GAMES3 POINT PERC.2 POINT PERC.GAME SCORERECORDWIN PERC. Source: basketball-reference.com There can be no diminishing the accomplishments of LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers, who came back from a 3-1 series deficit to end the Golden State Warriors’ reign as NBA champions. King James deserves every accolade he receives — and I’m sure he’ll have words for the doubters who didn’t think this was possible. Like me.I’ve been bullish on the Warriors for a while now. Early in the season, I wrote about Stephen Curry’s ability to handle virtually any shooting burden before I even knew that he was a legitimate threat from 30 feet. My operating theory was that Curry should take more and more and more 3-pointers. In the final game of the season, he had 14 attempts (yay!) but made only four (oops).Teams with recent championship experience tend to be money in the playoffs, and this Warriors squad seemed not to be affected much by the strength of their opponents — both of which should have made the team bigger favorites than even our models suggested. So when the winningest team in NBA history needed to win only two of five (and then one of three) games against a team it had beaten all four times they played this season — by an average of 22 points — I felt pretty good about my position. I was wrong.The Warriors ended up losing as many games in the playoffs as they did in the regular season, finishing with a particularly un-GOATish 7-7 stretch against Oklahoma City and Cleveland. Although a 14-game break-even stretch doesn’t sound horrible, it would be highly improbable for a team that won 90 percent of its games, as the Warriors had with Curry playing. Of course, the Thunder and Cavaliers were stronger than the Warriors’ typical opponents (the Warriors did go 5-0 against them during the regular season, and remember they crushed strong opponents as easily as weak ones throughout the season), though this is partly offset by the Warriors’ home-court advantage.A result like that 7-7 raises questions: Have the Warriors been solved? Is Curry unable to carry an offense single-handedly after all, or was his run of bad form because of something else, like a lingering injury? From an empirical standpoint, this bizarre end to the season doesn’t tell us as much as we would like, but it does hold a few insights.Although Curry’s performance in the playoffs clearly regressed from his in the regular season, why that happened is unclear. There are, however, reasons to believe it was more than simply a run of bad shooting luck, but not something as dim as the Golden State model succumbing to playoff basketball. Since his first injury, in Game 1 against the Houston Rockets, Curry hasn’t really been Curry. He’s struggled to turn the corner on defenders on his way to the rim, and he’s had a troubling turnover rate, which may have happened (in part) because he found himself with unfamiliar passing lanes after being unable to create his usual space. Curry’s dropoff was also evident in his shooting weeks ago, and it hasn’t improved. Since his return, Curry has been worse in virtually every significant metric — even compared to his pre-injury performance against the same opponents: Game Score is an imperfect metric for combining box score stats, but in this case, it gets the job done. Pre-injury, Curry performed better against his playoff opponents this season than he did against a typical team.1“Pre-injury, playoff opponents” includes regular-season games against the Rockets, Blazers, Thunder and Cavaliers and Game 1 of the Warriors’ playoff series against the Rockets. “Post-injury” includes Game 4 against the Rockets and beyond. Moreover, he performed similarly against all four squads.Looking at the bottom line: The Warriors went 10-7 with Curry playing after his first injury. Again, although that doesn’t look dramatic, the likelihood of it happening by chance alone can be quite slim: For a team that wins 90 percent of games, the chances of losing seven of 17 are around 1 in 10,000. At 80 percent, they’re around 1 in 100, and at 70 percent, they’re around 1 in 10.2Based on a binomial calculation assuming that the Warriors were as good as their record, that their odds of winning were the same in each game, and that each game’s outcome is independent of the others. Note that these would not be great assumptions for making a precise calculation but are fine for a first cut, particularly with a Warriors team that for most of the season — did I mention? — didn’t seem to care much who they were playing.Also, when the Warriors lost three games to the Thunder (before going on to win the series), it seemed unremarkable — in part because it was in line with the tendency of teams that are good at winning also being good at winning playoff series. But now that the Warriors have lost four games to the Cavs, those results corroborate each other, suggesting that the Warriors weren’t just running badly, but that there was something systematically awry.3By Game 7 of the Finals, sportsbooks appeared to have this pegged, with most putting Golden State around -180, which would be absurdly low under normal circumstances.A 1-in-10 phenomenon is well within the range of stuff that happens in sports every day, and even 1-in-10,000 phenomena still happen. But the question isn’t whether the Warriors’ dreary finish was unlikely, but, given its unlikeliness, what is the most likely explanation. Did the Warriors just get unlucky? Are they — gasp — anti-clutch? Did two teams suddenly figure them out? Or was Curry’s injury a bigger factor than he let on?As usual, when something crazy happens, there can be many causes. A few Warriors may have performed poorly in the clutch. Teams may have “figured them out” to some degree. And they may have gotten a little unlucky. But those are the sorts of things that all teams have had to deal with historically, and teams as good as the Warriors haven’t broken overnight. More importantly, for the Warriors to pin this on fortune alone would require luck so profoundly bad that they’d be dodging falling pianos. That’s good news for Warriors’ fans. It means that, should they be able to heal what’s ailing them — such as a lingering injury to the league MVP — winning more championships still depends on fairly predictable outcomes rather than cruel turns of chance.At the very least, revolutionaries have good reasons to be hopeful that next season will continue where this season seemed destined to go rather than where it ended up. Pre-injury, non-playoff opponents44.8%56.5%24.361-789.7% Post-injury Steph played worse, won less Pre-injury, playoff opponents49.656.625.811-191.7 Post-injury39.348.517.110-758.8 VIDEO: The greatness of LeBron James
2017Cleveland1321Minnesota15011405-95 2010Denver1401San Francisco14181409-91 YEARDESIGNATED AWAYELODESIGNATED HOMEELOHARMONIC MEAN+/- AVERAGE The NFL will take over London for the 18th time — and the 11th consecutive year — this weekend when the Baltimore Ravens take on veteran overseas travelers the Jacksonville Jaguars at Wembley Stadium. The game will be the first of four set in England this season, the most that have been played in a calendar year.For the NFL, the additional game — there have been three in London each of the past three seasons — represents a concerted effort to expand the popularity and global reach of its brand.1The NFL will also return to Mexico City this season. For the British, it’s another chance to watch lousy football.It’s no secret that the teams that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has sent have been overwhelmingly bad — and we aren’t just talking about the Jaguars. According to FiveThirtyEight’s pre-game Elo ratings, the harmonic mean of both teams’ ratings — a balanced measure of matchup quality that can better detect when both teams in a game are either good or bad — has been below average in 13 of the 17 games played in London.2Compared with 1500, roughly the rating of an average NFL team. On top of that, all four games to be played in London this year will be below average, according to the team’s current Elo ratings. 2007New York Giants13Miami103✓ 2012New England1678St. Louis1393152222 2013San Francisco1642Jacksonville12461417-83 2015Detroit1432Kansas City15141472-28 2015New York Jets1478Miami14491463-37 2016Washington1509Cincinnati1525151717 2007N.Y. Giants1553Miami13581449-51 London NFL games have been consistently below averageThe harmonic mean of the Elo ratings of the teams in each matchup compared with 1500, roughly the rating of an average NFL team 2010Denver16San Francisco248✓ 2013Pittsburgh27Minnesota347✓ 2014Miami38Oakland1424 2017Arizona1529L.A. Rams14181471-29 2015New York Jets27Miami1413 2011Chicago1543Tampa Bay1527153535 2017New Orleans1460Miami15191489-11 2014Dallas31Jacksonville1714 2013San Francisco42Jacksonville1032 2009New England35Tampa Bay728 2015Buffalo1512Jacksonville13101404-96 2016New York Giants17L.A. Rams107✓ 2014Dallas1557Jacksonville12981416-84 Ten of the 17 games — or 59 percent — have been decided by one score. That might not sound so thrilling, but just 35 percent of all NFL games played since 2007 have been decided by 8 points or fewer. One of last year’s London games was so tightly matched, no one won it. (Fortunately for Cincinnati and Washington, they were playing in the one NFL location where fans are content with a tie.)Low-quality games usually lead to drops in attendance toward the end of the season. Not in London, though. All but two games have attracted a crowd of more than 80,000, with the highest NFL London crowd at 84,488 — for last year’s tie at Wembley. To put that in context, that average draw would have been the second-highest home attendance of any team in the league last season (behind only the Dallas Cowboys).As Goodell continues to push some of his most mediocre teams onto the international scene, it turns out that they’re rewarding fans with some of the league’s most competitive play. All 2017 games are based on Elo ratings before Week 3. 2014Detroit22Atlanta211✓ 2009New England1630Tampa Bay13751492-8 YEARDESIGNATED AWAYPOINTSDESIGNATED HOMEPOINTSPOINT DIFFWON BY ONE SCORE 2008San Diego32New Orleans375✓ Source: ESPN Stats & Information Group 2017Baltimore1539Jacksonville13961464-36 2013Pittsburgh1448Minnesota14771462-38 2011Chicago24Tampa Bay186✓ 2015Detroit10Kansas City4535 2016Indianapolis27Jacksonville303✓ The Jaguars are a big part of this, of course. Jacksonville has played in London four times, and the Elo rating of each of those four Jaguar teams ranks in the bottom five (among all 34 teams). Joining them in that bottom five are the 2014 Oakland Raiders. And it turns out that the Raiders’ game against the Miami Dolphins that year was the worst London matchup so far based on our Elo ratings. That game was so dreary that those Raiders, who fell to 0-4 after losing to Miami, fired their coach, Dennis Allen, not long after their plane touched down in the U.S. Perhaps by no coincidence, the Dolphins coach that year, Joe Philbin, would be fired the next season after starting 1-3. Philbin’s last game would be a loss to the Jets … in London.But not every game played in London has been between NFL bottom feeders — sometimes a good team makes the trip (and, sure, plays a bottom feeder). The Brits have experienced Tom Brady and the New England Patriots twice, as well as the San Francisco 49ers the season after their latest Super Bowl appearance. But if you remove those three teams, the average London team,3Based on the harmonic mean. including this year’s Ravens and Jags, has an Elo rating of 1444. That’s roughly on par with this year’s 0-2 Cincinnati Bengals.NFL fans will generally tune in regardless of who is playing. So perhaps the NFL’s intention was that the consistently poor quality of opponents would be scratched out by competitive, exciting contests. If that’s the case, the plan is generally working. 2016Washington27Cincinnati270✓ 2008San Diego1600New Orleans1470153232 2014Detroit1541Atlanta14051470-30 2014Miami1449Oakland13271385-115 2016Indianapolis1469Jacksonville13501407-93 2016N.Y. Giants1466L.A. Rams14811473-27 2012New England45St. Louis Rams738 Blowout or bustThe point differential for regular-season NFL games played in London 2015Buffalo31Jacksonville343✓
The big hittersDustin Johnson (odds to win: 12-to-1): Johnson entered Augusta last season having won three consecutive tournaments. He was among the favorites to win. Then he fell down a flight of stairs.This could be the year he exorcises those what-could-have-been demons.The 33-year-old is tied for the PGA Tour lead in par-4 scoring average and leads the tour in par-5 scoring average. He’s also No. 1 in total strokes gained, a metric that measures each shot a player takes based on how much it reduces his expected score on a given hole, relative to the field average. And Johnson’s putting has been sensational; he ranks in the top 15 in strokes gained with the putter. With an ostentatious ability to drive the ball — he leads the tour in strokes gained off the tee — Johnson owns five of the tour’s 50 longest drives this season, providing ample opportunities for attendees to crow “mashed potatoes.”1Please don’t.Johnson has owned the longest holes at the Augusta National Golf Club, with a career mark of 46 under par on par-5s, according to ESPN Stats & Info. To compete this weekend, though, he’ll need to improve on par-4s, on which he’s a career 44 over par.Bubba Watson (odds to win: 16-to-1): The two-time Masters champion enters this weekend as arguably the player on tour in the best form.After going more than 40 events without a win, he has won twice in the past two months — at the World Golf Championships-Dell Technologies Match Play and the Genesis Open. The same guy who was contemplating retirement last season during a rapid weight loss is now vying to become the ninth player to win the Masters at least three times.The 39-year-old’s unorthodox style feels tailor-made for rounds under the Georgia pines. The course allows him to attempt 45-yard hook shots with a pitching wedge, for example, and to uncork his 316.2-yard drives. And because he annihilates his tee shots, Watson has over his career played the par-5s at the Masters 65 under par, according to ESPN Stats & Info.The short game has traditionally held Watson back, but he has moved from outside the top 140 in strokes gained on shots approaching the green and with the putter last season to inside the top 80 in both this season.Rory McIlroy (odds to win: 12-to-1): With a roaring final-round 64, McIlroy won the Arnold Palmer Invitational last month, his first victory since the fall of 2016. Then came shots of vodka with the media.A win this weekend would complete the career Grand Slam for the 28-year-old. Since 2014, only Jordan Spieth has led more rounds in major tournaments than McIlroy has — and no player save for McIlroy can claim four top-10 finishes at Augusta over the past five years.After an injury-riddled 2016-17 campaign, McIlroy has surged up the leaderboard in a number of metrics, ranking in the top 25 in total strokes gained, strokes gained off the tee and strokes gained with the putter. His drives are averaging a blistering 314.1 yards, a top-five mark on tour.To win, McIlroy will have to improve on holes 10, 11 and 12, where he’s a combined 26 over par since the final round in 2011, according to ESPN Stats & Info.The kidsJon Rahm (odds to win: 20-to-1): It can be easy to forget that Rahm is 23 years old — and not only because he has the face of a 35-year-old accountant. “Rahmbo” has been so good so fast that he’s the highest-ranked player to not have a major championship to his name, according to ESPN Stats & Info.Rahm’s putting has improved mightily: He’s jumped from No. 49 in strokes gained with the putter and No. 66 in putts per round last season to No. 32 and No. 13, respectively, this season.He cranks the ball 306.7 yards off the tee, which makes him No. 23 on tour. But he ranks much higher in strokes gained off the tee — second — because whether he’s blasting his driver or using another club, he’s effective in maximizing his first shots, covering 67.5 percent of hole yardage with his tee shots. Club selection is paramount at Augusta, particularly off the tee — will Rahm’s skills there and his improved putting help him notch a win?Jordan Spieth (odds to win: 10-to-1): Last weekend’s