The NCAA has fired Abigail Grantstein, who was the lead investigator in the Shabazz Muhammad case, according to CBSSports.com on Thursday.Grantstein’s firing comes a month after a woman informed the Los Angeles Times that she heard Grantstein’s boyfriend talking about the case on an airplane flight. Grantstein’s boyfriend mentioned how Muhammad would never be cleared to play for UCLA Bruins this season.Muhammad initially had been ruled ineligible to play at the start of the season and was forced to sit out the first three games of the season. The NCAA conducted an investigation about impermissible benefits the 6-foot-6 guard was determined to have accepted.During Grantstein’s lengthy investigation for the NCAA, they uncovered Muhammad had received travel expenses and lodging during two unofficial visits during his recruitment. Robert Orr, Muhammad’s attorney, said those visits were to North Carolina and Duke and were paid for by Benjamin Lincoln, a financial adviser and friend of Muhammad’s family.The three games that Muhammad sat out were deemed as his suspension after Bruins filed an appeal. His family also had to pay back about $1,600 dollars.“UCLA acknowledged amateurism violations occurred…” the NCAA said in a statement last month. “The university required the student-athlete to miss 10 percent of the season (three games) and repay approximately $1,600 in impermissible benefits.”Sources close to CBSSports.com reported that Grantstein’s job was on the line when they were made of known of Grantstein’s boyfriend conversation.Muhammad is a projected first-round lottery pick in June’s NBA Draft. He is currently averaging 17.8 points and 4.8 rebounds a game since his suspension.Grantstein was a member of the NCAA’s Basketball Focus Group and worked on the cases centered around the amateur status of elite prospects. She worked on the high-profiled case of Kansas’ Josh Shelby.The NCAA has yet to release a comment on the firing of Grantstein.
Iman Shumpert has been rapping since he was a fledgling, so when asked about other “NBA rappers” he wasn’t very impressed. For example, Shumpert had this to say about one of the NBA’s most notable MCs-Metta World Peace, “Oh, he’s horrible. He is horrible.”Shumpert has a theory, “There’s a difference between guys who rap and ‘NBA rappers’.”In the video, Shumpert takes a moment to explain why “NBA rappers” are so bad and why he proclaims himself the best rapper in the league.
* Partial season.Estimates are based on Tom Tango’s WARcel projection method and use the median recovery periods for Tommy John surgery patients who were hitters (11 months) and pitchers (15 months).Sources: Baseball-Reference.com, FanGraphs, Jon Roegele, TangoTiger.com 2018RecoveringRecoveringRecovering 20191.5*0.4*1.1 SeasonJuly 20182018-19 OFFSEASONDOESN’T HAVE SURGERY 20184.108.40.206 2018Recovering0.70.7 SeasonJuly 20182018-19 OFFSEASONDOESN’T HAVE SURGERY July 20182018-19 OFFSEASONDOESN’T HAVE SURGERY Returning to the Los Angeles Angels’ lineup following a monthlong injury layoff, Shohei Ohtani finally reminded everyone last Sunday night why he ranks among baseball’s most electrifying players. Pinch-hitting against the crosstown rival Dodgers in the seventh inning, Ohtani blasted a 2-2 fastball from JT Chargois 443 feet to center field, giving the Angels what eventually proved to be a decisive lead in the game. 20220.127.116.11 Total WARSurgery in … Batting WARSurgery in … 2019RecoveringRecovering2.0 Pitching WARSurgery in … What should Ohtani and the Angels do?Shohei Ohtani’s expected wins above replacement by when or if he has Tommy John surgery, based on median recovery periods for pitchers and hitters 3-year total18.104.22.168 Ohtani’s ability to crush those towering homers while also slinging nasty splitters is what makes him unprecedented in the modern game. At the time of the arm injury that shut him down in early June, he ranked among the American League’s best dozen or so hitters and pitchers on the season. However, that injury — a ligament strain to Ohtani’s pitching elbow — has limited him to “just” hitting for the foreseeable future. Since Ohtani throws right-handed but hits lefty, he can swing the bat without putting much strain on his damaged elbow.Ohtani has since slid back into LA’s lineup as its regular designated hitter, batting in seven straight games for the first time all season.1When Ohtani was pitching roughly every seven days, he would be held out of the lineup in those games plus usually two or three others per week. And that appears to be how the Angels are handling Ohtani’s recovery for now, using him only as a hitter and hoping that a combination of rest and platelet-rich plasma therapy can heal his arm and help him avoid the dreaded Tommy John surgery, which could take him out of action as a pitcher for years.The hitting half of Ohtani is still pretty valuable by itself, and there’s some chance he could return to the mound without needing surgery. But Los Angeles may also just be delaying the inevitable, as injections like the ones Ohtani is getting don’t always successfully stave off Tommy John in the end. (Indeed, Ohtani already underwent the same treatment for a less severe UCL sprain last fall, only to have the injury re-emerge.) With the Angels’ playoff chances all but dried up this year, is it worth it to run him out at half strength for the rest of his rookie campaign? Or should they just call it a season and schedule the operation to fully repair his damaged elbow? Ohtani’s unprecedented ability has given Los Angeles an unprecedented front-office dilemma.Having Ohtani back certainly improves the Angels’ short-term outlook, since the team looked lost without him for most of June. On June 6, the day of Ohtani’s last start, Los Angeles was 35-28 with a 39 percent chance of making the playoffs, according to The Baseball Gauge. By the time he returned, they’d fallen to 43-42 with a 7 percent playoff probability. It wasn’t all due to Ohtani’s absence — teammates like Andrelton Simmons and Andrew Heaney also fell off pace after hot starts — but losing a player with his unique production abilities didn’t help. According to an average of the metrics found at Baseball-Reference and FanGraphs, Ohtani has been worth 2.0 combined wins above replacement as a hitter and pitcher in 50 games of action this season, which is roughly what we’d expect from one solid starter over the course of an entire season.By now, though, Ohtani’s contributions may be too little, too late to save the Angels’ season. As of Tuesday afternoon, they sat fourth in the AL West, 14 games behind the division-leading Astros and 10 games back in the wild-card race. Most likely, any playing time Ohtani gets from here on out this season will be to get him more reps against MLB pitching (no small consideration) and improve his Rookie of the Year candidacy, not to power an epic playoff push. Because of this, the Angels have come under some criticism on social media for putting off Ohtani’s Tommy John surgery for the sake of batting him during what’s likely a lost season.We can do some rough math to map out the options for Ohtani and the Angels. According to this database of Tommy John surgeries collected by Jon Roegele, the median time for a hitter to return to his previous level of competition after the procedure is 11 months, and the median for pitchers is 15 months. That means that, looking at the regular season only, if Ohtani had surgery now, he could expect to return as a batter in June 2019 and as a two-way player for the start of the 2020 season. If he delays surgery to the offseason, though, he’d miss all but the final month of 2019 as a hitter, though he’d still return as a pitcher in time for the start of the 2020 season.(Obviously, these are just the median outcomes — a quarter of position players recover in under 10 months, while 25 percent of pitchers take more than 20 months to return. But these numbers do help give a sense of the recovery times involved for most players who undergo Tommy John surgery.)If we combine those time frames with a simple age progression on Ohtani’s projected regular-season hitting and pitching WAR,2An admitted simplification of things, since it assumes the injury can only affect his performance by keeping him off the field entirely, not by reducing his effectiveness when he does play. we can come up with an estimate of how much value Ohtani figures to add over the next three seasons, depending on when (or if) he elects to go under the knife: At a first glance, the difference between the two Tommy John-related strategies is small (just 0.4 WAR), and that’s assuming that Ohtani does eventually need surgery. The ideal scenario, of course, is one where Ohtani the pitcher comes back without needing surgery and the Angels reap the benefits of Ohtani the hitter in the meantime. This outcome would have an expected value of 6.6 total WAR over the next three seasons, dwarfing the expectation if they shelved him right now. It’s a gamble with considerable upside.Research shows that the plasma injections can keep a player out from under the knife between about 40 and 65 percent of the time. For simplicity’s sake, let’s treat that as a 50-50 shot. Baking in that estimated 50 percent chance of Ohtani’s elbow recovering without surgery, we’d expect the non-surgery choice to deliver an overall expected value of 5.2 WAR — that’s just the average of the delayed-surgery and no-surgery scenarios.Of course, the calculations change a bit if we lower the odds of not needing surgery (dropping them to 40 percent would mean weighting the average toward the delayed-surgery numbers, which would bring his expected value down to 5.0 WAR), or if we account for the fact that LA’s wins over the rest of this season come with lower championship leverage than they might in future seasons, due to the Angels’ poor chances of making the playoff at the moment. The last time the Angels had a comparable playoff probability at this stage of a season, their average play was only 35 percent as impactful as the typical opening-day play.But even if we reduce Ohtani’s hitting WAR over the rest of 2018 by that factor and assign a mere 40 percent chance he won’t need surgery, the expected three-year value of LA’s wait-and-see approach comes out to 4.5 WAR, essentially the same as the expected value of his having surgery right now (4.3 WAR). And again, that’s assuming the least-favorable rate of success for the non-surgical approach, which might be underselling its effectiveness.In other words, the Angels are probably making the right call with Ohtani at the moment. It feels strange to only use half of Ohtani’s incredible skill set, particularly with LA’s playoff chances on life support, and it certainly isn’t exactly what the Angels were envisioning when they paid a $20 million posting fee for Ohtani last December. But it’s a good quandary to have — if he was an ordinary pitcher, this wouldn’t even be a debate. By putting off surgery for now, they’ve given Ohtani’s arm a chance to heal without necessarily losing his services for a year (or more) while also giving his bat a chance to develop further (remember, he just turned 24).And if nothing else, it also gives us a chance to see more weird, puppet-based depictions of his home runs:
Warren Buffett has a great investment track record. So perhaps it’s no accident that he declined to offer $1 billion for correctly predicting the outcome of all World Cup knockout stage games, as he did for the NCAA men’s basketball tournament games.The odds of winning Buffett’s NCAA challenge were about one in 7.4 billion, assuming you chose the favorite in each game as selected by FiveThirtyEight’s NCAA model. But the odds of correctly filling out a 16-team knockout tournament such as the World Cup are much shorter.In fact, though there have been some thrilling matches in the knockout stage so far — six of 12 have gone to extra time and only two were decided by more than one goal — the favorite has advanced every time (at least as according to the FiveThirtyEight’s World Cup predictions).Here is the breakdown so far. The following table lists the win probability for the FiveThirtyEight favorite as of the day of the match, along with the cumulative probability of the model having called all knockout stages correctly up to that point in time.For instance, the probability of correctly identifying the winners in each of the first four knockout matches — Brazil over Chile, Colombia over Uruguay, the Netherlands over Mexico and Costa Rica over Greece — was about 23 percent, or one chance in 4.3. And the chance of going 12 for 12, as the FiveThirtyEight favorites have done so far, is just one in 75.It’s an upset, in other words, when all the favorites prevail. On average, we’d have expected three or four upsets through this point in the knockout round.Of course, there are four matches left — counting the World Cup’s third-place playoff between the two semifinal losers. According to the FiveThirtyEight forecasts, Brazil is favored over Germany on Tuesday (even after accounting for Neymar’s injury) and Argentina is slightly favored over the Netherlands on Wednesday. To complete a perfect knockout bracket, Germany would then need to beat the Netherlands in the consolation game while Brazil prevailed over Argentina in the final.All of the remaining matches look pretty close, so the FiveThirtyEight forecasts are likely to fail at some stage. If the model gets the matches right, however, it will have made good on a 1-in-553 chance of calling all 16 knockout stage winners correctly.Incidentally, this isn’t the huge success for the FiveThirtyEight model that it might seem. The FiveThirtyEight forecasts are probabilistic. Teams listed as 75 percent favorites are supposed to win about 75 percent of the time over the long run — not much less than that but also not any more often. There are supposed to be some upsets. If 75 percent favorites are winning 100 percent of the time over the long run instead, that means the forecasts are miscalibrated and overestimating the chances for the underdogs.In this case, the success of the favorites does seem to be mostly a matter of luck. Three games have gone to a penalty shootout so far — pre-match favorites might have a slight edge in those but not much of one. Mexico, meanwhile, was a few minutes away from defeating the Netherlands, and the U.S. was a few inches away from beating Belgium.The best way to test probabilistic forecasts is to check their calibration and to compare them against alternative probabilistic estimates. For example, if your model says that the U.S. has a 40 percent chance of beating Belgium and the consensus betting line gives the U.S. just a 25 percent chance instead, you should bet on the Americans — even though you expect Belgium to win most of the time. So far, the FiveThirtyEight forecasts have done well against consensus betting lines when used in this fashion — although that could reflect good luck, too.
OSU junior forward Danny Jensen (9) during a game against Cleveland State on Oct. 21 at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium. OSU won 1-0. Credit: Christopher Slack / Lantern PhotographerThe ninth-seeded Ohio State men’s soccer team’s season came to an end on Sunday after a 3-1 loss against No. 8 Stanford in the third round of the NCAA tournament. After a shaky start to the 2015 season, the Buckeyes got hot, building an eight-game win streak en route to an overall record of 13-7-3. The 13 victories are the second-most in program history. With the win, the Cardinal improved to 16-2-2 overall and advanced to the quarterfinals.Freshman midfielder Abdi Mohammed scored the Buckeyes only goal of the game in the second half, leveling the match at 1-1. However, Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year and junior forward Jordan Morris netted two second-half goals to solidify the win for Stanford. Stanford came out of the gates pressuring the Buckeyes, but the Scarlet and Gray held strong in the first half, preventing the Cardinal from scoring.Morris, who is also a member of the U.S. Men’s National Soccer team, had the first good look of the half in the 17th minute, but his shot went off the side of the net.OSU junior forward Danny Jensen had a clean look for the Buckeyes in the 23rd minute, but his strike missed to the left. Despite a scoreless first half, the Cardinal were clearly the aggressor in the game, giving coach John Bluem’s squad reason to be concerned for the second half. In the 48th minute, OSU junior defender and co-captain Tyler Kidwell made an unbelievable play — a goal-saving clearance in front of the net — to keep the Cardinal off the board.However, Kidwell’s save was not enough for the Buckeyes, because just five minutes later, Stanford scored its first goal of the game.Morris received the through ball and poked it in front of the net.Although the Scarlet and Gray were down a point, they managed to remain calm and make a comeback.In the 62nd minute, Mohammed tied the game with a header assisted by junior defender Austin Bergstrom.Back-and-forth play ensued for roughly the next 15 minutes before Morris put his team back on top with another goal in the 78th minute.With only 10 minutes left to play, the Buckeyes needed to score in order to stay in the game. Jensen attempted a header, but his shot was saved.Stanford’s Corey Baird put the nail in the season’s coffin in the 88th minute when he scored off a turnover by the Scarlet and Gray. Overall, shots were 19-11 in favor of Stanford, while the Cardinal also held a 5-1 lead in corners.Despite the loss, OSU overcame a rough start to its 2015 season, earning the Big Ten regular season title and advancing to the Sweet 16 for just the fourth time in program history.Regardless of the end result, it was a successful season for Bluem’s squad.
After a back-and-forth battle Friday between the Badgers and the Buckeyes, freshman forward Hokey Langan’s game-winning goal Friday wasn’t enough momentum for an Ohio State win Saturday. The OSU women’s ice hockey team split a pair of weekend games against defending National Champion Wisconsin.With a feed from sophomore Natalie Spooner, junior Christina Mancuso put the first point on the scoreboard with a shot from the left side, only 4:27 into the first period.The Badgers answered back with two power-play goals at 13:28 and 4:35 on the clock to lead 2-1 at the end of the first period.Just about six minutes into the second period, Spooner scored from the right post on a Buckeye power play to tie it up 2-2.Wisconsin’s Jasmine Giles took advantage of a loose puck in the Buckeye defensive zone and backhanded it for the lead at 11:13 in the second period. But just 43 seconds later, senior co-captain Raelyn LaRocque scored her first of the night to even the score to 3-3.Another goal by Wisconsin just before the second intermission gave the Badgers a 4-3 lead going into the third period, but the Buckeyes came back with two unanswered goals for the win. Sophomore Laura McIntosh grabbed her own rebound, netting a top-shelf goal, while freshman forward Hokey Langan’s wrist shot scored the game-winner with only nine seconds left in the game. Friday’s win is the fifth OSU victory over Wisconsin in the all-time series.With Buckeye spirits high Saturday, the Badgers played for redemption.Freshman goaltender Chelsea Knapp stopped 31 shots on goal in the first and second period combined, and 42 on the night.Wisconsin took the lead in the first with just about three minutes left on the clock, but Spooner netted a top-shelf goal 12 seconds later, tying the game 1-1.An even-matched second period left both teams scoreless heading into the third period, but Wisconsin took the lead scoring two with under 10 minutes left in the game.With chants from young Buckeye fans in the crowd, the OSU team rallied together after a timeout call, pulling Knapp from the goal for the extra skater. With just 1:01 left in the game, sophomore forward Kim Theut charged the net and scored from a line change to bring the Buckeyes within one. But the Badger defense held off eager Buckeyes while time ran out. Wisconsin won 3-2 for a weekend split.While disappointed about the loss, coach Jackie Barto said her team really hung in for a full 60 minutes Saturday against a Wisconsin team that never backed down.“Tonight Wisconsin won a few more battles, a few more foot races,” Barto said. “[Knapp] was solid and kept us in the game.”Barto said the team will get back to work and prepare for another tough weekend against North Dakota Feb. 5-6.Despite the heartbreaking loss, LaRocque remained upbeat about the progress of the team looking forward to their series against North Dakota.“We just got to look at the positives this weekend. We played well against them, we were able to come back, [and] we know we can come back,” she said. “We just got to take the positives out of it [and] we’ve got to run with it.”
Despite recent struggles on the PGA Tour, Tiger Woods’ play on the par-5 holes at the 2012 Memorial Tournament has him in contention after one round. Woods carded a 2-under-par 70 during the first round of the 2012 Memorial Tournament at Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin, Ohio. Woods walked off the 18th green one stroke off the lead, though he has sense fallen into a tie for 11th place as American Scott Stallings jumped to the top of the leader board after posting a 6-under-par 66 first round score. The 2-under-par score comes after what some consider underachievement in the three tournaments leading up to the Memorial Tournament. After finishing tied for 40th (-5-strokes) at The Masters, missing the cut for the Wells Fargo Championship and tying for 40th (-1) at The Players Championship, Woods said he feels like he’s “perking up” after one round of play in Dublin. “Well, I think I was just consistent all day,” Woods said. “I didn’t do … anything great and I didn’t do anything poorly. I was just very consistent. And I think with the way the golf course being the way it’s set up, you just have to be that way.” In order to finish his round 2-under-par, Woods took advantage of nearly every opportunity he had on Muirfield’s four par-5 holes, birdying three times while also posting a par. After paring holes 1-4, Woods tracked into negative territory when he birdied the 527-yard fifth hole. Two holes later, he birdied the 563-yard seventh. Woods saved par on the 11th, but said he wasn’t satisfied with that result. “The one on 11 should have been a birdie, as well,” Woods said. “I hit two really nice shots in there.” Woods bounced back and went to 4-under-par for the round when he birdied the 15th hole. The lone blemish on Woods’ round was a double-bogey on 18. After Woods finished his round, he said his play on the par-5 holes was productive for a change. “Well, I haven’t played the par-5’s particularly well the last few tournaments, and today was a good example (of how well I’m playing),” Woods said. “I played (the par-5’s) great. I feel very pleased with the way I hit the golf ball all day, and it was nice to actually play the par-5’s under par for a change.” Second-round play at the Memorial Tournament begins Friday at 7:20 a.m.
It was one big party in Ohio Stadium last night, as No. 12 Ohio State beat down No. 21 Nebraska for a 63-38 victory. Here’s what we learned about the Buckeyes, who improved to 6-0 for the season. It was an exciting night for the program and Buckeye fans were treated to a historic night during OSU’s 100th Homecoming game. Quarterback Braxton Miller was once again spectacular. The sophomore ran for a career-high 186 yards, breaking his own school record for most rushing yards by a quarterback. “We have a quarterback that’s kind of ridiculous running the ball,” first-year coach Urban Meyer said. Ridiculous is a fair way of describing Miller. He has an innate ability to make opposing defenders look foolish, to turn a sure-loss into a long touchdown. He’s the perfect quarterback to lead an offense that was equally absurd Saturday night. On OSU’s first four possessions, the offense managed a meager seven yards. It looked bleak for the Buckeyes, who trailed 17-7 early in the second quarter. And then it happened. Miller did what he does best, veering through the Nebraska defense for a 72-yard run to move the ball down to the three-yard line for the Buckeyes. Miller’s long run fired up the crowd and ignited the offensive barrage that would shortly ensue. In the team’s final ten possessions, the Buckeyes scored eight touchdowns en route to a 63-point performance. It was the first time OSU scored more than 60 points against a Big Ten opponent since Oct. 1, 1983, a 69-18 drubbing of Minnesota. Meyer-coached teams are famous for high-scoring affairs, but even the most optimistic Buckeye fans shouldn’t have expected OSU to look this good this early in his tenure. For one, Meyer is instilling a completely different offensive scheme, with inherited players that he didn’t recruit for his system. And the players he does have are young – OSU starts just three seniors on offense. It would be insane to think that the Buckeyes would be an offensive juggernaut in year one, there had to be hiccups. Well, the first quarter was a hiccup, and the team still managed 63 points against a defense that hadn’t allowed more than 36 points in a game this season. This offense still has plenty of room to improve, and that, is ridiculous. One B1G mess We’re halfway through the season, and OSU is the clear favorite to win the conference they are sanctioned from winning. The Buckeyes stand alone as the Big Ten’s only unbeaten team. The four preseason favorites – Nebraska, Michigan, Michigan State and Wisconsin – all have two losses, and only Michigan is unbeaten in conference play. Then there’s the league’s Leaders division, currently led by Penn State and OSU, the conference’s two teams banned from post-season play. If the season ended today, the division’s third-place team, Wisconsin, would play in the conference championship game. It’s been a tough season thus far for the Big Ten, whose top teams were beat down in non-conference play. Entering this weekend, only three teams were ranked in the top 25. Two of them lost on Saturday. Excluding last season, the Buckeyes have been the class of the conference for the past decade. That appears to be the case again this year, but given the team’s sanctions, it doesn’t bode well for the Big Ten. Give an extra helmet sticker to… Carlos Hyde, who had a career night for the Buckeyes. The junior running back rushed for 140 yards and four touchdowns, both personal bests. Perhaps more importantly, Hyde carried the ball a career-high 28 times. It was the first time an OSU running back had more than 20 carries since Miller took over as starting quarterback last season. A hot topic of conversation this year has been whether Miller receives too many carriers, and in turn too many hits, in Meyer’s system. It’s a lot easier to limit you best player’s touches when others can step up and provide production. Hyde did that Saturday night, and that bodes well for the Buckeyes moving forward.
Junior guard Sam Thompson takes a shot during a game against Penn State Jan. 29 at the Schottenstein Center. OSU lost, 71-70.Credit: Shelby Lum / Photo editorThad Matta just needed somebody to hug.After Wisconsin sophomore forward Sam Dekker’s last-second heave clanged off the rim Saturday at the Kohl Center, signaling a victory for Ohio State, the jubilation on the Buckeye sideline was clear.The man Matta grabbed was the team’s video coordinator, Jake Diebler, and OSU’s coach said Monday it was because Diebler was the closest guy to him.“He was the first guy I could find,” Matta said with a laugh. “Because I had the line on Dekker’s shot, and I thought it was off to the right and I’ll be honest, I’ve seen what these guys have done. I’ve seen what the staff has done to get us ready to play that game and it was obvious with the ending the other night (against Penn State Wednesday), there was a sense of excitement, a sense of relief.”The sense of relief Matta felt after the 59-58 victory over the Badgers percolated throughout the rest of the team, but senior guard Aaron Craft said it’s not the time to sit back and be satisfied, especially with the Buckeyes set to visit No. 17 Iowa (17-5, 6-3) Tuesday at 7 p.m.“We got a big win the other day, and we don’t want to rest on that either,” Craft said Monday. “Our biggest focus right now is to find a way to be better than Iowa. Everything else will really take care of itself the more we go on.”The Hawkeyes came to Columbus and handed the Buckeyes (17-5, 4-5) their first home loss of the season Jan. 12, a 84-74 outcome where OSU struggled against Iowa’s zone defense.OSU committed 17 turnovers in that loss, something Craft said cannot happen Tuesday.“We just can’t turn the ball over. That’s what cost us the game the first time,” Craft said. “We had the lead, and turned the ball over quite a few times down the stretch … When they’re at their best, they’re getting buckets in transition, getting fouled, getting to the free throw line. That’s what we can’t do if we want to be in it at the end of the game.”Junior forward Sam Thompson, who got his first start of the season in the win against Wisconsin in place of junior guard Shannon Scott, agreed and said in order to figure out the zone, the team just needs a different mindset.“I think it’s just about our mindset on the offensive end against the zone. Last time we played Iowa, we didn’t do a good job of attacking that zone, we really let that zone dictate the way we played on offense,” Thompson said Monday. “We were sort of playing on our heels, moving the ball from side to side and not really looking to attack.”The Buckeyes — who dropped out of the top 25 rankings for the first time since Jan. 2010, when the latest poll was released Monday — also allowed 44 points in the paint against Iowa in the Jan. 12 loss. Fixing that issue isn’t just on one guy either, Craft said.“It’s a team defensive effort. They do a good job of setting good screens and getting guys in the paint, whether it’s tight curling or driving the ball off that,” Craft said. “They’re gonna score in the paint, that’s kind of their MO this year. They score in the paint and they get to the free throw line. So we need to find ways that we can hopefully minimize that as much as possible and not get down or not get frustrated when they do maybe go through a stretch where that happens. You have to find a way to get to the next play and move on.”It is clear OSU is going to need an entire team effort to leave Iowa City with a victory and to win back-to-back games for the first time since starting the season 15-0. Solving the riddle against Wisconsin was a start, Matta said, and continuing it won’t be easy.“That is the plan,” Matta said about getting a few wins in a row. “It’s a lot easier said than done, reeling a couple off. We went in, we won a tough game. You think about the game before that comes down to the last shot, this one comes down to the last shot. I’d love to not be in that position — it’s making me old, but it is what it is … I liked the energy that we had in huddles, down the stretch guys talking saying ‘We gotta do this, we’ve been here before.’ You hope you can build on that.”
Senior outfielder Caitlin Conrad (left) arrives safely at 1st base during a game against Pittsburgh on March 31 at Buckeye Field. OSU won, 7-3.Credit: Stacie Jackson / Lantern PhotographerWith the Big Ten season coming down the home stretch, the Ohio State softball team wants to keep control of its own fate.“The key will be to beat the teams we know we can,” senior outfielder Caitlin Conrad said before the Buckeyes swept Michigan State last weekend. “By doing this, we can put ourselves in position to get a better seed come tournament time.”Conrad, one of four seniors on the squad, is currently among the hottest hitters on the team with a .394 batting average and is quickly approaching 40 runs batted in to complement her 35 runs scored so far this season.“Caitlin has been the most consistent player for us all season,” coach Kelly Kovach Schoenly said before the team departed for East Lansing, Mich.The Buckeyes scored a total of 29 runs against the Spartans, and have either scored or given up double digits 17 times this season. Conrad said she believes the high-scoring affairs are new to Big Ten softball, changing the way she looks at scoring.“It used to be that if you scored seven runs in a game, you would win,” Conrad said. “Now you need to score 12 or so just to be in the game.”And scoring is what the Buckeyes have been doing lately.To sweep Michigan State, OSU tallied six, eight and 15 runs, respectively, over the course of the three games. The 15-5 win on Sunday came in just five innings.The sweep has the Buckeyes riding a four-game win streak entering a week when they will be facing both Penn State and Rutgers.All five of those games, two against the Nittany Lions and three against the Scarlet Knights, are crucial for the Buckeyes (22-16, 6-6) to get better position in the conference and achieve their ultimate goal: making it to regionals in the NCAA Tournament.“We need to keep winning in order to move up in the Big Ten standings,” senior pitcher Olivia O’Reilly said. “Doing this will put us in a position where we can make it to regionals.”The Buckeyes hit the road to face Penn State for a doubleheader on Wednesday. The team lost 7-6 in the first game before falling, 11-6, in the nightcap. They are then set to return home to face Rutgers over the weekend.Despite getting the opportunity to play all over the country, Schoenly said she believes there is nothing like playing at home.“I love to play at home,” Schoenly said. “Of course it’s great to travel other places but there is nothing like home. We love having fans come out to our games. Columbus has a really good softball community.”With home in mind, Schoenly and the Buckeyes make it a point to travel and play in each woman’s hometown at least once during a player’s career as a member of the Scarlet and Gray.“We have the opportunity to play all over the country,” Schoenly said. “So we try to travel to every girls’ hometown during their career.”With 13 Ohioans on the team, eight of whom are from Central Ohio, playing at home can be that much more welcoming.The Buckeyes’ series against Rutgers is set to start on Friday at 6 p.m. at Buckeye Field.