Serena Williams of the U.S. returns a shot against Krystyna Pliskova of the Czech Republic during their first round match of the French Open tennis tournament at the Roland Garros stadium in Paris, France, Tuesday, May 29, 2018. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)PARIS (AP) — Serena Williams considers the black bodysuit she wore at the French Open much more than a fashion statement.There’s a practical reason for the full-length legs on the skintight outfit: The aim is to protect her because of past bouts with blood clots.There also is a message she wanted to send about self-worth and feeling powerful as she returned to Grand Slam action with a first-round victory at Roland Garros on Tuesday, about nine months after giving birth to a daughter.“It feels like this suit represents all the women that have been through a lot mentally, physically, with their body to come back and have confidence and to believe in themselves,” Williams said after beating Kristyna Pliskova 7-6 (4), 6-4 at Court Philippe Chatrier. “I definitely feel like it is an opportunity for me to inspire a whole different group of amazing women and kids.”In this Sept. 6, 2002 file photo Serena Williams, of the USA, returns to Lindsay Davenport, of the USA, during their semifinal match at the US Open in New York. Serena Williams of the U.S. played her Tuesday May 29, 2018, first round French Open match against Krystina Pliskova of the Czech Republic in a all-black bodysuit. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)The outfit called to mind Williams’ black “catsuit” that she wore at the 2002 U.S. Open. It also was reminiscent of the white bodysuit that American player Anne White wore at Wimbledon in 1985.Williams referred to what she wore Tuesday as the “catsuit — the new version, 2.0.”“I call it, like, my Wakanda-inspired catsuit,” referring to the fictional nation in the film “Black Panther.”“We designed it way before the movie,” she said, “but still, it kind of reminds me of that.”Williams said she feels “like a warrior princess, kind of,” when she wears the outfit.“I’m always living in a fantasy world,” she added. “I always wanted to be a superhero, and it’s kind of my way of being a superhero.”Tuesday’s match was the first at a major tournament for the 23-time Grand Slam champion in 16 months.She gave birth on Sept. 1, then dealt with complications related to a pulmonary embolism.“I had a lot of problems with my blood clots, and, God, I don’t know how many I have had in the past 12 months. So it is definitely a little functionality to it,” Williams said. “I have been wearing pants in general a lot when I play, so I can keep the blood circulation going. It’s a fun suit, but it’s also functional, so I can be able to play without any problems.”
Embed Code By Nate Silver Podcast from Indy: The Kentucky Loss and Monday Night’s Matchup Even 38-0 teams can go through mistimed offensive slumps, and the Kentucky Wildcats went through one at a very bad time Saturday night. Kentucky went more than 5 minutes without scoring in its loss to Wisconsin on Saturday. Between Karl-Anthony Towns’ jumper with 6:37 to go in the second half, and Aaron Harrison’s layup with 56 seconds remaining, Kentucky was stuck on 60 points, while Wisconsin swung from being 4 points behind to 4 points ahead.A lot of credit must go to Wisconsin’s stout defense, which looked a lot better than its Pomeroy rating (just 55th best in the country). But the Wildcats didn’t help themselves Saturday night with three shot clock violations down the stretch. Those violations were symptomatic of a larger problem: Kentucky’s torpid pace down the stretch helped doom them.This will involve more math than the usual “hot take,” so hang tight while we take a tour of probabilities. We’re most interested in one big question: Did Kentucky increase its chance to win by slowing its pace, thereby giving each team fewer possessions?At first blush, it seems like Kentucky was better off slowing the game down.The Las Vegas point spread and over-under line projected a final score of roughly Kentucky 67, Wisconsin 62 before the game. (FiveThirtyEight’s model had a similar projection, favoring Kentucky by 4.5 points.) In a game of 60 possessions per team, that translates into 1.12 points per possession for Kentucky and 1.04 per possession for Wisconsin.I simulated the final six minutes of the game 100,000 times using these offensive efficiency figures and a few guesstimations.1I had to guesstimate how the points are distributed between 3-point, 2-point, 1-point and 0-point possessions; Wisconsin will have a relatively high number of 3-point possessions, since they shoot so well from outside, for instance. My guesstimates were as follows: Kentucky scores three points 8 percent of the time, two points 41 percent of the time, one point 6 percent of the time, and no points 45 percent of the time. Wisconsin scores three points 12 percent of the time, two points 32 percent of the time, one point 4 percent of the time and no points 52 percent of the time. That gives Kentucky an offensive efficiency rating of 1.12 points per possession, and Wisconsin 1.04 points, as desired. I also assumed that Kentucky would win 55 percent of the time if the game went to overtime. Up by 4 in a game with 12 more possessions per team2At about 20 seconds per possession, six minutes would ordinarily allow nine more possessions per team. But there are more clock stoppages late in the game. So let’s assume that each team would have 12 further possessions if Kentucky played normally. Kentucky won 81.9 percent of the time. That winning percentage increased to 83.3 percent in a game with 10 possessions per team instead.3I’m assuming there were 10 possessions, not 12 possessions because of Kentucky’s slow pace down the stretch; which ran a minute or two off the clock.So at a first glance, slowing the game down seems like a good idea for Kentucky — they were ahead, after all.But there are reasons not to do it. Kentucky is the slightly better team — or at least that’s what Vegas and the FiveThirtyEight model thought before the game — and in the abstract the better team should want to play a longer game (a game with more possessions). Under our assumptions, if Kentucky and Wisconsin played an infinitely long game, Kentucky would always win. So it was slightly unusual for Kentucky, a Goliath of a basketball team, to adopt a “David strategy” instead.This alone wasn’t enough to make Calpari’s strategy a poor one, however. Even though Wisconsin was the underdog, the difference was small enough that you’d still rather give them fewer chances to catch up, according to the simulations.But Kentucky also almost certainly made its offense less efficient by slowing the pace down. Rather than looking for good shooting opportunities in the first half of the shot clock, it tried to rush shots near the end of possessions. (Wisconsin’s defense, to reiterate, had something to do with that. But Kentucky hadn’t had much trouble finding shots earlier in the game, shooting 60 percent in the first half.)Exactly how much less efficient is hard to say, but efficiency declines significantly as the shot clock runs down to zero. NBA teams score about 1.12 points per possession when they shoot in the first 10 seconds of the league’s 24-second shot clock, but that efficiency declines to 0.92 points per possession in the final four seconds of a possession. These numbers aren’t perfect for any number of reasons — not least because they’re drawn from the NBA rather than college hoops — but they give us at least some sense for the magnitude of the effect.So that got me wondering how much Kentucky’s offensive efficiency would have to decline to render Calipari’s strategy counterproductive. The answer: Not much at all.In the table below, I’ve used the simulation model to estimate Kentucky’s chances of winning with reduced offensive efficiency. For example, a 10 percent reduction in offensive efficiency — meaning that the Wildcats are scoring at a rate of about 1.01 points per possession instead of 1.12 — would reduce their win probability to 76.8 percent in a game with 10 more possessions per team. That’s considerably worse than the 81.9 percent chance they had by playing regular basketball, but permitting 12 possessions per team. Even a 3 percent reduction in offensive efficiency would reduce Kentucky’s winning chances.There are a lot of other factors to consider in the real world, of course, like how Wisconsin might have altered its strategy in response to Kentucky. Still, Kentucky seemed to be playing into Wisconsin’s hands, especially given that the Badgers are terrific in half-court sets — but much worse than Kentucky in transition — and ordinarily prefer to play at one of the slowest paces in college basketball. Wisconsin might have found a way to win anyway — they’re a terrific team, and the game wasn’t all that much of an upset. But Coach Cal made their path to the National Championship a little easier. More: Apple Podcasts | ESPN App | RSS | Embed
Peter BourjosLAA311232.548.285.262 Francisco MejiaSD231131.541.309.232 Buxton is tearing it up this springMLB players by difference in weighted on-base average (wOBA) between 2019 preseason Marcel projections and spring training performance Cristhian AdamesCHC271536.533.286.247 Jose PirelaSD291531.562.303.258 wOBA Byron BuxtonMIN251130.579.297+.282 That 282-point difference in wOBA would imply a 17-point increase over projected during the regular season, good for a .314 mark when applied to Buxton’s on-base projection. That’s essentially the same wOBA Buxton had during his breakout 2017 campaign — a number that still wasn’t quite league average but was good enough to combine with his stellar defense to make him worth 4.3 wins above replacement (WAR),3Using an average of the metrics found at Baseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs. as opposed to the -0.4 number he produced last season. And for a Twins team that we currently project to win 84 games with a 37 percent chance of making the playoffs, even incremental improvements from a key player like Buxton could pay massive dividends in terms of postseason odds. My former colleague Rob Arthur estimated that, in the era of two wild cards, an 86-win team would generally increase its playoff probability by about 10 to 15 percentage points over an 84-win one. (The mid-80s win range is basically the steepest area for adding playoff odds with an extra win.)Now, to pump the brakes a little on Buxton’s spring: 30 plate appearances is a very