Which teams are most likely to make college football’s first-ever four-team playoff? And which have the best chance of coming away with the national title?The quick answer is the obvious one: The Alabama Crimson Tide lead the way on both counts. They’re No. 1 in the playoff selection committee’s current rankings and No. 1 according to most computer systems, including ESPN’s Football Power Index (FPI). Alabama is no stranger to postseason success, having won the national title in 2009, 2011 and 2012.But it won’t be easy for Alabama, or anyone else. To win the national title, the Crimson Tide may need to prevail in four very challenging football games — against arch-rival Auburn on Nov. 29, in the SEC Championship on Dec. 6, and then in the national semifinal and championship games. Alabama is more likely than any other team to win the title, but its chances are still only about 28 percent.That number comes from a new model we’ve developed that simulates the rest of the college football season and considers how subsequent games might affect the playoff committee’s rankings. The model is speculative: Statistical models are grounded in history and there’s zero history to go by when it comes to the college football playoff. But we hope to have some fun with it over the next few weeks and use this season as a guide for how to improve it in future years.The key characteristics of the model are that it’s iterative and probabilistic.1In contrast to our usual 10,000-word manifesto when launching a new forecasting model, I’m only going to provide a brief description of it for now. We’ll circle back later on with more detail. By iterative, I mean that it simulates the rest of the college season one game and one week at a time instead of jumping directly from the current playoff committee standings to national championship chances. By probabilistic, I mean that it hopes to account for the considerable uncertainty in the playoff picture, both in terms of how the games will turn out and in how the humans on the selection committee might react to them.Games are simulated using ESPN’s Football Power Index. To take one example, FPI has USC with about a 40 percent chance of upsetting UCLA in the game they’ll play Saturday in Pasadena, California.The next question is how the teams’ standings in the playoff rankings might change given the possible outcomes on the field. We’ve principally used the historic record of the Coaches Poll for guidance. The simulations account for the fact that some wins and losses matter more than others.Let’s say that USC wins. It’s currently ranked No. 19 in the playoff committee’s rankings. On average in the Coaches Poll, teams ranked in that position have moved up to only No. 17 or No. 16 after a win.Our model sees more upside potential for USC, however. A victory for the Trojans would come in what is technically a road game for them (a few freeways away from their campus in Los Angeles). More importantly, it would come against a higher-ranked opponent in UCLA. Historically — and quite reasonably — human raters have given more credit to wins like those, so our simulation would have USC moving up to No. 15 or No. 14 on average if it wins instead. But there’s considerable uncertainty in the outcome. We have USC moving as high as No. 10, or even into the high single digits, in some simulations; in other cases, a number of other teams ranked near it in the standings might have impressive wins also, and USC would barely move up at all.The simulations also account for the potential margin of victory in each game. Voters in the coaches and media polls have mostly looked at wins and losses, but our research suggests they give a little bit more credit to especially lopsided victories or especially close ones.USC, although an interesting case for the model, is almost no threat to win the national championship no matter the scoreline in Pasadena. Even if it beats UCLA this week and Notre Dame next week — and wins the tiebreaker for the Pac-12 title and then wins that game against Oregon as well, it will be coming from too far behind. Our simulation gives the Trojans only a 0.2 percent chance of making the playoff.Other teams have a more credible chance of contending. Take Mississippi State. On the positive side for the Bulldogs, four teams will get into the playoff and they’re currently ranked No. 4. But Mississippi State has more downside than upside scenarios. It will almost certainly be out if it loses against No. 8 Mississippi — a game in which FPI has the Rebels favored. And even if Mississippi State wins that game, it won’t advance to the SEC Championship unless Alabama loses to Auburn. If Alabama wins, the Bulldogs would be denied another chance to impress the committee. Thus, our simulation has Mississippi State with just a 27 percent chance of making the playoff.These permutations can get complicated, which is why it helps to take things one week at a time. What might the