FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver traveled to Australia to play in the Aussie Millions Poker Championship. While he was there, he spoke to Fairfax Media about tics, tells and “playing the math.”,FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver traveled to Australia to play in the Aussie Millions Poker Championship. While he was there, he spoke to Fairfax Media about tics, tells and “playing the math.”
Mariano Rivera, the closer extraordinaire who tore his ACL during last season, could reach a new agreement with the New York Yankees before next week’s winter meetings, according to ESPNNewYork.comThe Yankees are “hopeful” for a new deal, the website reported a source familiar with the negotiations indicated.With Andy Pettitte about to sign a new contract for nearly $11 million, the Yankees are aiming to finish Rivera’s new contract soon so they can focus fully on figuring out right field and catcher. Rivera, who turns 43 on Thursday, made $15 million last year. He did not finish the season after tearing ligaments in his right knee in May.Rivera, after some consternation, has already informed Yankees general manager Brian Cashman that he plans on returning. Cashman and Rivera’s agent, Fernando Cuza, have been discussing the parameters of a new deal. Rivera is expected to sign a one-year contract in what could be the final season of his career.At catcher, the Yankees’ first choice is Russell Martin, but thus far the two sides are way apart. The Yankees are willing to give Martin, 29, a multi-year contract to return. A source said that Martin’s initial asking price was four years and $9-10 million per season.A source said Texas, Seattle, Pittsburgh and Boson have all shown interest in Martin. Martin’s agent, Matt Colleran, said Monday that Martin has visited multiple cities to feel out his comfort level. Colleran declined to say which teams.Besides Mike Napoli, whom the Yankees are not in on, the other top catcher on the market is A.J. Piernzynski. He, too, is expected to receive a multiyear deal.Besides catcher, the Yankees also must figure out right field for next season. Nick Swisher is not expected to return. Ichiro Suzuki’s agent told the New York Post that Ichiro’s first choice is to return to the Yankees. Ichiro could be the Yankees’ right fielder with Curtis Granderson and Brett Gardner holding down the other two outfield spots. The Yankees have discussed moving Granderson to left and Gardner to center.In the midst of each of his negotiations, Cashman is trying to restructure the team’s payroll to drop under $189 million by 2014. This has been mandated by owner Hal Steinbrenner to take advantage of opportunities to reduce luxury tax payments in the new collective bargaining agreement.
Once, Black college sports were all the rage. The players with the most talent and creativity went to historically Black colleges and that was that. Then integration hit in the mid-1960s, and slowly but sadly, the Black athlete began to consider it the thing to do by playing somewhere else. Soon, Black colleges saw a drop in star athletes coming to their schools. Soon, the lure of play at a majority college took over and Black colleges were left, in many cases, stagnant and troubled.Talent FledOnce integration hit and coaches at major colleges suppressed their biases, they used the freedom they had to recruit the players they had long admired from afar at Black colleges. They used the inducement of having better training facilities, playing in front of much larger crowds and exposure to the NFL as enticements … and the Black athletes gradually began turning away from historically Black colleges and universities.
Houston Texans12 Kings8220 Kevin Love threw more 50-foot outlet passes than any NBA team Warriors8222 Hawks8218 OAKLAND — For the Cleveland Cavaliers to upset the heavily favored Warriors for the second-straight year, a lot of things will need to fall into place. Their defense, maligned throughout the regular season, will need to perform far better than it has all year. They’ll have to figure out who’s responsible for covering Golden State superstar Kevin Durant. Cleveland also has to get something out of its bench, especially since the Warriors have been a lackluster team when they often choose to rest Durant and Stephen Curry at the same time.But above all else, winning the title may come down to something Cleveland figured out by the end of last year’s NBA Finals: The best way to beat the Dubs is to score on them quickly, before Draymond Green and his teammates can set set their stingy defense.Cleveland was 4-1 in the Finals last year when it managed to post 15 fast-break points or more. The Cavs averaged 20 points in transition in their Finals wins, up from the the 12 points they averaged in Finals losses. And while the Warriors are solid defensively in transition, they’re far less impactful during the first six seconds of the shot clock1They rank 11th out of the NBA’s 30 teams in opponent’s effective field-goal percentage during the first two seconds of the shot clock, and sixth in the league during the four seconds after that. But they rank within the top four of each shot-clock scenario — early (15 to 18 seconds left), average (7 to 15 seconds left), late (4 to 7 seconds left) and very late (0 to 4 seconds left) — after those first six seconds pass.than they are later in a possession, when they have time to ruin offensive sets with their length and versatility. So, short of LeBron James and Kyrie Irving simultaneously going supernova the way they did toward the end of last year’s series, getting early looks will be key for the Cavs.In other words, the Cavaliers’ best offense might be to rely on Kevin Love’s uncanny ability to launch 65-foot passes down the court after each Golden State miss. Seriously.Video Playerhttps://fivethirtyeight.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/loveoutlet_170531_short.mp400:0000:0001:20Use Up/Down Arrow keys to increase or decrease volume.During the regular season, Love successfully threw 24 outlet passes2Defined as a pass someone threw — and that a teammate caught — immediately after grabbing a defensive rebound. that traveled at least 50 feet, according to an analysis run by STATS SportVu data analyst Brittni Donaldson at FiveThirtyEight’s request. To put that into context, that’s more than any individual NBA team had this past season. The number becomes more ridiculous when you consider that Love missed 22 games due mostly to a February knee injury. Includes passes that traveled 20 yards in the air before being caught during 2016-17 NFL and NBA regular seasons. Doesn’t include plays on which a receiver’s run after the catch helped push it past the 20-yard mark.Sources: STATS SportVu, ESPN Stats & Info Bulls8219 Includes any 50-foot pass thrown and completed immediately after a player recorded a defensive rebound during the 2016-17 regular season.Source: STATS SportVU Los Angeles Rams17 TEAM/PLAYERCOMPLETIONS THAT TRAVELED 20 YARDS Kevin Love17 San Francisco 49ers13 Denver Broncos16 To be sure, Love is like any other QB in that he needs to connect on his long pass attempts and avoid turnovers. His attempts can occasionally land in the hands of defenders when he’s off the mark — or in the second row when’s really off the mark. He committed five turnovers while making outlet passes during the course of the regular season, according to a play-by-play analysis run by STATS SportVu.Video Playerhttps://fivethirtyeight.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/loveoutlet8to.mp400:0000:0000:15Use Up/Down Arrow keys to increase or decrease volume.Video Playerhttps://fivethirtyeight.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/loveto2.mp400:0000:0000:09Use Up/Down Arrow keys to increase or decrease volume.Love, in a past interview with The New York Times, said that he honed the skill in part by watching film of Hall of Famer Wes Unseld, an unusually gifted outlet passer who played with Love’s father, Stan, during the 1970s. In the piece, Love said he undergoes a quick mental calculation after grabbing a defensive board, concerning where his teammates are. But the math becomes pretty easy if he sees James running down the floor. “If I see LeBron with any sort of advantage,” he told Times reporter Scott Cacciola, “I’m going to throw it.”If the Cavs are smart, they’ll look down court for more leak-out opportunities in this series. Love is completely comfortable finding James, as they have been the NBA’s top outlet tandem the past couple years. They led the league with 12 connections this year3The next closest pairing, Minnesota’s Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins, had seven., and had a league-best 17 last year, per STATS SportVu. (Love-to-James led NBA tandems with the most long outlet passes, and James-to-Love tied for second place, with seven times.) Love also hit Irving, Smith and ex-teammate DeAndre Liggins with multiple 50-foot outlets this year.Regardless of whether the Cavs are capitalizing on long outlets, however, the more important objective is to run whenever possible. Pushing the pace and finding quick hitters will help the Cavs catch the Warriors off balance — like they did here when Love missed a 3-pointer about four seconds into the shot clock.Video Playerhttps://fivethirtyeight.