Nationals

Pick 6: Checking on teams that moved

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Pick 6: Checking on teams that moved

The realignment of conferences the past few years has made it so you almost need a spreadsheet to keep up with who went where.

Many of the schools did it to chase dollar signs, looking for a bigger piece of the NCAA pie. Others had no choice, left scrambling to find a slot as their conferences disintegrated.

On the football field, it hasn't always been a smooth transition.

A new conference often means adjusting to a new style of football. There are new teams and schemes to learn, trying to catch up on the fly against programs the coaches know little about.

And for some of the smaller schools, switching to a bigger conference usually means a big step up in competition.

It's no wonder so many teams struggle when they move from one conference to another.

With that in mind, here are six teams that have hit a few bumps in the road after switching conferences:

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UTAH: BCS busters while in the Mountain West Conference, the Utes were supposed to start challenging Southern California for supremacy in the newly formed Pac-12's South Division last season. Never happened. Utah got off to a horrendous start before pulling it together late in the season, finishing 8-5 and winning the Sun Bowl. The Utes have taken a step back in Year 2. After a lopsided loss to Washington last weekend, Utah (4-6) is 2-5 in the Pac-12, with four of those losses coming in a row. The Utes still have to face Arizona's juggernaut and close out the season against struggling Colorado, a team that beat them last season, so .500 in conference isn't even an option.

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MISSOURI: The Tigers won or shared the Big 12 North three times in five years under coach Gary Pinkel before making the switch to the SEC. It's been a struggle. Facing bigger, more defensive-minded teams than it had in the speedy Big 12, Missouri has won two of seven conference games and is 5-5 overall. Once one of the nation's highest-scoring teams, the Tigers have been middle-of-the-pack while facing SEC defenses, averaging just over 25 points per game. Missouri outlasted Tennessee, which plays more like a Big 12 team, in four overtimes its last game, but still has to close the season against Texas A&M, which also moved to the SEC this season.

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WEST VIRGINIA: The Mountaineers had a glorious start after switching from the Big East to the Big 12, opening with five straight wins, including shootouts over Baylor and Texas to open conference play. Scoring in bunches, West Virginia was considered a national title contender, quarterback Geno Smith a Heisman Trophy front-runner. Boy, how things have changed over the past month. Unable to stop anyone and with their once-vaunted offense stuck in neutral, the Mountaineers have faded from the national spotlight - taking Smith's Heisman chances with them - losing four straight games to Big 12 teams. West Virginia (5-4, 2-4 Big 12) has given up at least 55 points its past two games and has another tough game ahead, against No. 13 Oklahoma on Saturday.

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TEXAS CHRISTIAN: Like Utah, the Horned Frogs had been BCS busters before leaving the Mountain West Conference for the riches of the Big 12. TCU had won 24 straight conference games, 50 of 55 overall and the Rose Bowl to cap a perfect season two years ago. The Horned Frogs extended the conference winning streak in the Big 12 by beating Kansas, but lost to Iowa State two games later. TCU is already bowl eligible, but after a 23-10 loss to Kansas State last weekend, it has four losses, all in conference. The Horned Frogs (6-4, 3-4 Big 12) still have Texas and Oklahoma left, a tough finish to the schedule that could leave them under .500 in conference for the first time since going 3-5 in Conference-USA in 2004.

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COLORADO: The Buffaloes had a tough road through the Pac-12 the first go-round, winning two conference games and three overall last season. Colorado did end a 23-game road losing streak - against Utah, of course - and beat rival Colorado State in nonconference, so there was something positive. There hasn't been much good in Jon Embree's third season as coach. One of the nation's youngest teams, the Buffs lost to Colorado State and FCS school Sacramento State in nonconference play and have mostly been on the wrong side of routs in the Pac-12, including last weekend's 56-31 beatdown at Arizona. Colorado is 1-9 overall, 1-6 in conference and its only win was against Washington State, which is 0-7 in the Pac-12.

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TEXAS A&M: The Aggies and the quarterback they call Johnny Football shook up the nation, not to mention the SEC, when they knocked off top-ranked Alabama last weekend. Before that, though, Johnny Manziel and Texas A&M had a rough start in their first season in the power conference, losing two of their first four SEC games. Those were against Florida and LSU, a big reason the Aggies (8-2, 4-2 SEC) moved up to No. 9 in the Top 25 after beating the Crimson Tide. Hard to knock a team that beat the No. 1 team in the nation and could play for the conference championship, but it hasn't always been easy in the SEC for A&M.

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MLB All-Star FanFest: Searching for a jersey from every team

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USA Today Sports

MLB All-Star FanFest: Searching for a jersey from every team

A sea of red and white Nationals jerseys flooded toward the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. But there wasn’t a Bryce Harper signing. And there wasn’t even a game. The Nationals are in New York to play the Mets. 

Then, as I turned and walked down the street I began to see random jerseys: Phillies, Yankees, Astros and Mets, among others.

It all clicked.

