Alabama leaves no doubt about BCS champion

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Alabama leaves no doubt about BCS champion

From Comcast SportsNet
NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- As required, Alabama's players whooped it up amid the confetti and fireworks, yet there was something muted about this championship celebration. Turns out, these guys knew the ending to the sequel before they even got to the Big Easy. For two months, the Crimson Tide stewed over its first meeting with top-ranked LSU. By the time the team touched down in New Orleans, there was little doubt in anyone's mind about the outcome. Not just win, but dominate. Boy, did they ever. With a smothering display of old-school football, No. 2 Alabama blew out the Tigers 21-0 in the BCS championship game Monday night, celebrated a bit and headed back to Tuscaloosa with its second national title in three years. The Crimson Tide also claimed the top spot in the final Associated Press poll for the eighth time, tying Notre Dame for the most of any team in college football. Coach Nick Saban's team was an overwhelming choice with 55 of 60 first-place votes. "We knew what we were capable of," offensive lineman Barrett Jones said. "I guess that's kind of arrogant, but it's the way we felt. We felt like we were capable of dominating, and we did that." Credit one of the greatest defenses in college football history, a bunch of NFL-ready players such as Courtney Upshaw and Dont'a Hightower who made sure LSU (13-1) never had a chance. When Jordan Jefferson dropped back to pass, he was swept under by a tide of crimson. When the LSU quarterback took off running, he must've felt like Alabama had a few extra players on the field. It sure seemed that way. "It feels like a nightmare," Jefferson said. "We just didn't get it done on offense. Some defenses have your number, and Alabama had our number." LSU beat the Crimson Tide (12-1) in overtime on Nov. 5, a so-called Game of the Century that was roundly criticized as a dud because neither team scored a touchdown. The Rematch of the Century was next, after Alabama worked its way back up to second in the rankings to claim a spot in the BCS title game. Turns out, it was even less of a classic than the first meeting, much closer to "Speed 2" than the "Godfather II." But the Alabama defense was a thing of beauty, putting its own spin on this postseason of high-scoring shootouts. "They are unbelievable," said Jones, relieved that he only has to go against them in practice. "That defense is as good as any defense I've ever seen. They rush the passer, they have awesome linebackers and they're great in coverage. They really don't have any weaknesses. They have to be as good as any defense ever." LSU didn't cross midfield until there were less than 8 minutes remaining in the game. The Tigers finished with just 92 yards and five first downs, on the wrong end of the first shutout in the BCS' 14-year history. "This defense is built on stopping them, and that's what we did," said Upshaw, the game's defensive MVP. "We wanted to come out and show the world we beat ourselves the first game. We wanted to come out and dominate from start to finish, and that's what we did." The Crimson Tide, piling up 384 yards and 21 first downs, spent much of the night in LSU's end of the field, setting up Jeremy Shelley to attempt a bowl-record seven field goals. He made five of them, matching a bowl record. Then, as if responding to all the critics who complained that an offensive powerhouse such as Oklahoma State or Stanford should've gotten a shot in the title game, Alabama finally made a long-overdue trip to the end zone. With 4:36 remaining, Heisman finalist Trent Richardson broke off a 34-yard touchdown run. It was the lone TD that either of the Southeastern Conference powerhouses managed over two games, plus that overtime period back in November. "It felt so good to get that touchdown against LSU," lineman D.J. Fluker said. "That's all we talked about. We said we were going to get (Richardson) a touchdown, and we did it." On LSU's one and only trip into Alabama territory, the Tigers quickly went back, back, back -- the last gasp ending appropriately with the beleaguered Jefferson getting the ball jarred from his hand before he could even get off a fourth-and-forever pass. "We didn't do a lot different," Saban said. "We did some things on offense formationally. Our offensive team did a great job. Defensively, we just played well, played the box. Our special teams did a great job." The coach has now won a pair of BCS titles at Alabama, plus another at LSU in 2003. He's the first coach to win three BCS titles, denying LSU's Les Miles his second championship. The Tigers will have to settle for the SEC title, but that's not likely to ease the sting of this ugly performance. "I told my team that it should hurt," Miles said. "We finished second. It's supposed to hurt." LSU simply couldn't do anything -- running or passing. Kenny Hilliard led the Tigers with 16 yards rushing, while Jefferson was 11 of 17 passing for 53 yards, usually hurrying away passes before he was sent tumbling to the Superdome turf. He was sacked four times and threw a mystifying interception when he attempted to flip away a desperation pass, only to have it picked off because his intended receiver had already turned upfield looking to block. A.J. McCarron was the offensive MVP, completing 23 of 34 passes for 234 yards. Richardson added 96 yards on 20 carries. But an even bigger cheer went up when the defensive award was presented to Upshaw, who had seven tackles, including a sack, and spent a good part of his night in the LSU backfield. "The whole defense is the MVP," Upshaw said. "The whole defense. Roll Tide, baby. Roll Tide!" With the way his defense was playing, McCarron simply had to avoid mistakes and guide the offense into field-goal range. He did that to perfection. "When you have a great offensive line like I have, and great players around you, it makes your job easy as quarterback," McCarron said. "I've got to give all the credit to them. I wish I could have the whole team up here." While LSU was used to getting big plays from its Honey Badger, cornerback and return specialist Tyrann Mathieu, Marquis Maze dealt the first big blow for the Crimson Tide with a 49-yard punt return midway through the opening quarter. He might've gone all the way to the end zone if not for a leg injury that forced him to pull up. Punter Brad Wing was the only defender left to beat, but Maze had to hobble out of bounds. McCarron completed a 16-yard pass to Darius Hanks at the LSU 10, setting up Shelley for a 23-yard chip shot field goal. If nothing else, Alabama had accomplished one of its goals coming into the game: to at least get close enough to the end zone for its embattled kickers to have a better chance of converting. In the first meeting, Shelley and Cade Foster combined to miss four field goals -- all of them from at least 44 yards. In the do-over, Foster handled kickoffs while Shelley also connected from 34, 41, 35 and 44 yards. Not that it was a flawless kicking performance. Shelley had another kick blocked and pushed another wide right. In addition, he clanged the extra point off the upright after Richardson's touchdown. It didn't matter. LSU's best weapon was Wing, who averaged nearly 46 yards on nine punts. That was about the only highlight for the purple and gold, which failed to match its BCS title game victories in 2003 and 2007, the last two times the game was played in New Orleans, about 80 miles from its Baton Rouge campus. "We couldn't sustain any consistency," Miles said. Miles never considered switching to backup quarterback Jarrett Lee, who started the first eight games for the Tigers -- four of those while Jefferson was serving a suspension for his involvement in a bar fight. In all likelihood, it wouldn't have mattered. Not against an Alabama team that was determined to write a different ending. "We fell short the first time and we didn't play well," safety Mark Barron said, "but we showed that we were the better team tonight. We shut them out."

