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Sports Today: Bengals, Browns enter free agency with wildly different agendas

Published: Wednesday, March 14, 2018 @ 9:50 AM

CINCINNATI, OH - OCTOBER 23:  Head Coach Marvin Lewis of the Cincinnati Bengals and Head Coach Hue Jackson of the Cleveland Browns shake hands after the completion of the game at Paul Brown Stadium on October 23, 2016 in Cincinnati, Ohio. Cincinnati defeated Cleveland 31-17. (Photo by John Grieshop/Getty Images)
John Grieshop/Getty Images
CINCINNATI, OH - OCTOBER 23: Head Coach Marvin Lewis of the Cincinnati Bengals and Head Coach Hue Jackson of the Cleveland Browns shake hands after the completion of the game at Paul Brown Stadium on October 23, 2016 in Cincinnati, Ohio. Cincinnati defeated Cleveland 31-17. (Photo by John Grieshop/Getty Images)(John Grieshop/Getty Images)

The NFL’s 2018 league year begins today. 

The Cleveland Browns have already been busy, and the Cincinnati Bengals made a big move Monday to address their biggest need. 

What’s next? 

RELATED: Browns reportedly sign defender away from Bengals

Well, the world seems to be Cleveland’s oyster, as it usually is in the offseason before games come back around to get in the way. 

The Bengals are probably back in conservative mode after spending some money and a little draft capital to acquire Cordy Glenn to play offensive tackle. 

RELATED: Bengals open critical week with strong move

That’s a good thing overall even if it would be more fun for media and fans to see them make another splash or two this month. 

If a team is being conservative, that means it has a lot of things to like on its roster. 

Sometimes that team is wrong, and the last two years in Cincinnati are an example of that. 

The Bengals’ having consecutive losing seasons is almost entirely a result of trusting in some draft picks who didn’t work out. 

If they had a better coach or quarterback, they probably would have won a few more games, but the rest of the roster still would not have been good enough to get it done in January. 

I believe as we sit here today there is a chance it will be a lot better this fall, but obviously that depends heavily on how they do in the draft. 

READ MORE: Marvin Lewis talks about new assistants, their backup QB dilemma and more

The development of youngsters such as Joe Mixon, Andrew Billings, Carl Lawson, Williams Jackson III and Nick Vigil will be crucial, too, but those guys have already shown more promise than the ones who let them down over the last two years. 

Actually getting something out of John Ross or Cedric Ogbuehi wouldn’t hurt, either…

 

The NCAA tournament started last night with the first night of the First Four

Yes, I count these as NCAA tournament games even if they aren’t the same as playing in the round of 64. 

The goal has been to make the teams who are in Dayton to start the week feel like they are at one of those weekend sites, and by most accounts that has been met if not exceeded. 

RELATED: ‘This is what March Madness is all about’

The original play-in game was a dumb concept. 

Having four of the No. 16s who already won automatic bids have to play an extra game before two of them lose to a No. 1 seed is still dumb for multiple reasons, but last night was a reminder teams like Radford really do value the ability to win an “NCAA tournament game.” 

St. Bonaventure coach Mark Schmidt seemed to feel the same way after his team beat UCLA as he got a bit emotional on the postgame interview with Turner Sports. 

So the First Four has morphed into a pretty cool event. 

It would be even better if all eight teams playing Tuesday or Wednesday at UD Arena were at-large teams who only marginally deserved to make the field anyway, a move that I don’t understand not being made since that would probably also increase television ratings because it would involve more teams with big names and larger fan bases. 

That said, the smaller schools getting invited also give the two days in Dayton a little more of that all-around tournament feel because they would be part of the action at a traditional regional, too. 

RELATED: 5 things to know about Wednesday’s First Four games

Part of the fun last year for me was hearing North Carolina Central’s pep band rock out and Mount St. Mary’s mascot Emmit S. Burg own a dance-off with the New Orleans Privateer. 

