Minus coach, Saint Louis has high expectations

Minus coach, Saint Louis has high expectations

ST. LOUIS (AP) Saint Louis has four starters back from a team that went 26-8, ended a 12-year NCAA tournament drought and is picked to finish second in the Atlantic 10.

There's one major void that'll be hard to fill.

The Billikens begin their bid for follow-up success Friday night in the opener against South Carolina-Upstate without the man who rebuilt the program. Interim coach Jim Crews will be guiding them instead of Rick Majerus, who took a leave of absence in August for health reasons and has not been in contact with the program.

``Were we surprised? Absolutely,'' Crews said Thursday. ``Were we shocked? I'm not sure anyone was shocked, because Rick has had health problems for a long time and he's been very open about it.

``You connect the dots sometimes.''

Crews' biggest early challenge will be filling in for his top returning starter and center. Point guard Kwamain Mitchell is out until probably January with a broken left foot, and starting center Cory Remekun is expected to miss a few weeks with a knee strain sustained in practice on Wednesday.

Mitchell averaged 12 points and led the team in assists and steals.

The 58-year-old Crews played on the undefeated Indiana national championship team in 1976 and has 24 years of head coaching experience at Evansville and Army. He had done some TV work since getting fired at West Point in 2009, and joined Majerus' staff last year thinking it would be a one-year commitment.

The two coaching styles are compatible, which has eased the transition. Crews is following Majerus' blueprint with a team that ended up one victory shy of the school record last season, emphasizing stout defense and controlling tempo.

Last season, the Billikens allowed just 57.6 points per game, eighth-lowest in the nation.

``From a defensive standpoint, we are 98 percent the same and I can't tell you the 2 percent we're different,'' Crews said. ``From an offensive standpoint, big picture, we're the same, too, in terms of player movement, spacing, ball movement.

``These kids have invested in what Rick has done here.''

Majerus' tactical skills were instrumental in Saint Louis' near upset of No. 1 seed Michigan State in the third round of the NCAA tournament last spring. Recalling the outpouring of emotion from Majerus and his players after the four-point loss leaves no doubt that they'll miss him just as much off the court.

``It's obviously a different season,'' forward Jake Barnett said. ``Coach and Kwamain are big losses for us, but at the same time we have a really good team and a great group of guys.

``Guys will have increased roles, guys will have to step up, and I feel like I can be one of those guys who can step up.''

Crews inherits a typical Majerus far-flung roster that includes players from New Zealand, Australia and Canada, with the closest hometown going to freshman Jared Drew of Indianapolis. Forward Cody Ellis, who hails from Perth, Australia, is the team's best 3-point threat and 6-11 center Rob Loe of Auckland, New Zealand, also likes to shoot from long range.

Saint Louis received 10 first-place votes in the preseason A-10 poll, one fewer than first-place pick Saint Joseph's, and is among the top of the list of schools also receiving votes in the Top 25. Last season, the Billikens cracked the Top 25 for the first time since 1993-94.

After saying he didn't pay attention to rankings, guard Mike McCall Jr. added, ``I think we should be No. 1'' in the A-10.

``Everybody thinks we can be a very good team,'' McCall added. ``I mean, a team better than last year's team. We're making strides every day and we've just got to keep at it.''

Junior forward Dwayne Evans has double-double potential most nights, and led the team in rebounding the last two seasons. Ellis, a senior, averaged 10.1 points off the bench while getting starter minutes last season. Guard Jordair Jett was picked to the conference's all-defense team and McCall averaged seven points while starting 13 games.

Majerus' recruiting class features guard Keith Carter, who figures to be among the top reserves. Carter was a first-team all-stater in Illinois, helping Proviso East to a runner-up finish in the Class 4A championship while averaging more than 20 points and five assists.

Sophomore center John Manning gives the Billikens a second 6-11 player inside.

The opening opponent is no soft touch. South Carolina-Upstate was 21-13 last season and played in the CollegeInsider.com Tournament and feature Atlantic-Sun player of the year Torrey Craig, a forward who averaged 16 points and nearly eight rebounds last season.

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Wizards vs. Hornets: TV, live stream and radio info, things to watch


Wizards vs. Hornets: TV, live stream and radio info, things to watch

Bradley Beal, Otto Porter, Kelly Oubre, Jr. and the Washington Wizards battle Kemba Walker, Dwight Howard, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and the Charlotte Hornets on Friday night.

