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At the movies, Saban prefers drama to comedy

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At the movies, Saban prefers drama to comedy

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) Alabama coach Nick Saban says he's not much for comedies. He prefers his movies to have a message, and part of his routine for getting his players ready to play in a big game has been to have them watch an inspirational film.

Saban thought long and hard Sunday during his last news conference before the BCS championship game against No. 1 Notre Dame, but couldn't be sure what movie his LSU team watched before it beat Oklahoma to win the 2003 title. Maybe it was ``The Last Samurai,'' he said.

The 2009 Alabama championship team that beat Texas in the Rose Bowl watched ``Remember the Titans,'' the Denzel Washington football flick. Last year, before the Crimson Tide beat LSU in New Orleans, Saban and his players watched ``Red Tails'' about the Tuskegee airmen.

``But I think the movie, regardless of whether it was `The Last Samurai' or whatever movie it was, really it was about the honor of - the message was the honor of being all that you can be, that maybe that might be more important than winning or losing, and that your focus should be on that instead of the outcome,'' he said.

Before Alabama played Notre Dame, the Crimson Tide were scheduled to watch ``Zero Dark Thirty,'' which chronicles the hunt for Osama Bin Laden.

What, no ``Rudy''?

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THE LINK: Frank Thomas had brushes with greatness at two of college football's powerhouses, and achieved plenty of it himself.

Thomas was a quarterback for Notre Dame's Knute Rockne and started a 15-year run as Alabama's coach in 1931, a year before a big country boy named Paul ``Bear'' Bryant came to play in Tuscaloosa. Bryant eventually returned to Tuscaloosa for a 25-year run as head coach, but didn't forget his coach.

``Coach Bryant had a feel for Notre Dame and I think a level of respect because of his coach, Frank Thomas, who he absolutely loved and thought was a great, great coach and referred back to him so many times,'' said Alabama athletic director Mal Moore, who played and coached under Bryant.

Thomas, who died in 1954, won 81.2 percent of his games, four Southeastern Conference titles and a couple of national championships. His winning percentage isn't all that far behind Bryant's (82.4 percent) or current coach Nick Saban (83.7, counting wins later vacated).

Lou Somogyi, senior editor of 247Sports' Notre Dame site, compares him to Notre Dame's Dan Devine, who replaced Ara Parseghian and won the 1977 national title.

``When you think of Alabama, you think of Bear Bryant first but Wallace Wade began it the way Knute Rockne did, then Gene Stallings and now Nick Saban,'' Somogyi said. ``Frank Thomas is sort of a forgotten figure at times.''

As a player, too. Thomas was listed as a third-team quarterback in 1920 as a roommate of George Gipp. He was a backup in 1921, and Somogyi said Thomas was replaced as the starter midway through the following season by Harry Stuhldreher, who became one of Notre Dame's famed ``Four Horsemen.''

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SEVENTH HEAVEN: The Southeastern Conference has won the last six BCS titles, and Alabama is looking to make it No. 7 on Monday night.

Crimson Tide center Barrett Jones said it's hardly automatic, however, that an SEC team wins it all. That notion that SEC teams are head-and-shoulders above everyone else in the nation is even farfetched to him.

``There are some people that may be a little too-SEC-biased. Don't quote me on that, but you probably will,'' Jones said. ``Certainly, don't get me wrong, I think the SEC is probably by a good margin the best conference. But that doesn't mean there aren't other good teams out there.''

Alabama linebacker Nico Johnson doesn't see any difference between Notre Dame and the best teams from his conference.

``They could play in the SEC,'' he said.

The SEC had another good postseason, going 5-3 in the bowls so far. Though losses by Florida and LSU were unexpected and two Big Ten-SEC matchups (South Carolina-Michigan and Georgia-Nebraska) weren't as decisive as many expected.

This is what passes as a disappointing bowl season for the SEC.

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FLYIN' HAWAIIAN: Shane Victorino will be in Florida - well, the other side of the state, anyway - in a few weeks to open spring training with the Boston Red Sox.

First up for the so-called Flyin' Hawaiian: A trip to the BCS title game.

Not surprisingly, Victorino is a fan of Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o, who also hails from the state. And Te'o was thrilled to know that Victorino was coming down to lend Notre Dame his support.

``Shane Victorino is just a real good guy,'' Te'o said. ``We met him before and had the opportunity just to hang out with him for a couple days, and like I said, it's that bond between Polynesian players and even non-Polynesian players who know what Hawaii is all about. ... Just to have Shane here and have him experience this moment with us, he's family.''

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BK LIKE NICK: Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly is happy to be compared to Nick Saban. But, no, he hasn't spent much time buddying around with the Alabama coach.

``Well, Nick obviously has the reputation of being a great program builder,'' Kelly said Sunday. ``He's defined himself, as only a few coaches ... have won the championships that he has. So I take that as a great personal compliment, as it relates to constructing football programs and putting winning football teams on the field. I would take that moniker any time.''

Asked if he had ever crossed paths with Saban, maybe at public appearances, during the time Kelly was at Division II Grand Valley State in Michigan and Saban was head coach for Michigan State, Kelly laughed.

``Public appearances for Nick?'' he said.

