It has been reported that Aaron Hernandez abused angel dust and started carrying guns because he was paranoid. The former New England Patriots player traveled with his gun everywhere before being accused of murder, according to a new story in Rolling Stone.“The Gangster in the Huddle,” published online Wednesday, and soon to be in stores, delves into Hernandez’s life as he went from a high school football star to sitting in jail awaiting trial for murder.Highlights of the story include Hernandez’s regular use of drugs, associations with gangsters, and his alienation from his teammates and family. According to a friend of Hernandez’s family, he sometimes smoked “three or four blunts” during the drive home from games. He carried a rifle with him in a gym bag because he worried gangsters might be trying to kill him.The Rolling Stone story says that Hernandez flew to the NFL Combine in February and told Patriots coach Bill Belichick that his life was in danger.Hernandez had reportedly frustrated Belichick over the years by violated team policy and behaving like a thug during team engagements. After the former tight end was involved in an alleged domestic incident in March, Belichick reportedly threatened to release the player after the 2013 season if he had any more incidents.Hernandez is currently in a Massachusetts county jail accused of the murder of 27-year-old Odin Lloyd. He recently pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder and five gun charges.
Stephen CurryHis father, Dell Curry, was a 1986 first-round draft choice out of Virginia Tech who was as smooth a shooter as the league had at the time. A shooting guard, he was not much of a defensive player, but he lasted 16 seasons in the NBA because he was deadly from the perimeter. Teams always need scoring. He made 1,245 three-pointers in his career, during which he averaged 11.7 points. Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors has simply blown up. He has Dell Curry’s quick release, but he’s arguably a better shooter than his dad, and definitely a better all-around scorer and player, fashioning hoops via mid-range jump shots and daring forays to the basket while still among the league leaders in assists. After a month of the NBA season, Curry is the top MVP candidate, averaging 23.7 points and 7.2 assists on the team with the league’s best record.
Percentage returning Stanford brings back a lot of talent this seasonPercentage of 2018 contributions produced by players returning in 2019 for top NCAA women’s volleyball programs 2018 RankTeamKillsAssistsDigsBlocksAces Stanford women’s volleyball faced a tough challenge just a week into the season, making a trip across the country last Wednesday to take on the then-No. 7 Florida Gators.But the match was hardly a struggle. The Cardinal — led by the trio of seniors Kathryn Plummer (21 kills), Jenna Gray (37 assists) and Morgan Hentz (15 digs) — dispatched Florida in straight sets, 25-22, 25-17, 25-19. Four days later, the team added a win over No. 3 Texas to improve to 4-0. As a result, Stanford was the unanimous top team in Monday’s coaches poll.The Cardinal finished 2018 with a 34-1 record, avenging its early-season loss to BYU in the national semifinals before beating Nebraska in the final. After rolling through the NCAA last season, the Cardinal return more of last year’s squad than almost any other top-ranked team.1The top 11 teams in last year’s end-of-season poll all started the 2019 season back in the top 11. But the road won’t be easy for the talented favorites, who will have to beat stalwarts from the Midwest and upstarts from the South.Stanford was the only school with three 2018 First-Team All-Americans, all of whom were juniors. The team’s biggest loss was middle blocker Tami Alade, a Second-Team All-American and the only senior who consistently played last season. Gray, the two-time defending Pac-12 Setter of the Year, was the only non-senior setter to earn First-Team All-American honors last year. Hentz, Mayor of Hentz-Ville, is the two-time defending Pac-12 Libero of the Year and last year’s Final Four Co-MVP.And then there’s Plummer, the two-time defending National Player of the Year, a dominant force on the outside who’s already racked up more awards than can comfortably fit on her bio page. Plummer, Hentz and Gray might be the NCAA’s top players at their respective positions. The trio has won a pair of titles together and may be in line for a third. 