Whats Wrong With Stephen Curry

1992Michael Jordan59.734.75.08.326.4 1985Larry Bird54.023.08.35.018.4 2016Stephen Curry58.916.05.04.38.7 1987Magic Johnson63.127.78.014.032.2 2008Kobe Bryant54.530.04.75.019.9 2000Shaquille O’Neal58.938.718.73.031.7 1991Michael Jordan62.532.78.011.330.7 1989Magic Johnson56.711.73.78.013.0 1997Karl Malone48.026.712.72.318.5 2001Allen Iverson47.635.37.04.321.4 2013LeBron James44.116.712.37.316.2 1993Charles Barkley53.329.014.34.322.7 1984Larry Bird55.427.011.33.321.0 YEARPLAYERTS%PTSREBASTGAME SCORE 1996Michael Jordan58.731.05.35.023.7 1986Larry Bird55.325.710.310.326.0 1994Hakeem Olajuwon50.924.79.34.019.7 TS% = True Shooting PercentageSource: Basketball-Reference.com Best performances by regular-season MVPs through 3 games of the NBA Finals (1984-present) PER-GAME AVERAGE 2015Stephen Curry52.724.05.36.314.4 1998Michael Jordan53.031.33.72.321.1 2012LeBron James55.730.310.34.022.5 As bad as the Cleveland Cavaliers looked going down 2-0 against the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals, the tables were turned in Cleveland’s 120-90 Game 3 rout. Just about everything that had gone poorly for the Cavs in the series’ first two games — from horrific shooting to porous defense — reversed itself, proving once again how hard it is for one NBA team to dominate another consistently at this stage of the playoffs.The Dubs probably shouldn’t fret too much over the 30-point loss; our prediction model still gives Golden State a 77 percent chance of winning the series in the end. But if there is a source of concern for Warriors fans, it might be the ongoing struggles of the team’s best player, league MVP and offensive demigod Stephen Curry.During the regular season, Curry averaged a Game Score (John Hollinger’s method for gauging a player’s performance in any given outing) of 24.6, which led all NBA players. He cracked a Game Score of 20 — and I should note that the scale for Game Score is a lot like points per game, so 20 (games like this or this for Steph) is the benchmark for a good performance — 57 times in 79 appearances, and was held below 10 (like this) only four times.In these NBA Finals, however, Curry is averaging 16 points, 5 rebounds and 4.3 assists in 30.7 minutes per game, and hasn’t broken 20 in Game Score even once, though he’s dipped to single digits twice in three games. In fact, his 8.7 average Game Score for the series is easily the worst three-game start to an NBA Finals by a league MVP since at least 1984:1That’s the first season for which Basketball-Reference.com has Game Score data from every game. 2003Tim Duncan55.524.016.05.323.7 The Cavs are slightly better than the typical finals opponent that an MVP faces — at least according to the Elo ratings, our pet metric for estimating team strength — but strength of schedule only explains a fraction of Curry’s statistical downturn.In the finals thus far, Curry’s famous ability to create and make shots he has no business knocking down has been on the fritz. First, he’s “only” shooting for an effective field goal percentage (eFG%) 9 points higher than we’d expect based on the quality of his shots, a subpar showing by his usual standards. (He hit for an eFG% 13 points higher than expected during the regular season, tops in the NBA.) And about that shot quality: According to player-tracking data, the Cavs’ defense has also forced Curry into his fifth-worst three-game stretch of shot selection all season long.Curry’s game revolves around his shooting, so any dip there will have an outsize impact on his effectiveness. But perhaps more than the drop-off in shot making and shot quality when Curry’s number does get called, the Warriors have suffered because he simply hasn’t been able to make many plays for himself or others these past three games. Curry has seen both his usage and assist rates drop precipitously in the finals, and his turnovers are through the roof — more than double his regular-season average, on a per-possession basis.Is it all about Cleveland’s D? Well, Curry has been guarded most frequently by Kyrie Irving, one of the weakest defensive guards in the league, but the Cavs have also switched Irving off of Curry on plenty of screens, in favor of more capable defenders such as LeBron James, Iman Shumpert, Richard Jefferson and even Tristan Thompson (at least on one memorable contested step-back in Game 3). But just as much of Curry’s weak performance in the finals thus far can also be pinned on his own poor decision-making and a lack of support from teammates, like on this ill-fated drive:The good news for Golden State is that Curry has bounced back from games worse than Wednesday night’s in these very playoffs. And Game 3 aside, the Warriors have often been well-rounded enough in these finals not just to beat Cleveland but to rout them, despite down performances from Curry. But even if it’s just with an eye towards the series MVP derby — will Steph really post two league MVP-NBA championship doubles with zero finals MVPs? — it’s an open question whether Curry will be able to regain his usual form down the home stretch of the series.Check out our latest NBA predictions. read more

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Should Jets Stick With Mark Sanchez Over Tim Tebow

Changes might be coming for the New York Jets.Mark Sanchez losing his starting job won’t be among them.Rex Ryan again stood by his quarterback Monday despite Sanchez’s struggles in an ugly mistake-filled 30-9 loss to the Miami Dolphins on Sunday that left the Jets coach searching for answers and fans chanting for Tim Tebow to take over.“I think Mark’s our guy,” Ryan said. “I don’t think there’s any doubt about that. I’m confident in Mark.”There’s no question, though, that the Jets (3-5) need to figure things out, and quick. They have games at Seattle and St. Louis after their bye-week break, followed by a home game on Thanksgiving night against New England.Ryan originally planned to have the players report to the facility on Monday and Tuesday, but decided to give them the full week off to be with their families and prepare for Hurricane Sandy.“I want them to get away and when they come back, we have to be all in,” Ryan said during a conference call. “The only chance we have is if we are 100 percent all in. We have no wiggle room. We need to start playing a ton better.”Ryan will brainstorm with his coaches this week before they take a few days off, and he expects suggestions on how to fix “everything” from everyone on his staff.“Is it a little change? Is it a radical change?” Ryan said. “I’m up for anything.”While Tebow won’t be the solution as the full-time quarterback, Ryan acknowledged that he’ll explore how the versatile backup can be used more on offense after seeing minimal playing time during the season’s first half. Tebow has played in just 54 offensive plays, averaging less than seven per game.“I think we’ll take a hard look at how we’re using him, what we’re asking him to do,” Ryan said. “Are there other things we can do with him? I think you’re absolutely right. We will definitely look at that.” Read more:  WSJ read more

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Ricky Hatton Calls It Quits After Vyacheslav Senchenko Loss

Ricky Hatton, a former two-weight world champion, has announced his retirement for a second time after his comeback defeat to 35-year-old Vyacheslav Senchenko Saturday night.The 34-year-old Hatton previously announced his retirement in July of 2011, but had not fought since 2009. Hatton wanted to see if he could still compete in the sport that he loved.“I needed one more fight to see if I had still got it – and I haven’t” he said. “I couldn’t have done any better.”Hatton started the fight aggressively, but as the match progressed fatigue began to set in and he began to let his guard down. A body shot delivered by Senchenko to Hatton’s ribs in the ninth-round ended the fight and he knew his career was done.“A fighter knows and I know it isn’t there anymore,” Hatton said. “I have got to be a man and say it is the end of Ricky Hatton.”Hatton admitted after the fight that he was in the best shape he could be in, but even if the hit to body would not have occurred, he would have barely been able to finish the fight.“It’s too many hard fights, I’ve burned the candle at both ends, I’ve put my body through the mire in and out of the ring,” he said.This is Hatton’s second disappointing defeat. He was knocked out in his previous fight by Manny Pacquiao in Las Vegas in 2009 and retired following the loss.After the Saturday night defeat, Hatton said he accomplished his goal by seeing if he could mount a comeback without being eliminated in the early rounds.“I have got the answers I needed,” Hatton said. “I can look at myself in the mirror and tell myself I did my best.”Matthew Macklin, the former European middleweight champion, feels Hatton made the right decision.“It is the right thing to do,” Macklin told BBC Sport. “He was a shadow of his former self on Saturday night.”Hatton’s career has had a lasting impression on Macklin and boxing community. Macklin said that instead of mourning his loss, that his career should be celebrated.“We should talk about how good he was,” Macklin said. “He is one of the greatest British fighters, certainly one of the most exciting, and he is a former two-time world champion.”Hatton ends his career with a lifetime of record of 45-3. read more

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Is Vegas Underrating The Warriors

2013Heat66-16✔ 1997Bulls69-13✔ 1987Lakers65-17✔ 2011Bulls62-20 1994Sonics63-19 1992Bulls67-15✔ 2004Pacers61-21 2008Celtics66-16✔ Our NBA playoff projections, which are based on a version of Jeremias Engelmann and Steve Ilardi’s Real Plus-Minus ratings (RPM), give the Golden State Warriors a 48 percent chance of winning the NBA title. Other statistical systems hold the Dubs in similarly high regard: The playoff probabilities at Basketball-Reference.com give them a 47 percent chance of winning a ring, and John Hollinger’s playoff odds put their chances at 38 percent.Gambling markets are more skeptical of Golden State. According to PredictWise, which compiles odds from Betfair and removes the “vig” (house cut), bettors have the Warriors with a 27 percent chance to win the title. And a number of sportsbooks consider LeBron James’s Cleveland Cavaliers to be the title favorites.So here’s a gut-check. The Warriors, with a 67-15 regular-season record, are the top overall seed and will have home-court advantage throughout the playoffs. How often does the top overall seed1That is, the team with the best regular-season record, plus whatever tiebreakers apply. win the title?The answer — since the NBA expanded the playoffs to 16 teams in 1984 — is 45 percent of the time, almost exactly the chances RPM assigns to the Warriors. The top seed has won 14 titles in 31 attempts. 2012Spurs50-16 2001Spurs58-24 2000Lakers67-15✔ 2006Pistons64-18 YEARTEAMREGULAR-SEASON RECORDWON TITLE 2005Suns62-20 1990Lakers63-19 1991Blazers63-19 2003Spurs60-22✔ 2007Mavericks67-15 2002Kings61-21 2010Cavaliers61-21 1986Celtics67-15✔ 1998Jazz62-20 1984Celtics62-20✔ 1989Pistons63-19✔ And the Warriors, with 67 wins, are better than your average top seed. Since 1984, nine other top seeds have finished within two games of the Warriors’ regular-season win total (somewhere between 65 and 69 wins). Those teams went 7 for 9 in winning titles. In contrast to the single-elimination NCAA basketball tournament, the best-of-seven format in the NBA playoffs has historically allowed elite teams to rise to the top.We certainly do not recommend you naively trust statistical systems ahead of the handicappers. Vegas is really tough to beat. Gamblers can account for all the information in systems like RPM — plus whatever other data they think is relevant, like postseason experience or how teams match up with one another or the San Antonio Spurs beating the odds again and again.Still, we’re a little more likely to give credence to complex systems like RPM when they’re also able to pass simple gut-checks like this one. 1985Celtics63-19 1996Bulls72-10✔ 2014Spurs62-20✔ 1988Lakers62-20✔ 1999Spurs37-13✔ 1995Spurs62-20 2009Cavaliers66-16 1993Suns62-20 read more

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Ohio State womens volleyball looking to end Wisconsins winning streak

OSU sophomore outside hitter Luisa Schirmer (5) during a game against Purdue on Oct. 16 at St. John Arena. Credit: Christopher Slack, Lantern PhotographerThe first time the Ohio State women’s volleyball team took on Wisconsin this season, it was looking to get even after falling to the Badgers in the NCAA tournament last year.This go-around, the No. 16 Buckeyes (22-7, 11-6) are looking to end No. 10 Wisconsin’s (21-6, 13-4) nine-game winning streak — which began nearly a month ago on Oct. 23 — in Madison on Sunday at 2 p.m.The Badgers have been particularly tough on their home floor, boasting an 11-2 record in the Wisconsin Field House this season.“We’ve got to remind ourselves that we’re pretty good,” OSU coach Geoff Carlston said. “But on the road in the Big Ten, you have to find another level and really circle the wagons together.”A number of players have helped fuel Wisconsin’s hot streak, but at the center of it all is junior setter Lauren Carlini, a 2014 first-team All-American and a preseason all-Big Ten selection.Carlini currently ranks first in the conference and seventh in the country in assists per set (11.78). The last two weeks, she’s been named the Big Ten’s setter of the week, an award she’s won six times in her college career.Sophomore outside hitter Luisa Schirmer said simply hitting the ball at Carlini can be effective in getting the Badgers out of rhythm.“A lot of times, you think of playing it at her, taking them out of system, taking her out of being able to set the ball and run the offense,” she said.The Buckeyes also want to “serve tough and get them out of system so we can read her easier,” sophomore defensive specialist Kalisha Goree said.Getting better at the service line has been a point of emphasis for Carlston’s team in recent weeks, and he’s starting to see some improvement.“We’re having moments, we’ve just got to do more of them and be a little bit more consistent,” he said.Carlston’s squad will not only have its hands full in dealing with one of the nation’s top setters but will also have to defend against one of the better blocking teams in the country, led by freshman middle blocker Tionna Williams (1.32 blocks per set) and junior middle blocker Haleigh Nelson (1.27).Against the third-best blocking team in the conference, Carlston is looking for some better play from his offense, which has gone through cold spells at times during the last month.“We’re getting a little predictable in terms of where we’re hitting the ball,” he said. “We’ve got to change up our shots and mix up what we’re giving teams.”Building postseason momentumIn the latest RPI rankings, OSU came in at No. 10, which leaves it in good standing to be one of the 16 teams to host the opening rounds of the NCAA tournament.With only three games left in the regular season, OSU is trying to close the season out strong, not only to get home-court advantage in the first two rounds of the tournament but also to build some momentum going into the postseason.“Every single team in the country is trying to do that right now and just figure themselves out before going into the tournament,” Goree said.The Buckeyes have won just four of their last nine matches, but they’re hoping Wednesday’s road win over Iowa is what they needed to get back on track.“We’ve had a little lull, but I think we’re building it up and we’re getting our team confidence back,” Schirmer said.What’s next?OSU is set to play its final regular season game away from St. John Arena when it travels to meet Big Ten-leading Minnesota, which defeated the Buckeyes in five sets in each team’s conference opener on Sept. 23. The Wednesday match is scheduled to begin at 8 p.m. read more

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Meyer addresses new talent and expectations in morning session of Big Ten

Urban Meyer (far left) joins other coaches of the Big Ten conference for photos at the 2016 Big Ten Media Days. Credit: Courtesy of Colin Hass-Hill | Lantern TV assistant sports directorCHICAGO — After offering his condolence to both the Nebraska and Michigan State football programs following the tragedy that befell both teams, Ohio State coach Urban Meyer got right down to business addressing his 2016 squad.Meyer opened his first media session of the day by discussing the magnitude of the departure of players the Buckeyes sustained after the end of the 2015 season. Many of the lost players were in starting roles. Only six total starters from last season, three on each side of the ball, will be suiting up with the Scarlet and Gray this fall.“Forty-four of our players, which is over half of our scholarships, are kids that never played in a game,” Meyer said. “So we have to get them ready. So our practices are going to be much different.”All six returning members for OSU are battle tested, with all three returning starters on offense competing in the 2014 national championship run for OSU. Junior cornerback Gareon Conley played in 13 games last year, junior linebacker Raekwon McMillan blossomed into one of the top linebackers in the nation in 2015, and fourth-year junior defensive end Tyquan Lewis led the team in sacks.Fresh on the minds of many, Meyer fielded the question that most individuals in attendance were curious about; if Bri’onte Dunn has any chance of coming back.“There is no chance,” Meyer said. With Dunn gone, Meyer said he will include both junior Curtis Samuel and senior Dontre Wilson as candidates for the backfield role. In terms of legitimate running backs on the team, the fifth-year OSU coach seems to be leaning towards redshirt freshman Mike Weber as his go-to guy this season.“I think so. His performance in spring, his issue is he has to stay healthy.” Meyer said after being asked if Weber would start in 2016. “I like where he’s at. I don’t like, I love where he’s at as far as the physical condition he’s in.”Weber will have a tall task in front of him trying to fill the void left by Ezekiel Elliott. The Cass Tech High School graduate had a solid spring game performance, and his impressed his coaches and peers alike. With fifth-year senior center Pat Elflein and fourth-year junior guard Billy Price at the lead of the offensive line, the remaining positions in the trenches are up for grabs. However, Meyer hinted towards the role of a true freshman in a vital role.“I can’t wait to watch our offensive line. Michael Jordan is probably going to be — a true freshman — will be in our starting lineup.” Meyer said. “From what I’ve seen, his development since he got here in January is outstanding.”Meyer also raved about the talent of his receiving unit coming into the year, saying they are “as good as we’ve had.” Players expected to take on starting roles, redshirt sophomore Noah Brown and sixth-year senior Corey Smith, are both coming off of injuries last year.“Talent shouldn’t be an issue. It’s consistent performance and playing when it’s showtime is going to be key.” Meyer said.Meyer unaware of Franklin’s commentsWhen asked about the criticism Penn State coach James Franklin had on the recruiting of OSU and Michigan and how it impacted the recruiting of the Nittany Lions, Meyer had little to say. Franklin spoke to the Reading (Pennsylvania) Eagle last month, and claimed OSU, Michigan and Michigan State negatively recruited against Penn State. Meyer was clearly shocked by the statements when asked about the claims and if the Buckeyes were intentionally impacting Penn State recruiting.“Absolutely not, and that’s the first time I’ve heard of that,” Meyer said. “I’ll address that with coach Franklin if that is an issue. That’s a pretty strong allegation that I’ve not heard yet.”Franklin told FOX Sports that his words were misinterpreted, and that two separate quotes were combined into one to create the allegation against OSU and other programs. read more

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Dotting the i Offensive line doing just fine according to OSU

The Buckeye offensive linemen run practice drills before the first game of the 2016 season against Bowling Green on Sept. 3 at Ohio Stadium. The Buckeyes _ 77-10. Credit: Mason Swires | Assistant Photo EditorCo-offensive coordinators Tim Beck and Ed Warinner received criticism from across the Ohio State fan base following a disappointing offensive showing against Penn State. Occasional vanilla play calling mixed with receivers not getting open, a lack of a clean pocket for redshirt junior quarterback J.T. Barrett and only two touches for junior H-back Curtis Samuel were all grounds for fan panic on Saturday.Although the team still finds itself at No. 6 in the latest AP poll, the Buckeyes looked vulnerable across the offensive front last Saturday. While a change might seem to be imminent, OSU coach Urban Meyer said the team is keeping the same look moving forward. “I don’t think we played our best game,” he said. “Conversations about any personnel changes usually go on today. I don’t foresee that. But we need to improve.”Notably, sophomore right tackle Isaiah Prince struggled against James Franklin’s defense, failing to bend his knees and react to twists from defensive ends and linebackers. So far this season, Prince had been performing at a high level, and looked as though he was filling in well as a starter.All that progress seemed to come crumbling down in State College, Pennsylvania, as the sophomore had an extremely tough go. Regardless of the struggles, redshirt junior guard Billy Price said he would stand by his teammate no matter what, and ripping on Prince would solve none of the Buckeyes problems.“It’s not attack Isaiah by any means, because I’ll go to war for him right now,” Price said. “I have no problem with it. I won’t sit here and allow someone to knit-pick him. He and I, we’re going to get better. There’s no doubt about it.”In all, OSU allowed well over 10 hurries along with six sacks, both numbers well above the season average. After keeping defenses at bay for most of the season, the Buckeyes had a proverbial leak from Wisconsin turn into a flood against Penn State in terms of pass rush.The problem with sacks has come mostly on the road. This year, OSU allows just a half a sack per game while at Ohio Stadium. However on the road, as the team was against Penn State, the Buckeyes surrendered three sacks per contest.Redshirt senior center Pat Elflein said this week has been all about righting wrongs and doing a better job at creating a solid pocket while also creating wide-open running lanes for the running backs.He also said the team has not focused on just the sack issue, but anything the coaches and the offensive line could think of, and said there were a few things the team could take away from the loss.“Just really focus on the details and remembering what it took to get our program to the way it is,” Elflein said. “And not taking that stuff for granted; the way we prepare, the way we practice. Everything, all the little things.”Warinner said the problems are spread across the entire offensive line, and not just with Prince. He extended the challenge of improvement to his entire team, as well as singling out “The Slobs” for a rough game.“Everybody needs to get better,” Warinner said. “Isaiah’s working on the things he needs to get better at. We’ve addressed those, and he’s not the only person that has areas that they need to improve. We just didn’t do enough good things.”Although the team has been criticized for its lack of production for multiple weeks, Meyer remained adamant that there would be no personnel changes or offensive overhauls. In his mind, the problems are all about execution.The Buckeyes’ coach said a losing performance and a poor showing is sometimes necessary for the team to grow.“Life lessons and football lessons are learned,” he said. “As a coach you really enjoy watching guys grow up obviously. Get kicked in the teeth, you don’t enjoy that. But that’s also part of the game.” read more

