Nationals

Top 25 Capsules

Top 25 Capsules

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) Andrew Smith scored 15 points, Kellen Dunham added 11 and No. 13 Butler used a stifling defense to pull away from Richmond for a 62-47 victory in its first Atlantic 10 Conference home game Wednesday night.

Butler (15-2, 3-0) heads into Saturday's home showdown with No. 8 Gonzaga on a 12-game winning streak. The Bulldogs won without top scorer Rotnei Clarke, who missed the game with a severely sprained neck and has already been ruled out of Saturday's game.

Richmond (11-7, 1-2) was led by Darien Brothers' 12 points but has lost two straight and five of seven. The Spiders were playing without their second-leading scorer, Derrick Williams, who missed his fourth straight game with a sprained ankle.

---

MARYLAND 51, No. 14 NORTH CAROLINA STATE 50

COLLEGE PARK, Md. (AP) - Alex Len dropped in a missed shot by teammate Pe'Shon Howard with 00.9 seconds left for Maryland.

Howard drove the left side and came up short on a 5-footer, but the 7-foot-1 Len grabbed the ball in front of the rim and eased it through the hoop. It was Maryland's first win over a ranked team since March 3, 2010, against No. 4 Duke.

Len had 10 points for the Terrapins, who ended N.C. State's 10-game winning streak.

Maryland (14-3, 2-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) has won 10 of 11 against the Wolfpack (14-3, 3-1), including five straight at home.

Lorenzo Brown scored 17 points for NC State and C.J. Leslie had 13. The Wolfpack came in leading the NCAA with a 52.8 shooting percentage, but in this one they shot a miserable 31.1 percent.

---

No. 16 KANSAS STATE 67, TCU 54

FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) - Rodney McGruder scored 21 points and Kansas State stretched its winning streak to seven games.

The Wildcats (14-2, 3-0 Big 12) got off to a slow start before taking control with a 19-4 run midway through the first half.

McGruder's layup with 11 minutes left in the first half tied the game at 10, after Kansas State had fallen behind 10-5. The Wildcats led for good when McGruder had a defensive rebound and turned that into a fastbreak 3-pointer by Will Spradling. A floater by McGruder stretched the lead to 24-14.

Adrick McKinney had 18 points and nine rebounds for TCU (9-8, 0-4).

---

No. 17 MISSOURI 79, GEORGIA 62

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) - Earnest Ross scored 15 points to help Missouri rebound from its biggest loss of the season.

Alex Oriakhi had 13 points on 5-for-5 shooting, eight rebounds and four blocks for the Tigers (13-3, 2-1 SEC), who were held to a season-low 49 points in a 15-point loss at Mississippi on Saturday. Their second game without leading scorer Laurence Bowers, who has a sprained right knee, was a major improvement for a team that's 10-0 at home this season and 26-1 at the Mizzou Arena in two seasons under coach Frank Haith.

Vincent Williams had a career-best 23 points on 7-for-10 shooting for Georgia (6-10, 0-3), nine more than his previous best after entering with a 4.1-point average. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, the Bulldogs' lone player averaging in double figures, added 15 points.

---

No. 18 MICHIGAN STATE 81, PENN STATE 72

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) - Adreian Payne scored 20 points after spending the first half on the bench following a morning scuffle with Michigan State teammate Brandon Dawson.

Payne made up for lost time by dominating the post in the second half. He had 13 points on 5-of-6 shooting in a stretch of 6-plus minutes after entering the game with about 16:30 left.

Payne added a 3-pointer - only his second of the season - in the middle of a 20-8 run to help the Spartans (15-3, 4-1 Big Ten) pull ahead midway through the second half.

Penn State (8-9, 0-5) stayed closed much of the game in large part to Jermaine Marshall, who scored 22 of his career-high 29 points after halftime.

An argument between roommates Dawson and Payne escalated into an exchange of punches in a second-floor lobby of a Penn State campus hotel, before the Spartans boarded a bus for the Jordan Center.

Police were called after a wall was dented at the hotel. The players were expected to pay for the damage.

---

No. 19 NEW MEXICO 79, BOISE STATE 74, OT

BOISE, Idaho (AP) - Tony Snell scored 22 points and Hugh Greenwood added 15 to lead New Mexico to the overtime win.

Snell and Greenwood dominated the overtime, teaming for nine of the Lobos' 16 points. The win was the third straight for the Lobos (16-2, 3-0 Mountain West Conference).

Derrick Marks scored 27 points on 10-of-20 shooting for Boise State (13-3, 1-1), which saw its seven-game winning streak snapped and have yet to beat New Mexico since joining the Mountain West last season.

Greenwood put the game into overtime when he took advantage of a Boise State miscue on defense and drove a wide-open lane for a layup, tying the score at 63 with 54 seconds left.

