It’s Monday, and that means it’s time for another edition of FiveThirtyEight’s NBA Power Ratings. The least you need to know about how these numbers work: Each team is ranked according to a projection of its strength over the upcoming week — and the upcoming week only — using Real Plus-Minus (RPM) player ratings provided by Jeremias Engelmann and Steve Ilardi. For more details on the ratings, see our introductory rankings post.(Note: These ratings were calculated before news broke that Chicago’s Jimmy Butler would miss three to six weeks with an elbow injury. Butler carried a strong +3.2 RPM rating, so replacing his 26 minutes per game with a replacement-level player would drop the Bulls from 11th place to a tie for 19th with the Pistons. Chicago’s saving grace might be that the average player below Butler on the team’s depth chart is significantly better than replacement level, but there’s no doubt that this news reduces the Bulls’ rating.)Some observations about the rankings this week:The Oklahoma City Thunder climbed more in the rankings from last week than any other team, leaping from No. 13 to No. 6. The biggest reason? The expectation that Kevin Durant will return in some capacity this week, even if in reduced minutes, was worth 1.7 points per 100 possessions to OKC’s overall rating. The ripple effects of Durant’s return extend beyond his own increased minutes. Our playing-time projections also see Dion Waiters (whose extremely negative RPM falls below the replacement level) getting fewer minutes on the wing — a boon of 0.8 points/100 to the Thunder’s rating. More minutes may also go to plus-minus darling Andre Roberson,1Relative to other metrics at least; from his awful 9.9 Player Efficiency Rating (PER), you wouldn’t expect his RPM to be a strong +2.4. and fewer minutes will go to guard D.J. Augustin, an additional 0.6 point boost for OKC’s rating. The mix of very good and very poor players on the Thunder roster makes the team a great case study in how much effect playing-time reshuffling can have on a team’s overall talent rating.The Atlanta Hawks dropped four spots in this week’s rankings, largely because Al Horford (+2.3 RPM rating), Jeff Teague (+1.3), DeMarre Carroll (+1.2) and Pero Antic (+0.8) are all listed as day-to-day in the team’s injury report. Those slight playing-time downgrades gave more minutes to a host of negative RPM players; chief among them are Dennis Schroder and Kent Bazemore.Joining the Hawks with a four-slot decline this week are the Toronto Raptors. More than half of Toronto’s 1.8 point ratings drop is driven by an injury to Kyle Lowry — and the resulting uptick in playing time for the man behind him on the team’s point guard depth chart, Lou Williams. Williams’s box-score numbers are very good, and Toronto has played much better with him on the court this season. But Real Plus-Minus isn’t convinced despite his great 2014-15 season to date. His long-term predictive RPM is currently -1.9 — with a -3.6 defensive mark — numbers only slightly improved from his -2.0/-3.7 ratings from the end of last season.For all the changes just outside the league’s top tier — in addition to the rise of OKC and declines of Atlanta and Toronto, the Memphis Grizzlies and Houston Rockets both moved up a pair of spots — the top four in our rankings stayed constant. This marks the first time that’s been true since we introduced the rankings in mid-January.With Oklahoma City’s gains, the Western Conference playoff picture is all but set. Seven teams have postseason probabilities in excess of 97 percent, and the Thunder don’t sit too far behind, at 92.7 percent. As for the East, it boasts six teams with playoff odds of 99.6 percent or greater, although there’s some drama to be had with six teams battling for the conference’s final two playoff berths. The Indiana Pacers have the inside track for one of the slots, with a 62.7 percent playoff probability, but none of the five teams behind them are any more than 40.2 percent likely to qualify, which ought to bring at least some tension to the final month and a half of the season.Related to the previous point, it’s worth mentioning that the Utah Jazz have a zero percent probability of making the playoffs despite ranking 12th in talent. What happened? Utah’s record has undershot its Pythagorean expectation by three wins, but the team has also improved its talent rating recently (granted, by too little and too late) by jettisoning Enes Kanter and his -2.5 RPM in a three-team trade with Oklahoma City and the Detroit Pistons.Finally, who on earth is Joffrey Lauvergne? Our projections had the French big man down for 2.8 minutes per game for the Denver Nuggets last week, but he ended up averaging 21 minutes per game instead (and even got a starting nod against the Jazz on Friday). Denver might be toning down Lauvergne’s playing time after he shot 38 percent from the floor and posted a -36 plus-minus in that lone start, but his expected role increase — and -4.4 RPM rating — is still enough to help the Nuggets drop by five slots in the rankings. They’re still not New York Knicks bad, but after their mass talent exodus at the trade deadline, the Nuggets now bring up the rear of the non-Knicks/Philadelphia 76ers division of the power rankings.
The other day, several of us in the FiveThirtyEight office were musing about the New York Yankees’ chances in 2015. Certainly the Yankees are no longer the dominant powerhouse they were in the late 1990s and early 2000s, nor are they even the outrageously expensive (but championship-starved) juggernaut of the mid-to-late 2000s.1They’re still spending in excess of $200 million on payroll, but that no longer ranks No. 1 in baseball, nor is it anywhere near as far from average as their payroll was at its 2005 peak. Fangraphs’ projections — which, like all preseason predictions, come with a lot of uncertainty — see the Yankees as a slightly above-average team this season, and their 84-78 record last year fit that description as well.But another interesting note about the 2015 Yankees is that their position-player corps figures to be one of the most improved in the American League, according to the projected wins above replacement (WAR) listed on Fangraphs’ depth charts. And the biggest position at which they got better? Shortstop — former home of future Hall of Famer Derek Jeter.We slagged on Jeter a bit last season for all the attention paid to his yearlong retirement tour despite his plainly awful numbers. The truth is that, according to WAR at least, the Yankees had the least-productive shortstop situation in all of baseball last year, so even a shortstop depth chart headlined by Didi Gregorius was bound to be one of the game’s most improved in 2015. And, sure enough, no team is projected to gain more WAR at shortstop this season than the Yankees, mostly because Jeter retired.Here’s an accounting of the Yankees’ projected gains and losses at each position, along with those of every other team going into the 2015 season:Of course, some teams improved even more at other positions than the Yankees did at shortstop. The St. Louis Cardinals, for instance, picked up WAR superstar Jason Heyward to man right field, a position that had been filled poorly by Allen Craig and the late Oscar Taveras in 2014. That change projects to be worth a net improvement of about 7 WAR for St. Louis this season (including 4.6 from Heyward himself, plus the additional bonus of getting rid of -1.8 WAR from Craig and Taveras).The following table represents a more specific breakdown of the Yankees’ shortstops, the Cardinals’ right fielders and the 28 other positional situations that are projected to improve the most in 20152Note that, in some cases, a team can show great improvement despite the same player being projected as the primary starter in both 2015 as in 2014. This could be due to a number of reasons, including the player having improved projected rate statistics (whether because of age-related improvement or regression to the mean after an out-of-character bad season) or even more projected playing time in 2015.:
Garry St. Jean1998Golden State1406-11038 Michael Jordan2001Washington1436-150146 Bernie Bickerstaff1991Denver1479-2335 Ernie Grunfeld2004Washington1444-119114 Rob Hennigan2013Orlando1478-22980 EXPANSION TEAM1ST YEARONETWOTHREE (1ST 27G) Mike Dunleavy1993Milwaukee1412-54-37 EXECUTIVE1ST YEARTEAMINITIAL ELOYEAR 1YEAR 2 TO YEAR 3 Check out our 2015-16 NBA Predictions. What if the Sixers were an expansion team? Jerry Colangelo1969Phoenix1300-133243 GMs inheriting rebuilding teams Sam Hinkie2014Philadelphia1460-206-84 Magic1990-92+137+34 Billy King2011New Jersey1352-5197 Pat Williams1990Orlando1300-9252 Jack McCloskey1993Minnesota1325-60-59 Elo change for season three is through the first 27 gamesSource: Basketball-REFERENCE.com Raptors1996-37+125+25 Edwin Coil1966Detroit1428-11075 Nick Mileti1971Cleveland1300-10354 David Kahn2010Minnesota1371-129137 Rich Cho2012Charlotte1422-271168 Carl Bennett1949Fort Wayne1495-11388 Walter Brown1947Boston1300-82100 Again, the Sixers are way behind schedule. Not only would their Elo change since “expansion” rank last among modern expansion franchises, they’re also the only team to be in worse shape after 27 games of Year Three than they were when the franchise “began.” Being a team with no past at all is better than being these Sixers.Now, the standard procession of Hinkie Stan counter-arguments. Argument the first: Expansion teams are generally trying to make incremental progress in their first few seasons, which is not necessarily what Hinkie’s Sixers are pursuing. Argument the second: The draft is an imperfect science with bad luck lurking behind every lottery pick, and the lottery itself is based on probabilities as well. When your entire team-building concept relies heavily on risk tolerance, it’s no surprise that busts are likely when the boom doesn’t come. Argument the third: The Only Goal Is Winning A Championship (And Building A Dynasty), and the Sixers remain well-positioned to draft or develop a superstar.We’ll leave those arguments to be settled another day. What this research suggests is that the Sixers have made significantly less progress than their historical analogs (to the extent those exist), and NBA fans looking to watch a decent game of basketball in Philadelphia these last three years would have been better served if the league had dissolved the 76ers and held tryouts. Eddie Donovan1971Buffalo1300-89-35 ELO CHANGE Pepper Wilson1959Cincinnati1481-174-16 Sixers2014-137-68-88 Chris Wallace2008Memphis1416-9296 Sam Presti2008Seattle1440-137119 Now that Jerry Colangelo is Skyping in to the Wells Fargo Center for what The New York Times calls a “father figure” role in the 76ers front office — which, suuure — it seems like an opportune time to take inventory of just how big a mess Sam Hinkie and his Process have made.We know, we know: The Sixers want to be this bad; these are planned grotesqueries; the trades have been fine and the picks are still coming and never you mind the reported dozen-odd team owners banging down Adam Silver’s door demanding a good waterboarding for ol’ Sam. Silver, of course, denies intervening (which you can hear for yourself on a special episode of Hot Takedown), and that’s practically a co-sign from the man in charge, isn’t it now? A full-on prosecution of Hinkie’s process is justified and overdue. For now, however, we’ll confine ourselves to discussing the shape of Philadelphia’s evolution in the broadest possible sense, comparing its progress during Hinkie’s reign with that of other teams also undergoing such radical, um, rebirths.We looked at this a few ways. First, we used our Elo ratings to find all GMs who took over a below-average team that got worse in the GM’s first year in control — specifically, overseeing an Elo decline of at least 50 points,1The equivalent of a 2-point drop in point spread each game. enough of a drop to pick up teams that needed more than one offseason’s worth of work. We then looked for the Elo gains or losses each made between the start of his second season and the 27-game mark of his third — i.e., where Hinkie is with the Sixers right now.We’re trying to isolate full-on rebuilding jobs: teams that were already bad and were still in demolition mode during Year One but were presumably trying (or at least should have been trying) to lay down some semblance of a foundation after that. We can then judge Philadelphia’s progress against this historical standard. Turns out, Hinkie has ruled over the biggest Elo decline of any GM under those circumstances, ever: Harry Weltman1988New Jersey1412-80-49 Elgin Baylor1987L.A. Clippers1424-21749 Source: basketball-reference.com John Nash1991Washington1416-63-31 Kiki Vandeweghe2002Denver1469-9065 Stu Jackson1996Vancouver1300-7540 The average GM in that situation saw a 62-point Elo improvement from the beginning of Year Two through 27 games of his third season, and 24 of 32 GMs oversaw some kind of improvement. Hinkie, by contrast, saw a loss of 84 Elo points over the same span — by far the steepest drop on a list littered with some of the most glaring managerial failures in league history. Adding insult to embarrassment: yes, that’s Colangelo up at the top, albeit navigating a very different NBA in 1969.You’ll notice that a few of the GMs on the above list took the reins of an expansion club. Certainly, the 2013-14 76ers featured a roster that could pass for a brand-new NBA franchise. This raises the question: How might the Sixers fare if we arbitrarily (but, let’s be honest, justifiably) assigned them an expansion-level Elo of 1300 before the 2013-14 season and compared their progress to those of the NBA’s other modern expansion teams, going back to the 1976 ABA-NBA merger? John Paxson2004Chicago1420-109112 Timberwolves1990+41+108+33 Bobcats2005-5+80+65 Rod Thorn2001New Jersey1446-109234 Grizzlies1996-75-62+35 Glen Grunwald1998Toronto1445-202185 Hornets1989-24+5+41 Mavericks1981-31+78+134 Heat1989-72-55+3 Jim Paxson2000Cleveland1468-57-30 ELO CHANGE FROM 1300 THROUGH SEASON Danny Ainge2004Boston1481-6834 Lewis Schaffel1989Miami1300-726
Photo by Mike EhrmannLeBron James has the best-selling NBA jersey in the world.The two-time NBA champion sits at the top of the global list of jersey sales for the NBA this past season, according to a new league report. Others on the list were Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers, Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma City Thunder, Derrick Rose of the Chicago Bulls and his Miami Heat teammate Dwyane Wade. James also has the top-selling jersey in the United States.The league unveiled the rankings, based on Adidas’ global sales for the past season.James said selling the most jerseys in the world “means everything” to him.“To know that so many people look up to me, so many kids, that’s what means more than anything, that I continue to inspire the youth and they look at me as a role model,” James said after learning the news at Heat training camp in the Bahamas. “I understand, when you wear someone’s jersey, you actually… believe in them. You believe they can do supernatural things. It’s like an extension of our family, and I really appreciate that.”