small sample, and most of them have come against sub-AAA quality pitchers, according to Baseball-Reference.com’s estimation. Buxton currently has a batting average on balls in play of .368, much higher than his regular-season career average of .320. His biggest action items as a hitter — plate patience and strike-zone judgment — have shown some signs of life this spring, but he’ll have to sustain them all season to convince skeptics that his skills have truly improved. And Minnesota can only hope those spring homers are merely a sign that Buxton will be an average power hitter again (like in 2017) rather than the guy who didn’t hit a single home run in 90 MLB at-bats last season.4He did hit four homers on assignment at Triple-A Rochester last year.It really does just comes down to health and hitting for Buxton — defensively, on a per-inning basis, he was just as great last year as in 2017; he was also the fastest player in baseball. If Buxton can recapture a version of his 2017 production at the plate, it would be very good for the Twins in their quest to return to the American League Division Series for the first time since 2010. Minnesota added some impact free agents over the offseason (Marwin Gonzalez, Nelson Cruz, Blake Parker), while the division-favorite Cleveland Indians spent the winter shopping around their stars and generally resting on their laurels. Maybe the Twins are still longshots to truly knock the Indians off of their three-year perch as AL Central champs, but a healthy, star-caliber 2019 season from Buxton would make that task a lot easier. Greg AllenCLE261028.532.302.230 Lewis BrinsonMIA241334.517.274.243 Domingo SantanaSEA261028.575.344.231 Chance SiscoBAL241029.560.304.256 Minimum 25 spring plate appearances for players who have already made their regular-season MLB debuts. Stats are through Friday, March 15.Source: Baseball-Reference.com Brandon LoweTB241032.560.321.240 The Minnesota Twins were one of the best stories of the 2017 MLB season: Coming off a 59-win campaign in 2016, they won 85 games and made the playoffs seemingly out of nowhere. Minnesota even spotted itself an early three-run lead against the Yankees in the American League wild-card game (before promptly giving it away in the bottom of the first and ultimately losing). With one of baseball’s youngest lineups, this seemed like a team on the rise, and its best all-around player — 23-year-old center fielder Byron Buxton — had a lot to do with that, putting together a breakout season of his own.By the same token, when Buxton faltered in 2018, so did the Twins. In an injury-plagued lost season, Buxton managed just 94 plate appearances and graded as below replacement level, according to whichever metric you choose to consult. Minnesota, in turn, dipped from 85 wins to 78 and wasn’t really in the playoff picture after the All-Star break. Buxton wasn’t the only Twin to suffer a miserable 2018 decline,1Third baseman Miguel Sano, pitcher Ervin Santana and even franchise-fixture second baseman Brian Dozier — who was traded to the Dodgers at the deadline — all come to mind. but it is fair to say his absence played as big a role in Minnesota’s downfall as anything else.This spring, Buxton and the Twins are looking to recapture the spirit of 2017 — and the early returns are encouraging. Last week, the former No. 1 prospect in all of baseball hit what was already his fourth home run of spring training:It’s been part of a tear that has Buxton looking like the best hitter in baseball during the spring so far. Although spring training results are easy to scoff at, they aren’t completely devoid of meaning — and that’s something the Twins will hang on to if it means there’s a chance Buxton rebounds and helps them close the gap in the AL Central.According to my research from a few years ago, massive spring outlier performances do carry some predictive value going forward. It just takes a lot of improvement to signal real breakout potential: You need a weighted on-base average (wOBA) in the spring 17 points above projected — using the simple-yet-effective Marcel projection system — just to predict a 1-point increase in wOBA (relative to projection) during the regular season. So for most players, they’ll never hit well enough in the spring to move the needle of their season expectations very much either way.But Buxton is hitting so well that it might actually be a much-needed sign of hope for his performance this season. When we compare players’ spring wOBA with their preseason Marcel projections, no player2Minimum 25 plate appearances. has exceeded expectations more than the Twins’ center fielder: PlayerTeamAgeGamesPASPRINGProjectedDiff
