Some MLB Teams Will Rise Some Will Fall But You Shouldnt Predict

So why does the 2014 ESPN MLB Forecast panel call for so little movement? Is this a bug or a feature?If we assume the panelists are trying to maximize predictive accuracy, then it’s a feature. This is true for the same reason it’s better to predict no more than, say, 35 home runs for any player in a given season, even though we know the majors’ leader typically hits at least 45 homers (if not 50 or more).Why? We have no way of knowing which player will stray into the HR stratosphere, so it’s best to make regressive predictions for each of the dozen or so guys who could make a credible case for being the outlier; roughly half of the group will exceed their forecast, and half will fall short.The same goes for division forecasts. From 1999 to 2012, an average of 11 MLB teams per season moved zero spots within their division, 10 moved a single spot, six moved two spots, two moved three spots and one moved four spots. But if we tried to parcel out specific teams into each category, the odds are we’d be less accurate than if we just predicted no movement for any team.A great illustration of this principle comes every year around this time. In the NCAA basketball tournament, certain first-round upset combinations (like a No. 12 seed beating a No. 5 seed) are very likely each year. However, there’s a big difference between knowing that fact and being able to capitalize on it by identifying the matchup in which an upset will occur. It’s just as easy to wreck a bracket by chasing false positives — upset picks that don’t happen — as it is to pick a favorite who loses.A No. 12 seed has won roughly 1.5 times in the round of 64 in each tournament since the NCAA field expanded to 64 teams in 1985. But if we took the most likely No. 12 vs. No. 5 upset in the field (according to the teams’ pre-tournament Simple Ratings) and flipped a coin over whether to pick the second-most likely upset, we’d pick winners at a rate 9 percent lower than if we just picked the No. 5 seed to win no matter what.Now, maybe your NCAA tournament pool sweetens the deal by rewarding upsets enough to make chasing those No. 12 seeds a viable strategy, but the overall point stands. Just because we know the overall frequency of an event happening, it doesn’t mean we know whether it will happen in any specific case. The best we can do is be regressive in our forecasts, accepting that some will be wrong, but that the overall prediction will be more accurate in the long run for it. After we broke down the voting data on ESPN’s MLB Forecast results last week, an alert FiveThirtyEight reader, Andrew Jondahl, pointed out something weird in the panel’s predictions. Andrew noticed that — from last season to this one — no team was projected to move more than one spot in its division.Such little movement would be highly unusual in the real world. Since 1998, when baseball moved to its current divisional format, nearly 30 percent of teams moved up or down by two or more spots from one season to the next. read more

