Odd couple: Justin Bieber and Floyd Mayweather Jr.It seemed like a joke at first, like someone at the Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Miguel Cotto fight party had consumed enough libations to alter his vision and enhance his imagination. But the guy was right: That was pop sensation Justin Bieber marching just behind boxing champion Mayweather toward the ring at the MGM Grand.His wiry body wrapped in two of Mayweather’s five championship belts, Bieber made his way with Team Mayweather, which included rap mogul 50 Cents. Bieber did not flash that 18-year-old smile that makes the girls croon. He played the part, unsmiling, focused.How did this unlikely connection happen? No one is sure. There are thoughts that they connected on Twitter and Mayweather made the young music phenomenon an offer to join him, and Bieber accepted.Bieber and 50 Cents flanked Mayweather as he was announced pre-fight in the ring and Bieber was a vocal supporter from ringside throughout the fight.The real test of if Bieber is part of Mayweather’s circle? If he visits the fighter as he serves an 87-day prison stint for domestic violence and harassment starting June 1.
To put this #didojconfess scenario into context. Years ago a book publisher gave OJ simpson a book deal to create a “hypothetical murder” narrative. And part of the deal was for him to elaborate that narrative in detail. And now they are framing it as an actual “confession”. #smh— Tariq Nasheed (@tariqnasheed) March 12, 2018 This is a confession. Some writers aren’t even this detailed. OJ Simpson went into a rage, blitz killing Nicole and Ron #DidOJConfess— Stephanie. (@qsteph) March 12, 2018 Lawyer Chris Darden is not amused by the support for O.J. Simpson. The former Los Angeles prosecutor weighed in on the recently unshelved Fox special, “The Lost Confession,” and he held nothing back.“Twenty-five years of nonsense and now here he is to explain to all of the naysayers and all of the doubters,” Darden says of the special in which Simpson gives a hypothetical account of what could have happened if he did murder his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and restaurant worker Ronald Goldman.“That was my glove, I left it. Nobody planted it. Nobody planted it,” said Darden reciting O.J. Simpson’s words from “The Lost Confession?”Darden is referring to evidence of a bloody glove found at the crime scene, while the other glove was discovered behind Simpson’s home in Brentwood. Both gloves, according to investigators, contained DNA evidence from Simpson, Brown and Goldman. During the trial, Darden believed if Simpson would try on the glove, the demonstration would be a pivotal moment in the case. He told Los Angeles’ NBC 4 in 2014 that he “looked at his hands and I looked at the gloves and I thought they would fit.”The moment the glove didn’t fit spurred a well-known catchphrase from Simpson’s lawyer, Johnnie Cochran: “If it doesn’t fit, you must acquit.”When host Soledad O’Brien says he sounds “furious” about the outcome, Darden goes on to explain how he felt when he saw rapper Kanye West in a “Free O.J.” shirt a couple of years ago.“Well, you freed him and look at what you freed,” he says.And Darden wasn’t the only one sounding off on the special. Though not actually on the case, “The People vs. O.J.” actress Keesha Sharp played the wife of defense attorney Cochran on the FX series.Ahead of the program airing Sunday, March 11, Sharp told TMZ photogs she wasn’t sure she’d tune in, but feels that Simpson wasn’t innocent as it was ruled during the Trial of the Century.“I think people know point blank period that he did it,” she says. “Most Black folks today … believe he did it. I think there was a time back then that people didn’t hear all the details.”She said once the civil case came three years after Simpson walked free in 1994, “people changed their mind in terms of who did it.”“I haven’t met one person who thinks he’s [innocent],” Sharp continues. “[Not] one Black person that I know. And they used to think that. Now they’re like, ‘He did it.’”And it seems her thoughts on folks’ change of heart have been echoed on social media. And yet others had differing thoughts.Everybody who celebrated the verdict #OJConfession pic.twitter.com/BpFFBBQs8N— A. (@c3sutton) March 12, 2018 OK, I gotta ask. Who greenlit this “release” of this “lost” confession from OJ Simpson. Cause nearly 12 years ago, there was enough public outcry that the whole thing got shelved. And who benefits (besides Fox) from this even coming out?— The Kneel Down (@jmark79) March 7, 2018 And, to think that some of you were actually cheering when they freed this man. This “hypothetical” confession is despicable! 😖 #OJ #OJSimpson— acinoM anigeR (@TheMFWIC) March 12, 2018
In the course of researching an article about Albert Pujols, I looked at measuring a hitter’s “decision-making” skills at the plate. Some great work on the topic was done years ago by the great Russell “Pizza Cutter” Carleton (who now writes at Baseball Prospectus), and I’m not adding to the research except by updating it. (The Hardball Times’ Derek Carty also wrote on this topic many years ago.)Basically, Russell’s idea was to apply signal-detection theory to baseball by measuring a hitter’s ability to discern balls and strikes compared to pitch-tracking systems such as PITCHf/x. If the PITCHf/x strike zone says a pitch was a ball, but the player swung at it, that’s akin to a “false positive” — the player thought the pitch was in the strike zone when it wasn’t. If PITCHf/x says a ball was in the zone, but the batter didn’t swing, that’s a “false negative” — a hittable ball disregarded by the player. (Of course, swinging at a ball in the zone, or taking a pitch outside the zone, would be coded as correct decisions by the batter.)This is all theoretical and a gross oversimplification of baseball in general. For instance, sometimes players have a good reason to lay off a pitch in the zone, and, conversely, sometimes they have to expand their strike zone because of the situation. Even so, it’s a fun application of the “Plate Discipline” section of stats at FanGraphs, which lists the percentages of pitches that were in the strike zone for each player, as well as the proportion of pitches swung at inside and outside the strike zone (as determined by Baseball Info Solutions‘ pitch-charting data, which goes back to 2002).The best decision-making season in the data set belongs to Moises Alou in 2002. Alou faced 1,785 pitches, 54.5 percent of which were in the strike zone. Of those pitches in the zone, he swung at 80.1 percent, while he let all but 14.8 percent of balls outside the zone go by without a swing. As a percentage of his total pitches faced, then, Alou made the “correct” decision 82.4 percent of the time — the tops of any season in the FanGraphs data.(I, too, was surprised that Vladimir Guerrero would should up as a positive example of plate discipline.)Meanwhile, the worst decision-making season happened last year; A.J. Pierzynski spent the season swinging. Pierzynski correctly swung at 76.7 percent of pitches inside the zone (the Major League Baseball average was 65.5 percent), but he was undone by his hacking of 49.6 percent of balls outside the strike zone — about 1.6 times the rate of the average hitter. That gave him a “good decision” rate of just 61.1 percent. (For what it’s worth, no qualified season in the FanGraphs data saw a hitter swing more at pitches outside the zone than inside.)Among active players, the best decision-maker by this metric (since 2012) is Dexter Fowler of the Houston Astros. Over the past three seasons, Fowler has made the correct decision 74.2 percent of the time, swinging at 71.9 percent of balls in the strike zone and laying off 75.9 percent of pitches outside the zone.And the worst? Martin Prado of the Arizona Diamondbacks made the correct call on only 62 percent of the pitches he faced. But unlike Pierzynski, who had the worst decision-making season of anyone since 2002 because he hacked too much at pitches outside the zone, Prado comes in last among active players because he wasn’t aggressive enough on pitches inside the zone. The average MLB player offers at about 66 percent of pitches inside the strike zone, but Prado has only swung at 50.8 percent of balls in the zone over the past three seasons. Prado does a good job at avoiding swings on balls outside the zone, but he can’t seem to tell when a hittable ball is coming in over the plate, often committing what statisticians would call false negatives, or Type II errors.Again, this metric is by no means a perfect gauge of plate discipline. There are many situations in which it would be a suboptimal strategy to strictly follow the “good” or “bad” decision algorithm measured by the charts above. But it’s illuminating to begin to measure which players appear to have the best and worst conceptions of the strike zone as determined by an objective standard.
Powered by Genius By Jody Avirgan Adam Silver Responds To FiveThirtyEight’s Letter About The NBA Lottery Adam Silver NATIONAL BASKETBALL ASSOCIATIONAdam SilverCommissionerMay 28, 2015Dear Jody, Chadwick, Neil and Kate:Thanks for your letter and for devoting FiveThirtyEight’s considerable resources (and those of your readers/listeners) to addressing the NBA Draft Lottery.I was impressed with the detail and sophistication on display in many of the proposals — though I can’t say I’ll be riding a bear into the Lottery room any time soon. From the Tombstone Date to the Tweaked Wheel, I am grateful for the hard work of all 7,000 passionate basketball fans who took the time to examine our Draft Lottery from every conceivable angle.Of course, there can only be one winning proposal, and the work of the Futures Draft Planning Committee is a worthy champion. It is thorough, well researched and addresses many of the questions we are currently facing with the Draft Lottery; in fact, our internal Draft Lottery working team looked at models very similar to the one proposed by Samuel and Cody. While we continue to study this concept, we believe that “NBA Futures” runs into some of the same problems as other proposals we have considered — namely, by solving one potential problem, it creates a host of new ones.To elaborate, we believe the proposed system would represent a change in two major areas:First, it creates more variability; it is difficult to predict exactly where a team will finish in a particular year, so there is not a guaranteed reward for getting the first selection of a surrogate” team. However, we believe there would be a strong correlation between the selection order of surrogate teams and their actual performance (based on the high correlation of teams’ year-over-year performance). This suggests that there would indeed still be an incentive to be among the worst-performing teams in any given year.Second, “NBA Futures” delays the allocation of high draft picks to poor performing teams; for example, Team X finishes with the worst record in year 1 and gets the right to select its surrogate team first – Team . As described above, we would expect Team Y to perform poorly in year 2 more often than not, thus resulting in a high draft pick for Team X after year 2. Under our current system, Team X would get a high draft pick after year 1.It is debatable whether the goals of increased variability and delayed allocation of high draft picks to poor-performing teams are the right ones. If we were in fact seeking to accomplish these two goals, there are several approaches that might be more straightforward. For example:– To add variability, level out the odds for the worst performing teams– To delay pick allocation, tie lottery odds to performance from one year priorThe proposed system could also create strange incentives around surrogate team selection: Will teams be inclined to select a surrogate in their division or conference for competitive purposes? Will teams try to sign their surrogates top free agent simply to make them worse? There could also be situations in which a team would have incentive to contribute to its non-surrogates improvement.And even though it sounds like Samuel and Cody have thought of contingencies like no trade clauses between surrogate teams, the proposal would likely add a significant layer of complexity to the trading of draft picks.Finally, its worth noting that the timing of surrogate selection would be very important. Wherever set, it could become subject to gamesmanship by teams sequencing transactions or disclosing (or not disclosing) information, like injuries, on either side of the deadline.As you can see, while there appears to be a growing consensus that we need to reform the Draft Lottery, finding the right balance of competing interests, especially one that will gain the support of three-quarters of NBA teams (the vote required to make the change), is a work in-progress. Regardless of the outcome, all of us at the NBA thank you for your contributions to a lively debate. Please keep the ideas coming!Sincerely,(Adam Signature) Over the last month, our sports podcast “Hot Takedown” asked listeners to submit their ideas for how to fix the NBA Lottery and end tanking. We got almost 7,000 responses, some silly, most very thoughtful. We picked one — a proposal in which teams would place bets on how other teams will perform, divorcing one’s own record from one’s own lottery pick (read about it here) — and sent it off to NBA Commissioner Adam Silver’s office.And then we waited. Most of us (all of us) figured that was it. Usually letters to powerful sports bureaucrats go into the ether.Well, on Friday an envelope arrived in the mail from Commissioner Silver’s office. Someone had clearly read our letter and taken the time to draft a three-page response. (But, for what it’s worth, that someone had not listened to the podcast, or seen my bio page — it was addressed to “Ms.” Jody Avirgan.)The letter lauded our project, offered a detailed response to our plan, and acknowledged a “growing consensus” that the lottery needs fixing. Ultimately, though, it said the equivalent of “thanks, but no thanks.” But over three pages!Watch the video above for instant reaction from “Hot Takedown” host Chadwick Matlin and me. We’ve also posted the full text of the letter at the bottom of this post, and invite you to annotate it on Genius.We’ll dig into the details of Silver’s response soon, but here are a few quick notes.“I can’t say I’ll be riding a bear into the Lottery room any time soon,” Silver writes. Bummer. But the vision lives on.The word “tanking” does not appear in this letter.Nevertheless, in responding to the “futures” plan, Silver does say he thinks “there would still be an incentive to be among the worst-performing teams.” Not to get too Talmudic, but is his use of “still” a tacit acknowledgment that there is currently an incentive to perform poorly?It’s signed only “Adam.” Neat.It’s tough to say whether this letter, along with the other statements Silver has made about lottery reform, indicates that the NBA is truly considering or merely entertaining more creative ideas. And Silver points out that three-quarters of owners will have to approve any changes. Is mentioning that the lottery’s fate is in owners’ hands an excuse not to take bold action, or just realism?Toward the end of the letter, Silver writes that “there appears to be a growing consensus that we need to reform the Draft Lottery.” In the past, Silver has flat-out denied that players are trying to lose, but he’s also acknowledged that the Competition Committee is looking at lottery reform. Part of me appreciates his candor, and part of me is surprised that Silver is still using cautious language like “appears to be … growing.”We’ve already re-extended our invitation for Commissioner Silver to come on “Hot Takedown” to further discuss the proposals and NBA tanking. Again, you can annotate his response for yourself and listen to our original podcast discussing all the proposals below (tanking conversation starts at 17:30): Silver’s full letter, plus your annotations: Embed Code More: Apple Podcasts | ESPN App | RSS | Embed
Villanova UniversityPenn.77– Xavier UniversityOhio64– Vanderbilt UniversityTenn.89– College of the Holy CrossMass.60– St. Joseph’s UniversityPenn.47– Butler UniversityInd.78– Austin Peay State UniversityTenn.36– Gonzaga UniversityWash.80– Iona CollegeN.Y.66– Temple UniversityPenn.85– Stony Brook UniversityN.Y.78– Purdue UniversityInd.89%– Southern UniversityLa.44– Survey of 3,749 respondents from March 15 to 17 There are nine schools with less than 90 percent but more than 75 percent recognition. With these, a lot of the fun lies in seeing people’s wrong answers. Did you know 10 percent of the people surveyed think Yale is in Massachusetts and 7.5 percent think Purdue is in Illinois? You do now, and please do what you can to alert people from those schools of this fact as often as possible. Also, dang, people do not know where Yale is: More people in this sample knew where Temple and Baylor were than that Yale is in Connecticut.There’s a big drop to the next batch, which is the schools where people answered correctly two-thirds to just more than half of the time. Iona, Xavier, College of the Holy Cross and Fairleigh Dickinson threw people for a loop, but all managed to obtain majorities. It’s these enigmatic Jesuits, I’m telling you.But without further ado, let’s break down the Final Five. A majority of respondents couldn’t place Hampton, St. Joseph’s, Southern and Weber State universities. Philly-based St. Joe’s was matched up with three other heavily Catholic Northeastern states; Southern, in Louisiana, was matched up with other states in the Deep South; and Utah’s Weber State — already a hell of a deep cut when it comes to nomenclature — was, according to 29 percent of respondents, in Montana.The last of this group is Austin Peay State University, a 16-seed doomed to fall to Kansas in the first round. Austin, while it is indeed a city in Texas, is also a first name on occasion, which is how the Tennessee institution obtained its name. Not only did a majority of respondents not know that Austin Peay is in Tennessee, but also a plurality of them thought it was in Texas. It was the only time in the set that more people picked one incorrect state over the school’s home state.But seriously, call a Yalie and tell them that one in 10 people think they’re in Massachusetts. They’ll flip. University of MiamiFla.89– Weber State UniversityUtah39– Hampton