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Sports Today: March Madness picks, mascot supremacy, Reds make cuts and some college football

Published: Thursday, March 16, 2017 @ 10:50 AM

Have you got your bracket in yet?  

Better hurry...  

For anyone wondering, I picked UCLA as my national champion.  

I know as everyone reveals their choices today they love to be self-deprecating and say that means it is the kiss of death, but it really does feel like I am getting worse at this every year.  

For example: Last year I finally bought into the Michigan State hype ahead of time, so of course they went out in the first round.  

Other examples are too numerous to list. I have been burnt so many times over the past half dozen or so years, I really can't remember the worst of the worst.  

Two years ago, I picked a perfect Day 2 (16-0) and still had a bracket in shambles by the end of Sunday night.  

Aside from the Lonzo Ball and the Bruins, here are some other certified Hartman picks of note this year to celebrate or jeer later:  

  • I tabbed Oklahoma State, Virginia Tech and Miami to win first-round games in sticking with my principle from Sunday night: Don't pick anyone who lost to Ohio State (that would be Michigan, Wisconsin and Michigan State, respectively. North Carolina Central already lost in the First Four).  
  • Dayton over Wichita State. Senior point guard against freshman point guard.  
  • UD vs. Kentucky in the second round would not be short on historic storylines, I'm sure, but can you imagine if the Flyers pull the upset and get a 1967 title game rematch with UCLA?  
  • I picked Xavier over Maryland based on my general, "The Big Ten was mostly garbage this year," theory. Same with Middle Tennessee State over Minnesota, although that seems to be a popular pick. 
  • Kansas State continues Cincinnati's string of disappointing tournament runs as the Wildcats get a boost from already having won a game in the First Four and the adrenaline of being on the move ever since.  
  • Also give me No. 12 Princeton over Notre Dame.  
  • National champ: UCLA. I am buying the Lonzo Ball hype. Love a star point guard, especially when he can pass to a shooter like Bryce Alford and big guy like T.J. Leaf.  
  • I've got the Bruins beating Duke in the championship game with Gonzaga and Kansas also making the Final Four. I love Duke's roster, but they've been frighteningly up and down.  
  • I know Mark Few’s Bulldogs are everyone's favorite team to doubt, but Arizona hasn't been able to break through, either. Something has to give in the Elite Eight matchup between the two of them. 

Here's the full TV schedule from CBS.  

Make sure you stick with us today as we follow all the action via our March Madness Live Blog

Just for fun, I also like to do a mascot bracket.  

That means I pick the games based solely on what would happen if the team mascots battled each other.  

This brings in some inherent issue, the biggest one being matching forces of nature against mere mortals.  

And so that’s how I ended up with Miami as my national champion in that bracket.  

The Hurricanes had a close call in the second round against Iowa State, but it stands to reason a Hurricane is larger than a Cycone and would thus overwhelm it.  

The rest of my Mascots Final Four: The Dayton Flyers, West Virginia Mountaineers and Florida Gators. 

Dayton had it easy with the comparatively primitive Wichita State Wheat Shockers and NKU Norsemen (who upset the Wildcats of Kentucky thanks to superior weaponry) then overcame two tough land-based opponents in the UCLA Bruins and Arkansas Razorbacks.  

This approach produced a few notable upsets, the biggest being the Tigers of Texas Southern over the No. 1 seed North Carolina Tar Heels. When in doubt, always go with the tiger.  

Second-seeded Louisville also went down in the first round as a Jacksonville State Gamecock would obviously handle a Cardinal, and Miami’s run included a second-round upset of No. 1 seed Kansas.  

I’ll let you know which one turns out better... 

The Reds sent a bunch of guys out of their major league camp, including Dilson Herrera.  

The infield prospect wasn't able to play the infield because of a shoulder issue, so he didn't have much of a chance to make the team as a utility man. I’m sure he will be heard from sooner or later assuming he gets healthy. 

As for the starting rotation (with Homer Bailey and Anthony DeSclafani out to start the year), it appears Bryan Price is down to choosing from Bronson Arroyo, Rookie Davis, Tim Adleman, Sal Romano, Amir Garrett, Cody Reed and Robert Stephenson to join Brandon Finnegan and Scott Feldman. 

Said Price yesterday: “I like Amir, Rookie Davis as starters, Romano is on the fence for competing for a starting spot, although I think Romano could do both. Reed and Stephenson could pitch in the bullpen and still be considered long-term starters if they don’t make the rotation.”

Hal McCoy writes Reed’s appearance yesterday was a mixed bag. 

Meanwhile, Billy Hamilton had three hits… 

Last night in high school basketball, Springfield lost to Cincinnati La Salle and Versailles (with Ohio State commit Justin Ahrens) lost to Roger Bacon. 

The Versailles girls and defending champion Alter are part of the OHSAA state tournament this weekend in Columbus… 

And finally if you’re hankering for some college football, Miami University coach Chuck Martin had an interesting message for his RedHawks as they got their spring drills underway. 

“Spring is a little time to be selfish and hone your game and try to get as big a piece of the pie for next fall. If everybody does that and works on their game, we’re going to become a lot better team, and we’ll work on the roles in the fall.” 


The RedHawks are coming off a 6-7 season in which they nearly knocked off Mississippi State in a bowl game. 

David Pollack: ‘People around the country want to see more from Wisconsin’

Published: Friday, November 17, 2017 @ 2:12 PM

Wisconsin will be in college football’s national spotlight on Saturday. The No. 5 Badgers host No. 24 Michigan at Camp Randall and ESPN’s College GameDay will be setting up on campus in Madison.

The spotlight is exactly where Wisconsin should want to be, according to analyst David Pollack. Pollack, who is part of ESPN’s GameDay team, said that people around the country still want to “see more” from the Badgers, who look like they’re 3 wins away from the College Football Playoff.

“Chaos happened around them. Notre Dame got thumped. Georgia got thumped. So that helps them obviously continue to ascend,” said Pollack, who met with reporters in Madison on Friday. “But I still think there’s a lot of people around the country that want to see more from Wisconsin, and that’s fair. I have no problem with that. I have no problem saying that either.”

At 10-0 Wisconsin has quietly moved up in the rankings by handling their opponents by an average of 22.9 points per game. But the Badgers’ only win against a ranked team came last week when they beat then-No. 20 Iowa 38-14 and held the Hawkeyes to just 66 yards of offense.

Another convincing win on Saturday would help show people outside of Madison that the Badgers are for real before they head to Indianapolis for the Big Ten title game. The college football world will be watching.

Oklahoma has tasks that go beyond winning against Kansas

Published: Friday, November 17, 2017 @ 2:07 PM

NORMAN, Okla. — The feeling heading into No. 4 Oklahoma’s meeting with Kansas on Saturday is one of inevitability. It’s not a matter of how the Sooners are going to win; it’s by how many.

After all, the Jayhawks (1-9, 0-7 Big 12) are the one conference team that historically causes the Sooners (9-1, 6-1) no defensives issues. Oklahoma has allowed just 17 points in the last three meetings.

The College Football Playoff implications for the Sooners are straightforward: win big and get it done quickly. That’s something Oklahoma hasn’t done since September. All seven Big 12 games thus far were decided by 3 possessions or less.

So, Oklahoma has goals for its trip to Memorial Stadium in Lawrence, Kan. that go beyond getting the 10th win. Here they are:

Get Baker Mayfield out quickly

The Oklahoma quarterback’s Heisman Trophy campaign goes beyond numbers. His play in the “big games” made him the front-runner. This isn’t one of the measuring-stick games.

What Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley would like to see is Mayfield guide the offense on 5 or 6 touchdowns in the first half and then turn things over to Kyler Murray. Mayfield’s backup and heir apparent for next season hasn’t played for a complete series since September. You get the feeling Oklahoma wants him to get as much time on the field as Mayfield on Saturday.

The Sooners seem to have as much offensive momentum as they have had all season. An explosive first half should be enough for that group.

Rotate Tre Brown, Tre Norwood and Parnell Motley

Senior cornerback Jordan Thomas is questionable due to a knee injury. If he isn’t 100 percent, there’s no need in playing him against Kansas.

