The face of boxing steps into prison today, an 87-day stint that defines the sport as much as it defines the times and the man.That is not a compliment.It, in fact, is an indictment—on boxing, the world we live in and Floyd Mayweather, Jr.With an opportunity to represent himself and his sport in an upstanding fashion, Mayweather, instead, has failed boxing and himself. And there does not seem to be any outrage about it.The best boxer in the world gets locked up on a domestic violence charge stemming from a September 2010 incident during which he pled guilty to pulling the hair and twisting the arm of the mother of three of his children. His sons, 10 and 8 at the time, were there when he also threatened and hit ex-girlfriend Josie Harris. The older boy ran out a back door to fetch a security guard in the gated community.Sadly, boxing did nothing. No admonishment. No suspension. Nothing. So it’s no wonder that after all that, when he leaves the Clark County Detention Center in Las Vegas near the end of summer, he will have actually augmented his stature, his “street cred,” among many who deem it some warped mark of proud distinction to have been locked up.In one of his many and sometimes mindless rants about one thing or another during his remarkable boxing career, Mayweather, 35, has more than once invoked the name Muhammad Ali in relation to himself, a juxtaposition that is ludicrous, but interesting on this day in one way.Ali once went to jail, too. And that’s where the comparisons should end, for Ali stood for something, whether you agreed with his position or not.With the travesty of the Vietnam War getting even worse in 1967, Ali was called up for induction into the armed forces. Back then, men were drafted and had to serve or face jail time. Ali still refused because of religious beliefs. He also said: “I ain’t got no quarrel with them Vietcong. Ain’t no Vietcong ever called me (the N word).”Ali’s refusal got him some jail time. Bigger was the national uproar it caused. His boxing license was cancelled by most states. He was stripped of his title, had his passport confiscated and did not fight for 2 ½ years. Instead of pouting, Ali lectured at colleges and Muslim gatherings around the nation, gaining support as antiwar sentiment increased. In June 1971, the Supreme Court reversed his conviction, ruling that he was entitled to an exemption as a conscientious objector.That little history lesson should show how Ali and Mayweather are comparable only that they starred in the same sport. That’s it.Here’s what Mayweather said on HBO: “I’m in the same shoes as Ali. They hate me when I’m at the top, but once my career is over, they’re going to miss me.”On his domestic violence case, he said: “I took the plea. Sometimes they put us in a no-win situation. I had no choice, but I don’t worry about going to jail. Better men than me have been there. I’m pretty sure Martin Luther King’s been there, and Malcolm X. I have taken the good with the good so I’ll accept the bad with the bad.”Sign of the times: Mayweather was sentenced on December 22, 2011, but judge Melissa Saragosa agreed at the last minute to let him remain free long enough to fight Miguel Cotto on May 5 in Las Vegas, which he did last month and earned more than $32 million—and injected millions more into Sargosa’s city’s economy.Well, the money cannot help Mayweather now. He likely will not be able to train while in prison. For the first week or so, Mayweather will be segregated for his protection from the other 3,200 inmates. He’ll get one hour of exercise time a day outside his cell.It could be worse for Mayweather. He could be a convicted rapist like Mike Tyson. Or maybe a miracle could happen: He could exit a new man of character and community ambition.Don’t bet on it, though.Curtis Bunn is a best-selling novelist and national award-winning sports journalist who has worked at The Washington Times, NY Newsday, The New York Daily News and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Fitzpatrick runs betterExpected points added on quarterback rushes Jameis Winston-0.01 James Winston+0.22+0.82-0.6049.30% So while Winston is pretty clearly the better passer, there are legitimate reasons to prefer Fitzpatrick. The problem is that those reasons just aren’t terribly compelling. Having a 30-something QB — one who is not even known to be very fast — scramble for first downs is probably not going to be an integral part of the Tampa Bay game plan moving forward. Monken and Fitzpatrick have been great so far this season, but they’ve also been lucky. Passes that travel 25 or more yards downfield are worse than a 40 percent proposition across the league, and 95.7 percent of NFL passes go for less than 30 yards in the air. Optimizing for rare plays with a low probability of being caught probably isn’t wise.Finally, the way a quarterback plays in his first two games has almost no bearing on how he will perform over the rest of the season. (Sorry, Patrick Mahomes.) Using game-level passing data from Armchair Analysis from 2000 through 2017, I looked at how well a quarterback’s yards per attempt in the first two games of the season matched his rest-of-season numbers, and the first two games weren’t predictive.6Yards per attempt in a player’s first two games explains just 8 percent of the variance in the player’s rest of season yards per attempt. R-squared 0.082, n = 766 player seasons Basing your decisions on a two-game sample at the start of the year is deeply unwise, hot hand or not.The Buccaneers have one more week to evaluate Fitzpatrick’s play — and so will America, as Tampa takes on Pittsburgh in Monday Night Football. If Fitzpatrick has a poor game, it will likely make it easier for Koetter to decide to play Winston in Week 4. If Fitzpatrick has another solid game, there will likely be grousing in the locker room if he’s taken off the field, but it’s very likely the correct decision. Monken has shown the ability and creativity to maximize the talents of his players, and the Tampa Bay receiving weapons will be best served in the long run by having Winston under center.Check out our latest NFL predictions. Ryan Fitzpatrick+0.16 quarterbackPer Pass PlayAiryards after catchSuccess Rate Source: Elias Sports Bureau As a passer, Winston is worth almost twice as many points per play as Fitzpatrick is, and Winston is 4.2 percentage points more successful at keeping his team on the field with his arm. And while EPA per play from yards after the catch is negative for both players, Fitzpatrick has probably been helped more by his receivers than Winston has.In each of the first two games of the season, Tampa Bay offensive coordinator Todd Monken dialed up a deep pass attempt early. On the fourth offensive play of the game against New Orleans, Fitzpatrick threw the ball 38 yards in the air to DeSean Jackson, who then ran 20 yards after the catch for a touchdown. On the first offensive play of the game against the Eagles in Week 2, Fitzpatrick completed another long pass — 35 yards deep to Jackson, who then rumbled 40 yards after the catch, again for a TD. Those two plays account for two of Fitzpatrick’s eight touchdowns and 16 percent of his passing yardage on the year — and 45 percent of those yards were Jackson running after the catch.Apportioning credit for yards in football is notoriously difficult. If we plot Fitzpatrick’s career completion percentage by depth on plays in which he faced no pressure5Work by Eric Eager has shown that QB performance from a clean pocket is more stable and predictive of future performance than when a QB is pressured. and compare it with both Jameis Winston and the league average, we can see that Fitzpatrick is actually quite good on deeper throws. We can also see that across most other depths of target, Winston is the superior passer, consistent with our previous metrics. Still, Monken has been smart with Fitzpatrick, calling deep plays early that take advantage of Fitzpatrick’s strengths, and it has paid off handsomely.Another area in which Fitzpatrick is superior to Winston is an unexpected one: QB scrambles. Despite being 10 years older, the journeyman completely outclasses the youngster when pulling the ball down and running. Ryan Fitzpatrick+0.12+0.60-0.4945.10 quarterbackRush EPA Source: Elias Sports Bureau Atop their quarterback depth chart, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have a 24-year-old former No. 1 overall pick who won the Heisman Trophy and was handed the keys to the franchise just a couple of years ago. Behind him, they have a 35-year-old journeyman — playing on his seventh team — who is most notable for going to Harvard and having a massive beard.This is not a team that’s supposed to have a quarterback controversy in Week 3. But that’s the reality in Tampa right now.Ryan Fitzpatrick has led the Buccaneers to a surprising 2-0 record to start the season, including wins at New Orleans and against reigning Super Bowl champion Philadelphia. He has been nothing short of brilliant filling in for the suspended Jameis Winston, throwing for 819 yards, eight touchdowns and just one interception. With Winston set to return from suspension after Week 3, Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter won’t commit to either player as his starter. Meanwhile, wide receiver DeSean Jackson is on the record saying that Fitzpatrick should keep his job when Winston returns, arguing that the Bucs need to ride the hot hand.Fitzpatrick’s hand has certainly been hot to open the season. His 13.4 yards per attempt leads the NFL, as does his 15.3 adjusted yards per attempt, a stat that incorporates touchdowns and interceptions. It’s the most dominant two-game start to a season1For a quarterback with at least 40 total attempts. since 1972, when Joe Namath threw for 14.5 yards per attempt and 15.7 adjusted yards per attempt in two wins for the Jets.Koetter and the Buccaneers will be faced with a difficult political environment in the locker room if they choose to bench Fitzpatrick in favor of Winston after Jackson’s comments. But what do the numbers say? Should Tampa Bay ride the hot hand or sit Fitzmagic and hand the team back over to Winston?We’ll start by comparing career numbers — they provide the largest sample size and the least noise. Winston has a career yards per attempt of 7.5, well above the league average of 7.1,2Since 2009. while Fitzpatrick is slightly below average at 6.8 yards per attempt. Both quarterbacks’ career touchdown rates are similar (4.5 percent for Winston vs. 4.4 percent for Fitzpatrick), as are their sack rates (5.8 percent for Winston vs. 5.4 percent for Fitzpatrick). Winston appears to take better care of the ball than Fitzpatrick does (2.8 percent interception rate for Winston vs. 3.3 for Fitzpatrick), but interception rate is a notoriously noisy stat, so drawing firm conclusions about who is truly better is difficult.These metrics lack context though. Perhaps a better way to compare their performances is using expected points added, which take into account down, distance and field position. Using the EPA model developed by Ron Yurko, Sam Ventura and Maksim Horowitz and play data from Elias Sports Bureau, I calculated the expected points added per pass play for both Winston over his career and Fitzpatrick since 2009.3The first year for which the data is available. I separated passing EPA into points added through the air and points added through yards after the catch. Finally, I calculated the percentage of passes that were positive EPA plays, also called success rate. Success rate is the share of plays in which a team picks up the yards needed to stay “on schedule” for a first down.4Which typically means gaining at least 4 yards on first down, 4 on second down and 2 on third down. Winston’s passes are more effectiveExpected points added per pass — broken down by air yards and yards after catch — plus the success rate of each pass play Expected points added (epa)
At the core of the College Football Playoff is the assumption that four reasonably well-differentiated teams will be left standing at the end of the regular season and conference championship games, ready to be neatly penciled into a bracket.Unfortunately, such a tidy setup seldom actually happens in real life.This season is a good example. If you break things down into tiers of teams, at the top are three Tier 1 teams — undefeated major-conference squads plus independent Notre Dame1Because they are Notre Dame. — in Alabama, Clemson and the aforementioned Irish (two of which could potentially be conference champions as well). But there are also four Tier 2 teams — one-loss major-conference teams and undefeated minor-conference ones — in Ohio State, Oklahoma, Georgia and Central Florida. Even if you grant that poor UCF is likely to get little consideration (particularly with starting QB McKenzie Milton out with a leg injury), and that UGA would drop below Tier 2 with an SEC title-game loss to Bama, the math doesn’t quite work out to shield the selection committee from criticism. It still leaves too many deserving teams for too few slots.So with the help of our playoff odds algorithm, let’s run down the various permutations of what could happen on Championship Saturday to see who the model thinks would make the playoff in each.2Including every set of results that has at least a 2 percent probability of actually happening — with one special exception. Based on how the selection committee (and, before that, the BCS) has behaved in the past, we’ll break down how our system expects it to react this year. And we’ll go in order, from the least controversial to the most…(Note: These chances reflect the results from Week 13 but not the latest playoff committee rankings, which are released Tuesday night. Instead, they use our model’s expectation of how those rankings will change.)Alabama and Clemson win; Oklahoma OR Ohio State loses.Chances of happening: 23 percentLikely playoff field: Alabama (greater than 99 percent), Clemson (>99), OU or OSU winner (98), Notre Dame (94)Others: UCF (3 percent), Texas (2)This is one of the dream scenarios for the committee, as it would give them three top-tier teams and only two Tier 2 teams to choose from, one of which is non-Power 5 UCF with an injured QB. From there, picking the four playoff teams would be relatively straightforward.Alabama, Ohio State and Oklahoma win; Clemson loses.Chances of happening: 2 percentLikely playoff field: Alabama (>99 percent), Ohio State (94), Notre Dame (93), Oklahoma (92)Others: Clemson (11 percent)According to our model, this result would also benefit the selection committee. If Clemson were to lose the ACC title game to Pitt when favored by more than three touchdowns, the Tigers would suddenly be a Tier 2 team battling with a couple of fellow candidates (the Buckeyes and Sooners) who would each boast conference championships in this scenario.Clemson wins; Alabama and either Oklahoma OR Ohio State loses.Chances of happening: 14 percentLikely playoff field: Clemson (>99 percent), Georgia (99), Notre Dame (88), OU or OSU winner (83)Others: Alabama (24 percent)This is a variation of the first scenario listed above, where everything goes more or less to form except Georgia beats Alabama for the SEC title. I suspect our algorithm might be undercounting the chances that the committee stamps a playoff ticket for the Crimson Tide — who’ve had one of the most dominant seasons in college history — even with the loss. But taken on face value, a pair of conference champs (Oklahoma/Ohio State and UGA) might have a better case than a one-loss non-champ (Bama) within Tier 2.Clemson wins; Alabama, Oklahoma and Ohio State lose.Chances of happening: 3 percentLikely playoff field: Clemson (>99 percent), Georgia (>99), Notre Dame (98), Alabama (65)Others: Texas (16 percent), UCF (12), Washington (7)Despite the scary-sounding prospect of dealing with a one-loss, non-conference-champ Crimson Tide team, this sequence of events gets the committee off the hook to some extent. Clemson, Notre Dame and UGA would be easy calls, and it’s not hard to see Alabama rising over any of the other candidates for the No. 4 slot in the playoff field.Alabama, Clemson, Oklahoma AND Ohio State win.Chances of happening: 31 percentLikely playoff field: Alabama (>99 percent), Clemson (>99), Ohio State (69), Oklahoma (69)Others: Notre Dame (62 percent)Under this very plausible situation — the most likely on this list, in fact — the committee would have to make a tough choice among Ohio State, Oklahoma and Notre Dame for the third and fourth playoff seeds. Lacking any kind of special Notre Dame adjustment, the model thinks OSU and OU would come out ahead. Realistically speaking, however, it’s difficult to imagine that the committee would exclude an undefeated Irish squad, right or wrong. So that means it would come down to splitting hairs between the Buckeyes and Sooners. Good luck with that.Alabama and Clemson win; Oklahoma and Ohio State lose.Chances of happening: 4 percentLikely playoff field: Alabama (>99 percent), Clemson (>99), Notre Dame (98) and … ???Others: Texas (31 percent), Georgia (29), UCF (23), Washington (12), Ohio State (5)Most of the scenarios on this list involve too many good teams for too few slots. But in this particular case, there wouldn’t be enough. The committee would be staring at three clear-cut deserving squads, plus a whole bunch of flawed lower-tier teams in the mix for the fourth and final bid. Our model actually thinks three-loss (!) Texas would be the most likely candidate, though this is also one of UCF’s best, most viable paths to that elusive playoff berth.Clemson, Oklahoma and Ohio State win; Alabama loses.Chances of happening: 19 percentLikely playoff field: Clemson (>99 percent), Georgia (98), Ohio State (66), Oklahoma (62)Others: Notre Dame (60 percent), Alabama (13)This is the combination the selection committee has to be fearing the most, in part because it could happen so easily. It would simply require the Tigers, Sooners and Buckeyes winning a trio of games as favorites, and Georgia pulling off a not-unthinkable upset against the Tide for the SEC crown. Remember, the Bulldogs were in great shape for about a half in last year’s national championship game — before Bama stormed back to force overtime and eventually win. If UGA avenges that loss on Saturday, the committee would have a very tricky choice on its hands.Alabama wins; Clemson, Oklahoma and Ohio State lose.Chances of happening: 0.2 percentLikely playoff field: Alabama (>99 percent), Notre Dame (>99), Clemson (64) and … ???Others: Texas (44 percent), Georgia (36), UCF (31), Washington (16), Ohio State (4), Oklahoma (4)This chaotic option isn’t as immediately apparent as the obvious “Georgia beats Bama” doomsday scenario above, but it might end up wreaking just as much havoc. Our model thinks Clemson would still have a reasonable 2-in-3 chance of making the playoff even after losing to Pitt, provided the Sooners and Buckeyes also lose. But the model is doing an algorithmic shruggie at the idea of having to pick the fourth team, which could be any of six schools with at least a 4 percent chance according to the model. The odds of this happening are very low (about 1 in 444), but if it does, it could be the most challenging decision the committee has faced in its five seasons of existence.Check out our latest college football predictions.
In the past few weeks, the Chinese Football Association Super League — the country’s premier professional soccer league — has been on a shopping spree. By the close of the January transfer window, the Chinese Super League had outspent England’s Premier League in the transfer market; the CSL made five of the six largest transfer signings in the 2015-16 window.The biggest splash came when the Jiangsu Suning shelled out $55 million to acquire Alex Teixeira, a star Brazilian midfielder playing in Ukraine, who was hotly pursued by Liverpool. Teixeira’s signing gives the CSL the 70th most valuable player in the world.By attracting big-name talent, CSL clubs are signaling the rise of Chinese soccer power — at least financially. (The value of the signings to club owners likely has as much to do with marketability of the players for product endorsement purposes as it does with improving the team.) This power has grown in lockstep with the league’s attendance and revenue. Since the league was founded in 2004, total CSL attendance has surged from 1.4 million to more than 5 million in 2015; per-game attendance has more than doubled as the league has grown from 12 to 16 teams.As Chinese soccer has grown domestically, the league has begun to throw around its financial weight in the international transfer market, thus boosting the total market value of CSL players. The league’s total value, according to Transfermarkt estimates of its players’ transfer market values (as opposed to aggregate transfer buys) has risen to about $380 million. Teixeira’s transfer fee alone accounts for 15 percent of that. That’s humongous. Gareth Bale’s record-breaking (unless you ask Ronaldo) transfer fee to Real Madrid in 2013 came in north of $100 million, yet represented a mere 3 percent of the more than $3.4 billion estimated market value of La Liga’s players in 2013.Although the CSL is making international news with a few big-ticket signings, as a whole, the league is still small. The league’s total estimated market value is still half as big as even Portugal’s national league, and it pales in comparison to England’s Premier League, which is valued at $4.7 billion. In fact, the total market value of all 16 CSL teams is still less than that of just Liverpool. Thus, a transfer fee comparable to the one between the CSL and Teixeira would be about $700 million (!).(As CSL teams make it rain, it’s worth noting that this cash isn’t being evenly distributed. Foreign players make far more than Chinese players. CSL teams must abide by a strict cap of no more than four overseas players, plus one from another country in the Asian Football Confederation. And according to 2012 data, these foreign players pulled in earnings more than five times larger than those of their Chinese teammates. The disparity has probably only grown as the CSL hunts for pricier international stars.)In some ways, the CSL has taken Major League Soccer’s model and supercharged it. MLS has tried — with debatable success — to gin up fan interest by splurging on a few big-name, often well-aged, international players. David Beckham joining the Los Angeles Galaxy in 2007 on a (comically inaccurate) “$250 million” deal comes to mind. By the 2008 season, the entire MLS had an estimated market value of about $157 million; with more than $10 million of that being Beckham. Today, that number has crept up to $314 million — exponential growth, but well behind the pace being set in China. So the CSL is following the MLS script, to a degree, only with players in their primes instead of broken-down warhorses like Frank Lampard.Some macroeconomic context helps, too. Although there are signs that China’s economy is slowing, and its stock market has been a disaster over the past year, the appetite of Chinese sports fans doesn’t seem to be lagging. The slowdown within the Chinese economy seems to be focused on real estate, state-owned enterprises and the stock market. Although growing indebtedness is an issue, Chinese consumers are better positioned than other parts of the Chinese economy. So expect demand for — and spending from — Chinese Super League teams to keep growing. China has a very long way to go before it’s a top player in international club soccer, but if consumer interest grows at the pace it’s set, the CSL might just continue to draw stars anyway.CORRECTION (Feb. 19, 2 p.m.): An earlier version of this article incorrectly described the basis for determining the monetary valuation of players in soccer teams and leagues. That valuation is measured by a Transfermarkt calculation of overall player market values, not just salaries. Transfermarkt makes the calculation based on the estimated value of the player in the transfer market. References in the article to how much teams and leagues have spent on salaries have been changed to the market values of their players.
