September 30, 2019 | | Post a Comment

CORRECTION (Oct. 18, 2017, 1:18 p.m.): An earlier version of this story misstated how many indefinite suspensions were in the data set, and how many were for repeated substance abuse. There were five lifetime bans, excluding Ray Rice. And four of them were for substance abuse. The elevator doors open and he drops her. She falls to her knees, and then to the floor, but her feet prevent the doors from closing. The man is holding the woman’s purse as he tries to move her unconscious body out of the way using his feet, but she won’t budge. He tries picking her up again, but unconscious bodies can be heavy, even for a 5-foot-8, 208-pound running back in the National Football League. Then the video ends.That video, showing the aftermath of an altercation between Ray Rice and his then-girlfriend (now wife), Janay Palmer, made the rounds this NFL offseason as if it were a Zapruder film. Prompted by the video and an arrest, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell suspended Rice, a star running back for the Baltimore Ravens, for two games, citing personal interviews with Rice and Palmer and the league’s personal conduct policy.But the punishment felt incommensurate with the crime. “It’s a joke, and a bad one,” ESPNW columnist Jane McManus wrote. How was it possible that Rice was given two games, many exclaimed, when players had been suspended six games for cheating on a test for performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) and entire seasons for repeatedly smoking marijuana?“We can’t just make up the discipline,” Goodell said at a press conference after issuing Rice’s suspension. “It has to be consistent with other cases and it was consistent with other cases.”On Thursday, Goodell announced a new discipline policy. In a letter to all 32 team owners obtained by ESPN, Goodell wrote that the league fell short in its treatment of the Rice case. “Effective immediately, violations of the Personal Conduct Policy regarding assault, battery, domestic violence or sexual assault that involve physical force will be subject to a suspension without pay of six games for a first offense, with consideration given to mitigating factors, as well as a longer suspension when circumstances warrant.” (This will not affect Rice’s current suspension.) A second offense will result in a ban from the league, with the opportunity to apply for reinstatement after one year.A six-game suspension, according to data collected by FiveThirtyEight, would be four times what the average suspension has been for domestic violence and an unprecedented consequence for a first offense of any kind. The ban from the league after a repeat offense would be the harshest punishment for all second-time offenders.Following the Rice incident, I went looking for every NFL suspension1My database only includes suspensions that came down from the commissioner’s office, not ones that were issued by teams. issued in the league’s 94-year history. I wanted to understand how violations like Rice’s, the ones unrelated to steroid or substance abuse, were determined. If domestic abuse warranted two games, what kinds of conduct violations warranted five games? Eight games? An entire season? I assumed that someone — if not the governing body itself — must keep track of every player suspended, why he was suspended, and the length of the suspension. I was wrong.When I contacted the NFL, a spokeswoman, Darlene Capiro, responded by email, “We do not have a comprehensive list.” Several of my colleagues at ESPN and Grantland who report on the NFL were unaware of any complete data set. The ESPN Stats & Information group also did not have this information in its entirety, only selected incidents. A spokesman for the NFL Players Association, George Atallah, said the union had at least some of the data but did not provide it after repeated requests.And so I cobbled it together myself, with the help of the San Diego Union-Tribune’s NFL arrests database, a Wikipedia list dating back to 1947, and the Spotrac suspension tracker.2I scraped the Tribune’s arrest database for all mentions of any variation of the words “suspension” or “suspend,” cross-referencing the players listed on Wikipedia and Spotrac and adding new ones to the data set. I found 263 incidents in that process, and verified suspensions using news reports,3Including news releases from the NFL and accounts published by ESPN (and regional news outlets in some cases). while making note of the reason for the suspension and the number of games the player ultimately missed.4In many cases, players successfully appealed their initial suspensions and the punishment was reduced or completely overturned. The data isn’t perfect, but it’s a good start.Once I’d categorized the offenses and the corresponding games missed, I had hard evidence of what many already suspected: The NFL’s punishment of personal conduct violations has been inconsistent and on average less harsh than its punishment of drug offenses.Note that the tallest peaks occur in the two charts on PEDs; more than 90 percent of first-time offenders receive a suspension of four games and 100 percent of repeat offenders receive a suspension of eight games. There’s little question about the number of games a player will be forced to miss for using steroids because the length of the suspension is specifically outlined in league policy.Substance abuse violations are not as consistently punished as PED violations, but 68 percent of first-time offenders receive four games and almost 75 percent of second-time offenders receive one year, per league policy.5Regardless of whether the player missed playoff games, I counted season-long suspensions as 16 games, or one regular season.Contrast that with the greater variation in the length of suspensions for personal conduct violations. This catchall category includes everything from murder to unsanctioned in–game violence to embarrassing the league on social media. Since 2002 (the first instance I could find), 38 percent of conduct violators received a one-game suspension. In this group are Larry Johnson, who spit his drink in a woman’s face, and Ricky Manning, Jr., who assaulted a man outside a Denny’s restaurant. Another 19 percent of players received two games, among them Jeremy Bridges, who pointed a gun at a stripper. Marshawn Lynch was among the 21 percent of players to receive a three-game suspension — after he was arrested for having a gun in his car. Even fewer players — 13 percent — received four games, and their cases ranged from sexual assault to multiple DUI arrests. The longest suspension went to Adam “Pacman” Jones, who was suspended 20 games (the entire 2007 season and the first four games of 2008) for numerous arrests and altercations with the police.The difference in the NFL’s treatment of drug and conduct violations is a result of the league’s collective bargaining agreement. The CBA does not mention the Personal Conduct Policy, but does explicitly refer to the Policy and Program For Substances of Abuse. The disparity is evident even when you compare the two documents. The one covering drugs is 32 pages. The other, three.The league’s new regulations are meant to bridge that gap. For years, there has been clear guidance on how to handle drug offenses but no prescription for violent, off-field offenses. Now there will be, and if a player commits a second act of violence, it “will result in banishment from the NFL.” An appeals process is available, but the player must wait a year.There were only five previous lifetime bans in my database — four were for repeated substance abuse, one was for gambling.6The gambling offense occurred in 1946. All suspensions from that era are included in the database, but not in the charts. For comparison, Donte Stallworth, who pleaded guilty to DUI manslaughter in 2009, was out of the league for a year.The previous inconsistency in punishment of domestic violence became clear when I looked at the 53 personal conduct violations that the league has issued since 2002. The average number of games suspended for all personal conduct violations was 3.0. For the 15 cases of domestic violence that had been punished under the old, nonspecific guidelines, the average number of games suspended was 1.5.The baseline suspension is now six games, assuming Goodell doesn’t reduce it because of “mitigating factors.” That means any domestic violence suspension going forward will double the previous record for any domestic violence punishment. The NFL will now take it more seriously when a player beats a woman than when he’s caught smoking a joint.The full data set is in a searchable table below. Originally, there were errors in some of the entries, which we have corrected. The database is as complete as possible, but there may be suspensions I missed. If you know of one, please submit it.Last updated: Sept. 22, 1:10 p.m. read more

