Dilemma for TCU's Patterson vs. alma mater K-State

Dilemma for TCU's Patterson vs. alma mater K-State

FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) Gary Patterson figures he was known more for playing his guitar than anything he did on the field as a Kansas State player back in the early 1980s.

During two years as a safety and linebacker for the Wildcats, Patterson played ``a lot on scout teams, a little bit of special teams.'' But it was also at K-State where he started his coaching career, as a graduate assistant in 1982 for the school's first-ever bowl team.

Now three decades later, with the third-ranked Wildcats undefeated and in the thick of the national championship race, the Kansas native and TCU coach faces his alma mater for the first time Saturday.

``It's hard, because you love seeing, from their perspective, they've come so far and have an opportunity to be so close to playing for a national championship,'' said Patterson, TCU's winningest coach with 115 victories in his 12 seasons. ``But also on our side of it, just try to get seven (wins).

``It's a dilemma,'' he said. ``But this is what they pay me to do.''

TCU (6-3, 3-3) is in its inaugural Big 12 season and became bowl eligible with a double-overtime victory last weekend at then-No. 23 West Virginia, the league's other newcomer.

With Heisman Trophy front-running quarterback Collin Klein, Kansas State (9-0, 6-0) has its highest BCS ranking ever, at No. 2 behind defending national champion Alabama.

The Wildcats are three wins shy of possibly getting into their first BCS national championship game. There almost certainly is no chance of that if they lose any of their remaining games: at TCU and at Baylor before the regular-season finale at home against Texas.

``I'll be on some post office wall if I win. I'll be one person that can't cross the state line,'' Patterson said. ``I used to say once I cross the Kansas line, I knew I was within 30 minutes, somebody would help me. Now I cross the Kansas line, I need to not tell everybody I'm coming, except if you're a KU fan.''

Patterson's time at Kansas State predated even coach Bill Snyder.

During his season as a grad assistant under Jim Dickey, Patterson worked with linebackers coach Mo Lattimore, who is now in his 17th year of his second stint on the Wildcats staff. K-State made it to the Independence Bowl that season.

``We played Wisconsin, which is kind of ironic,'' Patterson said.

Only two seasons ago, Patterson's Horned Frogs capped their 13-0 season with a Rose Bowl victory over Wisconsin. That was a different outcome than his first bowl meeting against the Badgers and sent TCU to a No. 2 final AP ranking.

Another twist is that this is the 10th game this season. In their 10th game a year ago, the Frogs won at then-undefeated Boise State and cost the Broncos any chance of a BCS berth.

Patterson is apparently doing his best to make this game the same as any other for his players.

``He hasn't really spoke too much on it,'' cornerback Jason Verrett said. ``He's just ready to play.''

Offensive lineman Blaize Foltz said the fact that Kansas State is their coach's alma mater ``hasn't really been'' a topic of conversation.

``I'm sure for him, it's just like another game,'' Foltz said.

After K-State, the Frogs have left only games at 19th-ranked Texas on Thanksgiving night and home against No. 14 Oklahoma. They are just trying to win as many as they can.

Snyder and the Wildcats are trying to stay in contention for a national title shot. They've come a long way since the coach arrived in 1989 - when K-State had gone winless in its previous 27 games and then was considered the worst team in the NCAA's upper division.

``Well, I was part of a couple of those years,'' Patterson said.

Patterson pondered the question briefly when asked if he hoped to eventually have a similar impact at TCU to what the 73-year-old Snyder has at Kansas State, where he's in his fourth season back after a three-year retirement.

``Hopefully to some extent we have already. We got as far as a Rose Bowl,'' Patterson said. ``I'm not sure I'll be at 73 coaching. It's his passion, what he does. He's been very good at it, and it really says a lot about his energy and about how he does things. It's really truly, truly an amazing story.''

One that Patterson, for one game, will be trying to upset.

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Wizards drop to precarious position in close Eastern Conference playoff race

Wizards drop to precarious position in close Eastern Conference playoff race

As if they needed a reminder, the Wizards saw firsthand on Wednesday night just how much can change in a short period of time in the Eastern Conference playoff race where just two games separate the No. 3 and No. 6 teams.

