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La Tech, 9-3, not going to a bowl game

La Tech, 9-3, not going to a bowl game

Louisiana Tech, with a 9-3 record and the highest scoring team in the country, isn't going to a bowl game.

La Tech athletic director Bruce Van De Velde told The Associated Press that Independence Bowl organizers offered a spot in their game on Saturday afternoon, but the Bulldogs had other possible options still available to them. Van De Velde said he asked the Independence Bowl for more time to make a decision, but was told by game organizers that they couldn't wait.

``Nobody turned a bowl bid down,'' he said. ``We asked for more time to vet two other opportunities that we had that we felt good about.''

Van De Velde said he told the Independence Bowl organizers: ``Anybody you are going to get to replace us will be there on Sunday. Just give us time to evaluate these opportunities.''

The Independence Bowl in Shreveport, La., had already invited Louisiana-Monroe from the Sun Belt Conference.

Independence Bowl chairman Jack Andres said organizers had to set a deadline for Louisiana Tech. They were concerned if they waited they would be stuck with a team that was barely bowl eligible and too far away from Shreveport to bring many fans to the game.

``We had to make some decisions to get somebody in there. We've got sponsors, hotels. There's a lot of money riding on this,'' he said.

``Before we made another deal we called them back. We said, `We're still willing to have you at the bowl, but need to know fairly quickly.' So we gave them a deadline and they didn't call us back until way later than that. If you don't call us back, that's a `No.' And we made another deal so we'd have a quality bowl team.''

The bowl ended up selecting Ohio University from the Mid-American Conference.

Louisiana Tech plays in the Western Athletic Conference, which is going away as a football conference next season and has only one bowl tie-in, with the Idaho Potato Bowl. The spot went to league champion Utah State.

La Tech is moving to Conference USA next season.

Van De Velde said he was working with C-USA commissioner Britton Banowsky on possibly getting the Bulldogs into the Heart of Dallas Bowl or the Liberty Bowl. When Oklahoma and Kansas State both won, it looked as if the Big 12 would have two teams in the BCS and that could create room in either of those games for La Tech.

But, Van De Velde said, when Northern Illinois slipped into the Bowl Championship Series, taking a possible BCS bid away from Oklahoma, it started a domino effect that filled those spots with Big 12 teams.

``I think we're just shocked Northern Illinois jumped that high,'' Van De Velde said. ``I'm happy for them, but I'm disappointed for us.''

The Big 12 had nine bowl-eligible nine teams.

Iowa State (6-6) landed in the Liberty Bowl to play C-USA champion Tulsa as an at-large pick. Oklahoma State (7-5) ended up filling Big 12's final spot in the Heart of Dallas Bowl against Purdue.

``I think we're all disappointed,'' Van De Velde said. ``But when you're in a non-AQ conference and you're in the at-large pool, this is what can happen. Especially when bowls are electing to take teams that are 6-6 over teams that are 9-3.''

Louisiana Tech spent five weeks in the AP Top 25 this season, reaching as high as 19. The Bulldogs badly beat Virginia and Illinois, two teams from automatic qualifying conferences, on the road early in the season, and lost 59-57 to Texas A&M in Shreveport.

They finished on a two-game losing streak, falling to WAC champion Utah State and San Jose State, which accepted a bid to the Military Bowl in Washington against Bowling Green, by a combined 16 points.

Behind quarterback Colby Cameron and running back Kenneth Dixon, La Tech averaged 51 points and 578 yards per game.

``Under no circumstances did I ever think there was any possibility at all that we would not play in a bowl game,'' coach Sonny Dykes said in a statement. ``It is a shame that our nationally recognized team and its 31 seniors have to end the season this way.''

And on top of being left out of the postseason, Louisiana Tech is facing the prospect of losing Dykes.

Van De Velde said the coach had interviewed with California and that Louisiana Tech was waiting to find out if Dykes would be staying with the Bulldogs.

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Follow Ralph D. Russo at www.Twitter.com/ralphdrussoap

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How does Capitals' Evgeny Kuznetsov get ready for a Game 7? He watches TV

How does Capitals' Evgeny Kuznetsov get ready for a Game 7? He watches TV

Everyone remembers Evgeny Kuznetsov's series-clinching overtime goal against the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2018. That goal now overshadows another series-clinching goal Kuznetsov had in 2015. In Game 7 against the New York Islanders, Kuznetsov scored what would prove to be the winning goal to break up a 1-1 tie. Clearly he knows how to get ready for a big game. His secret? Television.

Kuznetsov appeared on NBC Sports Washington's Capitals Greatest Hits show on Monday to talk about his 2015 performance and the topic of the locker room came up. Both teams went into that game knowing their season was on the line and Kuznetsov was asked if the feeling was any different in the locker room before the game, a question he did not know exactly how to answer.

"I'm never in the locker room," Kuznetsov said. "I'm always by the TV watching TV shows."

