2014 NFL Preview The OnceProud NFC East

Editor’s Note: FiveThirtyEight is running a series of eight NFL previews, one division at a time, to highlight the numbers that may influence each team’s season. America’s favorite weekly soap opera is about to begin; get prepped.Philadelphia EaglesExpected wins (Using implied power ratings from Las Vegas point spreads): 8.5Playoff probability: 42 percent (30 percent to win the NFC East)Super Bowl win probability: 3 percentThe Eagles are defending NFC East champions, and were owners of the NFL’s third-best offense1According to Football Outsiders’ numbers. last season. They’re the division favorites in the eyes of Las Vegas’s preseason over/unders. Expectations have escalated compared to the mood before last season, when the Eagles were coming off a disastrous 4-12 campaign with an unproven, gimmicky coach.But there are also a number of red flags that traditionally portend a decline. First, there’s the Plexiglas Principle, an offshoot of reversion to the mean. It holds that teams making a large improvement from one year to the next tend to give back some of that progress the next season. Historically,2Looking only at NFL seasons with a 16-game schedule. teams like Philadelphia — which improved by six wins from 2012 to 2013 — declined by an average of 2.6 wins the following season.The Eagles also fueled their turnaround with one of the NFL’s best turnover margins, especially after Nick Foles took over as primary quarterback in week five. Foles had the third-lowest single-season interception percentage of any passer in NFL history last season. Turnovers and interceptions can be quite fickle, though. Individual interception percentages are notoriously random from season to season, and there’s almost no relationship3A correlation of 0.13. between a team’s per-game turnover differential from one season to the next.Foles had a low interception rate as a rookie, so the hope in Philadelphia is that he has a knack for avoiding mistakes. But even so, he’s not liable to repeat last year’s mere two-pick performance, and consequently the Eagles are unlikely to post a gaudy turnover margin again — especially after accounting once more for the Plexiglas Principle.4It can apply to component statistics like turnover margin, too, and the Eagles improved by a staggering 36 net turnovers from 2012 to 2013.And none of this even considers the self-inflicted loss of wide receiver DeSean Jackson. Or that 76 percent of historical players comparable to running back LeSean McCoy — Philadelphia’s best player a year ago — declined the following season. Or that the Eagles aren’t likely to stay as healthy this season.A drop-off of some sort may be all but inevitable. Fortunately for the Eagles, though, it’s also hard not to see them making another strong bid for the division title in the NFL’s most meh division — regression be damned.Dallas CowboysExpected wins: 8.3Playoff probability: 39 percent (29 percent to win the NFC East)Super Bowl win probability: 3 percentOver the past eight seasons, only four NFL teams5The New England Patriots, New Orleans Saints, Green Bay Packers and San Diego Chargers. have gotten better passing efficiency (as measured by the adjusted net yards per attempt index, or ANY/A+) from their primary quarterbacks6Defined as the player who led the team in dropbacks (attempts plus sacks) in a season. than the Dallas Cowboys. Since 2006, the average number of wins per season for the teams surrounding them on that list7Those with an ANY/A+ of at least 110. was 10.1. In the same period, though, the Cowboys have won just nine games per season. In fact, few teams have ever received such premium passing but won as infrequently as the Tony Romo-era Cowboys.8Since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger, only 10 teams posted fewer wins in an eight-year span with primary passers averaging an ANY/A+ of at least 115.For Dallas, the culprits are varied. The Cowboys’ defense has generally been inadequate, particularly since Jason Garrett succeeded Wade Phillips as head coach (the defense has allowed the fifth-most points and the highest ANY/A in the league since 2010). Injuries to Romo9He missed 14 starts over the last six seasons. have forced Jon Kitna, Brad Johnson, Kyle Orton and Stephen McGee to make emergency starts under center.10These don’t count toward the average above — except in the case of 2010, when a 38-year-old Kitna led the team in pass attempts. The effectiveness and health of the team’s ball-carriers have been wildly inconsistent from season to season.11Before ranking fifth in rushing defense-adjusted value over average (DVOA) a year ago, they’d finished 24th and 27th on the ground in 2012 and 2011, respectively. And Dallas’s special teams have usually been mediocre as well.Whatever the reason, the Cowboys are currently staring at the prospect of another season spent with successful passing, but a modest win-loss record. (Las Vegas’s preseason over/under win totals have Dallas winning between seven and eight games in 2014.) And that’s if they’re lucky — according to Football Outsiders’ KUBIAK forecast system, the 34-year-old Romo projects for a career-worst12Twelfth place among quarterbacks in DVOA. passing year this season.New York GiantsExpected wins: 7.8Playoff probability: 33 percent (23 percent to win the NFC East)Super Bowl win probability: 2 percentEven though the New York Giants finished the 2013 campaign with a disappointing 7-9 record (snapping a streak of eight consecutive seasons with at