LeBron James Is Still In His Prime

2013725.310.97.024.4 AVERAGE PER GAME 2012528.610.27.425.9 The only run of performances that surpassed it came in the closing three games of the 2013 finals. That year, James averaged a 26.7 Game Score over games 4 through 6 of the series — remember the headband-losing moment in Game 6 that seemed to activate his powers? — before dropping the very best game of his career (after adjusting for the stakes) in Game 7: 37 points on 52 percent shooting, to go with 12 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 steals. The magnitude of that game helped make it LeBron’s greatest, but he’s been even better (with an average game score of 35.5) in games 4 through 6 this year. And on Sunday, James will get a chance to set a new standard in another Game 7, with the championship on the line again. 2014528.27.84.025.3 2007422.07.06.812.4 LeBron James has been so great for so long that, sometimes, it’s easy to take him for granted. This season was relatively ordinary by his standards — ho-hum, another 25, 7 and 7 campaign. There were differences from James’s earlier incarnations, such as an out-of-whack shooting stroke, but nothing so substantial as to much separate this LeBron from any LeBron of seasons past.But during these NBA playoffs, and the finals in particular, James has been playing at a level so superhuman that even the most jaded LeBron watchers have to sit up and pay attention.James’s best per-minute playoff campaign came in the Cleveland Cavaliers’ ill-fated 2009 postseason, when they flamed out against the Orlando Magic in the conference finals. His per-game averages in that series were 38.5 points, 8.3 rebounds, 8.0 assists, 1.2 steals and 1.2 blocks. But apart from that one-man exhibition in a losing effort (something James knows well), these 2016 playoffs have seen the best statistical version of LeBron — and certainly the best version ever to appear in the NBA Finals.In fact, when it comes to production in the finals, James has also saved his best performance for 2016. According to Game Score, John Hollinger’s pet single-game productivity rating, LeBron is enjoying the highest (pace-adjusted) per-game average of his finals career right now, and it isn’t especially close: Game Score has been adjusted to a pace of 100 possessions per game.Source: Basketball-Reference.com 2011617.87.26.815.6 2016630.211.38.528.2 YEARGAMES PLAYEDPOINTSREBOUNDSASSISTSGAME SCORE 2015635.813.38.825.6 LeBron’s 2016 stats for games played in the NBA Finals are his best In Thursday night’s Game 6, James produced the top Game Score of his finals career (44.1 after adjusting for pace), thanks to a jaw-dropping stat line: 41 points on 59 percent shooting, 11 assists, 8 rebounds and 4 steals. He even splashed home three of six threes, bringing his finals 3-point percentage to 40 percent, a massive difference from the 31 percent rate we were all so worried about during the regular season.In other words, James’s game has rounded into peak form at exactly the right time for the Cavs. And I really mean peak form: If we look at his Game Scores relative to what a league-average player would produce in the same number of minutes and then weight by the importance of each game in terms of championship odds, we’re currently witnessing the second-best three-game stretch of James’s entire career, culminating in his second-best game ever on Thursday night: VIDEO: History will be made in Game 7Check out our NBA Finals predictions. read more

How FiveThirtyEights March Madness Bracket Works

In contrast to the parity of the recent past, this year’s NCAA men’s basketball tournament has a clear front-runner: the undefeated Kentucky Wildcats. FiveThirtyEight’s March Madness Predictions give the Wildcats a 41 percent chance to win it all and finish 40-0. Kentucky’s chances are well ahead of a group of teams — Villanova, Arizona and Wisconsin — that have about a 10 percent chance each.I’ll have a longer take on the Wildcats and this year’s top-heavy bracket on Monday morning. But for now, we wanted to be sure you saw our numbers as soon as they were ready. You can find our interactive here, including the probability of each of the 68 teams invited to this year’s dance advancing to each round of the tournament.The methodology behind our forecasts is largely the same as in past years. Our forecasts have done reasonably well — “calling” the winner of the tournament correctly in two of the past three years. And they’ve been well-calibrated historically, meaning the teams we’ve listed as (for instance) 70 percent favorites have in fact won about 70 percent of the time. We don’t see a lot of reason to mess with our system.At the core of the forecasts is a power rating for each team estimated from a composite of five computer-generated power rankings and two human rankings. By nature, our rankings are pretty conservative since they blend information from several different systems together.1You might consider deviating from them when filling out your bracket so as to have less duplication with others in your pool. These are the five computer systems we use:ESPN’s Basketball Power Index (BPI). (Specifically, we use the variant of BPI called PVA, which translates team ratings into point spreads.)Ken Pomeroy’s pythagorean ratings.Jeff Sagarin’s “predictor” ratings.Joel Sokol’s LRMC ratings.Sonny Moore’s power ratings.The two human rankings are:The selection committee’s 68-team S-curve — that is, how it ranked the teams from 1 to 68 before placing them in the bracket.Preseason rankings from the Associated Press and the coaches poll.2The AP and coaches polls are weighted equally. The seven systems are weighted equally and adjusted to be on a common scale.3Specifically, they’re normalized to have the same mean and standard deviation. Here are how the various systems rated the North Carolina Tar Heels as of Sunday evening,4The Sonny Moore power ratings had not been updated to reflect Sunday’s play as of our publication deadline on Sunday night. We used Saturday’s ratings instead and adjusted them to reflect Sunday’s games based on the change in each team’s Sagarin rating from Saturday to Sunday. for example:While all of the Tar Heels’ ratings are pretty close, their worst one is from where the committee placed them on the S-curve, 13th, suggesting that they were slightly underseeded. Their best rating comes from their preseason ranking, by contrast. We know it might seem unusual to blend preseason rankings with six other systems that rank a team’s current form, but there’s a long history of teams reverting to preseason expectations in the postseason. That included last season, when UConn and Kentucky, who were rated highly before the season, overcame a middling regular season to meet each other in the national championship as No. 7 and No. 8 seeds. Maybe North Carolina can do something similar this year.The ratings are then adjusted for two factors:Injuries and other player absences. For instance, Louisville’s rating is harmed by the absence of Chris Jones, who was dismissed from the team after police charged that he raped two women. (He has pleaded not guilty.) Teams will also get credit in our system if they have key players back for the tournament who missed part of the regular season. (The adjustments are based on Sports-reference.com win shares.)Travel distance from the team’s home campus to the tournament site. A team that has to travel across the country to play a tournament game can face the equivalent of a 2- or 3-point disadvantage against one playing close to home. Essentially, it’s playing a road game.We’ll be updating the bracket at the conclusion of every batch of games. You may also see some minor changes before the First Four tipoff in Dayton, Ohio, on Tuesday night, based on the availability of new injury information and power ratings.Teams’ power ratings also change at the end of each game. If a No. 13 seed upsets a No. 4 seed, that’s a sign the team was underestimated originally, and our program will boost its rating for the rest of the tournament. If a No. 2 seed needs overtime to get by a No. 15 seed despite being a 30-point favorite, its rating will go down.However — this is a new feature this year — you’ll be able to “rewind” the bracket to see what our forecast said about each team at the conclusion of each day of play.Anything else new this year? The big news is that we’re going to be forecasting the women’s tournament for the first time. Those numbers will go up Tuesday morning.On the men’s side, there are a couple of methodological changes, but they’re very minor:In calculating the effect of injuries, win shares are now adjusted for a team’s strength of schedule. So our program won’t assume a player was a monster just because he was scoring 20 points a game against the likes of Abilene Christian and Austin Peay State.If a team wasn’t ranked at all in the preseason poll, we now estimate its strength using last year’s Sagarin rating, regressed to the mean.5Specifically, we regress to the mean of unranked teams. It almost always helps a team to have been ranked somewhere — even in the “also receiving votes” category — instead of receiving a mean-reverted Sagarin rating instead. Much more to come Monday and over the next three weeks. Happy bracketing!Check out FiveThirtyEight’s March Madness predictions.CORRECTION (March 16, 2:20 p.m.): An earlier version of this article misidentified ESPN’s Basketball Power Index as the “basketball percentage index.” read more

Ohio State alumna working toward Olympic dreams after lone year of club

OSU alumna Katiann Scherer.Credit: Courtesy of Katiann SchererA single year of a club sport is paying dividends for one former Buckeye.Katiann Scherer, a 2014 graduate of Ohio State, is the current goalie for the USA women’s team handball squad. The animal science major played just one year on the club team handball team at OSU, while also volunteering and working at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium and OSU’s College of Veterinary Medicine.Her path is an unconventional one, but, perhaps, it is a fitting way to arrive on the national team for a sport that receives very little attention in the U.S.Considered to be “soccer with your hands,” team handball features six court players, along with a goalie. Team handball was first played in the Olympics at the 1936 Berlin Games, but it was not until the 1976 Montreal Games that women’s team handball debuted. The U.S. has never medaled at the Olympics in the sport. Both the men’s and women’s top finishes came at the 1984 Los Angeles Games, where the men placed ninth and women placed fifth.According to Scherer, handball is the “most American sport that Americans don’t know about.”Scherer’s journey to the sport began at OSU’s annual Fall Student Involvement Fair, where she and her sister were looking for a club team sport to play together. Since the sisters each played soccer in high school and enjoyed the physical aspect of the sport, the search landed the pair with the OSU Team Handball club.“I had played (handball) a couple times in middle school,” Scherer said. “But besides that, I really had zero experience or knew what I was doing before joining the club team.”With that being said, Scherer began attending practices for about six months, although she admitted she didn’t know just how much she would enjoy the sport. But as time progressed, the team’s then-coach, Mark Ortega, began to notice the potential in the goalie. “I took a shot to the face during the practice, and (Ortega) noticed that I got right back up and liked my hustle,” Scherer said.Ortega, a former men’s national team handball player, became coach of the club team at OSU in order to “recruit” players to possibly try out for the women’s national team.Ortega told Scherer that she had the skills and abilities to make the squad and recommended that she travel to Auburn, Alabama, for the tryout. Following the advice of her coach, Scherer made the trip south to the facility of the USA Team Handball Residency Program, the location of the tryout.The former Buckeye, filled with nerves and with less than a year of handball under her belt, performed sensationally. USA coach Christian Latulippe became aware of Scherer’s ability, and granted her a spot on the squad.“It’s an amazing feeling to be able to represent the United States,” Scherer said. “The opportunity I get to travel, and meet all of these other girls from different countries, is out of this world.”Members of USA team handball. Credit: Courtesy of Katiann SchererAfter making her way onto the national team roster, it was time to train and attempt to qualify for the 2016 Summer Olympics held in Rio de Janeiro. “I was in Auburn for the past year, and we went to a few different countries to train, and also qualify through the (Pan-American) Games in Toronto this past summer,” Scherer said. Those training sessions and matches included trips to Guadeloupe, Puerto Rico and Cuba, as well as a meeting with the Canadian national team in Auburn. However, the women’s team did not qualify for this year’s Olympics, and will now attempt to work and win its way to a bid to the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.Over this past fall, Scherer made her way to France to try out for professional handball teams in order to stay fit and train during the national team’s offseason. “It’s like baseball here in America,” Scherer said. “They have minor league teams for amateurs, and the goal is to work your way up to the professional level.” Scherer made a team in a small town of Hazebrouck, France. However, complicated visa requirements, combined with her little grasp of the French language, led her to opt to pass on the offer to play there. She is still remaining active in finding another professional team to join, she said. “I’m trying to go to a training camp in Hungary at the end of the summer and hope to make some connections there for other possible teams to play with,” Scherer said.Currently, Scherer is living at home in Canton, where she is working to use her animal science degree by applying for jobs in the field. The Buckeye trains in her spare time, both in Canton and at OSU, in order to stay fit for the upcoming handball season.Beyond that, Scherer is working hard to find ways to implement team handball in high schools on the state and national levels. This is an attempt to have others gain knowledge of and passion for the sport, just like Scherer developed. “After that one year down in Alabama, I realized how much I loved (the sport),” Scherer said. “Now I’ve shaped the rest of my life around handball and what (Team USA) is trying to do.” read more

OSU sophomore Francesca Di Lorenzo claims second ITA womens National Indoors Championship

OSU sophomore Francesca Di Lorenzo holding the ITA national indoor championship trophy. Credit: Courtesy of OSU AthleticsFor the second time in her career, Ohio State sophomore, No. 1-ranked Francesca Di Lorenzo was named the Intercollegiate Tennis Association’s Women’s National Indoors Champion after defeating University of North Carolina senior, No. 4-ranked Hayley Carter 6-1, 6-1.Di Lorenzo had won the title in the previous season as a freshman and had also won the ITA All-Americans tourney, making this victory her third ITA title in only her second season of play.The match began with an incredibly close game. On Carter’s serve, Di Lorenzo and Carter swapped points back-and-forth until the game went to deuce. After a first-serve fault, Di Lorenzo was able to pounce on the second serve and win the opening game. The match would be all Di Lorenzo’s from there.The Buckeye went on to win each of the next three games, including two that went to a deuce and one of Carter’s own serves.The fifth game, however, was all Carter. The only point she allowed was on the third serve of the match when Carter double-faulted, bringing the score to 30-15. But two more first-serve points helped Carter secure her first victory of the set. It would be her only victory as Di Lorenzo went on to win each of the next games, going to deuce in each of them.The second set was more of the same. After an opening victory in the first game of the second set, Di Lorenzo lost the second game after falling behind 40-15 when Carter was serving. But DiLorenzo bounced back in a strong way, scoring four straight points, including two aces to finish the match and shutout Carter.The next two games in the set went to deuce points, but Di Lorenzo won each of them. She then claimed a victory over Carter in what would prove to be Carter’s final serving game of the set after Di Lorenzo went up 40-30.The final game of the match followed suit with the dominant performance Di Lorenzo displayed all match. Though she lost the first point of the game, she won each of the next four points and claimed the title.At the end of the game, the statistics reflected an overwhelming victory for Di Lorenzo. She won 58 percent of the points played, including five out of eight break points she played in (62 percent). She was also able to hold off her opponent in all breakpoint situations, saving the game all four times she was down 30-40. read more

Gator Bowl ticket sales continue to disappoint

Ticket sales for the 2012 TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl have improved for Ohio State, but don’t expect the university to exhaust its supply or make much more progress between now and game day. OSU might not even exceed the number of tickets sold by Big Ten rival Michigan for the 2011 Gator Bowl.  Brett Scarbrough, OSU’s senior director of ticketing, confirmed to The Lantern Thursday that the university has sold 7,500 of the 12,750 tickets it was allotted for the Buckeyes’ Jan. 2 bowl game against the Florida Gators in Jacksonville, Fla. As of Dec. 14, 6,500 tickets had been sold. The university will absorb the cost of any of the 5,250 remaining tickets, should they remain unsold. Ticket prices range from $60-$125. Scarbrough said he’s optimistic that there will be a good atmosphere when the Buckeyes take the field at Everbank Field, home of the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars. He isn’t optimistic many more tickets will be sold, though. “Not really — based on what we’ve seen over the last couple of days, we’re not expecting any big jump (in ticket sales),” he said. “It’s a little disappointing.” Scarbrough said any number of factors could be to blame for the slow ticket sales. “It’s the first time we’re not in a Bowl Championship Series bowl (since the 2004 season),” he said. “The economy could be a part of it. The fact that classes (at OSU) start the next day.” Michigan played Mississippi State in the 2011 Gator Bowl before a sellout crowd of 77,497. The Wolverines lost to the Bulldogs, 54-14. David Ablauf, Michigan’s associate athletic director, said that while he did not have a precise figure for ticket sales for the 2011 bowl game, he believes Wolverines fans purchased more tickets than members of Buckeye Nation have to this point.  “We think the number was 8,000 tickets sold,” Ablauf said.  Scarbrough said OSU football would not lack support when the 2012 installment of the Gator Bowl finally arrives on Jan. 2. “We sold through a good, fair amount of tickets,” he said. “We’ll have a lot of Buckeyes there to support the team.” The Buckeyes and Gators will kickoff at 1 p.m. and the game will be broadcast on ESPN2. Tickets for the game can be purchased at ohiostatebuckeyes.com read more

With Big Ten championships looming Ohio State wrestling coach Tom Ryan preaching

With four of the top 10 teams in the nation competing in the 2013 Big Ten Championships this weekend, the road to a conference title will not be an easy one for the Ohio State wrestling team. The No. 6 Buckeyes posted a 5-3 record in Big Ten play this season, earning victories against Michigan, No. 14 Illinois, No. 23 Wisconsin, Indiana and No. 16 Northwestern while suffering losses to three higher-ranked opponents – No. 1 Penn State, No. 2 Minnesota and No. 4 Iowa. They did not face No. 12 Nebraska, Michigan State or Purdue. “We have to perform to our best,” said 141-pound sophomore Hunter Stieber. “The Big Ten is stacked with five of the top teams in the nation. It’s a smaller bracket so there’s going to be more of a chance for one team maybe than others. It’s going to be tough.” OSU is one of only four teams to have a seeded wrestler in each weight class. Six Buckeyes were voted in by the conference’s coaches as top five preliminary seeds for the championships. Redshirt sophomore Logan Stieber (133) and his younger brother Hunter Stieber earned No. 1 pre-seeds after going undefeated in the regular season. Logan Stieber, who missed most of January with a leg injury, posted an impressive 19-0 record and will be in search of his second consecutive Big Ten title. Hunter Stieber boasted a 27-0 record and led the team with 10 major decisions. “I feel pretty good (about the tournament),” Hunter Stieber said. “It’s the end of the year so it’s exciting. This is what we’ve been training for all year. I’m ready for it. I’m excited to wrestle.” Earning No. 4 pre-seeds were redshirt junior Nick Heflin (174) and sophomore Andrew Campolattano (197). Heflin holds an overall record of 12-3 while Campolattano went 15-8. Senior Nikko Triggas (125) and sophomore Cam Tessari (149) were awarded No. 5 pre-seeds after finishing the regular season with records of 17-10 and 13-7, respectively. Rounding out the lineup for OSU are redshirt sophomore Josh Demas (157), redshirt senior C.J. Magrum (184), freshman Mark Martin (165) and freshman heavyweight Nick Tavanello who earned sixth, eighth, ninth and tenth pre-seeds, respectively. Coach Tom Ryan said that in order to have a shot at a conference championship, the team will have to improve the way it trains. “Overall, I just think it’s discipline, that’s definitely a problem for us,” Ryan said. “The discipline of rest, the discipline of warming up right, the discipline of being ready to compete at a high level. We have to do all the little things right.” Redshirt sophomore Matthew O’Hara (174) agreed that the team needs to work on some areas but feels confident that it can come out of the tournament victorious. “Conditioning has been kind of a problem for some people, so we’ll have to work on that,” O’Hara said. “We’ll have to get that under control. But we definitely have the talent, so it’s definitely in our grasp. We’ll be able to do it.” The Buckeyes’ first match is set to begin at 11 a.m. Saturday at Assembly Hall in Champaign, Ill. The Big Ten Championships will conclude on Sunday. read more

Ohio State mens volleyball falls to Lewis 31

Freshman setter Christy Blough (5) sets the ball during a match against Saint Francis Feb. 9 at St. John Arena. OSU won, 3-1.Credit: Shelby Lum / Photo editorThe struggles against the nation’s top teams continue for the Ohio State men’s volleyball team.The Buckeyes (5-6, 2-2) fell to No. 10 Lewis, 3-1, Saturday at St. John Arena in their second match of a five-match homestand. So far this season OSU is 0-6 against teams ranked in the top 15.After a 3-1 win against Saint Francis Feb. 9, OSU was unable to hold their own against Lewis, a private school in Romeoville, Ill.OSU freshman setter Christy Blough said the Flyers did a great job of controlling the game with their serves, something the Buckeyes have been trying to get better at.“To help go against that we have been working a lot more on staying aggressive with our serves,” Blough said.The serving and passing game has been an area of focus during practice and games for the Buckeyes, since they fell to Penn State 3-0 Feb. 5.“We are spending lots of time with serving and passing … While working on being more aggressive, and building our confidence as a unit in serve receive,” junior outside hitter Michael Henchy said.Against Lewis the Buckeyes struggled serving the ball, finishing with a .791 serving percentage.“I think if we can keep the pressure on from the service line we will be in good shape for upcoming matches,” redshirt-junior opposite Andrew Lutz said after the loss.The Buckeyes were expecting a very competitive match against Lewis, and that is what they got. Although OSU lost the match, the team kept it close every set and were not lacking when it came to their offense.Henchy led the Buckeyes with 11 kills. Redshirt-freshman middle blocker Driss Guessous totaled 10 kills, while Lutz finished with 11. Freshman outside hitter Miles Johnson contributed eight kills and junior middler blocker Dustan Neary chipped in five kills and three blocks.The Buckeyes are scheduled to host Grand Canyon for a pair of conference matches on Feb. 21 and Feb. 22. The matches are set for 7 p.m. both nights at St. John Arena. read more

Football JT Barrett wants one team to believe in him

Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett is honored on the field for Senior Day. Credit: Jack Westerheide | Photo EditorINDIANAPOLIS — For four years, J.T. Barrett was the man. The Ohio State football team followed the quarterback everywhere he went and the city hung on his every word.Now as he prepares to take a shot in the NFL, everything has flipped. A crop of 15 to 20 reporters circled around the podium on which Barrett spoke, but the attention paled in comparison to the media circus three podiums away encapsulating former USC quarterback Sam Darnold, the player who led the team which Barrett beat in his final collegiate game.When asked whether if it felt weird to not be the center of attention, he took a long look over his right shoulder at the throng of journalists surrounding Darnold, then simply said, “Nah, I’m good.”He no longer must worry about the spotlight he could never seem to avoid at Ohio State.Despite setting the all-time Big Ten records for total offensive yards (12,697) and touchdown passes (104), holding 34 school records and becoming the first three-time team captain in program history, Barrett might not have a spot in the NFL. Teams have plenty of questions about his arm strength, pocket presence and ability to play in a professional offensive system.But Barrett said he does not pay much attention to draft experts or their projections. Instead, he is focused on finding a team willing to prove its belief in the quarterback by selecting him in the NFL draft.“I feel like if you’re going in the first round or you’re going in the seventh round, I think at the end of the day, that’s what you want,” Barrett said Friday at the NFL combine. “So you need one opportunity to showcase who you are as a football player and as a person. Like I said, I just need one opportunity, one team to believe in me and go show them who I am.”Given Barrett’s experience as a four-year starter, there should not be many questions about his strengths and weaknesses. Scouts and general managers can watch 44 starts and an Ohio State-record 38 wins.In those victories, Barrett often found success behind center when utilizing his vision and power in the run game, and he hopes to translate that pocket mobility to the NFL.“Strengths are being able to extend the plays, have the ability to run the ball, not just standing in the pocket like a light post,” Barrett said. “I’m going to move around, be able to make throws on the run. Elevate the game of the people around me.”Some have questioned whether he will switch positions at the professional level. Barrett said no team has asked him to play another position, saying “it’s all been about quarterback.”Instead, he has been working at quarterback in Orlando, Florida, at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex to prepare for the combine and the draft. Barrett has worked heavily to increase his footwork and timing.“When you look at great you look at great throws, you first starting off with footwork,” he said. “You talk about somebody’s arm, but at first, you have to have your feet in place to make those throws, so I’m working on that constantly.”Barrett will be the latest in a long line of former Ohio State quarterbacks — including recent  Buckeye signal-callers Cardale Jones, Braxton Miller and Troy Smith — to head to the NFL. He said he talks to Jones every couple days and saw Miller once in Columbus. Barrett said the NFL veterans told him to be himself and to enjoy the process rather than let it stress him out. That becomes key if Barrett slides further than he anticipates.Less stress comes with being a low-round pick. But with that comes a greater doubt.This year, though, Barrett dealt with hordes of skeptics who favored Dwayne Haskins replacing him. He has faced these questions many times before. They don’t bother him.“How much faith do I have in myself? Uh, I have have some confidence,” Barrett said with a smile. “I think, I don’t know, I’m not the type to voice it. I want to showcase it on the field. So with that, that’s what I plan to do. I think I did a good job preparing and trying to be ready for this moment. I have confidence in myself.”Barrett’s physical tools might never match those of the quarterback who he peeked at over his right shoulder, but that confidence and his leadership have a chance to place him on an NFL 53-man roster. read more

