Gophers cancel games with North Carolina for $800K


Gophers cancel games with North Carolina for $800K

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) Minnesota coach Jerry Kill's plan for strengthening his long-lagging program is to keep the nonconference schedules as nonthreatening as possible.

The university confirmed Tuesday the cancellation of two games against North Carolina, on the road in 2013 and at home in 2014. The Gophers will instead pay an $800,000 buyout fee to not play the Tar Heels.

``We're going to make some decisions that don't really look good on paper at times because of where we are,'' athletic director Norwood Teague said, adding: ``I can understand why it can look kind of goofy, but when you get down below it and ... you start talking to coach Kill and you start thinking of our future and our vision of where we want to go you've got to make these. And I know it doesn't always sit all right with our fans, but it's what's got to happen now.''

Kill's first game with Minnesota was at USC last year, and he expressed his unhappiness about having to take a young team to open the season on the road in a big-time stadium.

The Gophers played well, losing 19-17 after a legitimate chance to win at the end. They also beat Syracuse last month, the only non-Big Ten foe from one of the five other Bowl Championship Series conferences they faced this season.

But Kill has told Teague his belief is that playing lower-level nonconference opponents is the best way to build confidence in the players and success for the team. He's been pushing for a while to get out of the North Carolina games, even though the Tar Heels have usually been a middle-of-the-pack team in the Atlantic Coast Conference. They're 4-2 this year. They're also on probation until 2015, down 15 scholarships.

``As an athletic director you tell coaches no all the time. ... But I have a tremendous amount of respect for him. He's won everywhere he's been, and he's won in situations that weren't easy so I trust where he was coming from and after a while I saw the light of what he was talking about,'' Teague said.

Kill hasn't coached in a BCS league before, though, and there's a question about whether playing teams from the Mid-American Conference or the Football Championship Subdivision can properly prepare the Gophers for the grind of the Big Ten. They didn't look ready this year, getting beat up at the line of scrimmage by run-first Iowa after facing a bunch of smaller offenses in September that ran no-huddle, spread systems. Then they lost last week at home to Northwestern.

Teague said he spoke to Kill about that issue but reiterated his trust in the coach's philosophy. Teague also said the buyout money won't take from other sports, can be paid over time and potentially recouped with budget creativity.

For now, at least, a home-and-road series with Oregon State in 2017 and 2018 remains on tap.

``Certainly we're going to look for quality and see how the program grows and evolves and make decisions there,'' Teague said.

Minnesota has also finalized home games with Kent State in 2015 and South Dakota State in 2019. The next nonconference road game the Gophers have scheduled is in 2015, at Colorado State, which plays in the Mountain West Conference. Next year, Minnesota will host UNLV, Western Illinois, San Jose State and a to-be-determined team to fill North Carolina's spot.

``Right now we've got to concentrate on Wisconsin,'' Kill said at his regular news conference Tuesday. ``I haven't spent much time on that.''

North Carolina athletic director Bubba Cunningham said the school was ``disappointed'' to lose the game against Minnesota. As a result, the Tar Heels moved their 2013 game against East Carolina to Chapel Hill and agreed to play in Greenville in 2014 and 2016 or 2018. North Carolina also added a game against Old Dominion for 2013 but still has one nonconference opening.

East Carolina then announced it was restarting its series with Virginia Tech and will play the Hokies every year from 2013-20, with meetings in even-numbered years being played in Greenville and odd-numbered years in Blacksburg, Va.

College football scheduling can be quite the balancing act. But despite the interest by fans in seeing the best teams play, that doesn't always mean the coaches and players themselves see this the same way.

``We just come ready to play. To me, I'm excited for Saturdays regardless of who you're facing. So you just do your best,'' Gophers wide receiver A.J. Barker said.


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Stanley Cup Final 2018: Players to watch

Stanley Cup Final 2018: Players to watch

It doesn't take an expert to tell you players like Alex Ovechkin or Marc-Andre Fleury will play a big role in the Stanley Cup Final.

Both the Washington Capitals and Vegas Golden Knights will need their best players to be at their best to take home the Cup. But who will be the unexpected heroes? Who are the players no one is talking about who will have a big hand in their team's success or defeat in this series?

Here are five players you should be watching in the Stanley Cup:

1. Devante Smith-Pelly: Smith-Pelly had seven goals in 79 games in the regular season. Now he has four goals in just 19 playoff games.

Smith-Pelly has been one of those unlikely playoff heroes for the Caps this postseason with very timely performances such as scoring the series-clinching goal in Game 6 against the Columbus Blue and scoring the goal that put the game away in Game 6 against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

The physical play has really stood out as well for him, which fits well on the fourth line role he has settled back into now that the team is healthy again. Barry Trotz tried moving him to the top line in the absence of Tom Wilson and the results weren't great. He is best suited for the role he currently has and that will allow him to thrive.

2. James Neal: Neal came up just short of the Stanley Cup last season as a member of the Nashville Predators. He totaled nine points in 22 games during that run, a number he has already matched in just 15 games this postseason.

There are very few players on either team that boast the kind of postseason experience Neal has. He will be leaned upon this series for his leadership.

Vegas is a young team and their unprecedented success in the playoffs may make this feel like the first run of many for the Golden Knights, but not for Neal who is on the last year of his contract and came tantalizingly close to the Cup last season. He will play like there is no tomorrow because, for him, there may not be in Vegas.

3. Andre Burakovsky: Burakovsky was one of the heroes of Game 7 with two goals to put away the Tampa Bay Lightning. That marked just the latest peak in a career full of peaks and valleys for the young winger. Just two games before, Burakovsky was a healthy scratch and spoke to the media about his plans to speak with a sports psychologist in the offseason.

The talent is there and it certainly appears that the injury that kept him out earlier in the playoffs is largely behind him. Burakovsky’s issues have always been mainly between the ears. In a series against a fast team with strong depth, he can be an absolutely critical piece for the Caps. Hopefully, his Game 7 performance gave him the confidence he needs to continue to be effective.

4. Ryan Reaves: Vegas acquired both Reaves and Tomas Tatar around the trade deadline. If I were to tell you that through three rounds of the playoffs, both players were healthy, had played the same number of games (6) and had the same number of points (1), you’d think I was crazy. Yet, here we are.

Reaves was largely an afterthought in a complicated trade between Vegas, the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Ottawa Senators, but he has carved a nice role for himself on the Golden Knights’ fourth line and even scored the goal that sent Vegas to the Stanley Cup Final against the Winnipeg Jets.

Reaves is also an agitator on the ice, but what do the Caps do against a player like that when their normal fighter plays on the top line? We may see Reaves and Wilson come to blows this series, but it won't be very often because that is a bad tradeoff for the Caps.

5. Brooks Orpik: The elder statesman of the blue line, Orpik is the only player on the Caps with a Stanley Cup to his name and is the only one who has any idea what this experience is going to be like for the team.

Orpik is very diligent about keeping in shape which has allowed him to play in 81 games this season and all 19 playoff games despite being 37 years old, but you do have to wonder how much is left in the tank. Despite being the favorite whipping boy for the proponents of analytics, his physical play has been effective this postseason. The focus he placed on the skating in the offseason has paid dividends so far in matchups against the speedy Pittsburgh Penguins and Tampa Bay Lightning, but the Golden Knights will be the fastest team they have played yet. There is no denying Orpik is much more suited towards a physical style of game. Wil he continue to be effective or will Vegas exploit the Caps' third defensive pairing?



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2017-18 Wizards roster review: Tim Frazier

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2017-18 Wizards roster review: Tim Frazier

To wrap up the 2017-18 season, we are looking at each player on the Wizards' roster. Today, we evaluate Tim Frazier's season...

Player: Tim Frazier

Position: Point guard

Age: 27

2017-18 salary: $2 million

2017-18 stats: 59 G, 14.2 mpg, 3.0 ppg, 1.9 rpg, 3.3 apg, 0.8 spg, 0.1 bpg, 39.5 FG%, 30.4 3P%, 76.7 FT%, 44.5 eFG%, 105 ORtg, 107 DRtg

Best game: 1/27 at Hawks - 4 points, 14 assists, 3 rebounds, 2 steals, 2 blocks, 2-for-5 FG

Season review: The Wizards tabbed Tim Frazier to be their backup point guard nearly a year ago when they sent a second round pick to the New Orleans Pelicans on the eve of draft night. They viewed Frazier as the solution to their years-long search for a capable backup behind John Wall. Frazier had thrived as a replacement starter in New Orleans and the Wizards saw him as worth a draft pick, even though he had just one year left on his contract.

Frazier began the season as the primary backup point guard, but ultimately lost the job to Tomas Satoransky once Wall went out with a left knee injury. Frazier became the starter and Satoransky the backup, but through two weeks Satoransky outplayed him and became No. 2 on the depth chart once Wall returned. Then, when Wall went down for months late in the season, Satoransky started and Frazier backed him up.

Frazier never found consistency as he moved back and forth between roles. His minutes, points and assists averages were all career-lows.

The Wizards added competition to their roster for Frazier and Satoransky midseason, first by signing Ramon Sessions in March and then adding Ty Lawson just before the playoffs began. That led to Frazier being inactive for four of the Wizards' six postseason games.

All in all, it was a frustrating year for Frazier. He even had to deal with a broken nose and surgery to repair it after getting inadvertently kneed in the face by Bobby Portis in a game against the Bulls in February.

Frazier has been part of small group of Wizards players continuing to work out at the team facility this summer. He has been there along with Wall, Ian Mahinmi and Jason Smith. That said, it does seem likely Frazier returns given how the Wizards used him this season. He was completely out of the rotation for extended periods of time.

Helping his cause in that regard is that the Wizards have his Bird rights, meaning they can re-sign him while going above the salary cap. They currently have five open roster spots and not much money to spend. Frazier could represent a cheap option and help them fill out their roster.

Potential to improve: Shooting, on-ball defense, consistency

More player season reviews:

John Wall, PG

Bradley Beal, SG

Otto Porter, SF

Markieff Morris, PF

Marcin Gortat, C

Kelly Oubre, Jr., SF

Tomas Satoransky, PG

Ian Mahinmi, C

Ty Lawson, PG

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