BATON ROUGE, La.: Former Ohio State quarterback Joe Burrow is transferring to LSU, where he will be eligible to play immediately and compete for the Tigers’ starting job.

LSU on Monday announced the addition of Burrow, who recently graduated from Ohio State and has two years of eligibility remaining. He spent three seasons at Ohio State but was never able to work his way to the top of a crowded depth chart that included J.T. Barrett over the last four seasons.

Burrow, who went to high school in Athens, Ohio, redshirted in 2015 and then spent two seasons as a reserve. His 2017 season was disrupted by an injury to his throwing hand. In 10 games at Ohio State, he was 29 for 39 for 287 yards passing, with two touchdowns. He ran for 53 yards and a touchdown.

The Tigers are looking for a new starter to replace Danny Etling, another transfer from the Big Ten. Etling spent the last two seasons at LSU after transferring from Purdue. He started 23 games, passed for 27 touchdowns and seven interceptions and was drafted in the seventh round by the New England Patriots in April.

Like Etling, Burrow was four-star recruit out of high school. He joins an LSU team with little experience at quarterback, still searching for a starter after a spring competition involving junior Justin McMillan, sophomore Myles Brennan and redshirt freshman Lowell Narcisse. The Tigers also have a new offensive coordinator, Steve Ensminger, in coach Ed Orgeron’s second full season leading the program.

Burrow also visited Cincinnati after announcing he would transfer from Ohio State.

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More AP college football: http://www.collegefootball.ap.org and https://twitter.com/AP—Top25

The University of Akron football team will play the Ohio State Buckeyes Sept. 25, 2021 at Ohio Stadium, the schools announced Wednesday.

The Buckeyes and Zips have played one another eight times prior with OSU owning a 7-1 record. The teams last met in 2011, a 42-0 victory for the Buckeyes.

“Every year we try to play one of the top teams in the country for the opportunity that it presents to our football program,” said head coach Terry Bowden in a news release. “And I assure you, it doesn’t get any better than playing Ohio State in Columbus.”

COLUMBUS: Facing the possibility of sitting as a backup for a third season at Ohio State, quarterback Joe Burrow on Tuesday announced his intention to transfer.

The decision from the redshirt junior, delivered via Twitter, wasn’t unexpected, although he didn’t disclose where he was headed. With Dwayne Haskins Jr. the favorite to start in the fall, Burrow previously acknowledged that a transfer was possible.

Because he graduated from Ohio State on Sunday, the dual-threat quarterback can transfer as a graduate student and play immediately. He has two years of eligibility remaining.

“After weeks of struggling with this decision, I have decided to leave Ohio State and explore other options,” Burrow tweeted. “My teammates and coaches all know the love I feel for them. I will decide where I will play next year in the coming weeks.”

An Ohio State spokesman said coach Urban Meyer had no immediate comment.

Burrow spent 2016, his redshirt freshman year, as the backup to the now-departed J.T. Barrett, playing in five games in mop-up duty and completing 22-of-28 passes for 226 yards and two touchdowns. He broke his throwing hand just before the season last year, allowing Haskins to leap over him as the No. 2 quarterback. After he healed, he got few snaps the rest of the way.

Haskins seemed to cement his status as the heir apparent by coming off the bench for the injured Barrett and winning the Michigan game, completing 6-of-7 passes for 94 yards in the 31-20 victory.

Burrow bested Haskins in the spring game last month. Afterward, Meyer said the competition among Haskins, Burrow and redshirt freshman Tate Martell was close, and he hoped all three would still be there to continue it in fall camp.

Meyer said during spring practice that he would try to give Burrow an assessment of his chances to be the starter at the end of spring so the quarterback could make a decision about his future.

“I came here to play, I didn’t come here to sit on the bench for four years,” Burrow said after completing 15-of-22 passes for 238 yards and two touchdowns. “I’m a pretty darn good quarterback, I want to play somewhere.”

Burrow, a 6-foot-3, 215-pound former Ohio Mr. Football, grew up in Athens, where his father, Jimmy, is the longtime defensive coordinator for coach Frank Solich at Ohio University.

COLUMBUS, Ohio: Quarterback Joe Burrow has decided to transfer from Ohio State.

Burrow, who graduated from Ohio State on Sunday, tweeted Tuesday that he was leaving to “explore other options.” He said he would decide on a new school in the coming weeks.

The announcement didn’t come as a surprise. Burrow was running behind Dwayne Haskins Jr. in the competition to replace the departed J.T. Barrett as starter. He has talked about the possibility of a transfer.

Because he graduated, Burrow can transfer and immediately use his remaining two years of eligibility.

Burrow grew up in Athens in southeastern Ohio, where his father, Jimmy, is the longtime defensive coordinator for coach Frank Solich at Ohio University.

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For more AP college football coverage: http://www.collegefootball.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP—Top25

Ohio State may have had seven players taken in the NFL Draft last month, but there is still plenty of talent in Columbus.

That starts with junior defensive end Nick Bosa. NFL.com reporter Chad Reuter recently released his top 150 players in college football, and Bosa came in at No. 2, just behind Houston defensive tackle Ed Oliver.

Bosa has been a popular choice for the Cleveland Browns in early 2019 NFL mock drafts.

The rest of the top five is Michigan defensive end Rashan Gary at No. 3, Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert at No. 4 and Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm at No. 5.

“Nick’s ranking has nothing to do with his big brother Joey’s success at Ohio State or in the NFL. Nick Bosa’s simply a handful on every snap; if offensive lines don’t account for him, he makes life miserable for them with his strength, athleticism and motor,” Reuter wrote. “He will play more nationally televised games than Oliver, so Heisman voters are probably more likely to give him their ‘defensive player’ vote.”

Two other Ohio State players landed in the top 50. Running back J.K. Dobbins came in at No. 39 after a freshman season in which he ran for 1,364 yards and seven touchdowns. Quarterback Dwayne Haskins, a fellow sophomore, was No. 50. Haskins is replacing J.T. Barrett as Ohio State’s starting quarterback this season, and saw action in eight games in 2017.

