Ozzie Smith Auctioning Off Gold Gloves AllStar World Series

Ozzie Smith, perhaps the best defensive shortstop in baseball history, is auctioning off lots of hard-earned hardware, including Gold Gloves, All-Star Game rings, World Series championship rings with the St. Louis Cardinals and more, according to ESPN.com.Available for the right price are Smith’s 13 Gold Gloves, 11 All-Star Game rings, the World Series rings he got for the 2006 and 2011 Cardinals championships and his Roberto Clemente and Lou Gehrig Awards, according to the site.ThThe mass paraphernalia sale is for “estate and family planning,” the site reported, saying it was unaware if Smith had financial concerns. He earned just under $32 million in his career, accoring to Baseball-Reference.com.The site speculated that auctioning the items could be  just to help set up funding for posterity, and not for Smith personally. No further details are available, but any sort of personal money woes would be relatively surprising.Smith, 57, retired after the 1996 season and has had various entrepreneur ventures — like a restaurant and salad dressing — since his playing days.Smith was the Cardinals special instructor during this past spring training.Meanwhile,  college basketball Hall of Fame coach Bob Knight said he selling his championship basketball rings and Olympic gold medal for the education of his grandchildren.A collection of the former coach’s memorabilia will be auctioned by Steiner Sports Memorabilia. It’s part of a sale that features the jersey Yankees pitcher Don Larsen wore while pitching a perfect game in the World Series.“John Havlicek and I were just talking one day about all the stuff we had accumulated over the years,” Knight said Monday from the Denver airport, referring to his college teammate at Ohio State who went on to a Hall of Fame career with the Boston Celtics. “As we talked we decided the money could be very useful to put our grandchildren through college.”The auction, which has already started for some items, runs through Dec. 5 and will feature Knight’s rings from his three NCAA championship teams at Indiana — the undefeated 1976 season and the ones from 1981 and 1987.The company will also sell a sports coat and a warmup jacket given to Knight as coach of the gold medal-winning U.S. Olympic team in 1984.“I’ve got stuff I didn’t even know I had,” Knight said. “I don’t put anything up in the house. If you came into the house you would think I was a mailman. And I don’t even wear rings.” read more

Kobe Bryant Flies in to Help Pitch Lakers to

Kobe Bryant posted “selfies” on Instagram of himself in Athens, Greece, on Wednesday as he vacationed with his family. Soon after, apparently, he boarded a plane to Los Angeles to join in on the Los Angles Lakers’ pitch to free agent forward Carmelo Anthony.Anthony opted out of his contract with the New York Knicks and is being courted by, among others, the Houston Rockets, Chicago Bulls, Dallas Mavericks and the Knicks. The Lakers seem to be a long shot, but with some maneuvering they can have enough cap space to sign the lethal scorer and pair him with Bryant, who is coming off a season in which he played just 13 games because of injuries.Bryant and Anthony have had a long, close relationship and if anyone could influence Anthony to take a flyer on the struggling Lakers, it’s Bryant. His pitch could be that they’d be a special duo and that when Bryant retires in two years, Anthony would continue the legacy of Hall of Fame talent in purple and gold.The Lakers have made Anthony and fellow superstar free agent LeBron James  their primary points of interest, going so far as to hold off hiring a coach and signing other free agents until they could make pitches to the two players.While they have called Rich Paul, James’ agent, and were hoping to meet with him soon, sources maintain James and Paul have yet to grant formal meetings to any teams.Anthony is far from a consolation prize, however. Sources indicate the Lakers are enamored with his game and believe he would complement Bryant well. The Lakers hope to pair the two wings with center Pau Gasol,  with whom they met on the first day of free agency.ESPN reported Wednesday night that the Oklahoma City Thunder duet of stars, Kevin Durant and Michael Westbrook, made a strong case for Gasol to join them. But OKC seems limited on what it could pay Gasol. The Bulls are scheduled to meet with Gasol on Thursday in Los Angeles.However, the Lakers can pay Gasol more than any other team, and his fondness for the city and playing with Bryant should not be discounted. If the team can add to its roster with Anthony, sources said, Gasol would be far more inclined to re-sign with the Lakers. read more

