Metta World Peace is headed back to where it all started for him as a basketball player, New York City. The Queens native, who was recently amnestied by the Los Angeles Lakers, has reached an agreement to play with the New York Knicks.“I don’t care if I’m starting, or sweeping the floors. You hear me? I want to win,” World Peace said.Officials from the Knicks reported that they have agreed to terms with the NBA player, but a contract has not yet been signed.According to reports, on the table is a two-year contract with the first year guaranteed. World Peace would get $1.6 million per season, with a player option for year 2.World Peace’s agent Marc Cornstein confirmed the team that his client will be playing for next season.“Yes, this is going to happen,” Cornstein said. “He’s just thrilled to be joining the New York Knicks. He’s really excited to be joining his hometown team. That’s obviously been something that’s been a dream of his since growing up in Queensbridge.”
What began as a sloppy game between the Jets and the Patriots, provided an even messier ending when a fight broke out near New England’s sideline.The Jets were losing 10-13 late in the fourth quarter, when rookie quarterback Geno Smith threw for another improbable win and was intercepted by Patriots cornerback Aqib Talib. The interception secured the win for the Patriots, but also started a brawl.Jets center Nick Mangold gave a late low hit to Talib, who had returned the interception near the Patriots’ sideline, taking his time to spin out of bounds. Several New England players nearby rushed at Mangold after the play. Jets players then surrounded the area. A fight ensued, which even resulted in a foul against an official.Once the smoke cleared, Mangold got hit with a 15-yard penalty. Jets’ Willie Colon was ejected for pushing an official, D’Brickashaw Ferguson for throwing a punch.“I hope I don’t get suspended,” Colon said after the game, via Manish Mehta of New York Daily News. “I lost my temper. I lost my cool. I know better, so it’s my fault.”
More: Apple Podcasts | ESPN App | RSS | Embed Embed Code Welcome to the latest episode of Hot Takedown, FiveThirtyEight’s sports podcast. On this week’s show (Mar. 28, 2017), we preview the Final Four in the men’s and women’s NCAA tournaments. Next, is Colin Kaepernick being blackballed by the NFL? We investigate. Finally, we preview the American League and ponder who might take down the Red Sox, Indians and Astros. Plus, a significant digit on the Oakland Raiders’ upcoming move to Las Vegas.As promised, a photographic throwback to Kate Fagan’s days as a professional basketball player for the Colorado Chill.In the aftermath of the latest round of the men’s NCAA tournament, Neil explained why this year’s Final Four is built on defense.ESPN notes that the men’s Final Four is full of unfamiliar faces this year.FiveThirtyEight’s Benjamin Morris says UConn’s path to perfection has become much easier.ESPN’s Dan Graziano argues that no matter which side of the Colin Kaepernick debate you’re on, you’re wrong.Check out FiveThirtyEight’s chats previewing the AL East, AL Central and AL West.Significant Digit: $750 million, the public subsidy that was offered to the Oakland Raiders to move to Las Vegas. According to The New York Times, Las Vegas politicians raised taxes to supply this new funding. FiveThirtyEight
The central player in that turnaround story has been Kenley Jansen, the Dodgers’ star closer who for the early part of the season looked like anything but. Jansen made just five spring training appearances, slowed by a hamstring injury, and his early season numbers were the kind that might make Dodger fans wish he’d stayed on the DL. Since May 16, he’s been lights out: His 1.06 ERA is by four-tenths of a run the best in the game among relievers with at least as many innings.That improvement has probably helped drive a significant increase in the Dodgers’ success in one-run games after May 16 — 6-3, compared with 4-7 up to that date — which has helped bring L.A.’s actual winning percentage (.521) somewhat more in line with its higher-order winning percentages, which strip out the effects of sequencing and luck often manifested in bullpen meltdowns.In a sense, none of this is particularly surprising stuff. The Dodgers had a spate of injuries and underperformance early in the season that would sink most clubs, and they still managed to win nearly 40 percent of their games. Now that their bullpen has regained its elite status, their hitters have started hitting for power again (their 35 home runs so far in June are the most in baseball), and their starting pitchers have started to return to the rotation, the Dodgers look more like the club everyone expected them to be early on — and perhaps always were.Every good team has bad months, after all. Even the 104-win Dodgers of last season had a 25-game stretch in which they went 5-20, at one point losing 11 straight. It’s just that this year’s Dodger slump came at the beginning of the season, when nobody had banked wins to fall back on and every sportswriter in America was looking for a narrative to focus on. The simple and boring story here is probably that the Dodgers weren’t bad at the beginning of this year — they were just unlucky.It’s now almost July, and the Dodgers’ bad luck appears to be over. They’re heating up just in time for the official start of summer, and in no mood to concede a division title that’s been theirs since before Max Muncy was a glimmer in Dave Roberts’ eye. The early part of the season may have felt like going through hell for Dodgers, but they’ve played themselves out of it.Check out our latest MLB predictions. In retrospect, the Los Angeles Dodgers’ 6-5 loss to the Miami Marlins on May 16 was probably the low point of their 2018 season. It was the Dodgers’ sixth consecutive defeat and their ninth in 10; it dropped their overall record to 16-26, then only the fourth-best in their division; and it brought their playoff odds to a season low of 22 percent.For a team that had won 473 regular-season games over the previous five seasons (the most in baseball during that period), came within a game of winning the World Series last year and was expected to waltz to a sixth consecutive division crown this year, the season’s ugly start was hard to understand or explain. After that loss to the Marlins, L.A. manager Dave Roberts could only reach for Winston Churchill. “When you’re going through hell,” he told the L.A. Times, “keep going.”Roberts and his team did exactly that. Beginning with a convincing 7-0 win the next day against the same Marlins club that had just beaten them in two straight, the Dodgers promptly rattled off a streak of 22 wins against just nine losses, through games played on June 20, and increased their playoff chances by 37 percentage points — an improvement bested only by the Seattle Mariners over that period.The team has improved its hitting since May 16, driving its overall weighted runs created plus (wRC+), a catchall offensive statistic, from 94 before that date — meaning the team was 6 percent below league average offensively, on the whole — to 117 since then. L.A. has benefited from a standout performance by the pleasantly alliterative Max Muncy, whose 13 home runs and 163 wRC+ on the season lead the team. It hasn’t hurt, either, that Joc Pederson seems to have recovered from an early season slump and is now contributing as expected.The starting pitching, meanwhile, has held serve, moving from a 3.37 mark in fielding-independent pitching (FIP)1FIP is a measure of pitching performance scaled to ERA that strips out the contributions of team defense. before their recent surge to 3.29 since it began. Even that small improvement was far from a given, of course, because injuries to an astonishing number of Dodger starting pitchers — at least five, depending on how you count it, including the best pitcher in the world in Clayton Kershaw — left the Los Angeles rotation to be held together by a combination of (Alex) Wood and duct tape.But the real heroes of L.A.’s recent surge — and, to be fair, also some of the key contributors to the team’s early season struggles — have been the men of the Los Angeles bullpen, who have curbed a worrying early season tendency toward allowing home runs, especially late in games, and collectively improved their FIP from 4.40 before the surge (26th in baseball) to 3.17 after it (sixth).
When the NCAA men’s basketball tournament picks up full speed Thursday, many fans will tune in with the hopes of seeing one thing: upsets. Some no doubt will come on last-minute buzzer beaters, but plenty will probably be long-simmering, the kinds of games that you can’t look away from. Those games will be all about tension: The underdog can’t possibly hold on to this lead, can it?We can figure out the answer to that question. Or at least what we should expect to happen when an upset is brewing — specifically, at what point in the game an underdog with a lead is more likely to win than lose.I analyzed play-by-play data from every NCAA tournament since 2004, which is the earliest that second-by-second scoring data is readily available. I considered all games played by teams with different seeds, leaving me with about 700 games to analyze. In the analysis, I estimated the probability that a lower-seeded team (i.e., the better team, according to the selection committee) wins the game, depending on the score and the time remaining.At the opening tipoff, the underdog has a 29 percent chance of winning the game. But if the game is tied or the underdog is ahead with five minutes remaining in the first half, the probability of an upset is higher than 50 percent.1The green line in the first chart does not fully reach 100 percent because games tied at the end of the second half are included in the analysis.It is, of course, not that simple. There’s a big difference between an “underdog” that’s a No. 2 seed and one that’s a No. 16 seed.To better distinguish between these two cases, I split the data based on “big” and “small” upsets. Any game in which there was more than a four-seed difference in the teams’ seedings was considered a potential big upset, and the games in which the difference was four or fewer were counted in the “small upset” category. (A No. 10 seed beating a No. 7 seed is a small upset, a No. 11 seed beating a No. 6 seed is a big one, etc.)2Ideally, I would break up the data more finely by looking at each possible seeding matchup, but with only 700 games and 120 possible matchups to work with, there was not enough data. The graph shows the difference between the average upset, the big upset and the small upset. As you might expect, the big underdogs begin the game with a slightly lower probability of winning (about 20 percent). Also unsurprisingly, a big underdog with the lead does not cross the 50 percent win probability threshold until around halftime.But the results are very different when you look at small upsets. In these matchups, when the underdog has a lead or the game is tied at any point more than five or six minutes into the game, it’s likely that we’re going to see an upset.We all know, however, that all leads are not created equal. Through the rest of the article, I’ll split the data a bit further, based on how big the underdog’s or favorite’s lead is: a three-possession game (a lead of 7 or more points), a two-possession game (a 4-to-6-point lead), or a one-possession game (0-to-3-point lead).The figure above shows the results from this analysis.3The jaggedness in the raw data has been smoothed with cubic regression. When a game is close, within 3 points in either direction (gray), the average favorite is still more likely than not to win. But, assuming the game stayed within 3 points all the way through, the chances of an upset increase throughout the game. By the last few minutes, if the game is within one possession, the average better-seeded team has only a slight advantage in win probability. The probability that an average underdog with a two-possession lead (light green) will win crosses the 50 percent threshold with about five minutes left in the first half. And an underdog who leads by more than 7 points (dark green) perhaps shouldn’t be considered an underdog at all.4Although there are almost zero games in which a team is ahead by seven points in the first minute or two, the cubic regression allows me to estimate these probabilities. There’s more uncertainty about the exact estimates early in the game because there is less data, but this problem disappears just a few minutes into the game. Its odds of completing the upset are more than 50 percent very early in the first half.Things are slightly different in big upset situations; the underdog must wait until the second half for a modest lead (4 to 6 points) to trump the seedings.5The tangling of the curves in the middle graph shouldn’t lead us to believe that a 4-point lead very early in the game is better than a 7-point lead. It is more the result of a very small number of games with huge score differentials early in the game. Those open up the possibility of outliers influencing the shape of the curves on the left side. If, however, you’re watching a game in which a big underdog has a three-possession lead in the first half, keep watching because there’s a good chance that it’ll pull off the upset.In smaller potential upsets, an underdog with at least a 4-point lead (light and dark green) at nearly any point in the game has a better chance of winning than losing. The underdog wins about 40 percent of one-possession games (gray), regardless of the time remaining.So, as you watch games, don’t get too excited about a big underdog with a small lead, at least until the second half. If there is not a big gap in the seedings between the two teams, then the scoreboard, not the seedings, is what matters. And remember, this whole analysis is the aggregation of hundreds of games. Any one particular game can certainly defy the odds. Check out FiveThirtyEight’s March Madness predictions.