NCCU coach LeVelle Morton’s majestic sport coat was also as memorable as his confirmation the experience, environment and opportunity were great for his team. 

“It was tremendous,” Moton said of the atmosphere after his team lost to fellow No. 16 seed UC Davis. “The fans and the energy, and you could feel the tension in the air.

“And I think it’s some neutral fans here, probably just Dayton fans who just love basketball, and I think after a while they just chose a side.“That’s what March Madness is about.” 

Morton and the Eagles are back in Dayton tonight to take on Texas Southern, a matchup that is a little controversial as it involves the only two historically black colleges or universities in the field. 

“I hate it,” Moton said. “I hate that it has to be two HBCUs clashing, because I have the ultimate respect for (Mike Davis’) program. And truth be told we’ve kind of been the representation of each league, and I wanted the world to be able to see what each league can offer. It’s unfortunate, but it’s best to be on this side of the coin than on the other side not getting a bid at all and not having to play anyone and having your season be over with.”

The nightcap will pit Arizona State against Syracuse in the absolute epitome what a First Four matchup should be.

Both of those teams have 20 wins, but they would have had no legitimate complaints if they were left out entirely… 

Sticking with college basketball, there is a report out there that Thad Matta could be the next coach at Georgia. 

I understand the former Ohio State coach wanting to give it another go, but I’m not sure this is a great idea for either side. 

I suspect Georgia’s expectations for basketball are similar to Ohio State’s — just high enough to get you fired if you’re not great

That can be a problem if the institution is also, while certainly interested in being good at basketball, most deeply committed to football. 

Matta was a great coach for many years at Ohio State, but basically everything about his program had gone into decline by the time he was finished. 

If there was still anything exceptional being done, he would probably still be in charge in Columbus. 

RELATED: Pulling plug on Matta era tough-but-correct call

Lots of attention has gone to his recruiting, especially with more people being made aware of the seedy underbelly of talent acquisition and claims Matta’s unwillingness to take part cost him players.

But that was far from the only problem in Columbus the last few years. 

He was bringing in good enough players to continue to be an NCAA tournament team at the worst, one that would make noise in the Big Ten race at least from time to time. 

That much was proven by this season. 

The lack of ability to develop skill or chemistry, whether that was more on Matta or the staff he hired, was what sealed his fate. 

Maybe the magic will be rekindled at a new place, but I won’t believe it until I see it. 

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NBA Draft: Middletown’s Edwards selected in second round

Published: Thursday, June 21, 2018 @ 11:48 PM

Purdue's Vincent Edwards shoots  during the first half against the Butler Bulldogs in the second round of the 2018 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Little Caesars Arena on March 18, 2018 in Detroit, Michigan.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
Purdue's Vincent Edwards shoots during the first half against the Butler Bulldogs in the second round of the 2018 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Little Caesars Arena on March 18, 2018 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)(Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Middletown High School graduate Vincent Edwards was selected by the Houston Rockets with the 22nd pick in the second round of the NBA Draft on Thursday. He was the 52nd overall pick. The Utah Jazz traded the pick to the Rockets.

 

According to reports, in the weeks leading up to the draft, Edwards worked out for the Golden State Warriors, Boston Celtics, Oklahoma City Thunder, Minnesota Timberwolves, Dallas Mavericks, Houston Rockets, New York Knicks and New Jersey Nets. 

Edwards, a 6-foot-7 forward, scored 1,638 points in four seasons at Purdue. He made the All-Big Ten second team as a senior, averaging 14.6 points, 7.4 rebounds and 2.9 assists. He shot 47.6 percent from the field and made 39.8 percent of his 3-pointers.

Edwards is the son of Bill Edwards Sr., a Carlisle High School graduate who is the all-time leading scorer at Wright State (2,303 points). Edwards Sr. was undrafted but played in three games for the Philadelphia 76ers in 1994.

