This has been a playoff-long swoon for Irving, as well: In the regular season, he allowed shooters an eFG% of 50.5; that’s ballooned to 59.2 in the playoffs.Cleveland’s offense had its own problems — in 22 possessions, Andre Iguodala held LeBron James to 1-for-2 shooting — but it’s still a good bet that it’ll course-correct. The bigger concern for the Cavs is that any gains they make from improved shooting will drain out of the holes in their defense. During the regular season, Love gave up 90.3 points per 100 chances as a pick-and-roll defender, which isn’t good; in the playoffs, he’s given up 102.9, which is a calamity. On Thursday night, his screen-and-roll defense came out to 94.1 points per 100 chances, and that’s in the context of Curry and Thompson playing awfully — it’s a bad sign of things to come. The Cavs’ plan for Love defending the pick-and-roll — a big concern before the series — seemed to be having him double-team the ballhandler. But traps only work if you can actually trap the player, and Love’s attempts at doing so led to plays that looked like this: Or this: Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson combined for only 20 points on 8-for-27 shooting in Game 1 of the NBA Finals on Thursday, and yet the Golden State Warriors rolled the Cleveland Cavaliers 104-89 just the same. When something like that happens, there are obvious reasons: Golden State’s bench played out of its mind, and Cleveland’s offense fell in a hole. Those things will probably even out as the series goes on, but the Cavs should be more concerned that, on a night when the Warriors’ biggest guns went quiet, the holes in their defense were already glaring.Coming into the series, the basic bargain of this season’s Cavaliers compared to last year’s was an improved offense producing enough to cover for an inferior defense. The Cavs’ shots didn’t fall in Game 1 as often as they normally do, and a lot of the shots that went in for the Warriors’ bench were absurdities — Leandro Barbosa fading away to his weak-hand baseline isn’t on the scouting report. But Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving, the two Cleveland stars playing in this series who combined to miss all but one game of last season’s Finals, were worked over exactly as expected.On 18 shot attempts in which Irving was the nearest defender, the Warriors had an effective field goal percentage (eFG%) of 66.7, according to data from the NBA’s player-tracking cameras. On the 13 shots in which Love was the nearest defender, the Warriors had an eFG% of 61.5. Both of those numbers are very bad. There’s some margin for error on these plays — for instance, the cameras will sometimes assign a “nearest defender” who is guarding a different offensive player because the shooter’s defender was so badly lost — but the underlying plays looked just as terrible. The Cavs might need to rethink this strategy.Meanwhile, Irving was taken down to the block when he switched onto one of the Warriors’ bigger wings, was back-cut when he lost his man while watching the ball, and was run through screens away from the ball to free up shooters — all stuff we figured would happen this series, but again, a bad sign when it happens with Curry and Thompson out of the picture.
Rose LavelleUSA5.703.42 The U.S. has solidified the middle of the fieldInternational players* who averaged three or more progressive passes and tackles per 90 minutes, 2017-19 The story of the U.S. women’s national team has almost always been its goal-scorers. In the past, the team could count on an Abby Wambach or an Alex Morgan, and when a midfielder like Carli Lloyd stepped up to support, it was her goal-scoring, again, that made the difference. The problems for the U.S. typically lie a little further back down the pitch. At the World Cup in Canada in 2015, the team needed the last-minute addition of Morgan Brian to balance its midfield and get past Germany en route to the final.This year, the situation is reversed. Going into a match against France that could easily decide the World Cup winner, the Americans have reason to be confident in its midfield but increasingly concerned about a suddenly shaky forward line.Manager Jill Ellis has preached an aggressive possession approach, seeking to control the ball but use that control for penetration into the attacking third. That is not an easy balance to strike, at least not without leaving the defense exposed to counterattacks, but it’s possible if your players are good enough.Lindsey Horan came into the World Cup recognized as probably the top central midfielder in the world, and if anything, she has been outshone by her midfield mates Sam Mewis and Rose Lavelle in this tournament. With this squad, Ellis has preferred a 4-3-3 formation to the team’s previous 4-4-2, effectively trading a central striker out for a central midfielder. The three-woman midfield features one deeper-lying holding midfielder and two more advanced in front of her. The team was prepared to play Julie Ertz at the base of midfield and push Horan further up the pitch, but in the final group match against Sweden, Ellis went with the Horan-Mewis-Lavelle trio.These three were the team’s statistical standouts coming into the World Cup. Among players with at least 1,000 minutes played in international matches tracked by Opta since 2017, few midfielders can match the U.S. trio for all-around production. The three are among the very best in the world at the combination of ball-winning and ball-progression, among players with at least three tackles and interceptions won per 90 minutes as well as three progressive passes and runs per 90.1Progressive passes are defined as passes which advance the ball 10 to 15 yards beyond its furthest progression in the move or into the penalty