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Iowa's in-state rivalries now a doubleheader

Iowa's in-state rivalries now a doubleheader

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) For decades, Northern Iowa and Drake were guaranteed at least one home and one road game a year against a Big Ten and Big 12 team.

It was a luxury rarely afforded a Missouri Valley team - and an opportunity for a resume booster that few mid-majors could match. It's now been reduced to a single game on a neutral floor in Iowa's state capital.

The yearly home-and-home matchups the Panthers and Bulldogs had with Iowa and Iowa State have been replaced by a doubleheader, the Big Four Classic, on Saturday in Des Moines.

It's a setup that clearly favors Iowa and Iowa State, who avoid having to play road games in Des Moines and Cedar Falls. But a December doubleheader could also prove to be a roaring success with fans, so for now all four coaches are publicly expressing optimism about the event.

The Hawkeyes (8-2) will face Northern Iowa (6-3) for the 43rd time. The Cyclones (7-3) will play Drake for the 171st time, but for the first time on a neutral floor.

``It's going to be a great day for basketball. An opportunity for all four programs to be in the same building. An opportunity for two very good basketball games,'' Northern Iowa coach Ben Jacobson said.

Jacobson is right about that.

The Hawkeyes will be looking for a bit of payback after getting blasted up in Cedar Falls last year.

Northern Iowa handed Iowa perhaps its ugliest loss under third-year coach Fran McCaffery. The Panthers used a 21-2 run to blow out the Hawkeyes 80-60, and McCaffery was so frustrated that he got ejected.

Iowa looks like a much better team now than 12 months ago.

The Hawkeyes have won three in a row with a starting lineup that includes three freshmen; center Adam Woodbury and guards Anthony Clemmons and Mike Gesell.

Last Friday, Iowa blew past Iowa State - yes, that rivalry is still alive - behind an increasingly balanced offense strengthened by its added depth.

``It's a completely different situation than we had before, because there are so many ways we can go,'' McCaffery said. ``Now we've got guys that if they're pressuring up over here, and we've got guys over here taking shots. I have so many more things in my mind that I can go to offensively to get a basket.''

Northern Iowa has played tough against top-notch competition this season. The problem was that, up until last weekend, the Panthers hadn't actually beaten any of them.

Northern Iowa looked good in a tournament in the Bahamas in November, playing No. 6 Louisville and Memphis within five points. But the Panthers broke through with an overtime win at George Mason last week and clearly won't fear the Hawkeyes.

Northern Iowa and Iowa have split the last 12 meetings.

``They've got guys that come with it on a regular basis. Anything short of that, you don't have a chance against them. So you have to not only match that level of intensity but do a better job with it,'' McCaffery said.

Drake (4-4) is the de facto home team, since it plays its home games just a few miles away.

But the Bulldogs figure to have the longer odds than the Panthers.

Drake did beat the Cyclones in Des Moines last season, but that came in mid-November as Iowa State struggled to assimilate its slew of transfers. The Cyclones, who figure to have a large contingent of fans in Wells Fargo Arena as well, have beaten six opponents by at least 20 points and lead the all-time series with Drake 106-65.

The Iowa State-Drake game figures to be a big draw since both teams are local. The Hawkeyes are a state-wide draw, and Northern Iowa certainly has plenty of alumni scattered throughout greater Des Moines.

Tickets are reportedly close to being sold out. But even McCaffery wondered this week if fans will stay for both games or just watch the one their team is playing in.

That's just one of a number of questions about this new setup, which is scheduled to run through 2015.

``I think it's good for the state,'' Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg said. ``It's going to be a lot of fun for everyone involved.''

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Follow Luke Meredith on Twitter: www.twitter.com/LukeMeredithAP

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Redskins vs. Eagles Week 15: Date, time, TV channel, live stream, how to watch

Redskins vs. Eagles Week 15: Date, time, TV channel, live stream, how to watch

When the Philadelphia Eagles defeated the Washington Redskins in Week 1 on the 2019 NFL season, things were a lot different. 

Despite the loss, the Redskins had hopes of contending with veteran quarterback Case Keenum and some offensive talent, while the Eagles and a fully-healthy Carson Wentz were expected to be Super Bowl contenders. Fast forward to Week 15, and that hasn't been the case.

The Redskins struggles have come in bunches. A 3-10 record, Washington has dealt with injuries, off the field problems and the firing of Jay Gruden during the season. Things in Philadelphia haven't gone much better. At 6-7, Philadelphia is still fighting for a playoff spot, but an inconsistent offense has led to an underwhelming year for Wentz and company.

On Sunday, the Eagles will fight to keep their NFC East title hopes alive while the Redskins look to see more growth from rookie quarterback Dwayne Haskins. The Week 15 matchup may not be what was expected earlier in the season, but it still has implications. Here's everything you need to know about the game.

REDSKINS vs EAGLES WEEK 15

Who: Washington Redskins (3-10) vs. Philadelphia Eagles (6-7)

What: Week 15 of the 2019 NFL regular season

When: Sunday, Dec. 5, 2019, 1 p.m. ET

Where: FedExField, Landover, MD.