BillionDollar Billy Beane

The film version of “Moneyball” depicts many establishment baseball types as ignorant of where wins in baseball come from and clueless about how to properly value talent.Take, for example, the scene when John Henry — the billionaire owner of the Boston Red Sox — tries to recruit the Oakland Athletics’ general manager Billy Beane. Henry tells Beane that any managers not rebuilding their teams with Beane’s system in mind are “dinosaurs,” and then hands him a slip of paper. On it, there’s an offer for Beane to become the new Red Sox general manager for the insane amount of $12.5 million over five years. His fictional colleague tells us that the offer would make Beane “the highest-paid GM in the history of sports.” Despite appearing tempted, Beane ultimately declines the deal, claiming, “I made one decision in my life based on money and I swore I’d never do it again.”1In real life, Beane briefly accepted the Red Sox’s offer before changing his mind (citing community and family reasons). He even began negotiating with the A’s over what compensation the Red Sox would have to give his old team for stealing him away. At the press conference announcing that he’d changed his mind, Beane was asked about that negotiation (from a contemporary news report):“Asked from a baseball talent-evaluator perspective what he was worth, Beane laughed and said, ‘I had one opinion before [accepting Boston’s job] and once I got there, I had a different opinion.’”Beane may not be the highest-paid GM in the history of sports, but he may be the most famous. An outfielder originally drafted 23rd overall by the New York Mets in 1980, Beane made his MLB debut in 1984, but was never successful against top competition. After getting washed out of the league, he became a scout for the A’s and eventually worked his way up to GM in 1997. As GM, he has used Bill James-style advanced statistics to inform his decisions, and taken a strictly economic approach to valuing and acquiring players. Under his leadership, the A’s have been a very successful franchise despite routinely carrying one of baseball’s smallest payrolls. Beane’s story caught the attention of author Michael Lewis, who made him the central character in his 2003 bestseller “Moneyball” and something of a cultural icon for sports analytics.Beane’s methods continue to be analyzed and celebrated by sabermetricians, and the A’s continue to massively exceed expectations given the amount they spend. They own the best record in baseball so far this season, and have the fifth-lowest payroll.2While also being rated as the “unluckiest” team this year. They currently lead MLB in Pythagorean wins by an even wider margin. It’s the best 100-game start of Beane’s career, and the best for the organization since its 1990 pennant-winning squad. Over the last 15 seasons,3The period covered by Baseball Prospectus’s payroll data. the A’s under Beane have had the fifth-best winning percentage in baseball, with the fourth-lowest total payroll. (The data used here is current through Monday, July 21.)Beane has been a godsend to the frugal A’s, enabling them to achieve top-tier performance at bottom-tier prices. For this, the A’s have paid him fairly modestly4In general, good GMs are probably way underpaid, but Beane is even more so. — but since we don’t know how much winning is worth to the A’s organization, it’s hard to say exactly how much Beane has been worth to them.For a team like the Red Sox, however, the picture is much more clear. Over the last 15 years, they’ve happily spent over $2 billion in the pursuit of wins — and because they’re one of baseball’s most successful franchises, no one in Beantown is complaining.From a strictly economic perspective, not offering Beane however much money it took to get him may have been one of the Red Sox’s poorest decisions since letting Babe Ruth go to the Yankees for next to nothing. And I mean that literally: Over the past 15 years, Billy Beane has been nothing less than the Babe Ruth of baseball GMs. The Red Sox offered Beane $2.5 million per year,5The 2002 Boston Red Sox paid Dustin Hermanson — a relief pitcher with a 4.21 ERA — $5.5 million, or more than twice as much in annual salary as they offered Beane. but even $25 million would have been a bargain.Finding Beane’s potential dollar value to the Red Sox is relatively simple: It’s the amount the team spent under general managers Theo Epstein and Ben Cherington, minus the amount it would have had to spend for the same performance with Beane as GM.6Hat tip to Jeremy Kahan — a hedge fund analyst and good friend of mine — for zeroing in on the Red Sox angle to this question.To show this, we first we need to figure out just how many A’s wins Beane has been responsible for, and how much those wins would cost on the open market.Let’s start by comparing the A’s performance under Beane’s leadership to the performance we would expect from a typical GM with the same payroll.7Prior to their change in ownership in 1995, the A’s maintained a healthy payroll, including the largest in the league in 1991, following their World Series appearance the year before. By the time they started downsizing, Beane was already with the team. This means there’s no way to compare Beane’s performance to that of a different A’s GM with a similar payroll. I created a logistic regression model8A type of model used to predict things like win percentages. that predicts a team’s win percentage by season based on the team’s relative payroll (excluding Oakland from the data), as measured by how many standard deviations it was above or below the average MLB payroll for each season. Below, I’ve plotted the non-Oakland team-seasons from 2000 to 2013 (on which the model is based) in groups of 15 by payroll (so, the dot farthest to the right represents the 15 team-seasons with the highest relative payrolls), and plotted the model’s prediction as a red line. I then plotted Oakland’s 15 seasons through 2014 as a single green point:The point on the upper right represents the 15 team-seasons with the highest relative payrolls. These teams were 2.68 standard deviations above the mean payroll on average and won 58.5 percent of their regular-season games on average.9Note there’s not much difference from a linear regression, which would have an underlying (season-by-season) R-squared value of .183 (though this can be increased by using less noisy metrics such as run differential). Oakland, on the other hand, averaged .81 standard deviations below the mean payroll and won 54.8 percent of its games on average.From this we can take each team’s expected wins per season based on payroll,10The logistic regression formula in Excel is: =1/(1+EXP(-(-0.009677+0.127212*[SD Payroll]))). and then see how many games above or below average it ran. Here’s Oakland, broken down by year (Note: 2014 is through the season’s first 98 games only):This comes out to 180.2 wins above expectation given the A’s payroll (165.5 prior to this year). That’s 12.0 wins above expectation per season (and there’s a good chance of that per-season average rising).“Wins above expectation” may sound familiar to you. It’s conceptually very similar to wins above replacement (WAR), the stat we use to evaluate how many wins a player earns a team versus how many games that team would expect to win without him.11There are two main differences between wins above expectation and wins above replacement:WAR is based on direct player performance metrics like hitting, fielding, etc., while a general manager’s wins earned are imputed indirectly from his team’s performance (both of these methods have their pluses and minuses).WAR is above “replacement,” meaning it’s the number of wins a player earns not over an average player, but over a borderline player — someone you would pay the minimum. A GM’s wins here are measured above what we would expect from the average non-Beane GM.But the difference between a “replacement” GM and an average GM is unclear to me: They all cost a pretty similar amount, and how much value they add is a mystery, so I thought an average GM was the appropriate baseline. Regardless, this means that this comparison could be understating Beane’s value. For example, Babe Ruth earned only 126 wins above average as a batter, compared to his 163 wins above replacement.Beane’s 12 wins per season above what we would expect of an average general manager is slightly more wins than Barry Bonds earned when he hit 73 home runs in 2001 (11.9 WAR). The most WAR earned by any batter over his entire career was 163 by Babe Ruth.12At least for now, Ruth does maintain a slight edge over