There were 27 head-coaching changes this offseason, but only one — Northern Illinois’s hiring of Thomas Hammock — involved an alumnus returning home. Hammock and 11 other head coaches — all non-alums — made their FBS coaching debuts over the weekend, while Miami’s Manny Diaz made his debut the previous Saturday.If the recent success of certain high-profile alumni head coaches is predictive, Hammock should lead a successful squad in 2019. Kirby Smart’s Georgia Bulldogs were among the most efficient teams in the country. Fitzgerald led Northwestern to its first appearance in the Big Ten title game a third consecutive bowl game victory. Jeff Tedford coached Fresno State to its best season in school history. Scott Satterfield turned Appalachian State into the darlings of the Sun Belt and parlayed it into a job at Louisville. Bryan Harsin led Boise State to the Mountain West championship game for the second consecutive season.In total, alumni head coaches went 159-122 (.566) in 2018. According to Sports-Reference.com’s Simple Rating System, the average alumnus-led program was 4.16 points better than the average team in 2018, the highest mark of any season since 1975. However, alumni-coached teams have also seen a broad range success relative to the average team in this time period.There were 146 alumni head coaches from 1975 through 2018. In total, they won 52.6 percent of their games, and the median alumnus-coached team was 2.2 points better than the average team in a given season. Non-alumni head coaches, of which there were 641, won 51.1 percent of their games and were on average 0.37 points better than the average team in a given season.That divide has increased over the last 20 years. Alumni head coaches have gone 2469-2029 (.549), while non-alumni have gone 13177-12299 (.349).4These win percentages don’t add up to 100 because NCAA sanctions — and resulting win vacations — have altered end-of-season records.In addition to recent success, there are several qualities that make the alumni coaches unique. Alumni traditionally begin their college head coaching careers where they suited up. Of the 146 alumni head coaches from 1975 to 2018, only 26 (17.8 percent) had previous Division I head coaching experience. That has continued to be the norm. Since 2000, of the 53 alumni head coaches who were hired, all but eight were becoming first-time head coaches.Hawaii head coach Nick Rolovich knew at some point in his career he’d return to Honolulu. It ended up being where he got his first crack as the man in charge. “One of my real goals in coaching is to repay Hawaii [for] what Hawaii as a state and a university gave me,” Rolovich said. “Which is everything.”And once installed at the head of the program, alumni seldom leave. Of the aforementioned sample, more than 75 percent didn’t take another Division I head coaching gig after securing the job, and nearly 70 percent spent their entire college coaching careers at their alma mater.One potential reason for this continuity is that alumni seem to be working with a longer leash, perhaps as a result of performance. Since 1975, more than 80 percent of alumni head coaches lasted at least three years with a program, while the same is true for just 15 percent of non-alumni. While more than 12 percent of alumni last at least 10 years, only 2.2 percent of non-alumni can say the same.5Not counting coaches with stints of 10 or more years who didn’t coach 10 or more years after 1975.Some alumni coaches attribute this trend to their one of their strengths: having already demonstrated an ability to represent the university well as a student-athlete. “It’s very easy for me to talk about Boise State,” Boise State head coach Bryan Harsin said. “I don’t need a map.”“If you can have success, then hopefully they’ll be proud of you,” Fitzgerald said. “That’s the hope, at least.” But is hiring an alumnus predictive in any significant way?Not especially.To measure how predictive hiring an alumnus is of on-field performance, I pulled all of the head coaches from 1975 to 2018 as well as their alma maters, their head coaching experience and their team’s SRS (as well as its previous season SRS), removing interims from the sample.6If a coach didn’t start the season as the head coach and was at the helm for fewer than six games in a given season, they were removed from the sample. Then I ran a linear regression. Controlling for the coach’s experience and the previous SRS of the team, coaches at their alma maters are statistically indistinguishable from non-alumni.However, a team’s previous season SRS (0.72) is far more predictive of on-field performance — each point of SRS in a previous season is worth around three-quarters of a point in the current one. Furthermore, whether it was the first year of a head coach at a given school is also more predictive of on-field performance than whether they were an alumnus; being a newcomer is strongly negatively