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Hoosiers ready for big game with Wisconsin

Hoosiers ready for big game with Wisconsin

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) Indiana is suddenly playing meaningful late-season games.

The Hoosiers head into Saturday's home game against Wisconsin with, wait for it, title hopes and bowl possibilities on the table. School officials are expecting a big crowd, too, maybe the biggest all season.

The crash-course lesson for the Hoosiers in how to deal with their biggest game in five years? Change nothing.

``These guys have stayed very focused on the practice field and when game time rolls around, they'll go out and compete,'' offensive coordinator Seth Littrell said.

Clearly, the Hoosiers (4-5, 2-3 Big Ten) have more fight in them this season.

Four of the losses were by a combined 10 points. They gave undefeated Ohio State one of its biggest scares of the season, and the Hoosiers have rebounded from an 11-game Big Ten losing streak to win their last two - their first two-game league winning streak since 2007.

It has put Indiana in position to accomplish things many thought would be impossible less than a month ago.

A win over Wisconsin (6-3, 3-2) would:

- Give Indiana its first three-game Big Ten winning streak since a four-game streak in October 1993.

- Move the Hoosiers within a victory of becoming bowl eligible

- Hand the Hoosiers the inside track to representing the Leaders Division in next month's Big Ten title game.

Ready or not, here come the Hoosiers.

``We worry about what we do. We're a long way from being a good football team but we're getting better every day,'' said coach Kevin Wilson, who had lots of experience in big games when he was the offensive coordinator at Oklahoma. ``Kids have bought into it. We're getting better every day and it's fun.''

About the only thing that hasn't gone Indiana's way recently was this week's television assignment. The game will be broadcast at noon on the Big Ten Network, not the network exposure the team would love to get.

``We always play in bad TV slots and we don't get much coverage,'' Wilson said. ``We're going to keep plugging along and doing what we're doing.''

There's plenty at stake for the Badgers this weekend, too.

Because the top two Leaders Division teams, Ohio State and Penn State, are ineligible to play in the league title game, Wisconsin can clinch its second straight spot in the league title game this weekend.

Perhaps no other Big Ten team has played more big games than Wisconsin recently.

A win Saturday would put the Badgers within one championship game of reaching their third consecutive Rose Bowl and they've already been to Pasadena, Calif., five times since 1994 - the most of any conference team. They've regularly appeared on prime-time television and been part of the national championship discussion.

So Saturday's game is, well, just another one for the Badgers, who close out the conference season against the Buckeyes and Nittany Lions.

``I told our kids, `The schedule was made three years ago and for whatever reason these games were laid out in this order. Truth be told, we couldn't ask for any better situation for us to be in,''' Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema said.

Things certainly could be worse.

In a wacky Big Ten season that has left two prominent programs with postseason bans, potential title contender Purdue is still winless in conference play and a sub-.500 team such as Indiana is still in control of its own destiny.

Perhaps Saturday's game is fitting given that things haven't exactly gone according to script in Madison, either.

Two weeks ago, in a rare home loss for the Badgers, Michigan State limited Wisconsin's vaunted ground game to just 19 yards.

That's something the Badgers intend to change at Indiana. Montee Ball has rushed for 1,028 yards and 13 touchdowns and needs five TDs to break Travis Prentice's national career record (78). In three previous games against the Hoosiers, he's averaged 141 yards, though the stakes have never been this high.

``Yeah, it's weird,'' he said of this week's matchup. ``Indiana is most definitely doing some great things this year and we've got to make sure we go in with our minds right.''

Despite having a bye last week, Bielema hasn't said whether he'll start Curt Phillips or Danny O'Brien at quarterback in place of the injured Joel Stave. O'Brien started three games earlier this season. Phillips has had surgery three ACL surgeries, and made his first appearance since the 2009 season finale against Illinois on Oct. 6.

``Curt on his feet, he's capable of making some big plays running the football. Danny does a great job throwing the ball deep and making some big plays in the air,'' Ball said. ``Whoever stats, we'll make sure we're right behind him.''

With so much at stake for an Indiana program that has had just one winning season since 1995, the questions is how will they handle the pressure?

``It's a big game, but we're not treating it any bigger than any other game,'' Indiana safety Mark Murphy said. ``We're still trying to build a winning program here.''

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NBA offseason grades: With Kawhi Leonard, Raptors shined most in Atlantic Division

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USA TODAY Sports

NBA offseason grades: With Kawhi Leonard, Raptors shined most in Atlantic Division

Here is a look at how the 2018 NBA offseason went for teams in the Atlantic Division...

