Bulls

After narrow victory, Irish feel they've learned their lesson

931765.png

After narrow victory, Irish feel they've learned their lesson

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Notre Dame's national title hopes rested on the leg of Pittsburgh's Kevin Harper. If his 33-yard field goal went through the uprights, Notre Dame would fall to 8-1, squarely out of the BCS championship conversation.
Harper's kick missed wide right.
A few minutes later, Everett Golson broke the plane of the south end zone at Notre Dame Stadium, and the Irish secured a 29-26 win over Pitt in triple overtime.
It was a three-point win against a Big East team with a 4-4 record heading into Saturday.
Notre Dame was favored by 16 12 points.
"I think just maybe taking this week lightly a little bit, thinking that we could play Pitt and not play our A-game, we could play our B-game and get the W," wide receiver T.J. Jones said of Notre Dame's sloppy play. "It took us a while to kind of catch on and click. But once we figured out that this was going to be a battle, we started to get things rolling."
Notre Dame dominated the fourth quarter, but the first three rounds had Pitt nearing a knockout punch. The Panthers' 14-point lead heading into the fourth quarter was the largest deficit Notre Dame had faced all year, and it came from a team that, on paper, was clearly inferior to the No. 3 Irish.
But Notre Dame has come to realize the team they face on paper -- and on film, too -- may not be the same team they face on game day.
"It's a different type of team, when they come here they play Notre Dame. Notre Dame itself, just the name, has a lot of presence behind it," wide receiver DaVaris Daniels explained. "And then us being ranked so high now, it's added. It's really tough to get a feel for what kind of team you're going to see."
It wasn't so much that Notre Dame wasn't prepared for Pitt -- coach Brian Kelly said the Irish had a good week of practice and preparation, for what it's worth -- but it was more that it's tough to anticipate an unknown.
And while Pitt upped its game on Saturday, Notre Dame didn't play half as well as they did in Oklahoma. The Irish had three costly turnovers -- two of which came in the end zone -- and few ill-timed penalties. Notre Dame's vaunted front seven were largely neutralized through the first three quarters, with running back Ray Graham gouging the defense on the ground and on a few screen passes.
Had that play continued in the fourth quarter, Notre Dame would be sitting at 8-1, and it wouldn't have been by a close margin.
"Last year, that would have been a loss for us, but our team kept fighting, kept playing," Kelly said. "I told them they have to understand that everybody they play against will play their absolute best. Next week, BC will play out of their minds against us, and Wake Forest will (the week after that). And they can't just highlight certain teams on their schedule, because they will play their very best. I think that's a lesson learned for our football team."
Looking around the BCS championship landscape, it reveals three teams that have experience with success. Alabama is the defending national champion, Oregon is two years removed from a title game berth and Kansas State was a top-10 team in 2011.
Notre Dame started off 2011 0-2 and finished with five losses, the same number the Irish had in 2010.
"I think coach put it best, it's hard being 9-0," linebacker Manti Te'o said. "And we're learning that. We have a lot of veteran players, but we don't have anybody on this team that's ever been 9-0. And so we're understand that now, through this process we're growing. We're looking at things, seeing we have to be mature about this whole thing. We came out and things weren't working out, things weren't falling into our hands, but we kept fighting. Happy that it came out the way it did."
Saturday's win certainly won't sit well with the pollsters or computers, most of which didn't think too highly of Pitt. But ultimately, how Notre Dame won doesn't change the big picture, which is that Notre Dame needs attrition ahead of them to reach the BCS championship game. It doesn't matter how Notre Dame wins, just that they win.
But with that win in the books, Notre Dame players say they aren't going to go home and aggressively channel-surf Alabama-LSU, Oregon-USC and Oklahoma State-Kansas State.
"I'm actually going to go home and go to sleep," Te'o said. "When you start paying attention to other teams, you forget what the main thing is, your team. Those other teams don't affect you. The only thing that affects you is you."
"I'm not looking at any of that," fellow captain Zack Martin added. "If they're on, I'll watch them. But I'm not worried about that. I don't think the team's worried about that. We're worried about being 9-0 and BC next week."

