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Sports Today: Shot clocks are still terrible edition

Published: Thursday, March 08, 2018 @ 10:33 AM

Dunbar beats Fenwick in tournament game they fought to re-enter

After winning in court, the Dunbar boys’ basketball team won on the court last night against Fenwick. 

I wasn’t there, but it sounds like it was a fairly strange game. 

The Wolverines prevailed 27-26 in a game that had more standing than playing in the second half. 

Via Marc Pendleton

Fittingly, the game also was an oddity. Fenwick (17-7) was packed in a tight zone defense like it had mostly used to win a Greater Catholic League Co-Ed North championship. Dunbar hoped to draw the Falcons out by holding the ball.

Instead, the final four minutes of the third quarter and the opening five minutes of the fourth quarter were spent with Dunbar players standing still with the ball and Fenwick defenders watching motionless. 

This of course will draw more calls for the OHSAA to implement a shot clock, something it should not do. 

The shot clock works, sort of, in the NBA because the players are so incredibly talented — most importantly because almost everyone can shoot, which is the opposite of how things are at every other level of basketball. 

»RELATED: Dayton, OHSAA in war of words after Dunbar legal victory

Since NBA players can consistently finish possessions successfully out of a variety of situations, the game remains entertaining. 

That league still endured a noticeable scoring dip and terrible pace-of-play issues in the late 1990s and early 2000s, though, which is further proof the shot clock isn’t an answer for anyone else. 

It brings diminishing returns because it punishes teams that are good at running offense and rewards those who just want to muck things up by forcing teams to shoot even when there is no shot to take. 

Who said there should be a time limit on how long a team has to play good defense? 

Like anyone else, I don’t want to see a team simply hold the ball, but that can be prevented by guarding them. 

And if a team is able to play keep away while being closely guarded? More power to them. Handling the ball and passing are basketball skills just as much as shooting. It’s all part of the game. 

College coaches who want to still manage to play a slow-down game, and scoring at that level was higher before the shot clock was installed. 

The recent scoring uptick in college are more from actually calling fouls (and many teams responding by playing less physically) than by shaving five seconds off the shot clock. 

The only way for a shot clock to have a significant effect on pace of play is to be so short that teams don’t have time to set up an offense at all, which I’ve never seen anyone advocate. 

As mentioned, the remedy for teams holding the ball is already in place thanks to the five-second rule. 

Fenwick knew what it was doing when it got into a zone last night. 

Since the Wolverines had the lead, Dunbar was smart to hold the ball if it didn’t feel it could beat that zone consistently. 

Fenwick could have stopped this easily by getting out of the zone, but they didn’t. 

Both coaches said as much in our other story from last night. 

Via Rick Cassano

“I was expecting a decent scoring game, but it’s tournament time. You’ve got to do what you have to do to win the game,” Wolverines coach Chuck Taylor said. “We thought Fenwick did a good job packing it in on our big guy and our shots wouldn’t fall, so we just decided if we got a lead, we had to make those guys play man-to-man.

“We put the ball in their court. If they wanted to sit back, we were going to hold the ball.”

Fenwick coach Pat Kreke said he had no regrets. 

“It wasn’t a good game to watch, but if I didn’t think it was working to our advantage, we’d have come out of the zone right away,” Kreke said. “I thought that was to our advantage, and we had a shot to win. I thought the kids played their butts off.”

Good enough for me. 

The bottom line is the shot clock works as a disincentive to running good offense without really encouraging teams to play fast either, which means it isn’t worth it as far as I’m concerned.

Next up for Dunbar is a district final against Cincinnati Woodward on Saturday in Hamilton… 

Meanwhile, the next basketball game that counts Justin Ahrens will play will be in an Ohio State uniform. 

Ahrens’ Versailles team was knocked out of the Division III tournament by Cincinnati Madeira last night. 

The Midwest Athletic Conference Player of the Year had 13 points while twin brother AJ led the Tigers with 15. 

On the bright side for Versailles, the Tigers girls’ team is still going after a throttling of Williamsburg. 

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WATCH: Brewers reenact famous scene from 'The Sandlot' 

Published: Monday, March 19, 2018 @ 12:29 PM

Stephen Vogt knows how to celebrate after hitting a home run, and he turns in a memorable performance in a video the Milwaukee Brewers just released.
Stacy Revere/Getty Images
Stephen Vogt knows how to celebrate after hitting a home run, and he turns in a memorable performance in a video the Milwaukee Brewers just released.(Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

After 25 years, the Beast is back.

