1 Syracuse survives scare from Wisconsin

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1 Syracuse survives scare from Wisconsin

From Comcast SportsNet
BOSTON (AP) -- Syracuse will be playing for a spot in the Final Four because of numbers. C.J. Fair put up some like he hadn't in a while, and the Orange finished with offensive statistics that Wisconsin just doesn't allow in a 64-63 victory in the East Regional semifinals Thursday night that wasn't secure until the final buzzer. "Offensively we played very, very well and we had to play very, very well," Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said. Fair finished with 15 points -- five fewer than he had in the last six games combined -- on 7-of-9 shooting. The Orange scored 11 more than the Badgers allowed on average in leading Division I. Syracuse shot 55 percent from the field, well above the 38.5 percent Wisconsin gave up this season, and the Orange were 5 of 9 from 3-point range, much better than the 28.8 percent the Badgers allowed. All those numbers mean the Orange (34-2) will play second-seeded Ohio State (30-7) in the regional final Saturday with a trip to New Orleans at stake. "I can't tell you how good it feels to win a game like this," Boeheim said. "This was a great, great game." And it wasn't decided until Wisconsin's Jordan Taylor missed a 3-pointer with 3 seconds left. Josh Gasser corralled the rebound but his toss toward the basket was off at the buzzer. "It was on line, and I felt like I got my legs into it," Taylor said. "I knew it was a deep 3, but it felt good, and then to see it kind of come up short was kind of heartbreaking." Kris Joseph, a 75 percent free throw shooter, had missed the front end of a 1-and-1 with 18 seconds to go with Syracuse up by a point, giving the Badgers (26-10) a chance at the victory. Passing the ball around the perimeter of the zone but not creating much space, Wisconsin had to settle for Taylor's shot. "We were just trying to get an open shot and try and make them rotate in the zone," Taylor said. "We did a little bit, but they did a good job of recovering to open guys there. They used the length that they have and kind of forced us into a tough shot, and it obviously didn't go down. So it was tough. Hats off to them." The Badgers finished 14 of 27 from 3-point range but couldn't make one over the final 6 minutes after a stretch in the second half when they made six straight in as many possessions. "I think we naturally tried to move out," Boeheim said, referring to Syracuse's famed 2-3 zone. "But you've got to get them off their spots. We didn't do that for a stretch out there. But they have terrific ball movement, and they have five guys that can shoot. There aren't that many teams like that." Scoop Jardine had 14 points for Syracuse, while Dion Waiters had 13 and Brandon Triche 11. But it was Fair who made the difference after not being a factor late in the season. The 6-foot-8 sophomore forward, the Orange's fifth-leading scorer at 8.3 points per game, was 7 for 27 from the field over a six-game stretch. The Orange had been struggling offensively as well, failing to reach 60 points three times in their last seven games. "Sometimes you just need to see the ball go in the rim," Fair said. Jared Berggren and Taylor both had 17 points for Wisconsin, which came in allowing 52.9 points per game. Syracuse reached that many points with 9 minutes to play, but there were two lead changes and two ties still to come. "It was a nailbiter, but we made some plays down the stretch and got a couple of stops," Fair said. Wisconsin, which averaged 7.7 3-pointers per game and has a season high of 15, hit its last 3 with 7:03 to play when Taylor gave the Badgers their final lead of the game, 59-56. Syracuse went ahead for good on a spin move by Waiters with 6:03 to play, but the lead was never more than three points. Gasser made two free throws with 31 seconds left to bring Wisconsin within 64-63. "I think that was the best game anybody has ever played against us and didn't beat us," Boeheim said. The win was No. 890 overall for Boeheim, third on the all-time list, and it was his 48th in the NCAA tournament, breaking a tie for fifth place with John Wooden. "Syracuse just has too many athletes that can do so many things, and it's hard to prepare for that on the defensive end. You think you're getting things done, but you're a step behind," Badgers coach Bo Ryan said. "So we did the best we could, and I thought we played great defense. Not everybody on the court agreed with that, but I thought we played unbelievable defense for the most part. ' Syracuse won again without starting center Fab Melo, who was declared ineligible for the tournament by the school just days before the Orange opened with a shaky win over 16th-seeded North Carolina-Asheville. The Badgers were trying to reach the regional final for the first time since 2005.

Santiago Casilla signs, but who will close for the A's?

Santiago Casilla signs, but who will close for the A's?

Santiago Casilla says he’s returning to his baseball home, which requires only a trip across the Bay Bridge.

