Savannah State, the small black college on Georgia’s southeastern shore, has made the NCAA record books, albeit dubiously.The betting line in Las Vegas has Savannah State a 70 ½-point underdog for Saturday game against No. 6 Florida State. No one can recall seeing a number like that.“Without a doubt,” said Mike Colbert, vice president of risk management for Las Vegas-based Cantor Gaming, “this is the biggest line I’ve put up in 10 years doing this.”No surprise there. In fact, all indications, this is largest point spread ever for a Division I game.Think you’d take those odds? Well, you might want to think again.The Tigers were nearly as big an underdog last week — in the 65½-point range — and they didn’t come close to covering. No. 18 Oklahoma State romped to an 84-0 rout, handing Savannah State its eighth straight defeat going back to last season.“We had to make an even bigger line for Florida State,” Colbert said, “because we think Florida State is better than Oklahoma State.”For Savannah State, this is called taking a whipping for the money. The school is collecting paychecks totaling $860,000, which will go a long way toward helping the financially strapped athletic program meet its total budget of $5.1 million.“You preach the same message. We’re going to get on the bus to Tallahassee with the thought of winning the game,” Tigers coach Steve Davenport told the Savannah Morning News without a smile. “The reality is the reality and we’ll see how we pan out. The charge is to play as hard as you can for 60 minutes, no different than it was for Oklahoma State.”Colbert said most of the early money from Vegas betters was on the underdog.“I think people just saw the big number and instantly put their bets on Savannah State,” he said. “I don’t think they put much thought into it.”Of course, the bookies are more careful with their money. Colbert had several factors to consider before setting the historic spread in favor of Florida State (1-0).“It was an interesting line to make,” he said. “If Florida State wanted to play its top guys the entire game, they could probably win by a hundred. But some guesswork comes in with a number like this. It’s not purely about statistics and numbers. How long will they play their top guys? Will they run the score up? Quite frankly, I expect Florida State to play (the starters) for at least the first half.”The main goal for the Seminoles, Colbert figured, is to get through the game without injuries to any key players before they open their Atlantic Coast Conference schedule the following week. There is absolutely no possibility of losing this game.“You know they’ll want to be healthy for their conference games,” the oddsmaker pointed out. “That said, Florida State’s backups are better than Savannah State’s starters. I don’t expect them to stop scoring.”
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views, policies or position of Atlanta Black Star or its employees Tim Tebow accepted the cowardly criticism by underachieving teammates with the grace and dignity that mark his character. Wish it could rub off on the other New York Jerks.“I think some frustration and I guess some sadness,” Tebow said when asked how he felt. “It’s never fun to hear criticism, but at the same time, it’s something I’ve always used as motivation, and you try to get stronger from it. That’s how I approach it. I always find the good and the positive from every situation. The positive from this is (I’ve) got to work a little bit harder and improve and build better relationships with your teammates.”Perfect, mature response to disloyal teammates who actually play in the games and have contributed to the Jets’ 3-6 record. So the question is, if Tebow is “terrible,” as some told the New York Daily News, then what are they? Super terrible?“I’ve heard criticism my whole life playing football,” Tebow went on. “You try to do your best at handling it. Understanding on one side you just try to make it motivate you, but at the same time, it always has somewhat of an effect on you. You’re human and it’s not always fun to have people say negative things about you, but you try to be stronger from it. It always has made me stronger in the past and it will continue to be.”What, exactly, has Tim Tebow done to anyone, especially the Jets, except get them more coverage than they deserve? He’s been a model teammate. He works hard. He says the right thing. He even appears to be genuine. For those reasons alone Tebow should be a revered teammate.And yet the sorry Jets chose to rip him for no reason whatsoever. And, like scared little boys, they do so anonymously. Weak. This whole Tebow fascination the last two years has been amazing. It’s been amazing how writers and fans alike “hate” him because he’s “overrated,” when all he has done is win football games when given the opportunity.“You can’t control a lot of things,” Tebow said. “This is something I can’t control, but I can control my attitude, my effort and my work ethic. Those are things that never change regardless what anyone says.”Tebow walked into the Jets’ locker room with his head high Wednesday and looked his coward critics in the eye.“I’m a Jet now and I’m proud to be a Jet, and it’s an honor to be in this locker room with a lot of great guys,” Tebow said. “I feel like it’s my job to get better every single day and contribute to this team, and I can say that every single time I step on that field as a New York Jet, I’ve played and tried as hard as I possibly can to help this team win football games. (I’m) one of the first guys here, last guys to leave, and try to be a great teammate as well.”His teammates — the same teammates he beat on a 95-yard drive last year when he was with Denver, by the way — have a lot to learn from Tebow. The bet here is that they won’t.“You can’t stop and wonder why; that doesn’t help me,” Tebow said. “It doesn’t help me do anything, just makes you think about it more. That’s not who I am and who I want to be.”Tebow is a high-character guy that it seems impossible to dislike. He’s a mature, loyal teammate. A winner. Which is more than what can be said about his teammates.
San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Michael Crabtree is “highly, highly doubted” to be charged in an alleged sexual assault last weekend, according to ESPN Sunday morning.ESPN received the information from a source that is close to the 49ers organization.The San Francisco Police Department announced Friday night that Crabtree was being investigated. The incident is alleged to have occurred early Sunday morning in a San Francisco hotel, after the 49ers playoff win against the Green Bay Packers.Crabtree, who was not charged or arrested, cooperated with the Special Victims Unit of SFPD. He conducted an interview for two hours with his attorney present.The source also said to ESPN that a second female witness corroborated Crabtree’s version of the incident to police, and that the incident will not develop further. The 49ers also claim he will not be charged.The 49ers and general manager Trent Baalke were made aware of the allegations on Friday. They said they believed the timing was odd because the team was preparing to travel to Atlanta to play the Falcons in Sunday’s NFC Championship game.“The 49ers take such matters very seriously,” Baalke said in statement released on Friday. “We will have no further comment at this time as the legal process is ongoing. Additional requests for comment should be directed to Michael’s attorney.”But team members say they are adamant that Crabtree’s situation has not become a distraction. They emphasize that players must be cautious because they may be easy targets.Crabtree, who was selected by the 49ers in the 2009 NFL draft as the 10th overall pick, has a career-best 1,105 yards receiving this season. He became the first San Francisco wide receiver to have more than 1,000 yards in a season since Terrell Owens in 2003.The 49ers will need Crabtree to put this situation behind him for Sunday’s game against the Falcons, if they want to extend their season and head to the Super Bowl to play the winner of the New England Patriots and Baltimore Ravens game.
Cz he will kick Kaperdick’s ass! #C1N #TheBestEver— Clemson-Sooner Playoff Fan (@lisabeasley70) December 21, 2017 It’s not a competition lmao— James 🎄 (@VHboys) December 21, 2017Hope it actually comes down to the better QB and nothing to do with politics.— jagsonefan (@cadet_Gstone) December 21, 2017 Days after Sean “Diddy” Combs announced his interest in buying the Carolina Panthers, star quarterback Cam Newton has chimed in. The athlete, who is in his seventh season with the Panthers, said he thinks the mogul’s plans are “cool.”“It was amusing,” Newton, who said he doesn’t want Panthers owner Jerry Richardson to sell, tells reporters Wednesday, Dec. 20. “He’s a person that has a lot of influence in the culture so, he’s cool. I don’t know what to expect. I still don’t even know what to expect … I don’t even know how you even sell something of this magnitude. So I’m just gonna stay in my lane, worry about throwing touchdowns on Sunday and let the rest handle stuff.”In a Monday, Dec. 18 video announcement, Diddy said he plans to pit free agent QB Colin Kaepernick against Newton in order to determine who would be the starter. This came after Richardson announced he would sell the team in 2018.“That’s cool. I’m cool with it,” Newton says of the showdown. “Whatever happens, happens. They say two things either happen in competition: either you’re better or you’re worse so I’m all for whatever. But as far as a person [Diddy] that I’ve always looked up to … for that to even be a mention, that’s cool in itself.”Diddy and the PanthersSteph Curry Steps In to Help Diddy Buy Carolina PanthersAnchors Apologize After One Claimed Diddy ‘Smoked a Blunt and Drank a 40’Diddy Is Unbothered By Apologetic Anchors Who Clowned Him, Says He’s Unafraid to DreamShould Diddy, who Forbes reports is worth $820 million, be able to buy the $2.3 billion team, he’d make history as the sole Black NFL team owner. But it seems at least two athletes want to help him make the purchase — including the one he wants to become a Panther.Golden State Warriors guard Steph Curry tweeted he wanted “in” on ownership and Kaepernick posted, “let’s make it happen!”Diddy quickly co-signed Curry’s response but has been quieter about his plans with Kaepernick.A source close to the former San Francisco 49er told Yahoo! Kaep has started discussing the launch of an ownership group by contacting venture capitalists, business heads and sports legends. The insider said Kaepernick has a “shared vision” with Diddy to create an ownership group that reflects the 70 percent Black player make up of the NFL.“The interest is real and it’s moving forward,” the source said of the Combs-Kaepernick partnership. “They want to make this a reality. It’s serious.”Still, many are fixated on Diddy’s QB competition between Newton and Kaepernick.How can you not laugh at the suggestion that Kap could compete with Cam?— MyPanthersNewsFeed (@CPanthers1995) December 20, 2017 Cam Newton was asked today about Diddy’s proclamation that if he bought the Panthers he’d let Colin Kaepernick compete for the starting QB job:“It’s cool.” pic.twitter.com/KcIVrcMENC— Coley Harvey (@ColeyHarvey) December 20, 2017 Kaep couldn’t beat Blake Bortles in a QB competition. Cams got nothing to worry about— Childish Benjamino (@BennyUnitas) December 21, 2017
The modern Champions League has not been a hospitable competition for underdogs. Real Madrid, Barcelona and Bayern Munich have won the last four trophies, and the closest thing to an upset winner in recent years was Chelsea in 2012. This season, though, might be different.Sure, Bayern, Barcelona and Real Madrid are all still in it. But no team left in the Champions League is historically dominant. Expected goals, a statistical measure of the quality of scoring chances a team creates and concedes, rates Barcelona as the top team in this year’s competition, but one with only a 28 percent change of winning the tournament.1All of the data in this article is current through April 10.This year’s Barcelona, however, does not make the top 10 list of expected goals difference for clubs since 2010-11. With fewer truly great teams in the mix, an upset winner is that much more likely. Here’s what to expect.Borussia Dortmund (60 percent chance of advancing) vs. Monaco (40 percent)With a position atop the Ligue 1 table, an impressive defeat of Manchester City in the round of 16, and an incredible 103 goals scored between Ligue 1 and the Champions League, Monaco might appear to have the resume of a quarterfinal favorite. However, Monaco’s numbers require some caution. Despite leading to 90 nonpenalty goals this season, the chances Monaco has created have been worth only about 58 expected goals (xG), according to the soccer stats-tracker Opta. Scoring 33 more goals than expected is unprecedented in the last few years. No other club has even beaten expected goals by 20 or more at this point in the season since 2010-11. While it is not terribly unusual for top teams to outperform their expected goals — top teams tend to have better finishers — Monaco is finishing chances better than any of Lionel Messi’s teams ever did.If Monaco’s goal scoring falls off, Dortmund should be well prepared to take advantage. Since returning from the winter break, Dortmund has been dominant, collecting 1.2 more xG per match than their opponents, compared with only a +0.7 margin before the break. With underlying numbers to match its goals difference and a recent spike in performance, Dortmund looks like the more likely semifinalist.In either case, this should be one of the most exciting matches of the round. Both Monaco and Dortmund depend on pace and quick-hitting attacks — both clubs lead their respective leagues in shot attempts following moves of two passes or fewer. While Thomas Tuchel may attempt to impose more control on the match than Pep Guardiola did against Monaco in the round of 16, the game is likely to be a fast-paced and attacking affair.Barcelona (65 percent) vs. Juventus (35 percent)This rematch of the 2015 Champions League final features the best attack-vs.-defense matchup of the round. This season Barcelona has created the second-most clear scoring chances (116), as defined by Opta, in the big five leagues, while Juventus has conceded the fewest clear scoring chances (20).Barcelona is well known for an attacking style that favors making the extra pass to create the highest-quality scoring chances, rather than trying to shoot the ball from far out. Juventus, under managers Max Allegri and Antonio Conte, has developed a defensive strategy that mirrors Barcelona’s attacking play. The Italian side focuses on defensive structure in order to prevent the same kinds of clear chances that Barca aims to create. A list of the best defensive seasons since 2010-11, judging teams by the number of quality chances they concede, shows Juventus dominating. And this year Juventus is preventing clear chances at its best rate ever, allowing only about one every other match.Barcelona was able to break through Juventus’ defense in the 2015 final just as Bayern Munich did during last year’s knockout stages. But in both of those cases, it took a top performance from one of the world’s best attacks to win the tie. Barcelona is rightly favored, but any slight drop-off in execution could see the Catalan side stymied by Juventus’ defense.Bayern Munich (71 percent) vs. Real Madrid (29 percent)ESPN’s Soccer Power Index rating gives a big boost to Bayern Munich based on the German side’s superior defensive numbers. Bayern has conceded just 23 goals in 36 matches between the Bundesliga and Champions League, while Real has conceded 43 in 38 matches. Some of this difference disappears when you look at expected goals, which drops Real’s total to 37. But it is not enough to erase it all.The two sides not only see different defensive outcomes, but they also play significantly different styles when out of possession. Carlo Ancelotti has his Bayern squad playing the high-pressing style preached by Pep Guardiola. When Bayern turns the ball over in midfield, it breaks up their opponents’ next possession within three passes about 55 percent of the time, the second-highest rate in the Bundesliga. Real Madrid, by contrast, defends much more passively, breaking up opposition possession in only about 45 percent of cases, 12th in La Liga.It is not that Real Madrid has been particularly poor defensively, but its more passive defensive style seems like a major risk against Bayern. Under manager Zinedine Zidane, Real Madrid has been an outlier among top clubs in not embracing the new, analytics-minded strategy of pressing on defense. It will be interesting to see if Real’s more old-fashioned defensive style can work. If Real fails to unsettle Bayern early in a possession, that would give time on the ball to central midfielders Arturo Vidal and Thiago Alcantara. That outcome would be risky at best for Real. Thiago in particular is having a great season, leading the Bundesliga with 96 progressive passes and runs. (These are defined as passes which advance the ball through midfield over 10 yards beyond where the possession had reached, or runs which progress similarly while eliminating a defender on the dribble.) Real Madrid may need to adjust its pressing rate to protect the defense from Bayern’s passers if it means to make it to another Champions League final.Atletico Madrid (75 percent) vs. Leicester City (25 percent)Leicester City presents something of a conundrum to any projection system, having won five of six league matches since sacking manager Claudio Ranieri. The club’s performances under new manager Craig Shakespeare have not been quite as good as its unbeaten record suggests — despite outscoring opponents in the league and CL by a combined 17-8, Leicester’s expected goals difference is just 10.3-9.1. But Leicester has produced more expected goals than its opponents in five of its seven matches after running negative in expected goal difference under Ranieri. It is certainly possible that Leicester will continue performing at this higher level under Shakespeare.However, it is hard to identify any key changes Shakespeare made. Leicester City remains the highest-tempo team in the Premier League, with more possessions per match than anyone else. The Foxes still work best without the ball, managing the same 42 percent possession rate as under Ranieri. What seems to have changed is not Leicester’s style of play, but the effectiveness of it. This is the sort of change, not linked to any obvious tactical shift, that analysts tend to be skeptical of. It might just be form, in which case the large SPI advantage to Atletico Madrid may be correct.For Atletico, this persistent Leicester style may present a problem. Atleti prefers to concede possession and play off the ball, especially against top opponents. But while Atletico is unusual in the Champions League for its roughly 50 percent possession rate, Leicester at 42 percent is more extreme. Atletico will likely need to adjust its typical knockout strategy and make use of ball possession to get past Leicester, even if the Foxes’ current run of form may not be entirely sustainable.Check out our club soccer predictions.
As things stand, LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers are not going to make the playoffs this year. In the video above, Chris Herring looks at how the Lakers got to this point and what they would need to do to somehow keep James’s playoff streak alive.
The news about Klay Thompson came mere days after the late-night revelation that teammate Kevin Durant would miss the entire 2019-20 NBA season with a ruptured Achilles tendon. Taken together, both injuries cast uncertainty over the Warriors’ long-term future — and further complicate a free-agency summer that already had promised to be one of the wildest ever.One-half of the Splash Brothers (with Stephen Curry), Thompson has been a founding member of this Warriors dynasty. He was drafted just two years after Curry — we don’t talk about that Ekpe Udoh pick sandwiched in between — and a year ahead of Draymond Green and Harrison Barnes, part of the masterful series of selections that laid the foundation for Golden State’s subsequent dominance. Since the Warrior dynasty’s first championship in 2014-15, Thompson ranks fifth on the team in both Value Over Replacement Player and Win Shares in the playoffs (behind Curry, Green, Durant and Andre Iguodala).Does that sound low? There’s a case to be made that the advanced metrics might perennially underrate Thompson on defense, where his reputation — he was named to the All-Defensive second team this season — vastly outstrips his statistical indicators. And although Thompson’s durability does factor into metrics such as VORP and Win Shares, he has played in 615 of 640 possible regular-season games (96 percent) in his career, providing a welcome sense of stability for a team all too familiar with injuries to stars.Certainly Thompson should get credit for the way his contract has enabled the Warriors to build their superteam around him. Thompson has often spoken about his love for playing in the Bay Area, and he’s pondered taking pay cuts to stay with the franchise. He was paid a comparatively modest $69 million these past four seasons as the Warriors won four straight conference championships and two titles (years when our CARMELO projections pegged his actual worth at $117 million).However, Thompson is due to become a free agent this summer, as part of a star-studded class that was also supposed to include his fellow Warrior Durant.1Assuming KD rejects his current contract’s option to remain with Golden State for the 2019-20 season. Because Thompson missed out on All-NBA recognition this season (it’s difficult to call it a “snub” given his good-but-not-great metrics), he won’t qualify for the NBA’s “supermax” category of extensions — which means the most he can make is about $190 million over five years if he re-signs with Golden State, or $141 over four years if he signs elsewhere. (By comparison, Curry re-signed for five years and $201 million two summers ago.)The timetable on recovering from ACL tears starts as low as seven months, but it generally requires nine months to a year before returning to the court. So Thompson probably will miss most (if not all) of the 2019-20 season with his injury, just like Durant. But in the wake of Durant’s injury, we already have seen reports that teams wouldn’t hesitate to sign KD to a maximum deal despite the uncertainty around his health. Thompson isn’t at the same level of franchise-altering stardom as Durant, but he is one year younger, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see rival teams take a similar approach to his free agency this summer.On the one hand, Thompson’s injury is a bad omen for a player whose game is built on a tremendous amount of high-stress activity. According to Second Spectrum data compiled by ESPN’s Stats & Information Group, no player in the NBA has run a greater distance over the past five seasons (including the playoffs) than the 1,267 miles Thompson covered. On the other hand, though, Thompson is a historically great shooter with one of the quickest releases the game has ever seen, so his skills figure to age well even if the injury costs him some athleticism.If the Warriors do part ways with both Thompson and Durant this summer, it’s worth wondering where the losses will leave a team that, not very long ago, looked like the most dominating force in the history of the NBA. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, a Golden State team without Klay, KD and a few other notable players who may depart has the potential to become just the fifth defending NBA Finalist ever to return less than half of its scoring from the previous season. (Thompson and Durant combined to score 3,707 of Golden State’s 9,650 points this season, or 38.4 percent, but the Warriors also have eight other players who aren’t under contract for 2019-20.) What happened to the other teams on the list?2Which were the 1998-99 Bulls, the 1948-49 Bullets, the 2004-05 Lakers and the 2018-19 Cavaliers. You don’t wanna know.3All finished with a losing record.The Warriors probably won’t fall quite so far; before the Thompson news, betting markets opened with Golden State as favorites to win the 2019-20 NBA championship, as the defending-champ Raptors dropped into a tie with the Houston Rockets for the fifth-best odds (behind the Warriors, Lakers, Bucks and Clippers). But those numbers are already destined to change with the reports about Thompson, so it’s just a question of how far Golden State falls — particularly relative to its two Western Conference challengers in Los Angeles, both of whom have designs on the summer’s top trade and free-agent targets. Will the Warriors not even be favored to win the West next year? That remains to be seen. But the severity of Thompson’s injury tacked another depressing note onto the end of Golden State’s season, and it adds another layer of uncertainty to the team’s future as a dynasty. The confetti had barely settled on the Toronto Raptors’ championship celebration before another stunning injury report hit their NBA Finals opponents, the Golden State Warriors, like a punch to the stomach:
