President Barack Obama, a noted sports fan, especially of the NCAA Basketball Tournament, chose Michigan State to defeat Louisville in the championship game of this year’s version of March Madness that starts Thursday.As he has done for six straight years now, Obama convenes with ESPN’s Andy Katz and goes over his bracket, game-by-game. It’s known as “Barack-etology.”“Tom Izzo is a great tournament coach,” Obama said of the Spartans’ leader. “I’ve got Michigan State going all the way. … He knows how to motivate folks and he knows how to coach. My pick: Michigan State. Bring it home for me. It’s been a while since I’ve won my pool.”Besides the fourth-seeded Spartans and Cardinals, President Obama also selected No. 1 overall seed Florida and top seed Arizona to reach the Final Four in Arlington, Texas, outside of Dallas.“I know these are not imaginative picks, but I think they’re the right ones,” Obama said.Among other picks of note, Obama likes two 12-seeds to pull off upsets in their NCAA tournament openers: Harvard over Cincinnati and North Dakota State over Oklahoma. The president also likes North Carolina to upset 3-seed Iowa State to reach the Sweet 16.Obama has picked three different teams in the “Barack-etology” era to win the men’s title — Indiana (over Louisville in 2013), Kansas (over Ohio State in 2011 and Kentucky in 2010) and North Carolina (over Kentucky in 2012 and Louisville in 2009). His correctly picked national champion was the Tar Heels in ’09.Last year, Obama’s men’s bracket ranked No. 2,080,996 out of 8.15 million entries in ESPN.com’s free Men’s Tournament Challenge, placing him in the 74.4th percentile.The president correctly picked Louisville to play in the 2013 championship game, predicting a loss to Indiana for the title. In fact, the Hoosiers fell short of the Final Four and the Cardinals defeated Michigan 82-76 in what Obama said was “one of the best championship games that any of us have seen in a very, very long time.”Florida in the South Region and Arizona in the West are the only top seeds represented in the president’s Final Four. The other top seeds in the tournament are undefeated Wichita State in the Midwest and Virginia in the East.The Cardinals and Spartans finished their seasons by winning their conference tournaments and are popular picks to make it to the Final Four.The president is an avid fan of the college game and his hometown Chicago Bulls, and his brother-in-law is the head coach at Oregon State.
Since 2006, Bortles’s QBR was easily the worst by the QB on a team that scored at least 50 points. Or 45. Or even 40. Among teams scoring 30 or more points, only Eli Manning’s microscopic 0.2 QBR in this 38-21 win against the Buffalo Bills was worse. (Naturally, Eli followed up that stinker with a near-upset of the 15-0 New England Patriots and then won four straight games, including the Super Bowl.) The average sub-5.0-QBR game yields a shade under 9.9 points. Overcoming that kind of performance, much less stacking another 40 points of production on top of it, requires something remarkable.In Manning’s case, it was two long rushing touchdowns and two defensive touchdowns. For Jacksonville, it was a couple of return touchdowns — a fumble and a punt — plus a dangerous Bortles pass to Allen Hurns that was nearly intercepted but instead turned into an 80-yard touchdown. The latter was likely scored as a bad pass despite its good result, which is one of the selling points for QBR — that its individual inputs and charting make it a better representation of play than traditional QB rating (which put Bortles at 114.6). But then, the black-box mechanics of QBR can also lead to wacky results; the formula, with all its credit-splitting and other arcana, undeniably makes more sense on a season-long scale than in single games.Even so, outliers as extreme as Bortles’s win don’t come along every week — or every decade. Fifty-point games are rare, but ones in which the quarterback is so immaterial to the product are all but non-existent. Fifty-point outings are pretty rare in the NFL. When teams do break the half-century barrier, it’s usually the result of an exceptional individual performance; in 26 of the NFL’s 36 50-point games since 2006,1The first season for which TruMedia has game-by-game Total QBR data. the high-scoring team’s primary passer2Meaning the QB who attempted the most passes for the team in the game. posted a score of 90 or better on Total QBR’s 0-to-100 scale, where 50 is average.Only twice in the past decade has a team dropped 50 or more on an opponent despite its quarterback having a QBR below league average. The first was a mediocre Jay Cutler game from 2012, in which Cutler had a QBR of 43.8 — not horrendous, though also not what you think of when you envision a 50-point offensive outburst. The second happened Sunday, in the Jacksonville Jaguars’ out-of-nowhere 51-16 romp over the tailspinning Indianapolis Colts. Because, despite his team’s huge scoring output, Jags QB Blake Bortles posted an impossibly low 3.8 QBR for the game:
More: Apple Podcasts | ESPN App | RSS Hot Takedown Welcome to the latest episode of Hot Takedown, our podcast where the hot sports takes of the week meet the numbers that prove them right or tear them down. On this week’s show (Dec. 29, 2015), we bring you the latest edition of “Stat School.” Last time, Statman, aka Neil Paine, talked to us about NFL running back stats. This week, he brings us basketball 101. Neil guides us through three hoop-centric stats: points per game, true shooting percentage and usage rate.Stat one: Points per gameA player’s average number of points scored per game played.Stat two: True shooting percentageA statistic used to gauge scoring efficiency that takes into consideration a player’s shot attempts (including field goals and free throws) and points scored. The result is the average points the player scored when he ended a possession by shooting.Stat three: Usage percentageA metric that estimates the percentage of a team’s possessions that a player “uses” while he is in the game. As players “use” more possessions, their overall efficiency tends to drop.Stream the episode by clicking the play button, or subscribe using one of the podcast clients we’ve linked to above. Listen to Statman and you just might be able to eke out a statistical advantage in your holiday pick up games. If you’re a fan of our podcasts, be sure to subscribe on Apple Podcasts and leave a rating/review. That helps spread the word to other listeners. And get in touch by email, on Twitter or in the comments. Tell us what you think, send us hot takes to discuss and tell us why we’re wrong.
