Larry Bird of the Boston Celtics shoots against Michael Jordan of the Chicago Bulls during a game in 1990 in Boston. Dick Raphael / NBAE / Getty Images Still, this is legitimately a good way to win, provided you spend as much time as I did Googling for frolicking badgers. With a 10 percent chance, the Badgers have one of the best shots at winning it all. But they’re not Kentucky, so going for them is probably a good way to get a unique winner, an advantage in any March Madness pool. Plus, if you’re a cat person, this may be an even better bracket. The people who pick tournaments by adorableness are on to something. So what’s the final verdict?This year, if you’re going to pick a bracket based on the mascots, you should absolutely go with the cuter mascots. Check out FiveThirtyEight’s March Madness predictions. Wolverine in “Ultimate Spider-Man” on Disney XD. Marvel / Disney XD / Getty Images Verdict: Probably the worst way of picking a bracket. Final Four:Midwest: Wichita State Shockers (No. 7 seed, 3 percent)West: Georgia State Panthers (No. 14 seed, <1 percent)East: Michigan State University Spartans (No. 7 seed, 4 percent)South: University of Iowa Hawkeyes (No. 7 seed, 2 percent)Championship game: Black Panther (T’Challa) vs. Hawkeyes (Clint Barton & Kate Bishop)Winner: University of Iowa Hawkeyes (<1 percent chance of winning it all)Notes: I feel like this will probably be the most controversial choice, but first, two quick things about the process: One, there is a hilarious amount of overlap between college basketball team mascots and comic book characters.2Briefly: Aggie, Aztek, Badger, Blazer, Bison, Bruin, Blue Devil, Buckeye, Cardinal, Cavalier, Cyclone, Duck, Leopard, Lumberjack, Mustang, Osprey, Panther, Razorback, Rebel, Shocker, Tiger, Ute, Wildcat, Wolfpack. Two, and I know this may be unpopular in Indiana, but the Valparaiso University Crusaders do not get to be Batman even though he’s referred to sometimes as “the caped crusader.” If they were the Valparaiso Batmen, then they would get to win this tournament, but they’re not. Sorry.The main contenders in this match were the Final Four teams — Black Panther; Shocker, the Spider-Man villain; the Spartans from Frank Miller’s critically acclaimed graphic novel “300”3Now a major motion picture!; and the two Hawkeyes of the Avengers — but there was serious competition from Wildcat, Cyclone, Blazer, Mustang and hilariously Ute the Watcher. Anyway, T’Challa beats Shocker, and Kate Bishop and Clint Barton sweep the 300, beat Black Panther4Because … boomerangs. and cut down the nets.This may be the worst way to pick a bracket — the University of Iowa is almost definitely not going to win the basketball tournament — but, good god, do I want to see this movie. Or at least do the movie in a year that the University of Michigan makes it to the big dance. A mascot bracket based on who would win in a fight Pirates Universal History Archive / UIG / Getty Images A mascot bracket based on who would win a game of H.O.R.S.E. Every March, many people with zero affinity for college basketball fill out a bracket, lured to play by the office pool. A lot of strategies are possible. You could just pick the favorite to win each game. You could just pick schools you know of or like for non-athletic reasons — maybe make every university that wait-listed you go down in the first round.But one common strategy I know of is to pick by teams that have your favorite mascot. Indeed, this strategy can pay off: I know for a fact that last year, the office pool at a widely read business news site was won by someone who had filled out a bracket by picking the cutest animal. The UConn Huskies, in addition to being so cute, won the tourney as a No. 7 seed.But “most adorable” is but one way to pick a mascot-oriented bracket. Luckily, we have a database of mascots. Here, I took four different mascot-themed strategies, played out the tournament game by game and compared the results to odds in our March Madness predictions. (This is a somewhat subjective process; for instance, which is cuter: a pirate or a Spartan?)A mascot bracket based on cuteness Verdict: A bad way of picking a bracket.Final Four:Midwest: Hampton University Pirates (No. 16 seed, <1 percent)West: Texas Southern University Tigers (No. 15 seed, <1 percent)East: Michigan State University Spartans (No. 7 seed, 4 percent)South: Iowa State Cyclones (No. 3 seed, 15 percent)Championship game: Pirates vs. CyclonesWinner: Iowa State Cyclones (2 percent)Notes: All right, this one I tried to base on as much historical evidence as possible. Who would win, pirates1Whenever a team was named after a group of people — be they Tar Heels or Hoosiers — I went with an average person from that group. or crusaders? Check out the Mahdian or Smyrniote Crusades and see how those worked out. How about pirates vs. Fighting Irish? See: Baltimore, Sack of. The Hampton University Pirates stomp through the Midwest. As for the West, there are some pretty serious contenders — musketeers, bears, panthers, razorbacks, for instance — but I’m going with the Tigers. And history says that it’s hard for anything — even a wolfpack — to beat Spartans. I say they sweep the East.But you think some Spartans could contend with a cyclone? Menelaus, who dragged his sorry ass home from Troy only to see nearly his entire fleet sink in a big storm, has some bad news for you.Listen, you can beat a lot of things in this world, but nature really isn’t one of them. The Iowa State Cyclones have a 2 percent shot of taking home the championship, the eighth-highest chance of victory in the bracket. You could have a worse bracket is all I’m saying. A mascot bracket based on equivalent comic book characters Verdict: A bad way of picking a bracket.Final Four:Midwest: Notre Dame Fighting Irish (No. 3 seed, 8 percent)West: University of North Carolina Tar Heels (No. 4 seed, 8 percent)East: Providence College Friars (No. 6 seed, 2 percent)South: San Diego State University Aztecs (No. 8 seed, 2 percent)Championship game: Tar Heels vs. AztecsWinner: University of North Carolina Tar Heels (1 percent chance of winning it all)Notes: Spurned during the cuteness bracket, the humans finally have a shot at winning something. I think an Irish person who plays dirty can probably beat a pirate at basketball. Same goes for friars; based on my experience — particularly Catholic high school — clergy are often weirdly good at basketball. The Aztec people might not have known the modern incarnation of basketball, but I think they’d be able to get the gist of H.O.R.S.E. just fine after a life watching ōllamaliztli. But here’s the thing. I have met a lot of tar heels — people who live in North Carolina. And all of them are superb at basketball. I don’t get it, but this is just how it works. Tar heels take this one home. UNC is not a favorite to win the tournament, though, so maybe this is not the way to go. A baby giant anteater at the London zoo in 2005. Scott Barbour / Getty Images Verdict: Weirdly, a decent way of picking a bracket.Cuteness Final Four (with each team’s actual FiveThirtyEight probability of making it there):Midwest: Northeastern University Huskies (No. 14 seed, <1 percent)West: University of Wisconsin Badgers (No. 1 seed, 33 percent)East: U.C. Irvine Anteaters (No. 13 seed, <1 percent)South: Gonzaga Bulldogs (No. 2 seed, 24 percent)Championship game: Badgers vs. BulldogsWinner: University of Wisconsin Badgers (Actual 10 percent chance of winning it all)Notes: To disclose my priors, I’m a dog person, but one who is sympathetic to wildcats. And it would have been all too easy to give Villanova and Kentucky a free ride to the top. But I have standards. Huskies are cuter than wildcats, as are anteaters. Just Google “baby anteater.” I’m right on this one. Here’s a taste: Mrs. Philip Dee in 1936 with her pet badger at her home in Hanworth, England. The badger shared a hutch with a pet fox, which belonged to the Tannett family, neighbors of Dee. Reg Speller / Fox Photos / Getty Images
More likely, Julien’s days behind Boston’s bench are numbered. A third consecutive missed postseason would be damning for the franchise — that hasn’t happened in nearly 50 years. A departure by Julien would spell the end of a Bruins golden era that never quite materialized.Julien has won a cup, and that’s no small feat. But Julien has also presided over a Bruins team that’s consisted of Bergeron, Krejci and Rask in their primes, and so it could be argued that he should have won more. Instead, the Bruins have only managed to make it past the second round of the playoffs once since 2012-13, when they lost to the Chicago Blackhawks in the Stanley Cup Final. Although the Blackhawks’ dynasty endures, the Bruins continue their march toward the middle of the road. Related: Hot Takedown Wait, Are The 76ers Good Now? The Boston Bruins’ recent stretch of uninspired hockey — they’ve won only five games since Christmas and have been outscored 16-6 in their past four games — has prompted talk that head coach Claude Julien is about to be fired. Julien’s track record suggests that a firing would be unjust — his 416 wins are the most in franchise history, and he’s one of only six Bruins coaches to win the Stanley Cup. But it also speaks to the mounting frustration over a team that has badly undershot expectations over the past few seasons.Boston does the little things well. It currently leads the NHL in Corsi and Fenwick,1Updated through the games of Jan. 22. the most popular possession metrics, across all situations, and it ranks third in faceoff win percentage. Boston’s penalty killing unit is nearly impenetrable (its 86.6 kill percentage is second only to that of the Carolina Hurricanes), and its 34.1 shots per game is second in the league, behind the Pittsburgh Penguins’ 34.7. But despite all that, the Bruins are in serious danger of missing the playoffs. Again.How can a team that takes more than 34 shots per game rank in the bottom third of total goals scored? Answer: The Bruins currently rank dead last in shooting percentage, scoring on an anemic 7.1 percent of the shots they take. By contrast, the Penguins, who lead the league with 167 goals scored — and who eviscerated the Bruins on Sunday, 5-1 — score on 10.5 percent of the shots they take (fifth in the league), and the New York Rangers, who take less than 30 shots per game (they rank 18th), score on a league-leading 11.7 percent of the shots they take.The Bruins have taken almost 300 more shots than the Rangers2To be fair, the Bruins have played two more games than the Rangers, but I doubt the boys in blue are going to average 150 shots a game over their next two games to close the gap. and yet have scored more than 40 fewer goals. On average, the Bruins take 7.4 more shots per game than their opponents — the largest margin in the league — and yet they’re still getting outscored 2.54 goals per game to 2.42.Some of this could be explained away by bad luck (or facing hot goalies); it’s difficult to account for a 1.9-point dip in shooting percentage from last season, especially when this year’s Bruins roster and last year’s aren’t significantly different. But lack of depth has also hurt the Bruins in recent seasons. After losing Loui Eriksson (who scored the puck on an astounding 16.3 percent of the shots he took last season) to free agency and Matt Beleskey (who added 15 goals on 8.9 percent shooting in 2015-16) to injury,3Beleskey returned to action on Jan. 20 after missing 23 games. Julien has had to make do with a somewhat decimated roster of not-quite-ready-for-prime-time players.Boston’s stars are still as good as any team’s. David Krejci and Patrice Bergeron (despite a down year) would be No. 1 centers on half the teams in the NHL — they rank 29th and 33rd, respectively, in points per game among active NHL skaters — and Tuukka Rask is statistically among the 10 best goalies in the history of the NHL. (For goalies with more than 250 career games, Rask’s .924 save percentage is the best all-time, while his goals against average of 2.23 ranks ninth).But the rest of the Bruins’ roster is strapped for talent. Indeed, when Rask isn’t between the pipes, the Bruins might be the worst team in the league. Their backup-goaltending tandem of Zane McIntyre (who was a fine college goalie but has struggled mightily since arriving to the show) and Anton Khudobin (a guy the Bruins tried to release on waivers but who has been so terrible that no team claimed him) have posted a combined save percentage of .875 (which, if it were generated by a single netminder, would rank 73rd if it were added to a list of the NHL’s 84 goalies), and the duo has won just a single game combined.Of course, it’s not easy backstopping a team that skates only six players with plus-minus numbers in the black. It’s also tough to win championships after key weapons are traded away, something that Boston GMs Peter Chiarelli and Don Sweeney have been wont to do since 2013. Gone are Tyler Seguin, who’s scored 123 goals since being dealt from Boston to Dallas; Johnny Boychuk, who chews up blueline minutes and can score from the point (something this Bruins team misses desperately); Dougie Hamilton, another point-producing defenseman; and Milan Lucic, a perennial 20-goal threat (and a player whose career shooting percentage of 14.4 ranks eighth among active skaters). All Boston ended up with for their trouble was an AHL defenseman (Joe Morrow, who has played in just 65 NHL games over the past three seasons) and a low-scoring right winger (Jimmy Hayes, who has just 3 points in the 36 games he’s played in this season4Not many more than you’d expect a bag of pucks wearing a Jimmy Hayes mask to score.), both of whom would struggle to get ice time for the Quad City Mallards, much less one of the NHL’s oldest, proudest franchises.Even with their stars-and-scrubs roster, the Bruins aren’t particularly bad. They’ve accumulated the 14th-most points so far this season, and by Hockey-Reference.com’s Simple Rating System (which adjusts a team’s average goal differential for its strength of schedule), they’re the 17th-best team in the NHL. Which is to say that the Bruins are a center-of-the-pack, perfectly mediocre team.But mediocrity doesn’t lead to postseason berths. According to Hockey-Reference’s playoff simulator, Boston has only a 25 percent chance of making the playoffs. For the Bruins to get in, the Maple Leafs would have to dry up and crumble during the second half of the season. (The Leafs have a history of collapsing down the stretch against the Bruins, so it’s possible.)
Marc RzepczynskiSEA202+0.3 Logan VerrettBAL100+0.2 Tom WilhelmsenARI002+0.0 Addison ReedNYM722+0.1 Jandel GustaveHOU010-0.4 MEHS▲▼ Koji UeharaCHC621+0.0 PITCHER▲▼ Robert StephensonCIN010-0.4 Ken GilesHOU210-0.1 Joe BlantonWAS120-0.6 Josh EdginNYM310+0.0 Archie BradleyARI611+0.5 Brad BrachBAL1200+1.9 Hector RondonCHC611+0.4 Scott ObergCOL300+0.4 Brent SuterMIL001+0.0 Trevor RosenthalSTL410+0.1 Juan NicasioPIT221-0.5 Bryan ShawCLE301+0.5 Robbie RossBOS100+0.2 Wade LeBlancPIT100+0.1 Zach BrittonBAL600+0.9 Luke GregersonHOU510+0.4 Will HarrisHOU500+0.8 Cody AllenCLE601+1.0 Brandon KintzlerMIN501+0.8 Aroldis ChapmanNYY500+0.8 Jeurys FamiliaNYM202+0.3 Bruce RondonDET010-0.4 Tyler ClippardNYY112-0.2 GOOSE EGGS▲▼ Boone LoganCLE001+0.0 Blake ParkerLAA431-0.5 Jerry BlevinsNYM503+0.7 Nick VincentSEA200+0.3 Andrew MillerCLE1000+1.6 Dan AltavillaSEA111-0.2 Fernando SalasNYM411+0.1 Wade DavisCHC800+1.0 Wandy PeraltaCIN300+0.4 Edwin DiazSEA611+0.6 Ben TaylorBOS001+0.0 J. P. HowellTOR010-0.4 Rafael MonteroNYM121-0.6 Kyle BarracloughMIA600+0.8 Keone KelaTEX310+0.1 Anthony SwarzakCHW300+0.5 A. J. RamosMIA310+0.0 Tony WatsonPIT601+0.8 Brad HandSD410+0.1 Jhan MarinezMIL110-0.3 Randall DelgadoARI300+0.4 Jared HughesMIL200+0.3 Sean DoolittleOAK412+0.2 Brad ZieglerMIA410+0.1 Chris HatcherLAD110-0.3 Tyler WilsonBAL111-0.2 Chris DevenskiHOU1021+0.8 Joakim SoriaKC611+0.6 Matt BushTEX510+0.4 Brad PeacockHOU101+0.2 Carlos EstevezCOL100+0.1 GOOSE EGGS▲▼ Jacob TurnerWAS300+0.4 Fernando RodneyARI431-0.6 Hunter StricklandSF100+0.1 Joe BiaginiTOR432-0.5 Jose TorresSD010-0.4 Casey FienSEA100+0.2 Chad QuallsCOL100+0.1 Pedro StropCHC203+0.3 Jacob BarnesMIL610+0.4 BROKEN EGGS▲▼ Dustin McGowanMIA201+0.3 Craig KimbrelBOS810+0.9 Brett CecilSTL511+0.3 Justin WilsonDET610+0.6 Robby ScottBOS203+0.3 Jesse ChavezLAA010-0.4 Koda GloverWAS411+0.1 Mark MelanconSF620+0.0 Chase De JongSEA010-0.4 Peter MoylanKC201+0.3 Frankie MontasOAK100+0.2 Jayson AquinoBAL010-0.4 Neftali FelizMIL630-0.3 Matt StrahmKC120-0.6 Roberto OsunaTOR140-1.3 Fernando AbadBOS100+0.2 Josh SmokerNYM412+0.1 Tony CingraniCIN110-0.3 Cam BedrosianLAA303+0.5 TEAM▲▼ Junichi TazawaMIA120-0.6 Kevin QuackenbushSD100+0.1 Adam WarrenNYY001+0.0 Enny RomeroWAS311+0.0 Jim JohnsonATL620+0.0 Erasmo RamirezTB401+0.6 Kelvin HerreraKC410+0.3 Luis AvilanLAD112-0.3 Jose RamirezATL410+0.1 Carlos TorresMIL221-0.5 Steven OkertSF412+0.1 Matthew BowmanSTL620+0.0 Travis WoodKC330-0.6 Jordan LylesCOL110-0.2 Bryan MitchellNYY010-0.4 Alex ClaudioTEX101+0.2 Joely RodriguezPHI503+0.7 GWAR▲▼ James PazosSEA212-0.1 Oliver PerezWAS301+0.4 Ryan TeperaTOR410+0.3 Liam HendriksOAK001+0.0 Alec AsherBAL010-0.4 Carl EdwardsCHC411+0.1 Ryan GartonTB010-0.4 Zach PutnamCHW200+0.3 Josh FieldsLAD101+0.1 Tommy KahnleCHW310+0.1 Michael FelizHOU100+0.2 Ty BlachSF101+0.1 Ryan MadsonOAK210-0.1 Dario AlvarezTEX201+0.3 Evan ScribnerSEA020-0.7 Tony BarnetteTEX320-0.2 Nate JonesCHW410+0.2 Yusmeiro PetitLAA302+0.5 Mike DunnCOL501+0.7 Joe KellyBOS211+0.0 Jean MachiSEA100+0.2 Chris YoungKC100+0.2 Felipe RiveroPIT711+0.6 Dan JenningsCHW002+0.0 Jake McGeeCOL301+0.4 Taylor RogersMIN311+0.1 J. C. RamirezLAA020-0.7 Joaquin BenoitPHI520-0.1 Aaron LoupTOR001+0.0 Danny FarquharTB221-0.4 Kyle RyanDET210-0.1 Ross StriplingLAD431-0.6 Blake WoodCIN010-0.4 Brooks PoundersLAA100+0.2 Kevin SiegristSTL300+0.4 Luis GarciaPHI200+0.3 Justin GrimmCHC101+0.1 David HernandezLAA300+0.5 Tommy HunterTB110-0.2 Alex WilsonDET422-0.1 TEAM▲▼ Heath HembreeBOS113-0.2 Arodys VizcainoATL421-0.2 Santiago CasillaOAK521+0.0 Ryan DullOAK212-0.1 Grant DaytonLAD010-0.4 Nick WittgrenMIA300+0.4 Mike MontgomeryCHC511+0.3 Matt AlbersWAS200+0.3 Antonio BastardoPIT010-0.4 Adam ConleyMIA010-0.4 MEHS▲▼ Mychal GivensBAL712+0.7 Tyler DuffeyMIN210-0.1 Seung-hwan OhSTL602+0.8 Matt BelisleMIN312+0.1 BROKEN EGGS▲▼ Alex ColomeTB721+0.3 Casey LawrenceTOR010-0.4 Dominic LeoneTOR111-0.2 Chris RusinCOL201+0.3 Kenley JansenLAD801+1.0 Hansel RoblesNYM412+0.1 Sam DysonTEX031-1.1 Ryan BuchterSD331-0.8 Darren O’DayBAL321-0.3 Tony ZychSEA210-0.1 GWAR▲▼ Sergio RomoLAD220-0.5 Daniel CoulombeOAK010-0.4 Donnie HartBAL213+0.0 Xavier CedenoTB013-0.4 Alex WoodLAD301+0.4 Matt BarnesBOS402+0.6 Michael LorenzenCIN700+0.9 Corey KnebelMIL812+0.7 George KontosSF321-0.4 Jason GrilliTOR220-0.4 Ian KrolATL110-0.3 Scott AlexanderKC110-0.2 Chase WhitleyTB301+0.5 Dellin BetancesNYY610+0.6 Pedro BaezLAD011-0.4 Austin PruittTB100+0.2 Shane GreeneDET001+0.0 Joe SmithTOR311+0.1 Mike MinorKC320-0.2 Jeanmar GomezPHI311+0.0 Miguel DiazSD010-0.4 Drew StorenCIN110-0.3 Greg HollandCOL1100+1.6 Adam OttavinoCOL832+0.1 Cory GearrinSF010-0.4 Oliver DrakeMIL100+0.1 Bud NorrisLAA530-0.3 Pat NeshekPHI202+0.3 PITCHER▲▼ Kirby YatesLAA010-0.4 Jorge De La RosaARI511+0.3 Shawn KelleyWAS410+0.1 Francisco RodriguezDET232-0.8 Jose LeclercTEX110-0.2 Hector NerisPHI601+0.8 Last month, we introduced a new statistic called the goose egg to measure relief pitchers (The quick-and-dirty version: A pitcher gets a goose egg for each scoreless, clutch relief inning.) Our research revealed that the best relievers of today are much less valuable than the best “firemen” of the 1970s and 1980s, such as Hall of Famer Goose Gossage, who would pitch multiple innings at a time, come in to pitch in tied games, and enter in jams with runners on base — important contributions that the save doesn’t reward, but the goose egg does.But as Ben Lindbergh recently documented over at The Ringer, the hegemony of the save may have loosened just slightly. So far this year, the Cleveland Indians’ Andrew Miller — who might be the American League’s best reliever — has made five appearances that stretched over multiple innings. Miller, who has yet to allow a run on the season, doesn’t have any saves. But he does have 10 goose eggs, tying him for third in baseball. (All statistics in this article are accurate through the end of May 4.)Even more encouraging is the case of the Astros’ Chris Devenski. He has pitched a Gossage-like 18.1 innings over eight appearances so far this year. (In 1975, when Gossage set the single-season record with 82 goose eggs, he pitched 141.2 innings over 62 appearances.) Devenski has only one save, but he has 10 goose eggs. With an exceptional ratio of 34 strikeouts against just two walks on the season, he has grown more comfortable with his multi-inning role. If the Astros keep moving him up their pecking order — Devenski has been used in some high-leverage situations so far, but also some medium-leverage ones — he’ll be a candidate to finish with 50 or even 60 goose eggs. No pitcher has reached the 60 goose-egg benchmark since Scot Shields in 2005. Jose AlvarezLAA322-0.3 Daniel HudsonPIT312+0.0 Andrew ChafinARI011-0.4 Blake TreinenWAS210-0.1 Jeremy JeffressTEX020-0.7 Ryan PresslyMIN120-0.6 David RobertsonCHW510+0.4 Jumbo DiazTB102+0.2 Raisel IglesiasCIN800+1.1 David PhelpsMIA240-1.3 Sammy SolisWAS110-0.3 J. J. HooverARI301+0.4 Deolis GuerraLAA510+0.4 Derek LawSF521-0.1 Miguel SocolovichSTL101+0.1 Brandon MaurerSD510+0.3 Edubray RamosPHI050-1.9
OSU freshman running back Mike Weber (25) outruns two MSU players during their game on Nov. 19, 2016 at Spartan Stadium. The Buckeyes won 17-16. Credit: Mason Swires | Assistant Photo EditorAll season long, Ohio State has been the team to wear down defenses with the run, supplemented by the veteran passing presence of redshirt junior J.T. Barrett. However, No. 2 Clemson has recently been hitting its stride defending the run, and has a veteran presence that could put the OSU offense to the test.The Buckeyes, ranked No. 3 and in the College Football Playoff for the second time in the playoff’s three-year existence, are averaging 258.3 yards rushing per game this season. The smashmouth style of redshirt freshman running back Mike Weber and the dynamic ability of junior H-back Curtis Samuel has propelled OSU.However, Clemson (12-1) is not the kind of defense the Buckeyes are used to this season. Although OSU had some success running the ball late against Michigan, it took well into the third quarter before the run game woke up after just 41 yards in the first half.The Tigers have given up a little over 132 yards per game on the ground this season, but have limited teams to an average of less than 100 total rushing yards in the last three games. Anchored on the weakside by senior linebacker Ben Boulware, Clemson is a veteran unit that prides themselves in its stifling defense. Weber, after a disappointing 26 yards on 11 carries against the Wolverines, knows that Boulware is the kind of guy who can give he and the rest of the Buckeyes fits.“He’s a fly-around guy,” he said. “Good tackler, good hitter. I didn’t know he was the leader of their defense until Coach Alford told me, but after he told me, you could see it. You could see by his body language by how he plays and how he flies around.”Boulware, who can make plays in the middle of the field as well as on the edges, could be the biggest thorn in the side of Samuel, who depends mostly on outside runs for big gains.Five of Clemson’s starting defenders are upperclassmen, bringing years of experience to a defense that allows an average of just 19.9 points per game. Although the entire season has been a success as a whole, the Tigers have given up quite a few yards and points to anemic offenses such as Troy and Pittsburgh. Even with some outlier performances of defensive lapses, OSU coach Urban Meyer said his team must improve from Michigan on the offensive side of the ball. Two weeks ago, he talked about how the Buckeyes will need to work on not just the passing game, but also the rushing attack.“We’re going to do quite a bit,” Meyer said. “It’s not just passing the ball. We have to protect. We have to do a better job running the ball, too. I think we ran for 200 some yards against our rivals. That’s definitely why we’re going to practice.”Although size doesn’t mean everything in football, a large defensive front can wreak havoc for an offense’s run game. Weber, a predominantly between-the-tackles runner, has more to worry about than just the play-making ability of Boulware.Clemson’s defensive line is led by redshirt senior defensive tackle Carlos Watkins in the middle. Standing at 6-foot-3 and 300 pounds, he is a perfect representation of the massive stature of the Tigers’ defensive line.“Really big guys,” Weber said. “I think their whole defensive line is over 300 pounds. I think they have one guy that’s like 285 or 290. They’re hard to move. Physical. They plug the holes up.”Even with a stout unit facing him before he takes a snap, Barrett is ready for the challenge.In fact, the redshirt junior, who received his degree on Sunday, said he will be looking forward to the first contact to get the ball rolling.“With me, in order to get a little rhythm, or knock the little butterflies you got, run the ball and get hit one time and ‘All right, we’re good,’” he said. “And also, too, just completing a pass, see the ball leave my hands complete to a receiver, I think that’s something else. Either one of those I feel like get me going.”OSU faces Clemson on Dec. 31 at 7 p.m. in Glendale, Arizona, in the PlayStation Fiesta Bowl.
Once a Buckeye, always a Buckeye. Once a Wolverine, always a Wolverine. Many college football fans would say the two should never mix.Junior offensive lineman Justin Boren might have something to say about that.Boren transferred to OSU following his sophomore season at Michigan.Although it was viewed as a blasphemy by Michigan players, Boren’s transfer should not be a major shock to OSU fans. Boren attended high school in Pickerington, Ohio, and he seriously considered attending OSU straight out of high school.“I was real interested in Ohio State [in high school]. When I was getting recruited, [OSU and Michigan were] really close and I always had the utmost respect for [OSU] and it was a real hard decision, but I’m real glad I’m here now,” Boren said.The rivalry did not factor into Boren’s decision to transfer. His departure was because of the new offensive system and “lack of family values” that coach Rich Rodriguez brought with him in his first season at Michigan, he said.Boren said that he was not adapting well to the hurry-up style offense that Rodriguez runs.Boren would have been the senior-most lineman on Michigan his junior year and could have helped coach Rodriguez establish his new offense, but what was Michigan’s loss was OSU’s gain.Boren has started all but one game this season for OSU and has gained a lot of respect from coach Jim Tressel and fellow players.“I knew Justin coming out of high school, coming from the same recruiting class,” said fellow junior offensive lineman Bryant Browning. “I knew he was a good offensive lineman, he was a hard worker and he was going to come over and do the best he could to help the team.”This weekend will be Boren’s first game against Michigan and his first visit back to the Big House since the transfer. There is no telling what the Michigan fans could do or how it could affect Boren.“I’m sure [the game] will be difficult in some ways because he has great feelings for both teams that are going to be on the field, and a lot of great memories up in The Big House with his dad and himself and all the rest, but his focus will be on what can he do to help his team,” Tressel said.Boren’s teammates are trying to be sympathetic to his situation, amid all the rush and hype around the Michigan game.“I’m sure he’s got a ton of emotions going around, seeing as he’s been a part of the game on the other side,” junior receiver Dane Sanzenbacher said.
Jim Furyk: For this veteran, the Memorial Tournament isn’t new. Furyk has fared well so far this year, winning two tournaments already on the PGA Tour, including the Verizon Heritage most recently. Furyk is No. 2 in the FedExCup standings. Although Furyk’s long game isn’t as strong as the other players on the short list of favorites, his solid short game and unflappable demeanor will be crucial if he hopes to contend. Ernie Els: Like Furyk, Els has also taken two titles in his 11 tournaments so far this tour, and he also sits atop the FedExCup rankings at this point. His victories include the World Golf Championship held in California and the Arnold Palmer Invitational. After struggling for the past three seasons, Els has finally hit his stride with five top-10 finishes already this season. With ball-striking at a premium on this difficult Nicklaus-designed course, the long-hitting South African should be in contention come the back nine on Sunday. The PGA Tour makes its stop here in Columbus this week, and the lineup is now official. The Memorial Golf Tournament, to be held at Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin, will surely bring in the crowds with its share of big-name golfers.Here are some obvious — and less obvious — players to watch.Tiger Woods: Although Tiger has gotten off to a shaky start since his return to the tour, he is still a favorite to win the Memorial after taking first place last year (his fourth win at Muirfield). Woods is coming off a neck injury, but after committing, it seems his concern isn’t too high. Coming in ranked No. 1 in the world doesn’t hurt either.Jason Day: The 22-year-old is coming off his first PGA Tour victory last week at the HP Byron Nelson Championship. The Australian is relatively new on the scene, so it should be interesting to see if lightning can strike twice for the up-and-coming young golfer.Phil Mickelson: Mickelson had a lack-luster performance at the Colonial, missing the cut after the second round with a three over 73. A tournament victory there would have put him in the No. 1 spot ahead of Woods. Mickelson should be fired up and ready to go, but an absence from the Memorial for the past few years gives him a bit of a disadvantage against the competition.
Six years ago, Illinois and Ohio State were sitting in opposite positions in the Big Ten standings. The difference between where the Buckeye basketball program is now and where it was in 2005, however, isn’t simply measured in the wins or losses. In a press conference Monday, coach Thad Matta said the OSU-Illinois game from March 6, 2005, helped lift the program. “A lot of good things have happened since then and I think that game had a lot to do with it,” he said. “From when we started here to where this program is now, it’s amazing.” In control of their destiny in the Big Ten, the Illini came into the Schottenstein Center 29-0 and as heavy favorites. Matt Sylvester, then a junior forward, told The Lantern Friday he was not optimistic about the matchup. “My personal mindset was a little gloomy,” he said. “They kicked our butts the first time we played them that year.” The Illini won by 19 in Champaign, Ill., on Jan. 5, 2005. Had they not faced a self-imposed postseason ban, stemming from recruiting violations, the 2004–05 Buckeyes might have been in the NCAA Tournament. They entered the game 18-11 and 7-8 in the Big Ten. Sylvester said Matta, in his first year at OSU, reminded his players before the game about how they wouldn’t be postseason eligible. “It was along the lines of, ‘We have no postseason play, so if you want to prove something to the country, this is the game to do it,’” Sylvester said. “We were obviously looking at that game as our National Championship, essentially.” J.J. Sullinger, then a junior guard, told The Lantern he drew the assignment of guarding Illinois’ Deron Williams, now a two-time All-Star point guard for the Utah Jazz. “I just tried to stay in front of him,” he said. “He had me on skates for however long we’ve played.” Illinois’ entire starting lineup — Williams, center James Augustine, forward Roger Powell Jr. and guards Dee Brown and Luther Head — went on to play in the NBA. Head is the only other active NBA player, with the Sacramento Kings. “They were unstoppable almost,” Sullinger said. “That team was amazing.” The stars weren’t only on the court. Sylvester said the Schottenstein Center hosted high school recruits Daequan Cook, who played for the Buckeyes in the 2006–07 season, and current OSU senior center Dallas Lauderdale. In a January press conference, fifth-year senior forward David Lighty said he was supposed to attend the game as well, but his high school team had practice. “I was a little angry and upset about that,” he said. “Everyone knows about ‘the shot’ though.” The game didn’t start promisingly for OSU. The Illini led by 11 at halftime. “They were obviously not a good team to get behind on, they were just so good at controlling the tempo,” Sylvester said. “At halftime, in the locker room, I remember thinking, ‘Wow, how do you beat these guys?’” As it turned out, Sylvester answered his own question. He scored 16 of his game-high 25 points in the second half. Yet, his career-best effort almost wasn’t enough. The Buckeyes climbed back into the game and saw an opening, down, 64-62, after Head missed an open look from the top of the key with 17 seconds left. Matta called a timeout with 12.1 seconds remaining, and called on Sylvester in the huddle. Perhaps it was because of Sylvester’s premonition earlier in the week. “After one practice, I was sitting around talking with my buddy (then-senior guard) Brandon Fuss-Cheatham,” Sylvester said. “I said, literally, ‘Wouldn’t it be crazy to score 25 and hit a game-winner?’ That’s a true story.” Armed with this confidence, Sylvester found himself with the ball in his hands and with an open look on the right wing, thanks to a screen from forward Terence Dials. Sylvester rose up and drilled a three, with 5.1 seconds left, to put his team up, 65-64. OSU held Illinois on its final possession and a flood of students rushed the floor. “I don’t know if that one win boosted the image of the program,” Sylvester said, “but those first two years Thad was there, we all helped to lay a few bricks and the foundation.”
Ohio State basketball’s forward Deshaun Thomas has another 2012 preseason honor on his resume. The junior was named a preseason first-team All-American selection by The Sporting News Monday. Thomas joins the likes of Creighton junior forward Doug McDermott, Indiana sophomore forward Cody Zeller, North Carolina sophomore forward James Michael McAdoo, and Lehigh senior guard C.J. McCollum on the Sporting News’ first team. It’s Thomas’ second preseason first-team honor this year as he was named to the Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook’s All-American team on Aug. 29. Thomas, a native of Fort Wayne, Ind., is one of three returning starters from a Buckeyes’ squad that went 31-8 during the 2011-12 season that ended in New Orleans at the Final Four. En route to a national semifinal loss to Kansas, Thomas amassed 96 amassed points in the Buckeyes’ five games in the NCAA tournament. Over the course of 39 games, Thomas averaged 15.9 points per game and 5.4 rebounds for OSU. After former Buckeyes’ big man Jared Sullinger declared for the 2012 NBA Draft and former guard William Buford graduated, Thomas elected to come back to Columbus for a third year. “We have a great team returning next season and I want to be a part of another championship run,” Thomas said in a released statement in April. “My family, my coaches and I looked at my future as a professional, but I love being a Buckeye and want to continue my education and development as a player and as a person at Ohio State.” Thomas and the Buckeyes are scheduled to open their 2012-13 campaign with an exhibition game against Walsh on Oct. 30 at 7 p.m. at the Schottenstein Center.
Freshman forward Katie Matheny (23) prepares for a faceoff during a game against the Toronto Aeros Sept. 28 at the OSU Ice Rink. OSU lost, 2-1.Credit: Chelsea Spears / Asst. multimedia editorFresh off a sweep of then-No. 7 North Dakota, the Ohio State women’s hockey team (14-15-5, 9-14-5) is set to travel to Minnesota Duluth (13-13-6, 11-11-6) for a best-of-three series in the first round of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association playoffs.Coach Nate Handrahan’s team won three straight to end the regular season, finishing fifth in the WCHA for the third consecutive year.But both of the squads the past two years had more wins than this year’s edition, and a lot of that has to do with the first half of their seasons. The Buckeyes went 5-11-2 in their first 18 games, a run that included a stretch of nine games without a win.Assistant coach Carson Duggan said the first half of the season was tough, but once the team came back from its holiday break, things began to change.“The break might’ve come at the right time,” Duggan said. “They were mentally fresh and came back a different group, and it showed in the intensity and execution of practices.”Since the turn of the year, the Buckeyes are 9-4-3 and have swept Penn State, Minnesota State, St. Cloud State and North Dakota in that time.Junior forward Taylor Kuehl, who is one of five Buckeyes with at least 20 points this season, also credited the holiday break as the catalyst for the team’s improvement.“We really struggled at the start of the season,” Kuehl said. “We weren’t pleased with how we started and I think ever since Christmas break, we’ve been a completely different team and we have so much more determination and motivation.”Now with the postseason beginning, the Buckeyes face a familiar foe in Minnesota Duluth. The Bulldogs have been OSU’s first round opponents for the past two years, and OSU leading scorer, senior forward Ally Tarr, said that familiarity gives her team confidence.“We’ve always had a little bit of a rivalry with Duluth,” Tarr said. “They beat us my sophomore year and then last year we beat them, so we know that we can beat them and we know that if we play our best we have a good chance of coming out of there with a victory.”The two teams have played each other four times so far this season, with the Bulldogs winning twice and the other games ending in ties. In the past 10 games in the series, the away team is 8-0-2.But regardless of what statistics say, Duggan said neither team can take anything for granted.“When it comes down to it, you still have to go out and do your job,” Duggan said. “Come playoff hockey, anything can happen.”
Ohio State redshirt junior H-back Parris Campbell races to the end zone for a touchdown that was called back due to a holding penalty during the second quarter of the Buckeyes’ game against Army. Credit: Nick Clarkson | Social Media EditorA week after its first loss of the season, No. 8 Ohio State (2-1, 1-0) bounced back with a solid, yet unspectacular performance, defeating Army 38-7 Saturday evening at Ohio Stadium. Both teams took advantage of extended drives, but Army (2-1) dominated the time of possession, despite being outgained 586-278 yards by Ohio State. The Black Knights controlled the ball for 36:57, while the Buckeyes maintained possession for 18:27. The Buckeyes’ offense relied heavily on short throws designed to get playmakers in space to used their superior athleticism. Redshirt senior quarterback J.T. Barrett finished the game 25-of-33 for 270 yards and two touchdowns. He set the record for most career touchdowns accounted for in Big Ten history, surpassing former Purdue quarterback Drew Brees with 107 touchdowns.“I’ve known about the Big Ten Conference for probably 40-some years, and of all the great players that have played here, to say you’re the number one touchdown maker in the history of the Big Ten Conference, that’s awesome,” coach Urban Meyer said. “That’s something that — that’s going to be a hard one to break.”As has been the case since the latter portion of last season, Barrett struggled to connect with receivers on deep passes as the redshirt senior completed three passes for at least 20 yards. After the 31-16 loss to Oklahoma, Meyer and co-offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson said the offense needed to establish a flow. The Buckeyes did not have a single three-and-out. Ohio State only punted twice and scored on long drives of 13, 12 and eight plays.J.K. Dobbins spurred the Buckeye offense. He had 172 rushing yards on 13 carries in his third career start. On the fifth play of the game’s opening drive, Dobbins took a handoff 36 yards to spark an offense that spread the ball around to its receivers. Barrett finished Ohio State’s first drive with a touchdown, but Dobbins scored a 2-yard touchdown on the next drive.“He’s a perfect tailback,” Meyer said of the freshman. “He’s a space player that we need.”Redshirt sophomore running back Mike Weber entered the game on the second drive and had four rushes for 13 yards against Army. Weber, who has dealt a hamstring injury, did not play until the second quarter last week.After a punt by Drue Chrisman pinned Army at the 1-yard line with 1:02 remaining in the opening quarter, the Black Knights used an 18-play, 99-yard drive to score their first touchdown of the game. The prolonged drive took 9:37 and took Ohio State’s momentum it had accumulated after scoring in two of its first three drives.Three players on Army, which rushed for at least 50 yards. Running back Darnell Woolfolk led the Black Knights in rushing with 74 yards on 15 carries. Army quarterback Ahmad Bradshaw attempted seven passes, but only completed two for 19 yards.In the second quarter, Bradshaw slightly underthrew his target, which allowed redshirt senior safety Erick Smith to lay out and deflect a pass, preventing a touchdown. Smith also saved the Buckeyes from allowing a kick return for touchdown and nearly picked off an errant pass in the third quarter.Redshirt junior wideout Johnnie Dixon did not play for the Buckeyes. He has dealt with multiple injuries during his career, but entered the game second on the team with 77 receiving yards. Redshirt senior middle linebacker Chris Worley exited the game in the first half and was replaced by redshirt freshman Tuf Borland, who led the team with 12 tackles.“Coach told [Borland] earlier in the week, ‘Get ready to play a lot more this week’ because he’s been doing so well in practice,” redshirt junior defensive end Sam Hubbard said. “He’s an instinctive player and he got his opportunity, and he made the most of it.”In an added offensive wrinkle, H-back Parris Campbell lined up at running back, a position he primarily played in high school. Though his biggest carry, a 59-yard rush late in the second quarter, was called back due to a holding penalty, Campbell rushed twice times for 26 yards. He also caught six passes for 54 yards.“It’s a shame Parris had the [59-yard touchdown run] called back; it was a lightning bolt too,” Meyer said.Ohio State will look to win its second game in a row when the Buckeyes welcome UNLV into Ohio Stadium next Saturday at noon.