NBA Finals Depending on how you look at it, the Oklahoma City Thunder could be up 3-0 in the NBA Finals or down 0-3. That’s how close the games wereThe reality is that the Thunder trail 2-1, making Tuesday’s Game 4 in Miami a game OKC cannot afford to lose. History shows that no team has come from a 3-1 series deficit in the NBA Finals. The Thunder did rebound from losing the first two games of the Western Conference Finals to San Antonio. But that was the Spurs.Miami is led by LeBron James, who has played the best and most determined ball of his career. His numbers — 33.4 points, 11.6 rebounds in last five games, going back to Game 6 of the previous series — reflect his impact on the series.Just as significant has been that James has received more help than Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant, which was not suppose to happen. But sure enough, Dwyane Wade has relocated his offense to nicely compliment James — and forward Shane Battier, a defensive specialist, has made 17 of 21 three-point shots. Also, point guard Mario Chalmers has been more productive than anticipated.Meanwhile, Durant has been outstanding. However, he was held just four points in the fourth quarter after he scored 17 and 16 in the last 12 minutes respectively in Games 1 and 2. Worse, though, for the Thunder is that he has not received consistent help from anyone, especially point guard Russell Westbrook and Sixth Man of the Year Award recipient James Harden, who was just 2-for-9 and had only a strong effort in Game 2.Westbrook had to be sat by coach Scott Brooks because he had four possessions that were totally out of control and unproductive. Problem was, Durant already was on the bench with foul trouble. OKC’s 10-point lead collapsed by the end of the period and missed free throws and poor late-game execution doomed them.Now, Oklahoma City needs all that rectified to win Game 4. Its youth showed for the first time in the playoffs, and, against James and the Heat’s determination, that inexperience has to be harnessed to tie the series and not face unprecedented odds.“We’ll be ready,” James assured. “We love the challenge.”No one is certain about the Thunder.
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Four-time NASCAR champion Jeff Gordon was fined $100,000 and docked 25 points for intentionally wrecking Clint Bowyer at the Phoenix International Raceway, touching off a melee in the garage after the race.Gordon was not suspended, but he was fined placed on probation Dec. 31. But he’ll be allowed to close out the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway despite his actions in Sunday’s race and the ensuing fight in the garage area between the two drivers’ crews.”I take responsibility for my actions on the racetrack,” Gordon said in a statement. ”I accept NASCAR’s decision and look forward to ending the season on a high note at Homestead.”The penalty drops Gordon to 11th in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship with one race remaining. He’s now four points behind Martin Truex Jr. for 10th, and only the top-10 drivers have formal roles in the season-ending awards ceremony in Las Vegas.Rick Hendrick also was docked 25 car owner points, and crew chief Alan Gustafson was placed on probation through the end of the year.”I’ve always respected Jeff for standing his ground,” said Hendrick, owner of Hendrick Motorsports. ”We also respect that NASCAR needs to police the sport and send a message when situations like this occur. It’s been a great year, and we’re going to put our focus on finishing in a positive way this weekend.”Gordon intentionally slowed his car and waited for Bowyer on the track Sunday to wreck him on what was scheduled to be the final lap. There had been contact between the two a few laps earlier, and Gordon viewed it as the final straw in an apparently escalating on-track feud with Bowyer.He said after the incident he was ”fed up” with Bowyer, and had to take a stand Sunday and would wait to see how NASCAR responded.”They’ve got to do what they’ve got to do, and I guess I had to do what I had to do,” he said.The accident collected Joey Logano and Aric Almirola, and happened right in front of championship contender Brad Keselowski, who had to weave his way around the carnage.It also led to the brawl in the garage that began when Gordon appeared to be jumped from behind by a Michael Waltrip Racing team member. Gordon was grabbed by a Hendrick Motorsports crew member and pulled out of the fracas and into his team hauler.Bowyer, bewildered to find his stall empty when his burning race car came to a stop on pit road, saw the fight on the infield big screen and sprinted over the wall and through the garage to back up his guys. He was held back by NASCAR officials from entering Gordon’s hauler.Bowyer crew chief Brian Pattie was fined $25,000 and placed on probation through the end of the year for failing to maintain control of the crew.NASCAR vice president of competition Robin Pemberton considered the matter closed after issuing the penalties.”There’s no doubt that a unique set of circumstances combined with a championship battle on the line resulted in raw emotions coming into play,” he said. ”We consider the penalties appropriate and those involved understand our decision and we expect them to abide by them.”
