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Published: Wednesday, March 14, 2018 @ 9:50 AM
— The NFL’s 2018 league year begins today.
The Cleveland Browns have already been busy, and the Cincinnati Bengals made a big move Monday to address their biggest need.
Well, the world seems to be Cleveland’s oyster, as it usually is in the offseason before games come back around to get in the way.
The Bengals are probably back in conservative mode after spending some money and a little draft capital to acquire Cordy Glenn to play offensive tackle.
That’s a good thing overall even if it would be more fun for media and fans to see them make another splash or two this month.
If a team is being conservative, that means it has a lot of things to like on its roster.
Sometimes that team is wrong, and the last two years in Cincinnati are an example of that.
The Bengals’ having consecutive losing seasons is almost entirely a result of trusting in some draft picks who didn’t work out.
If they had a better coach or quarterback, they probably would have won a few more games, but the rest of the roster still would not have been good enough to get it done in January.
I believe as we sit here today there is a chance it will be a lot better this fall, but obviously that depends heavily on how they do in the draft.
The development of youngsters such as Joe Mixon, Andrew Billings, Carl Lawson, Williams Jackson III and Nick Vigil will be crucial, too, but those guys have already shown more promise than the ones who let them down over the last two years.
Actually getting something out of John Ross or Cedric Ogbuehi wouldn’t hurt, either…
The NCAA tournament started last night with the first night of the First Four.
Yes, I count these as NCAA tournament games even if they aren’t the same as playing in the round of 64.
The goal has been to make the teams who are in Dayton to start the week feel like they are at one of those weekend sites, and by most accounts that has been met if not exceeded.
The original play-in game was a dumb concept.
Having four of the No. 16s who already won automatic bids have to play an extra game before two of them lose to a No. 1 seed is still dumb for multiple reasons, but last night was a reminder teams like Radford really do value the ability to win an “NCAA tournament game.”
St. Bonaventure coach Mark Schmidt seemed to feel the same way after his team beat UCLA as he got a bit emotional on the postgame interview with Turner Sports.
So the First Four has morphed into a pretty cool event.
It would be even better if all eight teams playing Tuesday or Wednesday at UD Arena were at-large teams who only marginally deserved to make the field anyway, a move that I don’t understand not being made since that would probably also increase television ratings because it would involve more teams with big names and larger fan bases.
That said, the smaller schools getting invited also give the two days in Dayton a little more of that all-around tournament feel because they would be part of the action at a traditional regional, too.
Part of the fun last year for me was hearing North Carolina Central’s pep band rock out and Mount St. Mary’s mascot Emmit S. Burg own a dance-off with the New Orleans Privateer.
NCCU coach LeVelle Morton’s majestic sport coat was also as memorable as his confirmation the experience, environment and opportunity were great for his team.
“It was tremendous,” Moton said of the atmosphere after his team lost to fellow No. 16 seed UC Davis. “The fans and the energy, and you could feel the tension in the air.
“And I think it’s some neutral fans here, probably just Dayton fans who just love basketball, and I think after a while they just chose a side.“That’s what March Madness is about.”
Morton and the Eagles are back in Dayton tonight to take on Texas Southern, a matchup that is a little controversial as it involves the only two historically black colleges or universities in the field.
“I hate it,” Moton said. “I hate that it has to be two HBCUs clashing, because I have the ultimate respect for (Mike Davis’) program. And truth be told we’ve kind of been the representation of each league, and I wanted the world to be able to see what each league can offer. It’s unfortunate, but it’s best to be on this side of the coin than on the other side not getting a bid at all and not having to play anyone and having your season be over with.”
The nightcap will pit Arizona State against Syracuse in the absolute epitome what a First Four matchup should be.
Both of those teams have 20 wins, but they would have had no legitimate complaints if they were left out entirely…
Sticking with college basketball, there is a report out there that Thad Matta could be the next coach at Georgia.
I understand the former Ohio State coach wanting to give it another go, but I’m not sure this is a great idea for either side.
I suspect Georgia’s expectations for basketball are similar to Ohio State’s — just high enough to get you fired if you’re not great.
That can be a problem if the institution is also, while certainly interested in being good at basketball, most deeply committed to football.
Matta was a great coach for many years at Ohio State, but basically everything about his program had gone into decline by the time he was finished.
