The shading shows you the general range of strengths for each seed.Although not a huge effect, the gap between the No. 5 and 6 seeds and their competition has been narrowing over time. The average difference between No. 5 and 12 seeds from 2000 to 2002 was about 7.6 points, but it has been about 5.8 from 2012 to 2014.More importantly, the 5 vs. 12 matchup looks a lot more like the 6 vs. 11 one than it does the 4 vs. 13. The No. 5 seeds have been considerably weaker than No. 4 seeds, and No. 12 seeds have been considerably stronger than No. 13 seeds. The average No. 5 seed had a 6.6 point expected advantage going into a game against its No. 12 seed opponent. That’s only 2.2 points higher than the average advantage that No. 6 seeds held against No. 11 seeds (4.4 points), but it’s 5.1 points lower than the average advantage that No. 4 seeds held against No. 13 seeds (11.7 points).It seems like the 5 vs. 12 seed matchup is the threshold where the games should start being much more competitive. Combine that with the psychological effect of thinking five is a number that has more in common with four than six (blame our five fingers), and you have a recipe for “shocking” upsets.That is, there are a number of upsets, but we shouldn’t really be shocked. Even just looking at recent history, No. 5 seeds have only been a greater than 10 point SRS favorite in eight round-of-64 games since 2005, and they won 7 of them.3The loser was Illinois against Western Kentucky in 2009. The No. 5 seed has been an SRS underdog three times (and lost twice). Still, the No. 5 seed has performed below what one would expect based on the difference between them and their opponents. But so have most seeds. Here’s a chart comparing the average expected outcomes based on SRS difference and average actual outcomes for each seed over the past 12 years:From this angle, the No. 5 seed “outlier” doesn’t look as impressive. Seeds No. 1 through 6 all underperformed expectations by a smallish — but somewhat consistent — amount. The main difference with the No. 5 seed is that it didn’t have a big enough advantage to underperform this much without losing a lot more games.In other words, if there’s something that has systematically led tournament favorites to underperform their expectations by a few points or so across the board,4As a strictly mathy thing, having a somewhat constant deviation isn’t as weird as it may seem because the standard deviation for a team’s actual SRS is similarly stable. So in this case, it’s a bit like the stronger teams are all running one standard deviation below the expected mean. No. 5 seeds would be disproportionately hard-hit. Thus the 5-seed jinx may be more like the proverbial “canary in a coal mine,” indicating that something bigger is going on.We know the Big Dance is exciting, but could there really be something about the tournament that makes favorites underperform and gives underdogs better-than-normal chances?It’s tricky. For example, the selection committee may systematically overvalue particular types/classes of teams, but that doesn’t necessarily explain why teams would underperform relative to SRS. Some of it could be that SRS is poorly calibrated for the types of matchups we see in the tournament (e.g., between larger and smaller conferences that rarely play each other). It could be that favorites are more likely to regress to the mean.5This is always a good candidate, but, interestingly, there is no such effect in the women’s tournament.Or it could just be that this is March Madness, and anything can happen. If there’s one piece of folk wisdom that has emerged over the past decade or so of March Madness, it’s that No. 5 seeds are jinxed. SportsCenter did a whole story on the subject featuring Virginia Commonwealth University. In 2012, VCU was a No. 12 seed that pulled off a “shocking” upset against Wichita State. In 2013, VCU was itself a No. 5 but defied the trend, crushing No. 12 Akron by 46 points to become the only No. 5 seed to win its opening-round (round of 64) game that year. In 2014, VCU’s story came full circle. It again entered the tournament as a No. 5 seed but was upset by unheralded No. 12 seed Stephen F. Austin University. The tournament quirk that was once VCU’s magic was now its curse.Including those VCU games, No. 12 seeds over the past three years have pulled off upsets in eight of 12 round-of-64 matchups, including six of their last eight. It would be extremely easy to dismiss this as a freak occurrence. (I certainly did at first.) But it’s a real phenomenon. And after looking into it, I think it may be indicative of something larger. The 5-seed jinx may be a sign that March Madness — at least on the men’s side — is even madder than we think.But I’ll get there. First, let’s look at the phenomenon. If it seems like No. 12 seeds beat No. 5 seeds more than they should, it’s because they have. Going back to 1995, No. 5 seeds have been upset 33 times in 80 games. Their 59 percent win rate compares unfavorably to the 66 percent win rate of No. 6 seeds. Based on the trend, it would appear that No. 5 seeds should be winning more like 72 percent. Take a look at how far No. 5 seeds deviate in the chart below. The gray region is the standard error on the fit between seed and win percentage when not including the No. 5 seed:So they’re an outlier, but is it significant? Particularly, how unlikely is this to have happened by chance? Let us consult the oracle of binom.dist() — Excel’s handy function that tells you the probability of things happening a certain number of times, given the probability of them happening once. In a fun bit of symmetry, given an expected win rate of 72 percent, the odds of No. 5 seeds losing six of eight, eight of 12, or 33 of 80 are all about the same: Each is a little under 1 percent.10.8 percent, 0.6 percent and 0.7 percent, respectively.Note that it would be unremarkable for this to have happened by chance: One in a hundred-type things happen every day. But, as a committed Bayesian, I have to consult my priors and determine whether the phenomenon of No. 5 seeds’ underperforming is more likely to be a result of chance or other plausible factors.First, let’s look at how strong each seed’s teams have been since 1995. As you go from the 1 vs. 16 matchups down to the 8 vs. 9 ones, the better-seeded teams get worse and the worse-seeded teams get better, making the contests much closer. To see how much so, we can plot each team’s SRS (Simple Rating System, a metric that measures margin of victory adjusted for strength of schedule) prior to the game.2I backed these out myself, so there may be very small differences from what was actually recorded at the time. They’re as prior to each team’s round-of-64 match for each year (since 1995). Check out FiveThirtyEight’s March Madness predictions. read more


Mandy Minella pulls a Mandy Minella. She set her own standards, no need to drag the 🐐 into this mediocrity.— Dagreatone1 (@freddie005) July 4, 2017 I pulled a Michael Jordan and didn’t make the NBA— mikey the apache (@m1kety) July 4, 2017 She didn’t “pull a Serena” because she didn’t win. She just a lost a tennis match while pregnant. https://t.co/g9McD2QRzW— Imani Gandy o—€ (@AngryBlackLady) July 5, 2017 Wouldn’t that require oh I don’t know, WINNING? Delete this headline. Do NOT diminish/pin Serena against anyone.— WitchyKilljoy (@JJovana) July 4, 2017 Winning while never dropping a set.*— Neuroscience Nerd (@CourtB890) July 4, 2017 Many said Mandy Minella, with her husband on the left, shouldn’t be compared to Serena Williams (@mandyminella Twitter/@serenawilliams Instagram)An article linking pregnant tennis player Many Minella to expectant Grand Slam winner Serena Williams backfired, primarily because the former lost her first-round match at Wimbledon.During the early stages of her pregnancy in January, Williams famously won the Australian Open and earned her 23rd Grand Slam singles title. Tennis.com’s Baseline ran an article Tuesday, July 4, saying Luxembourg native Minella, who is four months pregnant, “pulled a Serena” during the first round, where the world No. 82 fell to 37-year-old and No. 72-ranked Italian Francesca Schiavone, 6-1, 6-1. Comparatively, Williams beat her sister Venus 6-4, 6-4 in the final at Australia.The failed comparison immediately got Twitter users talking.So she didn’t pull a Serena? https://t.co/ZwM5AtcYGG— Shyne Coldchain Jr. (@Smooth_Orator) July 4, 2017 pic.twitter.com/63HmZMR3lA— Ashley Ja’Terria (@All_N_Yo_Tweets) July 4, 2017Despite having the best possible reason to be doing so, Williams seemed to be missing Wimbledon as she showed off her drills on Instagram Monday, July 3. read more


Three weeks ago, the Denver Broncos looked like an easy choice for the NFL’s best team after back-to-back impressive wins: a 42-17 thumping of the San Francisco 49ers (then the third-ranked team in our Elo ratings), followed by a 35-21 victory over the then-seventh-ranked San Diego Chargers. Since then, however, Denver has arguably been the coldest team in the league. Or at least, nobody has shed more points off of their Elo rating since the end of Week 8 than the Broncos (although the Carolina Panthers certainly seem to be trying their best to match Denver’s skid).Denver’s record over that span — one win, two losses — hasn’t necessarily been its entire undoing. Unlike some of the other more frigid teams across the league, the Broncos have at least won a game in November. (Not to pick on Carolina again, but the Panthers haven’t won since the first week of October.) But the Broncos were also expected to win more — the pregame Elo ratings generated an expectation of 2.1 wins over their past three games. Our Elo point spreads figured Denver would take care of its November opponents by a collective 19.5 points; instead, the team has posted a -13 point differential.The most damaging game of the Broncos’ season thus far was their most recent one, when they were upset by the St. Louis Rams. Losing 22-7 despite being favored by 6.5 points, the defeat cost Denver 43 points of Elo rating, the fifth-most Elo points any team has relinquished in a single game so far this season. (If you’re curious, the Cleveland Browns’ win over the Cincinnati Bengals ranks first in that department.) It also dropped the Broncos to fourth place in the current rankings, the lowest they’ve sat since right after they were shellacked by the Seattle Seahawks in the Super Bowl in February.But all is not lost for the Broncos — in fact, from a making-the-playoffs perspective, hardly anything was lost. Although the losses to the New England Patriots and St. Louis were costly to the team’s chances of locking up one of the AFC’s top two seeds (and therefore a first-round playoff bye) and even of winning the AFC West (the Kansas City Chiefs are in hot pursuit), they were not particularly damaging to its postseason probability. The Broncos’ chances of making the playoffs have only declined from a practical certainty (96 percent) to a matter of high likelihood (85 percent) during the skid. And Denver still has the league’s third-best chance of winning the Super Bowl. So, despite the team’s recent lapses, fans can probably R-E-L-A-X.The bigger playoff concerns belong to Denver’s Super Bowl opponents a season ago: the Seahawks.Before Week 8, we said the league’s defending champions were suddenly underdogs to return to the postseason … upon which the Seahawks promptly rattled off three consecutive victories, increasing their playoff odds to 61 percent. But on the heels of a loss in Kansas City, here we are again; our Elo simulations say the Seahawks have only a 47 percent probability of returning to the playoffs.The 49ers, who bested the New York Giants last week, were clear beneficiaries of Seattle’s loss, tacking 14 percentage points onto their playoff probability as the Seahawks lost precisely the same amount from theirs. It was a fitting zero-sum transaction for last year’s NFC Championship Game contestants. At the start of the season, the NFC West was supposed to go to the Seahawks or the 49ers, with the runner-up at least being favorites to grab a wild card berth. But nobody counted on the Arizona Cardinals building on their surprising 2013 success and emerging as the division front-runners, the reality of which could leave either Seattle or San Francisco (or both?) out of the playoffs.As Arizona increasingly runs away with the West (Elo gives the Cardinals an 80 percent chance of winning the division, granting that it doesn’t take Carson Palmer’s injury into account), it has become apparent that the Seahawks’ and 49ers’ only path to the playoffs might lead through one of the NFC’s two wild card slots. While our simulations say there’s a 72 percent probability that at least one NFC West team earns a wild card berth, there’s only a 32 percent chance that both wild cards emerge from the division. Most likely, one of the West runners-up will be left out — a fate that befalls Seattle in a slightly higher proportion of simulations than it does San Francisco.Elo point spreadsRecord against point spread: 76-72-3 (6-5 in Week 11)Straight-up record: 111-49-1 (8-6 in Week 11)The Elo ratings again had a winning record against the gambling lines last week, but as we caution in every edition of this column, don’t take these numbers to Vegas and use them to place bets. Even in a lucky year, Elo hasn’t done well enough to turn a profit after the bookies take their vigorish.At any rate, Elo seems to have a difference of opinion than Vegas when it comes to the aforementioned NFC West race. The consensus spread on this weekend’s big Arizona-Seattle tilt has Seattle favored