Slant Pattern Odds and Ends

* Lifelong Ohio State fan here. Alumnus, too. My thoughts on Michigan winning the natty are simple and straightforward: BOOOOOOO! BooooooooOOOOOOOOOOooooooooooOOOOOOO! Boo! Boo! Boo!

In the leadup to the game, I saw a number of Twitter threads — er, X posts — about whether Ohio State fans would be rooting for Michigan for getting the Big Ten another championship.

The answer for me is, as I already made clear, "Hell. No." I do want the Big Ten to do well, except for Michigan. I'm an Akron fan (and hometown boy) too, and the same principle applies. I want the MAC to shock the world left and right, except for Kent State. Any conference can afford one bad team, and that team should always be my preferred team's rival.

That said, I must admit I'm not terribly up in arms about the Connor Stalions thing, which I have not yet written about. Or maybe a better way to put it is that I am waiting for the full story to come out and the NCAA to complete their investigation.

In Michigan's favor, it sounds like he's been, more-or-less, a deranged fan all of his life. It'd be one thing if Michigan sought out somebody to go to opponent's games and gather intel in contravention of the rules. It seems more likely, however, that Stalions approached them, and the UM coaching staff may or may not have taken him up on his services.

Plus, I'm not the first person to point this out, but with every game streamed and televised from every angle, it's not terribly difficult to obtain opponent's signals just by watching game tape. I'm given to understand that's not even illegal. So I do have to wonder how big of an advantage Stalions spying, if proven true, did benefit the Wolverines.

* Over in the Ohio State camp, the calls for Ryan Day's head are getting louder, longer, and from a lot more people. Those people are wrong.

This is still a team that was one late interception away from quite possibly pulling out a thrilling comeback win, on the road, over the team that just comfortably won the CFP, and surely getting that top playoff seed themselves. They accomplished this despite playing the season with their worst quarterback in over a decade. That's a credit to Day, not a debit. If a couple plays is the only difference between playoff glory and a 1-loss regular season, then you want to keep the dudes that got you that hill. Day didn't throw the pick.

More importantly, it would be incredibly destabilizing to the program — or any program — to say this season wasn't good enough. Firing coaches after 12-1, 11-2, 12-2 etc. seasons is a perfect way to start slipping to 8-4, 7-5, 6-6 seasons, and I have little doubt that's what would happen to my beloved Buckeyes if Day was given the heave-ho. Let Day Stay.

* This may not be felt by fans who stick to the four major North American sports, but December leaves a tennis-sized hole in my heart, so I'm happy we are swinging racquets again.

Longtime readers are probably aware I keep a close eye on the pulse of U.S. men's tennis (in women's tennis, U.S. excellence can be taken for granted), so where are we at?

The good news first: while we have fallen off the high-water mark of a couple years ago, with 13 U.S. men in the top 100, we are still in decent shape with 10 American men in the top 100 ATP live rankings. The Americans are, unusually for them, top-heavy in the top 100 too, with six in the top 34.

The bad news: they boys are off to a slooooow start to the 2024 campaign, going 3-12 so far in ATP main draw and United Cup matches, in this first week and a half of the season.

Who have a not written about before that you should keep your eye on? The first answer is easy: Ben Shelton. The brash 21-year-old is the son of the tennis coach at the University of Florida. After winning three times in the 2022 ATP Challenger Tour season, 2023 was a hell of a coming-out party for him, with a quarterfinal berth at the Australian Open, the semis at Wimbledon, and a win in October at the Japan Open. He's ranked 16th in the world.

The second guy is far more of a Cinderella story, which means he's a lot less likely to sustain his success than Shelton is, but I root for him like crazy: Christopher Eubanks.

Going into the 2023 season, he had the very definition of a journeyman's career, with six Challenger Tour finals (three wins) in five seasons. In 2023, however, he absolutely burst onto the scene at the ATP Tour level. Going into March, he had never been ranked in the top 100 of the world. After the season was over, he had an ATP Tour title to his credit, and a quarterfinal run at Wimbledon. Now he is ranked 34th in the world.

He accomplished all this at the age of 27, positively ancient for having this sort of year for the first time. May it not be his last successful season.

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