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Iowa State looking for 1 more win for a bowl bid

Iowa State looking for 1 more win for a bowl bid

AMES, Iowa (AP) Iowa State recently unveiled a shiny new $20 million football complex that should help the program compete with their much wealthier neighbors in the Big 12.

The first order of business is to earn a reason to keep it humming in December.

The Cyclones (5-4, 2-4 Big 12) remain one win shy of bowl eligibility after falling to Oklahoma on Saturday for the 70th time in 77 tries. For a program that has reached a bowl games just 11 times, a third bowl bid in four years would represent major progress.

Iowa State travels to face No. 19 Texas (7-2, 4-2) on Saturday seeking its second straight win in Austin and that all-important sixth win of 2012.

``I don't believe that that's everyone's goal or priority is `OK, we've just got to get that sixth win. I think it's `OK, we've got to go out and focus on beating Texas this week,''' sophomore linebacker Jevohn Miller said.

The Cyclones could also use the extra practices allowed for bowl-bound teams since they'll be losing a number of seniors in key spots.

Iowa State is already looking to the future at linebacker, though not by choice.

Star senior Jake Knott's career at Iowa State is almost certainly over because of a torn shoulder. The Cyclones moved junior Jeremiah George into a more prominent role to compensate for Knott's absence, and Miller will also see more playing time in the final three weeks.

George led all players with 17 total tackles, 13 of them unassisted and one for a loss, in a 35-20 loss to the Sooners.

George's progression is a positive sign for the Cyclones, who will also lose senior outside linebacker and 2011 Big 12 co-defensive player of the year A.J. Klein after this season.

But Iowa State still struggled at times to compensate for the loss of Knott against the Sooners. That figures to be a key challenge over the season's final three weeks.

``Jeremiah graded out well productivity-wise. Not as good with his execution, being where he was supposed to be all of the time,'' Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads said. ``If you look at the two (linebacker) positions...we were less productive than we've been other games this season.

The Cyclones also know they'll need to run the ball better if they want to have the strong finish they're hoping for.

Against the Sooners, Iowa State showed glimpses of a consistent running attack.

The Cyclones averaged over four yards a carry, gaining 99 yards on 24 carries. That isn't much, but Iowa State has struggled to establish a ground game opponents have to respect despite a trio of talented junior running backs led by Shontrelle Johnson.

The Longhorns are just 107th nationally in rushing defense, and the Cyclones hoping to build off a decent showing against the Sooners.

``We finally made some people miss. And whether it's been our running backs or our quarterbacks or our wide receivers, we haven't made a lot of people miss this season,'' Rhoads said. ``Explosive teams, a key component of that is making people miss - and we did a little bit of that.''

Though facing Oklahoma and Texas in back-to-back weeks isn't as tough as it used to be for the Cyclones, it still isn't easy.

But Iowa State believes that it has progressed to the point where it can hang with anyone in the league, at least physically.

That wasn't always the case. But that shift is a big reason why the Cyclones need just one win to grab a bowl bid out of one of the nation's deepest leagues.

``We pride ourselves on being physical, and you can ask people on those teams and they will say that we're a very physical team,'' center Tom Farniok said. `We might not have the God-given ability that some of their players have, but we'll square up toe to toe with anyone physically.''

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Though not a big man, first round pick Troy Brown fills several needs for Wizards

Though not a big man, first round pick Troy Brown fills several needs for Wizards

The Wizards' selection of Troy Brown of the University of Oregon with their first round pick has been met with a strong reaction among fans, many of whom argue he doesn't play a position of need, that it was a luxury pick when other areas could have been addressed, most notably in their frontcourt. Big man Robert Williams of Texas A&M, for example, was still on the board. 

The Wizards, though, did address needs by picking Brown. And really, they arguably filled more pressing needs in the short-term than those at power forward and center.

Though the Wizards clearly need some help at big man in the long-term, as both of their starting bigs are on expiring deals, they need help immediately at both shooting guard and small forward. Brown, though he is only 18 years old and offers no guarantees to contribute right away, can play both of those positions.

Shooting guard is where he can help the most. The Wizards have one backup shooting guard in Jodie Meeks and he is due to miss the first 19 games of the 2018-19 season while serving a suspension for performance-enhancing drugs.

Even when Meeks was available this past season, he only helped so much. He shot just 39.9 percent from the field and 34.3 percent from three. Head coach Scott Brooks often chose to rely more on starter Bradley Beal than go to Meeks as his replacement. As a result, Beal logged the fourth-most minutes of any player in the NBA.

More depth at shooting guard will help relieve Beal of some of that workload. That would be great for keeping him fresh throughout the season and help him be at his best when they need him most in the playoffs.

The Wizards also have some urgency at small forward. It is their strongest position in terms of one-two on the depth chart, but they have no logical third option. That was magnified in the playoffs once Otto Porter got injured. They were left with Kelly Oubre, Jr. and had to trot out Tomas Satoransky, who has limited experience at the position.