by 6.5 points, while Elo only considers the Seahawks two-point favorites. Much of this probably stems from Seattle’s formidable home-field advantage, which is several points per game greater than the generic 2.6-point edge Elo gives home teams. But Vegas also rates Arizona much lower than Elo does — and that was true even before Palmer’s injury. The bookmakers are probably accounting for the Cardinals’ relatively unimpressive peripheral indicators, figuring their performance will come back down to earth.Vegas also seems to devalue San Francisco relative to its Elo rating. Elo ranks the 49ers fifth, but their implied rating from the betting lines places them 11th in the league. This explains why, against a dreadful Washington team, San Francisco is favored by nine points instead of the two-touchdown edge Elo would predict.Meanwhile, Vegas holds the Green Bay Packers in much higher regard than Elo does. While Elo ranks the Packers sixth in the NFL and has boosted their standing more over the past three weeks than all but three teams, the oddsmakers list them as 9.5-point road favorites against the Minnesota Vikings this week. Elo gives them a four-point advantage. That 5.5-point discrepancy is the biggest for any spread in Week 12, so it will be interesting to see whether the relatively high “K-factor” Vegas seems to be assigning to Green Bay’s recent dominance (to put it in Elo-equation terms) is appropriate. read more


If you want to talk about the really good guy who’s not in the tournamentMarkelle FultzFreshman PG, 6-foot-4, WashingtonFultz’s Huskies won’t be in the tournament, but he may come up in draft conversations just the same. Like Ball, Fultz is a stand-out point guard prospect. But while Ball’s offense comes from all over, Fultz was at his best in pick-and-roll, where he has scored 101 points per 100 plays — among the best in the nation for that play type, according to Synergy. He’s especially good at turning the corner quickly and finishing at the rim, but he can also curl around the screen and fire a pull-up three — a shot that’s growing in popularity (and effectiveness) in the NBA. Otherwise, Fultz gets most of his offense by getting out in transition and getting set up for spot-up jumpers, where he’s good but doesn’t stand out as much as he does in the pick-and-roll.If you’re looking for wingsJosh JacksonFreshman SF, 6-foot-8, KansasJackson is a defensive standout and one of the best point-forward prospects in the class. While his defensive numbers (via Synergy) are good but not great (he’s holding his marks to 81 points per 100 plays overall), he can straight-up stick his man and chase him off of shots he’d otherwise take. In fact, his overall numbers are pulled down a bit by his role: Despite spending most of his time as a stretch-4, almost 60 percent of his defensive plays come against spot-up shooters and in isolation, which are play types where the offense believes it has an advantage. Yet Jackson is still holding his own.Jackson is a natural and willing passer who finds runners on the break and in semi-transition, often on clever back-door cuts, and sucks defenders in on drives before dishing to a teammate for an easy dumpoff and dunk. Kansas also puts Jackson in a lot of 4-5 pick-and-rolls, where he can throw lobs to center Landen Lucas. A lot of times, prospects can put up impressive passing numbers simply by using a lot of possessions (Jackson’s assist percentage is 18.9 — very good for a non-point guard), but in this case, the eye test matches the numbers. Jackson is the truth.The one question with Jackson’s game is whether his jump shot is real. Jackson began the season shooting miserably from long range, going 23.7 percent on 2.1 3-point attempts per game in his first 18 games. But since late January, he’s been on a tear. In 13 games since Jan. 21, Jackson is shooting 51.3 percent on three 3-point attempts per game. That evens out to 38 percent on the season, but that kind of extreme swing is worth keeping in mind. As with any one-and-done prospect, we’re dealing in small sample sizes. But for Jackson, there’s at least some explanation for the inconsistency: His coaches aren’t touching his jump shot this season.“Now can he tighten it up and do some things differently? Absolutely,” Kansas coach Bill Self said in December. “But that will probably be on somebody else’s watch. That won’t be on our watch as much. I don’t see a reason why when you have a young man for a very brief period of time why you want to totally cloud his brain with something other than very, very few, simple things.”So the state of Jackson’s jumper over the next few weeks may not be the most important thing to focus on. But how able he is to adjust once he’s in the NBA will be crucial, as the difference between a wing prospect who can do it all and one who can do it all minus a jumper is the difference between an All-NBA-level talent and a useful role player.Jayson TatumFreshman F, 6-foot-8, DukeTatum is a down-the-middle wing prospect. He’s a good defender (allowing 73 points per 100 plays), a pretty good defensive rebounder (19.7 percent defensive rebound rate), a pretty good spot-up jump shooter (89 points per 100 plays, according to Synergy, although 12 of his 37 made threes for the year came during a three-game stretch in February), and a pretty good passer. But his underlying metrics don’t match up with his more obvious talents, such as when he broke out and averaged 22 points per game through the ACC tournament. The natural comparison for Tatum is Justise Winslow, another Duke swingman/small-ball 4 with obvious talents that can go unrecognized by college stats.If you are Vivek RanadiveMalik MonkFreshman PG, 6-foot-3, KentuckyOver the last several seasons, we’ve gotten a pretty clear idea of the tastes of Sacramento Kings owner Ranadive, as well as the forcefulness of his pursuit of those tastes. The Ranadive type is a guard in the mold of Ben McLemore, Nik Stauskas or Buddy Hield, a gunslinger who can shoot a team into the Final Four all on his own. This season, no player captures that type better than Kentucky’s Malik Monk. No offense to Monk.Monk is a shooter, and almost singlehandedly shoulders the load of 3-point shooting for Kentucky. This makes him a somewhat unique Kentucky guard, as he’s averaging nearly seven 3-point attempts per game and hitting 40 percent of them, which is impressive on its own, but more so when you consider that he’s doing it while dealing with extra defenders cheating off of backcourt mates De’Aaron Fox (24.2 percent from three) and Isaiah Briscoe (27.3 percent). For many NBA fans, March Madness is the embarrassing time of year when they realize that while they can recite, say, the Milwaukee Bucks’ bench rotation or the draft implications of a Sacramento Kings win, they can’t name more than a handful of college players. The tournament is the first time such fans will be seeing many of the players whom they’ll then discuss at length leading up to the NBA draft. So if you’re starting from zero, or are just looking for a quick refresher on a few prospects, here’s a viewing guide to the top lottery prospects in the tournament.If you’re looking for point guardsLonzo BallFreshman PG, 6-foot-6, UCLAChances are that most NBA fans have heard a little bit about Lonzo Ball. But much of the talk has been about his father, his brothers or his draft stock, rather than just how outstanding Ball has been on the court.First off, Ball is one of the most efficient scorers in the college game. His top-line analytics are staggering: Ball has a 66.7 true shooting percentage and scores 108 points per 100 plays; 56.3 percent of his field goal attempts are threes (he hits 41 percent of those). The overall efficiency is propped up a little because 31 percent of his plays (a massive chunk) have come in transition, where he scores 112 points per 100. Getting out and running is an effective strategy, and a big reason why the Bruins lead the NCAA with 90.4 points per game, but it’s not quite as telling for what Ball will be able to do in the NBA. For that, catch him spotting up for that broken-looking jumper of his — he scores 125 points per 100 plays on spot-ups, which is just as impressive as it sounds.Where Ball isn’t as polished is on the pick-and-roll — a play type that fellow top prospect Markelle Fultz of Washington excels at. Ball scores a more mediocre 78 points per 100 pick-and-roll plays. He’s also just a so-so rebounder for his size, with a 9.4 total rebound rate and 14.4 defensive rebound rate, neither of which is overly impressive for a 6-foot-6 superathlete.But those are all just individual stats. What makes Ball so special is that he can do all those things while also operating as a true point guard. Combine Ball’s individual stats with his passing numbers and the numbers begin to get silly. According to Synergy Sports Technology, he has an absurd 156 points per 100 plays on all plays he finishes — so when he shoots or draws a foul or commits a turnover — plus plays on which he records an assist. A little reference, since this isn’t the most common stat around: These plays + assist numbers tend to look a little inflated compared to what you usually see for players, because adding assists includes only made shots. This isn’t ideal, but it does give a good sense of the total contribution of a player, since adding more assists will nudge the number upward. Here are the numbers for some other top players: Fultz and Kentucky’s De’Aaron Fox are at 127p+a/100; Malik Monk of Kentucky is at 119; Josh Jackson of Kansas is at 116. Those are very good numbers, but Ball’s still stand out when compared apples-to-apples.De’Arron FoxFreshman PG, 6-foot-3, KentuckyThe line on Fox has been that he’s a jump shot away from being a top-five pick. So it’s telling that he’s still projected to be a late-lottery pick. On the year, Fox is scoring just 79 points per 100 plays on spot-up jumpers, according to Synergy, which is not very good at all. That’s not a great sign for a perimeter prospect, but Fox has one big thing working in his favor: speed.Fox is a burner, one of the fastest guards in the country, and puts that speed to material use in his game. He and backcourt mate Malik Monk are both in the top 15 of transition plays per game (5.6 per game for Fox, 5.7 for Monk). And once Fox is out in the open court, he can get to the rim at will. His penetration also carries him on isolation plays, where he’s strong (97 points per 100 plays). The question is whether Fox can combine those individual skills into an all-around game. He’s sitting on an assist percentage1The percentage of teammate field goals assisted by a player while he’s on the court. of 30, which is solid, but he doesn’t have the best passing instincts out on the break and can force things at the rim.VIDEO: Our picks for bracket success This perimeter workload has weighed down other parts of Monk’s game. As a prospect, he was known for killer athleticism, but he hasn’t gotten to the basket the way Fox has for the Wildcats: 80 percent of his shots in the halfcourt offense have been jumpers, according to Synergy. He’s scored an excellent 111 points per 100 plays on those jumpers, so it’s working out. But he’s even more efficient when he gets to the rim, either in half court or in transition.If you’re looking for big menLauri MarkkanenFreshman PF/C, 7-foot, ArizonaMarkkanen is a 7-foot freshman center out of Finland who lacks a true comparison in the modern game because I’ll be struck down by the Almighty if I invoke Arvydas Sabonis.Markkanen is sitting on a 63.3 true shooting percentage; 44.4 percent of his field goal attempts are threes, and he hits 43.2 percent of them. He isn’t just a jump shooter, though — Synergy has him averaging 125 points per 100 plays as the roll man in pick-and-roll and 102 points per 100 plays posting up — both excellent numbers. He is a bigger body than recent rangy big-man prospects like Nikola Mirotic but has more bounce than guys his size. This allows him to be a strong rebounder (17.7 defensive rebound rate) but also a live body filling the lane in transition or cutting off the ball. While Markkanen’s stats are impressive enough, he’s one of the guys in the tournament who are especially eye-opening in live action since a not-that-scrawny 7-footer moving around the court and doing the things he can do is a rare sight, even in the NBA.Check out our March Madness predictions. read more


All newsletters See more NFL predictions We’re launching a sports newsletter. 🏆  Join the squad. Subscribe See more MLB predictions Things That Caught My EyeKareem Hunt is incredibleRookie running back Kareem Hunt has opened his NFL career with a staggeringly good trifecta of games. He’s accumulated 538 rushing and receiving yards in three starts for the Kansas City Chiefs, with a fourth game tonight against Washington on Monday Night Football. Of the 812 rookies who have racked up more than 100 yards in their first three games, Hunt sits behind only Billy Simms, who put up 562 yards for Detroit in 1980. [FiveThirtyEight]Niners (D-CA) vs. Bucs (R-FL)The NFL has been a nexus recently for protests, particularly last weekend after some goading from the president on Twitter. This sent league executives into a crisis, and it’s clear why: The NFL appeals to people across party lines in a way few other sports do, with fans in San Francisco (who have a +22 point Democratic lean) to Tampa Bay (a +9.5 Republican lean). [FiveThirtyEight]MLB teams waffle on jumping lowest possible bar for safetyA devastating line drive foul that severely injured a child has spurred league-wide introspection about how