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Buckeyes win them all but still get left behind

Buckeyes win them all but still get left behind

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) Jack Mewhort loves college football. Yet he likely won't go out of his way to watch a single bowl game in the coming days.

What's the point, the thoughtful, red-haired Ohio State offensive lineman says, not really seeking an answer.

``Now that the season is over, you can sit around and think to yourself a little bit,'' he said in a voice a lot softer than you might expect coming from a body measuring 6-foot-6 and 312 pounds. ``Your mind kind of wanders. We accomplished everything we possibly could.

``But you've got to keep the demons out.''

The Buckeyes aren't allowed, due to NCAA violations committed by those no longer with the team, to play in a bowl game. They did all they could during the 2012 season, going 12-0.

So while Notre Dame and one-loss Alabama fight it out for the national championship, and while lesser teams play in sunny climes and get maximum exposure, Mewhort and the rest of the Buckeyes are left with their thoughts.

Coach Urban Meyer is perfectly willing to move on, to cease all the talk about NCAA crimes and punishment.

But that doesn't mean, the Ohio State coach still doesn't have a lingering regret: What might have been.

``It's very difficult,'' concedes Meyer, not one to spend a lot of time dealing with the what-ifs of daily life. ``After we won our last game (against rival Michigan) and we saw we couldn't go play in the Big Ten championship game, and then if we would have won that we might have been playing for the national championship - you can't help but think about it.''

There's plenty of regret to go around at Ohio State these days. There's regret that former coach Jim Tressel, who wrote books about integrity, morals and leading a Christian life, found out in 2010 that some of his best players took money from a suspected drug dealer and yet did nothing about it. He played those players anyway and they were later ruled ineligible for taking cash and free tattoos. A 12-1 season, including a Sugar Bowl victory two years ago, was wiped off the books.

Tressel was forced out of the job in disgrace after 10 years and all of the players involved either graduated, moved on to the NFL or went elsewhere.

There's also regret that athletic director Gene Smith, who once worked on the NCAA's Committee on Infractions, didn't give up a meaningless Gator Bowl bid after the 2011 season as a pre-emptive strike to mollify the NCAA. The thinking is that, had he surrendered that game - what would be the seventh loss in an utterly forgettable year of suspensions, innuendo, investigations and sanctions - perhaps the current Buckeyes might still be pursuing that elusive national championship berth.

Smith, for one, refuses to play the blame game. He said he doesn't feel any remorse for his decision whatsoever.

``No. As I've said before, with the information we had at the time we made the decisions at the time that we felt were the best decisions,'' he said. ``So we've moved on. I guess that's the challenge. We've moved on. We're looking at what we accomplished this year, we're looking at the future and we're recognizing the opportunities ahead of us that are exciting because of how we stayed focused on helping this team and this coaching staff be successful.''

Of course, the players affected the most by the bowl ban are Ohio State's seniors. They overcame doubts and questions to post just the sixth unbeaten and untied season in the program's 123 seasons. Yet, for the sins of others, they're deprived of the reward of going on a good bowl trip.

``I can't stay here and live in the past and wish and hope,'' said a wistful Etienne Sabino, a senior linebacker. ``There's nothing I can control. I try not to think about it.''

But the underclassmen feel a void, as well.

Star quarterback Braxton Miller says it's an injustice that the Buckeyes paid the price for others' mistakes in judgment.

``I'm really disappointed,'' said Miller, who will be a junior next fall. ``They got in trouble before I got here. With the probation, it's very disturbing for the players. We put in the hard work and went 12-0 and, you know, should have had an opportunity to go to the national championship game. It's not fair.''

There are other considerations, of course. The lack of a bowl game denies Ohio State weeks of practice that even a mediocre bowl-bound team with a 6-6 record gets. It also denies a national stage to an unbeaten team, perhaps preventing the seniors from another opportunity to impress pro scouts. And it eliminates an additional high-profile chance for Meyer to show off the rebuilding project he's overseen at Ohio State, one that might be very appealing to potential recruits who are glued to the TV during the postseason.

Meyer believes the players will just have to work harder to make up for those missed practices. And that the coaches must work even harder to reach recruits and spread the word of the rebirth at Ohio State in the wake of the Tressel trauma.

Those are still minor considerations, he believes, compared to what the seniors lost.

