Irish excited to test themselves against the best

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Irish excited to test themselves against the best

Notre Dame may be 12-0 and ranked No. 1, but make no mistake: they're major underdogs to Alabama in next month's BCS Championship.

While some players are drawing motivation from that status -- an "us vs. the world" mentality continues to resonate -- others see the BCS Championship as a chance to see where they stand against a team regarded as the best in the country.

"A team from the SEC, a team like Alabama, coached by Nick Saban, those guys will make you better all around," defensive tackle Louis Nix said. "Im just happy we get a chance to play these guys in the National Championship."

His defensive coordinator agreed.

"The fact of the matter is Alabama is king of the hill," Bob Diaco said. "Have you ever played King of the Hill? Did you walk up the hill and knock the guy off? Thats what weve gotta do. Theyre King of the Hill. They set the precedent for defensive football in the country."

Notre Dame's front seven might have the toughest challenge on Jan. 7, going up against an Alabama offensive line loaded with pro prospects. Nix may have the most important matchup, squaring off against All-American center Barrett Jones.

"That gives me an opportunity to better myself and see where I fit at in the country with other nose tackles that went up against him," Nix said.

While Notre Dame's focus is just on this one game, there's plenty the Irish can learn -- win or lose -- from Alabama, in terms of consistency within a program. The Tide will play in their third title game in four years next month, a fact which isn't lost on coach Brian Kelly.

"Alabama has been the benchmark for college football," Kelly explained. "... Were aware of the challenge in front of us. We welcome it. It's one that were putting ourselves in a position to go find out where we need to go from here."

Nikola Mirotic and why the Bulls traded their second-round pick

Nikola Mirotic and why the Bulls traded their second-round pick

The Bulls entered rebuild mode on Thursday night after they dealt Jimmy Butler to the Minnesota Timberwolves. They acquired a pair of guards in Zach LaVine and Kris Dunn, and the No. 7 pick which they used to select Arizona power forward Lauri Markkanen.

But the Bulls opted not to continue adding youth to their roster when they sold their second-round pick, No. 38 overall, to the Golden State Warriors. That pick was Oregon power forward Jordan Bell, who many considered a late first-round prospect.

The move was perplexing for a team that hours earlier had traded away its franchise player to start a youth movement. But VP John Paxson said after the draft that the decision to move the pick was based on team depth, hinting at a significant move the Bulls will make in free agency.

"We had some wings on our board that we had targeted that were the only way we were going to keep that (No. 38) pick, and they went before us. And drafting Lauri (Markkanen), and the fact that we have, Niko’s a restricted free agent we intend to bring back, Bobby Portis, we didn’t want to add another big and that’s really all that was left on our board."

Both Paxson and general manager Gar Forman have said since the season ended that Mirotic, who will become a restricted free agent on July 1, is part of their future plans. The Bulls will be able to match any contract that another team offers Mirotic, and they intend to keep the 26-year-old in Chicago. After Butler's departure, Mirotic is now the longest tenured member of the Bulls. He's been with the team for three seasons.

The wings Paxson may have been referring to include Miami's Devon Reed (32nd overall to Phoenix), Kansas State's Wesley Iwundu (33rd overall to Orlando) or SMU's Semi Ojeleye (Boston, 37th overall). Point guards Juwan Evans (Oklahoma State) and Sterling Brown (SMU) were still on the board and potential options, but the Bulls were set on looking for wing help after receiving point guard Kris Dunn and shooting guard Zach LaVine in the Butler trade.

The Bulls frontcourt depth looks filled, as Cristiano Felicio is expected to return behind Brook Lopez. Mirotic, Portis, Markkanen and Joffrey Lauvergne should make up the power forward depth chart. Opting against using the 38th pick, which Golden State bought for a whopping $3.5 million, also leaves the Bulls with room to add a 13th player in the fall.

"It keeps us at 12 roster spots and gives us real flexibility for our roster," Paxson said. "So we didn’t just want to use up a roster spot on a player that we probably wouldn’t have kept."

How White Sox players managed the 'chaos' of Thursday's record-setting rain delay

How White Sox players managed the 'chaos' of Thursday's record-setting rain delay

MINNEAPOLIS -- Some guys played cards. The soccer ball got kicked around in spite of the close quarters in the visiting clubhouse. There was dancing. A magic trick or two was attempted. A few players even tried to get in a nap.

White Sox players found myriad ways to keep themselves occupied during Thursday’s draining 4-hour, 50-minute rain delay -- the longest in Minnesota Twins history.

Yet despite not knowing what time the game may start, White Sox players found a way to overcome the uncertainty and stay engaged. Similar to May 26 when the first game of a doubleheader against the Detroit Tigers was cancelled, the White Sox figured out how to go from zero to 60 in mere seconds. Though there’s no exact formula for success, the White Sox seem to have figured out a way to endure the elements and get out quickly. On early Thursday evening, the White Sox overcame the rain and misery to jump ahead of the Minnesota Twins en route to a 9-0 victory at Target Field.

“We keep it real loose whether,” veteran third baseman Todd Frazier said. “We have a good time. We enjoy each other’s company. Win lose or draw, tomorrow’s a new day. Today we kept working hard and we knew we had a game to play and eventually we were going to play it. We turned it on at the right moment.”

Jose Quintana saw so much of his iPad that eventually he had to turn it off out of sheer boredom. Thursday’s starting pitcher was almost able to complete two feature-length movies during the rain delay. Quintana, who excelled with nine strikeouts in 6 2/3 scoreless innings, watched ‘Fast and Furious 7’ and ‘Get Out’ on his iPad during the delay.

While he liked the action movie, Quintana wasn’t as fond of the latter, though he admits he’s not a big fan of horror movies.

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“I think it was bad because too much time in front of the iPad,” Quintana said. “It made me bored.

“I just tried to stay relaxed, focused on the game. … Tried to come back and work a little bit. It’s a little hard, but we don’t have control so stay focused on the game.”

Whereas the White Sox determined when they played last month at home -- they cancelled Game 1 of a doubleheader at 1 p.m. and pushed the second game back to 8 p.m. because of rain -- this time was in the Twins’ hands. The forecast called for rain all afternoon before things cleared up around 5 p.m.

While the White Sox were in limbo as to when they would play, they had a pretty good idea that eventually they would.

“It’s miserable,” Frazier said. “You try and find some things to do, play cards, hang out with the guys. If you had a set time it would help. But we came out banging in that first inning. It’s huge.”

White Sox manager Rick Renteria is impressed with how his team has handled both long days. The White Sox also defeated the Tigers 8-2 on May 26th. While Renteria and his coaching staff spent a lot of his time preparing for their upcoming home series against the Oakland A’s, he’s pleased with how his players managed themselves through the uncertainty.  

“They’re the ones who are dealing with the chaos,” Renteria said. “They’re the ones who play the game and who have to have their minds to be ready to go out and perform. They’ve been able to respond well. It’s part of who they are, their character, and hopefully it’s something they continue to be able to do and build on.”