What Oklahoma needs to do is rebuild the confidence of sophomore cornerback Parnell Motley. Freshman Tre Brown and Tre Norwood should start against Kansas. They’ve earned the right with their play in the last two games.

In this age, rotating cornerbacks like offenses rotate receivers is essential. Oklahoma needs to treat those spots in that manner.

Restore Abdul Adams’ confidence

In early October, Adams was one of Oklahoma’s most explosive players. The ankle injury he suffered against Iowa State slowed him down. Putting the ball on the turf led to his benching against Oklahoma State and TCU. Adams has just 2 carries for 6 yards in the last two games.

The Sooners need to get him going. Adams averages 10.1 yards a carry. There’s too much talent to let it linger on the bench. Even if he fumbles again on Saturday, let him try to play through it.

If Oklahoma is going to make a national championship run, it needs every playmaker ready to go. Rehabbing Adams’ confidence should be a goal today.

Re-ingrain Jeff Badet to the offense

The emergence of CeeDee Lamb and Marquise Brown moved the senior transfer down the options list. Lamb has 1 reception — a 5-yard touchdown against Oklahoma State — in the last 3 games.

This should be a good day to get Jeff Badet going. He has blazing speed and he’s made quality catches this season. The 1 catch he’s had in the last three games was a jet sweep. Let Badet use that speed. Sooners will need it at some point to get winning.

Oklahoma needs to empty the bench

Oklahoma releases a depth chart every week. But the only way you know what you have is to get the guys on the field and play. The linebackers — Caleb Kelly, Kenneth Murray and Emmanuel Beal — have played almost every snap since late September. It’s the same case for offensive tackles Orlando Brown and Bobby Evans.

The Sooners get to suit up 70 players for a Big 12 road game. It would be in their best interest to use all of them by the fourth quarter.

Senior day rewind: What were the recruiting expectations for Miami’s seniors?

Published: Friday, November 17, 2017 @ 2:02 PM

Twenty-seven players signed to play for Miami on National Signing Day in 2014. Now, only a handful remain to be honored on senior day before the No. 3 Hurricanes host Virginia on Saturday at Hard Rock Stadium.

It’s been a long journey for this group of seniors, who have weathered a coaching change, seen some of the program’s worst days and now are the group helping lead Miami to the pinnacle of the sport. On the verge of their final game in Miami Gardens, Fla. – unless the Hurricanes play in the Orange Bowl – let’s take a look back at what Miami expected of them when they arrived on campus, from the highest-ranked player in the 247Sports composite rankings to the lowest:

Chad Thomas, defensive lineman

Chad Thomas was one of the biggest recruits of the Al Golden era and he mostly delivered on his promise. The defensive lineman arrived as a 5-star prospect, the No. 3 weakside defensive end in the country, and moved into the starting lineup by his sophomore year. The past two seasons, Thomas was one of the best players on one of the nation’s best defenses.

Maybe he never became a true superstar and is now overshadowed by younger members of the defense, but Thomas will get a chance in the NFL. There aren’t any disappointments on Miami’s defense, even if he only has 2 sacks this season.

Original grade: 5 stars

Re-grade: 4 stars

Kc McDermott has started for most of the past three seasons at Miami. Joel Auerbach/Getty Images

Kc McDermott, offensive lineman

The Hurricanes expected Kc McDermott to anchor their offensive line for years when they landed him in the Class of 2014. For most of the past three seasons, the offensive lineman has done just that. McDermott started the final eight games of his sophomore season and hasn’t gone back to the bench since.

The senior should have a chance at all-conference honors this year as the starting left tackle for arguably the ACC’s best team. He’s been solid for Miami, which is exactly what the Hurricanes hoped for from the No. 3 offensive tackle in his class.

Original grade: 4 stars

Re-grade: 4 stars

Trevor Darling, offensive lineman

Trevor Darling has been a four-year contributor for Miami and a starter for most of the past three. He arrived on campus as the nation’s No. 9 offensive tackle before settling in as one of the most reliable guards in the ACC.