correlated with performance (-1.53 SRS).Plus, despite the recent success they’ve had, in terms of historic single-season performance, alumni haven’t produced a ton. Of the 20 best single seasons, as defined by SRS, only one7Bryant’s 1978 Alabama team. In terms of alumni head coaching performance, Bryant accounts for the two best single-season SRS marks and five of the top eight. was coached by an alumnus.Phillip Fulmer is the last coach to win a national title at his alma mater. That was in 1998. Since 1949, only Steve Spurrier, Bryant, Ralph Jordan and Frank Leahy can say the same. That isn’t to say there aren’t obstacles. The allure of returning home is countered by increased expectations, both from inside and outside the locker room. Happiness is fickle and patience wears thin when losses pile up. And sometimes winning isn’t enough, even at your alma mater. At Maryland, Ralph Friedgen was fired after going 9-4 and winning ACC Coach of the Year. He later burned his diploma.“A lot of times, criticism is a faceless person,” Western Michigan head coach Tim Lester said. “But at your alma mater, sometimes it’s a little bit harder because you do know who they are.”It can be a challenge to remember that it is, in fact, a job.“You have to be able to mix the business side with the side where your heart is,” Rolovich said.Regardless of the campus where a coach cut his teeth, the terms of employment remain clear. In college football, the long-term prognosis isn’t stable. “Either we’re going to get fired or we’re going to leave,” former Tulsa head coach Bill Blankenship said. Blankenship coached at Tulsa, his alma mater, from 2011 to 2014. “The odds of retiring at the school that hired you is a pretty low percentage.” When David Shaw informed his parents that he was Stanford’s new head football coach, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. “Pride,” he recalled in an interview this offseason, “is such a small word for that feeling.”Shaw remains at the helm nearly a decade later.Stanford is where Shaw was a four-year letterwinner and where his dad was nearly elevated to head coach. It’s where Shaw met his wife and where he proposed; where he left and where he returned. The lockscreen on his iPad is a family photo taken among the eucalyptus trees on campus in 1975, then replicated some 35 years later. “To have so much of your life associated with a place,” Shaw told me, “is weird.”An alma mater, Shaw contends, is an extension of home. In turn, its people — from the dining hall staff to the university board of directors — are akin to family. In 1957, Paul “Bear” Bryant left a winning program in College Station to return to Tuscaloosa, where the Alabama Crimson Tide had endured a fourth consecutive losing season. Why? “I’ve heard mama calling,” he told his players.Hiring an alumnus1For this article, “alumnus” refers to a coach who spent his undergraduate years at the university (not counting graduate degrees). has been a marketable, low-risk, high-reward strategy for athletic departments for almost a half-century. Unless a splashy move is feasible, if an athletic director seeks to turn around a program — or merely wants to sell more tickets — there are far worse blueprints to follow than returning someone to their roots. Which is perhaps why alumni have permeated the market for much of the modern era. Since 1975, 38 FBS football programs2Including West Texas A&M, which moved out of FBS in 1986. hired more than one alumnus as head coach.3The University of Nevada once brought in three consecutive alumni as head coaches. Over that period, there was only one season in which alumni didn’t hold at least 10 percent of the available head coaching gigs.And recently, hiring from within has been a successful strategy. Alumni accounted for roughly a quarter of the coaches represented in last season’s final Top 25 rankings. This season, alumni will command 18 programs, or 13.8 percent of the market. The fraternity includes long-tenured stalwarts (Northwestern’s Pat Fitzgerald and Air Force’s Troy Calhoun) in addition to the more idiosyncratic personalities in the sport (Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh and Oklahoma State’s Mike Gundy).Shaw was hired to “take the dips out of Stanford football.” He became the winningest coach in program history two years ago. But was the university seal on Shaw’s diploma in any way predictive of that success? And more broadly, does an alumnus traditionally make for an exceptional hire? When Shaw’s legacy is written, it will no doubt be penned in cardinal red.“It’s one thing to fit the program, it’s another thing to fit the entire institution,” Shaw said. “Because I went to school here, I understand the ethos, I understand the air of this place.”But despite the recent tear of success, that indelible connection that he and fellow alumni head coaches have isn’t terribly predictive of future success.Neil Paine contributed research.