If Toronto defies the odds and reaches the NBA Finals after trailing the Bucks 2-0, the Raptors’ Game 3 effort Sunday, and Kawhi Leonard’s effort more specifically, will have been the catalyst for it all.Nick Nurse and his club appeared to be hellbent on making things more difficult for Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo, doing what they could to speed him up when he caught the ball near the block and primarily deploying Leonard, the two-time defensive player of the year, on him.The result: Antetokounmpo, the likely NBA MVP, finished with an underwhelming 12 points on just 5-of-16 shooting, despite playing a season-high 45 minutes, along with seven assists and a whopping eight turnovers. The defensive resistance keyed Toronto’s double-overtime win — a season-saver given that a Raptors’ loss would have put the team in a 3-0 series hole heading into Tuesday’s Game 4.“[Kawhi’s] defense was probably the biggest key of the game,” Nurse told reporters afterwards.Sunday’s matchup data paints a jarring illustration of just how successful Leonard was in limiting Antetokounmpo. The Bucks star was effective enough, shooting 4 of 7 for 10 points, when being defended by someone other than Leonard, according to the ESPN Stats & Information Group. But when Kawhi took on the unenviable task, Antetokounmpo shot just 1 of 9 (11 percent) for 2 points — his worst showing against a single defender over the past three postseasons.1Among defenders against whom he’s taken at least five attempts during a playoff game.Video Playerhttps://fivethirtyeight.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/KAWHI.mp400:0000:0001:23Use Up/Down Arrow keys to increase or decrease volume.Stopping Antetokounmpo, whom Leonard guarded more than twice as often as any other Raptor did, was only a chunk of what Kawhi contributed on the night. Despite laboring at times, he logged 52 minutes — a franchise playoff record — and poured in a game-high 36 points (including 8 in the second overtime while the Bucks, as a team, scored 9 in that frame). The showing was Leonard’s 10th 30-point game this postseason, making him the fourth player in the past decade — after LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Kobe Bryant — to accomplish that feat in a single playoffs.Still, for how badly Toronto needed each and every point, Leonard’s defense was likely even more valuable. Milwaukee was just 3 of 18 on shots when Leonard was the primary defender Sunday. Even when Toronto changed the defensive look it threw at Giannis and the Bucks, the adjustment appeared to keep Milwaukee off-balance for stretches.The Raptors opted to double-team Antetokounmpo when he was near the block, a shift from what they did earlier in the series. They did this three times Sunday after doing it only once during the first two games combined. The first two doubles resulted in Antetokounmpo turning the ball over. The second one flustered Antetokounmpo so much that he jumped to make a pass before realizing no one was open and flung the ball to no one in particular.Video Playerhttps://fivethirtyeight.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/DOUBLE.mp400:0000:0000:15Use Up/Down Arrow keys to increase or decrease volume.That pressure appeared to pay dividends a bit later in the game, too, when Antetokounmpo got whistled for a pair of traveling violations off the catch, perhaps antsy reactions to the double-teams he’d seen earlier in the contest.2In fairness, though, it’s a little hard to tell with Giannis, who led the NBA in traveling violations in the regular season, according to NBA Miner. (Before Sunday, Pascal Siakam had been defending Giannis far more than any other Raptor.)None of this is to suggest that Antetokounmpo didn’t impact the game in other ways. Yes, he was 2 of 7 at the line, and he fouled out during a tie game with 4:24 left in the second overtime, but he also finished with 23 boards and four blocks. The Raptors shot 34 percent while Giannis was on the floor, but they connected on a blistering 59 percent of their shots while he was on the bench, according to NBA Advanced Stats. Largely because of that, Toronto outscored the Bucks by 9 in the 13 minutes Antetokounmpo sat — something the Raptors, who lack Milwaukee’s depth, hadn’t been able to take advantage of earlier in the series.A handful of other factors Sunday are worth watching heading into a pivotal Game 4 on Tuesday. Toronto finally got production from Siakam and Marc Gasol, both of whom played poorly to begin the series. That happened as a handful of the Bucks’ other starters — All-Star Khris Middleton, Eric Bledsoe and Nikola Mirotic — went scoreless in the two overtimes and shot a combined 9 for 43 (21 percent) in Game 3.3Milwaukee got solid play from George Hill and Malcolm Brogdon, who scored a combined 44 points off the bench, while Raptors reserve Norm Powell had another great performance, with 19 points of his own.Arguably the biggest thing to focus on, outside of individual matchups, was that the Raptors were able to hold the Bucks’ transition game in check. Milwaukee had 26 transition points through the first three quarters, according ESPN Stats & Information, but then Toronto clamped down, surrendering just 5 more during the fourth quarter and the two overtimes combined. (In the two games the Raptors have either won or kept close this series, they’ve held Milwaukee to a reasonable effective field-goal rate of 56 percent or worse in transition, per Second Spectrum data. By contrast, the Bucks had an effective field-goal rate of 92.3 percent in the Game 2 rout.)But make no mistake: Leonard’s defense on Giannis slowed the Milwaukee star down and helped get Toronto on the board. And if that defensive performance proves to be repeatable, we could be looking at a long series instead of one that almost moved to 3-0 on Sunday.Check out our latest NBA predictions.
