Indiana picked as Big Ten favorite in basketball


Indiana picked as Big Ten favorite in basketball

ROSEMONT, Ill. (AP) Tom Crean didn't really understand what he was getting into when he took the Indiana job four years ago.

Now, the mess is gone. Just look at the Hoosiers.

They are the top team in the Big Ten and Cody Zeller is the Preseason Player of the Year, according to a vote by conference media, results that were hardly surprising given their jump last season.

All the Hoosiers did was orchestrate a 15 1/2 -game turnaround that matched the biggest in Big Ten history, going 27-9 on the way to the Sweet 16.

It's fair to say they've come a long way since Crean took over for Kelvin Sampson in the wake of the phone-call scandal that gutted the program.

``We had hit rock bottom,'' he said Thursday at Big Ten media day. ``We had all kinds of issues that were inside the program. You don't take the job at Indiana thinking you're going to deal with what we were dealing with, but we did. And we weren't going to leave. That wasn't an option.''

Crean said he actually had a chance to leave after his first season at Indiana, a 6-25 nightmare in 2008-09 that included a 1-17 conference record, and he would have earned what he was making in his previous job at Marquette. It took him ``about 10 seconds'' to say no.

Now, the Hoosiers are back on top in a conference that appears to be loaded.

Michigan and Ohio State were picked to finish second and third after sharing the regular-season title with Michigan State last season, and the way Crean sees it, those three are the teams to beat until someone unseats them.

The Hoosiers have as good a chance as any, with the 6-foot-11 Zeller back after averaging 15.6 points and 6.6 rebounds as a freshman. He was a unanimous pick for the preseason all-conference team, with Michigan's Trey Burke, Ohio State's Aaron Craft and Deshaun Thomas, and Penn State's Tim Frazier also making it.

``The target of being an Indiana Hoosier has never changed,'' Crean said. ``Indiana is synonymous throughout the country for being known for a lot of things in basketball. It was always a big, big game. It was always a big deal when you were playing Indiana or Indiana was coming to town. And I think that hasn't changed. Will it grow some? Maybe. But I think the bottom line is a year ago, when there really weren't those outside voices talking in a totally positive light where the team was at, that didn't phase them. They continued to work.''

The Hoosiers are facing no easy task.

Michigan is right there. So is Ohio State, even if its best player (Jared Sullinger) and one of its all-time leading scorers (William Buford) are gone after a Final Four run.

The Buckeyes still have three starters back. And Michigan State coach Tom Izzo likes his team's chances even though Draymond Green is gone.

``We have a chance to put together a pretty good team, and unfortunately it's in a tough conference this year and that's going to make a difference,'' Izzo said.

Strength of the conference was a big theme on Thursday, only this year it seemed like something more than coach-speak. There seems to be some weight to it.

``We're going to have to back it up,'' said Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan, whose team is coming off a 26-win season and Sweet 16 run. ``We're going to have to play well, that's for sure. There are certain teams now in our league that have that `X' mark on their back, but that's good. I think that's good, that quality competition, that interest, the outside interest of people saying, ``Well, we think this team is pretty good.'' This team is pretty good. That's OK, that's great for the league.''

For Indiana, it's been a tough climb back toward the top. The Hoosiers won just 10 games in Crean's second season and 12 in his third, before turning it around a year ago. Zeller's arrival was the extra kick the program needed.

``It's pretty crazy to think about how far we've come,'' senior Jordan Hulls said. ``It speaks volumes of how Coach Crean and his staff have really instilled their lives into getting Indiana basketball back to where people are used to seeing it. Being part of the losing seasons and then now, last year having a pretty good year and then expectations for this year, it's pretty cool to be a part of that.''

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Around the NL East: Braves get a chance to pull ahead

Around the NL East: Braves get a chance to pull ahead

Unsurprisingly the Atlanta Braves fully surpassed the Washington Nationals as the frontrunners in the National League East.