W. New York120.3138.197.818.104.22.1689%65%37% RATINGAVG. SIM. SEASONPLAYOFF CHANCES Seattle109.9101.622.214.171.124.81785 Orlando90.882.1126.96.36.199.82773 Washington115.0123.5104.3188.8.131.525829 Boston63.175.647.51.915.82.4<1<1<1 Houston93.683.6184.108.40.206.2521 Chicago99.689.3220.127.116.11.846167 Portland106.9110.9102.09.73.96.5863515 Although our preseason forecast didn’t think it was impossible for both Seattle and Kansas City to miss the playoffs (it assigned roughly a 6 percent chance to that possibility), their drastic decline may indicate that we should re-evaluate some components of the model for next year’s NWSL season. As in many of our sports forecasts, each NWSL team’s rating is reverted toward the league average between seasons to account for factors such as changes in personnel and retirements. For the NWSL, two-thirds of a team’s rating from the previous season carries over into the new season; that amount is based on the first three seasons and is in line with other soccer leagues around the world (both men’s and women’s). This year’s results, however, may indicate that NWSL teams should be reverted further toward the league average each season. Or maybe this is just a crazy season. Only time (and more data) will tell. If at the start of the National Women’s Soccer League season you thought two-time defending champions FC Kansas City would be in third-to-last place just over halfway through the season or that two-time regular-season champions Seattle Reign FC would have almost as many losses as they did in their previous two seasons combined, you’re either psychic or your predictive abilities are far greater than ours.Before this year’s matches got underway, we built a model to forecast the league using the best information we had available: data from the three previous NWSL seasons. But because two of those years were dominated by Seattle and Kansas City, correctly predicting this year’s chaos in the league would have been very difficult. So with the table in tumult and the end of the regular season not far off, we thought this would be good time to update our initial predictions, see what’s changed and look ahead to which four teams are most likely to reach the playoffs this fall. Below is a table showing each team’s overall rating — made up of offensive and defensive components (higher is better for both) — as well as its projected win-loss-tie record and its chances of making the playoffs. Sky Blue97.299.418.104.22.168.82073 Kansas City103.696.1113.26.08.35.7521 TEAMOVERALLOFF.DEF.WLTPLAYOFFSFINALSWIN This year’s surprise standout, the Western New York Flash, has skyrocketed to the top of our table and now has the greatest chance of winning the NWSL championship — 37 percent — up from just a 5 percent chance before the season started. With the league’s top two goal scorers, Lynn Williams and Jessica McDonald (seven and six goals, respectively), the Flash are almost certain to earn a playoff spot. The Washington Spirit will likely grab another — our model gives them a 96 percent chance of making the playoffs.There’s a little less certainty for the third and fourth playoff spots. The Portland Thorns are currently in first place in the league, with 26 points, and have an 86 percent chance of making the postseason. But the team has lost their past two games, in part because several national team players have been absent as they prepare for the Olympics. So Portland may continue to fall in our rankings over the next month. The Chicago Red Stars’ chances of making the playoffs have remained about the same from our initial forecast — dropping to 46 percent from 47 percent — but a strong start to the season has given way to three losses in the past four games.The biggest shock this season, however, has undoubtedly been the rapid descent of the league’s top two teams, Seattle and Kansas City. Both teams were heavily favored in our initial predictions — with a 78 percent and 72 percent chance of making the playoffs, respectively — but at this point, it’s extremely unlikely that either team will earn a playoff berth. There are still six weeks of matches left, but both teams’ chances of winning the championship have plummeted more than 20 percentage points since the season started.
