Although we’re loyal to the Soccer Power Index (SPI), the system we use to produce FiveThirtyEight’s World Cup projections, we’re also big fans of the World Football Elo Ratings.Unfortunately, the Elo ratings website has not been updated since the World Cup began. So we followed their instructions for calculating their ratings and ran the numbers ourselves:Brazil, as before, ranks as the world’s best team per Elo. But the Netherlands has made huge gains and now ranks No. 2, just ahead of Germany. Spain’s rating has fallen the most, 116 points, taking the team from second to sixth.Elo and SPI are highly correlated and they’ve fared well against other methods of predicting World Cup results so far, including betting lines.
Month: September 2019
Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick is likely done for the remainder of the preseason after being knocked out of his second game in as many weeks.Coach Andy Reid intimated Tuesday that it was unlikely that the three-time Pro Bowler would take another snap prior to the team’s season opener at Cleveland on Sept. 9.“I’m just going to play it by ear,” Reid told reporters following practice. “I’m not going to say anything about where we’re at with that right now.”Vick left Monday night’s win at New England just six plays into the game after being leveled by Patriots linebacker Jermaine Cunningham and hurting his ribs. Vick lasted just six plays before injuring his thumb against Pittsburgh the week before.X-Rays taken at the stadium showed no broken bones or fractured cartilage, as were the MRI and CT scan he underwent on Tuesday. Vick, instead, bruised his ribs and the soft tissue surrounding it. He also needed X-Rays on his thumb, which were also negative.Vick, 32, has completed just one full season (2006) over his 11-year NFL career, leading some to question whether he will have to alter his style of play to stay healthy. Rib injuries have sidelined him for three games in each of the past two seasons.Philadelphia, which is expected to be a strong NFC contender this year, plays at Cleveland this Friday before hosting the Jets on Aug. 30 to wrap up the preseason. They’ll likely do so without their star quarterback.Not that Vick couldn’t use the work. He led Philadelphia’s first-team offense to just one first down in the 12 plays he managed over the two preseason games.“If he didn’t play again (in the preseason), then he’d be OK,” Reid said. “I would tell you I’d probably like to see him play a little bit more, but he’s got enough experience. We’re not talking about a rookie. I think he’ll probably be OK.”Rookie Nick Foles, a third-round pick out of Arizona, is the Eagles’ No. 2 quarterback.
One Way James Hardens Scoring Streak Is More Impressive Than WiltsOne Way James Hardens Scoring Streak Is More Impressive Than Wilts
Houston Rockets guard James Harden has been busy this season redefining just how much offense a single player can create. As we near the NBA All-Star break, Harden has scored at least 30 points in an absurd 30 consecutive games and counting, which, according to Basketball-Reference.com, is the second-longest streak in league history. Harden’s streak trails only Wilt Chamberlain’s 65-game run from the 1961-62 season — a season in which Wilt happened to set the NBA record by scoring 50.4 points per game. The way Harden has been filling up the scoresheet, Chamberlain comes up as a frequent comparison, continually amazing for those of us who never thought we’d get to see numbers like Wilt’s in today’s game. But what might be most remarkable about Harden is the way he’s different from Chamberlain — specifically, how his one-man show has changed his team’s offense.A big reason that Chamberlain keeps popping up is that it’s difficult to find a modern analogue for what Harden is doing. Harden currently has a usage rate of 40.2 percent, meaning he has taken a shot (or turned the ball over) on roughly two out of every five Houston plays when he’s on the court. And when he isn’t trying to score himself, Harden has also assisted on 40.3 percent of teammate baskets. The only other qualified season in NBA history to break those 40/40 thresholds belonged to Russell Westbrook in 2016-17 — and Westbrook was much less efficient that season than Harden has been this year, averaging 6.8 fewer points per 100 possessions on plays he had a hand in ending.To get a sense of just how far Harden is pushing the boundaries of productivity, here’s a breakdown of all qualified seasons since 1976-77 by possession rate1The share of total on-court team possessions a player had a hand in ending, via shots, turnovers, assists and rebounds. versus offensive efficiency. (The outermost points up and to the right are the best combinations of workload and efficiency.) With 118.6 points produced per 100 possessions on a possession rate of 40.5 percent, Harden is currently having the greatest high-usage offensive season in modern history. From a team perspective, those numbers mean that Houston is funneling nearly half of its possessions through a player who is personally averaging nearly 2 more points per 100 possessions than the league’s most efficient team (the Warriors, at 117.0). So in theory, this should be a very good thing for his team’s scoring rate, which in turn should lead to more and more wins.And in Harden’s case, that appears to be true. Since Harden’s streak began, he is averaging 122 points per 100 possessions with a usage rate of 42.8 percent, both numbers up from the 114 and 37.3 percent marks he had before the streak, respectively. And over the same span, Houston’s teamwide offensive efficiency has zoomed up from 111.2 points per 100 before the streak (sixth-best in the NBA) to 116.9 (second-best) ever since, with his Rockets’ on/off-court offensive efficiency split (+5.8 points per 100) staying roughly the same before the streak and after. Houston