Sports Today: In defense of conference tournaments

Published: Tuesday, March 06, 2018 @ 10:13 AM

Nagy happy to win “rock fight”

Back in the saddle today after a few days in Indianapolis, where I watched many future millionaires speak about the next steps in their careers and saw an Ohio State basketball team win its second trophy of the season. 

But we begin with the Wright State Raiders. 

WSU has a shot at a Horizon League tournament double championship in Detroit.

The WSU women will face top-seeded Green Bay at noon at Little Caesar’s Arena in Detroit, while the men will take on a huge underdog in Cleveland State at 7 p.m.

The Wright State men have already set a program record for wins since joining Division I, but I’m sure they would rather have an invitation to the NCAA tournament. 

That will come if they beat Cleveland State tonight. 

RELATED: Raiders top Milwaukee to reach Horizon League final

The surprising Vikings are in the final despite finishing in a tie for next-to-last in the regular season standings. They knocked out No. 1 seed Northern Kentucky on Saturday and outlasted No. 4 Oakland last night. 

One of CSU’s 12 wins so far is against Wright State as the teams split the regular season series. 

Wright State is the No. 2 seed… 

›› 5 takeaways from Wright State’s semifinal rock fight against Milwaukee

The women’s team has a much more daunting task today. 

Coach Katrina Merriweather’s Raiders will face No. 1 seed Green Bay, a winner in 24 of the last 25 matchups between the two teams. 

WSU finished No. 3 and knocked out No. 2 IUPUI in the semifinals

While the debate about the fairness of using the conference tournament to award bids to the Big Dance will no doubt rage on this week and beyond, it could work out pretty well for Wright State this time around. 

I used to find the conference tournaments to be a waste of time, but I decided I like giving everyone a do-over. 

Some folks say it’s unfair, but ultimately, everyone still controls their destiny. Go out and win and you’re in. 

Sometimes the most talented team doesn’t emerge until later in a season because of youth or injuries or whatever else, and now of course unbalanced league schedules can play a role in who wins the regular season crown in some leagues. 

Plus, obviously upsets are part of the magic of March and this 10 days or so of appetizers before the main course helps make the NCAA tournament even more enjoyable. 

›› ARCHDEACON: X-factor Simmons powers WSU women into title game

However, I am a big fan of regular season excellence, too, so I hate seeing that fall entirely by the wayside. 

To me the answer is not to take the automatic bid from the conference tourneys to encourage the selection committee to be far more interested in inviting more deposed smaller-league champs, especially when they enjoy truly dominant seasons. 

What if a significant bonus were awarded to regular seasons champs so they stand out to the committee when it is comparing at-large resumes? 

There has to be some way to do that that would make sense without making the conference tournament also meaningless to the regular season champions. 

Ohio State women’s basketball won the regular season and conference tournament championships in the Big Ten behind coach Kevin McGuff and point guard Kelsey Mitchell.

(And while we’re tweaking things: No one who won their league tournament should be in the First Four. That should be all at-large teams, which likely also happens to mean more schools with big names and larger fanbases. Wouldn’t that be good for TV ratings on Tuesday and Wednesday night before the rest of the tournament kicks off?) 

West of Wright State’s campus, we find Dayton basketball fans both able to curse the current system (maybe) and look forward to a second chance. 

The Flyers were the dominant team in Atlantic 10 women’s basketball for most of the season but were upset in their conference tournament while the men need an early March miracle to be able to play on after this weekend. 

ESPN’s Charlie Creme still has the UD women solidly in the tournament as a No. 9 seed, for what it’s worth, while he sees Ohio State having played its way up to a No. 3 while winning the Big Ten tournament over the weekend

The Buckeyes got over a three-game slump in January to end up winning the regular season title, too, and they present an interesting team heading into the NCAA tournament. 

They lack depth, but they have two dominant players in Kelsey Mitchell and Stephanie Mavunga plus all of their “role players” are significant talents as well (which is what separates them from those Jim Foster teams that used to lose earlier than they should have every year in the tournament). 

