NBA on All-Star break, but no easy answers to rest problem
The NBA has an ongoing battle with load management and finding ways to optimize player health, performance and availability. While there is a consensus that the league has problems, there is no consensus on how to solve those problems. Over the last week, The Associated Press asked a cross-section of 48 players, coaches, owners and executives if the NBA should abandon its 82-game, 170-day blueprint of a regular season for something with either fewer games or more days in the season to allow for more rest. The results were muddled: 40% said they would simply go along with whatever the league decides is best, 35% said they don’t want the current format changed and the remaining 25% wants changes.
Houston back at No. 1 as Northwestern makes AP Top 25 debut
Houston returned to No. 1 in the AP men’s college basketball poll for the third time this season while Northwestern and Texas A&M barged into the rankings after each had a pair of impressive wins last week. The Cougars picked up 48 first-place votes from the 62-member national media panel with just two weeks left in the regular season. Alabama dropped one spot after losing to Tennessee and routing Georgia in its lone week at No. 1. The Crimson Tide held onto seven first-place votes, while Kansas also earned seven to climb two spots to No. 3. North Carolina State and Florida Atlantic dropped out after each lost games last week.
South Carolina’s No. 1 run in women’s Top 25 hits 35 weeks
South Carolina remained No. 1 in The Associated Press women’s college basketball poll after topping Mississippi in overtime on Sunday. The Gamecocks have been No. 1 for 35 straight weeks, the third-longest streak of all time. They received 27 of the 28 first-place votes from the national media panel, marking the first time all season they weren’t a unanimous choice. Indiana got the other first-place vote and stayed second in the poll. The Hoosiers have won 14 consecutive games and are 9-0 against AP Top 25 teams this season — the most wins against ranked opponents of any team in the country. Stanford, UConn and LSU round out the top five teams.
Sasser looks to lead No. 1 Houston to title in last season
HOUSTON (AP) — Marcus Sasser weighed many factors in deciding whether to return for his senior season at Houston. The chance that he could lead the top-ranked Cougars to their first national title at home, with the Final Four being played in Houston, made his decision to come back much easier. Houston reclaimed the top spot in the AP men’s college basketball poll after winning seven straight, capped by Sunday’s 72-64 victory over Memphis, in which Sasser scored 20 points. The preseason AP All-America selection leads Houston by averaging 16.7 points a game. Sasser has made a strong comeback this season after sustaining a season-ending foot injury just 12 games into the 2021-22 season.
Tiger Woods sightings are rare as he enters semiretirement
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Tiger sightings are rare these days on the PGA Tour. Tiger Woods at Riviera played 72 holes for the first time in 10 months. And there’s no telling for sure when Woods will compete again. That might be in the Masters in April. This is the new normal. And the wild fan reaction to Woods is to be expected. It can be pure pandemonium because there was a time it looked as though the 2021 car crash might be the end of his career. Woods says so much goes into getting ready that he’ll plan on playing the majors and maybe a few other tournaments.
Column: Stenhouse Jr. and JTG get breakout Daytona 500 win
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) — One victory in 28 years was all tiny JTG Daugherty Racing had to show for the time, sweat and money the team had poured into trying to build a winning NASCAR organization. The team entered Season 29 still committed to Ricky Stenhouse Jr., a driver stuck in a losing streak that stretched nearly six years. But he snapped that streak by winning the longest Daytona 500 in history. He won in double overtime, under caution, to end a losing streak that spanned 2,060 days and 199 races. The victory gave JTG just its second trophy to take back to its North Carolina shop, and it happens to be the biggest piece of hardware in NASCAR.
Nations: No clarity on neutrality, no Olympics for Russia
The governments of 34 nations signed a statement calling on the IOC to clarify the definition of “neutrality” as it seeks a way to allow Russian and Belarusian athletes back into international sports and next year’s Paris Olympics. The statement said the countries do not agree Russian and Belarusian athletes should be allowed back into competition as long as the lack of clarity and concrete details on a workable neutrality model aren’t addressed. The United States, Britain, France, Canada and Germany were among those signing. Those five countries brought nearly one-fifth of all the athletes to the Tokyo Games in 2021. The letter was the product of a Feb. 10 summit in London.
Major league teams searching for advantages with new rules
PHOENIX (AP) — The only certainty about Major League Baseball’s new rules for the 2023 season is that everyone is going to push and pull on them in search of an edge. The size of the bases has been increased to 18-inch squares from 15. The new pitch clock is 15 seconds with no runners on base and 20 seconds with runners. The increasingly frequent infield shift has been eliminated, and there is a limit of two of what MLB calls disengagements — pickoff attempts or steps off the rubber — per plate appearance.
Bruins win 4th straight; Pastrnak nets 2 to pass 40 goals
BOSTON (AP) — David Pastrnak scored twice and Linus Ullmark stopped 30 shots to lead the Boston Bruins past the Ottawa Senators 3-1 and net their fourth straight victory. Pastrnak broke a second-period tie to pass the 40-goal plateau for the third time in his career. Then he added another goal in the third for No. 41. Edmonton’s Connor McDavid leads the league with 42 goals so far this season. Jake DeBrusk also scored for Boston. It’s the second straight time he has opened the scoring in two games since returning from an injury. Claude Giroux scored and Kevin Mandolese stopped 29 shots for the Senators.
Former NBA, NFL team owner, businessman Red McCombs dies
A former owner of two NBA teams, an NFL franchise and a longtime businessman, Billy Joe “Red” McCombs has died at his home in San Antonio. McCombs’ family said in a statement Monday that McCombs died Sunday at age 95. A cause of death was not given, but the statement said McCombs died peacefully surrounded by his family. McCombs owned the San Antonio Spurs of the NBA on two separate occasions. He also once owned the NBA’s Denver Nuggets and the Minnesota Vikings of the NFL. McCombs also owned various businesses that included auto dealerships, the oil and gas industry, real estate, cattle ranches and radio stations.