is also 21-9 over the streak, after starting the season 12-14. Of course, the recent return of former All-Star point guard Chris Paul, who missed 18 games during Harden’s streak, has buoyed the Rockets as well — but in general it’s safe to say that Harden’s tear has had a very positive effect on Houston’s efficiency and overall record.Why is that notable, though? Isn’t that simply the logical result of having a highly efficient player dominate his team’s possessions? You might think so, but in a dynamic sport such as basketball, things are often more complicated than they may appear. And the best example of this could be Chamberlain.Chamberlain’s career was unwittingly one of history’s most fascinating laboratories for basketball experimentation, in large part because he was the NBA’s most extreme statistical outlier ever. Wilt led the league in scoring in each of his first six seasons, with a staggering scoring average of 40.6 points per game over that span; he also led the league in field goal percentage in three of those campaigns, making 50.7 percent of his shots in total (at a time when the NBA average was around 42 percent). With such a high volume of efficient shots, you might expect that Wilt was like Harden, leading his teams to tremendously efficient offensive performances.But you’d be wrong. Shockingly, Chamberlain’s Warriors struggled to even break league average in efficiency during his seasons with the club, despite the enormous amount of high-percentage scoring Chamberlain did by himself. It wasn’t until Chamberlain switched teams and started scoring less — passing to his teammates more — that his clubs began breaking offensive records.To better understand the sometimes-counterintuitive effect a single scorer can have on his team’s offense, I reached out to Ben Taylor, author of the book “Thinking Basketball,” who was one of the first researchers to notice this phenomenon in Chamberlain’s numbers. “The arc of [Wilt’s] career is very, very unique,” he said. “Not only do some people consider him the best player ever precisely because of these raw stats, but he goes through many different coaches, they put him in many different situations, and specifically Alex Hannum comes along with this great idea — like, ‘Hey, Wilt, what if you just didn’t shoot that much anymore?’ — and he does this, and the team becomes incredible.”Chamberlain’s 1965-66 and 1966-67 seasons with Philadelphia present the most fascinating test case. According to Taylor’s research, Chamberlain’s own personal scoring attempts in 1966 were much more efficient (averaging about 1.09 points per possession) than those of his teammates when they tried to score (0.94), and the 76ers had a mediocre offense with Chamberlain scoring 33.5 points per game. If anything, that makes it sound like Chamberlain should have shot the ball even more — but instead, Hannum persuaded Chamberlain to spread the ball around the following season. His teammates, basically the same cast of characters, averaged more points per attempt (1.01) on more shots per game, while Wilt himself was far more efficient (1.27 points per attempt!) when scoring “only” 24.1 points per game. The result was a championship for Philadelphia and one of history’s greatest offenses.Chamberlain’s less-is-more experience is indicative of other one-man shows from throughout NBA history, Taylor said. “You can see it with other high-usage players in a modern setting. I think the classic examples are 1987 [Michael] Jordan, 2006 Kobe [Bryant], guys like that — they’re doing a similar thing, and again you don’t have anywhere near a top-shelf offense.”But Harden has been able to break that mold by playing differently than other one-man offenses from the past. “Harden’s not the best example of one of these high-usage all time scorers,” Taylor said. “He’s a little weird in that he’s more like Steve Nash — he’s passing and dominating the offense to also set up teammates, and so you have a huge ‘creation’ player. … The stark difference between [Harden and Wilt] is that Wilt, when he was scoring, was more like a black hole, and Harden is just running everything.”The idea that Harden is what Taylor called a “Scoring Nash” is eye-opening. Playing in a similar (if not exactly identical) system to the one Nash orchestrated for four years under coach Mike D’Antoni, Harden has evolved the role of distributor to include an even greater level of player choice. If one of Nash’s great strengths was drawing defensive attention as a means of setting others up for easy shots, Harden can also use the threat of the pass as a means of giving himself more space to shoot. As a result, Harden has an “offensive load” — Taylor’s metric for measuring direct involvement via scoring or passing within an offense — of 66 percent, compared with Nash’s single-season high of 51 percent under D’Antoni in 2007.Pass-heavy initiators like Harden don’t always elevate otherwise mediocre offenses to greatness. For instance, Westbrook — who in 2017 set the NBA record for single-season usage rate (just ahead of Harden’s rate this year) — was the centerpiece of a barely average scoring attack that year, despite his record offensive load of 74 percent. But a disproportionate share of history’s greatest offenses were led by players such as Harden, Nash, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird and even Golden State’s Stephen Curry — players who stretched defenses into oblivion with the interplay between their passing and scoring.That’s why Harden’s admittedly impressive scoring streak is only one part of the puzzle that has helped vault the Rockets back near the top of the Western Conference’s contender list. By playing more like the Chamberlain of 1967 than 1962, Harden isn’t just helping the team with his own statistics — he’s also making the players around him better.Check out our latest NBA predictions.
