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Spurrier puts focus more than Clemson

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Spurrier puts focus more than Clemson

CLEMSON, S.C. (AP) Steve Spurrier thought people at South Carolina spent too much time focused on Clemson. So the Gamecocks coach needed to change the mindset.

He had to get players and fans to buy into the idea it was not a one-game season. It's working.

No. 13 South Carolina (9-2) will try for its landmark fourth-straight series win over No. 12 Clemson (10-1) at Death Valley on Saturday night.

If the Gamecocks pull off the victory, it would be only the second time its happened in the series - the other was from 1951-54.

``I think we take it less seriously than we used to,'' Spurrier said. ``I think they overdid it prior to coming here.''

There were signs everywhere, Spurrier recalled, saying `Beat Clemson.' When Spurrier, who replaced Lou Holtz after the 2004 season, took his first spring and summer tour of South Carolina booster groups, he heard from plenty of fans. They said they would be happy winning just one game a year if it were against Clemson.

``I said, `My thoughts are the opposite. I'd rather win them all and lose to Clemson if that was the choice,'?" Spurrier said. ``My belief is you don't talk about one team the entire year. We take it seriously, but we don't talk about beating Clemson all year long anymore.''

He leaves that to the fans, who have talked about little else since the dominant three-year run started in 2009 with a 34-17 victory. South Carolina won 29-7 at Death Valley a year later, then beat the Tigers 34-13 last season.

Spurrier understands the sentiments - Clemson holds a 65-40-4 edge in the series and were 24-8-1 from 1976 through 2008 - but wants the focus on the Southeastern Conference, where the Gamecocks have also improved in recent years.

South Carolina won its first SEC Eastern Division in 2010 and had back-to-back 6-2 league seasons the past two years. The holistic approach has also helped against Clemson in the season finale, Spurrier said.

He believes playing well in the SEC typically means you can compete with any program in the country.

Linebacker Shaq Wilson said the turnaround started when the Gamecocks adjusted their focus to each opponent and not just the crowd-pleaser at the end of the schedule.

``It's a rivalry game, it's big to the state and it's big on the national stage,'' Wilson said. ``For me, it's just another chance to showcase our talent and get a win.''

The stakes are high for both teams.

The Gamecocks are seeking a second consecutive 10-win season, something they've never achieved in 119 seasons of football. Clemson is seeking its first 11-victory season since its 12-0 national championship campaign 31 years ago. Plus, the Tigers are still alive for a BCS at-large berth.

It's just the second time in rivalry history both teams have been ranked inside the top 15 and just sixth time ever the two have been ranked for this game.

And then there's that nasty losing streak to South Carolina that Clemson fans keep bringing up to Tigers coach Dabo Swinney. He takes issue with the idea his team's season might be viewed by some as half-full without beating the Gamecocks.

``I think that is a sad way to think about things,'' he said. ``They have no appreciation for winning or how hard it is to win.''

Still, Swinney is tired as everyone else of South Carolina's win streak.

``We'd be incredibly disappointed if we lost this game,'' Swinney said. ``You're dang right. You live with it all year. Everybody lives with it, coaches, players and fans.''

Tigers quarterback Tajh Boyd called South Carolina a ``must-win'' situation after last Saturday's 62-48 victory over North Carolina State. Boyd doesn't want this year's senior class to finish 0-4 against their rivals.

``That's not what you want your legacy to be at all. It's a challenge for us,'' he said. ``And it'd be a great way to send these seniors out.''

South Carolina's defense held the Tigers to 153 yards last season, by far the lowest output in offensive coordinator Chad Morris' two seasons at Clemson. The Tigers have averaged 535 yards and 44 points this season.

``I feel like that's where the tide's kind of changed this season,'' Boyd said.

It's the second straight year South Carolina is without star tailback Marcus Lattimore, out with a serious knee injury. Backup Kenny Miles rushed for a career high 127 yards in the Gamecocks 24-7 against Wofford last week.

Gamecocks star defensive end Jadeveon Clowney is dealing with a foot injury and has a bruise on his knee. He won't practice much this week, but is expected to play. Defensive tackle Kelcy Quarles says South Carolina is focused totally on beating the Tigers.

``It's very important and vital we get this one done,'' he said.

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Check out the names on the Wizards' Summer League training camp roster

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Check out the names on the Wizards' Summer League training camp roster

NBA Summer League is right around the corner. While the Washington Wizards continue a search for a new president, they do have one thing pinned down: the Summer League training camp roster.

The Wizards open Summer League play in Las Vegas on Saturday, July 6, when they take on No. 1 draft pick Zion Williamson and the New Orleans Pelicans.

Mini camp begins Tuesday and runs through Thursday. Players will participate in a two-hour practice each day.

