Capitals

Xavier tries to dig out from nightmarish offseason

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Xavier tries to dig out from nightmarish offseason

CINCINNATI (AP) Nobody's had a worse offseason than Xavier.

The bad news started a month after the Musketeers' latest appearance in the NCAA tournament's round of 16. Returning senior guard Mark Lyons didn't see eye-to-eye with coach Chris Mack, who wanted him to become more of a team player this season. Lyons was gone.

A few months later, forward Dez Wells - the only returning starter - was expelled from the school for violating its code of student conduct. Just like that, the school that has dominated the Atlantic 10 found itself in an unaccustomed tough spot.

``It seemed like every week, personnel was changing,'' senior guard Brad Redford said. ``There was a new story for us to deal with. We had workouts and stuff to do, so we just tried to keep it in focus and take care of what we can as individuals.''

It was tough to see a team with high expectations come apart so quickly.

``I think part of it is discouraging,'' Redford said. ``Anytime you get news one of your teammates may have to leave the team or the school, you care about that guy, care about him, you've been in practice with him day after day. You're saying goodbye to a good friend.

``It's a matter of sticking together.''

What's left of the Musketeers is trying to hold on for what shapes up as Xavier's most challenging season in a long time.

The Musketeers won five straight A-10 regular season titles, a streak that ended last season when they finished third with a 23-13 record overall. They played their best at the end of a tough season that included a brawl against crosstown rival Cincinnati, advancing to the Sweet 16 for the fourth time in five seasons before losing to Baylor.

Point guard Tu Holloway, center Kenny Frease and forward Andre Walker graduated, costing the Musketeers their top scorers on the perimeter and inside. When Lyons and Wells left, it was a complete sweep.

Xavier is picked to finish ninth in the A-10 because of the lack of experience and depth. The Musketeers opened the season with only eight scholarship players - in more bad news, freshmen Myles Davis and Jalen Reynolds were ruled ineligible by the NCAA. Also, junior forward Isaiah Philmore has to miss the first three games because of a paperwork problem in his transfer from Towson.

There were so few Musketeers at the start of the season that Mack had to scale back on practice.

``We don't have a lot of scholarship bodies now,'' Mack said. ``For us to try to grind it out for three hours every day would be foolish. We want to be at our best when the season matters most. It's a fine line as a coach. You have to compete every day, you have to get players in game condition but at the same time, we're not trying to wear our kids down as the season goes along.

``That's been the biggest challenge, to practice efficiently to meet our objectives.''

Xavier expects a lot from its three seniors - forward Jeff Robinson (3.6 points per game), forward Travis Taylor (4.5 points) and Redford (3.2 points), a 3-point specialist off the bench who will be another year removed from reconstructive knee surgery. Sophomore Dee Davis, who averaged 11 minutes and 1.9 points last season, takes over for Holloway at the point. Freshman Semaj Christon is expected to start at shooting guard.

``We lost a lot of guys from last year that played a ton of minutes and played huge roles for us,'' Redford said. ``All the guys are figuring out our roles on this team, where we can help.''

Whenever the Musketeers needed a clutch basket last season, they could count on Holloway to take the shot or feed the ball inside for a basket. It'll be more of a collective effort this season instead of an offense that relies on its guards.

``In terms of production, I'd like to think we'll be a more balanced team than we have in the last couple of years,'' Mack said.

One other significant change: Mack expects to play a lot more zone defense because of his short-handed roster.

Mack has reminded his inexperienced players about Xavier's tradition of winning.

``You don't want to see yourself (picked) in ninth, 10th, wherever they have us ranked,'' Redford said. ``Here at Xavier, we've been at the top of the A-10. Every year I've been here, we've been first for the most part. Right now for this group, it's about taking it day by day.''

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Game 62: Capitals vs. Sabres Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

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USA TODAY Sports

Game 62: Capitals vs. Sabres Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

What: Washington Capitals vs. Buffalo Sabres

Where: Capital One Arena, Washington, D.C.

When: 7:00 p.m. ET

How to Watch: Capitals-Sabres will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington (Channel Finder)

Live Stream: You can watch the Capitals-Sabres game on NBC Sports Washington's live stream page.

WHEN IS THE CAPITALS-SABRES GAME?

The Capitals (34-20-7) take on the Sabres (18-32-11) Saturday, February 24 at 7:00 p.m. ET in Capital One Arena.

