TeamAppearancesSemifinal WinsChampsActual ChampsNet Diff. Playoff Teams w/ Championship Odds 1989Miami31Florida St.26Notre Dame24Michigan20 Oregon31.800.600.0+0.60 Ohio St.52.250.961.0-0.04 YearTeam%Team%Team%Team% 2003LSU50USC50Oklahoma0Michigan0 Penn St.20.840.360.0+0.36 1991Miami34Washington32Florida25Michigan9 Auburn31.700.971.0-0.03 TCU10.420.150.0+0.15 2007LSU33USC29Va. Tech27Ohio St.11 2001Miami46Oregon39Florida16Colorado0 Florida St.105.382.593.0-0.41 LSU32.241.081.5-0.42 1999Florida St.40Nebraska30Alabama24Va. Tech6 Actual champions (or co-champs) are listed in bold. In 1990, Georgia Tech was co-champion but is not projected to have made the playoff that season.Playoff selection is based on pre-bowl Elo ratings and AP polls. Playoff games are simulated using Elo, except in cases where a matchup actually took place during bowl season (in which case the actual result was used). Certain teams are listed with a 0 percent championship probability because they lost a real-life game against a fellow playoff team.Source: Sports-Reference.com 1988Notre Dame44Miami33Nebraska12W. Virginia11 2006Florida42Ohio St.20Oklahoma19Michigan19 1998Tennessee62Florida St.14Florida13Ohio St.11 Miami94.862.382.5-0.12 2005Texas61USC15Ohio St.14Penn St.10 Total104522626+0.00 2010Auburn56Arkansas19TCU15Oregon11 2008Florida62USC15Alabama13Oklahoma11 Virginia Tech20.900.330.0+0.33 Oklahoma52.080.921.0-0.08 1994Nebraska38Penn St.27Florida25Miami10 What 26 extra years of playoffs would have looked likeHypothetical College Football Playoff fields for the 1988-2013 seasons based on Elo ratings and AP poll rankings Arkansas10.360.190.0+0.19 1995Nebraska53Florida18Tennessee17Northwestern12 2004USC51Auburn26California13Oklahoma10 1992Alabama44Florida St.23Miami18Notre Dame15 Northwestern10.300.120.0+0.12 Alabama73.642.644.0-1.36 Florida115.273.043.0+0.04 2000Oklahoma51Miami23Florida St.16Florida10 Stanford20.960.420.0+0.42 Nebraska74.032.082.5-0.42 2012Alabama50Stanford20Florida19Notre Dame11 Colorado20.500.370.5-0.13 Notre Dame62.871.281.0+0.28 How a playoff would have changed college football historyMost FBS college football championships by school under a hypothetical four-team playoff system, 1988-2013 USC63.601.801.5+0.30 2011Alabama55LSU24Okla. St.11Oregon10 Cincinnati10.430.080.0+0.08 The good news for the old system(s) is that each year’s real-world national champ — or at least the co-champ — would be the favorite to win the playoff as well. (The only time a historical national champ didn’t make our theoretical playoff was in 1990, when Georgia Tech4My alma mater, it should be noted. claimed the national title in the coaches’ poll but missed the top four in our rankings after entering the bowls seventh in Elo.) But the fact that the real-world champ tended to be the favorite in our hypothetical playoffs is no guarantee those seasons would have played out the same way: Even after including real bowl results when they happened, the championship favorite in any given year had only a 47 percent chance of winning the title on average.The most uncertain year of our hypothetical playoffs might have been the aforementioned 1989 campaign; without any real-life bowls to help guide us, our system gives all four teams at least a 20 percent chance of winning the national championship. And among years that featured at least one actual bowl result to work with, the wacky 2007 season — in which playoff favorite LSU would have only a 33 percent of replicating its real-world championship — probably would have kept providing us thrills well into January. But with a playoff in place, many seasons would likely have had different endings than the ones we’ve set to memory over the years.How different? Here are all the schools that would have made at least one playoff appearance under our hypothetical system,5Plus Georgia Tech! along with their projected and actual national championships won: Tennessee31.090.791.0-0.21 Texas21.270.721.0-0.28 Washington10.490.320.5-0.18 2009Alabama57Florida24Texas10Cincinnati8 1990Colorado37Miami26Florida St.25Notre Dame13 West Virginia21.050.330.0+0.33 1996Florida50Nebraska17Arizona St.17Florida St.16 Arizona St.10.400.170.0+0.17 Michigan52.030.850.5+0.35 2013Florida St.40Alabama22Stanford22Auburn16 Georgia Tech00.000.000.5-0.50 1993Florida St.48Notre Dame23W. Virginia22Nebraska8 The College Football Playoff has transformed the way teams and conferences build their schedules — and created plenty of controversy along the way — in the four seasons since it debuted. And even if the system could stand to make some improvements, it’s also been a relatively successful experiment in adding legitimacy to a championship that used to be determined through such opaque measures as media voting and computer ratings. For all the debate over “who’s in,” at least the eventual champion can say it won the title by beating two top-ranked opponents on the field.The benefits of a four-team bracket got us thinking: What if the current playoff structure had been in place before 2014? Who would likely have won the championship each year? (Would it have been different from the consensus champs of old?) And which schools would have gained — and lost — the most titles under a playoff system?Let’s answer those questions. (If you’re not interested in how we’re answering those questions, skip down to the first table.)First, we’ll need a way to determine which teams would have made the playoff each year. Unfortunately, over the first four years of the actual playoff’s existence, neither the AP poll nor our Elo ratings (which are designed, in part, to predict the playoff selection committee’s tendencies) have completely nailed the playoff field with their four highest-ranked teams going into the bowls. But a combination of both1Specifically, I added together a team’s rank in each list and re-sorted by that combined ranking, using Elo as the tie-breaker. has been a perfect 16 for 16 in terms of predicting the real-life playoff teams.So we’ll use that Elo/AP combo to pick the four playoff teams in each historical season.2A more complicated version of this process might have involved using our full CFP prediction algorithm to produce probabilistic playoff odds for more than the top four teams, but we’ll save that can of worms for another day. (Our Elo ratings can be calculated going back to the 1988 season, so that’s when our hypothetical exercise will begin.) I also found that, once the playoff field is set, the pre-bowl AP rankings alone have done the best job of matching the committee’s seeding for the teams, so we’ll set the seeds that way in our mythical playoffs.Next, we’ll need a way to play out the theoretical playoff games themselves. For that, we’ll use Elo, which provides a probabilistic forecast for any given game based on the two teams’ pregame ratings. In most cases, we’ll use each team’s pre-bowl Elo ratings to give us the chances of each team winning both its semifinal game and the championship game (conditional on making it that far). The only exception is when a slated matchup happened in a real-life bowl that season, in which case we’ll use the actual result for that semifinal or final matchup.A great example of this came in 2003, when both of our hypothetical semifinal games — No. 1 USC vs. No. 4 Michigan and No. 2 LSU vs. No. 3 Oklahoma — actually played out in the Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl, respectively. In that case, the Trojans and Tigers would automatically advance to the title game, where each would have almost exactly a 50-50 shot at winning the championship, according to Elo.3Technically, LSU would be the slim favorite at 50.47 percent. At least one of these real-world matchups happened every year from 1988 to 2013 — except in 1989, when conference bowl tie-ins kept each of the four teams in our playoff field from actually playing one another.After following all of the rules laid out above, here’s how each season since 1988 would look if a playoff had been in place instead of the system that was used at the time: California10.340.130.0+0.13 Oklahoma St.10.400.110.0+0.11 Hypothetical Playoff Results 1997Nebraska50Michigan38Florida St.12Tennessee0 Georgia10.500.210.0+0.21 2002Ohio St.39USC22Georgia21Miami18 Playoff selection is based on pre-bowl Elo ratings and AP polls. Playoff games are simulated using Elo, except in cases where a matchup actually took place during bowl season (in which case the actual result was used).In 1990, Georgia Tech was co-champion but is not projected to have made the playoff that season.Source: Sports-Reference.com Aside from Alabama, which won the most real-life championships (four) of the 1988-2013 era but would project to have about 1.4 fewer under a playoff system, every other school’s projected title tally is within about a half-championship of its actual count, playoff or not. The anti-Bama might be Oregon, who made only one BCS title game in the years we’re covering (losing to Cam Newton and Auburn in the culmination of the 2010 season) but would figure to make three playoff bids under our hypothetical system — and probably would have given Miami more of a fight than Nebraska did in 2001. All told, the Ducks would figure to have won 0.6 more championships with a playoff than under the actual system.Over about 25 years, a handful of national titles is about the best you can do (see Bama’s four). So even a half-championship gain is a lot. And the more marginal differences further down the list matter, too. Imagine the effect on the fan bases at Oklahoma State, Cincinnati or Northwestern (!!!) if their teams had managed to get hot during the playoff and take home the championship. In general, you can see a pattern emerge in the table above: Under a four-team playoff, the long-term effect is to take titles away from many of the top programs and give extra chances to the next tier of teams. As counterintuitive as that sounds, given the way a program like Alabama has dominated the CFP since its inception, the addition of an extra semifinal game introduces more randomness to the system, which helps teams down the list.6It may have also been easier for non-powerhouse teams to crack the top four in a given season during the previous era of college football, given that the teams making the playoff since 2014 have uniformly been stellar programs. Or maybe after four seasons, we still don’t have enough of a sample yet to know for sure.I once wrote that the BCS wasn’t any worse at picking champs than the College Football Playoff would be, and in a certain sense, that’s not wrong. (Again, the real-life champs each season above would have also been the favorites to win the playoff.) But the more we’ve seen teams get a chance to prove their championship merit on the field against top competition, the more appealing it is. Now I only wish college football had the current system in place for the past quarter-century instead of the confusing mismash of arrangements that preceded it.
Welcome to The Lab, FiveThirtyEight’s basketball podcast. On Monday’s show (June 4, 2018), Neil and Kyle discuss the state of the NBA Finals, which the Golden State Warriors lead 2-0. They ask whether the Warriors’ Stephen Curry is finally going to get a finals MVP award, analyze why the Cavaliers are losing even though they’re not playing terribly, and talk about how Cleveland could turn the series around at home.The Lab will be back with another episode later this week. In the meantime, keep an eye on FiveThirtyEight’s NBA predictions, which are updated after every game. More: Apple Podcasts | ESPN App | RSS | Embed By Neil Paine and Kyle Wagner Embed Code read more
A “high-scoring round” is one in which the field average was more than three strokes over par.Source: ESPN Stats & information group Regular (29–38)2,765-0.471,153-0.58-0.11 When the going gets rough, the old get goingFirst- and second-round scores vs. field average under normal and high-scoring conditions in the British Open, by age, 1983-2016 Old (39 and older)1,616-0.11730-0.28-0.17 So why do older players excel at the British? One reason might be in the way experience helps players deal with the ever-changing weather conditions that often beset The Open — and how those same atmospheric effects negate the advantages of long-hitting younger players.To test this theory, I looked at data provided by Stats & Info for the first two rounds of each British Open since 1983. For players who have birthdate information in the database,2Because of incomplete data, about 20 percent of players who played in the British Open are missing age information. I broke them down into the following categories: “Young” (ages 28 or below — the youngest 25 percent of players), “Old” (ages 39 or older — the oldest 25 percent of players) and “Regular” (everyone else). I also recorded whether the average score for a given round was more than three strokes over par, considering such rounds to have “high-scoring” conditions. This is admittedly an imperfect proxy for weather effects, but in the absence of tee times and climate data, it will have to do as a means of flagging rounds where conditions were challenging.When scoring conditions were normal, old and young players shot equally well relative to the field average. (Players who fit neither category shot about a third of a stroke better on average, which makes sense given those players were in the primes of their careers.) But when conditions got bad, the young players shot worse — and the older ones shot better. In high-scoring rounds, young players lost about a third of a stroke per round relative to older players, an even bigger margin than the quarter-stroke they lost relative to prime-aged players.3It’s a safe assumption that the missing ages in this data set only work in the favor of the younger players: Many of the ones missing are amateurs and fringe international qualifiers, who typically put up worse scores; likewise, past Open winners age 60 or younger, who automatically qualify, also tend to perform poorly, but their ages are reflected here. Young (28 and younger)1,408-0.127260.00+0.12 PLAYER AGEROUNDSSCORE VS AVG.ROUNDSSCORE VS AVG.DIFF. NORMAL ROUNDHIGH-SCORING ROUND With first-time winners taking each of the last seven major titles, you might not think experience counts for much in golf anymore. But as the world’s top players head to Royal Birkdale for this week’s (British) Open, it serves as a reminder that the unique challenges of links-style courses still provide at least one championship showcase for golf’s greybeards.Traditionally speaking, championship golfers do the bulk of their winning in their late 20s and early-to-mid 30s: Since 2000, about 60 percent of major winners were age 32 or younger at the time of their victory. But the big exception seems to be the British Open, whose champs are consistently much older than those of the other majors. Of the five major wins by the 40-and-older set since 2000, only one of them didn’t come at The Open (Vijay Singh’s 2004 PGA Championship win). According to ESPN’s Stats & Information Group, the average age for British Open winners since 2000 was 33.7, while the average age for all other major champs was 30.7.And the results have been even more extreme in recent years, with four 40-somethings winning the Claret Jug this decade,1Henrik Stenson in 2016, Phil Mickelson in 2013, Ernie Els in 2012 and Darren Clarke in 2011. and this doesn’t even count Zach Johnson (who won The Open at age 39 in 2015), nor does it reflect the heroic near-misses from old-timers this century, such as 59-year-old Tom Watson’s playoff loss at Turnberry in 2009 and 53-year-old Greg Norman’s third-place finish in 2008 — the last time Birkdale hosted the event. Since 2011, the average age for The Open winners has been 38.5, nearly 10 years older than the average of the other three majors (28.7), according to ESPN Stats & Information. Open weather can infamously turn on a dime, and it requires shots of a very different shape than the usual ones many younger Americans have spent the vast majority of their careers playing. So at least in part, this is evidence that experience — and not raw power — can help a player better navigate around such challenging conditions.And that shouldn’t be any different this time around, with typical rainy, gusty weather on the forecast for Royal Birkdale. So although this has been a great season for young players on the PGA Tour, don’t be surprised if the sport’s elder statesmen take center stage in England this week. read more
OSU junior forward Nick Schilkey (7) during a game against Brock on Oct. 3 at the Schottenstein Center. Credit: Kaley Rentz / Asst. Sports DirectorComing off of its bye week, the Ohio State men’s hockey team (1-7) is looking for consecutive wins for the first time this season after notching win No. 1 its last time out against Mercyhurst on Oct. 31. Standing in its way is Canisius College (2-5, 2-2 Atlantic Hockey Association), currently on a two-game losing streak. After losing the first game in their series against Mercyhurst in close fashion, the Buckeyes came out stronger and hungrier in Game 2, a mentality that senior captain Anthony Greco said he hopes will continue this weekend.“I think we had a good effort that Saturday night,” Greco said. “I think it’s just important to repeat that. We’ve shown up and had a good couple days of practice. It’s just bringing that same attitude.”A round of shotsThe Scarlet and Gray are coming off of a game against Mercyhurst in which they scored a season-high five goals.During that weekend, OSU put up 92 shots on the Lakers over the two games, a trend that coach Steve Rohlik wants to continue.“You can’t score goals unless you put pucks to the net and unless you get traffic at the net,” Rohlik said. “Those are things that we’ve been harping on for a couple of weeks. Our guys understand it and it’s up to them to go out and do it.”Both the Buckeyes and the Golden Griffins are struggling in the goals department this season, as OSU is averaging 2.1 goals per game while Canisius is ranked 56th (out of 60 teams) in the country in goal production with 1.8.The amount of shots that OSU wants to generate this weekend theoretically leads to more lamp-lighting.“We want to get pucks to the net,” Greco said. “That’s the only way that you’re going to score and we need to score goals to win games. We’ve had a couple games now where we’ve only scored one or no goals at all so we need to shoot the puck as much as possible.”The Scarlet and Gray have scored three goals or more three times this season while the Golden Griffins have done it twice, with both of those games resulting in wins.On the defensive end of things, OSU players are relatively pleased. The 3.1 goals per game that OSU is allowing is not great, but it has been keeping the team in games to this point.“We’ve been pretty solid,” junior defenseman Drew Brevig said. “Our whole group has been playing pretty well back there. Our forwards have been helping out and our goalies are playing well.”Bye week benefitsRohlik and his staff are now finally able to say something that they haven’t said in a long time: They are healthy. Not only does this mean that Rohlik has depth lineup-wise, but it also provides an added level of competition for playing time when the weekend rolls around.“We’ve got everyone available except for (freshman defenseman) Tyler Nanne right now,” Rohlik said. “We haven’t been able to say that a lot. That’s been a good thing. I think that’s translated into competition in practice. Anytime you’ve got to compete in practice, you’re going to make guys better.”The bye week was beneficial on the player side of things too.“It was actually kind of nice,” Greco said. “From my standpoint, I think it was nice to get a little bit of a break. We’ve had a lot of ups and downs already so it was nice to get that win on Saturday and have a break as long as we show up this weekend and bring it again.”A “Golden” history and bon voyageThe Buckeyes and Golden Griffins are meeting for the third straight year.OSU is 3-0-1 all-time against Canisius with the series dating back to Nov. 15, 2013.These are the final home games for OSU until Jan. 15 against No. 12 Michigan.Puck drop between the Buckeyes and the Golden Griffins is set for 7 p.m. on Friday and 4 p.m. on Saturday at the Schottenstein Center. read more
Ohio State coach Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes wait by the tunnel before the start of OSU’s game against Tulsa on Sept. 10. Credit: Alexa Mavrogianis | Photo Editor The Ohio State Buckeyes battled the Tulsa Golden Hurricane through the rain on Sept. 10. The Buckeyes won 48-3.
OSU then-junior forward Nick Schilkey (7) during a game against Michigan on May. 6 at Nationwide Arena. Credit: Lantern File PhotoFollowing a series split in Ann Arbor, Michigan, in which No. 12 Ohio State (13-7-6, 4-5-1-1 Big Ten) dug itself into a hole against the Wolverines on both nights, the Buckeyes now find themselves on the outside looking in at an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament with 10 games to go.In the pairwise rankings that determines who receives an at-large after the six automatic bids punch their tickets by winning their respective conference tournaments – OSU has slipped to 20th and they have their work cut out for them if they want to get back into the top 16, preferably higher.In his latest college hockey bracketology, NCAA.com’s Chris Peters has the Buckeyes outside the top 16.OSU was sitting in the No. 8 spot in the January bracketology.Down, but far from out of the race, here’s 10 thoughts on the Scarlet and Gray as they head into the home stretch of their season:The Gophers want revenge, and they’re sending a messageOSU’s opponent this weekend, No. 5 Minnesota, is on a three-game winning streak and are 10-2 since the Buckeyes beat them 8-3 at Mariucci Arena on Dec. 3. Their losses were no flukes either, a one goal loss to No. 1 Minnesota-Duluth and an overtime loss to No. 17 Wisconsin. They have the fourth-best offense in the nation averaging just shy of four goals per game, putting it on display at home last weekend in their sweep over No. 10 Penn State, racking up 10 goals in two games. “They have a lethal offense year in and year out,” OSU assistant coach Mark Strobel said. “They’re very good on the power play, they can get shorthanded goals. They’re built that way.”Buckeye bulletsNot to be outdone, the Buckeyes have the second-best offense in the country, averaging just over four goals per game and they have the best power play in college hockey, clicking at an incredible 28.8 percent. OSU senior captain Nick Schilkey is tied for third in the NCAA with 11 power play goals this season. Buckeyes go as Schilkey goesWow, did the Buckeyes ever enjoy having Schilkey back in the lineup last weekend after missing four games with a lower body injury. He provided six points on three goals and three assists in the two games against Michigan and is currently third in the nation in scoring with 20 lamp-lighters this season. “He does everything for us,” Strobel said. “Not only is he a great hockey player, he’s a great leader, he’s a great human being. He does everything right. When you place a guy like Nick Schilkey in your locker room, you’re going to have success.”Bumps and bruises and sickness…. Oh myHaving Schilkey, senior Drew Brevig and junior Matthew Weis out with injuries, along with the illnesses of sophomore Dakota Joshua and freshman Tanner Laczynski has had a huge impact in the Buckeyes’ struggles at times in the second half. All are back with the exception of Brevig, who is expected back by the end of the season. Freshman Ronnie Hein has been ruled out this weekend and redshirt junior Matt Joyaux is coming off of a lower body injury as well. Congratulations, you played yourselfOSU can’t afford to dig themselves out of the holes they were in this past weekend against Michigan. They were down 5-1 on Friday night before losing 5-4, and were down 5-3 on Saturday before Schilkey’s game-winner with 30 seconds left to give OSU a 6-5 win. “That’s been a big emphasis for us,” sophomore forward Mason Jobst said. “We’ve been coming out flat in the first period and teams have really taken advantage of us. We’ve got to change it. We can’t afford to keep digging big holes.”Jobst on a missionJobst has been anything but flat this season. The star sophomore is leading the Buckeyes in points with 37 (12 goals, 25 assists), which puts him atop the Big Ten and tied for ninth in the country. His point streak extended to 12 with two goals and two assists in the 6-5 win over Michigan last Saturday. That State Up NorthOf the Buckeyes’ 10 remaining games, six are against Michigan and Michigan State, who have a combined record of 14-30-4 and six of those 10 games are at home, where OSU is 4-4-2 this season. They’ve got above .500 problems, but below .500 ain’t oneOSU is 9-2-3 against teams .500 or worse this year, but they are 4-5-3 against teams .500 or better and they can’t afford to drop many games against either Minnesota or Wisconsin, who make up their remaining four games outside of Michigan and Michigan State.Score first, get a winGetting on the board first has been a huge factor for the Scarlet and Gray this year, as they are 13-2-2 when scoring first. In six of the last seven games, their opponents have hit the back of the net first and OSU is 2-3-2 in its last seven.The Good, The Bad, and Arizona State?As with most seasons, there has been extremely good hockey OSU has showcased with the win at now-No. 2 Denver, beating Minnesota in its own barn and a 2-1-1 record against Penn State. However, there has been the bad with the tie and loss to Miami and the split with Michigan, as well as the head scratching shown with their tie to second-year program Arizona State at home. The cliché is true with OSU in that they can beat anyone, yet still lose to anyone, and they will need a heck of a run in the next month and maybe some outside help if they don’t want to worry about winning the Big Ten tournament. read more
