In case you haven’t been reading this site lately, here’s the latest reminder that the University of Connecticut’s women’s basketball team, which is seeking its third straight national title Tuesday in Tampa, is really, really good. UConn is way more dominant than Kentucky’s men’s team was even before the Wildcats lost in the national semis. It’s way better than its closest rivals in the women’s game: Notre Dame, its opponent Tuesday. And it’s even way more dominant than its worthiest rivals: other recent UConn teams.Before the tournament began, we tracked how much UConn led by in its games, on average, throughout the 40 minutes of regulation. Not only had UConn crushed its opponents by an average of 42 points per game this year, but it was even more dominant earlier in the game — for instance, it led at halftime by an average of 25 points. And at just about every stage of the average game, the Huskies were ahead by more points than the UConn teams of the previous four years. The big exception was their Elite Eight game against Dayton, in which UConn had a lead of more than 10 points for less than a quarter of the game.What we didn’t know then is whether the comparison would hold up once the NCAA tournament began. UConn would have to face some tough competition — could it continue to dominate?The answer is a qualified yes. UConn’s average halftime margin has been 18.2 points during the tournament, compared to 24.8 points in the regular season and American Athletic Conference tournament — a drop-off of 27 percent. But it has caught up a bit in the second half of games, winning by an average of 37.4 points — just 11 percent lower than its 42.1-point average lead at the end of regulation coming into the tournament. That may mean that UConn peaked at different times in tournament games, or that the 11 percent gap is understating the extent to which UConn has struggled in the tournament, since it spent less time with its foot off the gas pedal in the second half. Of course, struggling is relative for these Huskies: They’ve still won each of their tournament games by at least 21 points.A related question we faced was how much of this team’s apparent edge over its UConn predecessors would drop away once it, like its predecessors, had to play in the tournament. The answer is, not much.This chart isn’t finished yet — Notre Dame will have something to say about it. Our March Madness predictions give the Fighting Irish only a 14 percent chance of winning. They have an even smaller chance of winning by enough to change UConn’s overwhelmingly dominant profile.Correction: An earlier version of this article referred incorrectly to a tournament in which UConn played. It was the American Athletic Conference tournament, not the Big East.
Usain Bolt has one thing to say following the doping violations that have been publicized about his countrymen: “I’m clean.”Bolt, who is undoubtedly the fastest man in the world, is speaking publicly for the first time since Jamaican sprinters Asafa Powell, Sherone Simpson and Veronica Campbell-Brown tested positive for banned substances.“If you were following me since 2002, you would know that I have been doing phenomenal things since I was 15,” Bolt told reporters in London. “I was the youngest person to win the world junior title at 15, I ran the world junior record at 18, the world youth record at 17. I have broken every record there is to break, in every event I have ever done. For me, I have proven myself since I was 15. For me, I have shown I was always going to be great.”Bolt went on to say, “I was made to inspire people and to run. I was given a gift and that’s what I do. I’m confident in myself and my team, the people I work with. And I know I am clean.”Powell, Campbell-Brown and Simpson firmly deny knowingly taking banned substances. While those three will not be competing, Bolt is expected to run at weekend’s Diamond League meeting in London.Bolt’s speed is off the charts. See the video above.
Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones speaks after an NFL football game against the Arizona Cardinals, in Glendale, Ariz.. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, File)DALLAS (AP) — The declaration by the powerful owner of the Dallas Cowboys that he would bench anyone who shows disrespect to the American flag drew a sharp response from the NFL players’ union Monday and raised the possibility of another call to action by athletes who have kneeled during the national anthem.Executive Director DeMaurice Smith of the NFL Players Association said the most provocative comments yet by Jerry Jones on the anthem controversy contradicted assurances last week from Commissioner Roger Goodell and New York Giants President John Mara that players could express themselves without retribution.“I look forward to the day when everyone in management can unite and truly embrace and articulate what the flag stands for, liberty and justice for all, instead of some of them just talking about standing,” Smith said. “We look forward to continuing our talks with them on this very issue.”Jones’ comments on Sunday came after he was asked about Vice President Mike Pence’s decision to leave an Indianapolis home game in protest of about a dozen San Francisco players who kneeled during the anthem. President Donald Trump tweeted after Pence’s walkout that he had told his vice president to leave if any players kneeled during the anthem.Following a 35-31 loss to Green Bay, the 74-year-old Jones said the NFL cannot leave the impression that it tolerates players disrespecting the flag and said any Cowboys doing so will not play.“If there’s anything that is disrespectful to the flag, then we will not play,” said Jones, who was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in August. “OK? Understand? If we are disrespecting the flag, then we won’t play. Period.”The Cowboys and Jones kneeled arm-in-arm before the anthem when they played at Arizona two weeks ago, a few days after Trump said at a rally in Alabama that NFL owners should fire any players who disrespect the flag. All of them stood during the anthem, with arms still locked.Most Dallas players have stood on the sideline, many with hands over their hearts, during the anthem since former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick started kneeling last season in protest of police treatment of African-Americans.Several NFL teams have struggled with how to handle anthem protests. After Trump’s criticism, the Pittsburgh Steelers agreed to stay off the field before the anthem. But Army veteran Alejandro Villanueva, an offensive lineman, stood at the edge of a tunnel with his teammates in darkness behind him during the anthem two weeks ago.Villanueva said he was not making a political statement in defiance of his teammates, calling it a misunderstanding that was “very embarrassing on my end.”Miami coach Adam Gase recently set a new team policy requiring players either to stand or wait in the tunnel. Three chose to stay off the field, Michael Thomas, Kenny Stills and Julius Thomas. All three have kneeled in the past.“We were just trying to keep the team focused and not be a distraction,” Michael Thomas said. “It was a team decision. … The league heard us. They’ve heard the cry of the players.”Mara has told Giants players he wants them to stand during the anthem but supports their right to do otherwise. Jones had already made it clear that he felt strongly about standing for the anthem before his latest comments, and he isn’t the only owner who feels that way.Jones even suggested that standing for the anthem was more important to him that team unity.“The main thing I want to do is make it real clear: There is no room here if it comes between looking non-supportive of our players and of each other or creating the impression that you’re disrespecting the flag. We will be non-supportive of each other,” Jones said. “We will not disrespect the flag.”Trump’s comments stoked a political controversy that had subsided somewhat since Kaepernick started it a year ago. The NFL defended the rights of players to protest.Lead NFL spokesman Joe Lockhart has said, “Everyone should know, including the president, this is what real locker room talk is.” It was an apparent reference to the “Access Hollywood” tapes in which Trump bragged about sexually assaulting women. Trump had chalked up those comments as “locker room talk.”
CHICAGO — The Cleveland Indians won a 1-0 nail-biter on Friday night in Game 3 of the World Series. Two number-three starters succeeded in shutting down two strong offenses, allowing the game to come down to the final at-bat. But while the relievers were overpowering as usual, the most significant influence on this game wasn’t the wind, a single Indians hitter or managerial cleverness, but a seemingly inconsistent strike zone.Home plate umpire John Hirschbeck has a reputation for calling balls and strikes erratically, and that was on full display last night, creating shifting strike-zone boundaries that bedeviled both offenses.1A rough look at the strike zone plots for each team showed about 10 calls helping the Cubs, and seven helping the Indians. Data from PitchF/X needed for a quantitative comparison was not available at time of publication. For the Indians, Josh Tomlin turned in an unexpectedly solid line, allowing only two hits. At times, Tomlin was burned by bad calls, leading, for example, to a fourth-inning walk by Kris Bryant. But when the strike zone is called inconsistently, hitters tend to strike out more often and make weaker contact. That’s because pitchers can choose to target inconsistently called areas of the zone when it benefits them, while hitters can only decide whether to swing or not at what’s offered. When they’re uncertain, batters often opt to swing at pitches outside the zone, resulting in glancing contact and easy outs.Chicago Cubs starter Kyle Hendricks, who usually gets favorable strike calls due to his impeccable command, struggled mightily in allowing six hits and two walks in only 4.2 innings. The shifting zone did aid him in racking up six strikeouts, above what you’d expect based on his regular-season stats.Even as the inconsistent strike zone helped the pitchers, neither was overpowering. And with bullpens fresh after the day off, both starters were pulled before the 6th inning with the score 0-0, an event that has never happened before in MLB postseason history. That handed the game to the relievers, including an early appearance from Andrew Miller. They were as commanding as expected, except for one lapse by the Cubs’ Carl Edwards Jr., who allowed Coco Crisp to single in the lone run of the night.The Cubs came close to evening the score in the bottom of the ninth. With two runners in scoring position and two outs, Chicago dynamo Javy Báez was up to bat against Cleveland closer Cody Allen. He struck out whiffing to end the threat, leaving the Indians up 2-1 in the Series.The outlook for the Cubs is worrisome going forward: Their series win probability by Elo is down to only 37 percent.2For reference, that’s the same probability Elo gave the Indians before the World Series began. In his last start, Corey Kluber looked invincible, and the Cubs will have to face him in Games 4 and 7 of this Series (if it goes that far). That means they will need to pull off at least one upset against the 2014 AL Cy Young winner to clinch the series. While such a feat appears difficult, the Cubs managed an even more surprising performance against Clayton Kershaw in the NLCS, so it’s certainly possible. Nobody said ending a 108-year title drought would be easy.CORRECTION (Oct. 29, 12:05 p.m.): An earlier version of this article incorrectly described Corey Kluber. He was the 2014 AL Cy Young winner; he is not the reigning winner.
Correction 10/21: An earlier version of the story said OSU’s first-ever trip to Providence came in 2003, when in fact it played two games against Brown in 1974. Sophomore forward Christian Lampasso (11) handles the puck during an exhibition match against Brock University on Oct. 3 at the Schottenstein Center. OSU won 4-0. Credit: Kaley Rentz / Asst. Sports DirectorAnybody can beat anybody in college hockey.That message, which is echoed annually by coaches around the country, was proven true by Ohio State (0-4) to the college hockey sphere in the first game of last season when it took down the then-No. 3 ranked Providence Friars 5-4 in overtime at the Schottenstein Center.In this season’s matchup, a few things are the same, and a few things are different.The Friars (2-0-1) are once again ranked third in the latest United States College Hockey Online poll and return a lot of key players.But this year’s series takes place in Rhode Island at Schneider Arena, the Buckeyes are a very different looking team and a lot of those aforementioned key Friar players now have shiny rings on their fingers after winning the program’s first national title in April.“They’re a top-five team in the country, but that doesn’t really mean much to us,” senior captain Craig Dalrymple said. “It’s going to be a tough two games up there. We know they’re going to be a pretty gritty team. I’m sure they’re going to be quick. We just have to make sure we’re ready for that.”OSU is off to its worst start since 1974-75 when the Scarlet and Gray finished with a record of 7-22-1.Finding the back of the netOSU’s offense, which has contributed just three goals in the last three games, will need to step up against a talented Friar defense.“We’ve had a lot of chances,” junior captain Nick Schilkey said. “Personally, I’ve had a lot of chances, and it gets frustrating but we have to stick with it. The chances that we have been getting, they’re going to go in. We can’t get too frustrated with that. Going forward, we have to be confident.”Special teams, as always, will be a factor. Three of the five Buckeye goals in OSU’s upset win last season came with the man-advantage. But so far this season, OSU has only scored on one of its 16 power-play attempts. “We’ve got to be able to chip one in on the power play,” OSU coach Steve Rohlik said. “We haven’t been able to do that lately. Instead of not quite two goals a game, you’re getting maybe three goals a game. If we could’ve done that in the last few games, all of sudden you’re right there.”Rohlik, now in his third season at the helm of the Buckeyes, has tried a variety of combinations personnel-wise with the extra man. But his search for the proper one persists.“We’re just trying to find the right combinations.” Rohlik said. “We’ll continue to tweak until we find the right recipe.”Matchup nuggetsOSU leads the all-time series against Providence 4-1Friday marks the first time the Buckeyes and Friars face off in Rhode Island. The last time OSU has played in Providence was in the 2003 NCAA tournament, where the Buckeyes fell to Boston College 1-0 in the regional semifinal. Their first trip to Rhode Island’s capital city was in November 1974, when they were swept by Brown in two games.The building process continuesFor the young team, this weekend represents another opportunity to face off with a top-20 opponent, as well as another opportunity to build and get better.“I think we’re making some strides,” Rohlik said. “Nobody wants to be 0-4 at this point. We knew it was going to be a tough schedule. In our minds, we can go out and beat anyone. We’ve just got to stay with that confidence.”Puck drop between the Buckeyes and the Friars is set for 7 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.
OSU junior H-back Curtis Samuel (4) runs for a touchdown during the second half of the Buckeyes game against Penn State on Oct. 22. The Buckeyes lost 24-21. Credit: Alexa Mavrogianis | Photo EditorSTATE COLLEGE, Pa. — The goal for any offense is to get the ball into the hands of its playmakers. It’s to give the ball to those athletes in space with the hope of creating a long gain. For the No. 2 Ohio State Buckeyes, at some times that can be challenging due to the amount of raw talent on the field. But through the team’s first six games, junior H-back Curtis Samuel asserted himself as the most dynamic player on the sideline.When looking back on its loss against Penn State on Saturday, OSU might want to consider using Samuel more.In the first quarter, Samuel registered zero touches and the Buckeyes scored zero points in a quarter for the first time all season. However, the inefficiency of the offense wasn’t an anomaly, and the stagnation begins with not getting the ball in Samuel’s hands.OSU had accumulated just 61 yards of offense after the first quarter, not one of those belonging to Samuel. It took redshirt junior quarterback J.T. Barrett until the under-10 minute mark of the second quarter to get the ball to Samuel, which resulted in a first down and 15-yard gain. His next catch, too, moved the sticks.On that drive, Barrett threw a touchdown pass to redshirt junior tight end Marcus Baugh, putting the Buckeyes up 9-0.Samuel began to be more involved in the beginning of the second half. It was almost as if OSU coach Urban Meyer remembered how important Samuel is to the offense. The Brooklyn native took his first carry of the night for 74 yards for a touchdown, taking the wind out of Penn State’s sails.Then, all of a sudden, Samuel wasn’t anywhere to be found in the run game. He had just one carry after the touchdown run and he was held to 10 total touches for the game with 139 total yards of offense. The Buckeyes stagnant offense allowed Penn State to get back into the game, with some help from OSU’s special teams, and ultimately ended in a 24-21 loss — the first of OSU’s season.Meyer simply said after the game that Samuel is much too important to the success of the offense to have just 10 touches and two carries.“We got to get him more than that,” he said.The two games where OSU’s offensive inconsistencies were the most prevalent were Indiana and Penn State. Against the Hoosiers, Samuel did not have a touch in the first quarter and did not record a reception. Against Penn State, Samuel surpassed his average of 5.3 receptions per game, but only had two carries, which is seven attempts lower than his season average.Play calling is one factor in an offense that is having difficulty with moving the ball, and execution is another. Redshirt freshman running back Mike Weber and senior H-back Dontre Wilson are two other dual-threat players who are used in the passing and running game, but the offense doesn’t have an urgency to get one guy the ball over the other.“It’s not like, ‘hey, Curtis has got to touch the ball, Dontre has got to touch the ball, Mike Weber has got to touch the ball.’ We’re not doing that,” Barrett said. “I’m going to tell you that from here on out, there’s not going to be any, ‘hey, let’s get Curtis the ball on this play.’ It’s not going to be like that.” In 2015, OSU had an embarrassment of riches concerning the talent at skill positions. That team struggled in finding the right amount of touches for each player on the offense. This season, in many ways OSU is still finding a balance in its offense. However, it is coming at the expense of neglecting Samuel.Although Meyer said he needs to get the ball to Samuel more, Barrett said that the offense doesn’t function best when one player is singled out to get the ball.“We’re going to run our plays and if Curtis happens to get the ball, then Curtis happens to get the ball,” Barrett said. “Our offense runs very well when that happens. We’re not going to start going backwards into ‘this person has to get the ball, that person has to get the ball’ because then you’re just predictable. That’s not how we play. That’s not good football.”