Warriors stay ready, strike gold amid the 2017 NBA Draft scramble

Warriors stay ready, strike gold amid the 2017 NBA Draft scramble

OAKLAND -- Considering their status as reigning champs without a pick, members of the Warriors personnel department could have turned out the lights and left team headquarters to watch the NBA Draft from a nearby tavern.

They instead stayed in business mode Thursday night, observing the draft-night chaos up close, waiting for the right moment and the right player.

And for the second consecutive year, the Warriors paid a team for its 38th overall draft pick, sending a reported $3.5 million to the Chicago Bulls in exchange for the rights to Oregon big man Jordan Bell, the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year.

“Everybody we talked to had a lot of good things to say about him,” president/general manager Bob Myers said. “He’s one of the few guys we looked at and really wanted to see if we could get. I actually was not optimistic we would be able to get him. But somehow it came to fruition.”

Myers added that the Warriors, along with many mock drafts, projected Bell as a first-round pick.

Bell led the Pac-12 in field-goal percentage (63.6) while shooting almost exclusively in the paint. The 6-foot-9 center/forward was sixth among Pac-12 rebounders at 8.8 per game and 13th in steals at 1.3 per game.

The Long Beach Poly High product possesses a wingspan a fraction shy of 7-feet and bears, by some accounts, a resemblance to Draymond Green inasmuch as he is a defense-first player with a deep reservoir of energy.

It’s a comparison that Bell, asked about it, embraces.

“Draymond, because people always say I’m undersized,” Bell told Basketball Insiders last month. “He’s one of those players you can’t really say what position he is, but he’s a force on defense.”

Moreover, Myers cited Green as one of the players best suited to mentor Bell.

“Draymond is a good one,” the GM said. “He’s not afraid to tell players what he thinks. He’s going to be a good teacher.”

Bell in three seasons became the Ducks’ all-time leader in blocks. He blocked eight shots in a Midwest Regional win over Kansas that sent Oregon to the Final Four. He became during the NCAA Tournament the first player since Hakeem Olajuwon (in 1985) to snag at least 12 rebounds in five consecutive tournament games.

“Defending is one of my best attributes,” Bell told Basketball Insiders. “Being able to switch 1-through-5. Play small ball. Blocking shots. Timing. Decision-making on offense.”

These are the characteristics that prompted the Warriors to put a red-letter “B” next to Bell’s name on their draft board -- even though his offensive skills are unrefined.

