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Anderson eyes fast start in 2nd year with Arkansas

Anderson eyes fast start in 2nd year with Arkansas

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) Mike Anderson can't say for sure how far he thinks Arkansas will go this season.

What the second-year Razorbacks coach can say is he has a team much more molded to his pressing, up-tempo style - one he hopes can break the school's streak of four straight missed NCAA tournaments.

Arkansas opens its regular season on Friday night against Sam Houston State, and all eyes in the state will be on Anderson's revamped and reloaded roster. It is one Anderson had a sneak peak at during a four-game European exhibition series during the summer, and one he expects to be more athletic and attacking.

``This team is going to be a work in progress,'' Anderson said. ``They're going to take some steps forward, and every now and then take a step back. But I just like the work ethic, the mindset, at this point in time.''

The Razorbacks feature seven new players this season after finishing a disappointing 18-14 last season. That team began the season quickly before losing nine of its final 12 games, the product of a series of injuries that left Arkansas with as few as eight scholarship players at times.

Depth shouldn't be a problem this season for the Razorbacks, though they will be without leading scorer BJ Young for Friday's opener. The talented sophomore guard was suspended two games for violating team rules earlier this week, missing Arkansas' final exhibition game as well as the opener.

Young's absence would have been a concern for last season's depleted roster but not this year.

Led by the return of forward Marshawn Powell and an athletic new-look backcourt, the Razorbacks won their two exhibition games by an average of 47 points. Powell, who missed all but the first two games last season because of a torn knee ligament, scored an average of 11.5 points in the games - providing another boost of optimism for a team that's already quietly confident.

The 6-foot-7 Powell averaged 19.5 points per game last season before the injury to his right knee. He played sparingly during the summer trip to Italy, during which Arkansas was 4-0 against teams from the host country and Lithuania, but has looked like his old self during practice the last month.

``This is what he's worked to get toward,'' Anderson said. ``I'm sure he's looking forward to getting out on the floor and playing in a real game.

``... A lot of guys would give in after they've been injured a couple of times, but here's a guy who's been injured, and each time has fought to get back. Now he's a lot older, so hopefully this is his time.''

The Razorbacks were outrebounded by a Southeastern Conference-worst 3.8 rebounds per game last season, and Anderson had hoped to provide an interior boost this season with the addition of Houston transfer and Arkansas native Alandis Harris.

However, the 6-6 forward - who averaged 13.3 points and 6.4 rebounds for the Cougars last season - was denied immediate eligibility by the NCAA during the preseason, and must sit out this season.

Arkansas will place its interior hopes on Powell, 6-11 sophomore forward Hunter Mickelson, and junior-college transfer Coty Clarke this season. Mickelson was fourth in the SEC in blocked shots last season, averaging 2.2 per game, and his expectations are high this year - thanks to a comfort level in his second season under Anderson.

``There's probably more confidence now because everybody, as far as the older guys, kind of knows what to expect,'' Mickelson said.

The Razorbacks also feature four freshmen - Michael Qualls, Jacorey Williams, DeQuavious Wagner and Anthlon Bell - who have performed well during the preseason. Qualls provided several highlight-worthy dunks during the two exhibition games, and Bell averaged 14 points per game on 6-of-10 shooting from 3-point range.

Regardless of who plays how much, and with or without Young, Arkansas expects to start its season quickly on Friday night. After that, the Razorbacks hope to build toward being an SEC contender.

``We still have a ways to go,'' junior guard Mardracus Wade said. ``Right now, I don't think we're ready yet, but we've got to keep on working and get these young guys ready.

``I think once we get this all together, it's going to be crazy out there.''

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Stanley Cup Final 2018: Who could win the Conn Smythe Trophy?

Stanley Cup Final 2018: Who could win the Conn Smythe Trophy?

The Stanley Cup is not the only trophy that will be awarded at the end of the Stanley Cup Final series between the Washington Capitals and Vegas Golden Knights. The Conn Smythe will also be given to the player deemed the most valuable to his team during the playoffs.

Who will that player be?

It's not hard to figure out who the frontrunner is right now. Marc-Andre Fleury hasn't just been the best goalie in the playoffs, he's been the best player with a dominant postseason in which he has posted a .947 save percentage and four shutouts. He has been so dominant, he could win it even if Vegas loses the series.

See the top contenders for the Conn Smythe heading into the Stanley Cup Final here.

The last player from the losing team to win the Conn Smythe was Jean-Sebastian Giguere from the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim in 2003.

But what about the Caps?

Alex Ovechkin is the leader of Washington and has been absolutely dominant throughout the postseason. He even scored the series-clinching goal in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final.

Surprisingly, however, Ovechkin does not lead the team in points through the playoffs. Evgeny Kuznetsov holds that edge with 24 points to Ovechkin's 22.

Will their offensive dominance propel them to win the Cup and the Conn Smythe? Will a different player emerge as the hero of the series?

See the top contenders for the Conn Smythe heading into the Stanley Cup Final here.

MORE CAPITALS PLAYOFF NEWS:

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Need to Know: A closer look at Alex Smith's contract with the Redskins

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Associated Press

Need to Know: A closer look at Alex Smith's contract with the Redskins

Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, May 26, 17 days before the Washington Redskins start minicamp.  

Note: I am vacationing in the Outer Banks this week. In this space, I’ll be presenting some of the most popular posts of the last few months. I hope you enjoy these “best of” presentations and I’ll see you folks when I get back. 

Contract makes Alex Smith a Redskins for at least three seasons

This post was originally published on March 19. 

When the Redskins traded for Alex Smith on January 30, news also broke that he had agreed to a four-year extension with Washington in addition to the one year left on his contract with the Chiefs. While we got some top-line numbers on the deal, we have gone since then without any details. 

Until now. 

The details show a deal that has a slightly higher cap hit in 2018 than was on his original Chiefs contract and the numbers rise gradually over the life of the deal, which runs through 2022. 

Smith got a $27 million signing bonus and his salaries for 2018 ($13 million) and 2019 ($15 million) also are fully guaranteed at signing making the total $55 million (information via Over the Cap, which got data from a report by Albert Breer). 

But there I another $16 million that is guaranteed for all practical purposes. On the fifth day of the 2019 league year, his 2020 salary of $16 million becomes fully guaranteed. He almost assuredly will get to the point where that money will become guaranteed since the Redskins are not going to cut him after one year having invested $55 million in him. So the total guarantees come to $71 million. 

His 2021 salary is $19 million and it goes up to $21 million in 2022. There have been reports of some incentives available to Smith but since we have no details we’ll set those aside for now. 

The cap hits on the contract are as follows: 

2018: $18.4 million
2019: $20.0 million
2020: $21.4 million
2021: $24.4 million
2022: $26.4 million

The Redskins can realistically move on from Smith after 2020. There would be net cap savings of $13 million in 2021 and $21 million in 2022. 

The first impression of the deal is that the Redskins did not move on from Kirk Cousins because they didn’t want to guarantee a lot of money to a quarterback. The total practical guarantee of $71 million is second only to Cousins’ $82.5 million. It should be noted that Cousins’ deal runs for three years and Smith’s contract is for five. 

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, Facebook.com/TandlerNBCSand follow him on Twitter  @TandlerNBCSand on Instagram @RichTandler