On Tuesday, we looked at the relative popularity of Major League Baseball teams as based on Google searches. That resulted in the following chart:The Yankees and Red Sox are popular? Quelle surprise! Nonetheless, sources such as Google and Facebook give us access to new types of data on fandom and provide a little more precision than the conventional wisdom.We’ve also run the numbers for the NBA, NHL, NFL and English Premier League. This data can tell us something not only about which teams are most popular, but also about the structure of sports leagues. The ground rules were the same as for our baseball figures:The data is taken from Google Trends and is based on searches worldwide for each team since 2004. The exceptions are expansion teams or relocated franchises, when the data is run from the team’s first month of operation in its new location.Google organizes individual search strings into topics — for instance, “NY Rangers” and “rangers hockey” should be counted as searches for “New York Rangers.” The process is undoubtedly imperfect, but it works well in most cases (for example, “New Orleans Hornets” seems to transition seamlessly into “New Orleans Pelicans”).All figures are taken relative to the league average; a score of 1.00 represents a team with league-average popularity.Here’s the data for the NBA:It’s not surprising to see the Lakers on top, but the extent to which they lap the field is striking: The Lakers are about as popular as the Knicks and Heat combined. (Keep in mind that this data dates back 10 years. In the past 12 months, during which time the Lakers have stunk, the Heat have been searched far more often.)But overall — despite the NBA’s reputation for being a league of superstar players and dominant franchises — the distribution between the haves and have-nots is not that different than in baseball. In the NBA, the 90th percentile team is searched for 5.3 times more often than the 10th percentile team; in MLB, the ratio is 4.0 instead. This may reflect the fact that the correlation between market size and team success has been extremely low in the NBA. (The Knicks can blow up the Internet when they do well, but they usually don’t do well.) In baseball, by contrast, the most successful teams tend to play in bigger markets, with both factors contributing to their popularity.Next up is the NHL:As FiveThirtyEight has written, Canadian NHL teams (which we’ve highlighted in the chart) are disproportionately popular. The Edmonton television market is only about one-fourth the size of the Dallas market, but the Oilers generate more than twice as much Google activity as the Stars. (Neither team has been much good over the past several seasons, so this would seem to reflect hockey’s intrinsically higher popularity in Canada.) Bring back the Nordiques!The NFL has a reputation for parity because of its strict salary cap, revenue-sharing rules and a short schedule that has teams vaulting up and down the standings every season. This parity is also reflected in its Google data:The Cowboys are the NFL’s most popular team. But they are searched for only 2.4 times as often as the league average — not as disproportionate a ratio as the Canadiens (2.9), Yankees (3.8) or Lakers (4.5) in the other sports. Meanwhile, only one NFL team — the Jaguars — has a popularity rating of 0.4 or below; that compares with six in the NBA and the NHL, and four in baseball.What about a notoriously inequal league: the English Premiership? Since the Premier League was founded in 1992, three clubs — Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea — have won 19 of its 21 championships. Those clubs and a fourth, Liverpool, also account for 70 percent of Google searches. Manchester United alone is as popular as the bottom 14 teams in the Premiership combined.Our data, incidentally, only reflects searches from those seasons in which a team actually played in the Premiership (rather than a lower division); otherwise the gap between the most and least popular teams would be even greater. But there is very little resembling a middle class in English football, with the possible exception of Tottenham Hotspur.One of us (Nate) has said that American sports leagues are socialist and European sports leagues are capitalist. It’s only a modest exaggeration.Economists use something called the Gini coefficient to measure inequality within a country. A maximally equal country (where everyone has exactly the same amount of wealth) would have a Gini coefficient of 0.00. A maximally unequal country (one person has all the money) would have a Gini coefficient of 1.00. In practice, countries range from 0.23 (Sweden) to 0.63 (Lesotho) on this scale, as based on the CIA’s World Factbook.The sports leagues we’ve studied occupy nearly as wide a range. The NFL’s Gini coefficient, based on the distribution of Google searches for each team, is 0.27. That’s similar to Sweden, Finland (0.27), Germany (0.27) and Iceland (0.28), countries with high rates of taxation and government spending.The Premier League’s Gini coefficient is 0.60, much like Lesotho, Sierra Leone (0.63) or Haiti (0.59), whose economies are extremely unequal and verge on being anarchic. The NBA (0.41), NHL (0.38) and baseball (0.36) fall in a middle range, somewhere between the United States (0.45) and Canada (0.32) on the spectrum.
On Wednesday, Former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez was convicted of first-degree murder in the 2013 shooting death of Odin Lloyd. He also faces separate murder charges for a 2012 drive-by shooting.According to the USA Today NFL Arrests Database and Wikipedia, Hernandez appears to be the first NFL player ever arrested and convicted of a murder that he committed while still in the NFL (though Jovan Belcher was a member of the Kansas City Chiefs when he shot and killed his girlfriend, Kasandra Perkins, before committing suicide in 2012).I’ve written about crime and the NFL before, particularly on domestic violence (“The Rate of Domestic Violence Arrests Among NFL Players”). Murder arrests were also part of the data set I used, and show how Hernandez’s case fits into the broader crime rates in the NFL. Arrest rates among NFL players are likely1In our methodological follow-up to that post, I discussed a lot of the different assumptions that could be used for this type of comparison. As for determining the number of NFL players “in the denominator” for the NFL arrest rates in these calculations and in the updated comparison chart below, the figure that makes the most sense to me is a weighted average based on the shifting NFL roster size, which gives us a pool of approximately 2,376 players per year. This method was first suggested by reader Keli Ray. well below the national rates for the comparable age group, pretty much across the board. Overall, police arrest NFL players about 14 percent as often as other 25-29 year old males, but that ratio varies widely by type of offense.The NFL murder arrest rate is 30 percent of the national murder arrest rate for that demographic, which is high relative to many other crimes. But the number of murder cases is way too small to tell us much: The three cases are Hernandez, Belcher2Who is listed in the USA Today database with the legal disposition, “Dead.” and Ray Lewis, who plead down to obstruction of justice.The chart above is just arrest rates. Hernandez is now part of the two thirds or so of felony defendants in the U.S. (at least in the 75 largest counties) who are ultimately convicted or plead guilty, according to a 2006 Bureau of Justice Statistics study.CORRECTION (April 15, 7:05 p.m.): An earlier version of this article included the incorrect first name of the Kansas City Chief who shot and killed his girlfriend in 2012. His name was Jovan Belcher, not Jordan Belcher.
When the NBA announced Tuesday that they would not suspend Oklahoma City power forward Serge Ibaka for his below-the-belt hit on Los Angeles Clippers Blake Griffin, fellow players expressed outrage.Miami Heat teammates LeBron James and Dwayne Wade along with Clippers Matt Barnes took to Twitter to express their confusion in the league only fining Ibaka $25,000.“So explain to me the difference?” James tweeted. “My teammate gets a 1 game suspension and 150k+ taken away from him for his groin altercation #strangetome.”James referred to Wade’s suspensionwithout pay by the NBA in December for a kick to the groin of Charlotte Bobcats guard Ramon Sessions. The league described Wade’s actions, saying the suspension was “for flailing his leg and making contact with the groin of” Sessions.“All I can say is WoW…no pun intented but really…and I get suspended and lose 200… #someexplainingtodo,” Wade tweeted Tuesday evening.Ibaka hit Griffin in the groin with 1:52 left in the fourth quarter in Sunday’s victory over the Clippers. Ibaka was initially assessed a flagrant 1 foul, but the league chose to upgrade the foul to a Flagrant 2.Ibaka apologized for his actions prior to Tuesday’s night victory over the Los Angeles Lakers, saying that the hit was not intentional and that he is not a dirty player.“I did not see, I only heard,” Ibaka said when asked about the reactions of fellow players on Twitter. “But it’s not really my concern. . . About the people that was tweeting or whatever I’m not really concerned about that.”Griffin’s Clipper teammate Matt Barnes, who has a gained a reputation in some circles for being a dirty player, chimed in on NBA’s course of action.“Let me or @mettaworldpeace do that & I guarantee it’s a 5 game suspension..,” Barnes tweeted. “I luv *how* there are different rules, for different people!”Barnes was suspended for one game without pay for striking the neck of Minnesota Timberwolves center Greg Stiemsma in January.It remains unclear if the league will give an explanation behind its decision for not suspending Ibaka.
