Sports Today: In defense of conference tournaments

Published: Tuesday, March 06, 2018 @ 10:13 AM

Nagy happy to win “rock fight”

Back in the saddle today after a few days in Indianapolis, where I watched many future millionaires speak about the next steps in their careers and saw an Ohio State basketball team win its second trophy of the season. 

But we begin with the Wright State Raiders. 

WSU has a shot at a Horizon League tournament double championship in Detroit.

The WSU women will face top-seeded Green Bay at noon at Little Caesar’s Arena in Detroit, while the men will take on a huge underdog in Cleveland State at 7 p.m.

The Wright State men have already set a program record for wins since joining Division I, but I’m sure they would rather have an invitation to the NCAA tournament. 

That will come if they beat Cleveland State tonight. 

RELATED: Raiders top Milwaukee to reach Horizon League final

The surprising Vikings are in the final despite finishing in a tie for next-to-last in the regular season standings. They knocked out No. 1 seed Northern Kentucky on Saturday and outlasted No. 4 Oakland last night. 

One of CSU’s 12 wins so far is against Wright State as the teams split the regular season series. 

Wright State is the No. 2 seed… 

›› 5 takeaways from Wright State’s semifinal rock fight against Milwaukee

The women’s team has a much more daunting task today. 

Coach Katrina Merriweather’s Raiders will face No. 1 seed Green Bay, a winner in 24 of the last 25 matchups between the two teams. 

WSU finished No. 3 and knocked out No. 2 IUPUI in the semifinals

While the debate about the fairness of using the conference tournament to award bids to the Big Dance will no doubt rage on this week and beyond, it could work out pretty well for Wright State this time around. 

I used to find the conference tournaments to be a waste of time, but I decided I like giving everyone a do-over. 

Some folks say it’s unfair, but ultimately, everyone still controls their destiny. Go out and win and you’re in. 

Sometimes the most talented team doesn’t emerge until later in a season because of youth or injuries or whatever else, and now of course unbalanced league schedules can play a role in who wins the regular season crown in some leagues. 

Plus, obviously upsets are part of the magic of March and this 10 days or so of appetizers before the main course helps make the NCAA tournament even more enjoyable. 

›› ARCHDEACON: X-factor Simmons powers WSU women into title game

However, I am a big fan of regular season excellence, too, so I hate seeing that fall entirely by the wayside. 

To me the answer is not to take the automatic bid from the conference tourneys to encourage the selection committee to be far more interested in inviting more deposed smaller-league champs, especially when they enjoy truly dominant seasons. 

What if a significant bonus were awarded to regular seasons champs so they stand out to the committee when it is comparing at-large resumes? 

There has to be some way to do that that would make sense without making the conference tournament also meaningless to the regular season champions. 

Ohio State women’s basketball won the regular season and conference tournament championships in the Big Ten behind coach Kevin McGuff and point guard Kelsey Mitchell.

(And while we’re tweaking things: No one who won their league tournament should be in the First Four. That should be all at-large teams, which likely also happens to mean more schools with big names and larger fanbases. Wouldn’t that be good for TV ratings on Tuesday and Wednesday night before the rest of the tournament kicks off?) 

West of Wright State’s campus, we find Dayton basketball fans both able to curse the current system (maybe) and look forward to a second chance. 

The Flyers were the dominant team in Atlantic 10 women’s basketball for most of the season but were upset in their conference tournament while the men need an early March miracle to be able to play on after this weekend. 

ESPN’s Charlie Creme still has the UD women solidly in the tournament as a No. 9 seed, for what it’s worth, while he sees Ohio State having played its way up to a No. 3 while winning the Big Ten tournament over the weekend

The Buckeyes got over a three-game slump in January to end up winning the regular season title, too, and they present an interesting team heading into the NCAA tournament. 

They lack depth, but they have two dominant players in Kelsey Mitchell and Stephanie Mavunga plus all of their “role players” are significant talents as well (which is what separates them from those Jim Foster teams that used to lose earlier than they should have every year in the tournament). 

Of course, the fact the Final Four will be in Columbus only adds to the intrigue…  

Ohio State women’s basketball coach Kevin McGuff talks about how the Buckeyes are playing with the NCAA tournament coming up next.

My favorite story from the NFL Scouting Combine came from Mike McCray II, the former Trotwood-Madison standout who turned his father into a Michigan fan for five years by signing with the Wolverines. 

Turns out Mike McCray Sr., who was a captain for the Buckeyes in 1988, didn’t waste any time getting back into the flow of Ohio State fandom, though. 

“He for sure went back right after the South Carolina game,” McCray said, referring to Michigan’s loss in the Outback Bowl on Jan. 1. “He was talking trash about us, and we were at dinner and Ohio State was playing in a bowl game [beating USC] and he was like, ‘Yeah, there we go.’ So he’s definitely back to Ohio State, but my mom and my fiancé are with me, so that’s all that matters.”

All’s fair in love and rivalries, right? 

Anyway, here’s a look at other stories from the Combine. 

I came away convinced the Bengals can get a lot better up front quickly but should still consider drafting Lamar Jackson, too, and the Browns would be foolish to pass on Saquon Barkley with the No. 1 pick. 

The rest? 

We’ll have plenty of time to debate between now and late April. 

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Bruns’ late heroics leads Marion Local in D-IV state semifinal win

Published: Thursday, March 22, 2018 @ 5:14 PM
Updated: Thursday, March 22, 2018 @ 5:16 PM

Marion Local’s Nathan Bruns snaps a rebound on a final miss by Pandor-Gilboa. Marion Local defeated Pandora-Gilboa 56-54 in a D-IV boys high school basketball state semifinal at OSU’s Schottenstein Center on Thursday, March 22, 2018. MARC PENDLETON / STAFF
Marion Local’s Nathan Bruns snaps a rebound on a final miss by Pandor-Gilboa. Marion Local defeated Pandora-Gilboa 56-54 in a D-IV boys high school basketball state semifinal at OSU’s Schottenstein Center on Thursday, March 22, 2018. MARC PENDLETON / STAFF(MARC PENDLETON / STAFF)

Nathan Bruns scored Marion Local’s final five points as the Flyers edged newcomer Pandora-Gilboa 56-54 in a Division IV boys high school basketball state semifinal on Thursday.

The win sends Marion Local (24-4) into Saturday’s D-IV state championship at Ohio State University’s Schottenstein Center against Willoughby Cornerstone Christian (21-7) at 10:45 a.m. Cornerstone advanced with a 51-41 defeat of Berlin Hiland in Thursday’s opening D-IV semi at the Schott.

»RELATED: Springfield standouts on All-Ohio teams

»RELATED: Wayne, Trotwood players picked for All-Ohio

That sets up a rare shot at a state championship double-double for the Flyers. The Midwest Athletic Conference power also won a D-VI state football championship last December.

Scoreless in the first half, Bruns scored 15 points in the second half to lead the Flyers to their 12th straight win. None were more crucial than his last five.

»RELATED: Rams’ opposing coach, ‘They’re crazy athletic’

»RELATED: Ahrens, Barhorst earn top D-IV boys honors

Tyler Mescher’s 17 points led Marion Local in scoring. Trailing by two, he missed two free throws with 2:11 left. However, Bruns snared the rebound, hit a field goal and converted a free throw for a 3-point play that would give the Flyers the lead for good, but not without some anxious moments.

Following a steal, Gilboa was in great position for a final shot, but missed. Bruns rebounded the miss and converted two free throws.

»RELATED: Trotwood-Madison back to final four

»RELATED: Boys state final four pairings

Ahead by three, the Flyers deliberately sent Jared Breece to the line with 5.2 seconds left. He converted the first to account for the final score. On the second he bashed off the rim, but the play was ruled dead. Marion Local successfully inbounded the ball and the celebration was on.

Drew Johnson had a game-high 24 points to lead Pandora-Gilboa (26-2), including 19 in the first half. Breece added 16 points.

»RELATED: Moeller bumps Wayne off tourney trail

»RELATED: Springfield coach, “we’ll be back”

Marion Local will be shooting for its third boys state basketball title, joining the 2003 and 1975 Flyers’ teams. It also is Marion Local’s fifth state final four. It was the first final four for Pandora-Gilboa, out of the Blanchard Valley Conference and Putnam County League.

Cornerstone Christian 51, Berlin Hiland 41: Michael Bothwell, the D-IV state player of the year, scored 22 points in leading the Willoughby power. This is the second final four for the Patriots, who won a D-IV

state title in 2016. Hiland finished 23-6.

»RELATED: Boys regional results

»RELATED: Girls state final four results

• Upper Arlington senior Dane Goodwin was named Ohio’s Mr. Basketball by the Ohio Prep Sportswriters Association on Wednesday. The son of former University of Dayton hall of famer and Capital men’s coach Damon Goodwin, Dane averaged 24 points and 10 rebounds for the Golden Bears.

A four-year starter, he initially verbally committed to OSU but signed with Notre Dame after Thad Matta resigned with the Buckeyes.


Thursday’s D-IV semifinal results

Willoughby Cornerstone Christian 51, Berlin Hiland 41

Marion Local 56, Pandora-Gilboa 54

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Atlantic 10 loses another high-profile coach

Published: Thursday, March 22, 2018 @ 12:12 PM

Rhode Island's Dan Hurley on being picked first in A-10

For the fourth time since 2015, the Atlantic 10 has lost one of its most successful coaches.

