Comebacks keep No. 12 Sooners in Big 12 title race


Comebacks keep No. 12 Sooners in Big 12 title race

NORMAN, Okla. (AP) Given a choice, Landry Jones would rather avoid the type of late-game heroics he's had to provide for Oklahoma on two straight Saturdays.

Even so, he's not about to trade away the experiences he's had in rallying the Sooners to back-to-back wins when they simply had to score a touchdown in the final 30 seconds to win.

``You always remember those tight games,'' Jones said. ``You always remember the games where you come from behind and you get a victory.''

The Sooners (9-2, 7-1 Big 12) won in the final moments of regulation at West Virginia, then tied the Bedlam rivalry with 4 seconds left before beating Oklahoma State 51-48 in overtime on Saturday night.

After failing to overcome a fourth-quarter deficit and win for five years, Oklahoma has done it in back-to-back games to stay right in the thick of the Big 12 championship chase.

The Sooners can win the title outright by winning at TCU on Saturday if No. 7 Kansas State loses to Texas. They'd earn a split if both teams either win or lose, although the Wildcats would claim the league's automatic BCS berth after winning in Norman in September.

``We need the ball to bounce a little bit in our direction. Yes, we will one week be rooting for Texas and hoping they pull it out,'' Jones said. ``That would be so special to end my career with a ring and get to go play in another BCS game.''

Even if K-State wins, the Sooners have a chance at an at-large BCS bid. Only two of the six SEC teams ahead of them in the standings can be picked for BCS bowls, leaving an at-large bid possibly up for grabs. But Oklahoma could see it snatched away if Kent State (17th), Boise State (20th) or Northern Illinois (21st) can get into the BCS top 16 and claim an automatic bid.

``We've got one game to play and have an opportunity to be Big 12 champions again,'' coach Bob Stoops said. ``So we'll just see.''

Nothing has been predictable lately with these Sooners, with each of their last two games coming down to fourth-down plays near the goal line. Jones threw a 5-yard touchdown pass to Kenny Stills with 24 seconds left in a wild 50-49 win at West Virginia. He then directed a 17-play drive that took over 6 minutes before backup Blake Bell ran in for the tying 4-yard touchdown with 4 seconds left in the Bedlam game.

The Sooners trailed throughout the game but limited Oklahoma State to a field goal in overtime to give Brennan Clay a chance to win it on an 18-yard touchdown run.

``We knew what we were capable of. We don't ever really panic or anything for doubt,'' Clay said. ``We know we can score from anywhere on the field. We just went out there and got the job done.''

The last two weeks, that has all started with Jones. He's put together back-to-back 500-yard passing games - just the second and third such games in school history - and come up with some of the most clutch plays of Stoops' tenure.

``It didn't just start last week. Our guys know how good Landry is and how well he throws the ball, which always gives you a chance for big plays and to score quickly,'' Stoops said. ``Of course, last week doesn't hurt that confidence.

``And the way he was throwing, up `til the last drive, the way we he had played all game. What would make you think he was not able to come in and do it?''

Jones set the Oklahoma records with 46 completions and 71 attempts in the game and passed Texas Tech's Graham Harrell to become the most prolific passer in Big 12 history. He's now third on the Bowl Subdivision career passing chart.

``The guy has thrown for over 1,000 yards in the last two games. That's virtually unthinkable,'' defensive coordinator Mike Stoops said. ``He can do a lot of amazing things. I've said that since I got here. He's unbelievable throwing the football. His endurance and perseverance always pays off.''

Jones said he has learned not to ride the highs and lows of the game and that all he has to do is find his comfort level to lead the Sooners. If he's not being genuine, he thinks his teammates notice and he can't be as effective.

``It's not my resiliency. Not one player wins or loses a game for a team,'' Jones said. ``But I think our focus and our toughness as a collective offense does rub off and does infect other people.''

That seems to be the case lately. While the defense struggled for a second straight week, there were just enough timely stops to get the win.

Demontre Hurst broke up a third-and-18 pass to set up Jalen Saunders' 81-yard punt return touchdown in the fourth quarter, and the Sooners forced a pair of three-and-outs in the period.

``At the end of the day, you're not even thinking about how many yards you gave up,'' Hurst said. ``You're just thinking about (how) you've got to be that guy to make that play at the end.''

In overtime, limiting the Cowboys to Quinn Sharp's field goal provided just the opening the offense needed to claim the lead for the first time all game.

``We just don't give up. It just shows the heart that many guys have on the team,'' safety Tony Jefferson said. ``I think that's what it all falls down to. When it comes to the end of the game, stuff like that, it's about heart.''

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The Caps' Cup-winning roster is a lesson in building through the draft


The Caps' Cup-winning roster is a lesson in building through the draft

Every year, the Stanley Cup-winning team shows the importance of building through the draft. This year, that team is the Washington Capitals.

With the NHL Draft starting on Friday, let’s break down the Capitals roster from the playoffs to see just how it was put together.

Acquired by the draft: Nicklas Backstrom, Madison Bowey, Travis Boy, Andre Burakovsky, John Carlson, Christian Djoos, Shane Gersich, Philipp Grubauer, Braden Holtby, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Dmitry Orlov, Alex Ovechkin, Chandler Stephenson, Jakub Vrana, Nathan Walker, Tom Wilson

Acquired as a free agent: Jay Beagle, Alex Chiasson, Brett Connolly, Matt Niskanen, Brooks Orpik, Devante Smith-Pelly

Acquired by trade: Lars Eller, Jakub Jerabek, Michal Kempny, T.J. Oshie

The first thing to note is that the vast majority of Washington’s roster is made up of draft picks. Specifically, the majority of the Caps’ top six on offense, three of its top six defensemen and both goalies were drafted by the team.

Of the free agent signings, only two were big money players in Matt Niskanen and Brooks Orpik. In 2014, defense was a major question mark for the Caps and Brian MacLellan made a splash as the new general manager by signing both blue liners to big deals. The majority of the signings, however, are cheap, low risk and high reward players.

Finally, the trades include players who filled obvious needs. The Caps needed Oshie to shore up the top six, Eller was brought in to be the third line center, Kempny stepped in as a top-four defenseman and Jerabek was brought in for defensive depth.

So what does this show us?

First, the draft is absolutely critical to building a team’s core. True superstar players are hard to come by. Once a team gets one, they do everything they can to keep them. The draft is a team's first opportunity to acquire a certain player and, if they have superstar potential, sign them long-term. John Tavares this season looks headed to free agency and the buzz around him stems from the fact that he is very much the exception, not the rule. The base of the Caps’ Stanley Cup team was built by drafting star players like Ovechkin, Backstrom, Kuznetsov, Carlson, Holtby, etc.

This also shows the importance of the draft for depth. In the salary cap era, teams need to find enough cap room for their stars and their depth players. Having young players is absolutely critical because their low cap hit allows for the team to sign the expensive stars and make the important addition in free agency  or by trade. This is a formula that only works if those young players are productive as well.

Players like Vrana and Burakovsky, for example, played big roles in the playoff run, but also carried low cap hits.

So the Caps built a core through the draft and filled key roles with trades and mostly cheap free agent signings.

There is no formula for how to win a Stanley Cup, if there was everyone would do it, but this is about as close as you can come to one. A team has to draft very well and then build around those draft picks to be successful. You cannot hope to build simply through trades and free agency because of the cost. Trades always require sending an asset the other way and very often that asset turns out to be prospects or draft picks. Free agency, meanwhile, requires team overpay for top targets leading to serious cap trouble down the line.

There are always trades and free agent signings that prove to be important, but those are only pieces to a much large puzzle. To win a Stanley Cup, you have to build through the draft.


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2018 NBA Draft: TV, live stream and radio info, things to watch

2018 NBA Draft: TV, live stream and radio info, things to watch

The 2018 NBA Draft will take place on Thursday night as the newest wave of potential superstars like DeAndre Ayton, Marvin Bagley III, Mo Bamba and Luka Doncic enter the league. Here is everything you need to know for the big night...


When: 7 p.m.
Where: Barclays Center, Brooklyn, NY
Live stream:
Radio: ESPN

Wizards draft picks: 15th overall in the first round, 44th overall in the second round

First round order:

1. Phoenix Suns
2. Sacramento Kings
3. Atlanta Hawks
4. Memphis Grizzlies
5. Dallas Mavericks
6. Orlando Magic
7. Chicago Bulls
8. Cleveland Cavaliers
9. New York Knicks
10. Philadelphia 76ers
11. Charlotte Hornets
12. Los Angeles Clippers
13. Los Angeles Clippers
14. Denver Nuggets
15. Washington Wizards
16. Phoenix Suns
17. Milwaukee Bucks
18. San Antonio Spurs
19. Atlanta Hawks
20. Minnesota Timberwolves
21. Utah Jazz
22. Chicago Bulls
23. Indiana Pacers
24.Portland Trail Blazers
25. Los Angeles Lakers
26. Philadelphia 76ers
27. Boston Celtics
28. Golden State Warriors
29. Brooklyn Nets
30. Atlanta Hawks

Top prospects:

1. DeAndre Ayton, C, Arizona
2. Marvin Bagley III, Duke
3. Luka Doncic, Slovenia
4. Jaren Jackson, Jr., Michigan State
5. Mo Bamba, Texas
6. Michael Porter, Jr., Missouri
7. Wendell Carter, Duke
8. Trae Young, Oklahoma
9. Collin Sexton, Alabama
10. Kevin Knox, Kentucky

Three things to watch...

Will Leonard get traded?

Last year's draft featured some big trades including Jimmy Butler going to the Timberwolves. This year, there seems to be at least a decent chance it happens with Kawhi Leonard of the Spurs. He wants a trade and they have been meeting with him in recent days, perhaps for a last-ditch pitch to remain with the team. If he gets dealt on draft night, it wouldn't be a huge surprise.

Who will the Kings pick?

A consensus has built for Ayton to go No. 1 to the Suns. After that, it's a major crapshoot and whomever the Kings select will produce a domino effect from there on down. Will they take Bagley, the safe pick, or go a riskier route with Doncic or maybe even Porter, Jr.? The best bet at this point appears to be Bagley, but nobody truly knows.

Where will Young and Porter, Jr. go?

The two most interesting prospects in this draft are Young and Porter, Jr. Young was a sensation in college basketball, but is undersized and appears to be boom-or-bust. He could flame out quickly at the next level or be some iteration of the next Stephen Curry. Porter, Jr. played only three games in college due to a back injury and now has hip issues as well. His talent is undeniable, but his injury history represents significant risk.


For more on the NBA Draft, check out our preview special episode of the Wizards Tipoff podcast: