Update on the latest in sports:
C-USA hopes flex schedule means better seed, at-large bid
UNDATED (AP) — Frustrated mid-major conference officials are taking drastic action they hope will nudge the selection pendulum in their direction when it comes to NCAA Tournament at-large invitations and seeding.
Leading the way is Conference USA, which has dumped a conventional league schedule in favor of a more radical one based on results.
C-USA’s 14 teams won’t know who they’ll be playing during the final two weeks of the regular season until mid-February, when the standings will determine the final matchups. The move is to ensure the league’s best teams are playing each other in hopes of improving their tournament profiles.
A handful of other mid-major conferences are altering their league schedules in an effort to improve their NCAA Tournament success rate. Next year, the Sun Belt Conference will debut a schedule that’s very similar to C-USA’s.
Other leagues, like the West Coast Conference, which includes Gonzaga, have implemented a more predictive schedule that tries to pinpoint which teams will be good and makes sure they have a tougher league schedule with the opportunity for more quality wins.
Mid-major officials have long said it’s difficult to schedule nonconference matchups against Power Five schools, so improving their conference schedules is an attractive option to help improve their NCAA Tournament profile.
In other college basketball news:
— A matchup between Hawaii Pacific and TCU has been cancelled following the death of a Hawaii Pacific player who collapsed during a game. The basketball teams were scheduled to play Friday in Honolulu but chose to cancel the contest after 21-year-old Emil Isovic died at a hospital Wednesday. The 6-foot-4 guard from Sweden collapsed on the bench during a first-half timeout on Dec. 18 as the Sharks played Southern Nazarene. He was taken to a hospital but never regained consciousness.
— The University of Connecticut asked a judge Friday to dismiss a complaint filed by former basketball coach Kevin Ollie, who contends his firing was in part racially motivated. The school argues that the federal court doesn’t have jurisdiction and Ollie doesn’t make a specific claim under federal law in his complaint, which was filed this month. UConn fired Ollie in March after a 14-18 season, citing NCAA violations. Another hearing is set for Jan. 25.
Beckham once again out with quad, misses final 4 games
UNDATED (AP) — New York Giants star receiver Odell Beckham Jr. has been ruled out for the fourth straight game.
Coach Pat Shurmur announced Friday that Beckham will miss Sunday’s regular-season finale against Dallas with a quad injury.
Beckham sustained the injury on the final play of New York’s 25-22 loss at Philadelphia on Nov. 25.
In other NFL news:
— The New York Jets have signed wide receiver Quincy Enunwa to a contract extension, keeping one of their key offensive players who was scheduled to be a free agent. The team announced the multiyear deal Friday after its final full practice of the regular season. A person familiar with the contract tells The Associated Press the deal is worth $36 million over four years, including $20 million in guarantees.
— Defensive tackle Kyle Williams is retiring at age 35 after 13 seasons, a decision that leaves the Buffalo Bills without their most respected leader and longest-active tenured player. He says Buffalo’s season finale against Miami on Sunday will be his last game. He closed his statement by saying: “I could not be more grateful to retire as a lifelong Buffalo Bill. One last time, I’ll see you on the field on Sunday.”
—The Jacksonville Jaguars don’t expect running back Leonard Fournette to play in the season finale at Houston. Coach Doug Marrone listed Fournette (ankle/foot) as doubtful for Sunday’s game against the Texans. The second-year pro has missed practice all week. Marrone ruled out cornerback A.J. Bouye (toe), place-kicker Josh Lambo (groin) and right tackle Josh Wells (concussion). Fournette already has missed seven games this season.
—The Denver Broncos placed rookie running sensation Phillip Lindsay and recently acquired wide receiver Andre Holmes on injured reserve. Lindsay injured his right wrist last weekend at Oakland and will require three to four months of rehab following surgery. Holmes injured his right ankle last week.
—Packers receiver Davante Adams is questionable for Green Bay’s season finale against the Detroit Lions because of a knee injury. Adams missed the first two days of practice this week, though he did say that he was optimistic that would be able to play.
— Saints coach Sean Payton says Teddy Bridgewater will start New Orleans’ regular-season finale against Carolina. The decision allows starter Drew Brees to rest for playoffs with the Saints already having wrapped up the top seed in the NFC going into Sunday’s game. It will be Bridgewater’s first meaningful action in a regular-season game since 2015 with Minnesota.
Lakers’ Rajon Rondo out 4-5 weeks after finger surgery
UNDATED (AP) — Los Angeles Lakers point guard Rajon Rondo will be sidelined at least a month after undergoing ligament surgery on his right ring finger.
Rondo sprained his finger during the Lakers’ stunning Christmas Day victory at Golden State.
He had had surgery Friday and the team says he is expected to fully recover in four to five weeks.(backslash)
Rondo is averaging 8.4 points, 6.7 assists and 4.4 rebounds while providing solid leadership in his first season with the Lakers.
Elsewhere around the NBA:
— Dion Waiters is about to take a big step toward returning to the Miami Heat. The Heat said Friday that they are sending Waiters to the Sioux Falls Skyforce, their G League affiliate. The plan is for Waiters to practice with the Skyforce and potentially return to Miami in time for Sunday’s game against Minnesota. Waiters last appeared in an NBA game on Dec. 22, 2017. Waiters had surgery on Jan. 23 to repair instability in the ankle, along with a broken bone.
Winnipeg Jets D Dustin Byfuglien fined for slashing
NEW YORK (AP) — The NHL has fined Winnipeg Jets defenseman Dustin Byfuglien for slashing Calgary Flames forward Johnny Gaudreau.
The league announced the $2,500 fine on Friday.
The slashing occurred 17:51 into the third period of Calgary’s 4-1 win Thursday night at Winnipeg. Byfuglien was assessed a minor penalty.
Referee criticized for protocol lapse in Koulibaly incident
UNDATED (AP) — FIFPro and UEFA have criticized referee Paolo Mazzoleni for “failing to respect anti-racism protocol” after monkey noises were directed at Napoli defender Kalidou Koulibaly throughout his team’s 1-0 Serie A loss at Inter Milan.
FIFPro, the world players’ union, and European soccer’s ruling body UEFA also said the racial abuse aimed at the player, who was born in France to Senegalese parents, on Wednesday was “unacceptable” and had “no place in football.”
The two organizations backed the prompt action taken by the Italian league judge, who has decided Inter’s next two home matches should be played behind closed doors, and included a partial closure for the club’s third home game.