Bulls

Alabama-LSU sequel for all the marbles

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Alabama-LSU sequel for all the marbles

From Comcast SportsNet
By Ralph D. Russo, The Associated Press

If you like sequels, the BCS has a championship game for you: Alabama-LSU II.

The Crimson Tide edged Oklahoma State in the final round of voting Sunday and will play the top-ranked Tigers in the BCS national championship game on Jan. 9 in New Orleans.

Undefeated LSU is the only team to beat Alabama this season, and the head BCS official sees a rematch as a perfectly good title game.

Absolutely, if theyre 1 and 2, and they are in all the polls released today, executive director Bill Hancock said.

Still, its not exactly a game the public was clamoring forat least outside of Southeastern Conference territory. And it will do nothing to quiet critics of the Bowl Championship Series or calls for a college football playoff.

Like it or not, the system has ensured that the SEChome to both schools will run its streak of BCS championships to six in a row.

Alabama has one of those and will be making its second BCS title game appearance in the last three seasons. The Crimson Tide claims 13 national championships overall and is one of the most decorated programs in the land. Its won seven AP titles since the wire service started its poll in 1936.

LSU will be seeking its third BCS championship since 2003 at the Superdome the site of its first two.

Tide coach Nick Saban won that title for LSU in 03. Current Tigers coach Les Miles matched his predecessor in 2007, winning a championship with a team that lost two games.

These talented Tigers, led by dynamic defensive back Tyrann Mathieu, have rarely even trailed against a schedule that included Oregon and West Virginia.

This team loves the big stage, Miles said.

Alabama, with its top-rated defense and Heisman Trophy contender Trent Richardson, was the only team to stay within 13 points of the Tigers this season.

The Cowboys made a late surge by beating Oklahoma 44-10 on Saturday night, and closed the gap on Alabama in the polls. But it was not enough to avoid the first title game rematch in the 14-year history of the BCS.

The Tigers (13-0) beat the Tide 9-6 in overtime on Nov. 5 in Tuscaloosa.

This could be a totally different type of game, Saban said. Theres so many good players on both sides of the ball for both teams.

Theres so much opportunity for this game to play out completely different and have a completely different flavor than the first game.

Alabama (11-1) finished second in both the Harris and coaches polls by a wide enough margin to overcome Oklahoma States lead in the computer ratings.

The Cowboys (11-1), champions of the Big 12, will play in the Fiesta Bowl against Stanford from the Pac-12.

We cant control it, Oklahoma State quarterback Brandon Weeden said. But I know we had a heck of a year and we beat really good football teams in this conference and were conference champions, so we did everything that we could.

The other BCS matchups are:

Michigan vs. Virginia Tech in the Sugar Bowl;

Clemson vs. West Virginia in the Orange Bowl;

Oregon vs. Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl.

For the first time since the 2005 season, none of the big-money games will feature a BCS buster such as Boise State, TCU or Houston, which had a chance but lost Saturday in the Conference USA championship to Southern Mississippi. The Cougars will play Penn State, which dropped to the Ticket City Bowl in Dallas following the Jerry Sandusky sex abuse scandal that has overshadowed the Nittany Lions season.

As the power-brokers in college football begin to plot how top-tier bowls will be set up in the future, flaws in the current system were once again being exposed this season.

Oklahoma State and Alabama, two teams with perfectly good arguments to play for a national championship, wound up fighting over one spot, with subjective voters and mysterious computer ratingsthe formulas of which are not even publicly knowndoing the choosing.

Alabama won out and Oklahoma State, with one of the most potent offenses in the country, got its first BCS appearance as a consolation prize.

We wanted the opportunity to settle the debate that has gone all year about the offense in the Big 12 and the defense in the SEC, Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy said on ESPN.

The Tide and Tigers played a hard-hitting defensive slog billed as the Game of the Century. And it was exciting in the way Notre Dame and Armys scoreless tie was exciting in the 1946 version of the Game of the Century.

The game was barely over when talk of rematch started, pro and con.

Oklahoma State was in position to keep it from happening. The Cowboys were undefeated and second in the BCS standings heading into a Friday night game at Iowa State, a day after Oklahoma State womens basketball coach Kurt Budke and an assistant coach were killed in a plane crash.

The Cowboys lost 37-31 in double OT to the so-so Cyclones (6-6), missing a potential game-winning field goal at the end of regulation by inches.

With no other undefeated teams left from the major conferences, Alabama returned to No. 2 and the debate grew more heated.

Ultimately, Oklahoma State couldnt overcome that one loss.

Now Saban and Miles, who have been tussling for supremacy in the SEC West on the field and the recruiting trail, will square off for the ultimate prize.

And dont dare suggest to either of them that its for anything less.

I think whoever wins the game should be viewed as the national champion, Saban said, echoing Miles sentiment. Rather than rehash the system we should do research on what would make the system better in the future.

Kris Dunn to miss 4 to 6 weeks with MCL sprain

Kris Dunn to miss 4 to 6 weeks with MCL sprain

The hits keep coming for the Bulls, and after the latest one it might be time to fire up the 2019 mock drafts.

Fred Hoiberg revealed Tuesday before practice that point guard Kris Dunn suffered a moderate sprain of his left MCL in Monday’s loss to the Mavericks and will miss the next 4 to 6 weeks.

“To have him out of the lineup for an extended period, it’s extremely difficult,” Hoiberg said. “When you have a guy who is out there and really made strides over the course of last season and the summer he had and the way he played during training camp, it’s difficult to miss him.”

