Sports Today: Handicapping the rest of the Big Ten race as Reds head to spring training

Published: Tuesday, February 13, 2018 @ 9:59 AM

COLUMBUS, OH - FEBRUARY 10:  Jae'Sean Tate #1 of the Ohio State Buckeyes drives against Luka Garza #55 of the Iowa Hawkeyes during the first half of the game at Value City Arena on February 10, 2018 in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)
Kirk Irwin/Getty Images
COLUMBUS, OH - FEBRUARY 10: Jae'Sean Tate #1 of the Ohio State Buckeyes drives against Luka Garza #55 of the Iowa Hawkeyes during the first half of the game at Value City Arena on February 10, 2018 in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)(Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)

A sleepy Tuesday in February seems like a perfect time to project out the rest of the race. 

This is a question that would have seemed crazy a couple of months ago (unless you thought we were talking about the women’s team or the wrestling Bucks), but it is now reality. 

The Buckeyes are in first place with two weeks left in the regular season. 

RELATED: College basketball is better in Ohio than your state this season

If Purdue and Michigan State win out (they probably will, as you’ll see below), Ohio State can afford a loss and maintain a share of the Big Ten crown. 

The Buckeyes would also keep the No. 1 seed in the Big Ten tournament since they beat the Boilermakers and the Spartans (really glad we only got a total of three games matching the top three teams in the league thanks to Jim Delany’s misguided eastern expansion). 

However, Chris Holtmann’s crew has by far the hardest remaining schedule among the top trio of teams in the Big Ten. 

That starts Thursday night with a trip to Penn State. The No. 40 team at handed Ohio State its only Big Ten loss to date, though the Nittany Lions had to play out of their minds and get a buzzer-beating trey to do it. 

Of greater concern then is a trip to Michigan on Sunday. 

The Wolverines are the No. 27 team at KenPom and a group no doubt hungry to avenge a nine-point loss in Columbus even if it was more than two months ago. 

Ohio State closes out the home slate next Tuesday with a visit from Rutgers (No. 153) before having to go to Indiana. Archie Miller’s team has endured an up-and-down season, but the 75th-ranked Hoosiers are certainly good enough to play spoiler, especially on their home floor. They’ll probably be stinging from their loss in Columbus, too. 

Meanwhile, Purdue’s toughest game left is a home game against Penn State. The Boilermakers also have to go to No. 94 Wisconsin and No. 113 Illinois before finishing the season at home against disappointing Minnesota (97th). 

Weird things happen on the road, but it’s hard to see the Badgers or Fighting Illini coming through for Ohio State. 

Michigan State has three road games left, but two of them area against aforementioned Minnesota and Wisconsin. They also get a visit from Illinois, where neither new coach Brad Underwood nor Wright State graduate transfer Mark Alstork has provided much of a lift this season.  

The biggest challenge left for Tom Izzo’s team comes Saturday at Northwestern. The Wildcats are ranked No. 77 and don’t appear to have gotten over the hangover from their first Big Dance appearance last season. 

The good news for Ohio State: It controls its destiny. 

This is a position no one expected the Buckeyes to be in — and it’s always better to have something to lose than nothing, right?... 

Meanwhile, things promise to pick up elsewhere in sports today because baseball players are reporting for spring training. 

That includes the Cincinnati Reds, who are setting up shop in Arizona for what they hope is the last season of a rebuild that has probably been more painful than it had to be because of how long they waited to really get it started. has released a projected Opening Day roster that is hard to quibble with at this point. 

Of note: 

Mark Sheldon picks Sal Romano as the fifth starter. 

I would like to see Brandon Finnegan in the bullpen with Amir Garrett and Robert Stephenson in the rotation. 

As far as other pitching prospects, I’m excited about Tyler Mahle, but he could stand some more seasoning rather than having to learn at the top level like so many of these guys have. Same with Romano. 

Sheldon also notes Dilson Herrera is out of options. 

That’s another reason to be sure Nick Senzel won’t make the club unless an infielder is hurt. 

