As we highlighted in our NBA preview last fall, the Los Angeles Lakers have built a substantial amount of their considerable success as a franchise on the backs of Hall of Famers — Shaquille O’Neal, Magic Johnson, Kobe Bryant, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and the like.But recently, the Lakers have been in the midst of a Hall of Famer shortage. In 2015, Kobe Bryant’s 2.0 wins above replacement (WAR) were the only L.A. victories generated by players likely to make the Hall (according to Basketball-Reference.com’s Hall of Fame probability metric), this coming on the heels of a 2014 season that saw only 1.5 WAR come from Hall hopefuls. The past two years represent the fourth- and fifth-fewest WAR the Lakers have ever gotten out of probable Hall of Famers in a single season.Los Angeles general manager Mitch Kupchak has been working hard this week to end the drought. With the Lakers owning the second overall pick in Thursday’s NBA draft, rumors were flying about whether L.A. would cast its future in the hands of a rookie or trade the pick for a promising veteran.Regarding the latter strategy, L.A. was reportedly in trade talks with the Sacramento Kings over mercurial center DeMarcus Cousins, one of the best big men in the league. But it’s unclear whether he’s the future Hall of Famer the Lakers so covet. If we zero in on the Hall of Fame odds for a player with a specific WAR total at a given age,1Using a logistic regression model there’s a 34.2 percent probability that Cousins will be Hall of Fame-worthy based on his output thus far. He’d need to beat his previous career high by more than 2.5 WAR next season just to give himself a coin flip’s chance at the Hall going forward.Perhaps that’s partly why L.A. ultimately turned to the draft instead — and selected guard D’Angelo Russell, to whom our model assigns the highest probability of superstardom in the 2015 draft class.2The “superstar” designation isn’t completely synonymous with a Hall of Famer, since each draft contains about twice as many future Hall of Famers as superstars.According to our model, Russell is a boom-or-bust prospect. On top of his class-leading superstar potential, he also has the highest “bust” probability of any player ranked among our top 25 college prospects. Russell’s usage rate and shooting efficiency were off the charts as a freshman, implying that he has the potential to be an elite NBA scorer if his skills translate, but he might not have as much to fall back on as other prospects if not.In other words, drafting Russell was a gamble. But it was a good one for a franchise traditionally fueled by a pipeline running directly to Springfield. Los Angeles has always been a dream destination for free agents, trade targets and rookies alike, but snagging a future Hall of Famer is still a lot harder than L.A. has made it look over the years. And sometimes it requires taking a chance on a high-risk/high-reward player to keep the talent flowing.
By Rob Arthur and Ben Lindbergh Embed Code Passan dismissed that thought process as “reductive.” As he pointed out, “no studies have proven decreased usage in major league pitchers does anything to stem blown-out elbows.” But he granted that there might be better health-related reasons to shorten the leash for minor leaguers. “There is a profound difference between an 18-year-old’s elbow and that of a 25-year-old,” Passan said.Teams seem to be taking that mindset seriously. At a seasonal level, per-player pitch counts have declined by about 10 percent across the board in Double A and Triple A from 2013 to present (after increasing in 2011 and 2012). And prospects who’ve appeared in Baseball America’s top 100 rankings have seen their counts sink even more, by about 15 percent. According to Boddy, “the reduction in workloads is definitely a concentrated effort by teams to impact injury rates.”One team in particular has treated its minor league starters like delicate flowers: the Los Angeles Dodgers under the Andrew Friedman regime. Although player development director Gabe Kapler (who was hired in November 2014) didn’t divulge any details about the team’s plan for young pitchers when we asked him for comment, Dodger starters in Double and Triple A last season threw about five fewer pitches per outing than the league average, and their staffs’ ratio of relief appearances to starts was 20 percent higher than that of the typical team — indicating that the Dodgers’ upper-level affiliates are signaling for new arms early and often. Last week, Yahoo’s Jeff Passan reported that Angels ace Garrett Richards would miss the rest of this season — and at least part of next year — after undergoing Tommy John surgery. The loss of a talented pitcher who was off to a promising start provided the usual alarming reminder that any arm could be days away from a season-ending diagnosis. But we can serve some chicken soup for the baseball fan’s soul:1No, not that kind. Compared with totals through the same date in recent seasons, 2016’s Tommy John toll has been mercifully light. (Knock on the nearest ulnar collateral ligament.)Historically, March and April have been the peak periods for Tommy John-inducing injuries. Not only does ramping up from a winter’s inactivity put pitchers at increased risk, but spring is also when pitchers who felt a twinge at the end of the previous season can no longer pretend rest will restore them. From 2005-14, 44 percent of injuries that led to elbow ligament replacements occurred in March or April. The last two springs were particularly costly, yielding record Tommy John totals and depriving fans of full seasons from such prominent pitchers as Yu Darvish, Zack