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Transfer Hancock starts over with No. 2 Louisville

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Transfer Hancock starts over with No. 2 Louisville

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) Louisville guard Luke Hancock begins a new chapter in his career Sunday when the No. 2 Cardinals open the season against Manhattan.

The transfer from George Mason had to watch Louisville make its exciting run to the Final Four while sitting out last season per NCAA rules. Hancock's ability to shoot the 3-pointer should help the Cardinals, but his impact won't be immediate as he continues recovering from surgery on his right shooting shoulder this spring.

He has been cleared to practice ahead of schedule and during the preseason demonstrated his ability to play on the wing. Hancock's leadership skills on and off the court haven't gone unnoticed, either; he has been named a co-captain before playing his first game for Louisville.

``It's been a long time, about a year and a half since I really prepared for a real game,'' said Hancock, who averaged 9.4 points and shot nearly 35 percent from 3-point range in two seasons with the Patriots.

``I'm so excited to go out there and compete again. And I don't have to compete against my own team. It'll be nice to get back out there in a real setting.''

Whatever outside production Hancock provides should help a Cardinals team that shot 32 percent from behind the arc last season. They missed their first 17 3-point attempts in Wednesday's 65-49 exhibition victory over Bellarmine before Hancock hit Louisville's only 3-pointer - and the Cardinals finished a woeful 1 of 19.

But Hancock is more than just a scorer.

Though he's not 100 percent, Hancock packed the stat sheet in the exhibition season, finishing with eight points, six rebounds, five assists and no turnovers.

``Luke does a lot of things, and gets everybody involved,'' junior guard Russ Smith said.

That versatility not only gives Louisville another ball-handling option besides senior Peyton Siva and Smith, but a solid rebounder as well.

Louisville coach Rick Pitino believes Hancock's shot will eventually come around but stresses that 3-point shooting is not a priority for his team right now.

``Take 12 to 15 (3-point attempts) a game, but don't make it a big deal,'' Pitino said of his strategy. ``Luke's going to be a very good shooter. But it's going to take him probably six more weeks before you see the real Luke Hancock in terms of shooting.''

Just getting ready for a game requires an extra half hour for Hancock, who sustained the shoulder injury in a pickup game. He was cleared to practice in September about three months ahead of the normal nine-month recovery period and has spent the fall trying to regain his game rhythm.

Hancock's pregame routine involves stretching with team trainer Fred Hina, throwing full-court passes and overhead throwing to get loose. It ends with him going through an extended shooting drill to give him the flexibility he needs to play.

``Sitting around, standing around, it doesn't bother me that much,'' Hancock said. ``But if I try to go overhead without being loose, it would cause me some pain.

``Like anybody does before a game, you have to stretch and warm up. My warm-up takes a little bit longer than other people because of my shoulder. In 20 minutes, I shoot the ball and throw some passes, get stretched out and I'm ready to go.''

The 22-year-old is heartened to be named a Cardinals captain but not totally surprised. After all, he arrived with two seasons of experience under his belt and has pointed out many things to teammates in practice and workouts.

What he looks forward to most is finally doing it on the court with something at stake.

``I've kind of gotten in a groove and gotten in the swing of things,'' Hancock said. Obviously there's a little bit of rust in there. I'm going to be working through my shoulder (issues) for a while. But I feel pretty good going into the season.''

Sunday's game also marks the return of sophomore forward Chane Benahan, who was suspended for both exhibitions following a series of off-court issues last summer that Pitino didn't specify. His physical style should help on defense and the Cardinals can use his 9.5 points and 7.5 rebounds a game.

The game is also a Cardinals reunion. First-year Manhattan coach Steve Masiello was a Louisville assistant under Pitino from 2005-11.

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NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs Power Rankings: The West is set while the Caps still have work to do

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USA TODAY Sports

NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs Power Rankings: The West is set while the Caps still have work to do

There are only two series left in the first round that have yet to be decided. The Caps just so happen to be playing in one of those series.

After falling into a 0-2 hole to start, Washington has rattled off three straight wins and now sits just one away from putting away the Columbus Blue Jackets and advancing to the second round.

