The Chicago Blackhawks are up 1-0 in the Western Conference finals going into Game 2 against the Los Angeles Kings Wednesday night, thanks in part to the outstanding performance of their goaltender, Corey Crawford.The notion that the NHL playoffs are about which goalie catches fire at the right time has been repeated to the point of cliché. But that doesn’t make it untrue. As I wrote at the beginning of this year’s playoffs, save percentage is more important than shots per game, shooting percentage or shots allowed. Strong play in net may be highly unpredictable in the sense that we don’t really know which goalie is going to rattle off a dominant run, but it’s also hugely important for a team seeking to hoist the Stanley Cup.We can measure how “hot” an NHL goalie has been in the playoffs by comparing his postseason performance (measured by save percentage) to what we would have expected from his previous statistics and the strength of the teams he’s faced. To approximate a goalie’s current talent level, I modified baseball’s Marcel projection system to predict hockey goaltending save percentages. I used a weighted average of the goalie’s previous three regular seasons, with a little regression to the mean incorporated as well. Then, using Hockey-Reference.com data on playoff games going back to 1988, I plugged the goalie’s talent level and the regular-season shooting percentages of the teams he faced during the playoffs into a formula attempting to predict how well he would play in a given playoff game.The difference between this expected performance and the goalie’s actual performance is “hotness” quantified, and we can even convert that number into a goals saved above replacement (GAR) figure using the league average save percentage within a given postseason.This year, a couple of goaltenders have emerged as the clear-cut top candidates for the title of “hottest of the playoffs.”The Blackhawks’ Crawford has delivered about 8.6 more GAR than expected. He’s posted a .933 save percentage; we would have predicted a mark of .912. His save percentage was only a little bit better than average during the regular season, and while his current foes, the Los Angeles Kings, shot poorly during the regular season, Chicago’s prior playoff adversaries, the Minnesota Wild and the St. Louis Blues, were both above-average shooting teams.Also vying for the title is the New York Rangers’ Henrik Lundqvist, who has produced 8.4 more GAR than expected during these playoffs. Lundqvist’s previous record suggested he’d be very good in the postseason, but he’s gone up against a tough slate of accurately shooting teams. The Montreal Canadiens and Philadelphia Flyers both shot the puck well in the regular season, and the Pittsburgh Penguins were the fifth-best shooting team in the NHL. Against all of them, Lundqvist has a .934 save percentage, compared to an expected .915.The goaltenders for the other two of hockey’s final four teams haven’t been quite as hot. Carey Price of the Montreal Canadiens has contributed only 2.3 more GAR than expected, putting up a .919 save percentage against an expectation of .913. And he’s out for the remainder of Montreal’s series against the Rangers with an injury. Price’s backups, Dustin Tokarski and Peter Budaj, have collectively put up 5.1 fewer GAR than expected, thanks to a combined save percentage (.836) about 84 percentage points lower than we would have predicted. In the Western Conference, Kings goalie Jonathan Quick has essentially played right to expectation with a .912 save percentage. That’s been good enough for the Kings to get the job done (if barely), but it won’t win him any hot goaltending awards.It bears repeating, though, that all of this is retrospective. Crawford and Lundqvist have been outstanding so far, but there’s a fickle corollary to the hot goalie theory: Today’s hot goalie isn’t guaranteed to be a success tomorrow.
Alex Rodriguez has been in a worldwind, and not a good one. He’s been benched by New York Yankees manager Joe Giradi, which is bad enough. Now comes word that he tried to pick up a woman during Game 1 of the series against the Detroit Tigers and that he could be trade fodder for the Miami Marlins. And you thought you had a bad week.New broke via The New York Post late Wednesday that Rodriguez, who had been removed from the game for a pinch hitter in Game 1 of the ALCS, had written a note on the ball in search of a woman’s phone number and had a ball boy deliver it to the fan. The newspaper identified the women as Kyna Treacy, an Australian bikini model, who was with her friend Kate Quinn.“It’s true,” the team source was quoted by the newspaper. “It was witnessed in the dugout. The whole thing is true.” When asked about the Post report Tuesday, Rodriguez told ESPNNewYork.com’s Wallace Matthews, “Don’t believe any of that (expletive).”Meanwhile, it is somewhat ironic that a joke between Yankees’ president Randy Levine and Miami Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria evolved into the serious discussions about the slumping third baseman being traded to the Marlins.Levine and Loria discussed the possibility of A-Rod playing in Miami, his hometown, according to ESPN, but characterized it as a joke between old friends.According to the source, Loria said, “Alex is Mr. Miami, it would be great if he played here for us.”To which Levine is said to have replied, “You can have him.”A second source with knowledge of Rodriguez’ thinking said the likely only place Rodriguez eventually would accept a trade to is Miami. Rodriguez has five years and $114 million remaining on his contract, not including milestone home run bonuses. He also has veto power over any trade.The conversation between the Yankees and Marlins initially was reported by Keith Olbermann on his MLB.com “Nerd Blog.” Variety also reported the news.Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said he has had no trade talks regarding Rodriguez with anyone and described the first report as “false.”Levine refused to comment on the conversation with Loria, and when asked if he would look to shop Rodriguez in the offseason, he said, “That’s something we would need to discuss.”Appearing Sunday on Ian O’Connor’s show on ESPN New York 98.7 FM, Levine told O’Connor the following regarding A-Rod’s future as a Yankee:“That’s like one of those questions: Where’s the stock market going to be in 2017? Who’s going to be president on Nov. 15?” he said. “If I had a crystal ball to predict all of that stuff, I’d be a lot smarter than I am. I’m not going to go there.”Rodriguez has been marginalized in the Yankees’ lineup this postseason. He is 3 for 23, including 0 for 18 with 12 strikeouts against right-handers, and repeatedly has been benched and pinch hit for in the playoffs. Rodriguez was benched for the third time this postseason in Game 4 of the ALCS on Wednesday night.“For all our fan base: Let’s root for Alex, the contract is what it is, and he’s there, and we hope he gets hot,” Levine told O’Connor. “It’s part of what we deal with all the time, just like any other contract.”
