Capitals

No. 5 Louisville posting up little-used big men

No. 5 Louisville posting up little-used big men

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) Louisville's Zach Price and Stephan Van Treese a week ago spent most of the game watching their teammates play.

Now they're holding down the middle for the No. 5 Cardinals (5-1).

With starting center Gorgui Dieng sidelined until January with a broken left wrist he suffered eight days ago, the two reserves are getting extended minutes.

Price and Treese enter Saturday's game against Illinois State averaging a combined 3.0 points and 5.1 rebounds per game. That's a drop-off from Dieng's 8.2 points and 8.0 rebounds.

Louisville coach Rick Pitino doesn't expect them to replace Dieng, and doesn't want them to try. He hopes that each focuses on creating their own inside niche. Whether they do will likely depend on how much confidence they develop from being in the fray.

``I'm very confident in them, but they're not Gorgui,'' Pitino said Friday. ``They'll do a good job. But it's up to Chane Behanan and Wayne Blackshear and Luke Hancock and Kevin Ware to pick up their games to a higher level because you can't make up for Gorgui with Zach and Stephan.

``You can certainly hold your own but they're not going to be Gorgui, so the other guys have got to pick up their games in order for you not to slip.''

Saturday will mark the second game with extensive playing time for 6-foot-10 sophomore Price and 6-9 senior Van Treese.

Dieng was injured in Louisville's semifinal victory over Missouri at the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament in the Bahamas. He returned with his wrist wrapped and eventually played 24 minutes but missed the championship game loss to Duke.

Price made his first career start in that game with Van Treese coming off the bench, and the combination produced promising numbers. Van Treese had eight points and eight rebounds in 21 minutes while Price added four points and three rebounds in 19.

More encouraging to Pitino was how both played against Blue Devils' big man Mason Plumlee, who finished with 16 points and seven rebounds. Besides relishing the challenge, each seemed to handle the extra minutes well.

Now it's a matter of boosting their confidence.

Price said the Duke game helped him.

``My teammates were definitely on my side throughout the whole game, telling me things that I need to do,'' Price said. ``Just being able to play against a great player like Mason Plumlee is just really building my confidence up.''

Price may not give the Cardinals the presence inside they're used to, but he provides size comparable to the 6-11 Dieng. Pitino also believes the increased time will also help him become more comfortable with understanding how to play his position.

``He's a big body, he jumps well, he's got a good hook inside,'' the coach said. ``His biggest weakness is low self-esteem. I told him, go out there and say, `I'm the best big man on the court' and then go show it because he has the ability to do it.

``I think he's a much better player than he knows he is. I've always expected him to do more. So, we're hoping he can.''

Knee injuries have limited Van Treese's ability to contribute, to the point where he almost transferred after last season's Final Four run. He decided to stay with the Cardinals after talking with Pitino.

He is glad he did and improved health has a lot to do with his attitude.

Though nowhere close to what he considered his peak condition as a sophomore, the Indianapolis native feels ``100 percent'' now after not playing for six months during his recovery.

Versatile enough to play center or power forward and obviously familiarity with Pitino's system, Van Treese hopes to use this opportunity to expand his offensive skills.

``It's unfortunate for Gorgui, but I'm excited to step into his role,'' Van Treese said. ``I know all the plays and practice against these guys every day. ... I haven't always been so confident with my offensive game, but I can pass out of the zone and create shots for Luke and Wayne in the corner. I feel like I bring that to the table.''

While that figures to help the Cardinals' depth later in the season, Pitino leaves no doubt about how much Louisville will miss Dieng. He set a school record with 128 blocks last season and provided the inside presence the coach believes the Cardinals need to make another championship run.

For now, that role will be a two-man job shared by Price and Van Treese.

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Possible playoff opponents for the Capitals are starting to come into focus

Possible playoff opponents for the Capitals are starting to come into focus

With their 3-1 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday, the Capitals' playoff future is starting to come into focus. Washington has only one game remaining and can finish in either third or fourth in the round robin standings. That limits the number of possible playoff opponents for the Caps when the games really start to matter.

First, before talking about who the Caps may play, it is important to remember why. Under the NHL's regular format, a normal year would see teams advance in a bracket, meaning each team knows going in they will be playing the winner of a specific matchup if they advance. This year, the NHL is going back to its old format of re-seeding after each round. This makes determining matchups a bit harder to figure out.

Here's what we know. The Caps are going to finish in the bottom half of the round robin meaning they will play one of the highest two seeded teams coming out of the qualifying round. The Carolina Hurricanes swept their qualifying round series against the New York Rangers. As the No. 6 seed coming in, Carolina is going to be one of the top two qualifying round teams.

RELATED: DEFENSIVE BREAKDOWNS AND MORE FROM CAPS LOSS TO FLYERS

Washington's final seed will be determined by Sunday's game against the Boston Bruins. A win in regulation, overtime or a shootout will mean the Caps are No. 3, while a loss in any fashion will bump them down to No. 4.

The simplest scenario for Washington is that If the Pittsburgh Penguins rally to win their series against the Montreal Canadiens, the Caps are guaranteed to play either Pittsburgh or Carolina as the No. 5 and 6 seeds, respectively. It gets a little trickier if the Penguins lose. If that happens, the Hurricanes become the top qualifying team and will play No. 4. The top team behind them then becomes No. 6 which, as of now, could be the New York Islanders, Toronto Maple Leafs or the Columbus Blue Jackets.

So a rematch with the Hurricanes is a definite possibility for the Caps, as is a matchup with the rival Penguins.

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Max and Erica Scherzer announce ‘Nats for Masks’ initiative

Max and Erica Scherzer announce ‘Nats for Masks’ initiative

Max Scherzer and his wife, Erica, have announced the formation of a new organization called 'Nats for Masks' that will help provide masks to underprivileged and at-risk populations in DMV area.

As part of the initiative, the Scherzers will auction off some of their personal collection of memorabilia to support COVID-19 relief efforts in the DMV. Some of the auction items available included autographed game-used jerseys, caps, and even Max’s 2019 All-Star Game nameplate.

Giving back to the community is nothing new to the Scherzer family. As animal lovers, back in 2017 during the wake of Hurricane Harvey, the Scherzer’s rallied to cover adoption fees for all animals at the Washington-based Humane Rescue Alliance in order to make space for animals brought in from Houston.

Erica is also on the Board of Directors of the Humane Rescue Alliance, and Max has also contributed in the past in a PSA to raise awareness for the shelter.

https://twitter.com/HumaneRescue/status/861982319892193284?s=20

As if we needed another reason to adore the Scherzer family and what they do for our community, just add this to the list.

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