As we wrote Thursday, the 2014-15 Cleveland Cavaliers figure to be a very good basketball team after acquiring Kevin Love from the Minnesota Timberwolves in a trade this week. That move came on top of the offseason’s biggest coup — persuading LeBron James to return to Ohio after a four-season stint in Miami — and it gives the Cavs two of the top six or so players in the NBA. According to our calculations, Cleveland has the talent to rattle off more than 60 wins next season.James is no stranger to helping rack up big win totals. His teams have won 60 or more games in a season three times in his 12-year NBA career, and 50 or more games eight times (pro-rating the 2011-12 Heat’s 46 wins in 66 games up to 57.2 wins in the NBA’s usual 82-game schedule). But, provided they stay relatively healthy next year, James’s new Cleveland teammates could supply him with the best supporting cast he’s ever had.We can measure the contributions of James’s teammates by looking at how well a statistic like Real Plus/Minus (RPM) or Statistical Plus/Minus (SPM) would predict they’d play if his team replaced him with an average player. For example, RPM calls for the 2014-15 Cavaliers to produce a +9.6 efficiency differential, or the gap between offensive efficiency and defensive efficiency (and a predictor of future success). James is projected for a +9.1 RPM while playing 72.9 percent of the team’s available minutes. Given his performance and playing time, his teammates would need +0.7 RPM apiece for the team’s overall differential to add up to 9.6. This implies that a team composed of James’s Cavs teammates — plus an average player (with a rating of 0.0) taking up James’s 72.9 percent of available minutes — would instead have a differential of +2.9.We can calculate this for each of James’s teams, using both SPM and RPM, to find the most talented supporting casts he’s played alongside:If we use our earlier projected distribution of minutes played, then the 2014-15 Cavaliers will easily feature the best supporting cast James has ever lined up with. However, as we noted earlier, there are a few reasons to think James’s new teammates might be closer to the pack.First, injuries could matter quite a bit for this group. Kyrie Irving and Love combined for 148 games played last season but were limited to 67 the year before. Using Houston Rockets analyst Ed Kupfer’s rule of thumb that players should be penalized one game for each six missed last season and one for each 20 missed two years before (from a baseline forecast of 76 games played), the Cavs would project to give 2,125 minutes to players unaccounted for on our roster projection. If those replacement-level players performed at a level of -2.0 points per 100 possessions, then the 2014-15 Cavs’ supporting cast would produce an RPM differential of +1.4 without James, which would be only marginally ahead of that provided by James’s teammates on the 2013-14 Heat.There’s also the issue of growing pains — and diminishing returns — when a new roster comes together. Love might be a perfect fit with James and the Cavs, but players joining unfamiliar teams tend to perform worse than their plus/minus ratings would predict. This could especially be true because of the adjustment that will be required of Love, who used 28.6 percent of the Timberwolves’ possessions while on the floor last season. He’ll be joining forces with James (31.0 percent of possessions used with the Heat), plus Kyrie Irving (28.1 percent) and Dion Waiters (25.8 percent). Following in the footsteps of the 2010-11 Heat, next year’s Cleveland squad will probably blow away records for possession-users coming together on a team. However, it’s not always easy to predict how much of a difference there will be between the sum of a team’s parts and its actual performance.Even so, the Cavaliers are considered the favorites to win next year’s NBA championship. A lot of that is due to James’s return, but it doesn’t hurt that he’ll play with the most gifted set of teammates he’s ever had.