Kristaps Porzingis Is A Freak — And Potentially A SuperstarKristaps Porzingis Is A Freak — And Potentially A Superstar
15Kwame Brown40Marvin Williams 2Joe Smith27Cliff Robinson 16Michael Beasley41Jared Sullinger 19Anthony Davis44Thaddeus Young If those assumptions hold, the Knicks have a hell of a prospect on their hands. The NBA is a tough league for rookies, so merely staying in a team’s rotation at age 20 is often a sign of a bright future. So far, however, Porzingis has not just been a rotation player but an above-average one4According to the blend of Box Plus/Minus and Real Plus-Minus that we use as part of CARMELO — usually a sign of superstar potential. In fact, Porzingis’s long-term upside score, based on his wins above replacement projection from 2016-17 through 2021-22, is 36.3. That’s very good; at the start of this season, it would have made Porzingis the 17th-most-valuable franchise player in the league, in the same vicinity as Giannis Antetokounmpo, John Wall and Jimmy Butler.But Porzingis’s projection also involves tremendous uncertainty. In 2018-19, for example, his 90th percentile projection5According to CARMELO, Porzingis has a 10 percent chance of achieving a WAR at or above his 90th percentile projection. is 13.3 WAR, good enough to put him on the fringes of the MVP discussion. Meanwhile, his 10th percentile projection is just 0.0 WAR (exactly replacement level), or roughly the same range as Quincy Acy. The error bars around CARMELO’s forecasts for young players are often wide, but these are especially so.OK, but is he Dirk?What gives? Part of it is the problem we alluded to before. CARMELO works by identifying comparable players, and Porzingis is a hard guy for which to find historical precedents. Only one player, Brook Lopez, achieves a similarity score of 50 or higher with Porzingis6A score of 50 is the point at which we consider a player to be “extremely similar.” — and if we’re being frank, the Lopez-Porzingis connection doesn’t have the “eye test” appeal that CARMELO comparisons often do.But faced with unusual players like Porzingis, CARMELO has to make some sacrifices. In the case of Lopez, it ignores the fact that Lopez almost never shoots from behind the arc (although he does have a decent midrange game). In the case of Kevin Love, Porzingis’s No. 4 comparable, it finds another big man with a good outside shot and strong rebounding numbers — but ignores that Love is shaped much differently than Porzingis, 5 inches shorter but quite a bit bulkier, especially in his youth. And since CARMELO relies on metrics that utilize box score stats, it can be difficult to translate calling-card traits like “quick feet in defensive transition” to on-the-stat-sheet comps, which in turn means the model may promote the formal similarity of Porzingis’s defensive numbers to those of Shawn Kemp, when he’s closer to Andrei Kirilenko stylistically.You can get a fuller sense for the range of possibilities when sorting through Porzingis’s top 50 CARMELO comparables, a list that includes everyone from Shaquille O’Neal to Darko Milicic. There’s also a cameo appearance from Porzingis’s idol, Dirk Nowitzki, who checks in at No. 17. Why doesn’t he rank higher? Because, as Nowitzki correctly points out, Porzingis has been considerably better so far at age 20 than Nowitzki was at the same age. CARMELO “thinks” the Porzingis-Nowitzki comparison is unflattering — to Porzingis.The 50 NBA players most comparable to Porzingis 22Tyson Chandler47Shaquille O’Neal 4Kevin Love29Derrick Williams 9Yi Jianlian34Serge Ibaka 18Shareef Abdur-Rahim43Chris Webber RANKPLAYERRANKPLAYER The New York Knicks’ future once looked very dismal indeed. It looked that way for a very long time, for a great many reasons — but that was before the arrival of the Great Latvian Hope. Kristaps Porzingis, the 7-foot-3 rookie whose selection was resoundingly booed at this summer’s draft, has instead very quickly become the most popular athlete at Madison Square Garden1Sorry, Carmelo Anthony and Henrik Lundqvist. after barely more than a month on the job.Porzingis detonated onto the NBA landscape with a series of putback dunks in his first handful of games; more importantly for Knicks fans, he’s since maintained a level of play that’s ranged between solid and spectacular. On the season, Porzingis is averaging 17.9 points, 11.0 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per 36 minutes and draining threes at a rate that would make fellow Giant Baltic Person Arvydas Sabonis proud.2Porzingis has made the typically painful adjustment to NBA 3-point range rapidly, raising his percentage to 35.4 after early season struggles. No player in NBA history, in fact, has possessed quite this combination of youth, height, quickness and outside shooting skills. Porzingis’s play has been so strong and so dazzling that he’s that rare rookie on whom airy basketball aesthetes and turgid statistical fundamentalists can agree: This kid is the real deal.The Porzingis projectionSo what does his future hold? We have a (probabilistic) basketball-shaped crystal ball called CARMELO,3No relation to Carmelo Anthony, although we took some inspiration from him. our NBA projection system. Before the season began, we ran CARMELO projections for more than 500 players; this included rookie projections for players such as Karl-Anthony Towns, the No. 1 overall pick and Porzingis’s opponent Wednesday night, based on their college statistics. But