This is LeBron’s worst NBA Finals supporting cast everBox Plus/Minus talent ratings for LeBron James and his cumulative teammates for NBA Finals teams, weighted by postseason minutes James was his usual otherworldly self on Sunday, of course, pouring in 35 points with 15 rebounds and 9 assists. (He also played every single minute of the game.) He remains the NBA’s all-time leader with 34.9 career PPG in postseason Game 7s. But unlike many of Cleveland’s playoff losses, he got a little bit of help from his teammates; in addition to James, three other Cavs (Jeff Green, J.R. Smith and Tristan Thompson) scored in double-figures. It was enough to propel the Cavs to victory, even though the team shot just 26 percent from 3-point range — which tends to be the most important barometer of Cleveland’s performance in any given game.At the same time, the Celtics appeared to be a bit too inexperienced to close out the veteran Cavs in a situation where playoff seasoning matters a lot. Had the Celtics won, they’d have been the second-youngest team2According to the average age of the postseason roster, weighted by minutes. to make the Finals since 1974 (older than only the 1977 Portland Trail Blazers). Instead, Boston’s youth showed as the Celtics were a team-worst -20 with star rookie Jayson Tatum and second-year phenom Jaylen Brown on the court together, and fill-in starter Terry Rozier suffered his worst game of the playoffs in Game 7.Fortunately for the Celtics, though, they have a ton of talent on hand for the future. This is only the beginning of something special for coach Brad Stevens’ squad. For Cleveland, meanwhile, this season has felt like the end of something special practically all year.Between the failed Isaiah Thomas trade, coach Ty Lue’s leave of absence, multiple injuries to Love and a midseason shakeup that ended up yielding few impact players for the postseason, it has been a chaotic ride for the Cavaliers. “We’ve had four or five seasons wrapped in one,” James told reporters earlier this month. “We know what the narrative has been about our team.” Unlike past seasons when the Cavs breezed through the East playoffs with seldom a loss, Cleveland was pushed to the limit by both the Celtics and the Indiana Pacers in the playoffs.3Granted, they did sweep the Toronto Raptors in between. Nothing has been easy.All things considered, then, this NBA Finals run has to be considered one of James’ crowning achievements. Although James talked up his supporting cast in his postgame comments, I went back and re-ran the numbers from this story, in which we used Basketball-Reference’s Box Plus/Minus to estimate the true talent4Using a multi-year weighted average of BPM, regressed to the mean and adjusted for age. of every player LeBron played with on an NBA Finals run. And that method says that this is easily the worst crop of teammates James has ever dragged to an NBA Finals — even worse than the one he had while being swept by the San Antonio Spurs as a 22-year-old in 2007: Game 7 loss88.289.447.817.973.720.4 Home wins95.6107.749.6%34.0%87.5%23.9 Boston won Games 1, 2 and 5 at home before losing Game 7.Source: NBA Advanced Stats 2013MIA+7.9+2.3+10.2+0.9+0.8+1.7 2017CLE+6.0+1.6+7.6+3.0-2.0+1.1 GamesPaceOff. Rating2-Point %3-Point %Free Throw %Assists/100 Poss. The Celtics’ offense disappeared in Game 7Offensive statistics for the Boston Celtics at home in the 2018 Eastern Conference final, by game 2016CLE+6.2+1.6+7.9+3.4-1.0+2.4 2011MIA+7.2+2.5+9.7+2.3+2.1+4.5 2015CLE+6.5+1.3+7.7+1.2-1.9-0.7 2007CLE+6.3+1.8+8.1-3.3+2.5-0.8 That means James and the Cavs are destined to be a heavy underdog in the Finals, whether they’ll face the Houston Rockets or Golden State Warriors. But what else is new? Much of James’ poor NBA Finals record (he’s 3-5 all-time in championship series) is because he’s gone into the matchup facing such long odds in the first place. That’s a direct product of his ability to carry shorthanded teams deeper into the playoffs than any other player would be able to — and in Sunday night’s win, James just provided the best example of that yet.Check out our latest NBA predictions. LeBron James has racked up some pretty extraordinary accomplishments in his 15-year pro career, but few are as impressive as his effort in leading this particular Cleveland Cavaliers squad to the NBA Finals. Missing an All-Star teammate from an already underwhelming supporting cast, on the road against a Boston Celtics team that had been 10-0 at home in the playoffs, in a Game 7 (where the home team was 104–26 in postseason history1Per the Elias Sports Bureau.), James had a lot standing between him and an eighth straight Finals trip. And yet, here he and the Cavs are once again, set to play for another NBA title, following Sunday’s 87-79 win in Boston.How’d Cleveland break Boston’s home-court stranglehold on these playoffs? For one thing, the much-maligned Cavaliers defense stepped up in a big way in Game 7, holding the Celtics to a stunningly low 89.4 points per 100 possessions after allowing 107.7 in the series’ previous three games at TD Garden. It helped that the Celtics bricked so many shots in the second half — they went 3-20 from 3-point range, including a number of open looks — but the Cavs also clamped down and played some of their best defense of the season during Game 7. Ratings are generated using a multi-year weighted average of BPM, regressed to the mean and adjusted for age. Teammate ratings represent the team’s hypothetical points per 100 possessions (relative to league average) if James was replaced with a league average (0.0 BPM) player.Source: Basketball-Reference.com 2014MIA+7.6+1.4+9.1+0.3-0.2+0.1 2012MIA+7.4+2.4+9.8+0.9+2.8+3.6 SeasonTeamOffenseDefenseTotalOffenseDefenseTotal JamesTeammates 2018CLE+6.6+1.8+8.4+0.7-2.6-2.0