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The Milwaukee Brewers are known for churning out entertaining videos -- remember their bullpen dance-off against the Chicago Cubs? -- and spring training was no exception last week as several players contributed to a shot-by-shot reenactment of a famous scene from the 1993 movie, “The Sandlot.”

The 1993 comedy was about a group of friends who loved playing the game but only had one ball. So when one player hits the ball over the fence, where a snarling, mean dog lives, the game is apparently over. 

In the 2½-minute video, several players reprise the roles from the film, WTMJ reported. Stephen Vogt played Hamilton “Ham” Porter, who hits the home run. Brett Phillips plays Scotty Smalls, a newcomer who volunteers to retrieve the ball, while Eric Sogard has a memorable cameo as Squints.

Other players in the video include Christian Yelich as Benny, Hernan Perez as Yeah-Yeah, Jeremy Jeffress as Kenny, Josh Hader as Bertram, Chase Anderson (Tommy Timmons) and Jett Bandy (Timmy Timmons).

Plus, Hank the dog plays “the Beast.”

The scene is faithfully done, although Vogt bats left-handed. Ham bats right-handed in the 1993 film. And the Beast steals the scene.

Here is the original clip from the 1993 movie:

And here is what the Brewers do when they get bored in the bullpen:

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Sports Today: So much for Ohio’s high NCAA tournament hopes

Published: Monday, March 19, 2018 @ 10:18 AM

NASHVILLE, TN - MARCH 18:  Jarron Cumberland #34 of the Cincinnati Bearcats reacts after falling to the Nevada Wolf Pack during the second half in the second round of the 2018 Men's NCAA Basketball Tournament at Bridgestone Arena on March 18, 2018 in Nashville, Tennessee.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images
NASHVILLE, TN - MARCH 18: Jarron Cumberland #34 of the Cincinnati Bearcats reacts after falling to the Nevada Wolf Pack during the second half in the second round of the 2018 Men's NCAA Basketball Tournament at Bridgestone Arena on March 18, 2018 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)(Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

I’ve been putting off starting today’s column because I want to try to write the perfect summation of an amazingly imperfect NCAA tournament weekend. 

Is that possible? 

If you didn’t have any beloved teams in the field  that had to be the most fun four days ever to be a sports fan. 

(Unless, of course, you take your bracket too seriously and actually thought you were going to win your office pool.) 

RELATED: Bet on NCAA long shot retrieves big payday for UMBC fans

The handful of ugly games were more than made up for by the drama and the surprises. 

But of course if you’re from Cincinnati or root for Michigan State or Virginia, well, it was probably the worst...

I’m really dumbfounded by the Queen City collapses.

Conference pride is dumb, but I do like state pride (unless it’s Cleveland, which is pretty much Pennsylvania anyway, right?) so I would rather see both the Bearcats and the Musketeers win than lose even though I didn’t grow up rooting for either of them. 

I can’t decide if it is more fitting or more weird that their losses Sunday night were so similar.

Big leads blown.

Costly foul trouble.

Terrible execution down the stretch.

Mick Cronin correctly called for a two-for-one in the last minute of UC’s loss to Nevada, but the execution was awful on both ends. So instead of getting two good shots, he got none — instead the Nevada got two looks and made the second one count. 

Chris Mack botched the end for the X-Men, bafflingly calling for a foul when he could have let his team play out the defensive possession then running a final play that didn’t involve his best player. 

So strange. 

What’s it mean for the city as a whole?

I really don’t know, but I’m not interested in curse talk or any of that fatalistic garbage. Let Cleveland sports fans continue to corner the market on that stuff. It’s dumb. 

Every team has disappointing losses.

No one has the market cornered on heartbreak.

Obviously some places know a lot more about how it feels to win, but let’s not get too dramatic here.

I mean what happened Sunday was bad enough by itself, right? No need to add some greater meaning… 

I did tweet that it’s never going to happen for the Bearcats, though. 

That was obviously a heat-of-the-moment thought, but there is good reason to wonder. 

I thought this was a team whose ability to score separated it from past Bearcat squads, but ultimately they looked completely clueless on that end of the floor as the game wound down. 

Cronin has done a great job rebuilding the program after the administration botched separating itself from Bob Huggins, but if he doesn’t continue to upgrade the recruiting, Bearcats fans shouldn’t bother getting their hopes up in the future. 

