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Syracuse ranked No. 9 in preseason; ready to roll

Syracuse ranked No. 9 in preseason; ready to roll

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim decided last season to redshirt a promising freshman guard and break from the norm by giving his bench plenty of playing time. Just thinking ahead, apparently.

The Orange lost its top four players from last year's team, which won a school-record 34 games and lost only three, and yet as the new season looms Syracuse is ranked No. 9 in the AP preseason poll.

The sky's the limit, it seems, for Boeheim's 37th year as head coach. Even without top scorer Kris Joseph, spiritual leader Scoop Jardine, Big East sixth man of the year Dion Waiters and big man Fab Melo, the defensive player of the year in the conference in 2011-12.

``We've never had a team, that I can remember, lose this many guys who were such important parts of what we did, and if we had a team that had lost even close to what this team did, we certainly weren't picked in the top 20 the next year,'' Boeheim said. ``It's really a credit to the returning players ... that people think pretty highly of them.''

The 2012-13 season will be like no other in Boeheim's reign. It is Syracuse's final year in the Big East before the school moves to the Atlantic Coast Conference, Jim Calhoun has retired at archrival Connecticut, and it's the first time Boeheim will start a season without assistant Bernie Fine, who was fired a year ago amid allegations of sexual abuse lodged by two former ballboys.

Boeheim, soon to be 68 and just 10 wins shy of 900, says everything seems pretty much the same as it's always been.

``It does not feel different,'' he said. ``Next year I'm sure will feel different because you're in a whole different league. There will be an adjustment period. But this feels like a normal Big East season.''

Probably because the Orange is loaded again and ready to challenge for another conference title. Syracuse finished 19-0 at home in 2011-12 and won the Big East regular season with a 17-1 record.

A projected starting lineup: senior guard Brandon Triche, 6-foot-6 sophomore Michael Carter-Williams at point guard; hulking freshman DaJuan Coleman (6-9, 288 pounds) and sophomore Rakeem Christmas (6-9, 242) at the back of Boeheim's signature zone defense; and 6-8 junior C.J. Fair at small forward. Throw in 6-8 senior forward James Southerland, junior center Baye Moussa Keita, freshman forward Jerami Grant, and guard Trevor Cooney, that sharpshooting redshirt from last season who's primed to contribute after an intense year of training, and you have an imposing group.

``Last year we had so many veteran guys coming back, they had come off a successful season,'' said Boeheim, whose Orange last year was ranked No. 1 or No. 2 for the final two months of the season. ``There was no reason to think they wouldn't be very successful at this stage of the year.

``This team is different. I'd say these guys are as advanced as any group we've ever had at this stage. They have done as much work or more work as any group we've ever had, and I'm very confident they're as well-prepared as they could be. I'm as ready to go as I can remember.''

So, too, are the players.

``I think this team can be very good starting up top with Mike and Brandon and then down to our bigs,'' said Fair, who started nine games last season and averaged 8.5 points and 5.4 rebounds. ``A lot of people are sleeping on that this year, but that's something we use in our favor. I'm very confident in this team. I think we can go deep in the tournament and maybe take it all the way. I'm very excited for this season to start.''

Not only did the Orange lose a lot of scoring - the core four combined to average 41.2 points on a team that averaged 74.1 and won by an average margin of 13.1 - it lost a big dose of leadership with the departures of Joseph and Jardine.

Triche and Southerland are prepared to assume the roles of elder statesmen.

``I am one of those guys who says what needs to be said,'' Triche said. ``I don't say anything extra, but I'm going to pick my teammates up and say what I need to say.''

Added Southerland: ``My goal is to be an impact player as one of the two seniors. There's going to be a lot of attention on us, and we have to get the younger guys going.''

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Wizards' second pre-draft workout to feature possible first-round picks

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Wizards' second pre-draft workout to feature possible first-round picks

The Wizards will have some recognizable names at their second pre-draft workout on Wednesday including potential first round pick Aaron Holiday of UCLA, NBC Sports Washington has learned.

Here is the list with some notes on each player...

Aaron Holiday, guard, UCLA (6-1, 185)

The brother of two NBA players (Jrue and Justin), Holiday played three years at UCLA and averaged 20.3 points, 5.8 assists and 1.3 steals as a junior. He also shot 42.9 percent from three on 6.2 attempts per game. He registered a 6-8 wingspan at the NBA Combine.