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Sluggish start a distant memory for Ohio State hockey team

Consistency and composure have been key for the resurgence of the men’s hockey team.Through their first 20 games, the Buckeyes fell short of lofty pre-season expectations, and the team stumbled into winter break searching for answers. But given a chance to recharge the batteries, the Buckeyes returned to practice with a renewed vigor.“I want to think we’re not the same team we were in the first half [of the season],” coach John Markell said. “So far we’re proving that. We’re being the team we can be.” Markell credits some of the Buckeyes’ first half struggles to injuries.“People think we didn’t sustain big injuries. We did,” Markell explained. “We are finally dressing the team we thought we had and that team is starting to play up to their capabilities.”Having a healthy squad has brought stability, experience and composure, which has led to instant results. Since the Buckeyes have returned from their midseason break, they have won three of their four conference games and four of five overall. This after a first half in which the team won only five of 14 conference games.“I feel like we’re setting a pace that is pretty good,” assistant captain Sergio Somma said. “We’re playing more consistent than we were before the break and we feel pretty good about that.”The Buckeyes will need to remain consistent as they host No. 10 Ferris State this weekend. It is the second straight week the Buckeyes will face a Top 10 opponent. The team just returned home from visiting then No. 10 Michigan State.Ferris swept the Buckeyes in the teams’ first series this year in Big Rapids, Mich. “In their building, they had momentum,” Markell said. “The crowd got into it and our guys got a little intimidated. Our emotions got the best of us.”The Buckeyes had built a 4-1 lead in the second game of the series but were unable to hold on. “We took a couple of bad penalties at the wrong time,” Markell said. Those penalties allowed Ferris State to get back into the game and eventually win 6-5 in overtime.The Buckeyes’ increased composure has helped them to avoid similar penalties and allowed the team to remain poised in tough situations. One such situation emerged last Saturday, when the Buckeyes were in East Lansing, Mich. The Buckeyes surrendered a game-tying goal with just 10 minutes remaining in the third period. Somma said despite losing the lead, the team was able to remain calm and continue to play its game.“We felt like we were playing well and working hard, and if we kept playing the bounces would go our way,” Somma said. The bounces did go the Buckeyes’ way as they went on to score two goals in the final 1:07 to win 4-2.Afterward, players said their ability to not lose focus after Michigan State tied them was key in earning the victory. “We did a lot better job controlling our emotions,” Markell said. The Buckeyes’ ability to keep their emotions in check is something they obviously lacked the first time they met Ferris State.“After the first half of the year, the guys are doing a better job of playing for each other,” Markell said. “The finer points of the game are where we seem to be coming together. But that will be tested this weekend, and we hope the good parts of our game will test Ferris State.”The Buckeyes face off with Ferris State Friday and Saturday at 7:05 p.m. at the Schottenstein Center. read more

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Ohio State womens volleyball targets Illinois upset