WHAT CHANNEL IS THE CAPITALS-SABRES GAME ON?

The Capitals-Sabres game will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington. Coverage kicks off with Capitals FaceOff at 6:00 p.m. followed by Caps GameTime at 6:30 p.m. Stay with NBC Sports Washington for Caps Extra following the game, Caps Overtime at 10:00 p.m. and Caps in 30 at 11:00 p.m. for all your postgame coverage. (NBC Sports Washington channel Finder)

6:00 p.m. — Caps FaceOff
6:30 p.m. — Caps GameTime
7:00 p.m. — Capitals vs. Sabres
9:30 p.m. — Caps Extra
10:00 p.m. — Caps Overtime
11:00 p.m. — Caps in 30

WHAT ARE THE PROJECTED LINES FOR THE CAPITALS-SABRES GAME?

Here are the projected lines for the Caps-Sabres game:

Forwards
Alex Ovechkin - Nicklas Backstrom - Tom Wilson
Jakub Vrana - Evgeny Kuznetsov - T.J. Oshie
Brett Connolly - Lars Eller - Andre Burakovsky
Chandler Stephenson - Jay Beagle - Devante Smith-Pelly

Defensemen
Dmitry Orlov - Matt Niskanen
Christian Djoos - John Carlson
Michal Kempny - Brooks Orpik

Braden Holtby starts with Philipp Grubauer as backup

Scratches: Alex Chiasson, Madison Bowey, Jakub Jerabek

WHERE CAN I STREAM THE CAPITALS-SABRES GAME?

The Capitals-Panthers game, as well as Caps GameTime and Caps Extra, is available to stream live here through NBC Sports Washington's live stream page and is available to authenticated NBC Sports Washington subscribers on desktops, tablets, mobile devices and connected TVs anywhere in the United States.

CAPITALS-SABRES OPEN THREAD

Use the comment section below to discuss the game action with other Capitals fans. 

For all the latest Caps coverage, follow Capitals Insider Tarik El-Bashir, Capitals correspondent JJ Regan and the NBC Sports Capitals account on Twitter. Be sure check out our Capitals page and NBC Sports Washington's Facebook page.

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Need to Know: The five highest-paid 2018 Redskins

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Need to Know: The five highest-paid 2018 Redskins

Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, February 24, 18 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 five highest-paid Redskins in 2018

Originally published 1/12/18

This is how the five highest-paid Redskins per their 2018 salary cap numbers stack up as of now. The list could change, of course during free agency and if a particular quarterback returns. Cap numbers via Over the Cap.

CB Josh Norman, $17 million—The Redskins do have a window which would allow them to move on from Norman. His $13.5 million salary for this year doesn’t become guaranteed until the fifth day of the league year so it would be “only” a $9 million cap charge to move on from Norman, who turned 30 in December. Don’t look for that to happen but the possibility is there.

OT Trent Williams, $13.86 million—He is one of the best left tackles in the business. Those of you out there who have advocated moving him to left guard should look at this cap number, which is way out of line for what a team can afford to pay a guard. At his pay, he needs to be playing on the edge.

OLB Ryan Kerrigan, $12.45 million—He has delivered double-digit sacks in each of the two seasons that his contract extension has been in effect. That’s good value in a league that values the ability to get to the quarterback.

TE Jordan Reed, $10.14 million—The Redskins knew that he might have a year like last year when he played in only six games when they agreed to Reed’s five-year, $50 million extension. They can live with one such season. If he has another one in 2018 they may rethink things.

G Brandon Scherff, $6.75 million—The fact that a rookie contract is No. 5 on this list is a good sign that, as of now, the Redskins’ cap is not top heavy like it was last year. The top three cap hits from Norman, Williams, and Kirk Cousins totaled $59 million, which was about 35 percent of the cap. This year the total cap numbers of the top three come to $43.3 million, 24.3 percent of the estimated $178 million salary cap.

Next five: OT Morgan Moses ($5.4 million), TE Vernon Davis ($5.33 million), DL Stacy McGee ($4.8 million), DL Terrell McClain ($4.75 million), S D.J. Swearinger ($4.33 million)

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.

Timeline  

Days until:

—NFL Combine (3/1) 5
—NFL Draft (4/26) 61
—2018 NFL season starts (9/9) 197