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Krzyzewski looks to put the 'D' back in No. 8 Duke

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Krzyzewski looks to put the 'D' back in No. 8 Duke

DURHAM, N.C. (AP) Mike Krzyzewski wants his latest Duke team to resemble some of its predecessors.

He wants the eighth-ranked Blue Devils to play aggressive defense. He wants toughness, togetherness and passion at that end of the floor.

Some of that was missing last year when their opponents had the ball - and among other things, that inability to consistently stop people helped lead to one of the biggest upsets in NCAA tournament history.

So, at the dawn of his 33rd season at Duke- where, through the years, key defensive series were heralded with an emphatic slap of the floor - the former Army captain with the dedication to tough, man-to-man defense wants his players to regain that edge.

``The history of our program has been based on really sound, good defense, and team defense. I don't think we had that'' last season, Krzyzewski said. ``I think we beat teams offensively last year, and when you don't have the defense, you lose out on certain toughness and togetherness that's only found, really, by doing stuff on the defensive end of the court.''

No question, the Blue Devils flopped at the end of last season by losing three of their final four. None was more surprising than the 75-70 loss to 15th-seeded Lehigh in their NCAA tournament opener in which C.J. McCollum regularly dissected them to the point where he made himself a preseason AP All-America pick at their expense.

``Last year, that wasn't my moment. That's not what I want to be remembered for,'' big man Mason Plumlee said, explaining his decision to return for his senior year. ``I wanted another moment here at Duke, another moment with (Krzyzewski), my teammates, and a better one.''

The Blue Devils have two other seniors in the rotation - forward Ryan Kelly and guard Seth Curry - but this team probably will rise and fall depending on how Plumlee performs.

``It's his time to be the key guy,'' Krzyzewski said. ``Ryan and Seth are also key guys, but Mason is the key guy. I love when a guy wants that. He owns it.''

The return of Plumlee, who averaged 11 points and a team-best nine rebounds last season, meant the Blue Devils only had to deal with two player losses - older brother Miles Plumlee graduated, and Austin Rivers became Duke's second straight guard to go one-and-done.

If there is to be a third, it'll have to be Rasheed Sulaimon - because he's the only freshman guard on the roster. The 6-foot-4 scorer, who joins Amile Jefferson as 2012 McDonald's All-Americans on the team, averaged 27 points as a high school senior.

``We have a lot of guys on our team that can shoot,'' Sulaimon said. ``All the guys really can shoot on the perimeter. But that's what's going to make our team special this year, is that we not only have guys who can shoot but we have guys who can create off the dribble as well.''

The Blue Devils also are looking for 6-8 redshirt freshman Alex Murphy to fill the same role that Kyle Singler perfected from 2007-11 - drawing the opponent's big men away from the basket by knocking down 3-pointers over them - and hope the 6-11 Kelly can continue to develop his inside-out game. He missed the postseason last year with a sprained right foot, and his absence was clearly felt.

``For a guy my size, I can shoot the ball pretty well, but I haven't completely shown my ability to score around the bucket with my back to the basket,'' Kelly said. ``With Mason being such a great passer - he can play really inside and out, too - that dynamic will be really important for our team and something we're going to have to take advantage of.''

That across-the-board size makes the Blue Devils a tough team to match up against on offense. They hope it makes them tougher to score against, too.

``I think we're going to be better defensively,'' Krzyzewski said. ``We're not going to be a pressing team, but I think in the half court, if we can limit second shots, keep people out of the paint and not give up open 3s - with our length, we should be able to get to people and kind of bother their shots. We want to be an outstanding half-court defensive team.''

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Capitals Faceoff Podcast: On to Vegas!

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USA TODAY Sports

Capitals Faceoff Podcast: On to Vegas!

The Capitals are the Eastern Conference Champions!

After dispatching Tampa Bay in Game 7, the Caps claimed the conference crown for just the second time in franchise history. But they're not done yet. Now it's on to Vegas to face the Golden Knights for the Stanley Cup.

JJ Regan and Tarik El-Bashir break down the Caps' win over the Lightning and look ahead to the matchup with the Knights.

Check out their latest episode in the player below or listen on the Capitals Faceoff Podcast page.

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Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—OTA report, fans excited about young D-line

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NBC Sports Washington

Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—OTA report, fans excited about young D-line

Here is what you need to know on this Friday, May 25, 62 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp.  

The Redskins week that was

A look at some of the most popular posts and hottest topics of the week on Real Redskins and NBC Sports Washington

Trades, misses and mistakes explain Redskins' dead cap—This post does a good job of outlining where the Redskins’ dead cap came from. It should be noted that dead cap is a part of the cost of doing business in the NFL and the Redskins have done fairly well managing it this year. Only about a dozen teams have less dead cap on the books than the Redskins $5.2 million. 

Tandler's Take—The best- and worst-case scenarios for the 2018 Redskins—I received some comments saying that my worst-case scenario, a 6-10 finish, is not low enough. Since we’re talking about events that won’t begin to happen for about three and a half months, I can’t really argue with them. But it’s just hard for me to see them dropping more than a game from last year when they were hit harder with injuries than any other team in the NFL. 

Pre-OTAs Redskins player one-liners, defense—An extension for Matt Ioannidis seemed preposterous a year ago, now it seems like a good idea. How many sacks for Lanier? When will Ryan Anderson get his first sack? Plus offensive player one-liners here

Redskins OTA practice report—QB Alex Smith sharp—You can’t tell everything from OTAs, but you can tell some things. Taking another look at this post, I gave a good, detailed look at the session, but I didn’t really mention the overall feel, which was fun and energetic. 

Tweet of the week

Certainly, Derrius Guice is the fan favorite of the rookie class. But the great reaction to this tweet shows that there is plenty of love for Daron Payne and Jonathan Allen, last year’s top pick. 

In 2016, the starting defensive line consisted of Ricky Jean Francois, Chris Baker, and  Ziggy Hood. The top reserve was Cullen Jenkins. They all had their good qualities and made some plays. But Baker was the youngster of the group and he turned 30 during the season. It clearly was a group on the decline. 

Two years later, the picture is quite different. Payne and Allen lead a younger group that will get better over the next few years. Matt Ioannidis, Anthony Lanier, Tim Settle, and Stacy McGee should round out the group. McGee is by far the senior member of the group at age 28. None of the others have celebrated his 25thbirthday yet. 

Fans should perhaps temper their optimism with the knowledge that potential doesn’t always develop into performance. But unlike years past there is something to look forward to. 

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

Timeline  

Days until:

—Minicamp (6/12) 18
—Training camp starts (7/26) 62
—Preseason opener @ Patriots (8/9) 76

The Redskins last played a game 145 days ago. They will open the 2018 NFL season at the Cardinals in 107 days. 

In case you missed it

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