No. 22 Rutgers looks to get back at Connecticut

No. 22 Rutgers looks to get back at Connecticut

PISCATAWAY, N.J. (AP) No. 22 Rutgers could not have picked a better opponent than Connecticut for its first game back in the rankings since 2009.

If anyone has had the Scarlet Knights' attention in recent year, it's the Huskies.

Their games are almost always close. Six times since 2001, the game has been decided by seven points or less. Rutgers has won three of the last four by four points or less, and five of seven overall.

What's makes Saturday's game at High Point Stadium so interesting goes beyond Rutgers (4-0, 1-0) being back on the national scene. The Scarlet Knights are still smarting over last year's 40-22 loss to Connecticut (3-2, 0-0) in the regular-season finale, a setback that cost them a share of a first league title.

``That one hurt a lot,'' Rutgers linebacker Khaseem Greene said. ``I hate losing in general but that was hard for me to shake that one off. That was a stinging one, definitely.''

Rutgers has had two weeks to prepare for UConn. It returned to the polls after an impressive win over Arkansas and had this past weekend off.

Scarlet Knights defensive tackle Scott Vallone said everyone realizes what Connecticut brings to the table. They play tough defense and try to run a ball-control offense. It's the same thing Rutgers tries to do.

``I think we're just hungry,'' Vallone said. ``We're not satisfied. 4-0 is very good. We're happy about that. We're pushing forward, trying to win another Big East game, go 2-0 in the Big East and trying to set ourselves up to win a championship. That's what we want to do.''

Connecticut, which has 12 New Jersey players on its roster, is coming off a 24-17 win over Buffalo. It is looking for consecutive wins for the first time since winning five in a row to end the 2010 season.

Senior cornerback Dwayne Gratz of Piscataway knows Rutgers has had this game circled on its calendar for a long time.

``They better,'' he said. ``You better be worried about us. This UConn team is definitely not a team to joke around with, so you better be prepared for us.''

The Huskies rank sixth in the country in total defense (242.6 yards per game), 23rd in scoring defense (15.6 points per game), sixth in rushing defense (74.2 yards per game) and 14th in pass defense (168.4 yards per game).

The big question will be can they stop running back Jawan Jamison again. The Scarlet Knights back has rushed for 100 yards or more in five consecutive games. The last time he failed to rush for 100 yards was on Nov. 26, when Connecticut limited him to 19 yards on five carries.

``Last year we came in just knowing this was the game that could decide (the Big East),'' Jamison said. ``So I would say we were a little cocky because we were winning. But now we know it's a one-game season and we just have to get a win in a given week.''

The Huskies have not done as well on offense. They are ranked 106th in total offense (323.8 yards per game), 109th in rushing offense (112 yards per game), 84th in passing offense (211.8 yards per game) and 92nd in scoring offense (23.2 points per game).

Rutgers has not allowed an opponent to rush for more than 100 yards this season, allowing an average of 62.5 yards, the best in the nation.

Greene said Rutgers won't have a letdown.

``That ain't happening. We're not going to let it happen,'' he said. ``This team is focused on the task at hand, and that's being 1-0 after playing those guys. We know that we can't get to our ultimate goal without being 1-0 after this game. As a player, as a leader, as a captain, I'm not going to let any dip as a team happen. Whether it's as an offense, as a defense, special teams, that's just the approach that I'm taking. I can't live with myself if I allow that to happen. That's not going to happen.''

Connecticut senior Defensive tackle Ryan Wirth from Medford is looking forward to returning to his home state and the challenge ahead.

``Last year doesn't matter this year,'' he said. ``Last year, the Rutgers week was the first week that we hit practice on all cylinders, prepared the right way, and it worked out for us on Saturday. We have to do that again this week if we want to win down there.''

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The 2018 salaries of five Redskins become fully guaranteed today

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The 2018 salaries of five Redskins become fully guaranteed today

It may be the 18th of March but today could be like Christmas for five Redskins players.

The Redskins decided to use today, four days after the start of the league year, for some contract triggers. In this case, the triggers are all 2018 salary guarantees (some teams will pay out roster bonuses on trigger dates, but the Redskins rarely use that type of structure).

Here are the players whose have guarantees that kick in today 4 p.m. All data is via Over the Cap.


CB Josh Norman, base salary of $13.5 million becomes fully guaranteed—This was a window for the Redskins to move on from Norman if they were not happy with his performance after two seasons. He is 31 and he had no interceptions last season, leaving some to wonder if the Redskins might think about releasing him. But it never was a consideration.

TE Jordan Reed, $8 million of his $8.25 million salary becomes fully guaranteed—No, I’m not sure why they are leaving that $250,000 out there non-guaranteed. Fans thought that the Redskins might move on from Reed due to his injury issues. But, as with Norman, it never was a consideration.

S D.J. Swearinger, $3 million base salary becomes fully guaranteed—This is a mere technicality, Swearinger wasn’t going anywhere after helping to solidify the safety position.


