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Usain Bolt Is Great — But How Can We Know If Hes

Embed Code More: Apple Podcasts | ESPN App | RSS | Embed We’re on the ground in Rio covering the 2016 Summer Olympics. Check out all our coverage here.Welcome to the latest episode of Hot Takedown, FiveThirtyEight’s sports podcast. On this week’s show (Aug. 16, 2016), FiveThirtyEight editor-in-chief Nate Silver joins us to talk about his Olympics viewing schedule and what would happen if the medal table were weighted toward the most popular sports. Then we talk to FiveThirtyEight’s Allison McCann, on location in Brazil, about the quarterfinal loss by the U.S. women’s national soccer team. Finally, we discuss Usain Bolt, who on Sunday won his third straight Olympic gold medal in the 100 meters. Is he already the greatest Olympian of all time? How can we quantify that anyway? Plus, a significant digit on the amount of money spent by English Premier League teams during the summer transfer window.Links to what we discuss are here:Nate Silver investigates which countries medal in the sports that people watch the most.Carl Bialik writes that according to FiveThirtyEight’s odds, the USWNT probably wasn’t going to win Olympic gold anyway.ESPN’s Stats & Information Group breaks down the numbers behind the U.S.’s loss to Sweden.Laura Wagner at Slate thinks the USWNT will be fine as long as it dumps goalkeeper Hope Solo.The New York Times uses a series of graphics to show how Bolt compares with 100-meter Olympic champions of the past.The Times breaks down how Bolt came from behind to win.Significant Digit: £794 million. That’s the amount of money spent by EPL teams in the 2016 summer transfer window, through the beginning of August. There are still two weeks to go before the window closes, and spending looks like it will break the EPL record of £870 million that was set last year. FiveThirtyEight read more

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Oscar Pistorius Accused of Killing Girlfriend on Valentines Day

Oscar Pistorius – South African paralympic superstar and national hero Oscar Pistorius — a double amputee who competed with high-tech artificial legs — was charged Thursday with the murder of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, a model who was an advocate against rape and the abuse of women.Steenkamp was shot four times in Pistorius’ home in a gated community in Pretoria, the country’s capital, in the early-morning hours.He is the only suspect, according to reports, and there have been other cases of domestic violence calls to his home. A 9 mm pistol was recovered and a murder case opened against Pistorius.It is shocking news in South Africa, which wrapped its arm around Pistorius, called “Blade Runner” because he ran with steel, blade-like contraptions as his feet.Pistorius was born with a rare disease and had both his legs amputated when he was 11. He  was questioned for hours and eventually left a police station accompanied by officers. He looked down as photographers snapped pictures, the hood on his gray workout jacket pulled up, covering most of his face. His court hearing was originally scheduled for Thursday afternoon but has been postponed until Friday to allow more time for a forensics investigation, said Medupe Simasiku, a spokesperson for the prosecution.Police said there had “previously been incidents at the home of Mr. Oscar Pistorius.” Police in South Africa do not name suspects in crimes until they have appeared in court but police spokesperson Denise Beukes said that the 26-year-old Pistorius was at his home at the time of the death and “there is no other suspect involved.“Yes, there are witnesses and there have also been interviews this morning,” Beukes told reporters outside the gated complex where Pistorius lived. “We are talking about neighbors and people that heard things that happened earlier in the evening and when the shooting took place.”Police said that earlier reports that Steenkamp may have been mistaken for a burglar by Pistorius did not come from the police. Several local media outlets had initially reported that the shooting may have been accidental.“It would be very premature and very irresponsible of me to say what actually has happened,” Beukes said. “There have been allegations. We are not sure.”Beukes also said there had been previous incidents and “allegations of a domestic nature” at the home of the Olympic star. He is one of South Africa’s and the world’s most famous sportsmen and made history at the London Games last year by being the first double-amputee runner to compete at the Olympics.“I’m not going to elaborate on it but there have been incidents (at Pistorius’ home),” Beukes said.Mogale said when police arrived they found paramedics trying to revive a 30-year-old woman, who had been shot four times. Mogale, who was speaking to the Associated Press from the scene, said the woman died at the house.Steenkamp, known simply as Reeva, was one of FHM’s (formerly For Him Magazine) 100 Sexiest Women in the World for two years running. She appeared in many international and national advertisements and was one of the celebrity contestants on Tropika Island of Treasure, filmed in Jamaica. read more

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Tyreke Evans Is Back

As a free agent over the summer, Tyreke Evans found himself at the kind of crossroads that few would have foreseen early in his career. Although Evans had earned two NBA contracts and made nearly $60 million over his eight-year pro career, he was far from the stardom that had once appeared so inevitable. He had missed a total of 99 games over the previous two seasons and struggled to crack double-digit points per game when he did manage to hit the court. It seemed the best that Evans could hope for was to simply resuscitate his career, and the one-year, $3.3 million contract he inked with the Memphis Grizzlies — well below market value — reflected just how far the guard’s perceived worth had fallen around the league.These days, though, Evans is looking like the biggest bargain of the summer — and he may have pulled his career back on track in the process. On a roster with stars such as Mike Conley and Marc Gasol, Evans is leading the Grizz in Box Plus/Minus, Player Efficiency Rating and NBA.com’s Player Impact Estimate (basically an accounting of the percentage of “good things” a player does while on the floor).1He’s second in Win Shares per 48 minutes behind Brandan Wright. He has been the primary spark plug for one of the league’s best second units, a crucial element behind Memphis’s surprisingly solid start. If Evans keeps this up, he’ll be a sought-after free agent next summer, rather than an afterthought. He’ll also have done it as a different — and more modern — type of player than the one he was supposed to become.Selected out of the University of Memphis a pick after James Harden in the 2009 draft,2Returning to Memphis makes this season a homecoming of sorts for Evans and the Grizzlies a fitting destination for a career restart. For the Grizzlies’ part, it also in some small way rights the wrong of their taking Hasheem Thabeet second overall — over not only Evans and Harden but also Steph Curry and DeMar DeRozan — in that draft. (Who am I kidding — there’s no redeeming that pick.) Evans was theoretically cast from a similar mold: the take-charge combo guard who can create for himself and others off the dribble. And he played that role well at first, beating out Steph Curry for rookie of the year honors with a debut season in which he averaged 20.1 points, 5.8 assists and 5.3 rebounds per game (joining a rookie 20-5-5 club whose only other members were, famously, LeBron James, Michael Jordan and Oscar Robertson). For Evans, there appeared to be no ceiling. As a rookie in Sacramento, Tyreke Evans flashed big numbers, but an incomplete game. Carl Costas / Sacramento Bee/ MCT via Getty Images But even though Harden quickly earned a reputation for generating — and making — almost exclusively the most efficient shot types in basketball (3-pointers and point-blank tries), Evans hasn’t always had that formula down. Even during his mega-successful rookie campaign, he shot only 26 percent from the arc and took only 12 percent of his shots from long distance. (The NBA averages that season were 36 percent and 22 percent, respectively, and the volume of 3-pointers attempted leaguewide has skyrocketed in the years since.) Add in a hearty dose of unassisted midrange jumpers and isolation plays — which made up 34 percent of Evans’s offensive possessions as a rookie (fourth-most in the NBA, according to Synergy Sports Technology) — and Evans’s game contained bits and pieces more suited to a previous era of perimeter stardom, before shot selection and long-range accuracy consumed so much attention.Perhaps that’s why play-by-play value ratings such as regularized plus/minus didn’t think much of the young Evans’s performance even as he was stuffing the stat sheet. He wasn’t yet playing the game in a fully optimized way. But even then, there were signs that a greater kind of player was inside him, with many of the tools necessary to be a modern terror. As a rookie, he led the league in shots per game taken from the restricted area — pound for pound, the most efficient area of the floor — orchestrated the pick-and-roll with poise beyond his years, and flashed the kind of all-around skill set that has become the hallmark of today’s superstar initiators.In Memphis, we’re finally seeing Evans play that role at a high level, thanks to better health and some important upgrades to his game. For instance, one of the last missing pieces for Evans was the development of a more reliable long-range jumper. And so far this year, en route to seven games with 19 or more points (easily the most of any bench player in the league), Evans has knocked down a career-best 43 percent of his threes. Although it’s unlikely that Evans (a career 30 percent 3-point shooter going into the season) will continue to make quite so many shots from the outside, he has genuinely improved his stroke since entering the league, with the increased focus helping him shoot 38 percent from deep over the past three seasons. “Every game I’ve made a three,” he told Jesse Blancarte of Basketball Insiders last week. “I’m just shooting with confidence, ya know? I worked on it two years straight, so when you put in hard work, it definitely pays off.”Along with that improved shooting touch, Evans has developed a much better overall sense of shot selection. According to Second Spectrum’s Quantified Shot Quality (based on player-tracking data), Evans has generated the ninth-most-efficient set of shots of any guard in the league3In a tie with Toronto’s Delon Wright. — and he’s truly generating them: He’s taking 23.4 shots per 100 possessions, while the eight guards above him in shot quality are averaging only 12.9. Between that and his deadly execution on the pick-and-roll — only Bradley Beal, Curry and James have been more efficient on the play this year — Evans is finally fulfilling his promise as one of the league’s most gifted all-around perimeter players. In the early going, he is one of only four players in the league with a true shooting percentage of at least 60 percent, a usage rate of 25 percent, an assist rate of 20 percent and a rebound rate of 10 percent. (The other three are James, Kevin Durant and Giannis Antetokounmpo.)Before his disastrous 2016-17 season, Evans’s plus/minus impact was quietly among the top dozen in the league at his position — interestingly, much better than it was during his first couple of seasons despite inferior per-game numbers. With his mix of all-around production, improved shooting and underrated defense,4Although he still struggles to keep tabs on his man away from the ball out on the perimeter, Synergy grades his overall defense as “good.” Plus, the Grizzlies’ defense allows 4.6 fewer points per 100 possessions when he’s on the court, and he’s reducing opponents’ shooting percentages when he’s their primary defender. Evans is likely to be ranked high again when ESPN rolls out the first batch of Real Plus-Minus ratings for this season. (He currently ranks eighth among guards in Box Plus/Minus, which attempts to estimate RPM-style ratings in the absence of play-by-play data.)Of course, there’s always the matter of durability with Evans, who has missed an average of 26 games per season over the past five years. But he insists that his balky knee feels right again. “It was just a matter of me getting my health back,” Evans told Blancarte. “I had the whole offseason to just train with my trainer and get my knee stronger. I feel great.”If Evans stays healthy and keeps doing what he’s capable of on the court, Memphis should keep exceeding expectations — and the market for Evans’s services should be buzzing once again next summer. read more

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Good Riddance To One Of The Worst WildCard Weekends In NFL History

19912.23.32.23.511.2 20032.32.93.12.911.2 20092.72.63.53.912.7 AVERAGE SCORE OF GAMES IN ROUND The best NFL wild-card weekends (1990-present) 19942.13.22.83.211.1 19961.92.82.92.610.3 19972.13.22.62.510.3 20002.53.32.64.112.5 20162.12.72.93.010.7 The good news is that things should get much better from here. Although New England is a massive favorite over Houston, the rest of the divisional round is filled with high-quality teams who should be relatively closely matched. That’s not always a guarantee of great football — looking back at my college-bowl grades, how about the barn-burner that was my highest-rated matchup? (Clemson trounced Ohio State 31-0 … oops.) — but it can’t hurt, particularly after the relative snoozefest that opened the playoffs. 20062.13.22.92.710.9 19902.33.12.43.411.2 19922.93.62.93.813.2 PLAYOFF YEARGOOD TEAMSCLOSE GAMESHI SCORINGUPSET CHANCETOTAL SCORE Divisional3.13.03.03.012.0 20142.53.42.93.612.4 If you’re like me, the start of the NFL playoffs is always a source of excitement — until you remember that the two best teams in each conference have bye weeks, leaving the dregs of the postseason field to play games that aren’t much better than the league’s standard regular-season fare. Sometimes wild-card games can rise above all that, producing classic games in spite of themselves, but those games are the exception to the rule.Even by those low standards, this weekend’s wild-card action was full of duds. Texans-Raiders was one of the ugliest on-paper playoff matchups in recent memory — and it ended up being arguably the weekend’s most exciting game. Every matchup was decided by double digits, only one featured an above-average amount of scoring,1Relative to the NFL’s regular-season average of 46 total points per game. and there was only one upset in the bunch (if you even could call it that — our Elo ratings gave Oakland a slight edge over Houston, though Elo didn’t know about Oakland’s mess at QB). Add it all up, and it was one of the worst wild-card rounds since the NFL playoffs expanded to 12 teams in 1990.We can measure the quality of each playoff game using a metric similar to the one I used to grade college football bowls. To rate the NFL games, I graded each postseason matchup since 1990 by summing up four different five-point ratings2Where the average is 3, the maximum is 5, and the lowest possible score is 1.: how good the teams were, how close the game was, how many points were scored, and how much upset potential the game had.3Here’s how each is defined in more detail:How good the teams were. This is based on the harmonic mean of the two teams’ pregame Elo ratings. Better matchups, like Super Bowl XLIX between the Patriots and Seahawks, get a 5; worse ones, such as 1999’s Cardinals-Cowboys wild-card tilt, get a 1.How close the game was. For this, I estimated the average margin of the game at any given moment, from the perspective of the eventual winner. Higher grades are given to great comebacks — see the Bills’ epic 1993 victory over the Oilers — and to nail-biters like the Giants’ last-second win over Buffalo in Super Bowl XXV. Lower grades go to laughers like the Jaguars’ 62-7 demolition of Miami in 2000.How much scoring the teams did. This is just the total number of points scored in the game. (High-scoring games aren’t always exciting, but they tend to be more watchable than grind-it-out defensive struggles.) The Cardinals’ 51-45 win over the Packers in 2010 gets a 5; the Steelers’ inelegant 7-6 victory over the Patriots in 1998 gets a 1.How much upset potential the game had. All else being equal, possible upsets make for interesting games. So for this category, I estimated the underdog’s average win probability at any given moment in the game. Games where the underdog dominates, such as when Baltimore thrashed New England in 2010, score highest; ones where the favorite’s victory was never in doubt, like when Tim Tebow’s Broncos never had a chance against the Pats in 2012, score lowest. 19982.23.12.83.511.5 20012.72.92.83.011.4 20052.62.92.34.011.8 19931.93.53.23.612.2 Conf. champ.3.63.13.03.112.8 20022.03.23.43.912.6 20082.53.22.93.512.1 20132.33.63.43.913.3 Once we have those ratings, we can add them up to get an overall score for each playoff game. Unsurprisingly, wild-card games have the lowest average score, followed by divisional games, conference championships and the Super Bowl. (Hey! It works!) But this year’s opening weekend scored lower than the typical wild-card round in three of four categories; total scoring was the only metric in which it didn’t underperform, and even then, these games were basically average by wild-card standards. Pittsburgh’s 30-12 blowout over Miami was the eighth-lowest-rated wild-card game since 1990, and the rest of the opening weekend’s slate didn’t fare much better.4The highest-rated game of the weekend was, remarkably, Houston-Oakland, which ranked 43rd among the 108 wild-card games played since 1990.Overall, it was the fourth-worst wild-card weekend since 1990 according to my measure of game quality: 20102.33.23.03.912.4 19992.13.12.72.610.4 Super Bowl4.13.03.23.313.6 19951.92.53.93.211.6 Wild card avg.2.33.12.93.411.7 20112.13.13.13.211.5 20072.23.12.93.711.9 20152.83.22.43.512.0 20042.12.83.33.711.9 20122.53.22.53.011.1 Each game is graded on a five-point scale in four categories: how good the teams were, how close the score was throughout the game, how many points were scored and the chances of an upset throughout the game.Based on data from Pro-Football-Reference.com read more

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LeBron And Harden Are The NBAs Best Quarterbacks

Eric Bledsoe38511.9 PASSES THAT TRAVEL MORE THAN 30 FEET Kyle Lowry36013.2 Stephen Curry32411.8 Jrue Holiday30912.2 PLAYERNUMBERPERCENTAGE OF ALL PASSES T.J. McConnell3038.3 Ricky Rubio39311.9 Through March 8. Data excludes handoffs and passes shorter than 8 feet.Source: SportVU Russell Westbrook3059.9 John Wall46414.6 James Harden94425.0% The 2016-17 season’s top 10 NBA quarterbacks It was the fourth quarter of a February game against Oklahoma City when LeBron James caught Derrick Williams napping. The Cavaliers were down 101-99, James had the ball, and he and Cavs big man Tristan Thompson had just run a pick and roll at the top of the key. Williams, signed that morning to a 10-day contract, was in the far-right corner, resting with his hands on his knees. James dribbled left and fired a pass to Williams, 40 feet away. Williams dropped the ball, it careened out of bounds and the Thunder gained possession.“I learned quick: He can find you just about anywhere — it doesn’t matter how far away you’re standing,” Williams said.https://fivethirtyeight.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/williamsdrop.mp4James, in other words, is one heck of a passer. He can get the ball to teammates, regardless of how far apart they are or how impossible the passing angle may appear. According to a query run by SportVU data analyst Brittni Donaldson at FiveThirtyEight’s request, a whopping 20 percent of James’s passes have traveled more than 30 feet this season; that’s the second-highest share in the league. The league-wide average1 is 6 percent. His passes that go that far travel north of 30 mph, according to SportVU.On Sunday night, James will square off against the only person ahead of him on that list: Houston guard and MVP front-runner James Harden, who tosses 25 percent of his passes more than 30 feet, according to the data.2 As of Wednesday, Harden this season had thrown 944 passes that had traveled more than 30 feet; James had 586. To put those numbers into context, consider that the next-closest player, Washington’s John Wall, had only 464. LeBron James58620.4 That anticipation and unusual ability to find teammates, regardless of where they’re standing or how heavily they’re covered, leaves defensive players entrenched in a mental game of minesweeper. A step in any direction, or even just standing still, could result in a layup, dunk or open 3-point attempt at any moment. Because of Harden’s and James’s ability to thread the needle — at high speeds and from just about anywhere — no defense is ever truly safe.https://fivethirtyeight.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/ridiculouslebron.mp4Nearly everything that happens for the two teams’ offenses happens because of the effect that James and Harden have on the floor. And even though their scoring gets most of the attention, the two players are zipping passes at incredible speeds across incredible distances. Their teams are benefiting. Cleveland is beating opponents by about 8 points per 100 plays with James on the court — and getting beaten by about 7 points per 100 plays with him sidelined, according to NBA.com. And though Houston has maintained a healthy scoring margin this season when Harden rests, it’s notable that the high-scoring club — which thrives on its 3-point shooting and is one of the 10 best offenses in NBA history in terms of efficiency — becomes mortal without him as the floor general. If you want an insight into how their offenses work, keep an eye on James’s and Harden’s passes.This isn’t to say that Harden and James are without flaws or that their long-passing risks always pay off. Quite the opposite. Both are in the midst of career highs in turnovers. This week, Harden broke his own single-season NBA record for miscues, while James has never turned it over this much, measured by both his turnovers per game and the percentage of his plays that ended with a turnover.“LeBron’s a great passer and the greatest player I ever played with,” said ex-NBA forward Shane Battier, who won two titles as James’s teammate in Miami. “But he had a propensity for hitting me below the knees with a lot of his passes. And I had to tell him: ‘Look, I know you love your triple-doubles. If you want to get more, you’ve gotta start hitting me in the chest with these. Get me the ball in a good spot, and I’ll help you get there. It became a running joke with coach [Erik Spoelstra], where he’d stop the film and say, ‘C’mon LeBron; help Shane out!’”But more often than not, the rewards with James and Harden have been great. They’re totally different players: James is one of the most physically imposing ballhandlers3 in league history, while Harden thrives on his craftiness and unusual ability to stop on a dime. Yet the fear that each inspires when hurtling toward the basket — whether it’s via a one-on-one isolation4 or a pick-and-roll — is what makes James and Harden arguably the sport’s two most lethal passers, especially in light of who their teammates are.Both players operate in perhaps the NBA’s most spacious offenses and boast plenty of sharpshooting teammates. Of the 20 players who’ve drained the most threes this season, six play for either Cleveland or Houston. Knowing that those players surround James or Harden at the same time that a roll man like Thompson or Clint Capela dives toward the basket stops defensive players in their tracks for a split second as they come to the realization that they’re in a Catch-22.https://fivethirtyeight.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/longpassharden.mp4https://fivethirtyeight.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/harrelloop.mp4“Teams have really gotta pick their poison as far as what they want to do when they play us,” said Rockets guard Eric Gordon, who’s enjoying a career resurgence with Harden and coach Mike D’Antoni. “Do they want to have everybody shooting threes? Because that’s what happens if you decide you want to take away [Harden’s] scoring. Or do you want to stay with us at the 3-point line? Because if you do that, I like his chances of finding a way to score.”That spacing, and the fact that defenses can’t possibly cover that much ground on every play, is part of why James is averaging a career-best 8.8 assists per outing. If he ends the season there, it would be a single-season assist record for a non-guard. And in his first season as a point guard, Harden is logging 11.2 dimes a night, a 49 percent bump from what had been a career-high 7.5 assists per game last season. Within the next week or so, the two players will rank No. 1 and 2 in the list of players who have assisted the most 3-point shots in a single season. read more

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Team USAs World Baseball Classic Championship Didnt Come Easy

3/11Round 1Dominican Republic2ndL 7-5 3/21SemisJapan1stW 2-1 Team USA finally did it. Buoyed by a tremendous pitching performance from starter Marcus Stroman — who carried a no-hitter into the seventh inning — the United States routed Puerto Rico 8-0 in Wednesday night’s title game of the World Baseball Classic, securing America’s first-ever championship at the event.Going from mediocre (they went into 2017 with a 10-10 all-time record in the tournament) to championship worthy wasn’t easy for the U.S. Although the American roster was stacked with major leaguers, the team once again found itself facing elimination after losing to Puerto Rico last Friday. Keeping its tournament hopes alive meant beating the Dominican Republic — the second-best team in WBC history by my calculations,1I used the Simple Rating System to rank every team in WBC history. (and one that had roared back to beat the U.S. a week earlier) — in a do-or-die qualifier, then beating Japan (the greatest team in WBC history) in the semis, and then turning the tables in a rematch with Puerto Rico (who were undefeated and playing as well as any WBC team ever).Talk about a difficult path to a championship: 3/10Round 1Colombia11thW 3-2 OPPONENT But the U.S. persevered through it all, and now they are WBC champions. And who knows — perhaps the win will even persuade more marquee players to represent America at future World Baseball Classics.Now, if only they could do something about those painfully ’90s-looking uniforms. Share on Facebook DATEROUNDTEAMALL-TIME SRS RANKUSA’S RESULT 3/17Round 2Puerto Rico5thL 6-5 3/18Round 2Dominican Republic2ndW 6-3 The Simple Rating System (SRS) adjusts a team’s per-game run differential for strength of schedule. This SRS ranking uses data from all WBC matches since 2006, with extra weight applied to games in later rounds.Source: Wikipedia 3/12Round 1Canada17thW 8-0 Team USA’s path to the championship 3/22FinalPuerto Rico5thW 8-0 3/15Round 2Venezuela9thW 4-2 read more

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Offensive struggles from Tulsa an anomaly according to Buckeyes

OSU redshirt senior offensive linesman Pat Elflein (65) blocks a pass rusher from OSU redshirt junior quarterback J.T. Barrett (16) during the fourth quarter of the Buckeye’s game against Tulsa on Sept. 10. The Buckeyes won 48-3. Credit: Alexa Mavrogianis | Photo EditorIn the first two games for the Ohio State football team, the offensive attack from coach Urban Meyer’s squad has been a night and day difference. After producing 776 yards against Bowling Green, the Buckeyes were only able to crank out 402 total yards against the Tulsa Golden Hurricane, many of which came after an hour-long weather delay.Redshirt junior quarterback J.T. Barrett scored at will in Week 1, putting seven total touchdowns on the board while completing just under 68 percent of his passes and picking up 349 yards. Against Tulsa, the story was very different. Barrett only picked up 149 yards and failed to find the endzone through the air.Defense was the biggest component of the Buckeyes scoring, picking up two scores and providing the offense with a short field on multiple occasions. On offense, the scoring came from the ground, with Barrett picking up two touchdowns and redshirt freshman running back Mike Weber and senior H-back Dontre Wilson each crossing the goal line.In each of the first two weeks, Meyer has graded out three champions on the offensive line — redshirt senior center Pat Elflein twice and redshirt junior guard Billy Price against Tulsa. The rest of the unit has failed to gain this recognition, and the lack of experience of the new starters has been apparent to fans, as well as their coach.“I’m concerned about everything. I have a lot of confidence we are getting better and better each day, and that’s growing pains with five guys that have to work together,” Meyer said. “So, yeah, a little bit concerned. But I think we’re further ahead than I thought we would be at this point.”So far this year, the Buckeyes have allowed just one sack through two games, provided by Tulsa junior defensive end Jeremy Smith in the second quarter of last Saturday’s game. Oklahoma, OSU’s next opponent, has picked up four sacks in two games.The position change of former guard-turned-center Elflein, and the introduction of three new starters along the offensive front have caused some of the worry for Meyer. Against Tulsa, the Buckeyes were able to gain only 268 yards rushing, which might seem to be an impressive total. However, OSU could only muster 89 yards rushing in the first half.Elflein said the young offensive linemen are working this week to right the wrongs of the first half against the Golden Hurricane.“I’m not worried by any means. We are getting better. We had a lot of stuff thrown at us last week,” Elflein said. “I think it was good to get some experience with that stuff. I’m sure, at Oklahoma, we’ll see that too.”Elflein went on to say the offensive line is still a work in progress. Much like the offensive line, the wide receivers are still trying to grow and produce at a higher level.Wide receivers struggled last Saturday, which resulted in a poor pass attack against the Golden Hurricane. In all, the wide receivers have been targeted 20 times this year, while the combination of H-backs, running backs and tight ends have been thrown to 32 times.Although the Buckeye coaching staff expected some struggles from the unit with the loss of three of its top receivers to the NFL, there has been a distinct lack of production from the pass catchers. The leading receiver, redshirt sophomore Noah Brown, has only four receptions for 64 yards and one touchdown.The two leading pass catchers have been junior Curtis Samuel and senior Dontre Wilson, both H-backs.Even with the struggles against Tulsa, Barrett said the team can have a much better performance against Oklahoma by focusing on the task at hand and arriving at the game better prepared than the team was last week.“In high school, you know, I had lucky socks. I thought that was the key to my success. Wearing my socks,” Barrett said. “As far as now, understanding Coach Meyer’s approach, it just makes a lot of sense now that it doesn’t matter what socks you wear or if you’ve got lucky drawers or anything like that. That doesn’t matter. It’s that you’re prepared. And I think that’s the main thing.” read more

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Involuntarily defeated Loss leaves many questions unanswered

Where did Turner’s teammates disappear to? There’s no questioning what Big Ten Player of the Year Evan Turner is capable of. But no matter his output, the Buckeyes thrive only when he receives help, as the statistics illustrate. Take a look at the production from Turner’s mates in OSU’s last six games, three wins in the Big Ten Tournament, a pair of victories in the NCAA Tournament and the loss to Tennessee:Ohio State 69, Michigan 68 (Mar. 12): Turner: 18 points   Lighty: 15 points    Buford: 15 pointsOhio State 88, Illinois 81 (2OT, Mar. 13):Turner: 31 points   Buford: 22 points   Diebler: 14 pointsOhio State 90, Minnesota 61 (Mar. 14):Turner: 31 points   Lighty: 20 points   Diebler: 19 pointsOhio State 68, UC-Santa Barbara 51 (Mar. 19):Turner: 9 points   Diebler: 23 points   Buford: 16 pointsOhio State 75, Georgia Tech 66 (Mar. 21):Turner: 24 points   Diebler: 20 points   Lighty: 18 pointsTennessee 76, Ohio State 73 (Mar. 26):Turner: 31 points   Buford: 15 points   Lighty: 9 pointsClearly, Turner lacked the support he had received on the Buckeyes’ recent tear. Diebler shot just 1-8 and had three points against Tennessee. Buford scored just one point after halftime. Turner was forced to take over every possession. He scored OSU’s first 14 points of the second half. The disappearing act by the supporting cast went a long way toward the Buckeye letdown. Will Turner stay or leave?The consensus opinion is that no player can pass up the opportunity to be a top-three selection in the NBA Draft after spending three years in college. But Turner has repeatedly declared his intentions to remain in school until he precisely pieces together his ideal legacy to leave behind. A loss in the Sweet 16 certainly doesn’t fit his dream scenario and Turner said after the game that he “can’t put a percentage right now. It’s just sticking in my head. I really don’t want to go out like this. I don’t even know.” Still, with the missed opportunity of advancing in the tournament fresh in his mind, it remains likely that Turner will take the necessary time to seek out the option that benefits him and his family the most. Should Turner surprise most and choose to return? Ohio State, bringing in one of the nation’s top recruiting classes, should be ranked near or at the top heading into next season. A season of dreams or a season of disappointment?Ohio State seemed poised for a run to the Final Four before Friday’s crippling loss to Tennessee left the team and Buckeye Nation in disarray.The 76-73 meltdown left many questions unanswered.What happened to Ohio State’s defense?The Buckeyes started the game in a 1-3-1 zone defense, forcing Tennessee to move the ball around the perimeter before finding an open jump shot. The Volunteers pride their offense on cutting to the basket and punishing teams in the paint, which they did against the Bucks once OSU dropped the zone for a man-to-man scheme. The zone was effective, as the Buckeyes forced turnovers to grab an early 11-4 lead. But forward David Lighty quickly picked up a pair of fouls, forcing coach Thad Matta’s hand. When center Dallas Lauderdale needed a rest, it left backup Kyle Madsen and lanky forward Jon Diebler to anchor the interior, which spelled a recipe for disaster. Tennessee dominated Ohio State on the glass, holding a 41-29 advantage in rebounds. They also outscored the Buckeyes in the paint, 50-22. Despite missing 20 shot attempts in the post, Tennessee out-muscled the Buckeyes for enough loose balls and rebounds to create enough opportunities to rack up points. read more

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Former Ohio State mens basketball walkon earns scholarship

