Which teams could help Notre Dame's championship chances?

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Which teams could help Notre Dame's championship chances?

Notre Dame's win over Oklahoma on Saturday vaulted the Irish to No. 3 in the BCS standings, narrowly beating out Oregon for that spot. Alabama and Kansas State are ahead of Notre Dame, and Oregon could leapfrog Notre Dame by staying undefeated against a fairly difficult schedule to close out the year.

Even if Notre Dame goes on the road and beats USC, they'll need help to reach the BCS championship game. Here's how the three others teams vying for a title game berth's schedules stack up, along with which teams could aid Notre Dame's chances:

No. 1 Alabama: @ LSU, vs. Texas A&M, vs. Western Carolina, vs. Auburn
Who could help Notre Dame: LSU, SEC East champion

Alabama's big test comes this weekend in Baton Rouge against an LSU team that's won close games against South Carolina and Texas A&M in the last three weeks. If LSU deals Alabama a loss, it would likely keep the Tide out of the SEC championship game -- although it could create a headache if LSU wins the SEC, as there would be a legitimate argument to be made that a one-loss LSU is better than an undefeated Notre Dame, K-State or Oregon.

The same thing can be said for Alabama if Nick Saban wins on Saturday but loses to Georgia in the SEC championship -- but chances are, the BCS would favor an undefeated team over a one-loss team, no matter how strong the conference.

Outside of LSU, a solid Texas A&M team probably won't challenge Alabama, and Western Carolina and Auburn might as well be on the same level at this point. Don't expect an Iron Bowl rally in what probably will be Gene Chizik's final game on the Auburn sidelines.

No. 2 Kansas State: vs. Oklahoma State, @TCU, @ Baylor, vs. Texas
Who could help: TCU, Baylor

While OSU and Texas are both ranked -- unlike TCU and Baylor -- OSU has struggled on the road (21-point loss to Arizona, six-point win over Kansas), while Texas hardly has looked like a top-25 team this year.

But weird things happen the road -- just ask Oklahoma State about its trip to Ames last year -- and TCU has a decent enough defense to cause some problems if they're amped up for their biggest game of the year. Baylor's offense, too, has the potential to put up 50 points on any given Saturday in Waco.

K-State, however, has already gone on the road to beat Oklahoma and West Virginia, and the fundamentally-sound Wildcats aren't prone to the kind of mistakes that usually cost teams away from home.

No. 4 Oregon: @ USC, @ California, vs. Stanford, @ Oregon State
Who could help: USC, Stanford, Oregon State, Pac-12 South champion

Oregon has the most to gain and lose in next month, with four key games awaiting looming. If they win all four, they could very well jump into the BCS title game, but a loss would doom the Ducks' chances.

Trips to USC and Oregon State look a little less daunting after both teams lost this past weekend, and drawing a physical Stanford team at home could give Oregon the edge. Oregon could get USC or Arizona in the Pac-12 title game, although that game would almost certainly be played in Eugene -- where the Ducks have only lost once under Chip Kelly.

Notre Dame will probably need two of these three teams to lose to slide into the national championship picture. There's still plenty of time for attrition, though, so expect plenty of scoreboard watching to fill your Saturdays from here on out.

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After loss to Mavs, Wade says Bulls 'keep putting (their) hand on the hot stove every day'

After loss to Mavs, Wade says Bulls 'keep putting (their) hand on the hot stove every day'

Dwyane Wade sounded every bit like a frustrated 35-year old father when talking about the repeated ills and so-called growing pains of his Bulls, as they surrendered yet another game against a sub-.500 team.

Sometimes it's the New York Knicks whom the Bulls are offering temporary refuge. Or maybe the Minnesota Timberwolves as they are all-too-generous to roll out the welcome mat for returning figures to Chicago.

Tuesday it was the Dallas Mavericks, the second-worst team in the Western Conference, who stormed into the United Center and escaped with a 99-98 win, courtesy of Wesley Matthews' triple with 11.7 seconds left followed by him locking down Jimmy Butler on the ensuing possession.

Wade was forced to take a contested 21-footer that went awry, but the Bulls' ills went far beyond the last two possessions, when the Mavericks exploited their strategy yet again.

"Either you learn the lesson or figure out," Wade said. "Keep putting your hand on the hot stove every day.

"We just gotta figure out not to put our hands on that stove. And understand when we come in the kitchen, that stove is hot, don't touch it. As I continue to say, this is a very young team and they have to play in these games and have to go through these moments. The one thing you want, whether it's this year or next year, is to not make the same mistakes."

The Bulls are apparently insistent on touching the stove and keep burning themselves, the most recent time with the confusion or the bad strategy in defending the Mavericks' final offensive possession.

Deron Williams found himself with Nikola Mirotic defending him off a switch from Jimmy Butler. Not the quickest afoot, Mirotic gave Williams an easy path to the basket and Wade was the backside help, not wanting to leave Matthews on the wing for a triple.

But with the bench commanding Wade to help, Williams easily found Matthews for an open 3 as Wade had no help for his man. With the Bulls up two, one could see how Wade didn't want to leave Matthews.

"I'll have to go back and watch, but it looks like Deron got downcourt, Wade went over to help and we didn’t rotate accordingly," Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. "We obviously need to do a better job of staying in front of the other end."

Mirotic was supposed to be brought back slowly in his return from strep throat, but he played the entire fourth quarter and 22 minutes overall, having lost eight pounds with his illness that had him miss four games.

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Their issues were game-long and have been seasonlong as the Mavericks were supposed to absorb a shellacking from a Bulls team that felt a 25-point beatdown in Texas last month.

Instead, they would've been happy with settling for an escape when Butler rose up over his college teammate Matthews for a 20-foot wing jumper with 22.8 seconds left.

Butler nearly added a triple-double and clutch moment to his growing resume with 24 points, 12 assists and nine rebounds but was dogged by Matthews all night, the defender who wouldn't give him airspace, went chest-to-chest and even earned a technical foul when he felt Butler exaggerated some contact in the third quarter.

"He took away my space, wouldn't let me get to my spot," Butler said of Matthews. "Good for him. I should've did something different."

Wade missed 13 of his 21 shots, scoring 17 with five rebounds on his 35th birthday

With scoring at a premium, Robin Lopez had a season-high 21 points being guarded by Dirk Nowitzki — and they were necessary considering the Bulls were without Taj Gibson (ankle injury) and Doug McDermott couldn't repeat his 30-point showing from Sunday in Memphis.

Rick Carlisle has long been regarded as one of the top strategic coaches, and though he doesn't have the usual personnel from the Mavericks' salad days, he had enough tricks up his sleeve to throw the Bulls off.

Six Mavericks scored in double figures, led by Harrison Barnes' 20 points and Seth Curry's 18, as Barnes, Matthews and Curry combined for eight triples — spreading the Bulls out and picking them apart defensively.

The Mavericks started Nowitzki at center, going to an almost all-small lineup. And though Lopez scored 14 points in the first half, trying to feed him seemed to take the Bulls out of it in the second half.

The energy was tardy to the party, as they shot just 41 percent in the first half but woke up a little in the third quarter — continuing their all-too familiar trend of half-hearted efforts against lesser teams.

And it looks like the ever-optimistic Wade is dishing out some realism, probably something that comes with the perspective of turning 35.

"You can't keep getting stressed out or frustrated. We've been going through this all year. We'll get back in in the morning.

"Once you realize who you are, you're better off. I sleep better at night. Once we want to be a better team and start winning games, we will. I'm not mad, I'm not frustrated, I'm not stressed. Just taking the hits."