- Associated Press - Thursday, March 16, 2017

NCAA TOURNAMENT

WASHINGTON (AP) - Former President Barack Obama is picking North Carolina to win the men’s NCAA Tournament over Duke.

Last year, Obama had Kansas winning it all in his bracket. The Jayhawks lost to eventual champion Villanova in the Elite Eight. Obama also has Arizona and Kansas in his Final Four.

Obama also picked UConn to win the women’s NCAA title over Notre Dame, with South Carolina and Washington in the Final Four.

Filling out NCAA tourney selections became an annual tradition for Obama, who is a college basketball fan and invited ESPN to the White House to televise his picks. ESPN has said President Donald Trump has declined to make picks this year.

PRO BASKETBALL

SAN ANTONIO (AP) - Spurs star LaMarcus Aldridge was cleared to return to full basketball activities and played against the Portland Trail Blazers with no restrictions, the team announced.

Aldridge missed two games after being diagnosed with a minor heart arrhythmia, but San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich revealed that the 31-year-old forward has been concerned about the condition all season.

Aldridge had 19 points and seven rebounds, including nine points in the final quarter, in San Antonio’s 110-106 loss to Portland.

WORLD BASEBALL CLASSIC

SAN DIEGO (AP) - Hometown favorite Adam Jones hit a tying home run leading off the eighth inning and Eric Hosmer added a two-run shot three batters later as the United States rallied to beat Venezuela 4-2 in the second round of the World Baseball Classic.

After being shut down for the first five innings by Seattle Mariners ace Felix Hernandez, the Americans broke through against Venezuela’s bullpen.

GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) - Adrian Gonzalez had some harsh words for organizers of the World Baseball Classic.

“They’re trying to become the World Cup, but they’re not even close to being the Little League World Series,” the Los Angeles Dodgers first baseman said.

Gonzalez’s Mexican team beat Venezuela 11-9 Sunday in Guadalajara, leaving both teams tied with Italy for second in Group D behind Puerto (3-0). The World Baseball Classic Twitter account initially announced Monday’s tiebreaker game would be between Mexico and Italy. But the WBC technical committee determined the tiebreaker - runs allowed per defensive inning - meant Italy (1.05) and Venezuela (1.11) advanced and not Mexico (1.12).

The Mexican Baseball Federation objected that the ninth inning of Sunday’s game should count as a partial inning, even though Italy scored five runs without Mexico getting any outs.

TENNIS

INDIAN WELLS, Calif. (AP) - Roger Federer defeated Rafael Nadal 6-2, 6-3 at the BNP Paribas Open on Wednesday in a fourth-round match that saw the longtime rivals meeting much earlier in a tournament than usual.

Federer broke Nadal four times in advancing to the quarterfinals in 68 minutes. Although Nadal owns a 23-13 lead in their series, Federer has won three in a row for the first time, including an epic comeback in the Australian Open final two months ago at age 35.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL

BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) - In a whirlwind few hours, Cuonzo Martin resigned at California and was announced as the new coach at Missouri in his home state.

He’s headed back to the place he knows so well, a big attraction to lure him away from Berkeley after three seasons. Missouri scheduled a “campus celebration” for Monday open to the public. Martin will take over for the fired Kim Anderson.

Cal announced Martin’s resignation earlier in the day on the heels of the short-handed Golden Bears’ first-round NIT loss at home to Cal State Bakersfield on Tuesday night.

Cal went 21-13 this season and tied for fifth place in the Pac-12. Martin was 62-39 overall, 29-25 in conference.

SEATTLE (AP) - Washington fired coach Lorenzo Romar after 15 seasons at the school, a fate that seemed certain once the Huskies failed to receive an NCAA Tournament bid for the sixth straight year despite a steady stream of talent.

Washington athletic director Jennifer Cohen made the decision after the Huskies slogged through another lackluster season - even with freshman star Markelle Fultz, a projected top-five NBA draft pick.

Romar was 298-196 in his 15 seasons with the Huskies and was responsible for reinvigorating a downtrodden program, taking Washington to six NCAA Tournaments and three appearances in the Sweet 16.

PRO FOOTBALL

PITTSBURGH (AP) - A judge dismissed robbery, assault and all other charges against former New York Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis stemming from a fight last month in Pittsburgh, after a childhood friend testified that he knocked out two men who confronted Revis during a dispute over a cellphone.

The friend, Rashawn Bolton, 31, of Aliquippa, has not been charged in connection with the incident about 2:30 a.m. Feb. 12 on the city’s South Side, a neighbor well-known for its bars, restaurants and night life.

Bolton testified he knocked out Dallas Cousins, 22, and Zacheriah Jarvis, 21, with one punch each after Revis phoned him to say he was being jumped. Bolton ran from a few blocks away and testified he saw one man with his arms about Revis’ waist and the other hanging on Revis’ neck, pulled both off, then punched them in self-defense.

BOSTON (AP) - The Patriots re-signed Pro Bowl linebacker Dont’a Hightower.

Hightower’s agency, SportsTrust Advisors, tweeted the agreement and his agent Pat Dye, Jr confirmed it. The new pact is for four years and $43.5 million.

It brings back one of the Patriots’ biggest free agents, who has helped New England win two Super Bowls in his five NFL seasons. He has 372 tackles and 17 sacks since being a first-round pick out of Alabama in 2012. Hightower, 27, took free agent visits with both the New York Jets and Pittsburgh Steelers, but will return to captain a defense that allowed a league-low 15.6 points per game during the regular-season in 2016.

NEW YORK (AP) - The NFL suspended New York Jets tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins without pay for the first two games of the season for violating the league’s substance abuse policy.

Seferian-Jenkins was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence in Florida last September while he was a member of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The tight end was cut by the Buccaneers a few days later and claimed off waivers by the Jets.

AUTO RACING

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) - NASCAR declined to penalize Kyle Busch, Joey Logano of their crews for their post-race scuffle at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

NASCAR said the sport was built on the kind of racing that Busch and Logano did on the final laps of Sunday’s race. The hard racing for position led to Busch confronting Logano after the race, and throwing a punch.

Busch was knocked to the ground by Team Penske crew members and cut his forehead in the scuffle.

BASEBALL

MIAMI (AP) - A Miami jury convicted a Florida sports agent and a baseball trainer on charges they smuggled Cuban baseball players to the U.S. in search of big profits from professional free agent contracts.

The verdict came after jurors heard about six weeks of testimony in the trial of Bartolo Hernandez and Julio Estrada, who were indicted on conspiracy and alien smuggling charges for an operation that began in 2009 and involved a number of high-profile Major League Baseball players.

The jury deliberated only about five hours before the verdict. Prosecutors said Hernandez faces between three and 15 years in prison and Estrada - convicted of more smuggling counts - faces between five and 35 years behind bars.

They also face forfeiture of more than $15.5 million, plus real estate, four Mercedes-Benz vehicles and contents of bank accounts.

HOCKEY

NEW YORK (AP) - A U.S. district court ruled against the NHL in the League’s effort to overturn the reduction of Dennis Wideman’s suspension by a neutral arbitrator last season.

Judge Alison Nathan sided with neutral discipline arbitrator James Oldham, who cut Wideman’s suspension for knocking linesman Don Henderson to the ice from 20 games to 10. The NHL had sought to have the 20-game ban restored.

The NHL says in a statement that it disagrees with the court’s decision, but understands the standard needed to overturn the decision. The league says it is ready to turn the page.

Wideman, a defenseman for the Calgary Flames, was suspended 20 games for hitting Henderson and knocking him down during a game against the Nashville Predators on Jan. 27, 2016.

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