area. Ertz misses the chart because while she has the excellent ball-winning numbers (4.8 tackles and interceptions per 90) you would expect from a defensive midfielder, her 1.8 progressive passes per 90 reflect her lesser skill at advancing the ball.When both Lavelle and Mewis join Horan, the U.S. is basically impossible to match up with in midfield. Each player is capable of making a defense-splitting pass or run, as well as cleaning up defensively behind whoever takes a turn attacking.This kind of midfield production was expected from Mewis and Horan, but Lavelle has been a surprise. Despite her excellent ball-winning numbers for the national team, the smaller Lavelle has been cast typically as a “number 10,” an attacking midfielder. Playing in a 4-3-3 at the World Cup, however, Lavelle has continued to show her strength in the press, with five tackles and four interceptions in a little over 200 minutes.In the round of 16 against Spain, Ertz got the call while Horan rested to avoid a yellow card suspension. One might suggest that Ertz’s less aggressive approach might have been responsible for the U.S.’s rather blah performance, but the statistics suggest the problem lies elsewhere. The U.S. successfully moved the ball into the final third in open play 38 times, but created only three shots from these moves. This rate — of shots created among balls in the final third — is under 8 percent, the second-lowest of any team that played in the knockouts. Seventeen of those final third entries came from direct attacking moves,2Direct attacking moves are defined as sustained possession actions in which at least 50 percent of the ball movement is toward goal. the fourth-best total among the 16 teams in the knockouts, but only one generated a shot attempt in the move. That 6 percent success rate was the worst among the teams in the round.Against Spain, the U.S. forwards struggled to turn dangerous possessions into scoring chances. After winning an early penalty, Tobin Heath was not effective. Heath — usually the key outlet for the U.S. in attack and a skilled dribbler — couldn’t get on the ball, playing only 16 passes (fewest of the starters) and losing two of her three take-on attempts. The most worrying number for the U.S., however, was zero. That’s the number of shots Morgan attempted against Spain. Morgan was subbed out against Sweden after taking a knock and though she returned to start against Spain, the bruising Spanish defense kept her from finding space in the penalty area or on the break.Fortunately for the Americans, if Morgan is hurting or the wide forwards are slumping, the team’s attacking power runs deep. Carli Lloyd, Christen Press and Mallory Pugh are three of the top goal creators in the women’s game over the last few years. PlayerCountryGoalsAssistsGoals and assists Sam MewisUSA3.293.67 Per 90 Minutes The biggest worry for the U.S. has to be Morgan. If the Orlando Pride striker is not fully fit, she is likely to struggle again against France.Ellis, then, faces two high-stakes decisions before the quarterfinal. First, will she roll with the more aggressive Horan-Mewis-Lavelle midfield, or will she go more conservative by deploying Ertz at defensive midfielder? The defensive strength that Horan, Mewis and Lavelle have shown in this tournament is an argument for including them and, thus, maximizing ball movement in the center of the pitch. Second, and more importantly, which forwards are ready to take on the great French defense? Heath, who probably just had an ill-timed off match, should be favored to bounce back. Morgan’s fitness is more of a worry. But however Ellis assesses her starting forwards, the options to replace one are rich and varied. Press and Lloyd would offer two different looks at striker. Pugh could spell either winger or give the team an interchanging, hard-to-mark front three.The midfield, especially with the three best passers on the pitch, should be good enough to carry the team. But if the front line doesn’t show up, the U.S. once again risks wasting the good ball progression from midfield. Amandine HenryFrance3.693.12 Tobin HeathUSA0.560.320.89 Jackie GroenenNetherlands4.483.09 Carli LloydUSA0.560.220.78 * Minimum of 1,000 minutes in matches tracked by OptaSource: Opta Caroline SegerSweden3.973.06 Valérie GauvinFrance0.710.160.87 Lina MagullGermany3.193.54 Christen PressUSA0.280.500.78 Vivianne MiedemaNetherlands1.130.311.44 Caitlin FoordAustralia0.620.441.06 Lindsey HoranUSA4.813.28 The U.S. is deep in goal creatorsInternational players* with the most open-play goals and assists per 90 minutes, 2017-2019 Alex MorganUSA0.680.170.85 * Minimum of 1,000 minutes in matches tracked by OptaSource: Opta Sports PlayerteamTackles and interceptionsProgressive passes Samantha KerrAustralia1.090.361.45 Check out our latest Women’s World Cup predictions. Emily van EgmondAustralia3.273.27 Ellen WhiteEngland0.680.230.91 Mallory PughUSA0.490.270.76
