Review Category : National Sports

Wisconsin Battles Back; Upends UNC, Reaches Elite 8

Ronald Martinez/Getty Images(LOS ANGELES) — Trailing by seven with 10:25 remaining, Wisconsin went on a 19-6 run, finished off by a Sam Decker layup, which gave the top-seeded Badgers the lead for good; they moved on to the Elite 8 of the Men’s NCAA Basketball Tournament by knocking off the Tar Heels 79-72 Thursday.

Decker finished the game with a career high 23 points, and Frank Kaminsky added 19 in the win.

Wisconsin (34-3) is headed to its second straight Elite 8 and ends North Carolina’s 11-game win-streak in the Sweet 16.

In a game where who could rebound more was thought to be key, the Badgers won the matchup 35-28.

Kennedy Meeks, whose status was uncertain after spraining his knee last weekend, played 14 minutes and scored four points for North Carolina (26-12) in the loss.

Wisconsin will take on Arizona Saturday in Los Angeles.

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49ers Waive OL Jonathan Martin

Joel Auerbach/Getty Images(SAN FRANCISCO) — The San Francisco 49ers released offensive lineman Jonathan Martin on Thursday, the team announced.

Martin spent one season in San Francisco, appearing in 15 games (nine starts) at right tackle.

Martin played at Stanford and was a 2012 second-round draft pick of the Miami Dolphins, where he started all 16 games as a rookie.

In Martin’s second season with Miami, he left the team after a bullying controversy involving former teammate Richie Incognito. Martin played the first seven games but sat out the rest of the 2013 season, and then in the offseason the Dolphins traded him to the 49ers for a conditional seventh-round draft pick.

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Jason Garrett Backs Greg Hardy Signing

Ronald Martinez/Getty Images(PHOENIX) — Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett backed the signing of defensive end Greg Hardy on Wednesday at the NFL meetings.

Garrett said that the Cowboys in no way support domestic abuse, but after meeting with Hardy and speaking with him for over three hours, they feel they made the right choice.

“We brought him in and spent a couple days with him, so we felt like understanding who he is as a person was a critical piece to this, evaluating who he is a player was a critical piece to it, the structure of the contract was critical to it,” he explained. “At the end of the day, if we didn’t believe he could become the right kind of guy for our football team, we wouldn’t have signed him.”

Hardy could be suspended for violating the league’s personal conduct policy after being arrested and charged with assaulting and threatening to kill his ex-girlfriend, but NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell would not say when that ruling would happen.

“They understood that we were reviewing his case for potential discipline,” Goodell said on Wednesday. “That continues. We are trying to get as many facts as we possibly can to make the most informed decision we can so that we can uphold the standards that we put forth in our personal conduct policy. And so I expect that will conclude sometime in the near future and we’ll make a decision shortly after.”

Garrett believes that Hardy’s issues are in the past and that he can play well for Dallas.

“It’s our job to bring the best out in all these guys, as players and as people,” Garrett said. “So I think everyone understands we’re trying to build the right kind of football team with the talent level, with also who they are. It’s our job to create the environment, and it’s the player’s job to respond, and it’s our job to hold the player accountable.”

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Lovie Smith Is a Fan of Jameis Winston

Streeter Lecka/Getty Images(PHOENIX) — Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Lovie Smith has no problem with former Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston. Smith believes that the former Heisman Trophy winner has moved past his off-the-field issues and thinks he’s doing his best to mature.

“What do you want a quarterback to do? Well, you want him to be able to win and get people to believe that you can help be the reason why we win every game,” Smith explained. “I think he’s done that. He’s got a track record — he’s got a Heisman behind him. He’s got a national championship.”

“You start talking to his teammates and they all say the same thing,” Smith continued. “You talk to coaches that have been around him in the room. You put him on the board, you start talking about his football intelligence. You let him sell himself. He can sell himself.”

Smith is confident that Winston can be a leader and represent the NFL shield in the right way.

“I said it [at the NFL combine] that with the information I had, I was very comfortable with him,” Smith said. “Since then, we’ve had a chance to spend a lot more time with him and nothing has changed. It’s even grown a little more now that I know him better. If we decide to go that direction, we’re very comfortable with Jameis being the face of our franchise and the quarterback on our football team.”

Smith also did not rule out drafting former Oregon Ducks quarterback Marcus Mariota.

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Royals Name Yordano Ventura Opening Day Starter

Mike McGinnis/Getty Images(SURPRISE, Ariz.) — The Kansas City Royals named pitcher Yordano Ventura the Opening Day starter on Wednesday.

“If you’re going to ask a kid to go out in a do-or-die situation in Game 6 of the World Series and have him handle it, which he did, he is a perfect candidate for [Opening Day],” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “We look at the development of Ventura and [Danny] Duffy, and both of these guys are ready to take the next step as starting pitchers.”

Ventura was 14-10 with a 3.20 ERA in his rookie season and was one of the reasons for their postseason success.

Ventura pitched seven scoreless innings in Game 6 of last year’s World Series against the Giants to force a Game 7, that San Francisco would win.