While the Hurricanes’ offense has never been its strength during Darling’s career, the running game has. Mark Walton earned third-team all-conference honors last fall and Miami hasn’t missed much of a beat with the running back injured this season. Darling, the Hurricanes’ top interior offensive lineman, is a huge reason why.

Original grade: 4 stars

Re-grade: 4 stars

Anthony Moten, defensive lineman

Anthony Moten never quite turned into a reliable starter on the defensive line for Miami. He was the nation’s No. 15 defensive tackle in high school and played in 10 games by his sophomore season with four starts.

Over the past two seasons, though, Moten has been relegated to reserve duty, and this fall he’s been stuck behind star defensive linemen RJ McIntosh and Kendrick Norton. He’s only played in six games.

Original grade: 4 stars

Re-grade: 3 stars

Trent Harris, defensive lineman

Early in his career, Trent Harris seemed poised to surpass his ranking. The defensive lineman arrived as the nation’s No. 14 weakside defensive end and cracked the starting lineup by his sophomore year. During that 2015 season, the defensive lineman finished sixth on the team in tackles and second in sacks.

Thomas got surpassed on the depth chart for his final two seasons, though, and now he’s one of Miami’s best situational defensive ends. He has a career-high 6 sacks this season despite not starting once for the first time since he was a freshman.

Original grade: 4 stars

Re-grade: 4 stars

Braxton Berrios leads Miami with 8 receiving touchdowns as a senior. Butch Dill/Getty Images

Braxton Berrios, wide receiver

Although he had an impressive list of Power 5 schools interested, Braxton Berrios was never expected to be much more than a solid slot guy, a reliable bailout option in the middle of the field who could maybe return punts, too. Instead, he’s become one of the best wide receivers in the ACC

Berrios leads the Hurricanes in receptions with 38, receiving yards with 484 and his 8 receiving touchdowns are double of any of his teammates. He seems likely to get a shot in the NFL after a breakout senior season. He’s been perhaps Miami’s best offensive player this season.

Original grade: 3 stars

Re-grade: 4 stars

Christopher Herndon IV, tight end

It’s understandable why Christopher Herndon was somewhat overlooked as a 3-star prospect and the No. 32 tight end in the country. At 6-foot-4 and 230 pounds, Herndon was considered somewhat undersized to play tight end at the school best known for developing stars at the position.

Herndon also never got a shot as the top tight end until this season with David Njoku, now with the Browns, earning all-conference honors last fall. This season, it’s Herndon’s turn. The senior seems like a shoo-in for all-ACC honors with 36 catches for 422 yards and 4 touchdowns. The tight end’s receiving yards are second most on the team, ahead of star wide receiver Ahmmon Richards. He’s a semifinalist for the John Mackey Award.

Original grade: 3 stars

Re-grade: 4 stars

Michael Badgley became Miami’s all-time leader in field goals this season. Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Michael Badgley, kicker

Kickers rarely get graded out higher than 2 stars. Michael Badgley probably deserved at least one. The kicker started out as a walk-on and now will finish his career as the Hurricanes’ all-time leader in field goals made.

An all-ACC honorable mention a year ago, the kicker should have a chance to make it on to one of the three teams this season. He’s also a Lou Groza Award semifinalist.

Original grade: 0 stars

Re-grade: 2 stars

Patriots recent road dominance has been downright terrifying

Published: Friday, November 17, 2017 @ 2:00 PM

The New England Patriots are rolling, and while they’ve lost two games this season, both of them interestingly came on their home field this season. It was at the start of the year and at a point when the secondary was still struggling drastically.

Things have turned quite a bit for the Patriots defense, though, and that’s been a big reason why they’ve been able to reel off five-straight wins. What’s even more incredible about the Patriots, is just how dominant they’ve been away from home over the past year or two.

As ESPN Stats & Info reported, the Patriots have won the second-most road games consecutively in NFL history.

The Patriots only have four more road games in 2017, assuming their Week 11 game against the Oakland Raiders in Mexico City qualifies. This means they obviously wouldn’t be able to break the record this year.

Their toughest test will likely be against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 15. The Steelers once again look like legitimate Super Bowl contenders, but if the Patriots can win that road game, and end this season at 16-straight, they’ll be well on their way to breaking this impressive NFL record.