Florida coach Billy Donovan declined to divulge why he suspended junior starting point guard Scott Wilbekin indefinitely.The 6-foot-2 playmaker did not do anything criminal or anything that would be considered an NCAA violation, Donovan said. Donovan said “information was brought to me” early Thursday that led to the suspension.“Scottie is a good kid who made some choices and did some things that I’m not going to have him a part of,” Donovan said.Donovan was unsure when Wilbekin would return.“How long it lasts, I don’t know,” he said. “But right now, I felt like he didn’t need to be here or playing in this game.”The Gators also will be without swingman Casey Prather, who sustained his second concussion in nine days earlier in the week. Throw in the unexpected departure of forward Cody Larson last month and Florida will have just five returning players and four freshmen for the opener.“This throws a wrench,” Donovan said. “We’ve got to do some things in practice to make some adjustments going into this game. You’ve taken three veterans players off of our team. Instead of having eight guys, you’re really down to five. Our freshmen are going to get a chance to play.”Kenny Boynton will move to point guard, and Donovan said either freshman Michael Frazier or senior Mike Rosario will start at shooting guard.Wilbekin averaged 2.3 points last season playing behind Erving Walker. With Walker gone, the Gators expected much more from Wilbekin this season. He is the son of a minister and hasn’t been known to get into trouble.“I think Scottie will learn from this, grow from this and I think he’ll be better from it,” Donovan said. “Like anything else, when you’re dealing with anybody, none of are immune from making mistakes or making poor choices and doing things.”Donovan said Wilbekin regretted his mistake.“He’s very, very remorseful,” Donovan said. “He feels very, very bad. Internally, really, really hurt by it. Took responsibility, accepted being accountable. I think he understands. For me as a coach, I think a lot of times it’s a lot bigger than the outcome.”
Stephen A. Smith and Skip Bayless discuss Dwyane Wade’s Game 4 performance against the Spurs.
Jim Kelly1995BUF85.87.567.86.387.07.1 Struggling 35-year-olds mostly rebounded nicelyQuarterbacks who posted subpar numbers in their first five games during their age-35 season and how they fared in rest of that year, 1978-2017 Jim Hart1979STL70.66.949.05.759.06.0 The Steelers may be 3-2, but the mood in Pittsburgh is dour. Ben Roethlisberger is coming off a five-interception fiasco against the Jacksonville Jaguars, the latest and worst in a run of lukewarm performances this season. Plenty in Steeler nation are beginning to question whether the 35-year-old Roethlisberger has hit the wall. One of those people is the actual Ben Roethlisberger.The numbers are definitely not pretty, especially when compared to his career averages. That interception festival he hosted in Week 5 torched his passer rating, which has sunk to 75.8 and is way below his 94.1 career rating entering the season. More alarming than the spate of picks is that Roethlisberger’s yards per attempt, which for his career prior to this year stood at a near all-time-best 7.9, is a career-low 6.5 so far this season.But a closer look at the numbers shows there’s good reason to believe that this bad stretch is just that: a bad stretch. Here are the key reasons Steelers fans should still have hope — regardless of what Roethlisberger himself is saying or thinking.History is on his sideWe identified several quarterbacks who struggled in the first five games of their age-35 seasons when compared to what they did through age 34.1We looked at quarterbacks going back to 1978 to make sure all of them had played in the merged NFL for a decent amount of time. To qualify for the list, each quarterback needed to have a minimum of 125 pass attempts through five games. In almost every case, these QBs bounced back to something much closer to their established levels. To be sure, there’s some selection bias at play here — most of these quarterbacks are generally excellent, because erratic and unreliable passers do not usually last in the NFL until they are 35. Ben Roethlisberger2017PIT94.17.975.86.5 Drew Brees2014NOR95.37.591.87.299.67.7 CAREERGAMES 1-5GAMES 6-16 *Through age-34 season.Minimum 125 passes in first five games, with a QB rating worse than career numbers prior to that season.Source: Pro-Football-Reference.com Trent Green2005KAN87.97.780.56.994.38.3 PLAYERYEARTMRATING*YPA*RATINGYPARATINGYPA Dan Fouts1986SD81.87.855.46.384.07.7 Matt Hasselbeck2010SEA83.36.974.86.472.37.0 Brett Favre2004GNB86.97.186.07.195.47.8 Ken Anderson1984CIN82.07.368.07.796.17.6 Among the passers on this list, the average QB rating improved from 71.2 in the first five games to 86.0 for the remainder of the season. Their yards per attempt also rebounded, from a pedestrian 6.7 to a solid 7.4, on average. If Roethlisberger improves at the same rate, his passer rating for the rest of the year would be 88.4 and his yards per attempt would bounce up to 7.2. But Hall of Famers Dan Fouts and Jim Kelly beat those averages, so it’s certainly possible that Roethlisberger could outperform them as well.Roethlisberger is still doing Roethlisberger thingsWhile the box scores have been ugly, many of Roethlisberger’s underlying numbers have been typical for his career. His accuracy hasn’t declined significantly: Only 17.5 percent of his throws have been off target, which is only a shade worse than the 16.9 percent rate he posted in the regular season from 2014 to 2016. And on deep passes,2More than 10 yards. Roethlisberger has actually been a hair more accurate, 28.2 percent of his throws have been off target this year compared to 28.3 percent in the past three years.You would think that as Roethlisberger ages, he would start to lose his trademark ability to move outside the pocket on broken plays and find something down the field. But in a limited sample so far this year, he has still been effective when chased from the pocket — he has posted a 101.2 passer rating on just nine dropbacks in these situations this year compared with 124.2 on 93 dropbacks in the prior three seasons.One logical explanation for Roethlisberger’s poor start would be that something was amiss with his offensive line. Perhaps he’s under more pressure than usual? But in fact, the Steelers QB is tied with Oakland’s Derek Carr for the least pressured quarterback in the league this year — both have been under threat on just 15.1 percent of dropbacks. And that’s the way it has been for a while in Pittsburgh; Roethlisberger had the second-lowest pressure rate in the league (behind Peyton Manning) from 2014-16.So if Roethlisberger hasn’t suddenly become inaccurate and he’s not suddenly facing more pressure, the Steelers’ offensive problems may extend beyond the QB and O-line.Bell and Brown are not helping mattersThe real explanation for Roethlisberger’s poor start may be the decline in efficiency of his two top targets, wideout Antonio Brown and running back Le’Veon Bell.On Roethlisberger’s 62 targets to Brown this year, his passer rating has dropped to just 71, down from 112.2 on 480 targets in the past three years. And while it’s hard to tell from a passer rating whether the quarterback or receiver is more to blame, other stats provide some evidence that the 29-year-old Brown is not quite himself this year. According to the NFL, defenses are playing Brown much more tightly at the snap — his average cushion has declined from 5.2 to 4.5 yards, one of the lowest among all receivers. But he’s not making defensive backs pay by running by them, as his average separation is unchanged (2.9 yards).Bell’s receiving ability, meanwhile, is downright ordinary this year. The prior three years, Roethlisberger had 105 passer rating when throwing to Bell. This year, it’s 85.4. Bell is averaging 3.85 yards before contact and just 1.48 after. The prior three years, those figures were 6.64 and 2.20. It’s hard to blame Roethlisberger for Bell being unable to get open and make defenders miss.Bell’s ineffective performance so far has also meant that Roethlisberger can’t use him as a safety valve, which has crushed the QB’s stats against the blitz. In the past three seasons, Roethlisberger had a 96 rating on 381 dropbacks against blitzing defenses — mostly because the underneath pass to Bell was so effective. This year, his rating on those plays is down to 54.6, the lowest in the league.Sunday, Roethlisberger travels to Kansas City to face the unbeaten Chiefs, who have been winning more with offense than defense, which may mean his receivers will be able to find a little more space. And Roethlisberger’s attitude about his ability to perform has undergone a 180-degree turn. “They can question me. I don’t question myself,” he said, three days after his “Maybe I don’t have it anymore” interview. “I think you guys are much more panicked than we are.”And unless Roethlisberger is a huge outlier and suddenly craters at age 35, or Bell and Brown have completely lost their ability to be dominant receiving threats, it seems there actually is little reason for Steelers fans to panic.
On opening day, every team has playoff dreams. Early on, the potential of the season outweighs our knowledge of each team’s quality. While our best predictions are modestly useful, they can’t tell us which team is destined for greatness with much certainty or which early-season trends to trust or disregard. That makes it tough for a baseball columnist — a pitiable lot, us — to write about anything with any certainty.But we do have spring training. Conventional wisdom holds that what happens in March is meaningless. But conventional wisdom can’t use R. Spring training results aren’t entirely worthless — either for players, as FiveThirtyEight’s own Neil Paine showed last year, or for teams. And I’m particularly interested in this idea that a team’s spring training may offer some indicators of how its season will go. What are the limits of its powers? And what is its potential?We know that spring training isn’t incredibly predictive. I gathered data on each team’s spring-training and regular-season performances in the last five years (2010-2014), checking to see whether there was any correlation between a team’s offensive performance in spring1I used on-base plus slugging percentage. and its average regular-season on-base plus slugging percentage (OPS). Just as with other spring statistics, there was a weak but consistent2The correlation is a statistically significant r=.2. relationship between the two. The teams that bash in spring tend to continue doing so through the summer.Even so, spring training results were somewhat faintly reflected in the regular season — teams have to bash a lot before the trend is noticeably continued once the season starts. But we’re not just interested in how spring training correlates to the regular season; we’re interested in whether spring training should make us adjust our expectations of what’s to come.If we look at spring training performances and then compare them against what sabermetric projections3By projections I mean estimates of players’ future production based on their past history and the history of players similar to them. For example, based on the three years of MVP-caliber performance that began his career — and the rarefied historical company that performance puts him in — Mike Trout is likely to be excellent again this year, to the tune of a .297/.382/.519 triple-slash line (his spring training performance of .441/.514/.847 only reinforces that belief). have to tell us, these preseason games become a lot more telling. So rather than just see whether offensive stats from spring training correlate to regular-season stats, let’s tally up all of a team’s player projections (I used PECOTA projections from Baseball Prospectus), average them, and combine that with spring training stats.Once I added in the projections, I had a workable system for estimating a team’s regular-season OPS — much better than the one based solely on spring training data.4A simple linear model, incorporating spring statistics and regular-season projections is able to predict team OPS with r=.35. This isn’t so far-fetched — we make these kind of calculations in our heads all the time. If a team is terrible on paper but slugs like the pre-humidor Colorado Rockies in spring training, we assume it’s likely to end up somewhere between those extremes in the regular season.After factoring in the projected performance, a 100-point increase in spring training OPS raises a team’s expected regular-season OPS by 15 points. While that’s not a huge increase, it’s also a much stronger relationship than what we find for individual players, where a hitter whose OPS is 100 points better than expected in the spring improves their expected regular-season OPS by only six points.5These are not perfectly comparable because Neil Paine used weighted on-base percentage in his analysis and I’m using OPS. However, if you scale each coefficient in terms of the standard deviation, player projections remain less responsive to spring-training performance.There’s a reason spring training has more to tell us about teams than individual players. It’s about signal versus noise. For an individual player, any set of 50 plate appearances (in spring training or otherwise) is extremely volatile and doesn’t say much about them individually. But bring together all the plate appearances of the nine players who make up a batting order and the volatility begins to cancel itself out. All of a sudden we have some sense of how good the nine are in aggregate.For example, New York Mets center fielder Juan Lagares hit much better than expected for the past month, and there was probably some luck involved in his .359 spring training batting average. But Mets catcher Travis d’Arnaud hit much worse (.212/.226/.288) than PECOTA would have predicted. If we gather together Lagares’s lucky singles and d’Arnaud’s unfortunate strikeouts, we get a decent measure of the average ability of Lagares and d’Arnaud together — even if we aren’t sure how much of the