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No. 1 Michigan and No. 3 Indiana take center stage

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No. 1 Michigan and No. 3 Indiana take center stage

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) Indiana should be getting used to all this.

Students lining up in chilly temperatures long before tip-off so they can see America's No. 1 team play at Assembly Hall. A nationally televised game that will become the focal point of the college basketball universe for one day. And the Hoosiers vying again for the Big Ten lead.

On Saturday, it's all about facing Michigan.

``It's going to be a big game, and I really can't wait for it,'' freshman guard Kevin Ferrell said.

Nobody in Bloomington can.

After stumbling in December against Butler and again early in conference play against Wisconsin, the Hoosiers (18-2, 7-1) have been trying to play their way back to the No. 1 spot they held through the first month of the season. A win Saturday might finally get them back on top, and Indiana is playing its best basketball of the season.

National player of the year candidate Cody Zeller broke out of his two-game shooting funk Wednesday night, dominating the middle against Purdue. Not surprisingly, his inside presence opened things up for the Hoosiers' 3-point shooters, who knocked down a season-high 12 against the Boilermakers. Indiana's vastly improved defense continues to play well, too, ranking 12th nationally in defensive field goal percentage (37.3).

The result: Indiana slugged it out with then-No. 13 Michigan State on Sunday before pulling away for a 75-70 victory, moved up four spots to No. 3 in Monday's AP poll and then handed Purdue its worst ever home loss, 97-60.

If they can beat a No. 1 team at home for the second time in 14 months, the Hoosiers will sweep their biggest week of the season.

``Everybody can play, they can run, shoot, play defense, they can do everything,'' Indiana guard Jordan Hulls said of Michigan. ``So you know we're excited for this opportunity.''

Michigan is playing well, too.

Since losing at No. 15 Ohio State on Jan. 13, following their first perfect nonconference season since 1985-86, the Wolverines (20-1, 7-1) have won four straight - including their last three by at least 14 points. Sophomore guard Trey Burke is averaging 17.9 points and 7.1 assists and, like Zeller, is a national player of the year candidate and a preseason All-American.

A win would allow Michigan to retain its first No. 1 ranking since 1992-93, the second season of the Fab Five, for a second straight week.

Plus, the winner would take sole possession of the conference lead at the midway mark.

``We're looking forward to it. It's going to be a lot of hype. It's going to be a really hectic crowd and atmosphere,'' Burke said. ``I know guys are ready. Indiana's a really good team. We'll be ready for them. It should be a fun game.''

And perhaps another milestone in a series that has had its share of memorable moments.

The only other time Michigan faced Indiana as the No. 1 team came Feb. 15, 1965, and the Wolverines won 96-95 in overtime over the eighth-ranked Hoosiers.

There was Indiana's victory in the 1976 national championship game, the first of Bob Knight's three national titles and the last undefeated season in major college basketball. There was Michigan's 65-52 victory on Jan. 24, 1995, which ended Indiana's 50-game winning streak at Assembly Hall. And, of course, there was the early 1990s rivalry between the Indiana teams led by Calbert Cheaney and Damon Bailey and the Wolverines teams with the Fab Five. Indiana went 3-1 in those two years.

Historically, though, things have not gone well for the Hoosiers in these contests.

Indiana is 2-5 all-time against No. 1 teams in Bloomington and a win Saturday would make these upperclassmen the first players in school history to beat two No. 1 teams at home and the first to beat No. 1 teams in two straight regular seasons. Indiana beat Michigan State at home on a last-second shot in January 2001 and Duke in the 2002 NCAA tournament. Christian Watford hit the buzzer-beating 3-pointer to upset No. 1 Kentucky last season.

The Hoosiers have only faced a No. 1 team twice before when they were ranked No. 3: Losing at Iowa in January 1987 and beating UNLV in the Final Four two months later.

Indiana understands what it's up against this time, too.

Burke, Tim Hardaway Jr., Glenn Robinson III and Nik Stauskas are all averaging double figures and are ready to prove they really are America's best team.

``We know they're a talented team. They're on top of the Big Ten,'' Zeller said.

The question is will the Wolverines have everyone on deck?

Forward Jordan Morgan, Michigan's second-leading rebounder, missed Wednesday's game against Northwestern with a sprained right ankle and his status for Saturday remains uncertain.

``He's going to try and do some things with us today,'' coach John Beilein said. ``We won't know until he moves out there a little bit.''

But the Hoosiers aren't worried about injuries, the buildup or the outside influences.

If they've learned anything over this past season and a half, it's this: Be themselves.

``It's a great opportunity,'' Hulls said. ``It's going to be a fun atmosphere and we're definitely excited about it.''

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Why the trade for Radko Gudas could signal the end of Brooks Orpik’s tenure with the Caps

Why the trade for Radko Gudas could signal the end of Brooks Orpik’s tenure with the Caps

The Carolina Hurricanes ended the Capitals’ season in the first round of the playoffs and quite possibly Brooks Orpik’s career with it. The 38-year-old defenseman said at the team’s breakdown day that the decision for what comes next, whether retirement or playing another season in the NHL, would have to wait.

“I'm in no rush in terms of deciding on my future in terms of hockey,” Orpik said. “That'll be a more health-related decision down the road."

Whether Orpik wants to come back for one more year in the NHL will be up to him, but the decision on whether to re-sign with the Caps may have just been decided for him.