Of course, the fact the Final Four will be in Columbus only adds to the intrigue…  

Ohio State women’s basketball coach Kevin McGuff talks about how the Buckeyes are playing with the NCAA tournament coming up next.

My favorite story from the NFL Scouting Combine came from Mike McCray II, the former Trotwood-Madison standout who turned his father into a Michigan fan for five years by signing with the Wolverines. 

Turns out Mike McCray Sr., who was a captain for the Buckeyes in 1988, didn’t waste any time getting back into the flow of Ohio State fandom, though. 

“He for sure went back right after the South Carolina game,” McCray said, referring to Michigan’s loss in the Outback Bowl on Jan. 1. “He was talking trash about us, and we were at dinner and Ohio State was playing in a bowl game [beating USC] and he was like, ‘Yeah, there we go.’ So he’s definitely back to Ohio State, but my mom and my fiancé are with me, so that’s all that matters.”

All’s fair in love and rivalries, right? 

Anyway, here’s a look at other stories from the Combine. 

I came away convinced the Bengals can get a lot better up front quickly but should still consider drafting Lamar Jackson, too, and the Browns would be foolish to pass on Saquon Barkley with the No. 1 pick. 

The rest? 

We’ll have plenty of time to debate between now and late April. 

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Dayton draft drought ends as Antetokounmpo chosen with last pick

Published: Friday, June 22, 2018 @ 12:04 AM

Who is Kostas Antetokounmpo? Facts about the former Dayton forward

A 28-year drought ended for the Dayton Flyers on Thursday as the Dallas Mavericks selected Kostas Antetokounmpo, a 6-foot-10 forward, with the 30th and last pick of the second round in the NBA Draft at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y. He was the 60th player chosen overall.

» FIVE THINGS TO KNOW: Who is Kostas Antetokounmpo?

Antetokounmpo, 20, is the first Dayton player drafted since Negele Knight in 1990. The Phoenix Suns drafted Knight in the second round.

Dayton had 38 players drafted between 1952 and 1990. Twenty Flyers have played in the NBA, including four undrafted players (Chris Wright, Chris Johnson, Brian Roberts and Charles Cooke) since Knight was drafted.

Antetokounmpo seeks to become the third member of his family to play in the NBA. His brother Giannis Antetokounmpo, 23, was the 15th pick of the first round in 2013 and now is one of the top players in the league. He averaged 26.9 points per game last season for the Milwaukee Bucks.

Thanasis Antetokounmpo, 25, played in two games in 2016 for the New York Knicks. He was a second-round pick in 2014.

» KOSTAS STORIES: High ceilingTrying to live up to his name | A star in victory over Saint Louis

The 6-foot-10 Antetokounmpo committed to Dayton in June 2016 but sat out his freshman season as a NCAA partial qualifier.

Antetokounmpo debuted in the 2017-18 season and averaged 5.2 points and 2.9 rebounds in 15.1 minutes per game. He led the team with 31 blocks. He appeared in 29 of 32 games and started six games.

» RELATED: Grant talks about Dayton’s offseason | Knight last Dayton player to be drafted

In late March, weeks after the end of a 14-17 season, Antetokounmpo left the program and the university.

“His mindset was he wants to test the waters to see what his prospects are for being in the NBA,” Dayton coach Anthony Grant said. “And he felt it was in his best interest to leave school to do it. I’m not trying to judge his decision in terms of basketball, but the timing of his leaving did surprise me with just six weeks of school left.”

     

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Blue Jays reliever Roberto Osuna suspended 75 games 

Published: Saturday, June 23, 2018 @ 5:11 AM

Toronto Blue Jays reliever Roberto Osuna was suspended for 75 games.
Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images
Toronto Blue Jays reliever Roberto Osuna was suspended for 75 games.(Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)

Toronto Blue Jays closer Roberto Osuna was suspended for 75 games without pay, retroactive to May 8, for violating baseball’s domestic violence policy, the New York Daily News reported.

