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Nebraska will get best test vs. No. 16 Creighton

Nebraska will get best test vs. No. 16 Creighton

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) Nebraska's back-to-back, double-digit wins over opponents from BCS conferences have piqued the interest of what has been a generally apathetic fan base when it comes to men's basketball.

A win at Wake Forest last week and one at home over Southern California on Monday improved the Cornhuskers to 6-1, their best start since 2008-09. That's all well and good, first-year coach Tim Miles said, but the Huskers will get a better read on themselves when they host 16th-ranked Creighton (7-1) on Thursday.

Nebraska has lost 10 of the last 14 meetings with its in-state rival, but won three straight against the Bluejays in Lincoln.

``I don't think we'll raise any eyebrows unless we win on Thursday,'' Miles said.

Miles' mission is to create some momentum for the program as it prepares to move into a new 16,000-seat downtown arena next season.

Hard as it is to admit for the coach of the state's flagship university, Creighton, with its large fan following in eastern Nebraska, is a program he's chasing.

``They have a marquee program right now and we want to get to that level and we're not there,'' Miles said. ``Can we do it? Absolutely we can do it - and the sooner the better.''

Most years at Nebraska, basketball has been something Big Red followers watch passively in the winter when they're not talking about football recruiting.

Miles, who signed a seven-year contract paying $1.4 million, knows he has a lot of work to do before there is sustained interest. He's not off to a bad start.

The Huskers already are halfway to achieving the win total of the team that finished 12-18 and tied for 11th in the Big Ten.

Nebraska has announced attendance at more than 9,000 for all but one of its five home games, including a season-high 10,045 against USC. And that's even though only two of the five teams Nebraska beat at home, Valparaiso and Tulane, have winning records.

Seniors Dylan Talley (15.6 ppg) and Brandon Ubel (14 ppg), and junior Ray Gallegos (14 ppg) have been the main attractions in Miles' motion offense. Defensively, the Huskers are holding opponents to 42 percent shooting.

Still, the Huskers are picked to finish at the bottom of the Big Ten. Even though the early season wins are good for confidence, they don't mean much if no headway is made in the conference.

``Hopefully the fans like what they see,'' Miles said. ``We're just trying to be the best we can be. We know what everybody expected, and that hasn't changed. We're not picked any higher in the Big Ten. We just have to keep going out and prove ourselves, that we're not that team. We're ourselves. We're the Huskers of 2012-13 and we have to figure out how to win every game.''

Asked if the Huskers have exceeded expectations, Talley said: ``Yeah, from the things I was reading before the season, I would say we have. We believe in ourselves. We got up at 6 in the morning every morning over the summer and worked hard for positive results. We play hard and see what happens.''

The only misstep so far has been a 74-60 loss to Kent State in which Talley and Ubel combined for 44 points and the Huskers shot 39 percent. Kent State shot 57 percent.

The Huskers bounced back to win at Wake Forest 79-63 - their most lopsided road win since 2003 - and beat USC 63-51.

``With the exception of Kent State, there has been a growth from game to game in the way we're playing, the way we're playing together,'' Ubel said. ``I think you'll see another step forward come Thursday and it'll be fun. Ranked opponent comes into your place, you've got an opportunity to beat them, that's big-time for us. Hopefully, we can pull it together and get the win.''

After Creighton, Nebraska probably won't face another Top 25 team until visiting Ohio State for the Big Ten opener Jan. 2.

Even if the Huskers stay on a roll through the nonconference schedule, few would expect a team with nine active scholarship players to hold up night in and night out in the conference.

``People will say what they want to say,'' Talley said. ``We're not worried about what people outside the team are saying. We're not worried about it now whether it's good or bad because things could go south just as fast. We just have to keep on believing in ourselves and work hard and try to get better.''

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Trotz's future in Washington remains unsettled on eve Stanley Cup Final

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USA TODAY Sports

Trotz's future in Washington remains unsettled on eve Stanley Cup Final

Caps Coach Barry Trotz doesn’t have a contract beyond the Stanley Cup Final, and any potential talks about an extension will wait until the trophy is awarded, GM Brian MacLellan said Friday.

