19Minnesota Vikings199838.353.3+14.975.0 TOTAL POINTS/GAME 5Buffalo Bills1975571.4752.9+181.460.7 21Carolina Panthers2013767.4618.1-149.456.3 2St. Louis Rams200041.463.2+21.843.8 25New York Jets197749.435.1-14.321.4 17Cleveland Browns200733.349.0+15.750.0 12Oakland Raiders2006693.1531.0-162.121.9 6St. Louis Rams200263.242.8-20.453.1 14Washington Redskins200151.334.9-16.356.3 20New England Patriots198247.933.3-14.559.0 22Washington Redskins2001729.4580.1-149.356.3 23Chicago Bears201343.457.7+14.350.0 24Kansas City Chiefs197530.244.5+14.346.4 20Atlanta Falcons1980530.8682.1+151.365.6 12Washington Redskins198554.638.1-16.575.0 3Buffalo Bills197755.433.8-21.639.3 18Washington Redskins197742.927.5-15.460.7 5Buffalo Bills197534.955.4+20.460.7 TOTAL YARDS/GAME 7Denver Broncos201343.762.8+19.165.6 9Chicago Bears199529.047.0+18.050.0 8San Diego Chargers198756.438.0-18.451.7 11San Diego Chargers1987800.0636.1-163.951.7 A Super Bowl statistics special from our sports podcast Hot Takedown. Listen above, or subscribe on iTunes. 16Atlanta Falcons197737.822.0-15.839.3 In an interesting bit of symmetry, the 2013 Broncos show up twice on the list: Not only do they form the first leg of the 2013-2015 Broncos row, but they form the back end of the Tebow Broncos, the 2011 Denver team that snuck into the playoffs despite a very inefficient offense. Most impressively, Denver ranks as the team with the largest swing in total scoring since the merger while being excellent both years, with an average winning percentage of 0.781. Teams like the 2000 Rams made the list courtesy of some terrible years in ’98 and ’02; Denver’s appearance wasn’t due to a massive dip in quality, but from a complete transformation of its identity.YardsIf we look at total yards per game, Denver once again stands out as the team that has suffered the biggest decline. However, the Broncos are no longer the most extreme team, as the ’82/’84 Dolphins had an even larger move, albeit in the direction of more yards. In 1982, there were 552.2 total yards of offense per game — combined among the two teams — in Miami games. Two years later, that number was a whopping 772.3, which represents an increase of 220 yards per game in just two seasons. There were 813.3 total yards of offense per game in Broncos games in 2013, but just 638.6 yards of offense in Denver games this year; that difference of 174.7 yards per game is the seventh-largest shift in a two-year period since 1970. And, given the general movement toward offensive efficiency, it also stands out as the largest decline in total yards per game during this period: 1Denver Broncos201562.840.7-22.178.1% 6San Diego Chargers1981627.4805.0+177.668.8 In the strike-shortened 1982 season, the Miami Dolphins made it to the Super Bowl on the strength of an incredible defense that allowed the NFL’s fewest yards, first downs, passing yards and net yards per pass attempt. The offense wasn’t very good, but the defense — known as the Killer Bees because the last names of six starters began with the letter B — guided the team to the Super Bowl, as Miami ranked second in points allowed and third in takeaways.Just two years later, the Dolphins were back in the Super Bowl, and once again, the team was one-dimensional. But, remarkably, it was the offense that was the dominant unit, as Miami led the NFL in points, yards, first downs and net yards per pass attempt, while a second-year quarterback named Dan Marino set single-season records for passing yards and passing touchdowns.It’s rare for a team to be incredibly dominant on one side of the ball, and then similarly dominant on the other side just two years later. By selecting Marino in the first round of the ’83 draft, Miami became one of those teams. The first overall pick in that draft, John Elway, is now the architect of another. The 2013 Broncos were a lot like the ’84 Dolphins: Peyton Manning, like Marino, set single-season records for passing yards and touchdowns, while Denver, like Miami, led the NFL in points, yards, first downs and net yards per attempt. This year’s Broncos led the NFL in yards allowed, while becoming just the fourth defense since 1970 to lead the league in both net yards per pass and yards per rush.That sort of transformation is remarkable. After losing to Seattle in Super Bowl XLVIII, Denver added three Pro Bowl players in outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware, cornerback Aqib Talib and safety T.J. Ward the following offseason. Denver then added safety Darian Stewart in March, and it has turned nose tackle Sylvester Williams and linebacker Brandon Marshall — role players on the 2013 Broncos — into starters. As a result, the 2015 Broncos defense doesn’t look or feel all that similar to the 2013 one. Only Von Miller (who missed seven games because of injury or suspension in 2013), Chris Harris Jr., Malik Jackson, Danny Trevathan and Derek Wolfe played at least 45 percent of the team’s snaps in both 2013 and 2015; of course, that’s a pretty excellent core to build around.1Miller, Harris and Wolfe missed Super Bowl XLVIII because of injury, leaving only Williams, Jackson and Trevathan as Denver defensive starters in both