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BCS busters NIU face Florida St in Orange Bowl

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BCS busters NIU face Florida St in Orange Bowl

MIAMI (AP) Florida State's biggest weakness heading into their Orange Bowl game against Northern Illinois might be Midwestern geography.

The Seminoles concede they'd be hard-pressed to locate their opponent in an atlas.

``I could probably find Illinois,'' receiver Rashad Greene said. ``I don't really know where the town is. Actually I don't even know the town.''

It's DeKalb.

``DeKalb?'' Seminoles kicker Dustin Hopkins said. ``Hey, next time I'll know.''

``I thought it was in Chicago,'' quarterback EJ Manuel said.

Cue the cliche: A victory Tuesday night would put Northern Illinois on the map. The No. 16-ranked Huskies have been widely derided as unworthy of a BCS bowl berth, which makes them eager for validation when they face No. 13 Florida State.

``We're playing a team that is going to be willing to bloody their noses and get after you,'' Seminoles offensive coordinator James Coley warned.

Northern Illinois (12-1) is the first Mid-American Conference team to play in the Bowl Championship Series. The Huskies made it when they cracked the top 16 in the final standings by 0.0404 points, setting off a celebration in DeKalb and a backlash everywhere else.

The BCS busters arrived in south Florida without apology.

``There are a lot of angry people out there,'' NIU offensive coordinator Bob Cole said. ``But there are probably 120 of us in the hotel that are really happy about the whole deal. We don't really care what everybody else thinks.''

The bowl berth meant 17 Huskies would see the ocean for the first time. One story about the team used the phrase ``bowl bumpkins.''

``We laugh at it, whatever that's supposed to mean,'' linebacker Tyrone Clark said. ``We take this as an amazing opportunity for the MAC, the school and the players.''

Actually, success is nothing new to the Huskies, who are playing in a bowl for the fifth consecutive season. Since October 2011 they have the best record in the country at 21-1.

They've won 12 games in a row, matching Ohio State and Notre Dame for the longest active winning streak. Quarterback Jordan Lynch leads the nation in rushing and total offense, and he finished seventh in the Heisman Trophy voting.

But the Huskies barely beat Army, Toledo and Kansas. They lost to Iowa, which won only three other games. They've never beaten an opponent ranked higher than 15th.

At a news conference Monday for the head coaches, Florida State's Jimbo Fisher agreed to pose with the Orange Bowl trophy. Northern Illinois' Rod Carey declined, but not because his team is a two-touchdown underdog.

``Underdog? What is that?'' Carey said. ``Our kids play with a chip on their shoulder all the time. I mean, if we were favored by 21 points I'd be more nervous.''

Until kickoff, it's impossible to know how seriously Florida State (11-2) will take a supposedly unimposing opponent. The matchup's a letdown for the Seminoles, who wanted to wait another week to play in Miami - in the BCS title game.

But in the days leading up to the game, the Seminoles said all the right things about Northern Illinois.

``We're not going to underestimate anybody,'' receiver Rodney Smith said. ``Everybody is trying to say NIU doesn't deserve to be here, but as a team we're saying they're here for a reason. We're going to treat them like they're the No. 1-ranked team in the nation.''

They're No. 1 in DeKalb, anyway, especially in the wake of their Orange Bowl berth.

``They've got signs all over the place in the street back home - `Go Huskies' and `Good Luck in the Orange Bowl,''' Cole said. ``For what it has done for our community, our players, our school, it has been unbelievable.''

DeKalb is located an hour west of Chicago, on the banks of the Kishwaukee River, in Rand McNally grid C-10. A good crowd at Huskies Stadium is 18,000, and the town's population of 45,000 would barely fill half of the Orange Bowl's seats.

``In DeKalb you've got your local cornfields,'' linebacker Clark said. ``We've got a lot of space there. And you've got your daily wind. It's just a small town with a nice-size university - and a select number of people.''

Added teammate Sean Progar: ``There's not too much to do but play football.''

That's what the small-town Huskies will do Tuesday on their biggest stage ever.

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Baltimore Ravens Roundup: Roster is set heading into start of OTAs

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Baltimore Ravens Roundup: Roster is set heading into start of OTAs

Kick off your Monday with the latest Baltimore Ravens news including the full 90-man roster heading into the beginning of OTAs.

Player/Team Notes: 

1. The Baltimore Ravens have officially announced the full 90-man roster that will be competing for an official team roster spot in OTAs this summer. Ravens OTAs begin Monday.

2. With the return of Pernell McPhee and the addition of Shane Ray, it's clear that the Ravens are searching for the right pass rushers for their defense. The two veterans join draft pick Jaylon Ferguson in the quest to create a dynamic defense.

3. Marquise Brown is expected to miss OTAs due to continued rehab on his foot from Lisfranc surgery. However, Brown is expected to be ready by the start of training camp in August.

Looking Ahead:

July 15: 4 p.m. deadline to get a long-term deal done with designated franchise tag players.

The 2019 NFL schedule is set! See the Baltimore Ravens defend the AFC North at M&T Bank Stadium this season. Get your tickets now at www.BaltimoreRavens.com/tickets.

Credit: Rotoworld and Baltimore Ravens for news points.

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2019 NBA Draft Big Board: Post-Combine rankings shakeup

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2019 NBA Draft Big Board: Post-Combine rankings shakeup

The 2019 NBA Combine has come and gone. Impressions made will linger. 

Before revealing the updated and expanded 2019 NBA Draft Big Board, we dive into news and notes coming out of three days in Chicago.

Also, check out insight into the Wizards options with the ninth overall selection and the latest NBC Sports Washington NBA mock draft.