Beating No. 21 Illinois Friday at Huff Hall won’t break open any bottles of champagne, but getting a victory against an opponent that swept them last year in the regular season and in the NCAA Tournament would be a good start to this weekend’s Big Ten games for the No. 19 Ohio State women’s volleyball team. For the second consecutive weekend, OSU will face another daunting challenge on the road, as they travel to Illinois Saturday and then to Northwestern on Saturday. The Buckeyes will try to improve their 11-5 overall record. Instead of a game plan more focused on their defense and how to stop their opponents this weekend, the Buckeyes are switching their mentality to what they can do to become a better unit on the court. “Well, for this week, I feel like a lot of times in preseason and in previous game plans, we have always been focusing on how we can stop the other team, such as what can we do to put up like a strategic block, or what can we do for defense,” said freshman middle blocker Andrea Kacsits. “This time, I feel like this weekend is more revolving around what can we do to make our game better, on our side of the court no matter what happens on the other side of the court. I feel like our game plan focuses more on us and less on them.” While Illinois boasts just an 8-6 record, the Illini defeated the Buckeyes three times last season and could present a similar challenge this weekend. Illinois features a potent offense that is led by redshirt freshman outside hitter Jocelynn Birks and sophomore outside hitter Liz McMahon, while their defense is anchored by senior middle blocker Erin Johnson, who notched her 400th career block in a lost against then-No. 13 Purdue. Patience will be a key, coach Geoff Carlston said, in how to slow down a high-octane offense that Illinois likes to run. “They run a very pragmatic, controlled offense, so our group needs to be patient and be ready for long rallies,” Carlston said. “(Birks) is solid for sure. We need to be aware where she is at all times and be disciplined in our digging lanes.” Defense will also play a huge factor for the Buckeyes, but players feel that they are ready for the big, physical lineup Illinois will present. “I feel like we’re going to be really prepared. It’s going to be our second away weekend in the Big Ten, so I think were ready,” said junior defensive specialist Julianne Mandolfo. “Illinois is always a huge team, so they have, like, big pin hitters and our back rows are going to be ready for that.” Specifically for those two hitters in Birks and McMahon, Mandolfo further explained on the preparations they have worked on to make sure they keep them in check. “We have been preparing with the pins, like you said with two hitters, and basically just all-out defense,” Mandolfo said. “With our front row block and our back row picking up the lanes behind.” The Buckeyes will also be playing against Northwestern, who are 12-3 overall, at Welsh-Ryan Arena. One of the concerns Carlston has for this matchup is how different this team is from Illinois. “The second night is challenging when you have two teams that are so different,” Carlston said. “Our focus has to be on Illinois, but we will be ready for the Wildcats on Saturday.” While Illinois’ offense is led by their two outside hitters, Northwestern is different, as they are lead by their senior setter Madalyn Shalter. According to Mandolfo, the game plan against the Wildcats will stay relatively the same, but with a new twist. “Just working mostly on our offense, and for Northwestern, we’re going to get our offense involved a lot, try some new players and new people in the front row,” Mandolfo said. Whether it is against ranked or unranked opponents, conference or non-conference games, one of the most important things is to be mentally prepared, Kacsits said. “Being mentally prepared I feel like is our biggest thing because a lot of times, and for me specifically, I can get so caught up in the game that it’s chaos for me,” Kacsits said. “My coaches have been working really hard to make sure that I slow things down. I think that can go for all of my teammates as well, that we need to keep the game slow. We need to figure out what they’re doing on the other side, so we can make the right decisions.” With the team’s focus and energy mostly geared toward this weekend, players still had some time to think about how it felt to move up three spots in the latest NCAA women’s volleyball rankings to No. 19 in the country. “It feels really exciting,” Mandolfo said. “I have never been on a team that has been in the top 20, so right now we need to maintain it. Every game is a huge game, so if we keep winning than were going to keep moving up.” For Carlston, his team moving up in the rankings goes back to how tough their schedule is. “It says a great deal about the strength of our schedule so far,” Carlston said. “We have played five matches against top 10 opponents, and 10 of our 16 have been against Top 25 teams in the nation.” Kacsits reflected her coach’s answer and really elaborated that records don’t tell the whole story. “Well, honestly, I feel like the record doesn’t even matter,” Kacsits said. “It’s like, of course it matters, but it’s the game that we lost, we didn’t lose by much. To the teams we lost to, like Minnesota for instance, we made maybe five or six unforced errors and we lost to them 25-23 in every set.” Kacsists said she knows this team has potential, and it is up to them to realize what they can accomplish as a team. “So it’s like we have the potential to be in the top 10, we just have to work through that thing,” she said. “That is what the season is for, that is what this is for and that’s what we are working for. Hopefully, we can be in the top 10 soon.” read more