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/finalsexample3.mp400:0000:0000:15Use Up/Down Arrow keys to increase or decrease volume.The shots won’t go down in every instance. But getting good, clean looks against this Warriors team is hard. And the task only gets harder the longer you wait to break them down. There’s reason to believe Cleveland can make use of this strategy against the Warriors in particular. Love and the Cavs cleaned the defensive glass very well against Golden State during this past regular season, limiting the Warriors to an 19 percent offensive-rebound rate that, over the course of a full campaign, would have ranked near the bottom of the NBA (The Warriors offensive-rebound rate jumped to 27 percent with Love off the court, a figure that would have put Golden State right near the top of the league in the statistic).Because the Warriors take a lot of long jumpers, in some ways they’re more susceptible to two things: Having longer rebounds off the rim and having perimeter defenders several steps closer to the opposing basket. Only seven teams allowed more 50-foot outlet passes than the Warriors this past season.This was on display during Game 7 of the Finals last year. Watch as Cavs swingman J.R. Smith leaks out after briefly challenging Steph Curry’s 3-point try. After a long rebound, LeBron James — who tied for the second-most 50-foot outlet passes in the NBA this year with 11 — in one fluid motion finds Smith racing down the floor for an easy layup.Video Playerhttps://fivethirtyeight.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/finalsexample.mp400:0000:0000:11Use Up/Down Arrow keys to increase or decrease volume.It should go without saying, obviously, that Cleveland needs to do far more than simply push the ball after the Warriors miss. They need to actually force the misses first; a task that becomes a lot tougher now that Durant is in a Warriors uniform. And it’s unclear yet whether Love will be good enough defensively, particularly against Golden State’s quickest and best shooting groups, to be on the court as much as he’d otherwise be.Beyond that, Love’s ability to find open receivers streaking down the court makes him the NBA’s answer to an NFL quarterback. In fact, when it comes to connecting on long passes, he was better than several actual NFL quarterbacks this season. Love’s 17 “completions” that traveled 20 or more yards in the air were more than five NFL teams across a 16-game season (the sad-sack Cleveland Browns across town were not in this group — barely). Kevin Love completed more 20-yard throws than some NFL teams Kevin Love6024 Jacksonville Jaguars13 Baltimore Ravens13 TEAM/PLAYERGAMES PLAYED50-FT OUTLET PASSES COMPLETED
Things That Caught My EyeUnpatriotic defenseThe Patriots offense has been great, as usual, but their defense is on pace to be the worst NFL defense since 2006. Looking at expected points added (EPA) per game, the Patriots have been coughing up 12.2 points per game and allowing an average 116.5 passer rating. [FiveThirtyEight]Lynx v. Sparks, Part II: Revenge of the LynxPrior to Wednesday, both the Lynx and Sparks scored exactly 908 points in their past 12 games — going back to the start of last year’s finals. The Lynx had won five and the Sparks seven, including last year’s title. But Minnesota won the latest round of this intense rivalry with a 85-76 victory over Los Angeles to win the Game 5 championship of the WNBA finals and seal their fourth title in seven years. [ESPN]Hockey has started!Dom Luszczyszyn over at The Athletic ran a massive fan poll to determine what NHL fans thought about the forthcoming season. Based on the wisdom of the crowds, Pittsburgh’s favored by 16 percent of respondents to repeat, followed by the Nashville Predators (11 percent chance to win), Washington Capitals (10 percent) and Tampa Bay Lightning (10 percent). [The Athletic]Dak could use a raiseCowboys quarterback Dak Prescott, who is still on his rookie contract, is making $540,000 in 2017. For prospective, Matthew Stafford of the Lions makes Dak’s entire salary in 10 game minutes, Mike Glennon of the Bears’ bench made it in 32 minutes of game, and Jay Cutler of Miami took only about 52 minutes of game time to make Dakbucks. [ESPN]Bring your child to work day gets a little too real in CalgaryJaromir Jagr, the 45-year-old who’s the second all-time point scorer in NHL history, signed a one-year contract with the Calgary Flames for $1 million and another million in bonuses. Jagr will be playing alongside the son of a player he was drafted alongside in 1990, and 10 team members were not born when Jagr won the Stanley Cup in 1991. [SportsNet Canada]Cleveland has hope again, ughThe MLB postseason is underway, with the Yankees defeating the Twins and the Diamondbacks defeating the Rockies in the wild card games. Cleveland is most favored to win the World Series — we give them a 26 percent chance of doing so — followed by the Dodgers, Astros and Nationals. [FiveThirtyEight]Big Number6 NBA ChimerasOnly six teams in the past 25 seasons have had three players with at least 25 percent usage over the course of the season: the 2016-17 Warriors, 2016-17 Cavaliers, 2008-09 Mavericks, 2007-08 Spurs, 2001-02 Bucks and 1999-2000 Bucks. This year between Jimmy Butler, Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins, the Minnesota Timberwolves may very well join that club. [FiveThirtyEight]Leaks from Slackwalt:Want that 400 word Post about my Jets Browns bet for Friday? Can file tomorrowgfoster:Yeah for sure. Does the Jets being half decent screw it up? I guess not…walt:Nahwalt:They’re also half not decentPredictions MLB Oh, and don’t forgetWatch the most delightful man in New York — with correct feelings about the Eagles — crush it at Jeopardy See more MLB predictions See more NFL predictions NFL We’re launching a sports newsletter. 🏆 Join the squad. Subscribe All newsletters
Mariners71-91Robinson Cano2014-23240.0 Losing teams are often willing to payLargest contracts signed in MLB history Machado’s deal exceeded many expectations. On the eve of free agency in November, the FanGraphs crowd predicted a deal of 8.6 years on average at $273 million for Machado. In January, when asked again, the crowd’s prediction fell to 7.9 years and $233 million, a 15 percent drop in dollars.Padres chairman Ron Fowler is now a big-spending outlier for a second straight offseason. The Machado deal comes almost exactly a year after the Padres signed Eric Hosmer to an eight-year, $144 million deal. (The Padres hope for far more than Hosmer’s replacement-level, -0.1 WAR debut season, according to the FanGraphs metric.) And like Hosmer, Machado could have some of his offensive numbers decline by playing in what is typically a pitcher’s park.The Padres did figure to have some financial flexibility, finishing last season ranked 22nd in payroll. Machado’s record deal should pause the offseason talk of tanking and collusion at least for a few news cycles.The Padres are trying to compete with the Dodgers, who appear set for sustained success in the NL West. They now indisputably have what they tried to purchase last year with Hosmer: a centerpiece to build a lineup around. While Machado can hit for power, hit for average and capably play the field, he’s not one for sprinting. Much was made of Machado’s lack of urgency last postseason, when he said hustling is not his “cup of tea” after appearing to not run out a ground ball in Game 2 of the NLCS at Milwaukee:Some speculated that his lack of hustle could cost him in free agency. But $300 million later, that thinking seems misguided. And there’s reason to believe the lack of hustle is not a recent development or much of a major concern as it relates to his overall value.In 2017, Statcast began measuring a metric called “sprint speed,” which consists of two measurements: home-to-first times on weakly hit ground balls and speed when advancing two or more bases (except for instances when a runner was on second base at the time of an extra-base hit). Tigers95-67Prince Fielder2012-20214.0 Reds90-72Joey Votto2014-23225.0 Angels85-77Albert Pujols2012-21240.0 Signing ClubPrev. season recordPlayerYearsGuaranteed dollars Red Sox78-84David Price2016-22217.0 Source: Cot’s Baseball Contracts Rangers71-91Alex Rodriguez2001-10252.0 Machado’s top speed, 26.3 feet per second, was the same in each of the past two seasons and up slightly from 2016 (26.1 second). Machado averaged 27.4 seconds in 2015, the first year Statcast cameras tracked player movement. His sprint speed split times, including his initial burst — his first 5 feet (0.55 seconds) — were also the same in each of the past two seasons.One debate entering this offseason was whether Harper or Machado was the better free-agent bet. But what Machado offers that Harper does not, in addition to consistency, is the ability to play on the left side of the infield.After playing shortstop last season, when he was the third-worst defensive shortstop in the game, Machado figures to transition with San Diego back to third base, where he has been elite. Machado has ranked as above average in defensive