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No. 2 Duke earns top seed over No. 1 Tennessee in initial NCAA rankings

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No. 2 Duke earns top seed over No. 1 Tennessee in initial NCAA rankings

Tennessee has been ranked No. 1 in The Associated Press poll the past three weeks, has one loss this season and owns Division I’s longest winning streak.

But it wasn’t enough for the NCAA Division I Basketball Committee to give the Volunteers the top overall seed in its initial rankings. The committee revealed its preliminary rankings on Saturday and it was Duke, not the Vols, earning the No. 1 overall seed.

The Blue Devils were No. 1 in the East Region and the Vols topped the South, with Virginia in the Midwest and Gonzaga out West earning the other No. 1 seeds.

“They are heading to the East by the slightest of margins,” committee chairman and Stanford athletic director Bernard Muir said. “There was a very close conversation between the No. 1 seed and the No. 2 seed, but the strength of schedule won out in Duke’s case.”

Duke was slated to play in Washington, D.C., in an East Region that includes Michigan, Marquette and Iowa State. Tennessee tops a South Region in Louisville with North Carolina, Purdue and Nevada. Virginia led a Midwest Region in Kansas City that also includes Kentucky, Houston and Wisconsin. The West Region in Anaheim, California, had Michigan State, Kansas and Louisville with the Zags.

The initial rankings offered a preview of the committee’s thoughts five weeks before Selection Sunday on March 17. The NCAA ditched the RPI this season for its own ranking system, the NCAA Evaluation Tool, to select teams for the NCAA tournament. The NET relies on game results, strength of schedule, game location, scoring margin, offensive and defensive efficiency and quality of wins and losses.

Duke (20-2, 8-1 ACC) has losses to Gonzaga and Syracuse, but blew out Kentucky in its season opener, knocked off Auburn and Texas Tech and plays in the loaded ACC. Tennessee’s only loss was to then-No. 2 Kansas. It has the longest winning streak in school history, with 17 straight victories.

The Vols (21-1, 9-0) moved to No. 1 in the AP Top 25 in Week 12 after Duke’s loss to Syracuse.

“When I say they’re the No. 2 seed, really, in the committee’s mind, it was 1A and 1B,” Muir said.

Muir went on to say defending national champion Villanova was the last team out of the rankings, with Virginia Tech, Texas Tech and LSU also being considered. Kentucky, the top No. 2 seed, was placed in Kansas City instead of playing just down the road in Louisville, so it can’t play No. 1 Duke until the Final Four.

Kansas was moved out West for competitive balance in the bracket. Lawrence is about 40 miles from the Sprint Center in Kansas City. Nevada, No. 6 in the AP poll, was the No. 14 overall seed in the initial rankings after opening the season 21-1. The Wolf Pack’s loss came at New Mexico on Jan. 5, and Muir said they were close to earning a No. 3 seed.

“We’re so happy to be part of today, but we know there’s five weeks of basketball to be played and a lot of work to be done by a lot of teams, including ourselves,” Nevada coach Eric Musselman said. “We just want to get better in all facets of the game. We have a lot of tough venues on the road. With eight games to play, anything can happen.”

Louisville was placed in Anaheim because the South Region will be played on the Cardinals’ home court, giving them an unfair advantage.

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Reports: Bears to cut K Parkey in March

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Reports: Bears to cut K Parkey in March

After a difficult season culminated by a crucial missed field goal on a potential game-winning field goal in the NFC playoffs, kicker Cody Parkey will be released by the Chicago Bears when the new league year begins in March.

FILE PHOTO: Sep 17, 2018; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bears kicker Cody Parkey (1) watches his field goal during the first half against the Seattle Seahawks at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

According to multiple reports on Friday, the team intends to cut ties with Parkey once the NFL free agency period begins on March 13.

Parkey, who turned 27 on Tuesday, endured an inconsistent season in Chicago after inking a four-year, $15 million contract last winter following the team’s release of Robbie Gould, the Bears’ all-time leading scorer who moved on to the San Francisco 49ers.

Parkey, a five-year veteran, not only missed a career-high seven field-goal attempts and three extra points during the regular season, but his 43-yard attempt in the final seconds of the NFC wild-card round against the Philadelphia Eagles first hit the upright then the crossbar before bouncing back on the field.

Despite the NFL later ruling that the kick was partially blocked, Parkey took much of the public blame for the Bears’ season ending.