If there was still anything exceptional being done, he would probably still be in charge in Columbus.
Lots of attention has gone to his recruiting, especially with more people being made aware of the seedy underbelly of talent acquisition and claims Matta’s unwillingness to take part cost him players.
But that was far from the only problem in Columbus the last few years.
He was bringing in good enough players to continue to be an NCAA tournament team at the worst, one that would make noise in the Big Ten race at least from time to time.
That much was proven by this season.
The lack of ability to develop skill or chemistry, whether that was more on Matta or the staff he hired, was what sealed his fate.
Maybe the magic will be rekindled at a new place, but I won’t believe it until I see it.Follow @marcushartman
Published: Monday, March 19, 2018 @ 8:58 PM
COLUMBUS — Central Michigan looked far from an 11 seed Monday night.
The Chippewas crushed third-seeded Ohio State 95-78 at St. John Arena to advance to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA women’s basketball tournament.
That brought an end to the brilliant career of Ohio State point guard Kelsey Mitchell.
She scored 28 points to finish with 3,402 for her career.
That is No. 1 at Ohio State and in Big Ten annals while trailing only Washington’s Kelsey Plum on the NCAA’s all-time list (3,527). Mitchell passed Jackie Stiles of Missouri State to move into second place with a breakaway layup in the fourth quarter.
The three-time Big Ten Player of the Year also holds the NCAA record for 3-pointers with 497.
Sports Today: So much for Ohio’s high NCAA tournament hopes
Ohio State led by as many as 10 in the first quarter, but the Chippewas scored the last four points of the stanza to close within 15-9.
CMU hung around despite missing 13 of 16 shots in the first quarter.
Ohio State was 6 for 16 but committed four turnovers, but that was spectacular compared to a disastrous second quarter for the Buckeyes.
The Big Ten champions missed 11 of 13 shots from the field and committed six turnovers against an aggressive CMU defense and while being outscored 25-6.
“First of all, give Central Michigan credit,” Ohio State coach Kevin McGuff said. “They played a great game and they deserved to win. They were outstanding today and they’ve got a great basketball team.
“They were well-prepared and their kids really executed at a high level tonight, but I don’t think we handled the adversity of them making shots or them going on a run. We kind of got out of the things that make us a good basketball team. And when that happened, they really made us pay.”
The Chippewas used a 20-1 run that started late in the first quarter to open up a 25-16.
Mitchell halted that by rattling home a jumper from the elbow with 3:12 on the clock.
She had a chance to make it a three-point game with 2:18 left but missed a free throw.
Then the Buckeyes gave up three consecutive 3-pointers, two wide-open looks for Cassie Breen and one a fadeaway by Presley Hudson off the dribble.
That plunged the Buckeyes into a 34-21 hole from which they never recovered.
Ohio State shot 27.6 percent in the first half and committed 10 turnovers.
Central Michigan made 30.6 percent of its shots, had only five turnovers and enjoyed a 28-20 rebounding advantage.
The Chippewas extended their lead in the third quarter with an out-of-this-world shooting performance.
They made 11 of 16 field goals, including 7 of 8 from 3-point range to extend their lead to 67-46.
The Buckeyes found some offense in the third, but not nearly enough.
Ohio State was still outscored 33-25 in the stanza and never got closer than 13 in the fourth quarter.
“I guess it just felt like everything was going in,” Hudson said of the second half. “We got a lot of open shots and even if we weren’t open we felt like we could make ‘em.”
Hudson led Central Michigan with 28 points while Breen had 22.
Stephanie Mavunga scored 16 points for Ohio State while fellow senior Linnae Harper added 14.
“They did a good job of capitalizing on everything we did wrong,” Mavunga said. “They never let up.”
The Buckeyes had a seven-game winning streak in NCAA tournament games at St. John Arena snapped.
Central Michigan ended up making 14 of 27 from 3-point range and won the battle of the boards 46-35.
Ohio State was knocked out of the NCAA tournament in the second round for the first time since 2015.
The Buckeyes advanced to the Sweet 16 the past two seasons but haven’t been to the Elite Eight since 1993, when they made their only Final Four and lost in the national championship game to Texas Tech.Follow @marcushartman
Published: Monday, March 19, 2018 @ 6:28 PM
Russell Bodine will not return to the Cincinnati Bengals after signing with the Buffalo Bills on Monday.
