The New York Rangers’ Stanley Cup hopes are officially on life support. New York trails the Washington Capitals 3-1 in the series going into Friday night’s game, and the Rangers have just a 16.5 percent probability of advancing to the Eastern Conference Final if you calculate their odds using each team’s regular-season Simple Rating System (SRS) scores.The Blueshirts’ potential upset loss is particularly significant because they won the Presidents’ Trophy for the 2014-15 season, an award given annually to the team with the NHL’s best regular-season record. By definition, winning the trophy is an accomplishment reserved for great seasons, but there’s also a reputed downside to the honor. The widespread perception around the league is that the Presidents’ Trophy is cursed, its winner having only gone on to hoist Lord Stanley’s Mug eight times in the 28 full seasons since the Presidents’ Trophy was first awarded for the 1985-86 season.And you can change that record to 8-for-29 if the Rangers fall to the Caps.But hockey is a notoriously unpredictable sport. If the competing roles of talent and luck in a team’s record are roughly even over an 82-game regular season, randomness reigns supreme in the playoffs, where even great teams can be beaten in a best-of-seven series if the puck bounces the wrong way a few too many times. Luck may be hockey’s “bullshit dump,” but there’s also no denying that the game is, in many ways, built on a foundation of chaos.Given that, have the Presidents’ Trophy winners really won all that much less than you would expect from teams with their talent levels?As it turns out, not only have they not won less, they’ve actually won slightly more. Specifically, they’ve captured more Cups and more overall playoff series than we’d expect based on their regular-season SRS ratings after simulating the postseason brackets for every year from 1986 to 2014:In fact, Presidents’ Trophy winners have won more playoff series than expected in 41 percent of postseasons since 1986, matching expectations 23 percent of the time and falling short 36 percent of the time.Statistically, then, there’s no significant difference between how much playoff success you would expect Presidents’ Trophy winners to have based on their regular-season performance and how much they actually wound up having.In other words, there is no curse of the President’s Trophy.The Rangers might become the latest regular-season league-leading squad to fall short of the Stanley Cup. But that’s more a testament to their own play — and the chaos of playoff hockey — than any curse hanging over Madison Square Garden.
The Big 3 was on top in 2008.If coach Doc Rivers had his way, the Boston Celtics’ Hall of Fame trio of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen would have another go at it. But Rivers likely will not get his way, now that the NBA model for success morphed into a collection of youth and speed.Boston’s Big 3 had talent and heart, but the years of wear and tear slowed them down. It was never more obvious than in Game 7 Saturday, when the Celtics seemed almost transfixed to the floor in the fourth quarter as Miami’s younger, energetic Big 3 of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh led an 18-4 run that decided the Eastern Conference championship.With Allen and Garnet, both 36, as free agents – and the fact that the currently constructed group did not get it done this year – it is likely general manager Danny Ainge will try to get younger and faster. But that does not take away what Pierce, Allen and Garnett accomplished.How is 327 wins, two conference championships and the 2008 NBA title? It is so good that Miami found it necessary to assemble its own Big 3, although it was achieved in a way that made critics surface. Ainge drafted Pierce out of Kansas and made trades to acquire Garnett and Allen. Bosh and James were recruited to join Wade as free agents.In any case, losing 101-88 Saturday might have been the Celtics’ trio final game together.“I wish we could have had healthy runs,” Rivers said. “I don’t know. Because of, really, Kevin’s injuries, I don’t know if we could have gotten any more out of the group. I would have loved to have seen this team if this whole stretch was injury-free. . . They deserved it with their will.”In a move he hopefully will regret, Garnett left the American Airlines Arena floor before the final buzzer, did not congratulate the Heat players or staff and departed the locker room before media arrived. Allen did the opposite and was even emotional about the team’s future.“Up to this point we’ve fought hard to keep it together,” said Allen, the NBA’s all-time three-point shooter. “Now, there are so many emotions. This one hit me hard. We wanted it so bad.”Said Rivers: “I just want to stick with this group for a little longer, whether it’s a couple days, a couple months.”But Allen faces offseason ankle surgery and Garnett’s body has been wrecked over so many years of playing so hard. The Celtics have point guard Rajon Rondo for the next three years under contract; he has emerged as a premier floor leader in the league. Forward Brandon Bass played strong in the playoffs and has an option to opt out of his contract. Role players such as Mickael Pietrus and Keyon Dooling may be gone, too.If this is the end for Boston’s Big 3, it leaves behind a legacy of toughness and grit and will. And winning. Lots of winning.
AFFECTED TEAMCURRENTIF DEN WINSIF KC WINSSWING Only teams with a playoff swing of at least 2 percentage points based on the game outcome shown CHANCE OF MAKING PLAYOFFS Baltimore28%67%14%53– 1. Miami (9-5) vs. Buffalo (7-7) — 129 total ‘swing’ points Washington25163215– Denver1772417– Pittsburgh9388968– Miami55%92%29%64– Only teams with a playoff swing of at least 2 percentage points based on the game outcome shown CHANCE OF MAKING PLAYOFFS Houston5855605– Tennessee4542474– Tampa Bay42%74%15%60– Denver17%42%7%35– 4. Tennessee (8-6) vs. Jacksonville (2-12) — 83 total ‘swing’ points Tennessee45%59%19%40– Kansas City>99_981002– AFFECTED TEAMCURRENTIF TEN WINSIF JAX WINSSWING That’s right, Carolina’s path to the playoffs requires a tie. It could happen in either Week 16 or 17, but a final record of 7-7-2 for Washington is the same as 8-8 for standings purposes, and a five-way tie between Carolina, Green Bay, Tampa Bay, Minnesota and Washington would break to the Panthers due to their 7-5 NFC record.3It goes without saying that this probably isn’t going to happen. We currently give Washington a 1 in 1,000 chance of finishing with a loss and a tie, and that’s just part of what Carolina needs. A four-way tie where Washington finishes 7-8-1 would eliminate Carolina, as would a six-way tie where the Saints also go 8-8 or a five-way tie that included the New Orleans but not Washington.So there’s a chance! The Colts, Vikings, Bills and Saints are also near elimination but still have less-outlandish paths to the playoffs — go explore them for yourself on our NFL predictions page. The five biggest games of Week 16 are below. Baltimore28203111– Pittsburgh9396924– 2. Tampa Bay (8-6) vs. New Orleans (6-8) — 121 total ‘swing’ points Atlanta9694973– The NFC playoff picture basically splits into four groups. The Cowboys and Seahawks have clinched. The Giants and Falcons have all but clinched. The Vikings, Saints and Panthers, while not mathematically eliminated, are done. That leaves four pretty good teams — Detroit, Green Bay, Washington and Tampa Bay — competing for two playoff spots. The playoff chances of all four will swing dramatically based on the results of this game. Houston5857592– Kansas City>99_971003– Denver1716192– Only teams with a playoff swing of at least 2 percentage points based on the game outcome shown Miami55416019– Week 16 is a multicultural NFL blowout, with 12 games scheduled for the 24th — the first night of Hanukkah1Hanukkah starts at sundown, which varies by location. The 4 p.m. slot of games will overlap with the start of the holiday for most U.S. viewers (save the West Coast, Alaska and Hawaii), while the Bengals-Texans game will take place at least partially at night for all U.S. viewers. — two games scheduled for Christmas Day, and Monday Night Football scheduled for the first night of Kwanzaa. But which of these festive games actually matter?For the last month, we’ve been using the model behind our 2016 NFL predictions to calculate how much each team’s playoff chances “swing” depending on the outcome of each game. For example, we currently give Washington a 25 percent chance of making the playoffs. If they beat Chicago this week, we project those chances will increase to 40 percent (independent of other games). If they lose, their chances drop to 1 percent.2Our NFL predictions are based on 100,000 simulations of the rest of the season and are updated after every game ends. In the simulations in which Washington beats Chicago, they make the playoffs 40 percent of the time. In simulations where they lose, they make the playoffs 1 percent of the time. But it’s unlikely that Washington’s playoff probabilities will be exactly 40 percent or exactly 1 percent at the end of Week 16, because the team’s chances depend on the outcome of several games, not just their own. That’s a 39 percentage point swing! By doing this same math for every matchup and factoring in how each team’s resulting record will affect others’ playoff odds, we can find out which games are the most impactful.But before we get to this week’s key matchups, let’s take a moment to acknowledge the Carolina Panthers’ preposterous playoff path. At 6-8, the defending NFC champions are still technically alive. Using the game-selection feature in our NFL predictions, we figured out what they need to have happen to snag a wild-card slot: Pittsburgh937410026– Baltimore28143824– Minnesota3066– CHANCE OF MAKING PLAYOFFS Tennessee4543462– AFFECTED TEAMCURRENTIF TB WINSIF NO WINSSWING Only teams with a playoff swing of at least 2 percentage points based on the game outcome shown 5. Denver (8-6) vs. Kansas City (10-4) — 80 total ‘swing’ points Indianapolis3176– What’s up with Miami? The Dolphins have an average offense and an average defense, and they’ve outscored their opponents this year by a single point (315 to 314). And yet, at 9-5, they’re just a few game outcomes away from the playoffs. If they win in Buffalo, their chances rise to 92 percent; add a Denver loss in Kansas City and they clinch a wild-card spot. If the Dolphins lose this game — and they’re currently 4-point underdogs — their playoff probabilities plummet to 29 percent. No team has a larger potential swing this week. Denver1782113– AFFECTED TEAMCURRENTIF MIA WINSIF BUF WINSSWING Detroit77658722– Tennessee4542465– Playoff longshots going into Week 14, the Titans have pulled off huge back-to-back wins over the Chiefs and Broncos. But the Texans have kept pace — eking out narrow victories against the mediocre Colts and Jaguars — and still would win the AFC South if the season ended today. This isn’t a must-win game for Tennessee, but if they lose to the Jaguars and the Texans beat the Bengals, a division title will be out of reach, and their playoff chances would drop to just 3 percent. Buffalo1022– 3. Baltimore (8-6) vs. Pittsburgh (9-5) — 108 total ‘swing’ points AFFECTED TEAMCURRENTIF BAL WINSIF PIT WINSSWING Green Bay57506313– Pittsburgh has won five straight, which makes this AFC North matchup not quite the “win or go home” Christmas blockbuster it was shaping up to be a few weeks ago. A loss is very survivable for the Steelers, who face the currently winless Browns at home in Week 17 and would likely improve to 10-6. The Ravens are much more in need of a win, and this will become an elimination game for them if Miami beats Buffalo on Saturday. Buffalo1022– Only teams with a playoff swing of at least 2 percentage points based on the game outcome shown Houston5856593– CHANCE OF MAKING PLAYOFFS The Broncos are close to blowing it. The defending Super Bowl champions started the season 4-0 but have fallen victim to an underperforming offense and a hard schedule, losing every tough matchup (Raiders, Chiefs, Titans and Patriots) they’ve had since Week 9. They get a rematch with the Chiefs in Kansas City on Christmas Day. If either the Dolphins or Ravens win, this becomes an elimination game for Denver.Check out our latest NFL predictions. Houston58487729– CHANCE OF MAKING PLAYOFFS
The final Subway Series contest of the 2017 season takes place this evening at Citi Field, and if you put on the game, you might get the impression that the Yankees and Mets have a big-time rivalry going. It’s not that way for most baseball fans, however. The numbers show that only a minority actually like one team but not the other, while far more people hold the same opinion of both teams (good or bad) or just don’t care about one or both. In other words, most fans will probably be fine no matter the outcome tonight.That’s according to data from a combination of two FiveThirtyEight-commissioned SurveyMonkey Audience polls conducted in June and July. SurveyMonkey asked baseball fans across the country how they felt — whether they had a favorable view, an unfavorable view or didn’t know enough to say — about each MLB team. Here, we’re examining a subset of that data, totaling 321 baseball fans who were asked specifically about the Mets and Yankees.Of those, many fans (29 percent) held a favorable view of both the Mets and the Yankees. It’s not just that a fairly high percentage liked both teams. It’s that if you like one team, it actually increases your chance of liking the other team. While just 49 percent of the overall subsample held a favorable view of the Mets, 66 percent of fans who viewed the Yankees favorably felt the same way about the Mets. And a similar story holds in reverse. Only 44 percent of the fans in our subsample held a favorable view of the Yankees, but that percentage jumped to 59 percent among fans who held a favorable view of the Mets.While the idea that someone could simultaneously like the Mets and the Yankees is unthinkable to this Yankee hater, it actually makes a lot of sense. Fans often root for the hometown team, whether it be in their city or even their state. So it’s not unreasonable to say you like both the Mets and the Yankees because they are both from New York. Indeed, among our subsample who live in New York state, the Mets and Yankees sport a 71 percent and a 67 percent favorable rating, respectively.At the other end of the spectrum, 21 percent of baseball fans dislike both franchises. So that means 50 percent of baseball fans either like both the Yankees and Mets, or dislike both — not quite what you’d expect from a heated rivalry where battle lines are drawn and allegiances sworn. In fact, disliking the Mets or the Yankees actually makes one less apt to like the other team as well. The Mets sport just a 41 percent favorable rating among those who dislike the Yankees, 8 points below their overall favorable rating. And the Yankees do even worse among fans who dislike the Mets, with a 33 percent favorable rating — far below their 44 percent favorable mark overall.Again, part of this may just have to do with disliking a city or a state. As an illustration of this, the Mets and Yankees sport favorable ratings of just 40 percent and 30 percent among our subsample that hailed from New England. New England, of course, is a natural geographic rival of New York.Still, there are some people who do like the Mets and dislike the Yankees, and vice versa. One-fifth (20 percent) of fans hold a favorable view of the Mets and an unfavorable view of the Yankees. Meanwhile, 11 percent of fans hold a favorable view of the Yankees but an unfavorable view of the Mets. These fans, however, total only about a third of our subsample. That’s not much more than the 20 percent of fans who hold no opinion of at least one (if not both) teams.Don’t tell that to the New Yorkers in the stands, jawing at each other about the two ballclubs. But the bottom line is that most baseball fans around the country won’t have much of anything on the line in tonight’s Subway Series finale.
In other words, up until his caddie, Michael Greller, pulls his Scotty Cameron Circle T 009 from the bag, Spieth is generally where he has been in recent years: ahead of the field. Only then, however, does Spieth transform into Judge Elihu Smails.“Everyone goes through peaks and valleys of results in any part of your game, and I just got a little off in setup (with the putter),” Spieth said this week. “I’m really starting to bring it back now. It feels very good.”Top golfers often get put into two categories: those who win with the putter and those who win despite the putter. But a closer look at the numbers reveals that it’s not unusual for putting performance among top golfers to be inconsistent year to year. Take Phil Mickelson: He ranked between 40th and 70th on the PGA Tour in strokes gained putting from 2005 to 2008, fell to between 130th and 145th for the next three seasons, and then stormed back, ranking 11th in 2012 and tied for 5th in 2013. This season, Mickelson ranks second, behind only Jason Day. So it’s possible Spieth could get it back quickly.One can only hope. With so few scoring opportunities this weekend at wind-swept Shinnecock Hills Golf Club, in Southampton, N.Y. — there are only two par-5s and numerous unreasonably long holes on the 7,445-yard course, which boasts undulating, relentless greens — putting will no doubt be crucial. Since the turn of the century, no major has a higher average score to par than the U.S. Open.And if Spieth wants to start winning again, he’ll need to correct his putting problems. A strong showing at Shinnecock Hills, one of the toughest courses out there, would go a long way for his confidence — and for his fans. A week later, Spieth missed a 1-foot putt at the AT&T Byron Nelson tournament. “You’ve got to be joking” was the reaction from one broadcaster.As the season whirls into its second half, the yips haven’t subsided for Spieth on the green, where he ranks 190th out of 205 qualified players in strokes gained with the putter, 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. Considering that Spieth ranked no worse than 42nd in the metric in each season from 2014 to 2017, even ranking in the top 10 in 2015 and 2016, this precipitous decline is perplexing.Spieth doesn’t discriminate, either; he misses putts of all lengths. He ranks outside the top 140 in putts inside of 5 feet, putts from 5 to 10 feet, putts from 10 to 15 feet, putts from 15 to 20 feet and putts from 20 to 25 feet. On putts exceeding 25 feet, Spieth ranks a cool 91st.These marks are made starker by the fact that he’s still performing at an incredibly high level in other areas of his game. It’s as though Kyle Korver suddenly forgot how to shoot free throws but the rest of his arsenal was left intact. Spieth ranks in the top 20 in strokes gained off the tee, strokes gained on shots approaching the green, strokes gained on shots around the green and strokes gained tee to green. Spieth’s putting slumpJordan Spieth’s average strokes gained per round for different aspects of his game, 2013-18 2014+0.03+0.29+0.26+0.40+0.98 2015+0.49+0.62+0.47+0.57+2.15 YearOff the teeApproach the greenWithin 30 yds. of the greenPuttingOverall 2017+0.28+0.91+0.37+0.32+1.87 2013+0.61+0.48+0.20+0.18+1.47 2016+0.40+0.15+0.26+0.76+1.57 Strokes gained represents number of strokes by which a player outperformed the field in each round.Source: PGA Tour 2018+0.55+0.63+0.36-0.44+1.10 Not too long ago, pundits and golfers alike were awestruck by the meteoric rise of Jordan Spieth. The charismatic Texan, who claimed three major championships before he turned 24, ostensibly was en route to perhaps the greatest professional golfing career ever recorded. A fresh-faced kid — who in 2015 confessed to never having heard of the “The Price is Right” — was conquering golf.“Take any field — finance, marketing, other sports, whatever — and few, if any, can boast as impressive of professional achievements as Spieth can in golf,” read a July 2017 article on the official PGA website.Spieth has regressed considerably this season, however. Sure, he made a valiant charge on the final day of the Masters in April. But he has as many missed cuts as top-10 finishes on the season and hasn’t ranked in the top 20 at any event over the past two months. With the U.S. Open scheduled to begin Thursday on Long Island in New York, it’s worth noting that at this juncture in each of the past three seasons, Spieth had claimed at least one victory on tour. This season, he has finished no higher than third at any of the 15 events in which he’s played.That diminished success can be traced to a singular element of Spieth’s game: putting. Perhaps no player on tour has put forth a better Happy Gilmore impression this season than Spieth, who has imploded on the greens.Consider, for example, Spieth’s infamous final-hole performance at the Players Championship last month. After lacing his tee shot into the water, Spieth managed to land his approach shot within 5 feet of the cup. Rather than drain a shot that tour players are making more than 81 percent of the time this season, Spieth three-putted. The quadruple bogey dropped him from tied for 17th to tied for 41st. Average strokes gained
OSU sophomore midfielder Abdi Mohamed dribbles the ball against UC Santa Barbara at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium. Credit: Ohio State AthleticsThe Ohio State Men’s Soccer team remains winless on the season, losing a tough match 2-1 against Oregon State on the road in double overtime.The Buckeyes first goal of the game, and first of 2016, came from forward Nate Kohl. The junior was able to work his way around a defender to net his first career goal in the 28th minute.Ohio State entered the half with a 1-0 lead. Oregon State, however, would not go quietly into the night.In the 64th minute, freshman midfielder David Norman Jr. had a driving run into the box, where he was able to play the ball to junior forward Jordan Jones who put it into the back right of the net for the equalizer, at 1-1.The game winner would not come until double overtime, where the Beavers would come out on top.Just 17 seconds into the second overtime period, Oregon State sophomore forward Don Tchilao was able to surpass multiple defenders in the box and find the back of the net for the win.The Buckeyes again were outmatched on the offensive side of the ball, being outshot 19-7, despite having the advantage in corner kicks at 12-5.Foul calls were a trend throughout the match for both teams — 13 issued to Ohio State and 12 to Oregon State.The Buckeyes are still looking for their first win, falling to 0-4-0 on the season.It is the second year in a row that the team is off to a slow start, after beginning last season with a 1-4 record. OSU would eventually bounce back and rattle off eight straight victories to get back on track en route to a Big Ten Championship season.Coach John Bluem’s squad hopes to turn things around at home this Friday at 7:30 p.m. as they take on their first Big Ten opponent in Northwestern.
The Ohio State men’s soccer team has had success thanks to great play from its goalkeepers, especially from redshirt freshman Matt Lampson. “He has been playing very well lately,” coach John Bluem said. “I think Matt has taken the position now, it’s going to be his and he is going to try and hold onto it.”The freshman stepped up early in the season and helped guide OSU to its best start in school history.A week ago, the Big Ten named Lampson the conference’s defensive player of the week because of his stellar play against Michigan State.On the season Lampson has three shutouts and .93 goals against average.But Lampson is not the only goalkeeper OSU has on its roster, and Bluem is confident in every one of the young keepers. The Buckeyes have three solid goalies who could potentially take the starting job.Other then Lampson, the Buckeyes have redshirt sophomore Ryan Dalton, who has been seeing more and more play time because of his solid play.OSU also has a true freshman in Alex Wimmer, who is ready to go when his number is called. Had Wimmer not been injured at the beginning of the season, he would have challenged for the starting spot.Coming into the season, Bluem worried his team might be inexperienced at goalie.“No worries anymore,” Bluem said. “Wimmer is ready to go if we need him, Dalton has played really well in the times we used him and Lampson is in really good form right now. I am very pleased at the way they have been playing.”The Buckeyes, however, are in the middle of a tough stretch of games.The team has lost its last two games, 3-0 to Akron and 1-0 to Northwestern. After the Northwestern loss, Bluem questioned the team’s level of effort.“It’s a tough stretch. Hopefully we can address some things and come out with a more intense effort,” Bluem said.With a full schedule ahead, the team wants get back on the field quickly and perform better. OSU is hoping that is the case when they face Cleveland State on Friday.Cleveland State (3-4-3) comes into the game struggling on offense, scoring only one goal in its last three games.But with 11 seniors and the entire defense returning, the Buckeyes will have to be ready.Friday’s match will be played at 5 p.m. at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium.