11Florida84.545.083.277.280.0 The toughest competition, as is often the case in volleyball, comes in the Big Ten, which claimed five of the top eight spots in the preseason coaches poll.The Wisconsin Badgers may present the biggest challenger to Stanford as the only top-11 team returning a higher percentage of contributions. The preseason coaches poll put Wisconsin fifth, behind Nebraska and Minnesota, but Big Ten coaches named UW the conference favorite. The Badgers looked the part early but suffered a pair of close losses to ranked teams over the weekend and will need to bounce back.Wisconsin is led by a junior class featuring Sydney Hilley, Dana Rettke and a redshirted Molly Haggerty. The 6-foot-8 Rettke, a nearly unstoppable blocker, spent the summer competing with the U.S. national team. Haggerty was the 2016 Big Ten Freshman of the Year, but a back injury cost her all of 2017, and she struggled to return to form last year. Hilley, a Second-Team All-American, ranked fourth in the country in assists per set last year and is one of just three setters named to an All-American team who returns this season.And Illinois retained All-American outside hitter Jacqueline Quade from its Final Four team but lost setter Jordyn Poulter to graduation (she now plays on the national team). The Illini will likely replace her with Mica Allison — a transfer from Auburn, a former top recruit and one of the nation’s best underclassman setters. Illinois has also struggled early, losing a pair of matches this weekend, though Allison has barely played because of an injury.And perennial contenders Nebraska and Penn State enter the season with strong young teams. Nebraska, national champions in 2015 and 2017 and last year’s runners-up, can never be counted out, especially if setter Nicklin Hames makes a substantial leap her sophomore year. The Huskers are off to a 4-0 start with no seniors on the roster. Penn State has won at least 22 matches in each of the 41 seasons played under head coach Russ Rose. The Nittany Lions, with 15 underclassmen on their roster, have jumped out to a 5-0 record but face their first big test when Stanford comes to town on Friday.Minnesota made the biggest jump among last year’s top-10 teams, coming in third in the preseason rankings despite being upset by Oregon in last year’s regional semifinals. That loss marked the Gophers’ fourth-straight tournament upset; they were the No. 2 seed three of the last four years but haven’t reached the championship match since 2004. Replacing All-American setter Samantha Seliger-Swenson is the biggest challenge for the Gophers this year, who have struggled early this season.Outside the Big Ten, a pair of Big 12 Teams are off to hot starts. No. 3 Texas swept Minnesota and took Stanford to five sets. And Baylor, a program that hasn’t reached even the Sweet 16 in 10 years, shot up to No. 5 after winning at Wisconsin and at Marquette to reach 5-0.The under-the-radar contender could be Kentucky. The SEC favorite is one of the best teams in terms of returning contributors. Junior setter Madison Lilley will try to make a case for player of the year, and there’s plenty of All-American talent around the roster.2Lilley and Leah Edmond were Second-Team All-Americans, while Gabby Curry was an honorable mention But the Wildcats struggled out of the gates, suffering an early-season straight-sets upset at the hands of then-unranked Utah.Stanford’s early-season challenges are far from over: The Cardinal face three top Big Ten teams in the next week, culminating next Wednesday with a rematch of the national championship game against Nebraska. And there will be challenges throughout the year from other top teams, especially come December. But if last year is any indication, the Cardinal will be ready. The programs that finished last season ranked in the top 11 last year were all ranked in the top 11 in the 2019 preseason poll.Sources: School websites, ACVA rankings 1Stanford85.1%99.9%98.4%68.7%98.8% 3Illinois76.613.579.949.870.4 9Oregon220.127.116.117.740.2 8Wisconsin86.199.798.982.099.3 5Texas54.398.790.832.486.2 4BYU55.210.741.764.943.3 7Minnesota92.111.768.485.447.9 2Nebraska69.489.057.083.954.0 10Kentucky82.098.387.471.272.8 6Penn State57.615.666.566.669.0