we didn’t run one for Porzingis or other international draft picks who didn’t play NCAA ball. Let’s fix that!Below, you’ll see a CARMELO projection for Porzingis based on his first 25 NBA games. It makes one heroic assumption: extrapolating out that 25-game performance to a full 82-game season. In other words, it assumes not only that what Knicks fans have seen from Porzingis so far is about what they’ll get from the rest of the year, but also that he’ll stay healthy. But Porzingis’s offensive approach does bear some resemblance to today’s Dirk Nowitzki. Porzingis is frequently compared to Jahlil Okafor and Towns, and that’s unsurprising considering that they play the same position and were all drafted so high. However, Porzingis is the only one in that trio who, like Nowitzki, has 21st-century range. In fact, his basic spatial shooting distribution closely mirrors that of the NBA itself as about a quarter of his shots come from downtown, a third come in the midrange and the rest come near the basket. 10Shawn Kemp35Zaza Pachulia 11Rudy Gay36Darius Miles 14Lamar Odom39Antoine Walker 3Derrick Favors28Al Jefferson 1Brook Lopez26Ryan Anderson 23Chris Bosh48Darko Milicic 6Amar’e Stoudemire31Jonas Valanciunas 17Dirk Nowitzki42Harrison Barnes 8Tobias Harris33Tracy McGrady 5Anthony Randolph30Tim Thomas 12Elton Brand37Greg Monroe 24Luol Deng49Nene 20Josh Smith45Paul George 7Spencer Hawes32Rashard Lewis 13DeMarcus Cousins38Andrei Kirilenko 21Kevin Garnett46Eddy Curry 25Enes Kanter50Al-Farouq Aminu The diversity of Porzingis’s scoring portfolio is also an encouraging sign for his development. Although he converts his shots at just average rates from virtually every spot he shoots from, the fact that he can do that as a 20-year-old 7-foot-plusser is remarkable. While the league is full of bigs who can shoot the ball, it’s rare for a rookie to enter the league as such a competent shooter. Shooting was the Achilles heel of young bigs like Anthony Davis and Blake Griffin, who have since developed range out to the 3-point line.The good news extends to the defensive side of the ball as well; Porzingis is already an effective rim protector. Considering that many were worried that he was “soft” entering the league, these numbers, perhaps more than his offensive ones, should put the doubters to bed. He blocks multiple shots per game, opponents shoot just 47 percent near the basket when he is present, and he is a big part of why the Knicks are among the most efficient rim-protecting teams in the NBA right now. The Knicks!Then again: The Knicks! A franchise whose glory days are more than 40 years behind it, and which has squandered more than a few good opportunities in the past. What could go wrong this time around?A strictly limited run?The one looming issue could be Porzingis’s durability. Among his top 50 comparables, about 20 percent7Excluding very recent comparables who haven’t had time to complete six full seasons. played fewer than 1,000 minutes (or were out of the league entirely) by their sixth NBA season. Usually, this is a sign of a serious injury. Furthermore, among his comparables, there was an inverse correlation between height and durability: The tallest players on Porzingis’s list were more injury-prone.That’s a potential problem because Porzingis isn’t just tall but gigantic: one of only 25 players ever to play in the NBA at 7-foot-3 or taller. That produces some cool factoids — among players 7-foot-3 or taller, Porzingis has already drained the fourth-most 3-pointers in league history (behind Sabonis, Manute Bol and Zydrunas Ilgauskas) — along with some worrying trends. For instance: no player 7-foot-3 or taller has ever made it to his 1,000th NBA game. (Mark Eaton, with 875 career games, came closest.)Is there really such a thing as being too tall for the NBA, as Phil Jackson asserted when he drafted Porzingis? Well … maybe. The chart below tracks the height distribution of NBA players since the NBA-ABA merger in 1976, weighted by minutes played, and compares it against a normal distribution. There are some interesting discrepancies: the most conspicuous is that there are far fewer players listed at exactly 6-foot-4 or 6-foot-5 than you’d expect from a normal distribution. That could reflect the fact that such players are “tweeners” — too small to play forward, but not necessarily fleet or agile enough to play guard — or that their heights are exaggerated upward to avoid the tweener label. Charles Barkley, officially listed at 6-foot-6, was probably more like 6-foot-4 or 6-foot-5 instead, for example.There is also a comparative absence of players listed at 7-foot-1 or taller. Based on the normal distribution, you’d expect about 6 percent of NBA minutes to be played by these supergiant players; instead, about 3 percent of them have been. There are lots of plausible explanations for this — for instance, there may be diminishing returns to height beyond about 7 feet, and some very tall players may actually round their heights down instead of up. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, one of the most durable players in league history, was listed at 7-foot-2, and opponents swore up and down that even that number was missing an inch or two. Still, looking at the broader trends, perhaps there is some reason to be concerned about players carrying such large frames.But having “some reason to be concerned” is unavoidable in neurotic New York — and a heck of a lot better than the state of absolute despair that preceded it. And the upside is having a player who, like Anthony Davis, has a chance to redefine his position. Porzingis! is the most exciting show to hit the Knicks since Linsanity.Read more:CARMELO NBA Player Projections2015-16 NBA Predictions
