With Sunday’s U.S. Open victory, 32-year-old Serena Williams gathered her 18th major singles title — tying her with Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova for second on the all-time open-era list, behind only Steffi Graf’s 22. Remarkably, this was only Williams’s 22nd appearance in a final. Graf won her 18th Grand Slam title in her 26th final (at age 26). Navratilova didn’t win her 18th slam title until her 30th final (age 33), and Evert won her 18th (age 31) in her 33rd appearance (though, in fairness, those two had to play each other in 14 finals).Combined with her 22-3 record in semifinals, Williams’s career win rate in the last two rounds of major tournaments stands at 85.1 percent, easily topping the list of women with five or more slam titles:Second and third place go to Margaret Court and Graf, respectively — and then it’s daylight down to Monica Seles.But it’s also clear in the above chart that Williams’s performance prior to the semifinals is less remarkable: She ranks only 10th of 12 on that list in win percentage in the earlier rounds (despite not yet experiencing end-of-career decline). She has more exits in the first four rounds of majors (18) than Navratilova and Evert had, combined (16).In fact, Williams’s early-round performance is fairly similar to that of contemporary Maria Sharapova, particularly after we adjust for relative player strength. Both Williams and Sharapova have a reputation for dropping the occasional early-rounder against lower-ranked opponents. To see how often they lost to what kind of opponent, I broke the following chart down by “degree of mismatch” (techy mumbo-jumbo: the x-axis metric is the difference between the log of Williams’s/Sharapova’s seed and the log of their opponent’s seed. I treated all unseeded players like they had the No. 32 seed. This is just a better way of establishing relative strength than raw ranking difference):Williams does a little bit better, particularly in situations where she’s the lower seed (that’s not surprising considering her volatility), but then she takes a turn for the incredible at the semis:Williams is deadly when she makes it deep, regardless of ranking. Sharapova — the second-winningest player since Wimbledon 2004 — not so much.Of course, that Sharapova has been Williams’s main competition for so long is one of the reasons to be skeptical of Williams’s finishing skills: She hasn’t had to face a Seles or an Evert, as Graf and Navratilova did (or vice versa). So using the data from the 13 women with five or more major wins, I created a model to determine some basic odds of one of these top players beating an opponent based on each player’s ranking (actually, the model ends up using both the relative seeds and the absolute seed of the opponent — apparently, for top players, their own seed is much less important). From that, we can evaluate each player’s performance not just as a percentage, but against expectation considering the relative strength of their opponents.In this case, Williams has an even larger advantage than above when it comes to semifinals and finals, with a nearly 10 percent gap between herself and sister Venus Williams, with Court dropping to third, and Justine Henin taking the No. 4 spot.Yet, prior to the semifinals, Serena Williams is almost exactly at expectation: She’s ahead of it by two one-hundredths of 1 percent.To some degree, this has made me reconsider Williams’s career. Of course, we’ve always known she is brilliant, clearly the class of this generation and quite possibly the greatest female player of all time. But I have always assumed that she was reverse clutch — meaning that she was demonstrating clutchlike performance, but that it was probably a result of playing poorly in less-“clutch” situations (for example, if she didn’t try very hard in earlier rounds).This may still be the case. Or perhaps some other factor explains the findings — for instance, maybe Williams’s form entering Grand Slam events varies wildly, so she either loses early or wins the title. But the longer and more consistently this phenomenon persists, the more I’m forced to consider (at least conceptually) that perhaps Williams is really just a typical great player most of the time, but actually does possess the ability to summon something extra when the pressure is on.