Firing a head coach in the middle of an NFL season is viewed as a rash move. But when your head coach might be the worst in NFL history, and your No. 1 overall quarterback is failing to develop, maybe desperation is warranted.So the Browns had nothing to lose when they jettisoned both Hue Jackson and offensive coordinator Todd Haley after the two engaged in a bitter power struggle. But few could have expected the team’s subsequent dramatic turnaround, which continued Sunday in Cincinnati (with Jackson on the opposing sideline). Rookie signal caller Baker Mayfield tossed a career-high four touchdown passes and the Browns rolled up 24 first downs in a 35-20 victory — Cleveland’s first road win since 2015. Cleveland’s record under interim coach Gregg Williams is now 2-1.The Browns’ about-face is quite a surprise given that such teams tend to keep losing. Over the previous 12 seasons, teams that fired their coaches in the middle of a season subsequently had just a .389 winning percentage, according to Pro-Football-Reference.com. Granted, that’s 11.5 percentage points higher than it had been before the change, on average. But we’d expect some kind of improvement just from regression to the mean alone.Cleveland can thank its offense under new coordinator and play caller Freddie Kitchens. According to the ESPN Stats & Information Group, the Browns’ offensive turnaround since firing Jackson is unprecedented since 2006, the first year for which advanced stats are available. They are adding 13.3 expected points per game on offense, based on the field position and down and distance of every snap. Among the 18 teams in that time period that had an interim coach for multiple games, the Browns are only the fifth to see any offensive gains whatsoever when measured this way. And the average improvement of the other four was just 3.1 points per game, with a high of 6.0 by the 2016 Jaguars — a boost that earned then-interim coach Doug Marrone the permanent gig. (Though, in the NFL, “permanent” is a relative term.) The second best improvement, about a third of what the Browns have experienced, was by the 2010 Cowboys under interim coach Jason Garrett, who also was promoted to head coach and has proceeded to hold the job since. 2011KCHaleyCrennel-7.4-0.3.385+0.9+5.0.667 2008SFNolanSingletary-4.4-1.7.286-2.1-0.3.556 CoachFormer coachInterim coach * Includes only interim coaches with a minimum of two games playedBobby Petrino left Atlanta after 13 games in 2007 to become the head coach at Arkansas. All other former coaches were fired.Sources: Pro-Football-Reference.com, ESPN Stats & Information Group 2014OAKAllenSparano-10.0-3.2.000-7.5-3.8.250 2010DALPhillipsGarrett-1.6-4.7.125+4.6-0.9.625 2010DENMcDanielsStudesville+1.8-8.7.250-6.3-3.8.250 Interim usually means underwhelmingExpected points added on offense and defense for interim coaches* compared with the coaches they replaced, since 2006 2013HOUKubiakPhillips-4.1-2.5.154-13.6-2.1.000 2011JAXDel