Ohio schools are 8-0 in the NCAA Tourney

707028.jpg

Ohio schools are 8-0 in the NCAA Tourney

From Comcast SportsNet
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- Consider it a good weekend for teams hailing from Ohio. Four teams from the state are heading to the regional semifinals, with the 13th-seeded Ohio Bobcats leading the way after getting 21 points from Walter Offutt in a 62-56 upset of South Florida on Sunday night. Ohio advanced to the regional semifinals for the first time since 1964, earning a matchup against top-seeded North Carolina in the Midwest Regional on Friday. Offutt, who hit two free throws with 6.8 seconds left to preserve a 65-60 upset of Michigan on Friday night, knows the encounter with the Tar Heels isn't going to be anything like the last time he faced them -- when he was a bench player for Ohio State. "It's going to be different knowing that I'm going into the game and I have to contribute for our team to possibly win the game," said Offutt, who transferred from Ohio State to Ohio with a brief stop at Wright State in between. Ohio is the seventh team seeded No. 13 or higher to advance to the regional semifinals and the first since No. 13 Bradley did it in 2006. In Nashville's other third-round game, sixth-seeded Cincinnati edged Florida State 62-59 to reach its first regional semifinal since 2011. The Bearcats will play No. 2 seed Ohio State in Boston on Thursday night. A fourth team from Ohio, Cincinnati's crosstown rival Xavier, beat Lehigh 70-58 on Sunday in Greensboro, N.C., to advance to the round of 16 for the fourth time in five years. Cincinnati guard Sean Kilpatrick had no idea his team was the fourth from the Buckeye State to advance. "We were just so amped about being in the Sweet 16," he said. "I'll just say we're quite worried about Cincinnati on what we've got to do and what we've got to focus on to win the next game." The Bobcats and the Bearcats had far closer calls than their counterparts in their third-round games. Although the Bulls managed to keep the Bobcats away from the rim, they couldn't stop them at the perimeter. Half of Ohio's second-half buckets were 3s, and the Bobcats finished 9 of 18 from long range. South Florida's Jawanza Poland was called for a technical foul after hanging on the rim following a dunk. Nick Kellogg sank both free throws and a 3-pointer that tied the game at 42 with 9:23 to play. Ohio trailed by two when Offutt swished a 3-pointer, launching a 10-0 run for the Bobcats. A pair of free throws by D.J. Cooper made it 54-46 with 3:28 left. The Bobcats had a 59-53 lead when Toarlyn Fitzpatrick connected for South Florida's first 3-pointer of the half. But Cooper went 3 for 4 from the line while the Bulls missed three shots in the final 36 seconds. "Success breeds success," said Ohio coach John Groce, who has led the Bobcats to their second NCAA tournament in four years. "It builds more confidence." Cincinnati and Florida State traded the lead 19 times and were tied 11, and neither team led by more than three in the second half until the Bearcats scored seven straight points. Sean Kilpatrick hit a free throw tying it up at 50 points, and then Dion Dixon stole the ball from Luke Loucks in front of the Cincinnati bench as Florida State tried to bring the ball up against the Bearcats' press. Dixon took off and dunked to put Cincinnati ahead for good with 1:32 left. Cashmere Wright hit a jumper, and Yancy Gates added two free throws for 56-50 lead with 35.3 seconds left. The Bearcats sealed it by hitting all eight free throws in the final 35.3 seconds. The Seminoles led 29-28 at halftime and were up by five in the first half. But the Bearcats hit 11 of 21 (52.4 percent) overall and 12 of 13 at the free throw line. Cincinnati had a big edge at the line (19 of 23) overall compared to Florida State (12 of 15). "We're thinking way better than that. We're trying to get past the Sweet 16 and do bigger and better things," Cincinnati guard JaQuon Parker said.

Michal Rozsival, Jordin Tootoo extensions give Blackhawks flexibility at expansion draft

Michal Rozsival, Jordin Tootoo extensions give Blackhawks flexibility at expansion draft

The Blackhawks agreed to one-year contract extensions with defenseman Michal Rozsival and forward Jordin Tootoo, the team announced Tuesday.

Rozsival's deal is worth $650,000 while Tootoo's deal carries a $700,000 cap hit, according to ESPN's Pierre LeBrun.

The move gives the Blackhawks two players eligible to be exposed during this summer's expansion draft.

NHL teams must expose two forwards and one defenseman that have played at least 40 games in 2015-16 or more than 70 in 2016-17, and they must be under contract in 2017-18.

[MORE: The Blackhawks' 9-1 February by the numbers]

Rozsival and Tootoo meet those requirements, which means the Blackhawks can now protect Ryan Hartman, who is also eligible.

They are allowed to protect seven forwards, three defensemen and one goaltender or eight skaters (regardless of position) and one goaltender. 

Rozsival, 38, has one goal and one assist in 16 games this season, often serving as the team's extra defenseman. Tootoo, 34, has no points in 36 games.

NFL Scouting Combine represents opportunities — good and bad — for Bears

NFL Scouting Combine represents opportunities — good and bad — for Bears

The NFL Scouting Combine convening this week in Indianapolis isn't really the high point of pre-draft assessing being done by NFL teams. Those evaluations have been going on for many, many months — on college campuses, at bowl games — and will go on with Pro Days and selected visits to team headquarters.
 
But what it does represent is two things: a chance for teams to probe for detailed medical information on some 300 potential draftees, and a case study in savvy brand marketing by the NFL that has become its own hot-stove league on steroids (hopefully not literally for any of the participants).
 
Covering the event 25 years ago, representatives of the three Chicago-area newspapers comprised one of the two largest media contingents (the other being New York's) going about the business of football reporting after the sport had largely moved off the sports-front with the wrap-up of the Super Bowl. No TV, no internet, and the Combine operators really didn't want media around for what was set up as a purely team-centric.
 
Now the NFL has created a media event that keeps it in news prominence at what had always been a dormant calendar nadir for pro football, with not only some 1,000 media members and outlets welcome, but also with fans able to attend events like the 225-pound bench press and 40-yard dashes, whose results were once something that reporters dug around for as news scoops.
 
But beyond the observed events, including group media interviews for the majority of athletes, individual draft stocks will be affected by vertical jumps, cone drills and such. And by interviews with individual teams, which are still private. (For now. Somehow, it's not beyond imagination that someday even those will be televised, in an NFL guise of "transparency" or something, but that's for another time.)
 
Strengths, weaknesses and the QB conundrum
 
One annual refrain are the assessments of the overall draft class, what positions are its deepest, its weakest, an evaluation that carries some weight because invitees to the Combine include underclassmen, which the Senior Bowl does not.
 
But a danger within the process is exactly that — the "weight" assigned to results, particularly the on-field ones. On-field evaluations are the best indicators, but the right on-field ones were there on playing fields and now tape, not inside Lucas Oil Stadium this week.

[RELATED - Which direction will Bears go at pick No. 3?]
 
Combine performance has affected drafts rightly and wrongly over the years.
 
ProFootballTalk.com's Mike Florio has made an excellent case for players declining that test for reasons of confidentiality. And frankly, if teams have a problem with a player declining the test, then teams and the NFL need to do a better job of keeping the results in-house, particularly given that correlations between the Wonderlic and NFL success are questionable at best.
 
But some player or players will move up or slip down on draft boards because of drill work. That may be unfortunate for the player, and for the teams.
 
QB or not QB
 
It is at this point that the Combine becomes increasingly relevant to the Bears, or at least to those trying to discern what realistic chances exist for the Bears to address their well-documented areas of need (quarterback, tight end, cornerback, safety).
 
An inherent problem at this stage is the difficulty in arriving at a right decision, particularly at the paramount position. NFL Network draft expert Mike Mayock did some checking that illustrates the issue.
 
Between 2007-14, teams selected 21 quarterbacks in the first round. Nine of them are no longer even in the league, and only a handful have achieved something close to the coveted "franchise" distinction: Matt Ryan in Atlanta, Matthew Stafford in Detroit, Carolina's Cam Newton, Andrew Luck in Indianapolis and Joe Flacco in Baltimore. Only Flacco has won a Super Bowl.
 
"It gives a pretty good feel for the 'hit' rate of franchise quarterbacks in the first round," Mayock said on Monday.
 
"My message to NFL teams is, 'you've got to keep trying, keep on swinging.'"
 
Whether the Bears take a swing at a franchise quarterback at No. 3 is still many weeks off. But Mayock didn't endorse making that swing at that point.
 
"I don't have any quarterbacks anywhere near the Top 10," Mayock said. "That doesn't mean I think there's no talent there, because I think there are four quarterbacks that have first-round talent. In my order I had for my initial Top 5, it was [DeShone] Kizer, [Deshaun] Watson, [Mitch] Trubisky, [Patrick] Mahomes. All four of them have holes in their games.
 
"I don't think any of them are ready to start Week 1."
 
More to come over the next week. Make that "weeks."