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Krzyzewski looks to put the 'D' back in No. 8 Duke

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Krzyzewski looks to put the 'D' back in No. 8 Duke

DURHAM, N.C. (AP) Mike Krzyzewski wants his latest Duke team to resemble some of its predecessors.

He wants the eighth-ranked Blue Devils to play aggressive defense. He wants toughness, togetherness and passion at that end of the floor.

Some of that was missing last year when their opponents had the ball - and among other things, that inability to consistently stop people helped lead to one of the biggest upsets in NCAA tournament history.

So, at the dawn of his 33rd season at Duke- where, through the years, key defensive series were heralded with an emphatic slap of the floor - the former Army captain with the dedication to tough, man-to-man defense wants his players to regain that edge.

``The history of our program has been based on really sound, good defense, and team defense. I don't think we had that'' last season, Krzyzewski said. ``I think we beat teams offensively last year, and when you don't have the defense, you lose out on certain toughness and togetherness that's only found, really, by doing stuff on the defensive end of the court.''

No question, the Blue Devils flopped at the end of last season by losing three of their final four. None was more surprising than the 75-70 loss to 15th-seeded Lehigh in their NCAA tournament opener in which C.J. McCollum regularly dissected them to the point where he made himself a preseason AP All-America pick at their expense.

``Last year, that wasn't my moment. That's not what I want to be remembered for,'' big man Mason Plumlee said, explaining his decision to return for his senior year. ``I wanted another moment here at Duke, another moment with (Krzyzewski), my teammates, and a better one.''

The Blue Devils have two other seniors in the rotation - forward Ryan Kelly and guard Seth Curry - but this team probably will rise and fall depending on how Plumlee performs.

``It's his time to be the key guy,'' Krzyzewski said. ``Ryan and Seth are also key guys, but Mason is the key guy. I love when a guy wants that. He owns it.''

The return of Plumlee, who averaged 11 points and a team-best nine rebounds last season, meant the Blue Devils only had to deal with two player losses - older brother Miles Plumlee graduated, and Austin Rivers became Duke's second straight guard to go one-and-done.

If there is to be a third, it'll have to be Rasheed Sulaimon - because he's the only freshman guard on the roster. The 6-foot-4 scorer, who joins Amile Jefferson as 2012 McDonald's All-Americans on the team, averaged 27 points as a high school senior.

``We have a lot of guys on our team that can shoot,'' Sulaimon said. ``All the guys really can shoot on the perimeter. But that's what's going to make our team special this year, is that we not only have guys who can shoot but we have guys who can create off the dribble as well.''

The Blue Devils also are looking for 6-8 redshirt freshman Alex Murphy to fill the same role that Kyle Singler perfected from 2007-11 - drawing the opponent's big men away from the basket by knocking down 3-pointers over them - and hope the 6-11 Kelly can continue to develop his inside-out game. He missed the postseason last year with a sprained right foot, and his absence was clearly felt.

``For a guy my size, I can shoot the ball pretty well, but I haven't completely shown my ability to score around the bucket with my back to the basket,'' Kelly said. ``With Mason being such a great passer - he can play really inside and out, too - that dynamic will be really important for our team and something we're going to have to take advantage of.''

That across-the-board size makes the Blue Devils a tough team to match up against on offense. They hope it makes them tougher to score against, too.

``I think we're going to be better defensively,'' Krzyzewski said. ``We're not going to be a pressing team, but I think in the half court, if we can limit second shots, keep people out of the paint and not give up open 3s - with our length, we should be able to get to people and kind of bother their shots. We want to be an outstanding half-court defensive team.''

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3 reasons why the Caps lost to the Penguins in Game 1

3 reasons why the Caps lost to the Penguins in Game 1

If you had to boil down the playoff history of the Washinton Capitals and the Pittsburgh Penguins into one game, Game 1 certainly seemed to fit the bill. The Capitals had their chances, they got good performances from star players and all of it came to naught as they were once again foiled by the Penguins in a 3-2 loss.

Here's Washington let this game slip away.

Missed chances

The Caps were buzzing in the first period. Already up 1-0, Dmitry Orlov and Alex Ovechkin had an opportunity to add a second goal early on a 2-on-1. Orlov faked the shot then passed to Ovechkin who had a wide open net to shoot at…but he missed. Ovechkin doesn’t miss too many of those shots. Despite how good the Caps looked in the first period, they got only six pucks through to goalie Matt Murray and took only a 1-0 lead into the dressing room. In the second period, Devante Smith-Pelly was denied an empty net rebound by Murray (more on that later). We all knew the push was coming. We’ve seen this all play out before. Simply put, Washington did not convert on its opportunities when they had control of the game. A two-goal cushion was not enough to take the wind out of Pittsburgh's sails nor was it enough to survive the three-goal flurry that was to come.

A five-minute snowball in the third period

When the push finally came, it came fast. In a stretch that lasted for less than five minutes, Pittsburgh scored three times to turn a 2-0 Caps lead into a 3-2 deficit. Patrick Hornqvist deflected in a shot from Justin Schultz at 2:59, Sidney Crosby netted a pass from Jake Guentzel at 5:20 and Guentzel got a deflection goal of his own at 7:48. That is a span of 4:49. Pittsburgh’s momentum snowballed into three quick goals which carried them to the win. Braden Holtby was brilliant for 55:11, but those 4:49 were enough to doom the Caps.

Matt Murray

As good as Holtby was, Murray was better. Despite allowing a goal just 17 seconds in, he recovered very well in what was a 32-save performance. You can put some of this game on Washington’s inability to convert on its chances, but you also have to give credit to the Penguins’ netminder as well who came up with some big-time saves to keep his team in it. The biggest was in the second period when he extended the arm and blocked what looked like an easy goal for Smith-Pelly with the glove of his blocker. As hard as it was to beat Murray when the Caps were ahead, he was unbeatable when his team finally gave him a lead to work with.

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The Redskins fill a need with Da'Ron Payne as their first-round pick

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The Redskins fill a need with Da'Ron Payne as their first-round pick

The Redskins went into the draft with everyone talking about their need to upgrade their defensive line. And despite the presence of two other intriguing defenders on the board, they went with the big guy. 

Da’Ron Payne, a defensive lineman from Alabama, was the name that Roger Goodell read off of the card when the Redskins’ turn came up with the 13thoverall pick in the draft. 

Here is our analysis of Payne from an earlier NBC Sports Washington post about him:

Stuff the run in the middle of the line? Check. Get outside to stop stretch plays? Check. Get after the passer? Check. Yes, Alabama defensive tackle Da’Ron Payne checks all the boxes the Redskins are looking for on the D-line.

He can be the immovable object, taking on double and triple teams, and he also can chase down the quarterback. At 311 pounds he could be the Redskins’ nose tackle in base and move outside in nickel.

At 6-2, 311, the Redskins likely will use Payne in the middle of the line as their nose tackle in their base defense. Defensive line coach Jim Tomsula will work with him to improve his pass rushing ability. 

Payne has been talked of as the Redskins pick since early in the draft process. As the draft unfolded, it turned out that there were two defenders, safety Derwin James and linebacker Tremaine Edmunds, who most analysts had rated considerably above Payne, still on the board. As it turns out, the Redskins apparently made the need pick and went with Payne. 

The Redskins draft an Alabama defensive lineman for the second straight year. Last year they took Crimson Tide defensive tackle Jonathan Allen with the 17th pick in the draft. 

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