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Stanford holds off Wisconsin 20-14 in Rose Bowl

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Stanford holds off Wisconsin 20-14 in Rose Bowl

PASADENA, Calif. (AP) Andrew Luck, Toby Gerhart and coach Jim Harbaugh started Stanford's improbable football renaissance, yet they never stood in the center of the Rose Bowl with the West Coast's most coveted trophy raised above their heads.

In fact, the last Stanford team to do what the Cardinal did Tuesday night had a defense known as the Thunderchickens.

Forty years after Stanford's last Rose Bowl victory, the favored Cardinal lived up to the legacy created by Luck, Harbaugh and every Thunderchicken that came before them by winning the bowl game that matters most to any Pac-12 team.

Stepfan Taylor rushed for an early touchdown, Kevin Hogan passed for 123 yards and No. 8 Stanford's defense shut out the Badgers in the second half of a 20-14 victory in the 99th Rose Bowl.

``I had heard that 1972 was our last win,'' said Hogan, the freshman quarterback who won Stanford's last five games. ``It's been too long since we've had one at The Farm. It's a great feeling.''

Instead of slipping back off the college football map when their biggest names graduate to NFL glory, the Cardinal (12-2) have just kept getting better under coach David Shaw. After winning the Orange Bowl two years ago and losing the Fiesta Bowl in overtime last season, Stanford followed up with its first conference title and its first trip to the Granddaddy of Them All in 13 years.

Stanford's unique combination of brains and brawn was too much for its opponents during eight straight wins to close the season.

``We've been in BCS games the past two years, but neither of those mean as much as this one did,'' said Zach Ertz, the tight end who had three catches for 61 yards. ``This is the one we play for every year. It shows Stanford is here to stay.''

Usua Amanam capped the defensive performance with an interception that stopped Wisconsin's final drive at midfield with 2:30 to play in a grind-it-out game. Stanford allowed the Badgers just 82 yards and four first downs after halftime.

``There's a sense of accomplishment, because we got somewhere we hadn't been yet,'' said linebacker Shayne Skov, who made eight tackles while leading Stanford's second-half shutout. ``If you looked at our goals at the beginning of the season, this was on top of the list, and we got it done. We're extremely satisfied.''

The Cardinal finished with 12 victories for just the second time in school history - and the second time in the last three years.

Stanford clamped down on the Big Ten champion Badgers (8-6), who lost the Rose Bowl in heartbreaking fashion for the third consecutive season. Montee Ball rushed for 100 yards and his FBS-record 83rd touchdown, but Wisconsin couldn't score after the final seconds of the first half.

With an impressive defense of its own, Wisconsin stayed in position for an upset in the one-game return of Hall of Fame coach Barry Alvarez, who was back on the Badgers' sideline in his red sweater-vest seven years after hanging up his whistle.

``This group of kids has been through a lot, and they competed extremely hard against a very high-quality team,'' said Alvarez, who nearly pulled off a stunner while bridging the gap between coaches Bret Bielema and Gary Andersen. ``We've played three very good football games (at the Rose Bowl). These guys played hard. In fact, most people would like to get here once. But we just didn't get it done.''

Kelsey Young took his only carry 16 yards for a score on Stanford's opening possession, and Taylor scored on the second drive after a big catch by Ertz. Wisconsin kept the Cardinal out of the end zone for the final 51 minutes, holding them to three points in the second half, but Stanford's defense didn't need any more help.

When Bielema abruptly left Wisconsin for Arkansas after winning the Big Ten title game, Alvarez agreed to coach his fourth Rose Bowl before handing off his program to Andersen, who met with Alvarez on the field before the game. But the Badgers' third consecutive January in Pasadena ended in much the same way as the last two: With the offense failing to get the late score the Badgers desperately needed.

``This stings just as much, because we fell extremely short when we had the opportunity to win,'' Ball said. ``We had numerous opportunities to capitalize on big plays, and we fell short. ... This is not the way we want to be remembered. Speaking for the entire senior group, this is not the way we wanted to go out.''

Curt Phillips went 10 for 16 for 83 yards passing and that crucial interception for Wisconsin, doing more with 64 yards on the ground. Jordan Fredrick caught his first career TD pass right before halftime, but no Badgers receiver had more than Jared Abbrederis' three catches.

And though Ball became the first player to score touchdowns in three Rose Bowls, the powerful back fell short of Ron Dayne's career Rose Bowl rushing record, swarmed under by waves of tacklers from one of the toughest defenses in the nation - a defense that shut down the top-ranked Ducks in mid-November to pave Stanford's path to Pasadena.

Wisconsin became the first five-loss team to make the Rose Bowl by steamrolling Nebraska in the conference title game, becoming the first Big Ten team in three straight Rose Bowls since Michigan in the late 1970s.

With the Rose Bowl filled with fans wearing the schools' near-identical cardinal-and-white gear, Stanford went up 14-0 on Taylor's 3-yard TD run just 8 1/2 minutes in. Wisconsin briefly got rolling behind Ball, who rushed for 296 yards in his first two Rose Bowls.

Stanford stopped James White inside the 1 on fourth down early in the second quarter, but Ball scored on the next drive. The Badgers then mounted an 85-yard drive in the waning minutes of the first half ending with Fredrick's short TD catch.

After a scoreless third quarter, Wisconsin's personal foul on a fair-catch punt return finally sparked the Cardinal early in the fourth. Stanford got inside the Wisconsin 5 before stalling, and Jordan Williamson's short field goal put the Cardinal up by six points with 4:23 to go.

The Badgers got to midfield, but Phillips threw behind Jacob Pedersen, and Amanam easily made the pick.

``I just happened to be at the right place at the right time,'' Amanam said. ``We were able to kind of seal the game on that one.''

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Though not a big man, first round pick Troy Brown fills several needs for Wizards

Though not a big man, first round pick Troy Brown fills several needs for Wizards

The Wizards' selection of Troy Brown of the University of Oregon with their first round pick has been met with a strong reaction among fans, many of whom argue he doesn't play a position of need, that it was a luxury pick when other areas could have been addressed, most notably in their frontcourt. Big man Robert Williams of Texas A&M, for example, was still on the board. 

The Wizards, though, did address needs by picking Brown. And really, they arguably filled more pressing needs in the short-term than those at power forward and center.

Though the Wizards clearly need some help at big man in the long-term, as both of their starting bigs are on expiring deals, they need help immediately at both shooting guard and small forward. Brown, though he is only 18 years old and offers no guarantees to contribute right away, can play both of those positions.

Shooting guard is where he can help the most. The Wizards have one backup shooting guard in Jodie Meeks and he is due to miss the first 19 games of the 2018-19 season while serving a suspension for performance-enhancing drugs.

Even when Meeks was available this past season, he only helped so much. He shot just 39.9 percent from the field and 34.3 percent from three. Head coach Scott Brooks often chose to rely more on starter Bradley Beal than go to Meeks as his replacement. As a result, Beal logged the fourth-most minutes of any player in the NBA.

More depth at shooting guard will help relieve Beal of some of that workload. That would be great for keeping him fresh throughout the season and help him be at his best when they need him most in the playoffs.

The Wizards also have some urgency at small forward. It is their strongest position in terms of one-two on the depth chart, but they have no logical third option. That was magnified in the playoffs once Otto Porter got injured. They were left with Kelly Oubre, Jr. and had to trot out Tomas Satoransky, who has limited experience at the position.

Brown can play both shooting guard and small forward, giving them much needed depth. If he can play well enough to earn a rotation spot, the emergency situations the Wizards encountered last season could be avoided in 2018-19.

The Wizards still need to find long-term solutions at power forward and center, but they were going to need to find answers at shooting guard and small forward as well. Both Meeks and Oubre have one year left on their deals. Brown helps solidify the long-term outlook at wing.

Now, there's no denying the Wizards already had considerable talent at both shooting guard and small forward with Beal, Porter and Oubre. That begs the question of how much Brown can offer particularly in the first year of his career. But the Wizards would like to play more positionless basketball and to do that requires depth at wing.