final-round 66 at the Houston Open gave Spieth’s supporters a reason to be optimistic about Augusta, where Spieth’s track record ranges from the sublime to the five-alarm tire fire.In the aggregate, though, Spieth has been dominant at the Masters: In his four starts, he hasn’t finished lower than 11th; three times, he ranked in the top 10. In 2015, he became the fifth-ever wire-to-wire winner and tied the all-time lowest winning score (270, -18). Since 2015, Spieth has been 20 shots or better than any other player at majors, according to ESPN Stats & Info.But Spieth has fallen off a cliff with his putter. In each of the past three seasons, he ranked 42nd or better in strokes gained with the putter. In 2018, he’s No. 185. But that hasn’t stopped him from attacking the longer holes on tour; he ranks in the top 20 in par-4 and par-5 scoring average. With a win, Spieth would be just the third player to claim four majors before his 25th birthday (the other two are Woods and Young Tom Morris). He turns 25 in July.Justin Thomas (odds to win: 10-to-1): Had he turned in a stronger performance last month, Thomas could have entered this weekend as the top player in the world. Should he win this weekend, few would question his place atop the global leaderboard.The 24-year-old has won an astonishing seven times since the start of the 2016 season, more than any player on tour. But the occasionally profane Kentucky native has struggled in his two previous appearances at Augusta, where he’s never shot in the 60s or finished in the top 20.However, Thomas comes into the tournament with much more momentum this time around. He has jumped from a No. 45 ranking a season ago to No. 5 this season in percentage of yardage covered by tee shots, largely because his drives are averaging 312.5 yards, the longest average distance he’s posted since he turned pro.The Europeans (and one Canadian)Paul Casey (odds to win: 20-to-1): The 40-year-old is one of the the least-discussed veterans in this year’s field, and though he has repeatedly demonstrated his poise at majors, he’s never quite managed a win.Casey has finished in the top 10 at each of the last three Masters, and he has logged top-10 marks at every major at least once in his career.This season, only Sergio Garcia, Johnson and Casey rank in the top five in both strokes gained tee to green and total strokes gained. The Englishman has also notched a win stateside this year at the Valspar Championship, though it’s possible his victory was overshadowed when a certain someone on a comeback tour finished tied for second.Alex Noren (odds to win: 40-to-1): The Swede hasn’t finished outside the top 36 all season, racking up three top-10 finishes. In search of his first major victory, Noren has come to the right place. Eight of the last 11 Masters winners had never won a major before taking home the green jacket, according to ESPN Stats & Info.Noren cut his teeth on the European Tour, where he won five times between July 2016 and May 2017. He enters this weekend ranked in the top 20 in total strokes gained and in strokes gained with the putter, on approach, and from tee to green.Justin Rose (odds to win: 12-to-1): Rose has been a perennial contender at Augusta, and this could be the year he finally breaks through and wins a green jacket. He has finished in the top 10 in the tournament each of the last three years, twice coming in second, and over the last three Masters combined, he has the best score relative to par of anyone on the tour. Rose has ended up in the top 25 in 10 of his 12 starts at the Masters, which is an absurd success rate. Among players with at least five starts at the tournament, only Tiger Woods and Ben Hogan have made the top 25 more consistently.Adam Hadwin (odds to win: 150-to-1): A Canadian made the list! Hadwin has finished among the top 20 in every tournament he’s played in since early February. If he can withstand inconsistencies off the tee (he ranks No. 129 in strokes gained off the tee) and on the green (No. 131 in strokes gained with the putter), his approach game can do most of the work (No. 22 in strokes gained on shots approaching the green, No. 7 in strokes gained around the green). This year also marks the 15th anniversary of Mike Weir’s improbable victory at Augusta to become the first Canadian man to win a major. Hadwin has finished in the top 10 three times so far this season, and like Weir, he’s deft with the short game. It’s Masters week, which means that it’s time to cancel your weekend plans, turn the dulcet tones of Jim Nantz’s voice up as loud as your television and neighbors will allow, and watch — in its piano-saturated glory — golf’s most popular event.The 82nd installment of the Masters will be the smallest field since the mid-1990s, and it will be the most competitive in at least the past decade. There are 10 players with shorter than 20-to-1 odds to win the tournament (two more are at 20-to-1 exactly), according to the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook as of Tuesday. That’s the most of any Masters since at least 2008, according to ESPN Stats & Information Group.Tiger Woods, a golfer you might have heard of, is in that group, as is another familiar name: Phil Mickelson. But they aren’t the only players worth paying attention to. Below, I’ve highlighted the other marquee players you should look out for, as well as the under-the-radar players who could find themselves in a green jacket by Sunday night.