RioTucker-10.4+4.3.273-6.0-0.6.400 2015TENWhisenhuntMularkey-6.1+2.5.143-3.4-7.0.222 2016JAXBradleyMarrone-3.2-1.7.143+6.0+2.5.500 2011MIASparanoBowles-2.7+2.0.308+0.8-0.3.667 2008OAKKiffinCable-6.3-3.3.250-9.0-3.2.333 YearTeamFormerInterimOFF. EPADEF. EPAWin %OFF. EPADEF. EPAWin % 2009BUFJauronFewell-8.1-0.4.333-3.9+3.8.429 2015MIAPhilbinCampbell-4.4-6.3.250-0.2-3.3.417 2016LARFisherFassel-7.8-2.8.308-19.3-2.5.000 2010MINChildressFrazier-4.2-1.3.300-7.1+5.3.500 2007ATLPetrinoThomas-7.8-1.7.231-1.6-7.8.333 2017NYGMcAdooSpagnuolo-4.2-1.9.167-7.0-0.7.250 2018CLEJacksonWilliams-4.9+0.9.313+13.3-9.1.667 But what’s so unusual about Cleveland’s situation is that, unlike Marrone and Garrett, Williams isn’t involved with the offense. Kitchens is getting the credit there, particularly with the striking improvement of Mayfield. The Heisman-winning No. 1 overall pick is now releasing the ball with the quickness and anticipation that intrigued NFL scouts when he was one of college football’s most prolific passers — he took an average of 0.3 seconds less to throw in Weeks 9 and 10 than he did during his previous six games, according to Pro Football Focus.Mayfield’s comfort in the new system deployed by Kitchens is seen in his Total Quarterback Rating, in which he trails only Drew Brees and Andrew Luck since Week 9.1Mayfield and Luck have played three games in that span, while Brees played four. Prior to the coaching change, Mayfield ranked 29th in QBR and was sacked 20 times in six games. He has been sacked only twice in three games under Kitchens.A major question now is whether the Browns’ success will be credited to Williams, who has touted himself as a red-hot coaching candidate. Though interestingly, Cleveland’s defense actually has gotten worse with Williams, the former defensive coordinator, now completely in charge of that unit. They’ve gone from 0.9 expected points added per game to minus-9.1. That’s the biggest drop in defensive performance by a team with an interim coach since 2006. Williams, 60, would also be the dreaded “retread” — the Browns this year have improved his career head coaching record to a decidedly uninspiring 19-32.Kitchens could be dark horse candidate for the full-time job. And he’s received high praise from general manager John Dorsey.But the Cleveland job is very attractive thanks to Mayfield’s potential, and several established coaches are throwing their names into the mix. Bruce Arians, who wants to return to Cleveland, has floated the idea that he would keep Kitchens on as offensive coordinator if he were to get the job. But given that Arians’s entire selling point is his ability to design offenses and develop young quarterbacks, there could be too many cooks in the kitchens.Whatever develops this offseason, the long-hapless Browns are finally showing signs of life — and they’re even in the hunt for a playoff berth. For once, the rash move of showing a coach the door seems to have paid off.Check out our latest NFL predictions.