Manchester United fired manager David Moyes with four matches left in the English Premier League season, the club announced on Tuesday. His removal — after only 10 months on the job — left Moyes more than 25 seasons shy of the tenure of his predecessor, Sir Alex Ferguson. Going by results, that’s understandable: Ferguson’s United sides won England’s top league 13 times, while United under Moyes was languishing at seventh in the league, eliminated from the lucrative, Europe-wide Champions League for the coming season.Although Ferguson selected him as his successor, Moyes was always going to have big shoes to fill. Yet less noticed was that Ferguson had been, in his final season, lucky as well as good. By several crucial stats, United wasn’t as good last year as it seemed in winning the league by 11 points. The team has been worse by all these measures under Moyes. But the club has also been far less lucky.Soccer analysts, inspired by ice hockey’s Corsi stat, have begun to examine teams’ ability to create and prevent shots. Teams’ share of all shots taken, and their share of all shots on target, are far more predictive of future success than teams’ percentage of shots converted or of opponents’ shots saved, as soccer analyst James Grayson has shown.Last season, United was far from leading the Premier League in creating the lion’s share of shots, or shots on target. United ranked eighth of 20 teams in proportion of shots, and seventh in proportion of shots on target, according to Grayson; and seventh and fourth, respectively, according to Benjamin Pugsley, who uses a slightly different set of underlying numbers. (Soccer doesn’t yet have completely standardized stats — or, as, Pugsley puts it, “Football and numbers is really new.”)How, then, did Manchester United nonetheless lead the league in goal differential? By leading the league in shooting percentage and placing fourth in save percentage. Grayson calls the sum of those two percentages, multiplied by 1,000, PDO (after its hockey name), and he’s shown that it has essentially no value in predicting future results. United led the Premier League in PDO by a big margin last year. It did the same the year before, which at the time prompted Grayson to forecast a United decline — a year too early, as it turned out.So United’s path to the league title last year was a lucky one; its performance didn’t predict continued success this season. Sure enough, United’s PDO has declined from league-leading to seventh best, and that, combined with less-precipitous declines in share of shots and shots on target, has led to the club outscoring opponents by less than half a goal per game, compared to more than a goal per game last season.Not only did United convert shots, and prevent shots, at unusually high — and unsustainable — rates last season. The club also won more matches than expected based on its goal differential. United won the league by 11 points over Manchester City last season. It also had 12 more points than expected based on its goals scored and allowed. This year, it’s getting about as many points as expected based on goal differential.Was Ferguson just lucky last season, or was he able to conjure consistently high levels of shooting accuracy and goalkeeping even after his club’s edge in shots had eroded? On the one hand, his United clubs sustained high levels of PDO during his tenure. On the other hand, there’s some out-of-sample evidence from United’s Champions League performance, this season and last season.In Ferguson’s last year at the helm, United played eight Champions League games, yielded nine more shots than it took and outscored opponents by two goals. Real Madrid eliminated United in the round of 16. In this season’s Champions League, under Moyes, United allowed 32 more shots than it attempted, yet United still outscored opponents by eight goals, advancing to the quarterfinal stage.These results suggest United’s overachievement in the Premier League last season was due more to luck than to anything Ferguson did.