Deshaun Thomas’s role keeps changing for Ohio State’s basketball team. The junior forward was one of the top recruited players in the nation during his senior year at Bishop Luers High School in Indiana, but was mostly a bench player during the 2010-11 season, averaging 7.5 points per game on 47.9 percent shooting in 14 minutes a game. The next year, his role evolved as he emerged as a key cog in the Buckeyes’ offensive attack, averaging 16 points per game on 52 percent shooting. He also led all Buckeyes with 19.2 points per game during the team’s run to the 2012 Final Four. But Thomas’s role is only expected to expand for his junior year and he’s starting to get the hardware to prove it. On Aug. 29, The Blue Ribbon College Basketball yearbook announced that it named Thomas a preseason All-American. “(The award) feels great, especially since I found out that I’m an all-American by Blue Ribbon on my 21st birthday,” Thomas said. “It lets you know what people think about you and how hard you work to get at that position.” Thomas said he understands more will be expected from him this season, but at the same time his expectations for himself will be bigger than those who analyze him. “I expect to do a lot,” Thomas said. “To help my teammates win, and do the little things to help them win. It’s going to be all work and dedication.” Thomas, along with fellow junior point guard Aaron Craft, have the same goals as last year, which is to get back to the Final Four and bring home a championship to his school. “The goals don’t change from year to year. The guys change, the personnel changes, maybe the coaches change, but the goals don’t really change,” Craft said. “The goals are always the same, which is to become the best basketball team that we can be, and play our best basketball when we need to.” Many thought Thomas was going to be part of the personnel change Craft mentioned. After the season, Thomas considered declaring for the NBA Draft, but ultimately said the people around OSU’s program kept him in Columbus. “The fans and the people who run this stadium, who run this program, I’m going to miss them,” Thomas said. “They treat us like family, and being with my teammates has been great.” Craft said he’s just happy that Thomas is still on campus. “Not a lot of people get the chance to know him at a personal level and get to be around him enough to know that he is much more than just a basketball player,” Craft said. “I am just really glad DT is still here, and we can have some fun this year.” Thomas said he worked hard in the offseason to improve his game and to become the player his team needs him to be. “I just try to get better, knowing the weaknesses of my game,” Thomas said. “I worked hard on my ball-handling skills, and to be in the best shape that I can be in.” For Thomas, working on his game has been paying dividends, as other people are noticing how dangerous of a player he can be. His teammates have also seen the maturity in Thomas, and how much he has improved since he first stepped on the court. “People know Deshaun has a scorer-first mentality, but Deshaun is a great basketball player,” said OSU senior forward Evan Ravenel. “He has gotten a lot better since he’s been here, just more understanding of the game of basketball.” Craft added that Thomas has taken his game to another level while simultaneously growing as a person. “The growth happens off the floor as well, I mean, stuff with school and how seriously he takes that now,” Craft said, “and to see him grow into a man, it’s been awesome to see that growth.” The Buckeyes will play their first game in style – a contest against Marquette on Nov. 9 atop the retired USS Yorktown battleship in the Carrier Classic in Mt. Pleasant, S.C. “Oh yeah, we looking forward to playing on some water, you know, a little battleship,” Thomas said. “We got a couple of people who are scared of a boat, but we’re going to get through that fear. I ain’t going to say his name, but it’s going to be fun and a great experience.” Two games that Thomas said he is looking forward to this year are against Kansas and Duke. “We know that (Kansas) beat us last year in the Final Four, so we’re going to be amped up and ready to go,” Thomas said. Asked why he is excited to play against Duke, Thomas had one answer: coach Mike Krzyzewski. “Yeah it’s because of Coach K, I mean he coached the USA team, and he is one of the best coaches in college basketball,” Thomas said. Thomas said he would be ready for the NBA, but that answer won’t be known until much later into the year. “You know, if God’s willing, if it comes down to that, to me to make that decision, I’ll be happy and go,” Thomas said. “That’s every kid’s dream. I feel like I would be mentally ready and skill ready. All I have to do is keep staying at it, stay in the gym, believe in myself and the sky is limit.” read more
Eric Seger / Sports editorSenior safety C.J. Barnett answers questions following Ohio State’s fourth practice of fall camp at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center.The NCAA implemented a new targeting rule in March for the 2013 season that will allow officials to eject any player who targets and hits a defenseless player above the shoulders, and the Ohio State football team is preparing for the change.In the Buckeyes’ fourth practice of the season on Wednesday, which Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany attended, freshman safety Chris Worley was flagged for hitting sophomore tight end Nick Vannett as he caught a pass at the goal line during a full team scrimmage. That led senior safety C.J. Barnett to say the officials “don’t even know what they are looking at.”Barnett said it is something the defensive coaches are teaching in the film room as well as on the practice field, but it does not change his mentality.“Play fast, play fast,” Barnett said. “And if you get a penalty you get a penalty, oh well. Next guy up.”Co-defensive coordinator Everett Withers said, from a coaching standpoint, the rule change will affect everyone, not just OSU.“What it does is it makes coaches on defense sure you got two and three (players) deep,” Withers said. “It will affect you at some point in the season. You hope not, but there’s a good possibility.”As the rule is intended to make the game safer, Withers said it is his job to get that message across to the players.“We always talk about it in the secondary room, about how that’s a lot of time where it comes from,” Withers said. “The back end with those bang-bang plays. It’s a rule about safety and, as a coach, you have to teach it as a rule about safety.”Senior safety Christian Bryant said it is a rule he would rather not “speak on,” but as a leader on the team, it is just another thing the veterans are responsible for handing down to the young guys.“All of the older guys in the secondary are just trying to do a good job of leading a lot of young guys in the right direction and showing them the way,” Bryant said.One of those veterans is redshirt junior corner Bradley Roby, who practiced with the second-team defense Wednesday.Roby is waiting a pretrial hearing later this month for a misdemeanor battery charge from an incident at a Bloomington,Ind., bar.Bryant said he thinks the experience will be humbling for his teammate.“I feel like it’s a humbling experience for (Roby), just him stepping down with the twos right now,” Bryant said. “He’s doing a pretty good job of taking that role and understanding what he needs to do and showing the young guys that he doesn’t really have a problem with it.”Barnett agreed, saying Roby knows the price he has to deal with.“Coach Meyer doesn’t tolerate anything,” Barnett said. “He messed up and broke a rule and he’s gotta pay for it.”Replacing Roby at corner is not the only thing the defense is concentrating on during camp. Even though the unit lost seven starters from last year’s 12-0 squad, Barnett said the team will be fine.“I know we lost Johnny (former defensive lineman John Simon) and Hank (former defensive lineman Johnathan Hankins) and all, but it’s Ohio State. One down, next up,” Barnett said. “We’re not really worried about who we lost but more of who’s next.”From the offensive side of the ball, freshman Dontre Wilson was all the buzz again, catching passes both as a wide receiver and from the back field. He outraced members of the defensive secondary easily on numerous occasions, and Bryant called him a “special player right now.”“I feel like he has a lot of attributes that he can bring to the team,” Bryant said. “One of those things is just being elusive.”Wilson was not the only freshman who caught the eyes of the veteran defenders, as both Bryant and Barnett said wide receiver Jalin Marshall also jumped out after he returned a kick off for a touchdown.“He’s one of those guys who’s a strong, fast guy, so he can produce at any position,” Bryant said. read more
Junior midfielder Mary Kate Facchina (23) advances the ball during a game against Northwestern March 9 at Ohio Stadium. OSU won, 11-10.Courtesy of OSU AthleticsSenior attackman Cara Facchina looks for an open teammate during a game against Florida March 22 at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium. OSU lost, 10-9.Courtesy of OSU Athletics It’s a Tuesday afternoon, and sisters Cara and Mary Kate Facchina walk off the field after another afternoon practice, something they’ve done hundreds of times.They come into the Woody Hayes Athletic Center where it is impossible to miss the big smiles spread across their faces. They are excited to be interviewed, even if it means at times cutting each other off, but hey — they’re sisters.Growing up in Glenwood, Md., Cara and MK, (as her team calls her), grew up around the hot bed of lacrosse, but it took a while before they were introduced to the sport.“We started in middle school which is kind of unusual for being from Maryland because everyone is born with a stick in their hand,” junior Mary Kate Facchina said. “We always played basketball and tennis and then when we got introduced to lacrosse, we loved it from the start.”“My middle school basketball coach took our whole team and made a rec lacrosse team,” senior Cara Facchina said. “We ended up doing really well. This was in seventh grade and we won the championship for our rec league so it was a big deal. Then most of the girls moved on to play travel and then in high school and college.”Coming from an athletic family, Cara and Mary Kate played tennis, basketball and lacrosse while attending Mount de Sales Academy. With three older siblings who attended Virginia Tech — including Julia Facchina, who played tennis for the Hokies — it seemed as if the sisters could have easily ended up in Blacksburg, Va., as well.However, after traveling to Columbus on a friend’s recommendation, Cara and Mary Kate knew where they would end up.“One of my friends from back home, Alayna Markwordt, who played here two years ago, introduced us to Ohio State and encouraged us to come out and visit,” Cara Facchina said. “It was never really on my radar when I was younger. Mary Kate and I and my mom drove all through the night one day to come out and visit with the coaches and we just fell in love with the school, the campus and the tradition.”Since officially arriving on campus, Cara and Mary Kate have made an impact on and off the field.Becoming OSU scholar athletes as well as an integral part of the team, coach Alexis Venechanos said the sisters’ willingness to do whatever it takes to improve, even if that means switching positions, is what makes them special players.“Cara and MK are probably one of the hardest workers on our team,” Venechanos said. “They are great role models for our players. Cara, we moved her to attack after freshman year, and she definitely transformed herself to the crease attacker … so she actually put in a lot of hard work to do that. It’s awesome coaching a player like the both of them.”During her career as a Buckeye, Cara — a forward — has totaled 102 points (57 goals, 45 assists) in 55 games. In only her junior season, Mary Kate has shown the scoring touch as well, registering 59 points (56 goals, three assists) in 46 games as a midfielder.Venechanos said despite the numbers Cara and Mary Kate put up, both are more concerned about the team, a quality she really admires.“They are always looking for each other but they are also looking for their teammates,” Venechanos said. “They are both really humble, so for me as a coach, I like coaching them and pumping them up sometimes because they don’t give themselves sometimes the credit they really deserve.”Individually, Cara and Mary Kate said growing up and learning the sport of lacrosse together has helped them develop a special kind of chemistry on the field.“We just have the sister connection,” Cara Facchina said. “We always kind of know what each other wants to do.”“It’s kind of funny because sometimes we look at each other and know what we’re thinking on the field, when I’m cutting and when she’s feeding,” Mary Kate Facchina said.All of the hard work the sisters have put in during their time at OSU was evident March 9 when, for the first time in their career, the Buckeyes defeated Northwestern, who won seven national championships in an eight-year span from 2005-2012.Cara said losing close games to the Wildcats in the past was tough, so to finally beat them, and in Ohio Stadium no less, was a moment she would never forget.“That was definitely one of the top moments for my college career,” Cara Facchina said. “That’s always been our goal. Every year we’ve played them very tight, it’s always been a one or two goal game. So it was nice, in my last year, to finally be able to pull it out.”Still, with Cara set to graduate in December with a degree in industrial and systems engineering, this will be the last season the sisters will wear an OSU jersey together.Mary Kate said she still remembers being a freshman and how having Cara on campus helped her ease her way into becoming the player she is today.“I always say if I didn’t have her pushing me in the summers and before I even came here to do the workout packet, I would’ve struggled,” Mary Kate Facchina said. “It’s a lot better having somebody there to push you, especially since she could help me understand what to expect coming here.”However, with four games still remaining in the regular season, the No. 17 Buckeyes (9-4, 2-1) are looking to make a run at the American Lacrosse Conference championship, as well as the NCAA tournament.“We know we have the ability to take the whole ALC tournament, we just have to put our minds to it,” Mary Kate Facchina said.No matter where the sisters end up, whether it be at Northrop Grumman — Cara has an internship there this summer — or in a classroom as Mary Kate is an early childhood education major, both sisters know they will always be there to support each other, and with a smile. read more
OSU senior forward Darik Angell (10) advances the puck during a game against Miami (OH) on Oct. 17. at the Schottenstein Center. OSU lost, 5-1.Credit: Michael Griggs / For The LanternFitting with the nature of their position, defensemen on the Ohio State men’s hockey team don’t have much margin for error. The Buckeyes have six spots in the lineup for defensemen and eight healthy blue liners vying to claim them.This weekend, the Buckeyes (2-3-1) will play the winners of their weekly position battle during their home series against the University of Nebraska-Omaha.But while the depth on the blue line has been a blessing for the OSU coaching staff, it’s posed a challenge for those working to crack the lineup.OSU senior defenseman Al McLean was the latest to realize that when he was made a healthy scratch for last Saturday’s game against Canisius College.McLean, who would have played his 100th collegiate game on Saturday, was replaced by freshman defenseman Victor Björkung, who, at the time, had played only two collegiate games.The swap made clear that while the Buckeyes return seven defensemen, nobody’s spot in the lineup is guaranteed.“At this level, everybody’s competitive,” McLean said. “Nobody takes a backseat knowing they’re going to play each weekend no matter what happens in practice.”The decision to scratch McLean was performance-based, but also an indication of the team’s positional depth, OSU associate coach Brett Larson said.“There’s a lot of competition back there,” Larson said. “You’re always trying to balance playing your (veterans) with developing your young guys.”On-ice infractions have complicated OSU’s search for a balance through the first three series of the season.The team issued one-game sanctions to senior defenseman Justin DaSilva and junior defenseman Sam Jardine after their game misconducts during the Buckeyes’ loss to Miami University on Oct. 17. Sophomore defenseman Josh Healey, however, was not benched following his ejection from OSU’s loss to Providence on Oct. 11.“Obviously every hit is reviewable because sometimes you agree with the (referee) and sometimes you don’t,” Larson said.Through the early part of the season, sophomore forward Nick Schilkey said he’s noticed a slight increase in the stringency of officiating.“It’s kind of weird,” Schilkey said of the increase in match penalties. “Beforehand we thought it was just us … then you watch other games and it’s happening there, too.”An NCAA official visited OSU during the preseason to clarify the legality of hits, but it’s a concept that’s often situational, Schilkey said.McLean said he believes the frequency of misconducts will diminish over time. “Usually you’ll see more calls like that at the beginning of the year,” McLean said. “Everybody on our team’s a smart hockey player, they’ll all adjust as they have to.”Making that adjustment may be a tough task against the University of Nebraska-Omaha (4-1-1, 2-0-0). The Mavericks, under the direction of coach Dean Blais, operate on a foundation of physicality and competitiveness, Larson said.“They’re not an extremely detailed team as far as their systems, but they play with a lot of heart and a lot of energy,” Larson said. “We’re going to have to be the same way.”The University of Nebraska-Omaha is coming off a win and tie against Cornell University last weekend.Puck drop is set for 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday at the Schottenstein Center.Loose Pucks-Junior defensemen Craig Dalrymple and Blake Doerring participated in Wednesday’s practice and are day-to-day with upper-body injuries, Larson said.-OSU coach Steve Rohlik was on recruiting assignment during Wednesday’s practice and media availability.-Rohlik spent three years as a coach with the Mavericks. read more