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Duke moves to No. 1 in AP poll after Indiana loss

Duke moves to No. 1 in AP poll after Indiana loss

Duke is back in a familiar place - No. 1.

The Blue Devils advanced one spot to replace Indiana at the top of The Associated Press' Top 25 on Monday, drawing closer to UCLA's record for most No. 1 rankings.

Duke has reached No. 1 at least once in a record 16 seasons under coach Mike Krzyzewski, and has played more games as the No. 1 ranked team in 33 years under Coach K (209) than as an unranked team (141).

No team in the country has the resume that the Blue Devils do: They own three wins over teams ranked in the top five at the time - then-No. 3 Kentucky, then-No. 2 Louisville and then-No. 4 Ohio State, all in a span of 16 days.

``We're proud of it. I think it's a lot different than a preseason ranking,'' forward Mason Plumlee said. ``We feel like we've earned it, not like we've been given anything. (But) if we don't get any better during the season, we're not going to be No. 1 at the end of the season.''

Indiana (9-1) held the top spot from the preseason poll through the first five weeks of the season. Butler beat the Hoosiers 88-86 in overtime Saturday.

The Blue Devils (9-0), whose only game in the past 2 1/2 weeks was a victory over Temple on Dec. 8, received 62 first-place votes from the 65-member national media panel.

They will debut their latest No. 1 ranking at home Wednesday night against Cornell.

``I don't anticipate us being rusty - if anything, we might be a little overanxious to play,'' Plumlee said. ``This team loves to play, so when we don't get a game in a week or so, you can get a little anxious.''

It is the 123rd week Duke has been ranked No. 1, 11 weeks behind UCLA. All but 31 weeks of Duke's stay on top have come since the 1991-92 season. The Blue Devils' last time at No. 1 was an 11-week run in 2010-11.

``We even know when we watch film on a team that they'll be a different team against us because that's almost always the case,'' Plumlee said. ``They'll shoot a little better, play a little better and maybe the No. 1 ranking adds to that. We consistently get teams' best (effort).''

Michigan (11-0), which received the other No. 1 votes, and Syracuse moved up one place each to second and third. They were followed in the top 10 by Arizona, Louisville, Indiana, Ohio State, Florida, Kansas and Illinois.

Butler (8-2), which beat then-No. 9 North Carolina last month in the EA Sports Maui Invitational, moved into the poll at No. 19. This is the Bulldogs' first appearance in the rankings since the first week of 2010-11.

Wichita State (9-1) dropped out from 23rd after losing 69-60 at Tennessee. The Shockers spent two weeks in the rankings.

North Carolina, with 107 weeks, is the only other school ranked No. 1 for at least 100 polls.

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With Burakovsky out, is Chandler Stephenson the next man up?

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USA TODAY Sports

With Burakovsky out, is Chandler Stephenson the next man up?

With Andre Burakovsky out for the remainder of the first round at least, someone will have to replace him in the top six. Originally, it looked like Jakub Vrana was the man for the job. Based on Game 4, however, it now looks like Chandler Stephenson is the "next man up" for the Caps.

While Vrana may have top-six skill and a high ceiling, it was Stephenson who stepped into the second-line role on Thursday playing alongside Nicklas Backstrom and T.J. Oshie. Stephenson finished with two shots on goal in 17:28 of ice time. Vrana, meanwhile, played for only 6:40.

On Friday, Barry Trotz praised Stephenson's hockey IQ for allowing him to adjust to the top-six in a complementary role.

"[Stephenson's] an intelligent player," Trotz said. "He played with [Backstrom] a lot [Thursday]. If you talk with the real top-end guys, he has the ability to think like a top-end guy in terms of play with them. He’s a very intelligent player. He skates extremely well. He’s got some strength to his game. He can complement people. I think his ability to play those different roles and his hockey IQ when you play with those skill guys, he plays more of a give-and-go game than an individual game. When you play with those high skill guys, you’re able to compliment them very well."

Stephenson has spent the majority of the season on the fourth line. He was drafted as a natural center, but has played primarily wing since coming to the NHL. The ability to play both positions gives Stephenson more versatility than most forwards which Trotz credits for helping him see the game so well.

"The great thing about Chandler is he’s played multiple positions over the years. I think it’s allowed him to play a fourth-line role and with high-skill guys. At center-ice, you distribute the puck a little more.  He’s turning into a well-rounded player for us."

On the surface, having Stephenson on the fourth line over Vrana makes little sense. Vrana is highly skilled and has great speed, but he is also prone to giving up turnovers and his production can be inconsistent. Trotz has clearly put a premium on responsible play this postseason which gives Stephenson the edge.

But Game 4 was only one game. If you are going to get top-six minutes, Stephenson will be expected to produce offensively as well. Despite the limited ice time he has gotten, Vrana has shown he can have a major impact on games. In Game 1, he set up the team's only 5-on-5 goal and drew a penalty. In Game 3, he drew two penalties in less than two minutes, giving Washington a two-man advantage.

Stephenson had a fantastic game in Game 4 when he was given the chance to play in the top-six. The next step will be finding a way to have a bigger impact on the game.

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Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—All-Redskins mock, fast-fading interest in Dez

Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—All-Redskins mock, fast-fading interest in Dez

Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, April 21, five days before the 2018 NFL draft.  

The Redskins week that was

A look at some of the most popular posts and hottest topics of the week on Real Redskins and NBC Sports Washington

Should the Redskins pursue Dez Bryant? This topic was one like a meteor, very hot for a short period of time before it quickly faded out. It started to heat up as soon as the Cowboys cut Dez (about a month too late) and when it was reported that he wanted to play against Dallas twice a year it really picked up steam. But then people started to actually think and figured out that signing Bryant didn’t make much sense for the Redskins. Add to that the reports that the Redskins had no interest and would not look into signing Dez in the future and the Redskins fans quickly lost enthusiasm for the topic.

Seven-round Redskins mock draft—I think that most Redskins fans would be happy with this mock. Well, I’ll say some Redskins fans, most is a pretty strong word in this case. 

Is the draft pool deep enough for the Redskins to trade back? There is plenty of talk about the Redskins trading down in the first round to recoup the third-round pick they gave up in the Alex Smith trade. But they need to be careful. Many consider the draft to be top heavy and they may lose their chance to pick up an impact player if they trade back too far. The question then becomes one of quality vs. quantity. 

Three questions as offseason workouts get underway—There will be plenty more questions that we can ask about this team. But we don’t really know what to ask before the draft, particularly when it comes to the defensive line and running back. One the personnel settle into place we will know what we don’t know. 

Tweet of the week

On Chris Cooley’s thought that the Redskins might try to trade back and get Da’Ron Payne in the draft and the use the assets obtained to move up to get Derrius Guice. 

This is related to the questions about trading back. On paper it looks like a good idea, assuming the Redskins want Payne. We’re pretty sure they would like to have Guice but we haven’t heard as much about the Alabama defensive lineman. 

I had many reply that Guice won’t be there in the second round. It’s possible, perhaps even likely, but you just don’t know. There was zero chance that Jonathan Allen would be there at No. 17 last year, right? 

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, Facebook.com/TandlerNBCS and follow him on Twitter  @TandlerNBCS.

Timeline  

Days until:

—OTAs start (5/22) 31
—Training camp starts (7/26) 96
—2018 NFL season starts (9/9) 141

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