On Friday, the Caps traded defenseman Matt Niskanen to the Philadelphia Flyers in exchange for Radko Gudas. Most people hear the name Gudas and think of him as a dirty player who can’t play the position, but he is actually a decent defenseman. The media in Philadelphia selected Gudas as the most outstanding defenseman for the Flyers in 2018-19. Plus, his penalty minutes have decreased in each of the past four seasons from 116 all the way down to 63 last season. For reference, Tom Wilson had 128 and Michal Kempny had 60. It’s still high, but it signals a player making a conscious effort to stay out of the penalty box.

Gudas has been suspended four times in his career and he certainly will be watched very closely by the NHL’s Department of Player Safety. One big hit could mean a lengthy suspension. That is a definite concern, but in terms of just his play, there is value there as a third-pair defenseman.

With Gudas in, that will almost certainly push Orpik out.

The move gives Washington six defenseman under contract for next season. Teams will usually keep seven for the regular season, enough for three pairs and one extra. Christian Djoos is a restricted free agent and will presumably be back as well, giving Washington seven blue liners.

Djoos had a down year last season, but he did play a third-pair role on the team’s Cup run and he is only 24. It does not make sense to give up on Djoos after one bad year just for one more year with Orpik who will be 39 at the start of next season.

Given Washington’s salary cap situation, the Caps do not have room for an eighth defenseman. If Orpik were to return, it would mean pushing someone else out. The only of those seven defensemen that would make sense to even consider moving for Orpik would be Gudas.

Gudas would not be the first player in the world to be traded and then flipped or bought out soon after. Ironically, the same thing happened to Orpik last season when he was traded to and then quickly bought out by the Colorado Avalanche.

A buyout here, however, would make no sense. According to CapFriendly’s buyout calculator, a buyout would only give Washington $1,166,667 of cap relief and most of that would go to a new Orpik deal making it pointless. Yes, you still have the $3.405 million of cap space the team would have opened up in the trade, but if the plan all along was to re-sign Orpik and ship out Niskanen, then why not just trade Niskanen for draft picks? Then you get his full cap off the books instead of having to go through the trouble of buying out Gudas and having him count against the cap for the next two seasons. That would make no sense.

As for flipping him and trading him to another team, what would the team get for him that would make it worthwhile? You cannot bring on salary or it defeats the purpose so the Caps’ options for a return would likely be limited to players of the same caliber and cap hit. What would be the point of that?

Prior to this deal, Djoos and Jonas Siegenthaler were the most likely candidates to play on the third pair next season. Both are left shots. Gudas is a right-shot defenseman which now gives Washington three with John Carlson and Nick Jensen. Gudas also plays with a physical edge. Sometimes he goes too far with it, but so long as he can control himself, he would add the physical presence to the blue line that the team stands to lose with Orpik gone.

There is no reason to trade for Gudas unless the team intended for Gudas to play a role next season. General manager Brian MacLellan chose to trade for a player who is a right-shot, physical, third-pair defenseman which is pretty much exactly the hole they needed to fill on their blue line and essentially the spot Orpik will be vacating. That did not just happen by accident.

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Nationals call up Adrian Sanchez, place Kyle Barraclough on 10-day injured list

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Nationals call up Adrian Sanchez, place Kyle Barraclough on 10-day injured list

WASHINGTON -- Manager Davey Martinez wasn’t sure postgame Saturday what’s wrong with reliever Kyle Barraclough.

The right-hander’s velocity is down, his slider flat and too true, his results poor. Barraclough left the mound Saturday at dusk with a 6.39 ERA. He’s allowed seven home runs in 25 ⅓ innings this season. Little he has tried has worked. And his time on the team may be short.

Utility infielder Adrian Sanchez will join the team Sunday. Sanchez’s departure from Double-A Harrisburg was reported Saturday night by Mick Reinhard, who covers the Senators, and noted Sanchez’s early removal from the game.

Barraclough will be the one leaving to make room for Sanchez on the roster, the Nationals placing him on the 10-day injured list with radial nerve irritation Sunday. Barraclough could be sent on an extended rehabilitation in the minor leagues, as the Nationals did with Trevor Rosenthal. At a minimum, Washington goes from an eight-man bullpen to a five-man bench, finally delivering Martinez more versatility at the plate and in the field.

Barraclough and left-hander Tony Sipp were rarely used in the last three weeks. A week passed between appearances for Barraclough from the end of May to the start of June. Sipp pitched Sunday for just the fifth time since May 24.

Removing Barraclough from the roster is another layer of indictment for the Nationals' offseason bullpen plan. They acquired Barraclough via trade with Miami for international slot money. He was supposed to pitch the seventh inning on a regular basis, Rosenthal the eighth and Sean Doolittle the ninth. That lineup has been disastrous outside of Doolittle, compromising the entire season.

Rosenthal’s travails are well-documented. He pitched again Saturday, walked the first batter on four pitches, walked the second batter, then allowing a single to load the bases with no outs. He eventually allowed just a run. His ERA is 19.50 following the outing. It’s the first time this season Rosenthal’s ERA is under 20.00.

While trying to fix Rosenthal, and trying to hang on with Barraclough, the Nationals have turned to Wander Suero and Tanner Rainey to handle the seventh and eighth innings ahead of Doolittle. Few would have predicted that combination before the season began. Despite the relative concern, no one would have predicted the Nationals’ bullpen to be among the worst in the league for much of the season, but has turned out to be just that.

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