Parkey began his career with the Eagles in 2014 when he made the Pro Bowl as a rookie, scoring a franchise-record 150 points while making 32 of 36 field-goal tries. In two seasons with the Eagles, Parkey never missed an extra point.

Parkey later kicked for the Cleveland Browns in 2016 and Miami Dolphins in 2017.

In January, the Bears signed Tulsa product Redford Jones after conducting a workout that reportedly included multiple hopefuls. Jones made 50 of his 67 field-goal attempts at Tulsa from 2015-17, and he does have a kick on his resume where he hit both uprights. Unlike Parkey’s double-doink, though, that 2016 attempt against Cincinnati ended up going over the crossbar for three points.

“We need more production out of that position,” Bears general manager Ryan Pace said last month after signing Jones. “We know we need to get better there, and it will be an area of focus.”

—Field Level Media

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WTA roundup: Bencic upsets Svitolina to reach Dubai final

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WTA roundup: Bencic upsets Svitolina to reach Dubai final

Belinda Bencic secured a spot in the final by stunning two-time champion Elina Svitolina 6-2, 3-6, 7-6 (3) on Friday at the Dubai Duty Free Championships in the United Arab Emirates.

Tennis – WTA Premier 5 – Dubai Tennis Championships – Dubai Duty Free Tennis Stadium, Dubai, United Arab Emirates – February 22, 2019 Switzerland’s Belinda Bencic in action during the Semi Final against Ukraine’s Elina Svitolina REUTERS/Satish Kumar

Bencic trailed 5-3 in the final set before recovering to defeat the sixth-seeded Svitolina. She will face second-seeded Petra Kvitova in the championship match after the Czech Republic star defeated Taiwan’s Su-Wei Hsieh 3-6, 6-2, 6-4.

“I think I’m always the most proud of how I fight,” Bencic said after posting the victory. “Even when I lose, I learned myself to just look in the mirror and be proud of myself when I’m fighting, when I’m giving my all, when I’m trying to do what I have to do.”

Bencic won eight consecutive points after Svitolina was in position to close out the match. Then the Switzerland native carried the momentum into the tiebreaker to notch one of the biggest victories of her career by outdueling the Ukrainian.

“Basically, I stayed in the zone, even in (the) tiebreak,” Bencic said. “I was barely breathing, just playing automatic. You are not thinking any more. It’s where the instincts just guide you through it.”

Bencic will be seeking her third career title when she squares off with Kvitova, who will be shooting for her 27th.

Kvitova dropped the first set on Friday before recovering to win the last two.

“It was a tough one today, for sure,” Kvitova said. “She really didn’t give me anything for free. It was a tough first set. I’m glad that I was able to came back in the second. I didn’t play great at the end of the first.

“I think I’m pleased with my kind of mental focus after losing the first set, that I was calmer when I came back and played from the beginning of the second set. I still kind of felt that I can do that somehow. I don’t know. It was something weird.”

Kvitova overcame eight double faults to claim the victory.

Hungarian Ladies Open

Top-seeded Alison Van Uytvanck defeated Ukraine’s Kateryna Kozlova 3-6, 6-1, 6-4 to advance to the semifinals in Budapest.

Van Uytvanck, of Belgium, will face fifth-seeded Ekaterina Alexandrova in the semis. The Russian dispatched third-seeded Frenchwoman Pauline Parmentier 6-3, 6-2.

Eighth-seeded Marketa Vondrousova of the Czech Republic will face Russian Anastasia Potapova in the other semi. Vondrousova outlasted Romania’s Irina-Camelia Begu 5-7, 6-1, 6-3 while the 17-year-old Potapova fought past Romania’s Sorana Cirstea 6-4, 6-7 (5), 7-5 in 2 hours, 50 minutes.

—Field Level Media

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Patriots owner Robert Kraft facing charges of solicitation of prostitution

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Patriots owner Robert Kraft facing charges of solicitation of prostitution

New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft is facing charges of misdemeanor solicitation of prostitution after he was twice videotaped paying for a sex act at an illicit massage parlor, police in Florida said Friday.

The 77-year-old Kraft was one of 25 people involved in the alleged solicitation at the Orchids of Asia Day Spa in Jupiter.

Michael Edmondson, spokesman for the state attorney’s office in Palm Beach County, told ESPN that the nature of any charges that the 25 people face will not be released until next week.

Kraft has denied wrongdoing.

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