Toronto Raptors, B+

2017-18 finish: 59-23, 2nd round of playoffs
In: F Kawhi Leonard, G Danny Green, C Greg Monroe
Out: G DeMar DeRozan, C Jakub Poeltl, C Lucas Nogueira

The Raptors had one of the more consequential offseasons of any NBA team this year. First, they fired Dwane Casey, the 2017-18 NBA Coach of the Year, following a season in which they won 59 games. Then, they pulled off the biggest trade of the summer, a deal that featured two perennial All-NBA players. They let go of DeRozan and brought in Leonard in return. If they hadn't parted with DeRozan and Casey, they may have gotten an A. But it's hard to tell how much better they will be following the deal and Leonard does bring with him some concerns based on his quadriceps injury and the fact he has only one year left on his contract. The Raptors do, however, also get points for re-signing point guard Fred VanVleet.

Boston Celtics, C

2017-18 finish: 55-27, conference finals
In: C Robert Williams, G Brad Wanamaker
Out: C Greg Monroe

One year ago, the Celtics flipped nearly their entire roster and brought in Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward. This year, they mostly stood pat and didn't add much of anything in free agency or trades. Their biggest acquisition was Williams, who they took 27th overall in the first round of the draft. The Celtics will hope they improve from within. They re-signed Marcus Smart and Aron Baynes, and should get Irving and Hayward back from injuries. They should have plenty of talent to compete for an NBA Finals berth, but as far as this offseason goes, they didn't do much.

Philadelphia 76ers, D+

2017-18 finish: 52-30, 2nd round of playoffs
In: F Wilson Chandler, C Mike Muscala, G Zhaire Smith, G Landry Shamet
Out: G Marco Belinelli, F Ersan Ilyasova

Where do we begin? This summer was about as dramatic and bad as it could get for the Sixers. First, they had to fire their general manager because of a burner Twitter account scandal. Then, they struck out miserably in free agency with LeBron James and Paul George, and in trade talks for Leonard. After that, Smith - their first round pick - hurt his foot. And along the way, Ben Simmons has been dating a Kardashian, flirting with the curse that has claimed many pro athletes before him. Philly did re-sign J.J. Redick and Johnson, and the Chandler trade was nice, but all in all it was an offseason that fell way short of the Sixers' expectations. That said, they can still get way better next season based solely on their young players taking another step.

New York Knicks, B

2017-18 finish: 29-53, missed playoffs
In: F Mario Hezonja, F Kevin Knox, F Noah Vonleh, C Mitchell Robinson
Out: F Michael Beasley, G Jarrett Jack, F Kyle O'Quinn

It's been a while since the Knicks had an offseason to write home about and this one is no exception. There was nothing they did that would flirt with an A-grade. However, the early returns on their draft are excellent. Knox and Robinson were both standouts in the Summer League and offer fans a little bit more hope about the team's future. As long as Kristaps Porzingis can return this season safe and sound from his ACL tear, the Knicks could take a step forward in 2018-19.

Brooklyn Nets, C+

2017-18 finish: 28-54, missed playoffs
In: F Ed Davis, F Kenneth Faried, F Jared Dudley
Out: F Dante Cunningham, G Nik Stauskas, C Jahlil Okafor

The best news about the Nets' offseason is that their trade with the Celtics, the one that stripped them of years of first round picks, is finally over. Next year, the Nets will have a first round pick. This summer, they once again didn't add any major pieces in the draft, but seemed to make some smart moves in free agency. The Davis deal is solid and Faried may benefit from a change of scenery. More baby steps for Brooklyn.

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Dmitry Orlov dazzles his hometown of Novokuznetsk with the Stanley Cup

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USA Today Sports

Dmitry Orlov dazzles his hometown of Novokuznetsk with the Stanley Cup

Friday featured Dmitry Orlov and his jam-packed schedule with the coveted Stanley Cup.

The 27-year-old native of Russia decided to take the Cup to Novokuznetsk (located in the southwest region of Siberia) for a meet and greet with fans by the Ferris wheel at Gagarin City Park.

It should be mentioned that Orlov's day with the trophy was nearly derailed after a travel glitch that sent the Cup to Novosibirsk instead of his hometown. 

Thanks to the ultimate assist from a helicopter, the Cup arrived in style and set up one memorable entrance for the defenseman. 

Orlov released this hype video which highlights his entire day on Instagram: 

Дорогие друзья! Огромное спасибо, что разделили с нами наш праздник! Для нас это значимое и большое событие! Ещё раз приносим искренние извинения за задержку с кубком! И спасибо за понимание, мы старались сделать все максимально быстро! Спасибо за тёплый приём! Нашим родным, друзьям, тренерам, отдельная благодарность! Вы сделали наш праздник, наш день! Мы никогда не забудем этот праздник! P.S. Лена @govor_elena , тебе и твоим родным, отдельная благодарность, если бы не ваша помощь, то не известно когда бы кубок был в Новокузнецке!

A post shared by Dmitry Orlov (@orlov_09) on

Talk about a banner weekend for the Washington Capitals. The Ovechkins welcomed their new son, Sergei Aleksandrovich, into the world and Orlov pulled off yet another spectacular day with the Cup.

 

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