neil (Neil Paine, senior sportswriter): The NBA is now two games in to every second-round series, and each matchup is currently tied at 1-1 … except Warriors-Rockets, which was the series most people had circled as the most competitive (and compelling) of Round 2.So what better place to start our chat than that matchup, which the Warriors lead 2-0 heading back to Houston for Game 3 on Saturday. The Rockets have done a lot of Rockets-like things in the first two games: They’re making almost 16 threes and 22 free throws per game. Yet they were unable to steal away home court in the series late in either Game 1 or Game 2. Do the Rockets still have a realistic chance at knocking off Golden State, or were we all just foolishly trying to convince ourselves that we might see a different outcome this year?chris.herring (Chris Herring, senior sportswriter): I think it goes without saying that 2-0 against a team of that caliber is a tough place to be. We talked about it before, but the fact that Houston is Houston might have been enough to get the Warriors playing their hardest and most focused early on.Draymond Green has been a beast, in particular.natesilver (Nate Silver, editor in chief): I mean, they lost two games by 4 points and 6 points. And they have some excuses: the officiating in Game 1, and they were without James Harden for parts of the first half in Game 2, and then he was not entirely himself.I don’t think Game 2 felt quite as close as the final score, but Game 1 was pretty even.I guess all I’m saying is that we have had nine high-stakes playoff games between these two teams, and it feels like the Warriors are the better team, but hardly a dominant team.tchow (Tony Chow, video producer): I feel like what’s going to happen at the end of all this, if the Warriors do end up winning it all (which is very likely — our predictions still give them a 49 percent chance), fans and basketball critics alike are going to come out and say, “See? Why even watch basketball? We all knew the Warriors were gonna win.” And they will all forget how unlikely it did seem at times. It is far from a sure thing still.neil: And that was definitely the case last year as well. The Warriors were far from assured winners, even though in the end they won, as expected.chris.herring: I think the challenge is that so much of what Houston does is tied to Harden, who hasn’t played poorly at all, despite the eye issue in Game 2.I thought it was really noteworthy that, after he got none of those calls in Game 1, he simply didn’t kick his legs out in Game 2.But the real story is that Golden State is forcing him into more floaters, a bit higher up, than he normally likes to take his shots.tchow: I’m gonna be honest. I only watched the first quarter of Game 2 and maybe five minutes of the second quarter because the game started at 10:30 p.m.!! I have a 1-year-old. I can’t do this sh*t anymore.natesilver: The competition from the East should be a lot stiffer this year. But, again, we’re getting a liiiiiittttle ahead of ourselves. Our algorithm says the Warriors have a 77 percent chance of reaching the NBA Finals, which is high but also sort of in the Hillary Clinton zone of not a done deal. I do think Kevin Durant flipping the switch into looking like an MVP++ player is a big deal, though.chris.herring: I am kind of shocked Steph Curry continues to have the foul issues this far into the playoffs. It’s been bad for a hot minute now.But you’re right, Nate: It’s given Durant a chance to showcase what he’s capable of. (Honestly, my favorite versions of the Warriors are when KD gets to play without Steph and when Steph plays without KD — those guys are unbelievable scorers, but we rarely get to see them at their best because they play so many of their minutes together.)neil: Well, I want to talk officiating in general. As you guys alluded to, it’s been a huge theme in the series so far, whether over Draymond Green’s arguable contact with James Harden at the end of Game 1, the Rockets’ “audit” of missed calls in last year’s Western Conference finals, or Green’s comments that the officiating talk itself was embarrassing for the NBA. Does Houston have a case? Or is that just a natural consequence of how the Rockets play? Is there something inherently limiting about relying on drawing fouls in the playoffs, when it’s tougher to get a whistle?natesilver: A “natural consequence” doesn’t seem like quite the right phrase because I’d imagine that a lot of this is fairly deliberate — exploring the boundaries of the rules, especially in terms of Harden’s shooting form.chris.herring: Like I was saying a minute ago, I thought it was pretty interesting that Houston fell to the ground so much in Game 1 but, from what I remember, essentially didn’t do that at all in Game 2. I’d have to go back and watch the close-outs, but to me that signals that the Rockets might have known they were waging a losing battle.natesilver: I do think, if the game is called by the book, they got screwed out of a couple of three-shot shooting fouls in Game 1.chris.herring: Oh, absolutely.At least two or three, which, in a game that close … I’d be upset, too. You have to call the fouls the same way you would have during the regular season. I didn’t even think some of those were debatable in the first half.The crazy thing: In watching Game 2, it makes me wonder whether the Rockets are better off just trying to stand up straight as opposed to drawing fouls.It might have merely been a Game 2 improvement, with no reason for it, but they were great from the perimeter, and it happened on a night where they weren’t flailing or kicking their legs out, which I imagine changes the shot’s rhythm some.natesilver: Part of it is that awarding three free throws is such a high-stakes decision. It’s not quite like awarding a penalty in soccer, but you know what I mean.If all shooting fouls were two free throws instead, save maybe for the last two minutes when a team might try to maul a guy to prevent him from taking a 3-point shot, that might help.Or if referees were allowed to call nonshooting fouls in the event of incidental contact. Sort of the difference in a roughing the kicker penalty vs. running into the kicker.chris.herring: I’ve never seen something be such an enormous story for one game, then just not be a factor at all in the following oneI’m sure the league loves that it died down during Game 2. But it almost felt like the Rockets realized they weren’t going to get anywhere with that hope that they’d get more calls.neil: And yet, most of the fan reaction I was reading online was that the Rockets basically need to be quiet. That Harden has cried wolf too many times, etc. And remember, these are people siding with the Warriors, a team that has become hated over the years as it’s won so much. That kind of speaks volumes about the distaste for Houston’s foul-drawing strategy.natesilver: Yeah, I thought the “Rockets-are-sore-losers” narrative, while understandable, maybe made people less objective in evaluating the situation.chris.herring: I felt like I was seeing a lot of that the last few days, too.tchow: Yeah, Nate, on the latest Hot Takedown podcast, we had Kirk Goldsberry on as a guest, and he made the point that from an economical standpoint, drawing three free throws percentage-wise is worth more than a wide-open Steph or KD 3-pointer. In that sense, it would make sense to try to draw those so often.chris.herring: But here’s my thing:If the Rockets pour over the missed-calls report and find that the refs missed a bunch of those last year — which suggests it’s either not easy to catch, or that refs don’t like to call it — why make it such a big part of the strategy as you start another series with Golden State now?tchow: To prove themselves right?chris.herring: Idk. Part of me feels like the basketball world is too worked up about this series, when in reality, it’s the only one that’s not tied up at 1-1.It’s been a good second round so far.natesilver: I dunno, one thing about basketball is that there’s not usually a lot of luck.In a seven-game series, the better team wins a large majority of the time.But I wonder if Daryl Morey feels a little tilted (in the poker sense of that term) how his series have gone against the Warriors.They’ve had some bad luck with injuries, some bad luck on 3-point field-goal percentage — and whether you want to call it “luck” or something else, some frustrating games with the officials.And it’s also, like, if the league designs a bad set of rules and incentives, you shouldn’t get blamed for taking advantage of those incentives.There should be better incentives instead. The rules should be changed.chris.herring: That’s been the story of James Harden’s career: Fantastic player who’s always been fantastic at taking advantage of what’s there, whether fans like it or not.I really love watching that dude ball. It’s not his fault the loopholes are there.neil: As Kirk writes in his book, “Don’t hate the player, hate the game.”Either way, right now we give the Warriors an 84 percent chance of moving on to the conference finals.tchow: The good news is that Game 3 is at 8:30 p.m.!neil: On behalf of all of us East Coasters, thank goodness.In the other series out West, the Trail Blazers evened things up with the Nuggets with a 97-90 win Wednesday night. Portland stole-home court advantage, but our model still gives Denver a 61 percent chance of advancing. Are the numbers still too low on the Blazers?chris.herring: Probably. I have no idea, honestly.The Nuggets might be the most inconsistent team left in the playoffs. Last night was extremely rough for them — one of their worst shooting nights of the season. Their offensive rebounding was unreal, and so it left them with an outside chance to win late.I feel like they may have the better team, but their inconsistency scares me a bit. The 61 percent probability sounds about right to me for now.Quietly feel like the Moe Harkless ankle injury could be a tough one for the Blazers depending on how hurt he actually is going forward.I have it going seven games, and I won’t be surprised at all if and when it actually goes the distance.natesilver: I’m going to reiterate that this part of the bracket feels like the NIT to me. Unless whoever emerges from GSW-HOU does so with an injury, I don’t expect the Western Conference finals to be super competitive.neil: Yeah, conditional on making the conference finals, the Warriors have a 92 percent chance at the NBA Finals in our model; Houston has an 81 percent chance.natesilver: I almost feel like, narrative-wise, Portland has become a little bit underrated just because they’re facing off against two other very flawed teams. That Portland team with Jusuf Nurkic is pretty interesting, but they have a pretty low ceiling IMO without him.neil: I have been surprised at how well Enes Kanter continues to play. He’s averaging 21 points and eight rebounds in this series. (As someone who hated on him as an empty stat-padder early in his career…)natesilver: The knock in him (I almost typed “the Knick on him”) has always been his defense, though.What’s his +/- in the series?neil: It’s minus-4. But the team as a whole is in the red anyway.chris.herring: He’s useful for them, without a doubtI think he actually might be even more useful in a playoff series, depending on the opponent.Against OKC, for instance: Leaving him in the paint, without an easy way for Westbrook to get around him, was great for Portland. Westbrook wasn’t good or comfortable shooting his jumper in that series.So it mitigated the concerns about Kanter’s pick-and-roll defense.And in this series, you’re dealing with Jamal Murray, who’s a hot-and-cold shooter in the pick and roll, too.Kanter’s offensive rebounding is massive a lot of the