GREENSBORO, N.C., March 15 (UPI) -- Less than a week before the start of the NCAA Tournament, college basketball's elite finds itself in shambles.
Since the major conference tournaments got underway on Wednesday, 11 of the top 20 teams in the country have lost to unranked opponents while interlopers such as Texas Tech, Alabama-Birmingham, Temple and North Carolina have kept alive their hopes of being in the NCAA's field of 65.
No. 18 Wisconsin became one of the upset victims Friday as regular-season champions continued to fall in conference tourneys around the country.
The Badgers, champions of the Big Ten, lost to Ohio State in the quarterfinals of that league's tournament, marking the fifth time in seven years that the top seed has been knocked out in its first game.
Wisconsin found itself following the route taken by top-ranked Arizona and No. 8 Marquette. Arizona, which began and finished the regular season ranked No. 1 in the country, lost in the quarterfinals of the Pac-10 tourney on Wednesday to UCLA. Marquette, the top seed in Conference USA, was ousted by Alabama-Birmingham.
No. 7 Florida was also an upset victim Friday, losing to LSU, 65-61, in the Southeastern Conference quarterfinals. And No. 20 Oklahoma State was ousted in the Big 12 quarterfinals by Missouri, 60-58, when Travon Bryant hit a fallaway jumper at the buzzer.
North Carolina then stunned No. 15 Maryland, 84-72; Texas Tech ran up a big lead and downed No. 3 Texas, 92-81; Temple whipped regular-season Atlantic 10 champ and 10th-ranked Xavier, 63-57; and Connecticut ousted No. 11 Syracuse in the Big East, 80-67.
Alabama-Birmingham, which eliminated Marquette in Conference USA on Thursday, beat St. Louis Friday, 63-62, to earn a meeting with Louisville in the championship game.
No. 9 Wake Forest and No. 4 Kansas both managed to avoid the upset bug. Wake Forest, No. 1 in the ACC, beat Florida State in the quarterfinals, 69-61. Kansas, regular-season champion in the Big 12, blasted Iowa State, 89-74.
Two more schools qualified for the NCAA Tournament Friday.
Holy Cross won the Patriot Conference title on its home floor, defeating American, 72-64. And Sam Houston went to overtime before defeating Stephen F. austin in the Southland Conference, 69-66.
That brought the number of automatic qualifiers determined to 16.
Mallon flirts with 59
TUCSON, Ariz., March 15 (UPI) -- Meg Mallon flirted with a 59 Friday, but had to settle for a three-shot lead at the Welch's/Fry's Championship.
Mallon had an 18-foot putt at the final hole to become the second LPGA Tour member to break 60, but her effort came up three feet short. Her 60 put her three shots in front of Lorie Kane, Wendy Doolan and Korean Young Kim after the second round.
Mallon posted the second-lowest score in the LPGA history and completed 36 holes at 16-under 124 at the Dell Urich Golf Course.
Mallon, who was won three majors and 11 overall titles, played with Annika Sorenstam when she shot an LPGA-record 59 in Phoenix two years ago. Sorenstam is not participating in this event.
In Palm Beach Gardens, Notah Begay III shot a 5-under-par 67 Friday to gain a share of the lead with David Peoples after the second round of the Honda Classic.
Winless since capturing the St. Jude Classic and Greater Hartford Open in 2000 for two of his four career titles, Begay completed 36 holes at 14-under 130.
The second round was suspended due to darkness with 14 players still on the course.'
Duncan produces triple double
SAN ANTONIO, March 15 (UPI) -- Tim Duncan contributed 24 points, 15 rebounds and 10 assists Friday night to carry San Antonio past the Los Angeles Clippers, 107-96.
Duncan's effort came in just 30 minutes of work and helped the Spurs to their fifth straight victory and 18th in 20 games.
It was Duncan's first triple-double of the season and second in his career.
Five other Spurs scored in double figures, including Tony Parker, who scored 10 of his 11 points in a 12-0 burst that gave San Antonio a 51-35 lead with 2:19 left in the first half.
The Spurs took a 59-44 lead into the break and extended their advantage to 89-67 entering the fourth quarter.
Lamar Odom scored 26 points to pace the Clippers, who lost for the 11th time in 12 games.
Other NBA results: Indiana 101, Utah 81; Philadelphia 90, Portland 79; Atlanta 107, New York 104; Detroit 90, Washington 80; New Orleans 87, Miami 83; Los Angeles Lakers 106, Minnesota 99; Houston 121, Chicago 91.
Wild nears playoff berth
ST. PAUL, Minn., March 15 (UPI) -- Jim Dowd scored from a near-impossible angle Friday night to key a 3-1 win for Minnesota over Nashville.
Former Predator Cliff Ronning added an empty-net tally Friday night as the Wild posted their third straight victory.
In just their third year of existence, the Wild moved into a tie with Anaheim for sixth place in the Western Conference, six points ahead of eighth-place Edmonton with 12 games remaining.
With Minnesota already ahead by a goal, Dowd took a feed from defenseman Lubomir Sekeras while standing on the goal line below the left faceoff circle and blasted a slap shot past goaltender Tomas Vokoun midway through the second period for a 2-0 lead.
Scott Walker halved Nashville's deficit less than 10 minutes into the third, but Ronning secured the victory for the Wild by adding an empty-netter against the franchise he leads in all-time scoring.
