Why Gretzky Had It Easy

One of the most interesting statistical nuggets I ran into while researching a piece about NHL goalies was the improvement in leaguewide goaltending over the past 30 years. It hasn’t just been a small improvement — the league’s save-percentage leaders during the 1980s and early 1990s put up statistics that would rate below-average in recent seasons.Here’s the league’s average save percentage since the 1983-84 season, when the NHL began tracking shots against:Save percentage rapidly increased during the so-called dead-puck era of the 1990s and early 2000s. It’s no coincidence that over that period, the NHL’s rate of scoring also dropped sharply. A lot of fans blame strategies such as the neutral-zone trap and left-wing lock for triggering the dead-puck era, but more of the blame belongs to better goalies.As for why goalies are so much better now, well, that’s a subject of much debate in hockey circles. One of the most popular explanations is that the sheer size of goaltending equipment has exploded since the 1980s. That’s hard to argue when you look at how pads have grown over time. But since pad size first became a talking point in the mid-to-late 1990s, the league has gone to some lengths (no pun intended) to police the dimensions of puck-stopping technology — and it’s had scarcely any effect on save percentages.Instead, I think a bigger reason save percentages improved so sharply in the 1990s was a dramatic change in the goaltending techniques being employed.During the 1980s, the prevailing style was still the so-called stand-up method, in which a goalie largely remains upright on his skates while making saves, using his stick and skates to stop low shots. In the middle of the decade, though, goaltending phenom Patrick Roy made his NHL debut. Emboldened by recent advances in arm and chest protectors, Roy used a different technique — the “butterfly” — wherein the goaltender drops to his knees to make saves, effectively sealing off most shooting targets along the bottom third of the net.Using the butterfly, Roy was sensational — he backstopped the Montreal Canadiens to the Stanley Cup as a 20-year-old in 1986 — and it wasn’t long before the butterfly style spread throughout the league. The effect was profound. Stand-up goalies who were the mainstays of the mid-1980s were almost completely phased out of the game within a decade, replaced by a younger generation who used the butterfly or at least a hybrid technique featuring butterfly elements.In retrospect, this seems like an obvious tactic — it’s a goaltending truism that the majority of goals are scored on shots at or near ice level — but older equipment made dropping low a dangerous proposition. Once falling to the ice became safer, goalies no longer had to rely purely on reflexes, instead being able to stop a greater percentage of low shots on technique alone. It’s no surprise that save percentages skyrocketed when one of the most common subsets of shots suddenly became much tougher.One final note: Watch the Wayne Gretzky highlight reel below and pay particular attention to the goalies in the early portion of the video, when the Great One was with the Edmonton Oilers.Compared with today’s game, you can really see the difference in goaltending technique (notice how many of the goalies tried to stop Gretzky’s shots without dropping to the ice). Modern goalies are more athletic and mobile, and, yes, their pads are plainly bigger. But they’re also using a style much more grounded in the probabilities of where pucks are shot. read more