Beane in total WAR (with 183.6) on account of his 20.6 WAR as a pitcher. In fact, if you assemble the top 15 position player seasons of all time, they still trail Beane’s 15 seasons as GM, with 180.1 WAR combined versus Beane’s 180.2 wins above expectation.No one can get that lucky. If you’re expected to win 1,116 out of 2,364 games, winning 1,296 games instead may not look impossible, but that’s because our intuitions about these things are terrible. Excel’s binomial distribution function makes calculating such odds pretty easy:13The Excel formula to calculate odds of winning a certain amount given an expected win rate is: =BINOM.DIST([Games]-[Wins],[Games],1-[Expected Win Percent], TRUE). In this case they’re somewhere around one in 13 trillion — effectively zero.14Granted, though odds that they’ve just gotten lucky overall are nil, it’s likely that the A’s have been “running well” to some extent — meaning, their performance has probably exceeded their true expectation. But this is true of any top team. Of course, we can’t know to what degree Beane alone is responsible for the A’s success. But as GM, Beane is formally responsible for the A’s performance, and there aren’t any other obvious causes that would suggest he isn’t responsible (there have been several different managers and 100 percent turnover of players during Beane’s tenure).Imagine the A’s wanted to have exactly this level of success and were willing to pay whatever it cost. With Billy Beane, the A’s have paid $839,902,108 to their players from 2000 up to and including the start of the 2014 season (but prior to recent acquisitions). How much do other teams normally have to pay for this level of success?There are a lot of estimates for the price of wins out there, ranging from ESPN’s Dan Szymborski’s $5.5 million per marginal win and FanGraphs $6 million on the lower end to Lewie Pollis’s $7 million and up to Hardball Times’ $7.6 million on the high end. To make things a little more complicated, the price of wins has also risen substantially with the growth of payrolls in the last decade15I’ll stick with FanGraphs and Hardball Times, because their historical estimates are readily accessible.:If we use these values to price wins above or below expectation on a year-by-year basis for every team as we did for Oakland above, and then sum up by team, it would look like this:FanGraphs’ value for Oakland’s performance adds up to $812 million since 2000, while the Hardball Times’ value adds up to $891 million. Over three-quarters of a billion dollars — that’s huge! We can smell-check these numbers by looking at the overall picture. Leaving aside standard deviations and year-by-year breakdowns for a moment, we can see how each team’s total payroll over the last 15 years has compared to its performance:That trend line shows us how well teams have performed relative to how much they’ve paid, but we can also use it for the reverse:16By solving for Win Percentage. In Excel: =([WPct]-0.4130893)/(0.0000669). The Oakland Athletics have won 54.8 percent of their games, so the corresponding 15-year payroll (the amount we would expect a team to have paid for that win rate) is about $2.02 billion — about $1.18 billion higher than the Athletics actually paid.So the smell-check turned out a higher number than the estimates based on the normal price of wins, when that normal price already seemed absurd.This isn’t broken down year by year, so it could just be that the A’s won a lot more in years when wins were cheaper. To correct for this, we need a more empirical method for pricing wins. On a year-by-year basis, how big would each team’s payroll have to have been to buy its performance? Using the regression above (and some fancywork in R17This is done using the inverse of the logistic regression built above, which leads to very complicated math, but can be done fairly easily in R using the boot package (where “mod” is the logistic model):require(boot)invPred <- function (W,G,mod) {(logit(W/G) – coef(mod)[[“(Intercept)”]]) / coef(mod)[[“”]]}I should note this leads to some very valuable-looking seasons (like Seattle’s 116-win season in 2001), because that kind of success is virtually impossible to “buy.” But it sums up across seasons very accurately.), we can model this and see that wins may be harder to buy than standard win-valuation models (FanGraphs, Hardball Times, etc.) would suggest. Valuing each team’s relative season-by-season performance this way leads to a very different accounting from above:Over the past 15 years, the A’s have exceeded expectations by close to $1.38 billion — even better than our smell-check estimate of $1.18 billion. This suggests that they’ve performed slightly better in years when they were at a bigger payroll disadvantage (at 2013 market value, those A’s wins would cost closer to $1.78 billion).18Note: though I use a logistic regression so the price of wins isn’t perfectly linear, this approach corresponds roughly to a price per win of around 4.7 wins per standard deviation of payroll. So the table of win prices over the years corresponding to those of Hardball Times and FanGraphs above would look like this: Yes, that’s “billion” with a B. (Or two.)* * * * *Now that we have a sense of Beane’s performance and how much it would cost to replicate it, let’s turn back to the Boston Red Sox and their failure to sign him (or even to offer him anywhere near his worth).The situations in Oakland and Boston aren’t directly comparable. Exploiting market inefficiencies is probably easier for Beane than it is for a successful big-money team, because he has never had to face the winner’s curse or the diminishing returns of spending. On the other hand, the A’s have been way above average, not just a little above average. Aside from the Red Sox’s post-season successes,19I should also note that, while not having any championships to show for it, the A’s have made the playoffs the same number of times the Red Sox have (seven), and they’ve been remarkably unlucky, losing all six series-deciding Game 5s they’ve played. the team has only performed 0.6 percent better than the A’s over the 15-year period — for which they’ve paid an extra $1.2 billion in salaries.But some of that money was spent and some of those wins came before the Red Sox attempted to hire Beane. To be conservative, let’s just look at the period since Henry made Beane his offer: In the last 12 years, the Red Sox spent $1.714 billion on payroll, while the A’s spent $736 million. We can then break down what it could have looked like if Beane had worked for the Red Sox like so:Let’s say it would have cost Boston the same $736 million that it cost Oakland to get the A’s performance with Beane.At the hypothetical $25 million-per-year salary I suggested earlier, Beane would have cost the Red Sox another $300 million. (It’s possible that Beane would have wanted more, but it’s even more possible that they could have gotten him for less.)The difference in performance between the A’s and the Red Sox over that period (where the Sox were as successful as at any point in the franchise’s history, and the A’s were supposedly stagnating after Beane’s early success) has been about 50 games for Boston. Since we don’t know exactly how good Beane would be at procuring additional wins above his Oakland performance, let’s assume that the Red Sox would have had to pay the typical amount teams have paid for wins in the period to make up the difference. According to the year-by-year price of wins from my calculations above, those 50 wins (taking when they happened into account) would have a market value of about $370 million (though this might have been lower with Beane in charge).If we combine these — the price of the A’s performance ($736 million) plus Super-Expensive-Billy-Beane’s salary ($300 million) plus the additional 50 Red Sox wins at high market estimates ($370 million) — merely duplicating their previous level of success still would have saved the Red Sox more than $300 million relative to what they actually spent, and that’s with reasonably conservative assumptions. That’s money they could have pocketed, or spent making themselves even better.In other words, failing to understand Beane’s true value may have cost the Red Sox hundreds of millions of dollars or more. “Moneyball” isn’t just some nerdy obsession that helps a few teams save a bit of money. It’s about more than nickels and dimes; it’s about millions and billions.CORRECTION (July 24, 7:10 p.m.): A footnote in an earlier version of this story misstated the most recent year the Oakland A’s played in the World Series; it was 1990, not 1991. read more

