Championship hunger rumbles for Stoops, Sooners


Championship hunger rumbles for Stoops, Sooners

NORMAN, Okla. (AP) After 14 seasons at Oklahoma, Bob Stoops understands the all-or-nothing culture that surrounds his Sooners.

Anything less than a national championship equates to a disappointing season in the eyes of many. To some degree, that includes Stoops.

``I hate it,'' he said Friday when asked about being out of the national title race again. ``We've been pretty used to it. I helped create that and to me, it's the pulse here and I don't like it.''

The Sooners finished 10-3 for the second straight season and head into the winter smarting after a 41-13 throttling at the hands of Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel and Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl. Stoops knows much of the focus this offseason will be on the three losses to teams that finished the season ranked in the top 12, but he still believes the status of his program is strong.

He'll readily point out that Oklahoma has won 10 games each of the last three seasons, something only five other programs can boast. In that timeframe, the Sooners won the 2010 Big 12 title outright and shared it this season with Kansas State. No other team in the conference has won more games, in league play or overall, than his Sooners in that span.

``People get bored with just winning the Big 12 championship. They want more. You've got to win the national championship,'' Stoops said.

It's been that way since he led Oklahoma to the championship after the 2000 season. The Sooners also played for the title after the 2003, 2004 and 2008 seasons.

``Every four years, or within four years, we're competing for the national championship - in the game. I don't mean just part of it - in the game,'' he said. ``And even that isn't good enough if you don't win it. In the end, that's just how people are. I get it.''

So, while he sees the Sooners' final ranking of No. 15 as a sign the program is still solid, he's not satisfied with it because it's not No. 1. Going practically position by position on his team, Stoops' assessment was similar at nearly every spot: Good, but it can be better.

``Really, think about it: What's ever good enough?'' he said. ``Nothing, unless you win them all.''

Stoops said he doesn't foresee any changes on his coaching staff, although that's always subject to change. He has canceled an upcoming recruiting weekend for high school juniors, choosing instead to focus on locking down the seniors he will be able to sign in February and bring in for next season.

There will be plenty of holes to fill, including a competition between backup Blake Bell and others to replace four-year starter Landry Jones at quarterback. With safety Tony Jefferson and linebacker Tom Wort exiting early for the NFL draft, a maximum of four starters will be back on defense next season.

Stoops is still waiting to find out whether junior cornerback Aaron Colvin will return.

``I never mind playing guys we're going to sign in February. We've had a lot of good ones come in and make big contributions, so that may be the case to a degree,'' Stoops said. ``But I think always, too, there's a lot of guys every year ... that people aren't seeing that we are trying to develop who come on and, `Wow! Who's this guy?'''

The Sooners will be counting on playmakers to emerge if they are to get back into the national title mix. And Stoops said he's not backing away from his statement before the 2011 season, when his team held the preseason No. 1 ranking, that it's time to bring another championship to Norman.

``You never know. We didn't seem very close when we had a shot at it in 2000. You never know when it's coming, and we're going to work hard for it,'' Stoops said. ``We may try and make some improvements here through the winter and spring and hopefully have a chance to be better next year.''

He needed only to point to one of this year's participants in the BCS championship game to show how early expectations can be deceiving.

``Year to year, you never know who progresses, who doesn't. Obviously, Notre Dame was that story this year,'' Stoops said. ``They weren't probably projected real high, did it right, had great team chemistry I'm sure, won some tight games and played well.''

One of those close calls came against Stoops' Sooners, who could find that same magical combination this season.

``In the end, we weren't quite good enough to win 11, 12 or 13 games,'' he said. ``We were good enough to win 10 and have a part of a championship once again, for the second time in three years. So, that's where we're at.''

No. 16 UMBC shocks No. 1 Virginia to make NCAA history

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No. 16 UMBC shocks No. 1 Virginia to make NCAA history

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Senior guard Jairus Lyles scored 28 points, and the University of Maryland-Baltimore County pulled off the most shocking upset in NCAA Tournament history, defeating Virginia 75-54 on Friday night to become the first No. 16 seed ever to beat a No. 1 seed.

Virginia entered the NCAA Tournament as the No. 1 overall seed after going 31-2 this season, including 20-1 in ACC competition.

But the Cavaliers couldn't get anything generated on offense and the nation's top-ranked defense couldn't contain American East Conference champions.

The 74 points were the most Virginia had allowed this year.

Lyles was the catalyst.

He diced up Virginia's defense in the second half, getting the hole easily on six different occasions and making easy layups. He also knocked down a pair of 3-pointers as UMBC built a 16-point lead.

Lyles finished with 23 of his points in the second half and Joe Sherburne finished with 14 points.

The game was tied at halftime, but the Retrievers came out confident and motivated in the second half and built a double-digit lead that Virginia could never erase.

Sherburne scored on an and-one drive and then knocked down a 3-pointer from the top of the key after a behind-the-back pass from KJ Maura. After Virginia made a foul shot, the shifty 5-foot-8, 140-pound Maura drove the lane for uncontested layup.

A Tony Bennett timeout couldn't stop the bleeding, as Lyles hit two more 3's and Sherburne hit one to extend UMBC's lead to 14 with 14:57 left in the game. Lyles was fouled on a 3-point shot and suddenly the Retrievers led by 16.

A corner 3-pointer and a layups off a fastbreak by Arkel Lamer gave UMBC its biggest lead at 67-48. From there, the party was on as chants of "UMBC" rang through the arena.

It was yet another early exit for the Cavaliers in a season that seemed to hold so much promise.


UMBC: Despite being undersized and unknown, they shocked the world and made history with an epic game.

Virginia: This isn't the first time Virginia has struggled as the No. 1 seed. The Cavaliers trailed by five at halftime in 2014 to Coastal Carolina but went on to win 70-59.


UMBC: Will face No. 9 seed Kansas State on Sunday in the second round.

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Kuznetsov to be evaluated Saturday after leaving Islanders game with "upper body" issue

Kuznetsov to be evaluated Saturday after leaving Islanders game with "upper body" issue

The Capitals may have won the game Friday against the New York Islanders, but now they will wait to see if they also suffered a significant loss.

Kuznetsov left the game in the third period after taking a slash from Islanders defenseman Thomas Hickey which sent him sliding head-first into the boards. The team labeled the issue as “upper body” when it was announced he would not return to the game.

Head coach Barry Trotz was tight-lipped afterward on Kuznetsov’s status.

“They're going to re-evaluate him tomorrow and we'll have some clarity hopefully tomorrow,” he said.


You can see the play here:

When Kuznetsov is first slashed he immediately reacts. His feet then catch the stick of goalie Jaroslav Halak which sends him tripping and sliding hard into the boards. He sat on the ice for several minutes afterward and was looked at by the trainer before getting to his feet and slowly making his way to the locker room.

When asked after the game what he felt about the slash, Trotz said only, “Hockey play.”

One of the Capitals’ biggest strengths as a team is their depth down the middle. Any injury to a center, considering it is arguably the most important skating position on the ice, would be significant. An injury to the team’s top-line center would be even more costly.

Kuznetsov leads the team with 28 assists and ranks second in both goals (21) and points (69).