Nationals

Syracuse, SDSU practice in breeze for carrier game

Syracuse, SDSU practice in breeze for carrier game

SAN DIEGO (AP) The strong wind whipped the American flag and dozens of signal flags on the island of the USS Midway, giving No. 9 Syracuse and No. 20 San Diego State an idea of what it could be like playing Sunday afternoon on the flight deck of the decommissioned aircraft carrier.

Although the court for the Battle on the Midway is surrounded by bleachers, enough wind reached the hardwood floor during Saturday's practices to blow jump shots off trajectory, with many missing the rim.

The game was postponed from Friday night due to the threat of rain. The forecast for Sunday is for clear skies and less breeze. But the flight deck of the World War II-era carrier, now a museum, is 50 feet above the shore and any amount of breeze could be a factor.

The players and coaches say they'll take what conditions they get and try to put on a good show.

``It felt like an outdoor court in New York City; it's just there's a little less wind there,'' said Orange forward James Southerland. ``With a great view, of course. I like the view.''

The teams and organizers hope the wind is the only major obstacle for the game on the carrier, which is berthed on San Diego Bay.

On Friday night, organizers of two other games afloat found out the hard way that Mother Nature has the final say. The Georgetown-Florida game on the USS Bataan in Jacksonville, Fla., was called off after halftime and the Ohio State-Marquette game on the USS Yorktown in Charleston, S.C., was cancelled, both due to condensation on the courts.

A year ago, the Carrier Classic was held on the USS Carl Vinson, across San Diego Bay from the Midway. Michigan State, which lost to North Carolina, was just 2 of 20 from 3-point range and it started raining hard less than an hour after the game ended.

It remains to be seen whether college hoops games on aircraft carriers will survive this weekend.

Coaches Jim Boeheim of Syracuse and Steve Fisher of SDSU agreed that delaying the game two days and keeping it on the Midway was preferable to playing it Friday night in a local sports arena.

``I have no interest in going somewhere else to play,'' Boeheim said. ``We want to play this game on the ship. We gave ourselves the best opportunity to play the game by moving it to tomorrow. Hopefully there will be no reason to not play it here tomorrow and we'll be able to finish the game.''

Boeheim said it was too early to tell if the concept of aircraft carrier games will take a hit because of Friday's problems on the East Coast.

``We're still glad we did it,'' he said. ``It's a great experience for our players. It's one game. We're going to play 30 more games in the regular season, so I don't think one game will dictate whether we do this type of thing again. It's a good thing.''

Said Fisher: ``We're here to play Syracuse. Syracuse came a long way to play San Diego State. Hopefully we'll have a game that will be talked about and be a wonderful event and that's great for both teams. What happens after that, I don't know. I'm not worried about that right now.''

Syracuse already has an advantage of being taller and bulkier than the Aztecs. Plus, it plays a 2-3 zone defense.

If it's windy on Sunday, the Aztecs could be in even bigger trouble trying to shoot over the zone.

``If it's windy, Boeheim said he'd play nothing but man-to-man,'' Fisher joked.

Having to shoot over the zone in the wind ``makes it a lot more difficult for us, but we've been working on a lot of zone offense preparing for this game,'' SDSU star guard Jamaal Franklin said.

Franklin said he spent time recently shooting on an outdoor court at UC San Diego, which gets wind similar to San Diego Bay.

``The ball is being affected,'' Syracuse guard Brandon Triche said. ``You can't think about it. You still have to take open shots. If you're not really open, you might want to go to the basket a little more.''

Syracuse should have an easier time of that than the Aztecs.

``Just make more layups,'' said hulking Orange freshman DaJuan Coleman, who is 6-foot-9 and 288 pounds. Syracuse also has 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.

The tallest starter in SDSU's guard-dominated lineup is forward DeShawn Stephens, who's 6-8.

Regardless, it'll be an atmosphere to remember, SDSU guard Chase Tapley said.

``It's a great experience and a great memory I can share with my bros and my coaching staff and my family. It's still not hit me we're going to be playing on a boat and the water's right there,'' Tapley said.

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3 Up, 3 Down: Allow Juan Soto to distract you from Bryce Harper

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USA TODAY

3 Up, 3 Down: Allow Juan Soto to distract you from Bryce Harper

Nationals fans are teetering on the edge. 

On one hand, the Nats are 3.5 games out of first place after a 10-week span full of injuries and underperformance. The team just acquired All-Star closer Kelvin Herrera, and their 19-year-old left fielder looks like an All-Star already. 

On the other hand, doom is imminent. The Monstars stole Bryce Harper's abilities at some point over the last three weeks, Steven Strasburg can't stay healthy, and the offense is pushing everyone's patience to the limit. 

So who's overperforming? Who's underperforming? Who's out there just trying their very best? LET'S LIST. 

Three Up

1. Juan Soto

Our large young son Juan continues to impress. He's now hitting .325/.411/.602 with a 1.013 OPS in 95 plate appearances over 25 games. That means we're mercifully starting to leave the 'fluky start' narrative behind. He's been the best hitter on the Nationals by a wide margain since he got called up - although that's perhaps more of an indicitment on the rest of the lineup than it is on Soto. Still, in less than a month he's probably earned the starting left field spot for the rest of the summer. Not bad. 

2. Justin Miller

Miller is 31, on his third team in four years, and owns a career ERA north of 4.50. Despite all of this, Miller's been the best reliever in baseball since coming up for the Nats. Of relief pitchers with at least 10 innings pitched (we hear your sample size comment and are not going to acknolwdge it), no one has a better FIP than Miller (0.64). He's striking out over half of the batters he sees and has yet to walk a single person this year. All the elite relief pitchers are already at 30-40 innings pitched, so Miller has a while to go before these stats mean a whole lot. If he stays even 75 percent as good as he's started, the Nats' bullpen looks scary. 

3. Michael A. Taylor

Have yourself a week or two, Michael A.! The centerfielder is slashing .500/.556/.583 over the last 14 days, the first of many "Maybe He Put It Together?!" runs we'll see from him this year. He also has six stolen bases during that span, more than anyone else on the team. His plate discipline has been better over the last two weeks, with a BB% a shade over 11 percent - only behind Juan Soto for highest on the team. Juan Soto, man. 

Three Down

1. Bryce Harper

A couple things here. We'll start with the admission that Bryce Harper is obviously not having a superb year. We've already briefly touched on why looking at only his batting average is a lazy way of judging his season, and we stand by that. With that said - Harper's had a bad season. The last month has been particularly painful. There's no way of dressing up a .189/.278/.400 slashline over the last 30 days. Still, his contact has been as great as his luck terrible - there's a positive regression coming, we promise. 

2. Pedro Severino 

And you think Harper's been slumping?? Over the same 30 days, Severino has hit .098/.179/.115 with a .294 OPS. He's essentially daring the Nats to put together a trade package for JT Realmuto at this point. He has six hits over his last 68 plate appearances and five of them are singles. 

3. Shawn Kelley

Kelley owns a 6.09 FIP and a 4.32 ERA over the last month (10 games, 8.1 innings pitched). He's walking close to nine percent of the hitters he's faced during that time. He has a 12.5 HR/FB over the last month. With the trade for Kelvin Herrera and the sudden emergence of Justin Miller, Kelley's role going forward isn't quite as clear anymore. 

MORE NATS NEWS:

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Wizards 2018 NBA Draft prospect profile: Jerome Robinson

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USA TODAY Sports

Wizards 2018 NBA Draft prospect profile: Jerome Robinson

The Washington Wizards hold the 15th and 44th overall picks in the 2018 NBA Draft. Here is the latest in our series on draft prospects projected to be picked around where the Wizards will select...

2018 NBA Draft Wizards Prospect Preview: Jerome Robinson

School: Boston College
Position: Shooting guard
Age: 21
Height: 6-5
Weight: 188
Wingspan: 6-7
Max vertical: N/A

2017/18 stats: 20.7 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 3.3 apg, 0.9 spg, 0.1 bpg, 48.5 FG%, 40.9 3PT% (2.3 3PT/5.7 3PA), 83.0 FT%
Player comparison: Danny Green
Projections: NBC Sports Washington 29th, NBADraft.net 16th, Bleacher Report 19th, Sports Illustrated 17th

5 things to know:

*A three-year player at BC, Robinson developed into a big-time scorer before making the leap to the NBA. He averaged 18.7 points as a sophomore and then 20.7 points as a junior while improving his shooting percentages across the board. He went from 42.3 percent from the field as a sophomore to 48.5 in 2017-18.

*Robinson turned himself into an excellent three-point shooter. After shooting just 33.3 percent as a sophomore, he got that up to 40.9 percent as a junior and on 5.7 attempts per game. That trajectory bodes well for Robinson's chances at the next level.

*He has a quick release on his jumper, giving him the ability to be effective on catch-and-shoot plays off screens. Robinson could develop into a reliable scorer who doesn't need the ball in his hands as a primary focus of the offense. He also showed the ability to throw down some powerful dunks and finish with creativity at the rim. He didn't record a vertical leap at the NBA Combine, but playing above and around the rim didn't appear to be a problem in college.

*Though it didn't show in his last season at Boston College, Robinson was adept at forcing turnovers in his first two years. He averaged 1.6 steals per game across his freshman and sophomore seasons and 16 times in his career had three steals or more in a game.

*Questions for Robinson would include his versatility and speed. Some draft evaluators wonder if he will be able to get separation off the dribble at the NBA level. Also, he put up decent rebounding and assists numbers in college but didn't exactly stand out in either category.

Fit with Wizards: Robinson would give the Wizards depth at the shooting guard position and they need that. He could help Bradley Beal pare down his minutes and offer a scoring punch off the Wizards' bench. The Wizards could use a reliable shooter to help space the floor for Kelly Oubre, Jr. and others in the second unit.

The problems with Robinson's fit would be his lack of positional versatility and what appears to be a relatively low ceiling. He's not the freak athlete that some of his counterparts are at shooting guard. If the Wizards are choosing between Robinson and guys like Zhaire Smith and Lonnie Walker IV, they could view the latter two as more enticing because of their potential. Robinson would represent a safer pick while others could pay off big-time and have a greater impact on the franchise in the long-term.

Best highlight video:

More draft prospect profiles:

Kevin Knox, PF, Kentucky

Miles Bridges, SF, Michigan State

Robert Williams, PF/C, Texas A&M

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, PG, Kentucky

Zhaire Smith, SG, Texas Tech

Landry Shamet, PG/SG, Wichita State

Gary Trent, Jr., SG, Duke

Lonnie Walker IV, SG, Miami

Anfernee Simons, PG/SG, IMG Academy

Khyri Thomas, SG, Creighton

Chandler Hutchison, SG/SF, Boise State

Kevin Huerter, SG, Maryland

Mitchell Robinson, C, Western Kentucky

Troy Brown, SG/SF, Oregon

Donte DiVincenzo, SG, Villanova

Moritz Wagner, PF/C, Michigan

Aaron Holiday, PG, UCLA

Keita Bates-Diop, SF, Ohio State

For more on the NBA Draft, check out our latest episode of the Wizards Tipoff podcast:

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