According to Basketball-Reference.com, four men born in Middletown have played in the NBA or ABA: Edwards Sr., Bill Hanzlik (Beloit Memorial High School in Wisconsin), Luke Kennard (Franklin High School) and Jerry Lucas. 

The elder Edwards played three games for the Phoenix Suns in the 1993-94 season. 

Along with Lucas, a member of the NBA’s 50th Anniversary team, Middletown High School also produced Butch Carter, who played in the NBA for six seasons and was head coach of the Toronto Raptors. 

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Landon Donovan's support for Mexico sparks pitched battle off the pitch

Published: Sunday, June 17, 2018 @ 2:03 PM

Landon Donovan Causes Controversy With Mexico Fandom

Landon Donovan’s support for Mexico at the World Cup has sparked a pitched battle between the most recognizable name in American soccer and his peers, ESPN reported Sunday.

>> Read more trending news 

Donovan has been part of an advertising campaign for Wells Fargo to support Mexico, which opened its World Cup play in Russia with a stunning 1-0 victory against defending champion Germany on Sunday. Critics of the promotion have criticized Landon, calling his cheerleading inappropriate.

Donovan posted a photo on Twitter on Saturday holding a scarf that read “My other team is Mexico.”

Donovan played this spring for León, which is part of Mexico’s Primera Division. Still, some questioned Donovan’s motives.

“Watering it down for beer/banks won’t enrich the rivalry,” ESPN announcer Sebastian Salazar tweeted.

Carlos Bocanegra, the former captain of the U.S. national team, tweeted “Really?” 

Donovan tweeted back that Bocanegra should “remember where you came from.”

“Look around our country, are you happy with how we are treating Mexicans?” Donovan answered. “Open your mind, stand for something and remember where you came from.”

Donovan’s former teammate, Herculez Gomez, an ESPN analyst, criticized that exchange, ESPN reported, tweeting that it was “an incredibly terrible take.”

The History of the FIFA World Cup

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Middletown’s Kayla Harrison on winning MMA debut: ‘What a rush!’

Published: Friday, June 22, 2018 @ 1:33 PM

BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 28: Olympic gold medal Judoka Kayla Harrison is introduced before throwing out a ceremonial first pitch before a game between the Boston Red Sox and the Kansas City Royals on August 28, 2016 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 28: Olympic gold medal Judoka Kayla Harrison is introduced before throwing out a ceremonial first pitch before a game between the Boston Red Sox and the Kansas City Royals on August 28, 2016 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)

Middletown native Kayla Harrison was understandably exhuberant after winning her professional mixed-martial arts debut Thursday night.

“Yeah, man what a rush, huh? Crazy,” she said in a post-fight press conference.

Harrison, a two-time Olympic gold medalist in judo, submitted Brittney Elkin in a Professional Fighters League 155-pound lightweight bout in Chicago.

She got Elkin on the ground early and dominated the fight, finishing it off with an armbar 3 minutes, 18 seconds into round one.

>>MORE: Kayla Harrison shares inspiring message with Middletown crowd | Middletown cheers Harrison to another Olympic gold

“Have you ever stepped in the cage and let them lock the door behind you?” she asked a reporter, who replied he has not.

“I highly suggest it,” she said with a huge smile and a laugh.

Although she made fairly quick work of the more experienced Elkin (3-5), Harrison said she was far from being in a comfort zone in her first competition since she won her second Olympic gold medal almost two years ago.

“Obviously my judo and my instincts from years of doing the same thing over and over again took over, but I don’t want to just be a judo player who gets in the cage,” she said. “I want to be the best MMA fighter in the world. I have a lot to work on. I already told my boxing coach, ‘We’re working every day. That’s it.’ I don’t care if he’s got plans. Forget about ‘em!

“It was a lot of fun. I”m just grateful to my team and everyone who has supported me along the way.”