``Nick Saban, I got a chance to know him when he was at Toledo, a very short stint at Toledo, but I got a chance to know him through a couple of camps that I worked at, and got to know him better when he was at Michigan State. And I have a great deal of respect for him and followed his career, his path, and certainly when we see each other today, we're reminded about where we started. We both started in the Mid-American Conference, so a lot of the times that we talk, we talk about the times back in Ohio and Michigan.''

Saban started his coaching career at Kent State, his alma mater, and Kelly's first Division I job was at Central Michigan.

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WEST COAST TOUCH: Pac-12 officials will handle the BCS championship game.

Alabama was tied third in the country in fewest penalties per game at 3.8 for 32.8 yards. Notre Dame was middle of the pack nationally. The Irish were tied for 51st at 5.7 penalties per game for 42.9 yards.

Pac-12 officials have a reputation for being aggressive with the flags. Six of the 25 most penalized teams in major college football are from the Pac-12, including UCLA which was last at 9.2 penalties per game.

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AP Sports Writers Tim Reynolds, John Zenor and Ralph D. Russo contributed to this report.

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Michigan's Moritz Wagner could be Wizards' solution for a stretch-five

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Michigan's Moritz Wagner could be Wizards' solution for a stretch-five

The pre-draft workout process can be an exhausting journey for players, with so many flights, hotel rooms and NBA arenas that they can all blend in together. Michigan big man Moritz Wagner, though, may have felt a sense of comfort in Washington for his pre-draft workout for the Wizards on Wednesday.

It was just over a year ago that his Michigan Wolverines cut down the nets at Capital One Arena as champions of the Big Ten conference.

"It was good memories, man. Never gets old," he said while glancing around the stadium.

Wagner, 21, will be seeing a lot more of Capital One Arena once he joins the NBA ranks and it is conceivable he ends up in Washington. They hold the 15th pick in the first round and the 44th pick in the second round and Wagner could be within their reach.

Wagner had an impressive workout in Washington and could provide what the Wizards need. He is a big, mobile and can spread the floor. Wagner was terrific at stepping out to hit threes off pick-and-rolls at Michigan and that ability would work well with Wizards All-Star point guard John Wall.

Wagner measured in at just under 7-feet at this month's NBA Combine, fifth-tallest among those who attended. He averaged 14.6 points as a junior this past season and made 39.4 percent of his threes on 4.1 attempts per game.

With three years of college experience and an NBA-ready jumper, Wagner believes he can step right in and help the Wizards.

"I think what we did at Michigan, sharing the ball and playing as a team, very organized basketball, that can help big-time," he said. "It's basically pro basketball I was playing on a different level."

As Wagner will tell you, he is very confident in his abilities. He is comfortable in his own skin and that includes openly discussing his faults. He feels good about his ability to score at the next level. Defense is where he needs to prove himself.

Despite his size, Wagner wasn't much of a rim protector in college. He averaged just a half-block a game as a junior. The Wizards need rim protection badly and he likely would not provide that.

Wagner, though, believes he can bring more to the table defensively than the numbers would suggest.

"I think I've been an offensive guy all of my life, but the more that you mature as a player, you understand that both sides are important. Without defense, you aren't going to play at any level," he said.

"I think the most important thing that I wasn't able to show in college is that I'm able to switch the ball-screen, especially with the way the league is going. Switch on everything and stay in front of guards as a big guy."

Wagner is from Germany and looks up to Mavs legend Dirk Nowitzki, who is entering his 21st season and will be in the Hall of Fame someday. Nowitzki's game has always been built around shooting and, though he developed into a decent shot-blocker in his prime, was never an elite rim protector.

Wagner hopes to follow in his footsteps playing a similar style.

"He was my MJ. He kind of shows you 'okay, this is possible and this is doable.' It's just basketball," Wagner said. "It gives you a lot of hope. It gives you a lot of belief and motivation."

Hear more from Wagner in his one-on-one interview with Chris Miller in our latest Wizards Tipoff podcast. His interview can also be found in the video above:

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Believe it or not, this isn't the first D.C. vs. Vegas postseason matchup

Believe it or not, this isn't the first D.C. vs. Vegas postseason matchup

In what is perhaps the most unexpected Stanley Cup Final pairing in recent memory, the Washington Capitals and the Las Vegas Golden Knights are going to make history this year.

Either it is going to be the first expansion team to win a title in their first season, or it will be a team looking to end a 27-year title drought for one of the biggest cities in the United States.

But what it will not be is the first D.C. vs. Vegas postseason matchup.

Going even farther back than the Capitals last Stanley Cup appearance (1998), the Georgetown Hoyas and UNLV Rebels met in the 1991 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.

Sin City took the first, and up until now, the only postseason bout between these two cities. The Larry Johnson-led University of Las Vegas squad powered right past the Hoyas in the Second Round of the NCAA Tournament.

[D.C. sports and Second Rounds, I know right?]

Coming fresh off the NCAA title in 1990, UNLV waltzed right to the Final Four before meeting their demise against Duke. It also ended up being the last game for Dikembe Mutombo in a Georgetown uniform.

While in all likely-hood this will not be the final game/ series for Alex Ovechkin rocking the red, it may be his last and only chance for him to play this far into a postseason.

In the past two seasons, Vegas has gone from zero professional teams to having a Stanley Cup contender, a WNBA franchise, and lined up to take over the Oakland Raiders in 2020. 

Now time for the Golden Knights' Cinderella story to come up a little bit short. 

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