Jason Witten – What has been a physically trying preseason for the Dallas Cowboys got a little better when team doctors informed tight end Jason Witten that he will not need season-ending surgery to repair a lacerated spleen, ESPN reported Wednesday.The bleeding in Witten’s spleen has finally subsided, leading his doctors to believe that it will heal on its own.Witten, who suffered the injury during an Aug. 13 preseason game against the Oakland Raiders, is still aiming to return in time for the Cowboys’ Sept. 5 regular-season opener against New York Giants, but it remains unclear whether he will be ready to play again so soon.A more likely return could be in Week 2, when Dallas plays at Seattle.The news will be welcomed by a team that has been devastated by injuries so far this preseason, particularly throughout its receiving corps. In addition to Witten, Dallas will likely be minus quarterback Tony Romo’s two other top threats in wide receivers Dez Bryant (knee) and Miles Austin (hamstring) until the start of the regular season.Witten, however, is the glue that often keeps the offense together and his loss would have been a major blow to a Dallas team trying to shed its underachieving label of recent years. The nine-year veteran and seven-time Pro Bowl selection is Romo’s unquestioned go-to guy, hauling in 409 passes for 4,824 yards and 21 touchdowns since Romo took over as the starter in 2006.Witten, who is also a key part of the Dallas ground game with his blocking on the edge, has missed just one game in his career because of a fractured jaw he suffered as a rookie in 2003. He’s played through a broken rib, as well as knee and ankle injuries.Witten totaled 79 catches for 942 yards and five touchdowns a year ago, passing Hall of Famer Ozzie Newsome as the tight end with the third-most receptions in NFL history.
In the video above, Neil Paine discusses the Warriors’ historic march through the postseason.
For the first time since Bobby Fischer captivated the country, a U.S. grandmaster has a shot at becoming the undisputed world chess champion.1In 1996, American Gata Kamsky played in the finals of the FIDE world championship (and lost), but the world championship was divided because Garry Kasparov, the world’s strongest player, had split from FIDE and played in championships under the banner of the Professional Chess Association. Fabiano Caruana, the current world No. 3 and the top American chess grandmaster, won the right today to play for the game’s most coveted prize. He’ll face the reigning world champion, Magnus Carlsen of Norway, in a 12-game, one-on-one match in London in November. It won’t be easy. Carlsen, the current world No. 1, has been champion since 2013 and became a grandmaster when he was 13 years old. He most recently defended his title in 2016 in New York City.Caruana earned his challenge bid by winning the Candidates Tournament, a 14-game tournament featuring eight of the world’s top players, held over the past three weeks in Berlin. For much of the Candidates, Caruana seemed like he might cruise to a relatively painless victory. He notched some early victories and fended off other top rivals with exacting draws. But he stumbled in Game 12, losing to the Russian grandmaster Sergey Karjakin in 48 moves. That created a formidable and complex thicket at the top of the standings — going into the tournament’s final day, four of the eight grandmasters had a chance to win. But in the 14th and final game, held today, Caruana fought Alexander Grischuk of Russia for 69 moves and over six hours, winning the game and securing the tournament.Caruana has been to the world championships before — but only as a spectator. While Carlsen was winning his championship in New York in 2016, Caruana could be found playing speed chess amid throngs of onlookers at a New York chess club. He told me at the time that he was staying up late at night analyzing the championship games. Now he’ll have a chance to put his analysis to use.It’s been a long road to the championship for Caruana. His family moved to Brooklyn from Miami when he was 4 years old, and he began playing chess at age 5 at a synagogue’s after-school program. Within a few months, he was playing in tournaments around the city. Fischer, whose own family moved to Brooklyn when he was young, learned the game 50 years earlier in an apartment about a mile away from the synagogue.Despite these roots in the U.S., Caruana is one of a couple super-strong players who have transferred to the American team from other countries’ teams. Caruana had been a member of the Italian team, having moved to Europe to take advantage of its strong coaches and tournaments. He rejoined the American team in 2015.But there’s still one steep hill to climb. Caruana and Carlsen have played 31 times before in the lengthy sort of games that will be played at the world championship, according to Chessgames.com, a website that collects top players’ games. Carlsen leads their series 9 wins to 5, and there have been 17 draws. A simple simulation of the match2I simulated 100,000 instances of the championship match and its potential tie-breakers, using the players’ live ratings from 2700chess.com and assuming a draw rate of 30 percent, similar to what I’ve done before previous world championships. using the players’ current Elo ratings puts Caruana’s chances of upending Carlsen’s reign — and claiming the first American title since Fischer — at about 30 percent.
SEC134.313 Over the past decade, the Pac-12 has made two Final Four appearances and failed to reach a national championship game. Every other major conference has been to at least twice as many Final Fours and made at least two title game appearances. The Big East has won more national titles in the previous eight years than the Pac-12 has in the past 45. In particular, the performance of the Pac-12 in the 2016 tournament, relative to seeding, was the second worst performance by any conference since at least 2000. And over the past three years, no conference has underperformed more than the Pac-12 when it matters most. Conference record in Quad 1 games, 2018-19 As it currently stands, the conference would be lucky to receive two bids to the tournament, with the Huskies projected to be a No. 9 seed and Arizona State possibly squeaking in as a 12 seed. It’s been a quarter-century since a major conference produced a one-bid campaign.According to Sports-Reference.com’s Simple Rating System, the Pac-12 collectively is just 7.31 points better than an average Division I team this season. That’s on track to be the conference’s worst single-season mark since the 2011-12 campaign and the third worst in the past three decades. The last time a major conference produced a worse SRS was 1997-98, when the Big 12 put up a 7.17 in its second season of existence. You have to go back at least 30 years to find a worse mark produced by the Big East, Big Ten or SEC.If recent history serves, next month’s tournament will reinforce what many already know: The Pac-12, which hasn’t won a national title since Arizona cut down the nets in 1997, has fallen off considerably in terms of prestige. Big Ten164.372 Pac-1262.177 Immediately after the Pac-12 football championship game in late November, an on-screen interview with commissioner Larry Scott at Levi’s Stadium was interrupted by a chorus of boos. Attendees, it seemed, weren’t too fond of the leadership of the “Conference of Champions.”1It wasn’t clear whether fans were more disconcerted by the conference’s revenue, viewership or on-field performance.For nearly six decades, the Pac-12 managed to emulate its ostentatious slogan across the collegiate sports landscape. The Pac-12 has finished an academic year with the most total national championships of any conference in 52 out of the past 58 years, including the past 13 years.The conference has no shortage of star power on the women’s side: Sabrina Ionescu is piling up unprecedented stat lines on the court with the Oregon Ducks; Ella Eastin is breaking records in the pool for the Stanford Cardinal; and Katelyn Ohashi of the UCLA Bruins recently stole the collective heart of the country on the mat. Last year, women collected nine of the conference’s 12 national titles. The Pac-12 women have already won two titles this year, in volleyball and cross-country, with the men claiming only water polo.But when it comes to the two high-profile men’s sports of football and basketball, the Pac-12 is falling short. Months removed from Scott’s boo-inducing interview, as the college basketball season winds into its final stretch, the conference’s vertiginous fall in the top two revenue-generating sports is unmistakable. The Pac-12 is also struggling in college football. Over the past two seasons, the conference is a combined 4-12 in bowl games, with three wins coming by a combined 4 points.If this feels like a sudden drop, it’s because it is. The Pac-12 has won a single national title in the past 20 years, but you only have to go back three years to find an ESPN segment debating whether it was the best conference in college football. Since the playoff was introduced, the Pac-12 has made two appearances — going 1-2 — and failed to appear in three of the five seasons.In total, the conference was 3.53 points better than the average FBS team in 2018-19, the lowest mark by a Power Five conference6The ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC. in six years. Since 2010, the conference has produced three of the seven worst seasons, two of which came in the past two seasons. Big East95.379 Big 12104.365 ConferenceGamesWin % Oregon State has arguably been the worst Power Five football team for two consecutive years, and programs like Oregon, Stanford and USC, which traditionally have been competitive on a national level, have fallen off considerably. Washington’s good-but-not-good-enough seasonal cadence seems to have run its course, too. This offseason, perhaps the conference’s biggest story was that Kliff Kingsbury almost became an assistant coach at USC. ACC135.326 Quad 1 games are home games against teams 1-30 in NET ranking, neutral games against teams 1-50 and away games against teams 1-75.Source: BartTorvik.com While the Pac-12’s performance in football has been steadily declining since the College Football Playoff was introduced, the conference’s decline in men’s basketball seems more abrupt. Two years ago, the Pac-12 featured three 30-win teams for the first time. Three teams reached the Sweet 16, and Oregon punched the conference’s first ticket to the Final Four in nearly a decade. The abundance of talent was confirmed when the conference produced three lottery picks in the NBA draft — including Markelle Fultz and Lonzo Ball, the top two overall selections.The Pac-12 saw the top overall pick in the NBA draft again last season, in Arizona’s Deandre Ayton. But the conference face-planted at the NCAA tournament. Each of the three teams to reach the tourney failed to get out of the first round, including Ayton’s Arizona.2Arizona State and UCLA both lost in the First Four as 11 seeds. Not since the Big 12 was formed in 1996-97 had one of the six major conferences3The ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC. failed to send a team to the second round of the tournament. No Pac-12 team finished inside the top 25 of KenPom’s adjusted efficiency margin metric, either. Of course, this came after three UCLA Bruins were arrested for shoplifting on international soil in the days preceding a game meant to showcase the conference, and the FBI’s investigation of corruption in college basketball led to the arrests of assistant coaches from USC and Arizona4Along with assistants at Oklahoma State and Auburn. before the season even tipped.But that didn’t curtail the enthusiasm of the commissioner heading into this season. “Really excited about what our teams look like,” Scott said at the Pac-12 media day. “Feel like we’ve got a very, very strong conference.”On paper, he wasn’t wrong. The conference accounted for seven of the top 40 recruiting classes, with UCLA and Oregon pulling in two of the top five. Three teams were ranked in the preseason Associated Press Top 25 poll. But as the calendar year came to a close, the Pac-12 was mired in the worst December by a major conference in 20 years. By January, UCLA had fired head coach Steve Alford, and Oregon had lost Bol Bol, the conference’s most marketable player and the crown jewel of the 2018 recruiting class, for the year to a foot injury. Dana Altman’s Ducks, which checked in at No. 14 in the preseason poll and were considered an early favorite to reach the Final Four, are now longshots to even reach the tournament.Cal is one of the worst teams in any conference and in the midst of its worst season in program history. Washington is the highest-ranking team in the conference by KenPom’s adjusted efficiency margin metric and checks in at No. 35. No other Pac-12 team ranks in the top 50.The conference has hardly proved itself against top-notch opponents. In any Quad 1 games,5A Quad 1 win is defined as any home win over a team ranked 1-30 in the NCAA’s new NET rankings, a win over a team ranked 1-50 on a neutral site or an away win over a team ranked 1-75. the Pac-12 is 11-51. The ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12 and SEC each have at least three times as many wins over that caliber of opponent. Arizona State is the lone Pac-12 school with a Division I hockey team,7The Sun Devils are classified as an independent. and there’s a reasonable chance it will end up ranked higher at season’s end than any team the conference fielded in football or men’s basketball.Living up to the standard established by John Wooden, who won 10 national championships over 12 years at UCLA, would be impossible. But falling to the bottom of the major-conference barrel in the two sports most scrutinized is a disastrous turn for a conference literally branded around dominance.To some, the Conference of Champions® has transformed into the Circle of Suck. This may be the bleakest moment in the illustrious history of the Pac-12, as the conference continues its stroll away from relevancy.CORRECTION (Feb. 22, 2019, 12:30 p.m.): An earlier version of this article said the Pac-12 had no football teams ranked in the Associated Press Top 25 at the end of the 2018 season. Two teams were ranked: No. 10 Washington State and No. 13 Washington.
Beautiful, ain’t it? Americans’ interest in soccer is about three times higher during the World Cup than it usually is, judging by how often they search for the sport on Google. But that isn’t true for other countries. In England, where the English Premier League will kick off its season on Saturday, club play is followed almost as enthusiastically as international competition. The same is true in Spain, Italy, Brazil and Mexico.What accounts for the international appeal of soccer? One factor may be the comparative simplicity of its rulebook. Product designers have long appreciated the value of simplicity, which offers a gentler learning curve and fewer opportunities for mistranslation.I downloaded the FIFA Laws of the Game along with the rulebooks for the NFL, NBA, NHL and Major League Baseball. Then I counted the number of words in each one, excluding indices. This is a simple proxy for the complexity of each sport.Soccer is doing more with less; FIFA’s rulebook has just over 20,000 words. By contrast, the NBA’s has 30,000, MLB’s is close to 50,000, the NHL’s is nearly 60,000 and the NFL’s is 70,000.The correlation between the simplicity of a sport’s rulebook and its global popularity is almost one to one. Soccer, with its simple rulebook, is followed in almost every country. Basketball increasingly is, too. The more complex sports have less global appeal. Baseball is popular in the Americas and Japan but not yet elsewhere. Hockey fans are almost exclusively concentrated in the U.S., Canada, Northern Europe and Russia. American football has few fans outside America itself.Philosophers have also long recognized a connection between simplicity and beauty (indeed, long before soccer came to be known as “The Beautiful Game,” it was known as “The Simplest Game” instead). This June, when I attended a couple of World Cup matches at the Maracanã, in Rio de Janeiro, I was struck by how rich the experience was with so few frills. There was no 60-yard-long Jumbotron — there were hardly any scoreboards. There weren’t many words spoken, on or off the pitch.Soccer can get away with this minimalist presentation because of the simplicity of its rulebook; you don’t need Ed Hochuli to come out and explain the difference between offsides and encroachment and a neutral zone infraction.Instead, when Chile scored against Spain in their Group B match, it sounded something like this (sorry about my shaky camera work):
Who’s Going Where As The NBA Trade Deadline Approaches? Related: Hot Takedown The Novak trade and the move away from 3-pointers are just two of the many examples of New York cutting experiments short when patience and cultivation might have eventually yielded a positive outcome, or at least prevented a negative one.Take Jackson’s 2015 signing of center Robin Lopez, which, outside of drafting Kristaps Porzingis, might stand as his best acquisition to date. After a solid season in New York — Lopez was arguably the most consistent player on the team in 2015-16, and he improved considerably after the all-star break when he got a better grasp on the offense — the Knicks dealt him away for Derrick Rose, who, because he’s in a contract year, may end up being just a one-season rental.Had the Knicks stood pat with Lopez, it would have spared them the pain of what replaced him: Joakim Noah’s four-year, $72 million contract, which, combined with his age and injury history, makes him seem untradable. (The signing looks borderline disastrous, given that Porzingis should be able to play Noah’s position full time within the next year or so anyway.) When Carmelo Anthony joined the New York Knicks at the trade deadline six years ago, the team feted his arrival. Just before Anthony, who was born in Brooklyn, was introduced at Madison Square Garden as a Knick for the first time, the team played Diddy’s “Coming Home,” featuring Skylar Grey. The club, formerly led by Amar’e Stoudemire, was now armed with a second star, one who was supposed to change the trajectory of the long-suffering franchise and make it a contender. And for a time, at least on paper, it was hard to argue with the results: After a decade of mostly awful basketball, the Knicks reached the playoffs in each of their first three seasons with Anthony.Fast-forward to today, though, and the team seems to be unraveling with every passing minute. The Knicks keep making headlines for the wrong reasons, whether it’s because their big-name point guard has gone AWOL, their president is putting his foot in his mouth or a fan favorite is being hustled out of the Garden in cuffs.1NBA commissioner Adam Silver said in a Monday statement that he and Charlotte Hornets owner Michael Jordan, a longtime friend of Charles Oakley, the former player who was arrested, spoke with Oakley and Knicks owner Jim Dolan in hopes of the two men moving past the incident. Like last year, when New York fell off the map after a surprising 22-22 start, this year’s team put up a decent record early in the season only to see the wins have dried up and the club fall out of contention.To figure out how the Knicks could be so terrible — it looks likely that they’ll miss the playoffs for a fourth straight year despite having a future Hall of Famer on the roster — look to what the franchise lacks: continuity. Even when it makes the most sense to keep things as they are, the status quo is often upended in New York.The vast majority of that upheaval stems from failures in the front office, but before analyzing that mess, it’s important to note that Anthony isn’t blameless here either. The 32-year-old has shown an unusual degree of loyalty to the city and team he forced a trade to, despite being subjected to the team president’s subtweets and critiques every other month. But he hasn’t exactly been the easiest