NBA Free Agency Diary The Rockets Are Still Relevant

Keep track of the chaotic NBA offseason with our Free Agency Diary. Dear NBA Diary,The Houston Rockets are having a rough summer. Despite tough talk from owner Tilman Fertitta after the team’s second-straight playoff defeat to the Golden State Warriors — and a mandate for general manager Daryl Morey to improve the team over the offseason — the Rockets have largely watched from the sidelines as other Western Conference teams overhauled their rosters. In fact, the biggest news to come out of Houston this summer might have been the (disputed) reports of friction between stars James Harden and Chris Paul.Maybe there is still time for Houston to orchestrate a trade for orphaned OKC star Russell Westbrook, but that looks like a long shot. Most likely, the 2019-20 Rockets will closely resemble the 2018-19 Rockets, who also closely resembled the 2017-18 Rockets.But is that such a bad thing? After a rocky start, last year’s Rockets righted the ship and finished the 2018-19 season with essentially the same Elo rating (1702) as they had at the end of 2017-18 (1704). And the Warriors, their longtime bête noire, are unquestionably weakened. (By how much? That’s a subject for a future entry, dear diary.) Our way-too-early CARMELO rankings consider Houston the best regular-season team in the West, talent-wise, right now: The Rockets still have a lot of top talent on their sideProjected full-strength regular-season depth chart for the 2019-20 Houston Rockets, based on CARMELO plus/minus ratings Clint Capela00022931-0.3+2.3+2.0 Eric Gordon03260029+1.1-1.2-0.1 James Harden82540037+7.4+0.9+8.3 PJ Tucker00226028-1.2+1.1-0.1 Isaiah Hartenstein0006612-1.7+1.4-0.3 As my colleague Chris Herring and I argued immediately after Houston’s playoff loss, the Rockets would be in surprisingly good shape if they simply ran it back yet again with the same Harden-CP3-Clint Capela core. The roster is light on depth, to be sure. But our early simulation model for 2019-201Plugging ratings into last year’s regular-season schedule, since this year’s hasn’t yet been released. calls for Houston to win a conference-high 56 games (with a 97 percent chance of making the playoffs), and it gives the Rockets a 30 percent chance of making the NBA Finals and a 19 percent chance of winning the title (both of which rank No. 1 in the West).Despite all this, the narrative around the Rockets seems to be that they need a major shake-up, or that their offseason will be a failure if they don’t participate in this summer’s wild superstar arms race. And after a string of so many disappointing playoff outcomes, it’s easy to see why. But don’t write off Houston quite yet, NBA Diary. It could just be the championship contender everyone is forgetting this summer. CARMELO team rating:1693 Austin Rivers91710027+0.1-1.3-1.2 Team total Chris Chiozza100001-0.9-1.6-2.5 Gary Clark002103-1.9-0.4-2.3 Danuel House Jr.031408+0.0-0.4-0.5 Gerald Green00125017-0.7-1.9-2.6 Chris Paul30000030+2.8+0.7+3.5 Michael Frazier000000-1.6-1.3-2.9 PLAYERPGSGSFPFCTOTALOFF. +/-DEF. +/-TOT. +/- Deyonta Davis00041317-1.7+1.0-0.7 Expected record:56-26 240+5.9+1.7+7.6 Check out our NBA player ratings. EXPECTED MINUTES PER GAMEPLAYER RATING read more

