Cavaliers look to end long drought against Hokies


Cavaliers look to end long drought against Hokies

BLACKSBURG, Va. (AP) The bowl season is starting - and ending - early for Virginia.

The Cavaliers (4-7, 2-5 Atlantic Coast Conference) lack the required number of victories to qualify for postseason play, but are treating their game at Virginia Tech on Saturday as their bowl game.

There's no team in the country they would like to beat more.

The Hokies (5-6, 3-4) have won eight straight games in the series, and 12 of 13. Most of the games have been lopsided, especially recently. Tech won 42-13 in 2009, 37-7 in 2010 and 38-0 last season.

Virginia Tech also needs to win to extend its streak of seasons ending in a bowl game to 20.

Five consecutive classes of recruits at Virginia has finished their four- or five-year careers winless against the Hokies, and junior defensive end Jake Snyder would love to ensure that it doesn't become six.

``I hear about it a lot,'' Snyder said, speaking of the offseason and when he goes home to Glen Allen in suburban Richmond. ``As far as people talking college football at home, that's what they're talking about, the UVa-Tech game. And so it's a big deal to me. It's a big deal to all of us on the team.''

The meeting a year ago was perhaps the biggest in series history with the winner advancing to the ACC championship. The resurgent Cavaliers were at home, but were no match for the Hokies on the field.

The stakes are just as high for Virginia this season, quarterback Michael Rocco said, and depriving the Hokies of a bowl berth isn't the motivator. It's all about ending the losing streak, he said.

``It's a big rivalry, and we've lost a lot in a row to them,'' he said.

Rocco has been sharing the quarterback job with Phillip Sims, and he is among the few Cavaliers that will trot into Lane Stadium with fond memories. Sims was the quarterback at Oscar Smith High School in Chesapeake when he and Cavaliers teammates Perry Jones and Tim Smith won a state championship there.

``Pretty good memories about playing there,'' Sims said of his last visit to Virginia Tech.

The Hokies don't anticipate Sims feeling the same on the bus ride back to Charlottesville.

While the Hokies' offense has been spotty all season, their defense has rounded into form, averaging 4 1/2 sacks over the past five games. A steady onslaught of blitzes has benefitted the whole unit.

``It's huge,'' linebacker and leading tackler Jack Tyler said. ``Whenever you can get a good pass rush it obviously helps. Your coverage responsibilities are a lot better, and you don't have to cover as long. It's a lot for your mental part of your game to know you're only going to have to cover somebody for three seconds instead of 10. That goes a long way because you know you can match things up a little better.''

Tyler played in high school at Oakton in northern Virginia, so understanding the importance of the rivalry with Virginia came naturally. Fellow linebacker Bruce Taylor grew up in Georgia, but understands and bristles at the notion that a loss to Virginia in his final game could keep the Hokies at home.

``It's always a must-win, but there's a little more riding on this one because if we win, we're in, if we don't, we go home, so it's very exciting,'' Taylor said. ``It's probably the most interesting UVA game I've been a part of. We're playing for life this year, and sometimes that's how it goes, that's how the ball rolls. You have a tough year. Luckily, we're in position to still make something out of this season.''

While the Cavaliers trip to the Chick-fil-A Bowl last season was their first postseason game since 2007, it's a habit at Virginia Tech. The streak of 19 straight seasons ending at a bowl game is the third-longest in the nation, trailing only Florida State (30) and Florida (22).

Taylor doesn't want to be remembered as one of the leaders on the team that ended the streak.

``You don't want to go out not going to a bowl game,'' he said.


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The Wizards refuse to tank, so be skeptical of those Bradley Beal trade rumors

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The Wizards refuse to tank, so be skeptical of those Bradley Beal trade rumors

Apparently Wizards owner Ted Leonsis could have been even more clear when he delivered the edict last week that his team will "never, ever tank."

Despite publicly stating the Wizards would not go through a rebuild, the trade rumors surrounding All-Star guard Bradley Beal have persisted. Bleacher Report created some buzz on Saturday with an extensive look at Beal's trade value and there will likely be many more stories written in the next several weeks leading up to the NBA trade deadline on Feb. 7.

What Leonsis said, however, should change how any rumors are viewed. He expressed firmly what team officials have been indicating for weeks, that if they are active at the trade deadline, it won't be with deals involving their main guys.

