The NBA regular season ends Wednesday, and the playoffs begin Saturday. And with that in mind, we’re going to shake things up a bit with regard to FiveThirtyEight’s NBA Power Ratings.Until now, we’ve ranked every team according to a projection of its true talent 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 original methodology, see our introductory rankings post.)But this week, with many teams resting key players in preparation for the playoffs, we’re ranking every team according to its projected playoff power rating. This means we’re projecting every team to be at “full strength” in terms of minutes given to players who will be available for the postseason, instead of only projecting for the next week. Playoff probabilities and expected end-of-season wins are still driven by projected minute distributions over the next few days, but the power ratings themselves have been geared to capture the talent that each team is bringing into the playoffs.With the playoffs being emphasized more in our ratings, it’s fitting that the San Antonio Spurs rank in the top two for the first time since early February. They’ve won 11 straight games, a run backed up by the underlying talent of one of the league’s best teams.The Atlanta Hawks also benefit from our switch to “playoff power” — while Thabo Sefolosha’s bizarre season-ending injury hurts their chances of winning the championship, we’ve boosted the playing time for many of their good players who have consistently been listed as day-to-day in the injury report in recent weeks.As for teams on the fringe of the playoffs, we noted last week that the Boston Celtics were basically a coin flip to make the playoffs, battling it out with the Brooklyn Nets, Miami Heat and Indiana Pacers for one of the two remaining postseason slots in the Eastern Conference. A week later, the Celtics have all but completely claimed their spot; our model now gives them a 98.9 percent probability of making the playoffs.By the same token, the Heat have almost completely dropped out of the race, with just a 2.4 percent chance of qualifying for the postseason. That leaves the Nets and Pacers to fight over one spot with two games left per team. Our calculations give Brooklyn the inside track largely because of the team’s possession of the tiebreaker over Indiana, in addition to an easier remaining schedule (the Nets face the No. 9 Chicago Bulls and No. 23 Orlando Magic; Indiana faces No. 7 Memphis and No. 15 Washington).Out West, the race for the No. 8 seed is between the New Orleans Pelicans and Oklahoma City Thunder, and the Pelicans have the edge in our simulations. Oklahoma City is marginally more talented, according to RPM, and is even projected to win fractionally more games on average, but New Orleans holds the tiebreaker over the Thunder.In no small part because of those tiebreakers, there’s a 45 percent probability that the Nets and Pelicans will be the final two teams to slip into the playoffs when the season ends Wednesday.
OSU sophomore Keita Bates-Diop (33) takes a free throw in a game against Louisiana Tech on Nov. 24 at the Schottenstein Center. OSU lost 82-74. Credit: Maria Martello | Lantern PhotographerIn Ohio State coach Thad Matta’s head coaching career, he has stood on the sideline for 531 games.He has won 403 of those, while dropping 128. But in none of those 531 contests has his team had more losses than wins in the record column.That will change on Tuesday, as the Buckeyes (2-3) are set to welcome No. 10 Virginia (5-1) to the Schottenstein Center for a 7:30 p.m. matchup as part of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge.OSU’s season started off without any noteworthy results, grabbing 20-plus-point victories over a pair of unspectacular opponents. The wheels came off from there, however, as consecutive home losses to Texas-Arlington and Louisiana Tech dropped OSU to .500, before an overtime loss to Memphis in Miami gave Matta a losing record for the first time in his career.Sophomore forward Jae’Sean Tate said having a losing record comes as a shock when a player comes to a school like OSU, but the team has to keep its composure and keep getting back on track.“None of us expected to be 2-3, but we’ve just got to stay the course,” Tate said. “We have to learn how to grow, how to improve every week in practice.”Tate and fellow sophomore forward Keita Bates-Diop each offered the same two culprits for the Buckeyes’ struggles: turnovers and poor free-throw shooting.