Last Tuesday, I crunched some numbers on which NCAA men’s tournament coaches exceeded expectations the most since the tourney expanded to 64 teams in 1985, based on their teams’ seeds at the start of the tournament. Perhaps not surprisingly, Michigan State coach Tom Izzo ruled all, with his Spartans winning 14.6 more games than would be expected based on the way they were seeded. And after Izzo won two more games over the weekend to secure the Spartans’ seventh Final Four bid under his watch, we thought we’d update the numbers1With a slight tweak to the SRS adjustment that forces the sum of each tournament’s field-wide expected wins to equal 63. to reflect the latest results.Izzo is still No. 1 of course, with 16.2 wins above expectation now (after adding in his two wins over the weekend, plus Michigan State’s expected future wins according to the FiveThirtyEight tournament predictions), while the coach he beat in the East Regional final, Rick Pitino, ranks second since ’85.Two of Izzo’s fellow Final Four coaches also rank among the top 10. John Calipari of Kentucky (whom the Spartans could face for the national championship in a week) places third. And Mike Krzyzewski, whose Duke Blue Devils will play Michigan State on Saturday, ranks 10th. Wisconsin’s Bo Ryan may seem like the odd man out, but Ryan’s teams have still exceeded expectations — though only by 2.7 wins over his career, which ranks 31st since 1985.
Few colleges had more success in the first decade of this century than the University of Texas, whose football and men’s basketball programs regularly brushed shoulders with the nation’s elite. But what’s been happening in recent years has been nothing short of bewildering.With Mack Brown at the helm, the football team won 158 games in 16 seasons, for a win percentage of .767. That span included the Longhorns’ famous undefeated season of 2005, when Vince Young helped defeat USC and win the school’s first undisputed national title in 35 years. On the court, the Rick Barnes-era was the most successful in the school’s history. Barnes won 402 games in 17 seasons, for a win rate of .691, and took the Longhorns to their first Final Four in 56 years. Under Brown and Barnes, who both coached their first game for the Longhorns in 1998, the University of Texas represented dominance and stability. But after the football team fell to 4-5 on the season under Tom Herman last Saturday and with the men’s basketball team set to open its new season on Friday coming off of an 11-22 record last year, it’s the women’s basketball and volleyball teams keeping the Longhorns from total irrelevance.Don’t get us wrong, the Longhorns will survive regardless of what happens to their two largest sports for generating revenue, especially if the women’s hoops team continues to make it to the Sweet 16 and Elite 8 in the NCAA Tournament. But it’s certainly baffling how much this former juggernaut of football and men’s basketball has declined considering the resources at its disposal to hire top coaches and recruit the best talent. It reportedly cost Texas $19 million to fire Charlie Strong from the top football coaching position and hire Herman from the University of Houston. And the deal to hire current men’s basketball head coach Shaka Smart — who had numerous schools trying to secure his services after taking Virginia Commonwealth, a mid-major, to the Final Four in 2011 — wasn’t cheap either, costing Texas about $22 million over seven years.The regression has been significant: Since Brown and Barnes departed, the football and men’s basketball programs combined to win less than half of their games.1Longhorn football has a .435 win percentage since 2014 while the basketball team has a .470 win percentage since 2015. To give this some context, we compared Texas to some of the other schools that have been consistently competitive in both sports — in other words, not one-sport powers like Kansas (basketball) or Georgia (football). Specifically, we looked at every school that ranked inside the top 50 in all-time wins for both football and men’s basketball and calculated the harmonic mean of their football and men’s basketball Elo ratings since 1988, the earliest we have data for both sports.2We used a harmonic mean instead of a straight average to make sure a team was performing well (or poorly) in both sports at the same time. This allows us to see how these teams compare in the combined success of their two biggest programs. UT’s decline has been rapid and, for Longhorns fans, the results will be depressing. Texas is finding its way back onto the recruiting mapUniversity of Texas men’s basketball and football recruiting class ranks *2018 basketball team rank as of Nov. 9, 2017; 2018 football team rank as of Nov. 8, 2017**For basketball, the year of a recruiting class is for freshmen whose first season begins that fallSource: ESPN 20114.5885.615 RECRUITING CLASSTEAM RANKWIN PCT.TEAM RANKWIN PCT. 201515.6069.417 201327.68616.615 20094.7063.929 201611.33310.417 20176?33.444 201421.58816.462 201812?2? 20108.7782.417 BASKETBALLFOOTBALL 20124.4713.692 The basketball program’s recruitment problem hasn’t been attracting top talent — the Longhorns have produced several NBA stars in recent years, including Avery Bradley, Tristan Thompson and, most recently, Myles Turner. Instead the Longhorns have failed to translate their NBA-caliber talent into postseason success — the Longhorns have failed to make the Elite 8 in the NCAA Tournament since 2008.But things may finally be turning around. After its rough recruiting class in 2017 — which was disrupted by the firing of Strong and hiring of Herman — the football team has rebounded to secure 16 commitments from the ESPN Top 300 so far for the 2018 class and is No. 2 in team rankings. And Smart has the basketball team ranked No. 12 as of Thursday, which is impressive considering that the school is coming off its worst season in decades. Smart’s class could improve after the early signing period, which is happening now. The Longhorns are in the hunt for No. 7 Keldon Johnson and No. 13 Quentin Grimes. Currently, only Missouri ranks worse than Texas, and Missouri’s problems in and away from the sports world have been well documented (sorry to drag you into this, Mizzou fans). For more context, Wisconsin is currently the best two-sport school.3Greg Gard took the men’s basketball team to the Sweet 16 last season, and Paul Chryst’s football team is currently 9-0 and ranked No.8 in the College Football Playoff rankings. Based on this measure, it’s fair to say that the Longhorns are in the midst of one of their worst stretches in almost 30 years.On the football side, the problem can be traced to recruitment. Between 2009 and 2012, Texas registered four consecutive top-5 recruiting classes, according to ESPN’s team rankings. In the next five years: zero. Last season, they ranked No. 33. Think about that for a second: The University of Texas with the 33rd-best crop of freshman football talent. The turnover from Brown to Strong to Herman is certainly a factor here. Since NCAA rules stipulate that football players must stay in school for three years, talented high-school players seek stability — not knowing who your head coach will be next year can be the difference between a top recruit committing to your program and going elsewhere.But another disconcerting thing about the Longhorns’ recent dip in recruitment is that Texas plays in the epicenter of high school football — no state produced more recruits in ESPN’s Top 300 rankings in 2016, and only Florida produced more in 2017. But recently, it has lost its hold on the best prospects from within its own borders. As a result, the top Texas high school recruits are increasingly looking outside of the state. Among the top 30 recruits in Texas in 2017, LSU was the most popular destination (five players chose to go to Baton Rouge, compared with the three who picked Austin). Although the school has been rocked by huge personnel turnover over the past four years, there’s a little light on the horizon. The football team has three games remaining on its schedule and is just one win away from being bowl eligible, so Herman’s team could end another tough year on a positive note (Granted, Texas’s boosters won’t be doing backflips over a trip to the Cactus Bowl — but it’s something.) As for Smart and the basketball team, they’re resting their hopes on freshman center Mohamed Bamba, who is ranked No. 4 among incoming freshmen by ESPN heading into the new season. With a fresh start kicking off Friday, Smart will be looking to take his team back to the NCAA Tournament.