difference between the average and their individual numbers will come from d’Arnaud improving or Lagares regressing.Speaking of the Mets, they led all of baseball with an .817 average spring training OPS despite mediocre projections. Such a performance is good enough to raise their expected regular season OPS by 11 points, which ought to be worth something like two wins over the course of the season.6This estimate was obtained by regressing team runs against team OPS. That should bolster the fans’ dark-horse World Series hopes (or at least their hopes of making the playoffs for the first time in nine years).The success of other top spring performers had little effect on their OPS projections because they were already so high. The Los Angeles Dodgers, Los Angeles Angels and Oakland Athletics were already expected to field excellent offenses, and so their spring performances only confirm what we already believed.7For the following predictions, I am using a different, more accurate model (r=.5) than the linear regression I mentioned above. On the other side, teams like the Rockies,8Because of the Rockies’ extreme park effect, which wouldn’t manifest in the spring, it’s possible that the model is being too pessimistic here. Minnesota Twins and Texas Rangers showed unexpectedly anemic offenses in spring training, which drags down their regular-season projections. None of these teams had more than a faint hope at the playoffs anyway, but the third- and fourth-biggest decreases in expected offense belong to two potential playoff contenders — the St. Louis Cardinals and the Chicago White Sox — which may now find their paths more difficult.So you don’t have to wait months to begin worrying (or in the case of Mets fans, hoping) about the fate of your team. Once combined with a dose of projections, spring training results go a long way toward predicting how well a team will hit.CORRECTION (April 10, 2:56 p.m.): An earlier version of this article included a table with incorrect information on teams’ spring training OPS averages. It has since been updated.
With a halftime score of 61-13, this box score looked like a rendering error. Texas Southern isn’t top competition, but performances that dominating are rare against anyone. The 89-point margin was the largest in NCAA history.Moreover, though it was an extreme outcome, the game reflected Baylor’s strengths perfectly. The Lady Bears had the best per-possession defense in the NCAA this year. The Lady Tigers shot 13.8 percent from the field, including 4 of 38 (10.5 percent) from 2-point range. Baylor had the highest offensive and defensive rebounding percentages in the NCAA this season and out-rebounded Texas Southern 60-19 (gathering 18 of 29 possible rebounds on offense and 42 of 50 on defense). Finally, in addition to punishing defense and board-crashing, Baylor has shot 40.6 percent from 3-point range this season — also tops in the nation1At least among the top 50 scoring offenses. — and went 9 of 18 from 3-point range on Saturday night.From our model’s perspective, Baylor’s chances increased from 23 percent to 32 percent, moving it past “the field” (everyone but UConn and Baylor) whose chances dropped to 19 percent (from 25 percent before the tournament began). The model currently gives around a 73 percent chance of Baylor and UConn facing each other in the Final Four. UConn won their only matchup this season, 72-61 last November. You don’t normally expect the best team in college basketball to win its opening round game by 61 points, only to see its chances of winning the women’s NCAA tournament drop. But that’s what happened to the Connecticut Huskies. Despite beating the Albany Great Danes 116 to 55 — for UConn’s 108th win in a row — our model showed the Huskies’ chances dropping from 52 percent pre-tournament to 49 percent after round 1.How is this possible? In a word: Baylor.Before the tournament, we identified Baylor as perhaps the biggest threat in years to UConn’s dominance. Then Baylor went ahead and utterly crushed Texas Southern. I mean, wow:
When I heard that NBA commissioner David Stern vetoed a potential blockbuster deal that would have sent former New Orleans Hornets and all-star guard Chris Paul to the Los Angeles Lakers last season, I said a bunch of things that can’t be run in print. Well, Christmas came early for me this season as Stern said Thursday he would retire as league commissioner, effective Feb. 1, 2014. The NBA’s deputy commissioner, Adam Silver, has been selected to take his place. The decision to try and bar Paul from the Lakers, I thought, was the most blatant abuse of power I have ever seen by a professional commissioner. Los Angeles and the Hornets negotiated what they considered a fair deal and made it league official, only to be renounced hours later because one person, Stern, didn’t think it was “fair.” I understand Stern found a loophole. At the time, New Orleans’ team was up for sale. Consequently, the Hornets fell under the ownership