Should the Capitals advance, they will play the Pittsburgh Penguins for the third consecutive season.

<<NHL POWER RANKINGS: STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS>>

The Penguins ended their series against the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday in Game 6. Jake Guentzel scored four goals in the effort proving once and for all that yes, goaltending is important in the playoffs. Head coach Mike Sullivan has still yet to lose a playoff series as the head coach of Pittsburgh as he led the Penguins to a Stanley Cup in each of the past two seasons.

In the Atlantic, the Tampa Bay Lightning await the winner of the Boston Bruins - Toronto Maple Leafs series after dispatching the New Jersey Devils in five games. After a strong regular season, the Maple Leafs looked poised to take the next step, but Auston Matthews has only two points in five games and Toronto faces elimination at the hands of the Bruins Monday in Game 5.

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All four series in the West, meanwhile, have already been decided. Both the Vegas Golden Knights and San Jose Sharks managed four-game sweeps in the first round and will face one another in the second  The miraculous season of the Golden Knights continues and it would be hard to argue at this point that they are not legitimate Stanly Cup contenders considering all they have accomplished in both the regular season and the playoffs.

Wins by the Nashville Predators and Winnipeg Jets now sets up a second-round battle between the top two teams in the league from the regular season.

<<NHL POWER RANKINGS: STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS>>

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The betting houses are bearish on the 2018 Redskins

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Bob Youngentob for NBC Sports Washington

The betting houses are bearish on the 2018 Redskins

With the NFL schedule dropped last week, many fans and media types went through and predicted wins and losses for the teams they follow, just for fun. But others predict the records of teams and it’s not for laughs, it’s for very high stakes.

The betting houses in Las Vegas and offshore have established their lines for over/under in wins. They then take this a step further and go through the playoffs to establish the odds of winning the Super Bowl. 

Over the weekend, BetOnline published one of each and let’s just say that they do not like what the Redskins have done this offseason. Or, more accurately, they think that the public perception is that the Redskins will not be a very good team this year. 

Their over/under for wins is 5.5. They won seven games last year so the under would represent a decline of at least two wins. This line seems to be low. The Redskins won seven games last year with the worst injury situation in the league, per the numbers crunchers at Football Outsiders. They also faced one of the toughest schedules in the league in terms of opponent winning percentages. 

Yes, they did lose Kirk Cousins to free agency but they replaced him with Alex Smith, who, like Cousins, is not elite or even in the top 10 but in the category of solid, reliable quarterbacks. The QB exchange was close to a wash. But despite the fact that the chances are they will suffer fewer injuries and face a schedule that isn’t as much of a meat grinder, this over/under has the Redskins producing double-digit losses. They have managed to stay out of 10-plus loss territory for three straight years. 

There are more reasons to think that they will win at least as many games as they did last year than there are to think that they will win fewer. If I’m betting, which I’m not, I’d be tempted to hit the over on that pretty hard. 

I would keep my money in my pocket when it comes to betting on the Redskins’ chances of winning the Super Bowl. I don’t think they’re close, but I think they’re much closer than the Browns but BetOnline has Cleveland and Washington with the same odds of hoisting the Lombardi Trophy. The Redskins, Browns, and Bucs are at +6600 to win it all. The Redskins odds are worse than all but six other teams. 

Again, I don’t think that the Redskins are going to win the Super Bowl. Winning a playoff game would be quite an accomplishment for them. But same could be said of the Colts, Giants, Chargers, and 49ers, but they all have considerably better odds than the Redskins. 

In fact, there may be some irrational exuberance with the 49ers and Jimmy Garoppolo. They have the seventh-best odds at +1600. Sure, Jimmy G was very good in five meaningless games at the end of last season. Let’s see how he does with some pressure on and after defensive coaches have had a chance to study how to take away his strengths. It just goes to show you how little real analysis goes into this. 

I get a little annoyed when teams play the disrespect card, especially when they have to look too hard to find it. But if the Redskins look at this, they certainly can embrace the underdog role if they want to. What they do with it, we will find out starting September 9. 

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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/TandlerNBCS and follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS.