It’s a cliche: Every game counts in a league that plays just 16 of them. But Benjamin Morris’s findings in his debut Skeptical Football column were nevertheless striking: A Week 1 or Week 2 game can affect an NFL team’s chances of making the playoffs by as much as 20 or 30 percent.We also see that reflected in FiveThirtyEight’s NFL Elo ratings playoff odds, a feature we debuted last week.What are Elo ratings? The short version: Elo ratings are a simple mathematical system originally designed to rate chess players. They’ve since been adapted to a number of sports such as soccer, and we’ve adapted them to the NFL. The Elo ratings only account for fairly basic information like wins and losses, strength of schedule and margin of victory. There are more advanced systems out there, but Elo ratings are transparent, easy to calculate and we can do a lot of fun stuff with them, like simulating the rest of the season and calculating playoff odds. For more on the methodology, see here.In our Week 1 ratings — which were based on a team’s Elo rating at the end of last season — the New England Patriots had a 73 percent chance of making the playoffs and the Miami Dolphins had just a 32 percent chance. But the Dolphins upset the Patriots, and now it’s almost even: New England is at 54 percent to make the playoffs and Miami at 50 percent.Why such a big shift? Well, every game counts (especially a divisional game; our simulation accounts for playoff tiebreakers). But also, the Patriots now look slightly worse than Elo originally pegged them, and the Dolphins look slightly better. Before Week 1, Miami had projected to win 7.7 games; it now projects to win 9.1. In other words, one NFL win for the Dolphins was worth more than one win in the Elo standings because Miami’s Elo rating improved.Here are the latest Elo ratings and playoff odds for all 32 teams:A few other comments:The teams with the largest gains on the week, in addition to the Dolphins, were the Minnesota Vikings, who gained 46 Elo points after demolishing the St. Louis Rams, and the Tennessee Titans, who added 38 Elo points after beating the Kansas City Chiefs. Both Minnesota and Tennessee are now better than even money to make the playoffs; the Titans are helped by playing in the league’s weakest division (although the NFC East might have something to say about that).It’s early, but perhaps we’re seeing the emergence of a Big Three. The Seattle Seahawks are the most likely team to win the Super Bowl, at 16 percent, followed by the San Francisco 49ers at 13 percent and the Denver Broncos at 11 percent. Then there’s a fairly big drop to the Carolina Panthers at 7 percent.Meanwhile, in the it’s-already-time-to-panic department, the Chiefs project to just a 6-10 record and have only a 13 percent chance of making the playoffs.Elo ratings can also be used to derive point spreads. We strongly advise that you don’t bet on these, at least not without considering a lot of other information — Vegas betting lines are too sophisticated to be beaten by a simple system like Elo. Still, it’s fun to track their progress. Last week, they went 8-8 against point spreads as listed at Pro-Football-Reference.com.There are some funky matchups this week. Elo has the Vikings at almost even money at home against New England, while Vegas has the Patriots as 3-point favorites. Another point of disagreement is Seattle at San Diego; Vegas has the Seahawks as 6-point favorites — a lot on the road against a playoff team. Elo thinks they should be favored over the Chargers by a field goal instead.
Last Tuesday, I crunched some numbers on which NCAA men’s tournament coaches exceeded expectations the most since the tourney expanded to 64 teams in 1985, based on their teams’ seeds at the start of the tournament. Perhaps not surprisingly, Michigan State coach Tom Izzo ruled all, with his Spartans winning 14.6 more games than would be expected based on the way they were seeded. And after Izzo won two more games over the weekend to secure the Spartans’ seventh Final Four bid under his watch, we thought we’d update the numbers1With a slight tweak to the SRS adjustment that forces the sum of each tournament’s field-wide expected wins to equal 63. to reflect the latest results.Izzo is still No. 1 of course, with 16.2 wins above expectation now (after adding in his two wins over the weekend, plus Michigan State’s expected future wins according to the FiveThirtyEight tournament predictions), while the coach he beat in the East Regional final, Rick Pitino, ranks second since ’85.Two of Izzo’s fellow Final Four coaches also rank among the top 10. John Calipari of Kentucky (whom the Spartans could face for the national championship in a week) places third. And Mike Krzyzewski, whose Duke Blue Devils will play Michigan State on Saturday, ranks 10th. Wisconsin’s Bo Ryan may seem like the odd man out, but Ryan’s teams have still exceeded expectations — though only by 2.7 wins over his career, which ranks 31st since 1985.
The Americans will be looking to match the Germans better than they did in 2002, which will be difficult against a German offense that is the second-strongest in the tournament (with a 3.2 SPI offensive score). At a minimum, a draw would send the Americans to the knockout stage, so a 0-0 scoreline will suffice. But the Germans are a full goal ahead of the Americans in projected goals for this match (2.1 to 0.9, to be exact), so shutting them out won’t be easy.There are no players left on the American roster who played in that 2002 game, but the U.S. is equipped with a roster full of German-Americans. Fabian Johnson, John Brooks, Julian Green, Jermaine Jones and Timmy Chandler are all of German-American descent, which perhaps isn’t very surprising given head coach Jurgen Klinsmann’s German roots. Johnson and Jones spent time on Germany’s youth national teams, and four U.S. players (Chandler, Green, Brooks and Johnson) currently play in the Bundesliga. All of this to say that there might be even more at stake on Thursday for some of these players than the numbers suggest.YESTERDAYThe Argentina-Nigeria game started with a flourish, as Lionel Messi’s third-minute opener was matched by Ahmed Musa’s fourth-minute equalizer. It was the first time in World Cup history that both teams scored within the first five minutes of a match. And to follow it up, in the second half, Musa scored in the 47th minute and Marcos Rojo the 50th.Messi’s opening goal was the first conceded by Nigeria; entering the match, the Super Eagles were the only team that had not allowed a goal in this year’s tournament. Messi’s second goal came from a free kick, something and somewhere commonplace for him but rare for Argentina in the World Cup. Messi has scored three of his five career World Cup goals from outside the penalty area, and his nine free kick goals over the past four La Liga seasons are second only to Cristiano Ronaldo’s 13. But it was Argentina’s first free kick goal in the World Cup since 1982.Messi’s second goal gave Argentina the lead just before halftime, essentially guaranteeing La Albiceleste the win. Argentina is now 28-1-0 in World Cup matches when leading at half, with its single loss coming in the 1930 final to Uruguay. Messi also became the third player at this year’s tournament with a multi-goal first half (Switzerland’s Xherdan Shaqiri later became the fourth), something that no player managed in the 2010 tournament.Although Nigeria lost, it became the first African team to advance to the knockout stage for a third time. Musa’s brace was the first for Nigeria in its World Cup history, and Nigeria passed Cameroon for the most goals by an African nation in the World Cup. France and Ecuador played to a scoreless draw, good enough for France to win Group E. The French had the advantage throughout the match, finishing with 242 touches in the attacking third compared to 57 for Ecuador. But France was held scoreless in large part thanks to Ecuadorian goalkeeper Alexander Dominguez, whose nine saves are tied for the most in a match this tournament. He leads all players with 18 total saves.The Swiss finished second in Group E , thanks to a hat trick from Shaqiri — the first by a Swiss player in the World Cup since Josef “Seppe” Hugi in 1954. The game also marked the first time Switzerland scored three goals in a World Cup match since 1994. — Jacob Nitzberg, senior stats analyst for ESPNOFF THE PITCHThe United States and Germany have an interesting historical relationship, to say the least. The strong ties between the world powers are well known, despite recent hiccups, such as the revelation that the American National Security Agency had been spying on German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Germans and Americans also often visit each other’s countries and even migrate between them. According to the OECD International Migration Database, 20,149 American nationals migrated to Germany in 2011, and 6,125 German nationals moved in the other direction. This may seem like a big disparity, but when adjusted for total population, just about .001 percent more Germans per capita migrated to the U.S. than the other way around. Cross-tourism data shows a similar relationship. The U.S. Department of Commerce reports that 1.88 million Germans visited the United States in 2012, while the German National Tourist Board shows that 4.85 million Americans spent time in Germany the same year. — Hayley MunguiaFURTHER READINGIt’s Judgment Day in World Cup Groups G and HWas the U.S. Robbed Against Portugal? It Depends on What Time MeansHome or Away: Where Does the Future Lie for the USMNT and American Soccer?CORRECTION (June 26, 10:21 a.m.): An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Landon Donovan would have been the only returning player on the U.S. team this year from the 2002 World Cup quarterfinals. Demarcus Beasley is on the current roster and was on the 2002 team, but didn’t play in that quarterfinals match.CORRECTION (June 26, 10:58 a.m.): Previously, this story mistakenly said that any two teams from Group G could move on to the next round of the tournament. While any one team can still advance, there is one combination of two teams — Ghana and Portugal — that cannot advance together. As if you needed any data to tell you why you should watch Thursday’s U.S. vs. Germany game (and the Portugal vs. Ghana match, if you’ve got a split-screen setup), but we’re going to give it to you anyway.U.S. vs. Germany 12 p.m. EDTPortugal vs. Ghana 12 p.m. EDTAlgeria vs. Russia 4 p.m. EDTSouth Korea vs. Belgium 4 p.m. EDTIN BRIEFSee our World Cup predictions for the latest probabilities.IN DEPTHGroup G has shaped up to be one of the most exciting yet-to-be-decided groups of the tournament — as it stands, no team is mathematically guaranteed to advance (though Germany is very close at 99.7 percent). The are a huge number of possible outcomes of Thursday’s matches, and any team can technically still advance to the next stage of the tournament.If the uncertainty of Group G isn’t enough to make you tune in, the level of play we’re expecting to see between the U.S. and Germany should; the teams’ combined Soccer Power Index scores is higher than that of any two teams playing Thursday. Although the odds are heavily favored for Germany (63.4 percent to the U.S.’s 14.8 percent), we don’t expect this game to be a blowout (see Belgium vs. South Korea for that).In their last meeting, a June 2013 friendly, the U.S. beat Germany 4-3. But friendlies are friendlies; the teams’ last competitive encounter was at the 2002 World Cup quarterfinals, when the Germans edged the Americans 1-0 in what is considered one of the best U.S. performances at any World Cup. (The U.S. did reach the semifinals at the inaugural 1930 World Cup.)
OSU senior guard Ameryst Alston (14) drives to the hoop during a game against Northwestern on Jan. 28 at the Schottenstein Center. Credit: Samantha Hollingshead | Photo EditorAs the sunset fell on the Charleston Harbor in South Carolina in November 2012, the rays radiating into the faces of the Ohio State and Notre Dame women’s basketball players during the Carrier Classic, then-freshman guard Ameryst Alston lined up on the charity stripe for the first time in her collegiate career.After a couple of warmup dribbles to get a feel of the leather ball, Alston hit nothing but nylon to score her first point sporting the scarlet and gray.The first-year player would finish the game only scoring three points in the 21 minutes that she played, but, as the season progressed, Alston created a name for herself in the Buckeye rotation. Eventually, she would become one of the more pivotal players in the program’s history.Fast forward three years, 12 weeks and three days, and there was just under 1:30 to play in the third quarter in the Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City, Iowa. The No. 7 ranked Buckeyes were leading the Iowa Hawkeyes at their home gym, 76-59. As the clock ticked down, Alston, now a senior, made a stutter-step move from the right wing toward the basket, dribbling to the opposite side of the cylinder, where she pulled up and connected on a short jumper. Usually, a late-game score to put a team up 19 points like Alston’s would be nothing but a trifling tally on a box score. Except that pull-up jumper was not usual — it was historic. With the make, Alston surpassed the 2,000-point scoring mark, making her only the sixth OSU women’s basketball player to achieve the milestone. Instead of cracking an immediate smile and having play stop to send the ball over to the bench to celebrate an archival moment of her career, Alston did what she had done after scoring all the other 1,998 points over the past four years: hustle down to the other end of the court to play defense.That is just who Alston is: a selfless player who is obsessed with earning team accomplishments instead of impressive individual accolades. “I’m really close with her, and I didn’t even know she was close to 2,000 points,” senior guard and four-year teammate Cait Craft said. “She never spoke about it, and even when she scored her 1,000th, I had no idea it was coming.”Alston was solely a role player when she came onto the scene in Columbus. It wasn’t necessarily her fault, though, as it was just because of all the talent that the Buckeyes had at the time, including Tayler Hill (who Alston just passed on the scoring list) and Amber Stokes, both of whom would go on to sign professional contracts.OSU senior guard Ameryst Alston (14) dribbles the ball during a game against Northwestern on Jan. 28 at the Schottenstein Center. Credit: Samantha Hollingshead | Photo EditorAt the time, Jim Foster was at the helm of the OSU program, but he would be relieved from the position for a lack of postseason victories.The program then turned to former Washington coach Kevin McGuff in April 2013 for guidance.Upon arrival in Ohio’s capital city, McGuff said he was comforted by the fact that he was inheriting a talent like Alston, who was only going to be heading into her sophomore year.“When I got here I was obviously excited to have her in the program,” McGuff said. “I knew she could be a big piece of (OSU) kind of rebuilding the program, and she has certainly been that.”In McGuff’s first year as coach, Alston had a remarkable sophomore campaign, receiving a first-team All-Big Ten selection by coaches and the media. She scored 19 points per game and also led the team with 112 total assists. Coming into her junior year, the Buckeyes were able to pick up a couple of premier recruits and transfers, including McDonald’s All-American and the nation’s leading high school scorer in 2014-15, Kelsey Mitchell. The influx of improving talent might have created a feeling of anxiety for a player who wanted to be the face of a program. For Alston, this was not so. “She was our main scorer and our go-to person our sophomore year, and then last year we had a bunch of young talent come in, and that never really bothered her,” Craft said. “It wasn’t just all on her anymore. There were other people to help her, but she took it in stride and she understood that was what was best for the team.”As a junior, Alston finished the year with 694 points, averaging 19.8 points per game and earning another All-Big Ten selection. She helped the Buckeyes become runner-ups in the Big Ten tournament before leading them to the second round of the NCAA tournament, where OSU would eventually fall to North Carolina by one basket. Now Alston, who is one of the two seniors on the team, has progressively become a vocal leader, as well as a leader by example, which she said is something she grew into over her four years in Columbus. “Being vocal is not something that I came in here with,” Alston said. “Now, I’m just trying to help give direction.” OSU is currently 21-4 and 13-1 in conference play, and it is in the midst of a nine-game winning streak. Even with all the success the Buckeyes are having and scoring her 2,000th point, there are still goals that Alston and her squad have with four games left in the regular season. And those start with cashing in on the promising postseason future OSU looks to have.“We are just taking it one game at a time,” Alston said. “The goal is to win every game and to hopefully get a Big Ten championship.”As Alston continues to be one of the Buckeyes’ go-to scorers this season, she will continue to rise on the all-time scoring list in OSU basketball history. With 2,032 points and counting to her name, only three players are above her. Of the trio, Jessica Davenport’s third-place position with 2,303 points is the only one in jeopardy. Even so, the humble Alston never truly had a passion to score 2,000 points in her collegiate career. Her prerogative was always staying focused on her mission of the team winning games. “(Scoring 2,000 points is) actually not something I think about … It just kind of comes with it,” Alston said. “This year has been very special in terms of our success as a team. It’s always great, and fun, when you’re winning.”The next chance for Alston and her team to keep winning is set for Thursday, as OSU is scheduled to take on Nebraska at 6 p.m. at the Schottenstein Center.
Michigan football coach Jim Harbaugh looks on after the last touchdown during the game on Nov. 26 at Ohio Stadium. The Buckeyes won 30-27. Credit: Mason Swires | Assistant Photo EditorMichigan football coach Jim Harbaugh had some strong words for the media following his team’s 30-27 double-overtime loss to Ohio State on Saturday. During post-game interviews, the Toledo native had harsh criticisms for the officiating. The comments resulted in a $10,000 fine imposed by the Big Ten Conference on Michigan.A public reprimand was also issued to the Wolverines’ coach, with no further punishment announced at this time. The comments made by Harbaugh were stretched throughout the presser, and he failed to answer many of the reporters’ questions, instead speaking about the officiating rather than his team.“I’m bitterly disappointed in the officiating,” Harbaugh said on Saturday. “I could have been watching the game instead of being concerned (with sideline behavior.)”Although he is known for his tirades, Harbaugh had never been directly reprimanded by the Big Ten. The statement on the subject reads as follows.“The Big Ten office today issued a public reprimand of Michigan football head coach Jim Harbaugh for violating the Big Ten Sportsmanship Policy following Michigan’s game against Ohio State on Nov. 26, 2016. In addition, the conference announced that the institution has been fined $10,000 as a result of the violation.”
On Sunday afternoon, a slender, 22-year-old Cuban pitcher made his professional baseball debut. He struck out nine and pitched 4 2/3 innings, allowing an unearned run, five singles and one walk. Fifty-five of his 85 pitches were for strikes and, by all accounts, his first start was a success. Around 4 p.m. Monday, this same phenom strolled into the visitor’s dugout at Huntington Park to answer a throng of questions from the media. He sat down next to Louisville Bats trainer and translator Tomas Vera, looking neither nervous nor excited. The young man took his time answering a myriad of questions, speaking very softly and smiling occasionally as Vera translated for him. And at the end of the session, he got up and walked back down the tunnel to the locker room. Just two days in the life of Aroldis Chapman, the Cincinnati Reds $30 million man. A man who, if he continues to compile dominating performances like the one he had on Sunday, will force the Reds to promote him to the big league club. Count Bats manager Rick Sweet among those impressed. “He handles [pressure] very well. He doesn’t show [nervousness] at all,” Sweet said. “He’s been on the national scene and the international scene, so it’s almost a relief when he gets in between the lines to where he can focus, to where he’s away from all of [the media hoopla].” Even a casual observer of baseball can notice just how special Chapman is. His delivery matches his personality: calm and quiet. Right before Chapman fires the ball home, he hides the ball behind his back, keeping the hitter guessing for a few extra seconds. Then, his body unwinds, and at a three-quarter angle, his left arm slingshots the ball toward home. Sometimes the ball travels as hard as 101 mph, which Chapman reached on a first-inning strikeout Sunday. Despite the aura around his triple-digit fastball, Chapman said he doesn’t concentrate on how hard he throws. “Honestly, I really don’t pay attention to the speed. I think it’s something the Lord gave to me and I have to thank God and all the coaches I’ve had since I was in Cuba,” Chapman said through Vera. “They’re all a part of this, but the speed isn’t that important for me.” And while Chapman may not acknowledge that his fastball is indeed heavenly, Sweet appeared amazed that his young southpaw threw the ball so hard, so often, and with such apparent ease. “I just saw [Chapman] throw over 100 mph I think a total of seven, eight times in one game. I don’t know … if I’ve seen that total in my career,” Sweet said. “It’s very special, especially when you see how he easily he does it. He’s not a max effort guy that’s all over the place. He’s nice and easy and smooth, and the ball explodes out of his hand.” Explode onto the major league scene is what Chapman could do very soon. If a Reds starter goes down with injury, Chapman would be among those considered for the call-up. The main reason for the call-up would be because the Reds believe Chapman’s pitching prowess matches his major-league readiness, but the fact that he can draw a crowd will also heavily factor into the decision. Considering that their attendance has dwindled in recent years, the Reds would be hard-pressed not to consider elevating the left-handed Cuban. Chapman, whose warm-up bullpen session reportedly attracted 150 spectators Sunday, is also quickly gaining the respect of his comrades. Perhaps the biggest surprise of Monday’s media session was how many times Chapman referenced how helpful his teammates have been. At one point, a reporter asked Chapman about his teammates and, after Vera translated it, Chapman flashed his pearly whites. Across the dugout, a handful of his teammates were pointing at him, making sure their famous friend and teammate put in a good word for them. Often times in sports, when a player signs a big contract, the size of his head swells along with his paycheck. Sweet said Chapman is the total opposite. “He’s very quiet, very shy. Not intimidated, but he’s a shy young man,” Sweet said, “and he’s gotten along very well with his teammates.” “It’s been nice to see. You think with all the money he’s making, sometimes guys [let the money get to their head], he’s not that way. He just wants to be part of the team.” So long as Chapman’s cultural adjustments progress alongside his changeup, it’s hard to imagine the Reds keeping their prized left-hander in the minors too much longer.
Ohio State athletes traded in their cleats and jerseys for heels and suits as they filed in to be honored at the 43rd annual Scholar-Athlete dinner.More than 500 athletes showed up for the event, some looking uncomfortable in their dress clothes and others looking proud of their dapper sport coats and skirts.One thing was obvious about the group as they lined up to enter the Archie M. Griffin Grand Ballroom: They were proud. Team members from various sports complimented other teams for their achievements and Ryan Jefferson from the men’s diving team seemed to be getting extra attention as he approached the venue with a large trophy in his arms.The award was the Varsity “O” trophy, given to the team who boasts the highest grade point average for the school year.“It was a great honor to win last year,” Jefferson said. “We all work hard but you don’t usually get recognition like this.”The team picked up the trophy again for the sixth straight year. The cross country team took the trophy on the women’s side. The men’s individual Varsity “O” trophy, given to a student who demonstrates success in the classroom, on the field and in the community, went to football player Andrew Moses.Football had 44 members at the dinner, the most of any team in attendance.“Our goal is always to be 3.0 students,” quarterback Terrelle Pryor said. “Every time we have more teammates who get that GPA, it’s a huge accomplishment.”For Pryor, being named a scholar athlete is the first step in achieving his goal of becoming an Academic All-American this summer. “I’ve really matured,” Pryor said. “I’m growing up and it’s all about being a man. I have to have a schedule to succeed and go by that plan. Once you mature as a person it shows on the field as well as in the classroom.”Senior cross country and track member Taylor Candella was in attendance for the fourth year in a row. Candella has balanced sports and academics with a position as chair of theStudent-Athlete Advisory Board and as a member of the Athletic Council.“It’s a great accomplishment,” Candella said. “We care about our grades, not just our sports, and I think it’s great that we have a record number of people with over a 3.0 who are able to manage playing a varsity sport at a school like Ohio State.”Senior volleyball player Anna Szerszen was the only athlete in attendance who is currently working on a graduate program along with her undergrad. She plans to get her MBA when she concludes her fifth year here at OSU.“It involves a great deal of commitment,” Szerszen said. “You have to make sacrifices and manage your time if you want to be successful.”Several awards were directed specifically at seniors, including the Big Ten Conference Medal of Honor Award and several other that recognized the academic achievements of the athletes.The Big Ten Conference Medal of Honor, considered the most prestigious award given at the event, went to diver Chelsea Davis and men’s swimmer Stefan Sigrist. The Medal is given to the athletes who have the greatest proficiency in both academics and athletics.The award included a $5,000 post-graduation scholarship.The two teams that finished as the “Most Improved” were women’s soccer and men’s tennis.In all, 503 athletes were honored, the first year that the event included more than 500 athletes, as last year only 493 were honored.
After being ranked as high as No. 6 in the country early in December, the Ohio State women’s basketball team surprisingly now must fight for its right to play in the NCAA Tournament, which takes college basketball’s top 64 teams. Seven upsets will do that to a top-10 team, with the latest being to Northwestern on Sunday at home. Those defeats came to unranked Syracuse, Duquesne, Michigan twice, Penn State and Northwestern twice. “We’re not a team that fights through adversity. That’s how you win games. You got to claw it,” OSU coach Jim Foster said Sunday after his team’s 74-68 loss to Northwestern. Inversely, the Buckeyes (13-9, 4-6 Big Ten) are 3-2 against ranked teams, losing to then-No. 1 Connecticut on Dec. 19 and No. 22 Iowa on Jan. 8. And the team’s last six games of the season won’t be any easier. OSU plays No. 5 Purdue (16-8, 6-5 Big Ten) on Thursday at Nationwide Arena. Then, three of its last five games are away: Minnesota (11-12, 3-7 Big Ten) on Sunday, Purdue on Feb. 20 and No. 11 Michigan State (20-3, 8-2) on Feb. 24. The winner of the Big Ten Tournament receives an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, but OSU came into Sunday’s in seventh place in the conference. The pile of losses is even more surprising considering the Buckeyes were ranked in The Associated Press‘ Top 25 for 130 straight weeks — a streak that ended last week. Over the past six seasons, OSU racked up 170 wins, sixth most in the country over that span. “It was frustrating — very,” senior center Jantel Lavender said after Sunday’s loss. Missing the tournament would be disappointing for such an established program and for Foster, who has taken the Buckeyes to the NCAA Tournament each of his eight seasons in Columbus. His teams made the Sweet 16 in 2005 and 2009. But the Buckeyes have played the country’s third-toughest schedule and, according to Realtimerpi.com, rank No. 18 in the nation in RPI. “It’s not different than anything they’re going to face in life. If you’re going to roll over and quit, you’re not going to have a very good life,” Foster said. “This is one of the easiest things in life to fight, quite frankly.” The numbers say OSU is better than its record indicates. After Sunday’s loss to Northwestern, the team averages 72.6 points per game, and has posted an 11-2 record when it has scored more than 70 points. And, only Connecticut has shot at least 50 percent from the field against the Buckeyes. After an injury to starting forward Sarah Schulze, Foster started freshman center Ashley Adams. The 6-foot-4 center provides another defensive presence down low for OSU. But even that hasn’t been enough. “I think that we don’t have … a mentality about defense enough,” Lavender said. “Teams come at us, and we’re not responding in the right way.”
Courtesy Ohio State Athletic CommunicationsThe Ohio State men’s tennis team shut out three consecutive conference opponents en route to winning its seventh Big Ten Tournament in eight years.The No. 4 Buckeyes (31-2), who played host to the annual tournament for the first time since 2002, held up the No. 1 overall tournament seed throughout the weekend, securing victories over No. 9-seeded Purdue, No. 4-seeded Illinois and No. 3-seeded Michigan, respectively.OSU did not relent a point over the three-game stretch, winning each match 4-0 and remaining undefeated in Big Ten play in 2013.The Saturday semifinal win over the No. 4-seeded Illini avenged the last season’s 4-3 loss in the 2012 Big Ten Tournament in Evanston, Ill.The championship victory over the Wolverines on Sunday gave the Buckeyes their eighth Big Ten Tournament victory (2001, 2006-11, 2013) and 11th finals appearance under coach Ty Tucker. Before Tucker took over in 1999, OSU also won the tournament in 1991.Against Michigan, the Scarlet and Gray dominated their archrivals from the North by securing the team doubles point for the 31st time in 2013. The No. 46-ranked tandem of junior Blaz Rola and redshirt sophomore Kevin Metka won their match, 8-5, and maintained their perfect record on the season at 20-0. The No. 14-ranked duo of redshirt junior Peter Kobelt and senior Connor Smith followed suit and clinched the doubles point with an 8-4 victory.In singles play, OSU rallied to three consecutive wins to put away the Wolverines. The Buckeyes garnered wins from redshirt freshman Chris Diaz and freshman Constantin Christ, winning 6-2, 6-2 and 6-1, 6-2, respectively. Finally,Smith, winning his match 6-3, 6-3, earned the match-winning point to solidify the Buckeyes as 2013 Big Ten Tournament Champions and earn them an automatic bid to the 2013 NCAA Tournament.The men’s tennis selection show is scheduled for 5 p.m. on Tuesday, with singles and doubles selections scheduled to occur at 6 p.m. on Wednesday.
