WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 29: Zion Williamson #1 of the Duke Blue Devils dunks the ball against the Virginia Tech Hokies during the first half in the East Regional game of the 2019 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Capital One Arena on March 29, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Photo: Patrick Smith/Getty Images
Photo: Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Random Thoughts: Zion’s perfect LeBron impersonation, MLB market futures and the future is (almost) now for the Flyers and Buckeyes

A thrilling Elite Eight left my bracket in tatters, but that’s why they play the games. Here are some things to chew on as we begin another week of exciting sports media-ing sure to include lots of spring football stuff and overreaction to small sample sizes in baseball. 

  • Zion Williamson really played the role of College Basketball LeBron James* to perfection. Rarely does anyone so fully live up to the hype upon hitting the scene as the Duke freshman. Williamson’s combo of quickness and athleticism with skill at that size really is just different. One way or another, he made great athletes look ordinary on a regular basis. And of course not being able to win the championship despite being flanked by some of the best players in the country really put the cherry on top. (*In this I am strictly referring to on the court, not the drama that surrounds LeBron wherever he goes and is mostly of his own making.) 
  • Before Williamson’s team was knocked out of the tournament early by Michigan State, Coach K called out the NCAA for not being ready to deal with the end of the One-and-Done Era. The answer is now what is has been for several years: Copy the hockey model of draft-and-follow
  • As far as football, we had a couple of great rounds of interviews at Ohio State last week. Most notably we got a lot of great insights into how the offense will develop if one particular position group develops in depth and what the defense is going to look like in various situations. 
  • OK, back to roundball: The prelude is over for Ohio State and Dayton basketball. Both won 20 games in year two under a new coach, but all along many fans understandably had an eye on next season. I generally try (sometimes in vain) to live in the moment when it comes to analyzing (and hopefully enjoying) sports, but there’s no denying the Buckeyes and Flyers provide a lot to be excited about for 2019-20. 
  • The bottom line is Ohio State’s lack of ball handling and ability to create a shot in more than one way formed the team’s ceiling. The only way they could score was by playing off Kaleb Wesson, which was not that bad of a thing other than he had a tendency to commit undisciplined fouls on top of getting some bad whistles via the combination of his physical style play and most college refs being terrible at their jobs.
  • Meanwhile, I was really impressed with Houston in their win over Ohio State. Nice all-around team. Very quick and aggressive on both ends. I guess that’s how their cheating coach keeps getting jobs. 
  • Ohio State just did not have the firepower on offense. If the Buckeyes would have ever learned not to throw so many bad passes they would have been a little better, but OSU was just limited overall. Defensively they were solid but got exposed for lack of athleticism and size at times. None of this came as a surprise, and help is on the way in the form of a pair of point guards and a couple of athletic wings who should all let the best of the returning players settle into roles that fit them better. Plus those freshmen, including Justin Ahrens of Versailles, who flashed some ability at times should get better. 
  • Bottom line in Columbus: Chris Holtmann outperformed expectations despite having to play different styles each year he was at Butler. He’s doing the same thing at Ohio State. 
  • Meanwhile, what should be another interesting Flyers offseason started with the departure of a starting guard that seems surprisingly less like a crisis than one might expect. Jordan Davis is a good player, but UD also has a glut of guards. Hopefully he finds somewhere he can flourish. 
  • I get the impression there is a faction of Flyers fans who just didn’t like the Anthony Grant hire and are holding him to an unfair standard, but regardless there is reason to believe next season should not end in the NIT. How the transfers are integrated into a lineup that already has some nice pieces — and a potential NBA player in Obi Toppin — will tell us a lot about what Grant is capable of. 

» OFFSEASON PICTURE: Five questions facing Flyers

  • Was putting Virginia in the weakest region a trap? Guess not. Pretty ironic the Cavaliers are the only No. 1 seed still standing since they entered the Big Dance with the most skeptics a year after being the most disappointing No. 1 seed of all time. The second weekend of the tournament was pretty outstanding, but I fear the great stories (Texas Tech’s first Final Four, Michigan State overcoming injuries, the Cavaliers exorcising their demons and Auburn... well, not Auburn.) will give way to an unappealing final weekend. Auburn-Virginia is a fun contrast in styles, but MSU-TT will probably be unwatchable. As would a final involving Virginia and either of those teams. 
  • Something about Brazil nuts is just disconcerting to me.
  • My first novel will be about a person who paused the DVR for 15 minutes and forgot about it before going on a twitter rant. 
  • What if the FCC banned tweets on broadcasts? Watching TV networks actually have to come up with content on their own would be a sight. (And yes I get news via Twitter, but I’m willing to make that sacrifice.) 
  • Baseball is back, and the Reds are either really good or really bad based on their first two games, right? 
  • Although national writers are still dismayed for some reason, baseball fans should be happy about the growing trend of teams investing in young starts instead of overpaying players who are just past their prime. What’s been a bigger complaint among fans over the last 30-plus years than the transience of players (who are of course well within their rights to go where they find the best situation; no one is arguing for a return to the pre-free agency days)? If players are getting financial security and teams have more continuity, that’s a win-win. 
  • Will the owners likely save money? Probably. They always win one way or another, so rooting for them to lose is a waste of time. Will the players lose a little? Seems likely, although some will I’m sure cash in early then not be worth what they’re making. There’s risk on both sides. Ultimately, rich owners will remain rich either way. Players might end up making $180 million in their careers rather than $200 million? I can live with that, especially if it mean small-market teams are able to build a winner without repeatedly hitting the lottery in the draft and still having to blow everything up every five years because only very young good teams are affordable. The owners always win. The players usually do, too, while the fans generally lose. Costs are always going to be shifted onto them, so the lower costs are, the better things are for the fans... as long as their team is winning of course. 
  • Why Michigan Will Actually Be Good on Offense This Year stories: A spring traditional unlike any other. For real though, it will be interesting to see how the attack evolves. I am not sure giving Shea Patterson more chances to turn the ball over will be a net positive, but that’s why they play the games. 
  • And what about the Bengals? I was rolling my eyes throughout most of this story about how the Bengals have decided the biggest key to improving in 2019 is getting back their injured players, but there was a bit of potential good news at the end. With everyone healthy this was still probably at best a .500 team last year, though I will grant I viewed 2018 as year one of a mini-rebuild/reboot after they brought back Marvin Lewis but changed most of his staff. They need a lot of help. But at the end they seem to be actually wanting to see Andy Dalton prove he deserves an extension, which perhaps means they realize it is at least possible they need to find someone better sooner or later rather than assuming he is the guy for another 5-6 years. 
  • The Browns will only wear their Walmart Bowling Green uniforms one more season before (presumably) going back to something like they wore in the past, meaning the Bengals will probably finish last in the division in wins and aesthetics in 2020. 

“Random Thoughts” is a semi-regular feature here at the blog. While most of our other coverage is concentrated on news and analysis, this is a place to share opinions and have some fun. Have your own thoughts? Send them along to marcus.hartman@coxin.com or find us on Twitter or Facebook.

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About the Author

Marcus Hartman
Marcus Hartman
Marcus Hartman has been a digital sports columnist and reporter at Cox Media Group Ohio since 2016. 
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