OSU coach Tom Ryan congratulates freshman Myles Martin on a quarterfinals win at the NCAA championships at Madison Square Garden.Credit: Courtesy of Ben Solomon | OSU AthleticsNEW YORK CITY — The repeat title hopes for Ohio State wrestling have all but faded away after a rough second day at the NCAA tournament.After the first session of the day advanced four wrestlers to the semifinals, the Buckeyes sustained brutal loses in the 125-, 141- and 165-pound weight classes. The ability for OSU to close out matches and secure early wins like last season was nowhere to be found.Things weren’t all bad for the Scarlet and Gray, though, as two Buckeyes, freshman Myles Martin and sophomore Kyle Snyder, earned their way into the championship round.Session IIIThe Buckeyes entered Day 2 hot on the heels of Penn State and deadlocked with Oklahoma State. Midway through the second day, the story was the same for the Scarlet and Gray.OSU finished the morning session with second place all to itself. Penn State, however, stretched out its lead to 14.5 points.Both redshirt freshman Micah Jordan and redshirt senior Johnni DiJulius lost matches in the morning session. DiJulius was eliminated from the competition, while Jordan moved to the consolation bracket to fight for third place.However, four wrestlers advanced in the tournament, moving on to the semifinal round. All but one of this group reached the same round last year.Redshirt sophomore Nate Tomasello won by decision, and both redshirt sophomore Bo Jordan and Snyder earned major decision wins in the quarterfinals.As for the fourth Buckeye to earn a spot in the semifinals, the true freshman Martin, a defensive strategy paid dividends to advance the Penns Grove, New Jersey, product into the next round.Martin rode out the entire second period and picked up an escape in the third for the win. He appeared extremely confident following the match’s conclusion and not at all concerned with the pressure despite the big stage.“I wrestle guys in the room every day that are world champions, All-Americans, national champions,” Martin said. “That helps my confidence a lot when I’m competing with these guys.”Session IVMadison Square Garden erupted at the start of the semifinals, then looked on in awe as Thomas Gilman of Iowa upset Tomasello in overtime. This was the first loss for Tomasello in over 40 matches of his college career.Tomasello was driven to the mat and pinned in overtime, silencing the OSU faithful in attendance to a gasp. Last year’s national champion at 125 pounds was visibly distraught after the defeat.Things would not get better for the Buckeyes at 141 pounds. Micah Jordan lost a 6-2 decision against Randy Cruz of Lehigh. This was the second time in two matches he was the victim of an upset.Trying to get things back on track, Bo Jordan faced an opponent he had yet to beat in three attempts: his cousin, Wisconsin’s Isaac Jordan.Once again, Isaac Jordan got the better of his relative, as he took a 5-4 decision.Finally, after the Buckeyes lost their first three matches of the session, Martin turned things around. The freshman fought hard to gain an 8-2 decision, earning the right to go on to face Bo Nickal of Penn State in the finals.In the final bout of the evening, Snyder remained perfect on the year by beating Ty Walz of Virginia Tech to join Martin in Saturday’s championship round.While proud of the two wrestlers who will represent the Scarlet and Gray in the finals, OSU coach Tom Ryan seemed drained and disheartened after such an overall poor showing in the fourth session.“It’s a tough night, a real tough night,” Ryan said, his raspy voice caused by shouting out instructions seemingly reflecting the overall mood of the team.Ryan did offer praise to both wrestlers moving on to the final stage, especially Martin.“We knew early on with Myles that we had something really special,” Ryan said. “He showed that this weekend.”OSU has now dropped to fifth overall and will be looking to salvage whatever it can Saturday.The morning session is scheduled to begin at 11 a.m., with the evening session slated for 8 p.m. after the parade of All-Americans.
After one of the most devastating losses in recent memory, the Ohio State Buckeyes and their coaches begin to look for answers.OSU went to Purdue and was beaten convincingly, 26-18, by a Boilermakers team that had one win, and zero in the Big Ten Conference.“Obviously it was a tough one for us to go drop a game on the road in the conference, but that’s exactly what happened,” coach Jim Tressel said Tuesday during his weekly press conference.Mistakes and missed opportunities plagued OSU against Purdue. The most glaring problem from an offense that only mustered 18 points was the inconsistent play by quarterback Terrelle Pryor.Pryor’s day was highlighted by turnovers. He accounted for four of five on the day. He had two interceptions and three fumbles, two of which were lost to Purdue.The offensive struggles cannot be pinned on him alone, but if the offense is going to start being more consistent, it will have to start with Pryor, Tressel said.In the five wins for OSU this season, Pryor has a 9-5 touchdown to interception ratio and three rushing touchdowns. In the two losses, he has only one touchdown, three interceptions and two lost fumbles.For OSU’s offense to get out of its collective funk, Pryor will need to be more protective of the football, Tressel said.Tressel said that regardless of how ineffective Pryor has looked at times this season, the idea of replacing him with backup Joe Bauserman has never crossed his mind.Last year, quarterback Todd Boeckman was replaced after a forgettable outing against USC. Tressel doesn’t believe that this year’s struggles are comparable to those of last season.“We felt at the time last year that the best thing for the team in order to be successful was to make the decision that we did,” Tressel said. “I’m not sure that they’re comparable at all. They don’t feel to me as being similar situations.”With several questions still unanswered, the Buckeyes (5-2, 3-1) prepare for Homecoming against Minnesota (4-3, 2-2) at noon Saturday.Tressel striving for better preparationRecently, OSU has been known as a team that struggles to beat quality opponents. As bad as that may seem, the Buckeyes’ saving grace has been that they rarely, if ever, lose to inferior opponents.That wasn’t the case Saturday.“We didn’t do the things that you need to do to be successful,” Tressel said. “What we asked ourselves and our team to do was first and foremost … think about what is it that I could do better.”The letdown against Purdue started with the coaching staff not adequately preparing the Buckeyes for the challenge they would face.The Boilermakers are a much better team than their record indicates. Letdowns like the one Saturday occur when teams don’t give enough credit to their opponent, junior receiver Dane Sanzenbacher said.“I think we prepared the week like any other game,” he said. “When it came to game time, our focus just might not have been there. As a whole, we may have overlooked that a little bit.”If the Buckeyes weren’t ready mentally for a tough road game at Purdue, it falls back on the coach. In light of the tough loss, Tressel reflected on what he believes his role is in preparing his players.“I know from a coaching standpoint when young people decide to come to Ohio State, and we convince them that this is a great institution and so forth, that one of the things that we want to know for sure is what is it that you’re interested in doing individually, collectively as a team, obviously a million things outside of football, and then you go about trying to coach them, aid them, teach them and so forth in what it takes to accomplish that,” Tressel said.After the surprising loss to the Boilermakers, Tressel knows what he must do to better his team going forward in Big Ten play.“The first reflection that I have personally is that I’ve certainly got to do a better job of helping this group understand what it takes to do the things they would like to do,” he said. Injuries, youth, penalties hurt offensive lineLack of production by the offense doomed the Buckeyes on Saturday, and the lack of quality play by the offensive line is just another reason why.The line gave up five sacks against Purdue but also had five costly penalties that made sustaining drives difficult.Senior Jim Cordle went down during the USC game, and surgery has kept him from making an impact on the struggling line. Cordle could be ready this week.“We tried to get him into the game Saturday, and he just isn’t quite ready,” Tressel said. “It’s one thing being able to be able to go through a practice tempo, and it’s another thing to be able to do it on a Saturday. I like to think he’d be a lot healthier because we kind of took a step back with him. We didn’t leave him in so long that he got banged up.”Fellow veteran Andrew Miller has also been out, but Tressel believes it may finally be time for him to get back in the rotation.“Andrew has practiced a little bit, and I hope he can contribute,” Tressel said. “This will be an important week of practice to see if he can get some weight back on and get some strength back and so forth.”
Monday night’s national championship game looked a lot like a Monday Night Football game between the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears. I saw Butler’s Ronald Nored do his best Brian Urlacher imitation as he delivered a crushing blow to prevent UConn’s Kemba Walker from sprinting into the open court. I saw Butler shoot 18.8 percent from the field. I saw the two teams combine for 94 points, nine short of the 103 UNLV scored in the 1990 title game by itself. But in the end we all watched the “little guys” from Butler, who lost a heartbreaker in last year’s final to Duke, fall to the supposed Goliath for a second consecutive year. And before the book closes on this college basketball season, who can forget VCU’s darling run from the First Four to the Final Four? Or how about the fact that no No. 1 or No. 2 seed made it to the Final Four? This particular tournament showcased college basketball at its best. It’s a place where parity reigns supreme and in turn supplies hoops fans with incredibly exciting basketball. I think not. First of all, the term “little guys” doesn’t apply to Butler anymore. It’s reached two straight title games. But why has Butler been able to reach the game’s final act two seasons running? Because there’s no such thing as a “mid-major” anymore. The lines in college basketball have been blurred. The well has run dry on great teams because the talent gap between players isn’t as large as it used to be. Kansas coach Bill Self said it best following his team’s loss to VCU in the Elite Eight: “Because seeds are so overrated, it’s about matchups. If we played shirts and skins today you wouldn’t have much of a difference on players or how they look.” Self is absolutely right. Players that go to BCS conference schools have the advantage of going to programs with long histories of success, top-notch facilities and, most importantly, national television exposure. How many times was VCU on national television before the NCAA Tournament? Only five times. Kansas could top that figure in a 10-day period. Yet, through a combination of favorable matchups, hot shooting and an indiscernible talent gap, VCU beat KU like it stole something. So what does all of this mean? College basketball is thoroughly mediocre. Blame kids for falling in love with the 3-point line instead of being able to hit a 16-footer. Blame the NBA’s age limit, which has weakened the NCAA’s top-tier programs. Or blame Michael Jordan, whose game-winning shot in Game 6 of the 1998 NBA Finals has led college basketball (and NBA) teams to believe that isolation is not only a reliable halfcourt offense, but the best end-of-game play call. There’s no such thing as an upset in college basketball anymore. The ranking and seeding systems say otherwise, but until something is done to mend college basketball’s mediocrity, Cinderellas cease to exist and the days of great teams are gone.
Shelby Lum / Photo editorJunior midfielder Ryan Ivancic races his opponent to the ball during a game against IPFW Aug. 20, at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium. OSU won, 2-0.The Ohio State men’s soccer team defeated the Southern Methodist University Mustangs, 1-0, Sunday in the second day of the Holiday Inn City Center Golden Hurricane Classic in Tulsa, Okla.Both teams were coming off a Friday loss, and were trying to end the weekend with some momentum. OSU was outshot by the Mustangs 10-2 Sunday, but Buckeye senior forward Denio Leone scored the game’s only goal late in the second half to secure the 1-0 victory for his team.Coach John Bluem said his team escaped from the match after facing heavy pressure from the Mustangs.“We were under a lot of pressure, especially in the second half,” Bluem said in a phone interview after the game. “We had a really nice goal from a senior and got away with a win.”SMU outshot the Buckeyes in the first half 2-1, but neither team found a way to put the ball in the net. Buckeye junior goalkeeper Alex Ivanov, who was named Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week last week, kept the Buckeyes alive throughout the first half by saving both shots SMU took.OSU’s only shot of the first half came when senior forward Alex Harrison took a header towards the goal but hit it high.SMU opened up the second half playing aggressive on offense, taking four shots and three corners within the first 10 minutes. Ivanov saved two more shots, and he finished the match with six saves on the way to securing his second career shutout.Bluem praised the play of the younger players on the team, and their ability to comeback from a tough start to the weekend.“We are a young team and we talked about bouncing back like we did last weekend,” Bluem said. “The guys answered well.”Although OSU was outshot 8-1, that one shot proved to be all that it needed. Leone received a cross from the right side of the field from freshman defender Tyler Kidwell, one-touching it into the goal from about eight yards to tally his first career goal.OSU fell to No. 22 ranked Tulsa, 4-1, Friday in its first game of the Classic. The team’s lone goal came from freshman midfielder Christian Soldat, and it was the first in his career. Tulsa coach Tom McIntosh earned his 200th career win in the process.Bluem was not pleased with his teams performance, but said that Tulsa deserved to win.“It was a hard weekend — it was almost 100 degrees,” Bluem said. “The Friday game against Tulsa was not a good game. They are a really good team.”The Buckeyes are scheduled to continue regular season play when they take on Bowling Green next Friday. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. in Bowling Green, Ohio.
Ohio State redshirt senior guard Kam Williams walks up the court between free throws during the second half of a game against Texas Southern at the Schottenstein Center on Nov. 16. Credit: Nick Clarkson | Social Media EditorThe Ohio State men’s basketball team (5-2) returned to Columbus late Sunday night from the PK80 Invitational in Portland, Oregon following a 67-66 loss to Butler.The Buckeyes blew a 15-point lead in the final four minutes and lost in overtime. Ahead of his team’s Wednesday showdown against Clemson (5-1), head coach Chris Holtmann said he’s trying to find balance between allowing his team to rest and preparing for its fourth straight high-major opponent.“From what I’ve been able to watch, I really like this Clemson team. I think they’re older, they’re skilled, Brad [Brownell] does a great job,” Holtmann said. “So it’s gonna be a fun challenge for us, and we’re excited about it and excited to prepare.”Clemson has demonstrated improved accuracy from the field this season, making 50.3 percent of shot attempts. Ohio State has shot 46.1 percent from the field.Veteran forwards Keita Bates-Diop and Jae’Sean Tate have led the Buckeyes with 16.9 points and 10.3 rebounds per game, and 13.7 points and 7.3 rebounds, respectively. The Tigers are led by forwards senior Donte Grantham and junior Elijah Thomas. Grantham averages 16 points and six rebounds per game, shooting 69.8 percent from the field and 47.6 percent from the 3-point line. Thomas averages 13 points and 9.2 rebounds per game, shooting 70.5 percent from the field. Freshman forward Kaleb Wesson said defending Clemson’s big men will require more than just a few players giving effort defensively.“It’s gonna have to be a team effort,” Wesson said. “If people [are] shooting 70 percent from the floor, that means they’re getting good shots. They’re not shooting bad shots, so everybody got to join in and guard everybody.”The Tigers do not solely rely on their big men, however. Each of their starters averages 11-plus points per game. They also have multiple threats from 3-point distance. In addition to Grantham, senior guard Gabe Devoe makes nearly two 3-pointers per game at a 39.3 percent clip and redshirt senior forward/center Mark Donnal has made five of seven shots from beyond the arc.Ohio State has not defended the perimeter well this season, allowing more than eight 3-pointers per game. Holtmann said that’s an area that could decide the game.“We’ve not defended the 3 as well as I would have hoped,” Holtmann said. “And overall, we’ve defended well. We have been pretty solid defensively. I wish we would defend the 3 a little bit better but that’s certainly going to be important tomorrow.”Ohio State has shot poorly so far this season and struggled with turnovers, which makes defending on the other end of the floor that much more important in maximizing possessions.“We just gonna have to execute on defense,” redshirt senior guard Kam Williams said. “We just got to lock in ― try to string three stops in a row, five stops in a row. We not gonna shut them out, but if we just stay connected on the defensive end, hopefully that will just help us out and put less pressure on our offense.”The Buckeyes also will need to win the battle inside to win the game given Clemson’s talented frontcourt. The Buckeyes have outrebounded opponents 41.1-32 on average, while the Tigers have outrebounded opponents 38-30.Holtmann said sophomore center Micah Potter did not play much against Butler because of his lingering ankle injury. Wesson has started in Potter’s place and will need to step up in the paint against Clemson, especially if Potter continues to be limited.Ohio State has given out 5,000 student tickets already as part of the free student ticket giveaway in an attempt to generate a home-court advantage with a larger, and potentially louder, crowd, Holtmann said. “I think every time you go out you have an opportunity to kind of define who you are and who you want to be as a team and as a program,” Holtmann said. “And that’ll be the case certainly tomorrow against a really quality opponent.”
Ohio State redshirt junior forward Keita Bates-Diop (33) dunks in the second half in the game against Michigan State on Jan. 7 in Value City Arena. Ohio State won 80-64. Credit: Jack Westerheide | Photo EditorJust as he has all season, redshirt junior forward Keita Bates-Diop put the team on his shoulders in Ohio State’s 80-64 upset victory against No. 1 Michigan State.He finished the game with a career-high 32 points, seven rebounds and three steals in 35 minutes played. That type of performance from Bates-Diop has become the norm this season. He has scored double-digit points in all but one game and has recorded seven double-doubles. And against his team’s toughest opponent of the season, he excelled once again, proving his early season success was not the product of weaker opponents. “We gave him a couple that were just wide open, we were over helping on people,” Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo said. “But I was impressed. I thought he did a great job.”Ohio State head coach Chris Holtmann has emphasized throughout the year how important Bates-Diop will be to the success of the team. He and senior forward Jae’Sean Tate were two of the returning players with lofty preseason expectations. And both done everything asked of them. Bates-Diop leads the Big Ten with an average of 20 points per game, ahead of Minnesota junior forward Jordan Murphy by 1.1 points. He is also third in the conference in rebounds per game with 8.8, with Murphy’s 12.7 leading the way. In addition, he is tied for 12th in steals (1.2 per game), seventh in blocked shots (1.6 per game), second in defensive rebounding (7.5 per game), 14th in 3-pointers made (1.9 per game) and eighth in free-throw percentage (82.1 percent). The native of Normal, Illinois, has been anything but normal this season for the Buckeyes, and it has Holtmann aware that his star player could be headed to the NBA after the end of this season. Holtmann said Bates-Diop and his family had talked about the prospect of his moving onto the NBA earlier in the year, and decided it was a topic to be explored at a later time. “I think we’ve been having those thoughts for a little while,” Holtmann said Sunday. “You get in this business for kids to reach their dreams. You really do. So if that happens and he’s got an opportunity like that, I’m going to be so happy for him and his family.”The health of Bates-Diop has allowed him to have this season. Last year, He dealt with a stress fracture in his left leg that ended his season after nine games and ultimately caused him to take a medical redshirt.Izzo said he’s always seen the potential in Bates-Diop, having recruited the 6-foot-7 forward before he decided to go to Ohio State. He said even though Bates-Diop made some improvements during the past year, reaching this level was “two-thirds” getting back to full health. While the injury slowed his development, Bates-Diop said it gave him time to study different aspects of his game and prepare for this campaign.“Just sitting back and learning the game, re-watching old film, watching us play last season and learning what to do and what not do, and then the new coaching staff came in made us feel very comfortable,” Bates-Diop said. Finally fully healthy, Bates-Diop is having a breakout campaign, and it could lead to some hardware at the end of the year and a chance to take his talents to the next level. But as Holtmann and Bates-Diop have said, there is still plenty of season left to play, and he will need to maintain this production throughout the rest of the campaign if he hopes to receive the end-of-the-year recognitions.“There’s so much left to be played. There’s a lot left for us to prove. He’s just got to be Keita and whatever comes out of that, comes out of that,” Holtmann said. “But certainly [the NBA’s] a more and more real possibility. And if that were to happen, we’d be really happy. But we’ve got so much left to kind of learn when it comes to that situation.”