[Update] The Knicks are expected to match Houston’s offer on Jeremy Lin—though they could be scared off by a back-loaded contract that forces them to pay heaby luxury tax in 2014-15. Jeremy Lin, the former Harvard guard who made a month-long splash in the NBA last season with the New York Knicks before suffering a knee injury, plans to spend his 4th of July in Houston discussing a contract offer from the Rockets.Lin became a phenomenon with his stellar play that included scoring 38 points against the Los Angelese Lakers on national television. The Asian-American’s play leveled off after teams began to game-plan for him, but he still displayed scoring and passing acumen.He wants to remain with the Knicks, reports say, and New York has the right of first refusal, meaning it can match any offer sheet he signs to retain him.If Lin is offered a back-loaded contract that pays him an eight-figure salary in the third and fourth years, the Knicks could be hesitant to match the offer. With the new collective bargaining agreement employing a more punitive luxury tax beginning in the 2013-14 season, the Knicks are extremely concerned about the financial ramifications of such a deal.The Knicks can offer Lin a four-year deal worth $24.5 million. But an opposing team can offer Lin a poison pill that could go as high as $40 million over four years. Such a contract would pay Lin $5 million in each of the first two years and then go as high as $15 million in each of the last two years.Matching such a contract would give the Knicks four players — Lin, Carmelo Anthony, Amare Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler — making more than $14 million in the 2014-2015 season. Those four players alone would have a combined salary of $72 million, nearly $2 million above the luxury tax.The Toronto Raptors, Dallas Mavericks and Brooklyn Nets have all expressed interest in Lin, according to sources, though he is a backup plan for each of the clubs.
A funny thing happened on Robert Griffin III’s way to become a leader of the Washington Redskins. He has not received a contract. And so, Griffin, and third-round draft pick Josh LeRibeus, are absent from the team’s five-day mini-camp.It would seem the team would have made it happen by now. After all, Griffin, the No. 2 overall pick in the draft and Heisman Trophy winner, has been declared the starting quarterback. And as a rookie, all the practice time he can get the better.On top of that, he fits into a pay slot. Griffin is due for a four-year contract worth about $21 million, roughly two-thirds of which would be the signing bonus. The hang-up apparently is “offset” language that would govern the guaranteed money in the event Griffin is waived before the contract’s expiration.Griffin and LeRibeus are not considered holdouts because training camp doesn’t officially begin until July 26. Neither can be on the field this week with their fellow newcomers until they have signed their contracts.The collective bargaining agreement that was ratified by the NFL and the union to end last year’s lockout was supposed to make rookie deals easier to complete with a system of slotting that paid players based on their draft position. It worked well for the Redskins for their choices from the fourth through seventh rounds, all of whom were signed by early June.But it has been problematic for Griffin and LeRibeus, whose agent, Jordan Woy, said he had been talking to the Redskins on a daily basis, but they have yet to close the deal.Griffin’s agent, Ben Dogra, was unavailable for comment. His client attended the exhibition basketball game Monday night between the American and Brazilian men’s Olympic teams at Verizon Center in Washington.Fourteen of the 32 first-round draft choices, including top overall pick Andrew Luck, and 12 of the 32 third-round selections remain unsigned.
NFL See more NFL predictions See more MLB predictions We’re launching a sports newsletter. 🏆 Join the squad. Subscribe rob:scoring is crazy so far this postseason. The regular season average was 9.3 runs per game for both teams. So far we’ve had 12, 19, and now at least 6. And it’s usually harder to score runs in the postseason.(As of this morning: Teams are averaging 5.21 runs per game in the 2017 postseason, versus 4.65 per game in the regular season)Predictions MLB Oh, and don’t forgetDumb bet alert: the starting QB for the Jets-Browns contest on Sunday was a rich mystery back in July. Things That Caught My EyeThings that won’t catch their eyesBased on rosters from the 31 NHL teams, only 34 players will not use a visor on their helmet this season. This breaks down to about 94 percent of players wearing the extra protection. [The Associated Press]Smooth move JetsCongratulations to the New York Jets for beating the Cleveland Browns on Sunday, but even more congratulations are in order for… the Cleveland Browns, who at the time of the loss had a 55 percent chance to earn the #1 pick in the NFL draft, compared to the now less than 1 percent chance of getting the top pick for the Jets. [ESPN]40-year CycloneOklahoma was favored to beat the Iowa State Cyclones by 30.5 points Saturday but instead lost 38-31, shaking up the college football playoff situation and causing the worst upset for Oklahoma in 40 seasons. [ESPN, Stats & Info]USMNT still could screw this upThe U.S. men’s national team, after beating Panama, is now in good position to make the 2018 World Cup — but they still have an opportunity to screw this one up. A win against Trinidad & Tobago on the road Tuesday gets them in; a loss opens the door to not qualifying based on what Panama and Honduras do in their matches. [SB Nation]Giants broke BeckhamOdell Beckham Jr. sustained an ankle injury Sunday in a game against the San Diego Chargers, putting his season in doubt. His play-by-play performance since he entered the league in 2014 has translated to about 2.3 points added per game, which is huge for a non-quarterback. [ESPN, ESPN]BREAKING: Scandinavian Country Leads Way On ThingNorway will double the remuneration for its female soccer players to even the field when it comes to compensation for its players regardless of gender. [Reuters]Big Number7 OTWestern Michigan beat Buffalo on Saturday 71-68. The first quarter finished 10-14, Buffalo, then went to 17-14 at the half, 24-14 at the end of the third, and finally 31-31 at the end of the fourth. This, dear readers, this is where the trouble started. The first overtime ended with each team getting a touchdown apiece, 38-38. The second overtime went about the same, finishing 45-45. The third overtime was scoreless; the fourth overtime each team got a touchdown and two-point conversion, 53-53. The fifth overtime and sixth overtime both had each team get a touchdown and miss the two-point conversion, making it 59-59 and then 65-65. But the seventh overtime! That’s when this business was finally settled: Western Michigan responded to a Buffalo field goal with a touchdown, ending the unholy event and tying the FBS record for most overtimes. [ESPN, h/t Holly Anderson]Leaks from Slack All newsletters
14Julius Randle25NO220.127.116.118.0 11Thaddeus Young31IND5.97.08.721.6 SummerBest players (by 3-year Wins Created)Overall Total WC 2015L. James • M. Gasol • D. Jordan1365.1 1Kevin Durant31GS14.012.912.939.9 2Jimmy Butler30PHI17.811.09.137.8 2017S. Curry • K. Lowry • K. Durant1200.6 17Darren Collison32IND3.07.36.416.8 2011T. Duncan • N. Hilario • R. Allen887.8 6DeAndre Jordan31NY12.08.97.828.7 2010L. James • D. Wade • D. Nowitzki1187.1 Which free-agent class had the most total production?Best free agency classes since 2010, based on the total Wins Created* by free-agent players in the preceding three seasons Among free-agent classes since 2010, only the 2015 group — which contained James (who re-signed with the Cavaliers after initially rejoining them the previous summer), Marc Gasol, DeAndre Jordan (whose free-agency saga that year is worthy of its own post), Paul Millsap, Tim Duncan, Kevin Love and Leonard — ranked higher than 2019 by that metric:2Important note: These rankings include players who potentially could have become free agents if they opted out, even if they ultimately didn’t. 18Trevor Ariza34WAS18.104.22.1686.4 2013C. Paul • D. Howard • P. Millsap1232.1 * Based on a blend of Value Over Replacement Player, Win Shares and Estimated Wins Added.Source: Basketball-Reference.com Wins Created 2012T. Duncan • D. Williams • G. Wallace1181.7 13Brook Lopez31MIL22.214.171.1249.2 2018L. James • K. Durant • C. Paul1037.7 9Marc Gasol35TOR10.96.78.526.2 15Paul Millsap34DEN126.96.36.1997.7 4Kemba Walker29CHA11.410.911.333.7 RkPlayerAgeOld Team2016-172017-182018-19Total 2019K. Durant • J. Butler • K. Irving1354.5 The 2019 class’s ranking is also hampered by Leonard’s nearly season-long