World Cup Crib Notes Day 15

As if you needed any data to tell you why you should watch Thursday’s U.S. vs. Germany game (and the Portugal vs. Ghana match, if you’ve got a split-screen setup), but we’re going to give it to you anyway.U.S. vs. Germany 12 p.m. EDTPortugal vs. Ghana 12 p.m. EDTAlgeria vs. Russia 4 p.m. EDTSouth Korea vs. Belgium 4 p.m. EDTIN BRIEFSee our World Cup predictions for the latest probabilities.IN DEPTHGroup G has shaped up to be one of the most exciting yet-to-be-decided groups of the tournament — as it stands, no team is mathematically guaranteed to advance (though Germany is very close at 99.7 percent). The are a huge number of possible outcomes of Thursday’s matches, and any team can technically still advance to the next stage of the tournament.If the uncertainty of Group G isn’t enough to make you tune in, the level of play we’re expecting to see between the U.S. and Germany should; the teams’ combined Soccer Power Index scores is higher than that of any two teams playing Thursday. Although the odds are heavily favored for Germany (63.4 percent to the U.S.’s 14.8 percent), we don’t expect this game to be a blowout (see Belgium vs. South Korea for that).In their last meeting, a June 2013 friendly, the U.S. beat Germany 4-3. But friendlies are friendlies; the teams’ last competitive encounter was at the 2002 World Cup quarterfinals, when the Germans edged the Americans 1-0 in what is considered one of the best U.S. performances at any World Cup. (The U.S. did reach the semifinals at the inaugural 1930 World Cup.) The Americans will be looking to match the Germans better than they did in 2002, which will be difficult against a German offense that is the second-strongest in the tournament (with a 3.2 SPI offensive score). At a minimum, a draw would send the Americans to the knockout stage, so a 0-0 scoreline will suffice. But the Germans are a full goal ahead of the Americans in projected goals for this match (2.1 to 0.9, to be exact), so shutting them out won’t be easy.There are no players left on the American roster who played in that 2002 game, but the U.S. is equipped with a roster full of German-Americans. Fabian Johnson, John Brooks, Julian Green, Jermaine Jones and Timmy Chandler are all of German-American descent, which perhaps isn’t very surprising given head coach Jurgen Klinsmann’s German roots. Johnson and Jones spent time on Germany’s youth national teams, and four U.S. players (Chandler, Green, Brooks and Johnson) currently play in the Bundesliga. All of this to say that there might be even more at stake on Thursday for some of these players than the numbers suggest.YESTERDAYThe Argentina-Nigeria game started with a flourish, as Lionel Messi’s third-minute opener was matched by Ahmed Musa’s fourth-minute equalizer. It was the first time in World Cup history that both teams scored within the first five minutes of a match. And to follow it up, in the second half, Musa scored in the 47th minute and Marcos Rojo the 50th.Messi’s opening goal was the first conceded by Nigeria; entering the match, the Super Eagles were the only team that had not allowed a goal in this year’s tournament. Messi’s second goal came from a free kick, something and somewhere commonplace for him but rare for Argentina in the World Cup.  Messi has scored three of his five career World Cup goals from outside the penalty area, and his nine free kick goals over the past four La Liga seasons are second only to Cristiano Ronaldo’s 13. But it was Argentina’s first free kick goal in the World Cup since 1982.Messi’s second goal gave Argentina the lead just before halftime, essentially guaranteeing La Albiceleste the win. Argentina is now 28-1-0 in World Cup matches when leading at half, with its single loss coming in the 1930 final to Uruguay. Messi also became the third player at this year’s tournament with a multi-goal first half (Switzerland’s Xherdan Shaqiri later became the fourth), something that no player managed in the 2010 tournament.Although Nigeria lost, it became the first African team to advance to the knockout stage for a third time. Musa’s brace was the first for Nigeria in its World Cup history, and Nigeria passed Cameroon for the most goals by an African nation in the World Cup. France and Ecuador played to a scoreless draw, good enough for France to win Group E.  The French had the advantage throughout the match, finishing with 242 touches in the attacking third compared to 57 for Ecuador. But France was held scoreless in large part thanks to Ecuadorian goalkeeper Alexander Dominguez, whose nine saves are tied for the most in a match this tournament. He leads all players with 18 total saves.The Swiss finished second in Group E , thanks to a hat trick from Shaqiri — the first by a Swiss player in the World Cup since Josef “Seppe” Hugi in 1954. The game also marked the first time Switzerland scored three goals in a World Cup match since 1994. — Jacob Nitzberg, senior stats analyst for ESPNOFF THE PITCHThe United States and Germany have an interesting historical relationship, to say the least. The strong ties between the world powers are well known, despite recent hiccups, such as the revelation that the American National Security Agency had been spying on German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Germans and Americans also often visit each other’s countries and even migrate between them. According to the OECD International Migration Database, 20,149 American nationals migrated to Germany in 2011, and 6,125 German nationals moved in the other direction. This may seem like a big disparity, but when adjusted for total population, just about .001 percent more Germans per capita migrated to the U.S. than the other way around. Cross-tourism data shows a similar relationship. The U.S. Department of Commerce reports that 1.88 million Germans visited the United States in 2012, while the German National Tourist Board shows that 4.85 million Americans spent time in Germany the same year. — Hayley MunguiaFURTHER READINGIt’s Judgment Day in World Cup Groups G and HWas the U.S. Robbed Against Portugal? It Depends on What Time MeansHome or Away: Where Does the Future Lie for the USMNT and American Soccer?CORRECTION (June 26, 10:21 a.m.): An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Landon Donovan would have been the only returning player on the U.S. team this year from the 2002 World Cup quarterfinals. Demarcus Beasley is on the current roster and was on the 2002 team, but didn’t play in that quarterfinals match.CORRECTION (June 26, 10:58 a.m.): Previously, this story mistakenly said that any two teams from Group G could move on to the next round of the tournament. While any one team can still advance, there is one combination of two teams — Ghana and Portugal — that cannot advance together. read more

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Is Tom Brady Finally Getting Old

Brady’s worst five-game stretchesTom Brady’s lowest cumulative expected points added (EPA) in any five-game window, 2007-2017 20149/7/1410/5/1420219.543-2 200911/22/0912/20/0918419.813-2 201010/4/1011/7/1019518.144-1 Neither quarterback gave any indication that anything was different if you look at the full-season statistics. But while we think a decline for a player happens neatly at the start of a season, Manning showed the circus can leave town at any time. For him, that time was his 12th game of the 2014 season. Previously, he was characteristically crushing the NFL with a third-best 109.5 passer rating and fourth-best 8.05 yards per attempt — that’s very similar to Brady’s first 11 games this year, with a 111.7 passer rating (first) and 8.27 yards per attempt (third).But then Manning instantly transformed into an old quarterback: a 78.7 rating (24th) in his final five games with a TD-to-interception rate of 5-to-6, compared with 34-to-9 in the first 11 games.Manning’s 2014 season ended with a home loss in the divisional round because of his poor play against an inexperienced playoff team with a third-year quarterback (Indianapolis’s Andrew Luck). Coincidently on Saturday, the Patriots will also take the field as a significant favorite at home against an inexperienced playoff team with a third-year quarterback (Tennessee’s Marcus Mariota).Premature obits have been written for Brady before. There’s little reason to doubt New England based on what they’ve accomplished this century. But if Belichick and Brady are to get that unprecedented sixth ring, they will need Brady to look more like what he’s been and less like what he is: a 40-year-old quarterback.Check out our latest NFL predictions. 20139/29/1310/27/1321618.743-2 On paper, 2017 seems like a very typical Tom Brady season. He is leading the NFL in passing yards and sporting a 102.8 passer rating that’s his second-best since 2011. The Patriots are once again the No. 1 seed in the AFC, and Brady is the leading candidate to be named the NFL’s most valuable player.But over the past five weeks, there has been some trouble brewing in Foxboro — at least by New England’s own ridiculous standards. After the Patriots traded away Brady’s heir apparent, Jimmy Garoppolo, an ESPN report of an internal power struggle between Brady, coach Bill Belichick and owner Robert Kraft has clouded the future of the five-time champions. But perhaps more worrisome than this report is that Brady himself has been quietly marred in a slump.Brady’s last five games of the 2017 regular season were uncharacteristically mediocre, despite New England going 4-1 in that span. Beginning in Week 13, Brady has posted a passer rating of 81.6, 17th best in the NFL,1Minimum of 80 pass attempts. and his yards per attempt in that span were 6.95, 15th best in the league. He’s also been far worse in touchdowns to interceptions, going from 26-to-3 in his first 11 games to an unusual-for-him 6-to-5.In the context of his career, Brady’s extended sample of poor play is surprising but not unprecedented. Dating back to 2007, when he turned 30, this is Brady’s sixth worst five-game stretch measured by expected points added2EPA is a measure of offensive productivity that accounts for the value of yards gained, field position and down/distance. based on the quality of his play. Brady accumulated 22.16 EPA in his last five games, for an average of 4.43 per game. His average in Games 1 through 11 was more than 2 points higher (6.76 EPA). 201712/3/1712/31/1720722.164-1 Does not include overlapping periods or playoff games; single-season stretches only. Action plays include pass attempts, QB runs and sacks.Source: ESPN Stats & Information Group 201510/29/1511/29/1522622.194-1 201512/6/151/3/1620418.592-3 Yes, Brady was without his best weapon, Rob Gronkowski, for the worst game in the stretch, a 27-20 loss to the Dolphins in Miami, when he managed only a 59.5 rating and 4.16 EPA. But he capped the regular season at home against the New York Jets with his lowest yards per attempt of the year (5.14), with an active Gronkowski being held catchless.This could all be random variance. Maybe Brady is still eluding Father Time better than any quarterback in history and will soon erase all doubts, as he has before. He’s certainly fired up about even faint whispers of his decline. And the Patriots last year reportedly were planning as if his commitment to diet and training would allow him to play at an elite level for at least another couple of seasons. Brady, of course, seems to think he can continue pushing defenses around even when he’s pushing 50.But if we were to look at the half-empty glass, we can draw comparisons to the career arc of Brady’s former longtime nemesis, Peyton Manning. No, not the Manning we last saw in 2015, who somehow won a Super Bowl with play so poor that his league-leading defense was forced to overcome it. Brady’s 2017 season is actually eerily similar to the 2014 Manning, who was his typical dominant self for the first 11 games of the year before falling off a cliff that can be seen now only in hindsight. At the time, the poor play was attributed to nagging injuries and not the inevitable end of one of the NFL’s greatest careers. SeasonFromToAction PlaysTotal EPAPatriots Record read more

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Tottenham Somehow Topped Liverpools Dramatics

On Tuesday, Liverpool shocked the world by overcoming a 3-0 semifinal deficit to bounce Lionel Messi and Barcelona from the Champions League. It was one of the most remarkable European victories in the history of a club that’s known for remarkable European victories; it seemed inconceivable that any team would top it for some time.Just 24 hours later, Tottenham Hotspur answered the call.The London club pulled off a dramatic comeback — its second Champions League thriller in a month — in the final seconds of Wednesday’s semifinal against Ajax, which means that for just the second time in the competition’s history, two English teams will play in the final match. According to the FiveThirtyEight Soccer Power Index (SPI), none of this was supposed to happen. Before the second legs of the two semifinals, SPI gave Tottenham a 25 percent chance to advance to the final and Liverpool just a 7 percent chance. But both teams pulled off the very, very unlikely, and now Madrid will be overrun on June 1 with overserved British fans chanting the names of their favorite players.To be sure, Tottenham entered its second-leg match in better shape than its Premier League rivals did a day before, if just barely. Spurs lost 1-0 to Ajax in the first leg, and their troubles were compounded by the fact that they conceded a dreaded away goal,1Away goals are used to break ties in two-leg Champions League fixtures. but the deficit was just one goal. A goal and a shutout in Amsterdam would ensure they reached at least extra time, while two goals and a clean sheet would give Tottenham passage to the final. Nothing was out of reach, but the London side still had a lot to do against a plucky group of Dutch youngsters who had become the tournament’s feel-good story.When Ajax’s teenage captain, Matthijs de Ligt, opened the scoring with a header in the fifth minute, whatever hope Spurs clung to started to fade. The Dutch squad began the second leg the same way it began the first, attacking with abandon and causing Tottenham’s older, tired center backs plenty of grief. It wasn’t long before Ajax bagged a second goal courtesy of a left-footed strike from forward Hakim Ziyech that swerved past the outstretched hands of goalkeeper Hugo Lloris. If 1-0 felt doable, 2-0 felt insurmountable — particularly for a Spurs team that looked exhausted.But after halftime, Tottenham seemed magically refreshed. Mauricio Pochettino’s side forced Ajax goalkeeper Andre Onana to make a few key stops before getting their breakthrough in the 55th minute on a left-footed strike from forward Lucas Moura. A second came just four minutes later, again on a left-footed effort from Moura.The mood at Johan Cruyff Arena went from ecstasy to agony within a matter of minutes. Could this be happening? Could their beloved Ajax really be on the verge of collapse?Ajax managed to settle the game after Moura’s second mark, but the squad failed to convert a number of excellent scoring chances that would have buried Tottenham. A shot from Ziyech that clanged off the right post and a massive Lloris save in stoppage time kept the Lilywhites in the game, but they were still in need of a minor miracle — or a Lucas Moura hat trick.And as if to say to Liverpool, “Here, hold my drink,” Spurs got their wish as Moura slotted yet another left-footed effort2It’s significant that these strikes came with his left foot because Moura favors his right. into the bottom-right corner of the Ajax goal, this time in the final minute of stoppage time. The goal leveled things on aggregate at 3-3 but gave Tottenham the win on away goals.In the end, the result was a fair one: The Londoners took more total shots, directed more shots on goal, completed more passes in the attacking third, completed more passes in the opposing penalty area and created more big chances than their counterparts from Amsterdam. Over the course of both legs, Tottenham outperformed Ajax in expected goals 4.5 to 2.9, according to ESPN’s Stats & Information Group. The second half of the second leg will be responsible for much of that discrepancy, but it doesn’t matter when the goals come, just that they come at all.We wondered in March if an English team could win the Champions League title. We know now that one will — it’s just a matter of which one. Liverpool has the edge — 71 percent to 29 percent — but after this week, it’s clear that the odds don’t mean much to these two teams.Check out our latest soccer predictions. read more

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Was Lionel Messi Tired

In Argentina’s final match of the World Cup, Lionel Messi — on whom Argentine hopes have rested for over a decade — only touched the ball at a rate of once every two minutes. One of those touches was a great opportunity to win the game near the end of regulation, which he failed to even put on goal. Despite this, and despite a decrease in goals and assists as the tournament progressed (four goals in his first three games, an assist in his fourth, and nary a goal or assist since), he won the World Cup’s Golden Ball award (essentially the tournament MVP). That prompted Diego Maradona, Messi’s Argentine forefather and foil, to say, “It’s not right when someone wins something that he shouldn’t have won just because of some marketing plan.” The sharply worded op-eds, so plentiful on Sunday and Monday, are dying down — for now — but even Messi’s fans may start to wonder what was going on, and whether Messi was playing like his usual self.Before Sunday’s World Cup Final, Messi’s father, Jorge, told the media that his son was struggling with exhaustion.1Note that Messi vomited during the final, but apparently this is a normal thing for him. This dovetails nicely with another story I’d been reading about for weeks, about how Messi’s “work rate,” or the amount he has been running on the pitch per minute, has been abnormally low during this World Cup. Here’s a quote from an ESPN article that touches on both subjects:The pressure of being captain and carrying the hopes of his country appears to have taken its toll on him as he found it difficult to make an impact. “He is exhausted,” Messi’s father Jorge said, according to the Daily Telegraph. “He feels as if his legs weigh 100 kilos each.”According to FIFA statistics, however, Messi is only ranked the 30th most hard-working player at the World Cup on the basis of distance covered. He has run a total of 32 miles in the six games he has featured in, having played for 573 minutes. By contrast, the Netherlands’ Wesley Sneijder has covered 43 miles in 585 minutes and tops the list. Messi is also second-from-bottom on the list of players who have played in all six games of the tournament so far.These mileage stats are common these days (and seemingly flash every time someone is subbed in/out of a game), though they’re not always easy to find or interpret. Fortunately, for the World Cup, FIFA has a page devoted to players’ “distance covered” stats. I’ve compiled those stats, broken down by offense and defense, and sorted by position, like so:Indeed, over the course of the World Cup, Messi had the lowest work rate among non-goalkeepers when his team is on defense and the second-lowest among forwards when his team is on offense (among players with 150 minutes on offense/defense combined).2There’s also a surprising amount of neutral time in soccer (up to a third of all match time is neither “in possession” nor “not in possession”). I haven’t included that in this chart.After an article by Ken Early in Slate first turned me on to Messi’s stillness, I couldn’t stop noticing it. When Messi’s not “on the ball,” he’ll often appear to be leisurely strolling through the area he’s in, particularly when the other team is on offense and he has little to do except sit back and wait to see if the ball comes his way. It can seem downright bizarre and contrary to everything a soccer coach teaches about “hustling.”Could it be that Messi’s inaction had something to do with his “100 kilo” legs? If so, it’d imply that Messi was so tired he was unable to “hustle” as much as normal, taking short breaks on the field when he got the chance to recuperate. This might also help explain his performance “decline” through the tournament.But I don’t think it’s as simple as that. On the FIFA site, individual game summaries have “tracking” stats as well. Here are Messi’s, broken down by offense and defense:For nearly every game, when Messi runs more on offense, he runs more on defense, and the same is true for when he runs less. To me, that suggests that the variation is probably more systematic and dependent on the matchups Argentina faced. But that large gap in the final game offers an interesting wrinkle. That’s when the difference between offensive work rate and defensive work rate was largest. This is at least consistent with a theory that he was tired for the last game (I assume that would be more likely to be reflected during his defense). But with the defensive work rate as a baseline, it could also indicate that he was running around extra hard on offense trying to make something happen (which he had failed to do for the last couple of games). Or it could just be random variance.Overall, though, the data doesn’t suggest that Messi wore down as the tournament progressed. If this work-rate phenomenon were a result of his being tired, we might expect to see the highest work rates in games following the longest layoffs, and/or for his work rate to decline as the grueling tournament wears on. But that’s not what the data shows.3I did find it interesting that all of his peak work rates came in games with the longest scheduled rest following them (first and third games of group stage, and last game of the tournament). That would be consistent with a premeditated strategy to conserve energy for later games, though it’s too tenuous to draw conclusions.So aside from a blip in the last game, there’s not much evidence that Messi had a general exhaustion problem, but there is evidence that he had a much lower work rate than other players. What to make of that? There are some negative interpretations possible: Messi might not have been fit enough to endure a whole tournament, or he might not have been trying hard enough. But these would only makes sense if low work rates typically indicated a lack of fitness or effort.And that we can test for.I don’t have the data necessary to do a complete study of work rates and how they may or may not predict and/or impact quality of play. But for a rough outline, we can at least take a look at FIFA’s data for this World Cup to see whether working harder tends to correspond with playing better. Is there any relationship between a player’s work rate and their offensive production?The following chart compares a players work rate with their offensive production per minute (using goals plus .1*chances created, a lower variance alternative to goals plus assists):4Includes all the distance a player covered during all the minutes he played (whether on offense, defense or neutral).This chart may support the argument that Messi didn’t deserve his Golden Ball, but I’ll stay out of that debate. He certainly didn’t play poorly, as he had the fifth-best per-minute production, despite having the lowest work rate (and it’s not limited to offense, as I’ve noted elsewhere; most aspects of his game were as good or better than normal through most of the tournament).Meanwhile, on the other end of the spectrum, Mario Goetze had a great tournament (obviously) and the highest work rate. In the middle, we have James Rodriguez, who managed an insane amount of success to go with his moderate effort.The important thing is that there’s not really any relationship between a player’s work rate and their production, either for forwards or for midfielders. In fact, the trend lines for both groups (covering 119 qualifying players in this tournament) are slightly declining — though not enough to read anything into it.5Moreover, if there’s an obvious source of team-quality bias, we might expect it to go in the other direction. We would expect players for better teams to have more production (more opportunities to dish, and more chances for teammates to dish to you, etc.), and because better teams tend to hold on to the ball more often and for longer periods, and forwards and midfielders are typically more active on offense, we would also expect those players to have a slightly higher meters run per minute.So has Messi been as good as he has despite being “lazy,” or perhaps because of it? When Messi was taking the tournament by storm, at least Ken Early was willing to give Messi the benefit of the doubt:Surely it must mean something that the best player in the fastest-ever era of football hardly ever runs at all.I don’t have distance-run data for Messi outside of the World Cup, but a little Googling reveals that Messi’s on-field leisure has come up before.June 2010: A New York Times article praising Michael Bradley cited the amount of ground he covered relative to Messi.May 2011: A Bleacher Report article cited Messi’s distance covered stats at UEFA6I’ve seen a lot of reference to these stats, but all the links are broken and I’ve been unable to find them on the UEFA site. as proof that he “doesn’t play hard every minute.”August 2012: A comparison between Messi and teammate Dani Alves showed how Messi spends roughly twice as much time in an “inactive” state.February 2013: An analysis of Messi’s (lack of) running from a Barca perspective tries to make sense of the phenomenon.April 2014: An article on ESPN FC criticized Messi’s Champions League play, based largely on the distance he ran.People have cited and/or complained about the amount Messi runs since at least 2010, and it has come up every year since. Note that Messi has been pretty good in that period.When you see a bunch of super-unusual things about one player, rather than trying to explain them all separately, it’s a good idea to try figure out how they might be related. If Messi’s low work rate was a “feature” rather than a “bug,” it could help him be the dominant player that he is. Here’s a very speculative version of what that argument would look like:A lot of soccer players run around a lot when there’s not much they can do to improve their situation. They may even continue running after they’re in the ideal location. Or even if they’re making slight improvements, they may be burning energy that would have more value being spent on runs that are higher leverage. Further, not moving unnecessarily may make it easier to keep track of what’s going on in the play, which may help the player anticipate what’s coming next.OK, that may sound fanciful, but it’s the sort of crazy idea that Messi should make us consider (feel free to propose alternatives!). And it wouldn’t be the only unconventional thing about Messi’s play that probably contributes to his advantage (e.g. his aversion to crossing passes, which until recently were considered an important part of offensive soccer strategy).This may be key to what makes him as good as he is, or it might not. The bizarre spectacle of Lionel Messi strolling along lazily shouldn’t be used either to hang him or to excuse him. Let’s not let a negative outcome against an all-time-great opponent cloud the mystery.CORRECTION (July 16, 10:16 a.m.): An earlier version of this article mischaracterized James Rodriguez’s success in the tournament as moderate. That is incorrect. It was insane. read more