of Stern and the NBA. Stern said the league made a decision “in the best interest” of the Hornets. Many people speculate that Stern’s decision was made due to enormous pressure from multiple owners, most notably Dan Gilbert of the Cleveland Cavaliers. But countless NBA analysts disagreed and felt the deal was more than adequate. Personally, I think most owners believed the league was getting too top-heavy with talent and smaller market teams would no longer be able to compete at a championship level. Now, if you fast forward to present day, the Lakers look like the predominant favorite to represent the Western Conference and the only team who can challenge the defending NBA champion Miami Heat. But today, Lakers fans only have one question: What could have been? Keep in mind, the proposed three-team deal that Stern vetoed only included current Los Angeles forward Pau Gasol and former Laker Lamar Odom in exchange for Paul. Comparatively, the Aug. 10 four-team trade that sent former Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard to the Lakers only featured injury-prone center Andrew Bynum from the purple and gold. So conceivably, the Lakers could have assembled a Western Conference version of the Miami “Big Three” with Howard, Paul and guard Kobe Bryant. As the New York Yankees of the NBA, the Lakers always seem to get who they want. Key acquisitions of longtime Phoenix Suns guard Steve Nash and Howard have made painful memories of the failed Paul deal disappear. I’m not saying Stern robbed the Lakers of a title last season, but he sure didn’t help. Over the last few seasons, the Lakers have been torched by point guards and Paul is arguably the best at his position. What I am saying is that I hope Silver leaves the dealing to the general managers. Stern caused more harm than good and devoted NBA fans are not sad he’s leaving. Here’s to a bright future and let’s hope we see a “Silver-lining” with the new commissioner.
Junior forward Tanner Fritz (16) outskates an opponent during a game against Michigan March 2 at Nationwide Arena. OSU lost, 4-3.Credit: Ben Jackson / For The LanternWhen you face off against the best team in the country, there’s no room for error.The Ohio State men’s hockey team (15-12-4, 5-8-4) found that out first-hand on Friday night as they fell 5-1 to No. 1 Minnesota (24-4-5, 13-2-2) at Value City Arena.The Gophers took the lead just 2:03 into the first period, and they were two goals up by the first intermission.OSU coach Steve Rohlik said he thought the team played a solid first period, but that falling behind made it hard for the team to continue to play its game, rather than press for an immediate response.“You never want to get behind, especially this time of year against good teams,” Rohlik said. “Good teams know how to play with the lead, and it forces you to try to do things you maybe shouldn’t be doing.”From there, the Buckeyes found their comeback attempts beaten back by the impressive play of Minnesota’s goalie Adam Wilcox. The sophomore stopper made 30 saves, many of them at crucial moments in the game.Rohlik said Wilcox’s impact on the Gophers’ play shouldn’t be understated.“I think people talk about their forwards, they talk about their (defensemen), and sometimes you forget about if not the best, one of the best goaltenders in the country,” Rohlik said. “We had some point-blank chances throughout the game, and he made some great saves.”A third Minnesota goal midway through the second period was followed almost immediately by OSU’s first tally, scored by junior forward Tanner Fritz. After sophomore forward Anthony Greco sent junior forward Max McCormick through on goal, Wilcox stopped the initial shot but not Fritz’s follow-up.But any momentum that accompanied the OSU goal quickly dissipated when Minnesota scored twice in 21 seconds to effectively end the contest. The first came on a tip in front by Gophers redshirt-freshman forward Connor Reilly and then, after OSU freshman goalie Christian Frey was replaced by freshman goalie Matt Tomkins, Minnesota’s freshman forward Vinni Lettieri gathered the puck behind the net and shot the puck past the Buckeye goaltender.Fritz said that the nature of Minnesota’s final two goals definitely had an impact on OSU’s psyche.“We got (our first) goal there and it kind of changed the momentum of the game. We thought it might get us back into it,” Fritz said. “But then they scored a quick one after that and that kind of just (took) the wind out of (our) sails.”While the loss means OSU remains in fourth place in the conference, the victory clinches a first-round bye for Minnesota in the Big Ten tournament, and coach Don Lucia said that was a task his team was focused on heading into the game.“(Clinching a first-round bye) was on our mind,” Lucia said. “It’s the only thing we can control, making sure that nobody from behind us can creep back in and steal a top two position.”The Buckeyes and Gophers conclude their series Saturday at 6:30 p.m.