LeBron James Destroyed Our Elo Ratings But Can He Beat The Warriors

It’s become a rite of spring. Every year — or at least every year since LeBron James returned to the Cleveland Cavaliers — our NBA Elo ratings are skeptical of the Cavs when the playoffs begin. And every year, LeBron and Co. have smashed our poor algorithm to bits.In 2015, the Cavs entered the playoffs with a lukewarm 1631 Elo rating. That’s perfectly respectable, but the sort of rating you might associate with the Los Angeles Clippers or another 50-something-win team that you’d expect to lose in the second round or the conference finals. Instead, Cleveland reached the NBA Finals, losing to the Golden State Warriors in six competitive games even with a depleted roster.In 2016, the Cavs had a similarly good-but-not-great Elo rating — 1642 — when the playoffs began. But they blew through the Eastern Conference playoffs before beating the 73-win Warriors to win the NBA title, famously overcoming a 3-1 series deficit along the way. Their Elo rating finished at 1759, ranking them among the top 25 teams of all-time and implying that the system had massively underrated them initially.This year, Elo had the Cavs pegged lower still when the playoffs began last month. Although the Cavs were our preseason favorite to win the Eastern Conference, they slumped at the end of the regular season — losing 13 of their final 22 games, including their last four — and their Elo rating fell all the way to 1545. That isn’t good; it’s the sort of rating you’d normally associate with a No. 6 seed or some other team you’d expect to lose in the first or second round. Accordingly, the Cavs’ chances of winning the title drifted around in the low-to-mid single digits — variously at 2 percent to 5 percent according to our simulations — as the regular season wound down and the playoffs began.But the Cavs have gone 12-1 in the playoffs and won by an average score of 117-103. Their Elo rating has climbed by almost 150 points, to 1691. They clinched a return to the finals by beating the Boston Celtics by 33 points on Thursday. It’s been dominating stuff.So has Elo learned its lesson? Well, maybe not. Cleveland’s chances of winning the finals are just 10 percent according to the more advanced, “Carm-ELO” version of our ratings — and 13 percent according to the simpler, original Elo algorithm. Bookmakers also have the Cavs as underdogs, but not as heavily, implying that they have about a 30 percent chance to beat the Warriors again and repeat as champions.Giving Cleveland only a 10 percent chance is not the hill I want to die on. Our NBA projections are pretty simple, and sports betting markets are pretty sophisticated. While there are occasional exceptions, I’d usually defer to Vegas in the event of a major disagreement.1I wouldn’t say that of political betting markets, which aren’t as sophisticated and have a bad track record in recent years compared with simple polling averages. Still, we’ve gotten a lot of questions throughout the playoffs about why Elo hasn’t given the Cavs a better chance. There are basically three reasons — but the one that matters the most right now has nothing to do with the Cavs and everything to do with the Warriors.Reason No. 1: Elo doesn’t account for teams such as Cleveland finding a higher “gear” in the playoffs. We covered this point extensively before the playoffs began, so I won’t go into too much detail here. Our Elo projections — and most other projection systems — essentially treat regular-season basketball as equivalent to playoff basketball. But LeBron’s teams have a long history of performing at a much higher caliber in the playoffs than in the regular season.Maybe this is because James and his teammates conserve their energy; there aren’t a lot of high-leverage regular-season games in the Eastern Conference, as evidenced by the fact that the Cavs could play so crappily down the stretch run and still stumble into the No. 2 seed. Maybe it’s because LeBron is a terrific half-court player, and there’s a premium on the half-court game in the playoffs as defenses tighten up. In any event, the assumption that playoff basketball equals regular-season basketball seems to be pretty wrong in the case of the Cavs. This is something we plan on re-evaluating as we retune our NBA models this summer.Reason No. 2: Elo ratings heavily weight recent performance. That hurt Cleveland before, although it’s starting to help them now. Elo ratings were originally devised for chess, which doesn’t have any such thing as a “season.” Instead, performance continuously fluctuates up and down over time. Our Elo-based sports ratings mostly work the same way.2With some exceptions: Regular Elo ratings revert each team’s rating partway toward the league average at the start of each regular season. And the Carm-ELO version of our ratings start each team out with an initial rating each season based on our player projections. The more recent the game, the more heavily it gets weighted.I’d defend this as being the right assumption to make, in general. The degree to which Elo ratings fluctuate from game to game — which is governed by something called the K-factor — has been tested based on tens of thousands of NBA games. Other things held equal, a game played a week ago ought to tell you more than one played six months ago. Elo can be “smart” about catching cases like the 2014-15 Atlanta Hawks, who started out 40-8 but went 20-14 for the rest of the regular season before being swept by Cleveland in the conference finals.But for a team whose regular-season performance doesn’t tell you much about how they’re going to fare in the playoffs (like the Cavaliers), there isn’t much benefit to doubling down on recent play. Cleveland played pretty well in the first half of the regular season, but middlingly — sometimes even poorly — in the second half. Elo put a lot of emphasis on that late-season slump as the playoffs approached, and that made it more skeptical of the Cavs.Elo’s philosophy of rapidly adjusting its ratings is benefiting the Cavaliers now, however. Because of their dominance in the playoffs, the Cavs’ current Elo rating has rebounded. Their 1691 is the highest Elo rating they’ve had since Dec. 25, when they were at 1692 and had a 23-6 record after beating the Warriors.That’s a very good Elo rating. Since the ABA-NBA merger in the 1976-77 season, the average NBA Finals participant has entered the finals with a rating of 1695. So Elo is saying that despite their regular-season struggles, the Cavs are every bit as strong as the typical conference champion. 