NCAA

Panthers DE Hardy doesn't make trip to New Orleans

Panthers DE Hardy doesn't make trip to New Orleans

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) Carolina Panthers spokesman Charlie Dayton says starting defensive end Greg Hardy did not make the trip to New Orleans as he continues to deal with a family matter.

Hardy has been downgraded to questionable for Sunday's season finale against the Saints (7-8). Dayton says it is possible Hardy could make it to the game on his own, but as of Saturday night he was not with his teammates at the team hotel.

Hardy was excused from practice this past week to deal with the matter.

Hardy is in the midst of his best season with 11 sacks and 23 quarterback pressures for the Panthers (6-9).

Earlier this week, Hardy was fined $25,000 for a hit that sidelined Oakland Raiders quarterback Carson Palmer last Sunday.

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March Madness Revisited: George Mason lives out of their Final Four shadow in 2011

March Madness Revisited: George Mason lives out of their Final Four shadow in 2011

As March wound down without its usual flurry of March Madness moments, NBC Sports Washington took a look back at some smaller DMV schools who made a big impact during their most recent NCAA Tournament appearances.  

When one thinks of George Mason basketball, instantly they're called back to the historic Final Four team in 2006. That team's legacy hasn’t outgrown that legendary performance when the Patriots stunned everyone with one of the great Cinderella runs in tournament history.

But the 2010-11 George Mason squad had something to prove, too. Those Patriots wanted to write their own history. Hard to do when the mark was an unprecedented Final Four appearance. In 2011 they moved the Final Four to the side and gave pundits another story to tell, adding another giant of the sport to their list of downed foes.

Five years removed from the original Cinderella story, it was an entirely new team. New players, new assistant coaches and a new era of Mason basketball. But, it was recent enough to still have extra motivation for those on the roster. 

“We were kind of in those shadows of ‘Alright we don’t want to be the guys that come to college and then don’t get to the tournament,'’” former Patriots forward Mike Morrison told NBC Sports Washington. “We still communicate with [the Final Four] guys as if we’re on the same team. We know them personally. We play videogames online with each other from across the world and group chats and all that stuff. So, we were pretty tight.”

During that 2010-11 season, the Patriots, led still by coach Jim Larranaga, set records that even the Final Four team never did. A program-best 16-game winning streak propelled the team to an at-large bid. As a rehe CAA regular-season title for the second time ever. They received a higher seed, in fact - the best in the league’s history by being the No. 8 seed. George Mason sult, they won twas the first CAA team to ever be the home seed in an NCAA Tournament game. 

And unlike Selection Sunday in 2006, there was no doubt they would hear their name called. A 26-6 (16-2) record in a three-bid CAA had them prepared to continue playing. It was a matter of who, when and where, not if. 

Mason’s first opponent was Villanova, a team that the Patriots had just lost to by a point a year prior in non-conference play, a team Mason believed it could beat.

“We weren’t just happy by the seeding. We were very excited to get Villanova," Morrison said. "The year before we played them in Puerto Rico and we really felt like we should have beat them and we didn’t play our best game. There was a lot of excitement behind our matchup for sure.”

Mason’s roster was full of characters. The quiet, lead-by-example Cam Long was one of two seniors in the rotation. With him were the loud and boisterous juniors Ryan Pearson and Morrison in the frontcourt. At the point was sophomore guard Luke Hancock. They didn’t back down from a challenge. Mason was aggressive, loud, talked smack and was not afraid to tell teams they were better than them. They were battle-tested.

“We played tough games that year,” then-assistant coach Mike Huger told NBC Sports Washington. “We were in battles throughout, even in the 16-game winning streak. The CAA was very good and very competitive with us and VCU and just battling each other throughout. Old Dominion was very good as well.”

The first-round matchup played out exactly how an No. 8-9 game should. Back-and-forth, each team trading blows, answering the bell when it looked like the other had them on the ropes. 

An 8-0 spark in the final moments gave Mason brief control of the game. Up until that point, Villanova had led for most of the contest and Mason would not go away. A foul on a Corey Fisher 3-point attempt gave Villanova the lead right back with the shot clock turned off. Mason was down one, with plenty of time left for multiple possessions and then Hancock stepped back for a three.

“Luke shot it and that wasn’t the plan,” Morrision said jokingly. “Luke just did what he does.”

“Well, first it was more like ‘What are you doing?!’ He had the lane to drive to the basket and then he stops on a dime and takes a step-back three… and it was like holy smokes,” Huger said. “The shot was just such a shock. I think Villanova was in shock that everything happened the way it did. I think that kind of froze them a little bit and they weren’t able to make a play after that.”

The Patriots withstood the final 20 seconds to beat Villanova 61-57. Another blue blood to go down, joining the list of Michigan State, North Carolina, Wichita State and Connecticut from 2006. Could Patriots, with a crop of new faces, do it again? 

The three by Hancock extended Mason’s tournament but did not extend his own. Before they were set to play No. 1 seed Ohio State, Hancock came down with food poisoning. The “glue” of the team was gone and quickly shut down the wild concept that this could be another Cinderella team. 

"That changed the dynamic of the team,” Huger said. “We didn’t understand how much we would miss Luke going into that Ohio State game until it really hit us and now it’s like, ‘Oh, he’s not here.’”

The David Lighty and Jared Sullinger-led Buckeyes throttled the Patriots 98-66 in the second round. A magical run wasn’t allowed to end organically. 

As fortune would have it, that was the end of the road for a group that had so much potential. With four starters returning, running it back and perhaps having an even better season was definitely in the cards. 

