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Harvard cheating scandal opens Ivy basketball race

Harvard cheating scandal opens Ivy basketball race

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (AP) Harvard was stocked up and ready to make a run at its third consecutive Ivy League title. Then came a cheating scandal that cost the Crimson two of its top seniors and, probably, their chances at an NCAA tournament berth.

Co-captains Kyle Casey and Brandyn Curry have been scratched from the roster in the wake of a school-wide investigation into whether as many as 125 students shared answers or plagiarized on a take-home, open-book final exam in a single course. Although potential punishments could range from an admonishment to a year away from school, the two seniors reportedly withdrew from school rather than endanger their final season of eligibility.

Now the two-time defending Ivy champions - Harvard shared the title with Princeton in 2011 - have come back to the pack and restored Princeton to its usual spot as a favorite to earn the conference's automatic NCAA berth.

``With the nature of college sports, you're going to have instability,'' Harvard coach Tommy Amaker said in a conference call with reporters. ``You learn to adjust, and that's what we're doing. And those things can bring out magical moments or interesting times, or growth moments. And those are the things we have our sights set on, to think of it in that regard: as an opportunity.''

So far, Harvard's roster shuffle is mostly an opportunity for Princeton: In a poll of Ivy League media, the Tigers were installed as the preseason favorite to win to win their 27th conference title. Princeton was ranked first on 16 of 17 ballots in the poll taken in October, after the Harvard players had withdrawn.

``I don't enjoy seeing it, and I don't think anyone does,'' Princeton coach Mitch Henderson said. ``Despite losing some important pieces, Harvard's still going to be very good. Things remain the same here: The expectations are fairly high, and we're excited to get going.''

Princeton is led by preseason player of the year pick Ian Hummer, who had 16.1 points and 7.3 rebounds per game last year, when the Tigers finished third to Harvard and Penn. Forward Mack Darrow and center Brendan Connolly will provide Princeton with an experienced frontcourt.

The Tigers tied Harvard atop the conference in 2011 - Harvard's first-ever Ivy title - but Princeton earned the automatic berth for the NCAA tournament in a one-game tiebreaker. Last season, the Crimson broke into The Associated Press Top 25 for the first time ever and won the championship outright to make the tournament for the first time since 1946; they lost to Vanderbilt in their opening game.

With Curry and Casey expected to return, along with junior guard Laurent Rivard, Harvard was the favorite to return to the NCAAs. But the investigation forced Amaker to shuffle his lineups just a couple of months before the season opener.

``This is what this time of year is about: seeing the younger kids come in, and seeing if they can adjust and adapt, the capacity that they have for learning,'' Amaker said. ``We're hopeful that everybody we have will be able to contribute, and certainly with our team this year we may look to different lineups and different combinations that will include younger players.''

Harvard was picked second in the preseason poll, receiving the other first-place vote.

``It's hard for anyone to overcome losing two seniors,'' said Columbia coach Kyle Smith, whose team was third in the poll a year after finishing sixth in the eight-team conference. ``I think people know there's a lot of talent in a lot of these programs. The league will be good, obviously. It wasn't easy for them to dominate the league last year - and they didn't: It came down to the last weekend.''

Columbia broke into the top half of the preseason poll for just the fourth time in school history. The Lions are followed by Cornell, Penn, Yale, Brown and Dartmouth.

Cornell returns 10 of its top 12 scorers from a year ago, including reigning Ivy League rookie of the year Shonn Miller, a sophomore guard. Penn is hoping junior Miles Cartwright can help fill in for the loss of Zack Rosen, who averaged 18 points and 5.2 assists for the Quakers last year.

``I'm not asking Miles to step up and be Zack; I'm asking Miles to step up and be Miles Cartwright,'' Penn coach Jerome Allen said. ``I'm not going to allow (him), and he doesn't allow himself, to be caught up in trying to be someone else.''

Amaker stressed that the Harvard team that made it to the NCAA tournament last year was ``a number of years in the making'' - a result of a system he installed that began to emerge with the development of NBA star Jeremy Lin and led to the school's co-Ivy championship in 2011.

He isn't going to change things just because he lost two key players.

``We believe in our system, our philosophy and our approach,'' Amaker said.

``When you think of moments of exceptional growth or surprises, those are neat stories. We've been a part of some really, really neat stories before, and maybe this is another one that's in our favor.''

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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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