Ohio State redshirt junior guard Alex Rogers, a former walk-on, was put on scholarship for the 2012-13 season, OSU athletics spokesman Dan Wallenberg confirmed Thursday. “Alex has earned the respect of his teammates and coaches for his hard work since arriving at Ohio State last year,” Wallenberg said in an email to The Lantern. “The opportunity for Alex to be a scholarship athlete with the Buckeyes was certainly well deserved.” Rogers played his first two collegiate seasons at Christian Brothers University in Memphis, Tenn., before transferring to OSU last year and walking on the team. He did not accumulate any statistics or appear in any games for the Buckeyes. When former OSU forward Jared Sullinger declared for the NBA Draft after his sophomore season and guard William Buford graduated, OSU was left with two available scholarships. The Buckeyes only signed one player – 6-foot-3 guard Amedeo Della Valle – for the 2012 recruiting class, leaving one available scholarship. OSU went 31-8 last season and lost to Kansas in the Final Four. The full 2012-13 schedule has not been released, though high-profile contests at Duke Nov. 28 and against Kansas Dec. 22 have already been announced. read more

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Ohio State mens basketball success hinging on Amir Williams

Junior center Amir Williams attempts to dunk the ball during a game against Illinois Jan. 23 at the Schottenstein Center. OSU won, 62-55.Credit: Kaily Cunningham / Multimedia editorWhen you come to Ohio State, the pressure is on to succeed. When you come to Ohio State as a 6-foot-11-inch McDonald’s All-American center, living up to expectations is nearly impossible.Career averages of 4.1 points per game and 3.9 rebounds per game — with his career highs this season at 8.9 points per game and 6.5 rebounds per game — haven’t been what the OSU faithful were hoping for from junior center Amir Williams.But despite all this, Williams just might hold OSU’s season in his hands.Before OSU’s matchup against Illinois Jan. 23, coach Thad Matta said Williams’ success is something the team needs.“We need Amir to play well. We need Amir to play consistently on both ends. We gotta get him back to tracking the ball, we gotta get him back to blocking shots more activity around the rim in terms of challenging shots … When he’s played well, we’ve played well. I know that,” Matta said.In games where Williams has played 25 minutes or more, the Buckeyes are 10-1, with a missed layup by junior guard Shannon Scott against Michigan State the only thing keeping OSU from perfection in those 11 contests.As the then-No. 17-ranked Buckeyes (16-4, 3-4) snapped their four-game losing streak by taking down Illinois, 62-55, Williams played 31 minutes ­— third most on the team — and added seven points and nine rebounds.OSU was outrebounded in each of the final three games of the losing streak, during which Williams never played for more than 22 minutes.Although the Illini grabbed more rebounds against the Buckeyes as well, the gap was closed to just one — 32-31 — because of the junior’s time on the court.“Amir had ‘the look’ tonight. He was active. He was energetic. He was tracking the ball, blocking shots. I thought he did just a really, really good job. He was rebounding the ball, he got a couple out of his area,” Matta said after the Illinois game. “Those guys had a pretty good blow with what Illinois was attempting to do. His ball screen defense was really, really good. And finally we had support where we needed it and he started trusting guys that they were going to be there and I liked it.”Although the Detroit native has started every game this season, his 31 minutes against the Illini were the most since he played 35 during the Buckeyes’ 72-68 loss against Michigan State. That was also the last game where OSU outrebounded its opponents.Williams so far this season has an average plus/minus rating of +11.1 per game. Plus/minus is the metric that tracks how much a team outscores its opponents by when a player is on the court: the higher the number, the better. Junior forward Sam Thompson, whom many of the Buckeye faithful have been calling to start in place of Williams, has a season average of just +6.6.Thompson commented before OSU’s loss against Minnesota Jan. 16 that Williams’ size and rebounding ability were big against the Spartans earlier in the season.“We tried to go to the ‘small ball’ lineup versus Michigan State and we couldn’t rebound. We didn’t have some success we had in the past, so we went back to Amir and he really produced for us in that lineup,” Thompson said.During the losing streak, it wasn’t just the rebounding that killed the Buckeyes, but points in the paint as well. With Williams playing less and less, OSU was outscored 120-80 in the paint over the last three games of the losing streak, allowing no less than 38 points in a single game.Against Illinois with Williams back in, OSU held the Illini to 22 points in the paint, scoring 22 of their own. Fourteen of the 22 came in the second half for OSU, something senior guard Aaron Craft said was a big part of the win.“I think we got some easy buckets off turnovers, finding ways to get the ball in the paint and we just started playing with a little more confidence,” Craft said. “In the first half we got some great looks, but they’re going in and out, they’re right around the rim and we just knew odds say the next one’s going to go in.”Next up, Williams and the Buckeyes will hope to take advantage of Penn State (10-10, 1-6) and its lack of height — no Nittany Lion starter stands taller than 6 feet 9 inches — Wednesday at 7 p.m. at the Schottenstein Center. read more