The left panel shows the comparative rate of strike calls when, in the bottom of an inning in extras, the batting team is positioned to win — defined as having a runner on base in a tie game — relative to those rates in situations when there’s no runner on base in a tie game. When the home team has a baserunner, umps call more balls, thus setting up more favorable counts for home-team hitters, creating more trouble for the pitcher, and giving the home team more chances to end the game.The right-hand side of the chart shows squares at identical strike zone locations, but shaded according to changes in strike rates when the extra-inning scenario favors the away team. More specifically, any time the away team is trying to hold onto a lead in the bottom half of an inning after the ninth. Here, and as in the pitch to Marisnick, umps call more strikes, giving the batting team fewer chances to extend the game.Altogether, teams that are in a position to win get up to a 27 percentage point increase in the rate of called balls, while teams that look like they’re about to lose see increased strike rates of up to 33 percentage points. Differences are largest in fringe areas of the strike zone, where the opportunity for umpire discretion is the highest: 62 percent of these squares in the left panel are green, while 72 percent of fringe squares on the right panel are pink.2We’re defining the fringe area as squares within one square of the black line marking the edge of the strike zone. In both settings, umps are more likely to use whatever behavior gets the game over with the quickest. That may not necessarily be a bad thing. MLB games are already slow, and extra-innings play often comes late at night, which means smaller crowds and fewer television viewers.MLB did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but the league has made no secret of its interest in shortening games. Even so, umpires may not be consciously deciding who should win. Humans are susceptible to various biases they may not be aware of, and even just a bit of fatigue could unintentionally push umpires in one direction or the other on borderline calls.Moreover, according to sources within the umpire union, umps don’t get paid more when games go to extra innings. In other words, MLB asks them to take on extra work without providing any extra compensation. That’s one more reason they may want the game to end early — their paycheck’s the same regardless. In the top of the 10th inning in Sunday night’s nationally televised contest between the Astros and Rangers — one that will most likely be remembered as the night a 44-year-old nearly no-hit the defending World Series champs — the visiting Rangers grabbed a 3-1 lead.In the bottom of the frame, the home team’s hopes rested on Jake Marisnick, who, with runners at the corners, two outs, and his team still trailing by a pair of runs, worked a 3-1 count against Jake Diekman. A Marisnick walk would load the bases for the Astros, bringing reigning World Series MVP George Springer to the plate, a hit away from tying or winning the game.On Diekman’s fifth pitch, it appeared that Marisnick had earned a walk. “This is not a strike, this is off the plate,” ESPN broadcaster Jessica Mendoza opined as the networks’ K-Zone showed the pitch a few inches outside. Home plate umpire Adam Hamari disagreed, however, calling the pitch strike two. Marisnick struck out swinging on the following pitch to end the game, and the outfielder slammed his bat in disgust.Umps miss balls and strikes all the time. But the strike two in that Marisnick at-bat is emblematic of a larger pattern of borderline calls, albeit one that umps probably produce unwittingly: In extra innings, umpires will vary ball and strike calls in ways that tend to end the game as quickly as possible.To find this pattern, we looked at pitches thrown in the bottom of extra innings, when the game could quickly end.1Data was grabbed using Bill Petti’s baseballr package, which scrapes pitch location information from Baseballsavant.mlb.com. If the away team scored in the top half of an inning and held a lead, as was the case in Marisnick’s at-bat, an umpire hoping for a faster exit would call more strikes, making it more likely that the home team will be sent down quickly. Alternatively, if the home team got a runner aboard, umps would be more likely to favor them by calling fewer strikes, giving the team more chances to get the runner across the plate and send everyone home.Here’s a chart showing how umps changed their behavior in these situations between 2008 and 2016, a sample of roughly 32,000 pitches. Each square shows the percentage increase or decrease in the likelihood that a pitch is called a strike in that part of the strike zone. The color of each square (green for more balls, pink for more strikes) corresponds with which side umps are favoring, while how darkly shaded the square is reflects the size of the change (in percentage points).
Tobias Harris001615233+1.0-0.4+0.6 Jonathon Simmons01540019-2.2-1.4-3.5 The Sixers are still very good — if not better!Projected opening-night depth chart for the 2019-20 Philadelphia 76ers, based on CARMELO plus/minus ratings PLAYERPGSGSFPFCTOTALOFF. +/-DEF. +/-TOT. +/- Team total Jonah Bolden00011011-1.3+1.0-0.3 Zhaire Smith020002-0.9-1.0-1.9 According to our CARMELO player projections (as run through our depth-chart algorithm), this configuration of the Sixers is actually roughly as good the version Philly was running out late in the regular season. It projects for a very good offensive efficiency (+2.0 points better than average) and an elite defense (+5.1) thanks largely to the addition of Horford.Add it up, and the Sixers’ resulting CARMELO rating (1686) is one of the best in the league, roughly equivalent to that of a 59-win team. With the Warriors diminished and some of the buzzier Eastern Conference teams of the summer still having big question marks (the Nets, for instance, might not live up to the hype in the short term with Kevin Durant injured all season), Philadelphia may have managed to successfully navigate a treacherous offseason and set itself up for a legitimate chance in what should be a wide-open NBA title hunt next year. Joel Embiid00003434+1.9+4.1+6.0 EXPECTED MINUTES PER GAMEPLAYER RATING The Philadelphia 76ers went into the NBA’s free-agency blitz with an eye on keeping together as much as possible of last season’s 51-win outfit (which took the eventual champion Raptors to seven games in the playoffs), including potentially re-signing free agents Jimmy Butler, Tobias Harris and JJ Redick, plus working out an extension for Ben Simmons.That didn’t quite all come together for GM Elton Brand on Sunday — but maybe his team came out ahead on the other side. Redick is gone; Butler was traded. But Harris and Simmons signed new deals, Al Horford was added, and the Butler deal brought an intriguing package of talent headlined by ex-Heat guard Josh Richardson. The resulting team looks … actually really good? Mike Scott00106016-1.6-1.0-2.6 Expected wins58.8 Josh Richardson132020035+0.6+0.3+0.9 Marial Shayok042006-1.8-1.2-3.0 240+2.0+5.1+7.1 Ben Simmons33400037+2.2+1.7+3.9 Replacement-level PG200002-0.7-1.0-1.7 Matisse Thybulle03140017-1.7+1.0-0.7 Keep track of the chaotic NBA offseason with our Free Agency Diary. CARMELO team rating1686 Al Horford000161228+0.7+2.5+3.2
In a bit of not-very-surprising news, the Denver Nuggets announced Tuesday that they fired head coach Brian Shaw after fewer than two full seasons at the team’s helm and with a winning percentage below .400.According to ESPN’s Chris Broussard, Shaw was fired in part because he lost the Nuggets’ locker room. “He really never connected with these guys,” Broussard said in a television interview Tuesday. In an ESPN.com story, Ramona Shelburne reported that Shaw had complained to management about the “maturity and professionalism” of a few of Denver’s players. So certainly Shaw’s relationship with his roster didn’t help his chances of remaining the team’s coach. But our research has also found that performance relative to expectations is a major determinant of whether an NBA coach can keep his job. And in Shaw’s case, he might have been undone by unrealistic expectations before the start of the season.Back on Oct. 10, the sportsbook Bovada released its over-under win totals for the 2014-15 NBA season, and Denver was listed with an expectation of 41.5 wins. That wasn’t out of step with other preseason Vegas odds. On Oct. 1, the Westgate casino pegged the Nuggets’ over-under at 40.5 wins. And the online book Bwin listed 44.5 as the team’s over-under in August. The prevailing wisdom of Vegas seemed to call for Denver to finish around .500 this season.Instead, the team is on pace for about 28 wins — whether you look at our power ratings or Basketball-Reference.com’s season simulator. Our model predicts that such a performance in the face of a 42-win Vegas over-under will get a coach fired about 68 percent of the time. In that light, it seems neither surprising nor unjust that Shaw was given the ax.But the advanced stats weren’t nearly as high on Denver as Vegas was. Our preseason projections, driven by the same estimates of player talent that fuel our weekly in-season power ratings, looked at the relatively weak supporting cast around Ty Lawson and Danilo Gallinari (including a poor bench) and called for Denver to win only 34 games this season.You might think there isn’t much difference between undershooting your projections by six games and missing them by 14, but a coach in the former scenario traditionally gets fired only 46 percent of the time. In other words, had Denver’s preseason expectations been more realistic from the get-go, Shaw’s odds of being fired would conceivably have gone from greater than two-thirds to less than one-half.That still would have left Shaw with essentially a coin flip’s chance of being Denver’s coach next season, and it’s also worth noting that the aforementioned locker-room drama probably lowered Shaw’s probability of retaining his job at any given level of underperformance. But the difference between a realistic preseason expectation and an overly optimistic one doubtlessly hurt Shaw as well.
There’s perhaps nothing more alluring in sports than the notion of unpredictability, that what you’re witnessing isn’t scripted, that anything could happen. George Mason. Leicester City. Buster Douglas. These narratives are the reason we keep coming back year after year.Recently, though, it seems like the improbable has taken a back seat to the foreseeable — at least in a few major American sports.On Monday at 8 p.m. Eastern, the Alabama Crimson Tide and Clemson Tigers will clash in the College Football Playoff final. It will mark the fourth consecutive season the two will have met in either the finals or semifinals. On the hardwood, the Cleveland Cavaliers have battled the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals in four consecutive seasons.1That streak, however, will … not continue. And on the ice, the Washington Capitals have skated into the Pittsburgh Penguins in the second round of three consecutive Stanley Cup Playoffs.But though it might seem like it happens all the time, it’s actually pretty rare for the same teams to square off in the postseason year after year.For example, the MLB playoffs date back to the late 19th century and feature only three instances of teams meeting three seasons in a row.2The Anaheim Angels and Boston Red Sox played each season from 2007 to 2009, the Kansas City Royals and New York Yankees played each season from 1976 to 1978, and the New York Yankees and New York Giants played each season from 1921 to 1923. The NFL playoffs have seen a single instance of teams meeting exactly four years in a row3The San Francisco 49ers and Green Bay Packers played each season from 1995 to 1998. and a single instance of teams meeting five years in a row.4The Oakland Raiders and Pittsburgh Steelers played each season from 1972 to 1976. In the WNBA, the Minnesota Lynx and Phoenix Mercury played in four consecutive playoffs from 2013 to 2016. In the men’s NCAA basketball tournament, there have been eight instances of teams meeting in three consecutive tournaments.5Seattle and Oregon State played each season from 1962 to 1964, Utah State and Arizona State played each season from 1962 to 1964, UCLA and San Francisco played each season from 1963 to 1965, UCLA and New Mexico State played each season from 1968 to 1970, UCLA and Long Beach State played each season from 1970 to 1972, Providence and Pennsylvania played each season from 1972 to 1974, and Utah and Kentucky played each season from 1996 to 1998. And in the women’s NCAA basketball tourney, Notre Dame and UConn faced off in the Final Four, in either the semifinals or finals, an incredible five consecutive times from 2011 to 2015. Boston Celtics-Philadelphia 76ers1965-695 MLB MatchupSpanYears Oakland Raiders-Pittsburgh Steelers1972-765 Nebraska-Penn State1994-963 10 matchups tied3 NBA/ABA Florida State-Miami1987-926 Alabama-Oklahoma1978-803 Baltimore/Washington Bullets-New York Knicks1969-746 Boston Celtics-New York Knicks1951-555 NFL New York Yankees-New York Giants1921-233 Consecutive postseason meetings really are few and far between. And in college football, where turnover among top-tier programs is unavoidable and injuries are prevalent, it’s striking that the same two contenders are about to produce a tetralogy. After bruising, monthslong schedules, we’re left with orange and crimson once again.Even though the teams are familiar, there’s still plenty to be excited about in Monday’s title game. Don’t let the betting line fool you; this year’s installment promises to be the best matchup yet between the two schools. Source: ESPN Boston Celtics-Syracuse Nationals1953-575 Green Bay Packers-San Francisco 49ers1995-984 Possible matchupSpanYears MatchupSpanYears Kansas City Royals-New York Yankees1976-783 33 matchups tied2 In college football, the playoff is so new that it’s harder to look at consecutive matchups in a historical context. But we can guess at which teams might have faced off in a playoff by looking at the teams that ended each season since World War II in the top four of Elo ratings. Anaheim Angels-Boston Red Sox2007-093 Playoff rematches are rare in the big three pro sportsLongest streaks of the same teams meeting in consecutive postseasons for MLB, NBA/ABA and NFL Fort Wayne Pistons-Rochester Royals1950-545 Time spans considered are 1903-2018 for MLB, 1933-2018 for the NFL and 1947-2018 for the NBA/ABA.Source: Sports-Reference.com LSU-USC2005-073 MatchupSpanYears Alabama-Oklahoma1973-764 Florida-Nebraska1995-973 Programs that missed out on playoff rematchesPairs of college football teams with the longest streaks of finishing a season in the top four in Elo ratings, 1946-2013 7 matchups tied4 Nebraska-Oklahoma1971-744 The ESPN Stats & Information Group has tracked total efficiency back to 2005. This year’s Alabama squad ranks first (96.9) of all Football Bowl Subdivision teams in that time frame, and Clemson ranks 15th (91.6). Each enters the game racking up more than 525 yards and 44 points per contest, so it will no doubt be the best offensive matchup we’ve seen in the playoff between the two programs. Compared with each previous meeting, this will be the worst Alabama defense Clemson has faced and the best Tigers’ defense the Tide has played — though the two teams are separated by only about 4 points of defensive efficiency.Alabama’s program has never been known as a high scorer, but it now features the most efficient offense of any team in the past 14 years. But the Tide will stare down a defensive line that is months away from playing in the NFL,6With the notable exception of Dexter Lawrence, who remains suspended over a banned substance found in a drug test. which is likely why the Tigers tout the nation’s third most-efficient defense since 2005.Quarterbacks under Alabama head coach Nick Saban are often more game manager than gunslinger and generally operate in a system that skews conservative. Not this year. No team averages more yards per passing attempt than Alabama’s 11.34. Tua Tagovailoa and Jalen Hurts have each posted Total Quarterback Ratings that would rank in the top five among quarterbacks with at least 100 action plays in a season since 2004.7The first season for which we have data for that stat. In total, Alabama QBs have contributed 247.09 expected points on passes this year, 105.8 more than any previous season under Saban and the fourth-most by any team in a season since 2004, the first year for which data is available. The passing attack has accounted for 50 touchdown passes8To just six interceptions. and a team Total Quarterback Rating of 94.1, the best marks produced by an SEC offense over at least the past decade.The offense of Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney features an elite rushing attack, and quarterback Trevor Lawrence could become the first freshman QB to lead a team to a national championship since Oklahoma’s Jamelle Holieway in 1985. Where the team is most improved, however, is in its ability to dominate the line of scrimmage on the defensive end. “They wanted to be the best ever,” Swinney said of his defensive line, which leads the nation in sacks (52), quarterback contacts9Which measures the total number of times opposing quarterbacks were hit by a team’s defense. (312) and pressure rate10Which is the percentage of dropbacks in which the opposing quarterback was sacked, was under duress or was hit by a team’s defense. (43.7 percent). Under defensive coordinator Brent Venables, the unit averages 7.96 expected points added per contest on run defense, the fifth-best mark since the statistic was first tracked in 2004.The trophy case at both schools is getting full: Alabama is looking for its third title in the past four years, while Clemson is looking for its second in the past three. But don’t think these two programs are approaching the game as just the humdrum, foregone conclusion of their seasons. The matchup may have become predictable to us as viewers, but the teams are as eager as ever to face off for college football’s ultimate prize.“It is Clemson,” Alabama tight end Irv Smith Jr. said. “So it is a little more personal.”Neil Paine contributed research.Check out our latest college football predictions.