Atlanta has gotten healthy and appears, whereas Washington continues to struggle to find offense and is continually on the mend.

Unlike the week prior, the NL East was above .500 due to the Miami Marlins performing quite well. While it should be no sign of a turnaround, Miami’s offense has some liftoff.

While we don’t want to get ahead of ourselves and giving unneeded significance to a series in June, the Nationals and Philadelphia Phillies series at the end of this week is one to watch. Washington is on their worst stretch of games since the start of the season. Two of their top seven arms are on the DL, and they need some breaks to go their way. Philadelphia has been off-and-on for a month, and a series win over the Nats could give them the justification they need to battle for the NL East crown.

Atlanta Braves

Record: 42-29
Last 10: 6-4
Upcoming Series: @ Toronto Blue Jays (2), vs. Baltimore Orioles (3)

It should not be that noteworthy that the Braves jumped out to a lead in the East after their schedule this past week. Playing two of the bottom teams in the National League, the New York Mets and the San Diego Padres, Atlanta took care of business going 5-1 on the week.

Understanding it is against bottom half competition, their pitching was superb by some key starters in their rotation. Of course Mike Soroka finally came back from rehab with 6.1 innings of one-hit baseball, along with a brief break by Julio Tehran. Occupying the No. 5 spot in the rotation, Soroka will significantly bolster the bridge to Tehran, who struck out 11 Padres on Sunday.

For position players, Freddie Freeman hit three home runs this week despite seeing a 10-game hitting streak come to a close. They also still are waiting for their star left fielder Robert Acuna Jr. to get back. He was sent to the 10-day DL back on May 28.

A relatively easy June continues for the Braves with only Toronto and Baltimore on deck this week.

Washington Nationals

Record: 37-31
Last 10: 4-6
Upcoming Series: vs. New York Yankees (2), vs. Baltimore Orioles (3), vs. Philadelphia Phillies (3)

The best news for the Nationals after getting swept by the Blue Jays is honestly their young phenom Juan Soto. Hitting .312 in 77 at-bats, the outfield call-up has far exceeded expectations.

Almost singlehandedly, Soto gave them their lone victory of the week by hitting two dingers in Yankee Stadium. He brought home four of their five runs in a one-run win.

By all means he has earned his starting spot with the top club, alongside the now healthy Adam Eaton and Bryce Harper. However, where does Michael A. Taylor fit in? Tough decisions to be had in the Nats clubhouse.

An eight-game home stand is severely needed for a squad that had dropped six of their last eight and is now 3.5 games back in the division. Not to mention they are still without Stephen Strasburg, Jeremy Hellickson, and Brandon Kintzler.

Don’t worry the All-Star break, which will be in their home yard, is right around the corner.

Philadelphia Phillies

Record: 37-32
Last 10: 5-5
Upcoming Series: vs. St. Louis Cardinals (3), @ Washington Nationals (3)

Two series wins over the Colorado Rockies and in Milwaukee was a good pick-me-up for the young Philadelphia squad.

Unlike the week prior, there are finally some runners getting on base. None more than Rhys Hoskins who had eight hits (three of them long balls), and four walks in the past six games. They’ve even got some lively play from shortstop Scott Kingery, batting .333 in the past week.

Still their starters have to give them more consistency to give them a chance in the NL East. That includes Jake Arrieta (5-5) who consistently cannot make it to the sixth inning. He’s given up a combined 13 runs in only 14.2 innings pitched in his last three starts.

A chance for them to really pull their worth and possibly leapfrog the Nationals this week.

New York Mets

Record: 30-38
Last 10: 3-7
Upcoming Series: @ Colorado Rockies (4), vs. Los Angeles Dodgers (3)

All of the New York Mets ‘stars’ are still on the disabled list. All two of them.

Noah Syndergaard and Yoenis Cespedes were anticipated to come back this past week, but neither got the nod from Mickey Callaway.