Ah, yes, the MLB All-Star weekend and its annual FanFest

As I walked inside the building and looked around, there was everything from memorabilia to interactive games like a speed gun, home run derby and more. 

MLB fans filled the building and the once-sea of red and white thinned out into a blob of colors. Fans from all different teams came out for the weekend’s festivities.

This left me curious: Could I find a jersey for every MLB team?

It was easy to find the big name teams. Going down the escalator, I was hit with a couple Jacob deGrom jerseys and a Carlos Correa one, as well. 

Mets, check. Astros, check.

A right turn and there was an Aaron Nola jersey, the All-Star phenom who surprised this year for the first-place Phillies. Check.

The Yankees and Red Sox weren’t far behind. 

As the day went on, my notepad of teams kept getting crossed off. The National League Central was the first division to go, and the American League Central followed suit. Surprisngly, it took me a couple hours — of course, I wasn't searching the whole time — to find the Marlins. Every other NL East team was easy.

Three hours later, I had found all but five teams: Colorado Rockies, Arizona Diamondbacks, Oakland Athletics, Tampa Bay Rays and Los Angeles Angels. 

I decided to take another lap before I left. And standing, right by the stolen base activity, stood a man in a Randy Johnson throwback Diamondbacks jersey. 

We both look at the kids running down the line toward the base before a purple jersey caught my eye. It was another kid, waiting in line, wearing a Nolan Arenado jersey.

That left me with just three more teams. As I headed toward the exit, I was shocked I had not seen a Mike Trout jersey. One of the greatest players in modern baseball and not one Angels fan.

Then a co-worker pointed toward the MLB shop area. Finally, a Trout jersey. And then I turned around to grab my backpack and notebook. Another Trout jersey. Weird. I crossed off the name and looked up. Another Angels jersey. OK, enough. 

With just two more jerseys left and me being the stubborn person I am, I walked around the FanFest for another 20 minutes, looking for that green A’s jersey, or dark blue Rays one. 

Then, I finally found Stomper, the Athletics mascot taking photos with kids. On him was an A’s jersey — ironic, right? 

After about 10 more minutes I gave up. There were no Rays jerseys. The best I could do was a Tampa Bay tank top a woman was wearing while her kids played. But, that doesn’t count. We’re looking for jerseys.

Oh, and here are other sports apparel that I saw before that non-existent Rays jersey.

  • Atlanta Falcons Matt Ryan t-shirt
  • San Francisco 49ers Jimmy Garoppolo jersey 
  • A Texas Longhorns athletic shirt
  • France soccer jersey
  • Philadelphia 76ers shirt
  • Montreal Expos Vlad Guerrero jersey
  • Oakland Raiders Bo Jackson jersey
  • Golden State Warriors Steph Curry jersey
  • DC United Wayne Rooney jersey

And so, the search for a Rays jersey continues. 

MORE ALL-STAR GAME NEWS:

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Austin Rivers believes he can help the Wizards on defense as much as anything

Austin Rivers believes he can help the Wizards on defense as much as anything

When asked at his introductory press conference for how he will fit on the Wizards' roster from a basketball perspective, guard Austin Rivers didn't first cite his three-point shooting, his ability to affect games scoring off the bench or his speed to run the floor with John Wall and Bradley Beal. The first thing he point to was his defense.

That may have surprised some people out there as Rivers has long been known for his scoring ability and not so much his skills on the other end. It's not that he can't play defense, it's just that most of the highlights he's produced over the years have been due to his high-flying finishes at the rim and wicked pull-up jumper from three-point range.

Defense, though, is something Rivers takes pride in and he hopes to continue developing as a defender in Washington.

"With how much Brad and John have to do every night, for them to not have to always guard the best guard on the other team, that's something I can come in here and do. Try to bring that competitive spirit and be one of the defenders on the team," Rivers said.

Rivers' defensive ability has produced some controversy among Wizards fans and media members on social media. Some insist he does not bring value on that end of the floor, while some numbers suggest he does have some defensive potential.

Last season, Rivers averaged a career-high 1.2 steals per game. He was tied for fifth on the Clippers in defensive win shares.

However, his 113 defensive rating was his worst since 2013-14. It was an outlier on the Clippers and not in the good way. He also ranked nowhere near the top of the league in deflections or contested three-point shots, two hustle stats that guys like Wall and Beal fair well in.

Rivers points to two attributes that he believes make him a strong perimeter defender. One is his versatility and the other you could call scrappiness.

"On defense [the Wizards] can switch one through three or one through four. I think that gives us a lot of dangerous options," he said.

As for his scrappiness, Rivers says it comes from the early days of his career.

"I had to figure out ways to be effective without [a jumpshot] and that's how I became a defender. I guess everything happens for a reason, right? I'm happy I did have those early career struggles because it made me find a side of me that I didn't do [early on]. Because I promise you I didn't play any defense at Duke," he said.

The last line drew laughter from those gathered at his introductory press conference. Rivers insists that he now takes that end of the floor very seriously. The Wizards certainly hope he can back up his words.

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