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Wisconsin's Alvarez relishes Rose Bowl return

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Wisconsin's Alvarez relishes Rose Bowl return

PASADENA, Calif. (AP) When the Wisconsin players asked Barry Alvarez to return to the sideline, he couldn't resist.

After all, it's the Rose Bowl sideline, and that old stadium has an irresistible lure for lifelong football people.

But when Bret Bielema abruptly left the Badgers for Arkansas after they clinched their third straight trip to Pasadena, Alvarez also felt a compulsion to protect the program he built into a power. The underdog Badgers (8-5) realize the odds they face against powerful No. 8 Stanford (11-2) on Tuesday, but Alvarez's mere presence on that sideline tells his players they've got a shot.

``Just give me a whistle,'' Alvarez said. ``That's all I need, is a whistle and a bunch of guys to coach, and I feel very comfortable with that. And it's been fun for me. This has been like a gift. To be able to do this, and on this stage, is truly special.''

Alvarez is a Hall of Fame coach, but Wisconsin's athletic director knows he can't work miracles. He acknowledges no tricks or insight into beating the favored Cardinal in Wisconsin's third straight trip to Pasadena for the 99th edition of the Granddaddy of Them All.

Instead, the Badgers are getting perspective, inspiration - and even a little swagger - as Alvarez bridges Wisconsin's one-game gap between Bielema and Gary Andersen, who also will watch his new team from the sideline while Bielema's soon-to-depart assistant coaches largely run the show.

Alvarez's current players were kids when he retired, and the athletic director doesn't hang out much with the football team during the season. But the Badgers know a leader when they see him.

``He's almost got an aura around him, like this man built what we are, and everyone knows it and recognizes it,'' Wisconsin defensive tackle Ethan Hemer said.

``He definitely walks around with a lot of confidence,'' Wisconsin safety Shelton Johnson said. ``I think that rubs off on the players as well. You just see, he's just the Don sometimes when he walks around, because you just know. He has a physical presence to him when he walks in a room.''

Over 16 seasons in Madison, Alvarez built Wisconsin's long-mediocre program into a consistent contender and a three-time Rose Bowl winner, most recently in the 2000 game, a 17-9 victory over Stanford led by Heisman Trophy-winning tailback Ron Dayne.

Alvarez sees similarities between his work and the Stanford revitalization led coach David Shaw, who could be in the early stages of a similar program transformation in the Bay Area. The Cardinal won the Pac-12 title to advance to their third straight BCS bowl with their third consecutive 11-win season, including the last two under Shaw after Jim Harbaugh left.

Such success was all but unthinkable just a few years ago at the academic-minded school that hasn't won the Rose Bowl since 1972, but Shaw has the Cardinal believing they belong in Pasadena.

``We're grateful to be in this game where every West Coast team wants to end their season, and we realize the opportunity we've got,'' Shaw said. ``They did what they did to get here, and they're going to do that. Just like us, we're not going to change drastically. That's a disservice to the kids. It's going to be strength against strength. We're going to do what they do.''

Indeed, Wisconsin and Stanford have remarkably similar approaches to their sport. Both schools favor hard-nosed running games with tailbacks Montee Ball and Stepfan Taylor running behind mammoth offensive lines.

Both offenses are run by relatively inexperienced quarterbacks: Stanford freshman Kevin Hogan has beaten four ranked teams in his four starts since taking over, while Wisconsin senior Curt Phillips is a smooth game manager who missed two full seasons with injuries and only got his starting job in November.

Both defenses lack glaring flaws, and Stanford is eager to show off the nation's third-ranked run defense. Both teams played numerous close games this season, with Stanford enjoying a bit more success than a Wisconsin team that lost three overtime games.

``We can see a lot of us in them,'' Stanford offensive tackle David Yankey said. ``We both like to run the ball, and we're both just tough, physical teams. It should be a great matchup to watch.''

Wisconsin earned a third trip by blasting Nebraska in the Big Ten title game, becoming the first five-loss team to reach the Rose Bowl. The Badgers got the chance to trounce the Cornhuskers only because the two teams ahead of them in their division - Ohio State and Penn State - were ineligible for postseason play.

The Badgers won't apologize for using a back door to Pasadena, not with Alvarez leading them through it.

Wisconsin lost the last two Rose Bowls by falling just short in the fourth quarter of tight games, so Alvarez has stressed the importance of tenacity and commitment. Even if the Cardinal come out on top, Alvarez thinks the Badgers have learned how to finish a season with pride.