Shortly before the Ohio State men’s basketball team’s game against No. 6 Michigan State, it was revealed that starting forward Jae’Sean Tate would need shoulder surgery to end his season.Without its most consistent player available, many wondered how OSU would perform in a game it desperately needed to win in order to pad its marginal-at-best tournament résumé.As it turned out on Tuesday at the Schottenstein Center, the post-Tate Buckeyes resemble the team with the sophomore healthy: flashes of what it takes to get it done, but ultimately not there.The Spartans (23-5, 10-5) denied the Buckeyes (18-11, 10-6) that signature win it so badly needs with a blisteringly hot shooting performance. When the clock hit zero, the scoreboard read 81-62 in favor of the visitors.“Jae’Sean is kind of the heart and soul of this basketball team,” OSU coach Thad Matta said. “We challenged our guys, ‘Man down, we’ve got to man up.’ It is what it is.”Michigan State shot 14-of-22 from outside the 3-point arc on Tuesday, led by senior guards Bryn Forbes and Denzel Washington, who connected on seven and four triples, respectively.“They set great screens and they have tremendous pace on offense,” junior forward Marc Loving said on the Spartans’ 3-point prowess. “The screens were phenomenal to the point that they were getting a lot of open looks, and they were able to knock the shots down.”Despite the rather sizable difference in record and national perception, OSU hung tough with the Spartans throughout a highly competitive first half.The visitors were able to swell their lead to six points midway through the first half after a pair of jumpers, but the Buckeyes clawed back with a 7-0 run to briefly snatch a one-point lead. Seven points from Michigan State senior guard Denzel Valentine followed to get the lead back to six, but OSU managed to keep the game within reach at the break, 36-31.“I give Ohio State a lot of credit, considering they lose a guy the day of,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. “I know what that’s like, and it’s hard, and Thad did a hell of a job.”While the advantage on the scoreboard was short-lived, it had to be an encouraging opening 20 minutes for Matta’s squad against the sixth-ranked Spartans.In OSU’s previous game, a 65-62 overtime win at Nebraska, only four Buckeyes scored a point over the entire 45-minute duration. By the 12:50 mark of the first half on Tuesday, OSU had its fifth scorer in the books after a 3-pointer by Loving.However, those five scorers would be the only five in the first half for Matta. Freshmen Mickey Mitchell, Daniel Giddens and A.J. Harris combined for zero points on five missed shots, including a pair of airballs by Mitchell, who was inserted into the starting lineup for Tate.Loving led the Buckeyes with nine points at the half, as he continued to fight through his month-long shooting slump. He was followed by redshirt sophomore center Trevor Thompson with seven.On the other side, Valentine, a leading contender for national player of the year honors, had 12 first-half points to lead all scorers. He also chipped in four assists for the Spartans, who shot 44.8 percent to OSU’s 35.7 in the first act.“Valentine is, I think the best player in the country,” Matta said. “He does so much.”However, given that Michigan State was a scorching-hot 7-of-10 from outside in the first half but just 6-of-19 from inside the arc, OSU could reasonably believe the Spartans’ shooting would cool off, giving the Buckeyes a chance to take advantage and mount a comeback.That isn’t what happened out of the locker rooms. In fact, it was quite the opposite.Back-to-back 3-pointers by Forbes followed by a trio of baskets by senior forward Matt Costello and a fast-break layup gave Michigan State its largest lead up to that point of 10 just minutes into the second half. That lead continued to swell behind successful inside and outside games.That second-half charge was run by torrid shooting performance by Forbes, who made six of the eight 3-pointers he hoisted in the second half. Overall, the former Cleveland State transfer finished with 27 points on 9-of-14 shooting. After the game, Izzo said he bailed his team out and “played his tail off.”“First half, we did a good job playing hard, playing tough, then second half, when Bryn Forbes started hitting shots, I felt we just started hanging our heads,” freshman guard JaQuan Lyle said.While the Schottenstein Center crowd of 14,257 tried to will the Buckeyes back into the game, the combination of the Spartans’ hot shooting and OSU’s cold spell — the Buckeyes shot just 20 percent from outside in the second half — was too much to deal with.“They were making a lot of shots, and we couldn’t get one to fall,” Lyle said.Loving and Lyle were the high-scorers for the Scarlet and Gray with 19 and 16 points, respectively. OSU shot 45 percent in the second half, but a 64.3-percent performance over the final 20 minutes by the Spartans nullified any momentum that could create.Mitchell ended up failing to register a point in his first collegiate start in 21 minutes. It was the seventh consecutive game that the Plano, Texas, native failed to score a point.“We felt like Mickey is getting more and more experience, and he’s going to continue to grow,” Matta said on his decision to insert the freshman into the starting lineup.OSU will have two more chances to grab a victory over a top 10 team before Big Ten tournament play begins, as it is set to host No. 8 Iowa on Sunday before traveling to East Lansing, Michigan, for a rematch with the Spartans on March 5. The games are scheduled to start at 4 p.m. and noon, respectively. OSU student cheer during a game against Michigan State on Feb. 23 at the Schottenstein Center. Credit: Samantha Hollingshead | Photo Editor