With a solid uptick in production by Jose Reyes, who still has a .165 average on the year, there is some hope with the production from their infield.

Miami Marlins

Record: 28-44
Last 10: 6-4
Upcoming Series: @ San Francisco Giants (3), @ Colorado Rockies (3)

Twice this week Miami had a chance to get their first sweep over an opponent this year. Sure one team was the Baltimore Orioles, but the other was the San Francisco Giants.

It wasn’t necessarily because of dominant pitching either. Their lineup pieced together some timely hits, including three triples from center fielder Lewis Brinson and three home runs by J.T. Realmuto.

Speaking of pitching though, closer Kyle Barraclough saw four appearances without allowing a run, garnering three saves. If his team can get him more opportunities he could be up there with Kenley Jansen and Sean Dolittle as one of the top closers in the NL.


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Need to Know: Post-minicamp Redskins 53-man roster projection—Offense

Various sources

Need to Know: Post-minicamp Redskins 53-man roster projection—Offense

Here is what you need to know on this Monday, June 18, 38 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp.  

Redskins 53-man roster projection—offense 

It may still be early to project the roster, but things are coming into focus after the round of practices in helmets and shorts. Here is my look at who I think will make it on offense; defense up tomorrow. 

Quarterbacks (2)
Alex Smith, Colt McCoy

I think that Kevin Hogan is very much on the bubble as the third quarterback. They got along with two QBs last year, and with Alex Smith having demonstrated great durability during his career, Hogan may well get bumped off. 

Running backs (4)
Derrius Guice, Chris Thompson, Samaje Perine, Rob Kelley

I’d say that this is 95 percent locked in. Maybe Kapri Bibbs or Byron Marshall can make a push for Kelley’s roster spot but his history with Jay Gruden will make it very hard for him to get knocked out. 

Wide receivers (6)
Josh Doctson, Paul Richardson, Jamison Crowder, Maurice Harris, Robert Davis, Trey Quinn

The first time I did this back in April I didn’t have Quinn on the roster. That was before he was a man among boys at rookie camp and a player who looks like he belongs when the veterans showed up. I don’t know if he’ll have the impact that many fans think he will, but he’s certainly going to get his chance. Brian Quick could steal a roster spot from Harris or Davis.

Tight ends (3)
Jordan Reed, Vernon Davis, Jeremy Sprinkle

The Redskins did not draft a tight end or sign one in free agency so there seems to be faith that Reed will be healthy. We’ve heard that before and it seems somewhat risky to leave Davis, who has Father Time nipping at his heels, and the inexperienced Sprinkle as the only two backups. They may try to make room for an undrafted rookie like Hudson Garrett.  

Offensive line (9)
Trent Williams, Shawn Lauvao, Chase Roullier, Brandon Scherff, Morgan Moses, Ty Nsekhe, Geron Christian, Tyler Catalina, Tony Bergstrom

I think that Gruden is probably happy with the starters here but the depth is shaky, especially in the interior. The key could be whether Christian is ready for prime time as the swing tackle. That could allow Nsekhe to fill in at guard. Bergstrom is fine as the backup center, although I wouldn’t want to have to count on him for more than a few games. 

Offensive players: 24
Rookies (3):
Guice, Christian, Quinn
New to the organization in 2018 (5): Rookies plus Smith, Richardson 
Not on 2017 Week 1 roster (11): Rookies plus new plus Harris (practice squad), R. Davis (practice squad) and Bergstrom (not on the team). 

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

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An Indiana state police officer tweeted that he pulled a driver over for going too slowly in the left lane. I believe this person is a national hero. 


Days until:

—Training camp starts (7/26) 38
—Preseason opener @ Patriots (8/9) 52
—Roster cut to 53 (9/1) 75

The Redskins last played a game 167 days ago. They will open the 2018 NFL season at the Cardinals in 83 days. 

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