“We’re not losing games by a lot. They’re close games. It’s just the turnovers, we have to cut back on those, and make our free throws,” Bates-Diop said. “We could be getting different questions right now if we’re doing that.”The Buckeyes are turning the ball over 16.2 times per game, ranking 323rd in the nation out of 346 qualifying Division I schools. Virginia, on the other hand, ranks second with just 7.5 turnovers per game.Matta said the praise for the Cavaliers’ efficiency lies with coach Tony Bennett, who is now in his seventh season in Charlottesville, Virginia.“I think Tony Bennett has done a tremendous job in terms of coming in and establishing that program … I don’t think Virginia gets the respect of other schools, but they’re as good as any of them, that’s for sure,” Matta said.For the Buckeyes, Tate said it is never easy to snap a losing streak, and the team is unlikely to get any help against a team like the Cavaliers. Still, he said the team is trying its hardest to keep its focus one game at a time.“Any loss will have an impact on your confidence, but coach is doing a great job telling us to stay the course,” Tate said. “Teams go through losses all the time, it’s just how you bounce back the next game.”A glance at the CavaliersVirginia comes into Tuesday night’s matchup 5-1, with the lone loss coming in a second-game hiccup at George Washington.While the quality of its other five opponents hasn’t been the strongest, Matta said he has been more than impressed with what he’s watched.“They’re as good of a basketball team as I’ve seen this year … They’re such a great blend of the positions, inside, outside,” Matta said. “It’s definitely a veteran basketball team that’s going to be a great challenge for us.”Virginia — which earned a No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament a season ago but was ultimately upset by Michigan State in the Round of 32 — uses a balanced offensive attack rather than relying on a go-to scorer.Redshirt senior guard Malcolm Brogdon leads the team with 16.7 points per game. The 2014-15 AP All-American Second-Team recipient has also chipped in 4.5 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game.The Cavaliers have shot exceptionally well this season, shooting the ball at a 51.7 percent clip from the field while holding opponents to 39.1 percent. Those marks rank 13th and 74th in the nation, respectively.“They’re a great defensive team,” Tate said. “They run a lot of offense through their post, so post defense will be really key. We’ve just got to execute and take care of the ball.”Up nextAfter the Cavaliers, the Buckeyes are set to resume action on Saturday against another school from the 10th state — Virginia Military Institute. Tip is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. at the Schottenstein Center.
Junior defenseman, Clark Cristofoli (6), takes control of the puck in a game against Canisius. OSU won 3-0 at the Schottenstein Center Nov. 15. Credit: Brooke Sayre / Lantern photographer With freshman goalie Logan Davis’ first two collegiate starts came two victories as the Ohio State men’s ice hockey team swept Canisius College over the weekend.Davis took over the reins after fellow freshman Matt Tomkins sustained a lower-body injury in the first four minutes of OSU’s victory against Niagara Nov. 9.“That’s why (Davis is) out there in practice every day,” OSU coach Steve Rohlik said. “Sometimes you take it for granted, and I know our guys don’t, and Logan went out there and did his job.”Alongside Davis’ performance, Rohlik attributed the Buckeyes’ (8-4-0, 0-0-0) wins to their defensive unit, which he said has been a focus of the team.“Our guys played hard. Our guys blocked a lot of shots – I think we blocked over 40 shots this weekend – and Logan, in the nets, did his job,” Rohlik said of the defense, which gave up only one goal against the Golden Griffins. “When guys buy in and they’re willing to sacrifice their body in this game and get in front of pucks like that, you know you’ve got something special, and I think we can build on this.”Coach Dave Smith of Canisius (2-7-0, 1-3-0) shared the same sentiment of the Buckeyes’ defense, saying “their desperation and their commitment to blocking shots was the difference in the game.”The second game of the two-game series was played Saturday, and the Buckeyes managed to hold onto to the lead