Trades highlight wild first round of NFL draft

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Trades highlight wild first round of NFL draft

From Comcast SportsNet
NEW YORK (AP) -- Once the NFL draft got past quarterbacks Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III, it was like a day on Wall Street -- everybody wanted to make a trade. The wheeling and dealing started even before the Indianapolis Colts opened the proceedings as expected Thursday by taking Luck with the first pick and the Washington Redskins followed by selecting the young man known as RG3. Behind closed doors, general managers around the league were jockeying to position their teams to land the most coveted player on their draft board. When it was over, there were eight trades involving 12 of the league's 32 teams. It all started when Minnesota swapped its No. 3 choice for Cleveland's No. 4 pick. The Browns, who also gave up a fourth, fifth and seventh-rounder, desperately wanted Alabama running back Trent Richardson. The Vikings still got the guy they sought in Southern California tackle Matt Kalil. "Unfortunately, we had to make a little trade to secure the pick," said Browns coach Pat Shurmur, who later added quarterback Brandon Weeden with the No. 22 selection. "We knew as we went through the process that he was our guy and so we did what we had to do to secure it. "We had pretty good knowledge that there were teams behind that wanted him as well, so we gave up a couple of picks to make sure we got him. We're thrilled a bunch about Trent." The move allowed the Vikings to deal for another first-round pick, gaining the No. 29 spot in a trade with Baltimore and choosing Notre Dame safety Harrison Smith. "That trade with Cleveland kind of set the tone for this draft, and us being able to do some things," Vikings GM Rick Spielman said. "That was a huge, huge thing to get done right before the draft started. The Jaguars, Cowboys and Eagles also traded up, and the Patriots did it twice to select players they wanted. Credit the rookie wage scale for so much buying and selling, with GMs making last-minute moves knowing that extravagant salaries for top picks have been replaced by a compensation plan. There were no such concerns for Indianapolis and Washington. Stanford's Luck heads for Indianapolis and the burden of replacing Peyton Manning, who won four MVP awards and a Super Bowl. Baylor's RGIII answers the call in Washington, where he will try to soothe a devout but highly critical fan base. "You don't really replace a guy like that," Luck said. "You can't. You just try to do the best you can. He was my hero growing up." His selection as the top pick was hardly a stunner. The Colts informed Luck last week that Commissioner Roger Goodell would announce his name first. "I realize you could go crazy trying to measure yourself to Peyton Manning every day. That would be an insane way to live," Luck said. "I know his legendary status, really. Huge shoes to try and fill if you're trying to do that. ... If one day I can be mentioned alongside Peyton as one of the football greats, that would be a football dream come true." To get Griffin, Washington had dealt a second-round pick this year and its first-rounders in 2013 and 14 to St. Louis to move up four spots. They wound up with the QB that beat Luck for the Heisman Trophy for college football's best player. RG3 sang the team's fight song during a conference call: "Hail to the Redskins! Hail vic-tor-y!" Griffin said. "That's how I felt. It felt that good." After Minnesota took Kalil, Jacksonville jumped up two spots to No. 5, trading with Florida neighbor Tampa Bay to get Oklahoma State's Justin Blackmon, the top receiver in this crop.

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After getting another signature win at Maryland, does any Big Ten team have two better conference wins than Minnesota?

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USA TODAY

After getting another signature win at Maryland, does any Big Ten team have two better conference wins than Minnesota?

Does any Big Ten team have two better conference wins than Minnesota?

The Golden Gophers went on the road and defeated a ranked group of Maryland Terrapins on Wednesday night, and they did so in impressive fashion, scoring an 89-75 victory in College Park.

Team this win with the win at Purdue back on New Year's Day, and there's no better pair of league victories to be found.

More importantly though, the Gophers, at 9-6, are now the No. 4 team in the Big Ten standings.

It's all a part of a quality NCAA tournament resume for the Gophers, who are closer to lock status after Wednesday's win than they are to being on any sort of bubble. With mediocrity running rampant through the Big Ten this season, Richard Pitino's 21-win squad should be well on its way to an appearance in next month's Madness, which would be the program's first since he took over as head coach.

The resume looks pretty strong at this point, especially after Wednesday. Minnesota can now claim wins over Purdue, Maryland and Northwestern — all three of those conference victories coming on the road. In the non-conference portion of the schedule, the Gophers beat Arkansas, the Razorbacks seemingly heading to the tournament themselves. The only loss from the non-conference portion came on the road at Florida State, one of the highest-ranked teams in the country.

So it's safe to say Minnesota will go dancing.

Wednesday's 14-point beatdown of the Terps saw the Gophers shoot 50 percent from the field on the night and 54.5 percent from the field in the second half. Five players scored in double figures: Dupree McBrayer with 18, Nate Mason with 17, Akeem Springs with 16, Jordan Murphy with 15 and Amir Coffey with 13. Minnesota didn't win the rebounding battle but scored 15 points off 10 Maryland turnovers and marched to the free-throw line, going 17-for-20 from the charity stripe while Maryland was just 8-for-13 there.

The second half was a rout, the Gophers outscoring the Terps 55-40 over the final 20 minutes and rattling off two separate 9-0 runs to burst away from the No. 24 team in the country.

The overtime win at Purdue on the first day of 2017 might go down as a bigger win considering the Boilermakers are closing in on the No. 1 seed in the Big Ten Tournament. That win, too, came by an impressive-enough margin, 91-82. But Minnesota dominated Maryland over the final nine minutes or so and turned in a double-digit victory on the road against a team that lost to that same Purdue team on that same court by just a point two and a half weeks ago.

The Gophers are now on a six-game winning streak and are piling up wins in a fashion that's making them look like one of the Big Ten's finest. A 3-1 start to conference play that extended its overall record to 15-2 was dampened by Minnesota's five-game losing streak that featured losses to higher-echelon teams like Michigan State, Wisconsin and Maryland, plus road losses at Penn State and Ohio State. But since have come six straight wins. While the caliber of opponent hadn't been terribly impressive until Wednesday, the Gophers can now boast nine conference wins. Only three teams have more.

It's now worth watching how high Minnesota can climb in the Big Ten standings before the conference tournament just two weeks from now. If the season ended today, the Gophers would already be in possession of one of those highly coveted two-day byes. But Minnesota is just a game back of Maryland and just two games back of Wisconsin, who the Gophers play in the regular-season finale.

Like Pitino told his team after Wednesday's win: "No more talk about (just making) the NCAA tournament. We're talking about seeds in the NCAA tournament."