It happens every few years: a star-studded college team, fresh off a dominating performance, is compared favorably to the worst squad in the pros. A few years ago, it was the Anthony Davis-led Kentucky powerhouse vs. a pitiful Charlotte Bobcats outfit that set a new NBA low for winning percentage in a season. Now, it’s Kentucky’s 2014-15 team, which trounced fifth-ranked Kansas on Tuesday, vs. the tank-tactic Philadelphia 76ers.In a radio interview this week, former Kentucky guard Eric Bledsoe (now of the Phoenix Suns) said his alma mater would own the hypothetical matchup. “I’m definitely taking Kentucky,” Bledsoe said when asked who would win a best-of-seven series between the Wildcats and Sixers. “I think Philly would probably get maybe one game.”As others have pointed out, that’s absurd. As awful as they are — and boy, are they awful — the Sixers’ roster represents an All-Star team of college players from the past few seasons:Center Nerlens Noel was first-team All-SEC two seasons ago; if he were in college now, he’d likely be considered the best player in the country;Point guard Michael Carter-Williams was an honorable mention All-American as an NCAA sophomore; had he not left Syracuse, he would likely be considered the best guard in the college game;Guard Tony Wroten made first-team All-Pac 12 as a freshman two years ago;And rookie K.J. McDaniels was named to the All-ACC first team last season.These are all players who could still have NCAA eligibility if they had they not departed early for the NBA.To put these anecdotes in a more rigid framework, we can return to the same projection methodology we used for our NBA preview. The premise there was to take Real Plus/Minus data from last season, adjust for aging effects and regress to the mean to estimate each player’s true talent level. In this case, we also need to account for any information gleaned from the first three weeks or so of the NBA season; since RPM isn’t available for 2014-15 yet, I’m using a weighted average between a player’s current 2014-15 Statistical Plus/Minus (a box score-based statistic designed to emulate RPM in situations where RPM isn’t available) and our projected RPM ratings from the preseason.By this accounting, the 76ers are made up exclusively of below-average players. In fact, 54 percent of the team’s minutes have gone to players below the replacement-level RPM threshold of -2 points per 100 possessions. If we compute a minutes-weighted aggregation of ratings for Philadelphia’s 2014-15 roster (and adjust for the fact that the Sixers are usually trailing in their games), we’d expect them to lose to an average NBA team by 8.9 points per 100 possessions, which is ridiculously bad for a team’s true talent level. (Other teams have posted worse seasons, but that’s usually because they have bad rosters that perform below their talent levels.)But as bad as the Sixers are, Kentucky’s roster would translate to an even worse team at the NBA level. Looking at how well players’ draft slots predicted their rookie RPM performances (and, in turn, how well ultra-early mock draft rankings like these predict a player’s draft slot), and turning the clock back on those rookie-year RPM projections using an aging curve, we can also estimate an NBA-equivalent 2014-15 RPM talent level for every player on the Wildcats’ roster. Their top prospect, Karl-Anthony Towns (who sits at No. 3 in ESPN’s class-of-2015 draft rankings), would translate to a -2.6 RPM performance at the NBA level this season, worse than almost every player on Philadelphia’s roster. Every other Kentucky player, from Willie Cauley-Stein to Alex Poythress and the Harrison twins, grade out with various shades of putrid RPM ratings that would embarrass even Hakim Warrick.The aggregation of Kentucky’s NBA-translated RPM scores would predict an efficiency margin of -13.6 against an average NBA team. Even after accounting for the fundamental uncertainty surrounding projection models, such a team would lose about 88 of every 100 games against average NBA competition on a neutral court. The Sixers are far from average, of course, but even they would be expected to beat the Wildcats 74 percent of the time at home, and 56 percent of the time on the road. Using those probabilities to simulate Bledsoe’s hypothetical best-of-seven matchup, Kentucky would lose the series 78 percent of the time even if we gave them home-court advantage, most frequently falling in six games.It’s also likely those numbers vastly overestimate Kentucky’s chances. The NBA doesn’t let prospects who are not believed to be pro-caliber players take the court in games, so we don’t really know what kind of performance expectations to set for those Wildcat players who will never play in the NBA. This means the aforementioned translations are naturally biased toward inflating Kentucky’s rating. Furthermore, it’s probably not appropriate to assume the same