Look at that excitement index!jakelourim: That is a crazy game.gfoster: All right, let’s quickly update our men’s Final Four picks. This is not like a bracket pool — you can easily change from what you picked previously. No one will judge you. (Someone may judge you — it’s the internet.)Let’s go lightning round through the regions, starting with the East.I had Michigan State, I’m staying with Michigan State.jakelourim: Had Duke, staying with Duke. MSU doesn’t have the dudes to take them down.sara.ziegler: Yeah, I’m sticking with Duke. There’s just so much talent there.jplanos: I had all No. 1 seeds because I’m not fun at parties. So I’m sticking with Duke.sara.ziegler: Hahahahagfoster: OK, West. I had Gonzaga in my bracket, I said Michigan on our podcast. I’m going with…..Michigan.sara.ziegler: Texas Tech. BIG 12 REPRESENTjakelourim: Had Michigan, staying with Michigan. Happy to die on this hill.jplanos: Allow me to re-plug Hot Takedown and say that I’m finally ready to go with my heart. The Wolverines have been tenacious throughout the tournament, as best showcased by a Michigan tuba player running down the Gators mascot. jplanos: Most games are filled with tens of what-ifs, but it almost makes it worse for UCF that Aubrey Dawkins, who played a masterful game, missed the alley-oop late that probably would’ve put it away (and then the tip in the waning seconds). sara.ziegler: That sequence was a 5-point swing in Duke’s favor.gfoster: All this said about Duke, I haven’t been that impressed by Virginia Tech. Both of the Hokies’ wins were ugly affairs against lesser teams. The Saint Louis game was an absolutely brutal free-throw contest. So I don’t think Duke is going anywhere just yet. Do you disagree? If not, what other high seed could be on upset watch?jakelourim: I definitely thought entering the tournament that Virginia Tech had a great (and underrated) chance to upset Duke in the Sweet 16. The Hokies beat Duke in Blacksburg last month, and while Zion didn’t play in that game, neither did Virginia Tech star Justin Robinson. But now, after watching the first weekend, I do doubt Virginia Tech’s chances against Duke. It just doesn’t seem like Robinson has eased back into the lineup as seamlessly as Tech had hoped.gfoster: He seems like he’s playing hurt, to be honest.jplanos: I agree with you, Geoff. I’m not high on the Hokies. I mostly expect chalk to play out in the Sweet 16.jakelourim: The flip side of the first weekend lacking upsets is that it set up some awesome matchups for the Sweet 16, including four No. 2-vs.-3 seed matchups (three of them between top-12 teams in KenPom).sara.ziegler: The West region could be fun — Florida State has a real shot against Gonzaga, and I like Texas Tech over Michigan.jplanos: I think the best thing that could happen for Texas Tech is for Jordan Poole to drill two threes to open the game. For my money, there isn’t a more inconsistent Overconfident Guy left in the field.gfoster: I think Oregon has a legitimate shot against Virginia. The Ducks are by far the lowest KenPom team, and it’s not close. But that doesn’t speak directly to how well they are playing right now. Point guard Payton Pritchard is a man on fire.sara.ziegler: I refuse to believe in Oregon.jplanos: I refuse to believe in the Pac-12.sara.ziegler: YESSSSSAnd for good reason.gfoster: Both that game and the Michigan game will be complete rock fights: 60 to 65 points will be enough to win either.jakelourim: While this belief burned me in the bracket’s first weekend, I just think the Pac-12 has nothing to show for itself this weekend. How did Oregon lose so many games out of that league? The Ducks also skated by against a lesser second-round opponent — seemed like the mighty Anteaters used up all their juice in upsetting K-State on Friday.sara.ziegler: The Ducks have the 74th adjusted offense in the country, according to KenPom. That’s not how you beat Virginia.gfoster: Gardner-Webb was beating Virginia for a half. I just feel like the Cavs tighten up when they are playing from behind. Oregon is the opposite — they have been playing with nothing to lose for weeks.sara.ziegler: I agree, Geoff — I just don’t think Oregon is good enough offensively to get a lead.jakelourim: I really like Virginia’s path because the Hoos play a No. 12 seed first and are 26-0 against teams outside the KenPom top 15 this season. An underrated part about that region: Virginia will play in Louisville’s home arena, which is as familiar to the Cavs as you could hope to be at this stage in the tournament. The Hoos have played and won in that building in each of the past four seasons, including an inconceivable comeback last season from down 5 with less than 7 seconds left.gfoster: So Josh, you wrote about Murray State. Jake, you wrote about Wofford. It’s really sad that the mid-majors are all but gone (depending on how you define Gonzaga and Houston). Which one were you most disappointed to see exit the tournament?jplanos: Wofford, but only because Murray State would’ve gotten waxed by Gonzaga in the Sweet 16 had the Racers advanced. With Wofford’s perimeter shooting, they might have had a puncher’s chance against Houston. Loved the offensive flow of their game(s).jakelourim: I’d say Wofford, too, because of how the Terriers lost to Kentucky on Saturday. Watching the tiny SoCon upstart hang with Kentucky, only to watch Fletcher Magee clank shot after shot off the rim, was painful. You have to feel for Magee, who is now the most prolific 3-point shooter in NCAA history but just went cold at the worst time.gfoster: That was awful.jplanos: I know the myth of the hot hand will be argued for eternity, but at what point do you tell a guy to stop shooting? Especially when the guy’s offensive output seems to almost exclusively consist of inefficient jump-turn-and-figure-it-out jumpers.gfoster: The truth is, he had to keep shooting. He’s a huge cog in their scheme, and they don’t have enough talent to just let the other four to six guys pick up the slack. People were comparing him to Steph Curry at Davidson! So I, like everyone else, was shocked that NONE of those dropped, even the crazy off-balanced shot attempts.sara.ziegler: Live by the three, etc.But Magee did set the 3-point record again Seton Hall, which was cool to see.gfoster: I actually think Belmont could have made some noise if the Bruins could have gotten past Maryland. (They lost at the wire.) They are an electric, up-tempo team, and I think they would have beaten LSU and then been a