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LeBrons Greatest Challenge The NBA Finals Arent Kind To Underdogs

Let’s play FiveThirtyEight Family Feud. Twenty seconds on the clock.Name an animal that begins with the letter ‘F’.Fox!Name a famous Super Bowl upset.J-E-T-S, Jets, Jets, Jets.Name a famous NBA Finals upset.I mean… umm, uh.Uhhhhhhrrrrrrrmm.That isn’t an easy question. Didn’t Bill Russell’s Celtics once lose in the finals? (They did, exactly once, in 1958 to the St. Louis Hawks.) Wasn’t it kind of an upset when Dwyane Wade and Shaq led the 52-30 Miami Heat to a title in 2006? (It was, though not by much.) The NBA doesn’t lend itself to upsets. When each team has around 100 possessions per game, small differences tend to add up. And the differences really compound over a seven-game series. This has been particularly true in the NBA Finals. Whether by chance or because of the conditions under which finals games are played, underdogs have had an especially low success rate.The 2015 NBA Finals, which begin Thursday night in Oakland, look like a compelling matchup. Our Elo ratings provisionally rate the Golden State Warriors as the third-best NBA team of all time based on their performance to date. (There’s no big secret here. A 79-18 record — that counts the playoffs — is pretty amazing against this season’s Western Conference competition.) But the Cleveland Cavaliers’ Elo rating has been rising and is at its high point for the season, 1712. Only three finals matchups started with a higher combined Elo rating, and all three involved Michael Jordan’s Bulls.Maybe LeBron James really is good enough to overcome a middling supporting cast. But his odds aren’t great. The Cavaliers would be only about a 3-point underdog on a neutral court, according to Elo. Over a seven-game series, however — and with the Warriors having home-court advantage in a potential Game 7 — that adds up to just a 25 percent chance of the Cavs winning the series.1I get to that 25 percent figure — meaning the Warriors have a 75 percent chance of becoming NBA champs — by solving for all possible permutations in the seven-game series. Based on Elo ratings, the Warriors have about a 3-in-4 chance of winning each game played at home in Oakland, while the teams are about even-money in games played in Cleveland. I also account for the fact that the teams’ Elo ratings will change over the course of the series, which improves the underdog’s (Cleveland’s) chances slightly. Without recalculating Elo ratings at the end of each game, Golden State’s chances would be 79 percent instead of 75 percent. (That matches the odds according to another statistical system we’ve been using to handicap the NBA.) And that may be optimistic if history is any guide.Elo’s a really simple formula, so there’s a lot it doesn’t account for. You can make a case — we could argue about this for a long time — that past NBA Finals experience matters and could help James. Any lingering effects from the injuries sustained by Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson could matter a great deal to the Warriors, of course. Then again, Cleveland’s also pretty beat up,2Is Kevin Love’s injury the ultimate case of the Ewing Theory? and James’s superpowers were nowhere near enough against the San Antonio Spurs last year.The other thing is that underdogs have historically been bad bets in the NBA Finals. Here’s every NBA Finals matchup in history, with each team’s Elo rating going into the series and the probability Elo would have assigned to each team winning the series beforehand.It’s not just your lack of imagination: It really is hard to find monumental upsets in the NBA Finals. By Elo’s reckoning, the biggest one came in 1974, when the Boston Celtics beat the Milwaukee Bucks in seven games. That’s mostly because the Celtics looked worn down during the stretch run, finishing the regular season 27-20 in their final 47 games and deflating their Elo rating. (Plus, the Bucks were no fluke, with both Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Oscar Robertson on the roster.)Overall, however, of the 39 series in which Elo would have given one team at least a 2-in-3 chance of winning, the favorite in fact won 35 times, or almost 90 percent of the time.Why such a high success rate? It could be a statistical fluke; we aren’t looking at all that large a sample. But this phenomenon isn’t unique to the NBA: It also holds for the NFL playoffs, we’ve found. Elo ratings treat regular-season games and playoff games the same. But in both the NBA and NFL, favorites tend to be more dominant in the playoffs, especially late in the playoffs, than they are in the regular season.The reason may be that some of the “noise” that affects teams in the regular season is absent in the playoffs. No team is coming off a back-to-back, for instance. Teams are going all-out to win, instead of potentially testing out new strategies or resting starters. And at least in theory — although there a lot of NBA fans who would dispute this when refs like Joey Crawford are often involved — the games are adjudicated by the best officials. When you remove some of the quirky circumstances that can cost teams games — bad refs, funky schedules — the best teams tend to prevail more often.That’s bad news for James, but it will add all the more to his legacy if the Cavs pull the upset off. read more

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Did Your Team Blow It At The Trade Deadline

The Blue Jays bought, the Tigers sold and the Mets couldn’t make up their mind. Baseball’s trade deadline, which passed last Friday afternoon, is all about balancing the present against the future. Whether they’re buyers or sellers (or just renters), all deadline-dealers have to evaluate both their World Series chances for the current season and where they will be in the “success cycle” going forward. Blunders in either type of assessment can haunt a franchise for years.It’s a lot to deal with, and not every team manages the process perfectly. To help model these deadline decisions, we developed a metric we’ve nicknamed the “Doyle Number.” It’s named after the infamous 1987 trade in which the Detroit Tigers sent future Hall of Famer John Smoltz, then a 20-year-old prospect, to the Atlanta Braves for 36-year-old Doyle Alexander.In principle, the definition of the Doyle Number is simple. It represents the rate at which, at the trade deadline, teams should be willing to trade talent in the future for talent in the current season in order to maximize the total number of World Series that it wins. For instance, if a team has a Doyle Number of 2, that means buying a win’s worth of talent in the current season1Note our phrasing here: By a “win’s worth of talent,” we mean a win per 162 games. This won’t be worth a full win in the standings as of the trade deadline because there are only 60 or so games left to play. As we’ll describe later, however, much of the benefit of acquiring players at the trade deadline comes from improving the roster for the postseason rather than during the balance of the regular season. at the trade deadline is worth giving up two wins in the future. By contrast, a team with a Doyle Number of 0.25 should only be willing to give up one-quarter of a future win for a win now. Not only should such a team not buy wins at that price — it should probably sell veteran talent at the deadline instead, in exchange for prospects.The Doyle Number is calculated based on a team’s estimated “true talent,” a concept that’s equivalent to its projected winning percentage for the rest of the year, as of the trade deadline.2This can be measured by any number of gauges; in this case, we used the most predictive cocktail of preseason statistical forecasts and betting over/unders, updated in-season with pythagorean records. The Doyle also includes the team’s odds of making the divisional playoff round.3In other words, we’re essentially ignoring the wild card “play-in” game. In practice, the calculation gets slightly involved, so we’ve reserved most of the methodological discussion for the footnotes.4First, our model projects a team’s odds of reaching the divisional playoffs in the current season as a function of its estimated true talent and its “coin flip mode” playoff odds (its odds of making the playoffs if every remaining game were 50/50) as of July 31. This allows us to estimate how a team’s playoff odds change if it adds or subtracts talent at the deadline.To calculate a team’s chance of winning the World Series, conditional upon reaching the playoffs, we use a binomial distribution to estimate its chance of winning a five-game divisional series, a seven-game league championship series, and a seven-game World Series against opponents with 90-win true talent, which is the historical average for teams that reached the divisional playoffs.Through a similar process, our model also calculates a team’s chances of winning the World Series in each of the six subsequent seasons. The model accounts for the fact that a team’s true talent level regresses fairly heavily toward the mean of an 81-81 record, but that the margin of error increases the more years you project a team’s record into the future.The model assumes that for each win a team adds at the trade deadline, it subtracts one-sixth of a win in each of the next six seasons. For example, a team that adds six wins of true talent at the 2015 trade deadline will have one win of true talent subtracted from its projection in each year from 2016 through 2021.The Doyle Number acts as a multiplier on a team’s future win projection. For instance, at a Doyle Number of 2, the aforementioned team would lose two wins of talent from its projection in future seasons instead of one. The Doyle Number is set such that by adding an epsilon of talent, the net change in the number of World Series a team projects to win over current and future seasons is zero — in other words, the point at which the near-term benefit from making the trade exactly offsets the long-term cost.But it’s important to pay attention to that two-word phrase we used above: “World Series.” In Doyle, it’s all about the rings! A lot of previous analyses, including some that we’ve published ourselves, have focused on a team’s chance of making the playoffs. If that’s your main goal, you’ll eventually encounter diminishing returns: A team with 100-win talent as of the trade deadline is all but certain to make the playoffs, for instance, so adding more talent won’t accomplish very much.Winning a championship is another matter, however. It’s hard for any team to win the World Series, but it’s much harder for a team, like the 2005 San Diego Padres, that sneaks into the playoffs with a league-average roster. Just as in the NCAA basketball tournament, relatively modest talent differentials can compound over several playoff rounds. A team with 80-win talent has only about a 5 percent chance of winning the World Series, conditional on making the divisional playoffs; a team with 90-win talent has a 12 percent chance. A team with 100-win talent has a 24 percent chance.One of the biggest lessons of Doyle, in fact, is that adding the talent to win once you’re in the playoffs is probably more important than picking up enough talent to merely get there. The point at which adding an extra win of talent stops accelerating a playoff team’s World Series odds upward is about 118 wins — a level of true talent reserved for the best All-Star teams ever. Realistically, you can never add too much talent if you’re gearing up to win a World Series.But let’s see how this plays out in practice. Below, we’ve listed the Doyle Number for the 30 major league teams as of the trade deadline last week.The highest Doyle Number (2.07) belongs to the St. Louis Cardinals, who are probably the best team in baseball, with more than 96 wins of talent and a 21 percent likelihood of winning the World Series. Even though St. Louis already had a completely stacked roster and a very high likelihood of making the division series without any trades, the increase in championship probability upon entering the MLB postseason would have made even a lopsided long-term trade worth it. The Cardinals should have been prepared to give away as many as two wins of future talent to get one win at the trade deadline.5In reality, St. Louis made a series of small moves, acquiring Brandon Moss, Steve Cishek and Jonathan Broxton.That the Cardinals (and the Los Angeles Dodgers and Washington Nationals) top the Doyle rankings runs a bit counter to the conventional wisdom, which says that less-talented teams have the most to gain from a big splash at the trade deadline. However, as long as a team’s Doyle Number is above 1, they’d be better off buying than selling. That’s why Doyle also would have recommended a classic buyer’s mentality for the Kansas City Royals, New York Yankees and Houston Astros — three teams that have found themselves in the midst of far better seasons than would be expected from their talent. This suggests the Royals were right to go for broke in the short term; for them, each marginal win of talent added in 2015 is worth forsaking about 1.5 wins of future talent.Of course, while we’ve focused exclusively on trade-deadline buyers thus far, other teams had to decide whether they’d be better off selling current assets for future wins. The Philadelphia Phillies, to take an extreme example, have literally no use for extra talent in 2015 because they’re all but eliminated from the playoffs. Therefore, their Doyle Number was 0.00.The Detroit Tigers had a Doyle Number of just 0.14, which would heavily recommend selling. In fact, the Tigers dealt stars David Price and Yoenis Cespedes at the deadline; it didn’t make manager Brad Ausmus happy, but Doyle was pleased.Indeed, selling is almost always right for teams on the outer fringes of playoff contention (before the deadline, the Tigers had only about a 7 percent chance of reaching the divisional playoffs). The average team begins the regular season with a 27 percent chance of making the divisional playoffs. If a team’s playoff odds are lower than that as of the trade deadline, it should usually sell.The in-between cases can be tricky, however. Despite having a talented roster, the Toronto Blue Jays entered the trade deadline with only about a 26 percent chance of making the playoffs. But they probably added the most talent at the deadline of any team in baseball in the form of Price and Troy Tulowitzki, sending numerous prospects packing.Their Doyle Number of 0.77 is slightly below 1, which might initially suggest that they made the wrong move. In fact, however — and we’ve avoided introducing this complication until now — a team’s Doyle Number varies based on how many wins of talent it might add or subtract. Teams like the Blue Jays actually enter the trade deadline with a ‘U’-shaped curve like the one you see below.We know this is getting abstract, but it has a really important baseball implication. It means that for a team like Toronto, the worst strategy is standing pat. In terms of maximizing its total number of World Series championships, it should either add talent at the deadline or punt on the season and play for future years. By Doyle’s logic, in fact, teams should be going “all-in,” moving as aggressively as possible in one or the other direction at the deadline. Adding two stars, like the Jays did with Tulo and Price, is better than one.6This is a consequence of the finding we described above: The marginal gain in World Series probability tends to increase, not diminish, with additional talent added. This also applies to the Mets, who, after getting cold feet on Carlos Gomez, eventually did deal for Cespedes. Doyle’s complaint might be that the Mets weren’t aggressive enough: They could have added a Cespedes for the rest of us and a star second baseman too!The Doyle system admittedly represents a vast simplification compared with all the considerations that could be included in such a model. Future iterations might take into account factors like a team’s financial situation and the quality of its minor-league system, among other things.7In addition, it can be hard in practice to add talent to an already stacked roster. But it at least offers a broad set of guidelines upon which to judge a front office’s decision-making process.While Doyle doesn’t vindicate every dubious decision — the Tigers had a 34 percent chance of making the playoffs on the date they traded for Alexander in 1987, which would have made for a close call — it suggests that teams should often be quite aggressive at the deadline. A team needs to be honest with itself about whether its World Series chances are legitimate, but if they are, it might never get a better chance at a championship. read more

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Can Science Help Runners Break The Marathons 2Hour Barrier

When Kenyan Dennis Kimetto set the world record at the Berlin Marathon in 2014, his time, 2:02:57, made him the first runner to complete a marathon in less than two hours, three minutes. His time was 26 seconds faster than the previous record, set by fellow Kenyan Wilson Kipsang at the previous year’s Berlin Marathon. Such has the marathon world record progressed over the past 20 years: in increments measured in tens of seconds.But now three teams — one sponsored by Adidas, another backed by Nike, and one called SUB2 that’s being led by a team of academic researchers — are aiming to push the record nearly three minutes faster. Their audacious goal: to break the two-hour marathon mark.When Roger Bannister broke the four-minute mile in 1954, he did so as an amateur athlete, often training during his lunch breaks while attending medical school. By contrast, these two-hour marathon attempts are being made by professional runners handpicked by teams of researchers and bankrolled, in two cases, by corporations eager to show that their products can turn good runners into makers of history.We gathered a few of our favorite running science geeks to discuss the two-hour record, the current attempts to break it and whether these projects are good for the sport. The transcript has been lightly edited.Our participants:Christie Aschwanden is lead science writer at FiveThirtyEight.Wouter Hoogkamer studies the biomechanics, energetics and neurophysiology of running and other sports at the University of Colorado.Alex Hutchinson covers the science of endurance sport for Runner’s World and other publications.Steve Magness is coach to professional and collegiate runners and co-author of the book “Peak Performance.” christie: I want to start by asking (on behalf of our readers who aren’t marathoners): What is the magnitude of the goal here? Is breaking two hours a gargantuan feat? Or is this a technicality that will happen soon regardless?alex: Under “normal” circumstances, it’s very big. A few years ago, I predicted it would happen in 2075, which gives a sense of where my thinking was at that point.wouter: Without targeting some external factors to make it easier, it will be a long time before it happens.steve: Agreed. It’s a huge task. We’re looking at a several-decades jump in performance, at the minimum.christie: Is there some equivalent or analogy here that might help nonrunners understand the scope? How much faster is this record-breaker going to have to run?wouter: 2.5 percent faster.alex: For comparison, Usain Bolt has improved the 100-meter record by 1.6 percent, if I recall correctly.christie: Wow, that makes this look like a pipe dream.alex: And Paula Radcliffe improved the women’s marathon record by about 2.5 percent.wouter: In two increments, though, Alex.1Radcliffe broke Catherine Ndereba’s record of 2:18:47 with a time of 2:17:18, then broke that with the current record of 2:15:25.steve: I think the important thing is it’s a long, long way from our current reality.christie: So what makes the folks behind these three projects think they can do it?alex: People have been aware for a few years that there’s some “low-hanging fruit,” like optimizing the course and pacing, that would bring the goal much closer. It’s been a question of when someone would believe it’s close enough to invest money to make those things happen.wouter: Exactly.steve: Personally, I think it’s scientific arrogance and naivete that makes them think they can get it done within months/years. Can they drop the world record? Of course. But to get sub two hours is another question.alex: In rough terms, I always figured the “easy” stuff could get us halfway there. For Nike, I suspect it was their development of a new shoe that made them believe they could bridge the other half. Not sure about the other two.christie: Does science have a track record for facilitating faster running times? How much of the previous records are attributable to scientific advances?steve: As a coach and exercise scientist, I’d say the advancements due to science are minimal, at best. That seems like sacrilege, but if we look at the drops in time, they aren’t athletes training utilizing scientific gadgets. They are East Africans training with coaches doing standard training. The one advancement that has contributed in the marathon is refining of fuel intake.alex: I think running improvements are less influenced by science than almost any other sport. But there are still effects: equipment, track surfaces, etc.steve: When we look at running, science only adds the very small finishing touches. We’re talking fractions of a percent here and there.wouter: Outside running, there are multiple examples of where technology improvements have substantially improved sports performance: pole vault pole, clapskates for speed skating. Kimetto’s world marathon record was set with a shoe with a midsole material that has been shown to save 1 percent of energy.steve: But does 1 percent energy saving result in 1 percent improvement? I’d highly doubt so. Yet that’s what people immediately jump to. They think, “Oh, I’m 1 percent more efficient, so I’m 1 percent faster.” But it doesn’t work like that.alex: I think Wouter might disagree that changes in efficiency don’t translate to changes in race speed!wouter: Correct. We showed that adding 100 grams to shoes costs about 0.8 percent more energy and makes you run about 0.8 percent slower.alex: Of course, whether that holds true over 26.2 miles is a very big question!wouter: The relationship might not be perfectly linear at high speeds due to the effect of air resistance.steve: The marathon is a different ball game. In the shorter events, the physiology is mainly the limiting factor. When we get to the marathon, the causes of fatigue multiply.christie: So what are the limiting factors in the marathon?steve: Factors that all could be the weak link in the chain depend on the athlete and the race, things like fuel utilization, muscle damage or cramping, mental fatigue or psychological coping, and on and on.Basically, in the marathon, there are a lot more pipes that can burst than, say, in a mile or a 5K.alex: It’s important to note that Nike’s project, at least, isn’t really trying to change any of these traditional limiting factors. (I should add that Nike would probably disagree with that characterization, but it’s my take.) They’re instead trying to optimize some of the well-understood limiting factors like air resistance, as well as course details like the number of hills and turns.christie: Alex, you’ve reported on the different projects. What distinguishes them?alex: I know basically nothing about the Adidas project other than that they have a pair of shoes. The Nike and SUB2 projects are somewhat similar in the tactics they’re trying, with the difference that Nike has a lot more money and is staging its own event instead of using an existing race.wouter: I think that is the most important part of their approach.alex: Even more important than the shoes? 🙂wouter: Current races are not optimized to run as fast as possible, coursewise.christie: So what makes for fast conditions?steve: Flat course, perfect racing temperature (45 degrees or so), fewer turns. If you want to truly optimize, you’d have a slightly downhill finish.alex: Wouter’s dream course, outlined in his recent paper, was a flat, sheltered loop for the first half, followed by a gradual downhill (just within the 1 meter-in-1,000 rules for record-eligible courses) for the second half. I pretty much agree, except I might save the downhill portion for the last six miles, when things really get tough.christie: Track and field’s governing body, IAAF, has rules for what makes a legal course: a maximum overall drop in elevation of no more than 42 meters and a start and finish that are no more than 13.1 miles apart, as the crow flies, to prevent aid from a tailwind.wouter: We say you need to look for a course that drops exactly 42 meters. Same for the wind, if we can go 13.1 miles in one way, let’s do it and make sure you have a tailwind there and limit the negative effects of wind during the first half.christie: You also mention drafting.wouter: Yes, that’s the final strategy. The problem is you would need four guys who run a 2:03 marathon all running the same race and collaborating, and that won’t happen without serious monetary incentives.christie: How many runners are currently capable of that kind of time?steve: If they are all on their best at the same time (which never happens), four.wouter: Right, it’s not very likely. But if you could bring two of them together, and apply the downhill, tailwind and shoe technology, they’d have a fair shot.christie: Why is it so hard to run a perfect marathon?steve: There’s a reason that at most major marathons, with all the best guys trying to run fast, you are normally left with one, maybe two survivors — despite almost a dozen of them on the starting line who are able to run in the 2:04 range. We forget that these are humans, not machines. The training it takes to even get in 2:03-04 fitness is crazy. Marathoners live near the edge. They do as much as possible without falling over the cliff of overtraining or injury.alex: Steve’s point is important. If you compare the start list to the finish results at major marathons, it’s like, “What happened to all those fast guys?”That’s one reason I was pretty surprised that Nike went with a team of just three runners. Even getting to the start line of a marathon is a low-odds game. On these points, it comes down to “will it happen on any given day?” rather than “can it happen in theory?”christie: So the proposed approaches include a fast course, drafting and fast shoes. The SUB2 team also has a newfangled sports drink. How likely are any of these to make the difference?alex: I’d say a fast course, drafting and shoes are the big ones. There are lots of other things people are doing, but they’re not make or break. Nike’s not doing much new with sports drinks — just trying to make sure the athletes execute best practices, which not everyone does even at the elite level. The SUB2 project has an interesting new drink that makes some bold claims but hasn’t published any data to back it up yet.steve: And we haven’t even touched on the biggest limiting factor: the psychology of it all …christie: How does psychology play in, Steve?steve: You’re almost three minutes from the record. These guys are going through the half-marathon at near their half personal record. People think that “elites” are invincible mentally. But they freak out, they panic if they are too fast or slow, even if they don’t show it. The way fatigue works is a comparison to our prior experience and our current context. If your prior experience is nowhere near what you are trying to do, your body’s default setting is to freak out.alex: There’s that famous Herb Elliott quote about how, to set a world record, you have to have the arrogance to believe that you can be better than anyone else in history and then the humility to actually do it. Everyone who does it starts with an arrogance that is basically irrational, and most people will never do something that justifies that arrogance — but without it, you don’t even come close. Anyway, Nike (and SUB2, etc.) clearly have the arrogance, but the jury is still out about the humility.christie: I want to switch gears for a moment. Last week, we learned that the women’s gold medalist in the Olympic marathon in Rio, Jemima Sumgong from Kenya, has tested positive for the blood booster EPO. At this year’s Sloan Sports Analytics conference, Peter Weyand, a researcher on the SUB2 team, argued that their project could show athletes that there’s a way to excel with science that doesn’t send the sport down what he called the “pharmaceutical gene-doping freak show.” What do you all think? Could he be right, or is this just naive optimism?steve: I think it’s naive optimism, and Peter was my adviser during undergrad, so I can say that! The money and fame in running sub two are enormous. We still use Roger Bannister as an example of a barrier breaker nearly 70 years later! With that much to gain, athletes, coaches, agents, even sponsors will take risks. Athletes are already taking risks for much lower payoffs. If the payoff is that large, you bet it will bring doping into it.wouter: I don’t think the sub-two-hour quest will encourage doping more than gold medals and “regular” prize money.alex: I’ve been totally baffled by that message from the SUB2 team. Everyone wants to run fast and beat people, so it’s not clear to me why one sub-two project would encourage more doping and the other would encourage less!steve: We’re talking about all these measures that may improve a half percent here or there. EPO can improve performance by up to 6 percent, according to some research!christie: This leads me to another question: How important is it, really, to reach this arbitrary number? The marathon distance is an artificial construct, and the two-hour mark is just a function of our love of round numbers, right? I don’t recall anyone getting excited about breaking the 2:03 mark.alex: Well, I was pretty excited.christie: Ha!steve: Ha, so was I. But it’s a round number, like a four-minute mile or a 10-second 100 meter. So, yes, it will capture our imagination.christie: If it were the women’s record that stood this close to the two-hour mark, would there be as much interest?alex: You know the answer to that, unfortunately, Christie.christie: 😞alex: That said, that’s one area where this sport isn’t too bad. Think of the biggest marathon stars in the American firmament — Deena Kastor, Shalane Flanagan, Kara Goucher, etc. There’s definitely respect for female accomplishments.christie: Most of the major marathons have equity in prize money, right?alex: Yes, as far as I know.steve: Exactly. Compared to most other sports, running is much more progressive. As someone who coaches mostly professional women marathoners, I wish it was more even in popularity. But you are seeing more split coverage and starting times so that the women’s race gets equal coverage. Which is huge.wouter: There are also scientific papers on the women’s equivalent of the two-hour marathon.christie: That research says the women’s equivalent of the two-hour marathon “has already been achieved.” 🏆steve: That’s because Radcliffe’s 2:15 is such a large outlier.christie: Right. It has stood for 14 years!alex: Put those worms back in that can!steve: I didn’t say why! I just said it was far better than anything else we’ve seen!christie: I want to finish by asking: Is the pursuit of the sub-two-hour marathon good for the sport?steve: I think it’s bad for the sport. We’re getting further and further away from what makes sport interesting: competition. Our obsessive drive for faster has hurt track and field as it is. We set ourselves up for failure by hyping up world records and then being disappointed when they do not occur. If we ever want to have this sport gain popularity, we need to take it back to its roots. Draw a line on the street and race to the next light pole. That’s the essence of running. These gimmicky approaches using artificial environments just push us further away from competition. Yeah, it’s great to see where limits lie, but I think this will push us more toward doping and a focus on times.alex: I should start by saying that I recognize many of the concerns that people have. I, too, love good, old-fashioned competition for the sake of head-to-head racing, instead of commercialized mega-events. But even with those caveats, my general sense is that it’s a net positive. I can’t overstate the number of people I’ve heard from whose messages start with some version of “I don’t usually follow running, but I saw your article on the sub-two thing and wanted to ask. …”wouter: Well, I think it’s definitely good for science. Everything we learn from what’s limiting human (sports) performance will have the potential to be used somewhere down the road in making walking easier for specific patient populations, which has many known benefits.alex: Ultimately, the sport is driven by what people want to see. Many people within the sport say “the focus on times is bad.” And many others watch the Olympics (where, e.g., the men’s 1,500 was the slowest time since 1932) and say “the focus on competition rather than time is bad.” To me, those are both interesting aspects of the sport, at opposite poles. I don’t want all one or the other, but neither do I want to get rid of one aspect entirely.christie: Yeah, although I lean toward Steve’s point of view here, the fact that it’s garnering more attention for the sport seems like a good thing.Wouter, you’re running the Boston Marathon on Monday. Do you have a time goal?wouter: I aim for sub-2:40.alex: Good luck, Wouter. Hope you’ve got some cooperative drafting lined up!wouter: Using the downhill and cooperative drafting. Regular shoes, though.christie: Best of luck! Only 40 more minutes to shave off … 😜Thanks for being here, everyone. read more

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Bucks hunt down Nittany Lions

It was a game between two teams headed in completely opposite directions.Penn State, losers of all nine of its conference games this season, arrived in Columbus to face an Ohio State squad that had won five in a row in Big Ten play.Neither streak came to an end Wednesday night, as the Buckeyes won, 75-62.On a night that the Ohio State football team was honored at halftime for last month’s Rose Bowl victory, the basketball Buckeyes took a page out of the football playbook and beat the Nittany Lions.The game figured to showcase two of the Big Ten’s best players, Penn State’s Talor Battle and OSU’s Evan Turner. Neither guard disappointed. Battle had 24 points, nine rebounds and seven assists, all team highs, but it was Turner who stole the show.Once again, the National Player of the Year candidate led the way for OSU. Turner scored 27 points, grabbed 10 rebounds and handed out six assists. Like Battle, he led his team in all three categories.“Stuff kind of opened up in the second half,” Turner said of his 22 second-half points. “It allowed me to go to work and to my thing for the most part.”The Nittany Lions made it close down the stretch, closing to within three points with less than two minutes to play. But junior guard Jon Diebler, who had been held scoreless for the first 38 minutes of the game, hit a three-point shot to end any hope of a Penn State comeback.“I was just thinking one is bound to go in,” Diebler said. “In years past my confidence would have went down and I probably wouldn’t have shot it. “Better to make one late than never I guess.”Sophomore William Buford added 19 points on 5-10 shooting. Buford continued his recent tear on the offensive end and over the course of the last two games he has made 62 percent of his field goal attempts, going 15-24. In addition, Buford has made all 10 of his free throw attempts.As for the Nittany Lions, coach Ed DeChellis said it was just more of the same from his team, which has made a habit of losing close games this season.“History kind of repeats itself,” DeChellis said. “We just tried to hang in there as long as we could, but I don’t think there are any moral victories.” read more

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At ease in Iowa City Coach Kirk Ferentz remains intent on keeping

Few coaches in college football have done more with less than Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz. Since becoming coach in 1999, Ferentz has won 88 games, five bowl games and two Big Ten championships with the Hawkeyes. A three-time winner of the Big Ten Coach of the Year award, Ferentz has made Iowa a perennial conference title contender despite lagging behind other major programs in recruiting and other resources. But with Iowa at 7-3, 2010 has been a disappointing season for the defending Orange Bowl champions, who many expected to contend for the National Championship. Coming off a 21-17 defeat against Northwestern, Ferentz isn’t concerned about others’ expectations as he prepares his team for Ohio State on Saturday. “We’ve never worried too much about people’s expectations,” Ferentz said. “We just try to maximize every opportunity that we have and then we go from there.” After his tenure at Iowa began with a 4-19 record, Ferentz rebounded by guiding the Hawkeyes to six consecutive bowl games and winning two conference championships during that period. That success, along with prior experience as an assistant coach for the Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Ravens, made him a hot commodity in coaching circles, and many assumed he would leave Iowa for a job in the NFL. “Early they were linking me to the unemployment line, and then some NFL stuff later,” Ferentz said during a telephone conference this week. “That’s part of college football.” Although Ferentz often hears his name linked to possible coaching jobs in the NFL, he said he is bewildered by the speculation about his future. “I think the only logical reason for that is: I’ve got experience coaching in the NFL, and some of the people that I’ve worked with have done very well,” Ferentz said. “I’ve never given any indication that I had any intentions of leaving Iowa.” Iowa has made it difficult for Ferentz to consider leaving by giving him an annual salary of more than $3.6 million. His contract doesn’t expire until 2020. At Iowa, Ferentz has built much of his reputation on developing his players for the NFL. Dallas Clark, Aaron Kampman and Bob Sanders are among the many NFL standouts to have played for Ferentz at Iowa. “We’ve got a great group of guys that work with our players,” Ferentz said. “We do all we can to try and support them from the day they walk in until the day they leave and give them a chance to maximize all their capabilities.” What makes the success of his players even more remarkable is that Ferentz has rarely been able to bring blue chip prospects to Iowa. According to Rivals.com, Ferentz has never had a recruiting class ranked better than 11th in the nation. His second-highest ranked class was No. 28. “Our biggest challenge is our state population,” Ferentz said. “The high school football here is tremendous, but we only have 3 million people in our entire state.” “Between 80 and 90 percent of the time we’re recruiting in someone else’s state, which makes it a challenge,” he said. A win against the Buckeyes and coach Jim Tressel, who has a 4-1 record against Ferentz, would atone for many of Iowa’s shortcomings in the 2010 season. Tressel expects a stiff challenge from Ferentz’s team, which lost by a field goal in overtime last November in Columbus. “All summer long and all fall long, people have circled this game,” Tressel said. “We know what this game is all about.” read more