Aaron Hernandez has finally been indicted for first-degree murder in the death of Odin Lloyd, a friend whose lifeless body was found just a mile from the former New England Patriots player’s house.Lloyd was in a relationship with the sister of Hernandez’s fiancee.The grand jury not only indicted Hernandez with killing the 27-year-old semiprofessional football player from Boston, but also on five weapons counts, according to the Fall River division of Bristol County Superior Court.The former NFL tight end pleaded not guilty to murder and weapons charges, and he is currently being held at Bristol County Jail without bail. Hernandez lawyers insist that the prosecutors don’t have any evidence and say the case against their client is circumstantial. The lawyers also said that they are confident Hernandez will be found not guilty.Last summer, Hernandez signed a new $40 million contract with the Patriots. The team released him upon finding out about his arrest on June 26.Hernandez could be sentenced to life in prison if he’s convicted.
TeamElo RatingWinsLossesRun Diff.Make PlayoffsWin DivisionWin World Series Avg. Simulated SeasonChance to… Twins15108379+2036152 Team ¯\_(ツ)_/¯: Los Angeles Angels. The Angels have been stuck behind somebody in this division for most of Mike Trout’s stellar career, whether it be the Rangers and A’s early on or the Astros most recently. This season is supposed to be the start of something different, from the signing of Japanese two-way sensation Shohei Ohtani (more on him later) to other solid, under-the-radar pickups such as Ian Kinsler and Zack Cozart. Still, the forecast systems aren’t totally sure what to make of the Halos yet, penciling them in for win totals between the upper 70s and mid-80s. The best-case scenarios there probably won’t be enough to run down the Astros, but they might just be enough to snag the Angels a wild-card berth.Rebuild alert: Oakland A’s, Texas Rangers. Billion-Dollar Billy Beane and the Athletics have been rebuilding ever since going for broke (and coming up short) in the 2014 season. That probably won’t change this year, even though Oakland’s farm system is improving and showed some signs of life at the MLB level last season. Perhaps more interesting is the question of whether Texas will also commit to resetting things this season. If you squint, you can see the potential for a bounce-back Rangers season behind an overhauled pitching staff; easier to see, though, is the potential for another frustrating summer in Arlington.Player to watch: Mike Trout, Angels. I wanted to choose someone else here, I really did. But Trout is still the “player to watch” among any group of players you might ponder watching. Sadly, after last season’s campaign was limited by injury, he is no longer able to say he was the best player (by WAR) for any age at which he played a full season. (Ty Cobb finally got his revenge!) But Trout played so well when he was healthy that he may be primed for a comeback season for the ages. (Note: He was still the fifth-best player in baseball last season despite missing about 50 games.) Keeping tabs on Trout and his statistical feats is a duty — and joy — that falls on the shoulders of every baseball fan.Biggest enigma: Shohei Ohtani, Angels. Ohtani came to the U.S. with immense expectations, and it would be unrealistic to expect him to deliver an instant payoff — particularly as the first legitimate hitter/pitcher in decades. All rookies need time to adjust, especially one who’s in a new country, facing a completely different style of opponent. That said, Ohtani has been unable to pitch or hit effectively this spring. His numbers have been so poor that analysts are wondering if he should make the team. Even that is a testament to his talent — who else’s spring stats are getting this much scrutiny? — but it also might make Ohtani the most uncertain player in the major leagues this season.Read our National League preview, and check out our latest MLB predictions. It’s opening week in the major leagues, and that means it’s time to catch up on what’s been happening in baseball over this very odd offseason — and time to look forward to the season ahead. To do that, we’ve enlisted the help of our preseason forecasting model (publishing Wednesday), which assesses every team and offers a projection for their 2018 campaign. I’ve also gone through and 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)_/¯) Play ball! Orioles14757290-8493<1 Athletics14907686-47166<1 Yankees15659567+12574%48%10% How Elo is forecasting the AL East race Avg. Simulated SeasonChance to… AL CentralTeam to beat: Cleveland Indians. With a 79 percent chance of winning the Central, Cleveland is our model’s strongest division favorite for 2018. Sure, the Tribe lost a few recognizable names (Carlos Santana, Jay Bruce) over the winter, and this year’s roster is probably not as talented as the version that snapped off a 22-game winning streak last August and September. But they still boast ace starter Corey Kluber (whom FanGraphs projects to be the most valuable pitcher in baseball), ace fireman Andrew Miller (projected as the fourth-most valuable reliever in baseball) and a bevy of dangerous hitters (such as Edwin Encarnacion, Jose Ramirez and Francisco Lindor). There’s more than enough talent here for the Indians to comfortably claim another division crown. How Elo is forecasting the AL West race Team ¯\_(ツ)_/¯: Minnesota Twins. The range of predictions for the Twins is actually quite small: From Vegas to the computers, most forecasters basically call for Minnesota to win 82 or 83 games this year. But that’s a little difficult to reconcile with the team’s 85-win season a year ago and the flurry of improvements it made in the offseason — to say nothing of the ongoing strides expected from its core. It wouldn’t be surprising at all if the Twins end up beating that projection.Rebuild alert: Chicago White Sox, Detroit Tigers, Kansas City Royals. One of the big reasons that Cleveland is such a strong favorite in this division — and why the Twins can be optimistic, too — is that the Central is home to numerous, um, “rebuilding” efforts. The White Sox have been engaging in one of the most extreme multi-year teardowns ever and probably won’t begin to emerge from it until next season. The Tigers finally admitted to themselves that their early-2010s heyday was over and became sellers at last year’s trade deadline. The Royals are just now embarking on a reboot of their own. This division might be formidable in several years as a result of the tank-fest, but for now it contains a bunch of teams that aren’t even trying to compete.Player to watch: Jose Ramirez, Indians. Ramirez turned in a perfectly solid 2016 season manning third base for the AL champion Tribe, hitting .310 during the World Series. But he vaulted himself into another stratosphere last year — and squarely into the MVP conversation — with a .318/.374/.583 batting line and plus defense. Cleveland’s chances won’t hinge on him repeating those numbers, but in his age-25 season, it should be fun to see if Ramirez can keep up his ascent.Biggest enigma: Lucas Giolito, White Sox. As a rookie with Washington in 2016, Giolito struggled horribly, posting a 6.75 ERA in 21.1 innings with a shockingly poor 8.21 fielding-independent pitching (FIP). Then he was shipped to Chicago as part of the Adam Eaton deal — and, superficially, the change in scenery helped: Giolito bounced back in 2017 with a far healthier 2.38 ERA. Trouble is, he also benefited from allowing an unsustainably low .189 batting average on balls in play, masking a FIP that remained pretty unimpressive. The former first-round pick and top-five prospect still has plenty of potential, but nobody is really sure what kind of season to expect from him in 2018. Astros15779765+15181%66%14% AL WestTeam to beat: Houston Astros. The defending world champs also enjoyed one of the better offseasons of any team when they hauled in starting pitcher Gerrit Cole from the Pirates in a January trade. Now Houston boasts a deep rotation with Cole, Justin Verlander and Dallas Keuchel (among others), plus it hung on to practically all of the cogs in an offensive machine that led the majors with 896 runs scored last season. While no favorite is unbeatable — the Astros finished third in the division as recently as 2016 — anyone other than Houston winning the West would be a stunning development. Avg. Simulated SeasonChance to… Indians15769963+17488%79%14% TeamElo RatingWinsLossesRun Diff.Make PlayoffsWin DivisionWin World Series Red Sox15499171+8961336 Tigers14496894-12342<1 Blue Jays15078181-227102 Team ¯\_(ツ)_/¯: Tampa Bay Rays. The Rays have had a pattern of up-and-down seasons in recent years, and the projections don’t quite know what to do with them this year, either. If you ask PECOTA, Tampa could potentially factor into the playoff mix; if you ask the Las Vegas books, it might sink down into the basement of the East. Our model basically splits the difference and calls for the Rays to post 78 wins.Rebuild alert: Baltimore Orioles. Going into the spring, O’s GM Dan Duquette scoffed at the notion of rebuilding. But he may have no choice with Adam Jones, Manny Machado and Zach Britton all up for free agency after the season. If the Orioles falter early — and our projections don’t see much hope for them this year — Baltimore could be due for a fire sale.Player to watch: Mookie Betts, Red Sox. Two seasons ago, Betts was the American League’s most valuable player not named after a freshwater fish, but last year his production was down amid a power outage and a 54-point drop in batting average. The difference between an MVP-caliber Betts and a merely pretty-good version might be the margin in this division race; Boston fans should be encouraged by Betts’s strong finish last September and outstanding numbers this spring.Biggest enigma: Aaron Judge, Yankees. Judge’s roller-coaster 2017 season was remarkable enough on its own. But add his terrible debut season in 2016, and it becomes almost impossible to predict how Judge will perform in 2018. The projections that FanGraphs lists are all over the map, from 3.8 wins above replacement on the low side to 6.2 WAR on the upper end. (And remember, he had 8.2 last year.) Judge could be great again, or he could just be good — we really have no idea yet. TeamElo RatingWinsLossesRun Diff.Make PlayoffsWin DivisionWin World Series White Sox14577092-10462<1 How Elo is forecasting the AL Central race AL EastTeam to beat: New York Yankees. Our simulations show the AL East as the tightest division battle of the 2018 season, but we’re giving the Yankees a slight advantage over the Boston Red Sox here. While both teams used the winter to put more distance between themselves and the rest of the division — New York added Giancarlo Stanton and Boston signed J.D. Martinez — the Yankees still appear to have the edge in bullpen depth and marquee talent. (And don’t forget about their impressive farm pipeline; touted infield prospect Gleyber Torres could make an impact before the season is done.) That said, we also give Boston a 61 percent chance of making the playoffs, so this renewed rivalry might well extend into October either way. Angels15108181-427112 Mariners15088082-726102 Rangers14977884-291971 Rays14957884-321961 Royals14597092-10172<1