Teams playing late-round NCAA Tournament games in open domes score fewer points4We used end of regulation scores for overtime games. and shoot worse on 2-point field goals and free throws than do teams playing in arenas or traditional domes. But 3-pointers — often at the heart of the dome effect critique — are converted at a lower rate in traditional domes. In fact, teams shoot threes better in open domes than they do anywhere else, including standard arenas. Overall, teams playing in open domes have an effective field goal percentage of 47.4 percent, 0.5 percentage points worse than teams in standard arenas and traditional domes.These themes hold up when we compare teams’ performances to their season averages — an important consideration given that certain venue types host later rounds and better teams. Free throws aside, teams don’t shoot as well or score as much in the regionals and Final Four as they do over the course of the entire season — which makes sense, considering that they’re playing against top competition. Here, we’re interested in how much worse they shoot and how that varies by venue and shot type. OFF. PERFORMANCE (SWEET 16 AND BEYOND, 2006-15)OPPONENTS’ FULL-SEASON DEF. PERFORMANCE Sources: SPORTS Reference, Ken Pomeroy How have open-dome teams fared and what have they faced? VENUENO. OF GAMESAVG. POINTSEFF. FG%2P%3P%FT%ALLOWED FG%ADJ. EFFICIENCY Georgia Dome369.250.6%48.8%35.9%68.9%40.0%90.3 AT&T Stadium664.950.449.834.768.340.192.7 Lucas Oil Stadium965.449.646.937.073.440.891.4 Ford Field670.247.145.034.366.940.490.7 In line with our previous observations, points, 2-point field goal percentage and free throw percentage suffer most in open domes, while 3-point field goal percentage suffers most in traditional domes. Relative to their full-season performance, teams playing in open domes see their effective field goal percentage decline by an average of 4.8 percentage points, 0.5 percentage points worse than teams playing in arenas or traditional domes. For a typical late-round NCAA Tournament team, that differential equates to about two-thirds of a point per game.5Teams in open domes also attempt slightly fewer shots and free throws per game.Team offense and opponent defense matter — venue type does notSo we’ve determined that teams shoot a little worse and score a little less in open domes — but they also play against better defenses. This makes sense — open domes host later-round games.The defenses that play in these open dome games allow opponents to shoot 40.2 percent from the field during the season; they give up 62.7 points per game, and have an adjusted defensive efficiency of 91.7 — all weighted by number of appearances. This compares to season-long averages of 40.4 percent, 63.2 and 92.1 for teams that play in traditional domes and 40.7 percent, 63.5 and 92.0 for teams that play in standard arenas. So defenses do get better as venues progress from regular arenas to traditional domes to open domes.In fact, how well a team shoots in a late-round NCAA Tournament game is most related to its full-season effective field goal percentage and the other team’s full-season field goal percentage allowed.6Certain data required to calculate advanced opposition shooting metrics does not extend back to 2006, so we had to lean on the “simpler” opposition field goal percentage. Likewise, how much a team scores in a late-round NCAA Tournament game is most related to its full-season points per game average and the other team’s full-season points per game allowed.7Good old points per game allowed boasts a slightly stronger relationship than full-season defensive efficiency or pace-adjusted metrics. These relationships are noisy but meaningful. (That is, there is a statistically significant relationship between the full-season offensive and defensive stats and offense in all venue types, even though the individual data points are a little all over the place.)On the contrary, there is no statistical relationship linking open domes as a venue type to poor shooting or to decreases in shooting performance — including, importantly, when you control for the quality and efficiency of the offenses and defenses playing in each. NRG Stadium on its own is another story. NRG Stadium is unique — open domes are notIn line with its reputation, NRG Stadium has produced lower-than-average scoring and worse-than-average shooting, both overall and among open domes. Defenses there have been a mixed bag — tough against the shot, middle of the pack in points allowed, and toward the bottom in defensive efficiency.8Full-season stats; relative to other Sweet 16, Elite Eight, Final Four, and championship game defenses. (Other open domes — Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, and the Georgia Dome in Atlanta — have been the site of good or very good shooting performances, on average.) Superdome363.744.441.536.871.438.388.2 NRG Stadium1265.444.543.830.772.740.293.1
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OSU junior guard Kelsey Mitchell guards the ball in the Buckeyes 89-56 victory over Canisius on Dec. 11 at the Schottenstein Center. Credit: Courtesy of Ohio State AthleticsBehind 51.5 percent shooting and a solid defensive effort, the No. 12 Ohio State Buckeyes downed the Canisius Golden Griffins 89-56 on Sunday afternoon.“I thought our effort, our attention-to-detail was better than it’s been,” OSU coach Kevin McGuff said. “We’ve practiced better.”Both teams shot well out of the gate and the Golden Griffins took an 11-9 lead with 5:48 remaining in the first quarter. The No. 12 Buckeyes (8-3) would then outscore Canisius 22-7 the rest of the opening quarter, a stretch that included an 11-0 run and eight made field goals in a row. The teams played just about even in the second quarter, with the Buckeyes edging out Canisius 19-16 in the frame.OSU missed its first four shots of the second half, but a field goal from junior guard Kelsey Mitchell with 7:11 remaining in the third quarter started an 8-0 run for the Buckeyes. OSU would take a 69-44 run into the fourth quarter and would outscore the Golden Griffins 20-12 in the final frame to claim the 33-point victory.Mitchell led the Buckeyes with 19 points on 9-of-17 shooting. The Buckeyes buried 16-of-21 free throws, and despite converting on over half of its field goals, OSU was just 3 for 18 from three-point territory.“We have good shooters, but we didn’t shoot the ball very well today from the arc,” McGuff said. “That’s something that we’ve got to get in the gym and work on a little bit.”Canisius was led by 14 points from sophomore forward Sara Hinriksdottir. Senior guard Lauren D’Hont grabbed a team-high eight rebounds.Defensive improvementOSU put together one of its better defensive performances of the season on Sunday. Of the Buckeyes’ 21 forced turnovers, 15 were steals. Canisius shot well early from the three-point line – 7 of 16 in the first half – but they finished just 10 for 31 from beyond the arc and couldn’t get anything else going.“I thought our press today was as good as it’s been in a couple weeks,” McGuff said. “We really gave Canisius problems.”The Buckeyes didn’t allow the Golden Griffins to see the free-throw line at all and committed just eight team fouls. All nine Buckeyes who saw the floor had two personal fouls or less. McGuff praised his team for a solid defensive game, but acknowledged that there were still several hiccups.“We had 4, 5, 6, 7 possessions where we had really good possessions and then just didn’t finish them out,” McGuff said. “We were close to having a really good day defensively.”For the game, Canisius shot 34.8 percent (23-for-66).Bench pointsAnother Buckeye advantage came in bench points, where OSU outscored Canisius 40-6. The bench effort was led by freshman forward Tori McCoy, who scored 17 points on 7-of-8 shooting and grabbed 11 rebounds. She was also 3 of 3 from the free throw line.Redshirt sophomore forward Makayla Waterman had one of her best games on the young season, adding nine points, nine rebounds and a team-high five assists. Freshman guards Kiara Lewis (10 points) and Jensen Caretti (four points) also contributed off the bench.“As we go through the year, depth is going to be a real strength of ours,” McGuff said. “Today, I thought we had some really good minutes off the bench.”OSU’s current depth has been well documented, but the Buckeyes are about to get even deeper. Redshirt junior guard Linnae Harper is just days away from regaining eligibility and will be available to play in OSU’s next game against Alabama State on Friday.“She’ll bring a lot of defense, rebounds and points,” OSU junior guard Asia Doss said. “That means way more depth as far as our rotations and the pressing, I feel like, is going to be even more hectic.”Harper decided to transfer from the University of Kentucky last fall.Up nextOSU will finish off its current five-game home stand with a game against the Alabama State Hornets on Friday. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. at Schottenstein Center.
Four years ago, in his freshman season, David Lighty and the Ohio State men’s basketball team traveled to play at the University of Florida. “I really didn’t know what to expect going down there my first time.” said Lighty, now in his senior season. “We knew they were good, but when you get down there, it’s kind of unreal, the support they have from all their fans.” Now, with a new batch of freshmen making their first road trip, No. 4 OSU returns to Gainesville to play the No. 9 Gators at 6 p.m. tonight. After an exhibition against Walsh and the season opener last Friday against North Carolina A&T, Florida will be the first ranked opponent the Buckeyes have played this year, something that excites coach Thad Matta. “This will be a great test,” Matta said. “They’re a very experienced team with everybody back. Going on the road with six new guys, you’re looking at a Big Ten type of game.” Despite returning four starters from a season ago, the talk surrounding this Buckeye team remains focused on the newcomers. Freshman Jared Sullinger started alongside Lighty, seniors Dallas Lauderdale and Jon Diebler, and junior William Buford against both Walsh and A&T last week. Though the lineup is by no means set in stone, Matta said he feels comfortable starting those five and plans to do so tonight. Though Sullinger might continue to get starts, freshmen Deshaun Thomas and Aaron Craft have been just as good so far. In the 102-56 win over North Carolina A&T, Thomas scored 24 points, and Craft handed out nine assists, both team highs, despite playing just 20 and 22 minutes, respectively. Craft, who is the only true point guard the Buckeyes have, will likely see the most playing time at that position as the season progresses. Although Buford started last week, it was Craft who seemed most comfortable. Often, both Buford and Craft were on the floor at the same time, with Buford moving off the ball as a shooting guard, his natural position. Diebler, who was coached by Craft’s father in middle school, said he doesn’t expect the freshman to be fazed tonight. “I’ve known him since he was in like third grade,” Diebler said. “Aaron’s a kid who’s so mature for his age. You see how he plays — he’s tough. He knows what we’re going up against and knows that it’s going to be a tough game for us. I know he’ll be ready.” Although Diebler was quick to praise Craft and the rest of the freshmen, he knows a road game against a top-10 team is like nothing the new class has faced before. Unfortunately, Diebler said, there isn’t much his younger teammates can do to prepare. “You can’t prepare for the crowd being loud and everyone against you,” Diebler said. “Just the mindset of going on the road has to be different. You really have to come focused.” As hard as it is, Matta was cautiously optimistic that his team will be ready. “I’ll probably know in the locker room before the game,” he said. “They’ve been pretty focused, and we’ve talked a lot about that there’s two types of teams that go on the road, one that goes to have fun and one that goes on a business trip.”
One hundred twenty minutes of game time. Two weeks of actual time. Sept. 3, and Sept. 10. However you look at it, Ohio State football coach Jim Tressel is suspended for the first two games of the 2011 season. How the university determined that number, along with the $250,000 fine levied against the coach, is less clear. “We work with consultants, The Compliance Group, and we look at precedence in cases that have occurred over the years,” athletic director Gene Smith said during Tuesday’s press conference. TCG, which OSU contacted Jan. 21, provides “compliance services to intercollegiate athletics departments and conference offices,” according to its website. TCG counts 45 Division I schools on its client list, 12 of which are from BCS conferences and two of which — Wisconsin and Michigan — reside in the Big Ten. “We wanted to make sure we had, at our disposal, people who had been through this type of case before,” Smith said. That TCG and OSU based these sanctions on previous NCAA investigations, the case requires some context. When former Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez violated NCAA rules by having too many coaches on staff and by allowing his team to practice too many hours, the program was put on probation for more than a year and practice time was reduced. The coach received no direct punishments. In Division I basketball, Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun has been suspended for three Big East games — less than 10 percent of his team’s games — next season for over-contacting recruits with text messages and phone calls. Tennessee suspended basketball coach Bruce Pearl for eight SEC games this season and fined him $1.5 million for lying about having recruits at his home. The eight games are just more than 25 percent of the Volunteers’ schedule. It seems that OSU and TCG have determined Tressel’s violation to be less severe than those of Pearl, but more so than those of Rodriguez and Calhoun. The two-game suspension makes up almost 17 percent of the Buckeyes’ schedule. “We and come to kind of a sweet spot based upon this particular case. All cases aren’t exactly the same,” Smith said. “We just felt like the combination of a two-game suspension and the financial fine was kind of in line with cases that we were familiar with.” If the NCAA agrees, Tressel will have to find a sweet spot on his couch for the first two games of next season.
The Big Ten and Pac-12 conferences announced Wednesday that they have reached a scheduling agreement in multiple sports, including basketball and football The agreement will entail significant reconfiguration of future schedules in Olympic sports, basketball and football to include matchups between the 24 teams from the two conferences. Pac-12 commisioner Larry Scott and Big Ten commisioner Jim Delany addressed reporters in a conference call and said the deal is beneficial for both conferences. “To me, this is a creative and inventive approach through collaboration to achieve some of the same objectives that expansion can help you with,” Scott said. “It gives our conference more of a national platform, more play on the Big Ten Network and higher quality programming on our network without having to expand.” The deal would likely begin during the 2012-13 seasons in all of the sports with the exception of football, which will honor non-conference scheduling agreements previously in place. By 2017, the football schedule is expected to include a 12-game schedule that will feature each member of the Big Ten playing a team from the Pac-12. The Big Ten had previously planned to play a nine-game conference schedule in football starting in 2017, but because of the deal, the conference will continue with an eight-game conference schedule. The way the matchups will be determined has not been completely worked out, but Delaney said that “competitive equity” would “play a significant part.” This likely means that top-level teams would be paired against each other on a year-to-year basis. Both commissioners acknowledged that possible-marquee matchups could hinder their conferences chances of being represented in the national championship, but said the benefits outweigh the negatives. “I think it helps our football programs,” Delaney said. “I think it will engage fans, help our recruiting, help in the presentation of television. If fans follow it, our partners will be rewarded and we will ultimately be rewarded. Although nothing has been decided, the football matchups will most likely take place early in the season before conference play begins. The two conferences are already linked through the Rose Bowl, which annually pits the champion from the Big Ten and Pac-12 on a New Year’s Day bowl, but this agreement furthers the relationship between the conferences across multiple sports. Despite the strengthened relationship, the commissioners said not to expect any form of official merger in the future or any similar agreements with other conferences. “We have a common DNA but a tremendous recognition that 90 percent, 80 percent of what we do is in our region,” he said. “Those who think regional rivalries and local rivalries don’t mean anything any more, I think that’s erroneous…Our goal is to build something new here on a very strong foundation of history.”
Urban Meyer admittedly gets emotional when talking about this season’s seniors. Tears, hugs and smiles all are commonplace between coaches and their outgoing players in collegiate athletics. But for the 48-year-old OSU coach, this year’s group of Buckeye seniors is far more than a typical graduating class. They helped save the Buckeye football program, Meyer says. “We’re forever indebted to them because they didn’t have to do what they did,” Meyer said Monday in a press conference previewing Saturday’s game against Michigan. What the first-year Buckeye coach is talking about is this: OSU’s 2012 senior class didn’t have to be here, playing for a team ineligible for the postseason even though they’re 11-0 and ranked No. 4 by the Associated Press. When OSU was hit with a bowl and conference championship ban in December 2011 because of the “Tattoo-Gate” scandal that rocked Buckeye Nation to its core a year before, this class of seniors was given a way out. They could have transferred to another school – a bowl-eligible one at that – and played immediately. That fact concerned Meyer greatly. “I still remember the day we walked in, and (OSU athletic director Gene Smith) said, ‘You’re not going to a bowl game,’” Meyer said. “I thought, ‘We’re not what?’ And then my mind started thinking about this year’s team.” Above everything else, Meyer began to strategize how he would compel the seniors-to-be to stay at OSU. He said he called a team meeting 15 minutes after the Buckeyes learned they were banned from the 2012 postseason. After the meeting, Meyer kept the seniors-to-be in the room to try to convince them to stay at OSU. It was easier than he thought it would be. “I had no idea who they were, and they didn’t know me, so it was a leap of faith (for them to stay),” Meyer said. “I think it was also their love for their school.” Almost a year after that meeting, Meyer realizes he was right. “Now that I know them, I know exactly why they stayed,” Meyer said. “Their love for Ohio State.” Most of this season’s OSU seniors didn’t consider leaving Columbus for a second. Defensive end John Simon could have left for the NFL and been an early-round draft pick. A handful of other then-juniors had favorable other destinations, too. They remained Buckeyes. “I don’t think it crossed anyone’s mind to leave,” said senior defensive back Zach Domicone. That doesn’t mean they weren’t upset when they realized their final season as college athletes would be bowl-less, however. Most of the OSU seniors were together when they heard the ill-fated news. “Looking back, we were in the hospital visiting patients and stuff and that’s when it broke. So, it was on the TV’s and on ESPN and people were like, ‘How do you guys feel that you can’t play in a bowl game?’ and we were like, ‘What are you talking about?’” Domicone said. When they returned to the Woody Hayes Athletic Center to hear the news again as a team, there was anger, confusion and disbelief spreading throughout the meeting room. “It was kind of one of those things where you sit down and just let it sink in for a little while,” said senior linebacker Zach Boren. The team was, after all, repeatedly told by OSU athletic personnel that a postseason ban was not going to be inflicted. “We were kind of told that we weren’t going to get a bowl ban, that everything was going to be OK,” Boren said. “We had heard from people who had done investigations and stuff that we were going to be all right and that what we already imposed was going to be more than enough.” It wasn’t, and OSU now sits as one of two remaining unbeaten teams in the country – Notre Dame being the other – with one game to play in the regular season. Unlike the Fighting Irish, though, the Buckeyes’ season will end after its game Saturday, and with it, the careers of 22 OSU seniors. That last game on Saturday should be special, however. OSU faces its archrival, No. 20-ranked Michigan, or, as those associated with the Buckeye football program call them, ‘that school up north.’ With a win against the Wolverines, OSU would attain its first undefeated season since 2002 – the most recent Buckeyes’ National Championship squad, which will be honored at half time of the game Saturday. A shot at an AP national championship would remain possible, too. Not a bad way for OSU’s seniors to go out, especially after the 6-7 season the Buckeyes had last year. “We wanted to leave our mark and leave a legacy and last year didn’t really go how we planned and I don’t think anyone wanted to go out like that,” Domicone said. Along with possibly leaving OSU following a 12-0 season, the 2012 seniors have the Buckeye football program headed in the right direction, and that is something they are proud of. “We were just talking about that, a couple of (the seniors). We were just saying how different it’s
