Embed Code By Neil Paine, Chris Herring and Kyle Wagner Welcome to The Lab, FiveThirtyEight’s basketball podcast. On this week’s show (Jan. 4, 2018), Neil, Chris and Kyle discuss Isaiah Thomas’s debut with the Cleveland Cavaliers after recovering from a hip injury he sustained last season. Next, DeMar DeRozan of the Toronto Raptors is putting up ridiculous numbers this season — but he’s one of the only ones. After a 2016-17 season that saw blowout wins and notable individual performances, this season is off to a much less explosive start. What happened to those absurd stat lines? We investigate. Plus, a small-sample-size segment on Andre Drummond.Here are links to what was discussed this week:Keep an eye on our 2017-18 NBA predictions, updated after every game.Deadspin’s Lauren Theisen noted that it seems DeMar DeRozan can shoot threes now.Last year, Neil took a look at the league’s crazy stat lines. More: Apple Podcasts | ESPN App | RSS | Embed
✓ In-season ratings updates use …Game resultsGame resultsPlayer ratings and rosters Accounts for trades and injuries? How CARMELO compares with previous forecastsSide-by-side feature comparison between FiveThirtyEight’s Elo, CARM-Elo and CARMELO NBA forecasts That, of course, stems from the fact that the Nuggets are awaiting the returns of Will Barton, Gary Harris, Paul Millsap and Isaiah Thomas.4It remains to be seen whether Thomas’s return will actually benefit Denver, particularly with how well Monte Morris has been playing as the backup point guard. Denver hasn’t been fully healthy all year. But when the team gets everyone back, it will be interesting to see just how far it can push things.However, while the forecast realizes that the Nuggets haven’t been healthy yet, it only recognizes them as the West’s fourth-most talented club at full strength, after Golden State, Oklahoma City and … Houston. The Thunder and Rockets currently own championship probabilities of 8 and 4 percent, respectively, while the Nuggets claim just a 2 percent chance. The numbers may be a nod to the fact that depth — which Denver has far more of than those other contenders — generally means less during the playoffs, when stars often steal the show (a fact our model now accounts for).If there’s a saving grace for the team’s fans, it’s that the basic Elo projections are still high on Denver and have the club tied for the fourth-highest title probability, with a 9 percent chance.The updated forecast believes in the Rockets but hates the Kings and MavsThe CARMELO forecast model relies on real-time depth-chart information to make its projections. So the CARM-Elo system might have penalized the Rockets for technically having Carmelo Anthony on the roster, even though he’s away from the team and hasn’t suited up for more than a month. But just like Mike D’Antoni, the new mode simply assigns Anthony no minutes on the depth chart and moves forward. Accounts for postseason experience?✓✓ Used in 2018-19 predictions?✓(if you select it on the Standings page)✓ And speaking of Houston, the club is an interesting one to analyze here because of how fervently the model still believes in the Rockets, who are given a 93 percent chance of reaching the playoffs despite having a record just barely over .500 more than a third of the way through the campaign. By contrast, the basic Elo forecast has them at just 72 percent to make the postseason.Again, this is almost certainly the new model showing faith in the top of Houston’s depth chart: It likely believes that guards Chris Paul and Eric Gordon won’t continue to have career-worst years from an efficiency standpoint.5Keep in mind that CARMELO does project and account for a player’s aging curve, and it updates player talent ratings in-season. (Those deficiencies alone don’t explain the Rockets’ slide — which many of us saw coming — on their own. The team also gambled by letting two of its better, more switchy perimeter defenders walk without having reliable replacements for them.)Yet while the CARMELO team projections are high on Houston, they don’t make much of a pair of a clubs that have been pleasant surprises this season. The Kings and Mavericks, each with records above .500, are given just 6 and 4 percent probabilities, respectively, to make the playoffs. That’s a night-and-day difference from the basic Elo model, which gives Sacramento a 34 percent chance of getting in and Dallas a 21 percent chance.What that spells out, aside from CARMELO’s limited belief in each roster, is the model’s view that neither club has enough battle-tested veterans in their rotation to get a boost for postseason experience. The Mavs are tied with the Nets for lowest playoff adjustment in the new system, while the Kings rank seventh-lowest. Houston, by contrast, has the fifth-highest adjustment for its postseason experience.Overall, we think the changes to our model will help us do a better job of predicting the season. And now you can check out the inner workings of what goes into the predictions on each team’s page. You can see the depth charts we’re working with — which, by definition, are estimates, but we try to keep them updated daily by tracking trades, injuries and other changes to each player’s status — as well as an updating chart of a team’s chance to make the playoffs. Also included is a handy graph of changes to a team’s talent rating, which highlights the difference between how a club looks at full strength compared with the present moment.So when you’re watching the NBA’s Christmas Day games with friends and family, check out our predictions to follow along with how each team has been playing and sound like an expert.Check out our latest NBA predictions. Those numbers, far more in line with conventional wisdom, are based on two things: First, Golden State has an insane amount of talent when healthy — far more than any other club. (This is reflected in the full-strength CARMELO.) Second, the system believes that the Warriors are nowhere near their peak yet because of all the injuries they’ve dealt with to this point. They just recently got Stephen Curry and Draymond Green back in the lineup, and the team should see All-Star DeMarcus Cousins make his Golden State debut soon. And rotation players Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston rejoined the team Monday.Looking beyond the Warriors, there are a handful of other key takeaways that stand out with the new system:The Nuggets haven’t hit their peak, but the system doesn’t fully buy their talent Aside from a poor stretch in mid-November, Denver has arguably been the most solid team in the NBA to this point. The Nuggets are tied for first place out West and have pieced together an unprecedented turnaround on the defensive end.Nothing about this situation comes across as a fluke so far in our forecast. In fact, if anything, the model thinks Denver is capable of more. Earlier this week, Denver has the biggest gap in the league between its full-strength CARMELO rating and its current rating — a 63-point shortfall. The Warriors are a great example of the differences between the forecasts. With our basic Elo rating projections, Golden State currently has just a 27 percent probability of reaching the NBA Finals and a puzzling 14 percent chance of winning a title. That’s lower than the Raptors’ 21 percent championship odds — and it’s a relative head-scratcher for a back-to-back champion that’s still relatively young and returned the vast majority of its core from the past two years.Yet using the new CARMELO forecast, which takes into account a team’s talent and fully healthy potential, the Warriors’ probability of reaching the finals is a whopping 67 percent, and their chances of winning a third-consecutive championship sit at 51 percent. If you’ve followed along with our NBA projection system in recent years, you probably noticed a recurring theme. During the regular season, the Golden State Warriors would either hit dry spells while key players were injured, or coach Steve Kerr, guarding against injuries, would frequently sit key players. Because of that, the Warriors would lose games that ultimately didn’t matter that much, and our Elo model — designed to track the ebbs and flows of the season’s wins and losses — would punish Golden State each time. But like clockwork, the Warriors would emerge in the spring as strong as ever — despite their blemished Elo rating.Even after updating our model in 2015 to try to account better for the talent on each team (using a blend of our basic Elo ratings and our preseason CARMELO player projections,1Which estimate a player’s future performance based on the trajectory of similar NBA players. which we called “CARM-Elo”), the model would give us some weird projections because it still reacted solely to wins and losses — it didn’t understand injuries, trades or rest.Last year, that flaw left CARM-Elo insisting that the baby-faced Sixers had a better probability of winning it all as the playoffs approached than the battle-tested Warriors did.2Last season’s system was the first of ours to use a playoff-experience metric, which gave credence to teams with considerable postseason chops. We found the addition necessary after LeBron and the lackadaisical Cavs kept flipping the switch after stumbling into the playoffs each year. The Elo-based system simply proved to be a bit too gullible, with too much of a recency bias to recognize that just because a team is playing extremely well doesn’t mean it’s going to be hoisting the Larry O’Brien Trophy at season’s end. So we’ve tried to fix these problems by launching a new set of projections specific to each team’s baseline talent.Our NBA forecast now offers two sets of projections: one that will track teams’ basic Elo ratings just like our original forecasts and one based solely on our player projections, without focusing on daily wins or losses.3We’ll no longer be using the CARM-Elo forecast at all. The latter projection will account for real-time movements and talent adjustments on the depth charts for every team — which are available to check out on the new individual team pages. That marks a somewhat seismic shift for the system, since it didn’t previously have a way of factoring in long-term injuries or the idea of players resting. But now those things are considered, and it shows in the new ratings. (Read more about the methodology here.) Preseason team ratings use …Last year’s final rating, regressed to the meanUp-to-date depth chartsUp-to-date depth charts EloCARM-EloCARMELO
