What Analytics Can Teach Us About the Beautiful Game

Sports analytics, no matter the field’s renegade posturing, has now been around long enough to have its own pieces of conventional wisdom. Baseball’s cognoscenti know all about the primacy of on-base percentage over batting average, and they’ve also come to realize once-treasured strategies like bunting and stealing bases are best used sparingly. In basketball, the mid-range jump shot is slowly being phased out as an inefficient relic of antiquity. Spreadsheets are shaming football coaches into rolling the dice more often on fourth downs.But for many American fans tuning into the World Cup this month and next, soccer’s nuggets of analytic insight remain as foreign as the game itself. There are set pieces to orchestrate, attacking strategies to plan, areas of the defense to exploit — and it isn’t always apparent which tactics are best. But analytics has clear advice on how to do some things right.Soccer analytics is very much viewed as a discipline in its infancy. And the sport itself is often described as especially resistant to the pull of number-crunching, whether due to its fluid nature, its sportocratic establishment culture, or a fear that the unsentimentality of data will rob the Beautiful Game of its celebrated elegance.There’s not much truth to that. Off and on, people have been tracking relatively detailed soccer data in some form for more than six decades, up to and including the modern companies that exhaustively log every event on the pitch.That said, WAR isn’t coming to soccer anytime soon. Most attempts to create an all-in-one statistical index for soccer players (like we have for basketball and baseball) have suffered from a distinct lack of transparency1Generally speaking, no formulae for these indices have been released to the public — just vague assurances like this: “The Castrol Index tracks every move on the field and assesses whether it has a positive or negative impact on a team’s ability to score or concede a goal.” and a noticeable bias toward strikers and other scorers, whose output is most readily quantifiable. There are a number of interesting metrics at fans’ disposal, but no magic algorithm that accounts for a player’s role on his club, the system he plays in, the quality of his teammates and countless other factors. By necessity, even the individual plus/minus ratings ESPN uses for the talent portion of our Soccer Power Index fall prey to this phenomenon — we simply have to be more conservative when assessing the impact of a fullback than of a prolific goal-scorer. That makes it hard to distinguish between the value of, say, Manchester United teammates Wayne Rooney and Nemanja Vidić.At the team level, though, the numbers offer more hope. They have the potential to provide soccer with broad strategic conventions comparable to the sabermetric-minded rules of thumb in other sports. None of these is a hard-and-fast decree, but they offer guidelines generated by actual data instead of blind hunches.In “The Numbers Game” by Chris Anderson and David Sally — probably the definitive volume on statistical analysis in soccer — the authors tell the story of Charles Reep, a former Royal Air Force Wing Commander who was tracking play-by-play data for matches and serving as a quantitative consultant for Football League teams as early as the 1950s.Reep’s research was quite groundbreaking for its time, even if it was fatally flawed. The Wing Commander gathered data on how often a given number of successful passes were strung together, and how frequently goals resulted from those sequences, broken down by length. Reep determined that a team’s probability of retaining possession dropped precipitously with each consecutive pass attempt, and that most goals were scored on possessions of fewer than three passes — often originating from quick counterattacks.In Reep’s mind, this meant teams should abandon trying to control possession and maneuvering through the defense with endless passing. Instead, they should focus on getting the ball downfield in as few movements as possible on offense, and applying pressure on defense to generate opportunistic counter-rushes. The numbers seemed to suggest that the long game was the most efficient tactic for soccer success.But subsequent analysis has discredited this way of thinking. Reep’s mistake was to fixate on the percentage of goals generated by passing sequences of various lengths. Instead, he should have flipped things around, focusing on the probability that a given sequence would produce a goal. Yes, a large proportion of goals are generated on short possessions, but soccer is also fundamentally a game of short possessions and frequent turnovers. If you account for how often each sequence-length occurs during the flow of play, of course more goals are going to come off of smaller sequences — after all, they’re easily the most common type of sequence. But that doesn’t mean a small sequence has a higher probability of leading to a goal.To the contrary, a team’s probability of scoring goes up as it strings together more successful passes. The implication of this statistical about-face is that maintaining possession is important in soccer.2As analysts have also recently discovered it to be in hockey. There’s a good relationship3Correlation coefficient in last season’s English Premier League: 0.78. between a team’s time spent in control of the ball and its ability to generate shots on target, which in turn is hugely predictive of a team’s scoring rate and, consequently, its placement in the league table. While there’s less rhyme or reason to the rate at which teams convert those scoring chances into goals, modern analysis has ascertained that possession plays a big role in creating offensive opportunities, and that effective short passing — fueled largely by having pass targets move to soft spots in the defense before ever receiving the ball — is strongly associated with building and maintaining possession.As for the long ball, it’s proven futile in today’s game. During the 2013-14 English Premier League season, the percentage of a team’s passes classified as “long” by Whoscored.com’s data was very negatively correlated4Correlation coefficient: -0.8. with how many goals it scored.5If you’re concerned that the EPL isn’t representative of worldwide soccer, the numbers are essentially identical in Spain’s La Liga, Germany’s Bundesliga, and Italy’s Serie A.The same goes for trying to spearhead an offense from the wings instead of attacking up the middle. In their book, Anderson and Sally write about a seminal piece of quantitative analysis on the 1986 World Cup from researcher Mike Hughes: “Successful teams played a passing game through the middle in their own half and approached the other end of the pitch predominantly in the central areas of the field, while the unsuccessful teams played significantly more to the wings.” The numbers from the 2013-14 season in Europe’s “Big Four” leagues6England’s Premiere League, Spain’s La Liga, Germany’s Bundesliga and Italy’s Serie A. bear this out as well. The percentage of a team’s attacks made up the middle did have a moderately positive7A correlation of 0.32. relationship to its scoring rate relative to the league average, while the relationship between wing attacks and scoring was of the same magnitude and in the negative direction.This, coupled with the fact that corner kicks are surprisingly ineffective at generating goals, is probably related to the negative correlation between a team’s propensity for winning aerial duels8That is, battles for possession strictly on balls played in the air. and its overall goal-scoring rate. By the numbers, it’s a losing bet to count on goals in the air via set pieces — or even off crosses in open play — as a steady way to generate offense, just as it is to rely on the long ball to consistently produce chances. Instead, the statistics seem to support an approach more in line with the artful tiki-taka style exemplified most notably by FC Barcelona and the Spanish national team. In soccer, data and aesthetics are not mutually exclusive, just as they aren’t in any other sport.That’s the one bit of analytics wisdom that could stand to become more conventional. For now, though, we have a reasonably good idea of which metrics correlate with a team’s success more than others. Keep those in mind as you gorge on soccer over the next month. read more