The arrival of spring training brings with it a number of treats. If you’re a fan, it’s the hope that this might be the year your team wins the World Series. If you’re Yoenis Cespedes, it’s a cavalcade of rides that would make Birdman jealous. And for number crunchers, it’s a fresh batch of projections, ripe for statistical exploration.Those projections — generated by algorithms such as Baseball Prospectus’s PECOTA1Which, I’m obliged to say, was originally developed by FiveThirtyEight editor-in-chief Nate Silver. — endeavor to predict the performance of each major league player and team in the coming season. That’s a tough job, and often a thankless one; if a projection system makes headlines at all, it’s usually for drawing the ire of a scorned team or fan base. (Never underestimate how quickly World Series joy can turn into anger when the computer calls for a sub-.500 record!) But projections are also invaluable because they provide a statistical snapshot, frozen in time, from which we can learn to become more accurate in the future, and suss out potential trends in the game.And this year, PECOTA’s projections spat out something that may prove even more noteworthy than, say, the last-place finish they predict for the defending champion Kansas City Royals. The numbers suggest that MLB’s brief era of balance may soon be over. For the last decade or so, the spread of wins in PECOTA’s projection2As measured by the standard deviation. has been trending downward. That meant the algorithm was forecasting win totals with less variability and more parity. With most teams clustered around 81 wins — a .500 record — it was becoming more difficult to make precise predictions about each team’s finish. Partly for this reason, team-level projections had their most inaccurate season since (at least) 1996.31996 is the earliest year for which we have archival projection numbers. Factors like health and midseason trades, neither of which PECOTA can reliably predict, dominated any differences in talent among teams when it came to determining the outcome of the season.This year, however, PECOTA is projecting a much larger spread in talent. The standard deviation of its forecast win totals is the highest it’s been since 2013, when (perhaps not coincidentally) its predictions were much more accurate. Since a wider spread in team records implies greater confidence about which teams will be good or bad, it’s fair to wonder what’s driving this newfound certitude after such a bad year for the stats.Part of PECOTA’s confidence is based on improvements to the algorithm. For the first time, it’s incorporating the effect of pitch framing, or the ability of individual catchers to quietly improve the odds of a called strike through their receiving skills. A pitching staff’s projected earned run average can go up or down depending on the sleight of a catcher’s glove. So teams with good framers, such as Yasmani Grandal of the Los Angeles Dodgers, will see their projected ERA drop, while those with poor receivers, like the Philadelphia Phillies’ Carlos Ruiz, will allow higher ERAs.But the wider distribution of predicted wins hasn’t been driven completely by tweaks in the algorithms. Las Vegas’s over/under lines tell a story similar to PECOTA’s, forecasting their widest spread in win totals since 2013. Savvy bettors have known about pitch framing for years, so clearly some other factor is driving the change. And the reason may be as simple as a few great teams coming out of rebuilding mode — and several bad ones entering it — at the same time.Fully five teams project to win 90 or more games this season, compared with only three last year and two the year before. Some are to be expected, like the always-dominant-in-the-preseason Dodgers, and others have risen on the basis of defense (Tampa Bay) or pitching (Cleveland). But some, like the Chicago Cubs and New York Mets, simply represent the recent maturation of prospect-heavy farm systems.For instance, PECOTA thinks the defending NL champion Mets will win 90 games, largely on the strength of a young, flamethrowing rotation projected to add about 13 wins above replacement.4With assistance from the good framing of catcher Travis d’Arnaud, of course. And the Cubs figure to win oodles of games no matter which source you use for your projections: PECOTA has them down for 94 wins, while FanGraphs’ projections are even more rosy, calling for 97 victories. Only two other teams in the last four years were projected by PECOTA to win 95 or more games: the 2014 and 2015 Dodgers.5In reality, those L.A. teams won 94 and 92 games, respectively. (By comparison, there were six such teams in the four years before 2014.) Chicago has overwhelmed the projection systems’ conservative streak by following their breakout 97-win season with the best offseason of any MLB team, plus enough reserves of youth, depth and prospect firepower to procure extra wins at the trade deadline if necessary.The common thread is the transition from “building” to “built.” Graduating many of their most promising players to the majors in the last year or so, the Cubs and Mets are now seeing them play some of the best ball in decades. The concentration of so much young talent on so few teams, during an era where young players are more valuable than they’ve been in many years, has clearly played a role in the widening of win projections this season.And at the other end of the spectrum, two teams are predicted to win fewer than 69 games: the Phillies and the Atlanta Braves. After failing to reach .500 these past few seasons, both teams have recently hired new general managers with long-term mandates. The new GMs (Matt Klentak in Philadelphia and John Coppolella in Atlanta) have embraced rebuilding as the new way of things, trading skilled veterans such as Andrelton Simmons to restock their minor league systems with prospects. In particular, the Phillies appear to be in for a rough year, with the worst win total projection of any MLB team since the Houston Astros in 2013. Like the Cubs and Mets at the top of the scale, these rebuilding teams are widening the spread of records at the bottom.Any time teams deliberately move away from .500, in either direction, we should see a more variable league. Projections like PECOTA may be getting more accurate thanks to additions like catcher framing, but a lot of the spread in predicted wins comes down to the old-fashioned distribution of talent across the major leagues. And in a welcome change from recent seasons, this year should give us a handful of great teams battling for playoff spots, instead of a mass of mediocrity.
