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Latest Sports Headlines

    The Latest on the arrest of attorney Michael Avenatti (all times local): 3:10 p.m. CNN has cut ties with Mark Geragos just hours after the celebrity attorney was named as a co-conspirator in a case accusing lawyer Michael Avenatti of trying to extort Nike. A CNN representative confirmed Monday that Geragos is no longer a contributor to the network but didn't specify why. His name is no longer listed on CNN's website as a legal analyst. Geragos appeared on CNN this month to discuss the case against his client Jussie Smollett, an actor accused of fabricating a racist, anti-gay attack in Chicago. A person familiar with details of the Avenatti investigation tells The Associated Press that a co-conspirator was Geragos. The Los Angeles criminal defense lawyer didn't respond to messages seeking comment. Prosecutors say Avenatti and an unnamed attorney tried to shake down Nike for as much as $25 million by threatening the company with bad publicity. — Associated Press reporter Christopher Weber in Los Angeles and Larry Neumeister in New York ___ 1:50 p.m. A person familiar with details of the Michael Avenatti extortion investigation tells The Associated Press that celebrity attorney Mark Geragos is a co-conspirator in the case. Prosecutors say in court papers that an unnamed attorney joined Avenatti in demanding that Nike pay millions of dollars, or risk being embarrassed by a scandal involving its sponsorship of an amateur basketball team. They described the attorney as a co-conspirator but didn't charge him with a crime. The person knowledgeable about the case tells the AP that co-conspirator was Geragos, a Los Angeles criminal defense lawyer. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the information was not made public by prosecutors. Geragos's clients have included Michael Jackson, Winona Ryder, Scott Peterson and most recently Jussie Smollett. Geragos didn't respond to messages seeking comment. — Associated Press reporter Larry Neumeister in New York ___ 1:12 p.m. Nike says it has been cooperating with the federal government's ongoing investigation of college basketball for more than a year. The company issued a statement Monday saying it 'will not be extorted or hide information that is relevant to a government investigation.' The statement followed the arrest of celebrity attorney Michael Avenatti on federal extortion charges. Federal prosecutors say Avenatti threatened to hold a news conference to announce damaging allegations against Nike if the company didn't pay him more than $20 million. Nike officials told investigators Avenatti claimed to know of rules violations by an amateur basketball team sponsored by the company. Nike said it 'believes in ethical and fair play, both in business and sports, and will continue to assist the prosecutors.' Avenatti also is charged in Los Angeles with bank and wire fraud. He's accused of embezzling a client's money to pay his own expenses. ___ 12:25 p.m. Federal prosecutors in New York say their investigation of the firebrand attorney Michael Avenatti began only last week and was complete in days. At a news conference Monday in Manhattan, U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman said the apparel giant Nike contacted his office March 19 and claimed that Avenatti was trying to extort the company. Nike officials told investigators Avenatti claimed to know of rules violations by an amateur basketball team sponsored by Nike. They said he threatened to make the wrongdoing public unless the company paid him tens of millions of dollars. Berman says investigators recorded subsequent discussions between Nike and Avenatti, then arrested him Monday on extortion conspiracy charges. Avenatti was in custody Monday and not responding to phone calls or texts. Nike Inc. did not respond to a request for comment. ___ 12:15 p.m. A federal prosecutor says there's no political connection to wire and bank fraud charges filed against lawyer Michael Avenatti, who's a vocal critic of President Donald Trump. U.S. Attorney Nick Hanna in Los Angeles says the charges announced Monday began with Internal Revenue Service tax collection efforts and came to prosecutors in an ordinary way. The case alleges in part that Avenatti collected a $1.6 million settlement for a client and used it for his own interests. Hanna says the timing of the announcement had nothing to do with the weekend release of a summary of special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Trump's campaign. Hanna says he had no idea when the Mueller report would be presented. Avenatti is best known for representing porn star Stormy Daniels in lawsuits against Trump and also is charged with extortion in New York. ___ 11:55 a.m. Porn star Stormy Daniels says she's 'saddened but not shocked' over the arrest of her former attorney, Michael Avenatti.   