``It would really be a great life lesson for these players,'' Alvarez said. ``I think they'd learn quite a bit about how to deal with adversity, how to deal with (tough) situations and make something positive come out of it, especially after two tough losses. They could have won either game the last two years. They had opportunities to win, but couldn't close the deal. So I think it would be a tremendous lesson for them and very positive if they could win.''

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Warriors will visit D.C. kids instead of White House when they play Wizards

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USA Today Sports Images

Warriors will visit D.C. kids instead of White House when they play Wizards

Instead of visiting the White House when they come to Washington this week to play the Wizards, the defending-champion Golden State Warriors plan to hold an event with D.C.-area kids.

Their invitation was rescinded by president Donald Trump following a back-and-forth between the two sides last year. After the Warriors won the title, they openly questioned whether they should follow the tradition given many of the players and coaches disagree with his policies. Trump took the opportunity away before they came to a final decision.

PODCAST: WIZARDS MAKE A FREE AGENT SIGNING

The Warriors' event will be closed off to the media and held at an undisclosed location. It is set for Tuesday, the day before they play the Wizards at Capital One Arena. The Warriors had the option of holding a ceremony with other politicians in the Democratic party, but decided that would send the wrong message. 

"It's their championship. They got disinvited to the White House, so it's up to them what they wanted to do. So they made their plans," coach Steve Kerr said. "I want the players to have a good day and to do something positive and to enjoy what they're doing."

The Warriors are the first NBA team to make this choice since Trump was elected president. Last season, the Cleveland Cavaliers held their celebration with president Barack Obama in November. They did so just days after Trump was elected and LeBron James questioned at the time whether he would visit the White House with Trump in office.

RELATED: DURANT MAKES HUGE DONATION TO PG COUNTY SCHOOLS

Sports teams visiting the White House goes back to the mid-1800s. The first World Series title team to visit was the 1924 Washington Senators. By the 1960s, NBA teams were going and by the 1980s NFL and NHL teams made it a tradition.

Entire teams snubbing the White House is unusual, but many players have turned down the opportunity. In the NBA, some famous cases include Larry Bird in 1984 and Michael Jordan in 1991, according to Rolling Stone.

Perhaps the Warriors start a trend, or maybe it will be a one-off thing. Regardless, the alternative they chose is a respectable one. 

RELATED: LATEST NBA POWER RANKINGS

 

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Game 62: Capitals vs. Sabres Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

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USA TODAY Sports

Game 62: Capitals vs. Sabres Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

What: Washington Capitals vs. Buffalo Sabres

Where: Capital One Arena, Washington, D.C.

When: 7:00 p.m. ET

How to Watch: Capitals-Sabres will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington (Channel Finder)

Live Stream: You can watch the Capitals-Sabres game on NBC Sports Washington's live stream page.

WHEN IS THE CAPITALS-SABRES GAME?

The Capitals (34-20-7) take on the Sabres (18-32-11) Saturday, February 24 at 7:00 p.m. ET in Capital One Arena.

WHAT CHANNEL IS THE CAPITALS-SABRES GAME ON?

The Capitals-Sabres game will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington. Coverage kicks off with Capitals FaceOff at 6:00 p.m. followed by Caps GameTime at 6:30 p.m. Stay with NBC Sports Washington for Caps Extra following the game, Caps Overtime at 10:00 p.m. and Caps in 30 at 11:00 p.m. for all your postgame coverage. (NBC Sports Washington channel Finder)

6:00 p.m. — Caps FaceOff
6:30 p.m. — Caps GameTime
7:00 p.m. — Capitals vs. Sabres
9:30 p.m. — Caps Extra
10:00 p.m. — Caps Overtime
11:00 p.m. — Caps in 30

WHAT ARE THE PROJECTED LINES FOR THE CAPITALS-SABRES GAME?

Here are the projected lines for the Caps-Sabres game:

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

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

Braden Holtby starts with Philipp Grubauer as backup

Scratches: Alex Chiasson, Madison Bowey, Jakub Jerabek

WHERE CAN I STREAM THE CAPITALS-SABRES GAME?

The Capitals-Panthers game, as well as Caps GameTime and Caps Extra, is available to stream live here through NBC Sports Washington's live stream page and is available to authenticated NBC Sports Washington subscribers on desktops, tablets, mobile devices and connected TVs anywhere in the United States.

CAPITALS-SABRES OPEN THREAD

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.