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Ezekiel Elliott could be the best player in the 2016 NFL Draft

Plus, what to expect from Ohio State basketball come the fall, the ACC dominates the Sweet 16 field and the Horseshoe plays host to European soccer. All your Ohio State news, in one helpful place.

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Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

"I think he might be the best overall player in the whole draft. I don’t think I’m overstating that. I think his tape shows that."

-NFL media analyst Brian Baldinger, via Chase Goodbread,

It seems like a foregone conclusion that former Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott will be selected with a first-round  pick in next month’s NFL Draft, but it is becoming even more probable that such a selection could be earlier than expected, with some analysts predicting that Elliott could go as high as No. 4-overall to the Dallas Cowboys. Initially, it seemed as though the New York Jets might select Elliott, who is widely considered the best running back in this year’s class, at the N0. 20 spot, but Elliott’s stock has continued to rise since January.

Moreover, NFL media analyst Brian Baldinger says that Elliott could be the best player overall in this year’s draft class, and would make a great fit in Dallas where the lack of running game proved to be its downfall in 2015. With the loss of Demarco Murray following the 2014 season, when the Cowboys had the second-best rushing offense in the league, the Cowboys were bound to fall off in 2015. Though Darren McFadden totaled over 1,000 yards on the season, it was just the second time he was able to complete a 16-game schedule without injury. With McFadden’s future uncertain given his history of injuries, the Cowboys are in need of a "stud" at running back, in Baldinger’s words. Elliott would be set up for success behind one of the most physical offensive lines in the NFL, and a veteran quarterback who would finally be healthy after missing most of last season due to injury.

If Elliott goes to the Cowboys, it would be the first time a running back was selected with a top-five draft pick since the Cleveland Browns took Trent Richardson No. 3-overall in 2012.

"I think there were some strides made. We knew this was going to be a challenging season, no question about that. I hope our guys have a sense of what college basketball is about now, you can’t just show up and play, say ‘I’m gonna get my game on.’ It just doesn’t work in college basketball."

-Ohio State basketball coach Thad Matta, via Bill Landis,

We all knew going in that this was going to be a rough year for the Ohio State Buckeyes men’s basketball team. With multiple seniors graduating, and point guard D’Angelo Russell being drafted No. 2 overall by the Lakers following his freshman season, there was bound to be some serious rebuilding in store to prepare for the following season. Now, with Ohio State having lost to Florida in the second round of the NIT, next season is already here.

Despite being eligible for the NCAA Tournament, the Buckeyes did not make the big dance for just the third time under Matta’s tenure at Ohio State, owing likely to several bad losses early in the season to the likes of UT Arlington and Louisiana Tech that could not be made up for with massive upsets over Kentucky and Iowa.

There is a lot to improve upon for the upcoming season, from being able to start quicker to improving a stagnant defense. Still, much of the criticism surrounding the 2015-16 campaign was a lack of effort by many of the young players on the court, a sentiment that was echoed by Russell last week. Even current players are getting into the conversation, with freshman guard JaQuan Lyle commenting that he doesn’t "know why any of them would say they’re hungry for next year when we had a game today and we came out flat in both halves." The lack of effort on the court could be attributed to a lack of leadership. With Jae’Sean Tate out at the end of the season, there wasn’t a clear person to act as the on-court motivator in his absence.

Nonetheless, there are some critical pieces in place. There is talent, and now the young team has a year of college experience under their collective belt. Assuming these pieces fall into place, next year could spell a different story for the Buckeyes.

"Well, we knew it was a hard conference. We were in it all year...We struggled in the conference for the most part because we were playing good teams, really good teams, and it’s hard to judge a conference during the year."

-Syracuse basketball coach Jim Boeheim, via Nicole Auerbach, USA Today Sports

With a record six teams in the Sweet 16 of this year’s NCAA Tournament, the ACC has proven to be the most dominant conference this tournament season, and perhaps one of the most dominant conferences ever in college basketball. Even more impressive is the fact that just one of the conference’s teams has fallen, with Pittsburgh being knocked out in the first round at the hands of Wisconsin. Even 10-seeded Syracuse managed two wins thus far to make the third round. Two of the remaining teams are No. 1 seeds (North Carolina and Virginia). It could be argued that one of the ACC’s better teams was not even present at the tournament, as Louisville was carrying out its self-imposed post-season ban.

The seven ACC teams who made the tournament have amassed a 12-1 record through the first two rounds. Comparatively, the other major conferences have the following records:

  • Big Ten (seven teams): 8-4
  • Big 12: (seven teams): 6-4
  • Pac-12 (seven teams): 3-6
  • Big East (five teams): 5-4
  • SEC (two teams): 3-2

Three teams in the Big Ten remain alive in the Sweet 16, including five-seeds Indiana and Maryland and seventh-seeded Wisconsin. The Big 12 likewise has three teams left in the tournament, while the Big East, Pac-12 and SEC have just one team remaining each. Gonzaga, of the West Coast Conference, is the only team remaining from a non-power conference in basketball.

"The 105,000-seat venue will play host to an International Champions Cup exhibition game, likely in July or early August. It is expected to pit one of the world’s super-clubs against another top team, most likely French giant Paris-St. Germaine."

-Shawn Mitchell, The Columbus Dispatch

Ohio Stadium will once again play host to professional soccer this summer. Specifics for dates and matchups for the exhibition series for the International Champions Cup are expected to be announced tomorrow both for the game at Ohio Stadium and for other venues across the country, as well as other matchups in Australia and China.. Previous matchups in the series, which pit some of the world’s top clubs against one another for exhibition matches, have included the likes of Manchester United, Chelsea and Barcelona. A 2014 match at Michigan Stadium between Manchester United and Real Madrid drew a record crowd for soccer in the U.S., with more than 109,000 fans in attendance. Last year, five matches played in football stadiums drew crowds greater than 60,000, including one game with more than 93,000 fans at the Rose Bowl.

Given the size of the stadium, it is expected that the Horseshoe will receive a premier matchup. The field will be outfitted temporarily with grass to cover the turf. The Columbus Crew, which had played at the Horseshoe until their stadium was built in 1999, is expected to be involved in this year’s event, but will not be playing at Ohio Stadium this year.