Brown can play both shooting guard and small forward, giving them much needed depth. If he can play well enough to earn a rotation spot, the emergency situations the Wizards encountered last season could be avoided in 2018-19.

The Wizards still need to find long-term solutions at power forward and center, but they were going to need to find answers at shooting guard and small forward as well. Both Meeks and Oubre have one year left on their deals. Brown helps solidify the long-term outlook at wing.

Now, there's no denying the Wizards already had considerable talent at both shooting guard and small forward with Beal, Porter and Oubre. That begs the question of how much Brown can offer particularly in the first year of his career. But the Wizards would like to play more positionless basketball and to do that requires depth at wing.

The Boston Celtics have helped make positionless basketball famous and their roster shows that the one player-type you can't have enough of is similar to Brown. Boston has Gordon Hayward, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Marcus Morris. All are around 6-foot-7 or 6-foot-8 and offer versatility on both ends of the floor.

The Wizards also now have four players of that size and with positional versatility in Brown, Porter, Oubre and Satoransky. They can roll out different combinations of those guys and possibly have an advantage on defense with the ability to switch seamlessly on screens.

In the age of positionless basketball, players of Brown's ilk have become major assets especially for teams that have many of them. There is such a thing as having too many point guards or centers because they can't coexist on the floor. Versatile wings, in most scenarios, can play together in numbers.

It's different but in a way similar to certain positions in other sports. In baseball, you can have too many catchers but you can't have too many talented pitchers and utility players. In football, you can have too many running backs or tight ends, but you can't have too many defensive linemen. 

Brown gives them options from a roster perspective in the long-term. Oubre has one year left on his contract and if he continues his trejectory with a strong 2018-19 season, he could price himself out of Washington. Brown could move up the depth chart as his replacement one year from now. The Wizards also now have the option to consider trades at the position given their depth.

The problem, one could argue, with drafting Brown over a Williams-type is that it limits their options at center in particular. Drafting Williams would have made it easier to trade Marcin Gortat, for instance, because they would have had depth to deal from. Now, it's more difficult to trade Gortat, whom they have shopped on and off for months, without a plan to replace him. Finding a Gortat substitute in free agency with the limited resource they have would not be easy.

But big man wasn't their only need and in Brown the Wizards may have found a solution at other areas where they clearly needed help.

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Wizards' second round pick Issuf Sanon will take time, much like Tomas Satoransky did

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Wizards' second round pick Issuf Sanon will take time, much like Tomas Satoransky did

The first round of the NBA Draft played out expectedly for what the Wizards had planned for the night. In Troy Brown, they clearly got the guy they wanted all along, seeing as there were many interesting prospects they passed on to choose him.

The second round was a bit more chaotic. Team president Ernie Grunfeld said there were a few players picked just ahead of them at No. 44 that they had their eyes on. They contemplated trading up, but no perfect deals were presented.

So, they decided to think long-term, like really long-term. In choosing Ukrainian point guard Issuf Sanon, the Wizards understand it may be years before he plays in the NBA.

"We hope to have him developed in a few years," Grunfeld said.

Sanon, just 18, plays for Olimpija Ljubljana in Slovenia. He may stay in Europe into his 20s before he comes to the United States.

The Wizards have utilized the draft-and-stash model with other players. Their 2015 second round pick, Aaron White, has been playing in Europe for the past three seasons.

Sometimes those players never convey and contribute for the Wizards. But sometimes they do and Grunfeld pointed to a player already on their roster as a model to consider.

"We drafted Tomas [Satoransky] at an earlier age, he went overseas [and] he played at the highest level and it got him ready for the NBA," Grunfeld said.

The difference between now and then is that the Wizards have a G-League franchise starting this fall, the Capital City Go-Go. Because of that, it seemed more likely going into the draft that the Wizards would use the second round pick on a guy who can play there right away. 

Grunfeld, however, opted for roster flexibility. By keeping Sanon in Europe, the Wizards can have another open roster spot. They could either fill that spot, or leave spots on the end of their roster open as they did for much of last season.

"We want to preserve a roster spot, so just because you draft someone in your second round, if you sign him, he still has a roster spot even if you let him play for the GoGo," Grunfeld said.

Sanon may have a bright future. He is a 6-foot-4 point guard with impressive athleticism who doesn't turn 19 until October. He said he models his game after Russell Westbrook, as a guard who can score the ball. More will be known about him once he plays for their summer league team in July.

The Wizards passed on several interesting prospects to pick Sanon. Still on the board were Keita Bates-Diop of Ohio State, Hamidou Diallo of Kentucky and Svi Mykhailiuk of Kansas, three players they brought in for pre-draft workouts. But instead, they went with a long-term investment, hoping they found the next Satoransky.

MORE 2018 NBA DRAFT COVERAGE:

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