>> Read more trending news 

Osuna, 23, an All-Star in 2017, was charged with one count of assault in Toronto and was put on administrative leave, the Daily News reported. The right-hander has not pitched since May 6. 

Osuna has nine saves and a 2.93 ERA in 15 games.

The suspension will cost Osuna $2.54 million of his annual $5.3 million salary, the Daily News reported. He will participate in an evaluation and treatment program, which is confidential and supervised by the joint policy board of Major League Baseball and the players’ association, the newspaper reported.

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Sorting through some 2026 World Cup questions

Published: Saturday, June 23, 2018 @ 2:41 AM

Xherdan Shaqiri of Switzerland shoots past Dusko Tosic of Serbia during the Friday's match at the World Cup in Russia.
Clive Rose/Getty Images
Xherdan Shaqiri of Switzerland shoots past Dusko Tosic of Serbia during the Friday's match at the World Cup in Russia.(Clive Rose/Getty Images)

Soccer’s international governing body, FIFA, voted last week to play the 2026 World Cup in the United States, Mexico and Canada.

>> Read more trending news

And while the announcement raised much excitement in North American soccer circles, it left questions that won’t be fully answered for years. Here are some of them.

WHICH CITIES WILL HOST MATCHES? 

Sixteen North American cities -- at least 10 in the United States -- will be chosen by FIFA in 2020 or 2021 to host matches. Those 16 choices will come from 23 “candidate cities.” FIFA will have negotiating leverage in whittling the number.

The U.S. host cities will be chosen from among these candidates: Atlanta (Mercedes-Benz Stadium), Baltimore (M&T Bank Stadium), Boston (Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts), Cincinnati (Paul Brown Stadium), Dallas (AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas), Denver (Broncos Stadium at Mile High), Houston (NRG Stadium), Kansas City (Arrowhead Stadium), Los Angeles (Rose Bowl Stadium in Pasadena, California, or the new NFL stadium under construction), Miami (Hard Rock Stadium), Nashville (Nissan Stadium), New York (MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey), Orlando, Florida (Camping World Stadium), Philadelphia (Lincoln Financial Field), San Francisco (Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California), Seattle (CenturyLink Field) and Washington (FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland.) 

In addition, current plans call for matches to be played in up to three cities in Canada (Edmonton, Montreal and Toronto) and up to three in Mexico (Guadalajara, Mexico City and Monterrey). 

"We are blessed with 23 really world-class stadiums -- some iconic, some brand-new cutting-edge and everything in between," U.S. Soccer president Carlos Cordeiro said. "I think it will be a very difficult decision to make … when we have to determine the final 16 cities. But it’s a high-class problem.”

Under current plans, 60 matches will be played in the U.S., 10 in Canada and 10 in Mexico. 

WHAT IS THE COST OF HOSTING? 

It helps that no new stadiums will have to be built in North America for the event, but the costs of security, transportation and other requirements will be considerable in any host city. 

“We’ve been told during the bid process it is on the level of (hosting) a Super Bowl,” said Dan Corso, president of the Atlanta Sports Council and chairman of Atlanta’s World Cup committee. “We have not gotten into too much detail on that yet, but we will during this next phase of the process.” 

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Reds top Cubs for fifth straight win

Published: Friday, June 22, 2018 @ 10:30 PM


            CINCINNATI, OH - JUNE 22: Eugenio Suarez #7 of the Cincinnati Reds celebrates in the dugout after hitting a two-run home run in the fifth inning against the Chicago Cubs at Great American Ball Park on June 22, 2018 in Cincinnati, Ohio. Cincinnati defeated Chicago 6-3. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
CINCINNATI, OH - JUNE 22: Eugenio Suarez #7 of the Cincinnati Reds celebrates in the dugout after hitting a two-run home run in the fifth inning against the Chicago Cubs at Great American Ball Park on June 22, 2018 in Cincinnati, Ohio. Cincinnati defeated Chicago 6-3. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)

While the 2018 season has been, at best, disappointing for the Reds, it has been disastrous when they were matched against their National League Central Division partners.

