Capitals

Badgers move on without Bret Bielema

201212041503541966280-p2.jpeg

Badgers move on without Bret Bielema

MADISON, Wis. (AP) Travis Frederick was surprised when coach Bret Bielema told the team he was leaving Wisconsin to coach Arkansas. The Badgers' starting center couldn't blame him, though.

``I guess I was a little surprised, but it's a very good opportunity for him,'' Frederick said after players met with Bielema on Tuesday night. ``I'm sure he'll do well.''

Most players declined to comment as reporters waited to talk to them. Some said Bielema urged them to remain focused on the Rose Bowl.

Frederick also said he was unsure who would lead the team going forward, and athletic director Barry Alvarez - the former coach who picked Bielema to succeed him - said in a statement that he has a responsibility to ensure the program continues at a high level and that he has already started the process of looking for a replacement.

Some player took to Twitter to lobby for Paul Chryst, the former Wisconsin offensive coordinator in his first season as head coach at Pittsburgh. Offensive lineman Ryan Groy tweeted ``Paul Chryst! Paul Chryst!''

``I understand the speculation surrounding my name given today's developments,'' Chryst said in a statement released by Pitt. ``I am committed to the Pitt football program and the University of Pittsburgh. I am focusing all my time and energy on our team's bowl game preparation and recruiting a great group of young men to join our program and this outstanding university. We are working hard every day to re-establish this program and I am excited about the future of Pitt football.''

Alvarez said he was surprised when Bielema told him he was taking the Arkansas job, but thanked him for his work over the past seven seasons as head coach, both on and off the field.

``Along with finding a new coach, my other main objective is to make sure that our student-athletes, specifically our seniors playing in their final game as Badgers, have a tremendous experience in the Rose Bowl,'' Alvarez said. ``We will do everything within our power to make that happen.''

The search for Wisconsin's next coach will be the first for the school since Alvarez was brought in for the 1990 season. The former coach picked Bielema to be his successor after adding him to the staff as defensive coordinator for two years before making him head coach for the 2006 season.

Still, quarterback Joel Stave noted coaching turnovers are common in college football, even if it is foreign to those on the Wisconsin roster.

``It's something that's new for me. I haven't really experienced this,'' Stave said. ``But it's something that we're just going to work through.''

Stave took over as the starter in September and led the Badgers until he was knocked out of the Oct. 27 game against Michigan State. A new coach also could mean starting over for Stave after he earned the starter's job, but he said he couldn't worry about that.

``If I continue to give us a good chance to win, I think I'll continue to play,'' Stave said. ``I feel it's in my hands. I try to worry about what I control, and that's making myself the best player I can be.''

Stave said Bielema told the players he would always be there for them and that he loved them, while running back Montee Ball promised the team would heed his advice to stick together.

``We're still a very focused team,'' Ball said.

Ball said while he was shocked at Bielema's decision, he wasn't disappointed. He said he had no reason to be and added the Badgers are proud of Bielema.

``He has a goal in his life that he wants to accomplish, so go get them,'' Ball said.

Quick Links

How does Capitals' Evgeny Kuznetsov get ready for a Game 7? He watches TV

How does Capitals' Evgeny Kuznetsov get ready for a Game 7? He watches TV

Everyone remembers Evgeny Kuznetsov's series-clinching overtime goal against the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2018. That goal now overshadows another series-clinching goal Kuznetsov had in 2015. In Game 7 against the New York Islanders, Kuznetsov scored what would prove to be the winning goal to break up a 1-1 tie. Clearly he knows how to get ready for a big game. His secret? Television.

Kuznetsov appeared on NBC Sports Washington's Capitals Greatest Hits show on Monday to talk about his 2015 performance and the topic of the locker room came up. Both teams went into that game knowing their season was on the line and Kuznetsov was asked if the feeling was any different in the locker room before the game, a question he did not know exactly how to answer.

"I'm never in the locker room," Kuznetsov said. "I'm always by the TV watching TV shows."

Yes, when Kuznetsov arrives at the arena, he apparently likes to watch TV before the game and said he is not in the locker room until only about 30 minutes before warmups. He enjoys watching soccer, but also likes a good movie.

"It's usually soccer games," Kuznetsov said. "If it's not the soccer game, it's whatever the movie's going."

CLICK HERE TO SUBSCRIBE TO THE CAPITALS TALK PODCAST

He went on to say he was thankful for the team subscribing to whatever channel it was that he watches movies on.

If this seems odd to you, there is a method to the madness.

"Usually it's movie because that way I'm not thinking about hockey," Kuznetsov said. "I like to be loose before games."

Hey, if that's what he was doing before Game 7 in 2015 and before Game 6 in 2018, it's hard to argue against it.

Stay connected to the Capitals and Wizards with the MyTeams app. Click here to download for comprehensive coverage of your teams.

MORE CAPITALS NEWS:

Quick Links

Where does a healthy John Wall rank among NBA's top 10 point guards?

Where does a healthy John Wall rank among NBA's top 10 point guards?

John Wall last played in an NBA game on December 26, 2018. He's expected to come back at the beginning of the 2020-21 season, and once he makes his long-awaited return to the Wizards' starting lineup, he'll find himself in a much different point guard landscape than the one he left. 

The position has changed, traditional point guards are mostly a thing of the past. NBA offenses are either run through multiple ball-handlers who can score and facilitate, or they're one-man shows centered around highly skilled individuals such as James Harden and Luka Doncic. 

Wall has consistently been one of the best in the league at his position, but after missing a year to an Achilles injury, it's hard to forecast where his game will be come next season. With that in mind, let's take a look at the top 10 point guards in the game (all presumed healthy), and see where Wall falls on the list. 

1. James Harden
2. Luka Doncic
3. Damian Lillard
4. Steph Curry
5. Chris Paul
6. Kyrie Irving
7. John Wall
8. Russell Westbrook
9. Kemba Walker
10. Kyle Lowry

CLICK HERE TO SUBSCRIBE TO THE WIZARDS TALK PODCAST

Wall has the talent to be in the top three of this list for sure, though it's difficult to put him anywhere but No. 7 right now. He's probably a tier above Walker and Lowry, while Wall and Westbrook are more comparable players. 

Irving, Curry and Lillard are too good and have been consistently great enough to where you can't put them below Wall, while Paul might be a great inspiration for players like Wall. Paul keeps getting older and keeps getting hurt but he's still so, so good. 

Then you have the two walking offensive systems in Doncic and Harden. Their production and what they do for their teams as primary ball-handlers is mostly unmatched across the eight players listed below them. 

Wall could rise all the way to the top of this list if he plays to his full abilities. The speed, perimeter defense, passing and dribble penetration made him an All-NBA level player. If Wall can improve his accuracy from beyond the arc, take more threes and fewer mid-range jumpers, I don't see why he can't see an uptick in efficiency even if his athleticism isn't what it used to be.

It's not a reach to say the Wizards' contention hopes depend heavily on whether Wall plays back to All-Star form or not. An Achilles injury is incredibly challenging to bounce back from, especially for a player like Wall whose game has had so much to do with speed and explosion in the past. 

The good news is he's had a chance to digest the game from a different perspective and time to fine-tune his jumper, while his Wizards teammates, especially Bradley Beal, are better than when he last suited up. 

Stay connected to the Capitals and Wizards with the MyTeams app. Click here to download for comprehensive coverage of your teams.

MORE WIZARDS NEWS: