Hoosiers ready for season of big expectations

Hoosiers ready for season of big expectations

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) The Indiana Hoosiers have seen some of the preseason rankings and have heard people talking all over campus.

Clearly, they're aware of the debate about whether they'll be playing for a national championship in the spring.

Inside the locker room, the Hoosiers have chosen to stay away from the discussion and focus on the things that matter most - getting stronger, getting quicker and exceeding their own goals rather than those being set by the outsiders.

``You know, we were here when nobody was talking about us, so it's a humbling experience when everyone is talking about you,'' junior swingman Victor Oladipo said Thursday. ``Look we love accolades, we love recognition, but we know none of that matters right now.''

By April, it might.

The pundits are raving about Indiana's freshmen class, pitching center Cody Zeller as a player of the year candidate and talking about the Hoosiers in the same breath as perennial college basketball blue-bloods like Duke, Kansas and North Carolina.

There hasn't been this much preseason excitement in Bloomington since 2002-03, the year after Indiana finished as the national runner-up, and Hoosiers fans say it's about time.

Last season, Indiana made one of the most dramatic turnarounds in college basketball. After three straight losing seasons, the Hoosiers upset three top-five teams, including No. 1 Kentucky on a buzzer-beating 3-pointer, and reached the regional semifinals of the NCAA tournament for the first time since Tom Crean took over as coach.

So when Crean got most of his key players back and one of the nation's top recruiting classes, the natural assumption was that the Hoosiers could win it all.

``I don't know that we've really set any goals as a team, but obviously, we want to win a national championship,'' Zeller said. ``We're not going to guarantee anything, we're just going to play and see where it takes us.''

Crean is eager to see what he has.

Although a new NCAA rule allowed him to lead small groups of players through short practices this summer, Crean has not really had a chance to see his team together in months.

Indiana will hold its first official workout, a closed practice that will be televised by ESPN, next Friday. Indiana doesn't plan to hold its traditional Hoosier Hysteria festivities until Oct. 20.

``I don't think we spend much time talking about that,'' Crean said, referring to this year's soaring expectations. ``They understand we're trying to raise the standard of play here. We've got to continue to grow to a point where we're really consistent and we've got to have a toughness about us. It's not about being arrogant or cocky or being tough when you're ahead by 10 points, but being tough when you're down five or six on the road. We're spending our time getting the best skills out of them that we can.''

There's no telling how good the Hoosiers might be

If freshman Yogi Ferrell emerges as the starting point guard, as many anticipate, senior Jordan Hulls and Oladipo, a junior, may spend more time playing their natural shooting roles.

If Maurice Creek is healthy enough to become a contributor, as Hoosiers fans hope, that will be an added bonus.

Even Zeller looks different. He says he's grown about a half-inch since last year, measuring an even 7-feet in his shoes, and has bulked up to 240 pounds. He played most of last year between 225 and 230 pounds.

And while the combination has certainly created a stir outside Assembly Hall, Crean spent the summer going back to the basics..

``I've never incorporated more drill aspects than I did this year because I think it's really, really important,'' he said.

Will the combination allow the Hoosiers to meet the hype?

The players hope so.

``We're not throwing anything out,'' said Hulls, who was wearing a T-shirt celebrating Indiana's tourney run. ``We'd like to win every single game we play, of course.''

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Injuries hit Capitals hard in 3-1 loss to Winnipeg

Injuries hit Capitals hard in 3-1 loss to Winnipeg

The Capitals were already facing one of the toughest back-to-back challenges in the NHL. Then they found out their starting goalie would not play and less than nine minutes into the game lost their No. 1 center. 

That about summed up a 3-1 loss to the Winnipeg Jets on Wednesday. The last time an NHL team swept a back-to-back set of games against the Jets and Minnesota Wild was 2012. 

Washington played well enough taking a 1-0 lead on a Jakub Vrana goal in the first period and the game was tied until 12:51 of the third period when a shot by Ben Chiarot skipped past goalie Pheonix Copley. The Jets added an empty-net goal to seal the win. 

The loss is one thing. Winnipeg is a tough place to play and maybe the favorite to come out of the Western Conference. But injuries have begun to mount and that’s the big takeaway. 

Holtby showed up to the rink Wednesday morning and it was assumed he’d play after Copley won the game in St. Paul against the Wild. Instead, Holtby was ruled out with an upper-body injury and the Capitals had to sign an emergency goalie – Gavin McHale, a 31-year-old assistant coach for a local women’s college hockey team in Winnipeg. That is less than ideal. 

Holtby’s injury might not be a big deal. You’ll know if Washington recalls top prospect Ilya Samsonov from AHL Hershey for Friday’s game in Denver against the Colorado Avalanche. 