September 30, 2019 | | Post a Comment

Michigan State kicked a field goal on the last play of its game on Saturday to topple the undefeated Ohio State Buckeyes — and made the College Football Playoff picture more complicated. You may have some unanswered questions: What does the upset of the Buckeyes mean for the eventual Big Ten champ’s chances? Does it help or hurt Notre Dame’s playoff position? And what about the Big 12? Fear not! FiveThirtyEight’s college football model has some (probabilistic) answers. Here are our updated projections following Saturday’s games (these numbers will change again on Tuesday night after the new committee rankings are released): Oregon 8-3236240%<1% ▲ 21<1% Stanford 9-21111952%11% ▲ 212% LSU 7-31538120%<1% ▲ 21<1% Alabama 10-121359%66% ▲ 2122% Ohio State 10-133410%33% ▼ 299% Wisconsin 8-32531280%<1% ▲ 21<1% Navy 9-116163826%<1% ▲ 21<1% (But first, a reminder: Our predictions are probabilistic for a reason. There’s a lot we don’t know! With only one year of data to work off, it’s not clear how the playoff committee weighs winning a conference championship against not playing in one, or how it judges a one-loss team in a strong conference versus an undefeated squad from a weak one. We’ll learn a lot more on Dec. 6 when the committee makes its picks.)Clemson and Alabama cruised on Saturday and retain pole position to make the playoff at 69 percent and 66 percent, respectively. Oklahoma sweated out a thrilling TCU comeback and remains the best bet from the Big 12 to make the playoff: The Sooners’ odds have risen to 55 percent. If they can win at Oklahoma State next Saturday, the Sooners make the playoff in 85 percent of our simulations.After that, it’s a pair of Big Ten teams — and things get hairy. Our model now gives Michigan State the inside track to be the fourth team in the playoff (with a 44 percent likelihood). Right behind the Spartans are the Buckeyes, at 33 percent. Luckily for Michigan State, it has a clear path to the playoff: Beat Penn State next week (the Spartans are 80 percent favorites) to wrap up the Big Ten East and then win over Iowa in the conference title game. Should Michigan State win out, our model gives them a 92 percent shot to make the playoff.Ohio State is not out yet, however. The Buckeyes’ path is just much less clear. They first need to beat Michigan at The Big House next week — no easy task, as the Buckeyes are only 58 percent favorites. Then they need the Spartans to lose. In a scenario in which Michigan State does slip up and a one-loss Ohio State team wins out — including over Iowa — the Buckeyes make the playoff in 96 percent of those simulations.But that is not the Buckeyes’ only way to the playoff. Should they win out and be excluded from the Big Ten championship game, they still make the playoff 54 percent of the time. As I explained last week, Ohio State as a one-loss defending national champion presents an impressive résumé for the committee to consider, even if the Buckeyes are prevented from vying for their conference title. It’s possible that two Big Ten teams make the playoff.Other takeaways from our model: Notre Dame, even if it wins out, is not assured a playoff spot. Three teams ranked behind it by the committee — Iowa, Michigan State and Oklahoma — have a good chance to leapfrog the Irish if they win out. Still, if the Irish beat Stanford next week to finish their regular season, their chances jump noticeably, to 69 percent.Baylor notched an impressive win over undefeated Oklahoma State on Saturday, but it didn’t help its playoff chances much. Currently, the Bears’ chances are 19 percent. Florida, on the other hand, had an overtime scare against Florida Atlantic, but despite a Gator victory, the model revised Florida’s playoff odds down to 17 percent. College Football Playoff (CFP) rankings as of Nov. 17. Playoff probability changes are since Nov. 18; only changes greater than 5 percentage points are shown. Baylor 9-1109216%19% ▲ 217% Memphis 8-32152490%<1% ▲ 21<1% Oklahoma St. 10-16141420%9% ▼ 162% Notre Dame 10-1478—a31% ▲ 216% USC 7-424261033%<1% ▲ 21<1% Clemson 11-014660%69% ▲ 2116% Utah 8-31337260%<1% ▲ 21<1% Houston 10-119284431%<1% ▲ 21<1% Mississippi 8-3221779%<1% ▲ 21<1% RankingProbability of … North Carolina 10-11781640%11% ▲ 212% Michigan 9-21213157%6% ▲ 21<1% Florida 10-18101932%17% ▼ 5a3% Iowa 11-05122937%29% ▲ 6a3% Northwestern 9-22021550%<1% ▲ 21<1% TCU 9-2181850%<1% ▼ 5a<1% TeamCFPEloFPIConf. TitlePlayoffNat. Title Florida State 9-21419130%<1% ▲ 21<1% Michigan St. 10-1921747%44% ▲ 336% Oklahoma 10-175163%55% ▲ 1022% read more

September 30, 2019 | | Post a Comment

Jered WeaverLos Angeles Angels pitcher Jered Weaver, the runner up to the Cy Young Award last year, spun a no-hitter Wednesday in Anaheim in a 9-0 victory over the Minnesota Twins.The Angels’ ace was brilliant, allowing just one walk en route to Major League Baseball’s second no-hitter in the majors in less than two weeks. Phil Humber of the Chicago White Sox threw a perfect game at Seattle on April 21.Weaver (4-0) struck out nine and the Twins did not came close to getting a hit against the All-Star right-hander.”It was an easy ride,” Weaver said.He had a more difficult time surviving the mob of teammates after Tori Hunter corralled the last out on the right-field warning track than he did handling the Minnesota batters. read more

September 29, 2019 | | Post a Comment

FiveThirtyEight Embed Code More: Apple Podcasts | ESPN App | RSS | Embed Welcome to the latest episode of Hot Takedown, FiveThirtyEight’s sports podcast. On this week’s show (Nov. 22, 2016), we chat about the Green Bay Packers’ continued struggles and ponder what might turn their season around. We then move to Thanksgiving Day football, which this year — for the first time since 1935 — features three games in which all teams are .500 or better. In anticipation, we explore the history behind which NFL teams play on Thanksgiving Day and debate the merits of trying to make the Thanksgiving schedule more like the NBA on Christmas. Finally, ESPN insider Mike Goodman joins us to discuss the firing of Jurgen Klinsmann, the U.S. men’s national soccer team coach; the return of coach Bruce Arena; and whether we should expect the USMNT to make it to the World Cup in 2018. Plus, FiveThirtyEight’s Ben Casselman drops by with a significant digit — and a warning!ESPN’s Rob Demovsky reports that despite Green Bay’s “disappointing” losing streak, it doesn’t seem that team President Mark Murphy will make coaching changes.ESPN tells you which NFL players to keep your eye on this Thanksgiving.Neil Paine questions whether Thanksgiving football should be more like Christmas in the NBA.Mental Floss breaks down the Detroit Lions’ and Dallas Cowboys’ history with Thanksgiving football.Neil Paine takes a look at the ups and downs of the USMNT’s Elo rating during the Klinsmann era.Mike Goodman writes on how U.S. soccer may shift under new coach Bruce Arena.Significant Digit: 549, which is the rough number of Americans 25 and older who landed in the emergency room because of football injuries on Thanksgiving in 2014. That’s actually pretty good compared with other years — the average is about 1,000 people per Thanksgiving since 2009. read more