Five takeaways Mike Weber is a workhorse Silver Bullets too aggressive andFive takeaways Mike Weber is a workhorse Silver Bullets too aggressive and
OSU freshman running back Mike Weber (25) outruns two MSU players during their game on Nov. 19, 2016 at Spartan Stadium. The Buckeyes won 17-16. Credit: Mason Swires | Assistant Photo EditorEAST LANSING, Michigan — A score of 17-16 pretty much sums up the No.2 Ohio State and Michigan State game on Saturday. It was chippy at times, and ugly at others, but the Buckeyes prevailed over a three-win Spartans team looking to salvage what it can from a disappointing season.OSU coach Urban Meyer and his players all agreed Mark Dantonio’s team is far better than the credit received from fans and analysts this year. To be fair, most of the team did say this during the entire week leading up to the game.It took some gutsy running by redshirt freshman Mike Weber and a few defensive stands by the secondary to find a way to win, but that’s the point of having quality players at every positions. The term dogfight was thrown around once again in postgame interviews, and most of the players were far from overjoyed with the team’s performance.Be that as it may, the Buckeyes are now 10-1, and are 7-1 in the Big Ten, with time to prepare for The Game against Michigan on Nov. 26. And as of right now, it looks like it’s going to be No. 2 versus No. 3. Here are five takeaways from OSU’s nail-biter in East Lansing.Barrett needs to run as much as possibleRedshirt junior quarterback J.T. Barrett has been a playmaker ever since he traveled all the way from Wichita Falls, Texas, to Columbus. One of the biggest threats he presents is the ability to tuck it and run when the defense has the pass covered, or whenever he feels like he has a crease.Even with that ability, Meyer said he needed to cut down on the amount of carries his quarterback has in a game to ensure he can keep Barrett healthy. A quick glance at the box score would make it seems as though the Buckeyes’ coach forgot his earlier statement.Barrett had 24 carries Saturday — two more runs than passes. In his second most carries in a game this season, Barrett had his second highest rushing yardage total, but failed to locate the end zone. When asked about how a scrappy game against a sneaky-good opponent leads to this kind of game for Barrett, Meyer shrugged his shoulder and nodded his head in agreement.“The way it goes,” he said.It’s doubtful Barrett gets over 20 carries next week against a hard-hitting Michigan defense.Buckeyes defense a little too aggressiveA defense that jumps the ball and can read plays to blow up runs in the backfield is valuable. A defense that over-pursues plays and gives up big plays is not. Even though OSU’s defense is about as good as it gets at the Division I level, the Buckeyes have a severe problem with over running plays.For example, redshirt junior linebacker Chris Worley said the team had some breakdowns and lack of edge containment. On one play in the second half, redshirt sophomore running back L.J. Scott broke free down the right side of the field. After breaking off the edge, there wasn’t a Buckeye within 10 yards of him. On the play, a motion by the wide receiver caused sophomore cornerback Denzel Ward to shift from the right side of the offensive line to the left. The Buckeyes defense, including redshirt junior defensive end Tyquan Lewis and sophomore linebacker Jerome Baker, pushed to the left side of the offense on the snap and were totally fooled by the end-around.Although the play didn’t hurt down the road, this kind of over-aggressiveness has caused some big plays against OSU, and Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh will be looking to capitalize next week. Weber picking up steam at the right timeAs a Detroit native, facing Michigan State in Spartan Stadium is pretty close to a homecoming for redshirt freshman running back Mike Weber. On Saturday, he was a big factor in OSU’s win with 111 yards and a game winning touchdown.With the final regular season showdown less than a week away, OSU will need the services of Weber if it hopes to knock off the Wolverines. His touchdown Saturday was his first away from Ohio Stadium this season, and ended up being the decisive score. Standing at just 5-foot-9, Weber has the stature of a power back with a low center of gravity, but flashed some speed on a 52-yard dash down the sideline that eventually set up his touchdown run.And with Michigan up next, Weber is all business.