Daniels issued a statement Monday on Twitter saying she fired Avenatti a month ago after 'discovering that he had dealt with me extremely dishonestly.' She said she wouldn't elaborate.  Avenatti is best known for representing Daniels in lawsuits against President Donald Trump and has been charged with extortion in New York and bank and wire fraud in California.   Avenatti represented Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, in a lawsuit to break a confidentiality agreement to speak about her alleged affair with Trump.   An email to Avenatti's office and phone and text messages sent to his phone seeking comment haven't been immediately returned. ___ 11:40 a.m. U.S. Attorney Nick Hanna in Los Angeles says lawyer Michael Avenatti could face up to 50 years in prison if convicted on wire and bank fraud charges. The critic of President Donald Trump and private attorney who formerly represented porn star Stormy Daniels was arrested Monday in New York on federal charges there and in California. Hanna says the case filed in Los Angeles on Friday and unsealed Monday paints 'an ugly picture of lawless conduct and greed.' Hanna says the case had nothing to do with politics and the facts speak for themselves. He says the Mueller report had nothing to with the timing of the announcement. The case alleges in part that Avenatti collected a $1.6 million settlement for a client and used it for his own interests. ___ 10:25 a.m. U.S. prosecutors have charged Trump critic and attorney Michael Avenatti with extortion and bank and wire fraud. A spokesman for the U.S. attorney in Los Angeles said Avenatti was arrested Monday in New York. Spokesman Ciaran McEvoy says the lawyer best known for representing porn actress Stormy Daniels in lawsuits against President Donald Trump faces federal charges in New York and California. In New York, he was accused of threatening to use his ability to get publicity to harm Nike. Prosecutors say he demanded that the apparel company give him $10 million. Prosecutors in California planned to release more details at a news conference later Monday. Avenatti represented Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, in a lawsuit to break a confidentiality agreement to speak about her alleged affair with Trump.
  • The Baltimore Orioles put scheduled opening-day starter Alex Cobb on the 10-day injured list because of a strained right groin. He likely will be replaced by Andrew Cashner for Thursday's game at the New York Yankees. Cobb's last spring training was cut short after one inning Saturday because of the groin. Baltimore also placed catcher Austin Wynns on the 10-day IL on Monday because of a left oblique strain. Baltimore also selected the contract of catcher Jesus Sucre from Norfolk of the International League. Sucre, at spring training with a minor league contract, gets a one-year deal paying at the rate of $850,000 in the major leagues and $250,000 in the minors. Outfielder Mark Trumbo, recovering from September surgery on his right knee, was placed on the 60-day injured list, opening a spot on the 40-man roster. ___ More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
  • The path to the Final Four will not be easy for Zion Williamson, Luke Maye, De'Andre Hunter and the other top-seeded stars in the NCAA Tournament. For the first time in a decade, the remaining tournament field entering the Sweet 16 looks a lot like the one set on Selection Sunday. The headlining teams are still around after avoiding upsets — some pretty serious scares, too. Hello, Duke! — during an opening weekend that went unusually according to plan. Fourteen of the top 16, including all of the No. 1, 2 and 3 seeds, reached the regional semifinals. The last time that happened was 2009. The Atlantic Coast, Southeastern and Big Ten conferences gobbled up 12 of the 16 slots, with the ACC having a national-best five teams — led by top seeds Duke, Virginia and North Carolina — followed by the SEC's four and the Big Ten's three. Here is a look at the updated paths in each region to reach the Final Four in Minneapolis: EAST Duke is the No. 1 overall seed, yet the Blue Devils are fortunate to still be alive after UCF had two shots for the win roll off the rim in the final seconds Sunday. 