Considering everything that had taken place earlier in the series, it would’ve been hard to imagine the Rockets having a better start than the one they had in Monday’s Game 7.About midway through the second quarter, Houston had held Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and Draymond Green to 1-of-7, 2-of-6 and 2-of-6 shooting from the field, respectively. Klay Thompson opened the game hot — and was 4-of-5 from the field — but his effectiveness was dulled to some extent because he’d uncharacteristically landed three fouls in the first four minutes of action, forcing Steve Kerr to yank him early. Meanwhile, Houston found a comfort zone from deep, hitting 6 of 13 threes. And even when the Rockets misfired, they often outworked Golden State, strong-arming offensive boards on nine of their 19 missed shots.Houston had a 42-30 lead with 6:13 to go in the half as likely league MVP James Harden ducked behind a Clint Capela screen for a 3-point try over the outstretched arm of Green. The shot, a miss, didn’t seem significant in that moment. But what would follow — 26 more missed threes in a row, the longest stretch of missed triples in NBA postseason history — turned out to be one of the biggest outliers in recent memory, one that will haunt the title-worthy Rockets now that they’ve been taken out by a Warriors team that they had right where they wanted.So how unbelievable was it that Houston missed that many threes — many of which were wide open — in a row? To get a better sense, FiveThirtyEight leaned on Quantified Shot Probability (qSP) data — used to weigh the likelihood of a shot going in depending on who’s taking it, how close the nearest defender is to the shot, and how quickly that player is closing out — from Second Spectrum and NBA Advanced Stats, which use high-level cameras to track on-court movement.By using that metric — and looking at the probability of each individual shot’s chance of going down, from Harden’s 33 percent hoist that began the drought to his 31.6 percent chance on the last shot of the dry spell — we can conclude that the Rockets embarked on an approximately 1-in-72,000 cold streak from deep at the worst possible time, with a trip to the Finals on the line.As much of this was happening during the third period, a span in which Houston went 0-of-14 from deep, the Warriors were doing what they do best: staging a massive comeback after halftime. Specifically, Curry caught fire after the break for the second straight game (albeit in controversial, illegal-screen fashion at times), hitting 4-of-5 from 3-point range in the third. He and Durant combined for 24 in the period, a span in which the duo outscored the entire Rockets team by nine.Houston had overcome Golden State’s Mario Star-like third period earlier in the series during Game 4. But without any juice from the Rockets’ trademark long-distance shooting, the Warriors pulled ahead and stayed there for good, earning a fourth consecutive Finals trip.But given that many saw Houston as the club with the best chance to take down Golden State (the oddsmakers have the Warriors as enormous favorites over the Cavs), that confounding stretch of missed threes — which lasted half the game, from the 6:13 mark of the second quarter all the way until the 6:28 mark of the fourth — will be talked about for a long time.What could possibly cause a team to go that cold? Some would point to tired legs, particularly since coach Mike D’Antoni had been using a short rotation — somewhat out of necessity, since future Hall of Famer Chris Paul was out. But the dry spell was also related to matchups. Case in point: D’Antoni avoided using the slow-footed Ryan Anderson for the vast majority of the series. But when he dusted him off and played him Monday, Curry nearly brought Anderson to his knees on D, and Houston got outscored by 12 points in Anderson’s 8 minutes on the court — keep in mind, the final margin in the game was nine.Many probably asked a totally logical question in all this: Why wouldn’t the Rockets just temporarily abandon their reliance on the 3-ball since they couldn’t make anything from outside? Yes, this team took triples at a historic rate — the first ever to attempt more three-pointers than twos — but putting the ball on the floor to get looks from closer in seemed sensible.Doing that would have a been a little bit easier said than done for two reasons. First, without Paul, the Rockets were missing their most reliable midrange player, someone who at times had his way against the Jazz in the second-round series because of his ability to neutralize a club that was generally happy surrender that sort of lower-percentage look.Beyond that, Harden and the Rockets might not have been confident that they’d earn trips to the line by merely being more aggressive. In Game 6, for instance, Harden drove to the cup a game-high 21 times, according to NBA Advanced Stats. Yet he didn’t draw a single free-throw attempt from those drives. (Green told reporters after the game that they expected Harden to wear down late in the contest from having to create so much offense in Paul’s absence. Whether that expectation was valid or not, Harden shot 6-of-25, or 24 percent, from 3-point range over the last two games of the series.)In an era where so many thought this Warriors’ team was untouchable, Houston managed to push Golden State to the brink. With a healthy Paul, maybe they would have won and taken down a team that’s still seeking to go down as the greatest to ever play the sport.Houston’s Gerald Green was asked to describe his feelings after the tough loss. “Heartbroken,” he told reporters. Asked to expand beyond that single word, he responded, “Heart. Broken.”The cost of coming that close and falling short. The cost of arguably the wildest drought we’ve ever seen.Check out our latest NBA predictions.CORRECTION (May 29, 2018, 1:20 p.m.): A previous version of this story mistakenly said Curry and Durant outscored the Rockets by 10 points in the third quarter. The duo outscored Houston by nine.