Wheeler and Brandon McCarthy in 2015, and Matt Moore, Patrick Corbin and Jarrod Parker in 2014.In 2016, however, the parade of early-season elbow injuries has slowed, as evidenced by Hardball Times analyst Jon Roegele’s list of Tommy John patients. The poster boy for pitch-count control is 19-year-old Dodgers starter Julio Urias, the minor leagues’ top left-handed pitching prospect and the youngest pitcher in the Triple-A Pacific Coast League by almost three years. Urias, who’s made 60 minor league starts, has never thrown more than six innings in any single outing as a pro; earlier this month, he no-hit the New Orleans Zephyrs for six innings and was still pulled after 77 pitches. According to game-by-game minor league data from Baseball Prospectus,5Which goes back to 2005. only one pitcher who made the majors in that span — Rafael Dolis, who pitched primarily out of the bullpen and never started a big-league game — made more than 60 minor league starts before his MLB debut without ever recording more than 18 outs in any of them. If Urias makes six more starts without seeing the seventh inning before his Dodgers debut, he’ll pass Dolis on the light-workload leaderboard. If he doesn’t do it, it will probably be because the Dodgers decided to promote him to the big-league bullpen, a move they’re currently contemplating.“Most doctors believe limiting usage the way the Dodgers have with Julio Urias gives his UCL the best chance to survive the stress and strain that comes with his sort of velocity,” Passan said. The catch, of course, is that Urias will eventually have to go deeper in games—unless Los Angeles implements an even more innovative approach to limiting workloads at the major league level, perhaps building on the tandem-starter schemes other teams have tried. If the Dodgers don’t handle Urias’s transition to the majors with care, they could inadvertently expose him to even greater risk. “Pitchers are most at risk later in the games when they are fatigued, so limiting workloads in the minors only to expose them to the traditional 180-220 IP and 100+ pitch count metrics in the big leagues doesn’t make a lot of sense,” Boddy says.With all the brainpower in LA’s rapidly inflating R&D department devoted to injury research and prevention, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see them ahead of the arm-injury curve. But in the bigger picture, this year’s Tommy John reversal might prove as illusory as the global warming “pause.” Pitch-count protocols in pro ball probably won’t undo the damage done at earlier ages, and a lasting solution would require more sweeping changes than teams have had time to institute.But even if what we’ve witnessed this spring is just a trough between Tommy John waves, we should still savor the lack of ugly MRI results as long as it lasts. The fewer pitchers paying visits to the dreaded Dr. James Andrews, the better off baseball will be. More: Apple Podcasts | ESPN App | RSS | Embed Listen to our sports podcast, Hot Takedown, discuss the drop in Tommy John surgeries. This year’s tally of 22 Tommy John surgeries through May 10 — across all professional levels — is the lowest since 2002.2We filtered out surgeries listed as occurring on Jan. 1 of a given year, since these were procedures for which Roegele didn’t know the exact date. We also ignored the surgeries of players who were drafted in the same year the surgery occurred, as their cases often weren’t added to Roegele’s list until after the draft. And finally, we added one surgery to the 2016 total: that of Richards, who was not yet included in Roegele’s data. And that count includes very few prominent pitchers: Aside from Richards, the highest-profile big leaguer lost to the procedure in 2016 thus far3Excluding Cardinals starter Lance Lynn, who went under the knife in November. is Carter Capps, the Miami Marlins reliever whose borderline-illegal delivery made him an attraction mostly in a circus-freak sense. This year’s big-league Tommy John casualties were projected by Dan Szymborski’s preseason ZiPS algorithm to produce only 7.0 wins above replacement in 2016,4According to data Szymborski provided us. compared with the 13.3 and 23.8 WAR projected for Tommy John victims by May 10 of the 2015 and 2014 seasons, respectively.It would be pretty to think this means that teams have solved the UCL scourge. Unfortunately, though, there’s no real reason to believe they’ve addressed all of the underlying problems that contribute to ligament tears. Pitchers continue to throw harder than they have in the past, and higher pitch speeds are associated with higher risks of injury. And as Passan reported in his recent elbow-injury opus, “The Arm,” the odometers on amateur arms are still creeping up quickly, thanks to year-round competition and the pressure to appear — and throw as hard as possible — in scout-packed showcase events.In other words, this year’s reduced injury toll may come down to timing and plain old good fortune. As Kyle Boddy, founder of the pitching performance and research facility Driveline Baseball, told us: “The easiest and most likely explanation is that Tommy John surgeries were abnormally high last year and are somewhat low this year.”Not that MLB clubs aren’t altering pitcher usage in an attempt to preserve arms. Between 2008 and 2015, the average number of pitches per major league start fell from about 97 to 93. Some of this decrease owes to swelling bullpens and an increased recognition that putting in fresh pitchers is often to teams’ benefit, but it also stems in part from an impulse Passan described to us in an email: “If throwing hurts pitchers, throwing less will hurt pitchers less.”