1998Jazz*176254Bulls176146✓ 2005Spurs*171666✓Pistons167034 2010Lakers*168657✓Celtics167443 1960Celtics*167678✓Hawks157522 1971Bucks*170491✓Wizards15079 2017Warriors12-0118.3102.0+16.3 1985Lakers15-4126.3116.2+10.2 2017Cavaliers12-1116.8103.2+13.6 1975Bullets*165975Warriors157125✓ 198276ers*169957Lakers168643✓ 2002Lakers*171780✓Nets160120 1958Celtics*160365Hawks155935✓ 1954Nationals166661Lakers*160739✓ 1992Bulls*174264✓Trail Blazers170236 1972Lakers*173890✓Knicks155510 2016Warriors*179070Cavaliers172530✓ 2003Spurs*174681✓Nets162419 2007Spurs*170570✓Cavaliers164130 Minimum 8 playoff games played.Source: Basketball-reference.com 1997Bulls*179966✓Jazz175134 1961Celtics*166977✓Hawks157123 1970Knicks*159566✓Lakers154934 1995Magic*162852Rockets163548✓ 2014Spurs*173076✓Heat163824 2015Warriors*180275✓Cavaliers171225 197776ers*161551Trail Blazers162449✓ 1981Celtics*166876✓Rockets157324 1964Celtics*166970✓Warriors160230 1979SuperSonics162057✓Bullets*157743 1976Celtics*155857✓Suns154443 196776ers*174592%✓Warriors15418% 198376ers*170771✓Lakers163829 1996Bulls*183284✓SuperSonics169516 YEARTEAMW-LPOINTS SCOREDPOINTS ALLOWEDSCORING MARGIN 1987Lakers*173872✓Celtics166128 1984Celtics*170672✓Lakers163328 1952Lakers*164667✓Knicks159433 2001Lakers*176889✓76ers159211 1987Lakers15-3120.6109.2+11.4 1989Pistons*176369✓Lakers170131 1959Celtics*164382✓Lakers151418 2009Lakers*176068✓Magic170332 1949Lakers*162584✓Capitols149016 1966Celtics*165076✓Lakers155824 2012Thunder*173767Heat168633✓ 2004Lakers*169858Pistons168242✓ 1991Bulls*175067✓Lakers169733 * Home-court advantage.Elo ratings are for each NBA Finals team as they entered the series. 2013Heat*175565✓Spurs171135 1978SuperSonics*161059Bullets159041✓ 1963Celtics*167785✓Lakers153315 1980Lakers*171262✓76ers168138 1994Rockets*166356✓Knicks165544 YEAR▲▼FAVORITE▲▼ELO▲▼WIN PROB.▲▼WON▲▼UNDERDOG▲▼ELO▲▼WIN PROB.▲▼WON▲▼ YEAR▲▼FAVORITE▲▼ELO▲▼WIN PROB.▲▼WON▲▼UNDERDOG▲▼ELO▲▼WIN PROB.▲▼WON▲▼ 1991Bulls15-2103.992.2+11.7 2017Warriors*185087Cavaliers169113 1999Spurs*174580✓Knicks163120 1986Celtics*180788✓Rockets164012 2000Lakers*169968✓Pacers164332 There’s just one big problem for Cleveland: Golden State.Reason No. 3: Elo thinks the Warriors are insanely great — one of the two best teams ever, along with the 1995-96 Bulls.The Warriors’ current Elo rating is 1850. That’s the highest rating a team has held upon entering the NBA Finals. And it’s the second-highest rating a team has had at any point in the regular season or playoffs; the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls peaked at a rating of 1853 after sweeping the first three games of the finals.3The Bulls then lost Games 4 and 5 before recovering to win the title in Game 6, finishing with an Elo rating of 1823. It’s higher than the peak rating of last season’s 73-win Warriors, who topped out at 1839 after starting out the regular season 24-0.We’ll be publishing a deeper dive on the Warriors next week, but Elo’s affection for them isn’t hard to explain. They’re 27-1 over their last 28 games. That includes a 12-0 record in the playoffs and an average margin of victory of more than 16 points, which is the best playoff scoring margin of all time. And they’ve done all of this in the Western Conference, which is still a lot deeper than the East.4True, Golden State benefited from a playoff injury to the San Antonio Spurs’ Kawhi Leonard — although the Cavs were helped by injuries to the Toronto Raptors’ Kyle Lowry and the Celtics’ Isaiah Thomas. The Warriors are making it look so easy that they may even be underrated by the “eye test,” which tends to reward teams that triumph in the face of adversity. Other than in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals, the Warriors haven’t faced much adversity because they haven’t let their opponents get close. 1950Lakers172777✓76ers*159723 1965Celtics*165375✓Lakers156525 The Cavaliers are great … but still a big underdog 1961Celtics8-2120.7109.1+11.6 1968Celtics*159456✓Lakers158644 To put this in perspective, suppose you took an indisputably great team like the 1986-87 Los Angeles Lakers, who went 65-17 in the regular season and entered the NBA Finals with an Elo rating of 1738. Elo would have given the Lakers only a 20 percent chance to win a seven-game series over the Warriors, assuming that the Warriors had home-court advantage (as they will against the Cavs). Compared with that, the Cavaliers’ 10 percent or 13 percent chance doesn’t seem so bad. Still, I’d put a few dimes down on LeBron at Elo’s odds.CORRECTION (May 30, 4:05 p.m.): An earlier version of a table in this story gave an incorrect winner for the 1951 NBA Finals. It was the Rochester Royals, not the New York Knicks. 2001Lakers15-1103.490.6+12.8 1956Warriors*161775✓Pistons152925 1969Lakers*161458Celtics159842✓ 1957Celtics*163075✓Hawks154125 1990Pistons*168860✓Trail Blazers166340 1953Lakers*163251✓Knicks164149 PER GAME PLAYOFF AVERAGES 1985Lakers175260✓Celtics*169740 1951Royals*161574✓Knicks153126 2006Mavericks*171773Heat163727✓ 1996Bulls15-397.486.8+10.6 1948Warriors*149152Bullets150048✓ 1971Bucks12-2109.194.6+14.5 1974Bucks*170980Celtics159220✓ 2011Heat*172155Mavericks171745✓ 1993Bulls174173✓Suns*163427 1962Celtics*166980✓Lakers155720 2008Lakers173759Celtics*168541✓ 1988Pistons169255Lakers*165845✓ 1986Celtics15-3114.4104.1+10.3 1973Lakers*166759Knicks164941✓ 1955Nationals*163273✓Pistons155127 The Warriors have dominated the playoffs like no one before them 1947Warriors*142352✓Stags143248 read more

Most College Football Dreams Have Yet To Be Crushed

FloridaSEC1292 CHANCE OF MAKING PLAYOFF Ohio StateBig Ten212486 CHANCE OF … TEAMCONFWINNING OUTMAKING PLAYOFF Alabama (5-0) has a 66 percent chance of making the playoff, and that’s easily the nation’s best; Clemson (5-0) is second, at 55 percent. That means there’s a 64 percent chance that at least one of the last two champs won’t be in the playoff (including a 15 percent neither will be present). And the odds quickly fall off even further from there — Washington (5-0) rounds out the top four with just a 40 percent shot at the playoff.In other words, there’s still so much we don’t know yet about how this season will play out.And in a way, that can work in the undefeated teams’ favor. Most of them have a much higher probability of making the CFP than of winning out, so there are plenty of plausible paths that involve them weathering a loss and still ending up playing for the championship.But it also means there’s plenty of hope to go around, whether a team is undefeated or not. A dozen teams currently have double-digit CFP probabilities, and 25 have at least a 1 percent chance of making the playoff. Furthermore, almost all of the top 20 teams in our projection are pretty likely to make the playoff if they win all of their remaining games. The only clear exception here is Notre Dame (4-1), which already needs some helpful losses from the teams above them. The problem for the Irish is that — unlike most of the one-loss contenders — winning out doesn’t disrupt too many other contending teams’ playoff trajectories. If Ohio State wins the rest of its games, it’ll be dealing losses to Penn State (No. 4 in the AP top 25 poll), Michigan (No. 7) and possibly Wisconsin (No. 9) in the Big Ten championship game, whereas Notre Dame’s best remaining opponents are outside the top 10. Plus, the Irish don’t have a conference championship to pad its résumé at season’s end. (Hey, maybe it’s time to join a conference, guys?)Mostly, the uncertainty in our probabilities is a function of how early we are in the college football calendar: Not even halfway into the season, there are still enough games left that most contenders control their own destinies. Most one-loss teams can probably play their way into serious CFP contention if they run the table: USCPac-1271189 WashingtonPac-122040 MichiganBig Ten26 ClemsonACC2855 GeorgiaSEC725 TCUBig 12617 AlabamaSEC38%66% Today, we launched our college football predictions for the 2017 season, and there weren’t too many surprises at the top: Alabama and Clemson are the leading favorites to make the four-team College Football Playoff (so what else is new?), followed by Oklahoma and Washington, three Big Ten teams1Wisconsin, Penn State and, yes, one-loss Ohio State. and Georgia. What’s perhaps most notable at this stage of the season is that even the undefeated front-runners still have relatively low chances of being picked by the committee at season’s end. Penn StateBig Ten1122 UtahPac-12<1<1 How the undefeateds stack upFiveThirtyEight college football forecast for undefeated teams, 2017 Includes undefeated teams in Power Five conferences Among one-loss teams with the 10 best chances of making the playoff listed on the FiveThirtyEight college football predictions interactive graphic MiamiACC411 Okla. StateBig 126779 Wash. St.Pac-1226 OklahomaBig 121945 WisconsinBig Ten1326 Kansas St.Big 12<1189 Winning fixes everything, unless you’re Notre DameChance that a given one-loss team will make the College Football Playoff if it wins all remaining games OregonPac-123386 NC StateACC2386 AuburnSEC5%11%97% TEAMCONFERENCECHANCE OF WINNING OUTCURRENTIF TEAM WINS OUT Notre DameInd.9328 Virginia TechACC3371 And even some two-loss teams could get in by winning out. For example, Stanford (3-2) has a 62 percent chance of making the playoff if it goes without another loss. (These kinds of numbers are contingent on who a team would beat in those universes — in the Cardinal’s case, that’s most notably Washington.)So take heart, fans, even if your team isn’t at the top of our rankings right now. A lot of schools have a lot of ways to win the national championship. And each week in this space, we’ll pick out one of those teams and explore all the things that have to happen around the country for our model to think it has a shot to make the cut. read more

Bucks lose starting center to broken hand

Ohio State junior center Dallas Lauderdale will be sidelined for four-to-six weeks with a broken bone in his right hand, the team announced in a press release.Lauderdale suffered the injury Monday during a workout. He will have surgery today at the OSU Medical Center.The 6-foot-8-inch big man from Solon, Ohio, averaged 4.7 points and 3.6 rebounds and was second in the Big Ten with 2.0 blocks per game. He was expected to be the team’s starting center.The Buckeyes have their first official practice Friday at 6 p.m. and play an exhibition game Nov. 4 against Walsh University before the regular season begins with a contest against Alcorn State on Nov. 9 at Value City Arena.