September 29, 2019 | | Post a Comment

The top bowls are as good as they’ve ever been. The average grade for the top five bowls in each season, for instance, increased steadily from the late 1970s until the mid-’90s, and it’s stayed roughly level since then. The same goes for each season’s top 10 bowls. But the quality of the worst bowls each year has fallen off a cliff over time. The average grade for this year’s worst five bowls is 18 percent lower than it was in 1996 and 12 percent lower than it was a decade ago.This isn’t to say that more football is a bad thing, even when it’s played by increasingly mediocre teams. Although the dregs of bowl season feature far worse programs than they used to, practically all of that dip has come on the defensive side of the ball — offensive grades for low-level bowls are steady (if not slightly up) since the early 1980s, despite the overall decrease in quality for the teams participating in them.In other words: If obscure bowls can’t draw in good teams, they appear to have countered that by featuring teams that will at least play a high-scoring brand of football.That’s partly why I’ll be tuned in for, say, Tulsa-Central Michigan or Navy-Louisiana Tech — games that may not carry much meaning for the neutral observer, yet somehow hold an appeal nonetheless. Some of that is probably wrapped up in my own nostalgia for the long holiday breaks of childhood, watching endless streams of college football at the dawn of the 1990s bowl explosion. But some is also the fun of watching unusual opponents score a ton of points on each other in the quasi-pageantry of a bowl atmosphere. Games like these are vestigial parts of a postseason system that seems hopelessly out of place in 2016 — but even so, they’re not completely devoid of charm. And in terms of the quality of games, there are a lot more matchups that look like New Mexico-UTSA these days than, say, Ohio State vs. Clemson. To quantify this, I developed an index to rate the caliber of each bowl since the AP poll era began in 1936, grading each game on a 5-point scale (3 is average) based on three factors:The quality of the teams involved. For this, I used the harmonic mean of the two teams’ pregame Elo ratings, our pet metric for determining a team’s strength at any given moment. (Why harmonic? To ensure that both teams in a matchup had a high rating for a bowl to get one.) The 2015 CFP championship game between Ohio State and Oregon rated as a “5” on my grading scale — it featured the 10th- and 12th-best teams in college football history (in terms of Elo at their peak) — and was followed closely by the 2006 Rose Bowl between Texas and USC. For a “1,” look to the 1947 Harbor Bowl between New Mexico and Montana State.How close the matchup is. In addition to combining great teams, a quality bowl should feature a relatively even matchup. To measure that, I used the difference in the pregame Elo ratings of the two teams in each bowl; closer matchups earn a higher grade.2To give you a sense of how predictive this is, the quarter of bowls since 1936 that were projected to be the closest ended up having a margin of victory 22 percent smaller than the quarter of bowls that were projected to be most lopsided. The closest bowl in my data set? The 1996 Carquest Bowl between Miami and Virginia earned a “5,” with each team sporting a +10.5 Elo rating going into the game. (Miami won, 31-21.) The most lopsided bowl, on the other hand, was the 1970 Tangerine Bowl — Elo favored Toledo by nearly 29 points over William & Mary. (Toledo won by 28.)How much offense the game is likely to feature. This category is a bit more subjective than the others, because some people might not agree that more scoring makes for a better viewing experience. But truckloads of points are generally fun, and some of the hallmarks of lower-tier bowls are trick offenses and terrible defenses. Indeed, the average team in a pre-New Year’s bowl is 19 percent better on offense than on defense according to SRS.3Since 1947, the first season in the database that featured a bowl before New Year’s Day. So I gauged every historical bowl by how much more the teams were projected to score (based on their respective offensive and defensive SRS ratings) than the per-game average was for FBS/Division I-A teams in the same season.4Since 1936, the correlation between projected and actual points across all bowls was 0.7. The 1972 Peach Bowl between all-offense/no-defense West Virginia and N.C. State was a “5”; the 1963 Cotton Bowl with Texas and LSU (which combined to allow 9.6 points per game during the season) was a “1.”Add up the scores in each category, and you get a sort of total measure for the entertainment value of each bowl. Here’s how this year’s crop stacks up: College football’s bowl season officially kicks off on Saturday afternoon with the Gildan New Mexico Bowl between New Mexico and the University of Texas at San Antonio. And it’s pretty typical for lower-tier bowls: The combatants aren’t very good — the Lobos and Roadrunners rank No. 81 and 101, respectively, in ESPN’s Football Power Index rankings — but make for a pretty even matchup and are likely to put on an offensive show. (According to Sports-Reference.com’s Simple Rating System, or SRS, the two teams are projected to combine for 71 points, about 22 percent more than the typical FBS game.1The formula for projecting the number of total points in a matchup is relatively simple: Take the average number of points per game for all FBS/Division I-A schools in a given season, add one school’s offensive SRS and subtract its opponent’s defensive SRS. Do the same for the reverse situation — school A’s defense against school B’s offense — and add the two numbers together to get a stat-based “over/under” for a game.) It’s the kind of low-stakes pre-Christmas game meant primarily for fans, gamblers or otherwise inveterate college football junkies (raises hand).(Disclosure: The Gildan New Mexico Bowl is one of 13 bowl games this year that are owned and operated by ESPN, the parent company of FiveThirtyEight.)A couple of years ago, I wrote about the sport’s bloated bowl schedule, and things have only expanded since. Including the College Football Playoff championship game on Jan. 9, the FBS postseason now includes 41 bowl games over the span of 24 days, tying the all-time record set last year for the most jam-packed bowl season ever. Because the average grade in each category is a 3, the typical bowl scores around a total of 9 across all three of the factors I considered. In practice, however, the average bowl’s score hovered slightly above that mark from the 1960s until the late 1990s, when it began to plunge sharply — unsurprisingly, that was around the time we saw a steep uptick in the number of bowls: read more