The Boston Celtics have helped make positionless basketball famous and their roster shows that the one player-type you can't have enough of is similar to Brown. Boston has Gordon Hayward, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Marcus Morris. All are around 6-foot-7 or 6-foot-8 and offer versatility on both ends of the floor.

The Wizards also now have four players of that size and with positional versatility in Brown, Porter, Oubre and Satoransky. They can roll out different combinations of those guys and possibly have an advantage on defense with the ability to switch seamlessly on screens.

In the age of positionless basketball, players of Brown's ilk have become major assets especially for teams that have many of them. There is such a thing as having too many point guards or centers because they can't coexist on the floor. Versatile wings, in most scenarios, can play together in numbers.

It's different but in a way similar to certain positions in other sports. In baseball, you can have too many catchers but you can't have too many talented pitchers and utility players. In football, you can have too many running backs or tight ends, but you can't have too many defensive linemen. 

Brown gives them options from a roster perspective in the long-term. Oubre has one year left on his contract and if he continues his trejectory with a strong 2018-19 season, he could price himself out of Washington. Brown could move up the depth chart as his replacement one year from now. The Wizards also now have the option to consider trades at the position given their depth.

The problem, one could argue, with drafting Brown over a Williams-type is that it limits their options at center in particular. Drafting Williams would have made it easier to trade Marcin Gortat, for instance, because they would have had depth to deal from. Now, it's more difficult to trade Gortat, whom they have shopped on and off for months, without a plan to replace him. Finding a Gortat substitute in free agency with the limited resource they have would not be easy.

But big man wasn't their only need and in Brown the Wizards may have found a solution at other areas where they clearly needed help.

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Wizards' second round pick Issuf Sanon will take time, much like Tomas Satoransky did

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Wizards' second round pick Issuf Sanon will take time, much like Tomas Satoransky did

The first round of the NBA Draft played out expectedly for what the Wizards had planned for the night. In Troy Brown, they clearly got the guy they wanted all along, seeing as there were many interesting prospects they passed on to choose him.

The second round was a bit more chaotic. Team president Ernie Grunfeld said there were a few players picked just ahead of them at No. 44 that they had their eyes on. They contemplated trading up, but no perfect deals were presented.

So, they decided to think long-term, like really long-term. In choosing Ukrainian point guard Issuf Sanon, the Wizards understand it may be years before he plays in the NBA.

"We hope to have him developed in a few years," Grunfeld said.

Sanon, just 18, plays for Olimpija Ljubljana in Slovenia. He may stay in Europe into his 20s before he comes to the United States.

The Wizards have utilized the draft-and-stash model with other players. Their 2015 second round pick, Aaron White, has been playing in Europe for the past three seasons.

Sometimes those players never convey and contribute for the Wizards. But sometimes they do and Grunfeld pointed to a player already on their roster as a model to consider.

"We drafted Tomas [Satoransky] at an earlier age, he went overseas [and] he played at the highest level and it got him ready for the NBA," Grunfeld said.

The difference between now and then is that the Wizards have a G-League franchise starting this fall, the Capital City Go-Go. Because of that, it seemed more likely going into the draft that the Wizards would use the second round pick on a guy who can play there right away. 

Grunfeld, however, opted for roster flexibility. By keeping Sanon in Europe, the Wizards can have another open roster spot. They could either fill that spot, or leave spots on the end of their roster open as they did for much of last season.

"We want to preserve a roster spot, so just because you draft someone in your second round, if you sign him, he still has a roster spot even if you let him play for the GoGo," Grunfeld said.

Sanon may have a bright future. He is a 6-foot-4 point guard with impressive athleticism who doesn't turn 19 until October. He said he models his game after Russell Westbrook, as a guard who can score the ball. More will be known about him once he plays for their summer league team in July.

The Wizards passed on several interesting prospects to pick Sanon. Still on the board were Keita Bates-Diop of Ohio State, Hamidou Diallo of Kentucky and Svi Mykhailiuk of Kansas, three players they brought in for pre-draft workouts. But instead, they went with a long-term investment, hoping they found the next Satoransky.

MORE 2018 NBA DRAFT COVERAGE:

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