Super Bowl XLVIII and, presumably, Super Bowl 50. And the Broncos added defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, long respected as one of the game’s top defensive minds.On the offensive side, the turnover has been even more drastic. The team has turned over four of its five starting offensive linemen (only guard Louis Vasquez remains), while losing starting wide receivers Eric Decker and Wes Welker, tight end Julius Thomas and running back Knowshon Moreno. And offensive coordinator Adam Gase, who earned great praise for his coaching in 2013, has moved on. That means just three of the team’s offensive starters from Super Bowl XLVIII are still around, and all three — quarterback Peyton Manning, wide receiver Demaryius Thomas and Vasquez — were playing a lot better two years ago. The difference is most stark with Manning, of course, who has gone from having one of the best seasons ever by a Super Bowl quarterback to one of the worst.As a result, Denver has had a remarkable turnover from an unbalanced team with an offensive identity to a one-sided team with a defensive identity. This can be seen clearly even with basic stats such as points and yards.PointsBroncos games were extremely high-scoring in 2013, as Denver and its opponents combined to average 62.8 points per game (Denver averaged 37.9, while allowing 24.9). This year, only 40.7 points are being scored in the average Broncos game, courtesy of 22.2 points by Denver and 18.5 points by opponents. That’s a decrease of 22.1 points per game in Broncos games, the largest swing, positive or negative, in any two-year stretch following a given season since 1970. 15Detroit Lions199033.349.1+15.831.3 1Miami Dolphins1984552.2772.3+220.082.6% 4Atlanta Falcons197922.043.0+21.043.8 4San Francisco 49ers1979503.6685.4+181.724.1 19Green Bay Packers2011663.5816.7+153.281.3 7Denver Broncos2015813.3638.6-174.778.1 17Pittsburgh Steelers2014608.6764.4+155.959.4 25Philadelphia Eagles1991638.4490.7-147.765.6 TEAMENDING YEARSTARTINGENDINGDIFF.WIN % 8New Orleans Saints2012678.8851.0+172.356.3 3St. Louis Rams2000584.5785.6+201.143.8 11New Orleans Saints198248.632.1-16.525.3 13Green Bay Packers1983627.8785.9+158.250.0 10Kansas City Chiefs200657.440.4-17.050.0 14Baltimore Colts1971651.9494.5-157.466.1 24Pittsburgh Steelers1990688.1540.0-148.143.8 13Oakland Raiders200647.631.3-16.421.9 16Minnesota Vikings2006765.1609.1-155.943.8 Biggest two-year differences in total yards per game 18Cincinnati Bengals1995566.9721.3+154.431.3 10Kansas City Chiefs1975507.9674.5+166.646.4 TEAMENDING YEARSTARTINGENDINGDIFF.WIN% 21Minnesota Vikings199535.449.8+14.453.1 23Detroit Lions1995582.9732.0+149.162.5 2Atlanta Falcons1979463.4668.0+204.643.8 9Chicago Bears1995523.1694.7+171.650.0 15Atlanta Falcons1977619.5463.4-156.139.3 While yards and points are hardly perfect measures of performance, they do the job in this instance. Using Football Outsiders DVOA and Estimated DVOA, I measured similar swings in team imbalance — i.e., going from heavily slanted toward offense or defense in one season, and then the other way two years later — and the ’13/’15 Broncos also stood out as the most extreme team since 1970 by this measure. The ’82/’84 Dolphins had the fourth-largest swing using this methodology, behind the ’04/’06 Vikings and ’91/’93 Eagles.By any metric, Denver’s turn from an offensive powerhouse to a defensive colossus is among the most extreme makeovers since the merger. The only question left is whether the Broncos can avoid the fate suffered by those ’80s Dolphins teams: losing both Super Bowls, with the second game coming against a 17-1 team.Check out our live coverage of Super Bowl 50. 22Cincinnati Bengals198540.554.9+14.443.8
Kobe Bryant, coming off two major surgeries, made his return to the NBA Tuesday night, displaying flashes of the skill that has made him an all-time great — and an animus for center Dwight Howard, who bolted the Los Angeles Lakers for the Houston Rockets after one season.Bryant did not flinch when Howard elbowed him in the jaw with 7:07 left in the game of the Rockets’ blowout win in L.A. Rather, Bryant let out what he had been holding back for more than a year, telling Howard that he was “soft.”It happened when Howard leaped to grab a rebound, came down and had Bryant in his face. Howard swung his elbows, connecting with his left on Bryant’s jaw. Bryant called Howard “soft” as the players stood face to face. Howard pointed at Bryant and yelled something back as they were separated.Both were called for a technical foul. Howard also was called for a flagrant one foul and Bryant was called for a foul.After Howard made two free throws and Bryant made one of two, each took a seat on the bench.Howard had been booed unmercifully all night and it only increased during his altercation with Bryant.“They don’t like each other,” Lakers coach Byron Scott said.Said Bryant, smiling, in a back-handed compliment: “How can you not like (Howard)? He’s a big teddy bear.”Howard refused to be controversial.“What do y’all want me to say? I’m going to give y’all nothing. That’s stupid. We won the game. It’s over with. There’s no need to go into it. It’s about basketball.”
Welcome to Full Count, our new(!) weekly baseball column. Have anything you want me to write about? Email or tweet me at [email protected] or @Neil_Paine.With 14 wins and 8 losses, the Colorado Rockies are off to one of their best-ever starts to a season. They lead the NL West, and they’ve more than doubled their playoff odds since the preseason. (Their odds are now 34 percent, according to FiveThirtyEight’s MLB predictions.) For a franchise that’s made only three postseason appearances in 25 seasons, an April like this is enough to make fans storm the field in excitement. But to keep this hot streak going, the Rockies will have to break the curse of Coors Field — and not the one you hear about all the time.Coors Field is often discussed as a pitcher’s nightmare. That’s because baseballs don’t behave the same way in Denver’s thin air as they do at essentially every other major league park. They break less sharply, and they carry further when walloped; in turn, this leads to more hits, more homers and generally more run-scoring than usual.But the thankless task of high-altitude pitching isn’t what’s been holding Colorado back for the last quarter-century. Paradoxically, the Rockies have had a far bigger problem with their offense over their time in MLB — specifically, how their offense performs away from the launching pad of Coors Field. And it’s not clear if this road-hitting handicap is fixable, or whether it will always tug down on the franchise’s chances of success.One of the Rockies’ biggest challenges is simply making decisions based on the eye-popping numbers that get manufactured in Denver. But sabermetricians have developed ways to adjust for parks that boost or suppress scoring. According to Sean Lahman’s database, Coors Field’s park factor — a number that represents the percent change in run-scoring an average team would receive if it played all its home games at a given park — teams scored 48 percent more runs in Rockies home games from 1995 through 2001 than they would have in an average park. In 2002, a humidor was installed to make the ball less lively, and the park has toned things down since, boosting runs by 28 percent (still tops in MLB).So even though the Rockies have allowed more runs than any other team since they came into existence, their pitching should be judged relative to their environment. It begins to look better when we account for how many extra runs anybody would have given up under the same circumstances. Judging by wins above replacement (WAR)1Averaging together the Baseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs.com methods. — which is adjusted for park effects — Colorado’s staff has ranked in the top half of the major leagues 11 times in the 23 seasons2Including the 2017 season. since the team moved to Coors Field in 1995. And on the road, Rockies pitchers have pretty much been average since ’95 as well.Compare that with their position players, who since 1995 have finished among MLB’s bottom five in WAR more times (six) than they’ve ranked among its top half (five). A counterintuitive narrative starts to emerge: The problem isn’t the pitchers; it’s the hitters. STATS VS. FORMER TEAM RANKYEARSPLAYERFORMER TEAMPLATE APP.OPS Biggest OPS+ gaps between home and road games, 1995-present The two teams face off 16 more times this season, so Murphy and his revamped swing will have plenty more chances to abuse the team with which he spent the first seven seasons of his career.An intentional walk check-inAt the request of FiveThirtyEight political writer Harry Enten — who’s on record as hating MLB’s new intentional-walk rule almost as much as he despises the designated hitter — we’ll be periodically checking in on the state of free passes this season. Our first dispatch is a surprising one: Despite it being easier than ever to hand out a free base, intentional walks are actually down in the early going this season, dropping from 0.19 per game across MLB last year (itself an all-time low for a full season) to 0.17 thus far in 2017. Deliberate passes do tend to increase as the season goes on — presumably because in-game strategies take on more perceived importance as pennant races heat up, and because hitters have accumulated more stats with which to instill fear into opposing managers’ hearts — so it’s worth watching to see whether IBBs stay down. But for now, the instant gratification of automatically putting a man on base hasn’t resulted in more intentional walks. 1977Otto Velez0.7201.3970.727 At the core of the issue is this: Colorado’s hitters have scored an unbelievable 58 percent more runs per game at home than on the road since 1995, easily the biggest split in the majors. That might not be too distressing if the hitters were OK on the road and great at home. But instead they’re putrid on the road and just OK at home. Once we factor in the Coors boost, the Rockies have actually been a mediocre-hitting club at Coors since ’95 according to adjusted on-base plus slugging (OPS+), and they’ve been the very worst-hitting team in baseball on the road. They also see the biggest drop in batting effectiveness of any team in their away games.Maybe this means Coors’ park-factor calculation is broken, thrown off by the extreme behavior of baseballs in Denver. But if so, we don’t see much evidence of it in the rest of the Rockies’ stats. A comparison between NL road teams’ total runs per game at Coors Field and at other National League parks is almost perfectly consistent with Colorado’s long-term park factor. And since 1995, newly acquired Rockies pitchers have performed at a level very close to what we’d expect from their park-adjusted track records3According to the Marcel projections I ran, they produced about 0.07 more WAR per 150 innings than would have been expected — a difference of only about three-fifths of a win per season if such players made up an entire pitching staff. before arriving in Denver. Both of these findings are in line with what we’d expect to find if Colorado’s park factor was doing its job.More likely, the explanation is that there’s some kind of “Coors Field hangover” that leads to poor hitting performances for the Rockies when they’re away from Denver. But the big question is why — what causes the Rockies’ bats to be so ineffective at normal altitudes, even among hitters who’d been fine before donning purple-and-black uniforms?4When I ran the same projection test as above, but for batters, I found that new Colorado hitters have fallen short by more than 2.5 wins per season relative to what we’d expect from their park-adjusted projections.There aren’t a lot of great answers, although plausible theories do abound. Many have suggested that Colorado’s hitters have become so accustomed to seeing flattened-out pitches at home that they struggle to adjust against pitches that break normally on the road. However, FanGraphs’ Jeff Sullivan, writing for Fox Sports, found little evidence of that effect, at least in terms of something that wears off as a road trip goes on and batters adjust. If that is what’s going on, readjusting to normal breaking balls must require the long arc of an entire season — or multiple seasons. (Which would make sense, given the historical scale of Colorado’s road struggles.)Another hypothesis is that opposing hurlers know certain pitches aren’t as effective at Coors, so the mix of pitches they use in Denver might be different from what the Rockies see on the road. But although recent pitch-type split data is difficult to come by, this terrific piece of research by blogger-turned-analyst Bojan Koprivica showed that, while pitches do behave differently in the thin air, the Rockies’ opponents don’t tend to change the types of pitches they throw very much in response. (Incidentally, Koprivica’s article is one of the best pitch-level investigations into the Coors Field phenomenon that you’ll read.)One more theory supposes that a lineup built to succeed at Coors simply isn’t the type of lineup that scores runs in the average park. At home, the Rockies have focused on disciplined line-drive hitting spread over the whole field, taking advantage of the smaller range of pitch movement and higher batting average on balls in play caused by hitting at altitude. On the road, those same tactics simply haven’t worked.Whatever the cause, the Coors Field hangover doesn’t show many signs of letting up. Even now, the Rockies are hitting for an OPS nearly 170 points higher at home than on the road (though that’s slightly narrower than the gap has historically been). Old curses die hard.Can Eric Thames keep this up?Alongside old favorites Mike Trout and Bryce Harper, this season’s batting leaderboard is headlined by a surprising name: Milwaukee Brewers first baseman Eric Thames. Thames, who just set a franchise record with his 11th home run this month, currently sports a ridiculous 1.393 OPS — the 18th-best April mark in history,5Minimum 50 plate appearances. and one far better than might have been expected even after he lit up Korean baseball these past few seasons. (FanGraphs’ preseason depth charts called for him to record a .838 mark.) But how have other similar hot starters (those with at least a 1.380 April OPS) finished their seasons? OPS+ is a version of on-base plus slugging (OPS) adjusted for park factors and scaled so that average is 100. Data through April 24, 2017.Sources: Baseball-Reference.com, Lahman DB SEA10498+6 1983George Brett0.9051.4480.868 CIN10396+7 SFG109100+9 STL110101+8 12009-2016Matt HollidayCOL1701.149 1993Barry Bonds0.9541.4421.088 CHC10395+8 OAK10496+8 2012Matt Kemp0.8501.3830.778 YEARPLAYERPROJECTEDAPRILREST OF SEASON Best OPS when facing a franchise that the player previously played for (min. 90 plate appearances vs. former team). Data through April 24, 2017.Source: Baseball-Reference.com 2006Jason Giambi0.8671.4070.898 TBR10194+8 WSN10093+7 NYY110103+7 April’s hottest hitters, 1913-2017 BAL10495+9 HOU10695+11 ON-BASE PLUS SLUGGING ARI10092+8 KCR9489+6 CHW10395+8 CLE109101+8 PIT10191+10 2006Albert Pujols1.0521.4231.042 1959Hank Aaron0.9481.4830.990 MIL10296+6 COL10287+15 1970Tony Perez0.8361.4280.922 MIN10092+8 1966Frank Robinson0.8761.5611.007 52011-2017Mike NapoliANA2691.125 Thames is near the bottom of that group, but he’s still part of a club that mostly ended up hitting very well — and exceeding expectations — over the remainder of the schedule. Not every hot April leads to an amazing May and beyond, but it wouldn’t be shocking if Thames continues to hit well this season.Murphy mashes the Mets (again)The NL East’s supposedly