'We had a lot of foul trouble, and we are young, and we're not deep,' Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said, 'but we're good.' And now the Blue Devils (31-5) face a regional bracket in Washington that still has the top four seeds. Duke faces No. 4 seed and fellow ACC member Virginia Tech (26-8), a rematch from one of Duke's losses during the nearly six full games that Williamson, the star freshman, was out with a knee injury. Yet the Hokies — in the tournament's second weekend for the second time in program history — will have point guard Justin Robinson, who missed 12 games with a foot injury and didn't play in that February win. Friday's other semifinal will be No. 2 seed Michigan State (30-6) against No. 3 seed LSU (28-6) — which is still without suspended coach Will Wade amid a federal investigation into corruption within the sport. WEST Gonzaga, too, sits atop a 1-2-3-4 bracket. The Zags (32-3) had little trouble reaching a national-best fifth straight Sweet 16. Now they find themselves in a familiar scenario: playing Florida State in the regional semifinals for the second straight year. The fourth-seeded Seminoles (29-7) won last year's meeting and have plenty of confidence after beating Virginia in the ACC Tournament semifinals. 'I thought they were really, really underseeded,' Gonzaga coach Mark Few said, adding: 'You have to beat really good teams to advance in this thing. So, we knew we were going to have to play somebody really good, and Florida State is no doubt that.' Thursday's other semifinal in Anaheim, California, could be a rugged fight between No. 2 seed Michigan (30-6) and No. 3 seed Texas Tech (28-6). They're the top two teams in KenPom's adjusted defensive efficiency ratings, with the Red Raiders first (85.3 points allowed per 100 possessions) followed by the Wolverines (85.8). SOUTH Virginia is finally free of its UMBC failure. The Cavaliers spent the year playing in the shadow of last year's first-round loss to UMBC, the only 16-vs-1 upset in tournament history. And they were confronted with it again when they trailed No. 16 seed Gardner-Webb by 14 in the first half of Friday's game. But Virginia found its steady, defensive-minded form after halftime , then beat Oklahoma to return to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2016. 'You talk about trying to focus in and then getting down, it was real,' coach Tony Bennett said. 'So I think those guys will have that as something they can always draw upon to say we faced a giant and battled through it.' Now Virginia (31-3) faces No. 12 seed Oregon, the only double-digit seed left in a heavyweight field, in pursuit of its first Final Four trip under Bennett. Thursday's other semifinal in Louisville, Kentucky, has No. 2 seed Tennessee (31-5) meeting No. 3 seed Purdue (25-9) after eventful second-round games for both. The Vols survived in overtime against Iowa after blowing a 25-point lead to return to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2014. As for the Boilermakers, Carsen Edwards had a career-best 42 points in a rout of 2018 champion Villanova. MIDWEST Top-seeded North Carolina (29-6) leads a bracket that nearly went chalk, with No. 5 seed Auburn joining Oregon as the only surviving teams from outside the top 16 seeds. Yet the biggest question surrounding Friday's games in Kansas City hovers around No. 2 seed Kentucky and PJ Washington. The Wildcats' leading scorer and rebounder missed the first two NCAA games while wearing a hard cast on his sprained left foot. 'I know this, he really wants to play,' Kentucky coach John Calipari said before a second-round win against Wofford. 'But I also want to feel comfortable that if he gets on the court that there's nothing he can do to himself, and the doctors have pretty much said that. So it's just, 'OK, when is it healed enough that he can go?'' The Wildcats (29-6) meet third-seeded Houston (33-3), which set a school record for wins when they beat Ohio State on Sunday. In the other semifinal, UNC looks to keep rolling when it faces the Tigers (28-9) — who peaked at No. 7 in the AP Top 25 in December, fell out of the poll, then had a late-season surge to win the SEC Tournament and blow out Kansas on Saturday. ___ More AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/MarchMadness and http://www.twitter.com/AP_Top25 ___ Follow Aaron Beard on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/aaronbeardap
  • Jake Arrieta has no doubt the Philadelphia Phillies will be successful this season. 'Of course I think we're a playoff team,' Arrieta said Monday after the Phillies completed spring training with a 3-2 win over the Tampa Bay Rays. The 33-year old right-hander allowed two runs, six hits and struck out eight in over six innings. He induced 20 swings and misses. 'Lots of empty swings,' Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said. 'That was the most encouraging thing about the day. Super encouraging. Strong in his legs. Delivery was easy. Arm slot was perfect. I thought everything looked really good.' Philadelphia opens at home Thursday against NL East champion Atlanta. The Phillies transformed during the offseason, signing right fielder Bryce Harper to a $330 million, 13-year contract after adding left fielder Andrew McCutchen, shortstop Jean Segura and catcher J.T. Realmuto. Aaron Nola starts the opener for Philadelphia and Julio Teheran for Atlanta. 'It's exciting,' Arrieta said. 'With the guys we've got, there's not really a break in our lineup. It's going to be a fun one.' Arrieta was a key contributor to the 2016 Chicago Cubs who won the team's first World Series title in 108 years. He went 2-0 in the seven-game Series against Cleveland. Philadelphia, which led its division with the second-best record in the NL one week into August, lost 33 of its final 49 games. 'A lot of guys in here remember the way it shook down for us, the way the season finished and we don't want that to happen again,' Arrieta said. Philadelphia went 80-82 in its sixth consecutive losing season. 'I think this team has a ton of potential,' Kapler said. 'But we've got to stay focused every single day. Got to come to the ballpark with a game plan of doing the little things right. Running the bases hard and executing the fundamentals. If we do those things, I think we can do good things.' HOT HARPER Harper doubled to left center on a 95 mph fastball from Wilmer Font in the first and walked against Diego Castillo during the third. After starting 0 for 9, the slugger closed out spring training with four hits — including a double and two homers — in his final eight at-bats. 'I think Harper caught up pretty quick,' Arrieta said. 'He's one of the brightest stars in our game. If he stays healthy and is on the field for us, he's going to put up some great numbers.' In his final plate appearance, Tampa Bay used a defensive alignment shifted toward the opposite field that left a large hole between first and second base. ___ More AP baseball coverage: https://apnews.com/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
  • DP_Tampa Bay 1, Philadelphia 0. LOB_Tampa Bay 6, Philadelphia 5. 2B_Meadows (1), Harper (1), Hernandez (2). HR_Kiermaier (1), Matos (1), Franco (2). SB_Wendle (1), Brujan (1). CS_Rodriguez (2), Matos (1). PB_Realmuto. Umpires_Home, Phil Cuzzi; First, James Hoye; Second, D;J; Reyburn; Third, Sean Barber. T_2:38. A_7,886
  • President Donald Trump welcomed Alex Ovechkin and the reigning NHL champion Washington Capitals to the Oval Office on Monday to congratulate them for winning the Stanley Cup in June. Trump said it was an honor to host the team because he is a hockey fan and a Capitals fan. The president called the Capitals 'winners' and said there is 'an awfully good chance' they will repeat this season. 'You brought the Stanley Cup home,' Trump said. 'Thousands of adoring fans greeted you. They were all over the place. And I have a feeling you're going to be doing it again. You're champions. You have a champion's heart.' Players, coaches and staff members took a private 45-minute tour of the White House and met with Trump in what was a last chance to be around hockey's sacred trophy as defending champions. 'It's a good reminder of the special things that our group did,' coach Todd Reirden said after practice earlier Monday. 'That will kind of put a wrap on it and the final chapter of that moving forward into finishing up the regular season here and moving some of that success into playoffs this year.' Two players on the current roster, Canadians Braden Holtby and Brett Connolly, and Devante Smith-Pelly, who is in the minors, did not visit the White House. Smith-Pelly in June cited Trump's rhetoric, and Holtby last week said he had to stay true to his values and respectfully decline. In the days since the team scheduled its visit, Holtby and his teammates explained their stances on going or declining while also shifting the focus back to the ice where the Capitals are trying to repeat as champions like the rival Pittsburgh Penguins did. 'The more important thing is we're just gearing up for a playoff run, and (different decisions on going or not going are) not going to hurt team unity,' Holtby said Friday. 'I hope they have a good experience there and then we can get back to hockey.' The rest of the team was in attendance, along with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani and counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway, who wore a Capitals Stanley Cup champions hat. Trump called daughter Ivanka a friend and fan of Ovechkin's, compared him to Babe Ruth and also singled out owner Ted Leonsis and American defenseman John Carlson during his remarks. Trump called Ovechkin a 'very special athlete, a great player.' 'It's huge honor for us to be here and meet you personally,' said Ovechkin, the Capitals' Russian-born captain and playoff MVP. 'We're going to try to (win) again. We have same team, experienced team, very good group of guys and we're going to try to do it again.' The visit comes a day after Attorney General William Barr released a summary of special counsel Robert Mueller's report that found no evidence Trump's campaign 'conspired or coordinated' with Russia to influence the 2016 presidential election but reached no conclusion on whether Trump obstructed justice. Trump did not take questions from reporters. Several Capitals players said going to the White House wasn't about politics. American Brooks Orpik, who went in 2009 with the Penguins to visit then-President Barack Obama, said the decision to go is 'not an endorsement of whoever's in the office.' The Capitals presented Trump with a red No. 45 jersey and a gold, engraved stick. Trump took individual pictures with players and staff and gave them pens and M&Ms before they left. Leonsis called visiting the Oval Office a 'true thrill for all of the players and the organization.' Carlson said: 'It's an honor to be here. I think all of us looked very much forward to it.' The Capitals' White House visit came nine-plus months after their first title in franchise history and with six games left in the regular season before the playoffs begin. Washington is in first place and again is a top contender. 'I think you're going to be successful,' Trump said. 'Very proud of you guys. Good luck. We're going to be watching.' ___ Associated Press writer Jill Colvin in Washington contributed to this report. ___ Follow AP Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SWhyno ___ More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
  • As part of the celebration of its 100th season, the NFL will break from tradition and feature the Packers vs. the Bears in its season opener Sept. 5. Usually, the Super Bowl champion is the home team for the prime-time opener, but the league wants to salute historic rivalries in 2019. None fits better than Chicago-Green Bay. The teams have met 198 times since 1921, when the Bears were the Chicago Staleys. Green Bay leads the series 97-95-6, including the clubs splitting two postseason games. Staging the Thursday night game at Chicago's Soldier Field — even if it is a modernized version of the stadium — adds to the theme. This will be the first time since 2003 the Super Bowl champion has not hosted the opener. New England instead will open at home in the prime-time game Sunday night, Sept. 8. The opponent has not yet been determined. The full schedule will be announced next month. 'With the 100th season, we want to do something to kick it off in a special way,' said Hans Schroeder, the league's chief operating officer of media. 'We're celebrating the Bears, one of the original member clubs, in their 100th season, and the Packers are in their 101st. It's an iconic matchup.' Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel invoked the name of George Halas, the team's founder, in welcoming the news. 'George 'Papa Bear' Halas and the NFL's co-founders probably didn't imagine the federation they established 100 years ago in cities and towns across the Midwest would one day be the most successful professional sports league in the world,' Emanuel said in a statement. 'But that's what their vision achieved. Chicago — the most American of American cities — is the perfect venue for this game.' Schroeder and Brian Rolapp, the NFL's chief media and business officer, outlined other plans for the 100th season: NFL Films will produce a series that selects the 100 greatest teams, plays, games, characters and game changers; an all-time team is being chosen and will be featured in a TV series; and Peyton Manning will talk to fans around the country about the history of the NFL for another television series. ___ More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_
  • As spring training neared its conclusion, a reporter mentioned to Washington Nationals manager Dave Martinez that Max Scherzer was not precisely on schedule to start on opening day. 'He's going to be lined up,' Martinez said with a laugh. 'Come Thursday at 1:05, he'll be on the mound.' Of course he will. Scherzer is, after all, one of the best pitchers in all of baseball, a three-time Cy Young Award winner and runner-up last season. So it makes perfect sense that when Washington hosts the NL East rival New York Mets this week, Scherzer will take on the pitcher who topped him in the NL voting, Jacob deGrom. 'It definitely has its prestige,' Scherzer said. 