Wright State senior sidelined by surgery, could miss opener

Published: Thursday, October 05, 2017 @ 7:23 AM
Updated: Thursday, October 05, 2017 @ 9:16 AM


            Wright State’s Grant Benzinger soars in for a layup in Saturday’s loss to Valparaiso. TIM ZECHAR / CONTRIBUTED
Wright State’s Grant Benzinger soars in for a layup in Saturday’s loss to Valparaiso. TIM ZECHAR / CONTRIBUTED

Grant Benzinger will play a key role in the success of Wright State basketball this season, but the senior from Cincinnati might not be ready to play when the Raiders open at Loyola on Nov. 10.

Benzinger underwent hernia surgery this week to repair a nagging injury that apparently flared up on a goodwill trip to China this summer.

»ARCHDEACON: China trip life-changing for Benzinger

“They’re telling us he’s out six weeks which takes us right to the first game,” Raiders head coach Scott Nagy said after practice Wednesday. “Obviously he’s not going to just walk in back in there and be in shape and do all of the things right away.”

»RELATED: Proven scorers, newcomers give Wright State hope

Benzinger has started 72 of the 97 games he’s played in three seasons at Wright State. He enters his senior season eight points shy of 1,000 for his career.

“He’s a huge piece of the puzzle here,” Nagy added. “We expect Grant to have a great year.”

Nagy said his team was a little “beat up” after the first two weeks of preseason practice, and the coach thinks he might know one of the reasons for that problem.

“Sometimes I wonder if we’re not here too much,” Nagy said. “I’m a little concerned by that. We need to get some guys healthy and this is going to drag on into the season a little bit and we’re already thin as it is.”

The Raiders have an exhibition game against Wayne State on Nov. 3.

Sports Today: To rival or not to rival? That is the question for Bengals-Steelers

Published: Thursday, October 19, 2017 @ 10:06 AM

Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis was quite happy after  Carlos Dunlap made against the Ravens in a 27-10 win over the Ravens on Jan. 1 in Paul Brown Stadium. He was quite pleased as well over the weekend when he made a fancy putt from off a green in a celebrity golf tournament in Lake Tahoe.
Getty Images
Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis was quite happy after Carlos Dunlap made against the Ravens in a 27-10 win over the Ravens on Jan. 1 in Paul Brown Stadium. He was quite pleased as well over the weekend when he made a fancy putt from off a green in a celebrity golf tournament in Lake Tahoe.(Getty Images)

Rivalry, what rivalry?  

That was the general reaction of the two most visible Cincinnati Bengals to speak to reporters Tuesday.  

Andy Dalton kicked it off, and Marvin Lewis took it to the house during their press conferences that bookended the weekly open locker room session.  

In between, there was some evidence to support each side. 

Chris Smith, a first-year Bengal from North Carolina by way of Arkansas (and the Jaguars), said he was surprised to learn what a big deal it is. 

George Iloka, a career Bengal who also grew up nowhere near here, probably put it best when he described the teams not as brothers but estranged cousins

The often insightful Iloka also admitted outside factors are at play here. Animosity between the fans and media hype are big factors in this becoming a game that gets circled on the calendar. 

I’d add CBS ain’t putting it on at 4:25 p.m. instead of 1 for no reason, either.

Dalton is from Texas and rarely seems to show much emotion about anything. 

Lewis is from Western Pennsylvania, coached at Pitt and for the Steelers. He’s built the Bengals into a team good enough for Pittsburgh to care about beating. He knows the real story, which is why in between claiming it’s just another game he admitted taking the young guys in the locker room to school on what to expect Sunday in Pittsburgh. 

Is it just another game or more than that when the Bengals and Steelers play? 

Does it matter?  

Probably.  

If players take a different mindset into it, they might do things out of character.  Or they might do things in character they spend the rest of the year trying to avoid.  

And that might be good, but it seems to more often be bad, at least for the Bengals. 

Pittsburgh winning this game more often than not helps those on that side of the border (and the Black and Gold faithful who have infiltrated our region) dismiss Cincinnati as just another team, and there is going to be somewhat of an inferiority complex around here until the results get reversed more than occasionally. 

Whatever respect might have been earned in late 2012 was certainly flushed away in January 2016, if not before. 

The Steelers have been where the Bengals want to be, and that adds some juice no matter where each team is located. 

When you’re the team that usually wins this game, it’s easier to go in clear of mind. 

When you’re the one that more often loses, it’s easier to get off track. 

(Just ask Ohio State fans about the John Cooper era compared to Jim Tressel’s.) 

That’s something the Bengals are going to keep fighting until they do something to take control of the narrative. 

That won’t happen on Wednesdays or Thursdays, of course. 

That’s what Sundays are for… 

Today congratulations are in order for Middletown’s Vincent Edwards. 

The Purdue senior was named to the 10-man preseason All-Big Ten squad. 

The league also announced in the future it will play 20 conference games in men’s basketball while making sure Indiana-Purdue, Michigan-Michigan State and Illinois-Northwestern will be assured of two meetings per season every season. 

Other teams will play teams in their region more often, though it is unclear what that means exactly... 

Speaking of local high schoolers and college, I had the chance to visit Wayne High School this week and talk to L’Christian “Blue” Smith. 

The Ohio State commit admitted feeling some mixed emotions as a big Senior Night game against Springfield looms this Friday. 