ESPN NFL draft expert Mel Kiper Jr. talked about Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor, as well as three former OSU players hoping to hear their names called during the draft in a teleconference on Wednesday. Kiper said he knows what scouts need to see from Pryor in his final season. “Accuracy,” Kiper said. “Throwing the football is the main thing. “He has to throw the ball, and he has to be precise with the football, and he has to do the things from a pure passing standpoint.” Pryor’s final season, however, will be shortened by the five-game suspension he and four of his teammates face. Kiper added that he projects Pryor as a tight end at the next level, citing Pryor’s size, athletic ability and the transitions other players have made over the years. “Did he need to play those five games to prove he can be a quarterback? Yeah, he did,” Kiper said. “I think there is going to be some concern whether he is going to be a quarterback or a position change, like I said, to a tight end spot.” Defensive lineman Cameron Heyward, a projected first-round pick, also was a subject of conversation. “Cameron Heyward is a real, real good 3-4 defensive end,” Kiper said. “I think he’d fit the New York Jets and certainly the Green Bay Packers. He would fit the Pittsburgh Steelers … the New England Patriots, any of those 3-4 teams is what Heyward would fit ideally.” The Jets, Steelers, and Packers pick 30th, 31st and 32nd respectively, while the Patriots hold the 17th and 28th overall selections. Kiper said Heyward is not an ideal fit in a 4-3 defensive scheme, but Heyward disagrees. “I think over my four years here I have enjoyed so many different positions and it’s made me more versatile,” Heyward said in a press conference on March 30 after working out for NFL scouts. “I think I can play any position you put me at.” Kiper weighed in on two other Buckeyes entering the draft. Cornerback Chimdi Chekwa was projected as a possible third-round selection, and running back Brandon Saine was projected as one of many backs who could be picked on the third day in the fifth, sixth or seventh rounds, based on his pass-catching ability. The 2011 NFL draft will be held April 28–30 at Radio City Music Hall in New York. Alex Kopilow contributed to this story.
With the switch to semesters approaching, most students have been gearing up for the change by deciding what to pack into their 72-day summer, and planning for the effects of the shorter break. For Ohio State student-athletes, the shorter summer and semester switch bring different adjustments and challenges, but also several advantages and opportunities. Starting Aug. 22, student-athletes in winter and spring sports will be able to begin out-of-season skill and instruction work. Previously, winter and spring athletes had to wait until the quarter started in late September to begin this work. The NCAA will still govern the football team’s and all fall sports’ practice start dates in accordance with NCAA rules. “Under the quarter system, OSU student-athletes in the winter and spring sports could not begin this instruction until the quarter began, leaving them at a considerable disadvantage to other schools, whose student-athletes in those sports were able to start the first day of their fall semesters,” OSU athletics spokesman Jerry Emig said in an email. Beginning in 2013, the end of Spring Semester will be followed by a four-week May class session. Following this accelerated session, which some refer to as a “Maymester,” there will be a one-week break, and then the regular seven-week summer session will begin, Emig said. There is no May session in 2012. Emig said the “Maymester” period will give many student-athletes an opportunity to participate in several learning opportunities, such as internships, study abroad programs and research efforts that were difficult to fit into their schedules during the quarter system. Steven Fink, the associate executive dean for curriculum and instruction in the College of Arts and Sciences and co-chair of the Semester Conversion Coordinating Committee, said each university department will handle the four-week May session differently, creating several different opportunities for students. “The curriculum is still being developed since it is not beginning until next summer, but we have a number of departments who are already designing courses for it,” Fink said. “I think it’s particularly well-suited for certain kinds of special topics or intensive experiences. A lot of programs are using it for study abroad, service learning, internship experiences or co-ops. Every department is going to decide on its own how it wants to handle that instructional period.” Although the teams will not have any additional or any fewer actual practice days or hours because of the switch, student-athletes may feel the effects of the change most in their free time. This year, fall athletes will begin classes about two weeks after they begin fall camp, as opposed to under the quarter system, where athletes did not start classes until about six weeks after the start of camp. Each OSU sports team has a different schedule and practice routine over the summer break, which bring varying changes depending on each athletic team’s agenda. Grayson Overman, a junior middle blocker on OSU’s volleyball team, said not much will change for him personally, but he’s excited for the switch. “I’m pretty stoked for (the change),” Overman said. “It’s going to be a lot slower pace which will be a break and might make volleyball more exciting.” OSU women’s golf coach, Therese Hession said that although there are no team-oriented events in college golf during the summer, the players are on their own schedule qualifying for tournaments. With the semester switch, the student-athletes will not get much of a rest. “We will just get started a little bit earlier than we normally do,” Hession said. “They’ll be coming right back and jumping into school.” Summer classes begin on June 18 and conclude Aug. 3. Exams will take place Aug. 6 through Aug. 8.
