In his day, former NFL linebacker Bill Romanowski did some pretty volatile and nasty stuff, like spiting in J.J. Stokes’ face and viciously beating up a teammate. But he made it clear he did not threaten to end former receiver Cris Carter’s career, as the former wide receiver claimed on Tuesday.“It is absolute fiction,” Romanowski said on the Dan Patrick Show Wednesday. “If he could read my mind in pre-game, yeah, maybe he had it right. But I didn’t talk before games. I was in the zone.”On ESPN radio’s Hill and Schlereth show, Carter said he had approached his offensive lineman to offer a bounty on opposing players, including Romanowski, who he said told him, “Carter, I’m gonna end your career” during pregame when he played for Minnesota and Romo for Denver.“I’m guilty of it,” Carter said. “It’s the first time I’ve ever admitted it, but I put a bounty on guys before. And the guys tried to take me out, a guy tried to take a cheap shot on me, I put a bounty on him, right now.”Said Romanowski: “If he put a bounty on me, it wasn’t very good because it didn’t work,” Romanowski said. “I just think this is his way of trying to make himself relevant for what is going on now.”
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Usain Bolt is known for his lightening speed and gold medals, but very rarely is he recognized for his charitable donations to the community; thus, Bolt has made to two big contributions to the British community.He donated a pair of autographed running spikes to nine-year-old Matthew Smith, who is a cancer victim that had to have his leg amputated in April. Smith is currently learning adjusting to using a prosthetic limb, which he is hopeful that the limb will allow him to return the soccer field and play for Brislington Juniors FC in Bristol.The Olympic champion in the 100 and 200 meters, heard about Smith’s situation from his cousin Vinette Jones. Jones with Smith’s soccer coach.“I think the story really struck a chord with him,” Jones said. “Usain is a very quick runner so he thought about what it would like for him to lose a leg.”Bolt’s mother, Jennifer, presented the signed spikes to the family before flying to Jamaica after the London Olympics.The Smith family was shocked and thankful for Bolt’s gratitude.“Having Usain Bolt’s mum come and present Matthew with a signed pair of his spikes was brilliant,” said his father, Colin. “Matthew really appreciated it and couldn’t believe that one of the biggest superstars in the world had done that for him.”The family has placed the shoes on eBay and hope to raise $1,300 to help go towards medical expenses.Bolt did not just stop his charitable ways with the Smith family, but he recently helped out Great Britain’s Mel Edwards.Edwards, 69, was a reserve for the Great Britain marathon team in 1968 Mexico Olympic Games, was diagnosed six years ago with multiple myeloma and bone marrow cancer.Edwards was able to get Bolt to autograph one of his Jamaican international running tops for his cancer charity. He understands how rare of an opportunity this for his charity.“He only signs three or four vests each year for charitable purposes so I am delighted he has decided to choose my charity,” Edwards said.The top will be auctioned off on Nov. 8 at London’s Dorchester Hotel at a gala dinner for Myeloma UK charity.
2010-188.8.131.52 SeasonDVOAPYTHagorean WINSESTimated WINSActual WINS The 21st century has not been good to BuffaloThe Bills’ past 18 seasons by Defense-adjusted Value Over Average, Pythagorean wins and estimated wins 2012-184.108.40.206 2001-22.03.94.23 2017-220.127.116.11 2007-5.04.98.07 2003-7.36.87.06 20161.08.57.47 Source: Football Outsiders 20000.67.07.38 2013-18.104.22.168 2002-8.07.57.18 2005-22.214.171.124 2008-126.96.36.199 201410.59.69.09 After the “Music City Miracle” knocked the 1999 Buffalo Bills out of the postseason, Bills fans suffered through the longest playoff drought in American professional sports. But with only a few hours left in 2017, the streak came to a glorious end. After beating Miami on Sunday, Buffalo desperately needed Cincinnati to eliminate Baltimore, and Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton complied — finding Tyler Boyd for a game-winning touchdown on 4th-and-12 in the final minute. The play sent the Bills locker room into hysterics, while fans back home braved bitterly cold weather past midnight on New Year’s Eve to greet the team plane at the airport.New head coach Sean McDermott has led the franchise out of the regular-season desert, but there’s an irony to his triumph: This Bills squad is actually worse than many of those that failed to make the playoffs since that 1999 season. There are Bills fans old enough to buy beer who can’t remember what a Bills playoff team looks like — but even they ought to be able to tell that this squad is something less than one of the 12 best teams in the NFL.“You are what your record says you are,” Hall of Fame coach Bill Parcells famously asserted. But ESPN’s Brian Burke estimates that randomness accounts for about 42 percent of NFL outcomes, and the NFL’s playoff structure builds in even more inequity. The 2008 New England Patriots won 11 games but missed the playoffs, while the 2014 Carolina Panthers got in with a 7-8-1 record.This year’s Bills team finished 9-7, but based on Football Outsiders’ estimated wins and Pythagorean wins metrics,1Per Football Outsiders, Pythagorean wins are based on pure point differential, while estimated wins use a “Forest Index” to emphasize consistency and performance in high-leverage situations. it only earned 6.8 and 6.3 wins, respectively. Put another way, an NFL team that gets outscored by 57 points on the year (as the Bills did) mathematically ought to win about six or seven games.But it’s not just about wins. Pick a metric of team strength, and the Bills are typically at or below the median: 21st in scoring differential, 15th in FiveThirtyEight’s Elo ratings, 23rd in Simple Rating System,2Pro Football Reference’s Simple Rating System is derived from scoring differential and strength of schedule. 21st in Defense-adjusted Value Over Average.3Football Outsiders’ DVOA metric breaks down every NFL play and determines its value when compared to a league baseline based on situation (i.e., down and distance, field position, score).These Bills don’t stack up well against the 17 iterations that came before them, either: The best Bills team since 1999 was the 9-7 2004 squad. At 31.3 percent better than average, it was the NFL’s No. 3 team by overall DVOA. Buffalo’s defense, led by Pro Bowlers Takeo Spikes and Nate Clements, ranked No. 1. The team’s 12.4 estimated wins and 11.1 Pythagorean wins show they were actually much stronger than what their record said.The 2004 Bills lost their first four games, three by a combined margin of just 8 points and the other a 31-17 loss to the (eventual Super Bowl champion) New England Patriots. They then went 9-2 over their next 11 games, including a six-game win streak during which they outscored their opponents 228-89. Needing one last win to secure a playoff berth, they tripped up against a Pittsburgh Steelers team resting some of its starters. Football Outsiders deemed the 2004 Bills the best team to miss the playoffs since 1986 — as far back as its data goes.Despite racking up the same number of real-world wins, 2017’s Bills are a whopping 41.1 percentage points worse in DVOA. They also produced 5.6 fewer estimated wins and 4.8 fewer Pythagorean wins. Remember that 42 percent randomness? That this year’s Bills got to the same 9-7 record as the 2004 team suggests these two squads approached the upper and lower bounds of “lucky” and “unlucky” NFL results.The 2017 Bills aren’t the best Bills team since 1999, or anywhere close — they’re actually no better than seventh-worst in any of these metrics. Outside of running the ball with LeSean McCoy, these Bills don’t do anything well: They’re 29th in offensive yardage and 26th in yardage on defense. They keep their heads above water with a per-drive turnover rate that’s a little higher on defense (13.1 percent, 10th-best) than offense (8.9 percent, eighth-worst).2012 is the most recent year the Bills weren’t better across the board than they are now — and that group went 6-10.None of this can take away the joy Bills fans everywhere felt when the Ravens’ Week 17 collapse handed their team a wild-card berth, of course. But there’s a reason the Bills organization sent the Cincinnati Bengals thank-yous: This trip to the postseason was much more about being lucky than good.Check out our latest NFL predictions. 2006-2.17.78.07 2009-10.45.96.66 20188.8.131.52 2011-184.108.40.206 200431.3%11.112.49
PosPlayerWARPlayerWARPlayerWARPlayerWAR Only three teams in our sample — the 1977 and 1982 Toronto Blue Jays and the 1980 Oakland Athletics — had lower established WAR levels for their starting lineups on Opening Day than the Orioles will have this season. CCerone-0.2Heath-0.3Whitt+0.4Sisco+0.1 SSTorres+0.3Guerrero-0.3Griffin-1.1Martin+0.0 The 2018 Baltimore Orioles were so bad that we questioned whether they belonged in the major leagues at all. They were our runaway pick for worst pro team of the year, going far beyond the many wannabe Astros and Cubs who’ve jumped on the tanking fad in recent seasons.Amazingly, things might get even worse this year. Since the middle of last season, Baltimore has traded away established veterans Manny Machado, Jonathan Schoop, Zach Britton, Kevin Gausman, Darren O’Day and Brad Brach, and watched as others such as Tim Beckham, Caleb Joseph and Adam Jones departed in free agency as well. Now there are only three remaining members of the Orioles’ lineup with even two years of MLB service time heading into 2019: Jonathan Villar, Trey Mancini — both average players at best — and Chris Davis, who had arguably the worst individual season in MLB history in 2018 when he hit .168 (in 470 at-bats!) with a .539 on-base plus slugging and -2.9 wins above replacement (WAR).1According to our usual 50-50 blend between the WAR versions found at Baseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs. Davis’ untradeable contract means the Orioles are stuck with him, so they’ll pencil his name in on opening day no matter how bad he was last season.And those are the guys in the starting lineup who can be remotely labeled as household names. The rest is filled out with either youngish players who are past “prospect” status or journeymen plucked off the scrap heap. Taken as a whole, the 2019 Orioles’ roster basically recalls this scene from “Major League”:(No word on whether Baltimore owner Peter Angelos secretly built this team of cast-offs so he can move the team to Miami.)There have been a few teams who went into a season with less apparent talent than Baltimore — but not many. Using Baseball-Reference.com, we gathered data for each American League team’s opening day lineup since 1973 (to include every team who used the designated hitter full-time) and calculated those players’ established WAR track records going into the season.2To find a player’s established level of performance, we multiplied his WAR from the previous season by three, doubled his WAR from two seasons before and added it on, then added his WAR from three seasons before, and divided by six. This is an old Bill James invention for roughly projecting how much you can expect out of a player (in any given stat) based on the previous three years of performance. The track records for these Orioles — to the extent they have track records at all — place the team at or near the low-water mark at each position relative to all other AL opening day starting lineups since 1973: CFWoods-0.1Murphy+0.7Moseby+0.5Mullins-0.1 LFScott+0.0Henderson-0.4Woods+0.6Mancini+0.6 1977 Blue Jays1980 Athletics1982 Blue Jays2019 Orioles Baltimore’s place among the worst opening day lineupsAmong American League teams since 1973, the four worst opening day lineups according to the sum of players’ established wins above replacement (WAR) levels DHVelez+0.7Essian+1.6Mayberry+1.8Santander-0.2 2BGarcia-0.6Picciolo-0.8Garcia-0.2Villar+1.8 RFBowling-0.1Armas+0.3Barfield+0.7Hays+0.0 Total-0.5+1.4+1.8+2.1 1BAult+0.0Newman+0.7Upshaw-0.4Davis-1.0 3BMcKay-0.5Klutts-0.1Mulliniks-0.3Nunez+0.9 Established level is calculated as a weighted average of WAR from the previous three seasons.Sources: Baseball-Reference.com, FanGraphs One of those teams, the ’77 Jays, was an expansion club that won just 54 games. But the two others finished around .500, meaning there are limitations to predicting off a lineup’s previous MLB track records. Of course pitchers can come to the rescue, as they did for Toronto in 1982 (led by the underappreciated Dave Stieb). Also, young players can emerge in dramatic breakout fashion: Rickey Henderson had done little as a rookie for the 1979 A’s before erupting for 8.3 WAR in 1980, for instance.But it’s tough to find the next Stieb or Henderson waiting in the wings to save Baltimore this year. De facto staff ace Dylan Bundy had a 5.45 earned run