fun test for Sparty.And they would have extended the First Four streak!sara.ziegler: Would have loved to see more from the Bruins.jakelourim: I agree, Geoff. I think Belmont could have made some noise. LSU was not the dominant, unflinching No. 3 seed that Houston, Texas Tech and Purdue proved to be, so Belmont could have hit enough threes to make it a game at the end. And then once that happens …jplanos: That was a tough matchup for Belmont. Maryland coughs it up constantly, but Belmont doesn’t force turnovers. When you’re already operating at a talent deficit, and you can’t even depend on additional chances, it’s almost impossible to overcome unless you shoot the lights out.That game was Maryland’s season-best performance in terms of turnover percentage, according to KenPom.jakelourim: That’s why I think this chalk-heavy first weekend was a one-year deal — just a collection of momentum swings that went toward the favorites. If that backdoor pass from Belmont goes through, Aubrey Dawkins’ tip rims in and Magee makes even, what, two of 12 3-pointers, this is a totally different tournament.gfoster: So, which conference has impressed the most? I know who it is not: The Big East. Pretty sad effort from the conference that has won two of three titles (granted, that’s just Villanova, so a generous way to praise the conference).jplanos: Agreed, Geoff. When your second best team gets dusted by nearly 20 by a team from the Ohio Valley Conference … yikes.sara.ziegler: The Big 12 has been pretty pathetic. Texas Tech has the whole conference on its shoulders now.jplanos: The SEC has been the most impressive. But how about the Big Ten getting three teams into the Sweet 16? Maryland and Iowa were about as close as you can get to advancing, too.gfoster: Is there any team that has completely defied what you thought of them entering the tournament?jplanos: Purdue. Mark me down as having never believed in the Boilermakers all season. All too often it seems to be Carsen Edwards or bust, with the latter winning out.Purdue lost two of its last three games entering the tournament, including an opening-round loss to Minnesota in the Big Ten tournament. But after two double-digit victories, including an 87-61 thrashing of defending champion Villanova, well, I’m still not ready to believe in their chances moving forward. But I am ready to eat crow.I wasn’t all that surprised that the Wildcats were eliminated before the Sweet 16, but I am surprised that the Boilermakers reduced them to rubble and are still standing.gfoster: Mid-majors or non-mid-majors, which team has let you down the most?I know Sara’s.sara.ziegler: LOL*cough, Cyclones, cough*jplanos: In my opinion, the biggest disappointment is Nevada, by a considerable margin.Most of this roster reached the Sweet 16 a year ago, and the Wolfpack ostensibly were primed for another deep run in the tournament. Instead, Nevada failed to win its conference tournament and then got bounced in the opening-round of the NCAA Tournament by a fairly average Florida team. They allowed the Gators to dictate the pace and played at the slowest tempo of any game this season, according to KenPom. Not only that, they posted the second lowest effective field goal percentage of any game this season and the highest turnover rate of any game this season.I even talked myself into Jordan Caroline smashing a fire extinguisher as a galvanizing moment for the team! Turned out it was just a representation of their frustrating season.jakelourim: Even given everything that happened this season, can I still say Kansas? I know, I know — the Jayhawks played the season under the cloud of player eligibility issues, lost Udoka Azubuike early, ended The Streak and generally looked very un-Kansas-like. But this was still supposed to be a really talented team. Watching them not just lose but get run off the court by a football school in the second round was very odd to me.sara.ziegler: I think that loss is what they deserve for being placed in the Kansas City regional.jplanos: LOLsara.ziegler: STOP GIVING KANSAS SUCH A GOOD REGIONjakelourim: And also, Cincinnati was sent to Columbus and collapsed against Iowa in the first round. That’s like when you draw a bad foul call and go to the line and miss the free throws.gfoster: Mine is Buffalo. I had the Bulls in the Sweet 16 in all the brackets I filled out. And felt vindicated when they absolutely steam rolled their former coach Bobby Hurley. But Texas Tech absolutely closed down shop from the tip-off on. They didn’t even make a run.jakelourim: Nevada is another good (bad?) one, Josh. I would have been very worried for Michigan if Nevada were on the other side in the second round. That’s no seventh-seeded roster. But Eric Musselman’s team never put it together like it did in last year’s tournament.gfoster: That’s another thing about this tournament: There really hasn’t been much drama, Duke and LSU aside. Of the 16 winners in the round of 32, only three didn’t cover the spread: Tennessee, Duke and Gonzaga (and they won by 12 points).sara.ziegler: My disappointment is actually that Oregon made it this far. I hate it when major-conference schools that played like crap for most of the season make it to the Sweet 16. Seems unjust.gfoster: Would you like them better if they had Bol Bol?