absence in 2017-18, when the then-Spurs forward generated just 1.2 wins in nine games. Had Leonard played to his average over the preceding three seasons and created 14.8 wins that year, his three-year total would have been 42.7 — tops in the class, and good enough to boost 2019 to No. 1 on our class rankings over 2015. (But then again, how much else about the league would be different today if Leonard hadn’t suffered that quad injury — the management of which led to a rift with San Antonio, a trade to Toronto and ultimately an NBA championship?)The summer of 2019 also rises up the ranks to No. 1 if we include Davis as a de facto free agent. (Yes, he went to the Lakers via trade, but Davis’s departure from New Orleans was all but assured, and he was often listed among the offseason’s biggest prizes.) When Davis’s three-year value is included among the rest of the free agents, 2019 pulls ahead of 2015 with a total haul of 1396.4 Wins Created by available players over the previous three seasons.But strictly in terms of top free-agent talent, this year’s class isn’t quite on the same level as other years. Durant’s 39.9 Wins Created over the previous three years ranks third-lowest among leaders for the 10 years we looked at, ahead of only the 2011 and 2012 free-agent groups (both headlined by Duncan). It’s a far cry from James hitting the 2010 market with a class-high 81.8 Wins Created for the last three seasons under his belt. If we look only at the totals of the Top 10 players available, the 2010 class ranks No. 1, thanks to a ridiculously stacked set of Hall of Famers that included James, Dwyane Wade, Dirk Nowitzki, Paul Pierce, Chris Bosh and Ray Allen.Though this year’s crop has plenty of big names, none of them are coming off performances quite as prodigious as James and Wade had in the years leading up to 2010. (Among the top five, Kemba Walker, at No. 4, comes closest to matching his counterpart from that year, Pierce; Walker generated 33.7 wins over the past three seasons, while Pierce had 33.8 from 2008 through 2010.) But the 2019 free-agent class makes up for its perhaps surprising lack of production at the top with sheer depth: 19Ricky Rubio29UTA188.8.131.526.1 2014L. James • C. Anthony • K. Lowry1048.0 12Tobias Harris27PHI184.108.40.206.6 8Nikola Vucevic29ORL6.06.014.726.7 16Enes Kanter27POR220.127.116.117.4 5Kawhi Leonard28TOR17.01.211.029.1 NBA fans (and general managers) have had the summer of 2019 circled on their calendars for a very long time. With names like Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, Jimmy Butler and Kyrie Irving available via free agency — plus the inevitable Anthony Davis trade having already gone down earlier in the month — the sheer amount of star power potentially swapping teams this offseason could reshape the league for years to come.But is this the most star-studded free-agent summer in recent memory?It depends on how we look at things.To calculate the value of every player in each free-agent class since 2010 — the year LeBron James’s “Decision” kicked off our current era of free-agency mania1And the earliest season for which I was able to grab an archive of Basketball-Reference.com’s free-agency tracker. — I’m combining three widely used metrics (Value Over Replacement Player, Win Shares and Estimated Wins Added) into a consensus measure of Wins Created, all scaled to an 82-game season. In terms of total Wins Created over the previous three seasons, this year’s top free agents are Durant (39.9), Butler (37.8) and Irving (34.0), who contribute to a three-year total of 1,354.5 Wins Created across all of the 2019 free agents. 10DeMarcus Cousins29GS18.104.22.168.3 2016L. James • K. Durant • N. Batum1169.8 20Danny Green32TOR22.214.171.124.8 Who are the most productive free agents of the summer?Top 2019 NBA free agents, ranked by Wins Created* over the previous three seasons * Based on a blend of Value Over Replacement Player, Win Shares and Estimated Wins Added. Age as of Feb. 1, 2020.Source: Basketball-Reference.com, Spotrac 3Kyrie Irving27BOS9.911.412.734.0 7Al Horford33BOS126.96.36.1997.4 The next tier of free agents — aka the Khris Middletons and Brook Lopezes of the world — might not contain the sexiest names, but it does offer better-than-usual options to teams who strike out on the biggest free agents. And that’s also true even further down the rankings: An unusual number of players up for free agency this summer (101, to be exact) produced at least five wins over the preceding three seasons, compared with an average of 76 players per season in the nine years leading up to 2019.Of course, the next handful of championships will still probably hinge on the destinations of Durant, Leonard, Butler and the rest of the biggest names on the list. But if this summer’s free-agent class does end up going down among the best of the decade, it should be just as much on the strength of its lesser stars as its top-line players.
