Redskins

Zeller near unanimous preseason pick

201210291339491989474-p2.jpeg

Zeller near unanimous preseason pick

The biggest man on The Associated Press' preseason All-America team got the most votes.

Seven-foot sophomore center Cody Zeller, the main reason Indiana is the preseason No. 1 for the first time in 33 years, was one vote shy of being a unanimous selection for the preseason All-America team.

Zeller, who averaged 15.6 points and 6.6 rebounds while shooting 62.3 percent from the field, received 64 votes from the national media panel which selects the weekly Top 25.

Also on the team announced Monday were junior forwards Doug McDermott of Creighton and Deshaun Thomas of Ohio State and three guards - seniors Isaiah Canaan of Murray State and C.J. McCollum of Lehigh and sophomore Trey Burke of Michigan.

McDermott was named on 62 ballots, while Canaan was on 43 and Thomas 26. McCollum and Burke tied for the fifth spot with 16 votes each.

Zeller is one of five starters back for the Hoosiers and when a top-flight recruiting class is added in there are a lot expectations for the No. 1 team.

``I don't know that we've really set any goals as a team, but obviously, we want to win a national championship,'' Zeller said. ``We're not going to guarantee anything. We're just going to play and see where it takes us.''

McDermott, who averaged 22.9 points (third in the nation) and 8.2 rebounds while shooting 60.1 percent from the field and 48.6 percent on 3s for the Bluejays last season in earning first-team All-America honors, has the added pressure of playing for his father, Greg. The relationship is the key to Creighton trying to become the latest mid-major to possibly go deep in the NCAA tournament.

``We have a lot of expectations on ourselves,'' Doug McDermott said. ``We know we can go far. You see Butler, VCU, teams like that that make it to the Final Four and even the national championship game. We're not thinking that far ahead, but we know we're capable of doing what those teams have done in the past.''

Canaan earned second-team All-America honors last season when he led Murray State to a 23-game winning streak to start the season, top 10 ranking, the third round of the NCAA tournament and a 31-2 record. A lot of Racers fans waited breathlessly for Canaan to announce he would skip the NBA draft and return for his senior season

Canaan averaged 19.0 points, 3.5 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game while shooting 45.6 percent from 3-point range.

``Having him back is great, and he's a tremendous kid,'' Murray State coach Steve Prohm said. ``He will go down as if not the best player, one of the best players, ever to play at Murray State. Anytime you have an elite guard as a coach that makes you feel really good.''

Thomas averaged 16 points and 5.5 rebounds a game last season playing in the same frontcourt with first-team All-America Jared Sullinger. While Sullinger left for the NBA, Thomas decided to come back and join two other returning starters in trying to get the Buckeyes past the national semifinals where they lost to Kansas.

``I knew one more year would be good for me,'' the 6-7 Thomas said. ``I came back just for one reason - to also go to the national championship and to win the Big Ten.''

McCollum grabbed headlines last season in earning Patriot League Player of the Year honors and plenty of attention from NBA scouts. The 6-3 McCollum averaged 21.9 points, 6.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists last season, leading the Mountain Hawks in all three categories. He really opened eyes when he scored 30 points in Lehigh's NCAA tournament upset of Duke.

``C.J. has been a very reliable performer on the floor and has grown as a leader over the course of his career,'' Lehigh coach Brett Reed said. ``Our team has a great deal of confidence because C.J. exudes confidence in his performance and that ultimately transfers to his teammates. They feel more confident in their ability because he handles pressure situations and adversity very well.''

The 6-foot Burke averaged 14.8 points, 3.5 rebounds and 4.6 assists in a freshman season that saw the Wolverines crack the top 10 and share the Big Ten title.

``I'm pumped,'' Burke said of the upcoming season. ``I'm really excited. The level of talent we have, I'm excited to see how far we can go.''

Zeller, McCollum and Burke all were honorable mention selections last season.

Quick Links

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

MORE REDSKINS NEWS: 

 

Quick Links

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

ovechkin_backstrom_kuznetsov_usat.jpg
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.”

MORE CAPITALS NEWS