It’s yet another freak injury for Dunn, who suffered the injury midway through the second quarter while landing after a layup over DeAndre Jordan. Last year Dunn suffered a dislocated finger in the preseason and then suffered a concussion that cost him 11 games. A toe injury then ended his season as the tanking Bulls shut him down for the final 14 games.

But Dunn was expected to play a significant role in Year 2 of the Bulls’ rebuild. As well as leading the team in assists and being the most sure-handed closer, Dunn’s defensive prowess was going to help a Bulls team that finished 29th in efficiency and lost David Nwaba, perhaps their second best defender, in the offseason.

Even prior to Dunn’s injury the Bulls had been addressing the position behind him, claiming Tyler Ulis off waivers on Oct. 14 and signing Shaq Harrison on Sunday. They opted to keep Ryan Arcidiacono on the final roster and will now rely on some combination of those three behind Cam Payne, who tied a career high with 17 points on Saturday against the Pistons.

That’s why Dunn’s injury could affect the team more than Lauri Markkanen’s or Denzel Valentine’s. The Bulls were able to cover up Markkanen’s absence with Bobby Portis and free agent acquisition Jabari Parker, while they invested a first-round pick in wing Chandler Hutchison and guaranteed Antonio Blakeney’s contract over the summer.

There’s quantity on the Bulls’ depth chart behind Dunn, but quality is another story.

“Cam had his best game of maybe his career a couple games ago against Detroit,” Hoiberg said. “He has some things he can build on. The biggest thing at that position is you have to get us organized at both ends of the floor. That’s where Kris had taken a big step in the right direction with that. Arcidiacono is one of the better communicators and hardest-playing guys on our team. We’ve got guys who have some starting experience. It’s big shoes to fill. But I’m confident our guys will give great effort.”

It could mean more ball-handling responsibilities for Zach LaVine, who has been a terror in pick-and-roll sets three games into the season. Though he’s only averaged 2.7 assists, the Bulls offense has been humming, with his 32.3 points per game leading the way. Using LaVine as a primary ball handler could allow Hoiberg to run a point guard-less offense and mix and match the other backcourt position.

They’ll have to do it on the fly. The group of point guards the Bulls will face in the next 11 days include Kemba Walker (Charlotte) twice, Trae Young (Atlanta), Steph Curry (Golden State), Jamal Murray (Denver), Darren Collison (Indiana) and James Harden (Houston). It could get a lot worse for the Bulls before it gets any better, and with Markkanen, Valentine and now Dunn on the mend. 

For those looking into such things three games into the season, the Bulls are currently tied with the Thunder, Cavaliers and Lakers for the worst record in the league. The NBA changed its Lottery rules for this upcoming season, with the three worst teams in the league all sharing the same odds at receiving the top pick in the draft.

No-brainer: The Cubs should absolutely bring back Jesse Chavez in 2019 bullpen

No-brainer: The Cubs should absolutely bring back Jesse Chavez in 2019 bullpen

Should the Cubs bring Jesse Chavez back for the 2019 bullpen?

This question shouldn't have anywhere near the polarizing effect the Daniel Murphy query had earlier this week, and for good reason.

It's hard to find any real downside for the Cubs working Chavez back into the fold next season. 

Sure, he's 35 and he'll turn 36 in August, but Chavez just had far and away the best season of his 11-year career and all signs point to it being legit.

He won't have a 1.15 ERA forever, of course, but he clearly found something with his mechanics that helped lead to the remarkable consistency he showed in a Cubs uniform (4 saves, 4 holds, 1.15 ERA, 0.79 WHIP, 42 Ks in 39 IP). 

The Cubs will be looking to add some reinforcements to their bullpen this winter and Chavez fits the bill in many areas.

When asked about how to address the bullpen this winter, Theo Epstein said his front office will be "looking for guys who can throw strikes and execute a gameplan and take the ball and pitch in big spots."

The Cubs have publicly placed an emphasis on "strike-throwers" out of the bullpen over the last two winters now and that is right up Chavez's alley.

He threw 68.5 percent first-pitch strikes while with the Cubs, which would've ranked near the top of the league in 2018, right up there with aces like Miles Mikolas, Clayton Kershaw, Aaron Nola and Justin Verlander. Among all relievers, Chavez ranked 5th in baseball in first-pitch strike percentage in the second half.

Expanding further (since the first pitch isn't the only one that matters): Chavez threw the fourth-most strikes in baseball among all MLB relievers after the All-Star Break. Since the day Chavez put on a Cubs uniform, Philadelphia's Tommy Hunter (70.5 percent) was the only reliever in baseball (minimum 30 innings) to throw a higher percentage of pitches for strikes than Chavez (69.8 percent).

If you want strikes, there's no better reliever on the market right now than Chavez.

He also shouldn't be all that expensive at age 35, even despite the breakout and high level of importance placed upon relievers these days. A similar deal to the one Brian Duensing got last winter - $7 million over 2 years - seems appropriate and would be a steal if Chavez can continue to find even a modicum of the success he had since putting on a Cubs uniform.

Speaking of the Cubs uniform, Chavez reportedly doesn't want to wear another logo in 2019, saying this after the NL Wild-Card Game:

That was an emotional time, but Chavez repeatedly raved about the Cubs clubhouse and culture throughout his time in Chicago and really appreciated the way his teammates made him feel comfortable from Day 1.

When the Cubs first acquired Chavez in that under-the-radar trade, they touted his versatility which has become a valuable asset, especially in today's game where relievers are often asked to pitch multiple innings. If necessary, he could also represent depth for the starting rotation, having made 70 starts over his MLB career. 

Unless there's a surprising market that develops for Chavez, bringing him back to the North Side of Chicago on a 1- or 2-year deal is a no-brainer.