The Golden State Warriors are an insanely dominant team. To answer the question in this article’s headline: Yes, the Grizzlies have a chance — about a 6 percent chance according to our Real Plus-Minus-based projections. The Warriors projected Real Plus-Minus (RPM) of +15.8 points against the Grizzlies is easily the best of any team; Golden State has about a 10-point advantage per 100 possessions.So the Warriors are likely to win, yes, but the series has several interesting contrasts for the basketball geek.Take speed. If the Warriors do succeed against Memphis, they’ll probably do so playing their breathtakingly fast style. Golden State had by far the fastest pace in the league this season, at 98.3 possessions per game. The Grizzlies play at a lumbering gait: at 92.0 possessions per game, Memphis ranked in the bottom five of the league. The Warriors are also in the top four in total blocks and steals, which ignite fastbreaks. The Grizzlies are content playing solid half-court defense, forcing turnovers and limiting your total shots. It’s fast vs. slow.Shot selection is another difference. The Warriors, especially Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, excel behind the 3-point arc. The team led the NBA in both 3-point percentage (at nearly 40 percent!), and in the total number of threes attempted. The Grizzlies? They attempt the second fewest 3-pointers of any team in the NBA, with below-average success. Memphis’ strength is near the basket, where you’ll find their two big men, Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph. It’s outside vs. inside.Curry, who might just win the MVP award, leads the way for a stacked Warriors team; his projected +8.8 RPM is the second highest of any player (behind Cleveland’s LeBron James). At the other end, the Warriors will rely on defensive superstar Draymond Green, the runner-up for Defensive Player of the Year. Draymond will have a unique challenge against the two Memphis big men. If he can handle one of them one-on-one, the Warriors could cruise.For the Grizzlies, their (already slim) chances took a hit when point guard Mike Conley suffered a facial fracture. He’s projected to play only 15 minutes per game by these RPM calculations. But if he plays through the injury, and if the Grizzlies can slow the pace and prevent the 3-point-happy Warriors from blowing the roof off, Memphis could make this series interesting.
Jonathan Vilma, the New Orleans Saints linebacker who has been embroiled in the bounty scheme saga, says that he will come off the physically unable to perform list after an equally lengthy battle with a knee injury.“I’ll be allowed to practice, I’ll be allowed to play versus Tampa Bay (Sunday),” Vilma said, according to WVUE-TV in New Orleans.Vilma’s lawyers, meanwhile, filed a 29-page motion Monday in a Louisiana court to vacate his season-long suspension, seeking “to put a halt to the ongoing and fundamentally unfair treatment of Jonathan Vilma by … Roger Goodell.”In papers filed in U.S. District Court in New Orleans on Monday, Vilma says Goodell engaged in a “farcical review” of his previously vacated disciplinary action before reaffirming the Saints linebacker’s full-season ban last week.Although Vilma has an appeal pending within the framework of the NFL’s labor agreement, the linebacker argues that Goodell has continued to abuse his power and demonstrate bias, leaving no hope for a fair process that would respect Vilma’s “industrial due process rights.”Vilma also asks U.S. District court Judge Ginger Berrigan to bar Goodell from handling any further action in the bounty matter and appoint a neutral arbitrator.“Goodell’s manifest bias and partiality is palpable, reflected in his many judgmental, accusatory and unsupported public accusations against Vilma and manifested in a procedure he has invoked which rips at the heart of any notion of fundamental fairness and due process in order to punish Vilma for acts he did not commit,” the motion reads.Vilma, who went on the PUP list in Week 2, has been dealing with the injury to his left knee since last season and has had numerous procedures, including the now popular platelet-rich plasma therapy in Germany.“I’m feeling good, feeling good,” Vilma said, according to the station. “I know that the media hasn’t seen much of me for a while, but I’ve actually been working out, working hard, training hard so I can get to this point to be able to give our team a chance to win in Tampa Bay.”Vilma was suspended for one season for his role in the Saints bounty scandal, but the penalty was vacated on a technicality. Goodell has now reinstated his suspension, and Vilma has appealed, along with Will Smith, Anthony Hargrove and Scott Fujita.The appeal asks that Goodell recuse himself from the proceedings on the grounds that he can’t be impartial.All four players are eligible to play or at least get paid until the NFL rules on their latest appeals. The new appeals hearings likely will take place a week from Tuesday, according to a source.
Will the Dodgers break the all-time wins record?Current record is 116 wins WINSAT LEAST THIS MANY WINSEXACTLY THIS MANY WINS 11073.48.1 Elo still doesn’t quite think the Dodgers are the greatest team of all-time. Their 1608 Elo rating (through Sunday’s 8-0 rout of the New York Mets) only ranks sixth-best for a team through 111 games since 1901, trailing the 1944 St. Louis Cardinals, 1902 Pittsburgh Pirates, and the 1938, 1939 and 1998 New York Yankees. But if L.A. does end up smashing the wins record, they’ll be on the short list of greatest teams ever — particularly if they can finally get over the hump in the playoffs.Check out our latest MLB predictions. 10886.05.7 1195.12.2 11347.19.6 10980.36.9 11256.39.3 10596.2%2.2% 11165.49.0 10694.03.0 Move over, 2015-16 Golden State Warriors: There’s a new team chasing a sport’s all-time single-season wins record. The Los Angeles Dodgers have been on a tear — 43 wins in 50 games since June 9, the best 50-game stretch in MLB history — and they now stand at 79-32, which puts the team in a position to win more games than the 2001 Seattle Mariners and 1906 Chicago Cubs, who each won 116 games, the most ever by a baseball team in a season.According to FiveThirtyEight’s Elo model, which simulates the remainder of the season using power ratings and each team’s probability of winning every game, the Dodgers are on pace to win 112 games. But that’s just their average outcome — in some simulations they win more, and in some they win less. In a shade over 20 percent of our simulations, they win at least 116 games, which would tie the all-time mark. And 13.5 percent of the time, they finish the season with at least 117 victories, setting a new single-season record for greatness. 11437.49.4 10791.05.0 11620.16.5 11713.55.1 11528.07.9 1188.53.4 CHANCE DODGERS FINISH WITH… 1202.91.4
There’s still more than a month left on the schedule, but we’re on pace to see the 10-day DL used 775 times this season. That would be an increase in short-term DL stints of 40 percent compared with last year. And it’s not just that injury rates are suddenly up across the board in 2017: Long-term disabled list usage has stayed at almost the same level for the past five years.It’s clear, then, that the new 10-day disabled list has changed the way teams tinker with their rosters. But the new list didn’t so much create a new problem as exacerbate an old one. League-wide use of the short-term DL has jumped in each of the past four years (including this season) — and the Dodgers have paved the way. Since Andrew Friedman left the Tampa Bay Rays to become president of baseball operations for the Dodgers after the 2014 season, the team has led the league in short-term DL stints every year (only once during those three seasons did the Dodgers have the most long-term DL stays — a clearer sign of legitimate injury problems).The increasing use of short-term DL stints across baseball has prompted questions from the league about whether all these ailments are legitimate. Last month, Rob Manfred, MLB’s commissioner, expressed fears that the list was being manipulated — and with good reason. In an interview last year, Dodgers starter Ross Stripling suggested that one of his trips to the disabled list in the past was less about recovering from an injury and more about hitting an innings limit.Much of the increase in short-term DL trips from recent years seem to be for nonspecific reasons, ranging from weariness to different kinds of strains. In 2016, five short-term injuries included “fatigue” in their description; over the three previous seasons, there were only three such trips, combined.Similar increases have occurred in short-term DL trips for other vague injuries. Increases in injuries described with the words “fatigue,” “tightness” or “strain” have together accounted for almost 50 percent of the total jump in short-term disabled list trips since 2014.Unless baseball became a lot more tiring and stressful in the past three years, it seems as though teams may be exaggerating small issues in an effort to free up roster spots.But while the Dodgers seem to have pioneered this tactic, whether they are deriving any substantial advantage from it is unclear. That’s because the exact benefits of having a fresh relief pitcher are difficult to calculate.By at least one measure, though, the Dodgers are succeeding. In a normal five-man rotation, pitchers rest for four days and throw on the fifth. But by stashing a starter on the DL, a team can give him a much longer recovery period. Extended rest (five or more days) seems to reduce the probability of a serious injury by 20 percent, so a smart team might try to frequently rest fragile starters to minimize the risk that they will become severely hurt. And that’s exactly what the Dodgers have done. So far this season, they are on pace to have the second-most starts thrown by pitchers with five or more days of rest than any team since at least 2009. And last season’s Dodgers already had the third-highest mark since 2009, so the new 10-day disabled list didn’t necessarily inspire this tactic. But it might have made the strategy more effective by allowing their pitchers to miss fewer starts.Even knowing that rest prevents injuries, whether Los Angeles prevented more serious ailments by using the short-term DL so frequently is difficult to say. Friedman built the Dodgers’ rotation on a surprisingly thrifty budget, relying largely on injury-prone pitchers who could be bought on the cheap. And the Dodgers seem to have gotten their money’s worth: They racked up more disabled list trips than any other team in the league in 2016, even if you focus only on the 60-day list (for which there is no tactical value to overuse). So even if you believe that the Dodgers are gaming the disabled list with fake injuries, they also seem to be suffering the most genuine ones of any team.But despite all that missed time, the Dodgers’ rotation has also been very successful, earning the second-most wins above replacement in baseball since 2014.2Using FanGraphs’ edition of WAR. As if harkening back to his career with the low-budget Rays, Friedman managed to put together one of the league’s best starting units using cheap talent and a clever strategic advantage. And with Los Angeles currently riding that rotation to an all-time great season, MLB’s 29 other teams might do well to copy the Dodgers’ roster-manipulation tactics.Check out our latest MLB predictions. In a season when the Los Angeles Dodgers are dominating everything in sight, they also lead the majors in a less praiseworthy category: trips to the disabled list. Two weeks ago, prized trade-deadline acquisition Yu Darvish was sent to the 10-day DL; last week, dark-horse Cy Young candidate Alex Wood was. Those are just some of the latest moves in what has become essentially a weekly ritual for the Dodgers, marking their 37th use of the short-term DL so far this season (25 of which have been for pitchers), more than any other team in baseball.Critics charge the Dodgers with exaggerating these kinds of injuries to game the DL, allowing the team to rest some of its starting pitchers without giving up a roster spot. And the Dodgers are certainly leading the way in this practice, which became much easier to pull off after a rule change this season shortened the length of a short-term DL stint from 15 days to 10. But the Dodgers aren’t the only outfit to make heavy use of the new disabled list — teams across the league are stashing more players on the short-term disabled list this season. Nor is this a completely new development: Even before the rule change, short-term DL use had been on the rise for years.In an age of one-inning relievers, roster size is a major limitation for modern front offices. Any unusable players — for example, a starting pitcher who threw yesterday — can cost a team, as their spot could be taken by yet another flamethrowing bullpen arm. So teams have come up with all sorts of ways to overcome roster-size limitations, ranging from sending an endless churn of relievers back and forth between triple-A and the majors to creating potential dual-role position player-pitcher hybrids.But the 10-day disabled list might have opened up new possibilities for roster manipulation. A starting pitcher who is placed on the list may only have to miss a single start while freeing up his roster spot for a fresh arm out of the bullpen. The tactical advantage of that additional reliever, combined with the extra rest it gives the starter, appears to have been too good of an opportunity to pass up.Smart teams like the Dodgers have exploited this latest edge. Here’s a chart showing MLB teams’ use of the short-term disabled list by season since 20091The earliest year for which Baseball Prospectus has detailed disabled list data. (for comparison’s sake, I included uses for the short-term DL’s longer, 60-day brother).