Month: September 2019
This matches the existing research on a home-court scoring partiality in basketball — both in the NCAA and the NBA — in addition to the home-rink bias present in the recording of hits and blocked shots in the NHL.But although there appears to be some hometown favoritism involved with the NHL’s second assist, it might be difficult to do anything about it. Indeed, judging when a player should receive a secondary assist is not always clear cut. Let’s look at a pair of goals scored last season — one by the home team and the other by the away team — at Amalie Arena in Tampa Bay, the rink with the NHL’s third-biggest home second-assist bias since the lockout.First, does Anton Stralman, who lost possession by flipping the puck into a New Jersey Devils defender, deserve a secondary assist on this play?Video Playerhttps://fivethirtyeight.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/2_44_njd_tbl_1415_h_discrete_t-b439_goal_1_1600.mp400:0000:0000:00Use Up/Down Arrow keys to increase or decrease volume.We would argue that he does not, but Stralman’s home-arena scorer thought differently.In the next clip, former Capitals center Eric Fehr carries the puck into the zone and sends it toward the slot before it eventually finds the stick of Brooks Laich, who buries it in the net. Fehr was not awarded an assist for this play, though he very well could have under the second-assist rule.Video Playerhttps://fivethirtyeight.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/2_414_wsh_tbl_1415_h_ingame_t-b238_goal_1_1600k_16x9.mp400:0000:0000:14Use Up/Down Arrow keys to increase or decrease volume.Responding to a request for comment via email, NHL Vice President of Communications John Dellapina told us, “The standard for what constitutes an assist is clearly detailed for all of our off-ice officials and the expectation is that that standard will be applied.” But, clearly, that standard is applied differently across the board. In each of the above cases, the rules for awarding secondary assists left much up to the individual interpretation of the official scorer.So if there’s no way to standardize how they are awarded, perhaps the problem with secondary assists isn’t how they are handed out, but the fact that they exist at all. Since all goals and assists count equally in a player’s point tally, second assists are valuable — too much so to be awarded with such inconsistency.As Simon said: “The fact that there’s no difference [in points] between a secondary assist and a goal is pretty silly, isn’t it?” Even when factoring in home teams’ tendency to score more frequently, the number of superstar players with extreme home-slanted secondary assist numbers is peculiar.1For instance, Steven Stamkos, P.K. Subban, Evgeni Malkin and Crosby are all household names; on the other hand, most people haven’t heard of Alex Goligoski. In addition to Crosby, other big names with many more second assists at home include Evgeni Malkin (43 more; or a 56 increase), Steven Stamkos (41 more; 121 percent) and P.K. Subban (39 more; 91 percent). These home-cooked assist totals can add up: The Art Ross has gone to either Crosby or Malkin in four of the last 10 seasons, to go with a pair of runner-up finishes (plus three more for Stamkos and Ryan Getzlaf, another home-assist beneficiary).2Malkin’s 2008-09 Art Ross win is especially suspect; he beat Alex Ovechkin that year by only 3 points (113-110) after recording 13 secondary assists at home and only four on the road.Although Rand Simon, an agent with Newport Sports Management — a firm whose clients include Stamkos and Subban — said he couldn’t remember a time when a player’s second-assist tally came up in negotiations, he admitted it’s a stat that he and his team are aware of when they sit down across from general managers. “When we prepare and do research for contracts, it’s something we always look at,” Simon said over the phone. “If he does have a significantly high number of primary assists, it’s something that we keep in the back of our mind and talk about. Conversely, if there’s a player that the club is comparing him to and he’s getting a lot of secondary assists versus primary, it’s something we want to know.”“I could see it becoming a negotiation point, especially in the case of extremes,” he said. “Or in the case of maybe the club being critical of a player because his assists were off from one year to the next. Maybe the agent can point out that it was all secondary assists; the primary assists stayed the same.”That inconsistency affects entire teams’ stats, not just those of star players. The chart below shows second-assist rates for both home and away goals, split by the hometown team: Depending on the arena, the rate at which secondary assists are awarded varies from 70 percent of a game’s total goals (Ottawa) to 80 percent (Colorado). In effect, this means that roughly once every two games, there’s an extra secondary assist given out in Colorado that wouldn’t have been in Ottawa.That’s for all goals scored by both teams in a game; the numbers also suggest scorers might show implicit bias when awarding second assists on home goals, specifically. For roughly a third of the home rinks we studied,3Specifically, 11 of the NHL’s 30 arenas. the difference in second-assist rates between the home team and away team was statistically significant, meaning it could not reasonably be explained away as the product of natural fluctuations. This is even true across game situations; that is, if we account for score effects (in case there are more second assists when the leading team — i.e., the home team more often than not — scores) or isolate 5-on-5 play only (accounting for possibility of more second assists on power plays, which the home team also tends to get more of), the same conclusion holds. Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby is one of the most talented players in the National Hockey League. But sometimes, he also gets lucky.Video Playerhttps://fivethirtyeight.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/2_1132_car_pit_1314_h_discrete_pit85_goal_1_1600.mp400:0000:0000:00Use Up/Down Arrow keys to increase or decrease volume.This clip comes from the 2013-14 season, when Crosby won the Art Ross Trophy as the league’s top scorer. On the play, the Consol Energy Center’s official scorer awarded Crosby a secondary assist even though the pass he attempted to shovel back to a teammate resulted in an apparent turnover. This type of judgment call frequently went in Crosby’s favor that year; he recorded 22 secondary assists at home, versus just 12 on the road.And it wasn’t just a one-season aberration. Few players benefit more than Crosby from the secondary assist, one of the league’s most inconsistent and superfluous stats. Over the course of his career, Crosby has recorded 150 second assists at home and only 112 on the road, a 38-helper difference that ranks seventh in the NHL since 2005-06.Like pitcher wins in baseball and quarterback rating in football, the NHL’s second assist isn’t a great barometer of talent. Carolina Hurricanes analyst Eric Tulsky once showed that secondary-assist totals for forwards at even strength are mostly noise, not a reflection of player skill. But we’ve also identified another problem with the second assist: The likelihood of one being awarded varies greatly depending on the arena and, in certain cases, whether the player is wearing the home team’s uniform. (This despite the fact that each arena’s official scorer is assigned by the league, not the team itself.)Point totals have a demonstrable effect on awards such as the Art Ross and Hart trophies (MVP); Crosby, for instance, doubled up on those honors in 2013-14, one of six times an Art Ross winner also took the Hart in the 11 seasons since the 2004-05 lockout — with a seventh likely coming this season in the form of Patrick Kane. They also help determine player salaries and incentive-based bonuses. So it’s worth asking whether certain players have been unfairly valued because of the way different official scorers award secondary assists.In fairness to Crosby, he’s far from the only player who earns a disproportionate number of secondary assists at home. Check out the scatterplot below, which shows career home and road second-assist numbers for players with at least 70 assists since the 2005-06 season. The dotted line is where we’d expect players to fall after accounting for the fact that NHL teams score about 10 percent more often at home than on the road. The further a player is above it, the more disproportionate his tendency to rack up secondary assists at home.
New York Jets’ defensive tackle Muhammad Wilkerson, the team’s first-round draft pick in 2011, was charged with careless driving and failure to maintain his lane after he was involved in an accident in New Jersey during which the car he was driving overturned after striking another vehicle, a police spokesman confirmed.Wilkerson was transported to a Newark hospital after he crawled out of his car, according to New Jersey Garden State Trooper Christopher Kay, who added that there did not appear to be any other serious injuries suffered by anyone in the car that Wilkerson struck.Kay said Wilkerson was charged with careless driving and failure to maintain his lane after he struck a Toyota Sienna with his 2011 Dodge Challenger, according to the police report. Police responded after being notified of the accident at 4:29 a.m. on Saturday.Police don’t believe alcohol played a role in the accident.“First and foremost, other than the minor injuries, he’s OK and everyone else involved is OK but I do not have a lot of details,” said Chad Wiestling, the agent for Wilkerson.The Sienna that Wilkerson struck contained 10 people, Lieutenant Steven Jones, a spokesperson for the New Jersey State Police, said. Three complained of pain but none were treated, he said.Wilkerson’s Challenger “probably went more than 10 yards on the roof,” Jones said.Wilkerson reported to the Jets team facility Monday and was examined by the team’s medical staff.A Jets spokesperson said that Wilkerson needed stitches in his forearm after the accident, but that the injury should not interfere with his ability to be ready for training camp. Jets players are due to report on July 26.
201589.612.9 Source: Statcast SEASONEXIT VELOCITYLAUNCH ANGLE 201684.118.3 201790.013.9 The early-season noise around such unexpectedly great hitters as Brewers stud Eric Thames has pulled attention away from the return of another prodigious slugger: Washington Nationals right fielder Bryce Harper. Harper is making his triumphant comeback from the injuries that plagued him in 2016, and the advanced metrics show he’s ready to deliver another MVP-level year this season.In his six-year MLB career, Harper has been equal parts incredible and disappointing. He appeared to reach his full potential in 2015, when he produced a .330/.460/.649 slash line en route to a season worth 9.5 wins above replacement. But last year Harper backslid dramatically, struggling with injuries and hitting a pedestrian (by his standards) .243/.373/.441. His drop-off between 2015 and 2016 was one of the largest declines in production ever.But now Harper’s back — and maybe better than ever. It’s early in the season, but we can already see his recovery using MLB’s Statcast system, which tracks the launch angle and direction of every batted ball.Last season, I wrote about how Harper’s batted-ball stats weren’t matching those of his MVP year, which suggested he might be injured.1Harper has hinted that this was the case, although the Nationals denied that he played through an injury in 2016. This season, though, Harper is well on his way to replicating his 2015 performance. For instance, after a down year in exit velocity, Harper’s average batted ball is once again leaving the bat at close to 90 miles an hour. (For comparison’s sake, he averaged 89.6 mph in 2015.)His launch angle has also significantly improved. For most of 2016, Harper was elevating his swing, which resulted in the highest fly-ball rate of his career but also in more weak pop-ups. But this April, he’s back to the flat, line-drive cut that worked so well before. Hard, low-angle batted balls are a good recipe for success, so it’s no surprise that Harper is productive again. Harper hits hard again AVERAGE And Harper’s not just hitting the ball better. Even his plate discipline has improved: He’s currently posting a career-best walk rate and showing better strike-zone judgment than ever. So far this year, Harper is back to combining the willingness to wait for a hittable pitch with the strength to knock that pitch out of the park.With all those improvements working together, Harper is a more dangerous hitter than ever. So far, he’s belted nine home runs in only 114 plate appearances, with an outrageous, Bonds-ian slugging percentage (.772) driving an overall offensive performance that’s 123 percentage points better than the league average. That exceeds even the lofty heights he achieved in 2015, when he “only” hit 97 percentage points better than league average. And in just 25 games — about a seventh of the season — he’s already racked up 2.1 WAR. If you project that out over a full season, he’d be on pace for another of the best years in the history of baseball.Even setting aside Harper’s history of yo-yoing between greatness and mediocrity, it’s clear that he can’t stay this hot forever. Eventually, bad luck or injuries will drag Harper, Thames and all the other early-season leaders back to more mortal levels of production. (Indeed, Harper’s exit velocity might already be dropping slightly: Over his last 10 games, he’s averaged a more pedestrian 84.5 mph exit velocity.) But for now, baseball is better off with a superstar like Harper excelling again.
From ABC News: 2014-15Wesley Matthews283.01.6237 VORP Check out our latest NBA predictions. 1996-97LaPhonso Ellis261.10.2222 The biggest loss in Game 5 of the NBA Finals may not have belonged to the Toronto Raptors. Although the Golden State Warriors defeated Toronto on Monday to extend the finals for at least one more game, Warriors forward Kevin Durant, who left with a leg injury, likely tore his Achilles tendon in the second quarter. Pending an unexpected result from Durant’s MRI on Tuesday, the injury will have far-reaching implications for Durant, the Warriors and the NBA as a whole this summer.Achilles tears are not quick injuries to recover from. According to a list compiled by ESPN’s Stats and Information Group, players typically needed almost nine months to recover, and they tended to have a significant reduction in both playing time and performance in the season following the trauma. 2012-13Kobe Bryant345.1-0.2240 2006-07Elton Brand275.50.0243 2011-12Chauncey Billups350.30.2296 Players who were about Durant’s age when they got injured, such as Rudy Gay of the Spurs, recovered most of their previous form within a couple of seasons. (Gay had a very solid +1.0 Box Plus/Minus and 1.4 VORP this season.) Others, however, either took longer to reclaim their skills (such as Elton Brand) or were never really the same player they’d been before (such as LaPhonso Ellis).So it’s tough to say exactly what this means for Durant’s career going forward. But we do know that Durant’s injuries continue to define the entire 2019 NBA playoffs.His absence significantly swung Golden State’s odds of beating the Raptors, including a 3-point shift in the Vegas line for Game 5 at one point (which was enough to turn the Warriors from underdogs to favorites, before the closing line settled as a pick-em). The betting activity was justified. Durant’s return Monday night probably saved the Warriors’ season. (In addition to a late flurry of threes by Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson.) In the 12 minutes Durant played, Golden State was +6 and looked notably more like the Warriors we’ve become accustomed to seeing — averaging 154.5 (!) points per 100 possessions according to NBA Advanced Stats, knocking down 8 of 11 threes and even turning defense into offense in transition. Without Durant on the court, Toronto outscored the Warriors by 5, and the team was far less efficient.And yet, the question will linger whether Durant was truly ready to play Monday night — and if not, whether rushing him back onto the court to help extend Golden State’s season in Game 5 was worth the long-term cost to Durant’s health. “He was cleared to play tonight,” Warriors general manager Bob Myers said after the game. “That was a collaborative decision. I don’t believe there’s anybody to blame, but I understand in this world and if you have to, you can blame me. I run our basketball operations department.”Golden State overhauled its training staff last summer after losing head performance therapist Chelsea Lane to the Atlanta Hawks, and the team has had an injury-filled postseason. In addition to Durant’s long absence, the team lost Thompson for Game 3 of the finals (a Warriors loss) and has been managing center Kevon Looney’s ongoing collarbone fracture. It’s also worth noting that Durant’s original trouble had been with a strained right calf, not an Achilles injury, though it’s hard to believe the two injuries are completely unrelated, despite KD reportedly being told he “couldn’t get more hurt” by playing on the calf Monday.And now the big-picture question is what Durant’s injury does to his impending free agency, which was supposed to headline what might be the most impressive class of available talent in any summer of the league’s history.Durant has a $31.5 million player option for next season, which he was long expected to decline and test the open market. But Monday’s injury may change that decision-making process. Although he left money on the table in his previous Warriors deals, Durant could sign for as much as $221 million (over five years) if he opts out but returns to Golden State, or $164 million (over four years) if he signs elsewhere. Despite the long-term injury, plenty of star-desperate teams may still be willing to offer Durant maximum money even knowing his recovery could cost him at least the entire 2019-20 regular season.But if he does leave Golden State, will an injured Durant be able to lure another star player or two from this talented class to sign alongside him? Particularly ones willing to play without Durant for an entire season before he can rejoin the presumptive superteam? Nobody could honestly claim to predict the enigmatic Durant anyway, but his injury adds yet another layer of uncertainty onto the free-agency summer — and the league’s future championship picture.For now, the Warriors will have to find a way to win this series without Durant. But was Durant’s return worth it? Did they rush him back? Will he still sign somewhere else over the offseason? Regardless of who wins, those questions will now hang over the rest of the finals — and far, far beyond. SeasonPlayerAgeBefore injuryAfterRecovery Days 1991-92Dominique Wilkins322.03.7283 Historical avg.302.60.9269 Achilles tears take a while to recover fromValue Over Replacement Player (VORP) and recovery time for notable NBA players who suffered a torn Achilles tendon 2017-18DeMarcus Cousins273.31.1357 Season listed is the season in which injury occurredSource: ESPN Stats & Information, Basketball-Reference.com 2016-17Rudy Gay300.70.7273
Earlier this month, Roger Federer said the Davis Cup, which ends Sunday, “is not what it used to be anymore.” Is Federer, the winningest major men’s singles champ, correct about the event that was once the pinnacle of men’s tennis?Yes and no.Yes. Look no further than the quality of opponents Federer and his teammate, Stan Wawrinka, have played so far this year in singles matches. No. 12 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, whom Wawrinka beat in the opening match of the Davis Cup final in Lille, France, on Friday, is the highest-ranked singles opponent Switzerland will face all year. No other finalist since at least 2004 has managed to avoid facing at least one top-8 opponent in singles in a live match at some point in the competition.The overall level of competition has slipped: The median ranking of singles players in live matches this year in the World Group is 40, the worst level of at least the last decade. By median ranking of opposing players throughout the year’s competition, France has had the easiest time of any finalist since 2004, while Switzerland has had the third-easiest. (The U.S., in 2004, had the second easiest slate of opponents.)No. The Davis Cup is as important as it’s been in recent history. Look no further than the participation of Federer and Wawrinka. The two Swiss stars are ranked No. 2 and No. 4 in the world, respectively. Each one last played a match just six days ago, in a different country (the U.K.) on a different surface (indoor hard court). That match, as it happened, was between the two of them, and it was brutal. Federer won but hurt his back in the process. Wawrinka took the loss hard. “I was destroyed,” he told the press in Lille earlier this week. The two teammates also argued with each other after the match, reportedly over comments yelled by Federer’s wife, Mirka, from courtside at Wawrinka during the match.Yet despite all those reasons not to play, the two men represented Switzerland on Friday. Asked Thursday if he’d be playing if this weren’t the Davis Cup final, Federer said, “I don’t know. It’s a good question.” After Wawrinka’s win, Federer was routed by Gael Monfils in straight sets, though he said afterward that he felt better as the match went on.Unless one of the two Swiss leading men skips a singles match Sunday, they’ll play every live singles match the team has played this year, each one while ranked eighth in the world or better. They’re the only two players to compete in a meaningful Davis Cup singles match this year while ranked in the top five. And they make Switzerland just the third team since 1983 — as far back as rankings are available from the ATP World Tour website — to play two top-four singles players in live singles matches in a final. (The last two, the U.S. in 1984 and 1997, both lost in the final.)Federer’s and Wawrinka’s total commitment is a total outlier for recent Davis Cup finalists. Even the few finalists that have had two Top 10 players usually use a lower-ranked player at some stage of the competition. Since 2004, only the 2007 U.S. team reached a final while avoiding using a player ranked outside the Top 30, and its lowest ranked singles player was No. 13 James Blake.Methodology note: I only counted World Group live matches, those before one country had reached the three wins needed to take a Davis Cup match (called a tie). I went by match, not player, so if a player played two matches in the same tie, he counted twice. I also skipped doubles because it’s unclear how to weigh players’ singles and doubles rankings.
There are a lot of things that make you wonder in life. Why is the sky blue? Why is the grass green? Why do the Kardashians have their own television show? But the “whyism” I often ask to no one in particular is why so often bad things happen to good people. Like Tyler Moeller. I saw Moeller play in high school a few times. He played for Colerain, a Cincinnati public school powerhouse that is routinely one of the top 25 high school programs in the country. After helping lead the Cardinals to the 2004 Division I state title in his junior season, Moeller was named 2005 Ohio Division I Defensive Player of the Year as a senior. In his senior season for Colerain, Moeller recorded an impressive 123 tackles, 15.5 sacks and 29 tackles for loss on a defense stacked with Division I recruits. Moeller seemingly always knew where the play was going before the snap. More often than not he was the first defender to reach the ball-carrier. If you didn’t see Moeller make the tackle, you could hear the sound of his shoulder pads laying into the offensive player’s chest. After redshirting and paying his dues on the special teams for his first three seasons in Columbus, Moeller was set to start at the star position (a hybrid linebacker/defensive back position) going into the 2009 season. However, his life was turned upside-down on July 26, 2009. Long story short: Moeller was with his family in Florida when Ralph Gray Decker knocked him unconscious, eventually causing Moeller to experience stroke-like symptoms and bleeding in his brain. Doctors drilled dime-sized holes into his skull to allay the pressure and inserted a titanium plate. They told him to steer clear of physical activity. After making a full recovery, Moeller trained hard in the offseason and was back in the swing of things this past spring, eager to prove himself to everyone. “It’s hard to put into words,” he told ESPN.com last April. “I just want to forget everything that happened in the past and play next year and show people what I can do — show people what I could have done a year ago. Just get everything behind me.” Moeller’s teammates love him. His hustle and passion for the game are contagious. Even the stoic Jim Tressel can’t get enough of Moeller. “Every time I see [Moeller] out there, you know, I smile,” Tressel said in September. As a starter at the “star position” this season, Moeller was arguably OSU’s best defender in the first four games of the season, with 20 tackles, including 4.5 for a loss, one sack, two forced fumbles and an interception to his credit. He was named Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week after the season opener against Marshall. Last Saturday against Illinois, Moeller’s incomprehensible bad luck took a turn for the worse again. He suffered a torn pectoral muscle on OSU’s first defensive possession, an injury that will end his 2010 season. “You just feel sick for him because you saw the pain he was in last year not being able to help his teammates and now he was having fun,” Tressel said. “It’s very disappointing.” OSU’s Energizer Bunny might not see another snap in his college career. Why? Before the season, Moeller, a fifth-year senior, was planning on applying for a sixth year of eligibility to the NCAA. Tressel said OSU will indeed apply for Moeller to gain another year. Here’s to hoping the NCAA smiles upon Moeller’s hardship and grants him one last hurrah as a Buckeye. If anyone deserves a third chance to spite Lady Luck, it’s the man who’s already experienced a life’s worth of trauma.
