No. 3 K-State highest-ranked team at TCU since '70


No. 3 K-State highest-ranked team at TCU since '70

FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) TCU knew its schedule was going to get more difficult by moving to the Big 12.

Coach Gary Patterson and the Horned Frogs are finding out just how much, though they have already obtained bowl eligibility in their inaugural season in a BCS league.

``This part of our season is our Custer section. Going over the hill,'' Patterson said, referring to the closing three-game stretch that starts Saturday night at home against No. 3 Kansas State, his alma mater. ``We all knew the schedule, what these last three were like before we started. ... I'm glad we got to six (wins) before we got to these three.''

Led by Heisman Trophy front-running quarterback Collin Klein, the Wildcats (9-0, 6-0 Big 12) are in the thick of the national championship chase. They're No. 2 in the BCS rankings behind only defending champion Alabama.

Kansas State is the highest AP-ranked team to visit Fort Worth since 1970, when No. 2 Texas won 58-0 in a Southwest Conference game. TCU last hosted a Top 10 team in 1993, and have lost their last 12 such games at home since a victory over No. 9 Texas A&M in 1965.

``It's a big game. It will be pretty easy for everyone to get ready,'' said TCU right guard Blaize Foltz, who is from Kansas. ``I know people on that team. I know they're just as excited to come down here and play us, and just as fired up.''

After Kansas State, the Frogs play Thanksgiving night at 19th-ranked Texas and finish the regular season at home Dec. 1 against No. 14 Oklahoma.

With a win against TCU, the Wildcats would still be in pursuit of their first BCS national championship game appearance. Regardless of what happens, they will still control their Big 12 fate. They go to Baylor next, then have Thanksgiving week off before their regular season finale at home against Texas.

Klein sustained an apparent head injury in the third quarter of last Saturday's 44-30 victory against Oklahoma State. He didn't take another snap after scoring his 50th career rushing touchdown, but should be back in the lineup against the Frogs.

``Would I expect him to play? I certainly hope that's the case, and I would expect that to take place,'' said coach Bill Snyder, who as usual offered very little information about injuries.

The next step toward a potential championship game for the Wildcats is getting to 10-0 for the first time since 1998. Snyder's team started 11-0 that year before falling to Texas A&M in the Big 12 championship game. There is no more league championship game because the Big 12 has a round-robin schedule.

Kansas State is the nation's least-penalized team (only 31 flags), and has a plus-20 turnover margin that is the best. The Wildcats have lost only two fumbles and Klein has thrown only two interceptions while passing for 1,875 yards with 12 touchdowns and running for 698 yards and 17 scores.

While opponents haven't scored any points after K-State's miscues, the Wildcats have scored an incredible 111 points off turnovers.

``Someone brought that to my attention, and I shared it with our players as well,'' Snyder said. ``But I have never heard a statistic like that because I do not think anybody has ever kept a statistic like that. Whoever came up with it has done some amazing research.''

Taking that a step further, those 111 points account for more than one-fourth of the 399 points K-State has scored this season.

For Patterson, his first meeting against his alma mater presents quite of a dilemma.

It comes three decades after he started his coaching career as a K-State graduate assistant in 1982 for then-coach Jim Dickey and was part of the school's first bowl team. He had played for the Wildcats the previous two seasons, when the safety and linebacker played mostly on scout teams and only a little on special teams.

``It's hard, because you love seeing, from their perspective, they've come so far and have an opportunity to be so close to playing for a national championship,'' said Patterson, TCU's winningest coach with 115 victories in his 12 seasons. ``But also on our side of it, just try to get seven (wins).''

TCU got the sixth win needed for bowl eligibility last week with a 39-38 double-overtime victory at West Virginia, the Big 12's other newcomer. The Horned Frogs opted for a win-or-lose 2-point conversion attempt in the second overtime. They obviously made it.

``Now it's about survival,'' Patterson said. ``How you get finished, get things done.''

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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


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.


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