OSU senior guard Cait Craft (13) defends a Purdue player in a game on Jan. 17 at the Schottenstein Center. OSU won 90-70. Credit: Kevin Stankiewicz | Asst. Sports EditorAway contests for the Ohio State women’s basketball team have been problematic, as it has lost three of its five matches as the visitor this season.Now, after a convincing 90-70 victory Sunday afternoon over the Purdue Boilermakers, No. 7 OSU (13-4, 5-1) plans to carry over the energy it exposed in that game against Michigan (11-6, 3-3) Thursday evening. The Buckeyes and Wolverines are set to tip off at 6 p.m. in the Crisler Center.The main problem for the Buckeyes on the road revolves around their focus on the court. There have been times throughout the season where they haven’t honed in on what they had to do to get the job done, hurting them by the time the fourth quarter came around.“When we are not at home we have to make sure we have a lot of focus and stay together,” sophomore guard Asia Doss said. “The breakdowns mostly come on the defensive end, then (our opponents) get in transition and we don’t get back.”Doss returned to the starting lineup against Purdue, marking just her second start of the year. She contributed seven points and four assists in the 31 minutes that she saw the hardwood. Doss mentioned how it was a different experience starting rather than coming off the bench, specifically not being able to have those few minutes to analyze what is going on in the game prior to checking in.Although on paper the Scarlet and Gray have the clear advantage, the Wolverines have a roster that is littered with complete players. Despite the fact that the rivalry between OSU and Michigan is typically referred to when talking about the gridiron, there is still tension between the two regardless of what the sport may be.The last time these two faced off in Ann Arbor, Michigan, was a year ago on Jan. 11. The game extended into overtime, where the Wolverines eventually came out on top, 100-94. Just like the team that hit the century mark last year, Michigan is a high-scoring team, and the Buckeyes said they need to bring lockdown defense if they want to come out victorious.“I think our defense has to be really good,” coach Kevin McGuff said. “They really make you pay. They shoot the ball so well, and that’s what happened last year.”Scoring, contrary to focus for road games, has not been a problem for the Buckeyes, as they lead the conference in that category, dropping 86.4 points per game. Having two prolific scorers in senior guard Ameryst Alston and sophomore guard Kelsey Mitchell — both ranking in the top 10 in scoring for the conference — does not hurt OSU’s chances of putting the rock in the basket.Handling Thome and ThompsonThe Buckeyes have a tough task at hand stopping the talents of junior guard Siera Thompson and freshman center Hallie Thome. Both players have different types of games but can be lethal if they are able to get the shots they are looking for.OSU senior guard Ameryst Alston (14) dribbles the ball in a game against Purdue on Jan. 17 at the Schottenstein Center. OSU won 90-70. Credit: Kevin Stankiewicz | Asst. Sports EditorThompson is a crafty guard who is known for her speed and getting to the basket. OSU’s backcourt will need to pressure her but also stay in front to not allow her to get penetration toward the basket. When Thompson is able to find a hole in the defense, she not only is able to create her own shots, but she can use her impressive court vision to distribute the ball to the open teammate, evident by the 4.7 assists she averages on the season.The 6-foot-5 freshman Thome is a skilled post player who originates from Chagrin Falls, Ohio, near Cleveland. In her last outing against Penn State, Thome grabbed five boards while shooting 8-of-9 from the field to finish with 18 points. Growing up nearby Buckeye Nation, one could expect Thome to bring her best play to the Crisler Center on Thursday.Switching up the starting fiveMcGuff and his coaching staff have yet to stick with one starting lineup, and it doesn’t look like there will be one solidified any time soon. With the lineup constantly changing, it could be difficult for a team to find chemistry and understand each other’s tendencies. Despite such concern, it hasn’t affected the Buckeyes quite yet, as they have been able to adjust to whatever fivesome McGuff decides to put on the floor.“Our kids have done a really good job right now, for the most part,” McGuff said about the flip-flopping of the lineups. “We are playing with different combinations and playing around with the lineup a little bit just because I was never really tied to anything in that regard.”Like many coaches, McGuff said he notices hard work, and if the players continue to work hard in practice and in the games, then they will be earning their playing time. What’s nextFollowing the Wolverines, the Buckeyes are scheduled to travel to Piscataway, New Jersey, for their second clash of the season with Rutgers (12-7, 3-4) on Sunday. On Jan. 10 when the Scarlet Knights visited Columbus, OSU had no problem overcoming them in a 90-78 win.Tipoff for the rematch is slated for 3 p.m.
Ohio State junior wrestler Kyle Snyder has already become one of coach Tom Ryan’s and the school’s most decorated wrestlers of all time. He has a record of 41-4 in NCAA competition including two finals appearances, All-American recognition in 2014-15, a 2016 NCAA championship and he was the youngest world champion in USA wrestling history in 2015.But there is still one accomplishment the 20-year-old has yet to meet; Olympic gold. On Aug. 5, Snyder will join his fellow Americans in Rio de Janeiro for the XXXI Olympiad.Snyder won the 97-kg freestyle weight class at the Olympic Trials over 2012 gold medal winner Jake Varner to clinch a spot on team USA, giving him a place in his weight class in Rio. After winning the world championships in Las Vegas in September, Snyder told the media on Tuesday that he feels confident, and he understands that wrestlers will begin to prepare for him more.