time.natesilver: I guess mayyyyybe you could say that Kanter has never been in a position before to have teams take advantage of his skill set. OKC has never really been expert at maximizing its role players. And the Knicks, well, are the Knicks.tchow: For what it’s worth, in Game 2, Nikola Jokic went 1 for 8 when guarded by Kanter.chris.herring: I’m interested to see what happens as they shift to Portland.neil: Your point about defense is well-taken, Nate. Portland’s key might be to continue to play so uncharacteristically well at that end.Right now, they’re holding the Nuggets to 41.9 percent shooting from the field, including 31 percent from three.chris.herring: I feel like I’m so in and then so out on Denver. They have had some really rough performances.But the fact that they were still in it last night despite how poorly they shot was encouraging. Jokic has been playing out of his mind.neil: OK, since this is the NIT series of the playoffs, let’s leave Denver and Portland and move over to the East.tchow: In our playoff preview chat, I think we all agreed that the Eastern Conference playoff bracket looked a lot more interesting than the West, and I think that’s still pretty much true. I have no idea who will make it out of the East of the remaining four teams and could easily see both series going seven games.neil: Yeah, things have not really gotten clearer since either series opened. Let’s talk first about the semifinal series between the Raptors and Sixers, which resumes tonight with Game 3. Philly gritted out the win Monday night to even up the series, despite Kawhi Leonard going off again for 35 points. What has stood out about each team so far that might swing the series going forward?chris.herring: In the chat last week, we talked about the question of who Tobias Harris could realistically guard.The answer in Game 1 was nobody, which was problematic, as the Raptors’ two best scorers did serious damage.The difference in Game 2 was Philly’s adjustment to play Harris on Marc Gasol, and to have Joel Embiid and the other centers guard Pascal Siakam. It paid really, really nice dividends for them, and that’s the thing I’m really curious to watch in Game 3.natesilver: I guess those defensive matchups sort of make sense but also the sort of thing that you could counteradjust to, especially with an extra day off to scout and strategize.chris.herring: Exactly.neil: That shows up in the stats, too: Harris was a game-low minus-23 in Game 1 but was plus-6 in Game 2.chris.herring: In both series, I think, it’s going to be a question of whose adjustments are better.Because each set of changes and adjustments have pretty clear counters.tchow: Btw, I don’t know if Neil is doing this on purpose but we have NBATV on at the office right now, and Neil is moving the chat along at the same exact pace as Grant Hill and company are moving along their playoff coverage. They just wrapped up DEN-POR and moved on to PHI-TOR before cutting to commercial break. Uncanny.neil: LOL, Tony. Definitely a coincidence… 😒chris.herring: I did think the put-the-big-on-Siakam adjustment was smart, though.When Siakam is in the middle of the floor, you can give him some space, because he shoots really terribly from the top of the key. By contrast, he’s solid from the corners. (And when he’s in the corner, you have the help of the baseline as a second defender.)tchow: It definitely made a difference. Siakam shot 80 percent from the floor and 75 percent from three in Game 1. In Game 2, he shot 36 percent from the floor and 29 percent from three.chris.herring: The Sixers don’t have but maybe one guy who can credibly guard Siakam (and Ben Simmons is doing his best to guard Kawhi), so that shift was really important for them.It may not work going forward, but you had to try it.natesilver: What if Gasol decides to take more shots? He’s been pretty passive, offensively, since joining the Raptors. But he is capable of scoring, either in the post or from downtown.chris.herring: If Gasol ends up being the guy to torch you, I think you can live with that more easily than Siakam.Also, I’d expect for the Raptors to do more to get Siakam rolling, and to use him in pick and rolls in hopes of having Philly switch them. That would nullify the Harris/Embiid stuff they’re doing.Again, the countermoves are going to be fascinating.To Neil’s initial question, too: The other thing that stands out is just how damn good Kawhi is.The guy is Terminator in a basketball uniform.He couldn’t do it all by himself in Game 2. But he’s just having his way from a scoring standpoint.neil: He’s probably been the best player of the playoffs so far, at least by the advanced metrics.chris.herring: I’m surprised Toronto is at 24 percent and Milwaukee only 14 percent. (Although a lot of that is due to head to head Toronto-vs-Milwaukee odds.)natesilver: I mean, there’s a case to be made that Toronto is just super good.chris.herring: Yeah. I think almost 70 percent sounds about right in that case.natesilver: They won 58 games in the regular season while missing a bunch of Kawhi and Kyle Lowry. And with Gasol only on the roster for the last third of the season.chris.herring: The matchups still favor them, and I think they’ll figure out a way to get Siakam going. Just not guarding him at the top of the key isn’t going to be enough.Am interested to see whether Kawhi can keep doing this for the whole series, though. He’s completely wrecking Philly.natesilver: Kawhi looks like an MVP in the playoffs, and neither of the two losses they’ve taken in the playoffs (to Orlando in Game 1 or Philly the other day) seemed to expose particularly exploitable problems.Our model also thinks Philly is quite good, by the way. It gives them a lot of credit for being good “on paper.”So I think our prices are relatively fair, but if I had to pick one, maybe it’s the over on Toronto. natesilver: Are people stretching