Here is all you need to know: TV, live stream and radio info, tip-off time, plus three things to watch:


Where: Capital One Arena
Tip-off: 7 p.m.
TV: NBC Sports Washington (coverage begins at 6 p.m.)
Live stream: NBCSportsWashington.com
Radio: 1500 AM

On a roll

The Wizards have some serious momentum going right now. With an impressive win over the Cavs on Thursday, they have now won three straight games and eight of 10 since John Wall went down with a left knee injury. They had a week off due to the All-Star break, but didn't show any rust at all in their first game back.

The Wizards are now 34-24, 10 games above the .500 mark. They are fourth in the East and could move into third on Friday if they win and the Cavaliers lose. Even with Wall out, things continue to look up for Washington.


Hornets have had their number

The Wizards haven't done so well against the Hornets so far this season. Charlotte has taken both meetings and that includes a 24-point win on Jan. 17. That game featured Dwight Howard taunting the Wizards late in the fourth quarter.

Howard has killed the Wizards through two games with averages of 22.0 points and 14.0 rebounds. Jeremy Lamb (20.0 ppg vs. Wizards) has been a big factor as well as All-Star Kemba Walker (21.5 ppg vs. Wizards).

The last time these teams played about a month ago frustrations boiled over in an incident that got Tim Frazier ejected. Michael Carter-Williams picked a fight with Jason Smith and Frazier went off:


Hornets coming in hot

The Hornets are outside the playoff picture at the moment at eight games below .500, but they have won two straight games and Walker and Howard are coming off huge games. In a win over the Brooklyn Nets on Thursday, Walker dropped 31 points and Howard grabbed 24 rebounds.

Those guys will be riding a high coming into Washington on Friday. But it should be noted that Howard complained after the game how tired he is at this point in the season. That exhausion could affect him more in the second game of a back-to-back.



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Need to Know: The most overrated Redskins events of 2017

Usa Today Sports Images

Need to Know: The most overrated Redskins events of 2017

Here is what you need to know on this Friday, February 23, 19 days before NFL free agency starts.

I’m out this week so I’ll be re-posting some of the best and most popular articles of the past few months. Some may have slightly dated information but the major points in the posts still stand. Thanks for reading, as always.

The overrated Redskin moments of 2017

Originally published 12/30/17

Sometimes in the NFL, something happens that grabs headlines and appears to be a momentous event that has ripple effects that will last all season and perhaps beyond. Other times something that is greeted with a yawn by fans and the media turns out to be something with lasting impact. Yesterday we looked at three events that were underrated at the time they happened. Here, in no particular order, are three overrated events from 2017.

Beating the Raiders—At the time, the Raiders were 2-0 and they still had the status of being one of the favorites to get to the Super Bowl. The Redskins whipped them 27-10 and the prevailing view was that the Redskins were on their way to a special year. But that loss started a four-game losing streak for the Raiders. They are currently riding a three-game skid and at 6-9 they are contenders for a top-10 draft pick, not for the Super Bowl. The win became less impressive for the Redskins as the year went on.

Signing Terrelle Pryor—There was plenty of excitement when the Redskins signed the Browns wide receiver, who had 1,000 receiving yards catching passes from a sub-mediocre group of quarterbacks in Cleveland. Imagine what he could do with a quality QB and a good offense around him. The hype grew when a fan captured him making this catch in training camp:

But the production was not there. In nine games before going on injured reserve with an ankle injury, Pryor caught 20 passes for 240 yards and a touchdown.

Su’a Cravens departure—There was a lot of concern about issues both on and off the field when Cravens abruptly let it be known to teammates that he intended to retire just after the Redskins finalized their 53-man roster on September 2. All offseason Cravens’ name had been written at the top of the depth chart at strong safety in Sharpie. When he walked away and was put on the Exempt/Left Squad list (and eventually on the Reserve/Left Squad list, ending his season), there was plenty of speculation about whether the organization botched the situation and, of more immediate importance, what would happen at safety without Cravens. We’re still not sure about what happened but Montae Nicholson and Deshazor Everett did a respectable job at safety.

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.


Days until:

—NFL Combine (3/1) 6
—NFL Draft (4/26) 62
—2018 NFL season starts (9/9) 198