OSU senior forward Christopher Soldat slides for the ball during the Buckeyes game against Akron on Oct. 26. Credit: Harrison Reber | For The LanternThe Ohio State men’s soccer team enters the Big Ten tournament this Sunday at 1 p.m., as they take on Wisconsin in the quarterfinals. The rematch in Madison will come just one week after the Buckeyes fell to the Badgers 2-1 in the final match of the regular season. “We have a week to prepare and talk about how we can do things differently but so do they,” OSU coach John Bluem said. “They won, so are they going to be overconfident? Are we going to have more motivation since we lost up there? It’s an interesting problem for both teams.”The Badgers were aggressive last time against the Buckeyes, outshooting OSU 15-3 in the opening period and taking a 2-0 lead as a result. The second half seemed to flip the field, as OSU outshot Wisconsin 12-4 and closed the gap by scoring a late goal. “Statistically, we outshot them and out-possessioned them and all that in the second half,” Bluem said. “For 25 minutes we had a man advantage, and that really gave us the opportunity to take over the game. Unfortunately, we were only able to come up with the one goal.”Wisconsin finished the season with a 10-3-3 record (4-2-2 Big Ten). They outscored their opponents 25-12 on the year, with an 8-0-1 record in Madison. The Badgers are led by midfielder Christopher Mueller. The junior Illinois-native has scored a team-high six goals through the team’s 16 games. Mueller also leads his team in assists with 10. Despite the wound remaining fresh from the recent defeat at the hands of Wisconsin, the Buckeyes are excited for the rematch. “Outside of our lackadaisical start, we really took it to them,” senior forward Christian Soldat said. “It was a real hard-fought game between two teams. It always feels great to get revenge on their field and knock them out and hopefully advance to the semifinals.”The team knows its only chance at making the NCAA tournament is to win the Big Ten tournament. For the seniors especially, they do not want the season to end this weekend. “Nobody wants it to be your last game,” senior forward Danny Jensen said. “Right now, a lot of it is on the shoulders of the seniors. We are the old guys who have been through it all. If the seniors step up, I think we should be pretty good.”The Buckeyes have won the Big Ten tournament three times (2000, 2007, 2009). They have an overall record of 18-20-2 in their 25 appearances in the tournament. OSU earned the No. 1 seed in last year’s tournament, advancing to the championship match before falling to Maryland 2-0 in Columbus. While this year’s team may not have had the type of season they had hoped, earning them the sixth seed, the Buckeyes are still extremely confident they have what it takes to win the championship. “There is no doubt that we have a chance to win this tournament,” Soldat said. “We have played every single game close to the chest and have had a chance to win every single game. With this team fighting hard and getting players back from injury, there is no doubt that we can make a run all the way and win.”
OSU then-redshirt junior quarterback J.T. Barrett (16) looks for room to run against Clemson during the Fiesta Bowl on Dec. 31. The Buckeyes lost 31-0. Credit: Alexa Mavrogianis | Photo EditorThe departure of both Ed Warriner and Tim Beck did not come as a surprise to most Ohio State football fans, after two lackadaisical seasons in a row and the goose egg laid by the Buckeyes against eventual national champion Clemson. The addition of Kevin Wilson as the new mastermind behind the offense for the Scarlet and Gray has been received warmly by most fans, but it has the players even more excited. On Sunday, members of the OSU football team were honored at the first media timeout of the Buckeyes men’s basketball game for their achievements in 2016. J.T. Barrett was honored for being named the best Big Ten player by the Chicago Tribune with the Silver Football Award.Last season Barrett, who will be returning for his redshirt senior season after choosing not to enter the NFL Draft, had a roller coaster type season. From starting the year as a potential Heisman trophy candidate, to finishing it with a raw quarterback rating of 36.1 against Michigan and 12.7 against Clemson, Barrett has had better years.Now, with Kevin Wilson at the helm, Barrett could very well return to the form he was in during his redshirt freshman season when he produced 45 total touchdowns. Wilson, known for a up-tempo offense and an air-it-out approach to the passing game, has been viewed as a welcome change in the eyes of Barrett.“Just something new,” Barrett said. “I think sometimes we get set in our ways, but change is also a good thing. Change is not always bad. I think it was needed.”Wilson has coached some notable quarterbacks who have finished their college careers with trophy cases full of accreditation. Sam Bradford and Landry Jones are the most notable, but all of his signal callers have a tendency to rack up plenty of yards. Bradford threw for 50 touchdowns during his only season under Wilson’s direction, and the chance to see Barrett under a quarterback’s mastermind has many OSU fans itching to see what the new-look offense will do during the Spring Game. Although his return to Columbus for his final season seemed a lock immediately following the Fiesta Bowl, Barrett said the hiring of Wilson was a big factor in his decision.“Just trying to make sure, that if I was going to come back that, it was something I was going to do that was best for me in order for me to help and grow as a quarterback,” Barrett said. “That was part of it.”Wilson had high praise for Barrett after the Buckeyes defeated Indiana 38-17.