The Indiana Pacers held on to Game 5 by a fingernail clipping, defeating the Miami Heat 93-90 and forcing the NBA’s Eastern Conference finals back to Miami for a Game 6. After the Pacers’ Game 4 loss, spearheaded by potent small-ball lineups from the Heat, the onus was on Indiana to make an adjustment. Indiana coach Frank Vogel’s adjustment was mostly to refuse to adjust: He didn’t do anything new; he just did more of what’s been working.This is the third consecutive year that the Pacers and Heat have met in the playoffs, and — although Lance Stephenson has taken over for Danny Granger the past two seasons for Indiana — a consistent pattern has emerged: Indiana’s starters can more than hold their own against the Heat, but things rapidly fall apart when the Pacers go to their bench.Indiana Pacers’ Point Differential vs. Miami HeatIn Game 5, Vogel essentially eliminated Rasual Butler and Ian Mahinmi from the Pacers’ rotation, instead playing his starters for 31 minutes. As a group, that’s the most minutes they’ve played in this series, and it’s more minutes than they played in Games 3 and 4 combined.The point differential numbers in the table above shows how even a few extra minutes from the Pacers’ starters can make a huge difference. To put those per 100 possession numbers in context, the San Antonio Spurs led the NBA this season with a per 100 possession point differential of +8.1. The worst mark in the league, belonging to the Philadelphia 76ers, was -10.7.There were extenuating circumstances last night. The Pacers’ Paul George poured in 31 second-half points, many of which came on difficult shots. According to the NBA’s SportVU Player Tracking Box Score, he made 10 of 18 contested shots in Game 5, or 55.6 percent. He had made just 32 percent of his contested shots in the series over the first four games. The Heat’s LeBron James also picked up five fouls in just over 23 minutes, about five times his normal foul rate. He sat for almost the entire second and third quarters, and the Pacers’ starters were just even with the Heat while he was on the floor.The Pacers’ starters aren’t going to outplay the Heat in every stint on the floor or overwhelm every small lineup Miami coach Erik Spoelstra dreams up. But Indiana’s starting five is orders of magnitude more effective than any other lineup the Pacers have.
Hot Takedown More: Apple Podcasts | ESPN App | RSS If you’re a fan of our podcasts, be sure to subscribe on Apple Podcasts and leave a rating/review. That helps spread the word to other listeners. And get in touch by email, on Twitter or in the comments. Tell us what you think, send us hot takes to discuss and tell us why we’re wrong. Welcome to the latest episode of Hot Takedown, our podcast where the hot sports takes of the week meet the numbers that prove them right or tear them down. On this week’s show (Dec. 29, 2015), we bring you the latest edition of “Stat School.” Last time, Statman, aka Neil Paine, talked to us about NFL running back stats. This week, he brings us basketball 101. Neil guides us through three hoop-centric stats: points per game, true shooting percentage and usage rate.Stat one: Points per gameA player’s average number of points scored per game played.Stat two: True shooting percentageA statistic used to gauge scoring efficiency that takes into consideration a player’s shot attempts (including field goals and free throws) and points scored. The result is the average points the player scored when he ended a possession by shooting.Stat three: Usage percentageA metric that estimates the percentage of a team’s possessions that a player “uses” while he is in the game. As players “use” more possessions, their overall efficiency tends to drop.Stream the episode by clicking the play button, or subscribe using one of the podcast clients we’ve linked to above. Listen to Statman and you just might be able to eke out a statistical advantage in your holiday pick up games.
Jay Cutler2015CHI55.568.534369.2 201232.143233.85402713.810 Drew Brees2011NO54.556.035258.0 201639.186847.05321544.56 Aaron Rodgers2016GB48.185.9610166.7 Ryan Fitzpatrick2015NYJ43.405.005269.1 Regular season onlySource: ESPN Stats & Information Group 200945.637036.83771634.16 Tyrod Taylor2015BUF49.387.574255.0 Tom Brady2017NE58.978.7610254.0 201334.654424.3821407.126 Pressure on the quarterback is often a determining factor in which team wins the Super Bowl. However, pressure does not only mean sacks. Just forcing a quarterback to release a ball sooner than he wants or hitting him as he’s releasing it can sometimes be even more advantageous than a sack.In Super Bowl XLVIII, two quick pressures by Seattle on Peyton Manning led to two interceptions, including one returned for a touchdown after Manning’s arm was hit as he threw. That led to a 22-0 lead and the rout was on. Two years later in Super Bowl 50, Manning had the great defense on his side, and Von Miller forced two strip-sacks of Cam Newton that ultimately decided that game for Denver. In New England’s comeback win over Atlanta in Super Bowl LI, the turning point was when Dont’a Hightower strip-sacked Matt Ryan on a 3rd-and-1 with the Falcons up 28-12. That set up the offense on a short field and the comeback was on.It’s not so much about the volume of pressure put on a quarterback, but it’s how he handles it in the big moments on third down, in the red zone, and with the game on the line. Fortunately, that type of context is what an advanced metric such as ESPN’s QBR is able to adjust for.In 2017, Minnesota’s Case Keenum (58.5) and New England’s Tom Brady (54.0) led all quarterbacks in QBR under pressure with marks that rank among the top 10 in all seasons tracked since 2009. Brady’s placement may not come as a big surprise, but Keenum’s breakout season in Minnesota continues to be one of the wildest success stories since Kurt Warner went from bagging groceries to Super Bowl MVP in 1999. Jameis Winston2016TB51.81%6.3112576.7 Carson Wentz2017PHI43.436.378052.7 Case Keenum2017MIN53.336.616358.5 Peyton Manning2009IND59.047.754562.9 Rob Gronkowski and his large catch radius are obviously a big help to Brady when he’s under pressure. Gronkowski led the Patriots with 226 receiving yards when his quarterback was pressured, but Danny Amendola also has a tendency toward clutch catches. Filling in for Julian Edelman in the slot, Amendola caught 14 of 21 targets for 186 yards when Brady was pressured this year. Throw in Brandin Cooks’ 215 receiving yards in these scenarios and the Patriots have a lot of formidable weapons for defenses to worry about even when Brady is pressured. They’ll need all this playmaking ability against a tough Jacksonville defense. While the Jaguars didn’t pressure Ben Roethlisberger often last week, they did hold him to just 1-of-10 passing for 43 yards (including a brilliant touchdown to Antonio Brown) under pressure, and had a huge strip-sack returned for a touchdown in the second quarter.The Jaguars will need to do that to Brady to have a good chance at another upset, but Brady’s seen just about everything from defenses in his career. Against the Titans last week, Brady’s QBR under pressure was 87.6, including a touchdown pass to Chris Hogan and a soft toss to Amendola after heavy pressure.Even if Brady and Keenum aren’t at their best in tough matchups this weekend, they should still have a decisive advantage over the other quarterbacks. Blake Bortles finished 14th in QBR under pressure (21.2), but the strength in his game is really his scrambling ability. According to Sports Info Solutions, Bortles avoided 21 sacks this year, the second most by any quarterback (Matthew Stafford had 22). Bortles will have to use his legs against a New England defense that likes to make quarterbacks hold the ball —a unit that took down Marcus Mariota for eight sacks last week.As for the Eagles, Carson Wentz ranked third in QBR under pressure (52.7), so the offense has been missing that element since his injury. Nick Foles, in a limited sample of games, only has a 7.6 QBR under pressure this season. He’s always a hard one to predict with his unusual career path. Foles actually led all quarterbacks in QBR under pressure in 2014 with a mark of 48.2, but he was dreadful with the Rams (2.3 QBR under pressure in 2015).Then again, as Keenum has shown, stats collected in a Jeff Fisher offense may not be all that telling. If head coach Doug Pederson can devise another good game plan for Foles to implement this week, there’s no reason he can’t get this team to the Super Bowl.Then a whole new level of pressure begins. Keenum also led all quarterbacks in Football Outsiders’ passing Defense-adjusted Value Over Average metric, which measures efficiency, and he may just be the least likely quarterback to do so since 1986. A big part of Keenum’s success has been his improvement at handling pressure. When we first saw Keenum with the 2013 Houston Texans, he held the ball a long time as an inexperienced second-year player. Keenum’s pressure rate in 2013 was 38.7 percent, the second-highest season among all quarterbacks since 2009. With the Rams in 2016, Keenum ranked dead last in QBR under pressure (6.5). He took a sack on 26.7 percent of the plays he was pressured on.In Minnesota this year, Keenum has cut that mark in half, taking a sack on 13.3 percent of his pressures. Keenum has taken multiple sacks in each of his last seven games, but he was sacked just one time total from Week 5 to Week 11. A big help to Keenum has been wide receiver Adam Thielen, who led the NFL with 40 targets while his quarterback was under pressure — seven more than any other player. Thielen’s 397 receiving yards while targeted under pressure also led the NFL.Thielen is a great security blanket for Keenum, but Stefon Diggs has also been helpful in these moments. The game-winning touchdown pass to Diggs against New Orleans technically wasn’t a play under pressure, but it was a pressure-packed moment of desperation for the duo. Keenum’s QBR under pressure against New Orleans was just 26.4; he completed 4 of 10 passes for 53 yards with a bad interception that got the Saints back in the game. He’ll have to be much better against a Philadelphia defense that got after Matt Ryan often last week. For the season, Philadelphia allowed a 4.7 QBR when getting pressure on the quarterback, which ranked third among all defenses. Keenum can’t force things this week or create turnovers in what should be a low-scoring battle.Speaking of defense, the Jaguars ranked No. 1 in QBR when getting pressure (2.8). This is often a product of the Jaguars being able to get at the quarterback without sacrificing defenders in pass coverage: no defense blitzed less than Jacksonville at just 17.8 percent of its pass plays. That’s probably the right strategy against Tom Brady and the Patriots. You especially don’t want to send a big blitz of six-plus pass rushers at Brady. Since 2006 (including playoffs), Brady has 71 touchdowns to one interception against big blitzes (six-plus pass rushers).Still, at 40 years old, Brady has managed to improve in this area, posting a phenomenal season against pass pressure. His average yards per pass attempt under pressure was 8.76, the highest of any of the 277 qualified seasons since 2009. He also had the second-highest completion rate (59.0 percent) and second-highest passer rating (109.1) under pressure since 2009. The only real issue was that Brady still took 35 sacks this year, but sometimes that’s just the smart play instead of forcing a pass into coverage. YearCmp %YardsYPATDINTSacksQBRQBR Rank 201758.9710258.761023554.02 PlayerYearTeamCMP %YPATDINTQBR 201041.672986.21112510.79 201442.025684.77452136.33 Carson Palmer2015ARI49.647.067255.0 201539.238426.48813827.311 Includes all action plays (passes, sacks, runs); regular season onlySource: ESPN Stats & Information Group Brady has improved with ageTom Brady’s year-by-year numbers while under pressure, 2009-2017 Keenum and Brady are elite with defenders in their facesThe best seasons based on QBR while facing pressure, 2009-2017 201141.033874.96313215.013 Dak Prescott2016DAL50.435.213052.4
CJ McCollum40.7–– Even in the area where the duos are most similar — long-range sniping — they are still markedly different because of the disparate ways the players come by their threes. Lillard and McCollum have almost exact inverse splits between the percentage of their 3-point makes that have been pull-ups vs. catch-and-shoots over the past four years, per Second Spectrum, while Curry and Thompson’s splits have not lined up quite as cleanly. Despite the fact that these guard pairings have carried similar usage rates them over these past four years (30.7 percent and 26.7 percent for Lillard and McCollum; 31.1 percent and 25.4 percent for Curry and Thompson), the above figures show that they have come by that usage in vastly different ways. This is further driven home by the fact that Curry and Thompson have been assisted on their baskets far more often (52 percent and 82 percent) than have Lillard and McCollum (29.6 percent and 38.5 percent).These differences naturally stem from the high-end talent disparity between the two teams. Curry and Thompson have had the benefit of playing alongside Green and Andre Iguodala for the entirety of their run, and they’ve had Kevin Durant as an additional wingman for the past three years. Lillard and McCollum, meanwhile, have spent the majority of their time playing alongside Moe Harkless and Al-Farouq Aminu, as well as one of big men Mason Plumlee, Jusuf Nurkic and Enes Kanter. Those three are all nice players, and they have each proven incredibly valuable for Portland at different times, but none of them brings anywhere close to the brilliance of Durant or Green, none has the versatility of Iguodala, and none is the caliber of playmaker any of the aforementioned Golden State players are.The Warriors thinned out their bench in their series against Houston, but not to the point that Curry and Thompson had less help on their side than Lillard and McCollum do — and anyway, Portland is not Houston. The Blazers don’t have the ability to go small as often or as dangerously as the Rockets did when they put P.J. Tucker at center, which means that Andrew Bogut, Kevon Looney and even Jordan Bell can be on the floor more often. As good as Lillard is, the Blazers don’t have a singular player who has broken the game quite in the same way James Harden. And they don’t have the deep wellspring of wing shooters Houston has, either.What they do have is a star guard tandem and a deep group of players who have supported Dame and CJ on this run to the conference finals. That construction has generally not been enough for teams to beat the Warriors in the past. It may not be now, either. But the Splash Brothers Lite will try to make it work.Check out our latest NBA predictions. Stephen Curry46.7–– This, of course, is the natural result of the contrasting job descriptions of these players, which flow from the differing roster constructions in Portland and Golden State.Thompson is a classic shooting guard like you might have seen in the early 2000s. He works almost exclusively off the ball, flying off pin-downs and flare screens, spotting up when Curry runs pick and rolls or making split-cuts when Draymond Green has the ball in the post. Curry, meanwhile, may be Golden State’s point guard, but he is more of a co-lead ball-handler, along with Green and Durant, because that structure allows the Warriors to better weaponize his shooting abilities.By contrast, Lillard is essentially the prototype of the modern-day attack guard who is at the controls of the offense at all times, while McCollum splits his time: working off the ball alongside Lillard, on the ball as a de facto backup point guard in certain lineups and off the ball again in bench-heavy units alongside Evan Turner or Curry’s brother Seth. By wading into the tracking data on NBA.com, we can see that in each of the past four seasons, the ball has been in Lillard’s hands for a greater share of his time on the floor than Curry and Thompson’s shares combined, and McCollum has had the ball in his hands nearly as often as Curry and usually more than twice as often as Thompson. * Calculated by dividing the number of minutes the ball was in a player’s hands by that player’s total minutes played during a given season.Source: Second Spectrum ––51.3 2017-1821.512.316.04.9 Average22.612.915.84.9 Source: Second Spectrum Damian Lillard60.5%–– The NBA’s splashiest backcourt outside Oakland resides in Portland. Trail Blazers stars Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum have combined to make 1,645 threes over the past four seasons, more than any duo in the league besides Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson.1The four-year period starts when McCollum was elevated to the starting lineup — after the offseason departures of LaMarcus Aldridge, Wesley Matthews and Nic Batum — and became the Robin to Lillard’s Batman. Steph and Klay are also the only backcourt in the league to average more collective points per game over that span of time than Dame and CJ.The Splash Brothers are still (somewhat obviously) the superior pairing. Curry and Thompson are widely considered two of the greatest shooters of all time, and they completely warp opposing defenses. Thompson is also far and away the best defender of the four players. But when the quartet squares off in the Western Conference finals, which begin Tuesday night, the Blazers won’t just be bringing an inferior version of the Splash Brothers to the table. The Splash Brothers Lite are mostly just different — and there are even a few things Dame and CJ do a bit better than Steph and Klay.For starters, Portland’s guards attack off the bounce far more often than their Northern California counterparts. Lillard averaged 13.3 drives per game this season, per Second Spectrum tracking data on NBA.com, and his 7.7 points per game on drives ranked 17th among the 353 NBA players who appeared in at least 40 games. McCollum, meanwhile, averaged 9.4 drives that created 6.3 points per game, a figure that tied for 28th among the same group of players. Each of the Blazers’ guards averaged more drive-points per game than the Warriors’ backcourt duo combined.2Curry’s 7.7 drives per game created 3.9 points per game, (73rd) while Thompson’s 4.4 drives created 2.1 points per game (132nd), which means they combined for only 6.0 points per game off the drive.This isn’t a new phenomenon, either. The Blazers’ guard duo has consistently been more aggressive in attacking the paint than the Warriors have been — both before and after Golden State acquired Kevin Durant prior to the 2016-17 season. ––84.8 2015-1624.5%15.2%16.9%5.1% Portland’s guards handle the ball moreThe time of possession rates* for each pair of players, 2015-16 to 2018-19 ––36.1% 2018-1921.710.014.14.6 Klay Thompson14.0–– YearLillardMcCollumCurryThompson The Splash Brother pairs shoot their threes in different waysShare of made 3-pointers in the regular season that were pull-up vs. catch-and-shoot, 2015-16 to 2018-19 ––58.7 Pull-upCatch-and-shoot 2016-1722.513.615.94.9
A year after unexpectedly mounting a World Series run, the New York Mets are experiencing a bit of a pennant hangover in 2016. They started the season hot, with a 15-7 record, but since then have gone 49-56 — basically the same winning percentage as the lowly Phillies’ full-season mark. Even granting that World Series teams usually regress to the mean the following season,1During the 162-game era — going back to 1962 — pennant winners averaged 96.5 wins in their World Series year, and only 88.4 the next season. the Mets have backslid more than most.Searching for answers, New York manager Terry Collins pointed a finger at his team’s health woes, specifically suggesting that its playoff run last fall contributed to a spate of pitching injuries that have seen most of the Mets’ vaunted staff miss time this year.“We don’t make excuses here,” Collins said. “But I’ve had too many guys that have managed deep into the postseason tell me that there is a residual effect. And a lot of times, it’s your pitching.”He’s right that the Mets have been among the most injured teams in baseball. But the link between that fact — particularly on the pitching side — and the extra rigors of New York’s World Series run is questionable. Since the Division Series began in 1995, there’s been no relationship between the length of a team’s stay in the postseason and whether its pitchers met expectations the following season.To quantify this, I set a team’s pitching expectations — according to the sum of wins above replacement (WAR) for its staff — in a given season based on its pitchers’ WAR in the preceding year, as well as their average age (weighted by WAR) that year. The better the pitchers were one season, the better they’re likely to be the next, and younger staffs tend to improve their WAR year over year. (For example, the 2015 Mets had the sixth-most pitching WAR in baseball, and were also its 12th-youngest staff, so they figured to be very good again in 2016.)If deep playoff runs were subsequently associated with the mass disintegration of pitching staffs, we would expect a relationship between the number of postseason games a team played one year and the amount by which its staff WAR missed expectations the following season. Yet, no such relationship appears to exist: The 2016 Mets would be a curious choice as flag-bearers for a World Series pitching hangover anyway. Despite the injuries, they’ve compiled more pitching WAR than any team in the major leagues this season, wildly exceeding any reasonable expectations we might have assigned them before the campaign began. Injured or not, New York’s hurlers aren’t the problem.However, a lineup that’s scoring an anemic 3.83 runs per game (third-worst in baseball) and producing the majors’ 11th-fewest WAR (in a tie with Colorado) is. If the Mets’ pitchers have exceeded expectations in the team’s pennant defense, their position players have declined precipitously from the form that led to a World Series berth — particularly that of the late-season version that transformed itself offensively after acquiring Yoenis Cespedes at the trade deadline.So Collins probably shouldn’t get too caught up in speculating about a World Series hangover for his pitchers. Almost every team’s staff has to fight through injuries and underperformance, but deep postseason runs don’t historically tend to amplify those issues. And more importantly, if the Mets’ hitters were providing its league-leading staff with any kind of support, they wouldn’t be on the fringe of the postseason picture right now.
OSU redshirt junior quarterback Cardale Jones (12) attempts a pass during a game against Western Michigan at Ohio Stadium on Sept. 26. OSU won, 38-12. Credit: Samantha Hollingshead / Photo EditorOhio State coach Urban Meyer had the whole world in suspense, wondering who would be the starting quarterback for the Buckeyes. The choice between redshirt junior Cardale Jones and redshirt sophomore J.T. Barrett seemed clear on both sides to many OSU fans, but not for Meyer. The starter wasn’t officially announced until a few days after OSU’s third game, a matchup with Northern Illinois in which Jones hadn’t played well. Barrett, the backup, stepped in the second half of the game and helped win the game. Still, that did not stop Meyer in the days following the game to make an official declaration of Jones as the starter.The announcement was shocking to many people. After such a rough start to the season, what reason did the coach have for staying so loyal to Jones? Well, it could be that Meyer is simply giving Jones a chance to start because he might have the desire to go to the NFL next year.The quarterback controversy has dwindled with each passing week, but Jones’ performance still hasn’t been spectacular, especially in the Week 5 game at Indiana.In Bloomington, Indiana, Jones didn’t throw a touchdown in the first half. The leading scorer at the break for Buckeyes was redshirt senior kicker Jack Willoughby, who made two field goals to account for all of OSU’s points.While junior running back Ezekiel Elliott provided a lift on offense in the second half, Jones still didn’t throw a touchdown until the fourth quarter, which he hit redshirt junior receiver Michael Thomas for an 11-yard score. That was it for Jones, as he finished the game 18-of-27 for 245 yards, the touchdown and an interception. Indiana’s second-string quarterback, Zander Diamont, looked more impressive and poised than Jones when he entered the game, despite not being aware he would play. Diamont had six completions, a reception and a 79-yard touchdown run, which is a pretty good day for a backup.Jones’ passing stats weren’t bad overall, but if Diamont was in for the entire game, the Buckeyes might’ve lost. Elliott was required to carry the Buckeyes to victory with little help from his quarterback, an attribute that makes the Buckeyes seem one-dimensional. Jones’ performance so far has not appeared like starting quarterback material, so where does Meyer’s loyalty come from?Jones was a redshirt sophomore last season, meaning had the chance to enter in the NFL draft after leading OSU to a national championship. However, he didn’t go through with it because he wanted to raise his draft stock with a full season under center rather than just three starts.Jones will most likely leave for the NFL after the season, but in order for him to raise his draft stock he must play well, which he hasn’t done yet. Football is about earning a spot. While Meyer’s allegiance to Jones for his performance in the clutch last season and his subsequent decision to stay in school is understandable, it still seems like Meyer might be doing a disservice to the team by standing by Jones’ side.Is loyalty enough to earn the job, or does Jones’ performance warrant a move? Has the starting quarterback spot been earned, or given?
OSU junior H-back Curtis Samuel (4) runs the ball while OSU redshirt freshman running back Mike Weber (25) blocks a Maryland defender. Credit: Alexa Mavrogianis | Photo EditorThe blocking ability of the offensive line for Ohio State has been a key to the 9-1 record of the Buckeyes. Redshirt senior center Pat Elflein and redshirt junior guard Billy Price have been instrumental in opening up wide lanes for the offense, but the ability of the running backs and wide receivers to throw blocks downfield is the true instrumental piece to rushing the ball.Against Maryland, junior H-back Curtis Samuel was lined up in the slot on the right side of the offensive line. The ball was snapped, and redshirt junior quarterback J.T. Barrett rolled to his right. Samuel drove the cornerback in front of him straight back into Maryland’s own end zone, opening up a lane for Barrett to push in for a touchdown.The Buckeyes are averaging 6.0 yards per carry since 2013, which is the highest mark among all Power 5 teams. The offensive line is the biggest reason, but some fans might not realize how much the blocking of the running backs and H-backs has been a factor. Barrett has picked up a 5.25 yards per carry on average for his career, with a large portion of his carries coming behind the blocking of his running backs and H-backs.’Namely, Curtis Samuel and redshirt freshman running back Mike Weber have led the way for their quarterback. OSU running backs coach Tony Alford spoke highly of both men, and said the junior H-back’s blocking has been one of his best aspects this season.“You just watch the way he’s blocking, and obviously he’s very gifted with the ball in his hands,” Alford said. “We’ve always known that. But then you just watch his full game and how he plays and how he runs routes … just the precision as he does his entire job, his job description.”Samuel is the only player in the nation with 600 rushing and receiving yards, and is shaping up to eclipse 1,500 total yards. According to Alford, there is more to Samuel than meets the eye. The ability of the all-purpose back/receiver to remove defenders from the play on sweeps by running backs and quarterback runs has earned him high marks from his teammates and coaches.Last season, OSU was spoiled with the ability of its running back to throw punishing blocks on opponents’ defenders. However, Alford made a comparison of Samuel to a current-campus legend in Columbus.“He’s playing at a very high level, to watch the way he blocked against Maryland was, I mean I took it into my room and said, “Guys, this is how you finish plays.” It’s very reminiscent of how (Ezekiel Elliott) did things.”After racking up the yards against Maryland on Saturday, there were 25 players named champions by OSU coach Urban Meyer. Of those players, four were wide receivers. Playing wideout normally means being predominantly known for running long routes and hauling in acrobatic catches. But against Maryland, the players earned the recognition not for their hands, but for the blocking aspect of their game. Meyer said it was because of “selfless play,” and singled out redshirt sophomore Noah Brown and Samuel.“I think, if anything, our receivers have done a great job at blocking,” he said. “You see the runs that have been explosive runs, that’s something that has been a difference in their play. As far as the passing game … they haven’t changed. Have they done a better job, I do believe so, but I don’t think it was something drastic.”“Zone 6,” the moniker of wide receivers coach Zach Smith’s unit, has been carrying its weight in the run game. It’s a down-and-dirty part of football that is rarely discussed for wideouts, but OSU has lucked out in the group it has.Not to be outdone, Weber has been racking up the yards while also knocking heads against opposing defenders. He too has been known for opening up wide lanes and knocking opponents to the turf. It’s an aspect of play that might not make a mark on the statsheet or wow the fans, but it is a part of the game that matters immensely. Even with such a vital task on the shoulders of Weber, Alford said it’s just business as usual for a running back playing under Meyer, and requires a sharp eye for when to attack.“Just kind of know when to deliver shots,” he said. “That’s kind of a timing thing and the more you do it the better you get at it obviously. But there’s still room for improvement. Mike’s a tenacious football player and he’s a tough guy.”Samuel was asked about the ability of Weber to lead the way through the hole and lay a load to the defender in front of him. Simply put, he felt that the first-year running back was more than capable of handling things in the trenches. “If anybody I want in front of me running, it’s Mike,” Samuel said.
Ohio State then-sophomore guard C.J. Jackson looks to pass over two defenders against Nebraska on Feb. 18 at the Schottenstein Center. Credit: Alexa Mavrogianis | Former Photo EditorJunior guard C.J. Jackson started nine games last season, his first as an Ohio State Buckeye.This season, he will be counted on to be the team’s only true point guard. “The point guard — floor general — just kind of keeps the team together,” Jackson said at Ohio State men’s basketball media day. “That’s kind of what I do right now.”Jackson’s role and importance increased with the departure of JaQuan Lyle, the third-leading scorer during the 2016-2017 season who quit the team in April and transferred to New Mexico. Jackson will have help from redshirt senior shooting guard Kam Williams, a returning starter with no in-game experience at point guard. Williams said he and redshirt junior forward Keita Bates-Diop and senior forward Jae’Sean Tate have been honing their skills to adapt to Ohio State’s lack of depth at point guard.“We all have [worked on ball handling] cause we know C.J. is our only true, true point guard,” Williams said. “So we’ve gathered in the summer to prepare if we’re ever in that situation — so I think all of us will step up and take his place if needed.”Bates-Diop and Tate said they have also been working on ball handling, but need to practice playing point guard in practice as well to grow more comfortable at the position. Bates-Diop said he sees Williams growing more comfortable at the position with more experience running the offense at practice, which Jackson did throughout last season. Jackson’s numbers overall at the end of the 2016-17 season were not that of a future starter. He averaged less than six points per game and shooting below 40 percent both from the field and beyond the arc. He improved late in the season, however, and helped give his numbers a boost over the last seven games, averaging 10.7 points, 3.1 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 1.1 steals per game over the stretch. The Eastern Florida Community College transfer found a rhythm with his jump shot as he shot 51.9 percent from the field and 53.8 percent from behind the 3-point line, making 14-of-26 3-point makes in his final seven games last season.While ball handling and shooting represent important skills to succeed at point guard, there is more to running an offense and leading a team. Jackson has a quiet demeanor, but sophomore forward/center Micah Potter said he has no concerns about the point guard’s ability to lead.“It’s kind of like a Mike Conley type thing — he’s not a crazy outspoken guy either — but just his ability to keep himself under control and just kind of be a quiet leader like he’ll say things here and there,” Potter said. “It will never be boisterous or anything like that, but just his ability to keep himself under control and lead in that way is huge as a point guard.”Potter might be onto something with his reference to former Conley, who was recently inducted into the Ohio State Athletics Hall of Fame. The former Buckeye led Ohio State to the 2007 national title game and starts at point guard for the Memphis Grizzlies. Conley told reporters at halftime of the Ohio State-Maryland football game that Jackson must be able to lead the team on and off the court.“He’s got to be able to command the ball and command the team’s respect, and go out there and handle it like a point guard is supposed to,” Conley said.Conley added he believes that the junior point guard has what it takes.“I have confidence in him — I’m excited for him,” Conley said. “I think he’s been working for it, so I’m looking forward to it.”To be able to lead, a point guard has to trust himself. With such significant roster turnover, Jackson has an opportunity to break out as a key contributor for the Buckeyes. Tate said he has the utmost confidence Jackson will take advantage.“At the point guard position (Jackson’s) going to be the guy. And for a university this big and what stage we’re on — that’s big, that’s huge,” Tate said. “And he’s approaching the situation great and he’s been working hard. He seems more confident than he has in the past and I’m very excited to see what he does this year leading us on the floor.”