Yes, when Kuznetsov arrives at the arena, he apparently likes to watch TV before the game and said he is not in the locker room until only about 30 minutes before warmups. He enjoys watching soccer, but also likes a good movie.

"It's usually soccer games," Kuznetsov said. "If it's not the soccer game, it's whatever the movie's going."

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He went on to say he was thankful for the team subscribing to whatever channel it was that he watches movies on.

If this seems odd to you, there is a method to the madness.

"Usually it's movie because that way I'm not thinking about hockey," Kuznetsov said. "I like to be loose before games."

Hey, if that's what he was doing before Game 7 in 2015 and before Game 6 in 2018, it's hard to argue against it.

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Who the Orioles could pick at No. 2 in 2020 MLB Draft, according to one expert

Who the Orioles could pick at No. 2 in 2020 MLB Draft, according to one expert

In the 2019 MLB Draft, the Baltimore Orioles took a major step toward rebuilding their roster and farm system by selecting catcher Adley Rutschman No. 1 overall. The switch-hitting backstop projects to become the cornerstone of the franchise. This year, the team can add another major piece in the 2020 MLB Draft as they have the second overall pick.

Though the draft has been shortened from 40 rounds to just five, it doesn't truly impact what Baltimore will do at No. 2. There, they will still have an opportunity to select the next piece of their future, and plenty of good options will be available.

But, unlike last year where Rutchsman was the shoo-in all along, the choices are not as clear cut in 2020. MLB Pipeline senior writer Jim Callis, who has closely studied the group of prospects, believes there are a few different ways the Orioles could go.

“I don’t think it’s a clear cut decision at No. 2 yet," Callis told MASN's Steve Melewski.

When it comes to who Callis could see Baltimore selecting, the dream-scenario would be Spencer Torkelson out of Arizona State University. However, it's considered a dream because the most likely outcome is that the Detriot Tigers will take Torkelson first overall. The first baseman has a special bat according to Callis and resembles the talent Rutschman has demonstrated at the plate.

Though there is a slim chance of it happening, the idea of those two one day sharing a lineup card in Baltimore would have the Orioles over the moon with excitement.

“To image those two guys in the middle of the lineup," Callis said. "Woo, that would be pretty exciting.”

Yet, if Torkelson does go No. 1, there is still plenty of talent available in the draft class. A name that comes to mind for Callis is Vanderbilt's Austin Martin. The position player asserted himself as a top prospect after his 2019 collegiate season in which he led the SEC in batting average (.392) and on-base percentage (.486) all while helping his team dominate the toughest conference in baseball and claim a College World Series title.

In Martin, the Orioles could be getting another reliable bat for years and years to come, one Callis claims to be the "best pure hitter in the draft." However, Martin's major area of concern is defense, as many are still unsure as to what his best position is. 

“I think there’s some questions as to where he’s gonna play," Callis said of Martin. “Is he a center fielder, a third baseman, an offensive second baseman? That’s a little unclear.”

After struggling in the infield, largely due to an inability to consistently make the throws from the left side of the diamond, Martin made the move to center field. However, due to the shortened 2020 season, he lost valuable reps in the outfield. Despite that, Callis sees that and one other option as Martin's best spot in the pros.

“My guess is he’s going to be a center fielder or second baseman," Callis said.

If the Orioles are not sold on Martin, or want to grab a player of similar skill but for a little less price, Nick Gonzales out of New Mexico State could be a fit as well. Versatile, he led the NCAA in batting in 2019 with a .423 average.

Baltimore could also decide it wants to add a pitcher at No. 2 overall, and based on how Callis views that portion of the draft class, it could be a beneficial decision. After a down year for pitchers in 2019, things look a lot better in 2020.

“[2019] was not a good year for college pitching. It was probably, I’ve been doing this for over 30 years, the worst draft I’ve seen in terms of first-round caliber college arms," Callis said. "This year, college pitching is a strength. There’s a lot of good college pitching.”

The best, according to Callis, is Texas A&M's Asa Lacy. The left-handed starter was off to a strong start to the 2020 season (3-0, 0.75 ERA) before games were canceled. The Orioles could always use another arm to one day rely upon at the Major League level, and Callis sees Lacy as the best prospect to fit that mold.

Even with Lacy's potential, the talented pitching class may sway Baltimore away from him. The Orioles also hold the No. 30 and No. 39 picks in the draft in addition to their first-round selection, and Callis has a feeling that other very good arms will be available.

“There’s gonna be really good pitchers available at 30," Callis said. "Much more so than I think the hitters that will be available at 30.”

With the draft just a couple of weeks away, Martin, Gonzales and Lacy are seen as the three most likely options for the Orioles. No matter who the team ends up selecting with the No. 2 overall pick, Callis believes that they will become a big part of Baltimore's future success. A few years down the line, the 2020 class should have a good reputation in Callis' eyes.

“It’s the first year of the decade. I would bet that we look back in history and this would be one of the top two or three draft classes of the 2020s," Callis said.

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