With all the controversy surrounding Michigan athletics lately, it’s a sure bet Woody Hayes is smiling down from heaven.Coach John Beilein’s men’s basketball team, a preseason sleeper to win the Big Ten and ranked No. 15 in the preseason AP poll, is 13-15 on the year. After reaching the second round of the NCAA Tournament last season, the Wolverines’ current campaign has been marred by poor shooting, inconsistent play and player insubordination. Junior guard Manny Harris, the team’s leader in scoring and assists, was suspended for his team’s Jan. 23 game against Purdue following an incident in practice.The two-time defending Big Ten Champion Wolverine men’s swimming and diving team was upset by Ohio State last weekend at the Big Ten Tournament, their first loss to OSU in the tournament since 1978. The favored Maize and Blue allowed the Buckeyes to score the second most points in Big Ten Championship history and win their first conference crown since 1956.If that wasn’t enough, the football program, the crowning jewel of Michigan athletics, is under NCAA investigation.The NCAA accused Michigan and coach Rich Rodriguez of five major rule violations. On Feb. 22, the NCAA said Rodriguez “failed to promote an atmosphere of compliance within the football program,” and blamed the athletic department for not making sure the football program was in compliance with NCAA regulations.The report also said Rodriguez was negligent of his staff and the accused violations they were committing. Furthermore, the report says Rodriguez was ignorant of whether or not his players were following NCAA rules, specifically those which govern the time allotted for practice and football-related activities.These allegations by the NCAA stem from August 2009 reports. According to these reports, players on the 2008 and 2009 teams told the Detroit Free Press that the amount of time they spend on football activities during the season and in the offseason exceeds NCAA limits.One anonymous player said that in-season Sundays were spent at the football facility from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., with a one-hour lunch. For those of you who are mathematically challenged like myself, that’s an 11-hour day. The NCAA daily maximum is four hours; the weekly maximum is 20.A complementary letter from the NCAA to Michigan President Mary Sue Coleman dictated that Michigan “should understand that all of the alleged violations set forth in the document” are considered to be “potential major violations of NCAA legislation, unless designated as secondary.”Coleman, believe it or not, may actually have a more serious issue to deal with. When the University of Michigan Board of Regents met last month in Coleman’s office for an update on the NCAA investigation of the football program, they did so behind closed doors.Shutting out the media and the public isn’t permissible in most cases, at least according to a lawsuit filed by a Michigan alumnus.The suit accuses the Michigan Board of Regents of violating the Michigan Open Meetings Act, which places restrictions on how and why such public bodies can meet in private. Robert Davis, the plaintiff who also claims he “lives for UM football and basketball,” told The Detroit Free Press that he simply wants, “university officials to follow the same rules that they hold the student-athletes to.” Now there’s a novel concept.Look, I’m not trying to bash Michigan. The issues facing a few of their athletic programs are quite serious. Lawsuits and NCAA investigations are no laughing matter. However, I’d be willing to bet my OSU football tickets that at least five or six, and perhaps as many as 10, elite college football programs surpass NCAA practice limits on a regular basis.Maybe Michigan was snake-bitten by a few bad apples disgruntled with playing time. Maybe the rumors that Rodriguez rubs his players the wrong way because he constantly berates them are true, compelling them to vent to the media. Either way, it seems as if a few souls at Michigan could use a life lesson.When OSU offensive guard Justin Boren transferred from UM after his sophomore season, he claimed the football program’s “family values had eroded,” under Rodriguez. Growing up, one value my mother instilled in me was that honesty is always the best policy. I hope Michigan makes that phrase their motto in the coming months. Otherwise, their athletic programs will fall further from grace.
