"When I was playing in college, every game I felt like I got better. Being in the league, I don't know how successful I'll be, but I know I'll work to do it."
- D'Angelo Russell via Derek Bodner, USA Today Sports
Tonight the NBA Finals tip-off in Oakland, but for D'Angelo Russell it means there are just three weeks left before he'll hear his name called and find out where he'll start his professional career. While many figured prospects like Jahlil Okafor and Karl-Anthony Towns would be taken near the top of this year's draft, Russell's name was one that wasn't talked about at the top of many mock drafts before the year began. Maybe after a couple years at Ohio State would Russell be seen as a lottery pick, but few expected the guard from Louisville to rise up the draft boards this quickly. Even Russell was a little bit shocked at the rise, not expecting to be one-and-done prospect.
One thing that makes Russell such an intriguing NBA prospect is his versatility to play either point guard or shooting guard. Buckeye fans not only saw Russell take over games with his ability to score almost at will, like he did in the first half in early January against Minnesota, but he was also able to get his teammates involved. As the year wore on, it felt like each game Russell had at least one jaw-dropping assist that he was able to add to his highlight reel. The 19.3 points per game he averaged was the highest among freshman in the country, and most for Big Ten freshman since Eric Gordon averaged 20.9 points per game for Indiana in 2007-08. Something that might be overlooked with Russell's on-court play is he has added some muscle to a frame that some looked at as too lean before he came to Columbus. Russell shouldn't have to wait very long to hear his name called in three weeks, and whichever team he ends up playing for will be getting quite a dynamic player.
"There are few places in North American sports more iconic than Ohio Stadium. It helps that Ohio State's home field is just up the road from Nationwide Arena and could host over 100,000 fans for an outdoor hockey game."
- Eric St. John, The Cannon
The NHL Winter Classic was born in 2008 with a meeting on New Year's Day between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Buffalo Sabres at Ralph Wilson Stadium. The 2016 Winter Classic will mark the eight different venue in which the NHL has used when the Montreal Canadiens and Boston Bruins meet at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, MA. The 2013 Winter Classic saw Toronto and Detroit draw over 105,000 people at Michigan Stadium, so could Ohio Stadium be down the line in hosting the event?
In years past Ohio Stadium has been passed over as a venue because of the lack of competitiveness of the Blue Jackets. That doesn't look to be the case going forward with the core of Ryan Johansen, Nick Foligno, Sergei Bobrovsky among the talents Columbus has locked up. Columbus certainly helped their case with the support of the NHL All-Star Game, which turned the event into a success among visitors. Lately Ohio Stadium has been opened up to other events as well, with the Rolling Stones holding a concert over the weekend, and a couple more concerts as well as a Cleveland Browns scrimmage on deck. With a rivalry with Pittsburgh gaining steam since the Blue Jackets moved to the Eastern Conference, the Penguins would make for a perfect opponent to help draw for the game should it be held at Ohio Stadium. The excitement for the future, and the possibility of a future Winter Classic or a Stadium Series game makes it the perfect time to jump on the Blue Jackets bandwagon.
"The offensive MVP of the Sugar Bowl and the College Football Playoff championship game. Elliott ran for 1,878 yards and 18 TDs last season and is a leading preseason Heisman contender. But we'll miss his midriff, since the NCAA outlawed half-shirts."
- Brian Bennett, ESPN.com
Earlier this week a handful of Buckeyes were named to Phil Steele's 2015 preseason All American teams, and that trend continued when ESPN released their list of the best college football players by uniform numbers. Out of 99 uniform numbers, Ohio State made up nine percent of the list with 11 Buckeyes being named. The percentage almost was even higher as Braxton Miller narrowly missed out on joining Cardale Jones and J.T. Barrett on the list.
After Jones at 12, Ezekiel Elliott checked in as the best 15 in the country, and Jalin Marshall was deemed the best 17, giving Ohio State a strong hold on 15-17. Buckeye quarterbacks didn't get all the love as multiple units had two players named. Linebackers Joshua Perry and Darron Lee were named as the best number 37 and 43, respectively. Offensive linemen Pat Elflein and Taylor Decker with uniform numbers 65 and 68 honored, while on the opposite of the line Adolphus Washington and Joey Bosa topped numbers 92 and 97. To round out the list, tight end Nick Vannett was thought of as the best 81 in the country. Just to prove how loaded Ohio State is this year, while the Buckeyes had 11 entries on the list, the rest of the Big Ten had 19 players recognized among the 13 other teams as the best at their uniform numbers.
"Would Dublin be as famous as it is today without the Memorial Tournament? Probably not. But it would be no less great. We just really hit the jackpot though, when Jack Nicklaus chose this spot, and powerful corporations located here, and visionary leaders created a community plan that no one had ever seen before. It was the perfect storm in a magnificent way."
- Warren Fishman, Muirfield resident via Holly Zachariah, Columbus Dispatch
The 40th Memorial Tournament is underway at Muirfield Village in Dublin and starts a weekend that many central Ohioans look forward to each year. While now Muirfield Village boasts over 8,000 residents in 2,300 homes, when Jack Nicklaus first built the golf course there wasn't much to speak of in Dublin. The vision of the famous Ohio State alum has helped to turn Dublin into one of the most vibrant suburbs in central Ohio and his tournament now pumps millions of dollars into the local economy each year during the week the tournament is held.
Time changes and everything and while Nicklaus was scouting locations where he could be a golf course, he was drawn to an area that he used to hunt as a kid. The undeveloped land on the Delaware and Franklin county lines was perfect for his vision. At the time Nicklaus wasn't thinking of how the community around where he wanted to build the golf course would develop, but he knew he could build a world class golf course there. There was almost a time when Muirfield Village was annexed into Shawnee Hills, though. The annexation almost would have probably went through had it not been for Nicklaus rushing into the meeting late, fresh from fixing one of the greens in the rain. The dedication and vision Nicklaus showed helped to keep the land in Dublin. Now the area is thriving with the help of the yearly tournament. In 2014 Golf Digest ranked Muirfield Village 53rd on the world's 100 greatest golf courses, so the vision by Nicklaus was a gamble that definitely paid off for Dublin.
STICK TO SPORTS:
- Heading up to The Memorial this weekend? Here's what you need to know about traffic and parking.
- This seems odd to have on a bucket list but YOLO.
- Of course a Pennsylvania man who setup a fake DUI checkpoint was drunk.
- Hopefully chorizo at Chipotle will soon be available for the masses.
- The Women's World Cup starts in Canada this week and SB Nation has you covered with a preview of the tournament.