“In my opinion, from afar, I think that’s the best quarterback in college football,” Wilson said after the game. “Some of these guys have some stats, I’m not saying it because he’s in our league — I’m not a homer. When you watch that kid play, that kid and his unselfishness … he went through a lot. He was a premier player in the country two years ago when he got injured.”Billy Price, who is following in the footsteps of Pat Elflein and returning for his redshirt senior season and moving to center, will now be under his third offensive coaching staff since arriving on campus. Although, as a whole, OSU’s offensive line performed well, there were more than a few times where the unit looked confused, or like they were blocking the wrong schemes.Price admitted after the Fiesta Bowl loss he and the rest of the team understood what went wrong, but did not delve deeper into the subject. He, like Barrett, is welcoming the change Wilson is bringing.“The offensive philosophy is going to be different,” he said. “There’s things that are going to be a lot different than they were, and it’s a positive change. We’re just looking forward to once spring ball comes and we get to see those changes, and see what we’re actually going to be working with.”OSU kicks off the 2017 season with the Spring Game on April 15 at Ohio Stadium.
Senior wide receiver Devin Smith (9) hauls in a catch for a touchdown during a game against Illinois on Nov. 1 at Ohio Stadium. OSU won, 55-14 as Smith caught a pair of touchdowns from redshirt-freshman quarterback J.T. Barrett.Credit: Mark Batke / Photo editorIn its last matchup against the Michigan State Spartans, Ohio State completed just eight passes in a 34-24 loss in the Big Ten Championship Game.Entering Saturday’s rematch, senior tight end Jeff Heuerman said the passing game will be essential to pulling the upset over No. 7 Michigan State.“I think you have to throw it effectively. Throwing it effectively will open up the run game and vice versa, running it will open up the passing game,” he said Wednesday. “So I think they kind of work hand-in-hand.”In preparation for the Spartans, OSU coach Urban Meyer said he does not expect Michigan State to change its defense too drastically because of how talented it is.“I think any time you face a defense like this, there will be new adjustments,” Meyer said Tuesday during the Big Ten teleconference. “There will not be a new defense.”The Spartans boast the third-best defense in the Big Ten, allowing just 279.4 yards per game. They are led by redshirt-junior defensive lineman Shilique Calhoun who has been named a Chuck Bednarik and Lombardi award semifinalist along with OSU sophomore defensive lineman Joey Bosa.Senior wide receiver Devin Smith said Wednesday that while he believes the Spartan defense has improved, he doesn’t see much difference in its scheme.“We know that they like to blitz a lot, they like to play press so we are just going to try and take advantage there,” Smith said. “We have worked (on) a bunch of different things in practice so we are just looking to go out there and show it on Saturday.”Watching the Spartan defense has been a struggle for Smith, who said he is looking forward to Saturday.“I don’t really watch much of Michigan State this year just for the fact that what happened last year and they (are) kind of still on my mind,” Smith said Wednesday. “We want to hurry up and get to Saturday.”Smith went as far as to say that Saturday’s matchup is the biggest game he has played in during his career at OSU.“Probably No. 1 to be honest. With what happened last year and what we are going up against, and the circumstances that we are in, I thinks it’s right up there,” he said.While Smith is having trouble watching the film, fellow senior wide receiver Evan Spencer said Wednesday that he has seen things on the tape that he believes the Buckeye offense can take advantage of.“They have their certain things that we are going to try to exploit and I’m sure they do ours for their side of the ball,” Spencer said. “I think that we will be very successful as a receiver room and as an offense as a whole just because of our preparation and the way we have looked throughout the week.”Echoing Spencer, Smith said he believes taking shots downfield will be a way for OSU to open up its passing game.“I think that’s key. We just got to take every opportunity that we can and go in on Saturday and be ready,” Smith said.Taking chances downfield was something the Buckeyes couldn’t seem to do against the Spartans last year as they accumulated just 101 yards through the air.In an eerily similar circumstance, the Buckeyes completed just nine passes against Virginia Tech earlier this season, ultimately resulting in a 35-21 loss.While the quarterback is different this year for OSU, Smith said he believes redshirt-freshman J.T. Barrett will be ready for the challenge the Spartans will present.“He is taking it like it is just a regular game,” Smith said. “He knows what this game means to this whole program and he just came in here all week and just worked hard and he is ready.”In addition to his preparation, Meyer added that Barrett “looks great,” after suffering a sprained MCL in the first half against Penn State less than two weeks ago.Meyer also said that he reminded his players this week that Saturday’s matchup encapsulates why they came to OSU.“I just had a conversation with our players. This is why they are trained. Every second of everything we do in the program from off-season to summer conditioning to training camp, we are training you for moments like this,” Meyer said. “Compete for a championship in November.”The Buckeyes and Spartans are set to kick off in East Lansing, Mich., at 8 p.m.