Connecticut announced the hiring of Dan Hurley on Thursday. He spent six seasons at Rhode Island, compiling a record of 113-82 and leading the program to the A-10 tournament crown in 2017 and the regular-season title in 2018. The Rams reached the NCAA tournament his last two seasons after missing the big dance in his first four seasons.

» RELATED: A look at Dayton’s 2018-19 roster

This wasn’t unexpected news. Dayton students teased Hurley about leaving for UConn when Rhode Island visited UD Arena in January. The Rams lose four senior starters from a team that finished 26-8.

Here’s a glance at the other recent high-profile coaching losses by the conference:

2015: Shaka Smart left Virginia Commonwealth for Texas after leading the Rams to the A-10 tournament title in his final season. He spent six seasons at VCU and finished with a 163-56 record, making the NCAA tournament his last five seasons.

» LOOKING BACK: Celebrating fourth anniversary of Dayton’s win over Ohio State

2017: Dayton’s Archie Miller took the head coaching job at Indiana after six seasons with the Flyers. Dayton shared the A-10 regular-season title in 2016 and won it outright in 2017. He was 139-63 in six seasons at UD and led the Flyers to the NCAA tournament in his last four seasons. Dayton finished 14-17 in the first season for Anthony Grant.

2017: Will Wade replaced Smart and took VCU to the tournament in his only two seasons. He left for LSU after the 2017 season. His final record at VCU was 51-20. VCU finished 18-15 in the first season for Mike Rhoades.

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Dayton recruit finishes high school career among top 40 scorers in Ohio history

Published: Tuesday, March 13, 2018 @ 12:48 PM

Dayton Flyers recruit Dwayne Cohill

Dayton Flyers recruit Dwayne Cohill finished his high school career with 2,182 points. That ranks 31st in Ohio history, according to the Ohio High School Basketball Association record book.

Cohill’s senior season ended when Holy Name High School lost 74-66 to Bay in overtime a Division II district final Saturday. He had 28 points in his final game.

» RELATED: Cohill looking forward to playing for Flyers

In 24 games, Cohill averaged 22.6 points per game. He shot 62.6 percent (161 of 257) from 2-point range, 42.0 percent (34 of 81) from 3-point range and 78.5 percent (117 of 149) from the free-throw line.

Cohill averaged 2.9 assists and 2.2 turnovers per game, plus 3.3 steals and 5.4 rebounds and 1.0 blocked shot.

Cohill will be one of at least two new recruits to join Dayton’s roster. Junior college recruit Jhery Matos is the other. Dayton has one scholarship open because of Xeyrius William’s decision to transfer.

Interview: Dayton Flyers recruit Dwayne Cohill

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National sports site highlights UD St. Patrick’s Day crowds; police presence

Published: Thursday, March 22, 2018 @ 4:31 PM

Police in riot gear dispersed a large crowd that gathered on Lowes Street in Dayton during St. Patrick’s Day celebrations Saturday March 17, 2018. Steve Maguire/Staff
Staff Writer
Police in riot gear dispersed a large crowd that gathered on Lowes Street in Dayton during St. Patrick’s Day celebrations Saturday March 17, 2018. Steve Maguire/Staff(Staff Writer)

While crowds throwing rocks and clogging the streets during St. Patrick’s Day didn’t amuse the administration at the University of Dayton (the school reacted by moving Spring Break to the same week as St. Patrick’s Day in 2019), Barstool Sports found the events amusing enough to put a story on its site.

Headlined “Riot Police, A Running Of The Gingers And Girl Scout Cookies: University Of Dayton Absolutely Dominated St. Patrick's Day Weekend,” the story made light of the disturbances on March 22 that led to police in riot gear to respond.

Writer “Intern Jack Mac” congratulated Flyer students and their rowdy behavior: “Big weekend for a lot of schools. Nevada, Kansas State, Florida State, Texas A&M, etc. all dominated America’s March Madness attention. There was one school that didn’t participate on the court but does deserve a huge round of applause for their performance off of it: University of Dayton.”

The story included a number of embedded tweets: 

One interesting note from Mr. Mac, he discovered an Instagram video of a Girl Scout selling cookies among the throngs of UD students in the streets. 

Barstool Sports has stirred controversy over comments its writers and podcast hosts often make of female television sports reporters. ESPN had slotted Barstool with a one hour interview show until Sam Ponder, the NFL Countdown host, blasted the site and ESPN for allowing Barstool on the channel. Ponder was a frequent target of inflammatory language and anger on the site. 

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