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Coach Swinney: 11th-ranked Tigers remain focused

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Coach Swinney: 11th-ranked Tigers remain focused

CLEMSON, S.C. (AP) Clemson coach Dabo Swinney's message to his players all year has been for them to focus on each other. He doesn't expect the 11th-ranked Tigers to change their approach now.

Swinney said Tuesday that Clemson (9-1, 6-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) has played to a strict standard during its six-game winning streak. The Tigers hope to continue to play with the same discipline and attitude against North Carolina State (6-4, 3-3) Saturday at Death Valley.

``They've learned how to handle success better and they've learned what it takes to be consistent performers,'' Swinney said.

The coach said it would've been easy for the Tigers to lose direction at several points this season, particularly after their 49-37 loss at Florida State. That defeat likely will keep Clemson from playing for a second straight ACC title.

Instead of folding, Swinney said his players learned how to be consistent winners, which will pay off later.

Swinney's been part of past Clemson teams - he was Tigers receivers coach from 2003 until take over the program in 2008 - that would've dwelled on defeat and come up short in later weeks. Instead, Swinney said team leaders got players right back into their regular routines, forgetting about past defeats.

``They've bought into those things and that's what they've focused on,'' Swinney said.

Those results mean Clemson can share the ACC Atlantic Division crown by defeating the Wolfpack this weekend. The Tigers' loss to the Seminoles gives Florida State the spot in the league championship game should it defeat Maryland on Saturday. An upset by the Terps would send Clemson to its third title game in four seasons.

``We're not worried about any of that,'' Clemson center Dalton Freeman said.

There's plenty left for the Tigers to achieve even outside a league crown, Swinney said. They've never won seven ACC games in a season before and last won 10 regular-season games in 1981, their national championship season.

``These are steps forward we're taking,'' Swinney said.

The Tigers have shown steadiness on offense all season, leading the ACC in yards gained at more than 513 and second in league points scored at nearly 43 a game. The defense has tightened up the past month, rising to third in the ACC in points allowed at 22.4 per game.

Clemson had its best defensive showing of the year in last week's 45-10 victory over Maryland, holding the Terps to a season-low 180 yards of offense.

``We're playing pretty good football defensively,'' Swinney said. ``As good as probably anybody in the top 20.''

They'll be tested this week with the ACC's third-best passing team and Wolfpack quarterback Mike Glennon, who trails just Clemson's Tajh Boyd for most passing yards a game in the league.

It was Glennon and the Wolfpack who accelerated Clemson's late-season spiral with a stunning 37-13 loss last November that dropped the Tigers out of the top 10. It was part of Clemson's 1-3 finish after an 8-0 start - something the players vow not to repeat this season.

``As an offense, we felt like we were somewhat embarrassed by them last season,'' Boyd said. ``It's one of those deals where we just want to get out there and have some fun.''

North Carolina State qualified for a bowl game with last week's 37-6 victory over Wake Forest. The Wolfpack ran for 170 yards, their first game in more than a month surpassing the century mark on the ground.

``We had to run the ball to be a better football team,'' Wolfpack coach Tom O'Brien said. ``Anytime you can control the time of possession by running the ball, that is a good recipe to win the game.''

Boyd and Tigers' high-flying attack has had lots of fun the first 10 games. They put up 718 yards in a 56-20 victory at Duke and followed that up with three Boyd TD passes in the opening half to take a 35-7 lead last week against Maryland.

It's a standard Swinney said he's worked hard to develop among his players since taking over midway through the 2008 season. Last year's group, which featured 42 freshman on the roster, learned how to win games but still needed to develop a toughness both to deal with adversity and to handle success. That's happened this season, Swinney said, and will serve as a foundation for the future.

``When you don't have that mentality, that's when you get your butt beat,'' Swinney said.

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2018 NBA Draft: TV, live stream and radio info, things to watch

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USA Today Sports Images

2018 NBA Draft: TV, live stream and radio info, things to watch

The 2018 NBA Draft will take place on Thursday night as the newest wave of potential superstars like DeAndre Ayton, Marvin Bagley III, Mo Bamba and Luka Doncic enter the league. Here is everything you need to know for the big night...

2018 NBA DRAFT

When: 7 p.m.
Where: Barclays Center, Brooklyn, NY
TV: ESPN
Live stream: WatchESPN.com
Radio: ESPN

Wizards draft picks: 15th overall in the first round, 44th overall in the second round

First round order:

1. Phoenix Suns
2. Sacramento Kings
3. Atlanta Hawks
4. Memphis Grizzlies
5. Dallas Mavericks
6. Orlando Magic
7. Chicago Bulls
8. Cleveland Cavaliers
9. New York Knicks
10. Philadelphia 76ers
11. Charlotte Hornets
12. Los Angeles Clippers
13. Los Angeles Clippers
14. Denver Nuggets
15. Washington Wizards
16. Phoenix Suns
17. Milwaukee Bucks
18. San Antonio Spurs
19. Atlanta Hawks
20. Minnesota Timberwolves
21. Utah Jazz
22. Chicago Bulls
23. Indiana Pacers
24.Portland Trail Blazers
25. Los Angeles Lakers
26. Philadelphia 76ers
27. Boston Celtics
28. Golden State Warriors
29. Brooklyn Nets
30. Atlanta Hawks

Top prospects:

1. DeAndre Ayton, C, Arizona
2. Marvin Bagley III, Duke
3. Luka Doncic, Slovenia
4. Jaren Jackson, Jr., Michigan State
5. Mo Bamba, Texas
6. Michael Porter, Jr., Missouri
7. Wendell Carter, Duke
8. Trae Young, Oklahoma
9. Collin Sexton, Alabama
10. Kevin Knox, Kentucky

Three things to watch...