OSU senior defenseman Josh Healey (47) corrals the puck during the Buckeyes game against Robert Morris University on Nov. 4. The Buckeyes lost 6-2. Credit: Alexa Mavrogianis | Photo EditorWinners of four straight and undefeated through seven games, the Ohio State men’s hockey team had a rare opportunity in the nonconference schedule to play on home ice at the Schottenstein Center. Ranked No. 11 in the nation, OSU looked to continue its hot play against Robert Morris before heading to Pittsburgh for the second half of the home-and-home series on Saturday.However, three second-period goals from the Colonials unseated OSU from the unbeaten, 6-2. OSU fell to 5-1-2 on the season.“Anytime you lose a hockey game it hurts,” OSU coach Steve Rohlik said. “Against good hockey teams, if you don’t play your best you’re going to get beat and I think that’s what happened tonight. The better team won, for sure.”Rohlik said on Wednesday that the team had worked extensively in practice on cleaning up the defensive zone. Whatever holes and inconsistencies the Colonials saw on film, they were exploited on Friday; mostly by sophomore left wing Alex Tonge.Tonge put the Colonials on the board in the first period off an assist from defenseman Eric Israel. The forward sat in front of the net and Israel centered a pass from the end boards that OSU couldn’t steer away.Then in the second period, Tonge scored again on an even-strength goal, putting Robert Morris up, 3-1. The front line of Robert Morris finished the game with three of the team’s six goals.“They capitalized on their chances and that was the difference tonight,” senior captain forward Nick Schilkey said. “We’re going to have a short memory and be back ready tomorrow.”Coming into the matchup, Tomkins was a catalyst for OSU’s success between the pipes. In four of his five starts before Friday, he had allowed two or fewer goals. When senior goaltender Christian Frey went down with an injury against Air Force in the team’s second game of the year, Tomkins came in relief and stopped 10 shots, including seven in overtime. Rohlik said that despite pulling him after the fifth goal, tonight can be looked at as an outlier for Tomkins.“We have a few other guys out in front of him that weren’t their best either, but I think all the credit goes to (Robert Morris),” Rohlik said. “We just didn’t get it done tonight.”Special teams play was a large factor in the lopsided decision on Friday night. Both OSU and Robert Morris were tied fifth nationally in powerplay efficiency, converting on one of every four powerplay opportunities. The Buckeyes were 0-for-5, while the Colonials were 2-for-2 in the game.Robert Morris ranked second to last in the NCAA in penalty kill coming into the matchup.After the Robert Morris’ second powerplay goal came at 13:39 in the second period, just 20 seconds into the penalty kill, Rohlik called a timeout.OSU didn’t score the rest of the period, despite having a man-advantage to end the second and begin the third period. Robert Morris’ leading scorer Brady Ferguson added a goal just two minutes into the third period giving the Colonials a substantial four-goal lead.“We forced a couple plays from the goal line or something … if something’s not there you can’t force it,” Schilkey said. “We got some good chances too. They’re not going to go in every night but you hope to come back tomorrow and pop a couple of those in.”A bright spot for OSU was junior forward Matthew Weis, who was coming off the best two-game stretch of his career last weekend against Niagara where he scored two goals and contributed on four others. On Friday night, he backed up his Big Ten first-star of the week honor by scoring the first goal of the night, at 3:14 in the first period.The team repeatedly said in the offseason that this was the closest group of players the program has had in the last four years. The response from Friday’s letdown will truly test the character of the team. Schilkey said that the message for Saturday’s game against Robert Morris is to stick together as a unit.“We got to have a quick turnaround. We play a team that should be very confident against us,” Rohlik said. “You find out your true character when you have adversity. And obviously for us, things aren’t going to go well all the time and you’re going to have bumps in the road. Right now, we’ll find out about our character and I believe in the guys in our locker room. I believe in our leadership. One loss isn’t the season but we got to learn from it and get better.”
Former Ohio State linebacker Brian Rolle was selected in the sixth round of the NFL draft by the Philadelphia Eagles. Rolle, the 193rd overall pick, is undersized for his position in the NFL, at 5-foot-9, but his ability to defend against the pass makes him an asset for any defense. He will join another former Buckeye, Kurt Coleman, on the Eagles defense, and may get consideration at the strong safety position. He is expected to be a special-teams player as he develops his game, much like his career at OSU. Rolle started two seasons at OSU at the middle linebacker position, and was named first-team All-Big Ten his senior season with fellow Buckeye Ross Homan. Rolle recorded 76 total tackles and two interceptions in the 2010 season. Rolle ran the 40-yard dash in 4.53 seconds, and benched 225 pounds 28 times at the combine. He is the cousin of the New York Giants safety Antrel Rolle, and the Eagles hope Brian will offer the same success. The Eagles finished last season 10-6 and won the NFC East before losing to the eventual Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers in the playoffs.