New York Jets’ backup quarterback Tim Tebow was sidelined in Thursday’s 49-19 loss to the New England Patriots after suffering two fractured ribs in the Jets’ game at Seattle two weeks ago.Tebow dressed for the game and was available, but did not play either at quarterback or as punt protector. The team was initially concerned about letting him dress for the game.“I had to do a little bit of talking just to dress but I just want to be there for my teammates in case they needed me in an emergency situation,” Tebow said.Tebow played in three offensive plays last weekend against the St. Louis Rams and has continued to practice despite the injury. Jets coach Rex Ryan said Tebow’s condition began to worsen through this week, affecting his breathing. The Jets kept him on the injury report.“It just seemed like a couple of days ago I was noticing,” Ryan said, “I’m like, man, you could tell he was hurting, and it never sounded like he was, you know maybe a little, his breathing was a little different. I was standing there and I was like, well shoot, I’m not going to play this kid. I wouldn’t play my son if it was that kind of situation, but to Tim’s credit, he wanted to be there for his team.”Tebow remains unsure of how long the healing process will take, but admits that his ribs need the rest. Last year when playing with the Denver Broncos, he broke a rib in the playoff game against the Patriots and needed the offseason to recover.While standing on the sideline Thursday night, fans began to chant his name as the Jets allowed the Patriots to score five touchdowns in the second quarter.Fans may not get their wish this season to see Tebow replace Mark Snachez as the starting quarterback because Ryan is sticking with his starter. He feels Sanchez gives to team the best chance to win.“Mark will be the starting quarterback this week and we’ll go from there,” Ryan said.For now Tebow’s availability for Sunday’s Dec 2. game against the Arizona Cardinals remains in question.
Former New England Patriots player Aaron Hernandez is still claiming his innocence as he sits in a Massachusetts jail awaiting trial for murder.In a recent jailhouse letter he wrote to a fan and obtained by TMZ, the former NFL star said he is eager to prove that he’s not guilty and make a return to the sport he loves.In the letter to the pen pal, Hernandez writes, “I know everything happens for a reason and I know ‘GOD’ has a plan for me and something good will come out of this. The world just makes things out of false accusations and it will all die down, especially when they say NOT Guilty and all the people who turned on me will feel like crap.”Hernandez also writes, “I know there is a reason Im going thru this and I will figure it out through my relationship with the Lord. I fell off especially after making all that money but when it’s all said and done ‘GOD’ put me in the situation for a reason!”Hernandez recently pleaded not guilty in the murder of Odin Lloyd, a 27-year-old, who allegedly had ties to the ex-football player. The young man’s body was found June 17 about a mile from Hernandez’s home in North Attleborough, Mass.The former NFL player ends the letter optimistic about his athletic future saying, “Can’t wait to sign this again when I’m playing again and prove all the haters and down-talkers WRONG,” Hernandez reportedly wrote following his signature.
Usually, teams see their chances of winning go up throughout a tournament. But in this case, UConn, Notre Dame, South Carolina and “the field” have all shed percentage points to the Lady Bears. Over this period, Baylor’s score on our strength metric has risen by 5.5 points, from 104.5 to 110, while UConn’s has only gone from 111.4 to 112.5.Interestingly, however, the markets don’t seem to share our model’s enthusiasm for Baylor. The latest prices that I could find still give UConn a greater than 75 percent chance (for example, here, where the odds of -420/+300 imply fair odds of 76 percent), which is similar to what was out there before the tournament.The huge disparity between our model and the markets suggests that it’s worth having some skepticism toward our model results. In general, models are at their worst when it comes to extreme outliers, which UConn certainly has been. For one thing, it can be hard to tell their true strength, because so many of their games are fairly noncompetitive. For another, you would normally expect a team that has performed like UConn this year to be a little worse than it looks — because of regression to the mean — but in UConn’s case, we have a lot of corroborating evidence. Namely, that this season’s performance isn’t even that much of an outlier, for them.On the other hand, the Huskies weren’t even supposed to be their powerhouse selves this year, and the Lady Bears have looked amazing. If Baylor can get by Mississippi State, they’ll almost certainly get their chance to escape UConn’s shadow in the Final Four.Check out our March Madness predictions. The University of Connecticut Huskies kept their roll going Saturday with a breezy 86-71 victory over UCLA. It’s their 110th win in a row — and the 157th of their last 158 games — likely giving them the longest team sport winning streak in college top division history. Rival and potential Elite Eight threat Maryland’s loss in an upset against Oregon also means UConn’s next game should be easier than expected — so you might think UConn’s chances of five-peating and carrying their win streak into the fall would be greater than ever.Our model, however, now pegs UConn’s chances as essentially the lowest they’ve been in the tournament. UConn finds itself in a virtual dead heat with Baylor (who UConn beat by 11 points in November). Though Baylor has seemed to be UConn’s most formidable competition since before the tournament began, their rise has nonetheless been dramatic. They’ve won their tournament games by 89, 40 and 34, compared with UConn’s margins of 61, 30 and 15.Baylor was briefly even the tournament favorite, between Sweet 16 days (after Baylor beat Louisville but before UConn beat UCLA):
Team ¯\_(ツ)_/¯: Milwaukee Brewers. Milwaukee is an extremely difficult team to figure out heading into the season. The Brew Crew surprised everyone by winning 86 games last year, even leading the division as late as July 25. It also dealt aggressively over the winter, picking up both Lorenzo Cain and Christian Yelich to patrol Miller Park’s outfield. But the forecasters are pretty split over the Brewers’ potential in 2018. Some systems see them pushing the Cardinals and Cubs again; others think they’ll struggle to crack .500. Our aggregation of various projections calls for 83 wins, but like Minnesota in the AL, this is another forecast I suspect we’re too low on.Rebuild alert: Cincinnati Reds, Pittsburgh Pirates. The Reds have been rebuilding for a half-decade now, if we include this season — and our projections say we most definitely should. Someday, perennial MVP candidate Joey Votto could play for a winning team again, but it probably won’t be this year (and it might not be for Cincinnati, either). Meanwhile, the Pirates are just embarking on their rebuilding journey, having traded away franchise cornerstone Andrew McCutchen and ace Gerrit Cole. Pittsburgh probably could have made one last run at the playoffs this year if it had hung on to its stars, but that would have required everything to go right. Instead, general manager Neal Huntington opted to close the book on the franchise’s best period since the early 1990s.Player to watch: Jose Quintana, Cubs. When the Cubs picked up Quintana from the White Sox at last season’s trade deadline for a handful of prospects, it was about more than just renting help for the stretch run in 2017. Quintana’s contract