The study suggests that getting enough vitamin A in pregnancy could ward off Alzheimer’s in later life Credit:Andrew Matthews The researchers found that mice with a mild vitamin A deficiency performed worse on tests of learning and memory in adulthood.Even when the mice deprived of vitamin A in the womb were given a normal diet as pups, they performed worse than mice who received a normal amount of the nutrient in the womb but were deprived after birth. It suggests that the damage had already been done in the womb.”In some cases, providing supplements to the newborn Alzheimer’s disease model mice could reduce the amyloid beta level and improve learning and memory deficits,” added Prof Song.”It’s a matter of the earlier, the better.”The researchers concluded that a healthy, balanced diet was the best way to ensure adequate levels of the nutrient and ward off Alzheimer’s disease.The study, was published today in the journal Acta Neuropathologica. 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. Eating your five-a-day could help prevent Alzheimer’s, a new study suggests, after scientists found people who were deficient in vitamin A were more likely to develop the disease.Scientists monitored more than 300 elderly people in China and discovered that those with higher levels of the vitamin were 60 per cent less likely to have developed dementia.Researchers found that 75 per cent of those with either mild or significant vitamin A deficiency had cognitive impairment, compared to 47 per cent of those with normal vitamin A levels. Vitamin A is naturally found in fruits and vegetables such as carrots, broccoli, peaches and avocados as well as fish and liver.A second part of the research found that mice with low levels of vitamin A from birth developed more amyloid, the sticky substance which builds up in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients and prevents brain cells from communicating.”Our study clearly shows that marginal deficiency of vitamin A, even as early as in pregnancy, has a detrimental effect on brain development and has long-lasting effect that may facilitate Alzheimer’s disease in later life,” said Dr Weihong Song, a professor of psychiatry and Canada Research Chair in Alzheimer’s Disease at the University of British Columbia.
Now, on the anniversary of the introduction of compulsory microchipping, owners are being reminded to make sure the details on the chips are up to date so they can be easily contacted if their pet is lost or stolen.Animal Welfare Minister Lord Gardiner said: “Thanks to microchipping, thousands of dogs have been reunited with their owners and the number of stray dogs is now at a record low.”It is excellent to see that so many owners have taken action to get their dogs chipped – a painless process for dogs which many charities will carry out for free. It is excellent to see that so many owners have taken action to get their dogs chippedAnimal Welfare Minister Lord Gardiner 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. “However, still too many are not being reunited where owners have not updated their details when they move home or get a new phone number – heart-breaking for the owner, and easily avoidable with a five-minute phone call. The number of stray dogs has fallen to the lowest level in 20 years after compulsory microchipping was introduced, data has suggested. Around 95 per cent of UK dogs are now fitted with a microchip with their owner’s details that mean pets can be reunited with their families if they are lost or stolen, data from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs show.They have enabled thousands of dogs to be reunited with their owners and the Dogs Trust’s annual survey found the number of strays fell last year by 21 per cent to the lowest levels since the survey began in 1997. “All dog owners have a responsibility to microchip their dog and it’s very encouraging to see such a strong take-up. Now owners must make sure this effort does not go to waste and check their dog’s chip is up to date.”Alex Jackson, Head of Campaigns at Dogs Trust added: “Whilst we will continue to work hard to make sure the remaining 5 per cent of dog owners get their dog chipped, we are pleased that the law is working well across the UK.”A good proportion of local councils are issuing notices to people who have not microchipped their dogs or updated their details, so we hope to see the total number of people complying with the law increase significantly over the next few years.” Owners can update their information easily online or over the phone, and advice on updating details can be found on the Government website here.