The loss was costly for the Predators, who trail the idle Edmonton Oilers by six points for the final playoff berth in the West.
Other NHL results: Tampa Bay 4, Buffalo 2; Los Angeles 3, Washington 1; Chicago 4, Phoenix 0.
Golisano buys Sabres
BUFFALO, March 15 (UPI) -- Tom Golisano, who failed in his bid to become the governor of New York, will become owner of the Buffalo Sabres instead.
The Sabres on Friday introduced Golisano, a 61-year-old billionaire, as the new owner of the financially troubled club, ending a long and often rocky search for a new buyer.
The sale price was not disclosed.
The Buffalo News reported that Golisano's commitment will exceed $80 million, plus future operating losses, and include a payment of more than $50 million in cash.
"This represents an opportunity for the Sabres to move forward and for the fans to know that there is a commitment to be here," NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said.
There remains a 30-day period in which someone else could put in a higher bid through U.S. Bankruptcy Court, but that is considered unlikely.
Golisano, the founder of Rochester-based Paychex, the nation's second-largest payroll-processing company, failed last fall in his third bid to become governor of New York.
"I want to thank all of you who voted against me in the last election because quite frankly I wouldn't be here today," Golisano said.
The Sabres, who joined the league in 1970, have been run by the NHL since June, after John Rigas and his two sons were indicted on fraud charges following the collapse of Adelphia Communications, the team's major creditor.
Sadler captures NASCAR pole
DARLINGTON, S.C., March 15 (UPI) -- Elliott Sadler won the pole Friday for Sunday's Carolina Dodge Dealers 400.
He pushed his Ford Taurus to a lap at 170.147 miles per hour around the 1.366-mile Darlington Raceway oval.
It was the first NASCAR pole for the young driver, who considers himself an "old school" driver.
Unlike Daytona and Talladega, where the car determines the pole winner more than the driver, Darlington Raceway is a driver's race track. That means the driver can be the deciding factor at a track that was carved out of a South Carolina peanut field by Harold Brasington and opened for business with the first Southern 500 in 1950.
The track got its egg-shaped design in order to preserve a minnow pond.
There is a lot of history at Darlington Raceway and now Sadler is a part of that history.
"I think that's one of the things that has made me so happy about today is that this is not like winning a pole at Talladega, where the car and the motor and the body is so important," Sadler said.
"To be able to get a pole at a place like Darlington makes me feel good. This is a very prestigious race track to all the race car drivers. This is a cornerstone of NASCAR Winston Cup racing, so to try to win a race here or lose a race, it means a lot to your race team."
Rodriguez has neck problems
ARLINGTON, Texas, March 15 (UPI) -- Alex Rodriguez, the cornerstone of the Texas Rangers' franchise, has been diagnosed with a small herniated disk in his neck.
The injury is believed to be minor but the superstar shortstop will be unable to do any physical activity for at least 48 hours and will likely remain in Texas through the weekend.
Rodriguez will be sidelined from baseball-related activities for at least several days, but doctors are optimistic he will be ready for the start of the regular season.
After complaining of stiffness and fatigue in his shoulder, Rodriguez submitted to a battery of tests on Thursday in Dallas. Rangers orthopedist Dr. John Conway and spine consultant Dr. Drew Dossett supervised the examination, which included an MRI and CAT scan.
Rodriguez was given an injection to relieve the inflammation and the problem is expected to be treated conservatively.
The 27-year-old Rodriguez, who is in the third year of a 10-year, $252 million deal, was batting .300 with a homer and nine RBI in 10 games this spring. He hit .300 with a major league-high 57 homers, 142 RBI and 389 total bases in 2002.
Chargers tell Seau to shop around
SAN DIEGO, March 15 (UPI) -- Junior Seau is apparently headed out of San Diego.
Perhaps the greatest defensive player in the Chargers' history, Seau has been elected to 12 Pro Bowls in his 13-year career. The Chargers, however, have given Seau, who was hampered by two sprained ankles last season, permission to speak to other teams.
"It's time for us to part ways," the 34-year-old Seau told the San Diego Union-Tribune. "There will be some disgruntled people and fans, but it was time."
Chargers Coach Marty Schottenheimer confirmed in a statement that it was an organizational decision to allow Seau to negotiate with other teams.
"We're currently pursuing trade opportunities for Junior Seau and have invited him to be part of the process," Schottenheimer said. "We owe that to him."
The 6-3, 255-pound Seau led the Chargers in tackles in eight of his 13 seasons.
Shane Matthews goes to Buccaneers
TAMPA, March 15 (UPI) -- Quarterback Shane Matthews, who started seven games for Washington last season, signed a one-year deal Friday with Tampa Bay.
Financial terms were not disclosed.
Tampa Bay Coach Jon Gruden, who guided the Bucs to a Super Bowl title last season, was seeking a veteran quarterback to back up Brad Johnson after Rob Johnson signed as a free agent with Washington. Ironically, he plucked a quarterback that was no longer wanted by Redskins Coach Steve Spurrier.
Matthews, 32, was juggled with Danny Wuerffel and rookie Patrick Ramsey at the quarterback spot by Spurrier and threw for 1,251 yards and 11 touchdowns with nine interceptions for a 72.6 rating.