Bodine started all 64 games at center after the Bengals traded up to draft him in the fourth round in 2015. The unrestricted free agent signed a two-year contract with the Bills.
The only center on the Bengals roster is T.J. Johnson, a seventh-round pick in 2013 who has appeared in 45 games with five starts, all at guard.
The Bengals could look to add depth at the position by signing one of the veteran free agents available, but the 2018 starter could be a player they select in the 2018 draft next month.
Published: Monday, March 19, 2018 @ 5:18 PM
DAYTON — Dayton Flyers freshman Matej Svoboda will leave the program after one season to return home to the Czech Republic, according to a source.
Svoboda’s departure means Dayton has two scholarships open for the 2018-19 season. Xeyrius Williams announced he was transferring earlier this month.
Svoboda, a 6-foot-7 forward, will play professional basketball in his home country. He appeared in 28 games this past season for the Flyers, averaging 2.2 points and 1.2 rebounds in 11.4 minutes per game. He shot 20 percent from 3-point range (9 of 45).
Svoboda was recruited by Archie Miller’s staff and committed to Dayton in February of 2017. He signed with Dayton in May despite not having met new coach Anthony Grant in person.
» RELATED: Archdeacon on Svoboda
Svoboda was one of five members of the 2017 freshman class and one of six Flyers to make their college debuts last season.
Published: Monday, March 19, 2018 @ 4:42 PM
DAYTON — Tickets are now on sale for the Battle 4 Atlantis, the November tournament in the Bahamas that will include the Dayton Flyers. On paper, it looks like one of the best in-season tournaments ever to have Dayton in the field.
Even if the Flyers are much improved from a 14-17 season, they might be the big underdog. The tournament features four teams from the 2018 NCAA tournament. It also includes three programs Dayton played in the NCAA tournament in 2014 and 2015. The top six conferences are represented: ACC, Big Ten, SEC, Big 12, Pac 12 and Big East.
» WOMEN’S BASKETBALL: Green excited about Dayton’s future
The tournament takes place Nov. 21-23 on Paradise Island, Bahamas. Here’s a glance at the eight teams with 2018 RPI in parentheses:
1. Virginia (1): The Cavaliers ranked No. 1 in the RPI and received the top overall seed in the NCAA tournament. Of course, by now, everyone knows what happened next.
2. Middle Tennessee State (33): The Blue Raiders were snubbed by the NCAA tournament selection committee despite a 25-8 record. They also lost their coach, Kermit Davis, after 16 seasons. He’s now the head coach at Mississippi.
» FIRST FOUR: How teams fared in rest of tournament
3. Butler (41): The Bulldogs finished 21-14, losing 76-73 to Purdue in the second round of the NCAA tournament.
4. Florida (46): The Gators beat St. Bonaventure 77-62 in the first round before losing 69-66 to Texas Tech on Saturday. Florida beat Dayton 62-52 in the Elite Eight in 2014.
5. Oklahoma (49): The Sooners finished 18-14. They lost 83-78 to Rhode Island in the first round. Oklahoma knocked Dayton out of the tournament in 2015, winning 72-66 in the second round in Columbus.
6. Stanford (86): The Cardinal finished 19-15. They missed the NCAA tournament for the fourth straight season. They played Dayton in their last NCAA tournament game, losing 82-72 in the Sweet 16 in 2014.
7. Wisconsin (113): The Badgers saw their streak of 19 straight NCAA tournament appearances end this year. They finished 15-18. It was their first losing season since 1997-98 (12-19).
8. Dayton (147): Dayton’s streak of four NCAA appearances ended this March. The Flyers lose one starter, Darrell Davis, and return leading scorer Josh Cunningham (15.4 points per game).
Ticket packages now on sale for the 2018 Bad Boy Mowers Battle 4 Atlantis!— Dayton Basketball (@DaytonMBB) March 19, 2018
Order 🎟️: https://t.co/KBu0iTwghY
NOTE: Tickets may only be purchased as part of an all-inclusive travel package through the Atlantis Resort.
Held over the Thanksgiving holiday (Nov. 21-23). pic.twitter.com/jGPuo6OJlb