Includes all Pittsburgh Penguins regular-season and playoff games, 2005-06 to 2016-17.Source: Hockey-Reference.com Crosby’s loss can’t be overstated. In terms of individual numbers, he stands toe-to-toe with Washington’s Alex Ovechkin as the best player of the NHL’s post-lockout generation. But even more than his own production, Crosby also brings the best out of the Penguins’ offense while he’s on the ice. Over the span of his career (since 2005-06), here’s how Pittsburgh’s stats change when Crosby plays versus when he sits: WITH CROSBYWITHOUT CROSBYDIFFERENCE Shots against per game30.128.8-1.3 Games914176— Points percentage55.355.7+0.4 Save percentage90.790.9+0.2 How losing Sid the Kid has affected the Penguins, 2005-17 Shots per game31.130.9-0.2 Goals per game3.152.94-0.21 Goals against per game2.82.64-0.16 Although the Pens have traditionally fared slightly better defensively in games Crosby missed, they’ve struggled to replace him on offense, producing fewer shots and shooting the puck less accurately when their star sits out. Those differences become even more stark when you look at what happens when he’s on the ice. Pittsburgh’s shots and goals per minute improve sharply with Crosby on the ice — no player of his generation has wielded a bigger influence on his team’s scoring than Sid the Kid.Now, the Penguins will be without that offensive leadership for at least one game, and possibly many more. (This isn’t the first time Crosby has missed time with a head injury; he sat out 101 games in 2010-11 and 2011-12 while fending off concussion symptoms, and he missed time with a concussion earlier this season as well.)Prior to this week’s injury, the reigning Stanley Cup champions had been cruising through the playoffs and seemed on their way to dispatching the Capitals for the second-straight year. It’s up to Crosby’s teammates to prevent this from being the turning point the Capitals needed to claw their way back into the series. Shooting percentage10.29.5-0.7 Power-play goals per game0.810.74-0.07 The Pittsburgh Penguins had a rough Monday night, losing their superstar center Sidney Crosby after a hit to the head by Washington Capitals defenseman Matt Niskanen, then losing Game 3 of their Eastern Conference semifinal series in overtime. Tuesday afternoon was arguably even worse, as news arrived that Crosby was diagnosed with a concussion and ruled out of Thursday’s Game 4:
OSU senior forward Michela Paradiso (9) during a game against Purdue on Oct. 9 at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium. Credit: Anbo Yao / Lantern photographerThe Ohio State women’s soccer team is headed to the Big Ten tournament semifinals after an upset victory in Madison, Wisconsin, defeating the Wisconsin Badgers 2-1. The Buckeyes entered Sunday’s match as the No. 7 seed, with the Badgers holding the No. 2 seed in the Big Ten after the teams went 5-4-2 and 8-2-1 in regular-season conference play, respectively.With the win, the Buckeyes are now 11-5-3 overall on the year.OSU was first to get on the scoreboard in the 30th minute when senior midfielder/forward Michela Paradiso was taken down in the box and converted the ensuing penalty kick.The penalty score was Paradiso’s third goal in the last two games after a two-goal performance in OSU’s regular-season finale. Two of the Columbus native’s goals in the span were off of penalty kicks.Four minutes after the opening score, junior defender Nicole Miyashiro shot a cross from the right wing and sophomore forward Sammy Edwards headed it in from six yards out to grab a 2-0 lead in front of the crowd of 478.The Buckeyes continued to attack, nearly taking a 3-0 lead a minute later when junior forward Nichelle Prince played a low strike, but her shot narrowly missed the far post.OSU sat atop the Badgers 2-0 heading into halftime. Shots were knotted at 8-8 at the break.Prince played a big role in maintaining the lead in the second half, as she pressured the Badger defense throughout much of the final 45 minutes.However, in the 71st minute the Badgers cut the lead in half when redshirt senior forward Nikki Greenhalgh finished from inside the box after a loose ball off a corner kick.In the 75th minute, the Badgers had consecutive chances off a corner to level the match but both were blocked.The second half consisted of very physical play, and the Badgers pushed until the final buzzer to even the game at 2.With 20 seconds remaining, the Badgers had a final shot attempt off a header, but the attempt missed wide left to seal the upset win for the visitors.For the game, Wisconsin held a 22-10 lead in shots, 10-4 on goal. The second half was all Badgers, as they outshot OSU 14-2 in the latter stanza.OSU goalkeeper Devon Kerr played an impressive game in the net, making nine of 10 saves to improve her record to 5-0-1 in her freshman season. After splitting time in net with redshirt junior Jillian McVicker throughout the season, Kerr seems to have displaced her at the tailend on the depth chart, as she made her second consecutive start.OSU will look to pull off another upset on Friday, as it is set to play the No. 3-seeded Rutgers Scarlet Knights in State College, Pennsylvania. Kickoff time is yet to be announced.