“Right now, we’re looking at it as a national championship,” he said. “That’s how we’re supposed to look at it. Go out all week, get a good game plan and work hard at it and try to execute the game plan. Now it’s really personal.”Who did OSU play again?Michigan State, at least according to the Buckeyes, is a quality opponent. OSU struggled with a team that has just three wins, and had to depend on late-game heroics from redshirt junior cornerback Gareon Conley to seal the deal with an interception.This game will easily be forgotten in the weeks to come, and the College Football Playoff committee will most likely follow suit. It was a tough game that OSU earned the W in. Games like these are never a large downfall of a team. The Buckeyes, along with Clemson (defeated Troy 30-24) and Michigan (loss to Iowa and won 20-10 over Indiana) have been in close games against mediocre teams.The important thing to remember is regardless of the outcome from this game, all eyes from the committee will be on Ohio Stadium next week. Whoever wins should find themselves in a playoff spot.Michigan and De’Veon Smith the ultimate testL.J. Scott had a monster day against the Buckeyes, compiling 236 yards total and crossing the goal line twice. Although he has the reputation of being a pretty good every-down back, there were some pretty uncharacteristic mistakes by the Buckeyes’ defense. So many in fact, that Urban Meyer doesn’t see a win for his team if they play in a similar fashion next week.“That’s very true,” Lewis said. “Come out next week kind of flat, you obviously won’t win the game. Give credit to Michigan State, they played a very good game, very physical thing. Just got to correct the little things — stopping the run.”Michigan senior running back De’Veon Smith is about as easy to stop as a runaway train. The mistakes made by the Silver Bullets against Michigan State cannot be made against a team as dangerous as Michigan. In the Wolverines’ lone loss this season, Iowa shut down Smith for just 28 yards on 12 carries. In Saturday’s win over Indiana, he had 158 yards and a pair of touchdowns. There seems to be a trend of good performances for Smith and a Michigan win.It’s Michigan week for OSU, and the assignment at hand for the Buckeyes could not be more difficult. Kickoff is set for noon.
Mens hockey Ohio State fails to secure weekend sweep tie Arizona StateMens hockey Ohio State fails to secure weekend sweep tie Arizona State
OSU sophomore forward John Wiitala passes the puck along the boards against an Arizona State defender. Credit: Courtesy of Ric Kruszynski/OSU AthleticsThere’s always a reason as to why the game is played. The No. 10 Ohio State men’s hockey team found that out the hard way on Saturday afternoon.Despite being heavy favorites following a 6-1 victory on Friday, the Buckeyes (11-4-5) tied Arizona State 2-2 in the weekend finale at the Schottenstein Center.The Sun Devils (7-17-2) tied the game with an extra skater with 26 seconds left in the third period on a goal from freshman forward Tyler Busch. OSU junior forward Kevin Miller and sophomore forward Mason Jobst scored to take the team’s only lead late in the second period. This result marks the fourth tie of the season for OSU, all coming to non-conference opponents.The teams could not decide a winner after an overtime period and the game officially ended in a tie, but Arizona State won the ensuing shootout 1-0. “We just got to keep getting better. Every time you lace it up, you’ve got to compete at the highest level,” coach Steve Rohlik said. “That’s a good hockey team. To have the lead right to the end, you’ve got to find a way to win that game, and to walk away with a tie leaves a little bitter taste in your mouth for sure.”Hard hits and bodies on the ice were present from the opening faceoff in this matchup. Both the Buckeyes and the Sun Devils produced a number of dangerous chances in front of net throughout the first period, including a power play for each team.Despite these factors, both squads entered the first intermission scoreless.Arizona State opened the game’s scoring on the power play with 10:20 left in the second period. Junior right winger Wade Murphy ripped a slapshot from the blueline that found its way through traffic, and into the back of the net.However, the Buckeyes responded strongly with just under three minutes to play in the period.Miller finished his fifth goal of the season from just out in front of the crease to tie the game at one, with assists coming from freshman forward Ronnie Hein and senior defender Drew Brevig. Less than a minute later, after OSU received a penalty for too many men on the ice, Jobst skated with speed past the Sun Devils’ defense and netted a shorthanded wrister senior goalie Robert Levin to take the lead into intermission.The Speedway, Indiana, native has now recorded 12 points in his last six games, but he said that his team needs to create more scoring opportunities for themselves moving forward in order to win games. “(We need) more shots,” Jobst said. “I think we had 24, and that’s just not enough. We’ve got to shoot the puck more.”During the third period, the Buckeyes had a chance to add insurance with a little over four minutes left when sophomore forward John Wiitala poked away a Sun Devil pass to go on the breakaway — but after a series of dekes, he saw his shot kicked away by Levin.This chance would come back to haunt Rohlik’s side, Busch found the back of the net to force overtime, and eventually won in a shootout.The deadlock lasted through the end of overtime into an eventual shoot-out, which concluded with the Sun Devils on top, but Rohlik said that his team needs to get better this next week headed back into conference play.“Our message is we’re going to Penn State, a great environment, obviously a very good hockey team, and we’ve got to be prepared this week and ready to go,” he said.Ohio State is back in action next weekend, as it travels College Park, Pennsylvania, for two conference clashes with the No. 4 Nittany Lions. Both Friday and Saturday’s puck drops are set for 7 p.m.