CLEVELAND — One game down, five to go. By pummeling Texas-San Antonio (20-14), 75-46, in its first game of the NCAA Tournament on Friday, the Ohio State men’s basketball team is one step closer to accomplishing part three of its self-proclaimed three-part mission. The Buckeyes (33-2) already have crossed a Big Ten regular-season and conference tournament crown off their list. Cutting down the nets in Houston as national champions is all that’s left. OSU used a balanced effort to take a step in that direction against the Roadrunners. Four players scored in double figures for the Buckeyes, with junior guard William Buford leading the way with 18. Buford notched 15 of his points in the first half. “My teammates, they were giving me the ball, and shots were open,” Buford said. “So I was just taking good shots and I was able to knock them down.” UTSA, the Southland Conference Tournament champion, kept the game close early by scoring on its first four possessions. The game was tied, 9-9, with just more than 13 minutes remaining in the first half, before the Buckeyes began to put the Roadrunners away. OSU closed the half on a 28-12 scoring run to take a 16-point lead into the locker room. They attributed the slow start to poor execution. “Like I said, once we got through the first timeout, we were down,” OSU coach Thad Matta said. “I thought our guys did a good job of responding and really keeping the focus.” The Roadrunners attempted to slow down the Buckeyes, often waiting until the shot clock was below 15 seconds to initiate their offense. That was not the style of play the Buckeyes expected. “We were pretty surprised. I think with the film that we watched in the short period of time that we had, we didn’t really see that much,” senior guard Jon Diebler said. “But, again, we have to be ready for whatever … way teams will play against us. I think for the first four or five minutes we weren’t, but after that we kind of picked it up.” The Buckeyes connected on 6-of-10 3-pointers in the first half and continued the hot shooting after intermission. The team finished 12-for-24 from distance. The Buckeyes had too many weapons for the Roadrunners to deal with. Senior guard Jon Diebler contributed 14 points on 4-for-8 shooting from behind the arc, while freshman forward Jared Sullinger added 11 points. In total, eight OSU players scored. Only one UTSA player, senior guard Devin Gibson, scored in double figures. Gibson tallied more than half his team’s points with a game-high 24. “I think we just need to do a better job on the team defense on Gibson,” Diebler said. “I think we left Aaron (Craft) and Will out to dry a little bit.” OSU was able to feed off a crowd consisting mostly of Buckeye fans. “It was awesome,” freshman point guard Aaron Craft said. “If you closed your eyes and listened to the cheers it sounded like we were playing in Columbus.” As OSU continued to add to its lead in the second half, Matta was able to empty his bench slowly. Sullinger was the first to make his exit, leaving the game for the first time with 12:12 on the clock, and not returning. Fifth-year senior forward David Lighty, Buford and Diebler were soon to follow, as forward Deshaun Thomas and guards Jordan Sibert and Lenzelle Smith Jr., all freshmen, closed out the game. Sibert indicated his excitement at playing and scoring in his first tournament game. “It was great. That environment was crazy,” he said. “It was really good. My teammates, they are all supportive whenever we get out there.” Senior walk-on guard Eddie Days entered the game with 1:27 remaining, the 10th Buckeye to log minutes on the evening. The Buckeyes forced the Roadrunners into 13 turnovers and held UTSA to just 34 percent shooting on the evening. OSU also assisted on 26 of its 29 field goals and shot 55.8 percent from the floor. OSU held its opponent under 50 points for the eighth time this season and first time since a Jan. 19 contest with Iowa. OSU next will play George Mason on Sunday in Cleveland. The Patriots beat Villanova, 61-57, on Friday to advance to the tournament’s round of 32.
Northwestern men’s basketball coach Bill Carmody had trouble recalling Ohio State men’s basketball senior guard William Buford’s class year during a press conference following the Wildcats’ 87-54 Wednesday loss to the Buckeyes. Members of the press informed Carmody that Buford was a senior. “Thank God,” Carmody said, rubbing his brow. Buford scored a career-high 28 points, hauled in nine rebounds and dished out four assists during No. 2-ranked OSU’s victory against unranked Northwestern in the teams’ Big Ten conference opener at the Schottenstein Center. One might understand why Carmody said he was glad to see the Buckeyes’ lone senior beginning his final tour of Big Ten duty, as Buford shot 9-of-14 from the field and 5-of-7 from 3-point range in the win. “I know Buford is a very good player,” Carmody said. “He’s looks as good as anyone to me. He can dribble the ball … gets in the lane. (He) gets fouled and goes to the foul line. He’s doing things decisively.” Buford, who has totaled 68 career points against the Wildcats in six games, said he just let the game come to him in this most recent matchup with Northwestern. “I was just shooting the ball,” he said. “I was fortunate to be knocking them down and my teammates just kept telling me to shoot.” Northwestern (10-3, 0-1 Big Ten) kept the score close in the early stages of the game. The Wildcats even held a lead with 14:01 to play in the first half. Buford helped distance the Buckeyes (13-1, 1-0 Big Ten) with a 3-pointer that extended an OSU lead to 21-13 at the 10:00 mark in the first half. Buford smiled widely and celebrated with teammates after the 3-pointer. OSU was on course to take a 41-26 lead into half. Thanks in part to Buford, the Buckeyes wouldn’t relinquish the lead. OSU sophomore guard Jordan Sibert said the 2011-12 edition of the Buckeyes rely on Buford when the team can’t find a rhythm. “We can count on (Buford) now,” Sibert said. “He’s going to be scoring or rebounding. … He finds a way to get things going.” OSU sophomore forward Jared Sullinger, who scored 17 points in 22 minutes against Northwestern, agreed. “Will is doing a great job,” Sullinger said. “This year, he’s taken a little bit of leadership upon himself because he’s been through it all. He’s doing a great job.” After watching Buford drop 28 points on his team during 35 minutes of action, Carmody had only praise for the player, saying, “(Buford’s) stepped up.” “He’s a senior and he knows what he can do, and he’s doing it.” OSU continues conference play Saturday at No. 15 Indiana. Opening tip is set for 6 p.m.