“We love his ability to defend,” Myers said. “He could probably defend most positions, and in the NBA that’s huge. To be able to switch pick-and-rolls, rebound, block shots, finish, there are a lot of boxes he checks.

“ . . . We just like the way he plays basketball. We’ll find a place for him.”

The Warriors also are closing in on a deal for one of Bell’s Oregon teammates. Forward Chris Boucher is expected to sign a two-way contract with the team.

“That’s something we’re trying to move toward,” Myers said of Boucher, who is rehabilitating an ACL surgery.

“But we like players that win. We like players that can play. I don’t care what school they are or what their background is, or what position. Winners. That’s what we’re trying to do, is win. If we end up getting that done, that’s another player that was on a very good team.”

Kings finish 2017 NBA Draft with night that can turn franchise around

Kings finish 2017 NBA Draft with night that can turn franchise around

SACRAMENTO -- The Kings had a big draft night. The kind of night that might turn a franchise around. They entered the evening with three picks, including two in the top 10. With their first selection, they filled the franchise’s biggest need when they drafted De’Aaron Fox and then they went to work.
 
Vlade Divac and his team of front office execs jumped on an early trade, dealing the No. 10 overall selection to the Portland Trail Blazers for No. 15 and No. 20. North Carolina’s Justin Jackson was too appealing to pass on, and like Fox, he fit a major position of need. 
 
Sacramento came back with the 20th selection, taking one of the biggest risk/reward picks in the draft. Duke’s Harry Giles is playing on rebuilt knees, but before that, he was one of the top prospects in all of basketball. If he can stay healthy, the Kings may have drafted the biggest steal of the night. 
 
They topped off the evening with the selection of Wooden and Naismith Award winner Frank Mason III with the 34th overall pick. The Kings entered the night without a single point guard and they ended it with two very exciting options. 
 
“I’m very excited about the talent that we brought here tonight,” Divac said. “They’re going to just be an addition to what we’re trying to build here in the second half of the season.”
 
The Kings turned down overtures to move up to draft Fox. The 19-year-old speedster will step in and immediately compete for the starting point guard spot and he’s very excited to be a King.
 
“It’s just the vibe that I got when I was out there,” Fox told local Sacramento media via phone. “I felt like they really wanted me.” 
 
John Calipari is known for his bevy of All-Star bigs throughout the league, but he’s also produced a long line of big-time guards. Sacramento is hoping that Fox can live up to the billing of other former Calipari guards like Derrick Rose, Tyreke Evans and John Wall. According to Divac, the Kings were so high on Fox, they would have taken him higher. 
 
“Screaming,” Divac said about the reaction in the room to Fox falling in their lap. “It was a guy that we all loved and in some way, if we had the number 1 pick, he would’ve been our guy.”
 
“De’Aaron is our future,” Divac added.
 
Without a perfect fit at 10, Divac made an adjustment on the fly to add more assets. The decision to trade 10 for 15 and 20 was very similar to the last season when the Kings dealt the eighth overall pick for No. 13, 28 and the draft rights to Bogdan Bogdanovic. By splitting the pick in two, the Kings were able to land two talented pieces that mesh with the current roster build.
 
Jackson and Fox know each other well. The duo played AAU ball together and Fox says he considers Jackson an older brother.  He is friends with Willie Cauley-Stein and Skal Labissiere from their Kentucky connection.
 
“I feel like we can grow together,” Fox said of the Kings’ young core. “Of course, it’s going to take some time, but every franchise takes time.”
 
Fox is the jewel of the night and Jackson will compete for time at the wing, but Giles is the wildcard. The 19-year-old big can play the four and the five and has elite potential. 
 
“I’m so excited he was there for us at the 20,” Divac said. “That kind of talent you can’t pass.”
 
The Kings have done their homework on Giles. The type of knee injury that he sustained is similar to former NBA players Danny Manning, Amaré Stoudemire and Kenyon Martin. Manning and Martin each played 15 years in the league and Stoudemire lasted 14 seasons before retiring in 2016. After meeting him in person in Sacramento and working him out, they are very confident that he will be able to overcome his injuries and have a successful career in the NBA. 
 
Mason III will remind Kings fans of Isaiah Thomas, another undersized point guard that fell to the second round. The Kansas star posted 20.9 points, 5.2 assists and 4.2 rebounds for the Jayhawks last season. He’s a hard-nosed leader that can jump out of the gym and will instantly become a fan favorite in Sacramento. 
 
It’s a huge haul. Sacramento added two points guards, a wing and a big from some of the best basketball schools in the country. More than that, they added high character winners to a changing culture. 
 
For the first time in a while, the Sacramento Kings have accumulated assets. They have hit the ground running in their attempted rebuild and for one night, they are the talk of the NBA.