One thing that’s often lost amid the spectacle of the Golden State Warriors’ record-setting regular season is that this squad’s style is quite different from the one that went on a dominant championship run a year ago. The 2014-15 Warriors were astonishingly balanced; they had the NBA’s second-best offense and led the league in defensive efficiency. This season’s version, however, was first in offensive rating by a healthy margin but sixth-best on defense — good, but not great. The resulting team was ever-so-slightly better, but less symmetrical.In the playoffs, though, the Warriors’ defense has helped the team battle through Stephen Curry’s absence and reclaim the mantle of NBA title favorite. Here’s the offensive and defensive efficiency of this season’s playoff teams relative to average, accounting for the regular-season performance of a team’s opponents:1These numbers also factor in home-court advantage (roughly 2.8 points per 100 possessions) and the championship leverage of every game. 1Cleveland Cavaliers9-0+18.4+2.7+21.1 9Atlanta Hawks4-6-1.3-0.0-1.3 10Los Angeles Clippers2-4-3.2+1.2-2.1 6Indiana Pacers3-4-2.3+4.1+1.8 16Memphis Grizzlies0-4-12.9-5.2-18.1 Best team performances of the 2016 NBA playoffs 13Houston Rockets1-4-12.5+0.7-11.8 12Detroit Pistons0-4+2.3-10.8-8.4 The Cavs have blown away their playoff peers so far, but Golden State deserves credit as well for posting the best defensive performance of any remaining team. Indeed, the Warriors’ ratings look a lot like the balanced attack that drove their championship last season — even though Curry has suited up for just six of the team’s 12 games.When the Warriors require outbursts of unadulterated offensive brilliance — like, say, 12 points in 82 seconds or 17 points in an overtime period — Curry has been happy to oblige. But Golden State has also held the mighty Oklahoma City Thunder offense to an efficiency rate 10 points per 100 possessions below their regular-season standard through two games of the Western Conference finals. Even on nights when the Warrior offense isn’t operating at peak productivity, such as Game 1 against OKC, the defense can keep the game competitive into its final minutes.With Draymond Green leading the way, Golden State’s D in this series has already forced the Thunder into two of their 19 worst games of the season according to quantified shot quality, a player tracking-based measure that accounts for the location and conditions under which every shot is taken. In games 1 and 2, Kevin Durant’s shot quality has been his sixth- and 21st-worst of the year, and Russell Westbrook has been limited to his 31st and 24th-worst games. If it’s seemed like Russ and KD have been swimming upstream for long stretches in the series so far, this is why. The duo’s effective field goal percentage in the series is just 43 percent, far below their combined regular-season mark of 53 percent.There’s still plenty of time for the Thunder to wrest control of the series back from Golden State. But to do it, Oklahoma City will have to go through the Warrior defense, a unit that’s back to being as sturdy as it was during the team’s title run last season.Check out our latest NBA predictions. 15Charlotte Hornets3-4-11.5-4.5-16.0 2Golden State Warriors9-3+5.5+4.8+10.3 14Dallas Mavericks1-4-5.6-10.0-15.7 5Portland Trail Blazers5-6+3.9-1.7+2.2 7Miami Heat7-7-2.2+2.7+0.5 11Boston Celtics2-4-10.4+2.1-8.3 3Oklahoma City Thunder9-4+6.1+1.6+7.7 4San Antonio Spurs6-4+0.9+4.9+5.8 Team efficiencies adjusted for strength of schedule using opponents‘ regular-season stats.Source: Basketball-Reference.com 8Toronto Raptors8-7+0.9-0.7+0.2 TEAMRECORDOFFENSEDEFENSETOTAL
Doug McDermott15.0-0.6-2.7 Nick Collison4.0-3.10.7 Paul George is headed to Oklahoma City, according to ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne, and the Thunder may be back to being title contenders — or at least in the mix to be the West’s second-best team behind Golden State.Just hours before the NBA’s free agency period begins, the Indiana Pacers have traded George to the Thunder for former No. 2 overall pick Victor Oladipo and rising sophomore Domantas Sabonis. Oklahoma City had acquired Oladipo and the draft pick that became Sabonis from Orlando in a trade for Serge Ibaka last offseason.George is a free agent after this coming season, and it’s believed that he has not agreed to sign a contract extension. The assumption around the league has been that the Lakers are his preferred long-term destination, which is a large part of why the Pacers couldn’t even secure a draft pick for their outgoing star. So this is certainly a calculated risk for OKC, but MVP Russell Westbrook can also become a free agent after the 2017-18 season thanks to a player-option. And while he hasn’t been as forthright as George, his hometown Lakers have long been a rumored destination for him as well. So the Thunder are on the clock to sell themselves as a