The story of Vonn Bell’s recruitment ended with the five-star safety putting on a Scarlet and Gray hat and telling a nationally televised audience he will be attending The Ohio State University. Bell, a Rossville, Ga., native, held a press conference broadcast by ESPN in the Ridgeland High School gymnasium on National Signing Day, Feb. 6. With his family beside him and a sea of classmates in front of him, Bell announced he was picking the Buckeyes over the likes of Alabama and Tennessee, among other schools. Bell’s justification for choosing OSU was fairly straightforward. “I just felt more comfortable with coach (Urban) Meyer because I had spent more time with him and his staff,” Bell said. OSU’s journey to get the 6-foot, 190-pound safety to feel that way was arduous in its task, but simple in its nature. The Buckeyes’ lead recruiter on Bell – co-defensive coordinator and safeties coach Everett Withers – just outworked his competition. “I’ve seen some really good efforts,” Meyer said. “Everett Withers from start to finish, his effort on Vonn Bell, as good as I’ve ever seen.” The tale of Bell’s courting begins a little more than a year ago. Coming off a junior season in which he recorded 180 tackles and five interceptions, Bell was a hot commodity on the recruiting trail. His first scholarship offer came from the University of Georgia in early January 2012. After that, the offers started pouring in: Alabama (the reigning national champion). Tennessee (the hometown favorite). Florida. Notre Dame. Think of an elite college football team, and Bell likely had a scholarship offer from them, OSU included. “Literally he would get four to five (offers) a day,” Ridgeland football coach Mark Mariakis said in an interview with The Lantern Monday. The Buckeyes, though, didn’t become a serious contender until the hard-hitting safety visited Columbus over his junior year spring break, Mariakis said. Bell spent a day with Meyer, touring the OSU football facilities and getting to know the Buckeyes’ program. The visit to Columbus was part of a double-digit school tour by Bell and his family. When the group returned home to Georgia after the trek, OSU’s appeal was clear. “When he came back, (Bell and his family) realized that Ohio State was going to be in the forefront of the hunt,” Mariakis said. From there, Withers took over. The 49-year-old was like an “octopus” in his pursuit of the top-50 prospect, Meyer said. “The recruiting process is about relationships. You are going to try to find out as much as you can – whether it be good or bad about a young man – you want to try to find it all out,” Withers said. If there was a relationship to be made, Withers was there. OSU’s co-defensive coordinator, naturally, started with Bell himself. The pair “hit it off right off the bat,” Mariakis said. “They’re so like-minded,” Mariakis said. From there, Withers moved on to Bell’s family and coach. Withers talked to Bell’s mother, a teacher at Ridgeland, about what OSU could offer in terms of education. Withers connected with Bell’s father, a director of a few Boys & Girls Clubs in Northwest Tennessee, by discussing how to work with kids. “I got to know the entire family, grandma, the whole deal,” Withers said. “Spending the time with them was really good.” Withers might have burned the majority of his recruiting hours with Mariakis, who chuckled when asked how often he interacted with the Buckeye coach. “Me and him talked numerous times every week,” Mariakis said. “That’s not a stretch, either. It was literally all the time. “He’d call ‘How’s Vonn? How’s he playing? How’d the game go Friday?’ He took a real interest in him. If he could be here, what all the rules allowed him to do, he was here.” Mariakis has been coaching for 28 years. He has had dozens of athletes go on to play high-level college football. He’s been through the recruiting process more times than he can count. In his nearly three-decade long career as a high school football coach, the way Withers went about recruiting Bell is as good as Mariakis can remember. “He took every opportunity he had to build a relationship with Vonn and his family, and with me. He never missed a phone call. If I called him, he’d either answer the phone or call me right back. In visit time, he came and visited,” Mariakis said. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen a recruiter do as good a job coach Withers did.” The respect goes both ways. “I would have to say in my 25 years of doing this, in this business, coach Mariakis and his staff at Ridgeland High School were probably by far the best group of people I’ve ever been around,” Withers said. The days spent with Bell and those closest to him paid off for Withers in more ways than one. Yes, OSU got the recruit, but also, Withers is now familiar with some of the best aspects of Chattanooga, Tenn., a place less than six miles from Rossville. “I have a new place in Chattanooga, Tenn., to get my haircut. I know where the best barbecue places are in Chattanooga, Tenn. I got around a lot of people,” Withers said. Withers made the strongest