Hot Takedown If you’re a fan of our podcasts, be sure to subscribe on Apple Podcasts and leave a rating/review. That helps spread the word to other listeners. And get in touch by email, on Twitter or in the comments. Tell us what you think, send us hot takes to discuss and tell us why we’re wrong. Welcome to the latest episode of Hot Takedown, our podcast where the hot sports takes of the week meet the numbers that prove them right or tear them down. On this week’s show (Dec. 8, 2015), we ask whether the Carolina Panthers’ perfect start has been great or relatively mediocre. With a quarter of the NBA year gone, we wonder whether the Golden State Warriors can beat the Chicago Bulls’ 72-10 record season. Plus, we take a look at how Leicester City is leading the English Premier League and whether the team is about to regress. And a Significant Digit about the unequal distribution of games on artificial turf in men’s and women’s soccer after the U.S. women’s team called off its game against Trinidad and Tobago in Hawaii because field conditions were unacceptable.Stream the episode by clicking the play button, or subscribe using one of the podcast clients we’ve linked to above. Links to what we discussed are here:Neil Paine on the mighty Golden State Warriors.Kyle Wagner on whether the Warriors can go 73-9.Ben Morris says Stephen Curry is the revolution.Allison McCann talks about why the continued use of artificial turf in women’s soccer is unfair.Neil Paine takes the Perfect Panthers down a peg.Mike Goodman asks whether Leicester City is as good as its league position suggests.The Guardian’s Stuart James on Leicester’s rollicking start.Significant Digit: 8 out of 10. The number of games played on artificial turf during the U.S. women’s soccer team’s victory tour after it won the Women’s World Cup. More: Apple Podcasts | ESPN App | RSS
Maria Sharapova, seeking back-to-back Grand Slam championships, was eliminated from Wimbledon on Monday, losing 6-4, 6-3 to No. 15-seeded Sabine Lisicki in a match played in windy, rainy conditions.Sharapova, the No. 1 seed who took the French Open title last month for her fourth Grand Slam, was outplayed by Lisicki, a German who won the 2004 Wimbledon title.After blasting an ace down the middle on her third match point, Lisicki collapsed to her knees on the grass and shook both fists. Among those cheering for Lisicki in the guest box was German NBA star Dirk Nowitzki of the Dallas Mavericks.“It’s just unbelievable,” Lisicki said. “For the third time I’ve beaten the French Open champion here. I’m just so happy. I’ve lost the three previous meetings against her. Now I just played well and beat her for the first time.”Sharapova was trying to become the first woman since Serena Williams in 2002 to win the French Open and Wimbledon in the same year. But Lisicki was better.“I just went for my shots. Really from the first point on I felt great out there,” Lisicki said. “It’s my favorite tournament, I love playing on grass, I love the crowd here. I just love it.”Lisicki will next face fellow German and No. 8 Angelique Kerber, who drubbed Kim Clijsters 6-1, 6-1. Clijester, the 47th-ranked Belgian, has said she is retiring after this year’s U.S. Open – this time for good, having returned to the sport in 2009 after a two-year break.
Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant says he received the “green light” to workout harder in practice, but he still hasn’t set a return date as he recovers from the Achilles tendon injury he suffered last April.“I just keep it all open right now,” Bryant said Wednesday. “I don’t know why you guys are so hell-bent on timelines. It’s like the most ridiculous thing to me. It’s entertaining. When I’m ready, I’m ready.”Bryant is currently working on developing explosive strength and power, and targeting exercises to build up his Achilles tendon.“I do a lot of calf raises during the day, just trying to get it as strong as possible and constantly pushing the flexibility of it, the mobility,” said Bryant.Bryant said after his Achilles tendon is fully healed, he’s going to need three weeks of hard conditioning to get back to his playing weight.“I need to get my fat ass in shape,” Bryant said. “Six months of eating whatever the hell I wanted to eat and not running has caught up to me a little bit. So, I got to get in shape.”