Senior forward Wayne Chism paced the Volunteers with 22 points and 11 rebounds, unleashing his relentless motor after disposing of his oddly positioned headband at halftime.“All of our bigs, Brian Williams, Kenny Hall, Wayne Chism, it was electric tonight,” Tennessee guard Scotty Hopson said. “Their success down low was huge for us. We all made a conscious effort to rebound and it all worked out.”Ohio State’s defense didn’t play poorly the entire night, though. The Buckeyes jumped out to an 11-4 lead thanks to seven quick points by sophomore William Buford and several turnovers forced by the OSU defense.Tennessee fought back and the teams traded buckets until OSU entered the locker room at halftime clinging to a 42-39 lead.The Buckeyes extended the lead to six with 15:39 to play, but a porous defense and stagnant offense plagued them down the stretch. Turner scored Ohio State’s first 14 points after halftime, as his teammates struggled to find a rhythm.“[The Volunteers] do a great job on the half-court defense,” Matta said. “A lot of times it looks like something’s easy, but it really isn’t. … We just didn’t make shots in the second half.”Turner finished his junior season with typical stat sheet-stuffing totals of 31 points, seven rebounds and five assists. For the national Player of the Year favorite, despite its abrupt ending, the season won’t be one he looks at with disappointment.“I had the most fun I’ve ever had playing basketball,” he said. “I think we grew as a team. We genuinely care for each other and have a lot of fun. To overcome the situations we had, proved a lot of people wrong and just believing in each other was one of the best times in my life.“Right now, it’s tough to go through, but I feel like we did a lot of great stuff and we had a great season.” Evan Turner sat at midcourt, mesmerized. Several teammates ventured over to the junior, offering to help him to his feet, but Turner refused assistance, opting to bypass postgame handshakes and head directly for the locker room.The reality of a hard-fought, season-ending loss didn’t take long to sink in for the Big Ten Player of the Year, competing in scarlet and gray for perhaps the final time.Tennessee, the No. 6 seed in the Midwest region, used a late surge in the closing minutes to knock off No. 2 Ohio State, 76-73, before a Rockytop-giddy crowd Friday at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis.The Volunteers advance to the Elite Eight, where they will face Michigan State on Sunday.“We just didn’t get the job done,” junior center Dallas Lauderdale said. “We didn’t get the rebounds. They were going to get the ball. They were attacking us down low.”The meeting was the fourth in the last three years between the Buckeyes and Volunteers, and all four have been decided by five points or fewer.This time, Tennessee clenched a three-point lead as the Buckeyes gained possession with 12 seconds left. Turner had two looks at the basket, but both shots – and the team as a whole – fell short.“You want the ball in the hands of your best player,” said junior Jon Diebler, who made just one of his eight shot attempts. “[Turner] is the best player in the country. We will live with having the ball in the best player’s hands with 12 seconds left.”Despite the lack of a whistle, Turner felt there was contact on his desperation heaves.“I definitely liked the look I got,” he said. “I thought it was going to be like an and-one shot. I thought I was going to get a call.”The Buckeyes certainly had their share of chances, well before their inability to convert at the game’s conclusion. After converting 56 percent of its first half field goals, OSU made just 32 percent of its second half shot attempts.The most evident determining factor, however, was the difference in post production between the teams. Tennessee out-rebounded Ohio State by a 41-29 margin, while outscoring the Buckeyes in the paint by a 50-22 advantage.“They just got in the paint too easily,” Diebler said. “And when we collapsed, they did a good job of passing. With their height and athleticism, they’re able to see the floor a lot easier.”Buckeye forward David Lighty battled foul trouble throughout much of the game, forcing coach Thad Matta to dig a bit deeper than normal into his seldom-used bench. The OSU defense suffered, as the Buckeyes were overmatched on the boards.“You can’t worry about fouls, especially at this time of the year,” Lighty said. “You just have to keep playing hard and have backside help. But our defense just wasn’t what it used to be today.”
The Ohio State men’s basketball team has not always excelled in the late stages of games this season, sometimes struggling to score for extended periods of time. Such was the case again Tuesday night at the Schottenstein Center, as the No. 14-ranked Buckeyes avoided a complete collapse to squeak by unranked Iowa, 72-63. OSU spent the first three quarters of the contest dominating the Hawkeyes in nearly every facet of the game. The Buckeyes’ lead swelled to 24 midway through the second half, and a rout seemed imminent. But the Hawkeyes implemented a full-court press in the second half, using pressure to force a myriad of OSU mistakes. In all, the Iowa harassed OSU into 17 turnovers, a game-high six coming from junior point guard Aaron Craft. “They changed some things up, got in a press and just kind of sped us up a little bit,” Craft said. “We just started not executing our offense. We weren’t thinking as well as we should have been, it wasn’t until the end that we tried to figure it out.” As the Buckeyes gave away the ball, they slowly gave away their big lead. With 1:29 to play, the Hawkeyes had cut the OSU lead to four. The Buckeyes, though, regrouped and finished with a 9-4 run to close out the win in less than spectacular fashion. “A win is a win in conference play,” Craft said. “In this league you’ve got to protect home court. We didn’t do it the prettiest way, we didn’t finish the way we probably wanted to, but we got the win.” OSU coach Thad Matta agreed, though he acknowledged the Buckeyes will have to learn from their mistakes. “I do think in the league we’re in right now, you take your wins and semi-celebrate them,” Matta said. “By the same token, you’ve got to look at things and say ‘How do we get better?’” Craft struggled with ball security, but he forced four turnovers as well. His first swipe of the night put him in OSU’s record book as the school’s all-time leader in steals with 205. “It’s a great honor, a great accomplishment,” Craft said. “We have a lot more important things to worry about than individual awards.” Aside from turnovers, the Buckeyes’ biggest problem likely came on the glass, where they were outrebounded, 40-34, gave up 22 offensive rebounds and didn’t receive any production from their starting big man. Sophomore Amir Williams blocked six shots but didn’t pull down a single board. It was a fairly bizarre performance from the 6-foot-11 center, and one that he was disappointed in. “Me having zero rebounds, that’s just unacceptable on my behalf,” Williams said. “I feel like I was going after too many blocks and I kind of put myself out of position a little bit to rebound the basketball. It’s something I’ve got to continue to work on.” Junior forward Deshaun Thomas, the Big Ten’s leading scorer, scored a game-high 16 points despite taking an elbow to the face in the second half. Thomas briefly left the game, and returned with a bandage above his right eye. Craft and junior guard Lenzelle Smith Jr. also chipped in 12 points and senior forward Evan Ravenel added 11. With the win, OSU improves to 14-4 on the season and 4-2 in Big Ten play. Iowa falls to 13-6 on the year and 2-4 in the conference. The Buckeyes return to action on Jan. 26 against Penn State in State College, Pa. “Our guys are exhausted,” Matta said. “I probably pushed them a little bit harder than I’ve ever pushed a team, dating back to a couple weeks ago. We need rest physically and mentally to come back on Thursday (for practice) and get ready for Penn State.”
