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Top 25 Capsules

Top 25 Capsules

DURHAM, N.C. (AP) Seth Curry scored 24 points to lead No. 3 Duke past Georgia Tech 73-57 on Thursday night.

Mason Plumlee added 16 points and 13 rebounds after going just 2 for 12 during an awful first half, and the Blue Devils (16-1, 3-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) shot 53 percent from the field over the final 20 minutes to bounce back from their only loss.

Freshman Chris Bolden's 20 points were the most scored by a Georgia Tech player this season.

But the Yellow Jackets (10-6, 0-4) had 21 turnovers in losing their fourth straight, remaining the only team winless in ACC play and falling to 5-32 at Cameron Indoor Stadium.

Freshman Rasheed Sulaimon broke out of a slump with 15 points on 5-of-8 shooting after coming off the bench for the first time in his Duke career.

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No. 5 MICHIGAN 83, No. 9 MINNESOTA 75

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - Tim Hardaway Jr. scored 21 points and Trey Burke had 18 points and nine assists for Michigan.

Hardaway hit four 3-pointers in the first half for the Wolverines (17-1, 4-1 Big Ten), who had the lead for the final 33 minutes of the game and finished with 13 steals to fuel their fast break. Nik Stauskas added 11 points.

Austin Hollins led the Gophers (15-3, 3-2) with 21 points and four steals, and Trevor Mbakwe had 13 points, 10 rebounds and five blocks. Andre Hollins was drawn into early foul trouble, but he came alive after halftime to finish with 13 points and four assists.

The Gophers crept back in the game after falling behind by 19 points early in the second half. After Rodney Williams cut the margin to 77-70 with 2:40 remaining, the Gophers got the ball back but Williams had an open 3-pointer rim out and Andre Hollins had his putback attempt blocked underneath.

Burke stretched the lead to nine with two free throws with 43 seconds left.

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No. 8 GONZAGA 71, PORTLAND 49

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) - Kelly Olynyk had 21 points and eight rebounds as Gonzaga won its eighth straight.

Olynyk, the 7-foot center who leads the West Coast Conference in scoring, got off to a slow start against the Pilots after two straight games with more than 30 points, scoring just one basket in the first half.

Kevin Pangos added 14 points, including four 3-pointers for Gonzaga (17-1, 4-0 WCC), as the Bulldogs extended the best start in school history.

Kevin Bailey had 16 points for the Pilots (8-11, 1-3) who trailed by as many as 21 points and dropped their 19th straight game in the series with the Zags.

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No. 10 FLORIDA 68, TEXAS A&M 47

COLLEGE STATION, Texas (AP) - Mike Rosario scored 19 points and Patric Young added 18 for Florida.

The Aggies led by one point midway through the first half before a big run by the Gators gave them a 35-18 halftime lead.

It was a letdown for Texas A&M (12-4, 2-1 Southeastern Conference), which was coming off an 83-71 victory at Kentucky on Saturday. Elston Turner scored a career-high 40 points in that win, but managed just four points Thursday on 1-of-10 shooting.

It is the fifth straight win for Florida (13-2, 3-0) which is in the midst of playing four of five games on the road.

Jordan Greene had 12 points for the Aggies, while J'Mychal Reese added 10.

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No. 22 VCU 92, SAINT JOSEPH'S 86, OT

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - Treveon Graham scored six of his 25 points in overtime after Virginia Commonwealth rallied late in regulation to tie it.

Darius Theus added a career-high 22 points and 10 assists and four steals for the Rams (15-3, 3-0 Atlantic 10), who won their 12th straight. Juvonte Reddic added 15 points and 17 rebounds for the Rams, who were playing their first game as a ranked team since 1984-85.

Langston Galloway had 22 points, Carl Jones 21 and C.J. Aiken had 15 points and nine rebounds for the Hawks (9-6, 1-2).

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NORTHWESTERN 68, No. 23 ILLINOIS 54

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) - Reggie Hearn scored 20 points and Northwestern built an early lead using 3-point shooting to hand Illinois its third straight loss.

Illinois has lost five of seven - and three straight in the Big Ten - after starting 12-0.

The Wildcats (11-7, 2-3 Big Ten) were 8 of 15 from 3-point range but hit five of those shots in the first half to build a 36-21 lead.

Northwestern made 26 of 31 free throws, many of them late with Illinois forced to foul.

The Illini (14-5, 1-4) closed within 48-39 on a free throw by Brandon Paul with 4:36 to play and got no closer.

Jared Swopshire had 12 points and six rebounds for Northwestern, while Alex Marcotullio scored 12 points and Dave Sobolewski added 10.

Paul had 21 points for Illinois, which shot 38 percent from the field, including going 3 of 20 from 3-point range.

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No. 24 UCLA 74, OREGON STATE 64

LOS ANGELES (AP) - Shabazz Muhammad scored 21 points and Kyle Anderson added 17 as UCLA won its 10th straight.

Travis Wear added 17 points for the Bruins (15-3, 5-0 Pac-12), who equaled their longest winning streak since 2008-09. They have won 23 of the last 24 games played against Oregon State on their home court.

Roberto Nelson scored 17 points and Joe Burton added 12 points for the Beavers (10-7, 0-4). They lost their fourth straight and fifth in their last six.

The Beavers were held under their 75.7-point scoring average. They are one of two Pac-12 teams with five players averaging double figures, but only three players reached that mark in the game.