But Larranaga left at season’s end to coach the Miami Hurricanes. His assistants would follow. Hancock, who had just come off his ‘One Shining Moment’ shot, transferred to Louisville, where more NCAA Tournaments would follow. 

The 'what ifs' grow bigger as time has gone on, showing how quickly life can change for mid-major programs. The Patriots haven’t made the tournament since.

“We thought we could really do something special with that group coming back, but everything changed,” Huger said. “Who knows what would have happened if we would have stayed and had another crack at it the following year with that group back. So that’s the thing that you always wonder.”

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Capitals Mailbag Part 1: What does Washington's salary cap situation look like for next season?

Capitals Mailbag Part 1: What does Washington's salary cap situation look like for next season?

It’s time for a new Capitals mailbag! Check out Part 1 below.

Have a Caps question you want answered in the next mailbag? You can submit your questions here at the Capitals Mailbag submissions page on NBCSportsWashington.com.

Please note, some questions have been edited for clarity.

Joe Collins writes: I know it may be a bit too early for this question, but has there been any discussion on any possible compensation for teams that traded draft picks for players who were on expiring contracts in the event the season gets canceled? If the season were to not be completed the Caps would've traded a 2nd and 3rd rounder for 10 games with Brenden Dillon and another 3rd rounder for seven games with Ilya Kovalchuk. I am sure many other teams are in similar, if not worse, positions. Any thoughts on how these teams should/may be compensated?

It does seem early to talk about this as the season has not been canceled and it is only April 1, but I'll play along.

This will be an unpopular opinion, but I don't think any team that made trades for rentals without conditions should be entitled to any compensation. I understand that these are extenuating circumstances, but the Caps would not have been entitled to any compensation had the season gone on as normal and they missed the playoffs so why should they be entitled to anything now? Or how about if they got injured and they weren't able to play? Teams would not be entitled to anything in that situation either. The fact that you might not have them for very long is the risk you run with rental players. When teams trade for players on expiring contracts, they are hopeful they will get a long postseason run out of them, but you do it with the understanding that you could potentially only get those players for a handful of games.

To me, a much bigger issue will be what to do with trades that had conditions attached, like when draft picks are tied into how far a team goes into the postseason. When you have agreed on conditions based on the traditional season and postseason format and that changes, those are circumstances which I do feel a team would be entitled to some form of compensation. I don't know exactly what that would look like as I don't know how the season will be formatted when it returns, but compensatory draft picks would make the most sense to me. That way a team that promised to give away a draft pick doesn't have to based on whatever the postseason looks like and teams still get to recoup picks. Sure, that may mean more draft picks in, let's face it, what is already a heavily diluted draft, but the coronavirus has affected how teams scout the end of the season, taking away scouting trips and with minor junior and college leagues canceling their postseason. Add some compensatory picks so teams can take a shot at players they may not have scouted as much as they would like.

Jack Ryan writes: If the season doesn’t get canceled, wouldn’t all UFA’s be available to sign come July 1?

That is among the many logistical issues with a delayed season, but the league is aware of it. In a conference call Monday, Brian MacLellan said the league had discussed player contracts being extended to August this year if the league returns and plays into the summer. The NHLPA would have to approve that, but considering the revenue at stake, there is no reason why it wouldn't.

The league has a lot of very good lawyers to worry about these kinds of things. There is no scenario where a plan is in place, the league starts up and then oops! No one figured out that player contracts expire before the playoffs are supposed to end. What a pickle! I am sure there are minor things that may slip through the cracks, but something as significant as player contracts will be sorted out before the puck drops again.

Bill Bridge writes: Assuming the cap stays where it is and Braden Holtby is gone, the Caps would be in good shape. They'd have enough room to field basically the same group of forwards minus Kovalchuk, sign a vet goalie to back up Ilya Samsonov and even re-sign Brenden Dillon to a $3.5-$4 million contract if they wanted to go that route. Thoughts?

Not including restricted free agents, the Caps have 11 forwards, four defensemen and one goalie under contract for next season. If the salary cap stays the same -- which would be my guess, I can't see it going up at this point and I don't think either the NHL or NHLPA wants it to go down -- Washington would have about $10.4 million to work with to sign a high-end backup/tandem goalie to go with Samsonov, sign a third-line winger (because Richard Panik certainly looks like a fourth-line player at this point), give Jonas Siegenthaler a raise and sign one or two additional defensemen (only one if Martin Fehervary is ready to step in). Even with Holtby off the books, things are going to get tight very quickly.

I think Brian MacLellan has done a masterful job with this roster and he has been as good a general manager as anyone during his tenure, but the fact he has given out a lot of long-term deals for veterans with the thought that those cap hits would look better with each passing year with the cap continuing to steadily rise. When the cap stays in place, that has major ramifications not just for next year but for how this team has projected its cap out over the next few years. That is hugely important considering Alex Ovechkin and Jakub Vrana's current contracts expire at the end of the 2020-21 season.

I think it makes sense to try to re-sign Dillon if they can, but I think he could probably get more on the open market and signing him is not just about getting his contract to fit in next year, it's about getting it to fit beyond next season with Ovechkin and Vrana re-signed. Ovechkin's cap hit will probably be about the same, but Vrana has clearly earned himself a gigantic raise.

Thanks for all your questions! Part 2 of the mailbag will be coming on Thursday. If you have a question you want to be answered in the next mailbag, you can submit it here at the Capitals Mailbag submissions page on NBCSportsWashington.com.

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