For Ohio State football fans, life hasn’t been the same since December 2010.Buckeye fans grieved when the news broke that one former and five current OSU football players had sold memorabilia and received improper benefits. Then prognosticators and so-called experts foretold of the NCAA punishment that awaited OSU, and fans’ fears grew.Speculation of seemingly certain NCAA sanctions kept OSU supporters on edge throughout the spring, even as the football team commenced spring practice.Then, on April 23, the day of the OSU Spring Game, the atmosphere at Ohio Stadium just wasn’t the same as previous Spring Games. Sure, the game’s ridiculous scoring system that no one understood probably had a bit to do with it, but there some was something more.It was something about you, the usually boisterous, scarlet-and-gray-clad fans — you didn’t have your swagger.And before you could recover it, the casualties began to mount.Former coach Jim Tressel was forced to resign and embattled former quarterback Terrelle Pryor left the school.On Thursday, Pryor was granted eligibility for the NFL’s supplemental draft but will serve a suspension through Week 5 of the NFL season.Why bother regrouping from the losses of Tressel and Pryor, though? After all, television commentators would have had us believe that the city of Columbus itself would disappear off the map on Aug. 12, the day OSU was to meet with the NCAA.The night of Aug. 11, was like the night prior to the predicted expiration of the Mayan calendar. Recovering your mojo was out of the question. Now, it was a matter of simply surviving the coming day’s NCAA scrutiny of OSU football.But then a miraculous thing happened.The meeting with the NCAA came and went without incident and the parties whom attended dispersed about four hours later. New OSU football coach Luke Fickell came back to Columbus after the meeting and, presumably, continued with his preparations for the 2011 season.True indeed, NCAA punishment may be delivered to Buckeyes football in eight to 12 weeks, but preparations continue for the upcoming season.Your prep work as fans, which could include everything from stockpiling tailgating supplies to selecting new outfits to wear to the ‘Shoe this fall, should continue as well.When the kicker for either Akron or OSU steps to the tee on the 35-yard line around noon on Sept. 3 to kick the ball off and commence the 2011 campaign, what will you do in your seat in the ‘Shoe?Will you “boo?” Will you sit on your hands? Will you hesitate to clap and cheer?Will you do nothing?As of Friday, kickoff is just 15 days away, so I recommend you quickly decide how you’ll receive this 2011 edition of the Buckeyes.It’s true — the NCAA could administer a postseason bowl ban or take away scholarships or prevent OSU from competing in the inaugural Big Ten championship game in Indianapolis. On top of that, it could make the announcement right in the middle of a season that figures to see the Buckeyes compete for supremacy in the newly formed Leaders Division.There’s only one 2011 season, though, and even if the postseason isn’t available to the Buckeyes by regular seasons’s end, 12 games of Ohio State football would be a terrible thing to waste.Consider and appreciate the football team’s new freshmen class that, for the time being, appears to have committed itself to OSU and serving whatever punishment could be coming from the NCAA.Relish in the Big Ten’s expansion and the arrival of Nebraska football to the conference. Many OSU fans will likely make the trip to Lincoln, Neb., for the first in-conference meeting between the Buckeyes and the Cornhuskers — truly a historic moment.And why not continue to rabidly anticipate the next installment of “The Game”? I have a feeling that another victory against the hapless Wolverines will cure what ails weary Buckeye fans.Ready or not, the 2011 season is nearly upon us. It may have seemed as though the fog of the NCAA’s investigation would never lift, but it has, even if only for the few months until the NCAA’s final decision is announced.So, what will you do when the kicker strides toward the tee to kick the 2011 season off? Boo? Clap? Cheer? Sit on your hands?Whatever you choose to do, just make sure you find your seat in the ‘Shoe in time to see the marching band enter the playing field and perform Script Ohio.The sight of Script Ohio should help you rediscover your swagger as a fan base, and the wins that follow certainly will.