OSU junior forward Danny Jensen (9) during a game against Cleveland State on Oct. 21 at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium. OSU won 1-0. Credit: Christopher Slack / Lantern PhotographerThe Ohio State men’s soccer team advanced to the Sweet 16 in front of a home crowd at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium on Sunday afternoon after defeating Dayton 4-3 in penalty kicks following a 1-1 double-overtime draw.“Sweet 16 sounds a lot better than round three,” OSU junior forward Danny Jensen said, referring to the round the Buckeyes are now advancing to. “I just hope we could keep this going whether it’s a trip to California or playing at the Jesse.”The Buckeyes moved to 13-6-3 after the game, while the Flyers ended their season 13-5-5.Jensen and senior goalkeeper Chris Froschauer played the role of hero in Sunday’s match.With the Buckeyes down a point, Jensen scored in the 72nd minute to keep the home team’s hopes and dreams alive.“I was hoping we wouldn’t go down a goal because our record of being down a goal is not very good this year,” OSU coach John Bluem said. “We were able to manage because of a very nice goal by Danny to get back into the game.”The Buckeyes and the Flyers were forced into penalty kicks when the game remained at a 1-1 tie after a pair of overtime periods.Once there, Froschauer led the Scarlet and Gray to the victory with a total of two saves in the five-round penalty kick session.“You get to penalty kicks and you don’t know what’s going to happen,” Bluem said. “But we have a lot of faith and confidence in (Froschauer) that he’s going to come up with a save, and he did.”Despite advancing, the Buckeyes did not play at its best as Dayton took full advantage of OSU’s deficiencies.The Buckeyes and the Flyers battled it out in the first half, but neither team managed to score.The best looks of the half came from the Scarlet and Gray, with several different opportunities.Senior defender Liam Doyle took a penalty kick after freshman forward Abdi Mohamed was fouled in the box during the 6th minute, but Dayton junior goalkeeper Justin Saliba saved his shot.In the 30th minute, sophomore forward Marcus McCrary sent in a shot after Jensen forced a turnover but his ensuing shot was saved.In the second half, the Flyers came close to scoring a goal right out of the gate, but Froschauer came up with a save.However, just five minutes later Dayton senior defender/midfielder Alex Amankwah sent in a header to give the Flyers a 1-0 lead early in the second half.OSU kept a level head despite being down a point.Jensen scored his sixth goal of the season after getting loose with the ball and going into attack mode, sending in a shot from far out and tying the game to keep the Buckeyes’ hopes alive.“Something happened in the middle and fortunately the ball bounced over one of their last defender and I ran out at kind of an awkward angle,” Jensen said describing the goal. “But I actually had it in line because I was the opposition and I took it off my chest, and I knew if I hit a good shot and kept it below the crossbar it would probably go in.”Neither team scored for the rest of the second half, forcing the game to head into the extra sessions.In the second overtime, Dayton came close to scoring, but the ball hit of the crossbar and was cleared safely.Despite the look, both Dayton and OSU did not score, leading the game into penalty kicks with each team’s season hanging in the balance.Bluem said, given the competitive nature of the tournament, he had his team work on penalty kicks in the days leading up to the game in case it came down to that. OSU is no stranger to that situation, as last year it advanced past Akron in the first round of the tournament after a 15-round affair.“We practiced penalty kicks every day for the past week or so and we became a little bit more serious as we got closer and closer to this game,” Bluem said. “The five guys that stepped up today all had very good shots.”In the fifth round of penalty kicks, Froschauer made his second save of the shootout to seal the victory.“It honestly helped that (Dayton) went into (penalty kicks) Thursday night, so we knew where they were going with their first two shooters, but it went the opposite way,” Froschauer said. “From there I just tried to read the shooter more and go from there.”Overall, shots were 17-12 in favor of Dayton, while the Flyers also held a 7-6 lead in corner kicks.Froschauer ended with a total of seven saves against his former team, plus the two key stops in the third and fifth rounds of the penalty kicks.The Buckeyes are set to travel to Palo Alto, California, to take on eighth-seeded Stanford (15-2-2) after the Cardinal defeated Santa Clara 3-1 on Sunday. The third-round matchup is scheduled to take place on either Nov. 28 or Nov. 29. Kickoff time has yet to be announced. Update, Nov. 22, 10:15 p.m – This post has been updated to reflect the outcome of the second-round game between Stanford and Santa Clara.
In Sunday’s 82-61 win against Indiana, freshman forward Jared Sullinger was relegated to the bench after picking up his second foul with 8:16 to play in the first half. In an unfamiliar predicament, Ohio State coach Thad Matta needed a contribution from someone other than his National Player of the Year candidate. In went freshman Deshaun Thomas off of Matta’s thin bench. The first half lacked consistent flow for the Buckeyes, and “Thomas the Tank” entered, doing what he does best: shoot. Almost immediately, the southpaw hit back-to-back 3-pointers to ignite his 14-consecutive-point run that opened the floodgates to OSU’s big win against Indiana. “I think that he’s got such a knack for finding the ball and finding open areas,” Matta said. “The shots were going down for him and it was great to see because we’ve seen at times when he can score in bunches like that.” Thomas finished the first half with 16 of his 22 total points on 6-for-7 shooting, including 2-for-3 from 3-point range and four rebounds. It was just two points short of his career high, which came on Nov. 12 when he scored 24 against North Carolina A&T. “It felt great. Every day it’s like this. … Coach is always in my ear telling me, ‘We need you — this team needs you,’” Thomas said. “I just come in and work hard in practice to help my teammates win ball games, and today was one of them.” Thomas said the key to his performance was finding his hot spots on the floor. He said he’s gotten to know those spots during the team’s practices. “We see it every day in practice,” fifth-year senior forward David Lighty said. “Once he gets it going there’s really no way to stop him.” As the seventh man in Matta’s usual six-man rotation, Thomas has been an enigma for OSU this season. Since a key eight-point performance in the Jan. 22 road win against Illinois, Thomas had been nearly invisible. Over his next eight games, Thomas just managed to hit two of nine 3-point attempts and average 3.3 points per game. He didn’t make a single 3-pointer from Jan. 29 until Feb. 22, only attempting five in limited minutes. Since his strong performance in Champaign, Ill., Thomas has averaged just more than 10 minutes per game. In Sunday’s win, he played 24 minutes, with 14 of them coming in the second half after Matta elected to give him some extra minutes and Sullinger some extra rest. The team has a quick turnaround as it plays at Penn State on Tuesday. The Fort Wayne, Ind., native is third on the state’s all-time high school scoring list with 3,018 points. Thomas said he didn’t treat the game against a team from his home state any differently than he would any other. “It was just another game,” Thomas said. “I just came in and was ready.”
Ohio State officials are scheduled to hold a press conference at 7 p.m. today to address reports that football coach Jim Tressel knew about six of his players receiving improper benefits eight months before the university reported it to the NCAA. The athletic department sent out a press release Tuesday afternoon stating that President E. Gordon Gee, athletic director Gene Smith and Tressel will address the media at the Jack Nicklaus Museum. Yahoo! Sports published an article Monday alleging that Tressel was made aware of the fact that quarterback Terrelle Pryor and five other players sold memorabilia to the owner of a tattoo parlor in Columbus in April. OSU reported the violations to the NCAA on Dec. 8, 2010. The NCAA handed down five-game suspensions to five of the players on Dec. 23, 2010. Tressel was supposed to sign copies of his book, “Life Promises for Success,” at Barnes & Noble on OSU’s campus from 7-9 p.m. The store confirmed to The Lantern moments after OSU’s announcement that Tressel’s signing has been rescheduled for Spring Quarter. Smith and Tressel could not be reached for comment.
Sophomore wide receiver Tyrone Williams has been dismissed from the Ohio State football team. OSU athletics spokesman Jerry Emig announced that Williams had been dismissed from the team prior to coach Urban Meyer’s weekly press conference Monday morning. While no official reason was given, Meyer said there would not be an opportunity for Williams to rejoin, citing only “violation of team rules.” Williams was second team all-Ohio as a senior at Shaw High School in East Cleveland. There, the 6-foot-6 player helped his team win the Lake Erie League championship, and was named all-Lake Erie and all-district. Williams also lettered in track and basketball. As a part of the 2010 recruiting class, Williams redshirted that season as a true freshman. He did not respond to The Lantern’s Monday request for comment. Demonstrating above-average control and solid hands, Williams was tipped by some to be one of the players most likely to breakout in the 2011 season. He played in eight games, making his first collegiate start against Purdue, in which he caught two passes for 28 yards. In August, wide receivers coach Zach Smith spoke about the progress Williams had been making. Smith said that in the spring, it was Williams’ practice methods that were hindering his progress rather than a lack of talent. However, the coach said Williams had recently become like a brand new player with his late-summer efforts. Smith said Williams had impressed the entire coaching staff, and he found the player’s progress encouraging for the season ahead. Prior to his dismissal Monday, Williams had not registered a catch in the 2012 season. He had also earned a team-low two Buckeye Leaf helmet stickers. Meyer said Williams cannot work his way back onto the team. “He’s done,” Meyer said.