---

No. 25 MARQUETTE 69, SETON HALL 62

MILWAUKEE (AP) - Reserve forward Davante Gardner scored 17 points to lead Marquette over injury-depleted Seton Hall, which had just eight available players.

The Golden Eagles (13-3, 4-0 Big East), who moved into the AP Top 25 on Monday for the first time this season, got 12 points from Todd Mayo to win their season-high sixth straight game.

Vander Blue had 11 points and four assists as the three Golden Eagles combined to go 17 of 18 from the free throw line to claim their 19th consecutive home victory.

Aaron Cosby had 15 points for Seton Hall (12-6, 1-4), which never led in the game.

Haralds Karlis added 14 points and six rebounds for the Pirates, who dropped their season-high fourth straight game.

Quick Links

Bryce Harper to the Dodgers? Looking at the chances Harper ends up in Los Angeles

Bryce Harper to the Dodgers? Looking at the chances Harper ends up in Los Angeles

Winter has been coming for quite a while for the Washington Nationals. Specifically, Winter 2018. And much like last season of HBO’s beloved Game of Thrones, winter has finally arrived.

Bryce Harper has potentially played his final game in a Nationals uniform, and all fans can do over the course of the next few months is play the waiting game. Instead of sitting around twiddling our thumbs, however, we’re going to take a look at some of the major players who will be active in Harper’s free agency this winter.

We’ll do our best to gauge how genuine each team’s interest in the superstar is (spoiler alert: they are all very interested) and try to guess how good their chances are of landing him. 

Bovada updated their odds on Harper’s ultimate landing spot after the regular season ended, and they’ve got the Nationals as the fifth-most likely team for him to (re)join. Number one on that list was the Chicago Cubs.

Number two? The Los Angeles Dodgers.

The Narrative

Some fans were surprised to see the Cubs top Bovada’s odds, and I expect even more will think the Dodgers at number two is curious. We don’t have years of subtle hints, personal connections, and conspiracy theories to link Harper with Los Angeles, like we did with Chicago. Still, there are a few dots here worth connecting. 

The most obvious (or, at least, the most recent) came this past August. After the Non-Waiver Trade Deadline in July, Major League Baseball teams have the month of August to trade players who pass through waivers. These are referred to as revocable waivers, because even if a player is claimed, the team that owns his rights is allowed to pull him back. 

When a player is claimed in August, the claiming team has 48 hours to try to strike a deal with the original team. It’s essentially a formality for every player to be placed on waivers in August, knowing teams can revoke them at any point. Still, fans online were all over Twitter when it was reported that the mystery team to have placed a claim on Bryce Harper was none other than the Los Angeles Dodgers.

No deal ended up being reached between the Dodgers and the Nats, and it’s entirely possible the Dodgers only made the claim to keep Harper from going to another National League contender. Still, it’s hard to view the near-move as anything other than a sign of interest from the team with the deepest pockets in baseball.

That last line is important, as it plays into the narrative for Harper-to-LA as well. The Dodgers are the Yankees of the West Coast (and, in reality, probably have more money to spend than the Evil Empire). Ever since an ownership group including Magic Johnson acquired the Dodgers in 2012 for a staggering $2.15 billion, the Dodgers have flexed their financial might over the rest of the baseball world. 

Let’s also not forget one of Harper’s biggest “flaws,” his rooting interests in Duke, the Cowboys, and yes, the Los Angeles Lakers. Playing in L.A. for a team owned by the greatest player in Lakers history has to appeal to him on some level, even if it won’t end up being the most important factor.

There are plenty of connections to make with Harper and the Nationals, Cubs, and Yankees, but more often than not, free agents tend to follow the money. If the Dodgers are inclined to pay whatever it costs to sign Harper, then it’s hard to imagine another team topping them. That’s narrative enough for them to be considered strongly in the mix.

The Roster

Of course, there’s still the question of if the Dodgers actually would be inclined to pay whatever it costs. Just because a franchise can afford to sign someone doesn’t always mean it makes the most sense, from either a financial standpoint or roster construction.

The Dodgers, as mentioned earlier, have more money than God. According to Spotrac, their Opening Day payrolls in the last few seasons are outrageous.

2018 - $199.5 million (3rd in baseball)
2017 - $259.1 million (1st)
2016 - $268.7 million (1st)
2015 - $301.7 million (1st)
2014 - $246.3 million (1st)
2013 - $239.8 million (1st)

Those numbers are just plain silly. In 2015, the Dodgers spent more than twice as much on payroll than all but five teams. Outside of a flukey “low” spending season this past year, they haven’t just lead the league for five straight seasons, but have run away with it year in and year out. Spending more than $300 million in a season is wild.