impression during the recruitment, but Meyer made his presence felt, too. When Ridgeland took on Sandy Creek High School in the Georgia Class AAAA State Championship Game Dec. 15, Meyer was in attendance. He sat next to Bell’s mother in the Georgia Dome stands during the game, and visited with Bell in the locker room after his team suffered a 45-10 loss. “That was really impressive to me, to stay there and just be in the mix of our community and Vonn’s family meant a lot,” Mariakis said. The story of Bell’s recruitment hits its climax the night and morning before Bell announced his decision. Withers said he thought he would be made aware of what school Bell was going to sign with at about 8 p.m. Feb. 5. That didn’t happen. Withers did receive an encouraging phone call from Bell’s father that evening, though. “(His) dad told me at the end of the night, he said, ‘Coach, live on your body of work because you’ve done all you can do. Sleep well,’” Withers said. Withers made a phone call of his own, too, with Mariakis on the receiving end. “I had talked to coach Mariakis … I said, ‘Coach, if it’s going to be a good phone call, make sure coach Meyer gets it.’ I said, ‘If it’s going to be a bad phone call, just call me,’” Withers said. The next morning, Meyer, Withers and the rest of the OSU staff were in the Woody Hayes Athletic Center, anxiously waiting for what the equivalent of college football’s Christmas would entail for the Buckeyes’ program. At one point, shortly after the sun had risen, Meyer said he couldn’t contain his nerves, or be around his assistants, any longer. He separated himself from the rest of his staff and went into a private room to work out on a stationary bike. “I couldn’t take it anymore. Everett Withers was driving me nuts. I had to get away from him,” Meyer said. At about 9:50 a.m., 10 minutes before Bell was set to make his announcement on ESPN, Withers made his way toward Meyer. He heard a phone ring and Meyer answer. It was Bell. “You know I’m in, right?” Bell told Meyer on the phone. Meyer’s response was simple. “No, I didn’t know you were in. Congratulations,” Meyer said. Withers’ yearlong stretch full of time and effort had paid off. Bell, one of the crown jewels of OSU’s 2013 recruiting class that ranks in the top-three nationally, should help the Buckeyes’ defense right away. Bell’s decision to sign with OSU could also be a sign of more good stories to come for the Scarlet and Gray. Going into the land of sweet tea and tangy barbecue and prying a recruit away from the strong clasps of the Southeastern Conference – winners of the last seven national championships – is no easy task in college football. OSU did that with Bell in out-recruiting Alabama and Tennessee, Bell’s other favorites. The Buckeyes might be one of the few programs north of the Mason-Dixon line that can keep on doing it, too. “I think it goes back to the relationships that Ohio State staff is building,” Mariakis said. “When you get that combination of good football and the relationships with those kids, you’ve got something special.”
Ohio State players celebrate a goal in the first quarter against Loyola Maryland in the first round of the NCAA tournament on May 14, 2017 at Ohio Stadium. Credit: Sheridan Hendrix | Oller ReporterThe No. 3 Ohio State men’s lacrosse team is moving on to the quarterfinals of the NCAA tournament after taking down Loyola Maryland 7-4 in Ohio Stadium on Sunday.The Buckeyes (14-4) failed to score at least nine goals for the first time since April 2, but freshman midfielder Tre Leclaire’s three goals were enough to lift OSU past the Greyhounds (10-6). Redshirt senior goalie Tom Carey made 12 saves on 16 shots on goal.Down the stretch, Loyola put the pressure on a Buckeye defense that allowed double-digit goals in both Big Ten tournament games last weekend. However, Carey and the rest of the defense held their own in the final 15 minutes despite being outshot 9-2.“Just really proud we’ve proven that we can win in different ways,” said OSU coach Nick Myers. “I think today is an example where we say, ‘OK, today is not our day offensively.’ Kind of a message to those guys down the stretch was let us win this game defensively. Get down there, be strong with the ball.”It took nearly seven minutes for either team to get on the scoreboard. Unsurprisingly, Leclaire — the team’s leading scorer and Big Ten Freshman of the Year — was the first to strike with 8:09 remaining on the clock. It was his 42nd of the year.Sophomore attackman Jack Jasinski heads for the goal in the fourth quarter during the first round of the NCAA tournament against Loyola Maryland on May 14, 2017. Credit: Sheridan Hendrix | Oller ReporterLater, sophomore midfielder Logan Maccani made a move toward the goal from behind the net and found junior attackman Colin Chell in the middle of the defense for a one-timer to give the Buckeyes a 2-0 lead before the end of the first.In the second quarter, Loyola put immense pressure on the Buckeye attackman, leading to 11 turnovers from the Scarlet and Gray, and the Greyhounds cranked up the offense as well.They had eight shots on goal in the second quarter compared to three in the first, but only found the back of the net twice as Carey made six saves in the quarter.After trimming the deficit to 3-2, the Greyhounds had an opportunity to tie the game before the half, but Carey made a point-blank save to preserve the lead.“It definitely helps to get a few (big saves) early,” Carey said. “But the defense in front of me played really well and we gave up the shots we wanted to early.A slow-paced first half turned into an intense battle that showcased the teams best players in the third quarter as both sides showed a sense of urgency out of the break.Senior attackman Eric Fannell tallied his 29th goal of the year in the first three minutes of the quarter before Patriot League Player of the Year, and national player of the year finalist, Pat Spencer finally put one past Carey from 6 yards out for this 28th of the season.Leading by a mere goal on two difference occasions, Leclaire seized the opportunities he was given and gave OSU a two-goal cushion at 5-3 and 6-4, which was a margin that was more comfortable that it appeared on the jumbotron in the south end zone.“There were certainly some moments where we felt like we needed to just hunker down and get the next goal,” Myers said. “When we got that two goal lead, I thought that was big.”Senior attack Brendan Fannell takes a shot on the goal against Loyola Maryland during the first round of the NCAA tournament on May 14, 2017 at Ohio Stadium. Credit: Sheridan Hendrix | Oller ReporterOSU’s best player through the entire season proved his worth in his first NCAA tournament game with a hat trick following a nine-goal performance in two games last weekend in the conference tournament.“(Getting the hat trick) was a surreal moment,” Leclaire said. “It was a fun game to play in. A lot of credit to our defense for that, backing us up.”With 12 seconds left, sophomore attackman Jack Jasinski scored his first of the game and removed any doubt of who would advance to play Duke in the quarterfinals next Saturday.The Buckeyes’ offense has carried them to this point, but confidence is riding high with the squad after a convincing showing on defense. Spencer had six shots toward the net, but only one went past Carey. Junior defenseman Ben Randall, who primarily defended Spencer, was a key cog in the wall around the OSU net.“Defensively, I wanted to take away his vision and force him to go to the cage, which I think we did a good job of,” Randall said.After allowing 23 goals in two games last weekend in the conference tournament, the Buckeyes defense took the steps it needed for a deep run in the NCAA tournament.“I think the guys, coming out of the Big Ten tournament, they were a bit disappointed defensively,” Myers said. “This week it was back to basics on that end of the field and I just felt like we just had a really good week of practice. And felt like today was a result of that hard work we put in this week.”
Ohio State continued to add to its men’s basketball coaching staff when former East Carolina assistant Mike Netti was hired by the Buckeyes as special assistant to the head coach Tuesday evening.Netti, who has spent the past four seasons coaching the Pirates, worked with first-year coach Chris Holtmann when the new Buckeyes head coach led the Gardner-Webb program from 2010 to 2013.The Syracuse graduate also coached with Holtmann when the duo worked as assistants at Gardner-Webb from 2003-08.The former East Carolina assistant isn’t the only coach who has ties to Holtmann on Ohio State’s staff. Holtmann brought all three assistant coaches who worked under him at Butler – Ryan Pedon, Terry Johnson and Mike Schrage – to Columbus in the same roles.Netti joins strength and conditioning coach Quadrian Banks and director of player personnel Scoonie Penn as recent additions to the Buckeyes’ support staff.Since Netti will not be one of Ohio State’s three assistant coaches, he will be unable to recruit off campus or coach during practices.
Freshman wide receiver Trevon Grimes (8) walks onto the field during the Ohio State vs. UNLV game on Sept. 23. Ohio State beat UNLV 54-21. Credit: Ris Twigg | Assistant Photo EditorFreshman wide receiver Trevon Grimes will move on from Ohio State before the completion of his first season with the program, according to a report by the Sun-Sentinel.The newspaper reported Friday the former four-star prospect out of St. Thomas Aquinas (Florida) will transfer to Florida. Grimes has been away from Ohio State since October when he left the team to deal with, what head coach Urban Meyer called, family health issues. On November 8, Meyer said he was taking classes in Florida and he expected Grimes would eventually rejoin the team.This season, Grimes had three catches for 20 yards. He caught one pass for eight yards against Army and had two catches for 12 yards against UNLV. Grimes was the 41st-ranked player in the 2017 class and the No. 6 wide receiver, according to the 247Sports composite rankings.An Ohio State spokesman was not able to confirm the report.
