White Sox

Ohio schools are 8-0 in the NCAA Tourney

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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.

Strikeout machine Alec Hansen wants to be the best ... OK, one of the best

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AP

Strikeout machine Alec Hansen wants to be the best ... OK, one of the best

GLENDALE, Ariz. — On a day when Jose Abreu and Yoan Moncada took live batting practice for the first time this spring, off in the distance was a lanky White Sox prospect standing in the outfield grass.

But Alec Hansen was doing more than shagging flies. He was watching both hitters very closely.

“I was looking to see how much pop they had,” Hansen said of Abreu and Moncada. “I kind of look at that to see the difference in power between minor league ball and the major leagues. It’s nice to see it’s not a huge difference. That makes me feel a bit more comfortable.”

At 6-foot-8 — actually 6-foot-8-and-a-half, according to his spring training physical — Hansen is a big man with big plans for his baseball career. He might be quiet on the outside, but he has booming expectations for himself on the inside.

“I want to be the best,” Hansen said in an interview with NBC Sports Chicago.

The best? The very best?

That’s what Hansen aspires to become, though later in our conversation, he did dial back a notch, settling for becoming “one of the best.”

Either is fine with manager Ricky Renteria, who is overseeing these uber-confident White Sox prospects and accepts their lofty expectations.

“I think their mindset is where it’s supposed to be,” Renteria said. “None of these kids are concerned or consumed with the possibility of failure. Much more they’re consuming themselves with the understanding that they might hit some stumbling blocks, but they’re going to have a way to avoid overcoming them and push forward and be the best that they can be.”

In his first full season in the White Sox organization, Hansen led the minor leagues with 191 strikeouts. He’s proud of that accomplishment but admitted something: He’s not that impressed because he didn’t do it where it really matters — in the major leagues.

When you watch Hansen pitch, it’s easy to see that the talent is there. His coaches and teammates rave about his ability. With his enormous size and power arm, he is loaded with strengths.  

Though there is one weakness that Hansen acknowledges he needs to work on.

“Sometimes I have a tendency to think too much and worry. I think worrying is the worst thing that I do just because I want to be perfect,” Hansen said. “I think everyone wants to be perfect, some more than others, and I worry about things getting in the way of achieving perfection.”

To Hansen, that doesn’t mean throwing a perfect game. He actually takes it one step further.

He wants to strikeout every single hitter he faces.

“I love striking people out,” Hansen said. “Not having to rely on anyone else and just getting the job done myself and knowing that the hitter can’t get a hit off me. That’s a great feeling. That they can’t put it in play. Like a line drive out. That’s terrible.”

At some point, Hansen will have to lower these impossible expectations for himself. This is an imperfect game. There’s no place for nine-inning, 27-strikeout performances. Players end up in the Hall of Fame because they learn how to succeed with failure.

In the meantime, Hansen is here in big league camp watching and learning anything and everything.

“I’m a good observer. I listen. I don’t really talk too much. I’m a pretty quiet guy. I like to sit back and observe and see how these guys go about their business. Just trying to be at their level, hopefully one day surpass them.”

Surpass?

“It’s kind of hard to surpass some of these guys. I mean, they’re at the tip-top, like the pinnacle of the sport,” Hansen said. “I guess you could say, to get on that level and then be one of the best in the league.”

He might be on his way.

Reflective Jimmy Butler looks back on time in Chicago during All-Star weekend

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USA TODAY

Reflective Jimmy Butler looks back on time in Chicago during All-Star weekend

LOS ANGELES — Jimmy Butler was absent from the scoresheet of the All-Star Game, unless you count a “DNP-Coaches’ Decision” as activity. Whether due to the All-Star festivities of the weekend or even the grinding minutes he plays under Tom Thibodeau, it wasn’t truly surprising to see him want to have a night off of sorts.

But what was mildly surprising was the reflection he displayed on Saturday at All-Star Media Day in reference to his time with the Chicago Bulls. Usually, Butler’s armor is up because of his feelings surrounding his draft-night departure.

“I learned a lot in Chicago,” Butler said. “Just all through the season and life in general. What to do, what not to do and how to adapt to any situation that you’ve been in. I’ve done that to the best of my abilities. I have a ways to go in that.”

It’s clear he’s still grasping the weight of his words as the best player on a team, or at least, the player whose words impact everything around him.

“A people pleaser? No, I just didn’t say much,” Butler said. “Now I just don’t care. I never talked whenever I was in the league at an early age. It really didn’t matter, nothing I did was gonna make or break us when it comes to losing a game. Now it does and I have a lot to say. Half the time it’s not the right time or right way to say it but it’s okay.”

Whether it was the battles with Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg or the internal struggles in the Bulls’ locker room through his ascension from bench warmer to rotation player to impact player to now, a legitimate star, he’s modifying his approach—just a tad.

“I’ve never been the best player on my own team. I was in Tomball,” he joked, in reference to his beginnings in small town Texas. “I wasn’t in junior college. At Marquette I wasn’t. I’m probably not now. In Chicago I wasn’t. You just pick up on it, watch others and learn.”

He admitted to writing in a journal and reading self-help books now that he’s in Minnesota. The novel he’s reading now, “Faith, Forward, Future” is authored by Chad Veach, a Los Angeles pastor and the subtitle of the book says “Moving past your disappointments, delays and destructive thinking.”

Whether he started the book following a slow start with the Timberwolves in November, where his nightly numbers looked like one of a high-level role player, he took some self-evaluation before leading the charge since, playing like an MVP candidate with 25.2 points, 5.5 rebounds and 5.3 assists on 49 percent shooting since the start of December.

“It’s relatively new. Yeah, basketball is still basketball but it’s hard when somebody else is coming in and roles change overnight,” Butler said. “You gotta see where you fit in with the group. At the end of the day you gotta win. I didn’t feel the way I was playing was our best opportunity to win games.”

Bringing along the likes of Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns, with Towns being a fellow All-Star for the first time, has been a process.

“I’ve never actually had to be a leader,” Butler said. “I just always done what I was supposed to do, didn’t say much and played hard. Now you know, everybody wants to call someone a leader.”

He disputes taking a softer hand, especially as Towns and Wiggins seem to struggle with sustaining concentration at critical moments. The Timberwolves won’t be able to make those mistakes during the playoffs, but he’s being more selective with his words.

“I’m not soft,” he said. “If I see something wrong, I speak on it. If you don’t like it, oh well. You’ll get over it.”

One thing he could take a bird’s eye view of was the aftermath of LeBron James and Kevin Durant’s comments to the “Uninterrupted”, where they were criticized by cable news hosts for speaking out against President Donald Trump.

No stranger to criticism, Butler would likely have the same approach if he dipped his toes into that arena.

“I like it. You got the right to say what you want and you speak on what you think is right,” Butler said. “Good for them. And they are magnified in a very big way. They embrace it and they’re doing the right thing, I’m all for it.”

And if the day comes where he doesn’t stick to sports, Butler’s directness and lack of diplomacy would certainly cause an interesting reaction.

“I don’t care. Whatever I believe in, I believe in,” Butler said. “Everybody else does it. You see everybody on Twitter and the Internet doing it and saying what they want to say. We just have a different job than the person to our left and right.”

Well, not quite a warm and fuzzy Jimmy Butler.