player to build around. People in the Knicks organization2I was a Knicks beat reporter at The Wall Street Journal for four years. will tell you that Anthony’s never been happy about the physical toll that comes with playing power forward, especially on defense, even though power forward is his most productive position. He also didn’t see eye-to-eye with his first Knicks coach, Mike D’Antoni (who’s now nearly a lock for coach of the year in light of what he’s doing in Houston), though D’Antoni’s quick-trigger, pick-and-roll-based offensive principles should, in theory, have fit Anthony’s game well.But most of the dysfunction is rooted in the Knicks’ front office. Perhaps the most maddening thing about its moves in recent years has been its inability to gauge the direction of the NBA as a whole.It’s hard to picture it now, but the Knicks were once exemplars of the NBA’s push toward more 3-pointers. The 2012-13 Knicks thrived using a two-point-guard system with Anthony at power forward en route to breaking a league record for 3-pointers made and attempted in a single season. They won 54 games — their most in 15 years — and earned the East’s No. 2 seed as Anthony won his first NBA scoring crown.Then, strangely, the Knicks dealt away Steve Novak, their best 3-point shooter (along with a first-round pick and two second-rounders3Marcus Camby and Quentin Richardson were also sent to Toronto as throw-ins, but they never actually played for the Raptors following the trade.), for Andrea Bargnani, who couldn’t really shoot anymore. Later that offseason, owner Jim Dolan axed Glen Grunwald, the team’s general manager, who’d finished tied for third in Executive of the Year voting just months earlier.Then, when Phil Jackson took over as president, he was adamant about using his beloved triangle offense. Teams throughout the NBA borrow from the triangle system, but it’s likely too antiquated to work when used in its entirety because it relies heavily on midrange and post-up shots that have fallen out of favor in today’s efficiency-obsessed NBA. At the same time, Jackson and his first coaching hire, Derek Fisher, seemed to downplay the importance of the three ball in today’s league. And by breaking up a team that was at the forefront of a larger leaguewide trend, the Knicks might have missed an opportunity to develop into an annual playoff contender. For years, episodes like the Lopez-Rose swap4The trade also included the Knicks sending guards Jerian Grant and Jose Calderon going to Chicago in exchange for swingman Justin Holiday and a second-round pick. — where an element of the team’s continuity is sacrificed in pursuit of a win-now gamble — have clearly been causing problems at the Garden. Since 2000, the Knicks have gone through more coaches than any other team, according to information provided by Elias Sports Bureau. Since the start of the 2008-09 season, they’ve suited up more players than any club. Anthony alone has had five coaches and 79 teammates during his time in New York. Jackson, who’s hired three coaches and cycled through 45 players in less than three years, has done little to slow the game of musical chairs down since becoming team president.Only now does the team seem to be grasping some of the nuances of the collective bargaining agreement and the importance of youth. New York’s front office, which hasn’t re-signed one of its first-round picks to a multi-year deal since Charlie Ward in 1999, deserves credit for having held onto its future first-round selections these past three seasons. The team’s foreign scouting has been solid for years. And the Knicks seem to have learned from past mistakes, signing unheralded free agents to longer, cheaper deals very different from the risky one-year pacts they agreed to with Jeremy Lin and Chris Copeland, who outplayed expectations, then left for bigger paydays elsewhere.Still, none of these relatively straightforward improvements absolve Dolan or Jackson of the mistakes they’ve made, since the team still lacks a clear direction years after this power structure was put in place.Though Dolan finally had the right idea in removing himself from basketball operations and handing those duties over to someone who can guard against Dolan’s urges to meddle with the team, it’s become painfully clear that Dolan should’ve turned to someone who’d done this job before, especially since the job now comes with a $12 million salary.Hopefully Jackson will view his tenure with the Knicks as an education on how vastly different this job is from coaching, but in the meantime, he has faced almost too many challenges (including setting a clear organizational agenda, giving a new coach room to experiment, and building a rapport with his players) to mention.The 71-year-old dealt Tyson Chandler, J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert but has little to show for them. He has awkwardly straddled the line between trying to win now and trying to reload for the future, and he has made choosing a path harder by including a no-trade clause in Anthony’s contract.For too long, he micromanaged the club’s style of offense as if that was the problem, even though the Knicks are likely to field their 11th bottom-10 defense in the 15 seasons since Jeff Van Gundy resigned. And Jackson’s efforts to motivate his star player by criticising him in the media — which might have worked in the past, when Jackson was a coach and winning rings left and right — have fallen flat, and perhaps made players around the NBA less likely to want to play in New York.A simple dose of normalcy, along with a moment’s pause to take stock of how the rest of the NBA is operating, would go a long way in leading New York back to success, whether Anthony remains a Knick or not.Check out our latest NBA predictions.
The Cavs aren’t alone: Golden State’s playoff opponents have shot a combined 34 percent on open and wide-open looks from 3. Attempting to keep pace with the Warriors up and down the court seems to take so much out of teams that making the easy ones isn’t so easy.That shouldn’t be a comforting thought for the Cavs, because slowing the pace isn’t exactly a great alternative. Golden State has the best half-court defense in the league; it gave up just 88.3 points per 100 plays in the regular season, according to Synergy Sports Technology, and has given up 88.1 in the postseason, both No. 1 in the league. There are tactics Cleveland could explore, such as forcing Curry to defend pick-and-rolls on every half-court possession, a technique the Cavs got away from in Game 2, but the Warriors are better prepared for that than they have been in the past.It’s possible that a shift back to Cleveland will help the Cavs recover some of their form, but the team actually shot slightly better on the road than at home on its open looks this season, so it’s not like the Cavs turn on the aimbot once they get back to Quicken Loans Arena.Simple as it sounds, the Cavs probably just have to hope their shooters find a second wind, tired legs or not. Coming into the series, Love had been 35-for-69 (51 percent) on open or wide-open 3s in the playoffs; Smith had been 16-for-36 (44 percent). In the Finals, Love is down to 2-for-9 and Smith is 1-for-2. Even Kyle Korver is shooting just 1-for-5 on these looks, though his playoffs have been more uneven than Smith or Love’s. Eleven Cavaliers are shooting 35 percent or better from 3-point range in the playoffs, but James, Love and Kyrie Irving are the only Cavs who’ve made more than one open or wide-open 3 in the Finals.Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue said Tuesday that Smith will get the start over Shumpert in Game 3, but it’s unlikely there will be drastic lineup changes. The Cavaliers need to play better, not different. Thompson must find a way to insinuate himself into a game he’s been schemed out of, LeBron must find a way to ration his energy so he has something in reserve late in the game, and the Cavs as a whole must do something about all these missed shots. They have the shooters, and they have the open looks. They just need make them. Two games into the NBA Finals, the Cleveland Cavaliers face a set of seemingly unsolvable problems. Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant are scoring at will, key role players like J.R. Smith and Tristan Thompson have been erased from the series, and the pace of play has been so frenzied that even LeBron James seems to be tiring. Other teams have had similar issues with the Warriors in these playoffs, and none came up with a remedy. But there’s one thing Cleveland can do that may be a start: Hit the open shots.The Cavs are missing the gimmies. They’re generating 14 “open” 3-point shots1Meaning the nearest defender is between 4 and 6 feet away. per game and hitting just 32 percent of them. When they get “wide open” 3s,2Nearest defender more than 6 feet away. they’re even worse, shooting 22 percent on nine attempts per game. Both percentages have fallen off steeply from the Cavs’ playoff numbers on these shots before this series (42 percent and 49 percent, respectively, on a similar number of attempts per game) and from their less spectacular but still very good regular-season figures (37 percent and 42 percent). In a series in which every missed Cavaliers shot seems to bring the end of the season one possession nearer, and in which long rebounds from missed jump shots summon the deadly Golden State fast break into existence, these are shots the Cavs really can’t afford to miss.But it’s not as though these percentages are being pulled out of a random-number generator. The shots may be designated as “open,” but in context against the Warriors, they take on a far different meaning. Other teams aren’t as capable of relentlessly attacking Kevin Love on pick-and-rolls, robbing him of the energy he brings at the beginnings of quarters. Other teams can’t field a scorer like Durant to overwhelm Smith and Iman Shumpert and force LeBron to anchor the defense in addition to the the offense. And other teams can’t chase the Cavs over off-ball flare screens so easily, forcing extra passes instead of in-rhythm shots. Simply put, other teams can’t run the Cavs so ragged, and ragged legs miss jumpers.VIDEO: How the Cavs can push back in Game 3
