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Coach's return to Syracuse has Huskies hyped

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Coach's return to Syracuse has Huskies hyped

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) Nearly eight years after Syracuse fired him, Connecticut coach Paul Pasqualoni returns to the Carrier Dome as the enemy on Friday night when he leads his Huskies against the Orange.

But who has time for reunion talk? Both teams simply need a `W.'

UConn (3-4, 0-2 Big East) desperately needs a conference victory and a loss for Syracuse (2-4, 1-1) would make reaching a bowl game a daunting task. The Orange would have to win four of its last five games, which include Louisville at home and Cincinnati and Missouri on the road.

Both teams are coming off tough losses. Temple spoiled UConn's homecoming last week with a 17-14 overtime win thanks to four missed field goals by Huskies kicker Chad Christen. Syracuse was victimized by four turnovers and a crucial blocked field goal that was returned for a touchdown in a 23-15 setback at nationally ranked Rutgers.

So, to no one's surprise, Pasqualoni's emotions and the hype surrounding the reunion are the furthest thing from his mind these days.

``To tell you the truth, I haven't thought about it a great deal,'' said Pasqualoni, who won 107 games in 14 years at Syracuse but had more than his fair share of critics in his final seasons with the Orange, ``other than it's a big game in our conference and it's a big game for us.''

The Orange have only been to one bowl under coach Doug Marrone.

``Winning this game would make us 2-1 (in the Big East), which is huge,'' said Orange center Macky MacPherson, whose grandfather, Dick, coached the Orange in the 1980s and hired Pasqualoni as an assistant in 1987. ``(Pasqualoni on the other sideline) is not something I'm thinking about. It's not something I'm focused on. I'm focused on doing my job to the best of my ability.

``Come after the game, I'll go over and say hi, win, lose, or draw. But right now, I'm focused on winning the game, and I'm sure that's what Coach P. would tell you.''

The Huskies have won the last five games in the series, including 28-21 at home last fall in Pasqualoni's first year.

``I'm sure he wants to take care of us like he did last year,'' Syracuse quarterback Ryan Nassib said.

Connecticut will present a stiff challenge. The UConn unit, led by linebacker Yawin Smallwood (11 tackles for loss among his 75 stops) and defensive end Trevardo Williams (7.5 sacks), is ranked sixth nationally in total defense (261 yards per game), eighth in pass defense (161.6 ypg), and 13th in rushing defense (99.4 ypg).

``Playing a team like UConn, they're going to take advantage if you turn the ball over,'' MacPherson said. ``Turning the ball over is something that we're not going to accept this week, and we need our defense to create some turnovers, too, so we can get the turnover margin back on our side.''

That's been an Orange roadblock. Syracuse has allowed 10 more turnovers than it's gained, one of the worst marks in the nation. Although the Syracuse defense has been superb the past two games - it held Pitt star Ray Graham to 57 yards on 24 carries and Rutgers standout Jawan Jamison to 64 yards on 28 carries - the players know they need to create more mistakes by their opponents.

``That's the No. 1 thing. Got to get that turnover ratio shifted,'' Orange nose tackle Jay Bromley said. ``Whenever the ball's on the ground, it's ours. It has to be ours.''

Despite the presence of Pasqualoni, nobody is thinking about anything but winning.

``Friday night we have to get the ball rolling,'' UConn defensive tackle Ryan Wirth said. ``We have five more games. We still have a chance to do something good.''

That's the feeling on the other side, too.

``This half of the season is going to make or break us,'' Nassib said. ``You can't do anything about the first half now.''

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Jimmy Butler requests trade, gives Timberwolves three preferred teams, not including Wizards

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USA Today Sports

Jimmy Butler requests trade, gives Timberwolves three preferred teams, not including Wizards

Just days before NBA training camps are set to begin, All-NBA guard Jimmy Butler is trying to force his way out of Minnesota.

The four-time All-Star has requested a trade from the Timberwolves and, according to ESPN, has given them a list of three preferred teams: the Knicks, Nets and Clippers. That list is extra-pertinent because Butler has a player option after this upcoming season, and he is reportedly willing to sign a contract extension with any of those three.

That does not mean the Wolves will honor his request, but any team other than those three that trades for him will be at risk of losing him after one year. That risk worked out well for the Thunder this past year in their trade for Paul George, but every situation is different.

Butler’s list tells us a few things about his priorities. For one, he wants to play in a major market. New York and L.A. are the top two markets in the NBA. To that point, it’s interesting he has omitted the Lakers.

The three teams Butler listed would give him no realistic chance of winning, at least in his first season. Either he’s taking a long-term approach to competing, or he would rather be the No. 1 guy on a bad team than the No. 2 or 3 star on a good team.

For those wondering if the Wizards would be a fit, those factors would seemingly work against them retaining him beyond one season. Though D.C. is a big market, it’s not L.A. or New York. And Butler would not be the clear star in Washington with two All-Stars in John Wall and Bradley Beal already in place.

That is all beyond what the Wizards would have to give up for Butler. Though he’s not quite Kawhi Leonard, the return probably wouldn’t be far off. The Raptors had to give up DeMar DeRozan, a perennial All-NBA selection, among other pieces. The Thunder had to part with Victor Oladipo in their package for George and that has since proven to be a steep price.

Maybe the Wizards could offer Otto Porter, Jr. and/or some combination of draft picks and young, emerging players. But it would be a hefty price given the risk of him potentially leaving, and though Butler is very good, he’s not as young or as good as Leonard, for comparison.

To give up the farm in a trade, that player better make his new team significantly better. It’s questionable if Butler could do that for the Wizards.

The Wizards have done their due diligence in checking in on George, Leonard and others who have become available in recent years. It would not be surprising if they make a call for Butler, but as of now not enough adds up to make it a perfect match.

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Maroon 5 to perform at Super Bowl LIII halftime show

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USA Today Sports

Maroon 5 to perform at Super Bowl LIII halftime show

Super Bowl LIII will be played in the brand-new Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Ga., but the halftime musical performance will not be headlined by anyone from the A-T-L. 

Maroon 5 will take the stage in Atlanta on Feb. 3, according to Variety

The seven-man pop group will follow in the footsteps of Justin Timberlake, who performed during last year's halftime show in Minnesota. Notable recent performers include Beyonce, Lady Gaga, Coldplay, Bruno Mars, and the Black Eyed Peas.

Many expected the halftime performance to be an artist or group with Atlanta roots -- a city full of musical talent -- particulalry in hip-hop. Acts such as Usher, the Migos, Future, and Ludacris all come from the 'Big A.' But the NFL opted to go with the Los Angeles-based group instead. The NFL has not released a statement yet regarding the performer.

Maroon 5 has produced hits with many of today's musical stars, including a 2017 track with Future, as well as Cardi B and SZA. Should Maroon 5 want to bring out a suprise guest, they will have plenty of artists to choose from.

The NFL has seen several spectacular halftime performances, so it will be interesting to see where Maroon 5 will rank.