The Reds went into this weekend’s four-game series against the Chicago Cubs 8-23 against Central Division teams and 20-22 against the rest of their schedule.

»RELATED: MLB scoreboard, boxscores

“Our players look at it like a challenge and a hurdle we have to overcome,” interim manager Jim Riggleman said before Thursday’s series-opener. “We’ve got to start winning some of these games in our division against the Cubs and Cardinals. Milwaukee’s playing very good baseball. The Pirates we’ve held our own against, but we’ve got to step it up against these better Cubs.”

Cincinnati has gotten off to a good start on that quest. After coming from behind on Jesse Winker’s first career grand slam on the way to a 6-2 win on Thursday, the Reds got a go-ahead two-run home run from Eugenio Suarez in the fifth inning, helping them to a 6-3 win before a crowd of 25,885 at Great American Ball Park on Friday.

Billy Hamilton, Joey Votto, Adam Duvall and Alex Blandino also drove in runs to help Luis Castillo snap a four-start losing streak and earn his first win since May 24. Four Cincinnati pitchers limited Chicago to four hits as the Reds earned back-to-back wins over Chicago for the first time since June 30-July 1 of last season. They extended their current winning streak to five games, their longest since winning a season-high six straight from May 8 through May 13.

»RELATED: Top pick Greene records longest outing as pro

“We’re playing really good baseball right now,” Suarz said. “When you play like that, good things can happen.”

Cincinnati’s three relievers – Kyle Crockett, David Hernandez and Raisel Iglesias – teamed up to retire the last 10 Cubs batters.

“That was one of our cleaner ballgames of the season,” Riggleman said. “We played a good ballgame – offensively, defensively, ran the bases well, timely hitting.”

Castillo (5-8) faced one batter over the minimum through three hitless innings before the Cubs reached him for three runs with two outs in the fourth. Javier Baez drove in Ben Zobrist from third with a squeeze bunt, and Middletown-native Kyle Schwarber smacked Castillo’s next pitch into the visitors’ bullpen in left-center field for his team-leading 15thhomer of the season and third in four games.

»RELATED: Winker talks batting gloves, spikes

The homer was the eighth allowed by Castillo in his last six games and 18thof the season. He went into the game having given up a National League-leading 17 home runs.

The Cubs got runners to first and second with two outs in the sixth, but the left-handed Crockett – promoted from Triple-A Louisville before Thursday’s game – came in to get Schwarber looking to end the inning. Hernandez posted three strikeouts in two perfect relief innings, setting up Raisel Iglesias’s 12thsave in 14 opportunities.

“Castillo did a nice job,” Riggleman said. “In the sixth, we wanted nothing more with Schwarber than to keep him in the ballpark. Crockett was able to come in and strike him out, and that might be as good a two innings from Hernandez this season.”

“We’re a family,” Castillo said of the rejuvenated pitching staff, which has allowed a combined 4.23 earned-run average in June after figures of 5.32 in April and 4.64 in May. “Starters, relievers, we’re all a family. When somebody does good, we’re happy for him. When somebody isn’t as good, we have his back.”

Jose Peraza, who has reached base at least once in 22 consecutive games, started the three-run fifth with a single and stolen base, setting up Votto’s one-out RBI single. Suarez, who extended his career-high hitting streak to 12 games with a first-inning single, followed with a two-run shot to center field, his 16thhomer of the season.

“I put a good swing on a changeup,” Suarez said. “In my first at bat, he threw me a changeup and I rolled it over to the shortstop. After that, I said, ‘I have to be ready for anything.’”

Peraza tied Jesse Winker for Cincinnati’s longest on-base streak of the season. He also stole second base three times, his third one in the ninth setting up Blandino’s RBI single.

The bottom of the Reds order produced a 1-0 lead in the second against Cubs’ starter Jose Quintana (6-6) on Curt Casali’s one-out double, Castillo’s single up the middle – his fifth hit of the season – and Hamilton’s opposite-field single to right, extending his hitting streak to five games.

The Reds went on to load the bases with two outs, but Quintana struck out Votto looking to end the threat.

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