a little too hard to call this an even series? Game 1 really wasn’t all that competitive, the Raptors have the best player, they were the much better team in the regular season, and all the adjustments and counteradjustments are gonna cancel out.I mean, there are only five games left and the Raptors have lost home-court advantage, but I feel like if this is a nine-game series, or an 11-game series, the Raptors are a huge favorite.chris.herring: I dunno. On the one hand, yeah: Toronto should have the upper hand. But we haven’t seen Nick Nurse under all that much pressure before. I assume they’ll counter well, but if they don’t … it’s not as if Philly doesn’t have talent.There are pretty clear things that could happen to tilt this in the Sixers’ favor, though I wouldn’t put my money on those things.And the next two are in Philadelphia. I think this is about all the Sixers could ask for at this stage.I would like to see Embiid do a bit more offensively. He was sick during the last game, but if he can’t find advantages against Gasol (which has been the case for a while now), it becomes harder to see how Philly can beat them four times. Unless the Raptors have no counter whatsoever for what happened to Siakam in Game 2.tchow: Nate, are you proposing we make the postseason even LONGER to ensure the best team wins?natesilver: I think it should vary based on how enjoyable the series is.Like if people find GSW-HOU annoying, just make it a three-game series.neil: We should develop a metric: The SILVER (Series’ Ideal Length Varied by Enjoyability Ratio)chris.herring: Oh, Lord.natesilver: Neil.tchow: According to SILVER, Sixers vs. Raptors should be best-of-11 and Bucks vs. Pistons should have been a one-game playoff.neil: LOLSo while we workshop our latest backronym metric, let’s end the chat by focusing on the Bucks and the Celtics. After disappointing at home in Game 1, Milwaukee can breathe again thanks to a 123-102 win in Game 2.Was that Game 1 loss just a blip on the radar for Milwaukee, or something to legitimately worry about for them as the series shifts to Boston?tchow: Giannis Antetokounmpo had a +/- of minus-24 in Game 1. What happened?(FWIW, he did bounce back fine. Game 2, his +/- was plus-20.)chris.herring: I think it’s actually pretty similar to Toronto-Philly. The Bucks punched back with a different strategy in Game 2, and now the ball is seemingly in Boston’s court to try and adjust to it.natesilver: Gordon Hayward was pretty nonexistent in Game 2 and not great in Game 1, which is bearish for Boston because I really think they need him to be pretty good to compete at an elite level.neil: Also, Kyrie scored 26 on 57 percent shooting in Game 1. Had 9 points on 22 percent in Game 2.natesilver: It did feel a bit like maybe the Celtics were gonna steal one game in the series because of Brad Stevens and their coaching/analytics/scouting staff, and maybe Game 1 was that game.chris.herring: We touched on it last week, when we discussed the Bucks being ranked No. 1 in the league on defense but doing so with a drop strategy in pick and roll coverage. They got torched with that in Game 1, and Boston had a field day from deep. But they moved to a completely different scheme in Game 2 and switched everything (something they almost never did in the regular season).And for what it’s worth, Boston was the least-efficient team in the NBA against switches during the regular season, according to data from Second Spectrum.So I’m interested to see what they counter with, because the Bucks certainly have the length and versatility to make life difficult for them with that strategy.To Tony’s question from before, we did some writing on what went wrong for Giannis in Game 1.The truth is, Giannis kind of lives off of open-court opportunities. He’ll score plenty without them, but if he has them, it showcases how and why he’ll likely be the MVP. It’s nearly impossible to stop him with just one guy (and sometimes even two) in the open floor.But Milwaukee wasn’t forcing enough misses in Game 1 for that to even be a real possibility for him. And even when it was, the Celtics set up a wall against him. Was something they did effectively against Giannis all year.natesilver: So are you saying that Giannis is liable to be less effective in the playoffs, when it becomes more of a half-court game?chris.herring: Yes and no.I think he will still score, and if you overcommit to trying to stop him, he’s unselfish and will find his teammates, who finally hit shots in Game 2The other thing that’s interesting: Giannis’s struggles as a jump-shooter are well-documented. He was the worst wide-open shooter in the NBA from three on 150 or more attempts.But he started knocking them down at a somewhat respectable clip after the turn of the new year. And when Boston dared him to shoot them in Game 1, he shot 3 of 5.He’s 5 of 9 from three for the series!I imagine that if you’re Boston, you’re simply going to make him prove he can hit that shot. But the idea that he’s begun to figure out how to hit threes should be terrifying for everyone outside of the state of Wisconsin.natesilver: I’m happy to let him shoot as many threes as he wants.I don’t think you learn how to shoot threes in one series. Maybe if it’s a big offseason focus of his, sure.neil: Either way, the model currently gives the Bucks a 70 percent chance of winning. In fact, it also gives Toronto exactly the same 70 percent chance against Philly, despite both series being 1-1.Do those probabilities seem right to y’all? If you had to take the over or under on one, which would it be?chris.herring: I feel like Milwaukee’s is a touch high, even though they’re my favorite to come out of the East.tchow: Interesting, I was going to say I would pick the Bucks to be too low.neil: I’m in the same camp, Tony. Really more based on looking at our title odds for each: Check out our latest NBA predictions.