marquee Washington Nationals-New York Mets rivalry hasn’t been much of a contest recently. Washington has won 15 of 22 meetings since the beginning of last season — outscoring New York 94-57 during that span — and a lot of the blame can be cast on ex-Met Daniel Murphy.Since leaving New York, Murphy is hitting .386 with an 1.148 OPS against his erstwhile teammates, including a grand slam in Sunday night’s nationally televised game. Going back to 1950, only one batter has killed his former team more than Murphy has been killing the Mets, according to his OPS against them: 1921Babe Ruth1.1881.4671.350 32001-2010Manny RamirezCLE2301.127 LAD10699+7 1981Ken Singleton0.8671.4980.701 TEX10596+9 TOR10395+8 DET10495+9 1922Ken Williams0.9101.3931.000 2004Barry Bonds1.2301.8281.354 1923Charlie Grimm0.7221.4160.822 2002Barry Bonds1.1231.4281.372 Average0.9081.4520.969 1977Ron Cey0.7971.4330.700 2017Eric Thames0.8381.393— ANA10398+5 61995-2005Larry WalkerMON2581.071 1958Bob Cerv0.7761.3920.921 OPS+ TEAMHOMEROADDIFF. Min. 1.380 OPS in 50 plate appearances. Projected OPS is generated using Marcel projection system, except for Thames, whose projection is FanGraphs’ preseason 2017 projection. Data through April 26, 2017.Sources: Baseball-Reference.com, Baseball Heat Maps NYM10299+2 ATL10499+5 SDP10697+10 1921High Pockets Kelly0.7481.3840.837 22016-2017Daniel MurphyNYM951.148 1997Larry Walker0.9391.4491.120 BOS109101+8 41993-2007Barry BondsPIT4111.127 1958Stan Musial0.9231.4420.888 71996-2003Darren BraggSEA991.056 81988-1994Dan PasquaNYY1491.050 92003-2016David OrtizMIN3211.044 FLA10495+8 102006-2011Milton BradleyCLE1051.042 PHI10396+6 The players who punished their former teams the most, 1950-2017
The NFL draft is a week away and players from Ohio are attempting to make their final impressions. On April 17, OhioCollegeFootball.com will host its first senior bowl for college athletes only in the state of Ohio. The North and South teams will play against one another to impress NFL scouts. “In this game, you are looking for exposure for your players,” said Andy Lewis, the head of a scouting agency Lewis Representation Services. “Any way that [the players] can increase their stock and get their names out to additional teams that might not be aware of who they are and what they can actually do is important.” Andre Amos will be the sole representative from Ohio State. Amos was plagued by injuries most of his college career. He recorded 24 tackles and one interception as a member of the winningest senior class in Ohio State history. The bowl game will feature 34 different schools from Ohio, ranging anywhere from D-1 to D-III football. The game will be played at 1 p.m. at Marv Moorehead Stadium at Upper Arlington High School.
Like a lot of Buckeye fans, I went through the five stages of grief during the men’s basketball team’s loss to Kentucky. Denial: “William Buford will hit a shot.” Anger: “It’s a good idea to launch a dozen napkins across this Buffalo Wild Wings.” Bargaining: “I will give up a year of my eligibility to give David Lighty a sixth year.” Depression: “Why was I born in Cleveland?” It took me a while to get here, but consider this column my final step: acceptance. It’s been a rough year for me as a sports fan. My teenage dream, LeBron James, stabbed my city, and me, in the heart. My favorite childhood team, the Cleveland Indians, is a disgusting representation of what it used to be. The best hope for Cleveland is the Browns. Enough said. Even my favorite shirt, my “In Tressel We Trust” tee, loses its meaning by the day. I leaned on the Ohio State basketball program, but naturally that didn’t work out. As I sit here in anguish, my delusional mind came to the conclusion that I’m better off for this in the long run. My loyalty continues to grow, and the abuse my teams take makes me even more defensive of them. Plus, if any of my teams can overcome all this adversity to win a championship, that’s a big middle finger to the karma gods — even bigger than the middle finger I gave that Kentucky fan Friday night. The epic way my teams falter makes me feel like a higher power has a clear agenda against them. As if the crippling economic depression, burning rivers, lack of sunlight and Lady Gaga concerts weren’t bad enough for my cities, it had to afflict the sports teams as well. Yet, it all emboldens me. After all the heartbreak, you’d think I would have learned not to latch on to every glimmer of hope. That’s just not how I operate. The Cavaliers have two lottery picks on the way. Derrick Williams and Kyrie Irving would look breathtaking in wine and gold. Fear not, as Mike Holmgren and Tom Heckert are here to rescue the Browns. The Indians might finish 81-81, baby steps. Of course, I always have the utmost confidence in OSU athletics, which are like a combination of Red Auerbach’s Boston Celtics and John Wooden’s UCLA teams relative to Cleveland. All it took was the football team’s 2002 national title to reach that level. To all the believers: When our day comes again — especially if it’s a Cleveland team winning — it will be a glorious celebration that would make the ancient Romans jealous. To all the nonbelievers: We should all follow your lead and get out while we can. I pray my stubbornness pays off down the line.
Ohio State (23-6, 11-1) is battling for a major conference win against the second-seeded Loyola-Chicago Ramblers (21-7, 9-3). On April 1, the Scarlet and Gray defeated Loyola-Chicago, 3-1, in Columbus to clinch the regular-season Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association title. At 7 p.m. Saturday in St. John Arena, the Buckeyes face the Ramblers in the MIVA Tournament finals. The Buckeyes weapon, redshirt senior Steven Kehoe, was named first team All-American by the American Volleyball Coaches Association. The top-seeded Buckeyes defeated the Lewis University Flyers in the semifinals Wednesday, and coach Pete Hanson said Lewis’ similarity to Loyola makes for a favorable matchup. “Loyola is pretty similar to these guys (Lewis),” he said. “They’re going rely on one or two guys, and if we can control those guys we’re going to be in good shape.” A win for OSU would mark its fourth consecutive MIVA Tournament Championship. OSU has faced Loyola twice this season, and both times, OSU won. In their first matchup March 5, the Buckeyes took first place in the MIVA, taking the victory in four sets. Redshirt senior Kevin Heine led the way with a team-high 18 points and a season-high 16 kills. Loyola-Chicago’s Joseph Smalzer led the match with 19 points. Kehoe’s 43 assists and three service aces led the match, and OSU posted an 11-2 margin in service aces. In their second meeting, Kehoe served for a career-high five aces, and Heine posted 10 assist blocks, which tied his career high for assists and total blocks that he set in 2008 against UC Irvine. Junior Mike Bunting led the Ramblers with 18 kills in Loyola’s 3-1 win against sixth-seeded Quincy in the MIVA Tournament semifinals. The Ramblers’ win marked their eighth win in their past 10 matches. “I think we came out with a lot of energy, and we have to do that again,” Kehoe said Wednesday. “We have to play together as a team and keep our confidence about us.” This tournament matchup is a chance for redemption for the Ramblers. Loyola faced OSU in last year’s MIVA Tournament Championship, and the Buckeyes came back from a 1-2 match score to beat the Ramblers, 3-2, in Columbus. “Game one we have to step it up — they’re going to be gunning for our throats,” junior opposite Shawn Sangrey said. “We have to play harder and we have to play like game two through four, starting in game one.” Saturday’s winner advances to the 2011 NCAA Final Four.
Senior forward Taylor Kuehl (6) fights for the puck during a game against Mercyhurst on Nov. 11 at the OSU Ice Rink. OSU lost, 3-0.Credit: Jon McAllister / Asst. photo editorRiding a three-game winning streak, the Ohio State women’s hockey team fell to No. 8 Mercyhurst, 3-0, Tuesday night.The Buckeyes have faced the Lakers three times in program history, going 1-2 over that trio of matchups. Despite failing to even the series record, OSU coach Nate Handrahan said he felt OSU matched up well with its opponent at the OSU Ice Rink.“Mercyhurst is No. 8 in the country and I think we played them pretty evenly scoring aside,” Handrahan said.Even though the team wasn’t pleased with the outcome, Handrahan said the loss gave the Buckeyes insight into where they stand.When the two teams met on Oct. 5, 2013, the game went into overtime to decide the winner. OSU won the game, 4-3, thanks to now-senior forward Taylor Kuehl, who netted the game-winning goal.The first period went by with no score, as freshman goalie Kassidy Sauve posted five saves.Senior defenseman Sara Schmitt said the first period was the highlight of the game for the Buckeyes and was where they played with the most energy.“First period went well but we kind of only played half the game, and you can’t win if you don’t play the whole game,” Schmitt said.In the second frame, the Lakers totaled eight penalty minutes while the Buckeyes added six. Mercyhurst capitalized on one of the Lakers power-plays to take the lead.Mercyhurst freshman forward Sarah Robello put a shot past Sauve’s stick side with 11:08 left in the second. Even though the Buckeyes outshot the Lakers, 8-6, the period ended with OSU down one.“Our low point was the middle of the second period we took some shifts off mentally and they capitalized on that,” senior forward Danielle Gagne said. “We stopped playing smart.”Skating onto the ice for the third period, the Lakers were playing with high energy. With 15:12 left in the period, the Buckeyes were on a two-minute power-play. Despite the man-up opportunity, OSU failed to put a goal on the board.Power-play effort is something Handrahan said he wasn’t pleased with.“Special teams, we’ve got to solve that issue, because right now it’s a major factor. If we get one on the five-on-three in the second period might be a different ball game,” Handrahan said. “We have to do some things to create opportunity.”After a penalty on both teams for roughing, the game picked up in physicality.A few minutes later, Luczak was taken out of the game. Referees called a five minute major penalty on the Mercyhurst player for game misconduct, for head contact to an OSU playerMercyhurst junior forward Jenna Dingeldein scored an empty net goal 19:30 into the third period, completing the scoring in the 3-0 shutout.The Buckeyes are scheduled to keep home ice this weekend for a series against Minnesota. The first game is scheduled for Friday at 6:07 p.m. The second tilt is scheduled for Saturday at 2:07 p.m at the OSU Ice Rink.
Ohio State senior guard Kelsey Mitchell takes a shot during the third quarter of the Buckeyes’ victory against Penn State on Jan. 31. Credit: James King | Sports DirectorIt seemed like the No. 16 Ohio State women’s basketball team had righted a sinking ship. After dropping three games in a row to No. 23 Michigan, No. 10 Maryland and Iowa, the Buckeyes responded with four straight victories in which they held opponents to fewer than 68 points. Redshirt senior guard Linnae Harper said the team used the losing streak as motivation and it showed in the past four games.But the only thing that showed during Ohio State’s game against South Florida Sunday afternoon was an overmatched Buckeye team getting beat in every phase of the game, resulting in an 84-65 loss.Ohio State (20-6, 9-3 Big Ten) has a prime chance to bounce back facing Illinois (9-17, 0-12 Big Ten), the lowest-ranked team in the Big Ten, at 8 p.m. Tuesday in Champaign, Illinois. Projected StartersOhio State:G — Asia Doss — Senior, 5-foot-7, 8.4 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 3.5 apgG — Kelsey Mitchell — Senior, 5-foot-8, 24.4 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 4.1 apgG — Linnae Harper — Redshirt senior, 5-foot-8, 15.1 ppg, 8.6 rpg, 2.5 apgG — Sierra Calhoun — Redshirt junior, 6-foot, 11.7 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 1.2 apgF — Stephanie Mavunga — Redshirt senior, 6-foot-3, 16.1 ppg, 10.7 rpg, 0.7 apgIllinois: G — Brandi Beasley — Sophomore, 5-foot-6, 11.8 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 3.6 apgG — Cierra Rice — Redshirt sophomore, 5-foot-9, 5.8 ppg, 2.4 rpg, 0.9 apgG — Kennedy Cattenhead — Redshirt senior, 5-foot-10, 5.4 ppg, 2.7 rpg, 0.5 apgF — Courtney Joens — Sophomore, 5-foot-10, 3.5 ppg, 1.8 rpg, 0.4 apgF — Alex Wittinger — Sophomore, 6-foot-1, 13.8 ppg, 8.5 rpg, 0.8 apgScouting IllinoisSimply put, Ohio State should crush Illinois. The Illini have not lost a conference game by fewer than eight points and do nothing that will scare Ohio State. Illinois has a minus-9.7 scoring margin, the worst in the Big Ten and 5.5 points worse than the second-lowest scoring margin.Opponents have a better shooting percentage from 3-point range (38.2) than the Illini have from the field (37.9 percent). That will pose a problem Tuesday night since the Buckeyes shoot more 3-pointers than any other team in the Big Ten. Four Ohio State guards — Asia Doss, Kelsey Mitchell, Linnae Harper and Sierra Calhoun — average at least 3.4 3-point attempts per game, and Mitchell broke the NCAA record for most career 3s attempted last game.Sophomore guard Brandi Beasley and sophomore forward Alex Wittinger have been the most consistent producers for Illinois. They are their team’s only two players who average more than 10 points per game. No one else scores more than seven points per game. But neither player should do much damage against Ohio State. Wittinger will need a big game for her team to hang with the Buckeyes, but she has scored at least 20 points just four times this season. Beasley shoots just 35.8 percent from the field and 25 percent from beyond the arc. Though Ohio State should easily leave Champaign, Illinois, with a victory against the Illini, it will be looking for certain areas of improvement.The Buckeyes have struggled rebounding this season, leading to teams dominating them with second-chance points. Last game, South Florida outrebounded Ohio State by 20.“Bad defense and rebounding for us usually run together. You’ll see us over-helping, which means we’re not blocking out,” Ohio State head coach Kevin McGuff said. “When we’re bad defensively, we’re usually bad on the boards as well because it usually means we’re not matched up with the right people.”Illinois has somehow struggled more on the boards. The Buckeyes average 0.2 more rebounds per game than their opponents, while the Illini average a 2.6-rebounding deficit, tied for last in the conference.Cinderella story?At the beginning of the year, Ohio State had Final Four dreams. Those aspirations have since taken a massive hit given its four losses in the past eight games. The dreams seem so far-fetched that Harper believes the team is seen as more of an outside contender“The good thing about it is we still have a lot of basketball to play and we still have a good chance to turn it around,” Harper said. “We can use it as motivation for our next game and try to come together as a team and hopefully make it a Cinderella story or something like that.”If anything, a team destined to be the subject of a Cinderella story certainly would have seemed to be the Ohio State men’s basketball team. But instead, the women’s team is searching for answers.As McGuff has said in the past, Ohio State just needs to get hot at the right time. But the slipper becomes a looser fit with each passing loss.
Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer answers questions during his first press conference back from suspension. Credit: Amal Saeed | Assistant Photo EditorGoing into Big Ten Media Days, Urban Meyer’s name meant many things.One of the winningest coaches of all-time, three-time national champion and the Ohio State head coach that brought the program back up following a 6-7 season in 2011.Now, less than two months later, Meyer’s name brings mostly one thing: controversy.“This is a window of time that I made an error,” Meyer said. “I’ll keep saying it, really, for the rest of my life — this was about trying to help a troubled employee with work-related issue.”That troubled employee is Zach Smith, the former wide receivers coach and recruiting coordinator who was fired on July 23 following allegations of domestic violence involving his ex-wife, Courtney Smith.Meyer, who also had Smith on staff during his tenure in Florida, hired Smith at Ohio State in 2012, keeping him on staff despite knowing about the allegations from 2009 and 2015.The lack of action Meyer took back then, along with his words at Big Ten Media Days, caused him to miss the first three games of the season from suspension.Meyer apologized for his answers at Media Days, and said that he had no intent of lying, that he misspoke after being ill-prepared for the questions on July 24.“I want to be really clear that there is zero intent to mislead,” Meyer said. “I did not answer questions with the accuracy that I should have.”But after eight weeks of allegations, statements on Twitter and a 12-hour meeting involving the fate of the coach that has led the Buckeyes to a 73-8 record in his tenure, Meyer’s record on the field has vanished from relevancy.Meyer said this is something with which he is struggling.“It’s tough to take. I’ve spent 30-plus years in coaching. Never been perfect. Tried extremely hard,” Meyer said. “I did not lie to the media. I did not do a very good job. Now everybody has a decision to make and a choice to make. I was very clear about why I was doing, why I said what I said. And I apologize for that. If that destroys a guy’s credibility, then I apologize for that.”At the press conference on Monday, Meyer’s first appearance since his suspension on Aug. 22, the head coach answered questions for 56 minutes, with the focus rarely reaching the subject of football.The topics Meyer discussed went from his knowledge of the Zach Smith case, to if he lied at Media Days, to if he regrets his decisions from the past and to what he can do to avoid this happening again.Now, after a coaching career with more acclaim than almost any before him, Meyer’s reputation remains tarnished, and could continue to be tarnished for the foreseeable future.“I’m hoping that people listen. And I can only say the truth. I can only let you know. I’d like to say over 30 years that I — I have been accused of helping players too much, giving them too many opportunities. That’s an accusation I accept,” Meyer said. “I understand that this will take time. Maybe never. But that’s my job in a press conference like this.”Meyer takes back the role from acting head coach and offensive coordinator Ryan Day, and he returns to an Ohio State team that is 3-0 with a win against a ranked opponent.But, much like the press conference, the focus won’t be on football for Tulane. Instead, it will be on the 56 minutes Meyer used answering questions on everything that has diminished his reputation that was once focused on a team striving for a championship a mere two months before.
A 16th century Buckinghamshire pub made famous by the visit of China’s President Xi Jinping and then Prime Minister David Cameron has been bought by a major Chinese firm.The two politicians visited The Plough – a rural tavern in Cadsden near the official country retreat used by British prime ministers – for a fish and chip supper and a pint in October 2015.The establishment then became so famous in China it is now to become the model for a chain of British pubs in the People’s Republic. The two men were seen eating fish and chips and drinking beerCredit: PA The pub’s website describes it as “probably the most famous pub in England”Credit:INS Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings. The pub’s owner, Steve Hollings, told the Morning Advertiser President Xi had sent him an email “thanking him, and saying that he enjoyed the meal and drink in the pub”.The pub’s website describes it as “probably the most famous pub in England” as well as being “the pub of choice of prime ministers for many decades”.Edward Heath was once photographed drinking a pint on his way back to Chequers, while the building has also appeared in an episode of the TV series Midsomer Murders.It also gained attention four years ago when Mr Cameron and his wife Samantha drove off after a Sunday drink in the beer garden, accidentally leaving behind their daughter, Nancy. Although the pub was not for sale, state-backed enterprise SinoFortone, which has spent billions on British projects, reportedly contacted the pub’s agents after the state visit.And it has now reportedly been sold for around £2million.Neil Morgan, the Christie & Co director behind the sale told the Morning Advertiser: “We are really pleased to have completed the sale of the Plough to SinoFortone Investment.“The pub became famous in Chinese circles following the visit of President Xi Jinping, and it has become quite a tourist attraction for Chinese visitors since, who are keen to sample the classic British food and beer that the president tried.” Peter Zhang, the managing director of SinoFortone, said: “We are so excited about this new adventure. The English pub concept is growing very fast in China, and it’s the best way culturally to link people from different countries and build friendships. We see bigger opportunities where we believe we could also export the UK brand internationally.”SinoFortone is also involved in the new London Paramount theme park development and the proposed Crossrail 2 route through London.