Urban Meyer is the biggest name Ohio State has ever hired as head football coach. At least that’s how Jack Park, long-time OSU football historian, sees it. Meyer, who won two BCS national championships with Florida and served as an assistant coach at OSU under former coach Earle Bruce, was hired as the Buckeyes’ next head coach Monday. On top of his national titles, Meyer also brings a résumé which includes coaching a Heisman Trophy winner (former Florida quarterback Tim Tebow), a No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft (former Utah quarterback Alex Smith), two SEC championships and several coach of the year honors. Park said no other head coach at OSU has taken the job with that kind of pedigree. “In terms of what the coach has done before he took the Ohio State job, it doesn’t get much bigger than this one,” he said. The only other coach who came close, Park said, was Bruce. Bruce served as head football coach at OSU from 1979-1987. Prior to coming to OSU, Bruce amassed a 36-32 record as head coach at Iowa State, and also served at Massillon High School, leading it to its only undefeated season in school history. Other head coaches at OSU had respectable backgrounds — John Cooper won a Rose Bowl over Michigan while helming Arizona State and Jim Tressel won four Division I-AA titles at Youngstown State — but none have measured up to the name Meyer has built for himself. “In a way, it’s kind of breaking with tradition that Ohio State has done this,” Park said. Still, Meyer does have, in some respects, the same qualities previous OSU head coaches had. Meyer was born in Toledo and raised in Ashtabula, Ohio, where he attended St. John High School. Meyer went to college at the University of Cincinnati and played defensive back on the school’s football team. He got his masters degree from OSU and served as a graduate assistant at OSU during Bruce’s tenure. From there, he later went on to become head coach at Bowling Green State University, where he won MAC Coach of the Year and Sporting News Coach of the Year in 2003, before leaving for Utah, where he won a BCS bowl (the Fiesta Bowl), and later shipping off to Florida. Meyer left Florida citing health concerns last season and took a job with ESPN as an analyst. OSU athletic director Gene Smith made note of Meyer’s Ohio ties during the press conference announcing his hire Monday. “Being from Ohio, born and raised, having an opportunity to coach here under Earl Bruce, fortunate enough to marry his boss from Ohio; he gets it,” Smith said. “At different times in organizations, teams, groups, whatever, there’s the right time for certain leaders. This is the right time for Urban Meyer to lead our football program.” Meyer isn’t shy about his Ohio ties. Meyer has a photo of Woody Hayes hanging in his house. He said the relationship he built with Bruce was “extremely close, second only to his father.” He also said seeing Script Ohio while calling a game for ESPN this season made him emotional. “I’m up there with Chris (Spielman) and (ESPN announcer) Dave Pasch getting ready to broadcast that game, and that band came out of that tunnel — I was wiping tears out of my eyes and all the memories came back,” Meyer said. Park said those Ohio ties have helped him, and other coaches, get hired at OSU. “I would think that many of the people he’s going to bring on his staff here … a lot of those assistant coaches will have Ohio ties,” Park said. “It’s good to do that but I don’t think it’s mandatory anymore. Football has become so national anymore.” For example, in terms of players, Park said only a “handful” on OSU’s 1954 and 1961 national title teams came from outside Ohio, but now, the team can have about half of its roster from outside the state. “It’s an advantage to have Ohio ties but I think there’s probably other things more important,” Park said. One of those “more important” things could be recruiting. OSU has recruited players outside of the state of Ohio, but under Tressel, was able to “build a fence” around Ohio, per se, to keep many of the state’s top talents instate and signed by OSU. However, with Meyer taking over, who was able to rake in recruiting classes with Florida talent ranked higher than his in-state competitors such as Florida State and Miami, Park said he expects Meyer to take advantage of his Southern ties and recruit the same type of players to run his spread offense. “I think what we saw at Florida and the type of offense he ran at Florida, the type