That No. 6 team is now your Washington Wizards, who began the day in fourth place but lost their first game in four days on the same night both the Cavs and Sixers won theirs. 

The Wizards lost to the Spurs on Wednesday and managed only 90 points, their fewest since Jan. 22. It was a lackluster performance in a game the Wizards needed to treat with urgency. 


The Spurs sure did.

"We've gotta have a better mentality coming into games," guard Bradley Beal said. "The Spurs were fighting for playoff seeding just like we were."

The Wizards have now lost six of their last 10, yet all those games have come against teams currently holding playoff spots. Considering John Wall reamins out with a left knee injury, it's hard to fault them too much when they are staying afloat just fine in the big picture.

The problem is that the closer they get to the end of the season, the more these losses are magnified. They amount to missed opportunities, some bigger than others.

That was not lost on Beal, who considered the alternative. If the Wizards had beaten the Spurs, they would be sitting in fourth, two spots higher, and just a game-and-a-half out of third.

"Every time we have a chance to move up, we take two steps back," Beal lamented.


The Wizards are in a high stakes part of the standings where plenty is in the balance. They are fighting for home court advantage, something they would get in the third or fourth spots. And who they match up with will be paramount.

By falling to sixth, the Wizards are currently in line to play the Cleveland Cavaliers. Though the Pacers and Sixers are also good teams, they don't have LeBron James. Avoiding him and the Cavs would be ideal for the Wizards.

Beal has even bigger worries than that. He noted after the loss in San Antonio that they could fall even further if they aren't careful. They are now just a game-and-a-half up on the seventh-place Heat. 

"We've gotta realize what's at stake, man. The way we're going, we could keep dropping and mess around and be eighth. We've gotta do whatever it takes to win," he said.

The Wizards should be fine, if the previous two months are any indication. But Wednesday night was another example of how precarious things are for them this season in the tightly-packed Eastern Conference.


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Game 74 Capitals at Red Wings Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread


Game 74 Capitals at Red Wings Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

What: Washington Capitals vs. Detroit Red Wings

Where: Little Caesars Arena, Detroit, Mich.

When: 7:30 p.m. ET

How to Watch: Capitals-Red Wings will be broadcast on NBCSN.

Live Stream: You can watch the Capitals-Red Wings game on NBC Sports' live stream page.


The Capitals (42-24-7) take on the Red Wings (27-35-11) Thursday, March 22 at 7:30 p.m. ET in Detroit.


The Capitals-Red Wings game will be broadcast on NBCSN. Coverage kicks off on NBC Sports Washington with Capitals FaceOff at 6:30 p.m. followed by Caps GameTime at 7:00 p.m. Check back with NBC Sports Washington after the game for Caps Extra and Caps Overtime at 10:30 p.m. for postgame coverage. (NBC Sports Washington channel Finder)

6:30 p.m. — Caps FaceOff
7:00 p.m. — Caps GameTime
7:30 p.m. — Capitals at Red Wings (on NBCSN)
10:00 p.m. — Caps Extra
10:30 p.m. — Caps Overtime


Here are the projected lines for the Caps-Red Wings game:

Alex Ovechkin -  Nicklas Backstrom - Tom Wilson
Andre Burakovsky - Lars Eller - T.J. Oshie
Jakub Vrana - Travis Boyd - Brett Connolly
Chandler Stephenson - Jay Beagle - Devante Smith-Pelly

Michal Kempny - John Carlson
Dmitry Orlov - Matt Niskanen
Brooks Orpik - Christian Djoos

Philipp Grubauer starts with Braden Holtby as backup

Scratches: Evgeny Kuznetsov (upper body injury), Alex Chiasson, Jakub Jerabek


You can watch the Capitals-Red Wings game on NBC Sports' live stream page.


Use the comment section below to discuss the game action with other Capitals fans. 

For all the latest Caps coverage, follow Capitals Insider Tarik El-Bashir, Capitals correspondent JJ Regan and the NBC Sports Capitals account on Twitter. Be sure check out our Capitals page and NBC Sports Washington's Facebook page.