She was also happy to have supporters in the Windy City from Middletown.

“I grew up in Ohio, so there were a lot of people here from my hometown,” Harrison said. “They like rented a bus or something from Middletown and drove over so this is awesome to fight here.”

As for when she might fight again, she replied, “The sooner the better.”

The Professional Fighters League is a new MMA promotion that held its first event earlier this month.

While a full season of competition is scheduled for men in the PFL, the promotion is still accumulating female fighters and Harrison is their marquee name.

“I think it’s in my contract to fight every four months so maybe October?” she said. “I’m ready. I don’t have time to mess around. I think the more I fight, the more experience I get the more comfortable I’m going to get inside that cage.”

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NBA Draft: Where 3 locals landed and what’s next for them

Published: Friday, June 22, 2018 @ 10:19 AM

Who is Kostas Antetokounmpo? Facts about the former Dayton forward

Following the NBA draft live doesn’t appeal to me much because so much changes from moment to moment. 

Of course there’s a great drama factor involved, but these days i don’t have much trouble finding that anywhere so I spent more time watching the Reds beat the Cubs and Kayla Harrison win her first MMA fight

Even if you watched the NBA draft for a while last night, there’s a decent chance some things changed after you went to bed. 

Here’s a look at what went down for Kostas Antetokounmpo (University of Dayton), Vincent Edwards (Middletown High School) and Keita Bates-Diop (Ohio State), all of whom were taken in the second round. 

Kostas Antetokounmpo, forward, Dayton 

The former Flyers reserve was the last pick in the draft, taken 60th overall by the Philadelphia 76ers, who traded his rights to the Dallas Mavericks. 

Dallas has fallen on hard times in the Late Nowitzkian Period, missing the playoffs the last two seasons and failing to win a playoff series since upsetting LeBron James’ Miami Heat in the 2011 Finals. 

The Mavs got their point guard of the future last year in Dennis Smith Jr., acquired European star wing Luka Doncic on Thursday night (and picked another heady lead guard in Villanova’s Jalen Brunson) so athletic big guys like Antetokounmpo would seem to be a need. 

Conclusion: Anyone who watch UD last season knows Antetokounmpo has potential but is far from being ready to contribute to an NBA team. 

However, this is probably as good a situation as he could have landed in because the Mavs are considered an up-and-coming team with a winning coach (Rick Carlisle). 

Keita Bates-Diop, guard/forward, Ohio State 

The Big Ten Player of the Year was taken 48th overall by the Minnesota Timberwolves. 

After years of struggling following the Kevin Garnett era, the T-Wolves made the playoffs last season with a roster built around young stars Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins and stalwart Jimmy Butler. 

NBA.com noted before the draft Minnesota badly needed to upgrade its bench, even suggesting Bates-Diop could be a good fit. 

He can back up both Butler and Wiggins as a “3 and D” wing now coveted throughout the league. 

Conclusion: This looks like a very good situation for KDB, who has an NBA-ready game and joins a good team in need of what he can do. He should not have too much put on his plate too soon, but there figure to be plenty of opportunities for him to do his thing. 

Vincent Edwards, forward, Purdue (Middletown High School) 

The second-team All-Big Ten pick was taken by the Utah Jazz with the No. 52 pick but traded to the Houston Rockets. 

Houston had the best record in the league last season and had the Warriors on the ropes in the Western Conference finals but couldn’t finish the job. With All-Star Chris Paul sidelined by injury, the Rockets saw Golden State rally to win the series before taking down Cleveland in the finals. 

They play a unique style that relies heavily on putting James Harden and Paul in pick-and-rolls that let them drive the basket, find a big guy for a lob or dish it out for 3-pointers. 

Conclusion: Edwards has a good face-up game and was a 39.2-percent 3-point shooter in college. If he can continue to stroke it from behind the pro line, he could be a valuable bench player right away for Houston, which needs depth to maintain a high pace of play. 

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