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No. 1 Indiana dominates C. Connecticut St. 100-69

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No. 1 Indiana dominates C. Connecticut St. 100-69

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) Cody Zeller dominated inside. Victor Oladipo had another solid all-around game, and Christian Watford made three more 3-pointers. There was a little defense, too.

On nights like these, it's easy to see why Indiana is No. 1.

Watford scored 21 points, Zeller had 19 points and 19 rebounds, and the top-ranked Hoosiers routed Central Connecticut State 100-69 on Saturday.

``I think we're playing well, but again I don't think we've even scratched the surface on how good we can be at both ends of the floor,'' said Oladipo, who had 15 points and held potent scorer Kyle Vinales in check. ``I think if we keep (getting better), we'll continue to play at a high level.''

Indiana is playing pretty well right now, off to a 9-0 start for the second straight season. The Hoosiers have won 13 straight at Assembly Hall and 27 in a row at home against non-conference foes. This was their third-most lopsided victory of the season, and they seem to be getting more dominant with each game.

Indiana shot 54.2 percent from the field while holding the Blue Devils (4-4) to just 33.3 percent. Vinales came in leading the country at 25.9 points per game, but was 3 for 15 against the Hoosiers, including an 0-for-4 performance from 3-point range. The sophomore finished with seven points, thanks primarily to Oladipo, who does a lot more than just play defense.

He also had nine rebounds, five steals, three blocks, two assists and repeatedly whipped the crowd into a frenzy with highlight-reel dunks and big plays.

Oladipo's effort was just one part of a balanced effort for the Hoosiers. Jordan Hulls had 10 points and four assists. Yogi Ferrell finished with eight points, six assists and two steals. Reserve Will Sheehey had 12 points and six rebounds.

``We came out with a lot of energy tonight, which is always big for us,'' Zeller said. ``You can never come out slow. Like Vic says, it's back to the lab, and find out where we messed up and keep on getting better.''

The matchup was supposed to be an intriguing shootout between two strong offensive teams.

Instead, Indiana took advantage of one full week to prepare for the game and took control during one six-minute stretch in the first half.

The Hoosiers had only two real concerns all night.

They lost sophomore forward Austin Etherington with a left knee injury that coach Tom Crean described as ``significant'' even before the official diagnosis was in.

Etherington was surrounded by his teammates and coaches as he was lifted onto a stretcher and then wheeled off the court late in the first half. It's another blow for a team that is still missing senior forward Derek Elston (knee surgery) and isn't sure how quickly freshmen Hanner Mosquera-Perea and Peter Jurkin will get up to speed after serving the last game of a nine-game suspension imposed by the NCAA.

``I know they were really concerned about their friend and teammate,'' Crean said, referring to Etherington's injury. ``It was important they continued to play well and they did.''

The other problem was defending Matt Hunter, who was just 2 of 18 from 3-point range coming into the game. This time, Hunter connected on 6 of 11 from beyond the arc, 13 of 25 overall and finished with 40 points - becoming the first player from outside the Big Ten to score that many points in one game at Assembly Hall. Two Michigan State players - Shawn Respert in 1995 and Terry Furlow in 1976 - are the only other visitors to score 40 at Indiana.

``When you have the leading scorer coming in and you're Indiana, you're going to make sure he doesn't get anything, OK?'' Blue Devils coach Howie Dickenman said. ``He really had some bad looks, got a little frustrated, took a couple of questionable shots. But his roommate from Detroit, Hunter, threw in 40. We never thought he'd get 40, we thought Kyle might get 40.''

Central Connecticut State led only once - after the first basket - and hung around for about six minutes.

Then the Hoosiers dominated.

Ferrell started the decisive 22-2 run with a spinning 2-footer, Hulls followed with a 3, Zeller posted up for a layup, Maurice Creek hit another 3 and Zeller posted up for another layup. Oladipo closed the run three minutes later with a thunderous one-handed dunk that he turned into a three-point play, giving Indiana a 37-16 lead.

``Bottom line is there's a lot of room for improvement in our team, that will never go away,'' Crean said. ``We can get better, we will get better.''

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Brooks Orpik's time in Washington may not be over after all

Brooks Orpik's time in Washington may not be over after all

Friday's trade with the Colorado Avalanche seemed to mark the end of Brooks Orpik's time with the Washington Capitals. But that may not actually be the case.

Trading away Orpik also meant trading away his $5.5 million cap hit. That is not an insignificant amount of money especially for a team trying to re-sign defenseman John Carlson to a big-money contract.

But Orpik will not be playing out the final year of his contract in Colorado. The Avalanche placed Orpik on unconditional waivers Saturday for the purpose of a buyout, according to Sportsnet's Chris Johnston.

CapFriendly has the details of the buyout. The Avalanche will pay Orpik $3 million and take a cap hit of $2.5 million in the 2018-19 season and $1.5 million in the 2019-20 season.

So why would Colorado agree to take Orpik just to buy him out and take on dead cap space? Because by acquiring him, it lowered the cost of the Grubauer trade.

What this means for Brooks Orpik is that he will become a free agent, free to sign with anyone for the upcoming season. Including Washington.

For a 37-year-old defenseman who does not boast great mobility or speed, a $5.5 million cap hit was a bit too steep for the Caps who were very close to the cap ceiling last season and who need that extra money to re-sign their free agents. But the team did value Orpik's leadership and that could be especially important as young defensemen Madison Bowey and Christian Djoos continue developing plus prospects Jonas Siegenthaler, Lucas Johansen and Connor Hobbs all try to work themselves into contention for a spot on the NHL roster.

If Orpik does return, it will be a masterstroke for general manager Brian MacLellan. MacLellan freed up a lot of cap space to re-sign Carlson without having to buy out Orpik's contract, but could still possibly keep him on the roster at a much-reduced cost.

After a strong playoff performance, there may be other teams vying for Orpik's services next season. Getting traded to get bought out likely isn't a good feeling, but considering he just won a Stanley Cup in Washington, the defensive guru Todd Reirden is expected to be promoted to head coach and that re-signing with the Caps would mean not moving his family for what could very possibly and will very likely be the last contract of his NHL career, there are a lot of reasons why it would make sense for both the team and the player if Orpik stayed with the Caps.

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Need to Know: Tandler's Take—Jay Gruden know the pressure is on him in 2018

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Need to Know: Tandler's Take—Jay Gruden know the pressure is on him in 2018

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, June 24, 32 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp.  

The heat is on Jay Gruden

Jay Gruden knows that his Redskins need to win in 2018.

“This isn’t a two- or three-year process,” he said last week. “This is a one-year process and we have got to win right away.” 

Jay Gruden gave this answer to a question about Alex Smith, but his words should resonate with the whole team. He’s right. This is no longer a rebuilding team. It’s time for this team to get it together and make a playoff run. 

That puts the pressure on Gruden. 

This is his fifth year as coach of the Redskins. He is well beyond the point where he can credibly point a finger of blame at his predecessor for any problems that are lingering. Only five players who were around in 2013, Mike Shanahan’s last year in Washington. It’s Gruden’s show now. 

His tenure is now the longest for a Redskins head coach since Norv Turner made it nearly seven years, from 1994 through 13 games into the 2000 season. His 49-59-1 run with the Redskins spanned three owners in Jack Kent Cooke, John Kent Cooke, and Dan Snyder. 

It should be noted that Turner’s third and fourth years at the helm closely resembled Gruden’s past two years. Turner’s team went 9-7 in 1996 and 8-7-1 the next year, narrowly missing the playoffs both years. That looks a lot like Gruden’s 8-7-1 and 7-9 records over the past two years. 

Gruden does not want this year’s team to resemble the 1998 Redskins. Turner’s fifth team started out 0-7 before winning four of their last five to finish 6-10. 

Turner kept his job in part because of the team’s uncertain ownership situation after the elder Cooke passed away in 1997. Gruden will not have a similar set of circumstances to help him out if he needs a lifeline in January. 

Gruden wants his fifth year to turn out more like Turner’s sixth season. That team went 10-6, topped the NFC East standings and won a playoff game. 

To get there, he needs a lot of his decisions to go right. While the trade for Smith was not his call, every indication is that he was on board with it. 

Last year, it was his decision to say no, thanks to Wade Phillips, who wanted to be his defensive coordinator and promote Greg Manusky into the job. The results were mixed as the Redskins were sixth in pass defense DVOA but 29thagainst the run. It was viewed as a marginal improvement on defense but the unit still seeme to be more of a liability than an asset. 

This year, the Redskins re-signed inside linebackers Zach Brown and Mason Foster and added defensive lineman Daron Payne with their first-round pick after spending their first-round pick on DE Jonathan Allen in 2017. There will be no excuses for Manusky and, by extension, Gruden if the defense does not improve. 

Joe Barry, Manusky’s predecessor who also was hired by Gruden when Phillips was an option, was out after two years of failing to significantly improve the defense. Any reasonable analysis would have to conclude that Barry did not get an infusion of talent anywhere approaching what Manusky has received in his two seasons. Manusky is getting a second year but he probably won’t get a third if the defense is still considered to be an impediment to the team’s progress. 

And if Manusky has to go, you have to wonder if Gruden will get a chance to hire a third defensive coordinator. 

I’m not sure if there is a certain number of games that the Redskins have to win for Gruden to return in 2019. It feels like he would not survive a 6-10 season or maybe not even another 7-9 finish. On the other end of the spectrum, making the playoffs and winning a game when they get there would certainly punch his ticket for a sixth season. 

Anything in between would leave Gruden in some jeopardy and the call would come down to the vague “moving in the right direction” criteria. 

There are some holes on this team, to be sure. But every team has some and the ones that are well coached figure out how to overcome them. The pressure will be on Gruden to best utilize their strengths and minimize any damage brought about by the weaker points. 

From his statement, it’s apparent that he is well aware of that. 

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

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Timeline  

Days until:

—Training camp starts (7/26) 32
—Preseason opener @ Patriots (8/9) 46
—Roster cut to 53 (9/1) 60

The Redskins last played a game 175 days ago. They will open the 2018 NFL season at the Cardinals in 77 days. 

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