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BC-AP Sports Digest

December 31, 2018
BC-AP Sports Digest,2286

The supervisor is Fred Lief, followed by Doug Feinberg at 5 p.m. and Bob Lentz at 1 a.m. The New York sports desk can be reached at 800-845-8450, ext. 1630. Sports photos, ext. 1918; graphics, ext. 7636; agate, ext. 1635. For up-to-the-minute information on AP’s coverage, visit Coverage Plan at https://newsroom.ap.org For access to AP Newsroom and other technical issues, contact AP Customer Support at apcustomersupport(at)ap.org or 877-836-9477. All times EST.

Gracious winners, brave losers and a homecoming queen with a kick top the list of PodcastOne Sports Now’s most heartwarming moments of 2018. Sister Jean, the 99-year-old nun who commanded the Final Four, recounts Loyola’s improbable run and reminds us what we like most about sports. Listen at podcastonesports.com, the podcastone app and apple podcasts. https://www.podcastone.com/ap-sports-weekly-podcast

TOP STORIES

FBN--ON FOOTBALL-COACH FIRINGS

Six NFL head coaches are fired as the NFL season concludes. Four are dismissed Monday — at Denver, Miami, Cincinnati and Arizona. Two, Mike McCarthy in Green Bay and Hue Jackson in Cleveland, didn’t even make it that far. By Pro Football Writer Barry Wilner. UPCOMING: 800 words, photos by 4 p.m.

BKC--UCLA-ALFORD FIRED

LOS ANGELES — Steve Alford is fired as UCLA’s basketball coach after six seasons, with the Bruins on a four-game skid that includes losses at home to Belmont and Liberty. UCLA is 7-6 and in danger of missing the NCAA Tournament despite a talented roster. By Beth Harris. SENT: 900 words, photos.

FBC--CFP-ALABAMA-SABAN’S DRIVE

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — Nick Saban says every season starts with a boulder at the bottom of a hill, and the rest of the year is about getting it to the top. In college football, no one does that better than the Alabama coach. By Tim Reynolds. SENT: 850 words, photos.

HKN--WINTER CLASSIC PREVIEW

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — The Winter Classic is going back to college, and it’s bringing along two familiar foes. The Chicago Blackhawks face the Boston Bruins on Tuesday at Notre Dame Stadium in the 11th edition of one of the NHL’s showcase events. By Jay Cohen. UPCOMING: 600 words, photos by 6 p.m.

COMMENTARY

FBN--ON FOOTBALL-PLAYOFF PICTURE

While the Chiefs, Saints and Rams were mesmerizing pro football fans with their outlandish offensive onslaughts, something else might have gone unnoticed. More teams that failed to make the playoffs in 2017 are in this season than there are repeaters. By Pro Football Writer Barry Wilner. SENT: 700 words, photos.

AP BASKETBALL POLLS

BKC--COLLEGE BKB POLL

NEW YORK — Duke remains No. 1 in the men’s AP Top 25 poll with few major changes after a light Christmas schedule. The Blue Devils are followed by Michigan, Tennessee, Virginia and Kansas. Kentucky made the biggest jump, rising three spots to No. 13 after a win at rival Louisville. SENT: 300 words, photos. UPCOMING: 600 words, photos by 5 p.m.

BKW--WOMEN’S BKB POLL

NEW YORK — UConn, Notre Dame and Louisville remain 1-2-3 in the AP women’s rankings. Michigan State climbs six spots to No. 15 after beating Iowa. Iowa State is the lone team to join the Top 25. By Basketball Writer Doug Feinberg. SENT: 400 words, photos.

YEAR-END STORIES

YE--THINGS TO WATCH FOR IN 2019

By now, nothing that happens in sports should shock anyone. The antics of both athletes and fans in 2018 showed that, and now we brace ourselves for what 2019 will bring. Here’s a look at some of the fun that may be ahead. By Tim Dahlberg. SENT: 800 words, photos.