“Some of the guys have wrestled me a little bit differently,” Snyder said. “They know my moves and they are more prepared for a match that I’m going to wrestle. It just takes time for me to adjust and improve as well. They get a little better, I get a little better. Hopefully by the end of the day, I’ll be the one that can compete well.”He competed in Grand Prix of Germany tournament from July 1 to 3 competing against top Olympic talent. Snyder said he faced three wrestlers in the top 20 in the world who will be in his bracket in Rio.He took bronze in Germany amongst five of his fellow USA Olympians.Up until his departure for the Olympics, Snyder’s training has been quite similar to that of his regimen for the NCAA championships. He lifts Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings. He then wrestles on Tuesday and Thursday mornings with his training partner Tervel Dlagnev, who qualified for the Olympics by winning the 125-kg freestyle at the trials.Snyder said that the only difference from collegiate competition to training for the Olympics is that there is more focus on he and Dlagnev because coaches are only required to put their energy into two wrestlers instead of the 10 that make up a collegiate roster.Snyder said he has either wrestled against or seen film of every possible competitor at least a couple times. He does not compete until the final day, Aug. 21, in Rio, but said that at least it gives him a little time to enjoy the process of being an Olympian.Snyder said that he still gets butterflies from time to time, but he will enjoy the pressure that comes with being an Olympian.“I love it,” Snyder said about competing on the final day. “End it with a bang, hopefully. It will be the last thing people remember.”As excited as Snyder may be, OSU coach Ryan could speak for hours about his first wrestler to compete in the Olympic games. Ryan has spent 22 years as a coach and is “excited as heck” to cheer on Snyder in Rio alongside his family.“It shows the uniqueness of Kyle and the deep desire he has to be elite,” Ryan said. “These are the things we dream about as little kids. I’m looking forward to watching Kyle represent himself the way I know he will.”When Snyder wears the USA logo across his singlet next month, he said representing OSU will be on his mind.“There have been a lot of great athletes at Ohio State,” Snyder said. “I’m very proud to represent Ohio State and I feel like other than serving in the military, being an Olympian is the next best way to represent your country.” OSU sophomore Kyle Snyder enters the arena during the 2016 NCAA Wrestling Championships on March 19 at Madison Square Garden in New York. Credit: Courtesy of OSU
After reaching the playoffs for the first time in 15 seasons last year, the Cincinnati Reds open their season at home against the Milwaukee Brewers this afternoon to begin their 2011 campaign. Here are five key factors for the Reds to reach the playoffs in back-to-back seasons — a feat the club hasn’t accomplished since winning consecutive World Series titles in 1975–76. Avoiding the ‘sophomore slump’ In 2010, the Reds debuted two pitchers — Travis Wood, 24, and Mike Leake, 23 — who came into the starting lineup and flashed signs of dominance in giving the club a combined 13 wins between the two rookies. With starting pitchers Johnny Cueto and Homer Bailey battling shoulder injuries that have them on the disabled list to start the season, Wood and Leake will begin the season in the starting rotation. Building on their rookie success could be key factors in the Reds’ 2011 success. Position to watch After declining to bring back shortstop Orlando Cabrera, Paul Janish will enter the starting role. He is a player who isn’t talked about often, but he could have a huge impact on the season. His batting numbers have been weak, but have improved over each of his three seasons in the major leagues, while his defense has always been superior. Reigning World Series MVP Edgar Renteria was signed in the offseason and will serve as Janish’s backup. Renteria will likely see significant playing time. Regardless of who ends up as the full-time starter, the shortstop position appears to be the most intriguing entering the season. Names to know Last year, players like Janish, veteran infielder Miguel Cairo and then-rookie outfielder Chris Heisey came up big when regular starters were injured or needed a day off. If injuries catch up to the Reds at any point this season, don’t be surprised to hear names like infielder Yonder Alonso, outfielder Dave Sappelt or infielder Chris Valaika get a chance to step into the starting lineup. Alonso and Valaika both saw playing time for the Reds last season. Also keep in mind left-handed pitcher Dontrelle Willis, a former All-Star with the Florida Marlins, who signed with the Reds during the offseason but will begin the season in the Reds’ farm system. All four players have the potential to play at the major-league level and make an impact. Jay Bruce’s break-out season? When outfielder Bruce was called up to the majors in 2008, he started off his career with three home runs and seven RBIs in his first week as a pro. Expectations were high, and when his numbers fell down to Earth, fans and the media were quick to grow impatient with Bruce. However, Bruce’s batting average was .305 after the All-Star break last year, and he also hit 15 of his 25 home runs on the season in that time span. National League MVP Joey Votto’s rise to baseball stardom should take some of the pressure off Bruce, and the former first-round right fielder finally could have his break-out season. No longer the underdog The biggest challenge for the 2011 Reds is a simple one — they no longer can play the underdog card. They outdueled the perennially playoff-contending St. Louis Cardinals down the stretch and brought the NL Central crown to Cincinnati. No one will be surprised when outfielder Jonny Gomes comes up clutch in the bottom of the ninth inning, or when the speedy center fielder Drew Stubbs uses his speed to reach first base on what appears to be a bad bunt. This year, the only surprise will be if the Reds aren’t competing for a playoff spot as October approaches.