Shelby Lum / Photo editorRedshirt-senior running back Jordan Hall fights for extra yards during a game against Buffalo Aug. 31, at Ohio Stadium. OSU won, 40-20.Heading into Ohio State’s 2012 season, it was widely expected that then-senior running back Jordan Hall would be the featured back in the first year under new coach Urban Meyer.Hall was even named captain for the 2012 squad, but was forced to sit on the sidelines for all but three games because of two unrelated injuries.“It was tough, it wasn’t as tough because we won every game, so I feel like if we had lost a couple of games it would have been even tougher because I would have felt like I could’ve helped,” Hall said when asked about his time spent on the bench last season. “But we won every game so I was happy for my teammates.”After being granted a medical redshirt and since returning to full health, Hall was thrust into the spotlight for the 2013 season opener against Buffalo.Hall was named the starter for the game after the suspensions of top running backs senior Carlos Hyde and redshirt-junior Rod Smith.Hall quelled any doubts fans might have had by halftime, tallying 126 yards and two touchdowns on the ground in the first half. He finished with 159 yards on the day, a career high.Coach Urban Meyer said Hall stood out against Buffalo on offense for the Buckeyes.“Offensive champions were Jordan Hall, great to see him, 159 yards and graded out 81 percent. I guess those are career highs for him and I thought he played very well,” Meyer said.Both of his touchdowns came on big runs, one of which was a career-long at 49 yards. The other, a 37-yard sprint, came one play after Buffalo had cut the lead to 10 points and all but dashed any hope the Bulls had for a comeback.Junior quarterback Braxton Miller said Hall’s second touchdown helped to keep the momentum in Ohio State’s favor as the game was starting to slip away from the Buckeyes.“It slipped a little bit. But Dontre (Wilson) came back with a nice kickoff return, we got up a little bit and then Jordan (Hall) scored a nice little run,” Miller said.Hall credits his touchdown runs to the holes created for him by the offensive line.“I just was like, wow, I don’t know if they messed up or the O-line just did what they do and I just (saw) it and I took it,” Hall said.During the offseason, Meyer said he thought Hall would end up as the H-back and use his skill set to help the team there rather than in the back field.“Last spring, I had the intention of making Jordan Hall more of an H, but an H that can come in and motion in and that’s when he can cause issues for defenses,” Meyer said.Hall said he spent time preparing to be the H-back, but was also ready if he was needed as a traditional running back.“I was going to be the H and coach told me I had to learn both positions, so wherever they put me, I’m going to do what I have to do to help the team win,” Hall said.Hall finished the game with three catches for 14 yards to go along with his rushing total, but also caught a pass for a two-point conversion from senior quarterback Kenny Guiton.Although he wasn’t expecting to be on the field for the conversion, Hall thought it was a nice addition to the offense.“At the beginning of the season, I wasn’t even the person that caught the ball. Then in the first week, (running backs) coach (Stan) Drayton put me in there. I like it. The defense can’t take a play off,” Hall said.Hall was glad to see the team come out to a fast start, taking a 23-0 lead after the first quarter, but felt the team got complacent and slowed their pace after that.“Coach (offensive coordinator Tom Herman) challenged us to come out fast, get things going, and I think we did that,” Hall said. “In the second half, we slowed down a little bit, but we’ll be better next week.”Hyde, the expected starter heading into the season, is set to return from suspension Sept. 21 against Florida A&M. With Hall’s performance in the opener the player who will be the Buckeye’s long-term starter at running back remains up in the air.Hall said he isn’t worried about Hyde’s return, and said it’s about the team, not his individual stats.“Carlos (Hyde), he earned his right. He had a good season last year and I know that he was going to be the running back at the beginning of the season before he got in trouble or whatever and I was going to play a different position,” Hall said. “Coach Meyer knows that he has a bunch of people that can play running back or H position so I think it’s just going to be harder for a defense to prepare for that.”Drayton said when redshirt-junior Rod Smith returns from suspension Hall’s role might not change.“The beauty of Jordan (Hall), again, like I said, his strength is his intelligence on the football field and he has been cross-trained and he is continually being cross-trained at both of those positions,” Drayton said. “So with the addition of Rod Smith coming back, it doesn’t necessarily mean that Jordan Hall’s role gets lesser. No, it just may be distributed a little bit differently throughout the scheme.”OSU is set host to San Diego State Saturday at 3:30 p.m. at Ohio Stadium.