Cleveland Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving (2) attempts a shot during a game against the Chicago Bulls Jan. 22 at Quicken Loans Arena. The Cavaliers lost, 98-87.Courtesy of MCTTo the casual NBA fan, it would be surprisingly reasonable to think the Cleveland Cavaliers are heading in the right direction and that the team is on its way to its first playoff appearance since LeBron James donned Cleveland jersey.A playoff berth is vital if Cleveland hopes to convince All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving to stay in Cleveland.Irving is coming off a 31 point, 14 assist and five rebound All-Star game MVP performance while his teammate, shooting guard Dion Waiters, is coming off a strong showing in the NBA Rising Stars Challenge, gathering 31 points and dishing out seven assists.The Cavs also made two of the biggest moves before Thursday’s NBA trade deadline. The team traded center Andrew Bynum and a draft pick to the Chicago Bulls for the rights of small forward and former All-Star Luol Deng Jan. 6. Two weeks later, the move was followed by the Cavs trading forward Earl Clark and center Henry Sims along with two second round draft picks to the Philadelphia 76ers for center Spencer Hawes.The hope is these two veteran players will help provide leadership for the team in its goal of reaching the playoffs, one of the few qualities Irving has yet to add to his game.The organization also recently fired general manager Chris Grant, which was followed by a six-game win streak, the first in Irving’s three year NBA career.All of these signs point toward immediate improvement for the organization, however Cleveland fans know to tread lightly.A strong showing for Cleveland during the All-Star break might appear as a positive, but Cavs fans know all too well that All-Star week performances mean little to nothing. During last season’s All-Star break, Irving propelled himself to superstar status after winning the 3-point contest and crossing then-Detroit Pistons point guard Brandon Knight into the history books in the NBA Rising Stars Challenge.Unfortunately for Cavs fans, that success didn’t follow Irving when he came back to Cleveland. Instead, his stats began to drop, including his points per game which fell by 3 1/2. The team failed to reach the playoffs and earned the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft.Rumors have been swirling that Irving isn’t happy in Cleveland and wants out. While the rumors have continuously been denied by the organization and Irving himself, Cavs fans can’t help but cringe at the mere possibility of “The Decision 2.0.”Add to the fact that the Cavs third leading scorer and arguably the NBA’s best sixth man, Waiters, has been noted as having problems developing positive relationships with his teammates and one starts to notice the Cavs have some obvious issues that need to be fixed soon if the team wants to make the playoffs.Another one of these issues is the team’s health. Currently, the Cavs have three crucial players missing games because of injury. The injury bug seems to bite starting center Anderson Varejao every year and this year has been no different as he has missed six straight games because of a sore back. Starting shooting guard C.J. Miles has missed two straight games for a sprained ankle and Waiters has missed three straight after hyperextending his left knee. Coach Mike Brown said there is no timetable for the return of any these players in an interview with the Cleveland Plain Dealer.A recent bright spot for the Cavs is the progression of the 2013 No. 1 overall draft pick Anthony Bennett, who averaged 8 points and 5.5 rebounds in the month of February, both of these are up from his regular season averages of 4.1 and 3.2 respectively. Bennett also accumulated his first two double-doubles in his NBA career in February.Reaching the playoffs this year would provide fans with a glimmer of hope that Irving will decide to stay in Cleveland, and recent trades show that management realizes this. Behind all the clutter that is in the way, there is still a chance the Cavs make the playoffs. Just 6 1/2 games back of the Atlanta Hawks, who currently hold the 8th seed in the sluggish Eastern Conference, the Cavs could make the playoffs if the team finds a way to come together and turn things around. With only 25 games remaining, this needs to happen sooner rather than later.
