in AP Newsroom by searching for “Sports Extra” or “SE” under the Graphics tab. The pages look at some of the biggest players who have switched teams since last season as well as the top prospects and dates of note. For questions, contact Barry Bedlan at bbedlan@ap.org

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NBA

BKN--WIZARDS-SUNS

PHOENIX _ Devin Booker became the youngest player in NBA history with consecutive 50-point games, but the 22-year-old’s latest scoring binge was wasted once again by the last-place Phoenix Suns in a 124-121 loss to the Washington Wizards. SENT: 800 words, photos.

BKN--PLAYOFFS-RACE TO THE BOTTOM

MIAMI _ There’s five teams battling for three spots, all separated by two losses with two weeks left in the season. The race for the bottom of the NBA’s Eastern Conference playoff bracket pretty much is assured of going down to the wire. By Basketball Writer Tim Reynolds. SENT: 890 words, photos.

GOLF

GLF--MATCH PLAY

AUSTIN, Texas _ Six years later, the Dell Technologies Match Play was all too familiar for Tiger Woods. He was on the cusp of losing his fourth straight hole Wednesday when Woods poured in a 10-foot par putt, and Aaron Wise three-putted from 30 feet. Just like that, momentum swung in his favor. Woods won three of the next six holes and won his opening match. By Golf Writer Doug Ferguson. SENT: 940 words, photos.

_ With:

_ GLF--MATCH PLAY-WOODS _ Tiger Woods’ long-awaited return to Texas and Match Play was a winner, even it if wasn’t pretty. By Jim Vertuno. SENT: 570 words, photos.

_ GLF--MATCH PLAY-RESULTS.

NFL

FBN--INJURIES REPORT

PHOENIX _ Next to torn ACLs, the most time lost for injured NFL players is due to hamstring and lower extremity problems, of which there are far more than the major knee issue. So the NFL will place even more emphasis on examining hamstring, groin, foot, ankle and other such injuries, along with its heavy concentration on the knee. By Pro Football Writer Barry Wilner. SENT: 700 words, photos.

AUTO RACING

CAR--INDYCAR-NEW BOSS

CHARLOTTE, N.C. _ Instead of trying to be “the next George Steinbrenner,” George Steinbrenner IV is trying to be “the next Roger Penske.” He’s 22 and just became the youngest team owner to win a race in IndyCar. By AP Auto Racing Writer Jenna Fryer. SENT: 940 words, photos.

CAR--NASCAR-2020 SCHEDULE-WINNERS AND LOSERS

CHARLOTTE, N.C. _ An entire generation of NASCAR has spent its life tuned to a schedule so predictable events could be planned years in advance and race dates marked milestones. Nearly every weekend has been the same for as long as an entire generation remembers. But 2020 will be different, the first radically changed schedule in practically forever. By AP Auto Racing Writer Jenna Fryer. SENT: 1,300 words, photos.

TENNIS

TEN--MIAMI OPEN

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. _ Roger Federer will face a hectic few days if he’s going to win another Miami Open. He’s off to a good start. So now, to win what would be his fourth Miami title, Federer will have to prevail four times in a five-day span. By Tim Reynolds. SENT: 500 words, photos.

NHL

HKN--OVECHKIN AT 50

WASHINGTON _ Alex Ovechkin scores 50 goals a season so often the historical significance of it almost gets overlooked. The Washington Capitals’ captain is one away from becoming just the third NHL player with eight 50-goal seasons, joining Wayne Gretzky and Mike Bossy. If and when it happens, it’ll be just the 21st time any player has reached 50 goals in a season since Ovechkin entered the league in 2005-06. By Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno. SENT: 700 words, photos.

SOCCER

SOC--AROUND MAJOR LEAGUE SOCCER

All offseason, the Seattle Sounders vowed they would not repeat what happened a year ago when the club had an awful spring and found themselves among the worst in Major League Soccer near the midseason mark. So far, Seattle is backing up what it hoped to accomplish. By Tim Booth. SENT: 760 words, photos.

Also:

_ SOC--US-PULISIC _ Christian Pulisic has a strained right quadriceps and returned to Germany for treatment, the U.S. Soccer Federation said. SENT: 220 words, photos.

OTHER

_ BOB--SOCHI-MEDALS REALLOCATED _ Steven Holcomb is now a winner of two silver bobsled medals for the U.S. at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, a determination that has been made more than five years after those games ended and nearly two years after his death. By Tim Reynolds. SENT: 730 words.

_ ESPN-AMERICAN _ American Athletic Conference Commissioner Mike Aresco says the league’s new media rights deal with ESPN gives the AAC a platform similar to having its own branded network. By College Football Writer Ralph Russo. SENT: 530 words.

_ TYLER TRENT-PURDUE _ A memorial gate leading to the student section entrance of Purdue University’s football stadium will be built to honor Tyler Trent, the school’s superfan and cancer activist who died in January. SENT: 125 words.

CAPSULES

_ BKN--NBA CAPSULES

_ HKN--NHL CAPSULES

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Thursday Time Schedule (EDT)

BASEBALL

Baltimore at N.Y. Yankees, 1:05 p.m.

N.Y. Mets at Washington, 1:05 p.m.

St. Louis at Milwaukee, 2:10 p.m.

Atlanta at Philadelphia, 3:05 p.m.

Detroit at Toronto, 3:37 p.m.

Houston at Tampa Bay, 4:00 p.m.

Chicago Cubs at Texas, 4:05 p.m.

L.A. Angels at Oakland, 4:07 p.m.

Cleveland at Minnesota, 4:10 p.m.

Arizona at L.A. Dodgers, 4:10 p.m.

Colorado at Miami, 4:10 p.m.

Pittsburgh at Cincinnati, 4:10 p.m.

San Francisco at San Diego, 4:10 p.m.

Chicago White Sox at Kansas City, 4:15 p.m.

Boston at Seattle, 7:10 p.m.

MEN’S NCAA TOURNAMENT

(Regional Semifinals)

At Louisville, Ky.

Tennessee vs. Purdue, 7:29 p.m.

Virginia vs. Oregon, 9:57 p.m.

At Anaheim, Calif.

Gonzaga vs. Florida State, 7:09 p.m.

Michigan vs. Texas Tech, 9:39 p.m.

NBA

Brooklyn at Philadelphia, 7 p.m.

Orlando at Detroit, 7 p.m.

Dallas at Miami, 7:30 p.m.

Toronto at New York, 7:30 p.m.

Denver at Houston, 8 p.m.

L.A. Clippers at Milwaukee, 8 p.m.

Sacramento at New Orleans, 8 p.m.

Cleveland at San Antonio, 8:30 p.m.

NHL

Washington at Carolina, 7 p.m.

Montreal at Columbus, 7 p.m.

Detroit at Buffalo, 7 p.m.

Florida at Ottawa, 7:30 p.m.

N.Y. Islanders at Winnipeg, 8 p.m.

Dallas at Edmonton, 9 p.m.

Los Angeles at Vancouver, 10 p.m.

Chicago at San Jose, 10:30 p.m.