Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook has drawn criticism for his decision-making and shot selection that has contributed to the Thunder falling behind the Miami Heatin the first halves of Games 1 and 2.ABC analyst Magic Johnson said Westbrook had one of the worst performances for a point guard in the Finals that he’d seen, after the Heat built a 17-point lead in the first half of Game 2 en route to a 100-96 win, evening the series at 1-1. ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith was just as critical, among others.“I’m not making no adjustments, regardless of what anybody says,” Westbrook said Saturday before the Thunder’s practice. “I’m going to play my game regardless of what happens.”Westbrook is averaging what would seem like an impressive 27 points, eight rebounds and nine assists in the Finals, but it’s his 40 percent shooting on a team-high 50 shots in the first two games that’s garnered more ire. Kevin Durant, who is shooting a remarkable 57 percent in the Finals, has taken eight fewer shots.Teammates and coach Scott Brooks, however, have been staunch in defending Westbrook’s play.“We need Russell to score. I know some (people) don’t like that,” Brooks said. “He got off to a bad start but he came back. Him and Kevin are both terrific players, they both have to score points for us to be successful. I don’t look at who gets more, who doesn’t get more. I look at the quality of the shots. Could Russell have taken two or three better shots? Absolutely. Going into (Game 3), hopefully that’s the case.”Said Durant: “Everyone thinks he should be a traditional point guard like a (John) Stockton. There’s a lot of people that cannot be like Russ either. Of course he’s going to make mistakes.”This is the continuation of an issue that has been a common talking point since the playoffs last year. The shot comparison between Durant and Westbrook is closely watched by critics. Westbrook’s attitude on the matter has remained mostly constant.“It’s just something that comes along with the territory,” Westbrook said. “We’re in the NBA Finals now and the more negative you hear, the better you’re doing. That’s how I look at it.”
Northwestern Dan Vitale en route to making his vote.In a historic vote, Northwestern football players cast secret ballots Friday on whether to form the nation’s first union for college athletes — a decision that could change the landscape of American amateur sports.“You got to give the people what they want!” one of the players shouted at reporters, who were kept away from them as they entered a campus building to vote. Some waved and another busted out dance moves.Results of the unprecedented vote won’t be revealed any time soon. After the vote, the ballot boxes will be sealed for weeks or months — perhaps even years — as the university challenges the effort to unionize the football team.The full National Labor Relations Board agreed Thursday to hear the school’s appeal of a regional director’s March ruling that the players are employees and as such can unionize. Ballots will be impounded until that process is finished, and a court fight could come after that decision.Supporters of the effort say a union would help college athletes obtain better compensation, medical care for injuries and other benefits. The NCAA endorsed a plan this week that would give big schools like Northwestern more autonomy to address such issues for its athletes.None of the players participating in an early round of voting stopped to talk with reporters, but the excitement of some was evident as they waved or thrust their arms into the air in view of TV news cameras. A second round of voting was scheduled for later in the day.Cheering them on was Fred Massey, a former high school basketball coach from Detroit, who is now an advocate for student-athletes.“These kids are afraid to rock the boat because as athletes … that big dream of the NFL and the NBA is being dangled in front of them with all the millions of dollars,” he said. “So, you just do what you’re told. They don’t want to jeopardize that.”Last month’s decision by NLRB official Peter Ohr sent shockwaves through the world of college sports, prompting sharp criticism from the NCAA, Northwestern and college athletic departments nationwide. While the ruling would apply only to private universities — they are subject to federal labor law while public schools are under state law — many saw the decision as a first step toward the end of the traditional “student-athlete.”The 76 scholarship football players eligible to cast ballots know the spotlight is on them, said Ramogi Huma, president of the College Athletes Players Association, which would represent the players at the bargaining table if the pro-union side prevails.Some of the pressure the players feel stems from dire Northwestern claims about the consequences of unionization, Huma said Thursday.“They’re looking at anything and everything to invoke fear in the players,” said Huma, a former UCLA linebacker. “We feel like some of the tactics are scare tactics.”Northwestern, which was required by law to let the vote proceed, denied applying undue pressure on players to vote “no.” It did send a 21-page question-and-answer document to the players outlining the problems with forming a union. In it, Northwestern said it hoped unionization would not lead to player strikes in the event of a dispute — but that if it did, replacement players could be brought in to cross picket lines.“The tension created in such a situation would be unprecedented and not in anyone’s best interest,” it said.The school also said divisions could emerge between scholarship players eligible for union membership and walk-ons, coaches and staff.
In a series with MVP candidates like Anthony Davis and Damian Lillard, or even a scorer like C.J. McCollum, Jrue Holiday wasn’t the most likely player to have the biggest impact on the first-round series between the Pelicans and Blazers. Yet that’s what is happening so far, and the New Orleans guard — who has put the Pelicans up 2-0 in the best-of-seven series with clutch play after clutch play — is on the cusp of giving Blazers fans the sorts of nightmares they haven’t had since the Greg Oden era.Perhaps the most fascinating element of Holiday’s performance, though, is how many of the little, often unnoticeable, things he’s done to help seal each victory. A handful of plays in these two games have shown just how underrated the 27-year-old has been at times during his career, one in which many of his best attributes haven’t always been captured by traditional box-score statistics.Take a look at this reel of eight plays from the first two games of the series. Each is an example of Holiday doing something to earn an extra possession for his team while taking one away from his opponent. Also take note of the time of some of these plays: Half occur in the fourth quarter, when the stakes are highest.So far, Holiday has had a hand in basically every facet of this series, which would mark the franchise’s first playoff-round victory since 2008, when it had Chris Paul and was still named the Hornets. Holiday is executing a scary two-man game with Davis, hitting nail-in-the-coffin jumpers and averaging 27 points and 5.5 assists. On the other end of the floor, he’s suffocating Lillard (0-for-4 for zero points and two turnovers when guarded by Holiday on Tuesday night) and McCollum. In fact, the team as a whole is shooting only 25 percent (6-of-24) for the series when guarded by Holiday, according to data from ESPN Stats & Information Group.And then there are the momentum-busting 50-50 plays you just saw in the video above, in which he’s blocking shots and winning crucial loose balls. He’s single-handedly responsible for enough extra New Orleans possessions to potentially tip the scales of the series.But here’s the thing: It shouldn’t be surprising that Holiday is doing all this. He’s basically been doing it all season, despite getting limited attention. Consider, for instance, that he finished the season tied for fifth in the NBA in loose balls recovered per game, with 1.6. He had active hands on defense, ranking seventh in the number of deflections per game he caused. And he blocked 64 shots this past season, more than anyone standing 6-foot-5 or shorter, according to Basketball-Reference.com. He ranks best in the NBA among starting guards in defensive efficiency in guarding pick-and-roll ball handlers, according to data from Synergy Sports Technology.“He’s been really, really good the whole season, so this is not a surprise or anything,” Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry told reporters. “In my opinion, and I may be a little bit biased, but if you can tell me a better two-way player in the league right now — Kawhi’s not playing, and I understand that — I’m willing to listen. What we ask him to do, and the things that we ask him to do offensively? He was just great tonight.”This isn’t to say that Holiday hasn’t ever gotten credit for his play. Once upon a time, he was an All-Star in Philadelphia, before The Process began. And he was certainly paid like a star last summer, when the Pelicans signed him to a five-year, $126 million contract. And he at least figures to be in the mix for an All-Defensive team honor this season.Still, you aren’t alone if you weren’t familiar with his game until this past weekend. Injuries held him back for a couple of years after he needed two surgeries on his right leg. And he drew headlines and well-wishes throughout the league last season when he essentially took a leave of absence to be with his wife, who was diagnosed with a brain tumor in the midst of a pregnancy.His offensive game took a bit of a backseat in the wake of the DeMarcus Cousins trade, which forced Holiday to figure out a way to adjust his game to fit with that of two post-oriented stars. (If he maintains this level of play, the Pelicans may be forced to make a difficult choice on whether to re-sign Cousins, the All-Star free-agent-to-be who ruptured his Achilles in the middle of the season.)But in a number of ways, this was a breakout season for Holiday, who shined in his role offensively. He was a fantastic finisher around the basket, ranking inside the top-10 in restricted-area field-goal percentage among guards. Holiday was one of the more accurate midrange shooters in the NBA. And despite playing alongside Rajon Rondo, who sometimes plays so unselfishly and records so many dimes that it can disrupt the flow of the offense, Holiday — one of the NBA’s most prolific long passers — was often the man setting up Rondo first, finishing in the top 10 in the league in secondary assists. That would get him recognized in the NHL but goes unnoticed in the NBA.So even though it has been a shock for many to see Holiday emerge before our very eyes, much of that may be because there weren’t enough eyes being directed on a player of his caliber in the first place.Check out our latest NBA predictions.
Within hours of LeBron James’s announcement that he’d be going home to Cleveland, Kevin Love was already musing about how “intriguing” it would be to play alongside James if the Minnesota Timberwolves traded him to the Cavs. In Minnesota, Love was opposing defenses’ chief concern. In Cleveland, next to James, he wouldn’t be. James has made terrifying strides in offensive efficiency and returns a better, more-dominant player than when he left.Earlier FiveThirtyEight analysis didn’t pick the Cavaliers as James’s ideal destination if his goal is to quickly win more titles, but Cleveland has some solid pieces already in place. And those pieces are going to get even better.In 2010, James left a Cavaliers squad that scored 102.1 points per game, tied for ninth in the NBA. That year Cleveland won 61 games en route to the Eastern Conference semis and featured a deceptively useful supporting cast; members of the squad who weren’t James shot a combined 48 percent from the field and 40 percent from beyond the arc. Nine players returned for 2010-11, the first season without James, and they all shot worse. The table below shows how these players’ true shooting percentage (which accounts for threes and free throws) performed in James’s absence:That’s an annihilation. Without James, all nine players saw a drop in true shooting and the team finished with only 19 wins. We can’t chalk up all that difference to James’s absence; the Cavs also dropped an old but effective Shaquille O’Neal, role players Delonte West and Zydrunas Ilgauskas, and five bit players. But much of the core was still there; Mo Williams, Anthony Parker, Anderson Varejao and J.J. Hickson were second only to James in minutes played the previous year. If they were good enough to keep the team afloat, we would’ve seen it.Cleveland’s loss was Miami’s gain. The Heat squad that James (and Chris Bosh) joined included seven players from the previous season, who had accounted for 53 percent of that squad’s minutes. Here’s how these seven players improved upon James’s arrival:Although these improvements weren’t as dramatic as the Cavs’s losses, there was still an across-the-board bump in true shooting. Presumably, Kyrie Irving, Varejao and Tristan Thompson will get the same kind of help when James takes the court with them next season.But that change may be dwarfed by the one in Miami. Whoever’s left in Miami when the dust clears — as of now, the Heat only have Bosh and Norris Cole under contract — should expect more defensive pressure in James’s absence. If the 2010-11 Cavs are any indication, it might get ugly.
It happens every few years: a star-studded college team, fresh off a dominating performance, is compared favorably to the worst squad in the pros. A few years ago, it was the Anthony Davis-led Kentucky powerhouse vs. a pitiful Charlotte Bobcats outfit that set a new NBA low for winning percentage in a season. Now, it’s Kentucky’s 2014-15 team, which trounced fifth-ranked Kansas on Tuesday, vs. the tank-tactic Philadelphia 76ers.In a radio interview this week, former Kentucky guard Eric Bledsoe (now of the Phoenix Suns) said his alma mater would own the hypothetical matchup. “I’m definitely taking Kentucky,” Bledsoe said when asked who would win a best-of-seven series between the Wildcats and Sixers. “I think Philly would probably get maybe one game.”As others have pointed out, that’s absurd. As awful as they are — and boy, are they awful — the Sixers’ roster represents an All-Star team of college players from the past few seasons:Center Nerlens Noel was first-team All-SEC two seasons ago; if he were in college now, he’d likely be considered the best player in the country;Point guard Michael Carter-Williams was an honorable mention All-American as an NCAA sophomore; had he not left Syracuse, he would likely be considered the best guard in the college game;Guard Tony Wroten made first-team All-Pac 12 as a freshman two years ago;And rookie K.J. McDaniels was named to the All-ACC first team last season.These are all players who could still have NCAA eligibility if they had they not departed early for the NBA.To put these anecdotes in a more rigid framework, we can return to the same projection methodology we used for our NBA preview. The premise there was to take Real Plus/Minus data from last season, adjust for aging effects and regress to the mean to estimate each player’s true talent level. In this case, we also need to account for any information gleaned from the first three weeks or so of the NBA season; since RPM isn’t available for 2014-15 yet, I’m using a weighted average between a player’s current 2014-15 Statistical Plus/Minus (a box score-based statistic designed to emulate RPM in situations where RPM isn’t available) and our projected RPM ratings from the preseason.By this accounting, the 76ers are made up exclusively of below-average players. In fact, 54 percent of the team’s minutes have gone to players below the replacement-level RPM threshold of -2 points per 100 possessions. If we compute a minutes-weighted aggregation of ratings for Philadelphia’s 2014-15 roster (and adjust for the fact that the Sixers are usually trailing in their games), we’d expect them to lose to an average NBA team by 8.9 points per 100 possessions, which is ridiculously bad for a team’s true talent level. (Other teams have posted worse seasons, but that’s usually because they have bad rosters that perform below their talent levels.)But as bad as the Sixers are, Kentucky’s roster would translate to an even worse team at the NBA level. Looking at how well players’ draft slots predicted their rookie RPM performances (and, in turn, how well ultra-early mock draft rankings like these predict a player’s draft slot), and turning the clock back on those rookie-year RPM projections using an aging curve, we can also estimate an NBA-equivalent 2014-15 RPM talent level for every player on the Wildcats’ roster. Their top prospect, Karl-Anthony Towns (who sits at No. 3 in ESPN’s class-of-2015 draft rankings), would translate to a -2.6 RPM performance at the NBA level this season, worse than almost every player on Philadelphia’s roster. Every other Kentucky player, from Willie Cauley-Stein to Alex Poythress and the Harrison twins, grade out with various shades of putrid RPM ratings that would embarrass even Hakim Warrick.The aggregation of Kentucky’s NBA-translated RPM scores would predict an efficiency margin of -13.6 against an average NBA team. Even after accounting for the fundamental uncertainty surrounding projection models, such a team would lose about 88 of every 100 games against average NBA competition on a neutral court. The Sixers are far from average, of course, but even they would be expected to beat the Wildcats 74 percent of the time at home, and 56 percent of the time on the road. Using those probabilities to simulate Bledsoe’s hypothetical best-of-seven matchup, Kentucky would lose the series 78 percent of the time even if we gave them home-court advantage, most frequently falling in six games.It’s also likely those numbers vastly overestimate Kentucky’s chances. The NBA doesn’t let prospects who are not believed to be pro-caliber players take the court in games, so we don’t really know what kind of performance expectations to set for those Wildcat players who will never play in the NBA. This means the aforementioned translations are naturally biased toward inflating Kentucky’s rating. Furthermore, it’s probably not appropriate to assume the same uncertainty level around Kentucky’s rating that we would for an NBA team. Ironically, because we know they are a college team with no historical track record against NBA teams, we should probably be more certain that their horrible aggregated RPM rating is appropriate, because the sample of (NCAA) teams they’re being drawn from is known to be inferior to the NBA.Kentucky would not be favored against any NBA team, even one as horrid as the Sixers have been. The Wildcats look good when dismantling collegiate opponents, but the NBA is, quite literally, a whole different ball game.
You may have doubts, as some readers did, about whether Google searches are a reliable way to predict that an NHL expansion team would struggle in Las Vegas. But it’s actually a pretty good way to forecast this kind of thing, and there’s another way to prove it:It turns out that there’s a strong relationship between Google searches and an NHL team’s bottom line. How often fans are Googling the term “NHL” in a metro area reliably predicts how much they’re spending on hockey tickets.In the chart below, I’ve estimated how much fans spent on tickets at each NHL arena during the past regular season. The process is simple: I just took total home attendance and multiplied it by the average ticket price.1The average ticket price is estimated based on a 50/50 blend of face-value and resale-market prices. For face-value prices, I used data from Team Marketing Report. For resale prices, I used data from TiqIQ, averaging prices from the start of the 2014-15 season and its most recent report in February. Then I compared ticket spending against the estimated number of NHL fans in each market based on Google search traffic.2The only new wrinkle: I subdivided fans between the New York Rangers, the New York Islanders and the New Jersey Devils based on the relative Google search volume for each team in the New York metro area. The Rangers are more popular than the other teams and capture more than half of New York’s hockey fan base. I did the same in the Los Angeles area; the LA Kings are more popular than the Anaheim Ducks. As you can see, there’s a strong correlation. Nine of the 10 most popular teams based on Google searches also ranked in the top 10 in ticket sales this season, the exception being the Philadelphia Flyers.Further, there are huge differences in ticket sales between the top and bottom teams. Whereas fans spent only $27 million on Florida Panthers tickets this season, they shelled out more than $184 million (in U.S. dollars) to see the Toronto Maple Leafs play.Most of the differences are based on discrepancies in ticket prices rather than attendance. The NHL is a terrific live-spectator experience — I say this as someone who spends way too much on Rangers tickets — and most NHL teams can sell out their arenas if they charge the right price. But the right price varies. Whereas the average ticket cost $236 in Toronto, it was $74 in Tampa.The relationship is even clearer if we chart the data:You’ll notice that there are some diminishing returns to having more fans in your area.3I’ve used a logarithmic curve to fit the data, which tracks it more closely than a linear fit. Perhaps this is because there are only so many good seats available for each game or because larger markets like Toronto and New York have more non-hockey substitutes for the fan’s entertainment dollar.Still, the correlation is clear, and very strong. The size of the fan base, based on Google searches, accounts for 81 percent of the differences in ticket sales.4The 81 percent figure reflects the coefficient of determination of the regression line.You could undoubtedly do a bit better still by accounting for other factors, like how well the team has played recently. The on-ice success of the Chicago Blackhawks may explain why they do so well at the box office, for instance.But there aren’t a lot of exceptions, and there aren’t a lot of favorable precedents for a hockey team in Las Vegas. The Nashville Predators are a comparative success story — they’re a very good team that’s made some inroads in a highly non-traditional hockey market. And yet, while the Preds are usually selling out their rink, fans are paying comparatively little for tickets. So Nashville ranked just 24th in NHL ticket spending this year, and the Predators have barely been breaking even financially.Several other teams in non-traditional hockey markets — the Arizona Coyotes and Florida Panthers, for instance — are losing money. And most of them play in metro areas with considerably larger populations than Las Vegas.When should you be skeptical of Google Trends data? Sometimes ambiguities of language can cause problems. (Do you mean Kenny Rogers the singer or Kenny Rogers the pitcher?) And as the complexity of the analysis increases, so can the potential for error. It proved to be more difficult than Google expected to determine which searches predicted flu outbreaks, for example — although that was more an issue of flawed analysis than faulty data.In this case, though, Google is just stating the obvious: Putting an NHL team in a small market in the middle of the desert isn’t a good gamble.
OSU junior forward Yaw Amankwa (23) kicks the ball during a game against Louisville on Sept. 29 at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium. OSU won 1-0. Credit: Breanna Williams / Lantern PhotographerThe Ohio State men’s soccer team will look to improve upon its five-game unbeaten streak against its third in-state rival of the season on Wednesday as the Buckeyes are scheduled to face Bowling Green at 7 p.m. at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium. OSU has completed a major turnaround from the beginning of the season when the team went on a four-game losing streak. The Scarlet and Gray now sits at 4-4-2 overall and 1-1-1 in Big Ten play.The Buckeyes have found different ways to attack their opponents in order to win.“At the moment, we have a good rotation up top that’s allowing us to stay fresh and be able to attack pretty well,” OSU junior forward Danny Jensen said. “With the rotation, we are able to press a little more.”Not only do the Buckeyes have a good offensive rotation going, but their defense has been a weapon as well.OSU sophomore forward Marcus McCrary said Bowling Green is a solid defensive squad, which will be one of the challenges the Buckeyes will face.“We know they won’t be easy, and we know they will not be the toughest competition we play all year, but we just need to focus and be confident and just keep going,” McCrary said.The Falcons have lost three straight heading into Wednesday’s tilt.“We know they’re a solid team and we know that they are an organized team,” Jensen said. “More ways to get by that is to play our game and stay fresh.”Although OSU has had only one day of practice to prepare for the battle against Bowling Green, the Buckeyes are confident they can continue their unbeaten streak.“They’re just a good team and we’re going to take care of business on Wednesday,” McCrary said.Previous encounter with the FalconsRevenge might be the only thing on the Falcons’ minds after a shutout loss to the Buckeyes in the 2014 regular season.OSU earned a 3-0 victory over Bowling Green at home. OSU then-junior defender Liam Doyle scored the Buckeyes’ first goal of the game in just three minutes off a penalty kick. Then-sophomore Christian Soldat added to the lead after he scored off a rebound originally shot by then-junior midfielder Kyle Culbertson midway through the first half.OSU then-senior midfielder Yianni Sarris sent in a shot in the 64th minute that gave the Buckeyes their final goal of the game.By the end of the match, shots were a lopsided 20-6 in favor of the Buckeyes.Clean sweepThe Big Ten’s weekly awards for offensive and defensive player were swept by Buckeyes.Jensen took home the award for Offensive Player of the Week after netting a pair of game-clinching goals over Louisville and Michigan State last week. The last player from OSU to win the award was Jensen, in October 2014.The Defensive Player of the Week crown was captured by redshirt senior goalkeeper Chris Froschauer. The transfer from Dayton saved six shots in the two Buckeye victories last week, including his third clean sheet of the season in the win against Louisville. It is the first time in Froschauer’s career that he won a defensive award.Next upFollowing Wednesday’s action, the Buckeyes are scheduled to visit the Hoosier State to face Indiana at 7:30 p.m. in Bloomington, Indiana.
OSU redshirt senior Johnni DiJulius (left) sizes up his opponent during a match against Arizona State on Nov. 20 at St. John Arena. OSU won 28-9.Credit: Mason Swires | Lantern reporterAfter sustaining a tough upset loss last Saturday, the Ohio State wrestling team has a quick recovery on its mind on Sunday.That matchup will feature No. 11 OSU (5-2, 2-1) playing host to No. 7 Nebraska (9-1, 3-1) at 2 p.m. in St. John Arena.Last week, the Buckeyes fell to the now-No. 10 Michigan by a score of 21-11.The upset loss was one that OSU did not take lightly.“There were seven weight classes where we didn’t score any offensive points,” OSU coach Tom Ryan said. “It’s critical this week that we are putting ourselves in scoring positions.”Redshirt senior Hunter Stieber fully agreed with his coach that the team needs to be more aggressive in the coming matchup.“We didn’t really shoot that much, and when we did, they capitalized on it more than we did,” Stieber said.Sunday will mark the first time the Scarlet and Gray face off against the Cornhuskers this season.The team will try to right the wrongs from last week and move forward.“I think we just need to get back to just wrestling how we want to wrestle and not let our opponent dictate the match,” Stieber said.Nebraska is a unit that is well-respected in the Big Ten, as well as throughout the entire NCAA.Through the last five matchups with OSU, the Cornhuskers have been victorious in four.Led by the likes of junior T.J. Dudley and senior Jake Sueflohn, Nebraska has amassed 205 points so far, and a record of 9-1 overall.Also over the span of the last five years, Nebraska has finished nationally ranked inside the top 15 every season.So, with the high pedigree of their opponent, Ryan and the Buckeyes know exactly what the Cornhuskers bring to the table.“They’re a tough, gritty team,” Ryan said. “I think every one of their guys is ranked in the top 15 or so.”All of the probable starters for Nebraska are, in fact, ranked in the top 25 in the InterMat polls.The Cornhuskers unit will be a test for the OSU team, but Ryan said he is confident in his wrestlers.“They’ve got a really tough dual-meet team, and it’s going to be one heck of a match,” Ryan said.A healthy lineupIn the 2014-15 season, the OSU wrestling team sustained a few setbacks in terms of injuries to key members of the team.“Last year we struggled to put a healthy team on the mat all year,” Ryan said.This year, the team seems to be in peak shape, and ready for a run at repeating as NCAA champions.One of the most notable injuries from last season was sustained by Stieber.At the start of the year, Stieber was one of the top-ranked wrestlers in the 149-pound weight class before a knee injury limited him to participating in just 10 matches.Now, the redshirt senior has had time to heal, and is ready for the season ahead.“I haven’t wrestled healthy in, like, two years,” Stieber said.Although there are still small hiccups here and there, Stieber returned to the starting lineup last week.He will likely draw a tough opponent in Sueflohn on Sunday.Looking aheadAfter Sunday’s showdown with the Cornhuskers, OSU is scheduled to continue its Big Ten portion of the season, squaring off against Michigan State on Jan. 24.The two teams met in the Michigan State Open earlier this season, where both teams performed well.The match is set to take place at Walsh Jesuit High School in Cleveland at 2 p.m.
Members of OSU women’s volleyball team celebrate after a point during a match against Nebraska on Oct. 14 at St. John Arena. Credit: Jenna Leinasars | Assistant News DirectorThe Ohio State women’s volleyball team was selected for the NCAA tournament draw and will play Missouri State in the first round of postseason competition in Manhattan, Kansas at 6 p.m. on Friday.The tournament selection tallies 22 NCAA appearances for the Buckeyes during the program’s history. In 2016, OSU advanced to the regional semifinal game before falling to Washington in five sets. The Buckeyes will be going into the match with the Missouri State Bears carrying a 20-10 overall record and 10-10 within the conference. OSU experienced all the emotions that playing in the Big Ten brings during the regular season. Upsets were common on both sides of the net, referred to by senior middle blocker Taylor Sandbothe as “the nature of the beast” that is the conference’s competition. The Buckeyes stunned the No. 1 Nebraska Cornhuskers in Lincoln on Oct. 1 with a 3-1 victory. OSU also broke a decade-long losing streak to Penn State when they defeated the Nittany Lions in five sets in front of the fourth-largest crowd in St. John Arena history. On an individual scale, Sandbothe and fellow senior Valeria León made their own marks when they broke the career blocks record and career digs records, respectively.Amidst the victories, the Buckeyes also were surprisingly unraveled by other Big Ten foes. They split the series 1-1 with both Maryland and Indiana, two teams ranked at the bottom of the conference standings. OSU faced a tough schedule draw that required the team to adjust to life on the road. The Buckeyes went weeks without seeing the floor of St. John Arena, and on many occasions, the team members said that being away from home was an exhausting factor. Friday won’t be the first time that OSU has battled with the Bears. The Buckeyes traveled to Springfield, Missouri, early in the season and lost a tight five set match to Missouri State as part of the Dr. Mary Jo Wynn Invitational tournament. The Bears are currently hitting .238 as a team, led by outside hitter Lily Johnson with 596 kills this season. This marks 12 NCAA tournament appearances for Missouri State. Last year, the Bears were knocked out in the first round by Missouri, 1-3. If the Buckeyes can secure a win against the Bears, they will move on to the next round to face the winner of the Lipscomb and No. 14 Kansas State match.
A small group of beer-drinking, soccer-loving friends have managed to use their love for a sport to create a growing, nationally known fanbase in just five years. The Hudson Street Hooligans have grown into one of the best-known supporter groups in the country, using their love of soccer to create their own traditions with the hopes of making the Crew a household name in Columbus.The Hooligans began in 2006. Their goal was to create a passionate fanbase for the Crew. They have done just that.For every home game, you will usually see the northeast part of the stadium filled with the Crew’s loudest and most loyal fans. It is the Nordecke section, which opened in 2008. It features the Crew’s supporter groups. The Nordecke section has about 3,000 fans, which include the Hudson Street Hooligans, the Crew Union (which is the older crowd) and La Turbina Amarilla, the Latino fanbase.The passion of the Crew’s supporter groups has been rewarded. Memberships for each, especially the Hooligans, are constantly growing, and they have become known throughout the nation.The Hooligans are more than just about supporting the Crew. They also do events that support their local community and beyond.Denis de Verteuil has used his position as a Hooligan to contribute to society.On May 29, 2010, before Columbus played the Los Angeles Galaxy, Verteuil held a fundraiser at Ruby Tuesdays to raise money to help him bike ride across America in the summer.With Bike & Build, Verteuil will lead 30 cyclists for 40,000 miles to raise money and awareness for affordable housing. One day each week they will help build at a Habitat for Humanity site, according to the Help Denis de Verteuil Bicycle Across America! Facebook page. The Hooligans are always looking for new members to recruit.“You basically have to show a little bit of enthusiasm for the Crew,” Blake Compton said. “And if you like drinking beer that’s a major plus.” Joining is simple. Anyone can either go to the online store at hudsonstreethooligans.com, go to the Hooligan Club House on the corner of Hudson and Summit or to Ruby Tuesdays during game days.It costs $20 to join and members get discounts on tickets, drinks at Ruby Tuesdays and a buy-one-get-one-free coupon at Chipotle on game days. Memberships last for a year.A typical game day for a Hooligan begins at Ruby Tuesdays, a bar on the corner of 19th and Summit. They begin drinking a couple hours before the game. An hour or so before kickoff, they begin their march toward the stadium, heading up Summit then right on Hudson over the train tracks, with Crew and checkered black-and-yellow flags waving.While at the game, the Hooligans, along with the rest of the supporter groups, make their presence felt with their cheering, chants and singing.The Hooligan Club House is another aspect of the club members will get to enjoy. It offers another place for fans and members to get together to watch soccer.“It’s welcomed to any Hooligan members. We offer a social membership to watch soccer,” Jon Winland, vice president of the Hooligans, said. “Our goal is to try to create a fanbase here in Columbus for the sport. Obviously it’s not a big thing here in America, but we’d like to make it one.”