Hall seizes opportunity to play with Pryor a second timeHall seizes opportunity to play with Pryor a second time
Freshman running back Jordan Hall is trying to prove he isn’t just “the guy who played at the same school as Terrelle Pryor.”Hall’s high school career in Jeannette, Pa., was mostly spent as the secondary playmaker on offense to Pryor. The backfield duo brought the Jeannette Jayhawks their first football state title during Pryor’s senior and Hall’s junior season. As an encore, they followed it up a few months later with a matching state championship as starters on their high school’s basketball team. After his quarterback left for Ohio State, Hall didn’t waste much time deciding where he wanted to attend college. “I knew I was going to be a Buckeye,” Hall said after OSU’s win on Saturday, in which he led the team with 90 yards rushing. “I just got that gut feeling coming up here for junior day, the Spring Game. I just had that gut feeling and so far it’s working out.”The freshman has made an early impact and given a depleted running back squad some consistency on the depth chart. Sophomore Dan “Boom” Herron and junior Brandon Saine have battled injuries recently, and Hall has taken the opportunity to prove that he is more than just “Pryor’s old teammate.”Coming out of high school, Hall was not seen as a player who could make an impact right away. Recruiting experts thought it would be Jaamal Berry or Carlos Hyde who would be making their names known early, but things haven’t gone as planned for the two highly touted backs. Berry’s injuries and Hyde’s inability to qualify academically have left Hall to carry the load. “I knew I was coming in with two other really good running backs,” Hall said. “So it was kind of like motivation for me, but we’re all working hard. Jaamal is working hard too, but his injuries aren’t allowing him to play.”Hall believed the low expectations placed on him would give him a chance early in his career to surprise some people. “I definitely took it as a challenge, and I worked real hard in the offseason because I knew I was kind of an underdog coming in, so it motivated me,” Hall said. “Coming out of high school, everyone thought since Jeannette was such a small school, that we wouldn’t be ready to play college football, but it shows that if you’re an athlete, you’re an athlete and you can play.”Hall has 231 yards rushing this season and one touchdown. His most impressive stat, however, is his average of 5.1 yards per carry, more than either Herron or Saine. His running style gives OSU something different than “Boom” and “Zoom,” especially while the two are plagued with injuries. “I always had a belief and confidence in myself, but the injuries are allowing me to make plays so I’m just trying to take full advantage of it,” Hall said. “It’s funny, coming in we were like, we got five good running backs that could run, and we were all doing pretty good, then two go down. So everyone has to step up, you can never take a week off in practice, because you never know what can happen to the running back in front of you.”Being from the same high school as Pryor might cause any player to feel overshadowed, but not Hall. He has nothing but admiration for the Buckeye quarterback and believes all the attention is warranted. Pryor’s commitment to OSU also made Hall feel more comfortable with his own decision.“He deserves it. He works hard and he’s a leader,” Hall said. “I’m just playing, and I’ve never felt overshadowed. It was a reason that I came, but it wasn’t the main reason. Knowing I had someone I could ask questions to that helped my decision.”While Hall continues to surprise people, he hasn’t surprised himself. “I don’t know how people really felt about me, but I know how I felt about myself,” he said. “So I’m not really surprising myself, but I’m just trying to take full advantage when I’m in the game.”
No 14 Ohio State womens gymnastics defends its honor to the lastNo 14 Ohio State womens gymnastics defends its honor to the last
Ohio State women’s gymnastics coach Carey Fagan stopped short of calling this Friday’s contest against Kent State revenge. But, neither she nor her team has forgotten about a one-tenth-point loss to the Golden Flashes in last year’s regional qualifier that knocked them out of the NCAA Championships. “That stung, and I know it’s been on the minds of the girls for almost a whole year,” Fagan said. Almost a year later, a similar feeling still resonates with the team. The No. 14-ranked Buckeyes, though, have harvested that disappointment into this season’s rallying cry: “Our honor defend to the last tenth.” And it has been the driving force behind a year that Fagan and her team have condensed into a single word — consistent. “I think one of the best things we’ve done is we’ve been really consistent — we haven’t had to count a fall in several meets,” she said. “For us, all our scores have been right in that low 196, high 195 range.” Sophomore Sarah Miller echoed her coach’s sentiments. “I think that, overall, we’ve been really consistent throughout our entire season,” said Miller, who earned Big Ten Gymnast of the Week honors this week. “Generally, all of our scores have pretty much reflected our season.” OSU, which hasn’t posted a score lower than 195.175 this year, set a school record for their 197.625 team score against Denver Feb. 18. Fagan said she thinks her team’s consistent and sometimes dominating performance is a combination of senior leadership and the strong sophomore class that includes Miller. “I think (the seniors are) coming upon the end of their gymnastics career, and I think they’re really doing a good job kind of motivating some of the younger kids,” she said. Fagan said her seniors’ lead-by-example approach has been different compared to past seasons. “I think the best leadership comes from when they’re performing well and they have the confidence,” she said. “It’s harder if you’re not doing well to kind of step up and be like, ‘Come on guys,’ if you’re not taking care of your own business.” “So the fact that our seniors are doing a good job, they sort of have that confidence and that backing.” Fresh off a 196.025-195.000 win against No. 10 Penn State, the Buckeyes look to put it all together Friday night. “Vault and floor, in general, are strong events for us,” Fagan said. “But if we can hit bars and beam really well in one night, I think it’ll be a good score for us.” In some ways, much of OSU’s season has led up to their rematch with Kent State. But, junior Colleen Dean said the Buckeyes need to approach Friday with the same mentality they took on against Penn State last weekend. “We all kind of have that feeling of a little animosity towards Kent State,” Dean said. “But like Penn State, we don’t want to focus on beating this team or like, the other team, because that’s something we can’t control. But we can control our routines and what we do with them.” Fagan said, for the most part, mental toughness isn’t an issue for OSU. “This group of athletes is pretty confident, and so they don’t need the constant repetition like some other teams that I’ve coached,” she said. “To me, I know walking into the meet on Friday, if they feel physically good, we’re going to be in good shape.” Miller said she knows how much a win would mean for her team. “We definitely want this,” she said. “It was just little things that happened at regionals, tenths here and there, and we definitely want this really bad.”