The list of sub-par quarterbacks to win the Super Bowl despite being nothing more than “game managers” just grew by one. FiveThirtyEight’s own Walt Hickey has joined the ranks of Brad Johnson, Doug Williams and Trent Dilfer.Sure, Walt did it in a video game, while the other three did it while wearing cleats in real life, but the taste of victory was just as sweet. Walt’s triumph is courtesy of two Madden savants, Tim Curry and Luke Barr, who answered the call on our sports podcast Hot Takedown a few weeks ago. We laid down a challenge to see if anyone could win it all in Madden NFL 16 with Walt as their quarterback. Curry and Barr turned Walt’s depressing player ratings into a championship.Below are notes the two victors sent us about their journeys. As promised, we’ll be giving them a shoutout on this week’s podcast and sending them a signed poster of Walt in full pads.Curry, who won with the Philadelphia Eagles, provides a thrilling game report:I have done it. After smacking the Cowboys in the divisional game and beating the Seahawks in the NFC championship, Walt Hickey and the Eagles defeated the Buffalo Bills in an epic comeback, 21-17. After falling behind 14-0, Walt threw a pick with less than a minute left in the first half, leading to a Bills field goal. But the Eagles came out swinging in the second half, with Ryan Mathews taking a pitch from Walt 80 yards to the house. In the fourth quarter, Mathews hit another long option run, being caught at the 10. This time DeMarco Murray took it in for 6, bringing the game to 17-14 with just under two minutes to play.After the Bills recovered the onside kick attempt, the Eagles brought the house to stop the run three times, using up all three timeouts, but getting the ball back at their own 20 with 1:30 left. This time it was a mix of Murray and Mathews leading the way, with Murray taking a short pass 20 yards and Mathews finding another 30 on a pitch. With just under a minute, DeMarco found the end zone to give the Eagles the lead. The defense held, and Walt Hickey was a Super Bowl champion!And here’s Barr, who won with the Dallas Cowboys:Some observations:I ended with an 11-5 record, the 2nd seed and a first-round bye.He cannot throw downfield. Any throw more than ten yards downfield was almost always intercepted.The best routes to run were definitely screens and swing passes, he could hit those fairly reliably.Curl routes against bad cornerbacks in man coverage were also okay, but if he missed, it was usually an interception.I chose the Cowboys to play with because I thought the offensive line would help. Joseph Randle led the league in rushing with 1759 yards.Before the season I signed free agents Aldon Smith and Terence Newman and traded a draft pick for CB Josh Robinson. Terence Newman led the league in INTs with 12.Hickey’s quarterback rating of 42.6 was actually better than Matt Flynn’s who had a 40.2 rating on 76 attempts.Of Hickey’s 1872 yards, 1457 were gained after the catch.Here is Walt’s game log, individual stats and team stats. Walt is galled that, as a New York Giants fan, he won the Super Bowl with the Eagles and Cowboys. But that does make him better than Tony Romo and Sam Bradford. So he’s got that, at least.And there you have it. Once again, congrats to Tim and Luke. Now please go outside. Read more: How Madden Helped A Schlub Like Me Make It Into The NFL
8/31/075135-16 4/17/064836-12 POLL DATEYANKEESMETSMETS MARGIN 3/24/146127-34 Move over, New York Yankees — there’s a new baseball boss in town. For the first time since at least 1998, Quinnipiac University has found, more New York City baseball fans liked the Mets than the Yankees. Although it was a narrow victory — 45 percent to 43 percent, well within the margin of error — it shows that winning ballgames remains the key to winning the hearts of Big Apple sports fans.The Yankees usually hold a hefty fan advantage over the Mets in New York. Over the last 20 years, the Yankees have averaged a sizable 55 percent-to-31 percent lead over their crosstown rivals. Just three years ago, the Yankees led the Mets 61 percent to 27 percent on the same question Quinnipiac asked this year. 3/25/095655-133429 3/16/005235-17 10/19/004337-6 Average5554-1334310 6/1/126221-41 The Mets do much better when baseball fans are forced to choose between the Mets and the Yankees. While the Yankees lose a statistically insignificant 1 percentage point of support on average, the Mets pick up 10 points of support. This seems to confirm the finding of a nonscientific Reddit poll from three years ago that found the Yankees were the most hated team among baseball fans. In other words, non-Yankee and non-Met fans may pick the Mets when forced to choose between the two of them, simply because they dislike the Yankees more.This year, though, the Mets beat the Yankees on the open-ended version of the question — the version in which they have always done worse. If we take this year’s result and apply the same boost the Mets typically receive in the other version of the question (where fans were forced to choose between the two teams), they would probably hold a 10-point head-to-head advantage over the Yankees. That’s pretty mind-boggling, considering the Mets were down 22 points on that type of question just three years ago.The Mets need to keep winning, however, if they want to maintain an edge over the Yankees. As I wrote about three years ago, the Mets seem to pick up fans when they win and shed them when they lose, but the same didn’t hold true for the Yankees. Now, it seems the Yankees may also gain or lose fans depending on their record. (Before this year, Quinnipiac had never polled after a season in which the Mets made the playoffs — or World Series — more recently than the Yankees.) In the chart below, I’ve plotted the difference between the percentages of Met fans and Yankee fans in New York City against the difference in how long it had been since each team had been in the playoffs.1For the sake of simplicity, I’m using the version of Quinnipiac’s question that allows baseball fans to choose any team, not just the Mets and the Yankees. However, there’s a clear correlation with either question. 3/24/1459%37%-22 3/25/095542-13 Fav. in a Subway Series Average5531-24 4/1/024738-9 Indeed, the Yankee lead climbed as high as 41 points five years ago. That survey was taken after a season in which the Yankees had made the playoffs, while the Mets hadn’t appeared in the postseason in six years. Now the tables have turned: The Mets have made the playoffs two years in a row, even appearing in the World Series in 2015. Meanwhile, the Yankees didn’t make the playoffs last year and they haven’t made a World Series since 2009.Before this year, the only time the Mets ever came close to the Yankees was in May 2007. That year, 49 percent of New York City baseball fans said they’d root for the Yankees in a Subway Series against the Mets, while 48 percent said they’d root the other way. Recent results had an influence then, too — the Mets made it to the National League Championship Series (before losing to the St. Louis Cardinals) in 2006, while the Yankees were knocked out in the American League Division Series.The Mets’ triumph in this year’s poll, however, is far more impressive than when they nearly overtook the Yankees 10 years ago. You’ll notice in the table that there are two types of questions Quinnipiac has asked on this subject in the past: Sometimes they asked baseball fans who they’d root for in a World Series matchup between the Mets and the Yankees, as they did when the Mets came close to the Yankees in 2007. Other times, fans are asked who their favorite baseball team is overall. (That is, fans can choose teams besides the Mets and Yankees.) And in four surveys, Quinnipiac asked both versions of the question. 7/26/015432-22 3/24/146159-2273710 5/28/074948-1 POLL DATETEAM IN MLBIN SUBWAY SERIESDIFFTEAM IN MLBIN SUBWAY SERIESDIFF 5/28/0750%49%-136%48%12 Source: Quinnipiac University YANKEES ARE FAVORITE …METS ARE FAVORITE … 5/28/075036-14 NYC baseball fans like the Mets more than the Yankees for the first time in 20 years Among New York City baseball fansSource: Quinnipiac University Average5138-13 8/31/075152135449 7/28/986028-32 3/25/095633-23 3/31/1743%45%+2 7/29/115926-33 The Mets are more popular when they’re pitted against the Yankees 4/1/055136-15 7/18/064637-9 8/31/075244-8 Poll DateYankeesMetsMets margin Perhaps what’s most interesting about the chart is that, based on prior trends, we would have expected the Yankees to have more fans than the Mets even now. That is, in an environment where the Mets were doing slightly better than the Yankees, the pattern would have been for the Yankees to still have a larger fan base. That might mean Quinnipiac’s new poll is too friendly to the Mets — certainly a possibility, given the margin of error. It could also be the case that the Mets are receiving a “bonus” because they were in the playoffs last year and the Yankees weren’t. Again, we can’t really test that phenomenon because in every previous survey, the Yankees had been in the playoffs as recently (or far more so) than the Mets had been.Either way, it’s clear that New York City is a two-baseball-team town right now. The Mets have caught up to — or perhaps even surpassed — their older brother. Yankee fans need their team to start winning again, or they’ll have to get used to seeing a lot more Mets caps on the subway as they make their commute. 8/15/136223-39 FAVORITE TEAM IN MLB
It’s appropriate that the lowest-scoring Super Bowl ever saw an interception on the first pass and set a record for the longest punt in a title game. In a season with the second-most points scored per game in NFL history, it was defense, not offense, that ruled the day.Throughout the 13-3 New England victory, the Patriots frustrated the Rams’ offensive plans, pressuring quarterback Jared Goff into off-target throws, ill-advised scrambles and finally — when it mattered most, with 4:19 left in the fourth quarter — a game-clinching interception. In holding Los Angeles to 3 points — which tied the 1971 Dolphins with the lowest point total in a Super Bowl — the Patriots were relentless in their pass rush. They blitzed an incredible 41 percent of the time, and Goff was pressured on 39 percent of his dropbacks, according to ESPN’s Stats & Information Group. And it wasn’t just the Patriots front six that made life difficult on the Rams; the Patriots secondary blanketed Los Angeles all night long. According to NFL Next Gen Stats, Rams receivers had the worst separation when targeted by Goff since Sean McVay was named head coach.But this wasn’t a case of the Patriots defense — one that was middling most of the regular season — suddenly morphing into the 1985 Chicago Bears or the 2000 Baltimore Ravens.1Both of which, incidentally, gave up more points in their respective Super Bowl wins. The Rams’ execution and play-calling were suspect as well. The Patriots held C.J. Anderson and Todd Gurley to 57 yards on the ground, and they did it without stacking the box. The Rams never faced a defensive front with more than seven men near the line of scrimmage — not even once in the game. Against a light box of six or fewer defenders, the Rams offensive line was able to generate only 21 rushing yards on six carries — a 3.5-yard average. That was 2.2 yards worse than their regular-season average of 5.7 and just a 10th of a yard more than the 3.4 yards per carry2On 12 carries. they averaged Sunday against a seven-man front. The Rams went from being the third-ranked rushing team in the league against these light and neutral defensive fronts — averaging 5.4 yards per carry in the regular season — to one that could muster only 3.4 in the biggest game of the year.Goff, who was hit five times in the game, was never able to find a consistent rhythm and frequently missed his target. Most notably, he was late on a pass in the third quarter, allowing safety Jason McCourty to break up a sure touchdown to a wide-open Brandin Cooks in the end zone. McVay, meanwhile, failed to aggressively push small edges, never going for it on fourth-and-short. The Rams also played sloppily, earning nine penalties for 65 yards to New England’s three for 20. Much was written about the experience gap between the two teams at coach and QB, and it showed. At one point, Goff forgot the snap count he called in the huddle and was flagged for a false start, an incredibly rare feat for an NFL quarterback.The net result of the Rams’ offensive futility was historic: They became only the second team in Super Bowl history not to score a touchdown, wasting a defensive effort that held Tom Brady and the Patriots to 13 points. And while there may be more to football than scoring points, it’s hard to argue that this Super Bowl was a shining example of compelling low-scoring football. Neither team was efficient on third down, with each converting just three opportunities into a new set of downs. A total of one play was run in the red zone by either team. The first half of the game was so uneventful that the two plays with the highest impact as measured by positive win probability3Using the nflscrapR win probability model. added were punts by Johnny Hekker.In a season defined by high-scoring excitement, this Super Bowl could have been a showcase for explosive offensive efficiency. Instead we got nine Hekker punts and Maroon 5 in the halftime show. In short, it was one of the worst Super Bowls ever.
Embed Code More: Apple Podcasts | ESPN App | RSS | Embed FiveThirtyEight This week on Hot Takedown, we’re reacting to a series of upsets in the first round of the NBA playoffs. The Los Angeles Clippers pulled off the biggest comeback in playoff history, but we don’t necessarily think the Warriors should be too worried for the rest of the series. Other upsets included the No. 7 seed Orlando Magic defeating the No. 2 Toronto Raptors; that Game 1 victory had Mike Tuck on “Open Mike” from Orlando’s 96.9 The Game positing that Orlando is underrated in the Eastern Conference. Our basketball guru, Chris Herring, makes a guest appearance to help us break down this claim.Someone who is openly shaking in his boots this week is golfing great Jack Nicklaus. Tiger Woods’s victory at the Masters gave him his 15th major, just three behind Nicklaus’s all-time record. Does Tiger have it in him to catch Jack? Or do we expect this to be his last big victory?Inspired by Tiger’s feat, our Rabbit Hole dives into other statistically improbable comebacks.Here’s what we’re looking at this week:Chris breaks down how the Warriors blew a 31-point lead.And he provides takeaways from the opening weekend of the NBA playoffs.As per usual, our eyes are glued to our NBA predictions.We can’t get enough of Tiger Woods’s comeback.The Washington Post digs into Tiger’s odds for the rest of the season and into 2020.ESPN analyzes great comeback stories across sports.From our Rabbit Hole, this excellent video about Lonnie Smith from SB Nation.
Francesca Di Lorenzo competes during a match at the 2015 U.S. Junior Open. Credit: Courtesy of United States Tennis AssociationWhile most Ohio State students have started hitting the books, freshman tennis player Francesca Di Lorenzo has been busy hitting the courts at the 135th edition of the U.S. Open.The fourth leg of the Grand Slam, which began on Aug. 31 in New York City and concluded on Sunday, featured more than 300 of the best tennis players in the world.Di Lorenzo, who was ranked as the No. 1 recruit in the class of 2015 by the Tennis Recruiting Network, advanced all the way to the semi-finals of both the U.S. Open Junior girls’ singles and doubles draws.Di Lorenzo said the experience was one of the highlights of her career so far.“It was one of the best weeks I’ve had in terms of tennis,” she said. “The atmosphere there in New York was just unbelievable. The fans, everyone supporting you, you’re in the U.S. as a U.S. player. It doesn’t get better than that.”Surrounded by famed tennis stars like Serena and Venus Williams, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic, Di Lorenzo got a taste of life with the pros.“It was interesting to be with the pros. You got to eat in the same restaurants as them and be right by the locker room with them,” she said. “It’s nice to see the level that you want to get to.”The New Albany, Ohio, native was unseeded in the singles draw but was ranked fifth in doubles alongside partner Luisa Stefani of Brazil. Despite what the rankings might have depicted, Di Lorenzo said it is competing in singles that she enjoys most.“I enjoy doubles and having a partner out there, but I like being out there competing on my own,” she said. “If I win, it’s on me. If I lose, it’s on me.”Throughout the singles draw, Di Lorenzo faced off against two players ranked in the top five in the world. She defeated Slovakia’s Tereza Mihalikova, the No. 4 seed, in the third round of the tournament. She later fell to the No. 2-ranked, and eventual single’s champion, Dalma Galfi of Hungary, in the semi-finals.Di Lorenzo said her mindset does not change regardless of where her opponent is ranked.“I don’t like looking at the rankings as much as focusing on what I have to do to be successful in the match,” she said. “I knew that whatever match I was playing that the girl was going to come out playing her best and competing hard, and I would have to do the same.”However, she admits that taking out a high-ranked player adds more excitement to a win.“(Mihalikova) was the Australian Open junior champion, so that was cool to be able to beat a girl that has had so much success,” the freshman said. “That gives you a lot of confidence going into your next matches.”Di Lorenzo and her doubles partner Stefani met through their siblings who both play tennis at Xavier University. The pair had recently won doubles championships in Brazil and Belgium.They took out the No. 4-ranked pair of Russians, Anna Blinkova and Olesya Pervushina, in the quarterfinals before having their run end in the semi-finals against the eventual champions, Slovakia’s Viktoria Kuzmova and Russia’s Aleksandra Pospelova.Having only been on campus for two weeks before the tournament began, Di Lorenzo is now adjusting to life at OSU.