Nationals

Eustachy, Colorado State making their mark

Eustachy, Colorado State making their mark

FORT COLLINS, Colo. (AP) No visitor has walked out of Moby Arena a winner since Colorado State coach Larry Eustachy led Southern Miss to a victory at the Rams' ear-splitting, high-altitude auditorium back in November 2011.

The Rams went on to make an NCAA tournament run, after which coach Tim Miles left for Nebraska.

In stepped Eustachy, a seasoned coach who's taken three schools to the NCAA tournament and is in line for a fourth with the Rams on such a roll.

Colorado State's 66-61 win over UNLV on Saturday extended its school-record winning streak to 24 straight wins at home.

``We know how important it is to win at home,'' said guard Dorian Green, who was named the MWC player of the week on Monday. ``Especially in our conference. If we want good things to happen this year, we have to win at home.''

The Runnin' Rebels were the fourth ranked team to succumb to the ``Moby Magic'' during the streak.

Now comes the hard part for these Rollin' Rams (15-3, 2-1 Mountain West) - taking that show on the road.

They visit No. 15 New Mexico (16-2, 3-0) on Wednesday night.

``It's going to be a monumental task,'' Eustachy said Monday. ``I've been in there before and I'm quite familiar with Steve (Alford) being at Iowa State when he was at Iowa. He just does a terrific job.''

The feeling is mutual.

Alford ranks the Rams ``right near the top'' of the Lobos' list of top-notch opponents so far, noting ``this is without question the best rebounding team we're going to be matched up against. So, their toughness, their experience, those are all great concerns.''

The Rams start five seniors: center Colton Iverson, a 6-foot-10 transfer from Minnesota; and returners Pierce Hornung at forward; and Green, Wes Eikmeier and Greg Smith at guard.

``Any time you start five seniors, that's extremely dangerous,'' Alford said.

That seasoning showed up at the foul line Saturday night when the Rams made all 10 of their free throws in the final 3 1/2 minutes to pull away from the Rebels in a tight game that featured 14 lead changes, 10 ties and no room for error.

They were also clutch on the glass, where the Rams boast the nation's top rebounding tandem in Iverson and Hornung.

``Our bench is going to have to help rebound. We might have guys sitting over there on the bench and the TV cameramen and everybody else on the floor trying to help us rebound against this team,'' Alford cracked.

``Obviously, the emphasis when you play Colorado State is what you do on the backboard.''

The Runnin' Rebels went more than seven minutes without a point during one stretch.

``It was the first experience for some of our guys with how physical Coach Eustachy's teams are,'' said UNLV coach Dave Rice. ``It was hard for us to get a post catch, hard for us to drive the lane and that's credit to Colorado State and how tough and physical they are.''

The Rams reached the NCAA tournament last year despite a 3-9 road record, and that's not a formula they can count on again. In the four seasons Eustachy has guided schools to the NCAA tournament - Southern Miss (2011-12), Iowa State (1999-00 and 2000-01) and Utah State (1997-98), his programs were 26-20 away from home.

This season, Colorado State is 2-3 on the road, losing close games at Colorado, San Diego State (in overtime), and Illinois-Chicago.

Their experience quotient and talent are augmented by their toughness,'' said Air Force coach Dave Pilipovich, whose Falcons were drubbed 79-40 at Moby Arena last week. ``That comes from Coach Eustachy. He does a great job of getting those guys and just playing every possession very physical and tough. So, you're not going to beat them in that area. And they're talented. That's a group that went to the NCAA tournament last year and has won 24 straight games at home. So, for an opposing coach: talent, experience, play very hard. That's not good.''

Colorado State leads a big group of up-and-comers that have made the Mountain West Conference one of the country's best basketball leagues.

Despite losing perennial powers BYU and Utah in recent years, the Mountain West is ranked behind only the Big Ten and Big East in RPI ratings.

``It's been a lot of fun because each year I think it's gotten better,'' Alford said. ``Three years ago we didn't think our league could get any better or tougher. And yet, I think our league has gotten deeper and tougher each and every year.

``And when you've had a lot of change-up with the landscape of teams leaving and the realignments with conferences I don't think that's very easy to do. Yet, our league has stayed not just good but it's gotten better. And I think that's a great credit to the coaches in the league. I think it's a tremendous credit to the players in the league.''

The Mountain West Conference looks like it will be loaded for years to come, too, which is why Steve Fisher was thrilled when San Diego State reversed course and announced recently that it was staying in the league.

``I've been in the Mountain West for 14 years. I'm the only coach that's been here for this time,'' Fisher said. ``I have great regard for how good it is and how tough it is. Probably the best it's been from top to bottom. I don't think you could consider the outcome of any game an upset.''

Colorado State, Wyoming (15-2) and Boise State (13-4) have joined the traditional trio of power teams - New Mexico, UNLV (15-4) and San Diego State (14-4) as schools that have high hopes for a trip to the NCAA tournament in a couple of months.

``There's some leagues that are top-heavy and that can make it a really good league. But to make it a great league like we have, you've got to have good depth from top to bottom,'' Alford said. ``And we've got that. ... Every night in our league, whether you play at home or on the road, you're going to have to play well to win.''

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Follow Arnie Stapleton on Twitter:http://twitter.com/arniestapleton

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Nationals coy about how starting pitching will lineup in World Series

Nationals coy about how starting pitching will lineup in World Series

WASHINGTON -- Mike Rizzo declined to say specifically Friday how the Nationals’ World Series rotation would line up. 

“Davey [Martinez] and I haven’t met officially yet,” Rizzo said. “I don’t think the pitching plans will come as any shock to anybody.”

Washington’s sweep of St. Louis in the National League Championship Series presents options. Everyone is rested. And, they needed it.

Despite the sweep, Stephen Strasburg is second in pitches thrown in the postseason, Max Scherzer fourth, Patrick Corbin sixth and Aníbal Sánchez 11th. Houston’s Justin Verlander is No. 1 following his Friday start in New York. Astros starter Gerrit Cole is third.

“You guys can figure it out,” Martinez said to reporters of the pending rotation. “You’ve been here all year. 

“For me, it’s making sure these guys are ready and healthy. These guys have pitched a lot. I want to make sure -- it’s not just about Game 1, it’s about Games 4, 5, 6, 7. We’ve got to make sure we prepare ourselves for seven games and that we do our due diligence on each one.”

The flat, and most likely, scenario is Washington simply decides to throw Max Scherzer in Game 1 and Stephen Strasburg in Game 2. Scherzer would be back in Game 5, if necessary, on full rest. Strasburg would return for Game 6 on an extra day of rest. They could also flip to give Scherzer the extra day. 

Here’s a wrinkle to consider: throw Aníbal Sánchez in one of the first two games. Why? 

Sánchez has been potent in the postseason. He has a 0.71 ERA in two starts. He’s struck out 14 and allowed five hits. Nothing about his ERA is a fib.

If he starts Game 1 or 2 in Houston, let’s say Game 1 for this what-if exercise, Scherzer is bumped to Games 2 and 6 -- with an extra day of rest. Strasburg opens Game 3 at home, then is in line to pitch Game 7 on the road on regular rest. Otherwise, the Nationals will have to massage the pitching later in the series to put their two best pitchers in the most important game.

Think of the argument this way: if the goal is a road split to start, what are the chances a Sánchez-Scherzer pairing could accomplish that? Based on the postseason so far -- and Sánchez’s 2.57 career postseason ERA -- it’s a reasonable consideration.

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5 prospects Ravens fans should be watching in Penn State vs. Michigan

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5 prospects Ravens fans should be watching in Penn State vs. Michigan

The Whiteout is one of the greatest atmospheres in all of sports. It will be on display Saturday as Penn State hosts Michigan (7:30 p.m., ABC). That alone is enough reason to Saturday's game, but for any Redskins fans out there who need more convincing, there are plenty of players playing who could be joining former Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley in Baltimore.

Hare the players Ravens fans should be watching.

DE Yetur Gross-Matos, Penn State

Gross-Matos has been climbing the draft boards after a breakout sophomore season in which he blew apart opposing lines with a whopping 54 tackles, 20 for a loss and eight sacks. He has really good size at 6-foot-5 which comes with some big arms which he uses to initiate contact and work blockers. He has more penetration skills than a lot of edge rushers and sometimes comes from the interior at Penn State.  He is not the kind of lineman who needs to get a good jump and get around a block, he can go around you or through you.

See where Gross-Matos is projected to go in the latest NFL Mock Draft.

CB Lavert Hill, Michigan

With two interceptions this season already, Hill is a top cover-corner for Michigan. Most draft experts have him as a nickel corner in the NFL. That's because his best skill is covering receivers man-to-man. Line him up in the slot and have him cover a speedy slot receiver and he can shut it down. At 5-foot-11, he is definitely undersized for an NFL defensive back, but the talent is there.

Watching Hill lineup against Penn State's KJ Hamler will be one of the matchups to watch on Saturday.

OLB Cam Brown, Penn State

In terms of side-to-side vision, Brown is one of the best linebackers in college football. He recorded 63 tackles last season with two sacks, three forced fumbles and six passes broken up. The knock on him, however, is that he can be easily blocked. He needs to bulk up a bit and work at shedding blocks to be really effective at the NFL level.

G Michael Onwenu, Michigan

In terms of size and strength, Onwenu's got it. In terms of quickness and athleticism, there are a few question marks. Then again, Onwenu is a guard, not a tackle, so perhaps you can get away with a project at that position with questions about his shape. His power alone makes him an NFL player.

OLB Josh Uche, Michigan

Uche is a hybrid edge rusher/linebacker, but he definitely looks like he would be more of an edge rusher in the NFL. This guy's main job on the field and perhaps in life is to pressure the quarterback. He had only 15 tackles last year, but seven of them were sacks. This is definitely  a later-round project though. He had 1.5 sacks heading into last week's matchup with Illinois. He inflated his totals a bit with three sacks in that games so take his final numbers with a grain of salt and ask just where those sacks are coming from.

 

G Steven Gonzalez, Penn State

Gonzalez sounded like he was committed to entering the draft in 2018, but he elected instead to return to Penn State for a fifth season. He's an interior lineman, most likely a guard, which is an area the Ravens need depth in. 

Athleticism is a bit of a question. Gonzalez is good on the run at the first block, but you shouldn't really expect him to go to the second level. He is going to occupy his first block, but he is not going to plow his way to a second. He just doesn't have the speed or athleticism to do it.

Other potential NFL prospects to watch:

WR Tarik Black, Michigan
G Ben Bredeson, Michigan
RB Chris Evans, Michigan
P Blake Gillikin, Penn State
WR K.J. Hamler, Penn State
CB Lavert Hill, Michigan
S Khaleke Hudson, Michigan
WR Juwan Johnson, Penn State
S Josh Metellus, Michigan
K Quinn Nordin, Michigan
QB Shea Patterson, Michigan
WR Donovan Peoples-Jones
CB John Reid, Penn State
OLB Josh Uche, Michigan
DT Robert Windsor, Penn State

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