Ohio State verbal commit Blue Smith is looking forward to a strong ending to his career at Wayne and ahead to being a Buckeye.

In case you missed it, we’re debating on our Reds fans Facebook page the merits of MLB expansion and some minor realignment. 

Check out the story and let us know what you think! 

What they said: Iowa’s Fran McCaffery speaks at Big Ten Basketball Media Day

Published: Thursday, October 19, 2017 @ 10:15 AM

Iowa basketball coach Fran McCaffrey addressed the media on Thursday at Big Ten Basketball Media Day.

Here’s what he had to say:

“It’s the deepest team we’ve ever had,” McCaffrey said to start.

He then addressed losing star player Peter Jok and how he had to get him some help and some defense last year.

Now those other players have to step up and those guys will be in new roles now with Jok gone, but they’re ready to step up.

He then talked about Jordan Bohannon and how he earned his way into the starting lineup. His ability to hit big shots makes him a weapon for the Hawkeyes, the coach said.

“What we had in that position with Jordan was a legitimate scoring option,” said McCaffery.

McCaffery was then asked the question of the hour about the new conference basketball schedule starting next year.

He said in terms of protecting rivalry games, it’s for the fans and helps with TV ratings.

“The 20-game schedule is just sort of what you have to do,” he said.

He said it’ll help every team by playing more league games and there are a lot of positives with TV, fans and strength of schedule.

He then discussed ideas of making the conference a two-division league and said they didn’t talk about divisions.

“It makes sense, but that’s not something that really had any legs in terms of the conversation,” he said.

What they said: Minnesota’s Richard Pitino speaks at Big Ten Basketball Media Day

Published: Thursday, October 19, 2017 @ 10:15 AM

Minnesota basketball coach Richard Pitino spoke at Big Ten Basketball Media Day at Madison Square Garden on Thursday.

Here’s what he had to say to the media there:

Pitino first addressed some injury issues with the team, saying he has guys that can practice but can’t have contact, so that limits what he can see on rebounding, etc.

“We’ll get healthy. I don’t think any of them are major concerns,” he said.

Pitino then addressed the one-and-done rule, saying he hasn’t had any so they haven’t really affected his program, but he doesn’t know what the answer is.

“If kids don’t want to go to college, we probably shouldn’t make them go,” he said.

Pitino then talked about keeping his big man Reggie Lynch out of foul trouble, saying he “begged” and “pleaded” with him to work on it. He doesn’t want to cut down his production in shot blocking, but wants him to cut down on other fouls.

He then addressed freshman Isaiah Washington, saying if he can minimize mistakes, he will play a lot.

“Isaiah brings a dimension we haven’t had. He’s a phenomenal passer,” said Pitino.

In terms of fitting him in, Pitino said it’s a great problem to have and NBA scouts have been coming to their practices.

Pitino said he hasn’t thought about the conference tournament scheduling and that he will “cross that bridge when we get to it.”

“If we’re fortunate enough to be in the NCAA Tournament at the end of the year, great problem to have,” he said.

On the beat: Wisconsin fans need to remember being bowl eligible still means something

Published: Thursday, October 19, 2017 @ 10:15 AM

If there is a singular low moment in Wisconsin’s football history — and there certainly are plenty of candidates — it may have taken place in the final game of the 1989 regular season.

The announced attendance that day inside Camp Randall Stadium was 29,776. There weren’t nearly that many fans in the bleachers by the time Wisconsin finished losing 31-3 against Michigan State to close another miserable season with a 2-9 record. It marked Wisconsin’s lowest home attendance since at least 1946, when such numbers were first tracked.

As long-time Badgers radio announcer Matt Lepay once told me about the state of the program then: “It went from anger to apathy. Nobody cared.”

Imagine what Wisconsin’s fan base would have given to see its team play in just one bowl game, to provide Badgers backers with some semblance of optimism. Five years earlier, in 1984, Wisconsin had played in the Hall of Fame Bowl under coach Dave McClain. But another postseason appearance seemed light-years away.

Let’s fast-forward now to today. With Wisconsin’s 17-9 victory against Purdue last Saturday, the Badgers quietly became bowl eligible for the 16th consecutive season. It is a truly remarkable run of success, and only five other FBS programs have longer active bowl game streaks.

It’s easy to lose sight of what reaching a bowl game means because expectations have drastically changed. Wisconsin is no longer some plucky upstart simply happy to be playing past the end of November, and that mindset is reflected in the approach of fans.

Based on my social media interactions with fans, the fact that Wisconsin is 6-0 for the first time in six years appears to have little meaning. All it signifies is that the Badgers are halfway toward the real goal of achieving a 12-0 regular season and competing for a spot in the College Football Playoff.

There seems to be a wait-and-see approach from fans until Wisconsin plays a team that is deemed worthy enough to boost the Badgers’ strength of schedule. But that takes much of the enjoyment out of what’s happening in the present. If Wisconsin falters down the stretch, finishes with double-digit wins for a school-record fourth consecutive season and only manages to play in a New Year’s Six bowl game, many will consider the season a lost cause.

Which makes me wonder: Is there such a thing as apathy for one of the most consistently good college football programs in the country? Because the fans who attended that wretched display of Badgers football in 1989 would love to trade places.

And for those long-time fans that have experienced both ends of the spectrum: If the Badgers don’t make the playoffs this season, take pride in the team’s postseason appearance, wherever it may be. Remember when a bowl game was anything but guaranteed.