Eddie Days doesn’t look much like a basketball player. Generously listed at 6 feet, and weighing 180 pounds, the stocky Days looks more like he should be playing running back for Jim Tressel than guard for Thad Matta. But Eddie is more passionate about basketball than most people are about anything. He simply loves the game. At Richmond Heights High School near Cleveland, Eddie was a star. As a senior in 2006, he averaged 22 points, six rebounds and five assists per game, and was named first-team All-Ohio. But despite all of his success, he still didn’t have any Division I scholarship offers. Eddie had opportunities to play for Division II or Division III schools, but that wasn’t what he had in mind. Even when Eddie was young, he said his dream was to play basketball for the Buckeyes. “I always wanted to come (to Ohio State). My dad came here. All my family lives here in Columbus,” Eddie said. “I couldn’t imagine going anywhere else.” Unbeknownst to Matta and his staff, Eddie decided to pay his way and try to walk on the basketball team at OSU. He loved the game too much to stay away. “Even before tryouts my freshman year, I would play ball at the RPAC probably five hours a day,” Eddie said. “Not even just to stay in shape or just because I knew I was trying out, but just because I loved playing.” After those daily, five-hour sessions, he’d hit the weights. “If I didn’t play ball,” Eddie said, “I was having a bad day.” When the day of the tryouts came, Eddie walked up to the Schottenstein Center and, along with 11 other guys, ran a few drills and scrimmaged for about a half-hour. The whole process lasted about 45 minutes. That was it. Everything Days worked for came down to that moment. “Right after tryouts were over, Jamar Butler, Daequan Cook and David (Lighty) were in there watching tryouts,” Eddie said. “Jamar came up to me afterwards and said: ‘The coaches like you. They think you’re probably going to be the one.’” Eddie made the squad. “He was just so, so excited,” said Judie Days, Eddie’s mother. “I can’t explain how excited he was.” Eddie planned to take the bus straight back to his residence hall, but that didn’t exactly happen. “I ended up just sitting on the bus for like an hour, just riding and kind of reflecting on how I played that day,” Eddie said. “I’d probably have to say that would be my favorite memory.” But his happiness was short-lived. During his junior year of high school, Eddie passed out during a morning basketball practice. After running a battery of tests, the doctors at the Cleveland Clinic discovered he had a rare heart condition. Days was put on medication and had no problems following the fainting incident, but OSU doctors didn’t want to take any chances. They wanted to take a closer look at the problem. By the time the doctors were satisfied and cleared Eddie to play, the roster was full. Eddie was denied his chance to be a part of the team. “That was really devastating,” Judie said. “That was really hard for him and (his family).” After being let down, Eddie wouldn’t let up. He kept up with his daily marathon gym sessions, and even started helping the women’s basketball team practice to get more gym time. Though Eddie wasn’t able to play for the men’s team, the way he played during tryouts earned their respect. Former Buckeye guard Jon Diebler has known Eddie since 2007, and said the team thought highly of him. “Eddie’s a guy who has always been around the program, and whenever we would have open gyms Eddie was welcome to come and play,” Diebler said. “Even when he wasn’t on the team, he would still come and play because we knew the type of player he was.” When Eddie came back in 2007, the roster was full and the team didn’t hold tryouts. The following year there was a tryout, but the team ultimately decided not to take anyone. Three years had passed, and Eddie still wasn’t where he wanted to be. Some thought it was time for him to try something else, but he refused to give up. “I even asked him at one point. I said, ‘Well, would you maybe want to think about going into coaching?’ But he said, ‘No, I want to play,’” Judie said. “He was adamant.” So for a fourth consecutive year, Eddie attended tryouts. This time, he made it. “It finally worked out,” Eddie said. “I think they just wanted somebody who would play hard and understand that if they make the team, they may not play a lot, but they still have to bring it every day in practice. And I understood that.” Eddie was a practice player, and said he loved it. “My role was to bring it every day in practice. Especially this year, with five or six freshmen, just to kind of be a leader and show them how things are done and lead by example,” Eddie said. “I think it helps when you play hard on scout teams and the practice team against the starters. It really helps them out.” Eddie was routinely matched up with some of the best players in college basketball. His first year, he was in charge of checking Evan Turner in practice. This year, he guarded William Buford, Diebler and Lighty. “Eddie’s a guy who’s really strong, so he would be really physical with us and he did a great job of guarding us,” Diebler said. “He would challenge a lot of our shots, and I know by him guarding, you know, myself, Dave and Will, it made us better.” Eddie said he loved the opportunity. “I loved playing and practicing against NBA-caliber players every day,” he said. “The things I’ve learned from these coaches and the times we had together, you know, with my teammates and everything, we