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Pittsburgh to meet Mississippi in Compass Bowl

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Pittsburgh to meet Mississippi in Compass Bowl

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) Pittsburgh is making its third straight trip to the BBVA Compass Bowl, facing a resurgent Mississippi team.

The Panthers and Rebels will meet on Jan. 5 in a matchup of 6-6 Big East and Southeastern Conference teams which are led by first-year coaches.

Pitt became bowl eligible for the fifth consecutive season with Saturday's 27-3 rout of South Florida, rebounding after losing its first two games to Youngstown State and Cincinnati.

Paul Chryst's Panthers also took No. 1 Notre Dame to triple overtime before losing.

``While it is unusual to play in the same bowl three years in a row, we are excited to be facing a traditional program like Ole Miss,'' Pitt athletic director Steve Pederson said. ``This game is held in a great football city and our hosts have already discussed giving our team some different experiences on this trip. We are proud of how our team finished the regular season and we're excited they can play one more game together.''

The Panthers are joining the Atlantic Coast Conference next season.

Mississippi won its sixth game with a 41-24 upset of Mississippi State for the program's first Egg Bowl win in four years. Rebels coach Hugh Freeze led a resurgence of a team with one Southeastern Conference win over the previous two seasons and coming off a 2-10 year.

Ole Miss athletics director Ross Bjork praised Freeze ``for the fantastic turnaround.''

``I especially want to congratulate our seniors and the rest of the team for their hard work and for buying into the cultural change for our program,'' Bjork said.

The Rebels are 8-1 in their last nine bowl games dating back to a 13-0 win over Air Force in the 1992 Liberty Bowl. Making it back to the postseason for the first time in three years is a boost, Freeze said.

``I think it accelerates our journey, our process,'' he said. ``Not just the extra practices, but the extra media coverage ... we're one of the teams still playing.''

Freeze said he doesn't know much Pitt, beyond that the Panthers took Notre Dame down to the wire and got better as the season went along.

Running back Ray Graham and quarterback Tino Sunseri give Pitt a 3,000-yard passer and 1,000-yard rusher in the same season for the first time.

The Panthers came to Birmingham the last two trips with interim coaches after Dave Wannstedt was released from his contract and Todd Graham left for Arizona State.

They beat Kentucky 27-10 two years ago and lost to SMU 28-6 last season.

``We've been given a great opportunity to play a quality program like Ole Miss,'' Chryst said. ``I know they finished the season strong and looked impressive in winning the Egg Bowl against Mississippi State.''

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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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