(Yes, the answer to that is yes.)sara.ziegler: Yes, of course. They’d also be way better.jplanos: I think if Auburn had dropped that opening-round game, we’d be talking about this tournament wayyyyyyyyy differently. That would’ve given us two all-timers in the opening weekend.sara.ziegler: Oh, yeah — I forgot how close that game was!jakelourim: New Mexico State could have gone on and handled Kansas, too, no?jplanos: Yeah, my analysis is that Kansas is bad.sara.ziegler: ENDORSE, Josh.gfoster: Before we get to our updated Final Four picks, let’s talk about the women’s tourney, which has been objectively better from an entertainment standpoint. What is your biggest takeaway so far?sara.ziegler: There were three overtime games in the first round alone!jplanos: I’m glad offense is winning out on the women’s side, as seven of the top 10 teams this season in points per possession remain in the hunt, according to Synergy Sports. I for one am pleased that we get more opportunities for Sabrina Ionescu to do crazy things on the court, like intentionally missing shots for triple-doublesjakelourim: Absolutely, the women’s tournament has been more entertaining, I think.gfoster: According to our model, this is still a two-team tournament. Baylor and Notre Dame combine for a 60 percent chance of winning (32 percent and 28 percent, respectively). Although Louisville and UConn appear to be mutually hurting each other’s chances by just being in the same region.sara.ziegler: Though most of the top women’s teams have all advanced, we’ve seen closer games than we have in the past.No. 2 Iowa had all it could handle from Mercer. And No. 10 Buffalo acquitted itself nicely against UConn.jakelourim: Yes, Buffalo played well, and didn’t even have to kidnap any players!sara.ziegler: OMG, Jake. That’s amazing.jakelourim: Mercer took Iowa to the wire in an effort to produce what I believe would have been the first 15-2 upset in the history of the tournament. jplanos: HAHA, Geoff. Come on now.sara.ziegler: What a pick.gfoster: You think there will be no surprises at all? We’ll see.*checks bracket pool standings, sees self in 90th*Check out our latest March Madness predictions. sara.ziegler: That game was great. I loved the chart for No. 7 Missouri against No. 10 Drake, too: gfoster (Geoff Foster, sports editor): We have 52 games in the books of the men’s NCAA Tournament. And there has been one prevailing theme: chalk. There has been a staggeringly small amount of bracket busting. Other than Oregon (a No. 12 seed but a Power Five conference winner), the highest seed remaining is Auburn at No. 5! In the round of 32, the favorite won 100 percent of the games! If you picked all favorites in your bracket (like my mom probably did), you’d be 87.5 percent right. I could go on and on. So, do you think this is just an aberration, or is there something behind the dearth of Cinderellas?jplanos (Josh Planos, contributor): FiveThirtyEight’s model was pretty chalky when the draw was announced. It certainly could be a matter of more appropriate seeding or merely an opportunity for the committee to pat itself on the back before next year goes haywire.jakelourim (Jake Lourim, contributor): I was surprised like everyone else by that trend. Even given the slim chances to reach the Sweet 16 given to those double-digit seeds, we would expect at least one Cinderella to make it, right?sara.ziegler (Sara Ziegler, assistant sports editor): It does seem like the committee did a pretty good job of seeding this year, as our colleague Neil Paine wrote.The seeds followed what the stats would have recommended — and the top teams do seem to be better than in years past.gfoster: So there hasn’t been a shocking upset, with all due respect to Mississippi State, but some teams have had an easier time with their first two opponents than others. Which team has impressed you the most in the early going?jplanos: I think Gonzaga has looked pretty tough with two double-digit victories. The 38-point opening-round victory over Fairleigh Dickinson was the most lopsided tournament game in two years.Baylor and Fairleigh Dickinson aren’t strong defensive teams, to be sure, but the Zags have decimated both. In each win, Gonzaga posted at least 19 assists, was at least plus-10 on the glass and shot 35 percent or better from three and 53 percent or better from the field. According to Ken Pomeroy, two of the team’s three best performances this season in offensive rebounding percentage have come in the tournament.Brandon Clarke somehow got glossed over for every major award and has gone berserk. Against Baylor, he joined Shaquille O’Neal as the only players in NCAA Tournament history to put up 36 points and five blocked shots in a single game.sara.ziegler: Kentucky had a tricky draw against a very talented Wofford team, but they looked pretty good. Michigan has looked good, too. And Purdue has been under the radar — my radar, at least — but the Boilermakers have posted two convincing wins.It’s funny — even though the bracket has been so chalky, several of the top seeds have looked suspect at times.jakelourim: I think from a performance standpoint, I’d have to say Texas Tech. I thought Buffalo played great on Friday and would give the Red Raiders some trouble on Sunday, but Chris Beard’s team hammered Buffalo and got back to No. 1 in the country in adjusted defensive efficiency. That clash with Michigan on Thursday is going to be a slugfest.gfoster: I’ve also been impressed by the Texas Tech defense. Northern Kentucky’s Drew McDonald was the conference player of the year, and he was completely erased from the game in the first round, scoring only 5 points. Likewise, the Red Raiders more or less shut down Buffalo’s best player in CJ Massinburg, who couldn’t get much going. It will be interesting to see how they do against Michigan, which isn’t dependent on a top-heavy scoring guard like those two are.jakelourim: It might just be my impression, but I think after UMBC knocked off Virginia last March and Virginia remained such a prominent storyline all season, both the No. 1 and No. 16 seeds were on guard Friday — the 1s to avoid being embarrassed, the 16s because maybe UMBC brought new hope. Duke, North Carolina and Virginia together were -2.3 in scoring margin in their first halves. Then they all recovered and won by double digits.jplanos: Pretty typical for teams of all strengths to start opening-round games tight, too.gfoster: OK, so which high seed has looked the most vulnerable? It’s hard to knock a team for winning two games, but let’s do it anyway.sara.ziegler: I still think Virginia could find itself in trouble because of its slow play. The Cavs looked much better against Oklahoma on Sunday, but still.jakelourim: I’d be worried about Tennessee. That was a near-disaster Sunday against Iowa, giving up a 25-point lead to go to overtime before pulling it out. That’s not a great Iowa team, either, and Tennessee’s next opponent (Purdue) won’t be as forgiving.sara.ziegler: Jake, I think Tennessee