average last season, while the top prospect in the Orioles system, outfielder Yusniel Diaz, is starting the year in the minors and probably won’t be a full-time contributor until 2020. Among those actually in this lineup on opening day, outfielders Cedric Mullins and Austin Hays and catcher Chance Cisco probably have the best breakout potential. In fact, FanGraphs currently projects Mullins for a team-best 1.8 WAR, thanks to a combination of power and speed that could make him one of the few Orioles worth watching this season.New Orioles general manager Mike Elias told BaltimoreBaseball.com earlier this month that he wants the rebuild to go quickly: “This team finished last last year with a bad record,” he said. “I want to get out of that phase as quickly as possible, and so every decision that we’re going to make is going to be towards accelerating our advancement to be a playoff-caliber team again. I see no reason to stretch that out, drag it out beyond what we have to.”For now, though, this Baltimore lineup looks like it will battle the Miami Marlins for the saddest collection of mediocre veterans and anonymous prospects in the game. In each case, you’ve probably never heard of half of these guys, and the ones you do know are way past their prime. (Or never had a prime.) We’ll just have to see if this ragtag group can rally together and win the pennant anyway — or more realistically, rally to avoid 115 losses this time around.
Browns coach Mike Pettine acknowledges fans after the Browns’ 26-24 victory over the New Orleans Saints on Sept. 14 in Cleveland.Credit: Courtesy of TNSBeing a Cleveland Browns fan means that Sunday afternoons in the fall have great opportunity to be a day filled of letdown, gloominess and disappointment. Frankly, this has been the case five out of the last six weeks.What may be the worst part of this expanse is the fact that the Browns have lost four of these games in the second half after having a solid lead or on the last play of the game. Here a few examples from this current season: Sept. 27 – The Browns hosted the Oakland Raiders, in which Cleveland had played a hardfought game. Quarterback Josh McCown performed well with 341 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. The Browns rallied from behind to score a field goal and a touchdown with six minutes left in the game. Driving one last time, Cleveland had the ball on Oakland’s 35-yard line with 43 seconds left on the clock. McCown tried to connect a deep pass to wide receiver Travis Benjamin for a potential game-tying score, but veteran safety Charles Woodson intercepted the ball, killing the drive and thus ending the game.Oct. 4 – Cleveland traveled to the West Coast to face the San Diego Chargers. Out of all the games listed, I think this one wins the title of biggest disappointment. Another solid game from McCown and the entire team kept the Browns close in all four quarters. Under the five minute mark, Cleveland engineered a late touchdown drive, then converted on the two-point conversion to knot the game at 27. The Chargers stormed quickly down the field in response, setting an opportunity to kick a game-winning field goal. The first attempt went sailing as time expired but the ball clanked off the post. The field goal was no good. However, an offside penalty on the Browns essentially gave the Chargers’ kicking unit a redo, which it sent through the heart of the uprights.Oct. 18 – The Denver Broncos — undefeated and led by future hall of fame quarterback Peyton Manning — made their way to the banks of Lake Erie for a visit to an electric First Energy Stadium. Cleveland was coming off a win over its rival Baltimore in thrilling fashion — storming back in the second half and eventually connecting on game-winning field goal in overtime. (It’s crazy how the Browns can be on the bright side for once). Now, back against the Broncos, the Browns’ defense had quite the game, forcing three interceptions. This enabled the offense — despite the lackluster performance — to hang on in yet another tight game. Forcing overtime for a second straight week, Cleveland had backed the Broncos into a corner by intercepting the ball and having incredible field position. On par to what the season had been thus far, the Browns offense had a brain-fart, stalling out and eventually punting to give the Broncos the ball back. As the clock in overtime continued to dwindle down, Manning and the Broncos rallied, generating an impressive drive to only end the game on a 34-yard field goal. The Browns had their opportunities but they fell through their grasp.Nov. 1 – This past week, Arizona arrived in town. Cleveland got off to sluggish start before putting on an offensive clinic in the first half. McCown connected with tight end Gary Barnidge — who appears to now be McCown’s go-to man — for a touchdown, followed by a pair of connections with former Ohio State Buckeye Brian Hartline for two scores to give the Browns a 20-10 lead heading into the locker rooms at halftime. The momentum ceased to continue in the second frame though, as the defense struggled to pressure Cardinals’ signal-caller Carson Palmer, which allowed the 13-year NFL veteran to surgically dissect the Browns defense through the air. To no one’s surprise, the offense then stalled. Though the end result was not close, the first half sure gave fans a false hope for the rest of the game. But, in typical fashion, fans were left shaking their heads as another ‘L’ was added to the Browns’ record.What is by far the most painstaking element, and the utmost epitome of Cleveland Browns football is the fact that the team consistently loses games it has been a contender in. The past few seasons are great examples, in which the final record in no way represents how the season actually went.The Browns are on the verge of something good — a winning season, a playoff berth perhaps. The games this season reflect such a bold statement. One positive season is on the way, loyal Browns fans. I feel it.But it cannot come with a quarterback struggle and rearranging of coaches and front office personnel. It is difficult to give hope for a team that is a laughingstock of a league, but know that when these games are close, they are signs that there is success on its way.
Will Terrelle Pryor’s injury return the offense to ‘Tresselball?’ Following Pryor’s left quadriceps strain and his subsequent exit from the Illinois game, OSU reverted back to the offense featured during most of 2009: a heavy dose of the running game. Coach Jim Tressel said Pryor “will be fine” and should be near 100 percent in practice. As Pryor heals, expect Tressel to tone down the zone-reads and bootlegs and install more short passes and traditional hand-offs to the running backs. Even if Pryor is completely healthy come Saturday, presume OSU will dial back the offense a tad. Is it time for another Jeannette, Pa., native to shine? OSU’s running back situation is pretty transparent. Dan Herron is a solid but unspectacular between-the-tackles runner. Although Brandon Saine has tremendous straight-ahead speed, he has difficulty cutting quickly and moving laterally. Jordan Hall’s numbers aren’t mind-blowing (72 yards on 13 carries), but Pryor’s high school teammate has shown shiftiness and ability to burst through the hole and has some calling for him to see more playing time. Despite saying he is a “Jordan Hall fan” and has “1 million percent faith” in the sophomore, Tressel gave the vibe that “Boom” and “Zoom” would continue to share most of the carries. Can Christian Bryant fill Tyler Moeller’s shoes? With Moeller out for the season with a torn pectoral muscle, Tressel said the defense will most likely proceed with Bryant as the starter at the “star” position. Bryant “got a good baptism Saturday and he’s going to get immersed [this Saturday],” Tressel said. The former Cleveland-Glenville star played every offensive-skill position in high school in addition to being an All-Ohio defender while playing both cornerback and safety. That versatility, in addition to his football savvy, has ignited his rise up the depth chart. Will the high-powered Hoosier attack exploit the banged-up Buckeye secondary? In last Saturday’s loss to Michigan, Indiana senior quarterback Ben Chappell set school records with 45 completions, 64 attempts and 480 passing yards. He’s posted eight straight multi-touchdown games and leads the Big Ten with 342.5 passing yards per game. Junior wide receiver Tandon Doss leads the Big Ten with almost 108 yards a game receiving and is second in the conference in receptions with nearly eight per contest. As a unit, the Hoosier pass offense ranks No. 4 in the nation. Although the OSU defense ranks No. 1 in the Big Ten in pass defense, allowing about 161 yards per game, aside from Miami, it hasn’t faced as diverse a passing attack as it will see Saturday against IU. OSU has also lost two of its normal starters, Moeller and C.J. Barnett, to season-ending injuries. Will the Buckeyes be caught looking ahead to their Oct. 16 showdown in Camp Randall against Wisconsin? OSU’s first big road test was supposed to come next Saturday against Wisconsin, but instead it came last Saturday against the Illini. Tressel said that game was a bit of a reality check for some players. “I think the fact that we played a Big Ten game and our guys see the difference between the non-conference and the Big Ten was great for us,” Tressel said. “We didn’t play our best and our guys would like to get to the point where we play our best, so I think they’ll be ready to go.” Although Wisconsin lost its first game of the season Saturday at Michigan State, the showdown a week from Saturday could go a long way in determining the winner of the Big Ten.
