Is 2015 The Year Baseballs Projections Failed

It took a couple of bold pickups the week of the trade deadline, but the Kansas City Royals had finally done it.Solidified themselves as clear front-runners for the American League pennant? Emerged as outright World Series favorites?Not quite.Kansas City’s big accomplishment was simply amassing enough talent to break .500 down the season’s final stretch — at least in the eyes of the statistical projections. Although the Royals had never dropped below .566 all season (and had posted the best winning percentage in the AL), leading sabermetric think tank Fangraphs hadn’t pegged them to win more than half of their remaining games until July 26.1KC hit a rest-of-season win projection of exactly .500 on May 11. For most of the year, Kansas City has had the record of a contender but the forecast of a lightweight.We’re not picking on Fangraphs. The 79 wins it forecast for the Royals before the season started (barring major personnel changes or extreme breakouts from current players, the preseason forecast largely determines a team’s rest-of-season projection) were actually on the high side. Although KC won 89 games and went to the World Series in 2014, a consensus average of betting over/unders2Using data compiled from the same sources we used here, plus implied win totals derived from preseason World Series odds when available. and other statistical systems3Including Baseball Prospectus’s PECOTA projections for the team, as well a regressed average of its Pythagorean winning percentages over the previous two seasons. would have pegged the Royals for 76 wins this year, a number that will likely end up at least 15 games low. Any projection system tied to the Royals’ comparatively weak preseason forecast would have been similarly bearish on their future record.And the Royals aren’t alone: The Houston Astros, Minnesota Twins and New York Yankees could all potentially beat their consensus preseason projections by double digits, while the Oakland A’s, Boston Red Sox, Miami Marlins and Seattle Mariners may undershoot theirs by that margin. Forecasting the fates of 30 different baseball teams has always been tricky work, but this season has seemed so unpredictable that it has sparked extra rounds of self-examination among statheads.Paradoxically, in an age of unprecedented baseball data, we somehow appear to be getting worse at knowing which teams are — and will be — good.In an absolute sense, this season’s forecast win totals aren’t any further off than usual.4Extrapolating records to 162 games, the root mean square error between actual and predicted wins is lower this year than the seasonal average from 1996 to 2014. But that obscures the way predictions — and, in fact, actual team records — have also gotten more compressed over the years. As a result of the trend toward parity in MLB, preseason projections explain less of the variation among teams’ records now than they have at any point in the last 20 seasons.Strangely, the projections are doing fine at the player level. Neither hitter nor pitcher projections are necessarily to blame for the downturn in team-level forecasts. If anything, PECOTA is better now at projecting rate statistics for batters than it was five years ago, and at the very least it has gotten no worse on the pitching side. Likewise, PECOTA’s ability to nail playing-time estimates (both plate appearances and innings pitched) has only improved over that span. So in the aggregate, it’s hard to detect the slump in team projection accuracy by looking at the performance of individual player forecasts.But while PECOTA’s absolute prediction errors are getting smaller across the entire population of MLB players, its squared errors — a gauge more sensitive to outliers — have increased over the last five seasons. For that kind of discrepancy to exist, there can be only one explanation: The big misses are getting bigger, at least relative to the normal, everyday misses. And, notably, more of those extreme errors come when predicting the performance of young players.By now, it’s no secret that baseball is in the midst of a historic youth movement. As the average age of players has decreased, a lot more of the game’s value has been concentrated among its fresh faces. That’s hailed as a good thing for the game, but it may be a bad thing for projection systems. For hitters ages 24 and younger, we found that absolute prediction errors in their rate statistics are on the rise since 2009, with an even more pronounced trend toward inaccuracy if outliers are given more weight. Since those players now contribute more to the game than at any other point in recent memory, they could be playing a role in driving the recent projection crisis.There could be other culprits. Teams may be better now at assessing themselves than public metrics are. If the internal projection systems some clubs employ are superior to the ones driving published preseason forecasts, those teams could be buying and selling talent according to a different rubric. As a result, they could be constructing their rosters in a way that would amplify team-level errors in the public forecasts — for example, loading up on publicly underrated players — even if the player-level accuracy of public projections hasn’t changed much.Then again, maybe it’s all just luck — we mean literally. By definition, the compression of team records across MLB means that random variance is playing a larger role in the standings than it used to. How much larger? Computing the spread of true talent in a season using the standard deviation of team winning percentages, it turns out that a whopping 64 percent of the observed variation among teams so far this season can be explained by binomial luck — by far the highest single-season proportion of the past two decades.Even if that number regresses a bit over the season’s final third, 2015 will shatter the previous post-199551996 was the first full, 162-game season after MLB’s 1994 strike. record for luck’s sway over team winning percentages. This fact alone may go a long way toward explaining why projections are struggling.It’s tough to know what all of this means for a team like Kansas City. The Royals were smart to go all-in at the trade deadline, and as an older team they figure to be less affected by the predictive uncertainty currently plaguing baseball. Ironically, though, that means we should probably be more confident in the relatively unimpressive rest-of-season forecast set for them by a site like Fangraphs, which still regards the Royals as a team with 84-win true talent even after accounting for their deadline pickups.6This also takes into account playing time missed due to injuries, such as the strained groin that will keep star outfielder Alex Gordon out for a few more weeks.It’s a long-held saying that baseball’s playoffs are a crapshoot, but the unexpectedly great performances of teams like Kansas City this year might indicate the regular season is headed in that direction, too. read more

Vikings Star Adrian Peterson Arrested After Scuffle with OffDuty

Minnesota Vikings Pro Bowl running back Adrian Peterson was arrested and charged with resisting arrest in Houston early Saturday morning after being subdued by three police officers.A Houston police department spokesman told USA Today that Peterson was at a downtown nightclub early Saturday morning when an off-duty Houston police officer working security asked Peterson and a group of people he was with to leave because the club had closed.After the unidentified officer returned to Peterson to tell him to leave, the two exchanged words and Peterson pushed the officer. After the officer told Peterson he was under arrest the all-pro running back allegedly began yelling and assumed an aggressive stance with the officer.Peterson was finally handcuffed with the help of a third police officer and taken to jail. He was released on $1,000 bond Saturday afternoon and charged with misdemeanor resisting arrest. Adrian Peterson, after arrest, says ‘truth will surface’For Hip Hop News & Entertainment at DimeWars.Com read more

Indiana Gets Commitment From Troy Williams

Indiana Hoosiers head coach Tom Crean received a commitment from ESPN 100 small forward Troy Williams on Sunday after offers from North Carolina, Louisville, Arkansas, Alabama and Ohio State.“Coach Crean is a great coach,” Troy Williams said. “He didn’t tell me just what I was good at, but what I had to work on. Plus I really got along well with the other players that were committed while on my visit. We really got along well. My mom had a connection with Coach Crean, and the rest of my family supported me.”The Hoosiers will add 6-foot-7 Williams, who is the 32nd-ranked player overall and the ninth-ranked small forward playing at Oak Hill Academy, to a stacked incoming 2013 class.Crean has landed No. 57 shooting guard Stanford Robinson from national power Findlay Prep in Nevada, center Luke Fischer of Germantown, Wisconsin, and small forwards Devin Davis and Collin Hartman from Indiana.Williams is an athletic athlete who terrifies his opponents in the open court where electrifies the crowd with his finishes. The stellar recruit has improved his shooting, ball handling, and passing skills, which he demonstrated as he scored a team-high 21 points Saturday as the Warriors routed Princeton Day School 99-54.Williams consulted his mentor, uncle, and legendary AAU coach Boo Williams before making the decision to pick the Hoosiers. Boo was at Nike headquarters in Oregon when he received the phone call from his nephew.“Are you sure you don’t want to wait for me to get home?” Boo said he asked Troy.The answer was “no” and he proceeded to tell him that Indiana was his choice.The visit to Indiana the weekend of Oct. 19 sealed his nephew’s fate to become a Hoosier.“The visit did it,” Boo Williams said. “I am fine with Indiana. They did a great job with Troy, especially Tom Crean.”Troy Williams added that Crean was not the only factor in his decision.“I really loved the campus, everything was right there and the fans are crazy,” he said. “They have great support.”Crean has been able to recruit well within the state of Indiana, but has extended his recruiting abilities outside the state to find and sign great talent. The signing of Williams proves what Crean is capable of for preseason No.1Hoosiers. read more

NBA Power Ratings And Playoff Odds The Thunder And Suns Are In

Welcome to another edition of FiveThirtyEight’s NBA Power Ratings. Teams are ranked according to a projection of their strength over the coming week using Real Plus-Minus (RPM) player ratings provided by Jeremias Engelmann and Steve Ilardi. For a more detailed explanation of the process behind these numbers, see our first rankings post.Some stray thoughts on the rankings:The Oklahoma City Thunder are in a bit of a precarious position. After losing two of their three games over the past week, they occupy the 10th slot in the Western Conference standings. And despite the talent on hand, our simulations give them just a 53.5 percent probability of making the playoffs, down 19.1 percentage points from a week ago. It’s no coincidence that over the same span, the Phoenix Suns won two of three to move four games clear of Oklahoma City. The Suns’ playoff chances rose by 10.5 points to 50.1 percent.Sandwiched between Phoenix and Oklahoma City in the West standings is New Orleans, but the Pelicans check in with just an 18.1 percent probability of making the playoffs. Why? They have neither the Suns’ advantage in the standings nor the talent edge of the Thunder. That said, New Orleans is improving on both counts, winning two of three over the past week. The Pelicans’ projected rating is 1.1 points per 100 possessions higher in this week’s power ratings, thanks to progress on offense.Why did the San Antonio Spurs drop a two slots and lose a league-high 1.9 points per 100 possessions from their rating? Blame Tony Parker (mostly). Parker is struggling to find his form after a hamstring injury earlier in the season, and he has one of the league’s worst RPM ratings this season (which only got worse after a rough performance in the Spurs’ 20-point home loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on Saturday). The playing-time projections for our ratings see Parker logging more minutes this week, so the numbers view him as personally responsible for nearly half of the Spurs’ projected decline.The biggest raw gainers are the Minnesota Timberwolves, who upped their expected rating for the week to -7.0 from -10.6 a week ago, an improvement of 3.6 points per 100 possessions. A little of that is the remarkably rapid development of our buddy Andrew Wiggins, but it’s much more due to the return of Ricky Rubio. Plus-minus style statistics have always thought more highly of Rubio than the public at large, and here he carries the 26th-highest individual per-possession rating of any player in our data set. It’s doubly beneficial for Minnesota because Rubio’s return cuts into the minutes of Zach LaVine, who has been arguably the worst player in the NBA this season. (I’m at least allowed to say that, right?)As bad as my hometown Philadelphia 76ers have been this season, something jumps out about their coterie of ratings at the bottom of the table: Their defense is above average! The decidedly poor offensive RPM numbers of Nerlens Noel (-5.0), Luc Mbah a Moute (-3.6), Henry Sims (-3.5), K.J. McDaniels (-3.4) and even Michael Carter-Williams (-2.5) hides a collection of pretty decent defenders. For instance, Noel’s defensive RPM (+2.2) is roughly equivalent to that of DeAndre Jordan, who finished third in last year’s voting for defensive player of the year. Of course, the Sixers are still awful, and that means their offense must be especially bad to offset an above-average defense. Sure enough, they’re tracking for the worst offense (in terms of offensive rating relative to league average) in the history of major professional basketball. read more

Mens basketball Amid another rough season Mattas job seems safe

OSU coach Thad Matta speaks to the Buckeyes during a timeout in OSU’s exhibition match-up against Walsh on Nov. 6. The Buckeyes won 85-67. Credit: Alexa Mavrogianis | Photo EditorThe Ohio State men’s basketball team escaped Wednesday night with a win against Rutgers, but not without some scary moments for Thad Matta’s team. The Buckeyes had to fight to the bitter end, barely scraping by a team that had just earned its first road conference win in 24 games.Follow that up with a loss to No. 21 Maryland away from home — which was less shocking — and OSU once again looks to be on a downtrend. The Buckeyes still lack a prolific scorer, and have been unable to find any cohesiveness 25 games into the season. This isn’t the first time he has struggled to find a way to win.“I was 10–9 at Xavier, and four weeks later, we were playing in the Elite Eight to go to the Final Four (in 2003),” Matta said earlier this season. “Just keep fighting, man. Just keep fighting.”Last season, the Scarlet and Gray were scrutinized for performing well below expectations, but were expected to be at least marginally better this season. OSU has just five games remaining in the regular season to try to finish above .500 in the conference and overall.And with teams like Wisconsin and Michigan State remaining, the odds of that happening are about as likely as Matta not chewing gum on the sideline. With the daunting task of trying to revive a team with little to fight for, the job security of the long-time OSU coach could come into question.Matta, who now has a career record of 437-150 after the win against Rutgers and loss to Maryland, is the winningest coach in OSU history. With 335 wins under his belt at the helm of the Buckeyes, it seems strange to think his job could be in jeopardy.Matta has missed the Big Ten Championship game in three consecutive years, and is in real jeopardy of missing it for a fourth time, barring any shocking upsets. With four seasons of less-than-stellar play, Matta’s time at the helm could be coming to an end.On the other side of the argument, Matta is in his 13th season with the Buckeyes, and has never posted a losing season in his career. Never in his entire head coaching career has he missed the 20-win mark.Although OSU looks like it will miss out on at least 20 wins, unless the team has a solid National Invitational Tournament run. Well, if they make it there, that is.Matta has made it to at least the NIT every year with the Buckeyes, except for his first year at the helm. Four conference titles and four Sweet 16 appearances, paired with a solid incoming recruiting class, might just be enough to keep Matta around. OSU currently has commitments from center Kaleb Wesson — brother of OSU freshman forward Andre Wesson — and point guard Braxton Beverly. Both players are listed as four-stars according to ESPN.In 2018, there is even more reason to celebrate, as OSU is set to haul in a pair of forwards in Darius Bazley and Justin Ahrens, and a solid shooting guard in Dane Goodwin. Matta’s incoming players could potentially bring him some success again, but only time will tell.Regardless of where fans stand on Matta, they should remember how many wins he has brought the program, and the not-so-long-ago past appearances in the NCAA tournament. That, paired with some praise from Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo, should give him at least one more chance.“I shouldn’t say this, but hell, I’m happy for him,” Izzo said in January. “From the standpoint of the way people treat him around here, I’m happy for him. He’s won a lot of games here … He doesn’t have to answer to anybody and he probably doesn’t need my support, but I’ll probably need his.” read more

Prahalis shines in season debut as Buckeyes roll

Ohio State point guard Samantha Prahalis didn’t disappoint in her season debut. The flashy guard from Commack, N.Y., scored 18 points and recorded eight assists as the No. 7 OSU women’s basketball team (4-0) defeated East Tennessee State (2-2) 80-47 Monday night. Prahalis made her first appearance of the season after an NCAA-imposed three-game suspension stemming from a secondary violation committed in the offseason. She recorded her first assist of the season on the Buckeyes’ second offensive possession, finding center Jantel Lavender underneath the hoop for a basket. OSU jumped out to an 11-2 advantage to start the game. OSU coach Jim Foster said he knew his point guard was eager to make her return to action. “If you know Sammy, sitting at home for three games, I’m sure that there’s some marks on her wallpaper from crawling up the walls,” Foster said. ETSU battled back, taking a 20-19 lead off of a Shawn Randall 3-point shot with less than seven minutes remaining in the first half. Lavender regained the lead for the Buckeyes on the next possession with a jumper, which started a 17-0 run to close the half for OSU. The Buckeyes never looked back. “We acted like a veteran team,” Foster said. “You’ve got to adjust. You figure out what works for you, and what hurts them.” Lavender finished the game with 18 points and 11 rebounds and Tayler Hill scored 16 points, grabbed seven rebounds, and had five assists for the Buckeyes. Prahalis displayed her signature flash, using the no-look passes and scooping lay-ups that have made her one of the most exciting players in the nation. However, she also showed signs of rust, committing nine turnovers. “I was a little bit anxious,” Prahalis said. “I said to a couple of girls in the locker room that I felt like I was a freshman. I was a little bit nervous.” Prahalis left the game with more than nine minutes remaining after a cramp had her limping following a steal and subsequent fast break lay-up. She returned to the game five minutes later. The Buckeyes next play on Sunday, when they host UNC-Wilmington. read more