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Serena Williams Shifting Attention to 2013 Grand Slam Sweep

Serena Williams is shifting her attention to winning all four Grand Slam championships heading into the 2013 season as she prepares for the Australian Open in January.The 31-year-old Williams is coming off a Sunday victory over fellow American Varvara Lepchenko in the first-round of the Brisbane International. Williams needed less than hour to defeat Lepchenko 6-2, 6-1.Williams, who is a 15-time Grand Slam champion, has held all four majors in 2002-03 season, but has yet to win all four in the same calendar year. Steffi Graf was the last woman singles player to achieve all four Grand Slams in the same calendar year in 1988.The 2012 Women’s Tennis Player of the Year addressed reporters after the match on whether she can accomplish such an achievement in 2013.“I think for me, absolutely,” Williams said. “I think maybe whoever wins the Australian Open will have that same thought. I think there is no way that Victoria (Azarenka) or Maria (Sharapova) or maybe some other players don’t feel the same way. So I think I definitely feel that way.”Williams is coming off a stellar second half of the 2012 season where she won 31 of her last 32 matches. She won titles at Wimbledon, the Olympics, the U.S. Open and the WTA Championships. Her overall record in 2012 was an impressive 58-4.But if Williams is unable to capture all four Grand Slam titles, she plans to keep playing until the 2016 Games in Rio, which will allow her several more opportunities.Williams played in her first match since withdrawing from an exhibition in Thailand due to problems with her big toes. She ultimately had surgery on her toes, but was a little hesitant entering her first match since the surgery.“I was a little nervous, but I was completely fine,” Williams said. “The doctor said I would be fine. I was excited to get an early start, so just in case I did have any pain, I could have tomorrow off. But everything was fine.”Williams will now move to the second round and play either Australian Bojana Bobosic or Frenchwoman Alize Cornet on Tuesday. read more