place where Westbrook can contend, or alternatively, to take their last, best shot at winning a title while they still have him. The George trade should accomplish both.According to FiveThirtyEight’s CARMELO projection system, adding George to the Thunder and subtracting Oladipo and Sabonis should put the team at 51 wins: Paul George35.02.40.4 Alex Abrines15.00.0-1.8 Norris Cole5.0-1.8-1.4 Russell Westbrook35.07.60.7 The Thunder are backCARMELO projections for the 2017-18 Oklahoma City Thunder Steven Adams30.0-0.62.0 PLAYERMIN. PER GAMEOFF. PLUS/MINUSDEF. PLUS/MINUS Kyle Singler10.0-2.5-0.3 Enes Kanter25.00.5-1.2 Semaj Christon5.0-3.0-1.5 Jerami Grant20.0-2.00.1 The top-5 of Westbrook, George, Enes Kanter, Steven Adams and Andre Roberson are worth 53 wins all on their own. But CARMELO thinks so little of the Thunder bench that the rest of the roster is worth -2 wins. That bench was bad this past season, but young players like Alex Abrines and Doug McDermott may improve with an additional season with the team, and this season’s first-round draft pick Terrance Ferguson has potential as a spot-up shooter on the wing, which the team desperately needed last season. Still, with Taj Gibson likely leaving in free agency, the Thunder will be thin. But while their projection doesn’t put the team nearly at the level of the Golden State Warriors, or even the newly minted Chris Paul Houston Rockets, acquiring George should have an outsize effect on the Thunder.It’s hard to overstate how perfect a fit this is for Oklahoma City. George isn’t Kevin Durant — he doesn’t rebound as well, and isn’t quite the playmaker that Durant can be when called upon — but he replaces a lot of what the former MVP took with him when he departed for Golden State. The most obvious way he helps is by giving Westbrook a legitimate partner in the offense. George is a very good shooter: He shot 39.3 percent from 3 last season, and has floated between 36 and 40 percent the past several years despite taking some of the most difficult shots in the league. George shouldn’t have to take on the world quite the same way in Oklahoma City.George may actually end up fitting slightly better with Westbrook than Durant did — in practice if not in terms of absolute skill. Durant dominated the ball late in games for the Thunder; Westbrook would defer, often to a fault. This left Westbrook, an average at best shooter, on the perimeter, largely wasted. With George new to OKC, where Westbrook is the reigning MVP and undisputed team leader, the Thunder should be able to default to more sensible sets in crucial moments, with the ball in Westbrook’s hands but George actively involved.That said, George’s ability to get his own shot should also be key for the Thunder. In the team’s first-round loss to the Houston Rockets, the bench units led by Oladipo were overwhelmed, often unable even to get a shot without their star. In Game 5 of that series, Westbrook played 42 minutes, scored 47 points and had a plus-minus of +12. The Thunder lost by six. George can be streaky, but his ability to carry an offense means the Thunder can survive spells without Westbrook.But it’s George’s defensive ability and versatility that may unlock the Thunder’s potential. Oklahoma City had been constructed with a lopsided allotment of talents. They had more than enough rebounders and interior defenders, but few perimeter scorers or players who could perform the basic three-and-D role so crucial to successful teams. George is one of the best three-and-D players in the league, good enough to compensate for limited defensive players around him when the Thunder need offense.Lineups featuring both George and Andre Roberson — a converted power forward who plays shooting guard for the Thunder despite being one of the worst shooters in the league — would seem to not only cover Westbrook’s defensive shortcomings, but possibly those of other players, such as Abrines or Kanter. Roberson is restricted free agent and reportedly declined a four-year, $48 million extension last fall, so he may be too expensive to re-sign, but given the Thunder’s lack of depth they may not have much choice. (And in a twist, George actually earns less than Oladipo this season, giving the Thunder a little extra breathing room under the luxury tax.) Giving Roberson’s projected minutes to Abrines results in the team’s CARMELO rating dropping from 51 wins to 47.The Thunder were a deeply but narrowly flawed team last season. That happens when a Kevin Durant-sized hole is left in the depth chart. Paul George may not fill the whole thing, and he may not do it for very long, but for as long as he and Westbrook are in town, the Thunder are back. Team total3.70.6 Replacement level player11-1.7-0.3 Thunder’s projected record50.831.2 WINSLOSSES Terrance Ferguson5.0-1.6-0.1 Andre Roberson25.0-1.21.8
OSU redshirt freshman K.J. Hill (14) runs into the endzone for a touchdown during the first half of the Buckeyes’ season opener against Bowling Green on Sept. 3 at Ohio Stadium. The Buckeyes won 77-10. Credit: Alexa Mavrogianis | Photo EditorAfter being left off the initial two-deep depth chart, Ohio State redshirt freshman wide receiver K.J. Hill made sure everyone knew his name after last Saturday’s game against Bowling Green. Hill caught the first offensive touchdown of the season for OSU, and looks to be a primary target for redshirt junior quarterback J.T. Barrett in the future.Hill, listed at 6-foot and 200 pounds, redshirted last season after after competing for a vital receiving role with the likes of three now-NFL receivers. The former four-star recruit from North Little Rock High School hauled in two receptions for 58 yards along with the first quarter touchdown reception.The crowded wide receiver unit, filled with upperclassmen like redshirt senior Corey Smith, junior James Clark, along with versatile H-backs like junior Curtis Samuel and senior Dontre Wilson who can make plays with their hands and their feet, could easily cause a young player like Hill to get lost in the mix. However, the redshirt freshman knows he can prevent being overshadowed by performing at a high level against Tulsa.“Every time you get a ball or a chance you gotta make the most of it,” Hill said.Initially committed to Arkansas, Hill jumped ship and made the decision to become a Buckeye after former OSU co-defensive coordinator Chris Ash left the Razorbacks to join OSU coach Urban Meyer’s squad. Hill said he was the one who made the call to see if the Buckeyes had an open spot for him.Meyer spoke highly of the ability of both Hill and his teammate — redshirt sophomore Noah Brown — on their ability to connect with Barrett and synchronize the timing of the routes they run. The relationship and ability by both men has earned high praise from the Buckeye coaching staff.Hill said the time he spent away from the field during his redshirt season motivated him to come out and work harder to become a top receiver for the Buckeyes.“It’s a tough process you go through. You know, I redshirted so I had a lot of downfalls and a lot of doubts,” Hill said. “I just kept going hard in practice, and my hard work paid off. I look back at it now and it was crazy.”Even with the top-tier production from Hill, he said the order of wide receivers has not changed, firmly placing him around the fifth or sixth receiver mark. Although this may seem buried in the depth chart, Hill can make a move up the roster if he continues to play at a high level.Hill will get his chance to make big plays against the Tulsa Golden Hurricanes on Saturday at 3:30 p.m.
Off to the best start in program history, the Ohio State men’s soccer team will now face its toughest test of the season.“This team has been playing well and with a lot of confidence,” coach John Bluem said. “It’s nice to have a good start like this.” Coming off a 1-0 win against Michigan State, the Big Ten-leading Buckeyes (5-0-3) will now face the consensus No. 1-ranked team in college soccer, the Akron Zips. The Zips (7-0-0) are off to their best start since 2005, and it’s their second-best start since 1972. Akron’s organization on both sides of the ball contributes to the team’s success.The Zips’ ball pressure and attacking skills also make them a dangerous team to play, Bluem said. They are a few of the reasons why the team is 7-0 and ranked No. 1 in the nation.“They’re terrific,” Bluem said. “Their speed of play and quality of players is something I don’t think we’ve faced yet this year. We’re going to have to be at our very best to stay close to them.” Akron is no stranger to big games. So far they have faced two highly ranked teams this season and have come away with two victories. The two teams are familiar; they played twice last season, once in the regular season and then in the second round of the NCAA College Cup. Both games ended in a loss for the Buckeyes. The Buckeyes and the Zips know the other’s tendencies, strengths and weaknesses. The young OSU team looks to capitalize on that knowledge to get a victory that has eluded them for the past three years.The game is set for 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at Lee Jackson Field. The Buckeyes have been getting tremendous play out of redshirt freshman goalie Matt Lampson, who earned Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week honors after recording back-to-back shutouts. The Buckeyes will once again ask him to shut down the powerful Akron offense. The Zips’ offense has scored 20 goals in the season, and the defense has allowed only one. One thing is for sure: The Buckeyes have a tough task ahead of them. But ask anyone on the team, and they will say they are ready for the challenge. “The opportunity to play the consensus No. 1 team in the country is fantastic,” Bluem said. “We’ve got nothing to lose. We can go up there relaxed and give it our best shot.”
Ohio State then-sophomore Tristan Burke performs on floor against Michigan at St. John Arena on Feb. 4. Credit: Lantern File PhotoThe Ohio State men’s gymnastics team is setting the bar high for its 2018 season, with Big Ten and NCAA titles in sight.The Buckeyes are trying to qualify for the Big Ten championships for the third year in a row. And after finishing as NCAA runner-ups last year, Ohio State is trying to capture its first NCAA championship since 2001.“My sophomore year, we got third [in the NCAA Conference], last year, we got second and this year, our team is in pretty good shape,” senior Seth Delbridge said. “Everyone is doing pretty well, so I think we all have it in our heads that we could contend for a national title.” With five new freshman on their 24-person active roster, the Buckeyes are focusing on being team oriented to reach their goals.“The preseason really is kind of a time for us, as a team, to grow,” said Drew Moling, the team’s director of operations. “We’re really trying to help our student athletes and this team to create that bond, for this year.”Ohio State will have two new talented freshman join its roster. Sean Neighbarger and Max Andryushchenko are newcomers to look out for. Both competed at the P&G U.S.A. National Championships over the summer.Some returning key players, and this year’s team captains, competing as all-around athletes, are Delbridge, senior Sean Melton and junior Alec Yoder.In addition to competing for the Buckeyes, Melton and Yoder are also currently on the USA Men’s Senior National Team, and both competed alongside Neighbarger and Andryushchenko at the P&G National Championships.“Those four, who were training together this summer, were competing together, so I think those guys are really going to kind of bring some leadership, from competing at the U.S.A. level, to this team and beyond,” Moling said.Moleing said some major competitors in the Big Ten are Illinois and Minnesota, the second- and third-place finishers in the conference, respectively. In the NCAA, OSU’s biggest competition is Oklahoma. The Sooners are three-time defending NCAA champions and remain the team to beat this season.“They want to win,” Moling said. “Like I said, it’s been 2001 since we’ve brought home an NCAA championship, and this team is super hungry for that this year.” To up their game and prepare for the challenge of the season to come, the Buckeyes are looking to increase strength and endurance by incorporating more conditioning workouts, both before and after their event practices.“At the end of the day, if we hit our routines and we do our job, I think we’re going to, hopefully come out on top.” After an intrasquad scrimmage Nov. 18, the Buckeyes will be back in action with another exhibition Jan. 6. The Alumni Exhibition starts at 2 p.m. at St. John Arena.
Use regions/landmarks to skip ahead to chart and navigate between data series.The biggest increases in A* – A pass rate by subject. Across the last six year, the five subjects whose A*-A pass rate has increased the most in percentage pointsLong description.No description available.Structure.Chart type: line chart.The chart has 1 X axis displaying values.The chart has 1 Y axis displaying values.Chart graphic.The biggest increases in A* – A pass rate by subjectThe biggest increases in A* – A pass rate by subject – Highcharts CloudThe biggest increases in A* – A pass rate by subjectAcross the last six year, the five subjects whose A*-A pass rate hasincreased the most in percentage pointsAcross the last six year, the five subjects whose A*-A pass rate has increased the most in percentage pointsPerforming/ Expressive ArtsIrishPhysical EducationGeneral StudiesWelsh2011201220132014201520160102030405060Source: JCQ The gender gapThere is still a significant gender gap when it comes to what boys and girls are taking for their A levels. In a trend that continues into university study, subjects such as computing and physics are dominated by boys while girls flock to courses on performing arts and sociology.In terms of grades, there was a slight narrowing of the gap between the genders across all subjects – with 8.5 per cent of boys achieving the top A* grades compared to 7.7 per cent for girls, representing a narrowing of the gap between the genders by 0.1 percentage point for the first time in the last five years. Find the results for your A level subject Use regions/landmarks to skip ahead to chart.Best A* – A pass rates in 2016. Percentage of students getting A* or A in 2016Long description.No description available.Structure.Chart type: column chart.column series with 5 columns.The chart has 1 X axis displaying categories.The chart has 1 Y axis displaying values.Chart graphic.Best A* – A pass rates in 2016Best A* – A pass rates in 2016 – Highcharts CloudBest A* – A pass rates in 2016Percentage of students getting A* or A in 2016Further MathsIrishMathsGermanFrench0102030405060Source: JQC; excluding “other modern languages” 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. Performing arts, physical education and general studies are among some of the A levels with the largest increases in the percentage of students getting A* or A between 2011 and 2016.Irish – one of the top five performing A levels for the top grade pass rate – has also improved in recent years. Click here for 2017 results Search for Clearing vacancies onlineDownload the Clearing app on iPhone or AndroidJust over a quarter of A level students gained an A* or A this year, as students from across the UK receive their results today.The pass