War Eagle is flying high over men’s college basketball for the first time in history. A barely-ranked afterthought to begin the season, Auburn climbed past Gonzaga to No. 1 in the AP Top 25 poll released Monday. The Tigers beat Kentucky over the weekend for their 15th consecutive win, then scooped up 45 of 61 first-place votes to become the nation’s top-ranked team for the first time since the poll began with the 1948-49 season. The Bulldogs dropped to No. 2 with 15 first-place votes. Arizona remained third and earned the other No. 1 vote. “The No. 1 ranking matters because it’s historical,” Tigers coach Bruce Pearl said Monday. “I’m very happy for Auburn. I’m very happy for my coaches and or players to have been been able to achieve that. That said, we got a lot of work to do.” The Tigers are the fifth team to reach the top spot this season, following two stints by the Bulldogs and runs by Duke, Purdue, and defending national champion Baylor. Baylor rebounded from consecutive losses while it was No. 1 to beat West Virginia and Oklahoma and climb one position to fourth in the latest poll. Big 12 rival Kansas is fifth. The Boilermakers fell two spots to sixth after losing to Indiana early last week. They were followed by Houston and UCLA, deadlocked at No. 7, with Duke and Michigan State rounding out the top 10.
ESPN’s Dick Vitale says he won’t call games for rest of season
Dick Vitale announced that he will not be appearing on ESPN for the remainder of the college basketball season due to ongoing treatment for precancerous dysplasia on his vocal cords. Vitale first announced in late December that he needed to take a break to rest his ailing voice. While Vitale said in a statement that the rest has helped, he will need surgery to treat the ulcerated lesions on his vocal cords. Vitale previously disclosed in October that he had been diagnosed with lymphoma and that he was undergoing chemotherapy treatments. He made an emotional return to the airwaves on Nov. 23 for the Gonzaga-UCLA game in Las Vegas. The last game Vitale called was on Dec. 12 between Villanova and Baylor.
Flyers’ Yandle ties NHL Iron Man mark at 964 straight games
Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Keith Yandle tied retired center Doug Jarvis on for the NHL record of 964 consecutive games played. The 35-year-old Yandle started his streak March 26, 2009, with Phoenix, and he has played 1,074 games with the Coyotes, New York Rangers, and Florida Panthers. A three-time All-Star, Yandle is in his first season with the Flyers and set the mark when he hit the ice for the third shift of the game against Dallas. Jarvis played 964 straight games over his entire career from Oct. 8, 1975, to Oct. 10, 1987, with Montreal, Washington, and Hartford. He never played a game outside the streak. Yandle can become the NHL Iron Man on the road Tuesday against the New York Islanders. Jarvis, a senior advisor for the Vancouver Canucks, said he planned to call Yandle and congratulate him on the streak. “I just commend him. I think the streak is a real tribute to his character, his commitment, his love of the game to be in there every night,” Jarvis said.
Canucks hire first woman assistant GM in ex-agent Emilie Castonguay
The Vancouver Canucks have hired former player agent Emilie Castonguay to be assistant general manager, making her the first female assistant GM in franchise history. Jim Rutherford, Vancouver’s president of hockey operations and the interim general manager, said in a statement that Castonguay will play a lead role in player contracts and negotiations and managing the collective bargaining agreement. Castonguay comes to the Canucks from Momentum Hockey, where she became the first female NHLPA-certified agent in Canada in 2016. She has represented a number of high-level players, including Alexis Lafreniere, who is with the New York Rangers and was the first overall pick in the 2020 NHL entry draft.
Deadly stampede overshadows Cameroon’s African Cup progress
Cameroon’s progress at the African Cup of Nations was overshadowed by a stampede outside the stadium that killed at least six people during the host nation’s victory over Comoros. The crush happened as crowds struggled to get access to Olembe Stadium in the capital of Yaounde as Cameroon beat Comoros 2-1 to reach the quarterfinals. Strikers Karl Toko Ekambi and Vincent Aboubakar gave Cameroon what appeared an insurmountable lead by the 70th minute against the tournament newcomers, who are ranked 132nd in the world and played with a defender in goal due to a coronavirus outbreak in the squad. Comoros, which reached the round of 16 by ousting four-time African champion Ghana, managed to produce one of the goals of the tournament so far to provide a flicker of hope of a comeback. Youssouf M’Changama scored from a free kick from 30 yards (meters) in the 81st but Comoros couldn’t produce an equalizer. Details of the tragedy outside the stadium were only confirmed after the game. Officials at the nearby Messassi hospital said they had received at least 40 injured people from the stampede. “Some of the injured are in desperate condition,” said Olinga Prudence, a nurse. “We will have to evacuate them to a specialized hospital.” Cameroon is hosting Africa’s flagship soccer tournament for the first time in 50 years.
Alyssa Naeher back with US team after injury layoff
After her heartbreaking exit from the Tokyo Olympics, Alyssa Naeher is back with the US women’s national team. Naeher, who was knocked out of the Summer Games by a hyperextended right knee and a bone contusion, is training with the team at its camp in Austin, Texas. “I’m 100 percent, no restrictions,” Naeher said Monday. “It’s been I think, almost six, seven months now. So I’m excited to be healthy,” she said. “It’s been a long, long recovery and I’m excited to get back in with the group to put my head down and just get back to work.” The United States’ top goalkeeper was injured in the first half of a 1-0 semifinal loss to Canada in Tokyo. The United States went on to win the bronze medal with backup Adrianna Franch in goal, while the Canadians claimed gold. When the injury occurred, Naeher was coming off one of her best performances ever. She had saved a penalty kick at the end of regulation and two more in a shootout against the Netherlands in the quarterfinals. On a conference call with reporters, Naeher reflected on the lessons she learned from the long layoff. “This game can be kind of cruel to go from such a high to such a low that quickly,” she said. “For me, it’s just not taking anything for granted. You never know when an injury is going to pop up. (Now) It’s just a little bit more of enjoying every part of it, enjoying every training session again, enjoying every meeting, all the physical therapy sessions.”