extends through this year, with team options for 2019 and 2020 as well, so the Cubs were locking down one of the game’s most valuable arms for the long haul. According to FanGraphs, Quintana is projected to be a top-10 pitcher by WAR this season. Along with new teammate Yu Darvish, he should help Chicago recapture some of the form of its banner 2016 campaign that produced the third-best rotation in baseball.Biggest enigma: Kyle Schwarber, Cubs. Schwarber’s career has already gone through so many twists and turns, it’s hard to remember that he’s still just 25 years old, with a shade over two years of MLB service time. Schwarber flashed outstanding potential at the plate in a half-season of action in 2015, and he provided instant memories when he returned from injury to hit .412 in the 2016 World Series. But a cold start buried his 2017 numbers, even though he hit quite well from July onward. Toss in an offseason of serious weight loss, and it seems like Schwarber is poised for a big breakout season — but still, FanGraphs’ projections see him generating between 0.9 and 3.0 WAR, so he’s stuck on the enigma list for now. NL EastTeam to beat: Washington Nationals. Aside from a stunning implosion in 2015 and a distant runner-up finish to the Atlanta Braves (remember that?) in 2013, the Nats have owned this division for most of the decade. For at least one more season, things should play out basically the same way. Washington returns essentially all of the core that won 97 ballgames a year ago, plus it’ll have leadoff man Adam Eaton back after a knee injury cost him most of last season. Nobody quite knows what to do with the Mets (see below), and the Phillies are finally on the rise. But it would take another unlikely confluence of underperformance from the Nationals and a breakout elsewhere for anybody to catch Washington this year. The Nats should savor it while it lasts — with Bryce Harper and others due for free agency after the season and Philadelphia and Atlanta soon emerging from their tanking projects, this division could look very different in a few years. But for now, it’s all Washington. Avg. Simulated SeasonChance to… How Elo is forecasting the NL East race Dodgers15689765+14581%63%13% Nationals15469369+11173%62%8% Avg. Simulated SeasonChance to… Cubs15589567+12776%55%10% Phillies14907983-1924141 How Elo is forecasting the NL West race Team ¯\_(ツ)_/¯: New York Mets. Touted last season to contend for the East, the Mets got out to a miserable, injury-riddled start and never recovered. They do have a new manager now, former Indians pitching coach Mickey Callaway, and pitching was the biggest issue with last year’s squad. (New York actually finished 11th in position-player wins above replacement.) But Callaway was basically the extent of the Mets’ offseason improvements, aside from re-signing ex-Met Jay Bruce and scavenging third baseman Todd Frazier and reliever Anthony Swarzak in free agency. Essentially, the Mets’ 2018 season hinges on the same factors that destroyed them in 2017: the health and effectiveness of their pitching staff. Stay tuned to see how that works out.Rebuild alert: Miami Marlins, Atlanta Braves. The Phillies had been in this category for years, but they spent the offseason finally making win-now moves. Even the Braves, with their incredible farm machine,1Even after Atlanta was punished for the international signing rule violations that got former GM John Coppolella banned for life from MLB. won’t be long for this list. But the Marlins … whoo, buddy. Miami has just begun its descent into tanking hell, with new ownership and an offseason sell-off that actually surpassed the franchise’s famous fire sale two decades ago. Our model considers the Marlins the worst team in baseball, so let the rebuild commence.Player to watch: Noah Syndergaard, Mets. Last April, “Thor” was well on his way to once again ranking among the game’s best pitchers. Then he tore a lat muscle — and wouldn’t be seen back on an MLB mound until a very odd, meaningless late-September co-start. (Don’t ask.) Syndergaard is healthy again, however, and according to FanGraphs’ numbers, he projects as the third-best pitcher in baseball. What’s more, those projections don’t factor in the fireballs he was hurling in the spring, ostensibly trying to prove he’s still the hardest-throwing starter around. (We get it, Noah.) If Syndergaard stays healthy, he should dominate.Biggest enigma: Bryce Harper, Nationals. Harper is projected to be the eighth-best position player in baseball this season, but he’s far from a sure thing. Despite being one of MLB’s most exciting players, his numbers have bounced around wildly in the past few seasons. In 2015, we saw Harper perform at a level few players have ever attained, producing 9.5 WAR with a weighted on-base average 97 percent better than league average. The following year, he was down to a measly 3.5 WAR with a weighted OBA only 12 percent above average. And last year? He hit like an MVP in the early going but was injured later in the season, ending up with 4.8 WAR and a wOBA 56 percent better than average. No player’s WAR has moved around more from season to season over the past three years, so it’s anybody’s guess where Harper will end up in 2018. Pirates14837785-41186<1 NL WestTeam to beat: Los Angeles Dodgers. At times last season, L.A. looked like it might belong among the greatest teams of all time. But it also looked like trash during one September stretch — then turned around and very nearly won the World Series. We can’t guarantee this season will hold as many ups and downs for the Dodgers, but they should be quite good once again. Start with the NL’s best projected pitcher (Clayton Kershaw), add in its top reliever (Kenley Jansen), and mix in four hitters projected for at least 3.3 WAR (Corey Seager, Cody Bellinger, Justin Turner and Yasiel Puig), and you’ve got a recipe for the top team in the National League. This division is pretty stacked in general, though, so you might see both wild-card slots go to NL West teams again. Giants14947884-272281 Padres14556993-11562<1 Mets14917983-2124141 Cardinals15228676+4345223 Brewers15108379+1534142 NL CentralTeam to beat: Chicago Cubs. Last year’s Cubs suffered one of the worst championship hangovers in baseball history, dragging them down from the historic heights they’d reached in 2016. (Note: They still won 92 games. Everything’s relative.) But between the offseason and last year’s trade deadline, Chicago now boasts a revamped pitching staff to go with a young core of position-player talent that already ranks among baseball’s best. The Cardinals, eternal archnemesis to the Cubs, are shaping up for a resurgent season as well — and who knows what to make of the Brewers (more on them later) — so this division could make for an exciting summer. But out of that triad of contenders, the Cubs are clearly the favorites to win the Central crown. TeamElo RatingWinsLossesRun Diff.Make PlayoffsWin DivisionWin World Series Reds14657290-8783<1 Marlins14436795-12753<1 How Elo is forecasting the NL Central race Avg. Simulated SeasonChance to… Rockies15038082-92691 Diamondbacks15238577+3843193 TeamElo RatingWinsLossesRun Diff.Make PlayoffsWin DivisionWin World Series It’s opening week in the major leagues, and we’re catching up on what baseball’s been up to over this very odd offseason — and looking forward to the season ahead. We’ve enlisted the help of our preseason forecasting model, which assesses every team and offers a projection for their 2018 campaign. I’ve also highlighted the most interesting teams and players to watch during the year, as well as the ones about which we just don’t have any clue. (¯\_(ツ)_/¯) What follows is our take on the National League — for the American League, click here. TeamElo RatingWinsLossesRun Diff.Make PlayoffsWin DivisionWin World Series Braves14747587-58158<1 Team ¯\_(ツ)_/¯: San Francisco Giants. The Giants’ weird run of even-year success seemed poised to end this season after the team sputtered to 64 wins a year ago. But San Francisco refused to let one of the most disappointing campaigns in recent history deter them. No, the Giants went out and acquired a bunch of recognizable names over the winter, including potential future Hall of Famers Andrew McCutchen and Evan Longoria. Will their efforts work? Well, PECOTA lists the Giants on the periphery of the playoffs. But other projections are less bullish. Also working against San Francisco: Only six teams in history have gone from 85 or more wins2Per 162 games. in one season to 70 or fewer the next, then back to 85 or more the season after that. A spring training injury to ace Madison Bumgarner — see below — isn’t helping matters, either.Rebuild alert: San Diego Padres. San Diego is perpetually rebuilding — it hasn’t finished above .500 since 2010 — and the Padres were dealt another blow3Probably. when Japanese two-way prospect Shohei Ohtani spurned them this winter. But the team has ranked third in Keith Law’s farm-system rankings in back-to-back years now, helping produce a few encouraging prospects who might be part of the next contending Padres team. That team probably won’t come along this season, though: Our model assigns the Padres the lowest division-title probability of any team in the National League.Player to watch: Corey Seager, Dodgers. Los Angeles has so many stars at its disposal that, Clayton Kershaw aside, it can sometimes be difficult for them to get their proper due. Take Seager, a slick-fielding, great-hitting, 23-year-old shortstop who ranks fifth among position players in WAR over the past two seasons. A player like that would be the centerpiece of most teams, but Seager finished behind three teammates (and tied with another) in MVP voting last year. Sure, some of that owed to Seager missing time with elbow and back problems. But when he’s healthy, Seager ought to be in the running with Kershaw for the title of L.A.’s best player.Biggest enigma: Madison Bumgarner, Giants. No pitcher in baseball looks more lights-out when he’s at his best than Bumgarner, whose playoff exploits are the stuff of legend. But that peak performance hasn’t always translated fully in the regular season, where Bumgarner ranks only 15th among qualified starters in fielding-independent pitching since his rookie season of 2010. Beyond that, his customary durability faltered last season, as a dirt bike accident landed him on the disabled list for several months with shoulder and rib injuries. And just this week, a stray line drive broke a finger on Bumgarner’s throwing hand, costing him an estimated six to eight weeks of action. If Bumgarner doesn’t dominate when he returns, the Giants’ bounce-back season might be doomed to failure.Check out our latest MLB predictions.
Fans had been waiting all season for Terrelle Pryor to become the dual threat many saw him as coming out of high school and that he showed glimpses of last year. Saturday night against Indiana, their wishes were fulfilled, as Pryor picked apart the Indiana defense with both his legs and his arm.He finished the game with four touchdowns, three through the air and one on the ground. For Pryor, it was the type of performance that he and the rest of the passing game had been trying to put together all season.“We’re always on a mission,” he said. “Sometimes it might not show out there, but I mean not every offense in the country is perfect.”Pryor was near perfect when it came to spreading the ball Saturday. He completed passes to eight different receivers, including two of his three touchdowns to freshmen Duron Carter and Zach Boren.“It’s a great feeling,” Boren said. “Terrelle gave me a great ball that I could just catch and go right into the end zone.”“It was a great experience for my first road game,” Carter said. “I was the second read, and Terrelle trusted me with the ball, and I jumped up and caught it.”But Carter was actually more excited about a devastating block he put on an IU defender.“Football is a contact sport,” he said. “If you don’t like contact you shouldn’t be playing.”When it was all said and done, Pryor finished with a career-high 27 attempts as the coaching staff continued to put the offense in his hands.“He was glued in,” coach Jim Tressel said.Defense doesn’t miss a beat without ColemanIt’s not easy to replace a team captain, three-year starter, and All-Big Ten performer and not have a drop off.But with Anderson Russell filling the shoes of suspended safety Kurt Coleman, the Buckeyes did exactly that.OSU held the Hoosiers to 14 points, with seven of those coming in the last 10 seconds of the game against the second and third string. Coming into the game, the Hoosiers were averaging 28 points per game.“We didn’t give up any home runs. We seemed to tackle well. With Kurt not there and Jermale [Hines] limping around there for a minute, we were awfully young,” Tressel said. “But they kept everything in front of them … and I thought they were solid.”Russell started the first two games of the season before being replaced in the lineup by Hines. He showed no signs of rust as he intercepted a pass and recovered a fumble during Saturday’s game.“He’s a guy that has never changed who he is just because we changed the rotation,” Tressel said. “He works like crazy, studies film all the time. He’s a smart young man on the field and off the field.”Increased workload for ‘Zoom’ doesn’t slow down running gameAlthough it was known that the defense would be without Coleman coming into Saturday’s game, the status of junior running back Daniel “Boom” Herron was uncertain.“Boom in a real pinch could have played tonight, but I’m not sure he’d have been 100 percent,” Tressel said.Luckily for OSU, a less-than-100-percent Herron would not be needed, as Brandon Saine efficiently stepped into the starting running back role. His 113 yards were a large part of OSU’s 219-18 yard advantage on the ground.“I’ve been excited since Thursday when I found out I was going to be starting and that I’d be a captain,” Saine said. “I had a lot of fun out there, and I’m glad we were able to come out with a win. I’m definitely really grateful for the opportunity I had today.”Although Saine, a track star in high school, is known more for his speed, he has quickly established himself as a power back as well.“Brandon Saine is 220 pounds, and he’s moving those pounds fast,” Tressel said. “We always say, ‘Whoever wins the battles in the trenches is going to win the game.’”Buckeyes hit by fluIn addition to a suspension and injuries, OSU is now having to deal with the issue of the flu. Junior offensive tackle Andrew Miller was prohibited from traveling with the team after exhibiting flu-like symptoms. He wasn’t the only Buckeye that was affected.“We had three or four guys miss practice during the week,” Tressel said.Tressel named sophomore starting center Mike Brewster and sophomore defensive lineman Solomon Thomas among those who missed multiple practices with flu symptoms. He couldn’t recall which other players were affected by the flu but acknowledged there were more.OSU isn’t the first team to have to deal with the flu this year. Georgia starting quarterback Joe Cox was unable to travel with the rest of the team prior to the Bulldogs’ season opener, and Florida quarterback Tim Tebow was plagued by flu-like symptoms in the Gators’ game against Kentucky.
Coming off last week’s exhibition victory over Walsh, the Ohio State men’s basketball team opens its regular season today against Alcorn State. The game is the first of two in the preliminary round of the 2K Sports Classic, a tournament that will culminate with two games in New York City’s Madison Square Garden next week.Perhaps the biggest question for the Buckeyes coming into the game is the person in the center position. Coach Thad Matta expects to again be without Dallas Lauderdale as he recovers from a broken hand.But it seems that he will return in the near future. Matta said Wednesday that the trainers are working to provide him with a brace that would allow him to participate in the team’s full practices. Though he won’t play Monday, he should be able to make his return Thursday against James Madison.In Lauderdale’s absence, senior Kyle Madsen got the start, but both he and sophomore Zisis Sarikopoulos played significant time. Matta was pleased with their performances. “I thought they did a very good job, I really did,” Matta said. “With those two guys, you’ve got good size.”On a similar note, the rest of the rotation will be something to watch as the Buckeyes begin regular season play. As expected, Evan Turner, David Lighty, Jon Diebler and William Buford were in the starting lineup against Walsh. Jeremie Simmons, P.J. Hill, Walter Offutt and Nikola Kecman all played at least 12 minutes off the bench. “We had the luxury of getting guys more minutes and more opportunities to play, giving Evan or John … just more of a two-minute blow here or there,” Matta said. “I hope we can continue that.”Monday’s game will mark junior David Lighty’s first regular season appearance since last year’s season-ending foot injury. Lighty showed no lingering effects against Walsh, and his return is a welcome sight for his teammates. “He’s a big part of our team and a big part of what this program stands for,” Turner said. “It was tough to see him go out for a year, but he came back. It looks like he’s playing well. I think we are going to win a lot of games with him on the floor, and I’m just so happy he’s back.”The Buckeyes take on the Alcorn State Braves at 7 p.m. at the Schottenstein Center.