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Womens tennis falls to Northwestern in seasons 1st conference loss

The OSU women’s tennis team lost its first conference match of the season to perennial powerhouse No. 18 Northwestern, 5-2, on Friday. Temperatures during the match fell below 50 degrees, and wind gusts reached 33 mph. The loss drops the Buckeyes (10-8) to third place behind Michigan and Northwestern in the Big Ten with a 3-1 conference record. The Buckeyes, playing without injured senior Paloma Escobedo, were losing, 4-0, and facing a shutout when senior Cami Hubbs and sophomore Fidan Manashirova dug in. Manashirova ground out a hard-earned win against Northwestern’s Linda Abu Mushrefova in straight sets, 6-4, 7-6. Hubbs followed up her teammate’s win by defeating Northwestern’s Stacey Lee, 6-4, 7-6. “It was a really good win, and I felt really good out there,” Hubbs said. “I think we really showed (Northwestern) today … it doesn’t matter where, we’re going to be a contender.” Manashirova agreed. “This was a really good match for me,” she said. “I feel like the higher I play, the more competition I get, and I get to test myself.” Despite the setback, coach Chuck Merzbacher and his players are optimistic their tenacity will benefit them for the remainder of the season. “They never stopped fighting,” Merzbacher said. “We’re going to keep battling, and when you do that, you get in a position to win.” Fortunately for the Buckeyes, the loss Friday hasn’t curbed their focus. “I think the sky’s the limit for us,” Manashirova said. “We have to bring our best tennis every match.” Manashirova and the Buckeyes will need to bring their best tennis Saturday when they travel to Ann Arbor, Mich., to take on Big Ten leader Michigan before traveling to Michigan State on Sunday. Merzbacher is confident his team will respond. “I think we’re going to build on it,” he said. “Spirits are high. We’re strong, and I feel like we’re ready for that trip.” read more

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Urban Meyers recruiting knows no bounds

For Ohio State coach Urban Meyer, going out of state to recruit the top players in the country isn’t foreign territory. Meyer already has seven out-of-state high school players who have verbally committed to OSU for the 2013 season. Recruits from New Jersey, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Missouri, Florida, Texas and California will represent the Buckeyes in the 2013 football season. Marc Givler, recruiting analyst at BuckeyeGrove.com, said there are several reasons for Meyer’s success when it comes to out-of-state recruiting, including his coaching experiences in different regions of the country. “He’s coached in Ohio so he’s got the Midwest ties, he’s coached in Utah so he has the West Coast ties and he’s coached in Florida so he’s got the Southeast ties,” Givler said. “He’s built all these relationships with high school coaches across the country, so it’s pretty easy for him to get in the door.” Meyer can’t take all the credit for out-of-state recruiting because his assistants within his staff have played a major role in getting these players as well. When Meyer assembled his coaching staff, he did so with recruiting in mind. “This staff was put together with a purpose,” Meyer said on National Signing Day Feb. 1. “And recruiting was without question a purpose in putting together this staff.” Kevin Noon, managing editor for BuckeyeGrove.com, said assembling a national staff of assistant coaches has been pivotal in Meyer’s success. “He’s able to go into Texas because of (offensive coordinator) Tom Herman and he’s able to go into North Carolina because of (co-defensive coordinator) Everett Withers, so he has some reach thanks to the guys working for him,” Noon said. In addition to recruiting players from around the country, Meyer has also maintained OSU’s appeal to in-state athletes. Givler said it is equally important for Meyer to win Ohio and keep in-state high schools happy. “You have to keep healthy relationships with high school coaches and players within Ohio also, because you don’t want to alienate yourself from your own state,” Givler said. “Meyer’s done a good job of keeping the balance.” Meyer’s theory is simple, which is to get the most talented players regardless of what state they are from. Noon said Meyer, along with all coaches, will always go national with recruiting because it’s all about getting the best available talent to help win games. “It all comes down to winning games, competing for the Big Ten and competing for a national championship in a couple of years,” Noon said. “If you can’t find certain talent in your own state, then it’s natural to go looking for it on the national level.” Steve Helwagen, managing editor for Bucknuts.com, said quarterback prospect J.T. Barrett, out of Rider High School in Wichita Falls, Texas, is one of Meyer’s most impressive out-of-state recruits. “The scouts have him listed as the No. 1 run-pass quarterback because he can drop back and throw from the pro style, or he can take off and be effective running the ball,” Helwagen said. Joey Bosa, a 6-foot-4, 225-pound defensive end from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and Lewis Neal, a 6-foot-1, 232-pound defensive end from Wilson, N.C., are Meyer’s most recent committed recruits. Helwagen said OSU will always be a popular destination for national recruits with Meyer as coach. “He’s won two national championships,” Helwagen said. “He’s produced a bunch of NFL guys, his reputation along with Ohio State’s tradition is what kids want to be a part of.” read more

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Ohio State softball takes final game in series against Purdue

The Ohio State softball team took the last win in a three-game series Sunday afternoon against Purdue at home, 5-3. After a four-inning deadlock with the teams tied, 3-3, the Buckeyes hit back-to-back home runs in the 10th inning to grab their only win of the series. The Buckeyes lost Friday afternoon, 4-2, and Saturday, 8-7. “There was just no way we were going to let them beat us three times,” said sophomore infielder Maddy McIntyre, who hit her third home run of the year in Sunday’s extra inning. Junior first baseman Evelyn Carrillo hit the other 10th-inning home run, her second of the year, and added 3 RBI in the game. Carrillo said it was satisfying to win the game with McIntyre. “It feels awesome,” Carrillo said. “Maddy and I always talk about tag teaming, so I’m really happy that we were able to tag team this last inning and get two home runs for the team.” The duo scored the first back-to-back home runs since former Buckeyes Alicia Herron and Sam Marder did in 2010. Sophomore pitcher Olivia O’Reilly replaced redshirt junior Melanie Nichols in the bottom of the second inning and finished out the rest of the game only allowing one run. O’Reilly said she depended on her teammates to finish out the game. “I just knew I had my team behind me, they were making great defensive plays all day,” O’Reilly said. “I just knew if I put it on the plate and they hit it, my team would have my back.” The Buckeyes started off strong with two runs in the top of the first inning, only for the Boilermakers to tie things up by the bottom of the second inning. OSU pulled ahead of the Boilermakers again in the top of the fifth as sophomore outfielder Taylor Watkins hit it out of the park. But Carrillo is looking ahead and said she is ready for the series against Michigan next weekend. “Rivalry, just blood, straight out blood. We’re going after them,” Carrillo said. “So we’re going out there with the mindset that we’re going to win, and that’s what we’re going to do.” The Buckeyes are set to take on the No. 14 Wolverines starting on Friday at 6 p.m. in Ann Arbor, Mich. read more

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Ohio State baseball knocks down Youngstown State 30

The Ohio State baseball pitching staff, using five arms, combined for a two-hit shutout victory against Youngstown State Tuesday night, 3-0, at Bill Davis Stadium. The Buckeye hurlers combined for 10 strikeouts and did not walk a batter. The Penguins only looked more and more helpless at the plate as the game grew old – their final 13 hitters were retired in order. The lack of offense was welcomed by the sparse crowd of 495 on a night of low-40 degree temperatures, as the contest wrapped up in under two hours. The Buckeyes collected a hit and stolen base in each of the first two innings, but were unable to push any runs across the plate. Despite not allowing a hit, OSU senior starting pitcher Brett McKinney went just two frames before being pulled in favor of redshirt junior Tyler Giannonatti. After the Penguins followed suit, bringing freshman Lance Horner in to pitch the third, the first two Buckeyes reached base before the rally was brought to an abrupt end on an unassisted triple play by sophomore shortstop Phil Lipari. The unassisted triple play, with just 15 occurrences in MLB history according to MLB’s website, is more rare a feat than a perfect game. Youngstown State did not collect its first hit until the top of the fifth, when designated hitter David Saluga lined a single to right. Giannonatti would eventually pitch out of the jam, stranding a pair of base runners in his final inning of work. OSU freshman second baseman Troy Kuhn led off the sixth with a single, and was then put into scoring position on a sacrifice bunt by redshirt senior lead-off man Joe Ciamacco. The game found its first run one batter later on a base hit to center off of Horner by redshirt senior designated hitter Ryan Cypret. The rally came to an end three batters later, but not before the Buckeyes pushed an insurance run across to take a 2-0 lead. OSU would add another score the following inning on an RBI single by Kuhn, his third hit of the evening in as many at bats. OSU sophomore right-handed pitcher Trace Dempsey came in for the ninth and converted his team-leading eighth save. With three strikeouts in two innings of work, junior Greg Greve recorded the win, improving his record to 2-0. Horner took the loss in the first decision of his young career. OSU (17-8, 4-2 Big Ten) is scheduled to make a quick turnaround and welcome Miami (Ohio) to Bill Davis Stadium on Wednesday. First pitch is slated for 6:35 p.m. read more

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Womens Volleyball wins Blue and White Classic improves to 120

Junior outside hitter Erin Sekinger spikes the ball during a match against Dabrowa Sept. 4 at St. John Arena. OSU won, 3-2.Credit: Shelby Lum / Photo editorThe No. 13 Ohio State women’s volleyball team finished its non-conference schedule 12-0 after sweeping all three matches at the Blue and White Classic in Buffalo, N.Y., this weekend.The Buckeyes, off to their best start since Geoff Carlston became head coach in 2008, recorded back-to-back three set wins against Valparaiso and Buffalo Saturday after dominating Maryland Eastern Shore (25-6, 25-10, 25-9) Friday.OSU clinched the tournament title against host Buffalo in the team’s final non-conference match (25-13, 25-14, 25-16).Senior outside hitter Kaitlyn Leary led all players with 17 kills against the Bulls while freshman outside hitter Kylie Randall had 11 kills and three errors. Senior libero Davionna DiSalvatore and senior defensive specialist Julianne Mandolfo had 11 and 10 digs respectively.The Buckeyes finished the match with a .365 attacking percentage while Buffalo had a .000 mark (24 kills, 24 errors).Earlier in the day, the Buckeyes played the closest of their three matches in the tournament against Valparaiso. The Buckeyes fought a long first set, winning 29-27, before finishing off the final two sets 25-20 and 25-17.Senior outside hitter Kaitlyn Leary posted a match-high 18 kills, freshman right side hitter Taylor Sandbothe tallied 14 and junior outside hitter Erin Sekinger finished with 11. Junior setter Taylor Sherwin put up 44 assists and DiSalvatore posted 15 digs.The Buckeyes did not allow double digit kills to a single Valparaiso player but did finish the match with 21 hitting errors, compared to 17 for their opponents.Against UMES, Sandbothe led the way with nine kills on 14 attempts, for an attacking percentage of .643. Sekinger finished the match with eight kills and Sherwin had a match-high 23 assists.Freshman setter Maggie Heim, who coach Carlston said had been nursing a hamstring injury, made her collegiate debut in the match, finishing with 12 assists on 15 attempts.As a team, Ohio State finished with 38 kills compared to only 11 for UMES.Sherwin has been named tournament MVP twice this season, but it was Leary’s turn to pick up the honor in Buffalo. Sekinger and Sanbothe both joined her as all-tournament selections.Ohio State is scheduled to kick off Big Ten play Friday as No. 10 Michigan (10-1) travels to Columbus. The rivals are set to square off at 8 p.m. in St. John Arena. read more

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Down the rink Columbus Blue Jackets recap – Week 8

Columbus Blue Jackets right wing Josh Anderson scored the game-winner in overtime against Calgary on Nov. 22 at Nationwide Arena. Credit: Courtesy of TNSThe Columbus Blue Jackets (15-7-1, 31 points) are riding a six-game winning streak through 23 games and are positioned one point behind the New Jersey Devils for first place in the Metropolitan division.The Blue Jackets battled in the first two games of the week to come away with one-goal victories, but dominated the Ottawa Senators Friday to wrap up the week.Here are a few storylines from the eighth week of the Blue Jackets’ season.Offense pick up without star productionSo far, the power play has been abysmal. It hasn’t been in double-digit percentage since Oct. 14, which has been the difference in turning the offense into a dominant force it could be. The expected offensive presence of forwards Artemi Panarin, Cam Atkinson, Nick Foligno and Brandon Dubinsky has not been consistent, either.Yet, Columbus scored eight goals this week from seven different players, many of which aren’t the average contributors.Defenseman Markus Nutivaara scored a go-ahead goal Friday against Ottawa and rookie center Pierre Luc-Dubois put the Blue Jackets on the board with his third of the year against Buffalo Nov. 20.Josh Anderson has continued his steady offensive production, scoring his team-leading eighth goal in overtime in a 1-0 win against Calgary. Atkinson scored twice and Foligno scored once against Ottawa for their first goals since Oct. 27 and Oct. 25, respectively. Head coach John Tortorella will need more of that production from his top-six forwards.Bobrovsky is still the best goaltender in the NHLGoaltender Sergei Bobrovsky’s statistics are always listed in this rundown, but his play during the win streak has been nothing short of remarkable. He ranks second in the league in wins and first in save percentage, goals against average and tied with three shutouts. Not impressed? During the team’s six-game win streak, Bobrovsky has allowed four combined goals in his four wins with a .966 save percentage.The penalty kill has been a major help to Bobrovsky, and the defense has improved in the past week with its ability to limit quality scoring chances. When those were deficiencies, however, No. 72 was a one-man defense and he’s beginning to be rewarded for it.There’s plenty of the season left, but Bobrovsky is the early favorite for the first back-to-back Vezina Trophy winner since Martin Brodeur in the 2006-07 and 2007-08 season. Lukas Sedlak solid in returnThe Blue Jackets returned one of their best penalty-killers from an ankle injury this week in Lukas Sedlak. The team was in dire need of depth at center, so Sedlak’s return was welcomed, even if he’s not a prolific offensive player.In two games, the Czech skater tallied one assist in 9:24 of average ice time, but his impact was felt most in the penalty kill, which was a perfect 4-for-4 in his two games.The third line of Sedlak, Tyler Motte and Jordan Schroeder has provided Tortorella with a productive forecheck and active sticks in the defensive end that keeps the opposition’s chances to a minimum.Injury reportThird-line left wing Matt Calvert remains on injured reserve since Nov. 6. Calvert was initially given a three-to-four week window of recovering from his upper-body injury.Alexander Wennberg has missed the past five games with an upper-body injury.Looking aheadMontreal star goaltender Carey Price is back in net for the Canadiens after missing 10 games with a lower-body injury. His first game back, against Buffalo on Nov. 25, was a shutout. The Blue Jackets will face three of the league’s worst power plays — Montreal, Carolina and Anaheim. But if there’s one game to watch this week, it will be Saturday on the road against Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals.Top performers (skaters)Cam Atkinson – two goals (6), one assist (3), three points (9), +4Markus Nutivaara – one goal (1), two assists (8), three points (9), +3Josh Anderson – one goal (8), one assist (4), two points (12)Oliver Bjorkstrand – two assists (9), two points (14), +1Goaltending:Sergei Bobrovsky – 3-0-0 (14-4-1), 1.32 goals allowed average (1.91), 76 saves, .950 save percentage (.936)In the circle (faceoff record, faceoff win percentage, EV record, PP record, SH record)Brandon Dubinsky – 23-34, 40.4, 20-27, 1-0, 2-7 Nick Foligno – 19-27, 41.3, 13-25, 4-2, 3-0Pierre-Luc Dubois – 10-19, 34.5, 10-19, 0-0, 0-0Lukas Sedlak – 7-8, 46.7, 6-8, 1-0, 0-0Overall: 46.4 percent, ranked 31stSpecial teams units:Powerplay – 0-for-1 at Buffalo; 0-for-2 vs. Calgary; 0-for-2 vs. OttawaOverall: 6-for-62 (9.7 percent), ranked 31stPenalty kill – 3-for-3 at Buffalo; 1-for-1 vs. Calgary; 3-for-3 vs. OttawaOverall: 49-for-58 (84.5 percent), ranked tied-fourthUp next:11/27 – at Montreal (9-12-3)11/28 – vs. Carolina (10-8-4)12/1 – vs. Anaheim (10-9-4)12/2 – at Washington (14-10-1) read more

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Football Ohio State defeats USC 247 to win the Cotton Bowl

Ohio State redshirt sophomore running back Mike Weber stiff-arms a defender during the first half of the Cotton Bowl against USC on Dec. 29. Credit: Jack Westerheide | Photo EditorDALLAS — After the Cotton Bowl, Ohio State’s roster will experience much turnover. But during the final game of the season, it was turnovers that kept the Buckeyes in the game.Ohio State jumped out to a quick lead, scoring the first points less than three minutes into the game, and extended it to 24-0 with 5:27 remaining in the first half. It capitalized on two costly fumbles and an interception that senior safety Damon Webb returned for a touchdown.The Trojans bounced back, scoring a touchdown near the end of the first half, but did not score again, and the Buckeyes won 24-7 on Friday. Webb, one of 19 Ohio State seniors playing their final games, recovered wideout Deonta Burnett’s fumble that redshirt sophomore cornerback Kendall Sheffield forced. Then, he had a pick-six just 18 seconds into the second quarter on the first play of a USC drive.USC quarterback Sam Darnold, a potential top-five NFL draft pick, also fumbled when redshirt senior defensive end Tyquan Lewis stripped him and junior linebacker Jerome Baker recovered the loose ball. On the second play of Ohio State’s following drive, redshirt senior quarterback J.T. Barrett raced for a 28-yard touchdown to give his team a 24-0 lead with 5:27 left in the second quarter. Barrett made more plays on the ground than in the air Friday. He rushed for a 1-yard touchdown, which set the program record for most touchdowns in a single season, for the first points of the game. Barrett ended the game, the final of his career, completing 11-of-17 passes for 114 yards. He led the team with 16 rushes for 66 yards. He did not have much support from his running backs, who struggled to find holes in the Trojans’ defense. Redshirt sophomore Mike Weber and freshman J.K. Dobbins combined for 18 carries for 57 yards. Despite the shaky performance on the ground, the Buckeyes ran the ball heavily. They had 37 rushes for 165 yards, compared to 11 pass attempts for 114 yards.The Trojans had even less success running the ball, combining for 36 carries for 57 yards. Running back Ronald Jones, who entered the game averaging 6.1 yards per carry, had 19 rushes for 64 yards, an average of 3.4 yards per carry. Darnold went 26-for-44 for 356 yards with one interception. He made eye-popping throws at times despite his receivers being draped by defenders, but also turned the ball over three times. The Buckeye defense constantly affected Darnold and pressured the quarterback. Ohio State had eight sacks and 14 tackles for loss. That pressure continued for the entire game. In the fourth quarter, senior defensive end Jalyn Holmes sacked Darnold, forcing a fumble, which redshirt sophomore defensive tackle Robert Landers recovered.Redshirt junior defensive end Sam Hubbard led the team with 2.5 sacks and 3.5 tackles for loss.The Buckeyes were missing junior cornerback Denzel Ward, who made a last-minute decision to skip the game in order to prepare for the NFL draft. read more

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Theresa May Britains relationship with the US will be strong despite Brexit

first_imgTheresa May and Barack Obama promised to maintain strong political and economic ties between Britain and the US despite the Brexit vote.Speaking at a joint press conference with the US President at the G20 summit in China,  both leaders sought to provide reassurance that the close relationship between the UK and the US would not be weakened by Britain’s decision to leave the EU.“We have a very strong trading relationship with the United States, we will be looking to see if we can maintain this relationship in the future,” Mrs May said.Mr Obama  promised that the relationship would strengthen.“Even as the UK pursues an orderly exit from the EU, together we reaffirm the very special relationship between the United States and the United Kingdom,” the US president said.”It will not simply endure, but it will continue to grow stronger with time. The vibrant economic partnership between our countries will continue, as the UK gains further clarity on its new relationship with the EU.” In April, during a visit to London, Mr Obama had warned that Britain would go to the “back of the queue” in  trade talks with the US if it left the EU. Even if he did not expressed his views as forcefully this time, the US president signalled that a trade deal with Britain was a lower priority than securing an agreement with the EU.His intervention ahead of the Brexit vote annoyed “leave” campaigners who resented what they believed was an unjustified intervention in a domestic political matter.Mr Obama made no apology for his remarks in April when he spoke to journalists early on Sunday in Hangzhou.“It is absolutely true that I believed pre the Brexit vote and continue to believe post Brexit that the world would benefit from the UK’s participation in the EU,” he said. Mr Obama added that the US was involved in detailed negotiations with the EU.“It would make no sense these aside particularly at a time when my working assumption is that if the UK decided to leave the EU, its first priority would be to negotiate trade with the single unit to which they sell half of their goods.” Close economic links with Britain would remain however, Mr Obama added.“There is a lot of investment of British companies in the United States and American companies in the UK and that is going to continue.” he said. He added: “The bottom line is we don’t have a stronger partner anywhere in the world than the United Kingdom, and despite the turbulence of political events over the last several months we have every intention to making sure that that continues.’’Mrs May, who reiterated that there would not be a second referendum on Brexit, described the US as Britain’s “special partner” and a a “long-standing ally and close friend”. U.S. President Barack Obama and Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May arrive to speak to reporterscenter_img Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily  Front Page newsletter and new  audio briefings. U.S. President Barack Obama and Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May arrive to speak to reportersCredit:Jonathan Ernst/Reuterslast_img read more

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Judith Kerr I have a do not resuscitate notice in the hall

first_imgJudith Kerr speaks at the Hay Festival in 2013 Credit:Clara Molden Judith Kerr at home with her cat, Catinka People over the age of 75 should keep a “do not resuscitate” note to hand in order to spare their families the misery and expense of their demise, Judith Kerr has said.Kerr, the bestselling children’s author, said it would be “very sensible” for anyone of a certain age to discuss the matter with their doctor.She disclosed she keeps her own “little piece of pink paper” in her hallway, signed by a medic, joking she had considered getting a necklace or tattoo to make things perfectly clear.Kerr, the author of The Tiger Who Came Tea and the Mog series, has previously been clear about her support for assisted suicide, after the death of her own father.Alfred Kerr, a famous German writer, fled the Nazis in 1936 with his family, and committed suicide in 1948 by taking pills procured by his wife after suffered a debilitating stroke. Judith Kerr at home with her cat, CatinkaCredit:Andrew Crowley One of Kerr's best-loved books As well as her picture books, she is also known for her semi-autobiographical When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit, detailing the adventures of her and her brother when they became refugees from wartime Germany.She has been so prolific, she said, because of her time as a mother at home, admitting: “A lot of it [childcare] is incredibly boring.“Children — it’s this weird thing. On the one hand, they are more interesting than anything else. And on the other hand, they are unbelievably boring. Such a funny mixture.”Speaking of her father, she has previously told the Telegraph: “I am 100 per cent for assisted suicide. Kerr told the Sunday Times magazine she now keeps “little piece of pink paper signed by the doctor, saying ‘Do not resuscitate’.”“Once you are over 75, I think, this is something that has to be done,” she said. “You have to discuss this with your doctor.“Very sensible, I think. The idea is that you have a stroke, or whatever it is, and the medics are going to come, and you want to let them know how you feel about this.”Having had a good life, to go through this misery, and at great expense to everybody else — expense not only in money but in emotion.“Imagine seeing your mother there, not themselves anymore.” “I don’t know anyone who hasn’t got a small stash of sleeping pills, just in case.“The way things are now, somebody might take those pills in a panic because they’d think: if I don’t do it now, I may not be able to.“Condemning people to live perhaps for years with Alzheimer’s is a most terrifying thought. Or totally to lose one’s independence and have to be cared for in a home; probably using up all your children’s inheritance for something that you don’t want and that you hate.“If it were possible to end one’s life legally, I think all of us old ladies would enjoy what remains of our lives so much more.”Her latest book, Mister Cleghorn’s Seal, is out now.  Judith Kerr speaks at the Hay Festival in 2013 center_img When asked where she kept her note, the author added: “I’ve put it in the hall, but I thought of nailing it up on the door.“I’m sure you could get a necklace or something.“If you make it too obvious, then everybody comes to the house and says: ‘What’s this?’“On the other hand, you would like the medics to see it. It is very unsatisfactory. I think a tattoo would be the only thing”Now 93, Kerr remains one of Britain’s best-loved children’s authors, still regularly writing and appearing on the book festival circuit. Judith Kerr with the original Mog Her new novel Judith Kerr with the original Mog Her new novel One of Kerr’s best-loved books Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily  Front Page newsletter and new  audio briefings.last_img read more

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Teenage asylum seeker fighting for life after savage attack

first_imgDiane AbbottCredit:Heathcliff O’Malley He added: “Hate crime is something which we understand can be very, very divisive. Croydon is culturally diverse and we need to continue to celebrate that.”We are appealing to all decent people from whatever background they come from to help us identify the individuals that are involved in this isolated attack.”In a direct message to the attackers, Mr Boothe said: “Hand yourselves in. It’s only going to be a matter of time before we identify and locate them. We would ask them to do the decent thing and hand themselves in.”Mr Barwell said: “I think most people in Croydon will be as appalled as I am that what appears to have happened is a young man who came to this country seeking sanctuary has apparently been targeted because of his ethnic background.”It’s an appalling crime and I hope the people responsible are caught quickly and receive the full force of British justice.”He said Croydon generally had “very good relations between people of different backgrounds”.”This is completely out of character but that is no comfort to the individual who is fighting for his life now,” he added.Shadow home secretary Diane Abbott suggested the Conservatives had failed to get to grips with hate crime. Diane Abbott Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily  Front Page newsletter and new  audio briefings. She said: “Sadly this is not an isolated incident but part of a sustained increase in hate crimes that this Tory Government is yet to offer any effective response to.”With right-wing politicians across the world scapegoating migrants, refugees and others for their economic problems, we are seeing a deeply worrying rise in the politics of hate. A teenage asylum seeker remains in hospital fighting for his life after a “savage” attack by a gang in an apparent hate crime left him with a fractured skull and a blood clot on his brain.The 17-year-old, a Kurdish Iranian, was waiting at a bus stop with two friends outside The Goat pub in Croydon, south-east London, when the group approached them.After discovering he was an asylum seeker they chased him and launched a vicious assault, repeatedly kicking him on the floor and aiming blows to his head.His two friends escaped with minor injuries, Scotland Yard said.Chief Superintendent Jeff Boothe, Croydon’s borough commander, called it a “savage attack” and said it was only the intervention of passers-by and the arrival of police that stopped it being worse.The incident prompted a wave of condemnation, with Tory minister Gavin Barwell, Croydon Central’s MP, describing the attackers as “scum”.Mr Boothe told the Press Association: “A number of bystanders and eyewitnesses tried to intervene and say to the attackers that enough is enough.”By all accounts they didn’t actually stop until the sound of police sirens were heard in the background.”The attack happened in Shrublands Avenue at 11.40pm on Friday.Detectives are investigating whether some of those involved had been drinking in The Goat in Broom Road, Mr Boothe said.center_img Gavin Barwell Credit:Chris Radburn/PA Wire Gavin Barwell  The “close-knit community” has been left shocked by the ferocity of the attack, he added, and extra officers have been out and about to reassure people.He said: “This is not usual for the area, it is out of the norm. This is not Croydon, Croydon is a very diverse community – they celebrate their diversity and as recently as Thursday at the town hall we had a number of leaders from different faith groups saying we are all united and stand together.” “We must make clear that there is no place for anti-foreigner myths, racism and hate in our society.”No arrests have been made and police are appealing for witnesses.Detective Sergeant Kris Blamires said: “A number of people came to the aid of the victim as he lay unconscious and injured following the assault.”The suspects are believed to have made off in the direction of The Goat pub, Broom Road, following the attack.”All communities stand together against hate and we would ask anyone with any information to come forward immediately.”Six people have been arrested on suspicion of attempted murder over a “savage” attack that left a teenage asylum seeker fighting for his life.Four men and two women in their 20s are being held at a south London police station for questioning, Scotland Yard said.Anyone with information should call police on 101 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.last_img read more

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Wettest place in England is bone dry amid fears of a summer

first_imgA gorse fire at the popular seaside beach at Ganavan Sands, Oban forced the evacuation of the beach They were also advised to swap showers for baths, use sponges instead of hoses to clean cars and to plant plants such as geraniums, marigolds, alyssum and petunias, which resist droughts.Providers including Southern, Affinity and Thames Water said they were monitoring the situation.In Seathwaite, villagers have not been given any specific advice but say they are concerned about the unusual situation.Peter Edmondson, who runs Seathwaite Farm Camping, told The Telegraph the river had been “bone dry” for more than a month. “It is very unusual for this to happen in springtime,” he said. “Everything is usually under water. It has been wall-to-wall sunshine here. Over the years, I have seen times when it has rained for three weeks solid but in the last year or two it has just got drier.” He added that this was due to high pressure over Iceland and low pressure in the Atlantic. “This means that the air is moving from the north east towards the south west, which is an unusual way round. Normally, it is the other way round which brings a lot of rain and wind to the west coast,” he said.“In the west, it has been warmer than average, whereas London and Lincolnshire have had cool, cloudy and breezier weather.”An Environment Agency spokesman said: “Following a dry winter, some rivers, groundwaters and reservoirs are lower than normal for the time of year.“We always advise that everyone uses water wisely – especially during a period of dry weather –  and to follow the advice of their water company should water saving measures be required.“The Environment Agency, water companies, businesses and farmers are working together to minimise any potential impacts to people and the environment should the dry weather continue.”Forecasters said it was expected to stay dry and bright until Thursday, when it will become more unsettled. It comes amid fears that the country may be subjected to a summer drought, with rivers and reservoirs experiencing dwindling water levels following one of the driest winter in more than 20 years.The Daily Telegraph reported last week that some homeowners had been told to cut down on water consumption by waiting until their washing machines and dishwashers are fully loaded before running them. Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily  Front Page newsletter and new  audio briefings. Duncan Ellwood, the owner of the Grange Bridge Cottage Tea Shop, described the situation as “worrying” as he said the water levels were stopping boats from dropping tourists around the area, with even the shallow vessels struggling to get to their landing stages.A Met Office spokesman said the area had seen 36 per cent rainfall in April, which is almost two-thirds less rainfall than average.Temperatures on the west coast of England and Scotland, meanwhile, have been up to 3C higher than normal. center_img The wettest inhabited place in England is “bone dry” as the prospect of a summer drought loomed closer.Seathwaite, in Borrowdale, Cumbria, typically receives between two and three metres of rainfall per year. But the River Derwent has gone for so long without sufficient rain, its rocky bed is exposed.Meanwhile, gorse fires in Oban, on the west coast of Scotland, forced a beach to be evacuated over the weekend as temperatures soared to an unseasonal 18C.  The River Derwent at its usual levels Credit:Paul Kingston / NNP The River Derwent at its usual levels  A gorse fire at the popular seaside beach at Ganavan Sands, Oban forced the evacuation of the beachCredit:Stephen Lawsonlast_img read more

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