I’ve arrived here in Rio de Janeiro for a few days. I know how lucky I am — especially since the match I’ll see later on Wednesday, between Spain and Chile at the Maracana stadium, might be the most important of the group stage. (For more on Wednesday’s other matches, see our Crib Notes.)ESPN’s Soccer Power Index doesn’t have much in the way of a prediction for this game — it sees a Chilean win and a Spanish win as about equally likely, with a draw also a decent possibility. But of course, the match matters greatly for Spain’s chances of advancing.Let’s follow the format we used for breaking down the United States’ chances and consider the rest of the group stage from Spain’s perspective. The nine scenarios I’ll cover detail the possible results of the two games Wednesday in Group B — before Spain kicks off with Chile, the Netherlands and Australia will have completed their match in Porto Alegre (the Netherlands is heavily favored). I’ll list what the group standings will look like at the end of the day after each result — assuming that Spain remains behind on any goal differential tiebreaker because it lost by four goals to the Netherlands earlier in the group stage. (That goal differential tiebreaker makes Spain’s path much more difficult than it otherwise would be and is a big part of why our simulations give the La Furia Roja only about a 25 percent chance of advancing.) I’ll then consider how the final two matches (between Spain and Australia, and between the Netherlands and Chile) might play out.Netherlands wins, Spain wins: Netherlands 6 points, Chile 3, Spain 3, Australia 0. Obviously, this is one result Spain would be happy with. A follow-up win against Australia would probably get Spain to the knockout stage — and there are some cases in which a draw against Australia could, too. Even two wins wouldn’t leave Spain 100 percent safe, however. If Spain beats Australia but Chile beats the Netherlands, three teams would be tied atop the group with six points, and Spain would probably have the worst goal differential.Netherlands draws, Spain wins: Netherlands 4 points, Chile 3, Spain 3, Australia 1. This is more promising for Spain as there’d then be some chance it could leapfrog the Netherlands. Spain would control its own destiny without having to worry about goal differential: Win against Australia by any margin and Spain would make it to the knockout stage. Spanish fans should be rooting for the Socceroos to grab at least one point today.Netherlands loses, Spain wins: Netherlands 3 points, Chile 3, Australia 3, Spain 3. A heck of a mess in the short run as all teams would be tied at three points. However, Spain would still control its own destiny and a win against Australia by any margin would put Spain in the knockout stage.Netherlands wins, Spain draws: Netherlands 6 points, Chile 4, Spain 1, Australia 0. Spain is very probably out. The only exception is if it beats Australia and the Netherlands beats Chile — and the margins are wide enough to swing the goal differential back in Spain’s favor.Netherlands draws, Spain draws: Netherlands 4 points, Chile 4, Australia 1, Spain 1. This scenario is extremely problematic for Spain and probably means its elimination. The best Spain could hope after these results is a tie for second, which it would probably lose on goal differential. Another problem is that even if Spain were to beat Australia, the Netherlands and Chile could guarantee their entry into the knockout stage by drawing with each other. FIFA and fans hate it, but soccer teams have a way of playing for the draw when such incentives are in place.Netherlands loses, Spain draws: Chile 4 points, Netherlands 3, Australia 3, Spain 1. Only marginally better. In this case, Spain can finish in sole possession of second place if it then beats Australia and Chile beats the Netherlands. If Spain beats Australia but the Netherlands draws or beats Chile, Spain finishes in a tie for second and is likely out based on goal differential.Netherlands wins, Spain loses: Netherlands 6 points, Chile 6, Australia 0, Spain 0. Spain is mathematically eliminated.Netherlands draws, Spain loses: Chile 6 points, Netherlands 4, Australia 1, Spain 0. Spain is mathematically eliminated.Netherlands loses, Spain loses: Chile 6 points, Netherlands 3, Australia 3, Spain 0. Spain is eliminated for all intents and purposes. It would have to beat Australia, have Chile beat the Netherlands, and then beat both the Netherlands and Australia on goal differential — not very likely.The short version: Lose to Chile on Wednesday and Spain is almost certainly out of the tournament. A draw and La Furia Roja is in grave trouble: Spain would need a win against Australia by an overwhelming margin and very probably some help on top of that. A win keeps Spain alive, but it remains vulnerable, especially if the Netherlands beats Australia (a 74 percent chance, according to our model).CORRECTION (June 18, 11:56 a.m.): A previous version of this post incorrectly listed Australia as having three points if the Netherlands beats Australia and Spain loses to Chile. In that scenario, Australia would have zero points.