It’s rare in life that you can look back and identify the specific moment that marked the end of the way things were and the beginning of the way things are. That is not the case when it comes to the creation of the style of play that dominates the modern NBA, which now sees teams eschewing size advantages in favor of loading the floor with as much shooting as possible. It’s worth examining the origins of the small-ball revolution, even if there are indications that the trend may reverse itself — perhaps as soon as this season.Though the seeds for this shift were planted by teams like the Houston Rockets of the mid-1990s, the Phoenix Suns of the 2000s and, particularly, the 2009 Orlando Magic, everything changed for good on May 13, 2012. During the Miami Heat’s 95-86 win over the Indiana Pacers in Game 1 of the 2012 Eastern Conference semifinals, Heat star Chris Bosh suffered an abdominal strain and was ruled out indefinitely.To that point in both the regular season and the playoffs, the 6-foot-11 Bosh had played almost exclusively at power forward. He’d played 2,174 minutes combined regular season and postseason minutes, spending 1,901 of them (87.4 percent) next to one of Joel Anthony, Udonis Haslem, Ronny Turiaf, Dexter Pittman or Eddy Curry in the frontcourt.1All lineup statistics come from NBA Advanced Stats, unless otherwise noted. With Bosh sidelined for the remainder of that Pacers series and the first four games of the ensuing Eastern Conference Finals against the Boston Celtics, however, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra slid the 6-foot-8 Shane Battier into the starting lineup in his place.Battier had played just 3 percent of his regular-season minutes at power forward in 2011-12, per Basketball-Reference, but he remained in the role for the rest of Miami’s run to the 2012 title. Bosh returned at first as a reserve. But when he moved back into the starting lineup for Game 2 of the NBA Finals, it was as a center next to Battier and LeBron James in the frontcourt. With that group providing more space in which James and Dwyane Wade could operate, the Heat blitzed the Oklahoma City Thunder with four straight wins, capturing the first of two championships of the Big Three era.After the Heat rode the same configuration to another championship in 2013, the NBA saw a massive drop in two-big lineup usage the following season. That trend may have steadily continued anyway, but it was hastened by the Golden State Warriors going even smaller, playing the 6-foot-7 Draymond Green at center in order to beat LeBron’s Cleveland Cavaliers teams. Pretty soon, damn near the whole league was reorienting around trying to compete with the Warriors’ Death Lineup.Consider the following chart, which plots regular-season “two-big” lineup usage for each of the NBA’s 30 teams, as well as the league average, from the beginning of the Heat’s Big Three era through the just-completed 2018-19 campaign. See if you can identify the turning point; it should be pretty easy.2For purposes of this analysis, we are identifying a “big” as a player who is either a) listed as a center; or b) listed as a power forward and measures at least 6-foot-8 and attempted less than one three-pointer per 36 minutes during the regular season. Such a definition allows us to see which teams played a non-shooting forward (or another center) next to their center in the frontcourt. Two-big lineup usage peaked at 58.8 percent of minutes leaguewide during the 2011-12 season, but the shift to small ball sliced that number in half within four seasons. Last season, two-big lineups played just 6.4 percent of regular-season minutes. During LeBron, Wade and Bosh’s second season together, 19 of the league’s 30 teams used two-big lineups at least 50 percent of the time. Last season, no team even crossed the 40 percent mark in two-big lineup minutes.Such a stark trend might make it seem like we have reached a point of no return. But given several developments of this offseason’s free-agent period, it seems fair to wonder whether we may have actually passed Peak Small Ball and might be in for a reversal during the 2019-20 campaign.The Philadelphia 76ers, for example, signed Celtics center Al Horford to a four-year deal, and presumably plan to play him as their primary power forward alongside Joel Embiid. Contrary to popular belief, the 6-foot-10 Horford has actually been a center for the majority of his career — he’s played 83 percent of his minutes at the position, per Basketball-Reference — but Celtics general manager Danny Ainge has said that he believes a desire to return to the power forward slot — where Horford played in college — factored into his decision.Assuming Ainge is correct, Horford is not the only big who’s moved to a new team hoping to slide back to the four. New Los Angeles Lakers star Anthony Davis expressed a firm desire to resume playing the four during his introductory press conference. According to Basketball-Reference, Davis has spent 55 percent of his career at center, peaking last season at 96 percent.Other teams’ offseason moves indicate they could potentially