The A’s finalized a two-year $11 million contract with the former Giants closer Friday, adding him to a bullpen that has no shortage of late-inning relief options for manager Bob Melvin.

“There’s an old saying that it’s always good to return home, and I’m very happy to get this new opportunity with the Athletics,” Casilla said on a media conference call, via interpreter Manolo Hernandez Douen.

It’s “new” in that the 36-year-old Casilla spent the past seven seasons wearing black and orange. But his major league career is rooted in Oakland. The A’s signed him out of the Dominican Republic as an amateur free agent back in 2000, and he spent his first six seasons with Oakland, the first two of those pitching under the name Jairo Garcia.

He’s since won three World Series rings with the Giants, including notching four saves during the 2014 postseason. His final season with San Francisco ended on a sour note last year, however, as he was demoted from the closer’s role during a rough September.

What role will he find in 2017?

Casilla, who reportedly can earn up to $3 million in incentives based on games finished, joins three other relievers in the A’s ‘pen who have legitimate big league closer’s experience — John Axford, Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson. Doolittle was the closer entering last spring but shoulder problems derailed him for a second consecutive season. Madson handled the ninth for most of 2016 and notched 30 saves, but general manager David Forst made it clear Friday that the Opening Night closer has yet to be determined.

“We had a number of different guys save games last year,” Forst said. “… Santiago saved almost 80 games the last couple years. He’s got a lot of experience. As we talked to him and his representatives, he made it clear he’s willing to do anything. It’s great for Bob to have a number of options. It’ll sort itself out in spring training as to who the guy is to start the season.”

Doolittle, Axford, Ryan Dull and Zach Neal combined for 12 saves last season. But even though the A’s are fully stocked with ninth-inning options, it’s fair to question whether any of them is a clear-cut answer for the closer’s role as spring training nears.

Madson’s seven blown saves tied for second most in the American League. Doolittle hasn’t pitched a full season since 2014. Axford issued 4.11 walks per nine innings last year, and Dull’s biggest strength is his ability escape jams when entering mid-inning.

Casilla went 2-5 with a 3.57 ERA and 31 saves last season, striking out a career-best 10.1 per nine innings, but there was some turbulence. He was displeased with Giants manager Bruce Bochy last May after being pulled from a game. Then he struggled mightily in September and lost the closer’s role. Bochy didn’t call on him at all as the bullpen coughed up a ninth-inning lead to the Cubs in Game 4 of the NL Division Series that ended the Giants’ season. That decision had Casilla in tears after the game.

Asked Friday if he harbored any hard feelings toward the Giants, Casilla replied: “It’s a new year, a new team. I have left this in the past.”

Forst pointed to Casilla’s sustained velocity — his fastball averaged 93.6 miles per hour last season — and his expanded repertoire over his career as reasons why the A’s went after him.

“His numbers were really good — 65 strikeouts, 19 walks,” Forst said. “As we got through the offseason I think we thought he was being overlooked a little bit just because of the narrative surrounding his departure with the Giants. I wasn’t around and I don’t know what went on, but it seems like a few blown saves marred what otherwise was a fantastic season for him.”

In other news, the A’s signed veteran outfielder Alejandro De Aza to a minor league deal with an invitation to major league spring training. Forst noted De Aza’s ability to play all three outfield spots and his speed as traits that caught the A’s attention.

Report: 49ers increase offer to Bradley to become D-coordinator

Report: 49ers increase offer to Bradley to become D-coordinator

The 49ers reportedly continue to pursue Gus Bradley to serve as defensive coordinator on presumptive coach Kyle Shanahan’s staff.

The 49ers have increased their offer to Bradley, Mike Siliver of the NFL Network reported on Friday. Bradley wanted to work with Tom Cable, according to the report.

Cable interviewed with the 49ers on Sunday but removed his name from consideration on Tuesday after he and Seattle co-director of player personnel Trent Kirchner sensed their 49ers’ interest in them intended to receive a commitment from Shanahan, sources told CSNBayArea.com.

Bradley served as defensive coordinator with the Seattle Seahawks from 2009 to ’12. In Bradley’s final season on Pete Carroll’s staff, Seattle ranked first in the NFL in points allowed and fourth in total yards.

Bradley became head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2013. His teams went 14-48 before he was fired with two games remaining in the season.

The 49ers this week inquired with the Chicago Bears about the possibility of bringing back Vic Fangio to the organization to serve as defensive coordinator. The 49es were informed, according to a source, that the Bears would not let Fangio out of his contract. Fangio was the defensive coordinator for all four seasons with the 49ers under Jim Harbaugh.