Dick Pfander, the collector of NBA box scores whom I wrote about this week, was integral to getting decades of statistics from the league’s early years into Sports-Reference.com’s database. So, too, was a man with little interest in the NBA but a knack for typing — really, really fast typing. Sean Wrona Courtesy of Sean Wrona After Pfander sold his trove of data to Sports Reference, the company had to figure out who would enter the data from the images of box scores it had acquired into its database. Who better than Sean Wrona, a champion speed typist and sports-data enthusiast who maintains his own auto-racing statistical site?To find out what it takes to enter historical sports data, and what you can learn by doing so, I interviewed Wrona by email. Wrona’s experience is also a reminder that the data we use comes from somewhere, and it’s often imperfect. Here’s an edited transcript of his responses:My experience with my auto-racing statistical archive race-database.com gave me abundant archival experience that I could apply to this. I had plenty of experience dealing with erroneous data sets, trying to guess the appropriate and most logical corrections that needed to be made to make the data as accurate as possible, and so on.I definitely picked up speed as I went along, too, both with my own archival work and my Sports Reference work. I entered 32 then-NASCAR Grand National (now NASCAR Sprint Cup) races in a single day once.While my typing speed gives me a big advantage, this has minimal similarity to competitive typing. In competitive typing, you don’t have to check or verify anything. Sometimes on some sites you will occasionally find quotes with incorrect spelling or grammar, so you have to adjust your correct instincts as you go, but that’s very rare. At my typing speed, competitive typing is a thoughtless pursuit.The priority with archival work is to go as quickly as you can while minimizing errors.Auto racing and college basketball are the only sports I’ve seriously followed, but I know enough about the core statistics of most sports so that I can understand a box score enough to archive it properly.I entered the complete box-score results from the 1979-80 to 1984-85 NBA seasons in reverse chronological order as a series of thousands of SQL queries from February 2012 to March 2013.It took about eight minutes to enter a box score and two minutes to enter the team-level data for the later seasons that had more information. But for the earlier seasons, which had a lot less information available, I could do it as quickly as four minutes per box score and one minute per team-level entry.Strangely, the earlier box scores seemed to be more legible than the later ones in the early ’80s. The later ones tended to have tons of smudges that obscured the data, while the earlier ones read much more clearly.Primarily I checked to make sure that individual players’ field goals made/attempted, free throws made/attempted and point totals added up to the overall team scores. Usually I subtracted each individual’s total from the overall team total and if the result differed from zero, I checked and usually double-checked by adding all the totals instead of subtracting to make sure I hadn’t made an arithmetic error.The box scores themselves had far more errors than I made — as on average maybe twice a week, there was a box score where the data didn’t properly add up — but I never tabulated an error rate (it might have taken me nearly as long as entering the games did!). This is understandable, because record-keeping was a lot more difficult in the ’70s before personal computers became ubiquitous. I’m also very good at feeling when I’ve made a typo and can correct it on the fly.I certainly noticed games that went into overtime, mainly because they kept my game-level data from displaying in a well-aligned fashion. I did notice some noteworthy stat lines where players had very high scores, rebound totals, etc.I came to have a deep respect for Bernard King, a player I had actually never heard of when starting this project. His Basketball Hall of Fame induction was clearly overdue, because he was dominant for a fairly long period despite not being a household name on the level of the Dream Team members. His peak years happened to perfectly coincide with the years I archived, but still …You’ll definitely learn some stuff when you archive, especially if you know very little. I certainly have learned a lot more about auto racing through my own site. However, I think with my applied statistics work at Cornell and my extensive archival experience, it isn’t necessary to have a deep knowledge to be a good archivist.
2016Round 194.99 2017Conf. finals100.24 2015Finals94.78 2017Round 298.08 2016Round 295.89 2016Finals95.38 2018Round 197.52 The fastest playoff rounds have been in recent yearsNBA playoff rounds with the most possessions per 48 minutes, 1997-2018 2015Round 196.85 2017Finals103.14 2017Round 195.85 Based on possessions per 48 minutes, the recently completed second round of the 2018 playoffs was the third-fastest playoff round since 1997, which is as far back as the NBA Advanced Stats database reaches. Not only that, but this year’s first round was the sixth-fastest. And of the 15 fastest rounds in the past 22 years, 14 of them have come in the past four years.Of course, it makes a good deal of sense that playoff basketball is getting faster, because regular-season basketball is getting faster as well. The league average pace during the 2017-18 regular season was 99.57 possessions per 48 minutes. That’s nearly 10 full possessions faster than the 1996-97 campaign, which was played at an 89.78-possession pace. The rate of change is also quickly rising: This year’s regular season was more than five possessions per game faster than the league was even five years ago.1The 2012-13 season was played at a 94.44-possession pace. With the game getting faster each season, it’s worth examining just how big the drop-off between regular-season and postseason basketball really is — if it exists at all. 2015Round 297.21 When the NBA regular season winds down, fans most likely hear some variation of this old adage on one studio show after another: “In the playoffs, when the games slow down, they’re going to have some problems.”The idea is that run-and-gun teams will see their pace come to a grinding halt once the postseason starts; teams will focus on getting back on defense and will give away less in transition. How much this hurts up-tempo teams in the playoffs is hotly debated. The idea that the game slows down, though, is not. It’s just a truism. But is it even true? 2016Conf. finals97.28 2015Conf. finals97.71 2018Round 299.94 YearRoundPace Since 1996, the regular season has indeed been played at a faster pace than the postseason in all but one year. But based on how the playoffs are thought of as a slog, you would expect the rate of slowdown to be massive. That has not actually been the case. On average, playoff games over the past 22 years have been played 2.42 possessions per game slower than regular-season games — roughly 2.6 percent slower than regular-season games in that span. But even the rate of the postseason slowdown has been dropping off of late.In 1997, the playoffs were 3.4 percent slower than the 1996-97 regular season. By 2000, the drop in pace reached 5.7 percent. In other words, the truism, back then, actually was true. Since the turn of the century, however, it has become increasingly less true. And in 2015, the playoffs were faster than the regular season for the first time in at least 20 years.This year’s conference finals figure to see an even smaller drop-off in pace. The Celtics ranked 23rd in pace during the regular season at 98.24 possessions per game, the slowest among the four remaining teams. The three regular-season matchups between the Celtics and Cleveland Cavaliers were played at an average of 101.71 possessions, while the three Golden State Warriors-Houston Rockets games averaged 103.57 possessions. Even if the Cavs-Celtics series is slower, the rate at which the Warriors and Rockets rack up possessions should make these conference finals one of the fastest playoff rounds in recent memory — especially if that Western Conference series is as close as many think it will be and lasts six or seven games. (The first two games of the Eastern Conference finals averaged 95.20 possessions, per NBA.com’s calculations; while the West’s opening game was played at a 100.12-possession pace, confirming the expectation that it will be the faster series.)But the expected difference in pace between the conference finals highlights one other NBA perception that has largely held true over the years: Western Conference games are a bit faster than those in the Eastern Conference, and Eastern Conference basketball slows down in the playoffs more than Western Conference basketball does.Thanks to the NBA Advanced Stats database, we are able to isolate games played between Eastern Conference teams and those played between Western Conference teams for every regular season since 1996-97. The West has been the faster conference in 18 of the 22 seasons. The gap between the conferences has at times been portrayed as wide, and for a good while (from 2006-07 to 2014-15), this was true. But the East has rapidly caught up over the past few years, and it has actually been the faster conference each of the past two regular seasons.The playoffs are another story. While regular-season games played between West teams since 1997 have been 1.36 possessions faster than those contested between teams from the East, the average West playoff game since 1997 has been 2.88 possessions faster than the average East playoff contest. 2002Conf. finals97.14 Source: NBA Advanced Stats Even the conferences’ drop-offs from their regular-season pace has been starker in the East than in the West. On average, Eastern Conference playoff games have been 3.06 possessions slower than those played during the regular season. In the West, the differential has been just 1.54 possessions.Much of this can be pinned on one man: LeBron James. James’s teams — a constant presence in the East playoffs for more than a decade — not only play slower than most believe, they also like to slow the pace even more during the playoffs, in an effort to allow James to control every inch of the floor. His teams, either the Cavaliers or the Miami Heat, have played slower in the Eastern Conference portion of the playoffs than in the regular season in 12 of the 13 years he has made the playoffs, including this year. On average, they’ve played 3.40 possessions slower, and this year they’re 6.70 possessions slower.Interestingly, James’s opponents have been able to speed his team up in all but one of his NBA Finals appearances.2The exception was 2007, James’s first trip to the championship round, when his Cavaliers were swept by the San Antonio Spurs. If the Cavaliers beat the Celtics and get to the finals again, the smart bet would be on the Warriors or Rockets being able to speed up the Cavaliers this year as well. If that happens, and if the conference finals are played at as fast of a pace as I think they’ll be, it’s possible that this year’s playoff pace will surpass that of the regular season. And if that happens for the second time in four years, we have to start rethinking the idea that getting to the playoffs slows down the game at all.Check out our latest NBA predictions.
It feels extremely weird to write this, but the St. Louis Blues are Stanley Cup champions. It took them more than half a century — in that time there were three failed Cup bids and a subsequent 25-year playoff streak that included zero Cup appearances — but this current group of Bluenotes will forever have their names engraved on the face of an ornate punch bowl.We wrote Wednesday that Blues goalie Jordan Binnington was having one of the worst playoffs in recent memory among goalies who advanced to the Stanley Cup Final. In Game 7, however, Binnington was downright sublime, stopping 32 of the 33 shots the Boston Bruins directed at his goal in a performance for the ages. Binnington might have struggled at times during the playoffs, but no one will remember any of that — all anyone will remember are those 32 saves.This is all a bit unbelievable when you consider the Blues’ position in the league standings just after the new year. In the first week of January, the Blues had the second-worst points total in the league, outperforming only the Ottawa Senators, who ended the season 34 points outside playoff contention.1The Blues had the same number points as the Philadelphia Flyers, who ended the season 16 points outside contention. It hardly looked like the Blues would win another dozen games, let alone qualify for the playoffs. And it most certainly didn’t look like they’d advance to the Stanley Cup Final.Binnington’s playoff struggles notwithstanding, the Blues wouldn’t have gotten this far without their rookie goalie’s excellent regular-season performance. When he was given the starting job by interim head coach Craig Berube — and yes, he is still technically the interim head coach! — the Blues were in the basement of the Western Conference. He proceeded to record 24 wins in 30 starts, and the Blues easily qualified for the playoffs.Still, no one expected much from the Blues once the playoffs began. During the regular season, only one of their skaters finished in the top 50 in points, their power play was solid but unremarkable, their penalty kill was solid but unremarkable, their Simple Rating System score2A stat, calculated by Hockey-Reference.com, that estimates the strength of every team in the NHL by measuring a team’s average goal differential after adjusting for strength of schedule. was middle-of-the-pack, their shooting percentage was middle-of-the-pack, and therefore their total goals tally was middle-of-the-pack, too.An impressive second half of the season propelled the Blues to the playoffs, but they still didn’t appear to be particularly dangerous. If they were going to have a chance at winning some silverware, their postseason success would probably have to come from the same place as their regular-season success: Binnington.Like we said, Binnington struggled for stretches of the playoffs, but his flashes of brilliance were perfectly timed (late in the Western Conference finals, and late in the Stanley Cup Final). Save percentage is the most important factor for a team’s success. That’s true over the course of a season, and it’s also true over the course of a one-game, winner-takes-all Game 7. Binnington stopped 97 percent of the Bruins shots on goal Wednesday night, and the Blues are champions as a result.And then there was Ryan O’Reilly, who won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoff MVP. Before the 2018-19 season began, the Blues traded three players — Tage Thompson, Vladimir Sobotka and Patrik Berglund, which is a pretty solid haul — to the Buffalo Sabres to bring O’Reilly into the mix. All he did from then on was have the best season of his already excellent career in terms of points scored and position himself as a frontrunner for the Frank J. Selke Trophy as the league’s best two-way forward. That brilliance carried over into the playoffs: O’Reilly finished in a tie with the Bruins’ left-winger Brad Marchand as the top scorer in points in the postseason, and finished alone atop the scoring list in the Stanley Cup Final.Before they won on Wednesday, the Blues had waited longer than any franchise in NHL history to lift their first Cup. They made the playoffs every season from 1979-80 to 2003-04. Their average regular-season points percentage from 2011-12 to 2016-17 was an astonishing .648 — during that stretch, they were perennially considered among the favorites to win the Western Conference and the Stanley Cup Final. And yet somehow during each of those stretches of dominance, they never advanced to the final, let alone lifted the Cup.Instead, it took an imperfect team led by an imperfect goalie to deliver St. Louis its first-ever Cup victory. Which is kind of perfect.CORRECTION (JUNE 13, 2019, 11:06 a.m.): A previous version of this article said the Blues were outperforming the Philadelphia Flyers in early January. In fact, the two teams had the same number of points at that time. Also, the names of two players involved in a trade for Ryan O’Reilly were misspelled. They are Vladimir Sobotka, not Vladminir, and Patrik Berglund, not Patrick.