'It's symbolic. It's an honor to get the ball in that situation.' That's because even in this data-driven age in baseball, when analytics and analysis are supposed to be replacing 'gut feel' and sentiment when it comes to making any and all decisions, granting an opening day start to a particular pitcher because of his status rather than his statistics is something of a remnant of a bygone era. So what if your team, say, is facing an all-righty lineup? If a right-hander seems like the proper guy to send out there for Game 1, managers tend to do it. 'There's still a hierarchy on your pitching staff. And certainly when you have established, veteran guys, it still matters to them,' said Houston Astros manager A.J. Hinch, who will use Justin Verlander on Thursday against the Tampa Bay Rays and 2018 AL Cy Young Award winner Blake Snell. 'It also matters to your team. People want to name guys 'aces.'' The choice is often an obvious one, such as for Mets-Nationals and Astros-Rays. Other times, though, it can get complicated, and this year is no exception. Take the Los Angeles Dodgers. Their natural pick would Clayton Kershaw, but the lefty is beginning the season on the injured list. Walker Buehler and Rich Hill were ruled out, too. So the World Series runners-up the past two years are going with Hyun-Jin Ryu against Zach Greinke, an easier pick for the Arizona Diamondbacks. Sometimes, there's not a bevy of optimal options. Coming off a 115-loss season, the Baltimore Orioles planned to go with Alex Cobb to face the New York Yankees on Thursday, before the righty had groin soreness in his final exhibition tuneup Sunday. Cobb was 5-15 with a 4.90 ERA in 2018. Fact is, Baltimore's top two other starters — 'top' being relative, of course — also each took at least 15 Ls a year ago. Yankees manager Aaron Boone counters with Masahiro Tanaka, because Luis Severino is sidelined with right shoulder inflammation. It'll be Tanaka's fourth start in the past five opening days for New York, which went 0-3 in his others. 'Obviously, if you're given the opportunity to pitch on that day, you want to go out and do your best,' Tanaka said through a translator. 'If you look back, I don't think I've necessarily been good on opening days.' Seattle Mariners manager Scott Servais went away from tradition for his team's opener against the Oakland Athletics in Japan last week, bypassing Felix Hernandez, who had made 10 consecutive Game 1 starts, the longest active streak in the majors and surpassed by only four pitchers in history (Hall of Famer Jack Morris holds the record of 14 in a row). Hernandez, the 2010 AL Cy Young Award winner, boasts a 1.53 ERA in opening day appearances but struggled this spring, to the tune of a 15.95 ERA. 'We try to take as much of the emotion out of it as you can,' Servais said, 'and do what's best for our ballclub.' Still, King Felix did not hide his displeasure at giving up a slot he'd held for a full decade. Instead, Marco Gonzalez and Yusei Kikuchi started for Seattle in the two overseas games that officially got the season going. As much as getting that initial pitching assignment clearly counts for something to many, Houston's Hinch knows the next 161 games are equally valuable in the standings. 'We should continue to make it a big deal to start on opening day,' Hinch said. 'And we should make it a bigger deal to take your 33, 34 starts and go wire-to-wire.' ___ AP Sports Writer Jake Seiner in Peoria, Arizona, contributed to this report. ___ Follow Howard Fendrich on Twitter at http://twitter.com/HowardFendrich ___ More AP baseball: https://apnews.com/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
  • ATHENS —  The easy thing to do would be to climb up on top of my soap box and express my outrage over two Georgia football players getting arrested for allegedly fighting in a bar. I’m not going to do that. Football players fighting in bars has been going on since there has been football and bars. But I’m also not going to give the Bulldogs a pass for whatever happened in the wee hours of Sunday morning at The Cloud Bar. It shouldn’t have happened and can’t happen again. Coach Kirby Smart has a problem on his hands, and he needs to get in front of it quickly. I have no idea what he said to his players after they completed their first full-contact practice of the spring Saturday afternoon on Woodruff Practice Fields, but either he didn’t tell them “be careful tonight, stay out of the bars and stay out of trouble,” or he did and they ignored him. Either scenario is not good. The facts are what they are. Georgia, which is expected to be a Top 5 team when the 2019 season opens in five months, has had the more player arrests so far (four) than it has had spring practices (three). And that’s assuming that there are no more arrests as a result of Saturday