Members of the OSU women’s volleyball team during a game against Nebraska on Oct. 3 at St. John Arena. OSU won 3-2. Credit: Ed Momot / For The LanternThe Ohio State women’s volleyball team kept rolling over the weekend, as it captured a pair of conference victories on its home floor in St. John Arena, including a win over a top-five team.OSU (14-2, 3-1) defeated Iowa (10-7, 0-4) on Friday, followed by an upset win against No. 4 Nebraska (12-2, 3-1) on Saturday.The Nebraska game was another five-set match for the Buckeyes — their third in four games of Big Ten play — as they grabbed the win over the Cornhuskers (22-25, 25-18, 25-22, 17-25, 15-10), who had handed top-ranked Penn State its first loss the night before.“What I told them between games two and three is that this is our opportunity,” OSU coach Geoff Carlston said. “Do we want to be the 15th-best team or do we want to show who we really are? I basically said, ‘You deserve this, you’ve worked hard. There’s absolutely no reason you can’t go out there and win this match.’”Freshman outside hitter Audra Appold led the way for the OSU attack against Nebraska. Appold came out firing for 19 of her 22 kills in the first three sets and added 17 digs to pick up her first career double-double.“I just went out with a go-for-it mentality,” Appold said. “And everyone was doing their job, so it was a full-team effort.”Senior outside hitter Elizabeth Campbell also came up big in the win with a double-double — her eighth of the year — by way of 20 kills and 17 digs, while sophomore outside hitter Luisa Schirmer added 14 digs, nine kills and a solo block. Freshman setter Taylor Hughes nearly topped a personal best set last weekend against Wisconsin with 50 assists.“We had a lot of heroes tonight,” Carlston said. “Everyone on this team really is climbing the mountain together, and that’s what’s important.”OSU took a quick lead in the first set against the Cornhuskers and led by as many as five points, but couldn’t hold on as Nebraska used a late 6-0 run to steal a 1-0 advantage.The two teams went back and forth for much of the second and third sets, but OSU slowly pulled away in each to take a 2-1 lead. The fourth set belonged to Nebraska, however. After the teams were tied at nine, the Cornhuskers went on a 16-8 run to send the match to a decisive fifth set.In the final set, the Buckeyes set the tone by racing out to a quick 3-0 lead, which they never gave up as they took their third win in their last four games against Nebraska. OSU upset the Cornhuskers last season in Lincoln in their only matchup.“Someone said in the locker room, ‘Now the tables have turned and we see that anyone can win,’” senior outside hitter Elizabeth Campbell said after the match. “Everyone can play really well in this conference and everyone has off nights.”The weekend started off with four-set OSU win over Iowa (25-22, 25-19, 18-25, 25-11) on Friday night.The Buckeyes held Iowa to a .122 attack percentage as they logged a season-best 16 blocks in the victory. Seven of those blocks came from junior middle blocker Taylor Sandbothe and five from senior outside hitter Katie Mitchell. Junior libero Valeria León led her team with 20 digs.“We preach that you wear your heart on your sleeve and it’s reflected in how you play defense,” Carlston said.Campbell led all players with 17.5 points on 14 kills, three block assists and two aces. Sandbothe (15.5), Appold (12.5) and Mitchell (11) also had double-digit point efforts. Hughes continued her hot streak with 41 assists and 11 digs for her seventh double-double of the season.Behind six kills and no errors from Campbell, OSU rolled in the first set, in which it never trailed. Campbell had five more kills in the second set, helping to lead the Buckeyes to a .400 attack percentage as they grabbed a 2-0 advantage over the Hawkeyes.Just when it looked like OSU would run away with an easy sweep, Iowa came charging back after the intermission to force a fourth set.The Buckeyes came out firing in the last set, picking up half of their blocks for the whole game in the deciding frame as Iowa was held to a minus-.138 attack percentage. Mitchell had four of her five total blocks in the set, at one point scoring five of six OSU points on three solo blocks and two kills.OSU is next set to head out on the road for its first away conference games next weekend, as the Buckeyes are slated to play Northwestern on Friday and Illinois on Saturday. Both matches have a scheduled start time of 8 p.m.