lean into two-big lineups as well.The Sacramento Kings signed centers Dewayne Dedmon and Richaun Holmes, who could potentially play either together or alongside Harry Giles. The Portland Trail Blazers let small-ball power forward Al-Farouq Aminu leave in free agency and traded combo forward Moe Harkless, at the same time adding former Heat center Hassan Whiteside to last season’s primary starter Jusuf Nurkić,3In fairness, Nurkić suffered a serious injury at the end of last season and figures to miss a significant portion of 2019–20. and they seemingly plan to start former backup center Zach Collins at power forward.The New York Knicks have Mitchell Robinson as their presumed starting center and should probably let 2018 lottery pick Kevin Knox play at least some of his minutes at power forward; but they still used a significant portion of their free-agent budget to sign non-shooting power forward Taj Gibson, as well as Bobby Portis, who in a 28-game stint with the Wizards last season played 77 percent of his minutes at center. Even the team’s most high-profile signing, Julius Randle, only started shooting threes last season, and he often gets treated by opposing defenses as a non-shooting big man.The Indiana Pacers let power forward Thaddeus Young and small forward Bojan Bogdanovic leave in free agency, and plan to start backup center Domantas Sabonis at power forward next to Myles Turner, who has been the starting center since midway through his rookie season. Sabonis has played 79 percent of his minutes at center with the Pacers, per Basketball-Reference, but he was primarily a power forward both in college and during his rookie season with the Thunder. The Utah Jazz — previously among the heavier users of two-big looks — pivoted smaller by signing the aforementioned Bogdanovic, but in so doing sent Derrick Favors to the New Orleans Pelicans, where he could potentially play alongside either Jaxson Hayes or Jahlil Okafor when he’s not manning the pivot next to Zion Williamson.Several additional teams may end up using two-big lineups more often due to other types of roster changes. The defending champion Toronto Raptors, after losing Kawhi Leonard to the L.A. Clippers, could use more of the Marc Gasol-Serge Ibaka frontcourt that worked so well for them in the playoffs. The Clippers figure to load-manage Leonard, as the Raptors did last season, but even when he’s in the lineup, it’s entirely possible we see Montrezl Harrell — who has played 83 percent of his career minutes at center, including 96 percent last season — playing the four next to Ivica Zubac. Even the Warriors — who took small-ball even further than the Big Three-era Heat — could end up using more two-big lineups featuring, say, Kevon Looney and free-agent signee Willie Cauley-Stein when Draymond Green has to rest, given that they lost Kevin Durant in free agency and traded away Andre Iguodala.Already, that’s a significant portion of the league seemingly preparing to devote non-trivial minutes to two-big lineups. Not even mentioned are four of the seven squads that used two-big units at least 10 percent of the time last season, and could conceivably do so again. (They are the Minnesota Timberwolves, Cleveland Cavaliers, San Antonio Spurs and Denver Nuggets, in addition to the Trail Blazers, Jazz and Pacers.) With multiple contenders in the East and West seemingly planning to use two-big lineups more often, it doesn’t appear as necessary for teams to ensure that they are well-equipped to go small against the very best opponents. Much of the league appears to have reacted by returning to the comfort of using size as an advantage.
The chess computer engine that keeps me warm during the games suggested a rather dramatic sacrifice: taking black’s pawn on f7 with the white knight. Black’s king would take the white knight, but white would gain exciting but complex attacking chances. Carlsen opted against the gambit — instead developing a bishop to f3 — perhaps because his clock was loudly ticking in his ear.Caruana started scratching his own head at this point — but the tension soon slackened. By move 26, the queens and remaining bishops had been traded off the board, leaving the two in another endgame involving only rooks and pawns, just like they had on Friday. This version, however, ended much more quickly than the marathon that came before.
OSU sophomore forward Jae’Sean Tate (1) carries the ball during a game against Maryland on Jan. 31 at the Schottenstein Center. OSU lost, 61-66. Credit: Muyao Shen | Asst. Photo EditorIf the goal was to improve upon its 35-point loss the last time the Ohio State men’s basketball team took on Maryland, Sunday’s tight matinee affair at the Schottenstein Center could be considered a sort of victory.But with the need for signature wins at an all-time high as its NCAA tournament hopes vanish further and further into the rearview mirror, OSU (14-9, 6-4) is in no position to pick up “sort of victories.” It needs all the real victories it can get, one of which it failed to achieve against the No. 8 Terrapins (19-3, 8-2) on Sunday despite a strong effort against one of the nation’s better teams, falling 66-61.“I’ve never been a big fan of moral victories,” OSU coach Thad Matta said. “…You’ve got to find some positives, but we had a chance to win the basketball game.”A strong beginning to the game quickly devolved into an immense struggle to put the ball in the hoop, as the Buckeyes missed 27 of the final 37 shots they took in the game, shooting 35.1 percent overall. Maryland also struggled from the field, particularly in the second half, shooting 30 percent over the final 20 minutes.“We just came out with more energy, more effort, we put it all on the line,” OSU sophomore forward Jae’Sean Tate said. “Just there at the end we came up short. Also credit to Maryland, they made some big-time shots down the stretch.”The game began at a torrid offensive pace for both teams, with 31 combined points being scored in the first seven minutes. The Buckeyes did much of their damage from the outside, knocking down each of their first three 3-point attempts and receiving a very quick 10 points from Tate.But OSU knew well not to put too much stock in the early happenings against the Terrapins. On Jan. 16 in College Park, Maryland, OSU trailed by just two points at the 11:42 mark and went on to lose 100-65. On Sunday, it was OSU holding the slim two-point lead at that time, hoping to hold off a similar Maryland onslaught.But the Buckeyes went ice cold from that point, hitting just one of their next nine field-goal attempts. Fortunately for the home crowd of 16,592 at the Schottenstein Center, Maryland failed to completely take advantage, only managing to grab a lead as high as six points, which was the 37-31 score at the half.As has been a recurring theme this season, OSU managed to leave a good deal of points at the free-throw line in the first half, shooting just 6-of-11. Those misses came at an inopportune time for the Buckeyes, as all five happened during OSU’s 1-of-12 shooting stretch to end the half. OSU made just three of its eight free throws during that time.“I was very upset at halftime, just with the way we closed out the first half,” Matta said.Tate led OSU with 10 points in the first 20 minutes, though all of them came within the first seven minutes of the game. Freshman guard A.J. Harris and sophomore forward Keita Bates-Diop chipped in six points apiece.It was a more balanced effort in the first half for Maryland, which has five points averaging double-figure scoring this season. Senior forward Jake Layman led all first-half scorers with 12 points, while sophomore guard Melo Trimble had nine points and junior forward Robert Carter Jr. and freshman center Diamond Stone each had eight.The Buckeyes shot just 34.4 percent from the field in the first half, a number almost unthinkable after their 10-of-20 start. Maryland countered at a 50-percent clip, shooting 15-of-30. The Buckeyes were able to hold on in part due to a 7-4 turnover margin and a 10-6 second-chance point advantage.Things did not warm up in the second half, with the Buckeyes missing five of their first six shots. That was balanced out by an equally cold 1-of-7 start to the half for Maryland, as OSU was able to cut the deficit to just two points after a 3-pointer by redshirt sophomore guard Kam Williams.Maryland grew the lead back to five points from there, but a split at the free-throw line followed by a put-back dunk by freshman center Daniel Giddens brought the margin back to two points and rose the home crowd to its feet.A quick Maryland timeout failed to stop the momentum, as a turnover and missed layup gave the Buckeyes a few chances to tie the game or take the lead. OSU was unable to capitalize, however, with a good look at a layup by Tate rolling out.“I definitely thought that going into the last 10 minutes of the game that we had this one,” Tate said. “But give credit to Maryland as a top-five team.”But the Terrapins kept missing the shots and the Buckeyes kept battling, eventually grabbing the lead with seven minutes remaining on an and-1 jumper by junior forward Marc Loving, putting the home team up 49-48.“Give Ohio State a lot of credit, we struggled offensively, they did a nice job defensively, and it kept the game close,” Maryland coach Mark Turgeon said.But a loose ball foul put Maryland back up by a point, giving it a lead it would not relinquish despite a close score throughout the final minutes of the game. Back-to-back 3-pointers by senior guard Rasheed Sulaimon and Trimble were the back-breakers on the OSU upset bid.“Veteran players make veteran plays,” Matta said. “I thought they did a heck of a job with staying with what they were trying to do, and I thought that was the difference.”Tate didn’t have an easy time scoring after his hot start, but he was a huge factor for the Buckeyes on defense, finishing with a pair of steals and matching up with some of Maryland’s top scorers. He finished with 16 points on just 6-of-18 shooting. He ended the day as the only OSU player in double figures, though Williams added nine points in the second half and Loving also finished with nine.“He’s a great player,” Turgeon said about Tate. “He’s got high energy. He’s a great athlete at the 4 which gives us fits.”Trimble led all scorers with 20 points, followed by Layman’s 16. Layman had a double-double for the Terrapins, adding 10 rebounds.A big difference in the contest came at the charity stripe, where OSU was 14-of-24 while Maryland was 20-of-23. “We were inches away, and those are things we’ve got to continue to — we’ve got to close that gap of that inch,” Matta said.“(Free throws) are the little things, that inch that we have to close down.”OSU is set to continue its Big Ten grind at Wisconsin on Thursday as the calendar flips to February. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. in Madison.