of defense he ran at Florida, I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s pretty much what we see here,” Park said. That system will be noticeably different from what OSU is known for. OSU built a reputation for the bruising, “three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust” offense Hayes implemented and the conservative “Tressel-ball” style that Tressel ran. Meyer, however, will be running the spread, which will focus more on the passing game than previous schemes. Steve Helwagen, managing editor of Bucknuts.com, said Meyer will use what he has at his disposal now, then work to find the athletes required to run the spread, which he doesn’t believe will be a big deal. “I don’t know that it will be as big a transition as some people think it might be,” Helwagen said. “I think he’ll play to his team strengths on the field next year and take it on a year-to-year basis. He and his staff are obviously going to be looking for guys who fit what they want to do. They need to have wide receivers and skill-position athletes to make that happen.” With Meyer on the recruiting trail preparing for a 2012 season with already-high expectations, fans can take solace knowing Meyer is “home.” “This is my home state,” he said. “And it’s great to be back home.”Ohio
Big Ten Conference Commissioner Jim Delany said it best while presenting the trophy presentation at the conclusion of the inaugural Big Ten Championship Game: “Wow.” Wisconsin beat Michigan State, 42-39, at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Ind., in the first-ever Big Ten Championship Game and clinched a second-consecutive berth to the Rose Bowl. The Badgers jumped to a 21-7 lead after a quarter against MSU before trailing the Spartans, 39-34, with less than four minutes to play in the game. Badgers junior running back Montee Ball scored four touchdowns and added 137 yards on the ground to help lead Wisconsin to its second-consecutive berth to the Rose Bowl. Saturday’s game featured 816 total yards of offense between the two teams and MSU took a 29-21 lead into half. The Spartans’ lead held until the 3:45 mark of the fourth quarter when a seven-yard run by Ball put Wisconsin up for good. Trailing by three points with 1:37 to play, MSU forced a Wisconsin punt and would have had one last shot at a score. Sophomore safety Isaiah Lewis was flagged for roughing the kicker and the Badgers were awarded a first down and began to celebrate its championship. Kevin Noon, managing editor of buckeyegrove.com, had a field-level view of MSU’s late-game penalty and said he wasn’t as sure the correct call was made after seeing replays. “I was standing on the field right by it and I felt a lot better about it when I saw it live than when I saw it on the replays,” Noon said. “I thought there was a little bit of embellishment by the punter and I still think there may be a question whether or not Isaiah Lewis was pushed into the punter. “But I think ultimately by definition of the rule, it was the right call.” For MSU, it’s the second consecutive year the Spartans have come just short of making the Rose Bowl and have instead had to watch the Badgers represent the Big Ten. MSU coach Mark Dantonio said he thought his team played well, but the loss would be difficult to stomach. “I thought both football teams showed a tremendous amount of maturity and toughness in terms of battling back,” Dantonio said on MSU’s website. “We started a little bit slow and played extremely well the entire first half on offense. Tough to lose it as we did, but tough take the tough times sometimes. So very difficult, the end of the football game, the way it all went down, but we’ll rise again.” The Badgers’ record improved to 11-2 on the year with both losses, including one earlier in the season to MSU, coming in the final seconds. Their only other loss came to Ohio State under the lights at Ohio Stadium on Oct. 29, when OSU freshman quarterback Braxton Miller connected with classmate and wide receiver Devin Smith for a touchdown to take the lead with 20 seconds left in the game. Sophomore linebacker Chris Borland said that despite the heartbreaking losses earlier in the season, the team was ecstatic about Saturday’s victory. “It’s a dream come true for us,” Borland said on Wisconsin’s athletic website. “To get here after what we suffered in the middle of the season, it’s the highest of highs.” The Badgers will travel to Pasadena, Calif., for the Rose Bowl to take on Oregon on Jan. 2.