It was classless enough that Kevin Garnett (along with Rajon Rondo) walked off the court with time remaining in the Boston Celtics’ Game 7 loss in the Eastern Conference finals to the Miami Heat.But Garnett magnified that out-of-line move by not participating in post-game interviews (Rondo did), which is a no-no in the NBA. And so, the league fined the Celtics star $25,000.Garnett scored 14 points in the 101-88 loss Saturday night that put the Heat in the NBA Finals.
Chicago Bulls’ Derrick Rose, right, defends as Philadelphia 76ers’ Michael Carter-Williams drives onto the lane in the first half of an NBA basketball game Saturday, Nov. 2, 2013, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/H. Rumph JrPegged the worst team in the league, the Philadelphia 76ers are continuing to defy the odds by taking down the Chicago Bulls 107-104, at Wells Fargo Center on Saturday.Rookie Michael Carter-Williams led 76ers with 26 points and 10 assists. Evan Turner, who has netted 20 or more points in all three tilts this season, posted 20 for Philadelphia, which is 3-0 for the first time since the 2006-07 campaign.Spencer Hawes tallied 18 points and 11 rebounds in the triumph. Philadelphia has already defeated the Washington Wizards and two-time defending champion Miami Heat to rise to first place in the Atlantic Division.“We understand what everybody has said and written about us,” first-year coach Brett Brown said. “Our guys have put in the day-to-day stuff, which has always been our message. I’m lucky I’ve found a group that enjoys each other’s company and they enjoy playing together.”Carlos Boozer had 22 points and 10 boards for Chicago, which dropped to 1-2 in the young season, while Luol Deng added 20 points, seven rebounds and four assists. Derrick Rose registered 13 points and six assists, but was just 4-of-14 from the field against the team he tore his ACL against in the first round of the 2012 NBA playoffs.“I would blame tonight on me,” said Rose, who wore tape around his neck for the second straight game. “Turnovers, missed shots, miscommunication – I just couldn’t get in my groove.”After trailing by as many as 18 points in the second half, the Sixers took a 100-99 lead with 3:29 left when Carter-Williams, a former Syracuse star, picked up a loose ball and calmly laid it in. It was the Sixers’ first lead since 11-10.With 5.9 seconds left, Hawes made a jumper to put the Sixers ahead 107-104, and Deng missed a potentially game-tying 3-pointer on the other end.The 76ers will take on Stephon Curry and the Golden State Worriors Nov. 4, at 7 p.m. ET/6 p.m.CT in the Oracle Arena.
YEARTEAMTOTALLEDTIEDTRAILEDLEDLED OR TIED Top front-running playoff teams through World Series Game 1 32005White Sox8153141465.482.7 62014Royals8940331644.982.0 21998Yankees9361181465.684.9 52015Mets9557211760.082.1 The key to front-running is a versatile, opportunistic offense (check), good starting pitching (check) and — most importantly — a lights-out bullpen (um, check). Cleveland is custom-built for winning that way, and they’ve shown just how effective it can be in the small-sample gantlet of the playoffs. You can bet other teams will think about how to copy that style going into next season and beyond.But on Wednesday night, the Cubs beat the Indians at their own game. It was Chicago who struck first, claiming a 1-0 lead within the game’s first 15 pitches; it was Chicago who nickeled and dimed an extra run in the third and tacked on insurance in the fifth; and it was Chicago who kept their lead secure with dominant pitching, including six strikeouts from Mike Montgomery and Aroldis Chapman in three and one-third relief innings. Against the Cubs in Game 2, the Indians trailed in more innings (nine) than they had in the entire playoffs combined heading into the game. It was a win right out of Cleveland’s playbook.As the series shifts to Chicago on Friday, it should be interesting to see how Cleveland responds. Aside from overcoming a brief 1-0 deficit in the first inning of Game 1 of the ALDS, we haven’t really seen the Indians mount any comebacks this postseason. Of course, the Cubs hadn’t been an especially strong front-running club themselves before Game 2 — until Wednesday, they’d led through less than half of their postseason innings — instead showcasing a variety of other ways to win. But given Chicago’s great starting rotation and the apparently rust-proof hitting of Kyle Schwarber, Cleveland might need to prove they can win from behind, too. NUMBER OF INNINGS% OF INNINGS 92007Red Sox10160212059.480.2 72012Orioles6118321129.582.0 81995Braves8535341641.281.2 Includes all postseason games since 1995, when the wild card was introduced, but excludes teams who only played in the wild card gameSources: Baseball-Reference.com, Retrosheet During their 5-1 victory over the Cleveland Indians in Game 2 of the World Series on Wednesday, the Chicago Cubs did something no team has consistently been able to do this postseason: get ahead of the Indians and stay there.Cleveland was 8-1 in the postseason heading into Wednesday’s game, so you wouldn’t expect them to have spent much time trailing. But they were notable front-runners even by the standards of a team with such a great record. Before Game 2 of the World Series, the Indians and their opponents had completed 81 innings during this postseason. Of those 81, Cleveland led through 57 of them — 70 percent — and was either leading or tied through 73, a staggering 90 percent rate of success (or at least, nonfailure) in the scoreboard battle. In games they won, they trailed in just one inning.1Seven of the eight innings they trailed came in one game — Game 4 of the ALCS against the Toronto Blue Jays.Going back to the advent of the wild card in 1995, both of those figures were the highest any team had ever carried through Game 1 of the World Series, and it wasn’t especially close. Even the 1998 Yankees — who won 114 regular-season games and then turned the playoffs into their own personal victory lap — only led or were tied through 85 percent of their innings through Game 1 of the World Series. And the oft-forgotten 2005 White Sox, who basically perfected this formula, checked in at 83 percent. These Indians have been the most front-running team in modern postseason history. 12016Indians815716870.4%90.1% 102014Giants10952352247.779.8 42007Rockies7445161360.882.4
FiveThirtyEight VIDEO: How the Cavs can push back in Game 3 Embed Code More: Apple Podcasts | ESPN App | RSS | Embed Welcome to the latest episode of Hot Takedown, FiveThirtyEight’s sports podcast. On this week’s show (Jun. 6, 2017), we discuss the Nashville Predators’ win against the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final. That series is now tied 2-2. Next, the Golden State Warriors are running roughshod over the Cleveland Cavaliers, which has some complaining that the NBA’s competitive balance is out of whack. We dig into league commissioner Adam Silver’s latest remarks on the matter and discuss whether the rise of the Warriors is a good thing or a bad thing for the NBA. Plus, a significant digit on an untethered ascent of El Capitan.Check out the following links to the topics we discussed.Pekka Rinne had a great Game 4 to help the Predators even things up.FiveThirtyEight’s NBA predictions say that the likelihood of the Warriors winning the series is 97 percent.In an interview with ESPN’s Mike and Mike, NBA commissioner Adam Silver fought back against claims that the Warriors have disrupted the league’s competitive balance.FiveThirtyEight’s Chris Herring and Kyle Wagner teamed up to break down Steph Curry’s return to form in this year’s NBA finals.Deadspin’s Albert Burneko writes that despite last year’s Cavaliers’ comeback, a Warriors victory feels inevitable this year.Is the superteam era ruining the NBA? Sports Illustrated’s Lee Jenkins investigates.Significant Digit: 3,300, the number of feet that Alex Honnold climbed on his route up El Capitan, the famous climbing wall inside Yosemite National Park. He did it all without a rope. Honnold has become the first free solo climber to scale the route.
201513391911103310 31997206519522007Ann ArborMich., 20-14 It’s been 32 years since Jim Harbaugh last led the Michigan Wolverines to a win over the Ohio State Buckeyes. Ever since the consummate Michigan Man made good on his guarantee in 1986, the maize and blue have largely been muzzled by the scarlet and gray. To some degree, Harbaugh must have returned to his alma mater for games like Saturday’s. But he has fumbled each of his three chances at the Buckeyes.This week represents his best opening. Las Vegas sportsbooks installed the Wolverines as 4-point favorites, despite the fact that Michigan has won just two of its past 17 games against its rivals to the south.1The Buckeyes’ 2010 victory was vacated because of tattoo-gate. Expectations loom large for Harbaugh and his team, which may be the more talented squad for the first time in more than a decade. Some have already designated the upcoming game a referendum on his tenure, even though no program this season has rewritten its post-Week 1 narrative more than Michigan has. In fact, according to our Elo ratings, no team has improved more since the preseason than the Wolverines.Saturday’s matchup is the 115th installment of one of college football’s richest rivalries. This one features a cornucopia of College Football Playoff implications: The winner’s playoff chances will spike to between 59 and 67 percent, according to our model, while the loser will be virtually eliminated from contention. Additionally, of course, the winner of the game will play for a conference championship.Like nearly every entry in this rivalry, the stakes Saturday are high — and there will be no shortage of talent on the field. So to check this game’s true matchup power, we looked back at the Elo ratings for Michigan and Ohio State at the time of each meeting since 1897, and we averaged those Elo ratings using the harmonic mean.2We used the harmonic mean instead of a straight average to eliminate situations in which one team was performing substantially better than the other. 201875.112 201811583521117653 22006198520372011ColumbusOSU, 42-39 Of course, perhaps the most tantalizing storyline is the one most difficult to measure. Ohio State hasn’t lost to Michigan in the Horseshoe since 2000, and, at least lately, the Wolverines seem to mutate into a far worse version of themselves in the annual rivalry. The Buckeyes’ real advantage in this game may be found on the psychological side, as the team has grown accustomed to upstaging that school up north. Harbaugh and the Wolverines have a chance to rewrite the script, with everything on the line Saturday in Columbus.Neil Paine contributed research.Check out our latest college football predictions. Few Michigan-Ohio State games have been biggerThe best Michigan-Ohio State games based on the harmonic mean of each team’s pregame Elo rating 52003194519741960Ann ArborMich., 35-21 20173617 201673.717 201415412216127421 ELO Michigan’s offensive efficiency and national rank in the category under Jim Harbaugh The Buckeye defense is getting gutted by the big playThe number of plays given up at various lengths by Ohio State this season compared with previous years under Urban Meyer 201510011 71970195619341945ColumbusOSU, 20-9 61977193519571946Ann ArborMich., 14-6 SeasonPassing offense rankRushing offense rank Meyer has never coached a team that relied on the passing game to the degree it does this season. Despite having yet to complete its regular-season slate, his team already has set a school record with 452 passing attempts and 3,954 passing yards. Only five teams throw more on average, and most of those employ Air Raid systems.But it’s difficult to argue that the lopsided offensive approach isn’t working. Ohio State has compiled 13 games since 2012 with more than 19 expected points added on passes, and six of those have come this season. Dwayne Haskins is completing a Big Ten-best 69.3 percent of his passes and will likely be a Heisman finalist, having set 12 school records this season. The Buckeyes lead the Big Ten in both total offense and scoring offense, with 11 more touchdowns than any other team in the conference. As Harbaugh succinctly put it when asked about the Buckeye passing attack, “It’s really good.”But Saturday will be Haskins’s toughest assignment. In early October, the sophomore tied a school record with six touchdown passes in a win over Indiana. Michigan has allowed seven passing touchdowns all season.Under the tutelage of defensive coordinator Don Brown, the Wolverines’ defense is smashing its competition. Harbaugh and Brown have trotted out some elite defenses over the past three seasons, but this year’s is likely the best one yet. Opposing quarterbacks average a passer efficiency rating of 88.7 against the Wolverines, a mark that if maintained would rank sixth lowest by any team since at least 2004. Michigan is also holding opposing quarterbacks to 4.91 yards per passing attempt, which would also be the sixth lowest mark over that same stretch.Teams not only fail to generate big plays against Michigan, they also fail to get past the line of scrimmage. Less than 30 percent of opponent plays gain 5 or more yards against the Wolverines, the lowest rate in the country, while a whopping 41.4 percent of opponent plays are stopped at or behind the line of scrimmage, a mark that ranks third highest. Brown brings the heat, too: Only six teams generate a higher pressure rate on opposing quarterbacks than Michigan (39.1 percent).Haskins may be completing 26.7 passes per game on a clip hovering around 70 percent, but no starting quarterback has completed more than 19 throws in any game against Michigan or connected on more than 56 percent of passes. Over the past five conference games, Brown’s seek-and-destroy defense is holding quarterbacks to 9.4 completions per game on a clip south of 40 percent.Can Ohio State stop the big play?If last week is any indication, no.The Maryland Terrapins produced three touchdowns exceeding 25 yards, two of which that went for at least 75, in a 52-51 overtime loss. “Alarming is the right word,” Meyer said of his team’s inability to prevent gashing offensive plays. Then, on Monday: “Obviously, it wasn’t good.”Ohio State has either set or is on pace to set single-season worst marks under Meyer in big plays allowed from virtually every distance. 81948207118271941ColumbusMich., 13-3 20168111 92016188519961939ColumbusOSU, 30-27 2014529 201745.676 2018354 2017145920531100 42018197419541964Columbus? Ohio State has gone to the air this seasonHow the Buckeyes’ offense has ranked each year under Urban Meyer in rushing and passing, 2012-2018 SeasonGames20+30+40+50+60+70+80+90+ SeasonOffensive EfficiencyRank 2016134822443000 201210510 This offense is also Harbaugh’s best at generating big plays. Starting running back Karan Higdon was on the brink of leaving for the NFL draft after last season, but good thing for Michigan that he stayed. The senior has already eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark and has five carries of 40-plus yards, tied for the second most of any player in the Big Ten. Junior transfer Shea Patterson, the best quarterback Harbaugh has had in Ann Arbor, leads the Big Ten in Total Quarterback Rating (84.0) and ranks second in yards per attempt (8.54).3Behind only Haskins. Patterson’s running ability is another wrinkle for an offense with little difficulty finding the end zone.The team scores on a conference-best 47.7 percent of drives, which is on pace to be the eighth-best mark by a Big Ten team in the past 15 years. Michigan also seldom gets stopped at or behind the line of scrimmage, besting last season’s rate by 8.2 percentage points. Wisconsin (23.9 percent) is the only Big Ten team stopped in its tracks less than Michigan (25.7 percent). In turn, 43 percent of offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton’s plays have gone for 5-plus yards, the program’s highest rate since 2010. Overall, the Wolverines are picking up 6.29 yards per play, by far the most of any team since Harbaugh arrived. 20131449231277320 Plays given up at … (in yards) 201570.620 Two of Ohio State’s four worst games since Meyer arrived, as defined by expected points added on defense, have come this season. And while the Wolverines’ offense isn’t exactly Alabama’s, it’s easily the best unit Harbaugh has had at Michigan. 2013905 201212452414107620 Source: SportSource Analytics Source: SportSource Analytics RKseasonMichiganOhio StateHarmonic MeanLocationResult 11975201620332025Ann ArborOSU, 21-14 Source: ESPN Stats & Information Group This year’s chapter, which pits twin 10-1 programs against each other, checks in with the fourth-highest harmonic mean, trailing only the 1975, 2006 and 1997 showdowns. It’s the best matchup between the schools during the College Football Playoff era. Among the nine other epic showdowns in the top 10, the results have been mostly spilt: Ohio State winning five, Michigan winning four.Here are two keys that could decide the outcome this year:Will Michigan’s pass defense lock down Ohio State’s throw-heavy scheme?Ohio State’s pass-at-all-costs offense squaring off against Michigan’s solve-your-problems-with-aggression pass defense is about as ideal a strength-against-strength, identity-against-identity matchup as we can get.In his previous six seasons with the Buckeyes, Urban Meyer typically favored an offensive blueprint shaded toward the run game. He had never had a rushing attack rank outside the top 20 in yardage. Despite returning J.K. Dobbins and Mike Weber, his two leading tailbacks from 2017, this season’s squad has fallen out of the top 50.However, that yardage can be found through the air, with the Buckeyes passing the ball on 51.5 percent of team plays, well above their average of 40.6 percent from 2012 to 2017. For a program largely recognized by its rich tradition in the backfield — Ezekiel Elliott, Eddie George, Archie Griffin and Maurice Clarett, to name a few RB standouts — this year has been an anomaly. 101961186720161939Ann ArborOSU, 50-20
OSU sophomore offensive lineman Isaiah Prince (59) walks off the field following the Buckeyes 31-0 loss to Clemson in the Fiesta Bowl on Dec. 31. Credit: Alexa Mavrogianis | Photo EditorThe 2016 Fiesta Bowl highlighted major needs for Ohio State’s coaching staff. OSU coach Urban Meyer made those changes. But because of Meyer, the Buckeyes will have to make more difficult alterations to its starting roster.When a program has a coach with the national prowess Meyer possesses, that program is blessed with four- and five-star recruits continually flooding into its facilities. In the same breath, those recruits can develop more rapidly than others and leave the program early, creating a hole to be filled before next fall. Meyer had this problem in 2016 and has it once again in 2017. But, per usual, he has the class to replace standouts.Either generated from early departures or under development, here are three positions to keep an eye on heading into spring practice on March 7.CornerbackEach year at OSU, Meyer has had to replace at least one starter at cornerback. This year, he will have to replace both starters. However, the way he and the defensive coaches treated the cornerback position last year and on the recruiting trail has set the Buckeyes up for success.One-year starter Marshon Lattimore and two-year starter Gareon Conley were menacing throughout the season defending opposing wide receivers — there’s no denying that. But what many casual observers of the Buckeyes might forget from 2016 is that the rotation at cornerback included now-junior cornerback Denzel Ward. Ward played in several crucial moments for the Buckeyes, including overtime against Michigan and Wisconsin.He had 23 tackles and nine pass break-ups.Aside from Ward, the 2017 cornerback class will make an impact, likely having at least one starter. Former junior college and Alabama transfer Kendall Sheffield is expected to be the leader of the pack, having experience already at a Division I school. The top-two cornerback recruits in the country, freshmen Jeffrey Okudah and Shaun Wade, also will be in major contention for the starting gig opposite Ward.Right tackle2016 was perhaps the most underwhelming season the offensive line has had with Meyer as head coach. There was plenty of finger-pointing to go around, and much of that went to junior Isaiah Prince at right tackle.The OSU offensive line struggled in games that trotted out NFL talent on the defensive front. Against Penn State, Michigan and Clemson, the OSU offensive line allowed a combined average of more than 5.5 sacks and more than 11.5 tackles for loss per game. Prince had difficulties in all those games and opponents noticed.Prince and freshman right guard Michael Jordan won their respective jobs on the offensive line not because of excellent performance, but out of necessity because of a lack of development.In 2017, Meyer has more depth on the offensive line with the arrivals of prestigious offensive line recruits Josh Myers, Wyatt Davis and Thayer Munford.Davis and Myers are the more likely of the three freshman to play immediately, but junior college redshirt junior lineman Malcolm Pridgeon will certainly be in front of those two, given he might have started at right tackle before suffering a knee injury in fall camp.Pridgeon, Davis and Myers are three among others who are in contention for the opening at right tackle (and right guard), however don’t count out Prince as the incumbent despite his lackluster performances. Even the harshest of Buckeye critics would likely agree that camaraderie on the offensive line is more valuable than any other position.Wide receiverOSU wanted to be better in the passing game in 2016 even without now-New Orleans Saints wideout Michael Thomas. The passing offense was likely the complete opposite of what the coaching staff envisioned at the beginning of the season. Now it’s the vision of a new offensive staff that will have to adjust without Curtis Samuel and Noah Brown, the team’s top two receivers.Redshirt sophomore K.J. Hill and sophomore Binjimen Victor are likely the lead candidates to start on the outside and receive the majority of passes from redshirt senior quarterback J.T. Barrett with sophomore Demario McCall, who will likely replace Samuel at H-back. But after that, the competition is fierce, intensified by top freshman wideouts Trevon Grimes and Jaylen Harris, who are listed at 6-foot-4 and 6-foot-5, respectively.New offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson has proved at his other positions that he likes to throw the football downfield — something OSU hasn’t done much the last two seasons. In 2017, wide receivers will prove their worth on receptions 40-plus yards from the line of scrimmage.Redshirt junior Terry McLaurin, redshirt senior James Clark, sophomore Austin Mack and redshirt junior Parris Campbell also will be in the mix for a by-committee approach at receiver for the Buckeyes.
The No. 18 Ohio State field hockey team (8-6, 2-1) fell, 3-0, to the No. 17 Iowa Hawkeyes (9-3, 2-2) Saturday afternoon in their home finale. The Buckeyes honored their senior captains, Jenn Sciulli and Ally Tunitis before the matchup against the Hawkeyes. Although the Buckeyes were not victorious, the players and fans in attendance were able to celebrate the senior day with their captains who have combined for 53 wins and 116 starts since joining the program in 2008. “It is a great honor to be playing at such a great school athletically,” said senior goalkeeper and Macungie, Pa. native, Tunitis. “Just being able to represent Ohio State is important to me.” After the loss Saturday, Tunitis fell to 8-6 on the season, recording one save. The Buckeyes also recognized senior back Sciulli, a native of Palmyra, Pa., who leads the conference in defensive stops and tied her 2010 season high in the first half of Saturday’s game. She is now tied for second on the OSU all-time list with 22 career stops. “It was a great honor to be recognized before the game [Saturday] after spending four years here,” Sciulli said. “Unfortunately we did not get the result we were looking for today.” After the Buckeyes began the game pressuring in the first half, the Hawkeyes capitalized on their first scoring opportunity and netted their first goal at the 24-minute mark. As the Buckeyes headed into halftime trailing by just one goal and their hopes still high, they eventually fell short as the Hawkeyes scored two more to close the game out with a 3-0 win. The loss Saturday ended the Buckeyes six-game winning streak and brought them back to the middle of the pack in the Big Ten standings sitting at 2-1. The team will have to play a full game if they want success to find them down the stretch said coach Anne Wilkinson. They now have four games left on their regular season schedule. “We need to be able to play a full 70 minutes,” Wilkinson said. “You can’t check out for even a minute against a ranked team and we need to continue to bring the energy out.” Despite the recent loss, Tunitis recognized some positives the Buckeyes can take into their next match against Michigan State at the end of this week. “We know what we need to work on now,” Tunitis said. “Today really just highlighted what needs to be done in practice this week.” The Scarlet and Gray will finish their regular season with four road games, the first being Friday as they take on Michigan State at 3 p.m. in East Lansing, Mich.
