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Red Sox Name Clay Buchholz Opening Day Starter

Jim Rogash/Getty Images(FORT MYERS, Fla.) -- The Boston Red Sox named pitcher Clay Buchholz the Opening Day starter for their game against the Philadelphia Phillies on April 6.

Buchholz will be making his first Opening Day start in nine seasons and edged out free agent addition Rick Porcello, who came over from the Tigers this offseason.

"He came into camp in a good place, both mentally and physically," Red Sox manager John Farrell said. "The line score last time out to me doesn't reflect the way the ball came out of his hand. Now, line scores are important. I get it. But he feels good physically. He's confident. We've seen when Clay has been in that place, he's one of the better pitchers in baseball."

Porcello will pitch the second game and Farrell is happy that Buchholz has embraced the role since Jon Lester's departure to the Cubs in the offseason.

"He has lived the changes that have gone on around him," Farrell said. "He's fully aware of everything that is Boston and that goes along with being a starting pitcher for the Red Sox. He doesn't back away from it. He may go about it in his own way, he's not the most vocal guy in the world, but he's been here for a number of years. To me, he's in a position to embrace that and assume that."

Buchholz was 8-11 with a 5.34 ERA last season.

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Justin Verlander: Triceps Feels 'Better'

Robert Rogers/MLB Photos via Getty Images(CLEARWATER, Fla.) -- Justin Verlander played catch Sunday morning for the first time since leaving a start with a cramp in his right tricep, but it remained unclear when the Detroit Tigers ace would pitch again.

Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said Verlander did some light tossing at the team's spring training camp at Lakeland and still felt "a little bit tight," but otherwise reported some general improvement.

"He felt better today," Ausmus said before the Tigers' game Sunday with the Philadelphia Phillies. "Not completely better, but he feels better than he did yesterday."

Verlander is still scheduled to make his final spring start Thursday against the New York Yankees, but the Tigers remain unsure whether he will make it. They also have begun discussing other options to push back his first start of the season, which is currently scheduled for Wednesday, April 8, which would be the Tigers' second game of the season.

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Rick Barnes Departs From Texas

Brian Bahr/Getty Images(TEXAS) -- Rick Barnes parted ways with a team he coached for 17 seasons on Sunday in a classy way.

Barnes and the school agreed to "mutually part ways" and during his tenure he was 402-180 and won three Big 12 regular-season championships.

"I leave this job with no regrets," Barnes said in a statement. "Instead, I look back at our time here and say 'thank you' to all the players, coaches and staff who have worked with our program throughout the last 17 years."

Barnes guided Texas to 16 NCAA tournaments during his time and reached the Final Four in 2003.

"The University owes Rick a great deal of gratitude and respect for all he's done to put Texas on the basketball map," Texas athletic director Steve Patterson said in the statement. "He elevated our program immensely and always did it with class. He put our student-athletes first. He won with integrity. We thank Rick for his many years of service to Texas and wish him continued success in the future."

Texas plans on filling the coaching void soon and VCU's Shaka Smart and Wichita State's Gregg Marshall are the front runners for the position, according to reports.

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Aldridge Powers Trail Blazers Over Nuggets, 120-114

Christian Petersen/Getty Images(PORTLAND, Ore.) -- Blazers power forward LaMarcus Aldridge had 32 points and 11 rebounds as Portland (47-25) outpaced the Denver Nuggets (28-46), 120-114 Saturday night.

In 35 minutes of action, Aldridge was 13-of 20 from the field. Shooting guard Arron Affalo contributed 21 points while point guard Damian Lillard had eight points and 10 assists.

With 5:36 left in the game, Denver cut Portland’s lead to 101-98 on a three-pointer from guard Jameer Nelson. The Blazers would respond with a 7-0 run to put them ahead 108-98 with 2:29 to play.

Nelson finished the game with 22 points and shooting guard Randy Foye had 17 points for the Nuggets.

Portland sweeps the season series, 4-0.

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Koivu & Niederreiter Lead Wild Past Kings, 4-1

iStockPhoto/Thinkstock(ST. PAUL, Minn.) -- Center Mikko Koivu and forward Nino Niederreiter each scored two goals as the Minnesota Wild (44-25-7; 95pts) iced the Los Angeles Kings (37-24-14; 88pts), 4-1 on Saturday night.

Niederreiter put the Wild on the scoreboard first at 3:15 into the first period with an assist from Koivu and forward Chris Stewart. Minnesota would increase its lead to 2-0, 10:24 later in the opening period on a backhander from Koviu.

Wild goaltender Devan Dubnyk stopped 31-of-32 shots he faced while Jonathan Quick and Martin Jones were a combined 16-of-19 in the net for the Kings.

Koviu now has 14 goals on the season while Niederreiter has 24.

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Mirotic Scores 24 Points in Bulls 111-80 Win Against Knicks

Ronald Martinez/Getty Images(CHICAGO) -- Six players scored in double-figures for the Bulls led by power forward Nikola Mirotic with 24 points as Chicago (45-29) beat New York (14-60), 111-80 Saturday night. It’s the Knicks franchise-record 60th loss of the season.

Mirotic was 8-for-15 from the field and 3-of-7 from beyond the arc in 26 minutes of action. Bulls power forward Pau Gasol contributed 19 points and 12 rebounds while shooting guard Jimmy Butler had 18 points, four assists and five steals.

Chicago jumped out to a 28-17 first quarter lead and cruised into half-time up, 54-34. Gasol had 13 points in the first half while Mirtoic poured in 11 points.

Center Andrea Bargani led the way for the Knicks with 14 points and seven rebounds. 

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Terence Newman Joins Vikings

NFL via Getty Images(MINNEAPOLIS) -- Cornerback Terence Newman signed a one-year contract with the Minnesota Vikings.

The deal means the 36-year-old Newman will be reunited with Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer, who was Newman's defensive coordinator for four seasons with the Dallas Cowboys and two with the Cincinnati Bengals.

Newman started 13 games for the Bengals last season, recording 75 tackles, 15 passes defended, and one interception. While that was a down year for the two-time Pro Bowler, Zimmer is still confident he can play.

“That’s the biggest thing. He can still play. He came in the league later. I think he was 25 when he came in,” Zimmer said. “He struggled a little bit in Dallas and then played great in Cincinnati. Last year, he didn’t play quite as good, so seemingly with me, we get things fixed a little bit. I really respect him, and I think he really respects me.”

Newman was selected with the fifth overall pick of the 2003 NFL Draft by Dallas. Since then he's played 12 NFL seasons, nine with Dallas and three with Cincinnati. During that time he's played in 174 games, compiling 744 tackles, 161 passes defended, 37 interceptions, eight forced fumbles, and four defensive touchdowns.

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Wisconsin's Hot Shooting Buries Arizona, Sends Badgers to Final Four

Ronald Martinez/Getty Images(LOS ANGELES) -- Top-ranked Wisconsin hits 10 of 12, 3-point attempts in the second half to eliminate No. 2 Arizona 85-78, Saturday, from the Men's NCAA Basketball Tournament and reach its second straight Final Four.

Frank Kaminsky scored 29 points and Sam Dekker added a career-high 27 to oust the Wildcats in the Elite 8 for the second-straight season.

Arizona (34-4) led at halftime and played solid the entire second half but couldn't match the ridiculous shots the Badgers continually hit from long-distance.

"Eventually when that ball gets out, everybody on the court can shoot it, and they get you with an open 3 that breaks your back," Arizona head coach Sean Miller said. "They had two 3s at the half. Think about that."

Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Brandon Ashley each scored 17 points for Arizona, with senior T.J. McConnell providing a gutsy performance scoring 14 and dishing out five assists in the loss.

Arizona lost despite hitting 28 of its 30 free throw attempts.

Wisconsin (35-3) is now headed to Indianapolis where it will play Kentucky, with the winner heading to the National Championship game.

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Kentucky Overcomes Late Deficit to KO Notre Dame, Advance to Final Four

Mitchell Layton/Getty Images(CLEVELAND) -- The luck of the Irish ran out.

Leading most of the second half, No. 3 Notre Dame slowly watched top-ranked Kentucky come back and eventually take the lead for good when Andrew Harrison made two free throws with six seconds remaining, as the Wildcats edge the Fighting Irish 68-66 to advance to the Final Four of the Men's NCAA Basketball Tournament.

Kentucky (38-0) gets to continue its undefeated season with large thanks to the Harrison twins. Aaron Harrison made an NBA range 3-pointer with 3:18 remaining to give Kentucky its first lead since the 15:06 mark of the second half. Notre Dame's Jerian Grant answered Harrison's three with one of his own with 2:36 remaining to put Notre Dame up by two. Karl-Anthony Towns then scored two of his game-high 25 points to tie the contest before the other Harrison hit his free throws to seal the game.

Notre Dame (32-6), which had a decided size disadvantage with the Cats, was only outrebounded by one in the loss. It also doubled Kentucky 16-8 in assists.

Zach Auguste scored 20 while Steve Vasturia and Grant added 16 and 15 points respectively in a losing effort.

Kentucky advances to the National Semifinal in Indianapolis next weekend where it will meet Wisconsin.

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Bruins Ruin Lundqvist's Return

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(BOSTON) -- Milan Lucic scored twice to help the Boston Bruins upend the New York Rangers 4-2 Saturday, spoiling goalie Henrik Lundqvist's return to the ice.

Lundqvist, who missed the past seven weeks with a vascular injury, was instantly challenged. Lucic scored just 1:41 into the game when a puck went off his skate and past the former Vezina Trophy winner. Lucic scored again just over seven minutes later when Torey Krug dished the puck to the B's hulking winger, who slapped it between Lunqvist's legs for a 2-0 lead.

"It seemed like everything kind of kept rolling after we got that break on the first goal," Lucic said. "It's good to see us step up and play the way we can play. Right now it's just continuing to recapture what we had here tonight."

The Bruins did receive a scare early in the second period when goalie Tuukka Rask left the game for the locker room. He didn't return to the bench but Bruins head coach Claude Julien said after the game that it appeared Rask was just dehydrated.

"He's scheduled to travel with us, he's scheduled to be with us and he should be fine for (Sunday against Carolina)," Julien said. "We just found out at the beginning of the second (period). I said, `Are you still having those symptoms?' He said, `Yep.' So I said, `Let's get you out of here."

Rick Nash scored his 40th goal of the season for the Rangers (47-20-7, 101pts) in the loss.

With the win the Bruins (37-25-13, 87pts) snap a six-game losing streak and take over sole possession of the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

 

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