Ohio State redshirt sophomore linebacker Justin Hilliard walks into the Hyatt Place to check in for fall camp on Aug. 6. Credit: Colin Hass-Hill | Sports EditorOhio State redshirt junior linebacker Justin Hilliard’s collegiate career has not gone the way he had hoped thus far.Hilliard, a former five-star linebacker out of high school and the highest-rated player in Ohio State’s 2015 recruiting class, has battled injuries since arriving on campus in the fall of 2015, suffering three bicep tears in three years.The injuries kept Hilliard sidelined more than he was healthy. The once-highly touted player has recorded just 18 total tackles in his career — most on special teams — and seemed buried in a talented depth chart.But this spring offered a new opportunity for Hilliard. Two starting linebackers departed for the NFL following the 2017 season and the only presumed starter — redshirt sophomore Tuf Borland — is sidelined until at least the fall with an Achilles injury.After being healthy for the first spring since he’s been at Ohio State, Hilliard now has a chance to earn meaningful playing time.“It means so much [to be healthy],” Hilliard said. “Just because I know what I’ve been through, just kind of pushing through that, some of the difficulties — not only physically but mentally. It means a lot to just be out here in the spring.”Linebackers coach Bill Davis said Hilliard was running with the ones at the middle linebacker position in practice, splitting reps with sophomore Baron Browning. His health has allowed him to finally take practice reps before the start of the season.Davis explained that while natural athletic ability matters, practice reps are invaluable, and Hilliard has had few chances in practice these past three years.“He missed a lot of reps with those injuries and I think people lose sight of that. But Justin Hilliard, right now, has had probably one of the better springs,” Davis said. “I’m not saying he’s behind right now. I’m saying he’s caught up. He’s caught up. Those injuries are why it took him awhile.”But despite the injuries that have sidelined him for the better part of three seasons, Hilliard doesn’t feel he’s missed a beat. He feels he’s every bit the five-star athlete he was coming out of high school — and then some.“I feel like I’m so much further than I was in high school,” Hilliard said. “Mentally. Physically, I feel like I’m further too.”Hilliard said the injuries were to his arms and didn’t affect his overall athleticism.“All my injuries had nothing to do with my legs,” Hilliard said. “I feel like I haven’t slowed down a bit.”Spring practice concluded with no clear leader at any of the linebacker positions, meaning Hilliard’s battle for playing time is not over yet. But he’s pleased with where he’s at and is proud of everything he’s already overcome.“Just looking back on the journey I’ve been through,” Hilliard said, “I still have a long way to go, but just looking back, I’m appreciative of all the things I’ve been through and overcame.”
Show more A police force has deleted social media posts about Islamophobia Awareness Month after users pointed out its logo was similar to a hand gesture popular with Islamic State militants.Bedfordshire Police tweeted their support for the annual campaign, led by charity Muslim Engagement and Development (Mend), on Tuesday afternoon but removed them on Wednesday.The logo features a hand with the index finger pointing upwards, a favoured gesture of followers of IS, also known as Isis, in propaganda photographs. 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. “As a consequence and to avoid offence, Bedfordshire Police has deleted these posts and will not tolerate Islamophobia or any other form of hatred or discrimination.” A spokesman added: “We had a number of people point it out and we have removed it. I could not tell you what faith they came from.” Credit:PA The one-fingered gesture has long been used by different Muslim groups to signify their belief there is only one God, but it has latterly been adopted by Islamic State in Iraq and Levant (Isil).The police force said: “It has come to our attention the pointing finger logo used to illustrate social media posts around Islamophobia Awareness Month is similar to that used by Isis. The logo was produced by a national charity and was used in good faith.