Senior guard Aaron Craft walks off the court while Michigan players celebrate the win after the game. OSU lost to Michigan, 72-69, in the semifinals of the Big Ten Tournament March 15 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Credit: Shelby Lum / Photo editorINDIANAPOLIS — Sometimes it just isn’t meant to be.Despite fighting back from a 16-point deficit to take the lead in the second half, a second straight comeback victory was not in the works for Ohio State, as it fell to top-seeded Michigan 72-69 in the semifinals of the Big Ten Tournament Saturday.OSU (25-9, 12-9) quickly found itself behind early, as the Wolverines shot a blistering 6/8 from beyond the arc in the game’s first 10 minutes to jump out to a 24-14 lead.“From the standpoint of the fact that this team is sitting at 25 wins right now after everything they’ve been through, we’ve played good basketball and we’re going to continue to play good basketball and I think that’s the job that we have to do,” OSU coach Thad Matta said after the loss. “As I challenged them after the game, I said, ‘Hey, how much better can we get next time we take the floor,’ and I think they’ll do that.”The shooting barrage for the Wolverines would continue, as six Michigan players made 3-pointers in the first half causing OSU to struggle to keep pace.“Beginning of the game, it started out much different than our last two games. It wasn’t us making mistakes it was them. Couldn’t miss — they couldn’t miss shots today. I think they hit at halftime like 8-13 from the three or something like that. So when you shoot like that they could have beaten almost anybody,” junior forward LaQuinton Ross said after the loss. “But we fought back — we fought back and got in the game. That’s what we’ve been doing this whole tournament and it came down to the end, couple of plays that we didn’t make and that’s on us.”Trailing 37-25 at the 4:15 mark of the first half, the Buckeyes scored 12 of the game’s next 16 points to pull within four at halftime.In a high scoring opening 20 minutes, only one player – OSU junior guard Shannon Scott — scored in double figures, with 10.The Wolverines (25-7, 17-3) started the second half much like they did the first, nailing three more 3-pointers in as many possessions to extend the lead to 50-42.Scott bounced in a 3-pointer from the top of the key with 12:19 left to cut the lead to five, but then the Buckeyes received a huge blow.Senior guard Aaron Craft — trying to defend a 3-pointer by Wolverine leading scorer and Big Ten player of the year sophomore guard Nik Stauskas — got a piece of his body and committed his fourth foul. He would head to the bench until the 2:55 mark.“It’s unfortunate but you gotta be pro’s pro in that situation,” Craft said of his foul trouble. “Those guys did a phenomenal job of fighting and clawing and finally getting us a lead.”That lead came with junior forward Sam Thompson slammed home a lob pass from Scott at the 7:57 mark which gave OSU it’s first lead of the game, 61-60. A back-and-forth affair the rest of the way then ensued.Two free throws by sophomore forward Glenn Robinson III gave Michigan a 69-68 advantage with 2:55 to play, a lead they would not relinquish.The Buckeyes missed three of four free throws in the final 2:27 which would prove to cost them down the stretch.After Stauskas missed a 3-pointer with 13 seconds left and Michigan up two, but sophomore guard Caris Levert leapt high for the rebound and found sophomore guard Spike Albrecht on the perimeter. He would make one of two free throws, and the ball would slip out of Craft’s hands just before the buzzer to seal the win for the Wolverines.“You’ve got to step up for your team in that moment, and I didn’t,” Craft said, referring to the final play as well as missing two free throws late. “We knew that was going to come back and haunt us sometime. The two games we’ve had, we haven’t shot the ball well from the free throw line, and it cost us today.”Stauskas led Michigan with 18 points, and Levert added 17.Ross led the way for the Buckeyes with a game-high 19 points, while Scott tied a career-high with 18.The Buckeyes will await their NCAA Tournament fate Sunday, when the brackets are scheduled to be announced at 6 p.m.