As the NFL playoffs approach, teams will be competing hard down the stretch to secure home-field advantage for at least one postseason game. It’s also the reason teams like the Rams and Saints, who have comfortably locked up a playoff spot and even home field for their first playoff game, will risk injury to their starters as they chase home field for a potential conference championship game. This all makes good sense: Over 57 percent of games are won by home teams in the NFL, putting the road team at a distinct disadvantage.The benefits of playing at home in the NFL are clear. Statistician and FiveThirtyEight contributor Michael Lopez, along with Gregory J. Matthews and Benjamin S. Baumer, found that the effect of home field-advantage in American football is second only to the NBA among the major sports. But what is less clear is why.Michael Lombardi, NFL analyst and former front-office executive, believes that much of the disadvantage stems from players being unable to hear the snap count. According to Lombardi, losing the ability to hear the count takes away the offensive line’s inherent advantage of knowing when the play will start. This allows linemen and skill players to burst off the line and get a small early advantage on the defense. This loss of first-mover advantage on the offensive line — I’ll call it the Lombardi hypothesis — then manifests itself as road teams being less effective running the ball.The Lombardi hypothesis is intuitive. Most fans who have watched an NFL game in Denver or Seattle have seen the effects crowd noise can have on an offensive line’s ability to communicate. It’s not a huge leap to think that lower rushing efficiency might be the natural result of a loud crowd. But is it true? Are teams less effective running on the road? And if teams are less effective rushing on the road, how confident can we be that crowd noise is the cause?To find out, I took play-by-play data generated by Elias Sports Bureau from 2009 through Week 15 of 2018 and broke out all rushing plays by home and away team. I then plotted the distributions of yards gained per rushing play for both groups to see if there was a difference between rushing effectiveness for home and away teams.It turns out that road teams are indeed slightly less efficient rushing. Home teams average 4.37 yards per carry while road teams average 4.27, a tenth of a yard less. The distributions of yardage gained on rushing plays are extremely similar, however, and the disadvantage road teams face when rushing the ball is quite small. Assuming both teams ran 30 times in a game, we would expect the road team to rush for just 3 less yards than the home team.The relative benefits to the home team are magnified if we look at rushing expected points added, which account for game context like down, distance and field position. EPA per rush play is negative for both home and away teams, -.073 away vs. -.058 for home teams, but it is slightly less negative of a proposition for the home team. Over those same 30 rushing plays, we would expect the home team to lose 1.7 points, while the away team would be expected to lose 2.2 points, good for a half-point differential.So the first part of the Lombardi hypothesis appears to be correct: It is slightly harder to run on the road than at home. But is crowd noise the most likely cause? As a first approximation for a loud crowd, I broke out the rate at which both home and road teams were penalized for false starts1Using the same Elias data from 2009-2018.. We might expect more false start penalties to be called on the away team in a hostile, loud environment than the home team. Yet this not what we find. From 2009 through Week 15 of 2018, false start penalties were called on 1.4 percent of all home team plays and 1.34 percent of road team plays.This is a strange result if crowd noise is the driver of road teams’ lower rushing efficiency. To validate the finding, I drilled down into situations where teams were either backed up inside their own 10 yard line or in their opponent’s red zone. We’d expect the home crowd to be especially boisterous in those high-leverage situations, leading to more false starts for the road teams. But again that isn’t the case. Road teams were penalized for a false start on 1.44 percent of such plays, while home teams were penalized at a nearly identical — but still higher — rate of 1.47 percent. There’s other research that suggests crowd noise is not a factor in NFL team performance as well. Economist Tobias Moskowitz and Sports Illustrated writer L. Jon Wertheim were also unable to find evidence that crowd noise affects player performance. In the NFL specifically, they found that kickers and punters appear to be unaffected by crowd noise — undermining another common perception.But if crowd noise can’t explain home-field advantage, then what does? Unfortunately, the answer to this rather fundamental question remains elusive. Probably the best evidence for a true home-field advantage comes in the form of the sports teams in Denver. It may be the case that Denver’s high win percentage at home, especially early in the season, is dragging up the home league-wide home-field advantage. Each mile-high team in the major sports enjoys a home-field advantage far above those of their peers. The reason for it can be traced back to temperature and altitude. Playing at a high altitude without properly acclimating to it, especially in warmer temperatures, is a legitimate physiological disadvantage.I asked Lopez, who is now director of analytics for the NFL, his opinion on what drives home-field advantage, and he was circumspect. “It really is unclear,” he said. Lopez identified a few areas that might account for at least some of advantage, including referee bias in high-leverage situations.“If you look at the 15 most impactful, controversial calls in games over the past few years I think you’d find that maybe 14 of the calls went for the home team,” Lopez said. Next Gen Stats data might hold promise in this regard, however. “Using the ball-tracking data we have available, there are probably incremental ways we can help make official’s lives easier while increasing fairness in the game,” Lopez said.Lopez also noted that some recent studies have shown a drop in the size of the effect of home-field advantage. The drop could perhaps be explained by more comfortable travel, or better institutional controls on referee bias. How much these factors explain the 57 percent win rate home teams enjoy is difficult to say. Blaming crowd noise and its hypothesized effect on home-team rushing efficiency, however, appears to be unfounded.
OSU junior forward Nick Schilkey (7) during a game against Michigan State on Jan 29. at the Schottenstein Center. Credit: Samantha Hollingshead | Photo EditorWith a juicy home matchup against a last-place Michigan State team at home, the Ohio State men’s ice hockey team (8-14-2, 3-5-2) came into the weekend with a two-game sweep on its mind. After dropping Friday night’s game, however, it had to scramble to hold off the Spartans on Saturday night to hold onto the split.Michigan State (6-18-2, 2-8-0) got on the board first in Game 1 just over three minutes in the first period. A poor clearance by junior defenseman Drew Brevig was picked up by junior forward Joe Cox. Cox then played it in to sophomore forward Dylan Pavelek, who sneaked the puck through multiple bodies and under OSU junior goaltender Christian Frey.The Spartans would double their lead a little under six minutes later. Sophomore forward Luke Stork was dispossessed by junior forward Mackenzie MacEachern in the defensive zone. MacEachern then centered a pass for Spartans senior forward and captain Michael Ferrantino, who fired the puck into the upper-righthand corner of Frey’s net.“First and foremost, you tip your cap to Michigan State. They came in here and dictated the play, especially for the first two periods, a lot in the second period,” OSU coach Steve Rohlik said. “We didn’t play well, and again that has a lot to do with those guys in (Michigan State’s) locker room. For whatever reason we just weren’t on our game and we couldn’t find it.”The Buckeyes would reply with a goal from junior forward and co-captain Nick Schilkey. Schilkey collected a pass from sophomore forward Matthew Weis off a faceoff, and launched the puck from long range behind senior goalie Jake Hildebrand, bringing the score to 2-1 at the conclusion of the first period.The second period was looking to finish scoreless, but Michigan State would regain its two-goal advantage with under two minutes remaining in the period. Freshman forward Brennan Sanford’s shot was inadvertently deflected past Frey by OSU freshman defenseman Tommy Parran for the friendly-fire goal.“We’ve just got to be better in all phases. Really, to be honest with you, a couple of bad giveaways on our part they ended up in the net,” Rohlik said about the defensive miscues. “But overall, it just wasn’t our best effort for whatever reason, and certainly we’ve got to clean that up.”Frustrations began to boil over when Weis got tangled with junior forward Thomas Ebbing in front of Hildebrand’s goal. Both players were sent to the box for roughing after the whistle as the second period ended.“We talked all week that this is a good hockey team in Michigan State. Their record, don’t let that record fool you. They’re very capable of beating anybody on any night,” Rohlik said.The Buckeyes once again cut the lead to one goal four and a half minutes into the third period. Freshman forward Mason Jobst picked up a pass from junior forward David Gust and fired a short-range effort into Hildebrand’s goal.Gust’s assist extended his point streak to 12 games, while Jobst’s seventh goal of the season ranks him second among Big Ten rookies.“It’s on us, us leaders to play the right way. Just as a forward group we got to get pucks in and we’ve got to play better as a whole,” co-captain Nick Schilkey said. “Pucks might find the back of the net for us here and there, but we’ve got to clean up a lot of things ourselves.”The Spartans would put the game away, however, with a little over a minute left in the period. The Buckeyes left an empty net in a last-ditch effort to find an equalizer, but it would be MacEachern who would score for Michigan State, putting the match away at a score of 4-2.“We gave one away tonight, but we’ve got to turn the page and come back tomorrow and just get back our game,” Schilkey said.The following evening, the Buckeyes looked to have gotten their game back after a scoreless first period, limiting Michigan State to just eight shots.Goals finally came in the second period. Freshman forward Miguel Fidler fired the Buckeyes into the lead at the 4:40 mark with his second goal of the season. Jobst would double the lead for the Scarlet and Gray with just a little under five minutes remaining in the period.“No question. Guys forget (the bad game). That’s a very good hockey team over there, and they can beat anybody in the country on any given night,” Rohlik said about his team’s bounceback performance. “This is certainly a step in the right direction.”Gust would connect with Jobst again, stretching his point streak to 13 games. Jobst tacked on another point toward his 1.86 points per game, which ranks him fifth in the nation.Michigan State would bring a goal back courtesy of MacEachern with just over 15 seconds left in the period.The third period was dominated by defense, with neither side finding the back of the net. The Spartans would pull their goalie entering the final minute of the period, but neither side could score, ending the contest 2-1.There was a bit of a scare when sophomore forward Christian Lampasso was sent flying head first into the boards by junior forward Thomas Ebbing. Lampasso was attempting to collect a loose puck behind Michigan State’s net when both players hit the deck. He skated off under his own power. There was controversy regarding the lack of an icing call on the play.“Tough call. The hard part about it is my understanding of the icing rule was to eliminate those kinds of hits or plays,” Rohlik said. “To be going full speed, those boards aren’t giving, so it was a dangerous play. There guy was trying to go for the puck, I’m not saying he’s in there trying to hit our guy, but it’s a tough play.”Senior defenseman and co-captain Craig Dalrymple echoed the words of his coach.“I fired (the puck) down and I honestly thought it was icing,” Dalrymple said. “That last two minute sequence, as a defenseman, as a team, we’re not going to give this one up. We’re just happy we got the job done.”OSU is set to complete its three-weekend homestand following a week off against Penn State on Feb. 12 and 13 against Minnesota. Puck-drop is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. and 7 p.m., respectively.
For the past four years, Ohio State has had at least one player selected in the NBA Draft. The streak will more than likely extend to five years Thursday night as former Buckeye David Lighty realizes his professional dream. Lighty, the all-time leader in wins at OSU, is widely projected to be taken in the second round. ESPN analyst Fran Fraschilla told the Cleveland Plain Dealer he feels that Lighty will be valuable to an NBA team. “I think David Lighty will be on the roster in one way, shape or form,” Fraschilla told the Plain Dealer. “[It wouldn’t be a surprise] if you tell me in a year or two from now he’s having a lot of success because he’s one of those no-mistake guys we talked about. If you put him on the floor he’s probably going to know his role. There is a lot that he offers as an early to mid-second round pick.” The 6-foot-6, 216-pound Buckeye was a defensive-specialist at OSU, regularly taking on the opposing team’s best scorer. Last season, Lighty averaged slightly more than 12 points per game while shooting a career-best 46.8 percent on three-pointers. Several teams have hosted Lighty for a workout, including the Cleveland Cavaliers, who hold two selections in the second round. Another Buckeye who might hear his name called on Thursday night is Jon Diebler. While the general sense is that Diebler has a greater chance of going undrafted than Lighty, ESPN draft analyst Chad Ford told the Plain Dealer he thinks both players will be selected. “Diebler shot 50 percent from three this year, and he took a lot of threes,” Ford told the paper. “He’s got pretty good size. He’s not a terrible athlete either. I actually think both [Lighty and Diebler] will be drafted.” Ford has Diebler ranked as the 69th prospect of the draft class. If he is picked, it would cap off a busy and memorable month for the OSU senior. Along with NBA workouts, Diebler recently married. Fellow senior Dallas Lauderdale will more than likely go undrafted, but the 6-8, 260-pounder has worked out for a few teams and should get an invite to an NBA training camp. Before the Cavaliers have the chance to consider this trio of Buckeyes in the second round, the team must decide what to do with the No. 1 and No. 4 overall picks of the draft. The general consensus is that Duke guard Kyrie Irving and Arizona forward Derrick Williams are the two best players in the draft class, both worthy of garnering the top-selection. Ford predicts Cleveland will take Irving. The Cavaliers could have several options with the fourth pick. Many mock drafts have them deciding between two European big men, 7-foot Jonas Valanciunas from Lithuania and 6-foot-11 Enes Kanter from Turkey. Cleveland has also been rumored to be exploring trade options with the pick, including a bid to secure the second overall selection from Minnesota in hopes of getting both Irving and Williams. According to Ford’s mock draft analysis, Valanciunas has a buyout with his team in Lithuania that may prevent him from playing in the NBA this season. Ultimately, he projects the Cavaliers will take Kanter. “The Cavs love Valanciunas, but do they love him enough to draft him even if he won’t be coming to the NBA next season? I doubt it at No. 4. The Cavs have been exploring a number of trade possibilities to move down a few spots in the draft. If they stay here, I think Kanter is their guy,” Ford wrote. The 2011 NBA Draft is Thursday at 7 p.m. in Newark, N.J.