“That was this morning. [Holtby] came over with our goalie coach and did a skate this morning and was not able to back up tonight or play,” Capitals coach Todd Reirden said. “So he was kind of a game-time decision and he wasn’t able to participate tonight.”

Holtby will be re-evaluated Thursday after he gets continuing treatment for his injury. There has to be concern about Kuznetsov, who took an elbow to the face at 8:52 of the first period from Jets forward Brandon Tanev. Kuznetsov left the game and did not return. 

That left the Caps shorthanded most of the night with Lars Eller playing center alongside Alex Ovechkin and Tom Wilson on the top line. Ovechkin ended up playing 24:21. Eller played 18:48 and Backstrom 21:41. Not having Kuznetsov would be an issue. He’s not a player they can replace for long. 

“Was more precautionary,” Reirden said. “Obviously a blow to the head. We had to continue to evaluate him tomorrow, but we needed to make sure he didn’t return to the game.”

Washington, of course, could look to last year’s Stanley Cup playoffs when they missed Backstrom for Game 6 during the second round series against the Pittsburgh Penguins with a hand injury and the first three games against the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Eastern Conference Final.

Oshie was the final blow. He was slammed to the ice by Jets defenseman Josh Morrissey and the back of his head hit the ice. Reirden compared the play to a hit by Florida Panthers defenseman Michael Matheson on Vancouver Canucks rookie Elias Pettersson. He was suspended two games on Oct. 15.  

Oshie certainly didn’t look right. He had to stay on the ice as the Caps pushed for the tying goal with the net empty down 2-1. But it took a while for him to get back to his skates and then he wasn’t able to jump on a loose puck in the slot moments before Winnipeg put the game away at the other end of the ice with an empty-net goal. 

The result is one thing for the Capitals (8-7-3), who are still struggling to generate multiple wins in a row. The status of their three key players is more important after a 1-1-0 start to a four-game road trip. 


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Wizards finally experience a blowout win for their side

USA Today Sports

Wizards finally experience a blowout win for their side

CAPITAL ONE ARENA -- The Washington Wizards experienced plenty during this largely trying regular season. One aspect missing, being on the all-smiles end of a blowout victory. After Wednesday’s 119-95 rout over the Cleveland Cavaliers, they can now check that box.

“It’s nice to experience that as well,” Tomas Satoransky said.

Washington led from start to finish and by double figures for the final 35 minutes. It set season-highs for points in a quarter (41 in the first), the first half (73) and largest halftime margin (21). The Wizards turned 24 Cavalier turnovers into 29 points. All 13 players scored. 

Quality stretches existed this season, but for minutes, a quarter, maybe a half, but rarely over the full 48. Other than a third-quarter dip when the Cavaliers (2-12) closed within 13 points, the Wizards rolled. The romp meant John Wall only played 21 minutes. None of the starters entered in the fourth quarter. That last part happened in recent games, but this time for positive reasons.

“It was great,” Bradley Beal said of a game “[We were] able to come out and get a lead and be able to sustain it and maintain it throughout the game.”

The Wizards maintained little during the opening 11 games of the regular season other than a downtrodden vibe. Their 5-9 record reflects those struggles. The current three-game winning streak signals growth. The postgame locker room smiles and comments displayed some sense of relief.

“I think we needed that, obviously,” Satoransky said to NBC Sports Washington. The reserve point guard was part of the second quarter surge that saw the Wizards outscore the struggling Cavaliers 20-2 for a 61-34 lead.

“They were on a back-to-back and they haven’t been playing well this year. We felt like with a day off after our last win we could come out aggressively, and just keep it going,” said Satoransky, who had eight points, four assists and three steals in 17 minutes. “Trying to turn the season around.”

The Wizards aren’t naïve enough to think all problems are solved. The three wins came against teams with losing records. Victories over Miami and Orlando included shaky stretches. The big picture hole remains.

“We still have a lot of work to do – we still have to get better,” said Beal, who led Washington with 20 points. “We’re still not content with where we are. We put three [wins] together, but we still have a couple more at home that we have to take care of.”

All of that is true. Numerous gloomy statistics remind the reader of the rough beginnings. Washington entered Wednesday allowing a league-high 118.5 points per game. At least now, the Wizards can contemplate their issues without the weight of the world on their shoulders. For now, the league-wide media will find another target after pillaring the Wizards for weeks. Finally, positive momentum arrived and did so with the Nets, Clippers and Trail Blazers rounding out the homestand.

“I hope we can continue winning,” Satoransky told NBC Sports Washington. “We have three more games at home. I think it’s a good moment for us to turn things around. Brooklyn has been playing well and those two [Western Conference] teams are going to be tough, but I think we’re in a good way now.

“It’s great to experience something like that [blowout]. It helps you mentally. It helped just being able to win three in a row. You can feel it. Whenever you step on the court after that you feel more confident, so that’s good.”