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It's official, Andersen is new Wisconsin coach

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It's official, Andersen is new Wisconsin coach

MADISON, Wis. (AP) Several schools tried to lure Gary Andersen away from Utah State.

Wisconsin finally got him.

Andersen was officially hired as the Badgers' new coach Thursday, and will be formally introduced at a news conference Friday morning. He replaces Bret Bielema, who left the Badgers for Arkansas this month.

``I don't know if I can really have a word for how excited I am to be at Wisconsin and have this opportunity,'' Andersen said in a video on Wisconsin's website. ``I know I'm humbled, I know I'm blessed.''

The 48-year-old Andersen just completed his fourth and best season at Utah State. The 18th-ranked Aggies finished 11-2 with a bowl victory against Toledo and won the Western Athletic Conference. One of those losses was at Wisconsin, where the Aggies missed a 37-yard field goal in the final seconds to allow the Badgers to escape with a 16-14 win.

It's been a remarkable rise for a program that had been near the bottom of major college football for years, and stuck in distant third in its own state behind BYU and Utah. The Aggies won nine games in the previous four seasons before Andersen took over. The last football coach to finish his tenure in Logan, Utah, with a winning record was Phil Krueger who went 21-12 from 1973-75.

Andersen drew interest from California, Colorado and Kentucky last month, but decided to pass on those opportunities and received a contract extension from Utah State.

When Wisconsin called, however, Andersen couldn't resist.

``It all came together,'' he said in a video on Wisconsin's website. ``By no means was I sitting out there going, `I've got to have a job, I've got to have a job.' But as soon as this one popped open, to me, this was a special, special place.''

Before Andersen left Logan, Utah, however, he called his players - all 107 of them - so they would hear the news that he was leaving from him and not on TV or Twitter.

``I couldn't tell them yet that I had taken the job,'' Andersen told UWBadgers.com. ``But I told them if I was offered the job I was going to take the job. There were a bunch of tears and hard conversations.''

Andersen replaces Bielema, who left Wisconsin on Dec. 4, three days after the Badgers routed Nebraska to win the Big Ten title and a school-record third straight trip to the Rose Bowl. Athletic director Barry Alvarez has agreed to coach Wisconsin in the bowl at the request of the players.

Though the Badgers' 8-5 record going into the Rose Bowl is their worst since 2008, Andersen is inheriting a team loaded with talent through Wisconsin will lose Montee Ball, who set the major college record for career touchdowns this year and tied the single-season mark last year, along with linebacker Mike Taylor and standout defensive backs Marcus Cromartie and Devin Smith.

The Badgers still have James White or Melvin Gordon, who rushed for a total of almost 1,400 yards and 15 touchdowns. Jared Abbrederis has led the Badgers in receiving each of the last two seasons, and Joel Stave showed promise before the freshman broke his collarbone. Disruptive linebacker Chris Borland, who is second with 4 1/2 sacks and 95 tackles despite missing two games, also is expected back.

And while this will be Andersen's first job in the Midwest, one Big Ten opponent has no doubt he can succeed. When Alvarez was considering Andersen, he called Ohio State coach Urban Meyer, who had Andersen on his staff at Utah in 2004, when the Utes went 12-0 and won the Fiesta Bowl.

``(Meyer has) had some very good assistants,'' Alvarez said on UWBadgers.com. ``Urban told me that Gary is in the top five of all of them; he's the real deal. I said, `Would he fit here? Would he fit in the Big Ten?' He said, `Absolutely.'''

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Kevin Durant gives his NBA Finals predictions

Kevin Durant gives his NBA Finals predictions

While a number of teams are fighting to be the favorite heading into the NBA Playoffs, the Los Angeles Clippers picked up a key endorsement from Brooklyn Nets forward Kevin Durant.

When asked who he thought will win it all this year, Durant chose the Clippers defeating the Milwaukee Bucks in the NBA Finals and upsetting the No. 1 seed Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference Finals. 

"They're just so deep," Durant said of the Clippers on “Play For Keeps” podcast. "They haven't had their whole team together at once for a long period of time yet, and that talent is just undeniable. When you have [Paul George] and Kawhi [Leonard] at the wings, that's what you need to win is wings. You got those two at the wings, arguably top three, top four at the wing position on one team."

So far in Orlando, the Clippers have gone 1-2 after defeating the New Orleans Pelicans and falling to the Lakers and Phoenix Suns. As of now, they hold the two-seed in the Western Conference playoff picture and would face the Dallas Mavericks in the first round. However, they are currently just a half a game ahead of the Denver Nuggets with five seeding games remaining.

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The Lakers clinched the one-seed last week and are up six games in the standings over their cross-town rivals.

ESPN’s playoff odds gave the Clippers a 10% chance of winning it all. They ranked third behind the Bucks with a 49.7% chance and the Lakers at 18.7%. 

Durant chose Los Angeles over his own team, the Brooklyn Nets, who are also in a good position to make the playoffs as the current seven-seed in the East Conference. However, the Nets are playing in Orlando without eight players including a number of starters like Kyrie Irving, DeAndre Jordan, Spencer Dinwiddie and Durant, who missed the entire regular season after tearing his Achilles during the 2019 NBA Finals.

If his team retains the seven-seed heading into the playoffs, they would likely face the Toronto Raptors, who Durant projected would fall to Milwaukee in the Eastern Conference Finals.

But regardless of seeding, Durant acknowledged it’s still anyone’s game.

“I hate doing that s---,” he said about predicting a winner. “You never know what could happen – you seen that with us last year.”

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Orioles fans hoping for a Ryan Mountcastle sighting in majors soon as MLB rosters adjust

Orioles fans hoping for a Ryan Mountcastle sighting in majors soon as MLB rosters adjust

Last night, the Orioles sent outfielder DJ Stewart to the team’s alternate training site at Double-A Bowie after an 0-for-14 start to the season. The move got the roster down to 28 players ahead of the deadline.

But even with Stewart now down and the roster full, it’s natural to be curious where the organization's most pro-ready prospect, Ryan Mountcastle, is and why he hasn’t been called up yet. 

The Orioles have four outfielders on the 28-man roster currently: Austin Hays, Dwight Smith Jr., Cedric Mullins and Anthony Santander. They’ll have to make another roster move in the coming days, when pitcher John Means comes off the bereavement list, too.

Still, there is a natural curiosity about what the International League’s Most Valuable Player from a year ago could accomplish at the major league level. 

Last year at Triple-A Norfolk, Mountcastle slashed .312/.344/.527 and had 25 home runs in 127 games. While he predominantly played the corner infield spots, he played the outfield for the first time in his professional career.

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Now, the Orioles want to develop him as a corner outfielder. 

What Mountcastle’s time at the development site shows, however, is that they value the camp more so than regular games for him right now. 

With Hays and Santander in center and right field, the two options for left field are Mullins and Smith, who are batting .083 and .167, respectively. Neither is getting on-base at a clip better than .250. In terms of hindrances to Mountcastle’s job in the major leagues, there aren’t many right now. 

The Orioles are carrying three catchers, which is one area the eventual roster move could come from when Means is back on the roster, but until Mountcastle comes up, those questions won’t be quelled. 

The team has already acquired an extra year of club control by keeping Mountcastle down for the first week of the season, meaning the reasons for keeping him down at this point relate strictly to his development. 

That means he’ll be in Baltimore once the Orioles think he’s ready to play major league defense and take major league at-bats. 

As for when that is, however, is solely up to the organization at this point.

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