Carson expected to help Sun Devils improve

Carson expected to help Sun Devils improve

TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) Almost every time something went wrong for Arizona State last season, and it happened a lot, the social media sites lit up with Jahii Carson's name.

The Sun Devils committed a turnover? Don't worry, that won't happen when Jahii starts playing. Shots not falling? Jahii will make them. Offense stagnating? Jahii will get it flowing again.

Popcorn stale? Jahii will be on it.

Jahii, Jahii, Jahii.

Well, Arizona State fans, you finally get your wish: Jahii is here and he's looking forward to living up to all that hype you've heaped on him.

Best part is, despite expectations that have reached nearly preposterous proportions over the past year, Carson might have the game to live up to them.

``Obviously like you, just like the community, we are excited about him being able to compete with us this year,'' Arizona State coach Herb Sendek said. ``He is an extremely talented young man.''

Coming out of nearby Mesa High School, Carson was one of the top point guard prospects in the country.

For Sendek and his staff to convince him to play at Arizona State was a huge boost, boosting excitement around a program that had been mired in a run of mediocrity.

Then Carson got put on hold when he was declared academically ineligible last season, but all that did was further fuel the fervor.

In the year Carson was out, views of his highlight video on YouTube ballooned to nearly a half million and his Twitter followers climbed over 6,000. Arizona State fans saw him as a program savior.

Watch him play and it's easy to understand why.

A 5-foot-10 guard, he can play well above the rim, evidenced by the bounce-it-off-the-floor, behind-the-back, tomahawk dunk shown on his highlight video.

Carson is quick, blessed with a crossover dribble that turns ankles and has a deft eye for finding passing holes others can't see. He can also hit the 3 and has been working on a mid-range jumper.

Oh, yeah, he's got a little swagger to him, an I've-got-this calm in his voice, body language and game that doesn't have the hollow ring of false bravado.

Carson is good and he knows it.

``I definitely have a certain confidence and swagger about myself. I don't want to seem arrogant or cocky, but I definitely have a confidence about my game. I have a confidence about my teammate's game. I think that together, we can be something super,'' he said.

The Sun Devils certainly should be better.

Arizona State labored through it second straight losing season in 2011-12 and lost some key players from that team this year.

Leading scorer Trent Lockett transferred to Marquette to be closer to his ailing mother, sharpshooting guard Chanse Creekmur left to play football and forward Kyle Cain transferred to North Carolina-Greensboro.

Even without three players who accounted for more than 25 points per game, the Sun Devils expect to be better.

Joining Carson in the backcourt will be Evan Gordon, whose older brother, Eric, is a guard for the NBA's New Orleans Hornets. A 6-foot-1 junior who transferred from Liberty, Gordon was often the best shooter during practice last season and should give the Sun Devils a boost on the perimeter, not to mention one of the nation's best backcourts with Carson.

Arizona State also added Hawaii transfer Bo Barnes and returns Chris Colvin, a senior who can score and passes well at times, but needs to cut down on his turnovers.

Jordan Bachynski, a 7-foot-2 center, came on strong toward the end of the season, becoming more confident while scoring and snaring more rebounds.

Jonathan Gilling, a 6-7 forward from Denmark, was a nice surprise as a sophomore last season, dropping in 3-pointers and scoring in bunches, including a 21-point game against rival Arizona.

Sendek has indicated that he'll likely play more man-to-man defense this season and wants his team to push the pace as much as possible to take advantage of the athletes he has.

``I have said this all offseason, so it is not breaking news, but I would be surprised if anyone is able to push the ball any faster than Arizona State,'' Sendek said.

Out in front of the break with the ball will be Carson, the player Arizona State fans hope can live up to hype that's been building for over a year.

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Somehow, the Redskins still have a fairly straightforward playoff path. Somehow

Somehow, the Redskins still have a fairly straightforward playoff path. Somehow

You're going to feel absurd for reading the following sentence, but probably not as absurd as it felt to type the following sentence.

The Redskins, who are on their fourth option at QB, who made the '18 Giants look like the '72 Dolphins and who are large underdogs this weekend to the 4-9 Jaguars, actually still have a straightforward path to the playoffs.