The Warriors Convinced Big Schools That Small Ball Works

8Notre Dame451. During the 2013 Sweet 16 matchup between No. 4 Michigan and No. 1 Kansas, Steve Kerr, at the time a TBS color commentator, praised the Wolverines’ offense, a jet-quick half-court attack spearheaded by Trey Burke and bolstered by perimeter shooters. “Michigan is a small team,” Kerr explained. “They play basically four guards and [Mitch] McGary.” That was a daring lineup, but an extension of the three-guard sets that have peppered the college landscape for years. The more astute observation by Kerr was how much the Michigan system hinged on a power forward that didn’t play very much like a power forward.Small ball has taken over the pro game, and there’s been a rush of articles detailing how the Golden State Warriors — under Kerr’s leadership — have sparked a wave of the same in the college game. USA Today reported that several college coaches, like Nevada’s Eric Musselman and Andy Enfield of USC, have shown their players Warriors game film this season, while a New York Times article mused that even old cranks like North Carolina coach Roy Williams have been seduced by the alignment.Individually, these articles dutifully recount widespread admiration for Golden State, which has in many ways mastered the form. In the aggregate, however, they detail a collateral effect that’s just as compelling: In becoming the baddest bully on the NBA block while playing (more or less) like a mid-major Cinderella, the Warriors have made a big enough impression to convince even the most calcified college Goliaths that they need to run like David. And at the heart of this little revolution isn’t Stephen Curry, but another, equally indispensable Warrior — Draymond Green, who’s anchored Golden State while playing power forward and occasionally center. Curry is the Warriors’ planet-eater, but Green is their Atlas.In the college game, which has long been dominated by guards gunning 3-pointers, the shift has been noticeable. “Besides the point guard, who has the ball in his hands a good deal of the time, the second-best position on the floor right now is the undersized power forward,” ESPN analyst Fran Fraschilla said. “I call them mismatch 4s, and they come in all shapes and sizes.”The small-ball 4 isn’t exactly a novel concept for college, of course. In the 1995 tournament, 6-foot-6 power forward Heshimu Evans — a versatile, floor-spacing anachronism in a mid-1990s frontcourt — powered Fraschilla’s 13th-seeded Manhattan squad past Oklahoma in a first-round upset. Then there was VCU in 2011, the team that coach Shaka Smart led to the Final Four with 6-foot-6 Bradford Burgess playing the same role. Or take this season’s Saint Mary’s team, which was stocked with lengthy guards and wings — all of whom made 36-plus percent from three — revolving around one prototypical big. The Gaels’ small lineups had offensive efficiency ratings that ranged from 1.13 points per possession to 1.24, but a weak non-conference schedule and a loss to Gonzaga in the West Coast Conference finals kept SMC from dancing (it is a top seed in the NIT).What was different about this season’s crop of small-ball teams is that they weren’t just the out-gunned mid-majors like Manhattan, VCU and Saint Mary’s looking for the edge; more high-major squads than ever were sizing down, and there was an uptick in AP top 25 teams dedicating serious minutes to small formations from last season to this. In the tables below, we look at teams in the AP postseason top 25 (as well as those also receiving votes) that used a small ball lineup in at least 10 percent of their possessions in conference play through the end of the conference tournament. 2014-15 teams that played small for 10 or more percent of possessions in conference play 5Oregon271.111.19+0.12+0.22 Oregon had 91 points and Davidson had 16 points in rankingSource:, Hoop Lens 4Duke181. —St. Joseph’s311.061.12+0.23+0.13 AP RANKTEAMPOSS. PLAYED SMALLSMALLOVERALLSMALLOVERALL 12Maryland171. 14Wichita St. OFF. EFFICIENCY (PPP)OFF. EFFICIENCY MARGIN OVER OPPONENT (PPP) That’s where the echo of Green is heard the loudest. If a star recruit believes his path to the NBA means a brief stopover in college as a 3, it’ll be a hard sell to get him to bang down low. But with the success of Green and Golden State, coaches and scouts say they think that it’s now easier to convince recruits that the best way to grab the eyes of scouts is to showcase their positional versatility.“Because of Draymond, you can point to a recruit and say, ‘Look, there is room for a guy like you,’” Fraschilla said. “It has become a speed and space league, and an on-ball screen with a 4 is way more dangerous now than it has ever been. Selling a kid on becoming a mismatch 4 has never been easier.”Saint Mary’s coach Randy Bennett concurs with that logic. “Golden State, and that style of play, is so visible, and recruits see that is where the NBA is going,” he said. “Draymond is a great example — it’s easier to sell to recruits that there is nothing wrong with being a downsize 4, which are guys that want to be 3s but are really 4s. And since the NBA is going 4-out-1-in, recruits identify with playing that way. Draymond is the poster child for it.”The effect has made its way to even the biggest programs. Duke began its 2015 national title run once coach Mike Krzyzewski slid Justise Winslow, a natural 3, to the 4, where his strength, ball-handling and midrange game could be more effective, and paired him with Jahlil Okafor in the starting lineup. Despite that success, Krzyzewski was slow to make the same sort of leap this season: Even though a lineup featuring Grayson Allen at the 1, Matt Jones at the 3 and Brandon Ingram, a small forward with length and athleticism, at the 4 posted the team’s best efficiency rates in conference games through the end of February (1.30 PPP and .96 OPPP), it was on the court for only 8 percent of Duke’s conference game possessions. That changed as Duke geared up for the ACC and NCAA tournaments — by mid-March, that same group’s share was up to 20 percent of the squad’s possessions season, and it was scoring 1.25 PPP.Duke is far from alone as a big-time program buying in on small ball. Others include:Baylor (Taurean Prince, a 6-foot-8 senior, could play both the 3 and the 4 and made 36 percent of his threes in 2015-16)Indiana (Troy Williams has athleticism that most forwards don’t possess, and Collin Hartman has made 42 percent of his threes the past two seasons)Kentucky (this season’s tweak gave Derek Willis more minutes — the 6-foot-9 junior connected on 44 percent of his threes and created valuable half-court spacing)Xavier (Trevon Bluiett is a dream 4 in the Warriors-afied NBA: strong enough to defend traditional forwards and an offensive nightmare)Oklahoma (Ryan Spangler’s pick and pop game has evolved, but what makes the Sooners’ small ball unique is how they switch on defense — Oklahoma switches like crazy for a DI defense, and that is largely a result of Spangler’s ability to defend guards)Notre Dame (Bonzie Colson doesn’t have the perimeter game yet, but he is stronger than other bigs and has a variety of tested maneuvers he still has yet to unveil on opposing teams)Iowa State (Fraschilla: “Georges Niang is the most versatile offensive player in college basketball. And he does it from the 4 spot. They can play three guards, but Georges is the equivalent of having a fourth guard out there because of how he passes and handles. But he can still score inside.”)And then there is California, a team that thrived with Jaylen Brown at the 4. When the 6-foot-7 freshman was recruited to Berkeley, coach Cuonzo Martin felt he could play four positions — and if needed slide into the 5 for spot duty. Brown excels bullying through the lane, creating and then finishing through that contact. But early on in the season, the court was congested with two other forwards (Ivan Rabb, Kameron Rooks or Kingsley Okoroh), which limited Brown’s best attribute: getting to the rim.1Per, the only Bears that attempted more of their half-court shots near the bucket than Brown (33 percent, making 55 percent of those looks) are those bigs. By mid-February, it was clear that Brown put so much pressure on opposing defenses that Martin needed to sacrifice playing time for his frontcourt. At the time, Martin said: “The game has slowed down for him, and he has a better feel for the game. We would love to play him all night long [with three other guards], but we still have to pick and choose the right matchups.”Martin said most traditional bigs struggle to defend Brown as he comes off ball screens, making him better suited at power forward, where he can make plays from the perimeter without dinging team spacing.Fraschilla compared Brown’s role to the one Winslow played last season. “He’s got the natural strength for a college 4, but he can also take defenders away from the basket,” Fraschilla said.That’s as clear an endorsement of the Draymond Effect as you’ll see: Justise Winslow and Jaylen Brown — a lottery pick in last year’s NBA draft, and a likely top pick in this year’s — playing down low for long stretches in college, because that’s just how the game is played. 25Iowa301.141.14+0.15+0.19 —Oregon181. 18Maryland111.211.13+0.23+0.17 6Villanova201.211.17+0.35+0.25 15Texas A&M111.111.12+0.10+0.19 2Villanova26%1.141.20+0.29+0.28 22Iowa State431.121.20-0.11+0.20 —Wisconsin281.051.10+0.14+0.15 1Kansas20%1.151.19+0.18+0.27 St. Joseph’s had 60 points, Dayton had 11 points and Wisconsin had 9 points in ranking*Indiana’s small ball possessions were affected by injury to Robert JohnsonSource:, Hoop Lens 9Xavier161.151.16+0.20+0.20 —Davidson151. OFF. EFFICIENCY (PPP)OFF. EFFICIENCY MARGIN OVER OPPONENT (PPP) 19Duke201.251.19+0.26+0.19 21Baylor291.111.16+0.10+0.17 14Indiana*61.211.19+0.13+0.21 3Wisconsin351. 2015-16 teams that played small for 10 or more percent of possessions in conference play 7Gonzaga101.191.180.310.24 —Dayton171.081.04+0.20+0.11 7Oklahoma351.231.15+0.36+0.22 AP RANKTEAMPOSS. PLAYED SMALLSMALLOVERALLSMALLOVERALL 13Utah251.201.13+0.18+0.16 23California101.191.11+0.19+0.18 read more