UniversityVa.50– Fairleigh Dickinson UniversityN.J.50– Where is that school, anyway? Many schools obtained a bid to the NCAA Division I men’s basketball tournament, but the vast majority of schools did not. I went to one of the latter. In keeping with the tradition of trolling the small schools that did in fact make it in, it’s time to play the game of Where The Hell Is [Obscure College]? — but with a FiveThirtyEight twist: data on precisely how obscure each school is.On Tuesday, I set up a Google Form that we pushed out on our social channels asking people which of four states they thought each college was in.1The states were always the same, but the order was randomized for both questions and answers. (As a result, this isn’t a scientific sample.) For many schools, such as the University of Kentucky, this didn’t prove very difficult. For others, including a few that are named after their location, it was substantially harder. And for three schools — Florida Gulf Coast University, Stephen F. Austin and Seton Hall — not even our Google Form could locate them. (A bug discovered in editing prevented the questions for those schools from displaying. Sorry, Lumberjacks.)Broadly, the results broke down into five categories. In the first group, 38 of the 65 schools, more than 99 percent of people got it right. Given that when I pulled the data we had 3,749 respondents, this allows for at most 37 trolls from Ohio who pretend that they do not in fact know where the University of Michigan is.The next group comprises the nine schools for which 90 percent to 99 percent of people knew the location. This is essentially two situations: schools named after cities, such as the universities of Tulsa, Dayton and Cincinnati (most but not all people know where Tulsa, Dayton and Cincinnati are) and schools with unusual names that have crazy high familiarity, such as Baylor and Notre Dame.This brings us to the next three groups, the ones worth talking about. COLLEGESTATEPERCENT WHO LOCATED SCHOOL IN THE CORRECT STATE Yale UniversityConn.84–
Could the NBA’s age limit be on its way out? In October, during an appearance on ESPN’s Mike & Mike, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said that “it’s clear a change will come.” Silver indicated that he was open to working with the players’ union to potentially eliminate or at the least revise the age restriction. It was a reversal for Silver, who, as recently as 2014, made raising the league’s age minimum from 19 to 20 years old his top priority.The commissioner cited three reasons for his change of tune: recent NCAA scandals; that the two most recent No. 1 overall picks came from programs that didn’t make the the NCAA tournament;1Markelle Fultz at the University of Washington and Ben Simmons at Louisiana State University. and an increase in one-and-done college players declaring for the draft.Silver’s comments suggest that the league is ready to acknowledge that the age restriction is broken. In fact, the recent draft cycles indicate the draft is trending in the opposite direction of the age policy’s intended effect: Prospects are getting younger, not older.In 1995, Kevin Garnett was the fourth player ever drafted straight out of high school. His selection that year led the way for the likes of Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Dwight Howard and other high school phenoms to make the leap. But since 2006, players have had to be at least 19 years old, or one year removed from high school for international players, in order to be eligible for the draft.Initially, the age limit worked like anyone would have expected. The players who were taken in the 2006 draft were, on average, older and more experienced than the year before. In the first year under the age restriction, only two one-and-done players were drafted.Fast forward to 2015, when a record-breaking 13 freshmen were taken in the draft. The next year, that number increased to 14, and in the most recent draft, 18 one-and-done players were selected. That upswing in the number of freshmen in the draft has led to an overall decrease in the average age of draftees.Twenty players under the age of 20 were drafted this summer. In fact, more teenagers were drafted this year than in 2005, when 17- and 18-year-olds were eligible. Not many could have predicted that when the age limit was introduced.Below is a distribution of the ages of each player drafted each year since 1995. The past two draft classes were among the three youngest on average since the prep-to-pro era. In 2017, the youngest players were selected early and often. Nine of the top 10 picks were one-and-done players,2Frank Ntilikina, a 19-year-old international player, was the lone exception. and eight of the top 10 were under 20 years old. Meanwhile, the last picks of the draft were used on some of the oldest, most experienced college players. The only seniors drafted in the first round this year, Derrick White and Josh Hart, were taken with the last two picks by the San Antonio Spurs and the Utah Jazz.This makes sense from a talent development perspective. Why draft a 22-year-old prospect when you can take a 19-year-old and spend those three additional years on developing him? The counterargument is that upperclassmen may be more NBA-ready their first year in the league. Malcolm Brogdon, last year’s 36th overall pick at 23 years old, was a fifth-year senior at the University of Virginia and later became the 2016-17 Rookie of the Year for the Milwaukee Bucks.With so much demand for the youngest players in the draft, you’d think organizations would be the most vocal supporter of eliminating the age restriction. But when GMs were polled this month about which NBA rule they believed needed to be changed the most, the age minimum received fewer votes than revisions to playoff seeding, the draft lottery/odds system, the timing of the draft combine and the advance-the-ball rule.The NBA itself is also partially to blame for the increase in one-and-done players. That’s because the incentives to leave school early are becoming harder to resist.Under the NBA’s collective bargaining agreement, rookies are offered a base salary that’s scaled according to when they’re taken in the draft3Rookies can sign to a team for as little as 80 percent and as much as 120 percent of that base salary. and is far below their true market value. That base that has increased sharply in recent years, with this year’s No. 1 overall pick Markelle Fultz at a base of $5,855,200, 36.6 percent more than the base salary five years ago for Anthony Davis, the No. 1 overall pick from 2012, and 56.1 percent more than the base 10 years ago for Andrea Bargnani, the No. 1 overall pick from 2006.But higher base salaries aren’t the only motivation for young players to enter the draft as early as possible: It also starts the clock on the rookie scale. Talented young players on a rookie contract are the most underpaid group in the league, and they remain that way for the duration of their deal. For a first-round pick, that means four seasons, with a massive bump in pay in their fifth season. Giannis Antetokounmpo’s salary leaped from a little under $3 million in 2016-17 to more than $22 million this season. The sooner a player enters the league, the sooner he has access to that second contract.In the end, it’s difficult to say what brought the influx of one-and-done players because of the inherent chicken-and-egg nature of the question. Did the demand for young talent drive up the supply? Or did the supply of young players increase because the incentive to leave college early became irresistible?Regardless, barring opposition from the players’ union, which has supported dropping the age minimum to 18, we’re likely to see a change that will send shockwaves through the NCAA, future drafts and the league as whole. Who or what is responsible for the sudden change?For starters, we can look at NBA organizations, which are increasingly valuing youth. In recent years, the difference in the age between the earliest and the last draft picks has increased.
On the shoulders of fifth-year senior forward David Lighty’s 17 second-half points, No. 2 Ohio State (26-2, 13-2 Big Ten) beat Illinois (17-11, 7-8 Big Ten), 89-70, Tuesday night at the Schottenstein Center. The Illini hung with the Buckeyes early on and cut the OSU lead to 33-30 after a 3-pointer from senior point guard Demetri McCamey with six minutes to go in the first half. But the Illini scored just two points in the final six minutes as the Buckeyes closed the first 20 minutes on a 14-2 run. The run was capped by a 3-pointer from senior guard Jon Diebler as the half expired and, despite Illinois shooting a blistering 8 of 9 from beyond the 3-point line in the first half, the Buckeyes went to the break with a 47-32 lead. But Illinois, in desperate need of a resume-building win, wasn’t going to go away easy. The Illini started the second half on an 11-2 run and quickly cut the Buckeye lead to 49-43. Then Lighty took over. Although he had struggled in OSU’s last three games, Lighty scored the next 13 OSU points, culminating in a 3-pointer that put the Buckeyes up, 62-45, with less than 12 minutes remaining. Illinois wouldn’t get any closer than nine the rest of the way as OSU pulled away for a 19-point win. Lighty finished with 21 points, four rebounds and six steals. Junior guard William Buford added 17 points and freshman forward Jared Sullinger scored 12 points and grabbed 11 rebounds for his 13th double-double of the season. Senior forward Mike Davis led Illinois with 18 points on 8 of 14 shooting.
LAWRENCE, Kan. — On an otherwise glum day for the No. 2-ranked Ohio State men’s basketball team Saturday, sophomore forward Deshaun Thomas was one of the few bright spots for the Buckeyes. Thomas helped keep the Buckeyes competitive as they suffered their first loss of the year in a 78-67 defeat against Kansas at Allen Fieldhouse. Thomas shot 50 percent from the field, and finished the game with 19 points. Sophomore forward Jared Sullinger was absent from the OSU lineup due to back spasms he suffered during the Buckeyes’ Nov. 29 win against Duke. As a result, Thomas was forced to split time defending Kansas’ 6-foot-10 forward Thomas Robinson with Buckeyes’ freshman center Amir Williams. Robinson ended the game with 21 points, but Thomas said OSU coach Thad Matta was complimentary of Thomas’ defensive effort against Robinson after the game. “Coach just said I did pretty well with (Robinson),” Thomas said. “We tried to switch it up and confuse him.” Matta said the additional work was taxing for Thomas. “(Thomas) went 40 (minutes) tonight,” Matta said. “He wouldn’t have had to. He could have been a little bit fresher down the stretch.” Thomas still had enough left in his tank to contribute on the offensive end. Down the stretch, Thomas said his teammates wanted the ball in his hands and that Matta told him to be ready. “I came into the game hitting shots,” Thomas said. “I figured since (Sullinger) wasn’t playing, somebody has to make up for those points. So, I just kept my head in and knocked down some big (3-pointers) in the first half.” Thomas was 7-of-14 from the field and 3-of-7 shooting from 3-point territory in his 40 minutes of work. Two of his three made 3-pointers came on back-to-back possessions with just under eight minutes to play in the first half as OSU trailed, 23-16. Kansas coach Bill Self said that Thomas was a challenge for his team to guard. “In the first half… we were going to make Thomas make shots and keep Craft out of the (lane), and he made us pay,” Self said. Thomas said his shooting success was the product of working on each facet of his game during practice leading up to the Kansas game. “I mix it up in practice,” he said. “I play with the bigs and the shooters in practice. I’m versatile.” The Buckeyes wouldn’t go quietly Saturday, despite the eventual loss. OSU cut the margin to four at 62-58 with 5:39 to play. When Kansas’ lead grew to 10 points with fewer than three minutes to play, the Buckeyes cut that lead as well, coming to within six points with 1:56 to play. Comeback attempt after comeback attempt fell short in the end, but Thomas said the entire team was encouraged by how it competed. “We’re a competitive team and that’s a positive,” he said. “Without (Sullinger), we came out and competed without him. We’re a great team with him — don’t get me wrong — but we came out and competed.” OSU returns to action Wednesday against South Carolina-Upstate at the Schottenstein Center. Opening tip is set for 7:30 p.m.
Jason Kulp, an officer for Columbus Division of Police, has added a new uniform to his wardrobe for the summer. Kulp has been named the Columbus Clippers’ bullpen catcher and will be in right field this season. With the position comes the opportunity to catch for the pitchers of the Cleveland Indians’ minor league affiliate and have one of the best seats in the house for all of the home games. His main responsibilities include warming pitchers up in the bullpen and catching for pitchers on their off days. Kulp, who grew up in Columbus, played baseball for four years and majored in criminal justice at Tiffin University before graduating in 2010. He then chose to return to Columbus to join the police department. Kulp’s favorite part of his new job for the Clippers is being able to call himself part of the team. “Just being out here and seeing these guys play. I mean, I’ve been playing for so long … it’s just good to be back out on the dirt,” he said. But Kulp is no stranger to the Columbus Clippers. He can remember going to Clippers games when the team played at Cooper Stadium before switching to the Huntington Park in 2009. The opportunity to become the bullpen catcher was presented by fellow officer and teammate on the Columbus Police Department’s baseball team, Scott Polgar. Kulp jumped at the opportunity and within a day had tried out and gotten the job. Having two jobs could be overwhelming, but Kulp seems unfazed by the busy summer ahead of him. He described it as a “pre-work activity” and admitted it will time-consuming, but was sure it would be well worth it. George Robinson, director of clubhouse operations for the Clippers, said Kulp is adjusting well to the new job. “He’s fitting in very well. He’s a very polite young man, pretty cordial and that’s the kind of people we need. And he wants to be here,” Robinson said. Columbus Clippers pitcher Scott Barnes threw to Kulp and was happy with what he saw. “Sometimes you can tell (from) throwing a few pitches to them whether or not they’ve had some experience,” Barnes said. “He seemed like he handled himself well and I look forward to throwing to him this year.”
OSU junior middle blocker Tyler Richardson (23) leaps to spike a set by OSU senior setter Taylor Sherwin (8) during a match against Maryland on Nov. 7 at St. John Arena.Credit: Madelyn Grant / Lantern photographerThe No. 17 Ohio State women’s volleyball team is set for a chance at a season sweep against No. 12 Illinois when the two teams go head-to-head Wednesday night.The Fighting Illini (19-6, 11-3) and Buckeyes (18-8, 9-5) played earlier this season in Columbus in a closely contested battle. Ending in five sets, the Buckeyes prevailed, 16-14, in the final frame.Three days later, the Fighting Illini traveled to then-No. 5 Penn State and defeated the defending national champions in four sets.Coach Geoff Carlston said he expects the Fighting Illini coaching staff to motivate the team because the previous matchup was so close and either team could’ve won.“Obviously there’s going to be a little bit of a payback,” Carlston said. “I’m sure their coaching staff is going to use that, say, ‘Hey remember what happened last time?’ Whenever you play a team twice, and you win the first one, there’s some motivation there certainly, and playing at their court, they have a good crowd, and it’s a lot tougher to play on the road than it is at home.”Since playing in Columbus on Oct. 8, the Fighting Illini have won eight of nine conference matches, with the lone loss coming at Northwestern on Nov. 5. The Buckeyes have won six of nine conference matchups in that stretch.Freshman outside hitter Luisa Schirmer said she’s seen a lot of improvement in the team since playing the Fighting Illini earlier this season.“We’ve been getting better, we’ve been working hard to fix a few things that we know we wanted to make some improvements on,” Schirmer said.She added that the Buckeyes need to work on “staying steady and consistent” if they want to come out of Huff Hall with a win.Freshman defensive specialist Kalisha Goree has seen improvements in the gym, too, she said.“Every day we’re just coming here trying to get better,” Goree said. “And I can see an improvement in all the girls.”The Fighting Illini will be led by sophomore middle blocker Katie Stadick, who ranks first in the Big Ten in blocks per set with an average of 1.46. Redshirt-junior outside hitter Jocelynn Birks is also top in the conference in points per set with an average of 4.54.The team as a whole is first in the conference in blocks, averaging 2.88 per set, and second in digs with 15.01 per set.Senior outside hitter Erin Sekinger said the team will treat Wednesday’s contest like any other match, even though the Fighting Illini might be fighting for revenge.“We just have to take every road trip like it is,” Sekinger said. “We just have to really focus and do what we did against them when they came to our house.”Wednesday’s match is scheduled to start at 8 p.m. in Champaign, Ill.