night’s incident. Athens-Clarke County detectives are continuing their investigation by interviewing witnesses and reviewing video footage of what they described as a “chaotic scene” at this popular downtown Athens bar. As it is, the current rate would give the Bulldogs 16 arrests by December. So, clearly, something has to give. Fans have already done a good bit of scoffing about one of those arrests. Jaden Hunter, a redshirt sophomore linebacker, was hauled off to jail because he had a revoked/suspended license and was “illegally stopping, standing or parking a vehicle.” And I can certainly see why people would be incredulous about that. In fact, I think I can publicly confess to have illegally stopped or parked a vehicle before. Thankfully, I managed to avoid arrest and prosecution! But having a valid license, registration and insurance is all a part of being a good citizen in this country. Meanwhile, state law requires that one be taken to jail if he can’t produce all that during a traffic stop. For whatever reason, Hunter couldn’t. Georgia fans will surely recall not so long ago when the Bulldogs had to launch an internal team initiative to ensure that every player on the team who had transportation on campus had the proper credentials to drive it and that said vehicle was permitted to be on the roads. Lord knows UGA football has enough support personnel these days to assign someone to the task of being transportation czar. But these latest infractions aren’t the kind at which we should scoff. Believe me, I grew up in a “boys will be boys” time, but we don’t live in a “boys will be boys” world anymore. These last three arrests — nobody has been convicted of anything, mind you — fall into the physical violence category. Nothing good can ever come from that. Latavious Brini, a sophomore from Miami, is alleged to have slapped a man in the face “unprovoked” in another incident that started in another downtown Athens bar on Feb. 23. DawgNation actually never reported all the allegations stemming from that arrest, but you can read them HERE. If there’s any truth to any of it, that’s troubling. Smart told us that he’d “handle it internally,” and I’m sure he did. How and in what way, we don’t know. Smart told us the same thing about Hunter’s situation. Either way, I’m assuming they will be handled by local law enforcement and the court system. Whatever Smart did in those other two cases, it didn’t deter another incident. I guess we’ll eventually find out more about whatever led to a confrontation between Georgia football players Tyler Simmons and Tyrique Stevenson and “employees at The Cloud Bar.” I can’t imagine there not being body-camera video from police, not to mention cell phone video or pictures like there always is these days. But the actual incident itself is not the most troubling part for me. For me, the issue starts with the fact that Simmons, a senior receiver and potential offensive captain for the Bulldogs, was at a 21-and-over drinking establishment with a freshman. As an early enrollee, Stevenson otherwise would be in high school back home on Miami. I don’t know Stevenson’s actual age because it’s not listed anywhere in his bio, but he couldn’t be much older than 17. Suffice it to say, Stevenson shouldn’t have been there, and certainly not with a senior who is a member of the Bulldogs’ “Leadership Committee” that Smart puts so much stock in. There was a time not so long ago that UGA football made all of downtown Athens and the bars and restaurants therein off limits to the entire team. Apparently that’s no longer the case, but maybe that’s where we’re headed again. I always thought that overly restrictive in a free and open society. I mean, if you’re signed to a full scholarship to play football for a high-profile program like Georgia, with all the perks and benefits — and, yes, responsibilities and commitments — that come with that, you should be trusted to go downtown and hang out without getting in any trouble. Right? Maybe not. Maybe that’s why Smart declined to anoint leaders at his spring practice news conference not a week ago now. He hasn’t found any yet. So I’m not going to stand up here today and point to Georgia as an out of control program that lacks leadership. Smart’s dealing with what appears to be a couple of rough-housing misdemeanors and some irresponsible citizenry at the moment. But it’s only March, and there’s a long way to go to get until that Aug. 31st opener. I suspect the Bulldogs’ coach is about ready the kibosh on the jail-log trend for 2019. I know I am. Internally or externally, this needs to get handled. The post Georgia coach Kirby Smart needs to cut off team behavior issues at the pass appeared first on DawgNation.