Draymond Green+1.4+3.3———2545+1.0+2.3 The Warriors are getting Kevin Durant, and Kevin Durant is still a beast.CORRECTION (July 4, 6:15 p.m.): An earlier version of this article erroneously referred to Jason Thompson as being under contract with the Warriors. Thompson was waived by the team in February. Kevin Durant+6.5+0.5——3525—+3.9+0.3 PLAYEROFF.DEF.PGSGSFPFCOFF.DEF. Team Total PLUS-MINUS PER 100 POSS.PLAYING TIMECONTRIBUTION TO TEAM TOTAL And here’s Durant’s: +10.3+1.6 Andre Iguodala-0.3+1.1—1035——-0.1+0.5 Replacement-level players-1.7-0.355305055-2.5-0.4 Klay Thompson+2.6-1.5—70———+1.8-1.1 Warriors CARMELO projections with Kevin Durant Stephen Curry+9.6-0.170————+6.7-0.1 Shaun Livingston-1.4+0.22515———-0.6+0.1 Kevin Durant announced Monday that he was leaving the “comfort zone” of Oklahoma City and joining the team with the best record in the NBA: the 73-win Golden State Warriors.Durant is expected to sign a two-year, $54.3 million contract with an opt-out after the first year, making him the highest-paid player in the league. Technically, this still hinges on the Warriors clearing some space to fit him within their salary cap, but for our purposes let’s assume the other 29 NBA teams don’t pull off the mass collusion necessary to block it. He could have signed for five years and $153 million in Oklahoma City, or four years and $114 million in Golden State, but the 1+1 deal makes him eligible for a much bigger contract after next season ($163 million to $177 million in total over the five-year period, according to ESPN Stats & Information Group’s estimate) because Durant reaches a milestone for service time after next season. Stars like Durant will probably never be paid what they’re truly worth, but this structure goes part of the way to covering the difference.FiveThirtyEight’s CARMELO player projections expect Durant’s play to fall off just the slightest bit — it’s actually dropped his “category” from “MVP Candidate” to “All-Star.” At age 28 next season, Durant will be at the age where some players begin a gradual decline, and CARMELO is still worried about his 2014-15 campaign, when he missed most of the season because of injury.Still, he projects to have the seventh-most wins above replacement in the league over the next five seasons, with 40.0 WAR. Over those same five years, Harrison Barnes — the guy whose job Durant is taking — projects to produce just 13.1 WAR. (Andrew Bogut, who will likely be traded to make room for Durant, comes out to 12.5 WAR over that stretch.)Just how good might the Warriors be with Durant on the roster?As we’ve seen with Kevin Love over the past two seasons, not all stats are portable from team to team, but Durant’s numbers come with the certainty of having been stress-tested in deep playoff runs, whereas Love had never played in the postseason before arriving in Cleveland. Intuitively, it might seem as though you take a 73-win team, add another superstar to it, and wind up with a win total in the stratosphere, somewhere in the mid-to-high 70s.In practice, however, it might be hard for the Warriors to equal their 73-win benchmark from last season, even with Durant on the team.One reason is simple reversion to the mean. Of the 10 previous teams to win at least 67 games during the regular season, all but one saw their win total decline in the next season, falling to an average of 60.5 wins from 68.1 the previous season. The Warriors already showed some signs of mean-reversion in the playoffs, with a season-ending Elo rating of 1756, a championship-worthy but not all-time-great figure.Another question is diminishing returns. How much value can a high-usage player like Durant realistically add to what was already perhaps the most efficient offense in NBA history? The Miami Heat made four straight NBA Finals during the LeBron Big Three era, but imperfect offensive fits between the stars and a necessarily thin bench kept regular-season win totals far lower than most expected.Finally, there’s the issue of depth. If, as anticipated, Andrew Bogut is traded, and Barnes and Festus Ezeli are let go, the Warriors will have only six players with a material amount1We don’t count Kevon Looney in this category; he’s played just 21 minutes in his NBA career. of NBA experience signed to a contract: Durant, Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston.If we use CARMELO to project the Warriors on the basis of these six players only (see here for details on the methodology), assuming they’ll fill the rest of their minutes with replacement-level players, we wind up with a projected record of 66-16. That would be one of the better records in NBA history, but nonetheless a seven-win decline from last year. The Warriors, however, have a knack for finding bench talent — and talented bench players have a knack for finding teams like the Warriors who give them a chance at a championship ring — so they’ll probably add a few more wins to that baseline once the roster is filled out.And the real impact could be in the playoffs, where the Warriors will benefit from stealing Durant from the Thunder, one of their foremost conference rivals. And the Durant announcement came on the same day it was reported that the San Antonio Spurs’ Tim Duncan was “leaning strongly” toward retirement.That’s all for another day, though. For now, it doesn’t have to be that deep. Here’s Barnes’s shot chart this past season season, via StatMuse:
OSU sophomore linebacker Raekwon McMillan (5) celebrates during a game against Minnesota on Nov. 7 at Ohio Stadium. OSU won 28-14. Credit: Lantern File PhotoOhio State defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Luke Fickell has a tall order this season. He must replace 171 tackles from former Buckeyes Joshua Perry and Darron Lee, including 18.5 tackles for loss and eight sacks.Migrating into a starting role is difficult enough, but when those players are following the footsteps of NFL draft picks, the water is even tougher to tread. Perry was a fourth-round pick to the San Diego Chargers, and Lee was selected No. 20 overall by the New York Jets. However, it’s not just those guys. It’s a long list of NFL linebackers to come out of OSU.“It’s not just 37 (Perry), there’s a No. 10, Ryan Shazier, there’s a No. 47, A.J. Hawk,” Fickell said on Tuesday after the team’s third practice. “There’s a standard set and that’s what we expect you to live up to.”Fickell has been on the OSU staff since 2002 when he was the special teams coordinator under former coach Jim Tressel. He has been a part of a national championship with Tressel and coach Urban Meyer, and spent four years as a linebacker on the 1993-1996 Buckeyes, starting in 50 consecutive games. In that time, he has seen a few changes of the guard at the linebacker position.Replacing eight starters on defense sounds like a daunting task, but Fickell was a part of the 2006 team that replaced nine starters on defense to make it to the national championship game where OSU eventually lost to Meyer’s Florida Gators. Linebackers Lee and now-junior Raekwon McMillan were thrown into the fire in 2014 and rose to the occasion. This season, Fickell said, is just another example of relying on young players.“We’re going to continue to recruit the best and guys are going to come in here and expect to play,” Fickell said. “I can say probably one of the greatest things we’ve been able to have around here is competition, especially at the linebacker spot.”Meyer has been regarded as one of the nation’s best recruiters. His ability to retool rather than rebuild on both sides of the ball is perhaps the greatest reason the 2016 Buckeyes are a favorite to win the Big Ten conference.Junior Dante Booker and redshirt junior Chris Worley are likely going to play at the weak-side linebacker and strong-side linebacker positions, respectively, with McMillan manning the middle. Booker and Worley may be new to the top of the depth chart, but Buckeye fans should take solace in knowing that those two are some of the most experienced players having to replace starters this season. Linebacker has always been a strong suit of the OSU defense, and Fickell believes this season will be no different.“They’re not those 44 some guys that are freshmen that have either redshirted or never played a down,” he said. “That’s one of those things where you can lay your head on a pillow at night knowing those guys are legitimate guys. They live, sleep and breathe our culture.”Worley and Booker saw several snaps last season and played on the special teams as well. McMillan, the team’s leading tackler in 2015, said that he doesn’t feel like he has to lead them like he does some more youthful teammates. He said going against the OSU offense in practice is as good of game preparation as a player can get in practice.“We have been working with each other the whole summer so we built that bond and that chemistry on the field,” McMillan said. “Once you build that chemistry on the field, you can work together and play together.”The expectation has been the same for the linebacker unit since they arrived on campus, and 2016 is no exception. They all sat behind guys like Curtis Grant, Perry and Lee, all of whom Fickell and McMillan proclaimed as great leaders. To be in the conversation of the last two seasons of dominant linebackers, McMillan, Booker and Worley are focusing on team accolades rather than their own personal goals.“We’re just going out there as hard as we can,” Booker said. “We’re trying to eliminate the selfish aspect of the game. Just go out there and become tighter as a unit.”Worley, too, understands the height of the bar set by former member of the “Silver Bullets.”“Coach Meyer don’t change the expectation,” he said. “Either you reach it or you got to get out.”
Ohio State history will be made for the women’s cross country team, and the men’s team hopes to continue its hot streak in the NCAA Championship meet today.The women’s team has never competed in the NCAA Championship meet in its 28-year history — until now.“[Making the meet] is one of the main reasons I took this job,” coach Chris Neal said. “Ohio State is the best university in the country, and it should be represented at every major championship.”The Buckeyes are not satisfied with making the meet. They want to make their presence felt on the national stage.“This is another race, and we want to be competitive,” junior Jordan Jennewine said. “We realistically believe that, as a team, we can place anywhere from 17th to 25th.”Finishing that high will not be an easy feat with the talent pool they will compete against. But the team has already competed on the Terra Haute, Ind., course earlier this season at the NCAA Pre-Nationals, finishing 11th out of 37 teams.The team needs a great performance from every runner to have the showing it desires.“We will be depending on all seven of the girls running well, but we will especially need good runs from our top group,” Neal said. “Going into this meet, I would expect [Jennewine] and Sarah [Foster] to once again lead the way. They have been up front all year, and we need them to show up one more time.”The men’s team has been strong all season, except at the NCAA Pre-Nationals earlier this season, which took place at the same course they run today.The team had a lot of difficulties during the Pre-Nationals. Even senior Jeff See, recently named 2009 Great Lakes Athlete of the Year, had a bad meet at this course.The Buckeyes are trying to put that meet out of their minds heading into today, focusing only on the success of their last meet, a second place finish at the Great Lakes Regional meet.“At the very beginning of this season, we had goals of top three at conference. We finished second, qualifying the team for [the NCAA Championship meet] and placing in the top 20 at [the NCAA Championship meet],” coach Robert Gary said. “It will be imperative for our three to seven guys to run like they did at conference.”The key to their success will likely be a combination of higher placing from their three to seven runners and excellent runs from See and sophomore Taylor Williams.“Jeff See has an excellent opportunity to finish as an All-American, and Taylor Williams may be able to be close,” Gary said. “If our next three scorers finish inside top 100, we would have had an awesome performance to end the season.”Today could determine the future of both programs with recruits and national prestige on the line. Great finishes would mean a step in the right direction and a satisfying end to two successful seasons.
Thad Matta received a phone call from Sean Miller the day after the NCAA Tournament bracket was unveiled. “If we can just get to LA, it’ll be like a home game for us,” the Arizona coach said, whose Wildcats were placed as the No. 6 seed in the West Region. “I think we’re in LA, too,” Matta replied, whose Buckeyes received the No. 2 seed in same region. Matta, the head coach at Xavier from 2001-04, and Miller, an assistant for the Musketeers’ during that same period, were so engulfed in their respective programs it took the former co-workers some time to realize it was possible that OSU and Arizona could meet in the Sweet 16 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. “We had no idea. That puts in perspective how coaches think. Everybody else is like, ‘Who’s going to get to the Final Four?’ Coaches are just trying to win one,” Matta said. Saturday night, Miller sent Matta a text message. “We’re waiting for you in LA,” it read. Arizona had already secured a spot in the Sweet 16 following a blowout win against No. 14 seed Harvard. OSU, yet to play its third-round game, hadn’t. Sunday, thanks in part to a game-winning 3-pointer from junior guard Aaron Craft, the Buckeyes advanced to their fourth straight Sweet 16 following a 78-75 victory against No. 10 seed Iowa State in Dayton. The matchup is set. Thursday at 7:47 p.m. ET, OSU and Arizona will square off in Los Angeles with a berth to the Elite Eight on the line. “He’s done a tremendous job out there. He’s a great coach, a great friend. I’m excited to play him,” Matta said. The 45-year-old coach, though, might not be too thrilled with the challenge Miller’s group will present for his team. “I know this, the best team on (the) West Coast is who we play next. I’ve seen Arizona play. They are loaded. They are extremely talented,” Matta said. “I’m not taking anything away from those other teams ranked higher or whatever, but the best team on the West Coast is Arizona.” The Wildcats started the season 14-0, notching wins against Florida and San Diego State along the way. Arizona went on to go 12-6 in the Pac-12, finishing a game behind the conference’s regular season champion, UCLA. In two NCAA Tournament games, against Belmont and Harvard, the Wildcats’ average margin of victory was 20 points. Not only is Arizona talented – Miller’s last two recruiting classes have been ranked third and seventh by ESPN – its players are experienced. The Wildcats’ two leading scorers are seniors: Mark Lyons, a point guard that transferred from Xavier prior to this season, and Solomon Hill, a 6-foot-7 stretch forward. OSU players are aware of how tough it can be to play a veteran-laden squad. Iowa State had three redshirt seniors in its starting lineup Sunday. Craft said the Buckeyes will have to improve in numerous areas if OSU is going to reach its second-straight Elite Eight. “I think we’re going to go back and watch (Sunday’s game’s) tape and know we didn’t play perfect. We had a lot of things that we could have done better,” Craft said. A positive takeaway from OSU’s stomach-wrenching third round win is that the Buckeyes battled through a tough stretch – Iowa State went on a 13-0 run late in the second half – and came out victorious. “Teams are going to make runs in this tournament. You can’t be rocked by that. You have to hold your composure and find a way to dig deep,” said junior guard Lenzelle Smith Jr. Matta said he’s pleased that his team went through what they did against the Cyclones. “I hope our guys have confidence. I don’t like the fact that we had a 13-point lead and squandered it, but I’m proud of the way we finished it,” Matta said. If Thursday’s game is anything like the last time Matta faced his former assistant, OSU will be in another nail-biter. In 2007, a Greg Oden and Mike Conley Jr.-led Buckeye squad met Miller, who took over the Xavier program following Matta’s departure to OSU in 2004, in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Miller left Xavier for Arizona in 2009. OSU won that game, 78-71 in overtime, after a Ron Lewis 3-pointer with two seconds left in regulation tied the contest. That buzzer-beater kept alive an NCAA Tournament run that saw the Buckeyes make the national championship game before losing to Florida. Could Craft’s last-second shot against Iowa State give this year’s OSU team the same momentum the 2007 unit got from Lewis’ make? “You hope,” Matta said with a grin. The winner of the OSU-Arizona contest will play the winner of the game between No. 9 seed Wichita State and No. 13 seed La Salle, Saturday, at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.
Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Related The Bauxite Company of Guyana Inc. (BCGI) and Guyana Bauxite & General Workers Union (GB&GWU), met earlier today to hold bilateral discussions.During the meeting, the union advocated for the reinstatement of the dismissed workers and more so, to the removal of the barricading of the Upper Berbice River, among other issues.The Union submitted to the company, in writing, the terms and conditions upon which normalcy can be restored at the workplace, and has taken the opportunity to explain to the company’s delegation the rationale and justification for every issue appearing in the document. Deliberations on the issues put forward will reconvene on Tuesday.However, no agreement was reached since the BCGI representatives claimed that they had to go back to their principals in Russia.The blocked waterway in the Berbice RiverThe Union while concerned about the absence of decision-making is prepared to wait on a response at the next meeting as this will determine the way forward and the genuine commitment of BCGI of engaging the Union with integrity and willingness for mutually acceptable decision. Until such time, the impasse remains.The workers, in solidarity with members of the community, are still blocking the River.GB&GWU continues to rely on the support of society and Government to remain engaged until workers on strike and those who were unlawfully dismissed, in violation of the Laws of Guyana, are returned to duty with no interruption in service or loss of seniority.The meeting was held in the boardroom of the law firm of Hughes, Fields and Stoby. The Union’s delegation comprised of GB&GWU President Leslie Gonsalves, General Secretary Lincoln Lewis, Assistant Secretary Sheldon Thomas; and BCGI branch leaders Ephraim Velloza and Sheldon Thomas.BCGI’s delegation comprised of Company Representative in Guyana Permyakov Vladimir, Personnel Manager Mikhail Krupenin, and Labour Advisor, Mohamed Akeel.