Capitals

Vanderbilt, NC State to meet in Music City Bowl

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Vanderbilt, NC State to meet in Music City Bowl

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) Vanderbilt will only have to travel a few miles from campus for its bowl game, and the Southeastern Conference program that finally needs a second hand to count its postseason games couldn't be happier.

The Commodores (8-4) will face North Carolina State (7-5) in the Music City Bowl on Dec. 31 at LP Field in a game matching a coach who just signed a contract extension against an interim coach from the Atlantic Coast Conference. This also will be the Commodores' third straight bowl inside the state of Tennessee and second Music City Bowl game since 2008.

``We just love the opportunity to play in the postseason,'' Vanderbilt quarterback Jordan Rodgers said.

``That's something we don't take for granted around here at Vanderbilt. It's something we're going to be doing a lot more in the future,'' Rodgers said. ``But this is a great opportunity to play a different conference, to play on New Year's Eve. It's going to be a day game I believe so we'll have New Year's Eve to hang out with all our fans here in Nashville.''

This will be just the sixth bowl game for Vanderbilt, and coach James Franklin had his new contract announced earlier Sunday night for taking the Commodores to consecutive bowl games for the first time in school history. They bring a six-game winning streak into this bowl sponsored by Franklin American Mortgage.

Franklin calls this bowl a great opportunity to stake their claim as Nashville's team.

``The numbers I threw out of being able to sell 55,000 or so tickets to this game I truly believe we can do that,'' Franklin said. ``I don't believe that's a reach. I believe that's a realistic thing we can do and make this the best Music City Bowl that's been played here. I'm excited about it. I think it makes a lot of sense in a lot of different ways, and we're proud to represent the SEC in the Music City Bowl.''

North Carolina State offensive coordinator Dana Bible will serve as the Wolfpack's interim head coach in place of Tom O'Brien, who was fired last weekend. The Wolfpack introduced new coach Dave Doeren at a news conference Sunday, but Bible will be in charge of the team for the bowl.

The Wolfpack will be playing in its 27th postseason game and are one of only 12 teams to win back-to-back bowls.

``Nashville is a unique city with a tradition all its own,'' N.C. State athletic director Debbie Yow said in a statement. ``The Wolfpack will enjoy becoming familiar with it and appreciate its charm.''

The Commodores beat Boston College 16-14 in 2008, their first bowl win in 53 wins. Linebacker Archibald Barnes, a fifth-year senior, was a redshirt that year. He couldn't stop smiling looking over a room that had been filled with Vandy fans while school officials stayed busy selling T-shirts and taking ticket orders.

``The seniors who were here for the last Music City Bowl, we're excited,'' Barnes said. ``We get to end where we started. It's kind of like a legacy, like we did the older guys proud by being able to get back to the Music City Bowl. We're honored to play in Nashville. We love it here, and that's why we're here.''

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How does Capitals' Evgeny Kuznetsov get ready for a Game 7? He watches TV

How does Capitals' Evgeny Kuznetsov get ready for a Game 7? He watches TV

Everyone remembers Evgeny Kuznetsov's series-clinching overtime goal against the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2018. That goal now overshadows another series-clinching goal Kuznetsov had in 2015. In Game 7 against the New York Islanders, Kuznetsov scored what would prove to be the winning goal to break up a 1-1 tie. Clearly he knows how to get ready for a big game. His secret? Television.

Kuznetsov appeared on NBC Sports Washington's Capitals Greatest Hits show on Monday to talk about his 2015 performance and the topic of the locker room came up. Both teams went into that game knowing their season was on the line and Kuznetsov was asked if the feeling was any different in the locker room before the game, a question he did not know exactly how to answer.

"I'm never in the locker room," Kuznetsov said. "I'm always by the TV watching TV shows."

Yes, when Kuznetsov arrives at the arena, he apparently likes to watch TV before the game and said he is not in the locker room until only about 30 minutes before warmups. He enjoys watching soccer, but also likes a good movie.

"It's usually soccer games," Kuznetsov said. "If it's not the soccer game, it's whatever the movie's going."

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He went on to say he was thankful for the team subscribing to whatever channel it was that he watches movies on.

If this seems odd to you, there is a method to the madness.

"Usually it's movie because that way I'm not thinking about hockey," Kuznetsov said. "I like to be loose before games."

Hey, if that's what he was doing before Game 7 in 2015 and before Game 6 in 2018, it's hard to argue against it.

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Where does a healthy John Wall rank among NBA's top 10 point guards?

Where does a healthy John Wall rank among NBA's top 10 point guards?

John Wall last played in an NBA game on December 26, 2018. He's expected to come back at the beginning of the 2020-21 season, and once he makes his long-awaited return to the Wizards' starting lineup, he'll find himself in a much different point guard landscape than the one he left. 

The position has changed, traditional point guards are mostly a thing of the past. NBA offenses are either run through multiple ball-handlers who can score and facilitate, or they're one-man shows centered around highly skilled individuals such as James Harden and Luka Doncic. 

Wall has consistently been one of the best in the league at his position, but after missing a year to an Achilles injury, it's hard to forecast where his game will be come next season. With that in mind, let's take a look at the top 10 point guards in the game (all presumed healthy), and see where Wall falls on the list. 

1. James Harden
2. Luka Doncic
3. Damian Lillard
4. Steph Curry
5. Chris Paul
6. Kyrie Irving
7. John Wall
8. Russell Westbrook
9. Kemba Walker
10. Kyle Lowry

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Wall has the talent to be in the top three of this list for sure, though it's difficult to put him anywhere but No. 7 right now. He's probably a tier above Walker and Lowry, while Wall and Westbrook are more comparable players. 

Irving, Curry and Lillard are too good and have been consistently great enough to where you can't put them below Wall, while Paul might be a great inspiration for players like Wall. Paul keeps getting older and keeps getting hurt but he's still so, so good. 

Then you have the two walking offensive systems in Doncic and Harden. Their production and what they do for their teams as primary ball-handlers is mostly unmatched across the eight players listed below them. 

Wall could rise all the way to the top of this list if he plays to his full abilities. The speed, perimeter defense, passing and dribble penetration made him an All-NBA level player. If Wall can improve his accuracy from beyond the arc, take more threes and fewer mid-range jumpers, I don't see why he can't see an uptick in efficiency even if his athleticism isn't what it used to be.

It's not a reach to say the Wizards' contention hopes depend heavily on whether Wall plays back to All-Star form or not. An Achilles injury is incredibly challenging to bounce back from, especially for a player like Wall whose game has had so much to do with speed and explosion in the past. 

The good news is he's had a chance to digest the game from a different perspective and time to fine-tune his jumper, while his Wizards teammates, especially Bradley Beal, are better than when he last suited up. 

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