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Oklahoma State vs. Purdue in Heart of Dallas Bowl

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Oklahoma State vs. Purdue in Heart of Dallas Bowl

DALLAS (AP) There are a couple of games Oklahoma State would like to have back.

Purdue certainly feels the same way, especially with the near-misses the Boilermakers had on the road against two of the nation's undefeated teams.

By losing its last two games by a combined 10 points, Oklahoma State became one of five Big 12 teams that finished 7-5 and slid down the league's bowl pecking order.

The Boilermakers (6-6), who had tight losses at top-ranked Notre Dame and No. 3 Ohio State, recovered from a five-game Big Ten losing streak midway through the season by winning their last three games just to get bowl eligible.

Oklahoma State and Purdue play in the inaugural Heart of Dallas Bowl on Tuesday. It will be the third consecutive New Year's Day game played in the historic Cotton Bowl Stadium since the namesake game that this season features Big 12 co-champion Oklahoma moved to Cowboys Stadium.

``I know they might not be as excited as we are,'' Purdue running back Akeem Shavers said. ``But just coming from where we came from and where our season's went, we're just blessed to be here.''

Last January, the Cowboys capped a Big 12 championship season with a 41-38 victory over Stanford in the Fiesta Bowl. Three years ago, they were playing in the first Cotton Bowl at that shiny new NFL stadium.

But after a dominating 59-21 home win against Texas Tech, the Cowboys lost in overtime at Oklahoma after the Sooners scored the tying touchdown with 4 seconds left in regulation. Oklahoma State finished the regular season with a 41-34 loss at Baylor.

``Being part of the team last year and doing so many great things, we're ready to go out and get this eighth win and finish on a good note,'' Cowboys senior defensive end Cooper Bassett said.

When the bowl pairings were announced the day after the loss at Baylor, Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy said his team went wherever the conference sent them but said he was surprised to be in the Heart of Dallas Bowl.

Now the focus is just on playing the game, in which the Big 12 Cowboys are more than two-touchdown favorites.

``I feel like our players, we are excited to be around each other for another month and playing a game,'' Gundy said. ``I mentioned this when those questions were asked several weeks ago; that I coached 11 years and never had an opportunity to play in a bowl game, and so I tried to stress the feelings and the opportunity for our players, and certainly our coaches. I feel like that they have handled it very well. I don't think there's any question when we start the season, we all have goals that we would like to reach.''

It's the first game between Purdue and Oklahoma State since 15 years ago in the Alamo Bowl, when the Boilermakers won 33-20 to cap then-coach Joe Tiller's first season.

This was their fourth season under Tiller's hand-picked successor, Danny Hope, who was fired at the end of the regular season with a 22-27 record.

Kent State coach Darrell Hazell was hired to replace Hope, but receivers coach Patrick Higgins is serving as interim coach through the bowl.

Purdue lost 20-17 at Notre Dame the second week of the season when the Irish, who play in next week's BCS national championship game against No. 2 Alabama, kicked a field goal with 7 seconds left.

The five-game losing streak included a 29-22 loss at Ohio State, which scored the tying TD with 3 seconds remaining in regulation. The Boilermakers trailed 34-7 at halftime the next week at Minnesota and lost at Penn State before their consecutive wins over Iowa, Illinois and Indiana.

``We had our backs against the wall, and we've kind of crawled out, and now this is an opportunity for us,'' quarterback Robert Marve said.

Higgins said the players realized after the Penn State loss that every game was like a championship game if they wanted to reach their goal of playing in a bowl. They won at Iowa for the first time in more than 20 years and won consecutive Big Ten road games, another rarity, before the rivalry win over Indiana.

``A lot of people counted us out when we were 3-6, and I think every game we won we weren't supposed to win,'' Marve said. ``So we're trying to keep the trend going in the bowl game.''

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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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