OSU coach Greg Beals and Toledo coach Cory Mee go over the ground rules with the umpires before the game at Bill Davis Stadium April 2. OSU won against Toledo, 7-2. Credit: Elliot Schall / Lantern photographerOne day after belting out 19 hits and 11 runs, the Ohio State baseball team picked up right where it left off against Toledo.With a light drizzle of rain coming down to start the game Wednesday, the Buckeyes (18-10, 2-4) quickly pushed across four runs in the first and never looked back against the Rockets (10-15, 2-4), going on to win 7-2.Toledo sophomore pitcher Ross Achter was thrown off his game early, giving up two hits, walking three batters and throwing a wild pitch in the opening inning.With the bases full and no outs, Achter walked sophomore infielder Jacob Bosiokovic to force in the first run for OSU. Sophomore infielder Zach Ratcliff followed with an RBI groundout and two batters later, junior catcher Connor Sabanosh smacked a single to plate two more and put the Rockets in a four-run hole.Sabanosh has been splitting time at catcher with fellow junior Aaron Gretz throughout the season but he said after the win, he’s been able to stay consistent despite not always playing.“We both get two or three games a week,” Sabanosh said. “When you get a five-day period off, your timing can be off your first few at-bats. Other than, that I felt fine.”Achter calmed down after the first, but was still pulled after finishing the second inning.Meanwhile, Buckeye freshman pitcher Zach Farmer pitched efficiently, tossing four scoreless innings and showing solid command of the ball from the start.“I thought I did pretty good. Feeling for my pitches, getting in the strike zone finally,” Farmer said after the win. “Limited my walks. It felt real good. It was a good day.”OSU coach Greg Beals said he didn’t want Farmer playing a long portion of the game so the pitcher could be available for the upcoming weekend series at Nebraska.“He should be available by Saturday,” Beals said. “That’s why the four innings.”The Rockets finally got on the board in the fifth off OSU sophomore reliever Jake Post. With men on second and third, Toledo sophomore outfielder Ryan Callahan hit a single to score both.The Buckeyes still found themselves up four, though, after RBIs from freshman outfielder Ronnie Dawson and Bosiokovic in the previous inning.The Rockets only threatened once more in the sixth.OSU brought in freshman reliever Yianni Pavlopoulos for his first collegiate appearance in the seventh and eighth, and he allowed one hit while striking out two.The Buckeyes added an insurance run in the eighth from another RBI from Bosiokovic and freshman reliever Travis Lakins retired the Rockets in the ninth to secure the win.Beals said the midweek games helped the team bounce back after getting swept by Indiana last weekend.“Obviously they’re very important to our goal of putting ourselves, from an RPI standpoint, worthy of an at-large bid (to the NCAA tournament),” Beals said.The Buckeyes are next scheduled to take on Nebraska in a three-game weekend series in Lincoln, Neb. First pitch Friday is set for 7:35 p.m.
Bristol University hopes to boost diversity by offering disadvantaged teenagers places for lower grades.Courses that may typically require top grades at A-level will be offered to “high potential” pupils from local schools with grades as low as C.The “Bristol scholars”, who will be drawn from both state and independent schools in the city, will have “overcome educational or domestic disadvantage” such as being the first in their family to attend university, receiving Free School Meals, living in care or being a young carer.The initiative, which was launched by Education Secretary Justine Greening, is thought to be the first of its kind.Launching the scheme at St Bede’s Catholic College in Bristol, Ms Greening said: “I was the first in my family to have the opportunity to go on to university, and getting my degree opened doors to the type of future I knew I wanted for myself. Pupils from Bristol receiving A-level resultsCredit:Matt Cardy For every local school, there will be up to five places for disadvantaged pupils, based on head teachers’ assessments of “potential” rather than exam grades.In addition to a lower offer, the University will offer academic and pastoral support and financial support for those whose household income is below £25,000. Figures released by Ucas this week showed that groups such as working class white boys are still far behind in university entry rates.Many universities already make “contextual” offers to students which can be up to two grades lower than usual if they come from lower performing schools.Professor Les Ebdon, Director of Fair Access to Higher Education, said this was an “innovative” way to improve diversity, adding: “But there is still a long way to go before everyone who has the potential to go to university has equal chance to do so.” “This Government wants to widen access to a great education so that all young people can go as far as their talents will take them.”Professor Hugh Brady, Bristol University’s Vice-Chancellor said: “These are bold measures designed to address a problem that is seen across the education sector.“We’re confident that, in time, we will achieve a more diverse student community at the University of Bristol; this will be a change which will benefit everyone, and something we hope other universities will consider replicating.”Of the 44 students who applied to the pilot scheme, 39 will be offered places to start their courses in 2017. The university aims to have a cohort of 100 Bristol scholars every year starting from 2018, which is part of a wider expansion in student numbers.