September 29, 2019 | | Post a Comment

Running backs in the NFL don’t have the value they once did. The five highest-paid running backs this season will make 93 percent of what the five highest-paid RBs were paid in 2011, based on their collective salary cap charges each year according to Spotrac. The five highest-paid quarterbacks of 2019, meanwhile, are making 185 percent of their 2011 counterparts.12011 was the first year of the current Collective Bargaining Agreement.But top backs like Le’Veon Bell, who sat out the entire 2018 season over a contract dispute with the Steelers, and current holdout Ezekiel Elliott, who hauled in 77 passes last year, may be hoping to reestablish value at the position with their receiving ability. By leaning into a more pass-happy league, running backs like these two, the Panthers’ Christian McCaffrey (107 receptions in 2018) and the No. 2 overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, the New York Giants’ Saquon Barkley (91 receptions), are leading a receiving revolution at the position.But despite the exploits of the most prolific receiving backs last year, running back targets as a share of all passes are not significantly increasing. Teams are just throwing to everyone more often. Last year, 20.2 percent of passes were targeted at running backs, which is in line with the 2001-to-2017 average of 19.5 percent. The same is true if we look at the market share of passing yards: 18 percent last year compared with 17.5 from 2001 to 2017.And unless you’re playing fantasy football, judging receiving ability by the number of catches and receiving yards is a poor way to measure this skill. A checkdown to a running back who gains 12 yards on third-and-15 is great for your fantasy team, but it doesn’t do much to improve an actual team’s chances of winning a game.A more accurate — but still imperfect — gauge of the receiving value of a running back is the added value of the plays in which he is a receiver.2Imperfect because the contributions of each of the specific players involved in a given play aren’t teased out. We can use a team’s success rate on those plays — whether the play resulted in positive expected points added — to see more clearly that not all running back catches and yards are created equal.Last year, NFL backs registered successful plays on 1,663 of 3,572 receiving targets, a rate of 46.6 percent, according to ESPN Stats & Information Group. Elliott and Barkley were the top two rushers in the league last season, but they were below-average receivers for their position by this metric, posting respective success rates of 36.1 and 40.3 percent on passes thrown to them. The Cowboys and Giants ranked 31st and 26th, respectively, in overall success rates on those plays. When their quarterbacks threw to Elliott and Barkley, they typically weren’t increasing their probability of scoring points — they were worsening it.Whether it’s scheme, blocking or the ability of the running backs themselves, some teams are just better at this play-call than others. Comparing overall success rates, we can see a wide range of effectiveness across the league in 2018 when throwing to the RBs. N.Y. Jets1034644.7 New England1708650.6 teamAttemptsSuccessfulSuccess rate Philadelphia1014544.6 Denver1285845.3 Houston672537.3 Cincinnati1084743.5 L.A. Rams934851.6 Green Bay974546.4 Passes to RBs L.A. Chargers1387352.9 Baltimore914145.1 Oakland1326750.8 Arizona1093834.9 Seattle844250.0 Buffalo933537.6 Jacksonville1336246.6 Pittsburgh1105650.9 Kansas City996262.6% N.Y. Giants1496040.3 San Francisco1075854.2 Source: ESPN STATS & INFORMATION GROUP Indianapolis1265543.7 No team threw to its RBs more than the Patriots, and it obviously worked out OK for them. But that doesn’t mean the Patriots were the best at it — that honor belongs to the AFC runner-up Kansas City Chiefs, who recorded a success rate of 62.6 percent on these throws. The next best team on passes to running backs, the Panthers, posted a success rate of 54.5 percent. In fact, the difference in success rate, 8.1 percentage points, between the best and second-most effective teams — the Chiefs and Panthers — is the same as the difference between the Panthers and the Packers, the 15th-best team at this play.Despite their high proficiency on such throws, the Chiefs were just 23rd in the share of passes targeted to running backs, though it’s hard to criticize them for not throwing enough to RBs given that they had one of the most explosive offenses in NFL history. And the Chiefs didn’t rely on any