In total, Ohio State had seven players in the top 150. The others are sophomore defensive end Jaelan Phillips (No. 61), junior defensive tackle Dre’Mont Jones (No. 71), senior wide receiver Parris Campbell (No. 82), junior running back Mike Weber (No. 106) and junior guard Michael Jordan (No. 137).

Akron senior linebacker Ulysees Gilbert III also made the list, coming in at No. 136.

Last season for Akron, Gilbert had 141 total tackles and 9.5 tackles for loss and five sacks. He also had two touchdowns last season.

Northern Illinois junior linebacker Sutton Smith is the highest rated player from the Mid-American Conference player on the list at No. 52. Other MAC players rated are Buffalo senior linebacker Khalil Hodge (No. 70), Buffalo senior wide receiver Anthony Johnson (No. 91) and Western Michigan cornerback Sam Beal (No. 122).

COLUMBUS: Earle Bruce embraced the difficult task of following his mentor, Woody Hayes, as Ohio State’s head football coach. In his later years, he became a much-loved patriarch of the program he helped build.

Bruce died in Columbus at the age of 87, according to a statement released by his daughters through Ohio State on Friday. He’d been suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.

Bruce had a record of 81-26-1 as head coach at Ohio State from 1979-87. He took over under most unusual and challenging circumstances, hired after the revered Hayes was fired for punching a Clemson player in the 1978 Gator Bowl. Bruce could not meet Hayes’ lofty standards and was never quite embraced by Buckeyes fans the way Hayes was, but even after being fired and moving on to other jobs, he never lost his passion for Ohio State football.

As head coach in 1986 and 1987, Bruce mentored a young graduate assistant on his staff named Urban Meyer, who would go on win a national champion for the school in 2014.

“I’ve made it clear many times that, other than my father, Coach Bruce was the most influential man in my life,” Meyer said in a prepared statement. “Every significant decision I’ve made growing up in this profession was with him involved in it. His wife [Jean] and he were the role models for Shelley and me. They did everything with class. He was not afraid to show how much he loved his family and cared for his family.”

Born in Pittsburgh and raised in Cumberland, Md., Bruce had come to Ohio State in the fall of 1949 to play football. He suffered a knee injury that effectively ended his playing days and got him to thinking about becoming a coach.

He served as an assistant high school coach in Mansfield, and then became a head coach in 1956 at Salem where his teams went 28-9. He moved on to Sandusky High School in 1960 and in four years had a record of 34-3-3 and then took over at Massillon, one of the most renowned prep jobs in the country. In two seasons, Bruce went 20-0.

Hayes beckoned and Bruce joined him as an assistant at Ohio State in 1966. Bruce was in charge of a bruising offensive line that paved the way for the Buckeyes to win three Big Ten titles, two Rose Bowls, go 43-14 and win the 1968 national championship. Bruce was on the 1968 staff that also included Lou Holtz Bill Mallory, Lou McCullough and George Chaump. Earlier, Bruce had worked on an Ohio State staff that included Barberton’s Bo Schembechler, who would become the head coach at Michigan and serve as a nemesis for Hayes and Bruce.

After six years on Hayes’ staff, Bruce became a college head coach for the first time when he spent a year at the University of Tampa and went 10-2 with a colorful cast that included NFL star John Matuszak and Paul Orndorff, who would go on to become a professional wrestling mainstay.

After a stint at Iowa State, Bruce was hired in January 1979 to replace his mentor and friend. He tackled the job with characteristic energy and organization, despite some criticism from fans who constantly compared him to the sainted Hayes, who had been the Buckeyes’ coach for 28 seasons.

“You don’t want to lose in Columbus, Ohio,” Bruce once told the Associated Press. “A football loss? That’s terrible. You want to win all your home games. You’re only as good as your last game here.”

Bruce took over a 7-4-1 team that had lost its last two games and finished fourth in the Big Ten in 1978. He promptly took the Buckeyes to within a whisper of a national title.

With quarterback Art Schlichter working out of an updated, modernized offense and the Buckeyes employing the same old in-your-face defense, Ohio State went unbeaten through the 1979 regular season before losing the national title to Southern California 17-16 in the Rose Bowl.

After winning or sharing four Big Ten titles, he was fired in 1987 after falling into disfavor with Ohio State President Ed Jennings.

He went on to do stints as head coach at Northern Iowa and Colorado State before returning to Columbus in retirement and again becoming an integral part of Buckeyes football. He worked for years as a radio analyst on Ohio State football and was well known for saying how he “bled scarlet and gray.”

Massillon linebacker Chris Spielman was recruited to Ohio State by Bruce and played for him from 1984-87. One of 10 All-Americans coached by Bruce, he played eight seasons in the NFL with the Detroit Lions.

“I think coach always exuded passion for football and passion for his university,” Spielman said. “The one thing that set him apart as a coach was that he was an equal distributor of criticism and praise.

“If you screwed up you were held accountable. If you did well he’d let you know you did well. I thought that was really how my dad was as a coach, which I really admired.”

Bruce was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2003.

Bruce was preceded in death by his wife, Jean. Survivors include four daughters, nine grandchildren — including Ohio State wide receivers coach Zach Smith — and three great grandchildren.

COLUMBUS: Dwayne Haskins Jr. and Joe Burrow both showed flashes of big-play ability in a condensed spring game Saturday as each tried to make his case for being the next starting quarterback at Ohio State.

The third guy, redshirt freshman Tate Martell, wasn’t bad either, showing off his speed and slick moves in the Scarlet and Gray Game, which was moved up and hurried up to beat some bad weather.

The intriguing derby will spill over into fall preseason between Haskins and Burrow, players who operated mostly in the shadow of four-year starter J.T. Barrett — if Burrow stays around that long.

Haskins is the logical heir just because he was Barrett’s backup last season and engineered a stunning win over Michigan after Barrett went down with an injury.

The three quarterbacks rotated on squads with starters and inexperienced players Saturday. Haskins completed 9-of-19 passes for 120 yards and two long touchdown passes. Burrow, a redshirt junior who was Barrett’s backup two seasons ago, countered with some decent numbers himself: 15-for-22 for 247 yards and two touchdowns.

“We’re going to have to make some decisions,” coach Urban Meyer said. “The decisions have not been made.”

Burrow may make a move that will make the coach’s decision easier.