OSU coach Urban Meyer stands on the sideline during a game against Michigan State on Nov. 21 at Ohio Stadium. OSU lost 17-14.Credit: Samantha Hollingshead | Photo EditorWith its annual spring game looming on April 16, the Ohio State football team held its sixth spring practice on Tuesday morning in the Woody Hayes Athletic Center.Following the morning of drills and conditioning, OSU coach Urban Meyer met with the media to discuss the previous Saturday’s intra-squad scrimmage and how spring drills have been progressing.Here are three of the takeaways from the press conference.Scrimmage standoutsDespite redshirt junior Tyquan Lewis — OSU’s lone returning starter on the defensive line — being out for the spring with a shoulder injury, Meyer said he was impressed with the play of the unit during the scrimmage.Specifically, he commended the performances of redshirt sophomore defensive end Sam Hubbard, junior defensive end Jalyn Holmes and redshirt freshman defensive tackle Davon Hamilton.“D-line is the area of most concern in our program,” Meyer said. “I think that’s shifted a little bit to the O-line now.”After amassing 28 tackles and 6.5 sacks as the primary backup defensive end last season, Hubbard is set to take over as the starter at defensive end for Joey Bosa, who is expected to be a top-five pick in the upcoming NFL draft. Holmes is currently getting first-team repetitions due to the absence of Lewis.Hamilton, meanwhile, appears to be making headway at a defensive tackle position filled with question marks after the graduation of Adolphus Washington.“He’s coming out of his shell a little bit,” Meyer said of Hamilton.The coach also mentioned freshman receiver Austin Mack, redshirt freshman running back Mike Weber and freshman offensive guard Michael Jordan as other players who caught his eye in the scrimmage.Concern at offensive lineAmong the Buckeyes’ mass exodus of players from last year’s team were three of the team’s five starting offensive linemen, with only redshirt junior guard Billy Price and redshirt senior center Pat Elflein remaining.Replacing 60 percent of the offensive line has been one of the major concerns for Meyer and his staff this spring.“We’re still trying to find that starting five,” Meyer said.One player who has caught the attention of his coach is Jordan, who has earned first-team practice time with the offensive line.“He just loves it,” Meyer said. “He doesn’t know if it’s right or left sometimes, but at this point, we don’t care. You come in for extra work, enjoy the game, enjoy your practice, and be a tough guy. He’s done all that. We’re really impressed with him.”Sophomore left tackle Isaiah Prince and junior right tackle Jamarco Jones — regarded as the favorites to win the starting jobs at their respective positions — are also “doing better,” Meyer said.“Whoever plays that position, we can’t drop off (from last year),” Meyer said.Tight running back competitionWith 2015 Big Ten offensive player of the year Ezekiel Elliott gone to the NFL draft, the Buckeyes are trying to determine who will fill the sizeable void and take over the starting running back role in 2016.As was widely expected, the former four-star recruit Weber is among those at the top of the depth chart after redshirting his freshman year due to a meniscus tear.However, Meyer said redshirt senior Bri’onte Dunn — who hasn’t seen the field much through his first three years of eligibility at OSU — is “neck and neck” with Weber right now.“I’m so impressed with him,” Meyer said. “You all know a couple years ago, there wasn’t a whole lot of conversation about him.”Whether he wins the starting job or is the backup to Weber, Dunn should get his first real opportunity for playing time in his final year donning scarlet and gray. He has only 48 career carries for 287 yards and three touchdowns through his first three seasons in Columbus.Meyer also said freshman Antonio Williams, a four-star recruit out of New London, North Carolina, has stuck out in spring practice and could be the first freshman to lose his black stripe.Meyer and the Buckeyes will continue their march toward the spring game, which is scheduled to begin at 1:30 p.m. on April 16 at Ohio Stadium.
The Ohio State Board of Trustees will vote Friday on a ticket price increase affecting football, men’s basketball and golf course fees for 2010-2011.Students would expect to pay $32 per football ticket in 2010, which is up 3.2 percent from last year.The proposal would require students to pay $15 for single basketball tickets, which is up 3.4 percent from this season. The upper level end zone seats sold on the day of the game will remain $10.The golf course annual dues for students would jump 2.7 percent to $575. Daily greens fees are not affected by the price increase. Athletic Director Gene Smith said officials need to increase the prices to offset operating costs, utility increases, financial aid, travel and the debt service.“The university has $200 million of debt service,” said Ben Jay, senior athletic director of Finance and Operations.The debt service has accrued due to the depletion of the reserve funds, renovations to existing facilities, new scoreboards and the $2.75 million lawsuit settlement to ex-OSU basketball coach Jim O’Brien.The athletic department pays $17 million each year to lower the debt service.The ticket price increases will generate an estimated $8 million in the next two years. Four million dollars will go directly to the reserve fund and the rest will cover operating costs, Jay said.The increase was calculated based on the assumption that in-state tuition will rise between 5 to 6 percent next year. Therefore, financial aid will have to increase 5 to 6 percent.“Financial aid will be just south of $1 million more to our budget,” Smith said.Smith says they are using conservative estimates because tuition is historically raised 5 to 6 percent.The athletic department has looked for other outlets to raise money, but revenue from concessions, merchandising and donations to the Buckeye Club are all affected by the economy.“We have put restrictions on budgets for each sport, such as limiting who travels with the team, setting maximum per diems at $45 per day, and not allowing surplus in budgets be spent elsewhere,” Jay said.The athletic department has both long- and short-term expenses to account for outside of the debt service.The department pays more than $2 million annually in rent to the Schottenstein Center and more than $2 million to Student Athlete Academic Services. The department also makes an annual donation of $1 million to University Libraries.In total, 25 percent of the Athletic Department’s budget goes directly back to the university, $29 million annually.
The last time Fredrik Modin and Samuel Pahlsson went to Vancouver, British Columbia, they left with a 7-3 drubbing at the hands of the Canucks. For their next trip, they’re looking to bring back gold.Columbus Blue Jackets Modin and Pahlsson were part of the Swedish squad that captured the gold in the 2006 Winter Olympics held in Turin, Italy. Along with their countrymen, they will begin their defense of the medal against Germany in the preliminary round of this year’s games.In addition to Pahlsson and Modin, four other Jackets will be making the trip to Vancouver to represent their respective countries. They are Fedor Tyutin (Russia), Milan Jurcina (Slovakia), Jan Hejda (Czech Republic) and Columbus captain Rick Nash (Canada).Oddly enough for a team located in the heart of America, there isn’t a single Blue Jackets player representing the U.S. in the 2010 games.This will be the second Olympic Games for Nash. He represented Team Canada in the Turin Games, where the powerful Canadian squad finished in a disappointing seventh place. Now that the games are being hosted by his home country, there will be an increased impetus to win, especially for Nash, who was limited to one assist in six games in Turin.“There was tons of pressure the last time in Turin,” Nash said of his last Olympic experience. “But anytime you put on the red-and-white maple leaf, there’s a lot of pressure.”Nash is probably already salivating over the possibility of playing on a line with fellow Canadian and all-world center, Sidney Crosby. It will be the first Olympic Games for Crosby, who was left off the 2006 team.Nash can’t be blamed for feeling the heat. He plays for a country where hockey is raised to a level that makes finding a comparison here in the U.S. difficult.One Canadian columnist summed it up this way: “The thought of a losing effort is something wholly unacceptable and incalculable within this culture, where national pride and hockey skill are inseparable entities.”It may be the final time for some of these Jackets to represent their home countries. NHL commissioner Gary Bettman’s recent comments on the future status of NHL players in the Olympics has cast some doubt on their possible participation in the 2014 games.There is currently no agreement in place for the 2014 games, which will be held in Sochi, Russia.There are many variables for Bettman to consider going forward. Chief among these are economic and competitive factors.“It’s difficult for any business, any league, to shut down for two weeks with the attendant loss of attention and everything that flows from it,” Bettman said. “And there are competitive issues.”The competitive issues he is referring to are because of the fact that not every NHL team sends the same amount of players to the Olympics. Or any at all for that matter. So when the season resumes, some teams may have benefited from the two-week break more than others.Is that enough to pull the plug?“I know the players are passionate about representing their countries. We have a long history as a sport in international competition and that’s something that’s important to the players,” Bettman said. “But we have to decide on balance, ‘Is it worth it?’”
As the Ohio State men’s tennis team came together in a room at the indoor Varsity Tennis Center eagerly waiting to see where and who they play in the first round of the NCAA tournament, one person was missing. That person was coach Ty Tucker. He was nervously pacing back and forth in his office. “I’m not a fan of the whole selection thing,” Tucker said. But as soon as the NCAA was ready to announce the brackets for the tournament, Tucker gave in and stood outside the door to await his team’s fate.Once he heard the announcement that OSU would host Western Michigan, Tucker walked to his computer and began studying the Buckeyes’ first opponent in the NCAA tournament.No. 4 OSU will face Western Michigan (21-10) at 1 p.m. on May 15 at the Stickney Tennis Center. As a reward for the their 32-1 season, the Buckeyes will host the first- and second-round matches.“We’ve won a lot of matches at home so obviously we want to be at home,” Tucker said. “We’re looking forward to playing Western Michigan.”The Buckeyes, whose only defeat this year came to top-seeded Virginia, have a few notable schools in their bracket, including Michigan, Illinois and defending champion Southern California, who defeated OSU in the finals last year. “It’d be nice to get them back,” sophomore Chase Buchanan said. When asked if that was a match he wanted, Buchanan said, “definitely.”Like most coaches, Tucker is not looking ahead. His main focus is Western Michigan.“I know that they’ve won the MAC (Mid-American Conference) five years in a row,” Tucker said. “I know that teams that have won five championships in a row are used to winning.”The Buckeyes go into the tournament as one of the favorites. Tucker said his team’s experience and realizing the importance of the doubles’ point are major factors.“I’m sure Justin (Kronauge) will have these guys as a captain ready to play,” Tucker said. “They’ve got to come out understanding four, five, six minutes of great play can set up a win early on in the doubles’ point.”The Buckeyes have done that all year, including having another undefeated season at home. Now, they have a shot to make another run. “We have a lot of potential as well as many other teams in this tournament,” said Kronauge, OSU’s all-time wins leader. “Hopefully we fight harder and we prepare the next two weeks to get ready.”