much netting should protect spectators from baseballs. People in luxury boxes hate mildly obstructed views, but also baseballs can be dangerous projectiles as seen in New York last month. Only 10 of 30 teams have netting that goes to the end of the dugouts. At least four teams have announced they will extend the netting in the wake of the injured 2-year-old in Yankee Stadium. [The New York Times]WatsonThe Texans set a franchise record for points scored in their 57-14 win over Tennessee, with rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson tying a 1961 Fran Tarkenton record for five touchdowns — four thrown, one rushed — for a rookie quarterback in a game. [ESPN]New Jersey man fails to pay protection racketThe New York Giants tried their third offensive line in four games. It didn’t work either, and the team lost to the Tampa Bay Bucs on the road. If you ever wanted to tackle Eli Manning, your next available opportunity is by working for the Chargers next week. [ESPN]2016 repeat?Two of the best teams in college football right now are Clemson and Alabama, the two teams who incidently played in the college football championship game last year. Despite the loss of Deshaun Watson — you remember the phenom on the Texans you read about mere moments ago – Clemson pivoted terrifically to a rushing offense and we could see a rematch later this year. [ESPN]Big Number5 under 5There are five teams in the NFL who — based on FiveThirtyEight’s projections — currently have less than a five percent chance of making the playoffs. Those teams are Cleveland (0-4) and San Francisco (0-4), each with less than 1 percent chance of making the postseason; the L.A. Chargers (0-4), with a 1 percent chance; Chicago (1-3) with a 3 percent chance, and the New York Giants (0-4) with a 4 percent chance. [FiveThirtyEight]Leaks from Slack[in which three reporters monitor the AFC East]neil:Pats haven’t lost more than 3 home games in a season since Brady became starting QBThey have 2 home losses already this yearwalt:dangis tom brady an elite quarterback? tbd.heynawl-enten:Who is watching this Jets game?Heading towards a tie and fastneil:I gave up on it lolTurned to NFL Network gameday liveheynawl-enten:[4:35 PM] Here we go[4:35] Jets kick for the win[4:35] let’s see[4:36] IT’S GOOD![4:36] Oh wait[4:36] flag down[4:36] NOPE[4:36] IT’S GOOD[4:36] JETS WIN[4:36] LOLPredictions MLB NFL Oh, and don’t forgetThe tick tock of the Adidas scandal read more


Again, not every DNF or DQ is a crash, and research has shown that per-run injury rates are still highest in the speed disciplines (downhill and super-G) versus the technical ones (giant slalom and slalom). This jibes with common sense: Although it’s easy to get disqualified for missing a gate in slalom, those miscues don’t always result in terrifying crashes. Making a mistake at the speeds involved in downhill, on the other hand, can have more devastating consequences.All of this is worth keeping in mind while watching Olympic races over the next few weeks. Some of the most seemingly terrifying sports can actually rank among the lowest in terms of on-course incident rates — although what few mishaps there are tend to be quite dangerous. Meanwhile, anything can happen in the most technical skiing events. As it turns out, hurriedly weaving down an icy slope on skis is difficult to do without skipping a gate or crashing. Who knew?— Ella Koeze contributed research. In addition to skeleton and bobsled, luge is another sport that seems prone to disaster, with its high speeds and steeply banked turns. However, roughly 96 percent of competitors end up finishing their runs unscathed, an even better rate than bobsledding can claim.4That doesn’t mean luge isn’t dangerous, of course. At the 2010 Olympics, amid concerns over an excessively quick course, Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili died after a crash in practice. Short track speedskating, by comparison, has a more deserved reputation for mayhem, with nearly 9 percent of runs ending prematurely — though the list of offenses that can get you disqualified from a race is fairly lengthy. On the short track, crashes and chaos are features that add to the excitement.But the undisputed king of ending athletes’ races prematurely — and thus dashing gold-medal dreams — is Alpine skiing. Since 1994, nearly a third of all ski runs have ended without the racer actually crossing the finish line. And the breakdown within the sport varies pretty heavily by event: Perhaps surprisingly, the lightning-fast downhill discipline has skiing’s lowest rate of incidents, with only about 10 percent of runs going unfinished. That number would still be higher than any of the sports we looked at above, but it’s low compared with other familiar high-speed activities such as NASCAR (where 16 percent of individual races ended in a DNF last season) or Formula 1 (24 percent). Downhill takes tremendous speed, skill and courage, and we’ve all seen what can go wrong when a racer makes a mistake, but those moments are still rather few and far between by Alpine standards.DNFs and DQs become much more common, however, in disciplines featuring tighter turns and more gates — those pesky markers that a skier must navigate around to complete the course. Whatever the discipline, failing to send the tips of your skis (plus boots) inside of a gate will get you disqualified from the race.In the super giant slalom (or “super-G”), racers gather speeds comparable to those seen in downhill, but they also must make sharper cuts around more gates, which are bunched more closely together. (They also aren’t allowed practice sessions beforehand, which doesn’t help matters.) Between the men and women, only about 78 percent of Olympic super-G runs are completed cleanly.And super-G is not considered a “technical” skiing event. Giant slalom is, and it involves even more gates and more side-to-side turning. Since 1994, a third of Olympic giant slalom runs ended in DNF or DQ. But the ultimate tough-to-finish Alpine discipline is the standard slalom, with skiers zigzagging back and forth across the slope around pylon-like gates in rapid succession. Almost 50 percent of slalom runs fail to cross the finish line, a testament to the perfection required to clear every gate at world-class speed.Nothing in slalom is guaranteed. For instance, even in successful runs like the one that clinched the gold medal for the great U.S. racer Mikaela Shiffrin at the 2014 Olympics, disaster is always lurking around the next gate: At one point midrace, Shiffrin’s left ski lost contact with the ground, requiring an expert recovery to avert a missed gate — or worse. Tianyu Han of China and Yuri Confortola of Italy, at right, crash during men’s 1,500-meter short track speedskating qualifying during the 2018 Winter Olympics. Richard Heathcote / Getty Images At the climax of everyone’s favorite bobsleigh-based film, 1993’s “Cool Runnings,” disaster strikes the upstart Jamaican team when its ricketty sled flips over during the final race. Everyone from Calgary to Jamaica fears the worst — but the teammates shake off the wreck, determined to finish the race. Together, they hoist up the sled on their shoulders, carrying it over the finish line. Cue that inspirational slow clap.It was a real thing that actually happened … well, aside from a few bits of artistic license. (For instance, they never carried the sled; the fact that all four racers walked away from the crash at all was remarkable enough, given how it looked in slow motion.) But one of bobsledding’s most iconic moments was also a total rarity. As far as Winter Olympic sports go, bobsled has one of the lowest rates of in-race mishaps, with racers completing roughly 95 percent of their runs. In other sports, by contrast, finishes aren’t anywhere near as guaranteed — we’re looking at you, Alpine skiing.To measure how often a run goes awry, we grabbed data from Sports-Reference.com’s Olympics site going back to 19941The year the Winter Olympics switched to its current cycle. for events in nine timed sports: skiing (Alpine and cross-country), skeleton, luge, bobsled, speedskating (short and long track), biathlon and Nordic combined. For each event, we tracked how often it ended in a DNF — “did not finish” — or a disqualification.To be sure, not every DNF or DQ represents a crash like the Jamaicans suffered in 1988.2Technically, they were disqualified for the wreck. For example, in skeleton (you know, the one where you slide face-first down an icy track at stomach-churning speeds), the only DNF or DQ happened not on the course but when Canadian racer Mike Douglas was late for a pre-race inspection.3It should be noted that, before 2002, skeleton had appeared in only two Olympics: 1928 and 1948. The sport was reintroduced to the Olympics in 2002. But DNFs and DQs do usually correlate with the difficulty in staying on course and avoiding spills, missed gates or other sources of misfortune.Since 1994, these are the winter sports with the lowest (and highest) rates of DNFs and DQs among the timed events in our data: read more


In layman’s terms, the Nets have essentially adopted the same offensive principles as the analytically friendly Houston Rockets, coached by Atkinson mentor Mike D’Antoni. (Fitting that these clubs combined for an NBA-record 106 3-point attempts in a game last week.) Russell, who leads starting ball-handlers with 61.5 pick and rolls per 100 plays, will run you around screens all day, and he and his Brooklyn teammates generally avoid midrange shots, instead probing for much higher-percentage looks. No NBA team has driven to the basket more than the Nets, and this would mark the third consecutive season that Brooklyn ranks in the top 10 in free-throw rate.Defensively, the story is much the same. The Nets have excelled at forcing opponents to walk the analytics plank, ranking among the top five in 2016-17, 2017-18 and again this season in terms of how often they coax teams into longer midrange 2-pointers. When teams are fortunate enough to get to the basket, they’re often met by 20-year-old Jarrett Allen, a big man who has erased some of the game’s biggest names at the rim while sometimes playing a one-man zone. The Nets also rank near the top of the NBA in boxing out, to finish those defensive possessions.That combination — continuing to take the most efficient shots possible on offense while taking those same shots away on the other end — has been the NBA equivalent of Andy Dufresne’s rock hammer in “The Shawshank Redemption.” The team’s strategy and talent, combined with its newfound maturation in the clutch, have finally set it free.Brooklyn basically looked shackled at the ends of games last year and at the start of this season. Whether it was inexperience, consistently bad whistles or a combination of the two, the Nets were managing to find new, devastating ways to lose close contests each night.But even that’s changed of late. The Nets, who were a dismal 4-10 in clutch situations as of Dec. 1, have since gone 11-4 in those same scenarios.One noteworthy shift there is rooted in Russell and Dinwiddie’s ability to coexist during the hot streak — something that had consistently backfired from a net-rating standpoint over the past two seasons. (Their ability to play together, or lack thereof, will be worth watching because of the decision the Nets have to make about the future of Russell, who’s a restricted free agent this summer. Yet it looks like Russell will have the show to himself, as Dinwiddie, who just signed a three-year, $34 million extension, could miss considerable time with a torn ligament in his thumb.) But other elements also stand out. Joe Harris is one of the NBA’s best perimeter shooters. Latvian forward Rodions Kurucs was a great find and is a fluid scorer at 6-foot-9.While the Nets are clearly ascending, they still have their issues, too.Brooklyn has one of the highest turnover rates in the league. The Nets can occasionally find themselves with matchup problems against teams with floor-spacing bigs because of how Allen anchors himself to the paint on defense. The lack of pressure on pick-and-roll ball-handlers hurts their ability to force turnovers. For how well the team gets to the stripe, Russell, its leading scorer, takes fewer free throws than any other volume shooter in the NBA.1This includes any player taking at least 15 field-goal attempts per game. Injuries have nagged Brooklyn all year, and while it’s fair to expect a boost from players if and when they return — especially from LeVert — key players’ roles may have to shrink to accommodate everyone once they’re back. And the Nets, who have enjoyed one of the easiest slates so far, will be thoroughly tested by their upcoming schedule — especially from mid-March to the end of the season.There’s a reason we hear so much about the Nets eventually landing a player like Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard or Jimmy Butler. Aside from the fact that they’re one of few big-market teams that seemingly has a direction, a blank-enough canvas (in terms of not having a star) and cap space to make something happen, they also would become an instant contender by adding someone of that caliber. Again, the decision on Russell could complicate that. Yet the reality is that getting past the second round likely requires more than this current cast, even at full strength.For the time being, though, it has been eye-opening to watch the 22-year-old Russell play this well since the turn of the new year, a span in which he’s averaged 24 points and nearly eight assists on 49 percent shooting from the floor, along with his rainbow-arc triples falling at a 44 percent clip.While he’ll never possess the sort of bounce that some of his counterparts have, the former No. 2 overall pick has leveraged the threat of his pull-up jumper into being able to beat defenders to certain spots. When he senses defenders on his hip, he’ll often make use of ball fakes to buy himself more space before shooting.Video Playerhttps://fivethirtyeight.