Defensive tackle adds intensity for Buckeyes in 2010

Johnathan Hankins, a 6-foot-3-inch, 300-pound defensive tackle from Southeastern High School in Detroit, Mich., brings size and technique to the 2010 Ohio State recruiting class.The Buckeyes had to fill holes left by last year’s departing senior class. Without Todd Denlinger and Doug Worthington, the Buckeyes needed another large, strong prospect to add to the rotation at defensive tackle. The defensive line has some leadership with seniors Cameron Heyward and Dexter Larimore returning for their senior seasons. Junior Nathan Williams will likely fill the hole left when Thaddeus Gibson went to the NFL. Hankins, rated a three-star recruit by Rivals.com, played both offensive and defensive tackle at Southeastern High School. He had scholarship offers from Florida, Michigan, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Virginia and Wisconsin, among others. “Several things he brings is his nose for the ball, and the way he gets after it every play,” Southeastern coach Vincent Session said. “He brings tenacity when they blow the first whistle that we haven’t seen at our high school in some time for a big fellow.”Hankins was a two-time all-state selection in high school. He recorded 85 tackles and 12 sacks in 2009. He also earned all-Detroit and all-metro awards his senior season. Kevin Noon, managing editor of BuckeyeGrove.com, likes what Hankins brings to the table as a bull-rushing type of defensive tackle. “He’s a player that’s come a long way in trying to reshape his body,” Noon said. “A lot of times defensive tackles at that level are big but not necessarily strong, and this is a player that came on really strong his senior year. He apparently made a good effort to cut the weight and focus on being a better player, and because of that, his results on the field have improved.”Playing high school football in Detroit led to some pressure for Hankins to play at the University of Michigan. However, the Wolverines were late in offering Hankins a scholarship, so he stuck with Ohio State.“I got a good vibe from all of the coaches at Ohio State,” Hankins said. “My family felt comfortable with Coach Tressel and the defensive coordinator when they came to my house. When I went on my visit, the campus and the facilities were so nice. It felt good, like home, so I decided on Ohio State.”Steve Helwagen, managing editor of Bucknuts.com, described the need for a big defensive tackle on Ohio State’s depth chart. Larimore is a senior, John Simon and Garrett Goebel are sophomores, Adam Bellamy is a redshirt freshman and Solomon Thomas is returning, but that is where the depth drops off.“This year, Cameron Heyward is going to have to move down there and play a little bit probably,” Helwagen said. “And when Hankins comes in the fall, he will have a shot to contribute very quickly. He probably saw a tremendous opportunity to be a backup player this year and maybe move into the starting lineup in 2011.”Southeastern High School coach Vincent Session elaborated about the winning attitude that Hankins will bring to Ohio State. Session described Hankins as a “silent giant” that doesn’t do a lot of cheering, but is an emotional player on the field and at practice and has an excellent work ethic in the weight room. “Besides all of his athletic ability and his ability to produce on the field, I think they are going to be pleased with him off the field, as a young man,” Session said. “He’s a beautiful kid. I think he’s going to develop into a great man in the three or four years that he will be playing for Ohio State.”Hankins will be enrolling in the fall at Ohio State, and is working out with former teammate William Gholston in preparation for the season. Gholston, a 6-foot-7-inch, 250-pound defensive end from Southeastern High School is the fourth-ranked defensive end prospect in 2010, according to Scout.com. “I’m working on getting quicker off the ball, keeping my wind, staying in shape and getting a little stronger,” Hankins said. “I feel that my technique is already there, but I just need to get my stamina up.” read more