one running back for that success: Targets to each of the Chiefs’ primary backs last season — Kareem Hunt, Spencer Ware and Damien Williams — had a success rate of at least 59.5 percent.This raises a problem for the star running backs trying to prove their worth this season. Because the expected points added on a given play are owned by everyone involved, it would be hard for a running back to claim success rate on targets as his own.For example, Melvin Gordon is holding out from the Chargers for a new contract — one that would pay him for being more than just a runner. He would reasonably be able to point to the 50.8 percent play success on his 61 targets in 2018. The trouble is that the other top Charger backs, Austin Ekeler and Justin Jackson, were each part of a higher share of successful pass plays than Gordon was, averaging a success rate of 54.2 percent.Standing out as receivers may be the best chance for running backs trying to get around the depressed salaries at their position. But even with their contributions to the passing game, it still might be a challenge for these RBs to prove that their receiving value also isn’t easily replaced. The Chiefs got the most out of the running back passNFL teams by success rate of passes to running backs, as measured by positive expected points added, for the 2018 regular season Chicago1316650.4 Detroit1436243.4 Tennessee863641.9 New Orleans1427150.0 Dallas1114136.9 Washington1084339.8 Atlanta873944.8 Carolina1347354.5 Tampa Bay883539.8 Cleveland1095449.5 Minnesota984444.9 Miami1015049.5 read more

September 28, 2019 | | Post a Comment

The number next to Tennessee’s name in the NCAA tournament bracket, 11, makes the Volunteers look like heavy underdogs against Michigan on Friday night. How Tennessee got to the Sweet 16 makes it look like a serious upset threat.Teams that are underseeded tend to outplay their seed, as I wrote last week. So do teams that have to play their way into the main tournament bracket, which I wrote about in a separate article. Yet most of these teams still lose their next game, when they face heavy favorites. Tennessee, thanks to a kind draw, is in the small group of teams that were underseeded, had to play their way in, and then won their next game. Similar teams went on to achieve major tournament success.Ken Pomeroy’s ratings on Selection Sunday ranked Tennessee as the 13th best team in the country, worthy of a No. 4 seed. And the Volunteers have played like it since, winning their play-in game over Iowa by 13 points and then crushing UMass and Mercer by 19 and 20, respectively. No other team got to this year’s Sweet 16 with two wins as lopsided as Tennessee’s.The Volunteer’s next opponent, Michigan, is the Midwest’s second seed and reached last year’s championship game. The Wolverines are favored over Tennessee by 2.5 or three points by Las Vegas sports books.But teams like Tennessee have been dangerous at this stage. The Vols — by virtue of beating Iowa and playing their way into the tournament — joined a group that historically outperforms its pre-tournament level by two points per game. Those two points, however, usually aren’t enough against their next, higher-seeded opponents.By beating UMass, Tennessee became just the 33rd play-in winner to win its next round (including in that group teams that had to win games in the early 1980s to advance and face a team that got a bye). How much these teams were underseeded is correlated (R>0.32) with three measures of later success: margin of victory in their next game, subsequent tournament wins and eventual finish. (The last two aren’t redundant because the tournament’s field size and number of rounds have changed.)Underseeded Play-in Winners That Won Their Next GameFive of the 32 teams before Tennessee were underseeded by four or more, according to their pretournament Simple Rating System ranking, as calculated by my colleague Benjamin Morris. (Pomeroy ratings don’t go back to the 1980s.) All five won their next games in the tournament — as Tennessee did against Mercer — and four went to the Final Four, including national finalist UCLA in 1980. No team before Tennessee was underseeded by even six spots; the Vols were slotted seven spots below where they should have been.FiveThirtyEight’s model, which takes into account Pomeroy’s ratings and teams’ performance during the tournament, gives the Vols a 47 percent chance of beating Michigan on Friday. The game is essentially a tossup – a rarity for a matchup between a No. 2 seed and a No. 11. read more