really became like a family. Especially this year.” Eddie didn’t get a chance to play in many games, but on March 20, with about three minutes left in the Buckeyes’ pummeling of George Mason in the third round of the NCAA Tournament, the OSU faithful at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland started a chant. It was quiet at first, but continued to gain volume. “Ehh-dee, Ehh-dee, Ehh-dee,” the crowd chanted. Shortly thereafter, Matta relented to the crowd’s request, and Eddie entered the biggest tournament in college basketball. “The Eddie chant,” Judie said. “I just could not believe it.” Eddie was fouled at the end of the game, and was sent to the foul line where, in front of his hometown and many members of his family, he hit one of two free-throw attempts for the first and only point in his collegiate career. “For me, (the free throw) felt like 20 points,” Judie said. Eddie wasn’t as excited as his mom, but still enjoyed the moment. “I had a lot of friends and family there,” he said. “It was definitely a good night.” Eddie said he’s definitely going to miss playing for the Buckeyes, but he’s going to miss the people on the team and the times they had most of all. “We were really like brothers,” he said. “It doesn’t matter where we are or what we’re doing; it was always a good time, a lot of laughs.” Diebler remembers Eddie being a fierce pingpong competitor, sometimes showing up 90 minutes before practice just to play a few games and be with the guys. Although Diebler claims to be the pingpong king, Eddie could hold his own. “He was definitely top-five,” Diebler said. Though the experience ended abruptly, and ultimately short of the team’s lofty goals, Eddie said he doesn’t regret a second of it. “I’m really going to miss the program,” he said. “It hasn’t really hit me yet that it’s over.” Now, Eddie will focus on finishing his last quarter at OSU, from which he plans to graduate in June with a degree in consumer sciences and a minor in business. But don’t be surprised if you see him tearing up the RPAC sometime soon, you know, for old times’ sake.
As the Ohio State men’s Lacrosse team trotted off the field following Saturday’s win against Hobart, each player beamed from ear to ear. Amid pats on the back and laughter, one could detect a sense of appreciation and gratitude from the younger members of the team toward the upperclassmen on Senior Day. The team, at first glance, seems to be dominated by youngsters, as much of the glitz and glamour is cast toward the statistical leaders on the team. Sophomore Logan Schuss leads the team in scoring, trailed by classmate Jeff Tundo. The team’s leader in assists is freshman Tyler Frederick, and freshman goalkeeper Greg Dutton has been nothing short of spectacular in the cage this season. The seniors, however, have been critical in their roles for the team. Aside from their four years of contributions on the field, which include a conference championship in 2008, shepherding the young players’ development has been key. “I think it’s our role to show our experience and let them know how things are in Division 1 lacrosse,” senior middleman Paul Beery said. “A lot of them have stepped up and played an integral role, so I would say we’ve been successful.” Even with 12 seniors on the roster, looking over such a large quantity of young players can still be difficult, senior middleman Scott Lathrop said. “It’s tough when you’ve got 45 guys and they are at all different age levels,” Lathrop said. “You’re trying to funnel them all into one focus.” Lathrop said he approaches the job by consistently working hard and leading by example for the younger players. He also said he will sit down and talk with the players if they need it. Beyond the seniors’ job in helping with the younger players, Lathrop sees a bond that has developed among the seniors over four years. “We all came in at the same time, and we’ve seen several different shades of this program,” Lathrop said. “We’ve been through tough times together and good times together. We have shared a special experience here.” With the season well past midpoint, and graduation quickly approaching, the seniors will begin to mull over their future beyond lacrosse. Lathrop plans to embark to Europe on a two-month internship, and Beery plans to pursue a degree to become a Certified Public Accountant. Senior captain Bryce Woodson has a more laid-back approach to his pursuits after college for the time being. “I’m just going to take a little time off and enjoy life a little bit,” Woodson said with a smile. Though Senior Day is over, there is still much at stake to add to the memories for the seniors. A shot at the Eastern College Athletic Conference still exists, and there are four games left in the regular season. “I’m very happy for these seniors right now,” OSU coach Nick Myers said after the team’s win against Hobart. “We’re going to keep taking it one game at a time, though, and continue to improve.” One game remaining is the Showdown in the ‘Shoe, in which the lacrosse team will face Fairfield in Ohio Stadium before the Spring Game on April 23. Lathrop said this game is particularly exciting. “Playing in the ‘Shoe gives you chills every time,” he said. “It will be a special experience. Hopefully we can get as many people out there as we can.” As the seniors’ careers wind down, Lathrop, Beery and Woodson say they plan on staying in touch with their teammates. “I’m going to try my best,” Lathrop said. “These guys are my best friends.”