So, obviously, the Dodgers can throw money at any problem (or player). They’re probably itching to get back on top of the heap after not even cracking $200 million in 2018. But does it make sense from a team-building perspective?

None of the team’s pending free agents on Spotrac are outfielders, so there’s no obvious hole to fill. One of the strengths of the Dodgers is their positional versatility, which adds to their depth but makes it harder to evaluate their offseason outlook. Cody Bellinger started 50 games in the outfield in 2018, and appeared in 81, but while his versatility is a nice bonus, he’s ultimately an athletic first baseman, and he certainly wouldn’t get in the way of Harper playing for that reason.

That said, if the Dodgers retain Brian Dozier at second, then Max Muncy would need to play first, which pushes Bellinger to the outfield. Plus, Chris Taylor can play second, shortstop, third, and the outfield.  You can see where the headache comes in.

Still, for the purposes of this exercise, we’ll assume Bellinger is off the table for outfield playing time, but bear in mind that Taylor could find his way out there on occasion.

Yasiel Puig, Joc Pederson, Kiké Hernandez, and Matt Kemp are the remaining outfielders. Puig, Pederson and Hernandez are in their arbitration years, and almost certainly will be kept around at reasonable deals. It’s hard to evaluate the three of them relative to each other. Each hit 20-25 home runs, and each hit between .248 and .267. Pederson has struggled to live up to his immense talents, and the same could be said for Puig. Hernandez is yet another Dodger who plays all over the diamond.

Then you have Kemp, who would have been easy to rule out entering 2018 but then proceeded to have one of the best comeback seasons in baseball. He hit .290 and made his first All-Star game since 2012, and he’s owed a ton of money next season.

None of that includes Alex Verdugo, the Dodgers’ best prospect and one of the top 25 prospects in all of baseball. He probably already should have been an everyday Major League outfielder in 2018, and there’s no way Los Angeles can continue to keep him in the minors next year. He needs to play every day, and certainly will get that chance.

Ultimately, the Dodgers have a ton of bodies to play the outfield already. That said, Puig and Kemp will no longer be under contract after next season, and outside of Verdugo there are no clear-cut future standouts in the Dodgers outfield. The fit for Harper, position-wise, is fairly weak compared to the other contenders. 

At the end of the day, however, none of their current guys are necessarily better than Harper, and if the Dodgers are willing to deal with a crowded outfield for one season, things shore up nicely in 2020 and beyond. A future outfield with Verdugo and Harper would be pretty appealing to any team, especially considering how relatively cheap Verdugo will be until he hits free agency.

The Odds

Call it a gut feeling, but at the end of the day, I just don’t see Harper in Dodger blue. There are plenty of factors in which they are one of the top three choices for him, but they aren’t a clear leader in any. The Cubs have more personal connections, the Phillies are more of a positional fit, and the Nats are the “hometown” team. The one area in which they stand out, however, is possibly (probably) (okay almost definitely) the most important: money.

It will be telling to find out what their best offer ends up being, but for now, I think the +500 odds are actually pretty spot on. I’d take issue with the Cubs being so much further ahead of them as the betting favorites, but they should probably be ahead of the Dodgers at least. I just wouldn’t have them so far out ahead of the pack. 

The Dodgers have a lot going for them. Harper has always wanted to play in a big name city for a big name franchise, and he has always wanted to be the highest-paid player in the game. Plus, getting to play for Magic Johnson doesn’t hurt. The Dodgers can offer all those things. The only question remaining is if they want to?

MORE NATIONALS NEWS:

Quick Links

2018 Power Rankings: Patriots prove they still got it, Rams remain top dog

tom-brady-usat.jpg
USA Today

2018 Power Rankings: Patriots prove they still got it, Rams remain top dog

In a thriller in Foxboro, the Patriots handed Kansas City its first loss of the season.

It wasn't pretty but the Rams slipped past the Broncos to remain the lone unbeaten in the NFL.

Remember when the Lions beat New England on Sunday Night Football and folks were ready to bury the Patriots? Yeah... how did that 'hot take' work out?

CLICK HERE FOR WEEK 7 NFL POWER RANKINGS

Will the real Redskins please stand up? A win over the Panthers moved the Skins up three spots. Give the Redskins this, they are consistently unpredictable.

The Ravens are on the rise and Marcus Mariota is happy the Titans won't have to play Baltimore again.

So the Cowboys have an offense now? Or does Jacksonville not have an elite defense anymore?

And the Bears let Brock Osweiler throw for 380 yards. Yes. You read that correct. 380 yards. 

How far will the Bears drop because of that dreadful defensive performance? 

CLICK HERE FOR WEEK 7 NFL POWER RANKINGS