A DurantLed Thunder May Be Better Without Ibaka

One more piece of the Oklahoma City Thunder’s 2012 NBA Finals run was cast to the wind during Thursday night’s draft. The Thunder dealt Serge Ibaka to the Orlando Magic for Victor Oladipo, Ersan Ilyasova and the rights to No. 11 overall pick Domantas Sabonis. For those of us who look back fondly on the 2012 Thunder’s killer Big Four of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, James Harden and Ibaka, it was a reminder of how OKC broke up one of the great what-might-have-been young cores in NBA history.But putting aside one of the internet’s favorite pastimes of 2015 — second-guessing the Harden trade — the truth of the matter is that the roster the Thunder sent to the 2016 Western Conference finals had already surpassed the edition that went to the NBA Finals four years earlier, at least according to advanced metrics such as our Box Plus/Minus talent ratings:1Essentially a lo-fi version of ESPN’s Real Plus-Minus ratings, with the benefit that they can be computed for historical seasons. We’ve used them a few times in the past. And a big reason why was the emergence of Steven Adams, who was selected with one of the picks that came to OKC in return for Harden and has become an excellent defender and rebounder. Adams’s strong play made Ibaka expendable, but so had Ibaka’s own downturn over the past couple years. And although comparing shooting guards and stretch fours is a bit apples-to-oranges, Oladipo posted better numbers than Ibaka last season, at a younger age, for less than half the money. As currently constructed, the Thunder are better off now than they were a day ago.Of course, none of that matters if Durant doesn’t opt to re-sign with Oklahoma City in free agency. Despite a bit of a down playoff campaign — and the fact that he probably isn’t even OKC’s best player anymore — KD is still one of the top handful of players in the NBA, and it will be his decision that determines the Thunder’s future far more than Sam Presti’s draft-day machinations. If Durant does re-up with Oklahoma City, the addition of Oladipo would edge the Thunder ever closer to the Warriors and Spurs at the top of the West. If not, they’ll be just another mid-level team in one of the most top-heavy conferences ever. read more

Robert Griffin III Must Protect Himself – Or Take

It is ironic that during the week the Washington Redskins devised a game plan to minimize exposure of their prized rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III to potentially vicious hits, Griffin got blasted by the Atlanta Falcons’ Shawn Witherspoon, causing a mild concussion.The Redskins were traumatized to see Griffin wobbled, but hope that he would be OK to play next week when they host the Minnesota Vikings. They also hope Griffin finally learned a lesson. There were no need for him to take that hit Sunday.He was not going to get to the end zone. There was ample time for him to throw away the ball and let the field goal unit come onto the field. Or he could have just sprinted out of bounds. Trying to cut back against two defenders that had the angle on him set himself up to take a legal but devastating hit from Witherspoon, jolting his head back before crashing to the turf.“We’d like to have him throw the football away when he’s outside of the pocket,” team leader London Fletcher said after the game, “and not take the hit like that.”It is admirable to be so competitive and to be willing to sacrifice his body. But Griffin has to be smarter. There is a lot of value to playing is conservative in order to stay on the field. He appears to be a smart guy, so it stands to reason Witherspoon hammered home the message of protecting himself.All he has to do is look at Michael Vick of the Philadelphia Eagles and see how much punishment he continues to take week after week through a reluctance to get out of bounds, slide feet forward or throw away the ball. Those are three options Griffin has to employ.Coach Mike Shanahan said Griffin was removed because he could not answer basic questions about the game, such as the score and what quarter it was. Griffin Tweeted that he will play next week against the Vikings, but, under league rules, Griffin will not be permitted to practice or play until he is cleared by neurologists that have no association with the Redskins.Without Griffin, the Redskins’ chances for success diminish exponentially. Rookie Kirk Cousins took advantage of busted Falcons coverage and hit Santana Moss for a 77-yard touchdown during his action replacing Griffin. He then threw two interceptions in his last two passes, helping Atlanta secure the win. The idea that Rex Grossman could return as starting quarterback makes Redskin fans everywhere as loopy as Griffin felt Sunday. Whenever he returns, Griffin must protect himself with wise decisions when under duress — or the kind of abuse Witherspoon inflicted will not be the last. read more

Phil Jackson Rules Out Any Return To Coaching

Phil Jackson had interest in returning to the Los Angeles Lakers, but that was it. No other team interests him. So let go of any hopes of luring him back, Washington Wizards or any other team soon to be seeking new leadership.After a brief flirtation with a comeback after the Lakers fired Mike Brown, Jackson said to TMZSports.com that the chances are “slim and none, probably” that he would return to the profession he won 11 NBA championships as coach.“I really wasn’t looking to coach again,” he said. “That one was happenstance, and it just came about.”Jackson, 67, interviewed with the Lakers following Brown’s firing, but was eventually passed over in favor of Mike D’Antoni — a move that confounded many, including Jackson and D’Antoni.Jackson had two stints with the Lakers, winning five championships with the team and 11 overall as a coach — six others with the Bulls. As a player, Jackson won two titles with the Knicks.“Well, we never discussed any terms, so there was never anything that was unfair,” Jackson told TMZ. “It was just a midnight coup. It was kind of weird.”While Jackson is trying to be diplomatic, he did call the Lakers’ handling of the situation, “slimy.” In a statement, though, Jackson was a bit more cordial.“I was awakened at midnight on Sunday by a phone call from Mitch Kupchak. He told me that the Lakers had signed Mike D’Antoni to a 3-year agreement and that they felt he was the best coach for the team. The decision is of course theirs to make. I am gratified by the groundswell of support from the Laker Fans who endorsed my return and it is the principal reason why I considered the possibility.”According to reports, which were disputed by other reports, Jackson was seeking unprecedented power over the team with the ability to veto roster moves as well as special travel considerations to help with his health issues — as well as a massive contract somewhere in the range of $10 million-$15 million. read more

Terriers Were Once The Greatest Dogs In The World

15-inch beagle2 Newfoundland2 Embed Code Of course, other breeds have their own issues. Where terriers are blessed with pluck, beagles, for example, “you have to convince them that they love what they’re doing,” Darlene Stewart, a committee chair for the National Beagle Club, told me. Training, rather than grooming, might be the main challenge.Ultimately, each dog is judged according to its own breed’s rubric. In the Best in Show ring, a dog competes against the others, but also against the platonic ideal of its own breed. And these ideals are public record. The American Kennel Club’s standard for the wire fox terrier, for example, comes in at just over three dense, single-spaced pages. Old English sheepdog2 BREEDBEST IN SHOWS The breed group system was introduced at Westminster in 1924. The number of groups has increased since then; I’ve backdated the present group definitions for the chart above.2Five of the groups were introduced in 1924, the hound group was added in 1930, and the herding group was created in 1983. For the cat-fanciers among you: The sporting group is home to your retrievers and spaniels; the working group to huskies and mastiffs; the toys are pugs and Shih Tzus; the non-sporting are Dalmatians and bulldogs; the hounds self-explanatory; and the herding group is sheepdogs and collies.“Terriers are in many ways the most homogenous group of breeds,” Flyckt-Pedersen said. Terrier breeds tend to be similar to one another, especially compared with the heterogeneity of the non-sporting group, for example, which is home to both the Lhasa apso and the Norwegian lundehund.If terriers were once the Yankees of Westminster, one terrier breed in particular was their Babe Ruth: the wire fox terrier. Flyckt-Pedersen, who has bred terriers since 1963, called wire fox terriers “the ultimate” terrier breed. “They were hunting dogs, and they had to be tough and fearless to hunt badgers and foxes,” he said. “They have to have a real personality, they have to have a real character, and they have to be confident and, hopefully, fearless.” Wire foxes alone have won 14 Westminster Best in Shows. A distant second: another terrier. The Scottish terrier has won eight. Scottish terrier8 Norwich terrier2 Miniature poodle3 Oliver Roeder and Jody Avirgan visit the Westminster Dog Show on our podcast What’s The Point. And there is a disconnect between popularity in the broader canine world and success in the silk-stocking milieu of Westminster: Ubiquity doesn’t necessarily lead to first-place ribbons and shiny pewter bowls. No Labrador retriever (“America’s dog,” per the vice president of the American Kennel Club) has ever won Best in Show at the Garden. Nor has a retriever of any kind. No beagle had until 2008, despite more than 70 years in the popularity top 10.Some popular dogs do take the top prize, though. Poodles of various types have taken nine titles, and cocker spaniels, which have enjoyed two distinct reigns as the country’s most popular breed, have won four. In some sense, popularity is bound to help. “If a breed is bred in numbers and bred by serious people, the chances that you breed something fantastic is higher than if it’s a small breed, with a small number of breeders,” said Flyckt-Pedersen, the terrier judge.Some breeds have seen boom times. Chief among them: the French bulldog, Rottweiler, Maltese, and Siberian husky, each of which has risen from obscurity around 1950 to prominence today. But so far only one of these — a Siberian husky back in 1980 — has taken Best in Show. Smooth fox terrier4 Black cocker spaniel2 “A lot of working-class people were involved with them in the U.K. because it was a hobby,” Green said. “It didn’t cost a lot of money to keep a dog and breed a few dogs, and working-class people would breed puppies and make a little money doing that.” Someone was always in the market for a good show dog. “A good one is always what everybody was looking for,” Green said.A “good one” was exactly what George Thomas was always looking for. In 1939, The New York Times called Thomas “one of America’s greatest all-around dog experts” when he judged Best in Show at Westminster. But it was his business acumen decades earlier that drove him to this distinction. Beginning in the late 1800s, Thomas imported terriers from England to the United States, and business was good. The English press dubbed him the “American Ambassador.” He imported hundreds of the greatest wire fox terriers ever produced in England to the U.S.The rich East Coasters who bought the dogs often got more than a dog in the deal. “George Thomas would say, ‘OK, I can get you the foundation stock; I can get you a man from England to come over and take care of the dogs and groom them for you,’” Green said. “And he did, literally, scores of people, started their kennels for them.”And judging by news reports from Thomas’s time, this was a profitable business. The 1915 Westminster champion, yet another wire fox terrier, was plucked from “the obscurity of an English barnyard” for 2 pounds. On our side of the pond, one Boston terrier3Actually the result of breeding bulldogs with the (now extinct) English white terrier. at the 1907 show sold for $1,000 — about $27,000 today — to “a prominent New Yorker.” Doberman pinscher4 Westminster’s dog show is the second-longest-continuously-running sporting event (if you’ll permit it the label) in the country, after the Kentucky Derby (ditto). Since Westminster first crowned a Best in Show, in 1907, 46 winners have been terriers. Of the 43 Best in Shows that were awarded in the first half of the 20th century, 29 went to a terrier.1There was no Best in Show awarded in 1923. The first three Best in Shows all went to the same terrier — Warren Remedy, a fox terrier. The terrier “is to Westminster awards what Meryl Streep is to the Oscars, except that the terriers win more,” The New York Times wrote in 2003. But this has changed. The market and tastes that made terriers such popular show dogs in the first half of last century shifted, and a broad decline in terrier popularity is now mirrored by fewer terrier Best in Show titles. “The domestic dog is a genetic enterprise unique in human history,” a team of biologists wrote in a 2004 paper in Science. The animals are all one species — Canis familiaris — but they range from the diminutive 8-pound Brussels griffon to the massive 150-pound Neapolitan mastiff. But with the exception of the Boston terrier’s one-year reign in 1935, only four dogs have taken turns atop the American Kennel Club’s most popular breed list: the cocker spaniel, the beagle, the poodle and the Labrador retriever. Afghan hound2 The word “terrier” comes from the Middle French chien terrier — literally, dog of the earth. The dogs were originally bred to kill vermin — there’s still a breed known as the rat terrier. And it is this hunter’s instinct, this fearlessness, that has come to define the temperament of the breed today. As A. E. Housman, the English scholar and poet, wrote, “I can no more define poetry than a terrier can define a rat.” Hunting — like poetry to a poet — is just what terriers do.This temperament is highly valued in the present-day show terrier. “When a terrier group comes into the ring, they’ll all look confident and seem to enjoy doing what they’re doing,” Geir Flyckt-Pedersen, this year’s Westminster terrier group judge, told me.Terriers may have a temperament made for a dog show, but their coats are the stuff of nightmares. To maintain the coat coloring that is valued in the breeds, and to keep it properly harsh, a show terrier’s hair must be pulled, plucked and stripped, by hand. Every day. Illustration by Sean Sims. Frame photo by DeAgostini / Getty Images Stingray of Derryabah, a Lakeland terrier, won Best in Show at Westminster in 1968 and Best in Show at Crufts, the U.K.’s major dog show, the year before. Photo courtesy of AKC Gazette Collection Standard poodle4 Thomas’s heir apparent in the trans-Atlantic dog trade was Percy Roberts, who started as a kennel boy for Thomas when he was 16 years old. During his 70-year career, Roberts was terriers — “a leitmotif of the 20th century in dogs,” according to The Canine Chronicle, a show-dog magazine. Roberts won his first Best in Show, with a wire fox terrier, in 1926. And then the stock market crashed.Roberts was traveling from England to America with thousands of dollars’ worth of dogs in 1929 when he got news of the crash. He didn’t go back to England for another four years. The Gilded Age was, by now, a distant memory, and the Great Depression had begun. “There were some big kennels that went kaput when the crash came,” Green said. The Manhattan dollars that had been put toward show dogs dried up, squeezing the terrier-import business. Not only had the terriers themselves cost good money, but so had the mercenary experts that undertook the intensive endeavor that is terrier maintenance. And so went the terrier demand.And then television came along. While Black Tuesday changed the business from the U.S., a few decades later, mass media changed it from England. The English working class that was largely responsible for raising the dogs turned to other leisure pursuits. “So instead of you going outside in a cold shed and pulling hair, you can watch a football game, and you’re sitting in your kitchen by the fire,” Green said. “Well, which would you rather do for a hobby?” And so went the terrier supply.Echoes of these effects are visible in data. The American Kennel Club, which is the governing body for dog shows and whose membership includes Westminster, tallies the most popular breeds in the country each year, going back to 1935. This data is based on purebred dog registrations with the club, which says it registers nearly 1 million dogs each year. (There are something like 80 million dogs owned in the U.S.)4I obtained rank data — the American Kennel Club doesn’t release raw registration numbers. The club ranked roughly the top 100 breeds for the early years of this data set, increasing to roughly 175 breeds in more recent years. Many of the all-star terrier breeds5Those that have won more than two Best in Shows through 2015. The smooth fox terrier, which has won four Best in Shows, isn’t included in the chart because the data on its popularity during the last century is incomplete. began to decline. Wire fox terrier14 Toy poodle2 One Yorkie did win Westminster, back in 1978. But Yorkshire terriers, small as they are, compete in the toy group at Westminster. The terrier on the rise is barely a terrier at all.Despite the upending of the import market decades ago and the breeds’ often sharply declining popularity, the terrier experts I spoke to were still high on the dogs’ chances to prevail at the Garden this year. Oddsmakers haven’t cooled completely on their chances, either. The Wynn sportsbook puts the odds of a Skye terrier Best in Show at 5-to-1, making that breed the second overall favorite. The odds of a German shepherd win are 4-to-1.7The Scottish terrier comes in at 18-to-1, the wire fox at 40-to-1, and the Welsh at 125-to-1. Charlie, the Skye terrier who was last year’s runner-up, has good odds to win this year, as does Rumor, who was the best of the German shepherds and won the herding group on Monday.At the Garden on Tuesday, the mood among the dog handlers will be serious and competitive. “It’s just like what you would expect with trainers at the Kentucky Derby or mechanics at the Daytona 500,” said Stewart, the beagle expert. “They’re not going to be talking to each other about the new clutch they put in their car.”But that competitive tension can work in a terrier’s favor. “The chaos that is [the Westminster] show doesn’t bother the terriers,” Orange said. “They are so outgoing and so full of themselves that they don’t get exhausted. And they don’t stress out the way some of the more sensitive breeds do. Very few things bother a terrier.”The royal terrier bloodline may have thinned, but it’s royal nonetheless. “Terriers are still difficult to beat if you’ve got a good one,” Green said. English springer spaniel6 Source: Westminster Kennel Club Sealyham terrier4 German shorthaired pointer2 Illustrations by Joe McKendry Airedale terrier4 For decades, it wasn’t just dog-show success injecting the terrier brand into the collective American psyche — politics and pop culture also shined light on these breeds. President Franklin D. Roosevelt had Fala, a Scottish terrier, as a pet in the White House. The dog was a centerpiece of a nationally broadcast speech given by the president in 1944, and a statue of the pet sits at Roosevelt’s memorial in Washington, D.C. The Kennedys owned a Welsh terrier called Charlie. Asta, a wire fox terrier and now a staple of crossword puzzle answers, became a Hollywood star, appearing in “The Thin Man” films and many other movies in the 1930s and ’40s. Alfred Hitchcock owned Sealyham terriers, and the dogs made cameos in his movies.But the history of terriers in America goes back further than that. To understand it, you have to start in the United Kingdom.Terriers were described by an English physician as early as the 16th century; by the Victorian era, the animals had become the people’s dog of choice. Flyckt-Pedersen and Peter Green, a legendary terrier handler who has won four Westminster Best in Shows, agreed that some combination of the animals’ hunting utility and the vagaries of public taste were responsible for terriers’ popularity in the U.K. Around the turn of the 20th century, “terriers were the popular things,” Green said. “The only other breeds that were popular were sporting dogs.” And different terrier breeds emerged that were tailored for different landscapes and different prey — rats, badgers, rabbits and so on. Most successful breeds at Westminster “God loves a terrier.” — Gerry and Cookie Fleck, “Best in Show”Nearly 3,000 dogs are entered this year in the Westminster Kennel Club’s annual dog show. Officially, they belong to 199 dog breeds and varieties, their names affirming the global success of dog breeding, one of the most awesome biological experiments in history: affenpinscher, Beauceron, boerboel, keeshond, löwchen, Plott, Samoyed, schipperke, vizsla, xoloitzcuintli.On Tuesday at Madison Square Garden, seven dogs will bound onto Westminster’s iconic green carpet in the event’s final round. Each dog will be linked to a human handler by a show collar and lead, the two participants expertly guided and guiding. When the applause finally dies down, a tuxedoed judge will carefully assess each dog for its appearance, gait, coat, ears, eyes, teeth and temperament — its form against its original function. After careful deliberation, the judge will deem one of these dogs the highest expression of what a dog can be. The award: A polished pewter bowl and the coveted title Best in Show.For a long time at the Westminster show — the club has put on dog shows since 1877 — the winner of this title came from the same group of dogs over and over and over again, resulting in a record that is unrivaled even by the most storied of sports dynasties. For decades, terriers reigned supreme over Westminster. But then the arc of history turned against them. Lakeland terrier2 Boxer4 Bulldog2 More: Apple Podcasts | ESPN App | RSS | Embed Pointer3 West Highland white terrier2 This fall from prominence has affected more than the multi-champion terrier breeds. The Dandie Dinmont, the Skye, the Kerry blue, the Bedlington, the Welsh, the standard Manchester, the Australian and the Lakeland have all seen significant declines in popularity, as well.For some terrier breeds, the situation is existential. In 2011, a campaign was launched to save the Sealyham terrier — winner of four Westminster Best in Shows and once the dog of choice of King George V, Cary Grant and Elizabeth Taylor — from extinction. “If we can save the rhino or tiger, we can surely save this useful and charming breed of dog,” the British magazine Country Life wrote. Some related breeds, like the English white terrier, from which the Sealyham line descends, have already gone extinct. In 2010, only 49 Sealyham puppies were registered with the U.K.’s Kennel Club, down from 2,000 in the breed’s peak years. The near-extinction of the Sealyham is an extreme illustration of terrier decline — even among terriers, the Sealyham is extremely difficult to show. The dogs have very thick coats, for one thing, and their white fur tends to get dirty easily.Despite the difficulties, an intrepid few still soldier on in the terrier world. Diane Orange, a columnist for the American Kennel Club, told me that she has bred terriers since 1956 and now breeds Welsh terriers in West Virginia. When I reached her by phone, she had her hands full: “I’ve got a 6-month-old puppy running around loose, and I’ve got to put her back in her crate.�� When she returned a minute or two later, she continued: “Right now, I’m starting to work on coats for four of them for the summer, and once I get really working on the coats, it’s going to take me an hour a day, per dog, to get them ready to show, for about three months.”When terriers were hegemons of Westminster in the early 20th century, there were far fewer breeds in the country. And as terrier popularity has declined, the variety of dog breeds recognized by the American Kennel Club and competing at Westminster has increased. But terrier titles haven’t gone down just because there is more competition now. In 1950, when terriers ended their run of winning 29 out of 43 Best in Shows, there were 19 terrier breeds recognized by the American Kennel Club, 17 percent of the 109 total. Now, there are 31 terrier breeds, 16 percent of the 189 total.6Westminster did not have historical data on the number of breeds and varieties competing each year, so I used the American Kennel Club data, which is a close proxy. There are 10 more dog types on the Westminster list, though, because the breeds are divided into even finer categories — e.g., the dachshund is one breed on the American Kennel Club list, but its longhaired, smooth, and wirehaired versions compete at Westminster separately. A new terrier breed — the American hairless — was recognized just this year and will make its debut at Westminster in 2017. It remains unclear what the next dog-show dynasty will be or if there will be one at all. Might it be the dawn of the toy? A Pekingese and an affenpinscher took the titles in 2012 and 2013. Perhaps a long-in-coming age of the hound? Hounds have taken three titles since 2008 — as many as they’d won in the previous century. Or maybe the retrievers will finally get their due.Things change. A Portuguese water dog now lives in the White House. Our celebrities tote around Maltese and toy poodles. “Frasier” went off the air long ago, and its star terrier, Moose, is dead. So is Uggie, the Jack Russell terrier from “The Artist.”But amid the still-smoldering ruins of the terrier empire, one terrier prospers — the rose that grew while the others wilted. The Yorkshire terrier’s increased popularity, per the American Kennel Club data, stands alone as a terrier on the rapid rise. By Oliver Roeder Pekingese4 In the past two decades, titles have been fairly evenly distributed across most of the breed groups. Last year’s winner was a beagle (a member of the hound group) known as Miss P, only the second beagle to take the title. The runner-up: Charlie, a Skye terrier. read more

Football Former Michigan recruits now key Buckeyes

OSU redshirt junior cornerback Gareon Conley picks off Michigan State’s quarterback Tyler O’Connor to seal the team’s 17-16 win at Spartan Stadium.. Credit: Alexa Mavrogianis | Photo EditorIt’s no secret that this coming Saturday’s game between No. 2 Ohio State and No. 3 Michigan has a lot of implications behind it. It is not just college football’s annual matchup between the two teams, but it is also a game that will potentially decide which of the two teams will make the College Football Playoff. But the rivalry goes beyond just “The Game” itself. It ranges all the way down to recruiting.For years, young football players have looked at both universities as potential options to continue their playing careers, while both programs have pushed to obtain the next best recruit. On the OSU roster, there is no shortage of connections with “That Team Up North,” as a few of its current players have decommitted from Michigan only to commit to OSU. This was the case for redshirt junior cornerback Gareon Conley and redshirt freshman running back Mike Weber.“I was a young-minded person, and really, (Michigan) was my first big offer,” Conley said. “But I wanted to explore my options, and when I came (to OSU) it just felt like going from the same program to a better program of what I already experienced, and it felt like home.”As a four-star prospect out of Massillon Washington High School in Ohio, Conley was a Michigan commit for eight months before he decided to join Urban Meyer’s 2013 class. Meyer said on Monday that he went to watch Conley play basketball when recruiting the cornerback, and that the team thought highly of him during the process.“I went and watched him actually practice basketball, and that’s when I was like, ‘this is a crazy athlete,’” Meyer said. “Then you get to meet him and his family. Major impact. He’s not just a great player, but a great leader as well.”Conley, who made the game-ending interception last Saturday against Michigan State, said that his initial commitment to be a Wolverine was “real fast.” He had only gone to Ann Arbor once to visit and didn’t talk to a lot of people, causing him to make the decision to switch schools.“It was a magnificent decision because, obviously, two years ago we won a championship and last year we had a good season,” Conley said. “Overall, the teams I’ve been a part of (at OSU) and the brotherhood I have experienced — it’s great.”Now one of the Ohio State team captains, Conley was the first player that Meyer would convert from Wolverine to Buckeye in his OSU coaching tenure. Conley wouldn’t be the last player to recommit to OSU, as Weber would do the same just two years later.Unlike Conley, Weber grew up in Michigan as a native of Detroit. After playing football for Cass Technical High School, Weber committed to the Wolverines. However, after Michigan fired then-head coach Brady Hoke, the four-star recruit decommitted from the university, and eventually ended up at Ohio State.Weber said that former Cass Tech teammate and current Ohio State teammate Damon Webb, a junior cornerback, helped him with his decision to join the Buckeyes.“Having people here that I know of, that I can talk to, and that relate to me is always good,” Weber said. “I used to talk to (Webb) in high school about the program, about what to expect, and he always gave me good feedback.”Weber said that with Webb already in Columbus and with redshirt freshman defensive tackle Joshua Alabi, also one of Weber’s Cass Tech teammates, committed to OSU, he was comfortable with his decision.“It feels good to play with guys you grew up with,” Weber said.However, Weber, who joins Maurice Clarett and Robert Smith as the only Ohio State freshman to rush for 1,000 yards, will be playing several of his high school teammates when the Buckeyes and Wolverines take the field on Saturday. “Now it is really personal. A lot of people I played with — Jourdan Lewis, Delano Hill, Mike Onwenu, Lavert Hill — all those guys I played with in high school and won championships with are on the team,” Weber said. “It’s going to be fun playing against all those guys and I’m looking forward to it.”Along with Conley, Weber, Alabi and Webb, true freshman offensive lineman Michael Jordan is also a native of Michigan and will be playing for his home-state rival on Saturday.With each of these players deciding to play for Meyer and the Buckeyes, there is no denying that both teams could look very different for Saturday’s game had Conley and Weber not recommitted to OSU and stayed at Michigan.Conley said that he is looking forward to the game on Saturday, and that he is happy with the decision he made three years ago.“It’s an honor to play in this game. It’s an honor to be a Buckeye in this game,” Conley said. “This is one of the most tradition-rich programs in tradition games, and it’s going to be a great challenge. I’m just glad to be here with my team.” read more

Womens swimming Ohio State set to swim final dual meet of the

Ohio State junior swimmer Lindsey Clary competes at the Big Ten championships in February, 2016. Credit: OSU AthleticsThe Ohio State women’s swimming team is set to compete against Wright State in their final dual meet of the season on Friday, just a couple of weeks before heading off to West Lafayette, Indiana, to compete in the Big Ten Conference Championships.Last weekend the team fell to Michigan 212-88. However, OSU coach Bill Dorenkott said he believes that the score doesn’t do the team’s individual performances justice.“If you looked at our results, we got beat by a better team and that’s the long and the short of it … If you looked at our performances, we were actually pretty strong,” Dorenkott said. “We put up some of our fastest times of the season and in some cases, some of the fastest times any Buckeye has ever (swam). That being said, we got broadsided by a team that was ready to roll, and that falls on me. That’s not the team, there’s nothing that they did wrong.”Though the Buckeyes were disappointed with the outcome of last weekend’s meet in Ann Arbor, the team has kept it’s spirits up and use Friday’s competition to prepare for the challenges ahead.“We’re in the middle of our preparation for Big Ten’s, and while we’re disappointed with how we performed at Michigan, it doesn’t change what our ultimate goal is which is to swim well at Big Tens and NCAAs,” Dorenkott said.Aside from last weekend’s meet against Michigan, the Buckeyes are undefeated this season and are planning to use this Friday’s meet as an additional way to fine tune their skills before the post season competitions.“We’ll use this meet as an opportunity to do some hard work, and make sure we’re staying on track,” Junior Liz Li said. “I would definitely say that Friday’s meet is … an opportunity to help us to push ourselves a little bit and be a little bit sharper.”In addition to using this meet to sharpen their skills and shave some seconds off of their times, the athletes are also using this Friday’s competition to showcase the team’s senior class in their final dual meet at OSU.“This meet is our senior night, so I’m really excited … to see all the seniors do all of their little ceremonies, which will be so much fun,” Li said. “This Friday is about trying to swim as a team, so we’ve got one more chance to do that (with the seniors) and have fun together.”Dorenkott said he is looking forward to giving the team’s senior class the praise they earned over the years as well, while also hoping to finalize who will be traveling to West Lafayette in the next couple of weeks.“It’s a special class, and it’s a great opportunity to highlight and showcase them,” Dorenkott said. “We’ve also got a couple of spots that are still to be determined in terms of who is going to travel to the Big Tens, so we’re still trying to figure out who’s going to fill those spots, and this weekend will help us a little bit with that as well.”The competition is set to begin at 5 p.m. at the McCorkle Aquatic Pavilion. read more

Urban Meyer on Braxton Miller Kenny Guiton against Penn State Were going

No. 9 Ohio State travels to Penn State this weekend for a battle between the conference’s two teams ineligible for postseason play. OSU coach Urban Meyer and PSU coach Bill O’Brien weighed in on the status of Buckeyes quarterback Braxton Miller at the weekly Big Ten football coaches teleconference. Preparing for Miller Time Miller was injured in the third quarter of last Saturday’s overtime win against Purdue, and Meyer said that the sophomore quarterback is still nursing a very sore neck. Meyer confirmed that Miller has been cleared to practice, but said backup redshirt junior Kenny Guiton will be prepared to play. “We’re going to have two ready,” said Meyer of his quarterbacks. Nonetheless, O’Brien said his team is preparing for OSU’s typical offense, in which Miller is the team’s leading passer and rusher. “Obviously, we’re preparing for Braxton Miller,” O’Brien said. “He’s one of the top players in the country, at the end of the day that’s the guy that we have to prepare for.” High Praise for Heuerman Buckeye fans might be celebrating Jeff Heuerman for his receiving skills right now – the sophomore tight end caught the game-tying two-point conversion last Saturday – but Meyer has been impressed with a different aspect of Heuerman’s skill set. “He might be the best blocking tight end that I’ve ever had in my head coaching career,” Meyer said. Heuerman’s contributions might not jump off a stat sheet, he has six receptions this year for one touchdown, but Meyer said that Heuerman’s blocking has been extremely important this season. “He’s giving us a component that we’ve never really had at that spot,” Meyer said. “He’s a point guy that can really block a defensive had. That’s really great to have.” Better left unsaid? Michigan has not won a Big Ten title since 2004, and coach Brady Hoke said that he uses the program’s conference championship drought to motivate his players everyday. “Let’s face it,” said the second-year Michigan coach. “Besides graduating and honoring your name, the expectations are to win Big Ten Championships. We embrace it and we are not going to shy away from it.” Hoke’s approach is fundamentally different than that of Nebraska coach Bo Pelini, who said he just tries to keep his team focused on getting better every day. “I don’t talk about (winning the conference) daily,” Pelini said. “Our players understand what’s out there and what the challenges are.” Michigan (5-2, 3-0 Big Ten) and Nebraska (5-2, 2-1 Big Ten) meet this weekend, and whether the coaches want to talk about it or not, the game has major implications on the conference championship picture. To maintain its undefeated conference record, Michigan will have to do what it’s failed to do twice this season – win a night game away from home. The Wolverines were handled, 41-14, on a neutral field against Alabama on Sept. 1, and fell to Notre Dame three weeks later. “We haven’t played our best football,” Hoke said. “We are going to need to this week.” read more

Ohio State baseball looking to continue winning ways against Penn State

After taking two out of three from Illinois in last weekend’s Big Ten series, the Ohio State baseball team is looking to keep the winning mindset alive with Penn State coming to town Friday night. OSU senior right-hander Brad Goldberg feels the season is still young and the team still has work to do, but is really starting to get that winning attitude back. “We’re still working,” said Goldberg. “We nearly gave ourselves some heart attacks coming back in both wins last weekend, but I definitely think we are getting that winning attitude.” Senior left-hander Brian King agreed with Goldberg, and said the team is gaining confidence and enjoying playing baseball together. “The confidence is huge right now everyone is working together and enjoying each other,” said King. “Honestly, we are just having a good time out there.” Ohio State is 25-13 overall this season and 9-6 in Big Ten play. The team is 9-4 at home this season, and is looking to continue that success this weekend. “Home field has been big all year,” said Goldberg. “We know the turf and especially now with finals it’s just nice to be at home and not have to worry about missing classes.” PSU sits last in the Big Ten with a record of 2-10 in conference play and 11-25 overall. As of late though, the Nittany Lions are heating up, and have won back-to-back games including a 7-4 win over La Salle Tuesday night. They also won their first Big Ten series last weekend after taking two of three from Iowa. A bright spot in Penn State’s lineup is sophomore catcher J.C. Coban, who is hitting .315 with two home runs and 21 RBIs in 32 games played. OSU coach Greg Beals said he is happy with the results from the previous two Big Ten weekend series, but hopes his team takes the right approach in the series against the Nittany Lions. “What I am looking for offensively is the approach,” said Beals. “It’s the mentality, it’s a competitive thing, and I want them to go up with a plan and execute it.” OSU is set to take the field against Penn State at 6:35 p.m. Friday at Bill Davis Stadium to start the weekend home series. read more

Commentary Johnny Manziel penalty too lenient

Courtesy of MCTThen-redshirt-freshman quarterback for Texas A&M Johnny Manziel runs the ball during a game against Oklahoma on Jan. 4, at Cowboys Stadium. A&M won, 41-31.Texas A&M redshirt-sophomore quarterback Johnny Manziel, the reigning Heisman Trophy winner, has been suspended for allegedly being involved in the signing and sale of merchandise.Was he suspended for half the season? No. For the non-conference season? Nope. The entire first game? Negative.Manziel has been suspended for a whopping one half of the team’s first game (which will likely be an easy victory against an overmatched Rice team).Allegedly, Manziel received tens of thousands of dollars to sign autographs throughout multiple signing sessions. On Thursday the NCAA released a statement saying, essentially, there was no evidence that Manziel received payment for autographs. It did say, however, Manziel was found guilty of a separate (and lesser) NCAA violation.From the point of view of the Buckeye faithful, it’s hard to believe that Johnny Football would have received such a pointless penalty had he chosen to play ball in Columbus.The now infamous “Tattoo-Gate” (which supposedly dealt with less money than the Manziel situation) led to former Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor leaving the university for the NFL, the forced end of Jim Tressel’s coaching career and multiple suspensions for various players. On top of that, the team received multiple sanctions, including a self-inflicted bowl game ban for 2012-13.While the two situations are certainly different, I just do not see how the NCAA justifies their decisions at this point.In one case, the NCAA nearly ruined one of the most successful football programs in history, in another they slapped their new poster boy on the wrist.I understand that Manziel was not found guilty of the greater violation, but from everything that has been reported, it seems like the NCAA must not have put forth much effort into finding evidence.Would I say the NCAA favors him? Yes, I would, and I truly believe a greater suspension would have been handed down if he played for OSU, regardless of the evidence that came up.They want to be known as the tough kid on the block, but today the NCAA proved that they are hiding out with their tails between their legs.The media have a field day when OSU gets in trouble, and the NCAA is proud to hand the Buckeyes tougher sanctions than any other school (save one or two), but when the great hero Johnny Football leaps over the line, they simply move it further away. read more