University groups advocate for Ohio State against ESPN suit

Several university groups came to the aid of Ohio State on Wednesday in its case against ESPN Inc., in an ongoing dispute over public records. The Association of Public Land-Grant Universities, the Association of American Universities and the American Council on Education, all provided briefs to the supreme court in defense of OSU. The files in question involve several aspects of the NCAA’s investigation of the university, which led to the forced-resignation of former head coach Jim Tressel. In the suit, ESPN said OSU wrongfully cited the Family and Educational Rights and Privacy Act as a reason for withholding various documents. The university groups argued that OSU did nothing wrong. “Ohio State University has properly and necessarily protected confidential student information in compliance with the mandatory provisions of FERPA,” the statement said. In addition to complying with FERPA regulations, both OSU and the university groups argued that OSU acted legally in their response to several open records requests. OSU, in its response, wrote that “Ohio State University has not only met its Public Records Act obligations here, it has exceeded them.” OSU said it has provided every record, as required by law, and even created new records to fulfill some of ESPN’s requests. John Greiner, an attorney for ESPN, sent a letter to OSU on Sept. 16. “With respect to the FERPA defense, we simply disagree, and I believe we will need to have the Supreme Court sort this out,” Greiner wrote. ESPN stated in the lawsuit that producers at the sporting news network had made public records requests for all emails sent or received by President E. Gordon Gee, athletic director Gene Smith, compliance officer Doug Archie and Tressel, that included the keyword “Sarniak.” Ted Sarniak is a businessman in Jeanette, Pa., closely associated with former OSU quarterback Terrelle Pryor. It was widely noted that Sarniak was a mentor to Pryor during both his time at OSU and in his recruitment process. OSU’s media relations department cited FERPA as the reason for not initially supplying the records to ESPN. On Aug. 12, a month after the lawsuit was filed, OSU supplied a heavily redacted file of emails and compliance forms to ESPN and other members of the media. Also included in the university’s response to ESPN was a letter containing an explanation of the release of the records, and the university’s interpretation of the misunderstanding. “Consistent with our long working relationship and many telephone conversations, we viewed the process of responding to several of those requests as ongoing,” the letter stated. “The university was unaware that ESPN thought otherwise.” The university said through its letter that the withholding of records was not a malicious effort to block the records from ESPN, but a miscommunication of the clarity of the public record requests. In July, Jim Lynch, spokesman for the university, told The Lantern that normally they do not comment on pending litigation, but due to the circumstances they released a statement. “The university believes that it has adhered to all applicable state and federal laws,” Lynch said in the email. “The university has been inundated with public records requests stemming from its ongoing NCAA investigation and the university. These include voluminous requests from ESPN, which in turn has received a voluminous amount of information.” In an email to The Lantern in July, Lynch said the department actively works with media organizations to help fulfill requests. “While the university often receives media requests that are overly broad, given Ohio’s public record laws, we generally try to work with reporters to help them find the information they are seeking,” Lynch said in the July email. “Working within the boundaries of the applicable laws.” An attorney for ESPN has declined comment on several occasions saying “ESPN does not comment on pending litigation.” read more

Ohio State softball set for weekend rivalry series with No 5 Michigan

Junior outfielder Taylor Watkins (23) advances on the base path during a game against Michigan State March 22 at Buckeye Field. OSU won, 11-7.Credit: Kim Dailey / Lantern photographerIn a rivalry game, anything can happen. Heading into a weekend series against Michigan in Ann Arbor — currently ranked fifth in the country — the Ohio State softball team is playing its best ball of the year.The last time OSU (17-15, 5-1) played the Wolverines (26-6, 6-0) was in the 2013 Big Ten Tournament, when then-top-seeded Michigan won 3-2 after a two-run rally by the Buckeyes in the seventh inning came up short.Now, winners of eight of their last 11 games — including a sweep of Michigan State and two out of three games against Indiana — the Buckeyes have to stay aggressive on offense and avoid giving up big innings defensively to win this weekend, coach Kelly Kovach Schoenly said.“The team is playing with confidence right now regardless of the opponent, so I’m trying not to bring huge focus to the opponent, but to continue to feel good about what we are doing,” Schoenly said. “But do we want to beat Michigan specifically? Absolutely. Any true Buckeye does.”Junior right-fielder Caitlin Conrad said the team is progressing really well and that winning against the Wolverines would be a “huge deal” for the team.“The last couple years it has been rough playing them, but we are more than capable of beating them,” Conrad said. “The stands were full and loud the whole time (last year at Michigan), I don’t expect anything less than that this year.”Junior pitcher Olivia O’Reilly has emerged as OSU’s ace with a 6-2 overall record, 2.70 ERA and 51 strikeouts. O’Reilly has stepped up and given the team stability on the mound, Schoenly said.“She has grown so much in the last two months and has really come into her own out there,” Schoenly said. “Her success can be attributed to her ability to move the ball and keep the hitters guessing. She brings a fighter mentality to the defense.”O’Reilly grew up in Sylvania, Ohio, just a few miles from the Michigan border, and said playing for OSU is a dream come true after being a Buckeye fan her entire life. She knows how heated the rivalry can get though, and she said she lives in a “house divided” with her mother being a Michigan fan.“Playing against Michigan is like no other atmosphere I have ever experienced,” O’Reilly said. “There’s just something different in the air during rivalry week, and it’s such a battle every time we play.”Since starting the Big Ten schedule, the team’s offense has exploded, O’Reilly said. She hopes the Buckeyes can keep that up so they can stay competitive this weekend.“More than anything else, the Michigan series is about pride, and winning would definitely boost our team to a higher level,” O’Reilly said. “They have a good team and we fully expect to compete this weekend.”Heading into her last three-game series against Michigan, senior first-baseman Evelyn Carrillo has started 188 of 189 career games and has recorded 136 RBI.“Evelyn has taken her game to a new level and dominated thus far in the Big Ten,” Schoenly said. “This is exactly what you hope to see from your senior leader.”First pitch in Ann Arbor is set for 6 p.m. Friday. read more

Ohio State firstever unanimous No 1 in preseason AP poll

Coach Urban Meyer leads the OSU football team onto the field at AT&T Stadium before the College Football Playoff National Championship game against Oregon in Arlington, Texas. OSU won, 42-20.Credit: Lantern file photoWith the start of the 2015 college football season less than two weeks away, the Ohio State Buckeyes are clearly the top team in the country — at least in the eyes of the Associated Press.The AP published its preseason Top 25 poll on Sunday afternoon with OSU unanimously standing on top with each of the 61 first-place votes.The unanimous standing in the preseason poll is the first occurrence in the history of the poll.OSU, the defending national champion, returns all but seven starters from last season’s squad, including a pair of 2014 AP All-Americans in junior defensive end Joey Bosa and redshirt sophomore quarterback J.T. Barrett.Following the Buckeyes at No. 2 is TCU, with Alabama, Baylor and Big Ten counterpart Michigan State rounding out the top five.The SEC led all conferences in number of teams appearing in the poll with eight.Just three Big Ten teams made the Top 25, with Wisconsin coming in behind OSU and Michigan State at No. 20.Last season, the Buckeyes opened the season at No. 5 in the AP Top 25. They fell to No. 22 after losing at home to Virginia Tech in their second game but won their next 11 games to secure a spot in the College Football Playoff, which they then won by defeating Alabama and Oregon.The No. 1 Buckeyes will look to live up to their preseason ranking and begin their title defense when they travel to Blacksburg, Virginia, to face the Virginia Tech Hokies on Sept. 7. Kickoff is scheduled for 8 p.m.AP Top 25:Ohio State (61)TCUAlabamaBaylorMichigan StateAuburnOregonUSCGeorgiaFlorida StateNotre DameClemsonUCLALSUArizona StateGeorgia TechMississippiArkansasOklahomaWisconsinStanfordArizonaBoise StateMissouriTennessee read more