Now, the word "straightforward" only applies to the path on paper, because realistically, there's nothing straightforward about fixing the litany of issues that are plaguing Washington at the moment.

Regardless, by losing on Monday night to the Seahawks, the Vikings blew a chance to separate themselves from a pack of NFC teams chasing(?) them and their final wild card spot. The Redskins are one of those teams, and here's how they could pass Minnesota to qualify for the postseason:

With the way the season is unfolding, you'd expect the Burgundy and Gold's playoff scenario to involve a bunch of teams losing a bunch of times in these final three weeks. The tweet above illustrates that's clearly not the case. They only need Minnesota to drop one more to go along with the Redskins winning out.

Of course, the Redskins stringing three straight plays together without committing a holding penalty feels like too much to ask for, so anyone expecting a three-game winning streak is either a bit crazy or a relative of Josh Johnson. But still, they're not out of the hunt quite yet. Somehow.


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Ravens have formula for both playoff and quarterback success down final stretch

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Ravens have formula for both playoff and quarterback success down final stretch

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- After experiencing misery in each of the past two Decembers, the Baltimore Ravens are looking to rewrite the script in their quest to end a three-year playoff drought.

In 2016, a loss to Pittsburgh on Christmas night ended Baltimore's bid to reach the postseason. Last year, a defeat at home against Cincinnati on New Year's Eve sent the Ravens home.

Now, with three games left, the Ravens find themselves in a familiar position. Baltimore (7-6) has a shot to reach the playoffs as either AFC North champions or as a wild-card team, and there's really only one can't-miss way to make it happen.

"The way we look at it, we need to win three games in a row," coach John Harbaugh said Monday. "We've been here before. Let's do it. But all we need to think about right now is Tampa Bay, our upcoming opponent."

There's a good chance the Ravens will have quarterback Joe Flacco available for the first time since Nov. 4 when they face the fading Buccaneers (5-8) at home on Sunday. Flacco, a former Super Bowl MVP and veteran of 15 playoff games, appears ready to return from a right hip injury that sidelined him for four straight games.

Fortunately for the Ravens, rookie Lamar Jackson has done a credible job in his first stint as a starter. Subbing for the injured Flacco, the former Louisville star and first-round draft pick guided Baltimore through three straight wins before Sunday's 27-24 loss in Kansas City on Sunday.

Jackson hurt his ankle in overtime against the Chiefs, but the injury evidently was not serious.

"Should be fine. Looks like it's OK," Harbaugh said.

If both quarterbacks are ready to go, Harbaugh must decide who to start and how to play them. Perhaps he already has.

"I'll just have to let you know -- if we want. It could entail anything right now," the coach said. "I know what we want to do. I have a plan. We have a plan. We talked about it. We have to talk to the guys about it, and whether we share that publicly, we'll decide as the week goes on."

The plan likely involves using both quarterbacks, just as the Ravens did before Flacco's injury. The difference now is that Jackson has more experience, and the Ravens have played exceptionally well with him at the helm.

"I haven't had a chance to sit down and talk with all the parties involved, but I think it stands to reason that if Joe's ready to go, he'll be part of the game plan," Harbaugh said. "He's too good a player not to be. We'll just figure that out as we go this week, to what degree and how it works. Everybody will know going in, except perhaps everybody outside."

Baltimore currently sits a half-game behind Pittsburgh within the division, thanks to the Steelers' surprising loss in Oakland on Sunday. Harbaugh learned of the defeat shortly before the team charter touched down on its trip from Kansas City.

"I was happy. Very happy," he said.

The Ravens have Tampa Bay, the Los Angeles Chargers (10-3) and Cleveland (5-7-1) left on the schedule. Pittsburgh (7-5-1) has New England (9-4), New Orleans (11-2) and Cincinnati (5-8).

Baltimore is also the sixth and final wild-card team in the AFC, so if the Steelers don't falter, the Ravens can still reach the postseason for the first time since 2014.

"It helps, sure," Harbaugh said of having multiple routes to the playoffs. "We just need to win games and let all that take care of itself."