least a .500 mark), it doesn’t seem like that long since Eli Manning was slinging the ball to Mario Manningham, Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks in the 2011 playoffs … does it?And while it’s relatively uncommon for Super Bowl champions to drop below .500 within two years,13New York is just the seventh ex-champ to do so since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger. even those teams that do tend to turn things around the third season after their championships. Five out of seven returned to better than .500 that year, averaging 10.6 wins.However, those numbers assume a certain amount of continuity between the Super Bowl-winning version of a team and its incarnation three seasons later. For most champs, that’s a safe assumption: Joe Montana was a major contributor to the 1981 and 1984 49ers; ditto Mike Webster for the 1978 and 1981 Steelers. But these Giants are the exception. Just three seasons later, they’re carrying over as few contributors from their last Super Bowl roster as just about any ex-champ in decades.We can quantify this using Pro-Football-Reference’s Approximate Value (AV) statistic, which attempts to generate a single numerical value representing the quality of any player’s season, regardless of position. (AV isn’t perfect by any means, but it is designed for big-picture studies like this, where we need to group players according to their general contributions.) We don’t yet know what kind of AV totals will be produced by members of the Giants in 2014, but we do know how much they produced in 2011 — and how many of those players will still be on the roster this season.By that measure, this year’s Giants are set to return only 34.6 percent of the AV generated by their 2011 roster. That’s the third-smallest return among Super Bowl champions since 1970.Manning, Cruz and Manningham (and edge rusher Jason Pierre-Paul) are all back, but that’s just about it in terms of the Giants’ major contributors by AV in 2011. Nicks and running back Ahmad Bradshaw, both of whom tore through opposing defenses during New York’s playoff run, are gone — along with 15 other members of the team’s starting lineup from Super Bowl XLVI.Remember how five of the seven ex-champs who were below .500 two years later bounced back with winning records in the third year? The two that didn’t were the 1970 Colts and the 1991 Redskins, both of whom lost about as much AV three years after their Super Bowl as the Giants have. It wouldn’t be a shock if Big Blue is bound for the same losing destiny in 2014, just three seasons after hoisting the Lombardi Trophy.Washington RedskinsExpected wins: 7.4Playoff probability: 26 percent (18 percent to win the NFC East)Super Bowl win probability: 1 percentQuarterbacks are usually the focus of every team’s attention, but that’s particularly the case in Washington, where the fate of the Redskins’ entire franchise seems to rest on Robert Griffin III and his surgically repaired right knee. When Griffin was brilliant as a rookie in 2012, Washington went 10-6 (its first 10-win season in seven years) and won the NFC East for the first time since 1999. But with Griffin recovering from injury a year ago — and evidently not his usual self because of it — the Redskins collapsed to 3-13. It doesn’t take an insider who understands of the game of football to see that Washington will likely rise or fall this year on the basis of Griffin’s play.If the Redskins are counting on Griffin to duplicate (or exceed) his performance of two years ago, they might need a reality check. It’s very possible that Griffin will never again reach that level of play — and it has little to do with his injury.Griffin’s 2012 season was a masterpiece. He led the NFL in yards per attempt, and tied Tom Brady for the league’s lowest interception rate. He also led all quarterbacks in rushing yards and yards per carry. Remember all of those early-2000s articles about how a new wave of dual-threat quarterbacks — strong-armed and accurate, with a sprinter’s speed — would revolutionize football? That was Griffin, at his best, in 2012.It also could never last. On a practical level, the more RGIII played, the more defenses could prepare for him (the dreaded “year of tape”). And sure enough, in the first month of the 2013 season, opposing defenses had already started catching up to the read-option scheme that Washington had used to such great effect with Griffin in 2012. There was also the matter of a microscopic interception percentage that was primed to regress to the mean.We should also consider how exceptional Griffin’s statistical portfolio really was. According to Pro-Football-Reference’s Approximate Value (AV), only 35 quarterback seasons since 1950 were better than Griffin’s 2012 campaign. It was a once-in-a-career type of performance, perhaps literally.We can predict how likely a quarterback is to surpass his existing career high in AV, based on his age and how great he was in his best season to date. Here’s the probability of a QB like Griffin — with a previous single-season career high of 18 AV — topping that in a subsequent season as he gets older:If history is any guide, the odds of Griffin ever surpassing his 2012 season weren’t high (only about 1 in 3) even before his knee injury. The problem with such rare performances is that they’re the product of both skill and luck,14Even if just in the sense of landing in the right scheme at the right time. which means they aren’t likely to be repeated — no matter how good the player is. read more

Continue reading

NYC Reverses Itself and Cancels NY Marathon on Sunday

Mayor Michael Bloomberg must have been listening to the chorus of detractors out there decrying his decision to go through with Sunday’s New York Marathon because city officials and marathon organizers late Friday afternoon decided to cancel the marathon after all.According to the New York Times, officials were swayed by the growing opposition to the marathon, realizing the fallout would be too great if they went forward in a city that is still reeling and devastated from Hurricane Sandy.Bloomberg had cited the decision by former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani to hold the marathon after 9/11 as his guide, saying the marathon would provide much needed morale and economic boosts to the city.“The Marathon has been an integral part of New York City’s life for 40 years and is an event tens of thousands of New Yorkers participate in and millions more watch,” he said in a statement Friday evening. “While holding the race would not require diverting resources from the recovery effort, it is clear that it has become the source of controversy and division.”“We would not want a cloud to hang over the race or its participants, and so we have decided to cancel it,” he added. “We cannot allow a controversy over an athletic event — even one as meaningful as this — to distract attention away from all the critically important work that is being done to recover from the storm and get our city back on track.”The marathon has been held every year since 1970.Perhaps the race became doomed when many runners started speaking out against the idea to move forward with it. Finally Bloomberg and Mary Wittenberg, director of the marathon, succumbed to reason.The controversy came as the death toll from Sandy increased to 99, as emergency workers continued to slosh their way through flooded homes looking for survivors and millions of people remain without power in the Northeast. Of the 39 people the storm has killed in New York City, almost half of whom were in Staten Island, the borough hardest hit. In Staten Island, rescue workers yesterday found the bodies of two boys, ages 2 and 4, who were swept away from their mother’s arms Monday night after the car they were driving was swamped by flood waters.According to the New York Road Runners, which organizes the marathon, the event would have brought $340 million to the city. The club also said yesterday that it would donate at least $1 million, or $26.20 for each of the more than 40,000 runners expected to participate, to aid New Yorkers affected by Sandy. In addition, the Rudin Family, one of the founding members of the marathon, said it would donate $1.1 million and the ING Foundation said it would give $500,000. read more

Continue reading

Rest Wont Help The Cavs — And They Wont Need Any Help

To say the Cleveland Cavaliers and Toronto Raptors have taken different paths to the NBA Eastern Conference Finals would be quite the understatement. The Cavs easily swept their first two series, against the Pistons and Hawks; the Raptors were pushed to seven games in each of theirs, with the Pacers and Heat. Toronto played its last game this past Sunday; Cleveland last played the Sunday before that. As a result, LeBron & Co. have an enormous advantage in the rest department heading into Game 1 at home Tuesday night. But will it help the Cavs much? Don’t bank on it.The Cavs already enter the series as heavy favorites: Our Elo-based forecast gives them a 74 percent chance of prevailing. And the seven-day rest differential over the Raptors is tied for second among the 230 playoff series occurring in the second round or later since 1984, when the league launched the 16-team playoff format. (The largest difference in time off was nine days, in the 2004 Pacers-Heat series.)Such a long layoff for one team and a tight turnaround for the other can spin either way — rest or rust — but there isn’t any statistical evidence that inequalities in rest between series help or harm teams in the playoffs.We looked at this a couple of ways. First, if either rust or exhaustion is going to have an effect, it’s most likely to come in Game 1 of a new series. Using both teams’ pre-series Elo ratings (FiveThirtyEight’s pet method of estimating a team’s strength at a given moment), we can calculate expected point differentials for those opening games and then compare them to the games’ actual scoring margins. Teams that got more days off than their opponent did not do better than expected in these Game 1s, in terms of their expected point margins; any benefit of extra rest wasn’t statistically significant. But that’s just looking at Game 1s. What about the whole series? As a second pass at the question, we used a logistic regression — a nifty statistical tool for examining outcomes such as wins and losses — to test whether the difference in rest days between the two teams had any impact on the series outcome, after accounting for the series’ Elo-based forecast. The series projection had major significance in predicting who went on to win — no surprise there. But the differential between teams in rest days was not a statistically significant factor, just as in our analysis of Game 1s.But smoking out relationships between rest and rust and the outcome of a series overlooks the most important factor: the quality of the teams. A breakdown of the average differential in Elo between the two teams, sorted by difference in the number of days off between series, shows that better teams are more likely to close out their series quickly, and worse teams that do win are more likely to do so in a longer series.For the Cavs-Raptors series, what really matters is not Cleveland’s long vacation nor Toronto’s heavy workload, but the simple fact that the Cavs are the better team. Rest was never going to change that.Check out our NBA playoff predictions. read more