“No,” MacLellan said, asked if a decision on Trotz’s future had been made. “We’re going to address everything after the playoffs are over.”

Trotz’s four-year contract expires at season’s end.

It’s rare for a head coach to enter a season while in the final year of his deal. But that’s how the Caps decided to handle Trotz’s situation last offseason after another strong regular season performance ended with yet another second round playoff exit at the hands of the Penguins.

It was a suboptimal situation for Trotz, a 55-year-old who ranks fifth all-time in regular season victories but, until this year, had never led any team beyond the conference semifinals.

Despite his lame duck status, all Trotz did was produce his best coaching performance to date. 

Consider:

  • While visiting his son in Russia last summer, Trotz visited Alex Ovechkin in Moscow to discuss the changes he’d like to see the Caps’ captain make to his training and his game.
  • When the Caps reconvened for training camp in September, it was clear there were still some hurt feelings in the locker room. So Trotz and his assistants backed off, allowing some necessary healing to occur.
  • When the team suffered back-to-back blowout losses in Nashville and Colorado back in November, Trotz initiated a tell-it-like-it-is team meeting that many players have pointed to as the turning point of the regular season, which ended with the team’s third straight Metropolitan title.
  • Trotz also got his highly-skilled lineup to buy into a more structured, detailed style of play late in the campaign, a transformation that prompted MacLellan to call this playoff run the most defensively responsible of Trotz’s tenure.
  • In each of the two previous conference semifinals, Washington was defeated by Pittsburgh and, as a result, the Penguins had become a physical and a mental hurdle for the Caps. Earlier this month, Trotz helped direct Ovechkin and Co. past the two-time Cup champions.

Although MacLellan wouldn’t say much about Trotz’s contract, he did say that he’s noticed a big change in Trotz’s day-to-day approach to his job, a change possibly prompted by the coach’s free agent status.

“I think his demeanor has changed a little bit,” MacLellan said. “He seems a little lighter, a little looser, a little less pressure. Maybe a little more freedom about how he goes about things. He’s more relaxed, I guess would be the way to describe him.”

MacLellan also acknowledged the job Trotz’s has done this season, beginning with his delicate handling of the dressing room to start the year.

“I think he’s done a good job managing it,” MacLellan said. “To come in this year with so many questions—from my point of view, the lineup questions weren’t that big of a deal—but just the emotional state of our coming into to start the year [and] how to handle that. I think he’s done an outstanding job.”

Indeed, Trotz’s situation remains unclear on the eve of the Final. But we do know this much: He’s having one of the best contract years in NHL coaching history.

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Small Virginia town changes name to Capitalsville ahead of Stanley Cup Final

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FB/The Town of Lovettsville

Small Virginia town changes name to Capitalsville ahead of Stanley Cup Final

Welcome to Capitalsville, Va., population: #ALLCAPS

Hoping to become the Washington Capitals' Stanley Cup headquarters, the small Northern Virginia town of Lovettsville has renamed itself to Capitalsville, Va.

Caps superfan and Mayor of Lovettsville, Bob Zoldos, had a lightbulb moment while watching Game 7 in a local bar and restaurant, Velocity Wings. Overcome with emotion from the win, he decided to take his idea to the town council meeting Thursday and Capitalsville was born after a unanimous vote to "unleash the fury."

This is not the first time name changes have occurred ahead of a big game. Ahead of the Caps' first-round series against the Columbus Blue Jackets, Blue Jacket Brewery located in downtown D.C. changed its Twitter handle to "Grujacket Brewery" in support of goaltender Philipp Grubauer.

The name change from Lovettsville to Capitalsville is temporary, with the plan to keep the new name through the end of the Stanley Cup Final. However, Zoldos hopes the sign brings in other Caps superfans from across the DMV to take in a piece of history 20 years in the making. 

Here's to hoping Capitalsville brings the city some luck heading into Game 1 on Memorial Day.

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