CARSON, Calif. (AP) — Seattle Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett said Sunday he will sit during the national anthem this season to protest social injustice and segregation.Bennett sat on the visiting bench during “The Star-Spangled Banner” before the Seahawks’ preseason opener against the Los Angeles Rams, a decision he made prior to protests by white supremacists at the University of Virginia over the weekend. But what happened in Charlottesville, Va., including the death of a young woman when she was struck by a car deliberately driven into a group of counter-protesters on Saturday, solidified Bennett’s decision.“With everything that’s been going on the last couple of months and especially after the last couple of days, seeing everything in Virginia, seeing what’s going on out there earlier today in Seattle, I just wanted to be able to use my platform to be able to continue to speak over injustice,” Bennett said.“First of all, I want people to understand I love the military. My father was in the military. I love hot dogs like any other American. I love football like any other American. But I don’t love segregation. I don’t love riots. I don’t love oppression. I don’t love gender slander,” he said. “I just want to see people have the equality that they deserve, and I want to be able to use this platform to continuously push the message of that, you know, and keep journeying out and keep finding out how unselfish can we be as a society.”Bennett was at least the third prominent NFL player to protest during the anthem in the first full week of preseason games. Oakland Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch, a former teammate of Bennett’s in Seattle, also sat during the anthem. Los Angeles Rams defensive end Robert Quinn raised his right fist, continuing his approach from last season following then-San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s decision to kneel during the anthem.Kaepernick is a free agent, and the controversy over his decision to protest the anthem and the form he used has not quelled, even as he remains unsigned.Bennett said he is willing to deal with similar fallout.“Of course I’m going to face backlash,” Bennett said. “This is bigger than me. This is bigger than football. This is bigger than anything that we have. This is about people. This is about bringing opportunities to people, giving people equality. This is bigger than a sport.”Bennett said he had spoken to several other NFL players about possible protests but had not talked with Lynch yet. While he acknowledged the possibility of more widespread and formally organized protests happening later, Bennett wanted to express himself.“I think everybody has a time where they feel like they need to be who they are and stand up for what they believe in,” Bennett said.Seahawks coach Pete Carroll did not have a response to Bennett’s actions, saying he only became aware of it after the game.Bennett said the aim of his protest is to make people uncomfortable. In the process, he hopes to spur greater communication, understanding and involvement across racial, gender and socio-economic lines.“Everyone is in their comfort zone right now,” Bennett said. “Get out there and become uncomfortable. Go out there and see what it’s like out there in society right now.”
Scoring 50 goals in 50 games is the crowning achievement of an NHL goal scorer. Players who do so join a club of legends including Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux and Maurice Richard. The club is exclusive — it has only five members, and it hasn’t accepted a new application in 25 years. There are dozens and dozens of active NHL players who weren’t alive yet the last time someone scored 50 goals in 50 games, when Brett Hull did it during the 1991-92 season.As with throwing dead octopuses onto the ice and shaking hands with the opponent after a playoff series, the 50 in 50 club is like many things unique to the NHL: steeped in history and perhaps devoid of logic. The attention bestowed on the exploit dates back to the days when there were only 50 games on the schedule. So when Richard became to first to do it in 1945, it meant he averaged a goal a game for a whole season. When the schedule expanded to 60 games — and then to 70 games, and then 74, 76, 78, 80 and 84 games, finally settling at 82 games — 50 in 50 remained a thing. Because, you know, why not?Like with many exclusive clubs, there are also a lot of rules. To gain access, you must score 50 goals in your team’s first 50 games, not your own. Alexander Mogilny scored 50 goals in his first 46 games in 1992-93, but an injury forced him to miss three weeks at the beginning of the season. Mogilny’s 50th tally came in his team’s 53rd game, so he’s not allowed in. No exceptions!It’s not easy to sustain a goal-per-game pace for 50 consecutive games, but so far this season, Tampa Bay’s Nikita Kucherov is doing almost exactly that. With 14 goals in 15 games, the young Russian with a hellacious shot has set himself up to make a legitimate run at hockey’s goal-scoring holy grail.Of course, many others have started the season on a similar tear in recent years — and all of them ended up way short of the benchmark. Here’s how every player who notched at least 14 goals in his team’s first 15 games post-lockout stacked up against the last three 50/50 players. Amazingly, only one of these players (Jaromir Jagr in 2006) exceeded 50 goals on the season, let alone in 50 games. In the 2005-06 season, winger Simon Gagne scored 17 in the Flyers’ first 15 games, but he ultimately scored only 17 more in the next 35. In that same season, both Dany Heatley and Daniel Alfredsson had 15 goals through the first 15 games. They both cooled, too — like Gagne, they each netted 17 goals in the following 35 games.But there’s reason to believe this year might be different: The league itself seems different.So far this season, goalies are stopping pucks with less success than they have since 2008-09. But not all of the blame can be placed on lackluster goaltending — a number of rule changes have led to an increase in power play opportunities per game. More power play opportunities equal more high-quality scoring opportunities, which means more goalies left hung out to dry.It’s not shocking to see an analog in the 2005-06 season, when Jagr, Gagne, Heatley and Alfredsson each flirted with a goal-a-game pace: The league instituted rule changes in the wake of the 2004-05 lockout with the express purpose of increasing the number of goals per game, which had tanked in the NHL of the late 1990s and early 2000s. Chief among those rule changes was the elimination of the two-line offside pass. Defenses were slow to adjust to the rule change, which led to a preponderance of breakaways and two-on-one situations.In the 1980s and early 1990s, the NHL was a wide open league, and goaltending often seemed like an afterthought. From 1980-81 to 1993-94, the goals against average for the league never dipped below 3.0 — and the 50 in 50 was accomplished seven times.1Mike Bossy, Gretzky (three times), Lemieux, Hull (twice). From 1994-95 to the present, the goals against average has risen higher than 3.0 in only one season. It hasn’t climbed quite that high this season, but it’s close.2It currently sits at 2.89.Kucherov isn’t the only one taking advantage of the increase in scoring. Like during the 2005-06 season, this year’s NHL has a handful of players vying for NHL legend status. Alex Ovechkin has also started the year on fire (13 goals in 16 games), while Islanders’ captain John Tavares has 12 goals in 15.Of course, a goal scorer is nothing without dime-dishing linemates, and Kucherov has benefited from playing with the league’s leading point getter in Steven Stamkos (who missed 65 games last season, and the Bolts missed the playoffs). Stamkos is known best for his goal scoring prowess — he’s a two-time recipient of the Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy, awarded to the league’s top goal scorer — but this year it’s his passing that has him at the top of the NHL’s scoring list. He’s still scoring goals, but his 18 assists pace the league. And 10 of those helpers have come on goals scored by Kucherov.Every player to hit the 50-goals-in-50-games milestone played on a line with one (or two) very good passers. Lemieux — who also unofficially scored 50 in 50 in two other seasons3Super Mario scored 50 goals in his first 50 games in both the 1992-93 and 1995-96 seasons, but neither exploit came on or before his team’s first 50 games. Sorry, Mario: Hockey conservatives say this doesn’t count. — played the bulk of his career on lines with some combination of Jagr, Kevin Stevens and Ron Francis. Hull played on a line in St. Louis with Adam Oates. Gretzky had Jari Kurri, Mike Bossy had Bryan Trottier and Clark Gillies, and Richard had Elmer Lach and Toe Blake. And it’s not a stretch to place Kucherov and Stamkos among these all-time great duos and trios.Kucherov’s gaudy numbers aren’t surprising — he’s scored no fewer than 29 goals in each of his three full NHL seasons and has an astounding career shooting percentage of 15.1. But that historically good shooting percentage is up dramatically this season: At the moment, Kucherov is scoring on 24 percent of the shots he’s taking. That’s destined to regress to the mean, but for now, Kucherov’s shot looks damn near unsavable.Who knows if Kucherov — or Ovechkin or Tavares — can sustain a goal-per-game pace for all 50 games. Even if they don’t, they’ve already made the NHL feel a little bit like the wild old days of the ’80s and early ’90s. And they’ve given every hockey nerd something to pull for.
In the lead-up to Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final on Wednesday night, NBC’s television coverage noted on several occasions that the Los Angeles Kings were “overwhelming favorites” to beat the New York Rangers in the series. And if you pay attention to informal straw polls such as this one, it seems like that’s the case. As FiveThirtyEight’s Eric Tulsky pointed out in this preview, the media have been near-unanimous in predicting the Kings will win the Cup. Indeed, the Kings prevailed in Game 1.But they didn’t dominate, and the percentage of respondents who predict a certain outcome is not equivalent to the predicted probability of that outcome — especially when there’s little to no accountability for failed predictions, and the real possibility that herd behavior will produce non-independent picks. The most accurate and unbiased predictor of a given sporting event is usually the Las Vegas betting line, not a pundit. And according to Vegas, the Kings did not enter the series a markedly dominant favorite relative to other pre-series Stanley Cup front-runners.Unfortunately, archived futures odds like these, which gave the Kings a 59.6 percent probability of winning the Cup, are not available for past seasons. But the useful site SportsDataBase.com does offer money lines for individual NHL playoff games going back eight postseasons. Using those for Game 1 of every final since 2007 (combined with the assumption that, in the NHL, a home team will beat an evenly matched road opponent about 55 percent of the time), we can infer the probability of each team winning a game at home and on the road — and thus the probability of winning the series.Prior to the Kings’ Game 1 victory, they had a -146 money line in Vegas, and the Rangers were listed at +135. Converting those numbers to probabilities and accounting for the “juice” that bookmakers add to each line to make a profit, Vegas thought that Los Angeles had a 58.2 percent chance of beating the Rangers on home ice. Armed with that number, we can rearrange Bill James’s log5 formula to extract the implied probability that the Kings would beat New York at a neutral site (53.3 percent), on the road (48.3 percent) and in the series (58.7 percent). (The difference from the 59.6 number listed earlier is due to using data from different sportsbooks.)Using SportsDataBase.com, we have data for eight Stanley Cup Finals played. If we apply the method above to them, the average expected win probability for the favorite in those eight series was 61.3 percent — higher than the Kings’ pre-series odds this year. Here’s the rundown of all eight series:Instead of being “overwhelming favorites,” the Kings were actually less favored than the typical Cup front-runner. I expected them to be favored before the series began, and their odds have certainly improved after winning Game 1. The idea that this is a notably one-sided matchup, though, just isn’t supported by the market.
The Steph Curry Pull-Up Vigil has been going on for weeks now.Curry is the pagan god of long-range pull-ups, a shot that doesn’t seem to have a place in a league obsessed with efficiency. But over the last three seasons, Curry has made it work anyway, leading the league in pull-up threes — taken and made — and hitting them about 40 percent of the time. But this season he got off to a slow start, making 21.4 percent of his pull-up threes in December, and today he’s sitting at 33.3 percent, just a hair below Russell Westbrook’s mark. Curry’s swoon is hard to explain, but he’s shooting 43.3 percent in his last 10 games and 48.5 in his last five. Smart money says he’ll be just fine.Glance at that pull-up leaderboard, though, and you’ll notice that Curry’s seat hasn’t been vacated, it’s been overtaken. Where just a few years ago Curry was the unrivaled king of pumping efficient points out of a traditionally inefficient well, today an armful of players are doing convincing Steph impersonations off the bounce.The logic against the pull-up three is simple: It’s far, far easier to shoot a spot-up jumper than it is to shoot off the dribble, and it’s far, far easier to find an open look by moving without the ball than it is while holding the ball. This is why most modern offenses are built to work the ball around to players in motion off the ball, looking for an open catch-and-shoot three, preferably from the corner. If the goal of an offense is to seek the most efficient shots, and the best offenses are chasing spot-up threes, then the alternative is clearly less than ideal.The argument in favor of the shot is somehow even simpler: If it goes in, it’s unstoppable. For a player with a certain set of skills, it’s a shot that’s both always available and always open.For the last three seasons, Curry has been unstoppable. For all the intricacies and nuance built into the Warriors’ offense, the single most unguardable piece of it was always Curry pulling up from 30 feet or sliding around a ball screen and flicking up a jumper. Fans, announcers and coaches all learned to recite the Steph Curry mantra: That’s a bad shot if anyone else takes it. Except, increasingly, it isn’t.This season, 26 players are taking at least two pull-up threes per game, up from 17 in 2013-14 and 21 last season. Of the guys taking at least two per game this season, 12 are hitting at least 36 percent (the league average for all threes), up from five in ’13-14. Kemba Walker is taking 4.5 per game and hitting 37.3 percent; Kyle Lowry is taking 4.1 per game and hitting 41.5; James Harden is making less than 32 percent of his, but he’s taking 6.4 a game, tied for the most in the four years the NBA has kept track of pull-ups. We can’t write off this wave of Steph-like gunners who have emerged as mere early-season noise this deep into the schedule. These players aren’t just taking Curry’s signature shots — they’re making a good number of them as well. And that says something about the way teams are approaching modern offense.Not many players can approximate the totality of Steph Curry, but they can emulate him piecemeal. The Rockets, for instance, are shooting from the parking lot this year, distorting the basic shapes of NBA defenses. And while not many teams can duplicate the ball movement of Houston or Cleveland — movement that sets up all those open threes — a good number of them have a guy who can shake his man and rise up for a three. In a league dominated by the long ball, teams seem to be coming around to the idea that sometimes one player can make his own shot, especially if the guy can hit it regularly.The shift in the league’s approach is noticeable at the team level as much as at the player level. In 2013-14, teams averaged 5.1 pull-up threes per game; by last season, that had climbed to 5.9 per game, and this season we’re up at 6.6. A shot and a half per game doesn’t sound like a lot, but that represents an increase of about 30 percent. For context, compare that to what’s happened during the league’s “scoring explosion” — that has come with just a 25 percent rise in overall 3-point attempts over the same four seasons. As teams try to cram ever more threes into each game, a little revolution within the revolution is changing the ways that these shots are created. Hero ball is allowed back on the court, so long as it’s at the 3-point line.This spike in pull-ups isn’t just about the NBA’s faster, rip-and-run style of play these days. When I looked at numbers for the traditional image of a pull-up three — a point guard dribbling the leather off of the ball 30 feet from the rim for ages, only to pull up from deep without ever sniffing the paint — I still saw an uptick in volume and performance. Eleven players are taking at least one three per game on plays where they took seven or more dribbles before the shot (that’s the proxy we’re using for half-court, rather than transition, shots). Six of them are shooting at least 40 percent. Back in 2013-14, those numbers were seven and three.Because the NBA only has reliable data on pull-ups for a few seasons, it’s tough to say how much of this comes down to luck from year to year, like a player’s BABIP in baseball. Walker went from shooting 31.9, 25.6, and 32.2 percent on pull-up threes in years past to 37.3 so far this season; Lowry was a mid-30s guy until this season, when he’s jumped up to 41.5 percent; Kyrie Irving has consistently been in the high 30s to low 40s, except last season, when he slumped badly to 29.1. The individual players peaking from season to season can and likely will shift around. But even with a revolving-door cast, the trend can live on. If it does, it might just give the 3-point revolution a little more flavor.Whether it’s the razzle-dazzle of Curry’s Shammgod or Kemba’s UTEP two-step, or Westbrook hitting the handbrake and going from top speed to perfectly perpendicular in one bounce, or LeBron and Harden casually walking into an unblockable shot, the pull-up done right is a beautiful thing. And if its most proficient practitioners have reached a point where we can reclaim it from the analytics-say-it’s-bad graveyard, perhaps NBA fans won’t be so quick to mourn the next time Steph Curry has a bad December.
Ray Small saw it all – and did most of it, too – during his four years suiting up in scarlet and gray. Small told The Lantern on Wednesday he profited off of memorabilia while at Ohio State, adding that some student-athletes “don’t even think about (NCAA) rules.” “I had sold my things but it was just for the money,” Small said. “At that time in college, you’re kind of struggling.” Small, who played receiver at OSU from 2006-2010, capitalized on the Buckeyes’ success during his college career. “We had four Big Ten rings,” he said. “There was enough to go around.” Small said he sold the rings to cover typical costs of living. “We have apartments, car notes,” he said. “So you got things like that and you look around and you’re like, ‘Well I got (four) of them, I can sell one or two and get some money to pay this rent.” The wheeling and dealing didn’t stop with rings. The best deals came from car dealerships, Small said. “It was definitely the deals on the cars. I don’t see why it’s a big deal,” said Small, who identified Jack Maxton Chevrolet as the players’ main resource. The Columbus Dispatch reported on May 7 that OSU was investigating more than 50 transactions between OSU athletes and their families and Jack Maxton Chevrolet or Auto Direct. Representatives for Jack Maxton Chevrolet did not return repeated requests for comment. NCAA rules prohibit student-athletes from benefiting from the sale of their merchandise. Small said he wasn’t the only one. Ray Small interview with The Lantern by The Lantern OSU “They have a lot (of dirt) on everybody,” Small said, “cause everybody was doing it.” Although he understands how athletes are easy targets for getting deals, Small said anyone can take advantage. “(People say) ‘Oh you got a deal, it’s because you’re an athlete,’” Small said. “Playing for Ohio State definitely helps. But I know a lot of people that do nothing and get deals on their cars.” The Lantern obtained a police report from shortly after 2 a.m. on Sept. 18, 2007, when Small was arrested for a misdemeanor charge of driving with a suspended license. According to the report, Small was driving a 2007 Chrysler 