Here is the training camp roster:

Noah Allen, G/F, Hawaii (Capital City Go-Go)
Armoni Brooke, G, Houston
Elijah Brown, G/F, Oregon (Grand Rapids Drive)
Troy Brown Jr., F, Oregon (Washington Wizards)
Dontay Caruthers, G, Buffalo
Troy Caupain Jr., G, Cincinnati (Orlando Magic)
Corey Davis, G, Houston
Dikembe Dixson, F, UIC (Capital City Go-Go)
Kellen Dunham, G, Butler (Capital City Go-Go)
John Egbunu, C, Florida
Rui Hachimura, F, Gonzaga
Vince Hunter, F, UTEP (AEK Athens Greece)
Garrison Mathews, G, Lipscomb
Tarik Phillip, G, Ukraine (Petrol Limpija Ukraine)
Admiral Schofield, F, Tennessee
James Thompson IV, F/C, Eastern Michigan
Jeff Withey, C, Kansas (Lavrio B.C. Greece)
Tony Wroten, G, Washington (BC Kalev-Cramo Estonia)

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Free Agency Bracket: Noel Acciari vs. Marcus Kruger

Free Agency Bracket: Noel Acciari vs. Marcus Kruger

It is almost time for NHL free agency to begin, and the Capitals certainly have needs to fill and a limited budget. Who would be the best fit? Who would be the best free agent target for Washington to pursue? That’s what NBC Sports Washington wants to find out!

Our experts got together and made a bracket of the 16 best free agent fits. The bracket is divided into four regions: Third line forward, fourth line forward, depth defenseman and Caps’ free agent. Now we want you to tell us who you want to see rocking the red next year!

Every weekday we will match two free agents up against one another and present a case for each player. Then you get to vote and decide who advances!

Check out today’s matchup:

Region: Fourth line forwards

Noel Acciari vs. Marcus Kruger

 

2018-19 stats

 

Noel Acciari (27 years old):72 games played with the Boston Bruins, 6 goals, 8 assists, 14 points, 12:59 TOI

 

Playoffs: 19 games played with the Boston Bruins, 2 goals, 2 assists, 4 points, 13:10 TOI

 

Marcus Kruger (29 years old): 74 games played with the Chicago Blackhawks, 4 goals, 8 assists, 12 points, 10:25 TOI

 

Playoffs: None

 

Hockey-Graph contract projections

 

Noel Acciari: 2 years, $1,180,934 cap hit

 

Marcus Kruger: 1 year, $861,030 cap hit

 

The case for Noel Acciari

Plays a lot bigger than his 5-foot-10, 205-pound frame. A perfect fit at right wing on the fourth line for Washington. The native New Englander, who played at Providence, is a home-grown Bruin and might not want to leave home, but Boston also might not have the cap space to give an obvious fourth-line player a decent raise. The Capitals might not, either, but for now, they really only have to add in RFA Jakub Vrana’s new contract and figure out what they’re going to do with RFA Andre Burakovsky. 

 

Acciari is renowned for his character and toughness. He was a college captain for Providence and helped the Friars win an NCAA title in 2015. There’s never been a shot he’s unwilling to block. Acciari sustained a broken sternum in the second round against Columbus and a blocked shot with his right foot in Game 7 of the Cup Final left him in a walking boot.  

 

Acciari’s offensive upside is limited, but he did have 10 goals in 2017-18. He was a key player for the Bruins in the past two Stanley Cup playoffs and chipped in two goals in this year’s playoff run that came within a game of a championship. Acciari would help on Washington’s penalty kill, too. In 111:52 he was only on the ice for 11 power-play goals against. Only two Boston forwards were on the ice more short-handed.  

 

The case for Marcus Kruger

 

A different skill set here for the smaller Kruger (6-foot, 186 pounds). Don’t expect even double-digit goals from him, either. But Kruger will likely cost less than $1 million and can be a valuable penalty killer, where Washington needs help. That’s huge for a team that is now dealing with an $81.5 million salary cap, which is $1.5 million less than expected. Add in the overage bonus for defenseman Brooks Orpik from last season and you’re in trouble at just over $80 million.   

 

Kruger played seven seasons with the Chicago Blackhawks and one disappointing one with the Carolina Hurricanes. Kruger has plenty of Stanley Cup experience, too, playing for Chicago’s 2013 and 2015 Cup winners. He has 87 postseason games and a triple-overtime game-winner in the Western Conference Final to his name in 2015 in Game 2 of that series against Anaheim. 

 

A defensive specialist, only two Blackhawks forwards played more short-handed minutes than Kruger (132:46) last season. There is risk here. Kruger was traded to Carolina in 2017-18, but was placed on waivers after 48 games and spent the rest of the season in the AHL before being traded to Arizona and then back to Chicago. But part of that stemmed from how much he was making on a $3.08 million cap hit. At a bargain-basement price, Kruger is more palatable. 

 

Who’s your pick? Vote here.

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