``Everybody has a dream of playing for a national title and our guys don't get that opportunity,'' he said softly.

Despite the premature end to their season, the players take great pride in that perfect record. NCAA rules allow players to leave a team - without having to sit out a transfer year - when a team gets hit with major penalties. Yet none of the Buckeyes left under those circumstances. They stuck around, and will be rewarded with rings for winning their Big Ten division and will be remembered as a unit that provided a cornerstone for what's to come.

``This season just kind of sets a tone for the future years,'' senior fullback and linebacker Zach Boren said.

That doesn't mean being left behind isn't painful.

``We're really proud of what we did going 12-0. We accomplished everything we could. We won our division, we won our big game (Michigan) at the end,'' Mewhort said. ``I want to stress how important that was to us to win every game possible for these seniors. They led us. It was all for them. But it does get a little frustrating as you get close to bowl season.

``Because you still have that fire burning, you know. You want to go out there and compete.''

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Wizards' 2019 top prospects rankings: Rui Hachimura, Troy Brown Jr. lead the way

Wizards' 2019 top prospects rankings: Rui Hachimura, Troy Brown Jr. lead the way

Though the maturation of the G-League has brought the NBA closer in line with MLB and its minor league farm system, there has been one noticeable element missing for those of us who follow the two sports closely. In baseball, multiple media outlets publish top prospect lists both league-wide and team-specific, yet the equivalents are nowhere to be found in basketball.

Prospect rankings are a great window into the future and they are fun to revisit years later to see who was right and who was wrong. But, so far, they haven’t become widespread in basketball.

The reason why may be rooted in semantics. Generally, basketball players are considered prospects before they are drafted. After they join teams, they just become regular players.

Part of that perception is simply because NBA players can impact their teams at a much younger age. While it is very rare to see a 19-year-old in the majors, it is commonplace in the NBA.

The Wizards, though, may be the perfect team to get this started with. They have a collection of players that are now out of college but have yet to establish themselves in the professional ranks. They are essentially prospects by baseball's definition.

So, in the interest of doing something new here, let's rank them...

1. Rui Hachimura, F

Age: 21
Strengths: midrange shooting, offensive versatility
Areas to improve: three-point shooting, passing

The ninth overall pick this past June, Hachimura is the highest draft pick the Wizards have selected since Otto Porter Jr. in 2013. He is 21, but young in basketball years because he didn't pick up the sport until Age 13. Yet, with three years of college under his belt, he comes in with the experience to likely make a difference right away. And with the Wizards' current roster state, he should have a big opportunity for minutes and shot attempts as a rookie.

Hachimura appears to have several NBA-ready skills, particularly on offense. He makes smart decisions with the ball in his hand and can score at all three levels. His outside shooting needs to be more consistent, but he can knock it down enough to be a threat. Defensively is where he will need to grow the most, but the potential seems to be there for him to develop until a versatile player on that end of the floor. 

Passing is another area he can improve. He didn't record many assists at all in college or in the Summer League. 

2. Troy Brown Jr., G/F

Age: 19
Strengths: rebounding, passing
Areas to improve: outside shooting, turnovers

Though Brown was drafted one year before Hachimura, he is still a year-and-a-half younger. He also didn't crack the Wizards' rotation until late in his rookie season. That makes him still very much a prospect as he enters his Age 20 campaign looking to make a much bigger impact in his second season than he did in his first.

The good news for Brown is that the minutes should be there. At this point he looks like at-worst the second small forward behind C.J. Miles and he should have a chance to battle for the starting job in training camp. With Isaiah Thomas' checkered injury history (he only played 12 games last year), there is a good chance Brown sees time at point guard as well, maybe even some starts there. We'll see.

Brown's passing and rebounding are up-to-speed for his size and position, but he needs to cut down on the turnovers and improve his three-point shot. Though he dominated in his brief time in the Summer League, he still only shot 40.6 percent from the field. Also, the Wizards could really use a leap from him on defense because he has a relatively high ceiling on that end of the floor and most of their players do not.

3. Moe Wagner, C

Age: 22
Strengths: outside shooting, free throw shooting
Areas to improve: defense, rebounding

The path to minutes isn't quite as clear for Wagner, who is probably going to be stuck behind Hachimura, Davis Bertans and Thomas Bryant in the frontcourt. But the way he can crack the rotation is by hitting his threes, something he was not able to do as a rookie for the Lakers last season or in the 2019 Summer League for the Wizards.