rate for the top grades follows a trend seen across this decade, with another drop on last year’s results to 25.8 per cent of students getting A or A* across all subjects.Students have performed well in mathematics and foreign languages, while courses such as ICT and media studies have struggled to get their students achieving the top grades in 2016. The worst performing A levelsThe lowest pass rates in 2016 were seen in ICT and media, film and TV studies. Use regions/landmarks to skip ahead to chart and navigate between data series.Gender gap: The subjects with the biggest gender divides. Percentage of males and females taking the 10 subjects with the biggest gender gap in 2016Long description.No description available.Structure.Chart type: column chart.The chart has 1 X axis displaying categories.The chart has 1 Y axis displaying values.Chart graphic.Gender gap: The subjects with the biggest gender dividesGender gap: The subjects with the biggest gender divides – Highcharts CloudGender gap: The subjects with the biggest gender dividesPercentage of males and females taking the 10 subjects with the biggestgender gap in 2016Percentage of males and females taking the 10 subjects with the biggest gender gap in 2016MaleFemaleComputingPerforming/ Expressive ArtsWelshPhysicsSociologyPsychologyArt and Design subjectsCommunication StudiesEnglishFurther Maths020406080100120Source: JQC; excludes “other sciences” This has followed recent years, where these subjects have struggled to get their students to achieve the top A or A* grades. One in 10 ICT students gained an A or A* in 2016 – down from 12 per cent in 2011. Some 8,700 students took the course this year, falling by 3,300 in five years, Use regions/landmarks to skip ahead to chart and navigate between data series.The biggest falls in A* – A pass rate by subject. Across the last six year, the five subjects whose A*-A pass rate has fallen the most in percentage pointsLong description.No description available.Structure.Chart type: line chart.The chart has 1 X axis displaying values.The chart has 1 Y axis displaying values.Chart graphic.The biggest falls in A* – A pass rate by subjectThe biggest falls in A* – A pass rate by subject – Highcharts CloudThe biggest falls in A* – A pass rate by subjectAcross the last six year, the five subjects whose A*-A pass rate has fallenthe most in percentage pointsAcross the last six year, the five subjects whose A*-A pass rate has fallen the most in percentage pointsCommunication StudiesClassical subjectsEconomicsPolitical StudiesHistory2011201220132014201520161020304050Source: JCQ Use regions/landmarks to skip ahead to chart.Worst A* – A pass rates in 2016. Percentage of students getting A* or A in 2016Long description.No description available.Structure.Chart type: column chart.column series with 5 columns.The chart has 1 X axis displaying categories.The chart has 1 Y axis displaying values.Chart graphic.Worst A* – A pass rates in 2016Worst A* – A pass rates in 2016 – Highcharts CloudWorst A* – A pass rates in 2016Percentage of students getting A* or A in 2016ICTMedia/ Film/ TV StudiesCommunication StudiesCritical ThinkingGeneral Studies0102.557.512.515Source: JQC In terms of the largest falls in A* – A pass rate since 2011, communication studies and classical subjects have suffered the most. Economics, political studies and history have also struggled to keep their students achieving the top A* and A grades since 2011. Use regions/landmarks to skip ahead to chart.The biggest increases and drops in student numbers. Percentage change in number of students; top and bottom five for 2011-16Long description.No description available.Structure.Chart type: column chart.column series with 10 columns.The chart has 1 X axis displaying categories.The chart has 1 Y axis displaying values.Chart graphic.The biggest increases and drops in student numbersThe biggest increases and drops in student numbers – Highcharts CloudThe biggest increases and drops in student numbersPercentage change in number of students; top and bottom five for 2011-16ComputingFurther mathsEconomicsReligious StudiesGeographyWelshPerforming/ Expressive ArtsPhysical EducationGeneral StudiesCritical Thinking-1000-125-75-50-25255075Source: JQC What subjects are students taking?The most popular subjects in 2016 are maths, English, biology, psychology and history. Some 92,200 students decided to take maths this year, while 84,700 took English and 62,700 opted for biology.But during this decade, there has been a consistent increase in the number of students opting for computing and further maths.The number of students taking computing this year has increased by 56 per cent since 2011, while further maths now has a quarter more students. This comes at the price of subjects such as general studies and critical thinking, which are not recognised by many top universities and currently see almost half the number of entries they had in 2011. The best performing A levelsOn the other hand, A level students have excelled in subjects such as mathematics and Irish. Continuing the success of recent years, more than half of those taking Further Maths achieved an A or A*, while 88 per cent achieved a C or above.2016 saw exactly the same top five best performing A levels as in 2015, with foreign languages such as German and French each seeing more than a third of their students achieving an A or A* this year. Despite this, both of these languages have seen a decline in interest from students, with just 13,500 students taking both subjects this year, down from 18,400 in 2011.