runs saved in every year he has played third. He was second in baseball in defensive runs saved in 2013 (35), trailing only Andrelton Simmons. He won Gold Glove awards at third in 2013 and 2015.The Padres made a big push late in the offseason to sign one of the best free agents of all time. And even it at record dollar amount, it will be worth the cost if it coincides with the young Padres coming of age. Marlins75-85Giancarlo Stanton2015-27325.0 Tigers74-87Miguel Cabrera2016-23248.0 Yankees94-68Alex Rodriguez2008-17275.0 The San Diego Padres may have surprised some on Tuesday when they reached a record-setting agreement with Manny Machado — ending a lengthy wait for a star free agent — but the match is an ideal fit for the club and player. Machado will receive the biggest deal ever for a free agent, while a club that is traditionally not a big spender and hasn’t reached the postseason since 2006 will add an in-his-prime, superstar-level player to play alongside one of the most enviable collections of young talent in the sport.Machado’s overall production and youth make him one of the most appealing free agents in baseball history. The former Oriole and Dodger has produced the 26th most wins above replacement among position players through age 25 in baseball history (33.8), according to Baseball-Reference.com. For comparison, fellow 26-year-old free agent Bryce Harper is 41st (27.4). And of those players ranked ahead of him, Alex Rodriguez was the last player who was younger when he entered the open market — coming off his age 24 season in signing with the Texas Rangers in 2001.In signing for a reported $300 million over 10 years, Machado will break Rodriguez’s 11-year-old record ($275 million) for a free-agent contract set in 2008, his second mega-contract.1Giancarlo Stanton’s $325 million, 13-year contract extension with the Marlins was the largest deal overall. The deal is also the largest free-agent pact in North American pro sports history. Machado’s agreement includes an opt out in the fifth year.As the Rangers and Rodriguez did with his first free-agent deal, the Padres and Machado prove that not all major contracts are signed by clubs coming off winning seasons, looking for an extra push to get them a title. The Padres recorded 96 losses a year ago and were projected by FiveThirtyEight entering Tuesday to win 73 games this season.Of the 12 previous contracts exceeding $200 million in baseball history, six were awarded to players by teams with losing records the previous season: Giancarlo Stanton (contract extension) with the Marlins in 2015, Rodriguez with the Rangers in 2001, Robinson Cano with the Mariners in 2014, David Price with the Red Sox in 2016, Miguel Cabrera with the Tigers in 2016 (contract extension) and Zack Greinke with the Diamondbacks in 2016. Only Greinke and Price have reached the playoffs with their signing teams, and the Padres are in a much stronger position than any of those clubs. Padres66-96Manny Machado2019-28300.0 Nationals96-66Max Scherzer2015-21$210.0m Dodgers92-70Clayton Kershaw2014-20215.0 San Diego has Baseball America’s top-rated farm system, including consensus top-five prospect Fernando Tatis Jr., who figures to slot in at shortstop next to Machado in the not-too-distant future. The Padres have a number of other potential future stars and contributors in prospects like Mackenzie Gore (pitcher), Luis Urias (middle infield), Francisco Mejia (catcher), Adrian Morejon (pitcher), Chris Paddack (pitcher) and Luis Patino (pitcher).And if Machado makes good or exceeds his 5-WAR forecast for the coming season, perhaps he can help the Padres creep into the postseason picture even sooner. Machado has produced at least 5.7 WAR in four out of his past five full seasons2He put up 2.3 WAR in his injury-shortened 2014. and has played in at least 156 games five times since 2013. The four-time All-Star has averaged 31 home runs per 162 games and has won two Gold Glove awards at third base.Baseball America editor J.J. Cooper speculates that the Padres could further accelerate their timetable by trading for veteran pitching: Diamondbacks79-83Zack Greinke2016-21206.5
Ohio State football coach Urban Meyer is calling the competition for the Buckeyes’ starting right tackle job a “battle,” but that word seems too strong when you hear the players involved discuss the matter. Senior tight end-turned-lineman Reid Fragel is opposed in his pursuit of the starting position by freshman Taylor Decker. Fragel said he doesn’t begrudge Decker for opposing him, nor does Decker wish to supplant the Buckeyes’ three-time letter-winner in cold blood. Quite the opposite – they’re supporting each other in the competition and both players said they plan to keep it that way during OSU football’s annual media day Sunday at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center. Meyer said he isn’t satisfied with either players’ performance so far and noted their