For Ohio State football, it doesn’t get much better than what happened inside The Horseshoe on Saturday. The Buckeyes beat their archrival, on Senior Day, in front of 105,000-plus screaming fans, to finish the season undefeated. As the final seconds ticked off the clock, handing OSU a 26-21 victory against Michigan and securing a 12-0 record, scarlet and gray clad enthusiasts rushed the field, surrounding Buckeye players and coaches as they joyously – and slowly – made their way to the locker room. For first-year coach Urban Meyer, and the rest of Buckeye Nation, the 2012 season was about as good as it gets. Until next year, anyway. Yes, the 2012 season was great. Perfect, in a sense. But due to NCAA sanctions caused by “Tattoo-Gate,” the Buckeyes are banned from the postseason. OSU’s year ended after the Michigan game. No Big Ten Championship Game. No shot at playing for a national championship, either. There is no postseason ban for the 2013 season, and the foundation has been set in Columbus to win championships. OSU is expected to return 9 of 11 starters next year from an offense that averaged 37.1 points per game this season. Sophomore quarterback Braxton Miller is likely to be a Heisman Trophy front-runner in 2013. Redshirt junior running back Carlos Hyde, who rushed for 146 yards and a touchdown against the Wolverines, is “developing into one of the best backs in the country,” according to Meyer. On defense, the Buckeyes lose a bevy of senior leaders and playmakers, including defensive ends John Simon and Nathan Williams, and linebackers Zach Boren and Etienne Sabino. Junior defensive tackle Jonathan Hankins and redshirt sophomore cornerback Bradley Roby could leave for the NFL as well. But sophomore linebacker Ryan Shazier, a Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year candidate this season, returns. So do both starting safeties, freshman defensive linemen Adolphus Washington, Noah Spence and Tommy Schutt. The senior class, which Meyer refers to as the “most selfless group I’ve ever been around,” will not be easy to replace. But the Buckeyes experienced a great deal of success in 2012, and the large amount of players that are coming back are anxious to experience it again. “I’m hoping the guys get that taste and they want to do it again. Because once you taste (success), it tastes really good. And the foundation, I think, is strong,” Meyer said after the game Saturday. OSU will celebrate what it achieved this season, and deservedly so. But many underclassmen are already excited for next September. “We’re just glad that the team got to feel what it’s like to be 12-0 so next year, we’re just as hungry in the offseason to get there again,” said junior wide receiver Corey Brown. Because of the postseason ban, OSU players didn’t get everything they said they feel they deserved this year. In 2013, there will be no sanctions holding them back, and they’re looking forward to it. “We’re just going to come out hungry next year though, to get what we were supposed to get this year,” Hyde said. As for Meyer, he is really only getting started. He’s been at the helm of the OSU football program for roughly 12 months, and in that time, turned a 6-7 team in turmoil into a 12-0 team on the upswing. He’s starting to get “his guys” into the program – players that he recruited, not past OSU coaches. The freshman class, which Meyer was largely responsible for, played a big role this season. Washington had a sack and a forced fumble Saturday, while Schutt and Spence were in on numerous third-down situations, often forcing Michigan’s quarterbacks out of the pocket. Meyer said there were a “bunch of recruits in the meeting room again,” after the game. His 2013 class is ranked in the top 10 in the country by multiple sites. And while many criticized OSU’s schedule this season, 2013 could be easier. Michigan State and Nebraska are off the schedule, and replaced with Northwestern and Iowa, who went a combined 13-11 this year. The biggest non-conference game is likely to be at California, which recently fired its coach Jeff Tedford. OSU is likely to be favored in all of its regular season games next season. If all goes well for the Buckeyes in 2013, they could be riding a 23-game win streak when they arrive to Ann Arbor, Mich., on November 30, 2013. In all, Meyer’s first year in Columbus seemed to go as well as could have been planned. Such success, though, likely has amplified expectations, and possibilities, for the future. “I’m ready to go right now. I’m ready to get back into the off-season, working out and preparing for next season,” Hyde said. “I can’t wait.”
Referees have never been perfect — they are not perfect now, and they never will be. The nature of the job lends itself to occasional mistakes.Especially at full speed, how is an individual expected to get every single call correct? At the end of the day, they simply cannot.The New England Patriots lost to the Carolina Panthers, 24-20, Monday after what is being referred to as a “questionable” call on the game’s final play.Considering the media reaction, I am slightly surprised the entire state of Massachusetts has not broken into a full-fledged riot. Not only did starting quarterback Tom Brady track down the officials after the play to complain, but his backup Ryan Mallett tried to get in on the action as well.When you see players, especially one as well respected around the league as Brady, complaining like that, one can only imagine the words coming out of the mouths of fans that watched the game.Patriots fans should be thankful they are not Green Bay Packers fans. During the infamous replacement ref period of the 2012 NFL season, the Packers lost to the Seattle Seahawks Sept. 24, 2012, after fill-ins awarded Seattle a touchdown on the game’s final play. Not only should the ruling have been an interception in favor of the Packers, but the refs also missed an indisputable pass interference call.Every team, athlete and fan has found themselves on the “wrong” side of a “poor” call at some point. It is part of the game, not something that should be welcomed, but must be accepted.At the end of the 2002-03 football season, Ohio State won the National Championship after a late flag saved the Buckeyes’ lives and gave them another chance. The Miami Hurricanes were already celebrating when the yellow speck flew across the screen, signaling Glenn Sharpe for pass interference against Chris Gamble in the end zone.You can find Hurricanes fans complaining to this day, but the call happened, the game eventually ended, and OSU won. Still, almost 11 years later complaints can be heard, but that was a championship game, not a random regular season game moving their record to 7-3, which is now where the Patriots’ sit.New England fans have to take some perspective when looking at the call — it was questionable, not wrong. The call could have easily gone either way, and there is no way to prove the Patriots would have won the game had they received a favorable decision.Much worse things have happened in sports.In 1990 Colorado received a fifth down, allowing them to beat Missouri 33-31. At the 1972 Olympics, the Soviet basketball team was magically awarded extra time, leading to the United States’ first loss in the sport’s Olympic history.At the end of the day, the call in Monday’s Patriots-Panthers game might have been wrong, but it happened. The complaints need to end, especially since the game is mostly insignificant.Questionable calls are a part of sport, and they will be forever. While that is not a good thing, it has to be accepted. Repeated complaints do no good for anyone and simply act as an annoyance to the outside world.
Then-sophomore cornerback Armani Reeves prepares for a play during a game against Florida A&M Sept. 21 at Ohio Stadium. OSU won, 76-0.Credit: Kaily Cunningham / Multimedia editorIt was Bradley Roby and Doran Grant.Heading into last football season, the cornerback position at Ohio State had been decided — there were no ifs, ands or buts about it. Then-redshirt-junior Roby had earned his spot the season before and then-junior Grant was tapped to replace Travis Howard in the lineup.But on July 21, a wrench was thrown into that plan. With Roby facing charges of misdemeanor battery in Monroe County, Ind., someone had to step up and take his place in the starting lineup as he served his one-game suspension from coach Urban Meyer.That player was Armani Reeves. The then-sophomore cornerback made his first career start against Buffalo Aug. 31 in a 40-20 win.Although Reeves didn’t see much of the field for much of the remainder of the season — he was forced to watch from the bench behind Roby in the depth chart — he heads into the 2014 season, alongside Grant, as one of the two expected starters at corner.“I feel ready,” Reeves said Thursday. “I feel confident. I think that’s half the battle when you’re corner, just know that you can do the jobs … I’m going to play with confidence and I know I can do this job, so I’m not worried at all.”Starting three games last season — against Buffalo, San Diego State Sept. 7 and Clemson in the 2014 Discover Orange Bowl Jan. 3 — Reeves recorded 16 solo tackles last season and had an interception.Reeves returns to a unit that lost Roby as well as safeties Christian Bryant and C.J. Barnett, a unit that finished the year ranked 112th in the country in pass defense.But Reeves said he feels he has fit into the starting line well, and knows his teammates have confidence in him to replace Roby.“I feel like they see a good side of me. I try to be a nice person so that helps,” Reeves said. “We’re all working really hard, and when you have confidence in each other that just makes a defense that much better … When I have confidence in the D-line and they have confidence in me, that makes it so much easier to do your job.”Reeves added that poor numbers from last season will serve as a drive to improve for the Buckeyes in the upcoming season.“I wouldn’t say it hurts, I would say it motivates us,” Reeves said. “Obviously everybody knows the pass defense last year, it had its ups and downs. This year we’ve got a fresh start and we’re going to come out hungry. Only thing that can do is to motivate you to play better than you did last year.”Cornerbacks coach Kerry Coombs said Reeves will be successful because he works harder than anybody else on the field, going as far as to say Reeves “became the standard.”“Anybody that’s watched him play … You never have a question about how hard he’s going to go,” Coombs said. “So he’s already got that, and what a great thing for him. Right? So when I walk into my meeting room and I say, ‘OK, who’s the hardest playing guy in this room?’ Day one, that’s what I asked my guys in my unit, and they all said ‘Armani.’”Like many of the other players, Reeves is having to make the transition from a member of the younger group to a seasoned veteran who has more responsibility on his shoulders this year.In years past, Reeves said Roby was the person he always looked to, but now he has to teach some of the lessons the NFL-bound cornerback taught him.“It’s definitely weird because I looked up to him (Roby), he’s like my older brother … It’s kind of weird not having him here anymore, but I take the things that he taught me and put it to the younger guys and do the same thing that he did (for) me,” Reeves said. “There (were) times where we’ll be out here, just talking football, just trying to get me better and that’s what I try to do with the young guys … He’s one of the greatest DBs we’ve ever had here, and obviously I want the young guys and myself to be one of the greatest when we leave.”Grant, who started all 14 games last season, said Reeves is prepared to take that next step and be a go-to starter for the Buckeyes.“I feel like he’s ready. He’s been playing well this spring,” Grant said Thursday. “He’s been working hard in the offseason, training, taking coaching. He’s leading also, his voice is up, passing the energy … And he has the experience also.”Even though Reeves is likely to be the starter opposite Grant, there is no guarantee he will see as much of the field as starters have in the past.With young players like redshirt-freshmen Eli Apple and Gareon Conley, as well as incoming freshmen Damon Webb and Marshon Lattimore, Coombs said he plans on playing more than just two corners.“We’re going to play more than two, Gareon is right in the mix, Eli Apple has had a very good spring,” Coombs said Thursday. “He’s over some health issues that really had gone undetected. So I’m really excited about that and I’m eager. And I tell you what, those two freshmen coming in are going to have a chance to play. We’re going to play more than two corners that’s for sure.”Although Reeves will likely be on the field when the season starts Aug. 30 against Navy at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, he isn’t likely to be truly tested in that game. The Midshipmen were one of only two teams in the country who averaged less than 100 yards per game through the air last season, finishing 124th in the country.But Reeves said when it comes to next season, as long as the effort is there, the defense will be up to standards.“We’ll get there,” Reeves said. “It’s a process. We just put a lot of new things in and we’ll get there. I’m not worried about it at all. As long as we play hard right now, that’s all we can ask for.”Kickoff for the season opener is set for noon.
Freshman guard D’Angelo Russell (0) drives toward the basket during a game against North Carolina A&T on Dec. 17 at Nationwide Arena. Russell led the Buckeyes in scoring with 21 points in OSU’s 97-55 win. Credit: Mark Batke / Photo editorA change of scenery didn’t seem to affect the No. 12 Ohio State men’s basketball team as it rolled to yet another blowout victory, extending its record to 9-1 on the season.Playing a home game down the road at Nationwide Arena in downtown Columbus, the Buckeyes jumped out to a 17-2 lead and didn’t look back as they defeated the North Carolina A&T Aggies, 97-55, Wednesday night.The early run by OSU was started by sophomore forward Marc Loving, who buried a three-pointer to open the scoring. Freshman guard D’Angelo Russell also contributed to the fast start, as he added seven points in the first 3:20 of the game.Loving finished the night with 15 points on 4-5 shooting. Russell led the Buckeyes with 21 points on 7-14 shooting.Loving said after the game that playing at Nationwide Arena gave the game a slightly different atmosphere.“It had a Big Ten Tournament feel to it,” Loving said. “Coming into the game, being in a different facility than the Schott, it was something that we are not used to.”The Aggies (1-11) tried to make a late run at the end of the first half, as a pair of three-pointers by junior guard Arturs Bremers cut the OSU lead to 39-26 at halftime.OSU coach Thad Matta said after the game that the mini-run by the Aggies was due to missed opportunities.“I think that we went through a couple lulls where shots weren’t falling,” Matta said. “We just weren’t as aggressive as we needed to be on the defensive end.”OSU senior guard Shannon Scott, who recorded a career high seven steals, to go along with eight points and 12 assists said after the game that Matta got on his team at halftime.“We were up only 13 points I think at halftime and we felt like we should have been up by a lot more,” Scott said. “We took pride in playing more defense and getting more shots up.”The Buckeyes would pull away early after the break, as OSU outscored the Aggies 28-10 in the first eight minutes of the second half.Redshirt-freshman guard Kam Williams scored all 15 of his points in the second half, as he shot 6-11 from the field.With nine minutes left to play in the game, all 10 Buckeyes that had taken the floor had scored at least two points.The Buckeyes turned the Aggies over a total of 26 times throughout the course of the game, which led to 40 points.Aggie coach Cy Alexander said after the game that by the time his team settled in to the game, it was too late.“We were a little intimidated early on and got down,” Alexander said. “I thought we competed really hard all game, especially in the first half. Give Ohio State a lot of credit, they took advantage of our turnovers.”Despite the blowout win, the Aggies hung with OSU on the boards as each team recorded 32 rebounds.OSU also converted on its first 17 free throws of the game and finished 20-22 from the charity stripe, with the first miss coming from freshman forward Jae’Sean Tate.The free throw shooting is something Matta said he thought the Buckeyes could take advantage of coming into the game.“We felt like we were going to get to the line tonight, (and I) was very pleased with how guys knocked them down,” he said.The Aggies were led by junior forward Bruce Beckford, who scored 15 of the Aggies first 20 points and finished with a game-high 26 points on 11-20 shootingAlthough OSU won in convincing fashion, Matta was not pleased with the way Beckford dominated the Buckeye defense.“No. 32 (Beckford) had just an incredible night. I told our guys at one of the timeouts, ‘we are making this guy look like a first round draft pick,’” Matta said.The Buckeyes now turn their attention to a showdown with the No. 24 North Carolina Tar Heels in Chicago on Saturday afternoon. The matchup will be just the second ranked opponent that OSU will have faced thus far this season.Matta said after the game that he had already started looking at film on the Tar Heels.“Obviously, (they are) a tremendous basketball team. Their size is something that (North) Carolina has always had. A lot like Louisville, they are going to try and pound the ball inside on us.”The Buckeyes are set to return to the court Saturday in Chicago against the North Carolina Tar Heels in the CBS Sports Classic. Tip is scheduled for 1 p.m. EST.