The NCAA Tournament is about four months away, but the Ohio State men’s basketball team will get to experience a postseason-like environment this weekend in Connecticut. OSU is scheduled to play in the Basketball Hall of Fame Tip-Off Classic Saturday and Sunday in Uncasville, Conn. The No. 4-ranked Buckeyes (1-0) take on Rhode Island (0-2) Saturday, and depending on the outcome of the game, will play the winner of the Seton Hall (2-0) – Washington (1-1) contest Sunday. It’s only November, but OSU coach Thad Matta said playing two games in two days will help prepare OSU for March. “It’s more of a Big Ten tournament, NCAA Tournament type feel,” Matta said. “I think doing this early, the two games in two days, will tell us quite a bit about our team. You play the first day, win or lose, you’ve got to go back and prepare for your next opponent.” Coming off a Final Four appearance and a third consecutive Big Ten regular season championship , the Buckeyes are still trying to figure out what type of team they are. After this weekend, they should be further along in that process. “Most of the time when you’re playing on the road, you have to find different ways to win. You have to do extra stuff,” said junior guard Lenzelle Smith, Jr. “It’s actually a little harder to win out on the road. That’s what helps us build more as a team.” Smith Jr., who scored 18 points in OSU’s 82-60 season-opening win against Albany Nov. 11, said the Buckeyes are in the beginning stage of coming together as a cohesive unit. They still have plenty to work on and get better at, but OSU’s main concern right now might be rebounding. OSU seems to have its scoring down with Smith Jr., junior forward Deshaun Thomas and junior guard Aaron Craft all dropping more than 18 points in the victory against Albany. On the other end of the floor, redshirt senior forward Evan Ravenel said OSU has the potential to be the “best defensive team in the country.” Rebounding wise, there is still a lot to be done. OSU had even rebounding margins against Albany and Walsh University, its NCAA Division II exhibition-game opponent. “We got to find a way to rebound the ball. We can’t just depend on one person to grab 10 to 15 rebounds. We have to gang-rebound, because that’s just the team we are,” Ravenel said. OSU lost one of the nation’s best rebounders from last season in former forward Jared Sullinger, who now plays for the Boston Celtics. Sullinger averaged almost 10 rebounds per game in his two seasons with the Buckeyes. Ravenel, along with sophomore centers Amir Williams and Trey McDonald, is trying to fill in for a former two-time All-American in Sullinger. In order for the Buckeyes to be successful on the glass, they need to be hungrier, Ravenel said. “Nobody wants to go against an overly-aggressive guy for 40 minutes in a basketball game,” he said. While OSU is yet to face a Big Ten-caliber team after one regular season game, an exhibition game, and a canceled Carrier Classic contest against Marquette, the team should face some bigger teams this weekend. Rhode Island’s leading rebounders are 6-foot-7 senior Nikola Malesevic and 6-foot-8 freshman Mike Aaman. Washington, which suffered a 63-62 Tuesday loss to the same Albany team that OSU handled easily, has several lengthy forwards that could give the Buckeyes trouble. Seton Hall has five players on its roster 6-foot-9 or taller. Matta said he is looking forward to the challenges this weekend will pose for his Buckeyes. But more than anything, the OSU coach said he is excited to get out on the road and actually play a game after the Buckeyes’ season opener scheduled aboard an aircraft carrier was canceled due to condensation. “We’ve got the travel part down. We’ve got all the way to tip-off – warm-ups, everything on an away court. Now we’ve just got to play a game,” Matta said. OSU and Rhode Island are set to tip off 5 p.m. Saturday night on ESPN3 at Mohegan Sun Arena. With a win, OSU would advance to Sunday’s championship game, which is scheduled for 4:30 p.m.
The Ohio State women’s basketball team was given the ninth seed in the Big Ten Women’s Basketball Tournament bracket Sunday after beating No. 5 seed Michigan at home earlier that afternoon, 66-55. The Buckeyes (17-12, 7-9 Big Ten) outshot the Wolverines (20-9, 9-7 Big Ten), making 54 percent of their shots compared to Michigan’s 50 percent. OSU, however, made 11 of 15 free throws, while Michigan only made 5 of 6, allowing the Buckeyes to hold on to the lead they had grabbed with 8:32 left in the first half. After the game, redshirt senior guard Amber Stokes said the win was an ideal note to head into the conference tournament. “We needed the confidence-booster going into the Big Ten tournament, so this is great,” she said in a press release. OSU is scheduled to take on No. 8 seed Minnesota (18-12, 7-9 Big Ten) in the first round of the tournament Thursday. The Gophers hold a 2-0 record against the Buckeyes this season. They first beat OSU in Minneapolis, Minn., on Jan. 10, dropping the Buckeyes to a 0-3 Big Ten record for the first time since 2001. On Feb. 21, the Gophers came to Columbus and beat OSU, 57-56, thanks to a last-second jumper from Minnesota sophomore guard Rachel Banham. OSU coach Jim Foster said after Sunday’s game against the Wolverines that his team had taken the Minnesota loss to heart and improved as a result of it. “You lose a game like the Minnesota game and some folks are going to use the ‘woe is me’ approach and I think this group did just the opposite of that,” he said in a press release. “They came out and were resilient.” The Buckeyes have won four tournament titles, three of which came from consecutive tournaments from 2009-2011. OSU heads into its contest against the Gophers with several Buckeyes who earned Big Ten honors this past week. Freshman guard Ameryst Alston earned her second Big Ten Freshman of the Week honors for the week of March 4, while senior guard Tayler Hill was named First Team All-Big Ten for the second season in a row. Hill was also named to the Big Ten’s All-Defensive team for the third consecutive season, along with Stokes, who made the list for the second year in a row. Redshirt sophomore Amy Scullion received the Big Ten Sportsmanship Award for OSU. OSU is set to take on Minnesota at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Sears Centre Arena in Hoffman Estates, Ill. The winner of that game is scheduled to face No. 1 seed Penn State Friday at 7 p.m.