On track to graduate in May, Burrow could go elsewhere as a graduate student with two years of eligibility remaining. Meyer has said he would give Burrow an honest assessment at the end of spring whether he had a reasonable chance to win the starting job.

“I came here to play,” Burrow said on Saturday. “I didn’t come here to sit on the bench for four years. I know I’m a pretty darn good quarterback, I want to play somewhere.”

Looking for elite

Meyer has challenged his receivers to be elite. He said the Buckeyes haven’t had an elite set of receivers since the 2014 national championship season. That unit included Devin Smith, Michael Thomas and Jalin Marshall.

Ohio State will return its top six receivers from last season. All had their moments in 2017, but none emerged from the pack in an offense that had a spotty passing attack.

Meyer’s words about being elite are ringing in the ears of a unit that returns two of last year’s captains, Parris Campbell and Terry McLaurin. Both will be fifth-year seniors.

“Obviously, we feel like we have elite talent,” Campbell, a St. Vincent-St. Mary product, said. “We’ve only gotten better since we’ve gotten here. He’s not only saying that to [reporters], he’s saying that to us as well. I think he kind of wants us to get defensive about it.”

Demario McCall, a former running back hampered by an abdominal injury last season, grabbed 11 passes for 165 yards and two touchdowns. He caught scoring passes from Burrow of 50 and 43 yards.

COLUMBUS: Ohio State star forward Keita Bates-Diop is headed to the NBA following a breakout season.

As expected, the 6-foot-7 forward announced Monday that he is declaring for the NBA draft after being named the Big Ten’s player of the year and leading the Buckeyes to the NCAA Tournament. Bates-Diop made his announcement on campus at a news conference accompanied by his parents and Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann.

Bates-Diop, who missed most of 2017 with a leg injury, averaged 19.8 points and 8.7 rebounds for an Ohio State team that exceeded predictions this season. The Buckeyes were one of the nation’s biggest surprises and made the NCAA field in Holtmann’s first season. Ohio State’s tourney run ended with a loss to Gonzaga.

Bates-Diop is projected to be a first-round pick in the draft. He graduated from Ohio State in December but still had a year of playing eligibility.

COLUMBUS: All indications were that this would be another forgettable year for Ohio State basketball.

Coming off two disappointing seasons, the Buckeyes had the same core of players but a new coach in Chris Holtmann, who did his best in the preseason to tamp down expectations.

But behind a healthy Keita Bates-Diop, reliable fellow senior Jae’Sean Tate and a cast of role players, Ohio State’s “rebuilding” year became a season to remember.

Bates-Diop, who missed most of last season with a stress fracture of his left shin, averaged nearly 20 points per game and was chosen Big Ten Player of the Year. Holtmann, who came from Butler to replace the fired Thad Matta last summer, snagged conference Coach of the Year honors.

Ohio State opened its conference schedule 10-0 and cruised to 25-9 overall, far better than most people expected when Holtmann came aboard last summer.

“We just kept growing together,” Holtmann said. “I’ve been proud of a lot of teams, but this one is up there.”

The Buckeyes beat South Dakota State in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament on Thursday, but their run ended with a second-round loss to Gonzaga on Saturday night.

“I couldn’t be more proud with our coaches and players the way we fought,” guard Kam Williams said. “We’re just extremely proud.”

Bright spots

In addition to Bates-Diop, the Buckeyes got leadership from Tate, who averaged 12.3 points and 6.2 rebounds per game, and Andrew Dakich, a graduate transfer point guard who had played three years at Michigan. Dakich, expected to be a minor role player off the bench, was a key piece of the puzzle and distinguished himself as a ball distributor.

True freshman Kaleb Wesson was the sorely needed muscle in the middle, finishing with 10.2 points per game. C.J. Jackson, another senior, was a stalwart at point guard, averaging 12.4 points and four assists.

The Buckeyes started getting national attention after they knocked off No. 1 Michigan State at home on Jan. 7, then went to Purdue and beat the No. 3 Boilermakers a month later.

“This group really turned a corner at some point,” Holtmann said.

Bumps in the road

Ohio State got as high as No. 8 in the AP Top 25 but couldn’t solve unranked Penn State, which kept the Buckeyes from winning the Big Ten regular season, then bounced them from the conference tournament. Penn State was the only team to beat Ohio State twice, let alone three times.

Looking ahead

Ohio State’s expected rebuilding year could come next season.

Seniors Tate, Jackson, Dakich and Williams move on, and Bates-Diop, a redshirt junior who already has graduated from Ohio State, will almost certainly leave for the NBA. The five of them accounted for about 55 points per game and the core of the team’s leadership. Williams was the most reliable 3-point threat.

Bates-Diop said Saturday night that he hadn’t made a decision yet. But he has little incentive to stay around another year.

It’s not clear how Holtmann will keep up the standards.

Kaleb Wesson will be a key, along with his brother, rising junior Andre, who has played mostly off the bench the past two seasons. Micah Potter, a 6-foot-9 rising junior who was expected to be better this season, will be looked to for leadership.

Rising sophomore guard Musa Jallow and forward Kyle Young (Jackson), both Holtmann recruits, will have to step into key roles.

Incoming freshmen include shooting guard Luther Muhamad and power forward Jaedon LeDee — both ranked as one of the nation’s top 100 prospects — along with forward Justin Ahrens and point guard Duane Washington.

CLEVELAND: One Northeast Ohio wrestler walked off the mat at Quicken Loans Arena on Saturday proud of what he accomplished in a storied career, another left ready to add to what is already an incredible story.

Ohio State senior and CVCA alumnus Nathan Tomasello (125 pounds) snagged his fourth All-American honor at the NCAA Division I National Championships, capping off a four-year career for the ages with the Buckeyes.

Kent State’s Kyle Conel (197), who took a year off from wrestling, also finished third and has a bright future with the Golden Flashes.

Tomasello joined teammates Bo Jordan (174) and Kyle Snyder (285) to become the only trifecta in NCAA history to earn four-time All-American status in the same year from the same school.

“I felt like overall, I gave all that I could, all my effort into this last tournament,” Tomasello said. “I don’t feel like I have any regrets from this.