September 28, 2019 | | Post a Comment

7117.498.7 Chances the Warriors finish with: Thursday’s win wasn’t an empty end-of-season-type deal: San Antonio played its starters regular minutes, but the Warriors were in control and held a double-digit lead for most of the game. The big 14-2 first-half run came when San Antonio forward LaMarcus Aldridge dislocated his pinkie finger after being blocked on a layup attempt and had to go to the bench.San Antonio also plans to play its full lineup in Sunday’s game against Golden State. Right now, CARM-Elo has the Spurs as 70.8 percent favorites in that game — the Warriors will be on the second leg of a road back-to-back — and winning would put the Spurs within one game (against the Oklahoma City Thunder) of being the first team to go undefeated at home in the regular season. Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said the team tracks minutes and rest closely throughout the season but is also careful about not deconditioning players heading into the playoffs. 701.3%100% On Golden State’s side, coach Steve Kerr said he’d talk to the team about resting. “Now that we have [the 1-seed],” he said, “I’m inclined to give some guys a rest if they need it, but I’ve also sort of made a pact with the guys that if they’re not tired, if they’re not banged up, and they want to go for this record, then — ” at which point he shrugged, closed his eyes and made a pained face. “So, we gotta talk.”Draymond Green, the Warriors’ power forward, admitted to feeling extra motivation to play because the Warriors will “probably never get to this point again” but said that he’d texted the Warriors’ group chat and told them, “If you need the rest, take the rest. If you don’t, we’re going after it.”Golden State’s two other remaining games are against the Memphis Grizzlies. CARM-Elo gives the Warriors a 74.4 percent chance of sweeping both games, though as we saw with the Timberwolves game on Tuesday, strange results happen at the ends of seasons.Probabilistically, the Warriors remain an improbable bet to win 73. But with so much uncertainty going into the San Antonio game, and that game’s odds factoring so heavily into the overall odds of Golden State getting to 73, it’s probably best not to focus on the specific numbers. Even now, 79 games into the Warriors’ remarkable season, the crush of history is still about a 3-to-1 favorite over the champs. 7322.622.6 Well, that’s one down.The Golden State Warriors became the second NBA team to reach 70 wins in a season after taking down the San Antonio Spurs 112-101 Thursday night. The Warriors need to win their final three games to break the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls record of 72 wins. Our CARM-Elo ratings put the chances of that happening at a paltry 22.6 percent, up from 13.4 percent before the game. April 9@ MEM80.5% DATEOPPONENTWIN PROB 7258.881.3 April 10@ SA29.2 April 13vs. MEM92.4 WINSEXACTLY THIS MANY WINSAT LEAST THIS MANY WINS Warriors’ remaining schedule read more