RB Chris Thompson, $1.996 million base salary becomes fully guaranteed—His rehab is going well and after last year Thompson’s two-year, $7 million contract extension signed last September looks like a good deal for the team.

DE Terrell McClain, $3.25 million base salary becomes fully guaranteed—If the Redskins sign a top free agent D-lineman or draft on early in the draft they could be in a numbers crunch. That new acquisition would be guaranteed a roster spot along with Jonathan Allen, Matt Ioannidis, Stacy McGee, and Anthony Lanier. That makes five and the Redskins kept six last year. Ziggy Hood is a favorite of the coaching staff but he has no guaranteed money left on his contract. That could tip the sixth spot in favor of McClain if he is on the roster at the close of business today. If they release McClain after today, they would take a cap charge of over $2 million. It seems unlikely that anything will happen but it’s something to keep an eye on.

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


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It's hard to tell after three games how the Wizards and Pacers would match up in the playoffs

It's hard to tell after three games how the Wizards and Pacers would match up in the playoffs

The Wizards crossed off an important goal on Saturday night by beating the Indiana Pacers and therefore securing the season series. If the teams tie with the same regular season record, the Wizards will get the higher playoff seed. As of today, that would mean home court advantage in the first round.

Though the Wizards have beaten the Pacers in two of their three matchups this season, we only know so much about how they would match up in the playoffs. The first game between them didn't feature Pacers All-Star Victor Oladipo and John Wall didn't play in any of the three games. The Pacers were without both Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis on Saturday night.

Given the Pacers underwent so much change over the summer, there is no real data to go off of from before this season. They are a completely different team with Oladipo leading the way and Paul George now in Oklahoma City.


There are reasons to believe, however, that the Wizards would fare well against the Pacers over the course of a seven-game series. For one, they figured out how to slow Oladipo and his teammate Bojan Bogdanovic on Saturday night. Both had killed the Wizards in previous matchups.

Oladipo was held to 18 points, over five points below his season average of 23.5. He had four turnovers, shot 7-for-16 (43.7%) and finished a -18 in a game the Pacers lost by seven.

The Wizards had some success with Tomas Satoransky guarding Oladipo. Satoransky is 6-foot-7 with long arms. He was able to recover on several occasions to alter Oladipo's shots.

Satoransky and Bradley Beal also did a good job keeping pace with Oladipo on the fastbreak. The Pacers had only four fastbreak points in the game. Oladipo is especially dangerous in the open court.

“We just made sure that we were aggressive with him and made sure he saw a lot of bodies in the paint," Beal said. "The last game, he got a lot of easy ones in transition. We just made sure that we got back on the shot, loaded to the ball and forced the other guys to attack.”

For Bogdanovic, it was about limiting open shots from the perimeter. Bogdanovic had 11 points, three below his season average and had four turnovers. Beal and Otto Porter stripped Bogdanovic for steals and Marcin Gortat took a charge on one play in the third quarter.


But it was all about taking away the outside shot. Bogdanovic only hit one shot in the first half and it was a three. The only reason he got it off is because Kelly Oubre, Jr. lost his balance backing up. That gave Bogdanovic the window he needed. Otherwise, Oubre helped frustrate the former Wizards small forward. So did Gortat and Ian Mahinmi, who did a good job covering their teammates off screens.

The Pacers are an average offensive team, ranking 16th in points per game and 14th in offensive rating. They are better defensively, ranking ninth-best in opponents points per game and 12th in defensive efficiency.

If the Wizards can limit Oladipo and Bogdanovic, the Pacers' two leading scorers, they should have a good shot at beating the Pacers in the playoffs. Beyond them, the Pacers are thin in the scoring department. Turner only averages 13.6 points and no one else beyond him can consistently make an opposing defense pay for mistakes. Conversely, several Wizards players have given the Pacers major trouble through three games this season.

Gortat, who had 18 points and eight rebounds on Saturday, has averaged 13 points and eight rebounds on 57.7 percent shooting against Indiana. Kelly Oubre, Jr., who had 16 points in 18 minutes, has averaged 15.5 points and is shooting 50 percent from the field.


In addition to those guys, Markieff Morris, Porter, Mike Scott, Mahinmi and Satoransky are all shooting over 50 percent against the Pacers. Satoransky is shooting 71.4 percent through three games.

The Wizards have the pieces to counter what the Pacers do best. Indiana is seventh in three-point percentage, but the Wizards are the best team in basketball in opponents three-point percentage. The Pacers are built around an All-Star guard, but the Wizards have two All-Star guards. The Pacers have a collection of talented wing players, but so do the Wizards.

"Hypothetically, I do like Indiana," Beal said. "I like how we match up with Indiana and I feel like there is a lot of stuff that we can take advantage of. In a lot of categories, I think we can win them."

Add it all up and the Wizards have every reason to feel confident if they see the Pacers in the posteason. Keep that in mind because they very well could meet up in the spring.

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