Ohio State football (3-1) is just days away from opening Big Ten play against the Michigan State Spartans (3-1). First-year head coach Luke Fickell discussed freshman quarterback Braxton Miller’s Saturday performance against Colorado at a Tuesday press conference. Fickell might have also issued a veiled challenge to OSU students to ratchet up the noise level for the Buckeyes’ remaining games. No more “or” The latest OSU depth chart, released to the media on Tuesday, now shows only freshman Braxton Miller’s name in bold print. Every previous depth chart had both Miller and redshirt senior Joe Bauserman’s names in bold and read: “Joe Bauserman or Braxton Miller.” Miller helped lead the Buckeyes to a 37-17 win against Colorado Saturday. “(Miller) did a good job,” Fickell said. “The number one thing he did was hold onto the football… threw some good balls later in the game.” Showing the students some love For the second time since the conclusion of the Buckeyes’ 37-17 Saturday win against Colorado, first-year coach Luke Fickell spoke of the OSU student body. “I think the one thing our guys enjoyed as much as I did is having students back on campus,” Fickell said. “Obviously, the way we played is a boost, but it’s nice to have that behind you. Really want to thank them. Hopefully they continue to do the same things and get better each and every week.” Injury update The status of senior defensive lineman Nathan Williams and sophomore defensive back Corey Brown for the Buckeyes’ next game remains uncertain. “Maybe we’ll have a little better idea (of their status) maybe by Wednesday,” Fickell said. Captaincy carousel Junior running back Jordan Hall, defensive back and special teams player Nate Ebner and defensive back and linebacker Nate Oliver will act as captains for this week’s game against Michigan State. Hall, along with defensive back Travis Howard and defensive back Corey Brown, was suspended for the first two games of the season for accepting $200 in a white envelope from a former university booster at a Cleveland area charity event. In his two games since returning from suspension, Hall has amassed 354 all-purpose yards while also scoring a touchdown. Saturday’s game against the Spartans is set for a 3:30 p.m kickoff in Ohio Stadium. The game will be televised regionally by ABC.
Senior safety Christian Bryant is helped off the field after breaking his ankle in a game against Wisconsin. OSU won, 31-24, Sept. 28 at Ohio Stadium. Credit: Shelby Lum / Photo editorFORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Senior safety Christian Bryant readied himself on the field, scarlet Buckeye fans erupting in cheers around him Sept. 28, 2013. Instead of taking down intended target, Wisconsin running back James White, Bryant took a hit from teammate sophomore Joshua Perry resulting in a broken ankle.A broken ankle that meant an end to his season and potentially his college career.Despite his inability to play, Bryant’s name was never out of discussions within the team. However, attempts to receive a an extra year of play from a medical redshirt as well as rehabbing his broken ankle seem to be thwarted. Coach Urban Meyer announced Thursday at a press conference Bryant would neither play in the Orange Bowl Friday nor have his petition approved by the NCAA for a medical redshirt.“I believe the appeal was denied. I’m not sure if there’s another one, to come back for another year. He won’t be able to play in this game,” Meyer said. “There was a little bit of outside hope to get him ready, but the injury that he had was pretty severe. I’m not sure if there’s another appeal process left.”Bryant might not be on the field, but the responsibility he garnered as a leader will be. After his injury, another stepped up on the defense: junior linebacker Ryan Shazier.The game following his friend’s injury, Shazier donned a No. 2 jersey rather than his traditional No. 10. Changing numbers wasn’t taken light heartedly – Shazier even has “10” tattooed on his arm. From then on, he was playing for someone else as well.“When Bryant went down, Ryan Shazier assumed a lot of that responsibility, including taking his number, and has done a really magical job at that. He was not a leader a year ago,” Meyer said.Losing Bryant meant the Buckeyes were losing more than just a pivotal defensive player.“Christian Bryant was our best player on both sides of the ball, and we lost him and his leadership skill,” Meyer said.While Bryant’s injury ended his own career. it might have had an impact jump-starting Shazier’s. The latter ended the 2012 season with 115 tackles, Bryant second to him with 71. This year, the linebacker has racked up 134 tackles, according to Ohio State.“He’s been a very good player this year, but he’s done a nice job leading, leading by example, practicing hard, and even being more vocal. That assumes some of the Christian Bryant responsibility,” Meyer said.Kickoff between the No. 7 Buckeyes (12-1, 8-1) and the No. 12 Clemson Tigers (10-2, 7-1) is set for 8:30 p.m. Friday at Sun Life Stadium.