First-year in operations managment Elissa Bening (center) and second-year in science and technology exploration Aaron Boone ride during an equestrian team practice at Autumn Rose Farm in Plain City, Ohio, Oct. 4.Credit: Caroline Keyes / Lantern photographerWhen discussing successful Ohio State sports teams, many students naturally think of football or basketball, however, there is another team with a long track record of significant accomplishments — the Ohio State Western Equestrian team. “I’ve been told by a past AD (athletic director) at Ohio State that we are the most successful team in the history of Ohio State University,” Ollie Griffith said. Griffith has been the head coach of the team since 1985 along with his wife, Debbie.“(The team has) won nine national championships, they’ve won six reserve national championships … half of the time that nationals has existed, we have been either first or second since we have been competing,” Griffith said.Griffith acknowledges many students may feel intimidated to partake in the team with such a successful history, but stressed it is a rewarding opportunity for all OSU students because of six varying skill levels ranging from beginner to open, which are the most capable and experienced riders.“We have riders that have won world championships, and we have riders that have never touched a horse,” Griffith said. “So if you are an undergraduate and you like horses, but you think the Ohio State team is not for you — well, yes it is because they have all these different divisions.”Lidia Pedrozo, a third-year in animal science and the president of the team, said she has been described by others as the “poster child” for their association. This is because as a freshman at OSU she had never ridden a horse, but after contacting the Griffiths on a whim and having her first lesson that same week, she is now a national champion in her division.“I came to Ohio State and I didn’t even know people showed horses,” Pedrozo said. “It speaks volumes about our coaching staff, turning a kid who didn’t even know how to hold reins or get on a horse, and making her into a national champion less than 2 years later.”The Western team competes in the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association, which is comprised of more than 370 university teams across the nation, with only the nine best teams making it to nationals each year. With nine national titles as of 2011, the OSU team is the most successful team in the IHSA.Aaron Boone, a second-year in science and technology exploration, recently became involved with the team, and hopes to one day own and operate his own horse farm.“This is honestly the most affordable way you could ever want to do horse shows,” Boone said. “Compared to buying your own horse, buying your saddle, buying your tack, buying your trailer, going to the show, paying your entry fees — they already provide everything for you.”The OSU Western Equestrian team is not to be confused with the Ohio State Hunt Seat Equestrian team, which is based off an English style of riding and coached by Griffith’s brother. While the Hunt Seat team focuses on jumping, the Western team focuses on skills like stopping, starting, turning and spinning.Austin Griffith, a fourth-year in marketing and Ollie and Debbie Griffith’s son, is one of the most successful riders on the team and won the highly coveted High Point Rider award twice in his collegiate career, which is awarded to the nation’s best riders. He is training to win it in the spring for his third and final time.“It is (a lot of pressure), but I can’t worry about it too much and I just have to give it my best,” Austin Griffith said.The Griffiths own and operate Autumn Rose Farm in Plain City, which is about 20 minutes from campus. The OSU team uses a specific segment of the farm, but Austin Griffith said approximately 400 to 500 students are taught at the farm every week.Elissa Bening, a first-year in operations management, has been taking lessons at Autumn Rose Farm since she was four years old and is now in her first year on the OSU team.“Ollie and Debbie have been some of the most supportive people I’ve had in my life,” Bening said. “They’ve driven me to go as far as I can and to be as successful as I can be, so they are a huge part in all of my success.”Ollie Griffith said for him and his wife, the most important part of the OSU team is what the students get out of it. Not only is it one of the most inexpensive — costing students a total of $476 to participate— ways for college students to get involved with riding, but Ollie Griffith said the relationships built among the riders and coaches are what matters the most.“You come out and join the Ohio State team and you will make lifelong friends,” Ollie Griffith said. “It’s not just about winning — it is about liking what we do and enjoying horses.”