Football Haskins remains on the outside looking in after Heisman Trophy ceremony

Ohio State redshirt sophomore quarterback Dwayne Haskins (7) calls out a play in the first half of the game against Purdue on Oct. 20. Ohio State lost 49-20. Credit: Casey Cascaldo | Photo EditorDwayne Haskins seemed to do enough to win the Heisman Trophy. Ohio State’s redshirt sophomore quarterback led the country with 4,580 passing yards and 47 passing touchdowns. He was one of six players in college football to complete more than 70 percent of his pass attempts, and averaged 352.3 passing yards per game, No. 2 in the country. This was enough to earn him a trip to New York City as one of three Heisman finalists alongside Alabama sophomore quarterback Tua Tagovailoa and Oklahoma redshirt junior quarterback Kyler Murray. But without a trip to the College Football Playoff in his future, Haskins will leave New York City without a trophy to bring home. Murray earned Oklahoma’s second straight Heisman Trophy after Baker Mayfield won it in 2017. Murray and Mayfield are the first duo from the same school to win in back-to-back seasons since 1974 and 1975 when Ohio State running back Archie Griffin won two straight Heisman trophies. Even with a statistical lead in many categories compared to both Murray and Tagovailoa, there was always one thing that kept Haskins on the outside looking in: the 49-20 loss to Purdue. This loss cost Ohio State its chance at a national championship, keeping the Buckeyes at No. 6 in the final College Football Playoff rankings despite a dominant win against then-No. 4 Michigan and a decisive win against then-No. 21 Northwestern to secure their second consecutive Big Ten title. But as Ohio State left the field in West Lafayette, Indiana on Oct. 20, as his teammates walked to the locker room with their heads down after suffering their first loss of the season, Haskins realized he could not lead the offense by himself any longer. “I never thought I would have to throw 72 times to win the game,” Haskins said after the loss to Purdue. “But you gotta do what you gotta do to win and this ended today.”Haskins did everything he could to succeed in that game, completing 49 passes, 15 more completions than he had had in any other game this season, breaking a school record, for 470 yards, which at the time was also a school record. He broke his own record five games later with 499 yards against Northwestern in the Big Ten Championship. Identity for the Ohio State offense was a struggle for this team all season. Coming off a season with the No. 1 running game in the Big Ten and with both sophomore running back J.K. Dobbins and redshirt junior Mike Weber returning, the expectation coming in was the run-heavy, pass-when-needed offense would return. But this did not match Haskins’ style, throwing for more than 400 yards in three straight weeks against Indiana and Minnesota before breaking the passing yards record against the Boilermakers. The Haskins-run offense really did not take shape until the end of the season, throwing for 895 yards and 11 touchdowns in his final two games of the season, what many considered as the coming out party for a quarterback who was fighting for a starting job back in April. Ohio State and Haskins are in a similar situation. The Purdue loss defined the season for both, keeping the Buckeyes out of both the Orange and the Cotton Bowl. The Purdue loss kept Haskins away from earning Ohio State’s first Heisman winner since Troy Smith in 2006, a year in which he threw for 2,542 passing yards with 30 touchdowns, numbers which Haskins surpassed easily. The Buckeyes were 12-0 when Smith was picked as the Heisman winner before losing to Florida in the National Championship.In recent years, there seems to be a game that defines the season for Ohio State, a single game that the Buckeyes wish they could have back. As Ohio State prepares for the Rose Bowl and Haskins leaves New York empty handed, something that a better performance from Ohio State in its one loss this season could have prevented. read more