Freshman forward Keita Bates-Diop drives toward the basket during a game against Penn State on Feb. 11 at the Schottenstein Center. OSU won, 75-55. Credit: Samantha Hollingshead / Lantern photographerWhile the Ohio State men’s basketball team has seen its share of production from familiar names such as freshman guard D’Angelo Russell and senior forward Sam Thompson, it’s been the play of a young forward that is starting to get the attention of coaches.And not just his own.Freshman Keita Bates-Diop has scored more than a fifth of his points this season in the last two games for the Buckeyes, both wins for OSU.Bates-Diop had a career night with 14 points, while adding nine boards and three assists, in a 79-60 thrashing of Rutgers on Sunday.He followed that up with a seven-point, five-rebound performance in a 75-55 win against Penn State Wednesday night, and Nittany Lion coach Pat Chambers said he was not surprised by it.“He played really well against Rutgers. He knocked down some shots for them so he gives them another outside threat,” Chambers said after the game. “He’s long, he’s athletic and he’s rangy so he’s going to be a really good player for years to come. But he gives you another guy you have to worry about out there other than No. 0.”No. 0 is Russell, who said after the game that when players like Bates-Diop perform well, it makes it simpler for him and for the team to succeed.“Teams can’t really key on me if other guys are stepping up and doing what they’re good at,” Russell said. “It makes the game a lot easier for me.”Bates-Diop has been seeing increased minutes since the temporary departure of sophomore forward Marc Loving, who has missed the last three games with a suspension for an undisclosed reason. OSU coach Thad Matta said he expects Loving to return to action in the Buckeyes’ next game against the Michigan State Spartans, but added that Bates-Diop has earned more minutes with his recent play.“I think from the standpoint of how Keita has played, I am just so excited for him. This is kind of what we’ve been trying to get out of him just in terms of his aggressiveness,” Matta said. “He’s long, he can block shots he can rebound out of his area. I don’t think he shot the ball particularly well tonight (against Penn State), but we know he can do that and really stretch a defense.”Bates-Diop’s offensive game might not have been put on full display against the Nittany Lions, but the Normal, Ill., native shot 4-of-7 from the field against Rutgers, including 3-of-4 from long range.However, it isn’t just Bates-Diop’s offensive game that Matta has been pleased with. Matta added after the win over Penn State that Bates-Diop is starting to learn his role on defense better and it was evident Wednesday as he finished the night with three blocks and two steals.“He is learning how to use his length,” Matta said of the 6-foot-7-inch freshman. “He made a couple rotations defensively tonight that I think kind of solidified he understands what’s going on out there now.”Thompson, who scored a career-high 22 points in Wednesday’s win, said Bates-Diop will be key for the Buckeyes moving forward as the regular season winds down.“Keita’s been huge. He has been asked to step up, and in the last few games he has really answered the call,” Thompson said. “He has made shots, he has been aggressive offensively and defensively. We need Keita to keep that going.”Bates-Diop and the Buckeyes will look to do just that as they are set to take on the Michigan State Spartans on Saturday in East Lansing, Mich. Tip-off is scheduled for noon.