Potential fit with Wizards: possible first round pick, likely won't be there in second round; would solidify backup point guard position

Devonte' Graham, guard, Kansas (6-2, 175)

The Big 12 player of the year, Graham averaged 17.3 points and 7.2 assists as a senior. He posted a 6-6 wingspan at the combine. His uncle played for the Cincinnati Reds in the 1990s.

Potential fit with Wizards: second round pick; would provide backup point guard depth

Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk, forward, Kansas (6-8, 195)

A big-time three-point shooter, Mykhailiuk shot 44.4 percent from three on 6.6 attempts per game as a senior. He averaged 14.6 points and 3.9 rebounds.

Potential fit with Wizards: second round pick; could be a three-point threat off the bench

Moritz Wagner, center, Michigan (6-11, 241)

Originally from Germany, Wagner was a standout in the NCAA Tournament as the Wolverines went all the way to the final. He averaged 14.6 points, 7.1 rebounds and 1.0 steals as a junior. He also shot 39.4 percent from three and measured at nearly 7-feet in shoes at the NBA Combine.

Potential fit with Wizards: second round pick; could develop into a capable stretch-five

Jonathan Williams, guard, VCU (6-0, 175)

Williams grew up in Richmond before playing college ball at VCU. He averaged 9.3 points and 5.7 assists as a senior.

Potential fit with Wizards: undrafted free agent; possible G-League guard

Zach Thomas, SF, Bucknell (6-7, 228)

Thomas was the Patriot League player of the year with averages of 20.5 points and 9.1 rebounds per game as a senior. He shot 40 percent from three for his college career.

Potential fit with Wizards: undrafted free agent; possible G-League forward

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Caps push Lightning around in Game 6 with physical game plan

Caps push Lightning around in Game 6 with physical game plan

As the NHL continues to focus more on speed and skill, the Capitals took a very old-school approach to Game 6 against the Tampa Bay Lightning. From the moment the puck dropped until the clock hit zero, it was clear Washington came into Monday with a very physical game plan.

"It made a big difference," T.J. Oshie said. "I think in these games, everyone’s bringing energy and you kind of want to control that and direct it towards some positive play, some momentum building for your team, and tonight I think we handled that and did that pretty well."

"We just wanted to throw everything we had at them," Stephenson said. "It was a do or die game and we don't want our season to end."

It worked.

The scoresheet officially credited the Caps with 39 hits for the game. The Lightning had only 19. The physical play seemed to wear down Tampa Bay as the game went on.

After an even first period, Washington took a 1-0 lead in the second. Then, very fittingly, a physical fourth line extended that lead to 2-0 in the third to finish the Lightning off.

"All of a sudden now we turn a puck over, you’re back in your end, they’re feeling it, they’re being physical, crowd’s behind them and we’re spending way too much time in our D zone," Tampa Bay head coach Jon Cooper said. "That’s what hurt us."

What made it so effective was the fact that the entire team bought into it. Alex Ovechkin was certainly the most noticeable player as he threw himself around like a wrecking ball against everyone wearing a white jersey. But it was not just his line. Tom Wilson and Brooks Orpik each led the team with six hits, Devante Smith-Pelly recorded five of his own while Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom both had four.

The Lightning faced a constant barrage from the Caps from every line and defensive pair. There was no respite.

The hits also gave the fans plenty to cheer for.

The Caps were playing an elimination game at home and Tampa Bay goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy was standing on his head. Even with the score locked at 0-0 through the first period, the crowd was still very much into the game. There was no apprehension, there was no quiet tension. There was just a loud crowd cheering on its team.

"[The fans] were loud right from the start, which I think we fed off of and wanted to give them something back," Brooks Orpik said. "We didn't get a goal early. I think some of the physical play kind of helped carry that. They were great for us."

Now in the third round of the playoffs after six intense games between the Caps and Lightning, the hope is that Game 6's physical play will continue to take its toll on Tampa Bay heading into Game 7.

"We need to do that every game," Nicklas Backstrom said. "That's our forecheck. Hopefully, we can keep it going here in Game 7."

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