The Ohio State women’s track team is set to head to New York where the women are scheduled to compete in the Armory Collegiate Invitational against some of the nation’s top programs, including No. 15 South Carolina, No. 17 Mississippi State and No. 11 Kansas.This weekend, the Buckeyes are looking to continue forward after a successful meet last weekend and see the upcoming meet as an opportunity to work on the little things that need to be fixed.Associate head coach Rosalind Joseph said this week in practice the team has been working more on technique.“Now that we have gotten in a few meets, we are working on what we need to execute,” Rosalind said on the team’s work outside of conditioning. “Each person is starting to figure out what they need to work on individually.”Junior sprinter and hurdler Alexandria Johnson said she is looking forward to showcasing her hard work in practice on her start and technique when she runs the 60-meter hurdles.“Whether it is their finish, their start, blocks, or form, each person has their small change they need to make and that is what we are getting this weekend. (Fixing) those minor things before Big Ten (Championships),” Johnson said.Senior thrower Emily Taylor agreed, saying this weekend is a good chance for each person to figure what she needs to improve on going forward so the team can ultimately be prepared for the Big Ten Indoor Championship, which is set to start Feb. 27. She said this weekend is a “mental and physical” preparation for the big meet.The Armory Collegiate Invitational was recognized as the Division I “Meet of the Week” with the historic background and high level of competition it provides.“This is definitely an honor, to be taken to this meet,” Taylor said. “Not everyone gets to go so if you get on this plane, you should be ready to compete. It’s not something I take lightly.”With more than 100 teams set to participate, the competition is expected to be the toughest the Buckeyes have faced thus far in the season.Joseph said it will be good to see the team compete against national competition this weekend, which helps prepare them for the conference meet. She added that it is always good to line up against some teams they aren’t always used to seeing in the conference to get an idea of where they stack up against the top ranked programs.“Being in a large environment like New York, how the ladies prepare, how they handle themselves outside of normal conditions will be nice adversity to see how they are able to handle that test,” Joseph said.Joseph said the team is always striving to be better than they were the week prior so as long as everyone is competing and improving, then they are “headed in the right direction.”The invitational is set to begin Friday at 9 a.m. and continue through Saturday evening.
Junior running back Ezekiel Elliott won the 85th annual AAU Sullivan Award a day after not participating in the 2015 OSU Spring Game. Gray defeated Scarlet, 17-14. Credit: Samantha Hollingshead / Lantern photographerDespite not taking the field in more than three months, Ohio State junior running back Ezekiel Elliott is still winning awards.The offensive MVP of the 2015 national title game was awarded the 85th Amateur Athletic Union Sullivan Award on Sunday, a day after the Buckeyes’ Spring Game.The award “honors the most outstanding amateur athlete in the United States,” according to its website.Among the finalists were NCAA basketball national champion Jahlil Okafor from Duke and three Olympic gold-medalists.Elliott said in a press release that he was overwhelmed with the award.“I want to congratulate all the finalists,” Elliott said. “I feel somewhat undeserving of this award with all these great athletes up here and all their tremendous accomplishments. I can’t even imagine what it would feel like to win an Olympic gold medal, so I want to congratulate all for being here.“I’ve got to thank my parents for pushing me to being the person I am. They demand excellence out of me and that drove me to be the person I am today.”OSU coach Urban Meyer offered his congratulations to his running back in a press release after coaching the Buckeyes in the Spring Game on Saturday.“This is a tremendous honor for Ezekiel and his family, and a privilege for Ohio State to have a Sullivan Award winner,” Meyer said. “I want to congratulate Ezekiel, and his teammates, and the coaches on the Ohio State staff who all work extremely hard to get the best out of our student-athletes on and off the field.”Meyer has now coached two Sullivan Award winners. Former Florida quarterback Tim Tebow won the award in 2007 while Meyer was the Gators’ coach.Elliott finished the 2014-15 season with 1,878 rushing yards and 18 scores on the ground and has sat out most of spring practice after undergoing offseason wrist surgery.He did not participate in Saturday’s Spring Game, but is expected to return to full strength for summer workouts and fall camp.Elliott and the Buckeyes are set to open their 2015 on the road against Virginia Tech on Sept. 7 in Blacksburg, Va.