NFL COACHES

FBN--BENGALS-LEWIS FIRED

CINCINNATI — The Bengals fire coach Marvin Lewis, ending a 16-year stay in Cincinnati that included seven playoff appearances without so much as one win. Only New England’s Bill Belichick has been longer with one team. The Bengals (6-10) just completed a third straight losing season. By Joe Kay. SENT: 850 words, photos.

FBN--BRONCOS-JOSEPH FIRED

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Vance Joseph is fired as coach of the Broncos after back-to-back double-digit losing seasons. Denver went 6-10 and Joseph is dismissed with two years and about $6 million left on his contract. By Pro Football Writer Arnie Stapleton. SENT: 550 words, photos. UPCOMING: 750 words, photos by 6 p.m.

FBN--DOLPHINS-GASE FIRED

MIAMI — Miami Dolphins coach Adam Gase is fired and executive vice president of football operations Mike Tannenbaum is demoted after the team misses the playoffs for the 15th time in 17 years. By Steven Wine. SENT: 800 words, photos.

FBN--CARDINALS-WILKS FIRED

TEMPE, Ariz. — The Cardinals dismiss coach Steve Wilks after just one season. Arizona went 3-13, the franchise’s worst record in 18 years and the worst in the NFL this season. Wilks was hired after Bruce Arians retired following five seasons in Arizona. By Bob Baum. SENT: 450 words, photos. UPCOMING: 750 words, photos by 6 p.m.

— Also:

— FBN--FALCONS-COORDINATORS FIRED — By Charles Odum. SENT: 800 words, photos.

NFL PLAYOFFS

FBN--CHIEFS-MAHOMES VALUABLE PLAYER

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Justin Houston had never heard chants of “MVP!” in the middle of a game. But with Patrick Mahomes under center for the Chiefs, the star linebacker doesn’t think Sunday will be the last time. By Dave Skretta. SENT: 900 words, photos.

FBN--TEXANS-PLAYOFFS

HOUSTON — The Houston Texans return to the playoffs Saturday for the third time in four years when they host the Indianapolis Colts in a wild-card game. The Texans have had success in this round, winning three of their previous four wild-card games. By Kristie Rieken. UPCOMING: 600 words, photos by 6 p.m.

FBN--RUST-FREE COWBOYS

DALLAS — Dak Prescott barely played in a three-week span before losing his playoff debut with the Cowboys two years ago. Rust won’t be an excuse this time in a wild-card game against Seattle. By Pro Football Writer Schuyler Dixon. UPCOMING: 650 words, photos by 5 p.m.

— Also:

— FBN--SEAHAWKS-SLUGGISH FINALE — By Tim Booth. UPCOMING: 600 words, photos by 5 p.m.

— FBN--CHARGERS-FAMILIAR FOE — By Joe Reedy. UPCOMING: 600 words, photos by 8 p.m.

— FBN--PLAYOFF-BOUND BEARS — By Andrew Seligman. UPCOMING: 600 words, photos by 6 p.m.

— FBN--SAINTS-PLAYOFF PREPARATION — By Brett Martel. UPCOMING: 650 words, photos by 6 p.m.

— FBN--NFL-ICYMI — By National Writer Eddie Pells. SENT: 800 words, photos.

— FBN--RAVENS-PLAYOFFS — UPCOMING: 600 words, photos by 5 p.m.

— FBN--RAIDERS-GM — By Pro Football Writer Josh Dubow. SENT: 600 words, photos.

— Wrapups on all teams that missed playoffs. Stories on coach firings or team hirings will stand as wrapups.

AP Sports Extra: NFL Playoffs. A paginated preview of the NFL playoffs, which start Saturday, is available in AP Newsroom by searching for “Sports Extra” under the Graphics tab. Three page sizes are available — full broadsheet, half broadsheet and tabloid — with space for local advertising or content. The pages look at the top seeds and playoff schedule. They include some content that was sent Sunday night. The next Sports Extra pages will preview the Super Bowl and will be available Jan. 23. For any questions, contact Barry Bedlan at bbedlan(at)ap.org

COLLEGE FOOTBALL

Monday Bowl Games:

FBC--HOLIDAY BOWL

SAN DIEGO — Clayton Thorson can become Northwestern’s leading passer when the Wildcats face No. 20 Utah in the Holiday Bowl. Utah coach Kyle Whittingham won’t disclose his quarterback — Tyler Huntley, coming off a broken collarbone, or redshirt freshman Jason Shelley. By Bernie Wilson. UPCOMING: 650 words, photos. Game starts 7 p.m.

FBC--LIBERTY BOWL

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — No. 24 Missouri goes for a fifth consecutive victory as it faces Oklahoma State in the Liberty Bowl. The Tigers are trying to finish in the Top 25 for the first time since 2014. Oklahoma State looks to win a bowl game for the third straight year and avoid its first losing season since 2005. By Steve Megargee. UPCOMING: 650 words, photos. Game starts 3:45 p.m.

FBC--GATOR BOWL

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — No. 21 Texas A&M and North Carolina State have won their last three games and meet for the first time in the Gator Bowl. The Aggies, led by running back Trayveon Williams, haven’t lost since Nov. 3 at Auburn. The Wolfpack’s last setback came Nov. 8 against Wake Forest. By Mark Long. UPCOMING: 650 words, photos. Game starts 7:30 p.m.

— Also:

— FBC--REDBOX BOWL — Oregon vs. Michigan State in Santa Clara, Calif. UPCOMING: 650 words, photos. Game starts 3 p.m.

— FBC--MILITARY BOWL — Virginia Tech vs. Cincinnati at Annapolis, Md. By David Ginsburg. UPCOMING: 650 words, photos. Game started noon.

— FBC--SUN BOWL — Stanford vs. Pittsburgh at El Paso, Texas. UPCOMING: 650 words, photos. Game started 2 p.m. With capsule.

Tuesday Bowl Games:

FBC--ROSE BOWL

PASADENA, Calif. — Urban Meyer sees the Rose Bowl as the ideal place to close his coaching career. The Ohio State boss is leaving after the Buckeyes (12-1) face Pac-12 champion Washington (10-3) and Chris Petersen, who is building his own legacy with much less fanfare. By Greg Beacham. UPCOMING: 750 words, photos by 6 p.m. With capsule.

FBC--SUGAR BOWL PREVIEW

NEW ORLEANS — Texas hopes to cap a surprisingly successful season with a win in the Sugar Bowl against Georgia, which is a team many thought deserved a slot in the College Football Playoff. By David Brandt. SENT: 700 words, photos. With capsule.

FBC--FIESTA BOWL PREVIEW

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Central Florida proclaimed itself the national champion after completing an undefeated season in 2017-18. The No. 7 Knights have a chance at a second self-anointed national title by beating No. 11 LSU in the Fiesta Bowl. By John Marshall. UPCOMING: 700 words, photos by 5 p.m. With capsule

— Also:

— FBC--OUTBACK BOWL PREVIEW — Iowa vs. Mississippi State at Tampa, Fla. By Steven Wine. SENT: 650 words, photos. With capsule.

— FBC--CITRUS BOWL PREVIEW — Kentucky vs. Penn State at Orlando, Fla. By Fred Goodall. UPCOMING: 600 words, photos by 6 p.m. With capsule.

NBA

BKN--GRIZZLIES-ROCKETS —

HOUSTON — James Harden and the Houston Rockets go for their fifth victory in a row when they play a Memphis Grizzlies team that has lost six of eight. Harden has scored 40 points in three consecutive games and 35 or more in seven straight. By Kristie Rieken. UPCOMING: 700 words, photos. Game starts 7 p.m.

— With:

— BKN--AROUND THE NBA — By Basketball Writer Brian Mahoney. SENT: 800 words, photos.

BKN--BUCKS AT THE TOP

MILWAUKEE — The Bucks ended 2018 with the best record in the NBA — quite the impression left by Mike Budenholzer in his first three months as the coach. Led by Giannis Antetokounmpo and a tough defense, they have won eight of 10 and lead the Central Division. By Genaro C. Armas. SENT: 650 words, photos.