Ohio State football coach Jim Tressel was made aware, in April 2010, of the improper benefits given to five OSU players, according to a Yahoo! Sports report. The NCAA released a statement Dec. 23 officially announcing a five-game suspension in the 2011 season for five juniors — offensive lineman Mike Adams, running back Dan Herron, wide receiver DeVier Posey, quarterback Terrelle Pryor and defensive lineman Solomon Thomas. According to the Yahoo! report, the five players sold memorabilia to Edward Rife — the owner of Columbus tattoo parlor Fine Line Ink Tattoos. The Yahoo! report said the NCAA and OSU did not investigate the situation until December. The NCAA concluded that, besides suspending the players for five games, the athletes must repay money and benefits ranging from $1,000 to $2,500, as part of their reinstatement. In the Dec. 23 release, the NCAA said Adams must repay $1,000 for selling his 2008 Big Ten championship ring. Herron must repay $1,150 for selling his football jersey, pants and shoes for $1,000, and receiving discounted services worth $150. Posey is forced to repay $1,250 for selling his 2008 Big Ten championship ring for $1,200, and receiving discounted services worth $50. Pryor must repay $2,500 for selling his 2008 Big Ten championship ring, a 2009 Fiesta Bowl sportsmanship award and his 2008 Gold Pants, a gift from the university. Thomas has to repay $1,505 for selling his 2008 Big Ten championship ring for $1,000, his 2008 Gold Pants for $350 and receiving discounted services worth $155. OSU appealed the NCAA’s five-game suspensions, and no ruling has been made in that case. According to The Columbus Dispatch, the university was made aware of the Yahoo! report 30 minutes before it broke, and OSU had no further comment Monday. Yahoo! Sports reporter Charles Robinson, who co-wrote the story with Dan Wetzel, said via Twitter that the university was informed three hours before the article was posted online. OSU spokesperson Shelly Poe told The Lantern, “No comment that I know of this evening.” If the Yahoo! report is correct, the OSU football program might face further NCAA penalties for playing ineligible players during the 2010 football season, and for having prior knowledge of the incident before it was reported by the school in December.
The Ohio State men’s and women’s cross country teams didn’t impress at the 2011 Big Ten Championships at the University of Illinois last weekend. While both teams thought they ran tough, neither had a small enough split in order to finish as high as they would have liked. The men, led by junior Donny Roys and redshirt senior Taylor Williams, who finished 19th in 24:21 and 21st in 24:24, respectively, had a team score of 138. The Buckeyes fell to 13-time defending champion Wisconsin, as well as Indiana, Michigan and Minnesota. “It was tough, we had a couple guys run really good, and then we probably just had too far a break between our fourth and fifth.” OSU head coach Robert Gary said. Junior Julian Meyer was OSU’s third runner, finishing 25th in 24:28. Redshirt senior Adam Green and junior Chris Fallon rounded out the top five, covering the 8K course in 24:31 and 24:49, respectively. Even though the team didn’t finish as high as they would have liked, Williams was happy to see his team battle. “It’s disappointing. I think we were hoping for a little better, but at the same time it was about as good a race as we could have today,” he said. “It’s hard to be too critical because I think we ran really tough.” After finishing well behind Michigan and Minnesota at the Wisconsin Adidas Invitational on Oct. 14, the Buckeyes were only 34 points away from tying those two schools for third place on Sunday. “It’s good because we’re already really shortening things up. Minnesota and Michigan killed us at Wisconsin just two weeks ago so we’re starting to close the gap,” Gary said. The women saw No. 15 Michigan State win the title for the second-straight year. Junior Tori Brink was the Buckeyes pace setter, finishing the 6K race in 23rd with a time of 20:55. The Buckeyes placed two other women in the top 40, with redshirt senior Jordan Jennewine finishing 32nd in 21:05 and freshman Nicole Hilton who finished 37th with a time of 21:09. OSU women’s assistant coach Chris Neal liked how his top three finishers got out and finished strong, but said the team needed better performances from its other runners. “I think my top three ran really tough,” he said. “We just left too big of a gap, we needed our fourth and fifth to be up there with them.” Freshman Michelle Thomas and junior Molly Jacobson were the team’s fourth and fifth runners, finishing 58th and 83rd with times of 21:35 and 22:15, respectively. The team will have a week off from competing before traveling to Toledo for the Great Lakes Regional Championships on Nov. 12.