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/Russell.mp400:0000:0001:22Use Up/Down Arrow keys to increase or decrease volume.He’s been more consistent with the ball during that window, too, passing teammates open while logging a 3-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio in 2019 — up from 2-to-1 earlier this season and much better than his career ratio of 1.5-to-1 coming into the 2018-19 campaign.Certain elements of Russell’s offensive run lately, much like the team’s overall, are going to come back down to earth at some point. But with how hellish things have been in Brooklyn for much of the past five years, and with how sound the team’s strategy has been in digging out of that trench, Russell, the Nets and their fans all have ample reason to be enjoying this — even if they aren’t exactly sure what comes next.Check out our latest NBA predictions. For more than four years, the Brooklyn Nets had been more or less irrelevant on a national scale. Whenever the team came up in a larger conversation, it was usually to discuss how one of its first-round picks — dealt in that infamous trade for Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce — was benefiting another franchise that got to reap the draft payoff. You have to go back to 2013-14, a full season after the Nets left New Jersey for Brooklyn, to find the last time they finished .500.All of which makes the Nets — winners of five straight and co-owners of the NBA’s best record over the past month and a half — so compelling. At 26-23, the team is currently holding a playoff position in sixth place in the East. Coach Kenny Atkinson, again, is finding enormous success with his point guards, including D’Angelo Russell, who’s in contention for an All-Star spot. And the club, which in early December was mired in an eight-game skid and couldn’t hold late-game leads, is all of a sudden unbeatable in the clutch. And this is after Brooklyn lost perhaps its best all-around player, Caris LeVert, to a brutal long-term injury.But underneath all that past losing — and there was a lot of it, given that this team has had three consecutive seasons with fewer than 30 wins — there were several road signs that the Nets were tapping into an array of good strategies to begin a turnaround.Much of that was rooted in ideology and experimentation, necessities because of how bare the draft-pick cupboard was for a while. The team had to take some creative steps (read: accept salary dumps) in a bid to get some talent on its roster. And the club’s front office, led by Sean Marks, had to identify talent that was being ignored or undervalued, like guard Spencer Dinwiddie, and trust its own ability to help develop players like him into everyday rotation pieces.The hiring of Atkinson, a longtime NBA assistant, was a key catalyst. Well before the wins started outnumbering the losses, and before there was enough talent to expect playoff berths, the 51-year-old quickly began changing the team’s shot profile on both ends of the floor.During the 2015-16 campaign, a year before he came on, the Nets ranked 26th out of 30 in quantified Shot Quality, which measures the likelihood of shots going in, if taken by an average NBA player, according to stat database Second Spectrum. The club completely overhauled that at the start of Atkinson’s tenure, though, as Brooklyn finished fifth and fourth in 2016-17 and 2017-18, respectively. And this season, the Nets rank ninth in the metric. read more


Before the season started, coach Thad Matta told his team that the regular season Big Ten champion was going to have four losses. Unfortunately for the Buckeyes, they were nearly at that number just two weeks into the season. After four games, OSU was just 1-3 and near the bottom of the conference standings. But despite the slow start, the team was surprisingly confident. “I don’t think we were really thinking about, ‘We don’t really have a shot to win it,’ because we had a lot of games to play,” junior Jon Diebler said. “We were still positive that we were going to get back on the right track.”And that’s exactly what they did. Two months and 13 wins later, the Buckeyes are the Big Ten champions.“We had shown that we could be a good team and there were spurts where we played good basketball,” junior David Lighty said. “Everything just kind of flowed for us to get these wins.”The trouble began for Matta and the Buckeyes in early December when Turner was sidelined with a back injury. OSU was left without its best player for what was initially projected to be as many as eight weeks. The loss made what was already expected to be a difficult start to conference play even harder. OSU was scheduled to begin Big Ten play with four of its first five games away from Columbus. Fortunately, Turner returned sooner than expected, but after the slow start, his team had a tall mountain yet to climb. Despite all the odds stacked against him, Matta said his confidence never wavered.“It was one of those things where I never even thought about a Big Ten championship,” Matta said. “It was more of how to get ready to play. I knew in July when they sent me the schedule, with the start, it was going to be challenging.”Matta has always been a strong proponent of the typical one-game-at-a-time mentality that so many coaches have, or at least appear to have when in the public eye. But for Matta, it’s no act. Ignoring the prying of reporters, Matta refused all year to look ahead to a potential title. It’s a mindset that Diebler said has been infused throughout the team. “He keeps pounding it into our heads, so after three years I guess we’re going to [believe it],” Diebler said. “Honestly, we were mad because we were losing and we know what type of team we could be so it was frustrating to start off 1-3. Obviously we’re doing alright right now.”With the exception of junior David Lighty, the conference title is a first for all of OSU’s regular contributors, including junior guard Evan Turner.  “You keep persevering through and keep pushing through and keep overcoming the odds,” Turner said. “People always knock you down and don’t show you that type of respect because they don’t see how hard you work. “We paid our dues and I guess some of the luck is coming.” read more