playoff committee standings look like after this Saturday’s games, for instance? The heat map you see below reflects our model’s effort to account for all the possibilities:The top four probably won’t look much different when the playoff committee releases its new standings on Tuesday. They all have fairly easy marks: Alabama will play a Division I-AA opponent, Western Carolina. No. 2 Oregon is at home against 2-8 Colorado. No. 3 Florida State is heavily favored at home against Boston College. And Mississippi State is also at home, playing Vanderbilt, the worst team in the SEC.There’s more action outside the top four. I already mentioned the high-leverage game in Pasadena. If you look carefully at the chart, you’ll see that USC’s probability distribution is bimodal. In other words, it probably won’t stay at No. 19, where it is now. If it beats UCLA, it could gain several positions in the rankings; if it loses, it will have taken its fourth loss and might be knocked out of the top 25 entirely.USC’s opponent, UCLA, also has a lot on the line. UCLA would need a lot of help, but it still has an outside chance — our model puts it at 8 percent — of making the playoff. Beating both USC and Stanford would give UCLA an entry into the Pac-12 championship game. If it beat Oregon then, and a team or two ahead of it endures a loss, it could get in.We might compare the Trojans against their Hellenic-themed rivals, the Michigan State Spartans. Not that MSU, already having lost twice, had much chance to begin with (it pains me to say that as an East Lansing High School alum). But the Spartans are a good example of a team that just doesn’t have enough opportunities to impress committee voters even under its best-case outcomes. MSU’s only remaining scheduled games are against unranked Rutgers and Penn State — and it will only make the Big Ten Championship game if it wins twice and Ohio State loses twice.The Georgia Bulldogs, by comparison, despite being just one position ahead of Michigan State in the rankings, have a better hand to play. They’ll make the SEC Championship if Missouri loses either of its remaining games. If Georgia makes the conference title game and beats Alabama, it would give committee members a lot to think about.Here’s how our model sees the potential lay of the land on Dec. 7, when the selection committee will release its final rankings:As you can see, playing out three weeks’ worth of games increases the uncertainty a great deal as compared to just this coming weekend’s outcomes. No team is more than 75 percent certain to make the playoff.Florida State, despite being undefeated and No. 1 in the Coaches Poll, is not all that well positioned. The selection committee has it at No. 3, which implies that a loss would probably knock it out of contention. FPI, along with other computer systems, is not high on the Seminoles, who have won by middling margins against a so-so schedule.Oregon’s position is better. The Ducks will probably have to win out also, but they’ve already survived the tougher parts of their schedule. Oregon has been good enough, in fact, to make duck-hunting an appealing proposition; UCLA’s outside shot of making the playoff relies upon the possibility of beating it in the Pac-12 Championship.Our simulation also accounts for what might happen beyond Dec. 7. Here are the teams most likely to win the national championship, according to our model:A few teams might be overlooked in the title hunt. Although none of its teams ranks in the top four now, the Big 12 is more likely than not to advance one team (TCU or Baylor) into the playoff. Ohio State’s position as a potential one-loss winner of a major conference will start to look better if any teams ahead of it slip. Ole Miss is a longshot to make the playoff — it will have to beat Mississippi State and perhaps hope that Alabama loses also so that it can get into the SEC Championship — but it’s at the top of the pecking order as far as two-loss teams go.There’s still a lot that these simulations aren’t accounting for. There’s no mechanism in the model to account for head-to-head results even though the committee has said it will consider them if the standings are otherwise close. That potentially works to the benefit of Alabama, which might finish close to Mississippi State in the standings if it loses to Auburn or in the SEC Championship, but which beat the Bulldogs in Tuscaloosa last week.The selection committee may also place more emphasis on conference championships than the simulations do. But we have no evidence yet for how that might play out — nor for how resistant the committee might be to choosing two or more teams from the same conference. We hope you’ll join us as we sort through the scenarios.CORRECTION (Nov. 22, 3:20 p.m.): An earlier version of this article misstated the division in which Western Carolina plays. It is not Division II, but the Football Championship Subdivision, formerly known as Division I-AA.
82000Connecticut361+47.4—+47.4 Source: Kenneth Massey, Sonny Moore 12016Connecticut380+54.7+52.9+53.8 More: Apple Podcasts | ESPN App | RSS | Embed The Hot Takedown crew dissects UConn’s fourth straight championship. 152012Notre Dame354+41.2+40.6+40.9 It’s getting harder every day, the search for unused superlatives to heap upon the University of Connecticut women’s basketball team. On Tuesday night, the Huskies captured their fourth consecutive NCAA championship with an 82-51 rout of Syracuse. The victory made star forward Breanna Stewart four-for-four on titles during her four years in Storrs and capped off a run the likes of which hasn’t been seen in the college game since John Wooden’s UCLA squad won seven straight men’s championships in the late 1960s and early ’70s.UConn is all about rings — coach Geno Auriemma now has a record 11 of them, after all — but a championship can only really signify supremacy over the competition within a given season. When a team dominates as thoroughly as these Huskies have (they won their NCAA Tournament games by an average of 39.8 points per game), history becomes the only opponent. And even against that standard, UConn keeps raising the bar.Gathering stats on women’s sports — even a popular one like basketball — is a notoriously (and shamefully) frustrating endeavor, but we can try to quantify a team’s dominance using historical data from Kenneth Massey and Sonny Moore, a couple of the power-rating makers featured in our women’s tournament prediction model. (Massey’s data goes back to 1997-98, while Moore’s picks up in 2004-05; the other two rating systems from the model do not provide historical archives.) 162008Connecticut362+40.5+39.6+40.1 By Neil Paine 22015Connecticut381+51.2+52.5+51.8 212011Texas A&M335+38.4+38.9+38.7 Admittedly, power ratings aren’t everything. For one thing, in the absence of player-level era adjustments like FiveThirtyEight editor-in-chief Nate Silver’s Baseball Time Machine, they aren’t capable of accounting for changes in absolute quality of competition over time. But, if anything, the women’s game is evolving rapidly enough that UConn probably faced more talented opponents in Stewart’s senior season than it did when she was a freshman. And in the face of those changes, the Huskies adjusted even more quickly, upping the ante for how good a college team could be.It’s anyone’s guess how much of this impossibly steep ascent UConn can maintain after the likes of Stewart and Morgan Tuck depart for the WNBA next season. But for now, let’s take a moment to appreciate what the Huskies accomplished these past few years: a run of dominance so impressive that even future incarnations of UConn will have trouble topping it. 42010Connecticut390+52.2+49.0+50.6 Embed Code 72009Connecticut390+49.9+45.3+47.6 32014Connecticut400+56.3+46.3+51.3 132011Connecticut362+41.5+41.3+41.4 The greatest NCAA women’s teams since 1997-98 And to the extent we’re able to measure things,1In this case, I set Massey’s and Moore’s ratings on the same scale and averaged them for years in which both numbers are available; for seasons before that, I just used Massey’s rating. the 2015-16 Huskies were the best team of the modern era of women’s college basketball … supplanting the 2014-15 Huskies … who supplanted the 2013-14 Huskies. Each of Stewart’s final three years saw new ground broken in the area of women’s basketball greatness. 232008Tennessee362+39.9+37.1+38.5 POWER RATING 52002Connecticut390+49.8—+49.8 121998Tennessee390+41.4—+41.4 202011Stanford333+38.7+38.7+38.7 172013Notre Dame352+40.2+38.3+39.2 62013Connecticut354+47.4+49.0+48.2 YEARTEAMWINSLOSSESMASSEYMOOREAVERAGE 182006Duke324+40.1+38.2+39.1 112013Baylor342+43.0+41.5+42.3 222010Stanford362+39.6+37.5+38.5 92012Baylor400+48.6+43.6+46.1 142012Connecticut335+40.5+42.1+41.3 242007Tennessee343+40.7+36.1+38.4 192001Connecticut323+38.7—+38.7 102014Notre Dame371+44.0+42.6+43.3 251999Tennessee313+37.9—+37.9
Notre Dame’s Jack Swarbrick.The BCS commissioners and Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick on endorsed a seeded four-team playoff model for college football that would begin for the 2014 season.The commissioners’ consensus must be approved by the BCS presidential oversight committee, which meets June 26 in Washington, D.C. If approved, the four-team playoff would replace the current BCS system, which has been in place since 1998.Sources told ESPN.com that under the recommended model, four participating teams would be selected by a committee, which would consider certain criteria such as conference championships and strength of schedule.The two national semifinal games would be played within the existing BCS bowl games (Fiesta, Orange, Rose and Sugar) on a rotating basis, with the host sites being predetermined before each season. The national championship game would be offered to the highest bidding city.“We’re very unified,” Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany said. “There are issues that have yet to be finalized. There’s always devil in the detail, from the model to the selection process, but clearly we’ve made a lot of progress.”
Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Khan had a clear and unequivocal message for running back Maurice Jones-Drew, who is seeking a new contract.He’s not getting one.“There’s no decision here,’’ Khan told the Times-Union newspaper of Florida.“It’s his choice. There’s been very little for us to do rather than wait on whatever he might choose to do.’’That could result in a long holdout for Jones-Drew, who has two years left on a five-year, $31-million contract he signed in 2008.Coach Mike Mularkey will not only be missing Jones-Drew at his first practice today, but also first-round draft choice Justin Blackmon, who has yet to come to terms on a deal because the Jaguars want protection in case he has another off-field incident.Jones-Drew, the NFL’s leading rusher last season, can be fined $30,000 a day for his absence although Mularkey has declined to say if he will impose the fine.Blackmon is the Jaguars’ last unsigned rookie after punter Bryan Anger, the team’s third-round pick, agreed to a four-year contract and signed the deal.Jaguars general manager Gene Smith previously said the team wants Jones-Drew to honor the final two years of his contract and isn’t going to give him a new deal. Khan made it obvious that continues to be the team’s position.“There’s more than 50 players under contract,” Khan said. “There are other people under contract in management, coaches. Does that mean if you do it for one, you do it for everybody. Where do you draw the line?’’The danger of a long holdout is Jones-Drew wouldn’t know the team’s new system and might not be in football shape and could be liable to injury.“My only concern is learning the system,’’ Mularkey said of Jones-Drew. “It would be difficult to come in and jump right in the huddle for anybody who isn’t here. I think veterans know what kind of shape [they have to be in]. Especially in this kind of heat. Football shape is different, especially if you don’t get some banging early.’’
Anthony Bennett was stunned at the start. David Stern had a big surprise at the finish. In between, Nerlen Noel and a number of others experienced wild rides to start their careers in an unsettled first round of the 2013 NBA draft.Bennett became the first Canadian No. 1 overall pick, and Noel tumbled out of the top five and right into a trade.The draft was as unpredictable as expected, capped by Hakeem Olajuwon coming on stage at the end of the first round to greet Stern. Olajuwon was dressed in the same tuxedo style he wore when Stern called his name to start the soon-to-be retired commissioner’s first draft in 1984.One of the favorites to be taken first Thursday night, Noel fell to No. 6, where the New Orleans Pelicans took him and then dealt his rights to the Philadelphia 76ers for a package headlined by All-Star guard Jrue Holiday, league sources told ESPN.com.The Cleveland Cavaliers started things by passing on centers Noel and Alex Len, who went to Phoenix at No. 5, in favor of Bennett, the UNLV freshman forward who starred for Canada’s junior national teams and was the Mountain West Conference freshman of the year. Bennett led a record 12 international players who were taken in the first round.“I’m just as surprised as anyone else,” Bennett said.There was suspense right until the end, either because the Cavs were unsure who they wanted or were trying to trade the pick. Most predictions had them taking one of the big men, with Noel largely considered the favorite for the No. 1 choice even after a torn ACL that ended his lone season at Kentucky in February.“I thought everything was in the air, so I wasn’t thinking I was the No. 1 pick,” Noel said.Stern, booed heavily in his final draft, added to the surprise of the moment by pausing slightly before announcing the Cavs’ pick, their first at No. 1 since taking All-Star Kyrie Irving in 2011.Orlando passed on both of the big men, too, going with Indiana swingman Victor Oladipo with the No. 2 pick. Washington took Otto Porter Jr. with the third pick, keeping the Georgetown star in town.Ten years after the Cavaliers selected LeBron James to start a draft that included future NBA championship teammates Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in the top five, this one lacked star power and perhaps even the promise of stardom.Bennett, Noel and Len are all coming off injuries and couldn’t even work out for teams, but the Cavs decided Bennett’s shoulder surgery wasn’t enough cause for concern.Len walked up to meet Stern and collect his orange Suns hat, then sat down near the stage to put on the walking boot he needs for the stress fracture of his left ankle that was discovered after Maryland’s season.Noel finally went to New Orleans with the next pick. He didn’t seem upset at his fall down the draft board, hugging his mother and shaking hands with Kentucky coach John Calipari.It was a good start to the night for the Hoosiers, with Cody Zeller going to the Charlotte Bobcats two places after Oladipo.Kansas guard Ben McLemore, another player who was considered a potential top-three pick, also dropped, going seventh to Sacramento.Headed by a lackluster class, the draft promised confusion and second-guessing, with no consensus No. 1 pick and little agreement among the order of the top five.The guys coming into the league were glad for the attention they did finally get once their names were called.“It’s like a weight vest you took off after running five miles,” Oladipo said. “It’s relaxing, man. But at the same time, you know it’s just getting started.”National player of the year Trey Burke of Michigan also was traded, the Minnesota Timberwolves sending his rights to Utah for the rights to Shabazz Muhammad and Gorgui Dieng, the Nos. 14 and 21 picks.Lehigh’s C.J. McCollum rounded out the top 10 by going to Portland.Stern, retiring in February, seemed to play up the boos, which turned to cheers after every pick, fans perhaps as puzzled as some of the players at the names they were hearing.“I was just kidding my agent because he didn’t bail me out,” Zeller said. “He didn’t tell me. I didn’t know until David Stern announced it. It’s a crazy process not knowing, but I’m definitely excited that I ended up with the Bobcats.”Other players couldn’t get too excited about their new addresses, because they changed quickly.Stern was announcing deals by the middle of the first round and they promised to keep coming after he called it a night and turned things over to deputy commissioner Adam Silver for the final 30 picks.The flurry of trades wasn’t surprising with so much uncertainty surrounding this class and so much hope in other areas. Teams such as Houston, Dallas and Atlanta already have an eye on Dwight Howard’s future, needing to have necessary salary-cap space to offer a maximum contract that could lure him away from Los Angeles.