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Mildmannered Braxton Miller for 2012 Heisman Trophy

Campaign season isn’t over yet – not as far as college football is concerned, anyway. Americans are digging political lawn signage out of their front lawns, but college football fans are digging in for what could be a contentious and heated Heisman Trophy debate. Many pundits claim that Kansas State senior quarterback Collin Klein is the frontrunner for college football’s top honor. Others are riding the wave of positive momentum that Oregon senior running back Kenjon Barner provided after his 321-yard, five-touchdown performance last Saturday against USC. I propose a new deal. America needs an Ohio State player back on stage at the New York Downtown Athletic Club hoisting the Heisman Trophy. Buckeye sophomore quarterback Braxton Miller is the man to do it. Just look at Miller’s record, err, statistics. The quarterback has served Buckeye Nation admirably, completing 124-of-218 passes for 1,753 passing yards and 14 touchdowns. Diversity is important for any candidate in an election – candidates must be well-versed in many different subjects and issues. Miller is as diverse as it gets in college football – after the ball is snapped to him in the shotgun formation, can anyone really say for sure what he’ll do with the ball? He’s as likely to zip a pinpoint-accurate pass into a receiver (like he did during Saturday’s 52-22 win against Illinois) as he is to take over the game with his feet (such as he did against Nebraska on Oct. 6 when he ran for a career-best 186 yards). Favorable rankings based on his statistics are surely a sign of Miller’s zeal for country – he ranks 15th in America with more than 116 rushing yards per game. He’s also just the third quarterback in the history of the Big Ten Conference – the conference of America’s heartland – to rush for 1,000 yards in a season. Miller’s well-rounded: He ranks 22nd nationally in total offense with 291.9 yards per game. He’s modest, too. During a Tuesday teleconference, OSU football’s humble signal-caller said he tried to avoid thinking about personal accolades. “I really don’t pay attention to that,” Miller said. “I try not to talk about it, I don’t really like talking about myself.” Shy though he may be, Miller will lead, and said as much on Monday. “(I think it’s my) leadership,” Miller said of his improvement from the 2011 season to present day. “Coming from last year, I didn’t really know how to take that role. But this year I’m building on it and getting better at it each and every week.” His leadership shines through in his rushing ability. Compared to his opponents, Miller is a responsible rusher whereas players like Klein are wasteful. Miller has rushed for 468 more yards than Klein on just 45 more carries. Miller takes the ball for 6.3 yards per carry. Barner has run for more yards on fewer carries than Miller – 1,295 yards on 179 carries – but he isn’t versatile like OSU’s fearless leader. Miller has accounted for 27 touchdowns through the air and on the ground. A pundit’s “logic” might suggest that a quarterback whose team is banned from the postseason is a pariah, that no Heisman voter would touch him. Minus the chance to pad his stats in a conference championship game, they say, Miller’s resume will be lacking. Defy that logic at every turn and, with clear eyes and full hearts, give credit to this most deserving Heisman candidate. As former U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt might say, Miller is the man in the arena, in a literal sense as well as the way which he originally intended when he spoke the words on April 23, 1910. As Roosevelt said, the credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena -a man who spends himself in a worthy cause. The 2012 season is Miller’s worthy cause, and his performance is more than worthy of the Heisman. If Miller fails, he’ll do so daring greatly, but his daring should be recognized by voters and rewarded. The choice for the 2012 Heisman Trophy is simple: It’s Miller, stupid. read more

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