should be worried, too. Though how much of that game was the Volunteers getting up so much, then taking their foot off the gas?jplanos: And what was up with Admiral Schofield requesting not to play in OT?jakelourim: Very weird, Josh, regarding Schofield. All around, it was a very weird way to end a game in which the Vols led by 21 at halftime. I do think a lot of that was just diminished intensity in the second half, but even that was a concern. Purdue, by contrast, was up by 19 at halftime and then built that lead to as many as 35 before winning by 26.gfoster: I also agree that Tennessee’s days are numbered. The Vols’ offense is supposed to be the third-most efficient in the country, but that isn’t what we’ve seen so far. Colgate’s defense is objectively bad, one of the worst in the tournament. Only scoring 77 points there is kinda a letdown, even though it’s a respectable number.And Iowa’s defense is far from stellar, too.jplanos: I never thought UCF could compete with Duke — and the Knights came about as close to an upset victory as possible. Granted, it was in Orlando. But Duke’s inability to adjust at halftime seemed problematic. Plus, it wasn’t like the Blue Devils had an off shooting night. Going 10-for-25 from 3-point range is a really good performance for Duke, and it resulted in a 1-point win.sara.ziegler: Agree. And it wasn’t just Tacko Fall who was a problem for Duke!(Though his absence at the end of the game certainly helped the Blue Devils.)jplanos: No doubt, Sara. I have a hard time believing Duke snags that last-second rebound for the put-back bucket with him in the game. To say nothing of the multiple fouls on that play.sara.ziegler: ^^^ THISjakelourim: Absolutely, Tacko fouling out was a game-changer. Even if the rebound does still bounce to Duke, he probably blocks any put-back attempt if he’s there. It’s crazy to me that UCF was up by 3 with what ended up being one possession left and lost in regulation. That’s almost impossible!sara.ziegler: Look at the crazy swings in our live probabilities at the end of Duke-UCF: Michigan tuba girl FTW: pic.twitter.com/ZOPFtsCsNY— Jim Weber (@JimMWeber) March 24, 2019gfoster: Only because I think they are showing again that they are the best-coached team in the country. They don’t do any of the things that cost teams games: turn it over, foul trouble, bad shots, etc.jakelourim: Yes, I think they have the best coach in that region. That’ll be enough.gfoster: OK, in the South. I had UVA. I might have said Nova on Hot Takedown, but that was clearly me being an idiot.sara.ziegler: I believe that went something like, “Jay Wright is amazing, he will obviously win.”🤣jplanos: You did indeed say that, Geoff. I will withhold my opinion on that pick.gfoster: That was a product of me not liking ANY team in the region. And I still don’t!!!!!!sara.ziegler: Wait … that was the region I didn’t like, Geoff.You didn’t like the Midwest.gfoster: I like that more, now. I have an answer there.sara.ziegler: LOLI still don’t like anyone in the South. I have Tennessee … which I don’t feel great about.jplanos: I’m still going with UVA. Whoever reaches the 20-point mark first is deemed the winner.jakelourim: Had Virginia, staying with Virginia. Still think Tony Bennett’s team is the most consistent in the country — NCAA Tournament demons notwithstanding.gfoster: OK, let’s do the Midwest.jplanos: Tar Heels. Never a doubt.sara.ziegler: Remember when they were trailing to Iona at halftime of that game? That was fun.jplanos: I said never a doubt, Sara!sara.ziegler: LOLI still like Kentucky.jakelourim: I’ve got Ol’ Roy and UNC.sara.ziegler: You guys are BORING.jakelourim: This tournament started it!gfoster: Only because I need to pick something that can be mocked later, I’m taking Auburn. Bruce Pearl’s team is here to provide the madness of 2019. The Tiger offense is so impressive. I love these teams (like some Beilein teams) where every guy on the court can knock down the three.jakelourim:
OSU freshman quarterback Tate Martell addresses the media on National Signing Day on Feb. 1. Credit: Jacob Myers | Assistant Sports EditorThe return of Ohio State redshirt senior quarterback J.T. Barrett for his final year of eligibility might have fans excited, but the presence of freshman Tate Martell should have Buckeye backers all the more eager for the upcoming football season.Martell came to OSU as a four-star dual-threat quarterback from Bishop Gorman High School, the proverbial football powerhouse that has cranked out such college studs as DeMarco Murray of the Tennessee Titans and Ronnie Stanley from the Baltimore Ravens. He was the No. 2 dual-threat signal caller in the nation, behind only Alabama commit Tua Tagovailoa.Martell comes in as a potential star in an OSU offense that thrives on quarterbacks who know how to win. Win is exactly what Martell did at Gorman, compiling 113 touchdowns and just nine interceptions in three years.He also helped lead the Gaels to a 45-0 record as a starter. OSU coach Urban Meyer knows exactly what that kind of ability can bring to a team.“We are a very evaluation-friendly business as a coach and as a quarterback and some people measure it by throwing yards … some people measure their success,” he said. “However, we measure it very simply, how do you win? And Tate is a winner.”Martell will most likely find himself behind incumbent starter Barrett when spring practices start, but he makes an extremely valid case for being the predecessor for Barrett after he closes the book on his final chapter as a Buckeye.“I’m not thinking about 12 months, I’m thinking about right now,” Martell said. “I want to play. I know that I’m just going to go out there and if I don’t play, that’s on me. I know coach Meyer is going to play the best guy, and if I go prove that, then that’s not my decision to make or anything.”Martell’s biggest competition will come from backups redshirt sophomore Joe Burrow and redshirt freshman Dwayne Haskins. Burrow has appeared in six games, completing 78.6 percent of his passes with a pair of touchdowns through the air, as well as a score on the ground. However, Burrow’s numbers have come against largely ineffective and below average defenses when the Buckeyes were dominating. As for Haskins, a former four-star recruit, the hype from his high school career isn’t quite there compared to Martell’s, and he lacks the kind of mobility that Martell brings.And we haven’t even mentioned top dual-threat quarterback and 2018 commit Emory Jones.Either way, the quarterback competition could very well heat up for the 2017-18 season. And if it does, Martell is ready to make his mark.“You’ve got to come to compete,” Martell said. “Like I said before, if you want to make it to the NFL, you’re not going to be competing against average guys. You’re going to be competing against the best anyway.”