TV Channel: FOX

Live Stream: Stream on FuboTV, Pregame and postgame coverage streaming on NBCSportsWashington.com

Radio: Redskins Radio Network

Spread: Eagles, -4.5

Over/Under: 38.5

Weather: 48 degrees, mostly cloudy

REDSKINS at PACKERS TV SCHEDULE:

8:30 a.m.: Pro Football Weekly

9:00 a.m.: Redskins Talk: Week 15

10:00 a.m.: Inside the Redskins

11:00 a.m.: Redskins Coaches Show

11:30 a.m.: Redskins Nation

12:00 p.m.: Redskins Kickoff Live

4:00 p.m.: Redskins Postgame Live 

REDSKINS 2019 SEASON SCHEDULE:

Week 1: Sunday, Sept. 8, Redskins at Eagles (L, 32-27)

Week 2: Sunday, Sept. 15, Cowboys at Redskins, (L, 31-21)

Week 3: Monday, Sept. 23, Bears at Redskins, (L, 31-15)

Week 4: Sunday, Sept. 29, Redskins at Giants, (L, 24-3)

Week 5: Sunday, Oct. 6, Patriots at Redskins, (L, 33-7)

Week 6: Sunday, Oct. 13, Redskins at Dolphins, (W, 17-16)

Week 7: Sunday, Oct. 20, 49ers at Redskins, 1 p.m. (L, 9-0)

Week 8: Thursday, Oct. 24, Redskins at Vikings, 8:20 p.m. (L, 19-9)

Week 9: Sunday, Nov. 3, Redskins at Bills, 1 p.m. (L, 24-9)

Week 10: BYE

Week 11: Sunday, Nov. 17, Jets at Redskins, 1 p.m. (L, 34-17)

Week 12: Sunday, Nov. 24, Lions at Redskins, 1 p.m. (W, 19-16)

Week 13: Sunday, Dec. 1, Redskins at Panthers, 1 p.m. (W, 29-21)

Week 14: Sunday, Dec. 8, Redskins at Packers, 1 p.m. (L, 20-15)

Week 15: Sunday, Dec. 15, Eagles at Redskins, 1 p.m.

Week 16: Sunday, Dec. 22, Giants at Redskins, 1 p.m.

Week 17: Sunday, Dec. 29, Redskins at Cowboys, 1 p.m.

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Which team is closer to contention: the Wizards or Grizzlies?

Which team is closer to contention: the Wizards or Grizzlies?

While watching the Wizards take on another rebuilding team, as they did on Saturday night in their loss to the Memphis Grizzlies, it's only natural to compare the stages of those respective rebuilds and wonder which team is closer. That may be an even more interesting question with a game like Saturday's that matched the Wizards against a team doing things a decidedly different way.

In a sense, the Wizards are where the Grizzlies were last season. Memphis had unexpectedly bottomed out the year before, enough to land Jaren Jackson Jr. in the draft. And, like the Wizards this year, they were holding onto their core veterans, in their case Mike Conley Jr. and Marc Gasol.

But the Grizzlies didn't bounce back into playoff contention like they had hoped and ended up trading both Gasol and Conley, and arguably too late. The Wizards wish to avoid that fate with Bradley Beal and John Wall.

Neither the Wizards (7-17) or Grizzlies (9-17) are a good team right now and both would like to be back in the playoff mix sooner than later, maybe even next year. So, who is closer?

The Grizzlies have the more impressive young core with Jackson and Ja Morant. Both are just 20 years old and they each look like future All-Stars, if not All-NBA talents.

Jackson is averaging 17.6 points and 1.2 blocks while shooting 40 percent from three on six attempts per game. He's a two-way unicorn who can make plays like a guard and has potential to become an elite rim protector.

Morant is the early favorite for rookie of the year, averaging 18.7 points and 6.4 assists while shooting 42.6 percent from long range. He has future star written all over him with a game reminiscent of a young Wall or Russell Westbrook.

The Grizzlies appear to have hit on their high draft picks, but have also nailed later ones, the type of moves that separate the best front offices. Brandon Clarke, the 21st pick this past June, looks like a steal. And Dillon Brooks, a second round pick in 2017, is a solid young player.

But the Wizards also have an emerging young core with Thomas Bryant, Rui Hachimura and Moe Wagner. None of them are as good as Jackson or Morant, but they are good players on the rise. And, most importantly, the Wizards have Beal.

While Jackson and Morant could someday be stars, Beal already is one and he's signed long-term. Potential is a commodity in the NBA, but nothing is guaranteed for young teams and young players. Just look at the Bulls and Hawks this season.

Now, the Grizzlies do have something the Wizards would absolutely love to have and that is real financial flexibility. They have close to $70 million in salary coming off the books this summer and have the second-lowest payroll committed for next season of any team in the NBA, second only to Atlanta.

The Wizards, meanwhile, are strapped with Wall's supermax contract which, depending on how he returns from a torn Achilles, could be an albatross for years to come. Though cap space doesn't mean the Grizzlies will be able to lure free agents, as Memphis has never been mistaken for a prime destination, but it's a preferable spot to be in. Wall's deal may prevent the Wizards from keeping players they would otherwise re-sign, when Memphis should have no such problem.

So, so far we have the Grizzlies with a better young nucleus and a much better salary cap situation. The Wizards, though, have the proven star and may have two if Wall returns to form.

But here's what may give the Wizards the edge, or at least secure a push. The Grizzlies have to give one of their next two first round picks to Boston by way of a 2015 trade. It is top-6 protected this year and unprotected in 2021 if it doesn't convey this June. That could be a major problem for a team trying to build through the draft.

Also, the Wizards are lucky to be in the Eastern Conference. Though the Grizzlies geographically should be in the East, they remain in the West which has been the superior conference basically since Michael Jordan retired from the Bulls.

There is, of course, no definitive answer to the root question of this analysis. The easiest way to settle it would be to say the Grizzlies have a higher ceiling at this point because of Morant and Jackson, but the Wizards probably have the more likely path to the playoffs next season, given they play in the East and have two guys with a track record of getting there.

But as we compare the teams, keep in mind what Memphis wanted to do and what they ended up doing in terms of trading their veteran stars. The Wizards don't want to take their rebuild that far, but sometimes things don't go according to plan. Just ask the Grizzlies.

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