When Bryce Harper was introduced by the Philadelphia Phillies on Saturday in Clearwater, Florida, and slipped on a red pinstriped No. 3 jersey, the amount of fanfare that greeted him hadn’t been seen since the team traded for Roy Halladay in 2009. The club reportedly sold 100,000 tickets to regular-season games within hours of Harper’s signing. The Phillies hope it ushers in an era of sustained competitive baseball with Harper as a $330 million keystone. After all, what made Harper so promising was not only his talent but also his relative youth, as a 26-year-old free agent.Harper should still be productive in the near term and deliver important wins for the Phillies (after the signing, FiveThirtyEight’s projections for the 2019 season bumped the Phillies up to 84 wins, from 82, although other sites have been more bullish). But as we wrote last week, Harper’s consistency is a concern. Historical comps for a player with Harper’s unusual and volatile career to date suggest that he might have already peaked and that star-level players, in general, have reached their peaks by age 26. Since we are already in the habit of raining on the parade in Philadelphia, let’s look under the hood at Harper’s underlying stats and see where the specific problems may reside.For starters, Harper’s defensive metrics fell off a cliff last season.According to an average of Defensive Runs Saved (which Baseball-Reference.com uses for its defensive WAR) and Ultimate Zone Rating (FanGraphs’s metric of choice), Harper was the second-worst right fielder in the game (-12 runs saved compared with average) and the fourth-worst center fielder (-9 runs saved). Harper played 860 innings in right and 477 innings in center last season. And if Harper becomes more and more a one-dimensional player, in an era in which his power hitting stands out less, he loses relative value.But perhaps those concerns are a little overblown. Although baseball’s defensive metrics are getting better all the time, they are still prone to big swings between seasons. In 2017, before the big decline last season, Harper was actually 3 runs better than an average right fielder. His 24-run drop ranks second-worst among outfielders under age 271As of June 30 of the season in question. who played the same position for the same team in back-to-back years between 20022The first season of granular, pitch-level data at FanGraphs. and 2018, trailing only Matt Kemp (who fell from being exactly average in 2009 to 31 runs below average in 2010). In the season after that, Kemp still wasn’t good — he was -6 relative to an average CF — but he at least reclaimed some of the ground he’d lost in his annus horribilis.As it turns out, that’s a pretty common story if we look at the rest of the outfielders who met our qualifications from above and dropped off by at least 15 runs in a season since 2002: The fates of outfielders with Harper-esque defensive dropsPlayers who had a decline of at least 15 defensive runs* relative to average in a season since 2002, were younger than 27 and played in the same position for the same team There were some other players who experienced the same kinds of defensive declines and responded by changing positions entirely. (Such as Mark Teahen, Adam Eaton and Marlon Byrd.) But among those who stayed at the same position, they averaged to be about half as bad (relative to average) in the following season as they’d been in the decline year, regaining about 20 percent of their previous form.In the end, though, the Phillies are paying Harper to produce runs and hit homers. So perhaps the more troubling trend of Harper’s for the Phillies is his failure to address holes in his swing.Harper’s ability to make contact has been in decline. Last season, his rate of contact on pitches in the strike zone was the fourth-lowest among qualified hitters, dropping from 84 percent in 2017 to 78 percent in 2018. His strikeout rate rose by 4.2 percentage points, the 24th-greatest increase in the majors. Since 2015, his 15-game rolling average regarding contact ability (on all pitches) has been volatile but gradually declining.According to Statcast data from Baseball Savant, Harper’s whiff rate against fastballs3Four-seam fastballs, two-seam fastballs and sinkers. increased from 15.2 percent in 2016, to 20.2 percent in 2017 to 26.4 percent last season (ranking as the 36th-highest whiff rate in 2018 among 352 batters to offer against at least 200 fastballs). Against fastballs 95 mph and faster, Harper’s whiff rate increased from 18.8 percent in 2016 to 22.0 percent in 2017 to 31.5 percent in 2018.Harper has always had a weakness against up-and-away fastballs. Since 2015, he has swung and missed at a 40.7 percent rate when offering at up-and-away four-seam fastballs.Last season, Harper swung at 111 four-seam fastballs in those zones and whiffed 52 times, a 46.8 percent rate.While defensive metrics can still be somewhat volatile from year to year,4Even among players who stayed at the same position in back-to-back years, the correlation between a player’s percentile rank at his position in defensive runs per inning from year to year is 0.36 since 2002. a player’s contact rate is much “stickier”5The same correlation for a batter’s strikeout rate in back-to-back seasons is 0.79. — suggesting that big changes in the ability to make contact are more likely to represent a real change in skills and not just random variance.It’s not all bad news at the plate, however: Against fastballs,6Again, four-seam fastballs, two-seam fastballs and sinkers. Harper hit .306, with a .651 slugging percentage, according to Baseball Savant data.Because Harper was effective when making contact against fastballs, perhaps he was trading the ability to make contact for more power. What he has not done is change his swing plane, according to launch angle data. His average launch angle was 14.5 degrees in 2015, 14.6 in 2016, 13.6 in 2017 and 13.9 in 2018. His pull rate did spike, jumping from 35.5 percent in 2017 to 42.3 percent in 2018.Harper has elite plate discipline. He has elite power. But not every player who has made power gains in recent years — see Mookie Betts, Francisco Lindor, Justin Turner and Jose Ramirez — has had to sacrifice contact. And the best, most efficient offensive performers typically do not trade contact for power.What’s concerning is that even though some traits age well, like plate discipline, power generally does not. So if Harper’s defense continues to decline and he’s limited to a corner outfield position and continues to lose contact ability — if he becomes a Three True Outcomes hitter — he probably won’t age as the Phillies would like. He would likely morph from a highly sought-after asset, a 26-year-old star free agent, to the type of player easily found (a Three True Outcomes corner outfielder).Because Harper was a prodigy in part as a result of relentless work and practice at a young age, he may have fulfilled his potential soon after his arrival in the majors. But he doesn’t have to be Trout-like to justify his contract. At $25.4 million per year, the Phillies are not paying him as an elite superstar. And if Harper helps Philadelphia add another World Series banner to Citizens Bank Park in the not-too-distant future, then it will likely be $330 million well spent regardless of how well he ages. Luis Matos2003-0524-26CF+9-8-2 Matt Kemp2009-1124-26CF0-31-6 Fielding Runs vs. Avg Jeff Francoeur2007-0923-25RF+20-3+4 Mike Trout2012-1420-22CF+15-5-9 Jay Bruce2010-1223-25RF+180-3 Historical playersYearsAgesPosYear 1Year 2Year 3 Bryce Harper2017-1924-26RF+3-20? current playersYearsAgesPosYear 1Year 2Year 3 From ABC News: Fielding Runs vs. Avg * According to an average of the defensive metrics found at Baseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs.Minimum 700 innings in all years. Ages are as of June 30 of the season in question.Sources: Baseball-Reference.com, FanGraph Andre Ethier2007-0925-27RF+4-11-11 Nick Markakis2008-1024-26RF+17-5-8 Odubel Herrera2017-1925-27CF+6-11?
The legacy of the rivalry between Ohio State and the University of Michigan is historically centered around football. However, ill will and passion for beating the other team holds no barrier between sports. The OSU women’s tennis team celebrated that thrill of victory defeating Michigan Friday afternoon, 5-1.OSU and Michigan came into Friday’s match ranked fourth and 10th nationally, according to the Intercollegiate Tennis Association’s rankings.After reaching the semifinals of the ITA National Indoor Championships before losing to North Carolina, the win against the Wolverines was a nice rebound for the Buckeyes.Starting off in doubles, OSU was awarded the doubles point after winning two of three matches to take the early 1-0 advantage.The senior duo of Sandy Niehaus and Gabriella De Santis won a close set by tiebreaker, 7-6 (7-2). Seniors Miho Kowase and Ferny Angeles Paz 6-1 victory compensated for Michigan’s lone doubles win over Buckeyes sophomore Francesca Di Lorenzo and junior Anna Sanford, 6-3.Three-time ITA national champion and top-ranked Di Lorenzo led the way first for the Buckeyes, disposing of Michigan sophomore Brienne Minor in straight sets, making quick work and another point for the Buckeyes, 6-1, 6-2.Kowase followed with another victory for the Buckeyes to stretch the lead to 3-0, defeating Michigan junior Mira Rider-Hook in similar fashion, 6-0, 6-3.Needing only one more point for the clincher and the match victory, OSU needed just one of four remaining singles matches to capture the win.They’d get two out of three wins, with De Santis winning 6-3, 6-3 and Angeles Paz finishing off freshman Valeria Patiuk 6-3, 6-1, with the final score being 5-1 OSU and the two remaining matches being abandoned.“You couldn’t ask for anything more, to be able to rebound and a chance to play Michigan at home in a couple days. So, it’s something that these guys definitely get up for and try to move on from the tough loss,” OSU coach Melissa Schaub said. “We’re going to come in here and fight hard. We were just able to get it done in front of our fans.”Di Lorenzo echoed her coach’s sentiment about bouncing back for a team win against a top-ten opponent in rival Michigan.“It feels really good and it was a quick turnaround, having to play Michigan, they’re our rival and they’re an unbelievable team and very competitive and strong,” she said. “Although we had a tough loss last weekend, we’re going to have to come back stronger and forget about it and just learn from it and move on, and I think that’s what we did today.”
The No. 2 Ohio State men’s volleyball team (26-2, 15-0 MIVA) beat both Lindenwood University and Quincy University on Friday and Saturday, closing out the regular season and staying perfect in Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association play.OSU is only the second team in 25 years to go undefeated in MIVA action. The last time the MIVA saw a perfect conference record was in 2014 when Loyola University, Chicago went 14-0.LindenwoodOn Saturday, the Buckeyes traveled to face the Lindenwood Lions (5-18, 4-12 MIVA) where they won in straight sets, 25-17, 25-15, 25-19.Defensively, the Lions struggled to maintain OSU’s offensive efforts. The Lions had only 9 digs through three sets of action. The Buckeyes, on the other hand, tallied 19 digs as a team.The Buckeyes hit over .400 during the night with junior outside hitter Nicolas Szerszen and senior opposite hitter Miles Johnson combining for 24 kills in the match. OSU also performed well at the service line with Szerszen and redshirt sophomore middle blocker Blake Leeson both serving four aces a piece.Despite OSU’s high attacking efficiency, the Lions stuffed the Buckeyes on six occasions. Lindenwood’s sophomore Connor Hipelius led the team with four block assists for the night.QuincyAfter taking care of business at Lindenwood, the Buckeyes traveled to Quincy University for the regular-season finale, taking the match in four sets (25-16, 25-27, 25-15, 25-12) against the Hawks (7-21, 2-14 MIVA).After never trailing in the first set, the Buckeyes went down 22-16 in the second frame before erasing that deficit with a 7-0 run. OSU ultimately dropped the set in extra points.Aside from the second set, the Buckeyes were hitting above .300, with a match high of .533 in the third set. Quincy’s best attacking efficiency came in the third set as well at .206.In sophomore setter Sanil Thomas’ second start of the season, he assisted on 43 kills and led the team with 11 digs. He helped both Szerszen and junior Maxime Hervoir rack up 17 kills each.With the regular season wrapped up, the MIVA Tournament seeding is locked in. OSU has the top seed, which means that the Buckeyes will have home-court advantage for the duration of the tournament.The Buckeyes start MIVA Tournament action on Saturday when they face Quincy again. First serve is set at 5 p.m. in St. John Arena.
Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer answers questions during his first press conference back from suspension. Credit: Amal Saeed | Assistant Photo EditorThe investigative team handling the suspension of Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer and athletic director Gene Smith did not send Meyer’s phone to a forensics lab to see if he destroyed evidence, according to a report by The Wall Street Journal released Tuesday.According to the report, Smith handed over a phone that contained no text messages, saying “he routinely deletes all texts after sending or receiving them.” The reports state this might violate Ohio open records law and the school’s records-retention policy. Ohio State said, in a statement, the investigative team “conducted a thorough and detailed investigation,” noting that the team interviewed over 40 witnesses, reviewed more than 60,000 documents and 10,000 pages of Meyer’s text messages.“The independent investigative team at Debevoise & Plimpton, the university and the working group of the Board of Trustees all stand by the independent investigation and its conclusions,” Ohio State said via statement.Ohio State fired former wide receivers coach and recruiting coordinator Zach Smith on July 23 after reports of domestic violence was released against his now-ex-wife Courtney Smith. Meyer and Smith were both suspended on Aug. 1 after they “failed to adhere to the precise requirements of their contracts when they concluded that they needed to await a law enforcement determination to file charges before they reported the otherwise disputed claims of spousal abuse against [former assistant coach] Zach Smith.”Meyer, in his first press conference Monday after completing his three-game suspension, addressed the investigative findings that said the Board of Trustees could not determine whether or not the head coach deleted text messages from his phone. Meyer said he “never deleted a text message” and he “never changed a setting on my phone.” Meyer said an unnamed IT person in the Ohio State football program changed a setting to help him with storage capacity, deleting text messages after one year. He also said there were nothing to hide in the next messages that were deleted. According to public records released by the university, Gene Smith said he had no text or email records on his end when asked about a public records request made by The Lantern. The request had asked for emails and texts between Gene Smith and Meyer between the dates of July 18, 2018, and July 24, 2018, as well as between Oct. 25, 2015, and Dec. 1, 2015, as they pertained to wide receiver coach Zach Smith.“Nothing in my end,” Gene Smith wrote in an email on July 25, 2018 to senior associate athletics director Julie VannattaUpdated at 2:29 p.m. with a statement from Ohio State.
Location: Champaign, Illinois 2017 Record: 2-10 (0-9 Big Ten) Head Coach: Lovie Smith 2018 record: 2-2 (0-1 Big Ten)All time record vs. OSU: 30-68What has happened thus far in 2018: The Fighting Illini began the season against Kent State, riding a strong second half to a 31-24 victory. In Week 2, Illinois overcame another sluggish start to gain a convincing 34-14 win against Western Illinois. After leading through the first three quarters, the Fighting Illini fell short, falling to USF 25-19 at Soldier Field in Chicago. Illinois played Penn State in the first Big Ten matchup of the season, where they held tough through three quarters, even leading 24-21 at one point in the third quarter, before Penn State scored six consecutive touchdowns to win 63-24. Impact Player:Freshman quarterback M.J. Rivers Jr. appears to be rising as an essential part of head coach Lovie Smith’s offense. After throwing two touchdowns in his debut against Western Illinois in place of injured quarterback A.J. Bush, Rivers has shown continued improvement on the field against strong opponents like Penn State. As he becomes more comfortable within the offense, he could continue to improve, having already set career highs for himself in total offense in each of the three games he has appeared, including 173 total yards against Penn State. Strengths:A balanced running attack appears to be Illinois’ biggest strength this year. With a freshman quarterback at the helm, the offense has had to remain balanced and rely on a steady running attack to aleve the quarterback of pressure. The Illini rushed for 174 yards and a touchdown against Penn State, including a 51-yard run from junior Reggie Corbin. With two running backs sharing carries in Corbin and Mike Epstein, the Illini have a strength in their consistent running attack this season. Weaknesses:The other side of the ball has not been as consistent for the Illini this season. Their defense has failed to create stops when they need them against strong opponents like USF and Penn State. Illinois gave up 591 total yards against Penn State and allowed them to convert 9-of-11 third-down attempts. It also gave up six straight touchdowns to end the game. While the Fighting Illini had two takeaways against Penn State, the Illini defense will certainly be hope for improvement as it comes off its bye week and resumes the Big Ten season.