As of today, I’m thinking the best chance to see Senzel soon is Jose Peraza struggling again through April, but maybe he gets an early-summer shot at second base if Scooter Gennett doesn’t have the same magic. 

The vibes I get from various offseason interviews lead me to believe the team knows it can’t be too complacent. The Reds need to show a lot of improvement this season, preferably early on, to keep the fanbase interested. 

That doesn’t mean making any crazy moves, but pulling a lever like calling up Senzel could be something. 

I tend to think Bryan Price should be on a short leash, too. He did a great job with the pitching staff and is an interesting and thoughtful interview, but he still has no track record of success as a manager to fall back on if things go south. 

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Mike Leach believes Josh Rosen, Sam Darnold should’ve stayed in school

Published: Saturday, February 17, 2018 @ 12:16 PM

Josh Rosen and Sam Darnold both decided to leave college early to declare for the 2018 NFL Draft. Washington State coach Mike Leach, who coached against both quarterbacks, disagrees with their decision to turn pro.

“I thought they both should have stayed,” Leach said, per  SiriusXMNFL Radio. “I think that Rosen measures out better in some areas, the ball he throws is real pretty, but to me it seems like Darnold elevates his team and I think those guys play around him a little better.”

Most people around football believe Rosen made the right decision to declare for the draft. However, there are mixed reviews on Darnold. Some scouts and analysts think the USC quarterback could’ve benefitted by playing one more season with the Trojans.

Game film illustrates that Rosen is the more polished quarterback right now. Although, some believe Darnold has the biggest upside between the two.

Only time will tell. What we do know is both will be selected early in this year’s draft.

As for Leach’s comments, it’s a safe bet that Washington State fans differ from him. Cougars fans are more than likely happy the team won’t have to face Rosen and Darnold any longer.

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What Tom Izzo said after Michigan State’s 65-60 victory over Northwestern

Published: Saturday, February 17, 2018 @ 12:03 PM

The No. 2 Michigan State Spartans trailed at one point by 27 points during their game at Northwestern on Saturday, but the favored bunch mounted a comeback in the second half to go on and win, 65-60.

In the second half — after a 49-27 deficit at halftime — the Spartans held the Wildcats to 11 points entirely. Cassius Winston led the team with 17 points, 9 rebounds and 7 assists.

With the win, Michigan State is on top of the Big Ten conference with a 14-2 record and two games remaining in the regular season.

What Tom Izzo said after Michigan State’s win over Northwestern


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Former South Carolina basketball star P.J. Dozier returns to Columbia

Published: Saturday, February 17, 2018 @ 11:56 AM

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Former South Carolina basketball star P.J. Dozier returned to Columbia on Saturday for the annual Legends Weekend.

Dozier, who’s made two appearances for the Oklahoma City Thunder, has spent most of his rookie season in the G-League. For the Oklahoma City Blue squad, he averages 12.5 points and 2.6 assists per game.

In the video above, Dozier talks about his transition from college to the pros.

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Springfield quickly rebounds from loss at Trotwood-Madison

Published: Saturday, February 17, 2018 @ 4:56 PM

            Springfield’s Derrick Robinson-Verse (24) and Leonard Taylor (front) battle Trotwood’s Justin Stephens (middle) and Carl Blanton for a rebound. Trotwood-Madison defeated visiting Springfield 79-72 in boys high school basketball on Friday, Feb. 16, 2018. MARC PENDLETON / STAFF
Springfield’s Derrick Robinson-Verse (24) and Leonard Taylor (front) battle Trotwood’s Justin Stephens (middle) and Carl Blanton for a rebound. Trotwood-Madison defeated visiting Springfield 79-72 in boys high school basketball on Friday, Feb. 16, 2018. MARC PENDLETON / STAFF(MARC PENDLETON / STAFF)

It didn’t take long for Springfield senior guard Michael Wallace to rebound from Friday’s stinging 79-72 loss at mighty Trotwood-Madison. Not with the end of the regular season in sight and the postseason on deck.

“We can’t wait,” Wallace said. “We’ve got to get this last game over with and then get ready for the tournament.”

Wallace matched his season high with 17 points and Raheim Moss also scored 17 but the Wildcats didn’t quite have their “A” game against the Rams and that would be costly in the Greater Western Ohio Conference crossover game before a capacity crowd. Springfield was scheduled to end the regular season with a non-conference game against visiting Middletown on Saturday. The Middies are coached by one-time Springfield coach Darnell Hoskins.

Springfield landed a No. 2 seed in the Division I, Dayton 2 sectional. The Wildcats have a first-round bye and will play the Piqua-Springboro winner at 6 p.m. on Feb. 27 at Centerville.

Top-seeded Trotwood will take a 12-game win streak into the D-II sectional at Springfield High School. The Rams were the D-II state runners-up last season.

Springfield (17-4), Trotwood (19-3) and D-I top seed Wayne (20-1) have had marquee matchups this season. Springfield split two games with Wayne, which was No. 1 in the state in D-I for much of the season before losing at Springfield last week. Wayne defeated Trotwood in double-overtime in late December. All three GWOC reps are expected to make deep postseason runs.

Springfield (10-2) finished runner-up to Wayne (11-1) in the GWOC National East. Springfield also lost at Centerville in divisional play. Springfield started the season at 13-0, but entered the Middletown game on a late-season 2-3 slide.

Springfield pulled within 65-64 early in the fourth quarter on Derrick Robinson-Verse’s two free throws. But seconds later Moss fouled out. Springfield’s Leonard Taylor also sat out crucial minutes in the second half with four fouls. That foul trouble was compounded by the loss of top sub Larry Stephens, a sophomore guard who tweaked a knee in practice on Thursday and didn’t play.

Trotwood answered with a game-ending 14-7 run.

“It seems to be the same old song every time we play those guys,” Springfield coach Isaiah Carson said. “Trotwood’s a good basketball team. I like what (coach) Rocky (Rockhold) has done.”

Taylor added 12 points for the Wildcats and Jordan Howard 9.

Rockhold previously also coached at Greeneview, where he also was a standout player. The teams have played six times in the last seven seasons, with Trotwood holding a 4-2 advantage. Trotwood also defeated Springfield 88-73 to end the previous regular season.

Trotwood backcourt standouts Myles Belyeu and Amari Davis each scored 23 points. Trotwood had hit triple-digits in four of its last five games.

“We loved the pace of the game,” Rockhold said. “We felt if we got it out of the 60s we had a chance.”

Jonathan Alder 56, Kenton Ridge 55: Alder (18-4, 12-1) had already clinched a Kenton Trail title and has the best overall record in his first season of Central Buckeye Conference play. The Cougars (15-6, 9-4) ended the regular season by hosting Southeastern on Saturday. A No. 2 seed, Kenton Ridge opens the D-II sectional at Springfield High School against Graham on Saturday.

Dayton Christian 64, Emmanuel Christian 53: Adonis Davis scored 27 for the host Lions (8-14, 5-9) in their final Metro Buckeye Conference game to end the regular season. Emmanuel is a No. 7 seed in the D-IV sectional at Troy and will play the Southeastern/Franklin Monroe winner on Feb. 27. DC (16-5, 12-2) finished runner-up to Troy Christian (19-2, 13-1) in the MBC.

West Liberty-Salem 72, Mechanicsburg 49: Trevor Burden scored 22 points and the host Tigers (14-7, 11-4) clinched a tie with West Jefferson for the Ohio Heritage Conference North title. WL-Salem is a No. 9 seed in the D-III sectional at Northmont and will play Arcanum in the first round on Friday. Mechanicsburg (1-19) plays top-seeded Fort Loramie in the D-IV sectional at Piqua on Saturday.

Madison Plains 50, Greenon 46: Logan Coppock scored 15 points for host Greenon (10-12, 9-7) in another OHC game. Greenon opens D-III sectional play at Northmont against Miami East also on Saturday.

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