September 28, 2019 | | Post a Comment

OSU senior forward Marc Loving drives to the basket against Michigan State forward Miles Bridges on Jan. 15 at the Schottenstein Center. OSU won 72-67. Credit: Ashley Nelson | Sports DirectorThe story ended. Another has begun.The Ohio State men’s basketball team defeated Michigan State 72-67 for its first win in conference play, ending the team’s worst start to conference play in the 13 season under coach Thad Matta.Sophomore guard JaQuan Lyle carried the Buckeyes (11-7, 1-4) with 22 points. Senior forward Marc Loving added 12.Freshman sensation Miles Bridges led Michigan State (12-7, 4-2) with 24 points.Everything that had been detrimental to OSU’s chances to win a game suddenly disappeared on Sunday. The Buckeyes withstood runs from Michigan State — something OSU failed to do in three of its first four Big Ten matchups. OSU shot well from the outside, 10 for 23, and turned over the Spartans 17 times.Matta said that what he watched on the court felt like OSU basketball.“We needed it. There’s no question about that,” he said.The team that battled 40 minutes against Michigan State on Sunday looked nothing like the team that suffered a 23-point embarrassment at Wisconsin on Thursday.Matta said that when the team got off the plane in Columbus after that game, he told his players that they have to stand for something in life. He said that Sunday would tell the story of how the team responds to adversity following its worst loss of the season. In result, OSU matched each Spartan run with one of its own and executed when it had to.“We talked about playing through adversity all week,” Loving said. “Our practices were really hard and in certain situations you got to play through adversity in practice. So just trying to get good reps of those to get them to carry over into the game and I felt like it helped.”Made free throws and Tate’s rebound off freshman guard Joshua Langford’s missed 3 sealed the game for OSU, but there were plenty of opportunities before the final seconds where OSU could have folded.Michigan State started the game hitting its first six shots and led 15-10 at the first media timeout. However, sophomore guard C.J. Jackson checked into the lineup for more defensive presence and the Buckeyes went on a 9-0 run to take a 16-15 lead. When the Spartans retook a 20-16 lead, OSU went on an 11-0 run.Langford hit a 3 at the halftime buzzer to cut the OSU lead to 36-33, giving the Spartans the momentum heading into the break. OSU scored the first points of the second half not allowing Michigan State to start a run.The Spartans finally captured the lead with 14:45 remaining in the second half on a 3-pointer by Kyle Ahrens, then Lyle and Loving both hit shots from deep to keep the score on OSU’s side.Down two with 7:15 to go, Lyle connected on one of his five triples. OSU hit its next three shots, including a 3 from junior forward Jae’Sean Tate to give OSU its largest lead of the game, 66-58.They could have folded, but they didn’t. For Matta, that was the most encouraging sign of a team coming off a 23-point loss.“The thing I’m most proud of is things did not go as planned throughout the course of the game but we kept coming back and we kept defending,” Matta said. “I thought we had decent ball pressure, which is a good thing.”For the first time all year, OSU had all five starters in double figures — an occurrence that OSU hopes isn’t an anomaly but becomes a consistent theme.“We have no choice but to build off of it,” Lyle said. “These past four games, we were the lowest of the low that we could be. The way now is to go up.”Up NextOSU goes on the road once again in conference play to Lincoln, Nebraska for a Wednesday night matchup with the Cornhuskers at 9 p.m. read more

September 28, 2019 | | Post a Comment

The Buckeyes have had their midweek struggles through the season, losing three of their last four prior to Wednesday night’s home game against the Ball State Cardinals.But Ohio State (26-19, 9-9) was able to add enough late offense to defeat the visiting Cardinals (24-24, 15-6 in the Mid-American Conference) 8-4 on a chilly night at Bill Davis Stadium. “We played with some intensity, but we played more relaxed,” said coach Bob Todd. “Overall, this is the way we should be playing.”Shortstop Tyler Engle hit an RBI single in the sixth inning to give OSU a 5-2 lead, but two Ball State runs in the eighth inning from a throwing error and a based-loaded walk made it a one-run game at 5-4.The Buckeyes added three more runs in the bottom of the eighth, one from a dropped ball in the outfield that allowed third baseman Brad Hallberg to score, and two from an RBI single from second baseman Cory Kovanda to push the lead to 8-4.OSU scored in each of the first three innings, and made the score 4-1.in the fifth inning when Kovanda, who went 2-for-4 in the game, sacrificed in left fielder Zach Hurley.Hurley said that the team has been more relaxed lately, ever since the incident where the baseball team reportedly sacrificed a chicken, following in the footsteps of the baseball movie “Major League.”“If you don’t have fun, what’s the point of being out there?” Hurley said. “For me, if we were going to keep losing, I didn’t want to be miserable.”One of the players who has been more relaxed lately for Ohio State has been catcher Dan Burkhart, who went 3-for-4 in the win.“I’ve just been a little more relaxed after I was pressing earlier in the year,” Burkhart said. Right-handed reliever Jared Strayer pitched five strong innings for the Buckeyes, giving up only one run on four hits. “He really has a resilient arm,” Todd said. “He actually threw more innings than we wanted to tonight.”Strayer had been working on altering his delivery, and the results showed in his performance on the mound for the Buckeyes.“It was definitely a transition process,” Strayer said. “And I kept working at it because success isn’t easy.”OSU will travel to Iowa for a three-game series with the Hawkeyes beginning Friday at 7:05 p.m., when they will look to reclaim first place in the Big Ten.The Buckeyes are currently fifth in the conference, one game back of Michigan, Purdue, Minnesota, and Northwestern, who are tied for the lead.One question is whether or not the chicken from Sunday’s win against Illinois will be making the trip.“We might be bringing our chicken with us,” Burkhart said. read more