to win, 3-1.Both teams were held scoreless in the first period, but OSU got on the board and took a 2-0 lead with two goals by senior forward Alex Szczechura and freshman defenseman Josh Healey. Canisius responded with a wraparound goal by junior forward Mitch McCrank at 7:49 to pull the Golden Griffins within one goal.For the remainder of the game, OSU played a defense-centric game and fended off any attack on the net that Canisius attempted. With less than a second left on the clock, junior forward Ryan Dzingel sealed the victory with an empty-net goal.The Buckeyes outshot the Golden Griffins in the game, 29-23, and Davis stopped 22 of the shots he faced in his third victory as a goalie.Healey said playing consistently and not making drastic changes to the gameplay was what helped the team to keep its lead.“We just stuck to our game plan and kept going,” Healey said. “They pushed at the end, but we stuck to our game — get pucks deep, keep (the puck) on the other side and keep the lead.”The two-game series opened up Friday, and OSU came away with a shutout victory over the Golden Griffins.After a goal in the first period by Dzingel, who leads the team with seven on the season, the Buckeyes opened up the gap even more in the second period with goals from junior defenseman Justin DaSilva and freshman forward Nick Schilkey. With these, OSU extended the lead to 3-0, which was decidedly the final score after neither team scored in the third stanza.The series ended the Buckeyes’ seven-game homestand, during which they won six games. The team has a weekend off before it is slated to open Big Ten play with against rival Michigan in Ann Arbor Nov. 29 at 7 p.m. OSU is then scheduled to return home against the Wolverines Dec. 2 at 7:05 p.m.
Ohio State junior blocker Madison Smeathers (4) taps the ball to Michigan State on Sunday, Oct. 14 at St. John’s Arena in Columbus, Ohio. Ohio State beat Michigan State in 3 matches. Credit: Claire Kudika | Assistant Design EditorThe Ohio State women’s volleyball team returns home on Wednesday to face No. 9 Nebraska. The team will enjoy a home-field advantage for six of its 10 remaining matches. Nebraska is heading into the game with a record of 15-5 and 6-4 in Big Ten play, losing four of its past five matches. The Buckeyes stand at 12-10 and 3-7 in the Big Ten. Nebraska leads the all-time series against the Buckeyes 13-7, dating back to 1978. Ohio State head coach Geoff Carlston said the team is working on making improvements after lackluster Big Ten play.“We are constantly trying to re-evaluate what we need to do,” Carlston said. “In terms of personnel, I think we have the best unit out there, so it’s a matter of being the best at what we can do.”The Buckeyes have 1,077 kills this season compared with the Cornhuskers with 955.Nebraska’s freshman middle blocker Callie Schwarzenbach leads the Big Ten and ranks fourth nationally with 1.64 blocks per set. Carlston said matchups like this against Nebraska is a good way to grow for his team.“Our young players are maturing, but they’re trying to learn and grow in the middle of the best conference in the country,” Carlston said. “We have a good group across all ages, learning how to compete on the road in a pretty hostile environment. Our kids want to win, and we want to win, but it’s a balance.”Ohio State sophomore setter Becca Mauer voiced the same focus for the Nebraska match and the rest of the season: decreasing the number of errors.“One of the biggest things for us to focus on is making the other team make the mistakes,” Mauer said. “A lot of times we are making the mistakes for them. If we limit the errors on our side of the net, the matches, the games, the sets will all go a lot differently. We aren’t giving ourselves a chance to play ball.”The Buckeyes have 438 attack errors, 193 serve errors, 111 serve reception errors and 44 block errors this season, while the Cornhuskers compare with 335 attack errors, 173 serve errors, 67 serve reception errors and 53 block errors. “Our Achilles’ heel is our passing errors,” Carlston said. “We want to be able to put the ball away.”Mauer is determined to make that happen.“The setters kind of run the offense,”Mauer said. “One of my main goals for the rest of the season is putting my hitters in the best situation possible. This past week we couldn’t really get our hitters going.”Ohio State will play Nebraska at St. John Arena at 7 p.m on Wednesday.