Location: West Lafayette, Indiana2017 record: 7-6 (4-5 Big Ten) Head coach: Jeff Brohm 2018 record: 1-3 (0-1 Big Ten) All-time record vs. OSU: 14-39-2https://youtu.be/Rp8kCS1nDt8What has happened thus far in 2018:Purdue has been better than its 1-3 record might suggest. With two losses that ended with last-second field goals, the Boilermakers’ three losses have been by a combined eight points. In losses to Northwestern and Missouri, Purdue came back from double-digit deficits in the first half to fall short in the waning moments of each game. Purdue recorded its first win of the season against then-No. 23 Boston College, beating the Eagles by 17 on Saturday. In that win, Purdue’s defense had four interceptions and held the Eagles to a 25 percent success rate on third down. On the offensive side of the ball, redshirt senior David Blough threw three touchdowns with 296 passing yards. Impact Player:Wide receiver Rondale Moore has exploded onto the scene as one of the nation’s standout freshmen for the Boilermakers. This season, he leads the Big Ten in receiving yards (372) and in receptions (33). He can be dangerous in the ground game as well, recording a 76-yard touchdown run against Northwestern in the season opener.Strengths:Certain teams have an identity when it comes to their strengths in football. For Purdue, it’s the play of the quarterback. Blough is ranked second in the Big Ten in passer rating (164.2), and passing yards (990). He is currently tied for first in the Big Ten among qualifiers with just one interception. Purdue has the No. 2 pass offense in the Big Ten, averaging 318.3 passing yards per game, while completing 68 percent of passes thrown. Weaknesses:In one word, inconsistency. Purdue can be explosive offensively and defensively stout. Nonetheless the Boilermakers have gotten off to slow starts, and haven’t been able to finish close games. In two of its three losses, Purdue has not been able to strike first. In the loss against Northwestern, all of the points Purdue gave up were in the first half. In each of its losses, Purdue has had the chance to win and failed to capitalize on it.
Lilli Piper (22) celebrates after coming into home safely in a game against Indiana on March 24 at Buckeye Field. Credit: Gretchen Rudolph | For The LanternThe Ohio State softball team (23-11, 7-2 Big Ten) earned a victory in the final game of the three-game series against Rutgers, shutting out the Scarlet Knights 8-0 in the five-inning win with the help of three home runs, including a grand slam..Ohio State freshman third baseman Ashley Prange began the offense in the third inning, hitting her first career grand slam down the left field line to give the Buckeyes the 4-0 lead. “We had a great warmup, and we all have a great time hitting,” Prange said. “I think we are all prepared.”Sophomore catcher Claire Nicholson extended Ohio State’s lead to 6-0 in the bottom of the fourth inning with a two-run homer over the left field wall. In the bottom of the fifth inning, freshman Kaitlyn Coffman sealed the victory with another two-run home run to the left. “We had a rough game yesterday,” Coffman said. “I think we just want to really make a statement. This is our home field. We should [have] beat them yesterday.”Senior pitcher Morgan Ray added seven strikeouts in the complete game, earning her ninth win of the year. Overall, she has recorded 101 strikeouts in 108.1 innings of work this season and is the only player on the Ohio State roster with more than 32 strikeouts. Ohio State head coach Kelly Kovach Schoenly said Ray responded to yesterday’s loss in the way one of the team’s top pitcher should respond. “Just come out and put it on the line and just do what she needs to do,” Schoenly said. “I think having a determination to be better for her today was key. She is such a great player. I am glad she responded like that.”Ohio State will head to State College, Pennsylvania, to start a two-game series against Penn State, both of which take place on Tuesday. The first game will start at 5 p.m., and game two will start at 7 p.m. as the second part of the double header.