AGAINST SMITHAGAINST OTHER CAVS Paul George, DeMar DeRozan and Avery Bradley are the players Smith has guarded most this postseason. The numbers only include half-court possessions on which Smith was the primary defender.Source: ESPN Stats & Information Group ROUNDPLAYERTEAMPLAYSPTS/ PLAYFG%PLAYSPTS/ PLAYFG% SemifinalsDeRozanTOR290.8628.5461.0750.0 Conf. FinalsBradleyBOS181.0641.1330.8540.0 CLEVELAND — It was about this time two years ago when Cavaliers guard J.R. Smith graced us with a quote that summed up his career better than any other.“I’d rather take a contested shot than an open shot any day. … It’s kind of boring when you take open shots,” Smith told ESPN’s Cavs reporter Dave McMenamin after hitting eight 3s — most of which were guarded closely — in a Game 1 road victory versus the Atlanta Hawks during the Eastern Conference finals.Perhaps what makes his comment so fitting is the fact that its basic premise — that Smith thrives in harder scenarios and struggles with ones that most people would find to be easier — also seems to apply to the 31-year-old’s defense. This postseason, Smith has been fantastic when he has been responsible for guarding the opposing team’s star scorer. In round one, he shut down Indiana’s Paul George. And in the conference semifinals, he stifled Toronto’s DeMar DeRozan. But when he has been tasked with defending a lesser opponent — the team’s second or third scoring option — he has struggled. How players fare when J.R. Smith is guarding them this postseason This dynamic culminated on Sunday night, when Smith failed to cover Avery Bradley during Game 3’s pivotal moment. During the game’s waning seconds, Smith got his wires crossed with teammate Iman Shumpert as they both followed a cutting Jae Crowder into the paint. This caused Smith to lose track of Bradley, who sprang free for a wide-open, game-winning 3.Video Playerhttps://fivethirtyeight.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/bradleygamewinner.mp400:0000:0000:00Use Up/Down Arrow keys to increase or decrease volume.Celtics coach Brad Stevens deserves credit for drawing up a play that pressured the Cavs’ defense at the rim. He also deserves credit for choosing that play with Smith on the court, given his defensive shortcomings.At 6 feet 6 inches, Smith is a prototypical size for an NBA swingman.1Smith has a Michael Jordan logo and jersey tattooed on his torso. As he showed in the first two rounds time and again, he’s still agile enough to stay in front of all-star caliber scorers.Video Playerhttps://fivethirtyeight.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/jrgooddefense.mp400:0000:0000:00Use Up/Down Arrow keys to increase or decrease volume.Video Playerhttps://fivethirtyeight.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/jrstoppingpg.mp400:0000:0000:00Use Up/Down Arrow keys to increase or decrease volume.Video Playerhttps://fivethirtyeight.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/jronderozan.mp400:0000:0000:00Use Up/Down Arrow keys to increase or decrease volume.But if and when Smith is defending off-ball, it’s a greater challenge for him. Sometimes it’s a matter of Smith’s identifying whether he should be switching a defensive assignment, as was the case with Shumpert on Sunday. In other instances, he pays a bit too much attention to the ballhandler and loses sight of his man, who finds daylight behind him, or beyond the arc, for a score.Video Playerhttps://fivethirtyeight.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/jrlosingbradley.mp400:0000:0000:00Use Up/Down Arrow keys to increase or decrease volume.Teams also know they can neutralize Smith’s defensive ability, on or off the ball, by setting screens on Smith, as he struggles to navigate around picks on that end. (Smith, who developed a reputation for running into screeners, doesn’t make great use of his peripheral vision and ran into the screener 54 percent of the time in pick-and-roll scenarios this season, the NBA’s second-highest rate among guards,2With 50 such plays. Of the 94 guards who qualified in this statistic, only James Harden ran into a higher percentage of screens. according to Synergy Sports.)Offenses have exploited Smith’s weaknesses on defense for years. They’ve even been exploited by Bradley before. These two examples happened on back-to-back plays when Smith was on the Knicks and responsible for guarding Bradley during the first round of the 2013 playoffs.Video Playerhttps://fivethirtyeight.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/jrbeatbackdoorbos.mp400:0000:0000:00Use Up/Down Arrow keys to increase or decrease volume.Video Playerhttps://fivethirtyeight.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/jrbeatbackdoorbos2.mp400:0000:0000:00Use Up/Down Arrow keys to increase or decrease volume.The problem resurfaced in the the following round against Indiana that postseason. In the waning minutes of a close, series-ending Game 6, Smith lost track of George and then Lance Stephenson twice in a 75-second span.Video Playerhttps://fivethirtyeight.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/jrbeatbackdoor.mp400:0000:0000:00Use Up/Down Arrow keys to increase or decrease volume.Video Playerhttps://fivethirtyeight.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/jrbeatbackdoor2.mp400:0000:0000:00Use Up/Down Arrow keys to increase or decrease volume.Some of Smith’s issues here undoubtedly stem from focus, especially when things like this happen on consecutive plays in a postseason setting. Either way, these lapses can’t be simply chalked up to Smith’s being a poor defender, because he thrives with tougher assignments.Last postseason, for instance, Smith did a better job statistically holding DeRozan, Kyle Korver and Klay Thompson in check than he did Detroit’s Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who shot 45 percent and scored an efficient 1.20 points per play against him during a first-round series, according to numbers from ESPN Stats & Information Group. The year before that, Atlanta’s Kent Bazemore managed to shoot better, and score more efficiently, against Smith in that postseason than Thompson or Chicago’s Jimmy Butler.In some cases, Smith appears to allow different amounts of space between him and the man he’s guarding, depending on how big a threat he perceives them to be from one play to the next. On average, he was within 3.4 feet of DeRozan’s shot attempts3When he was the primary defender and within four feet of George’s attempts, both distances that would qualify as “tight” defense, according to STATS SportVu’s camera-tracking system. But Smith has been giving Bradley closer to five feet of space for his shots, which would qualify as an “open” shot. That’s a risky strategy, given that Bradley is tied for having made the most uncontested 3-pointers this postseason, hitting 43 percent of those shots going into Tuesday’s Game 4.4Smith has had one very good defensive series against Bradley before. In the first round two years ago, Smith held Bradley to 0.63 points per play on 4-of-13 shooting.Smith’s ability to defend capably, whether he’s on or off the ball, figures to be huge in the upcoming finals, assuming the Cavaliers do indeed go on to beat Boston. Smith almost certainly won’t guard Stephen Curry and likely won’t be a regular on Kevin Durant, so he’ll be forced to defend Thompson. Smith has had some some success guarding Thompson in the past,5He was particularly solid in the finals two years ago, limiting Thompson to 0.96 points per play and 36 percent shooting. But Thompson improved to 41 percent shooting and 1.06 points per play against Smith in last year’s finals. and the All-Star has also been struggling mightily this postseason. But given how Thompson moves without the ball, and the unusual way Golden State frees up its shooters with creative screens, many of Smith’s weaknesses could be called into question.Whatever the case, one thing should be clear: J.R. Smith can defend. It just might require him to guard a star in order for you to see it. QuarterfinalsGeorgeIND320.9134.6%610.9738.2%
Ohio State junior point guard Samantha Prahalis spent her off-season studying tape of Boston Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo, although she’d rather keep that a secret. “Don’t tell nobody that,” Prahalis said. “I am a die-hard Lakers fan.” At 5-feet-7-inches, Prahalis said she chose to study Rondo because she saw a little of herself in the all-star point guard while she was watching him take on her favorite team in the NBA Finals. “He’s not that big as a point guard but he’s among giants. He’s not afraid to go to the lane, and when he goes into the lane he always has something in his arsenal that shocks you,” Prahalis said. “There’s always big girls around me. I just got to try to cut, weave, pass, do anything I can to get to the basket, or get my player a shot.” A native of Commack, N.Y., Prahalis credits Lakers guard Kobe Bryant as her inspiration to be a Lakers fan and said that she tries to emulate the work ethic of her favorite player. “While everyone else is out, I’ll be on YouTube or I’ll be watching film,” Prahalis said. Having already made a name for herself in women’s hoops, thanks to her crafty moves and flashy passes, Prahalis said to look for Rondo’s signature ball fakes and scooping lay-ups to be the latest additions to her already unique repertoire. “That’s definitely something I’ve tried to look at, like his fakes, how he gets to the basket, his finishes are all really good,” Prahalis said. “I think the women’s game hasn’t really seen men’s moves come into play.” Prahalis enters her junior season just 151 assists shy of breaking Jamie Lewis’ OSU career record of 643. In her sophomore season, she averaged 16.3 points and 8 assists per game. OSU coach Jim Foster said he isn’t ready to call Prahalis the most exciting player he’s coached, but did offer his own superlative for the point guard. “She’s in a small group. I’ve coached some pretty good basketball players that are exciting in their own way,” Foster said. “She’s the most creative.” A first-team all-Big Ten selection last season, Prahalis was selected on the 2010-11 Preseason Wooden Award Watch List, along with teammate Jantel Lavender. The Wooden Award is given to the most outstanding player in men and women’s college basketball each year and is considered the most prestigious individual honor in the sport. Prahalis said she’s not fazed by the preseason hype. “We still have a season to play,” Prahalis said. “A list is a list, until you actually do something. I’m just trying to stay focused and have a great year.” As a player who was on the receiving end of many of Prahalis’ 289 assists last season, Lavender knows how valuable Prahalis is to the team. “She makes great passes and she can see the floor really well,” Lavender said. “I get open baskets, and we get points.” Foster said he doesn’t think fans realize Prahalis’ full set of skills — including some she honed playing football until she was 12 years old. “She’s got a great skill set. She’s very competitive,” Foster said. “She’s got a good motor. I don’t think people understand how athletic she is.” Prahalis said anything less than a national championship would be a disappointment for her this year, but that team goals aside, she wants to continue to use her skill set to make her imprint on the women’s game. “I’m just trying to be someone who can bring some excitement to the game,” Prahalis said. “That’s a big thing for me.”
The Ohio State men’s golf team wrapped up the Puerto Rico Classic with a 13th place finish out of 15 teams, but coach Donnie Darr said the score did not reflect the team’s overall performance. After starting off the tournament shooting a 16-over score of 304 in Sunday’s first round at the Rio Mar Country Club in Rio Grande, Puerto Rico, the Buckeyes improved their score each of the next two rounds, shooting a 294 and 290, respectively. Overall, the 24-over score of 888 “didn’t really give a true indication of how well we played,” Darr said. “It’s just the process, and the guys are working hard. They’re doing the right things and the more reps we get in this spring, I think the better we’re gonna play,” Darr said. “I’m not at all surprised that we improved each day.” Leading the way for the young OSU team was freshmen Max Rosenthal, who compiled a score of 4-over 220 for the tournament. He had the team’s low round for the first two rounds with a 74 and 70, respectively, and shot 76 in the final round to finish T-36 overall for the tournament. Rosenthal said his ball striking was solid each round, but his short game and chipping from 40-60 yards from the hole wasn’t working too well. He said not being able to practice the shots within 60 yards on a regular basis is tough because of the amount of touch needed for each. Freshman Michael Bernard, who led the Buckeyes in the final round, finished T-39 overall. Bernard, like most of the rest of the team, improved his score each day with rounds of 77-74-70 for a 5-over score of 221. “I played a lot of good golf this week, but there’s just a few mistakes that I need to clean up. But it’s early in the season,” Bernard said. Bernard had four birdies in a five-hole stretch from numbers 7 through 11 in the final round. He also started off 5-under through his first 10 holes in Sunday’s first round, but shot 10-over in the final eight holes for a 77. The main problem facing OSU throughout the week was the “visually intimidating” golf course itself, the River Course, Darr said. The “typical island-resort type golf course,” Darr said, featured water hazards on nearly every hole. Visit www.thelantern.com for the rest of this story. “At times, we let some of the visual stuff bother us, a lot of loose shots and it turned into a lot of balls in the water that we normally wouldn’t hit if we were in midseason form,” Darr said. “Visually, it’s very difficult and very demanding that you stay focused and stay committed to your targets, and that’s ultimately just where we struggled.” On the other hand, a good indication of the team’s performance was the number of birdies throughout the week. OSU collected 50 birdies during the three days. “We made a lot of birdies, and making birdies is difficult when you haven’t been practicing outdoors and you don’t have the confidence that you’re used to having because you’ve got a lot of reps in,” Darr said. “So for us to be able to make as many birdies as we made down there, I thought that was a great sign.” Sophomores Boo Timko and Grant Weaver also improved their scores each day. Timko shot 76-74-73 to finish T-47, and Weaver shot 79-76-71 to finish T-55. Alabama took home the title, finishing with a 33-under 831. Northwestern led the four Big Ten Conference teams with a sixth-place finish at 1-under 863. OSU will return to action for the Seminole Intercollegiate March 15-17 at the Southwood Golf Club in Tallahassee, Fla.
Incoming-freshman wide receiver Johnnie Dixon talks to the media on National Signing Day Feb. 5 at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center.Credit: Shelby Lum / Photo editorThe strongest college programs typically see their success from one season just flow right into another because of a powerful recruiting presence.The Ohio State football team can be considered one of these programs — year in and year out being among the top teams in the country. A steady flow of talent through Columbus has been a major contributor to this success.One of the most successful positions for OSU over the past few years has been the wide receiver spot.Since the turn of the millennium, the Buckeyes have seen 11 wide receivers taken in the NFL Draft, including four — Ted Ginn Jr. and Anthony Gonzalez in 2007, Santonio Holmes in 2006 and Michael Jenkins in 2004 — taken in the first round.Now with former receiver Corey “Philly” Brown hoping for a future in the NFL, the Buckeyes are left searching for their next elite pass-catcher.Juniors Devin Smith and Evan Spencer are easy choices to fill the void left by Brown next season because of their experience on the field for OSU, but that next star receiver could be someone who has yet to don the Scarlet and Gray.Incoming wide receiver Johnnie Dixon, a West Palm Beach, Fla., native was listed as a four star recruit by Rivals.com and ESPN before committing to OSU in December.“He chose Ohio State because it was the best university and this program, this offense, this head coach we have, myself … it was the best chance for him to develop into the maximized version of himself,” wide receivers coach Zach Smith said on National Signing Day Feb. 5.Dixon said the pedigree of OSU and coach Urban Meyer when it comes to the success of wide receivers drew him to Columbus.“I wanted to be a great receiver and under coach Meyer and coach Smith, I can make that happen and they can make that happen,” Dixon said on Signing Day. “(Meyer’s) had great players here and also at Florida at the receiver spot, so I knew that him coaching me would be a big impact.”Zach Smith was involved in Dixon’s recruitment and said part of bringing him to Columbus was a willingness to point out flaws.“I went down and watched Johnnie Dixon practice a couple times and told him, ‘That was awful,’” Zach Smith said. “We talked about it, but the kid at the end of the day went home and said ‘That guy’s going to make me better and he’s real.’”Dixon added that he hopes to play right away for OSU but understands the effort that requires.“I feel like if I work hard enough, I can hit the field and I can make an impact,” Dixon said.Even with the returning players at wide receiver, Zach Smith said there was no guarantee that any one player will receive playing time.“You don’t want to take away from what guys like Devin Smith and Evan Spencer have done for us this past year, but at the end of the day we got better — we were a better unit but we weren’t where we needed to be,” Zach Smith said. “There’s not a position in my room where that is locked down or anyone who really has an edge … I’m not confident there’s any delineation between wideouts. The way the younger guys develop by the end of the year, I think its going to be a dogfight.”Coming in, Dixon is slated to be one of the shorter receivers, only standing 5 feet 11 inches tall with nine of the 14 Buckeyes listed on the roster standing at 6 feet 1 inch or taller.Despite the advantages that taller receivers have, Zach Smith said it doesn’t matter how tall a player is as long as he is able to produce.“I like electric guys that are going to take the football and put it across the endline,” Zach Smith said. “That’s it, I want it in the end zone, I don’t care how big you are — it doesn’t matter, just get it in the endzone. It’s nice to have size but I like playmakers.”Dixon and the rest of the receivers are slated to have their first shot at the field Aug. 30 at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore when OSU is scheduled to start its season against Navy.Even though the Buckeyes start the season in a warmer climate, late season games in the Midwest can often get quite cold.Dixon said he isn’t worried about the going from the warmth of Florida to Columbus though, and just wants to prove himself on the field.“The weather’s not really a big factor to me,” Dixon said. “Once you make it to the NFL, you play in all types of weather so the weather wasn’t a big deal for me. I just wanted to be a great player, a great receiver, it had to be here.”
Ohio State junior linebacker Malik Harrison (39) and redshirt junior defensive lineman Dre’mont Jones (86) celebrate after Jones recovered a fumble in the end zone for a touchdown in the fourth quarter of the game against Michigan State on Nov. 10. Ohio State won 26-6. Credit: Casey Cascaldo | Photo EditorThe Big Ten announced Tuesday Ohio State redshirt junior defensive tackle Dre’Mont Jones was named as a member of the first-team All Big Ten defensive team. Junior safety Jordan Fuller and sophomore defensive end Chase Young were also each named to the second-team All Big Ten defensive team. This season, Jones leads Ohio State with 12 tackles for loss with 7.5 sacks. The redshirt junior defensive tackle also has one forced fumble, five quarterback hits and one interception. Jones was named as a third-team All Big Ten member after the 2017 season. Fuller, named as a third-team All Big Ten member in 2017, is second on the Ohio State defense with 63 tackles, recording one interception with four broken-up passes. He also has 1.5 tackles for loss and one fumble recovery. Earning his first postseason award, Young is second on Ohio State in tackles for loss (11.5) and sacks (6.5). The Big Ten will announce its offensive awards on Nov. 28.
YouTube says it will crack down on online Islamist extremism by redirecting anyone who searches for terrorist videos to instead show them films countering the propaganda.Anyone searching for terms relating to the Islamic State group will be offered playlists of videos “debunking its mythology”, the company said.The move comes after social media firms have come under fierce political criticism for allegedly doing too little to stop the spread of extremist material said to be responsible for radicalising would-be jihadists.In a blog post, the video-streaming giant owned by Google said: “When people search for certain keywords on YouTube, we will display a playlist of videos debunking violent extremist recruiting narratives.”YouTube said it would be using techniques developed by the Redirect Method, a campaign that tries to steer those who might be vulnerable to Islamic State group propaganda towards videos that debunk the group’s recruitment tactics.Rather than making new videos, users will be directed towards existing anti-Islamic State group films already updated from around the world, the BBC reported.Suitable films are expected to include testimony from Islamic State deserters, describing what life in the group was really like, or speeches from imams denouncing violence and extremism. The Redirect Method says pre-existing videos, rather than specially commissioned content, are more effective because they are seen to be more trustworthy.YouTube said it would told begin redirecting users searching for particular terms in English, but would later add other languages including Arabic.While anybody searching for terrorist propaganda would be redirected, including academics and journalists, YouTube said such content was already against its terms and conditions and was removed when discovered.Western security agencies have complained that online extremist material, such as sermons from hate preachers, is too readily available on social media and has played a significant part in the radicalisation of some vulnerable jihadists.YouTube said the move was “our latest effort to provide more resources and more content that can help change minds of people at risk of being radicalized”.YouTube said it had worked with campaign groups to try to tackle the problem.The statement said: “We hope our work together will also help open and broaden a dialogue about other work that can be done to counter radicalization of potential recruits.”Speaking in Paris in June, Theresa May suggested online firms could face punishment for failing to remove extremist content.She said “more should be done to tackle the terrorist threat online”. She said “poisonous propaganda” was “warping young minds” and the UK and France would “work together to encourage corporations to do more and abide by their social responsibility … including exploring the possibility of creating a new legal liability for tech companies if they fail to remove unacceptable content.” 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.
Court artist sketch of Ouissem Medouni (left) and his partner Sabrina Kouider appearing at the Old BaileyCredit:Elizabeth Cook /PA Police outside the property in Southfields, WimbledonCredit:Paul Grover for The Telegraph A French nanny was murdered and burned after being accused of stealing a diamond necklace and dabbling in black magic, a court heard.Sophie Lionnet’s charred remains were found in a garden in Southfields, Wimbledon, on September 20 last year after a neighbour reported foul smells coming from a garden fire.Before her death, the 21-year-old had been starved, mistreated and assaulted after she went to live with Sabrina Kouider, a mother of two, and her partner Ouissem Medouni.The couple, who are also French, allegedly confronted Miss Lionnet with “outlandish” allegations and kept her prisoner in their home in south-west London.Richard Horwell QC, prosecuting, told jurors at the Old Bailey: “Sophie was trapped in a domestic nightmare.” He said: “The last days and hours of Sophie’s life must have been truly wretched.”She had fractures to her sternum, ribs and jawbone, but the exact cause of death could not be established because of the attempt to burn her body.”Their intention was to dispose of Sophie’s body, but their wicked plan was frustrated by a neighbour and inquisitive fire fighters,” Mr Horwell said.The victim’s parents sat in court as the case was opened. The trial continues. The parents of Sophie Lionnet, Catherine Devallonne and Patrick Lionnet, leave the Old BaileyCredit:NIKLAS HALLE’N /AFP Ms Kouider, 35, a former partner of Mark Walton, a founder member of the pop band Boyzone, and Mr Medouni, 40, deny murdering Miss Lionnet.The court heard Ms Kouider accused her nanny of being in cahoots with Mr Walton and said he controlled her through black magic. She even falsely labelled Mr Walton a paedophile in a fake Facebook account, the court heard.Jurors were told the allegations against Miss Lionnet and Mr Walton were “quite untrue”.It emerged Miss Lionnet confided in a local chip shop owner that she was being beaten by Ms Kouider. Mr Horwell said: “At the centre of this trial is the fact that these inventions or beliefs, whatever they may have been, concerning Mark Walton, formed a central part of the reason why the defendants murdered Sophie.”He told jurors Miss Lionnet had been “naive and vulnerable” and an “easy target” for Ms Kouider.She was poorly paid, starved, beaten and interrogated by her employers while prevented from returning to her family, Mr Horwell said.In notes she described being called a “whore, a b—- and a slut” whom Ms Kouider would scream at – she once accused her of stealing a diamond pendant. Mr Horwell said Mr Medouni was “beguiled” into the same delusions.After her death, eight hours of “harrowing” recordings were recovered from the defendants’ mobile phones of Miss Lionnet being interrogated.They depicted “a young emaciated, frightened and helpless woman anxious to say and do whatever her tormentors wanted”, the lawyer said. Miss Lionnet was intimidated, threatened with imprisonment, rape and violence to exact some sort of “confession”, possibly to later embarrass Mr Walton, jurors were told. 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. She regularly visited the takeaway, often dressed in the same clothes, and ate chips at speed as if she was hungry.