Joakim Noah Kendrick Perkins Get into Locker Room War

Photo by men Joakim Noah of the Chicago Bulls and Kendrick Perkins of the Oklahoma City Thunder exchanged some heated words inside the Thunder’s locker room late Thursday night.After OKC’s 107-95 win, Noah’s former teammate with the Bulls, Thabo Sefolosha entered the Bulls’ locker room to talk to Noah and other Bulls personnel. A few minutes later, Sefolosha brought Noah back into the Thunder locker room, which was still filled with reporters waiting to speak with Thunder stars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.That didn’t sit well with Perkins, who immediately lashed out at Noah’s presence before chasing him out of the locker room.According to a transcript from The Oklahoman, which was recording an interview with Sefolosha at the time he brought Noah to his team’s locker room, Perkins had the following testy exchange with Noah:Perkins: “They just let anybody in the locker room?”Noah: “C’mon man.”Perkins: “I’m just asking though.”Noah: “C’mon man.”Perkins: “Just let anybody in the locker room now?”Noah: “You want me to wait outside?”Perkins: “I’m just saying, though.”Noah: “If you want me to wait outside, I’ll wait outside.”Perkins: “Get your ass up outta here.”Noah: “Aight.”The two players then crossed paths again outside the locker room. More words were exchanged as Noah walked toward the Bulls’ bus, but ultimately nothing else transpired.The Bulls have an open policy regarding former players walking into their locker room. Former players go in and out all the time. Judging from this exchange, the same policy does not exist with the Thunder. read more