OSU senior kicker Jack Willoughby (98) during a game against Hawaii on Sept. 12 at Ohio Stadium. Credit: Samantha Hollingshead / Photo EditorWhen Jack Willoughby’s 20-yard kick sailed through the uprights on Saturday, it was not just the first field goal he made in five years of college — it was the first he made in a game, ever.Willoughby, a former soccer player who walked on to the Duke football team in 2011, had never kicked a football until the summer after his high-school graduation. When he did learn how to do it, his coaching came in the form of an instructional DVD he purchased.While soccer was his sport of choice, football was his passion, and the Princeton, New Jersey, product saw an opportunity to contribute down the line for the Blue Devils.“My grandpa played college football, and I grew up a big college football fan,” Willoughby said. “I thought there was a chance to play college soccer at Duke, but I saw an opportunity to make the transition after high school.”Willoughby’s big leg enabled him to stick around on the Duke team and become its kickoff specialist, kicking off in three games in 2013 and all 13 the following year.However, with an All-American kicker in Ross Martin firmly in place as the placekicker, Willoughby knew his opportunity to kick field goals would likely only come elsewhere.“I decided during my (redshirt junior) season at Duke that I wanted to transfer. It was kind of a multistep decision,” he said. “First of all, do I want to play a fifth year of football or do I want to enter the working world? That was probably the hardest decision. Then after I made up my mind there, I decided that I wanted to leave Duke.”Willoughby said he put together a highlight tape that he mailed to coaches around the country to try to find interested schools, one of which ended up being Ohio State. Between the Buckeyes’ standing as defending national champions and a shaky kicking situation — last year’s starter Sean Nuernberger missed seven of his 20 attempts during his freshman year — Willoughby, who resides in his family’s home in Juno, Alaska, in the offseason, made the choice to move to Columbus in April.“I think Ohio State might’ve looked at me because of the role I could fill on kickoff, but for me it was about field goals as well,” he said. “If I wanted to just be a kickoff guy, I would’ve stayed at Duke.”Willoughby turned heads as a potential starting placekicker for the Buckeyes in August when he made back-to-back 60-yard kicks in practice.Now entrenched in a weekly one-on-one battle with Nuernberger, Willoughby has gotten the nod from coach Urban Meyer in each of OSU’s first two games.Things have not started great for the redshirt senior, as his first collegiate field goal attempt in OSU’s opener at Virginia Tech was a 43-yard attempt that went wide.While he raised his field goal percentage to 50 percent with the 20-yard make during the Buckeyes’ second game against Hawaii, two of his seven kickoffs went out of bounds for a penalty.Meyer said he has not been happy with the mixed performance by the kicker so far, especially on kickoffs.“We’re still not settled,” Meyer said. “Jack is — we had two penalties on kickoff, and that’s got to be addressed and got to get fixed.”As far as the issue of the kickoffs goes, Willoughby said he has been his own biggest critic.“I hold myself to a higher standard than to ever kick the ball out of bounds,” Willoughby said. “It’s definitely something I try not to beat myself up about, but I consider it unacceptable.”Whether he holds the starting kicker job from week to week or loses it to Nuernberger, Willoughby said coming to OSU has already been a worthwhile decision.“Clearly here, the tradition, the fans, the scale of a lot of what we do is at a slightly different level to me,” Willoughby said. “But if you ask guys why they really play the game, it’s for their teammates, for their coaches, and those things don’t really change here or at Duke, smaller places.”