That means Beal is highly unlikely to be dealt. Otto Porter Jr. can be considered similarly and John Wall should go without saying given his current injury status and hefty trade kicker.

All of that doesn't mean the Wizards won't get calls. There are reasons why people are connecting the dots on Beal and Porter. The Wizards have underperformed this season and they are good, veteran players. That is generally the most basic formula for trade speculation.

Leonsis, though, made it clear that he doesn't want to go through a rebuild anytime soon and trading Beal would signify a reset. If the Wizards want to make the playoffs this season, as Leonsis said, they have a much better shot with Beal in the mix than without him.

So, for the Wizards to trade Beal, that would require a serious change of face and in a short period of time. Or, it would require someone in the organization with a differing opinion to overrule the owner. Neither scenario sounds realistic.

If the goal is to build on what they have rather than tear it down and start over, you could argue they would be crazy to trade Beal. He is 25, an All-Star who is still improving and he's under contract two more years. The roughly $56 million he's owed through 2020-21 is a relative bargain in this era of supermax contracts.

The Wizards can't 100 percent rule out a trade of any player, of course. No front office really can, with rare exceptions like MVPs or all-time greats in their prime. Generally, everyone has a price.

Nothing can be taken as a guarantee in these situations. But Leonsis' comments have made it about as clear as possible that Beal isn't going anywhere. Just keep that in mind when the rumors inevitably crop up in the next few weeks.


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If All-Star selections were based on play alone, Bradley Beal would be a starter

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If All-Star selections were based on play alone, Bradley Beal would be a starter

Bradley Beal’s stellar play ended the debate over whether the Washington Wizards leading scorer deserved a second consecutive All-Star berth – and started a new one: Should he start in the game?

Now, based on the latest batch of fan results, Beal will not in fact start. Fans account for 50 percent of the vote with current players and Beal ranked 10th among Eastern Conference guards. Current players and selected media members each receive 25 percent of the vote. Beal’s case is not so overwhelming that those factions would stuff the ballot box on his behalf.

Those future results remain fascinating regardless.

Beal’s performance throughout the season and particularly since John Wall went out with season-ending surgery to repair bone spurs in his left foot pushed him into the starter conversation.

Voting for the 2019 NBA All-Star Game, set for Feb. 17 in Charlotte, concludes Monday. Televised announcements for the starters (Thursday) and reserves (Jan. 31) come later this month followed by the draft on Feb. 7.

Boston’s Kyrie Irving is the runaway leader among the East guards in the fan vote followed by Dwyane Wade (Miami), Kemba Walker (Charlotte), Ben Simmons (Philadelphia), Victor Oladipo (Indiana) and Kyle Lowry (Toronto).

Unless Wade’s career achievement candidacy gains momentum among players and the media, the future Hall of Fame is not in the running for the other starting guard spot. The other five including Beal have the numbers.

Lowry, named a starter in 2015 and 2016, is second in the NBA with 9.4 assists, but this is not the steadiest of seasons for Lowry (31.1 percent on 3-pointers).

Oladipo continues his rocket ride toward the top of the NBA’s best guards, but the two-way threat missed 11 games for 30-15 Pacers.

That leaves Beal, Simmons, and Walker, who will represent the hosting team in the big event. Walker ticks ahead of Beal in scoring as the Hornets do the Wizards in the NBA standings. Comparing on-off numbers gives Washington’s leading man the edge.

The lengthy Simmons, one of the league’s most unique players, veers close to averaging a triple-double. There is also the weirdness of the 6-foot-10 point-forward attempting literally zero 3-point attempts.

Beal’s numbers, strong throughout the season outside of a 3-point shooting dip, zoomed upward after Washington lost Wall in late December. Overall he joins James Harden and Giannis Antetokounmpo as the only players averaging at least 24 points, 5.0 rebounds, 5.0 assists, and 1.4 steals. The Wizards, in the midst of their best collective work this season, are feeding off Beal’s vibe and all-court game.

Again, the lack of interest from the fans – surely in part of Washington’s struggles this season -- dooms Beal’s starter hope. The recognition from the players and media members might offer a different take on a player performing as well as almost any guard in the league.

That remains true whether Beal starts or not. He will not, but there is a strong argument that he should.