For all the talk this season about conference imbalance in the NBA and the inequity of its playoff structure, things seemed to have worked out just fine. Measured by point differential, we’ve ended up with the best teams from the Eastern and Western Conferences in the finals, and fans everywhere get the chance to watch a rarity in pro basketball: an NBA Finals rematch.Who’s going to win? The old adage is that defense wins championships, but this matchup is all about the offenses.The San Antonio Spurs and the Miami Heat have had the two best offenses in these playoffs and, surprisingly, both have been more efficient than they were in the regular season. Their offensive systems are different, but they have the same basic goal: Create good shots. With that in mind, here are some things to watch for:Spurs movementIn April, a study by two members of the Harvard Sports Analysis Collective found that, after controlling for time of possession, the Spurs’ offense had more movement and more passing than any other offense in the league, and by a wide margin. Indeed, according to the NBA’s SportVU Player Tracking Statistics, the Spurs’ offense has featured more movement during the playoffs than the other three conference finalists.Movement Per Minute of PossessionPassing and ball movement are not perfect proxies for offensive effectiveness, but in the Spurs’ case, they are symptomatic of an offense that is working well. San Antonio doesn’t have any player as individually brilliant as Miami’s LeBron James to consistently pull good shots out of thin air, so the Spurs rely on their collaborative system. The distance traveled is of particular importance. On average, the five players on the floor for the Spurs cumulatively travel nearly 500 feet farther per minute of possession than the players for the Heat. That’s 500 extra feet of screening, rolling and cutting, searching for seams in the defense and open space on the perimeter.The Heat’s defense plays at a frenetic pace, aggressively trapping pick-and-roll ball-handlers and flying around the perimeter in a series of rotations to cover shooters. It can be devastating when done well, but the Spurs are uniquely suited to turn this aggression against the Heat.Shot selectionWhile a key indicator of the Spurs’ offensive health is the movement and passing they use to create shots, the key for the Heat is simply the location of their shots.The Heat spent most of the past two weeks burying the Pacers with 3-pointers. These outside shots buoy Miami’s offensive efficiency, but the Heat’s 3-point shooting is also a reflection of how easily James, Dwyane Wade and the Heat’s other ball-handlers get into the lane and collapse the opponent’s defense.In his NBA Finals’ preview at Grantland, Zach Lowe pointed out some of the methods the Spurs used to defend the Heat in last year’s playoffs, and how they resulted in a slew of mid-range jump shots. If we look at the breakdown of the Heat’s true shot attempts (which includes field goal attempts and trips to the free-throw line) we can see just how far last year’s pattern was from what the Heat have just done.Miami Heat Shot SelectionFor the Heat, 3-point attempts are tied to their ability to get inside the defense. James, Wade, Norris Cole and Mario Chalmers were able to get into the lane with ease against the Pacers in the Eastern Conference finals, and the result was that nearly 30 percent of Miami’s true shot attempts in that series were 3-pointers (which they made at an obscene 40.8 percent clip).In last year’s finals, however, by walling off the paint and offering up mid-range jump shots to the Heat, the Spurs were able to keep them away from the rim, off the free-throw line and inside the 3-point line. The Heat will surely have some adjustments ready this year, and we should be able to tell a lot about how they are working just by looking at the locations of their shots.LineupsThe offensive systems each team employs to create good shots revolve around lineups. The Heat would prefer to play small, arraying three and sometimes four shooters around James. The Pacers were loathe to change gears and try to match up with them, but the Spurs may be more willing. They have more depth than any of the teams the Heat have played in these playoffs, and San Antonio is much more comfortable using that depth in a variety of arrangements.A big issue in last season’s finals’ matchup was the way the Heat’s small lineups forced the Spurs to separate Tiago Splitter and Tim Duncan. The Spurs used that pairing for about 20 percent of their regular-season minutes, then just over 11 percent in the finals. But Spurs’ coach Gregg Popovich has been more aggressive this season about experimenting with different lineups.It is tricky to parse statistics for the Spurs between big and small lineups because of the big and small skill set of Boris Diaw. When he’s playing power forward for the Spurs, the “big” or “small” nature of the lineup depends on the matchups and what he’s being asked to do. But having him on the floor allows the Spurs to have their cake and eat it, too.Back to the NBA’s SportVU Player Tracking Statistics: Diaw was third on the team in touches per game, at 49.2, during the regular season. While Diaw is capable of scoring in a variety of ways, he averaged just 9.1 points per game because his role in the Spurs’ offense often called for him to be a facilitator. He averaged 38.9 passes per game; about 79 percent of his touches involved moving the ball to another player. This usually worked out well for the Spurs, as Diaw is among the best big man passers in the game. His assists created an additional 6.7 points per game for the Spurs during the regular season.In the Spurs’ Game 6 victory to close out the Oklahoma City Thunder, Diaw saw a lot of extra touches by virtue of playing some extra minutes, but it was what he did with those touches that made the difference.The Boris Diaw StoryIn Game 6, Diaw’s touches accumulated nearly 50 percent more points for the Spurs than they did during the regular season or in the series to this point. This increased output from Diaw was needed, with the Spurs struggling to hit 3-pointers and Tony Parker sitting out the second half with an ankle injury.Diaw’s ability to shift between big and small defensive assignments, and scoring and facilitating roles on offense, may allow the Spurs to sidestep a lot of the matchup land mines the Heat have waiting for them.MarginsThese teams are incredibly talented, well-coached and, ultimately, evenly matched. Each has a series of counters available for every obvious advantage the other will try to exploit. That’s why this series will be won at the margins and in the minutiae. Little things — the Spurs forcing the Heat to make one extra defensive rotation, the Heat getting the ball to a 3-point shooter instead of settling for a seemingly open jump shot around the free-throw line, and the tiny in-game matchups that shift the rotations — will be the deciding battles.
Usher took the high road and congratulated the Patriots while sharing a screenshot of a video call with Boston native, actor Mark Wahlberg.Can’t win them all. Congrats to the Pats. We will RISE UP and comeback stronger! Mark, we’re coming for that 🏆 in 2018, lol! #ATLUnited pic.twitter.com/vsW9CiYGf3— Usher Raymond IV (@Usher) February 6, 2017Producer Jermaine Dupri shared this self-deprecating image. Music artists weren’t the only ones feeling down. Actors who supported the Dirty Birds also expressed their thoughts.Samuel L. Jackson excitedly tweeted for the Falcons…Awwwwww Yeah!!!! RISE UP!!— Samuel L. Jackson (@SamuelLJackson) February 5, 2017…and looked forward to the start of the 2017 season when they lost.The Agony of Defeat… see ya next season. RISE UP!!— Samuel L. Jackson (@SamuelLJackson) February 6, 2017Sterling K. Brown, who stars in the upcoming “Black Panther” movie, said he was pleased with the way the game was going… Even Peter and Paul couldn’t win em all!— Gucci Mane (@gucci1017) February 6, 2017Questlove likened the feeling to Donald Trump’s presidential victory.This is how I felt on election night. #SuperBowl— T’Questlove (@questlove) February 6, 2017T.I. nodded to Brady’s 2015 Deflategate scandal as a possible reason for the team’s win.Still can’t be mad Fareal….. #RISEUP pic.twitter.com/sgLmq4c2HH— T.I. (@Tip) February 6, 20172Chainz hoped for a better outcome next year and hailed Super Bowl LI as “the best game ever.” 2Chainz, Usher and T.I. at Super Bowl LI (@troubleman31)Many celebrity fans were crushed when the Atlanta Falcons lost Super Bowl LI to the New EnglandPatriots Sunday and they shared their hurt on social media.During the showdown, the Falcons had a 28-3 lead over the Patriots by the third quarter, virtually guaranteeing a victory. But Tom Brady’s team ultimately snatched the Lombardi Trophy in a 34-28 overtime win, leading to a stunning loss for the Atlanta team.Falcons fans including Bow Wow, 2Chainz and Questlove all took to Twitter and Instagram to react to the upset for Matt Ryan’s NFC champions.Bow Wow went from feeling confident…21 skunk! Get tem the fuck outta here #superbowl pic.twitter.com/PVwX9pnL5s— Bow Wow (@smoss) February 6, 2017…to feeling like the loss affected him personally.I feel like i just walked in on my wife having sex w my/ brother. Im so torn and hurt…. words cant describe this feeling— Bow Wow (@smoss) February 6, 2017Gucci tweeted a Biblical response after expressing some disappointment.I’m mad sad and exhausted 😩 https://t.co/rkihKc6TwZ— Gucci Mane (@gucci1017) February 6, 2017 …before feeling irritated when the tides changed. There were other well-known football fans who decided to give credit to the AFC champions’ big win. It led Brady to set several NFL records, including five Super Bowl rings, which retired Los Angeles Laker Kobe Bryant spoke to.5 rings can’t be deflated #Brady #Muse— Kobe Bryant (@kobebryant) February 6, 2017Singer Jordin Sparks put the 51st Super Bowl high on her list of the best games she’s attended.That was 1 of the best games I’ve EVER been to! Wow. I was high-fiving Pats fans all over the place! Much deserved. Congrats Patriots! #SB51— Jordin Sparks (@JordinSparks) February 6, 2017
The University of Alabama at Birmingham knew its football team was going to have to battle for survival from the start. In 1996, its first year of Division I-A ball, the team’s slogan was unusually defensive: “We’re here to stay,” the omnipresent banners and billboards around Birmingham read. Less than 20 years later, the team is gone.On Tuesday UAB President Ray Watts announced he was shuttering the football team, citing a study from an outside consulting group that determined the program would need to dramatically increase its operating budget in order to remain competitive. “We have considered many options to fill this financial gap, including through philanthropic support; but our informed analysis of current and past support and interest concluded that the gap is simply too wide,” Watts wrote.UAB faced two major problems, one of which was specific to its circumstances, and one of which is staring down all universities that have recently tried their hand at big-time football.The University of Alabama never wanted UAB to be a competitor, making life difficult for UAB even before a team arrived. Even though the two institutions share a board of trustees and a medical school, Alabama has been leery of UAB’s foray into major sports since Gene Bartow left his job as UCLA’s head coach to found UAB’s basketball team in 1978. Citing a range of grievances over recruiting and fan support, Alabama has refused to engage UAB on the court or on the gridiron. The Tide have faced the Blazers only once, in basketball, when they were pitted against each other in the National Invitation Tournament. UAB didn’t help matters by winning 58-56.In 1989, Bartow, UAB’s athletic director, started to put together a football team. Alabama’s athletic department was not happy. Its head coach, Bill Curry, was particularly adamant: “Not only would we not play them, we don’t understand why they are talking about bringing another football team into the University of Alabama system,” he said at the time. “I’m the only [football] coach in the University of Alabama system. We don’t need another football team at one of our other campuses.” In 1991, Bartow sent a letter to the NCAA accusing former and current Alabama coaches — including Bear Bryant — of recruiting violations.The system’s board of trustees has tended to represent Alabama’s interests over UAB’s, perhaps because the large majority of them are alumni of the Capstone. (Trustee Paul Bryant, Jr., for example, is the son of the legendary coach.) They’ve blocked UAB’s attempts to move out of the cavernous and decaying Legion Field and into a new stadium, and they nixed a deal for UAB to hire Jimbo Fisher, who would go on to win a national championship with Florida State.But even if the Blazers hadn’t been undercut by their own trustees, they still would have had a tremendous hill to climb, one that’s getting steeper every year as the gap between the haves and the have-nots of football continues to grow. UAB was in the vanguard of a recent trend of universities starting football programs from scratch with the plan to get to Division I as soon as possible, and reap the PR and financial benefits that come with a major football program. Nine other universities that are in or are about to join the Football Bowl Subdivision have started football programs since UAB did, and they share several commonalities.All of them are based in the South, and all of them felt they had a chance to succeed because of the prestige of the game and the fertile recruiting grounds in the region. But they’ve found it incredibly expensive to field a competitive FBS program. They all have losing records against fellow FBS schools, and they all receive substantial subsidies in order to keep their athletic departments afloat. They’ve had trouble attracting supporters, perhaps because most football fans in the region are already loyal to other teams. And as the Big 5 power conferences start to crank up the financial pressure — both with lavish spending on facilities and upcoming allowances for players — it’s possible that some of these programs could join UAB on the sidelines.Only one of the new teams looks like it’s making the leap to sustainability. South Florida not only has the highest attendance and lowest subsidy percentage of the bunch, it’s also the only school that’s made it out of the C-USA and Sun Belt Conference dregs and into the relative comfort of the American Athletic Conference. (That said, the team has regressed recently, winning only six games in the last two years.)The rest of the teams look a lot like UAB with slightly better attendance. They bring in far less than the average FBS athletic department, and all their athletic departments receive at least 60 percent of their revenues in subsidies — meaning that a combination of student fees, institutional support and state funding are used to cover the majority of their expenses.In his letter to UAB faculty about the shutdown, Watts specifically cited the huge subsidy as a reason the football team had to go, along with an unwillingness to shell out even more cash for upgraded facilities. If that’s actually the case, and cold numbers rather than system-wide infighting cost UAB its team, then there are plenty of other programs facing similar deficits.Watts claims the UAB athletic budget will stay the same even after the football program folds, meaning that more resources can be put toward other sports, including the basketball team, which has recently fallen on hard times after years of winning seasons. Perhaps UAB can look to the success of Virginia Commonwealth University, its former Sun Belt Conference foe, which eschewed the lure of football to focus on basketball. The Rams now play in the hoops-centered Atlantic-10 and regularly make deep runs in the NCAA tournament.Making the Blazers’ basketball team into a powerhouse won’t be a simple task. But it will certainly be easier than the existential struggle its football team just lost.CORRECTION (9:30 a.m., Dec. 8): An earlier version of this article misstated the year that Gene Barlow started UAB’s football program; it was 1989, not 1991.
Members of the OSU women’s volleyball team during a game against Minnesota on Sept. 23 at St. John’s Arena. Credit: Massarah Mikati / Lantern PhotographerAfter beating Iowa in convincing fashion on Wednesday, the Ohio State women’s volleyball team was hoping to build some momentum and end Wisconsin’s nine-match winning streak.But the No. 16 Buckeyes (22-8, 11-7) were unable to complete the season sweep and stop the red-hot No. 10 Badgers (22-6, 14-4) on Sunday afternoon, falling in straight sets (25-21, 25-16, 25-21).Despite three blocks from junior middle blocker Taylor Sandbothe and a game-high 16 digs from junior libero Valeria León, OSU simply couldn’t slow down Wisconsin until it was too late. The Badgers attacked at a .321 percentage and blocked 11 shots in their victory.Wisconsin junior middle blocker Haleigh Nelson proved difficult to contain, as she notched 12 kills on a .579 hitting percentage, while blocking six shots to lead all players with 17 points.OSU also had a tough time dealing with All-American junior setter Lauren Carlini, who picked up a double-double with 38 assists and 10 digs.Despite solid performances from Sandbothe (nine kills, .364 attack percentage) and senior middle blocker Tyler Richardson (eight kills, .533), the Buckeyes’ offense struggled as a whole, hitting at a lowly .205 rate for the match.After picking up a career-best 29 kills on Wednesday against Iowa, freshman outside hitter Audra Appold built of that success early on, as she had five kills give OSU a quick 11-8 lead in the first set. But Wisconsin made adjustments and locked down Appold and the Buckeyes for the remainder of the set, battling back to take the lead and pull away late in the set.It was another outside hitter, senior Elizabeth Campbell, who got hot in the second set, picking up seven of her nine kills for the match. The teams were locked in a back-and-forth affair for the first half of the second set, finding themselves tied up at 13. However, the Badgers flipped the switch at that point, going on a 12-3 run to close out the set and put the Buckeyes in a hole that proved to be insurmountable.The third frame turned into a defensive battle, as both teams hit .139 and blocked five shots. As such, it proved to be the tightest set of the match as OSU fought to force a fourth set. But with the score tied at 20, Wisconsin went on another run, closing the match out on a 5-1 tear. Things are not likely to get any easier for the Buckeyes when they return to the court on Nov. 25. They are set to play their final road regular-season game against No. 3 Minnesota. OSU lost its first matchup with the Golden Gophers in five sets to open up Big Ten play. First serve is scheduled for 8 p.m. in Minneapolis.
OSU junior punter Cameron Johnston (95) stands on the sideline during a game against Virginia Tech on Sept. 7 in Blacksburg, Virginia. OSU won, 42-24. Credit: Samantha Hollingshead | Lantern photographerCameron Johnston, a senior punter on the Ohio State football team, has been named to the preseason watch list for the Ray Guy Award, given annually to the nation’s top punter. Johnston, one of 28 collegiate punters on the watch list that was released Thursday, was a semifinalist for the award during the past two seasons. Since the award’s inception in 2000, the only Buckeye to take home the hardware was B.J. Sander in 2003. Johnston is one of the most decorated punters in program history, with three school records to his name. He set the single-season record in 2015 for most punts inside the 20-yard line, with 31. En route to that total, he set a new career mark, with 83. His average of 57.0 yards per attempt in a 2014 game against Illinois is also a school record. A native of Geelong, Australia, Johnston’s ability to pin opponents deep in their own territory has been invaluable to coach Urban Meyer’s teams over the past two seasons. With the loss of 14 starters total from last year’s roster, having Johnston back to lead the special-teams unit should be an asset.In all, five Buckeyes are on preseason lists, including redshirt senior Pat Elflein, who was named to the Rimington Trophy watch list on Wednesday. The award honors the nation’s top collegiate center. It’s the first time Elflein has been included on the trophy’s watch list, but that’s because this will be his first season as OSU’s center. He has started the past two seasons at guard, where he helped turn the Buckeyes’ front five into one of the most respected units in the country. The 6-foot-3, 300-pound Elflein, who has twice been a first-team all-conference guard, shocked many with his decision to return for a fifth season. But his decision to stick around will likely pay dividends for an OSU offense that lost seven starters from a season ago, including three on the offensive line. Redshirt junior quarterback J.T. Barrett is on the Maxwell Award watch list, handed out to the nation’s top player, regardless of position. Junior linebacker Raekwon McMillan and redshirt junior defensive end Tyquan Lewis are on the Bednarik Award watch list, given annually to the country’s top defender. OSU is set to open the 2016 season on Sept. 3 against Bowling Green. Kickoff is scheduled for noon at Ohio Stadium.
OSU redshirt junior quarterback looks for a lane through the Michigan State defense during the Buckeyes’ game against the Spartans. Credit: Alexa Mavrogianis | Photo EditorEAST LANSING, Michigan — A cold, blustery November day in East Lansing, Michigan, perfectly summarized the scrappy contest between the No. 2 Ohio State Buckeyes and the unranked Michigan State Spartans. In a game that the Buckeyes came in as 20 point favorites, OSU edged the Spartans 17-16.The Buckeyes are now 3-3 in their last six meetings with the Spartans. “I don’t think they’re far out (of playoff contention),” said OSU coach Urban Meyer. “I just got a lot of respect. I’ve been in the foxhole against those guys and I know their coaching staff very well. I have great respect for them. They played very hard, but I don’t expect anything different.”The Spartans struck quickly on the legs of sophomore running back L.J. Scott. An innocent screen pass to the left side of the field, paired with outstanding down-the-field blocking, gave Scott a 64-yard lane all the way for a score. It was the first touchdown the Buckeyes defense had given up over nine quarters.Both teams combined for just nine pass completions in the first half. The wind gusts on the field, reported at 30 miles per hour at times, made a down-the-field passing game nearly impossible. One of the longest passes of the first half was a 14-yard toss from redshirt junior quarterback J.T. Barrett to redshirt junior tight end Marcus Baugh. Even that throw was altered by the wind slightly.Michigan State redshirt senior quarterback Tyler O’Connor had plenty of time to throw, as the OSU pass rush struggled in the first half to reach the quarterback. On the other side, the Buckeyes’ offensive line seemed perplexed with the Michigan State defensive front, allowing three sacks through the first two quarters.Three chunk plays were the culprit to the Buckeyes’ defensive shortcomings in the first half. All three were by Scott, who racked up 149 yards on just three of his nine touches in the two opening quarters. Most of Scott’s big runs came from off the tackle, swinging the ball wide where he found lots of daylight. Redshirt junior linebacker Chris Worley agreed the team failed to keep him contained at times.“A lot of (mistakes) were just little schemed-up things,” he said. “Not setting an edge on the defense.” OSU’s biggest play of the day came on a picture-perfect pass from Barrett to junior H-back Curtis Samuel across the middle of the field. In single coverage over the top, the OSU offense found a hole and Barrett floated the ball right into the outstretched arms of Samuel for a touchdown.The second half kicked off with the Buckeyes handling the opening kick. It took more than six minutes of game time before either team could find a way to score.After busting a 52-yard scamper off a beautiful lead block by Baugh, Weber pushed across the goalline for a 4-yard touchdown rush. The touchdown was his first rushing score away from Ohio Stadium this season.Weber finished his day with 14 carries for 111 yards and the touchdown, and proved to be a difference maker. He said after the game he was instrumental to the team’s approach to attacking the Michigan State defense.“Just pound the ball,” Weber said. “We knew it was going to be hard to throw the ball in that wind. Coach Meyer had a mindset that we’re going to play defense and we’re going to run the ball. I think we had over 200 yards rushing total and did a good job with that.”Samuel led the Buckeyes with 4 receptions for 40 yards, although his touches were limited by the Spartans’ defense for most of the day. He gained 53 total yards, his lowest total of the year. OSU picked up just 86 yards through the air on Saturday.A fake punt by Michigan State early in the fourth quarter from its own territory gave the Spartans a big first down, but a failed trick play and a sack by redshirt junior defensive end Tyquan Lewis and redshirt sophomore defensive end Sam Hubbard forced the Spartans to punt.Scott single-handedly carried his team back into the game with nine minutes remaining, carrying the ball for all eight plays of a Michigan State drive. After plunging forward for a 1-yard touchdown rush, Dantonio decided to try for a two-point conversion, but O’Connor’s pass was picked off by redshirt sophomore safety Malik Hooker at the goal line. On Michigan State’s final drive, redshirt junior cornerback Gareon Conley intercepted O’Connor’s pass to seal the game for OSU. After the game, he walked into the press conference room, holding the game ball in his hands. Conley said it “meant the world” to have his teammates and coaches congratulating him for his play.Barrett, who was supposed to be carrying the ball less this season according to Meyer, finished the game with 24 carries. Overall, he handled the ball 46 times of OSU’s 67 plays from scrimmage.It is unclear how the team’s performance will affect the College Football Playoff rankings for the Buckeyes. The updated rankings will be released on Tuesday at 7 p.m.“The big playoff picture, it’s all noise,” said redshirt junior guard Billy Price. “If you don’t focus on the task at hand, slip-ups happen. Just make sure you go out and execute. Don’t disrespect your opponent.”OSU is now 10-1 this season, and is 7-1 in Big Ten play. The Buckeyes return home for a noon kickoff against Michigan to round out the regular season.
Senior guard Aaron Craft (4) goes up for a layup. OSU won against North Dakota State University, 79-62, Dec. 14 at the Schottenstein Center. Credit: Shelby Lum / Photo editorOn the cusp of making Ohio State basketball history, Aaron Craft made it look effortless.The Buckeye senior guard passed Jamar Butler for the most assists in program history early in the second half of OSU’s 79-62 victory against North Dakota State Saturday. The assist was No. 580 for Craft’s career.Craft entered the game needing five assists to tie Butler at 579, then set the new record on his team’s first possession of the second half when he found junior forward LaQuinton Ross wide open under the basket for a score.“It’s a very humbling experience … we’ll have a lot of time to think about it when I get older. By the time I’m a grandfather it’ll probably be about 800 assists in my career,” Craft said after the win. “It’s great to think about right now, but we still have work to be done this year and hopefully we can keep getting better.”Craft finished the game with seven assists to go along with six points. OSU coach Thad Matta said Craft is unlike any other player he’s coached.“It’s hard to put into words, in my opinion, in terms of what Aaron has meant to this program, to this university,” Matta said following the win. “I think anytime that somebody breaks a record, if you’re a true sports fan, you sit down and say, ‘OK, let me think about who he just passed.’ And you think about all the great players that have played at this university. for him to be the leader in two: steals and assists. I think it tells you just the type of basketball player he is. Happy for him.”Four Buckeyes — junior forward Sam Thompson and Ross, senior guard Lenzelle Smith Jr. and freshman forward Marc Loving — all finished the win against the Bison in double figures scoring. The Buckeyes shot 52.9 percent from the field in the game, and 50 percent from beyond the arc.OSU (10-0, 0-0) received one first place vote in the most recent USA TODAY Coaches Poll. That one coach was North Dakota State’s Saul Phillips, who said he “didn’t change his mind” after playing the Buckeyes.“They shot the ball extremely well, they executed extremely well … they’re a very good team, they’re very well coached,” Phillips said. “I was up all night a couple weeks ago trying to find a weakness and I realized that they really don’t have a lot.”Phillips singled out Craft in his postgame remarks as well.“Craft is such a unique player in that he can dominate a game and shoot five times and go two-for-five,” Phillips said. “There aren’t many like him out there.”Smith Jr., the only other OSU senior, said playing with Craft makes things “a lot easier.”“You don’t have to worry about when your next shot’s coming or try to force up shots,” Smith Jr. said after the win. “You kind of just wait and sit and you know Aaron’s going to find you and you have your feet ready and your hands ready and you shoot the ball.”Craft said that shooter-passer relationship helped him break the record against the Bison (7-4, 0-0).“Ever since I’ve been here I’ve had the easy job. I’ve played with a lot of great players, with a lot of great shooters that have done the hard part,” Craft said. “I just gotta find those guys and put them in a great opportunity to score and fortunately enough I’ve played with a lot of those guys.”Up next, the Buckeyes are set to take on the Delaware Blue Hens (5-4, 0-0) Wednesday at the Schottenstein Center. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m.
Mount Rushmore National Memorial is an iconic place that attracts more than three million people annually. It features four 60-foot tall granite carvings of the faces of former presidents of the United States — George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt.The historic significance of the four presidents cannot be disputed. Although there have been many important figures in American history, these four have unique legacies that make them worthy of having their faces chiseled into a mountainside.Often people talk about creating a hypothetical “Mount Rushmore” for other disciplines outside of American history. This is especially common in the world of sports.For example, last year LeBron James was asked who he would include on a NBA version of Mount Rushmore. With so many great players and coaches in the league’s history, the task of choosing just four can be tough. But it is fun to find out which four individuals people consider to be the cream of the crop.I will take on that task and narrow down my top four legends to be included on a Mount Rushmore of Ohio State football.OSU is regarded as one of the marquee programs in college football, with eight national championships, seven Heisman Trophy winners and 79 consensus All-Americans. The task to sort through all of the legends from the program’s history and then dwindle them down to select four was at times difficult. But I believe I have found the four most worthy Buckeyes to be carved into the hypothetical granite.I will break down each of my four choices with reasons why I nominate them to the imaginary monument. With a program that has such rich history, there will be deserving individuals who who have been left off, but I only could choose four. Here they are:Woody Hayes- Head Coach, 1951-1978This one wasn’t all that difficult. I would go as far as saying it was a no-brainer to include Woody Hayes. He was the head coach of OSU for 28 seasons, and under his leadership, the program soared into the category of elite. Hayes guided the Buckeyes to five national championships and 13 Big Ten titles. He also coached 58 All-Americans. During his tenure, the Scarlet and Gray went undefeated twice.Hayes’ career at OSU ended in controversy when he punched a Clemson player in the final minutes of the 1978 Gator Bowl, but he was known throughout his time in Columbus to be an incredible leader of the young men he coached. The positive stories surrounding his leadership should — and in my opinion do — overshadow the incident with the Clemson player that got him fired. Hayes is truly a college football coaching legend.He had his trials and tribulations, but a career winning percentage of .761 and five national championships speak for themselves. He helped solidify the Buckeyes as a premier program. No Ohio State football Mount Rushmore would be complete without a carving of Hayes donning his famous large-framed glasses and black hat with a bold scarlet block O outlined in white. To me, his contributions to the program make him 100 percent deserving.Archie Griffin – Running Back, 1972-75Like Hayes, this one was not too agonizing of a selection. Hayes is OSU’s most decorated coach, Griffin its most decorated player. The only two-time Heisman Trophy winner in the award’s 79-year history, Griffin — who was coached by Hayes — first won it as a junior in 1974 when he amassed 1,772 yards from scrimmage and 12 touchdowns. He won his second Heisman in 1975 when he totaled 1,620 yards from scrimmage in 1975 and four touchdowns.Griffin’s Buckeyes made four straight trips to the Rose Bowl, including a victory over Southern California in 1973. He is the only player to lead the Big Ten in rushing for three consecutive seasons. He finished his career with the Scarlet and Gray with a school-record 5,589 rushing yards.In 1986, he was enshrined in the College Football Hall of Fame. His No. 45 has been retired by Ohio State. In 2014, he was named the All-Century Player of the Rose Bowl Game. Hayes said of Griffin, “He’s a better young man than he is a football player, and he’s the best football player I’ve ever seen.”I believe Griffin is the best player to ever wear scarlet and gray. Buckeye Mount Rushmore would not be complete without him on it.Eddie George, Running Back, 1992-95Before, I said the task of choosing four people to hypothetically carve out of granite was “at times difficult.” It was. This is where it began to get difficult. The first two choices — Hayes and Griffin — were almost obvious. The final two required much more thought.Eddie George got the nod for the third spot on the fictional monument. He suited up for the Buckeyes from 1992 to 1995, having at least three touchdowns in all four of his seasons. George emerged during his junior year when he rushed for 1,442 rushing yards — ninth most in school history — and 12 touchdowns. But his 1995 campaign solidified his spot in Buckeye history and on the OSU Mount Rushmore.George captured the Heisman Trophy for his performance during the 1995 season, and rightfully so. He tallied 2,344 yards from scrimmage — 1,927 of those rushing — and 25 total touchdowns. He rushed for over 100 yards in a school record 12 of the Scarlet and Gray’s 13 games. His 314 rushing yards against Illinois set another school record. Additionally, George had three games over 200 yards rushing in the regular season — another school record. He currently sits behind Griffin in second place for most rushing yards in school history, with 3,768.Finding a season better than George’s 1995 one in Buckeye history would be tough. He dominated competition and carried the team to a 11-2 mark. Those opposed to George being carved into the imaginary granite might point to his 1-3 record in bowl games and a 1-2-1 record against Michigan. Those arguments are fair, but the Buckeyes did finish inside the AP’s Top 20 during each of George’s four seasons, which proves the teams still were successful. He had two exceptional seasons as the featured back, in 1994 and 1995. His senior season was pure dominance. In my opinion, it is arguably the most impressive individual season in OSU history, and because of that, I could not leave George off of the Buckeye Mount Rushmore.Bill Willis, Offensive and Defensive Line, 1942-44The final spot came down to a few people — Urban Meyer, Howard Cassady and Jim Tressel — but in the end, Bill Willis emerged as the most deserving. Willis, who is most likely the least-known individual on the list, started for three seasons for the Buckeyes from 1942 to 1945. He played on both the offensive and defensive lines during his tenure. Willis helped the Scarlet and Gray capture the program’s first national championship in 1942.During his junior and senior seasons in 1943 and 1944, Willis was selected as an All-American. As a senior, he was a part of an undefeated OSU team.Being a lineman — especially from the 1940s — makes statistics more difficult to come by, but Willis’ impact is still easily accessible. When he was voted an All-American, Willis became the first African American from OSU to receive such an honor. He was not the first African American to suit up for the Buckeyes, but he was the first one to become a star.After finishing his career in Columbus, Willis joined the Cleveland Browns in 1946, making him one of the first African Americans to play professional football in the modern era. He went on to have a largely successful professional career.He was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame and the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1971 and 1977, respectively. His No. 99 was retired by OSU in 2007.Willis was truly a pioneer in the game of football during his time wearing scarlet and gray and beyond. His accomplishments and legacy certainly make him deserving of the final spot of the Ohio State football Mount Rushmore.
Then-redshirt freshman quarterback J.T. Barrett (16) carries the ball during a game Sept. 6 at Ohio Stadium. OSU lost 35-21. Credit: Lantern File Photo.Last season’s 35-21 Virginia Tech victory over eventual national champion Ohio State stood as 2014’s biggest upset, and now the two squads are set to meet up again exactly a year and a day later.The Buckeyes and Hokies met in Columbus last season for a Week Two matchup. An inexperienced redshirt freshman quarterback J.T. Barrett struggled to the tune of 9-of-29 passing with three interceptions, and he was sacked seven times by a relentless Virginia Tech rush.Although the scene is shifting from Columbus to Blacksburg, Virginia, safety Tyvis Powell said last year’s game is something that will be fresh on the players’ minds Monday night.“It is definitely set up this year for us to have a lot of motivation and a lot of excitement because of what happened to us last year,” the redshirt junior said. “We’ve got a chance to try to get back at them, try to get them to feel the same way, so it’s definitely set up for us to have an advantage on the excitement side.”Virginia Tech’s Lane Stadium, which has a capacity of 66,233, has never hosted a top-ranked team before. Hokies coach Frank Beamer said he has used the magnitude of the game to try to inspire his players, as he knows how devastating the Buckeyes can be.“We have probably the best football team that’s ever played in Lane Stadium coming in here this coming week,” Beamer said during a Wednesday teleconference. “Talented, well-coached, No. 1, ran the table last year, got a lot of guys back, so we understand the challenge, we understand that games like this don’t come very often.“It’s been my experience over the years that playing a team like this helps you as far as the focus for the game. We’ve got smart guys around here, they turn the tape on and they understand that we’ve got to play a great football game to have a chance to win this thing.”OSU senior defensive lineman Tommy Schutt said he expects a nearly unmatched atmosphere at Lane Stadium on Monday, but that is something he and OSU coach Urban Meyer — who has not lost a road game in his three years with the Buckeyes — thrive on.“Personally I love away games,” Schutt said. “I love walking into a place where people don’t necessarily like you and boo you when you walk into the stadium. I think that’s fun, and it really adds adrenaline and excitement for the game, and it definitely puts a chip on your shoulder.”Depth perceptionWhen OSU’s depth chart was released on Tuesday, the word “or” appeared at five different starting spots:Quarterback: Barrett or redshirt junior Cardale JonesWide receiver: Redshirt sophomore James Clark, redshirt freshman Johnny Dixon or redshirt freshman Terry McLaurin (opposite redshirt junior Michael Thomas)H-back: Redshirt senior Braxton Miller or sophomore Curtis SamuelDefensive end: Redshirt freshman Sam Hubbard or sophomore Jalyn Holmes (opposite redshirt sophomore Tyquan Lewis)Kicker: Redshirt senior Jack Willoughby or sophomore Sean NuernbergerDebuts and returnsMonday’s game stands to be the OSU debut of Hubbard, McLaurin, Willoughby and redshirt freshman wide receiver Parris Campbell.Additionally, Miller, who started 36 games at quarterback for the Buckeyes from 2011-2013 and was a two-time Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year, is set to play a prominent role at his new H-back position. The Huber Heights, Ohio, product is also listed with Samuel as the team’s punt returner.Willoughby, a transfer from Duke who is slotted in as the kickoff specialist, could see a role as a long-yardage field-goal kicker, with Nuernberger, who converted just five of 10 field goal attempts from 40 yards or more last year, handling shorter kicks.Meyer said on Monday that Campbell and McLaurin will be on the field with the special teams, as well.Filling inOn July 30, the team announced redshirt senior wide receiver Corey Smith, redshirt sophomore H-back Jalin Marshall, junior H-back Dontre Wilson and junior defensive end Joey Bosa were suspended for the opener at Virginia Tech due to violations of athletic department policies.The biggest loss is Bosa, a unanimous 2014 Associated Press All-American who piled up 13.5 sacks last year. Smith, Marshall and Wilson also take a hit on an already-thin offense that lost two of its top three receivers from a year ago to the NFL and lost another — sophomore Noah Brown — for the season last week with a broken leg.Hubbard and Holmes should split time picking up the slack for Bosa, while Clark, Dixon, McLaurin, Campbell and redshirt senior Jeff Greene will likely get snaps at wide receiver.Greene — who had one catch last season for 13 yards — represents the lone player among those filling in — plus Miller — who has pulled in a single reception for the Scarlet and Gray.Remember them?Virginia Tech then-redshirt junior quarterback Michael Brewer (12) attempts a throw during a game Sept. 6 at Ohio Stadium. Credit: Lantern File Photo.Quarterback Michael Brewer, who completed 23 of 36 passes for 199 yards and a pair of scores against OSU last year, will be back under center for his redshirt senior season. Senior safety Donovan Riley, whose 63-yard pick-six interception of Barrett in the game’s final minute sealed the win for the Hokies, who once again will be lined up in coverage across from the OSU quarterback — whoever that may be.Redshirt seniors Dadi Nicolas and Derek Di Nardo — who each sacked Barrett twice in last year’s game — as well as All-ACC cornerback Kendall Fuller, also will be out there again for the Hokies. Fuller should play a big role on Monday, as Beamer plans to match him up one-on-one with Thomas for the entirety of the contest.What’s next?After the season-opening meeting with Virginia Tech, the Buckeyes are scheduled to host Hawaii five days later in their home opener. Kickoff for the matchup with the Hokies is set for 8 p.m., with the game against Hawaii scheduled for 3:30 p.m.
A former chaplain to the Queen has said that the quarter of Christians who say they do not believe in the Resurrection “cannot be Christians”. The Rev Dr Gavin Ashenden said in a letter to the Times that a survey which found that one in four self-proclaimed Christians do not believe in Jesus’s Resurrection “made the mistake of confusing British culture with Christianity”. He said: “Those people who neither believe in the Resurrection nor go anywhere near a church cannot be ‘Christians’.”As with so many things, the key is in the definition of terms. Discovering the evidence for the Resurrection having taken place to be wholly compelling is one of the things that makes you a Christian; ergo, if you haven’t, you are not.”A survey for the BBC carried out to mark Palm Sunday found that 23 per cent of those calling themselves Christians “do not believe in the resurrection of Jesus from the dead” at all.Conversely, almost one in 10 non-religious people say they do believe in the resurrection. The survey of more than 2,000 people, which was carried out by ComRes, also found that 46 per cent of people believe in some form of life after death, including one in five non-religious people.The Bishop of Manchester, the Right Reverend David Walker, said that the findings showed that non-churchgoers “hold core Christian beliefs.””Alongside them it finds surprisingly high levels of religious belief among those who follow no specific religion, often erroneously referred to as secularists or atheists,” he said. Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings. Dr Ashenden resigned as chaplain in January after criticising a church which allowed a reading from the Koran as part of its service.He said critics had complained about his “defending the Christian faith in public”. He left the Church of England in March.