A Confused Magnus Carlsen Escapes With A Draw At The World Chess

“Gonna be a draw,” a grandmaster texted me as the setting sun cast a red tinge on the East River off lower Manhattan. It was around 5 p.m. on Thursday, and my attention was split between the light filtering through the masts of the tall ships at the pier outside the window and the crucial but lumbering game of chess being played by two geniuses on the other side of the hall. Shortly after 6 p.m., a commotion broke the calm. An official with the World Chess Championship rushed into the press room. The game would end soon, he said, and we should be ready. Sergey Karjakin, the Russian underdog, was winning.This was exciting news indeed. The first four games of the match had ended in draws — two of them epic — between Karjakin and his opponent, the defending world champion and No. 1-rated Magnus Carlsen of Norway. In Thursday’s fifth game, it seemed, there would be blood.In the previous three games, the two players had opened the game with a set of moves called “the Ruy Lopez” — also known as “the Spanish.” On Thursday, they moved across the Mediterranean to play the “Giuoco Piano,” also known as “the Italian.” “Giuoco piano” means “quiet game,” but the opening is known for creating a tense, maneuvering contest. White aims to control the board’s center while black tries not to lose the battle for space.Karjakin, handling the black pieces, came out of this opening battle slightly ahead, according to the computer chess engine Stockfish and a preponderance of onlookers in New York. This was a rarity, as the Russian had previously been relying on costive, defensive goal-line stands simply to stay alive in the championship match.But on the 20th move, a minor theme of the previous games re-emerged, blunting Karjakin’s edge. He faced the following position: I’d witnessed some 18 hours of play over the previous three game days. On the train on my way home from the venue, the man sitting next to me was staring at his smartphone. He was playing chess.Game 6 begins Friday afternoon. I’ll be covering the rest of the games here and on Twitter.CORRECTION (Nov. 18, 10:47 a.m.): An earlier version of this article misstated the amount of additional time players receive after their 40th move. It is 50 minutes, not an hour. My laptop and the brains of those around me liked moving the rook over to h2. From there, it would stare down the juicy far-right column (h-file in chess parlance), which provides a useful conduit into black enemy territory and could have come wide open if some pawns were exchanged. Carlsen did, more or less, the opposite. He moved his king down a square, to g2.Carlsen may have thought that the game was a dead draw and that any move would be a means to that end. He was wrong. The white king on g2 blocked the white rook’s access to the right edge of the board and, possibly, to black’s king. This swung the pendulum swiftly in Karjakin’s favor. “Carlsen played with his hand and not with his brain,” Robert Hess, a grandmaster and contributor, told me.The Norwegian champ agreed with Hess. “King to g2 is a huge blunder,” a visibly upset Carlsen said at the postgame press conference. Up to this point in the match, Carlsen had generally seemed calm and comfortable, but after this game, he sat disturbed, face in hand, brusquely and testily answering questions. He’d have been halfway to his hotel already, one felt, were it not for his contractual obligations.This blunder may have been due to a clerical error by Carlsen, NRK, Norway’s national broadcaster, reported after the game. Tournament players are required to record on a scoresheet all the moves played during a game. Carlsen, who’s done this many thousands of times, told NRK that he forgot a move earlier in the game. Once a player makes his 40th move, he receives 50 minutes of additional time on his clock. Carlsen received his extra time but initially seemed confused as to why. The king-to-g2 blunder came immediately after, on his 41st move.After Carlsen’s mistake, the players had a full role-reversal, with the Norwegian playing Houdini and the Russian the stifled aggressor. But as the game progressed, Karjakin’s advantage fizzled, Carlsen’s defenses held, and the players agreed to a draw after 51 moves over five hours. The score is tied 2.5-2.5 in this race to 6.5.1Wins are worth 1 point, draws are worth half a point for each player, and losses are worth 0 points.It’s been an impressive streak of draws, but there have been more to open a world championship. Garry Kasparov and Viswanathan Anand fought to eight in a row in 1995, the last time the championship was in New York. But those — only one was longer than 30 moves — pale in comparison to the legendary draws this year. Viswanathan Anand contemplates his move against Gary Kasparov at the World Chess Championship in 1995. JON LEVY / AFP / Getty Images Stockfish thought the better play for Karjakin was to move the black bishop back a square, from f5 to g6, which would reveal the black rook and apply further pressure on an already strained board. Karjakin’s human brain, however, preferred trading a bishop for a knight by capturing on c5. As in previous games, Karjakin played more passively than might have been optimal, going with the move that released some of the game’s tension but also perhaps some of his advantage along with it.Nevertheless, the Russian would get another unexpected crack at victory. The game proceeded, quite level, for another 20 moves — solid grandmaster chess — and another draw seemed inevitable. (Hence the text and my staring at the ships.) Eventually, however, Carlsen (playing white) erred when facing the following position on the 41st move: read more

That CowboysPackers Game Was As Great As It Seemed

1/15/05ATLMichael Vick125.5STLMarc Bulger99.6 1/7/90PITBubby Brister101.1DENJohn Elway97.7 DATETEAMQBRATINGOPP.QBRATING Super Bowl 2/1/15SEARussell Wilson110.6NETom Brady101.1 1/24/82SFJoe Montana100.0CINKen Anderson95.2 Best passing duels in the divisional round or later, 1966-2016 There’s a reason these kinds of games are so uncommon: NFL teams almost always seal the deal when they carry double-digit leads into the fourth quarter. Only 25 teams have ever fought back from a double-digit hole after the third quarter to tie or lead a playoff game — much less give up another score afterwards and come back yet again. Even though they lost, what the Cowboys did Sunday showed the best of what the NFL playoffs have to offer.Historic QB duelAnother factor that places Sunday’s Packers-Cowboys tilt among the best in playoff history: Rodgers and Prescott played incredibly, and historically, great football.Both QBs eclipsed 300 passing yards, and it was only the 32nd playoff game of the Super Bowl era (since 1966) in which both teams’ primary passers posted a quarterback rating over 95. It didn’t happen at all in last year’s playoffs; before this season you’d have to go back to Super Bowl XLIX between Tom Brady and Russell Wilson to find a postseason game where both quarterbacks broke a 95 passer rating.Digging deeper, only 20 games at this stage of the postseason (the divisional round or later) featured a matchup of such stellar passing. And only one of those — Super Bowl XXXVIII between Tom Brady and Jake Delhomme — also had as many late-game twists and turns4In terms of fourth-quarter ties or lead changes. as Green Bay and Dallas provided. Conf. Championship 1/15/94LARJeff Hostetler125.0BUFJim Kelly113.2 For the Cowboys and their fans, Prescott’s pinpoint passing and the team’s furious comeback probably don’t feel very special right now. But the game they played with Green Bay was exceptional. And in a postseason otherwise packed with duds, we need all the games like this one that we can get.Check out our latest NFL playoff predictions. Playoff games in the divisional round or later where both primary passers had a Quarterback Rating of 95 or higher. The highest possible rating is 158.3.Source: 1/12/08NETom Brady141.4JAXDavid Garrard100.3 1/21/79PITTerry Bradshaw119.2DALRoger Staubach100.4 1/4/81DALDanny White104.9ATLSteve Bartkowski95.5 Divisional Round 1/2/82MIADon Strock118.7SDDan Fouts99.0 1/18/09ARIKurt Warner145.7PHIDonovan McNabb97.4 1/4/97JAXMark Brunell112.0DENJohn Elway99.2 1/20/13SFColin Kaepernick127.7ATLMatt Ryan114.8 1/11/15DALTony Romo143.6GBAaron Rodgers125.4 12/28/75OAKKen Stabler121.2CINKen Anderson110.3 1/13/08SDPhilip Rivers133.2INDPeyton Manning97.7 1/17/88DENJohn Elway114.4CLEBernie Kosar105.3 After two more blowouts Saturday, the NFL playoffs were doing little to improve upon last weekend’s yawn-worthy games. But Sunday finally delivered the thrills. The Steelers outlasted the Chiefs 18-16 in a hard-fought game, and the matchup we’d all been waiting for — the Dallas Cowboys against the Green Bay Packers — ended up being an instant classic, one of the best playoff games in pro football history. It had a finish so gripping — dueling drives that ended with a Mason Crosby field goal as time expired — that we’d better spend some time reliving it through the numbers.Rare seesaw finishPackers-vs-Cowboys became only the eighth playoff game in NFL (or AFL) history to feature at least four fourth-quarter ties and/or lead changes. But beyond that, it was also one of only two games in which a team entered the fourth quarter down by double digits but stormed back to tie or take the lead, then gave up another score and then fought to re-gain the tie or lead again.1The other game also involved the Packers. In a 2010 wild-card game against the Arizona Cardinals, Green Bay went into the fourth quarter down two touchdowns to Arizona on the road, forced overtime and later lost on a Rodgers fumble that was returned for a game-ending touchdown by the Cardinals’ Karlos Dansby.Dallas entered the fourth trailing Green Bay by 15 points2That margin was also tied for the fifth-biggest fourth-quarter margin ever overcome in a playoff game, however briefly. and had a mere 7 percent chance of winning.3According to ESPN Analytics’ win probability model. They then scored twice and converted a two-point conversion to tie the game at 28, raising their win probability to 46 percent. Then, after Crosby knocked down a 56-yard kick to re-take the lead for Green Bay with 93 seconds left, the Cowboys’ win probability was bumped back down to 18 percent.But the game wasn’t done yet. Cowboys QB Dak Prescott led a 6-play, 42-yard field-goal drive to tie the game again, raising Dallas’s win probability to 49 percent. That number rose even higher, to 54 percent, after an Aaron Rodgers sack on the following drive appeared to kill any hope of another Packers response. But with 12 seconds left, Rodgers hit Jared Cook for a 36-yard completion, Cook dragged his feet to barely stay in bounds, and Crosby gave Green Bay the 34-31 victory with another long kick.Here’s what all that back-and-forth in win probability looked like, courtesy of ESPN Stats & Information: 1/15/17DALDak Prescott103.2GBAaron Rodgers96.7 2/1/04CARJake Delhomme113.6NETom Brady100.5 1/11/09SDPhilip Rivers105.4PITBen Roethlisberger98.4 1/16/00STLKurt Warner143.0MINJeff George104.0 read more

