Will the NBA be back by Christmas?

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Will the NBA be back by Christmas?

From Comcast SportsNetNEW YORK (AP) -- Commissioner David Stern said his "gut" tells him there will be no NBA basketball on Christmas without a labor agreement by Tuesday. That day, when owners and players are scheduled to meet with a federal mediator, is a "really big deal," he added. Owners will then open two days of board meetings Wednesday, and without an agreement to bring them, Stern believes further cancellations are coming. "Right now, Tuesday, Tuesday, Tuesday, just before my owners come into town, having brought in the labor relations committee and Billy (Hunter) having brought in his executive committee, it's time to make the deal," Stern said Thursday. "If we don't make it on Tuesday, my gut -- this is not in my official capacity of canceling games -- but my gut is that we won't be playing on Christmas Day." Stern canceled the first two weeks of the regular season on Monday when the sides couldn't reach a deal before a deadline he had set. Christmas is traditionally the first big day of the NBA season. This year's three-game schedule features the NBA finals rematch between the Dallas Mavericks and Miami Heat. The sides will need to act quickly to save it. The talks have stalled over the structure of the salary cap system and the division of revenues between owners and players. They will meet Tuesday with George Cohen, the same mediator who tried to resolve the NFL's labor dispute months before it eventually ended. Asked if Cohen had the ability to move the sides toward a deal, Stern said: "I'm hoping he does because I think that if we don't make a deal by the time my owners meetings come in Wednesday and Thursday, after we've met with the mediator on Monday and then met with each other on Tuesday, then I despair. "Because we will have lost two weeks for sure on our way to losing more games, offers will get worse, possibly on both sides, and the deal's going to slip away from us, as may the season," he added. "So this is the time to make a deal." In a separate interview with NBA TV, Stern said he thought one was in reach Monday. The sides met for more than 12 hours over two days before talks broke down, and he says despite frequent meetings lately that "we aren't making any progress." "How many times does it pay to keep meeting, and to have the same things thrown back at you?" Stern said. "We're ready to sit down and make a deal. I don't believe that the union is. Hopefully by Tuesday, aided by the mediator, they'll be ready to make a deal. Certainly, I'll bring my owners ready to make a deal." Hunter is meeting with players on Friday in Los Angeles. The union has balked at owners' proposal to replace their hard salary cap plan by making the luxury tax much more punitive. Players believe it would become such a deterrent to spending that it would essentially work as a hard cap. The sides also have to decide how to divide up about 4 billion in annual revenues. Players were guaranteed 57 percent of basketball-related income in the previous collective bargaining agreement and have proposed lowering it to 53 percent. Owners are seeking the same 53-47 split in their favor. The parties have discussed a 50-50 split, which the players rejected. In the radio interview, Stern repeated a claim he made Monday that the original discussion of an even split was initiated by the players. They also are still clashing over the length of the agreement, with players not wanting to go beyond six years and owners seeking a 10-year deal but offering the players an opt-out after seven. Player contract lengths, luxury tax payments and the use of spending exceptions are among the other big items remaining. "We haven't even addressed many of the issues," Stern said. So there is a lot left -- and now perhaps just a few days to save basketball in this calendar year. "Deal Tuesday, or we potentially spiral into situations where the worsening offers on both sides make it even harder for the parties to make a deal," Stern said. The NBA TV interview aired Thursday at 10 p.m. EDT.

Buckeyes going back to College Football Playoff, will face Clemson in Fiesta Bowl

Buckeyes going back to College Football Playoff, will face Clemson in Fiesta Bowl

The College Football Playoff field is set, and for the second time in three years, the Ohio State Buckeyes will compete for a national championship.

The selection committee revealed the four-team field for this season's Playoff, with Ohio State coming at No. 3. The Buckeyes will battle No. 2 Clemson in the Fiesta Bowl. The other Playoff semifinal pits No. 1 Alabama against No. 4 Washington in the Peach Bowl.

While Ohio State has been considered one of the best teams in the country throughout the season, the Buckeyes' inclusion in the Playoff field is not without controversy, as they are the first team to play in the Playoff without winning their conference championship. But Ohio State had a sterling resume with three wins over top-10 teams: Michigan, Wisconsin and Oklahoma. The Buckeyes' lone loss came against a top-10 Penn State team.

The 2014 national champion, Ohio State returns to the Playoff after missing out last season. Big Ten champion Michigan State represented the conference last year, getting crushed by Alabama in the Cotton Bowl. Two years ago, the Buckeyes beat the Crimson Tide in the Sugar Bowl and then beat the Oregon Ducks in the national championship game.

Big Ten champion Penn State, which won the conference title game Saturday night with an instant-classic comeback victory over Wisconsin, ended up fifth and was left off the bracket. So too was sixth-ranked Michigan, which didn't compete for a conference championship but was ranked fifth in the final set of rankings prior to Sunday's bracket reveal. The Nittany Lions and Wolverines combined for five wins over top-10 teams this season.

There was plenty of conversation that red-hot Penn State could surge into the Playoff, just like Ohio State did two years ago. The Lions are riding a nine-game winning streak, defeated Ohio State earlier in the season and claimed the championship in what has been the hands-down best conference in college football this season. And boy did they impress Saturday night in their most recent showing, erasing a three-touchdown deficit to come back and beat Wisconsin.

Michigan, too, had a mighty compelling case to make. The Wolverines, owners of one of the best defenses in the country all season long, beat three top-10 teams during the regular season and took the No. 2 team in the country to double overtime just last weekend.

But in the end, we did not get the first Playoff field to feature two teams from the same conference. Penn State and Michigan will learn their bowl fates — likely going to New Year's Six bowl games — later Sunday.

Big Ten poll update: Penn State jumps Michigan in last pre-Playoff AP poll

Big Ten poll update: Penn State jumps Michigan in last pre-Playoff AP poll

The College Football Playoff selection committee will reveal the four-team Playoff field shortly, but in the AP poll, Big Ten champion Penn State did vault ahead of Michigan.

The Nittany Lions, fresh off their instant-classic comeback win in Saturday night's Big Ten title game, jumped up three spots, from No. 8 to No. 5, passing the Wolverines, who dropped from No. 5 to No. 6 with no game to play this weekend.

Who knows if that will be the thinking of the committee or if Penn State's performance Saturday was impressive enough to get it above Washington or Clemson and into the final four.

In the AP poll Sunday, Ohio State checked in at No. 2 behind No. 1 Alabama. The Buckeyes didn't play Saturday either, but those top two spots figure to be how the top two spots of the Playoff field will look. Clemson and Washington stayed the Nos. 3 and 4 teams in the poll, which seems to be a likely possibility in the Playoff, as well.

Wisconsin, defeated by Penn State on Saturday night, dropped just two spots from No. 6 to No. 8, jumped by Penn State and Oklahoma, which was victorious in its regular-season finale against Oklahoma State, claiming the Big 12 championship in the process.

Iowa moved up one spot from No. 22 to No. 21, while Nebraska dropped a spot from No. 23 to No. 24. Neither team played this weekend.