The injuries and the extended absences gave Tiger ample time to fade into the background while a crop of young stars like McIlroy and Spieth ascended. But Tiger never really went away: Even though he hasn’t spent much time on the golf course, he still managed to garner more headlines than the others in this group in 24 of the past 47 months.The months since 2014 in which Tiger’s mentions are surpassed by any of these players mostly track with a given player’s success — or a given player’s epic collapse — at a major championship. For example, McIlroy’s headline mentions outpaced Tiger’s in July 2014 when he finally got over the hump to win his first British Open. Spieth’s mentions exceeded Tiger’s in June 2015 when he became the first 21-year-old to win the U.S. Open since Bobby Jones did so in 1923. In August 2015, Day and Spieth battled for the PGA Championship (where McIlroy was the defending champion). Day ultimately edged Spieth to claim the Wanamaker Trophy, and all three players’ names popped up in the media more frequently than Tiger’s that month.And even if Tiger had been swinging his sticks in April 2016 — he effectively disappeared from the public eye for much of that year — it’s safe to assume Spieth would have still topped Tiger that month: Spieth’s quadruple-bogey at Amen Corner on Sunday at the Masters was the story of the golf season, if not golf’s past half-decade.Tiger’s mentions spiked again in October 2016 when rumors of his return to competitive golf began to swirl (though he eventually postponed that return), and he’s remained steadily at or around the top since.4One big exception: July 2017, when Spieth and McIlroy battled for the Claret Jug at Royal Birkdale. And Tiger’s biggest peak came in late May and early June of this year after his arrest on suspicion of driving under the influence of, well, seemingly everything.5We’ve all seen the mugshot; we don’t need to make another joke about the mugshot.The overall trend has held true over the past two years, even as Tiger has been nonexistent in professional golf. Here’s how Woods has compared over that span to the top 10 PGA Tour money leaders in headlines,6Doesn’t include money earned on the European Tour and other non-PGA Tour circuits. according to Media Cloud. The 18-man field of this week’s Hero World Challenge1This event is hosted by Tiger Woods and is a benefit for the Tiger Woods Foundation. — a tournament that seems to function mostly as an excuse to wrangle the world’s best golfers and Derek Jeter for a hang in the Bahamas — features eight players ranked in the top 10 and nine others ranked no lower than No. 32. Rounding out the field is the world’s 1,199th-ranked golfer, otherwise known as Tiger Woods. Take a guess at who’s getting the lion’s share of attention?Woods made his latest return to professional golf on Thursday, giving us another excuse to indulge in a long-running national obsession. Tiger hasn’t won a tournament since 2013, and he hasn’t made a cut since 2015. He played just four meaningful2Assuming you count last year’s Hero World Challenge as “meaningful.” rounds of golf in 2016, and the event in the Bahamas is his first start in 10 months.But Woods’s prolonged absence hasn’t sidelined his status as golf’s biggest celebrity. To measure this using the Media Cloud — a database that collects news published on the internet every day — we looked at every time the words “Tiger Woods” appeared in a headline on a mainstream U.S. media outlet from the beginning of 2014 to the eve of the Hero World Challenge. Tiger garnered 4,489 articles3This may include different versions of the same story. despite making just 22 starts in that time. This number exceeds each of the five players who have held the No. 1 world ranking since Woods last gave it up: Rory McIlroy (3,844 headlines), Jordan Spieth (2,682), Dustin Johnson (1,207), Jason Day (995) and Adam Scott (512). The irony here is that these past two years have been an exciting time for golf as numerous stars have emerged in the Tigerless landscape. Over the course of the past two PGA Tour seasons, the 10 players in the chart above — which includes exciting American talents such as Justin Thomas, Rickie Fowler and Patrick Reed — have combined to rack up more than $100 million and win four of the past eight majors. Despite the cupboard being stocked with all the ingredients for a piquant tabloid stew — youth, success, money, celebrity relationships, some casual cocaine use — none of these moneyed young players in the primes of their careers have managed to grow their personal brand enough to surpass the ultimate golf celebrity.Tiger Mania has had peaks and valleys, but it’s never died down entirely. If Tiger says his back is feeling good, we’re paying attention. If Tiger sneezes, we’re paying attention. And if Tiger messes up, we’re definitely paying attention. But now that he’s picked up the bag again, it would be nice if the quality of his game returned to the sublime golf that made us fall in love with him to begin with — and allow us to focus on that.Geoff Foster contributed research to this piece.
Ronnie Dawson (4) touches home plate following a home run during OSU’s 12-1 win over Hofstra on March 18 at Bill Davis Stadium. Credit: Giustino Bovenzi | Lantern reporterThe Ohio State baseball team continued its push for the postseason this weekend with a road-series win over No. 24 Minnesota in Minneapolis at Siebert Field. Coach Greg Beals had his squad arguably playing its best baseball of the season coming into the weekend, and the Buckeyes needed to build upon their home sweep of Michigan from the previous weekend.Game 1Sitting tied at third in the Big Ten standings with Nebraska heading into Thursday’s action just 2.5 games back of Minnesota for the Big Ten championship, OSU had a grand opportunity for one of the largest season turnarounds in school history.Tanner Tully toed the rubber for OSU on Thursday versus the Golden Gophers sporting a 6-3 record as OSU’s No. 1 starter. After a 1-2-3 first inning, Tully struggled a bit in the second. Despite junior outfielder Troy Montgomery scoring on a wild pitch to give OSU a 1-0 lead, Minnesota hitters Austin Athman and Micah Coffey singled and doubled, respectively, off the Elkhart, Indiana, native. Athman then scored on a groundout by Minnesota junior Matt Stemper to tie the game at 1.At times this season, Tully has dealt with command issues which were evident in the 10 hits he allowed on Thursday night. However, the former freshman All-American climbed out of holes several times in his outing only allowing two runs in six innings pitched, striking out four.The Buckeyes’ offensive fortunes came in the form of wild pitches and passed balls. Scoring on a wild pitch in the second, OSU once again crossed home plate in the seventh on an errant pitch from Golden Gophers’ pitcher Matt Fielder. Sophomore Tre’ Gantt tied the game at two in the seventh for OSU, and senior infielder Troy Kuhn came through in the ninth with a two-out infield base hit to score senior Craig Nennig. Michael Horejsei pitched two hitless innings to cap off a comeback 3-2 victory.It was the type of hit that needed to happen for the Buckeyes to take a 1-0 lead in the series as they continue to claw and scrape back into the NCAA tournament picture. Kuhn’s game-winning single and Horejsei slamming the door out of the bullpen notched OSU’s seventh consecutive victory.Game 2Picking up from where he left off on Thursday night, Nennig launched a two-run shot over the fence at Siebert Field to put the Buckeyes up 2-0. The relatively quick start was something that Buckeyes had not been able to do in over a week, so the general feeling was that OSU had control of the game with senior John Havird on the mound.Havird threw five scoreless innings and was working with a 3-0 lead before the Minnesota bats woke up in the sixth.The Gophers tattooed the lefty for four runs on five hits to pull ahead 4-3. OSU was in command the entire game and was looking like the team would have a shot at at least a share of the Big Ten crown with a win on Saturday. Once Minnesota took the lead in the sixth, the team never looked back.OSU put a the leadoff man on base in the seventh and eighth innings, but the ball was simply rolling the way of the Maroon and Gold. Double plays ended any possible threat following leadoff hits, and OSU was sent down without a fight.Minnesota clinched the outright Big Ten championship after defeating the Buckeyes and an Indiana loss on Friday.Game 3In the rubber match of the pivotal Big Ten finale series, OSU sent redshirt sophomore Adam Niemeyer to the hill to do battle with Minnesota’s Toby Anderson. The Buckeyes could no longer win a share of the Big Ten, but another top-25 victory, likely, would impress the selection board for the NCAA tournament.Since his first season in Scarlet and Gray in 2011, Beals’ teams have been known to be great competitors that can be over-matched with skill but won’t back down from a challenge. On Sunday in the regular season finale, Beals’ most trusted players took center stage.Down 6-4, Kuhn led off the sixth with a double, and Montgomery soon followed with an RBI single to cut the deficit to one. Then, junior outfielder Ronnie Dawson put a charge into a fastball that he sent out of the confines of Siebert Field to knot the game 5-all. Dawson quickly rounded the bases hoping to get another at-bat.Relief pitchers Seth Kinker, Horejsei and freshman Ryan Feltner held off the potent Minnesota lineup in the 4.1 innings of work to force extra-innings with a chance to pull-off another comeback victory and steal the final Big Ten series from the conference champs.Dawson came to the plate in the tenth and delivered once again sending a towering blast over the right-center field fence to put the Buckeyes in front 6-5. Minnesota outfielders could only gaze at the white leather pierced through the win as OSU continued to gash some of college baseball’s best teams. His two home runs gives him 12 on the season and OSU leads the Big Ten with 53 home runs.On the final out of the game, Nennig charged from the shortstop position and made a remarkable play to nab the Gophers of sending the go-ahead run to the plate. Bosiokovic triumphantly fist pumped after the final putout, then Kuhn and Nennig soared for a victorious chest bump. It was the type of reaction a team expresses after vanquishing the No. 24 Gophers on their home turf and playing into consideration for a NCAA at-large bid.Dawson and the Buckeyes put on a textbook display of overcoming adversity. The Buckeyes proved to the conference and the nation that the team is ready for the big stage in Omaha, Nebraska, next week at the Big Ten Tournament.OSU earned the No. 4 seed in the tournament and will play No. 5 seed Michigan at approximately 10 p.m. ET on Wednesday.
As a senior at Gahanna Lincoln High School in 2005, Chris Malone earned all-district and second team all-Ohio Capital Conference as an offensive lineman. After receiving scholarship offers from some Football Championship Subdivision schools, Malone instead decided to join Ohio State as a walk-on. “I grew up loving the Buckeyes and I knew that if I didn’t give this a shot that I was always going to wonder ‘what if?’” Malone said. Malone redshirted in 2006 and then worked with the scout team as a freshman and sophomore. In his junior season, Malone’s perseverance paid off as he received scout team workhorse honors for the Navy and Iowa games and earned a little bit of playing time. “Even though we don’t make the highlights on ESPN, we know we do make a difference,” Malone said. “We get a chance to make our defense better every day by just playing our hardest during practice and challenging them.” As a senior, Malone continues working hard and earned playing time against Ohio University. Malone is majoring in biology at OSU and wants to pursue medical school after he graduates. “I would love to be a doctor, that’s always been my goal, that’s always been my dream,” Malone said.
As you’d expect for a game as highly anticipated as the one between Ohio State and Duke, half of the pre-game entrances were filled with cheers and the other half were filled with boos. But on Tuesday night, those cheers didn’t initially come for Thad Matta and his Buckeyes, nor did the boos first come for Mike Krzyzewski and the Blue Devils. Instead it was former OSU players Evan Turner, Mike Conley, Jr., Greg Oden, Michael Redd and Scoonie Penn receiving cheers as they arrived to their courtside seats, moments before the Miami Heat’s Dwyane Wade and LeBron James received a chorus of boos on the way to theirs. But with the stars of the NBA and OSU’s past lining the north baseline, the real stars Tuesday night were in uniform, as anyone who was looking forward to stat-sheet-stuffing individual performances from the No. 2- and No. 3-ranked teams in the nation didn’t walk away from the Schottenstein Center disappointed. OSU’s trio of preseason National Player of the Year candidates combined for 58 points as the Buckeyes cruised to a 85-63 win. Totals in the OSU box score included 21 points and eight rebounds from preseason All-American Jared Sullinger, 20 points, five rebounds and four assists from William Buford, and 17 points, eight assists and five rebounds from sophomore guard Aaron Craft. After the game, Sullinger attributed the Buckeyes’ domination against Duke to the team’s mental toughness. “What can I say? This basketball team is something special,” Sullinger said. “We really kind of took them by their throats, and we really kind of pushed the ball, and we got a lot of easy baskets.” Despite their large margin of victory, it wasn’t just the Buckeyes’ stars who put on a show. Highly touted Duke freshman guard Austin Rivers had a coming out party of sorts, as he led the Blue Devils in scoring with 22 points — two of which came by way of an ankle-breaking crossover and then lay-up as he was guarded by OSU’s Jordan Sibert. Also starring for Duke was junior forward Mason Plumlee — a former McDonald’s All-American and 2009’s Mr. Basketball in North Carolina — who scored 16 points and added six rebounds for the Blue Devils on Tuesday night. “Those two kids were excellent for us,” Krzyzewski said. “They’re going to get better. Our team is going to get a lot better by playing this level of competition.” The efforts of Rivers and Plumlee weren’t enough, however, as not only did Duke have to deal with the star power of Sullinger, Buford and Craft, but that of an emerging star in OSU sophomore Deshaun Thomas. Also a former high school All-American, Thomas scored a season-high 18 points, including a buzzer beating jumper at the end of the first half to give the Buckeyes a 47-28 lead at intermission. After the game, Thomas admitted that James’ and Wade’s presence played a role in inspiring him for his big game on the big stage. “I saw them over there. They’re guys you watch in the NBA every day,” Thomas said. “It was great motivation to show off for them, ‘cause they show off for us when they’re on the TV.” But while he looked like an NBA player Tuesday night, unlike James and Wade, Thomas’ star power was anything but booed by the sold out crowd of 18,809 at the Schottenstein Center.