The Seattle Seahawks Are Now Underdogs To Make The Playoffs

What opponent would you least want to see on your favorite NFL team’s schedule? Most of you, I’d guess, would want to avoid Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos. But after that?The Seattle Seahawks, despite their 3-3 record, remain a perfectly reasonable answer to this question. When our NFL Elo ratings come out later this week, they’ll have Seattle in third place — just slightly behind New England (and further behind Denver) and just slightly ahead of Dallas, Indianapolis and San Francisco. You could argue these cases — are you more afraid of the Seahawks defense or Colts quarterback Andrew Luck? Are you sure you’d rather play Seattle than Denver when the Seahawks already beat the Broncos this season — and demolished them in last year’s Super Bowl?It’s not as though Seattle’s season has been a disaster. The Seahawks have outscored their opponents by 18 points against a very tough schedule. Jeff Sagarin’s ratings at USA Today have them as the third-best team in football based solely on their performance this year.Our Elo ratings carry over performance from previous seasons, which helps Seattle some. This usually yields more reliable estimates of team strength, especially early in the season (six games is a small sample size). You could argue against accounting for prior years’ performance when a team is old or when its roster had turned over substantially. But Seattle’s hasn’t. It has brought its core back from last year, when it was the third-youngest team in football. Quarterback Russell Wilson is just 25, an age when most QBs are still improving.Nonetheless, the Elo ratings have the Seahawks as underdogs to make the playoffs. In the simulations we ran after Sunday night’s games, Seattle made the playoffs just 46 percent of the time.The Seahawks are harmed by playing in the NFL’s toughest division, in a deep conference and against a very tough schedule. A league-average team playing Seattle’s schedule this year would be expected to go 7-9 based on each opponent’s Elo ratings, so the schedule costs the Seahawks about one win.Seattle will also need to finish with an 11-5 record or better to be assured of making the playoffs. In simulations where Seattle finished 9-7 — its most likely record according to Elo — it made the playoffs just 23 percent of time, well below the historical average for 9-7 teams of about 50 percent.Nor may a 10-6 record be good enough. In our simulations, Seattle won the NFC West only 27 percent of the time with that record. More often, a 10-6 Seattle team made the playoffs as a wild card. But the NFC playoff picture is crowded. Seattle would have to compete for two wild card slots along with whichever team finishes second in the NFC East (probably Philadelphia or Dallas), whichever team finishes second in the NFC North (probably Detroit or Green Bay) and whichever other NFC West team (San Francisco or Arizona) also misses out on the division title.And while an 11-5 record was almost always good enough for Seattle to make the postseason, it only earned the Seahawks a division title 60 percent of the time. That means they’d start their playoffs on the road — depriving them of the benefit of the NFL’s biggest home-field advantage.Perhaps the Seahawks don’t have much right to complain — it was only four seasons ago when they made the playoffs as a 7-9 team in an awful NFC West. But the trend toward smaller divisions in sports makes odd outcomes like this more likely. If Seattle makes the playoffs, it will certainly have earned it. read more

The Cheapest Super Bowl Tickets Get The Biggest Markups

AVG. TICKET RESALE PRICESUPER BOWL IS X TIMES MORE EXPENSIVE Super Bowl 50 will be played Sunday at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California, the regular-season home of the San Francisco 49ers. To a bird, Levi’s Stadium looks something like this: Red30610,0679,3263330-7 Yellow1716,6895,1983930-22 Source: SeatGeek SECTION COLOR49ERS HOME GAMESUPER BOWL ON JAN. 27SUPER BOWL ON FEB. 2ON JAN. 27ON FEB. 2∆ FROM JAN. 27 TO FEB. 2 Dark Green$78$3,989$3,7275148-7% Dark Blue1435,2314,4193731-16 Black2247,4396,8363331-8 Middle Blue1314,8274,5973735-5 At the Super Bowl, the cheapest tickets come at the highest added cost. Tickets for the worst seats — in the nosebleed dark-green sections — are selling at 48 times the average resale price for a regular-season 49ers home game. That’s a Super Bowl multiplier higher than anywhere else in the stadium. During the season, those seats retailed for $85 or $106, depending on the game. They resold on SeatGeek for an average of $78. For the Super Bowl, they’re reselling at an average of $3,727.The other most relatively expensive sections are also bad seats — purple (slightly closer but way behind the end zones) and light green (dark green’s marginally better counterpart). Tickets in both those sections are going for 42 and 38 times what they did during the season, respectively.Real “deals” can be found in the gilt-edged red, gold and black sections — close to the action and near midfield. While the average tickets in those sections are going for $9,326, $7,944 and $6,836, respectively, they’re a mere 30, 30 and 31 times more expensive than they were for a regular-season 49ers game. (One exception to this pattern are the über-elite gray “VIP” section tickets, but they’re a small sample — only eight gray tickets are listed on SeatGeek as I write.)This is either a clear case of “you gotta spend money to make money” or a regressive tax that the Bay Area certainly does not need.Over the past week, average resale prices for Super Bowl tickets have fallen in all sections, one by as much as 22 percent. This is evidence that buyers won’t suffer through another “short squeeze” like the one that plagued prices last year for the game at University of Phoenix Stadium. A short squeeze, which is rare for a Super Bowl, can happen when brokers sell speculative tickets early, when prices are high, hoping to cash in when prices dip right before the big game. “We’ll just never allow that to happen again,” a StubHub spokesman told Bloomberg. To a human, ticket prices to sit in various parts of that stadium Sunday look something like this over the past week, according to data provided to me by SeatGeek: Light Green1054,6864,0384538-14 Purple1064,7424,4714542-6 Super Bowl tickets are expensive Gray51321,40219,3974238-9 Gold2659,4497,9443630-16 Light Blue1675,7175,1313431-10 read more

Dave Bolland Regrets Retweet About Gary Bettmans Death

Chicago Black Hawks center Dave Bolland retweeted a post by a “fan” that called for NHL commissioner Gary Bettman’s death, an act the player now says he regrets.As the lockout continues to eat away at the season with the sides apparently not close on a deal, Bolland on Friday reposted a Twitter entry that read: “can I get a RT for wanting Bettman dead?”The retweet later was deleted.“It was a mistake, I never meant to retweet that out,” Bolland told ESPN.com’s Pierre LeBrun. “I like to retweet for a lot of my fans, and I just retweeted the wrong thing. I feel bad about it.”It’s not the first time controversy has found Bolland. In a radio interview last year, Bolland referred to Daniel Sedin and Herik Sendin of Vancouver as “sisters” and the city of Vancouver as “weirdos.”The Twitter development also continued a trend of apparent ire with Bettman, who is overseeing a lockout for the third time since he became commissioner in 1993. The last lockout forced the cancellation of the entire 2004-05 season.Detroit Red Wings’ defenseman Ian White recently called Bettman an “idiot,” and Florida Panthers forward Kris Versteeg referred to Bettman and deputy commissioner Bill Daly as “cancers.”On Friday, the NHL announced another round of cancellations, wiping out all regular-season games through Dec. 14, as well as the All-Star Game in Columbus, Ohio, originally slated for Jan. 27.The lockout now has cost the league 422 regular-season games — 34.3 percent of the season — as well as its regular-season marquee events; the annual Winter Classic was canceled earlier this month.Just as bad is the fact that there are no new labor talks scheduled. read more

Redskins London Fletcher Likely to Retire After This Season

Photo by The Washington Post.London Fletcher, the undrafted linebacker out of tiny John Carroll University, said he likely will retire after 16 NFL seasons that could land him in the Hall of Fame.Fletcher said at Redskins Park he is  ”99 percent certain” he will quit after the remaining two games. He said he must have one more conversation with his wife to make the decision final.“I felt like I’ve accomplished everything I wanted to accomplish in the National Football League,” Fletcher said.He said he wanted to have a chance to say goodbye to the fans against Dallas in the season’s finale.Quarterback Kirk Cousins told The Washington Post, “We would love to have him walk off that field the last time, if it will be the last time, with a victory.”He accepts that he will not leave the game as fellow linebacker Ray Lewis did with Baltimore last season, with a Super Bowl championship.“I’m not 28,” he said. “I’m 38. I understand that.”Fletcher has played in 254 consecutive games, the most of any active player. He holds the league record for consecutive starts by a linebacker with 214.That is the greatest “part of my legacy” Fletcher said.Redskins coach Mike Shanahan said he “really didn’t know” if Fletcher would walk away after this season. Shanahan said, “I’ve never been around a guy like London who prepares for every game like it’s the Super Bowl.” read more

Podcast The Pats HomeField Advantage Djokovic The GoAT Cespedes For The Rest

More: Apple Podcasts | ESPN App | RSS If you’re a fan of our podcasts, be sure to subscribe on Apple Podcasts and leave a rating/review. That helps spread the word to other listeners. And get in touch by email, on Twitter or in the comments. Tell us what you think, send us hot takes to discuss and tell us why we’re wrong. Welcome to this week’s episode of Hot Takedown, our podcast where the hot sports takes of the week meet the numbers that prove them right or tear them down. On this week’s show (Sept. 15, 2015), we discuss the allegations that the Patriots interfered with the Steelers’ communications in their Week 1 matchup. Then, Carl Bialik breaks down whether it’s time to start thinking of Novak Djokovic as the best men’s tennis player of all time — even though everyone seems to root for Roger Federer instead. And, can Yoenis Cespedes win National League MVP even though he’s only been in the National League for a few months? Plus, an update from FiveThirtyEight’s Walt Hickey on our crowdsourcing Madden challenge to win the Super Bowl using his avatar. And to close out the show, a Significant Digit on a turnaround for Kansas City’s women’s soccer team.Stream the episode by clicking the play button, or subscribe using one of the podcast clients we’ve linked to above. Below are links to some of what we discussed on the show:Want to win Madden with Walt Hickey as your quarterback? Here’s how to take part in our crowdsourcing project.ESPN’s list of injuries in the NFL.The Patriots’ home and road records in the Belichick era as compared to the rest of the league.When the Giants decided to pass on third down near the end of their Week 1 game against Dallas, they doubled the Cowboys’ win probability.Djokovic and Federer are vying to become the greatest of all time.Carl Bialik found that Roberta Vinci’s upset of Serena Williams was the biggest in modern women’s tennis.FanGraphs breaks down the argument for Yoenis Cespedes for MVP.The full archive of Baseline podcasts from Carl Bialik.Significant Digit: 4 — the number of teams that FC Kansas City of the National Women’s Soccer League leapfrogged to finish the regular season in third. FC Kansas City will face regular-season champion Seattle Reign FC in a repeat of last year’s National Women’s Soccer League final. Hot Takedown read more