The Most Important Moves Of The NHLs FreeAgent Frenzy

8Patrick MarleauC37San JoseToronto36.310.3 During their free-agency period, NHL teams haven’t engaged in an all-out superpower arms race like their basketball brethren. Rather, NHL free agency has been a methodological redistribution of assets — one that can be traced to the addition of the Vegas Golden Knights and the expansion draft that ensued. All that extra movement of bodies and money, coupled with every general manager’s rush to add or retain a free-agent gem, means there will be a lot of familiar faces in unfamiliar jerseys next season.Not every free agent has signed — in particular, this year’s rather elderly free-agent class has a few graybeards who remain without suitors — but most of the league’s big targets have decided where they’ll play next season. So without further ado, here’s our unofficial and admittedly incomplete guide to the moves that will affect the 2017-18 season. 24Daniel WinnikRW32Washington———5.3 2Kevin ShattenkirkD28WashingtonNY Rangers46.712.7 22Nick RitchieLW21Anaheim———5.5 15Scott HartnellLW35ColumbusNashville11.08.0 25Brett RitchieRW24DallasDallas21.85.3 7Sam GagnerC27ColumbusVancouver33.210.6 18Joe ThorntonC38San JoseSan Jose18.07.7 5Justin WilliamsRW35WashingtonCarolina24.510.9 4Andrei MarkovD38Montreal———11.1 9Anders NilssonG27BuffaloVancouver22.510.2 10Thomas VanekLW33Florida———9.5 26Karl AlznerD28WashingtonMontreal54.65.1 23Kyle QuinceyD31ColumbusMinnesota11.35.4 Kevin Shattenkirk, New York RangersCome trade deadline time the past several seasons, Kevin Shattenkirk’s name has been linked seemingly to every team in the NHL (including the Rangers in February), and for good reason — since his rookie season in 2010-11, Shattenkirk ranks 10th among defensemen in goals scored, tied for eighth in assists and 10th in total points. His 35 power play goals are tied for fifth over that same stretch, and his power play points are good for third.The New York Rangers ranked 10th in the league in power-play percentage last season, and that should only improve with the addition of hometown1He’s from nearby New Rochelle. boy Shattenkirk. The newly minted Rangers defenseman chews up big minutes, and he’s never finished a full season with a Corsi For percentage of less than 51.2. For the uninitiated, a Corsi For score of more than 50 percent means the player’s team was controlling the puck more often than not when he was on the ice, so the addition of Shattenkirk should make the Rangers a stronger possession team from the jump.Over the past five seasons, the bulk of the blame for each Rangers playoff ouster seems to have pointed back to the blue line. With a mishmash of overworked veteran defensemen and disappointing acquisitions, the Rangers sit roughly in the center of the pack in shots allowed per game over the past five seasons. Adding a puck-moving defenseman who is entering his prime with better-than-average possession numbers should help decrease those shot totals — and take some of the burden off the suddenly human-appearing goaltender Henrik Lundqvist’s shoulders.The Rangers’ defensive corps will look different with the retirement of Kevin Klein and longtime defenseman Dan Girardi going to Tampa Bay, but the franchise that hasn’t had a legitimate defensive star since Brian Leetch landed a big upgrade in Shattenkirk.Justin Schultz, Pittsburgh Penguins (re-signed)Justin Schultz’s career began with so much promise. In the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season, he scored 27 points from the blue line as a 22-year-old rookie. But in the 2.5 seasons that followed, he failed to match the impressive points-per-game numbers he put up as a rookie, and people in Edmonton began to sour on him. Oh what a difference a few seasons and some new scenery make.Since joining the Penguins, Schultz has transformed into a top-line defenseman, and he was a key piece to their Stanley Cup-winning campaign last season. In less than two seasons with Pittsburgh, he’s scored 0.61 points per game from the back,2He produced 0.41 points per game during his time in Edmonton. and he’s driven possession at a better clip, too.Of the free agents in the 2017 class, Schultz’s goals above replacement3Goals above replacement aims to estimate the number of net goals a player produces compared to a replacement-level player in the same amount of ice time. (The replacement level represents the amount of production a team could expect from a minimum-salary player at a given position.) mark of 13.9 ranks at the top. Pittsburgh may have lost Trevor Daley to free agency, but a defensive core built around Schultz and a healthy Kris Letang is nothing to turn your nose up at.Justin Williams, Carolina HurricanesThe Carolina Hurricanes were pretty close to making the playoffs last season. They ended up falling eight points short of an eighth seed but were in the hunt until the last few weeks of the season — and if they make the 2018 postseason, they’ll be glad they signed Justin Williams. Williams is well-known around the league for being a playoff beast. His career playoff points per game rate of 0.67 is better than his regular-season rate of 0.63, and he’s tied for 14th among active NHL players in game-winning playoff goals — and he’ll be returning to the place where he lifted the first of his three Stanley Cups, and where he twice netted 30-plus goals.Ten times in his career, Williams has scored 40 or more points, which should help a Carolina team that finished in the bottom third of goals scored last season. Oh, and Williams can do more than score timely playoff goals; his career Corsi For percentage of 56.9 isn’t too shabby either.Alexander Radulov, Dallas StarsAlexander Radulov is … mercurial. The Russian winger has been on alternating stints between the NHL and Russia’s KHL for his entire professional career: two seasons in Nashville, four in Salavat, a few more weeks in Nashville, four seasons in Moscow and then one in Montreal. So after his 54-point campaign with the Canadiens last season, he was bound to go anywhere from British Columbia to Siberia. He chose Texas. He’ll be there for a while, too, signing a long-term deal with the Dallas Stars. (Radulov’s signing in Dallas can also be read as a rebuff of KHL league chairman Arkady Rotenberg — and his close friend Vladimir Putin — who hopes to pry as many Russian players away from the NHL to ensure eligibility for the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea.)But Radulov is a world-class scorer — he’s tallied 156 points in 230 NHL games and scored 492 points in 391 KHL games — and was by all accounts a great teammate in Montreal, so the Stars were lucky to land the big sharp-shooting right winger. Pair Radulov’s propensity for burying the puck with an insanely talented top line of Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn, and the Stars might have on their hands the highest-scoring top line in the NHL next season.Patrick Marleau, Toronto Maple LeafsThe Toronto Maple Leafs were a formidable offensive force last season, ranking fifth in total goals scored. The Leafs got a ton of scoring — 32 percent of their 250 goals — from their three rookie sensations: Calder Trophy-winning Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and William Nylander. Patrick Marleau will make the Leafs’ offense only more dangerous, and you could do worse as far as mentor figures go.Marleau, 37, has been in the NHL for 19 seasons, and until now he’s never worn anything but “deep Pacific” San Jose teal. In his 19 seasons, he’s made a point of scoring at least 19 goals — he’s only failed to do so three times, and one of those seasons was shortened to 48 games by a lockout. Marleau has also played in 177 playoff games, experience that should help the upstart Leafs — who gave the mighty Washington Capitals a serious scare in the first round of last season’s playoffs — immensely.Joe Thornton, San Jose Sharks (re-signed)“Jumbo” Joe Thornton is easily one of the best passers in NHL history. And he is certainly the best passer in NHL history who has a beard that is probably sentient. One of the premier centers of his generation, Thornton trails only Jaromir Jagr — who himself remains mysteriously unsigned — on the active assists leaderboard.4He also ranks 13th all time and needs just 43 more to leapfrog Gordie Howe as the ninth-highest dime-disher in NHL history. Jumbo hasn’t scored fewer than 50 points in a full season since he was a 19-year-old playing for the Boston Bruins in 1998-99.He’s not going to score a ton of goals — never really has — but San Jose was probably smart to prioritize Thornton over his longtime teammate Marleau. (Fun fact: Thornton and Marleau went first and second, respectively, in the 1997 NHL draft.) Thornton isn’t the lights-out goal scorer Marleau is, but he creates more opportunities for his teammates than his longtime counterpart; 43 of Jumbo’s 50 points were assists, 18 of which came on the power play. For a team that struggled mightily on the power play last season — San Jose ranked 25th in the league — the Sharks will need all of the passing acumen they can muster with the man advantage next season.Ryan Miller, Anaheim DucksRyan Miller probably won’t play much in Anaheim — starter John Gibson is just 23 years old and had a spectacular 2016-17 season — but there aren’t many teams in the NHL that can say they’ve got a backup who was once considered among the best goalies on the planet. Miller’s numbers were down a bit last season, but you can’t really blame him — his Vancouver Canucks gave up the sixth-most shots of any team in the league. Despite his impressive résumé, Miller might have to battle with Reto Berra for the backup position in Anaheim. Still, though, the Ducks are in great shape between the pipes — there aren’t many teams in the NHL that have the luxury of choosing from three proven(ish) NHL goaltenders.Karl Alzner, Montreal CanadiensAndrei Markov, unsignedThe Washington Capitals probably didn’t have the cap space to re-sign longtime defenseman Karl Alzner, but they probably didn’t really care to either. No worries for Alzner, though, because the Habs delivered a pretty solid payday. But truth be told, the native of Burnaby, British Columbia, got an awful lot of money — a cap hit of $4.6 million a year, to be exact — for a guy whose Corsi For percentage ranked 184th out of 229 qualified5With a minimum of 20 games played. defensemen in 2016-17.Alzner actually doesn’t do a whole lot very well — in 82 games, he scored just 13 points, zero of which came on the power play. He’s still relatively young for a defenseman — he’ll turn 29 before the 2017-18 season begins — and so perhaps Les Habitants are hoping Alzner’s game has room to grow. But that doesn’t change the fact that they signed a guy whose possession stats are subpar to a lucrative deal while their longest-tenured player — Andrei Markov — remains seated on the bench, waiting to see if he’ll play in Montreal next season.Markov is old, but if last season’s performance is any indicator, he still has some gas left in his tank. Markov was limited because of injury but put up impressive numbers in the 62 games he did play in. At 38, and still playing more than 21 minutes per game, he drove possession at the best rate of his career. He also scored 36 points from the blueline, good for .58 points per game.6Markov’s career points per game rate? .58.In 16 NHL seasons, Markov has only ever worn a Habs jersey. Montreal would be foolish not to re-sign their longest-tenured player. 1Justin SchultzD27PittsburghPittsburgh35.513.9 11Philipp GrubauerG25WashingtonWashington11.59.1 17Ryan MillerG36VancouverAnaheim22.07.7 19Andre BurakovskyLW22WashingtonWashington23.07.5 PLAYERPOSAGE2016-17 TEAMNEW TEAMYRS$M/YRGAR 20Jonathan BernierG28AnaheimColorado12.85.6 *A re-formulation of’s Point Shares that measures a player’s value over a replacement-level player at the same position.A player’s displayed salary represents his annual cap hit.Sources:, ESPN 21Martin HanzalC30MinnesotaDallas34.85.6 14Tyler JohnsonC26Tampa BayTampa Bay75.08.2 The NHL’s top free agents of 2017According to 2016-17 goals above replacement (GAR)* 6Alexander RadulovRW31MontrealDallas56.310.7 16Mike FisherC37Nashville———7.9 13Radim VrbataRW36ArizonaFlorida13.88.5 3Evgeny KuznetsovC25WashingtonWashington87.812.0 12Jaromir JagrRW45Florida———8.6 read more

Ohio State womens lacrosse season opener set for Saturday against Detroit

Then-junior midfielder Christine Easton (25) catches the ball during a game against Rutgers on April 16. OSU won 17-7.Credit: Courtesy of OSUThe Ohio State women’s lacrosse team is set to kick off its 2016 season on Feb. 13 against Detroit, with a scheduled 3:30 p.m. start time at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center.“Traditionally, Detroit is a very skilled and fast team, so hopefully with these next two weeks of preparation we will get some of our jitters out,” OSU coach Alexis Venechanos said. “Our girls are really hungry and excited for the new opportunity to be playing at home, so I think we’ll be ready.”Senior midfielder Christine Easton said her coach is focusing mainly on team communication going into the 2016 campaign.“We’re a pretty young team, so getting to know everyone on and off the field is important,” Easton said. “We want to improve our weaknesses and exploit the strengths we have on the field.”A win on Saturday could give the Buckeyes the confidence and motivation to continue their success into Big Ten play and reaffirm their belief that they belong with the top lacrosse teams in the country.Preseason rankingsThe Buckeyes, ranked No. 18 in both the Lacrosse Magazine and Intercollegiate Women’s Lacrosse Coaches Association preseason polls, were picked to finish fourth in the Big Ten, which has become arguably the toughest women’s lacrosse conference in the country.After an overall 2015 record of 13-8 and a first-round NCAA tournament exit against Notre Dame, Easton said the Buckeyes are motivated to hurdle some obstacles this season.“My big goal is for the team to win an NCAA tournament game, because we’ve gotten to the first round four times and have never been able to win one,” Easton said. “Another one is to win the Big Ten, because it would be important for our program to win some big games and get our name out there.”Venechanos, in her sixth year with the Buckeyes, said she’s excited to see how competitive her team gets in season play, as they are self-driven and determined.“We haven’t really talked about rankings, and we’re really excited to have a strong out of conference schedule,” Venechanos said. “Last year we were picked to finish No. 4 and we finished in the championship game, so hopefully these experiences will help prepare us for tournament time.”Attackman Rainey Hodgson said while the team has a big picture in mind for the season, the players are working hard to keep their mind on what has to be done immediately.“We’re focusing on a lot of aspects of our game, but we’re mostly looking to find our niche,” the senior said. “This game will be a little preview as to what the season will be, so we’re looking to go out and make a statement.”Big Ten players to watchSenior attackmen Cian Dabrowski and Hodgson, as well as Easton, represented the Buckeyes on the 2016 Big Ten players to watch list, making up three of 18 players honored.Dabrowski enters her senior season with team-high 69 goals and 25 assists in her career.Hodgson, who started 15 of 21 games last season, has 35 career goals with 19 assists heading into her senior season.Easton has 44 career starts heading into her senior season, the most on the active roster.Up nextAfter the home opener against the Titans on Saturday, the Buckeyes will prepare to fly to Berkeley, California, to face California on Feb. 19 to continue their out-of-conference schedule. The game is scheduled to begin at 5 p.m. read more

Turners tripledouble keys Ohio State victory over Alcorn State

Prior to Monday, there had only been one triple-double recorded in Ohio State men’s basketball history. Now, Evan Turner can be added as the second person to make the list. Twenty-three years after Dennis Hopson’s 27 point, 11 rebound, 10 assist performance, Evan Turner recorded 14 points, 17 rebounds and 10 assists in OSU’s season-opening 100-60 win over Alcorn State.The triple-double was something Turner wasn’t expecting.“I never really thought about it to tell you the truth,” Turner said. “It’s really cool to get a triple-double and be in the same company as Dennis Hopson.”The Buckeyes began the game on a 20-5 run, and never looked back.As expected, junior Dallas Lauderdale was sidelined as he continues to recover from a broken hand. Starting in his place was senior Kyle Madsen, who scored seven points and grabbed four rebounds in 21 minutes of play. “Kyle banged a couple shots down,” coach Thad Matta said. “He’s a guy that can step out to 17 feet and shoot it and I’m very comfortable with him doing that.”Junior Jon Diebler scored 22 points, including six three-pointers. Sophomore William Buford added 19 points of his own on 8-14 shooting. David Lighty made his return from injury, scoring eight points.“We feel very confident with the personnel we have going up against anybody,” Diebler said. “Tonight we showed how much of a threat we are. We have some weapons on this team. “Alcorn State was led by guard Jonathan Boyd, who finished with 20 points. Boyd was an impressive 6-10 from behind the three point arc. However, the night belonged to Turner. Alcorn State simply had no answer for the Buckeyes’ do-everything guard.“He’s one of the best players in the country because he makes everyone around us better,” Diebler said. “That’s something you can’t teach.”Turner and the Buckeyes play again Thursday at home against James Madison at 7 p.m. read more

Stimmel leaves behind lasting lacrosse legacy

Sue Stimmel, Ohio State’s women’s lacrosse coach recently resigned from her position, but after a 15-year career coaching the Buckeyes, her name will not soon be forgotten.Stimmel grew up playing lacrosse in middle school, high school and at Temple University in Philadelphia, Pa. She was the first in her family to play lacrosse and she joked that her dad was upset she didn’t choose softball because he was a baseball buff.Stimmel coached her way through graduate school at University of Massachusetts and took her first head coaching job at Denison University in 1990.“Ironically [coaching] wasn’t my first choice,” Stimmel said. “But I decided after grad school that I might coach again if the opportunity came up, and a month after I said that the job at Denison opened.”In 1995, Stimmel decided to leave Denison and take the new head coaching position at OSU.“Denison was a very good division-three team, but I wanted to get back to the division-one level of competition,” she said.Fifteen years later, Stimmel has accumulated a 122-111 record at OSU and led the Buckeyes to two consecutive NCAA tournament appearances in the 2002 and 2003 seasons, as well as an ALC Championship in 2003.“It’s gone by pretty quickly,” Stimmel said. “I can’t believe it’s been 15 years. Looking back there are ups and downs. I’ve had frustrating years and great years. The first year here was basically a club team because there was no recruiting time, but to see where we are now with one of the best recruiting teams we can really see how far we’ve come. To see all the players who have come through and what they’ve accomplished, some are even coaching or officiating — it’s a rewarding thing to see.”Aside from her accomplishments with the program at OSU, Stimmel leaves behind a legacy within her players.“My freshman year, she sat us all down and told us a story about how she completed a half Iron Man,” senior captain Rachael Cornicello said. “I think it was that point in time I realized what a hard worker she was and what a dedicated person she was. She taught us that we could achieve whatever we wanted to, we just had to put our mind to it. I’ll never forget that.”Megan Mirick, a former player and coaching associate of Stimmel’s, agrees that the coach had a profound impact on each of her team members.“Sue cares a great deal for her players,” Mirick said. “My junior year, I was having a hard time coming back from ACL surgery. I had to go through some difficult procedures and she came with me to my doctor’s appointments, which meant a great deal to me being so far away from my family.”Mirick graduated from OSU in 2003 and took an assistant position under Stimmel where she coached through 2007. This extended relationship with Stimmel allowed Mirick to understand her better from “both sides of the clip board.”“Sue knows the game very well,” Mirick said. “Something that sets her apart from other coaches is the type of athletes she recruits. She’ll often find less experienced athletes and mold them into lacrosse players that fit in her system.”Stimmel said she tried to instill certain values in her players beyond the athletic skills she was expected to help them develop.“I hope to help them understand being a part of something bigger than themselves,” she said. “Our teams always become close, so accountability and willingness to sacrifice for the benefit of the team are important concepts to learn, to understand other people.”Her players say they will miss her, but are looking forward to the future and hope the program that Stimmel created will grow in great ways.“I’m a senior, but I will definitely be staying in touch with her and I wish her the best in whatever she does,” Cornicello said. “Sue’s a great person, she’s done so much for me the past four years. She brought the team here and we are so thankful.”At the end of Stimmel’s last season, players, associates and fans alike appreciate the great deal of work she put into the women’s lacrosse program at OSU, as well as the personal impacts she had on so many.Mirick said, “She leaves behind a great start which will turn into a great history at Ohio State.” read more