Ohio State senior attack Eric Fannell scored five goals in the Buckeyes dramatic comeback 11-10 overtime victory over Maryland on April 22 at Ohio Stadium. Credit: Courtesy of OSU AthleticsWHAT: NCAA Men’s Lacrosse Championship – No. 3 Ohio State vs. No. 1 Maryland at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts.HOW TO WATCH: ESPN2 at 1 p.m. Streaming on WatchESPN app and ESPN3.comIt all comes down to this. A matchup of Big Ten rivals who have battled neck-and-neck all season will determine the next NCAA men’s lacrosse champion.The No. 3 Ohio State men’s lacrosse team (16-4) has battled No. 1 Maryland (15-3) twice this season, edging out the Terrapins at home in an 11-10 overtime thriller on April 22, and losing 10-9 in the finals of the Big Ten tournament in Columbus.After the team lost to Maryland in the tournament finals, coach Nick Myers and the rest of his unit believed that if they played to the level they were capable of, this season would end in a matchup between them and their East Coast rivals.“We have a ton of respect for Maryland,” Myers said. “We felt that night, we looked at each other and without knowing how this was going to turn out, ‘Hey, we’re going to see these guys again if we take care of business.’”Though the teams have built up a rivalry through their close, competitive games this season, Myers said that contempt for the opposition will not be the driving factor behind their play on Monday. Instead, respect for the opposition and the desire to play their best possible lacrosse would be what pushes the Buckeyes to play well.“You have to play your best lacrosse if you want to try to go out there and beat Maryland,” Myers said. “I think that that, more than contempt, is what it brings out.”The players echoed Myers’ sentiment.“The whole team is excited to play Maryland again,” senior attackman Eric Fannell said. “They’re a very, very good team, as coach Myers said. We have a lot of respect for them. And every time we play them, we play to our best ability and so do they. Big Ten matchup again. Grudge match.”The two teams will enter the game coming off a pair of narrow victories in the semifinals. OSU edged out Towson 11-10, and Maryland hung on late against fifth-seeded Denver to win 9-8.Though both games were close, and relatively low-scoring, the Buckeyes are prepared for a game that could be more of an offensive show, taking on a team that averaged the 10th-most goals per game in the NCAA this past season (12.67 goals per game).“They play a good team offense,” Myers said. “They’ve got a good front six — as good a front six as there is in lacrosse. We feel strongly in ours, and I think you’re going to see a collision tomorrow as you did in the first couple games.”The matchup in the Big Ten tournament championship game did not prove to be quite the offensive show many expected, until late in the game when a total of nine goals were scored in the fourth quarter in an eventual 10-9 Maryland victory.Myers believes that for the Buckeyes to find success against the Terrapins on Monday, the Buckeyes will need to put together an offensive effort capable of keeping up with their opponents.“That was a heavyweight slugfest that you saw in the Big Ten championship,” Myers said. “We’re chasing our best offense, and for us to accomplish the ultimate goal, we’ll have to do that. I think Maryland’s going to bring that out in us.”But this time, the stakes are a bit higher than they were the last time these two teams met. It is no longer a Big Ten title on the line. Now it’s for the NCAA championship.In the history of OSU lacrosse, the team has never made it to this point. It had never even made it to the semifinals before this season. And now, on the doorstep of history for the program, seniors like midfielder Jake Withers believe that while the program has vastly surpassed expectation in their tenure, the end goal has still not yet been reached.“We came a long way since my freshman year four years ago, and we’ve stumbled and we’ve made some steps. I feel like this year, you know, the progression that we’ve made to championship weekend is a culmination of all those things together,” Withers said. “With that said, we’re not done. Although we made a championship weekend and championship game, we want to make history and be the first Buckeye lacrosse team to bring the trophy back to Columbus.”