Urban Meyer Braxton Millers a Heisman Trophy candidate

Through the first nine weeks of the season, Ohio State football coach Urban Meyer declined to consider his star sophomore quarterback, Braxton Miller, a candidate for this year’s Heisman Trophy. Following the team’s ninth consecutive victory on Saturday at Penn State, Meyer’s response changed.“I do believe Braxton’s a Heisman candidate,” Meyer said. “He has to play much better. However, from just sheer production on a team that’s 9-0, it puts him in that category.”Miller ranks 10th nationally with 2,620 yards of total offense and ranks fifth nationally with 1,093 rushing yards. The OSU quarterback has also 12 passing and 12 rushing touchdowns this season.Meyer said Miller’s progression as a quarterback this season is “on schedule.”“Somebody would say he should be a better thrower by now, and he should be,” Meyer said. “But there’s other areas of his game that have really improved.”Meyer said he does not know who the other candidates are but mentioned Kansas State senior quarterback Collin Klein and West Virginia senior quarterback Geno Smith when discussing the award.Meyer also named Miller as OSU’s offensive player of the week. Miller completed 7-of-19 passes for 143 yards with one touchdown and one interception against Penn State but also ran for 134 yards and two touchdowns.Miller also received recognition on a national level. Miller was announced on Monday as one of 16 semifinalists for the Maxwell Award, an award recognizing the collegiate player of the year.Praise for Penn State performanceMeyer said he was proud of his team’s overall performance in their 35-23 road win in State College, Pa., on Saturday.“Our guys responded well in a very tough situation,” Meyer said. “Overall, very good team win … our best team win we’ve had.”Meyer said his Buckeyes are a “special” team.“They’re fighting for each other,” Meyer said. “It’s a refuse-to-lose type atmosphere.”Wide receivers coach Zach Smith said he did not foresee the Buckeyes starting out the season with a 9-0 record.“I think it’s a testament to just the commitment of a group of guys that refuse to lose a game,” Smith said. “I wouldn’t say that we are an undefeated football team that is sitting here just dominating people … There’s a lot of stuff we can improve at every position in every phase, but what you love to see is that teamwork and that cohesion of players that go out and win the game because they have the passion for each other and this university and ultimately the team.”Awards all around for BuckeyesSophomore outside linebacker Ryan Shazier, who had eight total tackles, two sacks, an interception returned for a touchdown and a forced fumble in Saturday’s win, was named the Big Ten co-defensive player of the week on Monday.In addition to Miller, two other Buckeyes were named as national semifinalists for major college football awards. Junior defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins was named one of 16 semifinalists for the Chuck Bednarik Award, which is awarded to college football’s outstanding defensive player of the year. Redshirt sophomore cornerback Bradley Roby, who was credited with four pass breakups in Saturday’s game, was also named a semifinalist for the Jim Thorpe Award, which recognizes the nation’s best defensive back.Meyer said Monday that he named Shazier and Roby OSU’s co-defensive players of the week. Sophomore wide receiver Devin Smith, who had two special teams tackles, was named special teams player of the week.Redshirt junior left tackle Jack Mewhort, junior left guard Andrew Norwell, senior right tackle Reid Fragel, redshirt senior tight end Jake Stoneburner, sophomore wide receiver Evan Spencer and junior running back Carlos Hyde were named as offensive champions along with Miller.Additionally, Meyer awarded redshirt sophomore Adam Griffin a “Scarlet Shirt” award for his efforts on special teams, which included a pass breakup on a fake punt pass.Griffin said being recognized for his effort “means a lot” to him.“It just lets you know that all the hard work you put in throughout practice and throughout camp is paying off,” Griffin said.Injury reportMeyer said redshirt senior outside linebacker Etienne Sabino, who has missed the last three games with a broken right fibula, is questionable for Saturday’s game versus Illinois.Aside from Sabino, however, Meyer said the team has a relatively clean bill of health.“Our trainers say we’re as healthy as we’ve been,” Meyer said. read more

Ohio State mens tennis looks to finish decade of dominance

Only one match stands between the Ohio State men’s tennis team and a decade-long home win streak. The No. 5 Buckeyes (21-2, 5-0) hold a 163-match home win streak dating back to an April 5, 2003, loss against Illinois. Should OSU secure a victory against Big Ten foe Wisconsin (10-7, 1-4) on Friday, the team will officially cap off a 10-year journey of remaining unbeaten in Columbus. “(The players) are excited … I’ll be happy when Friday comes and hopefully we can win, because for the past few weeks, thinking about it and talking about it puts a little bit of stress on everybody,” said OSU coach Ty Tucker. “It’s a mark you want to achieve, and being one match away from it, it’ll be nice if we can get the win … it’ll be nice to be done with it.” Redshirt senior captain Devin McCarthy said the team is finding it difficult to ignore the high stakes surrounding the looming achievement. “(The record) is definitely in our heads a lot more than it has ever been before any match, just because we want to get to that 10 years. But at the same time, we are still thinking about Big Ten season and wanting to stay undefeated in the Big Ten,” McCarthy said. One of the largest challenges the Buckeyes will face against the Badgers will be the transition from the indoor courts at the Varsity Tennis Center to the outdoor courts at Varsity Tennis Courts, where the match is scheduled to take place. “I haven’t remembered it in a while being this cold (in Columbus),” Tucker said. “Knowing that we haven’t had a ton of outdoor practice and knowing that it’s going to be very windy … it’s hard to reach your best level when you haven’t had that much practice outside.” Tucker said in the case of temperatures dropping below 50 degrees, the match would be moved inside. It is expected to be a partly cloudy, 55 degrees with 12 mph winds on Friday, according to weather.com. With a decade-long win streak and an undefeated conference season on the line against Wisconsin, the Buckeyes will rely on the performances of their upperclassmen leaders. Four OSU upperclassmen are ranked in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association’s top 100 individual rankings. McCarthy, ranked No. 83 nationally, and junior Ille Van Engelen hold the best doubles record on the team in 2013, going 18-1 overall. Redshirt junior Peter Kobelt, who is ranked No. 4 nationally, leads the team in singles wins, rattling off a 27-6 record throughout the 2013 season. Kobelt said his success this season has given him a chance to lead younger players on the team. “This year I definitely had a breakout in the fall. I put in a lot of time and effort,” he said. “You try and lead by example on and off the court so that the younger guys see and you give them a good example to follow.” Kobelt said as the team prepares for Wisconsin, they try not to underestimate any conference team. “Any Big Ten school is very capable, so we’ll be out there and ready to go full speed (on Friday),” he said. More than any individual performance, the OSU squad continues to push one another toward playing as a single unit, a mentality that Tucker said he is proud of. “(I’ve enjoyed) watching (the players) form into a team, because tennis is a very individual sport … and when you get to college and get put on a team, you have to do what is in the best interest of the team,” he said. The Buckeyes are scheduled to face off against Wisconsin Friday at 5 p.m. in Columbus. read more

