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Notre Dame coach Kelly begins BCS campaign

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Notre Dame coach Kelly begins BCS campaign

Brian Kelly waited until the end of the presidential election to start campaigning for a spot in the BCS title game.

The Notre Dame coach made his case on Sunday for a Top 2 spot in the polls that would allow the Fighting Irish (10-0) to play for a national championship. Oregon and Kansas State may be getting a lot of attention with their high-powered offenses, but Kelly said Notre Dame's defense is every bit as impressive.

``Each team has their own distinctions. The distinction of this football team is it's the No.1 scoring defense in the country,'' he said on a conference call with reporters a day after a 21-6 victory over Boston College helped the Irish move up to No. 3 in The Associated Press Top 25.

``It's proven that against very, very good teams all year. ... If you look at national championship-caliber football, you've got to look at a defense, and so that's why we feel strongly that our football team has put themselves in the discussion. We'll let others decide, but I think we've played our way into the discussion.''

Notre Dame had been the consensus No. 4 team in the country heading into the weekend, with only a remote chance at a national championship until top-ranked Alabama was upset by No. 15 Texas A&M on Saturday. The Irish moved up to No. 3 in the poll released Sunday, still behind new No. 1 Oregon and second-ranked Kansas State.

The Irish were expected to be third when the new BCS standings were released later Sunday.

Alabama dropped to fourth in the AP poll.

Although Kelly had resisted politicking for a better ranking, his new poll position proved too tempting. He said he voted for his own team No. 1 in the USA Today coaches' poll, up from No. 2 last week; it was the only first-place vote for the Irish, who were third in that poll as well.

Kelly's case is that the Irish have allowed 111 points in 10 games, tied with Alabama for fewest in the nation. He also pointed out that Notre Dame has played every game against an FBS foe; Oregon played Tennessee Tech, and Kansas State played Missouri State - both FCS division teams.

Notre Dame has beaten four teams that were ranked at the time the Irish played them: Michigan State and Oklahoma on the road and Michigan and Stanford at home.

The case against Notre Dame is that five of its wins have been by seven points or fewer, including a triple-overtime victory over unheralded Pittsburgh two weeks ago after the Panthers missed a 33-yard field goal to win it. Even the win over Boston College was uninspired: The Eagles are 2-8 and off to their worst start since 1989.

But Kelly noted that BC, the only other Catholic school in the FBS, failed to score a touchdown for the first time this season. Eagles quarterback Chase Rettig is among the national leaders with 2,803 yards passing and 16 touchdowns, but Notre Dame allowed just two field goals in the game.

``If you want style points, look at our defense, look at the schedule that we played: 10 FBS teams,'' Kelly said. ``I think it's pretty clear that this football team has been built around its defense, and we're lived up to that each and every week. We'll just keep working on one at a time and let other people figure out where that puts us.''

Kelly said two players came out of the Boston College game with injuries.

Receiver DeVaris Daniels had surgery on Sunday to repair a broken collarbone and will be out for three or four weeks. He will miss the rest of the regular season but would return for a bowl game, Kelly said.

Defensive back KeiVarae Russell had a head injury.

``It cleared up nicely,'' Kelly said. ``He looks to be on track for practice on Tuesday.''

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

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USA Today Sports Images

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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