Ohio State junior guard C.J. Jackson (3) brings the ball down the court in the first half in the game against Clemson on Nov. 29. Ohio State lost 79-65. Credit: Jack Westerheide | Photo EditorC.J. Jackson never expected to be the primary ball handler in such a short time at Ohio State. The junior probably didn’t expect to be benched 10 games into his first season as a starting point guard either.And with Jackson coming off the bench, the Buckeyes (7-3, 2-0) have pulled off two significant early conference victories against Wisconsin and Michigan.Jackson wasn’t meeting the demands through the team’s first eight games. His 23 percent turnover rate was unacceptable for a starting point guard in a Power Five conference, and the Ohio State offense wasn’t getting it done against top quality opponents. Holtmann moved Jackson to the bench and started senior forward Jae’Sean Tate at point guard.When asked Monday following a 20-point comeback against Michigan if benching Jackson was done to send a message, without explicitly saying it, head coach Chris Holtmann’s answer was yes. It was done to send a message.That’s life as a point guard under Holtmann, who has said in the past it’s probably no fun for a point guard to play for him.But Holtmann’s message to Jackson was simple: stay poised and be a leader on and off the court.Since coming off the bench, Jackson has been incredibly efficient. He has turned the ball over just three times, following games of seven and five turnovers in consecutive losses to Butler and Clemson. Jackson scored 10 off the bench against Wisconsin and 17 against Michigan, including seven free-throws in the final three minutes of a nine-point victory.Message received.“I guess you could say [I was pushing myself too much], like trying to make the perfect play and playing mistake free, which is when you start making mistakes,” Jackson said Friday. “I guess you could say that’s where I was at before.”Jackson entered the game off the bench for the majority of last year, then started the final six games. However, this year, he’s the guy. There can’t be any letdown from Jackson. For a team short at the guard position, with the backup being graduate transfer Andrew Dakich — who has a turnover rate near 40 percent — Jackson has to be a consistent point guard who won’t turn the ball over.Tate has filled in nicely at the point guard position, but it’s not his natural spot. He’s arguably Ohio State’s best option for taking a player one-on-one at the end of the shot clock, but he’s not a true point guard and isn’t a strong-enough shooter to be a combo guard.Jackson’s the natural point guard. But for the time being, it’s Tate’s role. And it’s working, with Jackson, ironically, providing some insight to Tate.“Kind of what my issue was, I was just telling him to make the simple plays,” Jackson said. “You don’t have to make the home run plays, things like that.”Jackson said coming off the bench allows him to examine the pace of play and play at that level when he enters the game, instead of adjusting to it on the fly when he starts.Holtmann didn’t rule out starting Jackson at noon Saturday against William & Mary, but acknowledged the guard’s improved play since moving out of the starting lineup.“I think he knows that his minutes will be pretty consistent as long as he can continue to try to do what we’re asking him to do in terms of limiting his turnovers,” Holtmann said. “It’s nice to be able to have him or at least a guy that can give you some scoring punch off the bench.”When making the jump from the junior-college level to Division I, Jackson didn’t expect such a significant role entering his second year in Columbus. Now that the Buckeyes have some momentum, his role is that much more vital for them to sustain any success.
Emily Clark follows through on her swing, hitting a double against Wright State on Sep.24. Credit: Gretchen Rudolph | For The LanternWith a home slate and taking on an old rival, the Ohio State softball team will kick off Big Ten play this weekend against Indiana.The Buckeyes (15-9) will take on the No. 22 Hoosiers (25-6), a team which Ohio State has played every year since 2010.“It’s the most exciting part of the year for us because it’s the team that we know well and compete against every year,” Ohio State head coach Kelly Kovach Schoenly said.The Hoosiers won all three games against the Buckeyes this past season, and Schoenly said they are looking to use home field to gain an advantage after playing the entirety of the start of the season away from Columbus. “Since our 24 games were on the road, it’s nice to be home and to compete at home in front of our loyal fans,” Schoenly said. Getting in the conference season, Schoenly said Indiana will be a difficult team to play, playing in a conference she said is very competitive. The matchup between the Buckeyes and Hoosiers might come down to who can execute better and find the time to strike. Schoenly said they will try to keep the Hoosiers off the bases. The Hoosiers have some standout players the Buckeyes will need to figure out. Senior pitcher Tara Trainer has recorded an 18-3 record with 149 strikeouts and a 1.36 ERA. Schoenly said Trainer is having “a great season.” For the 12-game, 10-day stretch Ohio State had in California during spring break, the Buckeyes recorded 7 wins and 5 losses. Ohio State gained experience from the trip to get ready for the conference season, Schoenly said. “We found some of our strengths and some of our weaknesses,” freshman outfielder Kaitlyn Coffman said. “We are definitely going to put some work this week. Get ready for the upcoming weekend.”This home series series between Ohio State and No. 22 Indiana will start at 6 p.m. Friday. The second game will be at 2 p.m. Saturday, and the final game will start at 1 p.m. Sunday.