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As Yet Another Jameis Winston Controversy Brews He Clearly

People, the haters, want to see Jameis Winston punished. . . at all costs. If he sneezes and does not cover his mouth, those who detest the Florida State Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback will scream infraction and call for a suspension.In one sense, Winston created this animus by his insistence on showing the youthful silliness of being 20. In another sense, the money-grubbing, victory-seeking adults in the NCAA, ACC and at Florida State have at least magnified his bad judgment by not sufficiently admonishing the young man.Now, whatever he does becomes grounds for punishment for those who cannot stomach the consistent drama Winston has sparked.The latest came Saturday during FSU’s 20-17 victory over Boston College, another Seminoles late-game triumph. In the third quarter, with 5:20 left in a tied game, Winston approached the line of scrimmage to initiate a play. Official Mike Webster stood between Winston and his center.To get to the line to start the play, Winston nudged Webster to the side so he could play football. The ref moved back, stumbled slightly and the play went on.After the game, screams came from all points asking why Winston was not penalized at least, suspended at worse for touching an official. Really?The bull’s eye is on the back of Winston’s jersey. The video clearly shows the referee impeding Winston’s progress. The referee was not offended, did not call a penalty and went on with the action. And yet there are cries of foul from outlets near and far.Winston said:  “He was just holding me because he said we had a substitution. It was actually a fast-tempo play, so I was trying to get up under there and let it ride.”Critics say “so what?” The rules state you cannot touch an official. The spirit of the rule is about forcefully handling an official, particularly in the anxious moments during a shoving match or melee. Winston’s act was not malicious. He was just trying to play football, which is the reason he was on the field.Others, like officiating stalwarts Dave Cutia of ESPN and Mike Pereira of Fox, said Winston should have been ejected and a 15-yard penalty should have been marked off. Seems ejection would have been a bit harsh when the referee caused the situation.The ACC ruled the contact “incidental and insignificant,” coordinator of officials Doug Rhoads said in a statement Sunday. So that should be a wrap with this situation, right?Not right.Because he is Winston and because he’s been embroiled in a sexual assault scandal, because he exited a grocery store without paying for crab legs, because he participated in a silly prank by yelling an obscenity on campus. .  . and, essentially, has not been penalized for any of these situations, some people want him sidelined for this act.If Johnny Manziel had moved a referee to get off a play, he would have been called a “gamer who was trying to do his job.”Winston shows he’s in command of the game, and he should be suspended? It’s not like he grabbed and threw the ref to the ground. He nudged him to the side so he could execute a play.But Winston’s history makes it easy for people to squawk when he’s involved in anything just a tad out of line. It would be a lot easier if Winston grew up. He doesn’t need to be punished to accomplish this. He just has to realize the outcomes of his drama could have been significantly different, and not in a good way.Realizing that would inspire him to grow up and do what’s right. For some, that would be a good thing. For others, it will not be enough. read more

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The Suns Courtney Williams Is Playing An OldSchool Midrange Game — And

Connecticut Sun head coach Curt Miller has an offensive philosophy built around making his players take the most efficient shot — typically chances around the rim or threes. The Sun, who face the Los Angeles Sparks in a best-of-five playoff semifinal matchup starting Tuesday, finished this season with the third-most efficient offense in the league after finishing atop the WNBA in 2018.Even so, Miller realized that it was a mistake to try to turn his energy ball of a combo guard, Courtney Williams, into a model of the efficiency revolution that has altered the league’s offensive topography. “When we first got her, we tried to have her drive it more,” Miller said. “But she’s so good at getting those, what we call tough twos, we have just let her be what she’s going to be.”In that way, Williams’s journey in Connecticut echoed the lessons she taught her college coach, Jose Fernandez of South Florida. “We told her, ‘Hey, get to the free-throw line more. You need to drive it more,’ Fernandez recalled. “But then, it was like … she just got where she got.”That’s the deceptive simplicity of Williams’s game. She lets it fly from the dreaded midrange more than anyone in the WNBA — a combined 249 attempts from 10 to 19 feet, including a league-high 145 from 15 to 19 feet out. Williams also led the league in attempts from 15 to 19 feet in 2018 and finished second in 2017 to Indiana Fever forward Candice Dupree.“I just do what I do,” Williams said. “I do what got me here. I feel like that midrange makes me stand out from other players.”The other team with a double-bye in the playoffs, the Washington Mystics, is led by Elena Delle Donne and her three- and rim-heavy 50-40-90 season. So it may seem quixotic that the Sun are trusting a 5-foot-8 volume shooter from a spot on the floor considered inefficient. But to this point, both her methods and her path are anything but haphazard.There’s an obvious WNBA comparison for what Williams is doing, and it’s one that she’s consciously tried to emulate: all-time great Cappie Pondexter.“Cappie is my favorite player because I see so much of myself in her,” Williams said. “Being our size, pull-ups, being a scorer, being able to score at all levels anywhere on the floor, tattoos, don’t really care what nobody got to say about us. That’s how we look.”The numbers reflect a close parallel between the two. Pondexter finished second in attempts from 15 to 19 feet in 2012, 2014, 2015 and 2016 and led the WNBA in 2013. Her teammates see Pondexter in Williams, too.“They’re really difficult to guard because they can score in all types of ways,” Sun point guard Jasmine Thomas said. “And they’re athletic. I think that’s the similarity that I see, that explosiveness, that confidence. I feel like most of us, we’ve got confidence, we didn’t get here by not being confident — but, it’s just like that swagger. Even if you miss four, five shots in a row, you know you got to make this sixth one.”All the long twos, incidentally, haven’t kept Connecticut from getting a disproportionate amount of its points from beyond the arc — 27.7 percent of them, good for third-best in the league in 2019, up slightly from last season’s 26.0 percent, which was fourth in the league. Instead, Thomas sees the Connecticut attack as improved by Williams’s ability to rise and fire from a spot that defenses might ignore.“There are shots to take that are hard shots to make consistently,” Thomas said. “And that is her game. If we can’t get layups, or if our three-ball isn’t falling down, we know that we can count on her to really take over a game and string together some shots. Even when you think she can’t get a shot off, she rises up over anybody and can shoot it.”That’s another aspect to her game that isn’t accidental. While her jump-shot form can seem like a cross between natural athleticism and an almost supernatural motion, it really comes from hundreds of hours in the South Florida gym, getting off shot attempts with then-assistant coach Wil Bateast.“He really just molded me,” Williams said. “He told me, ‘You just need to be great at one thing because when you get to that professional level, people are great at what they do. You need to be great at what you do.’”So the drills would commence, with Bateast — who Williams said is “6-5, maybe 6-6” — with a hand in her face. She had to make 10 in a row, or she had to run sprints, halfcourt and back, and start over.“Coming from the baseline and coming from halfcourt, coming from the sidelines,” Williams said. “Just anywhere on the court. You need to be able to get the shot off, it don’t matter where the defender is at. No matter how big, how tall, how small, how fast — you need to be able to get your shot off.”Williams continues to evolve as a player. This season, she posted an assist rate of 23.2 percent, the best of her career, along with a steal rate of 2.4 percent, good enough for 16th among 60 qualified WNBA guards. And she’s anything but a one-dimensional scorer, either, hitting 56.5 percent of her shots inside of 5 feet, more efficient than bigs like Crystal Langhorne of the Seattle Storm and Reshanda Gray of the New York Liberty. She’s also continued to improve her 3-point shooting, hitting 45.7 percent from beyond the arc this year.“There is still room for growth,” Miller said of Williams. “There are a lot of areas where she can continue to take that next step. And if she does that, she’s already one of the elite players in the league, [but] she truly has the potential to be a first-team All-WNBA-caliber player.”But Miller doesn’t intend to change that trajectory. He’s learned, just as Fernandez did before him and just as defenders all over the league have since: When she rises, Courtney Williams is going to do what she does. read more

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Spring games nothing more than glorified practices

One of the hardest sporting events to draw conclusions from is a college football spring game.If a player breaks a 70-yard touchdown run or intercepts two passes, he’s pegged as a breakout star for the fall. Ohio State’s Spring Game was no different.Redshirt freshman quarterback Kenny Guiton was the media darling of the postgame interviews following his 167-yard, two-touchdown performance.In last year’s Spring Game, Terrelle Pryor’s strong performance riled up Buckeye fans, giving them dreams of the second coming of Troy Smith. Then the regular season commenced, and Pryor struggled through the year up until his MVP performance in the Rose Bowl.In Saturday’s game, there were times when Terrelle Pryor looked like Randall Cunningham, and then there were times when he channeled his inner Akili Smith. He was told not to scramble. Thus, it’s impossible to make sense of his performance at all.The defenses dominated the game for the most part. Ben Buchanan and Derek Erwin punted a combined 13 times. Tresselball in April anyone?The Spring Game is a lot like the NFL Draft. The beginning is filled with excitement and anticipation. But in the end, the game never measures up to the hype, and the media coverage is overblown.After the game, I hinted to junior wide receiver Dane Sanzenbacher that we in the media tend to put a lot of emphasis on the Spring Game, and he smiled in agreement.“Yes, you guys certainly do,” Sanzenbacher said.He added that the players are basically just trying to enjoy themselves during the game.“For us, it’s more fun than anything,” Sanzenbacher said. “We’ve been working hard the past 14 days, too.”Usually a good indicator of how the game will go is to take note of the weather forecast. Last year, 95,722 watched the Gray defeat the Scarlet 23-3 in a game that featured a handful of exciting plays and essentially perfect spring weather.The best word to describe the weather on Saturday would be mediocre. It was going to rain at some point during the game, and it arrived at halftime. When the downpour was over, the stadium looked like a Jacksonville Jaguars home game as the announced crowd of 65,223 had mostly filed out.The excitement didn’t arrive until late in the fourth quarter, when Guiton threw a beauty of a pass to junior receiver Taurian Washington to put the Gray up for good, 17-14.All in all, the game was mundane, which describes plenty of OSU games in recent memory. But in reality, that’s probably how it should be. The only difference between a normal spring practice and the Spring Game for Tressel’s crew is that the Spring Game is played in the Horseshoe.That’s the point. This game doesn’t mean anything. It’s an overhyped scrimmage that the media has fallen in love with, and expects too much of.On the other hand, sports fans have spoken, and they want to see as much football as possible. Nothing says success like excess. read more

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NCAA hits Ohio State with 1year bowl ban loss of scholarships

The Ohio State football program has received a one-year postseason ban for the 2012 season and a loss of scholarships from the NCAA Committee of Infractions. According to a report from The Columbus Dispatch, the Buckeyes will be allowed to play in the Gator Bowl against the University of Florida on Jan. 2, but will forfeit postseason eligibility next season, which would include a possible berth in the Big Ten Football Championship Game and a bowl game.  OSU will also face a reduction of four scholarships over the next three years in addition to the five scholarships the school already forfeited over that time period, according to the report. The NCAA has added an another year of probation the the football program’s self-imposed two-year probation. Former OSU coach Jim Tressel has been handed a five-year “show cause” penalty for his role in the violations meaning any program that attempts to hire him in the next five years could face NCAA sanctions. The penalties stem from a series of NCAA violations the OSU football program committed dating back to December 2010 when OSU became mired in a scandal involving players receiving improper benefits including discounts on tattoos.  The Buckeyes are scheduled to play Jan. 2 in the Gator Bowl in Jacksonville, Fla., where the team will play Florida. read more

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Commentary New York Giants rough start hard to watch for lifelong fans

Chicago Bears linebacker Lance Briggs (right) sacks New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning at Soldier Field Oct. 10. The Bears won, 27-21.Credit: Courtesy of MCTTwelve dollars. That’s all I spent on a New York Giants football sweatshirt that I’m truthfully too scared to wear at the risk of being ridiculed. It’s hard enough being a fan of a football team in a different state, but it’s even harder when that team has yet to win one of its six games this season.I was born and raised in New Jersey, so being a New York Giants fan is all I’ve ever known. I was taught that the Giants are the best and that I’m supposed to hate the Philadelphia Eagles … which I do. Being a fan of the G-men has never been a problem until this season.Coach Tom Coughlin is 67 and is in his 10th year coaching the team. He’s one of the oldest NFL coaches ever, but after earning a pair of Super Bowl rings for the Giants, it doesn’t appear he’ll be going away anytime soon.The Giants have won two Super Bowls in the last six years (2008 and 2012). With a history like that, you would think that they would be a team to fear. This year, not so much. They’ve had their worst start to a season since 1976 and quarterback Eli Manning has had arguably the worst season of his career, currently leading the league in interceptions with 15. Ouch. That’s gotta be rough while his big brother Peyton and the Broncos are having an awesome season, winning their first six games and leading the league in total offense, passing yards and points scored.Since I’m a fan of Ohio State football as well, I can’t imagine how current Giant players, former Buckeyes Jonathan Hankins and Jim Cordle feel right now. Playing on the OSU football team has spoiled them into not really knowing what a losing consistently feels like. In Cordle’s five years at OSU (he redshirted in 2005), the team was a combined 54-10, and in Hankins’ three years, the Buckeyes were 30-8, including the 12 vacated wins in 2010.My goal is not to bash the team I’ve grown up watching, it’s to share a little bit of my disappointment OSU fans might not understand. This is the first time my friends who are Cleveland Browns (3-3) fans are laughing at me.In my mind, this season is over for the Giants. Will I still watch the games? Yes. Will I still have hope that they can win a game? Of course. Will I wear that $12 sweatshirt anytime soon? To be determined. But I’m pretty sure it’s impossible to come anywhere close to the playoffs at this point, so my heart is a little broken for them. read more

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Leadership contributing to No 13 Ohio State womens volleyballs hot start

OSU freshman setter Taylor Hughes (6) sets the ball during a match against Florida State on Sept. 6 at St. John Arena. Credit: Ashley Roudebush / For The LanternThe Ohio State women’s volleyball team has started off the season going 8-1, including three victories over top 25 teams in then-No. 14 Florida State twice and then-No. 13 Arizona.Before the 13th-ranked Buckeyes open conference play with No. 11 Wisconsin and No. 23 Minnesota next week at St. John Arena, the team has three final nonconference matchups in Rochester, Michigan, against Eastern Illinois, Western Michigan and Oakland.OSU plays in statistically the toughest conference and has the ninth toughest schedule overall in the NCAA.A key contributor to OSU’s success so far this season has been junior middle blocker Taylor Sandbothe. The third-year starter put together strong performances in the D.C. Koehl Classic tournament, including a match against Florida State in which she tallied zero hitting errors. Sandbothe is second on the team in kills with 110 kills, and has a .419 hitting percentage through nine matches, 33rd best in the country.       “You need players like that,” coach Geoff Carlston said about the Big Ten co-Player of the Week. “She’s certainly one of the kids we’re looking to for those moments.”Sandbothe said she sees herself as a player who likes to lead the rest of her team by example.“All of us have a passion for the game, and if I can influence my team by having that swagger and confidence on the court, that’s the player I want to be,” she said. “And if my teammates can look to me to be that kind of player consistently, I feel like that’s a privilege for me.”With two freshmen and four sophomores on the roster, Carlston said he looks to the seniors for leadership but has equally been impressed by the juniors.“I think our younger players tend to gravitate toward other people,” he said. “Our juniors have really stepped up in terms of taking on that leadership role. I’ve seen them keeping our team relaxed and in the moments.”Along with Sandbothe, junior libero Valeria León — the team’s defensive leader — said she takes on some of the responsibility of assisting the freshmen and sophomores in understanding how to play in big games.“We always talk about staying in the moment,” León said. “Don’t get excited, don’t get too nervous.”OSU returned most of its key players from last year’s squad that was a set away from an Elite Eight appearance — which would have been the first in Carlston’s tenure at OSU — and an improved 12-8 conference record from the 2013 season, when the Buckeyes were 6-14 in Big Ten play.León said she sees the team continuing its strong start through conference play and into the NCAA tournament.“After this year, I’m going to be a senior so right now, I’m approaching this year like it’s my last one,” León said. “I think we have a pretty good chance to make it far this year. I’m really excited for this team.”Sandbothe echoed the libero’s enthusiasm about the team.“Our team definitely has a dynamic and chemistry unlike we’ve ever had,” Sandbothe said. “Don’t count us out for being a Final Four team — and winning the Big Ten.” read more

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Wrestling No 2 Ohio State comes away with second straight Big Ten

Ohio State’s Kyle Snyder runs out of the tunnel prior to his match in the the dual-meet against Iowa on Jan. 21 in the Schottenstein Center. Credit: Jack Westerheide | Photo EditorEAST LANSING, Michigan — Ohio State is back on top.For the second straight season, the Buckeyes claimed a Big Ten championship with four wrestlers taking home individual titles. This is the third conference championship under head coach Tom Ryan. After the championships, he was named Big Ten Coach of the Year. All 10 Ohio State wrestlers qualified for the NCAA championships in Cleveland on March 15-17. Nine of 10 wrestlers for Ohio State advanced to the semi finals, with seven advancing to the final and four winning it all, which was enough to seal the team title over No. 1 Penn State. “This weekend, we felt like we had a little more margin of error [than last year], and the guys wrestled out of their mind,” Ryan said.No. 2 seed Kyle Snyder won the heavyweight title 4-2 with a takedown in the second overtime round against No. 1 seed Adam Coon of Michigan, avenging a loss to Coon on Feb. 11. This was Snyder’s third straight Big Ten championship.“They have clearly done a great job preparing him for someone that’s got great leg attacks, so there were some adjustments Kyle made and tonight, one of those adjustments worked out,” Ryan said.Snyder gameplanned specifically for Coon, which lead to him shooting less often than usual, leading to the lack of scoring. “His leg defense has got better, so I gotta be a little more strategic with what I do, but takedown in overtime is cool,” Snyder said. Ohio State senior Nathan Tomasello defeated Minnesota No. 5 Ethan Lizak 10-7 in the 125-pound final. It was the fourth individual Big Ten championship for the Buckeyes’ No. 3 seed. No. 1 seed Joey McKenna shutout Illinois’ No. 3 Michael Carr 13-0 in the 141-pound final. This is McKenna’s third straight conference title, after he won two Pac-12 championships during his time with Stanford, before he transferred to Ohio State in 2017. Sophomore Kollin Moore was the top seed at 197 pounds, but he entered the tournament a loser of two of his last three bouts. However, he put all those struggles behind him and claimed another Big Ten championship.“Kollin Moore is a workhouse out there, and when you don’t have the volume of training behind someone who’s a workhorse late in matches,” Ryan said. “When you shoot 30, 40, 20 times, you start to feel it more than if you just got that cardio behind you, but he’s had some great practices in the last few weeks and he’s looking strong right now.”In the 184-pound final, Nittany Lion No. 1 seed Bo Nickal beat Ohio State No. 2 seed Myles Martin in 7-4 decision. Martin scored one takedown against Nickal, but the riding time advantage in favor of Nickal, along with tough defense, found Martin out of time to mount a comeback. In the second straight meeting between the two, Wolverine No. 1 seed Stevan Micic won against Ohio State No. 2 Luke Pletcher in the 133-pound final. In Pletcher’s semifinal match Saturday, he rallied against sophomore Mitch McKee, the No. 3 seed for the Golden Gophers. McKee heald a 3-0 lead going into the third period, but Pletcher scored three straight takedowns to win 6-4. Ohio State No. 4 seed Micah Jordan earned runner-up at 157 pounds, losing to Michigan No. 3 seed Alec Pantaleo in the finals 3-1. A late second-period takedown proved the difference between these two. Pantaleo also beat Jordan 12-7 on Feb. 11.Ohio State No. 2 174-pound Bo Jordan lost to Michigan then-No. 6 Myles in the dual meet, and hoped to get revenge against the now-three seed in the semifinals in order to have a shot at Penn State No. 1 seed Mark Hall. However, Bo was pinned by Amine in a surprise result Saturday night. Bo later earned the third-place match.Ohio State No. 5 Ke-Shawn Hayes outwrestled Nebraska’s Colton McCrystal 7-5 at 149 pounds. At 165 pounds, Ohio State junior Te’Shan Campbell finished 9th, which earned him a spot at NCAA championships. read more

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Football Dwayne Haskins pays no attention to Heisman talk

There’s no doubt anymore that Dwayne Haskins is in the Heisman Trophy conversation.After being three yards shy of the school’s record for passing yards, tallying 455 yards and six touchdowns in Ohio State’s 49-26 win over Indiana on Saturday, the redshirt sophomore quarterback not only cemented his name in contention: he launched it to the top, with only Alabama sophomore quarterback Tua Tagovailoa really standing in his way.In Wednesday’s interviews, Haskins said he tries not to make the award talk his top focus.“I don’t think I’m paying attention to it, I’m aware of it, more so, but it’s not like my main focus right now,” Haskins said. “It’s just a blessing to be considered with those guys, those are great quarterbacks and we’re all pretty cool with each other, so we’re competing every week.”Tagovailoa is one of those players Haskins is cool with.“We talk every week,” Haskins said. “We sent each other scriptures before the game on Saturday, just, you know, sent out blessings to each other, so he did a great job last week.”Both Haskins and Tagovailoa have their teams to 6-0 records, and both have stats that jump off the page.Haskins is completing 71.7 percent of his passes for 1,919 yards, with 26 touchdowns and four interceptions. Tagovailoa is throwing for a modest 1,495 yards, but on only 101 attempts, and is up to 20 total touchdowns without an interception.Though the two could be battling for the NCAA’s top prize, Haskins said it isn’t a competition between the two.“No competition, I was like ‘how did you go 10-for-13 for 300 yards?,” Haskins said. “He’s like ‘I don’t know,’ but I mean that’s pretty cool, I wish I could do that one of these games this year.”Wide receivers don’t like the new touchback ruleRedshirt senior wide receivers Parris Campbell and Johnnie Dixon interviewed together on Wednesday, and the main topic of conversation did not involve the offense.Instead, both Dixon and Campbell discussed their distaste for a new touchback rule, allowing returners to call for a fair catch anywhere inside the 25-yard line to be ruled as a touchback, placing the ball at the 25..Dixon said he did not want to change his game plan on returns.“Not mine, but the coaches, I want to return everything,” Dixon said.Before Dixon could finish, Campbell interjected, saying the new return rule “sucks.” And Dixon agreed.“Yeah, it sucks so bad,” Dixon said. “Right now it’s like if you back up a little bit, just fair catch it … that rule is crazy.”Moving to their role in the passing game, Dixon and Campbell were also asked about how much former Ohio State and current New Orleans Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas has been an inspiration for them.Thomas broke the NFL record for most receptions through the first two games of a season with 28 catches, and is No. 2 in the league for receptions at 46 in his first five games.Dixon said he seems him as an idol, but that his inspiration comes elsewhere. “My inspiration comes from things bigger than just a person, mostly my family, my daughter who’s on the way,” Dixon said. “He inspired a lot of people because he came from here and he’s doing it at a high level right now, but inspiration goes deeper than that for me.”But Dixon said one of the receivers, junior Austin Mack, may not hold that same opinion.“Austin loves him,” Dixons said. “Austin’s probably his biggest fan.”Jonathon Cooper likely to be out against MinnesotaRedshirt junior defensive tackle Davon Hamilton gave an update on the status of junior defensive end Jonathon Cooper, who was seen leaving the game on a cart in the third quarter of Saturday’s game against the Hoosiers.When asked about Cooper, Hamilton said “he will not be out there this week” for practice leading up to the matchup against Minnesota.Cooper has eight tackles this season, three of which are for a loss, including a sack against then-No. 15 TCU.On Monday, head coach Urban Meyer said Cooper and junior linebacker Malik Harrison, who was also taken off the field on the same cart, were making strong progress.“Much better today,” Meyer said on the status of Cooper and Harrison. “Probably know more today or later tomorrow, but much better.”There have been no official updates on the type of injury sustained by either Cooper or Harrison. read more

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