Charlie Elphicke, a Conservative MP who campaigns for fair fuel prices, said Labour were to blame for the crisis over diesel cars. He said: “It’s incredible that Labour encouraged people to go diesel and drivers now face being punished for it. This is yet another example of Gordon Brown’s toxic legacy… Much of the pollution in cities comes from buses and it would be right for action to be taken to modernise bus fleets rather than hit drivers.” However, Alan Andrews, a ClientEarth lawyer, said: “It’s clear we need a national network of clean air zones, just like Defra had originally planned before the Treasury squashed that plan. The government must consider including the most polluting cars in this scheme, something which it has refused to do until now. We would like to see this coupled with a targeted scrappage scheme for the most polluting vehicles and a major investment in clean public transport, cycling and walking – so people have clean alternatives to driving their dirty diesel cars.” The group argued that the Government was “basically doing the bare minimum and hoping the problem would disappear by 2020.” A Defra spokeswoman said after the High Court ruling: “We will now carefully consider this ruling, and our next steps, in detail.”Dr Penny Woods, chief executive of the British Lung Foundation, said: “It’s a public health crisis.” The ruling comes a year after motoring giant Volkswagen was plunged into scandal over emissions-fiddling on its diesel engines. The Government announced last December that “Clean Air Zones” were to be introduced in Birmingham, Leeds, Nottingham, Derby and Southampton by 2020. In response, the official spokeswoman for Theresa May, the Prime Minister, said: “We are accepting today’s court judgment and will consider now the details and set out next steps in due course.”Mrs May told the House of Commons: “We have taken action, there’s more to do and we will do it.”In July, Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London, announced he was consulting over £10 “T-charge” which would apply to all vehicles, diesel and petrol, with pre-Euro 4 emission standards, broadly those registered before 2005.ClientEarth, a campaign group which won a landmark Supreme Court ruling in April 2015 over the same issue, had argued the current Air Quality Plan “must be quashed” and replaced by a modified, improved plan.Martin Vickers, Conservative member of the Transport committee, said removing diesel cars from city centres would be a “big step” that “would need very serious consideration”, but added: “It would have an enormous impact on a great many people.” Diesel car drivers could be charged for entering city centres after the High Court ruled the Government was failing to meet European emission standards.Ministers will be left with little choice but to penalise motorists, industry leaders warned after senior judges agreed current measures to tackle the pollution crisis were “flawed” and “woefully inadequate”. The Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs must now look again at measures to cut street levels of nitrogen dioxide (N02), a primary cause of 50,000 premature deaths a year from fumes. Mr Justice Garnham, sitting in London, ruled that the current plan discourage heavy goods vehicles entering five major cities does not go far enough. In his ruling he suggests that the government look again at its previously rejected options, which included a levy on all diesel vehicles emitting dangerous levels in “clean air zones”. Limits for N02 had been introduced by EU law in 1999, and were to be achieved by 2010. On Wednesday the judge attacked the Government for overunning and said minister “fell into error by adopting too optimistic a model of future emissions”.Industry experts said it was “inevitable” ministers would now be forced into a U-turn after ruling out charges for diesel car drivers as they announced five new low emissions zones last December. Nick Molden, founder and CEO of Emissions Analytics, a leading testing company, said: “The precedent is set of linking nitrogen dioxide emissions to money and in my view that is an obvious mechanism to roll out elsewhere. Vans will adopt the same regulations as cars so it is possible small businessmen will be hit too.” Government sources said there would be a period of scientific testing before new legislation was confirmed. However, Karl McCartney, a Conservative MP on the Transport Committee, said he would urge colleagues to “consider the various implications, negative or otherwise, of perhaps extending zones where diesel cars have to pay to enter cities with a view to cutting pollution, or congestion, further”. The AA, RAC and other motoring campaigners said a blanket charge would be unfair on families who had bought diesels on the understanding that they were environmentally-friendly. “It’s would be very disappointing for those families who had followed the ‘dash for diesel’ under the previous government,” said Edmund King, president of the AA.Simon Peevers, business services spokesman at RAC, added: “This ruling will set alarm bells ringing for millions of motorists and businesses who are reliant on their diesel vehicles.”ClientEarth, which first launched legal action in 2011, said 37 out of 43 zones across the UK “remain in breach of legal limits” and successfully argued unlawful weight was given by the Government to “cost and political sensitivity” when drawing up a 2015 plan. Mr Khan said of the ruling: “This must now act as a real wake-up call to Government to finally get to grips with this national health emergency that is causing 9,400 deaths every year just in London alone.”Rupert Pontin, director valuations for the Glass’s Guide, also said some charges were now “fairly inevitable”.”It will change the usage of the diesel car,” he said. “Potentially you might have a downturn and there will be a lot of lobbying for a scrappage scheme.”However, recent research by the AA found diesel cars in London can account for as little as five per cent of the city’s nitrogen dioxide levels. Quentin Willson, the motoring broadcaster and fuel price campaigner, added: “Punishing millions of diesel drivers for mistakes in past government policy is neither fair nor honest.”Howard Cox, founder of the FairFuelUK campaign group, said diesel drivers “are already punitively taxed more so than those in Germany, France, Greece and other EU economies”.In his ruling on Wednesday, Mr Justice Garnham agreed that a 2015 plan to cut emissions failed to comply with Article 23 of the EU Air Quality Directive and linked air quality standard regulations. He ruled new legislation must be drawn up at the “soonest date possible.” VW is already facing stiff penalties after it was plunged into an emissions crisis last yearCredit:Getty Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings.