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Stephen Curry Isnt Better Than LeBron On Offense — But Hes As

Apparently it’s the season of athletes making statistically unsupported comparisons to their peers. Back in May, Patrick Peterson claimed superiority over Richard Sherman in the NFL (something that, according to the numbers — is dubious), and now Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry told Dan Patrick Tuesday that he thinks he’s a better offensive player than LeBron James:A better offensive player, me or LeBron? That’s the first time I’ve ever been asked that question … Me. He obviously demands a lot of attention on the floor, but I like to say I can distribute, get my teammates involved and be a playmaker as well.With all due respect to Curry, a true offensive force in his own right, this is another case where the majority of statistical evidence doesn’t do the challenger any favors.According to the advanced box-score metrics, James spent the 2013-14 season outclassing Curry in usage rate, scoring efficiency, offensive rebounding, avoiding turnovers and drawing fouls. The only offensive areas in which Curry beat James were jump-shooting — Curry made 42 percent of his 3-point shots and 49 percent of his midrange jumpers; James knocked down those shots at rates of 38 and 39 percent, respectively — and passing (whether measured by assist percentage or SportVU’s optically tracked passing metrics).But James is no slouch in terms of distributing the ball, either; he ranked 19th among qualified NBA players in assist percentage a year ago. Distance shooting is really the only offensive category in which Curry claims a substantial edge over James — and it’s an advantage mitigated by the fact that James’s shot distribution skews so heavily toward easier shots at the rim. So Curry is a better long-range shooter than James, but James doesn’t take that many long-range shots.Zooming out, James’s personal offensive rating was higher than Curry’s even though James used a higher proportion of his team’s possessions (so subscribers to skill curve theory would have a hard time siding with Curry in this debate).Case closed? Not yet. There have been instances when such box-score-based metrics fail to tell the whole story, and players with gaudy combinations of usage and efficiency don’t always have the impact we’d predict from their individual stats. These are the kinds of incongruities that ESPN’s Real Plus Minus (RPM) is supposed to detect. RPM estimates a player’s effect on his team’s efficiency after accounting for the quality of his teammates, opponents and a host of other variables.By RPM, James was easily the offensive player who had the most impact in the NBA last season. Curry was second, slightly outpacing reigning MVP Kevin Durant.The comparison gets a little more interesting, though, when you look at these adjusted Four Factors ratings, which apply the same technique — estimating a player’s on-court impact via regression — to the four essential barometers of a team’s offensive performance: effective field goal percentage (which adjusts ordinary shooting percentage for the fact that 3-pointers are worth 1.5 times as much as 2s), turnover percentage, offensive rebounding rate and free-throw rate.In two of the four factors, James and Curry exert similar degrees of influence: Both boost team shooting percentages and reduce team turnover rates at levels greater than 95 percent of all NBA players. And despite his inferior individual offensive rebounding numbers, Curry is also associated with a much better rate of team effectiveness on the offensive glass than James is. This is probably due in part to the increased likelihood that 3-pointers result in “long rebounds” which can be rebounded more readily by the offense (of course, Miami’s incredibly low offensive rebounding percentage — at least some of which was part of a conscious strategy — bears mentioning).Through this lens, the biggest disparity between the two players is in free-throw rate: James was in the 99th percentile in that category, while Curry ranked in the 54th percentile. But free-throw rate is the least important of the Four Factors. Crafting an overall average based on the suggested weights for each category, Curry would actually place slightly ahead of James on offense (even if the overall adjusted plus/minus ratings generated by the same data set have James at No. 1).That would be an anomalous ranking, however, as the vast majority of advanced statistics side with James in this debate. The more interesting tidbit from such analysis might just be that Curry is within striking distance in most of the numbers, and that, statistically, there’s a good case to be made that Curry is superior on offense to Durant. James’s statistics are too overwhelming to be surpassed, but Curry is as close as anyone in the game. read more

The NFLs Offseason Carousel Is Mostly Pointless

As my colleague Ben Morris wrote Wednesday, the NFL’s annual free agent market is not, by and large, where Super Bowls are won and lost. At best, it’s a place where teams tread water, paying the going rate for known talents. At worst, it’s where teams waste a ton of money. It’s not hard to see why: Because of “the winner’s curse,” the team that lands a coveted free agent (cough, Ndamukong Suh) is usually the one whose front office overestimated his value by the greatest amount. And with a hard salary cap in place, miscues of that sort mean another aspect of the team is necessarily handicapped with fewer resources as a result.Want more evidence that offseason roster reshuffling is pointless? Going back to the advent of the NFL salary cap (before the 1994 season), I looked at the relationship between the Approximate Value (AV) of veteran players acquired by a team1Via free agency or trades. over the offseason and how much the team’s Simple Rating System (SRS) score improved the following season. Whether you gauge the quality of incoming players using their AV from the prior season alone or their cumulative AV over the preceding three seasons, there’s essentially no connection between how much talent a team adds over the offseason and how much better (or worse) it gets that season.But maybe adding talent is only half the equation. There’s also the matter of preventing talent from leaving by re-signing veterans — or at least maintaining a positive mark in the offseason AV exchange ledger. However, even when looking at net veteran AV gained/lost over the preceding offseason, there’s still no relationship between a team’s ability to hoard proven talent in the offseason and its improvement or decline in the ensuing season.Free agency always feels like one of the most exciting parts of the NFL offseason. But if history is any guide, the vast majority of what happens this week will have little bearing on how much any given team improves or declines next season. read more

Derrick Rose Out For Season as Bulls Beat Sixers

For Chicago Bulls fans, it was the best of times and the worst of times after the Bulls opened the first round of the NBA playoffs with a 103-91 victory, only to lose superstar point guard Derrick Rose to a season ending knee injury in the 4th quarter.Rose, who has nursed countless injuries during this shortened season, missed 27 of the Bulls 66 games during the year. The league’s reigning Most Valuable Player looked as if he had returned to form, putting together an impressive statline of 23 points, 9 assists, and 9 rebounds before the scary injury.With the Bulls up 12, Rose attacked the rim and attempted to execute a hop step before firing up on of his patented floaters. Unfortunately for Rose—and Bulls fans across the country—the hop step will be the last move he makes on a court this season.Rose reached for his knee immediately, telling teammates that he heard his knee “pop.” Rose was rushed to a nearby hospital where he received a MRI, which brought news of his torn ACL.Once the swelling goes down Rose will undergo surgery to repair the ligament and begin the rehab process. Although the Bulls managed to hold off the Sixers, the team seemed distraught after the game.Forward Kyle Korver, whose facial expression looked straight out of a horror movie when the injury happened, told local reporters this was the “saddest win ever.”“We have to pick ourselves up,” he said. “We’ve played a lot of games this year without him. Maybe that was getting us ready for this.”Many people immediately questioned why Rose was even in the game with the Bulls up 12 and little time remaining. But even after the injury to his star player, head coach Tom Thibodeau refused to second-guess himself.“I don’t work backwards like you (reporters) do,” he said. “The score was going the other way. He has to play. He has to work on closing. Our team didn’t handle that part great. That’s what I was thinking.” read more

Steve Francis Fighting to Overcome Turbulent PostNBA Life

Ten years ago, Steve Francis averaged 21.3 points and 7.8 assists for the Orlando Magic and was considered one of the top point guards in the NBA. The other day, he was recorded getting a chain ripped from his neck while on stage with rappers in Houston.The difference between Francis then and the 38-year-old Francis now is alarming to those who know him as a giving, thoughtful man who would never put himself in a position to be accosted in that fashion.But today’s Steve Francis is not the “Stevie Franchise” of then, although the elements that made him a likable NBA star persists amid the chaos. And that’s why friends believe he will rebound—he’s staggering, but not knocked out.That 2004-05 campaign was his last healthy season in the league. No one knew then, but the subsequent three years of injuries diminished his talent and imploded his self-esteem. He faded into obscurity in 2008 after 10 games with the Houston Rockets.It was then that we lost Steve Francis, just as he was losing himself. . . in pain and self-pity and most damagingly, in alcohol.Many wondered about the Washington, D.C.-area native when he resurfaced in the last year, looking far different, diminished, puffy, aged and worn. Disturbing videos can be found on the web of Francis pouring alcohol from the bottle all over himself and then drinking it. . . before passing out.These are portrayals of his own doing, but illusions, too, according to those who have known him for decades told Atlanta Blackstar.“He’s a good guy, a good man,” said Andre Johnson, who began working with Francis the day after he was the No. 2 pick in the NBA Draft in 1999. “And even with the challenges he faces, those parts of who he is still show. He realizes that a lot of what has happened to him is avoidable. And he’s committed to putting himself in better positions.”Francis’ decline is apparent in his appearance, and it is startling. He was a world-class athlete whose success was dependent on his skill and athleticism. On staying in shape. He earned $103.5 million over his nine-year career, during which he was the NBA rookie of the year and a three-time all-star.But his fall is not uncommon, just different. Cynics are quick to judge and joke, but the dynamics of being a professional athlete do not end with money and fame. The pressure to perform is enormous. The pressure to provide can break your spirit, especially when your first instinct is to give, like friends say Francis’ is.Usually, these athletes represent more than themselves. A few generations of family members are a part of the responsibility in most cases and an entire community in many. The weight of this can be far more imposing to those who have not had that responsibility. Sports psychologists have published studies that find many athletes in retirement struggle with coping away from the game.Sugar Ray Leonard, the Hall of Fame former boxing champion, spoke often of going from Las Vegas hotel to hotel when he quit the sport “to feel the adulation of the people. Nothing can top that feeling. I needed it. And when I didn’t have it, well, it wasn’t good.”Leonard admitted to drug use to stave off the bouts of depression. He’s just one example of an athlete unable to cope with life after sports.Steve Francis (left) looking unlike the NBA version of Steve Francis.Francis is another.Johnson said, “He knows one thing and loves one thing. Basketball. It’s not an easy transition to be on the cover of a magazine one day and next day you have to figure out what you’re going to do with your day, with your life. That’s a lot for anyone to handle.”Francis has been described as sensitive: When his mother died of cancer in 1995, Francis could not pull himself together to play basketball. . . for two years.He’s also been described as caring: When a tornado struck the University of Maryland, where he played one year of college ball, he had a dinner catered for more than 700 displaced students.He held a fund-raiser prior to the elections for new D.C. mayor Muriel Bowser. He’s put 60 kids through college through his foundation. He wants to help young artists in the D.C. area get their careers off the ground.But to do so, he has to rise. He’s still here, “which means he still has a chance to rewrite his story,” one friend, who requested anonymity, told ABS. “Over the last several years, Steve lost who he was. He allowed the lifestyle and the money and people around him to influence him.“But he’s a smart and intuitive guy. I’d like to believe the Steve I know is still inside him. . . and will come out for good one day soon.”Francis remains loyal to his family, Johnson said. He takes pride in dropping off and picking up his two children from school. “His family is his foundation,” Johnson said.“I talked to Steve after the whole chain incident. He knows that at this point in his life, he’s got to make better decisions. There have been times when he’s been great. Other times, he’s flawed, like the rest of us. But what he has shown is that he makes things happen. And there are a lot of people betting that he will regain the consistent stability in his life. Including him.” read more

Promising High School Basketball Player Collapses and Dies During

James Hampton (photo via Twitter)A skilled athlete from Charlotte, North Carolina’s AAU program, died on Saturday, May 26, at the Nike Elite Youth Basketball League game in Hampton, VA.James Hampton, 17, collapsed on the basketball court against Nike Phamily during the second half. The Liberty Heights senior was running down the court and turned towards the referee and said “Hey ref” then fell to the floor according to Team United director Jacoby Davis. One of the medical assistants checked Hampton’s pulse after applying chest compressions, but there was no pulse.“It’s hard to even explain,” Davis told The Charlotte Observer. “To have a kid in your program with so much life — that’s just the kind of kid he was. He was always happy. For something like this to happen, I can’t even explain it. And to have to talk to a parent not even in town and tell him that his son has died, well, that’s more devastating.”The coach said Hampton had suffered from seizures in the past.“He just fell down on the floor… He had seizures a year ago — and I remember [one of the Team United coaches] telling me that, ‘I saw his eyes rolling back in his head.’ I ran on the court thinking he was having a seizure. A trainer came over and said he didn’t know what was wrong. Another trainer checked his pulse. He said he didn’t have a pulse. It got crazy after that,” Davis said.NBA Hall of Famer and former Chicago Bulls Player Scottie Pippen tweeted, “Emotional day at Nike EYBL in Virginia after the passing of James Hampton.”Emotional day at Nike EYBL in Virginia after the passing of James Hampton. My thoughts go out to the young man’s family, friends and teammates. RIP, James. 🙏🏿 pic.twitter.com/E2fhTIHCqA— Scottie Pippen (@ScottiePippen) May 27, 2018The team finished their tournament on Sunday and honored Hampton.One of the coaches Edward Joyner Jr. of Hampton University who’d been scouting Hampton as a possible Class of 2019 prospect said, “He was one of those kids who wanted to do something to better himself and his family and was trying to make the right steps to do that. And he wanted to use basketball and college.” read more

Jimmy Garoppolo Is The NFLs Most Expensive Lottery Ticket

42Jimmy GaroppoloSF201712-16437.0 Jimmy Garoppolo’s raw stats were impressive…Most raw passing yards in a five-game stretch for post-1970 NFL quarterbacks under age 30 (within first 16 career starts) 1Dan MarinoMIA19841-5899.9 1Andrew LuckIND20128-121,625 6Brett FavreGB199210-14405.1+107.0 Source: pro-Football-reference.com 4Kirk CousinsWAS20142-61,571 5Rex GrossmanCHI20061-5517.1+114.1 Jimmy reshaped the 49ers’ outlook in just five gamesBiggest gains in FiveThirtyEight’s Elo rating over a five-game stretch for QBs under age 30 who ranked among the top 50 in yards above backup over the same span of games 7Dan MarinoMIA19841-51,527 8Matt CasselNE20087-111,520 3Nick FolesPHI20139-13696.9 10Billy VolekTEN200412-161,473 4Russell WilsonSEA201212-16591.5+118.2 Still, it’s difficult to deny Garoppolo’s effect on the 49ers’ play down the stretch last season. Going into his first start (Week 13 against the Bears), San Francisco had a 1288 Elo rating — FiveThirtyEight’s preferred gauge of team strength at any given moment — which ranked second to last in the NFL. By the time Garoppolo had helped the Niners engineer their fifth straight win, San Francisco’s Elo had risen to 1452, good for a much more respectable 22nd in the league. That 164-point boost in team Elo was the most for any QB in the top 50 of our five-game leaderboard above, and it might be the best indication of how much potential Garoppolo brings to the table for his first season directing San Francisco’s offense. Includes playoffs.Source: Pro-Football-Reference.com Includes playoffs.*Yards above backup is a metric that credits a QB for his passing and rushing yards, with adjustments for touchdowns and interceptions, and the defensive quality of the teams he faced.Source: PRO-FOOTBALL-REFERENCE.COM … QuarterbackTeamYearGm. SpanYds Above BackupElo Gain 2Kurt WarnerSTL199911-15725.8 5Boomer EsiasonCIN198512-16639.3 …but he falls upon further adjustmentMost adjusted yards above backup* in a five-game stretch for post-merger NFL quarterbacks under age 30 (within first 16 career starts) 9Jon KitnaSEA19996-10411.5+104.8 3Cam NewtonCAR20111-51,610 QuarterbackTeamYearGM. spanYds above backup 9Richard ToddNYJ19773-7603.2 10Dak PrescottDAL20167-11602.7 7Tony EasonNE19844-8623.0 QuarterbackTeamYearGm. spanPass Yards 5Kurt WarnerSTL199911-151,563 9Daunte CulpepperMIN20007-111,499 2Marc BulgerSTL20034-81,624 No quarterback has ever earned more with less of a sample than Jimmy Garoppolo. After a midseason trade, Tom Brady’s latest former understudy had just five starts for the San Francisco 49ers1In his first appearance with the team, he went 2 for 2 with a touchdown in relief of C.J. Beathard. before becoming eligible for free agency. He won every one of those games for the previously moribund team and was handed $137.5 million for five years in return, which made him the highest paid QB in the NFL at the time. Again, this was for five starts of work in San Francisco — or 246 fewer games than Brady has started in New England.There’s really nothing else to go on. Garoppolo had played so sparingly before being traded to the 49ers that Bill Belichick and company were able to get only a second-round pick in return.There’s no debating that Garoppolo was very good in the scarlet and gold. The only question is how good. Is the weight of the sample such that fans should expect Garoppolo to earn his contract and propel the 49ers into a new era of excellence? Or is he overrated, piling up passing volume for a 1-10 team that was playing out the string on a lost season?According to classic barometers like passing yardage, Garoppolo’s five-game run to close last season does indeed rank among the most impressive rattled off by a young quarterback in NFL history. Going back to the 1970 NFL-AFL merger, we looked for similar five-game runs within a QB’s first 16 games as a team’s primary passer,2Meaning he led the team in passing attempts during the game but wasn’t necessarily the starter. filtering for QBs under age 30 — passers who generally fit Garoppolo’s profile as a fresh starter in the league. Only five quarterbacks — Andrew Luck, Marc Bulger, Cam Newton, Kirk Cousins and Kurt Warner — had a stretch of five consecutive games with more raw passing yards than Garoppolo did: 7Vince FerragamoLAR19803-7586.4+106.3 4Colin KaepernickSFO201215-19679.8 10Dan MarinoMIA19841-5899.9+93.6 3Ben RoethlisbergerPIT20044-8433.6+119.1 That the stretch represented Garoppolo’s entire body of work as his new team’s starter makes him look even more impressive — and that’s without considering his pair of exceptional games in 2016 as New England’s fill-in while Brady was suspended for his role in Deflategate.But there’s more to evaluating a quarterback than simple passing yards. If we take into account touchdowns, interceptions and rushing stats (plus adjust for strength of opponent) using our “yards above backup” metric, Garoppolo’s stretch-run performance takes a bit of a step back relative to history.Over those five games, Garoppolo had six touchdowns but also five interceptions, and he added nothing with his legs. He also faced a mixed bag of defenses that ranged from dominant (the Jaguars) to mediocre (the Bears) to downright bad (the Texans). And the Week 17 win against the division-winning Rams is less striking when you consider that L.A. sat many of its starters, including defensive player of the year Aaron Donald and standouts Alec Ogletree, Connor Barwin and Robert Quinn. After adjusting for all of that, Garoppolo’s five-game stretch still cracks the top 50 for young post-merger QBs, but it no longer seems quite as reliable a predictor of his future — particularly relative to the size of his contract. For every Dan Marino atop the ranking, there are some Tony Easons and Richard Todds as well. Not to mention the very glaring presence of a previous San Francisco QB much higher on the list: Colin Kaepernick. When adjusted for opponent strength, Kaepernick’s 2012 run from Week 16 to the Super Bowl was topped by only three quarterbacks in our sample. 6Jimmy GaroppoloSF201712-161,542 2Nick FolesPHI20139-13696.9+138.6 8Joe MontanaSF19812-6495.8+105.6 1Jimmy GaroppoloSF201712-16437.0+164.1 8Chad PenningtonNYJ200213-17612.7 6Daunte CulpepperMIN20004-8630.1 While the 49ers’ offensive boost, from 17 points per game with other starting quarterbacks to 28.8 with Garoppolo, can’t be fully explained by their QB’s statistics, there’s no doubt that much of this was earned from scrimmage. In its 11 games without him as the starter, San Francisco averaged 4.9 yards per play, 24th in the league. At 65.6 plays per game, that adds up to 322 yards. With Garoppolo, the Niners averaged 6.1 yards per play, which ranked fourth in offensive efficiency during games 12 through 16. And the play count also rose, to 67.2 plays on average, resulting in 410 yards per game.To quantify that boost of 88 yards per game, consider that NFL teams since 1990 have generated an average of 1 point for every 15.4 yards. So that equals 5.7 more expected points for the 49ers with Garoppolo at the controls (26.6 points per game) than without (20.9), not adjusting for that mixed bag of opponent quality.While about 6 points of added value may not sound like much, it’s what the oddsmakers subtract from a team when a top NFL quarterback is forced to miss a game. And we can definitely count Las Vegas among Garoppolo’s believers. This year, the sports books expect the 49ers to win 8.5 games with a full season of Garoppolo. That’s after they expected just five wins for the team before the start of last season, when Garoppolo was still stuck behind Brady. read more

How LSU And Oklahoma Can Still Make The College Football Playoff

11LSUArkansas+0.7-3.41.2 9OklahomaKansas St.+1.4-13.92.5 9TexasOklahoma St.-1.4+1.71.6 WKTeamOpponentw/ Winw/ LossWeighted 11OklahomaOklahoma St.+4.4-13.46.6 8OklahomaTCU+5.4-11.87.4 OklahomaCurrent playoff chances: 17 percentWhat it can do: After losing the Red River Showdown to Texas on Saturday, the Sooners are less in the driver’s seat than LSU in terms of controlling their own postseason destiny. Even if Oklahoma wins all its remaining games, our model still gives the Sooners only an 85 percent chance of making the playoff. That’s not too terrible, though, given that Kyler Murray and company have a relatively manageable remaining schedule that includes only one ranked opponent. That matchup — a Nov. 23 battle against West Virginia in Morgantown — could swing Oklahoma’s season more than any other game, with our model calling for an average change to the Sooners’ playoff chances of plus or minus 13 percentage points, depending on whether they can beat the Mountaineers. In the universe where OU does win that one, the Sooners make the playoff 29 percent of the time; in the ones where they don’t, that number is 2 percent.Who can help them: Because they’re not quite the locks that some other top teams are, Oklahoma will probably need another big-time contender to falter. And according to our model, that team is most likely Notre Dame. Aside from West Virginia and Texas, whose hopes each rest on outdueling the Sooners for the Big 12 title, the Fighting Irish are the team whose playoff chances drop the most in simulated universes where Oklahoma makes the playoff. Unfortunately for the Sooners, Notre Dame has a 39 percent chance of navigating the rest of its schedule undefeated — tops among any team in the nation — while Oklahoma’s chances of winning out are only 14 percent. (That discrepancy is a big reason for Notre Dame’s 46 percent chance of making the playoff, while Oklahoma sits at 17 percent.) But a Notre Dame loss — most likely to Syracuse, USC or Northwestern — would do the Sooners a big favor in their struggle to regain position in the playoff race. 8LSUMississippi St.+2.6-3.43.0 13Notre DameUSC-0.9+2.41.3 13AlabamaAuburn-0.5+2.60.8 * Relative to the team’s current oddsBased on two sets of simulations: one in which the team wins and one in which it loses. Differences are weighted by the likelihood of each outcome happening. Numbers may not add up exactly because of rounding.Source: ESPN Stats & Information group 10FloridaMissouri-0.3+0.70.4 11TexasTexas Tech-0.4+0.40.4 Which games hold the most weight for Oklahoma?Remaining 2018 college football games with the biggest effect on Oklahoma’s playoff chances* 10Penn StateMichigan-0.3+0.40.4 Which games hold the most weight for LSU?Remaining 2018 college football games with the biggest effect on LSU’s playoff chances* 12OklahomaKansas+1.0-13.61.8 DIff. in Oklahoma Playoff Odds WKTeamOpponentw/ Winw/ LossWeighted 13OklahomaW. Virginia+12.2%-14.2%+/-13.1 7AlabamaMissouri-0.3+2.30.5 13LSUTexas A&M+3.7-3.53.6 * Relative to team’s current oddsBased on two sets of simulations: one in which the team wins and one in which it loses. Differences are weighted by the likelihood of each outcome happening. Numbers may not add up exactly because of rounding.Source: ESPN Stats & Information group 7LSUGeorgia+7.1-3.04.2 A week ago, we kicked off our College Football Playoff prediction model by talking in part about the handful of teams that were in great shape — provided they just kept winning ballgames. Then Saturday came around, and just like that, two of those squads (LSU and Oklahoma) were knocked down more than a few rungs on the championship ladder. So how can the Tigers and Sooners climb their way back toward the top?In each remaining week of the season, we’ll break down what one team — or, in today’s case, two — needs to have happen in order for it to make the College Football Playoff. Primarily, we’ll be looking at how much each remaining game on the team’s schedule (and other teams’ schedules as well) potentially swings its playoff probability.Louisiana StateCurrent playoff chances: 4 percentWhat it can do: Losing to Florida dropped LSU’s playoff chances from 11 percent to 4 percent, giving the Tigers very little margin for error from here on out. The good news in Baton Rouge, though, is that they still basically control their own destiny — one of the fringe benefits of having an impossibly tough SEC schedule. If LSU wins out, our model says it would have a greater than 99 percent chance of making the playoff, making it one of only five schools (joining Georgia, Alabama, Ohio State and Clemson) whose playoff chances are that high if they go the rest of the season without a loss. Of course, that’s a lot easier said than done: Even after putting the Gators behind it, LSU still has four more ranked opponents left on its regular-season schedule, plus whomever it might play in the SEC title game (if the Tigers get there). At the same time, just one more loss would basically doom LSU, leaving its playoff probability at the end of the season at just 16 percent even if it finishes 10-2. Practically speaking, Ed Orgeron’s team really does have no choice but to keep winning.Who can help it: After allowing LSU to storm back from down 21-10 to beat it in September, Auburn could end up doing its SEC West rivals yet another favor by winning the Iron Bowl over Alabama in late November. LSU’s chances of making the playoff are about 3 percentage points higher in our simulations where Auburn beats Alabama than vice versa. In fact, any Alabama loss would generally help LSU’s chances of making the playoff because it would give the Tigers the edge over the Tide in the division (assuming they beat the Tide themselves in Death Valley on Nov. 3). One other thing is also clear: Alabama and Georgia’s playoff bids are basically incompatible with LSU’s. Conditional on the Tigers making the playoff, there’s only a 23 percent chance that Alabama also makes it and a 14 percent chance for Georgia. Even the SEC can contain only so many playoff contenders. Outside the conference, Texas and Penn State are teams with similar playoff bona fides who would theoretically be competing with LSU for an outside shot at the final playoff slot, so slip-ups by the Longhorns or Nittany Lions also slightly help the Tigers. But even so, most non-LSU games won’t move the Tigers’ needle much, meaning they’ll mostly have to forge a path to the playoff for themselves. 10OklahomaTexas Tech+6.7-12.48.7 12TexasIowa St.-1.1+2.91.5 Check out our latest college football predictions. DIff. in LSU Playoff Odds 10LSUAlabama+10.6%-3.5%+/-5.3 12Notre DameSyracuse-0.8+3.31.3 read more

201516 NBA Preview The NewLook Spurs Are Gonna Be Really Good

And here’s what CARMELO thinks of San Antonio’s key players: Last season seemed like Kawhi Leonard’s coming-out party, but with Aldridge now in the mix, Leonard could see fewer double teams, which in turn could lead to even better production than CARMELO expects. The San Antonio Spurs, hoping to make another title run, loaded up on talent in the offseason. They landed coveted free agent LaMarcus Aldridge along with David West. They brought back Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili, and signed Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green to new deals. The new players are expected to assimilate quickly with the Spurs veterans, but that’s not guaranteed, which is why coach Gregg Popovich admits that developing team chemistry is his most pressing concern. “It’s always going to be talked about throughout the league by everyone because that’s probably the biggest key of winning,” Green said. “You can have all the right pieces. But if you don’t have chemistry, you’re probably not going to be successful. So regardless of what your roster is, chemistry is the most important thing in this league, in this game. You hear it all the time. We may get tired of it. But it’s really important. We know how important it is.”FiveThirtyEight’s CARMELO projection system expects the Spurs to go 56-26 in 2015-16: Tony Parker changed up his fitness routine in an attempt to stay healthy, but Parker hasn’t played in more than 70 games in any of the last three seasons. In other words, the 33-year-old’s health may be an issue, and CARMELO clearly thinks Parker is in the twilight of his career. He needs to shoot much better than 32.3 percent from the field, which is what he produced over the summer in the EuroBasket tournament, for the Spurs to have a legitimate chance. Tim Duncan is 39, but Old Man Riverwalk will benefit tremendously from the addition of Aldridge. Duncan remains a factor on the pick-and-roll, and despite losing some athleticism, he anticipates well enough on defense to almost always be in position to help. (Also, if you were judging Duncan only by the company he keeps, check out his top four comps!) His skills are declining, but Manu Ginobili remains important to the Spurs because of his ability to run the second group on offense, which, according to some players, has shown better chemistry thus far in camp than the starters. Long jumpers and turnarounds in the post diminish LaMarcus Aldridge’s true shooting percentage, and he’ll need to make quicker decisions with the ball in San Antonio than he did in Portland. David West is one of the NBA’s most accurate mid-range shooters, but his presence in San Antonio’s locker room will be just as important as his contributions on the court. Danny Green, a premier 3-and-D wing, seems to be in the perfect situation for his game to flourish. Just don’t let him put the ball on the floor. We’re inaugurating our NBA player projection system, CARMELO, with 2015-16 season previews for every team in the league. Check out the teams we’ve already previewed here. Learn more about CARMELO here. read more

Indie Crossword Puzzlers Are Shaking Up A Very Square World

The New York Times3.5 The Washington Post3.9 BuzzFeed3.7 Wall Street Journal3.4 Newsday3.9 CrosSynergy3.3 The Times’ puzzle, though, isn’t the most highly rated on the Web. Indies may be ragtag, but their quality can be remarkably high. The popular blog Diary of a Crossword Fiend lets readers rate a selection of puzzles each day, from one to five stars. Indies do well, with indie icon Matt Gaffney’s topping the list and American Values Club and Quigley’s puzzles averaging above the Times so far this year. (Note, of course, that these ratings are subjective, and come from a highly selected sample of the universe of crossword solvers, namely those who rate crosswords on a crossword blog.)But that the indies are well-received doesn’t make them well-compensated. They’re wrestling with the same confusion about sustainable business models as all the other media upstarts.The New York Times has it relatively easy, with nearly 200,000 digital crossword subscribers, good for over $2 million in revenue in the first quarter of 2016, according to a company press release. When you figure in the hardcopy subscriptions and newsstand purchases due to the puzzle, plus the countless book collections, the Times crossword puzzle is almost certainly worth well north of $10 million a year. (The Times wouldn’t comment beyond what was disclosed in the press release.) Little of that money goes to the constructors: At its rate of $300 for a daily puzzle and $1,000 for a Sunday, I estimate that a little less than $150,000 a year is paid to the crossword constructors themselves.Outside the Times, though, monetization approaches vary wildly. The American Values Club crossword, the indie edited by Tausig, is subscription based. A year’s worth of puzzles is $20, or you can get a single puzzle for a buck, and proceeds are divvied up among constructors quarterly. Depending on the quarter, this model can yield more than the Times’ $300-per-puzzle rate, according to Tausig. “I’ve been a constructor for a long time, and also because I’m a hardcore Marxist, I want to put my money where my mouth is,” he said. Constructors there also retain some future rights to their puzzles. Tausig didn’t give me a precise count of his subscribers, but said there were no fewer than 3,000.Quigley, who runs an eponymous site, was inspired by Radiohead’s 2007 release of “In Rainbows” when he created his pay-what-you-want model. He publishes free puzzles on Mondays and Thursdays, and provides a “tip your constructor” PayPal link on his homepage. Between direct payments and the advertisement it provides for other paying puzzle gigs, Quigley estimated that his site is responsible for two-thirds of his income. He claimed an average of 12,000 people solve a typical puzzle on his site.And Matt Gaffney — whom other indie constructors described to me as the “juggernaut” and the “silverback gorilla” of the field and who tops the ratings list — oversees a mini-factory that publishes eight puzzles a week. About a year ago, Gaffney switched to a subscription-only model for his daily puzzle ($24 a year) which, he told me, has 500 to 600 subscribers. “It seems to be kind of the wave of the future,” he said. “But I think big media, regular media and indie puzzles will always coexist and coevolve for the foreseeable future. I don’t see one putting the other out of business.” Despite that, indies “are where all the crazy, new, fun stuff is happening.”In many ways, the crossword tumult mirrors that of the broader media world, pockmarked with hirings, firings, launches, closings and scandal. BuzzFeed hit the brakes, and USA Today ousted its crossword editor in May. But others hit the gas. The Wall Street Journal added a daily puzzle last September, and The Washington Post tapped a new crossword constructor in November. And Slate, stalwart of internet media, will feature the American Values Club crossword in its paid section, Slate Plus, starting in September.Madison, the former BuzzFeed editor, who has interned for both Shortz and Tausig, is heading back to the indie world himself. According to Madison, the BuzzFeed puzzle’s average 40,000 to 50,000 views didn’t justify its cost at the virally oriented site. (I emailed BuzzFeed for comment but have not yet received one.) He recently announced a new crossword project called Solve the Internet. Details were sketchy, but the description he gave me was heavy on “internet” and “social.” Madison wouldn’t offer a specific launch date but said to expect it soon.“I don’t understand what he’s talking about, but that’s a fantastic thing,” Quigley, 42, said of Madison’s puzzle ideas. “If we don’t go out and try to bring in that younger generation, we’ve got the buggy whip, and we’re gonna get blown out by something else.” Fireball3.9 Jonesin’ Crosswords3.3 Crossword Nation3.9 Brendan Emmett Quigley3.7 Los Angeles Times3.6 Matt Gaffney4.0 American Values Club3.6 Most highly rated crosswords Gawker wasn’t the only irreverent, iconoclastic internet media property to say farewell recently. To a much quieter dirge, the BuzzFeed crossword puzzle published its final edition this month. Its editor, 23-year-old puzzle wunderkind Caleb Madison, for whom this was his first job, left the company to strike out on his own.The BuzzFeed crossword, which launched in October, promised a millennial upheaval to the musty crossword genre: an internet-native, slang-fluent, pop-culture-obsessed puzzle aimed at young solvers. There was hope, given BuzzFeed’s large amounts of traffic, that it would serve as a meaningful competitor to the starchy, hegemonic New York Times crossword. “BuzzFeed Is Revolutionizing the Crossword Puzzle,” an Observer headline declared last year.It didn’t. Yet while BuzzFeed’s puzzle revolution fizzled, a devoted band of ragtag agitators remains devoted to the cause. A vibrant ecosystem of independent crosswords — “indies” — exists on the internet, its component puzzles multiplying and evolving, finding their niche and trying to find ways to survive. And some of them can outrate the gold standard over at the Times.“I think of the indie world like we’re all craft beer brewers,” Brendan Emmett Quigley, a professional puzzle constructor, told me. The Times is a Budweiser lager; the indies are small-batch saisons and IPAs.“My favorite thing about indie puzzles is the timeliness,” Neville Fogarty, an avid indie solver who helped found the Indie 500 crossword tournament, told me. Indie puzzles don’t have to wait months in a publication queue, as they would at the Times. They also aren’t subject to the stylistic constraints of a large media institution. Topics and themes, however recent, modern, niche or profane, are fair game. Nor are they subject to the physical constraints of a major newspaper. With few exceptions, all daily Times puzzles use 15-by-15 grids with rotational symmetry, a convention indies can and do break.Over (craft) beers recently, Ben Tausig,1It was Tausig whose tweet, about a suspiciously duplicated puzzle, eventually led to the FiveThirtyEight investigation into accusations of plagiarism against the crossword editor Timothy Parker. the editor of the acclaimed indie American Values Club crossword, reflected on the early days of indies, over a decade ago. “We were all out in the woods,” he said. “Papers were dying, papers were dropping their crosswords.” And so some crossword designers decided to go it alone. A risky proposition, but one that came with aesthetic upside. These sylvan constructors could rewrite the stylebook. “Crosswords were staid, you know? As much as I enjoyed them, there was always this feeling that the voice of the Times was not my generational voice. It was like, what if you made a crossword about rap, or something? That felt really radical at the time.”Criticism of the Times puzzle seems to have expanded of late, beyond the stylistic and into the political. It’s not just that the Times puzzle is staid, or geared toward olds. It’s been accused of tone deafness on issues of race and gender. A recent clue for the answer HAREM was “Decidedly nonfeminist women’s group,” and the clue “Exasperated comment from a feminist” led to the answer MEN. “Gangsta rap characters” were THUGS.But Will Shortz, the Times puzzle editor since 1993, is an icon for a reason. All the constructors I spoke to praised him for elevating the Times puzzle to its current station. “The Times’ job is arguably much harder, because they have to walk that thin line of making sure everyone is included,” Quigley said. It’s come a long way, too. The Times published its first crossword in 1942. If you scrape off a thick layer of dust, you’ll find a puzzle riddled with obscurities (the poets CRABBE and TASSO, the seaport HAGI, the Dutch town EDE) and ditchwater-dull clues (both IAN and YVON are clued as “Man’s name”). And even if some indie puzzlers would like to foment a revolution, it already took one to get the Times to the solid position it’s in today. Shortz oversaw a transition away from the dryest trivia to a puzzle that does include some popular culture. He has said that anything the paper covers should be fair game for the crossword.“The Times’ crossword audience is broad, from teens up to as old as people get,” Shortz told me in an email. “But the average [age] is higher than that for the indies. So in terms of overall tone and cultural references, the Times puzzle will skew a little older than the indies.” Shortz also mentioned the need for the Times puzzle to have a longer shelf life than the indies, which means it eschews some timelier subjects. The puzzle appears in syndication six weeks after its original publication, and sometimes in books years later. Boston Globe3.1 Chronicle of Higher Education3.3 Includes puzzles appearing at least ten times. Ratings are out of 5.Source: Diary of a Crossword Fiend PUZZLEAVG. USER RATING read more

Ohio State mens basketball hits the books in preparation for No 22

OSU junior forward Marc Loving (2) attempts a shot during a game against Rutgers on Jan. 13 at the Schottenstein Center. Credit: Samantha Hollingshead | Photo EditorComing off a 35-point loss to Maryland in a season that’s been marred by turbulence, Ohio State men’s basketball coach Thad Matta is taking a variety of steps to right his inexperienced team’s ship. He’s always been an avid reader, but, in an effort to find something that might help his players, Matta recently began reading a new book about psychology. Although he declined to disclose its name, Matta started sharing lessons from the text with his team hoping that something — anything — might click with his youthful Buckeyes. “The good news is I just started it and it’s, like, 250 pages,” a smiling Matta said. In its 19 games thus far, OSU narrowly lost to then-No. 10 Virginia and stunned then-fourth-ranked Kentucky at a neutral site, but the Buckeyes (12-7, 4-2) have lost three games by at least 20 points. Figuring out just what makes this team so different on a night-to-night basis is like breaking the Enigma code — it might take a computer to do it. Or a book. “Yesterday (Matta) said he’s on page 36,” freshman point guard JaQuan Lyle said. “Yesterday he read us four quotes out of the book … so who knows how many quotes we’ll get the rest of the week. One of the quotes yesterday was something like, ‘if you look at things differently, maybe the outcome will be differently.’ It was just quotes that compare to us.” Looking at their next game differently is exactly what might work for the Buckeyes. They’ve had similar games like Thursday’s against No. 22 Purdue (15-3, 4-2) before, but in each of those, the outcome has been less than desired. The three games with parallels to the forthcoming tilt with the Boilermakers — on the road against a top-flight program in Connecticut, Indiana and Maryland — all ended in 20-plus point defeats. So, looking at things differently as the Buckeyes head to West Lafayette, Indiana, might be what it takes for the team to crack the code and become the consistent basketball team it strives to be. OSU has struggled to bring the necessary energy to compete with its more talent-laden opponents when facing them on the visitor’s home floor. That, however, should not be the case Thursday, Lyle said. “I’m expecting us to come in there and play hard all 40 minutes,” Lyle said. “Start playing hard from the jump, not waiting for the second media timeout or anything like that. Just trying to play hard the entire game, I feel like we haven’t done that in a while. “We need to get back to doing that.” “With the lights on”Bouncing back from such an embarrassing loss could be difficult, but Matta said his team has been putting forth a solid showing in the gym in the days following. OSU sophomore forward Jae’Sean Tate (1) attempts a shot during a game against Rutgers on Jan. 13 at the Schottenstein Center. Credit: Samantha Hollingshead | Photo Editor“We’ve had a couple of pretty good practices,” Matta said. “But we’ve practiced relatively well throughout the (season). When you step into Mackey Arena (Thursday) night, it’s on.” To be a better team when the first whistle blows, Matta said, the effort Lyle mentioned needs to be there, but it cannot be just be up to one player. Every player that sees the court needs to consistently be playing hard, the coach said, even through any mistakes the team makes. When those mistakes happen, which they are bound to, as they are just a part of the game, sophomore forward Jae’Sean Tate said, Matta always emphasizes the importance of playing through them, rather than letting them weigh players down. “Coach Matta isn’t one of those coaches who’s gonna yell at you for a bad shot,” Tate said. “He doesn’t really care about the mistakes that you make. He just wants to see you play through them. As long as you play hard, then there’s no problem. That’s just what we’ve got to do a better job of.” “It’s on”While OSU is looking at its matchup against Purdue differently, that won’t change the fact the Buckeyes will have their hands full when the game starts. The Boilermakers come into Thursday’s game on the heels of a 107-57 throttling of Rutgers on Monday. Although the Scarlet Knights aren’t exactly a heavyweight opponent, Purdue used the same balanced attack in that game that has helped it throughout the season. That balanced scoring comes from three dominant post players, in senior center A.J. Hammons, sophomore center Isaac Haas and freshman forward Caleb Swanigan. The entire trio averages double-figure scoring, with the 7-foot Hammons leading the way with 13.4 points a game. Haas, who checks in at 7-foot-2, puts up 10.9 points a contest, while Swanigan chips in 10.4 points and 8.9 rebounds. Matta said he is well aware of the three-headed monster in the paint. “They are huge,” the coach said. “We’ve got to do a great job, the best job we can, with our post defense. It’s no secret. If you look at their shot totals, they’re going to get the ball inside to those guys.”Although denying all the entry passes to the trio would be the best-case scenario for Matta’s team, that is unrealistic. Once it gets down there, though, it is on OSU’s post players, like freshman Daniel Giddens and redshirt sophomore Trevor Thompson, to step up, Matta said. “They’re going to score,” he said. “There’s no doubt about that but we’ve got to do the best job we can challenging them, taking away their favorite moves. And (we need to) rebound the basketball.” Up nextAfter the Buckeyes take on the Boilermakers, they’re set to return to Columbus and take on Penn State at 7 p.m. on Monday. read more

UNC shows OSU womens soccer whos No 1

Ohio State women’s soccer coach Lori Walker said her team battled and played well against No. 1-ranked University of North Carolina on Sunday, but not well enough as the No. 18-ranked Buckeyes lost, 3-0. UNC (4-0-0) used a first-half goal from junior midfielder Amber Brooks to open the scoring and silence a Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium crowd of 2,892. A second-half goal from sophomore forward Khelia Ohai doubled the Tar Heels’ lead and a late tap-in by senior forward Emmalie Pfankuch provided all the offense needed to upend the Buckeyes (3-2-0). “Any time the No. 1 team comes in your house and battles and your squad makes a game of it, there’s something to be proud of,” Walker said after the game. “There’s a lot we’re going to learn from this match.” The opening half-hour of play saw the Buckeyes and Tar Heels split possession, but OSU was the first to threaten to score. A Tar Heels turnover in the 11th minute sent play in the opposite direction and after collecting the ball, OSU junior forward Tiffany Cameron attempted to play freshman forward Ellyn Gruber toward UNC’s goal. Senior keeper Gay Adelaide scurried forward and kicked the ball out of play before Gruber could reach through-ball. OSU threatened again in the 31st minute when junior midfielder Aly Walker slipped behind UNC’s back line. Walker took a lofted pass and nodded a shot on goal, but Adelaide again came forward and was able to knock the headed shot aside. Adelaide would finish the match with three saves. The Tar Heels opened the scoring in the 35th minute after referee Michael Allie awarded UNC a free kick just outside the Buckeyes’ penalty area. The ensuing strike from Brooks — a low, driven shot on goal — took a deflection before glancing off the hand of Buckeyes’ senior keeper Katie Baumgardner. “I got a hand on (the shot),” Baumgardner said. “If I could take it back, I would. It was a little out of my control.” Baumgardner would go on to save two of UNC’s five on-target shots in the match. The Tar Heels took a 1-0 into halftime, but OSU took the game to UNC shortly after play resumed. In the 55th minute, Buckeyes senior forward Paige Maxwell dribbled up field, shook her defender and fired a shot from about 20 yards out that beat Adelaide, but caromed off the crossbar and out of play. “I was probably leaning back too much because I thought it was a closer shot,” Maxwell said. “I guess I leaned a little high. I should have tried to place it.” Four minutes later, UNC made the Buckeyes pay for Maxwell’s missed opportunity. Ohai collected the ball inside OSU’s penalty area, cut the ball back to create space and then calmly deposited a shot into the back of Baumgardner’s net to put the Tar Heels up 2-0. “The goal that Ohai created — if the kid can stop on a dime and keep her feet to shoot, the kid deserves a goal,” Lori Walker said of UNC’s second goal. Brooks then assisted on another UNC goal 18 minutes later. Brooks floated a cross off a set piece into the Buckeyes’ penalty area in the 77th minute. Sophomore forward Elizabeth Burchenal corralled the ball inside the six-yard box and rolled it across the face of Baumgardner’s goal to Pfankuch. Pfankuch then scored a tap-in goal to round out UNC’s offensive production in the match. “We gave up two goals on set pieces — that’s a mental thing,” Lori Walker said. “We’ve got to do better than that.” UNC denied the Buckeyes’ forwards at nearly every turn over the final 13 minutes and went on collect its first shutout of the season. After the game, Baumgardner said there were many positives to glean from the night’s result. “The kind of pressure that we played under, with (UNC) being so good and so technical, is really going to help us in the future,” Baumgardner said. Lori Walker agreed, saying she hoped for a future encounter with a No. 1-ranked team. “For us, the preparation that we get from this match will help us in the Big Ten conference,” she said. “Ultimately, you want to meet the No.1 team later on in the year.” OSU continues its regular season next Sunday at home with a 6 p.m. game against Ohio University. read more

Buckeye brainteasers 5 questions regarding OSUs matchup with Miami

The No. 17-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes (2-0) hit the road for their first away game of the 2011 season against the unranked Miami Hurricanes (0-1), which were picked to finish second in the Atlantic Coast Conference. OSU holds a 2-1 advantage in the all-time series against Miami, including a 31-24 double-overtime victory in the 2003 Fiesta Bowl for the 2002 BCS National Championship. Last season’s 36-24 win against the Hurricanes was vacated as part of OSU’s self-imposed penalties for NCAA violations. Here is a discussion of some of the pressing concerns facing the Buckeyes’ in their Week 3 contest against Miami. 1. Should I be concerned about last week’s 27-22 win against Toledo and, if so, how much? It’s reasonable to be worried after Saturday’s closer-than-expected win against Toledo, but only to a certain point. One area of question is the success the Rockets’ quarterbacking duo of sophomore Terrance Owens and junior Austin Dantin had in the game. Owens and Dantin combined to throw for 292 yards against the OSU defense. Perhaps the biggest worry for Buckeye Nation was that their team struggled to stop the offensive weapons Toledo figured to rely on heading into the game — junior wide receiver and kick returner Eric Page and senior running back Adonis Thomas combined for 372 all-purpose yards in the game. But the fact that OSU dropped only two spots in the Associated Press’ Top 25 poll from No. 15 to No. 17 could be a sign of respect for the Rockets’ playmakers, and Toledo earned every bit of that respect. For all the missed opportunities and big plays allowed to the Rockets’ predictable playmakers, the Buckeyes defense came up with the stops it needed to win the game. As several players and coaches said after the game, OSU bent but didn’t break. Toledo made a game of it Saturday and that can’t be wholly negative. Buckeye fans got a scare watching the game, but more importantly, players got a formidable test before their first road trip. 2. How will previously-suspended OSU players — sophomore defensive back Corey Brown, junior running back Jordan Hall and junior defensive back Travis Howard — figure into the game plan against the Hurricanes Saturday? The NCAA reinstated Brown, Hall and Howard on Tuesday. Each player was suspended for the Buckeyes’ first two games for receiving white envelopes containing $200 from a university booster at a Feb. 19 charity event in Cleveland. Coach Luke Fickell said on several occasions that he would focus on the players that were present and not suspended. Additionally, Fickell said the players returning from punishment would have to win their jobs back from the starters that filled in for them during wins against Akron and Toledo. Offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Jim Bollman announced Wednesday that Hall will start at tailback for the Buckeyes against Miami even though Fickell said the sophomore running back Carlos Hyde was the team’s starter after the Toledo win. In all likelihood, perhaps Hall also outperformed Hyde in practice this week. Sophomore cornerback Dominic Clarke has played well in Howard’s absence and was also listed as a starter on the team’s depth chart, which was released to the media on Tuesday. Howard and Brown were not listed on the depth chart. 3. Which players on the Hurricanes could hurt the Buckeyes on Saturday? The list of Miami players whom are certain to pose a threat to OSU starts with redshirt sophomore running back Lamar Miller, who rushed for 119 yards on 18 carries while also scoring a touchdown in the Hurricanes’ season-opening loss to Maryland. Miller will also pose a dual threat to the Buckeyes as he amassed 100 return yards on four kick returns against the Terrapins. As far as wide receiving targets are concerned, none of the Hurricanes’ receivers put up eye-popping numbers against Maryland. Sophomore quarterback Stephen Morris spread the ball around in the season opener, completing passes to nine different players in the game. Sophomore Allen Hurns led all the Hurricanes’ receivers with 69 yards on four catches. And, of course, there’s senior quarterback Jacory Harris, who is returning from a one-game suspension. Harris was one of eight players suspended for receiving impermissible benefits from former Miami booster Nevin Shapiro, who is now serving a 20-year prison sentence for his involvement in a Ponzi scheme. The Miami quarterback hasn’t seen action since Dec. 31, 2010, when the Hurricanes’ lost, 33-17, to Notre Dame in the Hyundai Sun Bowl. Given the amount of time it has been since Harris’ last meaningful snap, it is hard to say how threatening he’ll be on Saturday. In 2010, Harris threw for 1,793 yards and 14 touchdowns against 15 interceptions, with four of those interceptions coming against the Buckeyes during the teams’ Week 2 matchup last fall. Harris figures to be an “X” factor in Saturday’s game. Another interception-laden performance against OSU would likely be Miami’s downfall. A strong 2011 debut for Harris could have the Buckeyes’ defense back-peddling and chasing the ‘Canes throughout the game. 4. How will this young Buckeyes team react to a hostile, away-game environment? When you consider that members of this OSU team have played in famously large and loud Big Ten stadiums such as Michigan Stadium, Wisconsin’s Camp Randall Stadium and Penn State’s Beaver Stadium, Miami’s Sun Life Stadium just doesn’t compare. Miami students and fans will make some noise for the nationally-televised night game, but it won’t be anything the Buckeyes haven’t experienced before. According to a Hurricanes’ press release, their home field holds 74,916 fans — six Big Ten stadiums hold more. Upperclassmen leadership will be key for the Buckeyes, and many members of the team are capable of providing it to the team’s underclassmen. 5. Can quarterback Joe Bauserman lead the Buckeyes to the third win against Miami in program history? In a word, yes. Fans booed and jeered the redshirt senior quarterback on Saturday against Toledo while simultaneously calling for Braxton Miller to go under center for the team. Statistics support any decision by Fickell to entrust the team’s fate to Bauserman on Saturday. Bauserman has passed for 352 yards and four touchdowns against Akron and Toledo. Most important, though, is the fact that he hasn’t thrown an interception or been sacked. Sun Life Stadium may or may not present an intimidating atmosphere on this weekend, but it’s still worth questioning how Miller, a true freshman who has never played in any kind of hostile environment at the collegiate level, would respond to those conditions. The Buckeyes would do well to stick with Bauserman — the better-known commodity — throughout Saturday’s game. EXTRA POINT — Suspension updates for both teams OSU’s Daniel Herron, DeVier Posey, Mike Adams and Solomon Thomas, who each sold OSU football memorabilia and received improper benefits in the form of tattoos, will remain suspended until the team’s Oct. 8 game at Nebraska. For Miami, Harris, along with linebacker Sean Spence, defensive tackle Marcus Forston, defensive end Adewale Ojomo and receiver Travis Benjamin return to the Hurricanes’ lineup Saturday. Safety Ray-Ray Armstrong, defensive end Olivier Vernon and tight end Dyron Dye, however, remain suspended for receiving impermissible benefits from Shapiro. Final score prediction: OSU 31-27 Miami read more

No rest for weary Buckeyes coaches

BOSTON – There was no point in asking members of the Ohio State men’s basketball team’s coaching staff what time they thought they would finishing watching tape Friday morning – they didn’t know. You can bet it was late, though. The OSU staff has now guided the No. 2-seeded Buckeyes (30-7) to an Elite Eight appearance in the NCAA Tournament after the team’s 81-66 win against No. 6-seeded Cincinnati Thursday at TD Garden in Boston, but they aren’t done yet. Two OSU coaches said they will spare no effort in helping prepare their team for Saturday’s East Region final against top-seeded Syracuse (34-2), even if means losing a few more hours of sleep. First-year OSU video coordinator and former Duke guard Greg Paulus said he and other coaches would continue preparation for Saturday’s game in the wee hours of Friday morning where they will begin film study. “We’ll watch some film (this morning), you know, whether that’s breaking down this game (against Cincinnati) or watching some Syracuse,” Paulus said. “You just watch them and try to get familiar with them.” Paulus said he didn’t know what time the coaches would take a break for some sleep on Friday, but said they wouldn’t stop until they feel like they understand their opponent. “Whatever it takes,” Paulus said. OSU assistant coach Jeff Boals said that the short turnaround for postseason games is the main contributor to late nights put in by coaches all over the country. “With a one-day prep … you have so much film on them, and you try to prepare as good of a game plan in a 48 hour timespan – not even – and give your guys the best opportunity to win the game,” Boals said. “At this point in the season, you know, you don’t sleep, and that’s across the country. It’s one of those deals where, with the team and the lack of preparation time, you want to do as much as you can in a short time.” Paulus agreed, adding that being one win away from the Final Four in New Orleans doesn’t make coaches more motivated because they always prepare at a high level. “The effort this staff put forward is always at the highest level,” he said. “If it takes five minutes, which, somehow it never does, you know, that’s great. Other times, it takes a little longer, and this time of year, you want to make sure that you dot your ‘I’s’ and cross your ‘T’s.’” OSU’s East Region final against Syracuse tips Saturday at TD Garden in Boston at 7:05 p.m. read more

Ohio State club football optimistic about future

On a windy, overcast April afternoon at Ohio State, the cleats are laced up, footballs are tossed around and a new offensive scheme is being installed. New coaches and new players provide hope for the upcoming season. This is not the beloved Buckeye varsity football team, however, but the OSU club football team getting ready to enter its fourth season this fall. OSU club football began Spring Quarter 2008. A group of about 25 players made the team and stuck it out through the inaugural season in fall 2009. The team went 1-4 the first year, beating only Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, 28-12. The second year was a similar story for the club. A team of about 35 players competed for the Buckeyes and they made improvements from 2009, but the 2010 squad finished the year with a 2-4 record. Former club president and a player for three years, Nick Herrin, said that despite the tough times the team endured those first two years, it was the most fun he’s ever had playing football. “It was just 18 to 25 guys that just absolutely loved football,” said Herrin, a fourth-year in psychology. In the first two seasons, the team was not lacking in skill or talent, but was simply outmanned when compared to their opponents, Herrin said. “The first year of the club, we had 18 guys that were as good as anybody,” Herrin said. “We were just outnumbered. We go to Xavier and Miami and they’ve got 45 guys.” Despite going 3-8 in the first two years of the club’s existence, the players said the excitement increased prior to the 2011 campaign. Through tryouts, the team was able to increase its roster size to almost 50 players last season. As Herrin said, the increase in the number of players on the team helped. The Buckeyes finished the season 6-0 and ranked No. 3 in the final Intercollegiate Club Football Federation rankings. OSU practices and plays all of its home games at the Lincoln Tower Turf Field, which is located just south of Ohio Stadium. Safety George Shapiro, a third-year in industrial engineering and club president, said looking up at the fourth-largest football stadium in the country makes him feel like “the little brother” at times. He said he doesn’t mind though. “It’s still cool that it’s behind us like that,” Shapiro said. “It’s still very exciting to play in front of the Horseshoe.” The Buckeyes held tryouts last week and added 25 players to a team with 25 players from last season’s undefeated squad. Practice began Monday and will be two days each week until the end of the quarter. The team is making an offensive transition this year, similar to that of the varsity team under coach Urban Meyer. The scheme will be more of a spread offense after last year’s team was more run-oriented, Herrin said. Quarterback Jeff Porter, a second-year in operations management and club vice president, said the biggest thing for the team this spring is to get everyone together and start teaching the new guys. “We’re just trying to teach right now,” Porter said. “We’re just trying to get the new people caught up to what the veterans have learned already so that when it comes time for the fall, we can just jump right in.” Defensive back T.J. Thompson, a second-year in finance, said learning the new schemes is key, but getting everybody excited about playing is the most important thing. “This spring, we want to get everyone just excited for the autumn,” Thompson said. “Everyone just loves playing and has fun.” Looking forward to next season, coach Ray Giesige said it’s going to be hard to duplicate what last year’s team did because of the players that are graduating. Giesige played for the club team the previous two seasons before concussions forced him to switch to a coaching role. The fourth-year in sport and leisure studies said he wanted to stay involved and help continue what he helped start. “I decided I wanted to stick around and help out because it really is a great organization and we’re trying to do good things,” Giesige said. While he said he thinks the team has lost some important players from last year’s team, Giesige is looking to build off the 2011 season and is optimistic about the 2012 Buckeyes. “We lost some key contributors, but the great thing about here is there’s so many people that we can replace them at least a little bit on the talent side,” Giesige said. “We’re looking for people to step up right now and be leaders and if that happens, I think we’ll have a pretty good year.” read more

Ohio States Lenzelle Smith Jr Guys gotta get their confidence back

Senior guard Lenzelle Smith Jr. (32) drives to the basket during a game against Northwestern Feb. 19 at the Schottenstein Center. OSU won, 76-60.Credit: Shelby Lum / Photo editorCollege basketball seasons are bound to come with their respective twists and turns. Even an unblemished record doesn’t come without an off night or a close game.One day a team can be seemingly nailing every shot it takes and blowing out opponents while on the next, it can’t hit the broad side of a barn.During the Ohio State men’s basketball team’s current two-game losing streak, the Buckeyes (22-8, 9-8, sixth in the Big Ten) have experienced more of the latter.In particular, shooting from long range has been a struggle for OSU in losses to Penn State and Indiana.Against the Nittany Lions, coach Thad Matta’s team shot a pedestrian 29.4 percent from beyond the arc. As rough as that performance was, it paled in comparison to what OSU did against Indiana Sunday.For the first time since Jan. 10, 2004, OSU failed to connect from three-point land, missing all 11 of its attempts, and fell to the Hoosiers, 72-64.Senior guard Lenzelle Smith Jr. said after the loss to Indiana, the struggles from beyond the arc are an easy fix, however.“Shooting, that’s about confidence,” Smith Jr. said in an interview with Cleveland.com. “Guys gotta get their confidence back and we’ve got shooters so there’s no excuse. We’ve got to put the ball in the bucket. We’ve got guys who can make threes and we’ve got to step up and obviously put the ball in the bucket.”Smith Jr. tied junior forward LaQuinton Ross for a team-high with 19 points against the Hoosiers and shot 60 percent from the floor, but he missed both of his attempts from beyond the arc. He also shot just 1-6 from deep against Penn State.Matta said he has sensed confidence is dipping for OSU, especially when pressure is turned up.“We were rolling until Thursday night (against Penn State), in all seriousness,” Matta said to Cleveland.com after the loss to Indiana. “I think we’re really lacking in a confidence issue, we’re lacking in a toughness issue in terms of playing through situations. Those are things that somehow, some way, we’ve got to get corrected.”The Buckeyes’ need to regain their confidence is a high priority as the regular season draws to a close. They currently sit half a game behind Iowa and Nebraska in the Big Ten standings, who are tied for fourth in the Big Ten. The top four teams in the standings receive a first-round bye in the Big Ten Tournament, set to begin March 13.Smith Jr. was quick to add that even though the confidence has been lacking lately, the mood in the locker room doesn’t give any reason to believe the trend will continue.“We’re a great team when we come to execute and when we’re on top of our game,” Smith Jr. said to Cleveland.com. “I said we can beat any team in the country, and I’m going to stick by that … I should be happy with what we should produce at the end of the season.“I’m not panicking. I’m not worried about anything.”Since using a huge second half to beat Minnesota, 64-46, Feb. 22, it appears something has been off with the team.Ross said in an interview with Cleveland.com a big part of that is a lack of focus — something that could become a big problem if it is allowed to continue.“We just get too comfortable at times during the game, thinking we’ve got the lead and (that) we’re going to be able to hold it,” Ross said of the 21-5 run the Buckeyes allowed against Indiana, which the Hoosiers used to take the lead for good. “Not thinking that those other teams we’re playing are just as good as us. They’re putting their foot on the gas, and we’re taking ours off it.”Ross, OSU’s leading scorer, knows a thing or two about losing focus during a game. Ross was ejected during OSU’s game against Northwestern for shoving a player and committed a technical foul against Indiana for a similar infraction.Those are the type of things that can prove costly, Matta said, especially late in the season.“I told LaQuinton: ‘Hey, man, you get a technical foul and it’s your second foul and then you’re having your way in the second half and you foul out of the game,’” Matta said to Cleveland.com. “Little things. Those are the types of things that say, ‘Hey, we’ve got to get our concentration back, get our focus back and an understanding of what we’re doing.’”OSU’s next opportunity to try working through the rough spots in its play comes against No. 22 Michigan State (22-7, 11-5, tied for second in the Big Ten) when the Spartans are set to come to Columbus Sunday. Tipoff is slated for 4:30 p.m. read more

Chill wind for rail passengers as train fares to rise by an

first_imgFewer than half (47 per cent) of passengers are satisfied with the value for money of train tickets, according to Transport Focus.The Government uses the previous July’s Retail Prices Index measure of inflation to determine increases in regulated fares, which was 3.6 per cent.These are around half of all tickets and include season tickets on most commuter routes and some off-peak return tickets on long-distance journeys.Train operating companies set the prices of other tickets but are bound by competition rules. These fare increases are another twist of the economic knifeMick Cash, RMT union general secretary Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily  Front Page newsletter and new  audio briefings. The RDG said more than 97p in every pound from fares goes back into improving and running the railway.Chief executive Paul Plummer noted that the Government controls increases to almost half of fares while the rest are “heavily influenced” by the payments train companies make as part of contracts to run franchises.He said: “Alongside investment from the public and private sectors, money from fares is underpinning the partnership railway’s long-term plan to change and improve.”It has been the policy of successive governments to reduce the funding of the railways by taxpayers and increase the relative contribution of passengers. Office of Rail and Road figures published in October showed that £4.2 billion of taxpayers’ cash went to the rail industry in 2016/17. Rail passengers will be hit by the largest fares hike in five years next month.Average ticket prices across Britain will go up by 3.4 per cent on January 2, industry body the Rail Delivery Group (RDG) said.It is the sharpest rise since 2013, when fares increased by 3.9 per cent.Passenger watchdog Transport Focus compared the news to “a chill wind” blowing down platforms as many passengers’ incomes are stagnating or falling.Chief executive Anthony Smith said: “While substantial, welcome investment in new trains and improved track and signals is continuing, passengers are still seeing the basic promises made by the rail industry broken on too many days.” “The private train companies are laughing all the way to the bank.” Taking inflation into account, this is down almost 13% on the previous year but more than twice as much as British Rail used to get before the rail network was privatised.The RDG highlighted that private investment in rail reached a record £925 million in 2016/17.How much will your train season ticket cost in the New Year?Here are 10 examples of rail fare rises. They compare the price of a 12-month season ticket bought today with one purchased from January 2 next year – and the difference in cost.It does not include the price paid if within-London travelcards are also purchased for Tube and bus journeys in the capital. One in nine trains (12 per cent) failed to meet the rail industry’s punctuality target in the past 12 months.That means they arrived at terminating stations more than five minutes late for commuter services or 10 minutes late for long-distance journeys.The Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union described the fares announcement as “another kick in the teeth” for passengers.General secretary Mick Cash said: “For public sector workers and many others in our communities who have had their pay and benefits capped or frozen by this Government, these fare increases are another twist of the economic knife.last_img read more