Redskins

Pierre, Baylor backcourt key with 3 forwards gone

Pierre, Baylor backcourt key with 3 forwards gone

Baylor is moving forward without most of its Ps and Qs.

Coming off a school-record 30 victories last season, the 19th-ranked Bears go into this year without forwards Perry Jones III and Quincy Miller, who both left Baylor early for the NBA. Also gone is big man Quincy Acy, a heart-and-soul leader during his four seasons who was also drafted.

The Bears still have senior point guard Pierre Jackson, the Big 12 preseason player of the year.

``He's really improved and focused on his leadership, and being more vocal in practice,'' coach Scott Drew said.

Despite all the changes in the frontcourt, including two other post players who graduated, the Bears are still considered one of the Big 12's top teams. They were picked second in a preseason vote by coaches behind perennial Big 12 champ and seventh-ranked Kansas.

Jackson is among five guards back, including 3-pointer shooter and starter Brady Heslip. A.J. Walton has started 52 games his first three seasons, while Deuce Bello and Gary Franklin were key contributors off the bench in their first seasons at Baylor.

``As far as our team goes, experience in the back court, which is a little bit different,'' said Drew, entered his 10th season at Baylor. ``In the last few years, we've been a taller team and more experienced on the front line. But when you lose three players to the NBA and return a lot of people in the back court, it kind of changes some of the things that you do.''

That doesn't mean the Bears will be lacking for quality big men. They are just young, except for junior Cory Jefferson and senior J'mison Morgan, who sat out last season after starting 14 of the 31 games in 2010-11.

Their starting center will be 7-foot-1, 220-pound freshman Isaiah Austin, who was one of the nation's top-ranked recruits after playing at Grace Prep in Arlington.

``He brings a lot of height, a lot of length and a great skill set. The biggest thing when you look at him right now is you know he can get stronger,'' Drew said. ``At the same time offensively, because he can shoot 3s and handle the ball, he really stretches the defense and makes it tough to guard a big guy like that. ... That versatility makes him special.''

Other front-court freshmen are 6-8 Rico Gathers, 6-11 Chad Rykhoek and 6-7 Taurean Prince.

Acy, Fred Ellis and Anthony Jones left as the winningest senior class in Baylor history, after the Bears won 100 games the past four seasons.

That included a school-record 28 wins in 2009-10, before that mark was surpassed last season. They twice made it to an NCAA regional final before losing to the eventual national champion, Duke in 2010 and Kentucky last season.

Baylor had five players average in double-figure scoring last year, led by Jackson's 13.8 points a game. But with the next three leading scorers from last year now in the NBA and all the youngsters now around him, Jackson is sure to get more attention from opposing teams.

``He's used to scoring. I think he'll be focused on more defensively and offensively. Everybody will focus their game plan around him versus last year,'' Drew said. ``So as we all know, the expectations for him and the focal point, things are going to be tougher for him. At the same time, he's improved his game and is excited for that challenge.''

The Bears open the season at home Nov. 9, a late afternoon game on a Friday against Lehigh after the No. 1-ranked and defending national champion Lady Bears play their opener earlier that day at the Ferrell Center.

Baylor has five games the first 10 days of the season, and play again before going to Kentucky on Dec. 1.

``It's a great opportunity for us,'' Drew said. ``This year could be harder than last year's non-conference schedule. We play some real tough road games, true road games like at Gonzaga, at Kentucky. That gets us ready for the Big 12.''

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Redskins Talk hosts "Redskins On the Clock" special: How to watch, live stream, listen

Redskins Talk hosts "Redskins On the Clock" special: How to watch, live stream, listen

It's the moment we've all been waiting for: finding out who the Redskins are going to take as their No. 15 pick in the 2019 NFL Draft.

After much anticipation and countless mock drafts, Redskins fans will finally find out what's to come for the Burgundy and Gold in the upcoming NFL season. 

And we couldn't let you handle this news alone: So we've got the Redskins Talk crew hosting a special "Redskins on the Clock" live stream to address, analyze and hopefully rejoice over the 'Skins decision. 

<<CHECK OUT NBC SPORTS WASHINGTON'S LATEST NFL MOCK DRAFT>>

On Thursday, Apr. 25th, JP Finlay, Peter Hailey and Mitchell Tischler from the Redskins Talk Podcast, along with guests Travis Thomas and Trevor Matich, will be offering a live look into their thoughts and concerns surrounding both the Redskins' pick and all of Round 1. The live stream will be available on the MyTeams by NBC Sports App from approximately 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. 

And if you haven't already downloaded the MyTeams App, you can do so right now, RIGHT HERE.

Redskins Talk Podcast "Redskins on the Clock" Special

CLICK HERE to watch the daily live stream of the Redskins Talk Podcast

When: 8 p.m. - (approximately) 11 p.m. ET, Thursday, Apr. 25th 

Live Stream: Click to stream Redskins Talk Podcast Live every day this week

Want to subscribe to Redskins Talk?: 
Apple Podcasts | Google Podcasts | Spotify | Stitcher | Art19

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How the Capitals went from 'chokers' to 'closers' in Game 6s

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USA TODAY Sports

How the Capitals went from 'chokers' to 'closers' in Game 6s

RALEIGH — There was a time when a Stanley Cup Playoff series lead of any kind produced nothing but stress and anxiety for the Capitals and their tortured fan base.

This is an organization, after all, that has blown a 3-1 playoff series lead five times – often in horrifying, heartbreaking fashion. That has only happened 28 times in NHL history, and Washington owns 18 percent of those epic collapses. But the league’s biggest chokers have put those demons to rest. And that trend started well before winning the Stanley Cup last year. 

Tonight, the Capitals have a chance to close out the Carolina Hurricanes in Game 6 of a first-round playoff series at PNC Arena. They lead 3-2. They know they always have another chance, if necessary, on Wednesday for Game 7 at Capital One Arena back home. 

But if ending a series on the road once seemed like a daunting task, it hasn’t fazed the franchise for a while now. Washington has won four Game 6s in a row when up 3-2 in a series.  

“When we play to our identity and force other teams to make mistakes and they’re in an elimination situation, then those mistakes become magnified,” Capitals coach Todd Reirden said. “That team is already feeling the pressure of that being their last game. And if we play to our identity then it really seems to match up nicely for those elimination games.”

The Capitals were ahead 3-2 with road Game 6s in Philadelphia (2016), Toronto (2017), Columbus (2018) and Pittsburgh (2018) and won them all. They also put Vegas away last June up 3-1 in the series with Game 5 on the road and won the Stanley Cup that night. If the recent version of the Capitals has a chance to put a team away, the team has done it.

The last time they blew a lead with a chance to eliminate the opposition was 2015 when they coughed up a 3-1 advantage in a second-round exit to the New York Rangers. 

There are theories why.

A big, physical team with elite skill, Washington has been able to wear teams out the later a series goes. In 2017, the Maple Leafs put up a great fight against the Presidents’ Trophy winners in the first round. They won two overtime games. They took a 2-1 series lead and had a chance to go up 3-1 on the Capitals with Game 4 at home in Toronto. 

Washington, instead, won Game 4 by a 5-4 score and allowed just two goals in Games 5 and 6 to end the series.

The offense went dry in 2016 against Philadelphia in the first round and a 3-0 series lead suddenly was cut to 3-2 with the Flyers hosting Game 6. They had life. The old Capitals might have panicked. But they won that game 1-0. Philadelphia managed just four goals over the final three games of the series and had nothing left in Game 6. 

There is a mentality that goes into playing a game where the other team’s season is on the line and yours is not.   

"To ourselves, I think, to show that when we play that way, we're going to be real tough to beat,” goalie Braden Holtby said. “I don't think we put much emphasis on [Carolina]. We know they're going to prepare and play as if it's an elimination game for them. We know they're going to come hard, we know they're a good young team and they never shy away from anything. It's on us to play like that and take everything else out of it."

Last year against Columbus in the first round, Washington overcame a 2-0 deficit to tie the series. Game 4 on the road was a clinic with the frustrated Blue Jackets hardly able to get the puck through the neutral zone in a 4-1 Capitals win. Washington broke Columbus’ will with its relentless, physical play. It scored 10 goals in Games 5 and 6 to end the series.  

The same thing played out the next round against Pittsburgh. A dominating 6-3 win in Game 5 at home – much like the 6-0 win over Carolina on Saturday – set the stage for a classic road Game 6. Washington scored first. The Penguins tied it. But the Capitals were the team with enough juice left in overtime to take the series on Evgeny Kuznetsov’s game-winning goal. 

The best example of how the Capitals have worn down one opponent after another actually came last season in the Eastern Conference Final when they were down 3-2 to the Tampa Bay Lightning. Washington didn’t allow a goal in Games 6 and 7 and advanced. 

“Our team likes being on the road, plays well on the road, enjoys spending that time with each other,” Reirden said. “When you want to have success on the road you have to have contributions from everybody throughout your lineup. That makes you a very difficult team to match up as the home coach. So by us having the seven 20-goal scorers, we were a difficult match.

"And now, we started to see a little bit more of our depth scoring [Saturday]. … It certainly becomes an easier road assignment for the coach -- I can tell you. That’s an advantage for us.”

The Lightning last May looked like a boxer that had taken too many blows to the head after the Capitals blitzed them in Game 6.

If you looked closely on Saturday, you saw elements of that when Carolina defenseman Dougie Hamilton raced back for a puck, knew Alex Ovechkin was steaming right behind him, and gave up on the play. Hamilton didn’t appear to want to pay the price for winning that race and instead Ovechkin took the puck away and fed Brett Connolly in front for the goal that put Washington up 3-0. 

Maybe Carolina regroups tonight. The Hurricanes are a young team, but with grizzled veterans like Jordan Staal and Justin Williams who have won multiple Stanley Cups between them. They won’t play scared. The crowd at PNC Arena will be a factor. They do not want their season to end.

But these Capitals are a different breed. Time and again the past three years they have grinded their opponents into dust so by the time the series reaches this point there isn’t enough fight left to them.     

“We’ve just got to regroup here and move forward,” center Nicklas Backstrom said. “That was just a 3-2 lead. Toughest one is the last one. We haven’t been happy with the way we’ve played in Carolina so far. Let’s change that.”

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