Cornerbacks and special teams coach Kerry Coombs celebrates the Buckeyes victory over Wisconsin on Nov. 17, 2012 at Camp Randall Stadium. OSU won, 21-14.Sophomore cornerback Armani Reeves will have big shoes to fill for the Ohio State football team when it kicks off its season Aug. 31 versus Buffalo. With star cornerback Bradley Roby suspended for the season opener, Reeves will take Roby’s place in the starting lineup opposite junior Doran Grant, OSU cornerbacks coach KerryCoombs said Monday.Reeves said Monday he is looking forward to the opportunity to be a starter, if only for one game.“I can’t wait to have all my family and friends see me on the field,” Reeves said. “It’s going to be fun.”OSU coach Urban Meyer announced Saturday that Roby, a redshirtjunior, would be suspended for at least the first game of the season for his involvement in an incident at a bar in Bloomington, Ind., on July 21. That announcement came one day after Roby’s charge was downgraded from misdemeanor battery to disorderly conduct.Roby was one of the nation’s best cornerbacks last season as a redshirt sophomore. He had 19 pass defenses in 11 games for a nation-best rate of 1.73 pass defenses per game. He was named a semifinalist for the Jim Thorpe Award and a second-team All-American.Meyer has not ruled out the possibility of Roby being suspended for more than one game, but he is expected to return as the team’s No. 1 cornerback once he is off suspension.Coombs said Reeves has earned the opportunity to start against Buffalo.“(Reeves has had an) incredible offseason, great spring, worked really hard, understands the game, very committed, very focused,” Coombs said. “(He) still has to play, so we’ll find out on the 31st, but he’s going to line up, and he’s going to play, and I’m excited to see him play.”Starting opposite Reeves will be Grant, who is taking Travis Howard’s place in the starting lineup at cornerback.“I feel good. I feel ready to play. I’m ready for the season to get started,” Grant said.Grant started one game last season versus UAB in place of Roby. He saw action in all 12 games, accumulated 19 tackles and had an interception, a sack and a fumble recovery during the season.Going into this season as a starter, Grant said he has a fresh mindset and is going to play more aggressively.“I prepared for it just like I did last season,” Grant said. “I just grew a little bit, little bit more confident and I’m ready for Aug. 31.”Coombs said he’s confident in Grant’s ability.“I think there’s a difference when you walk in and hope to get a job, and when you’ve earned a job,” Coombs said. “I think he feels very, very confident in his ability to do that job. I know that I do.”With Roby’s ability to make plays on the ball and lock down opponents in coverage, opposing teams may be more prone to throw at Grant this season. Grant said he is looking forward to be tested by his opponents.“To me, it’s just more opportunity in my eyes,” Grant said.Coombs said Grant has been tested by all of the Buckeyes’ top wide receivers in fall camp, and that Grant has responded “incredibly well.”“If you’re going to play this position at this level, you better hope to be tested, that’s why you want to be there,” Coombssaid. “You’re standing out there on the island all by yourself. It takes a man’s man to play corner in the Big Ten Conference and I would expect that he’s really excited about that.”Redshirt senior quarterback Kenny Guiton said throwing against Grant in practice has been a challenge.“He’s a guy that works hard and he’s always in there and I think he’s going to do real good,” Guiton said. “He’s there, he’s always there, you have to make a good pass to complete it on him.”In football terminology, Roby plays boundary cornerback, which means he will play on the short side of the field and typically see more one-on-one matchups with the opposing team’s best receiver. Grant will play the field cornerback spot opposite Roby, but for the season opener, Coombs said both Grant and Reeves could see time as the boundary cornerback.“For the first game, Doran (Grant) will play some boundary, Armani (Reeves) will play some boundary,” Coombs said. “The throw is shorter to the boundary so it’s an easier throw. Offenses put their best guy there a lot. So a shorter throw to a better receiver requires tighter coverage. The skill set in the boundary is a little different than the skill set to the field.”Roby may be one of the nation’s best cornerbacks, but Coombs said the secondary will be fine without him in the lineup.“I want to make sure I’m very, very clear: We’re going to be good regardless of who’s in there,” Coombs said.Behind Roby, Grant and Reeves, the Buckeyes are relying on youth to step up quickly at cornerback.Three true freshmen — Eli Apple, Cam Burrows and Gareon Conley — are currently battling for depth chart position at cornerback behind Reeves, Coombs said.“They’re battling their butt(s) off,” Coombs said. “The guy who makes it through that the best is the guy that’s going to play the most, but I would expect all of them to play this year.”As for Reeves, he said although he is excited to start, his preparation will not change if he returns to a backup role upon Roby’s return.“Obviously he’s one of the best in the country, if not the best, so when he comes back I’m still going to do the same thing I’ve been doing all the time, and that’s working hard,” Reeves said of Roby. “And if I’m on the field at corner, I’m going to be going hard.”Reeves said Roby has still been the same player in camp too, even though he will be forced to sit out the opening game.“He’s been very supportive and working hard like always,” Reeves said. “Nothing’s really changed for him. Still a hard worker, film everyday, technique’s always on point.”The Aug. 31 season opener versus Buffalo is scheduled for a noon kickoff at Ohio Stadium.