SKIING

SKI--SHIFFRIN’S CHARGE

In 2018, Mikaela Shiffrin won 15 World Cup events and captured an Olympic giant slalom gold medal. Her goal for 2019 remains basic — keep doing what she’s doing. That starts Tuesday in Norway. By Pat Graham. UPCOMING: 650 words, photos by 6 p.m.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL

BKW--T25-ICYMI

Muffet McGraw earned a milestone against the school where she got her coaching start. She got her 900th victory — the fourth fastest to do so — when No. 2 Notre Dame routed Lehigh 95-68. By Basketball Writer Doug Feinberg. SENT: 900 words, photos.

TENNIS

TEN--HOPMAN CUP

PERTH, Australia — In her first competitive match since her meltdown at the U.S. Open final, Serena Williams overcomes a sluggish start to power past Maria Sakkari in straight sets at the Hopman Cup. SENT: 550 words, photos.

— Also:

— TEN--SHENZHEN OPEN — Maria Sharapova returns to competitive tennis with easy first-round win in China. SENT: 170 words, photos.

— TEN--BRISBANE INTERNATIONAL — Grigor Dimitrov, Milos Roanic reach second round in Australia. SENT: 350 words.

— TEN--ASB CLASSIC — Eugenie Bouchard starts a new season with commanding victory in New Zealand. SENT: 300 words.

FIGHTING

BOX--MAYWEATHER-NASUKAWA

SAITAMA, Japan — It took less than three minutes for Floyd Mayweather to knock down Japanese kickboxer Tenshin Nasukawa three times in a New Year’s Eve exhibition. Nasukawa’s father in the corner throws in the towel. Mayweather praises Nasukawa as a “young hungry lion” and says it’s “all about having fun.” By Yuri Kageyama. SENT: 350 words, photos.

CAPSULES

— BKN--NBA CAPSULES

— HKN--NHL CAPSULES

— FBC--BOWL CAPSULES

— BKC--T25-TOP 25 CAPSULES

— BKW--T25-TOP 25 CAPSULES

___

Monday Time Schedule (EST)

NBA

Atlanta at Indiana, 3 p.m.

Orlando at Charlotte, 6 p.m.

Boston at San Antonio, 7 p.m.

Memphis at Houston, 7 p.m.

Dallas at Oklahoma City, 8 p.m.

Minnesota at New Orleans, 8 p.m.

Golden State at Phoenix, 9 p.m.

NHL

Nashville at Washington, 12:30 p.m.

Vancouver at New Jersey, 1 p.m.

Philadelphia at Carolina, 6 p.m.

Pittsburgh at Minnesota, 6 p.m.

N.Y. Islanders at Buffalo, 6 p.m.

N.Y. Rangers at St. Louis, 7 p.m.

Ottawa at Columbus, 7 p.m.

Florida at Detroit, 7:30 p.m.

Tampa Bay at Anaheim, 8 p.m.

Los Angeles at Colorado, 8 p.m.

Montreal at Dallas, 8:30 p.m.

San Jose at Calgary, 9 p.m.

Winnipeg at Edmonton, 9 p.m.

College Football

Military Bowl at Annapolis, Md.: Cincinnati vs. Virginia Tech, noon

Sun Bowl at El Paso, Texas: Stanford vs. Pittsburgh, 2 p.m.

Redbox Bowl at Santa Clara, Calif.: Michigan State vs. Oregon, 3 p.m.

Liberty Bowl at Memphis, Tenn.: Missouri vs. Oklahoma State, 3:45 p.m.

Holiday Bowl at San Diego: Northwestern vs. Utah, 7 p.m.

Gator Bowl at Jacksonville, Fla.: NC State vs. Texas A&M, 7:30 p.m.

College Basketball (Top 25)

Men

No. 4 Virginia vs. Marshall, 1 p.m.

No. 7 Gonzaga vs. Cal State Bakersfield, 9 p.m.

Women

No. 4 Maryland vs. Rutgers, noon

No. 8 Baylor vs. Texas-Rio Grande Valley, 1 p.m.

No. 12 Minnesota at Michigan, 2 p.m.

No. 17 Gonzaga at Pepperdine, 3 p.m.

No. 20 DePaul vs. Providence, 3 p.m.

No. 24 Marquette vs. Creighton, 3 p.m.

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