The Big Ten Tournament is a middle child. No one outside of the conference pays much attention to it because they’re too busy watching the golden boy of postseason conference tournaments, the Big East Tournament. Year after year, the Big East Tournament provides college basketball fans across the country with classic games and classic performances in the mecca of the basketball world (Madison Square Garden). There was the six-overtime game between Connecticut and Syracuse in 2009 and Kemba Walker’s epic one-man run to win the Big East Tournament (and ultimately the National Championship) last year. If the Connecticut-West Virginia, Connecticut-Syracuse and Cincinnati-Georgetown games are any indication, this year’s Big East Tournament won’t be any different. But times might be changing. The middle child might make a very loud cry for attention this year. The past few years, the Big East has dominated college basketball. Yeah the conference has a higher number of teams than any other top-six conference, but the conference was stacked like a magician’s deck of cards. That’s not the case in 2012. Top to bottom, no conference in the country is stronger than the Big Ten. Five of the 12 Big Ten teams are ranked in the top 15 in the country, compared to three out of 16 teams in the Big East. Last year at this time, the Big East had seven teams in the top 25. This year they have just four. The fact is when talented teams already familiar with each other get together with high stakes on the line, there are going to be some high-intensity, quality basketball games played. This year, the tournament with the most overall talent will be in Indianapolis and not coincidentally, that’s where the best postseason conference tournament will be as well. To put in perspective how tough the Big Ten tournament will be this year, No. 14 Wisconsin, the fourth-seeded team in the Big Ten, will have to play their first game of the tournament against No. 15 Indiana Friday. So much for a warm-up. And don’t forget, the regular season of the Big Ten ended in a tie. Michigan State, Michigan and Ohio State finished with identical 13-5 records in the conference and split their regular season meetings. You don’t think players will be fighting for bragging rights? You don’t think Michigan State is furious they lost their final two games of the year including its Senior Day against OSU? There will be emotion. There will be passion. And in the case of some teams, there will be desperation. Mix those things together and it’s a basketball fan’s heaven. Best of all, the whole thing will be broadcast live to you by the most over-the-top but awesome commentator in sports, Gus Johnson. ESPN columnist Bill Simmons always talks about the “Law Of Gus.” It states that in games he announces, crazy things happen. Buzzer beaters, comebacks, men with overgrown hair and a mole mustache crying in the middle of the court (Adam Morrison), you name it. If Gus is there, everything is in play. The law has been proven and re-proven so many times. It’s only a matter of time before it gets published in a scientific journal. The Big East Tournament may have Madison Square Garden, but I’ll take better teams, unfinished conference feuds and ridiculously over-dramatic announcing. I’ll take the Big Ten tournament.
Sprint 800 meters and immediately do 50 squats. Then sprint another 800 meters, trying to beat the time it took to run the first 800-meter sprint. Do another 50 squats. Now repeat that same process four more times while trying to run the next 800 meters faster than the first. This isn’t some military workout or a treacherous training technique the Ohio State track team uses. It was simply the routine that Ben Van Treese, a fourth-year in human nutrition and community health, did to prepare for the Most Fit Buckeye Competition 2012. “I do cross fit, a lot so I switched it to a lot more endurance-type activities,” Van Treese said. “I figured that … the mental toughness of forcing yourself to do six 800s by yourself is pretty similar to this.” The second annual Most Fit Buckeye Competition was held Saturday at Coffey Road Park. While the event drew about 20 more people this year than it did in its inaugural run in 2011, the Exercise Science Club has its sights set on much bigger things in years to come. Mark Ciolek, a third-year in exercise science and vice president of the Exercise Science Club, said the goal is to turn the competition into a huge event where competitors and spectators can come together and enjoy a day of fitness. Organizations can set up booths and mini-events can be held just for fun. “We really wanna turn it into … a big spectator event and really an all-day health and fitness fair,” Ciolek said. “Different vendors and clubs at OSU having tents up and being able to interact with the participants while they’re not competing and talking about different health and fitness things.” One of the things that should help transform the event is this year’s new location at Coffey Road Park. Last year, the event was on the Lincoln Tower Turf Field, which is smaller than Coffey Road Park. “This is a much better facility,” said Rick Petosa, faculty adviser for the Exercise Science Club. “Last year we were over on the towers’ field; too small.” The club was able to draw several sponsors to the event, including Earth Fare and Greenswell, which helped offset some of the costs of the prizes and refreshments for the participants. Petosa said he would like to see more involvement from the OSU community and wants people to attend even if they aren’t interested in being a part of the competition. “We realize not everybody wants to compete, so probably we’ll create a mini fun event,” Petosa said. “There’s a lot of campus organizations related to health and fitness, and they can come and do a little fitness thing. That’s what we’re hoping to do eventually here is set up and have a fitness day and have different events.” Gina Verhoff, a third-year in exercise science and president of the Exercise Science Club, said she hopes the event continues to grow and evolve into something big that people are excited about. She said she would like to see people return year after year to improve their times and that the competition becomes part of the Buckeye experience. “We want to be able to have it so that it does become a tradition here at Ohio State, and so that you can know your time the previous year and make it a goal to improve upon it,” Verhoff said. “I think it’s getting to be that point where we can totally provide every competitor with the unique experience.”