Former Ohio State forward Keita Bates-Diop announces his decision to enter the 2018 NBA draft with his parents during a press conference on March 26. Credit: Jack Westerheide | Photo EditorThe decision that was made only a few days ago was not an easy one for Ohio State redshirt junior forward Keita Bates-Diop. But he felt it was the right one.Bates-Diop decided to forgo his final year of eligibility and declare for the 2018 NBA Draft, he announced while sitting beside his parents at a press conference Monday afternoon.“I love this place. I’ve been here for four years and the memories I’ve made here, I had to weigh that versus my future,” Bates-Diop said. “Weighing all of my options, talking to my family, the coaches, former and pro teammates currently, I think it was the best decision for me.”Bates-Diop said he will sign with an agent and eliminate the possibility of returning to Ohio State for another season, but he has not decided on an agency yet because he has been solely focused on the decision. One factor that Bates-Diop said made a huge impact on his decision was his graduation from Ohio State in December. Bates-Diop placed an importance on leaving Ohio State with a degree.In addition to his graduation, the star forward considered what he had to gain, or rather, what he had to lose by staying another season. He fractured his leg near the beginning of his junior season and was forced to take a medical redshirt after appearing in just nine games. The fear of another injury provided Bates-Diop with incentive to leave early and avoid the chance of another injury harming his draft stock. “I think he realized the timing is right given that he’s 22 [years old] and given that he’s got his degree and all of those things kind of lined up,” Holtmann said. “I think he realized he made a significant contribution to our program in his time here but certainly this year in both his play and his leadership.”In his final season at Ohio State, Bates-Diop capped off his career with his best season, taking home the Big Ten Player of The Year trophy and leading the Buckeyes to their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2015.Feeling that he was leaving the program at a point where it only had an upward trajectory, Bates-Diop took into account the success of the team this past season and realized it was the perfect time to leave.“It’s the best feeling and kind of one of the best parts about all of this,” Bates-Diop said. “The last couple of years have been down for Ohio State basketball and to do what we did and what I did individually this year and to kind of leave on that note is a bittersweet feeling but it’s probably the best way to go.”He said he had been debating his future since the start of Big Ten play and that as much as he tried to keep the focus solely on the present, he couldn’t help but look toward the future.Now he feels relieved to have a decision made so he can focus on the next chapter of his basketball career beyond Ohio State.“These last four years have been the best four years of my life, and it’s been a great journey,” Bates-Diop said.
Nicola Sturgeon had supported their causeCredit:Andrew Cowan /PA The Brains faced having to return to AustraliaCredit:Andrew Milligan /PA "This case also illustrates a wider issue, which is that the UK Government must deliver an immigration system that meets Scotland's needs and which allows talented international graduates and others with key skills to remain in Scotland after their studies are complete. We will continue to press for this." Their seven-year-old son Lachlan's first language is Gaelic. But they have now been granted a visa after Mrs Brain was offered a job with a Highland hotel group.Mr Brain had previously warned the family would be "homeless, jobless and significantly in debt" if they were not allowed to remain.Speaking on Tuesday he said: "We are still significantly in debt even with the incredible support we've had from our community and people right across the UK, but we'll now have the opportunity to work and repay that, so we're very grateful to be given that opportunity." An Australian family who were fighting deportation from the Scottish Highlands have been told they can stay in Britain after the wife secured a new job.Gregg and Kathryn Brain set up home in Dingwall in 2011 but last month they were advised to quit the UK voluntarily after the Home Office said their leave to remain would not be continued.The family initially moved to the UK on Mrs Brain's student visa but a two-year post-study visa scheme then on offer was later withdrawn by the UK Government. We have always been clear with the Brain family that if a suitable job offer was received an application to remain in the UK would be consideredHome Office Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: "I'm glad the UK Government has finally seen sense on this occasion - but the Brains should not have had this cloud of uncertainty hanging over them for so long. A Home Office spokesman said: "We have always been clear with the Brain family that if a suitable job offer was received an application to remain in the UK would be considered."We gave them a number of extensions on an exceptional basis to allow them to try to secure a job that would allow them to meet the immigration rules. "Mrs Brain was subsequently offered a job with a hotel group. This has been considered and we are satisfied that it meets the conditions for a tier two visa."Today we have written to Mrs Brain and confirmed that she and her family have been granted leave to remain in the UK." 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.
Here is a track I composed for @bhamcathedral entitled “How Good It Is”. It is my way of giving back to Birmingham.https://t.co/9mFoywvErY— Tony Iommi (@tonyiommi) January 5, 2017 But Iommi insists the group’s dark image was misconstrued.“People used to think we were Satanists but we weren’t,” he told the Birmingham Post.“The songs were the opposite – they were all about the dangers of Black Magic.“The closest we came was Black Magic chocolates!”Ms Ogle told the paper: “We had been introduced by a friend then, when Tony was unwell, we got to know one another better when I began to pray for him.“I kept in touch with Tony and his wife about his health.She added: “The words come from scripture and are really positive about people living together in peace and harmony.“This is what Birmingham is all about.” Check in tomorrow around 5:30pm UK time to hear a very different new piece of music from Tony.— Tony Iommi (@tonyiommi) January 4, 2017 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. His foray into ecclesiastical music will be viewed as more than a simple change in style given the hell-raising image of the band – which was routinely denounced as Satanic in some Christian circles.Black Sabbath will always be associated with the exploits of its former frontman Ozzy Osbourne who notoriously bit the head off a bat on stage, although that took place after he had left the band. Tony Iommi with the Very Rev Catherine OgleCredit:Sam Bagnall As startling changes in tack go, it is surely up there with St Paul on the road to Damascus.Tony Iommi, founder and lead guitarist of Black Sabbath – the man credited with inventing heavy metal – has switched his one-time bat-biting bandmates for a group of choirboys and taken up church music.The 68-year-old musician has recorded a remarkable new choral work with the choir of Birmingham Cathedral and the cellist George Shilling. The piece, entitled How Good It Is, is inspired by the words of Psalm 133 which speaks about “brethren dwelling together in unity”. It was premiered at the cathedral on Thursday.It developed out a friendship between the musician and the cathedral’s Dean, the Very Rev Catherine Ogle, which grew up while he was being treated for cancer.