Former Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor is scheduled to make his first NFL start. Pryor, who’s seen little action for the Oakland Raiders, is slated to start at quarterback in Sunday’s season-finale against the San Diego Chargers. The team announced the development through the Raiders’ official Twitter account, @OAKLAND. “Head Coach Dennis Allen names @TerrellePryor staring QB for Sunday,” the tweet read. Pryor was given the nod over former USC quarterback and 2004 Heisman Trophy winner Matt Leinart after Raiders quarterback Carson Palmer suffered a bruised lung and broken ribs in a 17-6 loss against the Carolina Panthers last Sunday. In his NFL career, the 6-foot-6, 230-pound signal-caller has completed 1-of-2 passes for five yards and rushed once for two yards. It’s Pryor’s first start since the 2011 Allstate Sugar Bowl, which OSU defeated the Arkansas Razorbacks, 31-26. In what would be his last outing as a Buckeye, the Jeannette, Pa., native amassed 336 yards of total offense and was named the game’s MVP. Under the direction of former OSU coach Jim Tressel, Pryor and the Buckeyes finished the year 12-1 with a Big Ten Championship. The season, though, has since been vacated because of NCAA violations stemming from the program’s “Tattoo-Gate” scandal. Pryor, who was one of five players suspended for the first five games of 2011 because of his involvement in trading tattoos for Buckeye memorabilia, opted to forgo his senior season in response to mounting allegations and a separate investigation regarding his use of multiple automobiles while in Columbus. Pryor, who arrived on campus in 2008 as arguably the nation’s most heralded recruit in recent memory, helped guide the Buckeyes to a 31-4 record as the team’s starting quarterback, a role he assumed against Troy on Sept. 20, 2008. In addition to the his Sugar Bowl performance, Pryor earned MVP honors en route to a 26-17 win against Oregon in the 2010 Rose Bowl. The game, which was dubbed by some as Pryor’s coming-of-age party, saw Pryor throw for 266 yards and two touchdowns on 23-of-37 attempts. He also ran for 72 yards on 20 touches. Pryor amassed 8,341 yards of total offense and 76 touchdowns as a Buckeye. Oakland (4-11) is set to face the Chargers Sunday at 4:25 p.m. at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego.
Ohio State sophomore defender Izzy Rodriguez (9) scores a goal off a penalty kick in the second half of the game against Iowa on Sept. 27. Ohio State won 2-0. Credit: Casey Cascaldo | Photo EditorThe Ohio State women’s soccer team and the Nebraska Cornhuskers both recently came off victories against previous opponents, but ultimately concluded the match against each other in a 1-1 draw on the Buckeyes’ Senior Day.With this tie, Ohio State’s overall record will be set at 6-4-1, 3-1-1 in the Big Ten, while Nebraska sits 8-3-3, 4-0-2 in the Big Ten. After Ohio State’s previous 2-0 win at home against Iowa on Thursday, the Buckeyes seemed to get off to a slow start against Nebraska. The first goal of the afternoon for Ohio State came from sophomore defender Izzy Rodriguez in the 58th minute of the second half.“I think as a team we came out a little bit slow in the first half,” Rodriguez said. “But we made those changes in the second half, really went at them, we got our chances and came back from being down which we haven’t really done before, so it was good thing from our team to grind it out.”Freshmen forward Emaly Vatne said that the team picked it up in the second half, but wasn’t able to continue the momentum to the very end. “The way that we responded and battled in the second half and in overtime is something to be proud of,” Vatne said. “But there’s still a lot of things we need to work on.”The Cornhusker fans that filled the stands of Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium witnessed senior forward Faith Carter put Nebraska in the 1-0 early lead by scoring a goal in the 24th minute of the first half. After tying the game at the end of regulation, the Buckeyes went into overtime with the Cornhuskers, but neither team was able to come out on top. Senior goalkeeper Devon Kerr gathered five saves for Ohio State, recording a total of 47 saves so far this year. The Buckeyes earned a total of five saves compared to the Cornhuskers four, with Ohio State holding a 5-4 edge in corner kicks over Nebraska. Both Vatne and Rodriguez said the team still needs to work on having more composure on the ball, keeping good communication and also finishing.Vatne said the team is really excited to play on the road next weekend against Michigan and Michigan State. “There’s two good opponents we have to play,” Vatne said. “We have a lot of people from that area, so it should be a lot of fun and were pretty confident with how were playing.”After tying with Nebraska at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium, the Buckeyes will look to finish next weekend’s pair of games in a victory.Rodriguez said there are still a couple of things that the team needs to work on heading into the next few games, but overall she feels pretty confident. “Our work rates have been high,” Rodriguez said. “Our practices have been good, and there’s a few things we’ll have to tweak but I think we’ll be good.”The Ohio State women’s soccer team will hit the road once again for a series of away games, starting with the Wolverines next Friday at 7 p.m., then moving to the Spartans next Sunday at 1 p.m.