Chandler Hutchison's unusual basketball background makes him an intriguing target for the Bulls

9-20_chandler_hutchison_usat.jpg
USA TODAY

Chandler Hutchison's unusual basketball background makes him an intriguing target for the Bulls

Over the past several weeks, the Bulls have been heavily rumored to be selecting Boise State small forward Chandler Hutchison with the No. 22 overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft.

Although the 6-foot-7 Hutchison had a stellar four-year career with the Broncos, and was regarded as a top-100 national prospect coming out of high school, his background is relatively unknown compared to many of his first-round counterparts. Not many recruiting gurus watched Hutchison in-depth in high school. The same could be said about draft analysts watching Hutchison's career unfold at Boise State.

Part of the reason Hutchison has flown under the radar for so long, despite being a first-round talent, is his unique basketball upbringing. Many elite high school players opt to transfer to big-time basketball schools while playing in high-exposure shoe-company leagues during the spring and summer. Instead of the normal path, Hutchison chose to stick with the people that he trusted.

Playing for a small, independent grassroots program in high school known as Team Eastbay, Hutchison started showing special gifts as a sophomore in before blossoming into a top-100 national prospect towards the end of high school. Hutchison's trainer and coach with Team Eastbay, Perry Webster, saw that Chandler had the ability to be a big-time player.

"I walked into the gym and saw this 15-year-old kind of gangly kid. And he just moved different than anybody else. I thought he had a chance to be a pretty good player," Webster said of Hutchison.

As Hutchison developed more of a reputation in the Southern California basketball scene, becoming a starter at Mission Viejo High School his junior season, he started to draw more attention from local and national recruiting analysts — including former ESPN recruiting insider Joel Francisco, Scout.com's Josh Gershon and SoCal recruiting analyst Devin Ugland.

"You saw during his junior year that he was a legitimate Division I prospect. During the spring he started blossoming," Francisco said. "He had the ball skills and the prototypical length and things like that. And he was finishing plays. He had a good IQ for the game. It was a matter of strength and he had to fill out to become a more complete player."

By the end of summer going into his senior season, Hutchison had established himself as a potential Pac-12 recruit, as schools like Oregon and USC started to show heavy interest. But it was mid-major programs like Boise State, Saint Mary's and UC-Irvine who had long been involved in Hutchison's recruitment.

Knowing that Hutchison was a unique wing with a high IQ and passing skills, Webster, a former Division I player at Cal State Fullerton himself, advised that his star player take a close look at the programs that would put him in position to succeed right away.

"Every AAU program in Southern California was trying to get him for their team. Free ride this, free shoes. The kid stayed really loyal to me. I was very hard on him," Webster said. "I demanded a lot of him. I screamed at him, I yelled at him. And he looked me in the eye and took it. I realized, this kid is pretty special because he's not running away from what he is. He knows what his limitations are. That's not something he's afraid to address.

"Not everybody was sold on him. Joel [Francisco] was. Joel was one of the proponents of him. But being that he burst on the scene late, and that he didn't play for the big shoe companies, we kind of came to the decision that we wouldn't be so enamored by the Pac-12. He realized he had ability but he still had a long way to go." 

Hutchison eventually decided to sign his National Letter of Intent with Boise State before his senior season started as assistant coach Jeff Linder acted as his lead recruiter. Even though his collegiate future had been decided, Hutchison continued to evolve into a major prospect during senior year as he flourished at Mission Viejo.

Even with his strong senior season, skepticism remained about Hutchison since he hadn't played with and against many of the major names in Southern California. Ranked as the No. 83 overall prospect in ESPN's final Class of 2014 national recruiting rankings, Hutchison was viewed as the seventh best player in his own state. While Francisco pushed for Hutchison to be ranked in the top 50, he had to settle for him being a back-end top-100 talent.