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The NBA All-Star pregame introductions were, uh, something

The NBA All-Star pregame introductions were, uh, something

Whoever put together the NBA All-Star Game player introductions has some 'splainin to do. 

The NBA introduced a kinda-full Staples Center to their 2018 All-Stars about an hour ago, and boy was it weird. There were a lot of dancers in different themed costumes. Kevin Hart was screaming. Rob Riggle was screaming. Ludacris showed up? Hey! Did you know that the Barenaked Ladies are still a band? The NBA would like you to know they're still around.  The whole thing was like when you're at an art museum and you're told that abstract piece in the corner is actually really meaningful but you gotta be honest, you don't get it. 

Anyways, the internet hated it. Here are some highlights from the internet hating it:

The lesson here is that you never need Kevin Hart and Rob Riggle. One will do. 

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Need to Know: Tandler's Take—Drafting a running back early not a cure-all for Redskins' ground game

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Need to Know: Tandler's Take—Drafting a running back early not a cure-all for Redskins' ground game

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, February 18, 24 days before NFL free agency starts.

Tandler’s Take

The topic for today’s post comes from Twitter:

When I asked for topics for this post, the subject of the running game came up with several of them. And since John brought up the draft, let’s look at that as a potential solution.

Let’s first establish that the Redskins’ running game was not good enough last year. I don’t need to spend a bunch of time on this but here are some numbers. They were 28th in rushing yards and 29th in yards per carry. If you like to weigh more complete metrics, they were 28th in rushing DVOA. If you want to look at a key situation, they were last in the league in yards per first-down rushing attempt. Last year a team gained 100 yards rushing or more 274 times. The Redskins got there five times.

I’m going to leave it at that here since, again, if you’re reading this you probably watched a lot of their games and you don’t need to be persuaded that the running game was largely unproductive. Yes, there were injuries that had the offensive linemen playing snaps just days after being signed and the broken leg suffered by Chris Thompson and Rob Kelley’s various ailments. But the Redskins haven’t ranked higher than 19th in rushing yards since Jay Gruden became the head coach. Rushing game struggles are an ongoing issue.

I am going to work on the premise that those who advocate having the Redskins improve their running game via the draft are talking about drafting a running back in the first or second round. That may be overgeneralizing but that gives me a good-sized chunk of data to work with and still be able to analyze it in the 1000 words or so I am allotted here.

I’m also going to call a 1,000-yard season the minimum that would be expected out of a back drafted in the first two rounds. There are other ways a back can contribute, of course, and we can deal with them separately.

From 2010-2017, there were 45 thousand-yard rushing seasons by players who entered the league during those years (all data via the indispensable Pro Football Reference unless noted). Twelve of them were accomplished by players drafted in the first round. Six came from second-round picks, six from third-rounders, four from the fourth, three from the fifth, four from the sixth and none from the seventh. Oh, and there were 10 thousand-yard seasons that came from undrafted players.

It should be noted that four of those seasons from undrafted players came from the Texans’ Arian Foster. And two each came from LeGarrette Blount and BenJarvus Green-Ellis. So those 10 thousand-yard seasons should not be seen as an indication that there is a treasure trove of running back talent going undrafted every year.

Back to the first and second rounders, the combined 16 thousand-yard seasons doesn’t mean much in isolation. How many backs were drafted in the first two rounds in that time? How many opportunities have they had to post big seasons?

In the past eight drafts, 34 running backs were drafted in the first and second round. That group has had 170 opportunities to post a 1,000-yard season. What I mean by opportunities is the number of seasons that have elapsed since the player was drafted. The six backs drafted in the first two rounds in 2010 have each had eight chances to gain 1,000 yards in a season so they have combined for 48 opportunities (6*8). There were five backs drafted in the first and second seven seasons ago, so there have combined for 35 opportunities, and so on. Through the eight years that adds up to 170 seasons.

The combined 16 thousand-yard seasons in 170 opportunities comes to a success rate of 9.4 percent when it comes to reaching the bar that most fans would set as the minimum.

A couple of things need to be pointed out here. There are some backs like Giovani Bernard, Shane Vereen, and Christian McCaffrey who do not have any big rushing seasons on their resumes but have been valuable catching passes out of the backfield. And some like Dalvin Cook, who was injured after a promising start last year, and McCaffrey seemed destined to have 1,000-yard seasons in their futures. So all of the backs who have not gained 1,000 yards in a season are not necessarily draft busts or failures.

But here are first-round running back busts, just like there are busts at every position. There were 12 running back picked in the first round of the past eight drafts. Javid Best, David Wilson, and Trent Richardson clearly were disappointments (the former two struggled with injuries). Doug Martin, Ryan Mathews, and C.J. Spiller have had some success but perhaps not enough to justify being first-round picks. It took Mark Ingram a while, but he got rolling in his sixth NFL season. I want to see more out of McCaffrey before judging him and Melvin Gordon needs to continue his upward trajectory. It’s safe to say that even with small sample sizes of data in the books on Ezekiel Elliott and Leonard Fournette they were home runs. So was Todd Gurley.

So out of 12 first-round backs in the last eight years, you have three clear busts, three moderate disappointments, four top-level performers (including Ingram) and two TBD.

In any case, it’s clear that just drafting a back early is not a panacea for a struggling running game. Blocking (from both the line and the receivers and other backs), play calling, scheme, and some intangible factors like attitude (as Brian Mitchell will tell you) all play into the success and failure of moving the ball on the ground.

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.