Zac Dalpe was told to report to practice early last week. “I knew something was up, because I don’t usually come in that early,” he said. When Dalpe arrived, he was greeted with the Central Collegiate Hockey Association’s Player of the Month award.Dalpe was honored for the month of January as he led the conference with five goals and three assists.“It’s flattering,” Dalpe said. “It’s a reflection of my team and its play.” The Buckeyes played at an all-conference level throughout January, posting a 4-1-1 record. For Dalpe, the award is just the most recent of many accolades he’s accumulated in his short career as a Buckeye. As a freshman, Dalpe was named to the CCHA All-Rookie Team and was a top-three finalist for Rookie of the Year honors in the conference. His 13 goals ranked seventh in the NCAA for all freshmen and tied him for third on the team. But that wasn’t enough for him. The 6-foot-1-inch forward added 15 pounds to his frame in the offseason. Now in his sophomore campaign, Dalpe leads the team with 15 goals. He has also chipped in 16 assists totaling 31 points, which is also a team high. The assistant captain has played brilliantly all season and is playing his best hockey now as the Buckeyes near the postseason.However, the Buckeyes almost missed out on seeing Dalpe suit up in scarlet and gray. Dalpe, who is a native of Paris, Ontario, had to decide between Ohio State and the Ontario Hockey League.“There was a lot of talk of me going to play in the OHL and I was going to be an older guy [in that league],” Dalpe said. “I didn’t really want to be that. I wanted to be a small fish at first and try and get bigger.” For being a small fish, Dalpe has been a big catch for the Buckeyes.Another factor in Dalpe’s decision to come to Columbus was that he’d be joined by teammates Cory Schneider and Devon Krogh. Dalpe teamed up with the duo in 2007 as a member of the Penticton Vees in British Columbia. “I knew coming in as a freshman I wasn’t going to not know anyone,” Dalpe said. “I was obviously going to have a friend to start out with. That made the transition a little smoother.”Regardless of the reason Dalpe decided to become a Buckeye, the team and fans alike are glad he did and enjoy his ability to light the lamp. But for coach John Markell, Dalpe’s most redeeming quality isn’t his ability to score or to distribute the puck, like he did in a four-assist night Friday. Rather, it’s how hard he works every day in practice.“What I like about him is [that] he and his line mates are [assistant captains] but they’re practicing the way they want to play and it’s making it easier in the games,” Markell said. Dalpe’s effort on the ice – both in practice or during games – sets the tone for the Buckeyes. “He provides us with energy and leadership, even at a young age,” Markell said. “He’s got a lot of passion for the game and that’s what you need at this level.”Growing up in Canada, Dalpe has long since possessed that passion. Dalpe started playing hockey when he was 3 and says he played as much hockey as he could with his brothers Phil and Ben.“We spent a lot of time at the rink growing up, maybe too much for my mom and dad,” Dalpe said. “My brothers have a passion for the game and you can relate to them like no one else through hockey.”It goes without saying that Dalpe’s brothers were ecstatic for him when he was drafted by the Carolina Hurricanes in the 2008 NHL entry draft. Dalpe said getting drafted was a life-long dream come true.“That’s all I wanted growing up. Sharing it with two brothers, who also play hockey, is something special,” Dalpe said. “Obviously to play in the NHL is my dream and I’m still working on it. Hopefully it can come true.”
Ohio State softball pitcher Karisa Medrano threw a complete game two-hitter in a 1-0 win against Michigan State at Buckeye Field on Sunday, splitting the weekend series after losing the first game, 12-2. But a change in the win-loss column was just a minor detail for a team that was already out of postseason contention coming in to the weekend. Medrano, who had played just 12.1 innings coming in to this season, became the team’s ace and recorded her 100th strikeout of the season in the bottom of the seventh inning Sunday. She was also one of four seniors honored during Senior Day on Sunday. For the first time in her OSU career, two of Medrano’s biggest fans were able to watch her play in scarlet and gray. “My family got to be here today, their first time at Buckeye Field,” Medrano said. “I just love having them here. You feel that support coming from your family.” Medrano’s Father and brother flew in from New Mexico, where she’s from. She said it made Sunday her most memorable moment as a Buckeye softball player. Fellow senior Brittany Goodchild’s most memorable moment was a bit more of what one would expect from a Buckeye. “Beating Michigan!” Goodchild said. Goodchild, who first met Medrano freshman year when they were roommates, said the players rely on one another off the field as much as they do on the field. “Everybody’s been such a strong family. We’ve been through a lot of up and downs,” Goodchild said. “Everybody’s been so strong for each other.” The players needed to be strong for one another, particularly this week. On Tuesday, junior shortstop Alicia Herron’s mother died of cancer. Many of the players wore wristbands with Herron’s mother’s initials on them. In center field, below the painted Block “O,” Herron’s mother’s initials, “JLH,” were also painted as a tribute to Herron’s late mother. Herron scored the lone run in Sunday’s win. “Alicia made it easier because she was with us, and I think that was an inspiration. … It’s hard for young people to see a teammate go through that,” coach Linda Kalafatis said. “A lot of these kids knew Mrs. Herron, so they felt loss too.” Although it may seem trivial compared to death, OSU’s 14-33 record and injuries throughout the season have also plagued the team during the season. “Being able to push through when things aren’t going our way, you find a way to get it done. We really tried to stress to keep your head up,” senior left fielder Dee Dee Hillman said. “Through the tough times, there are learning experiences.” Senior infielder Rachael Shepherd agreed. “I’m truly grateful for all those things that I’ve got to learn from the girls,” she said. Six underclassmen started in Sunday’s game and consistently have been in the lineup all season. The departing seniors have helped the younger ladies prepare to become the leaders of the future. “To see them grow from when they first got here to now is just tremendous,” Shepherd said. Before the torch is officially passed, the Buckeyes have one more home series left. They will play a doubleheader against Penn State on Wednesday before finishing their season this weekend at Wisconsin.
Uncertainty has surrounded many positions through Ohio State’s first three games. While the quarterback spot has received most of the attention, one of the few models of consistency for the Buckeyes this year has been No. 54. John Simon, a junior defensive lineman, has come up big for the Buckeyes in crucial situations. After being carted off the field in the second half as Toledo threatened to become the first Ohio school to beat the Buckeyes since 1921, Simon returned to the field to sack Rockets’ quarterback Austin Dantin on third-and-nine, forcing a Toledo punt with less than six minutes remaining. “The thing about John is, you know he’s going to be there, working every single day to get better at what he does,” OSU coach Luke Fickell said. Simon understands that his role amongst his younger teammates is important. With senior defensive lineman Nathan Williams missing last week’s game at Miami, Simon knew he had turn his leadership role up a notch. “I had to step in to that (leadership) role, losing Nate (Williams),” Simon said on Tuesday. “I’m doing my best. Anything I can do to help the team, I’m just trying to do my job out there. But it’s really a team sport, so what I’m doing doesn’t matter if we’re not getting the win.” Simon’s leadership role will have to continue this week, as OSU plans to start five underclassmen on defense, two of whom will be playing alongside Simon on the defensive line, this Saturday. Sophomore Johnathan Hankins is set to start at right tackle, while redshirt freshman J.T. Moore and freshman Steve Miller are expected to split time at the defensive end position. As a result of so many young names and different personnel schemes on defense, Simon has been asked to do more than usual on the field this season. “We’ve moved (Simon) around a lot, asked him to do a lot of different things,” Fickell said. “He’s going to get better at everything he does. He’s a great example for the other guys on the team.” Simon has as much faith in his young teammates as his coach does in him. “Seeing guys go out there and compete is what it’s all about,” Simon said. “I think we have a very competitive defense, some aggressive guys, and I think it’s going to pay off for us.”