Northwestern Wildcats cornerback Matthew Harris (27) blocks Nebraska Cornhuskers wide receiver Kenny Bell (80) from making a catch during the second quarter at Ryan Field Oct. 18, 2014, in Evanston, Ill.Credit: Courtesy of TNSMike Riley has it all.He’s a recognizable name in the college coaching world, he has an NFL background, he played under legendary Alabama coach Paul “Bear” Bryant and his Oregon State teams have been hugely successful throughout his time in Corvallis, Ore.At least, that’s if you consider a 93-80 record with just one 10-win season over 14 years to be successful.Apparently, Nebraska does, as the Cornhuskers chose to hire Riley the same week they fired Bo Pelini. That hire happened to come almost simultaneously with Florida hiring former Alabama assistant and current Colorado State coach Jim McElwain.The Gators chose a man who turned the Rams into a 10-2 team, while the Cornhuskers settled for a name with mediocre results.For a program like Nebraska, firing Pelini in the first place does make some sense. The Cornhuskers are historically one of the best programs around, but didn’t find themselves competing for national titles during Pelini’s seven-year tenure.He never had an awful season — going 9-4 three times and 10-4 three times before finishing the 2014 regular season with a 9-3 record. But Pelini was never quite great, even though he did tally Gator Bowl wins over both Clemson (2008) and Georgia (2013) during his time in Lincoln, Neb.That’s right, Pelini beat Georgia — a powerhouse team from the almighty Southeastern Conference — less than 12 months ago, then went 9-3 since, yet was fired after a win over Iowa to finish out the season. With those results in mind, Nebraska decided Pelini didn’t even deserve to coach his team through a bowl game this season.Instead, the Cornhuskers opted to hire a man who couldn’t even guide his team to bowl eligibility in place of a coach who’s never missed a bowl game as the head honcho.Pelini never lost more than four games in a season, Riley has never lost fewer than four. On Riley’s Oregon State biography page, there is an accomplishment listed with his record for each season.In 1997 — Riley’s first year as the Beavers’ head coach — his accomplishment is listed as “total revamp of the program.” Oregon State finished that season 3-8. The next year, the Beavers came out of nowhere to play to an impressive 5-6 losing record.Riley left Oregon State the next year for a three-season run as an NFL head coach with the San Diego Chargers — with whom he compiled a 14-34 record, just missing out on the Super Bowl with a whopping 1-15 record his second year — and then spent one year as an assistant with the New Orleans Saints.He coached his way back to Oregon State in 2003 and won back-to-back bowl games — the touted Las Vegas Bowl and the what-even-is-the-Insight Bowl. Then in 2005, Riley’s Oregon State managed to miss a bowl game by going 5-6.In total, his Beaver teams missed bowl eligibility six times. Pelini’s Cornhuskers won at least nine games each year he was in charge, and only six wins are necessary to make a bowl game.In short, Nebraska fired a man who hadn’t had a bad season in order to hire a man who has rarely had a good one.According to ESPN, Nebraska athletic director Shawn Eichorst said Riley is the “one coach who fit all the characteristics” he was looking for to lead Nebraska’s “tradition-rich football program.”Well, congratulations, Shawn, you found your guy. Although, I must say, I’m surprised a coach whose career is chock-full of mediocrity fits the mold to coach one of the top-five winningest programs in college football history.Nebraska pulled the trigger on a name, instead of finding someone who is actually equipped to lead its program to the promised land.The Cornhuskers fell into the trap of hiring a name with an NFL background, but just ask Lane Kiffin — that doesn’t always work out. Florida, on the other hand, followed the path more likely leading to success. Sure, Riley hasn’t been awful, but he’s never proven to be able to raise a program to the next level.McElwain has, and Pelini at least never sunk a program to the depths of a losing record.Riley could be perfectly successful, but I’d be surprised to see the Cornhuskers back in the national picture during his tenure, especially with savvy hires like McElwain raising the competition to the next level.