Will Leonard get traded?

Last year's draft featured some big trades including Jimmy Butler going to the Timberwolves. This year, there seems to be at least a decent chance it happens with Kawhi Leonard of the Spurs. He wants a trade and they have been meeting with him in recent days, perhaps for a last-ditch pitch to remain with the team. If he gets dealt on draft night, it wouldn't be a huge surprise.

Who will the Kings pick?

A consensus has built for Ayton to go No. 1 to the Suns. After that, it's a major crapshoot and whomever the Kings select will produce a domino effect from there on down. Will they take Bagley, the safe pick, or go a riskier route with Doncic or maybe even Porter, Jr.? The best bet at this point appears to be Bagley, but nobody truly knows.

Where will Young and Porter, Jr. go?

The two most interesting prospects in this draft are Young and Porter, Jr. Young was a sensation in college basketball, but is undersized and appears to be boom-or-bust. He could flame out quickly at the next level or be some iteration of the next Stephen Curry. Porter, Jr. played only three games in college due to a back injury and now has hip issues as well. His talent is undeniable, but his injury history represents significant risk.

CLICK HERE FOR OUR 2018 NBA MOCK DRAFT

For more on the NBA Draft, check out our preview special episode of the Wizards Tipoff podcast:

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John Carlson once again an All-Star snub

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USA TODAY Sports

John Carlson once again an All-Star snub

The Capitals' Stanley Cup run may be even more remarkable than we thought considering there were zero all-stars on Washington's roster apparently.

As part of Wednesday's NHL Awards, the First and Second-Team All-Star rosters were released and not a single Capital made either team.

Here is a look at both teams:

In the interest of full disclosure, the All-Star Teams are voted on by members of the Pro Hockey Writers Association of which I am a member. I did not, however, have a vote for the All-Star rosters.

The first thought most Caps fans will have when looking at these teams is what about Alex Ovechkin?

I'm actually OK with Taylor Hall and Claude Giroux getting the nods at left wing.

Hall won the Hart Trophy for what he was able to accomplish in New Jersey in leading a team that looked like a trash heap before the season to a playoff berth. Compare the Devils' roster to the Caps' and there's no question Hall had a lot less to work with than Ovechkin and tallied 93 points as compared to Ovechkin's 87. Giroux finished second in the NHL with 102 points, one of only three players this season to finish in the triple digits. He very narrowly beat out Ovechkin for Second Team honors.

It was a coin flip and Ovechkin lost. That's not what Caps fans should be crying foul over. The fact that John Carlson was not among the four defensive all-stars is a far more egregious omission for which there is no excuse.

After inexplicably being excluded from the NHL All-Star Game in January, Carlson was snubbed once again as he came in fifth in the voting.

Just what does Carlson have to do to get some recognition?

No defenseman in the entire NHL had more points than Carlson's 68 this season. That's not just because of increased minutes as Carlson finished 13th among defensemen in ice time per game.

But being a good defenseman is not about the offensive stats.

That's right. Now go ahead and show me which of the four who finished ahead of Carlson was partnered with a rookie for most of the season. I'll wait.

The answer is none of them.

It's very easy now to look at the Capitals as a team that had all the pieces in place and managed to put it all together at the right time to go on a Cup run, but that's not what happened this season. Carlson was very heavily relied upon by the Capitals during the regular season when the blue line was an obvious weakness, especially after an injury forced Matt Niskanen out of the lineup for 14 games. Carlson was averaging nearly 30 minutes per game in Niskanen's absence. Carlson also spent the majority of the season with his primary partner being a rookie in Christian Djoos.

Charlie McAvoy was a rookie too. Does that mean Zdeno Chara should have been named an all-star?

A player like McAvoy is very much the exception, not the rule. Djoos has a bright future ahead of him, but his career is not yet at the same level as a player like McAvoy.

With all due respect to the voters, it seems like not enough attention was paid to what the Capitals asked of Carlson this season. His strong play on both ends of the ice made up for a weak defense that was only bolstered by a late trade for Michal Kempny from the Chicago Blackhawks just prior to the trade deadline.

If you looked at Carlson's stats and saw just an offensive specialist who was not strong enough in his own end to warrant an all-star spot, then you were not paying close enough attention to the role he played in Washington this season.

MORE CAPITALS COVERAGE: