Brad Penner-USA TODAY SportsThe New York Knicks had pretty much won the game against the Indiana Pacers Wednesday night, until a foul on Paul George within the closing seconds changed the nature of the competition.George made three foul shots to tie the game with 5.2 left in regulation. He then took over in overtime, scoring nine points in the extra minutes and leading the Pacers to a 103-96 victory over the Knicks.“Heck of a win for our guys,” Indiana coach Frank Vogel said. “A grind-it-out kind of game. That’s sometimes when we’re at our best. The offense wasn’t really flowing, but our defense really buckled down.”George had 35 total points and George Hill added 23 points and eight rebounds for the Pacers.Knicks’ Carmelo Anthony had 30 points and a season-high 18 rebounds for New York, who were disappointed after not scoring with a few seconds left in regulation and being forced into overtime.“I thought we had the game won,” Anthony said. “And in overtime, I don’t know, they just walked away with it.”
Month: September 2019
Emmitt Smith, the Dallas Cowboy great and NFL all-time leading rusher, once played in a game with a separated shoulder. Refused to come out, kept running the ball, despite the indescribable pain.Why someone would put himself through so much torture is not about being a masochist. It’s about being a football player.And therein lies the problems with players suffering from the effects of concussions, broken bones and other physical ailments that leave them in a bad way once their playing days are over.Smith was lucky; he did not suffer long-lasting troubles with his shoulder. But there are countless NFL players who can hardly move, whose knees and shoulders and elbows are creaky, whose brains, sadly, are scrambled.Many times that kind of impact can occur on one play. Most of the time it’s an accumulation of violent collisions, week-after-week, year-after-year that build up to cause life-impacting, troubling conditions.Smith spoke at the Laura W. Bush Institute for Women’s Health “Family, Football and Fame” luncheon in San Angelo, Texas last week, and his comments about the mentality of being a football player fosters were compelling.“You do it for the sake of the game,” he said. “You do it for the sake of your teammates. You do it because it’s your team. Should you be out there? The answer’s probably not. Would I do it again? Yes, I would. But that’s football. That’s the way I was raised. If you can’t play with pain, you can’t play the game.”And that’s the concern right there for parents across the country—even some fathers—who are pushing their sons away from football. The violence is a natural part of the game, and it is taught from youth football on up: Be tough.Ever watch “Friday Night Tykes?” The entire culture is one of toughness and violence that has been embedded in those kids’ collective psyche.That’s the concern because all the efforts of the NFL and advanced technology to protect the players, while admirable and needed, cannot protect the players from themselves. A more protective, padded helmet will minimize the impact of a blow to the head. But the cumulative impact of consistent head-banging still could cause brain damage.One study shows that the culture of football leads players to not report concussions, resulting in six extra concussive hits for every one that gets officially diagnosed. Not good.Then there is the pressure to win, to perform. Coaches do not want to hear about injuries; they want to hear how soon the player will be back into the game. Trainers are then faced with the pressure of green-lighting players’ return into the fray, making it a moral issue as well.Pop Warner has required reduced contact during practices, while high schools are stepping up and understanding how critical it is to a kids’ long-term health to get hurt players off the field. The NFL, with a more stringent protocol, and college report a decline in the number of brain-related injuries.Still, it will always be an issue if players give in to the culture of the sport and lie so they can play, dizzy or not. Nothing good comes of that.
Twelve-year-old Aidan and his 10-year-old sister, Sarah, live in Brooklyn and took the subway to the match. Aidan was a Carlsen fan, too — he didn’t really have a reason, but he respected Carlsen’s popularity and that he has an app. “As you can see, Magnus Carlsen is down a pawn, and I’m wondering what’s gonna happen next,” Aidan told me between frequent neck-wrenching glances back to the screen where the game was being shown. I asked him to make a prediction. “Oh, I wouldn’t do that,” he said.Sarah admitted that Aidan was the stronger player but said that she’s catching up. Who is her favorite chess player? “I’d have to say probably not one of those people,” she said, gesturing toward the screen. “I like female chess players.”David Brodsky, 14, came in from Westchester County and was standing in the cafe with his mom, watching the game unfold on an iPad. He learned to play chess “a long time ago” and is now ranked fourth in his age category in the U.S. “I don’t think it’s going exactly according to plan for Carlsen,” he said. “I was surprised he didn’t win Games 3 and 4.” This was Brodsky’s first time at the match, but he’d been watching on the internet: “I think I’m rooting for Carlsen this match. I don’t want some boring draw.”At the postgame press conference, another kid, maybe 10, asked if it was “weird” that the two grandmasters were drawing every game. The crowd laughed.“It’s quite normal that games end in a draw, even when there is a fight,” Carlsen told him. “But, yeah, it is unusual that every single game has been drawn. But I don’t necessarily think it will happen from now on. We’ll see.”Game 8 begins Monday afternoon. I’ll be covering the rest of the games here and on Twitter. The line to enter the World Chess Championship venue in lower Manhattan on Sunday afternoon snaked around a plaza in the South Street Seaport. Winter had arrived in New York that morning. Temperatures hovered in the 30s, a stiff wind blew under a gray sky, and a giant Christmas tree stood half-decorated nearby. The shivering sellout crowd was anxious to get inside. They wanted to warm up — and to see someone win a game of chess already.One out of two ain’t bad. The two grandmasters they were there to see agreed to a draw after just over two hours and 33 moves of a largely forgettable Game 7 in the best-of-12 match.With Sunday’s result, this year’s championship is quickly becoming the Groundhog Day Match: All seven games so far have been draws. The race to 6.5 points and chess’s highest title is now knotted at 3.5-3.5.1Wins are worth 1 point, draws are worth half a point for each player, and losses are worth 0 points. If the match is tied after 12 games, four relatively speedy tiebreaker games will be played on Nov. 30. Each player would get 25 minutes for his moves. Despite a few promising chances, the defending champion and world No. 1, Magnus Carlsen of Norway, has yet to break through the brick walls erected by his challenger, Sergey Karjakin of Russia. Karjakin earned a minor victory of another kind Sunday, however. Thanks to this series of draws, he improved his world ranking from ninth to seventh in the ratings, leapfrogging the American Hikaru Nakamura and former world champion Viswanathan Anand of India.At least Sunday’s opening offered something new. Karjakin, playing as white, began by pushing his queen’s pawn forward two squares, and Carlsen returned the favor. Karjakin then pushed a pawn up to join the other on the left, deploying what’s known as the Queen’s Gambit. In this strategy, white offers one of its pawns as sacrifice to black, in exchange for control of the center of the board and promising attacking chances. In this game, Carlsen declined to take the pawn, instead moving one of his own up a square. Declining the Queen’s Gambit like this is called the Slav Defense. The Slav looks like this: The Norwegian slid his rook in the corner over two squares to c8, hoping to get it involved in the fight. But the Russian sparked a calculated volley of captures to his advantage. First, he put black in check by moving his knight to f6, revealing his bishop along the long diagonal in the process. Then all hell broke loose. In quick succession: bishop took knight, bishop took bishop, bishop took rook, bishop took knight, bishop retreated, bishop took rook, queen took queen, rook took queen, rook took bishop. When the dust settled, the board was decimated, and a mass grave of boxwood pieces lay at its side. Karjakin then quietly took Carlsen’s black pawn on a6, coming out of the skirmish ahead.But in the end, the one pawn advantage just wasn’t enough firepower. Karjakin won the battle but drew the war. According to the database of chessgames.com, Carlsen had played the Slav just four times before as black, winning only once. Perhaps he’d cooked up some Norwegian Slavic magic in his chess lab back in Oslo.With Carlsen’s 10th move, the two grandmasters found themselves deep in the wilderness, in a position that had been seen only three times before in top play, per the ChessBase database. Had Carlsen unleashed a secret weapon?The position may have been rare, but the computer engine Stockfish saw the balance of the game as quite even. The only real tactical eyebrows were raised an hour or so later, on Move 16, when Carlsen (black) faced this position: This world championship match has been visited by more than its fair share of problems and scandal: a world chess official’s troublesome Syrian ties, hacking fears, applications for restraining orders, expensive tickets and monotonous results.The chess kids in New York didn’t seem to care.On Sunday, the venue was lively, and in many areas, the floor was littered with backpacks, sodas, snacks, chess boards, chess pieces and cross-legged children.One, sitting in the front row of a cafe viewing area, was poring over a copy of “Carlsen: Move by Move” as if it were a holy text. (The 25-year-old Magnus, who became a grandmaster at 13, was a favorite with the younger set.) A contingent from P.S. 166’s Manhattan Knights chess team giggled nearby. Mothers and fathers watched admiringly over speed chess games, their children sitting on their knees to reach the pieces.Logan, 8, and his friend Kai, 8, were spread out on the floor in the back of the viewing hall, re-creating the grandmasters’ game using a board of their own. They came from the Bronx and elsewhere in Manhattan to watch.“Magnus is my favorite player who’s living, but he’s not my favorite,” Logan told me between potato chips. “My favorite is Bobby Fischer. He made some amazing moves, and I looked over some of his games. There were some interesting moves, and Magnus also made some interesting moves so far.” (Fischer grew up in Brooklyn.) Early on in Sunday’s game, Logan thought Carlsen might have the better position, but he and Kai foresaw a draw. Bobby Fischer at a chess tournament in New York at age 13. Bettmann / Getty Images
On Tuesday, Brazil and Germany kick off the World Cup semifinals, where there are no real party-crashers to be found. Including A Seleção and Die Mannschaft, four of the top five teams in the pre-Cup Elo ratings are still active in the tournament. Sorry, Spain.Brazil vs. Germany: 4 p.m. EDTIn BriefWith such evenly matched squads — and the ever-present specter of randomness — barring a huge blowout, the final four games of the World Cup are unlikely to provide much of a referendum on which side is truly the world’s best. But at the same time, the absence of a longshot entry boosts the chances that one of the remaining four teams is in fact the “true” best team in the field. More important, it also increases the odds that we’ll see a pair of exciting, close matches at the doorstep of the World Cup final.IN DEPTHBrazil was the World Cup favorite before the tournament began, and its championship chances still rank first according to the FiveThirtyEight model. Our official projections even say there’s a 73 percent probability that Brazil will beat Germany Tuesday and advance to the final. But those numbers don’t know that the gifted Brazilian striker Neymar will miss the rest of the tournament with a broken vertebra, an injury he sustained against Colombia in the quarterfinals. If we account for his absence (and that of his teammate Thiago Silva, who racked up two yellow cards and must sit out Tuesday’s match), Brazil’s chances of beating Germany drop to somewhere near 65 percent, numbers fueled in large part simply by the match’s location on Brazilian soil.To put it another way: If this game were staged at a neutral site, it would probably be close to a toss-up between Germany and Brazil-sans-Neymar-and-Silva.To a certain extent, that’s because Brazil has been far from dominant during its run to the semis. First, Mexico played it to a draw in the group phase, then it squeaked by Chile (on penalties) and Colombia in its knockout matches. Over the past month, the gap between Brazil’s Soccer Power Index (SPI) rating and that of second-ranked Argentina has been nearly sliced in half, despite the Argentines playing largely to expectation. That Brazil is still rated first in SPI owes as much to our prior beliefs about its strength as to anything it’s actually accomplished in the tournament.And Germany is a force to be reckoned with. While they haven’t consistently overwhelmed opponents with their ballyhooed offensive prowess (aside from netting six goals in their first two matches — including four against Portugal), the Germans have answered many of the defensive questions that surrounded them before the tournament began, keeping clean sheets against Portugal, the United States and France. And they’ll need to be staunch at that end of the pitch against a Brazilian team that still has plenty of firepower, even without Neymar.One major tactical storyline to keep an eye on will be the philosophical chess between the pass-heavy, possession-focused Germans and a Brazilian side still keenly interested in dribbling through the defense. Among semifinalist teams, only Argentina has maintained ball possession more often than Germany, and nobody makes more short passes per game than the Germans. Germany’s approach is to patiently work the ball into the opponent’s territory, passing it around until its players can create a high-percentage scoring opportunity. Brazil, on the other hand, loves to dribble the ball and create chances by taking on defenders in one-on-one situations.A compelling wrinkle will be how this changes without Neymar, Brazil’s most active dribbler. It’s likely that Hulk and Oscar will be asked to pick up some of the slack, but it will be interesting to see how Brazil adjusts its overall style in the absence of its most prolific offensive playmaker.On balance, Brazil should still be favored — if only because of home-field advantage. In close matches like this, officiating can play a sizable role, and there’s a good amount of research suggesting home teams get favorable treatment from the referees (perhaps more so in soccer than in other sports). In terms of ability, though, these two teams are very close to evenly matched.OFF THE PITCHBrazil and Germany have had good off-the-pitch relations for decades, particularly in the economic sphere. The Observatory of Economic Complexity has information on trade between the two countries that dates back to 1962, and shows that the two nations have been exchanging mostly the same stuff the whole time. Coffee, iron and soybeans were among the top Brazilian exports to Germany both in 1962 and in 2012.Similarly, machinery remains the top category of German exports to Brazil, although the specific products have changed over time. Metalworking and textile machinery reigned supreme in 1962, while cars and car parts took the largest shares of exports in 2012.But what’s most notable is how much these countries’ bilateral trade has grown. In 1962, Brazilian exports to Germany totaled $173 million and German exports to Brazil totaled $161 million. Trade in both directions surpassed the $1 billion mark in the 1970s, and was up to $11 billion in both directions in 2010, when both countries agreed to further strengthen their economic ties. Exports headed toward Germany have nearly doubled since, with $20 billion worth flowing out of Brazil in 2012. But it looks like Germany got the sweeter end of the deal, with Brazil buying $28 billion of its products the same year.FURTHER READINGIt’s a Huge Upset When All the World Cup Favorites WinHow Neymar’s Injury Affects Brazil’s Chances at the World Cup
Mark Jackson28.012.0-16.049.9 Landry Fields11.3-0.4-11.7Active Tyrus Thomas8.7-1.5-10.2Active Eddie Griffin10.9-0.3-11.20.0 Derrick Rose25.90.9-25.0Active LaPhonso Ellis19.83.8-16.13.3 Chris Paul54.537.3-17.1Active Darius Miles10.7-1.4-12.10.1 Sam Bowie21.02.7-18.311.2 Jay Vincent14.34.0-10.2-2.3 Andris Biedrins12.82.8-10.0-0.2 John Long6.6-3.0-9.6-1.1 Shaquille O’Neal46.034.8-11.2106.3 Phil Ford14.3-0.3-14.60.0 Kerry Kittles21.15.6-15.517.5 Norm Nixon20.98.0-12.83.4 David Thompson26.810.0-16.82.5 Ron Brewer10.4-1.6-12.0-4.8 Willie Anderson17.15.7-11.53.7 Dudley Bradley12.01.1-10.97.0 WAR, AGES 24-26WAR, AGE 27+ Reggie King16.76.4-10.3-0.7 Eric Money8.2-1.9-10.10.0 Clark Kellogg20.91.1-19.80.0 Tyrone Nesby15.71.0-14.70.0 Bill Garnett11.20.9-10.30.0 Rajon Rondo25.415.1-10.3Active Rik Smits12.71.9-10.823.9 PLAYERPREDICTEDACTUALDIFF Brevin Knight19.14.8-14.310.2 Back in March 2011, I wrote a column for The New York Times about how, statistically speaking, Derrick Rose didn’t deserve to win the NBA’s MVP award over Chris Paul (and others).The reaction from Chicago Bulls fans was — how can I put this? — not positive. But in the process of researching Rose and watching him closely, I grew to appreciate him more and more as a player, to the point that he became one of my favorite players to watch in all of basketball.1I even had a framed photograph of him on the wall of my old office at Sports Reference. In other words, sometimes contemptuous feedback breeds familiarity with — and even fondness for — a player. (I confess that a similar phenomenon is taking place for me now, with Andrew Wiggins.)That’s why it was so disheartening to see Rose suffer yet another devastating injury Tuesday night, this time a torn meniscus in the same knee that he injured early in the 2013-14 season. While the severity is still unknown, as is the course of action that Rose’s doctors will pursue, this latest setback could be Rose’s fourth season-ending injury in as many seasons. It’s a string of bad breaks that shouldn’t befall any athlete, much less one who ranked among his sport’s most exciting before injuries struck.Purely from a basketball perspective, the Bulls are probably more equipped to handle Rose’s absence now than at any point in the past four years. While Rose’s season started with promise, his play has largely been uneven; for the year, he ranks 33rd among point guards in Real Plus-Minus and 165th overall.2He ranked 20th overall during his best season, 2011-12.The bigger question concerns whether Rose can overcome another misfortune to contribute meaningfully in the future. And in that regard, he’s in uncharted territory by the standards of NBA history.Through age 233For all ages in this post, I’m referring to Basketball-Reference.com’s convention of listing a player’s age on Feb. 1 of the season in question. (for Rose, the 2011-12 season), the Bulls guard had generated 26.1 wins above replacement (WAR), a total that ranks 32nd among all NBA players since the 1977 ABA-NBA merger. For comparison’s sake, LeBron James is the 23-and-under leader over that span, with 82.2 WAR. But plenty of great players — from Adrian Dantley to Shawn Kemp and Shareef Abdur-Rahim — also had fewer WAR than Rose through the same age.Based on his average yearly performance through age 23,4Adjusted for aging effects. it would have been fair to expect about 26 more WAR from Rose between the ages of 24 and 26.5Using a historical regression between average age-adjusted WAR per year through age 23 and total WAR between the ages of 24 and 26. However, Rose produced just 0.9 WAR between his lost 2012-13 and the current 2014-15 season. Through no fault of Rose’s own, that 25 WAR shortfall was the largest of any player in the sample I examined, a tangible measure of just how much was lost over the past three years. Eric Gordon11.72.0-9.7Active And Rose’s peers at the top of the shortfall list show what uncharted comeback territory he’s in. Big man Sam Bowie, now known mostly for being drafted one pick ahead of Michael Jordan, returned to post 11.2 WAR after missing his entire age-26 season with a stress fracture but wasn’t anywhere near as effective as he’d been in his first two seasons. And Bowie is the success story of the group.Clark Kellogg undershot his projected age 24-26 WAR by 19.8, retiring four games into his age-25 season after a trio of knee surgeries. David Thompson’s issues with injuries and substance abuse caused him to undershoot his expected age 24-26 WAR by 16.8 and then generate only 2.5 WAR from age 27 onward. John “Hot Plate” Williams succumbed to injuries and struggled to control his weight, producing -0.8 WAR after age 26. And LaPhonso Ellis was never the same player following a knee injury suffered early in his age-24 season.Most of these cautionary tales are at most only tangentially similar to Rose’s injury travails, but they do underscore just how rare it is for a player to return to productivity after a spell of lost prime seasons, even if — like Rose — they’d shown tremendous promise as young players. John Williams18.31.8-16.4-0.8
OSU frehsman JaQuan Lyle (13) surveys the court during a game against UT Arlington on Nov. 20 at the Schottenstein Center in Columbus, Ohio. OSU lost 73-68. Credit: Hannah Roth |Lantern PhotographerFor the second straight game, the Ohio State men’s basketball team (2-2) was drubbed by a mid-major program.After falling to Louisiana Tech (4-0) 82-74 at the Schottenstein Center on Tuesday night, coach Thad Matta’s squad is left searching for answers.“I think this team has to find itself,” Matta said. “I think that we have to look at our weaknesses, admit that we have them and find ways to correct them.”Those weaknesses, unmasked within minutes of the tipoff, have hindered this unripe, youthful team.Its first few offensive possessions, predictably, ended in a turnover and a missed free throw.“We’ve got to stop trying to make the big play and just make the right play,” sophomore forward Jae’Sean Tate said. “That’s where a lot of turnovers come from. We’ve just got to play a smarter game. Free throws are all mental. We’ve got to get up there and think we’re going to make it, and we’ll make it. We work too hard on our free throws to miss like that.”Meanwhile, Louisiana Tech went on a 7-0 run to open the game and never looked back. It never trailed throughout the course of 40 minutes.The Bulldogs, led by senior guard Alex Hamilton — who scored a team-high 24 points — found their stroke from behind the arc, and it started early on.Spacing the floor, knocking down threes and beating the Buckeyes to loose balls, Louisiana Tech outpaced OSU.This time around, a lack of energy or toughness wasn’t the issue; offensive consistency was.“We can’t relax,” Tate, who registered a double-double with 10 points and 12 rebounds, said. “It felt like we relaxed when we tied it up. We just have to learn for the remainder of the year to keep the foot on the pedal. We have to keep those runs going and at the defensive end dig even deeper.”Newly minted starting center, freshman Daniel Giddens, contributed eight rebounds and four blocks, while freshman guard Austin Grandstaff added nine points, shooting 60 percent from the 3-point line. The duo helped the Buckeyes surge right before the half to cut Louisiana Tech’s lead to 42-38.“I thought Daniel was pretty good tonight,” Matta said. “He’s one guy that you can look out there on the floor and you know who he’s playing for. You know how important (the game is to him) — the passion.”The game’s defining moment came with 11:26 left in the second half.Down 55-54, Marc Loving – who scored a game-high 25 points – went to the free throw line with a chance to give OSU its first lead of the night. The junior forward missed one, then Louisiana Tech pushed the ball, hit a corner three and took the energy right out of the area.It was a common occurrence.Every time OSU gained momentum, the Bulldogs killed it with a timely three or galvanizing slam dunk.“It definitely gets us down when we try to work on it,” sophomore forward Keita Bates-Diop said. “We’ve got to get down on turnovers and make more free throws.”As a team, OSU missed 10 free throws, turned the ball over 14 times and a seasoned, well-balanced and aggressive Louisiana Tech team made it pay for every mental mistake it made. Following the loss, OSU is scheduled to face Memphis on Friday at 7:30 p.m. in Miami. Matta, however, is not looking ahead to the Tigers. “I need to worry about us,” he said, “more than I need to worry about them.”
Michigan State quarterback Tyler O’Connor passes the ball during the Spartans game against Eastern Michigan on Sept. 20, 2014. The Spartans beat the Eagles 73-14. Credit: Courtesy of TNSTell me if you heard this before. The Ohio State Buckeyes and the Michigan State Spartans do battle with one hoping to continue its push towards a national championship. This seems to be the theme when OSU coach Urban Meyer meets Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio late in the season.Despite Sparty’s 3-7 overall and 1-6 Big Ten record, the motif of win-or-go-home motivates the No. 2 Buckeyes in the heart of the College Football Playoff discussion.The back-and-forth blows by the Scarlet and Gray and the Green and White have built the matchup as one of the year’s most anticipated games each season. For the past three years, the winner of the Big Ten battle has altered college football’s national landscape.In 2015, one celebratory windmill at a time, Michigan State then-junior kicker Michael Geiger triggered tears in the eyes of OSU fans after hitting the game-winning field goal as time expired. This year OSU finds itself in the same spot, but determined to keep its season alive.“(We) just want to beat Michigan State,” Meyer said. “It means a lot.”OffenseThe Spartans offense has a much different look in 2016 than it did a season ago. No Connor Cook under center, no Aaron Burbridge or Macgarrett Kings at wide receiver and no Jack Conklin on the esteemed offensive line highlight the amount of talent that departed from an offense that returned just four starters.Senior quarterback Tyler O’Connor — a name that might be familiar to Ohio State — is the starter. O’Connor played for the injured Cook last season against OSU and controlled the offense enough to dethrone the Buckeyes from the undefeated ranks and destroy OSU’s chance at a second straight national title.This year, O’Connor hasn’t lit up the stat sheet, but he remains in the top half of the Big Ten in passing efficiency. The senior from Lima, Ohio, is completing more than 61 percent of his passes, but averages less than 200 yards passing per game. His favorite target is senior wide receiver R.J. Shelton. The Beaver Dam, Wisconsin, native has reeled in 47 passes this season for 710 yards and five touchdowns. He averages just under five receptions per game and is averaging more than 15 yards per catch. Shelton is O’Connor’s most targeted wide receiver on passes 20 yards or more.“As a coach, there’s always concern,” said co-defensive coordinator Greg Schiano. “When you put the tape on and I watch (Michigan State’s) explosive play reel and it’s 30 plays of passes alone, you’re talking three explosives a game. If that happens to you, that could be 21 points.”In the running game, another Ohio native, L.J. Scott from Hubbard, leads the Spartan backfield with 775 yards and five touchdowns. Statistically, the Spartans rank 67th in the nation in total offense, which plays right into the hands of OSU, which is ranked third in the nation in scoring defense.“They go deep into their roster and got some outstanding football players,” Dantonio said on Tuesday regarding OSU’s defense. “They run and tackle very effectively.”DefenseOSU had its single worst offensive output with Meyer on the sidelines last season against Michigan State. OSU gained just 132 total yards in an abysmal performance that caused former running back Ezekiel Elliott to call out the coaching staff for only getting 12 carries, just four in the second half. However, to credit Michigan State, the Spartans’ front seven always present a physical challenge to the Buckeyes.“Even when we won 49-37 two years ago, you walk away from that game saying, ‘wow, that was physical,’” said redshirt junior guard Billy Price. “You have to respect those guys. They’re cut from the same fabric we are.”The biggest departure from the 2015 Michigan State defense that won the Big Ten was three-time, second-team All-American Shilique Calhoun. Now playing for the Oakland Raiders, Calhoun had been an integral part of a defense that made it difficult on Price and the rest of the offensive line.However, junior defensive lineman Malik McDowell is still on the Spartans’ defensive front, and requires a great deal of attention from opposing teams. McDowell sat out last week’s game with an injury and Dantonio said that either McDowell will either be starting or won’t play on Saturday.The Spartans rank sixth in the Big Ten and 30th in the country in total defense. Junior linebacker Chris Frey leads their defense with 81 tackles and will play with a chip on his shoulder, having grown up down the street from OSU in Upper Arlington.OSU redshirt junior quarterback J.T. Barrett said that to have success against the Spartans this year, the offense will need to pick up yardage on first and second downs.“First down, (we) weren’t getting positive yardage and were playing behind the chains and weren’t able to get in rhythm,” he said.Barrett’s breakout game came against Michigan State in 2014 when he threw for 300 yards and accounted for five total touchdowns. He said the preparation for that game enabled his success.“I think we were playing well as a team and we knew we were the underdogs in that game so we wanted to come out, play hard for each other and it came to be a good game for us, especially offensively,” Barrett said.BreakdownThe 2016 Spartans have been the biggest bust in the Big Ten this season. They started the conference season ranked in the top 10 and quickly plummeted down the rankings with seven consecutive losses.Despite all that, Meyer sees a team that is still capable of pulling off a colossal upset.“(They’re) extremely dangerous,” Meyer said. “As well-coached as any team in the country.”Barrett and the offense are playing at a very high level at the right time of the season and are going into East Lansing with a lot of confidence. OSU scored 60-plus points in two straight games for the first time since 1996. On paper, Ohio State should dominate the game on both sides of the ball. If history says anything about the two teams, the game will be decided in the late stages of the game. However, expect OSU to roll through this one pretty handily.Score: Ohio State 41-16
Now that the regular-season conference title is out of the way, the Buckeyes are squared on winning this weekend’s Big Ten Tournament, which could garner them March Madness’ top overall seed. But a lot can happen during the intense championship week when teams across the country make their final case to hear their names called on Selection Sunday. Ohio State won’t have to worry about whether its name will be called, but when. Jerry Palm of CollegeRPI.com told The Lantern the NCAA Tournament’s No. 1 overall seed is the Buckeyes’ to lose, and other teams in contention will need improbable help in the form of an OSU loss. “Anyone else who thinks they can (get the No. 1 overall seed),” Palm said, “is going to have to wait until somebody beats Ohio State.” OSU coach Thad Matta said he enjoys this time of year because he’s been able to learn so much about his team during the conference tournament. He mentioned that having recent Sunday games followed by quick turnarounds early in the next week has helped the Buckeyes prepare for the NCAA Tournament. “We (coaches) talk about it, not with the guys,” Matta said. “We haven’t discussed the NCAA Tournament with them, but I’m sure they watched TV.” Fifth-year senior forward David Lighty is no stranger to basketball in March and is looking for a repeat performance of last year’s Big Ten Tournament, where he earned All-Tournament honors and helped the Buckeyes win the conference title. “I think if we play like we’ve been playing the last five or six games it’s going to be pretty hard to beat us,” Lighty said. “Like coach said, just going in there and being focused, having our minds right to go in there and attack.”
Then-junior outside hitter Erin Sekinger (12) jumps up for a spike during an exhibition match against Polish Team on Sept. 4, 2013 at St. John Arena. OSU won, 3-2.Credit: Lantern file photoAfter being swept in its first two Big Ten games of the season, the Ohio State women’s volleyball team is looking for redemption this weekend.The Buckeyes are scheduled to face Iowa (8-5, 0-2) and No. 8 Nebraska (8-3, 2-0) in back-to-back road games before opening home Big Ten play at St. John Arena.Coach Geoff Carlston said OSU won’t overlook the Hawkeyes as he expects Iowa to play hard for first-year head coach Bond Shymansky, who returned to his alma mater after spending five seasons at Marquette and seven at Georgia Tech. In his 12 seasons of coaching, he has taken his programs to NCAA tournament six times.“Whenever you have a new staff, that first year is always dangerous because the players come in highly motivated,” Carlston said. “Iowa’s always been good (at their place).”While the Buckeyes (9-5, 0-2) are slated to also face the Hawkeyes in Columbus on Nov. 19, their only match of the season against the Cornhuskers is this weekend.Junior middle blocker Tyler Richardson said, there is more motivation to beat the Cornhuskers this week than there normally would be.“It does add (meaning because) we don’t get to play them again,” Richardson said.Like OSU, Nebraska will be coming off a match Friday, so each team will have one day’s rest. The Cornhuskers’ three losses this season have all come to ranked teams: No. 2 Texas, then-No. 3 Stanford and then-No. 13 Florida State.Coming off a weekend where the Buckeyes were dominated 3-0 by Wisconsin, sophomore defensive specialist Valeria León said she believes if basic mistakes are corrected, then the team has a chance to win.“(We need to) stop their runs, communicate all the time and (bring) more consistency,” she said.The Buckeyes will likely welcome back sophomore middle blocker Taylor Sandbothe, who has been away from the team for two weeks because of illness. However, they could be without sophomore outside hitter Kylie Randall this weekend, as she was not in uniform during Wednesday’s practice and had tape on her left ankle.The Buckeyes are set to return home after being away for four weekends, beginning with a game against No. 16 Illinois (11-3, 3-0) Oct. 8 at 7 p.m.
Loose pucksOSU junior defenseman Craig Dalrymple is injured and will not play this weekend, Rohlik said.OSU is 2-1-0 all-time vs. ProvidenceThis weekend’s games are part of the Hockey East/Big Ten challenge that awards a trophy to the conference with the most points in inter-conference play. OSU players are introduced into a game against Guelph on Oct. 4 at Value City Arena. OSU won, 7-1.Credit: Melissa Prax / Lantern photographerWhen the puck drops in Columbus this weekend, the Ohio State men’s hockey team’s coming-out party will be officially over. The Buckeyes won’t be surprising anyone this year, including themselves.OSU’s regular-season opener against No. 4 Providence will mark the beginning of a season where expectations are clearer than they’ve been in the past, Buckeye junior defenseman Sam Jardine said.Goals to win the Big Ten title and reach the NCAA tournament are built upon the OSU’s loss in the conference championship last year, Jardine said.“It’s been fresh in our memory all summer,” he said. “(We are) very bitter about it, but very motivated, very empowered to get back to that spot where we were last year.”The Buckeyes return 19 players after going 18-14-5 last season. Back for another run at the postseason, a roster that lost Max McCormick and Ryan Dzingel to the NHL is eager to show it can compete without its high-profile forwards.“I think we’ve got a group that wants to prove to people that we have what it takes,” OSU coach Steve Rohlik said.That group is one making an offensive transition. This season, the Buckeyes will become a four-line team that relies less upon its top-six forwards, Rohlik said.OSU’s balance was exemplified last weekend when 13 players registered at least one point in the team’s 7-1 exhibition win against the University of Guelph. Forwards Matt Weis and Luke Stork earned points for the Buckeyes’ freshman class.In their first week of official practice, OSU’s eight newcomers have quickly adjusted to practice and game-speed, senior forward Tanner Fritz said.For Fritz, the loss of former linemates Alex Szczechura and McCormick has forced him to make an adjustment of his own. OSU’s top returning scorer has been paired with junior forward Anthony Greco and senior forward Darik Angeli in practice.“Those are guys that bring a ton of speed to the game, so it’s just kind of me keeping up with them,” Fritz said.But while the Buckeyes’ offense is changing, its goaltending is not. Sophomore goalies Matt Tomkins and Christian Frey, who combined for a 2.53 goals against average last season, will each play this season, Rohlik said.Rohlik did not reveal this weekend’s starter, but said he was comfortable with either player between the pipes.In front of the goalies, the defensive keys will be to avoid odd-man rushes and keep the Friars to the perimeter of the offensive zone, Jardine said.“We know with the guys that we have behind us that if we give outside shots they’re going to take care of those,” Jardine said.This weekend against Providence might prove to be a goaltending showdown.The Friars’ junior goalie Jon Gillies has a career 2.12 GAA and .931 save percentage, while his backup, sophomore Nick Ellis, posted a 2.35 GAA and .904 save percentage last season.Gillies and Ellis propelled the Friars to a 22-11-6 record and NCAA tournament berth last season. The Friars, like the Buckeyes, also have high expectations with 19 returnees.“If there’s a year for Providence, this is probably their year,” Rohlik said. “We’re playing a very good hockey team and we have to be ready.”OSU’s preparations for Providence were made easier by the teams’ agreement to trade game film. Rohlik said the Friars initiated the offer to swap tape from last season, an exchange the OSU coach had not made in the past.Despite having film to analyze, Rohlik said he understands his team won’t be mistake-free on Friday. He said his hope is for his team’s effort and accountability to compensate for its mistakes.For a team eager to start the season, it’s just the first of many expectations.The Buckeyes are set to open their season on Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m. at the Schottenstein Center.