Continue reading

DolphinsBills Is The Game To Watch In Week 16

Denver17%42%7%35– Baltimore28143824– Buffalo1022– Houston58487729– Tennessee4542465– Only teams with a playoff swing of at least 2 percentage points based on the game outcome shown Buffalo1022– Houston5857592– CHANCE OF MAKING PLAYOFFS Week 16 is a multicultural NFL blowout, with 12 games scheduled for the 24th — the first night of Hanukkah1Hanukkah starts at sundown, which varies by location. The 4 p.m. slot of games will overlap with the start of the holiday for most U.S. viewers (save the West Coast, Alaska and Hawaii), while the Bengals-Texans game will take place at least partially at night for all U.S. viewers. — two games scheduled for Christmas Day, and Monday Night Football scheduled for the first night of Kwanzaa. But which of these festive games actually matter?For the last month, we’ve been using the model behind our 2016 NFL predictions to calculate how much each team’s playoff chances “swing” depending on the outcome of each game. For example, we currently give Washington a 25 percent chance of making the playoffs. If they beat Chicago this week, we project those chances will increase to 40 percent (independent of other games). If they lose, their chances drop to 1 percent.2Our NFL predictions are based on 100,000 simulations of the rest of the season and are updated after every game ends. In the simulations in which Washington beats Chicago, they make the playoffs 40 percent of the time. In simulations where they lose, they make the playoffs 1 percent of the time. But it’s unlikely that Washington’s playoff probabilities will be exactly 40 percent or exactly 1 percent at the end of Week 16, because the team’s chances depend on the outcome of several games, not just their own. That’s a 39 percentage point swing! By doing this same math for every matchup and factoring in how each team’s resulting record will affect others’ playoff odds, we can find out which games are the most impactful.But before we get to this week’s key matchups, let’s take a moment to acknowledge the Carolina Panthers’ preposterous playoff path. At 6-8, the defending NFC champions are still technically alive. Using the game-selection feature in our NFL predictions, we figured out what they need to have happen to snag a wild-card slot: The NFC playoff picture basically splits into four groups. The Cowboys and Seahawks have clinched. The Giants and Falcons have all but clinched. The Vikings, Saints and Panthers, while not mathematically eliminated, are done. That leaves four pretty good teams — Detroit, Green Bay, Washington and Tampa Bay — competing for two playoff spots. The playoff chances of all four will swing dramatically based on the results of this game. Denver1782113– CHANCE OF MAKING PLAYOFFS Green Bay57506313– Pittsburgh9388968– Indianapolis3176– Baltimore28203111– Pittsburgh has won five straight, which makes this AFC North matchup not quite the “win or go home” Christmas blockbuster it was shaping up to be a few weeks ago. A loss is very survivable for the Steelers, who face the currently winless Browns at home in Week 17 and would likely improve to 10-6. The Ravens are much more in need of a win, and this will become an elimination game for them if Miami beats Buffalo on Saturday. Denver1772417– Only teams with a playoff swing of at least 2 percentage points based on the game outcome shown Minnesota3066– Houston5856593– 2. Tampa Bay (8-6) vs. New Orleans (6-8) — 121 total ‘swing’ points Only teams with a playoff swing of at least 2 percentage points based on the game outcome shown 3. Baltimore (8-6) vs. Pittsburgh (9-5) — 108 total ‘swing’ points Kansas City>99_971003– 1. Miami (9-5) vs. Buffalo (7-7) — 129 total ‘swing’ points AFFECTED TEAMCURRENTIF TB WINSIF NO WINSSWING Pittsburgh937410026– Pittsburgh9396924– Tennessee4542474– AFFECTED TEAMCURRENTIF TEN WINSIF JAX WINSSWING CHANCE OF MAKING PLAYOFFS That’s right, Carolina’s path to the playoffs requires a tie. It could happen in either Week 16 or 17, but a final record of 7-7-2 for Washington is the same as 8-8 for standings purposes, and a five-way tie between Carolina, Green Bay, Tampa Bay, Minnesota and Washington would break to the Panthers due to their 7-5 NFC record.3It goes without saying that this probably isn’t going to happen. We currently give Washington a 1 in 1,000 chance of finishing with a loss and a tie, and that’s just part of what Carolina needs. A four-way tie where Washington finishes 7-8-1 would eliminate Carolina, as would a six-way tie where the Saints also go 8-8 or a five-way tie that included the New Orleans but not Washington.So there’s a chance! The Colts, Vikings, Bills and Saints are also near elimination but still have less-outlandish paths to the playoffs — go explore them for yourself on our NFL predictions page. The five biggest games of Week 16 are below. Atlanta9694973– CHANCE OF MAKING PLAYOFFS Miami55%92%29%64– Houston5855605– Detroit77658722– Tennessee45%59%19%40– Only teams with a playoff swing of at least 2 percentage points based on the game outcome shown AFFECTED TEAMCURRENTIF BAL WINSIF PIT WINSSWING What’s up with Miami? The Dolphins have an average offense and an average defense, and they’ve outscored their opponents this year by a single point (315 to 314). And yet, at 9-5, they’re just a few game outcomes away from the playoffs. If they win in Buffalo, their chances rise to 92 percent; add a Denver loss in Kansas City and they clinch a wild-card spot. If the Dolphins lose this game — and they’re currently 4-point underdogs — their playoff probabilities plummet to 29 percent. No team has a larger potential swing this week. 4. Tennessee (8-6) vs. Jacksonville (2-12) — 83 total ‘swing’ points Kansas City>99_981002– 5. Denver (8-6) vs. Kansas City (10-4) — 80 total ‘swing’ points CHANCE OF MAKING PLAYOFFS Denver1716192– Only teams with a playoff swing of at least 2 percentage points based on the game outcome shown AFFECTED TEAMCURRENTIF DEN WINSIF KC WINSSWING Miami55416019– Tampa Bay42%74%15%60– Baltimore28%67%14%53– Tennessee4543462– AFFECTED TEAMCURRENTIF MIA WINSIF BUF WINSSWING Playoff longshots going into Week 14, the Titans have pulled off huge back-to-back wins over the Chiefs and Broncos. But the Texans have kept pace — eking out narrow victories against the mediocre Colts and Jaguars — and still would win the AFC South if the season ended today. This isn’t a must-win game for Tennessee, but if they lose to the Jaguars and the Texans beat the Bengals, a division title will be out of reach, and their playoff chances would drop to just 3 percent. Washington25163215– The Broncos are close to blowing it. The defending Super Bowl champions started the season 4-0 but have fallen victim to an underperforming offense and a hard schedule, losing every tough matchup (Raiders, Chiefs, Titans and Patriots) they’ve had since Week 9. They get a rematch with the Chiefs in Kansas City on Christmas Day. If either the Dolphins or Ravens win, this becomes an elimination game for Denver.Check out our latest NFL predictions. read more

Continue reading

Here We Go Again The Cavaliers And Warriors Part IV

Embed Code More: Apple Podcasts | ESPN App | RSS | Embed Welcome to The Lab, FiveThirtyEight’s basketball podcast. On Tuesday’s show (May 29, 2018), Neil, Kyle and Chris discuss the end of the conference finals and preview a familiar NBA Finals. They cover the similarities between the collapses by Boston and Houston, discuss what to make of Houston’s season now that it’s over and ask whether the Cavaliers have any chance against the Warriors.The Lab will be back with another episode later this week. In the meantime, keep an eye on FiveThirtyEight’s NBA predictions, which are updated after every game. By Neil Paine, Chris Herring and Kyle Wagner read more

Continue reading

Ohio State mens soccer preview No 18 Buckeyes open with two games

Ohio State sophomore Marcus McCrary (19) dribbles the ball through a group of Michigan players during a soccer game at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium on Nov. 4, 2015. OSU won 3-1. Credit: Lantern File PhotoThe Ohio State Men’s Soccer team will begin its season this Friday, Aug. 26 at 7 p.m. as they take on the Virginia Tech Hokies at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium.The first regular season game comes as part of the 11th-annual Bert and Iris Wolstein Classic.  The No. 18 Buckeyes will conclude the weekend-long tournament at home against No. 13 UC Santa Barbara on Sunday, Aug. 28 at 7 p.m. “The guys are excited to get started,” said coach John Bluem. “These preseasons are long and difficult. The guys just want to have a chance to play games that are meaningful and to play here in our stadium where we were very successful last year. We are all looking forward to the opportunity.”The Buckeyes are coming off a Big Ten championship season in which the team finished with a 13-7-3 record (5-2-1 in conference), making it to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament where they lost to future national champion Stanford. Seven starters and 12 letter winners will be returning from last year’s team, including four of their top scorers – Yaw Amankwa, Danny Jensen, Abdi Mohamed, and Christian Soldat. On offense, the four combined for 16 goals and 16 assists in the 2015 season. “We got a lot of new players. We are going to have six new starters or something like that,” senior defender Austin Bergstrom said. “UC Santa Barbara and Virginia Tech are two good teams so it is going to be a good test right off the bat. Hopefully we come out with two wins.”Virginia Tech is coming off a 2015 campaign in which they finished 5-9-3 (0-5-3 in the ACC). They went 2-0 this year in preseason exhibition play, recording wins over East Tennessee State and James Madison. The Hokies are lead by captains Alessandro Mion, Andre Thomas, and Ben Lundgaard. Mion, a redshirt senior defender, was part of a Hokie defense that produced seven shutouts and allowed only 22 goals in the 2014 season. Last season, Mion was fourth on the team in points, assists and shots. He appeared in 11 games, starting 10 of them. Thomas, a redshirt senior midfielder, will be in his third year as captain. He started all but one game last season playing 1,515 minutes for the Hokies. Lundgaard, the junior goalkeeper, made 60 saves in 16 starts a year ago which was good enough for a .732 save percentage and 1.373 goals against average. Through the course of the season he faced 178 shots and tallied three shutouts. “Traditionally [the ACC] is one of the best conferences for soccer in the country so I am expecting some really talented attackers,” senior defender Tyler Kidwell said. “It is going to be a tough game, but I think we had a good day of training today so I think we will be ready to go.”On Sunday, OSU takes on No. 13 UC Santa Barbara at 7 p.m. in the finale of the four-team classic.Coming off a season in which the Gauchos finished with a 14-6-2 record, UCSB coach Tim Vom Steeg is aiming to repeat as victors of the Big West North Division. UCSB is led by senior striker Nick DePuy. The Big West Offensive Player of the Year led the NCAA in 2015 with 15 goals in the regular season, eight of which came as game winners. The Gauchos are undefeated all time in matches when DePuy has scored (16-0-4). While players and coaches alike are excited for the season to begin, they know the road ahead will not be an easy one. “People aren’t going to just walk in here and lie over and die because we are the Ohio State Buckeyes,” Bluem said. “ We are going to have to earn everything we get.” read more

Continue reading

End of the road Ohio State slips out of NCAA Tournament with

Junior center Trey McDonald (55) covers his face as he sits on the side of the court following the game. OSU lost to Dayton, 60-59, at First Niagara Center March 20. Credit: Ritika Shah / Asst. photo editorBUFFALO, N.Y. — Just when you thought the Buckeyes had it, they didn’t.Up and down, at some points energized and others lethargic against No. 11-seed Dayton, the No. 6-seed Ohio State men’s basketball team found themselves in the driver’s seat with 17 seconds left in a second round matchup of the NCAA Tournament.Team leader and senior guard Aaron Craft had just — as he so often has throughout his career — somehow contorted his body around a defender in the lane and flicked his left wrist to score and give his team a 59-58 lead.“(Dayton had) been playing me to my right hand all game, so (I) went back to my left, saw an opening. Just tried to get it up on the glass and it went in for me,” Craft said after the game.Then, after a timeout by the Flyers and a tough leaner in the lane by redshirt-senior guard Vee Sanford later, Craft had one last-ditch effort to save his team again.But as his shot fell to the floor at the First Niagara Center and the buzzer sounded, reality began to set in.The Buckeyes — and coach Thad Matta — wouldn’t be going to the Sweet Sixteen as they had the past four consecutive years.“If you don’t write that article on the last play of the game, you don’t know basketball,” Matta said in the locker room after his team’s 60-59 loss to the Flyers. “Guy hit a tough shot, that’s college basketball. We get a shot, it doesn’t go in.”“I didn’t shoot it hard enough. And that’s how our season’s gone,” Craft said. “We’ve been right there, 10 times. And this is just another one of those … we were right there and couldn’t do it.”The Buckeyes (25-10, 12-9) tallied the first five points of the game against the Flyers (24-10, 11-7), but found themselves trailing, 21-15, five seconds after the midway point in the first half.Dayton — like many others have before them while playing OSU this year — came with more energy to earn a 33-30 advantage at halftime. Just as they did against Purdue and Nebraska last week in the Big Ten Tournament, the Buckeyes sleepwalked their way through parts of the game Thursday.Only this time, they couldn’t get over the hump.“That has kind of been the deal. You saw when we went on the 10-0 run, what got us our points was our defense and as I’ve said all, all from day one, this is a team that puts a lot of pressure on our defense every single possession,” Matta said. “It’s one of those where we’d have spurts where we’d get in some flows, but it wasn’t enough.”The lead changed hands nine times in the game’s final 10:23, but ultimately it was the team with less NCAA Tournament experience — Dayton’s roster had played in a combined four NCAA Tournament games prior to Thursday, combined to 22 for OSU’s — that prevailed.“At this part of the season, you would think that we would know what to do in those types of situations,” junior forward LaQuinton Ross said of the late-game swings. “Especially being here before, in the NCAA Tournament, you would think that they knew and unfortunately that didn’t happen for us.”Ross — OSU’s leading scorer on the season — finished with just 10 points, five below his average. Junior forward Sam Thompson led the way with a game-high 18 for OSU, while Craft finished with 16 in his final game in the Scarlet and Gray.“It’s a bitter feeling. You don’t want to send your seniors out on a note like this,” Thompson said. “But I love them to death, I wish them the best of luck in their future endeavors and they’ll go down as having two of the best careers that Ohio State has ever seen.”OSU’s other senior guard, Lenzelle Smith Jr., continued his recent tough stretch of games against the Flyers, scoring just six points. Smith Jr. failed to score in double figures in his last five games as a Buckeye.“This is definitely hard, I just — for the type of career me and Aaron had, it hurts that much more to end it like this,” Smith Jr. said after the loss. “It caps it off, this is not a showing of what we have done for four years and it sucks.”It is clear something was off this entire season for OSU, even with it rising as high as No. 3 in the rankings early in the year. But that was before Big Ten play began, and the Buckeyes finished with only 10 conference wins in the regular season — the first time they’ve done that since 2008-09.“If anything, we’ll look at this and put ourselves in positions of understanding what it takes to win on a consistent basis,” Matta said. “It’s not just putting on a uniform that says Ohio State, it’s about going out and getting the job done.” read more

Continue reading

Opinion Ray Rices actions were unacceptable but provide lesson for society

Then-Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice, right, and his wife, Janay, made statements to the news media May 5, at the Under Armour Performance Center in Owings Mills, Md., regarding his assault charge for knocking her unconscious in a New Jersey casino. On Sept. 8, Rice was let go by the Ravens after a video surfaced from TMZ showing the incident.Credit: Courtesy of MCTWhen my eyes first saw the video of Ray Rice slugging his then-fiancée with a vicious left hook, knocking her to the floor of that elevator, I thought not of the NFL.Instead, I thought of the women in my life — my mother, my sister, my aunts and my grandmother.I imagined them falling to the ground, unconscious after a man — any man — hit them the way Rice hit his fiancée.Vitriol coursed through my veins just imagining this hypothetical situation, in which a faceless, nameless man hit one of the women I love so dearly.Then something else came to mind.This wasn’t a random woman in the middle of the street that Rice knocked out. This was a woman who Rice, supposedly, loves, and has since married.They even have a daughter together, so I would hope that he loves her, but after watching that video, I’m somewhat unsure.How on earth could Rice — no matter how drunk, how angry or how out of his right frame of mind he was for any given reason — hurt a woman that he truly, wholeheartedly loves so much?It baffled me.I then thought of his daughter.How could a sweet, innocent child be raised well by a man who beat the woman who birthed her?Another question unanswered.Then, and only then, my thoughts turned to the NFL.Clearly, it would do something about this, and later it did by announcing Rice would be suspended indefinitely from the league.That was a no-brainer, which is why I spent so little time thinking about it.The NFL was given a second chance to right its wrong following the initial two-game suspension Rice got in July and made the necessary move.If there is indeed “no room” or “no tolerance” for domestic violence against women in the NFL, then the league needed to prove it, and what better way than to essentially kick out the most egregious example?Again, the NFL wasn’t my main concern, as it was so blatantly clear that the removal of Rice was the move it needed to make.Instead, my thoughts turned again, this time to the family of Rice and the family of his wife.Do they still they support the relationship between the two, following this?How did they feel as they watched their daughter, or daughter in-law, or sister or friend, fall unconscious to the floor?How could Rice’s teammates and his coaches have — even for a second — respected him enough to want him to rejoin the team?Again, these questions might go unanswered.With all of these unanswered hypotheticals festering in my brain, here is what I do know.Things are much easier said than done.It’s easier to say, “I’d never hit a woman,” than to be faced with a circumstance, in one way or another, that requires the mindset necessary to avoid doing so. My point is that I think there are many men who don’t have the self-control necessary to avoid becoming “victims of the moment.”There are men who habitually beat women and do so with no remorse. Those men are the scum of the earth.I don’t believe Rice was one of those men.Rather, I believe Rice was one of those “victims of the moment” and will forever be rightfully vilified for his actions.My hope is that men all over the world take Rice as an example.While the reasons for not hitting a woman have been seemingly etched in stone since the beginning of time, let Rice and his actions be added to the list.I hope Rice’s actions force men to take a long, hard look at themselves beneath the “I would never hit a woman” layer and ask themselves, “Would I ever hit a woman?”The answer in most cases would be no, but maybe those who are unsure, or not completely solid in their answers, should work toward the point.It’s easy to dismiss this story, call Rice “scum” and move on.I’d rather we, as a society, take a deep look at this and use it to our advantage.Rather than to dismiss it, use it.Use it, when we find ourselves in that moment of anger, that moment of unclear mind, just as Ray Rice did, to avoid the violence, not only to women, but to children or other men as well.Rice was wrong and because he was wrong, maybe next time we won’t have to be. read more

Continue reading

Football Injured JT Barrett leaves many questions unanswered for Ohio State offense

Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett helped off the field in the third quarter of the Buckeyes’ game against Michigan Saturday. Credit: Jack Westerheide | Photo EditorThe knee injury to quarterback J.T. Barrett in the third quarter of Ohio State’s game against Michigan on Saturday left the Buckeye offense in a state of uncertainty. But redshirt freshman Dwayne Haskins stepped up and drove the Buckeyes to victory in their 31-20 win.Head coach Urban Meyer listed Barrett as probable for the Big Ten championship game against No. 5 Wisconsin, but much about his situation is still to be determined. He did not practice Sunday, and Meyer said he did not know much about the injury to his starting quarterback.“I don’t want to pretend that I know I’ve dealt with it before, but it’s a cartilage that once it comes out of the area — I shouldn’t even — I don’t know what the hell I’m talking about,” Meyer said Monday.More concerning for Ohio State is that Meyer said it’s too early to tell if the injury will affect Barrett’s mobility, a key aspect of his game, and that he will know more about Barrett’s limitations later this week after he practices.What has always made Barrett such a weapon for Ohio State is his ability to be a key contributor through the air and on the ground. He is not known for his ability to make outstanding passes, but his running ability adds an additional threat to his game. Barrett is second on the team in rushing yards with 672 on 130 carries and has nine of the Buckeyes’ 31 rushing touchdowns.An injury to the knee brings up several potential concerns for Barrett. First, it puts into question whether Barrett can run effectively. If the knee causes him pain, it could threaten plans for option- and designed runs.Second, if the Buckeyes think Barrett is healed enough, they could trust in him to run the ball only for him to be injured in a more serious way against Wisconsin should he be tackled on a carry. Meyer said after Saturday’s game that he thought Barrett was going to be healthy enough to play, and it was on a run by Barrett that he injured his knee. “We were worried he wasn’t going to be able to [play],” Meyer said Saturday. “He’s so tough, he went out there and played, and obviously we didn’t do very well and then we got going and then tied things up at 14.”Much of what will determine Barrett’s mobility and his potential to play will come down to practice this week. Meyer did not say what the practice plan for Barrett this week was and did not say whether Barrett is going to be full-go for practice.The only thing Meyer knows at this point is Haskins will be seeing additional reps in practice and will be essentially splitting time with Barrett. Meyer said he was impressed by Haskins against Michigan, primarily the comfort he displayed in a tough environment and against one of the nation’s best defenses. The performance by the second-year quarterback gave Meyer some comfort, should Haskins need to play.But Meyer qualified that comfort by saying it depended on the situation and implied he would not want to throw Haskins into a tough situation unless he absolutely needed to use him.“I mean, that’s an option,” Meyer said. “But the comforting and more, almost hate saying comfort. It’s the confidence. Because you’ve seen it.”Should Haskins be required to step in and see meaningful time for Ohio State Saturday, he will provide the Buckeyes with a completely different offensive look. He is not the dual-threat quarterback Barrett is, but his pocket-passing style and big arm offer the offense more of a vertical threat. It could even potentially give Ohio State an advantage because Wisconsin might not be prepared for such a drastically different style of quarterback.“We’re not going to try to play guessing games,” Wisconsin head coach Paul Chryst said on a teleconference on Sunday.  “We believe [Barrett] is going to play.”That is not the ideal situation for the Buckeyes. In 2014, Ohio State was down to no one else but a redshirt sophomore quarterback in Cardale Jones, who had a similar profile as Haskins, and it worked out. But relying on an inexperienced, young quarterback in a critical make-or-break game is not a situation the Buckeyes would like to be in again. If Barrett is healthy enough to play, he will. But his health will determine more than just the starting quarterback. It will determine how much the Buckeyes are able to do offensively and if they will need to change their game plan.The health of Barrett will leave a bevy of questions unanswered for the remainder of the week. Those questions will not be answered until kickoff Saturday. read more

Continue reading

Football Ohio State finds offensive rhythm going into Big Ten opener

Ohio State acting head coach Ryan Day prepares to lead the Buckeyes onto the field prior to the game against Oregon State game on Sept. 1 in Ohio Stadium. Ohio State won 77-31. Credit: Casey Cascaldo | Photo EditorGoing into the 2018 season opener against Oregon State, offensive coordinator and acting head coach Ryan Day said he was not going to change the offense with redshirt sophomore quarterback Dwayne Haskins. However, it seemed as though many viewed Haskins as more of an “anti-J.T. Barrett.” While Barrett excelled in his running ability and precision in the run-pass option game, Haskins thrives in the pocket, being known to move the ball downfield with his arm rather than his legs. Among these differences, Haskins and Barrett do have something in common: accuracy. Describing Haskins as a “rhythm passer,” Day had to form an offense that took his new quarterback’s attributes and paired it with the signature Ohio State offense. With that, Day prepared the team during the offseason to play with increased tempo, running a no-huddle style offense, all to the benefit of the new quarterback behind center. “For a young quarterback, at times, you get a feel for does it stress him out or does he feel more comfortable in that environment,” Day said. “We found it does make him feel more comfortable. They like playing fast, and in the no-huddle offense. I think they feel comfortable playing at that speed.”With that in mind heading into fall camp, Day said he had assistant athletic director for football sport performance Mickey Marotti get players, especially the offensive linemen, in shape, making sure they run well and that they are athletically ready to run the offense at a faster pace than last season. While Marotti prepared the players, Day and the coaching staff helped create an offense that utilized consistent rotation with a wide receiver room the acting head coach considers “10-deep,” a tight end room rotating three players and an offensive line with versatility. Even though Ohio State has prepared for increased pace of play since the start of fall camp, players still view it as something they need to get used to. In redshirt junior running back Mike Weber’s opinion, though, the payoff for speed is much greater. “Sometimes you get tired and you have to push through, but you know that the defense is tired as well,” Weber said. “That’s the advantage we were trying to get, get the defense moving and discombobulated. It actually helped us execute plays because they were tired and they weren’t set. I’ll be tired for that.”Ohio State showed its offensive pace in the season opener against Oregon State, running 87 plays with a time of possession of 31:16. After the game, Day said the offense was “moving at a good clip,” mentioning that the overall offensive approach was clean, but wanted to get to the official in-between plays a bit quicker. Haskins, completing 73.3 percent of his passes for 313 yards and five touchdowns against the Beavers, showed off a bit of his throwing ability on Saturday. Beginning his first start with a 27-yard post route to redshirt senior wide receiver Terry McLaurin, Haskins completed five passes for more than 20 yards, two of which were crossing routes. Day said that with the faster tempo, the focus of the pass offense was not necessarily trying to beat the Oregon State secondary deep, especially with the soft coverage he was seeing from the unit. “If you’re playing fast, and you’re playing in rhythm and the guys are taking the underneath stuff — we called some plays that in certain coverages would dictate throwing a post or seam or down the field,” Day said. “But because the coverage was softer, you saw us come underneath and get some completions.” Instead of stretching the field vertically, Haskins led the Ohio State offense with a quick-completion, Barrett-esque look. He used the horizontal game, throwing bubble screens to h-backs and short speed sweeps in the middle, making the back end of the Oregon State defense have to chase the Buckeye wide receivers. Even with facing a defense with cornerbacks playing in soft coverage, what Day considered as “respecting our speed,” Haskins still has the ability to throw the ball downfield. Haskins’ quarterbacks coach knows the desire of a young quarterback to make a big play. “You can’t force things down the field, and some young guys want to do that,” Day said. “They want to take their shots. They get hungry, want to take a shot down the field, if there is a safety sitting in the middle of the field at 25 yards, you can’t throw a post, so that’s all part of maturing.”Redshirt junior wide receiver K.J. Hill took advantage of the emphasis on the horizontal offense and the tempo, leading the team with six catches on six targets for 82 yards. “We want to play fast at all times because it keeps the defense on their toes,” Hill said. “We feel like we are in more shape than other teams and we are going to pound them until they basically just get exhausted and give up.” Weber said the focus on tempo is still there heading into the conference opener against Rutgers. Even if there is an ability to go faster, the running back views the speed at which the offense worked as something it aims to become the norm. “We actually run a lot of plays in a short amount of time,” Weber said. “If we move faster than that, that’s crazy, man.” read more

Continue reading