Mens Basketball Ohio State braces for change of expectations following Michigan State

Ohio State head coach Chris Holtmann calls out to the Buckeyes in the second half in the game against Michigan State on Jan. 7 in Value City Arena. Ohio State won 80-64. Credit: Jack Westerheide | Photo EditorPreseason expectations for Ohio State’s men’s basketball team were about as low as they’ve ever been for the program. The Buckeyes missed not only the NCAA Tournament, but the NIT last season. Even with the change at head coach from Thad Matta to Chris Holtmann and the addition of three new recruits, Ohio State was not counted on as a contender in the Big Ten.That narrative is gone.After Ohio State beat No. 1 Michigan State 80-64 Sunday, the questions turned to the postseason. Will Ohio State contend in the Big Ten tournament? Not only will it make the tournament, but what seed will it be when it gets there?But Holtmann said after the game he will not look further ahead than Thursday. There will be no talk of postseason play in the locker room. Ohio State beat high-caliber opponents in recent seasons before and struggled shortly thereafter. It beat Michigan State at home last season and lost eight of its next 14 games to end the year.“We could go in the tank here the next couple weeks. We certainly don’t want this moment to define us,” Holtmann said Sunday. “And we don’t want it to be the pinnacle of the season, as good as it is.”The grounds for pessimistic preseason predictions were warranted. Ohio State finished last season with a 17-15 record (7-11 in the Big Ten), its worst record since a 14-16 showing during the 2003-04 campaign — the year before Matta was hired. There was no reason to believe Ohio State would be a Big Ten title contender.“I think you only have to open a college basketball preseason magazine and read where we’re picked: 12, 13, 14, 11. It’s all over, but it’s near the bottom,” Holtmann told The Lantern Oct. 25.“We’re not discarding this year as kind of a throw-away year in any way. We are pouring ourselves into this team and this year, and hope that it will pay dividends.”This team is not last season’s Ohio State squad. At this point last season, the Buckeyes had an 11-7 record, were 1-4 in the Big Ten and had embarrassing losses to Florida Atlantic and Illinois. This recent win for Ohio State is not necessarily a fluke. Though it did not win games against its previous three ranked opponents, it had not been upset by a heavy underdog and it was already 3-0 in the conference with wins against Michigan and Wisconsin. Just as Matta turned that 2003-04 team around into a 20-12 record the next season in his first season of coaching, Holtmann is at the forefront of an unscheduled turnaround for the Buckeyes. “I’m surprised. Coaches get surprised. I got surprised,” Holtmann said Sunday, referring to the speed of the turnaround his team appears to be taking.Ohio State received the 29th-most points in the most recent Associated Press poll and is listed as the 33rd-best team in the nation by Ken Pomeroy, who projects the team will finish the year with a 22-9 record and 13-5 Big Ten record. Bates-Diop is now appearing to be a favorite for Big Ten Player of the Year and is in Pomeroy’s list of the top 10 best players in the nation. The Buckeyes have only beat one team considered to be in the upper echelon of college basketball, and they are still not going to be viewed as a national title contender. But winning the conference is no longer out of the question, and neither is making the NCAA Tournament. The script might not be entirely flipped on this Buckeye team, but no one is going to sleep on them anymore. Other teams will take notice, starting with Maryland at 7 p.m. Thursday.Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo said the Buckeyes need to be prepared. Speaking as someone at the helm of one of the top teams in the nation, he knows what comes with the low number next to his team’s name.“This is what’s going to happen every night. It’ll happen to Ohio State. When you’re 15-2, 14-3, you know, 15-3, [the Buckeyes will] get ranked, and deservingly should be,” Izzo said Sunday. “You got to handle things a little differently because you’re going to get somebody else’s best shot.” read more