“It’s special to do that with Bo, Kyle and myself. It’s the first ever. We’ve been training together. I’ve been roommates with those guys for five years now. Just to go out knowing we did something no one else has done is just special.”

In order to grab his third consecutive third-place finish, Tomasello showed a little moxie when the 2015 national champion pinned Northwestern’s Sebastian Rivera in the consolation semifinals.

Snyder won his third consecutive championship with a 3-2 win over Michigan’s Adam Coon at heavyweight and Penn State won its third consecutive team title.

He came back with an 8-6 win in sudden victory over Minnesota’s Ethan Lizak in the consolation final.

Tomasello found inspiration from everywhere.

“Getting different texts from different people, especially ones that really care about me, helps,” Tomasello said. “They let me know that I’m always going to be loved.”

Tomasello leaves as one of only 16 wrestlers to win four Big Ten titles.

He also exits with bigger goals on the horizon.

“I love being on this team,” Tomasello said. “I love being one of the leaders. I think it will hit me going into next week more. I have some down time, but the next focus is getting ready to win the Worlds and make that World team for the U.S.”

Conel, who is listed as a junior but who could get a year of eligibility back, had a tournament few wrestlers dream of.

Stuck out on a rat tail match to start, the unseeded Conel extended a rather impressive run as the Golden Flashes have had at least one All-American in nine of the past 10 seasons.

Dustin Kilgore (1st, 2011, 2nd, 2013) is the only other Kent State wrestler with a higher finish than Conel in the past 33 years.

Conel pinned top-seeded Kollin Moore of Ohio State in the quarterfinals and then beat him 5-3 in the match for third.

“It’s amazing,” Conel said. “Very few times in my career have I ended my season on a win. So, that’s awesome. I think this is the second time I’ve ever done that, with one being the state championship match in high school and this.”

The better part for Kent State coach Jim Andrassy is the fact he’ll have his standout back as one the leaders in the room.

“You have someone on your team now that can show all the other guys how to do it,” Andrassy said.

“It just takes a lot of hard work, determination and belief. All the things that you sometimes take for granted or don’t think about while you’re doing it, show you that it all matters when you come to this tournament.”

“I felt like overall, I gave all that I could, all my effort into this last tournament. I don’t feel like I have any regrets from this.”

Nathan Tomasello

Ohio State senior wrestler

BOISE, Idaho: Zach Norvell Jr. had 28 points, Rui Hachimura added 25 and Gonzaga is headed back into the Sweet 16 with a 90-84 victory over Ohio State in the West Regional on Saturday night.

Norvell hit the late tiebreaking 3-pointer against UNC-Greensboro in the opening round to help the Zags advance. The confident freshman made 6-of-11 from behind the arc against Ohio State to lead Gonzaga (32-4) into the Sweet 16 for the fourth consecutive season — two wins from a return trip to the Final Four.

The Bulldogs jumped out to a big early lead, withstood a second-half Ohio State charge and made the big plays down the stretch to earn a spot in the West Region semifinals against the Xavier-Florida State winner in Los Angeles.

The resilient-all-season Buckeyes (25-9) rallied from an abysmal start and an 11-point halftime deficit to take a brief second-half lead before Gonzaga went on an 11-0 run to snatch it back.

Keita Bates-Diop had 28 points and Kam Williams 19 for Ohio State.

Ohio State and Gonzaga met four months ago in the PK80 Invitational.

It did not go well for the Buckeyes.

The Zags shredded Ohio State’s defense while shooting 59 percent and held the Buckeyes to 35 percent in an 86-59 thrashing.

The Buckeyes said they are a better team now. Their record reflects it, too: 25 wins, a second-place finish in the rough-and-tumble Big Ten Conference and a return to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2015.

The Zags looked a little rusty in their opening 68-64 win over UNC-Greensboro. They looked more like the team that blew out BYU in the WCC title game early against the Buckeyes.

Gonzaga scored the game’s first 15 points while hitting 6-of-9 shots and blocking two of Ohio State’s. The Buckeyes had three of their first seven shots roll off the rim early and didn’t score until Jae’Sean Tate hit a 3-pointer at 14:18

Ohio State righted itself on offense, but struggled to slow the zigging Zags, who made 18-of-31 shots to lead 44-33 at halftime.

The Buckeyes got even more shots to fall coming out of halftime and forced a rash of Gonzaga turnovers during a 12-2 run to go up 58-54.

Gonzaga answered with an 11-0 run, going up 73-67 on Hachimura’s 3-pointer at the shot clock buzzer.

Big picture

Ohio State came up short of its first Sweet 16 since 2013, but the season could hardly be considered a failure. The Buckeyes were picked to finish 11th in the Big Ten in coach Chris Holtmann’s first season, but ended up second and won a game in the NCAA Tournament.

Gonzaga did not play particularly well in its opening NCAA Tournament game, but looks like it could make another Final Four run after getting past the Buckeyes.

COLUMBUS: Ohio State coach Kevin McGuff isn’t worried about his All-American guard Kelsey Mitchell, who scored just 11 points in the No. 3 seed Buckeyes’ rout of George Washington in a women’s NCAA Tournament opener on Saturday.

He knows Mitchell, who averages 24.5 points a game, will put up the big numbers when necessary against tougher opponents in the tournament. Against No. 14 George Washington, Mitchell played a support role for others, including Stephanie Mavunga, who led all scorers with 22 points in the 87-45 win.

McGuff called the game an “anomaly” for Mitchell.

“I thought she did a really good job putting other people in a position to score,” McGuff said. “She had seven assists and played really efficiently that way. That’s the thing that makes her special. She’s capable of putting up 30 points on a given night or she can help other people score. Her field-goal percentage today was just shy of 56 percent, so I think a lot of that had to do with Kelsey really orchestrating the offense for us.”

The Buckeyes advance in the tournament to play Central Michigan on Monday night after the Chippewas upset Louisiana State in the first game Saturday.

Alexa Hart added 12 points for the Buckeyes (28-6), who never trailed, took off in the second half and overwhelmed the Colonials (19-10), who had earned a tournament bid by winning the Atlantic 10 Tournament.

Briana Cummings led GW with 14 points, and Neila Luma had 12 before fouling out late in the game. The Colonials shot only 27.3 percent, compared to Ohio State’s 56 percent.

Ohio State jumped ahead on a 10-3 run, but GW managed to tie it at 12 near the end of the first quarter on 3-pointers from Camila Tapias and Mei-Lyn Bautista. The Buckeyes stretched the lead in the second quarter, ending the first half with a 12-point lead.

The game got out of hand for the Colonials from there as they missed eight consecutive shots in a stretch of the third quarter. The Buckeyes led by 30 after three quarters.

George Washington was making its 18th NCAA Tournament appearance.

Big picture

George Washington: “Offensively, we knew what was coming,” acknowledged George Washington coach Jennifer Rizzotti.

Ohio State: No big surprise here. The Buckeyes, who won the Big Ten regular season and roared through the conference tournament, are playing their best basketball at the right time.

Mavunga steps up

GW freshman forward Nelia Luma said the 6-foot-3 Mavunga was an overwhelming handful for the Colonials.

“She’s really strong and really aggressive, so that was a lot to handle,” Luma said.

“She’s a beast on the glass,” Cummings said.

“We didn’t really have matchup for her,” Rizzotti said.

Looking ahead

McGuff watched No. 11 Central Michigan upset No. 6 LSU in the first game. And he’s wary.

“The thing I liked about Central is that they scored around the basket and scored from the perimeter,” he said. “They have good balance in their game and that ultimately was the difference between them and LSU. They’re good. We’ll have a real tough matchup.”

CLEVELAND: The kid that life kicked down made the biggest noise Friday in a who’s who of college wrestling at the NCAA Division I National Championship.

Competing 56 miles from his hometown of Ashtabula and making up for lost time, Kent State’s Kyle Conel put Quicken Loans Arena on its ear when he pinned Ohio State’s Kollin Moore in the quarterfinals.

The school’s first unseeded All-American under coach Jim Andrassy and its second semi­finalist in three years (Ian Miller, 2016), Conel has taken a few setbacks and excelled.

He joined Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy alumnus and Ohio State 125-pounder Nathan Toma­sello, who notched All-American status for the fourth time, but won’t wrestle in the final after getting pinned in the semis by Iowa’s Spencer Lee.

Conel was pinned by fourth-seeded Michael Macchia­vello in the semifinals, but the 197-pound junior made all the noise he needed with an incredible pin of the returning All-American Moore in 1:30.

“It’s awesome. I feel amazing. This is the greatest feeling into the world,” Conel said. “I’m so glad. I have pretty much everyone here supporting me, and I feel like that just drives me to do so much better. I’m so grateful and thankful for having an opportunity to do this.

“Thanks to my coaches, I really appreciate everything. Thanks to them and especially Kent State. I truly appreciate it. Thank you.”

The fans couldn’t get enough of the latest media darling, who returned to the national stage after taking a year off from the school.

He worked himself back into shape and will now wrestle for a spot on the podium.

“If they ever decide to write a book on him, he’d be the person,” Andrassy said. “Just the things he’s gone through his whole life from when he was a baby until now, it’s a movie. It really is. For him to keep on believing in the higher things, to get a degree and get out of the spots you’re brought up in. At the end of the day, he’s done a lot of things really well to put himself in this position to succeed.”

The success started with a drive and has proven that no matter what the challenge, a little want-to brings great dividends.

“I kept telling myself I wasn’t going to let anyone take this from me,” Conel said. “I was going to [be an] All-American this year. I achieved my goal and now it’s time for me to let loose and do the best that I can.

“… I just did what I had to do. Took care of business; took care of it fast. I’ve been visualizing this for the past few days, just pinning him. No joke. I couldn’t sleep.”

Tomasello fell victim to true freshman Lee, who is anything but a freshman.

Lee, a two-time junior freestyle champion and one-time cadet freestyle champion, met up with Tomasello in a battle of three-time Ironman champions.

It was the rubber match of the season and Lee dominated from the start, with a takedown and two near fall points to go up four after the first period. Lee kept up the pace and eventually pinned Tomasello at 6:05.

“He’s an amazing opponent, nothing but respect for each other,” Lee said. “To be able to wrestle him on that big of a stage is almost an honor for me. But to do that with that many fans screaming and yelling, whether it’s against you or for you, it still excites you and it’s a lot of fun.”

CLEVELAND: Nathan Tomasello might not have dreamt up a better homecoming Thursday.

Wrestling in his final NCAA Division I Championship and doing it mere miles from his hometown, the three-time All-America senior started with aplomb.

Then again, so did Ohio State in what can only be considered a banner day for the Buckeyes.

Seeking his first national title since he won it as a freshman, Tomasello tore through his first two opponents at 125 pounds en route to the quarterfinals.

That it came in Quicken Loans Arena in front of a pro Buckeyes crowd made it that much better as Ohio State went 19-1 in the first two rounds.

The Buckeyes will send Tomasello, Luke Pletcher (133), Joey McKenna (141), Ke-Shawn Hayes (149), Micah Jordan (157), Bo Jordan (174), Myles Martin (184), Kollin Moore (197) and Kyle Snyder (285) into the round of eight.

It also came with no fewer than 27 cameras focused on Tomasello’s second-round match.

“Today was great,” the second-seeded Tomasello, a CVCA alumnus, said. “I feel great. I love being in Cleveland. We had a good week beforehand just to chill and feel good. I feel fresh. That’s the name of the game at this point.”

The name of the game changes rather drastically Friday morning as he tries to blow his way through the quarterfinals, where he’ll face Utah Valley’s Taylor LaMont.

The seventh-seeded LaMont is a redshirt freshman and four-time Utah High School champion.

LaMont will need all of that Friday after Tomasello pinned Stanford’s Gabe Townsell in 2:19 and won by injury default over Arizona State’s Ryan Millhof — Tomasello was up 15-5 when Millhof called off the dogs.

“The quarters are an hour after weigh-in, so I just have to be on top of my game and ready to go,” Tomasello said. “I’m very happy. Coach [Tom] Ryan has built this program around great leadership. The culture shows out at nationals. Guys are competing hard.”

Ryan walked away happy from the first day with his team in the lead and looking to knock off two-time defending national champion Penn State.

The only setback was suffered by Ta’shan Campbell (165), who lost his second match, but is still in the tournament.

“Nate got us going, Joey kept it going,” Ryan said.

“Then Micah. Then Bo. Then Myles and then Kollin and then Kyle. That’s a good round.”

The power of an object set in motion staying in motion ran rampant through the Buckeyes as Tomasello scored maximum points to begin and Olympic champion Snyder came with the hammer at the end with a 23-8 technical fall win.

“It’s pretty awesome,” Snyder said. “Especially being here in Cleveland where 50 percent of the crowd are Buckeyes fans. It’s inspiring watching the other guys on the team. They’re doing a really good job.”

Conel in quarters

A year off to get back on track certainly paid off for Kent State’s Kyle Conel (197). After taking a year off, the junior came back strong with a win over Appalachian State’s Randall Diabe in the rat tail round.

That set the wheels in motion for Conel, who went 2-2 as a freshman at nationals, as he beat Oklahoma State’s Preston Weigel and South Dakota State’s Nate Rotert.

“From where he was a year ago, it’s been a great journey for him,” Golden Flashes coach Jim Andrassy said.

“He wrestles Moore, who he hasn’t wrestled this year. He didn’t wrestle him two years ago. He wrestles a different style. We’ll see if we can confuse him and try to turn it into Conel’s match instead of how Kollin Moore wrestles.”

“Today was great. I feel great. I love being in Cleveland. … I feel fresh. That’s the name of the game at this point.”

Nathan Tomasello

Ohio State and former CVCA wrestler

BOISE, Idaho: Ohio State is not a 3-point shooting team. The Buckeyes don’t take a lot, don’t make a lot.

Back in the NCAA Tournament for the first time in three years, the Buckeyes went all-in on the 3, casting it up 40 times. The last couple they tried, both by Kam Williams, helped push Ohio State into the round of 32.

Williams made a tiebreaking four-point play with 1:36 left, then added three free throws after being fouled on another 3 attempt, lifting Ohio State to an 81-73 victory over South Dakota State in the West Region on Thursday.

“As soon as I let it go I felt like it was going to go in and it just went in,” said Williams, who had 22 points. “It just felt great and everything just kind of got rolling from there.”

Fifth-seeded Ohio State (25-8) traded 3-point attempts with South Dakota State — 71 combined in all — before reeling off 16 consecutive points to build a 13-point second-half lead.

The scrappy Jackrabbits fought back with a late run, scoring 10 consecutive points to tie it at 70-all.

Williams answered — by being fouled on a pair of 3-pointers. He finished off the four-point play for a 74-70 lead and made all three free throws on the second, making it 77-70 with 64 seconds left.

Ohio State, which was tied for 287th nationally with 612 3-point attempts, went 12-for-40 from the arc.

“It’s not really who we are,” Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann said. “It wasn’t the game plan. It’s really difficult because they’re literally giving you tee-up 3s.”

Keita Bates-Diop had 24 points and 12 rebounds for the Buckeyes, who will face Gonzaga in the round of 32 on Saturday. The Zags steamrolled Ohio State 86-59 at the PK80 Invitational in November.

“The whole team is excited for this one,” Bates-Diop said. “We’ve been wanting this matchup ever since the bracket came out.”

No. 12 South Dakota State (28-7) hit 13-of-31 from 3-point range and Mike Daum scored 27 points. The Jackrabbits had their first NCAA Tournament win within grasp, only to watch it slip through their fingers by fouling Williams on the late 3-point attempts.

“They’re very well-schooled and disciplined, and those guys stepped up and made big plays throughout the second half,” South Dakota State coach T.J. Otzelberger said. “But none stand out more in my mind than the ones Kam made that separated them to get the victory.”

Ohio State was one of college basketball’s biggest surprises in Holtmann’s first season. He didn’t take over the program until June and the Buckeyes were picked to finish 11th in the in Big Ten.

Yet behind Bates-Diop, the Big Ten player of the year, Ohio State finished second in the conference behind Michigan State to earn its first NCAA Tournament berth since 2015.

The Buckeyes were favorites in the NCAA opener, but also a popular pick to be upset in the No. 12-over-5 seed mold.

The Jackrabbits headed into the NCAA Tournament on an 11-game winning streak and had Daum, the two-time Summit League MVP.

The Dauminator was on his game against the Buckeyes, scoring 17 points in the first half. So was Bates-Diop, who had 17 points by halftime of a 43-all game.

After the run-trading second half, the Buckeyes made the plays down the stretch, leaving the Jackrabbits 0-5 all-time in the NCAA Tournament.

“It’s always going to hurt that we could never get a W in this environment,” said South Dakota State’s Reed Tellinghuisen, who had 10 points and seven rebounds.

Big picture

Ohio State survived the upset to get a shot at another upset survivor, Gonzaga.

South Dakota State had itself in position for the upset, but wrecked its chances with the two late fouls on 3s.

The South Dakota State men’s basketball team is bringing more to the Big Dance than just a big man with an intimidating nickname and NBA potential.

While two-time defending Summit League Player of the Year Mike “The Dauminator” Daum is the centerpiece, the team from the small Midwestern university features seven other tournament-experienced players seeking the school’s first NCAA Tournament win.

It won’t be easy — the West Region No. 12 seed takes on fifth-seed Ohio State (24-8) on Thursday in Boise, Idaho. But the Jackrabbits (28-6) have had plenty of practice. The school will be making its third consecutive appearance in the tournament and its fifth in the last seven seasons.

The spotlight will be on Daum, a 6-foot-9 junior who is sixth nationally in scoring and a finalist for the Karl Malone Award given annually to the nation’s top power forward. But the Jackrabbits are a diverse team, said coach T.J. Otzelberger.

“We’ve got a team that has depth. We’ve got a team that can go big, that can go small. We’ve got different guys that can step up,” he said. “We can beat you where Mike has 30 points, and we can beat you where seven guys are in double figures. It’s really a credit to our guys — their togetherness and unity.”

The success of the men’s program — and the SDSU women, who are making their eighth NCAA Tournament appearance in 10 years — can be credited to several factors, Athletic Director Justin Sell said.

When the school with an enrollment of 12,500 made the jump from Division II in 2004, it already had a history of basketball success, including a 2003 women’s national championship.

“That just carried over,” Sell said. “I really believe that group was the one that gave our university and its supporters the idea or notion that we can do this, and we can be good.”

Rather than compete with major D-1 schools that recruit in high school hotbeds such as Florida and California, SDSU has concentrated on talent regionally. Twenty of the players on this year’s men’s and women’s teams are from South Dakota, Minnesota and Wisconsin. Another five hail from North Dakota, Nebraska and Iowa, with one each coming from Illinois and Washington state.

“I think it shows the talent in the region,” Sell said. “You wonder how many kids have left our state and region [in the past] to go somewhere else because they had Division I talent.”

The university attracts those athletes in part with a solid sports program — the athletic department’s operating budget has grown from about $11 million in 2009, the school’s first year of Division I postseason eligibility, to $21 million. In recent years it has built a $65 million football stadium and a $32 million multi-sport indoor practice facility it bills as the largest of its kind at the Division I level.

Fundraising by the Jackrabbit Club boosters group has grown from about $333,000 annually to more than $1.4 million since 2009, and the city of 23,000 people puts about 2,800 in the seats for every men’s home game.

“We’ve got a Big Ten or Big 12 mentality with ma-and-pa values, and I think that’s hard to find nowadays,” Sell said.

Daum, from Kimball, Nebraska, in a recent interview posted online by the NCAA said the “fantastic” atmosphere he found at the school during a recruiting visit sold him on SDSU.

“There was just a great program, and you could tell that this community had such a great feel and atmosphere to it, that it was something hard to resist,” he said.

Daum also credited players like Nate Wolters for “laying such a solid foundation for the coaching staff to bring in high-level recruits.” Wolters was an All-American for SDSU in 2013 and has gone on to play in the NBA.

David Richman, coach of rival North Dakota State, which made NCAA Tournament appearances in 2009, 2014 and 2015, said SDSU is a tough opponent because of “the passionate fan base that they have, their history and tradition.”

SDSU’s success has progressed to the point where simply making it to the tournament is no longer the primary goal. The men want a win. For the women, who have advanced to the tournament’s second round twice and will face Villanova on Friday, the target is even loftier — the Sweet Sixteen.

“That’s how we’ve built these teams — to win games in the tournament,” Sell said.

CLEVELAND: On the eve of his final tournament as an Ohio State senior, CVCA alumnus and Buckeyes standout Nathan Tomasello was nothing but smiles.

While trying to get back to the national title he won as a freshman has always been the goal for the three-time All-American, Tomasello said he didn’t feel any jitters Wednesday before the Division I Nationals.

That’s what happens when you’re back home at Quicken Loans Arena. The 125-pounder comes in as the No. 2 seed behind returning champion Darian Cruz of Lehigh.

Fighting injury all season, Tomasello is 11-1. Cruz comes in at 26-0.

If there were nerves, Tomasello certainly didn’t show it.

“This is awesome,” he said. “For my last college tournament to be back home, I’m just happy. I think just bringing it home again and winning it as a senior, and having our team win it, it would be a great way to end my college career.”

It’s a career that has included four Big Ten titles and a 95-7 career mark as the face of the lightweights for the Buckeyes.

One of three three-time All-Americans for Ohio State, Tomasello can join Bo Jordan (174) and Kyle Snyder (285) as the first trifecta from a school to become four-time All-Americans in the same year.

The Buckeyes have seven returning All-Americans and are one of the favorites along with two-time defending champion Penn State to win the team title. The Nittany Lions have won it six out of the last seven years. Ohio State was the hiccup in the middle in 2015.

“I think the culture throughout the year has been great,” Tomasello said. “Each week we’ve worked on a few areas that need to be worked on and learn from mistakes throughout the season. Now we’re wrestling our best and I think, just right now, we’re in a good place mentally as a team and just excited.”

He’ll have more local help with Kollin Moore (197) ready to better his third-place finish from a season ago.

A Burbank resident, Moore (22-2) cut his teeth at Chanel and Wads­worth at the youth level.

Back at a place he’s been to many times, Moore is looking forward to a potential final with Elyria graduate and Cornell redshirt freshman Ben Darmstadt (30-1).

“I think it’s a little extra motivation,” Moore said. “You have a few more people cheering for you than you’re used to, so when you step on the mat you get a little more calmness because you have a lot of friends and family out there in the stands who will be there for you no matter what.”

That confidence runs throughout the Buckeyes as they look to make Quicken Loans Arena a home tournament.

An Olympic and world champion as well as a three-time Big Ten champion, Snyder said he’s going to make it a point to electrify the arena every chance he gets.

While Ohio State has one more qualifier (10) than the Nittany Lions, Penn State returns all five of its champions.

Despite that, Snyder still called his shot.

“Both teams are really good,” Snyder said. “Penn State won it last year and wrestled really well. Five champions and all of them are returning. So obviously they have the firepower to compete at a really high level.

“But I would say that we are the favorite. I think just looking at the seeds, looking at our performance from last week, if everyone competes at the best of their ability, the best that they can, then I think it’s our tournament to win, our tournament to lose, I mean.”

Flash drive

Kent State has qualifiers in Anthony Tutolo (133, 27-11), Casey Sparkman (157, 22-16), Kyle Conel (197, 24-10) and Stephen Suglio (285, 20-8). None of the four is seeded.

COLUMBUS: A three-way quarterback derby promises to lend some intrigue to Ohio State’s spring practice, which opened Tuesday morning.

Other key position battles will take place in the preseason, but none will be more talked about than the competition that could determine the Buckeyes’ starter under center for the next two or three seasons.

Dwayne Haskins Jr. has to be the favorite to replace four-year starter J.T. Barrett as the competition begins. He was the backup to Barrett last year and rallied the Buckeyes to a win over Michigan after Barrett was hurt.

Haskins, who will be a redshirt sophomore in the fall, is a traditional drop-back quarterback with a cannon for a right arm. He’ll be pushed by Joe Burrow, a redshirt junior who went into fall camp last season as Barrett’s backup but was supplanted when he broke his hand before the season started.

Add the flashy, dual-threat Tate Martell to the mix, too. Redshirted in his first season, Martell made a name for himself running the scout team, with upper-class teammates often commenting about his obvious skills.

“We all know Dwayne kind of finished the season and finished it strong against the team up north,” Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said Tuesday. “Joe, before his injury, was neck and neck. We’re trying to do the best we can to make sure they have equal opportunity to compete, and I’m going to throw Tate Martell’s name in there, too. He’s earned the right to compete.”

It will be difficult for Meyer to keep all three on the roster long term. Burrow, who is on track to graduate in May, could potentially transfer and be eligible to play next season if the competition does not go his way this spring.

Burrow is from Athens, Ohio, where his father is defensive coordinator for Frank Solich at Ohio University.

Meyer acknowledged that possibility and said he will try to give Burrow an assessment after spring practice so he can act accordingly.

“I’d love to have them both in the fall and have them keep battling it out like that,” he said. “We’ve had that before here, and I just think it keeps people on pins and needles.”

But first the three will face off in 13 scheduled workouts that culminate in the annual Scarlet and Gray scrimmage on April 14 at Ohio Stadium, putting them in the spotlight before as many as 100,000 fans.

The quarterback derby is the first since Barrett battled Cardale Jones before the 2015 season. Jones was chosen as the starter, but Barrett won the job by midseason and became the owner of most school throwing and scoring records. Barrett, preparing for the NFL Draft, was on the sideline with other former players at the opening of practice Tuesday.

“Miss him dearly, but life moves on,” Meyer said.

Ohio State, which just missed the College Football Playoff last season, also opens the spring with two new coaches, Alex Grinch and Taver Johnson. Grinch, a former assistant at Washington State, will coach safeties and be co-defensive coordinator. Johnson, a former Ohio State assistant, returns to coach cornerbacks, replacing Kerry Coombs, who left to be an assistant with the Tennessee Titans.

“To be around an elite group of coaches and an elite leadership, that doesn’t happen very often,” Grinch said last week. “I’ve been in it long enough to appreciate it, and so absolutely, selfishly, awfully excited to be able to work for and work with this staff.”

Ohio State opens the 2018 season Sept. 1 at home against Oregon State.

Chris “Beanie” Wells said on his Columbus-based radio show on Monday that a recent MRI indicated he had sustained some “traumatic brain injury.”

Wells, 29, a graduate of Garfield High School and Ohio State University who went on to play four seasons in the NFL with the Arizona Cardinals, is now a radio show host on WBNS-FM 97.1 in Columbus. Wells had been absent from the show and returned on Monday to detail why he had been gone.

Wells said he noticed he was getting headaches, and a delay in his speech had developed.

“[It was] the pausing and having to really think about what I’m getting ready to say because I’m searching for the words,” Wells said on his show. “That wasn’t me. I always knew what to say, I always stuttered and I always talked really fast, but the words that were supposed to be there weren’t there. And that was something that was alarming to me.”

Wells underwent an MRI, which he said revealed “plaque separation,” a diagnosis that points to a traumatic brain injury.

Wells added the symptoms had been going on for 6-7 months. He returned to his show on Monday, but said he won’t be in every day as he undergoes more treatments.

“I’m still not out of the woods yet, but it’s coming. I’m hopeful and I’m here right now and I’m excited to be here,” Wells said. “I’m just glad at this point I have an answer for it and I’m addressing it and getting it squared away.”

Ryan Lewis can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/RyanLewisABJ.

NEW YORK: Zavier Simpson was a catalyst on both ends of the floor, running Michigan’s efficient offense and leading its lock-down defense, and back-up big man Jon Teske scored 14 as the 15th-ranked Wolverines beat No. 8 Purdue 75-66 Sunday to repeat as Big Ten Tournament champions.

Fifth-seeded Michigan (28-7) became the first team to repeat as Big Ten Tournament champs since Ohio State in 2010 and ’11.

Simpson finished with 10 points, five assists and five rebounds and Moe Wagner led Michigan with 17 points, despite playing only 17 minutes because of foul trouble — which plagued him all tournament.

That’s where Teske stepped up. The 7-foot-1 sophomore scored 12 points in the first half and picked up the slack guarding Purdue’s 7-2 center Isaac Haas.

Simpson and Teske put an exclamation point on Michigan’s four-day Madison Square Garden party with 6:02 left in the second half. The 6-foot Simpson drove and dished to Teske, who finished with a one-handed slam over Haas.

That made it 66-48 and brought chants of “Tes-key!” from the Michigan fans — who showed up in droves for the first Big Ten Tournament played in New York.

Purdue (28-6) chipped away late with Michigan missing free throws run but it was way too late.

Haas led Purdue with 23 points, but Purdue’s top-two scorers, Carsen Edwards and Vincent Edwards, combined for 16 points on 6-of-22 shooting.

This Michigan team has been coach John Beilein’s best on the defensive side since he took over in Ann Arbor in 2007. It starts with Simpson, the sophomore point guard harassing opponents’ best ball-handlers. The Wolverines seemed content to let Haas have some room inside as long as they were able to limit Purdue’s 3s.

Purdue entered the game shooting 42 percent from 3 and attempting 23 per game. The Boilermakers finished 4 for 17 from behind the arc.

On consecutive possessions early in the second half, the Wolverines forced turnovers by Purdue and turned them in transition 3s — one by Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman and then by Simpson. That put Michigan up 11 with 15:06 left, prompted Boilermakers coach Matt Painter to call a timeout and had Wolverines fans screaming “Go Blue!”

Michigan, the team playing its fourth game in four days, showed no signs of wear. The Wolverines shot 50 percent and committed five turnovers.

Last season’s unlikely run to the tournament championship by Michigan was as an eighth seed and it started with a harrowing plane accident near Ann Arbor, Michigan. The team plane skidded off a run after takeoff was aborted. No one was hurt, but everyone was shaken up. Still, the team got to Washington and then ripped off four straight wins to grab an NCAA bid.

This one was less dramatic — though surely the Wolverines did not mind.

Big picture

Michigan: The Wolverines will enter the NCAA Tournament on a nine-game winning streak.

Purdue: The Boilermakers beat Michigan in the regular season twice by a total of five points. Unable to complete a three-game sweep, they probably watched any chance of grabbing a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament go away.