Redshirt sophomore Jake Hanes (16) anticipates making contact with the ball at the game against George Mason on Jan. 18 at St. John Arena in Columbus. Credit: Ethan Clewell | Senior Reporter.Playing its first match as an unranked squad since 2014, the Ohio State men’s volleyball team fell to No. 15 Purdue Fort Wayne, its second conference loss in as many matches. After winning a close first set, the Mastodons used a kill and two aces by redshirt senior opposite hitter Colton Stone to break the second set wide open, pushing their lead to 12-7. The lead grew to as many as 10 points after an Ohio State service error, with the score 23-13. The second set, much like the rest of the match, was less about Ohio State’s struggles than it was about the dominance of Purdue Fort Wayne, as the Mastodons terminated 13 of their 20 attack opportunities for a .450 hitting percentage, adding three aces. Junior outside hitter Pelegrin Vargas led the Mastodons with 15 kills, five block assists and an ace, while Stone added six kills and three aces. The Buckeye offense hit at a measly .167 clip, managing 30 kills on 72 total attacks, while adding three aces. Freshman middle blocker Ethan Talley had 10 kills on 14 attacks for a team-high .714 hitting percentage. Sophomore outside hitter Martin Lallemand was the only other Buckeye with more than five kills, finishing six and adding an ace and a block assist. Ohio State always seemed to be playing from behind, and without a consistent offense, they relied mostly on the 39 total errors committed by the Mastodons to stay in the game. In the third set, Purdue Fort Wayne used a 7-1 run to build a 20-16 lead over the Buckeyes, but four errors by the Mastodons brought the Buckeyes even at 20. Kills by Vargas and Stone finished off the Buckeyes, leading Purdue Fort Wayne to a 25-22 win. Both sophomore opposite hitter Jake Hanes and senior setter Sanil Thomas were out for the match with injury, the third straight match each had missed. Ohio State did have one player return from injury as freshman setter Luke Lentin was able to recover in time for the match. Lentin totalled 27 assists and three digs, while adding a kill and an ace for the Buckeyes. Lentin’s return allowed freshman libero Parker Mikesch to return to his regular duties as a libero alongside redshirt senior Aaron Samarin. Mikesch has spent the past two matches serving as the team’s full-time setter in the absence of Lentin, Thomas and junior setter Andrew Hillman. Ohio State will face No. 6 UC Santa Barbara at 7 p.m. on Friday and No. 1 Long Beach State at 10 p.m. on Saturday in Long Beach, California.
Then-sophomore attack Jack Jasinski heads for the goal in the fourth quarter during the first round of the NCAA tournament against Loyola Maryland on May 14, 2017. Credit: Sheridan Hendrix | Former Oller ReporterIn a game all about momentum, the No. 9 Ohio State men’s lacrosse team strung together 10 unanswered goals to pull away and remain undefeated in a 14-8 victory against Hofstra in Hempstead, New York on Saturday.Ohio State (6-0) did what it does well: scoring early, putting up four straight goals on Hofstra to begin the game. Two of the goals came from junior attack and team-leading goal scorer Tre LeClaire, with both assists coming from sophomore attack/midfield Colby Smith.That hot streak transferred right over to Hofstra (2-4) as the Pride answered back with two goals to end the first quarter and continued that momentum in the second, scoring two straight again to tie the Buckeyes with four unanswered goals of its own. Every goal for the Pride came from a different player in the run.After the Pride’s breakout, the rest of the second quarter was all Buckeyes. Ohio State scored five straight before halftime to make it 9-4 at the half. The five goals included two from freshman attack Jack Myers and LeClaire’s third of the game.Though the Buckeyes had the lead at the half, the anticipated face off battle between Hofstra’s sophomore midfield/forward Brian Heber and Ohio State’s sophomore midfield Justin Inacio was in favor of Herber 8-7. Herber finished with 14 wins on 26 faceoffs, while Inacio won 10 of his 18 attempts.Although the faceoff may have been won in the second half, the game quickly became about Ohio State’s dominance in the third quarter. Ohio State scored four more goals from four different players — LeClaire scoring his fourth of the game, Myers getting his third to complete the hat trick and senior midfielder Jack Jasinski got his first of two.Leclaire is up to 20 goals on the season to led the team, while Jasinski is No. 2 with 16.With the game looking out of hand, the Pride came roaring back, again scoring four straight goals. But it came too late, ending the game 14-8. No. 9 Ohio State comes back home to Ohio Stadium against No. 8 Denver at 1 p.m. Saturday.