Grit and passion can only take you so far, especially since the efforts to improve freedom of movement were surprisingly successful over the past couple of seasons... 

Meanwhile, Xavier is in an entirely different boat. 

Recruiting has steadily improved over the years, and there’s reason to believe that could continue. 

The Musketeers obviously haven’t had as many legitimate Final Four contenders in their history as Cincinnati, but I would still buy stock in their future. 

That’s still true even if Mack goes elsewhere at some point because the program has already handled multiple coaching changes during its rise… 

Meanwhile, Ohio State fell victim to a more conventional problem: The Buckeyes lost to a team with a better seed and a better roster. 

New coach Chris Holtmann was playing with house money all year, and he came out way ahead even without making the Sweet 16. 

The Buckeyes still played two more NCAA tournament games than most people expected they would, so that’s got to be something to build on. 

He’s proven he can coach ‘em up like Mack and Cronin. 

His success will be dictated by how well he recruits… 

How about my bracket?

Yeah, it’s in pretty bad shape. 

I was actually still optimistic midway through Sunday because even some of the big early upsets didn’t hurt me much. 

I didn’t have Virginia or Michigan State in the Elite Eight, so those upsets hurt others more than they hurt me in the long run. 

READ MORE at Marcus Hartman’s “Cus Words Blog

Then North Carolina got blown out, the Cincinnati teams choked and it’s pretty much over for me even though I picked Villanova to win it all. 

On the bright side, my “final answers” bracket is outperforming my first impressions, so I guess a little extra research wasn’t a total waste of time! 

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March Madness: Another First Four team marches well beyond Dayton

Published: Monday, March 19, 2018 @ 11:26 AM

Where to watch First Four games

Syracuse kept up an impressive streak for First Four teams in the NCAA tournament by upsetting Michigan State on Sunday. 

The 11th-seeded Orange became the eighth team in eight years to win at least one more game in the tourney after prevailing in their opener in Dayton. 

That includes the Dayton Flyers, who topped Boise State at UD Arena in 2015 and made it to the round of 32. 

RELATED: So much for Ohio’s high hopes in the Big Dance

Syracuse is the fourth team to advance at least as far as the Sweet 16 but the first since Tennessee did so in 2014. 

Things did not go so well for the other 2018 First Four teams. 

St. Bonaventure, also a No. 11 seed, was crushed by No. 6 Florida in its round of 64 game on Friday. 

The No. 16 seeds that won in Dayton also lost over the weekend. 

Texas Southern lost to No. 1 seed Xavier 102-83 while Radford was no match for Villanova, falling 87-61. 

Of course, with Maryland-Baltimore County shocking No. 1 Virginia on Friday night to become the first No. 16 seed ever to win in the round of 64, you can bet next year’s 16 seeds playing in Dayton will have even more hope of pulling off their own upset if they move on. 

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Bet on NCAA long shot retrieves big payday for UMBC fans

Published: Sunday, March 18, 2018 @ 2:34 PM

The UMBC Retrievers were not the only happy campers after their victory against top-seeded Virginia. A group of bettors cashed in handsomely.
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
The UMBC Retrievers were not the only happy campers after their victory against top-seeded Virginia. A group of bettors cashed in handsomely.(Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

Eric Barger figured he was throwing his money away when he and a group of friends bet on a No. 16 seed to upset a top-ranked team in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. But the group’s $800 bet on the University of Maryland-Baltimore County men’s basketball team paid off big when the Retrievers shocked No. 1 Virginia 74-54 on Friday.

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No. 16 seeds had been 0-for-135 against No. 1s, but UMBC’s win was lucrative for Barger and friends, who cashed a $16,800 winning ticket at The Venetian in Las Vegas, ESPN reported. 

"I go with my boys to Vegas every tournament, and we did pretty well on Thursday," Barger told ESPN. “Me and my buddy Dan went to UMBC, so we spent all day talking up how much we were going to bet.”

Barger said he did not think he had a winning ticket.

"We, of course, thought we were throwing our money down the drain," Barger, 42, told ESPN. “We expected to be down pretty quickly, but we hung in there, and they won by 20. It was surreal.”

Feeling lucky, Barger said he and his friends took $200 each out of their winnings and gambled it on a game of roulette. Their number hit, so they collected an additional $1,900, ESPN reported.

Barger said his group will bet on UMBC again in the Retrievers’ game Sunday night against Kansas State.

“With odds at about 5-to-1, we'll have at least a couple hundred on the game,” Barger told ESPN. “How could we not?"

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