“It’s tough, I’m not going to lie,” she said. “It’s much harder than you think to try and keep up with the academics and tennis. I just missed the last week, so hopefully I can catch up. Luckily we have amazing tutors and help.”The transition is eased by growing up in the Columbus area and a familiarity with campus and her coaches, both of which played a role in her choice to attend OSU.“I go to a lot of games. I love the big school atmosphere and most importantly the coaches. They’ve all really helped me become the player I am,” she said.Women’s tennis coach Melissa Schaub said she is proud to have a highly rated prospect on the roster.“It means a lot. Not only is she a one recruit, but she’s an Ohio kid and from Columbus. It’s huge for us at Ohio State to keep someone home like that,” she said. “I think we’ve been able to get ourselves to a level where we are able to get someone like her. It means a lot for the future of the program and for right now.”While new to OSU, Di Lorenzo said she is already comfortable with her new teammates.“I’d come here for the clinics when I was younger, and I’d meet the girls,” she said. “They’re great girls. I just love being with the team.”The team atmosphere is what Schaub said she sees as one of roster’s strengths.“Team chemistry is really strong. They’re definitely very tight-knit. I think this year with the addition of Francesca, there’s really good competition amongst the team. I think that’s good,” she said.As the season gets under way, Di Lorenzo already has some goals in mind.“I’d love to be the Big Ten freshman of the year and hopefully make the NCAA individual tournaments,” she said. “I’d love to go a round of 16, at least, for the team championship. That’d be cool.”Schaub views Di Lorenzo’s determination as one of her best qualities.“I think that’s the greatest thing about Francesca, she was a No. 1 recruit in the country, but there’s also things that she can get better at,” she said. “Her goals are beyond college, and no one is willing to work harder than she is. It’s pretty exciting.” Di Lorenzo and the women’s tennis team are scheduled to kick off their 2015 season in tournaments in Waco, Texas, and Miami from Sept. 18-20.
Ohio State guard Carmen Grande (1) dribbles the ball up the court in the second half of the game against Indiana on Jan. 10. Ohio State won 55-50. Credit: Casey Cascaldo | Photo EditorThe Ohio State women’s basketball team (14-12, 10-7 Big Ten) continued its hot streak, winning 10 of its past 14 games, with a 61-50 win against Wisconsin(13-16, 4-13). Thursday’s game saw four players score 10 points or more, with redshirt senior guard Carmen Grande leading the way for Ohio State. Her 17 points along with three rebounds and five assists were key in giving the Buckeyes a substantial lead for most of the game. Also getting in on the action were freshman guard Janai Crooms, redshirt senior guard Carly Santoro and freshman forward Dorka Juhasz, who combined for 32 of the team’s 61 points. Crooms was hot early on helping the Buckeyes get off to an early lead in the first quarter. She was 4-of-8 from the field for 11 points to go with six rebounds. Moving into the second quarter, Santoro and Juhasz stepped up to take control of the game and get a 13-point lead heading into halftime. Santoro scored 11 points with two rebounds and two assists. Juhasz had a double-double with 10 points and 14 rebounds to contribute not only on the offensive side, but also being a key figure on the defensive side as well. Wisconsin could never quite get it going on the offensive side early on, but senior forward Marsha Howard kept the Badgers in the game with a 15-point performance along with seven rebounds and two assists. The second half was a bit of different story, as a 10-point Wisconsin run in the third quarter cut an 18-point Ohio State lead back down to a single-digit game. However, the Buckeyes countered with a nine-point run of their own to take a firm hold of the game again. Despite a nine-point run by Wisconsin in the fourth quarter, Ohio State burned enough clock to limit Wisconsin’s options. The Badgers were forced to foul to stay in the game, and the Buckeyes made enough free throws to get away with the win. The Buckeyes will close out the regular season with a rematch against Rutgers on Sunday at 2 p.m. at the Schottenstein Center.