Wagner presents intriguing long-term upside because of his shooting and his knack for getting to the rim off pump-fakes. But he needs to learn how to affect more shots around the rim, even if he can't block shots. And his rebounding could use some improvement, as his 9.8 rebounding percentage last season wouldn't even stand out for a wing player, much less a seven-footer.

4. Admiral Schofield, F

Age: 22
Strengths: outside shooting, team defense
Areas to improve: defense against taller players, ball-handling

The expectations should be low for Schofield in his rookie season, despite the fact he played four years in college and has an NBA-ready frame. Most second round picks don't make much of an impact early on and he is slotted to be on the outside of the rotation looking in.

Schofield's fastest way to NBA playing time is through his defense and three-point shooting, the two biggest reasons the Wizards drafted him. If he can provide toughness and an edge in the midrange, it will give the Wizards something they have lacked in recent years. And he shot at both a high percentage and for volume from three at Tennessee, and you can't have enough perimeter shooting these days.

5. Justin Robinson, G

Age: 23
Strengths: outside shooting, passing
Areas to improve: finishing around rim, turnovers

Like Schofield, Robinson is probably going to spend a good deal of his time with the Capital City Go-Go this season. But working in his favor is the team's lack of depth at point guard. They have Thomas, who again has some injury concerns. And they have Ish Smith, but there appears to be an opening at the third point guard spot.

Brown could fill the void and so could Jordan McRae. The Wizards could even give Bradley Beal more of an extended look running the offense. But the door seems to be open for Robinson to make an impact and early. He needs to focus on taking care of the ball, playing physical defense and making his open threes. The Wizards don't need Robinson to be a big-time scorer, but he can add spacing if he shoots from three as he did in college.

Honorable mention: Garrison Mathews, Isaac Bonga

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Orioles Roundup: O's fall to Nationals in opening game of Beltway Series

Orioles Roundup: O's fall to Nationals in opening game of Beltway Series

Another night, another loss for the Baltimore Orioles. Tuesday night featured a one-sided affair, as the Nationals beat the O's 8-1 at Camden Yards.

The Orioles fell to 28-66 on this season, while the Natoinals continued their climb to 50-43.

Here are the latest news and notes:

Player Updates:

SP Asher Wojciechowski gave up three earned runs over 5 1/3 innings in Tuesday night's loss. The righty gave up two home runs, with Matt Adams and Juan Soto hitting one deep ball each, while managing to strikeout seven batter and issue no walks on the night. He has now whiffed 21 batters in 15 2/3 innings since joining the Orioles, but also holds a 5.74 ERA.

2B Hanser Alberto was the only offense to speak of for the Orioles on Tuesday night. The utility player had two of the team's four hits and scored their only run after blasting a home run off Austin Voth in the second inning. Alberto has been a breath of fresh air for a struggling O's team, sporting a .306/.325/.402 batting line.

Before first pitch on Tuesday, the Orioles released INF/OF Jace Peterson. The versatile player had a July 15 opt-out in his minor league contract that he decided to exercise in order to find a better opportunity. Through 86 games this season in Triple-A Norfolk, Peterson boasted a .309/.394/.505 battling line with nine home runs, 44  RBI, 12 stolen bases and 55 runs scored.

Also before first pitch on Tuesday, it was announced that DH Mark Trumbo (knee) has resumed baseball activities. Though there is no timetable for his return to the team, the Orioles are optimistic that he will be able to contribute before the end of the season. He has missed the whole season so far due to complications following right knee surgery.

Injuries:

SP Dylan Bundy: Knee, 10-day Injured List

RP Josh Rogers: Elbow, 10-day Injured List

OF DJ Stewart: Ankle, 10-day Injured List

SP Alex Cobb: Back, 60-day Injured List

SP Nate Karns: Arm, 60-day Injured List

DH Mark Trumbo: Knee, 60-day Injured List

Coming Up:

Wednesday 7/17: Orioles vs. Nationals, 7:05 p.m., Oriole Park at Camden Yards

Friday 7/19: Orioles vs. Red Sox, 7:05 p.m., Oriole Park at Camden Yards

Saturday 7/20: Orioles vs. Red Sox, 7:05 p.m., Oriole Park at Camden Yards

Source: Rotoworld

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