With a marketing degree from Ohio State’s Fisher College of Business and four scholar-athlete awards under his belt, you might say Devin McCarthy of the OSU men’s tennis team has a bright future in the corporate world, if not for one problem – he isn’t finished with tennis. McCarthy, the only redshirt senior on this year’s OSU squad, plans to take his skills to the professional level after No. 5 Buckeyes (26-2, 9-0) finish their 2013 season. McCarthy graduated from OSU in December. “I think I’m going to, in June, go to Mexico for a couple weeks to play some (professional) tournaments. I’m not ready to give up tennis … I don’t really want to sit behind a desk, so I’m going to go try (professional tennis) out and see what happens,” McCarthy said. McCarthy, though, didn’t always think he had the skills to go pro. When he was recruited out of his Cincinnati-area high school by OSU coach Ty Tucker and brought onto the team as a freshman, McCarthy didn’t see that level of potential in his own play. “(Tucker) took a chance on me. I wasn’t that great in juniors, (I) took some time off, my ranking wasn’t that great, and (Tucker) brought me in and spent some time with me in the summer when I was a guy that wasn’t in the lineup, and he spent a lot of time with me,” McCarthy said. However, what McCarthy failed to see in himself, Tucker saw immediately. “I thought (he had) very good potential … (he was) a guy that should have been highly recruited, wasn’t as highly recruited as he should have been. To us he was a certain ‘can’t miss’ player,” Tucker said. “We were very fortunate to get him.” McCarthy is the fourth child in his family to play Big Ten tennis. His two older brothers, Ryan and Mike, played for Indiana, and his other brother, Andrew, played at Northwestern. McCarthy said many of the improvements made in his tennis game came during his true freshman year when he did not see action for the Buckeyes. “Honestly, I don’t think that if I came (to OSU) early, I don’t think I would be playing. I don’t think I would have ever made it in the lineup,” McCarthy said. “I came here in the winter of 2009, and was the worst on the team, second worst on the team. (I) stayed that summer … and that’s when I made the biggest jump and probably got two levels better.” Over the course of the next four years, his extra time spent training and developing began to pay on the court. “(McCarthy) finally earned a spot on the team and never gave it up. He’s been a horse for us – I feel one of the two or three most underrated players in college tennis,” Tucker said. During McCarthy’s OSU career, the Buckeyes have won five Big Ten regular-season championships, four Big Ten tournament championships and have never lost a match at home. McCarthy is ranked No. 91 nationally. Off the court, McCarthy has established himself as a four-time OSU scholar-athlete, three-time Academic All-Big Ten recipient and a mentor to many of his younger teammates. “It’s not always just tennis … (McCarthy) has a great personality and is easy to get along with, and he’s been probably my best friend on the team since I’ve been (at OSU),” said redshirt junior Peter Kobelt. “We’re going to miss him for who he is and for what he does on and off the court.” “He’s been a great leader.” Visit www.thelantern.com for the rest of this story. Tucker said he will be sad to see McCarthy leave but is proud of what he has accomplished during his five years as a student. “I think (Devin) is a great guy – exactly what OSU wants and a true competitor. Him leaving is very, very sad to me,” Tucker said. “Every guy that has ever come through (the program) is a good friend of mine at the end … and I look forward to that relationship with Devin.” McCarthy said his memories at OSU are countless. “Just saying I was an athlete at OSU is going to be pretty sweet to be able to say and look back on,” McCarthy said. “One of the coolest things is being in Seattle or being in California and you’re walking with an OSU shirt and some random dude walks up to you and says ‘O-H’ and you respond ‘I-O’ and then finds out you’re an athlete, and they think it’s the coolest thing in the world.” For the time being however, there are still a few things left to check off on McCarthy’s to-do list before he moves on from his career as a Buckeye. “Winning the Big Ten title at home would be awesome in front of my whole family,” he said. “And I think we’ve got a good shot of winning the national title this year, and that would be the ultimate dream.” McCarthy and the rest of the Buckeye squad are scheduled to face Michigan State on Friday at 3 p.m. at the Varsity Tennis Center.