OSU running back Paul Warfield (42) catches a 35-yard pass from quarterback Don Unverferth late in the second quarter for a touchdown against Michigan Nov. 30, 1963. OSU won, 14-10.Credit: AP wirephoto published by The Lantern Dec. 2, 1963In a typical year for the Ohio State and Michigan football teams, there might not be anything that takes precedence above the rivals’ annual meeting at the end of the regular season. The Game took a backseat in 1963, however, to national tragedy.Nov. 22, 1963, 50 years ago Friday, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated while traveling in a motorcade to an appearance in Dallas. The Ohio State-Michigan game, originally scheduled to be played the following day, was postponed one week — though not immediately.“We were actually at the stadium getting dressed when it was canceled,” Arnie Chonko, a cornerback on the 1963 team, said in an interview with The Lantern. “They didn’t cancel the game until 10 in the morning.”Members of that team acknowledged that had the game gone on as scheduled that Saturday, it would have been difficult to focus on football.“It was just the demeanor of the team was like, this game isn’t really important,” linebacker Ike Kelley said. “It’s a big game and as far as the rivalry goes between the Buckeyes and the Wolverines, but at that particular moment when we heard the news, it really didn’t matter.”Greg Lashutka, a tight end on the 1963 team who later became the mayor of Columbus from 1992 to 2000, said he thought postponing the game — as well as most of the other college football games scheduled around the nation that Nov. 23 — was the “smartest thing that collegiate football did.”“I think that was the right thing to do so people could put themselves around their own reflection, get with their loved ones,” Lashutka said. “I don’t think we could have really played the game very well that next day if we had to. It was hard enough a week later, let alone the day after.”The Game was rescheduled for Nov. 30, the latest a game between OSU and Michigan has been played until this year’s contest, which will also be played Nov. 30.The postponement had a number of effects on the rescheduled game, which the Buckeyes won, 14-10.The official attendance of that game at Michigan Stadium, which had hosted 101,450 people during a game against Michigan State earlier that year, was only 36,424, the lowest of any game at Michigan Stadium that season.The cold, wintry weather that often characterizes late November also played a factor in the game.“It was a really cold day and snowy,” Chonko said. “Not snow on the field, but sort of flurries.”The day had a high of 41 degrees and a low of 27, according to Weather Underground.The postponing had a tangible benefit for the Buckeyes, Kelley said, as it gave a number of injured players another week to heal.“I’m not sure that we would have won that game if we would have played it the next day,” Kelley said.In the aftermath of tragedy, however, Lashutka said the win was a “hollow victory.”“You wanted to play the game, you wanted to win, but it clearly (took) a lot of the enthusiasm out of the classic Ohio State-Michigan rivalry,” Lashutka said. “We all played for the sake of the game and for self-respect, but I don’t believe anybody’s heart was 100 percent in it.”Kelley said even eight days later, the normal thrill of a victory against Michigan was quickly replaced by the reality of what happened Nov. 22.“Everybody was happy that we had won the game but then it was back to the, you know, how’s the country going to heal up after such a horrific incident taking place,” Kelley said.During the game itself, however, Chonko said his focus was solely on OSU’s annual goal in the rivalry game: beat Michigan.“Once you see those helmets, those Michigan Wolverines helmets, you immediately get refocused,” Chonko said. “There’s just something about those damn helmets that just irritate a Ohio boy.”Unlike this year’s game, in which the Buckeyes (10-0) are set to play the Wolverines (7-3) with an eye on berths in the Big Ten Championship Game and in a BCS bowl, OSU’s 1963 season ended on that Nov. 30, as OSU fell short of qualifying for the Rose Bowl by finishing the year with a 5-3-1 record. Still, the OSU players said the win helped bring back some normalcy in what Chonko called a “time of great turmoil.”“We enjoyed it ‘cause we won,” Chonko said. “It would have really looked bad if we would had lost.”Nonetheless, all three players said they still vividly remember, 50 years later, how they felt when they heard about the assassination.“You remember where you were specifically the moment you heard the news,” Kelley said.