Foreign aid budget should be used to plug social care bill as

first_imgPhilip Davies, the MP for Shipley, said: “The first priority for the Government should be to look after the old, vulnerable and disabled people in our country.”We’ve got an absolutely desperate need and people in this country are really suffering because of the lack of social care. “Its unjustifiable to ask people to pay more tax while we are giving money away in overseas aid, particularly when so much of it gets wasted. I believe its an absolute scandal and charity should begin at home.”His colleague Peter Bone added: “Most people would think it was better to spend money in this country looking after the frail and elderly. “I would think 85 per cent of the nation would support taking money from the foreign aid budget and using it for social care. I think it is ludicrous to say we can’t pay the money when we can find lots of money going on overseas projects the EU determines.” Philip Hammond The UK’s foreign aid budget is over £12billion and the Government expects to raise around £382million through the social care precept added to council tax bills in 2016/17.But Downing Street raised concerns on Monday that some councils are not doing enough to deliver social care efficiently and warned money is not the only answer.A spokeswoman for the Prime Minister said that while many councils are providing good social care services within existing budgets, many are failing.  But MPs and campaigners are warning that any additional costs on families are unfair and have called on the Government to invest more money into social care without forcing tax payers to stump up over £120 more.  Its unjustifiable to ask people to pay more tax while we are giving money away in overseas aid, particularly when so much of it gets wastedPhilip Davies, MP for Shipley The worst 10 per cent of councils take 20 times longer to discharge patients from hospital into care than the top 10 per cent and warned that over half of all so-called delayed discharges are in just 20 local authorities, she said.The spokeswoman added: “This isn’t just about funding, it is about how we deliver an effective and efficient social care system.”We do think there is a significant variation in how well councils manage social care services.”Philip Hammond, the Chancellor, denied reports that he was pushing for a rise in the social care precept in his Autumn Statement.He said that the Government is listening to the “cacophony” of concerns raised by local authorities about care funding.He said: “We recognise that the substantial increase in funding that social care will receive over this Parliament is back-loaded. We recognise local authorities are challenged to deal with that profile.”It is also clear that money alone is not the issue. It’s about effective co-operation and collaboration between the NHS and social services.” George Osborne introduced the preceptCredit:Ben Stansall /AFP / Getty I think it is ludicrous to say we can’t pay the money when we can find lots of money going on overseas projects the EU determinesPeter Bone, MPcenter_img Philip Hammond denied that he pushed for a rise in the social care precept in the Autumn StatementCredit:Jane Barlow /PA Millions of people could face council tax rises of almost £80 next year to help plug the social care gap, prompting growing calls by Conservative MPs for the foreign aid budget to be spent on pensioners in the UK instead. The Telegraph understands that ministers are working on plans to allow local councils in England to collect two bumper social care payments rather than spread the tax hikes evenly over the next three years. Councils are currently allowed to raise bills by up to 1.99 per cent to cover the cost of general services and up to 2 per cent each year to pay for social care under a new precept introduced by George Osborne.  But a new plan to deliver an immediate cash injection could allow councils to collect the six per cent increase due between now and 2020 over two years, as long as they do not collect further payments in the third year. It means some families could be forced to pay five per cent extra next year, around £76 on the average band D property, and the same again in 2018/19 then just two per cent extra in the following years. Ministers are understood to support the plan as a short-term fix because it is cost-neutral over the long term.Some councils may choose not to increase the tax by as much as five per cent as it is up to them whether to charge extra, although most have said they plan to. On average, bills have risen by around three per cent in recent years.  And there are fears that areas which have the greatest need for extra social care funding will not be able to raise extra money through tax hikes because many local residents are exempt from paying or pay only a small percentage, leading to a postcode lottery.Paul Burstow, the former Care Minister, said the plan to allow councils to hike the precept in the short term was not only a “sticking plaster” at best but would also make matters worse for the social care sector in the long term. “It will entrench disadvantage,” he said.It came as Conservative MPs demanded Ministers look again at the foreign aid budget and consider spending some of the money in the UK on caring for older people. George Osborne Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily  Front Page newsletter and new  audio briefings.last_img read more