Alabama12-127322 TEAMRECORDCHANCE A “GOOD” TEAM MATCHES THIS RECORDAVG. WIN PROBABILITYSTRENGTH OF RECORDGAME CONTROL Michigan St.12-11467414 Michigan State: Lucky or good?It’s the play of the year: Michigan State was down 23-21 at The Big House, 10 seconds on the clock, Michigan punting on what would surely be the final play of the game. It was — just not the final play anyone could have imagined: Michigan State blocking a Michigan punt and returning it for a touchdown as time expired. What was likely the most exciting moment of the college football season also perfectly represents Michigan State’s run — a year of close calls and near-failures, but success in the end.The Spartans are 12-1 heading into the College Football Playoff vs. Alabama on Thursday. They got there not by dominance, but by the skin of their teeth. Are they lucky, or are they good? They’re both.Start with the obvious: Michigan State has a great résumé. It ended the season ranked No. 4 according to ESPN’s Strength of Record, a statistical measure of how impressive a team’s wins and losses are. Just ahead of Michigan State are — no surprise — the other playoff contenders: Clemson, Alabama and Oklahoma. Alabama and Michigan State face each other in a late New Year’s Eve game that could stretch into 2016 (depending on your time zone). Alabama is the favorite, according to FiveThirtyEight’s model, as the Tide have the nation’s top defense and a dominant running back in Derrick Henry. The Heisman winner is quite the workhorse, rushing 90 times in his previous two games. Michigan State, on the other hand, is lucky to be in the playoff at all. Although they’ve managed an impressive record en route to a Big Ten championship, the Spartans have often won — as against Michigan — by the skin of their teeth. Underpinning this ranking is the probability that an average top-25 team — specifically, a team rated in the 90th percentile according to ESPN’s Football Power Index — would have this team’s record or better after playing this team’s schedule. So the typical “good” team had only a 14 percent shot at matching the Spartans’ 12-1 record. That’s impressive, but it lags far behind the top three; Clemson and Alabama have accomplished what a typical top-25 team would have only a 2 percent probability of matching.Although Michigan State has earned a strong record, it has been awfully lucky en route. For instance, in the two weeks before that miracle win against Michigan, the Spartans had close calls against Purdue and Rutgers. Their habit of cutting it close caught up with them when Nebraska delivered their only loss in a thrilling and controversial 39-38 upset.The Spartans recovered from that loss with big wins against Ohio State and, in the Big Ten title game, versus Iowa. But both games were extremely close. Michigan State never led until the final play of the game against the Buckeyes, and it took an epic 22-play drive in the conference championship’s final minutes to beat Iowa.Luckily there’s a stat to illuminate how dominantly a team wins: ESPN’s Game Control rating, which is a reflection of a team’s average in-game win probability, adjusted for opponent strength and aggregated throughout the season. Think of it as a metric that determines how early big powerhouse schools put the game out of reach and thus avoid the coin-flip finishes Michigan State hazarded coming down the stretch.Although the familiar trio of Clemson, Alabama and Oklahoma rank No. 1 through No. 3 in Game Control, the Spartans are No. 14. That’s because their average in-game win probability was just 67 percent. By contrast, Clemson won in far more dominant fashion — on average, the Tigers had a 77 percent in-game probability of winning. (And the Tigers won all their games, after all.)It’s tempting to look at Michigan State’s résumé and thumb the scale on the side of luck; success in close (and especially flukey) games has never been very replicable in football, college or pro, and the Spartans had more than their fair share. But this dim view misses the fun parts of MSU’s season: It’s the only team to arrive in the playoff having played a full slate of thrilling games, instead of the more typical championship route, which involves a few competitive conference games sprinkled into an otherwise sleepy march to inevitability.Alok Pattani contributed database research to this article.Read more: Clemson’s One-Man Offense vs. The Balanced Sooners Oklahoma11-177133 Source: ESPN Clemson13-02%77%11 Alabama: Is Derrick Henry being run into the ground?Derrick Henry has had a magnificent season, racking up 1,986 rushing yards and 23 touchdowns, earning him the Heisman Trophy. He has also had a tremendous workload, carrying 339 times in 13 games, with at least one and possibly two left to play. This came to a head in Henry’s final two games before the playoff, with him carrying 46 times against Auburn and another 44 against Florida. The questions here are obvious: Is Derrick Henry being run into the ground? Might his workload negatively affect his pro career? Probably not, at least as far as we can tell.If Henry were an NFL running back, we might point to the fabled “Curse of 370.” The curse is an idea popularized by Aaron Schatz at Football Outsiders; when Schatz singled out running backs who had 370 or more carries in an NFL season, he noticed that they subsequently performed poorly. There’s considerable dispute over the specifics of such an effect, but workload concerns take on added meaning for college running backs, who have not yet begun their pro careers, and who, one might worry, are coughing up earning power one 40-carry game at a time.If the “curse” exists at the college level, then Henry’s season is a red flag. Henry is averaging 26.1 rushes per game — the 25th-highest per-game workload of any FBS player over the past 12 seasons. The carries have clustered in the back half of the season, as well: Over the first six games of the season, Henry averaged 20 carries per game; in the last seven, he has averaged 31.3. In total, Henry has carried the ball 339 times this season — 17th most in FBS play over the past 12 seasons — with more football left to play. Given his workload in the last two games, he might careen right past the infamous 370 mark in just 14 games.Now for the good news: Based on the available stats, a heavy college workload has no relationship to a shorter shelf life in the pros. Of 97 running backs who have played at least four NFL seasons since 2005,1A further constraint was that the back had to have at least 50 total carries in his first two seasons. there’s no statistical relationship between college rushing attempts (either total or per game) and whether the RB suffered a drop-off in NFL production between his first two years and years three and four.Of course, some NFL backs peak early and fade quickly. One can think of Alfred Morris, Knowshon Moreno, Cadillac Williams and LeGarrette Blount. In some cases that’s because of injury, but often it’s just a decline in production. Take Kevin Smith: Smith carried the ball more than 900 (!) times while at the University of Central Florida; in one particularly cruel year, he had 450 rushes. And, sure enough, Smith peaked early in the NFL. He rushed 455 times for more than 1,700 yards in his first two seasons. But that trailed off to just 106 total carries in years three and four. It’s cases like this that make it tempting to draw a link between a running back’s college workload and his pro decline. “He was just run into the ground,” you could say.But there are plenty of counterexamples. DeAngelo Williams, DeMarco Murray and Ahmad Bradshaw, for instance, all had more than 500 college rushing attempts — which is where Henry, with 547 carries, is now. Yet these backs got better as their pro careers progressed into the third and fourth years. A regression analysis between college rushing attempts (both total and per game) and the change in NFL production (whether in yards or total carries) found no relationship at all.Of course, this analysis looks only at the first four years of a back’s pro career; this was done to give us a sufficient sample (97 backs) and to avoid plaguing the analysis with a survivorship bias, as better backs have longer careers, and running backs in general have short tenures in the league.So if Derrick Henry goes for 40 or more carries for a third straight game, we’ll likely hear that he’s being used up and his best pro years are being shortened. Several years down the line, that may turn out to be true. But the argument against overuse has always been that performance takes a hit in the next few years after a heavy-workload season, and with college rushers, that doesn’t seem to be the case — at least for now.
Promoter Bob Arum on Sunday called for an investigation into the controversial split-decision verdict that saw Timothy Bradley deal superstar Manny Pacquiao his first defeat since 2005.Arum said there would be no rematch between the fighters unless Nevada attorney general Catherine Cortez Masto launched a probe into the scoring of Saturday night’s WBO welterweight title fight, Yahoo! Sports reported.It was widely believed that Pacquiao won the contest, having consistently landed cleaner and more forceful punches throughout, but the judges didn’t see it that way.Two judges scored the fight 115-113 to Bradley, while the other scored it 115-113 to Pacquiao. The decision was met with boos at the MGM Grand arena.“I want to investigate whether there was any undue influence, whether the [Nevada Athletic Commission] gave any particular instruction and how they came to this conclusion,” said Arum, whose company promotes both fighters.“If this was a subjective view that each of [the judges] honestly held, OK. I would still disagree, but then we’re off the hook in terms of there being no conspiracy.“But there needs to be an independent investigation because it strains credulity that an event everybody saw as so one-sided one way all three judges saw it as close. … the whole sport is in an uproar. People are going crazy.”Source: Fox Sports
With that said, minor league wins above replacement numbers must be taken with a grain of salt. Data from the levels below MLB is much less trustworthy, and the shorter seasons mean smaller sample sizes from which to draw conclusions.But you don’t need a total value calculation to confirm that Tebow has been outmatched on the field. Scouts have called his swing “stiff” and identified his pitch recognition as a potentially fatal flaw.When asked about the promotion, Mets General Manager Sandy Alderson made no mention of Tebow’s marketability, pointing instead to his “on-base, his isolated power, his swing, exit velocity.” We don’t have access to all the metrics the Mets track at the minor league level, so it’s hard to prove or disprove Alderson’s assertion that Tebow has improved in the last two weeks. He did post a .311 on-base percentage despite only hitting for a .220 average, so at least he can take a walk.We don’t know whether Tebow’s underlying exit velocity is really impressive or not, but the record of players who were as bad as he was in low-A is not encouraging. Of the 77 left fielders to ever post seasons as poor as Tebow’s, only one — Franchy Cordero of the San Diego Padres — eventually made it to the majors, where he’s now producing at about replacement level, with a .405 BABIP that suggests he’ll regress.Of course, Cordero was only 20 years old when he last played in low-A, and it took him four long years to climb from there to the majors. At 29, Tebow has a much more difficult road to travel before he can sniff the National League. On the other hand, given his recent promotion to high-A, the Mets may be holding him to considerably lower standards for each level of advancement. If he maintains the same level of poor performance (according to WAR) that he turned in during his time in Columbia, he could rack up a .556 OPS with the St. Lucie Mets and still theoretically find his way to Double-A. As a baseball player, Tebow may be unimpressive, but as a demonstration of the power of marketing, he is unsurpassed. On Tuesday, the nation’s most famous low-A ballplayer, Tim Tebow, was promoted to the New York Mets’ high-A affiliate in Port St. Lucie. It almost goes without saying that the move likely had less to do with baseball and more to do with marketing and selling tickets. Tebow was such an outsized star at this level of pro baseball that one opposing team went so far as to label his teammates as “Not Tim Tebow” on the scoreboard. (The team later apologized.)But let’s pretend for a moment that the Columbia Fireflies’ left fielder doesn’t have a Heisman Trophy, nearly 7 million followers on Twitter and Facebook and one of the sports world’s most successful brands. If he were your run-of-the-mill anonymous prospect delivering this level of performance, just how peculiar would his promotion be?The answer, as expected, is that it’s very, very peculiar. Tebow’s resume with the Fireflies was hardly awe-inspiring: In 64 games, he posted a .648 OPS, which would be poor for a third baseman, never mind a left fielder. Nor was his defense excellent, as his seven errors show. In fact, his overall performance was so poor that his promotion is one of the least probable in the last decade.Baseball Prospectus keeps detailed numbers on the low-A leagues going back to 2005. They track everything from slugging percentage to fielding runs above average, then total it all up into a minor league version of wins above replacement. According to that metric, Tebow’s season was actually below replacement level, in the 4th percentile of performance in the last 12 years of low-A ball. In fact, only 17 corner outfielders have posted worse seasons and still played in high-A within the same year.
Ryan ZimmermanNationals22109308+24.21611 The elder statesmenFor players age 31 and up, the difference between their career hits and hits of an average 3,000-hit club member at the same age and point in season How quickly things can change …Players age 30 and under who were furthest ahead of the 3,000-hit pace in 2007 PLAYERTEAMAGE2017CAREERAVG. 3K CLUB HITS AT SAME AGEDIFF. PLAYERTEAMAGE2017CAREERAVG. 3K CLUB HITS AT SAME AGEDIFF. The middle-agersFor players age 26 to 30, the difference between their career hits and hits of an average 3,000-hit club member at the same age and point in season Miguel CabreraTigers348226012296.5+304.5 The 3,000-hit pace was prorated to 101 games into each player’s current-age season to match where we stand in 2017.For players who are no more than 50 hits behind the average 3,000-hit-club member at the same age.Source: FanGraphs Xander BogaertsRed Sox24103631552.4+78.6 Manny MachadoOrioles2491790552.4+237.6 Albert PujolsAngels378629112791.1+119.9 The next set of players are theoretically in their primes, though their chances might be more complicated to predict than any other group’s. Tigers outfielder Justin Upton started his career with a flourish, recording four 150-hit seasons by the age of 26, but he also turned in a few years below that level of production and is now behind the pace. Yankees second baseman Starlin Castro has a similar story — he led the NL with 207 hits in his sophomore season, when he was with the Cubs, but has since settled into a solid pattern of racking up 150 hits per season. He’s still ahead of pace, but he might not be for long.Some of these guys are on an upward trajectory, though. Beltre’s teammate Elvis Andrus has become a hitting machine — he hasn’t dropped below 150 hits since his rookie year in 2009, and he’s on pace for more than 180 this season. Houston Astros second baseman Jose Altuve is having an MVP-type season; he’s on track for 226 hits this year, which would be his fourth straight 200-hit season. And Eric Hosmer of the Kansas City Royals has swung his way to within striking distance of a 3,000-hit pace this season, producing what works out to a 198-hit campaign over 162 games. Jeff FrancoeurBraves23117363-46.31373 NAMETEAMAGESEASON HITSCAREER HITSVS. PACECURRENT HIT TOTAL Jose ReyesMets24119643+90.72049 Bryce HarperNationals24116767552.4+214.6 Jimmy RollinsPhillies281321227-32.22455 Eric HosmerRoyals2712210621084.7-22.7 PLAYER HITS Adrian BeltreMariners281021371+111.92996 Adrian BeltreRangers385429962897.4+98.6 Players in their 20s have historically gone in many different directions. To illustrate this, let’s pretend we were writing this article 10 years ago and evaluating the players who were 30 or younger and on the best pace to reach the milestone. Carl CrawfordDevil Rays25115921+195.51931 Delmon YoungDevil Rays21116156-17.01162 Starlin CastroYankees279712441084.7+159.3 PLAYER HITS Carlos CorreaAstros22104370283.3+86.7 Mookie BettsRed Sox24112555552.4+2.6 Midseason hit totals were interpolated by prorating a player’s full-season total over 101 games.Source: FanGraphs.com Francisco LindorIndians23106410409.5+0.5 The 3,000-hit pace was prorated to 101 games into each player’s current-age season to match where we stand in 2017.For players who are no more than 50 hits behind the average 3,000-hit-club member at the same age.Source: FanGraphs At that time, Beltre, Pujols and Cabrera were in pretty good shape, but every other player that was ahead of the 3,000-hit pace or slightly behind it has since fallen short or dropped way off pace. Edgar Renteria played just four more seasons, collecting fewer than 500 more hits before calling it a career (two World Series rings were was apparently enough). Likewise, Andruw Jones would retire before the 2016 season while Carl Crawford, Jimmy Rollins and David Wright — none of whom have formally retired yet — have not yet appeared in a game in 2017.And today’s younger hit leaders might have something working against them that previous generations didn’t: Hits are harder to come by in today’s more three-true-outcomes-focused game. The 2010s have seen the fewest hits per game of any decade since the 1960s and the fourth fewest of any decade since 1900.Then again, that could be counterbalanced by the fact that this is a special crop of young talent the likes of which MLB hasn’t seen in a while. And besides, in any given season between 1961 and 2000, an average of 9.2 active players went on to eventually become members of the 3,000-hit club. So odds are good that several of the players racking up hits this season will get to 3,000 before all is said and done — they just might not be the players we’d expect. After Cabrera, nobody over the age of 25 is more than 200 hits above the historical 3,000-hit pace. So, in the absence of strong veteran candidates, younger players such as Mike Trout, Manny Machado and Bryce Harper show up as decent picks for the next generation of 3,000-hit club members — if only because there’s still so much ambiguity about how their careers will turn out. There’s a decent chance that at least one player in this bunch — if not a handful — will get to 3,000 hits, though it’s difficult to say which one(s) it will be.Of course, the uncertainty involved in projecting players’ careers is still huge. Even showing up on the ahead-of-pace list for your age isn’t a guarantee of getting 3,000 hits; far more young and mid-career players fall short of making the club than make it in: We start with the oldest group of candidates. Right behind Beltre is Albert Pujols of the Los Angeles Angels, who — with his 2,911 lifetime hits3Current-season numbers are accurate as of end of play on July 26, 2017. — is almost assured of reaching the milestone either later this season or early next year. And Detroit Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera is another strong candidate, with over 300 more career hits than the average 3,000-hit club member had at the same age. The only thing that might hurt Cabrera’s chances is a late-career slowdown; he’s currently suffering the worst hitting season of his major-league career.Cabrera has such a cushion that he can afford some small decline, though he’ll need to bounce back soon to stay on pace. Robinson Cano of the Seattle Mariners, meanwhile, is also in a down season — he’s on pace for his lowest hit total since his rookie year — and he doesn’t have much room to fall off before losing the pace entirely. After a rough July, Cano’s chances could be evaporating before our eyes. (Houston Astros designated hitter Carlos Beltran is also fourth on the hits list among active players — but with fewer than 2,700 hits at age 40, his chances are next to nonexistent.) Robinson CanoMariners349923092296.5+12.5 Andruw JonesBraves30791635+28.11933 Justin UptonTigers299414091434.4-25.4 The young gunsFor players age 25 or lower, the difference between their career hits and hits of an average 3,000-hit club member at the same age and point in season AS OF MID-2007 … The 3,000-hit pace was prorated to 101 games into each player’s current-age season to match where we stand in 2017.For players who are no more than 50 hits behind the average 3,000-hit-club member at the same age.Source: FanGraphs The 3,000-hit club is about to get bigger, as longtime FiveThirtyEight favorite and noted on-deck circle relocater Adrian Beltre gets closer to the milestone with every multi-hit game. Beltre, who notched his 2,996th hit on Wednesday, probably wouldn’t need to cross the 3,000-hit threshold to ensure his place in Cooperstown, but the achievement helps underscore just what a special player he has been over his two decades in the major leagues.Beltre’s milestone, whenever it comes, will mark the third consecutive season in which a player notched his 3,000th hit; Alex Rodriguez of the New York Yankees homered for his in June 2015, while the Miami Marlins’ Ichiro Suzuki smacked a triple for his 3,000th hit last August. New membership in the 3,000-hit club tends come in bunches, like when nine players1Rickey Henderson, Cal Ripken Jr., Wade Boggs, Tony Gwynn, Paul Molitor, Eddie Murray, Dave Winfield, George Brett and Robin Yount. joined its ranks in the 10 seasons from 1992 to 2001, so more members could be on the way.But who will be next after Beltre? Let’s take a look at a handful of candidates coming up behind him on the active hits leaderboard — plus some younger players who might join the chase — and gauge their chances against the historical pace of the average 3,000-hit club member at the same age.2Age is as of June 30 of each season. Mike TroutAngels2567984725.2+258.8 Rougned OdorRangers2385460409.5+50.5 PLAYERTEAMAGE2017CAREERAVG. 3K CLUB HITS AT SAME AGEDIFF. Elvis AndrusRangers2811413801259.4+120.6 PLAYER HITS Jose AltuveAstros2714111871084.7+102.3 David WrightMets24122556+3.81777 Grady SizemoreIndians24109518-34.91098 Miguel CabreraMarlins24117771+218.82601 Albert PujolsCardinals271151274+189.72911 Justin UptonD-Backs191919-43.31409 Edgar RenteriaBraves301021872+265.12327
With No. 6 Purdue’s 67-65 loss to Iowa on Saturday, the No. 1 Ohio State men’s basketball team clinched the outright Big Ten title — but the team still has some unfinished business to attend to. When the Buckeyes traveled to Madison, Wis., on Feb. 12, freshman forward Jared Sullinger said via Twitter that Wisconsin fans spat on his face before and after the loss. On Sunday, the Badgers are taking a trip to Columbus for a rematch on the Buckeyes’ home court. Badger supporters have a reputation for unruly behavior towards opposing fans, said Tim Collins, a second-year in psychology and the director of the Nuthouse student section for Block “O.” “(The spitting incident) didn’t surprise me because it’s Wisconsin fans,” Collins told The Lantern. “But, then again, it does because you would like to think that it wouldn’t happen.” Collins was in attendance to watch the undefeated Buckeyes suffer their first loss of the season, and said that his experience in Wisconsin’s student section was enough to ensure he wouldn’t go back to the Kohl Center for another basketball game. “I think that from what I’ve heard and what I’ve seen, they have a history if you talk to any Big Ten school,” Collins said. “We got the ‘a–hole’ chant and people up in our faces swearing at us. … Not only do I not have any desire to go back there and deal with that, it just doesn’t surprise me that that’s how their students reacted.” Collins said Block “O” and the Nuthouse work to be “classy” in dealing with opposing fans. He said members have offered T-shirts to USC and Michigan fans sitting in the Buckeye student section for football games. Collins also said the Big Ten works with each school’s athletic program to attempt to ensure its fans’ behavior is appropriate. He said he has open communication with OSU’s athletic program during games to make sure the Nuthouse is acting accordingly. But don’t ask the OSU players if anything that happened off the court in Madison has affected them. The team has been mum on the spitting incident. “It’s another basketball game for me,” fifth-year senior forward David Lighty said. “I’m an old guy now. It’s like clockwork; it keeps going. “We’ve been through those things before. All that other stuff is behind us now.” Collins and the Nuthouse have been leading the “Gray Out the Schott” campaign, which asks all those who plan to attend the game Sunday to wear gray and avoid wearing red, Wisconsin’s primary color. In an e-mail sent to media outlets throughout the Columbus area, Collins mentioned that students would be receiving gray “Rah Rags” aimed to take a jab at Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan, and the statements he made following his team’s win against the Buckeyes. “We won the game,” Ryan said. “Deal with it.” In turn, the rags issued by Homage will say, “Deal with it.” Many Buckeye fans took offense to Ryan’s postgame words and that neither Wisconsin nor the Big Ten took action regarding the spitting allegations. OSU coach Thad Matta said the words didn’t bother him or his players, and that Ryan reached out to him following the game to clarify his statement. “Coach Ryan tried to call me on Monday morning (following the game). I didn’t know it was him,” Matta said. “Honestly, we’re probably making more out of that than it really was.” Per usual, Matta and his team are approaching Sunday’s game like any other, despite the conceived distractions from outside the program. Not even an emotional Senior Day can warrant a different attitude from OSU’s coach of seven years. “I’ve seen no changes, no different behaviors,” Matta said. “Nobody said anything about Senior Day. … They’ve been emotionless and stable.”
The Ohio State baseball team had beaten Minnesota three times out of four in the past eight days. But it failed in its final matchup of the year. The No. 4 Buckeyes (26-27, 13-11 Big Ten) fell to the No. 5 Gophers (24-23, 13-11 Big Ten) in a Big Ten Tournament elimination game Friday at Huntington Park. The Buckeyes’ 26-27 record will not get them into the NCAA Tournament. “It’s not about numbers today,” coach Greg Beals said. “Obviously, the day didn’t go the way we wanted it to go. We wanted to stay in the tournament longer than we did, but on days like today you look back at the body of work we had this year.” The game was shaping up to be a pitchers’ duel after four innings, with an unearned run standing as the only score of the day. Two innings and 10 runs later, Minnesota led, 7-4. The Buckeyes took the lead in the bottom of the fifth after sophomore catcher Greg Solomon and senior infielder Tyler Engle put up consecutive singles with two outs. Senior outfielder Brian DeLucia followed with an RBI double down the third-base line, and freshman outfielder Tim Wetzel knocked in a two-run single to put OSU up, 3-1. But the wheels fell off for the Buckeyes and freshman starter Greg Greve the following inning. Greve gave up a two-RBI single and then a two-out, two-run home run. Greve left the game after giving up a triple, but senior reliever Theron Minium gave up another two-run home run before getting out of the inning. “That’s an offense that we’ve held at bay for four games,” Beals said. “That sixth inning, I think, was four games of offense they threw at us all in one inning.” Minnesota added two runs in the eighth to increase its lead to 9-4, and OSU went quietly in the ninth. “That’s baseball,” Solomon said. “We played our best today and it wasn’t enough to get the win. But that’s baseball: having a 3-1 lead and then having the other team score runs.” Quick turnaround OSU had little time to recover from its 5-4 loss Thursday night to Illinois. After finishing the game past 11 p.m., the Buckeyes had to start their next game at 12:05 p.m. Friday. Solomon said they only got about six hours of sleep but that it’s a grind and what they needed to deal with. Beals said he was concerned with how “alive” his players’ bodies would be after last night but that it was not an excuse. “It’s the way tournaments are set up,” he said. “Illinois would have been in the same situation had we closed out the game last night, so that’s tournament baseball.” Season in review This was Beals’ first season as coach of OSU. He replaced Hall of Fame coach Bob Todd. Despite the team finishing with a record one game below .500, it finished the Big Ten regular season with a record of 13-11 and reappeared in the Big Ten Tournament after missing the cut last season. Wetzel said the team had a lot of guys fitting into new roles and that they all matured over the year. “We all found our roles pretty early in the season, and then we all really stuck to that,” he said. “I think, in a game like this, that’s going to take us a long way.” Beals said he was proud of how far the team came during his first year at OSU. “I’ll remember these kids for the fight they had,” he said. “Whether they were as good or better or not as good, they just fought and they fought and they fought.” Looking ahead The Buckeyes will lose sevens seniors, including three everyday starters. They will also lose two starting and two relief pitchers, one of whom is Drew Rucinski, a second-team All-Big Ten selection. Beals said the program has eight incoming players signed to national letter of intents and seven verbal commitments. “Playing baseball the right way and maximizing the game of baseball is what me and my coaching staff are going to push every day in this program,” Beals said. “It was something that was an absolute necessity for this season, and it’s something that I think for great baseball, where we want this program to go, it’s going to be a necessity in the future.”
Senior guard Aaron Craft attempts a layup during a game against Purdue Feb. 8 at the Schottenstein Center. OSU won, 67-49.Credit: Shelby Lum / Photo editorOhio State men’s basketball coach Thad Matta has said more than once he rarely watches college basketball besides his own team’s games.But after the Buckeyes dismissed Purdue, 67-49, Saturday night, Matta said he went home and flipped on the television to watch the game between then-No. 19 Oklahoma State and Texas Tech.The Red Raiders upset the Cowboys in Texas that night, 65-61, but the arguably biggest news of the game was that Oklahoma State sophomore guard Marcus Smart shoved a fan late in the game, losing his cool after he said the fan called him a “piece of crap.”Smart was suspended Sunday by the Big 12 for three games for his actions.Matta addressed the incident Monday, a day before his No. 22 Buckeyes (19-5, 6-5) are set to host their archrivals, No. 15 Michigan (17-6, 9-2), at 9 p.m.“I was actually watching that game the other night when it happened. I was like, ‘Wow,’” Matta said. “It made me think just in terms of some of the things I’ve heard people say over the years. I didn’t think about punching them or going after them. I know I’m not made of cardboard either, but I think from the standpoint of, there’s such a fine line there.”Matta went on to say that he’s heard nothing but good things about Smart, calling him a “phenomenal kid,” and admitted some of the things he’s heard from fans over the years have gone beyond what is expected to show support for their team.“It’s something I hope all universities will take more of a precaution just in terms of what’s been said,” Matta said. “Because it can get downright brutal.”Senior guard Aaron Craft — who has been the subject of plenty of heckling on the court throughout his more than three years at OSU — said he does his best to ignore negative things fans say.“It’s always tough in the heat of the battle. Emotions are running high especially if things aren’t going well, all it sometimes takes is one thing to kind of make you snap,” Craft said Monday. “It’s been going on for a while … (but) I don’t think it goes on unless as a team, we’re doing something right.“It doesn’t affect me as much — (opposing fans) can yell all they want but the best thing that we can do is find a way to have more points than they do at the end of the game, have the gym be quiet.”Tensions will likely reach that high point Tuesday between OSU and Michigan, as the game has heavy implications as far as the Big Ten standings are concerned — the Buckeyes sit three games behind the Wolverines, who are tied for the conference lead with No. 9 Michigan State. Matta said his players understand the game’s magnitude.“I think they know that. But I think that they would tell you our whole concern moving forward is about us and really trying to simplify what we’re doing and getting this group of guys to play their best basketball, not because it’s this team or not because the standings say this,” Matta said. “It’s just that’s what we need to do in this league to have a chance to win.”Junior center Amir Williams agreed, saying the focus has to be on OSU to come out strong because it is a big game.“We can’t really worry about other teams as much, we gotta fight our own race,” Williams said Monday. “This is a big one for us tomorrow … you can’t come out lackadaisical tomorrow like it’s just some other game.”The Wolverines lost reigning National and Big Ten Player of the Year Trey Burke to the NBA after last season, and have been playing without sophomore forward Mitch McGary because of a back injury that only allowed him to play in the first eight games of the season. Michigan still ripped off 10 straight wins after falling to then-No. 1 Arizona at home Dec. 14, and a big part of the season’s success has been sophomore guard Nik Stauskas, who currently sits fifth in the conference in scoring with 17 points per game.“He’s expanded his game. He took the spring and summer and found a way to make himself more than one-dimensional. And that makes it a lot tougher to defend him,” Craft said of Stauskas, who was widely known as just a shooter before this season. “Obviously with the way he’s shooting the ball, you have to be careful with how much you help and things like that, but the way he’s kind of putting the ball on the ground, he’s passing the ball really well now, too. So you can’t really try to rely and take one thing away from him.”The Wolverines were on the wrong side of an 85-67 score against then-No. 17 Iowa Saturday, a game in which the Hawkeyes shot a blistering 10-17 from beyond the arc. Even though Michigan is coming off a loss, Craft said the Buckeyes have to be ready for a challenge straight from tipoff because of the rivalry.“There’s always something special about playing Michigan,” Craft said.
Junior forward Ryan Dzingel (18) attempts to win a faceoff during a game against Michigan March 2 at Nationwide Arena. OSU lost, 4-3.Credit: Ben Jackson / For The LanternThe Big Ten men’s hockey leading scorer is no longer going to wreak havoc on opposing college defenders.Ohio State junior forward Ryan Dzingel announced his intentions to forgo his senior season after signing an entry-level contract with the NHL’s Ottawa Senators.“It was a very difficult decision leaving my friends and the program I love. I felt like it was the right choice for me moving forward with my career, even though Ohio State is heading in the right direction,” Dzingel said in a press release. “Thank you again to my teammates, coaches and fans. I will miss it.”Dzingel’s deal is for two years, and he is also set to sign an amateur tryout agreement. Doing so means he is set to be assigned to the team’s American Hockey League affiliate — the Binghamton Senators — for the rest of the season.Dzingel finished his junior year at OSU as the Big Ten’s leader in goals (22) and points (46), and was named to the All-Big Ten team in addition to being a finalist for this year’s Hobey Baker Award, given to the nation’s top college player.First-year OSU coach Steve Rohlik said the team is looking forward to seeing Dzingel compete at the professional level.“We are very proud of Ryan and all he has accomplished at Ohio State,” Rohlik said in the release. “We are excited for his new journey and wish him all the best.”Dzingel finished at or tied for the team lead in points at OSU in each of his three seasons as a Buckeye, compiling a total of 108 points in 110 games.The Wheaton, Ill., native was drafted by Ottawa in seventh round of the 2011 NHL Draft. The Senators’ next game is scheduled for Friday against the Rochester Americans.Dzingel did not immediately respond to The Lantern’s request for comment Wednesday.
Ohio State senior outfielder Shea Murray stands in the box against Purdue on April 1, 2017 at Bill Davis Stadium. Credit: Edward Sutelan | Lantern reporterThe Ohio State baseball team was coming off their most dominating win of the season and first Big Ten win in a 13-2 victory over Purdue after scoring nine runs in the first four innings.But the tables turned on Saturday as the Boilermakers pounded out six runs in the first four innings and held on to that early lead to win, 6-1.Purdue put its leadoff hitter aboard in each of those innings and every time, that runner came around to score. The inability to keep the leadoff batter off base was a problem for the Buckeyes, said OSU coach Greg Beals, and one that cost them the game.“They got the leadoff guy on the first four innings. Two of them, we let them on base freely,” Beals said. “They were hit batsmen or a walk. We ended up having eight of those total for the night. Didn’t pitch the ball nearly as cleanly as we needed to be successful.”Taking their first lead of the series, the Boilermakers’ leadoff hitter reached base on a first-pitch hit-by-pitch and later came around to score on a groundout to the shortstop. A leadoff double and sacrifice bunt put a runner on third for freshman third baseman Mike Madej who punched a single through the left side of the infield to bring the score to 2-0. Junior right fielder Alec Olund lined a triple into the right field corner, scoring Madej from second. Olund scored later in the inning on a groundout, increasing his team’s lead to four runs.The Boilermakers again scored runs on groundouts, one in both the third and fourth innings to raise the score to 6-0.Feltner was able to keep the leadoff batter from reaching first base and scoring for the first time all night in the top of the fifth inning. Sophomore left fielder Nick Dalesandro grounded out to Feltner, who stared down Dalesandro after he fielded the ball.“There was no words said by Feltner. He stared him down,” Beals said. “I don’t like it, but it’s that fine line between you want your guys to have some competitive juice, but you want to make sure they’re controlling it properly and using it properly.”Beals said that emotions just got the better of him, but that they had a discussion and cleared up the situation.“We talked about it, we addressed it and he knows his emotions got away from him a little bit there,” Beals said.With one out in the bottom of the fifth inning, the Buckeyes strung together three straight hits, capped off by an RBI double from redshirt senior right fielder Shea Murray that brought the score to 6-1.Murray finished the game with three of the Buckeyes’ eight hits and both the team’s doubles. It was the first career multi-hit game for the pitcher-turned-outfielder.“I had runners on first and third, on the corners, and my thought process there was just trying to hit something far and deep and I kind of got out in front of it and took it down the line,” Murray said.Making the transition from pitcher to outfielder for Murray has taken some time to reach a point where he feels completely comfortable with his game, but he said he has really been feeling more confident both in the field and at the plate.“As far as defensively, I feel really comfortable. That’s something that you can get thousands of reps in over the course of time off fungos, off intersquad games and stuff,” Murray said. “I think I’m starting to feel a lot more comfortable at the plate. I think a lot of comfort at the plate comes from confidence. So a game like this obviously helps out a lot towards the confidence side of it.”The Boilermakers were provided with a strong performance from sophomore starting pitcher Gareth Stroh. Though he entered the game with a 6.83 ERA, he allowed just one run to cross in 7.2 innings. OSU mustered only six hits, one extra base hit and no walks, while he struck out two.Beals was impressed by the outing of Stroh and credited the Boilermakers’ starter with putting a lot of movement on his fastball.“He’s got a little bit of angle and deception on that fastball. Kinda that typical lefty that’s got some left-handed deception to it,” Beals said. “A little bit disappointed in our inability to get things going a little earlier off of him. Throwing a lot of fastballs to us, I thought we would make an adjustment the second time through the lineup.”Redshirt senior starting pitcher Jake Post was again unavailable to start Saturday, but Beals confirmed he will be starting on Sunday.“Jake Post is going to take the start tomorrow. Jake’s continued to get better throughout the week,” Beals said. “He tweaked the back a little bit — kind of old-man back — and he’s been able to progressively get better.”Despite the injury, Post has been eager to get back out on the mound in his senior year, Beals said.“He’s a senior and it’s going to be a big game for us,” he said. “We need to win this home series and he wants the ball so we’re going to give it to him.”Post will deliver the first pitch of Sunday’s game at 1 p.m. as OSU looks to take the rubber match against Purdue.
The Ohio State women’s volleyball team celebrates after defeating No. 4 Penn State in four sets on Sept. 23. Credit: Miranda Lipton | Lantern ReporterAn anticipated rematch against Indiana (12-7, 3-5 Big Ten) and a match against Purdue (15-4, 4-4 Big Ten) are keeping the Ohio State women’s volleyball team focused this week.Ohio State lost three straight sets against the Hoosiers earlier in the season, but head coach Geoff Carlston said the team is prepared to bounce back.“It was one of the toughest losses I’ve dealt with in the past five or six years,” Carlston said. “We’re going to be a little different team in terms of personnel. Hopefully we can have Audra [Appold] and Madison [Smeathers] playing. Having them on the floor adds a lot of experience.”Senior outside hitter Audra Appold returned to the court last weekend against Michigan State after a one-game absence due to injury. “People keep asking me what I’m most looking forward to about playing again and I keep saying the same thing. I’m just really excited to be back out there,” Appold said. “I’m enjoying the time I have left. The biggest thing for the team right now is to enjoy being out there, to take in the crowd and the environment.”Junior middle blocker Madison Smeathers has played on and off throughout the season, but the two had not played together until both played in the previous match against the Spartans.Smeathers shared her personal motivation, one that stands both on and off the court. “You can always look around at other teams in the Big Ten and see what other people are doing,” Smeathers said. “That keeps you hungry. Losing obviously is a big killer that keeps you going, and so is coming into practice knowing how much better you can get every day.”The two players got right back to it as Smeathers knocked 13 kills in her first match back, and Appold had 11 digs. Purdue setter redshirt freshman Hayley Bush has contributed 788 out of the 900 total team assists. Carlston noted that Purdue is a “super physical team” with experienced players. “One of the crazy things about the Big Ten is that all the coaches realize that you have to be fluid and adapt to new game plans because teams will realize what you’re doing and use that against you,” Carlston said.Ohio State will hit the road on Friday to face Indiana at 7 p.m. in Bloomington, Indiana and Purdue on Sunday at 1 p.m. in West Lafayette, Indiana.