Coach Thad Matta’s starting five, laden with incumbent veterans and arguably the best freshman in the nation, doesn’t have room for Aaron Craft — a point guard who arguably could start for any other team in the country. That doesn’t mean the smallest player in the seven-man rotation doesn’t get his playtime. Averaging 28 minutes per game, Craft is fifth on the team, ahead of starting forward Dallas Lauderdale. Only the other four usual starters, junior guard William Buford, freshman forward Jared Sullinger, senior forward David Lighty and senior guard Jon Diebler play more than the freshman. He is the rotation’s only true point guard — so, what’s keeping him from starting? Barring injury, it doesn’t look like he will be slotted into the starting lineup anytime soon. Combined, the team’s four veteran starters have played 485 games, starting in 390 of them. It’s that experience which contributes largely to Matta’s thinking when deciding whom to start each game. “With who we’re starting, I love the experience that we have,” Matta said. “You’ve got four guys out there that have started a lot of games in the scarlet and gray. You’ve got a pretty good freshman in Jared, and I’ve been pretty pleased with how we’ve started a majority of our games this season.” Though he averages a pedestrian 6.8 points per game, Craft leads the team in assists, averaging 4.8, and is the team’s second most efficient offensive perimeter player. Only Diebler’s 49.5 percent from the field is better than Craft’s 49 percent. Craft also leads the team in turnovers. His 50 on the season are 10 more than Buford’s 40 while averaging 2.3 per game. Despite those giveaways, the team’s veterans consider Craft an asset. “He’s a perfect fit for us,” Lighty said. “He comes in and runs the offense and runs the team, and plays defense at the highest level I’ve seen for a freshman in college basketball.” But Craft deflects the individual praise to his team’s defense as a whole. “We’ll have times when some people play great individual defense, but at the same time it’s five guys out there. We, all five, need to be connected, and when one person doesn’t do the thing they’re supposed to, then the whole defense breaks down,” Craft said. “It doesn’t matter how great of defense you play as an individual.” Craft is a victim of circumstance when it comes to starting for this version of the Buckeyes. If he were to replace Lauderdale in the starting lineup, that would leave Sullinger as the only capable big man on the floor. It’s unlikely he would replace Diebler or Lighty either, simply because Diebler is the team’s best shooter and Matta regards Lighty as the nation’s top defender. That would leave Buford as the lone candidate to take a seat to Craft, but the junior is the team’s second-leading scorer, averaging 13.5 points per game. One thing is certain: Starting or not, Craft is gaining valuable experience in his first year as a Buckeye. “Aaron’s so unique that he would learn if he was starting (or) if he was coming off the bench, and it’s just sort of who he is,” Matta said. “I haven’t coached a lot of guys like him that think at the level that he thinks, especially at his age, and (he) really wants to understand and know everything that’s going to happen or could happen.” read more


Ohio State’s women’s volleyball starting lineup stands together prior to the game against No. 5 Minnesota on Oct. 18. Credit: Rebecca Farage | Lantern ReporterAfter being on the road for the last two weeks, the Ohio State women’s volleyball team (14-13, 7-9 Big Ten) will return to St. John Arena to host No. 5 Nebraska (22-4, 15-1 Big Ten) at 6 p.m. Friday and Iowa (17-12, 6-10) at 8 p.m. Saturday.With Nebraska currently riding nine-match winning streak, the Buckeyes have a tough match on their hands. Nebraska has only lost one Big Ten match to No. 12 Wisconsin.Ohio State head coach Geoff Carlston recognizes that Nebraska is one of the best serving teams in the conference and admits the Buckeyes have struggled in that area with this season.“We’ve done well against them, but they’re playing really well right now,” Carlston said. “We have to battle in the serve-and-pass game, so if we can do what I know we can do serving-wise then it gives us a little bit more advantage.”This will be the first meeting between Ohio State and Nebraska this season. The Buckeyes have beat the Huskers in three of their last four matches. However, Ohio State has only beat Nebraska once at home since both teams started playing in 1978. The Cornhuskers hold a 11-7 record against the Buckeyes in the all-time series.Though the Buckeyes have won 62 of 73 games against Iowa, they couldn’t pull out a win last week when they lost 3-1 to the Hawkeyes. The game ended Ohio State’s 15-match win streak against Iowa. The Hawkeyes have one of the top defensive specialists in the conference, senior Annika Olsen, who leads the Big Ten with 4.89 digs per set.The Buckeyes have struggled to maintain their momentum this season. Mauer admitted that while they did not always have a consistent flow, they have been able to adapt to the changes on their own team as well as on the other side of the net.“We don’t give up,” Mauer said. “I think we’re one of those teams that don’t let a ball drop and I think we’re just very scrappy and we make the other team work for it.” Carlston said he believes his team can be a little more disciplined in its plays and how it handles the ball.“[We need to] make [Nebraska and Iowa] earn every single point, like get in there and roll up our sleeves, blue collar defense and relentless pursuit of the ball,” Carlston said. “When we get a block we need to take advantage of that and run our offense behind it.”Mauer has recently had to step up as the starting setter of the team with junior setter Taylor Hughes sidelined with a season-ending injury Hughes.Carlston did not provide specifics regarding the injury, but said Hughes has been trying to work through it while mentoring Mauer and being another set of eyes for the team.“She’s our emotional leader. She’s our quarterback. But she’s also mentored Becca very well,” Carlston said. “Becca, as has happened a lot with us this year, she steps up and she’s doing a great job.”Though the multitude of injuries to the team has depleted Carlston of several starters, the absences have provided the freshmen on the team with an opportunity to start at an early age.“It’s kind of fun because we’re getting better every single day,” Carlston said. “It’s almost like a whole new season with our group because it’s just so different than maybe we were in August, September, even October.”Although the team has had to work through injuries and adjustments, Carlston is confident the team can fight through these next two games and make it to the final tournament.“We’re trying to keep that in mind, that we control our own destiny,” Carlston said. “But we know we have to play and we have to … fall in love with the process again which is hard to do here late in the season.” read more