Roller coaster ride winding down for Buckeye seniors

Then-junior running back Jordan Hall (7) is tackled during the Gator Bowl in Jacksonville, Fla. OSU lost to Florida, 24-16, Jan. 2, 2012.Credit: Lantern file photoFirst there was a Rose Bowl victory. Then a victory in New Orleans at the Sugar Bowl. Then that season was vacated, and the school endured into its first losing season since 1988.Now, a 22-game winning streak. The Ohio State football class of 2013 has been through it all.“It was a roller coaster ride. It started off basically giving us everything — Rose Bowl, Sugar Bowl. And then, not trying to down the Gator Bowl or anything, it’s just not the Rose Bowl or the Sugar Bowl,” redshirt-senior quarterback Kenny Guiton said Monday. “We kind of got spoiled from the start, and then once it got down … I’m (just) happy we got to pick it back up for one last go around.”Guiton is one of 18 players set to be recognized Saturday for the Buckeyes’ (10-0, 6-0) home finale against Indiana (4-6, 2-4). With a win, OSU will clinch a Leaders Division title for the second consecutive season.It is a class of seniors that has been under the tutelage of three head coaches in its time at OSU and has gone through the adversity of a bowl ban, among other setbacks.“My class, we came in with (Jim) Tress(el) and then we went to coach (Luke) Fick(ell) and now we got coach (Urban) Meyer, so it’s been a great experience,” senior safety Christian Bryant said Monday. “Coach Meyer, he came in with a great spirit. He wanted to try to turn this program back to where it was before coach Tress left, and I feel like he did a great job of that.”The 2013 seniors have posted an overall record of 40-8, including the vacated 2010-11 season. Its 12-0 campaign a year ago was just the sixth undefeated and untied season in program history and the first since 2002.All that recent success, though, did not come easily after each member was a part of the forgettable 6-7 2011 season.“It’s been one heck of a ride, (with) just a lot of stuff thrown at us,” redshirt-senior center Corey Linsley said Monday. “For the guys that made it through and the guys that stuck it out, through the ups and downs, it’s absolutely been worth it … There’s a lot of reasons why we were 6-7, and why we’re undefeated now. We’ve done nothing but work hard to earn this spot.”In just its second season under Meyer, OSU is on the verge of setting a school record for wins in a row if the team takes care of business against Indiana. The coach said he has a high appreciation for those players being honored Saturday.“This week is all about 18 seniors, (the) last two years have (they’ve) been on a nice run,” Meyer said. “Guys I have a great admiration for.”Coming back from the depths of the losing season was something not only the seniors had to go through, the older guys played a huge part in turning the team’s success around.“We did a lot of growing up, as far as maturity goes. I think when coach Meyer got here we realized that we were the older guys now, and we had to assume some responsibility and not just take a back seat and watch other guys do it,” redshirt-senior left tackle Jack Mewhort said. “It’s been a lot of fun, and it’s been a great journey and I love this senior class.”For Linsley, one moment in particular stings deep on the journey from the Gator Bowl after the 2011 season to 22 straight wins.“Probably losing to the team up north,” Linsley said. “After that game, everyone was just like, ‘Man, we haven’t lost to those guys in forever.’ I’d say that was the darkest moment of the season.”Meyer, on the other hand, said he has yet to take a step back and reflect on the success he’s had with the class. He cares more about how they’ve grown as people, particularly the offensive line.“To think that those guys have developed, I go fight for those guys,” Meyer said. “I love who they are. I love who they’ve become. If I was a college kid, that’s who I would hang out with. They’re sincere, great people that work their tails off. They love Ohio State and they love football.”Guiton said he wants members of Buckeye Nation to remember those leaving for the way they reversed the program’s bad luck.“Just turning it around. Turning it around. We had a bad year and everything and coach Meyer came in and changed the leadership around,” Guiton said. “He changed a lot around. He helped for the better.”Meyer said, though, it’s not quite time to look back on the seniors’ successes.“I think someday, you’ll be able to look back and reflect. Now is not that time. We have too much work to do,” Meyer said.Linsley echoed his coach, saying the success will be mute if they don’t finish strong against the Hoosiers in the seniors’ final home game. That attitude has permeated throughout the whole team.“Honestly, two weeks ago I didn’t even know what our record was. I think that was the feeling on the team, too. What are we? 7-0? 8-0?” Linsley said. “It doesn’t really matter because all we can do is think about the next opponent. When we get (the record for wins), that will be a heck of an accomplishment, but right now we’re just focusing on beating Indiana. ‘Cause Indiana doesn’t really care about our win streak.”That attitude is sure to be a part of whether the Buckeyes will take down Indiana for their 23rd straight win. Kickoff at Ohio Stadium is slated for 3:30 p.m. read more