300 that he told the officer he had just purchased. The vehicle had a dealer plate on it instead of a temporary tag. Police then received a call from Aaron Kniffin later that morning, wanting to know why the car had been impounded. Kniffin, a salesman at Jack Maxton Chevrolet, told the officer the dealership “gives a lot of coaches and faculty cars and that Mr. Small’s family is purchasing the car,” according to the report. Kniffin told the officer that paperwork for the car had not yet been worked out. On Dec. 23, the NCAA suspended quarterback Terrelle Pryor, running back Dan Herron, receiver DeVier Posey, offensive lineman Mike Adams and defensive end Solomon Thomas for five games for selling memorabilia and receiving discounted tattoos from Eddie Rife, owner of Fine Line Ink tattoo parlor. Linebacker Jordan Whiting earned a one-game ban. OSU handed coach Jim Tressel a five-game suspension and $250,000 fine for failing to report the players’ actions. Malcolm Jenkins, who played cornerback for OSU from 2005-2008, said the tattoo violation was overblown. “The tattoo thing is whatever. It’s not that big of a deal, but it’s one of the dumb rules that the NCAA has,” Jenkins told The Lantern on Wednesday. “I don’t see what advantage getting free tattoos has to a university to be a violation, but it’s whatever. It’s in the rules, so it’s whatever.” Small said he isn’t surprised players couldn’t resist the temptation of discounted tattoos. “If you go in and try to get a tattoo, and somebody is like ‘Do you want 50 percent off this tattoo?’ You’re going to say, ‘Heck yeah,’” Small said. The NCAA’s notice of allegations sent to university President E. Gordon Gee on April 21 details the infractions that the six aforementioned athletes committed. It also lists a seventh violator, noted under letter “g” in its document. The NCAA accuses that player of having repeated interaction with Rife for a year-and-a-half. Small said he didn’t know much about Rife or Fine Line Ink. Among the items this mystery player sold to Rife was a 2010 Rose Bowl watch for $250. However, Small, defensive end Rob Rose and running back Bo DeLande were suspended for the 2010 Rose Bowl for a “violation of team rules.” According to athletic department spokesman Dan Wallenberg, that means Small didn’t receive a watch. “Postseason awards are limited to student-athletes who are eligible to participate in such contests under NCAA and Big Ten Conference regulations,” Wallenberg said Wednesday in an email to The Lantern. Rife declined The Lantern‘s request for an interview. Small spent much of his four years at OSU in Tressel’s doghouse. “When I was in college, in my opinion, I was the bad guy,” Small said. “I mean I knew that I was being the bad guy. I had took on that role.” Small said the allure of deals and discounts overshadows the rules education that the athletic department’s compliance office provides. “They explain the rules to you, but as a kid you’re not really listening to all of them rules,” Small said. “You go out and you just, people show you so much love, you don’t even think about the rules. You’re just like ‘Ah man, it’s cool.’ You take it, and next thing you know the NCAA is down your back.” Jenkins said the athletic department makes a concerted effort to prevent such scenarios, but not all players follow instruction. “What the players go out and do on their own time and make their own decisions is on them,” Jenkins said. “I know (the compliance department) puts things in place to give us knowledge of the rules, give us education on how to deal with those situations, but what the players do with that is another story.” The Lantern reached out to Doug Archie, head of the OSU compliance department, but instead received a comment from Wallenberg. “We educate as best we can and expect student-athletes and staff to follow our messaging and policies,” Wallenberg said in an email. Jenkins said some players fail to resist the temptation of discounts. “When I was in school, I never really encountered too many offers and stuff, and the ones I did, it wasn’t hard to say no,” Jenkins said. “But some guys who have less self-control feel like they can get away with it.” Although six players have been penalized, Small said players mostly kept their wrongdoing under wraps. “(It) was kind of hush-hush. I mean, you tell … probably your close friend, or a close friend to your close friend,” Small said. “As far as everybody just talking about it in the locker room, that wasn’t really a big thing. So if somebody is giving them a deal, it was probably a situation where they kept it to themselves.” Small did not provide details on who bought his memorabilia. In a September interview with The Lantern, athletic director Gene Smith said outside influences are to blame for players’ misjudgments of NCAA rules. “At the end of the day, everyone’s trying to do what’s right. There’s some things you can’t control,” Smith said. “Do we have some bad people in the business? No doubt. But 99 percent of our people are trying to do it the right way, and outside influences take them to where they are. “It worries me constantly that our education sessions might not work, might not make it to a particular family member.” But when speaking to the media at the announcement of the players’ suspensions on Dec. 23, Smith said the compliance department could have done more. “We were not explicit with these young men that you cannot resell items that we give you,” Smith said. “They stated in their interviews with us and with the NCAA that they felt those items were theirs, that they owned them, that they could sell them to help their families. … We were not