If his Spurs win Wednesday, Gregg Popovich will reach a coaching milestone: 1,150 career wins. Or, if you look at it another (admittedly kookier) way, he could record his 23,787th win.Popovich reached a different sort of milestone Monday: his 1,000th career regular-season win as head coach. Although several NBA players, including LeBron James, congratulated him on the achievement, Pop’s reaction was subdued. Perhaps that’s because he remembers that he really won his 1,000th game more than two years ago — on Jan. 25, 2013, against Dallas. That night, he won his 882nd regular-season game, to go with 118 playoff wins to that point — although coverage of the game suggests that few did the arithmetic at the time. (An ill Popovich wasn’t even there to celebrate, although the game still counts in his ledger because he remained the team’s head coach.)The standard across most North American professional team sports is to omit playoff accomplishments from career totals even though postseason performance is much more important than regular-season feats for winning titles.1College stats typically include postseason numbers. The typical reason given for doing this with player stats is that players can’t choose their teammates. Charles Barkley isn’t any less great for not winning a title — it says more about his teams. It’s not Ernie Banks‘s fault that he didn’t make the playoffs, so he shouldn’t fall behind Gary Sheffield on the career home-run list. Or so the thinking goes.Even if that argument holds for players, though, it’s a lot shakier for coaches. The whole notion of counting their wins, and celebrating when that count reaches a nice round number, implicitly credits the coaches for the sum of their players’ accomplishments (however flawed that idea is; in Popovich’s case, it does seem like he deserves quite a bit of credit). If coaches get the credit for regular-season wins, then surely they should also get credit for the postseason wins those regular-season wins make possible. By that math, Popovich falls a bit further behind Phil Jackson and Pat Riley, the two other most successful coaches in modern NBA history; each has more playoff wins than Popovich’s 149, earned along the way to five titles.If we’ve convinced you that playoff wins should count toward a coach’s career total, then perhaps you’ll walk with us a little further down this plank. Surely playoff wins shouldn’t only count alongside regular-season wins but should count more than them. Most NBA executives, coaches and players would agree — and perhaps few would agree more than Popovich, whose reputed coaching style is to use the first half of the regular season to test lineups and try out new players, rather than, say, to win as many games as possible.So just how much more should a playoff win count? A whole lot more, by our calculations. For every playoff game since 1984, we calculated how much that game’s outcome swung the teams’ chances of winning the title, relative to an average regular-season game.2Similar to what we did for our post about Tom Brady’s accomplishments, we used the number of teams in the NBA each season, the number of playoff teams and the length of the schedule to determine how much the average regular-season game changed an average team’s championship probability. For instance, in 2013-14, there were 30 NBA teams, so each started with a 1-in-30 — or 3.3 percent — chance of winning the title. After the regular season, 16 teams’ chances rose to 1-in-16 (6.3 percent) and 14 teams’ odds fell to zero. That means the average NBA game last season moved a team’s championship needle either up or down by just 0.04 percentage points. So, for instance, Game 3 of last June’s NBA Finals counted as much as about 487 regular-season games in terms of championship impact, while Game 4 of Miami’s sweep of Charlotte was worth just 15 regular-season games.Add up the regular-season value of Popovich’s playoff wins, and you’ll find that they were worth 22,786 regular-season wins — or nearly 23 times as much as the sum total of his 1,000 regular-season wins. That’s pretty impressive, but he and his players have some work to do to catch Jackson and Riley, who top all coaches whose first playoff appearance was in or after the 1984 postseason. COACHREGULARSEASON WINSPLAYOFF WINS(REG SEASONEQUIVALENT)TOTAL Doc Rivers67810,42511,103 George Karl1,1319,09410,225 Pat Riley1,21031,43032,640 We don’t really mean that Popovich has won 23,786 regular-season games. It would be just as accurate to say that in the regular season, he has won 6.5 playoff games since his average playoff win counted for about 150 regular-season wins. A playoff win isn’t the same as a regular-season win, but that’s not a good enough reason not to include them when summing and assessing a coach’s accomplishments. These calculations show just how much of a coach’s value comes after his wins stop counting. The regular-season wins reflect a coach’s longevity. (“The time, that’s the most important element,” Popovich said Monday. “You have to be around for a while, I guess.”) The playoff wins reflect his true value — and that of his players. Rudy Tomjanovich52710,34510,872 Phil Jackson1,15545,59246,747 Chuck Daly63813,76114,399 Rick Adelman1,0429,68110,723 Gregg Popovich1,00022,78623,786 Erik Spoelstra33612,69213,028
Besides, the Pacers are doing better when George is at his comfortable small forward slot anyway. This year, they’re outscoring opponents by 14.5 points per 100 possessions when George is the designated small forward in a five-man unit,2According to Basketball-Reference.com’s data. versus 7.8 when he’s the power forward. For all the concerns about how George would have to change his game to fit a new role, he’s been able to play a style that’s still both familiar and highly efficient this season.(We should point out that it being early in the season, one particular lineup over- or underperforming can make the data insanely noisy. Still, there’s some reason to look past that here. Among five-man lineups in the Pacers’ rotation, the one that has Jordan Hill playing with Ian Mahinmi is one of only two with a negative net rating; Hill also plays on the other. So it could be that George is even better at small forward than the above split is showing and it’s not as noticeable as it should be because Jordan Hill is just the worst.)That being said, the team around George is very different from the one that lost to the Heat in the 2014 playoffs. For one, the Pacers are now much quicker up and down the floor — they rank 10th in pace factor, as opposed to 20th in 2013-14 — the residue, in part, of using smaller lineups such as those featuring George at the 4. They’ve also tweaked the tendencies of the roster around their star: George’s teammates this year are, collectively, about 2 points better per 100 possessions3According to Box Plus/Minus. on offense than in 2013-14 and 1.9 points worse defensively. Goodbye, Roy Hibbert and David West; hello, C.J. Miles and Monta Ellis.And speaking of roster changes, the offensive effect of losing PF West can be seen clearly by looking at the differences in the team’s shot chart between now and 2013-14. Here are Indiana’s shot charts from those two seasons, from NBA.com: Scan the NBA standings and you won’t find many surprises. The record-breaking Warriors lead the Western Conference (as is usual) over the Spurs, Thunder and Clippers, the LeBron-led Cavs sit atop the East, and the Sixers and Lakers may as well be at the bottom of a lake — all of which is as it should be. But the team right behind Cleveland in the East, the Indiana Pacers, might raise an eyebrow. Indiana is good again. You probably heard something along those lines early this season, but to be clear: Indiana is good again. Like, Eastern-contender-good. When did that happen — and can it last?You’d be forgiven if the Pacers have drifted in and out of your basketball-watching consciousness since August 2014, when Paul George fractured multiple bones in his right leg during a Team USA scrimmage in preparation for the FIBA World Cup. George had spent the previous three seasons building his case as a top-10 NBA player, culminating in a dream season that saw Indiana earn the East’s No. 1 seed and make a second consecutive run to the conference finals. But without George’s services for all but six (grim, unimpressive) games in 2014-15, the Pacers dropped below .500 and missed the playoffs.1They lost out on a tiebreaker with the Nets.Not much more was expected this season, even with George returning. With Lance Stephenson and David West leaving through free agency the past two years and Roy Hibbert departing through a Romanian body-snatching coven, the core of Indiana’s conference finals runs had dispersed, and this year figured to be for rebuilding and working George back into the lineup. Yet, here Indiana is, with the league’s eighth-best Elo rating — our metric for tracking a team’s strength over time — and the fourth-most-improved Elo since preseason; the sixth-best rating (third in the East) in ESPN’s Basketball Power Index; and a higher SRS rating than the Cavs, behind just the Warriors and Spurs.The temptation is to say that the Pacers are picking up exactly where they left off in 2013-14 after a one-year hiatus caused by George’s injury, and there’s certainly some truth to that. That Indiana squad was led by the most efficient defense in basketball, and this year’s Pacers have bounced back to post the league’s second-best defensive rating in the early going. George is healthy again, even playing like an MVP candidate so far thanks to one of his trademark hot streaks from downtown. (He’s currently knocking down 45.5 percent of his 3-pointers, a run the likes of which he’s gone on — for months! — before.) And while much was made before this season about him playing more power forward — and his displeasure with the notion — George is still playing roughly half (43 percent) of his minutes on the wing.In practice, George is doing a few more PF-like things — his rebounds are slightly up and he’s drawing more fouls — but the core of his game hasn’t dramatically changed since 2014. If anything, the biggest shift in George’s playing style, as illustrated by Synergy’s play-type data, has been away from off-ball plays (spot-up jumpers and shots off screens) and to more on-ball ones (pick-and-rolls and isolations). In 2013-14, 21.5 percent of his possessions were as the pick-and-roll ball-handler; this season, that’s up to 25.2 percent. The spot-ups and off-screens dipped at about the same rate. In other words, George is being used even more as a facilitator, exploiting his matchups, not banging down low. One of the Pacers’ bread-and-butter plays two seasons ago was the midrange jumper, a West specialty. Now West is on the Spurs, and no team has shed more shots between 3 and 16 feet4As a percentage of all field goal attempts. over the past two seasons than Indiana has in 2015-16 so far. Eschewing the midrange game is typically a good thing for an offense, and the new-look offense has yielded the franchise’s best offensive ranking in a half-decade, even if the Pacers are also being aided by a sky-high 3-point percentage that may not be sustainable.Add it all up, and the Pacers probably aren’t far from where they were in 2014. For the sake of illustration, their Elo rating today (1566) is almost exactly what it was (1564) after they beat Miami in Game 1 of the 2014 East finals. This season’s version is doing things differently than that vintage, and the formula isn’t as simple as the old-fashioned Eastern Conference wrestling matches Indiana deployed not too long ago, but for now, the Pacers are back — and they look just as good as they ever were.
Former boxing champion Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini recently said Sugar Ray Leonard would beat Floyd Mayweather if both were at the pinnacle of their careers. Leonard did not disagree.“He’s accurate. He’s correct!” Leonard said. “It’s so wonderful at the age of 49, you don’t give a sh*t (and can speak the truth). I did not want to lose. Not at all. That’s what makes fighters, makes champions. That’s what makes greatness.”And it is a trait Leonard said he sees in Mayweather that will propel him to victory in Saturday’s highly anticipated bout against Manny Pacquiao at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.“This is more than just a fight,” he said to The Guardian. “It’s about bragging rights. It’s about legacies. It’s about history. This is one of those mental, psychological, spiritual fights, a fight to make your palms sweat.“I think there will be a couple of surprises for the fans, knockdowns – and I don’t think this will happen late. There could be dominance, mostly by Mayweather.“It will take both fighters a few rounds to figure each other out, to know when they have, after they’ve seen each other. When you’re in the ring, it’s totally different [from perceptions beforehand]. I knew [Tommy] Hearns had long arms and was fast but I didn’t know he was that fast. I knew he hit hard but I didn’t know he hit that hard until I was in there.”Leonard said a contributing factor could be Pacquiao’s chin. He was knocked out cold by Juan Manuel Márquez about two years ago.“Normally,” Leonard said, “when a fighter is knocked out in that fashion, nine times out of the 10 he’s not the same. But Pacquiao is an anomaly. He’s gifted, a blessed young man with incredible hand speed and power. . . The edge for Pacquiao is that he goes to this fight totally committed, no thoughts of: ‘I got knocked out by [Juan Manuel] Márquez.’”Thirty-seven years ago, on his way to a Hall of Fame career, Leonard stopped Mayweather’s father in a TKO. He said of the current 47-0 Mayweather: “He reminds me so much of his father. But the difference is that Floyd Jr. can punch, Senior didn’t have that much of a punch. I’m sure that it was all about bad hands [Floyd Sr. hurt his right hand in the first round of that fight]. And even Floyd Jr. has delicate hands—but he is able to get away with it, to find some way.“Without question I enjoy watching (Mayweather) because I appreciate artistry, I appreciate technique, strategy, tactics. No matter who it is, he breaks down his opponents, whether it’s body shots, the jab, countering, making the guy stop punching, mesmerized. The bigger the fight, the better he is, because he is used to that stage. Myself and Muhammad Ali had that too.”Pacquiao’s chance is a slug fest, Leonard said. “If he can bring back the Manny that fought Oscar De La Hoya, Miguel Cotto and all the other guys, we’re then talking about a very interesting, physical fight,” Leonard said. “Pacquiao has been around the block a bunch of times. He has a great trainer in Freddie [Roach]. But everything has to be perfect for him, for both of them. You talk about nerves—we don’t say scared; for fighters it’s not the right word to use. But we’re concerned. They know they’re in the ring with one of the best guys, if not the best guy, in the division or in boxing.”In the end, Leonard said Mayweather’s vast skill set will be decisive.Leonard: “Mayweather has a couple of ways to win the fight: as a counter-puncher, wait for Pacquiao to make mistakes and make him pay for those mistakes; or just box him, dance around, move and do what he does best. He’s a little bit more versatile than Pacquiao.”
Members of the OSU womens volleyball team during a game against Michigan on Nov. 14. Credit: Giustino Bovenzi | Lantern PhotographerWith a 12-8 record and a sixth-place finish in the Big Ten, arguably the nation’s best conference, the Ohio State women’s volleyball team believes it is prepared for the do-or-die nature of the NCAA tournament.As the No. 12 overall seed in the tournament, OSU (23-9) is set to take on Robert Morris (19-12) in the first round on Friday at 7 p.m. in St. John Arena.“It really is the third season,” coach Geoff Carlston said. “This is the fun part. There’s 64 teams now that have a chance … We beat Nebraska and went five (sets) with Minnesota, so I think our team believes we can make a run.”By earning the right to host for the first time since 2009, the Buckeyes accomplished one of the goals they set at the beginning of the season.“Getting to host is a huge opportunity, we’re so excited about that,” senior outside hitter Katie Mitchell said. “It’s something no one on our team has ever experienced. It’s been a long time since St. John (Arena) has hosted.”Unlike Robert Morris, which has won seven consecutive matches to end the season, OSU isn’t coming into the tournament on a winning streak, having gone 5-7 since Oct. 21. But after taking eventual No. 2 overall seed Minnesota to five sets and sweeping Rutgers in their final two regular-season games, the Buckeyes are going into the weekend with renewed confidence.“Battling with Minnesota is something I think we’re all going to remember and know that it could be a potential (big) match for us in the long run of the tournament,” senior middle blocker Tyler Richardson said.Nearly every player on OSU’s roster has previously played in the tournament, as the program advanced to the Sweet 16 last year and has qualified in three of the last four seasons.Carlston believes having that experience will be huge for his team, especially in helping the two freshman starters — outside hitter Audra Appold and setter Taylor Hughes — who haven’t been there before.“Our freshmen have played great under pressure all year long and the rest of our team’s done a great job of laying the dynamic and supporting the rest of us so we can play fearless,” Carlston said. “The team that’s going to win the national championship is going to be the one that wants those moments and plays fearless in those moments.”Most of the team has tournament experience, but the grueling conference schedule has prepared OSU more than anything, said senior middle blocker Andrea Kacsits.“It’s one of those conferences that every single match is a big match,” she said. “You never have a team that will let down or anything … and because we’ve had that kind of training over the last three years, I would say that the tournament becomes a little bit — I don’t want to say easier — but it becomes a little bit more in step with what we’ve been doing the rest of the season.”Scouting Robert MorrisAfter winning the Northeast Conference tournament, the Colonels earned an automatic bid and will be making their sixth tournament appearance and their first since 2003.Carlston noted Robert Morris for being an evenly distributed team, as it has five players averaging 16 or more attack attempts per game.“You can’t key, necessarily, on any one individual and they run a system (where) they can mix it up,” he said.Four Colonels have registered more than 200 kills this season, led by junior outside hitter Arden Fisher’s 353 (3.12 per set).Robert Morris has also proven itself to be a scrappy defensive team, sitting ninth in the nation in digs per set (17.62). Three different players are averaging more than three digs per set: Fisher (4.53), freshman outside hitter Taylor Lord (3.67) and freshman libero Allie Yurkovich (3.46).To compare, OSU has one such player in junior libero Valeria León, who has picked up 4.34 digs per set.“The thing that they do well is they really keep the ball in play,” Carlston said. “You can tell they’re a well-coached team and a high-IQ team … They’re going to force you to be patient.”The Buckeyes and Colonels have met three times before, twice in the first round of the tournament. OSU has swept all three matches, with the last coming in 2006.4 Buckeyes win conference awardsThe results of the postseason awards for the Big Ten conference were released on Tuesday, and four OSU players were recipients.Junior middle blocker Taylor Sandbothe was unanimously selected to the all-Big Ten team by conference coaches. It’s the third straight year she has taken home a postseason award, having been named to the all-freshman squad in 2013 and an all-Big Ten honorable mention last season.Sandbothe led OSU in hitting percentage (.364) and blocks per set (1.22), while ranking fourth and seventh in those two categories, respectively, in the conference.Senior outside hitter Elizabeth Campbell was named an all-Big Ten honorable mention, while Appold and Hughes were selected for the all-freshman team.Campbell was one of the Buckeyes’ top offensive threats, leading the team and finishing fourth in the conference in kills per set (3.65). She also added 2.21 digs per set, second on the team, and had a team-high 11 double-doubles on the year.Appold had the highest single-game kill total of any Buckeye this season with 29 against Iowa on Nov. 18 and was named Big Ten Player of the Week once and Freshman of the Week twice. She ended the regular season third on the team in kills (312) and digs (234).Hughes still established herself as the starting setter, leading the team in assists (867) despite battling an elbow injury since late October. She was named the Big Ten’s Setter of the Week once.What’s next?If the Buckeyes are able to top Robert Morris, they’ll move on to face either American or Kentucky in the second round. OSU has met Kentucky in the Round of 32 the last two times it has made the tournament, falling to the Wildcats in 2012 before defeating them last year.First serve for the second-round match is scheduled to be at 5:30 p.m. on Saturday in St. John Arena.
OSU redshirt junior quarterback J.T. Barrett (16) calls a play during the first half of the Buckeyes game against Penn State on Oct. 22. The Buckeyes lost 24-21. Credit: Alexa Mavrogianis | Photo EditorOhio State’s 24-21 loss to Penn State was shocking to many, including the team. The then-No. 2 Buckeyes played in a difficult atmosphere at Beaver Stadium in College Park, Pennsylvania, and suffered their first defeat of the season. While the Nittany Lions weren’t the team fans might have circled as a hiccup on the OSU schedule, nor was Virginia Tech in 2014.The offensive line had its worst game of the year, allowing 11 tackles for loss and six sacks. The wide receivers struggled to create separation downfield for redshirt junior quarterback J.T. Barrett to deliver the ball. The special teams had several blunders that led to the game-winning score. The defense surrendered several chunk plays in crucial moments.All in all, OSU has things to learn from the debacle in Happy Valley.However, looking forward, the No. 6 Buckeyes remain in the hunt for the coveted College Football Playoff.“We got every goal still alive,” OSU coach Urban Meyer said after the game. “We’re not a great team right now. We got to regroup and get guys healthy and come back and keep swinging. I talked to the team and then Raekwon McMillan and some other players talked to the team like, ‘let’s go, it’s time to get to work.’”The 2014 Buckeyes lost to Virginia Tech in the second game of the year and looked to be on the fast track to a miserable season, for OSU standards. Then, the team regrouped and won 13 straight to capture the College Football Playoff National Championship.Each unit on that team showed progress each week. Barrett began to assert himself as one of the best dual-threat quarterbacks in the country, the offensive line proclaimed themselves as “The Slobs” for their brutish play, and the defense capitalized on opponents’ mistakes, finishing ranked fifth in the nation in takeaways per game.Last season’s loss to Michigan State came late in the season and left no room for error. Even then, a Clemson loss in the ACC Championship Game might have put OSU in the playoff for a second consecutive season.The Penn State loss was the seventh game of the season, which is certainly no death sentence for the Buckeyes.“The crazy thing is we have only lost five games in five years. We sit here and, you know, the world is ending and … the sun came up and it’s incredible. It’s just like, wow,” redshirt junior guard Billy Price said on Monday. “We’ve been here before. This isn’t an occurrence that happens often, but we grow from this. We grow tighter together and we focus in on us and we don’t worry about anybody else.”For many Buckeyes this is the first time they are experiencing a loss at a significant contributor to the team. So this adversity is new to them. It’s not new as in the first time they have ever witnessed a loss being from the sidelines, but the gravity of defeat weighs a bit more as a starter.In the last two games following losses for OSU, the Buckeyes played Kent State at home in 2014 and at Michigan in 2015. OSU looked flawless on offense in each game, winning 66-0 against the Golden Flashes and demolishing their rival Wolverines 42-13. Barrett said it doesn’t matter who the opponent is following a loss, the approach is still the same, but there’s a smaller margin of error now.“I think we just have to go to work. Losing happens in football. We do the best we can to prevent it,” he said. “We try our best to succeed and not lose but losing happens and now you go back to what we are built on and that’s toughness and grinding. I think that’s what we’re going to go back to and make sure this doesn’t happen.”Currently sitting two spots out of the top four, based on the Associated Press ranking, OSU has enough chances on its remaining schedule to move up at least two spots. After this week’s matchup versus Northwestern, No. 7 Nebraska comes to Columbus for a primetime showdown. The Cornhuskers play No. 11 Wisconsin this week, so they could very well jump a few spots if they come away with a road win at Camp Randall.Then, obviously, OSU wraps up the season with current second-ranked Michigan. Win out, and OSU will be in the Big Ten championship against another ranked team with a strong shot at a play-in game for the College Football Playoff.Penn State currently sits with one loss in the Big Ten and does not have another ranked team on its schedule. Its lone loss was to Michigan.There remains a possibility for a three-way tie between OSU, Michigan and Penn State. Given OSU wins out, Michigan’s only loss is to the Buckeyes and Penn State wins out, the following Big Ten Conference guidelines would be the order in which to determine a tiebreaker with three or more teams.The records of the three tied teams will be compared against each other.The records of the three tied teams will be compared within their division.The records of the three teams will be compared against the next highest placed teams in their division in order of finish.The records of the three teams will be compared against all common conference opponents.The team with the best overall winning percentage (excluding exempted games) shall be the representative.The representative will be chosen by random draw.Through the first four guidelines, OSU, Michigan and Penn State would all still be tied. On the fifth tiebreaker, OSU and Michigan would own a higher winning percentage than Penn State, and the Buckeyes then have the head-to-head over Michigan, granting the berth to the Big Ten Championship Game.Price said that the team isn’t viewing its chances to reach the playoff, rather having a week-by-week approach.“Our goal is to go out and execute each game, every week and take care of things up front. With that, that comes the Big Ten championship, that comes the College Football Playoff,” he said. “All our goals are still obtainable. We control our fate and we’re just going to take care of each week and go from there.”The 2014 team was ranked 16th when the first College Football Playoff poll was released. The first poll of 2016 will be released on Nov. 1.With a win against Northwestern, OSU should be well in line to be in the playoff by the unveiling of the first rankings.
Ohio State junior guard Kelsey Mitchell attacks the lane against Maryland on Feb. 20 at the Schottenstein Center. Credit: Magee Sprague | Lantern reporterNo. 12 Ohio State (24-5, 14-1) has one obstacle in its way before the Buckeyes can officially call themselves Big Ten regular-season champions. That obstacle is Rutgers (6-22, 3-11).Rutgers is on a nine-game losing streak, having not won a game in over a month, and currently sits 13th in the conference standings. With a Buckeye win on Sunday OSU will claim the No. 1 seed in the Big Ten tournament and win the regular-season conference crown for the first time since the 2009-2010 season.However, senior forward Shayla Cooper said that the Buckeyes refuse to be complacent looking forward to Rutgers. “Coach (Kevin McGuff) is getting after it. In his speech after the game he was excited, but then he said ‘You got to stay focused for what’s next, we’re not done yet,’” she said.OSU beat the Terrapins 98-87 on Monday, ending Maryland’s 14-game winning streak and handing the Terps their second loss of the season. The Buckeyes shot over 60 percent from the field and over 55 percent from 3-point range in the contest. In OSU’s last eight games they have scored at least 87 points. Junior forward Sierra Calhoun reaffirmed McGuff’s focus after the Maryland win.“Coach McGuff said after the game ‘You know that was a great win, but we still got another one to take care of Sunday,’” she said. Although Rutgers record does not make the case for being a formidable opponent, McGuff said the Scarlet Knights won’t be overlooked.“They’re a tough, rugged, physical team,” he said. “They throw a variety of defenses at you and they play well at home. They have a lot of pride, and they know what we’re playing for and I think they’re going to do whatever they can to stop that.”McGuff added that the “process” has been a main focus for the Buckeyes throughout the season, even more so now given the implications of Sunday’s game.“Stay focused at what we do at practice and how we prepare for games,” he said. “Just keep consistent routine and make it about the process. That’s what we’ve done all year, and that’s what has allowed us to improve as a team. That will allow us to be successful on Sunday if we have a great process between now and then.”After Monday’s emotional victory over No. 2 Maryland, the Buckeyes have had to refocus with Rutgers being the only thing in the way of obtaining the top seed in the Big Ten tournament. Cooper said a day-by-day approach has kept her and the team focused on the road ahead and not dwelling on past successes.“This year we’re just looking forward to the next game,” she said. “Maryland was a big win — I celebrated for the night — but when I woke up I’m like, ‘Alright, what’s next?’”OSU and Rutgers tip at 3 p.m. in Piscataway, New Jersey.
You should ignore what this year’s Big Ten awards list tells you, because this weekend’s Big Ten Tournament made something perfectly clear: Ohio State’s Jared Sullinger and Thad Matta are the best player-coach combo in the conference. Despite laying claim to the conference’s top coach and top player — as named by the media and Big Ten’s coaches — Purdue was upset in the second round of the conference tournament, and for the second time in as many weeks, the Boilermakers fell two games shy of a Buckeye conference crown. Purdue senior forward JaJuan Johnson, who earlier in the week was named the Big Ten’s Player of the Year, scored 21 points and grabbed nine rebounds in the Boilermakers’ second-round matchup with Michigan State, but his effort wasn’t enough to keep the Spartans from picking up the win. Conversely, Sullinger scored 20 points and pulled down 18 boards in OSU’s second-round overtime victory against Northwestern. When the moment mattered most, the Buckeyes depended on the Big Ten Freshman of the Year, who scored 10 points in overtime and connected on 16 of 18 free throws in the game. And, thanks to his team picking up the win, Sullinger kept on playing, as he averaged 16.3 points and 14 rebounds over three games — all OSU wins. But Sullinger doesn’t deserve all the credit for the Buckeyes’ weekend success. Matta, who less than a week ago was passed over in favor of Purdue’s Matt Painter as the Big Ten Coach of the Year, led the Buckeyes to their second consecutive Big Ten Tournament title, the third of his career. When it came to the conference awards, however, Matta was hurt by what he does best: recruiting. The Buckeyes boast four returning starters from last year’s Big Ten championship team, and added two incoming McDonald’s All-Americans before the season. Nevermind that recruiting is part of the coach’s job — his team is supposed to win, and people don’t get rewarded for doing only what’s expected of them. Painter, however, benefited from having his best player, Robbie Hummel, tear his ACL before the season. Expectations were lowered, so losing the conference title by two games was not a disappointment, but rather an accomplishment. Hummel’s injury also deserves some credit for Johnson’s Player of the Year award. Getting Purdue’s top player out of the way opened the door for Johnson to lead the conference in scoring en route to earning the Player of the Year award. Sullinger, on the other hand, was punished for playing with superior talent surrounding him. Apparently, leading your team in scoring and rebounding while playing alongside three other All-Conference selections is viewed by the voting coaches and media as a negative, not a positive. But Sullinger and Matta gladly will take a pair of conference titles over a pair of individual awards any day. And if this weekend wasn’t enough, the Buckeyes have another three weeks to show why they have the best coach and player in the conference — if not the nation.
Suspended Ohio State wide receiver DeVier Posey’s attorney provided documents to The Lantern claiming that drive time, as well as phone records, bank activity and timecards are evidence that Posey wasn’t overpaid to the extent of a five-game suspension. Larry James, an attorney with Crabbe, Browne & James LLC, who is paid by OSU for representing Posey, spoke with The Lantern Saturday in his firm’s downtown office about the NCAA’s announcement Friday that Posey would be suspended five games for receiving money for work he didn’t do from former booster Robert DiGeronimo. OSU did not immediately provide The Lantern with information pertaining to how much James is paid. Posey was originally scheduled to return to play Saturday at Nebraska after being suspended five games for the “Tattoo-gate” scandal. However, OSU athletic director Gene Smith announced on Oct. 3 that Posey would be suspended at least one additional game, before the NCAA’s ruling Friday that Posey must actually sit five more games. OSU lost to Nebraska on Saturday, 34-27. OSU receivers only caught six passes on 18 total attempts between quarterbacks Braxton Miller and Joe Bauserman for 108 yards. DiGeronimo employed Posey at Independence Excavations and Valley Laser Car Wash near Independence, Ohio, from June 18, 2009, through March 20, 2011. OSU and NCAA enforcement staffs concluded that Posey was paid for 70 hours of work, despite only working 21.5 hours. He was overpaid by 48.5 hours and $727.50. Posey is being ordered to pay that figure back as part of the NCAA’s ruling. James said he has “never seen any process like this whatsoever” in regards to the NCAA’s investigation of Posey. In an Oct. 5 letter from James’ firm to the NCAA reinstatement staff, James said the athletes “did not know the precise method by which their wages were being calculated” and that Posey “had no reason to believe that his wages may have been miscalculated or that he may have been overpaid.” DiGeronimo said in a June 29 letter to James that all athletes were paid $15 an hour, a rate he said was comparable to his shop employees but less than what local union members who do comparable work would be paid. Drive time James argued that drive time to the Independence area from Columbus and back was included in Posey’s compensation. James said in a letter dated Sept. 30 to Doug Archie, OSU’s associate athletic director for compliance, that the days and hours Posey worked were incorrectly reported. Independence Excavating originally reported that Posey worked 10 hours the week ending March 27, 2009, 24 hours the week ending June 18, 2009, 20 hours the week ending Feb. 19, 2010 and 16 hours the week ending March 25, 2011. According to the letter, the hours should have been reported as 10 hours, 11 hours, nine hours and 16 hours, respectively, and Posey was paid for those hours. Each week incorporated driving time to Independence from Columbus and back as part of his compensation, which is normal for union employees. Posey was paid a grand total $978.49 from DiGeronimo, which accounts for 65.23 hours of the 70 hours for which he was paid, assuming he was paid $15 per hour. Posey also received $102 in impermissible benefits for a round of golf with Columbus photographer Dennis Talbott. Phone records James also argued that phone records corroborate that Posey was in the Independence area working at the times he was supposed to be working. Phone records show Posey made and took phone calls from Independence, as well as surrounding cities West Salem, Ashland, Cleveland (where Posey stayed with running back Dan Herron the week ending March 25, 2011), Broadview, Beachwood, Medina, Mansfield, Brecksville, Warren and Cuyahoga Heights, among others during the weeks in question while he was supposed to be working. However, the letter states the reason why calls were traced to a multitude of cities is because the two Independence Excavation locations and the car wash at which he worked, Valley Laser Car Wash, are all located a mile from each other in Valley View, Ohio, which is north of Independence. The letter also states that the calls could have been traced from antennas outside of the area because the nearest Verizon towers where Posey was making calls from may have been experiencing high call volume. As a result, the closest Verizon tower would not necessarily transmit the call, and it would have been connected through a different tower or antenna leased through Verizon, and the listing for the call would read two different locations. NCAA’s response The NCAA didn’t consider the phone records, James said, and only considered evidence put forth specifically by the university. “I put forth the cell phone records. I put forth the bank records. I put forth the documents from DiGeronimo to verify that, so what I’m saying to you is they’re being disingenuous to you,” James said. In fact, the NCAA took issue with James’ assertion that the NCAA was ignoring facts. “These statements are patently false,” NCAA spokeswoman Stacey Osburn told the The Lantern in an email. “To ensure a fair process for the involved student-athlete, each reinstatement decision is determined based on its own merits. The staff carefully reviews all information that the university puts forward during the reinstatement process. Posey’s withholding condition is based on his own actions and responsibility for the violation.” James said there were several issues with the NCAA’s investigation. “(One) is the lack of due process for the students,” he said. “(Second is) a lack of meaningful representation for the students by counsel, and thirdly, there is no opportunity for the student or the students represented to have meaningful input into the process.” James said he believes Posey’s punishment may be a lingering effect from violations incurred by former quarterback Terrelle Pryor. “In the eyes of the NCAA, they are guilty by association,” he said. Athletes unaware Archie said in a letter dated Oct. 3 to Jennifer Henderson, the NCAA’s director for student-athlete reinstatement, that it wasn’t obvious to the athletes that they were being overpaid and that none of them felt they were overpaid. The athletes also didn’t believe they had to register their employment with the university and that the job would not last for an extended period of time, so they did not contact the compliance office. The letter states that the athletes weren’t told their hourly wage and that no timecards were filled out, as the hours were verbally reported by a supervisor to the controller, who issued the checks to the athletes. The procedure is similar to how other part-time employees at Independence Excavating are paid, according to the letter. However, timecards signed by an Independence Excavating supervisor show running back Dan Herron, who was also suspended for Saturday’s game at Nebraska, worked eight hours a day for 32 hours total for the week ending June 18, 2010. Another timecard shows Herron worked 40 hours the week ending July 30, 2010, but does not list the hours by day. A supervisor was interviewed by the university during its investigation and said there were no issues with the athletes not performing work. Documents provided by OSU at Monday’s press conference in which Smith announced that Posey, Herron and Marcus Hall would be suspended one game list the “incorrect” hours Posey was paid. DiGeronimo’s involvement DiGeronimo issued a letter on Sept. 26 stating that Posey requested to work the week ending Feb. 19, 2010, as he was going to be in Cleveland to attend a charity gala. His request was approved and the company precut him a check because the payroll department was closed on Saturdays. The check was tagged “makeup” and the controller assumed the hours accumulated based on a previously used pay rate. Because the request involved other athletes as well, DiGeronimo said a detailed review was not possible in that timeframe, and in another letter to James dated Sept. 23, said the company did not “have the ability to substantiate the hours for this week.” Posey was paid for five hours travel time plus four hours on-site for that week’s work. He was also paid time-and-a-half since that’s what union workers are paid for working Saturdays. He was ultimately paid $33 an hour for nine hours of work, totaling $300. DiGeronimo never consented to an interview with the OSU and NCAA compliance staffs, and has since been disassociated from the university. “It wasn’t a question of whether he wanted to be interviewed by OSU or the NCAA, he just felt he wasn’t gonna get a fair an impartial audience, and that’s turned out to be true,” James said. “On the one hand, the NCAA says that it’s gonna accept the early report that we gave them and it’s gonna disregard all the other reports.” Fallout on campus Posey’s suspension means he won’t be eligible to return until OSU hosts Penn State on Nov. 19. The team will finish the regular season by traveling to Michigan the next week, and then could play in the Big Ten Championship and a bowl game afterward, if necessary. Smith said in a statement Friday that he was disappointed with the NCAA’s ruling. “I am extremely disappointed with the NCAA’s decision regarding Devier Posey,” Smith said. “This penalty is harsh considering the nature of the violation and the five-game suspension already served by this student athlete.” James said he backs Smith and OSU president E. Gordon Gee. “I think they’re doing exceptionally well under the circumstances,” James said. “You put any person in a situation, because you had the ‘Sports Illustrated 9′ and that turned to be not an issue. The cars turned out to be not an issue. The tattoos and memorabilia was dealt with untimely. And this issue has been dealt with timely, although I would say the truth has not been addressed thus far in this ordeal.” James even backs Gee after Gee told The Columbus Dispatch last week that OSU was the “poster child for compliance.” “What I understood him meaning is that whenever there is an infraction of any type, that this university and its compliance staff reports it without exception,” James said. While Posey will only be eligible for two regular season games this season, James offered a message Posey might relay to OSU students and fans. “He would say he is a model student,” James said. “He’s a model teammate. He’s a committed athlete. He’s going to graduate on time and he hasn’t done anything wrong.” Larry James Read the documents: Letter from James explaining that there was no way for athletes to know how they were paid Timecards for Dan Herron Letter from James to NCAA defending Posey’s pay with cell phone and bank records Letter from James to NCAA explaining how the cell phone towers proved Posey was in Independence, Ohio Letter from OSU to NCAA outlining the athletes’ jobs with Robert DiGeronimo
Ohio State freshman golfer Jessica Porvasnik watches her ball at the Lady Buckeye Spring Invitational April 20 in Columbus.Credit: Courtesy of OSU AthleticsOhio State freshman golfer Jessica Porvasnik is headed to the U.S. Women’s Open.Porvasnik, who was the 2014 Big Ten individual champion, qualified for the 2014 championship during a qualification tournament at the Butler Country Club in Butler, Pa., Monday.She qualified by shooting back-to-back rounds of 73 to become one of 156 golfers competing at the U.S. Open. Porvasnik forged her path to the tournament as one of the record-high 1,702 entries.Porvasnik, a Hinckley, Ohio, native, is the best on her team with a 73.33 scoring average in 36 rounds this season. She has fired off two rounds in the 60s, with a low of 65, and eight total rounds under par.She has been the only Buckeye to win a tournament this season, finishing first twice, including at the Big Ten Championships. She has finished in the top five four times and the top 10 on two additional occasions.The OSU women’s golf team tied for fifth at the NCAA Central Regional Saturday, before Porvasnik made her U.S. Open qualification run. The team qualified for the NCAA Championship, which is scheduled for May 20 to May 23 in Tulsa, Okla.Porvasnik won’t be the first Buckeye to take on the U.S. Open. OSU coach Therese Hession played in seven U.S. Women’s Opens during her time on the LPGA Tour, and former Buckeye golfer Meg Mallon won the tournament in 1991 and 2004, also winning the LPGA Championship in 1991 and the du Maurier Classic in 2000.The 2014 U.S. Women’s Open is scheduled to be played at Pinehurst No. 2 at the Pinehurst Resort & Country Club from June 19 to June 22 in Pinehurst, N.C., following the men’s tournament, set to be played at the same course June 12 to June 15.
The ref rules OSU freshman wide receiver Binjimen Victor’s (9) catch a touchdown during the second half of the Buckeyes 62-3 win against Maryland on Nov. 12. Credit: Alexa Mavrogianis | Photo EditorAs the Ohio State football team gears up for spring practice this week, the Buckeyes look to replace some key components at multiple positions while also enshrining a new offensive coordinator. From the start of practice on March 7 to the annual spring game on April 16, the Buckeyes make their first steps toward the 2017 season that will bring the same heightened expectations of competing for a national championship, despite several players departing early for the NFL draft.There are three particular storylines heading into spring practice that will have an integral impact on the 2017 season.Kevin WilsonThe lack of explosion in OSU’s offensive attack last season was inexcusable to the fanbase. While an appearance in the College Football Playoff is impressive, the Buckeye offense was underwhelming on the biggest stages.As former Indiana head coach Kevin Wilson comes in to replace Tim Beck and Ed Warinner, who left for Texas and Minnesota, respectively, his effect on the young Buckeye offense during spring practice should be a wakeup call for an offense that possesses the tools necessary to average 500 yards of offense per game.At Indiana, Wilson’s offenses continually put up commendable stats against Big Ten opponents with lesser-recruited talent. Indiana averaged 6 yards per play in 2013 and 2015. In the final season with redshirt senior quarterback J.T. Barrett, Wilson is arriving at precisely the right time for the offense. Veterans like redshirt junior wide receiver Parris Campbell along with redshirt junior wideout Terry McLaurin could thrive with this change of system, alongside younger receivers like redshirt sophomore K.J. Hill and sophomores Binjimen Victor and Austin Mack. OSU also brings in three 6-foot-4, true freshman wide receivers who will arrive in Columbus in the summer.The production of redshirt sophomore running back Mike Weber, and possibly, sophomore Demario McCall at H-back, should supplement Wilson’s offense in OSU’s journey to recalibrate the offense back to what is was under former offensive coordinator Tom Herman in 2014.Linebacker leaderAs Raekwon McMillan prepares for the NFL draft — one of six early departures for OSU — the defense must replace its former strength and its unquestioned leader on that side of the ball. When then-junior linebacker Dante Booker went down with a lingering injury last fall, the emergence of now-junior linebacker Jerome Baker in the latter part of the season was crucial for the Buckeye defense.Alongside Baker and McMillan was then-redshirt junior Chris Worley, who had a formidable season with 69 tackles and 4.5 for loss.Realistically, Booker, Baker and Worley could play each linebacker position, but the coaching staff will have to determine who the face of that unit will be.Secondary overhaulFollowing the 2016 season, the OSU secondary had several holes to fill. Eli Apple was a top-10 pick for the New York Giants, Vonn Bell went in the second round to the New Orleans Saints and Tyvis Powell joined with the Seattle Seahawks as an undrafted free agent. Fast forward to this spring and the Buckeyes must replace another three first-round potential athletes from the secondary. Safety Malik Hooker and cornerbacks Marshon Lattimore and Gareon Conley are off pursuing their NFL dreams, as another talented group joins the fray.Senior safety Damon Webb and junior cornerback Denzel Ward return as starters, leaving another two spots to be filled. Redshirt sophomore Damon Arnette also contributed to the secondary, amassing 21 total tackles.Junior cornerback Eric Glover-Williams is transitioning from the secondary to the wide-receiver room.OSU also welcomes in three of the top defensive back recruits in the country — Jeffrey Okudah, Kendall Sheffield and Shaun Wade.Sheffield is transferring from Blinn College, a Texas junior college, and could realistically start in his first season with the Buckeyes. Okudah and Wade could also be major contributors at those spots in the fall. Along with those three new enrollees, the Buckeyes signed four other defensive back recruits.Sophomore safety Jordan Fuller is viewed as the most likely replacement for Hooker.