Ohio State senior forward Shayla Cooper sizes up Western Kentucky guard Kendall Noble at Memorial Coliseum in Lexington, Kentucky, in the first round of the NCAA tournament on March 17. Credit: Dana Lewin | Courtesy of OSU AthleticsThe No. 5 seed Ohio State women’s basketball team (27-6) utilized strong defense to hold off the No. 12 seed Western Kentucky Hilltoppers (27-7), winning an ugly game, 70-63, in the first round of the NCAA tournament in Lexington, Kentucky.Both teams fought a back-and-forth battle in the first half as each struggled to find consistent offensive production. The Hilltoppers hit just 10-of-35 shots in the first half, but stayed within striking distance as they headed to the second half down 37-30. The Buckeyes ended the first and second quarters on runs of 7-0 and 7-2, respectively. Junior guard Asia Doss, a reserve who averages just 5.4 points per game, paced the Buckeyes early, as the team struggled to find its rhythm in the first half. She led both teams with an efficient 11 first-half points, hitting 4-of-6 shots, including two from beyond the arc. Redshirt sophomore Kelsey Mitchell scored just four first half points. The Big Ten Player of the Year continued her struggles in the second half as the Buckeyes’ leading scorer missed her first four second-half shots. This is the second game in a row Mitchell has struggled to find an offensive flow, shooting just 3 of 22 in a Big Ten tournament semifinal loss to Purdue.The Buckeyes stayed ahead in the second half as OSU never led by less than 3 points. They shot 53 percent from the field in the final quarter, but did no favors for themselves as they turned the ball over five times. Mitchell began to heat up as OSU pulled away in the fourth quarter. She finished with 15 points. Western Kentucky set a school record with 233 3-pointers this season and continued hoisting shots from downtown in Friday’s game. Over half of the Hilltoppers’ shots were from 3-point range. They hit just 9-of-37 3-point attempts.OSU connected on 8 of its 20 3-pointers.The Hilltoppers struggled not just from deep, but from inside the arc as well. Western Kentucky made just 29 percent of her shots from the field.Western Kentucky redshirt senior guard Kendall Noble led the Hilltoppers in scoring and rebounding with 19 points and 12 boards. The first-team Conference USA player made 7-of-22 shots.Redshirt junior forward Stephanie Mavunga, a gametime decision according to OSU coach Kevin McGuff, did not play against WKU on Friday. The North Carolina transfer has been dealing with a right foot injury that has held her out of action since she injured it in a practice in early February. Freshman forward Tori McCoy started in place of Mavunga, as she has in every game since the injury happened. She scored 12 points before fouling out. Senior forward Shayla Cooper scored 6 points and grabbed a game-high 15 rebounds.OSU relied on its depth off the bench as the Buckeyes’ reserves contributed 28 points off the bench compared to the Hilltoppers’ 12 points from bench players.Redshirt junior guard Linnae Harper transferred from Kentucky midway through the 2015-16 season, and she will face off against her former teammates as the Buckeyes will take on No. 4 seed Kentucky (22-10) in the second round of the NCAA tournament on Sunday in Lexington, Kentucky. The Wildcats snuck past No. 13 seed Belmont (27-6), beating the Bruins 73-70 in first round on Friday afternoon.