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SEC expansion gives conference new look

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SEC expansion gives conference new look

COLLEGE STATION, Texas (AP) The Southeastern Conference's first expansion since 1991 has added not only new travel and experiences for newcomers Texas A&M and Missouri, but also the rest of the league.

The new look of the SEC isn't limited to the changes in its geography, though, as the Aggies have remained one of the top offenses in the country, shaking up things in a league long known for defense.

The Aggies are third in the nation in scoring (45.5 ppg) and tied for fifth in total offense (542.88 ypg). It's nothing new for first-year Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin, whose Houston team topped the country in scoring and total offense last season.

Despite that success in Conference USA, many doubted he could replicate it in a league where five teams finished in the top 10 nationally in defense last season.

Sumlin was matter-of-fact when asked if he ever questioned whether his offense could succeed in the SEC.

``If we didn't think it could work, we wouldn't run it,'' he said.

Still, he understands why people were reticent to believe this offense could put up huge numbers against much tougher competition. Especially in a conference where no team has finished in the top 5 nationally in scoring since Florida was fourth in 2008, or total offense since the Gators finished second in 2000.

``People have the right,'' Sumlin said. ``We're the new guys in the league so I don't see that as derogatory or anything like that. You're always going to be skeptical of anything that's new or that you don't know about.''

Auburn coach Gene Chizik saw just how powerful A&M's offense could be on Saturday in a 63-21 A&M win. Texas A&M had 34 first downs, 671 yards and scored touchdowns on seven of eight possessions with quarterback Johnny Manziel before he was replaced after the first possession of the third quarter.

``I think that his is a different type of offense,'' Chizik said. ``They are spread, no-huddle offenses that are obviously difficult to defend. Some are very different than others. This one is very unique.''

Mississippi State defensive coordinator Chris Wilson, who worked with Sumlin at Oklahoma from 2005-07, is one person in the SEC that isn't a bit surprised by Sumlin's success at A&M. No. 17 Mississippi State hosts 16th-ranked A&M on Saturday.

``Kevin is a guy who knows what he wants to do. He's got a great plan,'' Wilson said. ``The biggest thing is he's a good communicator - communicating with his coaches, with the administration and with the players. That makes a good teacher. And when you can deliver your message and do it with accurate information, it definitely speeds up the process. He does that as well as anybody.''

Sumlin believes some of Texas A&M's success comes from his team having a chip on its shoulder because of those who expected the Aggies to fail in their move from the Big 12 to the SEC.

``We do have something to prove,'' he said. ``I've said that from the beginning, we're in the best league in the country for football and as new guys to the league we've got to prove ourselves. I think our guys understand that, I think as coaches we understand it.''

The Aggies have enjoyed the travel that has come with the move as well. They've switched in-state trips to places like Austin, Lubbock and Waco for jaunts to Oxford, Miss. and Auburn, Ala. They'll travel to Starkville, Miss. this week before next Saturday's visit to Tuscaloosa, Ala.

``Every one of these games is new to these guys and I think last week was a prime example of being excited to play,'' Sumlin said. ``We're going places we've never been and guys are excited to go there.''

Georgia coach Mark Richt has also enjoyed the change in scenery that came with adding the new teams this season.

``In life, change is good sometimes,'' he said. ``You start doing the same thing over and over again, and sometimes that can be tiresome.''

Second-year Vanderbilt coach James Franklin's team picked up its only road win this season on its first trip to Missouri on Oct. 6. Still, he's more worried about his team than how Missouri and A&M have changed the SEC.

``I think it's great for the league,'' Franklin said of the expansion. ``It's something new, exciting and different. I haven't been in the league long enough to have a great perspective. The venue I'm concerned about making the best in the SEC is right here in Nashville at Vanderbilt. It's getting better every single week and we just have to keep building on that.''

The Tigers, who got their first SEC win last week against Kentucky, have a similar mindset as they prepare for a trip to No. 8 Florida on Saturday.

``It's a great experience, and we're not there for the experience, we're there to win,'' Missouri defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson said. ``That's how we look at it.''

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AP Sports Writers David Brandt, R.B. Fallstrom, Charles Odum, Teresa Walker and John Zenor contributed to this story.

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

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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