Ohio State Rec Sports and the Ohio State Powerlifting Club are hosting the fourth annual Push-Pull competition on Nov. 20. Credit: Sara Stacy | Lantern reporterBoth veteran and novice Ohio State powerlifters will have the opportunity to show off their strength in the fourth annual Push-Pull Powerlifting competition on Sunday at Jesse Owens North. OSU Rec Sports and the OSU Powerlifting Club are hosting the event. Unlike a traditional powerlifting meet, which has three events, competitors will be performing a deadlift and a bench press. Alycia Israel, adviser of the OSU Powerlifting Club, and Rec Sports personal coordinator said each participant has three total attempts at bench press and at deadlift to win the weight class. The overall results are calculated with a bodyweight coefficient, which compares the amount of weight lifted to the competitor’s body weight.There will be awards for winners in each weight class and for the female and male overall winners.The OSU Powerlifting Club also hosts a full powerlifting meet in the spring, which along with the deadlift and bench press, competitors also compete in the squat. Israel said the Powerlifting Club hopes competitors in this event participate in the event in the spring.“We have the push-pull in the fall, and in February we have the full meet. And as you’re gaining interest hopefully you do both of those and then their actual meets and collegiate nationals kind of lead up until April,” she said. Lifters do not have to be a member of the Powerlifting Club to participate in the push-pull competition or in the full meet in the spring, and registration is open to any Ohio State student or anyone with a rec sports membership. Registration will cap once it reaches 50 participants.Matthew Casturo, a fourth-year in exercise science, has been helping run the event as a rec sports employee for the past two years. And he said his favorite part of the competition is the motivation and encouragement from all of the competitors.“I like to hear whenever people are about to make a lift people get really amped up cheering people on,” he said. “Other lifters cheer each other on even though they’re in competition.”Competitors can bring along friends or family members for support during the competition as well. According to Casturo, lifters often return every year just to compete in a more fun, relaxed setting than a traditional meet.“Usually once people do it once they stick with it until graduation, so there’s a lot of people that have been doing it for two, three four years,” he said. “There’s actually a lot of lifters that compete competitively and do this one just for a fun, practice kind of thing.”The Push-Pull Powerlifting competition will take place Sunday, November 20th at Jesse Owens North and will begin at 10 a.m. Registration is on the Rec Sports website.
After 10 years and one tumultuous offseason, Jim Tressel has resigned as Ohio State’s football coach. University President E. Gordon Gee released a statement Monday morning saying assistant coach Luke Fickell will coach the entire 2011 season and that a search for a permanent head coach will not start until after the upcoming season. Tressel was facing a five-game suspension and $250,000 fine for failing to report NCAA violations committed by his players. “After meeting with university officials, we agreed that it is in the best interest of Ohio State that I resign as head football coach,” Tressel said in a statement released by the university. “The appreciation that Ellen and I have for the Buckeye Nation is immeasurable.” On Dec. 23, 2010, the NCAA suspended quarterback Terrelle Pryor, running back Dan Herron, receiver DeVier Posey, offensive tackle Mike Adams and defensive end Solomon Thomas for five games for selling memorabilia and receiving improper benefits from Eddie Rife, owner of Fine Line Ink tattoo parlor. Linebacker Jordan Whiting also earned a one-game ban. OSU originally suspended Tressel for two games, but the coach later asked for his punishment to match that of his players. Fickell was to take over during Tressel’s absence. “We look forward to refocusing the football program on doing what we do best – representing this extraordinary university and its values on the field, in the classroom, and in life,” athletic director Gene Smith said in a statement. “We look forward to supporting Luke Fickell in his role as our football coach. We have full confidence in his ability to lead our football program.” Tressel compiled a 241-79 record in 25 years as a head coach at Youngstown State and OSU. He won four I-AA championships at Youngstown State. Tressel took over for John Cooper before the 2001 season. In his second year at OSU, the Buckeyes won the National Championship, beating a heavily favored Miami (Fla.) team, 31-24, in double overtime. He amassed a 106-22 mark at OSU, earning his 100th win Oct. 9, 2010, against Indiana. The Buckeyes won, or shared, the Big Ten title seven times under Tressel, who guided OSU to a 9-1 mark against Michigan during his tenure. OSU reached the National Championship game in 2007 and 2008, but lost to Florida and LSU, respectively.
For just the third time in more than a century of the Ohio State-Michigan rivalry and the first time since 1929, both teams will feature a first-year coach when the two teams meet on Saturday afternoon in Ann Arbor, Mich. Michigan hired Brady Hoke in January and OSU named Luke Fickell as the replacement for Jim Tressel in the spring. While neither Fickell nor Hoke have ever been a head coach in “The Game,” both have been assistants for their respective programs and have shown plenty of appreciation for the rivalry between the two schools. Fickell grew up in Columbus and played for the Buckeyes from 1992-1996. He has been a member of the coaching staff since 2000 and said he is well aware of what the annual game against Michigan means to people involved with the program. “It’s always something you remember,” Fickell said. “The people around here always remember it. That’s what they talk about. Right, wrong, or indifferent. You know that when you come here, you know when you sign up for this. You know that when you become a coach here, it doesn’t matter. That’s what you’re measured on. That’s what it’s going to be about.” Hoke, an assistant for the Wolverines from 1995-2002, has made it a point since returning to Michigan prior to this season to only refer to the Buckeyes simply as “Ohio,” never Ohio State. When asked if he was trying to send a message by doing that, Hoke told reporters during his weekly press conference Monday that there was no message behind it and that it is something he has always done. Fickell said he has never actually heard Hoke refer to the Buckeyes as “Ohio,” but that he is aware that it is something the Michigan coach is known for and “it is what it is.” “You know we all get our guys ready in different ways,” Fickell said. “Whether they get that from however (former OSU coaches Earl Bruce and Woody Hayes) used to not refer to the ‘team up north’ or whatever that is, hopefully it’s no disrespect to Ohio University. They are Ohio. “And we might refer to Michigan in different ways too,” Fickell said with a smile. Though Hoke was coach at Ball State from 2003-2008 and is very familiar with fellow MAC school Ohio University, he said he just refers to that team as the “Bobcats,” the school’s nickname. While Fickell and Hoke may disagree on what exactly to refer to each team as, it is clear both coaches have a great amount of respect for the traditions of the schools and view Michigan-Ohio State as one of the premier rivalries in sports. “The thing is it’s still a football game,” Fickell said. “It’s about a football game and there’s a million different stories, there’s a million different storylines. It’s not about me, it’s not about coach Hoke. It’s about the greatest rivalry in all of football, their team, our team, and the history and traditions.” Speaking at Big Ten media days in July, Hoke shared similar sentiments, saying “The Game” has never been about the coaches. “It’s always about those two great institutions,” Hoke said. “We have an utmost respect.” OSU carries a six-game winning streak into the game. Last season’s 37-7 win against Michigan on Nov. 27, at Ohio Stadium was vacated as part of OSU’s self-imposed penalties for NCAA infractions. Fickell said he doesn’t feel any pressure added pressure to continue the winning streak that Tressel began. “I mean, everybody’s going to point the finger from the time (Tressel) was here,” he said. “But it still comes down to the players. Yes, it’s understanding what the rivalry is all about. I think that’s why it’s been such a great tradition here.” Hoke agreed. “That’s what makes the whole week exciting,” Hoke said. “It makes it fun. Because you know at 12:07 or whenever we kick off here, there will be two teams on the field playing for the pride of their schools and the tradition of those programs and what it stands for. To me, that’s what makes it the greatest rivalry. “It’s fun. I mean, if you can’t get geared up for that and get goosebumps and all those things for that game, then you may not be human.” Kickoff between the Buckeyes (6-5, 3-4) and the Wolverines (9-2, 5-2) is scheduled for noon Saturday.
Almost two years after “Tattoo-Gate” shook Ohio State’s athletic department to its core, changes to the way it monitors violations are being implemented. But one official says no matter how good compliance may be, there might always be a chance that a player or coach slips through the cracks. In December 2010, a scandal surfaced that rocked Buckeye Nation, ultimately resulting in the resignation of former OSU football coach Jim Tressel, a bowl ban for the 2012 season and vacating the 2010 season. Five OSU football players were suspended for improperly receiving benefits in the form of tattoos in exchange for autographs and OSU memorabilia, and since what has come to be known as “Tattoo-Gate” has surfaced, OSU has experienced a compliance shift. In an 805-page report sent to the NCAA this August, the Buckeyes’ athletic compliance staff presented its plans to make itself more apt to handle and prevent a scandal like the one that made national headlines almost 24 months ago. The Buckeyes football team now faces preventative measures, some of which OSU athletics director Gene Smith said are a novelty. OSU football players will randomly be audited by compliance staff to ensure they still have all the memorabilia they’ve collected throughout their careers at OSU. “There’s time when you have to bring them in to certify that you’ve retained them and, or certify where they are,” Smith said in an exclusive interview with The Lantern on Oct. 3. “Because you may give them to your mom, you might have a divorce situation and your mom is somewhere else. We gotta certify that she’s got it. So we periodically do those spot checks. That’s an audit to make sure you still have the things that we gave you.” The process is entirely random, Smith said. “It could be tomorrow, so it’s just kinda like drug testing,” Smith said. Going forward, OSU will limit the opportunity for athletes to take home their memorabilia. Smith said OSU will store memorabilia for the players and give it to them when they leave the university. “We retain a lot of things, so we build a locker room in our equipment room,” Smith said. “So for certain jerseys and helmets, we keep those here until you graduate or your eligibility expires because, you know, somebody may leave and we give them their stuff.” Auditing, however, isn’t limited to memorabilia. Players’ cars are subject to the practice, too. “You have a car, you register that car with us,” Smith said. “We check it every now and then just to make sure there’s no change. “We’ll go over to the parking lot, walk around, check cars, check their numbers, things of that nature, just to make sure nothing’s changed or see if there’s any new cars that pop up.” OSU associate athletics director for compliance Doug Archie said the compliance office puts a sticker on registered cars. “You have to remember that parking lot is a public parking lot … so by putting the sticker in the car, we can easily identify a car that we already knew about,” Archie said. Smith said the university is very vigilant in checking cars. “We check them all out, just to be sure that nobody got a loaner that they shouldn’t have,” he said. Archie said while auditing cars is something they’ve “always done” to an extent, it’s being enhanced and performed more than before. Josephine Potuto, Nebraska’s faculty representative for the NCAA, said the process of auditing is a “necessary requirement of an effective compliance system.” Potuto, who spent the NCAA’s maximum nine years on the NCAA Division I Committee on Infractions, said institutions typically “do a pretty good job of educating student-athletes and staff and boosters and others about NCAA rules” in addition to “maintaining records that need to be maintained from student athletes and staff.” Where they don’t do as well, she said, is tracking the records for accuracy and following up with those who submitted the records. “Nobody expects any institution is going to be able to do a one-on-one, you know, running around after everything, checking-everything system,” she said. OSU’s increased focus on auditing, however, seems to be just a small part of a much larger renovation. OSU merged all of its compliance program – including athletics – into one system. The university also increased the athletics compliance staff from seven members to 12. Archie said some members of the staff focus on specific sports. The best example of this, arguably, is the addition of Brad Bertani, OSU’s assistant athletic director for compliance who was hired in March. Bertani, who was Tennessee’s associate athletics director for compliance since 2004, is assigned specifically to the Buckeyes’ football team and is paid $90,000 annually. “He handles all of their immediate compliance needs and he’s right there,” Archie said. “He’s housed in football and travels with them with the idea of them getting so familiar with him that they’ll just view him as an extension of their staff.” Bertani did not respond to The Lantern‘s request for comment. Archie said having five more compliance staff members allows them to “make each compliance staff member’s world smaller” with less sports to focus on and “help them to get to know the student-athletes better.” “Brad knows that whole team by face and by name and is able to interact with them and have down moments with them where they can share stuff and laugh,” Archie said. “I think that goes a long way to when they’re more comfortable with us, they’re more apt to ask questions, and that’s the biggest thing the additional staff members have done.” But Potuto said a close relationship is not something she would recommend. “It’s not that it can’t work, but for me, it’s something of a risk to have somebody assigned to a particular sport, because you can get too close to the sport,” Potuto said. Compliance’s role, she said, is “best maintained when the compliance people are officed with each other and working with each other.” “It doesn’t mean it can’t work, but as a structural matter,” Potuto said, “I’m more comfortable with putting something of a wall between compliance or academic services and individual sports.” That said, the consensus between Potuto and Archie is that OSU has effectively positioned itself better than before “Tattoo-Gate.” “I think we’re in a lot stronger place,” Archie said. “I think that we’re in a much better place than we were two years ago.” Potuto said the NCAA can only expect so much. “What the NCAA infractions committee has always said is you need reasonable compliance measures and you need to show that you’re doing reasonable outreach or effective stuff to assure that the compliance is adequate,” she said. “Bad apples can flip through the holes no matter how tiny the hole is. And everybody recognizes this.” While she said she doesn’t know OSU well enough to speak directly on the matter, Potuto said part of the battle is creating a culture of compliance among the students, staff, boosters and fans with “people wanting to do the right thing.” But no system is perfect. “Adam and Eve ate that apple; we don’t get perfection,” she said. “I think it would be foolish of me to say that (a scandal) could never happen either at Ohio State or Nebraska or anywhere else.” The infractions committee, she said, looks for a university to have systems in place with “reasonably calculated” measures to deal with potential claims. Potuto said that’s the “best you can ask from any program.” “Nobody can control everybody,” Potuto said. “It doesn’t matter what your system is, somebody can get around it for a while.”
The march to a season with individual and team national title hopes starts Thursday for the No. 5 Ohio State wrestling team, as it travels to Davidson, N.C., for its first dual match of the season. The Buckeyes, which have made appearances at the Eastern Michigan Open on Nov. 3, the UB Invitational in Buffalo on Nov. 4 and the Michigan State Open on Nov. 11, will put their national ranking to the test against the Wildcats. And while OSU came in first place at the Buffalo Invitational, Buckeyes coach Tom Ryan said some early season inexperience is showing. “Obviously it depends which weight class you are talking about, but overall there’s a lot of work to be done and it’s a good thing it’s November and not March,” Ryan said. Some younger wrestlers, however, might be excited for the challenge. Redshirt freshman Kenny Courts, winner of the freshman and sophomore division of the 184-pound weight class at the Michigan State Open, is ready for the trip. “This is going to be a good experience, it’s good for growing,” Courts said. “By the end of the season I have a lot of experience and put it all together for a big tournament.” Davidson is a team that has already won three dual matches against Spartanburg Methodist College, Belmont Abbey and Anderson University. Philip Elias, a 125-pound sophomore, has one of Davidson’s best records this season, 5-2, and scored 5.5 team points for the Wildcats at the Wolfpack Open on Nov. 11. Redshirt senior Nikko Triggas, who placed fifth in the 125-pound weight class at the Michigan State Open, will be taking on Elias in the meet. “They are supposed to have a decent 125-pounder, so I’m not looking over anybody and just got to get prepared for the match,” Triggas said. Another Davidson wrestler is 184-pound junior Scott Patrick, who currently holds a 9-1 record. He placed fifth and scored 18 total team points at the Wolfpack Open. “Although Davidson doesn’t have the support we have from an athletic department standpoint, we know that the nice thing about wrestling is you can field three or four tough guys in a lineup of 10 people,” Ryan said. “So we are certainly not taking them lightly.” Ryan said the Buckeyes’ goals are the same as any other match. “We want to see guys wrestle hard, build leads, get out and score points from the bottom position, make sure we aren’t giving up any points from the riding position,” Ryan said. Another challenge both teams will face is a weigh-in process one hour before the match to see if the wrestlers are eligible at their respective weight classes. Triggas said one-hour weigh-ins are much more difficult than tournament style. “Tournament style there’s a two-hour weigh-in, you give your body a little more time to recover, you can cut weight a little bit easier,” Triggas said. “With a one-hour weigh-in, literally you step on the scale and (wrestle) one hour from then … your body is not ready at that point.” Ryan said the team is going to leave Thursday morning and drive more than six hours to Davidson, N.C., in a bus that will allow them to lie down and relax. They will arrive at the campus at about 3:30 p.m. and compete at 7 p.m. “It’ll be a challenging day for them in a lot of ways even before the competition. These guys are ready for it,” Ryan said. “Hopefully, for lack of a term, it’ll toughen them up a little bit.” The Buckeyes will then travel to Blacksburg, Va., on Friday for a match with No. 12 Virginia Tech at 7 p.m., and finish the week with their home opener versus Pittsburgh Sunday at St. John Arena at 2 p.m.
DAYTON – In the middle of an arena packed to the rafters with crazed fans standing anxiously, on a court with defenders eyeing him and teammates yelling for the ball, Aaron Craft remained calm. The score of the third-round NCAA Tournament game between No. 2 seed Ohio State and No. 10 seed Iowa State was tied, 75-75, with the shot clock off and the contest’s final seconds ticking down. Craft dribbled the ball just outside the right wing, with Georges Niang, a freshman forward, isolated on him. “Give me the ball!” shouted junior forward Deshaun Thomas, who clapped twice after screaming at his junior point guard from the top of the key. “I’m open! I’m open!” roared junior guard Lenzelle Smith Jr., who stood unguarded in the right corner. Craft waved them off. He had run the play coach Thad Matta drew up in the huddle – a pick-and-roll intended to free Thomas for an open look – but Iowa State doubled the junior forward, meaning a big man was left to defend OSU’s rosy-cheeked floor leader. “He made the right read. (Thomas) was going to have to catch it with his back to the basket. I was fine with it. I’ve said from day one, I’ll live with any decision that kid makes,” Matta said. Craft waited until the game clock reached three, dribbled hard to the 3-point line, rose up, and fired a shot. Swish. Following a late desperation heave from the Cyclones, that wouldn’t have counted if it had gone in, OSU had reached its fourth straight Sweet 16, upending Iowa State, 78-75, at the University of Dayton Arena Sunday afternoon. Craft, who scored 18 total points, received a hug from each of his teammates. The fans in attendance – most of whom were Buckeyes fans – cheered and jumped in jubilation. In a West Region where the No. 1, No. 3, No. 4 and No. 5 seeds had already been eliminated, OSU remained alive in its hunt for a second-consecutive Final Four berth. “I think it’s a great way to win like this. Every game can’t be a blowout. The fact that we won this game gives us a lot of momentum headed to LA,” said sophomore guard Shannon Scott. Waiting for the Buckeyes at the Staples Center in Los Angeles is No. 6 seed Arizona, a squad Matta called “loaded,” and “the best team on the West Coast.” For long stretches of the game Sunday, though, OSU’s spot in the West Region’s semi-finals was in serious doubt. The Cyclones jumped out to an early 7-2 lead, making the Buckeyes look flustered and nervous. OSU settled for contested jumpers on the offensive end and gave up open shots on defense. “Settle down,” Craft barked to his teammates. OSU fought back, going on a 12-2 run sparked by Scott’s play off the bench. The sophomore guard, however, was called for a technical foul after an and-one layup in transition when he tossed the basketball at an Iowa State defender. The Buckeyes’ momentum halted, and OSU scraped into halftime with a 38-36 lead. Out of the break, the Buckeyes looked like they had taken control of the contest. Sophomore forward LaQuinton Ross had a 10-point stretch midway through the final half, pushing OSU to a 69-56 lead with 6:04 remaining. “I think coming off the bench I have an advantage because I get to watch the pace of the game,” Ross said, who totaled 17 points. “I was able to come in the game and set a few screens for Aaron and get open.” Iowa State then rattled off 13 straight points and took the lead on a 3-pointer from the right corner by senior guard Tyrus McGee with 3:23 left. “Their coach had a great game plan with us, pinning us down with their bigs against the basket and getting their guards out,” Scott said. The Cyclones, who had four players in double figures, made 12 3-pointers on the day, including five from redshirt senior guard Korie Lucious, a transfer from Michigan State. “I think they’re probably the best 3-point shooting team we’ve ever played against,” Scott said. While the Buckeyes looked like they were wavering during Iowa State’s second-half run, the players insist they were not. One aspect of the game they did falter in, admittedly, was toughness. Iowa State out-rebounded OSU, 36-22, repeatedly getting second chance opportunities at the offensive end. “For a little segment there, they were the tougher team,” Smith said. OSU and Iowa State traded free throws and baskets in the game’s final minutes. Craft, the game’s hero, was at times the scapegoat for a potential loss, as he missed two critical free throws down the stretch. “I was just trying to stay focused and poised. I did some things down the stretch I normally don’t do,” Craft said. With 58 seconds left and the ball in the hands of Iowa State and the game tied, 75-75, Thomas did something he normally doesn’t do, too. This rare occurrence, however, benefited the Buckeyes, as the junior forward forced a Cyclones turnover, giving OSU the ball back. “People always talk about my defense, questioning it, but it was a great defensive stop,” Thomas said, who led OSU with 22 points. I was on (Niang), and they were running that play all game and they scored four points off of it. So I was like, I know they’re going to run this play, and they ran it. I saw a guy run up and I just went over there and got the ball and got the steal.” Craft got the ball and missed a jumper from the right wing, but Iowa State tipped the ball out of bounds. Following a timeout from Matta, Craft, with the confidence of his teammates, knocked down the game-winning shot. “As long as it wasn’t him on the free throw line at that point, I was like, ‘Man, he’s going to make that shot,’” Smith said with a smile. “Big-time players step up and make plays at the end of the game.” Craft’s reaction to the made bucket surprised one of his teammates. “When we made the shot, he didn’t even get excited. He was just like, ‘Play D! Play D!’” Thomas said. “That’s the thing about Craft, we love him, he works on and off the court, and you need a guy like that on your side.” OSU and Arizona will play Thursday at the Staples Center in Los Angeles with a spot in the Elite Eight on the line.
We’ve all made bad decisions. Remember your freshman year when you wore an Ohio State shirt, OSU hat, OSU lanyard and cargo shorts around campus every day? That was brutal. We knew you went here. Or remember that one time when you decided to participate in extracurricular activities a little too much and had to miss out on Mirror Lake Night because you needed to lie down early? It’s OK. We’ve all been there. Admitting you erred and moving on is the best course of action when you make mistakes. Thankfully for everyone involved with Big Ten football, Jim Delany, the conference’s commissioner, is finally making that realization about a mistake that most people recognized the moment it happened in 2011. Leaders and Legends was a galactic, humongous, fill-in-your-own-superlative-here failure. As if everyone wasn’t laughing at our brand of Midwestern football already, we had to pile on by trying to be “edgy” and “creative.” Instead, we came off as “hilarious” and “trying way too hard.” Honoring legends and building leaders, they said. This is completely dumb, I said. But good news, folks. With the recent ESPN.com report that the Big Ten has stopped huffing glue and come to its senses, deciding to change the names of its divisions to “East” and “West” for the 2014 season, we can finally be proud of our conference again. Not only are the names changing, ESPN is reporting the alignment is changing, too. Finally, and most notably, Michigan will be moving to OSU’s division. This is good news for two reasons. First, “The Game” will still mean something. Could you imagine both teams having their divisions locked up and resting their starters in the regular season to prevent injuries before meeting in the Big Ten title game? It would be a travesty, and it is possible under the current alignment. Also under the reported new alignment, a win against Michigan will mean more for OSU in preventing the Wolverines from becoming conference champions because divisional losses impact the standings more than cross-divisional ones. Ruining Michigan’s season twice as hard? Sign. Me. Up. I praise Delany for this. It takes a lot of guts to tell everyone, “Hey, I blew it the first time, but I’m fixing it now.” Don’t get me wrong, Delany still has made some huge errors (Rutgers and Maryland) but for the most part, he has improved the Big Ten tremendously. He added a football power in Nebraska. He made the Big Ten conference the land’s richest with a way-before-its-time TV network. No one remembers how much backlash he faced when he basically started the Big Ten Network from scratch before the 2007 season. No one thought a single conference could support a TV network. Now? The Pac-12, SEC and Big 12 have all followed suit. Big Ten football might still be lagging behind nationally, but hey, Delany’s vision has made the Big Ten the richest conference in the country. The Leaders and Legends experiment was horrifying. Delany was to blame. But, with the news that its three-year run is mercifully coming to a close next year, I can praise Delany again for coming to his senses. He listened to his conference’s fans and made the change. Good for him. Better for us. And don’t get me wrong, I like the names East and West, but I’d like to use this space to propose a different pair: Teams Decimated By Urban Meyer Often and Teams Decimated By Urban Meyer Less Often, But Still Often Enough. Has a good ring to it, eh? I guess we’ll have to wait until 2015 for that fix.
Freshman defensive lineman Joey Bosa (97) celebrates during a game against Northwestern Oct. 5 at Ryan Field. OSU won, 40-30.Credit: Shelby Lum / Photo editorFreshman defensive lineman Joey Bosa is listed as a starter ahead of sophomore defensive lineman Adolphus Washington on Ohio State’s most recent two-deep depth chart, released Tuesday.Bosa has filled in admirably for Washington, who injured his groin against San Diego State Sept. 7. The freshman from Florida has 16 tackles on the year, two sacks and recovered a fumble for a touchdown against Northwestern.Coach Urban Meyer said on the Big Ten teleconference Tuesday Washington was close to 100 percent healthy after hurting his ankle.Senior running back Carlos Hyde is also listed as a starter ahead of redshirt-senior Jordan Hall, who is coming off a joint issue in his knee that caused him to miss the Oct. 5 game against Northwestern. Meyer said Hall practiced Monday, and that he “could certainly complement” Hyde in the backfield. Meyer also mentioned getting Hall on the field on third downs.Hall is also listed as the starting kick returner with freshman running back Dontre Wilson for Saturday’s game.Senior wide receiver Corey “Philly” Brown is listed as the H-back for the offense in place of regular starter redshirt-senior Chris Fields, with Wilson backing him up. Brown was listed earlier in the season as a co-starter with junior Devin Smith at the X receiver position.The Buckeyes are scheduled to play Iowa Saturday at 3:30 p.m. at Ohio Stadium.