On The NCAA Bubble Heres The Number To Watch

Kansas State6041324561.9 Clemson6333354915.7 TEAMRPIBPIKENPOMSTRENGTH OF RECORDCHANCE OF MAKING TOURNEY Syracuse7931445312.2 Bubble teams are drawn from Joe Lunardi’s bracketology classifications.Source: ESPN Stats & Information Group, KenPom.com Wake Forest34303033>99.9% Illinois586368581.5 USC3958614376.4 Rhode Island4239515458.1 Marquette5529284188.6 California565255692.8 Illinois State3160494685.7 Indiana8132465719.1 College basketball season is in its final sprint toward Selection Sunday, and that means it’s panic time for teams on the men’s NCAA Tournament bubble. But not all bubble teams are created equal. For instance, Wake Forest, which ranks 30th in ESPN’s BPI power rankings, ought to feel relatively good about its tourney chances, while Syracuse, which ranks 31st, should be in a state of full-blown terror. Why the difference? It all comes down to how each school did in a metric that best predicts the NCAA selection committee’s picking tendencies.The selection committee has struggled for a while with how to pick the teams for the NCAA tournament. Should they be the best teams? Or simply the most deserving teams? The former may not have the best record, while the latter may not have the best talent. (In January, the NCAA even met with several analytics experts to help sort out this quandary.)Stats, too, have to figure out which of these two questions they’re trying to answer. ESPN’s BPI and KenPom.com’s ratings are examples of predictive rating systems, meant to tell fans who the “best” teams are. Other rating systems such as ESPN’s new Strength of Record (SOR) are meant to rank “deserving” teams, grading a team’s resume according to how hard its record was to achieve. The two approaches can yield very different results, and my research shows that Strength of Record aligns more closely with what the committee looks for in a tournament team.As the man behind updating ESPN’s College Basketball Power Index (BPI) before this season, I studied the Selection Committee’s historical behavior, to help build a system that assigns each team a probability of making the NCAA Tournament. I looked at many variables, including resume rankings such as Strength of Record and the NCAA’s official Ratings Percentage Index, predictive rankings such as BPI and KenPom, and simpler measures such as a team’s win-loss record.1Including its overall record and its record in conference and nonconference play.Most of these variables are highly correlated with each other, and in many cases they tell the same story about a school’s season. But Strength of Record has the highest correlation, and using it alone to select teams would help you agree with the committee 90 percent of the time. Plugging Strength of Record into a model (which includes other metrics, but weights them less2Specifically, here’s how the model works: We use BPI to simulate the rest of the season (including conference tournaments) 10,000 times, and in each simulation both automatic and at-large bids are selected. For the latter, we use a data-augmentation Bayesian Probit Regression model that includes SOR, RPI, BPI and an estimation of KenPom.com ratings to rank each team by its likelihood of grabbing one of the tourney’s 36 available at-large slots. A team’s chance to make the tournament, then, is a combination of their chance of winning their conference’s tournament and their chance of being selected as an at-large team if they don’t win the conference tournament.), we can assign tournament probabilities to teams considered “on the bubble” by ESPN’s Joe Lunardi. Because of differences in resume quality (as measured by SOR), some bubble teams are quite likely to be favored by the committee, while some should be worried if they fail to win their conference tournaments. CURRENT RANKING AMONG D-I TEAMS Xavier3336433799.9 Providence5255534063.0 Houston5035415917.2 Iowa727767640.5 Chance of bubble teams making the NCAA Tournament, according to ESPN Stats & Information’s model Vanderbilt4449405665.6 So if your team is sweating things out on the bubble Sunday, keep an eye on its Strength of Record — not its RPI or its predictive ratings. read more

At Least Phil Jackson Didnt Leave The Knicks In Ruins

Naturally, that surplus is made possible by the nature of the rookie scale, which artificially depresses pay for young players, but even going only by the real and projected value, this group of young players has been and will be worth far more than the veterans Jackson acquired. And the value isn’t all tied up in Porzingis, either — Hernangomez and Ntilikina both project to produce at a high level.With Jackson on the way out, the expectation is that coach Jeff Hornacek will have the freedom to move away from Jackson’s much derided triangle offense. Dolan is teasing the idea of chasing former Denver Nuggets executive Masai Ujiri, who helped pants New York in the ill-advised trade for Anthony, and then again in the even more lopsided Andrea Bargnani deal a few seasons later when Ujiri was working for the Toronto Raptors. (Somewhat infamously, Ujiri nearly traded Toronto’s star point guard Kyle Lowry to New York before Dolan, hesitant to be humiliated by Ujiri once again, called off the trade at the 11th hour.)The Knicks, who were 80-166 under Jackson, 29.5 games under their preseason Vegas win totals, are in possession of all of their future first-round draft picks for the first time in a decade.2Hell, the last time the Knicks’ draft outlook was promising for consecutive years was 2005 and 2006, when they had back-to-back seasons with multiple first-rounders. In 2005 they drafted Channing Frye and David Lee, and traded Kurt Thomas for Quentin Richardson and the draft rights to Nate Robinson. The following season, the team drafted Renaldo Balkman and Mardy Collins. Things are looking up.And so the Knicks move on to the next stage of their development, better off than they were three seasons ago. Phil Jackson did a good job — except for the parts where he didn’t. Or perhaps he did a world-historically bad job, except for a few draft picks that went his way. It was a mixed bag, full of drama and triangles, and maybe the best thing to be said about Jackson’s Knicks is that they never managed to completely bungle the future. But in this town, that’s not nothing. It’s borderline groundbreaking. Stick around long enough and even the New York Knicks might have a bright future to sell you.VIDEO: Phil Jackson’s legacy with the Knicks isn’t all bad In just three full seasons, Phil Jackson inflicted as much psychic distress on the New York Knicks fanbase as any executive in New York’s recent, storied, terrible history. Jackson signed with the Knicks on March 18, 2014. News broke on Wednesday morning that he’s leaving.Yet the fans’ discomfort was only possible, in large part, because Jackson’s front office drafted well and unearthed talented young players. Jackson built the team of the future, and then set about imperiling it.Jackson’s exit ends several weeks of turmoil which saw him feud openly with Carmelo Anthony over his no-trade clause (which Jackson himself negotiated) and entertain trade possibilities for Kristaps Porzingis, either in earnest or to send the young star a message to fall in line. It was a messy end, but then, things have been a mess for a while now.In Jackson’s first offseason, he made the biggest decision of his tenure: re-signing Anthony to a 5-year, $124 million contract, which included a no-trade clause. He also traded Tyson Chandler and Raymond Felton for then-33-year-old Jose Calderon, a handful of cap filler and a pair of second round picks. Not quite an earth-moving rebuild, but not terrible.The following season, the Knicks made a three-team deal that sent J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert to Cleveland (and three straight Finals appearances), but returned three marginal players and a 2019 second-round pick. That offseason, the team drafted Porzingis with the No. 4 overall pick, and signed Robin Lopez to a 4-year, $55 million deal. The roster rounded out with peripheral free agents Arron Afflalo and Derrick Williams and a trade for Kyle O’Quinn. Then the real trouble began.In the summer of 2016, Jackson signed Joakim Noah to a 4-year, $72 million contract, and traded Lopez (and his favorable contract), rookie Jerian Grant and Calderon to the Chicago Bulls for Derrick Rose, Justin Holiday and a second round pick. Rose remained a ghost of his former self; Noah was injured, ineffective and more expensive than Lopez.Going by FiveThirtyEight’s CARMELO projection system,1CARMELO has been updated to once again use Real Plus-Minus, though it’s now blended with Box Plus-Minus. We’ll have more details in a few days, but for now, these numbers won’t match the ones in the interactive. we can see just how badly Jackson overshot on the veterans he acquired. The seven most significant players he brought in or re-signed — Anthony, Rose, Noah, Afflalo, Courtney Lee, Lopez and Calderon — made or will make a combined $253 million from the 2014-15 season to the end of the 2019-20 season from the Knicks. Over that same time, they will have produced $134 million of value. The Knicks overpaid by half. The rookies were a different story. Jackson famously preferred Jahlil Okafor to Porzingis, but should be credited for taking a talented but risky prospect. The same goes for trading second-round pick swaps for Willy Hernangomez, a viable center of the future, provided we live long enough to see a future without Joakim Noah on the books, and signing Mindaugas Kuzminskas. And last week’s draft selection, 18-year-old Frank Ntilikina, is a risky, home-run type pick at a draft position in which Jackson could have taken safer players with lower ceilings.Using the same CARMELO method as we did for the veterans, the key Knicks rookies look far better. They project to produce $203 million by 2020, but will have been paid just shy of $43 million. read more

3 notes from Urban Meyers Monday press conference

On Monday, Ohio State football coach Urban Meyer addressed the media for his weekly press conference to reflect on the Buckeyes’ first loss of the season against Michigan State while also looking forward to the season finale against Michigan. Here are three notes from what he said.All eyes on ElliottThe whole college football world was talking about OSU’s loss, but more specifically, a lot of the attention was centered on Ezekiel Elliott’s postgame interview. The junior running back put the coaching staff on blast about his low usage and confessed he spent time in the hospital with a leg infection, while also announcing he would be bolting for the NFL after this season. As expected, Meyer addressed Elliott’s comments heavily on Monday. “He’s a very well-thought of junior, and he gets a microphone stuck in his face, and obviously, we do not condone that and encourage that,” Meyer said. “Our rule is always talk about your teammates and move on. And he came to see me. We had a very long discussion — he’s great — and he apologized and he said, ‘You know, they didn’t have the whole interview in there.’”But Meyer said he is not planning on listening to the rest of Elliott’s interview because they “squashed it as a team.” Many thought Elliott’s frustration about only getting 12 carries in a game that was conducive to running football because of the weather was warranted, even if it was not the right time or place. Meyer agreed with the substance of Elliott’s remarks but, as expected, was not happy with the way they were delivered. “I couldn’t disagree with him, his comments, that he should have got the ball a little bit more but that’s not the place to do it,” he said. “That’s why I always like to decompress for at least a few minutes, because I’ve said some things I’m not very proud of, and I’m not saying that (Elliott’s comments are) not true, I’m just saying that’s not the forum to have those conversations.” Meyer said he would have welcomed a conversation in private with Elliott about his carries, but the way Michigan State was crowding the line of scrimmage factored into the play-calling.The coach acknowledged that he has to “do better” in that regard.  When asked if the running back’s comments were alarming and made him question Elliott’s character, Meyer was quick to knock it down. Meyer said it was a “very isolated incident,” while noting that he feels Elliott is one of the most selfless football players he has ever been around. In hindsight, the coach said he needed to feed Elliott a little more, but with a talented Michigan team on the horizon, Meyer wants to put it in the rearview mirror.“I know I’m probably going to get another 64 questions on it, but it’s done,” Meyer said. “We’ve got a really good team coming up that we’re playing and we’ve got to move forward.” Early exitsAnother hot-button issue that has developed as of late was the issue of players with eligibility remaining discussing their future plans. During the week leading up to the game, junior defensive end Joey Bosa all but announced he would be turning pro after the 2015 campaign came to an end. That was widely assumed, as the defensive end is considered one of the best prospects in next year’s draft. However, hearing Bosa be so open about his future plans did turn some heads. Then, after the loss to Michigan State, Elliott said there was “no chance” he would be back for his senior season. Redshirt junior quarterback Cardale Jones added oxygen to that flame after the game when he posted photo of him walking into Ohio stadium before kickoff on Twitter saying how it was his last time walking on the steps into the ‘Shoe. On Monday, Meyer was asked if he was concerned about the negative effects that players being so open about their future endeavors and how he balances that within the locker room.Meyer pointed to his time at Florida in 2009 when a dozen players sent in paperwork to the NFL to inquire about the possibility of their draft stocks.He admitted it causes “a little anxiety” for the coaching staff, but he said when so many players are talented enough to leave for the NFL early, it is a testament to the type of recruiting going on.Players discussing their future plans causes concern in two areas, Meyer said. The first is staying focused on the task at hand, which with Michigan on the horizon, “is playing a very good team.” The second is dealing with filling those voids in the recruiting department. Meyer said it can be a “nightmare” at times, but the coach maintained that it was a good problem to have because if none of his players were good enough to get drafted, that would be a bigger problem. Everything considered, Meyer said “it’s not easy” dealing with players leaving, but his job remains the same.“I have to just make sure we’re staying focused,” he said. “The good thing is, they’re really good guys … But there’s human nature out there, too.”Uneasy feelingsWhen the players came to the Woody Hayes Athletic Center on Sunday, Meyer said he held a team meeting. As imagined, the coach said there was a “knot” in everyone’s stomach after the loss. But Meyer said that is a good thing. “I would be really disappointed if it wasn’t there,” he said. “Today, you like to assess most of the guys … They are moving on. And it’s always good.” Meyer said he is trying to not be overly dramatic, but for him, Saturday “was a sleepless night.” When he got back into the facility on Sunday and started to see the players showing up, Meyer said it made him start to feel better. The coach recognized the challenges that await his squad with the Wolverines, as Meyer had nothing but praise for coach Jim Harbaugh’s team. But, even so, Meyer seemed to have no concerns about whether or not his players would respond against their archrival. OSU coach Urban Meyer walks off the field at Ohio Stadium following the Buckeyes’ 17-14 loss to Michigan State on Nov. 21. Credit: Samantha Hollingshead | Photo Editor read more

Ohio State field hockey battles Indiana for chance at B1G tournament

Members of the Ohio State field hockey team sing ‘Carmen Ohio’ after a 2-1 loss to Michigan on Nov. 2 at Buckeye Varsity Field.Credit: Lantern file photoOhio State field hockey will travel to Bloomington, Indiana, on Friday for its final road game of the regular season where the Buckeyes go head-to-head with the Indiana Hoosiers.The Buckeyes (5-10, 0-6) look ahead to the match after a tough weekend of Big Ten play. OSU fell to both Rutgers and No. 5 Maryland at home, remaining winless in conference play.As OSU approaches one of the last games of the season, junior midfielder Maddy Humphrey said that the goal is to end the season on a high note and get a chance to compete in the Big Ten tournament.“We say that we don’t have anything to lose but we do because we are a part of Ohio State,” Humphrey said. “We need to represent (the school) by getting to the Big Ten tournament because that’s what Ohio State is all about.”Humphrey continues to dominate OSU’s offense with 11 goals and seven assists for a total of 29 points. After Humphrey’s performance over the past weekend, she jumped to No. 14 on the all-time points list with a career total of 85 points.Junior goalkeeper Liz Tamburro leads the Big Ten for the second year in a row with 96 saves this season. Tamburro also boasts a .716 save percentage. Also protecting the net is junior back Caroline Rath, who has had six defensive saves this season and is tied for fourth nationally.Indiana (8-8, 3-3) comes to the match after upsetting No. 12 Michigan, but falling to Michigan State the previous weekend.Returning to represent the Hoosiers is senior midfielder Katie Barber, who has finished 16 goals and four assists for a cumulative 36 points. Junior midfielder Taylor Pearson follows Barber with 19 points made up of eight goals and three assists.Sophomore goalkeeper Noëlle Rother is ranked second in the Big Ten behind OSU’s Tamburro with 91 saves and a .740 save percentage. Rother was also named Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week for the weeks of Oct. 11 and Oct. 18.Coach Anne Wilkinson said that the Buckeyes have really stepped up their game in practice this past week as they have prepared to face Indiana.“They came out with energy and focus, which was good,” Wilkinson said. “We’re … still working through how we handle (tough) situations…and I think they’re managing themselves appropriately in that they’re having the right focus going into this game on the road.”Friday’s match will mark the 27th time that the Buckeyes and Hoosiers have faced off since 1974. OSU leads the series with a 16-9-1 record and has won three of the last five games.Friday’s faceoff is set for 3 p.m. and will be streamed live on BTN Plus. read more