Football Ohio State retains No 2 ranking in AP PollFootball Ohio State retains No 2 ranking in AP Poll
J.T. Barrett broke the school’s total offense record against Indiana. Credit: Edward Sutelan | Assistant Sports EditorThe first Associated Press Top 25 Poll of the regular season was released Tuesday, and Ohio State remained behind just Alabama in the No. 2 spot. No. 3 Clemson, No. 4 Penn State and No. 5 Oklahoma round out the top five. Ohio State received just one first place vote after receiving three in the preseason poll.Ohio State did enough to maintain its grasp on the second spot in the rankings after coming away with a victory against Indiana, 49-21. Though they started off slow and trailed the Hoosiers by one at the half, the Buckeyes outscored Indiana 36-7 in the second half of the game to seal the Week 1 victory.In total, the Big Ten saw four teams listed in the Top 25. After Ohio State and Penn State, Michigan was ranked at No. 8 and Wisconsin sat at No. 9.Kickoff for Ohio State’s game this Saturday against Oklahoma is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. ET at Ohio Stadium.AP Poll1. Alabama (60)2. Ohio State (1)3. Clemson4. Penn State5. Oklahoma6. USC7. Washington8. Michigan9. Wisconsin10. Florida State11. Oklahoma State12. LSU13. Auburn14. Stanford15. Georgia16. Miami (Fl.)17. Louisville18. Virginia Tech19. Kansas State20. Washington State21. South Florida22. Florida23. TCU24. Notre Dame25. Tennessee
Track and Field Ohio State sending nine athletes to NCAA indoor nationalTrack and Field Ohio State sending nine athletes to NCAA indoor national
Ohio State redshirt sophomore sprinter Kendall Sheffield (middle) competes in the 60m with teammates Nick Gray (right) and senior Zack Bazile (left) during a meet in the French Field House on Feb. 16. Credit: Ethan Clewell | Lantern ReporterThe Ohio State track and field teams will send nine athletes will be starting spring break early with a trip to College Station, Texas, for the NCAA indoor national championship Friday. Senior Zack Bazile currently has the farthest long jump in the country at 8.14 meters. Bazile is the only athlete in the NCAA to jump farther than eight meters twice.This is Bazile’s first time going to the indoor national championship. Bazile has gone to the NCAA outdoor championship every season of his collegiate career.Senior Nicholas Demaline will be return to the NCAA indoor championships in shot put. Last season Demaline finished sixth at this meet. This year, he is coming in with the fifth-farthest throw in the NCAA at 20.24 meters.Junior Nick Gray is tied for the second-fastest collegiate time in the 200-meter dash at 20.45 seconds. Gray is tied with South Carolina’s senior Ncincilili Titi.Junior Sade Olatoye qualified with the fourth best weight throw in the NCAA at 23.84 meters and has faced off against the top three weight throwers in the country at least once. Olatoye finished fourth last year and will be facing off against the defending national champion, Cincinnati’s Annette Echikunwoke.Olatoye also qualified in shot put as the top-ranked Big Ten thrower.The Ohio State men’s 4×400-meter-relay team made up of sophomore Asa Burke, Gray, senior Drelan Bramwell and freshman Andre Jeff will also make the trip to Texas. The team broke the school record with a time of 3:05.09 at the Big Ten Championship meet. Senior Maggie Berrie qualified in the 400-meter dash with a time of 52.82 seconds and also grabbed a spot down at College Station. She qualified by a very thin margin, while Tennessee Tech’s D’Airrien Jackson did not qualify with a time of 52.84 seconds. Senior Cole Gorski qualified in pole vault with a jump of 5.47 meters, set at the Music City Challenge earlier this month. Gorski was tied for 16th place, the last spot to qualify. Junior Coty Cobb was just one spot below Gorski and barely missed the cut.