  • Bill Self stood in a room just off the court in Allen Fieldhouse on Selection Sunday and lamented that the Big 12 managed to squeak only six schools into the NCAA Tournament. The Hall of Fame coach of Kansas pointed to the impressive nonconference wins that the league racked up in November and December. He highlighted the fact that the league had four of the top seven teams when it came to strength of schedule, including his Jayhawks at No. 1. Well, so much for all of that. The first weekend of the NCAA Tournament was a slap in the face to a league that habitually considers itself the toughest in college basketball. Regular-season co-champion Kansas State was beaten by UC Irvine in the biggest first-round upset, and Big 12 Tournament champ Iowa State lost to No. 11 seed Ohio State in what may have been the second-biggest upset. All told, the league managed to send only Texas Tech to the Sweet 16, one year after it made up a quarter of all teams in the regional semifinals and still had three left in the Elite Eight. 'We're not supposed to be here,' said Red Raiders coach Chris Beard, whose team is left carrying the banner for the entire league after sharing the regular-season crown with the Wildcats. 'They picked us bottom of the Big 12 and we haven't gotten much respect this year,' Beard continued, 'but these guys have continued to keep a chip on their shoulder and just realize that we can do a lot of things if we continue to play as a team.' The Red Raiders have been impressive after limping into the tournament off a stunning loss to lowly West Virginia in the quarterfinals of the Big 12 tourney. The No. 3 seed in the East Region cruised past Northern Kentucky, then routed sixth-seeded Buffalo to reach the Sweet 16. The rest of the Big 12 will be watching as they face No. 2 seed Michigan on Thursday night. 'This means everything to me,' said star guard Jarrett Culver, who has led the Red Raiders to back-to-back Sweet 16s for the first time. 'I'm glad to be part of it, making history like that. It's a blessing to be something — be a part of something that special.' The entire conference actually got off to a pretty special start, winning its first four games in the opening round. But things went off the rails when the Wildcats and Cyclones went down in the first round, and the league continued to take its lumps over the weekend. Auburn never gave the Jayhawks a chance in an 89-75 victory . Virginia shut down Oklahoma with its vaunted defense. Gonzaga had no problem with Baylor in advancing to the Sweet 16. That left Texas Tech as the lone Big 12 team in a regional final, matching the fewest the league has sent to the second weekend since getting shut out in 1998 — its second year in existence. And if the Red Raiders lose to the Wolverines? The last time the Big 12 failed to get a team to the Elite Eight was 2015, when both of its Sweet 16 entrants got knocked off. 'The thing about it is, it's been a challenging year,' Self said. 'I thought our kids hung in there and did a great job, for the most part. Their attitudes and everything was terrific. We didn't muster up enough momentum like some past teams have to probably go on a run like other teams have.' Self is right in that there were some things beyond the Big 12's control. In the case of the Jayhawks, they lost star center Udoka Azubuike to season-ending wrist surgery, veteran guard Lagerald Vick left the team and Silvio de Sousa was rendered ineligible by the NCAA after his name surfaced in connection with the FBI probe into Adidas and college basketball corruption. Baylor had to reinvent itself after losing talented forward Tristan Clark to a season-ending knee injury, while Kansas State played long stretches without point guards Kamau Stokes and Cartier Diarra, then entered the postseason without leading scorer Dean Wade because of a foot injury. West Virginia dealt with injuries, defections and all manner of off-the-court strife. Part of the fallout was that the Big 12 failed to get the same kind of NCAA Tournament seeding that it has in past years, and that in turn resulted in tough early matchups. Gonzaga and Virginia are both No. 1 seeds, and Kansas lost to a team in Auburn that just won the SEC Tournament. 'I got to be honest with you,' Self said, 'when I saw Auburn as the five in our bracket, I'm going, 'I just watched them play and they're fast,' and those are the teams we struggle most against.' Kansas expects to retool heading into next season, particularly if several of its players declare early for the NBA draft. Other schools are young enough that there is reason for optimism heading into next season, and several have solid recruiting classes already in the fold. For everyone but Texas Tech, the work toward next year's NCAA Tournament already has begun. 'I feel bad for whoever has to play us next year,' Baylor's King McClure said, 'because we're going to be pretty good. The guys following up, another year of growth, summer of work. That is one thing I can say about this group. We work hard, we stay in the gym. The transfers we got coming in. I just feel bad for next year because I think we're going to be very talented and be very special.' ___ More AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/MarchMadness and http://www.twitter.com/AP_Top25