"They're like, hey, he's going to Boise State, he's not on a major shoe company team. How good can he be? But if he can play, he can play. It doesn't matter if he's not on the adidas circuit, he's not in the EYBL," Francisco said.

Francisco wasn't the only major recruiting analyst to take notice of Hutchison's play. Rivals.com's Eric Bossi also labeled Hutchison as a potential breakout player at Boise State. Hutchison was even placed in the Rivals national recruiting rankings, ending up at No. 98 overall, after his senior season. Bossi was on vacation with his family during spring break and he happened to see Hutchison play during his senior season. But Hutchison's strong effort, along with some research, convinced Bossi that he was worthy of a top-100 ranking, even with only one serious viewing. 

"I decided to go watch some regional California high school playoff stuff. And it just so happened to be that Chandler's high school team was one of the teams I was seeing," Bossi said. "I knew he was on the team and committed to Boise State. But then when I watched him play I was like, 'Holy cow, what an incredible get for Boise State. Like, this dude's legit.' He had great size for a wing. He could handle the ball, he could really pass and I thought he could defend multiple positions at the next level when it was all said and done. I thought he was a versatile, well-skilled, well-rounded basketball player. So, based on that, I thought he was top-100. I wish I had seen him more."

Even as a former top-100 national prospect, it took some time for Hutchison to gain traction at Boise State as he didn't put up big numbers during his first two seasons. Although Hutchison played plenty of minutes and started a healthy amount of games, he often took a back seat to talented all-conference players like Anthony Drmic and James Webb III.

When those players eventually moved on from the Broncos, Hutchison was given his chance to shine, as his ascension into all-conference player and future first-round pick came with an intense work ethic that continually developed during workouts in college.

Hutchison also became a consistent three-point threat — something he had been lacking during his development — as he became a hot name in the 2018 NBA Draft despite his unorthodox basketball background.

"He's always been competitive. I think the big thing is reps. And it still will be as he continues to play in the league," Webster said. "He wasn't a bad shooter in high school, but I think the big adjustment for him getting to college, it's hard to put up good percentages in college. I think some of it is mental. But I think he's a good shooter and I think that he'll prove that." 

It's hard to predict if the Bulls will end up with Hutchison with the No. 22 overall pick on Thursday night — especially given all of the chaos that can occur on draft night. But if Hutchison does end up in Chicago, he won't be fazed by having to prove himself after already doing so at the high school and college level.

Mike Trout says Browns will win more games than Bears in 2018

Mike Trout says Browns will win more games than Bears in 2018

Los Angeles Angels superstar Mike Trout is quickly becoming an icon in American sports. The two-time American League MVP is enjoying another dominant season batting .335 with 23 home runs and 48 RBI.

On Tuesday, he took a swing at what Bears fans may consider a shocking NFL prediction.

“I’ve got the Browns having a better record than the Bears,” Trout told a radio reporter, according to the Los Angeles Times. Trout's comments were made in response the reporter "talking up" Chicago.

Both the Browns and Bears have had productive offseasons that involved headline-grabbing acquisitions on offense. Cleveland drafted QB Baker Mayfield with the No. 1 overall pick, traded for WR Jarvis Landry, signed RB Carlos Hyde and drafted a backfield mate for him in Georgia's Nick Chubb. They added potential lockdown corner Denzel Ward with the fourth overall pick, too. Add all that to a motivated Josh Gordon ready to contribute for a full season, and there's good reason to be excited in Cleveland.

Still, it's hard imagining Trout can be that confident in a team that's won only one game over the last two seasons. And let's not forget what GM Ryan Pace has done this offseason, one that's been praised by analysts from all corners of the NFL universe. From new coach Matt Nagy to free-agent WR Allen Robinson and all the skill players in between, the Bears are ready to make a legitimate run in the NFC North.

Trout doesn't strike out much in the major leagues, but this prediction feels like it could be a back-straining whiff.