“Everybody on our staff last year earned [this],”Yost said of his rotation. “I can make a case for Vargy or [Jeremy] Guthrie or now [Edinson] Volquez, too. But it comes down to this — this kid is ready for this. He has the composure and he really wants to do it. He wants to be the guy.”

“We were all very comfortable with it. He’s got total confidence of his ability,” he continued.

Duffy and Edinson Volquez will follow Ventura in the rotation. Kansas City opens up against the White Sox.

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West Virginia Freshman Says Kentucky Will Be 36-1 After Thursday

G. Fiume/Getty Images(CLEVELAND) — There may not be many people that think Kentucky will lose their perfect season and a chance at winning a national title when they play West Virginia Thursday, but there’s at least one: Mountaineers guard Daxter Miles Jr.

“I give them their props,” Miles said Wednesday. “Salute them to getting to 36-0. But tomorrow they’re gonna be 36-1.”

Miles continued to say the Wildcats should fear the Mountaineers.

“They should be more intimidated,” Miles said. “Because they’re the ones who have the high standard, and we’re coming for them.”

West Virginia (25-9) forces opponents into turnovers on 28.3 percent of possessions, the best percentage in Division I.

Also, the Mountaineers head coach Bob Huggins is 8-2 in games against Kentucky head coach John Calipari. Despite all of that, as of Thursday morning, Vegas has Kentucky as 13.5 point favorites.

We’ll find out Thursday night if Miles’ prediction is correct. West Virginia and Kentucky are scheduled to tip off at 9:45 p.m. ET in Cleveland.

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White Sox Name Samardzija Opening Day Starter

iStock/Thinkstock(GLENDALE, Ariz.) — The Chicago White Sox named Jeff Samardzija the team’s Opening Day starter.

The 30-year-old Samardzija, who was traded to the Sox in December, takes the place of Chris Sale, who will miss the start due to a fractured bone in his right foot.

Samardzija has had the honor of being an Opening Day starter before. He did the job for the Chicago Cubs the last two seasons.

“It’s always an honor for guys to start on Opening Day and Jeff’s done it before,” White Sox skipper Robin Ventura said. “I think even bringing him over here, that was a reason to bring him over here. Chris was going to be the guy and if not him then it was going to be Jeff.”

Samardzija has played seven big league seasons. During that time he’s compiled a 36-48 record with a 3.85 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, and 738 strikeouts over 777 2/3 innings pitched.

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White Sox Name Samardzija Opening Day Starter

iStock/Thinkstock(GLENDALE, Ariz.) — The Chicago White Sox named Jeff Samardzija the team’s Opening Day starter.

The 30-year-old Samardzija, who was traded to the Sox in December, takes the place of Chris Sale, who will miss the start due to a fractured bone in his right foot.

Samardzija has had the honor of being an Opening Day starter before. He did the job for the Chicago Cubs the last two seasons.

“It’s always an honor for guys to start on Opening Day and Jeff’s done it before,” White Sox skipper Robin Ventura said. “I think even bringing him over here, that was a reason to bring him over here. Chris was going to be the guy and if not him then it was going to be Jeff.”

Samardzija has played seven big league seasons. During that time he’s compiled a 36-48 record with a 3.85 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, and 738 strikeouts over 777 2/3 innings pitched.

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NFL Makes Rule Change Because of the Patriots

Doug Pensinger/Getty Images(PHOENIX) — The New England Patriots gained a crucial first down against the Baltimore Ravens in their playoff game in January when running back Shane Vereen lined up as an ineligible slot receiver to confuse the Ravens. If they try that again next season, they will be penalized five yards.

On Wednesday, the NFL passed a rule making it illegal for an offensive player wearing an eligible number between 1-49 and 80-89 to lineup outside of the tackle box and report as ineligible. If that were to happen next season, the violating team would be penalized for illegal substitution.

“Whatever it is, it is,” Patriots head coach Bill Belichick. “It would affect a lot of other plays, the spread punt formation and stuff like that. Whatever the rule is, it is.”

According to competition committee co-chair Jeff Fisher, many teams felt there needed to be a rule in place to stop the kind of substitution the Patriots used in the playoffs. Fisher himself said without change, “this may get out of hand.”

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West Virginia Freshman Says Ketucky Will Be 36-1 After Thursday

G. Fiume/Getty Images(CLEVELAND) — There may not be many people that think Kentucky will lose their perfect season and a chance at winning a national title when they play West Virginia Thursday, but there’s at least one: Mountaineers guard Daxter Miles Jr.

“I give them their props,” Miles said Wednesday. “Salute them to getting to 36-0. But tomorrow they’re gonna be 36-1.”

Miles continued to say the Wildcats should fear the Mountaineers.

“They should be more intimidated,” Miles said. “Because they’re the ones who have the high standard, and we’re coming for them.”

West Virginia (25-9) forces opponents into turnovers on 28.3 percent of possessions, the best percentage in Division I.

Also, the Mountaineers head coach Bob Huggins is 8-2 in games against Kentucky head coach John Calipari. Despite all of that, as of Thursday morning, Vegas has Kentucky as 13.5 point favorites.

We’ll find out Thursday night if Miles’ prediction is correct. West Virginia and Kentucky are scheduled to tip off at 9:45 p.m. ET in Cleveland.

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