position as one of the weaker ones on the entire team, as well as one of few ongoing position battles. “One guy is learning how to play (the position) and one guy is a freshman,” Meyer said during OSU’s media day. “They’re trying hard. They’re talented guys. They’re great people, but our production at right tackle isn’t where it needs to be.” For Fragel’s part in the bout at the right tackle, he volunteered to change positions after Meyer was hired for OSU’s coaching job in November. “I knew when coach Meyer came in, his offensive philosophy was different from (former OSU coach Jim) Tressel,” Fragel said. “Being a pro-style tight end, I knew I couldn’t fit in as a spread tight end. I also knew I had some blocking ability and size to work with.” For his offer to switch positions – an act some might consider selfless and for OSU’s betterment – Fragel was rewarded with a fight for playing time with Decker, a 6-foot-10, 310-pound first-year player from Vandalia, Ohio. The players have formed a bond through their competition, though – Decker even disclaims every positive remark about himself with an equally positive nod to the elder linesman he is fighting for playing time against. “I feel like I know that offense really well, not that Reid doesn’t. Reid knows the offense really well,” Decker said. “I try to study well and come off the ball hard, and, I mean, Reid does those things well also.” Fragel, who pulled in five catches for 64 yards in 13 games during the 2011 season, agreed with Decker, saying “whatever” to anyone that thinks of the players’ competition as a battle. In fact, Decker is routinely aided by Fragel in practice – some battle, indeed. “We don’t avoid each other or anything like that,” Fragel said of their off-field relationship. “It’s not like two gunslingers walking past each other. I definitely try to help him out.” It seems unlikely this friendly competition will end in the kind of football training camp brawls that receive national attention this time every year. By the end of camp, one player will be slated to see significantly more time on the Ohio Stadium turf than the other. Both players appear happy to defer to the other, though, and Fragel said it’s what’s best for the team. “At the end of the day, Taylor’s a great player,” he said, “and the way it should be in any system is the better player will play.” You might say Decker agreed with Fragel, but you could also argue “agreed” isn’t strong enough verbiage in the same way “battle” doesn’t accurately describe the players’ competition. “Reid’s a great player. He’s obviously a tremendous athlete, being a tight end and everything,” Decker said. “I would love to be able to play… but I love (Fragel).” OSU opens the 2012 season Sept. 1 against Miami (Ohio). The game is scheduled for a noon kickoff at the Horseshoe.
Courtesy Walt Middleton Photography / provided by OSU athletic departmentThe top-ranked Ohio State rowing team made history Sunday morning at Eagle Creek Park in Indianapolis, becoming the first team to win an NCAA title in program history.First-place finishes in both the first varsity four and second varsity eight as well as a third-place finish in the first varsity eight left the Buckeyes with 126 points, two better than runner-up California.The win makes OSU the first Big Ten team to win an NCAA team title in rowing.“It’s hard to put into words what it means to win a national championship,” said OSU coach Andy Teitelbaum, in a press release. “The NCAA Championship is a tremendous regatta every year. To be able to walk out of here with the NCAA Championship is unbelievably gratifying and really speaks to the athletes who’ve had a great year.”The Buckeyes’ first varsity four started the day by winning its second consecutive NCAA title. The squad of Taylore Urban, Sara Handa, Chloe Meyer, Aina Cid-Centelles and coxswain Dara Schnoll crossed the finish line in a time of 7:08.26, just ahead of USC (7:11.02) and Washington (7:12.03).OSU’s second varsity eight was next in line to race, finishing with a time of 6:27.86, ahead of California (6:29.89) and Brown (6:30.14). The crew of Daphne Socha, Katie Beletskaya, Silvia De Matteis, Stephanie Johnson, Nicole Becks, Lauren Eckles, Samantha Fowle, Catherine Shields and coxswain Amanda Poll earned its first ever NCAA Championship with the victory, closing out the season with a perfect 12-0 record.The first varsity eight boat of Katie King, Cori Meinert, Eelkje Miedema, Ashley Bauer, Meghan Birkbeck, Allison Elber, Holly Norton, Claire-Louise Bode and coxswain Victoria Lazur placed third in its final competition of the season with a time of 6:23.19. California (6:23.19) and Princeton (6.22.59) finished the competition in first and second, respectively.In women’s sports, Ohio State has only seen championship wins in pistol and synchronized swimming, which are not NCAA sports, making this the school’s first women’s NCAA Championship victory.