Ohio State women’s swim team competes against Wright State during a meet at the McCorkle Aquatic Pavilion on Feb. 3. Credit: Fallon Perl | Lantern reporterFollowing the completion of a nearly undefeated regular season and an impressive turnout at the Big Ten Championships, the No. 22 Ohio State women’s swimming team is set to travel to Indianapolis to compete in the NCAA Division I Women’s Swimming National Championships beginning Wednesday evening.The Buckeyes enter this meet ranking behind four of their Big Ten competitors, including Michigan, Wisconsin, Indiana and Minnesota, who are ranked at No. 6, 12, 15 and 19 respectively. Though there will be many fierce competitors from these teams as well as others, the Buckeyes remain focused on their own performances.“We don’t spend a whole lot of time talking about other teams or schools or athletes. We really put the focus on us,” OSU coach Bill Dorenkott said. “That being said, to reinforce the point of what an amazing meet this is, you have Katie Ledecky, Simone Manuel, and Lilly King who are Olympic medalists and world record holders. It’s an honor to compete against the best not just in the country, but in the world. This is why we do what we do every day — it’s to get this opportunity.”Ledecky and Manuel will both be competing for top-ranked Stanford. Both athletes were medalists at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, with a combined seven gold medals, as well as two silver. King, who swims for No. 15 Indiana, earned one individual gold at the Rio Games in addition to a gold in the 400-yard medley relay.Athletes from Stanford, including Ledecky and Manuel, are the top seeds in 10-of-13 events. King fills two of three No. 1 seeds in the remaining events, while Olympic medalist Kathleen Baker from No. 2 California Berkeley fills the other.The adversaries OSU will face this week might seem intimidating on paper, but they have not deterred OSU from continuing to put in countless hours in the pool and the weight room in order to fine tune their techniques before the big meet.“We’ve been focusing on the fine details, and honing in on the smaller things,” senior Taylor Vargo said. “We’ve been working on technique and enjoying the process as well as the last few weeks of swimming.”Vargo will be competing in both the 200-yard and 400-yard medley relays, as well as the 100-yard and 200-yard breaststroke. This will be her fourth and final year competing in the NCAAs, and said she can’t wait to experience the competition one last time.“My sophomore year, we were No. 41, I believe, and last year we were No. 14. It’s just exciting to be able to go and compete against some of the fastest swimmers in the world,” Vargo said. “It is the fastest meet in the world, and it’s just nice to be able to go up and be recognized, and to be considered at the highest level.”Vargo will be joined by nine other teammates, two more of which are returning NCAA competitors as well.“We have a nice combination of youth and experience. We return Liz Li and Lindsey Clary, who were both Top Eight a year ago, and then we return Taylor Vargo who has been there four times,” Dorenkott said. “We also have a nice group of freshmen going, probably as good a group as anybody in the country.”Molly Kowal and Kathrin Demler are the two freshmen that will be competing in the meet, each competing in three events. Kowal will be swimming the 1,650-yard freestyle, along with the 500-yard freestyle and the 400-yard individual medley. Demler will be joining her teammate in the 500-yard freestyle and 400-yard individual medley, in addition to competing in the 200-yard backstroke.“It is a meet that rewards experience, and so for some of those kids it’s the opportunity to get there and see what it’s all about. For some of them, I keep telling them how good they are and sooner or later they’re going to start believing me,” Dorenkott said. “We have a couple of freshmen who are world class, they’re just not there today, but they’re going to be special and the sooner they believe it the better we’ll all be.”One of those freshman is Kowal, who said her nerves will be undeniable in her first NCAA appearance.“I think it’s going to be fun to go with the group of girls that are going. I mean, I’m pretty nervous because it will definitely, by far, be the biggest meet I’ve ever gone to,” she said. “There are also going to be some really big names there like Katie Ledecky, which will be cool, but it’s also kind of intimidating. But I get nervous for every meet so it’s nothing I can’t handle.”Junior Meg Bailey will compete in the 200-yard and 400-yard individual medleys, as well as the 200-yard butterfly.Vargo — being an experienced NCAA competitor — said the team’s goal is to compete at the highest level in each race.“We want to move up spots, move up places, get some points, and represent Ohio State,” Vargo said. “It’s okay to be nervous, though. Everyone’s a little bit nervous when you go, but just realize that you represent The Ohio State University and I don’t think there’s a better feeling in the world.”The Buckeyes would be grateful to earn some winning titles, but they are just as grateful to compete and improve both individually and as a team.“In terms of winning — whether it’s an individual title or a team title — that’s something that’s out of your control,” Dorenkott said. “The only thing you can focus on is the effort you put into winning, and that’s really where our minds are right now. We’re focused on getting some rest, getting sharpened up, and getting ready to roll.”The competition begins Wednesday night at the Indiana University Natatorium in Indianapolis, and will continue through Saturday.