explicit, and that’s our responsibility to be explicit.” Smith said the compliance department reaches out to those who might interact with athletes to make sure everyone is on the same page. “We focus more on education, education, education. Our education is marvelous,” Smith told The Lantern in September. “We go out and meet with the car dealers, we’ll go into the bars and restaurants with cover charges and nightclubs and educate those people so they don’t give our athletes freebies.” Former OSU basketball player Mark Titus wrote Tuesday on his blog, Club Trillion, that the perks within the football program are far from a secret. “Any OSU student in the past five years could tell you that a lot of the football players drive nice cars,” Titus wrote. “You’d have to be blind to not notice it.” Titus declined further comment when The Lantern contacted him, but said he has received “all sorts of hate mail. … If people are this upset with me for pointing out the obvious, I can’t imagine how mad they must be at all the guys who actually broke the rules and got OSU into this mess in the first place.” In his four years in scarlet and gray, Small – who is back at OSU pursuing a degree in sociology – totaled 61 receptions for 659 yards and three touchdowns. He returned a fourth-quarter punt 69 yards for a touchdown to seal a 26-14 victory against Ohio University on Sept. 6, 2008. Small spent time on the practice squads of the Indianapolis Colts, Minnesota Vikings and Washington Redskins. OSU has until July 5 to respond to the NCAA’s notice of allegations. The university will present its case to the NCAA Committee on Infractions on Aug. 12. Small said players get deals just based on affiliation with the university. “Everywhere you go, while you’re in the process of playing at Ohio State,” Small said, “you’re going to get a deal every which way.”
The OSU women’s volleyball team celebrates after a win against Michigan State on Oct. 22, 2016. The Buckeyes won the match 3-0. Credit: Luke Swartz | For The LanternNo. 24 Ohio State (5-3) played two matches against Notre Dame this weekend, one at St. John Arena Friday night, then in South Bend, Indiana, on Sunday. Although the Buckeyes beat the Fighting Irish, 3-0, at home, they were not as successful in Notre Dame territory as they dropped the match, 3-1.During Sunday’s loss to Notre Dame, freshman libero Hannah Gruensfelder set an Ohio State record for most digs in a four-set match with 38.In winning the first game of the two-match series, which was scheduled because of the cancellation of the Coastal Carolina Classic due to Hurricane Irma, Ohio State handed Notre Dame its first loss of the season, ending the Fighting Irish’s 6-0 winning streak.“Notre Dame, they’re undefeated for a reason. They’re a very good team.” Carlston said.Ohio State started off its first set Friday evening strong and was able to maintain the lead through most of the set. Its defensive line proved successful in the first set with four blocks and 24 digs.The Buckeyes established their rhythm quickly and won the first set 25-20.The second set was no different for the Buckeyes as they took the lead early once again.Outside hitter Luisa Schirmer and setter Taylor Hughes contributed four kills each, adding to their team’s total of 18 kills and leading Ohio State to a 25-21 victory.The Fighting Irish matched the Buckeyes point for point early in the third set, even taking the lead a 6-4 lead at one point. They stayed neck and neck with the Buckeyes all match long.As tensions rose, Ohio State called a timeout with the scored tied at 23. The Buckeyes were able to pick up the pace and win the set 25-23 with two final kills by Hughes and middle blocker Lauren Witte.Although the Buckeyes won the match 3-0, coach Geoff Carlston thought neither team played as well as they could have.“I have a feeling there are going to be some adjustments by both of us since we play them on Sunday, “ Carlston said. “I would say that was an ugly win, but a win over a really good team.”Outside hitter Ashley Wenz also thought the Buckeyes could have played a stronger game against Notre Dame.“I think that we have a lot that we can work on,” Wenz said. “[We could work on] having better eyes on defense, being able to kind of read the hitters a lot better and play balls that should be easier than they were tonight.”Coming off the 3-0 sweep of the Notre Dame Friday, the Buckeyes said they expected the Fighting Irish to be more difficult to put away in their match Sunday.“Both teams will play harder, it’ll be a lot closer,” Wenz said. “I definitely think they’re going to try and play against our strengths and we’re going to try to do the same.”After a full day of preparation, the Buckeyes traveled to Indiana Sunday for their second match against Notre Dame.Ohio State was able to lead for most of the first set, but Notre Dame came back to take the lead near the end of the set, winning 25-22.The Buckeyes picked up the pace in the second set and played a close game throughout most of the set. Wenz was responsible for nine kills of the set, leading the Buckeyes to a 25-21 victory.Ohio State proceeded to drop its final two sets in convincing fashion, losing the third set 25-14 and dropping the fourth and final set 25-17 to close out the game. Although Ohio State racked up 61 kills and 109 digs, its .141 hitting percentage paled in comparison to the Fighting Irish’s .244 hitting percentage. The Buckeyes will be back at St. John Arena Friday to begin the Buckeye Invitational. They host Western Kentucky at noon and Northern Illinois at 7:30 p.m. On Saturday, they will go against Dayton at Capital Center in Bexley, Ohio.
Ohio State freshman guard Luther Muhammad (1) joins teammates after the game in the second half of the game against Michigan State at the Big Ten tournament on Mar. 14 in Chicago. Ohio State lost 77-70. Credit: Casey Cascaldo | Photo EditorCHICAGO — With 10:02 to go in the game down 56-46, Ohio State head coach Chris Holtmann stood courtside with his arms crossed. He looked toward his bench, saw sophomore forward Kaleb Wesson sitting and watching, already with four fouls to his name. He looked out onto the court to see redshirt senior guard Keyshawn Woods and senior guard C.J. Jackson, who combined for seven fouls at the end of regulation. He looked out on the court at Michigan State. Junior guard and Big Ten Player of the Year Cassius Winston had already heated up, erasing his two-point start in the first 18 minutes of the game with six points in the final two minutes of the first half. Even with junior forward Nick Ward back in the rotation, sophomore Xavier Tillman used his size as the one of two guys for Wesson and Ohio State sophomore forward Kyle Young to focus on. Holtmann saw what his team has never truly had in any of the three matchups against the Spartans: depth. Even without the depth of the Spartans, the Buckeyes found a way to remain close in each of their three matchups against what Holtmann considers to be the best conference opponent he has seen in his two seasons as head coach. Holtmann said he feels Ohio State matches up better with Michigan State than other teams in the league, giving his team an advantage and ability to keep the score close, finding halftime leads in each of the first two games against the Spartans. But the storyline has remained the same for the Buckeyes in each of these matchups against the Spartans. “In the first half, we play them tight in the post and we stay at it and then we have spurts in the second half where we drop off,” Wesson said. “With a good team like Michigan State, a top-10 team in the country, you can’t have a drop off. That’s when they take advantage of the mistakes we make.” But leaving the court at the United Center, coming off its third loss in three games against the No. 6 team in the country, Ohio State had confidence. Maybe it was the run. Trailing by 21 points with 4:21 left in the game, Woods hit a jumper, beginning a 17-0 run that may have been too late, but followed a recent trend, one Ohio State saw late in the second half of its final regular season game against Wisconsin. “Our whole motto is not giving up and Duane, Luther, Musa, Dre, all those guys that were out there were still playing hard and not giving up,” Woods said. A 21-point drubbing turned into a seven-point loss, the closest of the season between Ohio State and Michigan State. Instead of leaving the court with heads down, the players and coaching staff walked to the locker room quiet, but confident. The Buckeyes knew what was likely coming next: the NCAA Tournament. The general consensus was that Ohio State earned a spot in the Tournament after its second-round win against Indiana Thursday. But scoring 17 unanswered points against what many consider to be a Final Four contender may have secured it in the minds of the players. “If they do, they do. If they don’t they don’t, but I feel like our body of work speaks for itself,” Wesson said. “We played hard throughout the year. I feel like anywhere we go, we will play hard.” Wesson still stands by the comment he made after the team’s first loss to Michigan State on Jan. 5: when the team is at full strength, Ohio State can compete with anyone in the country. Ohio State has two days before Selection Sunday to try and get to full strength and remedy the late-season fatigue that had a clear effect on the roster. Moving forward, the Buckeyes’ focus should be on consistency, something it never had in its four games against Michigan State. “We needed to make them work 40 minutes instead of 30 minutes, 38 minutes,” freshman guard Luther Muhammad said. “I feel like we always play hard for three-fourths of the game, but we just have to put a whole game together as a group.” But after the Buckeyes’ 17-0 run at the end of the game, heading into the Tournament with a loss and some sort of momentum, Muhammad said Ohio State was heading in the right direction.