Freshman attackman JT Blublaugh (9) looks for an open teammate during a game against Robert Morris Feb. 1 at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center. OSU won, 11-7.Credit: Ryan Robey / For The LanternWith the preseason wrapping up and the regular season set to get underway, the No. 9 Ohio State men’s lacrosse team faces a stiff test right off the bat.The Buckeyes are set to travel to Baltimore Sunday to take on No. 13 Johns Hopkins to start their season and ECAC title defense.The Johns Hopkins Blue Jays are looking to start the 2014 season with a signature win after a year where they failed to make the NCAA tournament for the first time in 42 years, the longest active streak of any Division I team in any sport.However, OSU coach Nick Myers said he knows traveling to Homewood Field is not an easy task, and the Buckeyes are going to have to be ready from the first faceoff.“Our kids are going to go in there and know that there’s a great challenge that lies ahead,” Myers said. “For us, right now in February, we know there’s still a lot to work on … we’re hoping we can settle into the game and play 60 minutes of Buckeye lacrosse.”The Blue Jays are returning one of the nation’s most prolific offenses — finishing tied for No. 14 for in the nation with 11.5 goals per game in 2013 — centered around junior attackman Wells Stanwick and senior attackman Brandon Benn.Stanwick, a 2013 Honorable Mention USILA All-American, led Johns Hopkins in points last season with 47 while Benn led the Blue Jays in goals with 34.OSU senior defenseman Joe Meurer said the key to containing the potent Blue Jays offense is sticking to the fundamentals.“It’s just sticking to our keys … having a lot of good communication, good sliding and playing good off-ball defense,” Meurer said. “I think everything will fall into place for us.”OSU features a balanced squad led by two preseason first-team All-Americans in Meurer and junior midfielder Jesse King. King is the Buckeyes’ leading returning scorer after totaling 55 points for the 2013 squad that won the ECAC tournament championship.The Buckeyes’ preseason schedule leading up to Johns Hopkins consisted of three exhibition games against Hill Academy, Navy and Robert Morris. OSU went 2-1 in the three contests, with their only loss coming at the hands of Navy, 15-11, Jan. 25.Meurer said the exhibition games were important for the Buckeyes to get time on the field against real opponents.“It helps us identify a lot of our weaknesses and what we need to work on,” Meurer said. “We were playing really good talent in Navy and Robert Morris, so we definitely gained good experience from the games.”Senior defenseman Darius Bowling said the key for the Buckeyes Sunday is to continue to play at the level they are capable of and not let Johns Hopkins control the game.“I think it’s just playing within ourselves,” Bowling said. “We’ve got to stick to our scheme, trust each other, and trust what we’ve been doing all fall and through the preseason.”Sophomore attackman Carter Brown, who missed all three exhibition games for an undisclosed reason, practiced this week for the Buckeyes and Myers is hopeful he is able to take the field Sunday.“We liked seeing him on the practice field for the first time,” Myers said. “Right now, it’s a wait and see, but it’s certainly nice to have him back.”Game time is set for Sunday at 11:30 a.m.