*Based on conversations with six NBA teams and other league sources, here’s a list of players that stood out during the two days of 5-on-5 scrimmages. Note projected lottery and first-round selections largely did not participate other than Tennessee’s Grant Williams:

Nic Claxton -- The 6-foot-11 center entered the Combine outside of first-round projections. Now the sense is “late first” assuming he remains in the draft after Claxton’s impressive defensive work protecting the rim and switching on the perimeter when needed.

Tremont Waters -- The small point guard tested the NBA Draft pool after leading LSU to the Sweet 16. That looks like a savory decision after a team source declared the one-time Georgetown recruit as the best player during Thursday’s action. The 5-foot-11 Waters splashed 3-pointers off the dribble, showed quick hands defensively and posted a 40-inch vertical.

Jalen Lecque – The Brewster Academy product/NC State recruit received the most praise from various sources, though the unknown with the high schooler likely played some part. The 6-foot-4 guard with a 43-inch vertical leap received lofty athletic comparisons -- his nickname is “Baby Westbrook” -- and his skill in spots matched the hype. The 18-year-old skipped the second day of scrimmages after receiving positive feedback from teams, ESPN reported. There’s a rung to climb before the first-round talk, but scouts certainly took notice.

Luka Samanic -- The 6-foot-10 forward “made friends” within the scouting community after flashing his smooth athleticism, steady shooting stroke and hoops smarts during Thursday’s session. Samanic entered the Combine outside the top 30-35 selections. That probably won’t be the case soon.

Isaiah Roby -- Hey, an upperclassman. The 6-foot-8 forward with a 7-foot-1 wingspan made noise with his full-court skills and defensive versatility. According to one source, Roby would stay in the draft if a top 40 selection. How teams decipher his limited shooting numbers last season -- 33 percent on 3-pointers, 68 percent from the free throw line -- could determine which side of that projection he falls.

Others: Brian Bowen, Darius Bazley, Devon Dotson, Cody Martin, Tacko Fall, Jordan Bone

*The trend of top prospects sitting out the scrimmages went up another level to the chagrin of NBA teams. Williams was the only top-35 on ESPN’s pre-Combine list to scrimmage. That the SEC Player of the Year struggled with his shot and perhaps slid a tick won’t help the argument that players should play. “Agents control things,” one NBA general manager mused. “What can you do?”

*The Wizards met with several prospects potentially available in the 31-40 range, another sign of the franchise’s intentions to buy into the second round. That group includes Oregon forward Louis King.

The 6-foot-8 forward offers a 7-foot wingspan. The 39 percent 3-point shooter at Oregon was one of the top “on the move” shooters from 15 feet during non-game shooting drills in Chicago.

“This is great exposure for people that declared for the draft,” the Ducks’ leading scorer told NBC Sports Washington. “I felt like helping my team get to the Pac 12 championship and the (NCAA Tournament’s) Sweet 16, having a lot of confidence in my game, I was ready for the league."

*We can probably remove Ty Jerome from that early second-round grouping. One source put his draft range at 18-22 based on teams interviewing the Virginia guard -- I’ll note Jerome stood out in our 1-on-1 interview -- and reviewing his shooting prowess.

*As for the overall first round, here’s a rough look based on tiers.

We start with Zion Williamson, then Ja Morant with maybe RJ Barrett. From there think 4-9 with that group perhaps expanding or decreasing by a player or two. Then we go 10 to early 20’s. While there’s always the chance a single player stands out for a specific team, the sense from Chicago is this large group makes the idea of trading down from say 9 more hopeful than likely.

2019 NBA Draft Big Board

1. Zion Williamson, PF, Duke

2. Ja Morant, PG, Murray State

3. RJ Barrett, SG, Duke

4. De'Andre Hunter, SF, Virginia

5. Jarrett Culver, SG, Texas Tech

6. Darius Garland, PG, Vanderbilt

7. Coby White, SG, UNC

8. Cam Reddish, SF, Duke

9. Sekou Doumbouya, PF, International

10. Jaxson Hayes, C, Texas

11. Bol Bol, PF, Oregon

12. Brandon Clarke, PF, Gonzaga

13. Rui Hachimura, PF, Gonzaga

14. Nassir Little, SF, UNC

15. PJ Washington, PF, Kentucky

16. Goga Bitadze, C, International 

17. Kevin Porter Jr., SG, USC

18. Nickeil Alexander-Walker, SG, Va. Tech

19. Romeo Langford, SG, Indiana

20. Keldon Johnson, SF, Kentucky

21. Ty Jerome, SG, Virginia 

22. Tyler Herro, SG, Kentucky 

23. Cameron Johnson, PF, UNC

24. Grant Williams, PF, Tennessee 

25. Bruno Fernando, C, Maryland

26. Luka Samanic, PF, Croatia

27. Carsen Edwards, SG/PG, Purdue

28. Nicolas Claxton, C, Georgia

29. KZ Okpala, SF, Stanford

30. Daniel Gafford, C, Arkansas

31. Talen Horton-Tucker, SF, Iowa State

32. Admiral Schofield, PF, Tennessee

33. Luguentz Dort, SG, Arizona State

34. Dylan Windler, SF, Belmont

35. Mfiondu Kabengele, PF, Florida State

36. Eric Paschall, PF, Villanova

37. Isaiah Roby, SF, Nebraska

38. Jalen Lecque, SG, USA 

39. Louis King, SF, Oregon

40. Tremont Waters, PG, LSU 

41. Jalen McDaniels, PF, San Diego State

42. Matisse Thybulle, SF, Washington

43. Ignas Brazdeikis, F, Michigan

44. Darius Bazley, SF, USA 

45. Brian Bowen, PF, USA

46. Naz Reid, C, LSU

47. Jontay Porter, C, Missouri

48. Charles Bassey, C, Western Kentucky

49. Shamorie Ponds, PG, St. John’s

50. Cody Martin, SG, Nevada

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